Tuesday, December 26, 2006

orinoco flow

Merry Christmas, everyone! Granted, it's v. belated--I've either been too tired or too lethargic to blog over the past few days, so I'll give a quick recap...

I made both of my flights home, which put me into Des Moines at around 10am. This made me significantly luckier than all of the people who got bumped off previous flights; since all flights were booked solid, there were people in the boarding area of my SFO-Chicago flight who had been waiting for >26 hours already, but who couldn't get on my flight because it was booked. The only bad thing was that the baby in the row next to me screamed for the last hour and a half of the 3.5 hour flight, which means that I slept less than 2 hours on Friday night :( When I got to Des Moines, I went out for breakfast w/my parents and brother, then hung out in the mall parking lot while they all finished their Christmas shopping, then slept most of the way home. My uncle and his family were already in my house, making prime rib, when we arrived; the prime rib was perfectly cooked and delicious, which was a nice welcome back to my ancestral home. I took another nap after dinner, and awoke in time to play a second round of 'Cranium'--my cousin Andrew and I did fairly well, even though we were teamed with my grandmother, which meant that we had some difficulties with the song categories (since my grandmother was too old and my cousin was too young to know a lot of the songs).

The next day was Christmas Eve, which meant I had to wake up at the ungodly hour of 9:30ish to shower before my sister and her kids showed up. We had lunch (loose meat sandwiches!), followed by presents. Then, my parents, brother, and I went to my grandmother's for the traditional Christmas Eve lasagna, followed by Christmas Eve church. The Methodists like to have a little bit of Scripture with their hymn-singing--but the funny thing was that, minute-for-minute, there was more reading of bios of the song-writers than there was reading of Biblical passages. In other words, they read 1-2 lines of the Christmas story, then a 3-5 minute mini-treatise on the people who wrote the Christmas songs that we sang. I heard more than I wanted to know about the guy who wrote 'O Little Town of Bethlehem', among others, but the candlelit part of the service was pretty, as always. Then we went back to my grandmother's and opened presents. Yay!

Christmas Day, I had to wake up at the even more ungodly hour of 8:30 for the traditional emptying of stockings and opening of gifts. Among other things, I got the Mario Batali 'Molto Italiano' cookbook and a Kitchenaid immersion blender, so I'm super psyched to get back to California and try some of the recipes (and make more creamy potato-leek soup). We went to my grandmother's for Christmas dinner (served at noon--mealtimes are v. confusing here), then came back here around three, where all four of us fell into post-meal comas. It was great!

Now, Christmas is over. I was v. lazy today; woke up at 12:30, watched the soaps, took a bath, and changed into fresh pajamas :) We had dinner, then watched 'Thank You for Smoking', which my brother gave me for Christmas. The movie was v. funny; I love satire, and I love snarky humor, so I particularly appreciated this tale of a no-holds-barred tobacco lobbyist and his attempts to protect and defend Big Tobacco. I give it two enthusiastic thumbs up--and apparently it's not even that offensive to smokers, since my mother made a special effort to stay awake and watch the entire thing. If any of my Cali friends want to see this fine film, I can host a viewing when I get back.

I should go to bed; I have to get up somewhat early tomorrow (or at least earlier than usual) because my mom's cousins are visiting in the afternoon. Then, Thursday I'm going to Iowa City to meet Ritu--we may have to have an Olive Garden reunion, even though there are apparently better places to eat in that town. I hope that you all had v. merry Christmases!

Friday, December 22, 2006

one thing i can tell you is you got to be free

I'm deathly tired tonight; little wonder, I suppose, since I've been getting by the past few days on an unholy mixture of adrenaline, peppermint mochas, and Diet Coke. It's the end of the quarter at work, which is when I'm at my absolute busiest, and this end-of-quarter is compounded by the fact that I'm out of the office for the next ten days. Actually, I've been leaving the office at the end of the quarter in each of the past six quarters, which implies a stellar lack of planning on my part, but also implies that I should be used to it; Q3 2005 I left India, Q4 2005 I went home for Christmas, Q1 2006 I drove to Iowa before going to Ireland, Q2 2006 I went to South Africa, Iowa, and then California, Q3 2006 I went to Iowa for Katie's wedding, and now I'm going to Iowa again. Someday, perhaps, I'll stop leaving at the crucial end-quarter time, but nothing in life is certain.

Anyway, I came home tonight at 5:30 (I went in at eight a.m. voluntarily, which should show how bad the situation was) because I had finally slogged through the most vital things. I came home with the intention of working for another few hours to make a dent in my ballooning inbox, but instead laid on the couch and watched 'Scrubs', rubbed my stomach for awhile (stress always gives me stomachaches, and I've had some doozies the past few days), then started reading 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance'. I've heard good things about it but was having trouble getting into it, so I turned instead to 'A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian'. I've carried the book around for ages; I believe that I bought it in Singapore long ago, but never got around to reading it (instead, as I recall, I took an Ambien and slept for nine hours to avoid the grief and homesickness I was feeling for India). I read the whole thing in one fell swoop, as is my habit, and I quite enjoyed it. I really want to go back to Ukraine someday; my memories of the place are colored by my twelve-year-old perspective, which at the time I thought was incredibly mature for my age, but I think that if I had been living there as an adult, I would have had a much different experience. Not to say that my twelve-year-old experience was bad; I think that that year was perhaps the most formative year of my entire life, even if it wasn't quite as relentlessly entertaining as the six months I spent in India. It may also explain why my family is so close; if four people can spend a year in a two-bedroom apartment, with only the Voice of America radio and occasional visits from completely insane representatives of the World Bank to alleviate boredom, and refrain from killing each other, then clearly they can survive anything.

