This morning, Jacob's phone rang while he was in the shower. I answered it, and heard Erica on the other end of the line.
"Did you hear gunshots?" she asked me. I thought about this for a second. We're on the Oakland-Berkeley border. It's not the worst neighborhood, but gunshots wouldn't be out of place. Still, I hadn't heard anything, and told her so.
"Well, whatever it was, it wound up being right down here," she continued. Now I was surprised; as far as I knew there wasn't any commotion on our street. "Really?" I asked. "Yeah," she said, "at Olivina and Hagemann."
So, not Erica, then. And me? Not her daughter, but it took both of us at least fifteen seconds of conversation to realize these things. It was kind of fun. I think I'll answer Jacob's phone more often.
I have to preface this review by retracting almost everything I said last week about The Ancient Engineers. I need to do that so that I can then take those things and say them about The Linguist and the Emperor instead.
The Linguist and the Emperor (Daniel Meyerson, 2004) is not, as I first imagined, a history. It's ostensibly the sweeping historical tale of Napoleon's invasion of Egypt, the recovery of the Rosetta Stone, and the deciphering of the Egyptian hieroglyphs by the linguist Jean-Francois Champollion. It is undoubtedly a sweeping tale. It was undoubtedly written with the aid of a great many historical sources. That isn't necessarily saying much; The Clan of the Cave Bear was written with a great many historical sources too. It is not a history. This is not a history either.
This isn't to say that histories are the only acceptable reading material. I finished this book in under a week and raved about it the entire time. The writing is lyrical and sensual, and the main characters - Napoleon and Champollion - are written as strange, vivid, twitchy visionaries. The book's timeline is so bizarrely turned around on itself that without the year and place headings at the beginning of each chapter the reader would be utterly lost. With the headings, of course, the reader is merely (delightfully) lost after three paragraphs when, say, Champollion is reading about a late Egyptian prince who is reading about an early Egyptian prince who has heard of an ancient book made by the god of writing himself. At points like that a single unclarified "he" can unseat the reader for pages at a time.
That's part of the reason it's not a history: stories from the texts that the characters are finding and reading are woven into the main story anywhere and everywhere they'll fit. In some parts there are so many secondary stories tucked in that the main story is more like a framework for them than a proper story of its own; think Arabian Nights with the book itself as a narrator, if that's not too self-contradictory. The other part of the reason it's not a history is that, wherever a piece of a story (digressive or otherwise) is unclear, the author grabs freely whichever interpretations of it are most interesting and dramatic. If the most interesting version isn't the one most likely to be true, well, truth can go and hang.
So is this a rave review or a scathing one? Mostly rave. It's a lavishly, flowingly obsessive book that's impossible to put down. It imparts to the reader the wild-eyed engrossment of the characters: as long as there's more story to unfold (which, thanks to the convoluted storyline, there always is), you the reader can no more stop reading than Champollion could stop deciphering or Napoleon could stop trying to conquer the world. That's a fantastically enjoyable experience.
Now the comparison to The Ancient Engineers. If that was a history, this is a novel. If that was a description of people's work, this is a paean to their personalities. If that could be trusted on the essential facts, this should be read with a real history in the other hand. Er, if that tended toward war, this one tends toward pederasty. No, I'm not too sure why. It's a good book. It's a fun book. It's not necessarily a true book. As someone (please claim your credit because I can't remember who you are) said about the last Star Wars movie, you need a separate seat for the huge grain of salt that sits next to you. Buy it a bucket of popcorn and enjoy the book, both of you.
Yesterday afternoon just sucked. From 1 pm to 5:30 pm there was hardly a break in the sucking. Actually, it started slightly earlier, but lunch has to be considered a nonsucking break. For purposes of this entry we shall only consider the afternoon hours in their unrelenting suckery. We shall also exclude the half-hour from 5:00 to 5:30, when the prospect of going home for the weekend substantially lessened my perceived suckishness level. Simple subtraction therefore leaves us with four hours which, ultimately, weren't all they could have been.
At $13.75/hour, those hours earned me $55. At a rough estimate about 20% of each of my paychecks is removed for a combination of taxes and health insurance. 20% of $55 is $11, leaving me with $44 in payment for the aforementioned four hours. That's 18.3 cents per minute, but that's not really important.
