Friday, February 29, 2008

pen pals

When a stranger asks me to borrow a pen at the beginning of class and then actually remembers to return it to me when class gets out, I am always shocked. I'm not really sure why, but in that second when he hands me back my writing implement and says thank you and smiles, I think that he must be one of those really good people who like carries groceries for Alzheimer's patients and sings songs to blind kids. I take my pen back (a pen which - let's remember - I owned in the first place), toss it in my bag and - as I walk out of the lecture hall - I realize I have that same feeling you have when you look in the mirror and realize that the sweater you're wearing looks awesome.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

things that disappoint

1) voice mails/phone calls people leave you when they're at concerts

2) the results of TV show-specific "Which character are you?" quizzes

3) movie versions of books you really like

4) "shock value" plots on TV shows (examples: Marissa goes lesbian, George and Izzie get together, Rachel and Joey hook up on that tropical island. . . )

5) meeting someone in person who you only know through Facebook

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

a plea for transparency

The "invisibility cloak" is going to be the end of gchat as we know it.

[This is the kind of stuff that gets me really riled up (whatever that says about me), so please bear with me. . .]

I suppose it was only a matter of time before the Google Gods decided to give gchatters the option to hide themselves - to cowardly leer by the walls at the middle school dance, the kids too nervous to actually enter the fray and ask someone to dance, content to just gossip to their friends about who's mackin' on whom.

When you are invisible, no one can see that you are signed on, but you can see who is logged on and who isn't. It's creepy, right? The whole idea of it makes me think of overweight 40-year-old pedophiles laughing maniacally at their computers as they watch little school kids play in a sandbox. "I can see youuuuu, kiddies... but you can't see daddy!"

First of all, there are enough social awkwardnesses involved in gchat already (the fact that you can see when people start and then stop typing, the decision to block or not block certain people, the ambiguity of the red busy status). We do not need another complexity added to the mix. Now there is a whole new avenue of anxieties for paranoid people like me:

BEFORE: Mallory hasn't responded to my e-mail. She's not signed on to gchat, though, so she probably just hasn't read it yet.
NOW: Mallory hasn't responded to my e-mail. It appears she isn't on gchat, but she could just be invisible. So there is a possibility she is just avoiding me.

BEFORE: Orlando is green on gchat. I am going to gchat him. We are going to have a conversation filled with pleasant/witty/sarcastic banter that will forge a closer bond between us.
NOW: Orlando is gray on gchat. But that kid is like always checking his e-mail, so he must be invisible right now, which means he can see that I am signed on but just isn't chatting me. I guess he doesn't want to gchat me. Our friendship is over.

BEFORE: Oh, look, Xavier is red on gchat! I haven't seen him in a while. I am going to gchat him and ask him to get dinner.
NOW: I am eating dinner alone in the cold and dark dining hall. If only Xavier had been visible on gchat. . .

And here's a mind-bender for you to gnaw on: IF EVERYONE GOES INVISIBLE, WILL GCHAT STILL EXIST?!

Monday, February 25, 2008

oscar the grouch

Either the people who run award shows are senile, 85-year-olds or they are being held hostage by Jack Nicholson (or both): because homeboys do not know how to make a watchable awards show. They make the exact same lame mistakes every year and never learn and never change. I watch my fair share of award shows, but -- let me tell you, friends -- I am close to my breaking point.

Three of the biggest WTF Awards Show problems:

1) The Death Applause-o-Meter. I cannot for the life of me understand why the producers of these shows think it's normal/appropriate/respectful to let everyone at home hear how loud the audience members clap for each of the deceased famous people. Back in the day, I used to think it was mildly amusing to sit on my couch and wait to see who got the most applause ("Heath totally has this year in the bag!"), but now I just feel sort of slimy and fidgety as some deceased costume designer who looks like she was a perfectly nice woman gets NO APPLAUSE from the clueless audience.

2) Obvious Introductions. Every introduction to acting categories goes like this: "What do a Taiwanese locksmith, a revenge-seeking bounty hunter, a hopeful astronaut, a dying cancer patient and a man who just wants to see his son again have in common? They were characters brought to life by men giving the performances of their lives, performances pulsating with strength, power, humility and rage. The nominees are..."

3) Montages. homework : college:: montages : award shows

sunday evening correspondences

1) This is the last paragraph of an e-mail my dean sent out to everyone in TD, 10:18 p.m.:

And as I have now been reminded, snow can also remind us to take steps onto new ground and into new perspectives. I also think to myself that by tossing snowballs at a tree or each other, we attempt a relation. We lob a bit of our own making in order to make a connection. It may be that we are saying, “Hello, be my friend.” We may toss a snowball (or a glance) in order to invite a touch. We send a message to touch someone absent or someone here. With any luck that touch comes back. A snow fall can reveal where we are and what kind of person we want to be. Our snowman seems to be reaching out to someone or something. Maybe it is you; maybe it’s leap year.

