Sunday, January 30, 2005

A "Girl Power" Outage

Over the past week I have been forced to realize, as much as it pains me to admit it, that the worst enemies of women are often other women. I have been in the presence of a high-ranking female who has internalized and now embodies the outdated notion that there is room for only one Alpha Female in an organization or social setting. Needless to say, I had a miserable week.

It is truly exhausting to be in the presence of someone who is so threatened by the presence of another female who perhaps reminds her of herself when she was my age. At every turn I was doubted, questioned, harangued, and all-around disrespected, but in "that way" that every single woman who reads this will know what I'm talking about; it is "that way" that the men in the room do not pick up on, but that every single other female recognizes for what it is: pettiness.

I spent a good deal of time trying to understand her. Maybe she thinks, "I suffered professionally; so can she"? Maybe she got no support from her male bosses or clients back in the day and had to scratch for every bit of respect she got. Who knows? All I know is that she was intent on giving me no respect at all. Although it just irritated me on a personal level, it was incredibly distressing on a socio-political level because women, ideally, are not supposed to wage this kind of internecine warfare on each other.

It is difficult because men who disrespect you can be called out with great alacrity and purpose; women who disrespect you cannot because they have more devious methods than calling you "sweetheart" and talking about p*rn in front of you. This particular woman's method is to have insane expectations, and to hang on to them even when they border on the irrational. On the one hand, it certainly makes me think she is not stable. On the other, maybe that is her way of always getting to be superior to others. If no other woman can ever meet her standards professionally, then no other woman can ever be better than her or deserving of her advice and counsel.

I wonder if it is not generational. The best female boss I ever had was in her 60's back in the early 1990's. There is no doubt that she came up through the ranks when there were precious few women in power. Her reaction to me? Incredibly supportive; challenging in all the right ways. She gave me a project, told me the background, and said, "I have no doubt you will do a fantastic job. Update me twice a week and call on me any time if you have any questions at all." Done. She gave me the faith in myself that I was not yet sure I possessed. She talked to me about What Not To Say, how to know if you're being lied to, ad infinitum. She, by her age, had to have fought the fight for women's access to executive positions. Her response to having waged that fight was to fling wide the doors so that other young female upstarts like me could also have their shot at the boardroom.

This particular woman is in her 40's, so she still had to struggle but in a far more competitive environment simply because there were more women vying for those top spots. She obviously made it to the top, but rather than paying forward her success, she secretly resents those of us who may not have had to scratch our way to the top like she feels she did. Only, the truth is that the scratching is still very much a part of women's professional reality. I KNOW I was paid less than less qualified men at my last job. I KNOW that being a young woman means having to be twice as smart and a bit more serious-looking and -sounding than the average young man, because the subconscious urge among clients is to discount what a young female says no matter how qualified she may be on paper. I KNOW that women are judged on ridiculous metrics like looks, attire and femininity in situations where men are not similarly judged. The difference between my experience and Insane Expectations Lady's? The people trying to hold me back are not piggish men; they are insecure women.

If nothing else came of my Week From Hell, it is this: I resolve to be secure enough in my own skills to not require the denigration of another's. I resolve to be secure enough in my own skills to believe--and put into practice--the concept that there IS room enough for every smart and talented woman out there. I further resolve to prove how smart and talented *I* am by hiring and mentoring them for my own company.

Truly smart, talented women know that the only way to real success is to surround themselves with other smart, talented women.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Now THAT is multitasking

I had been in Florida from Wednesday until about 2 hours ago for a consulting gig. Besides the drama of spending time with the aforementioned difficult CEO, I also dealt with being waaaaay overscheduled. HOW overscheduled?! Well, let me share my schedule: interviews every 30 minutes with key stakeholders ON THE HALF HOUR. Which means what, my little chickadees? Yes! NO time was built in to the schedule to allow E to either eat or urinate. I'm not kidding. Finally after 4 hours I just politely said to the next round of interviewees, "would you mind giving me just a moment?" and running to my 90-second break from the action. During my 90 second break, picture the following occurring (and promise to still respect me in the morning):

Me on a hotel stall toilet peeing.
Me on a hotel stall toilet peeing while listening to my voice mails on my cell phone.
Me on a hotel stall toilet peeing while listening to my voice mails on my cell phone while eating half of a Balance bar.

Yeah. I know that is revolting; to be eating, talking and peeing simultaneously. But I had no choice. I was getting shpilkedic (sp?) having had no breakfast, and my bladder, which has been discussed in this blog perhaps more than any of you would care for, was about to explode. Not to mention that I have other potential clients of my OWN that I needed to touch base with during business hours. Every single activity was necessary. And with only 90 seconds at my disposal, I did what any other person would do: I ate food while in a public toilet while peeing while chatting to another person.

Nothing says "high powered consultant" like eating food on the commode. I've hit the big time, baby!!! Up next for me: clipping my toenails on the metro while reading Foreign Affairs while shouting "Sell! Sell!" into my cell phone. Aaah. Glory Days.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Firemen: A Hottie for Every Generation

{Let me preface this post with a policy statement emphasizing my acknowledgement of and support for female firefighters. All I'm sayin' is that the ones I saw were fireMEN. So no lighting up the switchboard with angry recriminations, okay? Supah.}

So--I was at NIH today, enjoying AM coffee before heading to my quarterly weigh-in and my now happily-rarer doctor visits. J came with me so that I wouldn’t have to metro at 6am for 40 minutes to get there, and so was also having coffee before heading off to his work. We were talking about social security reform when he noticed that my eyes were wandering. He gave me that “why are you not listening?” look and then turned to look behind him, where he saw about 20 firefighters in full regalia walking into the building. There was no alarm going off (except the one on my pacemaker; ha ha), so it was unclear why this veritable procession of strapping lads would be converging on NIH; but converge they did.

It got us (okay, me) to talking about how all firemen pretty much meet three primary archetypes:

1) Tom Selleck, circa 1988: notable for their moustache, large build, and appeal to women over the age of about 40. They are a little older but they’ve still got it going on. They look and comport themselves like they were the inspiration for the original Brawny Paper Towel man: rugged, no-nonsense, enjoy shows like Blue Collar TV and Family Guy, and wouldn't kick Raquel Welch out of bed. They have names like Tom and Larry and George.

