Archive for October, 2006

I finally finished the book I’ve been reading since… I think February: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Yeee-ow.

I had seen the book before, and was mildly interested. But there are so many good books out there about Zen Buddhism and how its practices are applicable to modern day life. I agreed to read this particular novel so I could participate in a book group that, through no fault of the book, went horribly wrong.

The book is only 400 pages long. I blame the length of time it took me to finish on the tedious writing and subject matter. I don’t want to spoil it, but there is very little mention of Zen in the entire work, and since the book outlines the character’s journey through insanity, I would say the work doesn’t even embody the mere idea of Zen. Still, I was able to glean some maxims that I can apply to my career as well as my day-to-day interactions with people. I can’t give up on a book, no matter how much I tire of it, and I am thankful that the dreadful parts were usually followed by some clever insights.

Regardless of its inconsistency, I would recommend this book to my friends in the tech industry, particularly engineers who are interested in theory above practice, and also tech writers who are genuinely interested in the products about which they write; generally those who write about consumer products that can be troubleshot by the average person with the use of a guide. I also definitely recommend the book to budding philosophers, or anyone with an interest in philosophy, and probably those interested in classic Greek language and literature. That pretty much comprises almost everyone I’ve met in my adult life whose opinions I respect to some degree and some intellectual fucks I know who are too pretentious to busy themselves with the plebian activity of riding and/or fixing a motorcycle.

There’s a lot of to-do about fixing motorcycles in this book. It made me wish I owned a motorcycle so I could follow some of it. But I also remembered that if I got a motorcycle, it would be a part of my second-wave mid-life crisis (the first happened when I was 20-21; the next will happen when I’m around 27) and it would be a custom Harley or BMW and would likely have some computerized components. Still, you can apply the knowledge to most things.

I’m just happy that I finally finished the darn book. I took good notes, so I can refer back to the parts I liked without sifting too hard through the parts I didn’t. Now I just need something light and fun and probably fictional to wash all this down and relax a little.

I ran my first race in New York today, a 5-mile precursor to the ING Marathon that will take place next week. Despite Halloween being just days away, there were fewer costumes than you’d expect to see at an event with over 6,000 people in a place as diverse and “crazy” as Manhattan. I guess people in Austin just like to dress up more. In NYC’s defense, the weather’s not exactly comfortable out here if you’re standing still (e.g., before the race).

The run around Central Park was rather pleasant. Once we got started and warmed up, I must say I enjoyed it even more than the Turkey Trot, Austin’s Thanksgiving 5-miler. The Turkey Trot takes you through some of my favorite parts of Austin (downtown, parts of Hyde Park, my old route to work), but the heat was unbearable when we ran it. I remember dragging Gus up the last hill at 4 and a half miles, ordering him not to walk, and wondering myself why I didn’t just give up and collapse.

This run was pretty easy by comparison. I felt like I was going downhill most of the time and when it was over, I couldn’t believe it. I probably could have run another few miles without knowing I was doing it. I may be a stronger runner now, but I think I was in better overall shape back then. Who knows? I just know that one thing remains true: Having other people running around you really keeps you going. Even though the events aren’t cheap, I could probably stand to trade in a few Saturday nights of drinking for a few more of these.

Unlike the Austin runs, I didn’t collect my weight in Zone bars or get offered powdered donuts halfway through the race, but I did get a chance to experience a new slice of my fine surroundings. I’m looking forward to the next one in November and the opportunity to run some races in Austin once it cools off a little. I wonder if New York has anything like the Trail of Lights. I won’t hear any arguments that the figurines wouldn’t last a day in New York City; those awful orange banners from The Gates managed to overstay their welcome by a longshot.

There’s nothing like a giant armadillo laying dead in the middle of the road with its legs sticking straight up to remind you that no matter where you go or what you’ve been doing, Texas is where you belong.

I still love living in New York (and the weather there has been much better than it has been here!), but it’s nice to be able to come back to Austin to see what’s new, and what’s dead.

