Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The auto mechanic mystery

Despite my ever-present intentions of learning how the hell cars work (and yes, I do have them)--like what oil is for and why it needs to be changed, how to change a tire, and what that embarassing green puddle is that my car leaves wherever it's parked for more than a few hours--they've kind of stayed in the 'intentions' phase without ever moving on to the 'no really' phase or the 'so how the hell do I actually accomplish this' phase. Hopefully, I'll sell my car in a few months and they can languish there forever, but until then, it's going to be a constant battle between my bitterness over the accruing repair bills and my dogged determination to not fix anything else. I've had that determination for awhile, actually, but it turns out that if I need the car to do anything beyond shade the area immediately under it, I have to buy it a new battery. I have to fix a gushing oil leak. I have to get new brake pads (and while, admittedly, those are more for discouraging the car's operations, I have personal experience with what happens when they give out, and doubt I'll be so lucky next time). If I want to drive 2500 miles in it, I need all of the above, plus that new stereo, which I'm totally taking with me when I get rid of the car. Pioneer kicks ass.

However, with every additional car-related expenditure, I have an increasing desire to nod knowingly when the mechanic tells me what's wrong and what needs to be done to fix it. I could make brilliant, insightful suggestions that turn a $500 bill for parts and labor into a $10 trip to the hardware store for a few bolts and some duct tape. In short, I need to become friggin' MacGyver. Because then, when I get a call from the shop telling me that my car won't be ready for another day even when I was told just this morning that it would be done this afternoon, I would know why. Even better than that, I could shoot the messenger with a biting, well-informed bitchfest that makes them sit up and take notice. And rather than hanging up with a "well if you're so smart, why don't you fix it", they would be cowed into doing my bidding and call everyone there to get to work on the car immediately and actually have it done when they said they would.

In the meantime, I'll just keep hanging out here in Park City. I'm not actually inconvenienced by these repairs, because I kind of wanted to spend another day here anyway, but man, the day I am, then I'll really be mad. Plus, with the Onion's always-timely news and information, I've already begun my education on how to care for my car.

Monday, December 20, 2004

I heart Park City

This is the third time I've rerouted a road trip in order to stop here, and it's probably not the last. I have family friends who live here, who are the nicest people I've ever met (to illustrate, I always quote my friend Catherine, who visited with me the first time: "I feel bad breathing, because I'm taking up their oxygen"). No matter what we do, it seems to make them happy. Need coffee in the morning? Get a choice of several different coffees, sugars and cream, and this from a woman who never drinks coffee. Car trouble (again)? Escorted trip to the mechanic and then to the other mechanic, plus use of their Mercedes while the other car is incapacitated. This would be the most stress-free vacation in the world if it weren't for the guilt of feeling so undeserving of it.

Then there's where we are. Park City is lovely town, set against the backdrop of gorgeous mountains that are clearly visible through all the clean air. There's no traffic or crowds to speak of (though I'm sure that changes in the week between Christmas and New Year's and during the Sundance Film Festival), at least not by my citified standards. And the skiing is great. Yesterday was an absolute dream: no wind, not a cloud in the sky, 35 degree weather, and slopes free of ice, rocks, slush, and hordes of skiers. I could be a speed demon with impunity (dude I own those blue squares), and avoided injury due only to a mild self-preservation instinct and the fact that it took me a lot longer to get to the top of the mountain than it did to get to the bottom. Surely that broken leg (or neck) is waiting for me somewhere off the Motherlode chair tomorrow afternoon. But the highlight of skiing yesterday: sending a lift attendant into a fit of laughter at the sight of my skis, which are straight, a style that seems to have declined in popularity somewhat since the last time I went skiing... and by "declined in popularity," I mean "have passed out of cultural consciousness entirely, thus labeling anyone who actually uses such antiques an amusing novelty." Whatever. I'm just glad I still fit into my ski clothes. Style is something I can't really hope to achieve here.

And then there's the free time. I watched "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World" on TCM last night (hilarious, but damn that's a long movie). I've caught up on my emails. I've caught up on my news. I've read about a third of Naked and I love it. Thus far it's even better than Holidays on Ice (where the first story raised my expectations to a level the rest of the book never quite reached) and Me Talk Pretty One Day (the quality of the different stories seems to be more consistent), though I suppose I should wait and render judgment when I've actually read all of it. Thus far the major difference I've noticed is that he tries to make his stories have a point or fit into some larger context, which he kind of gives up on in Me Talk Pretty One Day, which is a good thing--they're hilarious and speak for themselves. But even if the rest of the book totally sucks, just read those first few stories. Today's moment of zen: "The Greeks had invented democracy, built the Acropolis, and then called it a day."

Saturday, December 18, 2004

And so it begins...

...the great vacation of my life. Well, again... summer '03 was a helluva vacation. It's just that I actually knew when that one was going to end. Also, this one hasn't really felt like a vacation yet, despite the memories I have of family roadtrips being dredged up by hours on the road in a car with my brother headed to a ski resort. First of all, those roadtrips never felt like vacations, the vacation was when we got the hell out of the car at wherever our destination was (usually Lake Tahoe). Also, it's a little different when a. I'm driving, b. there are iPods, and c. my brother and I actually get along. None of this "that's my side" crap--it's all my side, cuz it's my damn car. And we figured out a music compromise, too: while I could pull rank and listen to whatever crappy pop music I want (I should really get the play counts up on those Britney Spears and Spice Girls mp3s), my brother and I spent about 5 hours just switching off whose iPod was playing after every song (I have a cord coming out of my stereo that can be plugged into anything you can plug headphones into). That way, we get to listen to whatever we want, and learn about other music, too. I've learned that I need to steal everything he has by Jimmy Eat World, Dispatch, and RKD2, to name a few. I've also learned that he hasn't heard nearly enough Guster or Aimee Mann. ...I don't really know what he's learned. Probably that I like Better Than Ezra way more than is healthy and that my remaining 2400 mp3s are total crap. But hey, it's my car. I'll make us listen to BTE all the way to LA, don't think I won't.

Thankfully, now it's Saturday night (and I'm doing my ultra cool blogging-on-a-Saturday-night thing) and I'm in Park City, and will get up at 7:30 a.m. to going skiing tomorrow. It's about time I had some friggin' R&R... um, well, relaxation, anyway. That last entry was the calm before the storm (feels like I've had a lot of storms lately). Tuesday I began the process of actually moving out of my apartment by getting a storage space, boxes, and tying up a few other loose ends. Remember how I had a lease? I needed to get rid of that. Thankfully, Tuesday night I got a call from a girl interested in taking it over, and that same night I drove a rental application over to her and faxed it to my landlord. She signed the lease Wednesday and gave me a check for the deposit, and I was free! My brother got in late Tuesday night, then slept all day Wednesday while I packed and took care of getting a music-playing device put back into my car (you can't drive 2500 miles with no music and stay sane. Or awake. And when you're driving, sane + awake = alive.) We did the tourist thing Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon, then threw my stuff into storage that night. I pulled an all-nighter (again... why is it that I've pulled three all-nighters since September and none of them was even during school?! Hmm, let's revisit my list of priorities...) cleaning the apartment and actually packing the stuff I planned to take with me, and then we left at 5 a.m. Friday morning--there was already traffic going from the city to the suburbs, wtf?!--to drive a total of 967 miles to Cheyenne, Wyoming. The crazy thing in addition to that is, I drove all but 200 miles of it. I slept for about an hour and a half in the middle and then picked up again a little ways into Nebraska. You can tell the vacation mentality hasn't really kicked in yet.

The nice thing about driving all that way the first day: we got to Park City tonight in time for dinner. I'll go to sleep soon and get my eight hours in. I'm looking forward to three days of skiing, not just one or two. I can spend my evenings walking up and down Main Street and reading David Sedaris.

Dude, it's about frickin' time.

Monday, December 13, 2004

A master's candidate no longer

So now that school is over, am I whiling away the daylight hours with fruitless but entertaining pursuits? Yes. I am. I've rented 5 movies in the past 36 hours and I actually watched all of them. 3 were known quantities (Love Actually, Mean Girls, Mask of Zorro), and the other 2 were not the pieces of total crap they were made out to be (Day After Tomorrow, Stepford Wives). They were totally predictable, but they were also very entertaining: for Day After Tomorrow, ya gotta respect a guy who manages to make weather look dramatic, even if the story was a somewhat self-righteous clone of Independence Day. And for Stepford Wives, Nicole Kidman's hot. And Christopher Walken is Christopher Walken.

Actually I've been watching these at night, because I've spent the majority of recent daylight hours asleep. But contrary to whatever it might look like (namely, that I'm super lazy), in fact, I'd be far more given to productivity if it weren't for two things: 1. The high today was 25 degrees. With wind. Shudder. (At least it was sunny.) But that kind of weather still wouldn't make me do much more than flinch if it weren't for the fact that 2. I'm sick again. I'm totally blaming the last six months of illness on the flu vaccine shortage, despite the fact that what I have now is the first thing I've had that looks like the flu. Whatever. The point is, my immune system has it in for me. I don't even know how to write the sound of frustration I emit when I think of that... it's garbled by the cough drops anyway.

