Monthly Archives: April 2005

April 2005 Books

Books I read in April 2005. Pre-dated post (there’s no good way to say that!).

37. Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx. by Adrian Leblanc
38. An Equal Music by Vikram Seth
39. Grace: The Secret Lives of a Princess by James Spada
40. The Gangster of Love by Jessica Hagedon

Only 4! New job, lots of travel, a dense non-fiction, and painting an apartment.

things in my head this AM:

I’ve had two big thoughts so far this morning. and by big, I mean, that I thought about for a few minutes and decided to share:

Remember when Dial had the slogan “aren’t you glad you used dial? don’t you wish everyone did?” for their deodorant soap? I wonder if american’s didn’t use deodorant as much back then, or if they were seriously concerned about smelling bad.


I wonder when we started to, as a culture, worry so much that people were going to take advantage of us. I was listening to a radio report this morning about congress voting on the REAL ID act, which includes elimination of the right of habeas corpus for immigrants before deportation (removing their rights to have a court review of their case and immigration status, which is a check on the INS). They said “there are a few terrible criminals who will take advantage of this.” A few? what about a few? After all the chest puffing about the minority using filibusters in the senate to disregard the rule of the majority with judicial nominations, now they’re worried about a few bad eggs screwing things up? so they’ll take away the rights of the many to CATER to the few?

It drives me crazy when people think that others are inherently Out To Get Them. Or to Scam the System. Really, I think there are a lot fewer inherently evil people out there than people think. And I think that the huge number of people who are afraid the system CAN be scammed is really an indication of how untrustworthy “The System” is, and not an indication that the system needs more intrusive power. And it burns my britches to think about the kind of country we want and have historically portrayed ourselves to be: that welcoming, inclusive, fair country where anyone could pull themselves up by their bootstraps, the great melting pot but also a great equalizer — and now we’re afraid of a couple of people taking advantage of us? Who cares! It’s no skin off of our backs, we’re a GREAT NATION! Remember?

a word of promise/warning…

Lady Friends (and gentlebum friends):

If any of you get knocked up (or knock someone up) I have a standing offer/threat on the table to make one of these DEEVINE OUTFITS for the little sweet pea. I mean, kernel of love.

I’m just saying. It’s the LEAST I can do…

aNOTHER happy happy day…

Today is THE MISTER’S birthday. He is a superstar standup rock’n’roll kind of guy and I heart him.

shout out! happy birthday Mister!



happy birthday lady, to one of the most gracious and sweet and interesting ladies I know. Yes, dear, you are a LADY. we should get big hats and wear them out to tea one day. and spike our tea with whiskey, and I won’t let the whiskey make me cry, either.

The Netherlands

Man, but I had a great trip. It was beautiful there, lovely weather, lovely wedding, and I can NOT emphasize enough to you how fantastic it was to be in a place that values public transportation and bicycling and very small cars. I felt so much at home. Except for the whole being zillions of miles away from my family and not speaking the language thing.

The mister has the digicam with him so hopefully I’ll be able to get photos off of it once he returns home tonight. There probably aren’t a lot of genius beauty ones but still, I’d like to see them!

* missed the first flight due to awful traffic and a brush fire.
* slept in the next morning so was not terribly exhausted on the flight over.
* flight over was good and also I watched the House of Flying Daggers on the flight, and cried at the end. The mister laughed at me because I cry at ALL pretty kung fu movies. They’re not just about fighting, they’re beautiful love stories!
* had a nice acclimation to the Netherlands by walking the scenic route to get to our friends apartment. Then had breakfast.
* I love dutch coffee! it’s so good.
* The Euro is easy to spend because it pretends like it’s a dollar. A shiny, colorful, pretty dollar that’s worth 1.3 dollars, that is!
* I ate a lot of chocolate. European chocolate is so much tastier than American chocolate.
* Our hosts are the most wonderful, thoughtful, well prepared, sweetly accommodating people in the whole world, probably. It was so easy to travel to a foreign country and not feel like I was travelling blind because they took care of EVERYTHING for us and still made us go sight seeing in the city and to take public transportation. Wonderful!
* Flight back was good, I was solo, and I watched Spanglish and Bride and Prejudice because I couldn’t sleep. And at least 3 people vomited on the bumpy landing. Yuck. I am so glad I didn’t join them!

