February 24, 2006

Two Sorry Pictures

One of the ginormous diabetic cat for my brother's girlfriend (and because it's Friday):

No time right now to correct his bad case of demon-eyes, so that one's as is.

I wanted a good shot of the Organ Mountains today because when it's overcast here, they look black, and they're dead ringers for Mordor, honestly. But that shot needs to be taken earlier in the day--this one was done about 5:00 p.m.--and I've found you only really get the Mordor effect when it's not actually raining in the mountains, as it unfortunately was today. The contrast isn't what I'd like it to be on this shot. Well, no matter. Someday I'll do this one up right:

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Posted by Ilyka at 09:56 PM | Comments (2)

February 22, 2006


¡A las ocho de la mañana! I know: When is Ilyka ever up at 8:00 in the morning? Answer: Tomorrow! Tomorrow Ilyka will be right up at 8:00 in the morning! Actually, 7:30! Just to be safe!

All y'all cross your fingers for me. If it goes well enough I might Paypal money TO you. I'm that freakin' pleased about this.

UPDATE: Job! Better one! More money! Fewer--nah, let's leave that unsaid. Thank you, everyone who got all yogic with the finger-crossing. Is that a word? Yogic? Yoga-like? Anyway, I love you all THIS MUCH.

Posted by Ilyka at 08:22 PM | Comments (17)

Cable Modem

One of the things I'll sorely miss about my job (which I technically still have, by the way, but check back in a few minutes, I'm sure something will have changed by then) is talking to the help desk. We have a good help desk at my company, maybe even a great one. For one thing, we don't farm the tech support out to India, WHICH IS MORE THAN YOU CAN SAY FOR WHAT WE DO TO YOUR CONFIDENTIAL HEALTH INFORMATION.

Rajeesh says he's sorry to learn about your diverticulitis, by the way.

(Checks to see if fired yet.)

Okay, where was I? Right: The help desk. Good guys. They put up with a lot, too. Medical transcriptionists--oh, let's not beat around the bush here: They tend to be older women and they tend to be technologically retarded, but in that frustrating, perpetually-apologetic way that makes you feel as if you've just yelled at your own grandma when you try to help them. So you don't want to be mean to them, but yet sometimes, you're just like, "How could you possibly do something so stupid, Grandma?"

In that vein, here's a little story I had from one of the guys at the help desk one day:

The guy's connecting to this woman's workstation via PCAnywhere, right, to help her out with something, and he's asked her way back at the beginning of the conversation, of course, whether she has a high-speed or a dialup connection.

"Huh?" she said. "I don't know. How do I tell?"

"Well, do you have a cable modem, or do you connect through your phone line?"

"Oh!" she said brightly, comprehending. "I have a cable modem."

So the guy gets on and things are going really, really slowly. So slowly he's starting to wonder about that cable-modem business.

'Ma'am, this seems to be a very slow connection--" he begins.

"Oh, it's always like this," she interrupts. "It's real frustrating waiting for the next job to load sometimes, if it's a long one. Could you maybe do something about that while I've got you?"

The guy tells her, that's the thing: He can't make her connection go any faster than what it's built to go, and by the way, is she SURE she's got a cable modem?

"Oh yes," she says, "I'm sure. I checked."

This goes on and on until somehow or other the guy's able to verify that he's on a dialup connection. And then, feeling understandably injured at this point, he asks the woman why she would be so cruel as to tell him she had a cable modem when she clearly didn't.

And she says, "But I DO have a cable modem. There's a cable coming out of it RIGHT HERE."

Ba-da bump! Thank you, I'll be here all week.

I'm sure gonna miss those guys.

Posted by Ilyka at 03:57 PM | Comments (4)

February 21, 2006

And Then Again . . .

. . . you should maybe enjoy your Paypal-button-free existence while you can, amigos, because I'm pretty certain I'm right up on the edge of being fired. But I'm a look-on-the-bright-side sort of person, so, hey! Think of all the blogging I'll get done if it happens!

Did I say blogging? I meant drinking--least until the money runs out.

How's your week going, huh?

Posted by Ilyka at 03:09 PM | Comments (6)

February 19, 2006

Stuck on Sexism

It came up in a conversation I've been having that sometimes when people get invested in an issue they begin to see everything in terms of that issue. No news there, I know, but my point is, I felt a little guilty having this conversation because I'm beginning to get that way myself, and we weren't discussing me, we were discussing someone else. So much for let he who is without sin, etc.

How do you tell whether you're merely stuck on a pet issue, or seeing more evidence that your issue's a problem? How do you tell whether you're paranoid, or they're really out to get you? These dividing lines you have to draw for yourself. I try to make sure my lines make sense, not just to me, but to anyone I have to point them out to; but realistically I can't make sure of any such thing. They're my boundaries, and thus subjective. I can't draw a line anywhere in the material world and say, "Here. This is the border," and then produce a copy of the treaty that proves it.

In other words, maybe it's just me. On the off-chance that it isn't, and/or that there are other just-mes out there who will be relieved to have a little company, I keep obstinately mentioning it whenever I run across something I find sexist and stupid, even if being sexist and stupid was not the main point of the thing.

