Friday, June 30, 2006

south africa!!

I'm in Cape Town, and it's AWESOME. The house is the most amazing place I've ever seen, I've had a glorious reunion with my friends, and I'm so freaking happy. That's all for now--suffice it to say I'm alive :) More later!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

my therapist said not to see you no more, she said you're like a disease without any cure

Depending on my levels of inebriation next Thursday, this may be my last blog post from Dublin :( It's 2:25am, and a taxi is coming in one hour and twenty minutes to take me to the airport, where I will fly to Amsterdam (ugh) and then direct to Cape Town on a 12-hour nonstop flight of misery. Luckily, the fact that I haven't slept tonight and have generally slept poorly for the last several weeks should ensure that I sleep through most of the plane ride. I was in the office until midnight tonight, which was a fitting end to my worklife here; I had to finish up all of my peer reviews before going on vacation. Luckily, I got through absolutely everything on my to-do list, which means that I can start afresh when I get back from vacation. That will be a lovely feeling, at least until I start wading through the hundreds of emails that will greet me upon my return.

My team here is great, and I'm sad to leave them. I had 6-7 hours of meetings calendared over the course of the day, and so when I was in one of them, they decorated my desk with balloons and left a card and present on my keyboard. The present was a gorgeous silver pendant with a vaguely Celtic design, which is perfect because I'd been considering getting one and hadn't gotten around to it. Also, Darragh got me a couple of books; one is 'The Rules of Management', and the other is '101 Things To Do Before You Die'. It's clear from this combination that my dictatorial tendencies have come to the fore here, and also that it's clear to everyone that I desperately need to get out of the office more often. 'The Rules of Management' does look interesting, though...and the list of things to do before I die is probably a good thing, because I only do stuff when I can cross it off of a list.

I can't believe that I'll be on a plane in a little over three hours; it still seems absolutely impossible that I could be leaving here. Oh, well. It's funny--I'm sad to say goodbye to what is essentially a summer-camp experience, only to go on vacation with my summer-camp friends from India. But, the summer-friends from India turned into genuine friends, and it's too bad that I'm not here long enough to effect the same transformation with my summer-friends here.

So anyway, I've loved being in Ireland, and I'm looking forward to coming back this fall. I've had some rough times (immigration issues, too much work, not enough sara time), but I've also had some truly lovely days and met some v. entertaining people. Now, though, I'm too tired to write anything either profound or amusing. Also, I think I really need sleep, since I just started to itch my eyelid and instead poked myself rather hard in the eyeball, and now my eye really hurts. I'm so stupid. So, I'm going to sign off, see if there's anything else in my room that I can pack up so that I won't have to deal with it when I get back from South Africa, and then hopefully stay awake long enough to stumble out to the taxi and get to the airport. Have a great week, everyone!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

forever may not be long enough for this love

And by 'this love' I mean 'getting everything done before I go on vacation.'

I woke up this morning around 10am, showered, and eventually got around to making a first stab at packing all of my stuff. Since I haven't had time to shop, I shouldn't have any difficulty getting everything into my three suitcases, but I don't know whether to be happy or sad about that. Around 2:30, I reached the point where I couldn't pack anything else, and so I came into the office...and I've been here ever since. Actually, that's not *completely* accurate; I did take two ten-minute breaks to run home and mess with my laundry. Now it's after ten p.m., which means I've spent almost eight hours on a Sunday at the office. I don't really understand where the time went. I just have too much random, last-minute stuff to figure out before I leave, and not nearly enough time in which to do it. I'm getting on a plane bound for Cape Town in less than 72 hours!!

The worst thing, though, is not the fact that I already have 12.5 hours of meetings in the 16 hours that I'm legally required to work over the next two days, on top of the ridiculous amount of hours that I should be spending on wrapping up all of my final tasks. No, the worst thing is that I have to write my freaking Q2 self-assessment before I leave. I *hate* writing self-assessments, almost as much as I hate team-building exercises. I especially hate to write them when I have so much other stuff to do; shouldn't my accomplishments speak for themselves? Apparently not. And so, tomorrow I'm going to have to come in early to get a head start on the day so that I can spend tomorrow night writing my self-assessment (and several peer reviews). Ugh. Oh, well. It could be worse. I could be dead. Or I could be married to Tom Cruise. Both of those options are thoroughly scary, and so I think I'll go home and go to bed before prolonged contemplation gives me nightmares. Goodnight!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

all the blue light reflections that color my mind when i sleep

I'm feeling rather wrecked tonight. After leaving the office this afternoon, I procured some ibuprofren (which was *key*), had a sandwich at McDonalds (not so key, but European McDonalds seem tastier than the American ones, and it was quick and easy), and then met Darragh at the gates of Trinity College. We met up with Liz, which was great; I love both of them, so it was great hanging out with both of them at the same time. We made our way to the Chester Beatty Library, which is on the grounds of Dublin Castle. The library was gorgeous--it's more a museum, really, since the public areas have fantastic displays of books and prints from various areas of the world. The collector, Chester Beatty, made his fortune in copper mining and started collecting books, reaching the point where he was acquiring more than 1000 rare books a year. There were amazing medieval illuminated manuscripts; fragments of 2nd-century Christian scrolls; prints from Edo-period Japan ('ukiyo-e', or 'pictures of the floating world', which I studied in college); lots of beautifully-scripted Qur'ans; story-telling artistic scrolls from China; and tons of other books, scrolls, and artifacts. As you can imagine, I loved the place.

I would have loved it even more if I didn't feel like I was dying. In fact, all three of us were kind of struggling; Darragh and Liz had ended up spending the night at the house I was at last night, and none of us were in peak form today. In fact, we had to take a break in the middle of going through the exhibits to reinvigorate ourselves with tea in the cafe downstairs. We were a bit out of place, since I didn't see anyone else who seemed to be a hungover twentysomething, but I'm so glad I went.

Afterwards, I came home with the intention of packing my suitcases, but instead fell asleep on the couch. Sonam and I ordered Thai food, which was tasty, and now I'm casually watching the final minutes of the Argentina/Mexico game. I think I'm going o go to bed rather than trying to pack; I'll have to pack tomorrow, as well as go into the office to make up for some of the things I was too busy to finish during the week. Three more days in Dublin! That seems completely incomprehensible.

when i see you a blanket of stars covers me in my bed

I woke up this morning with a hangover, which should be an indication that I am still subscribing to my work hard, play hard philosophy; actually, the 'play hard' part of that philosophy has been completely subsumed by the 'work hard' part of my life over the last couple of weeks, as my increasingly-hysterical recent posts have probably indicated. Today is the first day that I don't intend to do any work at all since I left for Berlin, and Berlin feels like a lifetime ago. It probably *was* a lifetime ago for my liver, but I digress. I am sitting in the office right now, but that's because I had left my laptop here last night when I left for dinner, and didn't feel like stumbling up to get it when I got back to my apartment around 3:30am. I don't intend to stay here much longer, which is exciting. Instead, I'm going to walk into the city centre, buy some aspirin, eat some lunch, and then meet up with Darragh, who is taking me to a library/museum with an apparently-amazing collection of rare books, particularly Asian manuscripts. Y'all know how much I love books, and also stuff from Asia, so it should be fun.

Last night was really nice, and I'm becoming increasingly sad that I'm leaving. I had spent all day in a stupid team-building exercise; we were supposed to have a team offsite, which traditionally involves doing something fun (and, in Dublin, getting drunk--people are much more relaxed about the whole drinking-with-your-manager thing here), but instead we had an 'onsite-offsite', which involved sitting around in a conference room all day and brainstorming. I've done so much freaking brainstorming in the past three months that my head hurts just thinking of it (or, more likely, my head hurts from the combination of the bright flourescent lights and the remnants of the wine and Guinness still circulating through my system). Granted, they tried to make it a little less conference-room-ish, which involved putting glowsticks around the place, moving the tables, and making us lounge on big beanbags instead of chairs. Don't get me wrong, I like the team I'm working with here, I like what they're doing, and I didn't mind spending a day hanging out on beanbags--but I always feel so fake during all of that team-building crap, and by the end of a full day of team-building, I'm so bitter that I had to spend an entire day burying my traditional desire to just get things done. Ugh.

Luckily, we went out for dinner after the team-building stuff, and my satisfaction levels definitely picked up. The restaurant was French, and the appetiser and main course were really good, but their creme brulee was astonishingly bad considering that it was a nice restaurant. The dinner conversation in my area of the table was quite amusing, even if I did end up sitting, virtually by accident, with Darragh, Kerry and Renate, who are the people I see the most, which defeats the purpose of a team dinner. Some of us went for drinks at a couple of pubs afterwards, then ended up at a guy's house, where the debauchery continued. I was definitely not in any bad shape last night, and I believe that I remember everything that happened, even if it is pleasantly fuzzy. Strangely, we ended up playing this weird game that involved trying to pick up a box with one's teeth without your knees or hands touching the ground; my first attempt was a success, but when they tore three inches off the top of the box, virtually everyone failed on the second round. In some ways it almost felt like college again, and I was extremely happy, mostly because there were no spreadsheets or powerpoints anywhere in my vicinity.

