Sunday, February 29, 2004

Random Oscar Thought (welcome to my inner monologue)

Oh my god, did Elijah Wood bring a boy? Wow! And he's CUTE! Holy crap! What a ballsy way to come out! Young rising star bringing a gay date to the Oscars. Cool!

Oh, wait, it's just a hobbit. Damn.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Beating the odds

I've always been a Diet Coke drinker, and have neve been a big fan of Pepsi in any form, but I've been temporarily lured by their iTunes promotion. I realize they're only giving away 99 cents at a time, but I have to love a contest with 1:3 odds. In the last two days I've had 3 Diet Pepsis, and I've won 2 songs. And since I spend way too much money on the iTunes Music Store, and I never win anything, that excites me just a little!

Friday, February 27, 2004

"I Can't Hear You Now" (or, "Yet Another Long Story About How I Was Wronged By A Customer Service Representative") (or, "Maybe It's Me")

Though I know this is completely unrealistic, I often feel like I've worked enough customer service jobs to have earned some kind of secret handshake, or a code to punch into the phone, to let the support person I'm dealing with know that I've been there, that I understand, that I might even bring her cookies.

Of course, when I work these gigs myself I have the unending capacity to be a complete bitch, but I like to think I have a way of sharing my tone with my coworkers while hiding it from the customers. Still, the sarcasm and judgment lurking behind my smile may have screwed up my karma for good.

Last winter I got rid of my home phone, since all I ever really used it for was dialing into the Internet, and I got broadband and increased the minutes on my cell. I did this secure in the knowledge that my cell phone was more or less trouble-free. I often had a signal when no one around me did, and it had been the only number I ever gave out since I moved in 2001.

Last spring, I dropped my trusty Motorola StarTac on the floor of Port Authority and it broke in half. So I spent 12 hours without any kind of phone service (which is just a weird feeling) and then went to my nearest Verizon store the next morning. They no longer made the simple StarTac, and since my cell is my only phone and I'd always had Motorolas, I opted for the top-of-the-line by them, a T720. It was, I think the only Motorola Verizon had at the time. It was far too expensive, and did all kinds of things I didn't need at all, but it's an important piece of equipment in my life and I didn't want to take a chance with another brand or a cheapo model.

I quickly got hooked on the many options available for ringtones (when my boyfriend calls, the Knight Rider theme plays; one high-maintenance friend gets Patsy Cline's "Crazy"), and discovered that being able to check my email was handy when I was away from a computer for a long day. But as a phone, this thing sucked. I often had a hard time hearing the people I was talking to, even if I had complete silence around me. I became one of those screaming cell phone users I always complain about, as if raising my voice would make them louder. More troubling was the frequent lack of a signal in my apartment. Not very useful in the event of an emergency, and excruciatingly frustrating when trying to order take-out. Last but not least, the battery seemed to last about 15 minutes. Again, a real problem when it's my only phone. When I'm working, I'm on my phone a lot, even when I'm out and about, and what good does it do me if it craps out halfway through the day?

So one day in December I happened to be near the big Verizon store on 34th Street, and I stopped in with the intention of replacing my phone, before another dropped call sent me over the edge. A salesperson asked how he could help me, and I said, "I hate my phone and I'd like to get a new one."

He asked for my phone number, punched some stuff into his computer, and said "Well, sir, I understand that you hate your phone, but do you know that if you wait until March 12 you can get $100 off a new one?" Why no, I didn't know that! I guess they give you a deal after a year or whatever. What good customer service! The salesman was trying to save me money! It was terribly refreshing, and I decided I could handle three more months if it meant an free phone (since the model I wanted cost less than $100). I thanked the nice man and left, confirming that date on the way out, and jotting it on my to-do list.

Fast forward to last Monday. I was doing my taxes, and since my phone is a partial business expense, I had to look up the original purchase date and price of the hateful T720. And it turns out I bought it on May 12. This made sense when I thought about it, but what didn't make sense was that I'd get a $100 rebate on my ten-month anniversary. It seemed pretty conceivable that I could have misheard March instead of May, so, still totally uncranky, I called customer service to double-check.

I didn't mis-hear it. I do in fact get a discount if I buy a new phone after March 12. 2005!

