Two Sites You Should Visit

Get thee to Free Rice to revel in the absurd but entertaining and rather addictive combination of testing your vocabulary skills and donating rice to UN world hunger abatement programs.

Then make your way to the snarky, trenchant, and bitch-slappy Predatory Lending Association site, the brainchild of one of Dana's friends. Take that, Cash 'N' Go.


Home again, home again

I spent Thanksgiving and the weekend following in northern Illinois at my sister-in-law's parents' house. The holiday was great and delightfully lazy: with the exception of some minimal exercise, I passed much of the time eating, lounging, and playing board and card games with the others assembled there.

On Sunday, the Wilska portion of the clan went to O'Hare en masse, and my westward travel meant I was the last one to fly out, which meant spending the vast chunk of the day at the airport. I didn't mind at first, as Greg got me into a waiting lounge, where I was able to sit in front of a fire and sip wine while contentedly working away on my book. But then 7 p.m. rolled around, the lounge closed, and I was spit out with my fellow travelers.

And then things went downhill: a short delay turned into a longer one, which turned into loading us all onto a plane only to unload us 45 minutes later because of mechanical issues with the aircraft, and a terminal change, and a plane change, and all told two hours gone.

Then downhill again: the moment the pilot sounded his ding to indicate that we had reached the altitude at which tray tables and seat backs could be adjusted, the guy in front of me put his seat all the way back. Because this fellow was quite tall--probably somewhere in the 6'5" range (and yes, I did feel for him: it must suck to try to fold that size body into a tiny coach class seat)--he managed to push his seat even farther back than it would otherwise go, giving me about 6 inches of space. For the entire 5 hour flight.

I was so exhausted and tired of traveling that I feared I might lose it and burst completely into tears or run screaming through the aisle. I didn't, but just sat there and tried to sleep. In that space of semi-consciousness, I started thinking about putting a stop to Thanksgiving travel away from the west coast, and focusing more on building the holiday up to be something special for me in my own city, rather than always going elsewhere. It's an interesting consideration, because where does the stress and strain of traveling to or from somewhere start to outweigh the pleasure of actually being there? That point almost came for me on Sunday night.

But then, finally, we were on the ground at SFO, and the tall dude put his seat back up, and I walked out of the terminal and directly into the waiting, open arms of my boy, who drove me home and put me to bed. And as much as I enjoyed my time away, I am so glad to be back--so intensely, powerfully glad to be back.


Teen Anthems, How I Love Thee

So, I'm sure Death Cab for Cutie's "Transatlanticism" is already an infamous emo-esque teen anthem. How could it not be, with Ben Gibbard's plaintive, repeated "I need you so much closer" and what sounds like the entire band joining in for the both heart-squishing and hopeful "So come on" refrain at the end of the song? It's all so ridiculously sad and sweet and pretty, and you can almost here the young, teary voices singing along.

I'm sure there were teen anthems around when I was a teen, but my musical taste at the time ran to REM, the Smiths, Drivin' 'n' Cryin', and a passel of other bands that, on the main, did not turn out anthems of any sort. We certainly didn't have anyone like Death Cab or Dashboard Confessional or any other soulful boys crooning at us. So I'm coming to all of this years too late, but unabashed. I would've gotten the anthem-loving out of my system much earlier if only I'd had the chance.

Since I didn't, I must make up for lost time, so it's "Transatlanticism" and "Hands Down" and "No Exit" (which probably doesn't officially qualify for anthem status, but should) on repeat, accompanied by fond thoughts of my own teen-dom, as well as equally fond thoughts of being miles and years and worlds away from it now.


While I Get My Head on Straight

Seen on Geary; photo by Dana

There are currently at least a dozen things I should be doing, but somehow it seemed pressing to post this photo, which has been sitting on my desktop for about six weeks now. I dedicate it to J, both because I think he'll appreciate it with a keenness unknown to others, and because I've been a horrific friend and have sent him not even the merest hint of a note in months.

Other things I haven't done in months:
  • Had a day entirely bereft of work-related tasks
  • Read an actual book
  • Cooked a meal that required more than 2-3 steps
In my dream world, I'll have time for all of those things--as well as regular correspondence with far-flung friends--soon. More truthfully, I might hope for them when I am moored in Connecticut over Christmas, and/or sometime in late February. In the meantime, stay tuned for wildly infrequent posts (which may or may not center around mild whimpering about the chaotic states of my schedule and To Do list) and enjoy Dana's photographic brilliance.


Light in October

Yesterday was stunning--one of those late San Francisco summer days that makes you forget how crapwad July and August were (and even more so this year than normal). The sun virtually blazed, there was the sweetest hint of a breeze, and even come 4 p.m., the fog didn't come scraping in.

Erik and I spent the day out by the beach, then walking through the mid-Richmond on a futile quest for the highly rated pizzeria I was sure was out there somewhere but just couldn't find. (Sorry, babe; it was actually not on Clement but on 21st, and closer to California.) Ultimately it was Pizza Orgasmica for us, then a ride back across town on the 44.

Back at la Casa de Irving, we lie (laid? lay? whatever) down for a nap with the full force of the sun pushing through the west-facing windows. By the time I got up, the light was fading but still gorgeous, and shortly thereafter I walked up Carl Street with the sunset at my back.

We seem to be having quite a few of these really pretty days, in which even the far western reaches of the city stay beautiful and fogless well past dusk. But the flip side, of course, is that the more stunning the light gets, the less of it we have. Once the sun starts to go down these days, it seriously means it: I got on the N last evening in slightly waning light, and when the train emerged from the East Portal tunnel, it was dark out. That was a matter of minutes.

In a few weeks, it'll be full night by 6 p.m., then earlier by the day. As ever, I'm not ready for so much darkness.


North Carolina

I fell asleep to crickets, and to the sound of the wind poking at the curtains. I woke up to heavy silence. It was so much different from either my home (fan always on to block the traffic, the neighbors, the sirens screaming up Fell) or Erik's (the N, the N, the N).

Monique recently bought a house here in Winston-Salem, where she teaches at Wake Forest, and I decided to come out and visit her. On the way back from the airport in Raleigh last night, we stopped in Carrboro for dinner, and I watched the quiet, sleepy, rain-soaked street through the window as we ate.

As we drove into Winston last night, Monique told me that after hating it here for the first year ("I mean, I really, really hated it"), she's actually come to like it, and I can understand why: because it's possible to live well here, to buy a beautiful house for less than what you'd pay to rent a shitbox in San Francisco; because there doesn't seem to be the sense that if you're not always busy, you're either lazy or something's amiss; because well into September, you can fall asleep to crickets.

I'm off soon to go for a run, something I'd been avoiding at home because I got so tired of chasing through the same dirty streets over and over. Something tells me I won't need to dodge piles of excrement (human or animal) on the sidewalks here (though I will report back to confirm that).

By the time I fly home on Monday night, I may well be ready once again for the dust and bustle of SF, but for the time being, I'm happy to be thousands of miles away from it.


Had to Be Done

This afternoon, rather than working on the book, doing the weeks of Quicken data entry I've been studiously avoiding, or committing myself to any other task that could remotely be considered an efficient use of time, I frittered away a good hour and a half downloading missing album artwork in iTunes.

For this, I blame Erik, who started it all a few evenings ago. And damn if this isn't an engrossing, addictive, rabbit-hole kind of task--at least for someone like me, who tends to be a completionist when it comes to things like this. (Why can I not be a completionist about, say, storyboarding, or finishing the text for my kitchen chapter, or recording payments received from my clients?)

I have to say, though, that the process is something of a pain in the ass. To get iTunes to recognize an album that you've added to your library from another source (whether a disc itself, another MP3 downloading program, or via some other method), you must be sure both the artist and the title appear in your library exactly--and I mean exactly--as they do in the iTunes store. In the world of iTunes, perplexingly, Belle and Sebastian and Belle & Sebastian are not the same band.