$44 happened to be precisely the amount of money that I had in my wallet this evening when, after a reasonably productive afternoon, I decided to take a stroll to Industrial Strength and drool on the jewelry cases for a while. I had wood in mind: I've recently remembered that I used to have a nice pair of ebony tunnels that would still be my size, if only I had the faintest clue where they were. I haven't. After considerable searching I've given them up as lost, probably in one of my last two house-moves. To a mind such as mine that conclusion manifests as a floating blank check behind my eyes with the words "new jewelry" scribbled on the memo line. Thus, the stroll.
What I found wasn't quite what I was looking for, but who can say no to love? It was a pair of goldstone plugs, deep honey-colored and shimmering as though made of glitter. Fact: they are made of glitter. Goldstone is a man-made glass "stone" and they can put as much glitter in as they damn well please. They're almost the same shade as the medium-dark wood I had in mind, but glassy-smooth and with that gleaming shimmer to them instead of a grain. One of them, as a shop employee and I noticed with appreciative ooohs, has a tiny flaw in it: a thin line that does look like wood grain, straight and delicate, cutting across both faces and down the sides. And, to tie this back in to the math that started this entry, they cost $43.50 with tax. There's no arguing with that; they're mine by right by virtue of my four sucking hours.
Of course, since they're 1/2" plus flares and I've been wearing old, smaller jewelry lately, I can't actually wear them yet. I'll just have to wait until I earn a 9/16" taper with another couple of hours of sucking (talk to me again on Monday afternoon), since I refuse to go to Gottsi for the first time in months only to have them help me put in jewelry that I shamelessly bought at a different shop. Faithfulness he talked of, madam, your enduring faithfulness!
This morning on BART I finished the geekiest book I've read lately, which is a treatise on the history of engineering written in 1960 by a strange and opinionated man named L. Sprague de Camp. It's one of the four books that I picked up from the anthropology section at Powell's in Portland, the other three being one seminal ethnography, one seminal archaeological treatise (sorry, I like the word treatise), and a new dramatic history of the translation of the Rosetta Stone.
The Ancient Engineers is 400 pages on the gradual development of the optimal arrangement of oars in a trireme, the responses of castle builders to gunpowder and clockmakers to gears, and why exactly London Bridge was falling down. It's a little like what you'd get if you stood over James Burke with a calendar and a whip and told him to tell you everything he knows without skipping more than two centuries at a time on any given subject.
It's both appallingly technical and short on technical details. I really should have been reading it with an encyclopedia in my other hand, since the definitions of basic engineering concepts were kind of spotty. It was assumed that I knew what a corbelled dome was, but the working parts of catapults and water clocks were thoroughly defined. Then again, with the exception of the corbelled dome, the things that were skipped were either picked up two chapters later and better explained, or used in a context where it wasn't strictly necessary to understand them completely.
All told it was an extremely interesting read. I'll admit that I'm terrible at finishing anything that's not fiction (and some things that are) without getting bogged down and bored 5/6 of the way through. I hardly finished an assigned text in four years of college, but I finished this. More, it was easy to pick up again each time without losing the thread of what was being discussed, even though I was only reading about 15 pages at a time on BART. It's reader-friendly and interspersed with enough non-technical history to give some reference points by which to navigate. It also covers enough of a range of engineering that if, for instance, you're hopelessly bored by siege engines you needn't tune out the entire Hellenistic chapter because you can still read about roads and plumbing.
It's got one major failing which becomes clear only in the second-to-last chapter, and that is a profound cultural chauvinism. De Camp actually spends several paragraphs explaining why the Chinese language is ridiculously limited and entirely unsuitable for scientific thought. He sneeringly remarks that a Turkish invasion of India ends any interest the reader might have in that particular subcontinent more or less forever after. The final chapter, on medieval Europe, begins by explaining that while the entire East was lost in contemplating its own mystical navels, the vigorous West was pursuing useful technological advances. Essentially, if you wanted to know anything about the history of engineering east of Constantinople, you'd need a separate book because the mention given to any Asian invention in this one consists of a few grudging sentences followed by an enthusiastic digression into what exciting things the West did with the technology once it heard about it.