2) Your junior high best friend’s dad: Notable for not necessarily being hot, but for being attractive in that “older man who will ensure no one hurts you” kind of way. (Mr. Hughes, are you reading this?) You can’t quite pin down why you find them attractive, but you will not discount the critical role of a strong-yet-gentle spirit and a lifesaver’s uniform. They enjoy good chili, NPR's Car Talk, and still have a place in their heart for Cheryl Tiegs. They have names like Tim and Joseph and Charlie.

3) The young hot gardener on Desperate Housewives: Under 35, super fit, biceps bigger than my thighs, closely-cropped hair, an all-around visual display of buff pyrotechnics. They are the guys who wear the full uniform, but keep the jacket off so you can see their pecs straining mightily against their form-fitting T-shirts with....ahem! excuse me! I digress! As I was saying, they usually have a dog, OF COURSE a girlfriend, and a liking for Fear Factor. Unless they usually have, OF COURSE a secret boyfriend, and a liking for anything on Bravo or HGTV. Usually named Jesse or Ash or Christian or Josh.

What's YOUR flavor of firefighter?

You know it's bad weather when...

...there is snow INSIDE your Amtrak train!

I'm not kidding. Took the train from DC to New Jersey this AM. At 7:30am. It was the only train running due to the weather further north. We desperately wanted to reschedule but the client asked us to keep the meeting. We were bummed because we could see that almost no trains were running and just KNEW that we'd no doubt get to Jersey, but would find it almost impossible to get back home at the end of the day. {foreshadowing....}

Anyway, to impress upon you the gravity of our desire to cancel the trip, need I say more than "the snow was blowing INSIDE the train"? Whenever those doors at the end of each car would open, you could look out and see about a one-foot high drift of snow inside the train. At each stop, the conductors would take a snow shovel and a broom and clear the exits so people could get on and off. You couldn't really travel to the club car--or any other car for that matter--unless you wanted to wade through shin-deep snow between cars.

So we kept the appointment but arrived an hour and a half late. And how did our meeting go, you ask? Well, we arrived to find that most of his staff had stayed home due to their 15 inches of snowfall, so our "crucial meeting" turned into a "chat" with our contact and, like, two employees who owned 4-wheel drives. Yes, friends, I got up at 5am to travel for 4 hours on a train to have a 2 hour meeting that turned out to not be a meeting at all. You have never seen me more charming and effervescent with a client:

"And the Oscar for Best Actress in a Bad Client Drama goes to E. For her role as a put-upon consultant who traversed far and wide for her clients, through rain and sleet and snow and dark of night. Only to wind up stuck in the Trenton train station for 4 and a half hours, and finally returning home from her 90 minute meeting just 14 hours after she left. Her performance of a happy, chatty, client-focused professional was the highlight of this tragi-comi-drami-noiry career-defining work."

My acceptance speech would be a send-up, an homage if you will, to all the lame speeches you will hear in March when the real thing happens:

"First of all, I want to thank the Academy for naming themselves “the Academy” so that I wouldn’t have to thank something so pedestrian-sounding as “the club” or as ominous-sounding as “the pentavirate.” “The Academy” has that erudite ring to it that all celebrities crave. So thank you for your foresight in not being The Filmsters or The Needy Thesps. I also want to give it all up to God for giving me this gift, as well as my lord and savior Jesus Christ who has given me the opportunity to act in movies that denigrate women, show off my rack, and promote violence in, and a cultural coarsening of, our society. I want to thank my mom, to whom I owe everything—especially my constant need for approval and validation from external and meaningless sources like The Academy and Entertainment Tonight. I want to thank all the lackeys around me who tell me I’m so hot when we all know, that if you saw me pass you on the street and I wasn’t famous, you most likely wouldn’t look twice. I want to thank the wardrobe departments for those bust-enhancing inserts in my costumes, the clinicians for the botox and the subtle nose bridge “adjustment,” the photographers for the airbrushing, and the august Rabbi Shmuley Schneersonmendelsohnman who introduced me to the wondrous powers of ‘Kabbalah For Celebrities: Ineffable Mystic Consciousness in Three Days or Less’. Oh! I’m running out of time! So let me just say thank you to all of my fans, my friends…and who am I forgetting…oh yeah—my agent, without whom, more than even G-d, nothing is possible. Thank you everybody! Free Tibet!”

Phew! Now I feel better! And after reading that little psychotic break, I’m sure you are as eager to have my business travel minimized as I am.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

A Foregone Conclusion

So I've been absent from SS Haggis (and most of life, quite frankly) for the past 2 weeks due to work responsibilities. During these two weeks I have learned a valuable lesson about people in power: They only hear what they want to hear. And they use their power to make people "hear" what they are hearing, even when it is flawed.

A client of mine. Very well-known person in the industry. Very smart in many ways. Sold a subcontract to an organization wherein more was promised than could be delivered. Conclusions leaning in a certain direction were promised before there was any evidence to support those conclusions. As the consultant, I was given the task of writing a report and presentation supporting those "conclusions."

You can already tell how things went, can't you? Total f'in misery, my friends. I felt like I was in a non-funny version of the Who's On First shtick:

Client: "We need numbers in here proving that X = Y."
Me: "I have not been able to find those numbers."
Client: "Well, can't you google them?
Me: "Let me reword that. The numbers don't exist."
Client: "Of course they exist! Just google them! Did you try site A, B, C, D and E?"
Me: "Yes. I'm sorry to say that I can't find any stats to back up that assertion. In fact, the stats and our in-person interviews with the stakeholders actually point in the opposite direction, unfortunately."
Client: "What?! What have you been doing for 3 weeks? Are you even working on this at all diligently? The numbers are out there. Go find them. I thought you knew what you were doing!"
Me: "I'll take another look, but I have to warn you that it's not promising. There is no evidence to support that conclusion. Could we modify the conclusion somewhat?"
Client: "You obviously don't know what you are talking about. There is no way to modify it. It is what it is and I'm paying you to find the numbers."

Okay. Now repeat that exchange EVERY SINGLE FREAKIN' DAY for the past two weeks until 4pm on Friday when she stormed up to my desk and said, "I just got your latest draft of this presentation. It's clear that I'm just going to have to do this MYSELF. Grrr!"

To which I replied, "Okay!"

I think she was expecting me, like her other little lackeys, to say "oh my goodness, how have I upset you? What can I do in a codependent way to re-establish your authority over me as an underling? I am wrong and you are right and I am not worthy of breathing the air you have burped."