I was kind of blue about missing a whole day on the flight back because I left at 9:30 and returned at 11:30, so that was essentially 8 – 12:30 in airports and airplanes, but when I got back home and sat on the couch for a few hours and then just went to bed at 7PM US time I realized it is an AWESOME way to travel. I woke up at 6AM for work today feeling not exactly fresh, but not terrible. Not like the way I felt when I woke up on Sat., with my head foggy and full of cotton, and the spinning when I closed my eyes — I guess that’s what it’s like when non-morning people wake up, hey? how TERRIBLE.

but how ELSE would we do it?

of course, the day that I’m leaving at 3:30 in the afternoon I have 2 sit-downs with PMs AFTER LUNCH and at 1:45 I learn that before I leave I have to give drafting a heck of a lot of stuff and at 2:15 I learn that the thing I’ve been doing kind of halfway is not done enough, so I need to get on that super fast and OH HECK why are you going away for 3 business days almost exactly 1 month after you started here?

Well. enough screwing around.

the garden state

NJ is beautiful this week. Everywhere I go there are flowering trees. The setting sun this evening was like an icing or a glaze over the flowers, turning everything pink and violet.

I’ve really never seen so many flowering trees — I mentioned how pretty NJ is this week to the beau and he said:

“It’s the Garden State, Baby! Showing it’s Garden State colors!”

the home life

I got an apartment! yay! today is the best day ever! my passport came, and I got an apartment!

here is a time line:
* 2 1/2 weeks ago: friends saw apartment sign, gave me number
* 2 weeks ago: called and called and called but no one would call me back. sad. Gave up on apartment. grew vaguely despondent
* 1 1/2 weeks ago: talked to someone! got an appointment to see the apartment! drove over during sunny friday afternoon rush hour traffic, was very late, was very impressed with the apartment. Nice location in a cute town that is very reminiscent of pittsburgh with the main street/shopping area model, near train station, library, and post office, not exactly ON the main drag, but very close, laundry and storage in the building, big bedroom, decent living room, small kitchen, was thrilled, put in an application straight away (feeling very weird about handing a stranger $30 in cash and my bank account number) and drove to pittsburgh for the weekend.
* 1 week ago: went away on field work for 4 days. Called on tuesday, got the impression that I was bugging the heck out of the woman I spoke to. Yikes! resolved to not call back, even though was driving me crazy.
* today: got a call — “why haven’t you contacted us?” heck! called back, explained a credit dispute (watch out for the state of washington, if you don’t pay speeding tickets ASAP they send them for collection), faxed over pay stub information, waited waited waited.
* today: GOT A CALL! she said “let’s not drag this out any more. I have enough information. It’s fine. stop by tomorrow! sign a lease!”

so now my informal schedule goes thusly:

wednesday night –> next monday: go to netherlands
the weekend after that: to pgh, pack, move to northern nj.
week after that: unpack. put my feet up. Be happy with the state of events.


beautiful spring

it’s a glorious glorious day outside, in the tradition of other fine days like “yesterday,” “day before yesterday,” etc. Another wonderful monday of working indoors.

Of course, it’s going to be like, 70+ degrees today. And I’m wearing tights b/c I am TOO LAZY to shave my legs and while I agree that I shouldn’t have to if I don’t want to, I think I’m pushing it already in the biz caaash atmosphere to not wear nylons (despite this new fashion, I am old school!) and to not wear nylons with hair up to an inch long on my legs may be a little TOO MUCH.

Tomorrow it will be 80ish, so I’ll go ahead and shave.

Here’s my exciting news, in a nutshell. May return and detail later:
1. Saw a v. nice apt., put in an application for it, am waiting with bated breath.
2. Went out to the ra-cha-cha area for field work, got some rest and a cold.
3. Had a very super birthday involving low key japanese food, birthday songs on my voice mail, virtually running out of cell phone minutes (I have 4 left! through the end of tomorrow!) and having my taxes totally completed.
4. Also had a v. super second bday with a pedicure and lunch,
5. and then a v. nice third birthday which I shared with my beau and HIS parents, b/c we’re all April Babies. Or Babes. your call. We all sang happy birthday to each other and blew out candles across the cake, and I didn’t blow as hard as everyone else and got a faceful of smoke! boy howdy!
6. Most exciting: I’m going to the netherlands on wednesday evening. This is made possible by:
a. my passport arriving on friday and
b. my brother overnighting it to the office for arrivial today. PHEW.
So I will actually be able to attend my friends wedding and will stay through monday. I am super excited, and also a little nervous about what to pack. Can I pack knitting needles for international flights? I know it’s OK in the US, but I need to do some research. Will I have enough books with me? ever since I ran out of books 2 times on one flight from Pittsburgh to NYC I have been crazy about books and have packed in the area of 8. I have saved a couple of non-fiction books, though, which usually take me longer.
7. Anyway. Also exciting: completing my first month at work. They gave me a laptop! I have to keep reminding the dorky engineer part of me that while yes, this MAY mean that I have “made it,” it also means that they’re facilitating me doing a lot more work outside of the office.
8. One other thing — I think that everyone in NJ runs late on mondays, so the traffic/trip up here is pretty decent. That’s alway a plus.