Anyway, the book was about an elderly Ukrainian immigrant in Britain who is lured into marrying a 36-year-old newly-arrived Ukrainian who has overstayed her tourist visa, and how his two daughters try to rescue him from this disaster. I could just picture the gold-digger woman, with her love of trashy luxuries and status symbol cars/appliances--the fall of communism created some crazy characters. But, I also liked that the book touched on the wartime experience of the parents and the eldest daughter; the parents survived Stalin's enforced famine of the 30s, only to end up in a forced-labor camp in Germany with their five-year-old daughter, before a twist of fate and geography allowed them to emigrate to Britain at the end of the war. The younger daughter, born in Britain, never fully understood how different her experience was from that of her sister, and I loved how she came to realize some of this over the course of the book. Of course, I'm a sucker for all things related to Ukraine, the Soviets, and the Nazis, so I may have liked the book better than most. But, the writing was very quick and sharp, and the story/characters were believable, so I enjoyed reading it and highly recommend it.

Now, though, I need to go to bed; I have tons to do tomorrow, and my flight leaves tomorrow night! Here's hoping I don't get stranded in some random airport...goodnight!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

she's got a ticket to ride

Ugh. Today was kind of brutal. I had to be at the office at seven a.m. for a conference call (I prefer to say 'before dawn'--true, and much more dramatic), and things stayed very busy until five (to the point that I had to eat lunch in a conference room during yet another meeting). I left work around 5:30, did laundry and dropped off nearly $100 in dry cleaning (which explains why my appearance has slowly deteriorated from 'business casual' to 'casual casual', since most of my sweaters and cute skirts were in dire need of a chemical bath), grabbed some dinner, folded the aforementioned laundry, took a twenty-minute nap followed by a shower, and then worked for ~3 hours. Fun, huh? But, I worked while watching 'The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou'--actually, I didn't watch much of it, since I was being productive, but I love the scene where they rescue Jeff Goldblum, and I saw snippets of some of the other classic moments. Awesomely enough, I discovered that the kid who gets stabbed in the shoulder by the pirates is the same actor who plays the young, awkward whiz-kid protege in 'Criminal Minds'--he's made quite the step up from playing 'Intern #1!' Now if only he could wear a red beanie and a sky-blue Speedo in 'Criminal Minds', I would watch that show all the time.

Now I should go to bed; tomorrow promises to be more of the same (meetings most of the day, starting at eight a.m.). I can't complain too much, though, since I only have to work two more days between now and the end of the year. Yay! That suddenly put me in a better mood, so I should go to bed before the feeling disappears.

Monday, December 18, 2006

come sail away with me

You know it's Christmas when the Corona commercial with the light-bedecked palm tree and the whistled version of 'O Tannenbaum' is showing. They've been using that commercial for at least ten years; it's almost become a traditional part of the Christmas season.

I had a decent day at work; we had our Christmas exchange this afternoon, and thanks to some stern rules, no one brought store-bought cookies, which means that I didn't have to exchange my chocolate chip chewies for Oreos or Chips Ahoy. Yay! After work, I came home and hung out with Claudia (who agreed that Vidya could call her 'Santa Claude' between Halloween and Christmas; I thought this was an excessive length of time, but I kind of like it in this week leading up to Christmas). Claudia brought smoked salmon, a cucumber, and an avocado, so we had delicious sammiches, followed by tea and random cookies.

The highlight of the evening, though, was the History Channel's hour-long investigation into 'UFOs of the Bible.' It wasn't as good as 'The Search for John the Baptist' (chronicled here), but it was pretty sweet. Basically, they had a bunch of 'UF-Ologists' to discuss how every apparition of angels was actually a UFO. Claude and I had fun making fun of the idiots, particularly the guy who was listed as a 'Presbyterian minister/author', but was wearing the same collar as the Catholic priests, which I'd never seen on a Presbyterian. How can you be a minister if you claim that Elijah was abducted by aliens? Anyway, the best part of this was that in the middle of the episode, an unexpected knock came on my door. It turned out to be a pair of missionaries trying to convert me! I was unusually rude and didn't let them in or even really talk to them. Mostly, it would have been so weird for them to see that I was watching 'UFOs of the Bible'--I never would have been able to get rid of them after that!

Claude hung out for a bit longer, then left; I'm now watching 'Scrubs', and am going to paint my fingernails, let them dry, and then go to bed. I have a conference call at the brutal hour of seven a.m. tomorrow, which could very well kill me, so I should go to bed!

Lastly, but not leastly, happy birthday to my mother (aka Jeannie-baby)! And, happy birthday to Vidya (aka Vidius Chandicus)! You share a birthday with Brad Pitt, which makes December 18 infinitely better than, say, September 11 :(

it's a steady job but he wants to be a paperback writer

I've watched far too much 'Lord of the Rings' this weekend. If Tammy was here, she could talk some sense into me--but I'm safe from her sense-talking, so I gave in to temptation. I watched 'The Fellowship of the Ring' last night while I was transferring files from my work laptop to my new laptop (no, not work-related files, but I had about 20gb of music and photos that I wanted to swap over, which took a not-insignificant amount of time). Today, I had intended to get something done (nothing in particular, just 'something' so that I would feel like a productive member of society), but instead I got out of bed at noon, showered, and turned on the tv while I made a sandwich. Much to my dismay, TNT was running an all-day marathon of the 'Lord of the Rings' movies. I watched a bit of 'Fellowship' while eating a late lunch, then pried myself away around the time they got to Moria because I had an appointment for a facial. When I got back, I watched a bit of 'The Two Towers', then went out and had dinner at Baja Fresh. I was semi-productive when I got home and whipped up a batch of chocolate chip chewies for a cookie exchange tomorrow; but since I can make those in my sleep, this wasn't a tremendous accomplishment. Then, I watched the entire 'Return of the King'. I could have put in my own DVD, which would have resulted in much better quality, but my DVD is the extended version, and so even without commercials it would have been approximately the same run-time.

