Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Good night, and good luck

I actually felt sad saying good-bye to Katie Couric this morning. I don't know if I'll miss her (I'll find out tomorrow for sure), but she *has* woken me up for the last five years, and I like familiarity. Change is not something I handle well, not even with my morning news anchors.

What really started the tear ducts though were the videos of some of the events Katie has covered. There's something about 9/11 that makes my throat tighten up, and my face feel as if it's been stretched. I cried during the interview of a Colombine survivor and then again during the Oklahoma City bombings. It's strange, but some of those things still feel as raw and unsettled as the day they happened. You always remember where you are when you first hear awful news, and nothing brought that closer to home than Today's retrospective.

I'm not usually home in time to watch the evening news, but I wish Katie good luck. I'd love to see a woman succeed in an arena that has (with few exceptions) been dominated by men.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Link round-up

There are allegations that US marines massacred Iraqi civillians, including children in November. I can't believe I didn't know about this until today. I couldn't find a copy of the story that ran in today's newspaper, but it was horrifying and I can't believe our soldiers could possibly be involved in such a thing. I sincerely hope this isn't a true story.

In other potentially distressing and depression news, here's a story on ethics on Mt. Everest. What seems like conventional wisdom at sea-level isn't at 8,000 meters.

On the positive side, I also found a site for voluntourism -- basically you pay to go on a volunteer trip. It sounds pretty neat actually, and a few days in Provence, helping to restore medieval architecture sounds like fun.

Saturday, May 27, 2006


While we're waiting for the birth of the World's Most Beautiful Baby in what was up until now an unknown country in Africa, I did a wee bit of research* on Namibia. I originally thought Namibia was in western Africa, but I was only partially right. It is in southwest Africa, to the north of South Africa. Other border buddies include the countries of Angola, Botswana and Zambia. The Atlantic forms Namibia's western border.

Here is the CIA's write-up on the country. If it's going to become the new hideout for celebrity parental units to be -- judging by the call for a holiday the day Baby Brangelina is born and the fact journalists now need Brangelina's permission to enter the country -- this is a must read**.

*Research consisted solely of sitting in a room and staring at a world map mounted on the wall.

** After Harry Potter and the Da Vinci Code, that is

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Oh when does it stop?

Katie Couric interviewed the CEO of Shell Oil this morning and I was once again amused and dismayed by the fact her first question was along the lines of, "Why don't you use your profits to lower wholesale prices?"

The question demonstrated such a lack of understanding of fundamental economic principles, not to mention the fact that they have asked this same question of every single global major CEO who has endured the hot seat and neither Katie, or Matt Lauer, or the Today show seems to get the concept of supply or demand, or even how an international commodity market works (hint: NYMEX).

Anyway, even if the CEOs and Congress aren't giving Americans a gas rebate, GM is. Ah those crazy Detroit guys.

Monday, May 22, 2006

A horse is a horse of course of course

The amount of coverage for Barbaro is mind-boggling. I'd never even heard of the animal until today and boom, he's the most important story of the day, and the feature of Close-Up on the "Today" show -- a segment which usually deals with, oh, presidents, the economy, mining disasters... Katie Couric did ask at one point, "Why should we care?" but I'm not sure anyone actually answered her. While I feel bad for the horse and hope it doesn't have to be put down, is it *really* more important than the 80 Taliban who were killed in Afghanistan today (oh yeah, btw, the Taliban are baaaaaaaaack!)?
The Da Vinci Code

There's an interesting post here about Dan Brown's 'inepitude' when it comes to writing prose. I enjoyed the book greatly (have read it twice, listened to it on tape once), and yes, his wording is clunky and overblown and occasionally nonsensical, but Dan Brown managed to do two things successfully: a) he paced the novel and each chapter perfectly and b) he was able to throw together enough myth, history, art, and mystery together to build suspense. For me, that's the takeaway from "The Da Vinci Code" -- the awesome pacing and the perfect combination of ingredients necessary to create a riveting (albeit 'character poor') story.