On one level, I can understand this: there are plenty of artists with very similar names, and an even greater number of albums called essentially the same thing. But why not take a tip from Google and offer users the option of confirming that, yes, by "Belle and Sebastian" they did indeed mean "Belle & Sebastian"? That would save us, collectively, a lot of anguish.

It's also a bit maddening that there are albums for which the iTunes store refuses to cough up artwork, even though the artist and title in my library match those in the store precisely. But there are some battles that evidently can't be won, and, in the grand scheme, probably aren't really worth fighting.


Back to the Rooftop with the Otis

As I set out on my run earlier this evening, something I saw while walking through Hayes Green or heard Ira Glass say on my iPod flooded my head with memories (patchy though they may be) of sitting on Ote's roof back in Boston and talking about Buddhism while consuming entirely too much wine.

That was in the summer of 2005, when I was still relatively raw and achy from the hell of the previous November, and though I can't entirely recall the specifics of our conversation, I do remember tearily protesting to Otis something about how defeatist it seemed to agree with the Buddhist take that life is suffering if, indeed, you were suffering. I think I said something to the effect that the only way I could keep myself afloat was by believing that that wasn't so, at least not in the long term, and by holding fast to all of the moments that in fact argued against life as suffering.

So I thought of that today, then immediately wished to have the chance to replay that evening, that conversation, from my current perspective. I wanted the Now Me to be able to tell the Then Me that there would come a time when happiness wouldn't require slathering good memories with mortar and working them into a wall that would hold back the bad ones, when it would seem entirely possible to feel that life was good and right and full in general, rather than just in fits and starts, in moments that could disappear as quickly as they had arrived.

Then I ran.

After I got home, and was standing at the sink doing dishes and mulling over the verbose, pseudo-analytical e-mail I'd sent Dave earlier (which, as an aside, included references to both one of Aesop's fables and--yes, D, wait for it--an essay from O Magazine), I changed my mind. I decided that, even if I were given the chance, I'd want the Now Me to let the Then Me hack through things on her own.

Readers with sensitive stomachs will want to skip this paragraph, because there's no way I can word it (at least not at this hour) without it sounding at least a bit pat. For those still with me: what occurred to me at the kitchen sink is that I'm retrospectively grateful for all the crap that's come before now, because it makes me realize how intensely awesome now truly is. Though I would've likely told off anyone attempting to get me to see this at the time, there's something to be said for having your heart julienned/sucker punched/danced upon with hobnailed boots/all around broken, because when you sew it back together and the scars finally cover over, it comes back smarter and stronger.

A word I find myself using frequently these days is lucky. I feel immensely lucky that Erik found me, lucky to have friends and family whose hearts are swelling right along with mine, lucky to have taken a risk a few weeks back, lucky that it paid off. And I feel lucky for all those years of having not enough; they've made me even more thankful to finally feel like everything is growing full.


This Is the Room, One Afternoon

Em and Erik, Land's End, 8/24/07

Over dinner on Thursday, Dave regaled me with stories of his latest dating adventures, and we wended our way through a conversation about relationships in general. I listened, I gave him the Female Perspective (this female's perspective, at least), and I tried to explain something about how much dysfunctional relationships from the past can teach you as much about what you flat-out, hands-down, for-real-I-mean-it don't want in a normal relationship as about what you do.

Faithful readers of this blog--and/or the friends who have been forced to hear my sniffly tales of woe in the past--will know that I've hacked my way through more than enough imperfect (read: often severely flawed) relationships, and have been privy to more than your fair share of complaints and moroseness about same. As such, you can surely imagine that I've developed a finely honed sense of what I'm not looking for in a relationship, including geographic and/or emotional distance, a lack of interest in being involved in my world, a propensity toward dalliance, and a refusal to engage in at least bits and pieces of PDA.

It's my sheer delight, then, to shout from the rooftop (OK, type from my sofa) that I am the lucky objet d'amour of perhaps the sweetest, kindest, SF-dwelling-est, public-kissiest, most open, most involved boy I've ever had the good fortune to know. He is so good, and amazes me on such a regular basis, that I scarcely know what to do with myself.

I had forgotten what a delightful predicament that is.


San Francisco summer night

Anyone who's been within 6,000 miles of me anytime during June, July, or August will know how vociferously I complain about San Francisco's summer weather. It is, in short, unnatural, and although I'm sure I should've learned to deal with it uncomplainingly by now, I haven't.

But last night was an exception. D and I left the Presidio Social Club, passed the fellows dressed in 30's garb (about whom we were wrong: not a bachelor party at all, but in fact a common group outing) standing outside near their classic cars, and went not toward the Yoda statue as vaguely planned but instead back to Lombard. At the corner of Divis, we debated the merits of going into the Marina for drinks (decision: few to none) and opted rather to make the trek back toward Geary.

Divisadero is a ludicrous street to walk up, as it's insanely hilly for approximately 400 blocks (OK, fine: 5 or 6 blocks). But we gamely trudged upward, and though it was ass-kicking, it was also quite nice: the fog was visibly rolling in and the foghorns were lowing somewhere in the distance. It was windy but not bitterly so, and the temperature was pleasantly cool enough to offset the effects of climbing huge hills.

And somehow the fog made everything seem oddly hushed. Granted, the fact that we were walking through Pac Heights partly explains the odd hush--evidently, no one leaves the confines of his or her mansion past 9 p.m.--but still, it was as if someone had clapped a mute on the neighborhood.

We hit the apex and started down again, pausing at the corner of Divis and Sacramento to consider the bar there before deciding that the clientele were too young and boisterous for our liking (D: "I mean, that guy just bought, like, four beef jerkies at the convenience store") and heading toward the Fillmore. A block or so in, the silence fell again.

Of course, later on, after we'd spent time at the bar of the Elite Cafe (quite lovely, I might add) and set out toward Geary, the wind had picked up and cooled off enough that it ceased to be pleasant, and Geary itself was just plainly cold, and the quiet was broken by people and traffic and the general hubub of the street.

But for a while there, I didn't rue the weather, didn't wish for a proper summer, didn't complain about our off-kilter seasons. I just walked and talked and listened and fell fully in love with my sweet city all over again.


Thanks for the clarification

In my spam folder this morning:

"An Increase in Girth (Width) with One Easy Pill"

Though, really, if you so doubt the intelligence of your target market, why not claim that your pill increases both girth and width?


Summer Plath

While sitting on the bedroom floor tying my sneakers this afternoon, I let my eyes scan the bookshelves for potential books to take with me on my (desperately needed) vacation next week. The one I wound up pulling down--though, truthfully, I can't imagine lugging it across the country with me, even less so actually chopping my way through its pages again--was "The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath."

I actually read this book--the whole damn thing--back in, what, 2000 or so. It was in the fall. I remember having it with me when I house-sat for John and Lynne, remember reading passages from it in an attempt to block out the creaks and groans and other disconcerting sounds the house made as it settled in the wind at night as I lay in bed, waiting for sleep.

It ultimately took me months to finish, because when they say "Unabridged," they mean it: this is, like, every word the woman ever wrote in a journal, save for those torched by Ted Hughes. She wrote a lot, much of it brilliant, fair chunks of it not. For me, at least, the book wasn't a quick or easy read.

But there's much to fall in love with here, including the passage sharp-eyed readers of this blog will have seen quoted repeatedly ("...not so, not so, for in the parable the wells of the valley are sweet in their ripeness...") and are surely cringing at the thought of seeing again.

What I opened to today, mainly because it was marked with a red Post-It flag, was an entry from August 17, 1952, that begins "Band Concert on Friday." It's a long, dense, intensely detailed description of an outdoor concert, and what's most striking is the fact that Plath is able to take this ostensibly happy event, describe it as such, and yet, partway through, still bring a high, clear note of loss and sadness and regret to the whole affair.