I always cry at the end of 'Return of the King'; granted, the end lasts around forty minutes, but I'm speaking of the very very end, when Gandalf and Frodo say goodbye to Sam, Merry, and Pippin. There's something about saying goodbye to someone when you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you won't see them again--that type of scene always touches something deep inside of me. It hasn't happened to me that often; in fact, the only time I knew it was forever was when I said goodbye to my grandfather for the last time, on my way back to California at the end of spring break my sophomore year. The other times, it was driven home after the fact that it was the end, or whether or not it was the end had yet to be decided. With both India and Ireland, there was the chance that I would go back, if only for a week or two; and yet with both of those experiences, there are now lots of people whom I realize I will most likely never see again. It's a different sort of sadness than if they were dead; rather, it's an acknowledgement that, regardless of what you have shared in the past, your futures will never intertwine. That type of separation happens all too frequently, even though it's admittedly mitigated by today's forms of communication. I would say it must have been worse to say goodbye to someone 200 years ago, when they were setting out for the West and never returning; but today, if you say goodbye to someone physically but then do not take advantage of phone or email, then you're probably more culpable for the death of that relationship than you used to be.

Maybe the sadness I feel for the lost friendships from Ireland, India, and even high school and college, is not that I've lost touch, but that I never made an effort to keep in touch in the first place, which perhaps says something that I don't want to hear about my openness toward making and keeping friends. I do feel rather protective of myself, which means that while I make casual friends easily, I have a hard time making and keeping those real friends who stay with you even when you're separated by distance.

I'm driven by my need to wander--I've started feeling that old urge again to pick up and move someplace else, even though I've told myself sternly that I should stay put and enjoy my time here. But by indulging my wandering urges, I smother my need for connection; it's difficult to connect with people when you're unsure of where you'll be in two months, and I'm both too misanthropic and too self-protective to keep making friends when I know that all that energy will have been wasted when I sever the ties.

Okay, enough of that! The rest of my weekend was uneventful; I finished my Christmas shopping yesterday, so that was good. Today's facial was probably good for the long run for my skin, although the extraction segment (which I'd never had done before) felt like the woman was stabbing me a thousand times with a thick needle. Actually, it may have been the 'leather punch' implement from a Swiss Army knife--I've always wondered what it was meant to be used for, and now I think I have a good idea. I have no idea what the implement looked like, since my eyes were covered. If the government is really looking for a way to legally torture prisoners, they should subject them to facials, bad massages, and Brazilian bikini waxes (which I've never had done, but I hear are quite painful)--extractions would eventually break even the toughest of men, and you would end up with some detailed confessions from terrorists whose faces would eventually rival our top models and actresses. Needless to say, my skin was red when I left (although not bleeding--so if it was a leather punch, she was v. careful), and so I found it hard to take the cashier at Safeway seriously when he flirted outrageously with me as I was buying eggs for my cookies. Not that I normally take flirtations seriously, but this seemed ridiculous, since I was wearing swishy pants, no makeup, and tortured skin.

So anyway, that's the price we pay for beauty, right? My skin does feel v. soft and the redness has subsided, so I may start going more regularly--although I don't like being preached to, and the aesthetician/face-stabber was horrified that I don't exfoliate twice a week. Oh, well, we shall see. Now I should go to bed--it's a short week since I have Friday off, and I leave Friday night for the home of my forefathers! Goodnight!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

mead is a cross between whiskey and mucus

I absolutely love Craig Ferguson. His monologues are always 10-12 minutes long (as opposed to 2-3 Letterman/Leno), and he has the most random thought processes--just like mine! Of all the stuff he covered in tonight's monologue, the train of thought that I remember is something like this: mel gibson - movies - eragon - sean connery - orlando bloom (weather forecasting amount of blood spilled after a red dawn) - medieval times - medieval dentistry/exorcism - dying from plague - mead - king arthur - nazis (and how king arthur couldn't stop the luftwaffe with his sword). Can you see why I love him? He managed to hit up Sean Connery, 'Lord of the Rings', the Black Death, King Arthur, and the Nazis in one monologue!!!! He is my hero!!!! To top it off, he had Dominic Monaghan on after the commercial, wearing a ridiculous bald cap and holding a brandy snifter while impersonating Sean Connery telling a touching family holiday memory about the time he broke his brother's leg and ruptured his spleen. I would love this show if only for the near constant Sean Connery references, but Craig Ferguson really has the whole package.

Today was nice; I went to work in my pajamas because it was pajama day, in a company-mandated display of 'fun'. It felt like high school--hopefully next quarter they'll do inside-out day or something. I'm not complaining, though; I wore the v. patriotic pajamas that Aunt Becky sent me in college, which are super comfy, and so it was a great day. I ran home and threw on some jeans after work, then met Claude for sushi at our favorite place in Menlo Park. I don't know how I ended up loving sushi as much as I do, given where I grew up, but it's awesome. I had miso soup, calamari tempura w/spicy mayo (yum), a crunchy shrimp and eel roll (double yum), and a piece of that weird Japanese omelette nigiri sushi that I inexplicably love. It was all v. tasty, especially since I haven't had sushi in at least six weeks. Then, I went to Shari, Ariel, and Aparna's apartment for a surprise birthday party for Shari; it turns out that they live about four minutes from me, so I'll have to make more plans with them. Tom and Julie were there, as was Bhavya, and so we had a good time catching up. Then, I came home, cleaned up my kitchen and sorted my laundry, then watched some TV while surfing the net. Now, the evening is over and I should go to bed so that I can accomplish all that I need to accomplish tomorrow.

One last thing, though. Today, the 'New York Times' published an edited list of findings reported by the U.S. Census Bureau. Two things struck me. One was that they claimed that only 10% of people in their twenties are under 5'6". I don't buy that at all; if you assume that people in their 20s are 50/50 male/female, and that all men are taller than 5'6" (not true), then 80% of women in their 20s would have to be taller than 5'6". I just don't see how that's possible. The great thing is that all of that must have been self-reported, since census takers don't measure people--and most people probably upgraded themselves an inch or two. I do it slightly; according to Walter and Allie, I'm 4'11.5", but I say 5' for both ease of use and for avoidance of the shame that comes with being under 5'.

