Monday, June 25, 2007

Fluff post/Summer weather

I hate summers...Always have...Always will. The fact that I have lived my entire life to date in urban environments with weather extremes in both temperature and humidity just makes it worse.

I love the idleness summer affords me. I hate any manifestation of weather above 85 degrees.

I love wearing sandals. I hate anyone who thinks flip-flops are appropriate outside a shower or a beach.

I love wearing pretty summer frocks. I hate the fact the summer heat is an excuse to stop looking at oneself in the mirror - are your boobs falling out of that tank top? Then you need a bra. If I can see your asscheeks, then your skirt is too short. White is NOT an attractive colour on everyone, no matter what your mother might have told you. Oh, and sir? We are not in Miami. Swim trunks are definitely something you wear UNDER your pants.

I love cold air blowing from an airconditioner. I hate the fact that I need one for 2 months out of the year.

I love the ocean. I hate sunbathing. Also, I hate the idea of driving over two hours to hang out at my favourite beach.

I love the smell of summer, especially early in the morning, when the city is just starting to warm up, and there is a gentle breeze, and freshness that is left over from the dew, and sometimes, if the wind is just right, you can smell the ocean. Tomsk and Boston smell the same in the summer, minus the ocean part. I hate exhaust and the unnatural heat rising from the hot hot hot pavement, and you can't find release in the shade because would it have hurt anyone to plant some fucking trees along the major streets? I know Siberia is utterly provincial, but the city planners there actually believed in green spaces ALONG the streets, not just "well, we've got the Emerald Necklace, why would we want more greenery" bullshit.

I love being able to do outdoorsy things (in moderation.) I hate The Red Sox.

I love seasonal fruit and veg. I hate cooking anything in above-85-degree weather.

I love my new mani and pedi. I can't believe I went 31 years without ever setting foot into a nail salon. I feel I have missed out on a great sector of the service industry - who else will massage your feet for mere $20? Actually, today I had the following things massaged - feet, legs, hands, back (it was a vibrating chair thingy) and scalp (haircut, weirdos) - which were all great, unless you are creeped out by people you don't know at all taking physical liberties with your body.

I also love my new imitation Kate Spade bag, which happens to match my new tank-top, completely unintentionally.

Like I said, a fluff post.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Extremely Short Lifespans of Electronic Devices (or, Apple Sucks)

For a while I’ve been utterly convinced that I have an electromagnetic field which fucks with electronics that come into my possession. Since 1995 I’ve been through at least 7 computers (that might have something to do with the second-hand nature of every machine I’ve owned until this one), and they always died at quite inopportune times. All things electronic that I expect to last at least some modicum of time would die when you least expected them to – watches, phones, CD players, TVs, DVD players, air conditioners, whateves. This does not extend to power tools and cars. Oh wait, two out of the three cars I’ve owned died too. Nevermind.

But for the last couple of years I thought the curse has been lifted. Nothing of note has died. True, I had to get a new phone, but that’s because the faceplate on the old one was crap – the phone still works. But the curse is back, and it’s back with a vengeance. My fucking i-pod died last week. It’s the special edition U2 pod, the red-and-black kind, and it’s supposed to be “special”. (seen here with its awesome packaging…fuck Apple for constantly evolving the coolness factor of their gadgets.)

I’ve been through a lot with this piece of plastic and metal goodness made in China, and even though it’s vastly inferior to the i-pods currently available, I love it. What makes this all the more frustrating is that this is my *second* i-pod to die in the last three years. No, I don’t flush them down the toilet, or step on them, or leave them all over the theatre for other people to find (as one of my coworkers constantly does.) The first one went on a plane to CA and came back with a cracked screen, with liquid crystal leaking all over the place. The Apple Genius (seriously? WTF? Sometimes I feel to be more of a genius then the people behind the counter) offered to replace the screen for $300 or so, couldn’t really pinpoint the price, and they all presumed it was my fault, that I broke it and was now expecting it to be fixed for free – no, REALLY, I did not touch the bloody thing, it did that ALL ON ITS OWN.

So the U2 i-pod was the replacement. And I’ve come to depend on it without a second thought. I need background noise all the time, so I listen to music from 1 to 10 hours a day, and I ALWAYS listen to my ipod in the car or on the train. Oh, and at the gym. And at work. AND I COMMUTE EVERY DAY! So this time the Apple Genius offered to replace the hard drive for “$200-$300” – do you see a pattern here? When I asked if it was normal for a hard drive to fail after functioning for less than 3 years, he sneered and said “Well, yes, it’s a very complex piece of electronics…and it’s a very common problem” – No shit, really? It’s complex to make a music player the size of a pack of cigarettes with a storage capacity 20 times that of my first computer? And I thought there were little fairies inside, making the music appear magically. So for close to $300 I could just get a 20G harddrive for an old piece of plastic (even one that has sentimental value for me) or I could buy a 30G video i-pod that is – you got it – a special edition U2 i-pod. Because in the mad effort to market the infinitely cool black-and-red design three years ago, Apple forgot to mention they will KEEP MAKING THEM for all infinity, thus negating all “specialness” the gadget might have had.

