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: I Can Feel It Brushing Against My Eardrum: This weekend, while using a generic cotton swab to clean my left ear, I got a ball of cotton lodged in my left ear. Leonard and I tried to float it out, to tweeze it out, to get it out with another cotton swab - no use. Today I'm going to the doctor to get it tweezed/forcepped out, probably as per this useful document. It turns out Leonard and I probably shouldn't have tried what we tried; if you can't shake it loose or easily pull or tweeze it out, don't try to remove a foreign object from the ear yourself. However, punctured eardrums usually heal themselves within a few months. That's good to know.


: Ear Cleared: In other doctor's office news, Highlights for Children is still lots of fun. Their "caption this photo/cartoon" contests get much more creative entries than those in non-kids' magazines do.


: Election Day, 2004: Things to remember about Election Day, November second, 2004:

Going to sleep at 1:30 the morning of, crying and praying. I can't tell where the cold draft in my room is coming from, and it frightens me.

Dropping my absentee ballot into a red box.

Breaking into tears of joy and hope when I see campaign signs and stickers, and the "I Voted" stickers my fellow citizens are wearing as badges of pride.

Working like a golem. Fuel: free bagel, leftover hash browns, vending machine potato chips and Pop-Tarts, coworkers' leftover Halloween candy.

Listening to songs by the Dresden Dolls over and over.

Running back and forth between customer service work at my computer and the big TV at the other end of the office.

Hope.


: Election Night, 2004: Things to remember about the several hours after that last hope:

Pizza, booze, CNN, increasingly grim jokes. I couldn't believe that Coburn won, Bunning won, that the GOP would be consolidating its control of the Senate. Obama was no comfort at all.

I talked on the phone with a few friends and found some solace in conversation. I talked to my parents a little bit; they're BJP supporters (!) and feel the same way about the recent Indian elections as I felt about yesterday's results.

I slept under my desk with a pillow of free promotional t-shirts, ate a mockmeat breakfast, read some blogs, did some work, and then found out that Kerry had conceded. My stomach fell. I confirmed it on TV, swallowed my dreams, congratulated the one Republican watching with me, started to cry, and called Leonard.

Now, work.


: Cute Animal Pictures: A baby elephant.
Another baby elephant.
A tortoise.
A baby penguin.
A baby panda.
A baby human.
A baby human and a fake baby dog.
An adult human and a fake otter.


: The Clothes Make The Man Not Be Naked: If you are considering clothing purchases for yourself or others, and you are like me and know nothing of fashion or style, please read The Morning News on women's clothes and men's clothes. Or you could just ask John about men's and women's clothes since he is an expert on style and consistently looks like a million bucks. Do people still say that? I am imagining a creaky miser hoarsely yelling that in his pre-stagflation day a dame who looked like a million bucks really looked it.


: Not To Mention The Original Big Book: Two of my favorite Christianity bloggers: Real Live Preacher and Slacktivist. I imagine that the Preacher, a.k.a. Gordon Atkinson, would enjoy Douglas Coupland's book All Families Are Psychotic, and now I find that Fred Clark of Slacktivist enjoyed Infinite Jest. Leonard read that recently and I acted irrationally hostile towards him and it whenever I saw the book. I get irrationally angry at people who are doing things I don't have the guts to do. In this case that's both the reader and the writer of a Big Book. When did I stop reading huge books? When I started commuting on BART?

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: RIP Iris Chang: When I was a sophomore at UC Berkeley auditing Andrew Creighton's wonderful introductory sociology class, he had us read chapters from Iris Chang's Rape of Nanking first off to remind us what humans can do to each other. Yesterday Iris Chang died at 36, apparently by her own hand. My shock and sadness leads me to another of Dr. Creighton's teachings. Once, he told us that a close friend of his had leapt from a bridge years ago. If you ever consider killing yourself, don't. You're hurting the people around you for decades to come, he said brusquely. I wish Iris Chang had known that.


: The Anointing: Steve Robertson knows Ashcroft stories and I need to get some from him - such an intriguing figure! I always figured I had an in with Ashcroft since Steve knew his son at Rice. Professor Spiro asks the same question I do - Ashcroft had a pretty consistent moral framework with which I strongly disagreed, whereas Gonzales would just do whatever Bush wants. Which is worse, a zealot or a hack?


