Thursday, December 9, 2010

Back In The Game

I just got back from my first speed dating experience. It was actually a lot more fun that I thought it would be. Of course, there was the token rude guy, and the token fucking awkward guy, and they guy that was way too old to be there, but we'll get to those.
I agreed to go mainly to support my friend and because what the hell else am I gonna do on a Thursday night? Plus, it's always fun to get dressed up, and it's really hard to meet anyone between 21 and 30 in this city unless you're in a bar screaming at them over the music. So at the very least, I knew I would meet interesting people. Whether I would be glad I met them...
Some of them, definitely glad I met. Like the really hot guy who was the only one to offer to buy me a drink when he saw my empty glass. Sadly, I couldn't take him up on that since I was driving. Also glad I met the adorable Russian guy (hello, amazing accent!) who was hilarious and joked about being in the mob in Kansas. Call me!
But enough about the good, let's get to what you're really here for. The shit talking.
First of all, who answers their phone in the middle of a date? Especially in speed dating, where you have six minutes per person! So, yeah, phone guy can kiss my ass.
Then there was the guy who wrote "technical" books, but refused to elaborate because clearly I would never read them. Pretentious douche. Who writes a book about the flavors of rice anyway? And he had a stupid hat.
Let's see...oh there was the super sweet guy who had just gotten out of college, and was kind of awkward about whatever job he had (I never did get it out of him). Any job is a good job right now, kid.
But he wasn't nearly as awkward as The Awkward Guy. Oh my god, this guy was ridiculous. He kind of looked like the guy from Legally Blonde, you know the one that Elle goes up to and slaps across the face and pretends to be upset that he never called her after the best pleasure she had ever know? That guy. It's a very good thing that I can babble my head off at the drop of a hat, because that was a challenge, even for me. He seemed to have an inability to say anything beyond "That's interesting" or "I feel the same way." And he was drinking a glass of merlot, but he only took a drink when I did (which was frequently in that little interaction). Mirroring doesn't work when it freaks the fuck out of the person you are mirroring. So. Awkward. It was the longest six minutes of the night.
He was even more awkward than the guy who just so happened to have a twelve year old.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I have really intense, vivid dreams in general. Last night was no exception. I jotted down the bits I could remember before they were lost in the mist so I could look them up in my dream book later. I like to use the dream book for entertainment purposes only, and by no means do I believe anything it says. However. This would freak out the most rational person in the world:

Finding something: Loss in business.
Finding valuable article: Big misfortunes in business.
Finding money: Danger and business loss.
Digging in loose soil: Plans will succeed.
Others being dirty: Illness in the family.
Of the marijuana plant: Will be melancholy.
Smoking marijuana: Will dream of unattainable things.
Eyes being wide open: A change in life will come soon.
The color gray: Will receive a letter with news.
Other famous people: Sorrow is about to come.
Of a restaurant: Bad health.
Eating at a restaurant: Health is not very good.
Of cheese: Worry caused by own hasty actions.
Of a skirt: Will be lazy.
Black iron: Will be cheated by friends.
An empty table: Will fall into poverty.
Eating a piece of cake: Will lose sweetheart.
Of eating: You are being deceived.
Eating on the floor: Somebody will take something away from you.
Eating fat things: Warning of an illness to come.
Avoiding danger: Troubles will come to you.

Can I panic now?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Been A Long, Lonely Time

After five months of no physical contact aside from perfunctory pecks hello and goodbye, and three months of almost no conversation that didn't lead to a fight, I concluded that Ricardo and I should break up. Especially since it was just in February that I already brought up the subject of breaking up. I told him my thoughts and desire for him to move out on a Sunday a few weeks ago. It led to a discussion of things that he has been upset about with me, but hadn't bothered to talk to me about. Things that he found out by going through my phone or other not nice techniques. I pointed out that he'd never brought any of these things that he was upset about to my attention, instead he just closed himself off from me and punished me for them. He felt particularly bad when I pointed out the lack of contact between us. That night he went about professing his love for me and trying to cuddle me, which was completely not fair and I pointed out how unfair it was for him to basically ignore me for five months and then think that a hug could make everything ok. The following Monday I came home to a spotless house, Gerber daisies in various locations, even bathed rats. He then started to prepare dinner and got very sidetracked by telling me how he was positive that everything would be ok between us and that he could fix the problems and make things better. Basically everything I wanted to hear. I countered that it's very easy to say you can do something, but these are the same problems we had when I wanted to break up in February, and why were they still problems? At that point he was begging me not to break up, so I ran away and did some laundry and called Teresa. She advised me to sleep on things and Ricardo was thankfully quiet on the subject when I went back to the apartment. The next day was even worse. He was literally on his knees, crying and pleading with me to stay together. I ended up yelling at him quite a bit and repeating that there was no way I could possibly agree to stay together based on him promising me he can fix these issues. Pressed for time ( I was meeting coworkers for dinner) I told him to focus his crazy energy on actually doing what he was telling me he could do, instead of just repeating it over and over. So far that's what he's been doing. I know he's on his best behavior though. If it were possible for him to maintain his current behavior...well I just don't think it is. And even if he can, I'm really not sure what I want at this point. It is very tempting to give him another chance and see if we can make this work, especially with how nice he's being now. But the logical side of me wonders how long it will be before these old habits and trust issues crop up again and we end up in the same situation. I don't want to waste any more time on this if we aren't going to work out.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hell is Other People

