Thursday, March 24, 2005

Skepticism, sushi, and sex.

Today I'm in Vancouver - lucky too, considering all the trouble I had getting in to the country. Apparently my answers to the customs officer's questions weren't satisfactory so I had to go to a back room for further screening. Tip for lazy travelers: read up on some famous landmarks before you arrive. The guard was kind of incredulous when I said I didn't know anyone here and didn't really know what I was going to do when I got here (the second one thought a shrug and "I dunno, be a tourist," was cute though). Public service announcement: THIS IS A TOURIST CITY. People come here to spend money on snow globes and snarky greeting cards. It's not premeditated.

Seattle was fun - cold and windy, especially by the water, which includes a lot of places. The "best of" list for this vacation definitely includes a dinner I had the other night. If anyone is ever in Seattle, you must east sushi at Saito's, 2122 2nd Ave in Belltown. I got the 'chef's combo' or whatever and for $16 had a feast composed of: a delicious, delicious salad, miso soup, a side of spinach, 6 tuna rolls and EIGHT pieces of nigiri - and green tea to finish. I heard the portions were generous but it was really unbelievable. I love sushi and it has never crossed my mind that I might not be able to finish my meal - not once. Oh - the atmosphere was good and the service great too. Eat there!

When I made my Vancouver booking, I could choose between 2 hostel locations run by the same company. I chose the "hip" one by "all the action" as opposed to the "new" and "quiet" one in a residential area. Walking back from Granville Island this afternoon I knew I had made the right choice when I considered all the nearby amenities. Within a couple of blocks I have convenient access to a bong store, a sex toy store, an S & M store (yes, distinct from the regular sex toy store), and a tatoo/piercing store. I stopped in at the tatoo store to get a new navel ring. The first thing I noticed when I walked in was the artist tatooing an elaborate, 3 piece butterfly design across this girl's ass. While I was there "Daniella's friend" stopped in to "pick up something" for Daniella. Apparently it was money and Carlos, the tatoo artist, was in debt to Daniella, the friend of the 17-year-old in a pink hoodie and chunky white sneakers (he was also disappointed to see her, given he thought he had until 7 to get the $40). I'm sure if I followed that girl around long enough I could have the first half of a Lifetime afterschool special - you know before everyone cleans up. Anyway, I waited for a while for the clerk to mix and match little dumbells to get what I wanted - and then they didn't take Visa or Mastercard. I never went back to retrieve it. I only feel a little bad. It wasn't exactly what I wanted.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Graduate student gone wild.

I flew into Seattle this morning. I really think the FAA needs to rethink the seatbelt part of the safety demonstration. There should be a sign: "Please notify attendant if you need assistance fastening your seatbelt (dumbass)." I think this could save significant training hours in flight attendant school-- if not an entire subsection of the manual.

I took a bus from the airport to downtown. Three men get on a few stops in. Two are of the thin, middle-aged, very long straight hair, mustached, tattooed variety. One is younger (he later told his companions he was 26), clean cut, wearing a suit and tie. The young one provides the best overheard line of the year when he tells his friends, "Well, I tell you what, if I don't get the job it's because I'm a felon. I was the last time too but they didn't know it." He then expounds on the differences between California and Washington felony laws and how they each affected his employment status. Oddly enough, he did not think that me being within earshot of his criminal confession would be any reason to deter him from chatting me up.

So far I like Seattle. There are lots of happy hours (that start early!) and lots of bookstores. The homeless people seem more enterprising than on the LA homeless scene. About 12 people asked me if I had change today. I feel like it's rare for people to actually ask for money in LA, and I think they're less polite there when you turn them down. In fact, the homeless people here are so nice, that earlier tonight I was thinking about changing my policy and giving each one that asks a quarter.

I ate delicious, delicious sushi for dinner. Maybe I'll eat it again tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Because I know you were wondering. . .

Today was the last day of a stats class I took this quarter. The professor was really good. I think she looks like Dorothy Hamill.

