30 January, 2009

A night of ice, music and strangeness

Few concerts experiences can compare to what Kevin and I endured during the Vampire Weekend show in December. The concert was great of course, but the people sitting directly in front of us made for quite an experience. With that in mind, I have another tale of odd behavior at a concert.

On Wednesday, Ra Ra Riot played a free show at Northeastern's AfterHours nightclub. Note: AfterHours is not a nightclub. It is a Starbucks with a stage in the student center. Ra Ra Riot is one of my favorite bands and has been since early 2007. I can't remember who or where I heard of them from but I downloaded both of their EPs and fell in love. I saw them live for the first time that summer when they opened for Tokyo Police Club at Emo's in Austin and they put on a great show.

McKenna is also a fan of the band and so I planned on going to the show with her and two of her friends. Patrick also decided to tag along. The evening started off with my icy trek to McKenna's dorm. Snow in the morning had turned into rain in the afternoon and evening. As the sidewalks all have piles of snow lining the edges, there was no place for the water to go. The sidewalks along Huntington Avenue were almost completely flooded. I don't own boots so I carefully hopped from pieces of solid ice to snow bank in a futile attempt to avoid soaking my tennis shoes in icy water. My feet were essentially solid blocks of ice by the time I got to the dorm. McKenna, Patrick and I drank a little at her place with her two friends before heading over to AfterHours to wait in line for the doors to open at 8:30. All of us were convinced that we would have to get there early in order to even get into AfterHours. We had planned on arriving at 7:30 but it took McKenna a while longer to finish her 40oz beer and the icy sidewalks slowed our progress. I think we got there around 8 to discover that the kind AfterHours staff decided to have the line form inside, rather than out in the rain. Not only that, the rain seemed to have discouraged most people from coming and even though we were only half an hour early, we were very near the front of the line.

The doors opened and after grabbing a free poster we positioned ourselves right in front of the stage. The opening act was DJ Death Star, consisting of two NU students with laptops remixing popular songs. Think Girl Talk, only really crappy. After more than half an hour the AfterHours staff signaled to them to get the hell off the stage. One of the guys took out a box with shirts and began tossing them into the crowd. The shirts were from the Northeastern radio station, WRBB, and had a lame logo on them but a free shirt is a free shirt. Since we were front and center I was able to grab one, as did Patrick and McKenna. The girl right behind me quickly voiced her frustration that she had missed out on a shirt by shouting, "that bastard stole mine!"

I'm not going to pretend that I did the chivalrous act of turning around and handing her the shirt. No, I was taller and in front of her and had grabbed a shirt thrown in my direction. Fair was fair, and besides, I'm consistently thwarted at my attempts to get a free shirt at the hockey games by Ice Girl. Patrick, McKenna and I turned towards one another and compared shirt sizes. McKenna had somehow snagged a small and Patrick and I were thrilled to have gotten mediums, rather than the EXTRA LARGE shirts the three of us had been given when we bought our Beanpot tickets.

The second opener soon came on, a local band called With Engines. As far as I know they aren't affiliated with Northeastern and they were much better than DJ Bad Name. I was enjoying the show for the most part and was trying to ignore the girl behind me who repeatedly referred to me as "that bastard!" Her insults didn't stop and finally I was annoyed enough to confront her and her friends. Giving up the shirt seemed a better option than enduring the constant stream of names that were being thrown my way. Dorothy (yes, of Oz fame) and her friends became quite amicable after being given the shirt they didn't deserve and started chatting with us. I learned that they went to BC and that one of them was the sister of a guy from DJ Death Star. I'm not sure if he was Death or Star (Patrick's joke, not mine) but I noticed he was standing right next to the girls so I did the nice thing and leaned over and lied that I liked his performance. "Oh thanks man, thanks a lot," he said. "Dumbass," I thought to myself. Adding noise to songs other people have already produced is not music, it's annoying.

Finally it was time for Ra Ra Riot. Part of what I really love about their music is the string element. They have a cellist and a violinist and they both rock out on stage. Since I had last seen them perform they had upgraded to electric instruments which are pretty cool looking. The whole band gets really into the music and it was a great show. When it ended people began quickly filing out but I stood there in front of the stage with my friends talking for a few minutes. As I turned around to go and find my jacket the guy I had briefly met from DJ Death Star comes up to me, slaps my chest and shouts, "WRBB is the best radio station in Boston!" With this done, he promptly turned and marched away leaving Patrick and I standing there speechless.

I had just been slapped, sort of, and had a random pronouncement of WRBB's greatness shouted in my face. I wasn't sure what to think. It's true that I hadn't been exactly generous in my statements to my friends about his band. I might have said things like, "they suck," "these guys are terrible," "when the hell are they going to get off the stage?" and "please god, make the bad music stop." All of these comments were made during their set when there is no possible way they could have heard me. Besides, if he had been insulted by something I had said about his band wouldn't he have shouted, "DJ Death Star is the best band in Boston!"? Upon further consideration, I realized that I might have uttered a few ill words about WRBB as well. I had run into an acquaintance at the show who was telling me about how he worked at the NU radio station from 4-6. I assumed he meant 4-6AM, because the only people I knew who worked there got shitty time slots. "That really sucks," I told him. He looked confused and when I said, "that's 4-6AM, right?" he informed me that he actually works 4-6PM. It's also possible I said something about the shirts sucking when I first grabbed one, but that would have been said to my friends and DJ Douche Bag was still on stage basking in the glory of the 4 or 5 people who applauded.

Other than that, I don't believe I said anything, good or bad about WRBB. I've never even listened to it and generally have no opinion. I do like Ra Ra Riot and free things, and WRBB was responsible for bringing them to Northeastern and for the free poster I snagged. So here's to WRBB, "the best radio station in Boston!"

morning musings: Zimbabwe

President Obama called South African President Kgalema Motlanthe to emphasize the role South Africa can play in managing the crisis in Zimbabwe. I'm happy to see that Obama is taking a more active approach with Zimbabwe than his predecessor. Mugabe is such an out of control tyrant that I feel there is little the United States can do directly at this point. Regional actors could have a much stronger influence on Mugabe than the US, who Mugabe clearly hates. Over 3000 people have now died of cholera in Zimbabwe and the epidemic appears to be spreading at an increasing rate. The government's reluctance to allow in foreign aid workers isn't helping.

