Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Insignificant microbe

There's actually a blogosphere ecosystem out there, and I was curious as to where I ranked and I'm happy to report that this blog is ranked 35,683rd. I have no idea how many blogs are actually out there, but I know the ecosystem ranking goes out to at least 48,014 (pulling up the whole list crashes my computer).

Monday, January 30, 2006

Brokeback Mountain

I finally saw "Brokeback Mountain" yesterday mostly because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, and also because I have this thing about seeing movies that are potentially Oscar gold. I was a wee bit hesitant mostly because I couldn't find a single RL friend who was enthused about the film (mind you, no one had actually seen it; they just 'heard' it wasn't that good and a few people even winced at the idea of the film) and even though the film has won a ton of awards, I've been burnt by that before: to wit, Lost in Translation, perhaps one of the most boring movies I've ever seen.

So my expectations were low going into the movie theatre, but from the very first scene I was hooked. Nature was practically a major character in the film, and the scenery was absolutely breathtaking -- the mountains, the valleys, the water-side scenes. In general, the movie was filmed beautifully. And then there was the acting -- Heath Ledger's laconic Ennis, Jake Gyllenhaal's passionate Jack, and Michelle Williams as the brittle Alma -- which was first rate.

The screenplay also surprised me, because it was the type of dialogue that appeals to me the most -- few words, but not a single conversation is wasted, and amazingly, there were plenty of gentle humor to balance out the angst. My favorite line of dialogue in the whole movie comes when Jack says to Ennis, "I wish I knew how to quit you." And because there is such an economy of words, a lot of what transpires between the two men and their respective spouses (Anne Hathaway plays Lureen, Jack's wife) is shown, not told, and that's refreshing.

The pacing, especially at the beginning is excellent, and the tension builds appropriately as Jack and Ennis meet and their relationship progresses from friendship to something more.

My only complaint has to do with casting. Anne Hathaway didn't work for me at all as Jack's wife -- she didn't blend with her character as well as some of the others. Also, the appearance of Linda Cardenelli ("ER") as a wanna-be nurse was jarring, mostly because I can't stand her character on "ER" and to think of her as being a nurse in this particular scenario was too much of a tie back to the non-Brokeback world.

So I give the movie two thumbs up.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Photo op

Remember the futon? Voila.

Picture 001*

* Photo storage now provided by flickr, since it's so much easier for me than going into Photoshop, resizing, uploading to my website etc.

Friday, January 27, 2006


Today I called up a friend, but instead of hitting 'Talk' on my phone, I hit the speaker phone button. And then spent the first three minutes of our conversation trying to figure out how to turn off the speaker phone. She said, "Oh my God, you have an MBA and you can't figure out how to turn off a speaker?"

Well, they didn't teach us *that* in B-school.

I've found that I'm getting more and more technically challenged as time goes on. I don't have time to keep up with the latest web design techniques and coding; the fact that this blog is mostly CSS was a big accomplishment back in the day, but I've yet to muster up the time and energy it would take to convert the rest of the site. And I'm lazy. Have I mentioned that I'm lazy?

My latest issue is the digital camera. Yes, I now have a digital camera, courtesy of my brother. It took me forever just to figure out how to turn it on (The Inimitable Miss Barr was very polite and didn't laugh at me while I was futzing around with it), and then I accidentally took a picture. Of my desk. And not just my desk, but the top faux granite texture of my desk, which is no kind of interesting. Anyway, my plan is to eventually start posting pictures here, maybe even of the remnant of egg that still clings tenaciously to the kitchen ceiling, but first I have to figure out how to get the pictures off the camera and into my computer.

Stay tuned.

On a positive note though, I did figure out port forwarding for my router. So perhaps I'm not completely without hope.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


This blog is going to temporarily suspend all political chatter. Not that there was a whole lot of it to begin with, and I tried very, very much not to bash anyone (except Tom DeLay) too much, but given a current upheaval in the RL, I think it's best to declare a temporary moratorium on all things political until I figure out exactly where the chips may fall.

