Monday, June 28, 2004

Murder, She Wrote

I have a soft spot for Murder, She Wrote. There, I said it. It's my pop culture guilty pleasure. I'm resigning any pretense I ever had at hipster chic.

Except that you have them too, these pop culture guilty pleasures, sneaky little bastards that your otherwise impeccable taste assures you are dreadful, drecky remnants of your past, of the things you liked before you knew what you were and weren't supposed to like. They may be the things your mother liked (and still likes). In fact if your guilty pleasure is Murder, She Wrote, it's a good bet that your mom likes it too.

Meredith told us yesterday that she went to see Vanilla Ice, not when she was fourteen and too young to know any better and going to see Dave Matthews, but a mere three and a half years ago, in her freshman year of college. Maybe the instinct was ironic and retro dork cool. Maybe she just wanted to see Vanilla Ice.

Come on, you can admit it. You can tell me. Debbie Gibson? The A-Team? Condor Man? It's Condor Man, isn't it?

All bloggers everywhere

Okay, so I'm joining the rest of all bloggers everywhere in blogging about Fahrenheit 9/11. Apparently also in using blog as a verb.

I liked it. I liked it better than I usually like Michael Moore stuff. You could tell he felt like he was making a really important movie because he didn't fuck around as much as he usually does.

It's Monday and I'm back at work. It turns out this wasn't just some crazy week-long linguistics summer camp at Microsoft after all. Get this: I think they might want me to come in every week.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Vacation all I ever wanted

This is my first real weekend in quite some time. That's because this has been my first real workweek in quite some time. I don't know if I like this division between work time and free time. After a lifetime of school and independent writing projects, it feels unnatural to me.

When I was in college I used to feel like all time was free time. When I was in college there was a lot of truth to that. I mostly took classes because I liked them; I dropped classes I didn't like. I was interested in what I was reading and writing, and every time I chose to read/write/go out with people/go running/see a play, it felt like I was choosing that just because I wanted to. It felt like a choice. Sure, there was probably some element of self-deception involved. Did I really want to write every paper I had to write, study for every exam I had to study for? I probably did not. But if it was self-deception, it was useful and not unhealthy self-deception. I got something out of pretty much everything I had to do, and because I mostly liked what I had to do it was easy to see it that way.

When I got to grad school it started feeling like all time was work time. When I was in grad school there was a lot of truth to that. I liked some of that work time and didn't like some of it, but either way it felt like work time, like there was less volition somehow than there had been in college. Less volition even though I had pretty much total flexibility in my schedule, even though I got to go to bed and get up in the morning just when I wanted, and after a time, read and write just what I wanted to. I had more freedom but it felt like less freedom. It felt like work time.

But both times, and all the time this past year that I was in writing limbo, I didn't have this division between work time (having to do) and free time (choosing to do). One bled into the other and back again. And now, for the first time, I have work time (normal business hours) and free time (all other hours). What is the normal mode of existence for everyone everywhere is for me something totally new. And if a weekend is like this, I can't imagine what my first real vacation is going to feel like.

Friday, June 25, 2004


Sleepy. So so sleepy. But it's been a good week, all things considered.

We saw Control Room tonight, and we followed that up the only way it was reasonable to do so: with an episode of EX-treme Dating.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Jargon, jargon everywhere, and lots of pop to drink

Well, it's still true: the people I meet are all in-network. My officemate went to Penn for a while a few years before my time. My manager is a linguist by training. No more than one degree from people I already know.

I'm working my way up a pretty steep learning curve right now, trying to figure out everything I need to know, which itself is happening while I'm trying to figure out what that "everything" is comprised of. It's going to take me a few weeks before I know exactly what I'm doing. Right now it's all a mix of jargon and procedure that everyone talks like I know when really I don't, so I'm trying to make good guesses and asking a zillion questions that probably seem obvious to the askees. It's sort of neat to think, though, that in a couple of months I'm really going to know a lot about something that real people will actually use and benefit from, and that my knowledge and opinions will have some impact on shaping, you know, actual stuff. I'm used to my knowledge and opinions shaping, you know, dissertations about double objects in Tahitian.

