Monday, December 31, 2007

Reflecting back on the year that was

Everyone else is doing it -- and like last year, I'm a little late to the game -- so, without further adieu, here are my first lines for each month of 2007:

January: Maybe this is me being hypercritical, but would it have killed the folks in my leasing office to use spellcheck?

February: Over the past year or so, I had completely forgotten that most people get out of work at a reasonable hour and then -- here's the important part -- go do other things.

March: Remember how I said I'm in New Jersey for work for the rest of the week?

April: Or, "Toto, I don't think we're in Nigeria anymore."

May: I'm bummed today.

June: Memorial Day marks the start of summer -- and the start of the summer associate stories.

July: A trip to the beach would be nice.

August: I think my summer would have been so much more awesome if I had read the AV Club's Hater's Guide to Summer Fun before today.

September: Florida State plays Clemson in less than two hours, and I can already feel my heart pounding in my chest as if the game is tied with seconds left in the fourth quarter and FSU is attempting to win by kicking a field goal.

October: I just finished watching Moonlight on the DVR.

November: One of these Novembers, I will actually write a novel.

December: I almost never drink at work happy hours.

Happy New Year! Here's to hoping that 2008 is even better than 2007. And this goes doubly for Florida State's football team.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


I had ideas of what to write about tonight, but instead, I had yet another late night at the office trying to negotiate my way through a pile of work, and then came home to a pile of dishes to put away, a pile of laundry to put away, and a third pile -- one of mail to go through -- all before my cleaning lady comes tomorrow.

In retrospect, I am exceptionally glad that MadHaiku recently posted a link to Catalog Choice. Here's to hoping that my mail pile will grow smaller and smaller, and that the environment will benefit in the process.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

How D.C. and New York are really different

In today's Washington Post, we see an article about how the various candidates are trying to get Al Sharpton's endorsement. In The New York Times, there's a similar article -- only theirs is about Jon Bon Jovi.

Pot vs. kettle

This year, my brother did not find his Chrismanukah presents -- a pooping snowman candy dispenser and Dysfunctional Family Therapy Mad Libs -- particularly amusing.

Of course, this is the same boy that sent me this in an email.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Christmas

The low point of my Christmas weekend was working 10 hours on Saturday. But the highlights were many:

  • Getting to wear hair band t-shirts to my office
  • Reading up on the weird origins and weird traditions of Christmas, courtesy of Cracked
  • Good hair
  • Catching people making out in the front of the Volkswagen parked behind mine
  • Sweeney Todd
  • Ratatouille
  • Juno
  • The episode of Entourage with U2
  • Watching part of a marathon of The Hills
  • Double-Chocolate muffins
  • Good vodka
  • Having someone understand that I say I'm grumpy when I'm really just hungry
  • Winning the PH4H fantasy football league
  • A fast and furious text message exchange to wish my sister a happy birthday
  • Getting to tell a boy drinking light beer that "Real men drink vodka."
  • In response, being told that I "look like trouble"
  • Responding that such an assessment usually takes years -- and years of therapy
  • Talking about crappy American beer with a Scottish guy
  • Dancing
  • 80's music
  • Being inadvertently wished a Happy Christmas, and being aware enough to say, "That's awfully British of you."
  • Telling my friends, "I may be drunk, but I'm not that drunk."

All in all, the positives outweighted the negatives - which I guess is the point.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A fan letter

Dear Johnny Depp,

I loved you as a pirate and strangely-pale cookie-hearted guy with bladed fingers. Today, I can say, without hesitation, that you are the absolute best serial-killing barber ever. The movie was even better than when I saw the play in London.

And, not only do you wear guyliner better than most, you sing surprisingly well.

In conclusion: You are absolutely perfect. I could probably be convinced to buy a ticket to watch you reading the phone book -- particularly if Tim Burton directed.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

For the office party

I started out by making snickerdoodles, but I didn't like the way they looked, so I made gingersnaps too.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Guns and commas

I stumbled across a New York Times op-ed piece parsing the grammar of the Second Amendment -- a comma, in particular -- in relation to the case overturning DC's gun ban.

According to the court, the second comma divides the amendment into two clauses: one “prefatory” and the other “operative.” On this reading, the bit about a well-regulated militia is just preliminary throat clearing; the framers don’t really get down to business until they start talking about “the right of the people ... shall not be infringed.”

The circuit court’s opinion is only the latest volley in a long-simmering comma war. In a 2001 Fifth Circuit case, a group of anti-gun academics submitted an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief arguing that the “unusual” commas of the Second Amendment support the collective rights interpretation. According to these amici, the founders’ use of commas reveals that what they really meant to say was “a well-regulated militia ... shall not be infringed.”

This is like porn for lawyers and grammarians.

Monday, December 17, 2007


While watching the commercial for the DVD of Balls of Fury, I noticed that Christopher Walken looks an awful lot like Jon Voight:

I'm not that wrong, am I?

But then, this evening, I walked past a large poster for P.S. I Love You, which, from a distance, looked like it was starring Sandra Bullock, but apparently it's Hilary Swank -- who looks an awful lot like Jennifer Garner:

So, to all the casting directors out there, next time you're looking for people to play siblings, I have some suggestions.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Bah humbug

Even though the mass media would have you think this time of year brings out the best in people, my personal experience is that it does exactly the opposite. Everyone is rushed and busy and striving for some kind of perfect holiday, and in being that way, they inevitably wreak havoc on everyone and everything that gets in their way.

I'm not any different.

Take last week at work. We're planning the office party, which happens to be reviving an old tradition -- the gag gift secret Santa. The tradition had been all but extinguished because at various times, feelings had been hurt by insensitive and occasionally inappropriate gifts. But this year, we got the go-ahead to try again -- a probation of sorts. Everyone wants this to work, to keep the tradition from dying out for good.

One of my friends decided to be in charge of the process, but it became clear that he didn't have some of the organizational details down -- such as how participants have to both give and receive gifts, and that it's not "secret" if you are both on the list and making the list. So, in a way that was probably less than diplomatic, I interceded and said that I'd be in charge of the list. Admittedly, the way I went about it was undoubtedly bossy and overbearing, but in my head, I just was trying to help.

I sent an email announcing that I'd be in charge of the list. In a joking way, I referred to it as a "bloodless coup." Another co-worker got offended by my tone and, apparently, the fact that I took over in a bossy manner. So, she cornered me and proceeded to lecture me about how horrible I was. At first I thought she was joking, and then, once I realized that she was, indeed, serious, I got offended by her tone -- which I would later describe as "essentially calling me a bitch without actually using that word." I did, however, understand her point that I might have stepped over the line. So, I apologized to my friend. At the end of the day, I thought it was over and done with.

The next day, the coworker who lectured me came into my office, purportedly to apologize. Of course, she did this by first telling me that we're still friends, then by telling me that she never actually used the word "bitch" to describe my behavior, and third, by telling me how wrong my behavior had been. She repeated the third point four times. The first time, I said, "I got your point. I was offended by your tone yesterday, but I got your point. And I apologized, and it's over now, so let's move on."

The second time, I said, "Alright, I get it, it's done. Can we stop now?"

The third time, I just said, "Can we stop? Please."

When she continued, I said something offensive, taking her lord's name in vain and using a very bad word, one that's not allowed on television. She then said, "Now I'm offended" and stormed out of my office.

Clearly, I shouldn't have gone for the nuclear option. But I was pushed.

Damn holidays.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

'Tis the season for ignorance, I suppose

I am often astounded by the stupidity of others. But nowhere am I more aware of it than when I'm riding public transportation and I am subjected to other people's conversations. Sometimes I chuckle to quietly, sometimes I shake my head -- but I never ever say anything out loud. Because, like my rule about not honking at people while driving on highways in places where people are known to carry guns, you never know what people are going to do next.