This self-censorship thing gets harder and harder with each passing day. ::sigh::

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Fine dining

Today, when I was waiting in line at Taco Bell to pick up lunch, I was standing behind a woman who ordered, get this, $68 worth of food. Yes, at TACO BELL*. Granted, it's one of those hybrid fast food restaurants -- Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC, all rolled in one -- but who on earth spends $68 at a FAST FOOD RESTAURANT?

* And because I'm such a geek, I did the calculations. $68 translates into roughly 86 bean burritos.

Monday, January 23, 2006


Also, I think I've emailed a response to pretty much everyone who has emailed me over the last six months. If you fit in that time period and you didn't get a response from me, mea culpa, and let me know. I've been awfully bad about the whole thing and only a couple of people have been getting pronto responses. Answering email in a timely fashion (say, within a week of receiving the note) could be a whole 'nother New Year's resolution, but like my brother, I don't make those.
Pop culture

Reading: Marriage, a history: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage by Stephanie Coontz, and The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century by Thomas Friedman

Watching: Bleak House, on PBS'"Masterpiece Theatre", and starring among others, Gillian Anderson

Listening: Life for Rent by Dido and Extraordinary Machine by Fiona Apple

Sunday, January 22, 2006

What he said

"The secret to living a full life with no regrets and to staying young is to figure out what you belive in and fight for it. If you lose, don't give up. If you win, raise the bar, and then rare back and do something else. And remember that, with the accumulation of years, our responsibilities to the future grow greater, not less."

-- Bill Clinton

Saturday, January 21, 2006


I discovered google videos today, and have spent a chunk of the morning watching Hindi music videos, which I absolutely adore.

Starting off with the the Indian national anthem, "Jana Gana Mana", which I highly recommend, at least for the first 3-4 minutes, which has beautiful instrumentation and showcases classic Indian music. It's also directed by A.R. Rahman who does such a great job of mixing modern styles with classical arrangements and features a who's who of singing talent, including my favorite, Lata Mangeshkar (and actually, the first time I've seen her singing alongside her sister, Asha Bhosle -- who won an MTV award not too long ago).

I really like the actress Kajol, while I couldn't find a video from my favorite, "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai," I did find this one from Kabhi Khushi Khabie Gaum" (featuring Kajol with leading man Shah Rukh Khan). This one actually has subtitles too, which is always nice. And oh! It has all the cliches of a Hindi film song -- rapid change in locations! Beautiful costumes changed in seconds! Obligatory wet sari scene! Lots of embracing and touching, but no kissing!

Here's another Shah Rukh Khan song I really like: Chalte Chalte. The actress is Rani Mukherjee (cousin of Kajol). The only video I could find from "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai" features all three of them.

Here's Jane Wo kaise from at least 40 years ago. The picture is grainy, but I love the poignant lyricism and 'classic' movie stars from days of yore.

Here's one from Mission: Kashmir, a movie about terrorism (which I blogged about here), but even so there's time for song and dance. Rhithik Groshan, the male lead, is my current favorite Hindi film actor.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

On writing

I'm not really in the mood to write or blog, for any number of reasons. I'm way too tense right now to do so, even though in theory, writing ought to be a release of some kind. But I'm thinking about this now, because Jemima (who is distracting me from RL) and I are discussing the pitfalls of letting people know you write -- mainly, that people invariably want you to write some story that is not your own, but theirs. You see it all the time in the fanfic world: someone will post a nearly complete outline and ask for volunteers to turn it into a story.

