Tuesday, September 28, 2004 · posted at 10:58 PM
In the future the appropriate answer is "Yes, sir, I am here early." It's called small talk, not my depressing life in 30 seconds.

       - Bob Kelso, Scrubs

Monday, September 27, 2004 · posted at 2:19 PM
Mechanical failure.

I don't know anything about the inner workings of a car. I also live happily in the state of denial. So when my car starting making fingers-on-chalkboard screeching noises every time I turned the wheel, I just ignored it and bumped up Shippotamus a little bit louder.

Many passenger complaints later and the realization that "damnit it won't go away even if I just pretend it's not there" (very much like annoying neighbors or coworkers), I decided that something needed to be done and it probably needed to be taken into the shop... So I told my dad.

Unfortunately, this didn't result in the action I was hoping for. I thought I could just tell me dad, he'd take it to the shop, and I could sleep in until noon. My dad on the other hand, very much believed in the "it takes a village to fix a car." approach.

So 8 o'clock in the morning and my dad's peremptory command to go with him has me brushing my teeth with half-open eyes. This task is not hastened by my dad popping his head in every four seconds to check up on me. I know I am a huge fan of the hyperbole, but when I say four seconds, I really mean four seconds. I have time to get the brush from the top of the tooth to the bottom of the tooth before he sticks his head back in.

Our first stop is… not the dealer. It's the Chinese mechanic down the road (sidebar> I love driving with my dad. He likes to tell me what direction to go and what street to take even though I lived in this city for 20+ years). Of course we go to the Chinese mechanic because Chinese people are trustworthy but beegok lang are not. I swear… Chinese professionals have such a monopoly in this town. Every Chinese person has the same orthodontist, goes to the same optometrist, gets their oil changed at the same place (or across the street)…

Anyway so we go to Jiu-he so the mechanic could take a look.

I tell the mechanic that the car makes a creaking when I turn and when I break. Then we all get in the car and go for a test ride. Crickets. The whole time. Not crickets from the car itself - that was reliably noisy. Crickets from inside the car. My dad is hard of hearing so I know that he wouldn't hear anything, but I wasn't sure if the mechanic was hearing anything because he was so quiet! With each squeak, I wanted to ask "Did you hear that?" Stoneface I swear.

We get back to the shop and he says, "Oh yeah that's pretty bad."

We go to the dealer to get rid of the creaking. Apparently Camrys get really dry in the steering wheel and need to be lubricated every so often. Hooray. Creaking noise gone... but squeaking noise is still there. Also my dad relayed to me that there were some nuts/bolts/plugs? missing from the underside of the car.

Back to the dealership, this time as the designated translator. My dad wants me, since I speak better English, to explain to the dealer that there were nuts/bolts/plugs? missing that we needed replaced. What? I don't even know what's he's saying! I can't translate my confusion into the dealer's understanding no matter what language I speak.

In actuality, my "translation" services weren't needed because once we got to the parts shop, my dad accosted a clerk and started inquiring about nuts/bolts/plugs? (in a semi-accusatory tone, no less. I'm just glad he didn't call the guy amigo.

The man looked at the computer and said, "I'm not sure I know what you're talking about. There's nothing in the computer that matches that part" which my dad took as an invitation to go behind the counter, whip out his glasses and look at the computer.

How did I get to be such a bubble worshipper when my genes are telling me to be a space invader?

To my dad, the counter is just something you sign your receipts on - not a sacred barrier between customer and people who know what they are doing. I can't tell you how many times I heard "Wait sir," "You can't go back there, sir," "Sir please wait here," because my dad kept walking into the parts warehouse, which was guarded by an "Authorized employees only" sign.

Again at Jiu-he, he just charges into the employee entrance to the main office to talk to the owner. Then he wanders into the garage where there are "RESTRICTED AREA" signs everywhere so that he can talk to one of the mechanics. As a general rule, I try not to disturb the nice men working underneath 3000 pound cars suspended in the air...

