Wednesday, August 31, 2011

who stoops to conquer?

As the only native English speaker in my company I am often asked to review colleagues' abstracts and papers.  I don't mind performing the extra task because I enjoy learning about their work.  I also must admit that I have a need to practice proper grammar and formal language; I have concerns that I might be learning too many bad habits here.  I recently heard myself asking a server, "Can I have a glass of water?"  I could almost hear my father responding with, "I don't know; can you?"

I especially enjoy editing one particular colleague's papers because he writes mainly about environmental issues that interest me and he has a good command of English.  His mistakes are usually easy to correct.  Today he sent an eleven page paper which had me pulling at my hair.  His typical succinct and meaningful style was replaced by a barely coherent ramble through several loosely related topics with no apparent thesis or conclusion.  The language reminded me of a time when I tried to use Google Translate to read an archaeological paper that had been written in German.    I had an uncomfortable suspicion that my colleague was not the author of the paper but who plagiarizes something that is drastically below his own level of intellect?

I once sat on a tribunal at Cornell concerning a student who was accused of plagiarizing a piece of Spanish literature.  The facts were mind boggling: the student was in an intermediate level Spanish literature class despite the fact that he was a native Spanish speaker and he had previously completed the beginner level Spanish classes with obviously straight A's.  He may have become too lazy considering that he probably never had to study for any of his exams.  For the literature class all he needed to do was write a story or poem in Spanish but instead he submitted a story that he had copied from a Bolivian author.  In most cases a professor would submit a written statement regarding a plagiarism offense but the Spanish professor was so enraged that she personally attended the tribunal.  She ranted at the lack of requirements, which allowed a native speaker to enroll in elementary classes of his language and spoke scathingly of the type of student who would repeatedly enroll in the most basic of such classes.  But the gravest offense was that he had plagiarized from an author who she considered to the lowest form of hack.  From her description his paper was the English equivalent of submitting an excerpt of Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code to a class taught by Umberto Eco.  I still marvel at his gall.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

if you had to choose

I know, I know but I do like him so.  This time I won't post semi-nude images of him.

Bill Maher: If you had to choose between a great meal and mediocre sex, what would you choose?
Anthony Bourdain: ...depends on who's cooking and who's f@cking

video here:

we respectfully request to exercise our right to protest

My building's management sent out a notification that there would be a protest in our lobby cum public open space. Don't get me started on how developers are able to build beyond site area restrictions by claiming marble gilded office lobbies are for public consumption.

Here is what was contained within the notice:

Special Notice
We would like to inform you that there will be a demonstration in the following date & time :-
Date : 31 - 08- 2011 (Wednesday)
Time : 2:30 pm to 3:15 pm
Organization : Concerning cross-border students
Forecasted no. of demonstrants : 40
Forecasted affected location : 2/F main lobby & corridor
Should you have any queries or need any assistance, please contact us on 2893 9369.
The Management Office
Remarks: The demonstration is well noted by the Police and the relevant government departments already. The management office and the Police assured to coordinate and monitor the demonstration until all demonstrants leave the building.

I like how accommodating the protesters are.  Not only do they obtain prior approval to use the public space due to safety concerns or whatever reason there is, but they are within a group that can be easily contained and within a time frame when hardly anyone in the area will even know that they are present.  I certainly would never have known a protest was going on downstairs if it weren't for the notice; I wonder if they are seeking any visibility of their plight.

Monday, August 29, 2011

just one of those days

I should have gone back to bed when I woke up but the day looked pretty bright from my window.  I kissed SB goodbye and bounced into the elevator.  From there everything began going down.  A couple got on at the fourth floor and I smiled in greeting, only they did not smile back.  After a dismissive glance at me the man turned his back; his wife didn't even return my gaze but stood in front of the door so she could be the first to exit.  On the ride to work no one wanted to let our bus merge into the turning lane while cars in the lane behind us began laying on their horns.  At the office I held the door open for the woman behind me and she walked through without bothering to thank me .  I didn't recognize her so she may be new but I'm hoping that she is only visiting.

At noon my supervisor sent me an email with an assignment that was to be turned in to our director by 2pm.  He claimed that he had sent me the email on Friday but somehow the mail did not go through.  Funny how often this happens and only right before a deadline.  So I worked through lunch while hunger and irritation gnawed at me.