I finally have a parking permit and an ID card with a terrible picture on it. Contract IDs are these garish orange things that scream at passers-by: DON'T MISTAKE THE WEARER OF THIS MONSTROSITY AS ONE OF US!

At least there are lots of free drinks. It's important to keep the workforce plied with a steady flow of caffeine.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

And I listened to gangsta rap on my commute, too.

I started my new job yesterday. I started it the way nature intended: sleep-deprived and stuck in rush hour traffic. At least I practiced for going to work by re-watching Office Space a couple of weeks ago.

I have more to say, and I'll say it later.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Holding pattern

In two more hours my sister will get here. We've spent the weekend doing and redoing the apartment so that we are now minus one office and plus one bedroom. Tomorrow morning, on her first day here, I will make my first drive to my new job.

This is a lot of change all at once. I'm going from a situation where I have a pornography of time and a dearth of money, freedom to indulge selfishly in anything measly writing fellowships can afford. In addition to writing a book, I have run thousands of miles, made calzones for the first time, and watched every episode of M*A*S*H. I have become greedy, a glutton for time to myself. I am always on top of the laundry.

From this I am moving to a situation of considerably greater amounts of money and frighteningly stingier time. I will have a desk at work but not at a desk at home. I feel greedy in a different way about the month ahead. A month with my sister before she starts law school and we never live in the same place again, with ambitious weekend plans. We're going to Vancouver, Mount Rainier, the rain forest, and convincing her that she likes Seattle. It's also the first month in a while where I'll have to try something really new. I'm excited. I'm nervous. I'm wondering what will happen in six months when this contract expires and I'll either be permanent, on another contract, or doing something else. This feels like a resolution to the past year and also not a resolution: a holding pattern. But I know one thing going into it: there isn't going to be enough time.

Friday, June 18, 2004

I know who you know

I've been having a discussion on .talk that has me thinking, not for the first time, about social clustering, or the way in which the people you meet seemingly randomly tend to be already acquainted with other people you know. I used to remark on this in college. When I was an undergrad at Penn, chances are if someone was involved in the honors program, one particular college house, the literary society, or the newspaper, s/he was also involved in at least one other of these organizations. I did two of these things, and because of the way the social dynamics worked out, I knew many many people involved with the other two as well. Nearly all of my friends were involved with at least one of these things, and most of them were involved with two or more.

At graduation, when the whole class was together for the first time since freshman orientation, I found it fascinating to see how the social dynamics of our larger group had played out. It seemed like our class of 2000 some odd people was mainly broken down into clusters of a few hundred people apiece who were loosely connected via some social network.

Now that I'm in a new city where I've only lived for a couple of years and hence don't know as many people, this clustering effect is even more apparent. It's a big place, but the people I'm meeting often tend to know each other, and because I don't know as many people I find the effect even more striking. What seems random isn't. Because you're drawn to people who share your interests, and within each bloc of people sharing a particular interest you're more likely to connect with those who share still others of your interests. The reason it's striking to me here in Seattle is that I haven't been here long enough to feel really ensconced in any particular social cluster... and yet it turns out that I am.

Why does it happen that, of all the runners in Seattle, the one I get to talking to at a race happens to have a graduate degree in linguistics and knows many of the same people that I do? Because I promise, I know from first-hand experience that these sets don't tend to overlap. (There's her, and me, and a professor at Berkeley who runs ultramarathons. That might be all.)

At some level it isn't that strange, because we tend to prolong interactions with people we sense a rapport with, and what is a rapport based on if not shared world view, interests, etc? And by the same token maybe we don't prolong conversations (or find them memorable) when there's nothing to say.

I think this social clustering effect has something to do with the milieus in which we find ourselves tending to attract like-minded people, but that's not all of it. How many thirty-second small talk conversations do most people have in a year? A whole bunch. How many of them do people remember? Very few. The ones you remember, the chance meetings that strike you as noteworthy, are exactly those meetings where you do find something in common, where the conversation lasts longer than a couple of minutes, and where maybe you're inclined to repeat it. It's not just that we only tend to meet people like ourselves, but also that, of all the people we meet, the ones we tend to be going out to lunch with a year later are the ones we had something in common with from the get-go.

