Monday, June 20, 2011

Snapshot Book Review: The Road

The RoadThe Road by Cormac McCarthy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was extremely well written. For a novel in which virtually nothing happens to further a plot that leads basically from misery to death concerning two characters with almost no backstory, I was actually rather impressed. These reasons--lack of driving plot, lack of conclusive ending, lack of backstory explaining who the characters are or how the world that exists in such ruin came to be--are why I did not like this novel. But that is my personal preference. In spite of those preferences, I must say that tMcCarthy's writing is sparse and yet nearly lyrical in its stark simplicity. Ruin, destruction, destitution, and hopelessness permeate book, and yet the perseverance and loyalty of the father and son traveling through this world gives the reader an odd sense of futile and yet gratifying hope and satisfaction. The Road shows the beauty and preciousness of life and the enduring nature of love in spite of a devastating past and bleak future.

View all my reviews

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The New York Flux

I love New York City (and the New Jersey boroughs of Hoboken and Jersey City, both of which are pretty much extensions of NYC, in my opinion). I love the energy, I love the diversity, I love the availability, and most of all, I love the people.

Of course, I don’t love all of the people. I definitely do not love the people who walk four abreast on the sidewalk and glare as if I am in their way as I struggle to haul three gigantic, overflowing bags of laundry past them up the street. I do not love the people who stand outside bodegas, bars, or restaurants and blow cigarette smoke directly into my eyes as I pass by on the sidewalk. I do not love people who allow their children ride hilly-nilly around the street and run into me on their scooters, and I also do not love people who ask me how to do something and then, as I am telling them, act as if they already know the answer.

Alternatively, I do love people who agree to get up before the sun rises on a Saturday morning to ride bikes or go swimming. (And I especially love those people when they offer to pick me up in their car!) I love people who say, “Yes you can,” and, “I believe in you,” and, “Thank you for working so hard on this.” I love people who selflessly offer to come to my apartment and help me snake my stuffed-up toilet, and people who drive me to Home Depot to pick out supplies to repair a hold in my apartment wall. I love people who are willing to lend me shoe polish, yoga mats, and a whole variety of other odds-and-ends that I am lacking. I love people who love to go on “coffee walks” at work just to be outside and catch up on each other’s lives. I love people who care about the things I care about.

Living in New York (okay, okay, New Jersey, but like I said, Jersey City counts), I have had the opportunity to meet all of sorts of people from all over: people from Israel, Australia, Italy, Japan, China, Canada, California, Wisconsin, Queens (NY), and Long Branch (NJ)--all of whom are gathered right here in this one spot to live and eat and exercise and smile. Nowhere else in America--or maybe even the world--would this be possible.

With so many people gathered from so many other cities and states and countries, however, there is an inevitable flux. People come; people go. Some visit for a week, others stay for a year or two or three. Eventually, though, it seems that everyone leaves.

I am not an exception to this trend. At two-and-a-half years, I have been here longer than some, although probably not most. In that time, I have formed relationships with coworkers and fellow athletes that I would not trade for the world. Yet, I cannot envision myself staying in this place any longer than five years. If I do stay for the full five, most of my friends will have come and gone. At that time, I will follow their examples: taking a week or two to check activities off of my “bucket list,” give away most of my belongings, and say the most lasting farewells that I can.

I do not look forward to that time, nor do I dread it; I simply know it is coming. Yet selfishly, I hope my time comes earlier rather than later, because I find it easier to wave farewell from the balcony of a ship setting sail than to wave while standing behind, on the shore.

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Reprieve

The best way to make corporate employees happy is to give them a half-day on the Friday before a holiday weekend. The second-best way is to break the e-mail server.

Every day, when I get to work, I log into my computer, turn on the light above my desk, change my shoes, and promptly log into Outlook. I then spend the first 10-15 minutes looking through new messages, determining which ones must be answered immediately (i.e. emails from my boss or other supervisors), which ones will need to wait until I have more time (i.e. emails from outside the company, where a typo might be critical), which ones will require at least an hour's worth of work (often about a quarter of the emails), and which ones I probably don't have to read until tomorrow, or Friday, or next week. Once I have mentally sorted these emails and written myself a few post-it note reminders, I go make myself a cup of tea. The daily panic has begun.

Yesterday, for what I believe was the first time since I started working at Wiley, I arrived at work to an Inbox empty of new messages and a phone message informing me of the following:

"Good morning. This is Technology Report Services. The email client in North American offices is currently out of service. We are working hard to fix the problem and will--"

At this point I hit the *-3 key combination on my phone to delete the message. No email? Great! Now I could finally get some work done! And when I had a question to ask a colleague, I would . . . instant message them. Phone them. God forbid . . . get up from my desk and walk over to ask them in person.

It felt like a revolution had taken place. In those four hours free from incoming emails, I packaged and shipped eight boxes of conference materials, wrote copy for five fliers, generated a book list in Excel, researched articles for the blog (WiSci), faxed reservation packets to two conferences, and paid in-person visits to three different colleagues. More importantly, during those four hours, I felt completely focused and at ease. There were no phantom messages popping up in the bottom right-hand corner of my screen to alert me that someone needed something ASAP. I did not feel the compulsion to click into Outlook every five minutes to check and see what urgent messages I might be missing. Instead, I worked steadily through the morning and cleared three layers of paper off of my desk. Then, I went for a short run, made my lunch, and returned to my desk to find that "North American email service was back in operation." Fortunately, since most of my other colleagues hadn't had email all morning, either, there weren't too many messages awaiting me, and I had a moderately productive afternoon, as well.

I don't know if this experience has implications about the advent of technology and modern communication or if it just demonstrates that I am easily distracted by email and feel undue stress by constant string of demands from others that arrive via email. However, in either case, it makes me wonder what the office place felt like before the arrival of Internet and email. After all, that revolution only occurred about twenty years ago (or at least that was when the Internet became publicly available; its widespread use and dependence probably occurred even more recently). Were people stuck on the phone all day long? Did they silently do work at their desks? Was there more office chatter and less click-clack of keyboards? And most of all: would I have liked it better?