I am trying to think happy thoughts right now to lower my blood pressure.  Baby pandas.  Fresh lime soda.  Mango shaved ice.  Laughing with the girlfriends.  Bedtime pontification with SB.  I really should have gone back to bed.

Friday, August 26, 2011


When I was a little girl I lived in Braemar Hill, in a community filled with families.  Our complex has lots of space for me to ride my bicycle at breakneck speeds (I have a large scar on my shin to prove it) and a natural area with ponds and trees where I would build forts and hang rope swings.  during the mid Autumn festival the pond area would be packed with children, all carrying our lanterns.  We would make paper boats and place the candles from our lanterns into the boats to float across the pond. More candles were adhered with wax to the bridge over the pond as well as the pond edge.  Once per year the pond would come alive with flickering lights and laughter from dozens of children.

My sister always had a winged creature for her lantern while I always had a cellophane fish.  This was my favorite holiday, even more beloved than Christmas.  My family was very practical and Christmas was never a blowout of outrageous gifts like it was for my friends; I would receive one or two toys, some clothing and a couple of small items.  But during the mid Autumn festival I was given a beautiful lantern with a candle and allowed to go to the park after dinner for an hour of unsupervised revelry. With fire!  I made use of every drop of wax before my sixty minutes were over. 

Lately I have seen several cellophane fish lanterns in store displays and I have begun to yearn for one.  None of the stores with fish lanterns is selling theirs so I will have to figure out where to buy one.  Does anyone know where I can buy a cellophane fish lantern?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

full fare

SB arrived back from the States and promptly unpacked part of his bags so that he could repack his hockey bag, his priority placed on participation in the Hong Kong Cup.  Only four teams compete: Hong Kong, Canada, USA and the World.  Switzerland makes up half of the world and is not very neutral in this competition. 

My job was simple: leave the office at an hour that would afford the necessary time to be at the rink by 10:10pm to watch my fuzzy American skate around, trip over his feet, clobber a few people, get whacked in the knees by someone's stick and all the other shenanigans that happen when somewhat talented amateurs take to the ice.  Unfortunately simple is not a word that appears in my vocabulary.

I arrived at the office an hour early so that I could leave by 6:30, get in a run and then continue to the rink.  Instead I was handed an only too typical late afternoon assignment that was due the next morning.  In the meantime SB realized that he had forgotten to pack his skates so I had to rush home and grab them, eliminating the possibility that I could take a bus to Megabox.  I was attempting to send a message to SB to let him know that I was on my way when my taxi was cut off by a crazy lady in a minivan.  The taxi had to brake so hard that the skates launched into the air and my phone flew out of my hands.  Boy am I glad that I put blade covers on the skates; they were recently sharpened in Syracuse and have deadly edges.  Once I ascertained that the skates had not caused any mortal wounds I turned my attention to finding the phone but it was nowhere to be seen.

As I was removing the floor mats and crawling on the floor the taxi driver took notice and passed me a flashlight to aid my search.  I turned over everything in the back of the taxi with no luck.  Then he tried to call my number but we could not hear the phone ringing.  We tried a few more times until my phone suddenly answered.  Then the phone hung up.  Then the phone returned his call.  At this point we came to two separate conclusions.  The driver thought that I was mistaken and had left my phone behind somewhere.  Since I had been in the process of texting SB I knew this was not the case and concluded that the phone had somehow slipped in under the seat.  This seemed very unlikely because the phone had to have fallen into the small crack where the seat belt is but it was the only explanation I could think of for why the phone was answering and redialling: my movement on the seat above was activating the functions.

Eventually the aggrieved taxi driver pulled over to let me search his car.  We pulled all of the mats out and I ran my fingers through some disgustingly grimy crevices.  Finally I asked him to remove the seat.  "You cannot remove it," he protested.  "Yes, you can." I assured him, pointing out two crusty release latches.  I could see that he was reluctant and for good reason because the seat would probably be a nightmare to put back but a simple math equation told me that the phone was worth more than he would probably make during his entire shift so I was willing to pay for him to stand by the side of the road all night long while I tore apart and put back together his car.  He decided to help me and we removed the back seat to reveal a gruesome scene. Underneath the seat was a collection of tissue, paper, food bits, money and my phone. 