On the other hand, the power sharing agreement has established a new timetable which would bring opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai into power as Prime Minister on February 11. This is great news, although it remains to be seen if the February 11 date will stick. And the country still has to deal with the rampant inflation and a growing food crisis, as well as the cholera epidemic.

29 January, 2009

listening party: Catching up on music

I got my MacBook shortly after Thanskgiving when my Compaqcrap laptop decided to start turning off randomly while I was using it. Around that time I got slammed with school work. I had finals, papers and a 25+ page senior capstone paper to write so transferring my music to the new Mac didn't fit onto my To Do list. I was really looking forward to transferring everything to the Mac over Christmas but I somehow managed to forget the power cord for the PC in Boston and that means it wouldn't so much as turn on. The worst part was that I was unable to manage my iPhone from a computer. Apple's wonderful protection prevents you from syncing music to more than one computer. So for all of this time new music has been building up on my hard drive just waiting to be listened to. Of course, I could have listened to them on the computer like a normal person. I like to listen to new albums for the first time when my attention is undivided. It's difficult to really pay attention to the music while I'm reading blogs or the New York Times or wasting time on Facebook or Twitter. Now that I have an abundance of free time in Boston my computer situation has been taken care of and I've begun to catch up on all the albums I've been saving.

Andrew Bird - Noble Beast
Andrew Bird is one of my favorite musicians. His lyrics are unusual but enthralling and his melodies, beautiful violin playing, whistles and hums make the songs have a life of their own. His previous album, Armchair Apocrypha, came out in Spring 2007 during my sophomore year and when I think about that semester in Boston I immediately think of that album. I had eagerly pounced upon it when it leaked online that year and hadn't been able to put it down. I had been anxiously anticipating Andrew Bird's newest album since he started blogging about the song writing process on the New York Times' Measure for Measure blog last spring. When Noble Beast appeared online several weeks ago I was excited but also nervous. Armchair Apocrypha was one of the few albums that had held my attention for so long. I listened to it time and again in Belgium, sometimes at a friend's rampant insistence, and continued to listen to it through the Fall. I enjoyed every Andrew Bird album but I wondered how anything could compare to Armchair. I finally put Noble Beast on my iPhone yesterday and listened to it on my way to work and home. It came across as a more mellow album at first, with fewer foot-tapping, head-bobbing songs. I didn't know what to think as I went through it initially. Which song, I wondered, would be the next Darkmatter or Heretics? Which song would have a melody as beautiful as Plasticities, where I could put it on repeat and listen to over and over again in my room? I'm still not sure I have an answer to those questions or whether they should even be asked. Because it was such a highly anticipated album for me, any first impressions could be completely wrong. I do know that I enjoyed it a lot. Two songs really stuck out: "Not A Robot, But A Ghost" and "Anonanimal." I'll be listening to this album several more times before Friday evening when I'll see Andrew Bird live at the Orpheum in Boston.

other music

Bon Iver and Beirut are two of my other most listened to artists and they each released new EPs recently. Blood Bank lives up to Bon Iver's potential and is ripe with the elements that made his first album such a hit. Beirut is set to release a double EP in February, although it's already available online for the resourceful listener. March of the Zapotec includes a 19 piece Mexican funeral band playing along and has the wonderful eccentricity that Beirut is known for. The other EP, Realpeople: Holland includes the song My Night With the Prostitute from Marseilles which is one of my favorite Beirut songs. The songs are more electronic-y feeling on this EP and not quite as unique but I highly recommend both.

Carl Newman, frontman for the New Pornographers, just released a new solo album under his monniker of A.C. Newman titled Get Guilty. The songs more closely relate to the New Pornographers rather than Newman's previous solo work. It's worth a listening to.

I'm hooked on Amadou and Mariam's new release, Welcome to Mali. For those who don't know, Amadou and Mariam are a blind Malian couple who sing in French and English. It's a good introduction into African/World music and a great album overall.

And finally, I'm almost slightly embarrassed to admit that Katy and Kevin finally got me listening to Nine Inch Nails. I first realized I might actually enjoy some NIN songs when Katy put in a CD while we were driving to pick up their cat, Mumkin. Still, I resisted until I downloaded the song Disgrace for the Tap Tap Revenge game on the iPhone. I completely succumbed last week and asked the two of them for album suggestions. With Teeth has quickly become one of my usual picks to listen to in the gym.

I realize that in this post I sound like an Apple fanatic, a music snob and quite possibly a little demented. Thank you for bearing with me through this snow day edition of listening party.

28 January, 2009

Snow day

Today was my first ever snow day. In Texas we had a decent number of ice days because Texans sure as hell can't drive if there's even the slightest sign of ice on the roads. Last night I was constantly refreshing Boston news sites to see if schools would be closed for the impending winter storm. Boston Public was one of the first to announce their closure but Brookline remained stubborn until early this morning when they finally called it quits. No kids at school means no kids at the after school program means no work for me. This made me quite happy but it does suck in that it means less money. Last week was a two day week for me because of Martin Luther King Day and this week has turned into the same. What's really worrisome is that I haven't yet been paid since coming back to work in 2009. I was supposed to receive a paycheck last Wednesday only to be told that it had been misplaced. My boss and the secretary searched for it before deciding that they must have accidentally mailed it to me. It hadn't arrived by Monday so I let them know. Supposedly next week's check will be for all of the hours I've worked since coming back but I have my doubts.

When I first started working at the synagogue in October it took 4 or 5 weeks to receive my first check. I was annoyed but I understood that getting the finance people to put me on payroll and everything takes time. Besides, my boss seemed to be doing everything she could to follow up on whatever it was that was holding up my paycheck. I can't afford to wait a few weeks to get paid this time. My money is dwindling and despite applying to around 20 or so part-time jobs I have yet to hear back from any.