For example, on the New York subway, some people got the crap beaten out of them for responding to a "Merry Christmas" with "Happy Hanukkah." According to the CNN article:

Two women who were with a group of 10 rowdy people then began to verbally assault Adler's companions with anti-Semitic language, Hellerstein said.

One member of the group allegedly yelled, "Oh, Hanukkah. That's the day that the Jews killed Jesus," she said.

When Adler tried to intercede, a male member of the group punched him, she said.

No, you idiot, Hanukkah is something completely different -- and, according to Slate, totally misunderstood. But I digress.

For the record, Jews don't celebrate the birth or death of Jesus -- except to the extent you're talking about Jews for Jesus, who are not really Jews. Plus, you have the seasons all wrong -- the Jews purportedly killed Jesus on Good Friday, and he was resurrected two days later, on Easter. You know, in the spring. Heck, I'm a Jew and I know that much.

So, maybe you should like learn your own religion before you go making uninformed comments about others. Or at least watch the Mel Gibson movie.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Eighth night of Hanukkah

When my siblings and I were kids, my mom always varied the way we got our Hanukkah and/or Christmas presents. Sometimes there was a big pile, and every night we got to take something off the pile -- or there was a bag that we weren't allowed to look inside, and we had to reach in and grab something. Other times, she had what we would get for each night mapped out, and the presents were all hidden away out of sight -- and each night she would hand us the gift that she wanted us to open.

Sometimes the big gifts were for Hanukkah, sometimes they were for Christmas; some years there was more than one major present, sometimes the major present was something that we had to share; and sometimes the biggest and best present came in the tiniest of boxes. The only things we knew with certainty were that there would be a tangelo in our stockings on Christmas morning, and that at least one of the gifts would be something VERY SPECIAL.

Tonight, I got my special present. I was a little bit bummed that I had to buy it for myself -- but it was something that I knew that I really truly wanted the moment I read about it. My siblings or my friends -- or heck, or any regular reader of this blog -- probably could have walked into a store and seen it and wondered whether I had gotten it yet.

So here it is:

The 20th Anniversary of The Joshua Tree box set -- with remastered CD, bonus CD, DVD, book, and 5 pictures. Of course, this makes the fifth edition of this album that I have owned in my lifetime -- the first tape that I wore out, the record, the second tape, the first CD, and now this new CD. It really is the small things that make me happiest.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Seventh night of Hanukkah

Today's gift was U2 videos.

In all honesty, this is something I had bought -- and promptly forgot about -- some time ago. I'm hoping to get to watch it soon.

As for the leftover cookies, well, I brought them in to work, and next thing I knew, they were all gone. I'm kind of surprised by how fast four or five dozen cookies could disappear.

And finally, this Twitter is for my dad.

It's thoughts like this that make him proud.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sixth night of Hanukkah

For Hanukkah tonight, I got the new Killers CD. More importantly, earlier today, I finally got a new space heater for my office -- with a remote control.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Fifth night of Hanukkah

Tonight, there was no present, but there was a party with a white elephant gag gift exchange.

And, as noted yesterday, I made five different types of cookies -- gingersnaps, snickerdoodles, oatmeal chocolate chip, shortbread, and chocolate star cookies -- I even drizzled white and milk chocolate on top of the last two.

Ultimately, it was cookie overkill -- and now there are way too many cookies in my apartment. I guess I'll have to share them with the folks at work.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Fourth Night of Hanukkah

Today's Hanukkah gifts aren't so much presents as they are utilitarian. You see, it's that time of the year -- Chrismanukah cookie time. So I got me some Hanukkah cookie cutters, a new (and heavy!) rolling pin, and a pastry mat.

In addition to making the usual this year, I'm trying out two new recipes. (If they turn out well, I'll post them over the weeekend.) That'll make 5 (five!) types of cookies in 24 hours. I've already started some of the dough; I'll be waking up early tomorrow to get a head start on the baking before the party.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Third Night of Hanukkah

Tonight, for Hanukkah, The Underachiever's Manifesto and a pooping snowman, to go with last year's pooping Santa and the pooping reindeer from the year before that.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Second Night of Hanukkah

Today's present to myself is a South Park Christmas ornament -- Kyle holding a menorah -- and three volumes of Adult Mad Libs.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

First Night of Hanukkah

Tonight, for Hanukkah, I got a Goo Goo Dolls CD and a call from my Nana.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Good news, bad news

Today was kind of a good-news/bad-news day. Actually, it was the very definition of a good-news/bad-news day.

Exhibit A: You won your motion! Now you have to go to trial!
Exhibit B: Remember how you asked for a trial date of January 28? Nope, that's doesn't work. How about January 15?
Exhibit C: You get to be out of the office for at least three weeks! Holed up in a hotel in Newark, NJ.

So, that's the sum of it. Three weeks (or more!) in Newark in January. At least it's not somewhere really cold -- to go along with the crappy.

This afternoon, my coworker sent me a lovely e-mail. In sum, he told me that I get to be the quarterback for the trial team. Of course, I took the metaphor too far. "Great," I wrote. "Hope I don't get intercepted too often -- or sacked." Heh, heh.

So, that's the sum of it. It's a good thing I'm Jewish, because otherwise, my Christmas plans would totally be screwed. I've got a ton of work to do between now and mid-January. And, despite leaving early tonight, I brought work home. It's going to be that kind of winter.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Things you should never do after drinking

I almost never drink at work happy hours. I have a number of reasons for this general policy, but really, they all boil down to one: By not drinking, I can curtail (somewhat) my ability to say or do something stupid.

Yesterday, for some reason, I decided to have a beer. Just one, mind you -- not even enough to be close to drunk -- and yet, the conversation still managed to veer dangerously towards the embarrassing. But that's not really the problem.

The problem is that I got back to the apartment, changed into a t-shirt, went into the bathroom, and cut my hair. All before dinner.

Yep, I gave myself bangs.

I had been thinking about it all week, mostly because when I was at my parents' house, I found some cute pictures of me, as a kid, with bangs. Maybe, I thought, my mom was right for all of these years, and I really do look cutest with a little pixie cut.

Apparently, Katie Holmes's new 'do didn't dissuade me. And neither did all of those years of bad school pictures -- especially the ones where I had cut my own hair, much to my mother's chagrin.

At least now I can cut straight, mostly. And, thankfully, I cut them dry, so I didn't cut them too short. And, as long as you don't really look at it, it doesn't look that bad. What it does look like is that I'm going to have to go to a professional to see what she can do to fix it.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Some days the world seems like a very big place, and everywhere you go, you are surrounded by strangers. Other days, you leave your office late (and in a foul mood) and, on the way to Metro, run into your friend on the street -- and wind up going to grab dinner and watch football. Those are the good days.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The black hole of doubt

At first, I was nonplussed by last week's phone call -- by how we somehow managed to behave like old, dear friends. Like grownups. But that was before the reality of it all sunk in.

And before he sent me the Thanksgiving text message, opening the floodgates.

Of course, it's exactly how he wanted to play it. At some point he made the decision to call me out of the blue, to have a superficially pleasant conversation, to talk about work and then to segue into telling me that he's possibly coming into town in the next few weeks and would like to see me -- and then, when I politely inquire about some happy news he passed on several months before, it opens the door for him to tell me how everything has fallen apart. Which makes me feel sorry for him -- sorry for how the events in his life have not gone according to plan. Which then makes me start feeling a tinge of guilt for the way we left things all those years ago. The same way he made me -- and eventually everyone else -- feel like I was the bad guy all those years ago.

