Monday, December 31, 2007

keep it rocking

I'm back in California, a bit past my expected arrival time due to a fifty-minute delay in Dallas, but at least I wasn't in any danger of having to rent a car and drive someplace. My flight from Dallas to San Francisco was okay, but it was made rather annoying by the kid who 'sat' behind me, and by 'sat' I mean 'stood backwards waving a stick at the overhead light for two hours, knocking into my seat every fifteen seconds'. I fantasized about killing him but decided that I didn't want to go to prison; instead, I seethed to myself while plotting on my romance novel. I also decided that I despised the kid's father, who seemed to feel that because the kid wasn't making much noise (not that I could tell with my amazing noise-cancelling headphones), he wasn't going to bother making him behave. My annoyance was heightened when the kid loudly asked his father upon landing, 'which is newer, Florida or Kansas?', and the dad replied, after some thought, 'Florida'. Unless the father is a geologist and knows something that I don't about the rock strata of Kansas, I can't think of a single category in which Florida is newer than Kansas.

Anyway, enough of that. I should go to bed, since I have to go to work tomorrow morning. Happy New Year's Eve Eve!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

it's been a long december

Gentle Reader, I am sorry for having left you in the lurch. Of course, given that no one checked to verify my continued existence, I am left to contemplate the unpleasant notion that only my family cares about me (which, of course, is more pleasant than no one caring at all). Then again, perhaps I was the one showing a callous disregard for my friends by neither blogging nor sending cheery emails over the past nine days. Either way, I feel that it is time to restore contact with humanity.

I have had quite an eventful and exciting break. My vacation got off to a rocking start at 7:45am CDT on Friday, when my flight from Chicago to Des Moines was supposed to take off. At that point, we still hadn't boarded; and due to extreme fog that required the plane to need extra fuel in the case of circling or a redirect, the gate agents were asking half the plane to volunteer to stay behind for a later flight. By 10am, they had canceled the flight entirely, and the agent I spoke to couldn't guarantee me a seat on a flight until the following afternoon. I quickly purchased a daypass to Chicago-O'hare's wifi network, discovered that Hertz was the only rental car company with cars still available, and reserved a Chevy Malibu to take to Iowa. The cost? $200, plus an $0.80 toll every thiry miles or so through most of Illinois - but given that flights from Chicago to Des Moines were canceled several days in a row due to a cascade of bad weather, I'm lucky that I got out when I did.

Less than four hours later, I was just outside Davenport, Iowa, where I met my brother on his lunch break so that I could spend a few hours at his apartment until he got off work. By then, the fog was so thick that I was unable to see the largest truck stop on I-80 until I was a few hundred feet from it. After Michael got off work, we drove back into Davenport so that I could buy some clothes (since my luggage was lost in Chicago), then dropped the rental car off at the Quad Cities Airport in Moline, IL, before heading home. Michael listens to a strange mix of music - in a couple of hours, I managed to hear George Strait, Roxette, and most of the first half of 'Les Miserables'. This was made even more surreal by the fact that you couldn't see more than four seconds ahead on the road, or past the shoulders, and that I had been living in this strange, obscured world for ten hours. I must admit that I engaged in some rather annoying backseat (or in this case, passenger-seat) driving, but the fog was freaking me out. Anyway, we made it home a little before one a.m., where the surreality of the day was completed by watching a rerun of a 1970s dance show called 'Soul Train', which, if it's Iowa's concession to diversity programming, is a rather strange thing to play.

Saturday, I received a Christmas miracle - I was checking on my luggage, and American had no idea where it was, when someone knocked on the door and delivered it. I was impressed that they had delivery people driving seventy miles from the airport on the cusp of blizzard-like conditions (the weather changed from intense fog to intense snow in twenty-four hours), and v. happy to get the Christmas presents that had been sitting in my luggage.

Christmas passed in a four-day blur; Saturday was Christmas with my mom's sister and her family, Sunday was Christmas with the Wamplers at my grandmother's (followed by a rousing game of Apples to Apples with my parents, brother, grandmother, aunt, and the now-almost-respectable scandalous boyfriend), Monday was Christmas Eve with my sister and her kids, and Christmas morning was just for my parents, brother and me. Christmas night, Katie and James came over for a couple of hours, which was v. fun. I spent the rest of the week lazing about, hanging out with my parents, playing 'Civilization', researching my romance novel, and reading up on various blogs and websites about the romance publishing industry.