So now I am using lk’s shuffle. Because I can’t afford another i-pod right now. It’s rather hard, having to limit my music choices to 200 songs, because I memorize music easily, and thus get bored with it. But Apple won’t get any of my money at least until Christmas, because I am pissed. Of course, I might feel differently when I am tired of reloading different 200 songs on the shuffle a couple of times a week, but for now it works.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Linguistic Confusions IV

Inspired by some posts I just read - incorrect spelling of words that results in distortion of meaning drives me nuts:

MAT - a woven surface to sit on, a border around a print, a padded sport surface, whatevs - generally a flat surface that covers something else
MATT - a shortened version of the name Matthew
MATTE - a dull finish on a surface

When did it become acceptable to substitute the first two for the third without any regard to meaning?

Oedipal unrest

Some time ago my friends and I were passing time discussing that oh-so-12-year-old-girl question of which celebrities one would like to kiss (and do other things to…) – all in good fun, etc.
This game is especially good when there is a reasonable variety of the players’ sexual orientations, and copious amounts of alcohol are consumed. As I’ve just seen the last “Pirates of the Caribbean, my list was quite obviously dominated by the Captain Jack Sparrow himself, and went something like this:

  1. Johnny Depp
  2. Zemfira (this required explanation – a Russian rock star)
  3. Kate Moennig (an actress, for those not familiar with The L Word)
  4. Gael Garcia Bernal
  5. I can’t post it here. It’s too embarrassing. It proves that I am indeed 12 years old.

Now, something has been bothering me about this list since its inception. I couldn’t quite figure out what, so I thought about it for a while, and then I watched The Science of Sleep (which is, by the way, a phenomenal and sad film.) And then I got rather creeped out, because I realized what was bothering me. Gael Garcia Bernal reminded me of my father. A lot. Like they could be brothers. Born 25 or so years apart in two different ethnic groups on two different continents, but that’s just details. I invite you to compare for yourselves:

I know it's not exactly twin city here, and my dad is, like, 12 years old (well, not really, I have good genetics, yo) but eerie, no?

I thought back to Babel, and realized I had that vaguely creepy feeling then as well, but I could not define it besides feeling like I personally know the actor. And it wasn’t just a physical resemblance, either – it was Stephan’s character traits that reminded me of my dad as well. I think what made it more poignant is that The Science of Sleep is set in some indeterminate time period – could be now, could be the 1970s, there’s no real contemporary technology or anything involved, and Gael Garcia Bernal’s character wears what appears to be his father’s polyester clothes from the 1970s. Since I recall many things in my life beginning in 1978 or so, the polyester suits just cinched it. Add black plastic “nerd” glasses, and my father was up on the screen.

So now I guess I have Oedipal complex by proxy – I don’t know if such a thing exists, but it makes me uncomfortable.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Linguistic Confusions III

This is a commercial message.

I recently read a book titled SEND: The Essensial Guide to Email for Office and Home by David Shipley and Will Schwabe.

While I haven't really learned anything I did not already know about e-mail etiquette from the abovementioned book (since I consider e-mail to be much like letter writing, which requires a certain decorum anyway...), I came across the following:

"Five Words that almost Everyone Misuses:

Disinterested - impartial or objective (not bored or uninterested).
Irregardless - not standard English; use "regardless" instead.
Nonplussed - confused (not nonchalant).
Penultimate - next to last (not last or really great).
Presently - shortly or soon (not at present or now)."

I am totally guilty of misusing three words on this list. I bet almost all of us are. And face it, EVERYONE who might be reading this is a good writer (even if some of us can't spell...)

On the other hand, I think this book should now be required in EVERY office and educational environment across the English-speaking culture. It's concise and funny.

End of shameless commercial plug.

Linguistic Confusions II

I learned the coolest word last week - in French - "paresseux" - doesn't it just roll off your tongue? it means "lazy" and perfectly describes the effects of 90 degree weather on cette l'étrangère. et maintenant, parce que je suis trop paresseux (or should it be "paresseuse" for my femininity?) je veux vous introduire une citation:

"C'est qu'en effet, madame, l'univers n'est que le reflet de notre âme."
- Anatole France, Le Crime de Sylvestre Bonnard

I haven't actually READ this novel, just a little bit in class, but I feel it's perfectly succinct of the way I've been feeling. If you don't understand the quote, too bad. I reserve the right to remain an intellectual snob. Go plug it into BabelFish or something.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

My Top 10 Tips for Using Craigslist.

