Monday, June 30, 2008

No Rushdie. Some Fact Checker Really Screwed Up On This One.

Here was the publicity blurb, as written in CityPaper:

Salman Rushdie discusses and signs copies of The Enchantress of Florence. Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Avenue NW. Mon., 6/30, at 7 p.m. Free.

As you can see, that's why I thought it was free and I could go.

Luckily (or unluckily) I decided to confirm this morning on the Politics and Prose website. Just in case, you know, the newspaper was wrong.

It was more than wrong. It was wrong in every possible aspect.

From the official site:

Monday, June 30, 7 p.m.



600 I Street NW, Washington, DC 20001

(Random House, $26)
The Guardian calls Rushdie’s new novel “a wonderful tale, full of follies and enchantments.” The master of magic realism weaves the sensibilities of East and West, of history and fable, in a story that combines the realm of Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great with the Florence of the Medicis and Machiavelli. This is a ticketed event. Two tickets are free with book purchase at P&P, or cost $6 each. Contact P&P at 202-364-1919 or

I feel like I should be playing "Spot Six Differences!"

So, since the lecture was neither at the place it was advertised to be, nor was it free. I... um... didn't go. I actually started out in the direction of the event with the idea that I would sneak in, or take the place of a no-show, but a thunderstorm stopped me in my tracks and left me huddling underneath a bus awning for about an hour.

Ironically, there were probably a handful of no-shows due to weather, so if I had only been able to make it...

But a person like Sir Salman probably wears better in fantasy than in reality, so we'll say it's for the best that I didn't get to meet him. ^__^

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Hearing Rushdie Speak Tomorrow

Sir Salman is giving a lecture and book-signing tomorrow evening, and I'm all about being there.

I don't think I'm going to buy the book, though. It's a shame, because the book itself would be the thing to bring me closest (in proximity) to Mr. Rushdie, and he would, you know, write my name! with his own hand!!!!

But I flipped through Enchantress of Florence today in a bookstore and thought "no way am I shelling out $30 for this." Never mind that Rushdie went on the Colbert Report and said it was about magical wizard-women and had lots and lots of sex between its covers.

I think it's because I looked into the book and thought "this is just like Dangerous Beauty," which is a movie that I never really liked.

And I know it's not really like Dangerous Beauty, that it's much more complicated and weaves in Mughal India and a lot of other stuff, and that really I'm making up an excuse not to buy the book because I don't want to pay $30 for it in hardback. (Still poor, peeps.)

If I had my copy of Midnight's Children, the one I dragged across the entire length of India in a series of miserably shabby Sleeper II trains (and one nice shatabdi), I would absolutely flout convention and insist Rushdie sign that. Sentimental value FTW!

Of course, considering Rushdie's reputation, I could ask him to sign a body part.

The more interesting question: will his son be there? *__^

A Tale of Two Sublets

I'm getting a sublet to pass the time between now and when I get a "real" apartment (after I get the real job and start making some real money).

I met with two different sublessors last week. Both on the same day, in fact. Interestingly, I was originally scheduled to meet with them in the opposite order of when I actually met them -- which, as it turns out, was fortunate.

It was fortunate because Sublessor 1, originally scheduled to be Sublessor 2, was absolutely perfect. I had, it seems, finally found my smart people. It's a house full of law students and policy wonks and theorists, and we clicked so well that one of them said "even if you don't sublet here, do you want to come to our parties?"

It's nice to feel like I fit somewhere.

Immediately after meeting Sublessor 1, I set off to meet Sublessor 2. Originally, of course, scheduled to be the first sublet on my list.

Thank goodness it wasn't.

Had I not already technically decided to sublet with the smart team, I would have been horribly disillusioned by what I saw at that second sublet. To start, the people I was scheduled to meet gave me the wrong metro stop, and then, after I arrived, told me they were totally sorry but could I backtrack a few stops, 'cause it turns out that's where they actually were?

When I arrived and saw the people I was to meet, I almost walked away. I knew there was no way I would be subletting from them. Still, in the interest of "not wanting to be rude," I went with them on a tour of their place; a tour that ended up involving a half-hour ride by bus (something not mentioned in the ad -- I suppose "close to the metro" is a relative term) and, worse, a nearly 45-minute wait for the bus after the tour was over.

To sum up the visit: there were pictures and other objects strategically placed throughout the apartment to hide the places where people had punched through the walls during way-cool exciting parties. In other words, this was an apartment where a person (or multiple people) had punched through a wall more than once.

Thank goodness I had already found the first sublet, or I might have felt compelled to take this one just because OMG I MIGHT NEVER FIND ANOTHER SUBLET WHO WANTS ME... etc. etc. etc.

But, luckily, I found the smart people.

I knew they were out there somewhere. ^__^

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Twitter Widget Without @???

Quick question:

Is there a widget which will allow me to post my tweets on teh blog without showing the reply tweets (the ones that begin with @soandso...)????

Twitter's official widget won't let me do that.

What else is out there?

Friday, June 27, 2008

A Perfect Evening

Tonight was the best night I've had since coming to DC.

The weather was beautiful and the sky was pretty and the architecture of all the buildings in Dupont Circle with their turrets and towers were just fun to explore, and I had a nice meal in a cute Greek restaurant with a glass of white wine, and a bird sat next to me on a blue-painted fence and watched me, head cocked to one side, as I ate my dinner.

And afterwards I walked around for a while, and sat by the fountain and eavesdropped on two middle-aged men trying to remember how the rules of Pig Latin worked (they got it wrong), and wandered into stores and looked at these weird shoes that have soles like rocking-chair balances and claim to add "+9 Resistance To Your Abs, Thighs, And Butt!" (I wanted to take out my pen and add "And Ogres!" to the sign... but resisted. +9 resisted.)

