Friday, June 30, 2006

Discouraged. Again.

I'm feeling discouraged (what else is new). I guess I've only had one restaurant job that was good from the very beginning and that was Nick and Tony's. From the start I was able to live on my earnings there. My new job is at a successful, busy restaurant with good reviews. It's part of a large restaurant corporation and I really like the people there (co-workers, management, kitchen staff -- all great). But I'm struggling with the earnings.

At this new job I completed the training period on June 13th. After that, a new server works only lunch shifts. She has to work a certain number of days without mistakes, then she serves the managers a meal without totally screwing up, and then she gets to work dinner shifts, which is where the money is.

I've completed the required number of days without screwing up and I'm hoping next week to serve the managers a meal. There were six of us in training together and only one of us has made it to dinner shifts.

The good news: two weeks ago I was "rated" by a mystery shopper-type of service and on a scale of 1 to 5 (with 5 as the best score) I got all 5's in every area. The general manager says it's unusual for a new server to be rated so soon and excellent that I got such a high score.

The bad news: lunches are so slow. It's really hard to make a decent pile of earnings at this place which is apparently different from every other restaurant in Chicago. Most restaurants are busiest in the summer and during the holidays, but drag in the winter. My restaurant apparently does great during the holidays and the winter, but slows down for the summer (it's a Chinese place and I guess people aren't as into Chinese food in the summer).

I've been slumping home from lunch shifts with $30, $21, today $18. I can't live on this! I've GOT to get on dinner shifts soon. When I get stressed out, two things often happen: I stop sleeping well and I hit the sugar hard: cake, cupcakes, cookies, chocolates (sometimes even ice cream, but I'm not big on ice cream). Maybe I stop sleeping well because I've got so much sugar in my system.

I guess I'll get on the dinner shifts soon enough. I'm SO glad servers have been leaving to go to school for the summer and others are interested in having more nights and weekends off. I need those shifts.

Today I worked lunch, then came home for a couple of hours, then I was going to work tonight (serving cocktails in the bar, not the dining room), but they called and told me not to come in because apparently the entire city of Chicago -- or at least those who should be eating out today -- are either at the Taste of Chicago or they're leaving town or I don't know where they are but they aren't at my restaurant. It's just as well since I was in a really bad mood when I was at work today (making no money, depressed that I can't pick a good job). So instead my boyfriend is going to come over (relationship back from the brink) and we'll have dinner and hang out. I'm not sure it's a great idea considering how I feel about life right now (he's having a hard time at his job, too), but I think it's better than sitting alone and staring at a wall. I think.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Revised opinion on anonymous blogs

Based on the feedback I received on my last post and the feedback Modigli received on her post on the repercussions of blogging, I have changed my opinion: I believe it's impossible to maintain an anonymous blog that no one you know will ever, ever find out about (at least with personal blogs).

As you can see from the comments on my last post, many people have created anonymous blogs, written freely about anything and everything, and then had to face the fire when family and/or friends and/or ex-lovers discovered their blog (even if the blog was anonymous, photo-less and lacked profile information). Not fun at all.

Even if you never tell a soul about your blog and sign it with an ingenius codename, eventually someone you know will google some constellation of words, end up at your blog and think, "This writer sounds exactly like my sister-in-law. Hey, wait a minute - I know the family gathering they're talking about. This blogger IS my sister-in-law!" And there it is. You have no control over it.

The only thing to do is write as if your audience is everyone you know plus everyone else on the planet. Because that's who might conceivably one day read your blog and there's nothing you can do about it. It's dangerous to think you can create a blog that will never cause any personal or professional repercussions. If you assume this and write freely about anything and everything, it will eventually explode in your face.