I gingerly plucked it from the mess.  Then I noticed that some of the coins were of high value.  I pointed out the ten dollar coin near my phone and he quickly grabbed it.  Feeling grateful for his help in locating my phone, I helped him to grab some of the spare change in the pile.  We pulled out about $40 in coins before he reached to replace the seat, probably wanting to get me to my destination before any other disasters occurred.  The seat was not as difficult to replace as I had feared and only took three tries to line everything up in the dark.

I gave the taxi driver a $50 tip for being so helpful.  When I exited the cab he pulled away to the waiting area on the other side of the street.  I strongly suspected that he was going to pick up the back seat and finish scavenging for change.  I arrived at SB's tournament covered in black grease stains but since I wasn't carrying food he didn't notice a thing.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

cuts and razors

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
- Hanlon's Razor

"...Republicans (and spineless Democrats) get away with eschewing science, logic, and morality in these cases simply by taking advantage of the laziness of the American people. We really don’t wanna think about anything too hard, so we’ll generally accept any two sides of an argument as legitimate, even if one or both are clearly absurd. I call it Occam’s Sledgehammer: If someone says something, and you want to believe it, you’ll take their reason as valid."
- "Occam's Sledgehammer" by Avery Walker

Source: Wikipedia

Other interesting bites offered up by Mr. Walker in his informative if not ranting cloumn:

"As several small nations prepare to evacuate because of rising ocean levels, and the Pentagon draws up arms-transfer scenarios after India’s fall to climate change, Americans prefer to believe that all of this is simply the product of left-wing lunacy. "

"So I wonder: Exactly how much evidence does it take for Americans to be convinced that a thing is true? And how much evidence to the contrary does it take for Americans to abandon an established belief? When I look at America’s widely held beliefs on subjects like global warming, drug safety, or even evolution, the only answer I can come up with is, “An arkload.”"

"Many farmers who claim not to believe in evolution actually use it to breed livestock in between harvesting genetically-altered plants."

"...we know that water vapor, CO2 and other greenhouse gases trap heat, which can be proven quite easily in any setting. We also know that our atmosphere is made up of 78 percent nitrogen, 21 percent oxygen, one percent argon, as well as traces of water vapor, CO2, methane, and other heat-trapping (greenhouse) gases. We know that these gases hold heat from the sun. And, finally, we know that in the last 250 years, we have increased the concentration in our atmosphere by 31 percent. So, one would expect that this would cause the temperature of the Earth to increase, as more heat is trapped in the atmosphere. Doesn’t take a genius—or a “think tank”—to hypothesize the outcome of this grand experiment. Lo and behold, it seems that our non-genius is right: the temperature of the Earth is, indeed, rising—by .08-.22 degrees centigrade since 1979."

Monday, August 22, 2011

counting the days

Now that a couple of weeks have gone by the novelty of sleeping the whole night through without waking up to box SB and indignantly squeak at him for squishing me has worn off.  It's not that I don't mind having a good night's rest; I happen to look very refreshed in the morning and my body doesn't ache from being flattened throughout the night.  It just happens to be that I miss him.  A lot.  I have gone from the first few days of "yippee, I have the whole bed to myself" to "hmm, it's awfully quiet" to "boohoo, I have no one to talk to."

I miss the continuous banter.  I miss the nightly story telling and laughter.  And dammit, I even miss the morning ritual of forcing Mr. Grouchypants out of bed.

He says that he misses me as well.  His voice sounds so sweet that I think he means it.  But I happen to know that he is in his favorite place in the world, listening to the soulful calls of the loon that nests in the lake outside his window and sleeping with his sister's dog who happens to be his favorite dog in the world.  I can't compete with that.  I do not curl up on his feet during the cold Adirondack nights.  And if I did manage to curl up at his feet it wouldn't have the same effect here where it is one degree cooler than Hades.  He would probably kick me.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Dear GOP

I’m not sure how it happened but the changes have been occurring so rapidly that even this loyal fiscal conservative has been shocked out of complacency. There was a time when we wouldn’t leave a child behind but that time has long since passed, replaced by a tilt so far to the right that I suspect the entire party has suffered a catastrophic stroke to the left side of the brain. How else can I explain the paranoia, memory loss, incoherence and moody outbursts? How am I to take you seriously when you extol the virtues of Reagan, an adherent of bipartisan compromise, and then hold the country hostage to your demands?