Today I also had to meet with "Mr. Gary Thomas of the United States Department of Education." The Department of Education is over the Jacob K. Javits Fellowship that pays for my education/living. So right, no big deal -- "just send your CV (that's like a resume for those of you not living in an ivory tower), unofficial transcript, and a sample of the work you've been doing and I'll forward it to Mr. Thomas," said the UCLA Javits coordinator a couple of weeks ago. I was a little nervous because the point of the meeting was unclear. Lucky for me I did not have to justify my space on their bankroll. Nor was I the 'softy' token social scientist that I feared I would be. Most of the Javits fellows are art students and while the ones at the meeting complained a little (e.g., "Can't we get summer funding too?" "I think I need more than 3 years to get my MFA!"), I used my time wisely to kiss ass and talk about all the academic freedom and efficiency (right, like writing this blog) the Fellowship provides me.

I did get confirmation that I'm not allowed to be gainfully employed while I'm on this Fellowship, although there may be an exception for part-time teaching and research assistantships. This may be a problem for my summer plans-- unless I can find a research institute that's cool with paying me in cash. . .

I also thought Gary Thomas would have white hair (or at least be middle aged) and be kind of a kill joy (this went along well with the 'he's going to take away my funding' scare). Wrong again. He looks like any other Brentwood Todd* I'd see at some pretentious bar in my neighborhood.

*Brentwood Todds are typically under thirty, wear button down, powder blue shirts tucked into jeans to work at their consulting job (and button down, powder blue shirts untucked with jeans to a bar), lease BMWs, and rent an apartment in Brentwood just so they can have swanky zipcode.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Just borrowing

The summer before last I bought some rollerblades off Craigslist for $30 (with money I had made from a job I had found on CL). Earlier this winter I went rollerblading with a friend and decided that the enormous blisters and needless huffing and puffing which ensued were good enough reasons to trade up for a better pair of skates. So. . . I posted my old rollerblades on Craigslist and sold them last week for $27! That makes my total rollerblade investment $.75/skate/year!

I've been loading my CDs onto my computer over the last few days and came across this relatively recently released album that I like, but don't *love*. When I added it to my inventory this afternoon (from where I originally purchased it for $10), people out there in save-money-buying-used-online land had placed pre-orders to buy it for $7.50. Goodbye, unprecious CD.

If Out of the Closet Thrift Store implemented a trade-in policy I would be set.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

At least the family jewels were spared.

I'm about to tell a story about a woman who recently cut off a man's penis. I told it at a little party on Sunday night and the men present were really uncomfortable. I've heard the same reaction is common among Alaskan men, from whence this tale begins.

For those of you who don't get reports from the last frontier, you're really missing out. Here's what went down up north (in Anchorage) a couple of weeks ago:

A 35 year old woman is having an affair with a married man. He wants to break it off. This man is also her uncle, by marriage. The woman is living with the man and his wife (a.k.a. her aunt). This woman and her boyfriend/uncle are arguing about breaking up and they decide to have sex (of course they did!). The woman asks the man if he wants her to tie him up. He assents (surely thinking he was having the best break up sex ever!). She ties him up, grabs a knife from the kitchen and CUTS OFF HIS PENIS! ("The man's testicles remained attached," reports the Anchorage Daily News in case you were curious.) She flushes the penis down the toilet before untying the man and driving him to the hospital where she drops him off. The water people pull up the toilet and retrieve the penis, after which doctors reattach it (although they were skeptical about its utility). I think this brings a whole new meaning to the issue of knowing where something's been before you put it in your mouth.

The last update I have reported the woman in an Anchorage jail with no bail set. It went on to recap the arrangement (and also probably the state of 80% of all extramarital affairs, if not heterosexual relationships in general):

"She and her boyfriend, who is married to her aunt, had been quarreling because Tran (the woman) wanted the man to leave his wife, marry her and have children with her, according to the charging documents. The man said he only wanted to have sex with her, the documents say."

Monday, March 07, 2005

Stupid LA traffic fines on demand: FLP edition

I think almost everyone I've made out with since moving to LA (and yes, that includes the groupie, but just as a party trick) has gotten a ticket for not having a front license plate.

I got California plates in August of 2003. For some reason there must have been holes already drilled in one of the plates and not the other because I put the back one on immediately and two different guys I dated that fall offered to drill holes in the other one so I could mount it. As it turned out, I stopped seeing the first one in October before that could happen and the license plate ended up being a POW in the second's apartment well into the Spring, long after I stopped hanging out there (eventually I decided to forget the guys and bought my own drill, which could be whole other entry in itself. . . ). So I remind this guy a couple of times during the winter that I want my license plate back, even if his severe lethargy and pot smoking habit prevented him from drilling the required holes. He always said that someone was borrowing his drill, but he would do it.

