One future possibility

This afternoon I sat through a recorded NOVA program on dirty bombs. I remember reading about threats a while ago, but didn't know what a dirty bomb was.

So much new terminology has permeated our vocabulary, it's hard to keep up with what's what.

Getting back to the program... One scientist explained that because of the prohibitive costs of cleaning up radiation in a city the size of London or Paris or New York, one viable option would be to abandon the contaminated area. And then the next scene was a dramatization of London.... deserted. Watching that, I felt a shiver make its way up my spine.

Is that what we have to look forward to? Will we be forced to abandon our cities? And where would all of the urbanites move to? Is smalltown USA in danger of one day becoming the next Big Apple?

Breaking the bank

Karyn Bosnak admits to having a problem with money. Or having had. She moved from Chicago to New York City and managed to dig herself a hole worth $20,000 in credit card debt. You see, she's a shop-a-holic.

Her book, Save Karyn - One Shopaholic's Journey to Debt and Back, will be available at bookstores nationwide. This month's issue of Book Magazine announced she's in talks with Sony Pictures to develop a film about the book which is about her financial ineptitude.

How ingenious is this woman? I can't believe it took me this long to learn about her story.

Do you think I'll get any takers if I create a website asking for help to raise $40,000 for a downpayment on a DC loft? Will this scheme work twice? Do you think?

What's in a name?

In a momentary lapse of sanity, I came *this* close to being named Tiffany. My parents had selected baby names before I arrived, screaming into the world. The story goes like this - the doctor came into the room with paperwork that needed to be signed. My dad looked at my mother and asked her how she felt about the name Tiffany. Exhausted, but fierce, she defended their original choice. The doctor settled the dispute with a flip of a coin - heads to my mom and tails to Tiffany. To this day I always call heads in a coin toss.

Having come so close to being named after a poodle, or at best a lamp (sorry to all the Tiffanys out there - it really is a lovely name, for you), I sympathize with all of the children walking around with the wrong name.

At college orientation, I had the pleasure of meeting a Mercedes Bennes. I mean - WHAT were her parents thinking? Yesterday, I ran into an Epiphany. Poor girl is going through life named for a supernatural being.

With internet resources at our disposal, you would think that there would be fewer Sophie's and Emily's, and definitely less Matthews. With all of the options available, why are these most popular today?

There are the wonderful place names - Dakota, Montana, Nevada, Savannah. But why would you name your perfect baby boy Providence?

What are some of your all-time faves? Do you know the story of how you got your name? How did you name your own babies?


Mixing business with pleasure Part II

Would you or do you date co-coworkers?

I had an awful experience a few years ago and swore I would never again date a guy I worked with.

But there is this one guy I keep running into. I've seen him out a few times, but aside from a wave, avoided any social interaction. We work in different departments, but my office has contact with all of the divisions across the organization. So every now and then I find myself working with him for a month at a time.

Is he worth pursuing? Or should I stick with my current policy and wait for the day he finds a new job elsewhere to make my move?

Pet peeves

I wasted an entire day in meetings.... one after another from 9:00 a.m. - 4:45 p.m.

One of my greatest irrational irks is the pronunciation of the word, "mature." I had the distinct pleasure of spending the day with a woman who insisted on pronouncing the word and its derivativatives as 'ma - tyoor,' 'mat yooration,' 'mat yoority.'

In case you haven't already guessed, I pronounce it with the "ch" sound - 'ma choor,' 'ma chooration,' and 'ma choority.'

By the end of the day, I was ready to hop across the table and wring the sounds out of her scrawny throat (I mentioned at the beginning of the post that it's an irrational thing with me). It drives me crazy - like fingernails scratched against a chalk board.

So how do you pronounce words like - mature, roof, caribbean, New Orleans? What secret pronunciations drive you a little insane? Or is it just me?


Think on the run

A friend of mine just emailed, begging me to join him on the Urban Challenge. This month, Wired reported on this hi-tech scavenger hunt.

Teams of two race against the clock on foot or via public transit - right up my alley. The team must visit 12 checkpoints, solving puzzles and clues to get to the next location. Each team has 5 hours to complete the course, documenting each checkpoint with a digicamera.

Too bad I'll be in Savannah.

Did anyone do this last year? Click here to find out when the Urban Challenge comes to your neighborhood.

