Thursday, April 29, 2004

Write in it

I'm still in serious disbelief over Virginia, but it's past my bedtime and I'm not sure I have anything coherent to say about that subject except I'm glad I don't live in Virginia (not that I live somewhere much better on the tolerance scale), and I've always been proud to hail from Vermont, home of civil unions.

Today's regularly scheduled blog entry is about writing, mostly because I realized that I'll find out tomorrow the results of a contest I entered back in February. I don't have high hopes at all because the story was mediocre at best, the writing fairly juvenile (compared to my style now), and the plot very weak; only Rocky's last minute suggestions made it a somewhat decent entry.

However, I'm now facing a June 15 deadline for another magazine. This one is called "Cafe Irreality" and it's dedicated to surreal fiction. I'm a huge fan of surreal fiction, ever since the summer I spent in Amherst reading nothing but South American writers and International Sudden Fiction (btw, I highly recommend the anthology to all of you -- it's a gorgeous collection of styles, voices, gimmicks, and the art of telling the very very short story. It's one of my all-time favorite books). So, back to the subject of surreal fiction. I always think this genre as the type of stories that would emerge if Dali used words, not paint. I have two stories already written and in need of editing and some revising, and I should make the June 15 deadline fairly easily.

Following on the steps of the June 15 deadline comes the October 1 deadline for SNW. Yes, I plan to enter SNW this year and I have a few ideas in mind. Only one, however, is completely formulated -- the other two are just a scene or two and I'm having a hard time spinning plot, conflict and resolution into 7,500 words. Still, the opportunity is too good to pass up and so I've decided to discipline myself and actually plan out two of the ideas I have and see what happens. Usually, the way I write is pure Napolean's Battle Plan: "We show up and then we see what happens." (Astute readers will recognize this line from one of my favorite "Sports Night" episodes and if you read that transcript -- and you really should -- the second part is my absolute favorite ep.). I'm curious to see if my stories turn out better if I inject organization and thought into them before the fact, rather than the whole "let's throw some ideas and words at the screen and see if something sticks!"

Yes, I'm horrified by my writing process as well.

I'm contemplating finding an other contest that will fit in nicely between the June 15 and October 1 deadlines. My goal is to enter at least four contests this year. That may not seem like a lot, but writing is not this thing you can do just by thinking you want to do it. It takes time, thought, and effort, and there's a lot of frustration to it. You have to think about character, about setting, plot, conflict, resolution, and even if you've got all of that, the muse may not cooperate. Or perhaps you write the whole thing and realize it just doesn't work and you have no idea why. Sometimes I push through that block and other times, I just let it go. So that's where I am right now -- I need one more publication to submit to before the end of the year in order to meet my resolution. If I can get 5 in, that'll be great.

And, on that note, good night all, good night moon.
Some links

Virginia has just passed a law that severely restricts the rights of homosexuals, come July, and it really makes me sick. There's more about the bill here and here. More indignation later.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Suffer the children

Link of the Day: A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift

So I was reading this article about homosexual marriage (link courtesy of jemima), and it occurred to me, from the POV of this article, that marriage is all about the children. In which case, if you do not plan to have children or cannot have children, you shouldn't be able to get married at all; a signed contract to reproduce ought to be a requirement before one marches up to the altar and swear eternal devotion to someone of the opposite sex who obviously shares this intense desire to also reproduce. Adding paperwork to the bureacracy of marriage should not be too difficult. After all, the desire for spawnlings is a powerful and intrinsic motivation -- who wants to be the dead end on the human family tree anyway?

Monday, April 26, 2004

One size doesn't fit all

Yesterday I went to IKEA to buy a few plant stands for my plants which are currently living on my dining room table and would like a home of their own -- not to mention, I'd like my table back. I never did find the plant stands, but I did find a nice ironing board with a green and white plaid cover that I liked. I need an ironing board because I used to use my dining room table for ironing purposes, but now that my plants living on my table, something had to change. So, I got the ironing board.