I have to admit, though, that I haven't yet settled the debate with myself on whether or not I would be doing stuff if I weren't sick. I'm pretty sure I would have made it to the gym, but the getting up early idea probably doesn't hold much water. (I totally messed up my sleep schedule with that all-nighter on Friday... the irony of pulling an all-nighter for the first time this quarter at a time when I didn't even have to still gets to me.) But see, this is how I'm coping with not being in school anymore. My life is a to do list (and at times a to avoid list), and not having any more group projects simply means that the stuff on the list has changed. Now it's all things to do with packing up and leaving Chicago. The prospect of arriving in LA in February looms because there will be no to do list--"get a job" is not a list. It's an order. I'm better at it now, but knowing where to begin on a task that big and important is kind of frightening. I have leads now, but what if I have none then? No direction, save geographic preference, to guide my search? I'll be living with my parents, broke, and in denial about not being on vacation anymore.

...Yeah, I'm not actually that negative. I'm not really concerned about my ability to find a place I like in white collar society. The prospect of looking is scary, but I have this absurd sense of confidence that everything will be fine. I'll find a job, I'll find an apartment, and I'll experience self-sufficient financial solvency for the first time. It's a challenge that I'm looking forward to, actually.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Warning: it's the middle of the night and this post is totally loopy

It's 3:30 a.m. and I'm awake. I graduate in T minus seven and a half hours. One might think I was up due to the stress of graduation (I just can't... let... go...! Must stress over something!). Like some sort of preparation is required to show up, put on a costume, sit quietly for awhile, and then walk up to shake a hand and retrieve a piece of paper, or whatever it is we're being given. (No, I'm not really that cynical, and am in fact looking forward to graduation, but I just wanted to set the record straight.) I have no frickin' clue why I'm still awake four and a half hours after getting into bed. I just got carried away finishing and then burning digital photo albums for my class--have no idea how I got roped into that one, or what compelled me to actually follow through--and then writing (not sending... how weird is the person that emails people at 3 in the morning on a Friday night?) emails to contacts at companies where I'd like to work. What to say in said emails had been escaping me all week, but apparently the mental stimulation of burning cds provided me with inspiration. And all of a sudden it's close to 3 and I realize that my alarm is going to go off in just over two hours (for some incomprehensible reason I suggested having breakfast with my parents prior to my required 8:45 a.m. arrival for the graduation ceremony, and based on long experience I build a lot of padding into my schedules). So I can sleep for less than two hours or (which is more likely) sleep for two hours, then ignore my alarm to sleep for another four, and justify winning the superlative category I did: Most Likely to Be Late to Graduation.

All-nighter it is.

Since I'm killing time here, I'll give a quick update on what I've been up to and what I'm going to be up to, since life is such that I doubt much blogging will get done for awhile:

It appears that I recovered from being sick just in time for the really stressful part of the quarter to kick in, which is about when I moved into the Panera in Evanston and began subsisting entirely on soup, salad, and chai tea lattes (Panera makes the best chais... very spicy). I finished my final project for one class right before Thanksgiving, and spent my entire trip home doing work or, um, watching The O.C. Social life? Nah, social lives are for pussies. They teach us better than that at Northwestern.

I got back and spent five exhausting days working on my remaining three final projects. I averaged 4 hours of sleep per night. My memory of that time is kind of blurry, but whatever the hell I came up with for those projects, I think people bought it. I proceeded to go out and get very drunk on both Friday and Saturday night, and call everyone in my class multiple times for no apparent reason (my memory of that is even blurrier, some might even say nonexistent). Very embarassing.

This past week was spent going to one, and then missing another, final class, and then preparing for Thursday night's graduation party by collecting pictures from students and dropping them into the most massive powerpoint file ever, collecting money for the party, determining winners of our superlatives, buying prizes for said winners, deciding what to wear, and ultimately eating lots and lots of chocolate. The party was Thursday night and seemed be a success, with lots of people showing up and drinking up. Was kind of hung over today, but did get to see my friend Meredith before I left Chicago, bought my car a new cd player, braved the horrible traffic to pick my parents up at O'Hare, saw Ocean's 12 with my mom (ok, very different from the first one, not nearly as slick and fun... 3 1/2 out of 5 stars), nice dinner, and then came home and experienced the above-mentioned productivity.

Upcoming schedule:
Tomorrow... um, that is, today: graduate.
Sunday: nurse hangover.
Monday and Tuesday: pack (no really)... and hopefully find someone to take over my lease! Please cross your fingers for me on this one!
Wednesday: give my brother a tour of Chicago (he gets in Tuesday night)
Thursday: make my brother help me move out the last of my furniture; possibly reward with opportunity to see more of Chicago
Friday and Saturday: drive to Park City, Utah
Sunday, Monday and Tuesday: Ski!
Wednesday: head to LA
Thursday: arrive in LA
Friday: Christmas tree decoration; lots of sleeping
Saturday: Christmas (can't believe it's that soon!) Mmm, Christmas dinner.
Sunday: Sleep, possibly see friends
Monday - Friday: work the Media Center at the Tournament of Roses (yay, money!) Party my ass off on Friday night.
Saturday: nurse hangover
Sunday and Monday: Uh, dunno. Email me.
Tuesday: Watch USC kick Oklahoma's ass in the Orange Bowl; pack
Wednesday: actually pack; leave that night for Hong Kong and my trip

Seriously, when does the relaxing start?

Ok, it's almost 4:30... guess I'll take advantage of my membership at that 24-hour gym.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Too much of a good thing

I knew this day would come. The day where I can sleep in as late as I want to (10:15 am) after a big night out (home by 1) and then just laze around my apartment all day (went to the gym and made to do lists... dear God, I'm getting old). I'm at a loss. Surely there's something that requires my immediate attention or can stress me out enough to return my outlook to that of the previous post. Right?

After the constant deadline stress of this past week, I am now paralyzed by wealth of options of how to spend my time. And there are a lot (I wasn't kidding about that to do list). I could start trying to put together my class's digital yearbook. I could clean my apartment so that the next person I show it to in an effort to get them to take over my lease won't run away screaming (that was kind of embarassing). I could Feng Shui the damn place. I could start writing the laughably short papers that are now all that stand between me and a master's degree. I could go to Best Buy and see about getting myself a satellite radio or something for my car. Or I could post about how I can't decide on what to do and as a result have been staring blankly at my computer screen for the last half hour (no email?! inconceivable!).

Or I could go watch the end of Ocean's Eleven and finally get some closure on that (have passed out in the middle of it after coming home the past two nights). I'm kinda hungry too.

I think we have a winner.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

God hates me

The mounting pile of evidence:

1. Over the past five months, have had one illness or another about 80% of the time. And not pussy stuff like colds--mono and strep throat can put a serious dent in your social life (except on Halloween), not to mention your quality of life.

2. I was sick on Thanksgiving. There was no turkey for me. Or stuffing. Good thing I'm not the bitter type. Especially when it comes to stuffing. ...I also try to abstain from sarcasm.

3. My car stereo was stolen. Again. That's number four.

4. My laptop is out of commission. Seriously, I can take all the rest of this, but depriving me of my laptop is just gratuitous. The best part: if Dell had done their job right, I would have had a whole new AC adapter (which is the part at fault in all this) this past Friday. As it happened, they sent me half an AC adapter... the half that wasn't broken. And then charged me for it. See #2 re: policy on being bitter.

5. Have gotten eight hours of sleep in the past two nights, and it doesn't look like things are going to improve anytime soon.

6. The false lead in my search to find someone to take over my lease that cost about a week and a half of search time. (Only two weeks now before I leave Chicago to drive back to CA in a deathtrap of car that's sans music, to put the timeline in perspective.)

I'll think of more, but I have to get back to fabricating communicating via PowerPoint and the most complex animation sequence ever a customer segmentation strategy for a reputable U.S.-based mobile phone manufacturer whose name rhymes with Joe Davola.

To all you naysayers who would cite so-called "facts" to refute this in some misguided effort to change my somewhat-less-than-sunny outlook by arguing with me, such as my imminent graduation from a tier 1 school with a Master's degree at the age of 22, socioeconomic status, vacation plans, etc.: shut up.

Monday, November 22, 2004

It's official!

While I admit to initial misgivings about Airbrokers International (the company through which I'm booking the airfare that will make my trip possible), misgivings that never fully abated despite their BBB rating, seeing my itinerary online, buying travel insurance, and speaking with a representative there on two separate occasions--maybe I'm just paranoid but I was still trying to figure out backup plans if this airfare never actually showed up at my door--all doubts have now been laid to rest. I just called Cathay Pacific, the airline I'm flying to Hong Kong and Bangkok, and they know who I am! What's more, I was able to request window seats (an absolute must for me) and can now relax with the comfort of knowing that I won't have to sit crammed between two massive people for a 15 1/2 hour flight... at worst, it will be one massive person, and I'll have scenery (well, for maybe the hour of daylight I'll be in the air) to comfort me to some degree. Always love seeing landscape from high up.