But that, of course, is the most wrenching and beautiful part.

"And the kids, all of them, will dance, keeping time to music, chorusing 'Now We Go Looby-Loo' and then the teen-age couples will come out to the arena, and there will be waltzes, dark sky over, and the lights soft and the good big summer feeling inside you with the light gentle and the night cool and friendly. Always with the queer regret, blurring all the other summers into a fine nostalgic brew--distilling all the tart sweetnesses into this one, with the sea of music skipping over the time, and the feeling in you warm and it is our town, we all together, very sweet, all summer lights, sometimes almost tearful because it is so moving all the time. The fluid color the fluid sound, toward its ending. ('Into many a green valley, drifts the appalling snow./ Time breaks the threaded dances and the diver's brilliant bow.') And now I am sitting here crying almost because suddenly I am knowing in my head and feeling in my guts what those words mean when I did not know the full impact of them in the beginning, but merely their mystic beauty.

So it all moves in the pageant toward the ending, it's own ending. Everywhere, imperceptibly or otherwise, things are passing, ending, going. And there will be other summers, other band concerts, but never this one, never again, never as now. Next year I will not be the self of this year now. And that is why I laugh at the transient, the ephemeral; laugh, while clutching, holding, tenderly, like a fool his toy, cracked glass, water through fingers. For all the writing, for all the invention of engines to express & convey & capture life, it is the living of it that is the gimmick. It goes by, and whatever dream you use to dope up the pains and hurts, it goes. Delude yourself about printed islands of permanence. You've only got so long to live. You're getting your dream. Things are working, blind forces, no personal spiritual beneficent ones except your own intelligence and the good will of a few other fools and fellow humans. So hit while it's hot."


Maybe they didn't mean it *quite* like that

American Heritage Dictionary:
siren song
n. An enticing plea or appeal, especially one that is deceptively alluring.

siren song
the enticing appeal of something alluring but potentially dangerous

Alaska Airlines Insider, July 3, 2007:
"Heed the siren song of Canada, from Victoria to Edmonton. And, if you travel between September 5 and November 15, 2007, you can save 20 percent on travel—on all points Alaska and Horizon fly across the western Provinces."



My head is so completely fried from having just worked my fifth consecutive full day (with two more looming ahead) that I can barely type, let alone form coherent and incisive thoughts. But before I drag my sorry self to bed for some magazine reading and sighing alarm re-setting, I figured I'd try to get out of my head the kernel of something that lodged itself there earlier today, at some point during the process of packing my client's monumental collection of glassware.

So it's this: I find it both fascinating and somewhat disconcerting to be in the midst of so much transition without actually being in transition myself. There's the move job for Client #1, whom I've known and worked with weekly for about a year and a half now, and for whom I think this process is slightly traumatic and significantly sad, though she's not letting on. There's the move job for Client #2, whose home I unpacked when she moved here late in 2005. To say that the prospect of (and preparations for) moving again has her seriously freaked out would be pretty accurate.

And then there's the goodly chunk of time spent with the ex-Chicagoan over the past week. It's interesting to be able to play the role of Long-Time San Franciscan, to pilot someone around to all of my favorite spots, to inculcate someone into the cult of Complaining About Muni (though, truth be told, he'd most likely get there on his own quite soon). But it's also fascinating to try to vicariously relive the experience of being new somewhere, to remember what it's like to leave huge chunks of your life--friends, family, stuff, routines, haunts--behind, with no clear sense of when (or whether) you'd be able to gather those chunks again if you needed them.

At dinner last night he was (seemingly uncharacteristically) quiet-ish, and told me how looking at pictures of his old apartment on iPhoto earlier in the day reminded him of how many books he'd either given away or left in Chicago before he moved, and how what had been eight full bookshelves was now, here in San Francisco, barely two.

And it could well have been fatigue, or boredom, or frustration, or some indefinable emotional lacuna, but what I sensed while he spoke was a tinge of sadness and longing that neither the Pinot nor the sea bass nor the restaurant--and certainly not I--could do much to assuage.

I said something about how books are often the hardest thing to give up, or the thing we miss most when they're gone, or maybe something about how sometimes we wind up letting go of too much, though our original intentions were good.

And those are all true, but it occurred to me later that I wanted to tell him a totally unrelated story, of how, after my car got towed within a few weeks of my own move to SF (ostensibly because I'd blocked someone's driveway, though I remain skeptical), I called my parents in tears, sure it had been stolen.

That was the spark that set things off: I thought someone stole my car. And what kind of city must I have moved to if, less than a month after my arrival, and in the fairly safe neighborhood of Noe Valley, and (if I remember correctly) in the middle of the day, my car could be stolen? I remember weepingly telling Mom how achingly I wanted to be back in Boston, how heartsick I was for what I gave up, how I was sure I'd made a mistake.

She, of course, talked me down, gave me the registration info and license plate number, reminded me that I would acclimate to this new place sooner or later. I called the DPT and discovered that the car had been towed, not stolen, and that I needed only to endure the (hideously painful) process of paying the fine and retrieving it from impound to get it back--no police report, no searching for the thief, no attempting to find an alternate means of transporation in the meantime.

Ultimately, I drove home relieved, but still with the heavy sense of piteously missing a random assortment of things and people and places that, at that moment, summed up all Boston had been for me: David and James and brunch at Fritz and Harvard Square and Tealuxe and Patrick and sitting with Paula in the back yard and Val and Kelt and Kristina and, for god's sake, even Hemagen. I was thousands of miles from all of it, and the longer I stayed in San Francisco, the farther and farther away I'd get. I came home--which, at that point, was the house on Cesar Chavez with Amy and Kristin and the unbearable polyamorous hydrocolon therapist who was soon to tell me that she wanted me to move out because she didn't like my "negative energy"--and curled up on my twin futon in my tiny room and cried, for everything gone.

That was the closest I came to packing up and reversing my route and re-ensconcing myself in my Boston world. But, of course, I did none of that. I don't remember what came next: possibly I called Hemagen and had Dave make me laugh, and got sniffly when James told me how much he missed me, and smiled at Anthony's voice calling out my name in the background. Possibly I went down to Palo Alto to report for work, and let that maddening but sweet little world buoy me up. Possibly I turned myself over to Kristin and let her be the dose of familiarity I so desperately needed. I can't recall.

What I do know is that as the weeks stretched into months, I became less aware of what I'd left behind and let myself fall in love with new stuff. It would be pat (and patently untrue) to say I didn't still have my moments of aching for Boston, but in time they dulled enough that I largely stopped noticing them. Within a year, I was mad and stupid with love for San Francisco.

So I didn't tell the ex-Chicagoan this story last night (though, D, on the off chance you're reading this, I'm telling you now), and maybe that was for the best, all things considered. But I still sort of wish I had, because I wanted to acknowledge what I thought he might've been saying without actually saying (though, if indeed he didn't mean a thing beyond what he actually said, the point would've been moot at best), wanted to let him know that even a raging homebody like me can eventually adjust to something and somewhere totally new.

But I think what I most wanted to get across was that, yes, I know what it's like to miss another city's mass transit system, or a particular book you've left behind, or a bar, or a certain kind of weather, or even a stretch of sidewalk that's so familiar it bores you just to think about walking it. I know what it's like to ache for what you've known for so long, even if it doesn't seem ache-worthy.

I know how transitions like this can carve out and julienne your heart, and make you doubt yourself and your decisions and the people popping into and out of your world.

And, on the flip side, I know what it's like to watch someone do his best to gamely adjust to what's now utterly known and unquestionably familiar to you. I know, annoyingly, that there's nothing anyone else can really ever do to mitigate the sucktastic parts of these transitions for someone, as much as you (read: me) wish there were. And sometimes change follows change follows change.

