Who Leads the World?

How come Pakistan had a female leader before the United States?
Margaret Thatcher ruled England before I was driving a car. Actually she came to power in 1979, so there was a lot of other stuff I wasn't doing yet, like probably dressing myself.
We reprimand Muslim nations for their backwards thinking and repressive societies, but it's Pakistan who elected a female leader twice already, to our zero. And Benazir Bhutto is coming back.
Golda Meir. Angela Merkel in Germany. Corazon Aquino in the Philippines, Asia's first female president. I was 11 when she was elected (and by now able to dress myself, thanks). Canada's had a female PM too. Senegal. Haiti. Peru. Burundi! Even the Communists managed a female Prime Minister in Yugoslavia for four years.
All this depressing realization comes upon me from Wikipedia.
I'm so perturbed when I hear people say that Hillary's just too cold for them. Or some equally nonchalant, weak reason not to vote for her. You don't have to vote for her because she's a woman, but just come up with a better reason to vote against her. You're electing a president, not picking a BFF. Or as Jason added in his commentary, "You're not going to sleep with her." (This post, btw, is his idea, perhaps to curtail the rant he saw me about to launch into when I saw the homepage of today's NYT with the Pakistan headline.)

So who leads the world? As much as Americans may laud ourselves for being a champion of equal rights and a leader of all sorts of things, it seems as though we're oddly far behind. And the answer to "who leads the world?" at least in other parts of the globe is, sometimes, a woman.
Why has it taken us so long to get this far?

Home Sick

Unlike last spring when I thought that I was strong enough to fight a cold on my feet, this time I took a sick day. I hate colds. It's ironic that after coming to work at a pharmaceutical company, I've taken more sick days than ever before. Only about 1 per year, but I think I went two years without a real sick day before. Working hard for everyone else's health might be hurting my own?
I was super frustrated to discover that Advil Cold & Sinus which was perfectly addressing my symptoms isn't on the shelves of my local drugstore or grocery store. And it wasn't even behind the pharmacy counters either. (Not that I was going to manufacture meth with it anyway. The Methamphetamine Precursor Control Act (MPCA) is in effect in Chicago (and the rest of Illinois). To buy cold medicines that can be used to make methamphetamine you have to show ID and sign a log. And a consumer may buy no more than two packages of these remedies in a single transaction and no more than one convenience package in a 24-hour period. I hate that consumers can't be trusted with simple cold medicine. Having to show my driver's license and sign a sheet every time I want to fix a sniffly nose is really irritating -- or maybe it's just that they ask me to submit to this little routine when I am already tired, sick and irritated.) It's possible I've complained about this before on my blog... and it's still annoying.
After a day of water, ginseng tea with honey and lemon, and the Project Runway Season 1 Marathon, I hope to feel better tomorrow.

Your Feet Will Look Like River Barges

There are some comments, and they mostly come from our mothers, that stick in your head and they never leave.
My proof is the sentiment that originated with the grandmother I never met, was passed to my mother, and now echoes in my head, reflecting on the ballet-slipper-like style of shoe. The slipper style is popular these days, so I hear the cacaphony of this platitude ringing in my ears all the time: "That style will make your feet look too wide. They'll look like river barges." I remember that the first time I heard this I was so young that I had to ask what a river barge was.
Seeing this photo of celebrity (at least sort of) Anne Hathaway, I realized that it's true. And thankfully it's not just my feet that look abnormally broad in this shoe style.

I don't know if this piece of advice entirely counts as a "momily." (Those typical Mom sayings like "it'll never get well if you pick at it" or "Wear clean underwear in case you're in a car accident.") But it's sage advice nonetheless. Who else would tell you something so frank, except your mother?
I just try to wear this type of shoe with a long pant leg. I can't help it, I'm still in love with the idea that I might have pixie cute feet.

A Busy Day

While waiting for the shuttle to pick me up and take me to the train station, I find myself in the first calm moment of my day. I realize it's been a very busy day.
A busy day is when I never remember to put on lipstick.
A busy day is when I realize sitting on the bench at the end of the day that I never used my lint brush to pick up the white cat hair on my black pants that I had noticed at 7 am this morning.
And I forgot to eat breakfast.
And it wasn't until 3 pm that I found time to go to the bathroom (and realized I'd forgotten the lipstick.)
And whenever someone begins by saying, "I sent you an email, did you see it?" And I have to bite my lip and answer, "Ummm, probably not," and nonchalantly brush it off with a friendly, "What's up?"
A really busy day, but thankfully not today, is also when I have to race down to the cafeteria and beg a cooling burger off of the workers try to clean up for the end of the lunch period.
For dinner, I don't think of what we'll eat until I step aboard the train home. Oh shoot, nothing defrosted.
How do people with children do it? Because the possibly best part of a busy day is coming home and doing pretty much nothing at all.