By the way, wouldn't it be nice if "sexist" and "stupid" were nearly synonyms? Or rather, if we could agree that being one implies the other? I think we're mostly clear in this country that treating a person shabbily on the basis of his skin color is stupid, but how many card-carrying sexists have I read described as "intelligent" or "insightful" or "provocative?" Do you realize I live in a country in which John Derbyshire has a job as an opinionmonger? The man loathes just over half that country's population minus, maybe, his wife and daughter. He should be getting paid to bus tables, not to pen odes to the glory of teenaged titties. The part where he does this for an ostensibly family-friendly conservative opinion journal, we will omit as too obvious an irony to be worth mentioning at all.

Oh, look: I've gone and distracted myself from a post about my pet issue with my pet issue. Maybe it's time I took a nice vacation somewhere. Maybe to Florida!

Or maybe not:

I took shelter at a friend's house deep in the Florida Keys. No rain. No chill. Turquoise waters. Long bridges and longer sunsets. A half an hour north from Key West. Fish sandwiches, large flocks of snowy egrets, Tiki bars specializing in Rumrunners with a dark rum float. Hammocks and sunshine. Powerboats and new yachts and boat drinks and running up on plane past Little Palm Island and out into the Gulf Stream with twin Cats putting out a perfect wake.

In a word, "Paradise." Right?

Yes. If you don't track in for the close-up.

Because, as much as the boosters of Florida want you to believe it, Florida is no longer "ready for its close-up." Florida is still pretty from the air and also in the middle-distance. But a close up examination of Florida, in the Keys or elsewhere, is like a close-up of a once beautiful woman that time is beginning to dissolve into age lines, lank hair, and too many calories in too many visible places.

Screeeeeeech! I am so tired of wearing out my mental brakes this way but I can't help it. O conservapundits: Why? Why do you go on being so obstinately, painfully stupid? Why do you never look in the mirror and observe what 30 or 40 or 50 years on this earth have done to your own appearances? The paunches, the fleeing hairlines, the JOWLS--why? Why reach for this tired, stale-bread simile about how The Most Tragic Thing in the World is A Woman Who Used to be Highly Fuckable but Alas, Now Isn't? Really, is that truly the saddest thing? The most haunting thing? Is this the best you can do?

I have to conclude either that it is--because it keeps happening--or that I am obsessive--because I keep seeing it happen. You see what I mean? About the lines?

Anyway, this is why I don't read much conservative politics anymore. That includes about the war. That includes about the crazy Muslims upset about the cartoons. Objectively, I think I should care about these things, because any group that will fly planes into buildings is somewhere way out beyond the point of caring whether they kill mostly men or mostly women; but listen, you try getting through an entire piece in which your demographic is demeaned and belittled so casually throughout that it's not even remarked upon anymore, except by a few obsessed crazies like myself, who are promptly told to quit framing everything in terms of that issue. Take a vacation! And knock it off with the group identity politics that are slowly poisoning our proud democratic beacon o' freedom.

Here is why I'm so over the Group Identity Politics are Anti-Individual argument, by the way:

1. Women and minorities did not self-select into groups. They were put there.

2. By white Anglo-Saxon Protestant men, primarily.

3. Who took great pains to specify what women and minorities were and were not permitted to do.

4. In this, our great freedom-lovin' nation.

5. Apparently groups are Good when people in power are permitted to sort others into them, apply all the labels, and make all the rules; but Bad when those so sorted, labeled, and governed catch on to the way the game is played and start remembering little ideas like, "strength in numbers."

I do indeed respect the autonomy of the individual. On the other hand, I'm sure, going back to the very founding of the nation, there were individual women who thought they ought to have the vote. I'm sure there were many individual slaves who thought slavery sucked. I'm sure there many individual children who didn't enjoy factory work--but women's suffrage, slave emancipation, and the end of child labor were not achieved by an individual. Sometimes to get things done you do, unfortunately, need to work in groups. I say that as someone who hates group-work.

And now let us talk of more pleasant things! Like that this is probably the only update I'll have for awhile, because in roughly three hours I will be Dealing with My Boyfriend's Parents, who'll be here for about a week. They are very very religious, my boyfriend's parents. You're all to swear to them that my boyfriend has been sleeping on the couch every night if they ask you, okay? Come on, it's the least you can do for me. Have I ever hit you up for Paypal donations? Do I post an Amazon wish list? Right, then. Help a sister out.

(American Digest link via who else, Andrea Harris, whose reading comprehension is not obscured by abhorrence of sexist simile like mine is, i.e., she can keep her eye on the ball long enough to grasp the man's point, which I gather is that Florida sucks. Anyway, see her post; it's better than this one.)

Posted by Ilyka at 11:43 AM | Comments (10)

February 10, 2006

This Would Never Have Happened if He'd Married Me Instead

I've only been trying to tell him that for years. Telepathically, you know, through the television. What?

(Via Kenneth in the 212.)

Posted by Ilyka at 07:04 PM | Comments (3)


  • Rob sees right through those Dove "Real Beauty" ads. I'm hoping anyone with more than a pair of brain cells to rub together does, but you can't beat the way Rob puts it. Quoting a USA Today columnist who notes that the ads "still need to sell women on the idea that they need these products to become even better," he adds:
  • Yeah, that sentiment contributes to the cynical view one might arrive at. Another one might be questions about the messenger, Dove. Aren’t they almost like the firefighter who sets the blaze so they can be the hero who puts it out? Their earlier commercials surely contributed to the image problem depicted in the current campaign. And yet another cynic might wonder how that commercial was made. Were those the only girls who showed up for it? I kind of doubt that so what did Dove tell the other ones? “You’re all beautiful but..............”?

