Wednesday, February 28, 2007

My inbox can stand no more. Just a taste of what's there:
  • Payment Receipt - from active.com for the race I signed up to run this weekend
  • Registration Confirmation - from active.com for the race I signed up to run this weekend
  • Registration Confirmation - from active.com for the race I signed up to run this weekend
  • We need legislators who protect women... - from Planned Parenthood
  • J.C.Penny Offer Confirmation - from lord only knows who
  • Tell Reps to put teen safety first - from Planned Parenthood
  • New Restaurants - from metromix
  • Pay Statement Notification - from ADP
  • March and April Event at The Poetry Cent... - from Lisa Buscani
  • and on
  • and on
  • and on

Obviously, we all get spam. Fine. And, apparently I've signed up for numerous newsletters from Planned Parenthood and Metromix and the Poetry Center and a host of other things. My fault - I like to be socially aware. And I signed up to do a race this weekend (not sure why I got TWO confirmation emails, as long as I didn't pay twice). Email has become this place to store all of the junk we don't want to get as paper. I should feel better about saving a tree or two right? But what about the electricity wasted? What about my time? Have we traded one menace for another? And do I really need to be more socially aware, or am I just kidding myself? I don't really read all of the newsletters I get. Mostly I skim. Sometimes I, gasp, delete without even opening. But it makes me feel better to get them. Like I'm trying in my own little way. Each day I get to work and open my work inbox (no big deal there). Then I go to my personal email. Good lordy! Twenty new messages. Sometimes it's just too much. Maybe we should go back to the days of handwritten letters. If someone wants to talk to me, let them write me a letter. If an organization wants me to find out about them, let them post a flyer to a communal message board. OK, I see the downsides to those things. This electronic mail thing seems to be catching on, and is generally a good thing. And, oddly enough, I find myself going through email withdrawal when for some reason I don't get any emails. I just wish I got more from my friends and fewer from advertisers.

PS - Sorry for the slight vacation from my blogs. I've been sick and busy at work (not a good combination).

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Can't quit you babe

Why can't I quit smoking?

Last night I had drinks with a couple of friends, one who still smokes occasionally. I know this, and I know she's a generous person and will share a cigarette with me. But I don't smoke anymore, not really anyway. The two cigarettes I had last night were the first I've had in about a month. And I had those couple about a month after I had smoked my last couple. That's how it is now. I don't "smoke" anymore, I just occasionally have a cigarette, mostly when I'm out drinking. And for the most part I don't really think it's a big deal. I mean, how much harm can two cigarettes a month (24 a year) really do me? I must get as much toxins in my system walking downtown next to all the city traffic, right? And as they say, everything in moderation. Now a lot of people reading this will be upset because they are the type of "smokers" who can't just have a couple and then not smoke again for a month or two. They are the "smokers" who if they smoke one, they smoke a pack. And so they look at my ability (if you can call it that) to only smoke a few cigarettes without running out and buying a pack with envy. They would LOVE to be able to smoke a couple and then be done with it. But really, it's not that great. I always feel icky the next day. Even if I have just one, I can feel it in my lungs, and taste it - no matter how many times I've brushed my teeth and rinsed with mouthwash. It truly is a dirty habit. Which makes is all the more annoying that I can't just quit for good. Why, when the idea strikes me that I should have a cigarette, that I can't just remember how I'll feel the next day. That there really isn't anything good about this other than a few minutes of silly pleasure (see yesterday's post for my thoughts on humans and pleasure). Even if I do manage to remember that I don't really want to, it usually only stops me for a little while. And then I conveniently forget. It's just like everything else though. I conveniently forget that I don't want to eat that cookie because I'm watching my diet. I conveniently forget that I told myself I would read more instead of watching TV.


Apparently what I need to do is not concentrate on quitting smoking, but concentrate on quitting forgetting.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Questions with no answers

Take for instance the following, as spoken to Philip in Of Human Bondage by Cronshaw:

"You will find as you grow older that the first thing needful to make the world a tolerable place to live in is to recognize the inevitable selfishness of humanity. You demand unselfishness from others, which is a preposterous claim that they should sacrifice their desires to yours. Why should they? When you are reconciled to the fact that each is for himself in the world you will ask less from your fellows. They will not disappoint you, and you will look upon them more charitably. Men seek but one thing in life - their pleasure."

Now take for instance the following: Dance Monkey Dance. (I'll wait why you view it.)