I got the ironing board to fit into my car after a brief struggle. Mind you, it was pouring out -- have I mentioned this is the soggiest city on the planet? And so anyway, I got the ironing board in, and drove blithely on with the rest of my day. The interesting thing happened when I got home and 'undressed' the ironing board; I was briefly motivated to iron last night and so I hauled out the two loads of laundry I'd done on Saturday, stared at it, and then at the unassembled ironing board. Finally, I set up the board (after about 20 minutes of contemplating and watching "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition". I love me my reality television). And that's when I realized...

IKEA designs its products for tall, Swedish people.

No, the ironing board is not hip level, or waist level, but comes somewhere up against my chest! Woe! As someone built low to the ground, I will need an apple crate a la Gillian Anderson to use the board. I suppose if you're a tall, Swedish person, it'd be the right height, but me not being a tall, Swedish person, it's very high and possibly may cause me injury since I'm no good at the ironing thing. In a way now, I'm glad I didn't get the plant stands -- what if those too were made for tall, Swedish people? And then I couldn't reach to water my plants?

I do have to say, in my defense of not being a tall Swedish person, I'm just the right height -- my legs do reach all the way to the ground. Eh, when I'm standing. Not sitting. So, if any of you have an apple crate you're willing to get rid of, please send to me, thankyouverymuch.

And no, I didn't actually end up ironing yesterday, though I did fold laundry. One thing at time, folks, one thing at a time.

Sunday, April 25, 2004


My RSS feed is broken and I don't know how to fix it, wah! In the meantime, this is a great opportunity try out the atom feed, which is apparently working.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Yo, you can go

Photographer fired over pictures of American-flag draped coffins. My question is, why the photographer? Why not take action against the Times which actually published the photos? Or is that coming later? but I'm not unsympathetic to the Pentagon's POV on this (though, I don't think you can get more anonymous than flag-draped coffins).

Second, my writing idol, Ellen Goodman comes through with this column on Bush's recent press conference.

This is all for today, but I'm sure I can summon up more righteous indignation later on this weekend.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Real Life

Those of you who know me, know that I suffer from an incurable addiction to reality television. There are very few reality shows I don't like; well, that "Gay or Not" show was just stupid and the second "Joe Millionaire" was a trainwreck at best. Oh, and I wasn't thrilled by "Hot or Not" or "I'm a Celebrity! Get Me Out of Here!" and I think "Big Brother" is akin to watching paint dry.

That being said, on the reality shows I do like -- "Survivor," "The Apprentice," "Fear Factor" -- I like the real life drama that comes out of being put into an unnatural situation and I'm fascinated by the way people act even when they know that their every move is being watched and taped. I mean, Omarosa on "The Apprentice" and Trish on "The Bachelor", for instance -- have they absolutely no shame? Did they lose all sense of reason and dignity the minute they were cast? For heaven's sakes...

But. My rant is about neither of those shows, but rather about "American Idol." For God's sake, what are the voters on? Seeing as how that episode hasn't aired on the West Coast yet, I'll try to keep my righteous indignation to a low roar, but for God's sake, this is a talent competition, people! A talent competition! But then again, since we're not especially capable of managing to elect a president without help from the Supreme Court, why should it be any different on "American Idol"? If this keeps up, I may have to start watching "Enterprise" instead. "Enterprise"! What does that tell you about my current level of digust?

Calm, calm, calm.

Bjorn pointed me to this link about Princess Diana and being a few hours ahead of him, I was already aware of the special "48 Hours Investigates" and while I'm a fan of English royalty, I chose to skip this programme tonight for a pure and simple reason: the woman is dead, let her rest in peace.

Also, I've signed up for a gmail account. It's not like I really need another account, but my account has been overrun by spam and it might be nice to start moving my internet activities to another account. We'll see. It's mostly that I saw that it was shiny and I hit "Sign me up!" I'm so easy sometimes.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

On Iraq

Liz Logan provided me with a site that tells just how much that war in Iraq is costing you, the American taxpayers. I'd say international here, but who are we fooling? It's not really an 'international' coalition, no matter how much the current administration wants to paint it that way; one figure I found shows the American presence to be around 140,000 troops, with other nations contributing 23,000 soldiers. (Other figures estimate the Americans at 135,000). The Spanish troops number around 1,500. That's less than one percent. The Hondurans, God bless them, are even less than that at 350; but one could argue that at least they showed up to contribute and see what happened -- now they are going home.

