I Pay Rapt Attention

What is it about Free Stuff?

Posted in Eccentricities by Zoelle on July 21, 2009

What is it with American culture and free things? This morning, my boss and I stood in line for half an hour to get a free pastry with the purchase of a hot beverage at Starbucks. Would I have typically purchased a pastry? Would I typically have gone to starbucks at that time of morning? Was the pastry even worth waiting for? The answer to all of these questions is a pretty definitive ‘hell no.’ And yet because I got a shiny coupon (both on my own and as a forward from two of my superiors at work) I shelled out my $4 so I could get the free pastry. How does this make any sense? I mean, kudos to Starbucks for getting so many people to waste so much time (and without even stocking additional pastries to meet the demand- seriously? If your promotion goes until 10:30, have enough pastries to last that long. There were basically none left at 8:30) but how do we let this happen?

Another recent example, just to drive this point home: I basically never drink coffee at all, and I never got to McDonalds, and I still seriously considered finding one in downtown Oakland yesterday so that I could get a free 8 oz mocha– just because it was free and I like whipped cream under all circumstances. I’d chalk this complete absurdity to my own proclivity for acquiring free things (after all, I probably eat more samples than normal human food during any given weekend- thank you Costco and Trader Joes…) but I’m not alone! That line was at least 3x as long as it is on even the busiest mornings- and these are people who avoid wasting time and calories at all costs! Regardless, this strategy of waving the carrot of something-free (even something that’s not entirely desirable on its own without the incentive of shiny free-ness) is one that works out really well for people. If McDonalds really wants to enter the specialty coffee market, then giving away McCafe’s once a week for a month a) gets people to try the product and thus overcome any assumptions of poor quality they might have because it’s coming from a fast-food restaurant and b) gets them to try it regularly, potentially getting them in the habit of heading to McDonalds for their morning coffee. It’s obviously not going to work on everyone, but not a bad strategy, overall. I’ll be curious to see if they’re able to overcome the stigma of their preexisting brand and have real success in this market.

Speaking of Free Stuff

Charlie Hoehn just came out with a (free) e-book on Recession-Proofing yourself as a recent college graduate. His strategy hinges on the idea of willing working for intelligent people for free in order to prove your worth, open the door to future (paid) gigs, build a network, and create an impressive portfolio. The book is only 30 pgs long (with HUGE type) so it’s worth taking a look if you’ll be graduating soon (or, like some people I know, are older and looking to transition industries during a recession or have been out of the job market for a while.)

 So: In the spirit of the Tall mini-experiment I ran last weekend (in which I tested my theory that being tall was not the most important factor in peoples’ perceptions of me as was kind of posited in a recent book on being tall [spoiler: it wasn’t.]) I’m going to try out this recommendation. Admittedly, I’m not a graduate yet, and I already essentially have 2 job offers for after graduation (so I don’t really need to recession-proof myself), but the general concept should still apply, right? I’ve got a few mini-projects I’ve been meaning to pitch to people anyways, so I’m going to use the process and scripts Hoehn outlines and we’ll see how this goes. Either way, I’ll keep you posted.

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The Value of an Education

Posted in Eccentricities by Zoelle on July 20, 2009

A few days ago, Ben Casnocha posted on his blog about Tyler Cowen’s comparison of the modern educational system to a placebo. It was… incendiary,  shall we say. The main point (as exhaustively clarified in the very lively comments to the post) was essentially that perhaps college students receive “intellectual self-confidence” (what Casnocha identifies as the primary benefit of a college education) from just thinking that they’re being educated (as opposed to actually learning anything.) While I have some problems with the validity of the metaphor in general (how can the educational system, which is inherently a delivery system be a placebo?)nevertheless, it got me thinking, and rather than jumping all over his blog (again) I thought I’d post some of my musings here:

