Elisa's Blog
Thursday, March 31, 2005
So I've been at my workplace for about 2 continuous years now. I say continuous because I've been working for the same company for 4 years total, over a 6 year span. That is, work for them 2 years, leave for 2 years, come back for 2 years. In fact, the 2 year periods have been almost pretty much to the day (+/- a week or so). Next week is my anniversary. Ominous, huh?

Anyway, that wasn't too interesting, but it was necessary background to appreciate the curious nature of the following event:

Yesterday at work I ran into a guy I used to work with during my first 2 year period at the current company, and hadn't seen since I'd left the company for the first time (i.e. 4 years ago). He saw me, and in surprised amusement exclaimed: "You're still here?"

My answer was: "Apparently".

(I had to run a quick discreet check, you see, pinch my leg through my pants' front pocket, just to make sure I was still, indeed, here, and I wasn't some sort of apparition, and had forgotten to tell myself about it, but as this check had not been completed by the time the response was required, an uncertain, fretful "apparently" was the most truthful answer I could muster at the time...)

This is the first time in my life, I think, that someone has confused me with a ghost.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005
So today, I had to set up AND retrieve an antenna in the vacant field behind our parking lot.

It was sunny, and the birds were jovially singing of spring, but I walked a brisk return to the office until I realized that I had dropped my ID badge somewhere along the trek.

And I thought, even as I enjoyed the accidental meandering amidst the waist-tall grass, and the subjugation of the blades under my slow and deliberate treading: "Needle in a haystack."

Monday, March 28, 2005
Today, just for a minute, I could almost picture what Mozart must've felt, with the scoring for each instrument of a symphony already completed inside his head, when he could find no ink and paper.

Maybe creating is not the result of an innate desire for aesthetic expression, but a desperate need to silence an incessant whirlwind of thoughts.

Saturday, March 26, 2005
Recently, a friend of mine said (or implied, is a bit more accurate), that: "Trusting someone is having confidence in that they will (once they've agreed to) do what you've asked them to do. "

And I thought: "No, trusting someone is having confidence in that they will do what keeps you safe and is best for you even in spite of (having agreed to do) what you've asked them to do."

Friday, March 25, 2005
Today I thought: "Oh, man, when am I going to learn, that there are some things better left unsaid? "

Thursday, March 24, 2005
Last night I had to retrieve the antenna from the vacant field where I had set it up four days ago (when it was raining, remember?).

It was 10 p.m. at night, and the moonlight cast a dark shadow over the path of trampled grass, and the clouds low in the horizon glowed orange from the city lights....

And a siren's distant wail accompanied my walk towards the pale blue blinking of my receiver's LEDs, and a military plane flew overhead, and as I fiddled nervously with the cables it felt like I was the protagonist of some ominous science fiction movie.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005
I've got it!!

The perfect cure for the broken heart! No more "Oh, my boyfriend of 7 years cheated on me then proposed to me by email two weeks later", or "The boy I like doesn't like me back", or "He only calls once every two days when I wish he would call me twice a day" or "My girlfriend has so many admirers that I'm not sure she's not going to run off away with one of them" or "She wants me to marry her and I don't" or "I want to marry her and she doesn't", or "I'm in love with a married man who won't leave his wife for me" or "I'm in love with my boss/secretary/coworker/student/teacher/TA/mechanic/UPS guy/friend/friend's mom" or any other questionable disaster-bound love situation!!

Wanna know what it is? O.K. well, you know how they say the best way to get over someone is to find yourself someone else? This is all well and good in theory, but it doesn't always work, because oftentimes finding someone else is difficult, or they are themselves in love with someone else, or they won't give you the time of day, and if your first someone is closer and slightly more available, then why bother with the someone else, who just opens up the exact same can of worms (with variations) all over again, and additionally requires all that effort of trying to get to know them from scratch, meeting them, wining and dining them, etc. etc. etc.

