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Showing posts from April, 2013

Book Review: Billions and Billions (1997)

Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium brims with the late astronomer Carl Sagan's faith in science and the human potential. The book contains Sagan's brief writings about mathematics, sports, religion, global warming, the abortion debate, and more.

Billions and Billions also includes a reproduction of "The Common Enemy," a paper of his that points to uncomfortable truths in the recent history of the US and the Soviet Union. In the piece, Sagan urged both countries to think in the long-term, and repeatedly used the pointed phrase: "We make mistakes. We kill our own." The essay was published in both countries (with some censorship in the Russian version).

Sagan begins the book by describing exponents. I was puzzled at first, but then he segued into the vastness of our universe, and how we can begin to comprehend the scale of it using math. He also pointed out how exponential notation can be applied to population growt…

Literary Juice Published My Story!

Literary Juice, an online lit magazine, has a section called Pulp Fiction that challenges writers to create a story with exactly 25 words. My piece, "Mole," is on this page. Hurray!

I winced when I saw the author bio. I sound like an asshole. The instructions were to describe myself in 75 words, so I threw in my life story. In hindsight, I would have just included the last two sentences. Well, lesson learned.

F***, F***, F***

As promised, the post with the title that reflects my current disposition.

I had a group interview at HBS yesterday. Let's start with the bad news. For funsies, we'll alternate with the good news.

Bad News #1: I had a bad case of the shakes owing to being barely on time for the interview. (Traffic.)

Good News #1: I got over it toward the middle.

Bad News #2: The person beside me brought her A-game right from the start. I was impressed.

Good News #2: I was the best dressed of the bunch.

Bad News #3: I got an email this morning informing me that they "didn't see the right fit" for me.

Good News #3: Now I can get my weekend started with the full certainty that I suck, rather than wondering about it for a week!

Now if you'll excuse me, my therapist, Dr. Meowsalot, will see me now.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being...Unemployed

I have an interview at Harvard Business School (HBS) tomorrow. It's a group interview with two interviewers and who knows how many fellow job applicants. It'll be my first time doing such a thing.

For interview prep, my three-step plan to success consisted of:

Step 1: Read about group interviews.
Step 2: Re-read the job description.
Step 3: Read about HBS.

The process made me reflect on my previous interviews. I only had three so far, and have not heard from any of them. The last one made me happy because the interviewer called me a "strong candidate," but I haven't received any communication within the timeline explained to me during the discussion, which means someone else likely got the job.

I realize that no matter how I prepare, key things remain out of my control. Oh, I can take care of any number of variables -- I can dress snappily, and I'm usually articulate and cheerful. But someone else could have more experience than me, or dress snappier, and be…

Movie Review: Insidious (2010)

Insidious, I am disappoint. What started out okay turned into schlock. Movie spoilers in the review below.

Insidious opens with the Lambert family having just moved into a spacious house in the suburbs. In between taking care of three energetic kids, the mom (Rose Byrne) notices things out of place, like books and boxes. Things escalate quickly when her eldest son goes into an inexplicable coma. Unnerved by a sudden onslaught of ghostly visitors, the Lamberts move to another house, but the hauntings continue.

This is basically Poltergeist, but the kid is haunted, not the house. After the mom, all alone in the new house, naturally, gets spooked almost out of her mind, she convinces her husband to call "someone who can help." This person brings a team with equipment. Again, Poltergeist. The expert explains that the child is in another place, and must be brought back before it's too late. Say it with me: POL. TER. GEIST.

Despite that, I was willing to give Insidious a chance…

Bride Power, Make Up!!!

Now that the danger appears to be over, we return to our regularly scheduled fluffy programming. Today's post: turning beast into bride!

Last weekend, Special K and I ventured into Sephora for my beauty appointment. Makeup Lady, or ML, was professional, knowledgeable, and had me looking like a magic fairy within the allotted forty-five minutes.

In between applying all forms of chemicals to my face, ML answered Special K's beauty interrogations. Special K loves makeup and trains herself via YouTube, but her homegrown knowledge proved no match for one of Sephora' s operatives. ML told her, in no uncertain terms: SPF is okay, liquid foundation is superior to powder, these are the brushes you must have, et cetera.

At the end of the session, everything that touched my face went into a little box, and we jaunted off to the cashier. We used Special K's Beauty Insider card for the Super Sikrot 15% discount. Our purchase entitled her to a VIB card. That's like being able t…

By Chance

I was there with a friend three-plus hours into the 2013 Boston Marathon. We squeezed in with the crowds and joined them in cheering for these determined strangers. We shouted louder when a soldier marched past, laden with a full backpack. We laughed at the utter disregard for open container laws. There was so much energy and excitement.