And generally, I'm always going to come down on the side of a book that makes people read, no matter what its literary flaws may or may not be. I mean, even avid readers like me aren't rushing to the library to pick up James Joyce.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

It's me, not you

Several months ago, a friend and I went out for dinner and I was discussing my misgivings about a certain situation. I wanted to do something, but I didn't know *what* to do that wouldn't hurt the other person. More than anything, I wanted to be fair and considerate and kind, and I genuinely felt badly that while I thought this person was very nice, it just wasn't working out, for any number of reasons.

My friend finally said at one point, "So why does his happiness matter more than your own?"

And that was the statement that put it all into perspective for me. Staying in the situation was stressing me out, making me feel discombulated, and I wasn't having any fun. I want things and relationships that add to my life, not take away from it, and over the past 18 months, I've been taking steps that reduce anxiety, stress, and general unhappiness and doing things that make me happy. It's a very selfish approach that doesn't leave a lot of wiggle room, but it's very necessary.

But just because I'm saying all of this doesn't mean I don't feel tremendous guilt. It doesn't mean I don't wonder if I made the wrong decision. I think about how I want to be treated, and realize that I'm not treating this person in the same way. But I felt a certain way at a certain time and I had to make a decision. When it comes to being happy, it's certainly always about me, and not the other person.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


The Grey's Anatomy upfront presentation here; this makes the most sense if you've seen the Superbowl episodes, but it's still hilarious.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


So Cowboy Skinny, The Fainter and I went out for drinks and appetizers Tuesday evening. I hadn't seen CS in a while, so I gave him a rundown on what was going on with me, including the perils of jumping on the dating wagon. I said, "I'm taking a temporary break and hopping off the dating wagon. I'm just not in the mood to do the things right now to make a relationship work."

So he asked me what kinds of things. And I thought for a second and said, "Well, communication for one. I'm just not so much into the whole returning of phone calls and email thing."

Of course that's a vast exaggeration, because I *do* eventually return phone calls (and ::gulp::, there are two on my voicemail from last week I still need to get back to) and I do eventually return emails. But I admit it takes work to get to know a person, and the last four or five months have *not* been conducive to that kind of thing. I'm slightly obssessive-compulsive about my schedule (for instance, I call my mom at the same time on the same day every week and this has been going on for years), and I require lots of downtime and time to myself. And when I say 'lots', I mean entire evenings of time -- again, not terribly conducive to a relationship. "But," I said, "I believe these types of issues fall into place when you meet the right person."

CS nodded contemplatively, and I braced myself. Surely he would tell me to stop being so picky, or uptight, or judgmental. Surely he would say those things. But he just said, "You know what the real problem is? It's that you got on the dating wagon in the first place. You should have got on the dating Mercedes-Benz instead."

Monday, May 15, 2006


High gas prices are continuing to make people -- especially Matt Lauer -- stupid. I only caught the first part of his interview with Chevron's CEO this morning and honest to God, Lauer asked if the oil companies could subsidize the prices at the pump and discount them by 5 cents a gallon. Which would probably save the average American consumer about a $1 each time they fill up.

Here are the profit margins for some major corporations. No one is asking Microsoft, with its whopping 32 percent GM (which is, btw, WOW) to discount prices of their software by $5 or even $50. We just suck it up and pay it and this is when there is little to no competition for the product.

I get that the oil & gas industry is hard to explain. I've been in the industry for three years now, but I still have questions. No one wants to deal with geopolitical complications, or how much it costs to pull a barrel of oil out of the ground or how long it even takes, or all the regulations and capital expenditures required to even get that 42-gallon barrel of oil converted into something you can put into your car. It's hard to explain, hard to understand, but I also think people are in denial: they don't want to think the fact that they're driving something that gets 8 to 10 miles a gallon or the fact that they need to keep their ACs running at full blast during the summer dog days might have something to do with high natural gas and oil prices.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

On the move

My brother, the administrator for this site's domain and hosting, has decreed that a move will be happening sometime in the next week. This will be the first time in five years that I'll be changing servers, and it'll be a sad, sad good-bye since Pair has been awesome and so incredibly reliable, but my brother has found another option that he likes better and will add more features etc., so we're moving!