And I kept thinking that, even though I don't yet have a real job, I'm so glad I picked DC -- if only because when I look up, I can see the sky. When I lived in Minneapolis, the buildings were too tall. The streets were always in shadow.

But the best part of the whole adventure was that, for the first time since my arrival, Anne was dressed like the other girls. I was wearing my black linen dress, the one that, where I come from, would have been reserved for "special occasions" but is, of course, de rigueur for the young women in the city. I wasn't walking around in a man's white undershirt and blue jeans cuffed at the ankles. And that, my friends, made all the difference.

Zorba's Cafe: Lovely Atmosphere. Only Eat The Hot Food.

It started with a craving for dolmatas.

Then feta.

Then olives.

I suppose my body was minus its necessary quota of olive oil and garlic. I don't know. Either way I found myself at the outside of a charming blue-and-white painted building: Zorba's Cafe.

The price was right; $4 for appetizers, $6 for entrees. $3 for a glass of wine. The service was a little unexpected; although both the inner dining room and the outdoor terrace were set up like a "real" restaurant (and were quite lovely to look at, delightful to know), the cafe itself was a fast-food place in every sense of the word. To get anything to eat, you had to walk through the dining room to the kitchen, place your order, and watch it handed back to you (instantly) on a cafeteria tray.

Not knowing what was good (and being a little unnerved by the cafeteria trays), I followed my "when in doubt, sampler platter please!" rule.

And this is what I got:

Parts of the meal were great. The falafel was fine, and the hot bean soup thing in the northeast corner was fantastic (internet says it's called fasolia and Zorba's sells it by the bowl). The hummus and tzatziki were also very good, although the hummus had clearly been thinned out a bit.

The salad was a cheap restaurant salad, blah lettuce with feta thrown on the top. No big deal.

The worst parts of the meal were the dolmatas and the spanakopitta. Both of them had that chilled, clammy, "I was cooked three days ago and I've been sitting in a refrigerator ever since" taste.

Would I recommend? Well, the cafe was so cute and the night was so beautiful and the white wine helped smooth everything out, so... yes. I really enjoyed myself at Zorba's, despite the chilly dolmatas.

So when you go, choose judiciously! My guess is you'll do better ordering hot dishes than cold ones.

And sit out on the terrace if you can. The birds will come right up to you and say hello!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Stolen Meme: The Big Read

Krisan at The Publishing Curve took up a meme related to the NEA's "Big Read" project.

Even though she didn't tag me, I'm stealing it.

Here are the rules (from Krisan's post):

The National Endowment for the Arts has an initiative you may have heard of called the Big Read. According to the website, its purpose is to "restore reading to the center of American culture." They estimate that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they've printed.

For fun, let's see how many of the top 100 books we've actually read. My list is below. How well did you do? Have you read more than 6?

Here's what you do:

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE. [Since I can't figured out how to underline using Blogger, I've put these books in square brackets.]
4) Reprint this list on your own blog.

So... here we go!

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 [His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman]
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 [Little Women - Louisa M Alcott]
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy (sorry, got my complete Hardy fix with The Return of the Native)
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 [Complete Works of Shakespeare]
15 [Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier]
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 [Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell]
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 [War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy] (almost done counts!)
25 [The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams]
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 [Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll]
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 [Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy]
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens (read half -- never made it through)
33 [Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis]
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis (why do they have LWW and the entire Chronicles on the list?)
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown (wtf is this doing on here?)
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 [Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery]
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 [The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood]
49 [Lord of the Flies - William Golding]
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 [A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth]
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 [Brave New World - Aldous Huxley] (read this, like, six jillion times in HS)
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold (ashamed to admit it)
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding
69 [Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie]
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 [The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett]
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 [The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath]
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - A. S. Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 [The Color Purple - Alice Walker]
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom (again, embarrassed to admit)
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 [Les Miserables - Victor Hugo]

43 out of 100.

Who's next?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Caveat To The Below

I've had enough people PM me to say "don't be an idiot, you have to tailor your responses to the job being offered, e.g. if the job is all-filing-all-the-time then you say I filed this, and this, and then my supervisor gave me more things to file!"

I know that. ^__^

The mock interview wasn't, at least to my understanding, for any particular type of position.

Which is probably where I went wrong in the first place. When the agent said "we're going to run a mock interview," I should have responded with "what's the position I'm testing my interview strategies on?"


Monday, June 23, 2008

The Other Thing The Agent Told Me

After our mock interview, my newest career agent sat me down.

"Look," she said, "I've got some admin and EA positions I could try and plug you in for. But... I don't think they'd be right for you in the long run. Sure, you could do the work, but you're an intellectual-type, and you would do best in an intellectual job."

Then she looked at me.

"Have you ever considered being an editor at a law firm?"

Fo shizz she said that.

Turns out she had an admin-editing position at a law firm she wanted me to interview for. And I started bouncing up and down on my chair with excitement, all "OMG you wouldn't believe it but I did this thing with the proofreaders' books and spent all weekend learning about how to do this and it's just the kind of thing I've always been looking for etc. etc. etc."

The interview, with the firm itself, was set for lunch, the next day (e.g. tomorrow).

Late this afternoon, I got a call. Turns out the firm had just decided to hire someone else.

So I went from very excited to very disappointed.

Still, something to consider; that this agent was just able to look at me and say "this is where you fit."


Counterintuitive Interview Advice

I met today with an "upper-level" staffing agency (a staffing agency to the stars!), which specializes not in any-old placement, but in placing people in the best of all possible jobs.