Yeah, just basking in my elation at finding that out. Continue with your regularly scheduled program.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

What will they come up with next

So it's the middle of the night and I just finished one of the assignments due tomorrow and am currently awaiting the arrival of the second from the person I'm working with on it. I've got a few minutes, so I thought I'd post the evolution of the title of that first paper, from my initial placeholder title to what my and my friend's addled minds came up with.

It began with "Something Pithy Here: Loyalty in the Online Travel Environment"

Our attempts at "pithy":

Airlines and Hotels and Cars, Oh My!

Damn the Points!

Points European or... oh wait, that doesn't really work with anything else

Destination: Loyalty

Destination: Cheesy

Destination: Give Us an A

Airlines and Bookings and Flights, Oh My!

Something about flying

Flying Through Cyberspace

Surfing the Air

Putting the 'World' in 'World Wide Web' (actually I just came up with that one just now... let me reiterate how late it currently is and how taxed my brain is from sitting down and writing for hours today)

...um, we're still title-less.

Also, it's really disappointing to think "Oh! I can go read the Onion!" when killing time in the middle of the night and then find that you've already read it this week. They really need to fix that turnaround time. Just an observation.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Not all forwards suck

I'm currently swamped by what feels like 37 thousand unique and involved (read: 'requires a lot more time than I'm really willing to give') projects, foremost among them trying to make up convincing numbers for sales conversions based on advertising exposure, something which people have been trying to make up unsuccessfully for years. So chances are I won't be able to post much over the next, um, forever, but I did want to share the first decent forward I've received in ages:

As I've Matured:

  1. I've learned that you cannot make someone love you. All you can do is stalk them and hope they panic and give in.
  2. I've learned that no matter how much I care, some people are just assholes.
  3. I've learned that it takes years to build up trust, and it only takes suspicion, not proof, to destroy it.
  4. I've learned that you can get by on charm for about fifteen minutes. After that, you'd better have a big willy or huge boobs.
  5. I've learned that you shouldn't compare yourself to others - they are more screwed up than you think.
  6. I've learned that you can keep vomiting long after you think you're finished.
  7. I've learned that we are responsible for what we do, unless we are celebrities.
  8. I've learned that regardless of how hot and steamy a relationship is at first, the passion fades, and there had better be a lot of money to take its place.
  9. I've learned that the people you care most about in life are taken from you too soon and all the less important ones just never go away.
  10. I've learned to say "Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke" in 6 languages.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

See? See?

I couldn't tell you why, but I think information visualization is one of the coolest things ever. With more and more information available it's becoming increasingly difficult to sort through, and the major solution to navigation has proven to be search technology (very interesting development in this forum, by the way, as Microsoft has finally unveiled their version of a search engine). It has and will continue to dominate the way in which we find things we're looking for. However, there are certain queries that cannot be answered by typing in keywords. There are many kinds of information that are far better communicated visually rather than, uh, word...ily... or something. I started thinking about this tonight after reading this article in Wired about an Electronic Arts festival in Linz, Austria.

We've all seen graphs for years; with the advent of PowerPoint, which stresses communicating in the most succinct way possible, they're becoming more and more common. At least in the business arena. Annual reports are full of bar graphs and pie charts and line graphs, all of which are there to communicate how great things are going (and in many cases, I've found that they're somewhat distorted to either minimize drops or maximize improvements... but that's another topic for another time). My statistics professor constantly emphasized "graphical excellence," and tried in vain to teach us the importance of relevant data visualization. His graphical excellence idol was a man named Edward Tufte, who wrote a couple of books on the subject and whose best example of how to communicate information graphically was this rather remarkable map of Napoleon's march to Russia and the return trip, and it shows the attrition of his troops and the corresponding temperature.

With advances in technology, we've been able to move beyond simply communicating what we already know to actually discovering new information by data visualization. One of the biggest trends is network mapping, on a scale previously undreamed-of. This is probably one of my favorite graphics to demonstrate what I mean, but there are lots more on this professor's website here, and a number of visual representations of the election results (because no one can really get enough of those) is here. I found some interactive websites that show connections: one shows how all of America's top executives are related to one another (best way to look at this one is to click 'load map' and see what you get), and another shows how various websites are related to one another. A great thread on Slashdot discusses a lot of these and talks a lot about implications, explanations, etc.

Another cool application I found was this concept called TextArc, which lays out a reading of an entire text on a single page and then reads through it, showing the connections between words and where they're used. There's a sample of both Hamlet and Alice in Wonderland, and just watching these is absolutely amazing (but only if you have high-speed internet). Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find my favorite literature example of visualization technology, which is a website where you type in an author's name and then they're shown in relation to other authors with similar content. That's useful. I'm going to keep looking.

Are any of these practical? That depends. But regardless, the most important quality of all of these is that they look really cool.

Yes, that is my actual conclusion to all this, as it's now midnight and I realize I spent the past two hours just wading through a topic that's way too dense to begin to understand at this hour, particularly when I should be applying my brain power to figuring out if/how people are loyal to airline websites, how to determine cross-channel ROI, and/or how to market E.piphany internally at Roche. Besides, writing and researching this is likely a lot more stimulating than reading more Tucker Max stories (omigod, the Austin Road Trip story is even funnier than the Sushi Pants story).

But first, other really cool links:
Keyhole.com: Satellite imagery of the entire world that you can manipulate to show whatever you want: zoom in or out, change the angle of view, find a particular address, fly across landscape
Newsmap: I've posted this one before, and I still think it's cool; incidentally, it was displayed at the Ars Electronica festival mentioned above in Linz, Austria.
Introvertster: Only tangentially related to above topic, but too funny not to post.

I knew it! Visualization software can be really useful when it comes to words (though it must suck to be the guy that does all that coding): I found VisualThesaurus.com via a link through Merriam Webster Online. You can only do one search and then you have to buy it, which is really stupid, but I love that someone's trying to market this technology (despite the fact that, while easier to use and definitely more attractive to read, it's likely far more limited than what you would have available if you bought my favorite thesaurus, which is like the most kick-ass thesaurus ever, they've got everything in there!).

Happy days

It's a beautiful day here in Chicago today. Sure, it's 40 degrees out, but it's sunny and there isn't a cloud in the sky. Other bright spots:

> I'm actually up at 11 a.m. I just feel like I'm so much more productive when I get up before noon. All due, of course, to the fact that, with the time change, it gets dark at like 4 o'clock, and so by 5 I feel like it's really 7, and by 7 I feel like it's really 10, and by 10 I feel like it's way past my bedtime and go to sleep. All this is aided by the fact that I no longer watch TV, which is remarkably effective at keeping me prisoner in front of it for hours.

> The potential AmEx job as stated in the previous post... I think I might go listen to that voicemail again...

> It only took three friggin' weeks, but I'm finally not sick anymore! When I take Advil now it's to deal with this hangover.

> I got a call from my travel agent yesterday and he received my check and will start sending me tickets soon! Ladies and gentlemen, my final itinerary:

January 5: LAX to Hong Kong
January 8: Hong Kong to Bangkok
January 15: Bangkok to Bali
January 19: Bali to Perth
February 11: Brisbane to Christchurch
February 20: Auckland to Tahiti
February 25: Tahiti to LAX

Clearly there are a few gaps in there that need to be supplemented with additional airfare (I'm not planning on walking from Perth to Brisbane), but the trip has finally taken shape. Now I just need to figure out what to do with myself in all these places.

> And finally, I'm really looking forward to going home for Thanksgiving. I don't know how much R&R I'll actually get in, but it will be a nice break from all the stuff going on here. Plus, I've ordered Season One of The O.C. to my house (it would go very badly for my productivity here if it arrived here), and I'm looking forward to many hours of watching that, as well.

Friday, November 12, 2004

So, the AmEx interview...

I will not be advancing to the second round.

I'm disappointed, but understand why: compared to all these other people with the same education as I have, how can I possibly compete when their (far greater) experience is factored in? I could go on a rant about how experience is bogus anyway, how we're all changing careers and chances are their prior experience isn't any more relevant than mine is, but honestly, what else is there to go on? I admit to never having done the 9 to 5 thing long term and in all probability I totally suck at it, so best go with someone who, well, probably doesn't. But I don't need to go on a rant regardless, because I'm not mad. I wouldn't be mad even if I had been rejected outright, but I wasn't. The interviewer who called me back and let me know my status encouraged me to apply for another position in the department (again, this department is frickin' perfect for me), as there would likely be a job available for which I'd be a good candidate. They think I have potential. Again, !

The funniest thing about this is that my giddiness at getting a voicemail telling me that there's a possibility I could get a job with this company feels about the same as if I'd gotten a voicemail from a guy I really liked telling me that there's a possibility we could have dinner next week. It's a wish being fulfilled. It's validating. It lends itself to daydreaming about a changed life, one that does not involve spending endless hours in the school computer lab listening to complaints about the assignments that are keeping us there.

