Friday, July 29, 2005

I want to take you out but you always refuse

Now that it is finally that time of the week where I would not be in danger of being called an alcoholic for sidling up to a bar, I have lost all inclination to go out. All I want to do is finish the last ten pages of Stiff, go for a run, and do battle with maple sugar again. But SP may thwart my plans. Contrary to the fact that I have neither moved nor have a firm date for moving, SP seems convinced we must maximize our remaining time, since I'm her only carousing partner. All I can say is this: if I'm the wildest part of a group, something is wrong. Very wrong. On the other end of the spectrum is my quasi-little brother PG. He instant messages me with statements like this: Don't have plans, but am going out. Probably solo in the Mission. Don't be a loser, meet me out. It's equal parts sweetness and harassment.

Since it is highly unlikely that I will post tomorrow, let me just take this opportunity to celebrate the 1-year anniversary of the best revolution I have witnessed, also known as Sepia Mutiny. Those guys (and one kicka$$ chick) have been my blog crack since inception. Some sort of observance of this milestone will take place at Caffe Grecco at 5pm on Sunday. In the words of one Forrest Gump (I despise him)- "And that's all I've got to say about that."

I seem to be on a debunking roll this week (or actually, it's the NYT that's on that roll, I'm just following it). In the Everything that used to be bad for you is now good for you category, latest research indicates that West Nile Virus can be avoided by use of DEET. DEET should not be confused with DDT, which is some confirmed bad shizz. DEET was thought to be a carcinogen, but it has since been proven not to be. In some cases, DEET has caused some neurological issues. But by and large, it's pretty safe and effective. Of course, I didn't use it, even when we were hiking the Inca trail, because I can't seem to manage not to get DEET in my eyes, and that burns like a b*tch. So, even though I'll probably contract West Nile Virus if I hang out in a humid area this summer, I'll probably use something soybean oil- or eucalyptus oil-based. I am smart like that.

Every Friday, NPR's Morning Edition has been running a series sponsored by Storycorps. While I find the premise very interesting- go around the country getting volunteers in pairs to talk about a story to lend to an oral history- it just magnifies the feeling that there is a whole part of the story that is left out. Maybe there will be stories coming in the future, but I keep wondering where the stories are that feel authentic to me. I could bring my dad to a Storycorps recording and he could tell at least 5 amusing tales that could compete with the one that aired this week. But it's not even just the entertainment value- it's the fact that this is how an oral history of America is being depicted, conveniently removing the poignant and intriguing stories of immigrants who come to this country and the experiences of their children who are raised with two competing cultures in the backdrop.

Maybe it's just because I saw Raising Victor Vargas last night. That film is fantastic. Yes, Me & You & Everyone We Know is a critical darling, but Raising Victor Vargas is just as romantic, sweet, good-hearted with the added bonus of feeling superbly real (I've decided that I do find Me & You and Everyone We Know a good film, but I think of it more as performance art than anything else). It's a real perspective of life in America that is not at all reflected in Storycorps at present. That's how I like my cheese. Also, I just like saying Raising Victor Vargas- it's got a kind of alliteration that is fun as it rolls off the tongue. Try it, you might like it.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

it will be so until it's time to go

Anecdotal evidence is tricky. In some cases, this kind of evidence can be critical in guiding researchers towards the right path. I can think of an example: a drug was supposed to be developed for prostate cancer. During the clinical trials, which ultimately proved that the drug was not particularly effective in treating prostate cancer, there were a subset of balding men who reported hair regrowth while on the therapy. It guided the researchers to conduct another trial, and this is now a drug that treats male pattern baldness. If you think this is an isolated example, dig up some information on how Viagra was originally developed in the lab. I won't do it, or reference the example drug I gave, because I have some issues with lifestyle drugs. I will not bore anyone by getting on a soapbox on the topic.

However, in some cases, anecdotal evidence is just that- anecdotal, not based on any hard, scientific data. The naturopaths were dealt a large blow this week, as the NEJM (link reported by the NYT) just published a study that rather definitively confirms that echinacea doesn't do jack for colds. I'm a bit conflicted by this study even ever having been conducted. Echinacea doesn't really have any harmful side effects. Doctors don't prescribe it to patients. Was it really important to spend money on a clinical trial to play Mythbusters? Maybe physicians just really got sick of their patients raving about something that is probably as good as a spoonful of sugar. Or maybe they thought the outcome might have been quite the opposite. The interesting thing about herbal remedies is that, in many cases, there is an active ingredient that can be later isolated and optimized to treat something like (even) a cold more effectively. The real beauty of this is that, even in medicine & science, the situation is not that unlike politics- there is always spin control on both sides. The linked article notes that this was a tightly-controlled study but that there are still researchers calling for further studies in echinacea- higher doses, different preparations, blah blah blah. The mind can be a dangerous thing to waste- the truth is a light that can most always be slanted if you've got a brain that's able to find the right angle to diffract it.

Bucky done gun I done gone and done it now. CV, complete. I even applied for a position today. It is hard to feel much elation over this though, for the following reasons:
  • Though I am sure this will come off sounding ridiculously arrogant, I am completely overqualified for the position. I am doing all of this for a specific reason, and there is an endgame that justifies lowballing it the way I am, but that, I find, is not a particularly motivating thing in the near term.
  • If I get this position, I will have to leave my beloved abode for a place I usually deride.
  • Nothing is inherently wrong with my current position. No one treats me badly, it's not terrible work, and I am in no danger of being made expendable.
  • I will get paid a maximum of 50% of my current salary. I keep telling myself this doesn't matter, but, when you have no safety net except your own hard-earned savings, this is is also not a great consolation.
  • All of this could be for a total and complete pipedream that may never come to pass. It reminds me of a Dodgeball quote referencing the team's decision to forfeit: "That's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for them." Did I mention that I lurve Jason Bateman?