What are the odds I'm gonna say that, dear friends? Yeah. Slim to none. So I handed her all the paperwork, emailed her the presentation so far, and told her to call me if she needed a hand over the weekend. Oh--did I mention we are presenting these "conclusions" to the organization on Monday? Yeah. That would be in 27 hours. She is still cranking out the "conclusions" and I am watching the Patriots game.

Don't get me wrong. I've been working with her over the weekend, tracking down stats, putting graphs and charts together in support of her erroneous conclusions. But the way I see it, there is no point in embarrassing ourselves in a meeting with a client. There is nothing I can say now or in the future to get her to see reason...or basic business ethics (see post from a couple of days ago!). All I can do at this point, from a professional standpoint, is make sure HER fingerprints are all over this document rather than mine, go to the presentation and smile pretty, and then get the F out of Dodge as soon as I finalize my other client work.

I am stunned at how people make it to the top by basically forcing others to support their erroneous conclusions. Where are all the people who refuse to be mouthpieces for incompetence? Maybe we're all unemployed, writing blogs, while watching football...?

Friday, January 21, 2005

On Ethics and Morals

Some friends and I have been having ongoing discussions about ethical decision-making, about whether it is something you do in business only or whether it ought to permeate your life. It seems to me that most people don't consider that they ought to have an ethical framework for making personal decisions because they assume that their feelings for a loved one will guide them appropriately. I happen to disagree.

How many fantastic senators, CEOs and pastors do we know who treat the general public very well and yet who can't seem to get their personal lives together? I posit that the cause of such a dichotomy is the mistaken belief that specific and consciously-followed ethical frameworks are not necessary in one's personal life; that personal decisions will take care of themselves simply because we love or care about someone.

IMHO, that belief is precisely what leads to broken relationships and unhappy families. Imagine a world where we all treat our loved ones as we, by law or by professional oath, treat our coworkers and clients. Can you imagine the incredible impact it would have on your marriage or your relationship with your kids or parents?

I just read a fantastic article by a man named Randy Pennington who has authored a book on leading with integrity. He wrote a couple of things that were so simple and yet so true. He says that “3-D vision—denial, distortion and delusion—blinds us to the need for change. We deny the truth, distort reality and delude ourselves into thinking we are better than we are…the cure is simple: continuously search for and acknowledge truth and reality.” He goes on to relate an “Ethics Litmus Test” created by Harry Emerson Fosdick. I will recreate it here because I think, in its simplicity, will guide every decision you make, and SS Haggis is nothing if not here for your personal edification. ;)

I just loved its simplicity because it takes all of the excuses for why we lie or hide or refuse to do right by those who love us and just breaks it down to idiot-proof levels:

1. Does the course of action you plan to follow seem logical, responsible and legal?
2. Would the results be beneficial for all if everyone were to make the same decision?
3. Where will your plan of action lead? How will it affect others?
4. Will you think well of yourself when you look back at what you’ve done?
5. How would the person you most admire handle this situation? What would your hero do?
6. What would your family and friends think of your decision? Decisions made in the hope that no one finds out are usually wrong.

So simple, and yet, for many of us, so in need of repeating.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Inauguration Day Poll is Bad News for Dems

On the face of it, Dems are rejoicing at the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll that shows President Bush's approval ratings on the issues have fallen and/or languish below the 50% mark. The reality of that poll, if you interpret it correctly, demonstrates how stupid those rejoicing Dems might be.

Nothing about that poll, which shows fewer than half of Americans feeling optimistic about the coming four years, 52% saying that the Iraq war has not been worth the human and financial cost, and 49% disapproving of the President's handling of foreign policy, ought to make Dems happy. Why? Because Bush continues to score high on the following issues, such as:

"Having strong leadership qualities needed to be President"
"Having high personal standards that set proper moral tones for the country"
"Having the ability to handle a crisis"

What do these numbers say, then? They say that Dems just got bitch-slapped by a skittish and fearful American public. As we said immediately after the election: most of the issues facing our country and the world are fairly complex and somewhat frightening. The majority of Americans, right or wrong, just want to elect someone who can take care of those issues for them in a competent and strong manner. They care about issues, but not enough to elect someone they don't feel will "handle the business" in a take-charge kind of way. This poll shows that even when people disapprove of the President on almost every issue, they still approve of his "leadership" and "ability to handle a crisis."

In a post right after the election I posited a theory about the New York Times Bestseller list as a bellwether of voter behavior. Let's take a peek at some of them:

YOUR BEST LIFE NOW, by Joel Osteen
HE'S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU, by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo
THE SOUTH BEACH DIET, by Arthur Agatston

CHAINFIRE, by Terry Goodkind
STATE OF FEAR, by Michael Crichton

Anyone see the trend? Anyone? How about "tell me what to do to be happy/rich/thin" and "help me find meaning out of chaos without feeding me straight-up religion"? People are obviously searching for A) Direction and B) Meaning in their lives. What did we Dems give them? A Vietnam Retrospective.

Lesson for Dems? Stop splitting hairs about who is the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party, stop trying to triangulate on "Republican" issues, stop haranguing each other on who is Democratic enough to lead us. Just find a leader who is comfortable saying (or at least be seen to be saying), "I am in charge, and if you (unions, women, teachers, name your special interest group) don't like it, you know where the door is." We need a candidate who will say to the American people, "These issues are complicated and sometimes scary, but don't you worry about it. I've got it handled," while offering some philosophical underpinning for who the Democratic Party is.

We need an "elevator pitch," that 15 second soundbite that sums up who, what, when, where and why in a way that convinces someone you deserve a second look and that allows them to easily, quickly, and without apology, tell their friends why they are a Democrat. That is what Bush Inc. did in this election, that is the image that GWB has projected--whether real or imagined, and that is precisely why he is taking the oath of office today rather than John Kerry.

Heaven help us.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

I'm Just a Girl...

...So someone tell me how THIS is possible:

According to the Daily Mirror in the UK, 42% OF YOUNG MEN FAKE THEIR ORGASMS

"MORE than two in five young men have faked an orgasm, a survey reveals today. Although 19 per cent of all blokes have feigned a climax, among those aged 18 to 34 the figure rises to 42 per cent."

The article does say that 58% of women admitted to faking, which I don't dispute. But, um, how does a GUY fake?!!!?

Please, no freaks responding, okay?

The Inaugural Season is Once Again at our Throats


For those of you lucky enough to not live in DC during Inauguration season, let me give you what the Brits call "a fragrant nosegay" of what we are currently enduring.

*Delays in both directions on the metro, leading to platforms so packed that you can't stand on them and have to leave the station and go take a cab home.