Regardless of the monetary cost or the number of troops each country has contributed to the occupation, the human cost is way too high for what we are accomplishing over there and because of that, I can say that the loss of life is senseless. I point to the Madrid bombings last month and the subsequent withdrawal of the Spanish from Iraq as a prime example. Two hundred people died on March 11 in Madrid in what is probably the work of Al-Qaeda and in response to Spain's staunch support of the Americans in Iraq. By withdrawing now, Spain has shown terrorists that yes, terrorism does work. The time for Spain to withdraw was months ago, before March 11, when the pulse of the population was against the war.

A country cannot give way to the murderers of 200 people, and if anything, Spain should have been more resolute to stay. I'm saying this with a grain of salt -- I never believed Iraq was a prime breeding ground for Al-Qaeda prior to the war compared to other countries (Hello, Saudi Arabia!), but I certainly believe it is now. If this international war on terrorism is to be won, it requires devotion and dedication from all parties involved; giving in to the terrorists means now means Al-Qaeda has won one more battle; let's hope they don't win the war.

You can now add the 200 dead in Madrid to the list of war casualities, as well as Iraqi civillians, at least one hostage, and of course, our brave coalition troops -- bless all of them, whatever country they come from.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Places to go, things to see

Two quick links:

Peep Research. Witness the amazing contribution these little creatures have made to modern science.

Pity the poor Nigerian astronaut. Won't you please bring him home? Link courtesy of Bjorn who recognizes my weakness for the poor, poor Nigerians.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Everyone's a blogger these days

The thing about blogging is that you have to come up with something new and original and interesting to blog about. This is a lot harder than one might think. And as you might have guessed -- and those of you who know me in RL know for sure -- I have a hard time staying on any one subject for any length of time. So I'm sure there are people who stop by and find a topic here of interest and then are forced to flee when they realize I'm back to the shallow, superficial type stuff.

There are a lot of things on my mind and most of them could probably find a home here, but I have to weigh what I'm thinking or feelings against other considerations. First of all, I'm not entirely sure who reads this blog. A few of you leave comments regularly or are RL people; the RL people already know the important stuff and the same goes for the longtime virtual friends. So I leave most of the private stuff out. You're not going to find too much incriminating stuff here. Exploding eggs and chair building stories, yes, but nothing more racy than that.

Actually, I'm quite boring. Exploding eggs is really as good as it gets.

I've realized that one should never post work-related stuff in a public forum. The Internet isn't as anonymous as you might think it. You never know who is passing by. So, only in the vaguest terms will you find work-related stuff here.

I try to avoid politics. Some of you who stop by are of different political persuasions and it's all good. I really don't want to inadvertantly insult someone and I'm also not that interested in having a political debate. I have my beliefs, other people have theirs, and I respect that. Every now and then though, I reserve the right to bash the politician of my choice.

Which leaves me with links. Linking is always safe because you can always come up with something interesting that people will like and it's amazing how much free time some people have on their hands (or wish they had something to do with their spare time). And in the spirit of going with the link, this one is for Bjorn, who has recently discovered "Sports Night." Go forth and enjoy.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Who comes a knockin'?

I was going through my site stats today. Those of you who have go through stats regularly know just how scary this can be. There's the "Whee! People are visiting!" euphoria, quickly followed by the "Oh no! People are visiting!" panic attack. I've pretty much out-grown the latter and just hope no one leaves here with bleeding eyeballs. However, I do wonder where some people come from and how disappointed they must be when they end up here.

For some reason, Paris Hilton keeps showing up in my site stats. In fact, several Paris Hilton sites show up as referrers. If you're here for the Paris Hilton tape, I'm afraid I'm going to have to disappoint you. Nothing to see here regarding Paris, unless you want my rant on how a completely spoiled, self-involved woman can suddenly become, well, someone worthy of attention, despite having done absolutely nothing; that's America for you, people!