Like I said, I am going to miss being here--I've finally reached the point where I feel settled, even if I am hideously busy, and now I have to pick up and move again. Sigh. The people I was hanging out with last night were the same group that I got to know better in Berlin, and includes the team that I work with her (which, appropriately enough, seems to be one of the hardest-partying groups in the office). They're really lovely people, and there are a couple that I am becoming really close friends with, so it just sucks that I'm leaving. Also, the team gave me flowers yesterday at the end of the team-building thing, which helped to lift my spirits considerably, and made it harder to ignore that I only have two more days in the office here.

Then again, I've missed my friends and my life, and it's ironic that I'm just getting settled in here, since I felt that I was finally settled back into California when I left for Ireland. This summer won't be any more settled, and so I will see the people here again when I come back for a couple of weeks in September, and I'll see Darragh in India when I go there for a week in August. But, hopefully by winter I can get some semblance of a life back.

Okay, no more sitting in the office--it's too bad that the weather today promises to be bad, considering how gorgeous the past two weekends were when I was stuck in the office. But, I shall persevere. Have a great day!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

check out the reflections in my eyes

Today started off with a bang when I woke up dry-heaving at six a.m., which would have probably been vomiting if I had had time for dinner last night. I managed to go back to sleep and felt marginally better when I woke up again at 8:30, although I've had a raging headache all day. It got a little bit worse when I strolled into work at five past nine, only to discover that I had left my laptop in my apartment because I had mistakenly thought that I had left it at work the previous night. This set me back another ten minutes while I came back to my apartment to retrieve the aforementioned laptop, which had managed to get buried under a pile of clothes during the ten hours that I wasn't in the office between leaving yesterday and going in this morning.

Needless to say, I wasn't really in the mood to give two more presentations today, and no one else on my team really was either, but we got through them surprisingly well given our overall group depression. But, I miraculously left the office around 4:30--my manager here made me schedule 'Sara time', and I actually took it. I was supposed to use it to think about my future, but I mostly used it to take a nap. Then I went out and had a steak and a glass of wine, and tried to list all of my strengths. Renate (the manager) chastised me for thinking too much about my weaknesses, as I believe I mentioned last week--and so she tasked me with trying to list one hundred of my strengths. I'm not particularly good at this; while I can definitely be introspective, I am more self-destructive than self-aggrandizing, and so even my strengths sound like things that I sometimes berate myself for (such as my ability to persuade people to do things my way--it's probably a competitive advantage in the corporate world, but I feel rather domineering sometimes and don't always think it's a good thing for my interpersonal relationships, especially with the opposite sex). But anyway, I compiled a rather long list, filled out by slightly less stellar skills like 'computer skillz' and 'living abroad' (you can tell I was stretching). I may not know what to do with my future, but I'm definitely a little more relaxed than I was earlier this afternoon, which will hopefully help me to get through the craziness of the next few days.

I have five more nights in Ireland (six if you count the Thursday that I'll be here to pick up my luggage), which seems ridiculous considering I haven't started packing or saying goodbye to people. I also haven't been to the Guinness Storehouse, which is apparently a must-see thing. So, let's see how much I get done this weekend; I'm actually just looking forward to taking a day off (since I've worked every day since getting back from Berlin), and sleeping until I wake up naturally. Which, given the fact that the sun rises at five a.m. here, will probably mean around six a.m. when it starts infiltrating my curtains.

I know that I'm talking tons about work, and I've fallen back into that classic Stanford-style 'look how hard I'm working and yet I'm still cool and fun' mentality that has been oft-bemoaned in the past. I can't help it, though! Going home will help, since I'm a little more balanced (or off-balanced in a better way) there. Now, though, I'm going to wrap up my IM conversation with Claude and go to bed. Goodnight!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

in the heat of attack it's the passion that kills--the victory is yours alone

Yes, I just quoted 'Burning Heart' from Survivor. If I'm supposed to feel ashamed of that, there are many other things that I should feel more ashamed of--and you should feel bad for being so uptight and snotty!

When I'm stressed, I apparently revert to all of the classic songs of my youth, and by 'youth' I mean 'college'. So, rather than listening to more recent stuff from the Red Hot Chili Peppers or Death Cab (although they're infrequently interspersed in the current playlist), I'm riding high on Guster, James, Collective Soul, Goo Goo Dolls, Bush, Counting Crows, and 'Solsbury Hill' by Peter Gabriel, which emblazoned itself on my consciousness after being used as the theme song for a particularly moving end-of-day recap video during the 2002 Winter Olympics. I promptly downloaded it and listened to it for ten hours straight while trying to avoid failing my classes by doing a marathon in Meyer Library; I can't recall if that's the time that Peter J. happened upon my sleeping form (those chairs were so comfortable!) and stole my shoes, but it may well have been. Ah, those were the days. I would way prefer to sleep in Meyer Library right now--some of the best naps I've had were in Meyer, and my bed in Dublin is rock-hard and v. uncomfortable.

Anyway, the presentation today went really well (or 'swimmingly', which Kim made fun of me for using in my blog), but for some reason I can't relax. I could have gone home a couple of hours ago, but I was feeling the obsessive-compulsive need to clean up my life. So, I recycled the ten half-full bottles of water that had accumulated on my desk, organised all of my emails, and restructured my file-saving system. All of this was actually stuff I needed to do, since I've lost track of the ten million other things that I need to take care of from my emails over the past couple of days, and I needed to do some file-storing maintenance since I had about 100 documents sitting on my desktop, all named frighteningly-similar things, and my lack of sleep has made me incapable of finding things with the weird efficiency that I normally demonstrate. I guess I just don't want to stop working tonight because I know that I have to keep going tomorrow, and I'm reaching the point where if I shut down, I'll be shut down for days, rather than hours. Also, I want to do all of this crap now so that I can avoid some work over the weekend and pack/go shopping.

Despite all of that, I'm pretty chipper--and I booked a full-day spa package at the Sheraton in Cape Town for the day that I will be in South Africa alone. I'm justifying the expense as research into whether South African masseuses provide the same type of happy ending to facials as the ones in India do. I'll be sure to report back either way so that you can benefit from my worldly knowledge. Now, though, I'm going to go home, possibly catch the end of the Argentina match or the Serbia/Cote d'Ivoire game, and then go to bed. Goodnight!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

lonely and dreaming of the west coast

Actually, I'm not lonely, and I have no time to dream of the West Coast; I got to work at 8:45 this morning (early for me), am still here at 9:32pm, and will probably have to look over stuff for another hour or so when I get home. On the other hand, I should probably just go to bed and get up early to work, since I feel like I'm dying. Sustaining oneself on sugared tea and diet coke is not smart, and I haven't eaten anything since lunch, but I'm too nervous/stressed/busy to eat, so there's no point in thinking about it. Maybe I'll grab a bag of popcorn to eat on the way home. That would be really good for my stomach!

I went to the Irish Management Institute this morning with my project group to work on the presentation we're giving tomorrow. It was really really good; we worked with the woman who actually wrote the book that I read last week on 'Making Brilliant Presentations', and we spent a couple of hours running through the slides, discussing presentation styles, and polishing up the preso. I'm already sick of the preso, and I'm going to get even more sick of it, but I do think it's going to be stellar, and I'm just so excited for it to be *over*.

Okay, so clearly my mind is in a million places since I just interrupted blogging to send a couple of random, completely unrelated work emails (definitely *not* personal emails, since I stopped answering personal emails weeks ago). I'm going to go home now, eat my popcorn in miserable solitude, read through my slides a couple of times, and pull my covers way over my head in hopes that I'll sleep better than I did last night. But, I'll be in South Africa in eight days!!!!! Even if it is freezing the entire time, our mansion turns out to be a shack made of cardboard and corrugated tin, and the only alcohol we can find is in mouthwash, I'll be freaking excited. Goodnight, everyone!

Monday, June 19, 2006

i think i liked you better when you just hit people with your stick

Okay, I should go to bed, but I'm all hyped up on endorphins from working so much. I don't know how that's possible, but somehow it is. I almost lost it today while trying to figure out which colors to use on a stupid graph for a powerpoint presentation, but I recovered admirably and slugged it out until around eight p.m. Then, I called my niece to wish her a happy birthday, talked to my other niece, nephew, and sister, and then came home to catch the last half of the Spain/Tunisia game.

Tomorrow, I have to go to some third-party vendor to run through the presentation that I'm giving on Wednesday. I'm not particularly excited about this; yes, it's a good opportunity to polish the presentation, but I don't like practicing presentations. I'd rather go in unprepared and rely on the adrenaline to carry me through (which it typically does). But, once we've given the presentation on Wednesday, we're in the home stretch. Yes, we have to give different versions of it six more times in the four days between Wednesday and when I leave here, but they'll all be easier. Hopefully everything will go okay, so that I can go to South Africa without any regrets.