So D, keep missing that chunky OED and Chicago's less lackadaisical transit drivers and the Hide Out and the sweet bartender who used to work there and the sensation of frozen nostril hairs (if not the resultant bloody noses).

But in the meantime, there's City Lights and Aardvark, the relatively un-touristed Hyde Street cable car line, the view into the great nothingness of the Pacific from Land's End, seriously kick-ass cocktails at the Presidio Social Club, and the heart-rending prettiness of driving north across the Golden Gate, which, on a good day, makes me choke up with love and awe and gratitude.


Only two-ish years behind the times

On Friday, at the tail end of my run, I stopped off at the library to troll for decent DVDs to borrow. (As an aside, there was a guy also browsing the racks who kept giving me sidelong glances and little grins, despite the fact that I was pink in the face and fairly literally dripping sweat. I mean, how gross do I need to be, dude, before I cease to be a candidate for a pick-up?)

Anyway, I was somewhat amazed to find the shelves fairly full, and equally surprised that there was a relatively new copy of the first season of Grey's Anatomy. The ENTIRE first season. This entirety is important because there's some piece of my genetic code that makes me jumpy and ill-at-ease at the prospect of watching a TV series out of order, or with significant pieces missing. This also explains why, once I start a book, I almost always feel the need to finish it, even if I actively hate it and spend as much time cursing the author's name as I do reading his words. But again, I digress.

So Grey's came home with me, and after dinner and drinks with Val, Isaac, and their couch-surfing German that evening, I came home and popped in disc 1.

OK. I know. It's been, what, two years since the show made its debut. And yes, I know. It's as trite as can damn well be that I, a 30-something straight American woman, instantly fell in love with the show. And yes, I will step in line with the 9 billion others on the face of the planet who think that Patrick Dempsey could melt steel.

But whatever. It's an engrossing show. Blame it on hormonal imbalance or copious wine consumption, but for a few episodes there I had tissues essentially attached to my face. The actors are interesting. The gross stuff isn't excessively gross. Alex is nearly the spitting image of J, (though the latter, of course, isn't a syph-carrying, pompous-ass, fairly loathsome womanizer), which makes me giggle. And did I mention the Dempsey steel melting?

The disadvantage to having no cable--not even basic!--is that I almost never watch actual TV. It's just too painful, even with the tiny signal boost my rabbit ears offer. This means that I'm always behind the times in terms of TV shows (save for those I presciently mentioned last week, which I'm sure will become booming hits, at which point I can say I told you so, just this once). But when I finally get my act together to catch up, I get to do so with a vengeance, and watch entire seasons with no waiting between episodes and no commercial breaks.

Now I just need to wait for Season 2 to land on the SFPL's shelves.


ESP not Included

From the Times Travel section, Sunday, June 10, 2007:

"Turning Snapshots into Photographs
Photo safaris combine picturesque guided tours and in-the-field camera lessons. Fees usually include intuition, lodging and some meals."


Arguments with Isaac, Installment #27

On the N, before the Jew's/juice harp debate

Isaac and I frequently go head to head, mainly because both of us are extraordinarily stubborn when we believe we're right.

There was the infamous Stockholm Syndrome debate last summer, which began as a relatively amusing joke about the 49-year-old Swede I was dating at the time and ended as a shouting match that even online research didn't soothe. (In short: one of us claimed that the tactic of treating some prisoners at Gitmo nicely so they would believe the U.S. was on their side was an example of the Stockholm Syndrome--in that those prisoners would hypothetically be swayed to the side of the country imprisoning them--while the other thought that was absolute bunk, claiming that the Stockholm Syndrome came into play only in cases involving things like kidnapping or hostage situations in which the unquestionably innocent victims ultimately sided with their captors. Think Patty Hearst.)

Anyway, that one remains unsolved.

So a bunch of us are out on Friday night, and somehow the subject of the Jew's harp comes up. Why or in what context, I have no idea. Whatever the case, I claim that it's "Jew's harp," as in "the harp of the Jew," while Isaac rebuts that, claiming it's "juice harp," as in "slang-for-saliva harp," and telling me that no Jewish music he's ever heard features this instrument.

The debate rages. I retort that, right or wrong, one will see this instrument referred to as a Jew's harp everywhere. He slaps the table, tells Ali I drive him crazy because I always think I'm right, and on and on. Eventually we just give up.

But then Val sends this yesterday:

Subject: Em 1, Isaac 0

From Wikipedia:

There are many theories for the origin of the name Jew's harp, one being that it may derive from its popularity amongst Eurasian steppe -peoples like the Khazars, perhaps being introduced to Europe from that direction. Another explanation proposed is that it is a corruption of "jaw harp," while a less likely explanation espoused by some is that its name comes from "juice harp" from the amount of saliva produced when played by amateurs. Both of these explanations lack historical backing, as both the "jaw" and the "juice" variants appeared only in the late 19th and 20th centuries . It has also been suggested that the name derives from the French "Jeu-trompe" meaning "toy-trumpet". The Oxford English Dictionary calls theories that the name is a corruption of "jaws" or "jeu" "baseless and inept" and goes on to speculate that "the instrument was actually made, sold, or sent to England by Jews, or supposed to be so; or that it was attributed to them, as a good commercial name...."

And, oh, is the victory sweet. Isaac, what can I say? Sometimes I do just have to be right.


This Week in Radness

It's hard not to be glad of heart and mind in the face of these three things:

1.) The set of Hausbrandt-logoed cappuccino mugs J sprung on me simply because he's a delightful and wonderful friend who knows how much I adore that cute little cannibalistic coffee pot. J, allow me to publicly state the degree of your excellence.

2.) HBO's "Flight of the Conchords," which you can sample at the afore-linked website. It's smart, snarky, creative, and funny as hell--a sort of mash-up of "The Office," "Arrested Development,"and "Extras" with New Zealand jokes and pseudo-music videos thrown in for good measure. (And if you can't get enough of Jemaine Clement, half of the Conchords, keep your eye on Eagle vs. Shark, which Dana aptly describes as "a little bit like the kiwi version of napoleon dynamite, but with grown ups (sort of).")

3.) Finally, as one still in mourning over the untimely cancellation of "Arrested Development," I find solace in the fact that at least George Michael is back. Well, OK, it's not really George Michael--but it is Michael Cera, who played GMB and has since turned his efforts to "Clark and Michael," a show about two best friends attempting to create the best sitcom ever. Watch Cera in the supermarket scene in Episode 1; he has the same sense of quiet bafflement and half-shame that made George Michael such a lovable character.


And then there were two


Apparently, this is how it works: once the police and the medical examiners have done what they need to do at a crime scene, the fire department sends a rescue truck to clean up.

So a truck pulls up in front of my house, and the men get to work. One takes a spray bottle of something from a door on the side of the truck, others uncoil the hose, another pulls down a broom.

I can't see what they're doing, can only hear the chugging of the water and the low growl of the engine, with indistinguishable voices occasionally calling out above the din. After a while one of the men pulls the hose about 30 feet down the street, and another follows, carrying the broom, which he holds out for his colleague to spray off.

When the truck pulls away, the grey steps are grey again, all traces of red gone; the sidewalk in front of the house is wet and clean.

And on the porch are two doormats, where until this morning there were three.

He was French

I got up from the table this morning to refill my coffee cup and noticed that a police car had pulled up across the street. A pair of policemen knocked on the first door of the three-unit building across from mine and said something to the young woman who answered, though I couldn't hear what.

Within a few minutes, there were more officers milling around, and a truck full of firefighters; by the time I stepped outside around ten to 9, there was crime scene tape tied to our front gate.