The original purpose of this blog was to rant about things that annoy the crap out of me. I have a very long list of such things, where currently summer, Red Sox Fans, MBTA, Boston drivers, people in flip flops, and unnecessary/wasteful product packaging reign supreme. I seem to be quite obsessed with lists as well, so this might be a blog of lists. Today’s installment of rants concerns…


Occasionally – and recently it’s been more frequently than I’d like – I venture on Craigslist to sell something for myself, buy something as a prop for a show, sell something that used to be a prop on a show etc. etc. At those times, my life becomes a living hell. While Craigslist has been of extraordinary help for me since 1999 or so, lending me a hand in renting multiple apartments, selling almost all of our furniture once, finding people to transport large items from point A to point B in their very nice truck, etc. etc., it is those brilliant people who use the service as if no social skills or common graces are required the make my blood boil. It is for those people I compile my Top 10 Tips for Using Craigslist.

10. If you are offering a physical item for sale, it’s helpful to include a picture. Chances are, if you can use Craigslist, you have a digital camera. Or a phone with a camera. Or you can borrow a camera for 5 minutes. “Green couch for sale” becomes a lot more attractive when can be seen below the header. It will also help me a lot if I can show the couch to my designer and ask “should we get this lovely green couch for the set” instead of hoping I can reupholster another Craigslist couch green because I can’t see yours. And, when it’s student moving season in Boston, and 15,000 BU freshmen are ripe to acquire unique “great” couches, yours stands THAT much more of a chance with a picture.

9. Please let me know where your item is located upfront. There’s a little space for that at the top of the posting form. Boston” is a large area. If you are in Danvers, that’s not Boston. That’s the North Shore. I don’t routinely drive 30 miles for a bookcase. I bet someone from Salem would be more than happy to pick up an item in Danvers. Likewise, I already posted in my ad the location of the crap I am getting rid of – it’s “Fenway.” The neighborhood is 12 square blocks. Don’t ask me where I am. It makes me think you can’t read. If you don’t know your Boston locales, you shouldn’t be using Craigslist.

8. On the subject of neighborhoods, why are Craigslisters so damn lazy? I once had a woman waste an hour of my time exchanging e-mails for an item I was selling (and actually MAKING a date to meet) only to write back and tell me I “lived too far.” I was 4 T-stops from her. That’s not even 15 minutes, and I lived ACROSS the STREET from the T-stop. I guess her time was extremely valuable.

7. If you write an e-mail interested in an item for sale, please sign your name. It’s only common courtesy, as I don’t want to refer to you as “Dear”! Phone numbers are helpful too, in case I need to track you down (see items 2 &3). Also, please make sure your e-mail address actually shows a name of some sort – it doesn’t have to be your real name, or even your full name, but something other than “abcdf23” is helpful for identification. Otherwise, if I receive multiple e-mails from you, I am hella confused about who you are, especially if the e-mails are concerning different items I am selling.

6. If I offered to deliver the item I am selling because I felt bad for you and your carless situation, DON’T haggle over the price, and be a dear and actually COME DOWN from the 4th floor (which you forgot to mention) and pick up the item yourself. I would have been ok with lugging it up the stairs if you were a 90-year old lady. You were younger than me. I know I am a sucker, but I wanted my money. I am NEVER delivering anything AGAIN.

5. If I posted a “TV Unit” with a photo, a detailed description with measurements, explanation where the item was purchased, and a link to how much it currently STILL sells retail, all the while asking a quite reasonable $90 for it, don’t tell me “I’ll give you $30 for it.” The words “Or Best Offer” were not part of the ad. If I wanted to sell it for $30, I would have said as much. Also, don’t ask me if it will fit in your car – I gave you the measurements, you presumably took enough math to make it out of primary grades, and can read a measuring tape. I am not clairvoyant, I don’t know if your car trunk is big enough.

4. On occasion I have posted multiple similar items for sale. For instance, last month I was divesting of 3 different typewriters, all posted under their respective brand names. I have received multiple messages inquiring “if the typewriter was still there.” I don’t know. Maybe it is. The Remington definitely is. Did you want the Corona? I am sorry, it’s gone. When you linked to my posting and cleverly deleted the automatic e-mail subject “Re: Corona Typewriter for Sale”, I had no way of knowing what you wanted. However, this would also be a good time to become clairvoyant. I will work on that.