Flipping Crazy

How much would you pay for flip flops?
I am typically a sucker for the J. Crew sales where you get two pairs for $15 in silly J. Crew colors like Lapis or Mango.
Jason found himself in need of new flippers after I complained for the 20-zillionth time that his old flip flops were harboring odors from his college days. Much to my surprise one day he tossed them in the trash. Ironically when this auspicious, long-awaited moment arrived it was me who ran to the trash can. Looking down at the cast-aside footwear sitting at the bottom of the can, now nestled between dinner leftovers and old magazines, and I urgently asked, "But are you sure? You love those flip-flops. Really?" It seemed like such a whim, would it be something that he blamed me for later, with angry regret? I just wasn't prepared for it. I thought there would be some separation anxiety, some mourning.
No, he meant it.
To be helpful, I started a little search on my favorite shoe shopping site, Zappos.com. Two surprising things confronted me in the men's flip flop/thongs section:
1. There are nearly 700 different types of men's flip flops on Zappos.
2. When sorting by price, lowest first, the starting price was ~$40.
3. The highest price: $403.95.

Guess which flip flop is the $400 shoe, which one is $200, and which one is the $40 choice. (And guess which one Jason will never get. Poor barefooted boy.)
Answers in the comments section.


Desktop Diva

It's not rocket science, but, for me, a fancy computer desktop can be the launching pad for at least amused productivity. (Minus the time that I spend browsing for the perfect desktop to suit my mood.)
The folks I work with have two kinds of computer desktops: Microsoft solid color (system default) or their kid/cat/dog. And whenever someone quits out of powerpoint after a presentation while their laptop is still hooked up to the projector a chorus of "aaahhhs" is prompted as the child/cat/dog is now 8 feet tall and twelve feet wide above our heads. Work can be so predictable.
So when my co-workers see my desktop they are often confused or seek some explanation for why I've got something pretty, illustrative or even artistic (!) on my laptop. Searching for some kind of logical explanation for the heart desktop I had a few weeks ago my co-worker asked if Jason had designed it for me. I chuckled, as the most artistic thing I've ever seen from Jason is the demonstration of how the P in his last name can be made to look like Snoopy. (Something to remember when I change my last name after our wedding.)
But with the encyclopedic internet at your fingertips, there is no excuse for a drab desktop. (And with cheap scanners and Photoshop, no excuse for tiling the kiddie's school portrait 15 times, but we'll fight our battles one at a time.)
Please decorate your desktop with any one of my top recommendations:
- Pixel Girl - Home of the Rainbow above
- Flickr Desktop Pool - Because 9 out of 10 people are a better photographer than me! Check out my springtime desktop of these potted irises. *sigh, where did spring and summer go??*
- Meomi I just saw this one, it's like Sanrio, but with manatees and sea otters. Pretty cute, if you're in the mood.
And a crazy long list of desktop art is here, if you can't be satisfied at first blush. But even my devotion to desktops hasn't taken me that deep...yet.

Better Business

Reading this article in the NYT about another business I patronize, Netflix, made me feel a little better after yesterday's woesome post. They have a call center... in the US... where real people answer the phone! I think if I called and a real person answered, I'd think I'd dialed the wrong number. But at Netflix, pleasant Portland, Oregon-based operators answer the phone. A Netflix exec interviewed by the NYT commented:
There’s an operational language in the industry that people are so jaded about — phrases like ‘due to high caller volume.’ We’re very consciously trying to counter that mentality.”