In the vein of horrendously obnoxious customer service, I thought I’d share the story of my shopping expedition yesterday. Actually, most people probably wouldn’t call it an expedition because I only went to two stores. For someone who shops for clothes as infrequently as I do, that’s an expedition. The only reason I went shopping in the first place was because a store right around the corner from me just put up a going-out-of-business “70% off” sign, meaning they should have a lot of shit on sale. The shit I refer to is what the girls around here wear when they go out or go to work and want to look nice. At least I think…

So, I entered the store with an open mind and a willingness to try on just about anything. As I stepped through the doorway, a Mediterranean man in his mid-thirties nearly knocked me over to inform me that everything was on sale because they’re going out of business.

Thanks, I can read a fucking sign.

He kind of reminded me of The Rock, if he were an overbearing, aging hipster with no sense of personal space. I thought it was counter-intuitive to place such a menacing figure in the doorway of women’s fashion boutique, but whatever.

I started grabbing clothes and a Mediterranean lady started a fitting room for me. We made a little conversation; she also told me the store was closing and pointed out some items for sale. I let her do most of the talking and was grateful when she was finished.

I continued my journey throughout the store. I passed the same Mediterranean man by the register and apathetically thumbed through a rack of halter tops, eyeing one with a silver snake broach at the solar plexus. I didn’t think I could pull it off, but the snake was cute.

“We just got those in. Those tops are really beautiful.”

There are two left and you’re going out of business. Do I look like a fucking moron?

I nodded and walked away. I ended up adding the snake top to my collection as I walked back to the dressing room, remembering that I should at least try it on, since I’d gone to the effort to shop in the first place.

So the clothes-trying began, and from that point forward I had someone up my ass at least every two minutes. Over the years, I’ve gotten pretty good at saying, “Leave me the fuck alone,” using only my eyes, but unfortunately it didn’t work on these people.

The dressing rooms are small such that you have to walk out into the store if you want to look in the mirror. This way, everyone gets to see how ridiculous you look. More importantly, this gives the salespeople an opportunity to try to convince you that you don’t look ridiculous and you should buy their shit.

And that’s what happened. At first, I didn’t mind getting help from the two tag-teaming skinny but unattractive Mediterranean ladies (one looked like the first one’s mother). As I came out in different tops, they showed me how to wear them or suggested what to wear with them. It was a little more attention than I wanted, but they were just doing their job. I’m pretty good at deciding what I do and don’t like, and I know what I have in my closet to match whatever garment I try on. Over time, these women were wearing on me, crossing the line from appearing helpful to overtly pushing me into buying something. I understand that they need to sell stuff, but when you’re dealing with someone who clearly doesn’t want to talk to you, less is more.

I was even interrupted at one point by one of the ladies who wanted to “ask me something.” The curtain moved a little bit and I had to abruptly say, “I’ll be out in a minute.” Whatever she had to ask me was insignifigant enough for me to have forgotten it by now, and definitely not worth exposing my naked body to the store.

Worse than the ladies, though, was The Overbearing Rock. He almost insisted that I try on the snake top again, even though I had already tried to explain to the ladies that I don’t have enough cleavage to pull it off. It was one of those tops that doesn’t “close” high enough, and I’m not big on showing off the great plains between my tiny twin peaks. To make one thing clear, my body is fine, that shirt on my body, however, is wack.

I really hate having to justify to a salesperson why I don’t want to buy something, and when they’re riding your ass as hard they were, you pretty much have to do that.

Anyway, as I tried on clothes, The Overbearing Rock kept walking by, commenting on my attire. I had brought back some black pants that I knew I didn’t want just to see how some of the tops would look with that color. I knew I didn’t want them because an inch of see-through mesh ran down the length of each side where fabric should be. The Overbearing Rock walked by as one of the ladies was helping me adjust the top and said matter-of-factly, “Those pants look very sexy.”

And your ass is very creepy.

Now, I know I’m a decent-looking girl, but I’m no supermodel. I carry around a few extra pounds because I like to eat regularly, like normal people. These particular pants were not made for a girl like me. They were made for a girl like Cameron Diaz. That’s fine, and it should be obvious to whoever sees me in them that they’re pretty awkward (and now, I wish I’d taken pictures because it’s kind of funny).