On that same token, no nude celebrities here either. Honestly. The only images on this site are the book covers I've painstakingly made in Photoshop. No one in any of those pictures is nude and no, I'm not going to Photoshop heads to bodies thankyouverymuch. So, those of you looking for nude Paris Hilton? Again. Wrong place. (Though the question begs to be asked, why? Actually, don't answer that. This is a family blog).

Those of you coming here from Al Sharpton's website, I wish your man good luck in his campaign, if indeed he's still campaigning and actually, until all of you started coming here, I didn't know Al Sharpton was running for president. Sorry, sorry. I get a wee bit muddled with all the inexplicable John Kerry adoration. Speaking of the plastic man, those of you finding your way here from Kerry's campaign site, are not going to find much in the way of props for your man here either. I'm one of those "Anyone but Bush" people and I live in a state that's pretty much "Everyone for Bush," so don't expect any political activism here.

Those of you who came here look for content about Australia? Again, I must apologize. I have no idea how I got listed on an Oz site. I've never been to Australia, but I do know Miss Barr and ChristineCGB (links on the sidebar) and so if you want to know more about the land down under, I suggest you talk to one of them. I'll probably just feed you stereotypical stories about wombats and coral reefs and poisonous snakes. Or something.

However, if you are here from the No War site, you've come to the right place.

Monday, April 12, 2004

These things remind me of you

I was poking around an gift list today in search of a gift for a particular individual who shall remain nameless. Gift lists are great -- you don't have to think about what a person might want because they're telling you what they want, and then all you have to do is click a button and voila, it's done. What could have been a mind-wracking ordeal is over in a matter of minutes. And I admit, I use registries a lot -- find them oh so convenient, especially if I have to ship a gift for a wedding or an anniversary; it saves me time and effort to get online, pull up a registry, and the only energy expended are mouse clicks.

But -- you did know a 'but' was coming, didn't you? -- I also find the idea of a registry awfully materialistic; in the interests of full disclosure, I should reveal that I also have an Amazon wishlist myself. I made it a few years back, judging by some of the dates on the items I selected -- obviously done while I was going through a short-lived Eleanor of Aquitaine phase (I found her annoying after a while and could sympathesize with poor Henry who finally locked her away) -- and then promptly forgot about the darn thing until recently. So now that that hypocritical note is out of the way, I feel more prepared to talk about registries.

Recently, my parents received two wedding invitations. One included four cards -- four! -- to the various stores where the bride and groom were registered. The second kindly asked that guests not bring any gifts at all. While I appreciate gift-giving as a traditional part of a wedding, a way of getting a couple started in their lives, these days it's not as important, at least not in my experience. People are getting married later, they have jobs, they accumulate stuff, they live together, etc. As a result, a lot of registries are filled with the more extravagant "wants" rather than the more basic needs.

More and more, I'm turning into an anti-registry person. Why? Because it feels like an obligation, that some events exist solely for the purpose of bestowing gifts and in some cases, the recipients are more excited about the gifts than the fact you attended their special event (this actually happened to me and because it had been a financial burden to make the trip to attend, it was a wee bit hurtful as well). You're no longer giving gifts to the new mother because you want to but because she is registered at Babies R Us and so the expectation is written in black and white. Granted, registering makes it easy when you want to give a gift and I'm guessing that for most big events, we really do want to give something as a token of the celebration, and hell, why not request it?

But back to my original bottomline: I think it was so very cool of that couple to request no gifts on their wedding invitations. I think it was cool and classy and it showed they were inviting you, not because they wanted your gifts, but they wanted you. Compare that to someone who enclosed four registry cards in her invitation.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Gets you where it hurts

Here's an article on the spiraling cost of textbooks. I think $900 is about right for texts, and it's wonderful when you get $200 of that back; I actually did okay by selling many of mine on and a few that I couldn't, I donated to textbook programs going to schools in Africa.

Speaking of Africa, since our media does not seem to want do its job, I wanted to alert you to the current situation in the Sudan. Given that this is the ten year anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, what's going on in Sudan would be a perfect opportunity for the world community to prove that it has changed and it is commited to making a difference and saving lives.

