Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Big Easy

New Orleans top ten highlights (I attended the AAPOR annual conference last weekend, and also found plenty of time to play tourist. I became unexpectedly fond of this city):

10. Being in New Orleans during a flash flood warning

9. Not tripping over my feet or my words in my first professional conference presentation

8. Bourbon street. Yikes! (Anyone who has been there knows exactly what I mean.)

7. Room service :)

6. Getting trapped momentarily in an elevator just below the 27th floor of the hotel (hey, it could have been worse)

5. Balconies! Everyone in the French Quarter seems to have them. I want one. With plants.

4. Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. Have I ever told you that I love cemeteries? New Orleans cemeteries are known as Cities of the Dead because they look like streets with rows of buildings. This one is in the beautiful garden district.

3. Sitting in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant watching a man at the next table use his shoe to smash a giant cockroach on the wall, then hearing the bartender scream out a moment later, "What did you do to Frankie?!" (Seriously, though, the food all weekend was excellent. Jambalaya, gumbo, seafood and po'boys, mmmm!)

2. A driving tour, offered through the conference, of areas affected by Hurricane Katrina, most of which are still in various states of disrepair. Conducted by a non-profit group called Women of the Storm. Sobering and inspiring all at once -- these ladies saw something that needed to happen in their community and just started doing it. I want to do that. (I also heard heartbreaking stories from my taxi driver and others I met along the way who lost friends and family, who tried to rescue who they could, who pulled together with others through the storm. It all put my life into perspective. I thought my basement flooding a few days before this trip was something, but compared to this, I am not complaining.)

1. Live jazz. I can't describe this in words. Click on these links to have a listen yourself:

And I didn't even get to take the plantation tour or the swamp tour or help rebuild a school or house! All in all, I highly recommend N'Awlins as a destination. Interesting history and culture, great live music, and they need the money coming into their economy. Let me know when you go and I might even come with you!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I don't want to be an ant.

I have a love-hate relationship with public transportation.

OK, I admit, it's mainly hate. I hate waiting, I hate standing, I hate not getting a seat. But there's something else. Something about the social phenomenon of so many people, fellow human beings, acting completely indifferent to one another. I mean, you're all in this small space together, and everyone is avoiding eye contact and pretending like no one else exists. It's like John Hannah's character says in Sliding Doors:

"It's funny the way nobody talks in the tubes, isn't it? I mean, I rarely catch the tube myself, but --or lifts -- confined spaces, everybody shuts down -- why is that? Perhaps we think everybody else on the tube or lift is a potential psychopath or a drunk so we close down and pretend to read a book or something --"

But then I also completely relate to Gwyneth Paltrow's response (in fact
sometimes I actually hide from people I know):

"Look, I don't think you're a psychopath, I just want to read my book."

So it's kind of contradictory that I want everyone to leave me alone, and yet I wish we all could be more human with each other.

Anyway, I was explaining this to someone who pointed me to this clip from the movie Waking Life. I'm weirdly fascinated by this:

Monday, May 19, 2008

Big Fat Loser

So, my excuse for not posting for more than a month is that I am a big loser. No, seriously. Just when I got rolling with this blog, I also became involved in an intense Biggest Loser competition. Who knew trying to be more healthy could be so time-consuming?

This is the point in the conversation where people start in with, "Oh, you don't need to lose weight! Why are you doing this competition? You look great!" And I want to say, "Spare me," but instead I explain that it's not just for weight loss, it's to be more healthy.

I say, "See, there are these eight things that you try to do every day (like eating five fruits/vegetables, working out for 30 minutes, sleeping seven hours, drinking 6-8 glasses of water, not eating after 8pm, and so forth) -- and you get a point for each one. So you can get eight points a day, and at the end of the competition, you get a little bonus for any weight you lose. So really, it's more about being healthy than losing weight."

(I always say that last line, but let's be honest, it's not really true. It really is more about losing weight, and about competing with other people. Especially in the moment when you're chugging two glasses of water before bed just to get that point for the day. And hoping your seven hours of sleep won't be too interrupted by it.)

At this point, people often interject one of two things: 1) "I could never do that. There's no way I could not eat after 8pm," or 2) "Oh, I would love to do this! Is it too late to sign up?" (The answer is yes. Sorry. We do have about 60 people participating -- and with each person putting $10 in the pot, it makes for some serious high stakes!)

Anyway, my point is that this competition has taken over my life. Sleeping seven hours a night takes a long time! Plus trundling back and forth to the gym all the time ... which brings me full circle to where I started this post. If you'd like to see what I've been doing instead of updating my blog, check out my progress here. And stay tuned for The Big Reveal, coming up next week ...