With that important caveat, it's still an excellent book. At the very least, it's an excellent read, which I recognize is not the same thing. It's well researched and probably factually correct, but not necessarily a good, sober unbiased history if that's what you're looking for. On the other hand, who looks for a sober unbiased history to read for fun? Just keep the date of publication (1960) in mind and read the bloody thing.
I've recently found myself the subject of the strangest and most complicated kind of insult I've ever come across: ordinary words, laden with favorable cultural connotations and terrible personal connotations, delivered with profound contempt in the expectation that the recipient will smile and say thank you.
I was standing in line yesterday in Berkeley Bowl buying two pints of excitingly-flavored soy ice cream (which were for bringing in to work because I'm still desperately trying to impress a group of people who couldn't care less). In front of me was a wiry, active-looking woman probably in her forties, and behind me another fit woman of maybe sixty. They were both buying sensible groceries and looking at my ice cream with amused interest. The woman in front wondered about its taste. The one behind asked about calories, to which I grinned and told her, "I don't even look."
She paused and looked me up and down. "Yes, well," she said dismissively, "you don't have to." While I stammered feebly about how I don't look because dessert isn't supposed to be good for you, she leaned down to look at the labels and started discussing her findings with the woman in front. They were in complete agreement that my ice cream was far too fatty for them to eat. "But," added the one in front, gesturing to me but speaking to the woman behind me, "Think about what she's having for dinner. Rutabagas [editor's note: rutabagas?!], no bread, low-fat salad dressing. So she can eat this stuff." The sensation of having been turned into an inanimate conversation piece was so unnerving that I didn't even bother to stammer this time. I just let them talk about dieting and weight loss across me for a few minutes.
Eventually the woman behind me noticed how I was trying desperately to ignore their conversation, and gave me what I think was probably a friendly smile. "You don't know anything about this stuff, of course," she told me. I didn't bring up the six months I spent in college starving myself from 150 pounds to 120 because I thought it would make me prettier, more popular, better, something. [Editor's note: for posterity and calculation, I'm five foot eight and now weigh 140.] I failed to mention that in the five years since then I've never quite managed to disabuse myself of that idea and still step on the bathroom scale, wishing I weren't doing it, every day. I didn't discuss the willowy, graceful architect at my work who complimented me on a homemade skirt but then frowned and said, "But you're thin, so everything looks good on you," and dropped the subject. The topic of my aunt, who years ago used to give me that same up-and-down look at family gatherings and tell me with a clear look of displeasure on her face how skinny I was, was not raised. And so on, and so on, and so on.
No, of course, I don't know anything about that. Naturally I'm thrilled by both your scornful pseudo-compliments and my own frustrating need to seek them. Few things delight me so much as to be looked over from head to toe while you decide whether I'm a woman or a statue. Please, take your time. I'll just be standing here with my eyes closed trying to teleport you to Siberia.
There's a tranny girl working in the other office in my building. She's very sweet and always says hi to me with a shy little smile when we pass on the stairs. I like her instinctively. She's also very clockable, with an inescapably masculine voice and a certain undisguisable stubbly quality. These facts are coming to the attention of the other people in my office.
The taller project manager walked past me on the second floor yesterday and said smugly, "Switch hitter." I stared at him uncomprehendingly for a moment.
"What are you talking about?" I asked.
"That person," he added helpfully. "He's a switch hitter."
I continued to stare.
"The person in the law office," he said. "I can't tell if he's a he or a..." He trailed off and tried again. "There's another word, but I can't remember what it is. Trans something?"
"Transsexual," I mumbled, hoping that the taller project manager's ringing voice wasn't carrying down the hall to the law office, or that at least it sounded more polite when it got there.
"Oh, is that it," he said vaguely. "I mean, I don't know, guy, girl, what?"
I sighed. "Look, if you dress as a girl you're a girl as far as I'm concerned," I told him firmly and stomped back to my desk.
It's very rarely that I can be thought of as an easy person to persuade. Jacob can tell you this. I reflexively resist every argument that's presented to me unless and until someone takes a metaphorical hammer and beats it into my skull. But people's gender identity doesn't have to enter my head through the normal door; it gets to go straight in without waiting in line with all the other ideas. What I mean is, not taking people at their word about their own gender isn't even a course of action that I consider. It would be like walking up to Einstein and saying, "I know physics better than you," and sometimes you just have to trust the experts.