In other news, I'm having difficulty writing; I keep wanting to use the UK/Irish spellings of things, such as 'practising', 'strategising', 'optimising', 'realising', etc., etc. And so, I'm going to bed before I turn British. Goodnight!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

where all my tracks will be concealed

Table of Contents
1. Happy father's day!
2. Happy birthday early!
3. Congradulashuns graduates!
4. My work situation
5. Rant about the World Cup

1) Happy father's day, Daddy!

2) Happy birthday (a day early) to my youngest niece, Allie! They're growing up so fast :)

3) Congradulashuns, class of 2006! I'm so sad that I'm not there to see it, even if it would have meant trying to make the rounds of multiple departmental graduations. I hope it's a lovely day for everyone.

4) My work situation: Well, so much for the weekend. I worked from 10-2 yesterday and from 9-5 today, and I know there was more that I could have done (there's *always* more, unless you're Oliver Twist), but I couldn't take it anymore and so came home instead. I should have kept working yesterday, but I wanted to go shopping and have lunch. I didn't really buy much of interest for myself, except for a completely unnecessary crystal perfume atomiser, but I love it and it's a much cheaper and more portable souvenir of my time in Dublin than the set of wineglasses that I almost bought. This means that I've spent two of my last three weekends in Dublin working. Hopefully I'll be able to get some time out of the office next weekend, if for no other purpose than to pack all of my belongings.

5) Rant about World Cup: I should have blogged last night, but I got really mad after watching the Italy/USA soccer mad, in fact, that I watched a stupid Steven Seagal movie rather than turning on my computer. I actually really enjoyed the game; we were down by a man for most of the second half because two of ours were sent off (as opposed to one from the Italian side), and while we weren't exactly stellar (our sole point came from an own-goal off an Italian), we managed to hold Italy to 1-1 and keep our hopes alive. I thought it was splendid that we kept in the game with 9 players, and I was feeling rather patriotic about the whole affair. Then, my patriotic feathers were ruffled by the Irish commentators after the match. The in-match commentators had agreed with my belief that the US performance was noteworthy, but the studio commentators spent the entire post-match discussion dissing the US for how brutally they were playing.

Essentially, the whole commentary sounded like a sideways discussion of American foreign policy, rather than a straight-on discussion of footballing tactics and talents. In fact, one commentator went so far as to say that it's no wonder our players fouled so much when they got warlike messages from the commander-in-chief. He also characterised it as 'ridiculous' that one of the players said that they were doing it for the 'boys in Iraq.' I would agree that the player potentially doesn't care all that much about the boys in Iraq; but, the New York Times (not the most conservative paper in the world) reported the same quote but the context appears to be that the player said he was inspired by the American fans in the city in which the match was played--it's the city where the Rammstein military base is located, and so there are 40,000 US soldiers stationed there, and the American fans were out in force.

I'm probably being too sensitive about this; I'm in a foreign country, commentators are entitled to their opinions, and I can't expect that another country will have nice things to say about America. But, I haven't read any other commentary, including on BBC's website, that seemed hostile to the American efforts in the match. And it's rather ironic that 2/3rds of the commercials during the matches are for American products, and that most of the television programming is American, and that the World Cup match led directly into a Steven Seagal movie from the late nineties (how many television programmers in the States would use the fantastic lead-in of the World Cup, or Super Bowl, to promoted 'Half Past Dead'?). So between the commentary on the US side of yesterday's match, the same commentator's comments about the Angola keeper the night before (which admittedly I found amusing, but I would have been pissed if I had been Angolan), and his dismissive attitudes towards virtually all players and teams, I'm quite sick of the after-match commentaries. I wish Ireland was in the World Cup, so that I could see whether he would explode from trying to say something positive.

This probably ties into the political correctness that is common in the US and somewhat unseen here. Someone in the office actually referred to the Italians as 'Eye-ties' in a non-ironic manner, which secretly thrilled me, even though I was surprised. And if a commentator in the US had been so brutal about the Angolans, they probably would have had to issue a public apology. But, I'll own up to my own hypocrisy--I wouldn't be so mad if this hadn't been about the US. I just feel like major sporting events, like the World Cup and the Olympics, should be about the athletes and not about the policies of various countries.

And in answer to Not Applicable - I have seen that Adidas commercial, and I love it...but I must say, I have a pair of Adidas, and they don't seem to be bringing me any closer to being able to draft even one semi-attractive dude. I can't even get someone who looks like Ronaldinho, and he's not exactly a prize. Maybe I need to switch away from the silver-and-pink Adidas and go for something more sporty. But, question--are they playing the 'stupid american' Budweiser commercials in the States? Budweiser is, for some inexplicable reason, the official beer of the World Cup...and they're running tons of commercials with two dumb, ultra-American sportscasters saying things like 'They're not doing so well now, but at least they have the third and fourth quarters to make up the difference' [there's only two halves in soccer], or 'First Frankfurt, now Hamburg...what's next, Cheeseburg?', or 'First it hit the first guy's head, and then it bounced off of the second guy's head into the goal! What are the odds of that?!' I think they're pretty funny, but are they playing in the US? They definitely don't beat the Volkswagen commercials, but they're satisfactory for now.

Okay, time to watch the second half of the France/Korea match...take care, everyone!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

to: rick wampler

This is in response to the comment I got from Rick Wampler, who is moving to Dublin in the next month. Send me an email at! I may not still be here when you arrive, but I can at least give you some tips.

This message will stay at the top for a few days, so if you're a regular reader, scroll below it for the updates.

Friday, June 16, 2006


Unfortunately, I didn't get to hear the Mexican soccer fans shouting 'gooooooooaaaaaaallllllllll!!!!!!!!' during the Mexican/Angolan match, because the match ended 0-0 after 90 boring minutes. The most amusing part came after the match, when the Irish commentators actually broke down laughing at the performance of the Angolan keeper--the keeper made a few great saves, but there were a couple when he just looked confused, and the commentators actually had to stop talking for a minute and wipe the tears of laughter away before they could continue. They ended up stopping the entire analysis of the game and showing the highlights from the Argentina/Serbia game instead, since they could no longer talk without smirking. It was fantastic! Of course, I still have to live with the shame that I was feeling so antisocial that I didn't go over to Aldo's to watch it with him and other people; instead, I watched it in my pajamas with my roommate. Oh, well. Since I have to go to work at 10am tomorrow (and yes, it's a Saturday in Ireland just like it is in the US), I don't particularly feel like celebrating anything at all right now. I do feel like watching silly commercials--European commercials are a cut above the rest. My favorite commercial right now is a McDonald's commercial; it shows an empty stadium seat in black-and-white with a forlorn looking Ireland scarf draped over the back, and then a dramatic voiceover saying 'We didn't qualify for the World Cup. Togo did. And England is favored to win. Kind of leaves you feeling empty inside?' Then, we discover that McDonald's has come out with a bigger Big Mac, for a limited time only, to fill the void. Awesome!

Clearly if I've reached the point where I'm recounting World Cup commercials, I've hit a new low. Or perhaps it's a new high--remember the euphoria I felt over the Volkswagen 'fast' commercials? Now *those* were some great commercials! And now that I have the memory of 'sometimes my fast doesn't get along with my girlfriend' to warm my up inside, it's time for bed!


Unfortunately, I didn't get to hear the Mexican soccer fans shouting 'gooooooooaaaaaaallllllllll!!!!!!!!' during the Mexican/Angolan match, because the match ended 0-0 after 90 boring minutes. The most amusing part came after the match, when the Irish commentators actually broke down laughing at the performance of the Angolan keeper--the keeper made a few great saves, but there were a couple when he just looked confused, and the commentators actually had to stop talking for a minute and wipe the tears of laughter away before they could continue. They ended up stopping the entire analysis of the game and showing the highlights from the Argentina/Serbia game instead, since they could no longer talk without smirking. It was fantastic! Of course, I still have to live with the shame that I was feeling so antisocial that I didn't go over to Aldo's to watch it with him and other people; instead, I watched it in my pajamas with my roommate. Oh, well. Since I have to go to work at 10am tomorrow (and yes, it's a Saturday in Ireland just like it is in the US), I don't particularly feel like celebrating anything at all right now. I do feel like watching silly commercials--European commercials are a cut above the rest. My favorite commercial right now is a McDonald's commercial; it shows an empty stadium seat in black-and-white with a forlorn looking Ireland scarf draped over the back, and then a dramatic voiceover saying 'We didn't qualify for the World Cup. Togo did. And England is favored to win. Kind of leaves you feeling empty inside?' Then, we discover that McDonald's has come out with a bigger Big Mac, for a limited time only, to fill the void. Awesome!

Clearly if I've reached the point where I'm recounting World Cup commercials, I've hit a new low. Or perhaps it's a new high--remember the euphoria I felt over the Volkswagen 'fast' commercials? Now *those* were some great commercials! And now that I have the memory of 'sometimes my fast doesn't get along with my girlfriend' to warm my up inside, it's time for bed!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

i've become what i always hated when i was with you then

Despite all of the advice that I got yesterday to focus on my strengths rather than my weaknesses, I spent several hours today focusing on my weaknesses. Specifically, I have difficulty creating powerpoints that aren't all text, which is problematic since the whole point of using powerpoint is to create presentations that are visual and engaging. I suppose this comes down to my natural tendency to explain using words rather than pictures; I'm a very verbal/textual person, rather than an audio/visual person. This means that my presentations tend to be a long series of bulletpoints, rather than the more engaging series of fun clipart images. That being said, I usually think that fun clipart images are lame, which makes me less likely to use any myself.