I wanted to include a couple of photos of the snow in the park by my apartment but the weather has shifted to frozen rain and I don't think taking my camera, or myself, out in that kind of weather is a good idea.

26 January, 2009

The things I will do for money

I wanted to start this post by saying "While I was perusing craigslist for jobs last week..." only I recently learned that I have been using the word "peruse" incorrectly. I was under the impression that to peruse something was to glance through or skim over something. According to dictionary.com, to peruse is "to read through with thoroughness or care," or "to survey or examine in detail." I felt really stupid once I was told this. There is a usage note under the definition that brings attention to this very common but incorrect meaning. I hope I'm not the only one who had been using this word incorrectly.

Starting over. While I was browsing Craigslist for jobs last week I came across a research study that claimed to offer $50 for 5 hours of watching tv. This sounded too good to be true, but hey, I don't have any money so why not find out. It didn't offer many details but there was a short quiz that you had to fill out to see if you qualified. I took the quiz, submitted my email address and thought nothing else of it. Late Thursday afternoon I got an email saying I had been selected to participate the in the study the next day from 10:30-3:30. Details were scarce but it said I would have to wear a special shirt with monitors and not to wear a dress. Done and done.

I should mention at this point that I tried to do a research study at Harvard in the fall that I had found on Craigslist. It was a psych study on decision making and I was supposed to have received $25 for two hours of my time. It was pouring rain on the day I was scheduled to go but I walked over to the bus stop on Mass Ave to take the number 1 to Cambridge. I stepped in a huge puddle which soaked my Converse on the way and then had to wait in the rain for almost 25 minutes for a bus. By the time I got to Harvard I was completely drenched and 10 minutes late. If you've heard this story before, I probably told you that nobody else had shown up because of the weather and since they needed at least 3 people they paid me and I got to go home. This is essentially the truth. What really happened was that they only gave me $5 since nobody else was there and I was late. Keeping in mind that the bus cost $1.25 each way I made a grand total of $2.50 for an hour and a half of my time. I arrived home shivering and looking like a drowned dog and was too embarrassed to admit what a failure the day had turned into, especially because I had tried to convince several friends to come with me for an "easy $25, man! and what else are you doing today anyway?"

Back to last Friday. I made sure to not be late so as not to avoid any reduction in the glorious prize of $50 I was to be awarded. The study was at the Westin Copley which is walking distance from my apartment. I didn't take into account the size of the hotel though; the lobby isn't even on the first floor so by the time I found the room on the 7th floor I was 2 minutes late. Luckily other people were still walking in and it wasn't a big deal. The company running the study was called Innerscope and the representatives explained that we would have to wear an EKG monitor, a specially designed vest which monitors our breathing and movement and an electrodermal activity monitor. The first hour was spent putting on these monitors. I was one of the first to get all the equipment so I sat in the room on my iPhone posting on Twitter and wishing I had brought a book. Once everyone was situated they explained that today's "study" was really just an attempt to calibrate the software and hardware since they had recently made some changes. A few people asked questions about how it works but they refused to answer most of them because of trade secrets. We were assured that no electricity would be flowing through our body and that we couldn't possibly get shocked. Since they weren't really studying us or our responses it didn't matter what we did during the time. One of the employees had brought The Dark Knight for us to watch so I sat there for an hour watching it before they brought us pizza from the hotel restaurant.

The movie was paused several times and we were told to restart the computers connected to all of our monitors so that they could change the settings. Other than the few brief interruptions it was nice to sit there and watch the movie. The film ended just after 3 and we were asked if anyone would be willing to stay an extra hour for an extra $15. I volunteered, along with about half of the people there, because it's not like I had anything else to do. Unfortunately they put on the movie Hellboy 2 at this point. I didn't know there was an original Hellboy but the second one was complete crap. Terrible acting, horrendous animated monsters and an even worse story line. The actor who plays George Bluth from Arrested Development was in it and even he didn't manage to redeem the film at all. We only had to watch 40 minutes of it thankfully and I left with $65 cash (a good portion of which was spent that evening on dinner and drinks with some friends).

They can take my gym and they can take my hockey, but they'll never take my dignity

Just as I had feared, my Husky card no longer grants me access to the games. I handed the guy at the table my card and as he swiped it a big "INACTIVE PATRON" flashed on the screen. He cleared the message and moved to swipe it again. I hoped he would chalk it up to a bad card and let me in anyway but that didn't happen. I was told I would have to get in line to purchase a ticket. That definitely wasn't happening. Dan was behind me in line and we both walked back out into the cold and went around to the zamboni entrance. My friend Kathryn frequently walks past the ticket collectors at this entrance by saying she's just dropping off something for her boyfriend who works there. I tried to avoid the lines once by walking in that way and it hadn't worked but Dan and I didn't have a choice. Right as we got around to the back entrance the pep-band showed up. We immersed ourselves among the band and walked right in. Success!

I was also able to go to the gym this morning using my roommate's ID card. Leaving the gym was a bit nerve racking though. The same girl works the desk every morning and so I see her quite often. She always smiles at me and I wasn't sure if that's because she recognizes me or if she's just nice and smiles at everyone. I walked up and she retrieved my ID card and glanced down at it. There was a pause where she looked at me and said, tentatively, "Jeremy?" I nodded and accepted the card with a smile.

I brought my camera to the hockey game last Saturday against Vermont so these are some of the pictures I took. Unfortunately there were some very tall people standing in front of us and I had to constantly lean from one side to the other in order to even keep track of the game, much less take decent pictures. Half of them have somebody's head or shoulder in the frame.

John, Kathryn's boyfriend who really does work at Matthews Arena

23 January, 2009

The boredom sets in

I haven't written lately owing to the fact that there is absolutely nothing new to report in my life. The "real job" search has been put on the back-burner temporarily while I frantically search for a second part time job to help me pay the bills. I work at the synagogue Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday which gives me the rest of the week to apply for other jobs and also sit at home being bored. The lack of money means that my only outside form of entertainment have been the weekly Northeastern hockey games which are free for students. Another free benefit of being a Northeastern student is access to the Marino Center which is the on-campus gym. I live right down the street from it and it has been one of the few things helping me to relieve stress and maintain my sanity over these last few weeks. I try and go every day to ride the stationary bike and lift weights. It's nice to have a routine other than work and I've really enjoyed going there.

