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: MC Masala on Modesty And A Sidewalk Cafe Story: The taboo on attention-seeking (my column last week):

I spent my adolescence learning how to turn down my showoff dial. Or trying to. Enthusiasm + intelligence = "brown-noser," right? And now, like so many women in the professional world, I have to lose my false modesty and trumpet my achievements -- and certainty as loudly as my male colleagues, or I won't get the attention, raises and responsibility I deserve. I have to do PR for my company, but also for myself.

Oddly, the only place I've ever been comfortable with that responsibility is onstage, doing stand-up comedy. I caught the audience's attention and manipulated them into laughing by hacking their minds through humor. What audacity, to control others and to claim my work is worth your attention.

An anecdote on confusion, booze, and frugality is this week's column and a conscious Jon Carroll homage.

The nondrinkers in the audience may not know how subtly a drinker has to communicate to another drinker that the drinking is getting out of hand. "How are you doing?" or "Are you all right?" get said with peculiar, sympathetic, concerned tones and faces. "You're a coward with no tolerance for alcohol and should stop making stupid decisions" does not get said.

So we kept talking, and Dave said things about race that were not racist, but which might sound racist if printed as reportage in a newspaper. Funny how that works. Booze and personal trust make it easier to talk about sex, money, and race/class/gender analysis.

Next week I talk about basil.


: Go Mel!: "Running an Education Jam in the Philippines" is only one of the subheadings on that blog post.


: 7x7: At my request, Eric Fischer calculated the long tail of San Francisco street lengths as part of his effort to walk every block in SF.

I threatened to set up flash mobs that would walk the streets with him. This was abandoned as unworkable.


: Here We Go: In this week's MC Masala column, Leonard talks about making pesto, and I talk about the Indian tulsi plant.

Leonard used the garden as a trick to get himself to exercise. His hours of plantings, weedings, waterings and harvests yielded about five meals' worth of food. But he still remembers sharing those green beans with our neighbors. And that yard went from dead gray dirt, where not even weeds grew, to a beautiful green/brown profusion.

My mom gardened everywhere she lived, too. I remember the flowers best. All our houses smelled of jasmine -- Leonard included a jasmine vine in our backyard to make me happy. But she always made sure to grow one herb: Tulsi, or 'holy basil.' We ate it and we used it in Hindu ceremonies. No wonder I latched onto its cousin, the sweet basil that we usually mean when we say 'basil.'

I finished Neal Stephenson's The Baroque Cycle. As always, some nice metaphors and insights, but I didn't get enough jaw-dropping moments out of the thing, and it got to the point where any clump of description longer than a few sentences tripped me up. Still: an awesome achievement, and the dialogue where Daniel Waterhouse meets Mr. Orney is deadly hilarious. Also, I recently read Isaac Asimov's crazy Murder at the ABA. Harlan Ellison didn't sue for libel?! And An American's Guide to Doing Business in China: Negotiating Contracts And Agreements; Understanding Culture And Customs; Marketing Products And Services by Mike Saxon is fascinating, especially in the vivid, deep, broad stereotypes of China and the Chinese.

I'm off for two weeks for my own exercise and green/brown profusion. Via WWOOF, I'll be working on an organic farm a ways northwest of here. Mostly tending tomatoes, I believe. I got a sun hat and some shreddable shorts and jeans at the thrift store. I leave tomorrow. If my schemes work out I'll still get a copy of the seventh Harry Potter book the day it comes out and read it before spoilers get to me. Also if my schemes work out my first time ever doing agricultural work will not maim or kill me.

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: Sign Of The Times: When I was growing up, a lazy person writing a presentation would start off telling you about a key word. He'd use the dictionary definition or etymology (or better yet, a made-up etymology that sounded slightly plausible to amateurs). These days, the presenter tells you how many results you get if you search for the word or term on Google.


: One Day Only: Sometime this week this article will go away into some archives, but for now: Sumana's farming lessons.



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