Hey, he's right. What kind of customer service is it to blame the customers themselves for the wait? Have you ever heard the recording suggest that you try calling back at a time when there's less call volume?
And I HATE it when you're on hold and they suggest you visit the website. Give me some credit that I might have thought of that.
But YAY NETFLIX!
And my last post reminded me of the Christmas gift from future sister-in-law, Courtney: The Blue Pages - A Dictionary of Companies Rated by Their Politics and Practices. Netflix: 72% of their political contributions went to Democrats, 28% to Republicans.
Sadly, some of what you learn from this book is that companies might not be principled but just practical. #1 fashion corporate contributer to Democrats? The Gap. But wait, #3 fashion corporate contributer to Republicans? That'd also be The Gap. And now that I'm working inside the corporate world I suspect that the heavily promoted employee PAC's might not be attributed to the company itself, but they're certainly supporting the corporate cause. Politics can be so tricky.

Sadly, yesterday's post was true - only 4% of Urban Outfitters' contributions go to the Dems.
But if I needed more reasons to find myself in Tiffany's, 100% of their contributions go to Democrats. All right, they only gave $2,000 in 2003-4. But $2,000 sure could buy something nice in that little blue box.

It's a little funny to flip through and see companies which lean so far left or right and wonder at their preference, especially compared to what you might have thought. The Republicans had you convinced that they owned patriotism, but all-American brands Tommy Hilfiger and Polo Ralph Lauren are all Democrat.

And Andra-Sue, Ann Taylor is safe whichever way you vote, they make no contributions.

Things I Wish I Hadn't Learned

What?! Urban Outfitters supports Rick Santorum? How is this possible? World spinning. The founder of UO (and its sister, Anthropologie) has given over $13k to Rick Santorum's campaigns. Santorum being a senator I loathed so much I continued to write opposition letters to him even after I'd moved out of state. This news story was published way back in 2003 and I was shopping in blissful ignorance for so long. Well, I guess it's a good thing I'm aging out of the UO demographic anyway.But this is just like when I learned that Domino's Pizza supported pro-lifers.
Darn it, I don't know how principled you can be expected to be these days. Maybe making my next car a hybrid will balance the pizza and shopping out? (I like the one Kermit drives.) And I did install a few fluorescent light bulbs in our apartment.

Oh I Get It (Tagging)

I didn't get what Andra Sue was up to on her blog, until friend Leah followed suit with this little game via blog.

Jobs I’ve Held

- Babysitter
- "Paralegal" - helped my dad write up some stuff for a legal case he was consulting on
- And if that counts, "Landscaper" for raking leaves for $1 per bag
- "Small business owner" - I made scrunchies and sold them at the school store.
- Horse drawn carriage driver/tour guide (You can lead a horse to water and make him drink. Just hold a carrot under the - water. They go in for the carrot, but as soon as their nose hits the water they realize they're thirsty just like you thought they should be after a day's work.)
- Box office agent & usher
- Residential Counsellor (RC - commonly know as RA)
- Advertising Account Exec, Training Supervisor, Senior Acct Exec, Acct Supervisor...
- Marketing (Product Manager)

Movies I Can Watch Over & Over

- Not many to name here, I used to watch Babe
when I was in a grumpy mood. "That'll do, pig. That'll do," still makes my heart well a little.
- Amelie

My Guilty Pleasures

- Taking the late train to work (known to everyone else as "the regular train")
- Staying up late at home on the weekends
- Taking my time getting ready on weekend mornings
- Law & Order
- French fries
- Purses & shoes
- Sanrio
- thesuperficial.com (Like reading the grocery store tabloids, on your couch.)
- HGTV, TLC, A&E
- Hearing people who have planned a big, elaborate, expensive wedding tell me that they wish they'd done what me and Jason are doing for ours

Places I Have Lived (in order)
- Philadelphia, PA
- Guilford, England
- Tokyo, Japan
- London, England
- Columbus, OH
- Chicago, IL

Shows I Enjoy
- America's Next Top Model
- Brothers & Sisters
- Big Love
- Entourage
- House
- Now
- Washington Week
- This Week
- The Real Estate Pros (formerly Flip This House)

Places I Have Been on Vacation
- All 7 continents :) (ok, I know that's getting as boastful and annoying as Andra pointing out how skinny and in shape she is. So jealous sometimes. You're not allowed to call yourself a non-athletic chick anymore, girlie.)
- Most recently: San Diego
- Although most of vacation time over the past two years has been dedicated to going home to Philadelphia or going to weddings (Toronto, Catskills...)