I knew it was only a matter of time until my gym access was revoked since I'm no longer a student but I didn't expect that time to come today. I was under the impression that you had two months of free access after graduating. Dan, my roommate and fellow NU graduate had first told me we had 4 months of access to Marino before refuting this and saying that we would lose our gym privileges any day. I didn't believe him either time.

My day yesterday was like any other day that I don't have work: I went to the gym, applied for some jobs and generally did nothing. When I walked into Marino this morning I handed the girl my Husky ID card like usual only to have the computer give an error when she swiped it. She swiped it again and got another error. I've had this happen before with my old card which was falling apart and sometimes they would just let you go in anyway. Unfortunately this girl's supervisor happened to be standing nearby. She came over and tried to swipe the card herself to the same effect. "Are you currently a student here?" she asked. "Uh... yeah." I figured my best bet was to lie and hope she had no way of checking my status. "Full-time or part-time?" "Full-time," I said. "Are you enrolled in classes this semester?" she asked. "Yeah..." She took my card into the back where apparently they do have a way of checking my status as a student. When she came back she said the computer showed that I had recently graduated. I tried to explain that I thought I had two months afterwards in which to use the gym. She kindly offered to let me use the gym for the great alumni rate of $12 per day or $135 for three months. I can't afford to see a movie, much less shell out that kind of money to a school which has already taken so much from me. My new plan is to permanently borrow my roommate Jeremy's Husky ID since he's still a student. As he's told me many times before, "I would not go to the gym unless somebody paid me an insane amount of money."

In mentioning the hockey games earlier it suddenly occurred to me that I might no longer be allowed into those for free either, as they swipe your Husky card before giving you a ticket. Katy was able to get a free ticket in the fall and she graduated last spring so hopefully that wasn't a fluke. If I can't even go to a hockey game once a week I might as well just dig a hole in the snow and crawl inside of it. We'll find out on Saturday night.

16 January, 2009

Hacienda del Mar: donde tus fantasias se hacen realidad

I hadn't written much about the Mexico trip so here is one of the more memorable stories.

After spending two nights in La Paz we left for the fishing village of Puerto Mateos to go whale watching in Magdalena Bay. A 5 hour bumpy drive on Highway 1 brought us to the village only to find it completely deserted. On the way in we didn't see a single person. Stores didn't even look open. The pier where the whale boats left from was equally deserted and the surrounding shacks/stores were boarded up. A passing hombre informed us that the whales start arriving in mid to late December and the boats don't begin their tours until January. A few family members were pretty pissed about having driven 5 hours for nothing. After traveling through Niger and Morocco, you learn to accept that things will not work out as planned in developing countries. I was disappointed that we couldn't go whale watching but I felt driving out there was worth it just for the off-chance that it would have worked out. Our revised plan was to power back down Highway 1 to La Paz, spend the night there and head back to Cabo the next morning. After a quick stop at a taco stand in Constitucion we were on our way.

The drive back to La Paz went much quicker. Even though it was dark for a good portion of it, traffic seemed to be moving faster and we made it in less than 5 hours. As we neared La Paz, Benny, my uncle said he had seen a nice looking hotel just outside the city that he wanted to check out. There was no need to go back to our hotel on the beach when we would only be spending one night in the hotel so we all agreed. A palatial looking structure appeared lit up before us on the left and Benny announced that this was the place. The entrance gate was closed and we stopped at the guard stand. While Benny tried to ask in broken Spanish if they had two rooms for 8 people the rest of us noticed a sculpture of two nude people entwined in bed sheets.

Emily, my 13 year old sister immediately announced to the van that "this is a bad place!" The rest of us laughed. Obviously anything having to do with sex will make a 13 year old awkward when family is around. The guard opened the gate and directed us inside. The place wasn't what we expected. Instead of being a single building there were many different buildings separated into units, each with its own garage door. There didn't appear to be any doors other than the garage doors. The guard walked down to the end of one unit where the garage stood open and gestured for us to drive inside. This whole thing seemed odd and I began joking that Emily was right about this being a bad place. I repeatedly stated that the hotel was run by the Mexican mafia and that once we drove into the garage we would never come out. Benny and my cousins got out and asked to see a room before we agreed to stay there so the rest of us sat in the van in the darkened garage awaiting their return. Emily was getting pretty freaked out and since she was reading one of the Twilight books I changed my theory on the hotel's to vampires. I'm a great older brother.

Benny and my cousins returned intact and without any visible neck wounds from vampires and told us excitedly that the rooms were extremely large and quite nice. The rest of us piled out of the van and into the unit we had parked at. What we found was not like a normal hotel. There was a dining room with a table and chairs, a large bedroom and a fairly nice bathroom. Of course, the first thing Emily notices is more nude art on the walls which she pointed out while repeating her claim that this is "a bad place." The rest of us shrugged it off. I just thought they had a penchant for bad Greek-imitation sculpture.

Each of us voiced our amazement at the massive size of the rooms and laughed at ourselves for the nightmare scenarios we had first imagined when being told to drive into a darkened garage. This was also the cheapest hotel we had stayed in yet, which we attributed to its location outside the city. As people began putting down their bags I walked over to the nightstand between the two beds where I saw this-

Yes, ladies and gentleman, that is a "Prudence" brand condom placed neatly in the ashtray and surrounded by 4 mints. My mind immediately wandered back to the sign by the gate of the hotel with the room rates. I remembered seeing what I thought were nightly rates next to rates for 8 hours. Suddenly it made sense. I picked up the condom and held it high as I turned to face my family and said, "hey guys! The room comes with a free condom!" Silence, followed by laughter and disbelief all around. I mentioned how I had seen that you could get a room for 8 hours at a time and suddenly the nude art made so much more sense. We were at a very nice hooker hotel. My cousin Sharon immediately jumped off the bed she was sitting on. I found a room service menu on the dining room table and scoured it for anything sex related. Sure enough, there was a section labeled "Sex Shop" with condoms, viagra and lube available for purchase.

