Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Someone do something

I'm glad these things still surprise me.

Those shoes

A.: Hello?
Mom: Why is your voice like that? Were you sleeping?
A.: No, I'm just tired.
Mom: Why are you tired?
A.: Because I am.
Mom: I have these shoes here. Are they yours?
A.: Um...
Mom: They're brown... I really don't know how else to describe them.
A.: Does this have to be resolved now?
Mom: Well, I'm giving a bunch of stuff away.
A.: If they don't fit you, give them away. I clearly won't miss them since I don't know what shoes you're talking about.
Mom: But they're kind of cute...
A.: I don't need them.
Mom: They look comfortable, too.
A.: I have enough pairs of shoes.

That's a slightly dishonest statement. I mean, objectively, I probably have enough pairs of shoes... but I believe that up to a certain point (for eg Imelda Marcos), one can never have too many shoes. However, I was pretty sure I did not need these shoes.

This back-and-forth went on for a while. The funny thing is, when it's a question of my books, I'm the one convincing my mother not to throw them out, and she can't understand why I'd want to keep them.

In spite of my assurances that I wouldn't need these shoes, mom insisted that she would keep them for me anyway. Which means next trip to Boston, she'll aggressively insist that I take them with me, even though I'll have seen them and likely be able to say for certain that I'll not need them. That will hardly influence her belief that I might want them. I mean, she called to ask me whether or not she could give them away, and decided not to even though I told her the opposite.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Collected gripes

-What idiot designed the metro with the slipperiest platform tiles possible?
-Ixnay on John Frieda's Secret Weapon, which is supposed to be a fix-all for out-of-control hair. It just makes my hair greasy.
-With the warm weather come the smokers. Who still smokes these days???
-Have you heard about how the Air Force thinks its budget is too small, so it's asking for money to run ads to convince the public that it needs more money? In case that's not inane enough, wait until you're reading the Washington Post only to have your page "blacked out" by an Air Force ad (the concept being, "blackouts can happen any time." I was so freaked out by this that I closed it before the ad revealed what its point was supposed to be.
-Bitter, short-sighted voters who threaten to vote for the other party if their primary candidate should lose the nomination. I certainly have a strong preference for one candidate (and while I won't name names, I haven't gone out of my way to hide that preference on these pages), but I'd still vote for the other in the general election for many reasons. A pro-wire-hanger candidate will never get my vote.

Monday, February 25, 2008

straight, non-metro men might want to tune out for this one

Today was a beautiful day in the nation's capital, which is a nice extra but not required; even on the crappy/icy/cold/wet/windy/all of the above days, I prefer the walk/metro trip to work to driving. Still, I appreciated the gorgeous weather, since I had to go to Banana Republic to pay my credit card. You see, I misplaced one credit card, got a new one with a new number; this has made it impossible to pay my bill online. Which is annoying. But I love that I can theoretically pay my BR bill during my lunch break, by walking over to BR. I say theoretically, because apparently BR doesn't let you pay your card in the store. Which is kind of silly, just from a marketing perspective: wouldn't you take an easy opportunity to draw people in to a store? I mean, even NY&Co. lets you pay your card in the store, which is moot because I no longer have one of their cards nor recommend that anyone get one or shop there. Their stuff is exceptionally cheaply made, but not in an obvious way. It's made to fit well, but I've not bought a single thing there that hasn't torn at the seams or lost a button or two upon being worn a few times.

Anyway, luckily it was a beautiful day for a walk over to BR. And I love that I can walk to BR, from work. I love being walking distance to all sorts of things.

So how do you explain this: I work in Chinatown, and I have to drive to Landmark or farther for wonton wrappers. How does that work? Chain stores and restaurants with Chinese characters on their awnings do not a Chinatown make. I will admit, it's become more authentic in recent years. The Gate is a nice touch. An Asian market of some sort would be great, though.

Okay, now that you've stuck through this, read the article referenced in the previous post.

Very good read

The Audacity of Data by Noam Scheiber.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Crazy... Pills.

Ratatouille just won over Persepolis. I think I'm going to be sick.

I haven't seen "No Country...", but Javier Bardem was absolutely amazing in "The Dancer Upstairs." "The Sea Inside," too, but especially "The Dancer Upstairs."

I'd forgotten that "Shakespeare in Love" had won an Oscar. That movie was so unwatchably awful.

***
And, Some of the dumbest-@$$ logic I've ever heard.

From Passport and GFY

This is awesome.