I called out to one of the policemen to ask what had happened. He walked over to me, pointed to the third door in the house across the street, and said there was a deceased person inside, and blood on the steps outside, and thus it appeared that the death was "not due to natural causes." (Some might call that an understatement.) He asked if I'd heard anything last night; I said I hadn't, and had turned in early. The officer handed me off to one of his colleagues, who took my name and contact info, saying that a detective might need to contact me.

By the time I did what I had set out to do--gone to have Josh notarize something for me, gone to the post office, walked home--the street was clogged with vehicles from the Medical Examiner's office, and neighbors were crowded in front of my house, outside the boundaries of the crime scene tape but close enough to watch the proceedings. I chatted with them for a few minutes, then came inside and sat on the sofa so I could watch and listen.

He was French, they said--or spoke with a French accent, at least. And a law student. He seemed both cute and kind of geeky. Dan said he seemed fairly young, perhaps in his mid-30s, and certainly didn't appear to be the type of guy who'd be connected with any sort of criminal element. He just seemed sort of quiet.

I watched the medical examiners bring a gurney to the foot of the front stairs, then drape a white sheet on the front porch. I watched them hand things over the railing to the officers below, who put them in brown paper bags and labeled them with markers. And I watched two men carry out the body of this man--young, French, law student--wrapped in a white sheet through which red stains were spreading at both his feet and his head, watched them wrap the body in the sheet laid on the porch, and tie its ends, and carry this sad and sorry bundle to the waiting gurney.

And then I noticed the blood on the steps and the railing--the incongruous smears of red on otherwise grey surfaces, a literal stone's throw from my own front steps.

The neighbors with the Afghan hound report that they heard loud music last night, though it seemed to be coming from Hayes Street. Dan reports that he was up until 3 working in his living room, in front of the windows, and that he neither saw nor heard anything. Bridget was up at 6, and nothing caught her attention, either.

We take for granted the fact that we live on a street where a young, quiet law student doesn't meet his end on his front steps, barely fifteen feet from a street lamp.

No. Correction: we took it for granted. Now what?


Not quite a tautology...

...but what is it?

From the insert accompanying the Rhinocort Aqua budesonide nasal spray my doctor gave me yesterday:


[Caps original.]


Don't you mean Roma?

At Rainbow on Monday, I filled my cart with largely virtuous products, determined as I was to make myself well by tea, plenty of fresh produce, and other ostensibly health-giving foodstuffs. (That determination went right out the window when I woke up yesterday morning still ill, at which point I made an appointment with Dr. Moser that has scored me antibiotics that will kill off whatever weird sinus infection has made a home in my head. Said antibiotics cost me about $10 a pill, so they damn well better do something.)

Anyway. Rainbow.

I browsed through the Traditional Medicinal teas (which remind me so much of the Jed, though that's a story for another time) and settled on the one that looked most relevant to my woes and also least likely to contain anything that would give off the flavor of licorice. (Yes, I probably wouldn't actually be able to taste it, but it's the principle of the thing.) Into my cart went the Gypsy Cold Care.

When I got home, I made myself a cup. This stuff has a 10-minute brewing period, so I had plenty of time to read the box. Then I started thinking about the name: Gypsy Cold Care. And it occurred to me that if Traditional Medicinals were really the forward-thinking, globally aware, culturally savvy company they seem to be, wouldn't they call it Roma Cold Care? Isn't that what gypsies now prefer to be called, their traditional name having been sullied by negative stereotypes?

Hop to it, TM. Your culturally sensitive bona fides are in the balance.


Allergy Information

Let me start by noting that I know food allergies are (quite literally, sometimes) a deadly serious issue, and that therefore there's a lot to be said for the practice of labeling packaged foods with information about their contents and how and where they're processed.

That said, I was bemused to read the label on a container of cashews the other day--and, mind you, this was a container of nothing but cashews, as in "Ingredients: Cashews," full stop--and discover that there was an allergy information panel alerting potential consumers of these cashews that the package, in fact, CONTAINED CASHEWS.

I'm sure there's either benevolence or litigation behind that warning, but it sort of highlights the idiocy of how we do things here in the good ol' US of A sometimes. Have we sunk so low (again) that our product labels not only have to warn us not to dry our hair whilst in a full bathtub or a running shower and to be aware that the beverage we're about to enjoy is extremely hot but also that our packages of 100% cashews contain cashews? One might've hoped we'd have gotten beyond that point by now.


Not Happening

Projects featured in the June issue of Martha Stewart Living I'm unlikely to attempt, now or ever:
  • Making my own bias tape.
  • Wallpapering my kitchen ceiling.
  • Wallpapering a window shade to match the aforementioned kitchen ceiling.
  • Lining a glass-topped bedside table with wallpaper.
  • Creating a jaunty drinks tray with an old map.
  • Making a totebag from an old pillowcase.
  • Cooking pancakes with chunks of bacon in them.
  • Collecting old watering cans.


Mouth Breather

What started as a vaguely dry throat last Saturday and edged into a very minor cough on Sunday exploded into a hellacious cold on Monday. Luck had it that this was an insane week work-wise, which meant slogging through with a tissue more or less permanently attached to my nose and a constant stream of apologies to those around me (especially my fellow move crew members on Wednesday and Thursday) for my coughing.

There was an uptick Thursday evening, followed by a descent into the pit of hell today. I've been sniffling and hacking all day. I look like hell. The right side of my head is so congested I feel like I've been subjected to a radical change in altitude, but only partway. And, of course, I've become a mouth breather.

As I dragged myself from Client #1 this afternoon toward Muni, en route to Client #2 (whom I called and rescheduled, so unable was I to fathom doing a decent job with him while my head was seething liquid), I passed a young-ish guy in a suit on Montgomery Street. He was talking into his cell and bracing himself against the freezing blast of wind that was blowing through the downtown canyons, telling whoever was on the other end of the line, "It's so damn cold here." And sure enough, it is.

Thus begins Memorial Day weekend: the weather's crappy, my head might explode, and I look a sight from the maw of hell. Bring on summer!
In less whinging news, I could not be more proud of my beloved J, whose blog appears to have been deemed the Best Expatriate Weblog in A Fistful of Euro's Satin Pajama Awards competition, at least as of this writing.

J, we always knew that you were (and are) the smartest, snarkiest, most interesting American living in EUROPE. This just goes to show it.


Belly up to the Clouds

OK, fine: the iPod was on shuffle while I was making dinner, a Dashboard Confessional song came on, and I had a serious moment of thinking, My god, Chris Carrabba just nails it, like, every time.

Does this put me in league with legions of teenagers? Yes. (Does the fact that I unabashedly drool over CC also put me in league with legions of teenagers? Yes.) But regardless, though I'm about five years late in twigging to this, allow me to state here that if I were forced to choose one musical genre to listen to for the rest of my life, it would be Canadian pop or whatever genre we might use these days to classify Neko Case's solo stuff--but my second choice would be emo, no question.

Original credit for this must go to G (yes), who fed me a fairly steady diet of Dashboard Confessional, Saves the Day, Promise Ring, and so on for a few years running. But it was one thing to fall in love with "Hands Down" and "This Is Not an Exit" and another thing altogether to go stupidly nuts for "Stop Playing Guitar" and "As Your Ghost Takes Flight" and "Rapid Hope Loss." Those were mine.

I get the sense that emo is supposed to be a guilty pleasure for some reason, but why? Because kids relate to it? Because of its shoegazer associations? Because of that live recording of "Hands Down" where Carrabba doesn't even bother to sing the chorus because hundreds of young (largely female) voices sing it for him? I don't know.

But I also don't really care, because, hey, those hundreds of voices are onto something: that song encapsulates the sense of a giddy young crush better than anything I've heard before or since. And "As Your Ghost Takes Flight" is precisely the sort of thing you'd write after someone ripped your heart out and your sadness and anger gelled into a sharp and specific bitterness. And "This Is Not an Exit" is the perfect antidote. And "Stop Playing Guitar" is all about...something. Kind of hard to say. But it's soaring and amazing and utterly delightful nonetheless.

