Perpetually Unfinished
Tuesday, August 26, 2003
Here I am, at the end of my only full day at home within this week. This past weekend, my parents and my sister and I spent the weekend in Williamsburg, VA. Tomorrow, we're driving my sister up to Hampshire College in Massachusetts, dropping her off on Wednesday, and then I'm staying in New York with my grandparents until Friday. Hopefully all this bustle will keep me from getting too bored.

I had a really good time in Williamsburg, though. We got there Friday night, and took a "Ghost Tour," as a tou r guide led us around by lantern-light and told us the history and the ghost stories of the area. Saturday was a bit lighter, as we spent the day at Water Country USA (picking it over Busch Gardens because not a single person in our family is particularly fond of roller coasters), and then went miniature golfing on a course that was pirate-themed, making Pirates of the Carribbean jokes the whole way through. And Sunday we visited Jamestown, where this adorable old lady gave a tour in the persona of one of the early settlers, and we watched glassblowing (fascinating!) on the site where glassblowing was done in the 1610s and 20s. It was nice, since we haven't had a family vacation, even a mini one, in a little while.

And then tonight, we loaded my siste r's things in the car. We're leaving early afternoon tomorrow, stopping at Yankee Stadium to catch a game together, spending the night in a hotel somewhere in Connecticut, and then dropping my little sister off at college. How time does fly...

Speaking of time flying, it's late and I'm sleepy. More and better blogging at a later time, I promise.k
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Thursday, August 21, 2003
Alas, I have nothing particularly interesting to report.

After spending a few days lounging around and drinking in the "I'm at home and don't really have to do much" atmosphere, I've started to try to get my ass back in gear. Yesterday, I wandered the shopping center across from our apartment complex, inquiring if anyone would possibly want to hire me for a few weeks until I go back to school. I'd hoped I'd be lucky enough to catch employers at a time when their employees with regular college schedules had already departed and they were thus looking for a quick fix until they could hire more long-term people.

Unfortunately, not that many people fit this description, including the (new) boss at Lindt Chocolates, who was however delighted with the idea that I could work Christmas. Also excited about hiring me for Christmas break was the woman who interviewed me at Target. However, despite the fact that the guy at the entrance to the "Target Job Fair" assured me that they were interested in hiring people short-term, and I sat in the back room for an hour waiting for an interview based on this assertion, my interviewer immediately concluded that this would not be possible, but urged me strongly to call them in December.

So, there's at least some money left to be made in Gaithersburg, just not right now, I guess.

Then today, I finally managed to get to the pool and swim some laps, for my first exercise since I've been back. Of course, it involved dodging small children, but beyond that it went relatively smoothly, and I got a good workout. Then I got to reward myself by relaxing in the hot tub. SPAC should have a hot tub. I suggest we start a movement.

I also opened up my laptop for the first time since I brought it back, and heaved a great sigh of relief that the screen was not significantly more obscured than the last time I'd seen it. (Sidenote: my roommate was using my computer last week, and thought that the black blobs and swirls on the screen were very pretty and artistic. She then asked for my help because she was having trouble figuring out how to "turn it off" so she could see her e-mail better.) I then spent all of 5 minutes doing work-study stuff. But tomorrow I will do more, and then yet more! And it will go on my timesheet when I start again in the fall, so perhaps there is some money to be made in these last three weeks after all.
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Monday, August 18, 2003
Ah, back in Maryland for a few weeks.

My sister's starting college in 10 days, and so there's a fair amount of hubbub going on about it. I'm suddenly a figure of great knowledge and authority, both of my parents having commuted to college when they were undergrads.

Today I was brought along to Bed, Bath and Beyond, where I was consulted on all number of questions. ("Yes, make sure the bath caddy has holes in the bottom so that water doesn't collect and mold." "No, don't buy a lamp here, wait until you see the room to figure that out." "Yes, you absolutely need a whiteboard.") It was kind of bizarre for my mom to be walking through the aisles with the two of us, asking me the questions about what we should get for her.