    Remind me that if ever I embark on a career as a con artist, Rob would make a poor mark.

  • Sheila has tentatively agreed to live-blog the figure skating finals (see comments). This is excellent news for me as I have discovered another woman out there who feels the Wrath at Kwan:
  • I love ice skating, but I have one message for the Kwan-ster:


    Sasha Cohen blew you out of the water at the last Olympics, skating with more fire and more courage than you did - and you should be very very frightened of your competition, and stop trying to create some emotional melodrama so that you win as some kind of emotional favorite. I NEVER WANT TO SEE YOUR FACE AGAIN.


    I want someone ELSE to compete for the gold medal. It's not yours to win anymore.


    Whatever you do, please, don't argue with me about this one. It's not up for debate. Either you love Michelle Kwan or you NEVER WANT TO SEE HER FACE AGAIN, and I'm in the latter camp.

  • In news that will surprise no one, I continue to enjoy Andrea way more than is proper. Contrasting Islamists with, well, normal people, she writes (note!--I do not pretend to know from no HTML tables; please excuse reformatting):
  • THE WEST: A woman is attacked. She kills her attacker. She is congratulated and celebrated.
    ISLAM: A girl is attacked, but she gets away. In doing so, she ends up killing her attacker. She is condemned to death.
    THE WEST: A woman marries a man her family does not know. On television. That’s it.
    ISLAM: A woman marries a man her family does not know. Her brothers and father track her down and murder her.

    Please see the original; it's got links I've left out for no better reason than pure laziness.

    Oh! A quick note for a certain class of smartass out there: You know, when you make the argument that the Right focuses overmuch on Islam in order to distract from their own failings regarding the treatment of women, and that thus there is no need to pay any attention when someone on the right points out that women have it bad in Islamic societies, because It's a Trap! To Distract from the Wiretapping!--I find that almost as stupid as when guys on the Right tell me I shouldn't worry about the treatment of women anywhere BUT in Islamic countries. I do not like that zero-sum kind of thinking, no no no. Bad is bad, yes, but only a fool would fail to note when one bad is many times worse than another.

  • Some of the best news of my week is that Meryl got a job. Go congratulate her!
  • Finally, for those of you who miss his work as much as I do: I know where you can score some Hubris, if you're interested. Ssshh! Don't tell just anybody. I don't want the cops involved.
  • Posted by Ilyka at 03:59 PM | Comments (4)

    February 08, 2006

    Seriously, Nothing

    It is that I am reduced to proffering you random Jules Shear lyrics, I'm afraid:

    I've told you nothing if I've told you lies
    But the picture is so deep
    And your eyes only so wide--
    Screwed the truth

    You sort of have to hear it, because it's enunciated just as I wrote it. Anyway, possible discussion topics: Is the artist confessing a lie, or accusing someone else of one? Does he make a distinction between lying and screwing up the truth? Is there an actual, measurable difference (beyond the obvious semantic one) between someone having "lied" versus having "screwed the truth up?" If so, what is it? If not--oh, hell, if not, I am just wasting your time, aren't I? Because it's not like I can give you credit or money for this question. Mmm. Never mind.

    Posted by Ilyka at 04:16 AM | Comments (1)

    February 07, 2006

    This Has Not Been My Day

    First, the lighting issues:

    Over the weekend I happened to notice that I unaccountably had a little extra money and that a little store down the road was having a sale on lamps. I bought two attractive lamps, a 60-watt and a 100-watt, for just about $50. Neato, I said, and came home and plugged in the lamps and tossed the lamps they were replacing (which were so ugly I don't even want to tell you about them. They also didn't give off much light; these lamps did.). Hooray and victory, etc.

    That evening, the fluorescent bulbs in the kitchen went out. I know: I could have got up on the stepladder with the tape measure and figured out what size bulbs and then gone to Wal-mart and--and, stop right there. Any solution that involves me making an extra trip to Wal-mart, above and beyond the trips I make already, is a poor solution. That is the rule in this house.

    Besides, the apartment complex will replace them for free, so why should I spend the money? See, exactly. I would just call them in the morning--no, wait, the morning was Sunday. My apartment office is closed Sundays, I guess because of all the hundreds of people who are out apartment-hunting during, coincidentally, the very hours of the week during which most people work.

    So I hauled one of the new lamps into the kitchen, where it looked ridiculous but did in fact illuminate things. Fine. Whatever. I'm flexible.

    Monday morning I forgot to call the apartment complex. Hey! I had an exam, remember?

    Today, finally, I called the complex. Within a couple of hours (this is not a bad response time for apartment maintenance workers, really) the nice man showed up and installed replacement fluorescent bulbs and I moved the new lamp out of the kitchen and all was well and so, seeing that all was well, I turned off the light in the kitchen, because you should always turn off the light in a room you are not currently occupying, it saves energy.

    Ten minutes later I flipped the switch in the kitchen and thought I might have a seizure from the strobe effect that resulted. Uh, what? I'm thinking to myself, I'm thinking, "Maybe this is what electricians call 'a short' and not actually a bad bulb after all," and then I'm thinking, "Of course, I'm not actually sure what 'a short' is," and then I'm thinking, "Which is terrible when you consider that I took a year of physics and a semester of circuits." And it IS terrible--all those credit hours, all that lab time, and not only do I not really know what a short is, I DON'T REALLY CARE. I'm sorry, I just don't. I found electrical engineering boring. It didn't help that I was taught it by a wrathful Iranian professor who thought the trick to teaching us all what a short is was to YELL A LITTLE LOUDER, occasionally in Farsi.