*Union Station decked out for one of the inaugural balls, which is lovely, but not a cab in sight due to the metro difficulties and security. The taxi line was about 30 minutes long...and today's high was 29 degrees. I'll leave you with the mental picture of that agony.

*Today was the practice parade, so Constitution Ave, Pennsylvania Ave all the way to the Capitol, and 15th Street were closed from 7:30am till 1pm. At least it didn't mess with the AM rush hour...oh, whoops. Guess it did! It also meant no parking.

*With all of the street closings for the inaugural, most of the downtown businesses will stay closed.

I don't mean to be a grump about the whole thing...but I just need to be a grump. I had errands to run tonight that I had to cancel because the metro was delayed. So I traveled in the other direction to make it home, and am now glad that I didn't go back out of the station and try to find a cab since there seem to be NONE in the entire district.

The point of this entire rant, I suppose, is that DC denizens go with the flow on these things. We are used to being held up in traffic if a motorcade goes by; I often had to stay at work for an extra hour or two because my office was directly across the street from a venue that held many presidential-level events, and we were not allowed to leave the building until security said we could; the whole Clinton-Haircut-on Air Force One brouhaha from ten years ago? DC people would not have batted an eye. We live with it--and perhaps secretly like it, if we're honest.

But what makes this feel different is that this is a SECOND inaugural. It's kind of like having your second wedding four years after your first and going all out like you did the first time, registering, having showers, getting a designer dress. It's a bit unseemly, isn't it? Shouldn't the second be a bit more sedate or presidential like those of other administrations? Especially in time of war? Lest anyone think this is partisan, even moderate Republicans (you know, the blue collar workers who inexplicably voted for GWB and his non-worker-friendly policies) are quoted in the Post as feeling a bit awkward about the lavishness of this party.

Although maybe my real point is this: I love when people visit DC as tourists. I just hate it when it turns into Texas North.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Fiddling While Rome Burns: Bush Inaugural Fest to Cost $40 Million

I am just catching up on old newspaper reading from my hellish work schedule last week. I completely missed this; why is no one reporting this?! Why is the President's second inaugural costing more than twice the amount of his first? Even when you factor in the additional security, you can't possibly reach $17 million from $8 million.

The additional amount of the $40 million total I believe is being raised through private funds, but has anyone asked the obvious question of this self-described Wartime President? "Why are you throwing a $40 million party for yourself while our troops are dying in Iraq due to lack of body armor and other equipment?" Could your Pioneers perhaps have donated to THAT effort? How about a little respect for the "wartime" that your administration brought us in the first place? We get it: your election was a "mandate" to "spend political capital." But this? This is nothing more than self-aggrandizing, ignorant, classic Republican "let the little guy bear the sacrifice while I TALK about sacrifice in my Oscar de la Renta tuxedo at $100,000 + parties."

Oh yeah, and while I'm at it, let's make the District of Columbia eat it. They didn't vote for me anyway, and most Congresspeople live in well-heeled Virginia suburbs, and my major supporters are heading back to Texas, and Congress has its own bomb shelter anyway, so if DC squanders their homeland security money on my party, well what of it? No one I know will suffer should OBL release sarin gas on the metro...

I am really trying to not completely hate this president, because after all, he has better "values" and "morals" than the last one. Right?....Right?


D.C. officials said yesterday that the Bush administration is refusing to reimburse the District for most of the costs associated with next week's inauguration, breaking with precedent and forcing the city to divert $11.9 million from homeland security projects.

Federal officials have told the District that it should cover the expenses by using some of the $240 million in federal homeland security grants it has received in the past three years -- money awarded to the city because it is among the places at highest risk of a terrorist attack.

But that grant money is earmarked for other security needs, Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) said in a Dec. 27 letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Joshua B. Bolten and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. Williams's office released the letter yesterday.

Williams estimated that the city's costs for the inauguration will total $17.3 million, most of it related to security. City officials said they can use an unspent $5.4 million from an annual federal fund that reimburses the District for costs incurred because of its status as the capital. But that leaves $11.9 million not covered, they said.

"We want to make this the best possible event, but not at the expense of D.C. taxpayers and other homeland security priorities," said Gregory M. McCarthy, the mayor's deputy chief of staff. "This is the first time there hasn't been a direct appropriation for the inauguration."

A spokesman for Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, which oversees the District, agreed with the mayor's stance. He called the Bush administration's position "simply not acceptable."

"It's an unfunded mandate of the most odious kind. How can the District be asked to take funds from important homeland security projects to pay for this instead?" said Davis spokesman David Marin.

The region has earmarked federal homeland security funds for such priorities as increasing hospital capacity, equipping firefighters with protective gear and building transit system command centers.

The $17.3 million the city expects to spend on this inauguration marks a sharp increase from the $8 million it incurred for Bush's first.

According to Williams's letter, the District anticipates spending $8.8 million in overtime pay for about 2,000 D.C. police officers; $2.7 million to pay 1,000-plus officers being sent by other jurisdictions across the country; $3 million to construct reviewing stands; and $2.5 million to place public works, health, transportation, fire, emergency management and business services on emergency footing.

Congressional aides said the District sought unsuccessfully last year to boost the annual security reimbursement fund from $15 million to $25 million to pay for inauguration expenses. In contrast, New York City and Boston-area lawmakers were able to obtain $50 million from Congress for each of those two jurisdictions to cover local security costs for the national political conventions.

Inauguration officials said they plan to spend $40 million on the four-day celebration, which will include fireworks, the swearing-in, a parade and nine balls. Those expenses -- which do not include security and other public services -- are being funded by private donors.

OMB and DHS spokesmen said they could not provide an estimate of what the inauguration will cost the federal government.

Federal employees who work in the District, Montgomery, Prince George's, Fairfax and Arlington counties, Alexandria and Falls Church are entitled to a holiday on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, the Office of Personnel Management has announced. As of June, the cost of giving federal workers in the capital area a day off was about $66 million.

The Scottish Accent: A Socratic Dialectic Expounding on the Significance of The Simpsons' Groundskeeper Willy

...Or, maybe just an article from the BBC showing that 73% of Scottish people are proud of their accents, compared with just 54% of the general UK population.

Now doesn't that say something about the peculiar pride and joy of being Scottish!? As a proud Scot myself, I am acutely aware of the inscrutability of much of what my dad says when heard by non-native ears. He always makes perfect sense to me because he has never sounded different. But I can see how others might not. Growing up, the three kids would always play translator between my dad and our friends who were over for dinner. It took us a while to learn that we had to translate, and we only found out because my dad finally said, "Are all of your friends 'slow'? I ask them a question and they stare blankly at me while smiling. Are you sure they're all right in the head?" Lightbulb. Must translate between the Father Ship and the Earthlings.