The second thing that struck me was this quote: 'That might help explain a shift in what college freshmen described as their primary personal objectives. In 1970, 79 percent said their goal was developing a meaningful philosophy of life. By 2005, 75 percent said their primary objective was to be financially very well off.' Sad, huh? Especially since if all of them achieve their primary objective, it will just drive up the classifications for being rated 'very well off.'

Then again, I think that just stating that objective doesn't really make much sense out of context. More people go to college now than did in 1970; while this probably doesn't explain everything, it's conceivable that a higher percentage of college freshmen now are going with specific monetary goals in mind, because they're part of the first generation to go to college, or they're aware that it now takes a college education to get ahead; conversely, in 1970, college freshmen were skewed towards male (now, more women than men go to college)...and I could well be completely wrong, but college attendance back then depended more on ability to afford it, and also on whether someone wanted to serve (or was drafted, or avoiding the draft) in Vietnam. No wonder the 1970 freshmen were interested in philosophy--the 2005 classes aren't as worried about drafts, even if there is a war on, and many see college as a method to improve marketability, rather than a unique environment for self-realization.

So pretty much I don't trust the census, and I'm open enough to admit that I probably found faultin it because I wanted to disprove the height issue :) If you want to read the whole article, you can do so here; I'm going to bed!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

the two of us were made of angels' dust

Work was fine today; after work, I went over to a coworker's house to watch the one-hour Christmas episode of 'The Office'. It was hysterical; now that I no longer have class on Thursdays, I should perhaps try to catch that show more often. The other entertaining thing about tonihgt was that fourof us stood on her doorstep for ten minutes, ringing her doorbell, knocking, and wondering where she was--the lights were on, the fireplace was merrily crackling, and the TV was showing a football game. It was when we saw the channels of the TV changing to 'The Office' that we verified that she was in fact home--and luckily, then she finally heard us outside and let us in in time for the show. Turns out that she was in her massage chair, which is louder than she thought it was. I don't know if I buy it, but we got to watch the show, and her home was lovely.

Afterwards, I came home, ate the last leftovers of the potato-leek soup that I served my friends last night, and watched 'Shark' on CBS. I kinda like that show; better than '3lbs.', which was cancelled after only three episodes. Since I saw two of those episodes, I feel that I must have been their biggest, albeit lukewarm, fan. Maybe 'House' will buy some of their used sets, since they had lots of fancy faux hospital equipment that they'll now have to dispose of. Then, I wrote briefly in my journal before realizing that I was falling asleep. Now, I should take my contacts out and go to bed. The weekend is almost here! And eight days from now, I'll be on a plane to Iowa. Yay--and goodnight!

chemicals all rushing through my bloodstream

Today was one of those nice little days that surprises you by being so nice, when you had little expectation for them other than some boring gloom. I went to work, of course, and worked in the morning. Then, I had a lovely break for lunch with my friend Alaska Matt; we have fantastic lunches together, probably because he is more than a little crazy himself (must have been all those winters with no sunlight), and so I feel free to be crazy with him in a way that I'm not usually crazy at work. I offended him the last time we had lunch by comparing him to Jack Black, but I will take the fact that he accepted this week's invitation as an indication that he's still okay with me. I regaled him with my stories of Amsterdam (the stripper/sex-show part, not the hatred and despair part) since he is planning a trip there, and fun was had by all.

I worked more in the afternoon, and left around five p.m. to come home and prepare for my tea party. Vidya had sent an email a week ago inviting herself and Claudius over to my place for lemon cake--I like guests who are decisive enough to invite themselves over, invite other people to come along, and set a time and a food. Brilliant! So I had already made the cake last night--and I must say it wasn't one of my finest efforts. I mean, it was fine, but it wasn't as ridiculously moist as it usually is, so I'm going to have to try again sometime. But, I came home and made potato-leek soup and did a quick-and-dirty straightening of things around the apartment so that I wouldn't look like a total slob by the time they showed up, and I was mostly successful. And the soup, as usual, was delicious--it's so easy, other than the time-consuming bit of peeling and dicing the potatoes, and so incredibly good. We sat around and did nothing but watch 'Scrubs' and 'Top Chef', which was fun. I also convinced them to watch five minutes of 'King Arthur'. The sad thing was that both of them had paid to see it with me in the theatre, back when people still used to see movies with me, before they all decided that I have terrible taste and shunned me forevermore. That was around the summer of 2004, if I recall correctly. Anyway, the only good part of the movie was this scene where they have a fight on a big lake covered in ice. So Claude said that she would watch a few minutes tonight only if it was the ice scene--and when she flipped the channel, it *was* the ice scene. Victory! I pointed out how sad it would be if it turned out that we only get three wishes in life, and that she had randomly used one of hers on this movie, but I don't think that's true. It was great for me, though, since I got to see a brief snippet of the movie that I still get mocked for virtually every time I go to a movie now.

And that, my friends, is all. After Claude left, Vidya and I sat together on the couch and worked for awhile; she went to sleep on my couch [she lives in SF but works in San Jose, so it made sense for her to sleep here and go directly to work tomorrow] and I worked in my bedroom until ~1:15am. Now I desperately need to go to bed so that I can get up tomorrow morning. But before that, shout-out to Ritu - I hope that all is well and we can see each other in Iowa. Goodnight!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

there will be no dawn for men

As my more 'Lord of the Rings'-savvy readers will doubtlessly guess, I came home and watched the second half of 'The Two Towers' tonight. I think it's my favorite of the three, if only because of the Helm's Deep sequence, although I do like the Mines of Moria sequence in the first movie, and the Cracks of Doom sequence in the third. Anyway, I meant to work when I got home, but I thought that I could use the break--I was at work until seven, when I took a break for coffee with some of my coworkers, then went back to the office and had a conference call with Jogi at 8:30. I got home around 9:45, made a cake, and cooked some delectable scrambled eggs for a late dinner. I started watching the movie with the intention of working with it in the background, but I hadn't watched it in months (since I made Tammy watch it with me last spring, actually), and so I got sucked into paying attention. Damn. Oh, well, I shall just have to go into work early tomorrow and try to accomplish some stuff.

