12.26.2007

Landed



Today begins my semester-long European adventure!

Besides the almost-nightmare that was United Airlines check-in at SFO Christmas morning and tedious delay in Chicago, traveling went essentially without a hitch.

I should tell you that in drafting this post, I included many details about what I've begun to hate (and sort of find endearing) about United, including a staff of four to work over 25 check-in desks with some very long lines. But in the end I decided to omit them, both for your sake and my own: Reliving the blur was too annoying and I just want to move on.

And I did.

I made it to Paris to meet up with Ana, my dear friend/host/translator/guide, and today we trekked all over and did very French things. I have since made it my life goal to become rich enough to afford a certain level of Parisian fashion in my daywear. Not sure what my picture has to do with French fashion, but it amused me.

12.22.2007

Remind me of this post when I register for classes

It is Dec. 22 and I am still not done with my finals. I leave the United States in three days. This sucks.

I have been "in finals" since Dec. 6 when my first was due, the rest due every few days since then. With grades already back on two classes, I still have one more final remaining due in less than twelve hours.

And Friday was the last business day before I leave the country, so in addition to moving out and attending holiday party-hopping to say goodbye, I came home not to unpack/repack or leisurely read my Dutch dictionary while petting the cats, but to write about Heidegger, about whom at this stage of the semester I could really care less.

I loved the class, no matter how hard it kicked my butt, but I am feeling exhausted and dejected and jealous of all of my friends whose finals have been done for two weeks.

Yet another reason not to take 19 units, ever again. Ever.

12.19.2007

Like me? Prove it!



I'm currently ranked 25/260. w00t. I can always use a vote (or many) for Christmas.

The Germans

My classmate, Sarah's, brilliant diagram of some theorists I have to know by 5PM and don't:

On trucks in Berkeley (while I procrastinate writing and studying and banging my head against a wall)

I've borrowed my parents' truck for the week so I can use it to move out of Berkeley this weekend, which means that I either need to move the truck every two hours between 8AM and 7PM or suck it up and buy some temporary parking permits.

I am lazy and opted for the latter.

But moving the vehicle less frequently doesn't mean it isn't grabbing attention. I left this evening to return videos at Reel on my way to a study group, only to discover that the small American pickup truck had been wedged between two compact, hybrid vehicles. We're talking inches from each bumper.

I recognize these cars from the street for the last year and a half, so I know their owners live in the neighborhood. They have always parked as one should in a high demand/low supply parallel parking situation: all the way to the red zone at the end of a curb or before driveways, so the people in the middle can get in and out and there's room for more than two cars on any given section of street.

Now, I understand that Walnut Creek shoppers visiting our neighboring shopping district have no spatial awareness for such matters. They need and can afford three parking spaces for their hybrid Hummer and Whole Foods ego. Not to mention, who lives in Walnut Creek, anyway?

But these are my neighbors, who have empirically shown the utmost of courtesy to their fellow car parkers.

I strongly suspect, though I have absolutely no evidence to corroborate this, that they were pissed that--gasp--someone brought a TRUCK onto the street, and it stayed more than two hours!

Luckily, I was able to make a twelve hundred-point turn to get out of the space and bite my thumb at the conspiratorial first-generation Priuses, during the middle of which a passer-by pointed to the bed of the truck and said "you're leaking!" before he realized it was raining.

12.13.2007

Dragging my feet



It would all be so much easier if I would just buckle down and do it.

The final projects, papers, studying... I just feel like I've done so much work already, and my mind is already in Europe, fantasizing about bourgeoisie art museums and Nutella. And not working.

I've even had a roommate change the password to my Facebook account, and yet I'm finding all sorts of new Web sites to explore. Very thoroughly.

I wonder when I will get the pants-kicking I really need to push through to the end. I want to work, I really do. I put so much emotional investment into my finals and the professors who actually seem to care about my work, in theory to make me more guilty motivated, and yet all I can seem to muster is the Internet.

12.10.2007

Associated Press Headline Roundup

* Crack may be whack, but that doesn't mean you'll do (that much) hard time. At least not as much as some rich cokehead.

* There's something so chilling about the headline "Ice Storm Causes Blackouts, Deaths." Either that or "Ice Storm" could just as easily be replaced with "Crack" (see above) or, say, "Alcohol."

* And I may have dissed on fasting for a cause last week, but fasting for your heart ain't such a bad idea. Nevermind that those participating in the study, Mormons, are also known for their restrictive diets and spending at least two years of their lives walking around all over the world on a mission (or chasing all twelve of their children, for the womenfolk).

* And speaking of Mormon habits, what about playing nice? Mitt Romney announced to the AP today that he plans to run a TV ad against Mike Huckabee, the conservative candidate who just yesterday "stood by" his 1992 statements that AIDS patients should be isolated from society. I'd say shame on Romney for giving in to the negative campaign trap, but I find myself strangely rooting him on.

* Global warming is coming! But I've just gotta take a commercial break to accept this Nobel peace prize. Remember folks, if Kissinger can get one, so can Gore.

12.09.2007

But I thought the Internet was supposed to move quickly...

I've been noticing some suspect fees on my credit card's online banking activity, so I decided to e-mail them about why I'm being charged. Had it been a flat fee, I would have owed it to some Existence Fee that I forgot about or missed in the fine print, but I thought I'd bug the customer service people about it anyway just to see whether there was a way I could avoid it.

I composed a quaint message describing the fee that I was issued twice but that I was confused because it was a different amount each time and could someone please explain what this means. The fee's description in my account, of course, reads "Other."

The response was equally quaint but basically said I am an idiot because it's a finance charge for not paying my bill in full each month. But I've been under the impression that I have, in fact, been paying my bill in full each month, so I was rather surprised to learn that such a fee was being charged.

In general I haven't been too happy with how slowly their online banking system posts transactions or statements (namely, processing bill payments or even processing a regular charge), but didn't realize until now that I was being charged for essentially relying on their pedestrian services to tell me what I owe each month.

So I sent them this message in response:
Thank you for clarifying. Do you think it would be possible for your online banking services to accurately calculate my balance due on at least a weekly basis, that I may have the opportunity to pay my balance in full?

All this time I've been under the impression online banking was more convenient than keeping a paper record of every transaction completed, but it turns out that with a several-day turnaround on posting transactions, I'd be better off writing checks.

Maybe I've just been in a bad mood lately, or maybe I dumbly expect huge corporations to have greater means with which to provide customer service, but I don't know that my message was quite terse enough to gain a sufficient response. We'll see how it goes.

11.15.2007

Jan Nederveen Pieterse to UC Berkeley: Pre-Interview

I know I've been blogging here lately about the things I'm doing and the many ways wildfires can start, but this week, things will be a tad different.

With all my spare time, I've been offered the opportunity to interview Jan Nederveen Pieterse, a Dutch author and sociology professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He's giving a lecture at UC Berkeley tomorrow called "How European is Europe?"

After reading up on him and thumbing through one of his books, I realize that keeping up with the news is no match for actually studying the impact of world events.

I do discuss what goes on in the world and I care, but the world is big, man, and I've got a lot of work to do.

In any case, the interview is in about twelve hours. I've got class in 14 hours and a show in about 20 hours, so chances are I won't get to post it for a day or two. Nevertheless, it'll be posted here.

Update: By "day or two," I really meant week or two. Should be up soon, I promise.

11.10.2007

Shameless Self-Promotion

Come see Wintertime!

I'm stage managing this wild ride of a show, which is partially why I haven't been posting here or at the Clog recently, and though that means I'm not onstage, it's still a great show. Academically speaking, it's the non-cliche version of a romantic comedy with postmodern undertones and classical influences.

Realistically speaking, it's just plain fun.

The family's coming tonight, though it might be a bit racy for some of their tastes...

In any case, see the Facebook event (or group) or visit theater.berkeley.edu.

Show times are November 10, 16, 17 at 8pm and 11th and 18th at 2pm. The 11th has a talkback discussion following the performance.

Ah, public conferences...

I was encouraged to attend a blogging conference today, as a result of which I've started a "new" blog.

Check out my dismay with the minimal intelligence of the general public here.

