Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Nocturnal time travel

Every Monday night, I dream about Rome. This makes some sense because my Rome class is Tuesdays, but I don't dream about the class. I dream about Rome. Like this past Monday night, I dreamt that I was a Roman sailor aboard a Roman quinquereme and I was talking to another sailor about Appian's and Sallust's criticisms of the Roman navy (actually this criticism was in Polybius, but I can make minor factual errors in my dreams, right?). We were having a very pleasant conversation when, suddenly, as if to illustrate the idea, we got shipwrecked. We ended up on a beach near a city, which turned out to be somewhere in the Middle East during the beginning of Islam. (Again, chronological inaccuracies are allowed in such circumstances.) We tried to blend in, but I was wearing a toga and didn't have anything with which to cover my head. Several people attempted to kill us before I acquired some sort of cloth or towel to resolve this issue. Then my stupid alarm clock went off and I had to get up and go to the gym. Lame.

I'm not sure why I would suddenly start having dreams about history, but since my primary goal in life until about the age of 18 was to go back in time (now it is to be able to read 100 pages per hour), I'm thinking this is rather a positive development. It almost makes up for not having any more dreams about flying. If this is supposed to portend my future nocturnal landscape, I'm down with that.

Update: Unrelatedly, why do bizarre things happen to me in clusters? And why did like 20 people just walk into the second floor of the Reg at 10 pm to settle in for an evening of studying? Don't people sleep?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

An open letter to my high school biology teacher, who hates me

Dear high school biology teacher,

I know you're still angry about my telling Becky about the JDate thing, but I never thought she would tell your current students about that, or even that she knew your current students. And I know I already told you that I was really, really sorry about that, but I would like to reiterate once again that I'm still really, really sorry and I'm sad that you still hate me. I also know that it's kind of pathetic that I'm about to graduate from college and I'm still sad about the fact that one of my high school teachers hates me, because actually a lot of my high school teachers hated me--the vast majority even--and that really doesn't weigh too heavily on my conscience today. But most of those teachers were stupid or inept or trying to sleep with their students. However, you did not suffer from these moral failings.

So even though you still hate me, I am writing to you because I made an agreement with my roommates to be nicer to people, but that was not a very specific resolution, so one of my roommates sent me this link to a site which is supposed to give mean people like me concrete suggestions for ways to be nice. One of the suggestions was to write notes to people who helped or influenced me in the past and thank them. I could see how that might be nice, and I immediately thought of you, which is unfortunate in some ways, since thanking you is made more complicated by your hating me, whereas other people I could be thanking have at least neutral feelings towards me, so that whole hatred hurdle doesn't need to be jumped.

I know I'm focusing a lot on how you hate me and how I'm really, really sorry about that JDate thing, but that's because apologizing profusely is actually significantly easier than thanking people. I don't usually even thank people who don't hate me; when they do nice things for me that would seem to necessitate thanking, I typically grunt or nod or mumble things and then run away. Often, I attempt to thank them, but it doesn't go well because I forget to have Julia, my social secretary, edit my emails, or because it is done verbally, where Julia can't intercede and revise. Then I say things like, "Well, I hope you have a nice life" which apparently sounds kind of off-putting and makes people angry. But here I am attempting to thank you, and you do hate me, so what am I supposed to say?

Thanks for teaching me biology really well so that when I did bioethics that one summer, I kind of knew what was going on. I really wanted to tell you about that internship, but you know, the whole hating me thing made it complicated. That was the main problem with the hating thing, since I wanted to talk with you about a lot of things that you probably didn't care about at all and probably would've made you wish your presumptuous former students would stop bothering you and find people their own age to talk to, but the problem was that everyone I talked to was my own age, I was practically swimming in a sea of people who were my age and who, like me, were very eager to talk about everything but knew absolutely nothing. Maybe you might have had better advice. And you did go to the U of C, so maybe you would've cared a little. I don't know. In any case, I didn't actually talk to you ever after first year and those times Sam and I came over to your house for dinner, which I really appreciated. And your guacamole was really good too.

Did you know that when I was a senior, I thought you were the greatest person ever? Of the people whom I'd met, at least. You did seem to have it all--you were smart and educated (no small accomplishment at my high school), you were an amazing bio teacher, everyone liked you, your students were successful, and you ran marathons, for God's sake. Sam and I spent a lot of time that year discussing how we might become more like you. This recollection makes me think, in hindsight, that we were probably not completely sane that year because what sane people discuss these things?