I have also shifted from concern to alarm at your declining level of intelligence. I don’t need to digress into explaining the worthiness of science and those who undertake scientific inquiry; I can only state as strongly as possible that if the majority of scientists believe in global warming then I will take their word for it. If not their word then I can always look at the research and draw the same conclusions. It is almost amusing that Rick Perry disavows global warming when Texas is under the worst drought in recorded history, which will likely cost over $4 billion USD in losses. And for the record, evolution is a theory, meaning that it is supported through repeated testing. Evolution is also supported by evidence of natural selection, adaptation, heredity and Mendel’s laws of inheritance. Yes, laws as in indisputably observed and expressing a fundamental scientific principle. Creationism is not a theory as it is unproven and yet very clever because its supposed proof rests on the belief in a miracle: a event of divine intervention, statistically unlikely and by definition an interruption of the laws of nature.

But the most serious cause for concern is your disregard for the principles of our country. All men are created equal. All men have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Call it American exceptionalism, Christian reconstructionism, whatever –the fact remains that singling out a group of people based on religion or sexual preference and denying them their rights is discriminatory and contrary to the tenets of our great constitution. If there were no other impediment in place I still could not in good conscience support a candidate who denies the civil liberties of another American. This is my generation’s Mason-Dixon line and I know where my feet are planted. Until my party replaces its addled, ailing leadership I cannot in good conscience support it. So F you very much GOP for breaking my heart.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I'm going back there someday

Who doesn't love the muppets?  Actually, I don't want to know who.  Probably only Disturbed individuals would not like Jim Henson's entirely lovable, marionette puppets.  I admit that my enjoyment of Australian rugby commentators is tied to my fond memories of Statler and Waldorf.

Back in their heyday the muppets collaborated with a large assortment of musicians ranging from Ozzy Osbourne to Stevie Wonder.  And who could forget about Victor Borge and Rolf's performance of Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2.?  Now, my favorite muppet tunes have been remade by the current generation of musical artists in The Green Album.  OK Go starts it off with the Muppet Show theme song followed by Weezer covering The Rainbow Connection.  Though not as diverse as the original offering of the muppets when they introduced children to everything from classical music to heavy metal, the album evokes similar joyful feelings that I had a a child.

You can stream the entire album through NPR's website, linked here: The Green Album

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Goggles Office Edition

I have a supervisor who clogs my inbox with dozens of messages.  He sends out e-mails for every thought that has ever crossed his mind to the point that his Internet traffic could qualify him as a spam-bot.  I am left to sort through them and determine the necessity of the messages and then turn to him and answer as he sits less than five meters beyond my desk.  As an aside, it is interesting how the use of capital letters and exclamation points is inversely proportional to the actual importance of the message.

It is not uncommon to receive a request to complete a task that was previously completed and provided to him.  It is also not uncommon to receive a directive to do something that is entirely contradictory to what the team agreed to do which then causes our director to chastise all of the team members since he also is copied on the contradictory emails and thinks that we are idiots.

I have spent many a morning steaming over my inbox and have come to one conclusion: Google needs to develop a Gmail Goggles application for businesses.

Currently Goggles is a Labs feature that was developed to stop the e-mail version of drunk dialing.  It can be set up so that if you send an e-mail at a certain time of night (i.e. between midnight and 4am) you will be asked to confirm if you really want to send it.  It also has a feature that requests for you to solve a few, simple math equations before your email can be sent to verify your state of mind.

 (image courtesy of gmailblog)

I think that a Goggles Office Edition would be highly beneficial in terms of time saved and blood pressure reduced.  It would be worth its weight in gold for me not to have to spend one more minute biting my tongue as our director tries to puzzle out why the team can't seem to recall anything that we agreed upon, in some cases less than five minutes after a meeting.  A simple reminder of "Was this issue resolved in the meeting while you were playing on your iphone?" or "Are you sure this isn't redundant?" may reduce my inbox load and my blood pressure significantly.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

you bright young people

Happy birthday to seventy-eight-year-old former U.S. surgeon general Joycelyn Elders (born Minnie Lee Jones on August 13, 1933).  In honor of one of the only appointees in recent times who spoke from scientific reasoning rather than religious-biased or politically softened mumbo jumbo I offer the following kernels of advice from Ms. Elders:

"You bright young people — and I love you — but you don't know what it was like for us old folk, when you couldn't have birth control pills, when condoms were not as readily available and we didn't have all the other contraceptives that are now on the market. I think if the women of this country — whether black, white, young, old, Democrat or Republican — cause the reproductive rights of any of our citizens to be lost, then we should never forgive ourselves."


