Friday, July 29, 2011

You stole fizzy lifting drinks!

A couple of quick thoughts on this debt ceiling debate, mostly to distract myself from the packing (which is largely done, leading me to the phase of packing called "WHAT AM I FORGETTING!?"):

1. I doubt it's nearly as bad as Very Important People are making it out to be. What I see in this is the Great Recession that has already hit most of the country (and is still hitting it, see Chris Hayes' piece in The Nation from a few weeks/months ago [that I am too lazy to find and link]) might just hit the class of people we call Investors, which recent data available from the Pew Research Center indicate can also be called White People. Pardon me if my sympathy gland is a bit slow producing its fluid for the ruling class.

2. I am torn between admiring the Tea Party caucus for their ability to stick to their principles under political pressure from party leadership and feeling frustrated that they don't understand the business of government well enough to know that this particular issue has nothing to do with those principles as stated. Don't get me wrong: I generally believe their specific principles to be misguided and abhorrent. However, I have deep respect for electoral novices who believe the ideas that got them elected are more important than what the party tells them to do.

That's all I've got. Back to double-checking my packing list and scouring YouTube for Golden Girls episodes that haven't yet been taken down by Disney copyright claims (my DVDs are already packed).

Damn the Mouse.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

No really, MOVING!

Today I sorted all of my clothing into two piles: keep and toss. Tomorrow I sort the keep pile into "keep in NY" and "take to LA," then wrap the "take to LA" pile around all of the breakable things I want to take to LA and cram it into several bags, each of whose dimensions (length+width+height) must not exceed 63 inches. Leaving aside for now the problem of measuring the length and width of a duffel bag (is it diameter both times, or do they not really care?), I think I can manage to get almost everything into four bags. How I will carry those bags to and from the check in counter/baggage claim is another problem to leave aside.

After that, I try to figure out what to do about books. Do I bring any books at all? If so, how many? Also, and more crucially, how? Every time I ship books they get lost or damaged. Am I on some kind of no-mail list? Nobody else I know has their books lost by the post office. Plan A is to see if I can wrap them in laundry and check them all with the rest of my worldly possessions, but I have a feeling plan A is an exercise in futility and also in dislocating my shoulders.

If you are in Huntington or its environs and want to keep me company while I frantically shove things into other things, please do! I could use the moral support, or I may end up just lying on the bed dreaming of chucking it all and buying a whole new wardrobe and a whole new kitchen at Out of the Closet and a whole new library at the late, unlamented Borders.

Monday, July 25, 2011


Friends, my moving day is fast approaching. On Saturday, I pull up stakes and head to sunny Los Angeles, California to take over the apartment of a colleague who will be spending her next while doing research in Japan. As many of you know firsthand and some of you secondhand, moving across a continent can be a huge pain in the everywhere, but this move will actually not be such a pain. Why? There are several answers.

1. The Mysterious X and her paramour, the Inscrutable A (new nicknames are fun!), who have offered to retrieve me from the airport.
2. The She God of Shark Reef, who has retrieved the key to my new apartment from the landlady who won't be there when I arrive.
3. A New Car!, who has offered to loan me his cello when I need one in LA, thereby cutting my plane fare in half.
4. Fenchurch, whose apartment I am taking over, and who is selling me some essential furniture to fill it.
5. Nota Biene (another new nickname!), who wrote to me to tell me that she was unable to sell some of her furniture on Craig's List, and would I like it?
6. Musicolojill, who volunteered without my asking to help transport the furniture!
7. El Brucero (a new nickname based on the fact that he owns a car named Bruce, not on any inherently brush-maker-like characteristics), who in consideration of my journey both offered me a bicoastal Kitchen-Aid swap and gave me a booze gift certificate so I wouldn't have to transport whisky.
8. My father, who despite longing to empty his basement has agreed to take on the innumerable boxes of books and winter clothes that I want to keep but don't want to bring to the flaming desert of LA in August, and who has also agreed to be a long-term hedgehogsitter.

These people are the reasons I am able to make this move in a fairly relaxed and cost-controlled fashion. I owe each and every one of them a drink or a baked good or a combination of the two.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Return of the Queen

Internet, I am back from the UK. It may not surprise the more well-traveled (or British) among you that I was almost completely unable to find free wireless there--or free anything really. My Liverpudlian hotel charged extra for breakfast, for using the phone, for internet (£9 a day! It was £10 for four days in Edinburgh!), and (I believe, though had no occasion to explore) for TV. Thank the Horse Lords (Tamora Pierce reference!) for free wifi at Liverpool Hope University, enabling me to live tweet the #divaconference and also sign a lease for an apartment in Los Angeles! When I did find brief spates of free wifi (thank you, pub in Edinburgh, National Theatre, strange pasta/coffee shop near Victoria Station, and random corner in Soho that featured iBahn!), I tried rather unsuccessfully to use them for contacting the boyfriend.