Now I'm confused and bewildered and feeling badly, on so many levels. And it's snowballed to the point that I can't get it out of my head.

And I'm left asking questions, trying to figure out why he felt the need to talk to me. Or why he waited to spring the news on me the way he did? Why can't he just say what he wants to say -- to tell me what's going on, without the whole setup, the whole bait-and-switch conversation.

And why now, when this time of year is filled with so many lingering ghosts of our past?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Jokes that live on: The gift that keeps on giving

For a birthday, today was below average. I mean, it was a Tuesday, a work day. There was no yellow cake with chocolate frosting, and I didn't even go out to dinner.

For a work day, however, today was pretty good. I got a lot done, I got to watch some court, and, at the end of a long day, I had a good laugh.

The story is this: I have a coworker, a friend, who is somewhat absentminded. I've known him long enough to have several stories about him, but, until tonight, the best one happened on a case that we were both on, where he had locked documents in a briefcase and forgotten the combination -- which he did not discover until we were in the midst of a hearing. After some physical comedy (and a trip out into the hallway), he managed to open one side of the briefcase and pull the documents out through the side -- and we handed very crumpled exhibits up to the judge.

Today, at about 6:45 this evening, he called my cell phone for the travel agency's after-hours number, because he had left his hotel reservation in the office that he was working from, and had left his BlackBerry at home. Lucky for him, I was still in the office, and we decided that the quickest answer would be for me to log in to his email. So we did -- and it turned out that he had forgotten to make a hotel reservation when he booked his flights and rental car. He then confessed that, prior to calling me, he had argued with the hotel desk clerk because he thought the hotel lost his reservation.

So, I left the office with a smile on my face. Not just because the story was funny, but because the end result is a joke that will be told at work happy hours for years to come. Ultimately, this mocking will last well into the future. It's a gift for posterity.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Test your knowledge

It's been a busy night and I still have to fold laundry. So here are two links that will either frustrate you or make you smarter: Free Rice and The Almost-Impossible Rock & Roll Quiz.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

How I spend my vacations

Despite my best intentions, I'm simply no good at relaxing. I can't just sit around with a book or the tv and nothing to do. I need to keep my hands busy, my mind busy -- at least while I'm not taking naps and eating cookies.

So, when I come down to visit my parents, even when I tell them how tired I am, and how I need a vacation, and they promise me that I can sleep in and watch tv and sit out by the lake with a book, there's still always some project they need me for. Like the time that my mom needed me to figure out where to hang her artwork. Or the time she needed me to help clean out her closet. Or the time we needed to buy a new computer. Or the time I needed to try fix my dad's laptop. Or the time, two years ago, when I took care of my mom after surgery, and as a result, had the crappiest 30th birthday ever.

Well, you get the picture. So, this week, I told my mom how exhausted I've been from work, and announced my intention to not help with Thanksgiving dinner. And I kept my promise. But then the restlessness set in and instead of relaxing, I've spent my vacation time cleaning and organizing my mom's office, moving furniture, re-organizing some stuff in my dad's office/the guest room, and going through some boxes of my mom's uncle's things that made their way into our house since my mom had to move him into assisted living over the summer. If I'm lucky, tomorrow I'll get to move my mom's computer around, and clean out the office closet.

I wish I had the luxury of time to do these kinds of things in my own house.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Domestic bliss

I took a nap this afternoon, and, after dinner, my mom baked some cookies.

Full-disclosure: What I actually did was sit down to read while my mom watched General Hospital, and somehow managed to sleep for ninety minutes. And what my mom really did was place pre-shaped refrigerated cookie dough on a cookie sheet and put it in the oven for fifteen minutes, but honestly, it's the most baking that she's done in years.

Still, all else being equal, sleep and fresh-baked cookies make for a good day.

Countdown to vacation

I'm not sure I have the words to describe how good it feels to be sitting on my own bed typing this right now. Of course, this feeling is going to be short-lived, as twelve hours from now, my flight will be landing in West Palm Beach and I'll be sleeping in my parents' house for the next five nights.

I'm excited about the prospect of a vacation. No, scratch that -- what I'm really looking forward to is the prospect of relaxation. Time away from work, time that I can sit back and read or watch tv or -- egads! -- do nothing.

My mom told me to bring a bathing suit, and I'm actually considering it, to the extent it means that I can sit by the pool and sleep.

Of course, that's not going to happen. You see, my mom always tells me to bring a bathing suit, and I almost always ignore her. Because what she really means is, "You can come to water aerobics with me!" and very few things scare me more than the thought of being in a swimming pool doing exercise with a bunch of fifty-something to seventy-something women.

She will also invite me to play cards or bingo or mahjongg with her friends, and I will politely decline.

I'm just glad she's over the shopping at 5:30 am on the day after Thanksgiving. Because nothing puts a crimp in my relaxation like having to set my alarm to go to the mall.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Whatever the opposite of customer satisfaction is, part 2

For lack of a better word, today's trip sucked.

It started out innocently enough: A quick trip into the office, followed by a flight to Houston. And the rumors of crowds and lines at the airport were highly exaggerated.

But then my flight was delayed. And then my direct flight -- with the one stop in Dallas -- turned into a situation where I had to change planes, and had about five minutes to do it in. And then, when I got on the new flight -- which was purportedly a continuation of the last flight, someone else had been booked into my seat, and all that was left were window and middle seats in the back of the plane.

And somehow, in the midst of all this madness, I lost my .mp3 player somewhere between getting off the flight from DC to Dallas and getting settled in my seat for the flight from Dallas to Houston. Which caused me to call the stewardess flight attendant on the new flight to tell her about it -- before the doors were even closed and everyone was on board. Of course, she was less than helpful. I asked if there was any way that she could call the other plane to see if it was there, but she told me that it was probably hopeless and I should just wait until we got to Houston. So I got frustrated with her, and in the petulant tone of voice that drives my mother bat shit crazy, along with a flippant little wave of my hand, I said, "Yeah, right. Whatever."

Now, before everyone harps on me for overreacting and being mean to a poor overworked flight attendant, let me explain: I understand that my little problem was, well, little, in comparison to all that must go on in the course of a routine day of being a flight attendant, but to the extent that her job is customer service, she could have been a little more helpful. For example, she could have checked to see if, perhaps, my little electronic device fell out in the aisle of our plane, without my asking her to do it, and without the end result that she stepped away, gave a cursory look up the aisle without moving, and reported back that she didn't see it anywhere.

See, as far as I'm concerned, if you're in customer service, either try to be helpful or admit that you have no intention of being helpful and get the fuck out of my way. Anything else is just a colossal waste of both of our time.

So, anyway, I got to Houston and reported the thing missing, and the guy at the desk -- who tried to be both helpful and honest -- admitted that it was highly unlikely that I will ever see it again. But he told me that my best chance of seeing it again is when both planes are cleaned in Dallas tonight. He then gave me the number of the lost and found in the airport, and told me where to go to try to hunt it down on my flight back tomorrow afternoon (if I make it in time, natch).

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Three phone calls to mom

Last night, I had two birthday parties -- one dinner, one at a bar. And I was tired before I even left the house. So, at the bar, at about 11:30, I hit a wall of sorts. All of a sudden, just I felt so tired. I guess all the work, all the traveling is really getting to me. And it's not getting better any time soon -- I leave for yet another trip in the morning.

So, after the night of parties, this morning I woke up with a stuffy nose and a scratchy throat -- and a cold sore on my bottom lip. I haven't had one of those things in years. A doctor once told me that I got them from stress. Go figure.