And we bloggers really haven't got a leg to stand on if we accuse people of reading our blog who we didn't intend to read it. One blogger used the verb "lurking" which is a good, righteous, accusative word, but misplaced here. The Internet is public domain and blogs are free and open to anyone who wants to see them. To accuse someone of invading our privacy because they're reading our blog is like accusing someone of invading our privacy who listens to us shout a private conversation into our cell phone while riding the subway. Of course they know they aren't the person we're trying to communicate with, but who can blame them if the conversation is juicy?

I think bloggers are just going to have to take responsibility for our words and actions, establish some boundaries and limits, and conduct ourselves on our blogs as we would at the office/with our families/with our friends/etc. The fantasy is to be able to connect with others while maintaining a safe cloak of anonymity. There are probably ways to do that, but maintaining a blog isn’t one of them. We need to be more realistic. When you really need to share the incredibly selfish thing your brother-in-law did or vent about your boss, send someone an email. It could still wind up in front of the wrong pair of eyes, but at least you’ll have a moral leg to stand on when you feel violated.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

To Blog Anonymously or Not

My blogging colleague Modigli just posted on this subject and I’d like to weigh in.

Some blogs are completely anonymous with no identifying details whatsoever, so those bloggers can write at length about absolutely anything without fear of anyone ever knowing it's them. While that might seem freeing, for me to do it would feel cowardly. Complete anonymity precludes real intimacy and it seems like a form of false representation. But some people really can’t afford for anyone in their life to know about the things they put on their blog, or they need complete anonymity in order to write what they need to write, so for them it makes sense.

Some bloggers start out anonymously, but then tell their friends and/or family about the blog or there are enough identifying details in their posts for people figure out it’s them. Or they build friendships with the readers of their blog and these people become friends the blogger now feels self-conscious in front of. If these bloggers have been writing without self-censure about everything from how they feel about their boss to their sexual fantasies, they can get in trouble. You can't have it both ways. If your blog is absolutely 100% anonymous, you can spill it all, but you can’t tell anyone about your blog, not even your sister, not even your lover because once one person knows about your blog you can’t control who else will. Unless you can maintain that absolute secrecy about having a blog, you have to assume anyone might read it. Because anyone might. For a 100% anonymous blog maybe it’s also better to keep some distance from your readers if building friendships with them makes you self-conscious about writing (or just get a diary).

I let all friends and family know about my blog from the start and I'm glad I did because it’s caused me to consider carefully what I write. There’s nothing on here that I wouldn’t want my relatives to know or my boss or my first dates or anyone who might google me. That might be surprising because I tend to put a lot of extremely personal stuff on here, but it’s true. And because I’m comfortable with such a high level of disclosure (even with family, co-workers, dates, etc.) my writing doesn’t feel hampered at all by the self-censure. And I think that indicates how perfect my personality is for blogging: I’m comfortable spilling almost anything to almost anyone.

So I say to Modigli and to anyone who feels their blog has become too carefully watched by people they feel self-conscious in front of: it might be time to start a new blog, one you don’t tell anyone about. Not even your family. Not even your boyfriend. This is one reason bloggers often have more than one blog.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

I Suck at Relationships

Seriously, I do. I suck at relationships worse than Jennifer Lopez, worse than Liza Minelli. I SUCK.

My boyfriend (of five months) and I have been going through a rough time lately. It started with me feeling like my feelings for him were lessening, fading, disappearing. Dealing with this hasn't been fun at all (poor guy).

So after MUCH soul-searching and talking with friends and journalling and singing to myself on the subway and crying, I FINALLY spoke with my therapist and got to the bottom of the real problem: me. She says the situation I described to her doesn't sound like it has as much to do with the guy as much as it has to do with my fear of intimacy.

Oh.

Have I mentioned that I've spent the past 24 years breaking up with almost every single person I've ever been romantically involved with? Have I mentioned that I can look back on some very valuable relationships and see exactly the point at which I gave in to my terror of intimacy and sunk the whole thing? Have I mentioned that I'm 39 and I've never dated anyone long enough for the relationship to even approach a healthy, loving, stable state?