Favorite Foods

- Indian
- Sourdough bread
- Cookies & Cream Ice Cream
- Caramel
- Good steak
- NY style pizza (big floppy slices you can fold)

Websites I Visit Daily

Cute Overload
Yarn and Cocktails
I've Landed
Jean Therapy
NYT
Google (always something to look up)
Corporate homepage

Body Parts I Have Injured
- Fractured wrist (5th grade kickball accident, compounded by fall at the roller skating party)

Awards You’ve Won
- William Penn Award (for the sixth grader most exemplifying the ideals of William Penn)
- Handbell Award (5th and 6th grade!)
- 7th grade: Middle School logo design award winner
- 9th grade: Social Studies, Spanish, Citizenship Awards
- 10th grade: National Honor Society, Spanish, Social Studies, Psychology, Citizenship and Student Council Awards (I swept!)
-National Merit Scholar Honorable Mention
- I won a free trip to a "Young Business People of Tomorrow Conference" in college - got to meet Richard Branson.
- American Association of Advertising Agencies Team Competition Award
- A few more work awards

Nicknames You’ve Been Called
The whole point of the name "Claire" is that it's very hard to nickname, this was an intentional choice by my mother, Patricia...or Trish, or Pat,... or Patty, or Patsy.
Nevertheless, there has been:
- Giggle Bug
- Claireperson
- Clairebear
- Backpack (a work nickname for the big backpack I carried on biz trips)
- Tuffy (So dubbed by Jason'cuz I'm from the streets of "the ill-a-delph" and he's from bucolic Columbus)

Pick 5 Other Bloggers
Since Andra and Leah have already participated... there's Abby!
And maybe Aaron & Paula's garden will play too.
James updates his blog like every millenium, so who knows about him? And he's not the type for these reindeer games.

I Can't Help It, I'm Nosy

Do you ever find yourself, driving at night, slowing the car and peering casually towards the windows of homes with their curtains open and lights on inside, throwing a spotlight on their private wares and activities? If you are me you are really not casual about this at all. You bodily turn in your car seat (as long as you are not driving, of course) and lean your head forward. As the house passes by your torso twists to make sure you've greedily peered into as much of the detail of these strangers' homes. I love looking inside other people's homes. There's something exciting about doing this surreptitiously. Robert Frost's poem, Good Hours captures the intrigue well.

Sure, when I go to a house party I always accept the invitation for a "tour" to see the place, but this sanctioned and chaperoned peering isn't nearly as fun. I want to see how other people live, what do they do when they don't think they're being watched? And there's a secret delight in being a distant fly on the wall, your eyes being somewhere where you are not supposed to be. (This might explain why one of my favorite children's books was From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the story of a little girl and her brother who sneak into the Metropolitan Museum of Art and stay there secretly for a week. If I remember correctly, she even gets to sleep in Marie Antoinette's bed!)

And if further warning signs were needed to suggest that I may someday find myself imprisoned for trespassing or being a peeking Tom, I have also sometimes harbored the secret dream of going into my friends' and acquaintances' closets and taking the best of their wardrobes and jewelry for myself. Like a shopping spree, in my friends' closets. (I fear after this confession, none of you readers will ever allow me to be your houseguest again.)

To scratch this itch, I found the Take One/Leave One Project, a collection of written memories and stories gathered by a Northwestern student. Participants can read a personal story from a stranger, and then leave a little vignette of their own. Browsing the website has the same secret delight of finding an old shoebox full of letters, and reading them each one by one. Some of the entries are just typed out, but I like the handwritten ones better. You can tell more about how the writer feels based on their handwriting. Are they serious and worried, which makes their lettering tight and small? Or are they still thinking through what exactly they want to say, leaving crossed out words in their pen's path?
But if your attention span can't hold for these paragraphs of thought, there's also always PostSecret. But admittedly, there are some secrets you feel creepy or gross about after reading.

Hello, Officer. Hello, ...Kitty?

This story from the NYT of how the do-good power of Hello Kitty is even keeping police officers in Bangkok in line. If they come to work late or park in the wrong parking spot, they wear the Hello Kitty armband. Shame!
Is there anything Kitty can't do?

