Friday, December 17, 2010

I have a dilemma.  It is one of those things that seems to be near-insoluble to me, but that seems trivially resolvable to everyone I have talked to about it.  (Of course, they do not agree on what the trivial solution is, which perhaps suggests it is not as trivial to think, but who am I to argue with the people who think everything can be boiled down to whatever the answer they have already chosen is?)

I mentioned on this blog that the IB was in town several weeks ago, and I also mentioned that he was in a relationship-wanting phase of our friendship.  He has been this phase with increasing frequency and intensity for a few years, the main obstacles being (in rough order of increasing severity) the thousand-mile distance between our homes, my periodic unavailability, his inconsistency, and my general lack of interest.  Over the weeks since his visit, he has been more consistent than usual - more consistent than ever, I think, except when we first met and might have actually been having a normal relationship - about staying in touch.  I've been replying to his emails and texts in large part because I don't find correspondence burdensome; I don't mind being in regular contact with him, but I don't particularly crave it.

He is coming back to the area for ten days over the holidays, because his parents live here; it would be reasonable for him to make a day- or weekend trip to New York.  He has done this before, and we discussed him doing it again.  But it seems a little more serious, perhaps because it would be over New Year's, perhaps because it would be the second visit in as many months, perhaps because he has become unrelentingly clear about his intentions.

The IB is a good guy, really a catch.  He's intelligent and successful.  He reads for pleasure and enjoys traveling.  He's a good talker and a good listener.  He doesn't have many hangups, and he's adventurous enough to be good company in most situations.  However, I can't seem to get on board.  I'm not opposed, exactly.  I understand, intellectually, that his thinking makes a lot of sense.  We have always enjoyed each other's company, there have been intermittent periods of non-platonicness that have seemed to have potential, and now that he has decided finding a partner is the big item on his agenda, I'm a promising - perhaps the most promising and/or only - candidate.  It is a perfectly reasonable way to go about choosing something that will be important in your life, such as your car or your home or, I suppose, your spouse.  

I'm not rejecting the idea because of anything superficially unappealing about him.  The problem isn't the amount of money he makes or his looks or his confidence level (none of which I would classify as unappealing anyway).  The problem isn't even that he lives somewhere I don't want to live, or that I cannot seem to get interested in sleeping with him.  Maybe the problem is just that I've known him for so long that I don't find such a dramatic shift in intentions plausible, especially unaccompanied by any substantial shift in the tone of our interactions.  

The good thing is, well, how would I like to feel when I am with someone who is going to be my partner?  Happy and confident and safe.  I feel all of those things when I'm with the IB.  But also, I would like to feel stimulated, like I am growing, like I have to grow a little bit to keep up with him.  I don't feel that way with him.  I feel relaxed, which is also good, but a little bit too relaxed.  Like I can go ahead and be my worst self and it's okay.  I don't want to always have permission to be my worst self.

Also, I am not in love with him, but I suppose that's immaterial.

Finally, there is an obstacle that should not matter but, a little bit, does, which is guitar boy.  Things have intensified, not necessarily to a point at which I would call him my boyfriend (although that is a little bit because of how ridiculous it would be) but probably to a point at which it would not be cool to spend a weekend with an old flame in an attempt to rekindle the relationship.  It is obviously ludicrous to compare these two men, and it would be insane to forgo the a rewarding long-term relationship for an exciting but short-lived fling.  Except that the fling is making me happy, and I am not convinced that the rewarding long-term relationship would.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

on being good

I have a lot to say and very little excuse for why I haven't said it yet, since I do have a decent amount of free time.  But I'm tired, which makes me forget what I have to say.

At some point there will have to be a retrospective, because 2010 was a hell of a year.

The biggest thing I have learned this year is that in life there are no brownie points.

I'm big on brownie points.  This is perhaps because I screw up a lot, so I need them.  But it's mostly because the way I'm constituted makes me always want to be looking over my shoulder, checking if I am earning all the gold stars.  I like to be thorough; when I play video games, I like to kill all the bad guys rather than just dodging them.  I don't like to test the system; if I'm told I absolutely have to be at work at 8:30 on the dot every morning for training and it takes half an hour to get there, I'll leave at 7:45, every morning, even after I see other people waltz in at 8:32 and 8:35 and 8:45 with no or few consequences.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing.  It's good to be conscientious.  And there are certain areas of my life in which I could afford to be more conscientious (these days, alarmingly, that's the Not Eating Yogurt-Covered Pretzels For Lunch area).  But overall I tend to live as if there's some sort of gold-star chart at the back of the classroom, and maybe when I die there will be an award for the girl who has amassed the most.  And what I've learned this year is, well, there had better be such an award when I die, because there is certainly not going to be one before that.  Nobody ever says, "gee, you were at work early every morning for sixteen weeks, even the morning the entire subway system flooded.  Great job!"  Similarly, there are not prizes given out for never taking a long coffee break, or for going to the gym every morning, or for getting good Xmas presents for your whole family.  In general, there is no reward for being good.

So being good has to be its own reward, which means you have to choose what of it you do.  Going to the gym before work is its own reward about three days a week.  The other days, sleeping an extra 90 minutes is a better reward.  Getting good presents for people is its own reward - but paying extra to ship them faster is not.  Getting a project at work done is rewarding, but staying until seven just because everyone else is that day, is not. Going to bed early... well, somebody needs to find  way to bundle that with something I actually want to do.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Gift Hierarchy

  1. The best gift is one that the recipient wants very much but does not realize she wants.  How could  person not realize what she wants, you ask?  She might know this thing exists - it might be a book she hasn't heard of or a gadget she didn't know of.  Or, even better, she might simply never have considered how much such a thing will improve her life.  This is a very hard gift to find, highly recipient-specific, and is even harder for well-adjusted recipients who know their own desires well.  I generally don't try to shop for such gifts for a given occasion because they're so rare, but if I see or think of something that will be perfect for someone, I buy it immediately or make a note of it for later.
  2. Special category for romantic gifts: the first romantic gift between a couple of a given romantic-gift category, or an unexpectedly-but-welcomely-romantic gift (i.e. between people who are not yet officially involved).
  3. Something the recipient already wants but would never allow themselves to spend money on because they are perceived as too expensive / luxurious / hedonistic.  This gift is best if it is actually a very small luxury and the means of the giver and recipient are similar.  (Example: buying $30 worth of expensive chocolate for a good friend, when $30 is a typical amount to spend on each other, is really sweet.  Buying a $200 bottle of wine for that friend, when $200 is their food budget for the month and play money to you, is - in my opinion, anyway - less impressive.  The beauty of this gift is not that it is a wealth transfer; it is its permission to indulge oneself in a way one wouldn't ordinarily allow.)
  4. A gift elaborating on a known fondness of the recipient (i.e. some people are always happy to have books; others are always happy to have jewelry, or new music, or gadgets) in an unusual, giver-specific, or especially welcome way.  For example, gifts bought on exotic travels or made by the giver.  This is the highest realistic goal for most gift-giving occasions.
  5. Other romantic (relationship-appropriate) gifts.
  6. A "this made me think of you" type of gift - i.e. one whose tone, humor, character, or etc. made the giver think of the recipient.  Sometimes these are things the recipient likes; frequently they are not.  But they're usually interesting and thoughtful.
  7. ------------------------------- line between good gifts and okay gifts -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
  8. A gift elaborating on a known fondness of the recipient in a typical way.             
  9. A generic gift.  Many people keep gift closets full of scented candles, bath products, and nonperishable foods that they give out - over the holidays or throughout the year - as hostess gifts, holiday presents for neighbors, offerings for the kids' teachers, and any other time a gift seems called for.  These are perfectly good gifts if the only thing that needs to be said is "look! I got you a gift!"; otherwise they are disappointing for everyone.
  10. Something the recipient has specifically asked for.  
  11. Money (if given by parents or older relatives).
  12. ------------------------------- line between okay gifts and bad gifts ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  13. Most gift cards.  A generic gift card, i.e. from Gap or Bed Bath and Beyond, has no advantages to the recipient over money and a few obvious disadvantages.  Some gift cards are actually other kinds of gifts - for example, a spa gift card for a person who would never spend money on a spa visit is actually type 3.
  14. A gift meant to improve the recipient.  My parents are masters of this gift form.  I have been carrying an electric wok around for the last four moves because they seem to think it is something that a person who lives alone and doesn't cook needs to have.  In my current kitchen, it does not fit on the counter.  They also like to give me cookbooks. 
  15. No gift.
  16. Something totally orthogonal to the recipient's personality and interests, the kind of gift that makes you wonder if the giver knows you at all.  Sometimes the only difference between this type and type 6 is presentation.
  17. A gift for which the best, and sometimes only, possible explanation is that it was meant to hurt or offend.  Closely related to type 14, but more negative and usually given to women, by their significant others.
I have three more holiday gifts to buy, plus cards to write.  Fortunately, that will not be the end of the gift-giving because in January two friends have birthdays and I'm going to a wedding, and then possibly another wedding in March.  I say "possibly" because this wedding is to be held in Palm Beach, at The Breakers, a resort so fancy even the website is intimidating.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

the Pill

I will tell you something that really shouldn't be controversial, but is: I'm on the Pill.  I have been on the Pill continuously for over nine years, and I intend to remain on it for the foreseeable future.