2) This is an excerpt of a gchat conversation, 12:06 a.m.:

: [someone]
just had a full cell phone conversation inside bass for at least five minutes
and didn't think anything of it
I don't even comprehend how people think it's ok to talk on their cell phone inside a library

like in what world is that possibly an acceptable form of behavior?

it's so ludicrous that you feel embarrassed if you try to shut them up

it's like reprimanding a retarded child


a vid is filled with contempt right now

Saturday, February 23, 2008

you can find me at the bar

Making a salad in the dining hall has become something of an unbreakable habit for me -- an addiction, if you will. No matter what other foods have found their way onto my tray, I always take out a small plate, drop some lettuce of it, add a tomato wedge or two, permit some carrots to enter the fray and then -- if I'm feeling chipper -- crouton it up.

Yesterday though as I listlessly and robotically (is that a word?) concocted my salad, I realized just what a chore the whole thing is. Every day, I take the time to maneuver through the salad bar, often spilling dressing on my shirt or accidentally dropping a piece of lettuce into the tortellini. And then when I sit down at the table with my creation in front of me, I can never look directly at it. My salad is that cousin whom you try to avoid every Thanksgiving but whom you know that you are going to have to talk to sooner or later and hear all about art camp and his new iBook.


Yet, I can't break free. I am controlled by the salad. Yesterday I tried to take a baby step and not add tomatoes to my greens. But when I sat down and surveyed my red-less and altogether depressing-looking salad, I immediately stood up and returned to the bar.

The salad was nothing without the tomatoes. And I am nothing without the salad.

Friday, February 22, 2008

hip to be square

As I've discussed previously, restaurants are rife with small, notable awkwardnesses.

One of the more anxiety-inducing is when you walk into a restaurant with just one other person but the hostess directs you to a four-person table with one chair on each of the four sides. The two of you sort of dance around the table for a few seconds, assessing if this other person is someone you want to sit across from or next to.

typically happens during this pre-sitting dance. Maybe one of you will take off your coat and momentarily hold it in an uncomfortable position. Maybe one of you will say something utterly obvious ("So... they gave us a four-person table"). Maybe you will both just gaze silently at the gaudy candle-related centerpiece.

Sometimes, when it's all just too much for me to bear, I will take the plunge and sit down in one of the chairs first, forcing the other person to make the choice (IF IT'S NOT CLEAR BY NOW, Y'ALL: THIS IS A CHOICE ABOUT FRIENDSHIP, NOT CHAIRS!). No matter what the person decides, I make a judgment, of course. If she sits next to me, I'll think to myself, "Oooh, so this is kind of intimate now... the drama of this dinner just got heightened, yo." But, if he sits across from me rather than next to me, I always think to myself, "Ah, so we're that kind of friends, huh?" Physical distance = emotional distance, obvi.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

cherry, cherry bad

When I walked into the dining hall for lunch today, I spied a small basket filled with small chocolates on the card-swiper's perch.

"What fortune!" I thought to myself as I peered into the basket, "I would love a palatable piece of candy right now!" But, to my extreme dismay, the basket was filled with these:

Yes, these are cherry-flavored 3 Musketeers: the bastard child of an emotionally unavailable 3 Musketeers bar and an overly flirtatious Shirley Temple.

I was repulsed. I love a good 3 Musketeers bar. After a long night of paper-writing or after I get some depressing news or something, boy does a 3 Musketeers bar put a smile on my face! But never - not once - in all my years of eating 3 Musketeers did I think to myself, "Ya know what would be just divine? If this soft chocolate filling TASTED LIKE A CHERRY!" Nope. Cherry flavoring should stay where it belongs: in medicines and sodas. NOT IN MY CANDY!

I couldn't help but make a blatant "I am so disgusted right now" face when I saw the label of the candy. The card-swiper looked up and offered an encouraging smile. "They're not as bad as you think they'll be," she said, "They're actually pretty good." And though there are times in life when you just make compromises and settle for something that isn't quite what you were hoping for because it seems like the right thing to do, this was not one of those times.

"Maybe I'll grab one on the way out," I lied, and then walked into the dining hall and picked up a tray.