    So I whacked the fixture with a mop handle and promptly got light again. Hands up who wants to bet I'll be using this whack-it-with-a-mop trick for the rest of the time that I live here? Because otherwise, it's call maintenance again and risk that the fellow they send out knows no more about circuits than I do, and up and fries himself to a crisp in the middle of my kitchen. Oh, no thank you.

    Then tonight, the boyfriend goes to shower before class and he gets out and I'm ignoring him just like always when he interrupts my perusal of the internet to complain that "This thing's stuck."

    "What thing?" I ask, but only because that's polite. I don't actually care or anything.

    "THIS thing," he says, which means I have to get up and go look. I pull this trick myself all the time so I can't get too mad at him for using it; I would hope he'd learn some moves from me after this long, in fact. That's what you do when you want to involve someone else hip-deep in your problems: You gripe at them from another room and then refuse to specify the problem, so that they're forced to get up and go to where you are and come look, at which point they discover that the bathroom light switch is now stuck in the "ON" position.

    I mean, if they're me this afternoon, that's what they discover.

    "And are you trying to pry that out of there with something metal?" I asked sweetly, as the boyfriend hastily put away the fingernail clippers that he HAD SO been using to pry the switch out (it's one of those annoying styles of switch that cropped up about the late 70s/early 80s, you know, it looks like this, but it's not a dimmer like that one is). "Because that would be almost as stupid as the way you have fucked up this switch to begin with," I continued, because I'm not a very nice person, and I am especially unmerciful when the same class of problem--there's no light; there's some light but it's flickering; there's too much light and no way to shut it off--KEEPS HAPPENING, over and over and over, much as it has since Saturday. (I didn't even mention the part where the 60-watt bulb I transferred from the old to the new 60-watt lamp went out within six hours of being transferred, did I? Hey, do you think maybe I'm gradually arriving at the reason these lamps were on sale in the first place? It's only fair to discount merchandise which is cursed, right?)

    And I'm especially unmerciful also when I suspect, as I do, that this switch got jammed because someone has a habit of always smacking the switches as though he were Arthur Fonzarelli and all the switches were jukeboxes at Arnold's. I am a little tired of that habit, especially now that he's gone to class and I am left with a terminally-lit bathroom and of course the apartment office is closed for the day, and how in tarnation am I supposed to get to sleep tonight with the bathroom all lit up like Vegas? I know, I know, close the door, but that strip of light gleaming out from underneath the door will creep me no end. In fact, to hell with it, he's getting that side of the bed tonight. Let him imagine what might be behind that door. Maybe it's that girl from Poltergeist. You never know. I'm not one to rule that out, seeing as how I have apparently purchased two lamps this weekend which are damned, damned to Hell, and determined to take all their fellow lighting fixtures there with them.

    We'll get to the Spanish teacher who is very angry at all of us for doing exactly what I thought we'd all do on our exams, and how she has determined that the problem is that she is not speaking enough Spanish at us, another time. Right now I've got to figure out what to do about my new Bathroom on the Strip.

    UPDATE: The bathroom switch I fixed in all of 2 minutes after I wrote this because I just rock the planet that much. Or so I'm telling myself. And, yeah, my Fonzarelli hypothesis was confirmed--the switch had been shoved back far enough to get stuck on a wire back in there; I just tugged it back out and things were peachy again. The lecture on "We Are Not the Fonz, Didn't You Notice That When 'Rock Around the Clock' Failed to Start Playing Whenever You Smacked One of These Damn Things?" has also been delivered and accepted.

    The kitchen fixture got tired of being smacked with a mop handle. Which one of you said it was likely the bulb not being seated properly?--'Cause I think you're right, but when I got on the stepladder and tried fiddling with it myself, I got nowhere. I'll call maintenance tomorrow.

    Finally, maybe think twice before picking up any lamps from Beer Fun Gin Ports. Pretend that's Cockney rhyming slang and heed my tale before breaking out your wallets in one, all right?

    Posted by Ilyka at 06:00 PM | Comments (8)

    February 05, 2006

    Zero Population Growth: A Cause for Those Who Just Can't Bring Themselves to Say, 'I Hate People'

    A fun exercise for the next time you meet someone who raves about the Vital Importance of the world achieving zero population growth Immediately! As in Right Now, and Yesterday Would Have Been Better:

    Take that person's city and find its population density. I'm going to use Austin, Texas. It's a nice place, right? I've never been there, but everyone says it's lovely.

    I couldn't find a nice neat figure for Austin's population density, but I did find the 2004 population for Austin/San Marcos MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area), otherwise known as the greater Austin area: 1,412,271. (See also here.)

    And the "basic facts" page of the city of Austin reports a land area of 271.8 square miles, so there are approximately 5196 persons per square mile in the greater Austin area. If you think that sounds like a lot, bear in mind that the population density of Hong Kong is about 16,517 persons per square mile (using the figure of 6380 persons per square kilometer and converting to miles)--most of them packed onto Hong Kong Island, where the density shoots up over 45,000 persons per square mile.

