Tuesday, November 30, 2004 · posted at 4:12 AM
I am woman, hear me roar

This week, Andy was fired from the Apprentice 2.

Some people argue that reality tv is completely staged and not representative of real life. Another common gripe is that it's just a cheap way for networks to profit from putting people in humiliating situations, that it manipulates human emotions and reactions. To them I say...

That's exactly right and exactly why I love it!

There's just something about watching people fail or be humiliated under the guise of "they brought it upon themselves." Horrible guilty pleasure, I know, but until I'm part of a Nielsen family, I will assume no responsibility for what shows are cancelled or renewed.

Which is not to say that reality tv doesn't come with consequences. Depending on the show, you could feel disgust (Fear Factor), tear-filled happiness (Extreme Makeover: Home Edition), nervousness (Amazing Race), or eye-rolling ridiculousness (Real World: San Diego).

In the case of this week's Apprentice, the price I paid was elevated blood pressure, TV Guide-chucking rage, when Andy was dismissed from the Apprentice.

This rage was only equaled in Episode 2 when The Donald ousted one of the strongest competitors, Bradford, for "being impulsive" and waiving his immunity. In my opinion, Bradford did nothing wrong when he stood behind the integrity of his work. You don't ever expect to be punished for quality work, nor should you be. Some say that Bradford was too cocky in asserting the great job he did, but his claim had legs to stand on. The Donald claims to have the best everything and addresses himself with a pretentious nickname as "The Donald"!!!

But I digress... In Thursday's episode, Andy, the 23 year old National Debate champion who never quit fills his suit correctly, was brought into the board room flanked by Jenn the Ivy-educated lawyer and Sandy the bridal salon owner/wedding event planner to argue their cases after a team loss. And argue is what the two girls did in the bickering and bringing up irrelevant information way.

Each girl is attacking the other and trying to sell her point by literally finger pointing (or shaking) and raising her voice above the other. There is some truth to the necessity of making yourself heard, but more important should be what you say, not how loud you say it.

Andy stays quiet, in the eye of the storm essentially, while the two women attacked each other. Perhaps he could have played peacekeeper, but when you're in a situation where it's every (wo)man for themselves, it's not a horrible idea to let your opponents kill each other. Self-preservation, I think.

I think the back and forth bickering was so loud and overlapping that Trump didn't even realize that Andy wasn't part of the equation in the argument. Instead, he was manipulated by the battle of volume and fired Andy for not winning because apparently "winning" means you had the loudest voice, regardless of the message you're carrying.

There is something to be said about the fiery passion both women exhibited. Clearly they did not want to give up. But at the same time, I think that kind of conviction also comes in a knee-jerk reation when you're attacked, or feel as though you're attacked.

If everyone had just spoken and argued in a civilized manner (meaning minus butting in, interrupting and petty details), I have no doubt that Andy would have been the victor in that round. In the real world, those hysterical shenanigans would never fly...

Huh? wait? Oh shoot... tv does't imitate life? Excuse me while I go flip my world right-side up again.

Saturday, November 27, 2004 · posted at 4:24 AM
LORELAI: Do they not understand we are unapologetic mockers?

JESS: Hey, what do you and Dean talk about?
RORY: What?
JESS: I mean, does he know Bjork?
RORY: I've played him some stuff.
JESS: Hm. So you got a teacher-student thing going?
RORY: Stop.
JESS: No, really, I'm curious. What do you guys talk about?
RORY: Everything.
JESS: Like?
RORY: Just everything, tons of stuff, whatever.
JESS: It's just in the brief non-pugilistic time I've spent with him in class, he just doesn't seem like your kind of guy.

- Gilmore Girls, "Bracebridge Dinner"

Thursday, November 25, 2004 · posted at 6:01 PM
The perfect cup.

Everything in life is a struggle and the victor is the side which is most powerful. Within the comfortable confines of my home, the tv/putzing around side wins... always. After a few unproductive days of leaving work early to come home and study, but actually watching soap operas and washing dishes instead, I came to the conclusion that in order to study, I should not go home.