Which means that for the past three months I've been wanting desperately to throw my phone out the window, and all that's kept me from doing so has been the knowledge that if I'm just a little bit patient I can get the new one for free, which would make me feel better about how crappy the super-expensive one had turned out to be. Patience comes hard for me anyway, and waiting 'til 2005 does not qualify as being "a little bit patient," it qualifies as being a fucking saint.

But I remained remarkably crank-free. I'd been prepared to spend some money in December, and now I was actually more solvent, with a paying job and a tax refund on the way. Also since December, Consumer Reports had put out an issue on cell phones, and I confirmed that staying with Verizon was a good idea, and that the phone I wanted was indeed the best choice: A Motorola v60s, a model basically in between my old reliable phone and my new hateful one; No fancy rings or email or photos, but also no backlit color screen to hog the battery, and a speakerphone, which might be useful anyway, but also implied that volume wouldn't be an issue.

So back I went to the store on 34th Street, armed with a printout of the v60 from their website so I could say "Give me this" and avoid being hassled by salespeople.

And this is when I got cranky.

The v60s was no longer available. It had, apparently, come out in December, and for some reason was only around for a limited time. In other words, I could have bought it in December, when I tried to buy it, but I couldn't now. So much for avoiding the salesman, who tried to talk me into an LG VX4400 color phone. I explained that I didn't want a color phone, because I didn't want to have to rely on a backlight. He assured me that the T720 had a crappy battery and the LG did not, so there was no reason to worry. He told me he used to use Motorolas but now used this model he was showing me, and I couldn't tell if that was bullshit or not. And since a year ago they'd been pushing the T720 with all their might, I wasn't feeling very trusting. I thanked him and left, phoneless.

At work I went back to the website, where the v60s was clearly still for sale. But I could only buy it from them if I were a new customer, buying a calling plan as well. As an existing customer, I could only "upgrade," and the phone wasn't in my list of options as it was technically a downgrade. I called them, and had two separate reps swear to me that the phone was no longer in stock anywhere, and they didn't know why it was still on the site. They also both told me they'd heard many complaints about the T720, and that people were speaking very highly of the 4400. So either it was the truth or it was a very well-rehearsed, nation-wide company line.

So the next day between shows I went back to the store. And here's where I got really cranky.

At the 34th Street Verizon store, you deal with salespeople out front who then send you to the back with a little slip of paper to another counter where they get and activate your phone. Armed once again with my printout, I was very quick out front. Not so much in the back. The woman in front of me was utterly baffled by everything about her new purchase, and there was only one clerk on duty. It was 5:30, when most people are presumably on their way home and not in a rush, but of course I was on my dinner break and had to get back to work. Twenty minutes later, it was finally my turn. The guy out front had apparently not done something in his computer to allow the woman in back to access my account. And he was no longer at his desk. So he had to be tracked down. Meanwhile, my clerk chatted with her coworker who was counting out her register, and being hit on by the hateful salesman I had dealt with the day before -- who I noticed did not have the phone I was buying on his belt.

We finally found Vladimir (really) after ten minutes, and the woman (who, I have to admit, was nice enough) was able to get my phone. Only my phone wasn't in stock. Apparently, there's no connection between the computers in front and the storeroom in back. So the phone everyone's trying to sell you may or may not actually be available for sale. Which I guess would have been fine if I hadn't had to wait half an hour to find that out. Vlad quickly called another store not too far away to see if they had any. They did, and he asked them to put it on hold for me.

"So, what can you give me for all the time I just wasted?" I asked Free headset, battery, something?"
"We don't do that," said Vlad.
"Well then maybe you should find a way to check inventory before you waste people's time," I snarled, and I left.

I hopped on the subway and went one stop to the other store, where I told the first salesperson I saw that someone from 34th Street had called and there should be a phone set aside for me.

"Do you know which phone?"
"An LG 4400."
"We're out of those."
"No you're not. This guy called not ten minutes ago and was told you had them and you'd put one aside. I watched him do it."
"Well, that's impossible, 'cause I know for a fact that we don't have any more."

I was out of words, even vulgar ones. I glared at the salesman, turned on my heel and headed for the door.