However, this doesn't seem to be the case and all we have is a lukewarm statement from the President, in which he condemns the atrocities, but once again, does not call it genocide à la Clinton, nor does he promise military help. The situation is serious and warrants being taken seriously, yet it seems the world powers have once again forgotten their vow of "never again."

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Internet sweet internet

My connectivity problems have finally been solved, after driving me batty for the last month or so. Of course this means my collection of emails etc is, well, staggeringly large, especially those in the Yahoo! account, because most of the timeouts happened -- you guessed it -- in Yahoo (and also the local library).

So, am a little behind but I hope to catch up slowly over the next few days. It doesn't help we've been down a person at work so I've been busier than usual.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Google bomb

I wasn't planning on blogging today out of respect for what happened in Rwanda, but I discovered that the word Jew had been google bombed to what can only be described as a 'hate' site. I can't think of a more appropriate topic to blog about on this day than who is a Jew and point people in the right direction to learn about Jews. Whoever set up this google-bomb has a sick sense of humor and if you blog/LJ, please do what you can to make sure that the google-bomb about Jews is pointing elsewhere. We should have absolutely no patience for this kind of thing.

And just for good measure, Jew and Jews. Take that, google bomb!

Monday, April 05, 2004

The April that would not end

After blogging about shameful consumerism, it feels shallow, almost disrespectful to address something on the opposite side of the spectrum: the shameful neglect of the genocide in Rwanda. The ten-year anniversary of that particular holocaust is upon us and it's probably a good time to ask how the world could so ignore the slaughter of thousands in just a matter of days? In case you want some statistics, that's 800,000 people in 100 days, 250,000 people in Kigali alone. This was a planned and determined extermination by the interim government in order to remove opposition. Rwanda is such a clear case of genocide, and still no one did anything, despite that in 1945, after the fall of Germany, so many said, "Never again."

You can talk about Iraqis needing saving all day long, but that's just changing the fundamental reason for a war we never needed. When you put something under the title of humanitarian, it becomes much more palatable and justifiable. We're in Iraq because Saddam was a bad bad leader and he killed lots of people and looky at us, we're liberating them. And yet when the government of Rwanda did the same thing -- in plain sight of the world -- no nation of the world felt particularly humanitarian enough to say, "Whoa, let's go do something about that." It makes you wonder how the political process determines who we will save, who we will help, and whom we will leave alone. We all agree that there is value in life, that we value all life, yet it becomes increasingly apparent that some lives are worth more than others, hence, more worthy of saving than others. It's how that calculation is made that disturbs me. If saving Iraqis from the brutal regime of Saddam is the main and only consideration (currently as there are no WMDs) of the war there, then surely the Clinton administration should have applied that same line of thinking to Rwanda.

An excerpt from HRW's Leave None to Tell Their Story:

U.N. troops, in Rwanda under the terms of the peace accords, tried for a few hours to keep the peace, then withdrew to their posts—as ordered by superiors in New York—leaving the local population at the mercy of assailants. Officers opposed to Bagosora realized that a continuing foreign presence was essential to restricting the killing campaign and appealed to representatives of France, Belgium and the U.S. not to desert Rwanda. But, suspecting the kind of horrors to come, the foreigners had already packed their bags. An experienced and well-equipped force of French, Belgian, and Italian troops rushed in to evacuate the foreigners, and then departed. U.S. Marines dispatched to the area stopped in neighboring Burundi once it was clear that U.S.citizens would be evacuated without their help. The first impression of international indifference to the fate of Rwandans was confirmed soon after, when the Belgians began arranging for the withdrawal of their troops from the U.N. peacekeeping force. Ten of these soldiers, a contingent different from those of the evacuation expedition, had been slain and, as the organizers of the violence had anticipated, the Belgian government did not want to risk any further casualities.

You can read more about what happened in Rwanda in April of 1994 here. There will be a moment of silence at noon tomorrow in rememberance of the Rwandan slaughter.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

In which much money is spent

Today, V and I demonstrated our mastery of the capitalist system and excercised our right to go shopping as if all of the stores on the planet were going to be sucked into outerspace tomorrow. We basically hit a Very Large Mall With Many Outlet Stores and went to town. People, we had an action plan. How scary freaky is that?