Monday, August 15, 2011


Texas governor Rick Perry has thrown his hat into the ring this weekend.  I had suspected that he would and am very curious to how the nation perceives him.  In an appalling GOP atmosphere of extremism I think he will either go over like a firecracker or sink like a dud.

When I lived in Texas I had some customers at my bar who moved in those circles.  They were the most gossipy group of men other than rugby players, always engaged in wheeling, dealing, back stabbing and intrigue.  It is common knowledge within the state that despite being governor and lieutenant governor, George Bush and Rick Perry had no love lost between themselves.  Perry seemed to have both an inferiority complex and a superiority complex to the wealthy Bush family.  I had to respect that Perry picked up his own boot straps and got himself to where he was through his own merit but that may be where the respect ended.  Compared to Perry, George W is a liberal.  Whereas W is a "compassionate conservative," i.e. his policies allow for social welfare and immigration reform, Perry is hardcore conservative all the way.  His views, including "American exceptionalism" (oh the irony) echo those of the religious right as well as the tea party but he may be too reasonable to fall in with the wild conspiracy theories that seem to have taken a hold of the Republican party.

If there was one theme that was repeated to me from my politically well placed customers it was that Rick Perry has no personality.  He apparently is all god and politics with not much else.  Though Pawlenty has exited the race Jon Stewart may still be able to use his oak tree representation of a candidate.  But it is not as though his personality suffered due to his educational steadfastness.

There's the issue of Perry's poor academic record.  His grades make Bush look brilliant; barely anything above a C including a C in U.S. History, a D in Shakespeare, a D in the principles of economics, a C in gym (seriously?!), a D in veterinary anatomy, a F in a second course on organic chemistry and a C in animal breeding.  It may explain why as governor he thought is was a great idea to gut the university system and implement a business type model; if only he could have paid for better grades back in the day.
As someone who voted for Kay Bailey Hutchinson over Perry for the Republican nomination and is still confused over how Perry became governor I can only shake my head and watch.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

these chavs burning down Selfridges...

"These chavs burning down Selfridges etc...what they don't realise is that they are putting their chav chop-assistant girlfriends out of work.  Their chav jobless girlfriends will then need money to pay for their chav clothes (from primark and JJB), and their chav perms (from Stacee's House of Styles)...Who do the chavs tink their chav girlfriends are going to turn to for said money?  Fail."

- quoted from a friend who shall remain nameless

The above presents a study of cultural anthropology.  I have no idea of the cultural norms of British society but the statement hints at a lifestyle for a certain segment of the population who may be running amok in the Tottenham High Road.  Chav perms.  Who knew?

the Tenth Dan

Photo credit: Lance Iversen / The Chronicle

I wanted to share an uplifting story via The San Francisco Chronicle.  Sensei Keiko Fukuda was recently the first woman ever promoted to tenth dan after a very long wait (she is only the sixteenth person to have achieved this rank).  At 98 years old she is the last living student of Judo founder Kanō Jigorō and has been practicing since 1935.  Previously she had waited for two decades before a prohibition barring her from being elevated to sixth dan was reversed in 1972.  Sensei Fukada teaches judo three days per week at a dojo in California.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I am so with you

“I think the reason why twentysomethings are so fixated on age is because we feel a pressure to be a certain way at 23, at 25, at 29. There are all of these invisible deadlines with our careers and with love and drinking and drugs. I can’t do coke at 25. I need to be in a LTR [Long Term Relationship] at 27. I can’t vomit from drinking at 26. I just can’t! We feel so much guilt for essentially acting our age and making mistakes. We’re obsessed with this idea of being domesticated and having our shit together. It’s kind of sad actually because I don’t think we ever fully get a chance to enjoy our youth. We’re so concerned about doing things “the right way” that we lose any sense of pleasure in doing things the wrong way. Youth may be truly wasted on the young.”