    Austin's 5196 persons per square mile may be a little crowded, but it's nothing compared to other parts of the world. In fact, it's pretty good: 5196 persons per square mile = 5196 persons per 640 acres, which means we'd each get 0.12 acres of land to call our own, or 5227 square feet each.

    So can we conclude that we'd all be pretty comfy at Austin's current population density? Okay then. Now take the world's 6.5 billion people and divide by 5196: To house all 6.5 billion of them at that density, we'll need a land area about 1,250,962 miles square.

    That's a lot of land? Not really:

    Alaska's land area is 570,374 square miles, plus:
    Texas, 261,914, plus
    California, 155,973, plus
    Montana, 145,556, plus
    New Mexico, 121,365, equals 1,255,182 square miles.

    We even have a little left over. Of course, Alaska isn't the most hospitable place on earth. Even I don't want my armed fortress built in Alaska. Let's try something more scenic. How 'bout we sub out Alaska's 570,374 square miles for parts of Europe?

    France's land area is 545,630 square kilometers, or 210,669 square miles. Spain's is 173,569 square miles, Italy's is 113,521 square miles, and Germany's is 134,835, giving us a total land area across the Atlantic of 632,594 square miles almost, but not quite, full of Austins. There, we're done. The world is now composed solely of France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Texas, California, Montana, and New Mexico. That's going to be an interesting little United Nations.

    At this point your zero population growth advocate will likely shout, "Oh, come on! I'm not claiming the problem is land area; I am claiming we can't possibly continue to feed so many people! And what about energy and resources?"

    Well? What about them? You're telling me we can't cram France full of Austins and provide them all food, shelter, transportation, etc., when we've got the whole rest of the world to harness for it, minus a few lonely mountainous states that no one was really doing much with anyway? (Sorry, California. I'm not sorry, Texas.)

    Do I need to remind you that this country pays its farmers not to produce food? And how much fuel are we going to need if the most we're ever doing is taking road trips around the American West and maybe flying over to France to perform gourmet cheese raids occasionally? Hell, we wouldn't even need to heat our homes in the winter if we subbed out Northern California and Montana for warmer climes. We could put everyone there in Northern Mexico instead. Here's the CIA factbook page for Mexico--you work out the square-kilometers-to-square-miles conversion this time*. I've done enough here, I think. Just eyeballing it, though, I'd say we've got plenty of room down there. Plenty.

    People who advocate zero population growth aren't really thinking, and they don't really care that people are starving in parts of Africa or being washed away by floods in Indonesia. They don't advocate zero population growth out of a desire to fix these things, because if what they really wanted was to fix these things, they'd run the numbers like I just did and figure out that zero population growth isn't going to fix anything. What if the world's population increases? What if it doubles? Well, go on: Run the numbers with 13,000,000,000 instead 6,500,000,000. I'm betting we still don't fill the continental United States, even at the rather comfy density of 5196 persons per square mile.

    We have plenty of stuff. Some of have more stuff than we know what to do with. The problem is that not everyone has access to all this stuff. Some people--lots and lots of people, actually--live in countries where bad farming techniques destroy arable land, or in countries where crappy coal is strip-mined by the government for no discernible reason, or in countries where flood control is virtually unheard of, or in countries where the government thinks price fixing is the solution to every problem. No one's starving for lack of food and no one's freezing for lack of heat and no one's drowning for lack of dry land. People are starving and freezing and drowning because people, especially people in power, so spectactularly fuck up on making sure the food is grown and the energy's distributed and the levees are fortified--and note that in this sample Austinization plan, no one's living in New Orleans or Bangladesh anymore, now, are they? So to hell with the levees.

    What zero population growth advocates are really saying is, "I hate people, and I wish there were fewer of them." Well, join the club! I dislike people rather intensely myself. But I draw the line at telling them that not breeding with each other will fix a problem that it won't actually fix.

    NOTE: Why, yes, astute reader; in fact I did rip this Austinization exercise off from P.J. O'Rourke's All the Trouble in the World--specifically, the chapter titled "Overpopulation: Just Enough of Me, Way Too Much of You." How clever of you to notice!

    UPDATE: I had so many numbers wrong in this, it was MORTIFYING. Thanks to my excellent host Pixy Misa for noting the errors, which have now been corrected.

    *Especially as yours is way more likely to be done CORRECTLY.

    Posted by Ilyka at 05:20 PM | Comments (12)

    February 04, 2006

    Lastest Meme

    I'm doing this because the silver-haired fox at Exile in Portales asked me to, even after I hollered quite rudely at one of his commenters, and, well, I can't resist such gracious tolerance of my big virtual mouth.

    Besides, it's a New Mexican thing.

    Nonetheless, a note to future would-be meme-taggers:

    I have this page, sometimes called an "About" page, and it's got all kinds of boring facts about myself, and it was kind of a hassle to do once, so I'm not really dying to do it again. See, most of these memes that go 'round essentially invite the blogger to yak about him- or herself ad nauseum and, um, see the part where I said I already did that and don't want to do it again?

    So be advised: Future meme-taggers will be pointed to the "About" page (or, if I am feeling lazy, ignored entirely). I do this as a favor to all of you, because it turns out I'm just not that fascinating a person.

    End lecture! On with this, my lastest meme:

    Four Jobs You Have Had In Your Life
    1. "Would you like fries with that?"
    2. Patient registration clerk at the Division of Tuberculosis Control of Maricopa County.
    3. Administrative assistant at the HIV/AIDS outpatient clinic of [above].
    4. Software developer, but this was mostly pretty boring. The McDonald's job was more interesting, if you can believe it.