***
Oh, to have a few hundred thousand lying around.

***
Thank you Heather and Jessica for speaking the truth about KLS (the woman, not the line... although the latter is vulgar as all get out). She's so annoying and not stylish. We get it, you have a lot of money and you like diamonds. Can we move on?

Customer Service Chronicles

It's been many years since investigative news programs and other media outlets have reported on the business of adding small charges and fees or otherwise overcharging with the hope/intent that customers won't notice. This phenomenon is well-described in the Times' A new charge called oops.

I've come to believe that "oops" charging has evolved into "harassment/intimidation" charging. I actually agree with my mother about this, and Allen's case, which I would be happy to post here with his permission, furthers that believe. I've had to deal with it as well.

It's somewhat more aggressive than counting on one's customers to not notice the addition of small charges to a bill; it's the slapping of often sizable, but inaccurate charges onto a bill and counting on one's customers to get worn out trying to fight them. I don't believe it's bureaucracy-- I believe it's a business practice. They know full well that the charges are wrong; they also know that some people are going to get worn out fighting the same charges over and over again. After all, we have other things to get on with.

And we're powerless: even though we're right, we can't make them take the charges off the bill. Shouldn't there be a watchdog to curb this abuse, at least among telecommunications companies? If so, it hasn't come through for my mother. As it is, these companies have no incentive to clean up their billing practices or customer service shops; more importantly, they have a disincentive to stop screwing over their customers.

There are some resources, including gethuman.com, to help one get through the mess, and I believe there are also forums for exposing horrific customer service, but I don't have links to those handy at this moment. In the meantime, just be aware that you're not alone.

The more things change

So, so true.

On a different note, I, for one, do not drink lattes, wear birkenstocks, or have a trust fund. I might drive a Prius if I could afford it. I do eat sushi, but that taunt was so four years ago.

But my favorite line of the day goes to Nicholas Kristoff.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Who knew

I passed the Verizon Center (which, for out-of-towners, is a concert arena, not, for example, mom's favorite customer service center this side of the Ganges) on my way from work to happy hour, and there were hordes of screaming teen girls in miniskirts (but they looked respectable, not trashy, like, say, a GT undergrad). Then, on my way to the metro from happy hour, there were even larger hordes of screaming teen girls-- and I mean screaming-- emerging from the metro. I asked one of them what was going on. The Spice Girls, apparently.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

blame game

I really don't want to be blogging right now; I'd rather be sound asleep. In fact, I tried to go back to sleep, but I'm all wound up. You see, I'd gone to bed kind of early (i.e. about the time I should go to sleep, given what time I get up) especially because I was tired from a long day-- metro delays on the way home, waken up early that morning by a selfish cat who started meowing outside my door before the proper time, etc. And this is why I need a kitty version of that parenting book-- I tried to reason with her, tried to explain that mommy needed her rest, couldn't just go back to sleep whenever, really needed to be with it at work, etc. But one can't very well explain that to a cat...

...nor, apparently, to one's mother. I usually shut off my phone when I go to sleep, precisely because my mother doesn't think twice before calling me at whatever hour, for whatever reason. I particularly should have known that she'd call me to go look at the eclipse-- she once made me get out of bed at 3am to look at the stars. Had I remembered about the eclipse, maybe I would have stayed up anyway, but I forgot, and was comfortably, warmly, in bed, asleep. Until mom called. And now I'm having trouble going back to sleep, and I'm increasingly bitter about it... because I'd like to be with it at work tomorrow... etc.

So before I realized that getting up and blogging was inevitable, I tried to clear my head of the indignity of it all. I asked myself whether it was really fair to blame my mother and my cat for my lack of sleep... and I thought, why not, mom tends to blame me for just about anything... which reminded me of the time we were in St. Petersburg for her reunion, at the reunion, and she discovered that she had forgotten to bring to the party a more elegant pair of shoes, and this was somehow my fault. She went on about how she packed those shoes on the trip specifically for the occasion, and I should have known that, and how could I have not reminded her. I tried to get her to let it go, because I thought it was rude to be in a side conversation when someone was making a speech, and sure enough someone had thanked her and other people who had come from afar, just as she was whispering to me angrily about how she couldn't believe I didn't bring her shoes. I elbowed her to get her to pay attention, but she was so engrossed in the shoe accusations that she elbowed me back and missed the point. I think eventually she realized what was going on.