So here's to never being enough of a music snob and to never being so jaded that, say, "...Exit" can't knock your socks off (or at least make them slouch a bit).

Tonight will be
the night that we
begin to ease
the plugs out of the dam.
And we will stand
knee deep in the flow,
the undertow
will grab our heels and won't let go.
And while we hold,
our legs quivering,
the water rises now
to our teeth
when we just let go
and sail belly up to the clouds,
the rocks scraping our backs.
To breath in the air will be
the only thing that we have
and all the wasted nights
and empty moments
in our lives flushed away
as we sway with the rhythm
of the waves bobbing us up.
Crests fall to troughs we feel our gills open up.

And sail belly up to the clouds,
the rocks scraping our backs.
To breath in the air will be
the only thing that we have
and if the hook sets in
the bottom of our lungs,
we'll rip it out and lick the blood off with our tongues.

The despair can ravage you
if you turn your head around to look down the path
that's led you here,
cause what can you change?
You're a vessel now
floating down the waterways.
You can take your rudder
and aim your ship,
just don't bother with the things left in your wake.
Just sail belly up to the clouds,
the rocks scraping your back.
To breathe in the air will be
the only thing that you have
and your love will be warm nights
with pockets of moonlight
spotlighting you as you drift,
the actor in this play.
And you walk across the stage,
take a bow, hear the applause,
and as the curtain falls,
just know you did it all
the best that you knew how
and you can hear them cheering now.
So let a smile out and show your teeth
cause you know you lived it well.


Challenging Question of the Day

This appears on an envelope that just arrived in the mail:

From: Bill Richardson
111 Lomas Blvd., NW, Suite 200
Albuquerque, NM 87102

Which Democratic presidential candidate had the courage to say this?
"On my first day in office, I'd end the war in Iraq.
On my second day, I'd announce a plan
for achieving national energy independence."
-March 28, 2007

[] Hillary Clinton
[] Barack Obama
[] John Edwards
[] Bill Richardson

Hmm. I wonder. Maybe...I dunno...was it Barack? What, no? Hillary? Sheesh, well, maybe John Edwards? What? Really? REALLY?

Note to the Richardson campaign: I would've enjoyed living with the mystery, at least until I'd opened the envelope.


Robert Frost, killjoy

When I woke this morning to the second day IN A ROW of delightful summery weather, my mind snapped immediately to Robert Frost's "Nothing Gold Can Stay." You know: the poem from the Outsiders? The one that inspired "Stay gold, Ponyboy?" This one:

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

And, well, it's a downer, for sure, but it's also true enough. I've been wearing garb appropriate to "actual" summer (short sleeves! cropped pants! no wool jacket!), rather than to the sad shadow of same we have here in San Francisco, and spending as much time as possible in my back yard, and mainlining the cherries and strawberries I bought over the weekend, and generally floating around in a damn silvery cloud of weather- (etc.-) induced bliss.

But at the same time I'm swooning with love for this weather, I'm also resignedly waiting for it to end. Because it will end. Quite likely soon. At which point you'll cease getting my shmoopy posts about how gleeful I am and will return to getting my morose posts about how I tire of wearing fleece and multiple layers in mid-summer.

So enjoy it while it lasts. That goes for all of us (you, too, Frost).



On our way to the Minneapolis airport last weekend, Josh and I drag our heels.

It's partly that we don't relish returning to real life in San Francisco, with phone calls and clients and appointments already stacked heavily throughout the week. But it's just as much (if not more) that we've both fallen moonily in love with Minneapolis, and we just don't want to leave.

We take the light rail out to the airport, passing through the city's outskirts at golden hour, when everything is an impossible and heartbreaking blend of green and blue and amber, and watch downtown recede. Goodbye, Graves 601, our beautiful temporary home. Adios, Foshay tower, Walker Museum, Mississippi River, Warehouse District, Chambers Kitchen, tax-deductible everything. It's been nice. Really nice.

In a few hours we're back on the ground in San Francisco, back into wind and fog and reality and missing what, for a while, at least, was a blissful idyll.


Straight Men of CL, Get It Together

After geeking out on Parallels earlier this evening, I figured I'd squander spend some time delighting in the latest M4W posts on Craigslist, which are always useful as amusement if not actually as a tool for finding potential mates.

I'm actually a pretty big fan of CL personals, and have had decent luck with posting my own ad and meeting even remotely suitable suitors as a result. But reading the Men Seeking Women ads often makes me shake my head and wonder what the guys posting might be thinking. In version 1 of an ad I placed earlier this year, I gave a run-down of ads I was unlikely to respond to, accompanied by reasons why. That was swiftly flagged, either because it was somehow truly offensive (though I can't quite fathom that), or because I had directly quoted the titles of actual ads.

But anyway, the point of that whole exercise was to attempt (if in vain) to explain to the straight men posting on CL why so many of them--by their very own admissions--received few or no replies to their ads. Of course, there's no way I can speak for an entire chunk of the population, and it's entirely possible that there are women in the Bay Area who would adore these fellows if only the two sides could manage to connect.

So let the record show that I am not claiming to be the voice of the straight, single portion of my gender. I simply want to help clue some of you guys in about why your Inboxes may not be bursting with replies.

To wit:
  • If you're going to post an image, why make it an image of flowers, or the moon, or Maccu Piccu, or a jukebox, or a platter of shrimp, or Lake Tahoe? I know women do it too, but to a far lesser degree (and still, that doesn't make it right). And perhaps I'm far more shallow than most, but I care what the people I date look like. Peruvian ruins and seafood, notsomuch. At least not in this context.
  • Also on the picture front, cutting your body off at your head, even if the rest of said body is bare (and especially if the rest of said body is wearing a full suit, as was one fellow in an ad I saw tonight), suggests either that you're exceedingly shy or that there's something less appealing about what was excised from the shot. Jaded people like myself assume the latter.
  • Perhaps consider it wise not to broadly insult the women who respond to your ad, or the ones who might be reading your ad, by claiming that they're hopeless/too picky/too unattractive/too picky/did I mention too picky? One post currently up begins by asking, "Why are all women in Search of Brad Pitt [sic on the lack of question mark and the interesting capitalization]," then goes on to wonder, " What about all the non tall white kind, is there any hope, maybe not..." before noting a few lines down that "Theres a price for everything. yet what I'm seeking is missing, and the ones that respond are even more hopeless, than 1 would imagine." I can only say, dude, that the last time I checked, Brad Pitt was also white, and that most women in their right minds wouldn't reply to this post and risk being added to the list of "more hopeless, than 1 would imagine."
  • Please, please, please stop using "I'm bored" (or, more commonly, "Im bored" or "IM BOOOOOORRREEED!") as an opening gambit. Please.
  • This tactic may not do you any favors: "It may sound suspect,but not sure of my status with my previous girlfriend." Yup, "suspect" might cover it, as might "like a horrific idea for me to be posting this ad."
  • Finally (the list could go on, but I'm tired), posting the same ad multiple times in the span of a day or two (albeit possibly with different titles) suggests a desperation you might not intend. Or perhaps you do intend it, in which case I'm here to gently suggest that desperation is unlikely to send the ladies flocking. Sometimes on CL, you get what you pay for, no matter how often you post.


Tax-Related Sorrows, Drowning of

At long, long last, I've finished my taxes. Not having quite twigged to the wisdom of handing that horrifically odious task off to someone who actually knows what he or she is doing, I spent a truly phenomenal amount of time over the past week dealing with QuickBooks, TurboTax, and hundreds of pieces of paper (albeit very organized pieces of paper). And though I'm happy to be done now, I'm not happy to have discovered just how much the US Treasury will suck out of me within the next ten days. Where that significant sum will come from is something of a puzzle.