In theory, this move will be seamless and all of y'all won't notice a thing when I actually make the transition. The URL will remain the same (including all internal links as I'm not changing any of the site structure -- oh no no no), as well as the layout (well, I may take this opportunity to redesign my welcome mat), and all of the content. The only thing I'm not 100 percent sure of is the blog, and how that will transition over.

ETA: I talked to my brother this afternoon and he assured me there won't be any problem moving anything over, including the blog. Whew! The last time we did the server swap, we had all sorts of nightmares, but that was mostly because the hosting company was teh evil, and not only had my site down for weeks at a time, but then reneged on a promise they made to my brother that they would allow him to move my site over before deleting it from their servers.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The rain in Spain

I'm not actually in Spain, nor is it raining, but today was absolutely gorgeous and from my office, I could see for miles. I judge the pollution/air quality by how far I can see and some days, it's really bad. You can see the clouds, edged with brown, the haze spreading across the flat horizon, and there's this feeling that the world stops where the clouds begin because it's impossible to see any further than that.

Today wasn't one of those days. It was beautiful, clear, a nice cooling breeze, and the air smelled fresh -- not like sweat socks, like it's apt to do.

Today the horizon ended at the limits of my vision. I could see the gleaming stacks of the refineries, the sun glancing off the chrome, and from my perch high above the city, I saw them as things of beauty rather than belching chimmnies of black soot.

I think that if everyone could see the air the way I see it, from more than 800 feet up from the ground, then they wouldn't argue against pollution controls or the fact perhaps all this stuff we're putting in the air isn't causing the weather to go haywire. Four days out five, the proof is out there.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

That time of the year

We're under a severe thunderstorm watch right now. That's pretty much par for the course for this time of the year. This evening, the sky was a golden color, casting this glow across everything. My apartment complex is an adobe color, and it looked really pretty in the yellow light.

Thunderstorms here are marvelous to behold. Fierce winds that come at you sideways, hail the size of golf balls, and lightning bolts that slice through the skies. The roads flood within minutes due to the torrential rain, and you can always tell by the green-grey tinge to the sky that a tornado is nearby.

We get plenty of tornadoes in our area, but not the kind you see on the news. There are F0 or the occasional F1 tornadoes. Tree branches bend but don't always break, mulch spills over onto the roadways, and you see the occasional sign blown off its post.

Suffice it to say, when one of these comes roaring through -- and they do come at least once or twice a week in the months of May and June -- it's best to stay indoors, curled up on the sofa with a nice book.

Reading: Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan
Listening: Love Songs by Elton John
Watching: The Amazing Race

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Link of the Day

In a strange quirk, RL and VL collided today, with both Lori and my brother sending me the same link about getting through identity theft and the serendipity of it all was too good to ignore. Now, I don't know if my identity has been stolen and someone is buying a Porsche in my name. Until I see my credit reports (WHERE ARE THEY ALREADY?) and/or the institution of higher education from whereupon my identity was stolen catches the people responsible, I'm not going to know when I can breathe a sigh of relief. I mean, the credit reports could come out clean *now*, but who knows what it'll look like down the road?

I really don't like the whole 'hurry up and wait' deal that's going on. I want to take action now.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Damn it, Jim

I got the official word today. My social security number, birth date and email address were indeed stolen. Obviously, the email address isn't a big deal -- spammers have been spamming that address since I got it way back in the paleolithic days of the Internet. But someone out there is running around with BOTH my SSN and birth date -- which is bad in so many ways.