In other news, some more Coldplay bashing, and it's about the specific song I posted about earlier this week. I just lost another 50 hipster points. I think I'm going to have to get a tattoo on my wrist if I want to still be taken seriously. I have to agree with a lot of their indictments of terrible lyrics- Cherry Pie and MacArthur Park are almost too obvious to list. But they left out plenty of gems... I'll nominate almost every Alanis Morrissette song I've ever heard, for example. But maybe that's just because I'm still pissed that she thanked India. Grr.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

if I sit and think I'll go crazy

Okay, it only took me three decades, but henceforth I can be called a desi for life without dispute. Last night, I had my first glass of Chivas Regal. Neat, no less. Yikes. I am a fan of scotch, but this bottle of Chivas was from the dark ages. There were fumes coming out of bottle when my friend RK cracked it open. It was RK's mother who had the bottle, a gift from some long-forgotten occasion. As I sat sipping it timidly, I flashed back in time to several years prior, when I had first met RK. I stopped by his Hoboken apartment, and he & his wife were equal parts amused and horrified that I chose, out of all the available potables, to partake of scotch. That my friend B was drinking it like water did not surprise them; he was a strapping lad from Alabama. But they did not expect a 5'3" Indian to jump at the chance for a Glenlivet (by the by, I can't write the word Glenlivet without thinking (paraphrased) "Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, any Glen will do."). Years later, there I was in the East Bay, and my friends were pushing Chivas on me like it was my drink of choice. I asked in jest, "Is this because I'm Indian?" I asked because, growing up, I feel like this was the drink of choice amongst the uncles.

They replied, laughing, "This is because you're you!"

In an effort to honor Spare the Air day in SF yesterday, I took BART to visit RK & family in Walnut Creek. They were visiting for the week, and last night was the only time we could all synchronize our schedules. Their possession of two anklebiters kids trumped my laziness for traveling outside of the city boundaries. Whinging about going out to the 'burbs aside, I love BART, actually. It's one of my favorite forms of transit. I am lucky to live close to a BART station, and the ease and speed of commuting by BART is unparalleled in this area. Of course, that is not to say BART is better than, say, the NYC subway system. But it's head and shoulders above MUNI. Unfortunately, if the powers that be have their way, BART service will soon start to suck.

Now, I'm about to run like a chicken with its head cut off for another foray in BART travel... this time downtown to get my hair cut. I can't believe I let it get to this point. Here's hoping I come out of it mullet-free. If not, expect more posts about Chivas Regal.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

the things we did and didn't do

Big ups to Maisnon, who's demolishing on the bar at this very moment!

No Coldplay in this post, I promise- in San Francisco, you can lose several hipster points for liking Coldplay. Meanwhile, the stores still seem to be selling their new album well here. Anyways, oodles (who, incidentally, has recently started a blog that has an awesome layout/colour scheme) commented about pictures of my baking skills (her words, believe me, not mine). In truth, she has managed to catch me red-handed here. The way that scientists tend to publish the experiments that were successful, the way that pharma companies tend to disclose only the clinical trials that show benefit to patients, I have been in the habit of posting baking that has gone right.

When I was in graduate school, I remember one of my fellow students musing over the idea of starting The Journal of Failed Experiments. It sounds like a joke, but he was actually quite serious. Professors and graduate students could add years to their life if they were not stuck running into the proverbial brick wall on experiments that others had probably already conducted without success. If you could look up what not to try, you could be free to expand your imagination to the realm of the other. There is an oral history of failed experiments that develops when you are in graduate school; a post-doc will look over your shoulder, shake his head, and grin- "I tried that in 95... went to sh*t. Never works." The smart graduate student takes such quips to heart, chases after the post-doc and quizzes him for as long as he will tolerate it. The arrogant graduate student rolls his eyes and claims he has good hands. And then he gets schooled. And everyone laughs. Hey, no one said graduate school was fun and games.

So, here are two experiments from this weekend. The first was for a barbecue on Saturday. I was staring at a box of chocolate cookies from Trader Joe's, and I had this irresistible urge to pulverize them. Normally, this might be cause for going on medication of some sort, I know. In this case, it amounted to this (I'm done with apologizing for my camera skills- you all know they suck by now, you'll just have to use your imagination):
The chocolate crust also has hazelnut in it, courtesy of TJ's. And the cheesecake, though you can't tell from the shot, has two layers. The bottom layer is milk chocolate cheesecake, the visible layer is white chocolate cheesecake. You can also see a nice shot of the view from my kitchen. I know, que exciting.

I was relatively happy with the cheesecake since it's the first time I've really made cheesecake, and the recipe was 85% concocted by me. A good sign came at the end of the barbecue, when about a fourth of the cheesecake remained. The hostess looked at me timidly as she was giving me the container I had brought, and asked "Do you mind if we keep the rest of the cheesecake?" While I found this sweet, I also wondered who, in their right mind, would take back something they brought to a barbecue? Do people really do this?

Sunday, after about a million errands, I settled into the task of doing something with the maple sugar. This story had a very different ending, I am sad to report. In looking back on it, I made some bad decisions. I went for a thin cookie recipe, when I should have gone for something more substantial. As a result, the cookies spread into a lacey mess. It might be nice if you were trying to make a bowl in which to put ice cream, but as a cookie, it was a loser. So, here is the sad result of an experiment gone awry:Oh, but do you think I will hang my head in defeat? Ha! I have taken beatings much worse than this in the lab. A new bag of maple sugar has been purchased. I looked at the crappy cookie last night and thought, oh, it's on now. It's me vs. maple sugar, the score is currently 0-1, and the next round is some time this week when I get a chance to come up for air. I have a feeling this could quickly turn into an expensive battle- choosing maple sugar from Rainbow Grocery as my opponent is not the smartest move.

All of this is a nice distraction from the real world, where it's a lot harder to brush yourself off from your last failed experiment. But that's some whining for another day. I'll just leave you with this little IM exchange instead:
    PG: Heard you went to Beauty on Friday.
    Brimful: Yeah, it's awesomely cheesy, from the music to the drinks (Prell cocktails)?
    PG: It's okay. I'm surprised you were there- everything else you do is so grandma
    Brimful: What?
    PG: Getting up at 6 am?
    Brimful: Uh, on the weekdays- I have a job?
    PG: Ok- baking?
    Brimful: Ok tell me this-
    Brimful: Would a grandma tell you to f*** off?
    PG: (radio silence)
Truth is, I do have some tendencies that might make you think I am Suzy Homemaker. But as I should have told PG: frankly, darling, I don't give a damn.

