Sunday, September 30, 2007

Snip, snip

I cut off all my hair. My head feels about 10 pounds lighter. I'm not sure what to do with the new, shorter look, which now that it has dried, makes it appear that a giant bush with unruly branches is attached to my neck. The good thing is my hair grows back very, very quickly.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


I'm nearly finished with Reading Lolita in Tehran and it's been a slow, infuriating read, I have to say. It's a rather pedantic, plodding memoir (I'd rather call it a 'lecture') juxtoposing Iranian society from the Revolution through the Iraq-Iran War to the time the author finally leaves the country. Interwoven throughout are long expositions about novels including "Lolita" and "Pride and Prejudice" and of course, the trial of "The Great Gatsby". All of this would be interesting if the book didn't rely so much on the fact the reader must have read all the novels referenced. Without that frame of reference, it really felt like I'd come to English class without reading the homework assignment.

I wanted to know more about the women in the memoir and how they felt about the changes and how they were coping. That was the infuriating part. The author could touch on emotions, could often delicately elicit a certain feeling, and then she would drop it like a hot potato without exploring it. For instance, she talks about not wanting to wear the veil, which is fine, but tell us why. There are so many instances like this whether the author will make an emotional statement but never takes it all the way through to its final conclusion. The isolationism in which she couches her opinions and feelings makes it hard to really get into the book and absorb what points the author is trying to make.

Because of the 'lecture' format of the novel and the way it jumps from situation to situation, it's really hard to get a sense of anyone except for the narrator. The women in her class are simply women who have endured, but you never get a sense of who they are, what they want, and what moves them or what they need. Every now and then, there's a tragic episode that happens to one of these women, and the emotion is definitely felt, but is immediately forgotten in the next chapter because there doesn't really seem to be a desire on the author's part to somehow pull these women together and present a coherent picture of what is happening to them. Instead, to make her point, Nafisi will go on about a novel, usually Nabokov, who makes entirely too many appearances, comparing it to the current situation. That works if the reader has actually read the novels in question. In my case, I'd only read one -- Pride & Prejudice -- and because the women in the book club were simply footnotes, I'd lost all ability to distinguish one from the other by the end of the 300 some odd pages.

The book is well-written, though the paragraph formats are funky and quotations are optional and seemingly used at whim; it's very strange and can be hard to follow every now and then, not to mention highly annoying. Plus there are weird shifts of time, tense, location, and heck, people who were in one paragraph have phased themselves out of the next. Getting through this book is not necessarily so much hard as it's an act of brute force.

There are some great insights in the book (I did find the author's take on the format of "Pride and Prejudice" interesting) but you never quite feel anything about anything that actually happens in it because it's written about in such a measured, professorial tone. For me, that was most disappointing thing. In a time like this, I really wanted to understand more, and instead, I came away feeling like I'd just been in a semester-long English class than just happened to be taught in Tehran.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


You can find anything on E-Bay! Belgium, for instance.

Newsflash: Women are making more money than men in NYC and it's impacting their dating lives. Not necessarily news -- I have several female friends who make more money than their significant others, but they seem to be doing okay; it's the sign of the times. This paragraph is kind of funny: So as not to flaunt her own salary, Lori Weiss, a 29-year-old lawyer in Manhattan, has found herself clipping price tags off expensive clothes she buys on shopping binges, or hiding shopping bags in the closet just so men she was dating would not see them lying around and feel threatened by her spending power.

My take is, if the guy you're dating is THAT sensitive and you have to hide THAT much from him, it's not going to work out. Plus, doesn't the whole thing just reek of stalkerism? As if the guy you're dating is going to paw through your bags and your closet to see just how much you paid for stuff? Please. That'd be grounds for walking papers.

You can calculate your carbon footprint here. I'm more than twice the national average. I do take issue with the car size though because I drive a small car and a four door sedan can be twice the size of my car and get a lot worse mileage. Of course, now I'm just sounding defensive (g). I've set a goal for myself to recycle more, but I haven't been doing a good job of it. Recycling here in Red State isn't a priority and so it's actually kind of difficult to do it. There is a recycling center near me, so maybe I should try and get my act together. Still feeling defensive though...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


So last week I went to the East Coast and returned, all in less than 24 hours. It was a crazy trip, fast and furious, but everything went well and I was very relieved to be back home after what can be, by all accounts, termed a successful trip. I just find it amazing that 8 pm in the evening on Tuesday I was standing in the rental car lot at the Philadelphia Airport and by 8 pm the next evening, I was walking through the garage at Sweat Sock City's airport looking for my own car. The funniest thing was just how many people on my return flight had flown to Philly the day before as well and most of them had taken the later non-stop flight. Ah technology. You can be gone and back before anyone even notices...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Keeping house

