Friday, June 25, 2010

Starbucks is cool after all

Sometimes it pays to stay at Starbucks for more than two hours. I met a group of people at one of their locations this afternoon. My friend brought to our meeting a whole pan of brownies covered with ganache that made the Starbucks brownies look pathetic. Fortunately, three of us bought drinks soon thereafter, so we weren't just a bunch of people sitting around eating outside brownies. Whew.

We talked for over two hours, exhausting our drinks in the process. The manager in the green apron came over and asked us, do you need anything else? Business was slowing down, and I was thinking, this is our cue to leave. We all said no except one guy who had the audacity to ask for a glass of water. Oh geez. Then, to make matters worse, my friend, who had kind of covered up the brownies, not only uncovered the foil from the pan, but offered one to the manager. I was ready to hide under the table. Here comes the scolding: "You're not supposed to have those in here."

Instead, the manager got a napkin and took one. He went behind the counter then brought out the water and said to my friend who made the brownies, that was really good. Then to top it all off, he brought us four cups of free coffee and a cup of creamer. What?! I guess Starbucks is supposed to be a different kind of corporation, but to actually reward us for breaking the rules?

Not that I'm complaining. Maybe this is some sort of counterintuitive strategy to get us to go back there and tell all our friends to go there? If it is, looks like it worked. I am writing a whole blog post about it after all. I doubt if all managers are that flexible about the rules, but I did leave the place thinking that Starbucks is very cool, even if it is a ubiquitous corporate chain and I laugh inside every time I order a "tall" anything.
You should read this article in Time about the dire state of state and local government finances. It hits close to home, though El Paso, and Texas, too, have been fortunate to escape the worst of it. This paragraph is a bit tangential to the topic but I read it and thought, that is so true: "But the long recession has cast a glaring light on the fact that public and private workers increasingly live in separate economies. Private-sector employees face frequent job turnover, relentless downsizing, stagnant wages and rising health-insurance premiums. They fund their own retirement through 401(k)s and similar plans, which rise and fall with the tides of the economy. Many public-sector workers, by contrast, enjoy relative job security, and the number of government jobs rose even as the overall unemployment rate shot just past 10%."

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Not that I had a bad day but John Mayer has some good advice if you are:
What do I do when I'm having an awful day? I time travel. Well, sort of. Here's how I cheat the math:

Question: Is this problem going to change your life forever or will there come a day this problem will no longer exist?

If you decide the problem won't exist after a certain period of time, then you can file it under "temporary."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Back to it

At lunch my whole body cried, "Tired!" and I wanted to take a long nap instead of going back to work. Not enough time to sleep. Not enough time to enjoy my new computer. I'm reading three books at once (typical me, can't read just one) but haven't made much progress in any of them this past week. I barely fished my copy of this week's Time out of the mailbox. I can't blog this way, not properly, anyway...
Good article on why Facebook can't genuinely connect people: "If we write on someone’s wall, who else will see it? If we comment on someone’s status, whose newsfeed will it show up in? Sometimes it’s as if Facebook is a hidden microphone that threatens to expose what we’d really like to say. Without that ability to be vulnerable, it is difficult to really connect with friends."

Friday, June 18, 2010

I slept until nearly 10:00 and still feel tired. I hate when that happens.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Heaven, the book

If there were a star rating system on this blog, I'd give three stars out of four to Lisa Miller's Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife. I could have done without some of the cutesy stories and details about what the interviewees drank during the interview, but for a book written for a popular audience, it covers some of the most-asked questions about the afterlife with surprising thoroughness, like, How do you reconcile different religions' versions of heaven?, What can you do to get into heaven?, and Does heaven get boring?.
Here's an article for a lonely Saturday night -- the case for settling for Mr. Good Enough: "When we’re holding out for deep romantic love, we have the fantasy that this level of passionate intensity will make us happier. But marrying Mr. Good Enough might be an equally viable option, especially if you’re looking for a stable, reliable life companion...Marriage isn’t a passion-fest; it’s more like a partnership formed to run a very small, mundane, and often boring nonprofit business. And I mean this in a good way."