So from work I have been going directly to coffeeshops. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. I've been bouncing around, pink-clad laptop in hand to find the prime study spot.

Here's my uncomprehensive review thus far:

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
Location: Various
Parking: Convenient, though one must be wary when parking anywhere in San Diego's Little Saigon (Mira Mesa location)
Hours: Open til 9:30 usually.
Menu: Regular coffeeshop fare - madelines, biscotti, and some prepackaged food items. Excellent mocha. "For here" ware can test concepts of conservation of substances.
Environment: Laid-back and friendly vibe from workers and patrons. Temperature a bit on the Antarctica side (Balboa) and rattan seats (Mira Mesa) induce a fear of following through, but overall comfortable.
Internet: None
Extras: Buy 10 drinks, get 1 free.

Caffe Italia
Location: Little Italy
Parking: 2 hr limit on meters and spaces
Hours: Until 10?
Menu: Classic selection of cafe sandwiches - and gelato (though not Mondo). Love the over-sized cups.
Environment: Great interior designer. Cute bud vases with fresh flowers on galvanized tables. Cool newly renovated floor. Populated by several ogle-worthy Italian guys. Dim lighting not terribly conducive to studying. Mosquito problem is a deal-breaker.
Workers: Not exactly the Martha Stewarts of hosting. A patron ordered Nyquil with her tea and the worker replied deadpan (possibly lost in translation) that sorry, they didn't have any.
Internet: Alleged Wi-fi, but not working at the time.
Extras: A magazine stand!

Location: University Heights (additional location in El Cortez Hotel)
Parking: Expect to circle or walk once the sun sets.
Hours: Until 11 or 12pm.
Menu: Standard cafe food and yummy-looking desserts.
Environment: Relaxed vibe, plush seating, ample tables.
Music: If you're lucky, you might hear the wonderous vocal stylings of Daves Son next door in the green room.

Location: Golden Hill
Parking: Easy street parking, despite proximity to city college.
Hours: Closing at 9pm.
Menu: If variety is the spice of life, this modern decor coffee shop is India to the Christopher Columbuses of San Diego. With an extensive menu ranging from tomato, basil, mozzarella sandwiches to (literaly) crunchy granola items, you could sit from breakfast to dinner without exhausting your taste buds. Coffee good, but order minus the foam!
Environment: Red and white decor along with plastic bubble-esque chair make for a modern furniture showroom. Unfortunately, lights appear more form over function.
Music: Various. They play music ranging from Damien Rice to house.
Patrons: Funky, quirky bunch. Most lingerers are from the city college, annd eavesdropped conversations can include raging debates over feminism to previous night's episode of Lost.
Internet: Free Wi-fi throughout Golden Hill.

Location: Various
Menu: 101 different types of roasts - none of which I can taste a distinct difference post milk and two sugars.
Environment: Seen one, seen them all.
Music: All Christmas all the time in November!
Internet: Through t-mobile for a price.

Location: Normal Heights
Parking: Plan a minimum of 15 minutes driving around for a parking spot in a not-so-sketch locale.
Hours: True to its Anne Rice roots - 24 hours
Menu: Coffee, assorted desserts and snack foods, and possibly blood in the back?
Environment: Can be loud and rambunctious. Often crowded and grabbing a table is not always feasible.
Music: Can get industrial at times. Next door
Patrons: Varying in age but usually all on the slightly scary side.
Internet: Free Wi-fi

The Living Room
Location:Various - College, La Jolla, Hillcrest
Hours: Various. SDSU site shuts down at 2pm
Menu: Doubles as a restaurant by offering breakfast, lunch and dinner at restaurant prices (ouch). Caution: "fruit and bread" meal means an orange section, kiwi slice, 3 grapes and wedge of canteloupe (second rate melon).
Patrons: Varies depending on location, ranging from cramming college students to stuffy La Jollites.
Workers: Catch a glimpse of the Sean Blumberg/Greg Grunberg at the La Jolla location.
Patron policy: La Jolla location doesn't allow book toters.
Extras: Hillcrest location on the strip allows for central viewing of the beighborhood

