Friday, July 29, 2005

This week's homework: Travel Books

For this week's homework, Scalzi asks:

Weekend Assignment #70: Suggest a book for a long trip. You know, something to keep me from banging my head against the plane wall as I'm bored out of my skull at 36,000 feet above the chilly North Atlantic. I'm open to fiction and non-fiction, and I like to read from all genres. I don't mind something challenging, but this should be a book for enjoyment; I'm not planning to study for a test or anything. Please don't recommend a book that's sold over, say, 5 million copies, because that's waaaay too easy. So no Harry Potters or DaVinci Codes or the Five People You Meet in Heaven or most primary religious texts or stuff like that. You know what I'm talking about, here.

Extra Credit: If you have any special tips or techniques you used for dealing with long trips, I'd love to hear them.

Can do. 

I read a lot of science fiction, but, as far as I'm concerned, planes are made for Dick Francis novels.  There was a while there when, if a new Dick Francis book came out, I'd wait to read it until I had someplace to go.  Because they're almost exactly the length of a transcontinental plane ride and nothing can make time pass quite like them.  They're engrossing, but require little thought.

I'm sure he's sold a gazillion books -- there's about 40 titles -- and they're all, in a few particulars, very much the same.  It's a formula, but it works.  They are all mysteries.  They all have something to do with horseback riding (Francis is a former jockey).  They are all told in the first person, by a male protagonist who is (generally) not a detective but ends up involved in investigating someone's death, or a theft, or race-fixing, or something like that.  They all have one sex scene (rumored that Francis's wife writes those).  There will always, always, be one scene where the protagonist is tortured, or kidnapped, or thrown off a balcony, or otherwise finds himself in an extremely unpleasant situation he has to get himself out of.  It's those scenes that Francis writes particularly well.  He is quite good on the details, and it's real edge-of-your-seat stuff.

The books all have titles that generally have something to do with racing, but you tend to remember them by either the job of the protagonist (the painter, the toymaker, the actor...) or whatever horrible scrape Francis writes him into (handcuffed to the steering wheel of his car, shot with a crossbow, had to pop his dislocated shoulder back in...). 

Although all the books are largely the same, there are two exceptions.  First, the bad news.  Some of his more recent books have kinda, uh, sucked.  You needn't start with his first novel, but, if you want to be safe, go back to something pre-1985; they're a little spotty after that.  The good news, however, is that two of the books are exceptional.  In 1965, Francis bent the mold a bit with a book called Odds Against.  (Don't let the 1965 date throw you -- it reads completely contemporary were it not for a single reference to the Beatles.)  There's a sequel written in 1979 called Whip Hand which is also fabulously good.  He picked up an Edgar for that one, and deservedly so.  Get them both for a really long plane trip. 

Extra Credit:  My prescription for dealing with jet lag, in two parts:

Part the first:  When you get on the plane, set your watch to the time at your destination, and try to act accordingly.  This is almost impossible if you get on the plane, advance your watch, and discover you should be asleep.  But try your best.  The point is, your body will have a hard time telling the difference between 4 hours sitting in your seat and 6 hours sitting in your seat.  Look at your watch frequently to see what time your body is supposed to think it is, and eventually, it'll start to sound right.

Part the second:  To complete your transformation to local time, stay awake until a decent hour (no matter how tired you are).  If it's a theatre town, I will buy tickets to the Loudest Most Obnoxious Musical I can find.  (In the past, I have used:  Tommy, Mamma Mia, and We Will Rock You -- the latter, I think, was invented just to help people get over jet lag.)  If there's nothing like that available, try a comedy club.  If you have to, just stay in your hotel room and watch TV.  You can even stretch out on the bed.  But DO NOT go to sleep until a decent hour.  It's hard, but you'll thank me when you sleep through the night.

Monday, July 25, 2005

No, not THAT

Oh, the shame of it all.

Last week, my thumb started hurting.  I thought it was "mouse thumb" from not using an ergonomically correct pointing device.  I went out and bought a soft brace to wear while typing, and tried to minimize my computer usage.

Today, I brought the brace to work, but didn't need to use it.  I was totally fine mousing.  My mouse thumb was healed!

