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bad news, emily!

Friday, June 30, 2006

The Children of Men

I'm engrossed in this book "The Children of Men" by P.D. James. The subject sends my brain into endless fascination.

Imagine this: The human race has lost its ability to reproduce and it has been 25 years since the last child was born.

The book was written in 1992, so I have to adjust the chronology accordingly - like when they talk about "future" events that occur in 1996. While set in the future, it is void of that strange, sci-fi feel that one might expect. The story takes place in England, the main character an ordinary middle-aged professor at Oxford.

The first paragraph of the novel reads:

"Early this morning, 1 January 2021, three minutes after midnight, the last human being to be born on earth was killed in a pub brawl in a suburb of Buenos Aires, aged twenty-five years, two months and twelve days. If the first reports are to be believed, Joseph Richardo died as he had lived. The distinction, if one can call it that, of being the last human whose birth was officially recorded, unrelated as it was to any personal virtue or talent, had always been difficult for him to handle. And now he is dead."

And I was hooked!

"Twenty years ago, when the world was already half-convinced that our species has lost forever the power to reproduce, the search to find the last known human birth became a universal obsession, elevated to a matter of national pride, an international contest as ultimately pointless as it was fierce and acrimonious."

Just think of the gradual realization throughout the world that something is wrong... Obstetricians around the world would be the first to notice because they would see no more new pregnancies. Imagine then how the universal feeling of hopelessness grows with each passing year. Eventually, preschools would become empty, the buildings abandoned or converted for other functions. What would be done with all the toys, once there is no one left to play with them? What would be done with all the children's clothing, toys, books, etc.? Would they be locked away in warehouses, in hopes that maybe one day the childless world would somehow regain its ability to reproduce?

Then imagine when the entire remaining population on earth is over 70 years old. Who works the businesses that provide... anything? Food, water, electricity, medical care. Sure, you can plant your own gardens and raise your own animals for meat, but when your body gives out you're left with nothing. The last human beings to die naturally will do so alone. Imagine a city where only a few people are still alive and the end of the human race hovers over them. What if you were the last human being on earth?

What a frightening idea.

But so utterly fascinating.


Edit: Eddie's comment reminded me that I just found out that they ARE making a movie out of the book. Here's a still of Clive Owen (playing the reluctant protagonist Theo) and Julianne Moore (playing the activist Julian). For more details read my comment.

Movie Recommendations

1) "Everything is Illuminated" starring Elijah Wood as a taciturn and serious young man who travels to Ukraine to find the woman who saved his grandmother from the Nazi's. He elicits the help of a man and his grandson who run a company that takes rich Jewish people to find their roots.
Alex is the hip Ukrainian grandson whose broken English is at times very entertaining, calling himself a "premium" dancer who all the women "want to be carnal with". The trio's journey a "very rigid search" through the Ukrainian countryside.

2) "The Big White" starring Robin Williams (in a calm dramatic role), Giovanni Ribisi, Holly Hunter, Allison Lohman (of Matchstick Men fame)
Paul the travel agent (Robin Williams) tries to cash in his missing-and-pressumed-dead brother's life insurance using a body he found. Problem is, hitmen want the body back. It's rated R for language because Holly Hunter's character has a hilarious case of Tourette's.

While these movies are comedies - both very entertaining in their excellent character development and clever wit - they're also both dramas that have tragic elements. A good combination if you have a discerning palate and you're not in the mood for an action-packed blockbuster or screwball comedy.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Word of the Day: Machination

1. The act of plotting.
2. A crafty scheme or cunning design for the accomplishment of a sinister end.

A great word - probably recalled from a book I once read.
Were it not for the "of a sinister end" part of the definition, I think I'd enjoy the occasional machination.

Ice Cream and Books: A Study in Delayed Gratification

I revisited an old topic of reflection the other day, but with some new observations.