Happy monday!

social security, fuel cells

I was emailing a friend about these cool little bitty methanol* fuel cells, and she said “should I buy stock?”

and I realized that if my social security funds were handed to me for investment i.e. “personal funds” I would totally use that money for speculative investment. Like, very risky investments that I didn’t research very well, but I liked because they promoted groundbreaking technologies that I personally forecast as the Next Big Thing, or maybe The Big Thing That Will Save America From Herself.

and while that might be fun, and exciting, and interesting,
it’s not the right way to save for retirement.

* I consider methanol fuel cells to be, by the way, so much better than hydrogen fuel cells. For one, I don’t really consider hydrogen a RENEWABLE fuel. All hydrogen is currently obtained by cracking natural gas, which is a fossil fuel, albeit one with lower tailpipe emissions than gasoline or coal. But it’s going to at least get awfully expensive, at worst run out pretty darn quick if we keep using it for heating, and for chemical production, and for electricity generation, and ALSO to power a hydrogen economy? Methanol, on the other hand, while produced primarily from natural gas now, is a byproduct of lots of industrial processes and also can be refined from methane, aka, landfill gas and cow farts. It’s a fuel with a sense of humor!

cars! cars! cars!

b/c of all the driving I’ve been doing I have been thinking a lot about my car. Like, will it make it? it’s got 187K (more or less, probably more, the speedometer doesn’t work that often but when it does it says I’m going faster than I really am, so…) on it. It’s got the original clutch, and believe you me it is getting more and more obvious lately. It has the original timing belt, and that’s something that ought to be replaced around 90K before it breaks in a spectacularly destructive fashion.

my stepsister works at a auto dealership and she said maybe she could get me a discount on a used car. So I started thinking about what kind of a car I would get to replace “Florence the Low-Brow Villain” (tm the Car Talk Name Generator that I can’t find right now) should she give up the ghost. Never mind that it is absolutely a foreign concept for me to actually buy a car while my old one still works — you have to understand that I am the auto graveyard in my family. I get the cars at the end of their useful life, and I drive them until they break. I complete the life cycle! I conserve by reusing!

so, I came up with a list of things that are very important to me when considering a car, and here they are in ranked order:
1. super efficient gas mileage (flo gets about 40 highway, and towards 30 city driving)
2. a little bitty car, sub-compact preferably but a compact is ok
3. a stick shift and
4. a backseat.
Oh, and it ABSOLUTELY CAN NOT be red. I drive too fast as it is to attract any more authoritative attention.

With a list like that, I’m not really sure what kind of a car I could get! Most hybrids are going to CVT technology and don’t have manual transmissions any more. Other used cars may have gas mileage as high as 30 mpg, so a used slightly efficient car might be an option. At least with that option a manual transmission would probably be cheaper. But the cars probably won’t be tiny. Here’s a life cycle/benefit-cost analysis question: is it better to purchase an expensive new hybrid, or to continue as the end of life person, reusing old cars until they’re gone? I can’t tell right now. The answer probably includes things like projected costs of gasoline, discount rates, anticipated required car repairs, insurance premiums, and time costs should vehicles break. If I want to include externalities like emissions factors, well, that might really get messy.

I’m going to hold on to my car until it breaks because 1. she works really good, and 2. I don’t need a car payment while I’ve got grad. school style credit card balances to pay off. But if I were to get a car right now I might be seriously considering a used honda insight. There are 2000 models online for about $9K, but they have ~80K miles on them. However: they get great gas mileage (about 61 mpg average) and it would be a used car, so I wouldn’t be freaked out about owning something new and expensive. The no back seat thing is kind of a drag, but I am thinking of it like this: now that I’m commuting to and from work in a CAR, I’m driving a LOT by my self. Say, 7 hours a week. Even if I went on longer trips it would probably be by myself too, or with just one other person. The only time I need more seats than 2 in my car are when I’m in albany and my bro, nephew and I go somewhere (he’s got a 2 seater too) or when I’m camping and we all pile into cars to go somewhere for dinner. I’m not the only one of my friends with a car anymore, there are lots of other people with vehicles to drive if we need to car pool. So if I need a car with a back seat I might as well RENT ONE. what a freeing, groundbreaking and revolutionary concept! I am so into it.


how dorky am I when I read that Wil Wheaton is considering switching to WordPress (what I’m using) and I felt a sense of pride and kinship?