Now, my vacation's over, and I have to go back to California tomorrow - but I only have twenty-three days in the office before I'm done! I don't know what the future holds (the likelihood that I could finish a manuscript and sell it in six months is slim to none), but I'm excited nonetheless. Not too excited to sleep, though, so I'm going to bed.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Goodnight san francisco

I am at the airport, about to board my flight to the frigid Midwest,
where I shall spend copious amounts of time in the bosom of my family.
Air travel is really not an enjoyable experience, but given that my
last flight was a twenty hour flight back from India, my expectations
have been greatly diminished already. As long as we don't sit on the
runway for a dozen hours, it can't be as bad as my last trip. Then
again, I have probably doomed myself, so I will stop typing before I
say anything that will make my doom even worse. I'll blog again from
the heartland!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

that's the way my love is

Apologies for not blogging last night. I have been quite busy with baking - I made twenty dozen cookies again last night, bringing up my grand total to forty dozen cookies in two days. I've gotten it down to a science - I was able to churn out two trays of chocolate chip chewies, a batch of sugar cookies (eight dozen), and a double batch of jam thumbprints (seven dozen) last night in three and a half hours. I could have been even faster if I had more room to spread out the cookies to cool; instead, I had to cover my desk in parchment paper and use that, since I've forsaken a kitchen table and turned my dining alcove into an office. Unfortunately, in my baking mania I managed to give myself a three-inch burn on my upper left arm. I was rearranging trays within the oven, and ran one into my arm; it hurt quite a bit last night, but it's really not that awful, and I should be fine soon.

Today was quite a lovely day. It's my mother's birthday (happy birthday, Mom!), so I talked to her and Dad briefly this evening. I'm leaving for home in forty-eight hours, which is v. exciting. I love Christmas, and I'm quite eager for it this year; it will just be nice to relax at home and see the family (and hopefully Katie, the queen of my heart).

Today is also Vidya's birthday (happy birthday, Vidius Chandicus!). I actually skipped my team's offsite to go up to the city and see her - that's rather unlike me, to prioritize friends over work, but I feel that birthdays are important. Also, one of the pivotal scenes in 'The Devil Wears Prada' is where the girl skips her boyfriend's birthday because of a last-minute work function, and since I'm making an active attempt not to turn into that girl, I feel that I should start now. However, the city was a bit of a jhoke, as usual. It took an hour and a half to get there due to molasses traffic. Because of the traffic, we missed the seven p.m. showing of the movie we wanted to watch, so we decided to get crepes. We sat at the crepe place for ten minutes, but the guy who makes the crepes had disappeared and never came back, and the cashier was too untalented to take his place, so we left without getting crepes. By the time we got to the movie theater, the movie was sold out, and since we didn't get tickets, we couldn't validate our parking, so we had to pay $2 for the ten minutes we were at the theatre.

However, the night was redeemed when Vidya took me to a nice Italian restaurant (where I forgot to take my wallet in from the car, which means I pulled the classy move of making the birthday girl pay for dinner). It was actually probably better than seeing a movie, since it gave us the chance to catch up, and it was quite lovely to hang out. It's probably sad for Vidya that she had to spend her birthday alone with the likes of me, but I had fun regardless! After dinner, I dropped her off at Julie's boyfriend's apartment, and Julie came outside and spent fifteen minutes talking to us while I was illegally parked on the side of the street. I just got home fifteen minutes ago, and I should really sleep - I had thought that I could go in late tomorrow, but I found out at the end of the day that I have to present to the managers' meeting at 9am tomorrow (for only seven minutes - what a waste!), so I should get some rest.

One last thing - I had a call with Lauren this afternoon (my old manager, now located in Boston). She said something really nice, but kind of bittersweet - apparently she was talking to a new manager in that office about my upcoming leave, and the woman was basically asking why I was leaving, since my job is such a great opportunity. And Lauren said that it was too bad about the job, but that she was glad I was taking time off because her impression was that I used to have such a rich life outside of work (since she heard about such ridiculous tings as the opium lounge club/'shrimp or feet' game, the various mafia ski trips, and all sorts of random exploits with a wide variety of friends), but that because of the series of crushing deadlines I've had for the past six months, I haven't had time for any of it. And that's really true - while the main goal of my break is to finish my novel, I hope that it also gives me time to reconnect with all the friends whom I'm in danger of losing, even if it has to be over IM from the wilderness of Middle America. I want to get back to the point where I have more frequent adventures, even if an adventure is just eating the foot of some random animal drenched in mystery sauce.

Adventures will have to wait another month - but my last official day is February 1. Then, I'm going to go on my company's trip to Disneyland on February 4-6, and just not come back from Disneyland. Doesn't that sound like a good plan?

Monday, December 17, 2007

you can't say no because the answer is yes!