I sit next to one of the most annoying creatures to ever exist in a working environment. She's constantly making a ton of noise. She's usually clearing her throat incessantly, tapping her feet on the plastic floor thing under her chair, and banging on her keyboard so hard that it sounds like she's using a typewriter from the 50s. This constant barrage of noise is accentuated by the continuous stream of babble from her mouth. She talks to me, others who sit over here, her emails, her computer, herself...just a stream of vocal diarrhea from the moment she gets here to the moment she leaves. Oh, and of course, she talks on the phone, but it's not really talking so much as screaming at the top of her lungs. When she does have a question or comment for one of us, it's usually preceded by a long, high-pitched "Uuummmmmmmm". I can't even begin to describe the upwelling of rage I experience every time I hear this noise. It heralds one of the following events: 1. An announcement that she has sent one of us an email. You can imagine how annoying that is seventeen times a day. 2. A question that she will begin in the middle of her train of thought, without any reference to any pertinent information. Like "Have you worked on this before?" without indicating who she's directing the question at or what "this" is supposed to mean. 3. Asking the most asinine questions. The kind where, if she stopped and used her tiny, feeble brain for one second, wouldn't even be a question. Like coming up to me, pointing at the coffee pot and asking if there's any coffee left. I don't know! I can't see through it any more than she can! All I'm going to do is look inside to assess the amount of coffee available, but she can't seem to make that connection. Even better is when I understand her question and start to answer, only for her to just keep right on talking as though I didn't just tell her the answer in two seconds flat. There are no yes or no questions in her world, so she has to explain every little insignificant detail of every little thing. If I ask her a question on IM because I don't want to listen to her yapping, she walks into my cube to discuss it! Or she'll pop her head over our shared cube wall, banging her huge wedding band on the metal piece at the top and scaring the bejesus out of me every time, share some inane bit of information that doesn't even apply to me, and close it out with "Just FYI!" but she clearly has no grasp of the meaning if FYI, since she will forward me emails with things I have to do, but type at the top "FYI". WRONG.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Book 9: Ceres Storm by David Herter

This book is the complete opposite of the last one I reviewed. This is a perfect example of when the prose gets in the way of the story. Ceres Storm is so full of jargon and convoluted descriptions that I'm not at all clear on most of the plot.
There was a boy, who was also his own uncle and grandfather, and the grandfather was a machine who's soul was at one point in a tree, and before that he was the ruler of Earth and Mars. I think. And somehow the boy saves the universe by blowing up Charon, Pluto's moon. A lot of other things happened as well, I just have no idea what they really were.
Just to show how hard this book is trying (and that seems to be the main problem to me, it's just trying way too hard), here is a description of a sunset:
The afternoon dwindled to a vague silver-blue on his eyelids, to the specks of dust floating in his tears, brittle and translucent, twitching as he turned his eyes left and right, settling for a time while the silver-blue deepened, gained dimension.
That passage is one of the more easily understood things in this novel. I don't have any objection to a novel being a challenge to read. But what has happened here is that the author has pushed the novel out of the realm of enjoyment. Novels that are written in a dense language where every word is fraught with meaning can be a joy to read. This novel is awkward and clunky, like someone got overzealous with a thesaurus.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Book 8: The Island of the Day Before by Umberto Eco

Filled with tangled and twisting plot lines, this novel is a challenge to read, but an incredibly rewarding one. The rich writing style of Eco breaths life and vibrancy into a story that would have left me cold were it written by anyone else. Much shorter than his other novels (especially The Name of the Rose), The Island of the Day Before is a tightly woven tapestry of intersecting lives, religions, cultures, and even times.
The main story, if one can really be picked out, is the life of Roberto della Griva, a 17th century Italian nobleman. After his ship sinks in a storm, Roberto finds himself floating next to a different, seemingly abandoned ship. Interspersed throughout Roberto's actions aboard the mystery ship are Roberto's memories of his childhood, the war he fought in, the time he spent in France learning about astronomy and sailing, his mission to find the International Date Line, his loves, and his fears.
This is where Eco's superb ability in storytelling turns this novel from something merely interesting into something spellbinding. Described as an Italian medievalist, semiotician, philosopher, literary critic and novelist (He really is just amazing.), the things that Eco is able to do with words are beyond description. If you love words for the sheer beauty that they can create, you absolutely must read this novel. The thing that sets him apart from other word smiths though, is that Eco maintains a compelling story throughout his amazing wordplay. In one short sentence, Eco tells us, through Roberto, the idea that gave life to this novel:

To survive, we must tell stories."