He called after me: "Well do you want to let me check before you start throwing the attitude around?"
"If you have to check, you shouldn't say that you know things for a fact, now should you??"

Of course I'd been right. This store takes care of everything at a single counter; I'll have to remember that next time I need something from them, but now was painfully awkward while I waited for the man I'd just bitched out to activate my phone, renew my contract, and whatever else he did that took fifteen minutes. I explained to him, in a half-hearted attempt at an apology, that I'd wasted a lot of time at the other branch, and I was frustrated. He didn't seem to care. Then I reminded myself that he was the one who had been totally inappropriate and given me wildly wrong information. That he worked for the company to which I give a good chunk of money every month, and to which I was shelling out a good bit more now.

So then I felt self-righteous and awkward.

In the end, it was almost worth all the hassle. I'm quite happy with my new toy. Unlike the Motorola, it lets you set the brightness on the backlight, so I can have it at a reasonable level that doesn't outshine the sun. I get a good signal in my apartment, and I can hear very well. The controls are intuitive, and they do fun things with speed dials (in as much as speed dials can ever be fun). I sprung for the "extended battery," which cost almost as much as the phone after rebate, and makes it a little chunky, but I have yet to get it down below the half-full mark, and I can use the one that came with the phone as a backup. I wound up not having time for them to transfer my phonebook at the store (Verizon inexplicably refuses to use sim cards or Bluetooth, but they've recently started charging $10 to work some kind of magic on your memory), but I found the process of putting in the numbers manually oddly calming.

Hm, an 8-page post about my cell phone. I guess I wasn't kidding the other day about the unpostable garbage. When I started this post I was much angrier about the way I'd been treated by the various salespeople! But new toys make everything better and I calmed down considerably before I had time to wrap up the story. I also read this, and I realize it could have been much much worse!

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Even when I'm not temping, I hate temping

My phone vibrated in the middle of my matinee today. Of course I couldn't answer it , and the voicemail was from a woman at Temp Agency #2, which you'll remember from the Cargo Pants Incident: "Hi, Adam, this is [onsite manager at Huge Pharmaceutical Company], long time no speak, tee hee. Listen, I know your availability is limited, but I have a one day assignment and I was wondering if you'd be interested. It's doing PowerPoint this Monday at [Huge Pharmaceutical Company] for $20 an hour. Give me a call."

Now, I don't give up my day off lightly, but I'm not exactly making a fortune here and I don't give up 20 bucks an hour lightly either. And I've heard that at Huge Pharmaceutical Company you get free samples of Popular Mouthwash and Toothpaste. So after the show I promptly called her back...and the position had been filled.

Now, since what I really wanted was a way to say yes so they'd call me again but not actually give up my Monday, rationally I was quite happy about this turn of events. But my gut reaction was a gigantic what the fuck?? The job is six days away, and project-based, how important can it be to fill it immediately? When I explained to the manager that I'd been in the middle of a show when she called, she said, quite cheerfully, "Yeah, I figured that." Well then couldn't you have figured on waiting more than an hour and a half before offering the job to somebody else? What if I really needed that gig and a mere quirk of cell phone reception or subway timing had kept me from paying my rent this month? Man, I hate them!

It astonishes me that I can get this worked up about these people when I don't actually need them and would much rather sleep 'til noon on Monday anyway. Though this is clearly a good reason to be grateful for my current job. Complaints and all, at least I know exactly how much money I'm getting every week, and when it ends it ends with certainty and I can move on with my life.

Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!

My cable's out!! Apparently, DVRs all across New York aren't working! I can't even get to the recorded shows, which had better still be there when service is restored, because I'm still catching up on the last few weeks.

My god, it's like taking away air!

The Business We Call Show

I'm sorry I haven't been blogging as regularly as I'd like. Work has been rather unpleasantly all-consuming. Even when I write, I'm so fried that I'm convinced it's unpostable garbage. Granted, I've posted unpostable garbage in the past, but at the moment I have three or four pieces of unfinished unpostable garbage.

Whenever I complain about work, I feel the need to add the disclaimer that I'm very grateful to have a job at all. I'm lucky to be making a living wage in the theater, working under a union contract, getting weeks towards my health care and money in my pension. I'm lucky to be working at all in this economy, as the six months I spent last year barely averaging eight hours a week as an office temp will attest.