Part of the longish "get to know you" process was a mock interview.

The agent asked me what I had done at my last job.

I said that I had started out doing what could be considered traditional admin work, e.g. filing, scheduling, phone screening, and then my employer "discovered my talents" and put me to work writing, editing, creating promotional copy, etc.

The agent said "You've just talked me out of wanting to hire you."

She asked me to try a different question. Picking another job from my resume, she asked me what I enjoyed best about this particular experience.

I said that I had really enjoyed the amount of responsibility I was given by my supervisor; he had let me single-handedly manage an unclaimed property search in which I called unclaimed property representatives in all 50 states and negotiated for over $13,000 in funds to be returned to the company in the space of a month-and-a-half. I finished up with how much I enjoyed getting to work independently on such a complicated project.

And she said "You've just talked me out of hiring you again."

She explained that when people staff entry-level jobs, they want candidates who are excited to do an entry-level job. "When you say that an employer discovered your talents and moved you on to something beyond making schedules and answering the phones, you tell me that you're not interested in making schedules and answering the phones. When you say you liked working independently on a complicated project, you make me wonder if you're not a team player."

She told me that the way to get an entry-level job was to only express interest in the job itself. Don't mention anything you've done in the past that isn't one of the requirements of the current job. Don't let them think you want "more" than the job requirements.

I asked her if there was ever a time to mention additional skills, either in terms of value-add or in terms of (as I had done in the first example) going "above and beyond" the original job requirements.

"Ah," she said, smiling. "That's the biggest mistake recent graduates make. They're all so accomplished, just like you, and so they want to tell employers all of the great things they've done. But to an employer, that sounds like a person who doesn't want to pay her dues. It sounds like they're saying I'm a recent graduate, where's my corner office?"

It seems to contradict other kinds of advice, (after all, every other interview guide I've read has said that the "I did XYZ, and then my supervisor saw I could handle the job and added ABC" answer is a great way to show employers that you are capable of learning-adapting-performing-giving back value), but I'll gladly change my interview style if it helps me get a job.

Has anyone ever given any of y'all this kind of advice?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

More on "Fit"

So Gaurav, who has gone off-consumption, linked me to an article by Po Bronson titled "What Should I Do With My Life?"

Interesting reading, in the middle of a job search. Especially in the middle of a search where I feel like I'll have to take the first job that is offered, simply because I can't really afford not to.

Mr. Bronson
, who rivals Studs Terkel in his continual assessment of the working world, does a variant of the old "follow-your-bliss" argument: he proposes that if everyone were able to find careers that aligned with their strengths and interests, workers would be happier and productivity and profits would skyrocket.

We are sitting on a huge potential boom in productivity -- if we could just get the square pegs out of the round holes.

He also writes:

Our economy is so vast that we don't have to grind it out forever at jobs we hate. For the most part, we get to choose.

This I find a little hard to believe because I know a lot of people who hate their jobs, and a lot of other people who wish they could be doing something different but can't find another alternative willing to hire them. (I know a lot of twentysomethings, which may be why my statistics are skewed.)

Still, he makes his point. Workers who get to use their strengths are happier. Happy workers work harder/better. Better work (should) equal more profits. Everybody wins!

At the beginning of my job search, I defined the career path I wanted as follows:

I'm not necessarily looking for a job in the fine arts, despite my degree. My goal is to find an admin or entry-level position in an organization which will allow me to use my analytical/writing skills. These seem to be the two biggest assets I have to offer an organization, and are also the parts of my current work which I find the most interesting.

With the entry-level job in hand, I'll begin to learn more about the internal structure of the organization, determine where my skill set could be most useful (and where I need to fill in the gaps in my education), and prepare myself for an eventual move up or a lateral move out.

Which means, at this point, that I'm not focusing on getting a job in a particular industry (e.g. "I want a career at a publishing house"). I'm looking at a variety of possibilities and am hoping to find an opportunity.

That's still the kind of job I hope to find. The interesting question, of course, is "what happens if I don't find it?"

I've already written a little about the idea of "fit" and how I can already tell whether or not I would fit well into a particular company. Here's the kicker: about a week ago I learned that one of my staffing agencies had submitted my resume for an entry-level editing position at a law firm. When I learned that I might be interviewing for that job (and that the interview would include an editing test), my heart quite literally leapt.

I also started "pre-working" for the job; taking editing tests online, getting books about proofreaders' marks, learning how legal documents were different from other kinds of documents, etc. All of this "work" was way-super-fun-awesome.

The law firm, unfortunately, told the staffing agency that they would only interview candidates with previous legal editing experience, so I didn't get my chance to meet them or take the editing test. Still, it was an example of a job description that felt right; that used my strengths and abilities to their best effort and that, for me, was less work than play.

So, Mr. Bronson and Mr. Mishra, there you have it. I know where I fit! I know what I want!

Now someone just help me figure out a way to get there!

Blue's Blouse

I bought a new blouse today, since I have some more interviews scheduled for next week and the blouse I had been wearing with my suit was starting to look like it had been washed too many times.

I had to buy on credit, unfortunately, because I'm still technically broke; but I was pretty lucky and found a silk blouse on the clearance rack at Ann Taylor for only $20.

The last time I went to Ann Taylor
(almost a year ago exactly), I discovered that their particular system of vanity sizing insisted I was a size 2 petite, although in every other store I'm generally around a size 4 or 6.

This time, according to my new blouse, I'm a size 0 petite.

I suppose shopping there is good for my ego, if nothing else. ^__^

Thursday, June 19, 2008


I follow the whole Brazen Careerist saga the way some people follow Paris Hilton. It's so outrageously pompous it's ridiculous, and at the same time... delicious.