The UK sample as a whole ranked the Scottish accent in general, and the Edinburgh accent in particular, highly in terms of pleasantness, prestige and helpfulness in getting ahead in the job market. (Think Ewan McGregor and Sean Connery)

However, the Glasgow accent was ranked lowly in each case (think My Dad and Fat Bastard), being considered only more pleasant than the Liverpool, German, and Birmingham accents. JERKS!!! They don't know a rich, local tone when they hear it.

Some of the comments included:

* "Shetlandic dialect with Scottish undertones, perhaps Gemanic and Norwegian gutteral sounds, nasal, quite rapid when excited."

* "I do not regard myself as speaking English. I am Scottish and proud of my accent."

* "I have a Scottish accent, I probably sound very broad Scottish but I'm not."

* "Smooth Scottish accent which is soft and gentle not harsh like Glaswegian!"

* "Well I'm Scottish and proud of it and I never think of being English. Being Scottish means that you are something that no-one else can be."

I can't put it any better than that!

And PS, to my smarty pants friends who will call me on today's blog title, I know that this is not a socratic dialectic, which everyone knows ;) is defined as follows:

An exchange of propositions (theses) and counter-propositions (antitheses) resulting in a synthesis of the opposing assertions, or at least a qualitative transformation in the direction of the dialogue. For example, in Plato's dialogues, Socrates typically "argues" by means of cross-examining someone else's assertions in order to draw out the inherent contradictions within the other's position. For example, in the Euthyphro, Socrates asks Euthyphro to provide a definition of piety. Euthyphro replies that the pious is that which is loved by the gods. But, Socrates points out, the gods are quarrelsome and their quarrels, like human quarrels, concern objects of love or hatred. Euthyphro consents that this is the case. Therefore, Socrates reasons, at least one thing exists which certain gods love but other gods hate. Again, Euthyphro consents. Socrates concludes that if Euthyphro's definition of piety is true, then there must exist at least one thing which is both pious and impious (as it is both loved and hated by the gods) -- which, Euthyphro admits, is absurd.*

*Thanks to for "reminding" me about the def of Socratic Dialectic. Cause I really did know that already, you know, I just needed a memory jog. It was on the tip of my tongue. Yeah, that's it.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Writer's Block

I said it.
I have nothing to write.
Nothing, except the Prince Nazi contretemps, has shaken or stirred my interest in writing. I now understand why Dave Barry retired! There are plenty of things I could throw down just to have a post on the blog, but I promised myself when I started doing SS Haggis that I would assiduously avoid the online equivalent of verbal diarrhea; of writing just to see myself write.

I visit a lot of blogs, to see what others are writing, to support fellow bloggers, to see how they set up their pages, et. al, and this is the source of my fear of verbal diarrhea: some blogs suck. My dear coffee connoisseur Nick, in one of his blog posts many moons ago touched on this issue when he said, in essence, that some blogs are painful to read. Amen. His point was that so many blogs become outlets for things that are best left as inlets. Your breakup? Don't want to hear about it unless you have something new to say. Your job? Same thing. Fighting with Mommy? Shut your cakehole unless it's entertaining or enlightening or edifying.

Back in the day, (ie, MY day--because I am so old) high-schooly lovelorn poetry stayed buried in a shoebox till you cringed and chucked it at the age of 32...because its very existence was meant to stay hidden. Today, thanks to the internet, the heartbroken meanderings and noodlings of the adolescent set (and their twentysomething cohorts) are now available online, 24-hours a day, at "blogs" all over the world. This cannot continue, America!!

Can we collectively come up with a new word for these "blogs"? To me, a "blog" is a recurring feature that may tell very particular stories but that has a larger meaning, a larger lesson, a universal element that any reader can take something meaningful away from. A blog is not my own personal therapy session during which I relay the litany of hurts or challenges from my recent relationship, very specific stories about people you don't know and who do not matter to you, or dissect family agonies without any thought to what you, the reader, might be thinking or needing or enjoying. So many "blogs" are basically online diaries that really are best left offline. What has become of our culture that people post their personal events online and call it a "blog"?? It's embarrassing!

We need to restore that thing Colin Powell so eloquently called "a sense of shame" to the blogosphere. How do we do that, you ask? For a quick win, let's say we no longer let online diarists and navel gazers be considered "bloggers." Let's find another name that more accurately conjures up their exhibitionist tendencies, like "high school freshmen" or something.

And while we're at it, I'm going to stop writing now. Because, like I said, I can't think of anything worthwhile to say.

Friday, January 14, 2005

A Royal Jerk

It is no secret to many Haggis readers that I am not a fan of the British monarchy. I could go on and on with my thoughts on the absurdity of the whole notion of aristocracy in general (ie, why do humans feel the need to elevate other humans and then deify them based solely on their bloodline?), but I'll spare you my thoughts on human psychology (being that my "Ph.D" in psychology was earned at two institutions: L'universite de la Famille Ecossaise Folle and Betrügende Freunduniversität, which translate loosely to "crazy Scottish family" and "cheating boyfriends," neither of which truly qualify me to bend your ear about the human mind).

Anyway, I am swamped at work, which is why the posts have been less frequent of late, but seeing the item on CNN where Prince Harry wore a Nazi uniform to a party just completely blew my gasket and demanded that I put pen to paper (finger to keyboard?).

WHO THE HELL WEARS NAZI COSTUMES FOR FUN IN 2005??? Or more precisely, WHO THE HELL IN A ROYAL FAMILY WEARS A NAZI COSTUME FOR FUN IN 2005??? How stupid ARE these people?! And, how completely useless are they? These princes are very wealthy young arrogant men who have no concept of human suffering beyond their own, which they define as dealing with paparazzi. Yes, they lost their mother, but gimme a break. Of all the kids in the world who have had every opportunity and resource to heal from that event, these princes would be it. They have no excuse for their behavior.

Royalists will argue that the royal family represents the best of a nation and lifts up the spirits of its subjects. Okay. Say we agree that the monarchy serves a purpose. How do you square that purpose with a 20 year old man--who should know better--wearing a swastika?

