Sunday, July 31, 2005


I've been reading the blog of a high school exchange student spending the year in Germany all year. (I am not linking to the blog out of respect for her privacy and age. However, if she were to give permission to link to her regular blog when she's back in the States, I would love to link to it. Her writing is wonderful, succinct, and descriptive. Unlike many bloggers-- and especially high school-aged bloggers-- her writing is lively and reads well.) She's been spending the year in the same area of Germany as my little town in Bavaria, so names of places that I recognize and traditions that I remember so fondly popped up from time to time in her posts, often evoking a deep sense of nostalgia and Heimweh for me. Today, she left Germany to come home to the United States.

My return to the U.S. was incredibly rocky each time, but especially after I spent a year in Hamburg. Hamburg could not be any different from my little Bavarian town, and my experiences there were not exactly positive. Oh, there were good moments. But the year was marred by a very VERY bad host family experience and placement in a specialized Gymnasium where the students commuted from all over the city to attend what could only be described as a magnet program. There was a distinct lack of class community. People showed up for class and left immediately after. They socialized with people from their neighborhoods, not with their classmates. And people in northern Germany are notoriously difficult to get to know. The stereotype of the taciurn, cold Hamburger certainly held true for me, much to my bewilderment, and later to my desperate disappointment.

Now, I would not have traded that experience for anything. I learned so much about self-reliance and perseverance that year. I was on a government grant, so I felt like I could not go home because my family would not have been able to afford the airfare or the repayment of the grant to the program. If you can't go back, all you can do is go forward, come hell or high water. So that's what I did. And ever since, I've been able to draw on the knowledge that there is a reserve of strength that I could not have imagined deep inside me. That doesn't, of course, mean that nothing scares me or that I don't get cold feet. But it does mean that I have a good cry, a bout of hysteria, perhaps a week of sleepless nights, but then I get in the car or get on the plane or walk into the room and get on with it. Sometimes I get on with it kicking and screaming, but I do it. One of my favorite German phrases expresses this: "Augen zu und durch". Literally, it means "Eyes closed and through". The closest English equivalent would be "grin and bear it", but they are not identical. The German phrase indicates that certain kind of courage that comes from doing what you dread to do because you know it has to be done, whereas the English phrase indicates that certain kind of fatalism where you simply endure what you dread because there's nothing you can do to change it.

But I digress.

I was happy to leave Hamburg, and I was looking forward to seeing my family and my friends again. But at the same time, I did not want to leave. I felt like I had just gotten the hang of things. Then I got "home" to the United States and the euphoria of homecoming wore off... and I had never felt more out of place and unhappy in my entire life.

Before you leave on an exchange, any responsible exchange organization teaches you about culture shock and the adjustment process. I had been on two exchanges prior to that one and had not only heard it before, but had thought that I had experienced it before. However, just as I had a far more difficult adjustment to life in Hamburg than I did to life in Bavaria, my readjustment to life in the United States was far more difficult than it had been before. Why? I still don't really know. Perhaps because I had to make such a concerted effort to adapt to Hamburg, whereas Bavaria felt like home from the moment I stepped out of the bus and met my first host family. Perhaps because this was a longer exchange.

Whatever the reason, the culture shock-- or reverse culture shock, if you will-- was immense. I couldn't watch TV because the people spoke English too quickly for me to understand. I couldn't think in English. The air conditioning made me too cold, but the heat and humidity of an Ohio summer was far more oppresive than I remembered. The milk tasted watery ("Skim" milk in Germany is 1.5%, "regular" milk is 3,5%) and drinking tap water made me sick because after a year of drinking carbonated water (which is the standard in Germany), tap water tasted like flat coke to me.

Everything was shocking to me. Everything. The cars were HUGE. The license plates looked strange. The radio played strange music. The voices on sitcoms that I'd watched for years sounded strange. The World Cup was being played and I had watched it with my host family, but had to come home just before the final round. I don't like sports, but I looked forward with feverish anticipation to watching the final round because it was familiar, it made me feel like I was still connected to something. The television coverage of soccer in the U.S. was... abysmal. I cried unconsolably and felt this inexplicable rage over the poor quality of the coverage of this sport that I didn't even care about-- what I recognize now as culture shock.

The first day back at my American high school was epic. I went to a fairly large school with just under 2,000 students in three grades. In Germany, I went to two very small high schools, each with under 1,000 students in 9 grades. When I walked through the front door that first day, I was literally stopped in my tracks. The people were so loud! And there were so many of them! And the girls were wearing so much makeup! I tried to go to homeroom only to realize that I couldn't remember the way to get there any more. That, more than anything, freaked me out. I ran to the German teacher's classroom, which was just down a hallway from the front doors, burst through the door and started babbling at him in rapidfire German. Eventually, he figured out what I was on about and had one of his homeroom students take me to my homeroom with a hall pass. I walked through the door of homeroom and sat down. Hulio came up to say hello. We had been introduced a week or two before (if memory serves) and my best friend at the time had asked her to give me a note on my first day back. I looked up at her with a shell-shocked expression that she still laughs about to this day. I, incidentally, don't really remember this conversation, only the intense feeling of shock and confusion. I mean, this was my home we're talking about. Why did everything seem so foreign to me? Why, when I had spoken English for nearly two decades, did I need to carry a German-English dictionary to school with me?

The feeling lessed in intensity, but stayed with me for the entire 10 months that I remained in the United States before leaving for four months split between Germany and Denmark. I felt like a foreign exchange student in my own country. Once the shock wore off a little, I actually started to enjoy the sensation. I have to say that I learned more about the United States and my role as an American in that time than in my whole life leading up to then, including the time I had spent in Germany. In many ways, it was the parallel to the journey of self-discovery that the year in Hamburg had been. It was just as difficult and emotionally draining in many ways, but it was ultimately immensely rewarding and intensely deep.