10.31.2007

Only YOU can prevent (SoCal wild) fires

The Associated Press' lead story at this hour is that a boy, whose age and name were not released, started one of the massive fires in Southern California because he was playing with matches.

All I have to say about this is, Where is Smokey the Bear?

Maybe there should be more billboards reminding us all not to be responsible for fires that destroy 21 homes and 38,000 acres.

I imagine some will join the Moralist-Where-Were-The-Parents Brigade on this issue, but anyone who is actually a parent (and of course me, who is not, nor ever was or plan to be a parent) can probably tell them to suck it.

I'm just looking for a little more common sense, be it achieved through better parenting or government-sponsored cartoons in the lives of children everywhere.

Oh, Oakland.

If anyone wants to enlighten me about why Oakland banned commercial billboard advertising ten years ago, that'd be great.

I can understand banning billboard advertising in general-- it's totally distracting, and people like me are advertiser's dream-targets because of an insane compulsion to read every single billboard. I cannot avoid one I haven't read before, even if it's for mortgages or casinos or the truck stop in forty miles.

But why just commercial advertising?

Are religious institutions and charities just not distracting because no one pays attention to them?

10.28.2007

Maybe I'm reading too much into this.

I don't know, does this seem to eerily parallel some Americans' glimmering hope for the same catchy "From First Lady to President" headline in U.S. politics?

10.21.2007

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

I walked by the Berkeley Zoo today only to find that my favorite sign no longer exists. The Patriot originally tipped me off to it on August 29th, before I started gawking by there fairly regularly.

I loved this particular poster thing because they spell it "dieing." It touched my heart, really, because come on, it's not like the tree-sitters can be spending their time in class learning English grammar. They have more important things to do, like fling dung at police officers and build wooden structures in trees to protest trees being killed.

In any case, I forgot my camera nearly every time since the fence went up, and when I finally made it over this morning, new signs were up and they weren't nearly as exciting.

Oh, tree people-- can you try a little harder to entertain me? The "STOP DRIVING" sign chalked on the pedestrian sidewalk was close, but no Seventh Generation paper towel roll.

10.16.2007

Happy (half) birthday to me!


Yes, today is my half-birthday. It is precisely six months from this date that I will become yet another year older.

I'm not entirely sure why it warrants a blog post, but hey... it's not like I've been blogging lately anyway.

10.08.2007

My two cents

In case the Internet just isn't enough for you loyal readers, I'm in print for the Daily Cal's Homecoming issue.

No promises for meaningful or interesting content.

It's not online (yet?) so if you're near campus you'll just have to pick up your own damn copy. Or ten.

10.07.2007

(The Campanile Should Play) Top 40

So I've been casually pushing this Blog for a Year contest thing, and I'm actually doing pretty well.

At least as of yesterday, I'm ranked 38th out of 202 entries. Just think, if everyone who reads my column in the Daily Cal's Homecoming issue (I think that's printing sometime this week...whenever Homecoming is) finds this blog and votes for me... maybe I could win?

That'd be pretty sweet. I like money just as much as the next gal.

Of course, I'm no Ethan in the charts. But I guess that just makes me more glad he's not in the contest.

10.06.2007

Slow news day

Um... is it just me, or is this perhaps not as uh, newsworthy, as one might expect for an Associated Press top headline?

9.29.2007

You may dictate my style, but not my content.

The Associated Press has long been one of my favorite sources of news (and of style), but lately it's been pulling some heart strings that are only annoying me. Or maybe that's the thousands upon thousands of ditzy blondes in buttcheek-short dresses I've been running into lately on the bus or on BART.

This tragic tale of woe takes place in Temecula, California (misspelled as "Temicula", by the way, in the Editor's note), where a 38-year-old disabled Marine contemplates suicide because the government sucks, or something.

I could not even finish the article, it was that long and oozing with pathos rhetorical masturbation (and yes, Mom, I just used the word "masturbation" in prose I know you will read, and that is a stylistic choice owing to the only explanation for the Associated Press' decision to publish this piece: pathos rhetorical masturbation.). It was at precisely this moment that I could read no longer:
He passes nights largely sleepless, a zombie shuffling through the bare rooms of his home in sunny California wine country.

I would just like to say, if Temecula is wine country, I am rich and successful and have great marriage prospects and want fourteen children. Wine country is more than 450 miles north of Temecula, thank you. In fact, Temecula is closer to Mexico than it is to wine country, which isn't saying much for Temecula because it is practically in Mexico. You know, a completely different country.

Secondly, wine country is rarely sunny. Any number of cogent adjectives would suffice besides "sunny": foggy, cold, expensive...

Thirdly, why, oh why, does the AP use "largely" to modify "sleepless"? Sure, it's acceptable, and maybe this is more picky than any English major-turned-journalist would be, but doesn't "large" connote something more like extent or "physical girth" instead of suggesting anything like the quality or quantity of one's sleep?

Fourthly, if Temecula California is so damn expensive, why is he even living here?

Maybe I'm just grumpy from encountering too many reasons to be misanthropic. Maybe I realized it's probably weird that I care so much more about the style than I do the content of that AP article. I do, however, rather enjoy the Halo 3 musical score. Way to be, Marty O'Donnell!

9.26.2007

9.25.2007

Ahmadinemadness: Lamest headline ever

I'm allowed to criticize myself (or at least I'm making that okay), and I have to say that my Game Fuel-addled brain thought that "Nontraditional" was the right word to describe Iranian President Ahmadinejad.

Upon reflection, he technically is a traditional guy. After all, his faith hasn't changed in years. In his country, women still can't vote, the phenomenological gay doesn't exist, and "election" means "clerics select some candidates for the country to choose from" (which, as Stephen Colbert once said, is America's favorite kind of election in Iraq, but that's neither here nor there).

Columbia President Lee Bollinger was right in his introduction that whether or not Ahmadinejad directly answered the questions posed to him (which he didn't, just like he didn't in the "60 Minutes" interview), he would still represent his country. Evading or denying questions reflects precisely how dodgy the Iranian government has been when it interacts with many other countries, which is why it doesn't surprise me that Americans don't trust Ahmadinejad, even if he isn't the one in real power. Ahmadinejad said nothing new in his speech at Columbia (and I suspect nothing new at the UN General Assembly)- nothing that we didn't already know about his politics or that we might expect to see from him in the future- and yet Americans are still starkly upset by his unwillingness to provide real answers to honest academic queries.

Bollinger was wrong to call him "astonishingly uneducated" because I think it takes a good deal of skill to avoid revealing any useful information about one's opinions on anything. And sure, Columbia was probably setting the guy up (what did we expect, a totally uneventful and boring talk?), and Ahmadinejad accepted knowing he could spin the subject of free speech in Iran back to free speech in America, but in principle a university forum is an engaging way to fulfill Socrates' lifelong hippie love-fest dream of open dialogue resolving differences and gaining knowledge.

Of course, in practice, politics mucks everything up.

9.24.2007

Back in the saddle




It's working again! So vote for me. I'm #40/190, and that's not so bad! And with the pot as big as it is now, I imagine my winnings will far make up for the chump change The Clog pays. But I'm not doing that for the money. I'm doing this for the money. So vote everyday (or every new computer, or, for the Air Bears in you, every time you connect).

Glad to be a meat-eater

I remember the days when vegetarians would laugh at all the mad cow scares because they didn't eat meat, and now their karmic retribution has come: bad tofu.

9.23.2007

9.22.2007

Latent memories

While perusing Dooce, the blogger I pore over just for fun because I am weird, I came across the skilled photography I always wish I could emulate and found this adorable photo.

The photo is adorable not because of the kid (though he is pretty cute), but because I recognize the outfit he is wearing because I sold it in my old moonlighting job as a baby store manager.

Of anything in my life-- the cats, the gay men, the distinct lack of straight men, the work-- the baby store was the one final push that made me feel 85, single, and living vicariously through the lives of my customers.

Ah, memories.

Waste of a couple lattes

So I guess blogforayear.com doesn't exist anymore, because it seems to have disappeared. I haven't seen the logo link on my page anymore, haven't received status update emails lately, and every time I type the address of either the home page or my profile page, I get a service temporarily unavailable error message.