    Four Movies You Would Watch Over and Over
    1. Urban Cowboy.
    2. Victor/Victoria.
    3. Office Space.
    4. Trading Places.

    Four Places You Have Lived
    1. New Jersey.
    2. Northern California.
    3. Southern California.
    4. Arizona.

    Four TV Shows You Love to Watch
    1. I hate television.
    2. Well, except for Food Network.
    3. I like Sara Moulton and Rachel Ray, particularly. You Rachel Ray haters, just talk to the hand already.
    4. Oh, and almost any program on HGTV is good.

    Four Places You Have Been on Vacation
    1. Seattle, Washington--this was awesome. I'd go back in a minute.
    2. New York.
    3. Utah (failed that one).
    4. Hot Springs, Arkansas--and this was better than you might think, honestly. I had to change all my Arkansan jokes to Oklahoman ones after that trip.

    Four Websites You Visit Daily
    1. Here Be Hippogriffs.
    2. Everyday Stranger.
    3. A Crafty Madness.
    4. Insert your web site here! Because otherwise I am just going to get the hurt-feelinged comments from you and, people, I really despise the hurt-feelinged comments. Remember what Gene Kelly said about how to comport oneself: "Dignity; always dignity." Now if only Gene himself had remembered that advice before appearing in this. Do as he said, not as he did.

    Four Favorite Foods
    1. Anything that can be scooped up with injera, i.e., Ethiopian.
    2. Any meal at which baba ghanouj and hummus appear, i.e., Middle Eastern/Greek.
    3. TA-MAH-LES that are not from Dallas.
    4. A proper slice from a proper NYC pie.

    Four Places You Would Rather Be Right Now
    1. Hey, I like it here! It's why I moved? Like on purpose?
    2. But I guess I wouldn't mind visiting London again.
    3. New York is always awesome.
    4. And some day I'd like to visit Eastern Europe.

    I am not tagging anyone. I am afraid they will only point me to their "About" pages if I do.

    Posted by Ilyka at 12:59 PM | Comments (10)

    February 02, 2006

    Someone Call David Horowitz

    You know how that gasbag's always going on about bias in education, they're indoctrinating the youth of America, somebody stop them, our schools are crawling with Communists, blah blah blah? Yeah, I get tired of that bit too.

    That said, here's how the boyfriend spent his evening in "Seminar in American Politics:"

    First, it was announced that the class would watch and discuss the recent State of the Union address.

    Then, the class was shown a video of a recent Al Gore speech* for innoculation against right-wing cooties balance.

    Then, they watched the State of the Union address.

    Ha! Ha! ¡Pero no! Of course they did no such thing. What are you, high?

    They watched a video produced by Think Progress critiquing all the President's previous State of the Union addresses. And lo, balance was restored in the educational universe.

    Then, the boyfriend entertained himself driving home by making up a little song to the tune of that Lazy Sunday video, aka, the only funny thing Saturday Night Live's produced so far this season:

    Well let's hit up Daily Kos to find the dopest news
    --I prefer Kevin Drum!
    That's a good one too!
    --Atrios is the best!
    True dat. OPEN THREAD!
    --University to Jordan--step on it, sucka!
    What you wanna do, Prof?
    --Sheehan rally muthafucka!

    I mean, keep in mind: My boyfriend's way lefter than I am. If he's noticing something a little skewed, it ain't 'cause Karl Rove's put him on the payroll.

    I'm just sayin'.

    UPDATE: Put down those phones! The boyfriend clarified that it was two students who put on this little presentation, not the professor. Pursuant to Craig's comment below, it seems to me that would have been the perfect time for the professor to bring up the preference of primary to secondary sources. But, you know--kids these days. They love the Think Progress and the gross public displays of affection. What can you do?

    *I know, I couldn't believe he's still making them either, but you can't keep a good Al down I guess.

    Posted by Ilyka at 09:12 PM | Comments (1)

    Español: You're Soaking in It!

    Okay, the first thing you have to remember when reading this post is that I am an idiot.

    I don't know what the theories of language teaching are. I thought maybe the phrase I was looking for with regard to how we're being taught Spanish was "immersion," but no, that's something way more hardcore that starts much younger:

    In foreign language immersion programs, the regular school curriculum is taught in the immersion language for at least half of the school day. In partial immersion programs, instructional time is divided equally between English and the immersion language throughout the elementary grades. In full immersion programs, teachers use no English at all in the early grades. In Grade 2, 3, or 4, teachers introduce English language arts and reading for one period per day and gradually move toward an even distribution of English and the immersion language by Grade 5 or 6. In the secondary school grades, immersion students typically have access to at least two course offerings in the immersion language, most often in social studies and language arts.

    So one of the reasons I've put off writing a post about the way we're being taught Spanish this semester is that I'm not sure I can make an informed criticism about it, except in one respect:

    Whatever method it is ain't working.

    We have our first exam Monday. I'll bet you $25 that at least 1/3 of the class fails it. I'll bet you the same amount again that at least half the class doesn't make a B.

    This isn't my professor's fault. My professor's a nice woman and I continue to like her bunches. We're not blaming the professor here, especially if she finds this blog, in which case I want you all to begin complaining immediately that I never shut up about mi profesora estupenda.