I'm not too familiar with the literature on this kind of social clustering, but from what little I have seen I find it really fascinating.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

The Simpleton Life

Rush and Malloy report that Paris Hilton is teaming up with Lil Jon to make a hip-hop album. The title? Screwed. Who introduced them? Hugh Hefner.

I can't tell whether this is a better idea or a worse idea than The Simple Life 2.

I haven't announced it to the media yet, but I'm teaming up with Lil Jon to produce a hip-hop album of my own. I'm working on an appropriate title.


Did anyone else happen to catch the premiere of the new Andy Richter show last night? Everything about it was a disappointment. It reminded me of Saved By the Bell: the Quintuplet Years.

Follow-up on The Daily Meredith: Meri insists that The Daily Meredith was not a blog, but instead was a newsletter with pertinent information.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Reality stars never die

They just keep on making lamer and lamer shows. I'm sorry to keep posting in dribs and drabs like this instead of all at once, but the deluge of cultural relevance just keeps on coming this morning:

And click on hosts.

I was about to make a wisecrack about Jerri Manthey, but then I realized that she gets to host a show called Extreme Dodgeball while I do not, and it's not clear that my snarky remarks are appropriate.

Eye of the Tiger

On the matter of cultural relevance, Darren and I are considering doing a remake of Rocky cast with all kindergarteners. And Darren as Rocky. This is the best idea I've ever had.

Cultural relevance

I'm not sure how many people managed to catch The New Americans miniseries on PBS when it was on a month or two ago. It's been sitting on our TiVo and we just finished watching the third and final episode last night. (There were three episodes of two hours each.) It was made by the same guy + team that worked on the excellent Hoop Dreams and and more recent and interesting Stevie. The series documents the experience of immigrants moving to the US from several locations around the world: Nigerian political refugees; a Palestinian woman from the West Bank getting married to a Palestinian-American guy who is awful, awful, awful; two Dominican minor-league baseball players; a Mexican laborer trying to move his whole family to the US; and a computer programmer from Bangalore. The stories varied considerably, some of them pretty heart-rending. In any case, if you didn't catch this the first time around, I'd really recommend watching it on a reair (none scheduled right now as far as I can tell) or renting it when it's available. You can read about it here:

Also yesterday I finished reading Salt: a World History, by Mark Kurlansky. It turns out that there's a lot to say about salt. (Good read, though. Recommended.)

Thus ends our detour into culturally relevant blogging.

Speaking of things that aren't now and never will be culturally relevant, I was snookered into watching the premiere of North Shore Monday night. Furthermore, we stayed up late to do so. Now I don't want to suggest that it was Chris who snookered me into it, because that wouldn't be fair, even though it's just what you might expect since it was Chris who snookered me into watching The Simple Life and bad dating shows on the WB. No, in this case it was those marketing geniuses at FOX who snookered me into it, even though I knew from the get-go that relying on FOX was a bad idea, and that teenie bopper dramedies on FOX are a bad idea when they don't involve Josh Schwartz, and hence that North Shore would be no The OC. Ah, FOX. They're good at promoting the hell out of loser dreck like The Littlest Groom and Oliver Beene, but creative and wacky stuff like Arrested Development they nearly resign to the death pile.

Monday, June 14, 2004

The Daily Meredith

I have two sisters. My sister Noelle, who is 6, also has two sisters. Our sister Meredith, who is 22, has hundreds of sisters: Noelle, me, and her entire sorority.

Meri -- or Mere, as she has taken to calling herself in recent years (which Chris and I pronounce "mere," which rhymes with "deer," "near," and "misspelling here," and which Meri herself pronounces as "mer," which rhymes with nothing) -- is visiting for the summer. She gets here on Sunday and she's staying for several weeks. We're pretty excited.

She read my blog for the first time today and she conceded that it's not as freakish as the blog maintained by a high school classmate of hers:

but she thinks it makes me sound weirder and more eccentric than I actually am, to which I responded that it makes me sound no more or less weird and eccentric than I actually am, to which she replied no, it definitely makes me sound weirder, to which I answered that maybe she's going to be in for some surprises when we live together this summer. After all, it's been twelve years since we last shared the same living space.