Today, blogger Adam Miller writes that one can achieve primo decision-making skills (and career success) by reframing all queries around a single "yardstick" word:

Each time you find yourself trying to make a larger decision, this can serve as the yardstick by which you measure it’s alignment with how you’d like to live your life. For example, if you were thinking that your yardstick would be “balance”, each time you’re setting a goal in your life, you can refer back and ask yourself, “Does this improve my balance?” For each project you might be starting, ask, ‘Does this project help me work towards my yardstick?”

The funny thing is, as soon as I read that post, I knew what my "yardstick" was.


Smart people, smart job, smart clothing. (Sorry, am appearance-obsessed. There's this suit I saw at Macy's that I literally dream about at night.)

When I was in Minneapolis, stuffing envelopes for the insurance company, I got invited to a party. It was being given by one of my students in a continuing education class (I was teaching an Intro to Acting course at MCTC). The young man hosting the party was my age, but he had gone into journalism and was now working an entry-level job at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Most of the other people at that party were his (entry-level) colleagues; but unlike the people I saw daily at the envelope-stuffing job, these people were smart. Clever. Entertaining. And they also had smart clothing.

I left the party wondering what would have happened had I gone into journalism, instead of theatre.

There are plenty of "smart" jobs in DC, and loads of smart people. I need-want-hope-desperately-wish to find them.

The hard part is that I see them, every day. We've had a week of beautiful sunny afternoons, and so every day on my lunch break, I go and walk around the parks scattered within the DC business district.

And every day I see, scattered on the lawns of these parks, smart young people in smart clothing eating smartly-packed lunches and enjoying (no doubt) smart conversation.

The job I'm temping at right now has a "come-as-you-are" dress code, and so I slink around the edges of the parks in the same old things I wore as a graduate student.

The job I'm temping at right now will not get me where I want to be.

I don't know how to get myself into that job/that suit/that park bench/that conversation.

Adam Miller would tell me to frame everything around the query "does this get me closer towards smart?"

I would tell Adam Miller that the first step is figuring out how to find a question that will equal the answer yes.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Satanic Verses: Once You Go Brown...

It took me three months to read Midnight's Children, but I finished Satanic Verses in two days.

Maybe I don't understand it as well as I would have if I knew the Qur'an, but I feel like... well, like I got the jist of the thing. Chamcha-the-chameleon who, ironically, remains true to himself throughout his many changes; vs. Gibreel (whom Saladin mistakenly views as the "steady" one) metamorphosing himself to fit his angelic form. The "big idea" that is either fought for or forced to compromise. The central theme of the text seems to be this idea of do you change who you are or do you hold the course; and Rushdie -- or, at least, his characters -- is clearly on the side of hold the course. Saladin's essential nature doesn't change, even when he changes his nationality (and back again).

And yes, even though I don't know the Qur'an, I was able to pick out the parts that were offensive/blasphemous to certain audiences. Those sections of the book kind of... made themselves obvious.

I also noticed something of particular interest (to me, anyway): Rushdie's two prominent White characters, Allie and Pamela, are not only both completely immersed in the British-Indian world (Pamela in particular is never shown interacting with a character who isn't Indian), but they also both subscribe to the once you go brown... theory, which Rushdie just treats as something natural, without need of explanation. And that's kinda awesome.

Tomorrow I'm starting a new book. I decided this time I needed something that would last for more than two days. So I picked the longest novel I knew that I hadn't yet read.

Which means tomorrow I'm starting out on page 1 of War and Peace.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Some Books Come With Prerequisites

Right now I'm temping. Like most of the temp jobs I've had, there's some downtime. So I brought a book.

Today, three different people asked me what I was reading.

"The Satanic Verses," I said.

Person A, a young woman, looked a little weirded out. You know, like I was reading some kind of Satan book or something. I suppose it did have Satan's name in the title.

Person B, an older man who I'm guessing is a British expatriate (going by accent alone), was very excited to hear I was reading Rushdie and stopped and chatted with me for a while about language and literature until another person popped her head into the office and hinted that he get back to work.

Person C, a middle-aged man who I'm pretty sure was DBD (again, going by accent), was less impressed.

"Have you read the Qur'an?" he asked me.

"No," I said. "I'd like to. I keep thinking I should."

"Well, you shouldn't be reading this book until you've read the Qur'an," he told me, almost as if he was giving a lecture. "There's no way you can understand it until you understand what it is criticizing."

"I'm only halfway through it now," I said, valiantly defending my honor, "but it seems like the crux of the argument so far is Gibreel's knowledge that he spoke these two contradictory statements -- or our knowledge, the reader's knowledge. Rushdie's saying that what we believe about the nature of God might be based on a false assumption."

He looked at me.

"Am I right?" I asked, smiling.

He smiled back, but it was in that sort of you have no idea what you're talking about way. "Read the book if you want," he told me, "but then do some research."

And then he left.

So... there you go.

Monday, June 16, 2008

If The Shoe Fits..

About a month ago, my mom and I went shoe-shopping.

We both noticed something weird. We each bought a couple of pairs of shoes (to be specific, Mom bought me a couple of pairs of shoes), but all the shoes we bought were a half-size smaller than the shoes we usually wore.

We decided that vanity sizing must have finally trickled down to the shoe industry. Why else would a person who usually wore a 7 1/2 wide suddenly only fit into a 7 regular?

I packed away the new shoes (since they were "office shoes") and only pulled them out again when I started my temporary receptionist job.

They didn't fit.