Unless you computer-types can tell me otherwise, I'm kind of disappointed, even if I didn't invest much stock into it.

9.21.2007

Those wily kids...

Even if you're an awkward electrical engineering student at MIT, standing out in the crowd isn't a good thing anymore.

Don't wear circuits or anything that looks remotely technological, because you might get shot in an airport.

At least that's the word at Boston's Logan International Airport, where 19-year-old MIT sophomore Star Simpson was arrested for wearing a "fake bomb."

It just seems like students can't stand out anymore.

Not that anyone should stand out. I mean, I wholeheartedly agree with mandating uniforms at airports-- Mormon underwear, anyone? That could be the next bake sale.

9.20.2007

Now I want to go home and hug my cats

This guy has some issues.

I seriously hope that he gets all the karmic retribution in the world that he deserves. I'm not some PETA freak or anything, but come on. Feeding cats to pitbulls? Totally wrong.

9.19.2007

I knew my (parents') money was going somewhere

Since I am not a reporter and can't write about this anywhere except anecdotally, I would like to share that my classical rhetoric professor is an adviser to the prosecutors mentioned in this high profile case.

His training of the Khmer Rouge tribunal prosecutors is why we didn't have class the first week, and I suspect why we won't have a final in December, when the trials are set to begin.

I guess it's kind of cool, but he is pretty much a Ben Stein incarnate in class.

9.18.2007

This is not Berkeley-related.

I kind of shot myself-- or at least Old Lady Syndrome-- in the foot by taking a job at The Clog, because it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to my employer to write about Berkeley for money in one place and free in another.

I'm hoping to continue writing here about the things that interest me that would never interest Berkeley students, because I am a dork, which may or may not include personal, national or international news.

If I get better at this writing thing, maybe I'll successfully pull off both gigs, but 'til then, expect the kind of light coverage that comes with writing three blogs, taking 18 units and stage managing a play.

9.17.2007

$850 poorer, and proud of it

For perhaps the first and only time in my life, I'm happy that my credit card bill is enormous.

I bought my ticket to Europe last night through STA Travel's website. The site pretty much sucks, but with lots of patience great deals can be found. I am officially leaving town on Christmas Day, because it costs like, three hundred dollars less than leaving the day after. I plan to spend New Year's in Paris avec friends already living there, and wander north to Utrecht (somehow) shortly thereafter.

The most difficult part will be not spending my life's savings during the month between the time classes get out in late May and my sister's best friend's Norwegian wedding in July. Hopefully the dollar will improve so the Euro isn't so extravagant, but I suppose only time will tell.

Yay for plans!

9.13.2007

Graduate libraries are so much more civilized

Stories like these are precisely the reason I am considering (though very lightly) law school.

Pardon my tardiness...

I was asleep during this week's campus shooting (but not really) hoopla, and good thing. I missed the Daily Cal online edition kicking ass, and I also missed the Berkeley livejournal community going nuts.

I'm not really sorry I was sleeping. The library kids deserve to have been freaked out for studying late at night THREE WEEKS INTO THE SEMESTER.

Their Ritalin-addled minds must have been so jarred by the experience, or there was too much else going on (like 11 shootings in Richmond since Tuesday?), that the Chronicle didn't even want to cover mass hysteria over some guy getting robbed-- which, by the way, happened three times to more than six people on Sunday, right next to campus, without anyone uttering a peep.

Ugh. I am so over people.

9.11.2007

Kind of a dork

So I spent this past Saturday and Sunday mornings here, and some people, myself included, call this crazy.

Yet it never really occurred to me just how dorky everyone else was, and how entertaining that might make my freakishly early morning be. The honoree for this classics conference was Tony Long, a classics professor here at Cal, who I presume is retiring after many years of teaching young people about dead people. Almost all of the presenters were former students, and at least three were under 65!

The grad student I took Latin from was there for one of the lectures, and there were a couple of reminders about how "non-guests" weren't supposed to eat the food (I'm guessing that by 'non-guests,' they meant me and everyone except the speakers, though technically wouldn't that make US guests, and everyone else conference members?).

The old people were uh, old, (sound familiar?) and it was clear from their various arguments about whether Socrates' "Socraticity" applies to his physical reincarnation or his intellectual reincarnation-- or whether there's a difference-- that they had been studying these things for longer than I have been alive. That was perhaps the most unsettling realization of the whole experience.

Other than that, the Faculty Club (you know, that ski lodge behind Hertz Hall) is really nice. It's pretty, quiet, and totally unspoiled by students.

9.09.2007

Maybe it's the irony.

Kyle's latest obsession is really bizarre, and the fact that he can't stop laughing-- has had intermittent uncontrollable fits of giggling for the last several hours-- is a testament to just how bizarre he really is.

9.07.2007

The life of a perfectionist who errs

Sometimes, I mess up. I don't like to do it in public, but every once in a while, it happens. When the mistake-- which someone else pointed out to me-- follows a blog post about me being a perfectionist, it only seems right that I should watch an obscure Indie film, chain-smoke in front of people to look so uncool that it's cool, and bask in my ironic life. While listening to Alanis Morrissette's "Ironic" (none of the scenarios in her lyrics, of course, are actually ironic, but that makes the whole thing even more ironic).

If my editor lets me, I'm going to post a correction, or at least a clarification, because I didn't even bother to look at who voted for and against the City Council's UC lawsuit settlement issue... and the one I poked fun at actually wanted to settle the whole damn thing and move on. Oops.

But he did vote Student Action in 2006, and we all know how informed he must have been to have favored that accident.

9.05.2007

The life of a perfectionist

I applied for a copy-editing position at the Daily Cal, but it appears the Chronicle might need me more.

They might have corrected a few things by the time any of you read this, but here are a couple choice errors, however common and obvious and banal they may be and bolded for emphasis:

Jobs was particularly pleased with the update, saying it was the best lineup of products Apple has every created.

and
At $399, "we want to put iPhones in a lot of stokings this holiday season," Jobs said.


Every once in a while, I read KGO's website, because I don't actually listen to the talk radio but I like to listen to Jenna every once in a while to know she hasn't died or anything because, you know, she's still at work. The sad part is, some of the errors will last for weeks. I won't even bother with examples here.

And the cream of the crop-- the people who hardly fuck up-- are the Brits. BBC, on two or three occasions that I've read, has published typos on the front page leading stories, either in the teaser or the story itself.

Is it sad that I practically live for these moments, moments where my inhuman rapture with others' errors makes me feel more human?

9.04.2007

John McCain needs a Joe Camel

With the 2008 presidential campaigning already heavily underway, it's no surprise that politicians are testing the waters with the hottest voting bloc: high school students, many of whom will conveniently turn 18 by the time November '08 rolls around.

And Arizona Senator John McCain is no different. He trekked to New Hampshire Tuesday to stand on a (small) soapbox espouse the values of paying attention to news that marks history, like decisions about Iraq.

But it seems the students were already fairly knowledgeable. They knew that, if elected, 71-year-old McCain would be the oldest president. And we all know what happens to old people. They eat at Country Kitchen Buffet, hate young people, and have large medicine cabinets to combat senility. I guess that's keeping up with the news, or at least Jon Stewart.

McCain aside, the potential geriatric ward of GOP candidates (excluding the young Mitt Romney, whose candidacy is shaky for other reasons) will have make do without the hip the Democrats seem to have gleaned from their youth and vigor. Perhaps McCain should take a tip from Big Tobacco and adopt a cuddly mascot.

Maybe the election will turn into a battle between the Ancients and the Moderns, and maybe I've just read one too many philosophy books, but when the hottest piece of news coming out of a campaign stop is how the audience worried about a guy's age, maybe McCain should be worrying about more than just coddling the young.

9.03.2007

I'd hate to be him,

because the SF Chronicle really seems to do his quote justice. Is it just me, or does it sound like this guy has spent too many lonely work shifts with his feet up watching the security cameras?

"'You should see the stuff I see here,' he said. 'People don't think we see them, but we have cameras. I can't count how many people have sex down there and think we don't notice.'"


Uh...