I mean, OBVIOUSLY I am not a high-level user here. DORK.

driving driving driving

man, this is getting boring.

so, this morning I was able to get on the road by 7:05, maybe + a few minutes. I got to work by 7:45. So it was better, but not astounding.

Last night, now, THAT was astounding. I took a friends advice and instead of going all the way down Rt 17 to Rt 3, I took 17 to the Garden State Parkway to Rt. 3. Even though the GSP puts me further west than 17 would (more backtracking) I really think it knocked 1/2 an hour off of my drive! I left work at around 5:10 and got to JC by 5:55, with enough time to go inside and change my clothes before proceeding into the city (via public transportation, I might add!) for a dinner date with some girlfriends. Sweet! I am going to give that a go again tonight too, the better to decide if it’s a fluke or not.

There was a downside to that route, however — one of the worst tailgaters I’ve ever experienced latched onto my rear-end for a while. He was one of those two-footed drivers, you know, with the brake and the gas at the same time? and he was in a big ugly machine and would swoop and zoom right up behind me. It was terrible. I have to say, if you’re driving a small car and accidentally tailgate people at least it’s not a horrible scary experience like it can be with a big car!

more on driving

I went to Albany on Sunday for a one day quick trip. For the first time in my life I forgot daylight savings time and got a late start, so essentially my agenda was to drive up, return some boots, pick up my very beautiful new bag and wallet that had been mailed c/o my dad’s house, meet my dad+stepmom for coffee, enjoy surprise get together with sarah and kevin and baby ryan at coffee shop.

I had a really distracting drive due to the flooding up and down the thruway, especially around Kingston. The little creeks were out of their banks and in a couple of places pressing their wet noses up against the highway. I am seriously distracted by water. I used to have business meetings in an office building in Albany that overlooked the Hudson River, and I would find myself staring at a little inlet where you can see the tide coming in and going out. So driving over bridges with rushing muddy water underneath was exciting and fun and I wished someone else were driving so I could just stare and stare.

Anyway, I had about 6 hours to think while I was driving around yesterday, and I came up with this list:

very excellent reasons people should drive stick shifts:

* harder to talk on a cell phone and drive at the same time
* likewise, harder to eat big messy sandwiches (a little known cause of traffic accidents) while driving
* stop and go traffic becomes incredibly annoying, and if everyone was as annoyed as I am perhaps no one would drive like a dummy and resulting traffic would be avoided
* they are primo more efficient, plus
* you don’t need a giant engine to feel like you’re driving a sports car, and
* you don’t need a giant engine to merge onto a highway b/c you get extra zip with a manual transmission
* it’s better in ice and snow
* you work out both legs equally when you drive (avoiding the dreaded “driver’s leg.”)

driving in NJ

it’s been kind of a rough week with the commuting. Last week it went fine — I kept telling people “well, it’s 45 minutes, but it hasn’t killed me so far…” Even though I knew “so far” meant “in the last 3 days” I didn’t really think it would be horrible to drive up to 45 minutes. I MUCH prefer public transportation, natch! but in the very most northern neck of the woods where I work, even though there’s a train station, 1. there’s no good way to travel the 2 miles from the station to my office and 2. the earliest train gets there 15 minutes after work starts.

This week has been frustrating. my 45 minute commute has turned into an hour 2 mornings, and at least 3 evenings have been exercises in dancing slowly with about 10,000 other drivers. If I want to meet a friend in NYC for dinner I can’t honestly say I’ll get there before 7, because if I leave at 5:20, I drive to Jersey City, park the car, walk to the PATH, take the PATH in, and THEN get where I’m going in NY. I could drive into Manhattan but you have to stop somewhere! I really don’t want the thousands-of-pounds tether that a car is when I’m hanging out in NY.

Today, though, was great. I got up 10 minutes earlier than usual and left at MOST 20 minutes earlier than I usually do. There weren’t that many people out, and I got to work a full 30 minutes before work starts — I might have shaved a whole 35 minutes off of my commute! from now on, the 10 minutes of sleep are officially sacrificed. I don’t care if I’ll be at work 30 minutes before I ought to be. I am SURE I can find something to do with myself…

[[unless it’s an April’s Fools joke on me!]]

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