Monday, February 18, 2008

things that are never as fun as you think they'll be

1) going bowling

2) eating a candied apple

3) writing a short story

4) returning to visit your high school after you've graduated

5) Master's Teas

Saturday, February 16, 2008

your heart must love you

Shaw's check-out line, 5:09 p.m.

Outgoing Olivia (hyper-caffeinated, under 5', white/blond hair) gets in the "10 Items or Less" line behind Lackadaisical Larry (sluggish, pudgy, in his 40s). She is holding a bag of Tostitos chips and some cookies. LL has a variety of vegetables.

Outgoing Olivia (shouting a little): Your heart must love you.

Lackadaisical Larry (turns around to consider OO): What's that?

OO: Your heart must love you. (gesturing to his items) You have a lot of vegetables and stuff.

LL: Oh. Yeah.

LL turns back around. Ten seconds pass.

OO (leaning forward, pointing to one of LL's vegetables): What kind of vegetable is that one? It looks really interesting.

LL: That one? It's called a pepper.

Friday, February 15, 2008


When windows pop up asking me to update my version of iTunes/Adobe Reader/Generic Virus Protection Software, I never click "yes," no matter what I am doing and no matter how long it's been since it was installed.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

i love when professors try to "use technology"

1) They never know what they are doing. It usually takes them about five minutes to turn their computer on ("...should just be a second here... erm..."). Assuming that works, either the video they want to play isn't showing up on the projector ("...this, uh, worked when I tested it out this morning..."), they can't get the sound to work (" anyone in here good at computers?") or they realize they forgot to put the right PowerPoint on their computer ("... oh, well, I guess we should just talk about the book for ten more minutes then?... sorry about that, guys..."). Everyone in the classroom nods pseduo-sympathetically before resuming their gchatting/Facebooking/iPhotoing on their laptops.

2) You get to see the wallpapers on their laptops! I am always fascinated to see what my professors choose as their wallpapers -- it's like getting to look through a keyhole into their private lives (not sure about that metaphor, but I'm keeping it). One tyrannical professor I had with a short bob haircut, a shrill voice and a permanent frown revealed in a moment of weakness that her background was a series of bright, cartoon hearts. When she closed a few windows on her desktop and realized her heartastic secret was on display for 50 students, you could tell (as she frantically closed her laptop) that glass was shattering inside her head.

(2:12 p.m.: I am writing this blog post in a lecture and -- no joke -- the professor just pressed the button to make the projector screen go down. He stammered and said "I'm going to try to show you guys pictures of my trip to Vietnam... I, uh, can't guarantee this is going to work.")

(2:16 p.m.: He has been trying to show his slide show for four minutes. He just gave up and said we can leave class early.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

mailbomb averted

I got an e-mail this morning from the Yale tech people alerting me that my inbox was getting too full. Because I've been forwarding my school e-mail to my gmail account for the past few years, my school inbox has thousands of unread e-mails in it, apparently.

Anyway, I was reading this e-mail in my 9:30 a.m. droopy-eyed state, giving it its warranted time and attention when I saw what the subject line was: [Fwd: [Bug 4546] New: user about to hit mailbomb alert.

I love this: their code name for a full inbox is a mailbomb alert.

I see these nine scrubby total tech nerds wearing, I don't know, Cloverfield t-shirts and stained hoodies. They're in this windowless room with dim lighting in some basement on campus with a solitary Hayden Panettiere poster hanging on the wall. They're sitting at their computers playing Second Life and drinking Mountain Dew. All of a sudden, one of their walkie-talkies (they've got walkie-talkies strapped to their belts, obvi) starts beeping and they all leap in the air.

"We've got a mailbomb alert, team," Carl says. "Someone's Inbox is dangerously full." And just like that the scrubby Yale techies turn into a crime-fighting team. They slip on their skin-tight black costumes, rappel down buildings and leap across roofs, all with a fast Franz Ferdinand song playing in the background. "We. . . must. . . save. . . him. . . from. . . mailbomb," Kenneth gasps as he furiously types complicated codes into a massive computer.

Minutes later, when they get notified that I deleted lots of e-mails from my ballooning inbox, they receive another signal on their walkie-talkies. "Phew," Carl sighs. "Good work, team. The mailbomb has been averted. . . his inbox will live to see another day."

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

a trip down memory lane

Believe it or not, you are now reading the 100th Text Message in a Bottle post. Simply by reading this, friend/reader (freader?), you are participating in history as it happens. (Just joshin'.)

I thought it would be fun to be totally sentimental and list a few of my favorite blog-related text messages that I still have in my Inbox. (Side note: I like receiving blog-related text messages. Keep 'em coming, freaders!)