My dad gave me three $2 gift certificates to Baskin Robbins a couple of years ago. Probably 3 years ago. Cherries Jubilee is probably my favorite of their 31 flavors so I had decided that I would use the $6 to get a hand-packed quart. But whenever I think about trading in the little pieces of paper for the yummy goodness, I always think to myself "I should wait to use them until I really really have a craving that won't go away" and so I haven't used them yet. It's not like it's impossible for me to spend my own $6 on a quart at any other time, so why have I put it off for so long? It seems ridiculous.

My former boss gave me a gift certificate to Applebees (located next door to the studio) at least 6 months ago, maybe longer, and I still haven't used it. The reason? Whenever I consider using it I hesitate and think "well, there might be another day when I'm starving when I'm at work but find myself without the cash" and so I never use it. Now I don't even work there anymore.

When my roommate pointed out my irrational approach to my ice cream certificates, I realized that this mentality spills over into my reading patterns as well. If I'm really enjoying a book, I like to savor it by reading it slowly. I want to devour it quickly so I can enjoy the conclusion and feel the satisfaction of having consumed the contents, but I also don't want to have to stop reading the book. The result is a stack of books that I love but haven't finished.
And I'm really dragging my feet on "The Children of Men." For the most part, I've limited my reading time to the bus rides to and from work. Not a lot of time, so I don't cover much ground.
I'm savoring it. It's a delicious book.

I think this also applies to movies. There are a bunch of movies that I either own or have recorded on DVR that I want to see, but I find myself thinking "well, I really want to see it but maybe there will be a better time for me to enjoy it" or "I want to watch it now, but it will be more fun to watch it with (insert name)."

So here I am, unsatisfied - but I'm also strangely satisfied because I'm justified in my choice of delayed gratification.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Sound of Silence

Is it unusual for one's ears to ring because it is unexpectedly silent?

About 12 feet from my desk sits our loud server, and our front door is near the building's mechanical room. This means that I have a constant grating hum right here and the periodic 'chunk'ing, buzzing, and rumbling from the hall.
Our server savior Jim just turned off the server to perform some much needed maintenance and the silence is so strange. I'm experiencing the bizarre sensation of my ears swelling and expanding away from my head. They feel thick with sound, but there's no sound other than the clicking of my keyboard and the quiet chatting of some people in the office next door.
The absence of the noise that was always there almost makes me dizzy. I don't really know what to do with myself now that the server is down, because all the files I was working on are stored on the server. Well, I'm blogging. That solves that.

God bless our new friend Jim for fixing everything that our previous server person screwed up. He's like a ray of sunshine. Laugh if you want, but I think I'm falling in love with Jim.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Out of the Ordinary

A muslim student just came into our office and asked me if there happened to be a corner of our office where she could go to pray "really quick." I told her she was welcome to use our little library.
Three minutes later she came back out, said "thank you very much", and went on her way.

That was kinda cool.

Word of the Day: Obfuscate

Obfuscate v. (trans)
1. To make so confused or opaque as to be difficult to perceive or understand.
2. To render indistinct or dim; darken: The fog obfuscated the shore.

I can't for the life of me remember where I heard/read it recently.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

6.21.06 News of the Day

1) The parking lot smelled like gingerbread this morning.
2) I accidentally beaned a woman on the bus with a paperclip I was trying to use.
3) My metal watch is giving my wrist a rash.
4) I ate a spoonful of cookie dough for breakfast because it was faster than a bowl of cereal.
5) A dear friend is moving to South Africa tomorrow and I refuse to cry today.
6) My sister reminded me that L.A. - where she's moving in August - is due for a massive earthquake. And that, my friends, is bad news, Emily!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Wringing Hands

I don't think I've ever actually wrung my hands before, but I found myself doing just that earlier today.

It's such a strange physical action.
For some reason, I think I've considered the wringing of hands to be reserved for distraught, middle-aged women in novels who accompany the wringing of hands with sorrowful wailing and anxious pacing.

I'm more of a paper-roller, but it's not necessarily a sign of stress or worry - I just do it for something to do with my hands. Maybe I just found myself without paper this morning and subconsciously needed to express my stress physically.

Just right

Here's a cute story about a bear cub that was found eating oatmeal in a woman's kitchen last Thursday.