I heard or read somewhere recently that if something will take you less than 20 seconds to do, you should do it right away. So I tried it one day and unwittingly, in less than an hour, I had most of my place cleaned up. I've been going by that philosophy pretty much every day now and the big pay off came this weekend when I was sitting on my futon trying to figure out what in the heck chores I needed to take care of. Usually a good chunk of every weekend is devoted to taking care of things I didn't do during the week. Yet, this weekend, I found myself curiously free of mundane things like putting away my work clothes or folding laundry or emptying the sink of dishes. All of those things had already been accomplished and I was left with my usual weekend chores of bathroom cleaning and shopping. It was an awesome feeling.

The other thing I'm working on right now is cleaning my closet. I've gone on a couple of shopping sprees lately to replace and update my outdated wardrobe. My new job requires a more professional look and I've also been working out hard and with enough watchings of "What Not To Wear", I also know how to dress myself. The end result is that I have to donate older clothes to make room for the new (good-bye high-waisted, elastic pants! (g)). My problem comes out of a sense of loyalty. There are things hanging in my closet that just look old and tired and I haven't worn them in forever. But they have nostalgic effect for me and even though I know the chances of wearing them are next to nothing, I can't bear to part with them.

For instance, I have a skirt hanging in my closet that I bought just before starting my job at Very Big Insurance Company. Hem lines were much shorter 10 years ago than they are now, and the skirt is high waisted. The material is black rayon with speckles of tan all over it it, so it isn't the most pretty thing around. I wore it recently and it wasn't particularly flattering, yet I can't bring myself to part it with it. The other candidate for dismal is a pretty green cordoroy jumper that is too precious for words and I still love it, even though I acquired it back in college. Again, the hem length is way too short for someone in the three decade of life. Still, can't part with it. I have a tank top from college that I keep thinking I'll wear, but with new styles today, the shirt isn't long enough to reach the tops of my low-rise pants, so I can't wear it or I'll be flashing people all day long. Yet, it still hangs, somehow earning reprieve after reprieve. Too bad the 20-second rule isn't as effective on my closet as it is on the rest of my house.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


I'm starting to think the only thing Larry Craig is truly guilty of is indecisiveness which in turns leads to stupid and hasty decisions. His inability to excercise judgment of any kind is possibly the best reason why he should NOT be in Congress.
Seema a go go

One of the hardest parts of the new job is getting used to the commute. This is the longest commute I've ever had. Combine that with the fact Sweat Sock City highways give me a nervous breakdown every 32 seconds, I'm not necessarily the happiest camper first thing in the morning or right at quitting time. Today, it took me an hour and fifteen minutes to get home. And keep in mind, this is going against traffic. Of course, today was special circumstances -- a truck had overturned on the overpass near my exit and hence, the entire freeway had been shut down to clear out the mess. I didn't hear any mention of injuries, so that's a Good Thing (tm).

I detoured prior to my exit, otherwise I'm pretty sure I still wouldn't be home. The alternate route is much less trafficked and one I use when the weather is bad (read: torrential downpours with zero visibility and street flooding what you might call a daily occurance here in Sweat Sock City this year). This route also takes me through one of the poorer sections of town. It's an odd juxtaposition -- dilapidated houses held together by paint and willpower, yards overgrown with weeds, the road a patchwork of different colored asphalt because no one cares enough to redo it against the soaring silver and glass skyline of one of the country's largest cities. In this neighborhood, time seems to stand still.

Dogs languidly creep across the street, pausing to check both ways. Once, I saw a dog standing on the low roof of a back yard cottage. People cross the street, slowly, and anywhere they wish to; crosswalks don't seem to mean a thing here. Every other block has a lot overgrown with weeds. There are many abandoned buildings with black signs with "For Sale" printed on them in red block letters. The billboards are all in Spanish and promote local health care clinics and the community college. The cars parked on the street and in driveways are late models, usually Fords or Chevys, their color dulled by a coat of dust. There's only one metro bus line that runs through this area and the bus is always full. Occasionally I see a taxi drive through, but I've never seen one stop. One auto repair shop seems to have given into its surroundings and graffited its own walls with a list of services available. It's the only business open on this three mile stretch of road.

