Tuesday, January 31, 2006

RIP hard drive: a cautionary tale

It's been almost a year since I switched from PC to Mac. My Mac friends thought they were successful in their peer pressure, but really it was for one reason alone - fear of viruses.

My PC was slowly rendered inoperable over a period of about a month early last year. At first it just ran more slowly. Then I started getting so many pop-ups that I could not start new emails without interruption. I had the latest Norton antivirus software which updated daily; I had spyware, adware, and geeky friends.

After about 3 weeks a virus disabled the cd burner. Weird! Then, my USB ports were disabled, meaning my mouse no longer worked. After a day of trying to save files just using my keyboard, which is like getting dressed in the dark at someone else's house, I borrowed a serial port mouse from a friend and tried to email my most important files elswhere. Then, my ISP shut me down. I was a risk to other users!!!

When it was way too late, I got advice like "don't use IE" - use Netscape, etc. I had said geeky friend come over and try to retrieve what info he could from the hard drive - such as 10 complete web sites, many many digital images, resume, etc. The last time I had that upset, churning feeling in my stomach was when I arrived at work at a dot com and the doors were locked...

After several hours of trying and failing, geeky friend said, "Let's go to the Apple store". I was rendered helpless by the churning feeling and agreed. In less than 20 minutes I had a brand new Mac mini. Since then I have been pretty much in a state of bliss. AND virus-free. I'm not saying Mac is the only answer. I'm just saying, you don't need a geek score of 60% to know you should back up your stuff. I was lucky - last week another friend got the data off the drive and put it on DVD's for me - it had something like 247 different viruses. Unfortunately, the drive died - shorted out or met a similar end - while he was finishing up.

RIP, my little hard drive.

Monday, January 30, 2006

The Snow Man

poem by Wallace Stevens, 1923

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

Wasteland by Ryan Malone

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Favorite flicks in January

in no particular order...

Turtles Can Fly
Match Point
Squid and the Whale

disappointed in...

Look at Me

Saturday, January 28, 2006


A couple years ago I took the geek test that was going around just because I was bored at work and everyone else was doing it. There were 4 women on my team, which just happened to be part of IT b/c we were technical trainers for a proprietary software product. I have a background in web design but am not particularly geeky, especially when compared to the geeks I know. Isn't that why we keep them around? For comparison's sake?

Anyway, I knew I was different from the other women in my dept, and really from most women in general, but I never knew why - just accepted it and didn't really give it much thought. So we all take the geek test and the scores were emailed around. The women? 4, 5, 6%. The guys? 17, 20%. Me? 37%.

So I hid it for awhile but everyone was REALLY bored that week and eventually demanded to know my score. Now, I was already ostracized a bit b/c I don't wear spiky heels or underwear as outerwear, but now here was a clear division, a quantifiable difference between me and my homegirls. Plus, I outgeeked the men. I had no allies. I may as well have started wearing a Star Trek uniform to work.

One of the IT directors found out, took me aside, and confessed that his score was 8 points higher than mine, and swore me to secrecy when he saw the treatment I was getting. He started sending me instant messages with links to science fiction jokes and started bouncing ideas off me about programming our proprietary product in a different way. It felt like a freak campaign of sorts - admit your freakish nature and get a free toaster. Now, I had no programming background at all, and while I did not think of myself any differently, there is something about having people treat you differently that elicits a different thinking pattern. It's like trying a new style of clothing or haircut. So I started thinking about becoming a programmer, downloaded a free version of VB and tried to teach myself at home. I started looking at different career paths and went out to lunch more with the programmers.

Alas. Apparently my difference from the others was not based on being more right-brained or whatever the predilection is that makes people want to program computers. I was bored and overwhelmed at the same time. So I still did not know why I was different, only that I scored higher. If you analyze the geek test, you will find that if you READ a lot of or have watched a lot of science fiction, your score will automatically be higher. And you do not have to have a philosophical stance on the difference between Trekkie and Trekker to score higher, although knowing there's a difference is worth a couple points. Plus, you automatically score higher if you are female! How empirically sound is that?

I eventually left that job, although not b/c of peer pressure or other ostracizing techniques. I just got a better job. Geekier. Whew.

Check out the geek test- in fact, send your scores and I'll post them:

Friday, January 27, 2006

Questions of the week : 1-27

Things I'm thinking about this week:

Why is there no philosophy of pop music? If we all have desert island disk lists, and most of us consume mass quantities of song and music news, why is there no serious critique of it?

Why are there so few Renaissance people? Why has our culture become so specialized or compartmentalized that people cannot be talented or well-versed in more than one area? People who venture out of their realms are criticized or at least suspect.

Why doesn't Oprah understand that she is helping James Frey sell more books? Why is it so important for her to vent her anger in public? And if she is so angry, why does she keep giving him more publicity?

Old dog, new trick

Don't worry, this blog will not always be about my dog. But dang, she keeps surprising me with new tricks - like all she does is think of ways she can mess with me.