Why Do Twentysomethings Always Feel So Old - Ryan O’Connell
 via jennabee (via juneandafter (via littlelaur))

I had the list of to-dos also.  I have had damn lists since I was thirteen telling me when to move to each base in a relationship, where to be in terms of job vs. career, where to go and what to do.  I have rewritten my manuscript of lists compulsively and religiously.  But I accomplished a lot of those lists while managing to have a good time so it isn't half bad. 

Now that I'm in my early thirties I can't be bothered with a list.  I reap the rewards of a previously hard driven era in my life.  I also must undo some of my moronically unimportant goals.  Why was growing up/settling down so important? 

Monday, August 8, 2011

momma shoulda warned you

On Saturday night I watched the England-Wales match at my local pub which has a decidedly more mature crowd than the youngsters at Carnegies.  I was joined my my young friend A and her boyfriend.  A is a looker; even if she wasn't so gorgeous she would capture notice due to being an almost six feet tall Asian.  Thankfully her boyfriend is on the of most laid back people you can meet because she gets a lot of attention anywhere we go.  That evening a somewhat intoxicated older gentleman was very keen on her.  His two friends brilliantly executed a blocking maneuver where they stood between A and her boyfriend and tried to strike up conversation with him while their friend was turning on the charm with A.  The boyfriend was amused enough with their strategy that he played along for a few minutes before executing his own move by casually standing up to his 6'4" height and causing everyone to take a step back, thus clearing away the blockers.  I was impressed.

The older charmer was very good; I think he might have said everything a woman would want to hear from a man within the first ten minutes of conversation with A. Mommas should warn their daughters that if a man says everything you ever wanted to hear in the first ten minutes you should run for your life.  You should also run if he has more than three buttons open or if he has no buttons where there should be buttons (unless he is a cast member of Dancing with the Stars).  The men regrouped and made another attempt, this time attempting to befriend me.  As if I would turn my back for a second with those wolves.  We left the bar soon after and finished watching the match at the beach with some other friends. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

alone in the kitchen

We sometimes get trapped in devices of our own making.  My great love of food has made me into the go to food connoisseur among friends and family.  Knowing a bit of foreign languages and being well traveled give me an advantage and I can correctly identify and pronounce all sorts of specialty dishes.  SB can ask me about a dish on a menu and I can almost always tell him what it is and the story of its origin. 

Now that I have helped myself onto a food pedestal it is hard to climb back down which is what I need to do if I am to sneak into the kitchen late at night and indulge in some of my more appalling tastes.  I am a hyppocrite.

I love Flamin' Hot Cheetos.  I eat spoonfuls of Klim powdered milk, which I have bought for the sole purpose of eating, not drinking.  Oh, and I love to pour Louisiana hot sauce over just about anything that is deep fried. 

Does anyone else have food secrets?

Friday, August 5, 2011

bon voyage

SB has gone back to the States for a few weeks to visit family.  As usual, he left with a lot of flair.  Last time he had me frantically lugging boxes of product brochures; this time it was a large, bronze deer that ruined a perfectly ordinary departure.  The sucker weighed at least 40kg and its antlers prevented it from fitting into any of our suitcases.  We ended up covering it in bubble wrap and some cardboard that he procured from a lopsop woman and then nestling it in his hockey bag.  I hope his dad appreciates the effort.

Since he is always up for an adventure SB delayed completing a tender until last night.  He originally was supposed to be home at 8pm but the ADHD internal clock runs on a two hour delay.  When 10pm came and went I called him and was told that he would be home at midnight.  I gave up on him at 2am and left some a plate of cookies before crawling into bed and collapsing face first into a pillow.

At some point in the night the bedroom lights were flipped on and I found myself floundering for cover while SB attempted to coerce me into packing his clothing for him.  I eventually fell back asleep until it was time for him to leave.  Actually, it was past time to leave but he has no sense of urgency unless it is hunger related. 