Monday, July 25, 2005

if there were no music

Around the second day of the trek in Peru, I remembered some advice an experienced trekker had given me- "keep your favorite prayer handy." Now, contrary to the obvious context, he was actually suggesting that having something repetitive, a chant of sorts, could serve to provide a calm, a rhythm on this sort of journey. At the moment that his suggestion appeared from the recesses of my memory, I had no prayers in my arsenal. But I had fallen behind the group, the altitude was wreaking havoc on my lungs and my head, and I needed something to keep me steady, to sustain me.

Well, I thought, this is easy. Music has served me well in the past at such times. I recalled coming down some treacherous paths when I used to mountain bike with A. A was always half a mile ahead of me, having just zipped down the rocky, steep ravine I was staring down. I'd take a deep, slow breath, and nervously sing the opening lines to Mellow Yellow while trying not hurtle head first off the bike. Most of the time, it worked.

The problem, of course, was the altitude. The altitude depleted a sizable chunk out of the available oxygen at my brain's disposal, leaving my choice of songs to those heard within the past week. And so it was, in the mountains of Peru, at 3000+ meters, Coldplay's Fix You started to pulse through my head. Coldplay, at first blush, might actually seem the perfect choice for such a moment. I wanted something low key, something soothing, and isn't Chris Martin's voice built for just that?

My brain had failed to process one crucial detail- Coldplays songs are, for lack of better description, generally downers. It became rather comical, dragging myself up a seemingly interminable ascent while these lyrics were firmly lodged in my head:
When you try your best but you don't succeed
When you get what you want but not what you need
When you feel so tired but you can't sleep
Stuck in reverse
Because there is nothing but time in the dark evenings on campsites, I examined my fixation with this Coldplay business in excruciating detail. Did I just have a melancholy disposition? Was I being self-defeating, Eeyore-ian? Or worse, did I just like the melody? Had I never even paid attention to the lyrics? And why, what was it in that song that actually served to buoy me up the mountain? Something was carrying me that distance, some unseen force. The questions turned over and over again in my head. Then, I followed the song out to its natural conclusion:
Well, high up above and down below
When you were too in love to let it go
But if you never try, you'll never know
Just what you're worth
I made a million wishes along the way to Macchu Picchu. But mostly, I felt a sense of wonder. Winding around a canyon twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, watching sandal-clad porters speed past me with over 40 kilograms of weight on their back, looking back on the vista from 4200 meters to comprehend that I had climbed that height- all of it was cause for arrhythmia. My heart beat so irregularly in Peru. And now, when this silly song that, normally, should either plunge me into melancholia or cause me to roll my eyes violently... when this song floats into my ears, I immediately fall into a nostalgic reverie. Wishes and skipped heartbeats for four days, two weeks, a lifetime- and that, after all, is a pop tune if ever there was one.

Friday, July 22, 2005

this woman's work

By next week, I will have done the following:
  • Made something out of the maple sugar I bought at Rainbow. Time to set aside Indecision 2005.
  • Applied for a new job. I am cringing as I type those words- holding my breath, but mostly just feeling weary about that ever-annoying process of convincing people that you're qualified and capable of doing something that most people with basic comprehension and communication skills can do. Of course employers have to have something to gauge the likelihood that you will be successful in a position, but it is always striking to me, when you get right down to it, how little that has to do with ability. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know... suck it up, such is the way of the world. The worst part in this case is that I'm overqualified, which means that I have to convince an employer that a) I'm qualified even though that's obvious and b) there's a good reason I want to take a step backwards. Where are the spin artists when you need them?
  • Cut my hair. Okay, that's false advertising. I have actually always had a secret fantasy that involves cutting my own hair. I know all too well that such fantasies usually quickly morph into nightmares, however. So, it will be a trip to the salon instead. It is unfortunately typical of me to put off this type of grooming until a critical point has been reached and left far behind. I am already past the point of needing a haircut and in the realm of oh my god, have you given up on life?
  • Had a fine glass of cachaca. Rum sucks. Cachaca is the nectar of the gods. Nothing makes me angrier than bartenders who make mojitos or caipirinhas with rum. That is just wrong.
  • Finished reading Stiff. It's fantastic.
  • Started re-reading War by Candlelight. I read this book prior to going to Peru, and found it quite moving. But I want to re-experience it now with the new visuals of Lima and Arequipa vivid in my head. You bastards in DC could go see Daniel Alarcon, by the way, on July 28th. I'm not jealous. Really.
  • Sent a care package to my cousin S, one of the teeniacs who visited me a few months ago. I love her, because she uses terms like ridonkulous, Luda!, and son. Teeniacs are great, because they will tell you (without judgment, I might add) that some song you won't publicly admit you like or have ever heard is by Baby Bash & Akon. Now, this same teeniac is enrolled in nerd camp. Rest assured, that moniker is purely in affectionate jest. I am proud of the little spazz.
Start placing your bets on whether I'll actually get any of this done.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

La to the middle is falling

Deep down, in a place I rarely admit openly and freely, I'm a bit of a daddy's girl. I don't gush about it, because my dad has a streak of the crazy in him. Scratch that- he is crazy. There was a time when I lived my life in constant fear that I would adopt my father's unstable tendencies. Now, I just accept that I have been saddled with many of my father's quirks. But if I turn out half as likeable as him (which I'm currently not unfortunately), all will work out. My dad is not of the serious Indian father varietal. He's the sort of person that will tell you a completely humiliating story at his own expense. He doesn't mind if you're laughing at him- because you're laughing, and that is ultimately the point for him. Generally, I do not pour it on regarding my father because he is the definition of an imperfect man. He's made a lot of insane missteps. But then again, I cannot love a person if I do not see their flaws.