The moments that make me want to write



At the cafe; morningtime:

Elderly Husband, approaching Elderly Wife: Does the table wiggle?
EW: Not too badly.
EH: I just got a smile from a beautiful girl.
EW: Oh? How'd you manage that?
EH: She was about this high. [gestures to approximate three-year old height]
EW: Oh-h [chuckles]
EH: But she just gave me this big ol' smile.
EW: That's nice, dear.
EH: You know that lady at the cash register?
EW: Talk softly!
EH [softer]: I don't think she's ever given me the right change.
EW: Oh well, dear. It probably evens out in the end.
EH: I suppose you're right.

[They continue eating, reading newspapers and switching sections, sipping coffee. Also being old and settled and utterly free of social responsibility.]

Narrator [opening up a private conversation recounting the story]: ...and all I can think about while this old lady scolds her husband for gossiping about the counter staff too loudly is that I am not wearing underwear, a thought only interrupted by the circumstances under which I lost the garment.

8.31.2007

A sad day

Alfred Peet of the Peet's Coffee enterprise (that started in Berkeley, no less) has died at age 87.

Since he retired in 1983, I suppose his death doesn't really affect the welfare of the company. But somehow, the Big Box Corporation that Peet's has become seems more obvious without a nice man who opened a coffee shop in a liberal hippie town in the sixties.

Because with all that acid and free love, there's gotta be a niche market for caffeine just waiting to happen.

To be fair, I didn't really know that he was alive (or dead) in the first place, but at least now they can put a memorial plaque or something at Walnut & Vine Streets. It's not like the sidewalks need repaving or anything.

8.29.2007

In case you haven't heard,


The massive expected holiday traffic will be just awful this Labor Day weekend.

But make sure that traffic doesn't go anywhere near the Bay Bridge, because historically (at least according to the Bay Bridge Project's website) it's been light traffic, anyway. And, you know, it'll be closed, since Caltrans is taking a giant chunk out of it.

I have not fallen off the face of the earth...

I've been here. Granted, I've been better at multitasking in the past, but my potential 22-unit course load is distracting me from what's obviously more important- entertaining my faithful readers.

Also, my camera has run out of batteries, and I've been meaning to post some lovely pictures to make me seem technologically impressive.

I'll be back soon; just getting my crap together.

8.23.2007

Selling myself, one page of advice at a time

I've been looking to make a few bucks on the side, because I'm really awful at finding well-paying hourly jobs. Since the cocaine biz seemed a little risky, and because I am too lazy to get my dream De-Cal organized (titled: "English as a First Language," co-taught by my roommate, and if anyone else takes that name I will be totally annoyed), I decided to use some of those English skills for some freelance editing.

So if you students have papers to edit while you still have Daddy's money, I'll be happy to procrastinate my own homework to proofread them. I'll be brutally honest if it sucks, but ask the 2005-06 Davidson 6th floor whether it worked out for them.

My terms:
-I'm not rewriting your papers. I'm telling you what you did wrong, grammatically and conceptually, and how to fix it.
-I will not guarantee that I've read whatever you're writing about or taken the same class, and I am not responsible for factually incorrect arguments; only how those arguments are presented.
-$2.50 per double-spaced (Times 12 or Arial 11 font) page for the first 3 pages (add $1.50 per page after that), which is approximately the cost of the latte I will be drinking while I read.
-Turnaround time varies, based on how immediately you need it back, how long the paper is (or needs to be), and what my schedule is like.

About me:
-3rd year Rhetoric student with extensive experience in writing and editing, academically and professionally. Most well-versed with MLA and AP, but I've had to use APA a few times, so that's becoming more familiar.
-Good GPA, scholarship recipient, and a featured blogger.
-You can find an unflattering picture of me on the Internet here, at my newest place of employment.

Contacting me:
My target clientele is fellow Berkeley students, and since most have Facebook, try this. No stalking!

It sucks to be you.

If you don't see Avenue Q, that is.

Aside from the old ladies passing around cookies during the second act, the show was hilarious. The guy at the box office told me the cheap seats on the side balcony were sold; maybe it's the 20/20 vision, but I could see just fine from the center balcony.

It was refreshing to see a small cast and a set that actually fit the dimensions of the space, after spending a summer with sets that nearly crushed the electrics and a cast the size of a small army. Plus, there's nothing I enjoy more than the brisk San Francisco fog to quicken my way to BART, as opposed to the dry Utah heat to quicken my mile walk.

As one might expect for SF, there is a George W. Bush crack that incited self-righteous hoots and applause from the Prius-driving crowd, but being in college never seems as cool as when puppets are missing the dorms.

8.19.2007

Newsies

-Take out "Hurricane" in the headline.

-Latest crimes against Canadians and the elderly.

-Excess of unrepaired building damage sustained by human remains kills two firefighters.

-Film director directs neighbors, own funeral.

-Liberal Iranian Christian "balances" CNN conservatism.

-I rock. Except when answering questions.

8.17.2007

Updates, schmupdates

It has been really great to be back from Utah. My slow recovery from acute culture shock aside, things have been going well. I got a job at the Daily Clog, whose measly pay will provide me with this semester's caffeinated indulgences. Kyle is convinced I don't know how to get a job that pays me well. Still working for the Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies, but also stage managing a show, which will certainly change things up a bit.

But what I'm sure you all are waiting for is how the summer went. Avid readers know that I was stuck for three months working in marketing and box office for an opera company in northern Utah, where I was paid about $1000 to work 9-12 hours a day, 6 days a week. I was pleasant and helpful to the 3,000+ people to whom I sold seats, which totaled over $75,000 in ticket sales. Bragging aside, I found it exceedingly difficult to be patient and kind with elderly people who have been attending for many years who still do not know that we do not, have not, and will not offer a senior discount.

The entire experience was sort of like an anthropological or ethnographic (Pop quiz: and can someone identify the difference?) experiment. My brief stint as a Catholic in my early years (namely, that I was baptized) served as one of my only playing cards in casual conversation with coworkers and locals. My knee-length skirts were gawked at by more conservatively-dressed women and honked at by truck-driving men; tank tops were frowned upon, sleeveless shirts questionable; the coffee shop was my only safe haven.

Caffe Ibis
is lovely. It reminds me of several coffee shops around the Bay Area and Sonoma County (think Aroma Roasters, Coffee Catz, Ritual), but since it's so sparsely populated by heathens who drink coffee, the employees have more time for conversation and making me whatever they please.

There is little to no interpersonal conflict in Utah, at all. A lot of passive aggression, a lot of gossip, but no argument.

The living situation was fascinating. 50-60 people from all different parts of the country living in the same apartment complex about one and a half miles from work. The parties were outrageous, the cops even more outrageous (half the force takes pictures with the crew, the other half belligerently breaks up the parties), and the crazy youngsters could not keep their pants on. Maybe it was my terrible bed or the guys that make Berkeley EECS boys look hot, but Marvin Gaye just wasn't doing it for me.

The nature, however, was gorgeous. Whenever I could, which wasn't especially often, I'd tolerate folks I could hitch a ride with into the canyons or up to Bear Lake, like my parents, who came to visit.

All in all, I'm glad to be back. Back from one of the world's largest per capita consumers of Jello and Kraft products, back from a highly concentrated demography of the world's richest and fastest growing religion's followers, back to my comfy bed and gay roommates and social and genetic diversity.

8.14.2007

More bridges collapsing...

Add another tally to transportation to the political platform prediction table, because even internationally, bridge collapses are proving the hard way how important the little things of government really are.

Granted, this particular instance was in a bridge under construction-- as in, newly built-- but that doesn't mean the incident won't give people in the States something to worry about when it comes time to evaluating "important issues" in the upcoming elections.

And speaking of China, it seems that
It is common for disgraced officials to commit suicide in China.


Does this seem suspicious to anyone? I feel like this toy company CEO would have been dead anyway, if the Chinese government had its say.

8.12.2007

Toot, toot!

Hey, I'm like, famous, sort of...at least on a lesser-known website with a small pool of regular bloggers. I'm the first featured blogger this year at ProgressiveU.org, and that's certainly exciting. I'm apologizing here and now, by the way, for the terrible quality of my answers to the questions I wasn't exactly prepared to speak intelligently on. But the part where the moderators wrote about me was Very Nice.