Both of these two things have come into my consciousness recently. I read the above passage yesterday on the train. And I first viewed the Dance Monkey Dance website last Friday. And I've been turning the two over in my head since. Are humans really like monkeys? Are we just fooling ourselves that we are better than the other animals on the planet? Do we really seek nothing but pleasure?

As you can see, I have no answers to these questions. Just more questions. I don't know how I feel. Sometimes, yes, I agree, humans are just as base and primal as any other animal on the planet. Our goals are to survive and procreate. Some of us do this is high fashion, with lovely townhouses on Park Ave. and big jobs at Goldman Sachs that pay outrages year-end bonuses. Others of us do this living in squalor in Dehli by the Ganges . But because of our brain, or our free time, or our wills or our soul, there is something in us that drives us to do more. To create art and to feel, and this we consider essential to living. Yet, is art and feelings really only us seeking pleasure? Are we like the monkeys who read Kant and think they have it all figured out? I don't know (I don't read Kant). I'll let you know if I do.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Stop the shame!

For some reason Mr. H. and I were discussing head lice (or nits as he calls them). I know it's not very romantic valentine's day talk, but, well, we're weird. Anyway, we were recalling the horrors of our childhood when there was an outbreak of lice at school. I remember in first or second grade the school nurse checking everyone for lice. They sent notes home with everyone to let the parents know. Because my mom worked, my sister and I would go to a neighbors house after school. They read the notes and wouldn't let us inside the house. It wasn't cold outside (we lived in Texas at the time), so it wasn't like they were making us freeze or anything. But I remember the feeling of shame and indignation. My sister says she doesn't remember this at all (of course she would have only been four or five at the time), and my mother says we never had lice and that she never treated us for it. Now we may not have actually had lice (after talking about it last night with Mr. H., I did a little research and found that many of these so called "outbreaks" aren't as bad as the teachers and school nurses believe, and that lice is actually pretty hard to spread, and they don't live anywhere else except on a person's head for very long - all of this isn't in the louses favor) but I remember mom washing our hair with that awful shampoo and using that special lice comb. Maybe I'm making it all up, or maybe my mother has forgotten. The point is, I've always thought it was terrible of these people, our babysitter, to make us stay outside because they thought we had lice. I felt dirty and bad - even though research has shown that even if we did have lice, it wasn't because we lacked hygiene or because of our socio-economic standing. Sure, by all accounts, it's a gross thing to have. But when will adults learn that kids internalize that kind of stuff? It stays with them, and more than 20 years later they still think about it and write about it on their blog. I'd like to let this, and the numerous other things that still haunt me about my childhood go, but I just can't seem to. Sure, maybe it's shaped who I am as an adult. Maybe I'll be more sympathetic to the child who gets sent home with lice and will be able to, in my own small way, stop this circle of shame. Please people, don't children have enough to worry about than if they are dirty or bad because, through no fault of their own, they may have contracted head lice? Let's all join together to stop this silliness, and focus on the important childhood maladies - like pinkeye.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Just another audience member

The first time I remember being on stage was when I was in first grade. I tried out for our school's talent show with my best friend Brandy. We sang (or tried to sing) Dolly Parton's "Here you come again." We didn't make it. I also remember trying to tap dance to "Tea for Two" with a friend while my sister sang the song (also during a talent show) - we failed horribly. Yet that didn't stop me. My next foray into acting was in sixth grade as a nun in "The Sound of Music." Lord knows why I kept trying to sing as I have a terrible voice - but I sang "Maria" with all my heart. In seventh grade I attended a fine arts school, where acting and dance were among my classes. My freshman year of high school, after completing a summer acting class, I tried out for and got a leading role in the school play (unheard of for freshmen). My junior year I returned to musical theater and my senior year I auditioned for the theater program at DePaul.

Of course, my friends participated in acting too. While at the fine arts grade school, we all wanted to be actors. We once tried out for a commercial (as a group), and most of our school was an extra in a small movie. I even once read for a movie. Because I hung out with creative types, I dated them too. Most of my boyfriends from the age of 15 (when I had my first "real" boyfriend) through college were actors/singers/theater people.