On the other side of the issue, I am feeling a bit annoyed that all of the quotes are from "Jewish leaders," rabbis and politicians who happen to be Jewish. In Britain, the Nazis do not simply represent the Holocaust. They represent the Battle of Britain, the carpet bombing of most of London, food rationing, blackouts, incredible hardship that most Americans (and royals) can only begin to imagine. My mom didn't even see a very exotic thing called "an orange" till she was about 5 years old because of the war. My dad heard air raid sirens and jumped into ditches with his friends to hide from the suspected Luftwaffe overhead. The war against the Nazis took 350,000 British lives, almost a full percent of the British population at the time. My great uncle's RAF bomber went down over Germany; all they found was his flight book, which means he was probably captured and tortured till he died. My great grandmother, according to everyone who knew her, was never the same woman after getting The Telegram and the standard letter from the king offering condolences. Britons of every religion suffered terribly during World War II on both the macro and micro level.

CNN reported that Prince Charles was "incandescent with rage" upon hearing about the costume contretemps. That is a very accurately stated reaction--for EVERYONE, not just Jewish people. The Nazis did indeed perpetrate the Holocaust. But they also killed many, many people as part of the war itself. THIS is the reason why a potential future monarch of Britain should get on his knees and beg for forgiveness from his subjects. Not because he offended Jewish people, but because he stomped on the memories and legacies of the hundreds of thousands of his subjects who died, the hundreds of thousands who were injured and who never recovered, and the hundreds of thousands who sacrificed "blood, toil, tears and sweat" so that his lazy, rich, effete ass could live in a palace and never work a day in his life.

So. Tell me again why Britain needs a monarchy?

Monday, January 10, 2005

What's Out in 2005: SS Haggis Gets Snarky

Since any site worth its salt has a year-end/year-beginning What's Out list, the Haggis realized it was imperative to get on the bandwagon or wind up on a "What's Out" list itself. So here goes. Please chime in on this one because it takes a village to decide who is a loser.

Here are some of mine so far:


Jennifer Garner.
Where is her agent? She is *this* close to being dangerously overexposed, what with rotating boyfriends, Alias' inscrutable plot lines, Elektra and Bennifer II. The whole "she's a down-to-earth country girl who made good" thing is just sooo 2003. Let’s be honest: she dumped her husband for her costar and then dumped that costar for Ben Affleck. I’m thinking the “good girl” tag is a bit dated. And the cheeseball, “Ima gonnakickyourass” promos are not even Velveeta quality. Bring back Jessica Alba, circa Dark Angel Season 1.

The Bachelor.
CLEARLY these men have no ability to identify a life partner. For most of us women, this is indeed reality, so why do we need to watch a grown man ONE MORE TIME pick the 22 year-old "paralegal" with huge boobs instead of the 33 year old woman who won't do it with him on TV and therefore is seen as "not sharing herself" with him enough for him to decide to pick her? I used to think it was a function of the pretty-boy/brainless men they were selecting as the eponymous main character, but now it just seems to be a sad confirmation of the criteria men (of a certain age) in general use to pick women. Because nothing says, "Marriage for eternity" like a 33 year old professional man from New York and a 22 year old huge-boobed student from Alabama with no ambition beyond “being with {the bachelor}.” The whole concept of guys ditching the cool, smart woman for the dumb pretty one is too depressingly realistic for me and my single girlfriends to watch anymore. We are now convinced that the primary demographic of The Bachelor viewership is men between 23 and 40 who just want to see what chicks will do to screw each other over on TV. Maybe they'll wrestle each other. Naked. Or have a pillow fight. Naked. And maybe, just maybe, chicks might fight like this over me....

Paris Hilton.
Okay, this is more like my fervent hope rather than a true fact. Can someone make her go away? Anyone? I have a bunch of Hilton Honors points from my frequent travel days that I can’t bring myself to use because somehow it feels like I will be supporting her next misadventure in “cinema verite,” for lack of a better term. I simply can’t give the Hiltons any more of my money until Paris just goes away and we can go back to the days when filmed fellatio was a career-ending activity rather than a way to launch your new line of handbags.

Bill O’Reilly.
One word: Loofah. This man is the male journo equivalent of Paris Hilton. He embodies the term “cojones” for continuing to work and rail against various and sundry individuals, when he needs to be home apologizing on his knees to his wife, putting a porn blocker on his computer, and erasing his speed dial. He is a man in need of serious therapy, and how he still has any credibility is beyond me. Truth be told, I mostly want him to go away for the crime of making me think about him having sex with anyone.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

She Who Smelt It, Dealt It

I was visiting my dear friend LA's house to talk business. So we went downstairs to her basement office to work on the computer. Her family dog, a large-and-in-charge creature who is potentially the sweetest (and BIGGEST) canine on the planet, joined us. He was so cute, just lying down behind my chair as we talked and worked at her desk.

All of a sudden, it was like Bhopal in that little office. (For those of you born too late, look up "Bhopal" and "Union Carbide" to get the reference. I'm not handing it out to you young punks! Get a work ethic, you little whippersnappers!)

Anyway--getting back to the "beef" of the story: it was like Bhopal in that office. My eyes watered. My throat closed. I could barely concentrate. So what did we do? We both pretended that it didn't smell at all. Why? Because neither of us was sure that it wasn't the other who had dealt it, and we were doing the "don't ask, don't tell" thing that women do. Guys? They just call it out: "Dude!! That is so rancid!" Women? We pretend it isn't happening.

And so the vow of silence continued and the smell eventually dissipated. (As my dad used to say when I objected to "a certain odor" in our house: "Take about 7 deep breaths and the smell will be gone!" He then laughed/cackled/guffawed like he had just said the funniest thing in the world short of "pull my finger." Niiiiice.)

Anyway. Once again getting back to the beef. Ten minutes passed in LA's office. Work continued. Ideas were hatched. Progress was made. And then it happened again. The odor. The unbearable odor. The so-thick-you-could-cut-it stench. And still we said nothing. NOTHING! Although this was the turning point. I stopped thinking it might be her and started worrying that she thought it might be ME. I kept talking about work, but my mind was racing about how to bring it up, how to make the point subtly that the fart was SO not me, how to not sound accusatory that it might be her, etc etc etc. My mind was going nonstop trying to figure out how to deal with the thing that had been dealt, to offer assurances that I would never be so disrespectful as to lay that kind of heavy deal on her in her own home without taking full responsibility for my actions.