This in turn reminded me of the time, after our last trip to Russia, when she blamed me for her losing her late mother's diamond earrings and ring. I believe I've blogged about this in the past so I won't go into great detail. To sum up, upon returning from Russia, she opened the fridge and discovered a greasy paper towel, and, taking it for gone-off food, disposed of it; later, she couldn't find the heirloom jewelry, and reconstructed in her mind that she must have wrapped in a paper towel and put it in the fridge as a clever hiding place. She went as far as to tell me that it was my fault that the jewelry was lost, since she had told me to remind her that she had put the jewelry in the paper towel, and I had failed. About six months later, she found the jewelry in the safe. I reminded her that she had blamed me for not reminding her that she had put it in a paper towel. Her response was, "oh, did I?" before changing the subject.

Anyway, I went to look at the eclipse. It was red. It's not that I don't care-- I'm glad I saw it; I loved Kenneth C. Davis' "Don't Know Much About the Universe" and actually everything I've read by him; it's that I'm really, really tired and it's proving hard to fall back asleep. But hopefully now that I've blogged, I can let it go.

***
Oh, one more recurring issue: my mother loves to find ways to point out that I don't cook well. A common tactic is to declare that there is a commercial, frozen version of whatever I've made that is far superior. She likes to say whenever she buys tiramisu from Costco or Trader Joe's that it's just amazing and everyone says it's the best tiramisu ever. I've had both of those and I'd refer to both as "coffee-flavored desserts" but would dignify neither with the term "tiramisu." Now, mine doesn't always turn out well, but when it does, it turns out really well, and at the last two anti-Valentine's Day parties it's been out of this world. And even when it doesn't turn out as well, it's still many times better than anything anyone can buy frozen. Which should go without saying. But for some reason, it's the opposite that mom just loves to say.

On that note, I really should go to sleep.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Said with no sense of irony

Mom: I'll call you more often, but I will you to call more often, too.
A.: Okay.
Mom: I believe in karma: if you want your daughter to call you, you need to call me.

I didn't say that I didn't plan to insult my daughter in every other conversation (although a friend pointed out the other day that my mocking Gracie's girth was arguably a continuation of a pattern). Besides, that's not the point-- it's not like I never call my parents; it's that my mother has a skewed sense of how often (or rarely) I call, and I'm not about to start calling daily to prove her wrong.

Someone hire this girl

Wow

Saturday, February 16, 2008

I now believe that anything is possible

I am NOT joking: my mother just called and asked whether I was terribly busy.

She asked me to e-mail her the information for the guesthouse I stayed at in Istanbul when I got a chance. A friend of hers is stopping over and asked for suggestions.

Wow.

Happy Anti-Valentine's Day

Friday, February 15, 2008

what can I say?

Mom: Hello.
A.: Hello.
Mom: You know, everything that is government is idiocy... [goes on for a few minutes about the Verizon saga.]

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The examples in this article scare me...

...just when I thought I'd heard it all (and to think, three years ago, the idea of ignorance of Che shocked me).

href="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/14/books/14dumb.html?em&ex=1203138000&en=411d809579fa2544&ei=5070">Be Very Afraid

Have a Tolerable Valentine's Day

It kind of snuck up on me this year. It just doesn't bother me... I mean it does, but it doesn't. Jewelry ads just make me sad-- not jealous/pathetic sad, just... sad. If you first realized you loved someone when they presented you with an overpriced rock, you have a serious problem.

I hit a couple of stores for some pre-party shopping (don't worry, fresh ingredients will be bought day-of, although I did do some casing for who carried the best looking strawberries and endives (not to be served together-- like I said, don't worry)). It was crowded. I was relieved that I didn't have a date on Valentine's Day- I'm much too tired (mind you, part of that comes from getting ready for an anti-Valentine's Day party).

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

epiphany

It just occurred to me that there is something more grating than sitting next to a screaming child for a long flight, but I think I've inadvertently eluded just that situation.

I have elite status on United, which entitles me and one companion to Economy Plus. For our trip to China, my mom graciously offered my dad the additional EP seat, since he's taller. This spares me from the prospect of fourteen hours each way of her periodically looking up at me from whatever she's reading and declaring that I've put on weight.

Make it work

I thought Jillian would be this season's Chloe: consistently tasteful and meticulous wins out in the end. But in Elle's preview video her collection looks really blah. Rami's looks good, though.

I'm indifferent to Sweet P's work, and annoyed by her facial expressions. And wish she would dress less revealingly.

available commercially?

I want one of these.

Monday, February 11, 2008

VOTE

Okay, why does the primary have to fall on a day when it's 25 degrees Fahrenheit (feels like 17) in the morning?