On Critical Reasoning

The selling point for the liberal-arts college educational experience is in many ways the contention that it will “teach you to think” (at least, that’s what they claim here at Yale…) Numerous people (who I’m too lazy to track down links for right now) have seriously questioned whether it’s possible to teach a skill like critical reasoning in a classroom setting. While I think a class called “critical reasoning” sounds both exceptionally boring and not particularly useful, I -do- think that the collegiate educational environment does provide legitimate, tangible opportunities to build critical reasoning skills on a regular basis, though in a perhaps less formal sense. Writing essays forces development of the ability to construct a logical argument from preexisting material- that’s a certain type of thinking that can be applied more broadly than in English class. I could give more examples, but I’m hoping my point is clear- critical reasoning, to my mind, is one of those skills that really can be acquired through internalization of the general processes at work in specific circumstances (like essay writing or doing problem sets or working on a project)and because the college experience forces those situations upon the individual regularly and within a (theoretically) supportive environment, critical reasoning is almost forced to develop, at least to a point. Perhaps I’m being naive; it wouldn’t be the first time.

On the Value of College in General

It could be argued that for the sufficiently motivated individual, such experiences can be had outside of the collegiate bubble. That’s totally true- but I imagine that very few people are sufficiently motivated to sustain that level of constant challenge (of one kind or another) for a full 4+ years. Independent learning and exploration of that kind certainly require strong goals or at very least enough self-awareness to recognize what ought to be studied. I refuse to believe that a completely random approach could be as valuable as an admittedly generic or flawed but guided program. You’d have to get very lucky, at least.

Yet (as has also been argued over and over and over again) I would point to the other aspects of the collegiate experience to locate its value– for me at least. Mostly, it provides a deferment- I get to explore lots of things, meet lots of people, and stew until I get at least a marginally better idea of what I want to do professionally (in case you were wondering, I still have no clue. But that’s besides the point.)I suppose if I had known from the age of 5 that I wanted to be a zookeeper (like one of my friends) it would make more sense to muck around for a bit and then go to Zoo School– but I’m not in that situation, and something like 90% of my friends aren’t either. College serves as one giant tasting menu of everything from academic disciplines to types of people and even physical locations. Great for my confusion. I hope.

It’s also got all those other things people mention- meeting and interacting with diverse new people, making contacts, accessing new opportunities, etc. All of that is great, and if you know what you want to learn, well then, that’s good too. Especially in the sciences or medicine or other fields where some base level of rote memorization or skill is actually necessary to function.

To bring this back to my previous thoughts about critical reasoning: for me (a literature major) it’s not about remembering the specific content of specific classes (unless they directly relate to my thesis) so much as recalling how I approached various problems or issues I encountered in previous essays or readings and using that skill set to deconstruct analogous situations. It’s about recognizing something essential to human nature in all of its forms (in this case, narrative structure- my continual obsession- but that’s another story entirely.)And while I could read all these books on my own, I know I get more from listening to my peers fail to understand the source material than I could get from independently reading a critical essay with a different perspective. It helps me understand how other people think– and I can’t think of learning anything more valuable for the future. But that’s just me.

Ok, I know many of you are college students or formal college students- so if you managed to wade through my rambling thoughts above, leave some of your own- do you think the only benefit we get from formal education is an “intellectual self-confidence” of sorts? Am I naive to think there’s something more there? What do value do you find in college? Do you think you’re actually learning anything? More importantly, do you care if you are?

Notes from the Weekend (a follow-up on Tall thoughts)

Posted in Uncategorized by Zoelle on July 13, 2009

Not that I want this blog to only ruminate on the issue of my height, but I’ve got a little more to say:

Inspired by my musings on being a Tall Woman last friday, I did a little experiment this weekend, and I’m back to report on the super-unscientific-but-interesting results. Essentially, I got a haircut Saturday morning, and decided to try dressing up for once- just to see if there was any difference in the reaction I received from random strangers on the street.