I was saddened to read Blender's list of the fifty worst artists in music history, if only because it confirmed my bad taste--many of them make frequent appearances on my playlists, and some are at the v. top of my favorites lists. However, I lik that their list skips #38--that makes me really happy, because I can clearly disregard everything they say. I've linked to the article here; the ones that I listen to are listed below:

47) Goo Goo Dolls ('Name', 'Slide', 'Long Way Down', 'Give a Little Bit', etc.)
46) The Spin Doctors ('Two Princes', 'Little Miss Can't Be Wrong')
40) Blind Melon ('No Rain')
36) 98 Degrees ('The Hardest Thing' - yes, I'm lame)
35) Paul Oakenfold ('Starry-Eyed Surprise')
34) Live ('Lighting Crashes', 'Selling the Drama', 'Hero of Love', 'Overcome')
30) Richard Marx ('Right Here Waiting')
29) Skinny Puppy (okay, this is Claude's style of music, but after I got over being scared of her, Skinny Puppy kind of grew on me)
28) Crash Test Dummies ('Mmm mmm mmm mmm')
24) Bad English ('When I See You Smile')
7) Asia ('Heat of the Moment' - one of my absolute favorite songs)
6) Kansas ('Dust in the Wind')
5) Starship ('We Built this City' - amazing!)

13/50 - that's essentially 25%. Sadness.

On that note, I should go to sleep so that I can get up at a decent time and go to work--wish me luck!

Monday, December 11, 2006

can i get your hand to write on, just a piece of lead to bite on

I was actually v. productive at work today, much to my shock; I figured that I would go in and spend the whole day dreaming of my new laptop, or egg poaching, or a white Christmas, but I managed to ignore all of those desires in the name of being a good little capitalist. However, I did get a package in the mail today that made me positively thrum with happiness--a small box from pendemonium.com, containing a new fountain pen and several bottles of gorgeous ink. The fountain pen is a green brushed aluminum, made by Lamy (a German pen company), and meant to be relatively disposable--not that you would use it and throw it away, but that it's not as expensive as a 'real' pen and so not as devastating if you happen to lose it. Since I was so close to losing my favorite pen this weekend (it was in the purse that was stolen, but I took it out at the last minute and left it in the console beside the driver's seat instead), it's nice to have this one, which I can take anywhere and trust that it will survive unintentional damage. I bought two of the inks mostly for the bottles; there's an American company called Noodler's that makes inks for foreign markets as well, and Pendemonium happened to have a couple of inks that were made for those markets--namely, Russia and India. I felt that this was fate, and so I ordered 'Tchaikovsky' (magenta-purple) and 'Upper Ganges' (blue)--no prizes will be given for correctly guessing which market matches each ink, other than a brief round of sarcastic applause. I love the bottles; all of the words are in Russian (which I can sort of make out) or Hindi (which I certainly can't), and colors are lovely. I also got 'Tianamen' (a dark red), and a classic blue color that flows very smoothly and will probably become my default ink for regular tasks.

I figure that if my brother can write endless posts about Chevy trucks, I can subject all y'all to a running monologue about inks and writing implements. But enough of that; let's move on.

Tonight I finished reading 'On Becoming a Novelist' by John Gardner. Now I want to go out and read 'Grendel', which I had borrowed from Claude for a couple of years but never got around to opening. Gardner taught writing at several colleges over the years, and the book I just finished ended up becoming a classic book for creative writing classes, perhaps more famous than his 'real' stuff. It was all quite interesting; he talked a lot about talent and how to improve it, whether and how workshops are helpful, what to do about the reality that you will probably never make it financially as a novelist (his advice: find a v. generous spouse--ha!), etc. The most interesting thing for me was getting insight into how his writing process worked--he was the type of writer who would agonize for days or months over a few lines of text, and he referenced one case where he wrote 200 pages of manuscript, couldn't figure out why one paragraph wasn't working, realized it was because it didn't fit with the other 200 pages, and so threw them out and started from scratch with that lone paragraph as the sole survivor. Talk about crazy.

If the class that I took this quarter taught me anything, though, it's that there's a lot of value in revision, even if it didn't teach me how to do it. After hearing comments from classmates, there were a lot of things that I recognized I would do differently. As you may know, I tend to procrastinate, and so I never had the luxury of extensive revision in college (including, horror of horrors, my honors thesis). I think I've always gotten by because my writing tends to be lucid on the first attempt, even if it is not particularly concise--and the lucidity propels me to the top of a heap of less-lucid writers, even if it is not the best effort that I can personally put forth. But, I'm going to have to teach myself (or take a class about) how to revise, because I can see how much more striking and wonderful my prose could be if I made it through a first draft and then went back through and polished, looked for new or hidden meanings, and reexamined my word choices.