Friday, June 11, 2010

New computer!

I named my new computer Blue Bunny, since I ordered the blue tower at an additional cost of $20. So far I'm still in awe. The new monitor is so big and the picture is so clear and crisp, I feel like I'm swimming in it. It doesn't take 10 minutes to warm up like my old PC, and it's quiet -- you don't hear it start to make a humming noise when multiple programs are running. The computer has Windows 7, which is lovely, and I also finally joined the rest of the world and installed Office 2010 and iTunes. And, what the heck, I ordered new speakers, too, which are big and black and sound amazing.

Interesting how a computer to me is now more like another body part, another arm or another set of eyes to see the world through, which is how I justified the cost of the upgrade. It really is that essential. But yeah, it's also a lot of fun.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

My Saturday

It's Thursday, aka my Saturday. For the past month or so my "weekend" has been Thursday and Friday. It's odd how much a Thursday can feel like a Saturday. I get two days off then I work the real weekend. What I call "the weekend feeling" goes on for four days, it's very strange.

I also do two night shifts during the week. I think my days working the night shift are my most productive. Not because I'm awake more hours, but because I can sleep all I want and feel energized for most of my waking hours. I can usually get a couple of chores done before work. This is unlike working the day shift, when I come home tired and spend a couple hours vegging in front of the TV before collapsing into bed.

I guess now that it's summer it's not so unusual for people to be out during the week, but one of my favorite things to do is to go to a grocery store on a weekday afternoon, when it's mostly senior citizens and homemakers with their shopping carts, not everyone and their husband and sister and kids. It feels very liberating -- look, world, I'm not at work, ha ha.

On the other hand, I missed Mother's Day with Mom, and I was at work for the American Idol finale. I'm a few beats off from most everyone else. People are doing important things while I'm sleeping until 10 or reading blogs at 2 on a Tuesday afternoon. I sent out an e-mail Monday and almost wrote that today is Wednesday. On a Saturday night I really thought it was a Tuesday. It's not a bad schedule but it does mess with your head.
More from Doris Lessing in the intro to The Golden Notebook:
Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life is something like this:

"You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination. We are sorry, but it is the best we can do. What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be. You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system. Those of you who are more robust and individual than others, will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself--educating your own judgement. Those that stay must remember, always and all the time, they are being moulded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society."
I say to these students who have to spend a year, two years, writing theses about one book: "There is only one way to read, which is to browse in libraries and bookshops, picking up books that attract you, reading only those, dropping them when they bore you, skipping the parts that drag--and never, never reading anything because you feel you ought, or because it is part of a trend or movement. Remember that the book which bores you when you are twenty or thirty will open doors for you when you are forty or fifty--and vice versa. Don't read a book out of its right time for you..."
She is so cool and definitely qualifies as one of my author heroes.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Golden Notebook

If you want to read a good feminist novel, try The Golden Notebook. No, this is not an easy read, but it is satisfying if you dare to take it on. The whole structure of the novel is a challenge -- a conventional novel interspersed with pieces from four diaries, each detailing one aspect of the life of Anna Wulf, the main character in that novel.

The Golden Notebook is about much more than feminism -- it's also about communism, colonialism, and psychoanalysis, among other things. But the parts that resonated most deeply for me were those where Doris Lessing takes a magnifying glass to the indignities and uncertainties of being a woman. In the introduction, the author says the book was criticized for its depiction of female aggression: "But this novel was not a trumpet for Women's Liberation. It described many female emotions of aggression, hostility, resentment. It put them into print. Apparently what many women were thinking, feeling, experiencing, came as a great surprise." Even in this supposedly liberated age, nearly 50 years after its publication, I think the novel still holds some shock value with its honesty. This character who is a successful but now blocked writer/lapsed communist/single mother, who jumps around from one relationship to the next, is still unusual. To reach sanity, you must unify the diverging narratives of your life. Is life really this complicated? Yes, but most of the time I just don't want to believe it.