Typically, regardless of what I look like, I attract some level of attention just by virtue of being 6’2 and female. At most, that usually means some stares (usually from toddlers) and the occasional inquiry about my athletic prowess (in case you were wondering, I’m the most uncoordinated human being of all time, so that ‘potential’ is entirely wasted on me. Sorry.)

Well, it would seem that my ideas about the importance of attractiveness/confidence and its effect on how a tall woman is perceived were not wholly unfounded: on two separate occasions, I was approached by complete strangers who said, respectively that I was “awesome” for my height, and that I “received compliments for my height” and “carried it well.” What’s funny is that the only thing that changed between that day of shopping and the last time I’d been out (during which I wasn’t approached at all!) was my haircut and the fit of my jeans- my heels were the same height, and my posture was identical (I was paying attention.) I find it interesting that an objective change in my hair led to comments on my height, which clearly hadn’t changed at all. To me, this implies that tall women who “carry it well” are rare enough that looking polished while tall is worthy of comment. That’s a sad conclusion, if you ask me. After all, would you walk up to someone who’s 5 feet tall and tell them they handled their height well? I should hope not. There are plenty of people of all heights who slouch and dress badly- do strangers comment when they don’t? (I’m under the impression that no, but I could be totally wrong.)

Look, I recognize that those comments were clearly intended to be complimentary, and I’m not going to pretend that being told I was awesome by a stranger wasn’t a great ego boost; it was. It’s just interesting that being tall as a female is automatically seen as something to be struggled with, or overcome. It’s relatively universally acknowledged that for a man, being tall is a good thing- an unfair advantage, even- but for a woman, it’s always about the difficulty of finding pants or a boyfriend or “owning” your height when everyone is against you. And I’m not a fan of the victim narrative pattern, personally, so it’s hard to take those kind words without a grain of salt. If I’m successful in business in the future, will my success be framed by the fact of my height and gender? I certainly hope not- I’d like my personal story to be about more than overcoming some physical fact of life, learning to “own” myself, or whether or not my height makes me more successful because it makes me more masculine.

In other news: This week I’m going on my very first business trip. I’m inordinately excited, although I’ve been told that they’re not nearly as exciting as I currently imagine them to be. That’s ok; free lunches still excite me, whether or not they’re in the Bay Area or LA.

Thoughts on being a “Tall”

Posted in Eccentricities by Zoelle on July 10, 2009
Arianne Cohen just came out with “The Tall Book,” an examination of the world of tall women, and while I haven’t read the book itself yet, upon reading the review  in the NY Times, I started thinking (as I often do) about being a “Tall,” as the author calls us. Unlike the reviewer, I definitely count- I’m 6’2″ (that’s too tall to model, just in case you were wondering) and completely shameless about wearing heels. In fact, I typically have at least 2″ worth of shoe, if not 5. This is equal parts irrational love for shoes and thumbing my nose at those assholes who feel that my height makes my footwear subject to their judgment and regulation (yes, you know who you are.) Honestly, unless I’m roaming the city stabbing innocent people with my stilettos, you can back the fuck off, shorty.

Anyways. According to this book review, I am an “SUV of humanity.” That means all those great statistics you always hear about tall people- eat more, better salary, automatically given more personal space, longer life, etc etc. And of course, less likely to get married. Or find pants that fit. Regardless of whether or not those findings apply to me, I’m not really sure what I think about being called an SUV. Just saying.

That said, unlike the supposed majority of young tall women cited by the reviewer (and perhaps the author) as unhappy about their height, I like my height. I relish it. One of my college essays was about being tall, for heaven’s sake. Yet I’m confused by the problem that other tall women (including the author) seem to have with “dating down.” Maybe I don’t have a problem with it because I’m rarely really conscious of my height differential with other people (it’s just sort of how the world works- I tend to be literally looking down most of the time. I only tend to notice if I have to significantly look up) or because I tend to meet the people I’m dating when we’re both sitting down (I am, after all, a student, which means a lot of time at a desk) but I’ve “dated down” for most of my life. I can think of two people total that have been taller than me at all, and only one who was noticeably so. My longest relationship was with someone who was significantly shorter, and while he DID find as many curbs to stand on as possible, that was more of a running joke between us than anything else.