Anyway, I desperately needed protein after having a vegetarian lunch, and so I went to my favorite nearby restaurant and had a steak (and a glass of wine, which did nothing for my protein craving but everything for my stress levels). Perhaps I didn't relax enough. I couldn't stop thinking about work, and so I multitasked by reading an entire pamphlet/book on creating effective presentations while sipping my cappuccino. The book was engaging, but I'm not sure that it really helped me to fix the pressing issue, which is that I can't visualize things in an image-oriented format. Now, if only I were presenting about a bastard Scots laird who seduced an innocent English girl and swept her off to the Highlands, I would be able to create a riveting presentation; alas, I have to present on boring facts and recommendations instead. Sigh. You'll know that I've completely lost it if I try to hire bagpipers for the preso!

Actually, I've already completely lost it, if I'm using words like 'preso' in my everyday life. When did I turn so corporate? I suppose it's a natural consequence of living and breathing work. These are my field-marshal tendencies coming to the fore again. I'm currently feeling rather ruthless when it comes to work, and I want to accomplish as much as possible because I'm running out of time. This is v. far away from my diametrically-opposite goal of writing a romance novel and living a quiet life in the country, far from both the madding crowd and the lures of PowerPoint and Excel.

Oh, well, there's no point discussing this any further tonight. I've included a description of my personality type below; the portion about female ENTJs and their interactions with males just about perfectly sums up my difficulties with the opposite sex. However, I'm not happy that the female embodiement of ENTJs is Eleanor Roosevelt; luckily, the fact that I'm an ENTJ doesn't automatically give me a hatchet-face, but clearly I'm going to have to be careful to moisturize and wear makeup so that I don't come across as a ball-busting psycho.



Life's Natural Leaders

Hearty, argumentative, and robust are three words that accurately describe ENTJs. Their unique preferences combine to give them very high need for control and unusual leadership abilities.

Their focus and energy are directed outwardly (Extraversion) towards a world of endless possibilities and meanings (Intuition), which are translated objectively into system and products (Thinking) in a very timely and orderly fashion (Judging).

Like their cousins, the ENTPs, the entire world seems a chessboard to ENTJs, with pieces in need of being moved--by them--for the greater good. Life is a system of forces to be understood, mastered, harnessed, altered, or defeated, as appropriate, from day to day.

For the ENTJ, all life unfolds through confrontation, arguing, and engaging with one another in the name of learning. The ENTJ starts with the basic assumption that he or she is right and must be proven wrong. This proving process will be beneficial only to the extent that there are others who have the gumption or audacity required to mount an effective challenge. When the engagement is over, if the ENTJ was right, everyone will be better for having gone through the process. If the ENTJ is wrong, then there will be profound admiration and respect for whoever was strong enough to prevail, as well as gratitude and respect for the new lesson learned.

In some ways, life for the ENTJ is a variation of the children's game King (or Queen) of the Mountain. The goal for others is to try to push the ENTJ down from the mountaintop. So long as they are unable to do so, they must remain "beneath" the ENTJ. The process of being challenged is as important to the ENTJ as the outcome.

As a type, ENTJs have low regard for people who refuse to engage them or ate intimidated by them, and high regard for those who stand up to them and challenge them intellectually, emotionally, or any other way. The problem of intimidation is intensified by the ENTJ's arrogance, which is often so much a part of them that they are unaware of its existence. Those around them are usually keenly aware of it.

ENTJs are often impatient, more so than most other types. Their impatience may show itself in the form of a quick temper, inappropriate complaints over relatively small matters, and an urgency to move on to bigger and better things. Their strong egos can trick them into thinking they can do or handle anything, including details and intense interpersonal matters, but details and interpersonal skills are simply not the ENTJ's strong suits.

When an ENTJ "fails" at such matters, the resulting stress, frustration, and feelings of incompetence can result in self-flagellation and criticism, often totally out of proportion to the issue at hand. Indeed, when it comes to criticism of self or others, ENTJs are usually in a class by themselves.

ENTJs are especially gifted with language. Clarity of thought and speech make them excellent communicators. It also sharpens the precision of their critical abilities.

Clearly, gender issues are especially significant for ENTJ females. As a type, their arrogant, confrontational manner and need for control can appear to be quite "unwomanly" to others. Efforts by parents and others to mold them into more traditional female images are usually met with rebellion. Other women usually resent the arrogance of ENTJ females may unwittingly find herself to be a loner, something particularly difficult for Extraverts.

Of course, the problem intensifies for the ENTJ female when dealing with men, even male ENTJs. Their demanding, objective, competent, and independent nature is not particularly endearing to most men. These qualities may obscure the fact that ENTJ females can be quite nurturing and caring. For them, femininity is not defined by traditional roles. It is reflected in the total involvement and commitment they bring to each moment of life.

Though they qualities of ENTJs may be more acceptable in males, they, too, may find people shunning them, often avoiding confrontations in order to escape their arrogance. As with their female counterparts, ENTJ males may be plagued by staff, family and personal relationships in turmoil, leaving them with more time alone than their Extraversion can deal with.

To their frequent surprise, ENTJs are often told they appear angry, even when it is just their enthusiasm for a point that has gotten them so worked up. Such encounters can be frustrating for ENTJs--as well as for those around them--and they may find themselves in the rather ironic position of having angrily to defend their nonanger. The sense of futility that results may make the ENTJ try even harder or, as is often the case with ENFJs, may make them give up and move on to some other project. In either case, the result can be debilitating to all involved.

The ENTJ's home is the arena for all sorts of pursuits. Relationships there tend to be open, honest, and stimulating. While to others ENTJs may seem somewhat abrasive, those who know them well understand that, as with other EJs, their bark is usually worse than their bite. To an ENTJ, relationships grow and develop over time.

As parents, ENTJs see children as fund because they are young adults to be encouraged, enlightened, and stimulated. As they grow, the children, too, become eligible to be drawn into hearty discourse about a variety of subjects. And they become candidates for the molding and shaping that ENTJs like to do for those they care about or have responsibilities for.

The ENTJ style of living is fairly compulsive and family members must know their responsibilities within the system. When rebellion is encountered, the ENTJ may enjoy the exchange, even admire at some level the boldness of whoever is rebelling, but still use maximal powers of persuasion to quell the revolt and ensure that all family members continue to march to the beat of the ENTJ drummer. If the rebel manages to win, that person also wins the ENTJ's respect. Each day, at work or at home, the ENTJ may win some and lose some, but there are few, if any, draws.

Relaxation does not come easily to most ENTJs and when it does, it is only because it has been scheduled. Even then it is viewed as one more assignment to master, and ENTJs attack such challenges with zeal and complusiveness.

ENTJ children are rather direct with both their peers and adults. Though they are often bossy and argumentative, they make friends easily, are quick-witted and gregarious, and have strong needs, like other Extraverts, to include others and be included by others in everything they do, from working to studying to partying. In the eyes of peers, ENTJ children can be simultaneously respected for their capabilities and resented for the obnoxious, overpowering conviction that accompanies their ideas. Competitive in most anything they do, ENTJ children start early to criticize their own shortcomings. They rarely rest on their laurels. Even the best, they believe, can be better. That, indeed, is how the ENTJ approaches everything.

Teachers, of course, may not always understand these attributes, and the result is often some very hostile moments, power struggles that the student is likely to lose. If there is no face-saving way out, the ENTJ can be resistant to subsequent learning experiences. While a good, challenging, competitive engagement that involves an exchange of ideas is enjoyable for ENTJs, the one-sided teacher-student power struggle can be damaging and alienating.

Family events are fun for the ENTJ. They are yet another chance to plan, organize, lead, and show off. It is a time for intellectual exchange and robust encounter. ENTJs look forward to such events with great enthusiasm.

With their natural leadership and systems-planning abilities, ENTJs often rise to upper levels of management fairly quickly. They may alienate some people along the way, but that's all part of the price one pays to express ability and prove competency. Moreover, if one achieves one's goals and has caused learning and growth for self and others, then the alienation was not in vain. Approaching these interpersonal dilemmas objectively, they find it surprising that anyone would be hurt, disappointed, or intimidated by their aggressiveness. In their objectivity, they don't understand why anyone would personalize an argument or competition that was, to their mind, well intentioned, meant only to result in the growth and betterment of all concerned.

Older age for the ENTJ is still a time for conceptual and intellectual expansion. Good development will bring more respect for behavior. However, the later years must still include some form of mental challenge, the more competitive the better. For the ENTJ, the reqards of maturity are the opportunities to read, argue, organize, or theorize--in other words, to continue on his or her lifelong path, but with less accountability. Retirement, if it ever comes, will see a continuation of these activities in some form or another.