I didn't get into the theater program at DePaul, nor the communications school at Northwestern (my other outlet being journalism). So instead I attended Augustana to major in English and minor in journalism and theater. Augustana is pretty small (only a couple thousand students) and all my friends were either in the journalism or theater programs or both. I continued to date the actors and writers, and I continued to want to be an actor. My freshman year I tried out for, but did not make the two main stage productions. But I did get cast in two different roles for the student produced plays (again, something that generally was unheard of). When I wasn't in a play, I participated by being on the stage crew, helping with costumes.

Maybe because Augustana is so small, and my circle of friends so incestuous, or maybe because actors tend to be fairly self-centered, or maybe I never was fully committed to the theater and being an actor, but the whole thing was starting to wear thin. I no longer felt apart of that crowd, and once you don't feel apart of it, the rest of the crowd senses it and pushes you out. I was dating someone who was a talented actor, but a untalented boyfriend. And I never was cast in one of the main stage plays. That year, I gave up acting and my dreams of being a great and famous actor. For the most part, I also gave up dating actors and performers (though I had a slight slip in the late 90s that once again nailed that lesson home).

All of this left me with a strong dislike of most things "theater." Since college, I have had occasions to be friends with people involved in some sort of performance - be it improv or spoken word - and it always pains me a bit to see the inner workings of a performance, to hear the theater jargon bantered about ("strike the set" "green room"), to see the urgency in the stage managers movements and the nervousness in the performers eyes. I experience that mixed emotion of knowing too much about the process, an insider's knowledge, and jealousy that I am not involved and that they do not look at me and see a kindred spirit, but just another audience member.

Is this what happens to our dreams? Do we become audience members who must pay to look in to share in the experience? Maybe so, maybe so.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Drunken Train Musings

What is it that makes a 9-year old look wiser beyond his years? Is is the glasses, black wire rimmed? Is it the way he holds onto his luggage with the experience of a seasoned traveler? It can't be the way he studies the luggage tag like he's never really viewed one before, or maybe it is because of that because as an "adult" I've never really looked at the information contained on them other than the ORD for O'Hare or the MDW for Midway. What do the graphs mean? What is the other information? How do kids become adults? Where does that transformation happen? Why do I look at some kids with the delight of what they have yet to learn, and others with the pity of what they have seen in their young lives?

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Maugham's the Word

I've just started reading "Of Human Bondage"; I'm only a few pages into it. Maugham is describing Philip and how he becomes a reader - "Insensibly he formed the most delightful habit in the world, the habit of reading: he did not know that thus he was providing himself with a refuge from all the distress of life; he did not know either that he was creating for himself an unreal world which would make the real world of every day a source of bitter disappointment."

I agree with him that reading is the most delightful habit in the world. It has lots of benefits and very few drawbacks. It creates a wide and varied vocabulary. It introduces one to different worlds and view points. And, as Maugham says, it allows an escape from the distress of life. However, I don't know how much it makes the real world a source of bitter disappointment. I have been an avid reader since I was young. I keep books around like they are friends. I often find myself staring at my bookshelves reviewing the titles, or picking up a volume just to flip through a few pages - it's like visiting with old friends. But I don't think that I've ever really felt that life should imitate art. Of course, I'm not reading romance novels. And my life has already been jaded by television, so I'm not expecting books to tell me the truth. I think most of us learned at a young age that everything lies - even books. Maybe that's why Philip is destined to be let down by the real world outside of his books. Not having TV, he hasn't yet learned at the tender age of 9 to be sceptical.

But lets think about this, if Maugham is saying that reading can be a bitter source of disappointment, should we not read? And if we shouldn't read, then what am I doing reading Maugham?

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Whatever the weather...

The Midwest has been plunged into a deep freeze lately. This is not unusual or unexpected, and for Chicagoans, I think it mirrors their emotions at having lost the Super Bowl. We all just put on another layer of clothes and get on with it. Right now, this very moment, it's snowing outside. Maybe we're in for a blizzard, which we haven't had a good one since 1999. It is truly a sign of aging when you (a) talk about the weather and (b) remember the blizzards (or heat waves, or monsoons or whatever). There really isn't anything one can do about the weather, which is why I guess we all complain, because that is the only think you can do about it. I don't like to be one of those who complain about the weather because it seems so pointless. There are other things people generally like to complain about that are usually equally pointless, like traffic. But if you really wanted to, you could do something about traffic. You could take the bus, or organize a ride share program. You can't really do anything about the weather. That is of course, unless you're talking about not making it worse. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just released their study pretty much saying it's all our fault (they said it much more eloquently, you can read the summary here). As an individual, it's hard to get your head around what you can do other than the things you already do (take public transportation, turn off the lights). But maybe now the big boys will be motivated to make some changes. And while we push them to make more efficient cars and less polluting companies, I'll try to do what it is I can to reduce my energy usage. I'll turn off my lights when I'm not in the room (and I'll replace the light bulbs with energy saving bulbs), I'll turn off my computer when I'm not using it instead of just letting it sleep and I'll shut all my storm windows at home.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Some thoughts