Now, I'm going to write in my journal a bit before bed. The one bad thing about keeping a journal and a blog both is that I can't always remember what I've written where, with the consequence that I will probably end up repeating myself here even more than usual, or leaving out crucial ramblings that I thought were here but were actually in my journal. It's a good exercise, though--it makes me write more, both in volume and in honesty, and it keeps all of you appraised on whether I'm alive and, if so, what trouble I have most recently gotten myself into. So, look forward to continued (albeit inane) posts in the future. Onward, comrades!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

lemon trees on mercury

I woke up this morning with only fifteen minutes to get ready before I had to walk out the door and meet Terry for brunch. Luckily, I made it to Hobees, where we caught up on our respective lives over coffeecake and bastardized Mexican food (breakfast quesadilla in my case, huevos rancheros in hers). I don't think I really like Hobees; the food is intensely 'Californian', which is to say unnecessarily gourmet and casual at the same time. It has the same attitude as many things here, which is that it is inherently classy and sophisticated, and so it's okay for it to be a little bit sloppy and inauthentic. Anyway, the conversation at least made up for the food, and we went to Target afterwards, where I procured some toiletries. I apparently didn't learn my lesson about leaving things in the trunk of my car, since I just realized that I haven't brought the stuff in yet, but that will have to wait until tomorrow.

I got home and spent some time looking at computers online; I haven't had my own computer since I graduated from college, and I'm kind of feeling stifled by trying to do anything creative on my work laptop, filled as it is with spreadsheets and to-do lists. I saw a Sony VAIO that met all of my requirements, and it came in lovely shades of green and pink, so I decided to go to the SonyStyle store in the Stanford mall to check it out. When I got there, they were offering a big sale, and the green one was just as enticing as I had hoped--so I walked out with a new laptop. I added on two years of accident protection, which the salesman assured me would cover any damage caused by a fit of rage on my part (not that my temper usually extends to harming inanimate objects, but there's always a first), and I spent the rest of the afternoon playing around with it and setting it up. I really like it so far, although the keyboard is much stiffer than my work laptop's due to disuse. I probably should have waited to buy it, since laptops are pretty much obsolete before they even go home with you--but I figured it made sense to buy it before Windows Vista launches. I can upgrade cheaply when Vista does come out, but I'll let some other poor saps be the ones to discover all of the critical flaws that Microsoft's new operating system will doubtlessly ship with.

Now I think it's time for me to go to bed, thus bringing a v. topsy-turvy weekend to a close. Goodnight!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

forget what we're told, before we get too old

The last twenty-four hours have been more eventful than any day in recent memory. It was full of ups, downs, triumph, tragedy, shrimp families and misery. It's a good thing that I'm used to wild oscillations of fortune, or else I might be suffering whiplash right now. In case you want the brief rundown, the lows were that my car was broken into, I got completely soaked from walking around in the city, and I got absolutely nothing done today; the highs were celebrating Vidya's birthday, hanging out with Tom and Julie, and having dim sum with Claudia. Read on for more details...

Last night was dinner for Vidya's birthday, even though her birthday isn't for another ten days (on my mother's birthday, actually). Dinner was of course in the city, since it was planned by Vidya and Adit, and they both live in the city. So, I girded my loins (figuratively--I just like that phrase, and I'm not sure how one goes about girding one's loins anyway) and made ready to trek to the city. Claudia decided to go as well, so we rode up together. You all know how much I despise and loathe the city, so please keep this in mind as I recount the rest of the evening in detail.

It was raining steadily last night, but traffic ended up being relatively light, and so we made it to the restaurant a good ten minutes before we were supposed to be there. Adit and Vidya also showed up at the proper time, and then Adit told us that he had actually made the reservation for half an hour later. Smart, with that group, but annoying for me since I'm typically no more than five minutes late. However, the group consisted of almost 20 people, half of whom are v. flaky, and so a bunch of people were actually late for nine o'clock as well. I don't understand how you can possibly be forty minutes late for dinner, especially since the people who were late live in the city, but whatever.

We didn't actually get seated until 9:20 because a group of idiots refused to leave the table that we were waiting for--they had been finished when Claude and I showed up at 8:25, and by 9:15 they were still sitting there, ignoring the patently obvious signs of waiters taking away their water glasses and all of us glaring at them. But, things improved; I sat at the 'kids' table' with Tom, Julie, Claude, T&J's roommate, and Justin, which was a great deal of fun. We also realized that we were essentially the 'other' table, since the main table of 12 was almost entirely Indian, while we were a mixture of white, Mexican, and Asian.

Anyway, to make a long dinner short, Tom and Julie convinced me to stay the night with them, so that I would go to the karaoke bar that the party was supposed to move to after dinner. I had not intended to spend the night in the city, but allowed myself to be convinced, and so we got the party started w/a couple of bottles of wine at dinner. Then, we walked the two blocks to the karaoke bar, where Adit flipped out when he discovered that there was a $7 cover charge, and so rallied the troops to go to a different place and dispersed the group into a couple of cabs, while a third group started walking back to their car. However, as we were in the cab, Vidya called us all back because it turned out that some of her friends were already inside the bar. The result was that we paid ~$10 for a cab to drive us in a big circle around the karaoke bar, which was probably better than the result for the group who walked several blocks and then turned around and walked back in the rain.

The bar was fun; we sang several songs rather poorly, to the dismay of the other people there, who seemed to be some weird subsection of heavily-made-up punks who like to karaoke. Better yet, the drinks were both cheap and stiff, so I had several cosmopolitans (my biggest weakness) and was quite happy by the time we left around one.

The party decided to decamp to Tom and Julie's apartment, and so Claude and I went with some people who were capable of driving. On the way back to their car, we stopped at my car so that Claude could get her bag--only to discover that someone had broken into the trunk and taken her bag, my empty purse, and the lamp that I had purchased at Bed Bath and Beyond but had not yet taken into my apartment. It's a complete mystery to us how this happened; we remember me shutting the trunk, and nothing looks damaged, but they didn't break any of the windows. They also didn't take several other choice items in the trunk--namely, my jumper cables, some cds, a supersoaker, and a book of 'Jerry Springer's Wildest TV Moments'--so it was all very odd and mysterious. Also annoying, of course--I liked that lamp, and I loved that purse, and now they're both gone, and doubtlessly tossed in a dumpster, since it's not like they'll do anyone much good. It was somewhat worse for Claude; luckily she had taken her ATM and driver's license with her, but she had to cancel a couple of credit cards (one of which had already been used), and she lost a pair of shoes, a jacket, her car/house keys, her Stanford ID, and the book she was reading. So I ended up picturing some thief sitting someplace reading 'Freakonomics' by the light of my lovely brand-new lamp--granted, he would have to steal a lightbulb as well, but this shouldn't be too hard for someone with his prowess.