Famous likely ENTJs include Douglas MacArthur (whose Extraversion kept him clamoring for the limelight, who viewed himself as a strategist of a high military system with no patience for detail, and whose objectivity always kept a sharp distinction between his mission and the people involved); Eleanor Roosevelt (whose social gregariousness kept her in headlines, whose intuition made her a futurist always looking at the big picture, and who loved managing complex systems); and Frank Lloyd Wright (who implemented his Intuitive-Thinking architectural visions with buildings and systems, whose Judging nature produced guidelines for other architects to follow, and whose Extraversions brought those systems to the public's view).

Summary - ENTJ

Contributions to the Organization

* Bring strong ideals of how organizations should treat people
* Enjoy leading and facilitating teams
* Enjoy cooperation
* Communicate organizational values
* Like to bring matters to fruitful conclusions

Leadership Style

* Lead through personal enthusiasm
* Take a participative stance in managing people and projects
* Responsive to followers' needs
* Challenge the organization to make actions congruent with values
* Inspire change

Preferred Work Environment

* Contains individuals focused on changing things for the betterment of others
* People-oriented
* Supportive and social
* Has a spirit of harmony
* Encourages expression of self
* Settled
* Orderly

Potential Pitfalls

* May idealize others and suffer from blind loyalty
* May sweep problems under the rug when in conflict
* May ignore the task in favor of relationship issues
* May take criticism personally

Suggestions for Development

* May need to recognize the limitations of people and guard against unquestioning loyalty
* May need to learn to manage conflict productively
* May need to pay as much attention to the details of the task as to the people
* May need to suspend self-criticism and listen carefully to the objective information contained in feedback

Order of Mental Preferences

1. Feeling
2. Intuition
3. Sensing
4. Thinking

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

i pushed you 'cause i loved you guys, i didn't realize you weren't having fun

I have a tremendous headache, which is probably because I need to think about my life and I don't want to. I had a meeting with my Dublin manager today; she's fantastic, and she's always encouraging me to think more about what I want from my career (which admittedly I need to do)...but I have trouble stepping back and examining my career when I'm so damn busy with all of the things that I need to do, like, *now*. She insisted that I schedule a couple of hours of 'sara time' on my calendar so that I would actually start thinking of some of this stuff before I leave here.

The problem is that, while I may like examining the darkness of the human condition, I don't particularly enjoy thinking about my own strengths. She's right in that I am always focusing my overly-critical gaze on all of the things that are wrong with me, and she told me that I need to make a comprehensive list of my strengths and start focusing on the competitive advantage that I can gain from my strengths, rather than my obsessive (my word, not hers) need to fix everything that I'm only passably good at. In other words, my perfectionist tendencies are hindering my ability to actually move forward. Or, to put it another way, I'm a classic ENTJ (to use Meyers-Briggs terminology); the ENTJ is considered the 'field-marshal', is only present in 2% of the population, and from all of the descriptions sounds rather insufferable. It's true, though--I do tend to end up in leadership positions without intending to, mostly because I have a ruthless desire to perfect everything and I don't have the patience to wait for someone else to do it. I share these lovable traits with such famous people as Margaret Thatcher and Napoleon. So, it's rather ironic that I want to write romance novels, since my personality is about as far away from romance as one can get.

Anyway, I need to be thinking about my strengths, not my weaknesses, right? And to do that, I need sustenance, so I'm going to go home, find some dinner, and then go to bed. 'sara time' can wait for another day. Goodnight, everyone!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

i'm dying here for a compliment

I got to leave work a little after seven today, which was AMAZING. How sad is that? So, I came home, ate some leftover thai food, and watched the first half of the Brazil/Croatia World Cup match. I called my parents, talked long enough to miss the rest of the match, and now I'm going to go to bed at the absurdly early hour of 11pm. Since my first meeting isn't until ten a.m., I intend to get tons of sleep, wake up refreshed and relaxed...and then work ridiculously hard for the next two weeks, until I can finally go to South Africa. And then, I will indulge in some spa treatments, go wine tasting and drink a lot with my friends, and generally have a fabulously awesome time. Then, it's off to Iowa, and then an 1800-mile car ride with my brother, and then the craziness of trying to find an apartment, and then the work cycle starts all over. Raise your hand if you can't wait for that to happen!

As you can tell by the fact that I'm still typing, I did not raise my hand. Oh, well. It will be nice to get back to California, even if I will still be employed. Unfortunately for you, my blog will probably be exceedingly uninteresting over the next few days--if you're lucky, I'll start making stuff up just for you. Tonight, though, I'm too tired to make anything up, other than all of the sleep that I'm still missing from my sojourn in Berlin. Goodnight!

Monday, June 12, 2006

she moves in mysterious ways

So, yesterday, I worked for another five hours, came home and read a book for awhile, took a shower, and went out to dinner with Christine (visiting from California), Sonam, and Tina. Dinner was fantastic, especially since I had a deliciously-rare ribeye steak, and also because the conversation was entertaining. It's unfortunate that Sunday dinner was really the only people-related relaxing that I did all weekend, but c'est la vie. The fun continued today, although I did take a short break for the past hour or so to finish the stupid book that I started this weekend. I wish that I would have called my parents instead, since the book was just awful; it's called 'The Eight', and it is clearly being marketed to take advantage of the success of 'The Da Vinci Code'. It's all about some mystical chess set called the Montglane Service, which was given to Charlemagne by some mysterious Moors, and contains the secrets of the ages, etc., etc. The book deserves to capitalise on 'The Da Vinci Code', since it suffers from writing that is even more atrocious than Dan Brown's novel, which I had thought was impossible. The foreshadowing was ham-handed, the author thought that similes would make up for narrative, and the plot was just a mishmash of every half-baked conspiracy theory involving Freemasons, secret societies, and the ancient mysteries of the Phoenicians. Ugh. It's so bad; please never read it. In fact, it's so bad that I might actually leave it here, a fate destined to be shared with 'Jaywalking with the Irish', and a fate that is highly uncommon with my books, since I tend to keep everything I read.

Anyway, the longer I think about the book, the less I can sleep, and the less I can sleep, the more unhappy I will be tomorrow. Goodnight!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

we are all made of stars

So, I went into the office at 10am today, and I stayed there until around three. Darragh and I threw in the towel then, but we're meeting tomorrow at 9:30, and will be breaking the Sabbath, as they used to say, for a significant portion of the day. Unfortunate, eh? After I left the office, I walked into town and had a v. late lunch/v. early dinner at an Italian place that I like, and the spicy tomato sauce almost (almost!) revived me. It wasn't enough, however, and so I slept for a couple of hours when I got home. Now, I need to wrap up some spreadsheet editin' before I go to bed, so that I'm prepped for what we're working on tomorrow. Honestly, there are times when I would like to never see another spreadsheet for as long as I live. I've learned quite a bit about the way that Excel works, but it's all been picked up out of sheer and brutal necessity, and I'm sure that there are more effective ways to do some of the things that I do.

I've been thinking a lot about collective minds recently, and how dependent I've become on being constantly plugged into all of the tools that make it easier for the collective minds that I'm a part of to operate effectively. I'm defining 'collective mind' as a set of memories and goals shared by two or more people, such that the collective functions at a higher level than it would be possible to function at alone. To put it another way, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. At work, I'm benefitting from sharing a collective mind with both Kim and Darragh; it can be tricky since Kim and I are based in different offices, which requires more cyberspace connections than the one I have with Darragh, who sits beside me. Friends and family comprise other groups of shared experiences, although it's less frequent that we're sharing information in an effort to achieve a task.

The miracle of the internet is that it allows collective minds to function regardless of distance, and it can even enhance collective minds in which all parties are located in the same place. Sharing is caring, so to speak, and with the internet I can share any knowledge that I want--pictures, spreadsheets, emails, documents, blog posts, random thoughts, etc. It's not always seamless and it's not always easy, but I can't imagine what my life would be like if I wasn't plugged in at all times. If I could only communicate via telephone with Kim, I wouldn't be able to see what she was seeing; if everything Darragh and I produced remained in paper form, I would never be able to find any of it.

The downside is that all of this contributes to my much-lamented lack of work/life balance. And perhaps I don't really mean work/life balance; perhaps I mean the balance between 'connected' and 'not connected'. Since I'm always connected, I always feel the insistent tug of the ether, the mandate to share everything and learn everything so that my mind and the collective minds that I'm a part of can continue to excel. My blog keeps family and friends updated about my day-to-day life, but it's also an obligation that takes twenty minutes a day away from the 'real world'. When I leave work at the end of the day, the desire to frequently check my email is overwhelming, since I don't want to miss anything; the consequence is that I miss the outside world that my ancestors lived in. Collective minds are built to insulate us from some of the risks of solitude; family units or tribes, the earliest forms of collective minds, helped to ensure that everyone remained as well-fed and healthy as possible, and passed on the collective memories of cultures, gods, histories, and beliefs. But, the more time you spend sharing, and the more time you spend learning from others, the less time you have to truly understand yourself. In everyone, there is a core that no one else can see, that is impossible to share, that remains buried in the subconcious, or the soul, beyond understanding. It is possible to know oneself, or to explore one's dark and murky depths, but the time required is increasingly difficult to find in a world where so much of one's day is spent connected to everyone and everything.