3. If we exchange multiple e-mails about the item, and then you disappear, and I am forced to re-post the item because you disappear, and you have enough free time to find my item AGAIN and write back to me through Craigslist with apologies and then disappear AGAIN, I am sorry, you can’t have my item, you are a moron with the attention span of a gnat. I wish I had that much free time on my hands during my work day.

2. You know where to find me – we’ve exchanged 4 e-mails settling on the date and time, and at the end of EVERY e-mail I have this little thing called a “signature” where you can find my work phone, my cell phone, my e-mail address, and even the name of the organization for which I work, which can provide you with an address through the use of a wonderful internet service called “Google.” Oh wait, I’ve given you my cell number already, when I explained that I am located on a one-way street, have given you the address, and informed you that the only way to gain entry into the building is by calling me. So even if you NEVER read my e-mails all the way through and did not see the signature, you should have a reasonable idea of how to get to my location. So don’t call me at the exact time of our rendez-vous and say “I am in Cambridge, how do I get there?” I am not Mapquest.

1. And finally, if you make a date and time to show up and pick up your crap (be it free crap or $35 crap) – please, please, please ACTUALLY show up. If it became clear to you since the last e-mail we exchanged that you are no longer interested in the free sewing machine, the $10 pair of shoes, the $75 coffee table, be a dear and shoot me an e-mail. You may also pick up the phone and ring me. We’ve already discussed how to reach me and where I am located. If you let me know you don’t want to item in question any longer, I will contact the next person who was interested, and trust me, I will move on with my life. But I suppose it’s a lot more fun to imagine me coming to work at 7 pm on a Saturday because “it’s the only time I’ll be in the area”, waiting for you for a half hour, calling your cell without you picking up, and avoiding my angry e-mails and phone calls forever.

I wish I could say I am done with Craigslist. Unfortunately, just like good crack, it will draw me back in, since nobody can live in a major urban area without using it. The next rant that concerns that service will surely include my real estate travails.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Fictional Nostalgie...

I just saw Day Watch, a sequel to Night Watch - two films directed by Timur Bekhmambetov, and as far as I can tell, the first two Russian films to be widely released in the US since Burnt by The Sun in 1994. Russian cinema has a lot of great qualities, and I can't help but be upset that science fiction chock full of special effects is what it takes to show a Russian film in mainstream movie theatres. However, the films are great, the second one better than the first. You don't have to have seen Night Watch to enjoy Day Watch, as they recap the previous film for you (in English...Grrr...) in the first 5 minutes. Russian culture has long been aping Hollywood and American culture in general, so it's refreshing to see a film based on a Russian novel, filmed in Russia, and showing contemporary Russia without being judgmental or glorifying it.

As is the danger with foreign films always, the subtitles (rather, people who write copy for subtitles) have that issue of "literal translation" vs "how do we make it clear enough that Americans won't get lost when we keep calling a character 3 different names". I usually read the subtitles to see how faithful to the script the English language experience is. Today, a couple of times it was clear that there were 3 Russian speakers in the house - we all laughed at the following scene:

A witch goes to the bathroom in a cafe. (it's fantasy, bear with me.) We hear toilet flushing. Her friend knocks on the bathroom door, telling her it's time to go. When no reply is given, she opens the door, only to see a completely empty bathroom. The friend laughs, comments "she is good" in subtitles, and leaves.

This was funny because in Russian the friend said "smylas'" - which is slang for "gone", literally meaning "washed away" or - you can see it coming - "flushed." There is just NO way to translate puns, and this brings me to my rant of a couple of weeks ago - EVERYTHING is better in the language of the original.

Athens, American and Otherwise

I have just learned the Boston has been nicknamed "The Athens of America" (possibly due to its multitude of cultural and educational institutions) in the 19th century. That's a WAAAY cooler nickname than "Beantown". Coincidentally, Tomsk has been nicknamed "Siberian Athens" for roughly the same amount of time. Now if I can just live in actual Athens for the next 16 years, I'd be a true Athenian, no?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Experiments in confusion

In this week's episode of "...Stranger..." Ani learns to post photos. Go me!!!

A memento from the City of Brotherly...

from LK, who has been auto-distracted and unheeding of the blogosphere.

I don't know if they still have pink fountains downtown. When this photo was taken, it felt much rather as if we were celebrating Breast Cancer Awareness Month, since ALL the fountains were pink. But hey, at least they HAVE fountains...

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A nice quote to begin with...

From “Send”:

“Sarcasm may be a less direct form of anger, but it’s still anger. The Greek root of “Sarcasm” means to rip flesh, usually with your teeth. When a wild animal bites your thigh, it is literally being sarcastic. Of all the tonal choices you can make in a correspondence, the decision to use sarcasm should be carefully considered, and almost always abandoned.”