It gets to be April. I pick up my aunt and uncle from LAX on their way back from Fiji. I park my car in the garage for about 7 minutes. When I return I have a $27 ticket for not having the front plate. This prompts a curt email to the ex in question about how I needed my license plate RIGHT THEN because it was COSTING ME MONEY!!! I was kind of pissed at him for never having done it (and one would've thought he could've apologized for taking so long, at the very least), but more pissed at myself for not demanding that he give it back long before. I did get some satisfaction though when tried to call me to coordinate the handoff and realized I had changed my number.

Someone I was making out with this summer had also been ticketed for not having a front license plate. He didn't care though because he assumed that he'll spend less on front license plate tickets than he would if he were to have one and be photographed in an intersection for running a red light (which did happen to one of my friends and it cost her around $400 in the end).

This morning I slept in and went for a run before school. I saw Calista Flockhart. She was suprisingly adult-sized.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Expensive carelessness

People talk about the high cost of living in Los Angeles, but in addition to $5 for milk or $2.50 for a gallon of gas, a big contributor is parking -- and not just how much extra you have to pay for a spot at your building or that it costs $600 a year to park at UCLA, but how much money we shell out to the most diligent, nefarious parking enforcement regime around.

One Thursday in January I came home from school and found what appeared to be a small white take-out menu under my windshield. When I noticed the swirl of muddy tire tracks on the pavement around my car I knew it was bad news. Thursday. Streetcleaning day for the north side of the street. Forgetting this key piece of information cost me $45. That really sucked.

So of course the next week when I volunteered to answer phones for the KCRW pledge drive (and had been forewarned about the diligency of the Santa Monica College police --KCRW is broadcast from basement there), I was extra careful to display the parking permit KCRW had given me and park in the correct lot when I arrived at 6:20 in the morning. I'm sure you can imagine my disbelief when I came outside later that morning to find a parking ticket for $38 on my windshield. What's more, the ticket even noted that I had a KCRW permit! I drove over and chatted with the parking officer who pointed out the fine print on my parking permit - I was only allowed to park in lot 1 after 3PM or on the weekends, not just any time I pleased. For that I'd have to try either lot A or C. Grrr...The parking officer did apologize for the situation and suggested that I contest the ticket (that she had written me 2 hours prior). I'm disappointed to report that the woman I contacted at KCRW to see if there was anything they could do forgot about me after 2 email exchanges.

So I contested the ticket myself. Last week I got a noticed that my ticket balance was 'outstanding' and I'd be in super big trouble (i.e., fined more) if I didn't pay up. Of course I was pissed because they didn't give me any news about my appeal. I was all set to call them up and tell them what procedural justice can buy them when two days later, I get news that my appeal had worked -- part way at least. Now I only have to pay $20 for the ticket, which still exceeds my budget for what I think is reasonable, but I feel a little validated that they acknowledged I wasn't all wrong.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

And all without a single right-click.

So tonight I'm working on a presentation I have to give Thursday about 2 studies I'm proposing. Of course I've put off the "What words am I actually going to say?" part off the longest, just after the "How do I insert tables?' and "Now why is this important again?" parts.

In class last quarter I remember glancing at Shelley Taylor's (arguably the matriarch of Social Psychology) lecture notes with amusement when I noticed they were type-writer derived prose, cut and Scotch taped to white paper, with a separate manilla file for each lecture. I remember having read old 'how to write well' articles about editing your work with actual scissors and glue as opposed to those little icons at the top of the toolbar (Did anyone ever employ an actual clipboard during this process?), but I never really imagined I'd use this strategy. Alas - I had pondered too soon. Given that I've already written two super long papers about the presentation I'm giving, I decided it was time to bring out the green-handled safety scissors and get to work. I just cut up relevant parts of the paper and taped them to the powerpoint notes. (I think my use of highlighter accents were especially inspired.) This was surprisingly refreshing and fun. You know how good it feels when you delete extraneous words off the screen? Imagine the joy in cutting those little bastards right out of the page.

So anyway, most of the talk is prepared now -- academic ransom note style.