But I do not feel like belaboring his faults today. My father loves music, and is almost completely neutral in regards to anything else. Nice clothes, fancy cars, gourmet food? Eh. He'll thank you for them, because my father is a sucker for any show of affection, but you're likely to find most of this stuff languishing away untouched by him. Not that I've ever gotten him a fancy car, bad Indian daughter that I am. My brother and I had a long and drawn out negotiation about Father's Day this year. My brother is of the mind that, since my father doesn't really care about anything, there's no point in getting him anything in particular. This is a convenient rationalization because my brother is a lazy a**. So, once I came up with the idea of getting my father an iPod, and told him I would take care of buying it, my brother shrugged and gave in. Frustration, thy name is younger sibling.

Two days a week, my father has this crappy commute where he drives for over four hours in one direction. So even though I had heard bad things about the reliability of iTrip, I figured it was worth a shot. My father received these presents, and this morning, I got an email from him, an excerpt of which I'm inclined to put up here (note that I have not corrected any grammar- if you wonder why my writing is so sh*tty, now you can see why):
I set up the ipod to use in car fm radio station last night and was thrilled to see how it works wireless! What a science invention ! Now, don't need to carry all CDs in car and just one ipod that does everything for me wherever I go.
As if this is not hilarious enough as it reads, now consider the fact that my father has worked in the tech industry all his life. I think I'm going to run around saying "What a science invention!" everywhere I go for the next week. Also, I love my dad for exactly this kind of childlike enthusiasm about a relatively small thing.

On the other end of the spectrum, yesterday, I went to a birthday dinner that was a wee on the awkward side. It was one of those dinners where people are placed together who know a lot about each other even though they've never met. Sort of a Seinfeldian "Worlds colliding!" type of situation. And so there's a constant inner dialogue of Am I supposed to know that about this person? Will I embarrass SP if I say that?- which gets to be rather exhausting. Of course, I handled it like your average healthy person: by drinking a half a bottle of Gewurtzraminer. Of course, it was a good bottle, which made it even more deplorable that I was drinking it like water, I suppose. Ah well, glad to see I was not the only one throwing them back last night.

The inner monologue from that dinner also included some words of advice for my well-meaning, but often ridiculously misguided friends:
  • If a guy says he just wants to be friends with you, this means that he is not and never will be interested in you. You can probably coerce him into dating you, but that story will not have a happy ending. If there are any guys that are still reading this blog, please confirm this for me. My brother agreed with this assessment, but an N of 1 is not really good science.
  • Do not recycle relationships. It's a rare thing indeed to meet a married couple who recount their courtship with tales of "so then, we broke up because he wasn't ready to settle down, and then we got back together a year later because he still hadn't found anyone better than me. And then we got married!" Life is not a romantic comedy, people.
  • There's a fine line between showing affection for a guy's dog and making it painfully obvious that you've got a bad case of baby fever.
I'm just saying. Except I didn't. Some times I think the only reason I still have any friends is that I manage to bite my tongue for 9 out of 10 things that pop into my head. One real quote did come out of my mouth last night though. My friend was bemoaning that she had no one to take home, and I said, "Hey, there's always someone to take home. There is a dude that stands on the corner of my street who would be more than happy to come home with you, I'm sure." Just goes to show that occasionally, one of those inappropriate remarks slips through the filtering mechanism.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

running down corridors

on blueberry hill

I'm going to get kicked off of flickr for poor photography skills any day now. In the meanwhile, here's my way of snapping out of a funk. I rushed home last night to make use of the other goods I had purchased from Rainbow Grocery- blueberries and meyer lemons. Meyer lemons are those rare things that I actually believe are worth the extra cost. I spit in the general direction of the organic moniker. But there is a point to Meyers. Their zest somehow packs more citrus than your average lemon. And if you cut a Meyer in half and squeeze, you get more juice than you would out of three normal lemons from a Mission bodega (i.e. the back of someone's truck). A little experimental tinkering, and the next thing I knew, I had a batch of lemon-blueberry scones on my hands. That stuff on top is just sprinkled sugar. Not maple sugar- Anna, your suggestion is currently under advisement at casa brimful (despite my dislike of baking raisins into anything). At any rate, I don't know how people turn out blueberry scones frequently- it was quite the task to knead this dough without pulverizing those ever important berries.

After making scones, I ate a big pile of crow, since a woman was not, in fact, named as the next Supreme Court nominee. It gives me a headache to think about Roberts, so instead, I'll just point you towards an excellent Sarah Vowell piece in today's NYT about Montana, Ohio and election correction. I can't think about politics for an extended amount of time, which is why I will never be a lawyer or host a political blog or write like Sarah Vowell. Actually, there are lots of reasons that I will never write like Sarah Vowell. For example, she can write. Anyway, the current state of the government just feels too hopeless. Just wake me up when there's a revolution, and I'll represent.

As part of the blues-killing productivity burst of yesterday, I went for my first run in... well, in recent memory. Up until Macchu Picchu, I had been torturing myself on Stairmaster on a highly irregular basis. The run was great, but I almost fell off the treadmill at one point. You see, my gym's cardio room has a wall of televisions, and they're always tuned to the worst channels/shows imaginable. And since I have ADD, it wasn't enough that I had my iPod mini blasting Cake and was getting to my target heart rate. No, I had to peruse the sea of craptacular television programming. FoxNews, check. Man, reading the ticker on FoxNews alone is pretty entertaining. Lousy infomercial, check. Wait... what is this show? Maybe this is that show called Big Brother. That's what I have to assume, since people are pacing around a house self-importantly, but aren't actually going anywhere. I can avoid reality television everywhere, and then the gym slams this on me. Luckily, I can't hear what they're saying, but some dude looks like he's about to pounce on some woman. And I don't mean that in a sexually predatory manner. I mean, it looked like he was about to throw down with her. Classy. Hey... wait a minute. That dude looks suspiciously sepia in nature. Holy... his name is Kaysar. A wiki search this morning reveals that his name is actually Kaysar Ridha. You know, some times, you don't yearn for brown representation on the tele so much. Updated: Kaysar may actually be from Iraq, so I might be talking out the wrong orifice. And what a shock that would be.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

words are very unnecessary

While reading Maddox's most recent diatribe yesterday, I realized I'm part of the problem. The larger problem is that I don't wholly disagree with most of his gripes with (cringe) blogging. Still. I figure as long as I don't take any of this very seriously, be thankful for the handful of people who find some slight amusement from these words, and use it as a place to write just for the sake of writing, then there's no harm done. I do feel badly for clogging. But I got to meet two really nice people in person out of it so far, and count a number of people as friends even though I've never actually met them. So. Someday I will come out of the closet. I can now use that term in every regard, since the Suitable One recently pointed out that, by not being married or not being in a particular rush to get married, I may count myself amongst the South Asian Queer. I knew there was a reason I feel so at home here in San Francisco.

