Monday, September 24, 2007

A Rare Digression into Ethnicity

So I'm making a salad, drinking wine, and watching the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour on Comedy Central, and the Special Guest/Emcee Dean Obeidallah starts talking about how he never used to worry much about his ethnicity (Arab-American, with an Italian mother) before 9/11. And I realized how true that is. I never used to be stressed out about being Pakistani-American. At least, I was only stressed out about it for personal reasons, not political or social reasons. But since 9/11, and especially since the whole "Bin Laden is hiding in Pakistan" thing...well, I'm not so much worried for myself, but I worry about my family--my dad and my uncle, especially, who have made the U.S. their home and have been citizens since I was a small child. Whenever I hear about some poor Sikh or Hindu getting beaten or killed out of ignorance, I worry about my family members who actually are Muslim.

Shit, I worry about myself for having written the words "Muslim," "Pakistan," and "Bin Laden" in this blog post. The Department of Homeland Security is probably going to subscribe to my blog now. They will be bored to tears. I'm probably already on their watch list for being on MoveOn.org's mailing list. I've certainly had my baggage unnecessarily searched at airports.

But usually I don't worry for myself. Mostly, I can pass. I've even had people of Arab descent ask if I'm a Spanish-speaker. Pakistani people tend to have Pakistani-radar, but lately I guess I look more ethnically ambiguous. I guess, after all, I'm only half. I don't practice Islam, and I rarely wear traditional dress. Tonight it also occurred to me that I changed my last name to Rob's during the summer of 2001. I haven't been a Baig--my name hasn't sounded overtly Pakistani--since before 9/11. It's only my middle name that still has ethnic connotations. (Incidentally, I'm only a Sarah because that's all my parents could agree on. I was close to being a Stella or a Nasreen.) I guess I've probably escaped a lot more airport searches as a Stevenson.

Okay. Enough with the rant. I blame it on the wine.

Yawning, Slouching, Hiding...Day of Hermitude?

Today is just one of those days when I feel super lethargic and don't want to do anything productive at all. I've been pretty good at accomplishing nonproductivity so far today. I've even talked myself out of going to the gym, when Monday is usually one of my prime gym days. At first I tried to convince myself to go using guilt inducement--i.e., asking myself "Do you want to become fat/lazy/unhealthy? No? Well, there's one easy way to avoid that..." But it all came down to not being in the mood to deal with other people today and just wanting to nurture my introverted self. I was going to hop on our exercise bike instead, book propped on the little ledge, but then I realized that our exercise bike--along with most of the stuff in our back bedroom--is currently crammed in unruly piles draped with old bedsheets because the workmen doing construction on our house (more pictures soon) need to work with the air ducts back there.

So, there went exercising. I didn't really feel like it anyway. Maybe tomorrow. Today...I'll go run a couple of errands that I can't escape from (one of them involves depositing a freelance paycheck, so that's not so bad), get some work done, and make a Manhattan clam chowder, thus making use of an organic bell pepper and organic red potatoes that we got in our vegetable box this past week. I thought about corn chowder, but I think that the green bell pepper would be too overpowering in a corn chowder. We also have a Hatch (aka Anaheim) green chile and a handful of banana peppers--those might be good in a corn chowder, but I may just end up roasting the banana peppers and putting them in sandwiches again.

In the meantime, enjoy some cheesy Indian music videos. Tunak Tunak by the incomparable Daler Mehndi is one of my longtime favorites, even though my dad (who I guess understands Punjabi) said the lyrics are really stupid. I found a subtitled version and my dad is right, but still. It's a catchy song. And how can you beat the cheese-tacular special effects? You can't. However, even more scary is this one that my friend Jay sent me. It's not even good. Only in the sense that it's so bad it's good, but I mean, I've seen a lot of Bollywood musical numbers, and these dancers are not particularly in sync with one another. Plus, usually you can get some idea of what's going on in the film from the music video, but this one was just perplexing. And I think it must win an award for Most Costume Changes in a Single Scene.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Coolest Boots Ever

Coolest boot ever--but way too high a heelIf you know me pretty well, you probably know that I hate shopping. With a passion, usually. Our clothes get holes in them and then I go shopping. However, if you know me really well, you may also know that I harbor a secret love of shoes, such that I actually kind of like shopping for them. Not so much that I have a huge shoe collection or anything. But I do love cute shoes. And today, when I was at the MJM shoe outlet looking for some kind of waterproof hiking boots, I found these pseudo-Victorian beauties. Please note the size. This is what usually makes it a little more difficult for me to find shoes, especially at the outlet. But these were MY SIZE.