I have a new hobby: public transportation. It begs the question of how someone who spends two hours a day on BART can still enjoy riding buses and trains, but the fact is that Jacob and I spent yesterday afternoon wandering around San Francisco with a bus map and a pocket full of quarters and it was great.
We BARTed to Embarcadero and wandered down Market until we found the map kiosk, took a bus out to North Beach (on any bus headed to or through Chinatown I will always be out-elbowed, I've realized), ate a ridiculously tasty dinner thing, hiked up to Telegraph Hill and back down, took a bus out to the Presidio and wandered around trying to figure out what the Presidio actually is, got on another bus and found ourselves heading all around through the Inner Sunset and Laguna Honda and somewhere way down Mission, took another bus back up Mission, got off and wandered until we found a coffee shop, and re-caffeinated ourselves just in time to get back on BART and come home for bed.
Total cost: $5.95 for BART round-trip, and $1.25 for MUNI transfers that lasted us all the way through the afternoon (evening). It beats the pants off of taking buses in the East Bay, where transfers are more expensive and don't last as long, and the buses don't come as often or surround as much stuff in the areas that they serve. I'm not convinced that you can have more fun for $7.20, although when you add in $5 for hot chocolate and cookies and $20 for pasta dinners it's possible that other activities may suggest themselves.
It seems, irrelevantly, that people's reading habits are suddenly the subject of much interest at I Fought The Law and I'm somehow taking part in the discussion. To make my position clear, and just for fun, please allow me to give you my current partial reading list.
In progress or just completed:
The Linguist and the Emperor, Daniel Meyerson
The Ancient Engineers, L. Sprague De Camp
Red Earth & Pouring Rain, Vikram Chandra
The Boxer Rebellion, Diana Preston
Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling
Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
Split Infinity, Piers Anthony
In the last few months:
Nickel & Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America, Barbara Ehrenreich
Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris
A Series of Unforunate Events: The Hostile Hospital, Lemony Snicket
Bee Season, Myla Goldberg
The Last Continent, Terry Pratchett
Samskrta-Subodhini: A Sanskrit Primer, Madhav Deshpande (not finished yet, actually)
Love Me, Garrison Keillor
Life of Pi, Yann Martel
Cakes And Ale, W. Somerset Maugham
Holidays On Ice, David Sedaris
Sick Puppy, Carl Hiaasen
Zodiac, Neil Stephenson
Um... if you loaned me any books this year and don't see them on this list, remind me which ones they were. I can't even remember what I have sitting on my bedside table right now, let alone what I've finished or not yet started. That's because, you see, I believe that there's no such thing as Appropriate Things To Read. There's everything interesting, and then there's everything else which I might find interesting later or I might not, and all of it should be read if and when the mood strikes me. So I've got about 13,750,289 books I've got to read and I hope you'll pardon me if I'm a little preoccupied.
Continuing the Sci-Fi Canon Project, Jacob and I watched Alien last night. It was excellent. It was scary as all fuck and extravagantly unpleasant, without being the kind of movie that will still keep me up at nights two years later.
Typical hostile-contact stories go something like: large crew of heroic explorers finds alien race, embarks on epic space battle from comfort of own ship using lasers and whatnot, glorious triumph and/or crushing defeat wrought by combined forces of entire human race or political entity thereof. Alien goes more like: small crew of tired bitchy tow-truck drivers doesn't want to deal with this shit, gets bullied into it by ship computer, winds up with one lousy alien on own ship and can't even fucking handle the stupid thing seven on one, and, to make it worse, gets no help and will probably get no recognition from the rest of the human race for any of this crap. It's not space opera. It's much more satisfyingly realistic, which is saying something when we're talking about 8-foot-tall exoskeletoned aliens that reproduce by wrapping around people's faces and shoving eggs down their throats. Speaking of which, that's gross. Jacob found a trivia page online last night that said that H.R. Giger had to keep changing his designs for the movie because they were "too blatantly sexual". I do have to wonder how much more blatant they could possibly have been.