It's me. I knew it. It's my extreme fear of intimacy that is screwing us (me) up right now. I'm terrified of being loved, of being needed, of being adored. I can't stand it. That's why I've flushed every romantic relationship I've ever had, flushed them ALL. It's not that I haven't met the right guy. It's not that I have high standards. It's not that I have bad luck. It's not even that I'm an idiot. I just have such an extreme fear of being suffocated by someone's love that in 24 years of dating, I have yet to even be a decent girlfriend.

It's ME. I'm a spinster because my mechanism for love and intimacy was %#&!-ed up long ago, so long ago it has sabotaged every close relationship I've ever had, including most friendships (I rarely even stay friends with anyone for more than a few years). I seriously, seriously suck at relationships, it's official, it's been identified by a professional.

All right. Now I can get on with the process of pulling my current relationship out of the crapper and forcing myself to grow the hell up because if I can't make this thing work with this guy who has more patience than a ballot counter and a heart that's bigger than Oprah's dry cleaning bill, then I can REALLY just give up on myself. Once. And. For ALL.

Monday, June 19, 2006

I Hate Being Needed

The one place I don’t mind being needed is at my job.
I’m a server in a restaurant.
I’m constantly needed there.
People need me to see them,
talk to them,
be nice to them.
They need me for hours and hours and what they need from me includes the most basic need of all: to be fed.

I don’t mind being needed at my job.
No matter what the customers need or how badly they need it, their needs are finite.
We all agree on the parameters of what can be needed
and within exactly what window of time those needs can be met
and at what point everyone has to stop needing things and go home.
There is an end in sight and it’s called clock-out time.

There is no clock-out time with other people.
There is no clock-out time with kids.
There is no clock-out time with lovers or acquaintances.
Their needs are undefined, unknown, possibly limitless.
Their needs might never end until all life has been sucked out of everyone concerned.

DON’T NEED ME
unless you can precisely convey the exact size,
duration,
temperature
and color of your need.

If I can’t feel the edges of it,
if there’s no light at the end of the tunnel,
if it’s too deep for me to swim to the surface and catch another breath,
then don’t need me.

This is why I’ve never been married;
this is why I’ve never had children:
because being needed by a husband scares me,
but motherhood sounds even worse than childhood.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Have you seen An Inconvenient Truth yet?

Imagine you've finally reached the income level you've dreamed of. After working hard and keeping your life goals in sight, you're finally going to build the house of your dreams and drive the car of your dreams and settle into the community of your choice. Life will finally be what you've always wanted: full of choice and luxury.

It's startling to realize that what we thought was our right, what we thought was our private business, what we thought we were entitled to as Americans, actually impacts the personal lives of people as far away as Sudan, Nepal, Australia. I am horrified to learn that my American lifestyle -- renting a one-bedroom apartment with full electricity, gas and water service -- is short-sighted and selfish, considering the conditions of billions of people with no access at all to the basic resources I take for granted. I believe I'm entitled to as many clothes and shoes as my paycheck can cover, why not, it's my money, I earned it and I have a right to spend it however I want, right? Well, sure as long as I don't spend it on anything illegal. And I also wouldn't want to spend it on anything that would be harmful to me, even if it was legal. And I'd prefer not to spend it on anything that would be harmful to anyone else, even if it wasn’t harmful to me and even if it was legal.

And there it is. If I really don't want to use my money in a way that would be harmful to others, I really have to consider the population of the whole planet. My American petroleum-based lifestyle is harming people (and other species) throughout the world. It has been for years now. It’s time to change.

I saw An Inconvenient Truth for a second time this weekend. This time I took a few notes:

begin notes
Planet temperatures have increased as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased.

Warmer oceans=stronger storms. As hurricane gets warmer, winds get stronger and moisture content increases.
2004 - record number of hurricanes, hurricane in the south Atlantic for the first time ever.