Also, I'll still get to see Better Than Ezra at the House of Blues next week. Twice.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

A find

Yes, I'm stressing about about getting a job, and my throat really fucking hurts (seriously, I think it's trying to secede or something, and the second I figure out how to let it, it's fucking fired), but there's a bright spot to entertain me and get me through the week... um, that is, when I'm not being hard-working and stuff. A friend sent me a link to TuckerMax.com. This is the most horrible website I've ever read, and by horrible, I mean horribly funny.

(Law students take note: he used to be one of you.)

Go read this site. Now.

Pray for me

I just had my first real interview. Like, for a job I really really want. I think it went well. I'm secretly hoping all five of the people in my program whom I'm competing against get hit by a bus do their best and still totally suck compared to me show off the overall superiority of our program to others.

I think this job sounds perfect. It's in the information management branch of American Express, and deals specifically with strategic analysis and testing, which is right up my alley. I get to be a numbers geek, but with a purpose that's important to the operations of the company. I get to work with smart people, work with good data, and learn a lot about how various parts of the business work. In short, ! I can't even describe how much I want this job. Working at a company with these kinds of resources and this kind of attention to its employees (they strive to get the best people and encourage mobility between departments in order to keep people happy and ensure retention) is an opportunity that not everyone is lucky enough to have, and I really want it.

Second-round interviews will be in New York at the end of next week, and I'll know whether or not I've made it by the end of this week. Thankfully I have a lot do this week or I'd spend the majority of it on the edge of my seat rocking back and forth, biting my nails, checking email every five seconds and staring at my cell phone and hating everyone I hear from that is not American Express. Thank goodness I'm likely to only have the one interview... it's a lot easier to deal with the general "nobody loves me" stress than the "oh my God what if they don't love me?" stress in multiple instances... also I have a limited number of finger nails. And in this crossed position, my fingers are starting to cramp. Just all-around a bad scenario for my hands.

Ok, I feel like I need to stop talking about this so I don't jinx it. I'm thinking happy thoughts.

Monday, November 08, 2004

A how-to book

Apparently some crucial part of my life's education has been left out, and so every so often I need to consult a friend (one who did not miss this course) on what to do. Tonight was one such time, and I told her she needs to write a book for poor lost souls such as myself. Based on her experiences, she could write chapters on the following:

How to Say No to a First Date (imply you have a serious boyfriend, with imply being the operative word, as opposed to the always convincing "um, I have a boyfriend.")

How to ID a Guy When You Have to Meet Him Somewhere But Don't Remember What He Looks Like (make him pick you up)

How to Avoid Breaking Up With a Guy Until He Thinks It's His Idea (not sure if this is always the best way to end it, but worth considering if you're going away for a summer)

How to See a Guy That You Like Again (leave, uh, certain articles of clothing on his floor... preferably nonessential things)

my favorite:
How to Get Your Roommate to Have Quiet Sex (offer a few leftover condoms you have, since you're obviously not having as much sex as they are)
...and if that fails, this note was suggested:

Dear Sir,
Management requests that you not allow XX to make too much noise.
P.S. Yes, her name is XX. Have fun!

Update: Upon further consultation, have determined that she should also include basic principles, such as "It's not mean if it's funny."

Devil in the White City

On my parents' last visit here, I convinced my mother to lend me her copy of Devil in the White City, which, for those of you who haven't heard of it, is the new Da Vinci Code (aka the book you see everyone reading on the El), at least here in Chicago. Which makes sense, given that the book is about Chicago: it's about the building the World's Fair here in 1893 and, simultaneously, about a prolific serial killer that operated here during that time as well.

Recently it's occurred to me how little I know about Chicago history and how much there actually is to know--lots of interesting things have gone on here, and I'd heard about some of them (Kennedy's election in 1960, the bootlegging and gangster wars that went on during Prohibition, the meatpacking plants that served as fodder for Upton Sinclair), but this was the first book that really demonstrated to me the effect that Chicago and the Columbian Exposition had on the rest of the world. The Ferris wheel was invented as Chicago's way to "out-Eiffel Eiffel" for his tower at the Paris World's Fair a few years earlier. The architectural style and planning went on to influence what is now the Mall in Washington D.C. Alternating instead of direct current was first proved to work in largescale implementation, which is why that is now the primary method of delivering power to us. Provisions for labor and union concessions set the standard for years to come, a standard that still isn't met in many cases. The number of attendees was staggering, both in terms of sheer numbers and the number of influentials of the time who were all in the same place at the same time, figures such as Jane Addams, Susan B. Anthony, Buffalo Bill, Frank Lloyd Wright (who was actually fired by the architectural firm for which he worked for his work on the fair), Frederick Law Olmsted (designer of Central Park), Clarence Darrow, Walt Disney's father, Elias, who would tell his son of the magical white city he labored to produce. The list goes on.

I loved this book and couldn't put it down from the time I started it, which I think was the middle of last week. I spent most of today reading it, and finished it in a marathon six hour session, realizing I couldn't get anything done (and there's lots to be done) until I'd finished the damn thing: I just had to know how it all ended. The book was very well-written, particularly given the sources of information the author had to reconstruct and retell the events as they happened. I'd forgotten what it feels like to be so thoroughly immersed in a book like this, and it reminds me of why I've rarely read since beginning college, and particularly grad school: I just can't afford that kind of time handicap. Better to go back to the Bell Curve, which is infinitely easier to pick up and put back down. I did miss that kind of involvement, though. I can't remember the last time I've been so engaged by a book.

Go read it. Maybe not now, but wait until your winter vacation and then pick it up. It'll be worth the few days you spend reading it, whether or not you're interested in Chicago history.

But now, if you'll excuse me, I have work to do.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Coping with illness

It's been a week and a half and I'm still sick. Still. Even more encouraging is the fact that my doctor at the health center here doesn't know what's wrong with me. Strep tests have come back negative, twice, and I was tested for mono again and that, at least, is also negative. But seriously, who do you have to sleep with to make all this crap stop?! But today one of my friends did one of the nicest things anyone's ever done for me: she knows I've been battling this sore throat and she came to class today with a thermal mug full of hot water, lemon, and honey. (For me, that is.) I have no words; it was so unexpected and thoughtful of her. If she didn't have the "best group member" tiara before now (and yes, there is one), she definitely clinched it with that.

Other things that improved my outlook: the season premiere of The O.C. was on tonight. There's a show that, while shallow and arguably consisting of nothing more than drama and pretty people, never fails to give me the warm fuzzies. I mean, Ryan and Seth came back, and it was--it was so... *ahem* excuse me a moment.

And finally, the thing that gave me the energy to even post this: my vacation is now officially booked. I can see my itinerary on virtuallythere.com. There I am flying to Hong Kong! And then to Bangkok (after only 24 hours in Hong Kong, but hey, it's an island, I think I can cover it)! And then Bali and Perth and Christchurch and finishing up with five days in Tahiti! Can I afford it? Probably not. But that's what makes for interesting stories later on, right? As long as I've got transport from one place to another paid for and know I can get home (and believe me, I'm blowing my money on all that stuff first), that's all I really care about. Whatever accommodation and food I end up scrounging up aren't really a matter of great importance to me (though I am kind of freaked out about Bali now after reading that "some establishments are upgrading to toilets where one can sit down"--I so have nightmares about having nothing but Turkish toilets available--and that it's recommended that one always carry a roll of toilet paper with you because of the unlikelihood of having it available there, so when necessary, wipe with your left hand only, then use the dipping bucket on the way out... dear God, my hygiene neuroses are really going to take a beating). But enough of that. I'll be adding two continents and six countries to my travel experience, and I'm giddy just thinking about it.

My sore throat better have cleared up before then.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Much obliged

Despite the fact that I've already contacted the three people who read this site about this, I thought I'd post it here for good measure and practice what I preach: I'm studying online travel booking habits for a school project and need responses to this survey. Chances are if you found my site, you have quite a bit of time on your hands, so why not donate some of that to a good cause and help me out. Thanks!

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Things I didn't know...

...until I got sick with the worst sore throat ever that's lasted for eight days and counting:

1. Being sick really sucks.

2. It is possible to subsist entirely on Halls cough drops.

3. There’s remarkable variety of flavors available from Halls cough drops.

4. A cough drop lasts about 20 minutes.

5. There’s menthol in cough drops, and menthol is my friend.

6. I’m really fucking sick of cough drops.

7. Not finding whatever the hell is wrong with you on WebMD can be a very stressful experience.

8. Alcohol is a remarkably effective cure-all. Uh, temporarily.

9. After a week of being sick, you really have to go out of your way to get people to keep feeling sorry for you. Established methods:
  • Whenever someone asks how you’re doing or if you’re feeling better, mournfully say “Still sick” and attempt to look like the brave but afflicted soul that you are.
  • Take advantage of the fact that you can’t stop eating those damned cough drops and make a pile of the wrappers where everyone can see them.
  • When people ask for your opinion, look pained and say “It hurts to talk”; this will likely go over much better than the usual “Huh?”
10. Try and spread disease to any of the people that still don’t believe you. Fuckers.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Becoming a member of the 21st century

I realize this is my young, urban bias speaking here, but in my view, anyone who is not proficient in both email and cell phone use is clearly out of touch and should be deported to eastern Europe to raise sheep. (Jury's still out on text messaging, that's one I haven't fully grasped yet.) My parents are attacking this from opposite ends: my mother owns a cell phone that is gradually filling the role a cell phone should (glorified leash) but is clueless with respect to email (she may even still refer to the internet as the World Wide Web... ::shudder::), and my father uses email daily at work but absolutely refuses to get a cell phone.