I got home, sat down to watch TV, and the pain immediately returned.

It wasn't the mouse.  It was my remote control.

OK. Where's the next one?

My journal entries have been a little sparse last week, because I was reading the Harry Potter book.  So was the amount of sleep I got most nights.

But, I finished it by Friday, at which time productivity could return to normal.  Considering how many copies of the book were sold, I wonder if the overall amount of homework completed in this country dipped last week.  Perhaps the GNP, as well.

Quite liked it.  Perhaps the best of the bunch.  I was pleasantly surprised by this, because I'd thought the last one (Order of the Phoenix) kinda blew.

Here's the thing.  Despite the impression my late-night reading sessions may have given you, I'm not what you'd call a Harry Potter Dork.  I read the books, I see the movies -- that's pretty much it.  I don't re-read all the previous novels before I start the next one.  I just trust in my memory (and whatever sort of summary the author provides) to get me through.  And this has been something of a problem with the last couple of books.  Firstly, Rowling provides no summary.  OK, the books are a worldwide phenomenon and obviously she doesn't feel the need to waste a chapter or two reminding everyone what's been going on.  But some of us could really use it.  Before reading this book, if you'd asked me, I could've rattled off the names (and some distinguishing characteristics) for some twenty characters in the series.  Maybe twenty-five, if pressed.  Now that number might sound impressive, but it's nothing compared to the dozens of characters that float in and out of these books and which Rowling expects us to remember whenever she drops them in.  Well, I don't.  Not hardly.  And this has detracted, somewhat, from my enjoyment of the fourth and fifth books in this series, because Rowling expected me to actually be up on all these people.  Indeed, it was sort of necessary to know who was who and what was what in order to understand all the plot twists.

This latest, Half-Blood Prince, takes place almost exclusively in the universe peopled by the twenty-some-odd characters I'm on good terms with.  Right there, it puts the book ahead of its two most recent predecessors, simply because I know what the hell is going on.

The other thing I liked about this book is that I had absolutely no clue what the hell was going on.  By the time you're just a few chapters into the book, the story's three main mysteries have been set out for you.  (More or less:  Who is the Half-Blood Prince?  What is Draco's task?  If Dumbledore is right and Snape is good, how the hell is he going to get out of this one?)  And by the time I got to the climax of the book and all was revealed, I could confidently say I had no idea as to the answer to any of these questions.  (At one time, I'd considered the right answer to one of them, but rejected it.)  I like to think I'm pretty good at guessing plot twists, yet for the sixth consecutive book, Rowling got ahead of me.  But what made this book better than the last few was that this time she was playing fair.  No more making the plot depend on characters or old plot elements I can't remember -- she played on a level playing field with players I knew well, and she still beat me good.

Can't wait for the next one.  Because I'm sure that, between now and the time it comes out, I will have forgotten everything again.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Targeted Marketing

Over the weekend, I've seen this ad for Febreze about a zillion times.  They tell you to take the "Febreze challenge" by putting away all your other air fresheners and adding Febreze to your "daily tidying-up routine."

My what?

I'm sorry.  My "daily tidying-up routine" is making sure there's sheets on the bed before I jump into it.

Pet Peeve #203 -- Let Me See...

Here's the scenario.  I'm on a first date with some guy.  We're sitting across the table from each other at a restaurant.  Doing that whole try-to-get-to-know-each-other-even-though-you're-both-trying-to-make-the-best-impression thing.  It's going pretty well.  We laugh a little, have a few of those moments of common understanding, and then it happens.  He asks The Question.

"Hey, what do you look like without your glasses on?"

Or, what's even more annoying, sometimes he'll just reach over the table, and tweak my glasses off, with the explanation, "I want to see what you really look like."

Yeah, well, I want to see what you look like without your pants, but I'm not--  OK, bad example.

The thing of it is ... what I really look like is the person sitting here with a pair of eyeglasses on her head.  I've worn glasses since I was an infant.  I've never known a time when I didn't wear them.  While they weren't exactly factory-installed original equipment, you can think of them as a dealer-added option.  Kinda like floor mats. 

And if you think about it, there is absolutely no graceful way you can get out of it, once you've asked to see me sans spectacles. 