I suppose being featured makes up for not winning the actual scholarship money, but remember- there are still opportunities for you, my adoring fans, to vote for me here. Because I'm that awesome.

8.10.2007

Indian givers act on 'principle,' abandon all other principles

We declined to host the service- not based on hatred, not based on discrimination, but based on principle.

That's Rev. Gary Simons, head of the nondenominational High Point Church in Arlington, TX. He canceled a large funeral service for Navy veteran Cecil Howard Sinclair, who died at age 46 after complications following pre-heart transplant surgery. Simons canceled because Sinclair was gay, and he did it "on principle," not out of hatred or discrimination.

Since when is acting on a hateful, discriminatory principle not acting out of hatred or discrimination?

The church originally offered to host the funeral service because Sinclair's brother works there, and then rescinded their offer because they couldn't appear to condone a gay lifestyle, which was evident from the photos the family had provided of his happy, post-Gulf War life.

I'm not entirely sure which is worse: your brother dies and your boss offers to host the service and then changes his mind because the deceased was gay, or the church prioritizes not endorsing certain behavior over acting like benevolent, God-loving creatures.

Water, water, everywhere

Water, like transportation, is one of those other essential things that keeps us alive and is generally considered pretty cool. It's like, a part of us, man. 70 whole percent.

Hippie environmentalist crap aside, Bear's Necessity talks about bottled water, which puts the convenience of carrying water in light plastics in perspective. But what about people's lawns?

In Orem, Utah, a 70 year-old woman was arrested earlier this summer for not watering her lawn for over a year. Yes, arrested.

Interesting, because the San Francisco Chronicle worries that in such an extreme water shortage, people will start getting mad at each other for watering too much or during peak hours.

Obviously these are different states, but let me illustrate just how liberal Utah is with their water.

That's water flowing from a drain, and it does that every day I walk by on my way to work. Sometimes it even floods part of the street. And where does it come from? Locals tell me that their almighty irrigation system pumps water from the nearby mountains and supplies the town, via underground irrigation canals, with lots of verdant nature that would otherwise be arid and even more boring.

A local also told me, in order to relieve my fears about tons of kids in public pools during 107 degree heat, that the water in the aquatic center is dumped and replaced every fifteen minutes. Where does the water go? I have no idea, but if I find out I'll let you know.

So the next time some hippies come yelling at me about pouring out two sips of water left in my convenient plastic bottle, I will tell them they need to take a mission trip to Utah.

8.09.2007

Cat fight!

Cindy Sheehan, our least-forgettable overbearing Mom, has moved on from Crawford Ranch eyesore to official politics. Now she's challenging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her seat in the US House of Representatives. Sheehan had earlier announced her intention to run for the House if Pelosi didn't try to impeach President Bush by July 23.

I'm all for people doing something about the injustices they perceive in the world. I'm all for people loving their children. But Sheehan has effectively made her son a martyr to her cause, and I'm not totally sure that he would appreciate that. Of course, it's awful that she lost her son, but does every grieving mother of deceased soldiers seek justice by camping out in front of the President's house, or running for political office? Okay, okay, so it only takes one to make a difference, blah blah blah, but what makes someone like Sheehan, and not, say, my mom, decide to challenge the first female Speaker of the House?

Mom, I'm sure you'll disagree with me because you're a mom and I'm not, but I think Sheehan's trying to be Supermom, and she can't do everything.

That said, if she raises enough money, I imagine her pre-existing publicity will probably earn her at least a handful of votes. If not for being crazy, votes will be from those who know she's not too afraid of party politics to shove her beliefs down everyone's throats.

8.08.2007

Finally,

now I might be able to qualify for all of those scholarships!

America's Favorite Pastime

Shoving little old ladies to the ground for a baseball?

I guess I'd do the same thing if that baseball were worth millions.

The Countdown


I leave Utah on Monday. Except for one of my sisters visiting, Monday couldn't come soon enough.

But there are things about this place I will miss staring at, like the beautiful sunsets, the perfectly manicured mullets, or the fundamentalists who still think the word "damn" is using the Lord's name in vain, "darn" is pushing it, and hot chocolate isn't hot.

Really, I'm just looking forward to having something interesting to stand up for.

8.06.2007

Scavenger hunt!

Here are some Utah photos, courtesy of my dropped-once-or-thrice-too-often camera.

And here's the scavenger hunt part: find evidence of live dog, nightclub, or God. Ten points for correct answers, twenty-five for funny ones.











Because things actually happen everywhere else.

-Don't stick stuff up your nose. It might not get removed for 55 years.

-Does the Transamerica Pyramid look like a Victorian home? Because the new Transbay Terminal design proposals look nothing like the pink ladies, either.

-People are socially and physically trapped in Utah.

-Something involving transportation made several of today's headlines.

8.04.2007

Talking to Strangers

I met an Indian woman on the street last night, about mid-40s and traditionally dressed. I couldn't have been dressed more differently, in a tank top, skirt, and flip flops.

She had been walking ahead of me on the sidewalk until we came to a stoplight. She stared for a few moments, and though it appeared as if she were just another conservative woman giving me the evil eye for showing my ankles, there was something different about the way she stared. It was evident that we were not from Utah.

At this realization, Bibi, the Americanized version of her Indian name, began asking rapid-fire questions in thickly-accented English. I mentioned I was from California, and she immediately asked whether I knew her friend at UC Berkeley who had gotten a PhD in Comparative Literature three years ago. Of course not, but it was nevertheless impressive that she lucky-guessed my school in a state that's practically 1000 miles long.

In the course of our 1.5-mile walk, I find out that she is from India and came to the States to get her master's degree in Folklore at UPenn. In the course of her studies there, she came to work and study in the apparently prestigious Folklore program at Utah State University, where she is an archivist, curator, and English professor. Bibi's dissertation is on the relationship between Tennessee Williams and some other gay playwright who had a fat crush on Williams. Not exactly something to publish here in Utah.

She talked more than she breathed, like a toddler after an ice cream cone or an undergrad after forty-two sleepless hours finishing a mostly crack-induced thesis. Bibi complained about how uneducated her students are-- that they don't know, or think it's important to know, anything about the period during which an American novel was written. (Normally, I would argue that literary works can be appreciated differently outside their historical context, but I'm sorry, America is barely 200 years old. How hard is it to know at least something about the Depression? Like, that it happened?)

I was glad to have met Bibi. I hadn't expected to find a Fulbright Scholar in the entire state, let alone walking the same way home one hot August night. Hopefully, she finds an outlet that isn't her meticulously archived British theater history library with which to share her intellectual prowess.

8.02.2007

I've said all along that road maintenance should be a political platform.

"They won't like, fall down or anything, but they'll blow your tires" is basically CalTrans' position after a slough of "our bridges are fine" press conferences held across the country following Minneapolis' bridge collapse.

CalTrans officials officially say of California's bridges:

The majority of bridges considered structurally deficient in the state are in that category because of potholes and paint issues, said Caltrans supervising bridge engineer Ken Brown.


Right. I guess it makes sense that paint isn't really a structural issue per se, but then how was that rating given in the first place? I'm sorry, you must have been looking at the foresight structural deficiency rating, where we included cosmetic deficiencies so that later we can disprove the necessity all of our salaries.

And, okay, the news?

The local 10 o'clock news:

The travesty-you-never-thought-of piece of the evening was about dog fighting. You know, that rampant and cruel sport where people's dogs die frequently and breed even more frequently, living in sin and often Latino. I'm sure it's truly tragic that dogs are so cruelly treated, but everyone important must be healthy and moral if this is their headlining "investigative report."

Reports of the clean-up camaraderie following flash flooding yesterday featured pictures of what once was flooded and interviews of neighbors helping neighbors, because they waited until the other station's evening news to find out about the actual flood in southern Utah. You see, they're the more human station.

-The "Summer Shot of the Night" feature-- a nightly winning photo submitted by viewers to the TV studio-- was of a Suburban driving through some flooding-aftermath puddles, creating a picturesque wave of water to drench a couple walking on the sidewalk. Another case of being at the right place at the right time-- for the photographer.