I really like - I have found music that I never would have heard in any other context, simply by entering the names of a few songs that I already like. If you aren't already using it, you should check it out - the only thing that has upset me about it is that there are a couple of songs which I love that aren't available on iTunes, so I just have to wait and hope that they will be played on pandora, and then I have to rock out to them during the three or four minutes in which they are playing. This is quite a change for me - usually if I like a song, I listen to it for about ten hours on repeat, rather than having to exercise patience and enjoy it when it happens to play. While it's probably going to far to say that this must have been what it was like to hear a great song from a wandering minstrel and have to wait and hope that he came back in a few months (rather than dying from the plague), it's still quite a throwback to the days before easily-accessible music.

I'm too tired to write much, and I desperately need to go to bed, since I have an eight a.m. meeting. The reason I'm tired is that I stayed up late last night reading a Georgette Heyer novel - 'The Unknown Ajax', in which the leading man pretends to be stupid to annoy his relatives, since they didn't want him to inherit the estate, but it turns out that he's really quite smart and cunning, and he succeeds in wooing the woman he falls in love with (we shall ignore that she is his first cousin, which seems like a bad idea). I had to get up this morning for brunch with Lauren (aka Subz), which was well worth the lack of sleep. Then I went shopping, came home, and made twenty dozen cookies, with a break to go over to Laura's and make gift tags. If I had wanted to get done with the cookies faster, I should have just signed the cards I had already bought, but she was quite intent on having me craft with her, and it was v. relaxing. Now, though, it's really time for bed!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

too bad the devil doesn't wear uggs and a comfy irish sweater

Vidya is half-asleep on my loveseat, which is v. exciting - she showed up a little after eleven, making use of my oh-so-convenient sleeping space in the Valley. As I believe I've remarked before, the fact that I more often play host to people crashing at my place than I take advantage of others' prime locations in San Francisco is an indication of how antisocial and anticity I am. Anyway, Vidya came over, we chatted for a bit, and then we watched 'The Devil Wears Prada' (which I *still* have from Netflix, four months after I received it - I should have just bought the damn thing, or sent it back and cancelled my subscription, but I haven't felt like watching movies for quite some time due to my intense workload). 'The Devil Wears Prada' was what made me first start seriously ruing the day that I sold out to become a little corporate machine (while simultaneously making me viciously jealous of all of the fabulous clothes and shoes - difficult, since the fabulous clothes and shoes would be more easily attainable if I had a fabulous job to go with them). So, I'm glad that on the second watching, I'm actually taking steps to take a break from being a corporate whore, even if my current thinking is that I will return in six months to pick up my career where I left off.

I'm sorry for not blogging this week - it hasn't been all that bad from a work standpoint, but I haven't felt great either. I went to the doctor on Wednesday morning and discovered that I had broken a blood vessel in my right ear on the flight back from Hyderabad, which explained why I had been feeling dizzy and nauseated ever since. The good news is that it heals on its own, and I'm already feeling much better than I did several days ago. Wednesday night, I had dinner with Terry, which was nice. Thursday, I had an all-day management offsite in San Mateo; I sat in the back and made obnoxious comments to Gyre for most of the day, which was enjoyable. I also had a fun moment where, during the vice president's Q&A at the beginning of the day, someone asked him a question and he gave me thirty-second warning that he was going to have me answer it as well - I was the only person during the entire hour that he asked to stand up and give a supplementary answer, which was exciting, and also a reminder that I'm seriously struggling between my heart's desire to follow a literary path and my avaricious, status-hungry need to be high-profile and super successful. Ugh.

Last night was not good; I got home late, went promptly to bed, and then woke up at one a.m. from the jetlag and didn't get back to sleep until almost five. I made it into work by 9ish, and since my team switched floors yesterday, nothing was unpacked or set up properly, which made the morning more difficult. I stayed until around seven tonight, came home, ate a sandwich and read an Italian dessert cookbook, accidentally fell asleep, and then woke up and revived myself with some homemade hot chocolate. Then Vidya came over, and you know the rest. I hope to spend the weekend completing my recovery from my Hyderabad trip, getting through my Christmas shopping, and generally relaxing on my last weekend before the holidays. I leave for Iowa on Thursday night, and there's much to be done before then! For now, though, I should go to sleep.

Monday, December 10, 2007

come on feel the noise

Hello, friends. I have returned safely from Hyderabad, India, after a v. long and v. annoying flight back. I landed Saturday afternoon, took a nap for a few hours, and then dressed myself up and took Oniel to my company's holiday party. It was quite nice, although I was too sick to truly enjoy it, but I did enjoy Oniel's reaction to my company's over-the-top approach to festivities. After coming home, I slept for fourteen hours, had 'brunch' (at 2pm) at Mike's Cafe, came home, took a nap, and then caught up on Tivo the rest of the night.