My judgment has been for crap lately. The last two weeks, I have been in a real whine-fest about the perfect storm that seems to have become my life. But I've started to wonder if I'm not bringing it upon myself. Most people try to counteract unhappiness with happiness. That is a normal reaction; mine often involves trying to heap on more misery. I can't help wondering if I haven't been making a mess of things lately just to stir the already brewing pot, pushing it all to some critical point where the dam can't hold anymore.

One bad judgment call- I decided to hike Sweeney Ridge on Saturday. SP and I knew nothing about it beforehand, only that we wanted to get some fresh air on such a nice day. We didn't pay attention to all the reports about heat waves in the area, because, in San Francisco, there's always a place where you can find solace. Unfortunately, Sweeney Ridge is not that place. It's completely exposed, and worse yet, most of the trail is paved. Paved. I thought I was going to spontaneously combust a few times.

Luckily, SP took over the decision-making from there and took me to Rainbow Grocery. I love it there, and even though it's actually quite close to my place, I don't go very often. I have real trouble with restraint there, and I always walk out feeling mugged. Basically, if you put me in front of a row of ten types of sugar and flour in bins, I'll convince myself that a) I'm a professional baker and b) I need everything in each one of those bins. This time, I managed to rationalize that I had to have maple sugar. What am I going to do with this maple sugar? I have no clue. Suggestions welcome. Since I managed to keep my spending relatively in check, I congratulated myself by splurging on blood oranges. The result of this indulgence is the posted picture. Yes, I know I can't take a photograph to save my life, thanks for noticing. But let me tell you, it was delicious.

Here's my unpopular rant for the day- it really annoys me that the Supreme Court justice nomination process is so biased. I don't mean liberal/conservative leanings. I'm talking about something more basic. Prior to Sandra Day O'Connor's retirement announcement, speculation was rampant about the next Supreme Court nominee, likely to replace Rehnquist. At the time, most of the nominees under discussion were men. Now, all of a sudden, because it turns out to be O'Connor who's saying sayonara, the nominee is likely to be a woman. I find that discouraging. It's not that I don't want the next nominee to be a woman. But that woman should have been on the list before the O'Connor news. It's ridiculous that we make such a show of having women and minorities in positions in government when it's done in this way- it just makes it all the more obvious that it's appeasement of a kind. Grr.

Dude, this is exactly the sort of rambling that would get me in big trouble in Maddox's book. Oh well, apologies- but then again, no one's forcing you to read this. Hell, I don't even read it half the time.

Friday, July 15, 2005

with knots I've got yet to untie

For the first time in about a month, my computer is working without issues. I realize that, just by having typed that, I probably just contracted some sort of sasser virus. I see an iBook in my future... and the future's so bright, I gotta wear shades. As if that little reference weren't reason for shame enough, should I bury my head in the sand for enjoying Shakira? It's okay as long as I only listen to her songs in Spanish, right? But when I hear no solo de pan vive el hombre, y no de excusas vivo yo... somehow in Spanish, it doesn't sound like cheese to me.

When I was in graduate school, I remember often getting discouraged on the topic of timing. I'd curse my luck that all the great discoveries had all been made. This, of course, was not the case, even in the relatively fully evolved science I was studying. In fact, the easy discoveries had been made. And even that is disingenuous. Let me get specific. I was an organic chemist at the time, and I remember reading journal articles from the 1940s and 1950s, and thinking this sh*t is not fair. People could get published just for turning a carboxylic acid into an ester back then. Imagine the things I could have done, I'd bemoan! I could have published a dozen articles in a year, instead of slaving away for a piddly publication in some obscure journal of chemistry in Tanzania or some such.

Of course, you can see the flaw in all this nonsensical whining. If I had actually been a researcher in the 1940s, I would have had 10% of the tools I had in graduate school. I also would have had 10% of the knowledge that I had from my graduate education. It would have seemed like feeling around in the dark, or, worse yet, relying solely on chance. Mix A + B together, hope for the best. Assuming I could have even managed to make an ester from a carboxylic acid, how would I have known that I had been successful? Half the means for characterization were nonexistent at the time.

Some times, I get similarly disheartened when I read articles like this NYT one, about all the recent advances in cancer treatment. I have this tendency to sigh and think ah, so all the big discoveries have been uncovered. But that is a fundamental flaw in good scientific thinking. It's true that in the past few years, some amazing advances have been made in oncology. But many of those advances were made by people who refused to accept that all the great discoveries had been fully explored. They built on the knowledge they had at their disposal, and upon that foundation came the next so-called breakthrough. Things evolve, become more complex over time, but so does the human mind and the mind's ability to solve even tougher problems. I have to believe that, or I will have to give up on everything, and I'm not feeling quite so nihilistic today.