Shallcross, THIS is why we love Canada.

Friday, June 16, 2006

My Marathon

I wish I could say that I'm actually running a marathon, but I honestly think that would make me feel like crap. So, instead, I'm participating in a very different sort of marathon. My sister invited me over to have a "24" Season 2 marathon this weekend. She want's to catch up on past seasons before watching the re-runs of the most current season.
So here we are, having a great time.
Zoe & Applejack came along with me for the slumber party and they're enjoying the evening. We ordered Chinese food and had the makings for ice cream sundaes, which we never got around to eating because we had also picked up some donuts. So basically, as my sister stated, this weekend is all about gluttony and we ought to repent for it. Silly sister. It's actually a great exercise in perseverence, commitment, and dedication. We are better people for pressing through and keeping our eyes on the goal.

Okay, well we only watched 5 hours tonight, but we did have some fun during our multiple intermissions.

Check out our very own CTU agent, Applejack Bauer in his flack jacket.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Encore, Jack! Encore!

I just found out that FOX (bless its heart) is going to air 2 encore episodes of Season 5 of "24" on Friday nights starting this Friday, June 16th at 8:00 and 9:00pm. So for all of you sad people who missed out this season and have been kicking yourself ever since, consider yourselves winners! And for those of you who saw all the episodes but forgot to record the first 8 onto VHS, you can also consider yourselves winners. I am a winner in the latter category.

Now you have no excuses for missing Season 5, and you can therefore be my friends again.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Happy Birthday, Eddie!

Wishing Mr. Edwin Bruce Staples a very Happy Birthday today!

Monday, June 12, 2006

A&Z on a Monday night

I just turned around and found Applejack falling asleep on his back.

Then I turned back and found Zoe entranced by my computer.

That's all. I just thought they were cute.

NC Consolation

I have a hard time with the nasty heat and humidity that characterizes the North Carolina summers. June-October can be quite miserable at times - August and September being the most dreaded.
However, there is a silver lining, and it's the cloud itself .

I LOVE thunderstorms.

I absolutely love them!

And I had never experienced so many wonderfully exciting storms until I lived here in NC. The booming thunder, the flashes of lightning, the heavy raindrops gushing from the sky.
Just last night we saw a terrific storm. I woke up multiple times during the night to thunder and flashes of light. It wasn't the rumbling sort of thunder, but it was sharp booms that sounded like explosions in the distance. The lightning wasn't in bolts that I could see, but it lit up the sky in a wide burst of light. It was beautiful and yet almost frightening. I wondered, in my sleepiness, if this is what it's like to live near a war zone. Explosions of sound and blinding flashes of light on the horizon.
Nature is a powerful thing.

These storms are one of my most favorite things about North Carolina.

Friday, June 09, 2006

6.9.06 News of the Day

1) This morning I noticed our HR manager carrying my timesheet with her to the restroom after picking it up from her mailbox. Was it good reading? I don't know. I couldn't stop laughing.
2) My director just asked me to order a couple packs of the Mr. Sketch "smelly" pens for her.
3) My sandals make farting noises when I walk.
4) There are hundreds of packs of admitted students wandering around campus today - they look so young! I can't believe I'm 10 years older than they are.
5) My housemate Lori is leaving for Ecuador today to visit her novio. Last night she was getting her suitcases out of the attic and had the folding ladder pulled down while she was packing. I came out of my room to find my cat Applejack 2/3 of the way up the ladder! He's not much of a jumper, but now we know he's a climber. I took him down and put him in my room to keep him out of trouble, but before I could close the door he bolted out and started to climb again.
6) I'm going to see "Pride & Prejudice" outside on the lawn at the NC Museum of Art tonight. Hurray! The classic Jennifer Ehle / Colin Firth A&E version will always be my favorite, but I really enjoyed this one, too.
7) I just got back in touch with my host family I stayed with in Germany in 1999. Oh, how I long to return to Germany! When I was writing to my "mom" via email I was surprised by how much German I actually remember after 6 years. I'm so impressed with myself!
8) I've started getting emails about my high school 10-year reunion coming up in November. I really, really want to go. I missed the 5-year reunion and heard it was really fun. We'll have to see if the friendly skies will take me there.
9) I have to decide soon which health plan I want to sign up for.
10) Now I know I need new glasses - I'm squinting a lot.
11) Our building's weird and loud and annoying HVAC guy just came over to my desk and leaned on it and then knelt down and asked if I had any plans for the weekend. When I said no (I was hoping to end the conversation quickly, so I lied) he asked me if I wanted to write a 13-page research paper. I said no.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Reading While Walking