Cafe MoJoe's
Location:Downtown La Jolla, steps from an ocean view.
Parking: You're relegated to repark your car every two hours during peak hours if you can't fit your banana boat into the small parking lot.
Hours: If you stay until close, you'll still be home before primetime tv begins.
Menu: Decent sandwiches and desserts.
Environment: Cute and cozy, probably my favorite, particularly when school's in session or it's the weekend.
Music: At the whim of the workers, but has always been agreeable. Ranges from Bob Marley to the Beatles to David Poe
Patrons: 3 o'clock rush brings in a flood of polo shirt and plaid-clad Bishop's kids, but short attention spans lead to tumbleweeds by 4pm.
Internet: Free Wi-fi
Extras: MoJoe's has Battleship and books like "Scenic Wonders of Australia"

Wednesday, November 24, 2004 · posted at 12:44 AM
You think it's like this but it's really like this

I just spent 2 hrs extolling the virtue of my workplace - and I wasn't lying.

As much as I complain and gripe about my job... it's always been more the nature of work that is hate-inducing, not the actual job description itself. I am fortunate to work in a place where 1) hierarchy is eschewed, 2) jeans are acceptable, 3) I have free rein to do my work, and 4) I get to boss people around via a "supervisory" title. Oh yeah and when you work at a non-profit, it's pretty easy to sleep at night... and sleep in until 8am.

Anytime you work at a place, it's impossible not to bring that into your "real" life every once in a while, whether it's commenting on a store's insurance premium, pointing out Rockstar stickers or rattling off acceptable home loan rates.

Maybe it's a case of cognitive dissonance, but I'm proud of my little role in the macrocosm... though its immutability beyond this post is questionable...

Saturday, November 20, 2004 · posted at 10:50 AM
Iris Chang (1968-2004)

I just read that Iris Chang, author of The Rape of Nanking and The Chinese in America has died of apparent suicide. Living in the self-absorbed pop culture bubble that I do, it's not surprising that this news comes to me more than a week after the fact in the form of a half-inch blurb in the EW Monitor. CNN.com also covered Chang's death in the "Entertainment" section, which I'm miffed at because I don't think it was Chang's intention to "entertain" with the horror stories of the Japanese massacre of China during WWII).

According to the SFGate, her brother said, "She lived a full life. She achieved enough for many lifetimes." True, her literary accomplishments were more than many of us could hope for, but was her life really complete when she had a half-researched book, husband and two year old son in tow? Or was it because of all these juggling acts and feats that her life was "full" and thus without any room to grow? Does life's meaning have a saturation point beyond which everything is inconsequential? Or is life a race with an ever-changing finish line?

There's speculation that her research haunted her. I hope she rests in peace now.

Thursday, November 18, 2004 · posted at 11:45 AM
Channel your chi away from me.

People will go to great lengths in order to hold on to relationships. They'll change, they'll promise to change, they'll walk on tiptoes, they'll walk on water, they'll quit smoking, they'll start smoking, they'll wear different clothes, they'll cut their hair, they'll grow their hair out, they'll put blush on their nipples, they'll lie, they'll pretend, they'll fake smile, they'll compromise, they'll sacrifice...

If people put the same amount of blood, sweat and tears into changing the world rather than changing themselves to fit relationships, would the world be a better place?

Or would the world be the same, only inhabited by people in need of love and affection?

Monday, November 15, 2004 · posted at 12:13 PM
I'm only a half block out of the store when I see Ronald, the Rice-Haired Milquetoast who works at the coffee shop around the corner, approaching. "Hey Carrie," he says, looking down at my video. "What'd you get?"