Since my mother owns a cell phone and has already perfected the art of keeping tabs on her husband, there's no need to persuade my father to get one. (Attempts would be likely welcomed with a tirade on how our world is going to hell or some such thing, and I can't say I disagree, but the effort simply wouldn't be worth it.) I find it just this side of shocking, however, that my mother doesn't know how to email someone (you'd think a socialite like her would be up on the latest ways to communicate with people, but apparently not). Therefore I've spent the last three years or so campaigning to get my mother to use and understand "the internets" and email. I walked her through signing up for a Yahoo! account, because I think AOL is evil. I bought her The Internet for Dummies for Christmas, along with a gift certificate to Amazon.com (clever eh? eh?) I met with modest success while I was living abroad and email was the only way to communicate with me that didn't cost anything. However, even then there wasn't much incentive for her to use email much since the only one who ever wrote her was me. And I wasn't going to say anything important because God knew when she might actually read it.

I kind of gave up. There's no point forcing someone to use something that is of no value to them in their daily life. But now that's changed. My parents belong to a country club where apparently the rest of the membership has been up on this crazy email thing, and now it's actually necessary for her to use it from time to time. I was so happy when she asked for help with downloading an attachment. I was so proud when she knew what a .pdf was. And now, it's all coming back to bite me on the ass. Today, she sent me a forward.

I can only pray she passes out the 'forwards are cool' stage speedily. Hopefully a few well-chosen words from me (along the lines of "forwards suck and anyone who perpetuates them should be taken out and shot--oh, um, let me explain what a forward is...") will do the trick.

Standard time

really sucks. It's really nice to get that extra hour, particularly after a Saturday night Halloween celebration, but now it's 4:30 and streetlights are already on. By 5, it'll be dark! I feel like I should be checking Sunday night TV listings really buckling down on my homework in preparation for tomorrow (ew, I hate Sundays). I guess I'm just mad because it was such a gorgeous day out today and I feel cheated that it's over so soon. Not that I really went outside much, but like, I totally would've if the sun was going to be out longer. Seriously.

Fall colors: red or blue?

How I love this time of year: every American gets a chance to flex their democratic muscles and vote for those causes and candidates they believe in, or for the ones all their friends believe in, or at least not vote for the ones they really dislike, or just make a pretty pattern with the bubbles on the ballot the way you do when you already know you're going to fail a multiple-choice test because you have absolutely no idea what all these measures are or why Lori Jones would make a better judge than Gus Gomez but you've seen those signs that say "Vote or Die" and you're going to vote, dammit. You're an American and you're going to exercise your right to inflict your ignorance of the issues you're voting on on the rest of your fellow citizens. You were kind of suckered into it anyway; you thought you were just voting for a presidential candidate and have been agonizing over that decision for, like, almost ten minutes. Nobody said anything about having to have an opinion on other stuff, too.

I think Get out the Vote efforts are a step in the right direction, but they still fail to fix the problem of youth complacency. Sure, now they'll vote, but they still don't know what for. As a de facto member of the "whatever" party, I wonder why it is I don't care. I've come up with a few reasons (aside from my general bent towards contrariness):

1. I have no idea what's going on.

2. When I try to change that, there's way too much information to wade through.

3. In addition to just trying to absorb all this information, I have to a. determine its trustworthiness, and b. suppress my desire not to run from anything depressing / disillusioning / frustrating / angering, as I rarely experience any other emotions when reading about politics.

4. I get the impression that, even if I was well-versed in all these issues and had an opinion I could back up on most of them, what I think still doesn't matter, and nor does my vote.

The end result: I get my news from friends whose intellect and opinions I respect, as they have already filtered the information for me. I vote because I know I should. And when I filled out my ballot, I asked my parents for guidance on how to vote (aka "so how did you vote I'll do that too") for the various offices, measures, etc. Not too bad, I suppose, but it pales in comparison to the dream of real involvement that we envision for ourselves.

On the upside: I'm so glad Halloween is close enough to Election Day to distract us from all this. It was a lot more fun thinking about costumes than about issues that seriously affect our future.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Silver lining?

So I'm sick and can't sleep. I don't know what the hell that's all about, but whatever--it's giving me time to continue to plan my trip Australia. I got my Oz Lonely Planet on Tuesday and have been reading it ever since, and just get more excited the more I learn (my trip is now expanding to take up, like, 6 months so I can cram in all the stuff that sounds cool).

So there are two challenges to this, really: 1. figuring out what to do, and 2. figuring out how to get there. The latter is disappointingly not talked about in depth in any guidebooks (for good reason, I guess, given how often and how much airfares can change, but when flying to the other side of the world, I could use some pointers on how to do so for a decent price), and has been a constant subject during class web-surfing. And tonight, I found a site with a package so good that it solves all my airfare dilemmas... and that kind of creeps me out. The company is called Air Brokers International, and if you're planning some sort of massive around-the-world trip like I am, this is the place to go. After hanging around on student travel sites, Australian airline sites, and Travelzoo, the best deals I've been able to come away with are still only round-trip, from LAX to Sydney, for about $1200 (I've ceased to flinch at that number--that's how long I've been researching this). This does not include stops in New Zealand or the South Pacific, and when I tallied up all that airfare (plus just the bits needed to get around Australia), it came out to about $2400. On this website, I found a trip where the comparable airfare cost was only about $50 or so less, but in addition to Australia, flights to Hong Kong, Bangkok, Bali, NZ, and Tahiti are included. I haven't been able to close my mouth for about an hour (although the stuffy nose has something to do with that, too).

And despite my suspicions, this business appears to be pretty well validated. I checked it on the BBB website, and they've been in business for 17 years and have a good record, and only 3 complaints have been filed in the last 3 years.

So now I'm absolutely dying to just plan and book this trip already. Like I'm gonna get any sleep now.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

How to plan and run group meetings

(optional) Determine the necessity of meeting. Looks something like this:

Group Member A: So, do we need to meet soon?

Group Member B: Well… (attempting to walk the fine line between being a team player and “I’d rather have an asshole on my elbow”) …I’m not sure there’s anything we need to discuss.

Group Member A: But we have a professor meeting next week.

Group Member B: Oh, um… (decides suggesting that everyone BS the meeting is out)… ok.

Group Member C: I’ll bake cookies!

2. Determine a meeting time. Looks something like this:

Group Member A: When’s everyone free?

Group Member B: I have some time tomorrow.

Group Member C: Tomorrow’s no good, I’ve got meetings all day--oh, except for a break between 1 and 3. Can we do between 1 and 3?

Group Member B: I have class from 1 to 3.

Group Member A: What about the day after?

Group Member B: Can’t do it, have class in the morning and an interview in the afternoon.

Group Member C: Thursday?

Group Member A: I’m free Thursday morning. I have yoga in the afternoon.

Group Member B: Can’t do Thursday morning, I have ballet. I’m free Thursday afternoon, though.

Group Member C: Huh. Uh, when are you done in the afternoon?

Group Member B: 5.

Group Member A: Meet from 5 to 8?

Group Member B: Dude, I hate meeting at night.

Group Member C: Yeah, nights suck.

Group Member A: Well what about Friday?

Group Member C: Friday?

Group Member B: Yeah, ew.

Group Member A: Well we need to meet sometime!

Group Member B: Ok ok ok. I’m free all day next Wednesday.

Group Member C: I have an interview in New York that day.

Group Member B: I have a couple hours break two Thursdays from now.

Group Member C: Rock climbing at the gym. The following Tuesday?

Group Member B: Stress relief seminar. How about--

Group Member A: Look, whatever. We’ll just do our work and then email each other.

Group Members B & C: Sweet!

3. Meet. Looks something like this.

Group Member A: So... what's up?

Group Member B: I'm so tired.

Group Member C: Me too.

Group Member A: Does anyone remember what we're supposed to be working on?

Group Member B: Um, didn't someone write up a list last time?

Group Member C: I thought you were doing that.

Group Member B: Oh yeah. Hold on, I have to find it.

Group Member A: So how was your weekend?

Group Member C: Good. Saw Garden State--that's a great movie.

Group Member B: Oh, I've really been wanting to see that! I suggested it Friday but the guy I was with wanted to go to an improv show instead.

Group Member C: Omigod, did you have a date?!