Today, I woke up still suffering from the ravages of the cold that I came down with in Hyderabad, and so I called in sick. I watched some television in the morning, slept for three hours in the afternoon, and did some laundry. After talking to my parents tonight, I decided to go to the grocery store to get some stuff for a potluck we're having at work tomorrow afternoon, but my efforts to leave the house may have been overzealous - I felt v. weak in the grocery store, and now have a smashing headache, so we'll see if I make it into the office tomorrow. However, I just counted, and I only have 31 working days left before I go on leave! Even though I really just want to go on leave right now, I can surely survive that. Now, though, I'm going to go to bed in the hope that I can make it to the office tomorrow. Goodnight!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

indignity after indignation

I am so ready to be home. I am in Amsterdam, cracked out on Indian
cold medicine, standing in a really poorly organized line that looks
like it will take at least thirty minutes to clear. The flight from
hyderabad was enough to test my patience in humanity. Also, my ears
won't pop because of my cold, and so I was in mild agony on both
takeoff and landing, and now I can't hear properly. But other than
that, and the fact that I have another ten hour flight ahead of me,
things are good! I'll post again when I get to America...

Friday, December 07, 2007

Goodbye India

I am sitting in the hyderabad airport, which is one of my least
favorite places in the entire world, waiting for my flight home. I had
a fantastic time in the East, but I am definitely glad to be going meetings were productive but exhausted, and I wish I could
have more than a day to recover before going back to work on Monday.

I will post a wrapup of my trip and pictures in a few days, but I
should get ready to board now. Goodnight!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

yay for india

I have a limited amount of time to write this blog post before my sketchy Indian cold medicine kicks in - I was feeling miserable this morning while sitting at work, so I called Ismail and asked him to pick up something for my cold. He brought me a strip of 10 pills (only 27 rupees - around 60 cents) called 'Coldact', which are lovely pink capsules with tiny little spheres of medicine rattling around inside. I took one, and the effects were rather immediate - my nose cleared, my cough slowed down, and I felt less feverish. The downside was that I alternated wildly most of the afternoon between completely giddy excitement and an extreme desire to curl up for a nap, which made it hard to focus on my meetings - but I probably would have felt this way anyway, since I've spent four days straight in the same airless conference room with the same people. Also, I just did a Google search for the active ingredient in this medicine, and one of the top results stated 'The FDA is taking steps to remove phenylpropanolamine hydrochloride from all drug products due to the risk of hemorrhagic stroke.' Yay!

Today was a much better day than yesterday. My blackberry was safe and sound; I'd left it in the car, and Shadie picked it up and kept it for me. The meetings today went really well, and while I am quite ill, the cold medicine really helped. Then, we had dinner at the Novotel, which is where I stayed last summer while in Hyderabad, and the dinner was nice. It's been good to spend a few days with Darragh, since I haven't talked to him as much as my role has morphed over the past few months, and in general the group of people I'm here with is really great.

Tomorrow, we have to sit in the room all day and discuss more stuff, and then I have to present to the VP when he dials in to get our end-of-summit findings in the afternoon, so I suppose I probably shouldn't take my cold medicine tomorrow morning. Then, we'll have to finish packing and will likely have dinner before going to the airport for the trip home. I can't believe my time in Hyderabad is over already...and I'm leaving for Iowa two weeks from today! That thought alone exhausts me, given how much I have to do between now and then. So, in an effort to make sure that I stay caught up on sleep enough to make sure that I'm able to be effective for the next few days, I think it's time to go to bed.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

give me something to break

Today was not a good day. I have a smashing headache, and I think I'm getting sick - I feel feverish and have a sore throat. Also, I went to dinner at a new place that serves barbecue, and it's unclear whether the water was safe since it was bottled but we don't know whether it was sealed, and so it's quite up in the air whether I will experience some lovely food poisoning tomorrow. Finally, I got back to my apartment and realized I don't have my phone, so unless it's in the backseat of the car I was in earlier tonight, it's probably gone for good. The loss of my crackberry is extremely upsetting - it's my alarm clock, my tether to humanity, and my closest friend, and now that it's gone, I find myself mourning its absence to a ridiculous degree.