That feeling as never been as intense after any of my subsequent trips. I do still have that sensation of foreignness, but it's not debilitating or painful, probably because I know that it will happen. Even after I returned from Denmark, I was ambivalent about life in the United States and felt like I didn't really belong here. My ability to separate German and English while still maintaining both as an active language in daily use grew with time and I haven't needed my German-English dictionary to get though the day since those first few months after my return from Hamburg. There are still moments when I inadvertently mix the two, but usually only if I have to switch from one to another quickly. There are certain words that come to me in German but not in English and vice versa. There are still occasional moments where I say things and I am not sure if they are German or English-- sometimes I'm literally not certain which language just came out and sometimes I can't tell if I'm using English words for a German idiom. The phrase "Can you say that in English" is a part of my semi-active vocabulary, as is "What's the right way to say that?". It will probably never go away, and I'm okay with that.

It took several more years before I finally felt at home in the United States again and I think that only happened after I was able to consciously decide to remain in the United States (as opposed to being here because I happened to have been born here). I'm not saying I'll never live in another country again, not by a long shot. You never know where life will take you. I still harbor a dream of living in Iceland, of calling that strange, quirky land home, even for a short while. But I feel comfortable with my identity as an American. I am not blindly and loudly patriotic, as many of my countrymen are. But I don't need to be-- I have chosen American and chosen my Americanness. That's all I or anyone else needs to know.

And still, I feel Heimweh for Germany. There are things and foods and customs and places and people who I miss almost every single day. There are times when a certain scent on the air or a certain angle of light or a certain taste can make me weak in the knees with longing for my other Zuhause. There is no place that I can ever live and not feel Heimweh for someplace else- but there are many places that I can live and feel like I am zu Hause. A lucky woman, indeed.

I Wish This Were A Joke

The terrorists are bombing us because of the feminists.

Seems to me that Al Qaeda and the (Psuedo-)Christian Right have a lot in common. I hate the way people like this distort what Christianity is supposed to be.

Things I Will Really Miss About Living in D.C.

I love riding on the Metro, especially when you get a conductor who really enjoys his job.

Can You Imagine If A Child Were Involved?

I talked to my mother last night for the first time in three weeks. My mother, when I first moved out of my childhood home and into an apartment of my own, would call me every time it rained to make sure that I had gotten home from work okay. This never failed to irritate me, as I had already lived in two foreign countries and felt that if I could handle myself there, I could certainly handle living in an apartment less than 20 miles from where I grew up with a girlfriend I had known since high school. Later, when I graduated university and moved to the City of Light, she would call at least once a week, usually twice, just to chat. That was fine; by that point, we'd grown into our roles as "adult daughter" and "mother of adult daughter" and developed a much more friendship-like relationship. If I went longer than a week without talking to her, she would give me all kinds of grief about it, but in a teasing kind of way, so it was still good.

Then I started law school. My mother will not call me, I have to be the one to call her. Because "it might be a bad time". Now, let's face it: there is no truly "good time" to talk on the phone during the school year. There's always *something* I could or should be doing. But I am not a machine and I do take time to socialize and talk with friends, so I could certainly find the time to talk to my mother. And if it's truly a Bad Time, I would just say to her (as I would-- and have-- say to my friends) "I can't talk right now, let me call you later/tomorrow/when I have the time to think again/ after exams". I tell her this ALL. THE. TIME. to no avail. This irritates me far more than the whole "It's raining pretty hard out there, I wanted to make sure you made it home from work safely" thing ever did.

So, I finally get my mother on the phone last night and she spends most of the conversation telling me about all the cute things that my cat has been doing. My mother is convinced that the cat has a 5-8 word vocabulary, including "Hello", "Out", and "No". She wants to enter my amazing talking cat on the Late Night With David Letterman Show for the Stupid Pet Tricks segment. In between anecdotes about the cute things Kitty did, she talks baby talk to the cat: "Izz zat my ittle sweetie? She's such a cute wittle kitty!" As a result, my mother still does not know the status of my job search or even what state I've decided (more or less) to take the bar in. She has no idea that Finbar was here for a visit and I didn't even get to tell her my funny story about the "abandoned" briefcase on the Metro the other day. But I know all about how the cat hid under my mother's bed and tried to jump out and grab her toes as my mother walked by looking for her.

And my mother wonders why I don't plan to have children. Can you imagine? Between having me for a mother, being corrupted by Finbar's mother, and being smothered and doted on by my mother, the poor child would be in a mental hospital before middle school.

If I Were Single

...I would get myself a great big black lab. It would be the best way to meet men EVER. You would not believe the number of people who will come up and start talking to me when I take Felix's dogs for a walk. Old, young, men, women-- everyone loves these dogs.The little kids are especially funny: they squeal "DOGGIE!!" and reach their hands out toward the massive heads of these dogs with no apparent fear that one of them might decide to have a light snack of kid fingers. This never happened when I would walk Sadie or Jack (my parents' beagle) or the Golden Retriever that belonged to a family I babysat for.

The dogs, of course, eat the attention up. They are (mostly) well-behaved, but very very love-y. They will shove each other out of the way to get to a hand that might scratch between the ears and the younger one has been known to crawl right up into your lap-- or at least he squeezes as much of his 100 pound self onto your lap as possible. Thankfully, they aren't lick-y dogs, as I don't think I could take that much labrador loving.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

I Finally Got That Pet Tiger I Always Wanted

I caught her in a pit baited with tuna sandwiches. Tigers will do anything for a tuna sandwich. They're stupid that way.

adopt your own virtual pet!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Playing Dress Up

Housesitting for Felix again means that I lugged a whole bunch of crap into the office today. I drove Felix home at midday and dropped my bags off at the same time. His wife was there and we chatted for a minute. She's very sweet, but so very, very different from Felix that you can hardly imagine how they ever ended up together. Then I took Felix's Saab back to the office because he told me I could drive around in it this weekend. Who am I to pass up a tankful of gas that I didn't have to pay for and the savings of a couple of days on my Metro ticket?

I've spent the evening catching up on phone calls and email correspondence while one of his huge dogs lays on the floor at my feet. Every time I move, her tail starts to thump hopefully, since she thinks that I'm going to pet her. Mostly, I do. It's dead quiet here, which is funny, because this area is quite urban. And it's a little weird, especially since I'm used to sharing the house with Will, Grace, and Napayshni (Grace's fiancee), plus the house menagerie so I'm not used to this much quiet. I guess I should get used to it, since I'll be living alone when I get back to Our Fair City.