: Google Ads Come Through Again: "Sexy Chordate Singles"! I hope so.

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: Deepavali, Dipawali, Whatever: Happy Diwali!

While dressing up for work in a shimmery pyjama juba, a.k.a. salwar kameez, I discovered that I don't have any kumkum, a.k.a. kunkuma, a.k.a. bindi, a.k.a. the red dot you wear in the middle of your forehead or between your eyebrows. I used a marker instead.

Diwali usually celebrates the day Rama comes back to Ayodhya (don't get me started on temples and mosques in Ayodhya) after defeating Ravana, a ten-headed demon. I'm reading the first book of Ashok K. Banker's passable fairy-tale retelling of the Ramayana right now; I should time my reading so that I read that part of the story a year from today.

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: The Dot Isn't Just For "Dot Com": Some customers write highly coherent and comprehensive help requests, whether courteous or profane. And some write help requests that resemble in prose style the opening of Flowers For Algernon.

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: Shahrukh Khan Stories!: Fun anecdotes about Bollywood's popularity worldwide.


: Yes, Important People Have Weblogs Too: Interesting security/foreign policy weblog by Thomas P.M. Barnett. Includes the line "Then there's my plot to return to C-SPAN!"

I found it while Googling for my House of Saud/House of Windsor Freaky Friday proposal; it turns out he sort of agrees. "I want [the House of Saud] to mutate into the House of Windsor slowly and with great transparency," he said in September (six weeks after my jibe, ha!).


: He Is The Franken. I Must Go.: Tonight I go to see Will Franken (more detailed, if more ephemeral, description) at the Punchline comedy club near Embarcadero BART station. Come one, come many!

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: Too Many Tears: Margaret Hassan is probably dead.

"He had the lines around his eyes that signify a man who smiles cautiously and gravely, not because he has no humor but because he contemplates the consequences of everything, and must be an example. He had my father's eyes."


: Verb, Noun, Whatever!: A highly entertaining weekend and surprisingly entertaining week. Leonard cooked up a fantastic feast for Zack, Shweta, Andrew, Claudia, and me. I believe we had bread with artichoke-spinach-cheese dip, a beet-and-goat-cheese salad, a squash soup, bean patties with guacamole and yogurt, and ice cream pie. Leonard used butter-pecan ice cream and chocolate-peanut-butter ice cream in a coconut and chocolate graham cracker crust. People were moaning with delight at the ice cream. We had to pause playing Once Upon A Time (the collaborative storytelling card game) to truly appreciate the pie.

I love playing Once Upon A Time, not only because making up stories is fun, but because I get to see the idiosyncrasies of my friends. Claudia mixes it up with metatext and cites existing fairy tales, Zack foreshadows and archetypes well, Andrew inserts hilarious non sequiturs and then sequiturs them, and I like tying up loose threads.

Then I went ice skating for the first time, thanks to Claudia and Andrew. Tip: in-line skating skills transfer pretty well to the rink!

The San Francisco Zoo just keeps getting better. Zebras! Giraffes! If you go on a hot, sunny day you'll see the lemurs more active; if you go on a colder day you'll get to see the kangaroos hop.

Seth, Zed, Jennifer and I saw Will Franken at the Punchline and he was great, as usual. A pleasing discovery: the hilarious opener W. Kamau Bell, who does race humor that works.

Thought of the week: Weight Watchers, in its points-calculating frustration, is the D&D diet. "Roll....hey, I get a muffin!" Credit my colleague Rodney.

Last night: Dresden Dolls with Joe and his gal at the Great American Music Hall. I go to perhaps 1.2 concerts a year and this was worth it, even if I stood the whole time. Bonus: the opener, the Ditty Bops, was good! Bonus bonus: I met a random guy, who saw an acquaintance of his, who introduced her boyfriend, who was in the dorms with me at UC Berkeley! Thank goodness for the web of social connections, else I'd worry that the world wouldn't miss me.

This weekend: Mom! Awesome.