I put aside a few tops that I was thinking about buying and stripped down to try on a dress. By this point, I was warily eyeing the curtain between me and the rest of the world, just waiting for it to move so I could deliver someone a vicious beatdown.

When I put on the dress, I found that it was made with that stretchy fabric that isn’t flattering on anyone. The pattern was okay, but the waist was too high, which I of course had to tell the lady who ran to me the second I stepped out to see how I looked in it. She tugged at the waist a little, so it would look halfway decent on me for a split second before the normal occurrences of wearing clothes (i.e., moving) would shift it back to where it naturally sits. The Overbearing Rock walked by again and said, “Wow.”

I almost gagged. That was the most insincere “wow” I’ve ever heard, directed at me or otherwise. In fact, I think my dad would have sounded more sincere even after my mom had kicked him in the shin and gave him a glaring nod as if to say, “Give your daughter a compliment.” While my family isn’t terribly generous with compliments, I’ve come across many men who are. And while those are few and far between anymore, I still know a real compliment when I hear it. And that one was so far at the other end of the spectrum, I’d have to call it an insult.

I changed back into my clothes and evaluated my findings. Of course, I had “help.” The younger lady stood with me while I went through my pile, so I showed her the three tops I was thinking about. None of them were “must-haves,” but they were each a departure from the tank-top-and-cardigan look I’ve been rocking since 2001.

I don’t look at prices until I’ve decided I want something (why go through the stress of decision-making right away?), so I clarified the prices with the lady at that point, as the clothes were precariously marked “on sale”. Each item came out to about $50. No problem, but I’m definitely not going to buy all three. I said that I wanted to take some time and think about which ones I wanted. She insisted that I talk to The Overbearing Rock so he could get me a better price.

The price isn’t the issue, but I might as well see what they offer.

She grabbed the tops and told me to follow her to the register. She said something to the man and he ignored me for a bit while I checked some messages on my Sidekick. Then he turned around and said with overpowering arrogance, “This is the best price you can get for these clothes. These are the best clothes and that is the best price.”

This was really annoyi
ng, as I never said I had a problem with the price. And clearly, there was no room to negotiate, which the family should have established before they decided to have their big closeout sale. Apparently, their bad communication with customers stems from their bad communication at home.

So I yelled, “I can see why you’re going out of business you creepy fuck! I hope your miserable ass gets fucking deported!” And then I knocked over a display of earrings and threw a table through a window.

That last part didn’t happen, but I left the store empty-handed, feeling glad I didn’t give money to such a poorly-run family business. I hate shopping for clothes even more now.

My review of Escape Spa written for

I went to Escape for a brow wax based on the great reviews I saw on citysearch. The facility was pleasant and sanitary, but the aesthetician I saw HAD NO IDEA WHAT SHE WAS DOING. I should have stood up and left right away when the first words out of her mouth were, “You’re going to have to come back 3 more times for them to look right.” I’ve seen many aestheticians and no one has ever said that to me before. She didn’t ask me how I wanted my brows done and when I tried to show her, she started arguing with me. She also berated me for not having hair follicles where she expected them to be and accused me of overplucking. Not exactly stellar customer service. I have sparse hair growth, which isn’t totally uncommon. Everyone is different, and a good aesthetician will do their best to work with you have. If I was born with perfect brows, I wouldn’t have to see a professional in the first place, right? But even worse than this person’s rude attitude was that HER HANDS STARTED SHAKING while she worked on me. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I find it pretty scary when a person is putting hot and sharp things near my face and cannot control her movements. All in all, I left annoyed, insulted, and a little freaked out, and my brows didn’t even look good. Steer clear of this place unless you like being insulted while pain is being inflicted upon you. And if that’s what you’re into, try “escaping” to one of NYC’s fine BDSM clubs and leave the aesthetics to the pros.