And the squeaking noise? Still there. At the dealer the mechanic told us that there's something twisting behind the dashboard, but they have to remove part of the dash so I need to bring it back when the shop opens in the morning. My dad heard this and spent the remainder of the day opening the glove compartment and taking things out and testing to see if the noise was still there.

But after this whole experience, it might be a while before I can muster up the strength to go through it again. Squeak on.

Saturday, September 25, 2004 · posted at 2:10 AM
I never really accomplished anything - not counting my collection of air sickness bags from every major airline, which I'm proud of... I knew a lot about Michael Jackson, but nothing about Andrew Jackson. I felt I'd be drooling into a bucket in five years.
- A.J. Jacobs, ex-Entertainment Weekly writer who read all 29 volumes of Encyclopaedia Britannica (People Magazine).

Anyone have a bucket to loan me?

Wednesday, September 22, 2004 · posted at 2:09 AM
Your sympathy will get you left behind.

Two summer reality show winners were crowned tonight.

First, the winner of Big Brother 5, in a live vote is... Drew. Drew - the pretty boy recent college grad from Ohio who could be doing laundry and still look hot. Drew, who did a lot of "yeah, yeah.. I'm with you" and turned around and just, well, turned his back. Runner-up? Michael, aka "Cowboy," the genuine, "aw shucks" security officer from Oklahoma who was also deemed unsexy by... pretty much the whole house (and audience).

Drew. Played the game, but mostly slid by with use-them-and-lose-them alliances and a healthy dose of shirtlessness.

Cowboy. Played the game honestly (though most thought this was because of an intellectual inability to lie). Was truly a man of his word and stuck with the initial pact from the very first day. Shirtlessness may have actually hurt his chances.

Cowboy's strategy was to be "The Nice Guy." With former houseguests making up the Jury who decides the $500,000 winner, it's not a bad way to go. And the dumb, stuttering exterior? Well it's worked for Southerners in the past...

Unfortunately Big Brother has been muddied into an "it's just a game" reality show. What starts off as "Real World that gets rid of its Pucks" turns into "Survivor on a cramped CBS backlot."

If the objective of the game is to ultimately choose the "Best" houseguest in which "Best" is defined by "most likely to pay rent on time and never borrow/lose/ruin your possessions," Cowboy would really win hands down.

Cowboy is the kind of friend you know you will have forever - you just hope you won't have to look at him forever.

Drew, on the other hand, would be more the "party motivator." Let's just say you wouldn't kick him out of your house... or bed.

There's talk that the Catholic vote will be the determining factor, but in tonight's 4-3 vote, it was Will, the gay nurse from Missouri, who cast the final vote turning Drew from handsome to rich and handsome.

Do I find it unjust that a manipulative manner and a pretty face are rewarded in this world? Yes.. but not in this case. Adria and Natalie (the "Evil Twins") really ought to count only as one vote, and Nakomis' vote for her half-brother is a gimme. Though Diane's vote for her cuddle buddy Drew is also a throwaway, really Drew would have won anyway. Plus, Drew's got those washboard abs...

On the Amazing Race season finale, three teams (volatile Colin and girlfriend Christie, dating models Brandon and Nicole, and married parents Chip and Kim), raced from Manilla to Calgary to the finish line in Dallas.

Luck and covertness led Chip and Kim to the winner's circle first and the eight eliminated teams genuinely cheered as the computer programmers from California claimed the $1 million prize. This genuine cheer was in part due to Chip and Kim's likeability and in part due to process of elimination. Colin and Christie you half-rooted for because you hate Colin, yet you fear him verbally abusing Christie for a loss. Brandon and Nicole were about as interesting to watch as Gigli, and incessantly followed others instead of blazing their own trail (oddly, they were also known as the "dating Christian models").

Chip and Kim, were the couple my roommates and I cheered for from the first episode because of their down-to-earth, jovial and kind demeanors (plus the fact that they spent 11 hours a day together without killing one another catapults them to Ripley's status). A better couple could not have taken home the prize.