The thing is, people write what they want to write. It's hard work, takes discipline, but there is still that element of spark/muse/inspiration -- what have you -- that actually makes writing an exhilarating rush involved. We write what we write because we're attracted to the subject matter, because it makes us want to get involved with the characters, to build on that world, to develop a storyline that is as addicting to write as it is (hopefully) to read. When writing isn't your day job, when it's something you do on the side and for fun and for the dream of maybe one day seeing your name in print (other than on a byline, which I have literally thousands of), then the limited time makes for a purely selfish decision: we writers prefer to write what we like, rather than what is suggested to us by others.

For instance, I like to write fiction because I like creating worlds that exist outside of my own, that are populated with characters who live only in my head, and all of this is removed far from my own reality; I'm not really interested in reality-based writing, which is a big reason why I gave up journalism. When I write fiction, I'm excited and I get into the story because just as much as the reader, I want to know what happens next. I'm not interested in writing about a story with an ending I already know or with characters who are presented to me on a silver platter. I write for the adventure of discovery as much as for the finished project.

But it's incredibly hard to explain this to people who find out you're a writer and ask you to write the story they've come up with, whether it's fiction or non. They are so eager about it, and I feel awful so I lie and tell them, "I'm not writing right now," when what I really want to say is "I'm sorry, but as wonderful and uplifting as your story is, I'm simply not interested enough to give up my one hour of writing time per evening to write it for you."

Monday, January 16, 2006

A rose is a rose is a rose

I don't know about some of you, but putting a title on my stories is incredibly hard; trying to figure out what will 'sell', what makes sense, what I like, etc. There was a trend way back in the day to name all stories after popular songs and for all I know, fanficcers are still doing that. But now I think obscure and nonsensical is the way to go, something like "October Falling".

Anyway, I found this site, which tells you how just how likely it is the title you pick has 'bestseller' written all over it. Incidentally, I just tested "October Falling" and it has a 72.5 percent chance of being a bestseller. Now to find a story that goes along with that title...

Sunday, January 15, 2006


First the good: Tom DeLay losing support in own district. And now the better: Michelle Kwan is going to Turin.

I love that Michelle is going, though I'm not sure she's as strong a contender as Sasha Cohen is. However, her experience on the international stage, her confidence and focus, and ability to get the job done, put her in greater stead than Emily Hughes. What is interesting about Kwan's performance -- and probably what exemplifies her as an athlete -- is that she's giving officials two opportunities, on the 20th and 27th, to see her skate and if they don't think she's ready, she'll withdraw. That's a generous enough timeframe that if things don't go according to plan, Emily Hughes will be able to prepare and be ready.

I have a thing for people who keep trying, who don't make excuses, and who despite setbacks and being written-off, keep trying and maintain a positive, mature attitude. That's the quality I really admire about Michelle Kwan, and that's why I'm so glad she's getting her third (and most likely) final shot at Olympic gold.

Friday, January 13, 2006


I forgot to mention: this is the fifth year of the blog. On the 31st, it'll officially be five years old. It feels like forever since I started blogging and I've changed a lot in terms of the type of person I am and more superficially, the types of things I write about. It's been a fun five years, so here's to the next five.

In addition to the Big Five for this blog, I hit the big 3-0 on Sunday. It's vaguely scary because I never thought it would get here, and now it's here and it feels like any other birthday. In some ways, I'm not where I want to be -- professionally, personally -- and that is on occasion disappointing. When people call with big news -- engagements, weddings, babies, promotions -- these days, I don't have much to tell them back.

What I *have* accomplished this year is something I don't necessarily talk about much, but all the same, very proud of: I've become a happier, more confident person, and I don't freak out quite as often as I used to (ask The Fainter). I learned how to swing dance and how to change a tire and the air filter in my car. I learned how to cook tofu and in general, I've been setting off fire alarms a lot less. I managed to get through my first mostly non-hurricane without major issues, and I attacked my paper problem with a vengence. I was out and about more than I was in, and I got better at yoga and made my peace with my hip injury. I bought a whole new wardrobe this year, filled with clingy tank tops, low-rise pants, and fun, flippy skirts, because it's okay to show off. I learned to love baseball, and entered more writing contests this year than I ever have before. But mostly, I learned that I'm not defined by my job or by who I'm with or without. I've lived a pretty good life for my first 30 years, and I'm looking forward to the next 30 to be just as good, if not better.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Sad news

This is going to sound strange, coming on so close on the heels of the previous post which was my usual inanity, but I've been upset for the last couple days about some news I received (and am still receiving) about a former classmate and colleague who was kidnapped earlier this week in Baghdad and I thought I'd say something about it because it's what's first and foremost on my mind and it seems silly to pretend otherwise.