I hope someone was amused by this, and that maybe other people won’t make the same mistake I did. It’s a known fact that some business owners write reviews of themselves, which is both bogus and sad (Wayne’s World), but this place had more reviews than normal, so I thought I was safe. I find that if I’m still annoyed with a place awhile after I’ve been there, writing a scathing review helps me cope a little bit. :-)

(But I’m not a total hag; I write nice ones too!)

I believe there are a few more key ways to spot a douchebag, but this is a good start.

Regardless of their attire, they’re a dead giveaway once they start talking.

I went up to the roof today to do one thing: verify that it is indeed 72 degrees outside so I won’t over or under dress for my afternoon appointment. But I actually did three things:

1. I verified that it is 72 degrees, but somewhat breezy and overcast, so it is light-jacket weather.

2. I saw that Borders is really close by on 2nd Avenue, next to Dean & Deluca.

3. I found a dollar.

Yes, a whole dollar! Indeed, the roof is good for many things besides getting a breath of fresh air without opening a window or going downstairs.

Think about the last time you gave someone a rim job while drinking a gin and tonic and smoking a cigarette and you’ll have some idea the tap water in our apartment tastes like. Do people in New York actually drink this stuff?

Today it rained all afternoon, and now the top of the Empire State Building is hidden by a thick, dense fog. Today’s high temperature was this Texas girly’s nightmare: a damp 58 degrees. I’m glad I work at home, and gladder still that I will be returning to sunny Austin in less than a week.

You know, it’s funny… You pump a bunch of apes full of adrenaline (and who knows what else), make them eat, sleep, and breathe a frivilous sport rooted in violence, and dress them in body armor heavier than most people can lift–You’d really think they’d know how to behave themselves on the field. So, when I turned on the morning news and saw 11 University of Miami players thrashing it out with 18 Florida International University players, I was naturally amazed to see such ruffianism taking place in the fine, upstanding world of college football.

It is quite surprising that with all the good encouragement these young men are given to study hard, respect their elders, mind their manners, and make a positive difference in this world, these same men, when wearing bright costumes and given a small brown ball, would go batshit crazy and try to inflict pain upon one another.

I am perplexed that a columnist at ESPN would say that the initial punishment of one suspension wasn’t a harsh enough penalty for this little group squabble. These guys have really been through a lot, accepting gifts from sports-loving alums, drifting through college barely attending class, and ignoring the basic standards of daily decorum that are second nature to most students attending college. If anyone has respect for rules and regulations, it’s these guys. They’ve only done stuff like this a few other (million) times, and I bet all the players swore they’d never do it again (until next time). Come on, have a heart!

And I’m sure this talk of the players abusing their coach’s kind leniency is all made up. I mean, a football player bending the rules to their advantage and doing whatever the hell they want? I don’t think I’d believe it if I saw it! These guys have been convinced since childhood that they deserve to live like kings because they can remember some plays and beat up on some other dudes wearing costumes different from their own. Gentlemen with such integrity and personal value to our society do not deserve to be suspended indefinitely from their precious game, and it’s really a shame that only their loving granddaddy of a coach can see that.

Good thing we have such brilliant sports announcers in this tumultuous business to support the players’ rights to ignore the well-being of those other than themselves… all the damn time. The only chances players get to throw their weight around and disregard everyone else’s needs for their own pleasure is when they’re not playing or practicing. Why, there just aren’t enough hours in the day! These guys are heroes for giving so much back the world; how have we waited this long to let them just be themselves on the field and act like the primordial beings from which the human race was spawned?

“Now, that’s what I’m talking about!”

I agree, Mr. Easiest-Job-On-Earth! Let these guys have their fun. In fact, let’s make a new rule: No more suspensions for violent acts, whatsoever. Maybe the future of mankind will get lucky and they’ll beat themselves into one division, which slowly decimates until football is obliterated from the earth forever.

1. You know who’s cool? Bronson Pinchot. Yeah…

2. Pibb + Camel Lights = Crazy Suspicious

3. After listening to song, “Bunny Hop,” a million times and actually doing the said dance at parties since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I just learned that the words are, “Come join in the fun / Father, Mother, Son / Do the Bunny Hop / Hop hop hop…”

Father, Mother, Son? What the fuck??