So do nice guys finish last? No... just the not so attractive ones.

Friday, September 17, 2004 · posted at 2:08 PM
Twelve Step It

Obsessions are as defined by (1), (2), (3), and (4):
  1. recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images … that cause marked anxiety or distress
  2. the thoughts, impulses, or images are not simply excessive worries about real-life problems
  3. the person attempts to ignore or suppress such thoughts, impulses, or images, or to neutralize them with some other thought or action
  4. the person recognizes that the obsessional thoughts, impulses, or images are a product of his or her own mind…
According to the DSM-IV criteria, to have a diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) one must have (A) obsessions and compulsions and (B) at some point during the course of the disorder, the person has recognized that the obsessions or compulsions are excessive or unreasonable… and (C) The obsessions or compulsions cause marked distress, are time consuming (take more than 1 hour a day), or significantly interfere with the person's normal routine, occupational (or academic) functioning, or usual activities or relationships.

My behavior today certainly meets those criteria.

I stayed up ridiculously late yesterday this morning working on a new blog template. I decided at 2 in the morning that it was time for a change and I'd convert my "ode to Target" blog into a "Megan McCafferty is my idol" blog.

Unfortunately without a host for my picture this time, I was relegated to creating the handy stripe pattern via coding… which I finished just as I heard my roommate's alarm for off. Who knew ten little stripes could cause so much grief?

I even created a fake site so that I could "test" my template before unveiling it for the public. All systems go – I swear.

Then I get an email saying that some of my entries have weird symbols. That's just crazy talk! I reply. Then I looked and lo and behold, horror of horrors… all my apostrophes and quotation marks had turned into gibberish looking like the love child of Wingdings and Tengwar.

The idea that someone could be, at that very moment, clicking on my site and finding junk (well indecipherable junk anyway) was UNACCEPTABLE! and thus dedicated the next five hours to finding whatever error was occurring.

57 one-line emails with the blog master later and 1 frantic AIM conversation with my brother later… the faulty line of code was uncovered and fixed. It was a freaking meta tag that copied and pasted that changed the encoding from Universal (UTF-8) into Western (ISO-8859-1).

Translating the geek speak – I brought it upon myself. (Lesson to be learned: never plagiarize or "borrow" code).

It was this tipping point that made me think… maybe I have a problem.

PlanetJanet released this list of signs you might be addicted to blogging.

There are ten signs that you might be addicted to blogging (read in a Dr. Phil voice) – I have 7 of them.

In addition, I am also exhibiting the following symptomatolgy:
  • Checking my site meter every 2 minutes to see if I've gotten new hits.

  • Changing my template to show more entries to assuage the fear that a reader might "miss one."

  • Feeling insulted when a referring site stays at my site for 0 minutes.

  • Religiously managing my comments to see if anyone has left a message of adulation

  • Setting myself up for really bad situations (e.g. clubbing) to use as blog fodder.

  • Refraining myself from sharing stories because "it'd make a good blog."

  • Blogging to "cure" my obsession with blogging.
Diagnosis anyone?

Sunday, September 12, 2004 · posted at 5:05 PM
I just registered for the GRE. Nerd as I am, I like standardized tests (Grade me... look at me... evaluate and rank me!). I like getting a score and a percentile. I like studying (when I choose to) and going to coffeeshops and pretending I'm smart. But still... really... what the hell am I doing?

Friday, September 10, 2004 · posted at 1:32 AM
Psychoanalyze this. While I'm no fan of the icebreaker, group games can sometimes be fun (the rabble-rousing Catchphrase being the prime example). The recent game of choice? Psychiatrist.

I came in the middle of a game and watched long enough to decide that while better than Mafia, Psychiatrist is Pat Boone to Catchphrase's Elvis.

The premise of Psychiatrist is that a player (or two depending on the size of the crowd) is designated the Psychiatrist and sent out of the room as all other players discuss what object/character/pattern they are going to be as a collective. The Psychiatrist comes back to the room and begins asking all the players questions in order to figure out the pattern (e.g. objects in the room, things that rhyme with "bee," etc.). Essentially this is Twenty Questions group style except without the limit of only twenty questions and with the possibility of the game stretching endlessly.