Shauna's finally started to get nervous about college as it approaches (partially the usual jitters, but exacerbated because college is the be-all, end-all ideal she's been waiting for for years), and so I also get to dispense soothing advice about meeting people and getting involved and classes and time management and other fun stuff. I am clearly the College Guru.

And of course, my sister moving into this stage in her life makes it all the more noticeable that very soon, I'll be moving out of it...
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Friday, August 15, 2003

To Fox, 'Fair and Balanced' Doesn't Describe Al Franken

Lawyers for Fox News Network, part of Rupert Murdoch's media empire, News Corporation, contend that Mr. Franken should not be allowed to use those words in the title of his new book due in stores next month, "Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right" (Penguin).

They argue that Fox has trademarked "Fair and Balanced" to describe its news coverage and that Mr. Franken's use of the phrase would "blur and tarnish" it.

"Franken is neither a journalist nor a television news personality," according to the complaint. "He is not a well-respected voice in American politics; rather, he appears to be shrill and unstable. His views lack any serious depth or insight."

Says Bill O'Reilly: "It is simply a joke for The New York Times to editorialize that fabricated personal attacks are acceptable under the banner of satire . . . It's unfortunate, but in this country, if you're successful or famous, many courts will allow defamation, slander and liable (sic, to go unpunished. But once again, that's not the issue here. The point is accountability. We are shining a spotlight on the haters and the enablers. You can decide if that spotlight is aimed in the right direction. Talking Points cannot understand how people could side with the defamers and their pals. But it's important to know just who these people are."

(Brilliant, Bill. You do realize that "if you're successful or famous," there's actually a different standard for libel, don't you? Or do you just not want to let your viewers know about that, because it makes it harder for you to rant about people who criticize you?)

And Al Franken's response:

Franken thanked Fox ''for all the publicity.'' [The book went from 200 to 4 on Amazon's best-seller list.] ''As far as the personal attacks go, when I read 'intoxicated or deranged' and 'shrill and unstable' in their complaint, I thought for a moment I was a Fox commentator. And by the way, a few months ago, I trademarked the word 'funny.' So when Fox calls me 'unfunny,' they're violating my trademark. I am seriously considering a countersuit.''

I have to laugh, and the only thing that stops me is the realization of how many Americans watching Fox News agree that Franken's book is just an outrage, an outrage!

I guess O'Reilly's still bitter about how Franken called him on a lie on Book TV back in May and left him to splutter, "Shut up! Shut up!" And he knows this book will be much more of the same. Can't wait to read it. :-)

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Thursday, August 14, 2003
This is my fifth (and last) week of full-time work here at IPR this summer. It was yesterday that I discovered that we actually have a fridge.

At the very beginning of the first week, I scouted out the building to look for a fridge. I couldn't find one anywhere. This was very disappointing, as it limited my eating options. I had to get creative, like freezing lunches overnight so that they'd still be cooled by lunchtime, and bringing an icepack with my lunch while finding ingenious ways to get the icepack to stay against the food. I also had to try to come up with dinners to eat on the days that I went from work at IPR from 10 to 6 to the Phonathon until 9PM, a time so long that no makeshift method of refrigeration could do-- this, unfortunately, has led to a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. (Not that I have anything against PBJs. But it gets tiring.)

However. It turns out there is a fridge. But it is in the oddest place that anyone would ever want to have one. It's in the back room, the one that no one goes into because there's nothing useful there anyway and the door sticks so much that it takes 5 minutes to open. I have been in this room twice in the three years I have worked at this building. But not only is it in that room, it is tucked away in the far corner of the room at such an angle that you cannot see it unless you are within several feet of it, in an area of the room that no one would have any reason to go unless they wanted to use the fridge that they already knew was there.

It reminds me of Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy:

Prosser: But the plans were on display...
Arthur: On display? I eventully had to go down to the cellar to find them.
Prosser: That's the display department.
Arthur: With a flashlight.
Prosser: Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.
Arthur: So had the stairs.
Prosser: But look, you found the notice, didn't you?
Arthur: Yes, yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying "Beware of the Leopard."
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Tuesday, August 12, 2003
An IM conversation with my sister:
Note: Yes, she uses capitalization and punctuation in her IMs. Is this not troubling?