Jojo has slept with me the past several nights and follows me around when I get home. It's very cute-- he's like a little kid with a crush on his babysitter or something. He's going to be a very disappointed kitty in a few weeks. And Turbo will be a very disappointed doggie, since both Will and I are moving and we s.p.o.i.l. that dog rotten with snuggles and petting. Will says Turbo's getting needy. Last night, he got up in the chair and visibly pouted because Napayshni wouldn't give him the ice cream out of the bowl that he was eating. This, less than 24 hours after a particularly funny bout of begging when Will brought sushi home. Turbo was panting, making it look like he was grinning like a used car salesman and the more we laughed, the more he hammed it up. I am really going to miss that big galoot.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Stolen Memories

I stole this from Kunstemaecker because I liked it.

10 years ago today: July 26, 1995: I was living on a small Danish island in the North Sea. Our house had a thatched roof and no television. It was the first time I'd been so far north and I marvelled over the late sunsets. Of course, after a summer in Iceland and Sweden, that 11 p.m. sunset doesn't seem quite as spectacular, but it totally blew my mind back then. I was also learning to drive a stick shift-- a skill I have since completely forgotten.

5 years ago today: July 23, 2000: I was teaching German history and culture in Offenburg. That town was a cesspool and teaching was terrible. My students hated me and I was miserable. But I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. My fellow teacher was a true soulmate. We would pick up a bottle of the locally grown wine and fresh vegetables and bread, then spend the evening writing lesson plans while eating and drinking like royalty. It also gave me a chance to see the Black Forest, which was just amazing: the great swirls of mist rising from the depths of the thick trees on the hills was spooky and beautiful at the same time. I could totally understand how the folktalkes that became the Grimm Brothers' fairy tales originated.

1 year ago today: I was either on my way back to the United States or attending Finbar's parents' 35th anniversary party. Either way, I can assure you that I was so tired I was probably hallucinating.

Yesterday: Sad because Finbar went back to the City of Light and I won't see him again until Labor Day. Irritated by Felix and his fixation on the new PERM Labor Certification process.

Tomorrow: Same as yesterday. Including the disgusting weather. Plus I have to pack up so that I can housesit for Felix again this weekend.

5 snacks I enjoy: Terra Blue Chips, any cereal with a cartoon figure on the box, popsicles, Grießbrei, sweet popcorn

5 bands that I know the lyrics to most of their songs: Patty Griffin, REM, U2, Billy Joel,

5 things I would do with $100,000,000: Pay off student loan debt for myself and several of my dear friends, give my parents enough money so that they could quit their crappy jobs and do something that makes them happy, set up a scholarship fund, travel, buy a home.

5 locations I'd like to run away to: Finbar's arms, Iceland, Germany (specifically to my little town in Bavaria), Hawaii, the hotel we stayed at in Niagara Falls last winter.

5 bad habits I have:
- Too impatient and not good enough at hiding it.
- Chewing my pens and pencils
- Procrastinating
- Staying up too late.
- Being hesitant about important things.

5 things I like doing: travelling, learning new languages, eating, spending time with close friends,

5 things I would never wear
A halter top, those pointy toed high heels that have been so popular lately, a wedding dress with a butt bow, a micro-mini skirt, a baseball cap facing any way other than forward.

5 TV shows I like
: Airline, Family Plots, Dog the Bounty Hunter, the West Wing (but only when Aaron Sorkin was still writing), and Iron Chef

5 movies I like: Amelie, Mary Poppins, Office Space, Best in Show, Election

5 biggest joys of the moment: my friends, my books, Turbo and the Cats, knowing that Finbar is there for me, fresh grapefuit on sale at Safeway

5 favorite toys: my blog, my laptop, my knitting, and I can't think of two more.

So I hereby nominate anyone who thinks it sounds fun to take this and run with it.

You Have Got to Be Kidding Me

Since when is walking around during a long flight suspicious behaviour?? Oh, right. I forgot: it's suspicious if one of those damn foreigners does it. ::roll eyes::

I hope whichever moron reported this "threat" to the flight crew got a full body cavity search when they came through Immigration. I also hope that if it was a member of the flight crew who reported this "threat" that they are fired.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Try The Buffet, Part 1

Es war endlich soweit.

Finbar arrived at BWI shortly before 8 p.m. Thursday. I'd been quite late leaving work, trying my best to get a Petition out before I left for the day. At the last minute, I realized that would never happen because I still needed a copy made of it and the copy shop wouldn't have the time to get it done before they closed. One of the girls in the office agreed to take it down on Friday morning for me if I had it tabbed and ready to go. I got into my car at 6:38 p.m. and hit the road, worried that traffic would make me late to get Finbar. I'd warned him that it would be a possibility and to just wait by the baggage claim for me, but still, it sucks to be waiting at the airport to get picked up and I miss him, so I didn't want to waste any of the time he would be here. Luckily, the traffic was thick, but not terribly slow. Mapquest steered me astray, but there were road signs that got me back on the proper path and I made it to BWI around the time his plane was scheduled to land.

I flew through BWI last summer and the whole place was one huge construction zone. I remember having that four hour layover and, not knowing exactly where in relation to the city the airport was, being too afraid to leave the airport. So I had a lot of time to kill and it turned out that there wasn't a heck of a lot to kill it with at BWI. No proper restaurants (though I did get a Charley's Subs meal) or shops (save the Maryland Souvenirs, all of which had variations on the "Crab" theme on them-- "I'm CRABBY in Maryland!"), so that four hour layover died hard.

The place is still a massive construction zone, but you can see things taking shape. There are more shops, though they are all behind the security barrier, making them inaccessible to the poor sap who is waiting to pick up someone whose flight is delayed. There are more restaurants as well, though they too seem to be behind the security checkpoints with the exception of some newsstands that also sell coffee and muffins. The check-in areas are shiny and well-lit, which is a major improvement over the strange, dim lighting that I found so freaky last summer. The coolest change, however, is in the parking garage.