The last time I went shopping, I came home with outfits in red, black and white. This time, my shopping involved pretty pastels, including pink and baby blue. I was getting all excited about the girly girl pink and I even was persuaded to try on a gentle yellow sweater, but ended up not getting that. My haul, for those of you who care about the nitty gritty details, was: one pair of low-rider khakis, one baby blue cable knit sweater, one baby blue stretch button down shirt, one pink sweater, two tank tops (one beige, the other red) and one pair of yoga pants (the new term for sweat pants). V's haul was much greater than mine and I was in awe.

We had so many bags at one point we were falling all over ourselves. Add V's large diet Coke and two handbags and we could barely keep things from falling out of our arms. Finally, we figured out the magic of organizing ourselves and putting bags inside of bags (V actually tossed one of hers out) and that made it a little less crazy.

All in all, a very good day. It's nice to have some color in my wardrobe, and we both agreed that we don't have to go visit the temple of capitalism again until the fall. Whew! To be honest, I really, really don't like shopping, but with good company and comfortable shoes, it can be bearable.

Friday, April 02, 2004


My school just went way way way up in the US World & News ranking. Which is even cooler when you realize that the ranking is based on my graduating class. In other words, we rocked. When it comes to the MBA, the higher the ranking, the oh so better the results you get for your MBA. And even better, we're tied with the Big University to the West! Whoop!

::happy dance::

I've finally changed the CD in my alarm clock. After weeks and weeks of Lorenna McKennit, I switched over to Sarah Brightman's "Harem Tour" CD, courtesy of T'Other Logan. I have very specific requirements for the type of music I like to wake up to, thanks in part to a rude, rude awakening to Tejano. Tejano is the kind of music you think, "Wow, accordians! Peppy!" and then you switch the station really quickly. (I'd go about radio DJs too, but I'm running out of time).

Like I said, Liz sent me Harem Tour. I'd heard rumors at the concert that there was a special CD available for sale, but never quite chased them down. Plus, I was pretty sure this tour CD would end up being another Classics disappointment. Luckily for me, Liz and her friend are more devoted fans than I and so I got my hot little hands on the CD, with All!New!Songs with the exception of A Question of Honour, which has been around for absolutely forever. So far, My Imagination is my favorite; it's got that pop, light-hearted sound I enjoyed so much about Dive.

In fact, as I was telling Liz, Sarah's sound is very different on this CD. You can tell it was recorded quite some time ago, because several of the songs also have an Eden vibe to them. Plus, her voice sounds a lot less, I don't know how to put this, but pure? Maybe untrained? Harem is a good CD, but she sounds a lot more affected than ever before. I think this tour CD captures Old!Sarah perfectly and while there are some things that just get better with time, nostalgia also can be meaningful.


Don't you hate mystery books when about 100 pages from the end you figure out whodunit? Gah. I still stayed up until about 12:30 last night to finish off the book. It was Steve Martini's The Arraignment, and no, I don't recommend it; the suspension of disbelief was almost too much to take, not to mention the whole crazy mystery and obviousness of the suspect. Martini is the type of anvil-dropping author, which these days makes me absolutely nuts. He's so fond of writing something and then telling the reader what it means. For example, Martini will write an exchange very similar to the following:

"It is raining," Harry tells me. He's talking about the weather.

Read 300 pages of that and it'll slowly drive you insane. And I'm probably not one to criticize the first-person/present tense method of writing, but Martini is not particularly good at that either. He overuses the phrase "tells me" or "tells him" and I think, to make his thrillers more literary in value, he adds tons and tons of metaphors and similes. Add on top of that, his OC Paul Madriani is a self-righteous, smug Mary Sue who is absolutely insufferable. It's never a good sign when the reader is rooting for the hero of the novel to be dropped off the edge of a Mayan pyramid.

Next up is Jhumpa Lahiri's "The Namesake."

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Google is hiring!

Check out the opportunity of a lifetime here.