But does that mean I'm not allowed to bitch about work when it undeniably sucks? Or does that just mean I'd be a moron to quit?

A couple of weeks ago I had a long e-mail exchange with an actor friend who, like me, was doing a show again after a long hiatus (though her hiatus was much longer than mine). We were both complaining about our gigs, and she told me a joke I hadn't heard before -- "How do you make an actor complain? Give her a job." -- and then asked me (thinking I'd have some insight because I'm a stage manager), "Are we, actors, that way inherently and come to the business, or does the business turn us all into little complainers?"

Initially, I said that I think the business breeds it, because we tend to get abused. We're so grateful to land jobs at all that we'll put up with all manner of crap, and people know that so they give us all manner of crap.

But the more I thought about it, I realized that there's this sense about entertainment professionals (and we have it ourselves) that because what we're doing is supposed to be fun, and because we've chosen to enter this crazy business in which we're lucky to find work at all and even luckier to keep it, that we shouldn't complain. And to some extent that's true -- it's not like we're digging ditches or fighting fires or (shudder) telemarketing. And in this economy I'm grateful to have any job, let alone one doing what I love. We’re putting on a show! This is fun!

And it is fun, most of the time, or surely we'd all go hang it up for something stable that pays better. But it's easy to forget sometimes that it is hard work, even if it involves something called "play." And I don't know anyone, even among my happiest, most well-adjusted friends, who doesn't complain about his job at least a little. During rehearsals, I drag my ass out of bed at 7 am and ride the subway at rush hour just like all those people going to work in offices. Unlike most of them, I only get one day off and put in 50 to 60 hours a week. Now that we're up and running it's gotten a little easier, and no more early mornings, but I still put in 40 hours. The actors don't do so much time, granted, but since their work requires them to be physically and vocally fit, they could easily argue that they're always on the clock, or at least conscious of it.

I too have crazy and incompetent coworkers, tyrannical and clueless bosses, mind-numbing meetings and unrealistic deadlines. I file daily reports that I strongly suspect nobody reads. I do very similar tasks every day. I have protocols to follow and arcane union rules to wade through.

On the more positive side, I have a steady paycheck (at least until the show closes), health insurance, a pension, a 401k and a credit union.

So yeah, it's a real job, and don't you dare call it otherwise, because it's not really all that different from yours when all is said and done. And I love it, and I'm grateful for it, and I know how lucky I am to be pursuing my career of choice. But that doesn't mean I have to take all the crap without a complaint or two.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Follow-up to Hot Toddy:

Last night I went to buy more ice cream, and discovered Carb Karma Half Baked, a combo of Brownie Batter and Cookie Dough. So your prayers have been at least partially answered.

Sadly, unlike the New York Super Fudge Chunk, which is quite good, this does, in fact, taste like the cookie dough is made of yarn. And bland yarn at that.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Contents May Contain Containers

Boy likes to joke that I worship at the Church of Ikea. I can't really argue with that, but I think I just converted.

I just paid my very first visit to The Container Store (a new arrival in NYC) and I thought I might never leave. For someone like me who likes to think of himself as extraordinarily neat and organized, but in reality is extraordinarily lazy, this place is Nirvana. They even sell the little rollers the cashiers use to shrink-wrap items too big to bag. And everything is so cute! It totally plays into my fantasy of passing for straight and having Tom Filichia make over my apartment. I nearly got lost amid the garbage cans alone.

There's something very Zen about a store whose mission is to organize actually being organized. Everything seemed to be in stock. Items that were tough to categorize or that might have multiple uses were kept in more than one section. The lighting is bright and warm, the aisles are wide, the staff shockingly friendly. There were a lot of people in the store but it never felt crowded, and I had no trouble finding or getting to the things I needed. I can't say any of that for the Bed, Bath and Beyond across the street, or (though I hate to admit it) Ikea.

Of course, it remains to be seen if I'll actually put anything in the boxes I bought, or if they'll just sit empty in my living room. At least they look good. I may have to go back for some attractive containers in which to put my containers.

What's the buzz? Tell me what's a-happening.