It's good, then, that I have people like Erfert around to make me laugh hard enough to snort, and thus to make me forget for at least a while that I owe the government approximately the cost of a secondary human organ. (What does a spleen go for these days, anyway?)

We went out last evening for cocktails, catching up, and a gigantic mound of fried (or baked--but really, same diff) cheese. As always, we copiously toasted Our Good Friend Booze, and at some point decided that it was time to rewrite "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" as a paean to the soothing effects of a good cocktail. (Yes, yes: I realize that tomorrow is Easter, and that this verges on--if is not blatantly--blasphemy, but hey, lighten up.)

As we parted ways, Erfert promised she would put her wordsmithing powers to the task of creating a hymn. And damn if she didn't do precisely that, with aplomb, elan, and other en-vowelled adjectives. I can't keep this to myself, and so, with no further ado, please enjoy the fruits of her labor:

(Note: In case you've forgotten the tune, you can refresh your memory -- and sing along -- at the following site: http://www.hymnsite.com/lyrics/umh526.sht -- and don't ask me what a ".sht" file is -- I only work here. Another note: I am pleased to report that this site lets you play the tune using a piano, organ, or bells. Check it out!)

1. What a friend we have in Boozes:
ale and wine and gin and beer!
What a priv-i-lege to drink them
And know unmitigated cheer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry
the proverbial dog's hair.

2. Have we tri-als and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged;
For we can always have a beer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
who will all our sorrows share?
Boozes know our every weakness;
And like true friends they're always there.

3. Are we weak and heavy laden,
cumbered with a load of care?
(If we're saying things like “cumbered”
you know we're really on a tear!)
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Do they mock your Christmas shoes?
O, take heart poor lonely tippler;
You'll always find a friend in Booze!


(About the Christmas shoes: don't ask.)


I blame Windows

Or QuickBooks. Or the fact that my mind had gone numb from the lack of intellectual rigor involved in entering expense info into the aforementioned financial program. Or my innate clumsiness.

Whatever the cause, all I know is that as I slogged through the process of reconciling my 2006 expenses last night (yes, I still have not done my taxes, and yes, I'm supposed to be organized and shit), I managed to tip the glass of water next to me on the desk directly onto my laptop. I was, of course, out of my chair in a moment to move the dear little MacBook to dry ground, to pour the liquid from the keyboard, to grab handfuls of towels from the kitchen so I could mop up the water spreading rapidly across the desk and cascading onto the floor.

And in the midst of all of this--again, blame it on any of the factors above--I somehow managed not to think, Hmm, perhaps I should shut this little sucker down. Because even though there was a flare of unusual brightness ebbing and flowing in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen, I had been in the QuickBooks zone, dammit, and once I'm out, forget it. So I thought I'd try to stay.

But I called Isaac and left a message seeking advice, and his reply via voicemail was unmistakeable: "Em, turn it off NOW, unplug it, take out the battery, and make sure everything is absolutely dry or you could fry the motherboard." I like my motherboard as is, thanks, so I took his advice and wound up spending the better part of an hour ministering to this little machine with a hairdryer set on low.

That gave me time to think. So I thought, hey, it's sort of like taking tender care of someone you love who's sick, like that passage from Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye I always find so striking. Then I thought, God help me that I can even compare blowdrying my laptop to caring for the sick--my interpersonal skills can't be that much in decline.

But they're not, of course. I think it's just that what bubbled up last night, hard on the heels of the desire not to see an expensive piece of electronic equipment give up the ghost because I can't drink and enter data at the same time, was a sort of innate desire to care. And at that moment, what could I care for but my wet laptop?

Damn if that doesn't sound like perhaps the most dorkwad and socially inept thing I could say, though I don't mean it to be. What I mean is actually something much sappier: that there's something in me (and, yes, allow me to extrapolate wildly: in most of us) that's just hard-wired to nurture someone, something, somehow. Take a Someone out of that equation and you're left to put your energies elsewhere--which is how you start to ooze down the slippery slope of emotional investment in your laptop screen's well-being.

I hope I can slow that fall, at least, lest I start expressing serious concern about the smudges on my once lily white wrist pad.



Yes, yes, yes: it's part of being an American citizen, of living in a democratic society, and so on and so forth. I appreciate the civic responsibility aspect of jury duty, but that doesn't mean it's not phenomenally and achingly boring.

I made my way this afternoon through the metal detector at 850 Bryant, through a bag inspection by a bitter, bitter police officer who barked out, "For those of you stupid enough to have missed the 20 signs posted on the wall, open your bag for inspection as you approach me, and don't even think of putting your bag on the table until the person in front of you has left, and I cannot believe I have to deal with this same idiocy every single day." Up in the jury room, my fellow citizens and I were subjected to a video on the merits of jury duty, followed by some waiting, then some more waiting, until many of us were called off to various and sundry courtrooms.

Then it was downstairs again, and into court with a fellow who may hold the title of World's Slowest Speaking Judge. He seems reasonable enough, and I have no doubt of the importance of the info he shared with us, but man alive, it took what felt like hours just for him to explain how the whole process works (which, of course, the aforementioned video had also done, but no matter). We did get a break, which was a relief, but upon our return, 22 of us--yours truly not included--were called for the first round of introductions and questions. The day ended with Potential Juror #14; we resume with #15 tomorrow afternoon.

I wish I could wring from this some great moments of people watching, or some intrigue about how the case might progress, or a strong sense of interest in the judicial process at large, but alas, not so much. It's really just dull.

When I was summoned for jury duty in early 2004, I hoped and ached that I'd be called, and for a long, involved, drawn-out trial at that, so much did I want to get out of the trek to Mountain View and its ensuing woes for as many days as I possibly could. Of course, no such luck: my week of obligation passed without me so much as having to go near the Hall of Justice. This time, when I stand to lose precious client hours and even more precious dough, there's as good a chance that I'll be called to serve as there is that any of my fellow prospects will. (And yes, I know that many of the other people in that courtroom with me stand to lose just as much, and, moreover, that that's the nature of the system. That doesn't take away the sting.)

Viva justice.



Sometime around mid-January, I realized that my life life was becoming entirely too wrapped up in my business life, which is to say that not a day passed in which I didn't do something work-related, whether meeting with clients or dealing with admin stuff or writing or any of the dozens of other things I need to do to keep things chugging. Of my own volition, I long ago gave up on having an actual weekend (of the Saturday-Sunday variety), but I always figured I'd make up for it by having some time off at some point in the week.

Not so thus far in 2007. So I set a goal of one work-free day per week--and almost as soon as that goal came into being, it was utterly obliterated. Not since Christmas vacation have I had an utterly work-free day.

Mind, the fact that business is booming is a delightful thing, and (listen up, universe) I'm in no way complaining about the work that has (and, I hope, will continue to) come my way. What's starting to wear, though, is the sense that the rest of my life has to be crammed in to the little spaces between my work life. Yes, owning a business means there's not really a strict division between me and the company, but more and more, there's almost no division at all. And even thinking about that tires me.

A quick check of my calendar reveals that my next meeting-less day is March 1, more than a week and a half hence. In the meantime, my To Do list continues to grow at a pace that makes me want to hire my own assistant. (That's an entirely reasonable idea, but of course Find and Hire Assistant would be their own To Do list entries.) It sets my head spinning, and makes me want to take to bed (which just reminds me that the one task I really wanted to do this weekend--buy a new mattress--remains sadly undone).

I've written before about practicing what I preach, and though I might be good at that in some realms, when it comes to work/life balance, clearly I'm doing a horrific job. Would that it were easier and less overwhelming to change that.