Actually, it's on Level 2 of the parking garage. Each parking spot is equipped with a sensor hanging from the ceiling. When a car is parked in the spot (and therefore, under the sensor), a light on the sensor turns red. When no car is in the spot, the sensor lights up green, marking the spot as open. At the ends of each aisle there are signs indicating the number of empty spots in that aisle, so that you can decide whether or not to drive up the aisle. It's a brilliant idea; I can't believe it hasn't been done before.

We headed back down the highway in the sticky, dying day and ended up stopping for dinner at Lebanese Taverna" for dinner. The pita bread came to us straight from the oven, still steaming and puffed like little footballs. It. was. phenomenal. So was the lamb pie.

And then the Moment of Truth was there: Finbar met Will.

I said to Hulio once that Finbar and Will are a match made in idiot heaven. And I was not proven wrong. The two of them immediately hit it off and the level of humor went simultaneously downhill and up at the same time, getting progressively raunchier and funnier. I left the two of them snickering like 12 year olds in the solarium.

Friday, Finbar and I got up and went to IHOP. I love IHOP, yet I've never had the joy of living in the same city as one, at least not for long, since as soon as an IHOP opened in the City of Light, I moved away to start law school. I've been here in Rockville for more than two months and I only recently and quite by accident discovered that there is an IHOP less than a mile from the house. Less than a mile!! We stuffed our faces with Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity while discussing our plan for the day. The original schedule had called for us to be up, showered, dressed and out the door in time to stop in at the office with bagels so that I could introduce Barry to people, then back on the Metro and into the city to try to get tickets to tour the Capitol. It took us awhile to get moving and we didn't even make it to IHOP until 10:30. While sitting there waiting for our Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity, I gazed out the windows at the shops in the little strip mall. It was a virtual UN of retail; an Indian buffet, a Vietnamese Carry-out, a Mexican grocery, and a Persian bakery, among other shops and facing onto a busy street teeming with traffic.

After three or four cups of coffee and lots of BACON, we waddled across the parking lot to the Persian bakery to see what they had and maybe pick up a treat to take to the office. It was exactly the kind of place that makes Washington D.C. such a great place to live. The young woman behind the counter gave us samples of this amazing honey crisp and the next thing we knew, we were telling her to give us four pounds of whatever was in the display case. We boarded the Metro for the office, sweet hints of honey wafting from the box of cookies and climbed the Mt. Everest escalator. After a quick round of introductions, we got back on the Metro and headed for Capitol Hill.

I'd checked the guidebook before leaving and we were pretty certain that we were far too late to get tickets to tour the Capitol, but hope springs eternal and we hiked from Gallery Place to the Capitol Building, a grueling hike in the brutal summer sun and near-triple digit temperatures, dodging swarms of Boy Scouts running amok,only to get the bad (though expected) news and continue directly down the Mall to the Smithsonian.

All along the Mall, we encountered more and more Boy Scouts. All of them full of that twitchy hormonal teenage energy and whatever chemical reaction occurs when teenage boys get together in large groups, making them act like savage morons. How many times did I have to restrain myself from giving these young men a "good talkin' to"? About a million, that's how many. Just in front of the Smithsonian!

We saw at least 4,000 crucifixion scenes in the National Gallery of Art before Finbar petered out. He only lasts so long in an art museum, which is about fifteen minutes longer than I would last in a science museum, so I can't complain too much. We stopped in the Impressionist gallery before leaving. Finbar is a great fan of Monet and has several framed prints hanging on his walls.

Then it was on to the Museum of American History, where the exhibit on polio moved me to tears. It's hard to imagine the terror that must have gripped the parents of a child who wakes up and is seemingly inexplicably paralyzed, unable to move or breathe. One account described how a father raced to the distant hospital with his son spasming in his arms, but the child died before they could reach the hospital. How horrible that must have been! We also watched the conservationists working on The Star Spangled Banner, which was really cool. One of the things that I like about this particular museum is that it shows AND tells. You get to see the objects in question and there are simple, yet detailed explanations for everything. One of the things that I like least about this museum is that this makes parents think "Oh, it's 'child friendly', so my little Precious can do whatever she likes", which means that *I* petered out pretty fast. So, it was back out into the blast oven to see some monuments.


On Second Thought


I'm about to talk about Harry Potter again, so those of you who have not yet finished, do not read any further! This is the last "new" post, so you won't miss anything unless you haven't read the blog since Sunday!


I am really coming around to the Snape-as-Triple-Agent theory, for one very specific reason: the language she uses to describe Snape at the decisive moment mirrors almost exactly the languages she uses to describe Harry when he is following Dumbledore's orders to force him to drink the potion in the stone basin. That's no accident, I'm sure. I'm still sorting out what I think this means.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Family Togetherness, Part 2

One day quite a few months ago, I opened my email and saw this subject line in my Inbox: “Looking for [My Real Name]”. The name wasn’t familiar, but the email domain was from my alma mater, so I decided it just might be legit. It turned out to be my very bestest middle school friend, Rebecca. We’d grown apart a little in high school, following our separate interests, but were still more or less friends all the way through. After I toddled back off to Germany and she set trail for the Southwest, we lost touch with each other. In all the years since then, we’d seen each other once, just before I left our hometown for the City of Light. I was really sad that we’d lost touch again after finding each other that time—and a little guilty, too, because I’d let myself get caught up in the chaos of my last semester at university and moving and just never got around to calling, even though I’d really wanted to. You all know how that goes.

Lucky for me, it turns out that Rebecca’s a Googler. You’ve all done this, I know you have: Googled the name of someone you know, past or present, to see what they’re up to. Or you’ve googled your own name to see what comes up. (I’m a football player from South Carolina). One day, she googled me and found my name on a bulletin board or something. I’d mentioned Germany in the post and she had a hunch it might be me. We’ve kept in touch by email over the past school year and it’s been great having Rebecca back in my life again. She’s such an interesting, lovely person.

My visit this summer was the first time I’ve been home for any length of time since we started emailing each other, so I was hoping that we’d be able to get together. Knowing that she has a child and husband (and a real job), I was concerned that our schedules might not mesh, but the Gods of Reunion smiled on us and we made plans to meet on Tuesday evening. My sister spent the whole evening stomping around the house muttering about how no one was looking her up on the Internet. It took all of the willpower I could muster and a hearty dose of intentional deafness not to point out that her little tantrum was a perfect example of WHY no one is looking her up on the internet.