We got to the finish line and took pictures of the runners, who looked exhausted but jubilant. I remember telling my friend, "Look, some of these guys have been running for almost four hours!" Then we wandered off. I went home, kissed Fiancé hello, and sat down on the couch to read. Moments later, he yelled, "WTF?" and told me to turn on the TV.

The scenes shown were unbelievable. I was just there, literally at that spot. If my friend and I had hung around for another fifteen or twenty minutes, we would have been caught in the blasts.

As I watched the news, I kept thinking about how there were so many people. The sidewalks were pa…

Ang Bruha ng Balete / The Witch of Balete

One day, a giant bamboo sprouted from the earth at the top of the mountain. When the bamboo split open, its two halves revealed the first man and woman. They awoke and lived in the mighty bamboo forest that bloomed from the remains of the dead giant.

An old balete grew at the edge of the bamboo forest. The tree became jealous of the giant bamboo. It too wanted to produce new beings and help give birth to a stand of fellow trees. But try as it might, it could not create a man and a woman as the bamboo did.

One day, in desperation, the balete asked an eagle flying overhead for advice. The eagle replied that it could not help, for the answer lay in the ground, and not in the sky where the eagle soared.

The balete went deep inside itself, and with its roots, felt for the truth of creation. Many long years passed as the tree continued its search.

At last, it found the answer. It shouted in exultation. At that exact instant, a bolt of lightning struck from the heavens and killed the tree. …

Writing with Two X Chromosomes

Photojournalist and author Deborah Copaken Kogan wrote a candid piece on Jezebel entitled, "My So-Called 'Post-Feminist' Life in Arts and Letters," wherein she shared her personal experience with gender discrimination. Kogan endured being ignored by reviewers, being slandered, and being labeled primarily as a stay-at-home mom despite her previous career as an award-winning network producer and a photojournalist. "Would you call a male author a stay-at-home dad?" she asks.

No, I call 'em alcoholics, hur hur hur.

Joking aside, publishing baffles me. Reading is subjective. There are good works, there are classics, and there are Fifty Shades of Gray and its ilk. According to Kogan, she barely had any say in how her books were titled and sold, which, hey -- she's the author, they're the publisher -- she writes, they print it, package it, and sell it. Simple, no?

I'm puzzled about why there wasn't more collaboration, but in her case, I do hav…

Minecraft

Fiancé discovered Minecraft a few months ago and became obsessed with it for a while. He started with the iPad game, to try it out, and bought the full version on his PC. For hours, he absorbed himself in his "interactive Lego land," and would proudly show me a glass house he created underwater, or some sky columns that served some mysterious, world-building purpose.

I was barely interested because the interface is blocky and everything is made up of nineties-looking 3D polygons, but he loves it. He even bought the XBox version so he could play with his nephew.

I suppose it was his turn to be mindlessly obsessed with something, because I did spend over a hundred hours playing Xenoblade Chronicles. Well, we're a nerd couple, it comes with the territory.

A note about comics: I chose not to renew my fragrantelephant.com site, because (a) I'm not trying to make money off my comics, and (b) I'd prefer to keep everything I have on one site that happens to be free (than…

Where Is My Relax

On my last day at the office, during snack and coloring time, I am not kidding, two coworkers revealed that when they got laid off, it was "the best time" of their lives. They just relaxed and eventually found new jobs. I felt relieved when I heard that. I prepared to also enjoy my unexpected stay-cation.

Except I've mostly been cleaning, doing wedding planning, running errands, and then cleaning some more. Fiancé seems to think I spend my days playing Ni no Kuni. I wish.

Why do I clean so much? Well, I had a troubled childhood, so ordering my surroundings is my way of creating a sense of control over my own circumstances as an adult. Just kidding. I'm actually a superhero and organizing everything is my superpower.

But honestly, this is awesome. I no longer have to drag my unconscious self out of bed so that I can stuff myself into a ladies' monkey suit and march toward a building to spend eight hours in a six by six cubicle staring into a nineteen-inch monitor…

Bachelorette

The crew: the Bride, Crispy, Special K, Vitamin E, Big J, and Shaffles. I earned the nickname "The Mean One" at one point.

The place: Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, CT.

The reason: To celebrate my final days as a singleton.

We started out with two bottles of wine in the hotel room. Then we lined up for our resident makeup artist, Special K, who had brought an entire suitcase full of beauty products. Once prettification was complete for all, we headed for High Rollers, the fancy bowling alley. We had signed up for the Bachelorette VIP Package, which included appetizers, champagne, and a scorpion bowl the size of my head. Thus fortified, we bowled our little hearts out. After two bottles of champagne and healthy sips of the scorpion bowl, this is what I looked like:


Towards the middle of our two-hour session, I hit just the right level of drunk, and got strikes all the time. Then I lost my powers and everything became gutter balls. Weird.

And the night had just begun…