Friday, September 24, 2010

Back in School

I feel like I have bitten off more than I can chew this semester. I signed up for two classes instead of just one because 1)it seemed like a good idea this summer when I was taking a summer session (and therefore double-time) class and still having time to be bored (because it was slow at work and everyone I knew was out of town) and 2) Because I needed to see if I could do 2 classes at once-I have 16 classes (not counting this term) to do and I would like to get my MBA before I am 60. I picked two classes in subjects that I actually wanted to learn about. I have Accounting (that's a core requirement) and IT Project Management (which is an elective but since it's part of what I do for a living I thought it might help.)

The good news is that in the Project Management course I get to work with my reliable team mate from MGT 650 so I know at least one person on the team and i know he's reliable-I will not be left holding the bag. Accounting has no group work at all! So I have only one team to deal with. The bad news is that both courses carry a heavy weekly homework burden. Either of them alone would be no big deal but with both I'm still feeling twitchy. I have class on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. This means that everything needs to be done by Monday night. I know that it's Tuesday because that's when I have an anxiety attack. This Tuesday I was sitting on the Commuter Rail train headed into Boston when I got all worried that I didn't have the technical chops to take part in my Project Management course. I calmed myself down by reminding myself that although a good portion of the class are IT professionals there is no such requirement to *take* the class. Furthermore, one of my team mates is a waiter and I do desktop support (and occasionally IT project management) for a living. No, I'm not a developer but I do, in fact have some geek cred.

I calmed myself down from my latest "OhMyGodIt'sOnlyWeek3AndI'mAlreadyBehind#!" by scheduling next Friday afternoon as a half day off so I could catch up with whatever I was behind in (mostly Accounting Problem Sets.) The reason I was freaking out was that in spite of the fact that I wasn't being a slacker my homework was still not done on Sunday evening for the second week in a row. I prefer to deal with problem sets on the weekends during the day when I have the brain power to deal with them as opposed to after work. But even without being a slacker there are still things one must do and these things take time away from doing Accounting prob sets. One must visit the grocery store at the dry cleaners. One must unclog one's toilet one must visit the Maul and transact business there. And if you are me, one must see one's friends every now and again and go to the beach with one's Poodle therapist. Touching base with friends is as important as unclogging the toilet. I don't need to be a social butterfly, but I do need to see people every now and again or I will go mad.

So I do what I can to make all of these things work out-I can see I will be carefully juggling them all this term (not to mention my full time job which has projects-as yet undefined for me this Fall.)

While I am distressed to still find myself as twitchy as I was pre-term, I have to say some part of me is standing back and asking "Who are you and what have you done with Slacker Cantabridgienne?" My project management class has teams of five. This may just be because my 650 class team was a three-person team (they were supposed to be four but we blew the professor away with our first assignment so he let us be three) which, in the end turned into a two person team, but five seems to be excessive. Do you really need five people to write a 25 page document? Five people. Me and four nerd boys. Cat-herding.

One of them suggested a project for us to work on and put together a few power point slides for us to present to the class on Tuesday. Unfortunately, he made a faulty assumption. I told him so in e-mail-I quoted the syllabus at him. I used to hate people who did that sort of thing. I probably still hate them-when they aren't me. This is what I mean by who the hell am I now and what happened to slacker Cantabridgienne who got by on native brilliance (and the occasional font or spacing change to make the paper long enough)?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Haiku about tech support


I went to college
So that I could ask Google
How to fix printers

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Blood in the water

When I arrived at school tonight I was feeling the same nameless dread that I had been feeling last term. I don't know why this happens but I have noticed two things about this free-form anxiety

1) it is all about my fellow students/ team mates. I am not as concerned about the professor.

2) I didn't feel this way Spring term (my first term). However, as the term went on I had good, well founded reasons to feel dread and I wonder if those are contributing to my current anxieties.

That's all beside the point though. I got over it. The class I sat through tonight is IT project management. I'm taking it because I'm hoping to be a better IT project manager. Not too surprisingly, there are a decent number of people in the class who are IT staff (although it is not a requirement and not everyone is- one of my new team-mates is a waiter.)

I mention this because during tonight's case analysis someone was presenting her group's finindings and she said (jokingly) that IT staff are all a bunch of Prima Donnas. I repeated what she had said to a fellow team mate (also IT staff) and then sat back with a smile on my face- waiting to see which of the IT staff in the room were going to bite.

I was particularly pleased that it was a nerd- girl who responded (although I wish she had left me out of it.) The me who watched all this go down and found it so amusing was a different person than the one who was digesting her own stomach before class.

Actually I'm recording this mostly to remind myself to calm down, because it can be fun.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Life is for the Alive My Dear or My Response to the 9th Anniversary of September 11

On September 11th 2001, I arrived at the office at about 8:30. I pulled up IE (because I was still using IE back then) and my home page was Before the page could load I went and made the coffee for the office. When I got back to my desk I saw that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. At the time I thought it must have been a small craft piloted by a dope. I called my dad, who worked in Brooklyn with an office view of Manhattan.