I was able to squeeze my feet into both pairs, but they were ridiculously uncomfortable. I've worn both pairs to work, and both days have ended up, around lunchtime, slipping the shoes off and hiding barefoot behind my desk. (No one can see my feet, and I slip back into the shoes if I ever have to stand up and go anywhere.)

So what's this all about? Why would both my mother and I "shrink" half a shoe size and then grow it back? Is it cyclic or something? (If so, wouldn't I have noticed my size-shifting feet before?)

Or was it just a weird day in the shoe store?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Finally Neha's Meme!

I think I've done this meme before, too... but now that I finally have a book close by again (all my books are -- or were -- boxed away for the time being), I can totally rock this.

Tag came from Neha at Within/Without.


Pick up the nearest book.
Open to page 123.
Find the fifth sentence.
Post the next three sentences.
Tag five people, and acknowledge the person who tagged you.

The book?

Powerful Proofreading Skills: Tips, Techniques, and Tactics. I picked it up today to re-teach myself all those proofreaders' marks I learned in high school. (The slash-loop thing means delete, the triple line is capitalize, two vertical lines plus a P means indent, um...) It's totes full of quizzes an' tests an' stuff.

Since the book is only 94 pages long, I'll pick the text on page 23 (reproduced in its entirety):

Giving Feedback to Your Boss

And what if it's your boss to whom you need to give feedback about errors? Keep these suggestions in mind.

* Clarify your authority. Are you to edit or proofread the copy?
* Keep a style sheet on each person who gives you correspondence to review. Write down each person's preferences.
* Avoid trapping or embarrassing the person.

Embarrassing I understand, but trapping? Like, in a corner?

Anyway, am not going to pass this meme along (sorry, team), but anyone who wants to pick it up is more than welcome!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Broke Dinner

I am officially out of cash.

Since I'm temping now, I'll get paid next Friday... but I've heard stories of how in "real cities" when you take a check to the bank, either

A. they won't cash it


B. even if you use the check to open an account, they'll put a hold on your money for, like, two weeks or something.

So for all intents and purposes, I am broke and will continue to be so for... a while.

Dinner tonight was (frozen) potatoes cooked with (frozen) spinach and (canned) black beans, in the usual round of spices: mustardseed, cumin, chili pepper, ginger, and garlic.

Not bad, though not particularly great, and the black beans seemed to turn everything gray-colored.

Definitely a broke person's dinner. ^__^

On the super-plus side, I'm shortlisted for another job I really want. I get to go next week and take an editing test, which means it's time to dust off the old proofreaders' marks. Unless they're going to have me take it on a computer with Track Changes. Has anyone taken an editing test in the past year or so?

(Now I'm going to sit and agonize about whether it should be "proofreader's marks," e.g. the marks used by a proofreader," or "proofreaders' marks," e.g. "the marks used by all proofreaders." ^__^ Google says both choices are valid.)

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Dress

I have a dress.
From Express.
In two shades, too:
Red and blue.

I thought the dress fit well
Until -- what the hell??? --
I saw it repeated in D.C.
With everyone's hem way above the knee.

Seriously, I see this exact dress at least once a day
On the street or coming out of the subway
No one ever wears the red one, they all wear the blue
And it clings so tight I can see their hoo-hoos.

I bought a size 6, straight off the rack
But compared to these women, I'm wearing a sack.
Do they all wear these dresses, that snug, to the office?
That's what I thought the dress was for, but since I can't think of a rhyme for office, I'm going to have to stop the poem here and let you all make your own judgments. Here's a picture of the dress (in red) from eBay:

Now imagine that worn skin-tight. Is that -- for serious -- the way the dress is supposed to fit?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Little India: When In Doubt, Just Order The Thali

I got stuck in a thunderstorm after hearing Scott McClellan speak last night. Had no umbrella, of course (poor girls don't own umbrellas, or at least they don't replace them when their old ones tear apart in the wind). Not to mention that I don't like staying outside when there's lightning.

So I crossed my fingers (to prevent getting electrocuted) and ran across the street to Little India, one of the three "all-in-a-row" Indian restaurants that are directly across from the Woodley Park-Zoo metro. I'd already been to Taste of India, the middle restaurant, and... well, let's just say that it made me ill. Twice. But I wasn't going to waste my dwindling cash reserves on the nearby McDonalds. If I was going to be stuck in a storm for two hours, and if I was going to wait it out over dinner, I might as well try and enjoy myself.

The server beat me to the front door, holding it open so I could hurl my drenched, jumping-at-every-sound-of-thunder self inside. He smiled, and I decided enjoying myself at this restaurant might be easier than I thought.

There were only two other patrons in the restaurant, which worried me a little (especially considering that the craptastic Taste of India was packed), so I decided to follow my self-imposed rule of when in doubt, just order the thali.

It turned out to be fantastic.
(BTW, that little glob of saag paneer on the plate wasn't the restaurant's fault; I knocked it off when I was arranging the dishes for photogenicity. I figured my phone photo resolution was so bad that it wouldn't show up in the image. Guess I figured wrong.)

I had three servers hovering around me at all times, but in the good way. (It was nice to get a chance to chat with people, even if it was only about the raging thunderstorm.) Afterwards one of them brought me a bowl of kheer, which I took one look at and thought "this is going to taste awful."
And it did.

But the thali was well worth the $20 I spent on dinner ($14.60 plus an overgenerous tip since the servers were so friendly), and I would totes go back after I get a for-real job.

So I'm suggesting y'all go visit too.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

What Happened: Like Harry Potter, Only Without The Cosplay

I heard Scott McClellan speak this evening at Politics and Prose, in honor of the release of What Happened.