1) "Loved it. But don't worry I won't buy you the dvd :-)" -- referencing Juno, 12/28, 10:17 p.m.

2) "I just used a urinal with a newspaper over it" -- 1/6, 11:05 p.m.

3) "I know you probably loathe it when people tell you this, but i figure i'm allowed one transgression. I just had a Blogworthy Experience." -- 1/10, 10:33 p.m.

4) "When do you get back? Ps this isn't a mass text. Pps i just sent you an email to the same effect" -- 1/12, 3:08 p.m.

5) Text from me: "When you first enter your room at school after a break, it's always such a weird shock/adjustment. . ." -- 1/13, 5:34 p.m.
Response: "I like how you are now writing text messages as if they are the beginnings of blog entries. . ." -- 1/13, 11:14 p.m.

Monday, February 11, 2008

things people say that do not need to be said

1) People always comment on the weather. It is practically mandatory that when you walk into a store or meeting or coffee date or ANYTHING, you say something about the weather. Anything will do, really. "It is so nice out today" is a common one. "It's so cold," "It feels like spring today" and "This rain is so gross" are also common. I do not get the weather crutch. I know that it is cold outside. I don't need to hear it from you.

2) People, myself included, often start voicemails with the time and day (i.e. "Hey Maggie.... it's like ten minutes past six on Wednesday... or, actually, more like 6:15 I guess."). WHY?! First of all, why does it matter what time it is?! It typically has nothing to do with the content of the message ("... can you, uh, e-mail me that song that was playing at Bar last night? Thank youuuu...") Second of all, most answering machines say the time before playing the message anyway.

3) People often say things to me like "Did you get my text?" when they see me in the dining hall seven hours after they sent it. Or things like "Did you see that e-mail I sent you the other day about getting dinner?" YES, I SAW YOUR E-MAIL. Believe it or not, I have not decided that it would be fun to click on e-mails and then not read them (though how fun does that game sound?!).

Friday, February 8, 2008

friendship never ends

You obsess about getting the best possible tickets -- refreshing the page over and over (am I the only one who legitimately has trouble deciphering those bizarre verification codewords?!) -- and then talk about the concert for weeks with your friends, creating unprecedented levels of anticipation. When the day finally comes, you drive two hours to the venue, blasting the band's best CDs as everyone screams and warbles along to the lyrics.

You finally get to the concert. You find your seats up in the upper deck or whatever and sit down. Everyone around you is texting. I am serious. EVERYONE is texting. No one talks to each other anymore.

You bounce around in your seats as you wait for the band to get on stage. Over the loudspeaker, current pop/rap hits blare as people self-consciously dance and nervously chatter. You ask "When do you think they will come on?" over and over and over again. If anything happens that indicates that the band might be coming on soon -- a light change, a pause in the music -- people start shrieking. People try to start the wave and you groan. Finally, an hour or so later, the lights dim for real and the concert begins. PANDEMONIUM!

The concert progresses. Costume changes. Lip-synching. Gyrations. Awkward banter between songs.

You can barely see the members of the band from where you are sitting. Thankfully, the Jumbotron is showing closeups so you watch that instead. After a while, you realize you aren't even looking at the stage. You are essentially watching a performance on television in an arena filled with thousands of people. And if you are me, you are constantly bending your knees and contorting your body so as not to completely block the views of the people behind you.

Then, there is that dandy tradition of the encore, in which the band feigns the end of the performance. But they're just kidding. LOL. They haven't sung their biggest hit yet! Such jokesters!

The concert ends. Everyone screams. Your ears are ringing.

But a funny thing happens on the way out of the concert and to the car. Even though you know you'll never wear the band's t-shirt again, you buy one for $40. The songs are stuck in your head. You feel like life is a big ice cream sundae. You shout and wail and jump around. BECAUSE YOU JUST WENT TO A CONCERT!

And as everyone piles into the car, you'll exclaim, "THAT WAS THE BEST CONCERT OF MY LIFE!" And you know what? It's always true.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

weird lettuce

It's annoying/I get flustered when someone says something to me to which there is no response I can offer other than to say: "Yes, you are correct."

For example, when you get a haircut and you meet your friend for lunch the next day and she says, simply, "You got a haircut," there is really nothing to say in return. It is not an insult. Not a compliment. Simply a fact. She is stating the truth. You could reply, "Yes, that's true" or "Very observant of you, Marjorie, your eyesight is quite sharp this afternoon" but -- more often than not -- you say nothing, because there is just nothing to be said. So instead, you squirm and make a comment about the weird lettuce they put on your sandwich.