All of us were cracking up about this and making sex jokes except for Emily and my cousin Sharon. Emily was far more frightened than she had been when I told her we would get murdered there and also didn't understand most of the jokes we were making. Sharon was simply disgusted and was promising to sleep on top of the sheets. I pointed out that you'd be hard pressed to find a hotel in any city that people hadn't had sex in. That's just what happens on vacation. She still slept in all of her clothes. The TVs, of course, had several channels of hardcore pornography. They also had strategically mounted tissue boxes on the walls next to each bed.

When we had finally stopped laughing a menorah was pulled out and we celebrated the third night of Hanukah. For some reason that night was the only night we lit the candles on the trip. For this reason I wanted to title this blog post "A Happy Hanukah at Hacienda Hooker Hotel" but was told that alliteration is lame. If you're ever in need of a place to stay in La Paz, Baja California Sur I highly recommend Hacienda del Mar. Cheap rates, extreme privacy (with the garage doors, nobody will see you, or your companion outside a car) and of it's the place "where your fantasies become reality."

15 January, 2009

Having applied for my first real job, I question my decision to blog about the process

I got an email from Diane at Career Services today saying that my revised resume was great so I submitted it and the cover letter for the job that I had found last week. MK had commented on how exciting job hunting is but I hadn't felt that way until I applied for this first job. I'm really interested in this job so I'm anxious to hear back about it. Judging by Diane's 3-4 month estimate I probably won't get it but it's exciting nonetheless. Now that I've gotten some feedback on my resume and cover letter things will speed up. I won't be contacting career services to get their opinion on things before I apply for jobs so hopefully I'll meet that goal of 5 per week.

I don't know how much I'll blog about the job hunting process as it goes forward. I'd like to be open and write everything I'm thinking about each job but it's far too easy to google my name and find this. I know somebody who had a job offer revoked after writing on her blog that she didn't actually want to work for the company. She was, of course, an idiot but I'd like to avoid her mistakes. I need to find a good balance between honesty and privacy in blogging.

The part-time job search began yesterday as I browsed craigslist for restaurant and office jobs around my area. I found a good mix of things and I'll start applying for those today and tomorrow. In other Boston news, it's ridiculously cold and I keep forgetting my scarf when I go out. Tomorrow is supposed to be just as cold. Northeastern hockey is playing Vermont tomorrow night so I will be there along with some friends to cheer on the Huskies and taunt the other team's goalie. The crowd can get pretty abusive at times.

for your consideration: A letter from my upstairs neighbor

The following note was slid under the door to our apartment late last Friday night.

We were all very surprised to receive this. Josh came by during our Halloween party and requested the music to be turned down. I believe he also came by during Nick's cast-party after the musical in December but I wasn't there for that. The only other party we had was our house-warming party, in which we had 1 keg, 70+ partygoers, including one who handed out business cards that listed his profession as "superhero and crime fighter," 1 flooded bathroom and 3 police officers. All three of these parties were incredibly raucous and if I had been trying to sleep through any of those I would have been pretty pissed. What astounded us in Josh's letter was his claim of having been kept up or woken up "almost 20 times." None of us ever play loud music and we rarely have people over. What really annoys me is that I'm quite sure Josh is the asshole who plays French horn right above me for hours at a time on weekend mornings. He may be a musician but he goes to New England Conservatory and they have practice rooms available so that people don't piss off their neighbors.

As for his proposal, all of us in apartment 15 are quite happy as is, so any agreement would in effect compromise our happiness. If we had actually played loud music more than 3 times during the fall semester I would feel bad about receiving this letter and definitely come to an arrangement with him. I don't doubt that he's been kept up by music but it wasn't from our apartment. I plan on drafting a reply to him soon since it's not like I have anything more important to be doing. Like looking for a job or something

14 January, 2009

Job search: two for the price of one!

Despite the not so optimistic news I received from Career Services and my realization that I had to really get my ass in gear to find a job, I wasn't too worried. I had a part time job 5 days a week and 3 months in which convince someone to give me a real job. I had a nice, calm feeling about everything. That beautiful feeling was replaced today with a more frantic "oh shit, I'm screwed" mindset as I realized that I don't have a job 5 days a week. There was some miscommunication between my boss and I about the work schedule and I'm only needed 3 days a week. This is not nearly enough work to sustain me for 3 months. I fought the initial panic by slowly peeling and eating an orange. That kept me busy for all of 5 minutes before I began to freak out again. One mug of coffee later and I'm feeling a little better. As of today I'll be looking for a part time job in Boston as well as a real job. At least I have two extra days each week for job hunting, right?

13 January, 2009

In which my search for full-time employment begins

When I first realized that I wouldn't have a "real job" (I use that term a lot) upon graduating I decided to keep my 8 hours per week job at the synagogue and find a full time position at a restaurant. I maintained this plan until I landed in Boston last week. Before I left the airport I had changed my mind and chose to accept the 5 days per week position at the synagogue. I have the same job as before but they've expanded the program. It's still only 4 hours per day which means that at 20 hours per week I'm one of the millions of underemployed in this country. It's certainly still possible for me to get another job on top of this one but I'm devoting that extra time to job hunting, cover letter writing and prayer. Ok, maybe not prayer. Definitely not prayer. I should be able to last 3 months with this income and some generous help from my mom so I set that timeframe as my goal for finding a real job.

During the fall semester I went to Northeastern's Career Services department and met with Tina. She looked at my resume, made a few minor suggestions and said, "good luck finding a job. The economy sucks, nobody is hiring, non-profits are losing funding, the sky is falling and if you want a nice cardboard box to live in you better buy now because they're going like hot-cakes down at the UPS store on Huntington." This was not exactly what I was hoping to hear. My roommate Dan met with Diane at Career Services where he was reassured that all was well in the world and that he'd find a job in a jiffy! This was all back in September. It's now January and Dan is at work while I am sitting in my bathrobe at 11:30AM on a Tuesday.