When I walked through the doors and saw her standing there, it was so strange, but in a good way. She’s still Rebecca after all these years. And there was a reason why she was my very bestest Friends-4-Ever friend all those years ago. We talked all night, right up until we noticed that we were the only people left in the restaurant and the workers were mopping the floor. We left a hearty tip and skedaddled. Turns out it was already going on 11 p.m.—well past my bedtime, and I imagine hers, too. I could not believe how fast the evening went.

Thank God for Google.

Realistic Risk Assessment

Finbar is visiting me in D.C. this weekend. We tried to get tickets to tour the Capitol Building twice-- once yesterday and again today. When you are waiting in the line for tickets, a volunteer goes down the line handing out fliers with a list of items prohibited in the Capitol Builidng. Number three on the list is "knitting needles". Number ten on the list is "Guns or ammunition".

Yes, ladies and gentleman, knitting needles are a danger to our country's legistators and the staff members on Capitol Hill. Such a menance, in fact, that they are listed seven items above guns on the list of prohibited items.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Even The Smallest Person Can Change The Course of the Future

This quiz is made for Finbar.

My results?

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

Oddly enough, that's been part of my personal philosophy for years, though I've gotten more jaded since starting law school.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

This Is What I Wish For

Last night, I had a massage at this place, which was recommended to me by Grace's fiancee. I injured my shoulder two years ago at work. I was distributing incoming faxes to their intended recipients while reading a fax that had come for me, so I wasn't paying attention to where I was going, but since it was late and I was the only one left in the office, I wasn't too worried about it. Until I walked into Bob's office. He had left a file box on the floor of his office. I tripped over it and fell, and as my head rushed toward the sharp edge of the desk, I instinctively threw out my arm and the full weight of my body was driven right into my shoulder. It was bad. Very bad.

Anyway, ever since then ,I've had a problem with getting a knot in that shoulder that eventually pulls a tight band of pain across my upper back. It's been very bad the last few weeks, probably due to the extremely un-ergodynamic design of my workspace and the stress of trying to persuade Immigration that this extremely shady client is telling the truth in their asylum application (which I don't for a moment believe) while getting chastised for not filing the other eighteen cases that are pending because I keep getting yanked away from my desk for Felix's errands. It's very stressful, even though I like the work and think it's all interesting. So I am ripe for massage. And Finbar is really far away from D.C.

My student therapist was a slightly older man, perhaps in his forties. He was tall and fairly burly and let me tell you, he was not afraid to put that brawn into my back. First, we had a "consultation", where I told him about my shoulders and he asked some questions about other spots. Then he told me to get "undressed to my comfort level". Now, I am not particularly bothered by nudity, although I would never go around flashing people or anything. There are just some situation where some degree of nudity is called for and there's no point in fussing about it. This was a lesson I learned the first time I was cast in a professional stage production. Costume changes took place in cramped backstage quarters with NO privacy. You just got over it. Slip the leotard from act one off, put the leotard and skirt for Act Two on and get yourself in position for your next entrance, toot sweet. So, when the doctor tells me to get undressed, the clothes are gone. Sauna in Finland? Let's not be silly. But as I was standing there half undressed in the room, my mind kept coming back to the consent form for the massage on which I had been informed in capital letters that any sexually inappropriate behavior would result in your being tossed out and banned. Now, there was certainly no sexual intent behind my disrobing, but what if you're not supposed to get undressed all the way and the poor guy thinks I'm, you know... I am not exactly an old hand at this massage thing; I've only had one other professional massage, it was done by a woman and I could not for the life of me remember whether I took off my clothes. So, then I tried to think about people getting massages on T.V. It seems like their upper bodies are usually unclothed with the sheets protecting them from any untoward exposure. I figured if it's good enough for TV, then it's good enough for me and tucked the sheets around me to wait.

It was heaven. He did this thing where he placed his hands firmly over one spot and I don't know exactly how, but after a few moments, I would feel this little pop, and then I could feel a knot release. Then he did my legs and feet, which was amazing. I used to get the occasional foot rub at the ballet school back when I danced, but nothing like this. The very last thing was a rub of my arms back up to my shoulders. I could not believe how much better I felt after that. I was in such a good mood that I didn't even yell at the yuppie jackass who cut in front of me at the Giant when I stopped to get a bottle of water on the way home.

If I lived here permanently, I would be in deep trouble. Like any junkie, I would never get enough of the massage. Grace's fiancee (who needs a blog name; I'm tired of typing "Grace's Fiancee") used to go twice a week when he lived in the area. I would totally not be satisfied with just that. Sunday, I told Hulio that all I really want from life is Finbar, a nice home, a job I don't dread going to, enough money that I don't have to pinch my pennies to pay the bills, a car that runs well and isn't falling apart, and maybe enough for a yearly vacation. Apparently, I was lying because I totally should have included "...and my own personal professionally trained masseuse at my beck and call 24 hours a day" in the list as well.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Speaking of Voldemort

Fictional Elections Deserve Fictional Candidates

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Brian DePalma Will Have to Make the Movie

First of all, if you have not read Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, DO NOT continue to read this post unless you do not care about spoilers. This will be your only warning, don't come crying to me if your fun gets ruined.

Here, have a little extra space, so the stuff doesn't show up on the front page when the blog loads.

To quote Harry, "Glad we got that straightened out".

Four hours of escapist reading-- and frankly, there isn't much out there that actually makes me stop worrying about law school and finances for more than two minutes at a time-- and all I can think to myself is "Whoa." I would like to take a moment to congratulate myself on one correctly spotted plot prediction. I'm not patting myself too hard on the back because, frankly, any one with a passing familiarity with the epic adventure/quest genre should have made by the end of book three. But, holy schlamoly, I did not see Snape coming. And this one is sooo dark. So violent. Not gratuitously so, but still, the new curses, the Inferi, the ending battle, and lots of little bits in between take this firmly out of the realm of children's literature, much more so than even Order of the Phoenix, which I would have placed in the YA section more for the complexity of its underlying themes than for violence. Hulio and I went for lunch before I left town today and two young boys came in clutching their copies, bookmarked toward the front of the book and I wanted to run up and tell their mother not to let them read it, they're too young! But of course, that was too lunatic, even for me, so I'm only blogging about it.