There's a yellow apartment house (complex?) that gets me every time. There are two buildings, and one of them looks like it has been condemned. The windows and doors have been boarded up. The other one is open for living, yet the windows are broken, the doors to the staircase are perpetually open revealing rickety stairs and the yard is littered with trash. There are always people sitting outside of this house, no matter the weather, and occasionally they have beer. There are always children in the group. Once, I drove by and saw Sweat Sock City's finest in the yard. They had two of the teenagers facedown on the ground, and one of the cops had his gun drawn. In three months of driving through this neighborhood, that's the only time I've seen the cops.

This must have been a pretty area once. I see the echoes of history as I get closer to downtown. There are buildings that look at home in an episode of "Little House on the Praire", there's an old church, a rundown general store building, and all around, this lush, lush greenery courtesy of this summer's crazy weather. But it's as if the whole area has given up and boarded up these beautiful old buildings, letting the elements take their toll on structure and foundation. Somehow, the financial success of Sweat Sock City and its enormous growth in the last five years haven't filtered down to this neighborhood. Soon, the investors will move in and tear down these feeble structures, essentially evicting the current residents. And as much as I want this area to be cleaned up, brought back to life, I can't help but wonder what will happen to the people who live there when the change comes.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Sunday not so blue

I can't believe the weekend is 66 percent finished. I shouldn't be dismayed, because I got a lot done, including finishing that story I've been belly-aching about for MONTHS. I finished it this morning and parts of it fell immediately into place and other parts that have been bugging me were 'easily' rectified. It's as if I had to put it aside for a while, let it ferment, and then go off and do a whole lot of reading just to remind myself how it's done. In fact, I think the break was good for me because I'd fallen into a rut, was making the same stylistic choices and using some of the same phrasing over and over again. I'm not saying I didn't do that here, but I do think I approached it with a somewhat different mindset because I've been away so long.

I also think my summer of reading was a good way to ease back in. I was able to see what worked for writers and what doesn't work. Plus, I was exposed to different styles of writing, different genres, different cultures and different tonal qualities. All of that helps shape my approach. The lack of exposure and laziness got me into my old pattern and yes, it worked for a while, but it was kind of like writing the same story over and over again. The feel was always the same, the characterizations, the moods, etc. I'm not necessarily saying that's gone this time around, but I'm more aware and I think that's important. Hopefully I can keep this momentum going.

I finally tackled those pesky house chores that just never seem to go away. What's up with the sink NEVER being completely empty of dishes? What about the laundry that never seems to be done? It's like I empty the sink and do dishes and turn around and lo behold, gotta do it again. Oh well. If this is the worst problem I have to deal with, I'll take it!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Three day weekend

It's the end of summer as we know it and wow, what a summer it's been. I closed one chapter of this summer by turning in all of my paperwork to the court this afternoon. I dropped my car off for an oil change and then walked the two blocks to the court. It was pretty warm, and I was feeling a little sore, since I had already worked out for 90 minutes this morning. I had to wait in line, but I felt happy because it was like FINALLY, I can put this all behind me and look at me being more than 30 days in front of the deadline.

Anyway, I got my stuff into the court clerk and was dismayed to learn that my 'receipt' is only that I've completed and turned the necessary paperwork in to dismiss my ticket. My ticket hasn't been dismissed and I STILL have to wait for the judge. The good thing is my deadline was Oct. 9 so if I don't hear anything via snail mail, I have plenty of time to call in and check before my Next Very Big Vacation (tm).

I continue to read my way through the summer. I already talked about Harry Potter and Khaled Hosseni's latest book. The Middle East theme continues as I most recently picked up "Reading Lolita in Tehran"; it's all about books forbidden in Iran, mostly concerning books I've never read. Now I know how "The Great Gatsby" ends. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I also finished Bob Woodward's biography of Hillary Clinton called "A Woman in Charge." Next on my list is "Gods and Generals" by Jeff Schaara. I also finished "Snowflower and the Secret Fan" by Lisa See and "Cold Sassy Tree" by Olive Ann Burns, both for my book club. "A Confederacy of Dunces" is on my immediate reading list as well and I'm waiting for a bunch of books at the library.

All in all, a pretty decent summer. I've settled into the new job pretty well after a couple of months of stress and mental gymnastics. The commute and early hours are getting better, but I do miss the proximity of downtown and the pure joy I felt wandering through the narrow streets and gazing up at towers of glass and steel. My social life has gotten a little out of control with nearly something going on every weekend and several nights a week. Of course, I'm happy about that in the best possible way after several years of sulking on my futon. Finally, I am seeing some SERIOUS muscle definition. All those hours in the gym are paying off big time. I love the fact that when my arm stops moving, so do my triceps, biceps, and every thing else that used to jiggle. All in all, it's been a great summer and I'm sad to see it end.