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.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Banned Books Week

It's Banned Books Week. To celebrate -- or, more accurately, to protest -- I'm taking a break from my usual list and reading something from the list of the top 100 "offensive" books.

Conveniently enough, I just bought a copy of The Handmaid's Tale. But it would also be a perfect excuse to re-read A Wrinkle in Time.

I don't understand banning books. Granted, not all of these books are appropriate for children. But still, what does banning books really accomplish? It's ineffective, and it's intellectually lazy. If a book is considered racist or sexist or class-ist or anti-Semitic or anti-God or just plain scary, maybe the key isn't to ban it or ignore it, but to teach kids about the what the book represents, the time and the history and the context in which it was written, and -- hopefully -- how we've grown as a society since then. Or if the book contains -- egads!-- sex, well, maybe we should just finally admit that kids are already learning about it from television and movies and pop culture in general, get over ourselves, and teach them about it in classrooms -- rather than waiting for them to figure it out for themselves in the backseats of cars and on prom night.

Besides, there's an element of reverse psychology at play. If you tell a high school kid not to read Catcher in the Rye or Harry Potter or The Anarchist's Cookbook or whatever, guess what their favorite book is going to wind up being?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

What's My Karaoke Theme Song?

This was eerily prescient:

Your Karaoke Theme Song is "Livin' On a Prayer"

You believe the best things in life are mostly forgotten, and you're definitely more than a little nostalgic .
You're likely to still like the same foods, fashions, and music as you did when you were a teenager.

You have a knack for knowing what elements of pop culture people have missed, without them even realizing it.
It's great to remember the past, but don't forget that not everyone is as stuck in it as you are.

You might also sing: "Pour Some Sugar on Me," "Rapper's Delight," and "Cherry Pie"

Stay away from people who sing: "Toxic"

My parents' anniversary

My parents' anniversary was this past weekend. They've been married for thirty-three years.

It's hard to find a card for that. So this is what I sent:

I wrote my parents one of of my typical silly notes on the inside.

At least I make them laugh.

Monday, October 01, 2007

More new fall tv

I just finished watching Moonlight on the DVR.

Similarities to Veronica Mars:
  • Nouveau noir style with over-the-top narration
  • Private investigators
  • Jason Dohring
  • Hearst College
  • Flashbacks as storytelling device

Similarities to Angel:

Similarities to Alias:

By all rights, I should love this show -- but I'm not sure if I do. The pacing's a little too slow. And it takes itself a little too seriously -- almost like a routine police procedural show, just with vampires. Oh, plus the background music is horrible (it featured a Celine Dion song) and it airs on -- gulp! -- CBS -- the network for old people -- which co-owns the CW, which I am still boycotting. Still, it's got so much going for it (see above).

I'll give it another shot, I guess.