-Buying a European car may actually cost you more money, not only because they cost more money, but because they are un-American and don't sustain damage well in minor accidents or fender-benders. Duh.

-And Jim Maland, a larger, older and slightly affected man, "hoots" at minor league baseball games. His hooting is so loud, the opposing team often thinks there is actually an owl in the stadium. Of course, the home team's mascot is the Owls, so this guy's punny cheer has inspired a new rooting chant for baseball fans everywhere. His contribution to the Glossary of Hoots and Hollers Appropriate for Minor League Baseball Games is enthusiastically noted.

Another reason I strongly disagree with Utah.

Remember this lady?

Well, her polar opposite showed up today.

A couple, probably mid-thirties to early forties, stormed out of the theater not more than a half an hour after Porgy & Bess started. They approached the theater's box office (which was not staffed with Opera folk at the time) and demanded a refund because they were so grossly ashamed that such a well-respected leader in the Mormon community would allow such a vulgar and profane show to be presented. The theater people sent them over to us at our administrative building, then called us to warn us.

Both of my bosses reprinted our program's disclaimer about the show's language (which, by the way, is not especially profane or vulgar for most standards), but this made no difference to the self-righteous couple who clearly had no idea what the opera was about. They asked why it didn't have words in it (um, it is an opera...), why Michael Ballam's standards would stoop so low to allow people to use the Lord's name in vain, blah blah blah.

We gave them a refund and invited them to see the show Michael's starring in, but they huffed and puffed that they were never setting foot inside that heathen theater again.

This was the first time our general director wasn't apologetic to an unhappy customer. He refused to write them a letter because they had the gall to question his moral standards-- standards that one of the Apostles approved of enough to see all four shows. Go President Monson!

All I have to say is this: really? Really?

7.31.2007

News and stuff.

-Are we sure that this is a good idea?

-We went young and Republican, and still Roberts gets bitten by the Chief Justice curse.

-I like me some lobster tail now and then, but I'll stick to steak on this one.

-Residency seems to be a problem on both sides of the bay.

-Nicole Richie is a fat cow who likes pickles in her ice cream.

7.28.2007

Gray Dawn

This blog was originally premised on the idea that I, the blog's creator, behave and feel like the old ladies I will soon bemoan. But there remains one significant difference between us that justifies whatever hypocrisy may seem evident-- where we retire.

I do solemnly swear that I will never willingly live in the state of Arizona, Nevada, or Utah, or in the deserts of Southern California. I'm hot enough without adding menopause to desert heat.

Still, there are tendencies, behaviors- quirks, if you will, that have slowly worked their way into a part of my heart that is cold and patronizing and completely unsympathetic. Let's discuss a few:

Driving.

Not only is it terrifying to walk anywhere in town, both because of the wide roads that make it apparently impossible drive properly and because of the old people driving on those roads (ten points for correctly identifying the South Park references), I can't even turn a corner in a building without seeing someone over 65.

The not-being-able-to-walk-anywhere point really grates me, because I don't have an air-conditioned Buick to drive, thank you, and I don't need any more grief walking my 1.5 miles to and from a job I don't especially love in a town I don't especially like at all. It's 105 degrees, I'm sweating like an obese man, and I've either just woken up or am ready to be home ten hours earlier. Today, I narrowly avoided being hit by two cars, in two blocks, in a town of 42,000 people, the non-residential area of which is only four blocks long.

Planning.

For a 7:30 show, ushers arrive at about 6 to get suited up and meet with the House Manager. Problem is, patrons arrive about this time, too, because there's not a whole lot to do in this town between the earlybird special and the show.

We keep early patrons at bay by putting stanchions across the end of the hallway to the lobby with a "Please wait to be seated" sign. One problem with this is the tendency toward blindness many patrons have that makes it difficult to read that sign or see the blockade. The other problem is that most patrons who are coming this early have allowed plenty of time to get to their seats because they are frail and incapable of standing longer than two minutes.

I congratulate the people in this situation who have made a point to get out while they're still conscious, but please recognize that I can't just open the house because you need to sit. We have about six chairs in the lobby for just such purposes, but when 200 of you arrive at the same time, we cannot accommodate so easily. Old people in large numbers are, frankly, quite daunting. You expect to be individually welcomed and assisted to a handrail or a chair. You want to be coddled, but you outnumber us greatly. Wait in the car, come later, I don't care. Just don't barrel through the stanchions with your canes and walkers and enter en masse.

Along the same planning lines, please remember when you've purchased tickets. Our refund policy is explicitly non-existent, so if you forgot to come, it's not our fault or our responsibility to replace those tickets.

Discounts.

You have purchased tickets for about a third of what you might pay at a metropolitan area opera company. You are seeing a comparable quality performance with performers who often come from those metropolitan opera houses.

Three dollars is not an extravagant processing fee, particularly for a non-profit company with a box office that has no budget. For your complaining, it should be ten.

No, you don't get a discount just because you come here every year, or you've met one of the principal artists once. Unless you subscribe, which, if you've been coming for so many years and really care about that sort of thing, you should know is a great deal.

No, if you found this $5 coupon two days later, you don't get a refund.

No, if that voucher letter you won from a silent auction says your tickets are only good on certain dates, they're only good on certain dates. I don't care how much you paid for them.

No, I really do not care whether you don't think it's fair that the rear balcony is all you can afford but not very comfortable. It's $17 because it's uncomfortable, not because that's the value of the show. You're retired, anyway; do you really want to die with money in the bank?

And finally, if you die, your children cannot claim a refund for tickets for which you paid.

7.26.2007

You still know you want to.

The Cuddly Grim Reaper

Has no one considered that it might be the cat's fault? After all, pregnant women aren't supposed to clean the litter box, right?

7.25.2007

I wish I could use the Cartman method for Hippie repellant

A woman buying tickets almost two weeks ago reminded me of the self-righteous hippies who guilt me out of buying ketchup at Berkeley Bowl [Don't buy that! You're being heartless to the tomatoes, and what about the workers? They're treated so poorly because they're undocumented! There should be laws about that (what, undocumented status? That's already illegal), but this country just wants to exploit them for cheap labor (well, yes, but there's also this tiny fact of, uh, illegality, that makes it harder to get dental with their HMO)].

I have had this sneaking suspicion that California was not the only place I'd encounter a Self-Righteous Hippie, but after two solid months of Self-Righteous Mormon, I figured I was in the clear. Yet I should have remembered, as my father often unabashedly exclaims, that close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and government work.

Today, this woman, Utah's Self-Righteous Hippie, is dramatically upset over the phone because she forgot to attend the show that afternoon and can't exchange it for another date, since A) we don't do exchanges within 48 hours of the originally ticketed show and B) we don't issue refunds. These two facts are made abundantly clear in our brochure, on the credit card receipt, on the tickets, and in person, just in case you didn't get it the first three times.

She has chewed my assistant manager's ear off about having attended for so many years without this kind of treatment, and blah blah blah what kind of customer service is this, blah blah blah, and after I hear Stacy calmly repeat for the fifth and last time, "I'm sorry that you forgot to attend the opera, but our policies are explicit, there's no way for me to verify your attendance, and there's no way for me to make any exchanges once the performance has begun," she puts the woman on hold and walks off to shake off what happens when you remain patient with Self-Righteous Hippies for too long.

My other manager asks if she can call her back in a few minutes, after which we all vent about just how evil this woman is, not to mention that she lied to us about having attended for "so many years." All our records indicate she has attended one concert.

In any case, the manager calls her back--the opera in question would have just been getting out by this time, but the woman is at work (funny, then, that she would have forgotten to attend. Do you often get Wednesday afternoons off of work?). Manager explains there's nothing she can do now that the performance is over- no refunds, no exchanges. Self-Righteous Hippie announces that if the opera company won't refund her money, she will file a fraud claim with her credit card company for the tickets.

