Monday, March 27, 2006

Cognitive Dissonance

So first, the rundown.

I spent the past weekend in DC, since Ma and Dad bought me a ticket on Southwest for my birthday. SO much fun...very little SLEEP, but much fun. Friday I flew into BWI at 9:20, at which point Scarlett picked me up and we promptly went the wrong way on the Beltway, in accordance with District of Columbia law. That road is so deceptively looks all pretty and easy and uncomplicated, but seriously, take the one exit ONCE and you'll see why it's all a clever facade. I think I wound up visiting something like eight states, including Alaska, when trying to get to Ikea in College Park once. Criminy. Anyway, we went to South Beach in Bethesda, which we thought would be a nice mid-level activity level on a Friday night...what we found was a bunch of crazy people yelling off the balcony and nothing going on inside. Luckily, we met up with the Feminista as we were going outside, and decided to go to the Rock Bottom instead, which was really awesome and good catching up times. On a side note, the basketball was on in the bar, and I would like to say that I am SO DONE WITH IT.

So at maybe 1 or 2 in the morning, we wrap it up and I go to my hotel, which is awesome. I stayed at the Courtyard Marriott on Connecticut Ave, after an arduous lodging decision process which involved going to and finding the cheapest one listed. It was great! Very clean, perfect location just above Dupont Circle, beautiful lobby, nice staff, and the comfiest bed I have EVER slept in at a hotel. Seriously. Awesome. So I crashed, after lounging around a little and being in complete love with the bed.

SO the next day I get up and hang out a little, write to Grandma and Grandad, watch The Ring Two (I don't was so comfeeeeeeee), look adoringly out of the window at Dupont, the Hilton where we wanted to have the conference one year, and the Washington Monument, and get dressed. Then I toodled around Dupont for a while, making sure to stop by Chipotle (WOO) for lunch and finding a ring that almost exactly matched a pair of earrings Ma has at Beadazzled. I sat in the circle and read for a while, caught up on a couple phone calls to confirm plans and such, then headed for Tenley to have coffee with James Bond. He's doing so, so well, and it was such a relief to not worry about whether or not he hated my guts or not. We caught up on all the usual stuff, and of course it wasn't the same as it was when we were bestest friends, but it was nice to hear what was going on for him and Lara Croft and various mutual friends. He seems so much more confident in his own skin. From there I caught up with Scarlett again and we went to get our nails done in Bethesda and learned from the other woman in the nail salon that you get avian flu from inhaling it, and you can eat avian flu infected birds all you want. Le sigh.

So then there was Shelly's, which was fun, and of course necessitated a detour by Union Station. I had dinner with the Lumberjack and that was fun, although...le sigh, I do not know. In many ways, fantastic to see him. In others, exhausting. There are just some things that are just not me anymore, and it irked me to see him not get that. But regardless, the party REALLY started when we met up with the Russian and his buddies at the Four Ps, which is now called something else...something about green fields I believe. OH my god so good to see him, and to see the Slickster and the Silent Partner again. Just like one big nerdy Model UN gang, back in action. We all got delightfully smashed and sang along with the Irish band that was playing, and the Johnny Cash they threw into the mix. Really, really fun, and nice to meet some of the Russian's law school buddies. So that was a blast, then the Slickster and the Silent Partner headed home and they dropped me at the hotel by way of a flat tire (...ugh) at 3 or 4 in the morning.

...Needless to say, I didn't make it to the loosely planned brunch. Heh.

In the morning, the hotel called a cab for me, which was nice, and packed me off to BWI, which was very nice - I love that kind of red carpetesque treatment, because it shows such nice egalitarianism. Who the hell am I? Some dork from Massachusetts who no one's ever heard of, but you bet your ass they held the door and helped me into the cab and packed my bags into the trunk. And if they are doing it for a tip? That's fine. I love it all the same, because they could just as easily pass me over and take care of other, richer, fancier folks.

At the airport, Southwest overbooked the flight I was supposed to take, so I took a bump to a flight two hours later, and got $280 out of it, so I'm gonna go see Anna Karenina next month! WOOO! It was really serendipitous. Love it.

So here's the cognitive dissonance. I can feel the difference between being here and being there. I am a different person in DC...not so much that you wouldn't recognize me,'s just a feeling, a sense of self. There's no way to say it without sounding snotty, I guess, but when I'm there, I can feel the greatness that is not only all around in the District, but that I feel in myself. In DC, I feel like there is no one better than me, no one smarter, no one who I cannot beat. I don't know what the difference is. I guess it's the way I feel about the city...that anyone can make it if they put the sweat and shoe leather into it. Some of the youngest people in DC are some of the most successful, and they are the ones that people mentally step to one side for. Not always. Obviously, there's a huge age bias in DC, but...somehow it isn't as tough as other places. Maybe just for me. I don't know.