The place was packed; so much so that it was hotter inside than it was outside (and it was about 97 degrees outside). People had wristbands with numbers, and after the talk was over some of them had to wait another hour to get a copy of the book. I was at the back of the crowd, so far away that I couldn't see Mr. McClellan at all; but he came out loud and clear over the PA system.

I never thought much of Mr. McClellan as a speaker back when he was Press Secretary; he always seemed fumbling and a little doofy. He's still... not much of a speaker. But I took notes, and here are the high points of his talk:

* "George W. Bush still believes he'll come out, in the long term, as a hero. That's because he knows history remembers success over candor." (He was referring specifically to the deposition of Saddam Hussein; it's doubtful that even history will remember the Iraq war as a "success.")

* "It was our continuous campaign culture that caused the administration to ignore or misrepresent particular issues; not the desire to mislead the American public." (So... it's okay to misrepresent facts if you're campaigning, but if they hadn't had that really good reason, it would have just been misleading for misleading's sake. And they didn't want to do that.)

* McClellan made it clear that he was never involved in any of the decision-making processes. Those decisions were made "in little rooms, with two or three people," and they never ever let the press secretaries in. Then he said that, because he wasn't ever that someone-in-a-tree, he couldn't really speak to all of the details surrounding those decisions, although he theorizes about them in his book.

* He was completely deceived during the Valerie Plame situation. 100%. Never suspected Rove and Libby were lying to him.

* McClellan grew up wanting to change the state of politics in Washington, and realized he couldn't do it as a staffer or even as a press secretary. But he believes he can do it with this book.

* "The candidate right now with the biggest advantage [for change] is Barack Obama." The crowd cheers, then: "That, um, doesn't mean I'm endorsing him or anything."

* He tarnished that non-endorsement a bit by saying that Obama reminded him of GWB in 2000, back when GWB "really believed in change." Really? Really-really? (How did I miss that?)

All in all he came off like the idealistic kid he admitted he still was; the kid who is convinced that if he says the right combination of words he won't get the crap kicked out of him on the playground. The kid who daydreams about making a speech which will inspire the bigger kids to let everyone play kickball, even if they're slow or bad at kicking. The fourth-grade hero.

Either way, of course, his book's going to be ridiculously successful, and I'll read it the next time I'm in a bookstore. But that doesn't mean I'm... um... endorsing it or anything.

Monday, June 9, 2008

I'm As Big As A Small Man!

I don't have enough summer shirts (read: t-shirts) to last an entire week.

Before, I would cheat by (gasp!) wearing a shirt more than once w/o washing.

Turns out DC weather makes that impossible, if not unfeasible. Even walking to put a thank-you note in a mailbox causes my clothes to stick to my skin.

So what's a frugal recent graduate to do?

Buy a five-pack of men's undershirts, of course. Size small. 5 shirts for $6.95 is the best deal going.

(And white goes with everything.)

It does make me sad, a little bit, to be going around in a white undershirt during the Year of the Summer Dress, but I console myself with the idea that, by the end of the summer, I might be earning enough money to buy a dress or two of my own.

Until then, I'll girl up my manly shirt with strings of junk jewelry and toenail polish.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Whether in Beruna or Birnam, When The Trees Start Moving, You Know You're Screwed

I've seen Prince Caspian ("Now With 60% More Battle Action!") twice now. Figure I might as well post a review of sorts.

Prince Caspian is the least exciting of the Narnia books, story-wise; like The Fellowship of the Ring, way too much of the book involves characters walking through a forest. Walden Media solved that problem for us by including about two hours of battle footage that had no relevance to the original text, e.g. Operation Storm Miraz's Castle. They also threw in a romance between Susan and Caspian, which, if we're going anywhere near canon, could have been played as a precursor to "Susan grows up to be silly and boycrazy," but they played it as an OTP.

Probably the worst thing about the movie -- besides the gratuitous battle sequences -- was the representation of the Telmarines. Darker-skinned and funny accents! (I use the term "funny" literally; it seems like some voice coach invented an accent for the characters by taking a myriad of elongated vowel sounds and mushing them all together.) This doesn't bode well for the future films; Lewis' Calmorenes are drawn almost as racially insulting as Dahl's Oompa-Loompas, and it would be too easy for Walden to go Calmorene = Muslim = Evil.

The thing about the Telmarines is that by this point in Narnian chronology they aren't so much a "race" of mysterious, evil, accent-wielding people as they are a nationality. After 1500 years of wandering and conquering and marrying the people of Narnia and the Lone Islands, there isn't so much a "good guys = British accents, bad guys = funny accents" thing going on. Miraz' wife is named Prunaprisma. The cultures have merged together.

Oh, and then at the end of the book/movie Aslan sends the Telmarines back to twentieth-century Earth. I think I didn't really understand the implications of that when I was a kid. He opens a door and takes all of the Telmarines who don't want to be ruled by Caspian and pushes them through into 1945 Polynesia. He promises that they will have a good life there, but I can't imagine how.

One of the things I really liked about the movie was its acknowledgment of the fact that the Pevensie children grew up in Narnia and became adults, and then were shunted back to childhood when they fell back through the wardrobe. (They're the only people in history who got to go through puberty twice.) Lewis never really dealt with that, and I always wanted to know more about what it felt like for the kids. To go from thirty years old to eight years old in a second, and to carry all of that knowledge (of what it felt like, physically and mentally, to be adult) with you.

(Incidentally, when I was young and reading The Last Battle, whenever I felt sad that the Pevensie children died while they were still teenagers, I consoled myself with the knowledge that they had at least gotten to live for about 50 years, if you counted their adulthoods in Narnia.)