Turns out, we have her credit card slip, which Self-Righteous Hippie herself signed, which explicitly states "No Refunds/Exchanges." She will undoubtedly claim it was forged, but I imagine that if she tries to get our director involved, he won't be too keen to give $100 to the woman who accused a non-profit opera company of stealing her credit card.

7.24.2007

Zuckerbergs and Narendas and Winklevosses, oh my!

If Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and Divya Narenda have their way, Mark Zuckerberg's ever-so-popular boring lecture procrastination station will soon be shut down.

The Winklevosses plus Narenda were Zuckerberg's classmates back at Harvard, and though their previous case against Facebook in 2004 was dismissed on a technicality, they are suing Zuckerberg, claiming he stole their ideas for social networking site, ConnectU, and made Facebook instead.

That's right. Winklevoss wants Zuckerberg out of the picture. The Facebook picture, that is.

Funny names aside, I wonder what the implications are for us students of the digital age...mass mutiny? Better grades? More sleep? Less stalking? More phone calls?

Goodness. This could mean... physically talking to one another. Without a computer!?

I know this news comes as a shock, particularly after the Daily Clog comments on The Economist's article about Zuckerberg's classy and resounding success, but I'm confident everyone will keep themselves (and their Facebook profiles) updated.

The audience chimes in

The box office and I have been tallying the anonymous audience surveys that I wrote for my boss here at the opera company, and let me tell you, some of the "feel free to write comments" have been worth writing something as tacky as an audience survey (or tallying the results- very poorly, I might add).

From a 44 year-old Richmond, UT woman:

Do you anticipate returning next year?
No! We're moving out of Utah- yay!

Feel free to write any additional comments on the back of this sheet.
We're seeing Porgy & Bess tonight, which got rave reviews, but you've inserted this bizarre disclaimer in the program. Just what do you mean by saying 'people in that era could be truly ugly'? Isn't it also ugly to make yourself look superior? Or to censor the supertitles? Yuk- these productions are so juvenile sometimes. SO UTAH!


That was by far my favorite, though this 57 year-old man had this to say about next year's season:

Do you anticipate returning next year?
No. Michael [Ballam, the head hauncho] is not getting any younger. I am not coming again until he realizes this and no longer places himself in leading roles he is too old for.


Of course, that won't happen, as long as these 84 ish year-old ladies keep writing things like:

Please have more Michael Ballam concerts and put him in more operas, please.

7.23.2007

Sometimes I want to stuff my money under my mattress

Because then evil banks wouldn't charge me fees for fishy behavior.

It's no news that banks are evil, but I've been under the impression that as long as you read everything you signed on to, you only incur fees if you're being a dumbass.

As it turns out, Bank of America changes its policies like, every six months. I have had an account with Bank of America for two years, about a month after I won a scholarship from them, and I'm not about to read ten pages of size eight font legalese every six months-- not until law school, at least.

So, in my "customer service" backs and forths, the ten lines that I am allowed to reply to their initial response has mostly been civil cursing of BofA's exploitative practices, to which they keep responding with at least thirty lines of "I'm sorry you're upset about your monthly maintenance fee" and then blah blah blah about all of BofA's services that I might be better off using (but, of course, Jamie doesn't know that Steven and Bob, who responded the first two times, were incorrect in thinking this was about a maintenance fee or about another type of account. If she had read the first email herself, she might have known that.).

This was my most recent, of which the last paragraph had to be omitted in final submission because the message was too long for their lame interface:
I was not inquiring about a monthly maintenance fee.

Your bank charges me for every transfer I make after three, despite the explicitly stated "you may make up to six preauthorized transfers" which misleadingly does not mean "free."

Wells Fargo goes to great lengths to warn you when you are about to complete a transaction that will incur a fee. Since the State of California legally allows banks to authorize six transfers, Wells Fargo charges a fee for the seventh, not the third.

Your interests seem to be only to take advantage of those who do not complain about your abysmal service, and to serve the customers who are willing to read your complicated policies, which I believe have changed at least four times in the two years I have been banking here. I shouldn't have to reread my account policies that often, unless I am signing up for new accounts that frequently.

7.22.2007

Maybe she's trying to sue us

Not that she has a case or anything, but my landlord emailed me and my roommates that, considering our calls, voicemails, and emails that she "has news" for us and would like to meet with us today.

I don't plan to fly home for the occasion, but here are my predictions:

-She thinks we're harassing her. Which is of course false, because we can't very well be harassing her when we're calling again because she won't call us back.

-She would like to illustrate the legality of her choices, namely because the content of our phone messages and emails was eking out of her an exact explanation of her actions, hopefully to have some kind of paper trail, however digital, in the event that she does actually do something else illegal.

-She wants to defend her decision (not carried out, though, because we objected strongly) to throw away our food when she replaced our refrigerator. Which is illegal.


Whatever it is, she has no reason to be upset with us. I only emailed once because I'm not exactly within walking distance of The Beanery and I work 70-90 hours a week, which makes it virtually impossible to call. I'm not sure exactly what my roommates have been doing, but they've told me they're just calling to get an explanation, but she refuses to call back.

She is really grating my nerves. Will update when roommates report back.


Update:
New fridge! She "heard us" and wants to be on better terms. Maybe she should have tried this in, say, 2006, but better late than never.

Making Logan look cooler, one not-felt earthquake at a time

The local newspaper here in Logan, Utah, which I don't even believe has an online edition (and probably shouldn't), wrote an article Saturday about Berkeley's July 20th earthquake.

I'm not sure whether it was a slow day at the newsdesk (gee, only two well-known locals spotted at the bookstore buying new bibles?), or whether Logan just wants to redeem itself for being home to the invention of the seismograph without actually having earthquakes to measure.

In either case, the paper totally sensationalized (gasp!) the 4.2 jolt, noting that a Berkeley resident's cat "left town" after something fell on it, and Elmwood's Dream Stuff Donut shop's front window "shattered to pieces." Just like the shattered dreams of anything exciting ever happening in Utah.

Though I guess it was neat that the donut shop a block from my Berkeley apartment was mentioned in a podunk Utah newspaper. I've never set foot inside, and I thought it was closing (guess not?), but when I get back I'm bringing the newspaper clipping in to the owners. They oughta know what national coverage their establishment is getting, right?

Feeling old

Bay Area TV anchor Pete Wilson has died, and in a strange way, I feel like a subconscious subsection of my childhood has died, too. Not of a massive heart attack brought on by years of undetected, severely clogged arteries compromised during surgery, mind you, but still. He should have had surgery at my mom's hospital. Their mortality rate is probably much lower than Stanfurd's, especially since rich medical students aren't at the helm. Anyway.

For many years, I confused the TV anchor with California's former Governor Pete Wilson, an error I'm embarassed to say was only corrected during recent Wikipedia surfing. This misconception made me okay with the fact that The Terminator is California's current governor, because Bonzo Reagan happened, too, and hey- Pete Wilson retired from politics to television. Sort of.

Is this weird?

I guess it's no weirder than SF Gate headlining his obituary over Tammy Faye Messner's, who also died recently. As it happens, her death also makes me feel old. It is mostly because of her that I so rarely wear makeup. Also the effort. And money. And coordination.

7.19.2007

BofA=PoS

I am so mad that they keep charging me fees for things I'm not doing.

"This fee was charged because of excessive transfers from your account."

Except that the rules define "excessive" as six or more transfers per statement period, and I have distinctly only done four. Unless they mean ever, or the time-space continuum is so off in Utah that one statement period is entirely different from California's statement periods.

This might explain why there isn't a Bank of America in Logan. I guess the City Council can make a good decision or two around here. Either that, or the people are too cheap for BofA's tastes.

7.16.2007

Because trimming trees is very different from replacing them with large sports facilities

At least that's the case, according to the logic behind whoever cut the tops off of several Berkeley trees that effectively makes the tree sitters' home a little more comfortable. And by according, I mean, it-would-make-sense-in-a-funny-way-but-probably-isn't.

Even if The Cutter had nothing to do with the Berkeley Treewoks, it certainly is suspiciously convenient that the very same trees some random vandal lopped off were the very same that some self-righteous hippies were squatting in.