I'm already sick of The Passion of the Christ, and I don't really want to contribute to the debate/publicity juggernaut, but now that I've seen some clips from the film I do have one question: If the picture is meant to be, as Mel Gibson claims, a historically accurate depiction of the passion, why the hell is everyone white? It's the Middle East centuries before the invention of sunscreen, Mel. Do you expect me to believe that Jesus didn't even have a tan?

Now that's service!

I went to the new bagel place this morning (low carb what now?) and when I approached the counter to order, I was handed my salt bagel with lox spread without a word.

Houston, we have achieved regularity!

(The dark cloud behind this siver lining is that they finally have the iTunes promotion Pepsi bottles in...but not in diet.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

God bless Ben and Jerry

Low-carb New York Super Fudge Chunk!!! All is right with the world!!!

Monday, February 16, 2004

Return of the Snark

Well, I'm back. I've missed blogging terribly, but sometimes these super-secret missions just run over. I'm really not at liberty to discuss my whereabouts, but I suppose since Faustus already guessed...I did in fact, go all Jennifer Garner. I was shooting Elektra and sleeping with Michael Vartan.

My endless thanks and devotion to Faustus for his wonderful posts here, and for bringing his loyal following with him. I hope I can live up to the standard he's set for new readers and some of you will stick around! (Assuming anyone is left after the last week of bloglessness.)

I had only planned to be gone for one week (hence the lack of guest-blogging last week), but the whole work thing got in the way. I'm thrilled to have a paying job and all (especially one that involves wearing red leather and sleeping with Michael Vartan), but after so many months of unemployment, I've really been missing things like blogging, TV, and, curiously enough, cleaning.

It figures that the day I decided to take time off was also the day of the Great Boobie Scandal of 2004. Without knowing he was doing so, MAK summed up my views on the incident quite well. But there are two things I want to rant about, even if I'm two weeks behind everyone else. First, if the CFC is to be believed, the FCC doesn't care if you say "fuck" in prime time, yet they're threatening millions of dollars in fines for showing one breast on television. This kills me. While I'm a firm believer that there's nothing wrong with "bad" words (Who decided they were bad in the first place? What makes "poop" acceptable but "shit" not?), I understand, given the norms of decorum in our society, that you probably don't want your four-year-old running around saying them. Similarly, we shouldn't all start going naked, but why are people so up in arms about the very sight of a breast? Like anyone hasn't seen them before? Or, worse, like there's something to be ashamed of. Men can be topless whenever they choose, and anyway we're all humans and we all have all sorts of body parts, and children (and Fundamentalist Christians) should know that. Anyone who's this offended about Janet's flash shouldn't have been watching the halftime show anyway. Janet, even with her breast exposed, had more fabric on her than your average high school cheerleader. And Justin's song is called "Rock Your Body," which certainly can't sit well with anyone who got upset. So why were you watching in the first place?

Issue number two is far more practical, and comes not from my politics, but from my experience as a stage manager (yeah, okay, you got me: not Jennifer Garner at all): What the fuck (oops) were they thinking not rehearsing?? From what Janet has said, and looking at the photos and consulting with Jenn (frequent commenter here and professional wardrobe mistress extraordinaire), I assume that not only was there supposed to be another layer under the pleather that was ripped out accidentally, but also that more of the bodice was supposed to come off. Because come on, even if it had happened as planned, one lace-covered boob hanging out would have looked utterly ridiculous. Anyway, this is not the sort of thing you leave to chance. Sure, "wardrobe malfunctions" can happen no matter how many times you've practiced before, but did Justin even know exactly what to grab? Could they be reasonably sure the fabric would hold? These are both performers with enough experience doing big stage shows that they should have known better. I'm more offended by that than anything else.

Still, I'm pleased that when my actress' tits popped out of her lingerie during our first dress rehearsal last week, we all knew exactly what to call it.

In even older old news, I finally watched Pirates of the Caribbean. No matter how many people told me it was a far better film than it had any right to be, I just didn't believe it until I saw it myself. What fun! And what a great ensemble cast. With all the attention given to the four leads, I didn't even know that the always-fabulous-even-when-he's-being-boring Jonathan Pryce was in it, along with Jack Davenport from Coupling and Mackenzie Crook from The Office (which I'm off the bandwagon in not liking very much, but I find him hysterical). Last but certainly not least, I am shocked that the Academy overlooked the monkey, who managed to steal scenes even from Depp. Go, Zombie Monkey, Go!