Unanswered questions for me, based on my one reading (and I'm sure I'll come up with more as I re-read slowly now):

*What is up with Trelawny constantly wandering the castle reading omens from the cards? I doubt that J.K. Rowling threw that in just for creepy effect (although it is a highly effective way to creep someone out), but I just can't figure out what that is supposed to mean.

*Malfoy-- redeemable? Regretting his decision to follow Voldemort? Or just too coward to kill? Why did he go to cry to Moaning Myrtle of all people/ghosts?

*Why don't they EVER listen to Hermione? "There are some curses that are unbreakable, some poisons with no antidotes".

And some random commentary:

* LOVE the fact that Tom Riddle showed sociopathic tendancies as a child (killing the rabbit). Makes it so much more complex that he's not just "carried away", if you will, sort of explains why he's more evil than your average bad wizard.

*Not so enamored of the Harry-Ginny pairing, at least not as presented in this book. Willing to wait to see what happens next before passing judgement. Love the Remus/Tonks pairing. Love the hormonal teenagers.

*Interesting that, for all the Weasley parents talk about Harry as being part of the family, they never write to him at Hogwarts.

*Also interesting that Voldemort as a physical being in the present tense of the book never shows up, even once. We see him only as a memory.

*J.K. Rowling is amazing at bringing things that were little details back to mean big things.

*Loved the scene where Harry meets the Minister of Magic.

*Continuing, despite the whole Snape thing (though Alan Rickman will be DELICIOUS playing evil Snape-- He can Avada Kadavera me any day, rrrrrow!), to enjoy the fact that J.K. Rowling continues to give us unsavory characters who are still "good", and well-meaning people who are still "bad". Rufus Scrimgeour may not be as openly antagonistic to Harry as Fudge, but he's not exactly looking out for Harry's best interests, either. And ol' Sluggy is odious and obnoxious, but nominally on the side of the light. Even if he's there out of self-interest, he's still there. It's good for the soul to realize that good and evil are almost never black and white.

*Major turning points for Harry: not rising to Snape's bait as they walk up to the school, coming to an understanding of how and why Voldemort is bound by the prophecy but he himself is not, Dumbledore telling Harry that he knows he's safe because he's with Harry (which made me cry, by the way).

So, I'm going to re-read the book and maybe I'll post about predictions for the final book. My only complaint about this one? I wish it had been longer. But then, I would say that if it were 652,000 pages, so...


Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Bad Jokes That Made You Laugh Anyway, Part 6

Two guys walk into a bar. The second one says to the first one, "I didn't see it either, dude."

I Should Be So Lucky

I wouldn't have had a problem returning the book. But then, by the time the court caught up with me, I probably would have read the whole thing. I did, after all, read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in less than eight hours.


Monday, July 11, 2005

Must Have It

I didn't know they'd released it on DVD!!


So there I was, sitting cross-legged on my bed, typing away when one of these ran up my leg. I jumped up, stuck a cup over it and slid one of those ubiquitous, annoying, but occasionally useful magazine subscription cards under the cup to trap the beast inside. I shook the cup up to try and keep it from crawling back out onto me and dropped a little nail polish remover into the cup. Then I replaced the card, laid a copy of "Immigration Law and Procedure in a Nutshell" on top and waited ten minutes or so.

Satisfied that whatever that thing is was either dead or close to it, I carried the cup out for inspection by my roommate. I'd never seen one of these bugs before and had no idea if they were dangerous to house or health or if it was a signal of some sort of infestation or what, so I thought it wise to seek a second opinion. Grace took one look and said "Oh, an earwig!" She seemed utterly unalarmed, but still, those pinchers on the back end of those things are freaky, so I asked what they are. She replied "I don't think they crawl in your ear, I think they just call them earwigs." Not terribly reassuring.

Thanks to my trusty friend, Google, I feel a little better. A little. Because now I'm going to have trouble falling asleep with visions of hoardes of little nocturnal pincher-butt bugs under my baseboards, just waiting for nightfall to come out and play.

Reasons Why This Is Such a Great Job For Me, Part 4

Today, I got to call someone and tell them that they have been approved for immigration to the United States (as opposed to being issued a non-immigrant visa to enter the country) and may now apply to have his and his wife's status changed to be Permanent U.S. Residents. He was so happy that he cried. I love my job.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Family Togetherness, Part 1

I miss my family. I don’t get to see them very often: the drive from Our Fair City to their little corner of Ohio is too long to make for just a weekend and under the school year it’s difficult to get a long enough stretch of time to make the trip. I had planned to spend Spring Break there, but had to scrap those plans when I landed the interview at my firm in D.C. So, this was the first time that I’d been able to visit since last Thanksgiving.

We made a leisurely drive into town, stopping for outlet malls and breakfast at the Cracker Barrel and for a taste of Skyline chili. The car was stuffed to the gills with our stuff and with the luggage that we had bought for my family—a (very) belated Christmas present. It was originally intended that we (or just I) would bring the presents when I came at Spring Break. Obviously, that didn’t pan out. My family is very, very difficult to shop for. My dad seldom asks for anything other than the typical socks-and-underwear gifts—but he’s very tall and very big, so it’s difficult to find these items in his size. (I like to think of it as a lifetime of training for being Finbar’s partner). My mother, when asked what she would like, always replies “Oh, nothing.” But if you actually got her nothing, her feelings would be terribly hurt, of course. Neither of them really has any hobbies or particular interests that would lend themselves to Christmas gift-giving. Then there’s my sister, who has never, to my knowledge, liked anything I’ve ever bought her, even when I bought specific items she asked for. I used to feel bad about this until I realized that she puts zero effort into buying a gift for me that I might like (You should have seen the year she went with a cat theme for my gifts. I literally could not give some of the things away), which freed me, paradoxically, from the guilt over never pleasing her with my gifts. I still try to pick something that I think she would like if, say, it came from my parents or anyone else other than me, and that’s fine. The situation was complicated this year by the fact that Finbar bought joint presents for his family from the two of us and I was responsible for buying joint presents for my family. This year, I had a stroke of genius. They are planning a trip to Vegas in the fall and I know they don’t own any luggage; they always borrow my grandmother’s. I picked out a large five-piece set for my mom and dad and a smaller three-piece set for my sister. The two sets matched. They were quite nice, really. In fact, I would really have liked a set for myself.