Jill's abduction is shocking news -- I mean, these kidnappings always are -- but this hits extremely close to home because I worked with Jill Carroll years ago (I was a night editor when she was a news reporter) and we probably took journalism classes together as well.

CBS has a story on Jill's kidnapping here, the Christian Science Monitor has an update here (no news) and a profile on Jill here.

As a friend of mine from the Collegian said, "There is probably little we can do except think and pray for her and her family." Somehow, it doesn't seem enough.

I haven't been around lately because I've been too busy taking over the world. Literally. I've been playing "Civilization III" on my computer and it's a game I became addicted to back in high school, and every few years they come out with a new version, with all new bells and whistles, and I just can't stop myself from going on a playing binge. The other day, I did something unprecedented. When I play "Civilization", I like to a kindly, benevelot President-type. I like to invest in my people, my cities, science, you know that kind of thing, and build a nice, happy and content civilization.

That all changed last week when I built my first bomber and I thought, "what am I going to do with this thing?" And I looked to the east, and Rome was RIGHT THERE. So I went and walloped my former friend Rome with the bomber. Really it was all curiousity because a) I've never attacked another civilization before and b) I've never used a bomber before. Before you know it, I'll be crossing the line and using the nukes I'm building. Anyway, I ended up launching a full-scale world war, forming alliances with the Chinese, the Indians and my former enemies, the Egyptians, to take out the Romans. In the meantime, the Americans -- coming to the aid of the beleagured Romans -- declared war on little ole me, and then the English, afraid of my endless supply of infantry, tanks and bombers, wanted to make peace. I made peace with the English, but sank a few American ships, and blithely annihilated the Romans. Current status: at war with the Americans, and at peace with everyone else.

That's not gonna last long; I've gotten my first taste of battle and victory and I LIKE IT.

My "Civilization" binges only last for a couple weeks at a time, and I'm already wondering what's next on the gaming schedule (yes, I know, I should be writing), and thanks to Alex, now I'm thinking about The Sims.

Monday, January 09, 2006


On the weekends, I occasionally nap on my futon and before napping, I like to watch television for a few minutes. I don't have cable, so weekend pickings are slim, to be kind. Mostly it comes down to some sporting event or a third-rate movie from the '80s or infommercials. Invariably I pick the infommercials. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that I'm fascinated by infommercials and can't stop watching some of them.

For instance, that rotisserie oven one -- that's my favorite. I'll never buy one, but I'm fascinated by the different things you can cook in these ovens, and I love it when they show off the knife set and say things like, "Do you know how much you'd pay for just one of these knives? DO YOU KNOW?" And then they pluck some number out of thin air, something crazy like $200, and then they say, "If you call today to order a rotisserie oven, we will give you not one of these knives, but an ENTIRE SET OF KNIVES for free."

And just when I'm ready to pick up the phone and call, because people, a couple of my knives are held together with scotch tape, the announcer ratchets up the excitement. He says, "And that's not all you'll get if you call TODAY. We'll also throw in the flavor injector. The knives and the rotisserie oven are all good and stuff, but it's the flavor injector that gets me every single time because the food *I* cook tastes all the same. The infommercial people then spend the next 10 minutes injecting various kinds of meat with lemon or basil or garlic and then, they bake the thing in the rotisserie oven, and slice it open with one of the knives, and show off something that I can only call a thing of beauty.