Later today, I found out my Thanksgiving flights had been changed, again. I called my mom to tell her the new times -- just in case I actually manage to make my flight back from Houston in time. I wound up in tears -- and I'm not usually someone who cries.

After bawling on the phone to my mother, I left to run some errands and pick up dinner. While I was getting dinner, my phone rang, and I didn't recognize the ring tone at first -- well, I knew the song, but I didn't remember assigning it to anyone. Then I saw the caller ID. It was someone that I haven't spoken with in months, and honestly, wasn't sure if I wanted to talk to anymore.

So, I grabbed my dinner and ran home, where I promptly called my mom again to tell her about the phone call. She said that it would be rude of me to not call back. I told her I wasn't in the mood. She wasn't having any of it.

Once I decided to follow my mother's advice and be an adult about it, I called him back. It was a surprisingly good conversation. Actually -- it's more correct to describe it as a surprising conversation, but pleasant. And it left off in a good way, even if I did wind up having to apologize for not calling him when I was in Chicago last week. Things being what they are, I guess I got off pretty easy.

Then I called my mom again to tell her about the conversation. It's a good thing my mom loves me, because some days, I'm a total pain in the ass.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Politics and Computer Quizzes

I found this nifty little political quiz, courtesy of Arjewtino.

The test results indicate that I should vote for this guy:

It also told me that this is how I feel about everyone else:

Which leaves me with one question: How did people know who to vote for before computers told them who their ideology best aligned with?

New Project Runway!

I was so tired when I got home from Chicago last night that I forgot that I was DVR-ing Project Runway. But I remembered this morning, and all day, I kept wishing I could get home to watch before I stumbled across any spoilers.

In the meantime, I read an article about the show -- and one about last season's winner -- both from New York Magazine.

So, when I finally got home -- and finally got to watch the show -- I spent the entire time thinking that at least the writer's strike won't be able to take this little pleasure away from me.

After watching this show for the past three seasons, I think I'm starting to be able to see the differences between (1) a pretty dress; (2) a well-crafted dress; and (3) an interesting design. Academically, I think that, at least for this week's challenge, the winning dress needed to be all three -- and that's why Rami won. But as for my personal taste, I tend to gravitate to things that are wearable, not too avant-garde, and are, for lack of a better word, pretty. For the record, my three favorite designs this week were by Rami, Kevin, and Jack, not necessarily in that order.

Better than counting sheep

After a long couple of days, I'm finally back home. And while it will be good to sleep in my own glorious bed -- I'm hoping that it's sometime in the next few minutes -- there are some things about hotels that are really nice. Like the maid service. And the room service.

One of the underratedly great things about staying in a hotel is that there's always a pen and paper handy. It's a lovely little retro convenience in today's digital age. Even the hotels that are nothing spectacular still leave a small pad of paper by the phone.

This, of course, comes in handy for many reasons.

Anyway, last night, despite my attempt at getting to sleep early so that I was bright eyed and bushy tailed for the long day of work plus return flight home, I was awakened on several occasions by a group of conventioneers having some kind of contest to see who can be the loudest, most annoying drunk, out in the common areas. The last disturbance was at about 2 in the morning (3 Eastern), and I found falling back to sleep particularly challenging. So, I grabbed the pen and paper and started writing random things down. Lists, mostly.

It started with a to-do list. And then a to-pack list. Somehow, the last list -- the one that put me to sleep -- was a list of states, divided into the following eight categories:

  1. States in which I've lived [New Jersey, Florida, Virginia];
  2. States in which I have spent considerable time (a sum total of at least one week) in the last 10 years [New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, Louisiana, Texas, West Virginia, Illinois];
  3. States in which I spent considerable time when I was younger [Massachusetts, New Hampshire];
  4. States in which I have spent at least one night (that I remember) [California, Michigan, Rhode Island, Nevada, Missouri, Georgia, Tennessee, Colorado, Indiana];
  5. States that I saw as a child, but I don't really remember [Vermont, Maine];
  6. States that I saw as a child, but as an adult only sat in the car when the rest of the family went into a casino [Connecticut];
  7. States I have driven or flown through (including those in which I have stopped for food) [Ohio, Arizona, Delaware, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Wisconsin]; and
  8. States that I have never entered for any reason [Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Hawaii, Utah, Minnesota, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Arkansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma].

This exercise -- which reminds me of the map exercise from a while back -- put me to sleep quicker than you can say "Ambien." In fact, I'm getting tired just repeating it here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ferris Bueller, you're my hero.

My hotel, which is nothing spectacular, has a spectacular view of the Chicago River. And many of the bridges over the river are quite picturesque.

More significantly, even though I brought a winter coat to Chicago, it turned out to be an unnecessary measure. It was in the 60's today, which was perfectly lovely.

As a result, I was wishing that I didn't have to work. It would have been great to just roam around downtown and go to museums. Heck, I wish it was still baseball season -- I'd have gladly spent the day cheering on the Cubs.

It would have been like my very own version of Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Anatomy of a cow

I just got back from a lovely dinner with my brother. We went to a fancy Chicago steakhouse, one with ambient lighting and fancy table settings and decorated with fresh flowers and tons of artwork.

There was one weird thing, though. All throughout the restaurant, they had sculptures of cows. Some of the sculptures showed the various cuts of beef.

Maybe this appeals to some people: People who like to know that the flank steak comes from the underbelly, and the round comes from the rear end. These are the same people that probably want to know what the cow was fed and how it was treated and whether it had a name.

Not me. I just want my steak to be cooked medium rare.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Time travel

I was out and about last night/this morning. Well, while that's true, it's imprecise. I was out people watching in a very crowded bar while sipping on a drink. Said bar was what I would describe as "too crowded" and "too loud."

Ultimately, that means only one thing: I'm getting too old.

Sad, isn't it?

But now, in retrospect, I'm a little melancholy. When I was supposed to be in the prime of my bar going years -- mid-twenties -- I was already a gainfully employed "adult." And when I was in graduate school, I was too young to appreciate how good I had it. And now, most of the time, it's the sort of thing I can take or leave.

I wish I could go back in time and fix it. I want to tell younger Dara to not make the same decisions, to not make the same mistakes. To savor the good parts of life while she's young. To make the right decisions, choose the right paths. Because all of a sudden, she'll turn around, and be in her thirties, and the music in the bar is too loud, and there are too many people, and all she'll want to do is sit on a couch and have polite conversation with the people around her without having to scream at them.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Questions presented by the New York Times

What kind of person needs to pay someone thousands of dollars to teach them enough art for cocktail party conversation, find them stylists to pick out their designer clothing and interior designers to decorate their overpriced Manhattan apartment -- and, ultimately, to introduce them to other similarly snobby like-minded people?

And exactly what kind of person would pay $25,000 for a frozen hot chocolate topped with a $250 piece of candy? (Honestly, though, doesn't getting a frozen hot chocolate defeat the purpose? If I want cold, I'll get ice cream. But that's besides the point.)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Airline schedules stink, part two

It feels like I've been complaining about airlines a lot lately. But in hindsight, it could be worse. I could have my sister's flying karma.

In September when she came to visit me, her flight back was delayed for hours because of some mechanical problem.* Well, that's nothing compared to what happened on her business trip this week.

On both legs of this trip, she had connecting flights. On the way up, her first flight was late, she was in the last row of the plane, and she had to run across the entire airport to make her connection and wound up missing it by two minutes. Her luggage, however, managed to make the flight in time.

She said she was in tears. I chalk that up to being a work travel novice.