We rolled in late in the evening. As we were bringing things in from the car, my sister yelled out, “Did you see the new luggage we bought? It’s in your room!”


Finbar and I, who had just reached the door to my room, looked in and saw a much nicer, much more expensive set of luggage than we’d bought. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. We looked at each other and started to laugh hysterically. We laughed until I wasn’t really sure anymore if I was laughing or crying. Then I went upstairs and, in my most smart-aleck voice, asked if they wanted to open their Christmas presents from us, setting off another round of laughter from me and Finbar, much to the mystification of my family. My sister kept saying “Why are Christmas gifts so funny?”, and Finbar and I couldn’t stop snickering the whole time we were bringing the luggage in and dragging it upstairs. My mother asked “Did you buy this before or after I told you we bought luggage?”

Pardon me? If you’d told me you bought luggage, I WOULDN’T HAVE BOUGHT LUGGAGE AS A GIFT FOR YOU!!

And that was the moment in this trip when I remembered why, though I love my family very much, I don’t miss living at home even a little. George Burns had it right when he said, "Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city."

Friday, July 08, 2005

It Made Me Twitch

Today, while preparing a memo, I had to quote from a letter written by someone else. The part I needed included the phrase "the first of it's kind". It was downright painful to have to actually a)type that out and b)leave it in a finished work product.


Why is it only men who whistle in public? I don't mean like a wolf whistle or hailing a cab, but rather whistling a tune. You never see (hear) women walking through the hallways of an office building whistling, but I see men doing it every day.

Daggone It, Finbar!

Someone came to my blog today by searching for "Finbar Blogspot". I clicked on the link to see what, exactly comes up when you search for "Finbar Blogspot" and found this. HOW COULD YOU GO ON A TRIP AROUND THE WORLD AND NOT TAKE ME??

Thursday, July 07, 2005

No Words Are Enough

I think probably everyone who rides public transportation and also has a grasp of world politics and current events, especially in regards to developing nations and extremism of all sorts, has thought to himself at least once or twice that an attack on a subway or bus would be quite easy to carry out, especially if the attacker is willing to die for his cause. The dark,narrow tunnels become a trap. The puff of air as a train enters or leaves the station drives particles-- possibly bacterial or viral-- far down the line. One need look no further than the Sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway or the book "The Cobra Effect" for examples.

But anyone who has a halfway pragmatic view of the world considers the low probability of actually being involved in any attack, finds the risk to be miniscule, and steps into the car without major thought.

Yesterday, for the first (and, let us hope, only) time, I drove into work. It had nothing to do with the attacks in London; I had been requested to drive in so that I could run some errands for Felix in the afternoon that would require a car. Many of my fellow commuters apparently decided that the trains were not safe and drove as well. It took me a full hour to reach the office less than 6 miles away. I hear that there were police armed with semiautomatic weapons riding on the Metro.

Oh, London. My heart goes out to you. I'm glad, so very glad, that Death, who lives not far from the scene of one of the explosions, is unharmed. I'm so very sad for all of those whose lives were devastated by these senseless, horrible attacks. And I'm angry as hell at those who think that innocent commuters are an appropriate target for attack. I can understand being willing to die for what you believe in. I do not understand the willingness to kill indiscriminately for any belief.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


I've lived in (or within spitting distance of) a couple of heavily touristed places in my life. And as a rule, I like tourists. It's so cool to think that you live somewhere that people would choose to come to for fun. When I lived in Munich, I loved helping people with the subway or giving them directions to the local tourist attractions, especially if they were American. In fact, I taught a little girl how to purl on the train last summer. Her family was spending two weeks in Germany and Switzerland after a year living in Sweden, where the dad had just done a Postdoctoral Fellowship. They were in the compartment directly across from mine on the Night Train from Copenhagen to Munich. The little girl was 8 or 9 and had taken an instant liking to me. She knocked on my door several times over the course of the evening to ask me if I wanted to share her cookies or walk to the end of the train with her or see a picture of her dog back in the U.S.

At some point, when she came over, I had gotten out my knitting and was merrily clacking away. She got very excited; apparently, they had learned knitting at her school that year. But she just couldn't *get* how to purl and I must be really smart to be able to knit without watching and purl too! Well, heck, that's nothing special, here, I'll show you how! And she sat with me for the next hour, carefully mimicking my motions until she produced a purl-- and promptly dropped the knitting on the floor out of sheer excitement. Her mother started apologizing and told the girl to leave me alone, obviously worried that I would be annoyed or angry or that the little girl would ruin my knitting. I assured her that it was fine and that there was nothing that the girl could do to the knitting that couldn't be fixed. We picked the knitting up off the floor and set to it again. She purled almost a whole row-- and it wasn't bad, either; I actually left the row in, thinking that it was pretty cool that I would have a sweater with such a cool memory right in the fabric. But she was done with knitting and after thanking me for teaching her, ran off to see if she could get another bottle of Coke from the conductor.

I wonder if, years from now, she'll still remember the woman who taught her to purl on the train in Germany? I know I'll remember her.

But I digress.

Today, I was annoyed as all get out at the tourists. Don't STAND in the middle of the escalators, blocking the whole path! Some of us have jobs to get to. Don't come to a sudden and complete stop right in the middle of the sidewalk! If you need to stop and get your bearings, check your free map from the hotel, look for your camera to take a picture of that man hawking those handbags (fake, BTW) from a converted hot dog cart, whatever, that's cool. But move to the side of the walkway-- either side is fine-- so that you don't cause a collision when the rushing commuter behind you can't stop on a dime. If you don't know how to use the Farecare dispensers, there's no shame in asking. But don't stand there and randomly press buttons, staring at the display like it's in Sanskrit, then refuse the offer of help from one of the locals, especially if you're planning to add some smart remark about how you're not stupid just because you're not from D.C. You're stupid because you think that an offer of help is an insult. Don't let your kids run wildly up and down the aisles of the Metro. A) It's annoying as hell and 2)Someone's going to get hurt. It damned well had better not be me. And if Bubba, Jr. runs these stockings, I will kill him; they're my last pair. While we're on the topic, don't let your kids scream and screech on the Metro or anywhere else for that matter, but especially not in the confined space of the Metro. We're not talking about babies here, we're talking about middle schoolers. It's not cute or funny and I really don't appreciate starting my work day with a splitting headache. When the train stops, please GET ON. Don't stand in the doorway waiting for God knows what. If you hear the pretty voice tell you to "Please stand clear of the doors", well... please, stand clear of the doors.