Psychiatrist has Monopoly syndrome – fun for the first few rounds, but you'd like to see an end in sight. Although we gripe about the incessant beeping from handheld Catchphrase, having a timer ticking down not only limits each round of play, but intensifies the game and creates a sense of urgency (which leads to faster talking, more decibels, and plenty of potential for messing up and not getting "herbs" when the clues are basil, rosemary, and oregano). The loss of an apartment or NBA playoff game is that much more devastating when punctuated by the deafening sound of a buzzer.

While Psychiatrist has potential to be entertaining, the Q&A is so random and players aren't even answering truthfully – they're answering according to a theme. This means that you end up with a lot of "F*** sh**!" Tourette's like answers when you don't know what the favorite color of the third person on your right... or stuttering "Mama" because you can't think of another word that starts with "M" to satisfy the J-I-M-M-Y-J-O-N pattern.

Catchphrase acts not only as a filter for whether or not your friend knows what a dirigible is, but also as a way to sneak in inside jokes. It doesn't even matter if you know the other players or not because who doesn't laugh at clues like "it's what Hong likes to cut off his shirts" (sleeves!) or guesses like "inadequate in bed" in response to the clue "my ex-girlfriend says I'm this."

Clue: Christina's favorite group game (or, you know, game to be played over the phone)

Answer: Anyone, anyone?

Monday, September 06, 2004 · posted at 7:44 PM
In our world, where there are more and more faces, more and more alike, it is difficult for an individual to reinforce the originality of the self and to become convinced of its inimitable uniqueness. There are two methods of cultivating the uniqueness of self: the method of addition and the method of subtraction. Agnes subtracts from her self everything that is exterior and borrowed, in order to come closer to her sheer essence (even with the risk that zero lurks at the bottom of the subtraction). Laurea's method is preceisly the opposite: in order to maker her self ever more visible, perceivable, seizable, sizable, she keeps adding to it more and more attributes and she attempts to identify herself with them (with the risk that the essence of self may be buried by the additional attributes).

Homo sentimentalis cannot be defined as man with feelings (for we all have feelings), but as a man who has raised feelings to a category of value. As soon as feelings are seen as a value, eveyone wants to feel; and because we all like to pride outselves on our values, we have a tendency to show off our feelings.

     - Milan Kundera, Immortality

Friday, September 03, 2004 · posted at 6:38 PM
Imitate not innovate.

At what point do you resign yourself to a life more ordinary?

"Sometimes I like my job. I like my job on Fridays when we get paychecks."
"I spend so much time working I figure I might as well like it."

Discontent with one's job seems to be the basis for numerous conversations, complaints, whine fests, and blog entries (see annual review, cubicles). Why does this happen and are we doomed to converse, complain, whine and blog the rest of our disgruntled lives?

Career coach Dr. Marty Nemko (author of Cool Careers for Dummies talks at great length in this article about jobs and careers.

We've been sold a bill of goods when we're told to "Follow your passion, " or "Do what you love and the money will follow." Fact is, if you do what you love, you'll probably starve.
The prospect of a low income doesn't phase me. I can deal with being a starving artist - as long as starving means sushi once a month, not four. See, I've already surrendered myself to the fact that I will never make a lot of money. I just ***cliche alert*** want to be happy and do something I'm passionate about and can have fun with.

The irony is that the small percentage of people who do make a living in "do-what-you-love," "follow-your-passion" careers, are on average, no happier than people in less sexy jobs.

...there are plenty of unhappy people in so-called cool careers. That's true even in unarguably cool careers. Think of how many stars have big-time problems with drugs or depression. Kurt Cobain, John Belushi and Janis Joplin loved their cool career so much they killed themselves.