Of course, another thing noted in that article is the high price of available therapies, which is a problem that I keep seeing in different avatars lately. But, I only ever hear complaining about it. Complaining about copayments, and insurance costs, and availability of medicines. And yet, what is tangibly being done about it? And what is the solution? Especially in acute illnesses, like cancer. Who knows... maybe that is where the real, next big discovery lies.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

you can't buy one at the mall

dressed up for free drinks and family greetings

This is undoubtedly the lousiest job my camera and I have ever done at capturing a beautiful thing. Envelopes are the order of the day, however. So are congratulations, to:

  • LS! She better, at the very least, blog a little something about the experience of having a wedding in India!
  • Anna, who is in hot demand on the job market. Ah, who are we kidding- and everywhere else too.
  • Veeny, who got an Emmy nom this morning for his smouldering glances on Lost. Let's also congratulate Yoda, erm, Terry O'Quinn. The eye candy wins out this time, Yoda, I'm sorry.
  • That famous dude I saw in SFO the other day? Also a recipient of an Emmy nom. Why didn't I run into him today?!? Today, I would have had something to say to him. What would that something have been? "Let's hug it out b*tch!" Just kidding. Maybe.
Now that the happy happy joy joy portion of the program is over, let me find something to fume over again. Oh yeah, how about this old chestnut... what do you do when you've just fired a radio crew for sexually harassing comments? Apparently, you hire someone who's already been fired for making even more offensive remarks. And you do this in the Bay Area. That sound you heard was my brain exploding again.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

a heart that wants to settle and then runs away

Want to know what got me through the day? A wink from the suitable one. And the comments section. Why isn't it July 31st yet?!?

I take that back, on the other hand. I need time, I am running woefully behind schedule on everything. Which is fine. Another benefit of experience- panic ebbs a bit when you've seen the surge of stress rise higher than this, and survived it just fine.

If you are an iTunes user, it should be noted that you can download Athlete's Wires this week for free. You know, if you're into pseudo-emo-WB-esque music. Which, apparently, I am.

NPR's Morning Edition caught on to the MTV Desi news this morning. It also gave Dhamaal and (cringe) 1015 Folsom a shout-out. Why couldn't they have been playing at Club Six when they covered the story? Oh, and last night, tired from my flight from Seattle, I decided to check out what kind of nonsense MTV could pollute me with. Never underestimate MTV when it comes to causing brain damage. I was altered, people. The Real World was on, and I couldn't even keep my attention focused on it, so I walked out of my living room. I was tooling around in the kitchen when I heard something horrifically inappropriate. MIA's Galang... juxtaposed with The Real World: Austin. The hard wiring in my brain had considerable trouble with that one. Does not compute. Must self-destruct. It must be South Asian music month or something.

Now I must go brush up the dreaded CV. I am about 85% certain that a major move lies in my not-too-distant future. There remain things to work out, and there is the whole matter of knowing I need to do this, but don't necessarily want to do this. But what does that mean anyway? It's a cop-out, I suppose, to say I have to do something. I have free will, no one is forcing me to do anything. It's the conflict that comes with knowing that you have to do something that may cause some unhappiness in the short term but will lead to the right conclusion eventually. It's a silly way of saying that there are some trade-offs I'm going to have to make. Still, here I am at 85%. That must be some sort of tipping point.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

what's so funny about

Turns out that whole posting from Seattle thing didn't go quite as I planned. Namely, I had yet another hard drive crash that locked me out of the computer. I think it might finally be time to suck it up and buy my very own laptop. The depths of my laziness are really astounding at times. The computer is still acting like that little girl from The Exorcist, but I feel the need to risk it.

Seattle passed by like a blur. This is the curse of business travel- you can go to really lovely places, and in some ways it's worse than having never gone. You know there is so much else you could be enjoying, but instead, you're stuck at a stuffy dinner making small talk with some suit. I suppose I should not complain. It was a short trip, and I had both a lovely Grey Goose & tonic, and an Oban Scotch neat, on the company dime. Being a corporate slave has its momentary perks.

Here's another, giddier reason I cannot complain about my business trip. For all my kvetching about making it to the airport on time, it turns out my flight was delayed anyway. But no, people, this is not a b*tchfest about United, because my flight delay had a great side effect. I walked smack into an actor who I lurve. Still, encountering famous people always creates a dilemma for me. What is one supposed to do? It's not in me to gush and start yelping fangirl-esque. And I'm certainly not the sort who walks up to random people and strikes up conversation. The famous person is famous because of his work, yes, and that gives the temporary illusion that you know him in some way. But when you see the famous person face to face, you realize you don't know him from Jack. Anyway, the end result was that I ran smack into the dude, we made eye contact, he gave me the yes, I am him, and no, please don't make a scene look, and I continued on to the coworker conglomeration at the flight gate. Best coworker reaction? "Yeah, he looked familiar to me, but he was dressed like a hobo, so I didn't think too much about him."

Oh... do you want to know who this actor is? No one seems to know him by name when I make mention of him, so I will just pay tribute to some of his accomplishments:
  • "Let's hug it out b*tch"
  • A scene in the film Singles where he plays a grocery store checkout clerk.
  • The one saving grace in craptacular films such as Serendipity, Chasing Liberty, etc.
  • Makes you feel like John Cusack might still have a little Lloyd Dobler in him.
  • The short-lived, lovely Cupid.
Okay, I have to admit, I did have the slight temptation to jump him at the airport. My friend A remarked that I have no taste in men. Whatever.

Monday, July 11, 2005

get me to the airport, put me on the plane

Can I print a retraction? I would like to withdraw most of my ranting, b*tch fest of Friday. Here's why:
  • For all my griping about the subject, I did voluntarily go see a film on Saturday. And it was exactly what I needed to do that evening. The film- Me and you and everyone we know. The verdict- meh. My friend and I were in jacka** mode when we were walking out of the theater and had this exchange- Her: So, I guess if you are really persistent and stalk someone, eventually, you will live happily ever after with him.Me: And I guess if you are a young single woman who is attractive, the only men worth falling for are recently separated fathers who have a habit of lighting themselves on fire. In actuality, the movie was not that bad, but it was definitely a little too precious for me on that particular evening. You have to suspend quite a bit of disbelief to buy that the main characters in this film could ever even exist.
  • As much as I would like to rail about it, I have to admit that it's not fair to indict someone for choosing to turn down the friendship option. When I stopped frothing at the mouth, I knew I had been on both sides of this exchange, and hadn't always said "Yay! Yes, let's be friends." There is the matter of wounded pride, and that's a serious obstacle. And then there is initial awkwardness, and perhaps imbalance. Tricky to navigate. As much as I always want to keep everyone I like connected to me in some way, I have to respect a decision to break that connection. I can't find fault with it, as tempting as that would be. Sigh.
I'm going to write more later today, from a hotel room in Seattle. I have been to Seattle twice, and both were such memorable, nostalgic trips. Today's hop will not be anything like that, since it's a business trip. Also, I am cutting it closer than I ever have before. The company has decided we should get to the airport at 12 for a 12:50 flight. I would like to claim that I am a carefree sort, and that I am rolling with the punches. I would also like to claim that I'm the lead singer of The Donnas. So, yeah, I'm pretty much sweating bullets.