Anyway, I still think you're pretty cool. And it was really impressive how much I liked biology that year, given my otherwise complete failure to grasp math and science. And how well I did? How did that happen? Like that last exam of the year, which was after AP exams and the final, and which no one even bothered to study for and everyone failed? I studied for that. Because if I hadn't, I would've felt like I'd let you down somehow even though it was so insignificant that you probably didn't even care anymore by then either. And when I did well in your class, I realized that maybe I could handle this whole math and science thing after all, and I proceeded not to fail my college calculus course like I failed my high school calculus course. The confidence didn't really extend much farther than that because, you know, people here don't mess when it comes to math and science, and how can I keep up with people who studied particle physics in utero when it takes me several years just to figure out what calculus is? But at least I know I'm not totally retarded now, just impractically slow.

Plus, the college recommendations you wrote for me totally saved my life. No other math or science teacher was willing to even acknowledge my existence by senior year, no less write something laudatory on my behalf, and Chicago required one rec from a math or science teacher. If it hadn't been for you, I'd be at, like, Vassar or something. How lame would that be?

So, pretty much what I'm trying to say is thanks. I always kind of hoped that we could be friends in that slightly distant and formal way that people stay friends with their favorite high school teachers. I guess the moment for that has passed. Still, you were the best. Seriously. Even if you hate me.


Miss Self-Important

PS: I know this letter doesn't count as being nice until I actually send it you. But, that's, you know, kind of unlikely.

PPS: I'm still really, really sorry.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

On the sad state of the job search

The problem, aside from no one wanting to hire me, seems to be that there are too many possibilities. I don't have one single, all-encompassing passion that propels me into one and only one post-college job possibility which I am willing to invest all my energy and ability into pursuing. It's not like I've been dreaming since the age of four about being an astronaut or a belly dancer. Publishing would be nice, I decided this summer, but editing is good too, and teaching could be exciting, and research is fine, and consulting doesn't sound too bad, and I could even lift heavy objects to some extent if doing so would engender interest. I mean, maybe not a lot of heavy objects at once, or at least not very heavy objects. So how do I decide what to apply for, especially if some of these applications are very involved?

I really just want to do something that's not college, which is pretty likely to happen even without any effort on my part since being unemployed and living in a box is definitely not college. So maybe not-college is not the best criterion. Maybe I need to narrow this a little more. In addition, I think I also want to move somewhere else so that things can be really not-college-y because I won't even be in Chicago, no less in Skokie (sweet Skokie!). So really, my problem is that I am willing to do pretty much anything anywhere. That is making it hard to pin down jobs for which to apply. But maybe it's also good that I am this open to stuff, since probably nobody will hire me anyway and I will end up lifting heavy things in Alaska, but I will have to admit that it's not-college in not-Chicago.

So I am trying to decide if it's worth applying to teach in ritzy private schools in New York. Or if I want a job in Washington even though I swore I would never go back to Washington to get rained on every day and have rats and roaches run over my toes at night? Or if I should just wait until April and apply to publishing jobs? An important concern underlying all these questions is, which job will provide me with the best material about which to write a chick lit novel?

Thus we are in a morass on this question.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

How did I live before Facebook's newsfeed?

Today, the newsfeed brings me this group, created by students at my illustrious high school:

Description: If you go to niles north/west and have known this school to be open on the harshest of days but closes when it's one of the warmest days during the winter and is snowing with a little wind the here you go.
Recent News: SCHOOLS CLOSED!!!! Now what?
What indeed? Perhaps they will use this day to brush up on some basic points of spelling and grammar, but that is, I think, unlikely.

Monday, February 12, 2007

An open letter to my boots

Dear boots,

Can you say that I have not tried? It has been difficult, but for three years, I have tried to make it work between us. First, there was your unfortunate appearance--kind of like this except with a slightly lower platform, with pockets on the side instead of buckles. (Yes, my boots have pockets. Please don't judge.) I didn't think you were so bad, but you should've heard the abuse I got for wearing you. Actually, you probably did hear the abuse, since you were on my feet at the time. Dominatrix boots, shit-crushers, etc. No one seemed to like you, boots.

But that was ok for a time, since I mostly wore you under my jeans, so the pockets could not be seen and you looked like fairly inoffensive winter platforms. You were comfortable and warm and mobile enough. Then came this whole boots-and-leggings craze, and I could no longer hide you from public humiliation. Under my skirts you went, in full view of everyone, who heaped yet more abuse upon your fragile manmade materials self. At this point though, I grew fond of you as a symbol of defiance against the hegemony of Uggs and tucked-in jeans (especially badly tucked-in jeans that balloon out of Uggs). I wore you unabashedly and made no plans to replace you.