They think the theft was around April 11th, but I didn't receive preliminary notification until the 23rd. And now it's well into the first week of May. ::sigh:: I've already put the fraud alerts on my accounts, and now I'm waiting for the complimentary copies of my credit report to arrive. The question is, how long do I have to monitor my accounts? Do identity theft thieves wait for the 90 days for fraud alerts to expire and *then* hawk the SSNs and birth dates?

The thing that gets me, that REALLY gets me, is that database that was broken into? It's from my life five years ago. FIVE YEARS AGO. And I had that one and only contact FIVE YEARS AGO. What the hell are they still doing with my information? And btw, this is their SECOND break-in in several years, so obviously, their security leaves much to be desired. I'm already a nervous wreck when things are going well, and I'm paranoid under the best of circumstances. So to say I'm unhappy and upset about this latest turn of events would be an understatement.

Sunday, May 07, 2006


On a story I'm working on, I wrote the line, "She existed." This a father said to a friend comforting him on the death of his child. It seemed like an odd line, and I stared at it for a long time because a) I didn't know where it came from and b) why would anyone say something so cold after such a traumatic event?

I pondered the line for a long time after I wrote it. And then I left it in, and came back to it this morning. Stay or go? Stay or go? And then I realized it had to stay because it's a true statement. Unexpected, but true, because we all have moments in our lives when we think, "Did that happen? Did it really unfold like that? Did I really feel like that?" And so when I wrote that line, unconsciously that must have been what I was thinking about -- the mere fact that a moment existed, that it happened, and now it doesn't; in other words, memory is a constant, bittersweet reminder of something what was, should have been, and now never will be. And constantly, we have to validate and acknowledge those memories because as time goes on, the emotions and events drift further away, leading one to question what is real and what isn't.

Of course, that's a lot of meaning to put into two words, a total of four syllables. But sometimes grief is that simple, that terse, and at a particular moment in time, that's all someone can say about an emotional upheaval. It just goes to show that sometimes your characters do know more about what's going on in their lives than you, the author, does.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Writing pet peeve

There are two lines of dialogue that I absolutely cannot stand. They are (drumroll): "I have something to tell you" and "We need to talk." No good comes after those lines of dialogue are uttered, and more likely than not, it's something majorly dramatic, and usually concerning a surprise bundle of joy.

There's nothing inherently wrong with the dialogue itself, but rather that it makes for a clunky set-up. It removes the subtlety from the situation and puts the anvil in motion, broadcasting, "Reader! Pay attention! Something important is about to happen! The plot is going to move forward!" It's moving plot forward through dialogue, rather than the actions and feelings that result from said dialogue.

I'm a big fan of characters talking and discussing their issues, but do they really need to announce that this is what they're going to do? Can't they just sit down and do it? There are ways of accomplishing the same thing without being as awkward and anvil-like. Conversations, in the real world, just happen. They are spontaneous, and nine times out of ten, we're not thinking about the words that come out of our mouths before they're out there. And we don't always give speeches about Issues (tm), and more times than not, we tip-toe around the thing that's going to cause us pain.

Written dialogue should reflect that same reality. I like Hemingway's sparse style of dialogue, where more is said between the lines than what the characters say, but that's Hemingway. The trick is to find the balance between broadcasting the plot intention through dialogue and coming up with realistic and intelligent dialogue that keeps the reader guessing.

When I figure out how to do it, I'll let you know.
Yum, yum

Last weekend, I hosted a brunch at my place and this was the menu: spinach salad with cucumbers, tomatoes and olives; rice salad with chick peas and lemon dressing; red onion and goat cheese stuffed pastries; and for dessert, yogurt parfaits.

The yogurt parfaits were a big hit, and they're incredibly simple to make, low in fat, and perfect for the hot summer months ahead. It's best to make these at least 4-8 hours ahead of when you'll need them, so the flavors blend nicely. And for presentation's sake, I used wine glasses so the different layers could be seen easier.

Yogurt parfaits (serves 4)

1 package frozen fruit -- any variety
1 container vanilla yogurt

Spoon 1 tablespoon of yogurt into wine glass. Spoon 1 tablespoon fruit on top of yogurt. Continue to layer until wine glass is full. Seal with Saran wrap and refrigerate.