After the movie, my sister and I decided that Peter and Caspian had their battle strategy all wrong. Susan has a magic bow and a quiver of unlimited arrows that will always hit their target. Lucy has a cordial that can heal any wound. Their strategy should have been "Susan shoots her magical arrows at the bad guys; Lucy heals Susan (and herself) any time they are wounded. Everyone else goes to Aslan's How and hides." ^__^

On The Side, On The Front, But NEVER On The Back

My sister requested I put this on the blog, because she really, really, really wants to know the answer:

Earlier today we were at the National Portrait Gallery (my favorite of the Smithsonians, by far). Sis was wearing a backpack. The guard stopped her and told her she could wear her backpack either on her side, or on her front, but she could not wear it on her back.

Sis said "okay," and started walking around the museum with the backpack slung over one shoulder, like we all used to do in 1997. On the side, right? But one room later, another guard stopped her and said that too much of her backpack was on her back.

"On your side or on your front," he said again.

Sis carried the backpack in her arms for the rest of our visit.

Sure, rules are rules, but there were all kinds of women walking around the museum with those giant tote-purses worn over one shoulder and resting against their back. Why weren't they being stopped?

And what's the big deal about wearing something on your back anyway? Our best guess was that maybe if you wore something on your back, someone could sneak something in, like... a portrait.

Anyone know why they came up with this rule? (And why totes are exempt?)

Thursday, June 5, 2008


I've been on a handful of interviews since I started my job search; some on the phone, and some in person. One of the key points I mention in these interviews (about the time the interviewer asks something like "why theatre? and why are you looking for a job that isn't in the theatre?") is this:

"I grew up in a Midwestern town with 2,500 people. Growing up, there were four job choices: you could farm, you could teach, you could work at the bank, or you could work at the local Dollar General or gas station. But my hometown also had a community theatre. That was my favorite place to be, and that's what prompted me to study theatre directing.

While I was in school, of course, I started taking on administrative jobs to help pay the bills. What I found was that I was very good at this work, and in fact was more successful at it than I was at being an artistic blah-blah theatre director. The clincher came when I began working at the XYZ position for X organization, and realized that I was more interested in that work, and was spending much more time on that work, than I was on my theatre productions."

Because of my background, I find myself coming to this job search with what feels like limited information. When a staffing agent asked me "do you feel most comfortable in a small, mid-sized, or large company," I could only respond "Where I come from, everything was small! So I'm eager to try them all, and explore whatever opportunities you have for me."

In other words, the idea of "fit" was less of a concern than the idea of "getting my foot in a door."

But I've gone on a handful of interviews since I started my job search (some over the phone, some in-person) and what I've found out is that there are places where the fit feels "right," and places where the fit feels uncomfortable.

One place I interviewed with felt absolutely right; opportunities to use my skill sets, plenty of exciting challenges, interesting colleagues, etc. (I'm really-really-really hoping they hire me.)

Another place I interviewed with was such a strange fit that the HR manager said, at one point, "you know, you're coming off as extremely qualified and professional and you're giving great responses to all of these questions, but I don't feel like the person I'm talking to is really who you are."

Which is true. I spent most of the interview thinking please don't hire me, because I would be very unhappy here and then I'd have to leave the job after a year which wouldn't do your company any good.

Which is weird. I'm still in the mindset of "I should be grateful to get any job," and so realizing that I wouldn't be happy at a particular place makes me feel a little guilty.

The crux of the matter is this: I got second-round interviews at both the place I really really like (and really really really hope they hire me), and the place where I know I would be unhappy. I declined the second-round interview at the latter company, explaining that I didn't want to waste their time.

And now I'm all "OMG, what if that was the only place who would ever hire me ever and I just said no???"

That's, really, the crux of this post. ^__^

(Also: how do you get a company you really really like to be 100% sure to hire you?)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


That's all I've got to say about that one.

Blue Rates Bunko: Manga, Millennials, and Daniel Pink's Six Career Lessons

Today I read The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You'll Ever Need. I sincerely hoped it was the only career guide I would ever need, because being able to rely on a tiny manga that takes only 15 minutes to read would be a huge timesaver.

Johnny Bunko is the latest offering by Daniel Pink, previous author of A Whole New Mind, which posited that creativity would soon be the new workplace currency and that MFAs would soon be more valuable than MBAs. (Hey, I have a MFA!)

Johnny Bunko is the story of a young man who once dreamed of being a graphic artist (well, either that or a video game designer), but who got bullied into an accounting major by his father. When the book begins, Johnny is stuck in some kind of entry-level accounting job, but he's so bad at what he does that all mistakes made throughout the office have been nicknamed "Bunkos."

Johnny's also miserable. He doesn't want his life to be like this. Then he opens a magical pair of chopsticks and Belldandy pops out! No, wait. Diana. Sorry about that.

Diana gives Johnny and his friends six magical pieces of career advice which helps Johnny (but not his friends) advance in 30 days from his entry-level grunt job to a mid-level creative position in the marketing department (with promise of exciting travel around the world!). However, the real reason Johnny lands this plum position isn't because of the career advice (he is a bit of an idiot, and screws up every piece of advice until Diana patiently corrects him), but because Diana hacks the corporation's computer system and inserts Johnny's name into the marketing position.

Which only goes to prove that the true career lesson from this book is It's not how good you are; it's who you know.

What are the six pieces of career advice? (They're already all over the internet, so I don't feel guilty about sharing.)

1. There is no plan.

That's pretty obvious, or should be, although Diana's take on it is a little more interesting: she tells Johnny that since all careers are equally likely to leave you burnt out and/or laid off, might as well stack the deck by following your passions!