Group Member B: Yeah, it was that guy I told you about last week.

Group Member C: Ooh, how'd it go?

:::::::::::: insert lots more gossip here ::::::::::::

Group Member B: Ok, I found the list. Ugh, I hate this assignment.

Group Member A: I know, it's so frustrating. I mean, it's like we have no guidance in actually getting things done.

Group Member C: Yeah, I feel like we haven't really learned anything yet, so how are we supposed to do this?

Group Member B: This is what I hate about group projects, we're expected to come back with something great but we never know what it's supposed to look like and so anything you present will just get criticized, and it's like, if you'd told us what we were supposed to do maybe we would have done it!

:::::::::::: insert lots more assignment/professor/class-bashing here ::::::::::::

Group Member C: Ok, seriously, let's just do this and get out of here.

Group Member A: Yeah. What was it we were supposed to have done for today?

Group Member B: Umm... you were supposed to research competition, you were supposed to research best practices, and I was supposed to start putting together a survey.

Group Member A: Ok, I started my part but didn't really get that far.

Group Member C: Oh thank God, me neither, I felt so bad. Did you get any work done on the survey?

Group Member B: Well, I kind of needed suggestions from you guys from your research to do it.

Group Member A: Ok, maybe we should all just split up and do some more work on our own, and we'll discuss next time we meet.

Group Member C: Cool.

Group Member B: So, are we going to meet soon?

Group Member C: Uh... when?

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Costume conundrum

I'm really excited about Halloween this year. My parents will be in town, so no matter what, absolutely no work will get done and I'll be eating very well. I'm going to a Halloween party on Friday and going out on Saturday is a given, so it's going to be a packed weekend. But most of my excitement has crystallized around my costume idea--I think I've got a great one and am really looking forward to wearing it. The idea: Mia Wallace, from Pulp Fiction (Beatrix Kiddo's just too obvious. Plus there's no way I could pull off that yellow outfit.)

So how will you know I'm Mia Wallace? Well, I'm going to have a hypodermic needle stuck to my chest, pointing to a red dot, and will have the accompanying short black hair, white collared shirt, corset, black pants, nail polish, etc. (am going to pass on the bloody nose). I thought the hardest part of this would be the needle; that's taken care of. I own black pants and I'll be borrowing a shirt from one of my guy friends. However, the corset has proven troublesome.

I've kind of always wanted a corset and am glad to finally have an excuse to buy and wear one. They seem like such a commonly-owned item that I didn't think one would be hard to come by. They're not...unless you have any sort of specific criteria governing your purchase decision. A copy of the one in Pulp Fiction simply isn't possible, but just finding a black one that's the right size and shape is much harder than I thought. I spent several hours yesterday and today hiking around my neighborhood (it's one that has a lot of potential; Boystown is a block to the east and Belmont shops--think Melrose--are a couple blocks to the south), with no luck. The worst part is, since it's the kind of thing sold in lingerie stores and nowhere else, you have to choose your stores right, since it's kind of embarassing to ask for in the wrong type (and I have to ask, I simply lack whichever gene is necessary to find what you're looking for without aid).

I also spent a couple of hours surfing the internet as well, and have come to the conclusion that there must not be a whole lot of money in bustiers/corsets, because the selection is simply not what it should be. I was disappointed by the likes of Frederick's and Victoria's Secret, to say nothing of the oodles of other lingerie sites there are out there. Searches on Froogle, Shopping.com, etc. turned up very little. Not that there aren't lots of different kinds of corsets, but they were clearly designed with a particular demographic in mind: the trashy one.

I did finally find a corset with potential, and am going to pray that a. it arrives in time for Halloween and b. it actually fits when it does. If not, I'll be in the market for a new costume, one that hopefully utilizes all the stuff I already bought. All I've got thus far is a heroine-addicted flapper or a psychotic nurse with short black hair. Other ideas? Anyone? Anyone?

Google (v.)

As mentioned in a recent post, it appears people here have discovered I have a blog. When I first heard about this, I was shocked that anyone could even find it. I'd tried to do so via Google before and came up in the results three pages or so in. Well, no more. I Googled my full name and got my Ad:Tech Blog contribution right at the top, followed by this blog, and then the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) listings start.

Googling a job applicant's name is becoming standard procedure, so it seems certain that most of the people I'll interview with are about to or have already seen my blog. They may not even get that far, though; I don't look like a very choice candidate just looking at the search listings. In the Ad:Tech Blog listing, my name is next to the "Monday Night Party Report," even though I didn't write it (circumstantial, really; I was certainly capable of doing so). Another Ad:Tech blog listing quotes my writing, selecting my oh-so-intelligent-sounding "Basically, yeah, it works." Following that you get a blog called EmptyThoughtBubbles, to really drive the point home. The next relevant listing is a post off Adrants titled "Adver-Wear: Another Excuse to Look at Breasts"; I sent in a link to an article about models wearing t-shirts with TV's in them that played commercials (these media people never cease to amaze) and Steve Hall's particular brand of writing augmented that story. The last listing that's clearly related to me is from the Journal of Integrated Marketing Communications. Assuming one gets that far, it's a small dose of credibility to make up for all the rest. I doubt it'll help though: JIMC is not on my resume, and while I think there are some good reasons for that (namely, priorities), it would appear I'm trying to hide a poor performance there, in addition to all the crap in the other listings.

The unlikely conclusion that I hope is drawn: The girl likes to write.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Notes or...

I don’t know why, but if I’m not listening to something that sounds like a lecture, I won’t pay attention. The only time there’s an exception is when a presentation is being given that I had some hand in formulating; at all other times, discussion, student presentations, etc., instructive though they may be, simply fade into an unintelligible buzz.

It’s not that I’m incapable of paying attention, it’s just that the likelihood of doing so falls way down if I don’t feel personally involved somehow.

The result: I write. Usually I write out favorite poems that I memorize, simply because I love the exercise of writing, whether or not it’s meaningful (but it’s more fun if it makes some kind of sense). Today I guess I was feeling a. exceptionally creative and/or b. highly disillusioned and bored with writing out the same old poems I always do. So what follows are the resulting original haikus and part of a limerick I decided to write in French:

tous les raisons sont claires
je peux les voir, ils volent dans l’air
et maintenant, la raison, c’est rare

doodling in class
is less fun if you can’t draw
write haikus instead

the clock is ticking
but nothing can speed this up
give me more coffee

clarity can fool
for perception defines all
but does it matter?

the idea’s always great
but beware boredom

someone lied today
they said “high of sixty-eight”
now I’m really cold

let us analyze
why’d the chicken cross the road?
he’s suicidal

clearly I’m not well
and Internal Marketing
makes for bad haikus

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Beat the Cards!

So, Red Sox vs. Cardinals for the World Series, huh?

How are fans going to decide what to wear? Wearing red is a whole lot less fun if the opposition's wearing it too (no silly disputes about 'red' vs. 'cardinal' either, us Trojans have argued that one before, and I'll just admit it now: 'cardinal' is just a longer way to say 'red'). At the 2002 Rose Bowl, the only way you could tell which section was Oklahoma and which was Wazzu was by the empty seats.

And if the Sox don't win this series, why I'm gonna... well... be really mad. And stuff. If the Red Sox are going to make being a Cubs fan suck even more, they better go all the way and at least give us some hope.

Plus, the Cards have it coming... I hate those guys.

To do:

1. Remember what the hell it is we're supposed to be doing for our internal marketing class project and manhandle it into some sort of presentation
gold star if: I make it worth hearing

2. Completely shift use of my (admittedly meager) brainpower to tackle the problem of creating a commercial for a fictional railroad line
gold star if: final result makes any mention of a train

3. Check email
gold star if: I get any

4. Research change management and online customer loyalty tactics for group projects
gold star if: "research" doesn't resemble "I found a lot of cool sites that... um... hey, look over there!"

5. Fight off current disillusionment with marketing profession and life choice brought on by reading today's AdAge and wondering why the hell I cared
gold star if: I manage to brainwash myself a la The Stepford Wives--mindless lunatics are hot

6. Drink lots of hot cocoa
gold star if: I refrain from adding liberal amounts of rum

7. Try not to throttle my roommates over the absolute mess that has enveloped our kitchen
gold star if: I fail utterly and find a good place to hide the bodies

8. Nap
gold star if: I wake up in a better mood

9. Annoy the hell out of roommate currently watching TV
gold star if: Aw fuck it, I'm just gonna strangle the bitch.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

America's finest news source

I just got home from an eleven and a half hour day in Evanston. The last four and a half hours were spent there in order to hear Carol Kolb (editor-in-chief) and Amie Barrodale (associate editor) of the Onion speak to us about, well, all things Onion.

Was it worth it? I'm not sure, my brain stopped working some time ago. The bulk of their presentation centered around showing us past front pages. All of them very funny, to be sure, but I'd read most of them and the headlines aren't quite as entertaining at the second reading. Carol Kolb did most of the talking, detailing the history of the Onion, who was on it, what their average workweek is, etc. I'll bet if you had to guess about those things, you'd probably be right. It's a staff of ten that meets at the beginning of the week and goes through funny headline ideas and votes on which they like. Then they decide which to develop into stories, write them, find and photoshop necessary photographs, lay it all out, the end.