I just want to find my balance between the two. The confidence I have in DC is so different than that that I have here. I want to bring it here, but I think in my head I want to keep the places separate. I love all of my friends so much. I just am never sure how they would react to different aspects of me. I'm guessing only really Anna Karenina, and Speed truly know all aspects of my life. Once upon a time, James Bond did, but I think we're too far gone to really count that anymore. I am not even so sure that no one can SEE all the various layers of personality, I think it might be all in the doses.

How the hell do I know. Mysteries of the human psyche, blah blah blah.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Happy Birthday To Me And A Big Middle Finger For Bush

So I'm 23, which is not very old. It's amazing what learning about bonsai does for your concept of age - nothing like a 350 year old tree to make you feel like you should still be in diapers. But it was a fun weekend, even though some folks who I was hoping would come did not make it to my little shindig on Saturday. Lots of folks DID come, and it was fun, as was the relaxing day on Sunday. Speed gave me a NEW LAPTOP for the occasion, which is so awesome I'm almost allergic to it. He rocks. It's purty.

We also got a special display of cat psychosis for a birthday gift, since they were freaking out over the party preparations. Cady got into a fight to the death with the rug in front of the slider, which was great - all you could see was a set of little claws stabbing out from under the carpet and a big lump shooting along the length of the rug. This all started when she tripped over the edge because she is the least coordinated cat to ever exist. Flyboy just acted dumb. Per usual.

It's also been three years of war in Iraq, which we all know I think is stupid, although slightly less stupid than this sabre-rattling going on with Iran, which would be a complete nightmare since, you damn exit routes. I'm sorry. What I mean is that Iraq people on the borders would be TOTALLY cool with helping us retreat out of Iran if we needed to. Y'know, since we helped THEM out so much.

The day we went to war, I was out for dinner with Scarlett and Midwest One and some other folks, and Midwest One was explaining how we would attack Baghdad. We did the dinner thing and then came home and exactly what he described was happening on TV and it was really creepy and gross. It wasn't scary so much for me because I was afraid they would get us back, but I was scared because I had had faith that someone, anyone would sack up and tell him to get real. But one did. And this has so much to do with what makes me so disenchanted with politics. Everyone has all the ideas, and all these emotions about the political system, but there is still no outcry. No one takes a full day off of work and stands in the street yelling until they are hoarse with a sign telling The Man to fuck off and stay out of their business. Then you have the gross reality of the media, which is that Jessica Simpson gets more press than the civil rights issues with the PATRIOT Act or the wiretapping ridiculousness. We have become complacent, on top of all of this, because for so many years our civil rights have been well protected.

Here's the thing...people fought to keep those rights. Who is stepping up now? You have to fill the positions that empty when older fighters leave the game. No one seems to care anymore, which is really a damn shame.

The whole thing makes me so tired.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Whenever I Am Sad About Student Loans, I Just Think About the National Debt.

So, Bush wants to raise the threshold for the National Debt again. For the fourth time in his tenure. Does no one see this as a problem?

Debt can be great. When you have debt, you can pay it back, and establish credit. Great. when you're talking NINE F-ING TRILLION DOLLARS, you might have a problem on your hands.

This is why I love when Republicans get all "conservative spending!" about what they do. They love love love you to think they are all about Small Government and Conservative Spending and Fuck the Welfare Babies and Nix the Department of Education. But here are some snickety-snacks for thought:

Exhibit A: A war based on 70% bullshit, 5% He Tried To Kill My Daddy, and 25% xenophobia and Fear of the Darkies v3.6783(turban edition) that nonetheless has a cumulative price tag of over $247,862,400,000, two thousand plus American casualties and between 33 and 37 thousand Iraqi casualties. Obviously, it's good that Saddam "Nutball" Hussein is out of power, and no one will argue - except maybe the dingbats who think a productive protest is one where you lay down in the middle of roads and public spaces and obstruct everyone else's LIFE except actual policy makers - that everyone wins in that situation. My only concern is that, you know...the Middle East will explode.