What usually happens is my date will then compliment me on how attractive I look without the glasses.  This path is fraught with danger.  It inevitably leads to, "Have you ever considered contacts?"

"Contacts?!  Oh my God!  You mean I can get little lenses and stick them in my eyes and not have to wear glasses?  Thank you!  Thank you, kind sir, for telling me about an option that will allow me to go through life showing off my natural beauty in a way that is so clearly preferable to the unattractive eyeglass-wearer you see before you!  Wow!  I'm gonna call my eye doctor tomorrow and get a prescription!  Thank you!  Thank you!"

It would be as if you've asked me if I've ever considered ... I don't know... going braless or something.  Sure, you might find that more attractive, but for reasons of my own physical comfort I'd like to keep the bra, thanks very much.  The point is, the eyeglasses -- just like the undergarments -- are something I've chosen to wear, rather than not wear.  And, you, as my date, should just appreciate the entire package as is, or take a hike.

Friday, July 22, 2005

The End of the Trend?

I've grown so accustomed to those big droopy shorts that guys wear now, it looks funny when I see an old picture of someone like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in his heydey, wearing close-cropped shorts.

Today, when I walked into my building at work, I saw a teenager in a real big pair of shorts.  Man, those suckers were baggy and they went all the way below his knees.

And all I could think was, "Dude, you're lookin' mighty tough in them culottes."

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Me Day

My Saturday was lining up as a totally perfect selfish day.  No doing laundry, no paying bills, just one full day of me-time.  I'd even planned to write a journal entry afterward, extolling the virtues of having a Me Day, and recommending that everyone try it out.

The plan, as it developed, went something like this:  Friday, I was out late, got home around 12:30 a.m.  While normally that's a little on the late side, it suited my purposes perfectly.  I'd put a bowl of wet food out for the cat, run down to the bookstore while she was eating it, pick up a copy of the new Harry Potter book, come home, wash out the cat food bowl, go to sleep. 

That's what we call the Preparation Stage.

Saturday itself was to work something like this:  Sleep in.  Wake up.  Have lunch.  Go see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with friends.  Stop off at the market on the way home and pick up a carry-out dinner.  And lots of dessert.  Pick up the shuttle bus to the Hollywood Bowl.  Read book on bus.  Meet friends for a picnic before the show (sharing the dessert I conveniently bought a lot of).  Enjoy the show, reading more Harry Potter during intermission.  Come home.  Journal about what a totally cool day I had, what with enjoying cultural events spanning film, music, and literature.

This is what actually happened:

I showed up at Borders at 12:45.  They were calling numbers 161-180 to buy the book.  The next numbered ticket you could get was 351.  I realized that if I took 351, I wouldn't get the book until 1:30.  I was already not happy with the way this was turning out, but I reluctantly asked the guy with the tickets (he was hard to miss, what with the pointy hat and all) for 351.  He wouldn't give it to me.  You could only get a ticket if you'd pre-ordered the book.  Those who hadn't pre-ordered had to get into (he actually called it this) the "bad people line" -- which was outside the building.  They'd only get their books after everyone who had pre-ordered (and shown up) was served.  He had 1000 pre-orders.  He guesstimated they'd get to the bad people line around 3:00 a.m.

I went home.  Cat hadn't touched her food.

So far, we were off to a rollicking good start.

Saturday morning, I overslept.  Met my friends for the movie but missed lunch.  (Well, no.  It was a Me Day so I had ice cream for lunch.  Well....technically, the ice cream was breakfast and I had popcorn for lunch.)  After the movie, I went to the grocery store and picked up my sandwich to go.  And a box of chocolate chocolate chip muffins for dessert.  Which didn't seem quite enough for the three of us, so I got a box of lemon muffins too.

Before heading off for the shuttle bus, I checked my email.  My friend -- who I was meeting at the Bowl for a pre-show picnic -- had to work late so wouldn't be going.

Now it was extra important that I pick up the Harry Potter book, seeing as I had a picnic dinner (with tons o' muffins) I'd be eating all by myself.  I put my picnic basket in the back of my car, and headed back to Borders.  Where there's a big stack of Harry Potter books.