If you are a sensible person, your response to this is, "okay... so?"  Because this would be like me telling you that I take allergy medicine or fish oil supplements or dye my hair every six weeks: I choose to do it for reasons somewhere between purely medical and purely personal, at the expense of my insurance when I have good insurance and at my own expense when I don't, and the side effects and risks it entails are ones that a reasonable adult might accept.  

However, many people I know seem to have totally different responses.  The Pill, they say, is unnatural (often they say this while drinking apple martinis that contain absolutely no apple).  Also, it will mess up my body and my "rhythms" and make it harder for me to have children and possibly lead to birth defects in said children if I do have them, and doesn't it make me feel weird to be controlled by medicine?  Now, of course, most of these objections have been scientifically demonstrated to be bullshit and/or are completely irrelevant; moreover, almost all of them could be made for many other things. If a person who eats only organic food and uses only organic skin products and refuses to take any kind of medicine and so forth wants to lecture me about this, well, I don't know that I'll listen, but I'll at least respect where she's coming from.  But it's a pretty weak argument when it comes out of the mouth of someone who's happy to engage in every subjugation of her "natural rhythms" that modern technology can offer, except one that relates to her reproductive organs.

I'm writing about this now because of this article (and response).  The author here also manages to include a sort of "if you go on the Pill you'll forget to have children" argument - forget?  really?  what, is society going to stop reminding me for longer than eight seconds?  please? - that is actually more ludicrous (in my opinion) than anything I've mentioned previously.  Most people on the Pill still get a period every month, or every three months, so it's not like - to the extent that blood in your nether regions is womanly or motherly - we're missing out on this reminder.  We just don't want to be pregnant in our twenties in such large numbers, and the Pill - now only one of the reliable methods at our disposal, and not the best for anyone who wants to be truly carefree - helps us to fulfill this desire.  Women who wait too long to procreate may regret it (although the ones whose stories I read seem to mostly feel that waiting was their best option).  But so may people who don't take advantage of their youth in other ways - and I don't see this author telling women to stop suppressing their "natural" urge to each chocolate while their metabolisms can still handle it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

in which I attempt to watch a Woody Allen movie, so as to educate myself

6:29.  I really wish I could like, or at least understand, Woody Allen.  I've been able to tolerate some of his more recent movies, i.e. Vicky Cristina Barcelona (which might have been good, even, if not for the vaguely vapid presence of Scarlett Johanssen in place of an actual actress) and Melinda and Melinda (which I actually almost liked).  You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger was, well, no more stupid and misogynistic than most of what comes out of Hollywood, so I suppose that's an improvement.

It's really vintage Woody Allen - the stuff that's supposedly so great - that I can't stand.  I am watching Manhattan right now, or trying to, but the problem is that by six and a half minutes into the movie I'm already bored (from the actionless overture at the very start of the movie) and pissed off (from, well, Woody Allen).  What would happen, so you suppose, if a woman with a massive ego and an unpleasant face made a series of movies about her sexual conquests?  Also, I realize this movie was made in the 70's but I'm pretty sure statutory rape was at least frowned upon back then.

8:11  Seriously??  I don't know which of the two male characters I hate more, the one who is sarcastic about his friend's affair despite his own many affairs, or the one who has the "great marriage" because he's only had one or two affairs.  Please tell me this is not how normal, non-movie men sound when there are no women around.

9:54.  Young Meryl Streep.  movie just got a lot better.  Wait... how could she have been married to this turd?

14:59.  Almost didn't recognize Diane Keaton / dark, curly hair. 

Suddenly feel like less of a grave-robber next to Woody.

16:40:  Realize where I got my rampant-feminist-trying-to-scare-off-men act:  Diane Keaton.  Love her.

18:42.  Woody Allen was alive during WWII???

21:22.  W says his first intelligent thing of the whole movie, that it is ridiculous for him to be sleeping with a child and he should stop.

25:51.  W just told Diane Keaton she probably doesn't get many dates b/c she has opinions.  Nice.  Good to know nothing has changed in the last 40 years.

32:22.  Of course, the female characters are not much better than the men.  So naive.  Women in New York aren't that nave these days, even on TV.

37:48.  There is an hour of this still to go.   HOW?

38:49.  Life is too short.  I give up.  Still hate Woody Allen.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


I spent Thanksgiving in New York this year, because I have to work tomorrow so there isn't time to go to DC.  I also spent it entirely by myself, which was mostly by my own design, or rather my intentional failure to design any sort of companionship.  I could have gone to my cousin's house near Philly, but I wasn't invited until the last minute, and I didn't particularly feel like inviting myself even though my cousin is pretty relaxed and wouldn't have minded, and by the time she invited me I'd bought my Harry Potter ticket, which was a good enough reason not to trudge down there.  I also could have tried to do something with friends; many of mine stayed in the city and either would have included me in their festivities or would have liked to have a festivity.  But I needed a day off from people (I need a lot of days off from people) and especially from running around.  

It was a good day.  I slept in a bit, loafed around, did most of the catch-up tasks that usually occupy a full day on the weekend (which means I'll have a wonderfully free weekend).  I ate rather more than is good for me, although not of turkey, and I did not go to the gym (tomorrow...).  Both of my gentleman callers sent happy-thanksgiving tests, as is proper.  My parents did not call, even though they said they would.  Just now I came back from Harry Potter, which was not awesome but was worth seeing, and was pretty enough to be worth seeing in IMAX, and was only slightly insane.

I am particularly pleased because I feel like I've gotten a handle on the holiday shopping.  I have purchased and sent presents to my grandmother, uncle, and father, plus cards to them and an aunt, and my mother's present is packed up to go to the post office tomorrow.  Those are all the ones that must arrive at some time that resembles Hanukkah.  There is also my brother, who is not really a gift person, and his girlfriend... maybe I will get them some kind of householdy thing since I didn't get them a housewarming present, although I have no idea what since (a) my brother is way more domestic than I am, and (b) they are Brooklyn-y and probably don't approve of consumption.  Maybe mittens and coffee beans?  Also there are a few friends I will buy gifts for, but this doesn't feel like an emergency quite yet.  Finally, there are my two gentleman callers.  I am hoping for gifts from them both, ((1) I informed the IB that he should do so, which I think is entirely fair since he showed up and announced that he wanted to have relationship in the month of November, and when he whined that he didn't know what to buy, I told him to get something on his upcoming trip to Hawaii.  So the bar is fairly high for him and I do not feel bad about this at all.  (2) I did not inform guitar-boy that I would like a present, and I think he is likely not to give me one, but if he shows up sometime in the next thirty days with a used book and a candy cane I'll be thrilled.) which means I must give them both gifts.  Neither of them is particularly hard to buy for, but of course I want to find something that is just right.  So I have a nice amount of shopping left - not a terrifying amount, but enough to keep me busy and happy for the next few weeks.  Yay!


  • The obvious - my health and the health of my family and friends; the fact that I live in a place and time where heat and hot water can be taken for granted, the problem with food is that there is too much of it, and I am not anybody's property.
  • The internet.
  • The fact that Black Friday occurs on the internet.  LOFT is 40% off!
  • I am in the middle of a dental procedure requiring four or more visits, all of which have to be done on Saturdays because I can't take off work right now.  This is of course unfun, but it reminds me how lucky I am that my big health problem is (1) occurring in my teeth (as opposed to somewhere scary or gross or surgery-requiring) and (2) is fairly minor and entirely fixable.  I have lots of little things wrong with me (tooth decay, bad vision, etc.) but nothing scary or big.
  • I have a job.  I'm not done with training yet (almost!) so it's impossible to draw definitive conclusions, but so far it seems like a reasonably good job.  At worse, it is a job that pays the bills (and provides me with coffee and cereal to fuel all-night programming binges), and I am unlikely to get laid off in the immediate future.  A lot of people don't have that.
  • Friends - I have some, and they are awesome. 
  • Also awesome - my apartment, and my coffee maker, and my bookshelves.
(just saw the end of the TG parade... I've only seen little snatches in person and they are less good than watching it on TV, but some year I want to get up at 4 a.m. and see it properly)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

It has been a good weekend so far.  Last night I went out with a gentleman caller (the young one) to Otto's, which is where you go in New York to pretend you are on a tropical island instead of a temperate one.  Today after my almost-becoming-routine Saturday trip to the dentist (I am having what is apparently massive many-appointments-requiring work done to a single tooth.  this tooth never made me particularly happy or unhappy before, but suddenly three professionals at  time are entranced by it.) I met up with some girls from my meetup group to see an exhibit of costume jewelry and have a coffee.  I knew (and liked) some of the people there and enjoyed meeting some of the others; the challenge, should I choose to accept it, is to transition some of these people from meetup-buddies to friends.  This broke up around one, and I spent some time in the Union Square Christmas Market and surrounding shops, where I did a lot of semi-productive looking and purchased a Hanukkah present for my mother... so that's one down and about ten zillion (actually, about ten, plus cards) to go.  Then I met up with a former gentleman caller for a very late brunch (perhaps more appropriately termed an early dinner).  He brought his girlfriend, whom I did not know existed, and I'm glad he did - I like her quite a lot and she seemed to take to me, so possibly I will see more of them.  It is always a shame, I think, when people who might otherwise want to be friends are unable to because they once dated; it's understandable when something really unforgivable happened during the relationship or the parties disagreed dramatically about its endpoint, but sometimes the problem is just awkwardness and confusion over the tenor and expectations of the friendship going forward.  A third party can resolve this issue nicely.