And yet, and yet, I didn't wake up screaming from nightmares last night. I've put some thought into why. For one, it wasn't a "this could happen to you" movie. This could only happen to you if you were out landing on frozen planets and poking around wrecked ships. The monster doesn't come out of the municipal water supply or the bedroom closet, it comes out of the middle of fucking space. If it were going to be in my kitchen, other people would know about it before I would. For two, the real horribleness depends on the setting: miles of dark claustrophobic corridors and cluttered engine rooms, too few people, too little light and no good weapons. Fine. Try it on Earth, bitch. Here we have floodlights and open space and the National Guard. This leads me to number three, which is that the monster can actually be killed. It's an animal that'll die if it's badly injured, not some kind of undead supernatural force against which there's no known defense. You just need a big enough gun. Four, there's no question of it having reasons for trying to kill you. You're just a big blob of tasty flesh standing in its way. If you get away from it, it'll find some other blob of tasty flesh. It's not going to track you down wherever you are for some kind of vendetta.
Hence my dreams last night, which, while admittedly Alien-themed, weren't nightmares. I just dreamed that we (the usual unclear dream "we") had to reopen and reclose an airlock door over and over because we kept accidentally bringing in something that was supposed to stay outside. It didn't do anything, it just wasn't supposed to come in. Open, close. Aw, crap. Open, close. Damnit! Open, close. Oh, not again. Open, close. Can you fucking do this right for once? And so on. Not restful, but not terrifying.
The Sci-Fi Canon is redeemed, and the project goes on.
Last night I tried desperately to do anything other than work on my back-to-school personal statement. I pored over course lists for breadth requirements -- did you know that I've taken one satisfactory course for each of the seven breadth sections except for the Social & Behavioral Sciences? For that one I have five courses, which wouldn't be surprising except that that isn't counting any of my anthropology classes.
What the hell does this have to do with umbrellas? When I got done wasting time with breadth requirements I did some searching for MLS programs. I found two accredited programs on the West Coast: San Jose State and University of Washington. You're nodding. Either you're just very sleepy, or you see how I'm being reeled in to the Northwest by factors beyond my deliberate control. I moved 500 miles north to a university which charged me fees that I was obligated to pay in some fashion. I took the first student job on offer and liked it pretty well. I grew frustrated with my first major and chose a different one. I floundered for career ideas and had a brainstorm that combined my student job and my major in a plausible fashion.
Do you see what I'm saying here? None of these actions necessarily involve forests, rivers, gorges, bridges, volcanic mountains, or high levels of precipitation, and yet here I am looking at graduate study in Seattle and probably winding up working in a Native American heritage museum somewhere. If I spend all day in the basement archive, I won't be able to see how gloomy it is outside. I'll just pretend that my fuzzy mittens and special rosy lightbulbs are there to protect the delicate artifacts instead of to keep me warm and undespondent. Who can argue with me? I'll be the superarchivist, the archaeologist turned librarian who knows more about preserving thousand-year-old fenceposts than you, thank you very much. Put your mittens back on before you ruin something.
And, yes, I'll buy a good umbrella.
A romp through old pictures this weekend led me to discover this fascinatingly LiveJournalish webcam image from October of 2001. This is Dianna as she was: braided, beringed, oddly lit and unusually shiny. The monster emerges from the vats in which it was created, glistening with the slime of its incubation. Its blinking eyes, wide with the dawn of consciousness, rest upon the only sign of life in the world to which it has emerged: a tiny red dot glowing atop a blank, unmoving lens. The monster is drawn closer, not yet understanding why, until it is near enough to peer into that plastic eye. It sees nothing that it can comprehend, and the fumbling of its fingers toward the beckoning light elicits no sign of welcome. The image captured in the machine's tiny brain by the accidental push of a button is one of wonder starting to fade to disappointment, and the monster moves on.
I've discovered that the illustrious Mike Doughty, late of Soul Coughing fame, will be playing at the Independent in San Francisco on September 30 (a Friday) and October 1 (a Saturday). I think I'll be going. Fun fact: a Soul Coughing concert at the El Rey theater in Los Angeles was my very first date. Between my lack of driving and the venue's lack of parking it's almost certain to be either a transbay-public-transit debacle or a question of finding a couch in the city on which to spend the night. If anyone's interested in going with me or willing to provide such a piece of furniture, I say to that person, speak!