Don't thaw the fruit out before spooning into the parfait. The fruit will melt in the fridge and the juices will mix in with the yogurt. No additional sweetner is required.

I used two different types of frozen fruit -- mixed berries and then a mix of strawberries, papaya and mango -- and both worked equally well. It really depends on personal taste.

I'm not a big fan of low-fat foods in general, but in this case, I used non-fat yogurt, and it didn't taste as if something were missing.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Random Thoughts

I reached the boiling point of frustration this week. The 5 Ws, including the why, aren't particularly important, only that I got to that point again after having spent the last 6 to 9 months trying *so* hard to be positive, optimistic, and just generally having a good time.

But now, I have a bottle of red nailpolish, and that always does a girl's toes good. I mean, it's strappy sandal time of the year, and my feet are large, clunky, and then they have these long, long toes, with uneven nails. Gross, gross, gross. But somehow, a coat of red nailpolish makes the foot look less foreign, and more like something you'd actually want associated with the rest of your body.

I want to talk about regret and envy. At some point I also want to talk about Kaavya and the plagarism scandal. I've also been thinking about what happens when someone whom you've known for a good chunk of your life, a decade, walks out of it, and then what do you do with those emotions, those feelings, that emptiness. There are books I'm reading, movies I'm watching, and music I'm listening to. I've stopped pointing out the irony of Republicans decrying capitalism when it comes to gas prices, and I was proud at myself for restraining myself when someone said the $100 rebate was a great idea.

There's paper everywhere in my apartment once again. It covers all the surfaces, and even though I try to throw it out immediately, somehow it takes on a life of its own. It's like the paper-made blob. At work, it's the same thing -- paper, paper, paper. I don't think the paper-free world is possible. I think we like our pulp products too much, that we like the comfort and immediacy and the portability of it. Plus, you can write on paper, highlight your words, scribble across the bottom. It's comforting, visible proof that you've taken action of some kind.

One thing you might not know about me, all you readers who don't know me in RL: I write upside down almost. Yes, indeed I do. I'm left-handed, I write upside down, and I drink out of a left-handed mug.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


ABC is pulling "Commander in Chief" from the airwaves. Ordinarily, I'd just shrug it off and say, "There goes another show I like to watch." See, I'm awful at picking shows when they debut. Nearly every show I start off watching from episode 1 gets cancelled. And I was convinced at the beginning "CiC" was going to be one of those shows, except that it had great ratings. I was relieved. The curse had been broken! But alas, not so.

Anyway, if you feel so inclined, you can write to ABC in support of the show over here (text of letter below). It's the first time I've ever written into a network about a show before, but I believe so strongly in the concept of the show, in the *idea* that a woman can be president, that I had to say something. It's not so much that I adore the show for the usual qualities that make me love a show -- writing, acting, scripting -- but for what it represents.

Here's the sample letter that's being passed around (and I'm ashamed to say I just copied verbatim, but I had nothing more or less to say than what was written here):


Please keep Commander in Chief on the air. I just read online that the show was being pulled for the rest of May. It has had a rough time because it's been moved around so often and put on extended hiatus. I know it's been hard to maintain steady ratings, but that is no reason to give up on the show. It provides a great message for young girls (and boys) and shows that this scenario is possible. Geena Davis shows that women in strong roles can succeed. I hope to see a second season.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Serenity now

Tuesday is yoga day and the new yoga instructor is pretty amusing; she has different ways of making us laugh and forget that we're contorting our bodies in weird ways. Today, for instance, she said, "Here's a question for you. Can you touch your nose to your knee? If you can't, the answer is no."

Along the same lines, when we were working on the pigeon pose, our yoga instructor said, "Extra credit if you can get your head to touch your foot."

And somewhere from the back of the room, amidst all the groaning, sighing and contorting, a voice piped up: "It's not worth it."