: Wish List: Life is suffering, as Gautama Buddha and George Orwell both said, and the less you want the happier you'll be, to paraphrase Buddha but probably not Orwell. That actually worked for me when I was younger, I think, but today I have been letting strangers get to me -- which means I want their approval -- and haven't meditated on nonreaction.

Susanna, Leonard's sister, has now twice requested a wishlist from me. Sorry for the procrastination, Susanna. I keep this wishlist and try to update it before my birthday and before Christmas. I'm glad that I've cut down on the size of my wishlist over the past few years.

I think I wanted for nothing once, at least nothing tangible, and I miss that. I was ignorant, and didn't feel in charge of my own life. How long does desire take to die when you never feel agency? I remember coming to the dorms and feeling the most enormous pleasure at choosing my own food in the dining commons. Now Leonard has spoiled me; I have tasted his fairy food and might waste away for the want of it. I've gotten picky, the way Ben Franklin bragged that he never did. I wish I didn't know how bland mediocre food is, how much more interesting other jobs could be. I want to forget everything extraordinary so I can be content.

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: Unexpected: Why does Apologies Accepted make me cry?


: I Hope to Go: Will Franken hits the Odeon tonight.

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: In Santiago And A Hospital: For some reason, mild violence struck twice around Bush at APEC this weekend. Reporters scuffled for the best seats at a press conference, and Chilean and US Secret Service bodyguards got into a fracas over whether or not the Secret Service could accompany Bush into a dinner. (The AP reporters use "scrum" in both cases. When was the last time you used "scrum"? Too long ago, I'd wager.) Evidently Bush personally pulled a bodyguard out of the fight in a "let's settle down now" maneuver. I feel surprised that the President's corps of bodyguards let itself get distracted in this manner.

The more interesting White House-related story: Rice had uterine fibroid embolization and is recovering well. Various stories emphasize, via some spokesperson, that her condition wasn't cancerous or life-threatening, and that she never went under general anesthesia, which are appropriate reassurances regarding one of the President's closest advisers and one of our nation's top policymakers.

I had never heard of this procedure before, so I Googled a bit and found out that UFE is one of those newer, smaller alternatives to big problematic surgeries. Instead of slicing through lots of healthy tissue to surgically remove a tumor or fibroid, doctors can use tiny injections or streams of particles to burn or starve the offending cells. Pretty cool stuff.

Rice just turned 50. She's never married and has no children. And, although several women have conceived and delivered babies successfully after UFE, "At this time, UFE is not commonly being performed on women who desire future fertility because its effects on fertility are unknown."

It sounds as though Rice (unlike Hillary Clinton or another American political pioneer, Frances Perkins) has made her decision to be a 21st-century Janissary. I'm glad she has the option to do that. I hope she recovers completely.


: Aha: Elephant Pharmacy IS a chain!

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: It's A Faaaaaaake: Leonard and I watched a bit of an America's Test Kitchen about Chicken Diavola, which does indeed mean "devil-style."

CHRISTOPHER KIMBALL: So tell us a little bit about Chicken Diavola. Diavola. Am I saying that right?
JULIA COLIN: Yes. It's "Diavola," meaning chicken of the damned. To make this requires that you damn your soul to hell.
[pause]
KIMBALL: Okay, what do we do first?
COLIN: Well, there's this oath that you sign in blood.
KIMBALL: Does it have to be my own blood?
COLIN: Not necessarily. We actually found that pig's blood works best. It has a certain viscosity that we really liked.
KIMBALL: Uh-huh.
COLIN: We tested about fifteen different bloods. A lot of people think virgin's blood would be the blood you'd use here, but that's actually pretty thin. You don't want something that'll just run off the page. Pig's blood really has that earthiness and stickiness, so that's what we use.
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: Then Again, Seeing "Kinsey" With My Mom Would Have Been Pretty Awkward: Sumana is back from a DC Thanksgiving. I picked up the slip opinion of Leocal v. Ashcroft at the Supreme Court, saw my old pal John Stange, sightsaw with my sister and cousin, and ate my mom's food. Fun things include the card game Uno, Spike TV's Bond movie marathon, the December 2004 issue of the Atlantic Monthly, and the Mall at night. Neat things include the new WWII memorial, the DC Metro, and the improvements in the performance in my sister's laptop thanks to my maintenance. Blah things include the price of passport photos at Kinko's ($14 for a set of two?!) and the movie Ray, which focuses too much on drug abuse and womanizing and not enough on the musical innovation that made Ray Charles a legend.