Shauna: Hey. You were in my dream last night.
Me: what was i doing in your dream?
Shauna: Getting married.
Shauna: And then you were going off on your honeymoon in a raft.
Me: eek
Me: to who?
Shauna: Some boy.
Shauna: He had very big brown eyes and he didn't talk a lot.
Shauna: And then anyway!
Me: ah
Me: yes?
Shauna: You were going off in your raft.
Shauna: And Derek Jeter showed up.
Shauna: He said he loved you and couldn't let you leave.
Me: hehe
Shauna: And he wanted me to give you jellybeans.
Shauna: As a token of his affections.
Me: hehe
Shauna: But I threw them out.
Me: =-O
Shauna: You were married!
Me: you didn't give me derek jeter's jellybeans?
Shauna: You didn't need tokens of affections!
Me: but jellybeans are yummy
Me: you should have kept them for yourself, then
Shauna: ... good point.
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Sunday, August 10, 2003
Well, it's been both a pleasant and a productive Saturday. Besides swimming laps up at SPAC (yes, the walk all the way up and back is a hassle, but I'm quite pleased that I've finally found a form of exercise that agrees with me), doing dishes and straightening up, finally getting the books up on that I'd been meaning to list for a while, and trying and succeeding at cooking myself a salmon dinner (they've got frozen salmon steaks at Whole Foods that are actually reasonably priced!), I finally got a load of laundry done.

That's not as easy as it may sound. The building I'm in this summer doesn't have laundry machines, and it's not like there's a laundromat easily accessible in downtown Evanston, at least not one I know of. I don't know anyone who lives close enough who has laundry in their building I might use. I was going to go with my roommate and do laundry in her friend's apartment building two weekends ago, but somehow it never came to pass. Then, I had the brilliant idea to simply bring my laundry up to 2026 Maple, let myself into the basement, and do it there.

However, I was too busy last weekend to get laundry done, and so by this past week, I was down to the very last pieces of clothing I could get my hands on, and doing a wash became desperate. Luckily, Saturday finally arrived, and so I stuck my laundry bag into a suitcase, grabbed a good book, and wheeled it 12 minutes away to good old 2026.

It was only after I had put the clothes in the washer and poured in my sample single-load packet of detergent that I tried to start the wash-- and it wouldn't work. I panicked, checked all the settings. They all seemed to be fine. "Pull to start, push to stop." I pulled and pushed and pushed and pulled on the dial. The pointer on the dial was pointing directly at the "Cycle Over" indicator. I tried to turn it to the beginning of the cycle. It clicked as though it were moving, but the arrow pointed at the same spot. Is it just the arrow that's defective? I thought. Push, pull. Nope. I threw all of my strength into pushing and turning, climbing to sit on top of the washer to get better leverage. The arrow stubbornly refused to budge. What could I do? My dirty, detergent-covered laundry was sitting in the washer, and I had no idea where I could bring it, and I needed these clothes. And furthermore, this seemed to indicate that we would have no working washing machine in our building all year next year. This sucked!

It was at this point that I suddenly, in frustration, tried to turn the dial clockwise. It merrily spun around to the proper setting, and when I pulled, I heard the familiar sound of water pouring in as the washer began to do its work. I stared at the washing machine for a while, and tried to come to terms with the fact that because you turn the dial on the washer at home counter-clockwise, it had taken me 10 minutes of frustration to even think of trying the other direction.

Then I sat down in the basement, pulled out A Tree Grows in Brooklyn(which I am loving so far), and rested from my ordeal.
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Friday, August 08, 2003
Sometimes, working this job, printing out page after page of tables and regressions day after day, I start to worry that the forests of the world are going to come after me in my sleep to get revenge for how ruthlessly I empty them. It's not my fault that Professor Rosenbaum can't read tables as well on the computer screen and insists on having so many things printed out! At least I don't say yes when he offers over and over to photocopy what I print for him so that I can have my own version, too.

You thought the ents were angry when they stormed Saruman's tower? That's nothing compared to what they'll do when they get to Evanston to confront me. It's lucky that I'm skipping town next weekend!
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Thursday, August 07, 2003
Okay. California recall? Really, really weird.