Me wearing the coolest boot everHowever, please also note how freakin' high the heel is. For me, that's unwearable. I barely have an excuse to wear dressy shoes as it is. So I settled for just trying it on and taking a picture and sniffling to myself because they were only $60 and fit perfectly. Apparently Victorian-looking boots (but with a handy zipper) are coming back into style (or were in style six months ago or whatever ends up in the shoe outlet), because they also had the low-top kind. Still with a horrendously high heel, though. I realize this would bring me from just over 5' 1" to, like, 5' 5", but appealing as that is, comfort is premium. As comfortable as these seemed trying them on, I'm not used to heels that high. I'd be in agony. Looking great, but in agony. I won't go there.

But, yeah, I did find the hiking boots. Timberland, black, nice, only $40. Blah blah blah. I want my Victorian boots!!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Does Not Compute

This is actually a shout-out to all of those fabulous folks who, out of the kindness of their hearts, create incredible open-source software packed into neat little executables that even relative dinks like me can use. I mean, I've been using Mozilla Firefox as my browser for quite a long time now, and I have not had one single problem with spyware. I also have been using the GIMP for a few years now, since I was only recently able to afford Adobe software. And even since getting Photoshop, I still use the GIMP for a lot of stuff. For one thing, it doesn't take five hundred years to open the program (my computer dates back to December 2002).

Then, this past weekend, Microsoft Office basically imploded on me. I borrowed the academic version of the 2003 software from my mom, successfully loaded it onto Rob's laptop, then tried to load it onto my desktop but it had reached the maximum number of installs (two!!) and so it said I couldn't activate the software. SO, I uninstalled it. But in the process of uninstalling the new software, it did NOT return my old versions of the software. So I did a system restore. My shortcuts came back, but I still couldn't open any of the programs. Moreover, I couldn't reload them because I had given those CDs back to my mom. Plus I'd probably just encounter the same "does not compute" refusal to activate the software if I tried reinstalling those.

So, I decided to try something I've been wanting to try for quite some time but just didn't have a real reason to--installing OpenOffice. And you know what? So far, it rocks. It was going to be a total disaster work-wise if I couldn't, for instance, open any of my Word documents. I mean, I'm a WRITER. So now I can access all of my files; hooray! And then I had to install Mozilla Thunderbird so I could access my Outlook e-mail--I had to go through a rather convoluted (but successful) process to retrieve my settings, address book, and e-mail archives. But I have to say, it's all worked out fine so far. I was going to be particularly annoyed if I had to e-mail everyone to get their addresses again.

So, thank you, open-source gurus. You've saved my butt yet again.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Downward Spiral

So we went to a rather surprising concert last night. Surprising, because the part of the show I thought would depress me was actually really good, while the part I was expecting to really rock was incredibly depressing.

The concert was Alice in Chains (sans the late Lane Staley, of course) opening for Velvet Revolver (which, if you don't know them, is essentially the instrumental part of Guns 'N' Roses plus Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots fame as the lead singer). I was thinking that it would be kind of sad seeing Alice in Chains, since I never got to see them with Lane Staley, and he had such a distinct voice that it's hard to imagine anyone taking his spot. Well, as it turned out, their current singer, William Duvall, was really very good, once I got past my initial "oh no, he looks like Lenny Kravitz" reaction. So that part of the show turned out to be dynamite, especially their concluding rendition of "Rooster" (which, sadly, remains as topical as ever).

The tragic part of the show turned out to be Velvet Revolver, specifically the lead singer, Scott Weiland. I've seen him perform with Stone Temple Pilots three times or so and he's really put on dynamic shows--in fact, I wasn't a huge fan of STP but was turned around by seeing them perform live. Unfortunately, Weiland is one of these guys who is always in and out of rehab and, this time, I seriously think he might be on the way down, never to emerge. I really think he's going to die. He looked skeletal and had lost a lot of muscle mass; the band went on really late due to "technical difficulties" which I'm almost positive meant they had to scrape him up off the floor and dump a bucket of water over his head or give him a shot of adrenaline or something. He looked and acted pretty messed up, and his singing voice was thin and lacked the richness it had in previous performances. It was depressing as hell. I couldn't help wondering to myself if, for instance, this kind of thing happened to Jim Morrison before he died (not that Weiland is quite at Jim Morrison level, but just in the sense of being a tragic drug-addicted frontman). We actually had to leave early because it was too hard to watch.

Oh, well. Very sad.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Be It Ever So Humble...