Two hours before his flight was to take off we finally had a few minutes of cuddle time.  "Mmrrph hmmmph grrrmph," I said as he held my sleepy head against his chest.  "I love you too," he replied.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

domestic dreams and fantasies

The uproar here in Hong Kong over the possibility of granting the right of abode to foreign domestic workers should be hitting close to home with my fellow Americans.  Funny how we can sympathize for hard working domestic workers in someone else's country and simultaneously stuff our heads in the sand when the issues land upon our own shores.  When did our fears become more meaningful than life, liberty and happiness?

The Dream Act, to allow permanent residency to undocumented students who grew up in the United States and are of "good moral character," caused mass hysteria as politicians spread tales of anchor babies and destruction of our country's core values.  Because our country was not founded by immigrants looking for a better life. 

Politicians will continue to filibuster the proposal to death in order to preserve the status quo of the country. This status quo is one that looks the other way to allow illegal immigrants into the country to work jobs that pay well below the minimum wage because they are desperately needed in order for industries such as farming to survive.  Farmers would be bankrupted if they had to pay the minimum wage and most of us acknowledge this. 

Frankly I don't see why we are so up in arms (literally) about this.  The Dream Act has requirements that would seem a no brainer.  Along with needing to show proof of education the male Dream Act beneficiaries will need to register with Selective Service and we will need as many personnel as possible if we continue with all of our wars.

My paternal ancestors have been in the United States since 1636.  After 375 years I think my family can claim legitimacy as "real" Americans in the eyes of the most virulent nationalists unless you are talking to the people who we displaced to form this country.  My mother and her family came to the States in 1974, having earned their citizenship through service to the country.  When she is asked where she is from she always is clear that she is an American.  Then, depending on how irritated she is at the questioner, she might share the country that she was originally from.  Like my mother, my ancestor from 15 generations ago was an immigrant.  He and his brother arrived in Massachusetts on the Jonah carrying little more than their dreams.  Luckily for them the American Dream was within reach.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

immortalized in all of his impotence

I told you that I would share the story so I shall.

As some of my longer term readers are aware, I lived with a large and diverse cast of characters during my four years of grad school.  Several of the roommates continued to live with me when we changed houses from a nine bedroom house near the Chapterhouse bar to a seven bedroom house in a more quiet North campus neighborhood.  One of the longer term roommates was an MFA writer; I don't know if it was our friendship or my dangling hook that the new house had previously been inhabited by E.B. White that reeled him in.  Half Ojibwa, an incredibly gifted blues guitarist and not to mention a fantastic writer, he always kept life interesting.  He drank too much, smoked too much, and carried on with too many women from a much too small group of other MFA's.  It was no surprise that I was drawn to him; much more surprising was the fact that he found me to be interesting among all the lively people who stuck to him like teflon.  We used to sit on the porch sharing one of his cigarettes while he relayed tales of his recent exploits.

A recurring character in his recollections was a former writing professor.  This man was a living legend among the students and staff, spoken about in the same name dropping sessions that mentioned Nabokov and Morrison though he was not nearly as famous.  In another time he would have been called a rake but in his waning years during the 21st century he was called "sketchy."  My roommate both worshipped him and rolled his eyes at him.

Professor X was a notorious womanizer, even in his esquire years.  Once my roommate brought a young woman with him to Professor X's house to visit.  The woman was skittish because Professor X was leering at her.  The old goat told her not to worry because he was too old to bother trying anything on her.  "But if there were two of you..." he smirked.

As a burgeoning feminist I had read Melissa Bank's The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing.  It is often referred to as chic-lit but anyone can read it because it contains a witty collection of short stories that capture the essence of growing up and coming of age.  I had suspected that the collection was semi-autobiographical due to the main character's similar occupation to Ms. Bank's.  Now years later my roommate gave confirmation.

Ms. Banks and Professor X had engaged in a tumultuous relationship while she was a student at Cornell.  Apparently it had ended badly and she had taken her revenge with a New York Times Bestseller that was read by millions of people.  She portrayed him in the book as an impotent editor.  The most fictional part was that in the story she simply moved on but in reality she served him with a literary masterpiece that underlined his, er, shortcomings.

Their story would have been known by a generation of writers who had knowledge of the relationship but it would not have continued to be passed down through each generation if it weren't for Professor X's complicity in sharing the story.  "He busted himself," my roommate told me when sharing the story.  After a few rounds of whiskey and several joints he had indignantly revealed that he was the editor character though of course the impotence thing was a work of fiction.  "Why would he bust himself?"  Why indeed.