    No, it's the curriculum, the textbook, and the overall method of instruction that I have problems with. In other words, everything else.

    The way it's supposed to work in theory, as best I can tell, is that we will come to class every day, greet each other in Spanish, listen to the teacher speak about a 90/10 mixture of Spanish and English, do some out-loud exercises in groups in Spanish, and then go home, do the homework, and then come to class the next day, greet each other in Spanish . . . in other words, the idea seems to be that if you just douse everybody in Spanish, Spanish, Spanish, eventually they'll pick it up somehow. Osmosis, I guess.

    That's not such a wacky idea. It works well with little children. The problem is, we're not little children. Most of the class are freshmen, straight out of high school, and they're too intimidated, too new at this whole "college" thing, to ask questions when they don't understand something.

    Not that it would do them much good if they did ask questions, because our teacher answers them in Spanish. You know, the language we're trying to learn because we don't know it already? Imagine:

    Student: Professor, what's "te veo?"

    Teacher: ¿Clase, cuál es 'te veo' en inglés?


    Teacher [more urgently]: ¿Clase, cuál es 'te veo' en inglés? ¿Cómo se dice 'te veo' en inglés?

    Me [silently]: That's what he's fucking asking you! And thank goodness, because I was kind of wondering myself.

    Then I go home and babelfish "te veo." Oh, all right, not really. Eventually, we get an answer from the teacher.

    In Spanish.

    Verb conjugation's come up this week. It's been a blast, if you enjoy watching the dirt-simple rules of regular Spanish verb conjugation not be explained ever, while the students are nonetheless expected to know how to apply them.

    Teacher: Vamos a conjugar el verbo "estudiar." ¿La persona primera singular es "yo . . ."? ¿Clase?


    Teacher: Rodrigo?

    Roderick: No.

    Teacher: ¿Carla?

    Carla: NO.

    Teacher: No SÉ. Cuando no sabe la respuesta, responde "no sé."

    Carla: ...

    Teacher: No SÉ.

    Carla: No sé.

    Did you see what didn't happen there? Verb conjugation! Do you know what our homework assignment was last night? To conjugate verbs!

    Very few people in the class have any idea how to do this. Why would they? No one's tipped them off to the rules; the rules which Spanish, unlike English, mostly follows (note: this is for present tense only):

  • Infinitive forms end in -ar, -er, or -ir. (Example: Hablar, "to speak.")

  • First-person verbs end in -o. (Example: Hablo, "I speak.")

  • Second-person informal verbs end in -as for -ar verbs and -es for -er and -ir verbs.

  • Third-person (and second-person formal) verbs end in -a for -ar verbs and -e for -er and -ir verbs.

  • First-person plural verbs end in -amos (-ar), -emos (-er), or -imos (-ir).

  • Second-person plural verbs end in -áis (-ar), -éis (-er), or -ís (-ir).

  • Third-person plural verbs end in -an (-ar) or -en (-er, -ir).
  • There; call it "Seven Simple Rules for Conjugating My Regular Spanish Verb" or whatever, but you're now ahead of half my class. I don't mean to imply any slight against the Spanish language or anything, but regular verb conjugation in the present tense of this language is not rocket science, provided someone tells you the rules. But there, that would cut into our time to practice what we don't know:

    Student 1: Hola! Cómo estás?

    Student 2: Muy bien. Y tú?

    Student 1: Bien, gracias. Cómo te llamas?

    Student 2: Me llamas--

    Teacher: ¡No! ¡No! No es "llamas." LLAMO! "Me LLAMO."

    Student 2: Me llamo es--

    Teacher: ¡No! ¡No! No "me llamo ES." Solo "me llamo." Por ejemplo: Me llamo Julia.

    Student 2: Me llamo Julia.

    Teacher: No, tu nombre es Christopher.

    Student 2: Tu nombre es Christopher.

    Teacher: ¡No! ¡No! (etc.)

    I've been to every class so far. At no time have I ever seen it explained to anyone what "Me llamo" MEANS.

    It means "I am called." That's why there's no "es" after it; it would be like saying "I am called is Christopher." But the kids have also been taught that "Mi nombre es . . ." is another acceptable way to state their names, and that one means "my name IS." So they're constantly sticking an "es" after "Me llamo" because they mix the two phrases up--and who can blame them, when both phrases translate to "I don't know, dude, it's just something you say like, when you meet somebody" in their minds?

    Maybe I'm an idiot, but I think it was easier the way I was taught it centuries ago, when the teacher spoke mostly English and provided lots and lots of literal translation and grammatical rules and other icky, boring stuff that's not half as fun as getting up in front of a classroom and speaking your native language to a room full of confused teenagers for 50 minutes.

    I didn't get to the homework assignments yet, did I? Here: You tell ME what someone who has absolutely not one word of Spanish in his or her vocabulary is supposed to make of this:

    Nuevos amigos: Tú y un(a) amigo(a) estudian en una universidad en Santiago de Chile. Hoy hablan después de la primera semana. Escriban el diálogo, y luego lee el diálogo con tu compañero(a) frente a la clase. Usa la guía que aparece a continuación.

    I kid you not, that is word for word part of my homework assignment from Monday afternoon. I keep thinking one thing to myself in this class:

    "What the fuck would I do if this were beginning French?"



    Student: Professor, what's "te veo?"

    Teacher: Class, what is "te veo" in English?