Floods and drought: more moisture is sucked out of the soil when temperatures are warmer. With that much extra moisture in the air, any storm that gets triggered is much bigger than it would have been.

In this way, global warming redistributes water throughout the planet. One effect in Africa: Lake Chad provides water for populations in Niger, Chad and Nigeria. It’s almost completely evaporated.

Arctic ice cap - permafrost is thawing. In 50 to 70 years, the Arctic ice cap will be gone.
Temperatures increase faster at the Arctic Circle because the ice acts as a mirror, reflecting almost all of the sun’s heat, but the surrounding water absorbs that heat, causing the ice to melt. As the ice gets smaller, less heat is reflected and more is absorbed and the temperature of the Arctic increases quickly.

Life forms that multiply with warmer temperatures:
rats
fleas
ticks
bats
lice
mosquitos
etc.

diseases such as:
malaria
west nile virus
avian flu
etc.

Government goal: “to reposition global warming as theory rather than fact.”

How this problem is different from every other problem we’ve faced:
what’s at stake is our ability to live on the earth and our future as a civilization.
end notes


We don’t have the ability to destroy the planet itself. The earth will be here long after we’re gone. We can only make it uninhabitable for ourselves and other species.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Torn

Feeling pulled in different directions these days. Want to blog about real things like global warming and sex, but personal life is getting in way (boyfriend on the way out?). Work going well, starting to feel financially solvent, really like new restaurant/co-workers a lot, almost starting to miss performing and writing songs (almost). Weightloss has stopped because new job required me to taste all items on menu, plus I ate an entire carrot cake this past weekend because boyfriend seems to be breaking up with me (really? able to be fixed? maybe this is as far as this relationship goes?). I don't know. I don't know.

Got to pull head out of boring personal problems and focus OUTWARD: job, politics, music, friends. Who wants to go see Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth this Friday? I'm meeting friends for the 7:00 p.m. show. This time I'll take notes since I want this information at my fingertips. Please join me and go see it this Friday, too. (Will try to blog more interestingly. Who wants to hear about weight and boyfriends? Not me.)

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

How to Think About Sex

I just sent a letter to my lawmakers, Representative Jan Schakowsky, Senator Barack Obama and Senator Dick Durbin. Remember a few months ago when rogue pharmacists were refusing to fill prescriptions for morning-after pills because their “religious” beliefs prevented them from dispensing a drug that might stop a pregnancy after fertilization had occurred? Even if these pharmacists did see the morning-after pill as a new form of abortion (which I call stretching it), they had no right to refuse to do their job: dispense legal medications that people obtain with a doctor’s prescription.

Now such pharmacists are refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control. Birth control. Can you imagine going to pick up your usual prescription and having your pharmacist say that he or she will not give you your medication because their religious beliefs don’t allow them to? What is this country coming to?

Our country is coming down to an ugly face-off between people who like to have sex and people who don’t believe sex should be allowed. I’m serious. Oh, for the good old days when right-wing, religious hot-heads would picket abortion clinics, shoot at doctors and rail against those who didn’t “choose life.” It was easy to distinguish the dividing line because we all agreed on what abortion was: a surgical procedure to extract a fetus. Were you for or against?

But the right wing is no longer concerned about just fetuses. They want to make sure sex is only happening between a man and a woman, hence the gay marriage hysteria. And even if it is just a man and a woman, sex shouldn’t happen before marriage, which is why they favor lectures about abstinence over sex education. And now -- why didn’t we see this coming -- even if sex is happening only between a man and a woman who are married, sex should only happen if they are doing it to conceive a child. Hence the anti-birth control stance.

In Russell Shorto’s essay, “Contra-Contraception,” he quotes Edward R. Martin Jr, a lawyer for the public-interest law firm Americans United for Life. Martin says, “We see contraception and abortion as part of a mind-set that’s worrisome in terms of respecting life. If you’re trying to build a culture of life, then you have to start from the very beginning of life, from conception, and you have to include how we think and act with regard to sexuality and contraception.”