Also in the DVD player, I got myself a late Chrismukah present with my Amazon gift certificate: the first four discs of The Best of The Muppet Show. Best. Boxed set. EVER. Despite the groovy 70s roster of guest stars (Mark Hamill, John Denver, Linda Ronstadt, Elton John, Raquel Welch and Dudley Moore, to name but a few), this stuff is amazingly timeless. I would hope that a new generation of kids could discover the show through these DVDs. But any doubt that this set is aimed at nostalgic adults went away with the first bonus feature I watched: a series of "screen tests" of Muppets auditioning for A Streetcar Named Desire. (Kermit: "Hi ho, Stella!" Beaker: "Mee-meeeeeee!") I get a little bit sad watching these shows, and not just for the obvious loss of Jim Henson. In a way, I miss Frank Oz even more. Sure, he's directed a bunch of good films, and he still phones it in for Yoda (literally, I imagine), but his performances on The Muppet Show are just so astonishingly good, I think it's a crying shame he's not doing them anymore. I'm sure it gets old having your hand up a pig's ass for a living for thirty years, but Henson and Oz belong in the pantheon of great comedy teams, with the straight men of Kermit or Rowlf teamed with the wacky Piggy or Fozzie. It's genius.

Because they were, until recently, hard to find in reruns or to buy or rent, I hadn't actually seen an episode of The Muppet Show in a long time, and it turns out I was misremembering something essential about them. I was sure that it was a kids' show with some adult humor mixed in to keep the parents entertained. This is kind of the tone of the movies, and of course the younger-themed Sesame Street. But watching the DVDs I discovered the The Muppet Show isn't for kids at all. There's nothing childish about it, no talking down, no big morals. It's simply good television. There's great kid appeal in the characters, and the supreme silliness that often prevails, and occasionally someone will learn a valuable lesson, but in the end, it's just 22 minutes of really good comedy and music. It's the definition of "family entertainment," in a way that I don't think really exists anymore. Now everything is either clearly "for kids" or "for adults." The idea that simply making something good (with no violence or sex...except the occasional flying felt and interspecies romance) will appeal to everyone does not exist in network TV anymore. And it's not pure fluff either: Watching a sketch in which Sam the Eagle derides environmentalists by mocking a list of "so-called endangered species," only to find the American bald eagle on it, I couldn't help thinking about CBS' fight with Move On, since the Muppets were on the same network. And a running gag about a robotic band replacing the Electric Mayhem was eerily similar to the Broadway musicians' strike (and the producers' threats to replace them with "virtual orchestras") last year...in other words, 30 years later.

I could go on and on about how great the Muppets are, but since they're already partially responsible for the delay in getting this post out at all (I was cranky last Monday and watched several episodes to cheer up instead of blogging, then got all caught up in work again for the rest of the week), I should move on to the other item I want to review:

My Amazon order also included the "new" Beatles album, Let It Be...Naked. For those of you who don't know, a brief explanation: Let It Be was the second-to-last Beatles album recorded but the last one released. The sessions were part of a documentary film meant to culminate in a televised concert. The concert never happened (except for the famous impromptu performance on the roof of the studio) and the group moved on to Abbey Road. The group split up, but the film was yet to be released, and the record company wanted to put out a companion album to it. So Phil Spector came on board and put together Let It Be without any input from John, Paul, George and Ringo, who reportedly were never happy with the final result. This new edition is both cleaned up digitally, and stripped of Spector's orchestrations, and is supposedly the way the album was meant to be heard.

Here's the thing: I can't really tell the difference.

All the tracks on the original album lie at two extremes, either extremely raw, or insanely overproduced with effects and orchestras. So yeah, I guess some cracks and pops are gone, but the sad fact is "The Long And Winding Road" doesn't sound any less schmaltzy without the violins than it did with them. Plus, anyone who bought the Anthology series a couple of years ago already has alternate takes of all these songs. Don't get me wrong, Let It Be is one of the greatest albums of all time, in any version, but I can't help feeling a teeny bit bitter I paid for it, since it's not like Paul McCartney needs any more of my money.