But that's not the worst part of the story. The worst part was that on her way home today, the first leg of her flight was canceled because of a mechanical problem. They booked her on an alternate flight, through D.C., which was then delayed to the point that it didn't look like she was going to make her connection.

She called me from the airport to relay this tale of woe -- particularly the part about the luggage -- and asked to borrow clothing in the case her luggage got separated from her again. She also asked to stay on my couch, in the event that the airline wouldn't put her up in a hotel.

Needless to say, we were both sort-of looking forward to the impromptu visit. Plus, as always, I have some clothing she can have.

But in the end, she made her connection, with minutes to spare -- enough to call me. Which is great and disappointing at the same time.

*It's also worth noting that her flight up to D.C. actually arrived early, but she had to sit around at the airport waiting for me because my meeting ran late.

This sh*t is bananas

From Yahoo: Thousands of bananas wash up on shore.

Great picture, but mostly, I couldn't resist the headline.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

When dealing with Metro, it's best to have a backup plan (or four)

I had a long day of depositions today, and when I finally got back to the office about half an hour before our official "quitting time" (not like I ever really leave that early), one of my coworkers was kind enough to let me know that Metro was closed at Pentagon City. (Turns out he meant the Pentagon, but whatever. It's the thought that counts.)

Being exhausted from two long days of work with a concert in between, I wanted to leave at a reasonable hour tonight. But not wanting to have another episode where I wind up having to take a shuttle bus from Arlington Cemetery, I decided to implement "Plan B." Which is to say, I tried to find my coworker who lives down the street from me in order to convince him to drive me home.

Of course, he was out of the office today.

So then there's "Plan C," which is to keep checking Metro's website obsessively until it no longer reports a problem at the Pentagon or any residual delays on Blue or Yellow lines.

Riiiiight. But then, when I walk over to the Gallery Place station, the sign indicates that there's a delay on the Green Line -- meaning that it would be standing room only on the platform.

So, I move on to "Plan D." And that plan involved going to the Ann Taylor Loft and trying on suits, ultimately hoping that when I was finished, my credit card balance would not be nearly as nauseating as a rush hour crowd dealing with train delays.

So what's worse? Getting home at five 'til eight with a new suit or getting home ninety minutes earlier all stressed out from a horrible day in the Metro? All things being equal, I think I'll take the suit and the reduced stress.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Remember, remember the fifth of November

In celebration of Guy Fawkes Night, I will not be lighting bonfires or setting off fireworks.

Instead, I'm going to The Police concert.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

November promises

One of these Novembers, I will actually write a novel. And one of these Novembers, I will post on the blog every single day.

But it won't be November, 2007.

It just isn't feasible, considering the amount of work that I need to get done between now and the end of the month. Not to mention that November means taking time off for Thanksgiving.

So, instead, I'm going to make November promises that I can keep.

First, I'm going to promise to blog less, not more. Especially when I'm out of town. I'm sure everyone will miss me, but you'll get over it. And in return, I'll strive for quality, not quantity.

Second, I'm going to watch more tv. After all, it is November sweeps. This, of course, includes finally watching the Freaks and Geeks box set, so that I can get around to watching my new DVDs of My So-Called Life and the third season of Veronica Mars. Plus, all that tv will keep me out of trouble when I'm in random hotels in random cities.

Of course, the down side of this is that it'll probably mean less time in the gym, but -- here's the fun part -- I DON'T REALLY CARE!

I also promise to do something about the piles of mail on my desk -- both at home and at work.

And finally, I'm going to promise to not be sad or morose on my birthday. I'm going to treat it just like any other busy work day -- although I'm hoping that it'll be the kind of day that ends in yellow cake with chocolate frosting.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The diet starts again, tomorrow

I was so good at dieting for so long, but I've been cheating on my diet nonstop since Friday night. Here, in chronological order, are the bad things that I have eaten.

1. Cornbread;
2. Chili;
3. Breadsticks;
4. Mrs. Fields oatmeal raisin cookie;
5. Half of my mom's brownie;
6. Pizza;
7. Mini quiche;
8. Penne in vodka sauce;
9. Wedding cake;
10. Colored rock sugar;
11. Mints;
12. Rye toast;
13. Plain M&Ms;
14. Pizza and cheesesticks;
15. Special K bar;
16. Brown rice;
17. Milk chocolate Hershey bar with almonds;
18. Leftover pizza and cheesesticks;
19. Special K bar;
20. Wild rice;
21. Peanut M&Ms;
22. Linguine with mushrooms;
23. Reese's Peanut Butter Cup; and
24. Kit Kat.

(Amongst these unhealthy things I have had a total of three salads, a few bites of steak, and a crabcake.)

It should surprise no one when I admit that I feel like total crap. I'm sure it's because I've gotten so used to not eating junk food that my body can't handle it anymore -- at least not all at once or in these kind of quantities.

So, I am done with the junk food, as of right now. I will not be buying candy tomorrow, even if it is on clearance. I will not be eating any candy that anyone brings into the office or even into my apartment. And I am totally over pizza and pasta.

White flour and sugar are, once again, the enemy.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Halloween costumes

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays, seeing as it does not require any kind of prayer, but instead involves free candy (preferably chocolate), and dressing up in fun costumes. But I never wanted to wear a scary costume for Halloween -- I only wanted to be cute or pretty things. My mother has pictures of me in some random 1970's costumes, but the first costume that I really remember was Cinderella, when I was in kindergarten. I had a pink and blue plastic dress and a mask with blond hair.

A couple of years later, fourth grade, I remember dressing up like Cyndi Lauper, with pink hair. It was followed by Madonna the next year -- a very tame Madonna. I mean, even though my mother let me go to school in pink leather pants, she would never have let me out of the house in anything really indecent.

Several years later, in what was either late middle school or early high school, I acquired a French maid's costume, complete with black fishnets and a feather duster. (Yes, I still have that costume. No, I haven't really seriously thought of wearing it in years.) Looking back on that, it was probably age inappropriate, although perhaps not quite as bad as the preteens discussed in the Post article or the women described in the New York Times. I mean, at least it covered my midriff. Still, I'm sure it wasn't exactly the type of attire that my parents wanted their young daughter to be parading around the neighborhood in.

I guess I grew out of that, because nowadays, I tend to go for funny pop-culture costumes: Punky Brewster, Minnie Mouse pajamas with feet and a baby bottle, and the Axl Rose half of Slash & Axl. But, sadly, this will be the second year in a row that I'm not dressing up. I mean, the day that I would have dressed up -- Saturday -- I was in Rhode Island, watching the World Series with my grandmother, mother, uncle, aunt, and 5 1/2 year old cousin, getting ready for a wedding the next afternoon. And tomorrow? It's a Wednesday, a work day. What would I possibly have enough energy to do?

So, instead, for the second year in a row, I think I'm going to the movies, to see The Nightmare Before Christmas in 3-D. I hope someone brings candy.

Update: I love this slideshow of Halloween costumes based on Bob Dylan songs. Maybe next year.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Why I need a notebook

(ed. note: This was originally written the old-fashioned way and transcribed. It was interrupted in the middle by the need to board the aircraft.)

On the road in the middle of nowhere -- actually, to be precise, sitting in an airport somewhere in the Southwestern U.S., about to get on the last leg of my flight home -- it suddenly occurs to me that I'm the type of girl who needs to travel with a notebook. No, not a notebook computer. An actual honest-to-god paper notebook. I have a lot of thoughts, you see -- and my work computer's wireless card stopped working mid-trip.

As it stands, I have one remaining page in the back of a legal pad. Well, that's not exactly true either. I have most of a page, since I used the upper left-hand corner to do some rudimentary mid-deposition math.