Like I Need Another Reason

Like I need another reason pushing me closer to becoming a card-carrying member of the ACLU: This wacky story about a man detained by TSA for his t-shirt with arabic lettering. From Wonkette:
The shirt did also have English characters under the Arabic script (it says “We will not be silent” — no, but you certainly will be delayed),

Confirming that I might indeed be the pinko commie that Jason is oft to suggest I am. (You can't get out of Oberlin without turning a little pink, like the white t-shirts that got into the laundry with a bright red sock, it rubs off on all of us alums.)
I know that there's always the chance that he could be a bad person, and that everyone in Guantanamo does belong there. But I also wondered if there was a chance the Saddam had WMD, as I stood around a park in Philadelphia for a candelight anti-war vigil. Glad I listened to my heart on that one, since we know how that story ended. (Although the doubts might suggest I'm not really that pink.)
It was funny to realize that it was my friend James who I'd gone to that anti-war vigil with, when we both lived in Philadelphia. Now I live in Chicago and he lives in New Zealand, and years later we were sitting in a cafe in Sydney, wondering how it is that the war is still going on.
That is my political statement for the month.

The Five Shopping Senses

Do your greatest thoughts come to you at moments where your hands, eyes and other capabilities are focused elsewhere? Like on washing your hair in the shower, or driving the car down the highway, getting ready to honk the horn at that pickup that keeps on creeping into your lane? Driving yesterday I ironically had a thought about the shower. Our shampoo specifically. And who buys it, and why.

I had a nostalgic moment the other evening when I saw my favorite old shampoo on the shelf at Target. I don't use this shampoo anymore. Somewhere along the way in our cohabitation (it happened without much announcement or disruption) Jason and I began using the same shampoo. But seeing its big salon-like bottle brought the orangecreamsicle scent of my old shampoo back immediately. And the feel of the big goopy weight of a dollop of it in my hand.

The senses that drive my shopping mind are mostly touch and scent. It's been pointed out by Jason that I can't shop without touching. Wandering through clothing store aisles I will stop and pull the arm of a sweater up from its peers, "Oooo, feel this. So soft!" It was the touch of some fluffy cozy socks that prompted me to buy two pairs for snuggling my tootsies into on winter nights. Jason took one look at my pink muppet-fur-like socks and remarked, "Does my Grandmother know you have her socks?" While I didn't care so much how they looked, overwhelmed by the gentleness of the yarn, Jason found my socks abhorrent.

My observation is that Jason shops by sight. (There's a sweeping generalization to be made about men here. Like the wicked comment "that men prefer beauty over brains because they know they can see better than they can think.") But some of these fellas might just play dumb. Jason was smart enough to realize that after we moved in, the best way to avoid his hair smelling like an orange creamsicle was to take over the shampoo purchases. He choose the sleek and newly redesigned Dove Shampoo Bottle. Dark blue and shaped like a little space pod. R2D2 might use this shampoo. Jason does, and now, so do I.
I just wish it smelled like coconut. Maybe gardenia? Midnight Jasmine?
Post-script: I just noticed the irony that the shampoo I used as a single girl, living alone, and shopping by her own selfish scent-whims, is called "Self Absorbed."

Jetlag Recovery

Did my life just stop being exciting when I accomplished the 7-Continent Quest? Nothing more to write about?
No, but I was beaten by jetlag all week long. I was cranky, tired, snippy. At work, the things that might just annoy me usually sent me into impatient rants. I found myself scolding others and just getting plain ANGRY. Ornery, aggravated, terrible, and horrid: that has been me this week. It's been an interesting week of self-discovery for Claire. Wow, this is what I'm like when I am both stressed (over 300 unread e-mails to catch up on from being away, where the internet connection was like 1990s dial-up) and exhausted.
I alternated between nights where I was so tired that I fell asleep on the couch, to nights where I lay in bed at 1:30 am wondering if it might just be more effective to get up and clean the kitchen. One night I got out of bed, thinking that a glass of wine might help. I sat in the living room, discovering that the wine was too old and tasted of grape juice and watched the cat wander the room. "So this is what he does when we're asleep," I thought to myself. I got up and threw the wine down the sink. Back to bed to try to fall asleep again. I remembered that counting backwards is supposed to be effective, engaging your brain so that you don't stay awake thinking, and mundane and sufficiently monotonous that you might find yourself losing track and slipping into sleep. I started at 89 and got down to 0, I started again at 100 and again found myself at 0, still awake. Then 200.
I am hoping that this weekend has helped. I slept until a wonderful, comfortable 11 am this morning. (Of course, I've spent most of the weekend on those work e-mails.) Let's see what time I'm falling asleep tonight. Maybe it's over?
Jet lag sucks.
 

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