Exhibit B: No Child Left Behind. Except the ones who want GEDs, music and art classes, extra curricular activities, classes not taught to a test, financial aid for college, go to a school where most of the other students could care less and drag them down with them, or who go to schools that don't improve as fast as people whose schools are populated by kids with supportive and involved parents want them to. Why are we spending so much money on something that's a joke instead of taking the time to reassess and identify the actual problems?

Exhibit C: Spending Trends. Democrats since 1938 - 35 years in the White House, average annual increase of 8.7%. Republicans since 1938 - 35 years in the WH, average annual increase of 9.3%. Fine. Now try from Truman on (1945 or so). Democrats only raise the debt 3.7%, and the Republicans stay put at 9.3%.

Exhibit D: NeoCons. Reagan starts the increase, which keeps rolling until Clinton comes, reins in spending, and brings the increase down to almost nothing. Clinton's increases = 4.3%/year. Reagan, Bush, Bush = 10.8%/year. Reagan wins the award for highest increase though, for an average of 13.8% per year. Clinton basically had one year less than he needed to get a decrease rolling...if he had continued in the vein he started in, his ninth year would have seen a small decrease.

The national debt is currently increasing by about 600 BILLION dollars a year.

What I don't get is why presidents wouldn't see this as an issue. This is beyond "good debt," even good debt magnified as it must be to fit a country instead of an individual. Put together a budget, and stick with it. It's not easy, but it's a hell of a lot better than just cutting shit willy-nilly so you can put the money into other shit you DON'T NEED. And I say this being all for reasonable defense spending, which everyone pisses and moans about these days. Look. You can't send people to war, then leave them out there peeing into the wind. It's ugly out there, and you need to protect the people you sent to fight your war, no matter how stupid or smart it was. Spend the money on research, development, and production. Do it. Make the best weapons you can. But have a goal. Have a goal of designing defense weapons that will reduce the number of casualties and required troops. And while you're at it, show some fucking respect to those troops by actually TRYING the diplomatic channels first. And if you suck at diplomacy, find someone to help you who doesn't.



I had my first sushi class yesterday and it was awesome. I shall make sushi for anyone who is interested. I made ebi (shrimpies), california rolls (roe, shrimp NOT Artificial Crab Product, lettuce, avocado, cucumber) and avocado sushi (...), as well as little cucumber garnishes which were super cute. Really fun, not as hard as I would have expected, and really yummy! I took pictures so if you want to see them email me and let me know.

Party at my place on Saturday...BIRTHDAY at my place on Sunday! Josie is 23 woooooooo!

Monday, March 13, 2006

...Aaaaaaand the Cat Has a Heart Murmur.

So clearly, it's not the best month(s) for pets. It's Flyboy with the heart murmur...I mean, why WOULDN'T the more rambunctious of the two cats have a heart condition? He's going in this week for blood work to get a better status report on the whole heart situation. The good thing is that a.) the vet is not panicky about it, and b.) they can grow out of heart murmurs, which is promising since the little Goober twins are not a year old yet. Gifts of catnip can be sent on April 10th, when they graduate to grown up, predator type death cat food.

Several exciting things have happened since the last update, and this week was particularly exciting. We cleaned the hell out of the house, which REALLY needed it. It looks totally fab, and I'm excited. We also ordered new curtains for the living room...Speed doesn't really mind the ones that are there but I think they are kind of fug. We're getting sheer sage curtains that will be all drapey and nice, and will bring out the green in the rugs. Plus they were on sale so that the whole window treatment only set us back about a hundred bucks, which for a 128" long window is not too bad. And also not ugly. We also caught up to the fifth season of the Sopranos JUST in time for the 6th season premier, which was last night and also TOTALLY awesome and I love everyone in it.

The house got cleaned in the first place because Tiffany and Scarlett came to visit, which was so, so great because we hadn't seen each other in person since, roughly...forever. We hung at the house a bit, and then went to dinner at Al Fresco, which rules and is on Main Street in Holden is anyone is in the area and wondering what to have for dinner. You will not be disappointed. It was great to catch up with the ladies...Tiffany is engaged and getting married in October, and Scarlett is rockin' DC still, and probably won't be far behind on the wedding front. I missed the hell out of those gals. They both look totally fab.

Creep, Shinygal and the Creepette are doing great, I saw them recently. Such a well behaved baby, I have never seen. She sleeps through more or less anything, and is starting to develop a vice grip of that special type babies get.

Reconnected with the Feminista, of all people, which was so, so fantastic. Another person I missed the hell out of. She is no longer working for the usual cadre of hippies and bleedinghearts, but instead is a rising star in the ClearChannel stratosphere. All I'm saying is that she gets to make commercials and has her own sound effects board, which is only a small step below "magic wand" on my list of Things That Comprise The Ultimate Job. Because seriously. I would abuse that thing to no end.