As before, ten minutes passed, the smell dissipated, work continued, and then the odor returned with a vengeance. At that point I just decided that honesty was the best policy and said the following: "Okay. Not that I mind one single bit, but I just need you to know that that fart is SO not my brand. I think your dog is dealing them HARD. All I know is, it ain't me. Swear to god. If I ever need to drop a bomb, I swear I will let you know it is in the mail and/or delivered."

And then we had this little entente as women do. We promised each other with hugs and laughs to always be honest about our farts and to give full and fair warning with all deliberate speed if we are each about to lay down some heavy atmos on the other.

As I drove home I thought about how lovely dogs are. Even their nasty farts bring people together...

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Me as a High School Freshman

As I think about what kind of mom I will be, I keep having little epiphanies about what it takes to parent a child from infancy to adulthood. Yes, epiphanies. Certainly you could call them "rude awakenings" if you weren't inclined to be a positive person, but I'm going to err on the side of the upbeat here.

Each epiphany has been like G-d's Little Reminder that I CAN do this: to stay calm, suck it up, and do my job no matter what. There is a tremendous joy associated with raising kids, but there is also a new understanding of the following truth: I will learn a new level of love for another human being that is almost primal in nature; this will bring untold joy. At the same time, I will learn a new level of fear and heartbreak that only your child can inflict upon you.

Therefore, it is completely understandable to worry about every little thing you do as a parent: will I mess my kids up? Have I done the right thing? Have I done too much of the right thing? On and on and on...

Well, tonight, beloved readers of The Haggis, I am going to give you a gift. Yep! For those of you who have done the job of parenting, for those of you just beginning the job, and for those of us about to get the full-on fraternity hazing of having a wee one come crashing into our lives, this post is for YOU.

You see, in moving things around to create a baby's room I have come upon some long-packed-away items. I found my college Dining Services name tag, which I will now keep on my desk as a reminder to myself that no matter how bad things may seem at a given time, I am no longer serving a bunch of rich kids their dinner while wearing a hair net. Good times! Good times!

I found a letter I wrote to my parents during my first two weeks in DC at grad school, full of "I have great professors, and I don't walk alone at night, and I ride the metro with three girls who are really great, and I promise, Dad, to use my mace, and I promise, Mom, to not burn the candle at both ends..." Very cute. And kind of interesting to see how long I've been sweet on those two cats--and telling them so! I had forgotten that I missed my parents when we lived apart...

I also found, much to my chagrin, a note I left my parents on 3x5 index cards in my sophomore year of high school telling them,[and I quote] "you totally don't understand me, and I try to understand you but you don't give me any credit for that and I have to obey you because I'm the kid and that is so not fair, and I know you don't like my boyfriend but I do, and I don't know why you are totally not letting me go out with him. This is so unfair!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love you guys a wicked lot, but I don't know what to do anymore. You DO NOT UNDERSTAND ME." I cringed. And then I laughed and laughed and laughed. If you know my dad, you know he's balding, and what ain't bald is white. The cause? Me. Circa 1988. Mea culpa, pater. Mea culpa.

Okay. But here's the piece de resistance, y'all. I found my JOURNAL from high school. Oh dear lord. I had that big, bubble writing that all teenage girls seem to do no matter what the era. And I will now quote to you a passage directly from said journal in order to reassure you that no matter how unbearable and inscrutable your teenager is, she will turn out just fine:

Okay. Drum roll please........and a reminder that the statute of limitations has indeed expired...

January 18, 1988 (MLK Day)

Hi! I started dating Todd last Thursday and now Ryan wants to go back out with me! What am I gonna do? I like Todd but I really love Ryan. I went over his house last night but Mom thinks I was at the movies with N and Christine A. She's got the nicest shiny red camaro I've ever seen. Anyway, Ryan and I hung out and played video games. But, like, a month ago I met Jeff B; he's a SENIOR! We're awesome friends. Well, he wrote me a note and told me to tell him exactly what I think of him but he's got a girlfriend Kathy M, and she's nice, so what am I totally supposed to do because he's totally cute and how am I not supposed to tell him that--especially when he asked?

And then May 25, 1989:
Oh my god! What a year! C and I are still going out! Ry and I are close friends but it has been hard with us each having someone new. I was Junior Class President and I just got elected Senior Class President. That's awesome! C and I broke up in January and I dated Jeremy, who was totally awesome, but I didn't, like, love him or anything. I totally played tennis and field hockey, and had an awesome time at field hockey camp. We didn't crap for the whole week because the toilets were so gross and because even with the door closed you could totally see in to the person on the toilet. So I was completely sluggish by the end of the week and begged for a substitution so I could run inside and take a crap when the building was empty. Then we all started doing it. We were all calling for a Bathroom Substitution so we could each take a crap without the others watching. It was so awesome!!!!!!!!!!!

Okay, Haggis readers, just as you are thinking that I must be the most irritating teenager you have ever met and that I must be doing it with all the boys and taking drugs and drinking, here is my PS {which is my whole point: ridiculous teenage behaviors co-exist with exemplary teenage behaviors. Please remind me of this in 14 years...}

ps--I've had my license since September; K totally trashed her parents truck while they were on a trip to Canada; I'm getting the Wellesley College Book Award on Senior Awards Night because I'm ranked 2nd in the class.

From the Sublime to the Ridiculous

Today was one of those days. I read the following bit of wisdom on an Honest Tea bottle cap and thought it was a great thing to remember:

"The bad news: there is no key to the universe. The good news: it was never locked."
--Swami Beyondananda

That put me in a good place, feeling impressed that someone was able to articulate such a cool thought that encompasses so much and yet boils down to two sentences. Wow. Such wisdom.

Then I got on the metro and heard the following from a girlie-girl sitting in front of me:

"Why is Mardi Gras always on a Tuesday?!"

And then my thoughts turned to another amazing philosopher who summed up my feelings at that moment: George Costanza's father, who said so wisely, "SERENITY NOW!!!!"

Monday, January 03, 2005

What Not To Say: Illness and Death

Welcome to another episode of What Not To Say. I'm your host, Esther, and today we're going to deal with a very sensitive topic: Illness and Passing Away. Let's jump right in, shall we? Okay!

What Not To Say (based, sadly, on the experiences of friends and family)[followed, of course, by some snarky retorts you might try]:

"Wow. You look pale."
How nice of you to say. You look fat/old/puffy/some other element of a person that is hard if not impossible to change.

"Are you getting enough sleep? You look awfully tired!"
So do you, but I'm sick. What's your excuse?
How did I get lucky enough to know someone as brutal, I mean, brutally honest, as you?