Content got more interesting as they went on: they started talking more about how they decide what is and isn't appropriate (ask yourself who a particular story/headline is making fun of) and showed us some of the more controversial stories they'd done ("Columbine Jocks Safely Resume Bullying") and told us some that hadn't made the cut. They showed the September 11th issue they'd done--my personal favorite--and about the reaction to that (overwhelmingly positive). And that was the segue into the best part of all: the people who actually believed these stories were true.

Some of us remember hearing about how a large Beijing newspaper reprinted the Onion's "Congress Threatens To Leave D.C. Unless New Capitol Is Built" as fact (according to the editors, they stole the graphic and translated the article, word-for-word, into Chinese). But better even than that were the letters written in response to stories by readers who believed they were true. We read four or five letters written by Christians who commended the Onion for their story about how children who read Harry Potter were turning to Satanic worship--an article appropriately accompanied by a bunch of kids standing around in a school hallway in capes standing around a pentagram. We read a very long and involved one denouncing them for the story "Mary-Kate Dragging Ashley Down". In response to an article about a legal, newly-developed drug that gets users "totally high", someone wrote in asking for further details, like when it's to be released and where they can get it.

End on a screen showing the Onion's motto: You are dumb.


Multi-channel alert technology

...is still not enough to make me get up in the morning.

In order to get where I need to be at the time I need to be there, I know that I need to get up at a certain time. However, that whole getting up at a certain time thing is a lot more challenging than one would think. Under normal circumstances, I set my cell phone alarm to go off about half an hour before I intend to actually get up. That results in having to cut out something or other in my morning routine to be on time, after which I'm still likely to be a bit late. That extra 30-60 minutes needed is lost by my lying in bed and sleeping in 8-minute increments between hitting snooze. Occasionally I'm so talented that I'll unconsciously turn off the alarm altogether and wake up an hour or two later wondering why it never went off.

So last night, I decided that, no really, this morning I was going to get up with only half an hour of lead time. And I was going to accomplish this by--drum roll please--setting two alarms. (And the part of me that thinks marketing-speak is funny used that as inspiration for the title of this post. Sorry.)

My first alarm went off at 6:15 and I got up around 8. Not what I'd call a success story. One valuable thing that I learned, though: being awake has nothing to do with being motivated; I was pretty well woken up when it took me five minutes to figure out that the reason hitting snooze on the alarm clock wasn't working was because my cell phone was going off, and by the time I'd fumbled around to turn that off I was awake. But lying in bed is nice, so I just kind of hung out for the next hour instead of getting up and going to the gym.

I've thought about this, and haven't been able to implement anything on a regular basis that'll make me get up. Putting the alarm clock on the other side of the room doesn't work. Drinking a lot of water before I go to sleep doesn't work. What I think I need is something like one of those old-school alarm clocks with the bells and hammer that'll hit my finger and really piss me off. Not the best way to start my day but at least it would start that much sooner; I haven't yet factored in what to do to improve my mood (it's not like it's good in the morning now). If anyone has any better (or more creative) ideas I'd love to hear them.

I also have a problem with procrastination, but I'll talk about that one later.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Expect the unexpected... and the expected

Well, the job hunt has officially begun: I had my first interview today. It wasn't anything big, just a part-time internship for this quarter, but it was with a small downtown brand consultancy where I'd get an excellent chance to really see which (if any) of my IMC skillz is worth pursuing. It was the perfect reintroduction to interviewing (I haven't had an interview, at least not in the I-really-care-about-this-and-so-I'm-totally-going-to-stress-out kind of way, in almost two years): I'm interested enough in this business that I actually care about getting the internship to some extent, but at the same time, it's a small gig where getting it or not isn't the life and death situation that big, career-jumpstarting jobs can be (and it's further mitigated by the fact that I'm not really sure I have the time to devote to this outside of class and still be able to do everything well).

Maybe it's just that I haven't been on that many interviews, but I have certain expectations of the interview process (that I call it that to begin with connotes something): most of the companies where I'll be applying are the kind that I would expect to have to go through several rounds of interviews, beginning in HR and eventually meeting some of the people I'd actually be working with and those who'd be managing me. And I think that perception of a well-oiled hiring machine is probably correct, in many cases.

In the course of my interview preparation today, I learned that the company at which I was applying was actually kind of well-known globally; they've done work for almost every major brand you can think of. They have a great address on Michigan Avenue. They're owned by WPP. So imagine how freaked out I was to arrive at the reception desk in their building and have security look at me strangely when I mentioned the name. Those guys had no idea what I was talking about. Thankfully, I remembered the floor number from the website, and one of the security guys escorted me up to that floor. Shock #2: that receptionist has no idea what I'm talking about, either. So of course I chalk this up to the fact that I failed to remember the information correctly, and kick myself really hard for not having brought the phone number I'd been given to get in touch with my contact there. I've really hit the ground running in this job search thing.

It eventually worked out; it turns out the company just moved to the floor below a few weeks ago, and at the moment they only consist of five people anyway. The interview was pretty informal; I talked with two of the guys with whom I'd be working, and while the flow was pretty casual, the questions I was asked were the standard, somewhat scary interview questions. "Tell me a little bit about yourself"--I still don't know how to answer that one, but I guess it's ok because I haven't had too many of the slick HR people asking it as of yet. If I hadn't had much experience as an interviewer, I'd probably go with that one too. "What are your goals after you graduate?" "Talk about how your coursework experience is relevant to work you'd be doing here." Etc. Stuff I really should have prepared for. (I spent most of my prep time deciding what to wear and figuring out where the office is physically located.)

I think my general lack of preparedness may have worked in my favor, though. My resume had already done a lot of the selling for me and answers that were clearly off-the-cuff just made me sound more genuine. Of course, I say this knowing that I was the first candidate interviewed (let's go primacy!) and not knowing if, at the end of the day, I'll be the one selected. It could be that my cute little unrehearsed bit is no match for planned-out replies. That's likely the case when one interviews with HR folk (they're so used to giving well-rehearsed questions and replies that failing to measure up to that is an automatic strike against you because it's something they consider to be the norm). Which is somewhat depressing, because they have to know that everything is a little inflated. Then again, they make a habit of collecting tough questions in order to catch someone off their guard at least once. That doesn't bode well for me either; someone else's "off their guard" is probably my "hey, I'll bet I can make it through that window".

Well, it's something I'd better face up to. The interview process, I mean, not jumping through windows. It all gets harder from here: stakes get higher, interviewers get better, competition gets greater. And it isn't even the kind of adversity that makes for a good story.

Wish me luck. And then try not to look too bored when I tell the story anyway.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Spelling test

If anyone thinks their confidence in their intelligence needs to be taken down a couple notches, check out this spelling test from the Guardian. I got a 20 out of 23. The shame!

Comments that don't suck

I decided Ben was right and got myself a Haloscan comment system instead; much better. I tried to reply to the comments I already had and there's a limit of five. WTF?!

Anyway, I want to keep the BackBlog comments until I can figure out a way to import them (any help with this much appreciated); until then, there'll be lots of links at the bottom of every post. It may be confusing, but I have faith that you guys will figure it out.

And in response to the comments on the previous post:

Chris, fight on for being all subversive with your underground viral marketing.

Ben, that was a really great link; looks like a blog I'll have to start reading regularly. But as I mentioned, I don't think people (and by people I mean me) should really be judged on the basis of their blogs because I don't think it provides a complete picture, particularly when it comes to one's abilities in an office environment. I know I don't portray myself as a good little worker bee because seriously, how boring is that? To read this blog, all you know is that I'm sarcastic and complain a lot, and you can't get an idea of the quality of work I've actually done or know that I'm fully capable of acting professional if the situation requires it. Or maybe companies that require blogs for application already know that?

Tom, I'm so glad you comment on this site--that won't stop being funny for a long time.

Pondering and productivity

Lots to do. I have to find press on online customer loyalty and CRM tool integration (aka process management, which sounds like a lot more fun); I have to think up some ideas on how to advertise a fictional train that goes from Chicago to Denver in 6 hours and keep from getting totally bitter that such doesn't actually exist; I have to modify my resume for a job application; I have to go over a class syllabus to a. decide if the work demanded of us on one project is enough for me and one other person to handle while we ignore a third group member who's useless, or if we should beg to be placed in another group and deal with the paralysis that comes from having too many people and no one to manage us, and b. figure out what the hell I'm supposed to be doing on my other project for that class. Like I said, lots to do. I did none of it yesterday due to the lovely hangover I had from Friday, and so that means that today I'm doing what anyone in my position would do: laundry. And buying food. And cleaning the apartment.