...So there you are, a nice big chunk of reviews to make up for my two weeks away. There's at least one cranky rant about bad costumer service in me, some video game reviews, and I'll probably write about my recent secret mission to save the world from certain doom, so the three of you who look forward to such things can look forward to my return to daily blogging. Thanks for waiting!

Sunday, February 08, 2004

N.B.: Adam is still AWOL. He says he'll be coming back very soon, but I suspect he's gone all Jennifer Garner on us. In the meantime, you can check out my blog if you need more to read.

The other day, I had occasion to go to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital (not as a patient, don't worry). Hanging all over the place were copies of the following sign for a talk being given next Friday:

"Functional Selectivity (agonist trafficking), a new and ubiquitous mechanism: It's Effects on D2 Dopamine Receptor Signaling and Antipsychotic Drug Action"

Even if I had any interest in or understanding of D2 dopamine receptor signaling, the inconsistent capitalization and the use of the contraction "it's" instead of the possessive "its" would be enough to keep me away.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

N.B.: Adam claims to be in tech for his show, but I think he's actually on a top-secret mission to save the world. In the meantime, I am guest blogging for him. I'd be honored if you'd check out my blog as well.

One day in eleventh grade, I walked into first period chemistry and announced to everybody that I'd heard the funniest poem ever the day before. I proceeded to recite it:

Charlie was a chemist,
But Charlie is no more.
What Charlie thought was H2O
Was H2SO4.


Nobody laughed at all, not even the teacher.

And yet it still totally baffled me that I had no friends.

I may have declined in many ways since eleventh grade, but at least I'm slightly less moronic.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

N.B.: Adam is taking the week off from blogging to live his glamorous life in the glamorous theater, so I am subbing for him until his return. I also keep my own blog here.

I'm thinking about the first time I heard the word "schadenfreude."

That's actually a lie. I only wish I remembered the first time I heard the word "schadenfreude," wish it desperately, because then I would recall with utmost clarity the rush of joy that must surely have suffused my entire being at the discovery that such a concept existed, rather than just having to imagine it.

"Schadenfreude" comes to us from German. "Schade" is the word for "damage," and "Freude" is the word for joy; together they make up the word for feeling happy at others' misfortunes. Since this is a feeling my shriveled, bitter, jealous heart is intimately acquainted with, I've always found it a useful word to have around.

What baffles, confounds, and sometimes enrages me is that the word "freudenschade" has not come into common parlance. That would be, of course, the word for feeling upset by the joys of others. It's a perfectly valid German word. And it may be the only feeling with which my shriveled, bitter, jealous heart is more intimately acquainted than "schadenfreude."

I'm going to start a campaign to make "freudenschade" part of the everyday lexicon of the English language.

Be careful here: if you're not with me on this one, then you're against me.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Give him a warm hand on his entrance

I'm entering a very busy week at work, so I've asked the lovely and talented Faustus to guest blog for me. He's extremely judgmental and hates everyone, so you should get along fine.

I know I've been blogging sporadically lately so I thought about just letting Judgment Call go for the week, but the shameless truth is that Faustus' blog is much better and more popular than mine, and I'm hoping to draw a few of his many readers over here.

Of course, there's always the risk that my plan will backfire and when my own regular readers see how good Faustus is, they'll leave me forever when he's done here and read only The Search For Love....

Oh well, it's too late now. Please give a warm welcome to our honored guest, and enjoy the week!

(For readers new and old, I've added a list of my favorite posts to the sidebar. Again, this is a desperate attempt to entice new visitors to stay, as I'm the first to admit that my recent posts have been inconsistent in quality!)

Pass The Kool Aid

Oh yeah, it's another rambly, ├╝ber-geeky post!

I'm feeling better about the money I've been spending on my technology/Apple fetish.

The current issue of MacWorld has a timeline in honor of the 20th anniversary of the Mac, and they've thoughtfully included original prices for things. The first Apple LaserWriter printer cost $7,000 in 1985 (I got a Personal LW 5 years later for about $300). The first Mac cost $2,495 and had 128K of RAM and no hard drive (400K floppy, baby!). The suitcase-sized Macintosh "Portable," with a 40 megabyte hard drive (my iPod, by comparison, is 40 gigabytes) cost $6,500 in 1989. And so on.