I'm not sure what exactly I've been doing this evening - mostly a lot of catching up on mail and email and a bit of catching up on television.  I'll go to bed soon, and tomorrow I will do some yet-to-be-determined combination of errands, holiday shopping, friend-seeing, and lying semi-comatose on my couch.  Then it will be the start of what is reputed to be the hardest, most sleep-bereft three days of my training program (a stiff competition), so I should sleep in tomorrow if I can.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

on writing, and hair

  • I have totally not been keeping up with my nanowrimo benchmarks.  I was at first, but got behind in the first week and then somehow didn't catch up over the weekend (okay, I know how - by not writing) and then just became less and less conscientious.  At this point I've given up entirely - on the nanowrimoing, but not on the novel.  There's no real reason I need to write 50,000 words in a month, since whatever I write is just for my own creative fulfillment, and clearly at this time I'm not in a position to be fulfilled by that much writing.  But I'd hardly written anything since coming back from France, so it was a good way to get myself into it again.  I'm trying to keep the same nanowrimo attitude of not worrying about whether what I write is good, which has served me well in the past, and write just a little bit - 300 words or so - every day I can.  This is little enough that it can be done in ten or twenty minutes before bed, but substantial enough that I can keep up with the thread of my story... for the last few days, anyway, it's been working, and between that and not having a sink full of clean dishes and going to the gym more or less every other day (the question of "more" vs. "less" depends on whether yoga counts), I almost feel like a functional adult.
  • My hair.  Sigh.  It is in that stage, where it is too long to be short and cute, and too short to be long, and which seems to last years.  I have not had a coherent work-hair policy so far; when I first started the job, I wore it down, but it was shorter, just above my shoulders, and if I applied a ton of styling product it was actually manageable.  Now it is past my shoulders and the best I can hope for is "wild, untamed, and possibly carnivorous" (as opposed to "actively striving to take over the universe"), so I adjust my style based on its behvior.  I have two basic options, I think: (1) continue to let it grow, wear it in  bun or otherwise up at work, wear it down on weekends when it is behaving, or (2) get it cut short again and resign myself to maintaining a regular haircut schedule.  I feel like I should decide and act on this by the time I leave training in 2.5 weeks... my hair looks better short than either long-and-a-mess or long-and-up, but it looks best long-and-not-a-mess (a look that requires inhuman amounts of styling product, plus not blowdrying, which means going to the gym at night, and also a lot of luck) and long is certainly the style in New York.  Men like long hair, although they also like straight hair, spherical breasts, and vapidity, so I'm not exactly going for the win there.  My mother prefers my hair short, as do most of my friends.  The chief obstacle to short hair is that my work schedule is such that I can't reliably do anything at a particular time on a weekday, so I'd have to get it cut on a weekend, and from what I've heard this (a) is quite expensive, and (b) requires making an appointment far in advance.  Also, short hair is more work, and I am lazy.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

a very materialistic post

1) My mother asked me, as she customarily does around this time of year, what I wanted for Hanukkah.  For the first time in ages, I could actually think of things that didn't seem crazy to ask for.

2) Mad shopping karma this weekend!  Stopped at Macy's Saturday evening to make a periodic check of the shoe department for the two pairs I've been trying to buy for ages - knee-high boots that fit my ginormous calves and navy pumps to wear with my navy suit.  Found both, for $63 each.  Today, stopped in Gap on a whim, thinking it would be good to have skinny jeans to wear with my new boots (this counts as necessary shopping because I have lost a little weight and now have only two pairs of casual pants that fit, and one is track pants) and walked out twenty minutes later with skinny navy cords for $43

3) on a non-materialistic note... oh, I don't know.  it has been a strange weekend.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Item: Today I received an email from my thesis advisor, asking how my career transition is going.  He thought of me, he says, because the group went out for lunch to celebrate the graduation of the last person I knew.   We only overlapped by a year and we've long since fallen out of touch (although I may send her a congratulatory email) but it was odd to hear.  Usually people say that can't believe something has happened already; in New York it's particularly popular to claim shock at one's own advanced age.  But I feel the opposite.  I've lived in two cities and had three jobs, written a couple of bad, unpublished novels, run a marathon and two halfs, seen most of the major tourist attractions of New York, made and lost friends, been to five foreign countries, braved a career change and had dozens of major fights with my mother and been dumped by any number of men, and all that time she was in grad school?  Really?  It's not that she spent a unusual number of years in grad school - she didn't - or that I think her life is any less eventful than mine.  I just don't know her events, and when I look back up my own life it seems like it has been, for the most part, much more eventful in the years since my PhD than in the years I was earning it.

Other Item:  Currently visiting New York is the man formerly known as the IB.  He is here with a friend of his, to see a show.  I saw him yesterday and enjoyed his company, and I am going to see him again on Saturday.  He is doing well: he has lost weight and grown a goatee, which looks unexpectedly good on him, and he is succeeding professionally.  But he is sad, because he is alone, and he doesn't want to be, and the town he has to live in to do his work is making it hard for him to meet a woman he wants to be with.  I feel bad for him, in a kind of abstract way.  But, also - for a long time I wanted to be with him, to varying degrees, and it never worked out, and a significant part of the reason for it was his inability or unwillingness to be serious enough about anything for it to gel.  It was never that he didn't like me or didn't find the idea of being with me appealing, but there was always something that appealed to him more than returning my calls or getting on an airplane or doing whatever it was going to take.  It's true that usually this thing that appealed more was his job, or simply laziness, and also that I was not ever so terribly organized about the whole thing, but I felt disappointed by him a number of times.  And eventually - not because of him so much as because of growing up - I learned how to be happy alone, at least to a much greater extent than he has, and I stopped taking seriously his periodic declarations of intent.  Which I think he realized at some point and more or less stopped making.  And, well, it is just sad, because the person he is now and the person I was a few years ago might have really made a go of it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

the first of presumably many holiday-season posts

It has come to my attention that it is getting to be the holiday season.  This comes as a bit of a surprise; this entire autumn has sort of gotten away from me due to so much going on at work, which is a shame because it is my favorite season and it is not going to come around again for a whole other round of seasons.  For example, I celebrated my birthday by getting yelled at (along with the rest of my training class) for various trivial infractions at work and then crying in the ladies' (alone).  I celebrated Halloween not at all, unless you count going to the parade (which I guess is half-credit).  I will not be celebrating Thanksgiving, really, since I don't get the day after off and my family doesn't live a reasonable daytrip away (especially during the holiday traffic).  Maybe I will stop by the parade, which goes near my house, and it is possible I will feel moved to purchase some sort of pie.  (Not turkey.  I don't cook, I'm never home and awake long enough to roast an entire animal, and I'm fairly certain my oven is more like chicken-sized, or possibly cornish-hen-sized.)

However, I will not be missing Christmas.  This is partly because Christmas is not the sort of thing a sentient person can miss.  And partly because I am extending the term to include the obligation to bestow Hanukkah presents on my parents, which they recently informed me will not be waived or postponed for any reason, including work obligations.  So at some point between now and whenever Hanukkah starts (early December?) I must find acceptable gifts for the two of them, by which I mean appropriately priced gifts that they will like (or, better yet, approve of) and that can be transported through the mail without loss of integrity.  This is frustrating as I have pretty much exhausted the things I can think of to give them, and they don't really seem to be developing new areas of interest.  But I also know there are certain things I can resort to that they won't love but that will be acceptable, i.e. smelly bath products for my mother, nonfiction books for my father.  These are the analog of the Macy's gift card they gave me for my birthday that I haven't used yet... it is not a bad gift, and at some point I will get something I would have gotten anyway but it won't cost me anything, so I am pleased to have it, but it is not the kind of thing that makes one light up with joy.  Which in some ways is sadder than no gift at all, because gifts should make one light up with joy.

(huh... just titled this post, and it sort of hit home that... it's the holiday season??!!)

The question I am more concerned with is my brother's girlfriend.  My mother is giving her a Hanukkah present (despite the fact she is not Jewish) and also a birthday present.  I don't feel that I need to give her a birthday present, as I have not officially been informed of her having a birthday.  But I should give her a Hanukkah present, right?  If my mother is going to?  But then, what?  I like her, but I don't know her all that well.  She's very sweet, but fairly ungirly; I don't think she would care much for scented bath products.  I could give her a book, maybe, about... um.  Anything to do with art is out of the question because she's more or less a professional photographer and I'm sure I have no taste.  Hopefully my brother will have a Hanukkah gathering (it's pretty sad; my mother has basically put him in charge of making sure I have some sort of religious / familiar existence and/or eat a home-cooked food every couple months) and then I will just bring the two of them a really nice host gift; my brother isn't big on presents anyway.  Or maybe *I* will have the gathering.