I hate to give this speech again.

"I can't tell you," I say, "and there's a reason I can't. You see, someday, I might want to rent something embarassing, and I don't necessarily mean pron. It could be a movie that's considered too childish for my age or something violent or maybe Nazi progragans - for research purposes, of course - and even though the movie I have in my hand is considered a classic, and nothing to be ashamed of, if I show it to you this time but next time I can't, then you'll know for sure that I'm hiding something next time. But if I never tell you what I've rented, it puts enough doubt in your mind that I'm hiding something, so I can feel free to rent porn or cartoons or fascist propaganda or whatever I want without fear of having to reveal what I've rented..."

Ronald stands there blinking for a second, then leaves.

     - Caren Lissner, Carrie Pilby

Saturday, November 13, 2004 · posted at 2:40 AM
Trapped in the Skinner Box. There was a point in my life when I very much wanted to be a psychologist, a therapist, a counselor to those in distress. I also at one point wanted to be a ballerina, a president and a superhero, but this psychology ambition actually had longevity past the days of four square and tetherball.

Becoming a psychologist just made sense. I like to listen, people like to talk. I've been told my taciturn personality and well-timed empathetic nodding is soothing. I can be such a good yes-woman, which would make me one of those well-liked, but more importantly, well-paid cheerleader psychologists.

On paper, the psychologist job description sounds perfect. You hear people's dirty laundry, you tell people what to do, you charge for having a conversation. You can start your own cult - minus the shrouds and black Reeboks. And who's not interested in human behavior?

Luckily before shelling out thousands of dollars for three letters after my name, I came to the realization that me being a psychologist would be as successful as an NYPD Blue star turned silver screen actor.

Top Ten List of my fatal flaws as a psychologist
  1. One can only emphathetically smile and nod for so long before the neurons stop firing and the muscles fatigue.

  2. Some people's lives or problems would inevitably be boring and hard to listen to during 60 minutes of couch time. "So today you went to the store. And bought strawberry jam. How did that make you feel?"

  3. I like to live my life avoiding responsibility as much as I can. Your patients' screw-ups become your own and the last thing you want is Johnny to go jumping off a cliff not because everyone else did, but because his therapist told him to.

  4. You can't leave it at work at the end of the day in a neat little stack of "to dos" at the end of the day. It follows you home and presents little nagging questions while you're watching Mischa Barton break down during a nice episode of "The O.C."

  5. I can't stand the thought of every introduction resulting in, "Whoa Doc, so are you going to psychoanalyze me?"

  6. I can be too opinionated. "You think tv is the devil? Screw you!" And I have poor impulse control. "Your parents never hugged you? No wonder you're screwed up!" Not a good combination.

  7. I'm a horrible liar. "Is there any hope?" "Umm well, you know, people have different definitions of hope... Some ancient civilizations interpreted 'hope' as being neck-deep in s***."

  8. I need immediate gratification. "What do you mean we haven't solved all your issues and fixed all your problems after one session?!"

  9. Wait a minute... I don't like people!

  10. My own life is too f***ed up for me to be in any kind of position to offer others advice.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004 · posted at 2:41 AM
Can you hear me now?

It's a big decision. It's the biggest commitment of our 20-something years.

I recently switched my cellphone carrier. No longer am I "reaching out and touching someone," but now "getting more from life." In other words, I'm one of the millions swayed by Catherine Zeta-Jones' and UPN Top Model's celebrity influences to join the legions at T-mobile. This also means that anyone with T-mobile is welcome to call me anytime but those without may be sent straight to voicemail.

Picking a cellphone service was a long and harrowing ordeal including Excel spreadsheets, internet research, surveys among friends, and shameless flirting with the AT&T sales representatives.

Obsessive, yes, but it's hard for me to make lengthy commitments – I can't even commit to a Costco size of shampoo. It's not the actual carrying out of the commitment that's so scary - I can do one thing for an extraordinarily long period of time (see job entries). The fear comes from the lack of freedom in the matter. Even though I may not fly away from my little cage, I like the door to be open.