"Can I buy one of them Harry Potter books please?"
"Did you pre-order it?"
"I'm sorry; we're sold out except for pre-orders.  We can put you on the waiting list.  You should get the book by Tuesday."

Tuesday?  TUESDAY??  That's like watching the Rose Parade on January 6th.

I walk out and drive to another bookstore -- one which is not part of a chain.  The upside is, they had many copies of Harry Potter they were more than happy to sell me.  The downside is:  full price.  OK, fine.  My own stupid fault for not pre-ordering.  Still -- you want to get in on the cultural phenomenon when everyone else is, you gotta cough up the cash.  Besides, I had a perfectly good Me Day I was trying to salvage.

I arrive at the parking lot to get the shuttle to the Hollywood Bowl.  Toss the book in my picnic basket and run down the stairs ... only to find some moron has locked the gate at the bottom of the stairs and I can't get through it.  I run back upstairs and try a second staircase.  This one actually gets me down to the street... just in time for me to see the shuttle bus fill up and pull out.

So I wait around for the next shuttle and cram myself on that one.  Get to the Hollywood Bowl.  Find my seat.  Open up my picnic basket and start in on my sandwich and side salad, while balancing Harry Potter on my knee.  By about four pages in, I'd dribbled dill all over my full-price hard cover book.  But it's my book and it's a Me Day dammit, so I don't effin' care!

I cram the rest of my dinner down my face -- saving a pair of muffins for dessert at intermission -- and get one chapter read by the time the concert starts.  (A Gershwin celebration.  Very nice.)  I'm really getting into this pianist dude who is totally rockin' Rhapsody in Blue when I start to feel not so good.  I don't want to be all Too Much Information with you people, but maybe it isn't such a good idea to start off the day with ice cream and a large popcorn, and then top it all off with a meat sandwish and fruit salad that have been baking in the back of your car for an hour while you drive to half the bookstores in town trying to find someone willing to sell you the most popular book in America.  It dawns on me that perhaps I want to get to the Ladies Room like now, excepting I'm sitting smack dab in the middle of a row and would have to hurdle at least ten people on either side (all of whom are enraptured by this Rhapsody in Blue dude, who really is quite good).

By some miracle I make it to intermission without any unfortunate incidents, and damn near fly to the restroom.  I return to my seat for the second half of the concert -- I don't dare touch the muffins at this point -- and while I'm enjoying the music and the stars overhead and the cool breeze ... I promptly doze off and am only awakened by the raucous applause around me and the house lights coming up, telling me it's time to go home.

Hmmm.  Perhaps this whole selfishness thing isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Why am I Here?

Judith HeartSong is running an essay contest where the topic is

Why I Keep A Journal

Thought I'd give it a shot...

I jumped into a canyon.  Put on a harness, clipped it onto the safety line, said a prayer in the direction of whomever protects you from your own stupidity, and stepped off the platform.  Queenstown, New Zealand.  One hundred and nine meters.

The girl who jumped after me took forever to go.  She was scared to death.  Some rational part of her brain knew that she wanted to do this, in order to overcome her fear of heights.  But her irrational fear wasn't at all that happy with this plan, and kept pulling her back from the edge.

I didn't take very long to jump at all.  Now, you might blame this on the fact that I was so jet lagged I wasn't thinking straight, but I attribute it to the fact that I was journalling the trip.  The scared girl and I were in something of the same boat -- we were both alone, thousands of miles from our home, standing on a rickety platform over that awfully deep canyon.  But I had the advantage because I knew my little corner of the AOL J-Land community was behind me on this ... and that they'd never let me live it down if I wussed out.  As soon as I signed up to get on that shuttle out to the jump site, I knew I'd jump -- because I couldn't let my readers down.

Journalling has definitely changed the way I travel ... and for the better.  I've always travelled alone, but knowing that I'm simultaneously documenting the trip has made a world of difference.  I take more pictures (because I'll want to illustrate my entries).  I waste less time (because I hate to think of the impression I'm making if I "kill time" while in a wonderful foreign place).  I'm more willing to try new things (because I know that even if I don't enjoy the experience, I'll still have the experience itself to share).  On the whole, knowing that I'll be journalling an adventure makes me more aware of the world around me and my reaction to it. 