Now that I'm back in Boston the job search has officially begun. I accidentally found a job I was interested in without even looking and wrote my first cover letter a few days ago. I went to Career Services yesterday to have it looked over since this whole process was new to me. Writing a cover letter was really awkward. It's like trying to convince a hot woman through a letter that you're totally awesome and that she should sleep with you and also pay you $40k a year. At least that's how it felt to me. I met with Diane, rather than "sky is falling" Tina this time and that was definitely a better choice. I am far from reassured, however.

Diane told me my cover letter was perfect which was great because I wasn't sure if I had been too informal or if I had talked myself up too much. Bragging about yourself in a letter isn't easy. She informed me that my resume was geared more towards co-ops rather than a real job. Guess Tina didn't really know what she was doing after all. She made some suggestions on how to change it and then questioned me about my interests, what kind of job I'm looking for and what my future plans are. Diane showed me a lot of different websites to peruse for jobs (Tina: "Look for jobs on Idealist. It's great, it has everything you'd ever want and there's no need to ever look anywhere else. Even though nobody is hiring and you might as well buy a radiation suit to protect yourself during the coming nuclear winter. Those cardboard boxes just don't cut it"). Then she gave me some bad (see: realistic) news. "What's going to hurt you here is that you don't have any skills. You've done a lot of different things, but so has everyone else in college and that won't really help you." I'm not sure if she's saying that I should have chosen a different major or just tailored my studies and abroad experiences towards one topic. Either way, several people I've talked to about this have said she's full of shit and that I should ignore that. She asked when I was hoping to have a job by and I told her the 3 month timeframe I had in mind. She said 3 to 4 months is probably more realistic and that I need to be sending out my resume to at least 5 places per week to achieve that. I was thinking 2 or 3 per week so that came as a bit of a shock. It's time to step it up.

morning musings: Secretary of State

David Sanger's New York Times post, Getting Specific, on the confirmation of Hillary Clinton was interesting. He suggested a few good questions that should be asked of her. I like Hillary and I think she'll do a good job as SoS but I wanted Bill Richardson for the job. It's interesting how things have played out since then. Richardson had to withdraw his name from Commerce due to a grand jury investigation. If he had gotten the State position it would have been a much bigger scandal. I think that Obama and Clinton can and will work well together, despite their differing views on foreign policy. How long can that last though? For all of his first term? Into his second term (inshallah)?

or How I Learned to Stop Sleeping and Melt to Death

In the four bedroom apartment that my roommates and I occupy, my room is the smallest. This is great because I pay significantly less than everyone else. That's the only good thing about it. Mine is the only room with its own half-bathroom which would be nice if I could use it. You see, it's not possible to have a bed and have access to both the closet and the bathroom. I made a choice, and while some have criticized me for this choice I still believe it was best. Upon seeing my room and the blocked bathroom door for the first time, Najia jokingly, and not altogether incorrectly, said that my room must have been the servants' quarters.

The worst part of having a half-bedroom is the lack of heat control. Every other bedroom and the living room have their own radiator and a dial to control it. My room only has pipes going up to the apartment above us. The problem isn't the lack of heat though. I have woken up sweating every night since being back in Boston. Last night I attempted to thwart the uncontrollable pipes by cracking the window just a sliver. I went to bed comfortably cool until waking up around dawn freezing to death. I added another blanket on top of my shivering body and went back to sleep, only to wake up again sometime later hot and sweating again. Pipes: 1, Daniel: 0. Some of my roommates have complained that their radiators don't seem to respond to the turning of the dial and this may be true. At least they have some semblance of control, even if it is just a placebo effect.

I've also had a spurt of bad dreams lately. One of the first nights back I had 3 or 4 bad dreams in a row and I woke up after each. Last night was the worst. I dreamt I was back in New Braunfels during high school and had several people over to spend the night during the school week, presumably for a party. In the morning before school two of my friends were going to drive my family's cars. The girl tried to back out of the garage without opening the garage door and ran right into it. She then managed to urinate in both cars before running over Berkeley and Wigglesworth, the dog I had in high school. Wiggles died and Berkeley somehow lived after having an almost entirely severed head. The rest of the dream was spent dealing with the ramifications of all of this and trying to ruin the girl's life. It sounds absurd and amusing but I can unequivocally say that it was one of the worst dreams I have ever had.

09 January, 2009

Why you should watch the Super Bowl

I'm not a fan of football but I usually try to watch the Super Bowl. Most of the time I couldn't care less who wins (last year being an exception because it would have been cool for the Patriots to win every single game) but it's a fun thing to do with people and the commercials are usually really funny. There's an added reason for me, and thus for you to watch the Super Bowl this year: my cousin Oren might have a commercial that he made air during it. While we were in Mexico Oren found out he's one of five finalists in a Doritos competition to make a commercial. He won $25,000 and box seats to the Super Bowl, including airfare and a hotel. His commercial is really good and it would be awesome if he won. You can help by going to http://www.crashthesuperbowl.com/#/gallery/ and voting for his video titled "New Flavor Pitch." Oren isn't in the commercial but he wrote, edited and directed it. In order to vote you have to register, which I know is a pain in the ass but then you can vote once a day and help be a part of Super Bowl history! Or something like that.

You can see more of Oren's videos at http://orenbrimer.com/ or on YouTube.

06 January, 2009

Selected photos from Mexico

I received a request to see some of the pictures I've taken recently with my new camera. My grandparents bought me a Canon Digital Rebel XSi for graduation and my other grandfather bought me a Sigma 28-700mm f/2.8 lens. My only experiences using a digital SLR were with Katy's camera in Belgium and in Morocco. I remember very little of what she taught me so I've been shooting mostly on auto. The first time I saw Katy's bad ass camera I made a comment to the effect of, "damn, no wonder your pictures are awesome." Katy told me that while the camera helps, it takes years of practice and skill to take great pictures. The first time I tried to use her camera I realized how right she was. For all the decent pictures I've taken so far there are 3 or 4 shitty ones.