And because a cellphone contract is the biggest commitment many of us will make this year, the relationship between cellphone and customer can be likened to other committing relationships, particularly those of a romantic variety. Thus I went about picking my new carrier in the same methodological, checklisted way one would pick a significant other.

Need. What is it that you want? Or think you need? No relationship starts without some kind of need and some kind of attempt to meet it.
Phone: Need to be accessible with the touch of a speed dial button? Need picture-taking capabilities? Need roadside assistance? Need to be able to call your pop culture afficiando friend when you have an earwig?
People: Need security? Need to feel validated? Need a #1 fan? Need to get laid?

Time. When it comes to time, you are Goldilocks and you want Baby Bear's porridge.
Phone: Is your plan giving you too little minutes? Too many minutes?
People: Is he too 24/7? Is she too leap year?

Cost. Is it worth the price? There are many ways to pay for something... what kind of investment are you willing to make?
Phone: Is your bill a reasonable price for the service you're getting? More money for more quality? Less for the chipper chicken?
People: Is the relationship draining you, emotionally, temporally or financially? Do you have a basement bargain deal?

Reliability. Can you count on the other party? You want the other party to be there for you when it.
Phone: Do you frequently have dropped calls or no signals?
People: Canceled dates, missed calls, unavailablity?

Communication. What is the quality of the talks you're awarded?
Phone: Crystal clear or static-y? Patchy or consistent? Only when important or only when superficial?
People: Different wavelengths? Different languages or dictionaries? Is his silence golden?

Friends. What do your friends think about your relationship? They can be a key selling point in starting, maintaining or ending a relationship.
Phone: Do your network provider and your friends vibe well? Do you have free calling within your network and none of your friends are in it?
People: Does your significant other and your friends vibe well? If they don't, you're setting yourself up for awkward outings or a tough choice.

Incentives. What additional perks do you get?
Phone: Free nights? Free weekends? Phone upgrades every year?
People: 40% Employee discount? Great family? 24/7 tech advice?

In likening the cell phone relationship to a real relationship, the cell phone would be the physical manifestation (the body), of the services the company provides (the personality). In switching cell phone carriers, I also had to give up my handy dandy Nokia messaging phone. Moment of silence.

It's always difficult to part with a cell phone you've grown accustomed to. I'm comfortable with my Nokia. I liked the volume control, the tones, the shape, its flip messaging capabilities... Finding my phone in my purse was never a problem because of its size and the 4.3 oz weight meant I'd always know when it was on me.

Karen already bore the brunt of the "This Samsung is too light, the address book doesn't make sense, wah wah" rant so I'll spare the remaining two readers. Sure the new phone has additional features, but more doesn't necessarily imply better. That's like a new boyfriend saying "Guess what – I have an 11th toe!" "I hope you like back hair…"

In both phone and people relationships, when you're no longer happy, you take your business elsewhere. This comes in the form of the "we need to talk" conversation. Sometimes there will be a last ditch attempt to hold on, such as, "I'll change!" "How would you like evenings starting at 7pm?" Usually this kind of negotiaion comes too late … because a call to customer service and "we need to talk" never means that so much as "I've made a decision and need to tell you something."

Regardless of whether you choose Sprint or Verizon, the captain of the football team or the president of the comic book club, you usually, at some point, attain that good ole comfort factor. You know when to curtail a conversation because you're approaching the "no service" zone down the hill. You know what time of the month to avoid making any kind of comment because they are all interpreted as inflammatory. You get too lazy at the prospect of another excel-powered search and think, "good enough." And it is rather comforting, to always know what you're getting... even if it's not exactly what you want.