Book 7: Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

I first read this novel when I was traveling around the UK several years ago. I literally did not put it down from the time I opened it until I finished it. Reading it the second time around, I found it just as compelling. If you haven't read it yet, I cannot recommend it enough.
The story is fairly dark and twisted. In an alternate version of Japan, middle school students are forced to participate in a murderous version of king-of-the-hill. The children are drugged and transported to an island. When they wake up, they are instructed about the rules of the program and given random weapons. The rules are very simply: kill your classmates, your friends. The last kid standing wins.
What makes this novel so compelling is the insight into the characters. The writing style is simple, even sparse at points. I find that this accentuates the story incredibly well. The writing doesn't get in the way of what is being conveyed, if that makes sense. Takami provides an incredibly clear and in-depth look into the characters, their motivations, their fears, their selves.
Another reason that I find this novel so compelling is that I'm a psych major. The range of reactions that the students have to the situation that they're thrust into is truly fascinating, even if you've only taken Psych 101. There are characters from all walks of life and each of them reacts in a way that makes sense based on their background and the aspects of their personalities that Takami gives them.
The other overarching theme is a political one. Through his characters, Takami discusses government corruption, western influence on eastern cultures, rebellion against an oppressive government, as well as active participation and support of an oppressive government. While this confluence of ideas could bash you in the head, à la Margaret Atwood, Takami's understated style kept me reading instead of rolling my eyes and sighing that "I get it already."

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Book 6: Rachael and Leah by Orson Scott Card

When I was growing up, I went to church nearly every day. Our church was a nondenominational Christian church, Calvary Chapel. For the area, it was a pretty progressive church. Our pastor was a former drug addict and frequently used stories from that time in his life when he was giving a sermon. In general though, the members of the church were some of the more hypocritical and judgmental people I have ever known. I have seen how religion can bring out the best in people and how it can give people an excuse to exercise their most vicious tendencies.

After I was old enough to hold a job, I stopped going to church every day due to the time conflict. And I found that I didn't really miss it. By the time I was a junior in high school, I had concluded that Christianity was not for me. I explored other religions, and while I found that most of them have a lot of good qualities, those good things were usually tied to some sort of subjugation of myself that I found unacceptable. In the end, I never found a religion that fit what I was looking for. I don't feel as though I have something missing in my life, but I do sometimes feel nostalgic for the comfort I got from my church as a child.

This is where Rachael and Leah comes into play. Not many people know that Orson Scott Card is Mormon and has written many religious book and plays, but I am one of those people who falls in love with the way a person writes and goes digging for everything they have ever written. After reading Ender's Game, I continued with all of the books in that series, and then I kept going. The more I read, the more I found he had written. When I learned that he had written a series of religious fiction novels, I was apprehensive at first. But I was determined not to judge before I knew what I was talking about, so I picked up Sarah, the first book in his "Women of Genesis" series. The title of the book helped. I kept going and read Rebekah and then Rachael and Leah. It is this last novel that is executed the best of the three. Card's straightforward way of telling a story dovetails nicely with this ancient tale of sibling rivalry, love and faith.

The story is told from four points of view, the sisters Rachael and Leah, and two girls who end up as handmaids for the sisters. Their observations and interpretations of the events around them give new life to a story that many people know by rote. Card gives the characters motivations that have little to do with religion and more to do with being a young woman in a very strict culture living in a very harsh land. At the beginning of the novel, motherless sisters Rachael and Leah constantly fight and both walk all over their clueless father. When Jacob arrives, his personal faith helps the sisters reconcile and both grow up to become caring women in the seven years that Jacob works for their father.

The novel ends with the wedding of Leah to Jacob in place of her sister. This is the part of the story that I have the most trouble with. Card has the switch of the sisters play out like a slapstick comedy with Jacob as the butt of the joke. I find that it doesn't really fit with the tone of the rest of the novel. He does stay true to the original story in that Jacob ends up married to both sisters, but I feel that this conclusion could have been reached in a way that did not require Jacob and the father to become complete morons.

Overall though, while it has it's flaws, I find that reading Rachael and Leah when I feel nostalgic to be a great comfort. It reminds me of the good that religion can bring out in people, and the positive changes that it can motivate.