The Reading Walker
The Walking Reader.
I like reading while I'm walking. It's just so darn efficient. I suppose practice over the years has helped me minimize potential stumbling (read: pain and embarrassment). Whenever I chose to, or found myself with no choice but to, walk home from high school I had a good hour's time to pass on the long stretch of sidewalk with a good book. Thank God for the clicking of bike chains - I can't count how many times they have saved me from getting mowed down.

It continues to fascinate me how our brains can effectively complete multiple, unrelated tasks simultaneously.
When walking, a person need only focus on the ground a short distance in front of them in order to subconsciously plan his next steps. We don't have to look directly at our feet. Our brains process what exists 8 or so feet (depending on your height, I suppose) in front of us and then adjust our walking "plan of action" accordingly. It's especially useful when walking on brick paths or in hiking where you've got rocks, holes, lumps and twigs to contend with.

Dear God,
Thanks for making our brains smart.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Illegals and flying fish

Last night I dreamed that I was with the character Toby Ziegler from "The West Wing" and the character Martin Fitzgerald from "Without a Trace" out in some parking lot and they were trying to coerce an illegal immigrant worker to give them information on someone they were investigating by threatening to report him to the INS.
Then I found myself in front of a city hall that looked like it was in Germany and my coworker Karin kept warning me about a little yellow fish that had been seen flying around that will bite and poison people. I told her that I hadn't seen a fish but that there was a little yellow butterfly that was flying around nearby. She yelled "that's it - that's the fish!" and I tried to argue with her "no, Karin, it's just a butterfly" and then it started flying toward me and I realized that it was actually a little yellow flying fish. I pulled my hood from my black hooded sweatshirt over my head (Jack Bauer style) but it landed on my forehead. I started freaking out and it wouldn't get off - then I woke up.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

401(k) for Blackbeard

No joke, this is from an article titled "A Lesson About Saving for Retirement by Blackbeard the Pirate" from the actual Prudential website:

"You don't need to be a pirate to accumulate a retirement treasure. By enrolling in the NC 401(k) Plan, you can take advantage of a wide variety of benefits, including pre-tax contributions by payroll deduction, tax-deferred growth and increased contribution limits. It might be just the thing to help you sail away to a better financial future.

"In the early 1700s, sailors along the coast of North Carolina had to worry about Blackbeard the Pirate robbing their ships so he could live out his dreams. Today, you don't have to worry about pirates roaming the Carolina coastline, but—like Blackbeard—you should be concerned about building a stronger financial future...

Friday, June 02, 2006

"That's B-E-E"

Thirteen-year-old Katharine Close from NJ just won the National Spelling Bee with the word "ursprache."
I was standing in the lobby of the School of Journalism, where there is a huge-screen tv that must be permanently tuned to CNN, when I saw the report. I'm not even joking, I totally teared up when they showed her response to her correct answer. I'm a sucker for an emotional winning moment.

The runner-up lost on the word "weltschmerz". I thought it was interesting that the last two words were german. I totally would have won that spelling bee. "That's B-E-E." (from Spellbound)

The Uglydoll

Um. This is freaky.

For only $13.99 you can own Tray, the ugly doll your kids can't decide if they're scared of or not.

"Tray is the brain of the bunch. Not because she is smart, but because she has three brains...one in each lump, or one per eye, as Babo likes to point out. Tray is also the hungriest of all the Uglydolls, and has a desperate need for Blueberry Pie. Some say her eyes are blue because of her craving..."

I think I'm going to have nightmares.