As for being treated differently… well, it’s hard to say, isn’t it? I’ve only ever been treated the way I am, you know? I find that I get substantially different treatment based on the amount of time I put into my appearance, not whether or not I’m wearing heels. That could be because my starting height is already pretty up there, but I think it’s more than that. Attractiveness and confidence are just as important, if not more so.

Penelope Trunk recently wrote about “How to Be a Tall Person at Work” which, to be completely honest, I had some trouble taking seriously (yes, because I’m already tall,) even though she does make an interesting point about body language and people’s perceptions. And she’s not the only one writing about such things recently. It’s everywhere. What is all this recent obsession with height, anyway? Is it that height is one of those few things that people can’t really change about themselves (as opposed to just about everything else these days) and everyone is hyperaware of any real or perceived advantage that a person can have? Is this part of a larger societal fascination that I’ve been willfully ignoring? Perhaps. Either way, perhaps I’ll pay closer attention to people’s body language when they speak to me for the next few weeks, and we’ll see if I notice anything special. Maybe I’ll take to wearing those really high heels more than I already do. Who knows.

 

Fireworks, Mimes, and Books

Posted in adventures by Zoelle on July 6, 2009

FIREWORKS

As you may have noticed, this weekend was a national holiday here in America, and one imbued with some astonishing qualities, if you ask me. This year in particular July 4th celebrations had a real transformative effect on my understanding of the town that I live in. Every year, my mother and I go to the parade in the morning and the fireworks at night. Both of these festivities are kind of hokey, to be honest, and this year for the first time they made me realize just how much my hometown has in common with those small towns that populate the rest of this country, coastal and non-coastal regions alike. I’d always sort of assumed that because my area is relatively affluent and part of the bay area that we were different- perhaps more conservative than the rest of the bay, but still a part of the stereotypical Californian ethos. I mean, this was a place where I didn’t feel cool or rich enough to ever quite fit. But if you watch us on the fourth of July- well, you wouldn’t get that feeling. And the groups that are represented in our parade don’t just magically pop into existence once a year- they’re an integral part of the fabric of this community, whether I come in contact with them or not. We have megachurches with rock bands and a lawnmower brigade and 4h and our share of soldiers overseas. We’re pretty good at little league baseball, and we have very earnest cheerleaders. We have more organizations for young to teenage girls to create social hierarchies than I even knew existed. And I don’t say this to condemn or make fun of any of these institutions- far from it- I just didn’t really recognize their existence before. To each his own. It’s good to know there are things going on besides the train museum in my town. My point is more that it’s easy to get caught up in a personal vision of a place based solely on how you interact with it, and to entirely miss everything else that’s going on. I think this place is boring and empty because none of those groups are the types of groups I care to join, not because there isn’t anything to do. So my boredom isn’t a reflection on this place, so much as an indicator that I belong elsewhere. Maybe these are empty observations, but they feel important to me nonetheless. It’s the stupid common sense things that end up being the most meaningful once you get past “knowing” them and actually figure them out, I guess. Oh, and one other observation: it doesn’t matter how awkward and out of place you may feel in a location- fireworks are cool no matter where you go, if you’re into that sort of thing.