But despite all the crap on my to-do list (actually laundry really should be on there too, I'm running really low on the essentials and have to do the thing where you wear stuff that's only there in case of situations like this, because you'd never choose it otherwise), I'm still really bothered about something. In yesterday's rather long post, those who read carefully saw a mention of my discovery that I didn't get a summer internship because of this blog. The internship was at Rand McNally, a corporation for which we'd also done a class project (a fairly decent problem--how to make their website profitable--but we never got the impression that our input was valued much, and that'll really mess with morale). As soon as I heard this, I racked my brain to try and think of what I'd posted; I don't make a habit of being very detailed about what we're working on because we all sign NDA's, and when you cut out all that you tend to forget to mention how much your life is sucking with respect to a particular project. (I know for damn sure that I mention how much life is sucking with respect to projects in general.)

So what could I have said about Rand McNally? I went back and read everything from that quarter, and discovered that I mentioned the company name only three times: once the day that they presented their problem to us, and twice in this post. Now in that second post, I can see how the phrase "I hate Rand McNally" might be misinterpreted. However, in the context of that post (where I also claim to hate analytic techniques, group meetings, and Giordano's thin crust pizza), I don't think it's something that should be taken too seriously. Two lines after "I hate Rand McNally" I talk about moving to a place where there are no group meetings to be a warrior princess. Clearly what I've written needs to be taken with, like, a million grains of salt.

The other reason why they may not have hired me (also due to the fact that they saw I had a sense of humor and simply failed to understand it for what it was) is, if they were just skipping around reading posts like the one just mentioned, I don't really come across as the industrious type. Suave and winning, dead sexy, and perhaps a bit whimsical, but not industrious.

I suppose both are valid reasons for not taking me, and I'm not really sorry that I didn't get the job there. I don't want to work for an organization that's so rigid it can't appreciate my humor to some extent, or at least be willing to let it go, as I'm not publicizing confidential information. I also don't want to live in fear of my employer someday discovering this.

I have a little more appreciation for the value of anonymity, now; blogging isn't any fun if you feel like there are too many constraints.

Saturday, October 16, 2004


I know it's fiscally impossible for me right now, but wouldn't this be so cool?

It all started when I found this. Like I'll really want to spend more time on a plane after flying all the way to freaking Australia. But still, it's Antarctica; how many people do you know have been to Antarctica?!


A couple weeks ago, I somehow managed to earn myself two moving violations at the same time. This takes a special kind of talent. Or, reckless disregard for the law. You pick. Anyway, it was these moving violations that necessitated the trip to Cook County Courthouse detailed in the previous post; apparently, getting ticketed for two violations at the same time means you're just that evil and law enforcement should really throw its weight around to keep you on the law-abiding side of things. I've drawn my own conclusions about the evil/assholishness of police officers that would do this to a moronic brunette speeding around in an old-ass Jeep Cherokee; the only person I'm really a danger to is myself.

Anyway, in case you're ever up a creek and need to meet your moving violations quota, I'll tell you how to manage this incredible feat. First, go to a town where law enforcement has a lot of free time. Small, nice-looking suburban towns where it seems like people get a lot of parking tickets are a good start. Second, choose a much-frequented road where cops are likely to hang out; in particular, look for a place where something is arbitrarily illegal (e.g. no left turns at an intersection where it'd be really nice to be able to turn left) where they'll be given lots of opportunities to enforce stuff. Third, go ahead and break that law, in broad daylight. It feels good to be bad, doesn't it? After capturing their attention, start going really fast, like 21 or so miles over the speed limit (or if you don't feel like living that dangerously, just go 10 over; when they write the ticket, they'll just say it was 21 mph over, thus pushing your offense into the "really bad" category, even though you couldn't possibly have been going that fast given that the road there really sucks and your car has, like, no shocks whatsoever).

So, you've now earned two moving violations simultaneously. What happens now? Well, if you're out-of-state, you have to pay a bond. If you're a poor grad student or something and don't happen to have $75 cash on you, then the police hold on to your license while you follow them to an ATM and then to the police station, where you have to actually pay it (if you're really having a good day, you'll find out upon arrival that the bond is actually $95 because your speed was in the "really bad" category, and you fortunately had the foresight to take out an extra $20 when you were at the ATM just to have a little folding money with you--a little is right!). After standing around for 20 minutes while the lady behind the counter does whatever elaborate exercise is necessary to fill out the bond receipt form, you'll be free to go.

It's as easy as that!


8:00 a.m. Alarm goes off. Hit snooze.

8:08 a.m. Repeat.

every eight minutes until 8:56: Repeat.

8:56 a.m. Holy shit, it's almost 9. Was supposed to be up half an hour ago.

9:45 a.m. Finally ready to leave; am not as bitter about not having enough time to dry hair as I'd expected.

9:46 a.m. Am totally bitter about not having time to stop for smoothie.

10:15 a.m. Arrive at Cook County Courthouse. Pause and appreciate alliteration.

10:17 a.m. Park and walk down to find courthouse entrance.

10:18 a.m. Dude, this line to get in is really long. And we're stuck waiting outside.

10:22 a.m. Seriously, what are they doing, the hokey pokey?

10:23 a.m. A guard finally comes out and tells us that there's no line at the entrance at the other end of the building. Great timing, mister.

10:24 a.m. Hike down to other end of the courthouse; get to stand in another line. At least am now indoors.

10:28 a.m. Finally put my stuff through the luggage carwash; am informed that I can't bring in my laptop and iPod.

10:29 a.m. Hike back to the car to get rid of laptop and iPod. Start reconsidering ownership and use of boots with 4-inch heels.

10:36 a.m. Return to security line and run stuff through again. Am informed that I'm not allowed to bring a power cord or water bottle in, either. WTF?!

10:37 a.m. Rage.

10:38 a.m. Guard agrees to hold onto power cord at the security point. Screaming match averted.

10:40 a.m. Finally walk into courtroom ten minutes late. Judge is calling out names and people are going up, talking for 5 seconds, and then leaving. Hmm.

10:45 a.m. Name called. Plead guilty to illegal left turn. Am referred to a door at left.

10:55 a.m. Learn from clerk that I'm to be fined $50, but that'll be taken out of the bond I paid and so I'll get a check back from Cook County for the remainder of the bond. I get money! Sweet!

11:05 a.m. Back in car and heading towards Evanston.

11:35 a.m. Arrive at Bar Louie for lunch (have determined that some alcohol is in order after a morning like that).

11:42 a.m. Long Islands are awesome.

12:15 p.m. Go meet a group member to go over last-minute changes to a project we're presenting in class.

1:00 p.m. Get to class. Am mad that we're having class in the seminar room (aka the room where you can't really use your laptop and everyone hurts their neck from having to turn and look down to the end of the table where the professors are).

1:01 p.m. Are told professors will be meeting with groups individually, so we should work on our assignment while waiting.

1:02 p.m. Decide gossiping is more fun.

2:25 p.m. Professors finish meeting with students; give us general feedback (which differs from individual feedback only in that it is now directed at a much larger audience).

2:35 p.m. Watch a reel of ads that received Andy Awards this past year.

2:42 p.m. I love watching good ads. Those IKEA ads are fucking hilarious.

3:00 p.m. Class over.

3:25 p.m. Meet some other classmates and walk to the bar with them.

3:34 p.m. Learn from the students that worked at Rand McNally over the summer that I wasn't hired as a summer resident there because they found my blog.

3:35 p.m. Whoa, someone looked for and actually found my blog?

3:36 p.m. And after reading it, decided I wasn't quite good job candidate material? Whatever, I totally sound professional and stuff on here.

3:47 p.m. Start drinking beer. Mmmm.

4:45 p.m. One student leaves. I order another beer.

5:45 p.m. A couple other students arrive and the rest of the first group leaves. I order another beer.

6:25 p.m. I order another beer.

7:05 p.m. Decide to rally my friends in town for dinner and margaritas.

7:25 p.m. Drive back to Wrigleyville.

8:17 p.m. Meet my friends and head over to Las Mananitas.

8:34 p.m. Las Mas has the best margaritas.

10:06 p.m. Have consumed lots of margarita and Mexican food. Decide the night is young and take a cab to Schoolyard.

11:28 p.m. Get into an argument with cute busboy over football; decide he's a moron.

11:29 p.m. Leave Schoolyard and head to SoPo.

12:33 a.m. Leave SoPo and head to Mystic Celt.

1:52 a.m. Mystic Celt is closing. People suggest walking to some bar on Ashland that's open till 4.

2:10 a.m. Standing in line outside is not cool.

2:15 a.m. Decide to say fuck it and head back to my apartment to play ping pong.

3:54 a.m. Ok people, it's late. Get out.

4:10 a.m. Roommate and friends come home; hang around chit-chatting.

4:35 a.m. Bedtime. Hmm, I think I'll watch a movie. Yeah. Always a good idea.

5:02 a.m. *yawn* Sleeeeepy....

Today: Yep. Little hung over.

Whole27: Seven (Eight?) Months Later

Breakfast this morning was cinnamon rolls. In fairness, I'm sick right now with something resembling that monster flu--hopefully it...