I feel that my consciousness could be divided into a Venn diagram of sorts; my circle overlaps with Kim, with Darragh, with my family, with my friends, with the people who are obsessed with Brangelina, with all sorts of groups that form in the internet and share information amongst themselves. The part of the circle that belongs only to me is small, and difficult to listen to beneath the constant noise generated by the other segments. I've been able to 'hear' it a bit better in Dublin, perhaps because my connections to family and friends have been somewhat quieter (although by no means gone) during my time here. And because I've been able to hear myself better, and because I currently like what I'm hearing even if there will always be some aspects of self-loathing in any examination of the depths of one's soul, I'm struggling to understand where I should draw the boundaries in a world that so easily facilitates living only in the brightly-illuminated, question-free areas of the collective mind. When two or more people are sharing thoughts, they are no longer really secrets; even if Kim, Darragh and I were plotting to kill everyone and take over the world, there would be no need to examine this in any detail, since at least these plans would be known to Kim and Darragh despite the secrecy that would be required around everyone else. The collective mind is filled with brightly-lit avenues and windows open to the sunshine, while the private mind is all dark alleyways and shuttered rooms; the collective mind offers safety, while the private mind only offers the lure of the unknown and the dangerous. Hysterical news reports about online predators aside, the Internet is making everyone safer, through the sharing of information and the fostering of online collective minds. The consequence is that it is now possible to live all of one's life in the brilliant light of the collective, warding off the shadows inside by collaborating with others.

Anyway, enough of that; I should really go back to creating more information for the collective mind so that I can go to sleep and explore the paths of my dreams. Goodnight!

Friday, June 09, 2006

look at me, dreaming of you

I'm still beyond exhausted, because I started reading a book when I really should have just gone to bed. It's 11:45pm, which isn't exactly late, and it's an indication of my exhaustion that I was able to put a book down unfinished before midnight. I'm reading 'American Gods' by Neil Gaiman; I had intended to read it in America, but I returned Claude's copy to her when we parted ways, and so I bought a copy here instead. It has that combination of the absurd and the mundane that I love, and that I tend to find in all of the books that tug at my heartstrings and imprint themselves on my memory ('One Hundred Years of Solitude', anything by Murakami, 'Sunshine', etc.). I'm not finished yet, but when I am, I'm sure I'll write up an appropriately-lofty postmortem.

Anyway, I made it into work by nine today, which was something approaching a miracle. I also stayed at work until seven, which was not absurdly late given my usual leaving times, but was absurdly late given the fact that it's a Friday and I've barely slept this week. I went to the neighborhood Spar (like a convenience store without gasoline), looking for dinner, and found tortillas, canned refried beans, precooked chicken, cheese, and some weird salsa. It's an indication of how desperate I am for Mexican food that I was excited about the prospect of reheating some beans and chicken and putting them in a quesadilla. To continue using my favorite turn of speech for the evening, it's an indication of how hungry I was that, when confronted by the fact that the tortillas were somewhat moldy (possibly because the packaging said 2/10/2006, which the Spar probably thought was 2-Oct but was really Feb-10), I decided to cut off the moldy bits and proceed as planned. It hasn't killed me yet, and it was delish for what it was, so hopefully I'll survive.

I'm not going anywhere or doing anything this weekend, other than working. I'm meeting Darragh at 10am to work on our project, and if I get lucky we'll be productive enough tomorrow that we won't have to come in on Sunday, but I'm not holding my breath.

It's going to be a highly hectic summer, since I'm going to South Africa, driving my car back to California, finding an apartment, possibly going to India for a weeklong team summit (guess who craftily proposed that?), going to a couple of weddings, and coming back to Dublin for a few weeks. But, I'm looking forward to it, and I'm especially looking forward to spending time with friends. I'm not precisely homesick; I'm too busy to be homesick, and I like what I'm doing here. Rather, as I believe I've mentioned before, I just don't have any of that magical 'work/life balance' that one is supposed to strive for. My circle at work has become extremely tight; I was notifying key people of the dates of my South Africa trip, and realized that my absence will only affect half a dozen people, which was a little disheartening. Outside of work, I only tend to see Matt, my roommate, and a couple of people from the office. In Berlin, I naturally hung out with the people I work with the most, which meant that I spent all of my time drinking with the three people who sit within six feet of me, and some of their friends (which includes Matt, conveniently enough). As another example, I'm meeting Darragh tomorrow morning, and I'm so tired that that may be the only 'socializing' I do all weekend. It's not really socializing at all, since we're meeting in the office to work, and even though I like Darragh a lot, it's a little rough that we have to spend the weekend working together, since I sit three feet from him all day every day, unless I'm having a meeting with him in a conference room where we can sit four feet apart, just for a change of scenery. Note to anyone from work who may read this - I'm not complaining about Darragh, I'm complaining about the fact that I work too much. But, despite the claustrophobia that I'm currently feeling, I'm sad that I'm leaving here in less than three weeks; my social circle may be small, but it's intense, and I will genuinely miss these people when I'm gone.

Therefore, it will be nice to get back to my other friends and pick up the threads of my other life, even if I will have to travel a lot over the next few months. At least my old friends don't work with me, even if I sometimes wish they did, and even if they make a habit of inviting themselves to lunch a couple of times a month. I may still be working just as hard when I get back to Cali (and possibly harder, if I'm always making up for traveling), but at least when I go home or go out, it won't be with someone from my office, unless I want to make social plans with people from the office. I guess I'm going stir-crazy because I'm lacking choice, and I tend to flip out when I'm not in a position to make decisions about what's going to happen to me. I'm a huge proponent of free will, with all of the danger and consequences that comes with it, and so I tend to feel trapped when I'm in situations where there are no choices. That could be why I'm a disaster when it comes to committed relationships, but that's a whole 'nother story. I think that, rather than pursue a continued monologue on this matter, I would be much better served by going to bed!

jump in my car

[editor's note: this should have been posted last night, but blogger was down and i couldn't actually upload it. sigh.]

I am completely and utterly wrecked, thanks to several days of overindulgence in alcohol and underindulgence in sleep. I got back from Berlin this afternoon and came immediately to work (after washing my face at my apartment), where I’ve been working for the past seven hours. Brutal! I’m having difficulty formulating coherent thoughts, so please bear with me.

I left for Berlin Monday morning, on a Ryanair flight from Dublin. Ryanair is completely ridiculous; they are so low-cost that they actually make prospective employees pay something like 600 euros for their own training, and then they only make job offers *after* the training has been completed. That’s such a brilliant business model! Also, all of their terminals are unnecessarily far away from the rest of the airport; one of my coworkers was telling me that she went to a Ryanair terminal in some city that was actually just a tent on the tarmac, and the tent would shudder horribly whenever a plane flew overhead. However, we made it to Berlin without any incident, and that’s where the fun began…

After checking into the hotel, I went around Berlin’s city centre with some of my coworkers. We had a great time, and I finally got to see the Brandenburg Gate (it was wrapped up for renovation when I was in Berlin in 2002)—but the gate was partially obscured by the preparations for the opening ceremonies of the World Cup. The city was gearing up for the World Cup at a feverish pace, and we were able to go into a gigantic replica-soccer-ball to watch highlights of previous soccer games and play with interactive demos and things. We also wandered around Potsdamer Platz, a large square in the former East Berlin that has been the sight of extensive redevelopment and now contains some amazing displays of postmodern glass-and-steel architecture. It was great to see the area again, since I had been impressed with the construction going on in 2002 and had wanted to see what came of the building spree.

When I got back to my hotel for dinner, I ran into some of my other friends from the office, who convinced me to skip dinner and go back into town to drink with them. This is what I shall fondly call ‘mistake #1’. ‘Mistake #2’ was drinking before ordering food at the bars we went to; by the time I realized that I hadn’t eaten, the alcohol had lulled me into believing that I was no longer hungry. ‘Mistake #3’ was getting up the next morning; even though I had only had three screwdrivers and a glass of white wine on Monday night, I was operating in extremely dangerous territory without any food to soak up all of the alcohol, and so I was violently ill on Tuesday. That’s when I vowed never to drink again; and, I held to my vow on Tuesday, despite the temptation proffered by the wine-soaked gala awards banquet/disco competition on Tuesday night. I made it through dinner, watched some truly awful dancing, and amazed even myself by going to bed shortly after midnight. This was a huge improvement over Monday night; Monday was extremely fun, but I didn’t go to bed until almost four, and so I was completely doomed when I woke up at 7:30am. Ugh. I desperately needed the six hours of sleep I got Tuesday night, even though it wasn’t nearly enough.