Mixing business with pleasure

Early on in my career, I didn't think twice about inviting the boss out to happy hour. At 23, I wasn't concerned with making an impression, good or bad. I just wanted to have fun.

As I matured and moved on to another employer, I was more aware of my behavior in social settings. I'd still have fun, but wouldn't go crazy the way I would with friends.

Next week will mark my 2-year anniversary with this employer. I'm the boss now and can count the number of happy hours I've been to with employees on one hand.

Does anyone else feel inhibited in social settings with co-workers? Do you drink with the boss after hours? Do you find it inappropriate? What's your corporate culture like?

Who's fault is it?

Most of you have heard about how US troops gunned down Reuters cameraman Mazen Dana after mistaking him for an Iraqi guerilla with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

Reports state the troops shot first and attempted to resuscitate him later.

According to the Boston Globe:

Eighteen journalists have died in Iraq from hostile fire and accidents. Five have been killed by the US military.

Dana's family wants justice. How do you punish the US troops in this situation? What is a reasonable expectation of justice? Should reporters be in Baghdad?


The pat-down and bag-check

It was September 6, 2001. I was in the hell known as Heathrow Airport, hopping from line to line, passing through endless security checkpoints, desperately trying to board my flight and return to the States.

I remember passing my third security check and thinking, "this inefficient mess would never happen in the US."

Let's fast forward almost 2 years. I encounter security everywhere. It's become a part of our culture and my daily life..... to enter my apt. and work buildings, museums, civil buildings, the Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial Library, concerts, and movies.

Sometimes they're looking to prevent another terrorist attack, other times they're trying to protect corporate concerns. All I know is that, for better or worse, my behavior and packing patterns have changed.

I try to avoid carrying bags. If I'm lugging cameras and other equipment around, I'll use a carrying case with minimal pockets/zippers/strappy things. I never check luggage at the airport (learning how to stuff 2 weeks worth of clothes into a carry-on has turned into a positive thing).

I take special care choosing a travel outfit for flights. You never know when you'll find yourself stripping in front of a mob of strangers... especially since underwire bras and shoes always set off those bloody detectors.

I hate having strangers peek repeatedly thru my private property.

The lines, the wait, the voyeurism - it's a necessary evil. But is it really making us more secure?


Scientists have determined that humans developed a proclivity for clothing 70,000 years ago. By studying the three types of human lice, researchers created a molecular clock to find out when lice, or cooties, evolved.

What else will they discover through the genetic study of lice?

Atomic bomb aircraft rebuilt and in DC

The newly assembled Enola Gay, the plane that dropped "Little Boy" on Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945, is going on display at the National Air & Space Museum.

I know scientists worldwide were racing to develop nuclear technology, and if we didn't figure it out first, someone else would have. But just for a second - let's wonder what life would be like without nuclear weapons? Would something worse have been developed?

Would we be a superpower today without the tactical policy of nuclear deterrence?


A European vacation

Most employers in DC provide 10 paid days of vacation leave per year. Some think tanks, like the Brookings Institution, start employees off with 5 paid weeks. And embassy employers follow the laws of the home country, providing employees with 6 - 8 weeks of paid leave per year.

Joe Robinson is lobbying for a national three-week minimum paid leave law. I can't imagine what my life would be like without those three weeks off, and more often than not it's not enough.

I traveled to Portugal with my parents last summer. My Portuguese family were appalled that I was only visiting for a week. After all, they had the entire month of August off. Why couldn't I have taken off another week? They could not understand that had I extended my leave, I wouldn't be able to accrue enough days to visit my family for a week at Christmas.

Joe Robinson writes in his Alternet piece:

"Vacations are being downsized by the same forces that brought us soaring work weeks: labor cutbacks, a sense of false urgency created by tech tools, fear and guilt. Managers use the climate of job insecurity to stall, cancel and abbreviate paid leave, while piling on guilt. The message, overt or implied, is that it would be a burden on the company to take all your vacation days – or any. Employees get the hint: One out of five employees say they feel guilty taking their vacation, reports Expedia's survey."

My time off is sacred. How many of you don't take a vacation? Or feel guilty about taking one? Or don't have vacation time to take off? Would you consider less pay for a more generous and flexible leave package?