I spend a considerable amount of time in airports. I think that if you add up all the time I spend in airports and airplanes during a calendar year, and average it out, then I spend no less than four days of each calendar year in the process of air travel. While that only computes to about 1% of each year, it adds up to a significant portion of my life.

I have flying down to a science -- what to pack, what to wear, when to carry on my bags, when to check my bags, how to prepare for security screening. Although maybe it's not really a science -- it's more of an art form. But whatever it is, I know how to do it. (I have been known to get it wrong, though.) And then, once I'm through security, I sit and wait and observe. Which brings us back to the notebook. I need a notebook for times like these, to record my observations, before the constant churning of my thoughts moves onto the next fleeting thing, and I forget the things I've seen and heard, the things that make me laugh and ask questions. There are a lot of those thoughts, especially on days like today -- a day that started hours before the sun was even up -- before the hotel even started serving breakfast, and which will involve three cities and hours of flying time.

If I had a notebook today, for example, I could have started by writing excruciating detail about my breakfast. McDonald's. Which was the only thing open in the entire airport. And about how it was the first time since childhood that I ate a "Big Breakfast" -- which is really not so big, especially if you only eat the eggs and sausage. And I could question how they somehow managed to make the eggs so bland that they taste like nothing, or perhaps describe the looks of horror aimed at me for ordering a large Diet Coke at that ungodly hour of the morning.

Or I could write about the girl I saw in the rust-colored L.A.M.B. velour sweatsuit, and how her hair was dyed a very fake orangey color -- which resulted in her having the overall appearance of a carrot. From there, I would probably venture onto a discourse on how those sweatsuits, especially the ones with the words on the ass, do no favors for anyone's figure. I would probably also note how people need to learn the difference between "outside clothing" and "inside clothing." Not that I am entirely without sin on that one.

I could have told the detailed story of how I killed the bug in the hotel bathroom with my hair mousse, or how weird it was that yesterday, a beautiful day, I was walking outside in the downtown section of a major metropolitan area, but only saw five cars and two people.

I could also express my utter confusion as to why anyone would wear a ten-gallon hat on an airplane. Seems very uncomfortable.

Or I could comment on how cheap the airlines are -- not giving out peanuts or pretzels anymore, instead charging $3 for a candy bar. And how it must totally stink to be one of the people who agreed to take the next flight out for a $150 credit, when the next set of people were given $300. Or how all of the people who agreed to fly out later to resolve the "weight balancing issues" were all skinny. Go figure.

I could attempt to figure out why I always wind up writing in the margins, sometimes even around the corners, having to tie my thoughts together with lines and arrows, and sometimes even circles, when it's one of my pet peeves. And I might even question why rollerball pens explode on airplanes, especially since all of my other pens mysteriously stop working mid-flight.

But if I had a notebook, and a pen that worked, maybe I could find words to describe the beauty of how, when flying over a lake or another body of water, it first looks like a cloud, and then it looks like snow (maybe a glacier?) and then a shimmering piece of silver foil, and then -- only when you're directly over it -- you can see that it's water, with an infinite number of teeny tiny little ripples on the surface. And if I could find the right adjectives for that, I could certainly describe how gigantic and beautiful the full moon was on the way to the airport just before the crack of dawn.

But then there's the practical stuff. Like making a list of the things I need to pack for my trip that stars forty-five hours after my last flight of the day ends. Or figuring out how I managed to keep my .mp3 player and computer in my carry-on bag, while leaving my keys and headphones in my checked suitcase. And how by violating my own three-book rule, I wound up having to buy a new book. But I only have this one page, and I'm already at the end.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Food for thought

When I travel, I have food issues.

It's a multiple-part dilemma. First of all, I'm somewhat of a food snob. I like nice places, not dives. And most of the time, I like "safe" places and somewhat "safe" dishes -- food and places that I know are not going to make me sick. As a result, I like names that I know -- but at the same time, I hate chain restaurants. I know, that's somewhat of an oxymoron, but it's the truth.

The other problem is that I try to eat healthy. I don't always succeed, but I try.

What this means is that I take the recommendations of the hotel, and then usually wind up somewhere having the exact same thing -- a grilled chicken salad. Every once in a while, I'll get a steak or salmon, and before I was reducing my carb intake, I would go for Italian food -- but I've come to find that it's hard for a place to get a plain ol' grilled chicken salad wrong.

So now I'm stuck in a town that I dislike, having just eaten a boring grilled chicken salad. I'm hoping to find something more appealing tomorrow night. Any suggestions?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Whatever the opposite of customer satisfaction is

My North American Tour starts in twelve hours or so.

Already, it's hit its first snag. Today, I hung up on an airline. Seriously.

You see, I have plane tickets this weekend, to go to Rhode Island for a family thing. (My cousin's wedding, to be specific.) I booked these tickets months ago, flying out on Saturday, back on Monday. I was planning on taking a day off work.

Today, I found out I have to be in Boston on Monday afternoon for work. As much as I'd rather have the day off, it's really not a big deal -- especially when I consider that it'll save me a couple of hours of travel time, since I was already going to be about an hour away. So, I call the airline and attempt to explain the situation -- I have a ticket to fly from Providence to DC on Monday afternoon, and won't be using it. Instead, I need a shuttle ticket to fly from Boston back to DC.

They couldn't help me. So, I decided that I'd book a one-way ticket back from Boston through work, and I told the airline that I wasn't going to use my return ticket from Providence. They told me it would cost about $200 to change my roundtrip to a one-way, not including the $100 change fee.

I laughed at them at first. "You mean it will cost me less to not use my ticket?"

She didn't laugh back. "That's what I just explained."

"Then never mind."

Since I was already on the phone with her, I dared to ask about my Thanksgiving trip -- because, as it stands, I will not be making it back from my least favorite Southwestern city in time to catch my flight to Florida. But this time it wasn't $300 to change the whole thing -- it was closer to $1000.

My response was "Great. Don't bother. I'll find an airline that wants to work with me." I then hung up before she could respond.

So, I went on the work website and booked my shuttle flight from Boston, and the last trip of the tour, which currently consists of one way from DC to my least-favorite city, and another one way from that city to Florida. It wound up costing less than the contract fare.

Now I have two plane tickets that will go unused. And it's entirely the airline's fault. This is not a good business model. No wonder airlines keep having to file for bankruptcy.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Rain, rain go away. Seriously. I want to go home.

It is pouring outside and, as a consequence, I am stuck at my office at almost 10:00 on a Friday night.

The sad thing is that I'm stuck at the office because of my own stupidity. Not because I did anything wrong, mind you -- but because, after my evening plans were canceled, I decided to stay a little late to finish up some things -- and then one thing led to another, and all of a sudden, it was 8:00. Then I looked outside, and it was pouring. So I decided to wait until the rain let up.

Big mistake. It's only gotten worse. And according to the weather report, the big dark yellow heavy downpour area is going to be over here for a while.

So, now I'm going to run outside and hope to not get too soaked, right? It's not like I have any other choice in the matter, at least if I don't want to stay here all night.

I know we're all praying for rain, but this stinks.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Joe Torre

Let me begin by stating that, despite disliking the Yankees, Joe Torre is my new hero. To work for a franchise and in a city where you're always going to be the scapegoat -- blamed for the bad and ignored about the good -- has got to get to a person, yet he did it with class and dignity. Even if you hate the team, you have got to respect that.

And then there is that whole leading the team to four Championships and nine straight division championships thing. Sure, the Yankees haven't won in a while -- but it's not his fault. (See, e.g., Jeter, Derek and his surprisingly low 2007 postseason batting average.)