Or I'll see some old acquaintance at a party and he'll say "I passed you on Grove Street the other day but didn't want to say anything because, uh, you, uh, looked busy." I want to slap him upside the head for uttering such a blatant conversation killer. (What am I supposed to respond to that? "Well, thank god you didn't say anything to me on the street because then I would have had to waste two minutes of my life having awkward/aimless conversation with you"? Nope, that would be mean). Instead I just don't respond, and then ask him if there's anywhere I can put my coat.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

articles of clothing that people wear but that just never look right

1) headbands on girls - Hate to break it to you, babe, but real life is not an episode of "Gossip Girl" and you are not Serena van der Woodsen.

2) bright-colored pants on guys - People will say things to you like "Oh, nice pants, Paul!" or "Yeah, man, rocking the bright green pants. . . I like!" They are just trying to be nice. You look weird.

3) gloves without fingertips - Where are the fingertips?!?!? This bothers me to no end. You will be talking to me about something but I will not be listening. I will be thinking about how your gloves do not have fingertips.

4) newsboy caps - So hip that they are not hip.

5) jeans with tears in them - Half of my jeans have tears in them. I do not know why. (Typically the tears are in the vicinity of the left knee. Again, do not know why.) When I wear jeans with tears in them, I feel like an 8th-grade dorkboy who shops at Pacific Sunwear and sneaks into R-rated movies. This is not a particularly great feeling.

Monday, February 4, 2008

reading for (dis)pleasure

I can't help but flinch when someone is reading a passage out loud in a classroom setting and adds a word that isn't written on the page.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

"even sam"

Over winter break, I found some old stuff I wrote when I was younger in these clunky black boxes that my mom praised for their "storage capabilities." Diary entries. Lists. Stories. Plays.

I was struck by a few of the "diary entries," which are less confessional (as in "I have a super crush on Kylie -- maybe I will talk to her tomorrow during recess") than simply representations of moments.

Here is one I found from May of 1992. I was six. And an atrocious speller.

Things I Find Amusing About This:

1) The structure of the story. Why did I insert the sentence "We Walked 2 Miles" in between the clearly connected points about Sam (my brother) saying he was tired right away and us laughing at him? My understanding of what comes after what was a bit, uh, "undeveloped."

2) The mysterious "bottles on the street"! Why were they there? Did we pick them up or just walk by and note their presence? Why did Little Josh think this was noteworthy?

3) My novel approach to the usage of quotation marks.

4) The fact that things never change. Even though I was 6 and even though Sam was 3, this is EXACTLY the kind of thing that would happen nowadays. Sam will say something funny in a funny context and I will come home and write a blog post about it. And this - this sense that despite the fact that people get older and move to new places and stop feeling things they used to feel, things don't fundamentally change - is what makes finding things you wrote when you are 6 so satisfying. Because there is something comforting about knowing that Josh the 6-year-old had the same sensibilities about the world as Josh the 22-year-old and, likely, Josh the 54-year-old. And for reasons I am not quite sure I totally grasp, this makes me relentlessly happy.

Friday, February 1, 2008

it's not easy being green

Gchat is great. We can all agree on this point. It makes communicating easy. It's fun. The smiley faces animate. Hurrah!

But sometimes, life as a gchatter ain't so easy. For those of you still living five years ago -- listening to Usher and crushing on Josh Hartnett -- the way gchat works is that someone appears on your chat list after you e-mail them a few times. At this point, the name appears as green when the person is signed on, orange when he is idle and gray when she is signed off. [This person also changes gender frequently, obvi.]

It's usually a happy occasion when a new person appears on your chat list. "Now I can mindlessly chat with Gwen at all hours of night," you'll think, "How fun!" I tend to feel a strange intimacy with the people on my gchat list. When I pass someone on my gchat list on the street -- for example, that girl who I led section with last semester -- I'll admit to feeling a little jolly.

But sometimes someone will appear on your list and it's just awkward: TAs, professors, relatives. Do I always want my TA to know when I am checking my e-mail? Do I want to see my father's name in between my high school BFF and my ex-college roommate as if he is watching over me as I respond to e-mails? This leads to the "blocking dilemma." If you block the awkward person in question, he or she will perhaps not notice and life will continue as normal. But if he or she does notice that your name is suddenly conspicuously absent for the rest of time, this is the height of awkwardness. Is the potential for embarrassment worth risking just to eliminate the electronic intrusion? THIS IS THE FUTURE OF AWKWARDNESS, PEOPLE! I DON'T THINK I AM CUT OUT FOR THIS!