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.