Yesterday, though, I hit a new low. The above infommercial is my preferred infommercial; I must have seen it about 80 gazillion times (but have yet to actually spring for those knives, the oven and the much-coveted flavor injector). I usually skip financial infommercials and anything involving excercise. But yesterday, there was one guy (who kind of looked like a rat -- his face ended in a point at his chin, his hair was puffy and slicked back, and his eyes were narrow, and his cheek-bones were alarmingly high for a man) promoting his 'two-part herbal digestive cleaning system' and he actually used the word 'fecal matter'. In fact, he used it many, many times, and somehow, managed to keep a straight face when a caller asked, "I'm so tired, will this product help me?" And this guy answered, "Well, do you have kids? Yes? Okay, well, are your stools bigger or smaller than your kids?" And the caller KNEW THE ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION to the millimeter.

I nearly died.

Anyway, there was also a doctor, Jan Barron, who was a paid endorser, and she went on and on about fecal matter, and toxicity to the organs, and all the while, I'm thinking, "She looks like someone from 'Dynasty'." In fact, she even dressed like someone on "Dynasty" -- white gilt hair, a sparkly jacket with the huge shoulder pads that I *thought* were back in the '80s with big hair, blue eyeshadow, and legwarmers. Looking like a relic of the '80s, it was impossible to take her seriously as she discussed about dandlion 'rute' and how inportant it is to cleanse your colon and oh by the way, you do this, you will lose 15 pounds JUST LIKE THAT. Of course, the topping on this whole trainwreck was the breathless, "Call now! The first 100 callers get a STEEP DISCOUNT," never mind that at no time did Dynasty!lady or rat!man ever say how much the "two-step herbal digestive cleaning system" cost in the first place.

It was amusing, but not quite up to par with the aforementioned rotisserie oven. I like visuals (nothing like taking out some aggression by stabbing a turkey with a SolidFlavor Injector filled with cranberries, for instance!), but in the case of the "two-step herbal digestive cleaning system," maybe it was a good thing there were no visuals.

Saturday, January 07, 2006


I always wonder how other people blog. Do they sit down at the computer, type out a thoughtful entry, edit it, and then post? Or are they helter-skelter like me and just post whatever whenever? Honestly, most times when I sit down to blog, I have no idea what's going to come out. Sometimes I have an idea in mind, but most of the times I don't. I don't have access to the blog at work (and really, I would NEVER blog at work), so between an 9-hour day and then coming home and getting myself out of the work-frame of mind, by the time I sit down, all coherence is lost (heck, I'm losing coherence *now*). The most preparation I usually do before blogging is collecting links (I admit to 'canning' entries in the past, but I don't seem to have time to do that anymore).

I like to think this blog is purely me, shooting from the hip, with very little filtered between what's going on in my head and my fingers. I don't have rough drafts; I might correct obvious typos, but most of the time I just let it be. Of course, that method means I have regrets later on, like when I wrote about this incident. I neglected to mention when I walked out onto my balcony, someone across the courtyard was already out on hers. It was dark, I couldn't see her, but I suspected she was someone I'd had a cross-courtyard conversation with during the hurricane. She saw me come and yelled, "Do you see THAT? Do you see that? WOW!" And then just like me, she leaned over the railing, trying to see around the building blocking off most of the night sky. And around the courtyard, people were coming out and standing on their balconies, watching the fireworks. It felt like a community for those few minutes and when the fireworks were over, we all went back into our apartments.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Uh oh

Michelle Kwan has withdrawn from Nationals due to an injury. She's petitioning for a waiver to go to Turin in February to compete as part of the Olympic team. This should be interesting, the way it plays out. Based on reputation alone, she's a class-act with an amazing history of accomplishments, but can she compete with the new scoring system? I'm not entirely sure. I like to root for Michelle because I think she's a wonderful role model compared to so many athletes and I like the fact she keeps trying and doesn't seem to be hampered by disappointment.