So anyway, both of us were too inebriated to do much more than stare in shocked dismay at the half-empty trunk, then close it and go to Julie's place anyway. On the way the to the car, I virtually ruined my wasabi green Uggs--they'll be fine once they dry out, but they'll never be quite as supple again, alas. Once we got there, we played Taboo for awhile, which was fun, and then everyone left. I slept with Julie (hot) and we shared thoughts and secrets before falling asleep, just like all good sleepovers. However, I do not want to make a habit of staying over in the city; this is the second weekend in a row that I've spent Friday night in someone else's apartment, and the result is that I don't get a lot done the next day.

Today was particularly non-productive; Claude and I didn't leave the city until 11:30ish, 'cause we had to take a cab back to my car [I had been having lovely visions of a bunch of vagrants setting fire to my tires and dancing around the charred ruins of my car, but it wasn't damaged]. Then we stopped in Millbrae for dim sum at our favorite place; the staff still recognizes us (or at least me), even though I've only been there once in the last eight months. I suppose a white girl with a hot-pink fur-trimmed bomber jacket is pretty noticeable in a crowd of Chinese regulars, especially since I used to show up every weekend with my loudest friends in tow and eat the most random things on the menu. So we had steamed bean curd w/pork, har gar (aka shrimp dumplings aka shrimp families), bbq pork buns, deep fried shrimp in bean curd, and egg custard pastries. Tammy and Shedletsky would be sad to know that they weren't serving the egg custard buns today; I couldn't understand Wendy (the crazy waitress) completely, but it seemed that they might be gone for good :( The sadness I felt about that was compounded by complete nausea when I caught a whiff of the sickeningly-familiar pigs' feet with petrified egg in black vinegar sauce; the black vinegar sauce smell is enough to make me want to retch. We also were treated to what I called a 'parade of horrors', since the tripe cart, the pigs'-feet-and-vinegar cart, and the cart of sadness all went by at once, then got stuck in a traffic jam by our table and remained there for far far too long. The cart of sadness still has all the same old sad things--several varieties of chicken feet, the 'ocean jello' (whatever it is is a bunch of lesser-known sea creatures in clear gelatin), the marinated duck tongues, and the oddly jiggly mango jello that should not be there and so therefore must be terrible.

Okay, so we had dim sum, then I took Claude to San Jose so that she could get the spare key for her car. I took her back to campus, where we discovered that her car is too stupid to recognize that she had the key for the car; without her keyless entry device, the car thought she was breaking into it when she unlocked it with the key, and wouldn't even let her start the car. We sat there for ten minutes looking like we were trying to steal it before giving it up; I suggested that we tow it to the city and leave it sitting at the corner of 3rd and Folsom, since our thief from the night before might be able to help us out, but we decided against it. So I brought Claude back to my place, where we sat until her mom came to pick her up.

I watched Food Network for a couple of hours and had a sudden urge to cook; so I ran to the grocery store and picked up some stuff, then made a truly amazing dinner. I taught myself how to poach eggs and did it perfectly on the very first try. So, I made sort of a hash of cubed potatoes, onions, peppers, andouille sausage, and cayenne pepper, and placed two poached eggs on top. It was incredibly delicious, and pretty easy since I already had the onion/pepper mixture chopped up and waiting in the freezer.

I would fix this for myself for brunch tomorrow, but I'm already committed to going to brunch with Terry. I was supposed to go back up to the city tonight for Brendan's party, but after my experience in the city last night, I wasn't in the mood to drive back up. Now I should go to bed so that I can recover from today's events--and I hope tomorrow brings more of the same, since last night was a blast. I'm always happiest in the midst of chaos, so this weekend has been perfect so far.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

'cause it takes something more this time than sweet, sweet lies

I'm done with the song game - while I appreciate the suggestion for #22, I'd never heard the song myself, and so couldn't use it. I'm sure I could have come up with something if I'd thought long enough, but to be honest it's beginning to feel a little bit restrictive, and it was going to come to an end soon anyway. Farewell, song game! Of course, I'll still use lyrics as titles all the time, but I will no longer be held to a strict numerical pattern.

I had class tonight, and it was rather heartbreaking--it was the last one, which brings with it that whole, weird, 'I-will-never-see-these-people-again' feeling. You never know what the future holds, so I may see them (particularly in other classes), but it's doubtful. This class was strange because it encouraged a certain amount of almost unnatural sharing of emotions and vignettes from each others' lives with a group of complete strangers. The fact that this was a class, with a set of people who were committed to discussing the stories but were not committed to forming a bond outside of class, was in some ways very freeing--and in some ways very depressing, because I would like to continue this dynamic but know that it's not meant to be.

The class tonight was also heartbreaking because several of the stories dealt with relationships, particularly depressing and/or dysfunctional relationships, and it brought to mind all sorts of memories and experiences that I would just as soon forget. But that raises the interesting question of whether you really would prefer to 'just forget' something. Everything that happens in the past, good or bad, contributes to one's sense of self and to all the choices that come after, and so if I were to forget certain things, I would essentially have to sacrifice months/years of my life, and I would be a v., v. different person. Of course, maybe I wouldn't be a different person; maybe by the time some of these relationships happened, I was already so far along the path to personhood that I would have ended up in a similar situation even if it wasn't with the same individual(s).