MIMES

On Sunday, in an effort to go places that could offer things we actually wanted to do, my mother and I headed to Mission Dolores park to see the opening performance of the SF Mime Troupe’s  new show, “Too Big to Fail.” It’s the 50 yr old Tony Award-winning company’s musical take on the financial crisis a la Just So stories. In an enormously entertaining production, a storyteller takes the audience through a series of folktales to explain our “Sotodo” (or greed button.) Along the way, we hear about the curse of credit, the demon of privatization, and enjoy some excellent performances. The show finds its strength in its actors and its characterization of the circumstances that led to the financial crisis, which while (literally) demonizing of large corporations, doesn’t let anyone off without some guilt. The show falters in the end by proposing a payment strike (where those in debt only pay off what they actually owe and don’t pay back the interest as well.) Noble and idealistic as the idea may be, it’s just a little too naive and simplistic to be convincing, intelligent, or, frankly, worth suggesting. It undermines a lot of the previous power of the show, if you ask me. On the other hand, if you’re going to preach that message, you couldn’t ask for a better audience than San Franciscans in Mission Dolores park. So there you go. On the way back to the BART, we took a detour down Valencia for some quality pirate time. Always enjoyable. Finally, we grabbed the $3.50 tofu tamale special at La Oaxaquena (delicious!) and headed home immensely satisfied. A good day, to say the least.

BOOKS

I’m fortunate enough to have awesome friends in publishing (I’m looking at you, Sarah, Meredith and Jeffrey) so I can get free books from time to time. While I’m technically supposed to be plowing through my thesis reading list (which I totally want to do, don’t get me wrong) I took a break this weekend to read the new translation of The Skating Rink by Roberto Bolano. This is particularly exciting because technically speaking it hasn’t been released yet. I can’t really say much about it until then, but let’s just say I’m working on a pretty substantial essay review of the title which will appear in the Yale Review of Books in the fall (and then maybe here!) Very exciting stuff.

RIP, Starman

Posted in Uncategorized by Zoelle on June 25, 2009
All this death. Yesterday, I lost a friend. I say friend in the loosest sense, as he was little more than a fellow outcast who once told my mother I was rather plain from most angles. I think I resented him for it at the time. His life is proof that what might be called eccentricity can also be endearing; I think we all loved him, in our own way. He was a ubiquitous figure, a creature of habit, always walking the same path- except that he took different people with him in every iteration. The one time we really spoke, he told me I was green/yellow. He had some theory of personality and color and relationships, and all I really took from it was that I had the opposite colors of my mother, which explained all the fighting. I didn’t really get it. Now, I wish I had asked him as many questions as I could, understood his systems so  I might preserve them. It is the absence of things that gives them their fullness, I suppose, but I do not like this permanence. I do not like this loss.
Even though I’ve never believed in such things, I hope there is a Peet’s coffee and a studio wherever you’re going.
Rest in peace.

All this death. Yesterday, I lost a friend. I say friend in the loosest sense, as he was little more than a fellow outcast who once told my mother I was rather plain from most angles. I think I resented him for it at the time. His life is proof that what might be called eccentricity can also be endearing; I think we all loved him, in our own way. He was a ubiquitous figure, a creature of habit, always walking the same path- except that he took different people with him in every iteration. The one time we really spoke, he told me I was green/yellow. He had some theory of personality and color and relationships, and all I really took from it was that I had the opposite colors of my mother, which explained all the fighting. I didn’t really get it. Now, I wish I had asked him as many questions as I could, understood his systems so  I might preserve them. It is the absence of things that gives them their fullness, I suppose, but I do not like this permanence. I do not like this loss.

Even though I’ve never believed in such things, I hope for the sake of paint-soaked jeans and checking email in the library and giant modular portraits of Jesus and most of all for your relentless spirit that there is a Peet’s coffee and a studio wherever you’re going.

Rest in peace.

http://www.danvilleweekly.com/news/show_story.php?id=1698

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Thoughts on Music, Literature, and (dreaded) Self-Reflection

Posted in Eccentricities by Zoelle on June 24, 2009
Music
Is it just me, or is the majority of popular music written in a range suited for most women? That is to say, I’ve noticed that over the years, the popularity of certain bands experiences an abrupt increase once they change the key of their songs to accomodate the typical female range (see also: Death Cab for Cutie, etc etc) There are obviously notable exceptions to this, but it’s an interesting phenomenon nonetheless.