I will share highlights of the trip at some later date, but right now I need to try to get my body back onto US time. 6 PM here is 11 PM there, which is 23:00, which means basically that I have no idea when I am.

Monday, July 4, 2011

It's a rich man's world

OK, I should totally be asleep but the Times is making me angry. Seriously, in two days we have articles about how downtown Detroit is a great place for young [mostly white] people to move into "cheap" real estate (at $900/month) and then about how NY judges are leaving the bench to become law firm partners because their six-figure salaries are just too low to support their summer homes in the Hamptons?

Let me inject just a little bit of perspective here. According to the Census Bureau, the median income in the United States in 2005, the year in which trial judges' median salary was $116,100, was $24,325. Since we're talking about New York, let's get some region-specific numbers. For the Northeast, median income was higher than the national median—$25,447. That means that trial judges, whose stagnant pay is "the single most important problem for our courts" according to the very fancy retired law professor quoted in the article, made more than four times the highest regional median salary at the end of their incredibly stagnant decade.

Now, I'm not saying judges shouldn't get paid. Maybe they should even be paid four times the national median salary; I don't claim to know what the pay level of a judge should be or even how that should be set. What I am saying is that an article in the nation's preeminent newspaper (and don't pretend any other paper has even a fair shot at unseating the Times any time soon) that is bemoaning the poor economic health of a profession that makes four times the average salary in the richest part of the country is an article that clearly demonstrates how completely out of touch with the vast majority of people our national news media is. Or are; it depends on whether you think of media as monolithic or actually varied and multiple.

By the way, if you make $25,998 per year (the 2009 Midwest median salary, most recent data I could find) and spend $10,800 of that on rent for your "cheap" apartment in downtown Detroit, that leaves you $15,198 for food, clothing, utilities, and anything else you might want, like attending fancy rooftop parties covered by New York Times reporters and going to the trendy bars and restaurants they describe in their ensuing articles. Assuming you don't have anyone else you might need to use that money to help, like an unemployed relative or partner—Detroit proper had a 20% unemployment rate in May of this year.

It is too late and I am too tired for this post to come to any coherent conclusion. Just think about the fact that like me, you, if you are reading this, are more than likely far wealthier than the average US citizen in assets you can access (i.e. your own or your parents' or a generous relative's), and that we have a responsibility to recognize that vast economic privilege and do more about it than feel smug or guilty.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Queen of the Britons

Friends, I am writing to you from Edinburgh, Scotland, where it is 7:20 AM, I have been awake for about two and a half hours, and my hotel room, which is actually a dorm at the University of Edinburgh, comes with an electric kettle instead of some lousy coffee pot.

This is very exciting.

I arrived yesterday from New York via Dublin, which took a number of hours I frankly can't calculate because of time zones and extreme exhaustion. The Aer Lingus plane from JFK was full of adorable Irish children who became rapidly less adorable as cabin pressure changed and bedtimes were missed. The second, much smaller Aer Lingus Regional plane from Dublin to Edinburgh did not have room for my carry-on suitcase, which was gate-checked and recovered quite efficiently and painlessly, despite the level of worry it would have generated in me had I been awake enough to successfully express concern.

All in all, the travel was simple, if exhausting, and after a car to a train to a car to a plane to a plane to a bus to a 1.3-mile walk (also known as a 2.1-kilometre walk), I finally arrived at Edinburgh First Pollock Halls, nestled snugly against Holyrood Park, which is closed today (Saturday) and Monday, but not Sunday, so I will have time to hike up to King Arthur's Seat.

My plan for the next three days is to visit two pubs and a restaurant noted for their whisky selections, two restaurants known for their vegetarian food (one of these overlaps--the restaurant with the whisky also serves vegetarian haggis!), a castle, two musea, a tea shop, two parks and a garden, a 4-mile walkway that leads to the port of Leith, and various other food establishments recommended by a quickly-downloaded pdf of the Lonely Planet guide to the British Isles.

I have already scratched off the list a visit to Holyroodhouse Palace, because it is closed to the public during the royal family's residence (Hello, still-active monarchy! You are very weird to me!). I also scratched off the list all my post-arrival plans for yesterday evening, as I fell asleep before 8 PM, locally known as 20:00.

I do not intend to exhaustively document my travel here, as I intend rather for the travel to exhaust me, but I wanted to indicate my arrival in Scotland and will probably want to indicate my arrival in Liverpool on Tuesday and in London on Friday. Stay tuned for highlights of the trip and the conference that engendered it (Diva conference! Woohoo!), but if you want to know all about it, we'll have to talk in person.