    Teacher [more urgently]: Class, what is "te veo" in English? How do you say "te veo" in English?

    Me [silently]: That's what he's fucking asking you! And thank goodness, because I was kind of wondering myself.


    Teacher: We are going to conjugate the verb "estudiar" (to study). The first person singular is "I . . ." Class?


    Teacher: Rodrigo?

    Roderick: No.

    Teacher: Carla?

    Carla: NO.

    Teacher: "No SÉ." When you don't know the answer, answer "No sé" ("I don't know").

    Carla: ...

    Teacher: No SÉ.

    Carla: No sé.


    Student 1: Hi! How are you!

    Student 2: Very well. And you?

    Student 1: Well, thanks. How are you called? [Lit.]

    Student 2: I are called--

    Teacher: No! No! It is not "are called." AM CALLED! "I AM CALLED."

    Student 2: I am called is--

    Teacher: No! No! Not "I am called IS." Just "I am called." For example: I am called Julia.

    Student 2: I am called Julia.

    Teacher: No, your name is Christopher.

    Student 2: Your name is Christopher.

    Teacher: No! No! (etc.)

    Posted by Ilyka at 03:19 PM | Comments (13)

    For Those of You Who Thought I Made Him Up

    What I learned today:

    Boyfriends tire rapidly of having their pictures taken.

    But it's what he gets for putting his slippers up on the couch like that. Slob!

    Posted by Ilyka at 12:54 AM | Comments (10)

    February 01, 2006

    That is the Moment

    Whoa--it certainly is.

    I can't say anything else without getting all goopy, and you know I hate that. So just go.

    Posted by Ilyka at 06:29 PM | Comments (1)

    How I Can Tell I Am Late for Work

    Sky lookin' all pretty and stuff. Damn. Wish I were retired.

    Posted by Ilyka at 06:02 PM | Comments (2)

    Don't Need No Silicone, I Prefer My Own

    What IS this with the silicone pot holders everywhere? Permit me to be completely irrational about this for a minute: I don't like 'em. I won't buy 'em. I don't care if they work 1000 times better than cloth ones. I don't care that if I'd just give them a chance, I might fall in love. The answer, silicone pot holders, is NO.

    I find these things too shockingly ugly to permit them to take up residence in my home. And I swear I'm sewing myself a set of my own if I can't find some decent, non-ugly, cloth pot holders. (Not oven mitts--please, don't get me started on oven mitts. I am a spaz, remember? I need that which can be grabbed in a hurry. I don't have time to screw around with oven mitts.)

    Now to learn how to sew!

    UPDATE: Nooooooo!

    Posted by Ilyka at 05:30 PM | Comments (4)

    Embittered, Used Up, and Broken

    I don't have time to write this like I want to, but I'll give it a shot anyway:

    When I complain about something, I generally try to do it in a way that transforms any actual anger I have about it into L-A-U-G-H-S.

    I'm not saying I succeed very often. But my intent is to turn misery into funny.

    If you think about it, it's not actually very funny if you start bleeding all over yourself in the middle of a crowded public place. But it's pretty funny if it happens to someone else, or so all the girls in high school who hissed, "NURSE!" at the poor unfortunates who suffered this indignity seemed to think.

    Almost anything awful is kind of funny, provided it only happens to someone else. I figure, why shouldn't I be my own someone else? I'm not an extrovert, you know. I don't have a band of people to pal around with. There's me, there's my boyfriend, there's my family, there's the marvelous people I email, and . . . uh . . . mmm . . . well, I've exchanged pleasantries with one of the girls in my Spanish class once or twice, and . . . well, that's it.

    I ENJOY mocking myself. I'm a rich repository of malicious, mean-spirited humor for myself. And no, I don't take it seriously. I don't really think I'm as dumb as I sometimes make myself out to be. I don't really think I'm as clumsy, or as fat, or as neurotic--if you want to know the truth, I think I'm pretty all right. If anything, I tend towards the vain and the proud. Self-effacement is simply one way I try to head those sins off at the pass.

    If it sometimes gives other people a laugh to read about it, that's just so much velvet.

    Not everyone agrees with me about what's funny. That's fine. I usually don't agree with them about what's funny either. Insert cliche about horse-racing or the world going 'round here.

    But you know what I don't do? I don't automatically assume that if, for example, you think Scrappleface is laugh-out-loud hilarious, you must be all kinds of messed up as a person. I assume, I think correctly, that you and I don't agree on what's funny in this particular instance.

    I don't make assumptions like this:

    I couldn't help but feel sorry for that poor embittered woman. Such a sad life she must have if she is consumed with such hatred.

    --and I especially don't make them based on one post about TAMPONS. For pity's sake! Okay, I confess to having harbored perhaps a touch of hatred for whoever designed those crummy tampons, but you know what? It's out of my system now, because I turned it into something that cracked myself up.

    See? I wasn't kidding about the vanity. I read, and re-read, my own posts, and I break myself up with them. That might be vain, but it's not embittered.

    I have a pretty good life. Many days I'd even say I have an excellent life. The days I don't have such a great life, they work out in the end anyhow, because misery means one thing to me: Misery means MATERIAL.

    I like providing material. I get a kick out of it. I'm tickled pink if you sometimes get a kick out of it too, but if you don't? Spare me your analysis, because it comes off as being just a little bit . . .

    . . . bitter.

    Posted by Ilyka at 12:33 AM | Comments (7)