Literature

I recently finished Evidence of Things Unseen by Marianne Wiggins. Now as I’ve mentioned before, I really like Marianne Wiggins. Her prose is gorgeous and she has the capacity to write some of the most beautiful and expansive sentences I’ve ever encountered. I’m a huge fan of The Shadow Catcher. In that context, Evidence of Things Unseen was surprisingly disappointing. This isn’t to say that it’s a bad book- it’s actually quite good. The characters are compelling and she makes some interesting moves throughout her narrative about this couple building a life together post-WWII. Yet even as she painstakingly produces the voice of the characters in their thoughts and their dialogues with each other, she completely ruins the practical-country-folk-with-quirky-scientific-interests by giving them her trademark beautiful language. This isn’t to say that I don’t think them/that type of person incapable of expansive thoughts or beautiful language- it’s just remarkably out of character and doesn’t fit with the other things they’ve thought and said. Wiggins’ prose gets away from her, and it’s disappointing, considering how well she managed it in the Shadow Catcher. Oh well. It’s always disappointing to realize that you may have discovered an author’s best work first- the others are unfortunately diminished by comparison.

UPDATE: At least Shadow Catcher was more recent, and thus represents an improvement over her earlier work. I am slightly less disappointed.

What I’m reading now:

Zelda by Nancy Milford; Underworld by Don Delillo; House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski

Self-Reflection

As part of the process of writing essays for business school, I’ve been forced to think a lot about two relatively nebulous and thus uncomfortable topics: my past accomplishments, and what I hope to achieve in the future. I’ve had no problem articulating what I’ve learned from mistakes, or the trajectory of my academic career, but trying to identify my three most significant achievement is particularly problematic. I’m not trying to imply that I think I’ve accomplished nothing- I consider a lot of things I’ve done to be significant, at least to me. The issue is more attempting to find the balance between the things I find important (which tend to be more intangible and related to the relationships I have with people) and concrete projects that might be impressive to an admissions committee. As for my future plans, well- I don’t have to answer the question about my career vision. In fact, I probably won’t. But its presence made me stop and think a lot about why I’m even applying for this program in the first place. I know it appealed to me in that it built in 2 years of work prior to going back to school, but still guaranteed that I’d have a place if I wanted it. But why business school at all? It’s still a little unclear, but here’s what I came up with:

1. Business is a profession that appeals to me. I navigate complicated structures with relative ease, I’m a social person, and the types of problems that appear in a business situation appeal to me. I believe that communication between a business and its clients (or employees, for that matter) is incredibly interesting, and has the potential to be important. Also, I like delegating.

2. At present, I don’t want to be an entrepreneur. I have ideas, of course, but I don’t feel I’m in a place to develop them yet. I’d rather take existing entities and make them better. In several of my recent jobs, I’ve essentially acted as an internal consultant, and I really enjoyed the experience. I like dropping into a situation or organization and identifying problems or solutions that had been overlooked because of the culture of a company. I like clarifying the vision of others, and helping provide next steps to achieve it. To put it bluntly: At this point in my life, creating a business of my own feels like having a child, and I’m not ready to be a mother.

 Thus: If I want to be involved in business, but do so in the capacity of engaging with existing organizations and improving them, I could stand to use an MBA. I’ll learn things there that could be helpful, and I’ll get to meet people who could be helpful later.  Also, I can always change my mind.
A final note about current events:

-There are rumors that BART might go on strike because of potential paycuts. I know that paycuts are unfortunate, but they’re happening everywhere. The UC system is taking 8% paycuts across the board. As someone dealing with the impending unemployment of a family member and all of its repercussions, I say: suck it up. At least you have jobs. And relatively high-paying ones at that. If you go on strike, hundreds of other people (ok, I) can’t go to work. In this economy, that just doesn’t seem fair.

-North Korea is making me nervous, but that might be because I’m on the West Coast right now.