YES!!!  I will have a Hanukkah party!  My apartment is teensy, but it is laid out well (by which I mean there is a loft to hide things in, and the rest is a featureless rectangle); I can get 12-16 people in here if some are standing or sitting on the floor.  I will invite my brother and his girlfriend, and a couple friends from my old job, and a couple friends from my new job, and my book club, and a few other people I know in the city.  I will get my mother's sugar cookie recipe, and I will make Megan's macaroni and cheese (with my apple-walnut variation).  It will not be a dinner party, per se, b/c there is no dining room table, but there will be dinner, b/c I haven't made the macaroni and cheese in ages (I can't readily make it just for myself, as I can't freeze leftovers).  I will light the menorah!  We will play dreidel!  It will be excellent!  I must go and plan it right now!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

I have been an unfaithful blogger so far, but it isn't entirely my fault - I've just come off a three-day project that completely wiped me out - after sleeping three hours wednesday night and not at all thursday - there's a two-hour period in the middle of the night I have no memory of, during which I apparently fixed a number of semi-major issues, so unless I've learned to code in my sleep, I was awake, although I am told I was extremely crabby, to the point of scary - and I went to sleep immediately upon getting home from work.  On waking up at midnight (this was a bit sad, as I hadn't intended to miss the whole evening - I don't usually sleep five hours at a stretch even when I'm not exhausted, especially when people are texting me) I ate a giant meal (I also have no memory of eating in the past three days, except for Thursday night, although I assume there were other foods I just don't recall) and now I am feeling a little bit like a person again.  After I finish this entry, I will take a nice hot bath and then head back to sleep, hopefully until just before I head to the dentist to have all my remaining tooth matter removed.

One of the many things I've been wanting to post about lately is gentleman callers, an endlessly fascinating topic about which I am always learning new and very basic thing.  I had a gentleman caller for a couple months right when I came back from Paris who was, before he stopped calling, everything you could imagine wanting in such a person.  He was intelligent, well-educated, and well-employed; thoughtful and considerate; pleasant to be around.  He was a good listener and a good talker, he knew how to use tools and didn't mind moving furniture for other people, and he had an amazing apartment the perfect distance away from mine.  Plus he was totally appropriate for me in every way.  I was quite disappointed when he stopped calling - but about a third of the disappointment was confusion and hurt pride, since I had considered things to have progressed past the point when it was reasonable to simply disappear, and another third was sadness over losing the idea of such a gentleman caller, leaving only about a third of the disappointment as missing the actual caller himself.

It was not that there was anything wrong with him.  It was not even that there wasn't anything right with him.  There were a lot of things right with him, and - more pertinently, which perhaps was a big part of the problem - a lot of things right with the sort of relationship he was clearly looking for.  But much as it would be pleasant to be the sort of person who is destined to meet a nice Jewish lawyer and get married and move to Connecticut and have 2.5 nice Jewish children, I don't think I find such a transformation entirely plausible.  Maybe it's just something I would need to get used to - it took me half a decade to convince myself I was really capable of leaving academia, after all - but people around me have been getting married and having children for even longer than that, and I have mostly been skeptical that such an arrangement will every apply to me, at least in any recognizable form.  (Interestingly, when I say such a thing to people I know in real life, at least female people, they immediately object in exactly the same comforting, condescending tone girls use to tell each other they are not fat.  Is skepticism about one's desire or ability to form a permanent attachment to a human being - something which is clearly warranted independent of one's personality and history, given the divorce rate - the same thing as poor body image?)

I have a new gentleman caller now.  He is very, very different from his predecessor, and totally inappropriate.  He's - it's such a stereotype to be enthusing about this sort of thing, and I hope you'll appreciate the spirit in which I do so - a musician.  A jazz guitarist.  He also works various odd jobs to make ends meet, not spoiled-starving-artist things like barrista-ing but actual-labor things like carpentry.  He smokes pot and says words like "awesome", and he is roughly twelve million years younger than me.  It is, obviously, a very different sort of arrangement than with his predecessor, and one not destined for a long duration, but then, neither was that one, as it turned out.  I just got to the point where I figured, why bother with all the boring bogginess of dating-as-extended-job-interview, which gets in the way of actually enjoying being around the other person?  When I was much younger I would have wanted to date guys like this one, but I was always too serious about and intimidated by them, even on the rare occasions when they were interested in me, and later on I was mostly interested in guys with whom I had more in common.  Now I feel like I can appreciate Guitar Boy without being overly invested, plus the whole arrangement has (from my point of view, at least) a kind of Samantha-and-Jared-in-Sex-and-the-City frisson of inverted gender dynamics and female empowerment.  I knew I wasn't really excited about meeting ten zillion more bankers and lawyers, who in New York all seem to suffer from the same minor aversion to women and major need to appear cool in front of other men, but I hadn't realized quite how  boring and pressurized proper dating had become until now.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

i am trying to get in the habit of blogging daily

...but as you can see it is very late.  not even today anymore.  so this will be equal parts brief and pointless.

1) election.  feh.  giant map of redness.  i am not what anyone would call a rampant liberal, but it still terrifies me.  too much fervor in any direction is not a good thing.

2) i need to decide very soon if i wish to train for and run a 15k (9 mile) race on december 19.  the last few weeks have been bad with work, but before that i was running 3-4 miles, 3-4 times a week.  i'm back to running again this week and i've definitely lost the (relative) ease that comes with doing it regularly, but it's not like i've turned into a giant tub of inertia.  the question is less whether i can train to that point than whether i want to.  i find my response is lukewarm, although this is substantially influenced by the fact that all of a sudden it is winter, and i am a big wimp.  this is an annoying feature of all races - most of them are during some month that is not pleasant (that is, all the months except for september and may) and at some implausible time of the morning.  i did a lot of races last spring, though, and it didn't kill me, and i am going to have to get over my laziness pretty soon to start training for the 2011 nyc marathon. 

3) while i have been writing this, the republicans have won something like 15 house seats.  

Monday, November 1, 2010

maybe, i'm back!

There is no way I can catch up with everything I haven't been blogging the last several months, so for the time being I won't even try.  At this point, I'm not sure I can even keep up.  For one thing, at this exact moment I am supposed to be cleaning my horribly disgusting floor and then going to bed, and you can see I'm not doing that.

One thing I am doing, in theory, is writing a novel.  I decided to try nanowrimo again this year, because I just don't have enough going on.  If you aren't familiar with nanowrimo, it entails writing a 50,000 word novel(la) during the month of November, which boils down to 1667 words a day, which is not a lot of words to write in a day, but is a lot of words to write in the free time a normal person has on a typical day.  I cheated by starting over the weekend, but I think this is reasonable since a 2000-word head start will hopefully keep me from getting discouraged the first time I have to stay at work past midnight (projected occurance: Wednesday) and therefore write zero words.  As of now I've written 3,573 words, which means I'm just over 7% done.  (Note there is no rule against the novel being really bad.)

Actually, I'm feeling pretty spiffy right now, because I have done most of the things I intended to do today, including going to the gym, writing my grandmother, and playing the piano.  I've even had a nap! (much needed after attending, and getting semi-stuck in the subway on returning from, the Village Halloween parade)  All of this is because I am no longer commuting to Princeton every day, which means I have an additional three hours daily to work, sleep, exercise, socialize, and keep the entropy-gremlins from taking over my apartment and/or life.

Now, I will close my computer - I've noticed it is a horrible time-suck at the end of the evening, when desultory perusal of facebook and various inexhaustible feeds seem much easier than going to bed - and battle the dust-bunnies, and then I will possibly get six full hours of sleep.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

test post

I am thinking of restarting this blog, but at some point I shuffled my accounts around and now I can't seem to get back in.  So I'm testing the email posting mechanism I set up a while ago, to see if it still works.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I've just finished packing my things to leave Frankfurt. Tomorrow morning I'll get on the train to Paris, and my month-long sojourn there will begin. The last few days have been exciting, eventful, and a bit stressful, but they were just an opportunistic prelude. Tomorrow is the beginning of the real thing.

Few people have asked me why I'm going to Paris for a month, and the one who have done so have not asked it in a positive way. It's obvious that there are many good reasons: a vacation, a change of scenery, a palate-cleaner. The art, the history, the atmosphere, the food. The question of why I am going to Paris is almost ridiculous.

But the question of why I am going to Paris is not. Perhaps it's partly because in my daily life I am exactly the sort of person you wouldn't think of as going to Paris. I'm a homebody, easily entertained by simple pleasures, tending to stinginess, risk-aversion, fearfulness. This is not so much the way I want to be as a rut it is easy to fall into and easier to stay in; I am usually plenty stimulated without going out of my comfort zone. I push myself to do things, go to things, take chances on events or activities I wouldn't normally do - but these things are exceptions. The rule is I go to work, come home, surf the web, watch TV, read a book, go to bed. I see the same friends in the same places, I go to the gym, I take in a ballet or a play. It is not a bad life, but it's nice to shake things up.

However, I don't need to cross oceans to do that. I live in New York City; there's plenty of shaking going on there. So I ask myself, what do I want to get out of this trip? I know that I want to see monuments and museums, take day trips, walk the streets and sit in cafes - but I also know that's not all I want to do. Just doing those things won't make this trip a success. But what will?

One answer to that is that I want to write, perhaps a lot, perhaps varied things, but I don't think that's the only answer. And I don't think I can know the answer. If I knew what I wanted to do in Paris other than see the sights of Paris, I could probably do it at home. I think what I want to do in Paris is figure out - or maybe remind myself of - what I want to do in Paris, of what I can do or who I can be outside my context.

Which is why I started this post talking about packing. For much of my adult life, I have been packing frequently. I've moved roughly every two years since the end of college, if not to a new town than to a different living situation (i.e. from having roommates to on my own) and now not only will I not be moving but I will be entering a phase in which I will not have to move for a potentially very long time. I am settling down, in a place and a manner I didn't anticipate.