But it wouldn't be right for the Skating Federation to make a decision just on nostalgia, but rather on the answer as to whether Michelle can actually skate, and not just jump and spin, but keep up with all the jumping beans who are excelling under the new rules that are a complete disadvantage to someone who has made her mark artistically. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out.
Blog tech

I'm contemplating moving this blog or putting it somewhere password-protected. I don't want to have to do that, but it's getting to a point where I feel I need to protect this part of my life. I've alluded to this before, and it's strange because y'know, it is the INTERNET. Of course it's public and anyone can read.

But I'm getting uncomfortable with RL interfering with my blog life. The RL people who know about my blog, I told them about it, so there's no problem there. I have no problem with perfect strangers reading the blog either. It's the middle ground I feel uncomfortable about -- people I've met in RL, but have never told about the blog, but then they google me and find this blog.

But I'm also lazy, and some of the software I could switch to may include server changes etc., and I'm not so into tech stuff anymore. So chances are, I might not do anything, but if I do, I'll tell you all about it here first.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Link of the Day

I always enjoy Dave Barry's Year in Review and this year's edition was fun as always.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Make some noise

Tonight, as I was busily fighting a war against the Japanese in Civilization III, I heard a loud explosion. Like, right outside of my building loud explosion. Having not seeing today's terror alert color chart (is it orange or red? Does anyone know? Does anyone care?) and knowing how refineries and petrochem plants routinely blow-up here in Sweat Sock City, I did what any thinking girl would do: I kept beating up on the Japanese (not too hard to do, I might add, as I had MUSKETMEN and they were attacking me with PIKEMEN -- essentially soliders with sticks, which as we all know, are no match for GUNS). But after a few minutes, the explosions were getting louder and they weren't moving away from me.

So I roused myself from the computer (and the war I was winning!) and went out onto the balcony. Across the courtyard, other people were coming out onto their balconies. Just beyond my building, firecrackers were lighting up the sky. Obviously, someone somewhere took those flimsy firecracker stalls up on their offer and purchased 1 firecracker and got 12 for free. It was quite beautiful, except for the whole part it not being New Year's Eve or Day even or WHAT ABOUT THE ENTIRE STATE BEING UNDER A FIRE BAN? These were professional grade firecrackers, the type Sweat Sock City shoots off during the Fourth of July for instance. Anyway, I watched for a bit, and then feeling all warm and generous towards humankind, I offered the Japanese a peace treaty, which they gratefully accepted.

Monday, January 02, 2006


My second New Year's Resolution, in addition to being more patient, is to change how I react to people who drive me nuts. I suppose the two actually go hand-in-hand, as it's one big thing, but in this case I want to approach the situation differently. In the last few months, I've been learning one can't change the way people act and the only thing one can do is to change the way they react to other people.

For instance, if my neighbor plays loud music all the time (he does, but now he at least turns it off around 10 pm), it bugs me but not him, and I can choose to get angry about it, or I can figure out a way to cope with it. Or if someone consistently contacts you when it's convenient for them, rather than keeping in touch with you all the time, it's up to me to come up with a way to deal with it in a way that doesn't make me angry -- such as choosing to be happy to hear from that person and focus on catching up, rather than mulling over the question of "why don't you ever call me when you don't need something?"

Also, because everyone else makes this resolution, I'm going to lose twenty pounds this year. That's the 10 pounds I was supposed to lose in 2005, plus the obligatory 10 I'm going to lose in 2006.

Sunday, January 01, 2006


So far, 2006 is looking a heck of lot better than 2005. Last year, we started off with that awful tsunami, and finished up with a killer trio of hurricanes. This year, 2006 has started off (for me at least) with lovely blue skies, wispy clouds, and temperatures in the 80s and as far as I can tell, no devastating news from anywhere on the globe.

Link of the day: 2005 in Review