Leaving aside the questions about a tiny percentage of voters being able to overturn an election, and the stupidity of paying for a new election when the main issue everyone is concerned about is the budget deficit, and the fact that it's actually against California's constitution...

It's just crazy. First there's the numbers. I'm trying to figure out how they're going to handle the ballot. I've read estimates of 200-300 candidates. Apparently they get listed in random order. Even though there are a limited number of major candidates, this still sets things up for a winner with a very small percentage of the vote, which is disturbing for those of us who are democratically-minded.

And then, of course, there's the candidates. Arnold Schwarzenegger, of course. Larry Flynt. Gary Coleman. Arianna Huffington. (And possibly her ex-husband.) And the rest of the bunch, like a 30-year-old history teacher who's running to teach his students about the democratic process and a porn star named Mary Carey whose platform includes taxing breast implants. Oh, and some actual politicians, too. Although it looks like my roommate's great-uncle, Richard Riordan, won't run because the Terminator's going to.

It's just sad, but it's like a trainwreck that you can't stop watching. So much time and energy and money is going to be thrown into this. Damn, am I glad I'm not a Californian.
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Tuesday, August 05, 2003
Get your microwaves ready, folks:

Popcorn Named State Snack of Illinois

That's not just a snack you're getting. It's the "official state snackfood" of Illinois, thanks to legislation signed Monday by Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Lawmakers who backed popcorn for the honor turned their backs on Beer Nuts, Lemonhead candy and other goodies produced in Illinois. But the rivals seemed to take the loss in stride.

"There is nothing we would like more than to be the state snack, but we've got a lot of competition," said Cindy Shirk, marketing director for Beer Nuts Inc. She said the snack, though produced in Bloomington, might be at a disadvantage because it is made from Georgia peanuts.

Popcorn now joins the cardinal (state bird), square dance (state dance) and drummer silty clay loam (state soil) as an official symbol of Illinois.

Ah, good to see our state government hard at work...
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Monday, August 04, 2003
I think that perhaps it's time to give up on trying to predict what will happen next in my life. I don't seem to be doing a very good job at it; or, on the other hand, life is doing a very good job of giving me the unexpected. That's all I'm sayin'.

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Sunday, August 03, 2003
Food, glorious food...

No, seriously. I have really been enjoying making meals this summer. I'm kind of used to either my mother or Saga coming up with my meals. I haven't cooked a whole lot in the past, other than a number of different variations on pasta or potatoes, or canned soups and microwave dinners.

I haven't gotten that much more complex (although I hope to eventually!), but I'm trying to branch out a bit and have cooked a number of things I've never tried to make before. Tonight I made falafel for the first time ever, and if I may say so myself, they were absolutely delicious. I look forward to my Friday evening grocery shopping at Jewel with unnatural glee, and the 15-minute walk back passes in no time as I think about all the things I'm going to get to eat in the upcoming week.

I'm rather pleased with myself for managing to avoid prepared foods and eating out so far, and keeping my grocery costs well under my estimates while still being generally excited by all of my meals. I think I really enjoy and appreciate what I'm eating a lot more when I'm the one who bought the groceries, planned the meal, and prepared the food. It's all sorts of fun.

Of course, it hasn't quite sunk in that the whole buying-your-own-groceries-and-making-your-own-meals thing isn't just an interesting new way of doing things for this summer, but in fact is what I'll be doing for, oh, the rest of my life. I'm sure it will become a bit less of a lark as time wears on-- but hopefully at least some enjoyment will remain!
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Nature attains perfection, but man never does. There is a perfect ant, a perfect bee, but man is perpetually unfinished. He is both an unfinished animal and an unfinished man. It is this incurable unfinishedness which sets man apart from other living things. For, in the attempt to finish himself, man becomes a creator. Moreover, the incurable unfinishedness keeps man perpetually immature, perpetually capable of learning and growing.
--Eric Hoffer

Malavika (and the rest of The Quitters)

Official NaNoWriMo 2005 Participant


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