Hi. Don't fucking yell at me for telling the Mexican architect that she had a call when it was a little after 1 and she was finishing up lunch. I asked whether she wanted to take it or get a message. It's my job. It really wasn't necessary for five of you to drown out her answer with "give her a break, jeez, Dianna, what's wrong with you?"
What's wrong with me, evidently, is that I get up from my desk and run up and down the stairs to track all of you down when people are returning your phone calls. I could let you play phone tag indefinitely, and you'd probably be happier about it, but happy or not you're not the ones I answer to. I answer to your boss, who likes for work to get done in his office. This may occasionally require you to look up from your plate of chicken and say either "oh, sure, I'll answer that" or "I'm still at lunch, give him my voicemail instead", for which I'm terribly sorry.
By the way, it's still not funny when you tell me that chicken is a vegetable and ask if I'd like some. Go fuck yourselves.
This job is starting to get to me. I want to be back in my library cubicle with no one talking to me except to ask me how things work. If I can get my old job back when I go back to school, I'll happily lose 25% of my hourly wage and 50% of my hours for the sake of losing 80% of my irritation.
At 2:30 this morning I woke up with the palm of my left hand itching tremendously. Even before I was fully awake I was scratching it so hard that welts were forming. It was the most amazingly itchy thing I think I've ever felt, and as I woke up it passed through merely itching and moved on to itching plus burning. I stumbled into the bathroom and turned on the light to look at it.
The source of the itching that was covering more of my hand every second was a tiny, probably 1/8" diameter, white circle. It was just the slightest bit raised, and bright bloodless white, and my god was it itchy. By this point I'd scratched myself into puffy irritated redness over my entire hand and wrist, save of course for that tiny white circle. I put some After Bite on it -- you know, that ammonia stuff that's supposed to make mosquito bites feel better -- and got back in bed.
It's hard to sleep with that much itching. I sat in bed for a while considering the possible species, size and whereabouts of whatever bit me. Spider? They outnumber us in this household by about 25 to 1 and I'm allergic to their grubby little teeth. On the other hand, I get huge puffy bumps from spider bites, not tiny white circles. Mosquito? Same problem, though; the bite just looked wrong. Maybe some kind of mutant mosquider, or spiduito, or a dust mite magnified to terrifying size. At this point I'd been thinking so hard about it that I imagined I could feel the burning sensation traveling slowly down my arm. Three inches past my wrist, four, five, halfway to my elbow, and so on. I wondered if I'd been injected with something poisonous that was slowly approaching my heart. In that case, I figured, yawning, I may as well get a few last hours of sleep.
When I woke up this morning, my hand wasn't itching. It wasn't puffy, and there wasn't any little white circle. There was a faint pinkish blotch where the circle had been, like what you see when you're looking at a blood vessel through your skin. There was no burning sensation. To my knowledge, I wasn't dead either. Jacob helpfully suggested that I'd been bitten by a radioactive spider and would now have super powers.
"Hold still," I told him, "I want to see how hard I can punch now."
"No, you can't," he said, "I was bitten by a radioactive... no-punch."
I hurt from head to toe. That's how good my weekend was.
It starts with Friday. When I got home from work on Friday afternoon I was feeling very exuberant and energetic. While roaming the house looking for something tiring to do, I remembered that I used to do exercises: situps, pushups, that kind of thing. It sounded fantastic. I plunked myself down on the study floor and did some situps. We won't mention how many, or more accurately, how not many.
We move on now to Saturday. Saturday I rolled out of bed and found myself roaming the house alone again, since Jacob was in lab. I embarrassed myself utterly in that way that can only be done by an out-of-shape person on Day Two of doing situps, and then felt the need to make up for it by doing (or trying to do) pushups as well. Then, having not yet learned my lesson, I went and pushed the rather rusty push-mower around the overgrown jungle of the backyard.
You'll roll your eyes when I tell you that on Sunday I still hadn't learned my lesson. I persisted in the insanity known as exercises and then went and accepted Jacob's offer of a bike ride along the edge of the bay. I'm in no better biking shape than I am in situp shape, and I'm still re-learning which gears do what, with the result that most of the leisurely waterfront ride was spent weaving all over the bike path fussing with my gear levers and then trying to catch up to Jacob by pedalling frantically and inefficiently in second gear. I'm here to tell you that that's a very tiring way to ride a bike.