And the real beauty part is that it doesn't apply only to travel.  It's the exact same story when we're talking about the ol' journey we're all taking through life.  Physicists will tell you that "the act of observing affects the observed," and, through my journal, my life has all of a sudden become the observed.  And knowing that it is observed has changed it.  I am more eager to find the humor in things.  I more easily recognize my own negativity and frustration.  I take more pictures of my cat being cute.

I originally started this journal because I wanted an outlet to share my random observations -- be they about petty annoyances, disappointing movies, ridiculous news stories, the fact that I don't fit into a size 4 anymore, or whatever other thing was keeping me up at 2:30 in the morning demanding to be written.  And in all of that, I never once imagined that by giving myself that outlet, I would actually transform the way I approach the world.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Homework -- Viva La France

For this week's homework, Scalzi asks:

Weekend Assignment #68: Take a moment to appreciate something French. Tell us about that French thing you most appreciate. It could be anything, from a particular French wine to your favorite French filmmaker to the fact they like Jerry Lewis more than we.

I'm not sure if it's the French thing I most appreciate, but one French thing I'm awfully fond of are the Olympic Games.

Yes, yes, I know.  Greek in origin.

But they would have pretty much remained a historic relic were it not for good old Baron de Coubertin (a French guy) who had the brilliant idea of creating the modern Olympic Games as an International competition.  From our pals at wikipedia

"Coubertin also thought of a way to bring nations closer together, to have the youth of the world compete in sports, rather than fight in war."

A noble goal, surely.  And, although the history of the modern Olympic Games has certainly been sullied with war, terrorism and political boycotts, we still keep trying, every two years, to recapture the spirit of friendly, peaceful competition.

Nice job, Baron.

Allow me a moment here.

The Emmy Nominations Are Out!  The Emmy Nominations Are Out!

Ooo, look at this oneToldja (see item 3 in that entry).

Read a Book, Go To Jail

From, a story about the premature sale of a handful of copies of the new Harry Potter book:

"Fourteen books were accidentally sold last week at a grocery store in Canada, but a judge ordered the customers not to talk about the book, copy it, sell it or even read it before its official release."


Try explaining THAT to your eager 10-year-old.  Worse than the whole don't-open-presents-till-Christmas-morning thing. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Bring Back The Couch!

I like the new Daily Show desk, but, dude, where'd Jon Stewart's couch go?  I don't see how his guests can loosen up for their segment when they're sitting there facing him across the desk like they're at a job interview.

Saturday, July 9, 2005

Restaurant Memories

I read that they are closing the Howard Johnson's restaurant in Times Square today.  A lot of folks are sad to see it go.  Not because the food there was particularly good (indeed, it wasn't -- and it was going downhill fast), but because -- since it was one of the few places you could get a cheap meal in Times Square, nearly everyone's got some sort of memories there.

I do.

December 1983.  (My memory is a little hazy on this and I actually dug up an old journal I kept of the trip.  Unfortunately, my writing at 15 left a lot to be desired, and I skipped over many of the details.  Tammy, I hope you'll correct me if I got any of it wrong.)

Los Angeles area high schools took part in a program where students could go to New York for a week and see plays.  Tammy and I were the only students from our respective schools who were going, so we ended up tagging along with another school.  The chaperones on the trip -- I think one of them taught at the other school -- were a couple we'll call Mr. & Mrs. F. 

One night, most of the students, and the F's, were going to see a show.  Two of us -- me and a girl named Jana -- were going to see different shows in the opposite direction -- but our two shows were on the same street.  Jana and I figured we'd meet up after our shows got out and walk back to the hotel together.

I now transcribe my journal entry from that day...

Okay, this is the way it goes.  Mrs. F. decided that Jana and I couldn't walk back from 44th alone, even though Tammy and I walked back from 44th yesterday.  She said her husband would pick us up and drop us off.  We disagreed.  Mike [another student on the trip, I guess] phoned them and said, extremely politely, that he would walk us there and the whole group would pick us up.  He was asked to go to their room, alone.  He was gone for a long time.  He came back sad, and talking in a whisper.  (Jana and I were waiting, the otherwere were downstairs.)  He came in and said, "I had to compromise my morals a lot to talk to them."  He went on to tell us that they are so bigoted and they said that "All they [black people] could do is sing, dance, rob, and rape white women."