Wednesday, though, was where it was at, so to speak. The conference proper ended around 3:30pm, and we left the hotel on buses bound for parts unknown. Our grand closing party was grand indeed; it started with an hour-long boat tour of downtown Berlin on one of the rivers, which gave us great views of the Reichstag and other government buildings. I was with three of my friends from the Dublin office, and we happened to be the first people on the boat, so we sat in the very front and had unobstructed views of everything, as well as unshaded access to the gorgeous sunshine. The boat dropped us off at the evening’s destination—a beach-party venue, replete with sand, swimming pools, cozy beach-style lounge areas, barbecues, and an attractive (and free!!) bar. We had to do some obligatory team bonding, which involved painting a Berliner bear (Berlin’s symbol is the bear, and there are some amazing painted bears around the city symbolizing tons of different countries, ideas, people, etc…I saw some in 2002 and really liked them, never imagining I would have to paint one). I’m pretty sure my group’s Berliner bear was the ugliest of the bunch (see below). That was soon finished, however, and then the party could begin in earnest. I spent the evening hanging out and drinking with the group I had spent most of my time with during the conference, which was fun.

The fun was amplified a hundredfold, though, when we were tipped off to vacate our comfortable seating area for some chairs closer to the pool. As we were lounging around, the main executives gathered on a balcony overlooking the pool, encouraged us to make some noise—and then moved aside to make room for the arrival of DAVID HASSELHOFF. The crowd went absolutely wild. He sang four songs, including a cover of ‘Secret Agent Man’, as well as his song ‘Looking for Freedom’, which he sang seventeen years ago on the Berlin Wall (and which he once pointed to as an example of how influential he was in the reuniting of Germany, in a petulant demand for more recognition of his efforts). The best song, though, was a cover of ‘Jump In My Car’. They had played the video of the song for us at the banquet the night before, and it’s absolutely brilliant—I hope that the song shows up on iTunes, because it’s totally stuck in my head and may never leave it again.

Anyway, Hasselhoff was amazing, and I felt more emotionally, physically, and spiritually drained after his performance than I have felt in a v. long time. Everyone was a little dazed afterwards, even though it only lasted twenty minutes, and it took us some time to recover. By that point, we were being ushered to the buses; since the opening ceremonies of the World Cup were in Berlin last night, they were expecting one million people to be milling about in the area that we needed to get our buses through, and so we had to leave in a quick and orderly fashion so that the police could clear the way for us. The fact that we had to leave the beach didn’t mean that the party stopped, however; I hung out in the hotel bar until 3:30am, reacquainting myself with the screwdriver that had made me so miserable two nights before. Luckily, my love/hate relationship with orange juice and vodka was resolved amicably, and so I awoke this morning (after four paltry hours of sleep) merely feeling like death rather than like a vomiting zombie, which was a huge improvement over Tuesday. I dragged my stuff downstairs, ate breakfast, boarded a bus and then a plane and then another bus, and was back in my apartment by 1:30pm.

There, I made another small mistake by washing my face with a new scrub that I had gotten at that hippie store; the girl said that it was very refreshing and great for hangovers, but I forgot that its main components were vodka and citrus, and so the smell of it covering my face almost made me throw up. I recovered quickly, though, and did feel remarkably revived. So, I slathered makeup on my face, shellacked the dark circles under my eyes with concealer, planted my sunglasses firmly on the bridge of my nose (where they had remained since 9am, with two brief breaks to pass through immigration in Berlin and Dublin), and sauntered back to the office. Now, it’s almost ten p.m. and I’m feeling decidedly less perky, so it’s time for me to go to bed. I’m doing absolutely nothing this weekend, except for work, which will be lovely; you can tell how wrecked I am when I actually think that working over the weekend is preferable to going out. But, tomorrow will be a better day; and if it isn’t, my concealer is admirably equipped to help me fake it. Goodnight!

David Hasselhoff working the crowd. Posted by Picasa

I can't believe he was wearing a tshirt about himself--he's brilliant! Posted by Picasa


The back of the bear was slightly better; I contributed the Oklahoma, which looks slightly more like Tennessee due to space constraints, but at least it didn't get painted over by the crazy guy who was wrecking the front. Posted by Picasa

The frontal view of my team's 'Musicals' bear; one of the dudes on my team contributed solely by painting over stuff that other people had painted. That's why the Blues Brothers-style black sunglasses turned into a red-and-green monstrosity. Posted by Picasa

The dome of the Reichstag, as viewed from the boat tour; the dome is glass, with spiral stairs inside, to symbolize the transparency of Germany's government and the peoples' supremacy over the politicians. Posted by Picasa

As you can tell, the second group I went out with was a bit rowdier. You may recognize Matt, whom I hung out with in India. Posted by Picasa

Beer! And yes, there was another girl in the group--she was taking the photo :) Posted by Picasa

The Brandenburg Gate, with the stage for World Cup performances rising behind it. Posted by Picasa

The TV tower in Berlin; the observation/restaurant deck has been decked out for the World Cup. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

radical plan

I am never drinking again.

Expect a blog post when I'm back from Berlin on Thursday!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

what were the things you wanted for yourself?

I have a serious problem; I can't stop listening to 'In the Heat of the Moment' by Asia. I downloaded it the day after I saw 'The Matador', which must have been sometime in February, and I have probably listened to it at least once a day since then, and sometimes several times in a row. This is longer than my song obsessions usually last, which is a bit worrisome; while I would say that 'In the Heat of the Moment' is a better song than, say, 'Die Another Day', the Asia song was also released when I was less than a year old, and so it's funny that it's become such a major part of my musical experience twenty-three years later.

So, the weekend. I'm sorry that I didn't write last night, but I ended up reading in bed until dawn, and by the time I was done with my book, I felt more like sleeping than blogging. Granted, dawn comes early here (around 4:30am), but I probably should have been asleep for a bit more of the nighttime hours. I had picked up a copy of 'The Historian' by Elizabeth Kostova yesterday afternoon, and I proceeded to read all 700+ pages while enjoying lunch near Grafton St., lounging on my couch with the brilliant late-afternoon sunshine streaming in, and later curled up in bed with the lights turned on and my bedroom door firmly shut. I remembered reading some promising one-line reviews of 'The Historian', without actually remembering anything about the book's plot, and so I was surprised to discover that it was a reworking of the 'Dracula' storyline (which explains why my bedroom door was firmly shut; vast swathes of darkness outside the door are not particularly comforting at 3am when one is reading a vampire book). I would recommend it rather highly if you are into, say, anthropology, history, or literature (I know some of my devoted readers fall into those categories).

This was Kostova's first novel (a fact that always throws me into some vague panic about whether or not I will ever be described as a 'first-time novelist' and whether that description will be an amazed expression that a first-time novelist could produce something so wonderful, or a patronizing explanation of why the book should never see the light of day). I think that what I enjoyed about the book was that she researched it so carefully; this was a reminder to me that it is possible to do serious historical research and then produce a work of literature, rather than a dry academic paper. Granted, this made the narrative drag a bit towards the middle, and there were times when I could have done with more actual vampire sightings and fewer discussions of the sociohistorical implications of the Ottoman conquest of Southeastern Europe. On the whole, though, I am intrigued by historical research, I like the Ottomans, I enjoy vampire tales, and I adore the Eastern Europeans, so this book was perfectly suited to my sensibilities.

I think that I gravitate towards stories of vampires and Eastern Europeans because those stories tend to explore a type of enveloping, claustrophobia-inducing darkness that is rooted in the collective subconscious of the Slavic world, and that doesn't come out in proper British mysteries, for example. The fairy tales are darker, the folk songs are bleaker, and the history of the entire region is full of descriptions of unbelievable cruelty and strife, alleviated by brief spans of quiet desperation. All of this is far more interesting to me than why the Yorks and Lancasters didn't get along, or who Louis XIV was and why he was called 'the Sun King', or what and with whom the Dutch guilds were trading. It is sometimes clear to me that I should just give up my own personal struggle against the lure of graduate school, learn Russian and Old Church Slavonic, and flee into the stacks of higher education, never to be seen again. The very fact that I knew of Old Church Slavonic and had once contemplated studying it, even before it made an appearance in 'The Historian', indicates that I have a more-than-passing interest in Slavic studies, but I've been avoiding it thus far.

I think that I turned away from history and towards literature while I was making the final (okay, only) push on my honors thesis. I've always been more interested in the turbulent parts of history--in elementary school, it was the ancient Egyptians; in fifth grade, it was the Greek city-states; in sixth grade, it was the American Civil War; in high school, it was some mixed-up combination of the Crusades, the Norman invasion of England, the Vikings, communism, and the colonization of the New World; and in college, it was totalitarianism in all of its forms, particularly Hitler and Stalin. I think that I reached a point during my honors thesis where I recognized the point of no return: to go any further would be to spend the rest of my life studying the darkness that humans are capable of and have continually perpetrated on each other, and I made the conscious decision to step off that path and pursue something that would allow me to a live a life somewhat more free of those awful, mindnumbing truths.