Then, I get into the question of who exactly I'm writing this blog for. I'm not exactly writing it for myself--while it serves as a great record of what I've done, and I'm so glad that I have extensive posts from my India and Ireland trips, I don't feel quite free to share everything I'm thinking about. I also don't know if it would be a good idea to share everything; to quote Billy Joel (probably thrilling half my family), 'we all have a face that we hide away forever'. My hidden face manifests itself more in my written journal, but it would feel strange and extremely discomforting to share absolutely everything here.

So if not for myself, then for whom? In many ways, I write to let people know that I'm still alive, even though there shouldn't really be concern that I'm not. I also write to maintain contact with family and friends. However, there's an inherent unfairness with this; most of my family/friends don't blog with any frequency, and so regular readers know the minutiae of my life while I sometimes have very little idea of even the bigger aspects of theirs. Also, the blog can give a distorted sense of what's going on with me--I've learned some harsh lessons about openness, and so while I blog about what I *do* with others, I don't blog about how I *feel* about them. Since I don't blog about my feelings towards others, or about my job and colleagues, or about my opinions about politics/religion, this really does turn into a sort of narcissistic rambling about what I eat, where I go, who I see, and occasionally what's currently troubling me (without revealing too much detail). There is still value in having a blog, I think; even if I'm being opaque, writing things here can help me to clarify my feelings, and it keeps me in touch with the idea of writing things down even when I don't have time to write extensively in my journal.

I think that I need to remind myself sometimes that I'm only 25 and that I haven't necessarily gotten to know myself yet. I think part of the problem is that I have thought of myself as mature/grownup/adult since I was about ten, or possibly even earlier; I can't really remember thinking of myself as a child, even if I knew that technically I was. Granted, I'm more mature now than I was when I was ten--but I've always felt the need to control my emotions, take care of others, and behave in a rational manner (even if my thoughts and imagination are highly irrational). Despite the fact that I can't really remember feeling like a kid, I still haven't had quite enough life experience to be fully grown into myself. I'm interested in taking some time to devote solely to writing because I think it will help me to learn who I am, and to explore (and hopefully move past) some of the things that I've gone through and now have just enough distance from to start examining again. But the person I am now almost certainly will not be the person I am ten years from now, and even then I probably won't be completely convinced of who I am.

Anyway, I'm going to write in my journal awhile before going to bed. I meant to be done with this ages ago, but of course when I logged in to write, I discovered that I was finally allowed to switch to Blogger Beta, which I've been looking forward to for awhile, and so I played around with the template a bit. You probably won't notice any real changes, but I do like the labeling/categorizing feature, so hopefully I'll put that to good use in the future. Now, it's time for bed!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

there's a reason for the 21st century--not to sure but i know that it's meant to be

Happy Birthday, Emily!!

Today was a humdrum kind of day--I had a pretty good day, but nothing exciting happened at all. Tammy--you'll be happy to know that I watched the first half of 'The Two Towers' tonight while doing some work. Now it's time for me to sleep so that I can get up tomorrow and go to work. Goodnight!

Monday, December 04, 2006

i removed all your twenty-inch rims and i'm melting them down to build five-foot plates for the shins of my thirty-foot android

Walter may be the only other person in the world who appreciates Grand Buffet as much as I do. The lyric above is from their seminal song 'You're on Fire'. It's fantastic; they mention keeping a 'packet of locking-breaking tools in the treasure chest', among other things.

Anyway, I'm tired, so I'm going to go to bed soon. Today was pretty uneventful; I went to work, worked, came home, made spaghetti and some steak, watched a little bit of TV, read a little bit, played a little bit of sudoku, and now the evening is over. I need to get in gear and read all of the stuff for my short-story class; this is the last week, and I just remembered that I said I'd bring treats or something, so I suppose that means that I should bake something on Wednesday as well. And, I have lots of holiday-related stuff coming up; I got invited to a couple of different parties in the past few hours, as well as a couple that were already on the table, plus all the stuff I have to do to get ready to go home. The next couple of weeks are going to be insane! So, I should go to bed before I shoot myself in the foot by not sleeping enough. Goodnight!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

she's only eighteen, don't like the rolling stones - she took a shortcut to being fully grown

Thanks to Emily for pointing out that I missed number 18! This rectifies it; you'll go back to your regularly-scheduled 'twenty' the next time I post.

The weekend was fun. Friday night was my company's holiday party in the city, so I went up with the intention of dragging Vidya to it. It turns out that she practically had to drag me to it; when I got to her apartment, 'The Princess Bride' was on TV, and we got started watching it, and I didn't really want to leave. But, we left anyway--which made sense, since I'd purchased a dress especially for the occasion. Turns out that I shouldn't have, since I didn't even bother to take my coat off. In my defense, it was rather cold, and my pink down-filled bomber jacket was making its first appearance of the season. Anyway, the venue was huge, and they had set up smaller 'rooms' in these giant tents, each of which had a different theme and a different foodstuff. We went around to all of them and tried all of the food, which was quite fulfilling for both of us, and then we went home after an hour or so. It was well worth it, though, since the food was delicious.

I spent the night on Vidya's trundle bed (thus fulfilling a childhood dream of mine to sleep in a trundle bed), and we had crepes at the place down the street for breakfast. I got back to Palo Alto around noon, hung out in my apartment for awhile, and then went to a tea place to write in my journal. I stayed there for several hours; they serve loose-leaf tea in mini pots, so I had three pots of tea, a crumpet, and a lemon bar. Mmm. I must start going back all the time, since the teas are wonderful and the staff is friendly. Today, I meant to get up early and come to the office, but I didn't make it here until two. Then, I played around and wrote out my Christmas list, since I was told that I was in danger of not getting anything if I didn't provide some ideas to my family; then, I talked to my parents. All of this means that I didn't actually get anything done. I did about half an hour of work, then met Zach for dinner, then came back to the office and was actually productive for the last three hours. Now it's eleven p.m., and I have to be back here in ten hours. Ugh. Oh, well, I'm excited about what I'm working on right now, so it's not all bad. Regardless, it's time for me to go home and go to bed!