I'd never come face to face with racism before, and really had no clue how to deal with it.  And I especially didn't know how to deal with it when the people who were being the racists were also the people who were my guardians for the trip -- the people who I was supposed to listen to as if they were my parents.  None of us knew what to do -- Mike sure didn't.  So, we did nothing, and agreed to wait around until Mr. F. picked us up.

The next day ... according to my journal the F's were "cordial" to us.  It was the last day of our trip.  We were all going to see "La Cage aux Folles" that night, and -- on our way to the theatre -- the F.'s invited all of us out for ice cream after the show.  We all agreed -- I mean, really, what teenager turns down free ice cream? 

My journal then says, "And then the fun began."

Each tour group had been assigned a local New Yorker who acted as tour guide.  Our local was a woman named Laurie.  A black woman named Laurie.

You see this coming, yes?

Laurie had apparently been putting up with crap from the F's all week, and -- this being the last day -- she had a few choice words for them.  Words like "bigoted" and "small-minded."  The F's responded that she was "rude" and had "no brains" -- and barged out the hotel door, demanding that we -- the students -- go with them.  It was almost like we were pawns in their little Race War.  The F's ran off across the street and tried to pull us all along.  Laurie held us back, telling us not to cross against the light.  The F's responded, "When have your people ever obeyed the law?"

We somehow ended up at the theatre.  Guess who was sitting next to the F's.  Me.  I can't recall what happened; my journal says, "At intermission I tried to apologize, but ended up making it worse."  (I think I had asked Mrs. F. if she was enjoying the show.  Remember, this was La Cage aux Folles.  The couple that didn't like black people weren't all that open minded when it came to homosexuals, either.)

When the show was over, Tammy and I (and perhaps the rest of the kids -- I can't remember) decided we'd go back to the hotel.  At this point, we didn't want anything to do with the F's, not even if it involved free ice cream.  And, frankly, we'd figured the invitation had been revoked.  The F's, however, were having none of that.  They told us to stop with our "junior high school pranks."  They had invited us, they said, we had accepted, and now we were going to all go "and have a good time."

We followed them to Howard Johnson's and sat down, quietly, at the table.  When they took our orders, we went for the smallest, simplest thing we could -- a single scoop of vanilla ice cream.  (In retrospect, we really should've gone for chocolate.)  But the plan was just to order something small, eat it and leave.  To say to them -- as much as we felt we could without actively disobeying -- that they weren't the sort of people we wanted to eat ice cream with.

I've been back to New York quite a bit since then.  And every time I walked by that Howard Johnson's, I remembered the F's, their bigotry, and the single scoop of ice cream that was the closest I could come to an act of defiance.

Thursday, July 7, 2005

This week's homework: Thumbs Down!

For this week's homework, Scalzi asks:

Share your favorite bad film of all time. Tell us why you love it so.

Extra Credit:
Your favorite quote from the aforementioned film.

Tough question.  There are plenty of less-than-stellar films that I love.  I'm a huge fan of The Great Mouse Detective, which seems to be The Disney Animated Movie Disney Keeps Wanting To Forget It Made.  But that one isn't so much bad as just not particularly good

For actual badness, I think you've gotta go for something from the Robin Williams oeuvre -- something where it would've been good excepting nobody had the sense to rein him in.  I'm going with Toys, which was so over-the-top, it hit bottom.

And my favorite quote -- which actually wasn't Robin Williams but LL Cool J (in one of his first film roles) -- is the classic:  "I'm a military man, I want a military meal. I want my string beans to be quarantined! I like a little fortress around my mashed potatoes so the meatloaf doesn't invade my mashed potatoes and cause mixing in my plate!"

Come on

For my friends who are not reading this on AOL -- when you log on to AOL, the welcome screen briefly shows you a picture and headline regarding the bombings in London.  Then it cycles on through other "important" news stories, like that Kelly & Alec won "Dancing with the Stars."

Show some compassion here, people.  Following up a story of a successful terrorist attack (on our greatest ally) with a piece of frivolous entertainment news cheapens it, is an offense to the injured and dead, and assumes AOL readers are so callous as to actually think the second story is as important as the first.