That's not to say that I intend to stop looking into that darkness; historical lessons are vital, I love learning about what has happened before, and research is something I have a pure passion for. But, I suppose that in many ways I would prefer to examine that darkness through literature, rather than history. The darkness of the imagination is just as compelling as the darkness of history, particularly since imagination is required before most of the more inventive aspects of human evil can come to pass. Vlad the Impaler (Dracula's real-life counterpart) may have been evil--but it takes some imagination to decide to impale thousands of your subjects in your garden so that you have an entertaining spectacle to watch whilst eating your dinner. I just reached the point where I could no longer look at pictures of pits filled with naked corpses, where I could no longer read accounts of the millions of people who starved to death while Stalin occupied himself with purging the Soviet populace of any opposition, where I could no longer handle all of the vagaries of war and genocide, all of the people who died for terrible reasons, all of the people who lived off of others' sufferings.

Sometimes I'm ashamed of myself for my cowardice; I have the ability to research all of this, and I am fairly confident that I could write grand articles and books illuminating some of the darknesses of this world. Instead, I prefer to read romance novels, even though this contradicts the lesson that I learned when I was researching the Holocaust. The apathy and avoidance that leads me to read stories about the Brangelina baby rather than the Iraq war is the same apathy and avoidance that keeps people from getting involved in politics and democracy, the same apathy and avoidance that keeps people from saying anything when someone makes a racist remark on a bus, the same apathy and avoidance that turns into fear and makes someone pretend not to see the police taking away their neighbors. Which, in the end, is what makes my conduct inexcusable; I *know*, probably as well as one can possibly know without actually living through a catastrophe themselves, what the consequences of inaction are, and yet I continue with my inaction despite all of that knowledge.

I'm possibly being a bit melodramatic. Or, perhaps I've inherited a bit too much of the 'darkness of the Slavic subconsciousness' from the biological grandfather I never knew. Perhaps I'm in a heightened state of awareness of history's darkness because I'm going to Berlin tomorrow. Berlin is no longer the capital of the Third Reich, and I can see the modern Berlin, with its fancy shops and its biergartens and its temples to consumerism and finance; but I can't forget the older Berlin, with its bombings and its military parades and its meathook-and-piano-wire executions, all vividly laid out in black and white across the photo album of my imagination. Granted, it will be easy not to see any of the latter visions this week, since I will likely spend the entire time either listening to keynote speakers or drinking, but that doesn't mean that those images will disappear. I don't know where I'm going with this, other than that I am once again infatuated with Eastern Europe, and that I should start pursuing a writing career before my infatuation forces me back into graduate school, against my better judgment and despite my apparent inability to handle a lifetime spent reading about atrocities.

Okay, let's change subjects, since I clearly went off the deep end in my previous paragraphs. My weekend was lovely; I saw 'X-Men III' yesterday, and I really enjoyed it. Then, I engaged in some retail therapy, even going so far as to buy some skincare products from a company that avoids animal testing and uses weird medieval recipes to create cleansers that are perishable and only have a three-month shelf life. I'm happy to report that their medieval cleanser still allows one to bathe every day, rather than once a year, and does not seem to contain any cow dung. I don't know what came over me, but I went into the store and everything smelled lovely, and so I got lured in before realizing they were all a bunch of hippie freaks. And, the skin products seem amazing; however, if I start displaying a strange desire to wear Birkenstocks and protest the unethical treatment of chickens, please hit me over the head and take my cleanser away, okay?

As I said before, I spent the rest of the day and almost the entire night reading 'The Historian', and so today I slept until 1pm. I've spent the afternoon doing laundry, cleaning my room, and taking care of various and sundry tasks. Now I'm going to find some dinner, do a little work (sigh), and pack for Berlin--I leave tomorrow morning! I probably won't blog while I'm there, but hopefully I'll have some pictures when I get back. Take care!

Friday, June 02, 2006

i am still dreaming of your face

I have nothing of significance to report today, other than a wistful desire that I had taken my camera with me when I accompanied someone on her lunchtime smoke break outdoors this afternoon so that I could prove that Dublin is capable of producing a completely cloudless sky without summoning the Apocalypse. Shocking, I know. But, it's true, and I hope that the non-apocalypse-summoning clear skies remain throughout the weekend, since I have many errands to run. This is my first weekend in Dublin in more than a month, so it feels like a lifetime since I've explored the mercantile pleasures of Grafton Street. I think I'm going to see a movie tomorrow, since the last movie that I saw was 'American Dreamz', which I would like to forget. But in general, I'm going to attempt to have a thoroughly lazy weekend, since the coming week will be rather hectic.

Also, I purchased my tickets for South Africa, which is so freaking exciting that I can barely stand the idea of how much work I have to do before I can go on vacation. Not that I really have that long to wait...a month from now, and I will have already been in South Africa for three days. This is especially trivial considering that I'll be spending most of next week in Berlin. However, I have to make some truly significant progress with everything I'm working on in the office here, so that should be interesting. I know half of you love me best when I'm raving and delirious, so you can look forward to your favorite types of blog posts in the coming weeks. But, I shall leave for South Africa on Wednesday, June 29, and I shall spend a full week there enjoying a much-needed vacation before flying back to Dublin, spending the night, and returning to the US. By the time I fly all the way to South Africa and back, and then to Des Moines, and then drive my car to San Francisco, I will be rather well-travelled for one summer. Hopefully Cape Town gives me enough relaxation that I can store up the memory of a stress-free existence to get me through the lean times that I will experience as I slog through piles of work during the summer doldrums of late August.

I shall take my leave of you with some fantastic news: Matthew McConaughey is single!!! I know I only have a couple of days of solitude left before he shows up at my doorstep and acknowledges that he has been seriously remiss in not taking up our courtship sooner. I'll let you know how that goes; right now, I'm going to go to bed!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

it's not about the smile you wear, but the way we make out

I've been feeling particularly in love with life recently, which is ironic since I have more work than I can possibly do, to the point that I now have separate to-do lists; one is on paper for the really large, important tasks, and the other is on my computer, for the smaller, 'must respond to these emails, like, yesterday' tasks that I try to do when I'm bored with the big tasks. I always seem happiest when I have multiple to-do lists going at the same time. Chalk it up to a combination of extreme masochism and a desire to feel important.

Tonight I actually left the office at 6:30, ran to get my absurdly expensive sunglasses, and then went out for dinner with my teammates to celebrate the presence of one of our teammates from California. I had to run and get my sunglasses because I didn't have them with me, since I'm usually outside for a grand total of two minutes per day, and those two minutes are usually rainy. However, the past couple of days have been utterly gorgeous, and since we were taking a twenty-minute walk to get to the restaurant, I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to wear my sunglasses without having to interrupt my stylishness with a rain shower. Also, I love how long the days have gotten here; we left dinner at almost ten p.m., and it was still light outside, which I absolutely adore. The solstice is still three weeks away, and so the days are still getting longer. It's rather funny that I'm going to the Southern Hemisphere for a vacation in July; it really should be the other way around.

I need to book my tickets for South Africa. Tonight, I discovered that I can save $600 by leaving here Wednesday instead of Thursday; but, that would mean I would have to entertain myself alone for a day and a half. Normally this wouldn't concern me at all, but I want to make sure I know what I'm getting into as a single traveller in South Africa before I book my tickets. In all likelihood, though, I would just spend a good portion of the saved $600 on two nights' worth of hotel rooms and perhaps some luxe spa treatments (preferably without the breast massages that are endemic in the Indian subcontinent). But, as Vidya pointed out (and this is a shout-out to her, since she has trouble getting mentioned when I'm not in the same country as her), I would get more 'bang for my buck' by spending money on hotels and spa treatments rather than airfares, so we'll see what I decide. Of course, she also pointed out that I could go out exploring, and then when I got home she would draw me a bath and charge me $50 for it, and I don't think I will take her up on that offer. But, in general, her logic is quite sound.

I also need to decide what I'm doing this weekend. I'm definitely staying in Dublin, since I leave for Berlin early Monday morning. However, I heard that there is a taxi strike this weekend, which puts some dampers on my plans to shop my heart out on Saturday; I love walking into the city center, but I do not love walking back with several bags' full of my own selfish materialism. If I'm going to waste money, I want to go all the way and wallow in my decadence by taking a cab home, dammit! Besides, a cab is infinitely inferior to taking my own car home, since the cabs here have a noticeable dearth of sunroofs and Bush cd's. Surprising, eh?

I should really go to bed, since I should really get up early tomorrow and try to accomplish a lot of stuff, so that I won't have to work this weekend. I can't work late tomorrow night because I'm going out for drinks to celebrate someone's impending maternity leave. You can tell how little I think of the ability of the Irish to remain sober, since I got an email from the expectant mother saying 'let's meet at Ocean Bar (a lovely place overlooking the canal near the office) and have a few drinks to celebrate my maternity leave', and I actually asked one of my coworkers whether that meant that the woman was also going to be having a few drinks. Apparently the woman is being quite diligent in her sobriety; however, she did say tonight that she can't wait to be able to drink something alcoholic, even if she does just have to slip it in right after feeding the baby so that it will get through her system before the kid wants to be fed again. I heart the Irish! But, I heart sleep more...goodnight, everyone!