I realize that these things were state-of-the-art at the time, and that a top-of-the-line G5 will run about $5,000 now. But I take some comfort in thinking that the technology I use in my day-to-day life isn't going to change nearly as fast as it did in the 80s and 90s. I wouldn't complain if my iBook (which, incidentally, cost much less than the first Powerbook 100 did in 1990, and for my purposes is barely distinguishable performance-wise from the higher-end models) got lighter, but if it got any smaller it just wouldn't be practical for the eyes or the fingers. I'd have to nearly double my already sizeable CD collection to fill my iPod. I could do with some more disk space, I suppose, but I can't imagine anytime soon thinking that 80 GB is laughable the way 4 MB is now.

Even if I'm totally wrong about all that, since new technology is also getting cheaper, and since I don't do the sort of work that requires me to have the absolute best machine (My Precious aside), I think I'm well protected from those kinds of prices.

I also enjoyed a little of the gloating that MacWorld did in this article. I've never been one of those Mac users who's rabidly anti-Windows (or, back in the day, my Apple IIe vs. DOS). Having to work on Windows machines and with Windows users are simple facts of my life, and shady corporate practices aside, MS Office for Mac is a pretty kick-ass product, and it lets me safely share documents with other people (freelancers all, with no in-office standard). Still, I find it oddly gratifying to learn that PowerPoint for Mac came out 3 years before the Windows version. PageMaker, FileMaker and Photoshop were all Mac firsts too. Windows itself, of course, was a year behind the first Mac and its graphical interface. It's just nice to know that we're always a wee bit ahead of the game.

That said, I've been a little disenchanted with Apple lately, which I think added to my financial angst. In the rush to bring out OSX and its related components, Apple seemed to be in more of a hurry to say, "Look! We've got our own versions of everything! Join the cult!" than to actually make that software really good. Which was probably fine for the new users (particularly computer novices) they were trying to court, but those of us who were already in the cult but happily using third party applications like AOL Instant Messenger and Palm Desktop had little incentive to switch to Apple apps that were inferior in may ways. The worst part about it was that the Apple stuff (as always) looked so damn good. I certainly wanted the fully integrated system and the pretty windows and all that, but not at the expense of basic functionality.

Well, Apple has apparently been listening (and others have apparently shared my exact concerns, as I'm too lazy to ever write in about these things). The Panther Addressbook fixed every problem I had with the Jaguar version. The new iPhoto does the same. Yesterday, while I was hijacking wireless Internet at the theater, AIM started acting up so I launched iChat (which I've always hated) just to see if it would be more stable. I hadn't even realized I'd gotten an upgrade on it with Panther (the latest version of the OS), and lo and behold, everything I didn't like about it was fixed. I audio-chatted with Erik (who, as the biggest Mac geek I know who happened to be online when I needed him, gets special thanks for playing with me even though we've never actually met in person) and Faustus, which is the third coolest thing ever (the second coolest would be if any of us had cameras and could video-chat, and the coolest is still the iPod). Then I geeked out and figured out how to get it to use the AIM sound set (slamming doors, happy plings, etc.) and I'm hooked. Clearly, my new Airport card is working like a dream and after only two days I don't know how I ever lived without it. Technology is good. Money is overrated. The world is continuing to revolve around me.

I've used the word "cult" a few times in this post. Just the other day I read a post on Upside-Down Hippo debunking the notion of Apple as a cult, and as a life-long member I'd like to avoid thinking of it that way myself. But while I avoided cleaning my apartment today I checked out the Job Opportunities page of the Soho Apple Store's website. When faced with job descriptions like this, what can one really say??

Are you as passionate about customer service as you are about the latest Mac OS? Does the thought of switching PC users, and closing an Apple sale, make you tingle even more than those three seconds right after a sneeze? Do you have retail sales coupled with leadership or management experience and can’t imagine a more rewarding place to utilize those skills than an Apple Store? If so, you might have what it takes to become a Key Holder.


Oh well. Key Holder, lead me to the Gate Keeper and pass the Kool Aid.

Ponder This

If a psychic goes into a reality TV house, do you think she watches tapes of the show so far first?