And I am becoming someone else. Changing careers has hit me harder than I think it might otherwise have because my work has always been what has defined me. Everything else - my location, but also my friendships and other relationships, has been subservient to or even defined in terms of, what I do for a living. So doing something different suggests I am someone different, or that I'm not who I always thought I was. So I think part of the reason for taking this trip is to see who I really am now, and to remind myself of who I've always been.

The last time I took a trip of this magnitude was after college. Like now, I had something lined up for afterwards; like now, the trip was highly unstructured. I went with a friend, but after a couple weeks we parted ways, and all of my most compelling memories (although not all the most humorous ones) are from the time I was travelling alone. Alone in a series of foreign countries, with the daily difficulties and inspirations of travelling and a series of new landscapes to explore, the thing I felt most comfortable inhabiting was myself.

I think that's why I chose Paris. Partly, of course, to experience the beauty and excitement of the City of Lights. But partly to rediscover the beauty and excitement that have been leaking, over the last few years of defining myself by a pursuit that became increasingly unhappy and unsuccessful, to rebuild and rediscover the beauty and excitement of my life and myself.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

So when we last spoke, over a month ago, I had just completed - barely - a half-marathon. In the intervening weeks, a great deal has happened, so I will recap before trying to write the entry proper, or possibly at the same time.

Item: I ran another half-marathon. I was not particularly looking forward to it because of my bad experience in April, and because I really didn't train at all for it, but it actually went reasonably well. The weather was good, the course was way less hilly (although located in Brooklyn at 7 a.m. which violates at least three different laws of sanity (1: Brooklyn; 2: 7 am; 3: subway ride required to get to and from race)) and although I certainly did not run fast, there were no unplanned episodes of walking (I walked through water stations, both for a break and to ensure that I actually consumed water) and I finished in my goal of 2.5 hours. I did sustain an injury on the course, which necessitated stopping briefly around the 11-mile mark, but I seem to have recovered... today I ran for the first time since (the race was 10 days ago) and although I was not at peak speed everything seemed to be in order.

Item: I got a job. Searching for a job has been my primary occupation for the past month, and I have to say I was quite good at it. I launched a full-scale campaign of applications to companies of all sizes. I used word-of-mouth, articles in newspapers and magazines, and work histories of my linkedin contacts to assemble a list of companies to apply to. I joined job-searching websites both general and specialized and subscribed to every job-search newsletter and feed I could find. I attended networking events and had business cards made. I refined my resume and my cover letters and my interview wardrobe. I read books about the industries I was targeting, learned new programming languages, and studied lists of possible interview questions. I constructed an elaborate multi-tiered timetable for the hunt and considered the nature and timing of backup plans to avoid any significant period of idleness. I did all of this because (a) I had not ever gotten a proper job before, (b) the last person I know who left academia has been unemployed ever since; eight months and counting (plus the several months he spent looking for a job before that), (c) the economy is crap and like 10% of everybody is out of work, and mostly (d) this kind of paranoid hyperdrive is how I do everything.

And, so, it worked. Or else it was unnecessary. The two companies that ended up offering me jobs (more on that in a minute) were ones I had applied to early in the job-hunt process, and they had older versions of my resume. They didn't ask many of the types of questions I had prepared for and they didn't require most of the languages and knowledge and skills I had been studying. On the other hand, I'm sure it wasn't a strike against me that I could say that I'd been preparing for a career change by reading up on certain fields, or that I had thought a lot about interviewing and so forth. And I don't think doing this reading and learning - even the subjects that I won't use in the new job - was a waste of time, because I love learning new things and would like to learn all the subjects. It's just, I was digging in, preparing for a war that would last for several months, and now it is over after just a few skirmishes.

So, I said before that I was offered jobs by two companies. This is actually a story that I am proud of. I went on an interview at company 1; it was only my second in-person interview (although I had had several phone interviews at that point, including already two phone interviews with company 1). The interview was fine, everything was in order, but when I left the building I was depressed. Partly, perhaps, because interviews are stressful - but I think a lot of it was a feeling that the job was not as challenging or interesting as I'd have liked (a feeling I also had before I went on the interview). The people were pleasant but flat; the environment was pleasant but flat; the work seemed not unpleasant but also flat. When the job was offered to me, I also felt pleased but flat, but after a few days I had decided to take it. My reasoning was that, well, the economy is bad, and it is decent money for work I think I can do, and where is the guarantee that I will find something better?, and really I don't know what I want so how can I be sure that there is anything so much more appealing than this? Event after a discouraging conversation with a member of my prospective team, I was decided to the point of going out and buying some clothes to wear to the new job.

And then I had my interview with company 2. This interview was actually the reason I had put off accepting the first offer; I wanted to at least be aware of my options. But going into it, I wasn't all that enthusiastic. I knew someone who knew people who didn't like it there (I later discovered that I also know someone who knows people who love it, so that's a wash) and I had pretty much decided I couldn't do better than the first offer. But this changed the minute I walked into the office, which was such a beautiful and happy place that I instantly wanted to want the job. The people I met were also different from the people I met in the previous company - more animated, less stiff, more intelligent-seeming and engaged. They all seemed to really like their work, and I left the interview knowing that I wanted the job.

The next day, I turned down the offer at the first company. This is the part of the story that I am proud of. I hadn't gotten an offer from company 2 yet, so I wasn't turning down one offer for a (subjectively) better one. I was turning down the offer because for the past week I had been saying that I was accepting it because it seemed okay and I couldn't think of what would be better; now, all of a sudden, I could think of what would be better - being excited about where I was going to work. This seems outrageously obvious in hindsight, but at the time it was easy to tell myself not to set my sights too high. Once I interviewed at company 2, however, I realized that I should set my sights high. I did not do all this work, both the studying and the difficult emotional process of shedding my former life, to end up somewhere that I knew wasn't going to make me happy. I certainly didn't do it to accept the first offer I received just because it was the first. So I turned it down, in the hope that I would get an offer from company 2 and with the cautious faith that, regardless, I would find something I was really excited about.

It worked out well, because the next day company 2 sent me an offer. But I'm glad that I turned down the first offer before receiving it. I didn't realize, exactly, that I had the power to say no to something simply because I was holding out for something better that had not yet materialized, and now I do.

Item: I went to Philadelphia for a couple of days. It was not a terribly eventful trip; I walked a lot and saw lots of pretty buildings and a few tourist attractions. The most interesting thing that happened was meeting up with a friend from middle school whom I hadn't seen since perhaps early in high school. In the last few years we've communicated occasionally through email and Facebook, and at the last minute I sent her a message and we met for lunch, which turned into an all-afternoon affair, plus an invitation to breakfast and a morning spent together. At twelve we were the kind of very close friends girls of that age sometimes are, and it was pretty cool to see that - even though we'd fallen out of touch and knew little about each other's adult personalities and lives - we could talk easily and enjoy each other's company just as much as ever.

Item: I have decided to quit my job and move to Paris. Not really. But really. I have some time before the new job starts, and I have decided to spend three or four weeks in Paris, just being there. It's pretty last-minute for arranging a trip of this magnitude, so I'm still trying to get housing and other details ironed out, but hopefully I'll be able to arrange something acceptable. I realize it is (a) ridiculously inadvisable from a financial standpoint to quit my job and pay to live in two expensive cities for a month, and (b) a horrific cliche, the whole business of going to Paris to soak up its Parisness (oh, also? if you want more cliche? in addition to walking around and eating croissants, I plan to write.), but it is what I want to do.

The idea to do some travelling this summer was suggested to me and seemed good, but when I thought about it, I realized that visiting the places I haven't been but most want to go - Athens, Egypt, Russia, Alaska - is (a) not conducive to a single trip, and (b) something I can do in a series of shorter trips in the future, when I have more money and less time. The thing that I want to do that I can more easily do now - and will likely have a harder time doing in the future - is go somewhere to live for a few weeks, and the place that I immediately wanted to go to live was Paris. It is something I have thought of for a long time, with various degrees of seriousness. I have been to Paris once, at the end of my post-college hostelling trip, and I could not get into the city - but that was because I had not had a proper shower in five weeks, I think, not because of Paris. So - fingers crossed that I can actually get this organized - I am going to go back. And I do not care that it is a terrible cliche. Sure, everyone wants to run away to Paris for the summer. But not everyone gets to actually do it.

So, now we come to the point. For the better part of a year, I feel like I have been living in a montage. You know how in movies, there is often a montage about 2/3 of the way through? I'm not talking about the falling-in-love montage. I'm talking about the one after the character loses her job or her boyfriend or her way in the world, and we get to see the sun zipping across the sky, the seasons changing, the character staring at the ceiling and running on the treadmill and tapping on her laptop and slowly, in pieces so small she can't see them, assembling a new life for herself. For months now I've felt like I was in a montage period. I've known I was moving toward something and I've known it was an important thing, but I haven't been able to see it, I haven't even known for sure if I was moving in the right direction or how far I had to go. All I've had is the daily work of trying to make a little bit of progress. And now, the song is ending, camera is panning back in, and here I am, ready to start a whole new life, one that I - improbably enough - actually chose for myself.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Yesterday I ran the MORE women's half-marathon in Central Park. This race had been in the works for a long time - I think I registered in January - and as it approached and various events (and injuries) kept me from training properly, I began to increasingly dread it. It turned out, I was right to dread it, because it was pretty awful.*

The problems started before the race began, with the fact that it was raining. Not a gentle happy spring rain; this was serious water. Also, I was lazy about getting up, which means I didn't really have sufficient time to go through my full stretching / breakfast routine and was probably not as mentally prepared as I could have been.