: Books I Read When I Was Too Young to Really Understand Them: Back to Eden. A denunciation of modern, unholy, unhealthy eating patterns, and a handbook of herbs and more natural healing methods. Lots of enemas. This fascinated me for the anecdotes; I just flipped through the real reference material. He and his kids and grandkids talked about life on a farm, the virtues of a vegan diet, what God wants, and grotesque cases (ER meets All Creatures Great And Small). The guy had a clinic that used "electric therapy" -- I'm not sure what that means.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X. I was about eleven when I picked this one up. Why it was in our house I have no idea. I learned from this book the sorts of things that other people my age probably learned from the kinds of movies that my parents wouldn't let me watch, e.g., a passing reference to key parties. The introduction contains one of the best Malcolm X quotes, "My coffee is the only thing I like integrated." Looking back, I am surprised that I never confused Alex Haley (who took X's dictation) with Aldous Huxley, and that despite the LeVar Burton obsession I share with Leonard, we still haven't seen Roots.

I Never Played at the White House, Art Buchwald. A watergate-era column anthology. Dave Barry : Art Buchwald :: humor : satire, right? I was twelve. Like Mort Sahl, Buchwald was cheerfully chauvinist in ways I now find annoying. I learned most of what I know about Watergate from this book and from old Doonesbury cartoons.

A Few Minutes With Andy Rooney, Andy Rooney. I think someone gave my dad this book as a gift. Mom and Dad used to call me downstairs when 60 Minutes had 10 minutes left to make sure I wouldn't miss Rooney's stand-up/journalism/blogging. If you ever read the passage in Richard Wright's memoirs where he reads Mencken for the first time....take away most of the profound and awesome power of the experience and you get a sense of Rooney's influence on me. I mean, come on. I'm not Richard Wright! I think the honesty of his voice and the variety of his subjects got to me. I might not love Malcolm Gladwell now except that Rooney got me when I was young.

Sex And The Office, Helen Gurley Brown. Hoo boy. How that book got into my dad's library I have no clue. I may be the only person who's read this book and not Sex and the Single Girl, which came first. If I recall correctly, this book has absolutely no depictions or descriptions of actual sex, but lots of explanations of office politics. I have never used the techniques that the book recommends to succeed in the workplace (maybe I should) or romance (thank heaven I'm fine there).

Don't get my family started on Lee Iacocca's autobiography. It was the only English-language book around at a house in India that I visited when I was nine. I know a lot more about the Chrysler bailout than most people. Most people who dislike the Ford family do so because Henry Ford was an antisemitic wacko; I did because of Iacocca's description of his firing.

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: More Than Reading Schneier At Lunch, This Reveals My Geekiness: Today I suddenly got mad about the Mercator Projection.

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: I Experience Cinema, You View Film, He Watches Movies: I should have checked CAPAlert before taking my mom to Ray; it would have warned us about the excessive sex. Probably the only major movies out that I could comfortably watch with my mom are The Incredibles and SpongeBob SquarePants and my sister wanted to see neither. I believe the last movie that my entire nuclear family saw together was Air Force One in 1997.

While we pored over the free DC weekly paper's movie listings. I saw some arty Iranian film and commenced to needless mockery of Kiarostami. "Oh look, I put a camera in a truck and drive it along a dusty road for two hours and that's a movie. They're all named The Children of the Olive Groves or something. I'm Iranian, I'm censored, look at me."

I think it would be funny if Kiarostami were helping the Iranian reform movement by lulling the hard-liners to sleep with his boring movies.

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: It's Pompousness Night Here at Sumana's: Which is worse - listless lost apathetic purposelessness or strangled forced direction? The anchor that drowns or the loosed sail that any wind can blow away?

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: "the acatalectic record of mankind": Heavy metal yet again exceeds my expectations. Sort of via Airline Reviews.


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