But enjoy your time here in Washington D.C. It's a great city!

And So It Begins

The guy behind the deli counter asked me for legal advice after he saw the copy of "Immgration Procedures" poking out of my shoulder bag. For a moment, it kind of freaked me out, like when someone you don't know calls you by name and it takes a minute before your brain kicks in and reminds you that you're wearing a big sticker on your chest announcing your name to the world. I told him that I was only an intern and couldn't really give him advice, but that he could make an appointment to speak to one of the attorneys in the office (which is only a couple of blocks away; I often shop on my lunch break or before boarding the Metro home).

At least I know no one will ever attempt to show me their oozing rash at a party for diagnosis.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Getting Caught Up on the Nightstand

Over my long and leisurely vacation, I read a great deal. Mostly my mother's magazines, which I would never buy, but are great fluff reading. However, in between issues of Reader's Digest and Ladies' Home Journal, I also plowed through several books.

I read Bucky Katt's Big Book of Fun, which I was lucky enough to find at Half Price Books. I love Get Fuzzy, especially the little "inside jokes" Darby Conley slips into the picture, like the fact that Bucky's closet has a Slytherin poster, while Satchel's room has a Hufflepuff poster.

Then, I read The Encyclopedia of Knitting front to back. I am going to teach myself a new way of casting on and casting off for the new sweater I am about to start. I'm finished with the knitting part of my Ravenclaw scarf, but I still have to block it and put the fringe on the end. I have a kicking acrylic/mohair blend chunky yarn that is just BEGGING to be made into a soft, fuzzy sweater that I can slip on and feel like I went to law school in my PJs. I'm still mucking around with the guage, since the yarn is not the exact texture of the yarn recommended by the pattern book, but since I have no intention of paying $11.95 a skein for the yarn recommended by the pattern book (the kicking yarn was on clearance for $2.00 per skein AND I had a 40% off coupon), I'm going to adjust the pattern and needles to fit the yarn.

Then, I read the first few chapters of Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children. It was a fascinating premise, but the book is so poorly written that I quit after the first two chapters and a skim of parts of the rest of the book.

In the car on the way back to Our Fair City, I read Are You Really Going to Eat That?, a collection of columns and essays written by the man Liane Hanson calls "The Indiana Jones of Culinary Writing". It was like porn for this budding foodie. I totally want this guy's job. He even makes oysters sound almost appetizing to me. Almost.

In the park on Sunday, I started reading The Grand Tour. One of Tim Moore's other books graced my nightstand back in April or so, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, I heartily recommend it, especially if you are a fan of Mil Milington (whose first novel I read right before starting law school and loved-- though it has nothing in common with the website save the name and excellent dryly funny writing). The Grand Tour is not disappointing at all.

This morning, I started reading Memoiren eines mittelmässigen Schülers. This book must be commonly assigned on German reading lists, as I constantly find copies of it at Half Price Books. I picked this one up partially because the title catches my eye, partially because I see it so often, yet was never asked to read it in any of my German classes ever, and partially because the little hedgehog on the dtl edition of it is so cute. It's been on my bookshelf for several years. Now that I've started it, I can't imagine why I've never read it before. It's hysterical! The humor is dry yet ludicrous, very Monty Python-esque. However, I doubt very much that it would translate well, as it's very culturally dependent. The book is slim and small, so it's my subway reading.


How Not to Behave When You Call Your Attorney

Call the office of your immigration attorney. When someone answers the phone, don’t speak. Then, when the person who answered the phone waits for you to answer their greeting, impatiently yell “Hello?” into the phone. Mumble your name. When asked to repeat it, get offended. Say your ten syllable name as quickly as possible. When asked to spell it, get very angry that the person on the phone has the audacity to not be familiar with your ten syllable Pakistani/Polish/Kenyan name. When the person asks what your call is regarding, answer “My immigration case” or “I am a client”. If the person to whom you would like to speak with is not immediately available to talk to you because he/she is on another phone line/ meeting with another client/ at lunch/ in the bathroom/ in court, get very angry. Demand to know the exact moment when the person will be poised to take your call. When the person who answered the phone-- and have I mentioned that the people who answer the phones in our office are the people who will do the actual work on your case?-- is unable to predict the future, reluctantly leave a number. Be sure to mumble this and get offended when the person taking the message reads it back and gets one or more of the numbers wrong. End the conversation by doubtfully saying “You will give Person X my message, right?” as though the message-taker is actually an escapee from a halfway house for mentally deficient pre-schoolers.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Regular Blogging Will Resume Shortly

I've arrived back in D.C. after a week at home with the fambly and Finbar. The full story will come out in one or another blog entry when I've had time to write about it. In the meantime, please allow me to share this small observation:

I stopped at Taco Bell for dinner on the road. I don't normally care for Taco Bell, as I have been ruined by the ambrosial offerings at Mighty Taco-- one of the only things I miss about living in Buffalo (Wegman's being another). In fact, I would wager that the last time I ate Taco Bell was just after Hulio and I moved in together, nearly two years ago. But for some reason, it sounded like a good idea today.

While waiting for my food to come up, I wandered over to the condiment table to get sauce packets. Some genius at Taco Bell's markteting firm has added cute sayings to the packets of taco sauce. Mine, for example, said "Of all these sauce packets, why me, why now?", and "If you threw this, would it be a flying saucer?". It almost made me want to eat at Taco Bell more often--an urge that was quickly stifled when I discovered a few miles up the road that they had given me the wrong order. Sigh.