There it is. Right-wing groups like Americans United for Life (“whose work includes seeking to restrict abortion at the state level and representing pharmacists who have refused to prescribe emergency contraception,” from Shorto’s essay) not only want us to act in alignment with their belief systems, they want us to think in alignment with their belief systems. They don’t even want a legally married biologically-born-male man and biologically-born-female woman engaging in plain, vanilla missionary-position sexual intercouse unless they are doing so with the appropriate view towards conception. Otherwise, “a husband will sometimes begin to see his wife as an object of sexual pleasure who should always be available for gratification,” according to Dr. Joseph B. Stanford, appointed by President Bush in 2002 to the F.D.A.’s Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee (from Shorto’s essay).

Please read Shorto’s essay. You’ll need to register at the New York Times website, but it’s free so just do it.

I used to think that as a 39-year-old, unmarried woman who didn’t want children, none of this was important. But it’s not just about fetuses and marriage licenses. It’s about how Americans think about sex. The only people who can consider themselves outside of this issue are people who never have sex and never think about it. Can I see a show of hands?

[Take action on this issue by going to http://prochoiceaction.org/]

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Al Gore's Movie Debut


Al Gore's Movie Debut, originally uploaded by regrodriguez.

Yes, I've heard of global warming.
Yes, I believe it's real.
Yes, I believe petroleum companies have been actively trying to keep me from learning the true extent of the problem so I’ll keep consuming petroleum products and keep the oil companies rich.
Yes, yes, blah, blah, blah.

I’ve also been assuming that global warming is one of those political concerns that doesn’t directly need my support since there are plenty of tree-huggers on the case already. I don’t own a car or a house that needs to be streamlined for energy conservation and I buy recycled products when I can, but they’re expensive so I don’t always, but I don’t drive a Hummer or own a coal-burning factory, so isn’t that good enough?

After seeing Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth (the dramamine worked and I watched an entire movie in the theater for the first time in years), now I’m thinking:

∞∞ I’ve been brainwashed by petroleum-driven propaganda (also known as the American mainstream media) that’s been saying that global warming is not really a problem but even if it is, certainly I don’t need to worry about it.

∞∞ The increasingly warm Chicago winters since I moved here 13 years ago, the worldwide increase in severe floods and droughts in the past 10 years, and the increasing violence of hurricanes like Katrina are all results of the global increase in temperature and I never allowed myself to see that those things were connected.

∞∞ Mount Kilamanjaro, the Swiss Alps, glaciers in Greenland and ice-covered mountain regions throughout Europe and North America have vast areas of dry land where there used to be snow and ice. An Inconvenient Truth showed photos taken in the past five decades that show these changes and I was shocked by the clarity and starkness of the message.

∞∞ Here’s the clear and stark message: the earth is like a big glass of ice water in a warm room. It’s just a matter of time before the rest of the ice melts.

I’ve heard it so many times it seems like a cliché to me, old news, not even interesting anymore, but the following words are finally alive and burning for me: our fossil fuels have been adding more carbon dioxide to our atmosphere, trapping and raising the temperature of the planet. These rising temperatures are not natural, we caused them and if we don’t stop adding fossil-burning-caused carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, the ice will melt. All of it.

Here’s the image that disturbed and stays with me the most: in open sea, a polar bear swims a typical vast distance and reaches one of the ice floes it depends on for rest, only to have it break under its weight. The bear is forced to swim another long distance, is unable to find a sufficiently large ice floe, and finally drowns. Increasing numbers of drowned polar bears have been found in the waters of the Antarctic. This is only one of thousands of species affected by the changing global temperature.