Addition and new back porchThis is a rear view (i.e., from the backyard) of our household construction project, which will ultimately comprise an additional small bedroom, a bathroom, and an art studio. Rob likes to call it Stevenson South. I will attempt to post a few more pictures here as things take shape. As you can see, we're also getting a small covered patio out of it. It's very exciting, although it is evidently true when they say (good old "they") that if your relationship can survive a major construction project on the house, it can survive anything. There has been much noise and general aggravation in the Stevenson residence. There's nothing like being awakened at 7 a.m. by infernally loud banging on the roof to put you in a fabulous mood, or having to answer the door in your pajamas to greet the plumbers you didn't know were showing up. Et cetera.

Anyway, I also posted the rest of the New York pictures, including the ones from the crappy disposable camera. I had to retouch those a little in Photoshop, but they actually came out okay.

Sigh. I can hear Rob stomping around. My mom and stepdad are coming up for a weekend visit and evidently Rob thought they were showing up tomorrow evening instead of tomorrow morning, so now there is extra stress in the air. Sigh sigh sigh. And me not getting even half of what I hoped to done this week in terms of work, due in part to house cleaning and also to feeling yucky on Wednesday. Can't say I feel a lot better right at this moment, but at least I don't have quite the same headache. Yet.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Flickr Fiction and Other Examples of My Brilliance

Yes, that was sarcasm. But there is new Flickr Fiction, and if you click here, you can go to my Ficktion page on Ning and read about the Chained Seven.

I had this realization today, which is that I spend an awful lot of time thinking self-deprecating thoughts--lots of boo-hooing about how I suck at this or that, or I said some lame thing and now somebody hates me, and so forth. And I'm just really no good at the whole Positive Thinking thing. If I even approach the idea of Positive Thinking, it either makes me nauseated or it makes me boo-hoo even more.

What I am good at, though--at least relatively so--is denial. So it occurred to me that what I really ought to be practicing, instead of Positive Thinking, is Constructive Denial. Every time I start thinking those nasty little negative thoughts, I need to just pretend they don't exist and then think about something else, preferably something useful, like work, or writing, or blogging (ha). It's good old-fashioned distraction, is what it is. But if I'm distracted long enough to do something productive, then I will probably feel good about it. And then the negative thoughts will flee for a while. I think this could work.

This is apropos of nothing, but I'm spending some time on Facebook lately. It's a total waste of time but it's actually sort of fun. I'm in no danger of joining MySpace at any point, and even LinkedIn seems a little pointless in retrospect, but Facebook has goofy fun stuff, and I've found some totally random people from my past on there. (That makes me sound like I have a mysterious past, which is misleading. I found some former classmates and co-workers, is all I mean.)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Ya Gotta Know When to Hold 'Em...

Sorry. Gratuitous Kenny Rogers. I'll never do it again.

Last night we were invited to a Labor Day Poker Party that ended up being surprisingly fun. The buy-in was only $10 (unless you lost, went out of the game, and chose to buy back in again), and the winnings were split such that the third-place winner would get his/her $10 back, the second-place winner would get $20, and the first-place winner would get everything else. So the system was acceptable. Not that I really have anything to judge it against, since the last time I played poker was probably penny-ante Five Card Draw with my mom when I was a teenager. Well, I may have played video poker once or twice at an Indian casino shortly after my 18th birthday, but frankly, that's a long time ago now, too.

Anyway, I wasn't sure if I was even going to want to stay at the party very long, since the only people we knew were the host; his girlfriend, our friend Kathleen, who works at the college as a librarian; one other faculty person; and then Rob had gone to high school with one of the host's friends. Plus it turned out that some totally random other person at the party had taken Color & Design from Rob when he first started teaching in town. But basically, it was an unfamiliar group of people.

Luckily, there were only about 12 people there total, which meant it was fairly low-pressure; and most of them turned out to be pretty cool. Plus Rob and I totally swept up. Rob got third place, and then I ended up splitting the rest of the pot with the other remaining person, since we were both tired and both had about the same number of chips. So we ended up with a $40 net profit on the evening. I actually felt a little guilty. I guess I'm not really a gambler at heart, but I did enjoy learning how to play Texas Hold 'Em.

Things got a little extra entertaining when one guy, evidently trying to sound macho, for some reason decided to brag about his sex prowess and loudly mentioned (in reference to his girlfriend, who was right there), "Yeah, I fucked her twice today before we even got here." Then, in response to an awkward silence and some comments along the lines of how maybe it wasn't entirely appropriate to refer to nailing his girlfriend right in front of her in the third person, I seem to remember him repeating the comment, then digging himself deeper somehow (I think I was trying not to listen because it was too painful). Then, a little later in the evening the guy got too stoned and had to go home--thereby possibly saving himself from himself, and putting an early end to his poker night. Ironically, if he'd stayed, he could have been splitting those first-place earnings with me, since it was his stand-in who ended up sharing the winner's pot. Ah, the perils of too much weed and beer.