The rest of our conversation went something like this:

M: Kieran, blogs are really geeky.
K: So is friendster.*
M: Well, blogs are geekier.

*Necessary backstory: I am on friendster. So, after a year and a half of bugging me about how irredeemably geeky** friendster is and me telling her that she'd give in and join eventually, is my sister.

**Further necessary backstory: There are many irredeemably geeky things about me. In fact, I submit that there are waaaay more embarassingly geeky things about me than belonging to friendster (which is so 2003) and maintaining a blog. What I mean is that if she's going to pick things to find embarassingly geeky, there are several better candidates. Having a usenet newsgroup named after me that I actually post to, to name just one.

So okay, maybe you're thinking that I'm suggesting that blogs are just another geekpoint on which Mere (rhymes with beer) is going to give in. Give her another year or two and she's going to have a blog of her own.

Well, I could say that. But the sad fact of the matter is that on this particular geekpoint Mere (rhymes with everclear) has already beaten me to the punch. As it happens, she was years ahead of me. Several years, if we're keeping track. Lest she forget, my sister has already had a blog, and a blog that she maintained on her own domain name for that matter, and a blog that she maintained on her own domain name that was named after her no less.

Tragically, despite repeated requests from her adoring fans, The Daily Meredith is no longer online, but I've unearthed some archival footage that I feel it would be unjust to deny the reading public:

good morning all. its bright and early at 4:30 AM, and im at just over 7 pages of my paper. HEEEEELP. so, im doing my bibliography...and i get to the online sources i used. in trying to figure out exactly what homepage my article was linked off of, i come to find out that the article i chose as "legitimate" to include in my paper, is really affiliated with the WELSH WITCHCRAFT HOMEPAGE. AHHH. i think you should all check it personal favorite is " A MESSAGE TO THE PAGAN COMMUNITY FROM RHUDDLWM AND CERRIDWEN regarding 9-11," but there are also interesting FAQs, as well as a catchy "traditional welsh ballad" that plays when you click the FAQ section, and will NOT stop when you right click the little grey box, like it says it will. scary really, but worth checking out. and certainly more interesting than my paper.

If that isn't geeky (blog + weird fantasy shit), I don't know what is.

In the interest of fairness, I feel compelled to point out that, of the two of us, she is by far the more fashionable geek. And I can't wait until she gets here.

I know where the summer goes

I was telling Erin that I'm starting to feel a little nervous about starting work. I wasn't expecting to. I keep wondering if I'm going to miss teaching horribly. I mean I know I'm going to miss it -- the idea of not working with kids makes me sad. But when I got close to taking teaching jobs, I kept wondering if I was going to miss linguistics horribly. And I knew I would. I think the fact is that after such a long time, any choice feels a little new and scary, and part of me wonders what things I'm ruling out by ruling other things in. It doesn't pay to dwell on that too much, because it's a paralyzing way to simply avoid making choices. But perhaps it's natural when one is on the threshhold of a major life change.

I've spent such a long time this year thinking and writing about what I want to do. I realize that I'm fortunate to have had that luxury. But at the end of everything I've come to the conclusion, not for the first time, that there are many, many things I could enjoy doing. I've also come to the conclusion that I can't actually do all of them. Not every choice is irrevocable, and in fact most choices in themselves are not. But every choice makes certain other choices irrevocable in ways that you don't necessarily realize at the time. I don't always have to be a linguist -- that particular choice is undoable -- but by getting a Ph.D. I've more or less made it impossible for me to get a job working with kids.

(Cry me a fucking river, I know.)

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Kickin' it usenet style

One of the links I posted further down the page

has a nice little old-skool usenet-style smackdown going on right now both in the regular posts and in the comments. I suspect that .talkers will find it oddly familiar, a comforting reminder of yesteryear. Or yesterday, for some of us.

In other smackdown news, I'm all a-twitter to find out what's going to happen with this Manning/Warner/Palmer (in his dreams) controversy that is not a controversy if you ask Tom Coughlin. So easy to forget that I'm a Seahawks fan these days.