For my birthday, Dad (and presumably by extention Ma, but I don't know if they plotted this together) gave me a ticket to DC for the weekend of the 24th through 26th, which is also the weekend of St. Brooklynburg's birthday, so that works out really well. I am so excited to see everyone, and it will be nice to be in the District again.

To close, I have a book review I did up earlier today for Uber, and thought I would include it here, because it might get a few more readers than there...such a shit quagmire, that place has become. I pray for the renaissance.

As you may or may not know, I switched jobs last month, and to celebrate, I bought a bunch of books from my Wish List. I tend to use my Wish List as a to-do list for books I want to read but may forget about...a new Harry Potter book, for instance, would be hard to forget, but a book I read a review on somewhere or the back cover while browsing would be much easier. The first book I cracked into was Fat Girl, written by Judith Moore. It got on my list via a recommendation that popped up when I had added a memoir and "Queen Bees and Wannabes" to my list one after the other. I read it first mostly because it was one of the first to arrive and was the smallest. It also passed the First Ten Pages Test, in which I read - duh - the first ten pages and see a.) if I haven't aged five years because it's so dense and b.) if I'm still interested in reading it. It's a good weight and length for a lunchtime reading book.

There are really two books in one here. One is a really very tight, good, well developed story with bright characters and excellent descriptions of the family dynamic. The other story is annoying and gimmicky, and that was the most frustrating part of the book. The story is a memoir, written about Moore's struggle with her weight over her life and all the factors that affected it. She focuses particularly closely on her mother, followed in importance by her grandmother, father, and uncle. In the sections where the book really sings, she speaks eloquently about these people, and you can feel exactly as she did when various scenes happened. Particularly good is the description of the atmosphere in the house when her happy time with her uncle, who could give two shits about her weight, is interrupted by the arrival of her overbearing mother and dying, bitter grandmother. There are SO many levels of emotion and interaction going on, and Moore does a fantastic job capturing them. You feel for her, you ache for her, you're sort of proud of her...but mostly you're sorry for her.

...Which is mostly because she wants you to be. The more agonizing parts of the book are in her over-glorious descriptions of food and her helplessness against them. She is BEGGING for your sympathy in these sections, which you would happily give her, I think, based on the rest of the story and the vicious family she dealt with, but they are presented in such a "look at me!" manner that I found it impossible to give her the full amount of sympathy that she was going for and probably deserved. Here's the thing - I feel her, all right? I'm not exactly a stick, and I never have been. While I'm able to lose the weight when I set my mind to it, my natural tendency is not really to do so. I understand completely what it is to feel helpless against the seductive power of food...but christ, lady. When I talk about it, I couch it in KNOWING that the food is the problem, and in knowing that I have control over it. She refuses to take up that approach, and because of that, she suffers.

What the excessive descriptions of food reminded me of the most were the descriptions of clothing, people, technology, and restaurant meals (I guess you could include murders in there too, although I always thought they were sort of a class on their own) in American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. In that case, however, I knew what he was going for - a statement on materialism and superficiality in the eighties blah blah blah WE KNOW - whereas with Fat Girl, it feels far more like pity grubbing, and ineffective pity grubbing at that. Maybe that's what she's going for.

This is all teamed with an introduction that talks about how you won't like her, but she's just telling her story, blah blah blah. I HATE when people do this, and it makes me want to slap Johnny Depp when he says right at you in the trailer for his new movie, The Libertine, "you will not like me." HATE. It's the exact same thing..."I am so will not like me, and I don't care, all right? No, seriously, I don't want you to like me. I don't! Stop fucking liking me, I'm not likable." It's a kind of thinking you're special that's particularly gross to me, so this was not a good start to get off to.

All in all, I would recommend this book not with a blanket thumbs up, but with the condition that it's an all right way to pass a few lunchtimes at work. The writing is very good, but the presentation leaves a little to be desired. I found it left me wanting to know more about the rest of the folks in the book after the fact...what happened to them, where they wound up, if they ever resolved some of their issues...but of course, in a memoir, it's still being written, so tough shit, basically. It is an excellent presentation of guilt, and of hopelessness, but these are shown at the cost of squashing the hope that you can feel under the surface, but feel her intentionally tamping down. Let the sunshine in, kid, the truth of the optimism that's in there will not take away from your story.