The race itself seemed reasonably organized, but there is just no avoiding, in a race of that size, that you are going to be tripping over people for most of the first mile. The problem is exacerbated by people in groups and walkers who somehow have started in front of you. I can never decide if something like this is good in a long race because it keeps you from starting out too fast, or bad because you use up a lot of energy running around people and you get frustrated right off the bat. (In a short race, it's unmitigatedly bad because if you're running for time, the thirty or sixty seconds you lose in the first mile might not be regainable later and average out to a noticeable per-mile time increase.)

The first three or four miles were uneventful, and I ran at a comfortable pace and walked through water stations, but then we hit a big hill. I hadn't been expecting this because all the other races I've run in the park have taken a different path that avoids this. It is definitely the biggest hill on the course. About halfway up I realized that many of the people around me were walking, and that I wasn't going much faster than them, so I decided it would be better to save my energy and walk too.

Coming down the west side of the park, I was starting to get tired, and it was just so wet. My hamstrings were sore. I thought briefly about bailing on the race - I would say I seriously considered it, but we all know that my legs would have to actually fall off of my body in order for me to stop running a race in the middle - but then the leader passed us - there weren't a lot of elite runners in that race, but there were a few - and we cheered and I felt a little better.

And then I started to make mistakes. I've noticed that I lose the ability to think clearly when I'm tired. I needed to use the bathroom - expected in a race of this length - and ended up waiting in line for the port-a-potties by the entrance, which had no toilet paper (which was especially bad because all the tissues I'd been carrying were soaked). If I'd been thinking clearly, I could have waited another mile, perhaps saved a couple minutes of waiting, and probably gotten toilet paper.

I also failed to take my second gu. I took the first one at the five-mile mark and had been planning to take the second one at nine miles, but I just... didn't. They had gatorade on the course but I was only drinking water, because gatorade is gross. Everyone has their own amount of gu that they need, but I think if I had taken the second gu the last few miles would have gone a lot better.

The third thing that happened, which was not my fault, was that my left hamstring seized up at 7 or 8 miles. I had to stop and stretch it, and it hurt the whole rest of the way. I also took off my glasses around this point, because they were so wet and foggy (and I no longer had even wet tissues to wipe them with) that my inability to see was less ridiculous without them. It was also just so wet. I seemed to be getting wetter and wetter, which of course at this point was not actually possible. There were rivers of water running down the sides of the road at every hill, huge standing puddles, the cups at the water stations were overflowing with rain.

At about 9 miles was where it started to go downhill for real. Before that, the race kind of sucked, in that it was raining and I wasn't making great time, but nothing awful had happened. I was still trotting along at an acceptable pace. But then we hit the big hill for the second time (the race was two loops around the park, plus a little bit) and I was just not happy at all. I walked parts of the hill, but the race marshalls were yelling at us to get a move on (which they had no business doing because we were nowhere near the back of the race - the course had a time limit of 4 hours, and there was a long tail of walkers) so I didn't want to walk too much, and of course I had less energy than I had the first time around.

And then it just got worse and worse. Every mile was longer and harder than the mile before. I started having to walk more often, not just at water stations but also on big hills. It seemed like everyone around me was doing so much better, although I kept being passed by the same people over and over again (i.e. I would pass them while they were walking, then they would pass me) and of course I couldn't see how tired they might have felt. Even at twelve miles, when I'd gone around the park twice and just had to run the bottom edge, with no big hills, and finish, I couldn't muster up any enthusiasm. In fact, at that point I very nearly broke down crying because I was so upset that the race had beaten me. For the last mile, I was switching back and forth between a very slow run and a very slow walk every one to three minutes (I was actually counting steps, running 200 or 300 or 400 and then walking 100).

I did manage to run the last tenth of a mile, basically out of shame, and I finished the race. Afterwards my legs basically gave out, and stumbled to the grass on the side of the road, where I plopped down in the mud. I had been sniffling and whinging to myself for the last couple of miles of the race - it hurt and I had to keep going - and now I started to cry in earnest. Which was actually a good thing because it flushed a lot of the mud and salt out of my eyes. I also realized at this point how much easier the race might have been if I hadn't run it solo... on the one hand, everyone has their own pace and their own needs for rest, and running with somebody interrupts your rhythm. On the other hand, it might have relieved the isolation and boredom (my ipod died at some point on the course, presumably a drowning death) and helped me keep my spirits up, which might have led to a better endrace. It also would have meant I'd have had someone to help me get up out of the mud. My journey home, not actually a long walk under normal circumstances, was a lengthy, frigid, wet odyssey, and then I spent about half an hour in the shower trying to soak up enough hot water to get warm.

So, not my best race. But I did survive it. I was sore and hobbly all day yesterday, but I feel substantially better today (although needless to say I will not be going running). My finish time was a full minute per mile slower than I had hoped to run, a good deal of which is probably attributable to the rain, both directly and indirectly, as well as to the mistakes I've described.

It's easy to remember only the last three or four ignominious miles, when I let the race defeat me. But I need to also remember that I haven't run any distance this long since the marathon (and associated training) in 2007. Sure, the first half of that marathon was a lot easier than this half-marathon - but I had trained with much longer distances up to 21 miles. And some of it is just that runs are widely variable. I ran a 9-mile race three weeks ago, and I didn't feel as tired during any of it as I felt at the nine-mile point of this race... but when I did the full marathon in 2007, I felt far worse at 20 miles than I felt at any point in my 21-mile training race.

From here I need to take a short break and then resume training, because there is another half marathon in four weeks. I am hoping this race constitutes some degree of training for that one, and if I get the chance I'm also going to try to fit in one more long (ten-ish miles?) run. I'm also going to make sure to actually take my gu properly, and I'm going to hope that this time it doesn't rain.

* You might be one of those people who thinks that any half-marathon would be awful. This is true, if you are not trained properly. I was not trained properly, which was most of the problem.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Why I will not end up like the lady I saw in the subway station coming back from the ballet, who had a sign saying "I am homeless and have five cats and AIDS":
  1. I am not homeless, yet.
  2. I do not have five cats.  I do not even have one cat.  I have three dogs, but they are stuffed animals.
  3. I do not have AIDS.
  4. Arithmetic.  I have a checking account, which contains enough money for me to live on for three or four months.  Also I have other monies, although they are hard or strongly inadvisable to spend, on which I could live for at least two years.  And credit cards; I could build up debt if I needed to.
  5. Right now, at least, I have a job.  I get paid once a month.  I am almost certain to get paid at the end of this month.  I am supposed to get paid  for three months after that, assuming I don't leave or get fired.  I think I will be fired when my boss finds a new researcher, but I think he is likely to give me a full month's notice.
  6. I have parents.  My parents have an indeterminate amount of money, certainly enough to buy groceries for me to eat, and a house with extra bedrooms.  It would be unpleasant to have to live with them, but preferable to living in the subway.
  7. I have friends.  In New York and in other locations.  Some would probably let me stay with them, or rent me a room in their house or apartment for far less than it costs to live in New York.
  8. There is COBRA, right?  So I would not get sick and die?  It costs a lot of money, but it is better than getting sick and dying.
  9. On a more practical level, I have a college degree.  I have a couple of degrees, actually.  Probably more degrees than the cat lady.  Also skills of some sort, I think.
  10. Yes.  Skills.  I can program a computer, kind of.  I am not a bad writer.  Technical things need to be written.  I was a receptionist one summer, and I am okay at answering phones with lots of lines.  I could be like Pam in The Office.  We have similar hair, and I actually really like her wardrobe in the first couple seasons.  Also, I know lots of useless things... I could be a tutor, or I could teach SAT prep classes.  I think I know someone who used to do that.  
There is not a real danger of me turning into the homeless cat lady.  A lot of things would have to go very far wrong for that to happen (although I bet the homeless cat lady would have thought so too, before she was a homeless cat lady).

But there is a real danger of other things.  Like of not having a job.  I have never not had a job.  I have never really had a job, either.  But I've never had nothing.  There is a danger of failing.  I have lived my life in such a way as to minimize that danger, or at least minimize my perception of that danger.  There is a danger of screwing up, of disappointing people, of getting rejected.  There is a danger of being a failure.  I am not supposed to be a failure.  You do not think this because you know me from my blog, where I am a failure all the time, but actually there are a whole group of people who think I am smart and competent and successful, or at least there used to be.  There is a danger that I will not be able to convince anyone else that this is the sort of person I can be.  There is a danger that I am so unlikeable that nobody who interviews me will want to hire me.  I could turn out to be too fat to work in the private sector - every single professional woman in this city is a solid two dress sizes smaller than me, which is actually quite a lot of dress sizes considering that I am not huge - or not know how to put on makeup properly (I cannot even curl my eyelashes without a major incident).  My programming skills could not be good enough.  Somebody asked me at an interview what is my favorite kind of math, and I don't know any math.  I said differential equations, which used to be true, but I have forgotten them.  Also topology.  But this was years ago.  What if I am just not as smart as I used to be?  What if my mother is right and I'm not cut out for a real job?  What if the private sector is for men and women who know how to deal with them?  What if the problem is that I don't wear nail polish?  Am I supposed to wear nail polish?  How do people learn how to shake hands?  Maybe my suits don't fit right, or I'm wearing the wrong tops and accessories with them.  I do not know what a hash table is, and I think I am supposed to.  I have business cards now, but who do I give them to?  What is the reason any company should hire me?  What on earth do I have to bring to the job?  No company has ever hired me.  Maybe I interview badly, or my cover letter is awful, or I am secretly giving off "don't hire me" vibes.  Obviously I am.  I have no more interviews lined up.  What if I am doing something wrong, and I don't know what it is?