Apparently though, the abuse was just too much for you, boots. Your soul sole cracked and now, not only are you ugly and not leather, you are also leaky. And, because you are leaky, you are also squeeky. I cannot accomodate noisy shoes in my life at this point, what with the amount of time I spend in the library. I also do not appreciate having wet feet all day.

What can we do to resolve this issue, boots? Winter is about half over, so you might suggest that I just stick with you for this year and wait to re-negotiate the terms of our alliance next year. Or would you, boots? Because judging by your rapid decomposition, you do not have a very strong desire to live. I noticed the other day that a little bit of your manmade material is peeling where you crease at the toes. What is that about?

So boots, what I'm trying to say is, don't be mad, but your time is short.


Miss Self-Important

Thursday, February 08, 2007

An open letter to my work ethic

Dear work ethic,

I know we got off to a rough start early in our time together--early childhood, junior high, high school--all years during which you were only half-heartedly present in my life, doing as little as possible to get me through with some semblence of proficiency. I know that what you really wanted to do all along was hook up with my laziness in order to watch television, play computer games, and buy cute sweaters. But you fought against the pressures and charms of laziness, you didn't let yourself get seduced, and you got me into the U of C. That was really noble of you and I'm grateful to you for that.

Think of all the good times we've had together, work ethic. Remember that time, back during first year, when my hum final had to be entirely re-written? You and me stayed in the Reg all weekend and wrote a new paper, and it made us so depressed that we started writing poems about Thucydides? Or that time during sosc when we were still unable to come up with a thesis for my Augustine paper in the A-level the night before it was due and I overheard some other girl say that she wrote all her sosc papers by Googling other people's ideas and "stringing them together"? Remember how I wanted to punch her in the face, but you restrained me and insisted I work on my paper instead? Remember the 30-page geography paper, work ethic? That was amazing. We invented a theory! Later, it turned out to be wrong, but that's besides the point.

Because you were so good in college, so vigilant about punishing laziness for all the damage it did in high school, I decided maybe you deserved a little vacation last spring quarter when I studied abroad. I mean, I was going to be stuffing my face with gyros and sunning myself on the roof of the Athens Center, so I gave you a break and let laziness run things for a while. And then, work ethic, when you asked for a few more weeks of vacation this autumn quarter, I obliged again, because I really owe you and I recognize that.

But now we have come to an important juncture in our lives together, work ethic. This is a crucial time--the time when I must write a good BA in order to 1) graduate, 2) get honors, 3) possibly ever go to grad school at some point in the distant and mostly unimagineable future, and 4) prove to myself that I am strong, sane, sensible, and able to follow through on these things. And I really need you, work ethic, to come back from vacation right now. I know you've been flying in on weekends now and then to coordinate my time at the Reg, and I appreciate that effort. But I think I may need you full-time for the next few weeks.

It's just one last hurdle, work ethic. I am aware that your good friends excitement and inspiration left the cockpit a while ago, and I know that you prefer to work with them rather than with boredom and senioritis, who replaced them. But we can't always have our pick of co-workers, can we? In the next few weeks, you're going to have to go it alone. But you can do it, work ethic. I believe in you.

And if you fail me now, you're only going to have to work harder next year, flipping burgers at McDonald's. I know I always say that, and that it's a cheap ploy to sell you on delayed gratification, but that's just how we roll here, work ethic. You of all my personality components should know that.


Miss Self-Important

PS: If you pull through, I promise to buy you Age of Empires: Rise of Rome for your effort.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

An open letter to the guy in the cubicle near me who sneezes loudly and disgustingly and with disturbing frequency

Dear guy in the cubicle near me who sneezes loudly and disgustingly and with disturbing frequency,

You might consider seeing some kind of doctor, if only because it will get you away from me for a while. And also, kindly disinfect your area of occupation after use.


Miss Self-Important

Monday, February 05, 2007

An open letter to my bangs

Dear bangs,

Why don't you look good on me? I got you because you were the thing to get at the time, and I went to a lot of trouble to make sure that the whole "fringe" experiment didn't end in a hideous disaster. This involved sitting through some sort of a "head massage" and having to awkwardly chat with and then pay a significant tip to an obnoxiously cute stylist named Brittany. And this was on top of the cost of just bringing you into existence, bangs. I even straightened you every morning, hoping that you would lie down and obey like the bangs of cool people, which hang in graceful arches around their perfectly-lined eyes and never, ever flop over them or curl under their glasses and poke their corneas.