Saturday, February 9, 2008

phone etiquette

Apparently neither of my parents understand that there are some situations when I cannot come to the phone (and when those end, become situations when I can, I will call back). My phone rang-- I'm not trying to give the impression that all I ever do is volunteer, but the dinner crew at a shelter I volunteer with canceled and a call went out for last-minute dinner preparers-- anyway, my phone rang just as I was serving dinner. I didn't answer. Fifteen minutes later, it rang again. By then there was a lull (but not enough of one that I would have returned the call then and there rather than waiting until I'd left).

A.: Hello?
Dad: Hi. This is actually the second time I'm calling.
A.: I know. I heard the phone ring, but I couldn't answer it. It still isn't a great time for me to talk.

***
This is not the first or second or third time something like this has happened. My favorite was when my parents called one Friday night, I got the message at 2am, and then was woken up at 7:30 in the morning by angry parents asking why I hadn't returned their call. No concept of I may not have gotten the message or didn't have time to return it. I will return it when I have time. Even when I was calling stoner HR guy-- i.e. when a job depended on it-- I gave him more time to return calls. I didn't call him at 6pm one night and then again at 7am the next morning asking him why he hadn't returned my call. Now that I think about it, my mom's claim that I didn't call after dad's operation-- even though I'd called three times that day at times when we thought he would alread be home-- could have been a reflection of the fact that she left me a message after I'd already gone to bed, and called me again in the morning before I had time to return her call.

Am I overreacting? Do any of you do this, i.e. not trust the fact that someone isn't answering or returning your call because it's not a good time for them to do so, and so calling soon afterward? Is that logical?

***

Dad: Have you done anything about your visa yet?
A.: Yes, I submitted the application for it.
Dad: Oh, okay.

Mom had scolded me earlier, because that's what she does, for dilly-dallying such that the Chinese government raised its fee. It's not like that was in any way predictable, like after a certain date the fee would go up, so I hardly saw the reproach as deserved.

My parents apparently equated my decision to deal with the visa once I worked in the city (or had a few days off) with my failure to deal with the visa at all. Had I thought faster, I would have pointed out to dad that I managed to visit five countries last year, two of them with additional entry documents required, without adult supervision.

This isn't a matter of hurt feelings-- that my parents seem to believe that I wouldn't get anything done without their reminding me is not what worries me (in fact, I think it's kind of funny). It's that historically, their perception of my incompetence has motivated them to get involved... to interfere, micromanage, etc.-- and as that involvement has only complicated matter, it's in my interest to discourage it.

the shower curtain tragedy

I just got off the phone with my dad, and we had a really good, substantive conversation. My mother must still be mad at me, because she didn't pick up the phone, but this allowed dad and me to talk... and it was good to chat without feeling like I was being interrogated, like I had to justify everything I said. We talked about his recovery, what he'd been doing, the book he'd read; about my first week at work, what movies we each recommended; etc. There was no "why did/didn't you do this?" There was no one-upping, no cheap shots or sneak attacks from out of nowhere. At one point I heard yelling in the background, inquired about it. Dad said mom was yelling at him for "drawing the shower curtain the wrong way," making that out to be a major "tragedy." I was saddened by how much it didn't surprise me-- by how natural it was to think, "of course-- mom is having a fit over a shower curtain." No perspective there, no filter of "maybe this is not worth yelling about" or "maybe yelling is not the best way to get the shower curtain drawn the right way in the future;" just a seized opportunity to yell about something.

I was angry at my mother earlier this week, and that anger just grew... into meta-anger that she could scold me over something she was wrong about, and still affect my mood, make me shaky; that she would do that, especially during my first week of work. I had to work (as I did just before the job interview) to put her and the bad vibes out of my had, which I suppose is a good thing to practice. I contemplated whether she has always been this overbearing and emotionally abusive-- of course she has: growing up with her was difficult. My parents have genuinely done a lot for me, sacrificed a lot, done a lot of things right, but mom also did me the huge favor of not being someone I wanted to live with or depend on (which is ironic, considering that she continues to believe that I do need her to manage my life). I read about how thirty is the new twenty, in terms of when young people move out of their parents' homes and become independent, and while I am hardly the example of total independence the second I graduated from college (much less high school), the prospect of answering to/living with my parents for longer than necessary fueled a continuous fire under my butt to get my act together, and for that I am grateful.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

I should get a copy to share when traveling

has he thought about writing one for cats?

one of us has a selective memory

I talked to my parents on Saturday. Actually, I had called a few times on Friday, when dad was supposed to be back from the hospital, but he didn't get back until late. The last time I called, mom said not to call, they'd call me when he was back. I got a voice message late on Friday, planned on calling Saturday afternoon after I returned from helping a friend move in the morning, but they caught me on the way to said friend's house. Dad was doing well, we talked for a bit.