Friday, July 08, 2005

I could blow through the ceiling if I just turn and run

there are two colours in my head

Guess what this picture is all about, and you may discover something absurd about me. It's from Peru, and that's all I will say about it. If you are the first to guess correctly, you'll win something (it might be a thumbs up from me, but I promise it will be something). I've helped immensely by taking a thoroughly craptastic photograph.

This has really turned into one of those weeks that I would gladly flush down the toilet and never recollect again. It feels as though everything has went wrong. It makes me feel like I just want to cry oh, hang it all and just walk away. I used to dream about that all the time as an adolescent incidentally. Day dreams about just walking away. Like, one day, you're walking to school and you just keep walking, past the bus stop, past your road, out of town. And you never look back. I had a good excuse back then. Living in the middle of nowhere can have that effect. But now, have I become such a nomad that restlessness tempts me for no good reason at all?

Perhaps it is just a bad week, and this feeling that there is nothing holding me here, keeping me grounded here. San Francisco's one downfall is exactly that- it's a place filled with transients. Dependability is a prize of which we dare not dream here. Even if you meet someone dependable, they still might be leaving town the next month. And I have not much right to whine about this, because I might turn out to be as guilty as the next San Franciscan. With this unbearable lightness of being, I could very well float away at any time.

Two random notes that have backstory that I am too cranky to explain at the moment:

  • I have nothing against movies, or movies on a Saturday night. But going to a movie is one of the least interactive things one can do. And if your idea of an active social outing is going to a movie, I think I would rather curl up with a book and a vodka tonic at home.
  • XY's, if I am offering my friendship to you, you are getting the best part of me. Take me up on it, jacka**! Trust me, as a girlfriend/potential interest, I'm just your average, run-of-the-mill neurotic psychopath. I have references who can attest to the value of making the right choice, seriously. You will never hear me say the phrase, "Let's just be friends," because that would imply there is something small about friendship.
Okay... I think I better go find some Grey Goose before I alienate the three remaining readers of this drivel.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

billy would cry when he thought of the future

Days like this remind me of the sheltered existence in which I live. One of my friends came into work today and was debilitated with shock, because a gas leak had caused an explosion in a house down the street from him. He had not been listening to the news this morning, so this explosion was the cause of all his bewilderment. He and I live in the same world, a world that cannot grasp certain concepts.

I could grasp the idea for maybe a year, that year following that day in New York. Approaching things with healthy suspicion, taking for granted swarms of police officers at major intersections. At first, all of this was cause for feeling unsteady, feeling that the world was coming undone. But at some point over the course of that year, it started to feel like a new reality.

And yet, somewhere along the way, the world reverted. My world reverted, I mean. As if taking off my shoes at the airport meant that everything could go back to what it was. The danger felt again distant. Cause for concern, certainly, but it was happening somewhere else. I live in a small world, a little sphere, and in that sphere, the same realizations recur, reinstate themselves, and then recede away in a constant cycle. When I have visited other countries, I could see the other world, the real one, the one where everyone else lives, but it was, in some ways, like watching it from a bubble. Years ago, in such a bubble when I was visiting India, I remember a cousin remarking that we couldn't take the train that afternoon. I asked why, and he casually replied, "Bomb."

I do not mean to detract from what happened in London at all. Quite the opposite, actually. I am simply marvelling that, while I can whine away in horror about how I may or may not have destroyed a deer, thousands of miles away explosions devastate a city- and the media reports all have this odd sentiment running through them, that this tragedy was not entirely shocking. See, in my world, here, our government would never admit that a terrorist attack was inevitable, even if that was a cold, hard fact. And it's that simple obstinancy that keeps me living in my alternate reality, living under the premise that I am safe. And it's days like today, moments like this one, that make me simultaneously relieved to live in that oblivion and realize that I might never comprehend the unsteady ground that so many brave souls walk on day by day. I want to write that I understand and I am sorry, but it's just not accurate. I don't understand, and I am sorry.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

but I think it's about forgiveness

Warning: much whining may follow. I have held my tongue (or should I write "sat on my fingers" or something more accurate) here for a few days because I have been gloomy. So the floodgates are about to unleash. Ahem. Well, I'll try to keep it to just a crack in the dam if I can.

It started off so well, this weekend. Since I was engrossed in other books, or busy drowning myself in songs and poems, it took me until Friday to finally delve into the much recommended Stiff by Mary Roach, a book that has been collecting dust on my bookshelf for the last three months or so. Some people have mentioned this book's genius already, but I am afraid I must join the chorus. You would never guess a book about cadavers could be so engaging. I told a friend about it on Saturday and she gave me a pitiful you really need to get out more look. Whatever.

Saturday only seemed to confirm it was going to be a lovely weekend. Much grilling was done, and sweet corn consumed. And mojitos in bulk. Then, an odd juxtaposition. As my fabulous friend JP muddled mint leaves, a pack of hooligans walked into the party. I mean a pack of play that funky music white boys, seriously. Why was it a jarring juxtaposition? They walked in with brown bags containing forties. WTF?!? As if they were just wandering through the neighborhood, drinking up some Colt45s, and thought hey, let's check out that party Ry told us about. They were trashed, and trashy, but since we had all had a sufficient number of mojitos by this time, we found it very amusing.

Something about walking home on a summer evening slightly off kilter agrees with me. If someone had asked me to dance on the sidewalk, I might have said yes on Saturday night. I might be chided for walking home alone so late with a many-mojito buzz, but I enjoyed it immensely. I might have been humming during my journey. I have been told by friends that I am known to skip when I have had enough vodka in my system. Anyone who really knows me knows that is highly uncharacteristic behavior for me. But I can tell you that, had I consumed maybe one more mojito, I might have skipped home that evening.