I have made a lot of sacrifices for you, bangs, and I just don't think you're holding up your side of the bargain. For one thing, you don't get along among yourselves so that one chunk of hair is always seceding from the group and forging its own path straight down the middle of my face. For another, because of all this separating and the resulting constant need to manually correct you, you get greasy all the time, which only makes me angrier, and more apt to discipline you. And then there is the question of your suspect length--just long enough to get into my eyes, not long enough to stay behind my ears. It's as though you were made to rebel.

But, bangs, I want to make this relationship work. I don't really see why should you only lend your services to cool people, when I have much to offer you as well. If you agree to cooperate, to stop curling up and out and to every side, to stop turning into a weird square chunk on my left and a row of strings on my right, I will even venture to feed you some extra conditioner in the shower. Isn't that tempting, yummy conditioner?

Think about it. And remember, while it cost a lot to create you, it doesn't cost anything to grow you out. Just saying.


Miss Self-Important

Open letters

I was looking stuff up for Alex's BA this morning (because I have gotten so far on my own BA that I can now afford to outsource my services to other people, of course), when I came across McSweeney's open letters archive.

McSweeney's open letters are very funny, and very adaptable to many purposes. After several conversations with Alex about the ways in which blogging is degrading the general quality of literature by making it acceptable and commendable to be a nobody and to write about nothing, and after my having blogged pretty much non-stop about how much work I have all quarter, I have decided that maybe it is time to try something new. Maybe open letters are that new thing to try.

I will try to blog in letter format for a while. We shall see how that turns out.

Friday, February 02, 2007

The sandwich and children's books

Yesterday, on my way to tutoring, I picked up a fresh mozzarella sandwich from University Market. Never having been to University Market before, I found this extremely exciting. As a result, during the entire hour I was supposed to be tutoring, all I could think about was the amazing sandwich in my bag--how soon I could eat it, what it would taste like when I did, and so forth. In some sense, this was probably a good thing, as it saved me from having to pay attention to yet another stupid pirate book.

The kid I tutor loves pirate books. He'll read anything about pirates, which is unfortunate, since most books about pirates are not worth reading. Take this Geronimo Stilton opus we just finished: Geronimo Stilton is a mouse who lives in New Mouse City. This is supposed to be New York City (genius!), except in this book, everything recognizable is replaced with one of the following words: mouse, rat, cheese, or cat. Except usually, the replacements make no sense. So, for example, they shop at Rats Authority for their sporting goods. Idioms are also tortuously manipulated this way, so that the characters say things like, "Holy cheese!" and "better than catnip at the concessions counter of the cat movie theater!" (Conveniently, my kid, who doesn't know enough English to know idioms, was spared most of the pain of watching the English language get mauled like this.) So this mouse finds a treasure map, and he and his sister, nephew, and swindling cousin hop on a boat to find the treasure. Some totally stupid and unrealistic adventures later (they build a shelter on the treasure island that apparently has running water in it), turns out the treasure is just that nature is pretty. Awww.

Then there are the Magic Treehouse books. These are a lame series of books in which the main characters, "Jack and Annie"--can you get more oat bran than that?, find a treehouse full of books which they can magically enter if they point to the pictures and say, "I wish I were there!" So, where do Oat Bran Jack and Annie go in my kid's book? To a pirate island, of course! More pirates, parrots, skull-and-crossbones (and the kid may never remember the meaning of "steal" or "dream," but he knows what a skull-and-crossbones is), and then they get saved by a parrot or something. The question remains, if every time Oat Bran Jack and Annie go into a book, they encounter a serious attempt on their lives and only get rescued at the last minute, why do they keep going?

There is also the Pirates of the Carribean book series. There is no point in trying to explain why this is bad--just imagine how good a book series spin-off from a movie could possibly be. Are you imagining a lot of gruesome screen shots and no words? Because that's pretty much what it is.

Tutoring has made me like children more, but it has definitely made me hate children's books.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Facebook, the virtual cemetery?

I opened Facebook this morning to find that one of the more popular English teachers from my high school had died. How did I know this? Because a handful of my friends had joined a memorial group dedicated to him. And this is not the first time I've come across such memorials, though they're usually for students. Is it weird that memorials to dead people exist on Facebook? What does it mean to join one? Does it mean that you want a grieving network, or you want to show other people who look at your profile that you knew the guy? What does it mean for the dead person? That he is being virtually remembered by people who didn't know him well enough to fly home to his funeral, but are making this small and relatively more convenient gesture instead? More to the point--what does it mean to leave a group like that? You're done caring about that whole dead guy thing?