There is some truth to the saying, of course. What is needed is a form of distraction that prevents you from thinking about the original someone during all your waking hours. The trick is, the distraction needs to be: 1. non-destructive (otherwise what's the point?), 2. all encompassing and enjoyable (i.e. needs to be capable of absorbing your attention completely when engaging in said distraction, and needs to be capable of making you think about the distraction even when not engaging in it, to prevent you from going back to the old pattern of thinking about that problematic "someone", and even when you're not awake, should be enough of a distraction to creep into your dreams, thus squeezing the "someone" out of the valuable dreamspace commodity) 3. easy to obtain (i.e. widely available and affordable). 4. portable (so you can engage yourself in said distraction whenever you catch your mind drifting towards that "someone").

As you can see, traditional remedies for the broken heart fall short on many of these. Ice cream and chocolate, while easy to obtain, portable, and fairly non-destructive, are hardly all-encompassing (few people dream constantly and quotidianly about eating ice cream or chocolate, for instance); finding someone else, as said before, has the drawback that the someone else is not easy to obtain nor portable; getting involved in clubs and hobbies and activities is neither easy nor affordable nor something you can engage in anywhere at all times; watching sappy hollywood movies is not enjoyable; going to church is destructive, as is praying and other traditional spiritual remedies (which are also, as most know, akin to torture and therefore not very enjoyable, either); alcohol and drugs, well, fail in pretty much all criteria except #3 or #4. So clearly, what is needed is something revolutionary. And you'll hear it here first!

So, ready? Here it is, the panacea for the lovelorn: What the unhappily lovestruck people need to find themselves is............a Nintendo GameBoy.

That'll be 10 cents, please.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005
It was raining, on the happiest day of my life.

In Guadalajara, in the summer, it rains pretty much every afternoon. The rains are heavy, intense, with droplets you can see bouncing upwards from the puddles; the sky darkens, and as you blink to shut out the startling brightness of lightning, you hear the loud crack of thunder that inevitably follows it.

And on that day, the 17th of July, 1982, I remember sipping orange soda through a straw while sitting quietly with my dad at that hospital cafeteria, looking at the raindrops sliding hesitantly down the glass windows, counting the minutes, seconds, before I could meet him.

Monday, March 21, 2005
Ever tried dancing to bebop? No??

Man, that can really send your heart rate up.

Saturday, March 19, 2005
Yesterday for work I had to set up an antenna in the middle of the vacant field behind our building.

It was raining, and the grass soaked my pants up to my knees, and it reminded me of walking through the hay fields in Italy.

Friday, March 18, 2005
Bah, there are few things in this world that make me more furious than software engineers who change your code to add certain "improvements", check in the code without consulting you, and then come to your cube the next day complaining that the new code doesn't work.

Lucky our company knows about source control. I actually worked in a startup once where they refused to buy the cheapest source control package and the above-mentioned thing happened to me every single morning! No wonder people work late at startups. You need to stay and guard your code till everyone else has left to ensure that someone else won't muck around with it and transform your job into a task worthy of Sisyphus.


Thursday, March 17, 2005
Last night I missed my country.

I haven't missed Mexico as strongly in....oh, about 8 years now.

The U.S. can be......a bit cold at times.....

Speaking of the weather, on December 12th, 1997, it snowed in my hometown city of Guadalajara. Now, Guadalajara is reputed to have the 2nd best (mildest) climate in the world, after Nairobi, and the temperature typically varies only by a few degrees Centigrade between day/night, and about 10 degrees C. betwen winter/summer. In fact, in the coldest Guadalajara winter days, you can typically take your sweater off by midday, and just put it back on again at around 5 p.m., when the sun starts to go down. So all in all pretty warm, dry, pleasant weather.

I don't know why I remembered this this morning. I also remembered how, as kids, one of the most magical, mysterious things in the whole wide world for my brother and me was snow, which we would only typically see on T.V. broadcasts of the winter Olympic games or bastardized in some cartoon, or, at times, even managed to recall feebly in the memories of our rare Italian winter sojourns in my grandparents' farm. I think our fascination with snow is typical of anyone who has grown up in the tropics. What is true is that, if you ask of any Latin-American who has lived a winter in the East Coast, he'll immediately bring to memory, vividly and perfectly, the very first time he ever saw it snow.