Elway precedent or no Elway precedent, agent interference or no agent interference, I found Eli Manning's behavior wrt San Diego pretty off-putting. But okay, that's done. What I find more off-putting is the totally craptacular minicamp he's had. You give up as much as we I mean they gave up to get this guy and you expect someone at least a little, you know, good? Ray tells me he anticipates disaster, and although I'm still cherishing high hopes, I've learned from experience that Ray is usually right. My bet right now is that Warner is starting on opening day, and if Manning starts I expect Warner will be starting within the first five games.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Secret blogging

When I started this blog a few days ago I sent e-mail about it to some of my friends. Not that they feel obligated to post comments, with the exception of the lovely chica who lives here:

And not that I mind, although it makes me wonder if I shouldn't have gone with my initial plan of not telling anyone at all and just seeing who eventually showed up. I considered that for all of five minutes. But one of the responses I got from my friends on the initial e-mail informed that s/he had in fact been keeping such an anonymous blog for ages now, and s/he shared with me the URL on condition that I not reveal his/her true identity. And so I check out this blog, which I hadn't known about before and which is really very well done, and I discover that my friend has a highly elaborated world of internet fans and friends, most of whom seem to maintain blogs of their own which is either exactly the point or totally beside the point. I don't know which.

This morning I did the Run For Children's Hospital for the third year in a row. (And suddenly the meaning of this blog title becomes clear... ) This year I was able to persuade Chad and Ben to run it with me. Ben is the kind of runner who makes me insanely jealous. He has the sort of effortless skill and speed that wins races with enough training. Ben's the guy who got me to do Hood to Coast last year, which was hands down the best race experience of my life, and he's also the one who accompanied me to the Portland Marathon in October. He's just recovering from an ankle injury and associated two or three month layoff and he still finished with 7s. In another month he'll be comfortably training sub-7s again. Yikes.

But the big winner today was Chad, who was running only his second race ever and who took a full minute per mile off his time from last year. That's some serious improvement.

For someone who's not a very talented runner I spend a lot of time running. After a few years of comparatively slow times and one strange, magical year of very fast times I seem to have settled into a groove of medium times. No matter how I train I can't seem to get back to my pre-pneumonia performance level (and I recovered from pneumonia a year and a half ago now!). I can coach other people to improve their times pretty dramatically, but my times seem to stay the same no matter how I adjust my training. I'm thinking about getting someone other than myself to coach me. On the other hand, I can pound out eight or nine minute miles more or less forever at this point. Slow and steady may not win the race, but at least it always finishes feeling all right.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Weddings, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Chris's best friend Jay is getting married this summer. He agreed to get married with the proviso that his fiancee agreed to do all the wedding planning. Now I don't really know her too well, but I can imagine that this kind of set-up is pretty much ideal for these two. Except for the part where Chris is the best man, and still can't tell me exactly when the wedding is, or if he's leaving town for a bachelor party, or how long I should plan to be away. (It's a good thing I'm totally laid back about everything and never, ever panic or plan ahead.) I do know, however, that its weekend conflicts with all the coolest events in the Pacific Northwest: Puzzle Safari, the Rainier to Pacific Relay, Urban Challenge Seattle. Fortunately, the wedding is in Philadelphia, which is just lovely in late July.

Actually, we're both really looking forward to this wedding, except for the part where it will lead to all kinds of great discussions about our own timeline. Maybe you've had them too. You get back from someone's wedding or you hear that your cousin got engaged or you're sitting in the car in the parking lot at the grocery store talking about what fruit you need to buy and it goes kind of like this:

Girl: Hey, when are we going to get married?
Boy: Um, did you see that TiVo recorded America's Funniest Pets? Haha! America's funniest pets are funny!
Girl: I asked a question.
Boy: What was that? I was watching that cat do the limbo.
Et cetera.

I have many friends who play the role of Boy in this dialogue in their domestic lives, and I have always been and continue to be full of sympathy and comforting words about how women can seem sort of insane sometimes.

So what I want to know is why I sometimes end up playing the part of Girl these days. This didn't used to happen. And in a relationship where I'm the one who spends Sundays watching football, too. My life is becoming a bad Woody Allen movie, only with geekier electronics.