“Dad the New York Times says that a plane just hit the World Trade Center.”
“What? (looking out the window) Oh my God it’s on fire!” And then the real fun began. I won’t go into the details-everyone has a story of what they were doing then and how it went down. Some of it was maddening some of it was (in hind-sight) comical a great deal was depressing.

I was not in New York City when the planes hit the towers. I was in Boston working at a soon to be dead dot com company. However, I am from Staten Island. Some of my neighbors growing up worked in that neighborhood or worked for companies with offices in the World Trade Center. I am happy to say that no one I know was injured or killed in the events of September 2001. I consider myself lucky in that. My sister biked by the World Trade Center on her way to early morning baking school an hour or two before the fun started.

I am a graduate of Stuyvesant High School. The school moved from 15th street to Chambers street my senior year. Coincidentally that was the year that someone first tried to blow up the World Trade Center. I’ve worked at Century 21 on Chambers Street and at The Strand Annex on Fulton Street (now defunct). When I worked at the Strand I used to eat my lunch at the plaza between the towers.

I mention all of these things to fend off anyone who says “But you don’t know what it was like!” Or “but you don’t know how they feel!”

It is now 9 years later. It is 2010. There is still a big gaping hole in downtown Manhattan-in a neighborhood I know well and for which I have much affection. I am very angry that there is still a big hole there. But the fact that the hole is still there is part and parcel of how the United States of America has dealt with the things that happened to us in September 2001.

It’s not like tragedy has never struck New York City before. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in 1911 killed 146 people-mostly young women. The General Slocum Steam Ship went down in 1904 and killed over a thousand people-most of them women and children. It was the biggest tragedy (in terms of loss of life) until September of 2001. But neither of these tragedies were by design.

The US is a relatively young nation, which might excuse some of the nine year long temper tantrum we have thrown-but not much. My initial response to the events was something along the lines of “well yes it was bound to happen eventually.” And “The US should do more good in the world-if we are the world’s policeman than we should also do more good works. Then people wouldn’t hate us as much and be so interested in killing us.” Obviously, not everyone in the US thinks as I do. Instead of showing the world (the “Arab Street” in particular) that we are good people we have thrown two wars neither of which has resulted in us finding the people who blew a big honking hole in my hometown or generally improving the state of the world or our standing as a nation.

I am an existentialist. I believe in defining people by what they do. We were attacked by people we knew hated us. I am ashamed at our response. We now torture people. We now have an official surveillance state. We have warrentless wire tapping and we now allow law enforcement agents to blow down doors instead of knocking politely. There are “Transit Police” in Back Bay Station with dogs who look more like National Guardsmen than MBTA Cops. These men make me afraid.

George W Bush said that these people attacked us because they “hate our freedom.” Instead of proving that we are still a place where everyone is free to worship as they please, we now have nut-jobs railing against the “Ground Zero Mosque” which is not a mosque and is not at Ground Zero. If these people attacked us because they hate our freedom shouldn’t the proper response be to continue to offer freedom?

I was really hoping that by now instead of great gaping hole we’d have started to build something in lower Manhattan. I know there are tons of complications (who owns the land, the Widows, etc.) but I was really hoping that by now there would be something huge (and probably hideous-the more ostentatious the better) being constructed. Something that said to the people who knocked us down “We’re Still Americans-We Rebuild!” Instead we have become scared and less free. I am angry with us and ashamed at us for settling for this.

This was not what I intended to write tonight. I intended to point out that the best thing you can do for the dead is keep living your life-instead of always looking backward at them. The best thing that you can do to prove to the terrorists that they have not impacted your life-they have not “won”- is to go about your life and continue to grow and change.

I was having a discussion with my eldest nephew about the US Government and “Bad Guys” (he is 5) when half way through the discussion it occurred to me that he wasn’t even conceived in 2001 so he didn’t know about all that madness. He is a bright sturdy lad who likes Star Wars, sharks and dinasaurs. In him and his brother and sister I place my hope. For them “September 11” means nothing yet. They are good things that have happened since that date and they give me hope that we will get over this.

Monday, September 6, 2010


I grew up in New York City. I've lived in Paris but Massachusetts is the only place I've lived that I feel happy when I come home from a vacation.

I went down to Staten Island to visit my parents and be Tia Cantabridgienne for the weekend. As I'm about to crawl under the rock that is UMass Boston for the next three months I felt my family deserved to have a crack at me first. I was supposed to go down Friday afternoon, but all trains were canceled because hurricane Earl was ripping up Connecticut. So I went down on Saturday instead and arrived in time to eat an excellent dinner that my brother in law had cooked. After dinner he made litchi nut martinis-which look a lot like eyeball martinis. I ate all the stray litchi nuts and allowed my oldest nephew to work on his lamprey impression (with me as the shark.)