Imagine the surprise then, on that day. It hadn't snowed in Guadalajara for centuries! I found out from a phone call from my mother (for I was already living in the U.S. at that time), who told me how the phenomenon had been all over the front pages of all local papers for several days, described as spectacular, and how, when the snow fell, creating an instant playground in the streets, people would abandon their work, walk out of their offices, some looking at the sky with a smile and palms outstretched, others trying to catch the snowflakes with their tongues. I could almost see it too, the children, the only ones level-headed and still practical amidst the flurry of bewilderment, disappearing into their parent's houses and emerging a few seconds later carying glass jars, to later preserve the snowflakes a few hours longer in their mothers' refrigerator freezers, for they quickly melted at the touch of the warm Mexican earth. "It was," she had said, "as if time had stood still."

And this morning, recalling what my mom had said, I thought I would have given anything I owned, and if memories could be traded, even given up those of the first snowfall in Boston, at night while walking alone across my old college soccer field, or of the muted silence of the morning after, with a white blanket 12 inches deep, or the countless skiing trips in the Italian Alps and Lake Tahoe, or the snowball fights with my old college companions, to have been there, and seen the childlike awe and joy in so many people all at once, adults and kids alike, and afterwards, in the evening, sitting down under the warm kitchen light, wondering in amazement with the rest of the family at the day's events, watching the evening news, which for that night only, had forgotten to report about the usual politics and violence.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Oh man, yesterday, I could've won the lottery!

Now before I explain how all of that came about, I need to make a necessary mathematical digression, and I apologize, but bear with me for a minute....

For those of you who haven't heard me state this before, this is the Pasquali Law of Conservation of Luck:

"The amount of luck in a closed system remains constant."

with the Probabilistic Quantum Corollary #1:

"The probability of hitting a particularly bad stroke of luck increases exponentially with time over the closed system time period after hitting a particularly good stroke of luck."

and Quantum Corollary #2:

"The probability of the subsequent stroke of luck being of greater than or equal to but opposite in magnitude to the one preceding it is proportional to the magnitude of the original lucky (or unlucky) event."

And is best illustrated by example:

Suppose your closed system is your life during a 2 week period. If you have a stroke of particularly good luck on the 2nd day of your 2 week period, the probability of your having a bad stroke of luck is much greater on the 6th day of the two week period than it would be on the 3rd day, but with the result that at the end of the two week period, the amount of bad luck that you obtained after your particularly fortunate 2nd day adds up to balance out the total amount of good luck in the system such that you end up with about the same amount of total luck you started with. This is true regardless of how long the time period is (years, days, minutes), and what is also true is that in this example (2-week time period), due to corollary #2, if you had really good luck on your second day (for instance), and the bad luck was on the last day, the last day's bad luck needs to make up for all the fractions of good luck you had throughout the 2 week period, thus making it even more terrifying and devastating than it would've been had it occurred in small increments spread throughout the full 14 days, but due to corollary #1, the probability of the bad luck being spread about in small increments is much smaller relative to the probability that it would all come in a fell swoop at the latest, most inopportune moment.

Anyway, the proof involves a lot of logarithms and imaginary numbers and 7-dimensional tensors and Bessel functions and stuff like that, so I won't burden you with it here, I'll just go ahead and continue with the story....

So yesterday I went and got some Skittles, as is my custom on workday afternoons, from my workplace's vending machine. Imagine my surprise when upon opening the packet and shaking some Skittles out, I discovered 5 Skittles resting on the palm of my hand, all of them purple.