Sunday, November 07, 2004 · posted at 11:01 AM
From a strictly economic perspective, the market for the provision of medical care suffers from two almost unavoidable defects. First, effective treatments eliminate demand by curing the customers who purchase them. Second, ineffective treatments also tend to eliminate demand, either because, in the case of fatal diseases, customers who purchase such treatments die off, or because, in the case of nonfatal conditions, customers will normally choose not to treat the condition, once it becomes clear the treatment is ineffective.

From the perspective of a profit-maximizing medical and pharmaceutical industry, then, the ideal disease would be one that never killed those who suffered from it, that could not be treated effectively, and that doctors and their patients would nevertheless insist on treating anyway. Luckily for it, the American health-care industry has discovered (or rather invented) just such a discease. It is called "obesity."

      - The Obesity Myth, Paul Campos

Friday, November 05, 2004 · posted at 1:53 PM
Anyanka: You trusting fool! How do you know the other world is any
better than this?

Giles: Because it has to be.

        - Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "The Wish"

Tuesday, November 02, 2004 · posted at 10:37 PM
Free Pizza and Town Hall Meeting Fridays

Cumulus nimbus hovering over my head. The black cloud. Was that a drop?
      - Lorelai, Gilmore Girls, "You Jump, I Jump, Jack"

Today is Election Day and marks my voting debut.

Various disillusionments sprung from this year's election, but in an effort to maintain the tone of this blog, I'm going to focus on a cosmetic one. I echo anachronic's question of this manner - Is it common knowledge that polling places are often synonymous with "location to store your cars, bikes, and other modes of transportation"? By that, I mean the garage of Mr. and Mrs. Neighbors-Next-Door.

Rather than the large recreation rooms and centers I always see during election coverage on tv, I voted in the two-car garage of a family with a minivan, two point five kids and a golden retriever (minus the white picket fence - that's against community development regulations). I picked San Diego's next mayor in an IKEA-lit 342 sq-foot room next to a bicycle pump and underneath a foam swimming noodle.

I guess considering the nation's proclivity toward mixing church and state, I should just be glad that I got to vote in a location free from religious paraphernalia.

Rewind. I had heard the rumors of voting in a garage once the voter registration cards started hitting mailboxes... but even then I read "garage" and thought "warehouse, deserted storage facility," not four-bedroom single family house at the end of the cul-de-sac.

It was as though they had just taken their Costco folding table and turned it into voter check-in central. I swear I could see the remnants of the Labor Day potato salad on that thing. Prom queen elections have been more elaborate than this.

The "polls" consisted of cardboard folding displays illuminated by book lights. When you're walking up the driveway, the polling place looked like an overgrown science fair with 3-sided poster boards. Where were the baking soda volcanoes and the potato-powered clocks?

The idea of protecting the privacy of one's vote is good… the execution not so much. I'm not going to liken the polls to sardines, but the spacing of the polls afforded as much privacy as the "stand behind here" sign at the pharmacy between the instructions for your Levitra medication and the hearing-abled patrons behind you.

And because I couldn't get the ballot box to eat my ballot, I all but pulled it out of the secrecy folder. The paper ballot falls neatly into the cardboard box beneath the electronic scanner… but where does the actual vote go? Electronic signals are sent to satellites that report back to the precinct? Electronic counters are taken in armored transport to city hall?

I think I need to volunteer in the next election, if only to crack the mysteries of who gets to house and man these little subsets of decision making. Seriously, what are the regulations for these little polling places? I showed up with registration card in hand and three forms of ID… only the former was necessary to get a coveted ballot. I think I heard the guy behind me say he had his roommate's registration card. And the junk in someone's garage might be subconsciously influencing voting a certain way. I wonder if I could get a grant to study the effects of surfboards on partisan choice.

Talk about disconcerting - the idea that the nation's leaders are being picked at overgrown bake sales (3 cookies for 25 cents). I can only imagine what the polling places in middle America (the blood clot of the nation) are like. I'm going absentee ballot next time.

Choose or lose. Or choose and still lose. At least Puff Daddy won't kill me (I'll wait for government policies to do that).

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