This afternoon I got a message from mom asking about my first few days at my new job. Just kidding (did you believe that for a minute??). I got an incredibly nasty message from my mother:

Listen, your father had a very serious operation. Other people are calling. You-all week-- didn't even bother to call when he had the operation; you haven't bothered to call all week to find out how he is. Other people are calling, except you. What is going on with you? What has our family become?


Followed shortly by,

If you deign to call, don't tell him that I told you to call... pretend that you actually care.


Now, let's say for a minute that I hadn't even thought about calling (I had, rethought it because I figured I'd let him rest and then call me when he was awake). Wouldn't it have been more effective for my mother to say,

"Hi. I know you have a lot going on, but I have a feeling your father would really like to hear from you. I'm sure you just haven't gotten a chance to call, but I wanted to let you know."

But of course she didn't say that, because she's more interested in using this for fodder-- and even making things up about what I did and didn't do, and exaggerating how long it's been since we'd talked-- than giving me the benefit of the doubt and reminding me to call dad.

So I called her back and asked her to refrain from leaving me sanctimonious, lecturing messages, and that if she would recall, I did call over the weekend, and I hardly see how not calling for three days was a sign of profound neglect. She said she didn't want to talk to me if I was going to use that tone but that I should call back and she'd let dad answer the phone.

Now, perhaps I am guilty of projection, like mom. I know that when I'm not feeling well, I want to be left alone. I should have given that more thought and realized that my dad probably would like to hear from me. I'm not beyond reproach, but she's not helping.

So I called back (about half an hour later, when I'd left work), and she said "this is a bad time" and hung up. So do you think maybe if she cared about my talking to dad, she would have, maybe, stayed on the line so I could ask what a better time would be?

***
Mom: What?
A.: Can I talk to dad, please?

Dad and I talk for a bit. I tell him to call me whenever, since I don't want to call when he's sleeping. He confirms that he'd spent much of the first few days (I take that as up to yesterday) sleeping, but now he's recovering a normal routine. He gets his stitches out soon.

***
The issue here isn't my mom's motivation, which isn't for me to second guess, really. It's... who does she think she is to yell at me like that? To assume the worst and then lecture me? I'm tempted to say, "I'm not a child, I don't respond well to scolding," but the bigger point is that scolding's not great for children, either. It once again comes back to, who does she think she is?

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Porexia Part II

We couldn't help but read or hear about the dismal retail season over the last few months: customers are staying away from stores, or trading down. I stayed away from stores largely because I was too busy and tired, but I happened to be near some malls anyway a few days this week and decided to make up for lost time. Something was amiss-- salespeople were either AWOL when I needed them (and usually, I don't, which leads me to my next point) or in my face when I just wanted to browse. I came away with relatively little damage (a pair of wool pants from Banana-- I had a few minutes before Gina got to the mall for our little shopping excursion; and a faux leather bag from Benetton big enough to hold my gym clothes yet small enough to pass for a handbag). I bought a few things at Macy's to run down a gift card that my mother regifted to me, but that doesn't count. In the mood to burn the rest of the gift card and not set foot in Macy's again, I stopped by the Origins counter and began browsing... but didn't get far, because the sales assistant kept talking to me. She was probably bored. And she was probably trying to help. But I just wanted to browse... so letting me browse would have been helpful. But I digress. She asked me what my skin issues were, and I said pores. And suppressed an eye-roll and said I had perfect skin (which is kind of funny because when my mother's not telling me I've gained weight, she's asking me what's wrong with my skin).

So I guess it's true. No one else can see our pores.

amen as usual, Nicholas Kristof

Amen

Friday, February 1, 2008

Mark your calendars

I'm not sure how I feel about anti-Valentine's Day now that everyone's jumping on the bandwagon and even commercializing it. I do, however, like the sentiments expressed here.

double standards

There are a lot of things that are not allowed in the locker rooms at the Y, cell phone use and food or drink among them. For some reason, there is nothing about encouraging one's toddler to wail, or blocking an entire section of the lockers with one's stroller and its contents sprawled across the floor.

As it is, my roommate and I are in discussions about leaving the Y. There is a gym where I will work, and there shouldn't be children there.

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