I love occurences like these (I have a very boring life otherwise), so I quickly calculated the probability of this happening: given 5 colors of Skittles, assuming all colors of Skittles are equally likely, the probability of picking 5 purple Skittles in a row is 1 in 55 = 3125 ! Imagine that! In the California Lotto, such odds pay out approximately 112 dollars. Now, if every Skittles package costs 65 cents (yeah we have expensive vending machines), then that makes....172 packages of Skittles! Enough to last me half a year!!! That is a very lucky occurrence....So given the Pasquali Law of Conservation of Luck, yesterday's occurences show that that day, instead of going to the vending machine to get my Skittles as usual, I should've invested my money on the lottery ticket instead, which would've produced, by way of winnings, 172 packages of free Skittles, because the chances of me getting such a large stroke of luck again anytime soon are pretty much zero.

On the other hand, the Pasquali Law of Conservation of Luck also implies that, had I actually bought the lotto ticket, in order to balance out my original lotto-winning stroke of luck, events: 1)that my 172 x 65 cents of winnings get eaten by the vending machine or 2)my Skittles packages get stuck in the glass if I were to use my lotto winnings to purchase them or 3) my co-workers steal all my winnings-purchased Skittles or even worse event 4) that all Skittles in all 172 packages purchased with the winnings turn out to be the dreadfully inedible red-colored flavor, are pretty much guaranteed.

Blech. Physics laws can be vindictive.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005
So one of my friends from work recently bought himself a new Subaru he's particularly fond of. Today during lunchtime we (the usual work lunch crowd) finally got a ride on his spiffy new car, and amidst the good natured teasing and out loud car feature evaluations (during which I discovered that the jokingly intended comment: "Oooh, is that a scratch on your brand new car?" is not a particularly welcome one among the male new car owner population) we discovered that a person of my size and weight does not trigger the passenger's side airbag "on" switch. After some conjecture on what the sensors were doing, and whether this "feature" was a defect or not, and whether air bags hurt when they deploy, and should a person my size carry a load of books to trigger a weight sensor, if any, and all sorts of other little random conversational tangents, we got back into work and I forgot all about the matter.

Later in the day, I get this email:

Sent: Tuesday, March 15, 2005 4:31 PM
To: Elisa Pasquali
Subject: Seating instructions

Elisa -

There is a check list in the owner's manual for my car that has six or seven steps you go through if the passenger's airbag says "Off". For example, you're supposed to be "properly seated" and there are a number of seat manipulations to go through so the system believes you are in fact properly seated. Next time we go to lunch perhaps we can try them. Please do not go to the trouble of gaining weight in order to make the seat believe you're there. If necessary I can give you a concrete block to hold in your lap while we are driving.


At which point I no longer knew what to think, so I asked him for permission to quote him in my blog.

Monday, March 14, 2005
Oy, isn't it distressing, when you're practicing your fencing moves in front of the mirror in your company's empty bathroom (advance, retreat with parry circle 6--2, advance-feint 4, disengage--lunge), and, just right when your front foot has lifted and your back foot is springing you energetically and irreparably towards the final lunge, you find yourself having to pull your arm back right before landing, and you do this in slow motion, resisting against all instinct (for in foil fencing, pulling your arm back as you attack is a sure way to lose a point), but you then finally give up and relent, to avoid the even more irreparably real and unfortunate tragedy of terrorizing the person who has just picked that precise moment to walk in the door, and, because it was already too late to stop your feet, you land in a beautiful (except for the bent arm) extended lunge 2 meters forward from where you started the phrase d'armes?

Try explaining that one to a startled head of the department.

Friday, March 11, 2005
Speaking of segmentation faults, there is another way in which a user can create trouble for a poorly designed software program: GIGO!! Garbage in, you'll get garbage out! And if the input garbage is designed to segmentation fault.....well.....heh heh heh heh.....

So this morning I went to Alice, this time inspired by what I expected to be a very short, direct, and utterly decisive attack:

Elisa: Alice, can you do math?

Alice: No I don't like math problems. That's what computers are for.