Then again, maybe it's a vast conspiracy inspired by University sports fans who are slowly chopping the trees down while the Treewoks are busy fertilizing the soil (er, using the restroom?). Which is illegal now, by the way, because that's not part of the Commons Initiative, now is it?

Those trees must be proud: chopped off while their protectors are out breaking the law.

7.15.2007

Numbers, schmumbers

You may have read much, much earlier (February, March-ish?) about how the hospital my mom has worked in for over 30 years announced last January that it was closing. This fact was also the subject of a successful but tersely-worded essay to that hospital's scholarship program.

And the SF Chronicle, in all its undeserved glory, reported this weekend that many Bay Area hospitals and surgeons are, despite their fabulous reputations, getting failing grades in, uh, keeping patients alive after bypass surgery. The article does rightly point out that many of the "surprisingly deadly" hospitals in the government's report have patients who were much, much sicker than some of the other hospitals-- probably because of their fabulous reputations. If UCSF can't fix 'em, no one can, and no one else gets to try because they're already dead.

The 2003-2004 report on California hospital post-bypass surgery mortality rates is available on California's government website, and it reveals that my mom's hospital-- you know, the one that's closing-- has one of the lowest post-surgery mortality rates in California. They aren't doing as many surgeries per annum as some hospitals, but they had one person die that year (.41 percent observed, 1.72 expected), which is far below the state expected average of 3.08%.

This is much, much better than the hospital that Sutter said, "eh, pick up the load we leave behind" to. Memorial's observed mortality is 8.25% (expected 4.37). That's with fewer cardiac patients than Sutter and a larger facility with more doctors.

My mom chocks it up to a hot-shot, Doogie Howser-esque doctor that Sutter brought on to lead its cardiac surgical team. No doubt, though, that Mom's awesomeness didn't hurt.

So it sucks that Sutter still wants to close, both for my mom and for anyone in need of some cardiac surgery, but at least they gave me scholarship money?

7.14.2007

Happy Bastille Day!

Or, more importantly:

Happy birthday, Becca!


(see, I'm getting better, even if I did forget Skyler on July 5, and Robert yesterday.)

Obviously I'm not as bored as Alameda County officials,

because they have time enough on their hands to lose election data!

This fascinating article reveals that a judge has issued a rather damning judgment in favor of a marijuana rights group whose request to review election results following November's Measure R failure was rejected because Alameda County "lost" the information.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/07/14/BAG64R0H0E1.DTL&hw=measure&sn=003&sc=781

See, potheads can get off their couches and win court cases, too! Sadly, that's more than I can say for Alameda County, who just kind of announced that Measure R failed by a hundred ish votes.

"Sorry to report, you lost."
"Okay, can I see the results, please?"
"Uh, we lost those."

...

The Parents are coming!

Normally, I would be sounding the alarms-- you know, those campuswide emergency tests every first Wednesday of the month that warn of the Russian invasion-- but I actually am looking forward to my parents' week-long visit to Utah (starting this evening). It's probably because I'm bored and exhausted from walking everywhere and look forward to having a personal chauffeur to drive me to work and buy me dinner and remind me that I come from a more civilized place.

Basically, they have a car and will buy me stuff.

I wouldn't wish it upon any metropolitan friend to brave Cache Valley, but my parents are old enough that they can surely find something to do. After all, this place is essentially a retiree vacation spot.

7.11.2007

Signs I hate biographical genres

1. Severe procrastination writing one-page biographies for work.

2. Close-reading other biographies; finding it more interesting to deconstruct and proofread than to actually follow time line.

Ennui getting to me

I didn't used to hate bugs, and now they're in places I never expected to see them, and it kind of freaks me out. In the couch, on the wall next to my bed, in the windowsill... just, hanging out, like they were paying rent or something.

This anxiety could also have contributed to the dream I had last night in which I was so bored in Utah that I forgot to leave. I jogged from Logan to Salt Lake City airport, trekking all my bags, and paid an exorbitant amount of money for a flight to Amsterdam that I had forgotten to book earlier. I arrived in Amsterdam so late in the night that I fell asleep on my bags in the airport and woke up to find them all gone.

Please, please, don't let this happen to me.

7.10.2007

God kills kittens to spare them from bored girls

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/07/10/BAGKKQU58H8.DTL

7.09.2007

Still annoyed at the landlord

It has become more evident that, now that the original lease has expired, the only law our landlord broke was violating our lease by not replacing our fridge as per our estoppel agreement (the thing she and we signed that said she's the new owner but our lease is the same and she has to do anything the old landlord left behind, like replacing our fridge).

The new offer/new lease is shakier because our documentation isn't that great, because our landlord evades the "can we get that in writing?" question, a lot.

So basically, except that one big contractual obligation, which she technically isn't obliged to fulfill anymore since she evaded her responsibility to it, she isn't breaking any fair housing laws anymore.

I've emailed the Rent Board anyway. Maybe there's a hidden Socialist State of Berkeley clause I don't know about, like Section 14, Subclause 2: Being Professional; or Section 12, Subclause 13: Taking Responsibility; or Section 8, Subclause 85: Doing the Right Thing in a Timely Manner, Like, Last Year.

7.08.2007

Calling all Utahns!

Or just the ones who know a thing or two about police protocol. Maybe the Berkeley CopWatch could do an on-location in Logan, Utah?

The local cops were taking pictures just before they belligerently broke up a birthday party for our company manager Saturday night, and witnesses I've spoken to said the cops wouldn't even explain why, shouting "Do you really have to ask?" As for noise, it wasn't nearly as loud as some previous parties at The Pines, and those that were louder have been broken up much more civilly (or not at all) than this one.

Some suspect the cops weren't taking too kindly to the theme of the party-- drag kings and queens. After the party was broken up, four company members on their way to their off-premises apartments were followed and pulled over, though none were drunk and only one was dressed in drag, and told "we don't like your kind here."

At first, veteran company members thought the cops were taking pictures because the scene was absolutely hilarious-- according to them, sheriffs have been known to come by merely for the entertainment of watching entertainers have fun. After all, it's not like they have any fun of their own. But after this year's sheriff came, posed for pictures with well-dressed partygoers, and left, several city police officers parked on the side of the building, started taking pictures "for evidence," waited for the Drag King walk-off to be over and then one shut off the power as the other began screaming for the person in charge to come forward. Then screamer-cop ordered everyone to disperse, and warned that if there's a party next weekend, "everyone in the apartment complex will be arrested." I'd like to see the Mormon tenants explain that one to Mom, Dad, and their ward president.

I am not especially comfortable with the idea of a police department retaining photos of me people-watching, whether or not my name is attached. They were taken while officers had not announced themselves on private property (and I wouldn't have been visible from the street), and the officers had parked out of sight without their lights on. They were there for at least five minutes taking pictures before I noticed they were even on our property.

I know there are city noise ordinances about music playing after 10 pm, though the police aren't required to enforce those until someone complains. No noise complaint was mentioned. It was almost (but definitely not past) midnight on a Saturday night, in a suburban parking lot of an apartment complex that's located on a highway. It's a loud neighborhood, with or without our contribution.

I guess the parts of the police's behavior that bother me are this: unannounced arrival, taking pictures, excessive cussing and yelling, threatening arrest without explaining why, and expressing clear disdain for those dressed for the occasion.

Not to mention, someone tells me that there is actually a law against cross-dressing in either the City of Logan or State of Utah, which could be the reason for the cops breaking up the party. I am a little busy this week. Does this sound familiar to anyone?

Who loves me?

Google Analytics tells me that the Pleasanton, CA readership is stronger than that of Berkeley or San Francisco. Also, that despite I've emailed my mother the link to this blog, which was not the easiest thing to reveal to her, she has not visited it (nor has anyone in my hometown, for that matter. Hmph.), which means she missed my awesome and super-personal ode to her. Lame. Mom- if you're arriving late in the game and are looking for your ode, scroll down and find your picture.

Anyway, I've never spent more than ten minutes in Pleasanton, and to my knowledge I have no friends there. Fascinating.

Of course, Google might not actually mean Pleasanton, just like all of my Utah readership can't be from Salt Lake City. After all, I'm almost two hours north of there, and I read myself all the time. Not like there's anything else to do.