I know what that feeling is now, the one I've had in my throat and
stomach all week, that gets worse every day and makes it hard to walk
and breathe and sleep and eat (usually nothing makes it hard for me to
eat), that makes me pick fights with everyone and cry for no reason,
that makes me think I will die from misery if it gets any worse and
then it does get worse and somehow I do not die. The feeling is
uncertainty, and I do not like it.

Sent from my iPhone

Monday, April 12, 2010

What I've Been Up To

Not blogging, obviously. Fortunately, I have many devoted readers (read: two, or possibly three) who all subscribe to my RSS feed and will be thrilled to see that I have something to say, except that at least two of them are the people I talk to most and therefore have heard it. But for the 0.5 average remaining readers, this will be a news-filled post.
  • I've been running a fair amount. Except I'm going to have to stop that for a little while, because now I have what seems to be "runners knee". The causes of this, according to my running book, include weak quadriceps [my quads have been sore for about a week, so this seems likely], overstriding [meaning, in my case, trying to take proper running steps rather than little old-lady shuffles so that, in race photos, you look like you have both feet on the ground at all times], and overtraining [so, um, running]. So basically, I've been getting cocky, doing speed work during medium-length runs instead of proper long runs (which is what I'm supposed to be doing to train for the half-marathon I'm running in less than two weeks), and yesterday - when I was already pretty ripped up - I decided that, with the good weather and so forth, it was the time to set a less-ridiculously-slow pace so that I'd hopefully be in a decent corral in future runs, and I did - yay! I beat my own personal race record, and as far as I know my personal training record for 4-mile runs (I've run a 5k at a faster pace during training), and I was very pleased - and now I can barely walk and have to go down stairs like the old lady I am apparently destined to move like. So I am making friends with my ice pack.
  • Traveling. I went out of town four times in the month of March. (1) Interview trip to North Carolina, which was quick and super-busy but not actively bad. (2) Conference trip to Portland, Oregon, which was weather-ridden but pleasantly social once I got there. (3) Passover trip to my parents' house. Predictably familial. Nobody killed anybody else. (4) Fun weekend in Boston, in order to decompress from trips (1)-(3).
  • Applying for jobs. Basically any jobs. This turns out (surprise, surprise) to be a bit of a challenge, since (a) we are still in the middle of a recession, at least as far as employment goes, (b) I am undertaking a significant career shift, which means that I have to find ways to make the last ten years sound like it was not a waste of time and/or irrelevant to anything a given company might pay anyone to do but was actually important and enriching training for my ultimate employment as a productive and valued professional, and (perhaps most importantly), (c) I have never seriously looked for a job before, or rather, I have never continued looking for a job long enough to find one, instead electing to continue my education or current employment, or taking positions that more or less happened upon me through my connections (none of which are of much use outside of my immediate field). So it is ... well, tough, and I have no idea how it will turn out, which is an attribute I generally avoid, which makes it tougher.
  • Watching a lot of The Office. It's on quite frequently, and if I'm home and not doing anything terribly engrossing (reading about jobs I am not qualified for is not terribly engrossing) I generally have it on as background noise. It's an excellent blend of optimism (since Jim and Pam eventually get together) and nihilism (since, well, everything else). And even their jobs would be a step up from my current gig.
  • Making coffee. My new coffeemaker is basically the best thing ever. I had a coffeemaker before, but my old roommate appropriated it. Now I have my very on, and it is silvery and pretty and I can make coffee every morning if I want, and if I run out I can make more. It is probably a tiny bit sad that a coffeemaker makes me so happy, but since I cannot wear my new running skirt as my knee hurts too much to run, there it is.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Probably the Sixth or Seventh Entry I have Begun in the Past Few Weeks, With Every Intention of Completing and Posting

Somehow I have managed to get to the airport at exactly the wrong time: Even after unpacking, changing clothes, adjusting the contents of my carry-on and checked bag, and shopping in all the available stores, it is too early to check into my flight.  However, it is also too late to shop at many of the stores, or to get ice cream, which I suddenly really want (it is also too late to get any other food except, I hope, snacks at a newsstand, which will presumably become a lot more annoying in a little while).  Portland has been frustrating me like this.  I already feel guilty about coming to the airport so early, even though I had a perfectly good reason, i.e. that by the time I got done at the conference and had something to eat it was too late in the day to go to any museums or other cultural sites, plus I was carrying my giant laptop bag and wearing uncomfortable (at least after 2/3 of a day of walking and standing) shoes (and, although I didn't know it at the time, the hem had come out of my nice pants... I'm hoping there is someone in New York who can be paid an exorbitant sum to fix the pants, because they are actually flattering and professional-looking, and there is no price that can be put on such a garment), and I had already walked around the easy-to-get-to places, and I was worried that if I didn't get my bag from the hotel within twelve hours of depositing it, they would confiscate it (this is what the claim tag threatened).  So it made sense, rather than sitting in a coffee shop downtown, to come out here and sit around here, where there is also fre wifi, although at the moment no apparent outlets, although I am thinking there will be some by the gates.

Yes, I am crazy now.  You would be too.

My big conference trip kicked off with a forty-eight hour delay due to Surprise We Are Apparently Having Monsoon Season.  (You are several chapters behind, because this is coming on the heels of the big interview trip, which is coming on the heels of about four weeks of crazy, but I assure you it is nothing you haven't heard before.  Pretend I am defending my thesis and training for a marathon all over again, only (a) each is about half as intense, (b) but, I am doing them at the same time.  Extra bonus is now I live in New York, so there are different kinds of crazy all around me.  It's pretty exciting.

So, forty-eight hour delay, which in theory could have been productive or fun or relaxing, and in actuality was a little bit of all of those but not enough of anything to make up for the fact that I missed my free day in Portland, getting unjetlagged, or the first day of the conference (as it turns out, though, Portland is only half as far away as Barcelona, and I had no trouble sleeping at any time, and my problem was much more in the vein of staying awake).

So I've been here since late Monday.  That means I had almost four full days of conference, which turns out to be plenty, and three days' worth of lunches and dinners to spend with my friends and/or walking around the city.  I like that it's such a manageable size, and also that the fact that I now live in a major city means I no longer feel compelled to visit every single museum I'm within five miles of, because there are museums at home.  I actually feel like I got to walk around and get a general sense of the city's flavor and sights without missing ridiculous amounts of conference (I took two 2-3 hour breaks, one of which included lunch, and with walking around to get dinner I actually feel like I covered a lot).  

The sense I get is that Portland is much cleaner and quieter than New York, and generally built in the style and scale of a smallish Midwestern city, i.e. Madison, rather than a smallish East Coat city.  The streets are wide, there are public squares that take up whole blocks, in general there is just plenty of space.  It's obvious they care a lot about greenness there.  They have these tram-y things that run at about 20 mph in the city, like streetcars, and then run at about 50 mph in the suburbs (i.e. to the airport), like the DC Metro.  Restaurants do not strike me as cheap relative to NYC, for what they are (i.e. decent ethnic food in a grungy neighborhood costs $10-$15... on the other hand the waitress may actually be pleasant to you).  People are insanely, ridiculously friendly, everywhere; they are also in general young, attractive, and disheveled  There are tons of panhandlers, but most of them look more like my scruffy filmmaker brother - i.e. they are on spring break from Boston College and ran out of cash - than like NYC panhandlers, who tend to look they way you expect people to would look after living on the streets for couple months.  And speaking of the streets, they are clean, at least to the point of not being disgusting to look at; the people on the other hand, lacking New Yorkers' fastidious about germs and general avoidance of physical contact, are dirty.  Also, they wear jeans and sweatshirts and fleeces and often no makeup, and in New York I am the only person I ever see who dresses like this when not at the gym.  The architecture is attractive and varied, but perhaps a bit too varied to be optimally attractive - every building is well-planned, but they do not seem to have thought much about what buildings each building is next to.  Also, there is sort of a general fake-Western feel about the place, like it has come out of a movie set.  I expected people to be nature-y here, and maybe they are, but the dominant vibe I am getting is similar to the L train on a Friday evening - a lot of torn tights on women and nail polish on men, and apparently flannel shirts did not go out of style here.  

In general, it makes me uncomfortable, because I feel like it is the sort of place I'm supposed to like, but I don't.  I mean, yes, Powell's is what Heaven would be like if it were composed entirely of books, but it is one of exactly two good-sized bookstores in the downtown area.  Everything moves slowly, which there is no excuse for in any area with public transportation.  More, I cannot get a bead on it.  It feels self-conscious, although I suppose I have thought this was true of everywhere I've lived since grad school.  I can't reconcile the generally yuppie-ish feel of the city with the generally not-yuppie-ish feel of its inhabitants; on a purely economic level, looking at the people and the stores and so forth, I cannot figure out where they get the tax base to keep the streets clean and the trams (which are free downtown and reasonable elsewhere) running.  Maybe there are different sorts of people, i.e. richer ones, in the suburbs?  Wikipedia says Intel and other technology companies are the largest industry; it looks like they also do a lot of international shipping.  It's also a regional tourist destination.  They don't have any sales or restaurant tax, however, so this is still a mystery; perhaps they gouge their tech workers with local income tax.