But I digress. To have your job threatened in the middle of the postseason, and then left guessing for days on end is bad enough, but then, to have the ownership insult you with a low-ball contract offer is insulting. It takes guts to walk away from a job you clearly love, with millions of dollars on the table. But clearly the payoff was not worth the hassle.

Good for you, Joe.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Airline schedules stink

In the coming weeks, I'm going to be traveling a lot. By my count, I have five trips between now and Thanksgiving, not including Thanksgiving, and two trips thereafter. All but two -- including Thanksgiving -- are work trips. I am referring to this period of my life as my "World Tour." In actuality, it's a North American Tour, but why split hairs?

Today, I went to go book the first of the work trips, to a large city in the southwestern part of the country. Because of where I work, not only is it budget-constrained, but we have contracts with various airlines, and we can only get exceptions for very limited purposes. The city to which I'm going is a hub for one airline -- but said airline is not one of our contracted airlines. So, I have to take a connecting flight, which means, that, at a minimum, my trip will take around six hours. Which also means that, if I don't want to spend an extra night in a hotel, I'll have to be prepared to leave the downtown area around 2pm. Ultimately, the sum of this is that I will have to (1) stay two nights -- the day before and the day after my eight-hour long work event, and (2) ask someone else in my office to cover something for me on my travel day.

This, while very very annoying, is moderately acceptable. What will be unacceptable is when a very similar trip screws with my Thanksgiving plans.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A glimpse into my worklife

I left work kind of early -- for me at least -- today. Technically, our work day lasts from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm. In all honesty, I can't remember when I've ever gotten in at 9:00 or left at 5:30 -- I'm more of a 9:30 to 6:30 kind of girl. But I've been staying a little later than that pretty much all month -- for example, last night, I left at around 8:10, since I got home at 8:30.

Granted, some of it is that I've been really busy, but a large part of it is that, after my time at the anonymous law firm, I feel guilty leaving the office while it's still light outside. I know I shouldn't -- after all, I get more accomplished in a short day at my current job than I ever did in 8 billable hours.

Today, though, was painful. It all started with an office meeting -- a very long meeting, that, while productive, presented the opportunity for the bosses to discuss their preferred procedures for getting work done, and for various co-workers to complain about the implementation of those procedures. All in all, it was like Festivus for airing workflow grievances.

Afterwards, I got pulled into a lengthy follow-up discussion with some of the assistants where they griped about the things discussed at the meeting, and the difficulties of working with the attorneys in the office. As the sole representative attorney, I listened patiently, nodded my head, expressed appropriate confusion, and even chuckled where appropriate. Most importantly, I made a mental note of something that, while basic to me, most others in my office seem to miss: It's not about the work; it's all about how you deal with people.

If you're nice, and you're patient, and you talk to the support staff like they are your equals, they will like to work for you, even if they don't particularly like the work. If you yell at them, or talk down to them, or blame them for mistakes, then they will not want to do anything for you -- and getting what you need will be like pulling teeth.

It was lunchtime when this was over, and by that point, I was so worn out that I could have gone home then and there. I'm surprised I made it until 6.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Jumping on the "Rocktober" bandwagon

I was going to write something all serious about today being Blog Action Day, and how this year, it's supposed to focus on the environment -- but I just got distracted by the Colorado Rockies' 4th inning 6-run offensive barrage.

Damn, this team is good! They were in fourth place in mid-September, and now they're in the process of winning their 21st of 22 games. Consider me officially on the bandwagon.

I will go so far as to say that, absent a good reason (i.e. you grew up rooting for the Diamondbacks or you are allergic to purple and black), it is unAmerican to be rooting for anyone else right now.

I want a t-shirt.

Too bad it's so late here, because I don't want to turn off the tv.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Poor weekend time management

Earlier today, I was thinking I would write about this article -- about this book -- and how I think it's a little strange to think about punk rock and Judaism together.

But then I started watching the baseball game and talking to my brother on the phone . . . . And now it's approaching midnight, and I still haven't washed my dishes or folded my laundry -- and I'm in no shape to think about anything critically, let alone Judaism and punk rock. It's always amazing how time manages to slip away from me.

But at least the Rockies won.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Salsa Dancing vs. Football

Early tonight, before I realized how awful the event we were in the process of heading towards was going to be, I offhandedly joked that, "You can only open your mind so much before your brain falls out."

Boy, was that prophetic. Being open-minded can come back to bite you in the ass.

You see, tonight I was convinced to go to some random nightclub in the middle of ghetto Arlington for salsa dancing lessons. Not only that, this was a nightclub with a dress code -- no jeans, no sneakers. So, I did what any girl would do -- I primped. I took my hair out of the ponytail. I put on eyeliner and mascara. I wore a dress. Heck, I even wore a push-up bra -- and trust me, the girls looked good.

Sadly, it was a waste of all of the effort. The nightclub, for lack of a better word, stunk. It was pretty much empty. And, to the extent that there were people there, there were way more women there than men -- which was not entirely unexpected -- but most of the men there were really old. Plus, despite the dress code, many of the people in attendance were, indeed, wearing jeans.

To add insult to injury, they played two Ricky Martin songs before the salsa lessons even started.

So, rather than dancing with an icky old random guy, with one of my female friends, or by myself, I opted to sit down and watch -- figuring that I could put the merengue knowledge to use once I had someone worth merengue-ing with. But within minutes, someone who is even less open-minded than I am convinced me to leave.

So we went to go hang out with another friend, who was watching football at a local sports bar, and then we ate ice cream. Sure I was way overdressed, but it was way more my speed. And way more fun.

The moral of the story is that the next time I feel like dressing up, I'm going to a sports bar instead.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


A couple months ago, I saw Ann Coulter sitting in the lobby of a hotel in downtown DC, right next to the entrance to the restaurant where my friends and I had gone to dinner.

She was talking on her cellphone, and, at the time, seemed just like any other generic little blond-haired bimbo. In fact, I probably wouldn't have even noticed her without someone pointing her out.

I think my first reaction was to be surprised that she was that little -- and that she looked way older in person. But I pretty much kept my observations to myself, since it's mean to call someone old.

What I should have been looking for was some kind of mark of the devil. Not only does that woman have a ridiculous political ideology, but now she's making anti-Semitic comments.

Someone needs to stop that woman. Seriously.

I should have punched her in the face when I had the chance.

History of Dara, part 7

Once upon a time, a long long time ago -- a little over thirteen years, to be exact -- I was eighteen years old and living in London for the summer. Well, not just living there -- studying abroad -- which basically constituted taking a bunch of art history classes and a playwriting class.

I lived in a flat -- with four other students -- in a historic building that -- according to rumor -- Shelley had lived in at one point in time. I drank beer, at pubs. I went to lots and lots of plays, and the opera, and the ballet. I shopped in the open air markets. I went to Paris. More than that, really -- I went to so many places, it would take more than a whole blog entry to catalogue the whole thing. But that's not what I wanted to write.

I was recently reminded that, in my playwriting class in London, I wrote a one-act play as an assignment. Actually, each and every member of the class wrote a play, and then, the class voted for the top three, and staged them. Mine was selected.

In retrospect, it's not exceptionally good -- but I was eighteen. And, at the time, my class compared it to Pretty in Pink, which is a compliment. (If it had been written after 1997, I would think that Dawson's Creek would have been more accurate, but whatever.)

Anyway, here's the play, such as it is.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


It's kind of a sweet idea, really -- posting your phone number on the internet, via PostSecret, in order to connect with people. And he was refreshingly honest about it: It was a way of curing his own loneliness by curing other people's loneliness.