The next day was Attack of the Small Children day. I don't know how my sister keeps up with all three of them. We divided them (the baby went to have a nap with his mom, my niece went to watch Papa (as she calls my dad) make ice cream-I caught her running her tongue over the frost on the outside of the ice cream maker. I'm pretty sure my dad wouldn't have let me do that but she got away with it. And I got my eldest nephew. I wouldn't say that any one thing we did was exhausting, but by 4 pm I was ready for a nap. Apparently, overseeing quarterly reports or server migrations is less tiring than keeping up with a 5 year old. I found myself lying down by 9 PM and asleep by 9:30.

I was still beat when I went on a walk with my sister and her kids this morning and as soon as the conductor had checked my ticket to Boston I fell asleep again.

When the train arrived in Boston I decided to take it to South Station and walk to North Station (instead of getting off at Back Bay and taking the subway to North Station). I had determined that I had enough time to catch the next commuter whale either way but I wanted to walk a bit (tired as I was) after sitting on the train for several hours. Also, I often walk from South Station to North Station when I'm coming home from school (and getting impatient with the T) and I wanted to take the walk to clear my head.

I passed through Downtown Crossing. It's a horrible mess at the moment. There's a big gaping hole where someone started a construction project they couldn't be bothered to finish. There are closed store fronts.

When I first moved here in 1999, on of my first moments of "yup-this is my town-I live here happened at Downtown Crossing. I got off the train there (even though it was pouring rain) on a Friday night to pick up a book at the Barnes and Noble to read over the weekend. I walked in front of the space where the bookstore used to be and thought...well I'm not sure really what I thought except that this is home. I have to go back to work tomorrow and tomorrow night I start one of the two classes I'm taking at UMB this term. I'm not particularly looking forward to either of these things, but it is right and normal that I do them.

I'm home. Welcome home to me.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

And now for something completely different..

Reading my last few posts I'm struck at how depressing this blog is lately. It's like a visit to the neurology ward-all brain tumors and anxiety attacks. It makes me wish I could post something happy and sparkly involving unicorns.

I don't have anything to say about unicorns at the moment. But there's my apartment to make me happy. I've had very little experience with living places that actually felt like home (as opposed to the garage where I parked myself at the end of the day.) The last place I lived in Cambridge felt like home-that's part of why I was so bummed to leave (even given the circumstances.) The last place I lived by myself was in Paris. I had two studettes there-the first one was about the size of my cubicle and the second one-one floor up in the same building-was about the size of my living room. Neither of those felt like home.

This is home. It's small and it's messy and everything is an unfortunate shade of brown but it's definitely Chez Cantabridgienne. The books are unorganized-that's intentional. The book slave in me *really* wants to organize the books*. They should be grouped by subject matter and alphabetized. But there isn't enough space here so they are only separated out into fiction and non-fiction. In spite of the chaos I can find any book I need and I enjoy the jumble for now because it means that while looking for Sunshine or Pride and Prejudice I might re-encounter something else I might like re-reading.

Also, it can't be too badly organized because the first time my eldest nephew stepped into my apartment he found 60 years of DC comics, which he immediately (and repeatedly) wanted to peruse.

This is a place I'm happy to show my friends (provided they give me a minute or two to pull the laundry off the floor of my bathroom.) I've had two parties here in the last year and I've had my sister and her progeny here. And aside from the part where I kept stopping the baby from climbing my bicycle or farking around with the giant piece of rusted metal on the floor (A gift from my ex-boyfriend snagged during some Mass Ave improvement project-it says "Don't Dump drains to Charles River." They have signs like these on a lot of drains in Cambridge)and the pieces of broken glass in my kitchen from the corningware dish I broke in February and (apparently) the bottle of dad's beer that exploded (Mom had brought up a batch for me to give to my friends as a wedding present and they hadn't been able to collect it yet) it worked out okay.

There are a few collections of shells and rocks I've picked up on the beach and a secretaire I found with the help of a friend. And there is always coffee ready to be made, Ramen noodles, Odwalla bars, peppermint tea and beer. There's also always plenty of olive oil, garlic and pasta. Also, it's two blocks from the beach.

I am never content unless there's a largish body of water near by. I've made do with the Charles and the Seine, but they pale in comparison to the Atlantic Ocean. Since I have these things I am willing to put up with the commuter whale-even when class schedules put me on the 10:40 train. The city kid in me is weirded out by this development, but when I go back to Cambridge I don't feel homesick-I mostly feel annoyed. It's smelly and ultimately not all that cool and full of hipsters and Harvard students and vomit. It kind of makes me sad.

So I go home to look at my books and my beach and exhale.

*since non-fiction is mostly history I'd organize those chronologically. The fiction would be broken out by genre-Literature, Graphic Novels, Scifi/Fantasy and Mystery. *twitch twitch*

An Answer, For Now

When I'm stuck in a herd of slow-moving sheep on the subway platform or stuck on hold with some vendor I find my hands clenching and unclenching. This behavior releases nervous energy and keeps me from growing fangs and shouting at people.

The clenched teeth and stomach ache I woke up with this morning are the result of my brain clenching and unclenching it's fists. If this is true then the only thing that will make this go away is to start school again.

Either that or I need to have a torrid affair with someone. As they seem to be out of Torrid Affairs at BJs I guess I'll just wait for school to start again.