Friday, June 04, 2010


Ten years out of high school. I won't say that time has flown by and it doesn't seem like that long ago, because it seems like ages ago. On my 28th birthday I dressed up in a jean skirt and what I thought was a cute purple top and looked at myself in the mirror. I no longer weigh 100 lbs. like I did when I was 18 but I deemed myself not fat. My face is not wrinkled but some of the freshness of youth had worn off compared to my high school graduation picture, which sat helpfully on the dresser near the mirror I was looking into. I would say I look "more mature" rather than "older," ha ha.

As I looked at the photo I remembered the deer-in-the-headlights feeling surrounding my high school graduation. Theoretically it's a day I should have been preparing for my entire young life, but I wasn't ready for it. It never really occurred to me that I would be free at age 18, and as a legal adult I could have done whatever I wanted. Blown off college. Gotten a job at a convenience store. Gone traveling around the world for a year. Maybe it is part of the public school process and/or societal attitudes, that somehow I both hated what I saw as the assembly line of life where everyone knows college follows high school but still went along with it. It has taken me a very long time to grasp what it means to be an adult. I think some people realize this much earlier, before they finish high school, even, but for me it was a much longer and more painful process.

Just over a year after my 18th birthday I would go through the classic 19-year-old crash and burn. This was the second-worst experience of my life, next to my parents' divorce. There's no picture of this, but in a lot of ways it was just as important of a milestone as a graduation. Looking back I can recognize this as fundamentally an identity crisis. I had never really gotten to the bottom of the questions, Who am I and what am I planning to do with my life? At the end of the crisis I still didn't know.

Perhaps inevitably, at age 23, I would crash and burn all over again. I had gone to computer science grad school mainly because I didn't want to get a real job in that field (I wouldn't admit this to myself at the time but it was true just the same). After two years of grad school I was (predictably) miserable, facing a dark abyss where my future should have been. Uggghhh, 23-year-old self, what were you thinking? This time I broke out the self-help books and tried to answer some questions I had never bothered to answer.

I want X. I am doing Y to get X. I passed my calculus classes in college, I studied logic and algorithms in grad school, but somehow I failed to grasp that fundamental concept. Five years, another round of grad school and three jobs later, I won't claim to have the identity issues resolved but I haven't had another "who am I" meltdown and doubt I ever will again. It's the blessing of being 28, not ever having to relive that particular feeling of lost-ness. I'm so much more willing now to rip up the four-year degree plan, cancel those classes and get my money back, call about the trip I've always wanted to take, and take time off if I need to, if it's what I need to be happy. No, I would not want to be myself at 18, 19, or 23 again, even if it meant rolling back the pounds and erasing a few blemishes from my face. Geez, I was dumb back then. The innocence of youth is more like the stupidity of youth.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Sometimes I think my 9-year-plus fixation on blogs is coming to an end. Lately it seems I spend more time doing other stuff on the Internet: browsing craigslist and Amazon, going through Facebook, checking e-mail, even watching music videos on YouTube. The number of blogs I read on a regular basis is dwindling, and lately I haven't found new blogs to replace the ones I don't follow anymore. Maybe I just need to find some new blogs to be excited about. (Any recommendations, btw?)

Could it also be that I see the Internet differently? Maybe I am slowly coming to see the Internet as a giant mall.

Or maybe a blog is now simply another tool in the ever-expanding social media toolbox. The longer version of a tweet or status update (though I like to see a blog as having a more artistry. OTOH, see my last post).

In any case, even if I don't find blogging as essential as I used to, I'm still here after 9 years. There's still a place for it in my life. I still read blogs and I will continue to churn out posts, some about sandwiches, some about more profound matters.
There's now a sandwich with two fried chicken breasts in place of the bread? What has the world come to?