05 January, 2009

No, I don't want a fucking timeshare

Every time I'm at my mom's house I get telemarketers calling to try and sell me a timeshare, give me a timeshare or ask if I have a timeshare that I want to sell. Over the summer there were several days when we would get multiple calls. I always used the standard, "I'm not interested, please remove me from your call-back list" reply but that obviously wasn't working. Occasionally I would ask to speak to a supervisor at which point the call would be disconnected. Then they got smart. I got a call a couple of days ago that was a recorded message telling me about timeshares. "At no point in this call will you speak to a live representative. After we have finished giving you the information, please leave a message with your number and what time would be best for us to call back." Tricky bastards.

I just got off the phone with another timeshare douchebag (TSDB) and thought I'd post the transcript.

Me: Hello?
TSDB: Hello! I'm calling you from sunny Florida where we have a beautiful two bedroom condo that can be yours several weekends a year.
Me: I'm not interested, please remove me from your call-back list.
TSDB: Well of course you aren't interested, I haven't told you the details yet. The location is perf-
Me: No, I'm not interested. Please remove me from your call-back list.
TSDB: But sir, you haven't heard about the incredible deal that I'm offeri-
Me: I'm not interested! I want you to remove my name and phone number from your call-back list right now.
TSDB: Sorry, what was that?
Me: You heard me! I want to speak to your supervisor.
TSDB: Of course. His name is Mr. Tone and he'll be with you in just a second.

Of course "Mr. Tone" was the dial tone and I'm not sure how much of my last expletive he heard before he hung up.

At least I didn't break my arm

Getting hit in the nose by the surfboard was the most painful thing I had experienced in quite a while. Once the blood stopped pouring out of my nose I went and got my camera and took a picture.
There's a nasty cut at the base of my right nostril but other than that I didn't think anything was wrong with my nose. At the time I was a little concerned about my teeth. I wasn't sure where exactly the board hit me and my top teeth hurt a bit. I was also spitting up blood, although I think that was probably just blood that had drained down my throat from my nose. Gross, I know. The cut was still leaking blood late in the afternoon I got back to the hotel in Cabo. My mom was concerned that I had a deviated septum but nobody, myself included thought that my nose was broken. It hurt to smile but that was just from the torn skin at the base of my nose. Blowing my nose was incredibly painful but I just tried to refrain from doing that.

The day after we got back from Mexico I woke up and tried to blow my nose and the pain had gotten worse so I made a doctor's appointment. The doctor took one look at it and told me it was broken. It was only slightly swollen and it doesn't look crooked to me so it's only a small fracture. I always have bad allergies at this time of year though so that posed a problem. I got a bunch of sample allergy medications to try out and some nasal sprays. They've helped for the most part but I still have to deal with the pain of trying to blow my nose a couple times a day. Earlier this afternoon I blew my nose and a few minutes later blood started dripping out of it so that's a lot of fun to deal with.

Mexican food, I thought I knew you

Everyone who knows me knows that I love Mexican food. This probably stems from the fact that my mom ate a lot of Mexican food when she was pregnant with me. The first solid foods I ever ate were rice and beans from Taco Cabana. When I first moved to Boston I realized that nobody in New England knows shit about Mexican food. Belgium was even worse, although there I had Katy to commiserate with. She and I would occasionally get into arguments over how similar Tex-Mex is to real Mexican food. Kevin usually started these just to see us fight and laugh about it (thanks a lot dude). Much to my chagrin, after a week in Mexico I must admit that Tex-Mex is not as close to Mexican food as I would have liked to believe.

The main difference was how meat-heavy all the meals were. In Texas you can always order cheese enchiladas or a quesadilla if nothing else. Few restaurants we went to had anything vegetarian except for salads. The first two days in Mexico I ate nothing but salads which was pretty disappointing. A fish restaurant we ate at in La Paz served us chips and queso. I took a bite of the queso and noticed a really unusual flavor. After my cousin tried it she identified that flavor as tuna. In the queso. I ate chips with lime while everyone else ate the the fish queso and waited for my salad to arrive.

Before going to Morroco I considered the possibility of trying some of the meat dishes there. I was worried about missing out on some of the culture by sticking to my vegetarian diet. Ultimately I decided not to, partially because I didn't want to risk getting sick there. I faced this same dilemma in Mexico. Some of the meals that people around me were eating were things I might never get the opportunity to try again. So for the first time in more than 4 years I willingly tried meat. My first foray into animals was ceviche at the fish restaurant in La Paz. I had never heard of it and at the time I thought it was a rare Mexican delicacy. I later realized it was a pretty common dish even in the US and felt like an idiot. I tried only a very small bite and it tasted the way I remember fish tasting. I disliked the consistency and feel of it in my mouth instantly. I also tried a very small bite of squid at a fish restaurant in Cabo and an even smaller bite of bone marrow at a different restaurant there. The squid was less fishy tasting and the consistency didn't creep me out as much. The bone marrow tasted and felt like the fat from a steak and really creeped me out.

I feel weird now that I've willfully eaten meat. I'm sure some people would say I'm no longer a vegetarian or that I can no longer say I've been one for 4 years. I still consider myself a vegetarian though and I don't plan on eating meat again. I don't know if trying a few small bites of local dishes really means I experienced the culture more but I don't think I regret it. Because I don't know any places in Boston, or even Texas that sell Mexican style bone marrow.

Of all the restaurants we ate at two are worth mentioning. We asked our boat driver (is that what you call the guy who steers the boat?) where he likes to eat in La Paz. We wanted to try a real local place rather than the touristy crap we had been eating at. He gave us directions to La Fonda which was a small, family owned restaurant with only 6 or 7 tables. We were the only gringos there which was a good sign. I had hoped that maybe the lack of vegetarian options was only at the tourist spots but this place had nothing on the menu I could order. The waiter spoke a decent amount of English and he said said he could make cheese enchiladas for me. Truth be told, my meal was nothing special. They had some of the best tomatillo salsa I've had though and I think we went through 4 or 5 plates of chips before the food arrived. What really stood out for me was the guacamole. I love guacamole and pride myself on my guac skills and I can say that this was the best I have ever tried. Everyone loved their food at this place and when we finally got the bill it came out to $54USD. There were 7 of us who had ordered 9 meals, an appetizer and drinks all around and it was only $54. My uncle thought they must have made a mistake but we added it up ourselves and asked and the total was correct. Definitely a real local place.