Monday, July 4, 2005

Petty Annoyance #145

I'm so annoyed.  Someone called me this morning at the outrageously early hour of 11:30 --

-- OK, maybe that isn't quite so early.  But it is if you've got the day off and you went to sleep around 3:00 in the morning.

I know enough to know, however, that you can't really be legitimately annoyed at someone for waking you up a half hour before noon.  That wasn't what annoyed me.

What annoyed me was that when I told the caller he had inadvertantly woken me up, he continued to chat right on, as if having a conversation when he just woke me up is something I'd rather do then, oh, go the hell back to sleep.

"Were you asleep?"


"What were you doing asleep?"

"Dude, I went to bed at 3:00 in the morning."

"What were you doing up so late?"

Getting freakin' tired, that's what I was doing up so late.  Trying to remedy that by sleeping in this morning is what I was doing when you called, and what I'd like to get back to doing if you'd be so kind as to stop with the inquisition and let me hang up.  You know, there's a window of no more than, say, 60 seconds, in which you can fall back asleep.  If you go past that and actually have a conversation, well then, you've started to function in full consciousness and there's no hope for going back to sleep for at least twelve, thirteen hours.

Of course, I didn't say all that.  I didn't even think it, at least, not consciously.  All I could think was that my legs were wobbling, there was still sleep in my eyes, and this moron was keeping me from finishing off a dream that had something to do with ... come to think of it, I can't remember, but I'm sure it was fascinating.  

His question still hung there, so I mumbled something about it being a long story (mostly because I was so tired I couldn't entirely remember, and I didn't want to tax my brain with trying to access that file) and that I'd really like to get back to sleep -- at which time my late-morning callersounded all offended that I'd rather get back to sleep than chit-chat through my sleep-deprived haze.

I don't mind the waking up -- really, I understand he was operating under the reasonable assumption that I would already be up.  But, see, when someone calls me when I'm asleep and I actually want to take the call, I'll clear my throat before I answer the phone, and I won't even sound like you woke me up.  And I'll deny it if you ask.  But if you call and I let myself continue to sound sleepy, and I tell you that you woke me up, that's your clue to let me go back to sleep.

Am I alone in this?

Sunday, July 3, 2005

Thoughts on July 4

Scalzi's weekend assignment this week is to write an Independence Day haiku.  I just can't do it.  My thoughts on July 4 are so jumbled I can't possibly gather them all into 17 syllables.

When I was a kid, I learned all the patriotic songs.  I'd wave the flag and dance around the living room.  The flag stood for "the greatest country on earth."  Freedom, justice, the American way.  All that good stuff.

When I got a little older, distrust and skepticism of government were all the rage.  Patriotism was considered corny.  Flags didn't get waved.

It all changed on September 11.  All of a sudden everyone waved American flags.  And it meant something.  Shared grief.  Solidarity.  A wordless promise that we would come together and prevent this from ever happening again. 

Changed again.  I am not happy with where my country is right now.  American men and women are dying in a war we entered on false pretenses.  (Weapons of mass destruction?  Where?)  American soldiers are torturing people based on a government determination that the Geneva Convention is "quaint" and no longer applicable.  Certain ultra-conservative types are pushing for an anti-flag burning amendment -- a position which has somehow manged to link support of the flag with support of their other political and social positions. 

I feel as though if I went out and waved the flag on July 4, I would be mistaken for someone who supports our continued involvement in Iraq, our by-any-means-necessary strategy for the war on terror, a prohibition against abortion, and an anti-gay-rights agenda.  It bothers me that Americans with beliefs so different from mine have managed to co-opt our flag as a symbol for their own agenda. 

I would like to think that waving the flag also stands for the America I'd like to see -- an America of promise, of individual rights, of respect for everyone; a country that is known the world over not only for its economic leadership, but for leading the way in solutions to the world's problems of hunger, disease, and depleting resources -- rather than simply being widely considered as an aggressor in an unnecessary war.  I wish the flag would stand for a country that fills me with pride, both for its accomplishments and the course on which it is set for the future -- but I'm afraid it doesn't right now.