The film plainly lays out all the facts, charts, photos, projections and stories anyone could possibly need to fully understand the situation, and just when Mr. Gore has almost overwhelmed us with the scale of what must be necessary, he breaks down the question “What can I do?” into manageable pieces, too. And guess what? Every single one of his suggestions is a tip you’ve heard hundreds of times before. Just like we all know that eating less and exercising more will help us lose weight, so do we all know how to reduce our petroleum consumption: turn off electric devices when you’re not using them, drive less, recycle, write your congresspeople and senators about this issue, etc. Watch the credits for more. I particularly liked the suggestions of asking your energy company why they don't offer renewable energy and running for office yourself. Go to http://www.climatecrisis.net for more. Just like losing weight: we know what to do. We just haven’t made up our minds to DO IT.

It’s time to do it. At the very least, please go see An Inconvenient Truth. In Chicago it's playing here. It’s a surprisingly well-done and startlingly important movie.

More Inconvenient for some than for others

When I was 20 I left a movie theater with a very nauseated feeling. It could easily have been the movie (Michael J. Jox's Secret of My Success), but ever since then a kind of motion sickness makes sitting in any movie theater a struggle to keep from throwing up (and I've actually lost my lunch a few times). It's gotten worse over the years and now I miss at least half of any movie I pay for, so I haven't seen anything in the theater for almost a year.

But Al Gore's film about the damage we're doing to ourselves and our environment is getting some good reviews so, armed with dramamine, I'm going to give the movie theater one more try. Of An Inconvenient Truth one review says:

More than one person has asked me if the movie is deeply depressing, and there’s nothing cheery about the petroleum industry spreading disinformation or the Bush administration doctoring scientific data, both of which Gore documents in his lecture. But as he points out, the technical solutions to global warming are already well established; the only thing lacking is political will. Again he uses the fight against fascism as his model, citing the unprecedented military mobilization that followed Pearl Harbor and concluding, “In America, political will is a renewable resource.” In that respect Gore seems to be way ahead of the filmmakers: their half of the movie valorizes him, laboring under the old but still powerful delusion that history is made by great men, while his half focuses on educating people. After 30 years in politics, watching his own stock rise and fall, Gore seems to have learned that only the public can lead.
The Chicago Reader, June 2, 2006

I'm hoping to be able to sit through the whole film. I'll let you know. 

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Another Day, Another Menu

Today - third day of training. On second day, big allergy pill took care of hayfever symptoms, but then cold symptoms became obvious and continued to f$%* up my ability to taste. Chinese restaurant chicken soup did pretty good job of knocking out those symptoms, and today was my first day of being able to pretty much taste and smell everything. F#$%! It shouldn't be that hard to f$%*-ing taste and smell when tasting and smelling is part of your new job!

Tasting up to 18 Chinese dishes a day, and up to six cocktails/ beers/sakes a day has definitely put a stop to my weightloss. I've done my best to take small portions of each dish and small sips of each drink, but when there are SO many dishes and so many of the foods are deep fried and have sweet and oily sauces, and the trainer is policing us to make everyone tries every single thing (because it's our job!), it's impossible to keep the calorie count down. I don't even like alcohol, so it's particularly frustrating to have to blow calories on sipping cocktails, liquors, wines and beers that I'm not even enjoying and can barely remember later. But I have to. There are four days of this, plus one day of wine training on Monday.

Training sessions last from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Each day we also have homework to make sure we learn all the ingredients in everything we tasted. This homework takes 1 - 3 hours a night. Since my commute time is one hour each way, I've hardly had any time for exercise.

But damn it, I am NOT letting this be the end of my fitness. I'll be at the gym tonight, no matter how long the homework takes. Besides that, all I can hope is to get back to my weightloss habits over the weekend (I'm off Saturday and Sunday, thank GOD) and then resume them next week when I start working regular shifts.

I like the people and I think I'll like working there, but right now I'm overwhemed by the huge amount of information I'm being held responsible for. On Tuesday I'll take the big FINAL exam on all food, drink, procedures, alcohol, everything.

Sick. Of. Memorizing. Menus. This is the fifth one I've memorized in the past 10 months! Please let it be the last.