2. Think strengths, not weaknesses.

This one was the most interesting and is probably the biggest takeaway from the book. The idea is that you should focus all your energy on developing your strengths, since that's what will become your brand and get you promoted. It's an interesting perspective.

Johnny, on the other hand, spends way too much time trying to understand spreadsheets (which seems to be his biggest weakness) and Diana has to smack him. What's his biggest talent? Drawing. So that's what he has to focus on!

3. It's not about you.

And then Johnny goes and presents a typical young-male drawing of a half-naked babe with a flaming sword to his brand-new marketing manager. Why? 'Cause that's what he draws the best.

This lesson seems to have been written directly for Millennials. I learned that it wasn't about me at my first summer job (which involved a lot of lugging around giant sacks of birdseed, and pouring said birdseed into individually-priced jugs). But "kids these days" don't get jobs like that, or at least not the ones with Johnny's issues.

4. Persistence trumps talent.

Pink throws a nod to the "MFAs are better than MBAs" theory by having Diana state that musicians and athletes are nearly always successful at whatever career they choose because they have learned the value of practice and persistence.

I'll buy that. ^__^

5. Make excellent mistakes.

It's impossible for me to think of this lesson without invoking Bill and/or Ted, so I'll leave it at that.

Oh, and Johnny learns an important lesson about screwing over your supervisor: don't.

6. Leave an imprint.

This one's interesting. Johnny has the opportunity to relocate overseas with his supervisor Lakshmi, and his instinct is to stay where he is because he likes it here and it's where all his friends are. Then Diana shows up and lays the smacketh down: go, Johnny, go, Johnny, go go go to the place where you can do the most good!

I suppose the implication is that "it's not about you" extends into your personal life, or that Johnny is an idiot for passing up the chance to travel and share his talents globally.

We don't find out what Johnny chooses. I'm sure we're meant to think that he packs up and follows Lakshmi to places unknown. (I'd probably make that choice too.) But part of me really wants him to say "You know what, Diana? Part of what helps me be successful at work is the fact that I like where I live. So bug off!"

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Trinity United Church of Christ is NOT EVIL.

Look. We all know that what Rev. Pfleger said last Sunday at Trinity United Church of Christ was stupid. Stupid both because it's inaccurate* and because he should have known that it would reflect badly on the candidate he was trying to promote.

Still, I'm upset that it prompted Obama to give up his church. I'm also upset that it casts Trinity United back in the public eye as this crazy, freaky place where they hate America and hate white people.

Trinity United offers live webcasts of its services (scroll down to the bottom of the page). Back when the whole Rev. Wright thing exploded, I watched one of them. Primary-source research, as it were.

It's not a crazy church. The service I watched was just an ordinary church service. They sang the same hymns we sang in my hometown church (albeit with a much better choir). They passed the sign of peace, read scriptures, took an offering, etc. just like any other church.

The sermons I saw that Sunday didn't promote anything controversial or untoward. The two pastors (one Black, one white) spoke about Christ's love and about how to manifest that love in the modern world. They spoke a bit about environmentalism, about avoiding consumerism and desire, about how sad it was that the MSM had taken one action of Rev. Wright's and used it to sully an entire career. They spoke about how much harder it would be now to present Trinity United as a place where people could come to find Jesus and share in fellowship.

And then Rev. Pfleger had to go and say that thing about Hillary Clinton, which meant that Barack Obama had to publicly denounce the church that otherwise is just like any other church. The church where he was married, and where his children were baptized.

It's just sad, is all.

* Clinton didn't assume she would win because she was white. Let's be serious here. If she assumed anything, she assumed that she would win because she believed was the most qualified candidate and because she would set a historical precedent. She assumed she would win because she wasn't George W. Bush. Maybe she assumed she would win because it was her turn. She didn't plan to be bumped out by youth and rhetoric and honesty and passion. But it's obvious that she never assumed she would win because she was white.

Six Things Meme Version 2.0!

Earlier (on my old blog), I got tagged for the "Six Things" meme.

I guess I'm super-popular, because I just got tagged again. This time by Maya at PocoBrat!

Strangely, like a game of Telephone, the rules have changed slightly. This time, instead of listing "six non-important things" about myself, I get to list "six unspectactular quirks."

The rules (this time) are as follows:

-Link the person who tagged you.
-Mention the rules in your blog.
-Tell us about 6 unspectacular quirks of yours.
-Tag 6 following bloggers by linking them.
-Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger’s blogs letting them know they’ve been tagged.

... right. Unspectacular quirks, eh? Let's see:

1. I've stopped wearing foundation in lieu of store-brand "beauty fluid" with SPF 15. I think it makes my skin look all dewy. Also it protects me from the sun.

2. I'll never be a hipster because my favorite t-shirt reads "Property of Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital XXL" and I wear it non-ironically.

3. I sing while I use the blowdryer. Mostly showtunes. I also sing while I do the dishes, vacuum, drive, clean my room, etc. Everywhere except the shower.

4. I love to paint my toenails, and when I look at them, I wonder why God didn't go ahead and make toenails that color because they're so much prettier that way.

5. I really, really, really want to read The Post-American World, based solely on the fact that Obama's reading it.

6. I call my cat nicknames like "Butt" and "Booger." I also sing cat-themed lyrics to my cat; things like "Many a cute cat will yawn before they mew" and "And they'll know we are kittens by our fluff, by our fluff..." and "It's you I like, it's not the way you purr; it's not the way you wear your fur, but it's you I like."

I'm going to tag the last people who left comments (and who haven't already been tagged):

D. Jain
Vivek Khandelwal
Chhavi (do you have a blog?)
and Neha Vish!