In unrelated news, I figured out why my car battery died. It turns out not to have been very mysterious after all. Those bastards at the car wash left my parking lights on a couple days ago. I know it was the bastards at the car wash because I have never touched that switch in my life. I had to look in my car manual to see where it was. They probably made it rain that afternoon too. Bastards.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

I've made two posts (one post and two half-posts) and already six people have e-mailed me to argue about what I should be posting here. Scott suggested that a good use for this blog would be to post links to other blogs and then post several lines about what's wrong with them. We could start with this comedian (no, really)

whose primary flaw seems to be that he has already posted a link to my blog. (Poor judgment.)

Or this wacky lady

who has made only one post and it has nothing whatsoever to do with cheese or monkeys but everything to do with Wilson-Phillips. Wilson-Phillips?! WTF? (False advertising.)

I spent this past year writing a book, which is only slightly less mentally masturbatory than maintaining a blog. It's all about ME!ME!ME! so I can safely say that if you're me or exactly like me you'll find it interesting. For similar reasons I can safely say that if you're me or exactly like me (or if you're one of my stalkers or someone with a predilection for chronically overeducated and underemployed cognitive scientists), you'll like this blog. If you're not, at least there will be limericks. If you are my boyfriend Chris, my sister Meredith or one of myriad other people near and dear to me, I can safely say that you're unlikely to read either. (If you are my sister Noelle, you are six years old and I gotta give you props for getting through so many big words.)

Here are some things you should know about me:

1. I WANT TO GET MARRIED, NOW! Really, I do.

2. I DON'T WANT TO GET MARRIED, EVER! Really, I don't.


4. I DON'T WANT TO HAVE KIDS, EVER! I've been thinking lately how lactation is kind of gross. Milk makes me want to vomit.

5. I AM OBSESSIVE ABOUT SCRABBLE! It's kind of annoying to play against me. I can see that.

6. I AM OBSESSIVE ABOUT RUNNING! Also, bread, football, and cute math or physics dorks. Possibly also my feet. I kind of have a fetish about my own feet, although I agree with you that everyone else's feet are gross. Other obsessions include: my red and blue blanket; random Polynesian languages; picking fights with my parents when the Republican administration does something to piss me off, which is a productive use of my energy; semicolons; and Obsession, by Calvin Klein.

7. I AM NOT OBSESSIVE ABOUT ANYTHING! I am really pretty laid-back.

8. (7) IS A LIE!

9. OR IS IT?

My car battery is mysteriously dead. It is mysterious because as far as I can tell it should not be dead. This isn't the good kind of mystery.

In other news, I have changed the comments section so that you can now post comments anonymously. BUT I'LL KNOW WHO YOU ARE. Not because anyone will tell me but because I'm just that kind of girl.

P.P.S. I just realized that I might have to exempt limericks from my no-original-poetry rule. I've already lied to you and I'm getting away with it. That's the kind of Very Important Blogger I am.

P.S. I already know which of you will be giving me shit for jumping on the blogwagon. In fact, I'm pretending you already have! But can't you understand that everything I have to say is Very Important?

So I'm about to start a new job. After years and years of school I've spent the last year on a writing fellowship figuring out what to do with my life. I was pretty sure it wasn't what I went to grad school for, which was linguistics and cognitive science. At the end of everything I've decided to take a job doing just exactly what I went to grad school for. I am now officially a gainfully employed linguist, or at least I will be in eleven more days. That makes about ten of us.

In this blog I promise not to post any original poetry.

At this point there are about twelve zillion blogs you can waste your afternoons reading, give or take several zillion. I am of two minds about this radical democratization of information. Anyone can post anything they like -- no need for peer reviews, editing by self or others, fact-checking, or anything other than an opinion and access to the internet. It's like a sophomore English seminar on speed. So on the one hand, anyone can post. On the other hand, anyone can post. I think you see my point. I can tell you about the race I'm running on Saturday, whether or not you care; tell you about the recipe I tried last week, in which I should have used more paprika; tell you whether or not it was worth it for me to get a Ph.D., whether or not you're thinking of getting one yourself; document my sense of east coast displacement out here in Seattle, no matter where you live; ultimately conclude that I like the west coast better, much to the chagrin of my family; or refer you to my fan website about The OC, regardless of how embarrassed I should be about that.

Still, at least I guarantee that I won't be posting any original poetry. There is that.

Welcome aboard.