-I can’t come up with anything interesting, original, or even particularly informed to say about Iran right now. I can’t even clarify my thoughts on the issue. But it certainly feels significant, and I’m interested to see what happens. I wish I thought the outcome (either way) would mean much for women’s rights or attitudes towards the West, but I honestly don’t.

 

 

A Summer Ripe with Broke Studying…

Posted in Uncategorized by Zoelle on June 14, 2009

So… applying to grad school is really expensive. The GMAT costs $250. The GRE costs $140. Each individual school has its own application fee. You’ve got to buy books to study for the tests. You probably should at least get coffee, if not lunch, with your recommenders. You can’t take on freelance work that would make you money because you’re too busy writing your own crappy essays. It’s very distressing.

In other words, pardon me if this blog gets boring: I’m burying myself into applications, and that means my adventures are being kept to a minimum.

BUT! I still have BART and study breaks in which to read great books and watch TERRIBLE movies. Thus, I present to you two recommended reads and one hilariously bad film:

The New York Trilogy- Paul Auster

This is a set of three novella-length works, all of which play with the genre of detective fiction. Along the way, however, they play with literary and philosophical conventions (while immersing you in a great story.) Great stuff.

Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name- Vendela Vida

An exotic (if cold) location, family intrigue, a hot reindeer herder, the northern lights- what more can you ask for? Even though this book is 226 pgs, it only took 2 hours to read. Not what I’d call light fare, but it’s quick and compact and lovely.

and finally…

Hitman

Timothy Olyphant, you’re beautiful. Somehow, you pull off being bald and having a bar code tattooed to the back of your head. Also, there’s always that deep pleasure I get from watching someone who is really good at what they do (even if that thing happens to be killing people creatively.) And your chemistry with Olga whatsherface from one of the Bond movies is definitely there, and the whole creepy backstory of being raised with a number instead of a name to be an international hitman? Lots of potential. Here’s the thing, though, Timmy ol’ pal- when you open your mouth to speak, I sort of can’t help laughing. And it’s not because this movie is a comedy. It’s more that I get the feeling you (or, to be fair, maybe your misguided vision of your character?) don’t really talk much. Like… probably never, considering how stilted both your dialogue and its delivery seem to be.

Look, this might all just be a function of the movie being based on a video game, but I don’t want to jump to conclusions here. Why don’t you just stick to silent killing, buddy, (or RomCom tv shows? Aren’t you on Samantha Who? Oh, no, Billy Zane replaced you…) and then we’ll talk.

A Few Brief Thoughts

Posted in Uncategorized by Zoelle on June 9, 2009

First week of work was tiring and I don’t have much to say about it except politics are stupid, but it’s nice to be in an office again. I do fear that I’ll spend the whole summer staring at spreadsheets, but I suppose that comes with the territory, working in a data department. I also made the tough decision to forego a potential freelance writing gig- much as I really wanted/needed the money, I’m spending so much time working and preparing to apply to the HBS 2+2 program (deadline is July 1!!) that I have little time for anything else, let alone the reading list for my senior thesis (which I’m absolutely itching to start) or my own writing, which is pretty much all I want to do these days.

It’s funny- immediately following my observation of graduation this year, I convinced myself that I didn’t want to pursue creative writing as a career. I’m a pretty social person, and writing is a pretty solitary endeavor, and, to be frank, I don’t like things that aren’t easy for me. Offices and corporate culture are easy. They have easily defined rules, which I happen to follow pretty adeptly, and that makes the lucrative sort of office jobs that offer the security I want quite appealing. So– business school it was, and forget all this stupid writing nonsense.

Except as soon as I made that decision, I got the itch to write again- worse than ever before. I know it’s something I’ll never lose, but now that it’s not an obligation, it’s become the only thing I want to do. I find myself scribbling on the bart, during my lunch break, while I’m cooking dinner. Perhaps it’s a symptom of having few people my own age around, but seriously? This is getting a little ridiculous.