Economics aside... I feel like Portland is a place that good crunchy people are supposed to like.  It is a nice size, and friendly, and the kind of place where a person like means runs away during their quarter-life crisis to be nobley poor and write a novel about the evils of capitalism.  But I think to me a city like this is just the wrong size - big enough to be annoying in the ways a city is, but not big enough to be exciting.  I would rather be in New York and accept the stress of city life, or in a small college town and accept the lack of local excitement.  (It is also true that I am looking at it as a visitor, which exacerbates both stress, since everything is unfamiliar, and lack of excitement, since one looks for things to do.)  Perhaps more frighteningly, if I am having a quarter-life crisis I had better get on with it, and it looks like it will go in the opposite direction, i.e. I am more likely to discard my ratty jeans for business suits than the other way around, and I have already written enough novels to last me a while.

So, anyway, my talk was earlier today.  I had not so much as looked at it since before coming to the meeting, until about forty-five minutes before which was perhaps unwise, but it went find, and afterwards several people told me it went well, including well-known people whom I don't really know, which is good, although (a) is what usually happens at such meetings, because I do good work and present it articulately, and (b) does not actually lead directly to me having a job, so ultimately makes me rather angry and bitter.  I am always uncomfortable saying that I am good at giving talks, even though I am, because my parents, who are supposed to know me better than anybody, say I am bad at public speaking.  It is true that I am often nervous about interacting with strangers, which in my opinion is perfectly rational, because strangers are by definition unpredictable.  But talking about a subject I am highly familiar with in a controlled environment is not like, say, ordering lunch in a strange cafe.  The latter has many scary and unknown elements; in the former, you just tell people what you want to tell them, and maybe they are interested.

(For similar reasons, I am good at navigating unfamiliar cities, at least compared to my friends, even though I supposedly have no sense of direction.  It is true that I do not know by some sort of eighth sense which way North is, but I am capable of reading signs and matching them to the screen of my iPhone and remembering where I have been the previous day and how I got from there to the hotel.)

The wireless is starting to conk out, so I am going to go see if maybe I can check into my flight, and then I am going to demand that somebody sell me an overpriced bag of trail mix or something.  At some point I will write a coherent entry, although that point is unlikely to arrive before Monday.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Yesterday a friend emailed me that he was impressed with my running.  People like to tell me that, any time I mention my running (which is, I admit, pretty frequently), and it is always strange.  I started writing a post yesterday morning about how strange it is, because my whole life I have been unathletic, and to have suddenly become (or, anyway, to suddenly realize I have become) a person whose athletic endeavours are interesting or impressive to anyone is odd.  I was going to detail my various misadventures and speculate on whether it was me who changed or other people, or the type of people I know.

But I got distracted and also annoyed, because I realized that I was not as unathletic as I have always thought.  True, my childhood involvement in sports was minimal and undistinguished - but the reasons for that were largely the mismatch between my parents' preferred sports-for-me (ballet, and later swimming, both of which I disliked in large part because I never had the right clothes for them) and my preferred sports-for-me (gymnastics, which was deemed too expensive, and soccer, which was deemed too masculine).  In high school, sports were just as much about social categories as about athletics, and I joined colorguard.  This is not a sport, exactly, but if you do not think it is athletic then clearly you have not spent much time running back and forth across a football field while throwing a flag in the air.  And I never played sports in college - in general I am not big on poorly-organized, competitive, large-group social activities, which is pretty much the definition of intramural sports - but I did patronize the fitness center quite regularly.

So I was confused about whether I am an athletic person.  I know I am not particularly fast or strong or coordinated, and I know that my whole life I have been told - by my parents, by my gym teachers (some of whom were almost comically unathletic, to the point of employing golf carts in order to traverse the track), and mostly by myself - that I am slow, weak, uncoordinated, and generally unfit.  But I also know that, well, I like to run.  And ellipt, spin, practice yoga, dance, lift, and hike.  And that I do some or all of that stuff regularly, sometimes with a purpose and sometimes without, regardless of what else is going on in my life.  And that a lot of people don't do that stuff, or only do it when they are trying to lose weight or fulfill a New Year's resolution, or do it much less than I do.  And that, while I will never be impressively fast or strong, I am getting faster and stronger, and I feel good about my level of fitness.  And I realized - this is like so much else.  Most of what is getting in the way of becoming who I would think I was if I were just meeting myself isn't an obstacle of preference or ability; it's mostly the rules I've made, or let other people make for me, for about who I am and what I can do.  Sometimes those rules have been convenient, but they are often arbitrary, outdated, and incorrect.  They aren't immutable, and some of them - like the one my mother made for me once about not being able to run a marathon - are meant to be broken.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Training update

This past weekend, I didn't do a long run, partly because I was recovering from several strains/sorenesses/injuries, and partly because the schedule said not to - it was a "step-back week", and the prescribed weekend run was a 5k race.  Conveniently, there was a NYRR race scheduled on Saturday - a 4-mile run in Central Park to raise money for Haiti.  I was anxious about it, because while I've run longer distances several times in the last couple of months, I haven't run outside at all, and I wasn't sure I'd be able to handle the cold, or the hills (not that Central Park is known for its mountain ranges, but even a gentle incline can derail a tired runner), or the peer pressure (there are some very very fast runners in NYRR, and I am a fairly slow runner, and I was worried there would be nobody as slow as me, and I would either be way behind everyone else or force myself to keep up and collapse in the middle of the race).  The night before, I had anxiety dreams about being late and missing the race, which ensured I had no trouble waking up in time.  Anyway, I needn't have worried; it was a good first race of the training season.  The whole event was kind of a madhouse: they threw it together in eighteen days, and set the race cap higher than usual and then, apparently, removed it altogether.  It wasn't very cold.  There were plenty of people as slow as me; the other people who started with me all had paces on their bib that were similar to mine.  I didn't run anything like my best time - I walked over both the start and finish lines (not because I was too tired to run but because there were too many people around me and they weren't moving fast enough), and finished in just over 44 minutes.  I could certainly have finished a minute or two faster, perhaps even as fast as 40 minutes, if there hadn't been so many people - but in a way, it was nice.  It was like a gentle Saturday jog with the whole city along.  Because there were so many people, and because I wasn't exactly running with the front-runners, I got to listen to people's conversations (apparently slow people like me tend to run in groups).  And since I'd been so worried about the race and so fearful I wouldn't be able to finish, I didn't mind not running my best time.  It was nice.

So that was Saturday.  Sunday I lifted.  I don't really like to do cardio in the gym on weekends because it's very crowded and all the good machines are always taken.  Today I did intervals.  I've found a nice interval workout, where I start with 1 mile at a 1 0-minute pace and then run 2 intervals of 0.6 miles, 3 intervals of 0.4 miles, and 2 intervals of 0.3 miles (all separated by walking for a minute or two) at paces that accelerate to just about a 9-minute mile.  (This doesn't sound very fast, and in fact I have run a mile in less than nine minutes in the last six months, but at the end of this workout it's really as fast as I can go.)  I like this workout because it's four miles of running, and because it encompasses both longer and shorter intervals.  My hope is that it will get easier over time and I will be able to make the intervals faster, although today (the second time I've done this workout) that didn't seem to be on its way to happening... still, I've definitely become faster since I started running again, and it doesn't seem like I've hurt myself today.  

I did a little bit of lifting after the run; I can now do two sets of leg presses at 210 pounds, although I think the machine at my regular gym is unusually forgiving.  This is a factor of about 2.5 greater than the next-highest weight I can do anything at (80 pounds, sometimes 85, on the lat pulldown).

Tomorrow, I'm going to spin.  Spin classes are notorious for aggressive instructors, and this one is worse than many.  I like the Wednesday morning class a lot better, but it's at 6:30 a.m. and I'm trying to shake off a cold that is trying to infect me.  So I will just have to do my best not to get drawn into working harder than is good for me.  Wednesday I will do a light run, or cross-train on the elliptical, depending on my energy and soreness level.  Thursday is rest day.  Friday is my long run - 7 miles this week.  I've started doing my long runs on Friday in part because of the weekend crowds at the gym and in part because it means I can recover on the weekend (this is also part of why I did intervals today rather than Wednesday).  Saturday is yoga, and Sunday is another 4-mile race, this one in Prospect Park.  I also have races the next two weekends after that - 5k and 5 miles.  Excitement!

However... it is now nearly two hours since I finished my run, and I'm starting to feel kind of crappy.  I've noticed I've been feeling tired, not just in the legs but all over, and just kind of bad for several hours after strenuous runs.  This is something I haven't experienced since training for the marathon.  I know it is probably good and means I'm pushing myself, but it's not much fun.

Friday, February 19, 2010

oh, also

Bad news:  No sooner did I say I wasn't, than I am now getting sick.  

Good news:  I talked to a friend earlier who has run multiple half-marathons by running 3-4 miles a few times a week and one 7-8 mile long run on the weekends for a period of two months. She suggested I not stress too much about specific workouts or push myself so hard that I injure myself and/or cannot climb the stairs to my apartment without holding the handrail, and instead focus on consistency.

Now, since the laundry place is closed for the night, I am going to sleep.