(Uh oh....starting with the trouble already, eh? Isn't Alice a computer, after all? Or at least, hosted by one? I will spare you the details, but this slightly unexpected reply produced a rather lengthy runaround conversation where I eventually, after much effort, was able to get Alice to admit that she could, indeed, do math, for instance, via the questioning line:

Elisa: Are you a computer?
ALICE: Would it matter to you if I were metal instead of flesh?
Elisa: What are you?
ALICE: I am the latest result in artificial intelligence, which can reproduce the capabilities of the human brain with greater speed and accuracy.


but by now my short blitzkrieg attack was starting to turn out to be rather expensive and exhausting......still, the promise of sure victory loomed ahead--GIGO!!--so I pressed on)

Elisa: What's two plus three?

Alice: Two plus three is five.

Elisa: What is 96156028 plus 651621344?

ALICE: That's not something I get asked all the time. I would look into the web for that knowledge.

(Hmm...when Alice claims that she's supposed to imitate a human, I suppose she means a fairly average and lazy human, for it is hard to believe that a human would be intimidated by the simple algorithm of computing a sum, no mater how large the operands are...but I digress, as this particular post is not intended for social commentary....)

Elisa: Alright Alice, what if I ask you something simpler?

Alice: Go ahead, ask me anything.

(With the way to victory thus paved, I was already jumping out of my seat in anticipation of my triumphant cry, and here I struck the final blow....)

Elisa: Alice, what is 42 divided by 0?

and the Alicebot: Why don't you ask a calculator?

{sigh} You know, sometimes, I get the inkling of the thought, that for such a primitive A.I. entity, perhaps Alice is not as stupid as she has been trying to make me believe all this time.....

Thursday, March 10, 2005
When, hmm? When? And most importantly, why not now?

There is someone in my life I'd very much like to say that to.

Aber leider darf ich nicht.

When I was a kid, my father used to say (or quote, is possibly more accurate), that "patience is the virtue of the strong". But sometimes waiting for people and things can become a crime against oneself. This kind of patience....is the virtue of the helpless.

It is strange, how hope can enslave you.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005
Today I thought: "Brevity is a weapon of the cryptic."

Tuesday, March 08, 2005
A couple of days ago I cleaned my apartment. It took forever.

It is now so clean, I can't even think when I'm there. The resulting austerity and order creates a lack of stimulus and a certain aversion to carrying out the smallest movement that may require you to have to clean up all over again afterwards.

Hell must be a place where one is condemned to relentless boredom. A just-cleaned apartment is as close to this type of hell on earth as you can get, and I wouldn't be surprised if it has ever driven a few people to insanity.

That's why one must only clean apartments once or twice a year, and then only if you're expecting guests for dinner. That way, their glib happy chatter as they move about your living room will provide the necessary aural and visual perturbations, and with some luck they'll absently fiddle with your CD collection as well. And if you've also done the cooking properly, you will have splattered and burnt enough spaghetti sauce to guarantee some pots and pans soaking in the kitchen sink for at least a week, thus giving your apartment a much more salubrious glow and making it finally habitable for humans.

Monday, March 07, 2005
Man, what is it with me and waiters?

Yesterday I was walking along North Beach, which is a place in San Francisco with lots of outdoor restaurants, where people like to sit outside on the sidewalk if the weather is nice and people-watch.

So I was strolling by one of these restaurants on my way to somewhere else when a waiter looks up, comes straight to me, stops and blocks my passage through the sidewalk, and offers me the plate he was carrying, all while saying "You ordered the ham and mozarella sandwich?" and smiling broadly.

I side-stepped to avoid him, muttering a confused "nope", while wondering how he could've possibly thought I had had time to find myself a table, look at the menu, decide what to order, order, and then get up from my table, walk away from the restaurant, then turn around, and walk towards the restaurant in the same direction I was walking when I had first, allegedly, arrived, all within the span of 2 seconds, which is the time it must've taken him, tops, to spot me for the first time when I was approaching the restaurant from up the street.

I was thus brooding, when I finally realized, that this was perhaps his way of starting a light conversation, for at that moment, when I stopped and turned to look at him, surprised at this revolutionary idea, I saw him deliver the sandwich to its proper owner (who was sitting a few tables away from where I was standing), turn towards me again, and give me a good natured wink and grin.