The other restaurant worth mentioning was also called La Fonda, although it had no connection to the other restaurant. This La Fonda was not a small, local joint. We had stuck to asking people where they go to eat rather than "where should we go to eat?" to avoid the tourist spots but everyone directed us to the usual big restaurants on the beach. After several lousy suggestions from the hotel staff in Cabo we asked where we should go for really legit Mexican food. La Fonda was filled with wealthy looking gringos when we arrived but our first impressions were way off. We started off with drinks and the bone marrow appetizer. My cousin Oren and I both got a drink that was essentially a Mexican bloody mary. It was made with spicy tomato juice, tequila and beer. I know, it doesn't sound that great and I was skeptical at first but it was very good. We passed those around the table for everyone to try but nobody else liked it. There were quite a few vegetarian options on the menu and I ordered something I had never heard of and unfortunately I don't remember the name. It consisted of of a very thick and lightly fried corn tortilla topped with requeson, some kind of pepper, lettuce and guacamole. My mom's meal came with a side of black beans which were hands down the best black beans I've ever had. We all left the restaurant incredibly full and satisfied.

03 January, 2009

Tears, blood and ashes

My last full day in Mexico I spent surfing the waves at Cerritos, a secluded beach about 60 kilometers north of Cabo. The spot was perfect. A rocky outcropping stretching out into the ocean channeled the currents and the waves right towards the beach. Closest to the rocks were smaller waves that anyone could ride and the further you went away from the rocks the bigger the waves got. I was a little nervous about surfing. I hadn't been on a board in three and a half years and I was worried I wouldn't be able to ride. I started off with the smaller waves and the first one I tried to catch passed right over me. I turned back towards the ocean and waited for another. A swell began to build behind me and I paddled frantically. I felt the push on the board as the wave hit the back of it and I grasped the sides, stood up and felt that familiar thrill as I realized I was riding it.

There's no way for me to describe the feeling you get when catch a wave. J. Maarten Troost had the best description in The Sex Lives of Cannibals where he compared surfing to taking mushrooms, drinking and smoking marijuana all at the same time, and said that surfing is even crazier. Even though I caught the second wave it took me a while longer to get the hang of it again. Paddling while lying on a flat surface with your head tilted up is uncomfortable at first and timing the wave and knowing when to stand up takes practice and lots of missed waves. You wipe out, a lot. I loved every second of it.

As I felt more comfortable on the board and in the waves I moved out amongst the larger waves. These were easier to catch but with even bigger wipeouts. I remember one in particular where I lost control and was jettisoned from the board. I looked down, or in the direction that I thought was down only to see nothing but the sky and my feet up in the air right before I crashed into the water. When you hit the water and are swept up in one of the bigger waves you have no choice other than to let the wave take you. It grabs hold of you and pulls you with it, tumbling you in different directions as it breaks on top of you. You're often slammed into the sand, pushed upside down and sometimes you run out of air before the ocean spits you back up into the sunlight. You have no control at all and there's nothing to do but enjoy letting the ocean play with your seemingly insignificant body.

I had been surfing for just over an hour and a half when I caught another of the larger waves. I rode it a good distance until I saw the nose of the board dip underwater. I flew head first off the board and hit the water right as the wave plowed into me. I let my body go limp and was tossed around underwater by the wave again. I remember specifically thinking at this moment how much I loved losing control during wipeouts- and then I felt the board smash into my face with the entire force of the wave behind it. Pain like I couldn't believe shot through me and struggled not to open my mouth and gasp. I was still underwater at the mercy of the wave and my second thought, after 'fuck!' was 'ok, this happens. You wipe out and sometimes the board can hit you. It hurts but it's probably not that bad and you'll get over it.' The wave finally let go and I stood up. I felt water still running down my face and tried to wipe it off with my hand. When I looked down it was covered in blood. I splashed my hand in the water and saw the red seep out and discolor the deep blue of the ocean. I touched my face again and had more blood come off onto my hand. I grabbed the surfboard which was drifting listlessly a few feet in front of me and started walking towards the beach. Blood continued to pour out of my nose, running down my face, going into my mouth, staining my rash guard and the water below. I splashed water onto my face repeatedly but the blood kept coming. A little girl stood in the shallow water towards the beach and I saw a look of horror on her face as I stumbled out of the ocean. I dropped the board on the sand and walked back into the water to wash the blood off. After several more splashes the bleeding finally seemed to have slowed.

I was still in pain but I wasn't going to let this ruin the rest of my day. I grabbed the surf board and waded back into the ocean. I caught the first wave I tried, one of the smaller ones but quickly wiped out. Immediately upon hitting the water I panicked, imagining the pain I would feel if the surfboard hit me again. I covered my face and struggled against the wave to break through to the surface. With every wipeout that panic came over me. I went back to the shore to drink some water and think. My nose was still in pain and bleeding but I didn't want to give up on surfing. After finishing the water I grabbed a medicine bottle from my backpack, made sure the lid was on tightly and went back into the waves.

The water seemed colder than before. I laid down on the board and paddled into the waves, double checking the lid of the medicine bottle. A big wave was coming right at me on the verge of breaking. I slid off the board and ducked underwater with the medicine bottle clutched tightly in my hands. I imagined it breaking free from my grip and having to frantically search the water for it but when I came up it was still in my hand. I pulled the surfboard towards me and turned towards the waves again, moving quickly to avoid the break. It was difficult to paddle with the bottle in one hand so I walked the board out to where the other surfers were before jumping back onto the board. The swells came and passed under me as I sat perched on the board. I felt myself choke up and tried to think of something meaningful for the moment. My fingers popped the lid off the bottle and I held my arm out away from the board and sprinkled some of my dad's ashes out into the water. Back in the Pacific, just like you wanted. I jerked my hand several times, letting the ashes fall out slowly. Tears and blood poured into the ocean alongside. The bottle empty, I sat there on the surf board staring into the waves for several minutes. A slow swell was building. I turned the board around and rode another wave.