Regardless. This was intended to be brief, so I’ll wrap up with something more humorous and less obsessively dissecting my continuous quarter-life crisis.

Here’s what stood out (good and bad) from the 8-hour long new employee orientation I suffered through today. Please note that since I worked here last summer and am an intern, I am neither new, nor really an employee, and so 99% of the information I either already knew or couldn’t apply to my own situation (or both.) Oh well.

  • “History doesn’t repeat itself, it rhymes” — a loose paraphrase of a quotation paraphrased by the historian who came to speak to us. This strikes me as an interesting concept. I like it.
  • We should indulge in “healthy pleasures”– the first one listed was sensuality. Last year, Alison Janney flat out told us in a radio spot to make love often and well. This company is apparently very invested in my sex life. Interesting.
  • If you show up 4 hours late to a presentation you’re supposed to make, everyone will forgive you if you teach them how to salsa (and look damn good doing it…)
  • Aroma Cafe cookies make everything better. Even hours of monotony.

In other news, Trader Joe’s Nonfat Frozen Yogurt rocks. my. socks. Forget my diet- until this stupid application is in, it’s eating as much of that delicious actively-cultured heaven at night as I want. I promise I’ll try harder in July?

Airplanes, Computer Repairs and Oakland

Posted in adventures by Zoelle on May 28, 2009

Airplanes

My travels began this morning with the arrival of a private car (basically a glorified, pre-reserved taxi) arriving at my friend’s place in Brooklyn to pick me up. It was 6 am. I had arrived in New York the previous evening at 9:40, proceeded to wait an hour in the Grand Central terminal with 110 lbs of luggage (literally- I weighed each piece when I got home, and the total 110 lbs. That’s ridiculous) while my friend finished watching August: Osage County. Apparently she didn’t expect it to be 3.5 hours long. Whatever. Either way, it meant a free place to crash (across from a project, but I’m not picky) and some much-needed dinner, and it meant that car service was cheap enough to be feasible. My driver was an Egyptian man named Ali who used his boundless energy, despite the early hour, to ogle my tired, rumpled figure in the rear view mirror the entire way to JFK. He accompanied his enthusiastic staring with spirited inquiries as to whether I had a boyfriend (I lied and said yes) and half-jokingly threatening to kidnap me. He also seized my hand on no less than three occasions, and held it there, squeezing rather uncomfortably, for multiple minutes. Awkward. So much for sleeping on the way there.

I flew JetBlue, which is always a pleasant experience. The ride was made even better by three things: 1) There was no passenger in the center seat, so I could put all my shit under theirs, thus enabling even MORE leg room for my 38″ inseam; 2) The guy sitting in the aisle was not only an attractive Public Policy grad student at Princeton, but he also knew when to shut up and let me sleep; and 3) my generic dimenhydrine knocked me out cold for 90% of my flight. Which arrived a half an hour early. That’s a quality travel experience, if you ask me.

Computer Repairs

I got home to discover that my new laptop screen was waiting on the doorstep. Not a bad welcome present, needless to say. I was feeling braver than normal, so I audaciously got out a screw driver and started taking the old screen out. Considering that the only instruction I’d recieved was several months earlier and consisted of “take out the screws,” it’s a miracle I didn’t break anything. I also managed not to lose any of said screws, which is pretty impressive considering how damn tiny they are. All in all, a half hour later I plugged in my computer and for the first time in 5 months, the screen worked! That’s right, I’m actually writing this from the comfort of my own computer. About bloody time. 

Oakland

Though I don’t technically start work until Monday, I’m headed to Oakland early tomorrow to attend a meeting, fill out paperwork, and, inexplicably, see a nurse. Apparently to be employed by this organization you now have to go touch your toes and extend various limbs for a license healthcare practicioner. I definitely didn’t have to do this last year. Whatever. It’s employment, and considering the current economic climate, I’ve got no cause to complain.