The worst, though, is that I had a moment at work this afternoon where I was so angry that I could barely contain my rage - I don't lose my temper very often, but I nearly lost it in a v. spectacular manner this afternoon, and it took several hours for me to recover. In fact, I ended up calming down partially because I left the session I was in to go down to the cafe and get a mocha from the Coffee Day vendor, and partially because I occasionally tuned out of the discussion to focus on tearing a gum wrapper into incredibly small pieces. It also helped to remind myself that I'm going on leave and won't have to deal with the consequences of anything that happens here, which in and of itself helped to lend a lot of clarity to some of the thoughts I've had recently about what I intend to do in the next few months.

It did remind me, however, of the articles I've read about how if a woman shows anger in the workplace, she's seen as a bitch and is rated as less effective than any other type of employee, even below the woman who cries at the office. Today was definitely one of those days when I wasn't particularly effective because I wasn't able to behave in a fully rational manner...but sometimes rationality is overrated, and sometimes you just want to break stuff, and I was still able to hold it together. I also got a break because I went out for dinner with Shadie and Joel, both of whom happened to be in Hyderabad today, and neither of whom have anything to do with today's debacle. Joel was my first full-time manager here, and it was great to see him - one of the last times I saw him was for five minutes in the Frankfurt airport in April, so it was nice to have dinner with him, even if it's going to give me typhoid.

Okay, I'm going to go to bed - hopefully I'll get lots of rest and then wake up on my own, since I don't have my alarm clock/best friend to shake me out of my slumber. Luckily the incessant noise in India will probably do the trick. Now, though, it's time for bed!

Monday, December 03, 2007

dhoom machale

Day one of our working summit was intense, as usual. Actually, it started well - we delayed the start until noon because Darragh didn't arrive from Dublin until five a.m., and we thought it would be nice to let him sleep. But then we worked on a presentation from noon to 7:30, with a break for lunch. However, the new office in Hyderabad is gorgeous - it's perhaps the best office of any I've been in company-wide (except for the fact that if you push the 'LB' button in the elevator, it doesn't take you to the lobby - it takes you to the lower basement, which is scary, since the elevator door opens on a v. dark, rubble-and-wire strewn disaster zone, which looked like it could easily harbor rats). They have an amazing cafe, and of course the service staff-to-employee ratio is about 1:1, so there are tons of people wandering around staffing various superfluous roles, like reminding you to swipe your badge to open the door, or the guy who made me a sandwich - he started by meticulously cutting off the crusts, which was nice of him.

After working, we came back to an apartment and had a fun time trying to order Dominos - we couldn't find a brochure, but luckily the Madhapur Dominos is in Google. Then, we discovered that the apartment phones can't dial out, and none of us have India cellphones - so we used Skype on Sean's laptop to call India from the US at 10 cents/minute. This resulted in bad voice quality, which made the ordering experience even more stressful than usual, but it all turned out okay.

My mother will also be pleased to note that we had a woman come to the apartment and do henna/mehndi tattooing - if she's lucky, my hands and feet will still be lavishly decorated at Christmas! It probably won't last that long, but I'm hopeful :) If nothing else, I will look v. exotic for the opening presentation that I have to give to our department VP tomorrow morning. Speaking of that presentation, I should really go to bed - the jetlag has been surprisingly good for me, but I hope to get some sleep tonight so that I'm ready to go bright and early tomorrow morning. Goodnight!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

shopping madness

Today marked day two of our fabulous progress through the shops,
bazaars, and malls of Hyderabad. None of the new visitors to the city
wanted to do the tourist stuff, like the museum or Golconda Fort, and
Jenni and I had seen it all before, so we instead dragged them to all
of our favorite stores and restaurants. Today, we had a long brunch at
the Taj Krishna, where Dominic the waiter recognized me on
sight...pretty good since I have only been there twice in the past two
years, although I went every Sunday when I was living here. I still
haven't bought any bedspreads (the store I wanted to go to was closed
today), but I did buy some fabulous anklets. I also bought some
unnecessary bangles off of a kid who followed us around in the side
streets off of Charminar, mainly so that I could give him some money.
I also bought a gold bangle...I can never have too many bracelets, so
my Christmas bracelet wish still stands, but I found a lovely one in a
jewelry shop this afternoon. Then we had coffee, followed by dinner at
Angeethi, my favorite Indian restaurant, so I am quite satisfied.

I would blog more about my thoughts, but I am still on the crackberry.
I will blog tomorrow when I get access to the real internet at the
office. Until then, goodnight!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Hyderabad Central

I am on hour six of a shopping odyssey...we are trying to stay awake,
which means we can't go back to the apartments, so we are shopping
instead. Within an hour of starting, I had bought a rug, but I haven't
bought anything else, so it's almost like I am behaving myself! More