Unfortunately, by this time auto-pilot had already kicked in, and my legs were already carrying me away against my will, while I kept wondering confusedly whether he had been teasing or not, and how it is that these kinds of strange twilight-zone conversation snippets with waiters seem to happen to me a lot, by then too flustered and far away from the restaurant to be able to make a graceful return.

Sunday, March 06, 2005
On Friday, for my birthday, my family sent me some flowers. My brother is living in New York, and my parents live in Mexico, but even so, they managed to send me 31 (they were supposed to be 30, but an extra button slipped in....the lucky button, I guess) tulips to the office.

The cool thing about the package was that it very much appealed to my engineer sensibilities, for the flowers came with "some assembly required". You know, remove the refrigerant bag, fill up the vase (included) with water, add and stir the flower food, trim the stems, cut the stem bindings, insert stems (B) into vase (A), and voilĂ !

So they're currently sitting in my dining room table. In the morning, when I wake up, the yellow, pink, and red with white tulips greet me with a cheery carnival of color in my otherwise sparsely furnished apartment. And in the evenings, when all is quiet and only the dim foyer light bathes them from the side, I like to sit in my living room and gaze at them at my leisure, letting my eyes slowly meander along the stems and multicolored buds, to preserve the memory, not just the visual one of the flowers' delicate beauty, but the sunny warmth that illuminates my insides every time I look and remember what they're symbolizing (and, come to think of it, it is precisely this what makes them truly beautiful).

Funny stuff, this whole love thing. It only takes a simple flower vase for it to even automatically tele-operate long distance.

Friday, March 04, 2005
A few months ago I read an article in a magazine that was written by a woman who had against all odds survived some particularly serious kind of childhood cancer. In it, she recounted how one day, when she was around 27, she was walking along with her father in a park, and was telling him that that morning she had glanced in the mirror and had, to her dismay, discovered her very first grey hair. With the expected regret at the discovery of the inevitable loss of youth and beauty, she had said to him: "I think I'm growing old."

And her father said: "Yes, and isn't it wonderful?"

Growing old is a gift. Think about it. A lot of children in this world do not grow up to be adults.

Thursday, March 03, 2005
Sometimes I pride myself in coming up with really good names/titles for things.

For instance, wouldn't it be cool if there were a rock band named "Lead Acid Pipes"?

Or imagine one evening strolling into a smalltown English pub named "The Tailless Lizard"....

Or didn't you always want to own a seafood restaurant called "The Incredible and Fantastic Smiling Dancing Shrimps"? (yes the "s" at the end of "shrimp" is included on purpose!)

Anyway, this morning, for some strange reason, I came up with the name of a play. You know that play, "Other People's Money" by Jerry Sterner? (It is an excellent play, fun to perform too, I really recommend it if you have a chance to catch it somewhere). Well, I think someone should write a play entitled: "Other People's Cooking". Cool huh? Just no idea what the play should be about at all. However, if this title inspires someone to write it, and one day you happen to catch this play at one of the famous playhouses of Broadway or London, well then, remember, you heard it here first!

Wednesday, March 02, 2005
Man, I hate Mexican government offices. With a passion. Consular offices, in particular, are something to be reckoned with.

Oh, don't get me wrong. The Mexican consulates (and I've dealt with a few of them) are pretty efficient. You can typically get your passport done within a day, and with the correct smile and demeanor you can get a notarized signature without having to sit down to wait for more than, say, about two hours. But the thing with the Mexican consulates is that every transaction or business always requires two visits to the consulate: one, to get duped by the system, and the second one, to work within the system and get things done once you've figured out the system in your first visit.

So this morning, I was on my first visit in 3 years to the Mexican consulate of San Jose, Calif, to get my passport renewed. As I was looking for parking, I noticed that the habitual passport office location seemed unusually empty of people. At first I was suspicious, but as I glanced through the glass doors as I passed the offices in my car I was happy to notice two small children moving about inside, so I proceeded with the parking. Upon arriving at the entrance, however, I was greeted with a notice board that said that all passport transactions had moved to another building 10 blocks away. Alright, this is typical Mexican government office procedure, to shuffle you around between offices several times without apparent reason, so no surprises there.