Yesterday I took her to the park behind my house - the park is really unique - a 3-acre haven in the middle of the city owned by the 40 families surrounding it. Almost every family has a dog, so it's like dog happy hour after work. Most people know most dogs, and it's private, so the dogs ignore the city leash laws and visit pretty freely. Yesterday Bella did not want to come in - had not had her fill, whatever. When I called her, she actually ran the other way.

No worries. I pretended to leave, yelled goodbye, and walked back into my house. Usually this trick works pretty well, and she shows up within 30 seconds, because as tough as she acts, she doesn't like being out in the park on her own. Well, 3 minutes go by, and no dog.

The phone rings, and it's a new neighbor who lives down the block. "I have a dog here named Bella and this number was on her tag - I live ...." I run back into the park, and there she is, behind bars in the neighbor's back yard, wagging her tail like crazy, and the neighbor is now giving her treats and petting her, because she was so callously abandoned by her owner. "She seems like such a sweet, nice dog I had to protect her," says the nice neighbor, who does not realize he was part of a minor revenge plot with a treat finish.

She does wander into people's back yards and garages looking for handouts and new friends, so I'm just hoping she found a new friend and was not really manipulating the neighbor into feeling sorry for her and to make me look bad. But it's possible.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Bella's special game

Bella is my dog. My mixed-breed, attitude-full, totally spoiled dog. Second only to her obsession with blue racquetballs (must be blue- the green ones hold no special charm) she loves to play the 'take away the chewie' game. The other night my friend Greg came over, and made like he was going to eat her - he was not familiar with The Game.

As soon as he adopted The Stance, which entails hunching over and making menacing faces and noises like the Hulk or Godzilla, and reaching for the dog with your hands held like claws, she ran and got her little rawhide chewie. The first part of The Game is that she offers you the chewie. Wow, you think, nice dog. Then, when you reach for the chewie, she warns you that she will take off your hand, first by baring ALL her teeth, showing at least an inch of pink gum. And before you can retrieve your hand, she lunges and barks and snaps all at the same time.

If you retreat, chastised, to your corner of the couch, she will follow you there and offer the chewie again. In fact, if you are not at all interested in the chewie and probably now a little afraid of the dog, this makes The Game all the more interesting to her, and she will continue to offer and then retract her offer many, many times.

The victims always ask if she will actually bite them. I don't know if she will or not - and I tell them that- yeah, she might bite you - and then they keep doing it. That's the fun part for me. They actually shriek with laughter when she lunges and snaps at them.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Conglomoreum, and why I redecorated my living room

Conglomoreum is Ryan's website. He made up the word based on


Main Entry: con·glom·er·a·tion
Pronunciation: k&n-"gläm-&-'rA-sh&n, "kän-Function:
noun1 : the act of conglomerating : the state of being conglomerated
2 : something conglomerated : a mixed coherent mass



It's basically a photography site, but there are a few rants as well. It's fun just to wander through it, b/c the section links are also made-up words. When you hit a rant, you'll know it.

So Ryan sends me links to some images he took in Central Park (NYC) that he had also altered a bit in Photoshop. The images are ethereal yet have a sadness to them that give them weight and substance. I become obsessed with these pictures and decide I have to have them. I had to repaint my living room, changing the whole theme from light/modern/movie themed to dark/classic/art photography.

So here are the images. If he ever prints them out for me, there's newly-painted space behind the couch just waiting for them.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Statistically Improbable Phrases

I was trying to think of a good name for the blog using a David Foster Wallace reference. I googled "david foster wallace" + catch phrase, and it pointed me to this link at Amazon:

"Infinite Jest: A Novel (Paperback)by David Foster Wallace "I am seated in an office, surrounded by heads and bodies..." (more) SIPs: say her momma, entertainment cartridges, dawn drills, waste displacement, annular fusion (more)

So now rather than posting, I'm reading "Statistically Improbable Phrases" from my favorite book, Infinite Jest. The whole concept of Statistically Improbable Phrases is so appealing. Here is a brief description of this term from Amazon:

"SIPs are not necessarily improbable within a particular book, but they are improbable relative to all books in Search Inside!. For example, most SIPs for a book on taxes are tax related. But because we display SIPs in order of their improbability score, the first SIPs will be on tax topics that this book mentions more often than other tax books. For works of fiction, SIPs tend to be distinctive word combinations that often hint at important plot elements."

So... entertainment cartridges! It hints at an overall theme from the book, is a bit weird, and is unfamiliar enough to make you think. Good for a blog that will probably revolve around SIP's and entertainment cartridges.

Check out the rest - doesn't it make you want to read Infinite Jest?

say her momma, entertainment cartridges, dawn drills, waste displacement, annular fusion, professional conversationalist, feral hamsters, new bong, ceiling bulged, red leather coat, appropriation artist, red beanie, addicted man, littler kids, little rotter, land barge, veiled girl, technical interview, police lock, oral narcotics, milk dispenser, goddamn lie, sober time, his racquet