Professor X shared the story for the same reason that people playing "I never" make strangely specific statements that only they need to drink to: because they enjoy the attention as much as those around them enjoy the scandal.  Professor X's ego overruled any embarrassment that he may have felt.   Ms. Bank's efforts to extract revenge have only added to Professor X's much enjoyed notoriety.  These days I would bet that he shares the story more often that she does and with far more glee. 

I recall that the movie Suburban Girl was based on The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing; I wonder if Professor X watched the movie and if he was pleased with the actor portrayed him.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Slices Pizzeria

SB and I were trapped in the retail hell that is Causeway Bay on the weekend because it was our last chance to buy presents for the family before he goes back on Friday.  At around 7pm he turned to me and very abruptly asked what we were doing for dinner.  Uh oh.

I am very familiar with that tone of voice; it is the prelude to the raging storm of hunger.  It is a very discomfiting tone because often appears without warning and when it is too late to change the course.  We were entering a hunger freak out.

Luckily Slices Pizzeria opened its doors very close to where we were and we quickly hoofed it over to the shop.  SB really likes Slices.  He thinks the pizza crust is the best in Hong Kong.  Being a carb addict, he grades pizza not by the quality of the toppings or sauce but by the crust.  The toppings and sauce are good enough but the crust is what makes the pizza at Slices.  It is very close to a New York pizza crust rather than the thin char of my beloved Napoli style or the fluffiness of the Roman style.  The Slices crust is thin with a crisp outer layer and chewy center.  When we were last at Slices the owner told us that he uses a special flour from Italy.  Or at least I think that was what he said over the sound of SB trying to inhale his pizza.

The owner of Slices is often around, moving between it and his other enterprise, the frozen yogurt shop across the street.  He is always to be found with a smile on his face and willingness to chat about food.  This time he was not in the pizzeria.  Instead were some sweet looking, young women.  SB thought they were clueless while I wondered if they were high.  SB placed an order for their largest sized pizza with pepperoni and green peppers.  This did not compute and they tried to explain to him that they didn't have that topping in their display of ready to eat slices.  He explained that he wanted to order a whole pizza with two toppings.  "You want to order a 22 inch pepperoni pizza?"  "Yes, with green peppers.  I want pepperoni and green peppers."  He repeated this at least three times.  I was talking on the phone but after hearing him repeat his order over and over again I walked over to the counter to see if there was a problem.  I was concerned about his hunger but he was behaving himself.  His last repeat seemed to have worked and they rang us up for a pepperoni and green pepper pizza.

Fifteen minutes later we sat down with our order to discover a pepperoni pizza.  No green peppers.  I thought his head was going to explode but he calmly took the pizza to the counter and pointed at it, then showed his receipt for the pepperoni and green pepper pizza.  The shop girls looked at each other helplessly.  Perhaps they could add some green pepper, I suggested.  They finally agreed and placed a few peppers on the pizza and put it back in the oven.  After two minutes SB asked them to take the pizza out of the oven.  He needed to eat.  Pronto.

His beloved crust was overcooked from having been in the oven twice but at that point he was so hungry that we would have eaten baked cardboard.  Once he finished eating I rushed him out of the pizzeria.  When he gets into the state of ravenously hungry + delayed from eating he will continue freaking out for another hour after he has been fed.  The sweet young things at the counter waved goodbye, oblivious to the raging stomach beast that was trying to break free and kill someone.

If we were in the States I would be absolutely convinced that they were high.  My high school friends who worked in pizzerias back home were all stoners.  They would get baked with the pizza.  I used to worry about stoned pizza delivery drivers but apparently pot makes you move slowly as opposed to alcohol where you are reckless.  This must be why pizza always takes 45 minutes to be delivered in the States.  It takes less than ten minutes to bake the pizza and the rest of the time is for the driver to creep along at 1 km/hr to your house while singing along to Phish.

Even overcooked, the pizza was great.  We highly recommend it, especially when the owner is present.  Or if you prefer the view, the sweet young things are very pleasant to look at.

Slices Pizzeria
Shop 4&5, G/F, 128-132 Leighton Road