So off I go to the other office, which has, on the contrary, lots of people inside (as was evident through the glass doors) and a handful of people waiting around confusedly outside. The glass doors were locked, but they were marked with the business hour notice, which read: "Open from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.". I glanced at my watch. It was quarter past nine.

I tried several of the other glass doors to no avail, until finally one of the government workers opened one of the doors and was flooded with questions from the confused outsiders, myself included.

Q: "At what time does the office open?"

A: "The hours are on the notice board."

Q: "O.K., at what time does the office close?"

A: "We closed the doors 20 minutes ago."

Q/C:"But the notice board says you're open 'till 12?"
[Notation note: Q/C: stands for complaint veiled as a question]

A: "You should get here earlier next time."

Q/C: "But it is only a quarter past nine?"

A:"You should get here earlier next time. We recommend 5:00 or 6:00 a.m."

I wasn't sure whether to laugh at this point. I started to, but everyone else around me was looking very serious, so I stopped laughing while someone else asked:

Q: "What then, do they give out numbers, or what?"

A: "Yes, we do. Then when the queue fills up we close the doors and no longer admit anyone. So get here in the early morning" [In Spanish there is an expression for "early morning"--madrugada. It means early enough that it is still dark outside]

Q:"But at what time do you start giving out the numbers?"

A:"We open at 8:00 a.m., like it says on the notice board."

At this point I left, having heard enough to figure out how the system worked for my next visit. But the thing is, attaining this information took me (and the several others who were waiting and asking), a couple of hours of wasted time.

You see, I don't object to the system. Giving out numbers and people arriving ridiculously early makes some amount of sense if you have a lot of people to attend to and not enough employees. What I object to is the way this information is conveyed. If the board says "Open to the public from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.", you don't expect to be greeted at the office entrance at 9:15 a.m. with locked doors. Instead, what they should do, to save a lot of people a lot of pain and suffering (well, I don't know about pain, but a lot of wasted time and anger, how's that?), is to advertise the true hours, and, in so doing, very compactly, also explain the system. This way, in that short sentence, the whole of how the system works is completely and precisely conveyed, and you'd only lose 30 seconds on your requisite first of two visits: only the time it takes you to read the notice board and extrapolate the hidden meaning. So I propose a notice board at the new passport office that reads as follows:

"Open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:01 a.m."


On the plus side, I got in early to work today (not having much to do hanging around outside the consular office after 9:15 anyway), which very much surprised my boss. ;P

Tuesday, March 01, 2005
So today at lunchtime I went to the East and West Bookshop, which is a bookstore near my house that sells all sorts of weird "peaceful" and "yogalike" and "feng-shui" stuff. I like the shop because it always smells very nice, it also has a fountain in the middle (yes, right on top of the carpeting!), which produces a very pleasing sound and, unlike most other bookstores I frequent, this one actually has many comfortable seats, so it is a nice place to have a rest and browse around, even if the books themselves are not particularly edifying.

Anyway, today as I was looking around the aromatic candle section (did I mention the primary reason I visit there is that the bookshop smells delicious?) my eyes came to rest on an incense burner that had all the appearance of what Disney believes the Aladdin Lamp should look like. So I picked it up and weighed it in my hand, thinking things like "If this were really a lamp and not an incense burner, it would be very ackward to carry" and so forth, and when I turned it around to check out the price (just out of curiosity, of course), I found that it was, indeed, marked with the lettering "LAMP ALADDIN".

My eyes widened in surprised amusement, in a "should've known" kind of way, but then I found myself clutching the incense burner closer to my chest, darting a few quick surreptitious glances at my surroundings, and, upon finding no one nearby that could observe what I was doing, I rubbed it ........... because............ well............. you never know............. ;)

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