This is the time of year when my half of "how's the weather?" conversations with friends and family back east tend to sound something like this:

"So, what's it like there today? ... How many degrees below? Really? And that's not taking wind chill into effect? Wow. ... Here? Ehh, probably somewhere around 65. It's been sunny all day, too. ...Yeah, and we ate outside at lunch. ... Yup, supposed to be like this for the rest of the week..."

...and so on. Because listen, people, payback for the fact that I often find myself bundled in wool come mid-July is the stupendous weather we have in late winter. There's possibly no better time to be in San Francisco than February and March, when it's fog-less, sunny, impossibly mild, and generally beautiful. Spending time outside isn't an exercise in fortitude, it's a pleasure. The days are getting longer (last night, it wasn't well and truly dark until well past 6) and, if you're in the right spot (which is to say, not mid-Market), they're often punched through with the sweet smells of things opening on trees and in the soil. Nights are still chilly, of course--but then, nights are always chilly, and this month's haven't been so bad as to prevent me from, say, sitting at an outside table at Absinthe for foofy drinks and dessert with a cute boy deep into the evening.

So to those of you north and/or east of me: nyah nyah nyah nyah nyaaaah nyah. I know that smugness will come back at me (and then some) when June rolls around and I pull out my fleece, but for now, it's delightful to remind you all that I'm so, so, so glad I'm here and not there.


The Preaching and the Practice

(Or Our Friend the Golden Rule)

The online dating thing was, at first, a lark. Having poked about in the Men for Women ads on Craigslist for a while (and having been largely, though not singularly, underimpressed), I decided I would post my own ad and see what happened.

The answer: a lot. I got a heap of replies, many of them legitimate and kind, some of them baffling, a few downright annoying (such as the fellow who wrote to tell me that my photos made me look 42 rather than 32--um, thanks--or the guy who ripped into me for being negative, for allowing my "New York and kickboxing" side to dominate, and for having "a worldview that excludes children" because I said I didn't want kids right away and wasn't looking to date single dads). Without giving up work, eating, exercise, and every other activity in my life that requires time and attention, I couldn't reply to all of the messages I received, and I didn't try.

But I did reply to several and, in the end, wound up meeting up with five of the guys with whom I'd corresponded. They were, to a man, interesting, kind, engaging, fun, and pleasant to spend time with. With the exception of one, though (interestingly, the least likely candidate), I didn't feel the spark/friction/flare/other inadequate term I need to feel in order to feel like there's real dating potential with someone.

Herein, for me, lies one of the difficult (and crappy) things about online dating. That spark thingy is of supreme importance to me; without it, even the kindest, most attractive, most fascinating person won't feel like a good match for me romantically. That's why, I think, I've generally dated or had relationships with only guys I've met in person first--at a party, through friends, randomly in some venue or other: I can tell whether I feel that sort of indefinable ping straightaway. Somewhat illogically, I'm happy to let the deeper getting-to-know-you process come after that ping detection. Online, of course, all of that happens in reverse.

And that, as I've discovered, can mean that sometimes I just don't really connect to people, even though they sound great in words (and, often, *are* great in person). The reverse is entirely possible, too: I may well not induce sparks in the guys I meet.

Here's where it gets muddy. Over lunch the other day, I asked Josh his opinion: what do I do about the guys I don't click with romantically but who might make great friends? He laid out the options. "Well, you know what a guy would do--just never e-mail again. But you could be classier than that, and just write back and gently tell the truth."

I like to think of myself as being one who generally aims for "classy" (though some might debate that point), so I figured I'd go for choice #2. But it took an honest e-mail from S, the guy I went out with on Tuesday, to actually get me to sit down and write.

S sent me a message yesterday afternoon thanking me for meeting him for dinner and asking for my honest assessment of the date; he mentioned that he wasn't sure if either of us had felt a spark, but said perhaps he'd missed something. I replied and said, essentially, I'm with you--we're not destined for romance, but sign me up for the friend thing if you're game.

And then I planted myself in front of Entourage this morning and wrote similar messages to the other guys I'd gone out with in the past few weeks, because I'd rather be forthright, tell the truth, and float the possibility of friendship (which I don't really see as a second place prize, though I know that's often how it comes across) than just disappear into the ether. Further, it feels a bit like adhering to some odd combination of the golden rule and the whole concept of "If you don't vote, you can't complain": I can't rightly be a jerk to others and then complain about others being jerks to me.

So here's to that elusive spark, and to C, J, G, S, and me all finding it somewhere, with someone. In the meantime, here's to truth, openness, and the willingness to take the harder path.



Right. So much for my overly confident belief that my immune system was hearty enough to deflect the sniveling cold that had affected many of the people around me in recent weeks. After convincing myself that the craptastic feeling that settled in early last week was due to some combination of four hours of sleep on Saturday night/Sunday morning (for the record: not enough, though I have good reasons not to complain too forcefully), crazy overwork, and a Sisyphysian (J, please correct spelling/usage here) To Do list, I had to admit by Wednesday morning that it was, in fact, a well-established cold.

So I haven't been my best self for about a week now, pressing the heels of my hands into my eyes in a largely futile attempt to get my sinuses to calm down, trying to cough and blow my nose and sniffle and hack in as dainty a manner as possible (which is to say, not very), watching as clouds of tissue balls fluff and expand to fill my wastebaskets. I can't remember the last run I took, which makes me edgy and puts me out of sorts. (Must, must, must go tomorrow, all else be damned.)

The most disappointment aspect of illness for me, I think, is my inability to see it as a forced vacation or a reasonable excuse to sleep for countless hours on end, and then to rise only to clear the Kleenex carpet from the side of my bed and refill my water glass or tea mug. All of that would be nice, but no: when I get sick, I get impatient, itchy with thoughts of all the things I'd like to (or need to) be doing but can't. Knocking furiously on wood, let me never find myself faced with any sort of actually debilitating illness; I would go well and fully loops.

I woke this morning able to breathe through both nostrils (another annoyance of colds: the forced decline into mouth breathing) and no desire to toss back another dose of Alka-Seltzer Cough and Cold (purchased last year, I believe, when the pharmacy at Walgreens was closed and anything with pseudoephedrine was thus unavailable). These are good signs, leading me to believe that tomorrow might even be 95% tissue-free and that I might soon be able to conjure up a post on something more interesting than the status of my nasal passage blockage. Onwards!



So, in preparation for the Certified Professional Organizer exam I'll be taking at the NAPO conference in April, I've been reading The Complete Idiot's Guide to Project Management, one of the books on the recommended resources list. I got here--

"Now you know how the work breaks down in your project. You've taken all the goals of the project that were developed in the SOW and have broken them into specific work packages. But that's just one important step in planning. Now, let's take a look at sequencing the work in a network diagram."

--and decided, Nope, let's not! I'd much rather add to my TaDa List of Things to Do in Minneapolis.

For those who have absolutely no reason to be in possession of this knowledge, I will reveal that this year's NAPO conference is taking place in the aforementioned half of the Twin Cities, and, quite honestly, I couldn't be more excited. Minneapolis is one of those cities I've only ever flown through (the airport is really quite nice) but have wanted to actually visit. I hear good things about it all the time, and get the sense that it's a progressive and forward-thinking place. Plus, it's increasingly full of interesting modern architecture and art.

So Joshy and I have booked a room at what appears to be by far the most gorgeous and delightful hotel in the city, and we're ready to take the city by storm. Know somewhere we should check out? Please share it. We want to see as much of the city--on the beaten path or off--as we can.

For the record, I would also be happy to accept applications for Adorable Tall-ish Skinny-ish Minneapolis Alterna-Boyfriend Who May or May Not Be an Artist or a Musician or a Writer or Something (there seem to be so many potentials!), so if you fit the bill, drop me a line. (Also for the record, astute readers will note that the Joshy mentioned above shares with me a fondness for boys, so don't think I'm pulling anything funny here.)

Right, then. Time now to explore the fascinating world of The Network Diagram: A Map for Your Project.