Unless you're a true superstar (brilliant, driven, great personality, or have great connections), give it up.
Okay now that you've dashed my dreams Dr. Nemko, what now?

If you're at all entrepreneurial, I recommend starting your own business. Yes, I know, only 20 percent of new businesses are still in business after five years, but you can beat the odds. Just this one rule: Do not innovate. Copy a successful simple business. Innovations are risky. Your product might not work, may not be popular with the public, or a competitor could beat you to market. Why be a guinea pig? Drive around to find a simple business at which customers are lined up out the door. For example, see a successful burrito shop or espresso cart? Open a similar one in a similar neighborhood. Your chances of success will be a helluva lot higher than 20 percent. Confine your urge to innovate to your hobbies.
Damnit. You mean starting a t-shirt company because it's fun to play with Illustrator might not be such a wise idea?

If you're not at all entrepreneurial and want to be well employed, here are some areas where the job market is not hypercompetitive: Court reporting, car finance & insurance, accounting, insurance, sales of little known commercial products, health care, health care administration, fundraising, financial services, anything serving Latinos (entertainment, schools, hospitals, criminal justice system), anti-terrorism and biotech regulatory affairs.
So basically the path to career contentment is the one I'm already f***ing standing on (and Banshee too!) that's making me bitter and scour Monster.com and graduate school programs for other opportunities...

Great. So what the hell does it mean if I can't even follow advice for Dummies?

Thursday, September 02, 2004 · posted at 2:19 AM
Trust fall? Trust fails.

There are many different kinds of trust. There's the trust that your paycheck will come every other Friday and the trust your landlord has that he will receive half of that paycheck. There's a trust, or desperate hope, that you're the only significant one to your other. There's a trust that your family will always be there for you… and always annoy you.

So what do you do when you are wronged due to a violated trust? Go curl yourself up in the fetal position in the corner? Slap a fake smile on your face and pretend everything okay? Demand vengeance and an eye for an eye? Be an optimist and look for the silver lining? Pray for a threefold karmic backlash?

Or, the route that I have taken, blog about the issue of trust as a therapeutic means and an effort to guilt the guilty parties.

There’s a kind of shame that accompanies being hurt by trusting in the wrong person (or even wrong thing – I have many a time felt betrayed by volumizer that didn't volumize and networks that failed to recognize the genius of an Apatow series).

This is dictated by the very definition of trust (1. To have or place confidence in, depend on; 2. To expect with assurance, assume). Trust may be something that needs to be earned, but in the end it is still up to the truster to dole it out. This translates to feeling stupid after you've been burned because you should have known better.

By the way, I'd like to take issue with the fun, little slogan, "When you assume, you make an ASS out of U and ME." Really, that needs to be rewritten to, "When you assume, you make an ass out of you." Or let’s just drop that all together because I'm not a big fan of asinine sayings. The point? I am an ass.

I claim myself as a victim, but really – I brought it upon myself. I deserve the sleepless nights wondering about the "could haves," the "should haves," and the "what ifs." With each angry tear, I can curse Jon, the Hotel, and its endless stream of visitors… but in the end, Felicity Season 2, Disc 5 is gone and it's my fault.

I'd been mum to discuss it. Chalk it up to Stage 1 (denial), the intense fear of being disowned from the Bansheehood, or just the general shame of making a stupid decision. Why? Why didn't I just bring it home? Why did I feel the need to share the joy of Felicity with the masses (Selfish Bastards: 3, Good Samaritans: -50)?
While I admit I made some poor choices, I’m not ready to totally absolve all others. I mean there's losing something and then there's having something lost. The former is more similar to, you know, leaving your child at the babysitter and coming back to discover your child is no longer there. You are the gatekeeper, damnit!

So what do you do when you're the one who's broken the trust? You grovel like there is no other. You bake cookies and buy pretty shiny things. You offer up your Warcraft cd as an exchange for what happened. You put yourself in the position to be hurt as much as you hurt another*.

And then you pray like George Bush on election night that that DVD finds its way back into your hands and you into my good graces.

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