"Have you tried aromatherapy/prayer/nutrition/macrobiotics? I have a friend who goes to this clinic in Malta/follows this diet/prays to this lifeforce that you should call."
Believe me, if there was something to try that would change my circumstances, I'd have done it by now.
If there was a cure for this disease already, my doctors would have heard about it.

"I think those meds you are on aren't good for you."
And you got your medical degree at what school?

"I read this thing on the internet...."
Yeah, you and 100 million p*rno lovers.

Passing Away:
"He's in a better place now."
Yeah? Well then why don't you join him?
F*** You.

"How are your finances?"
Is your question "can I offer you financial help?" or is it "May I please pry into the deceased's financial affairs?"

"How did your {relative} die?"
Same way we all do: s/he stopped breathing.

There are so many more, but I will spare you the rest. Let's just boil it all down, shall we?

If someone is sick, say any variation of the following:
"I don't know what to say, and I know there is nothing I CAN say. But I just want you to know that you are in my thoughts/prayers and that I am here for whatever you need."

If someone is bereaved, say any variation of the following:
"I don't know what to say, and I know there is nothing I CAN say. But I just want you to know that you are in my thoughts/prayers and that I am here for whatever you need."

Get the picture? Editorial comments, pointed questions and broad statements of your personal opinion or belief are most likely neither appreciated nor necessary. It's okay for us to feel awkward when we are faced with grief or illness; it is not okay to embarrass yourself or others as a result.

Well--thanks for joining us on this month's episode of What Not To Say. Stay tuned for our next segment focusing on What Not To Say about an Interracial Marriage. (Many of us have already transcended calling marriages between two people of different cultures "interracial" and have opted instead to just call them "marriages," but since we are in the minority, next month's episode is sadly still necessary.)

Even if the disease is rare, the journalism ought to be well done

Please see my rant about stupid and lazy journalism below. I cannot tell you how stunned I am that even BASIC spellchecking and factchecking were not done. Unbelievable!!

Robert Matsui

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Celebrity Fitness: "Running Around After My Kids"

As a friend of several women who have had kids and have struggled to get back to their pre-baby weight, and who have continued to feel self-conscious if/when it doesn't happen "soon enough," I simply have to say something about the intense pressure placed on women to be thin, stay thin, get pregnant/have baby/look like you've never had a baby. We could blame men or the male dominated T&A-soaked culture we live in, and perhaps that does share some of the blame. But isn't the real point that we as women buy into that belief? That you can do a photo shoot for W Magazine 6 weeks after birth and look better than you did before you got pregnant? How many men do you know who bought that Sarah Jessica Parker magazine issue? None. It's us. We are our own worst enemies. To SJP's credit, she did say, "I can look like this because I have a team of trainers and cooks who help me." But what about the others?

How many more times are we going to allow celebrities with BMIs of 15 to say with a straight face, "I stay thin by running around after my kids"? It is now a problem of epidemic proportions because I just heard a regular woman (like you and I) say this to a friend in a coffee shop. This canard that having kids somehow causes weight LOSS cannot continue! My dear friends' senses of sanity are riding on us putting this overused and clearly false statement out to pasture.

What specifically do they mean by "running around after my kids"? Is there a hamster wheel in their mansion? Do the kids constantly run away from her and so she has to run after them? Does she "run after them" for 20 minutes straight at the appropriate intensity to burn 500 calories as well as tone her muscles? Someone fill me in on how exactly Pamela Anderson, Christie Brinkley, Jenny McCarthy and Catherine Zeta-Jones STILL get to make this outrageously false statement and yet their female fans with kids don't just revolt and demand that they 'fess up to doing Atkins and/or starving themselves?

The only celebrity who has ever been bluntly honest about it is Elizabeth Hurley whose interview went like this:

Q: "How did you lose the baby weight and how do you stay in such great shape?"

LH: "I go to bed very hungry most nights. That's it. I put my head on my pillow and try not to think about my rumbling stomach."

Finally! Some honesty! But did we throw her a tickertape parade in gratitude? Nope. We just keep on believing that "running around after my kids" is a valid way to remain 15 pounds underweight, rather than deducing the unspoken part of that statement: "My nanny is busy running around after my kids so that I have time to run to the gym and do 4-hour daily workouts so I can be on the red carpet in 8 weeks--and did I mention that I don't ever eat with my kids, much less come in contact with tater tots like you regular janes do?"

It's time to stop feeding the celebrity beast that only serves to make us feel bad about ourselves. So may I suggest a new year's resolution: Eat the darn tater tot if you want to. Just don't eat the whole bag. Worry about your weight if you want to. Just don't pass on a slavish devotion to celebrity diets to your children. And remind yourself that, just as you want to be physically healthy for your children's sake, you also need to be physically healthy for your own. So, please, worry less about the weight and more about how you feel. Oh--and turn off and tune out the Access Entertainment Hollywood Tonight. Kate Hudson is paid millions of dollars to do nothing else but "get her body back." You have more important things to do, like raise your child.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Outrageous Kiddie Nomenclature

I was walking to the gym today, a spring in my step, a smile on my face, full of hope for the coming year. I didn't have any real sense of why I was happy; I just was; feeling lucky for my friends and family, for my life in DC, everything. Just a generalized sense of contentment.

I was almost at the gym when I passed a woman with her two daughters. I thought, "what cute little girls" as I jaunted past them. And in that instant I knew that 2005 was going to be my year for achieving great prosperity and style if this moment was any kind of omen: Just as I passed the mom, I heard her say to her dallying daughter, "Armani! Get over here! Fendi and I are ready to go!"

Although it ain't nice to laugh at kids, I smiled wider, skipped higher, and did a few extra pushups at the gym with the sheer enjoyment of hearing that.

Although, could it be that my mirth was misplaced? On the one hand, you know you live in a rollickingly free and open society when you can endow your kids with any damn name you please. On the other hand, you know you live in a ridiculously out-of-perspective society when you can endow your kids with faux-haute names that immediately limit their career choices. President Armani Smith, anyone? Secretary of State Fendi Smith? Mother Versace of Calcutta? Pope Gabbana the First? It may sound rich at the time, but trust me, I'm not sure I know any Tiffanies that own jewelry from the store. I don't know any Princesses (or Princes) who actually are royalty. And unless she makes it in Hollywood, naming your kid Fendi may just preclude her from actually ever being able to own any.

Happy New Year!

Happy and healthy, y'all.

How I Spent My New Years Eve Posted by Hello