One of my favorite times of the day, is that time just before you get out of bed, but for a few minutes you lay there and enjoy the warm covers and the soft sheets, reveling in that peaceful time where you can consciously enjoy sleep, or the feeling of sleep. Makes a person not want to get out of bed and face the 6 degree temperatures.

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Why is it that sometimes I feel like you have to actually tell a customer service rep what his or her job is to actually get real customer service? If I buy a phone that offers a $150 mail-in rebate with a 2-year service agreement, don't you think they'd tell you up front that you don't actually get a check for $150, but get a credit on your phone bill? And don't you think that when you send in your rebate form, they would accept your rebate because yes, you did meet the criteria instead of making you call them to tell them that yes, indeed you did sign a new 2-year service agreement and therefore qualify? And don't you think that if for some reason there was a problem with your rebate, they might email you (like they like to email you when your bill is due, or they want to sell you something else) instead of having you check online for the status of your rebate to see if it's been OK'd or erroneously declined? And don't you think that once you did get a customer service person to agree that yes, you in fact, did meet the criteria for the rebate, that instead of saying "The rebate is for $75 for a 1-year contract and $150 for a 2-year contract, so you will receive $75" prompting you to ask "But I signed a 2-year contract, so wouldn't I get the $150?" to which she said "Yes, this year you get the $75 and next year, you get another $75" she would have just said that in the first place? And don't you think that when you asked, "Do I need to do anything to receive this $75 credit (instead of the rebate that I thought I was being offered when I bought the phone) next year? And when will I receive this credit?" and she answered, "No, it is automatic, and it will go through on March 24, 2008." to which I said, "Why would I have to wait until March 24, when I bought the phone in November?" To which she said, "Yes, you're right, it will go through on November 24." instead she would have said "No, the credit will be automatic on November 24." Of course, she didn't say what year, so I'll probably end up calling back in November when I don't see my credit and having to once again ask for customer service.

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GO BEARS!

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Don't trust French men. They lie to you and say Barack Obama has come into the office, when really it's the president of Oracle.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

The Toilet

She has no ideas why toilets run. She doesn’t know why they continue to run after you’ve flushed them – even after you have jiggled the handle. It drives her nuts. And she’s asked him to fix it a million times. And he tries, but it only works for a week or so, and then it starts to run again. He must be sick of her complaining, or maybe he’s just sick of the toilet running, because today he’s decided to fix it for once and for all.

He gets up early and heads to the hardware store where he commences to spend four hours talking to different people about why the toilet may be running, what makes toilets run, what different parts may be old or worn and what parts he might need. Maybe the float arm is too high, or the flush valve is stuck, or maybe it just has a slow leak, or maybe the flush valve isn’t sealing properly. So many possibilities. But armed with the all the information he could ever need, he heads home with a few tools (though apparently he doesn’t need those for this job) a book on easy home repairs (in case he forgets what he learned at the store) and a new laser level, because now that he’s at it, he might as well properly align the pictures in the bedroom.

Back at the house he now barricades himself in the bathroom, basically taking apart the toilet because he can’t seem to figure out which problem is causing it to run. Finally he decides that the flush valve just isn’t sealing properly anymore. And, by the looks of it, it could use replacing. So off he goes back to the hardware store for a new flush valve. Who knew there were so many different kinds. Now he’s in a conversation with the Home Depot geeks about conserving water, and types of flush valves and what not. Meanwhile, she’s at home not able to use the bathroom, and so decides that going to the coffee shop to sit and read (and use the facilities) is the best use of her time.

After several trips back and forth, he’s finally figured it all out. And yes, now the toilet flushes great, and apparently it uses less water – which is good, she’s all for conserving water. And he’s very pleased with himself that he successfully fixed the toilet (as well as re-hung the pictures in the bedroom). But what he doesn’t know yet is the day he spent fixing the toilet was her birthday. And even though it was her birthday, she had gone out and bought some sexy pink lingerie to celebrate in.

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