Monday, March 31, 2003

J. Crew

I've never actually paged through an entire J. Crew catalog before, but I did today. And you know what's weird? Everybody is white. I know that J. Crew is often used as a shorthard for a cetain sort of stereotype, but I really expected to see a few token people of color. As much as I'm hoping the affirmative action at Michigan isn't upheld, I still find this a little offensively unprogressive.

Friday, March 28, 2003

Women, Men, and Maureen Dowd

The subject of Ms. Dowd's columns almost a year ago about career-driven women came up again tonight. (We also discussed how her columns are generally pointless and a waste of space and wondered how she ever managed to swing her job.) Luckily, some digging with Google turns up still-working links to the articles, even though the Times search engine tries to get you to pay for them. (At some point, a site was also charging for access to an article of mine available for free on the Herald site. Weird.)

In any case, the first article was "The Baby Bust" and the second was "Y? DNA! Q.E.D.". There are plenty of careful dissections of these articles findable on Google, so I won't bother writing my own. I offer them only because they seem to be great conversation pieces.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Proximity without intimacy

I'm finishing Bare: On Women, Dancing, Sex, and Power by Elisabeth Eaves, which I actually started on the plane to San Diego this winter, where I was going to give the book as a present to Andrea. I saw it at the bookstore and it looked interesting. Is it cheesy to read someone's present? A little. But it was incredibly engrossing, and when I didn't get a chance to finish it, I tracked it down at the library.

At one point, it says

"Do you know what Dante's definition of hell is?" I asked Clarence from Cleveland. Being so near the airport, Extasy got a lot of business travelers. He wore shiny loafers and a pressed shirt.

"Proximity without intimacy," I said. Clarence nodded politely but vaguely. He was game to talk to me. Both of us chipper and friendly, we had gone over names, cities of origin, his job, the weather, that day's football game. He looked unsure of whether he should pick up my new conversation strain or change the subject entirely.

I knew almost nothing about Dante. I had read a reference to him in a novel that day, and it was floating around in my head. I wanted to kick myself as soon as I had said it. It was absurd. I was absurd, Clarence was absurd. This place was absurd, and the Divine Comedy was an absurd thing to bring up. I didn't want to appear well read because it made me feel like a talking monkey. I had been show-offy and self-indulgent, which suggested that I cared what Clarence thought, and I didn't want to start caring, or appearing to care, what any of them though. I wanted to give people only my facade.

So, I thought to myself, did Dante really say that? Literally? After a little web hunting (and then some), it looks like a lot of people have picked up this meme from the book Eaves is likely referring to: Melissa Bank's 1999 The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing, which made it into Oprah's book club and spawned various erroneous Dante citations. Some people only describe it as being from an unnamed book (ashamed of the title?) or add a disclaimer explaining they haven't read Dante themselves. Interestingly, the only use of the phrase clearly predating the book is a guide to BDSM.

All of that said, it's a pretty intriguing idea. But is the absence of both proximity and intimacy worse? I'd say probably yes. The terms are terribly vague, but if I think empty subway train versus subway train full of strangers, or empty library versus library full of strangers, the one with the people always wins. Or, metaphorically, if I think about knowing a subject superficially versus not knowing about it at all, the choice seems obvious. I suspect many people have latched on to this in the context of romance, but it probably isn't so true if one gives it more thought.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

White Noise

I finished White Noise today, including some reading out in the park pretending it wasn't quite as cold as it is. Despite predispositions to the contrary (fun fact, we put this article online the summer I was at the Atlantic), I really did enjoy it. It's a pretty addictive style, although it helps that I enjoy implausibly-eloquent dialogue, which is probably why I also like Dawson's. Admittedly, some of the ideas are simple and there are occasional bits of blatant style-over-substance, but there are some fun little pithy passages. Several toward the end revolve around death and war, timely-ily enough. For example:

"Nostalgia is a product of dissatisfaction and rage. It's a settling of grievances between the present and the past. The more powerful the nostalgia, the closer you come to violence. War is the form nostalgia takes when men are hard-pressed to say something good about their country."

Thursday, March 20, 2003

I(')M Away

So, the war may be dominating all the blog-watching sites, but the big news today is clearly the Times's recognition of our obsession with away messages. This made me think, maybe we need a purity test for IM.

Have you ever...

  • ...procrastinated by...

    • ...reading away messages?
    • ...reading away messages about procrastinating?
    • ...writing away messages?
    • ...writing away messages about procrastinating?

  • ...written more than 5 away messages in one day?
  • ...written an away message about showering?
  • ...written an away message to...

    • solicit pity?
    • confirm your popularity?
    • beg for help?
    • brag about your exciting life?
    • pretend to have an exciting life?
    • manipulate a MOS? (if you don't know what an MOS is, you need to stay in more)

  • ...written an away message that...

    • ...quoted a real-life conversation?
    • ...quoted an IM conversation?
    • ...quoted an away message?
    • ...responded to an away message?
    • ...continued an earlier away message?
    • ...quoted a song?
    • ...quoted a web page?
    • ...quoted an email?
    • ...quoted poetry?
    • ...quoted your homework?
    • ...quoted your professor?
    • ...quoted an overhead conversation?

  • ...left an away message up when you were actually there?
  • ...responded to an away message?
  • ...been sad that nobody responded to your away message?

I think I've done pretty much all of these. Good god.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Bits N Pieces

The Media Lab had an open house today, and since IBM is a sponsor, I got to drop by and see some cool stuff. It was my third time there - the first time I met Brian, and the second I saw a talk by John Maeda. This time, I managed to talk to Cameron at long last, which inspired me to start being better about actually writing in my blog. Of course, I don't have that much to say at the moment. I went out in search of green beer last night and failed. Maybe next time. I also have this fun passage I ran across:

Box joined Microsoft early last year to help develop its .Net Web services architecture and has a reputation as a lively speaker. At the 2001 TechEd show in Barcelona he led a discussion on SOAP while sitting in a bathtub.

On Monday, to show that solidarity exists at least among developers, he coaxed an IBM software engineer on stage and made him pose for a picture while he kissed him on the cheek.