But alas, Sunday it all came crashing down. Another lovely, sunny day, and the promise of a hike at Tilden Park awaited. How could such a day be bad? As I was driving to the park, neither I nor my friend MG took note of how overgrown the brush on the side of the road was. Suddenly, so suddenly that MG thought a rock had been hurtled from a tree, something smashed my windshield. I slammed my brakes on. My stomach fell. I knew what it was, instinctively, but I had not actually seen it. MG was freaking out, asking what we hit. I ruefully replied, "a deer." She did not believe me. I looked up at my rearview mirror, and saw the poor thing, limping, terrified. My car was the enemy, and now the deer was struggling to get as far from it as it could. We got out of the car to see how badly the deer had been hurt, but managed to scare it into the woods with our concern. MG kept chanting that we needed to get help for the deer, but neither of us were getting a cell phone signal from the park road.

So I drove my shattered car to the nearest gas station. The windshield buckled, but it did not collapse- this served as very little consolation. We called the police station and animal control in hopes of helping the deer. I had already started to replay the impact over and over in my head. It was so sudden, but could I have stopped it? I got out of the car and walked around, surveying the damage. No damage to the front, no dents. Just a smashed windshield, and a snapped side mirror. The deer had literally leapt onto the windshield of my car. I knew it was not my fault, but it was the first time I had brought harm to another living, breathing thing larger than a salamander. I've never even killed a mouse. I sat around brooding, while MG tried to tell me about the circle of life or something that I completely ignored.

And then, I get this oh-so-sensitive reaction from the tow truck driver my insurance company connected me with over the phone: "So you took out Bambi, did ya?" He also called me "kid," which was equal parts annoying and amusing, because I am pretty sure he is the "kid" and I am his elder. But I will take "kid" over "ma'am" any day of the week, twice on Sundays when deer have been maimed by my Honda Civic.

I got home and went into penance mode the next morning. Somehow I thought if I could bake things to feed my brother and his out-of-town visitor, it would serve as some offering to counteract the bad I had done that day. A batch of strawberry shortcake and a peanut butter cake later, I still felt a sense of dissatisfaction. I dropped the goods off to my brother, and his friends looked at me like an alien when I declined staying for dinner.

Why was I so shaken up? I read this article about Paul Farmer today and I understood why, to some extent. It's bad enough that I feel my life is not serving much of a purpose to others. Fine- I am trying really hard to figure out a way to change that, but for the timebeing that's the reality of my existence. But now I am actually inflicting harm on others?!? That is too much, that is unacceptable.

In a final gesture of trying to make up for my wrongdoing, I did something unthinkable. Something that is the antithesis of me. Perhaps it was Maisnon's post about auntie behavior that brought it out in me. Whatever the cause, I actually called my mom yesterday and got this dude's email address for my friend MG. The dude is an old family friend- I haven't actually even seen him in years, but I get reports from my mom about him. I told MG one story about him and she was convinced that they have to meet. Normally, I would have rolled my eyes at this. And yet, I can understand the sentiment. There are some actions that are crush-worthy, that reveal something in one person that resonates in another. And I have to commend MG for having the guts to actually act on that impulse. I have blog crushes all the time, I swoon over posts, but I have certainly never acted on them (well, okay, if you're of the XX persuasian, I might have acted on them).

There's just one problem: I have no idea how to do this matchmaking bullsh*t. Give me tips, yo! I have this dude's email address now, and just what do I write to him? That my friend has a crush on him? Isn't that a little high-school-ish? Complicating factors even more? They live 3000 miles apart! I can't even suggest they meet for a casual drink, or that we meet for a casual drink, because he lives on the other side of the country. I am flabbergasted, and yet, this is so me in some ways. The impulse is well-meant, but I have no clue what I'm doing or how to actually do it. As my brother and I would say, "Score one for the Dumbass family." Except that we pronounce it "Dumas." Because we're dorks like that.

Friday, July 01, 2005

what about your friends?

Two things can be concluded based on today's post, and this week's posts in general: 1) I read too much NYT, and 2) I am a bad daughter.

Still, I took a great deal of comfort in reading about a study that suggests something I've thought to be true about aging. The NYT reported this week that this study suggests that close friends and confidantes are more important than close family ties in increasing longevity. To sum it up:
"By differentiating between friends, children and other relatives," the authors write, "we were able to show that it is friends, rather than children or relatives, which confer most benefit to survival later in life."
Now, I would certainly not go so far as to conclude that family has no responsibility to their elderly members. This article did not necessarily assuage any of my classic Indian daughter guilt about my parents' aging.

Both my brother and I live thousands of miles from my parents. While my parents would certainly like us to live closer in proximity, my mother is vehemently opposed to entertaining any notion of moving to where we are. Her reasoning is as follows:
  • "These kids are not reliable- one day, we move one place, next day, they decide to go somewhere else"
  • Her friends are more important.
Now, that second rationale might seem heartless or unfair. But it is true. My mother is of a pragmatic nature. She knows a daughter and son are beholden to her. They can see her twice a year, or every week, but they will always be her children. Friends, on the other hand, are a different case. At my parents' age, it is not a simple task to move somewhere new and make new friends. They have a rhythm with their friends. They have lived in the same community for over 20 years. There are things to do every weekend, there are people to call if help is needed for this or that. Moreover, my mom knows the difference between someone spending time with you and someone hanging out with you. Her children spend time with her, her friends hang out with her. The latter is inherently less stressful, because no one feels they are doing the other a favor.

That is why my parents will live in EBF until the end of time. And I am equal parts chagrined and relieved.

Also, if and when I hit 60 or so, I'm doing a survey of my good friends, identifying a geographic hot spot of them, and planting my creaky a** down.

In the normal off-topic vein: great, so we have Bollywood to blame for Fergie & company. Personally, I stopped listening when Fergie joined because the band started to suck, not because she's white.