It amazes me that anyone could actually go through with it, especially in light of the potential repercussions. People calling at all hours, from all over the place. The risk that the callers might not be entirely sane, and might need more help than he could give. The cell phone bill. The loss of anonymity. The callers' expectations of a connection -- a way to fill their own lonely voids.

It's an unusual leap of faith.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Smoke detector

All of my fretting about my car was good in one respect: It got my mind off of the fact that, on Sunday morning while I was getting ready to go out, my smoke detector decided to start chirping at me every 90 seconds. I called it in to maintenance, who, apparently decided to do nothing about it -- which I didn't notice because it stopped on its own.

. . . Until 5 am Monday morning.

Needless to say, I was ready to kill someone by the time the maintenance guy showed up to fix it (at around 10:30 that morning). Nothing like five-plus hours of constant, shrill beeping to put a girl in a good mood. It's a good thing that I'm somewhat of an expert in sleeping through alarms. (And at least it wasn't building-wide this time. Actually, there hasn't been one of those in a while.)

Right after they finally quieted the damn thing -- which took all of five minutes -- I had a realization: I'd have been better off cooking something smoky enough to really set the thing off, and then waiting for the fire department to come and fix it for me.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Auto Repair 101

Sure, I know things about sports and I work in a male-dominated field, but on many levels, I am still a very girly girl.

I admit, here and now, that I know next to nothing about cars. I haven't the foggiest idea how they work.* I mean, yeah, I know there's a gasoline-powered engine and wheels -- but after that, I'm clueless. So I do all recommended preventative maintenance -- no matter how ridiculous it is. But if something goes wrong, I am left with two options: (1) Asking for help; (2) Paying for services that I don't understand -- and potentially don't need.

Anyone who reads this blog should have deduced by now that I am probably not so good with option #1. And, in all honesty, the males with whom I would consult about an auto-related issue are probably as clueless as I am, but are even more loathe to admit it because of their intrinsic male-ness. But nevertheless, I occasionally take this approach -- usually as a precautionary step to determine whether I'm over- (or under-) reacting.

The car -- my cute little pride and joy -- is six years old, and was just on the threshold of 30,000 miles. Over the winter -- 2500 or so miles ago -- I started worrying about my tires because of the age of the car, but I took the car in for maintenance, they said that the tires were fine. So I stopped worrying.

A couple of weeks ago, when my sister was visiting, my front driver's side tire started to look a little flat. I checked the pressure, added some air, and all seemed fine. It was still fine when I drove to Harrisburg (which was also the day the car passed 30,000 miles). Last weekend, the tire looked a little flat again. I checked the pressure, and it was very low. So I put air in it and went to Target. By the time I got out of Target, it looked low again. I figured that I must have done something wrong, so I drove across the street to the nearest gas station, and repeated the process.

When I went to go take the car out on Friday night, the stupid tire was low again. I emailed a friend to ask how I would know whether I needed new tires. He told me that I should check to see if there was a slow leak by inflating the tire to the right pressure, and then checking it again in a day or two.** I told him that I'd probably wind up taking it to a shop, out of laziness -- but with the knowledge that they would probably try to sell me tires even if I really didn't need them.

So, Saturday, around lunchtime, I took the car to put more air in the tire. It didn't seem to help, so I drove the car to the first tire place I came upon after leaving my house. But to be honest, I made this decision not just because of proximity, but because the place at issue had the word "Tire" in its name. I figured that, like with Dunkin' Donuts, if you advertise something in your title, it should be safe to assume that you're an expert at it.

Anyway, I told the guy at the desk what was wrong, and he went out to take a look at it. He agreed with me, that it looked flat, and that he could have it taken back into the repair bay, where they would charge me $30 to fix the tire, or, in the alternative, would let me know that it was irreparable, and that all of this would take approximately one half-hour. I agreed with this treatment strategy, signed the estimate, and waited in the lobby, where they had Star Wars Episode III playing in the background -- you know, the one where Hayden Christiansen goes from whiny and annoying Anakin Skywalker to crazy Darth Vader.

My car is ready about 45 minutes later -- just as Darth Vader takes his first awkward steps in the big black costume. The tire place goes to charge me the $30, but as I am fumbling around in my bag for my credit card, I ask a dangerous question: "What was wrong with it?"

"Nothing. We couldn't find anything wrong with it. There is no leak."

"Then why does it keep getting flat?"

Instead of answering, the guy starts printing out a new invoice. I have somewhere to be, so I annoyedly thrust out my credit card. He tells me not to worry about it, and he hands me a key, and an invoice that says "No Charge."

I walk out to my car, and the tire looks okay. I drive the mile back to my apartment, park in the garage, and look at the tire. It looks flat again. I am pissed. That afternoon, after various events, I have a friend look at the tire. She concurs, it looks flat. I tell my friend that I emailed earlier the story, and he tells me "You brought it to the wrong tire place."

I am even more pissed.

But, lucky for me, I have Monday off from work, which means one more day I can devote to car care. So, I went downstairs this morning to check the tire. It still looks flat. But according to my tire pressure gauge, the tire is fine.

So what do I do now?

*I do, however, know how to drive a stick shift, since I actually learned how to drive on one. I was never great at it, and I am probably way out of practice -- since the last time I drove one was back in the mid-'90s -- but I'm sure I could figure it out again.

**He also told me that after 30,000 or 40,000 miles I might notice that I'm not braking as well or taking wider turns, which would mean that the tread has worn down. But honestly, I wasn't so concerned about this, given the flatness of the tire. Not to mention that I don't think I could even begin to notice a subjective difference in braking or my turning radius.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Hold On, Hold On

Maybe it's the time of year -- the darkness starts to creep in earlier and earlier, the leaves start to fall. Maybe it's the end result of the Jewish holidays, and the taking stock of my life that inevitably ensues. But whatever it is, I always find myself getting a little more pensive than usual around this time.

It's somewhat worse than usual this year -- maybe because of my grandfather, or maybe because I'm not dwelling on the big-picture career issues that I had to distract myself with for the two prior years. But whatever the cause, I'm spending way too much time in my own headspace -- and even for me, it's mildly disturbing.

For the past couple of nights, right around bedtime, I've been listening to Neko Case. I'm pretty sure it's complicating the matter. I'm drifting off into sleep, trying to unravel my own muddled thoughts, listening to certain words:

The most tender place in my heart is for strangers
I know it's unkind but my own blood is much too dangerous

Lying in bed at night, I'm starting to think I understand this. At least to me, it's about the wall. You know the one -- the wall we all put up, protecting our hearts from others, protecting others from us, protecting ourselves from ourselves. It's easier to be kind when others have no expectations of you and you have no expectations of them.

In the end I was the mean girl
Or somebody's in-between girl

This is the line that kills me, the one I relate to. This makes the whole song make sense to me: The story of the girl taking stock of her poor romantic choices in, of all places, the middle of a wedding -- and resorting to self-medication as the way to get through it all.

In any event, the song just fits. It fits with the somewhat-serious conversation I had with my mother the other day, where somehow, in response to something, I explained to her that, on the inside, I'm still the same scared little kid I've always been, but that from the outside it's hard to see -- or for me to let anyone see it -- because of all of the layers and layers of scar tissue that have accumulated over the years. My mother sort-of chuckled, and asked me why I thought it was any different for her at 60.

The thing is, it's different for her -- she's adept at letting people in. I'm just not built that way.

The funny thing is that I don't want to be this way -- I want to change, to be open and to tell others how I feel, even with the possibility of rejection. But at this point, my behavior is reflexive, a habit. Or maybe it's more than that: It's who I am.