To rub lemon juice in the papercut of this exhausting weekend, I went to bed too late and had to get up extra early this morning because of a deal that I made with the boss. I'm working 40-hour weeks instead of 30 until I leave to go back to school. It'll help me save up for the Please No More Fucking Loans fund, but it won't help at all with the Please Let Me Sleep In fund. That fund is emptied and closed out, and that hurts.
I told the boss today that December will be my last month working here. He actually whimpered.
We bring you now to the Grand Saga of the Month of July. I'm wearing the velvety purple hat of the Master of Her Majesty's Billable Hours today and checking to make sure that everyone's keeping track of their time properly. When I got to the Junior Canadian Architect a few minutes ago, I couldn't help but notice that he seemed to be in denial of the existence of the month of July. June, yes, August, yes, but no July. I called him up and told him that the seventh month of the year is not optional, and would he please reinstate it? He called back a few minutes later and told me earnestly that the slight against July was purely unintentional, an unfortunate byproduct of his zeal for the month of August. If, he continued, July could be persuaded to come back, he would welcome it into his life with open arms. I made his request through the proper channels, and reported back to him that his beloved month was sorely tempted and would probably eventually succumb to temptation and return.
To return to less flowery language at this point, he looked quite relieved to hear that he could get his data back. Recreating an entire month's worth of billable hours from memory is not a task to be gladly anticipated (slight flowers there). I asked if his life had flashed before his eyes when he realized he'd erased it, and he nodded grimly. "I could see myself crawling," he said. "I don't know where, but I was crawling."
My favorite PC racing game, Star Wars Episode I Pod Racer, steadfastly refuses to run in Windows 2000. I tried to re-install and play it last night, but found myself cowering in the center of a shrinking circle of troubleshooting guides all chanting, "Win95/98 compatible only."
I'm distressed. That game has everything that I look for in a sedentary racing experience: a choice of vehicles, rewards in the form of upgrades for winning races, tricky courses, slick/bumpy/dangerous terrain, spectacular fiery crashes, "shortcuts" which take you a half-mile out of your way (see also tricky courses), gravitational anomalies, essential equipment flaws which will destroy your vehicle if you don't learn to compensate for them, and the need to balance your equipment options against your driving skill. Most importantly, you steer with your right hand. I can't deal with left-hand steering (as found in every game system from Nintendo on up and every game designed for people used to that interface).
I cannot bring myself to believe that the only game in existence that has all of these virtues is a piece of opportunistic merchandising nonsense from a Star Wars prequel. I'm confident that somewhere else in the universe a wise person has invented an equally excellent racing game that will, or may, run in Windows 2000 or DOS. I believe further that someone who is reading this has had his or her life enriched by the work of that unidentified, wise, game developer. If you are that person, I will go so far as to fling myself at your feet and implore you to tell me the name of this game and where I might find it.
I spent an hour last night working on the part of my return-to-school paperwork that I was most dreading, the nebulous and ill-defined Personal Statement. (Katie, because I know you're going to bring this up, the statement is, "I may or may not be nebulous, or something.") I managed to pin it to a page-long detailed outline and hold it there until it stopped struggling, which was such a triumph that at the end of the hour I immediately declared a period of celebratory gaming. Hence, this entry.
The good thing is that when you keep seeing a teenaged kid on a bicycle on the sidewalk on Chenery Street, riding slowly but with a great deal of conspicuous panting and managing to pass you three times within two minutes, you're already pretty sure he's a creepy fucker. By the time he crosses the street after you to ride on the other sidewalk and pass you again, you're practicing ways in which to tell him to get the fuck off of your sidewalk. Best of all, when he rides up past you for what will turn out to be the last time and tries to grab your ass on the way, you're already prepared to block him with one arm while swinging your lunch bag at him with the other and yelling, loudly enough for the whole street to hear, "What the fuck are you doing? Get away from me!"
Unfortunately, the tangible radiating hostility doesn't actually form an impenetrable barrier preventing the creep from trying at all, which would be the ideal situation. Note to Dianna: invest in some pepper spray and next time, give the little fuck what he deserves before he grows up to be an actual rapist.
Isn't it time for school to start yet?