Monthly Archives: December 2006

67 hours

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Time for The Lesbrarian’s rundown of books read in 2006. I’m afraid this will be a post that I, and only I, will care about.

("Um, Jessica? We hate to tell you this, but all your other posts? Guess what?")

Oh shut up why don’t you.

I read 130 books, which averages out to one every 67 hours, or 2.8 days. Would have been more but I slowed down significantly in the latter fourth of the year. This is because I moved from Franklin to Wilhelmsplatz, where there are things to see and people to do.

When I say I read 130 books, I mean exactly that. I didn’t skim them, or partially read them, or start and then fail to finish.

Some interesting (to me, anyway) notes about the 130 books (numbers might not equal 130 because some titles fall in several categories):

Authors

  • 87 authors (89, if you consider that two titles had two authors), including one corporate author, CNN
  • Most-read author: Terry Pratchett, with 11 Discworld titles

Levels

  • 111 Adult level books
  • 2 Children’s books
  • 17 YA books

Forms

  • 12 Graphic Novels
  • 28 Nonfiction titles
  • 1 novella
  • 1 collection of novellas
  • 88 novels

Motivation

  • I read 83 titles exclusively for the sake of pleasure
  • I read 47 titles our of a sense of duty ("I should read more NF/Christian/Romance/etc. to be a better librarian" and/or "I should read these books for my NoveList articles")
  • 27 of those 47 dutiful titles turned out to be pleasurable

Nonfiction Genres

  • 1 Biography
  • 1 canonical (that’d be Kurt Vonnegut’s Man Without a Country)
  • 5 humor
  • 2 on comics (thanks, Scott McCloud!)
  • 2 crime
  • 1 criticism
  • 1 current events
  • 4 historical
  • 3 instructional
  • 8 memoir
  • 2 political
  • 5 generic popular
  • 4 social science
  • 1 travel

Fiction Genres

  • 1 alternate history (you suck, Eric Flint. I don’t care what anyone says.)
  • 4 canonical
  • 1 chick lit. Blegh.
  • 10 Christian
  • 17 humor
  • 1 crime
  • 4 erotica (Yeech Zane yeeeeech)
  • 1 fairy tale
  • 20 fantasy
  • 1 historical
  • 9 horror
  • 3 mystery
  • 22 generic mainstream and/or literary fiction, which is a gay term. I hesitate to use "gay" derogatively (I am half-gay, after all), but really. It’s gay.
  • 8 romance. They all sucked, except for Hannibal.
  • 5 science fiction
  • 1 superhero
  • 27 suspense and/or thriller
  • 2 Westerns

Miscellaneous

  • My annual Fat Russian Novel: Dr. Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak
  • 1 set in Africa; 1 in Britain; 1 in Japan; 1 in Portugal; 2 in Russia
  • 11 aimed at African-American audiences; 1 at Chicano audiences
  • 1 commedia dell’arte
  • 2 dystopias
  • 7 gay books
  • 2 on grammar
  • 7 featuring vampires

Best and Worst

  • Best NF: The Committment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Family, by Dan Savage
  • Worst NF: Flag: An American Biography, by Marc Leepson (dull, dull, dull)
  • Best Adult Fiction: Portuguese Irregular Verbs, by Alexander McCall Smith
  • Worst Adult Fiction: Gettin’ Buck Wild, by Zane
  • Best YA: The Burn Journals, by Brent Runyon
  • Worst YA: Things Change, by Patrick Jones (I love Patrick Jones the man and the librarian, but I was underwhelmed by his novel. NB, however, that it was merely mediocre, and not actually all that bad.)
  • Best NF Graphic Novel (tie): Making Comics, by Scott McCloud — Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
  • Best Fiction Graphic Novel: V for Vendetta, by Alan Moore
  • Worst Graphic Novel: The Hedge Knight, by George R. R. Martin. It’s a prequel to his Fire and Ice series, and while it was okay, the novels proper are much better.

Blogsploitation

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Melvil and I were discussing my blog today. He was curious to know how I felt so comfortable talking about personal things in a forum that absolutely anyone can read.

I’ve been thinking about it, and best I can tell, it’s because I don’t discuss anything personal. Or to be more accurate, I don’t discuss anything private.

“But, um,” you stutter, “um. What about the. You know. The bit where you talk about…”

My sexual orientation?

“Yes, that’s it,” you say, relieved.

Thanks for asking! I am dimly aware that most folks aren’t happy talking about sex, sexuality, or orientation, unless it’s to spout the One Man/One Woman mantra, and honestly, that grates after a bit. Come on, folks, the one:one ratio thing is old news. Move on.

(Tangent: I was just stricken with a fit of curiosity. Does anyone know what kinds of beds are used by polyamorous lovers? Do they buy the biggest damn king size bed on the market? Who gets to sleep in the middle? The one who pees the least, so that he/she doesn’t wake up someone else in the middle of the night? Google couldn’t tell me, but a search for “polyamorous bed” gave me some interesting results.)

“Uh, Jess,” you venture, “I don’t think the marriage amendment was about polyamory. It was more of a gay thing.”

Oh. Oh, you’re probably right. Doesn’t matter anyway. Fucking amendment passed. Now none of us can have any fun.

Where was I?

Sexual orientation, that was it. Like I was saying, I realize that some people are shy about sex and all that, but not me. I’ve said nothing here I wouldn’t want my own mother to read—fortunate, considering she does read it. Hi, Mom!

My sexual orientation (briefly: a queer sort of bi) is part of my identity. Everyone knows I’m a librarian, and everyone knows I’m a drop-dead gorgeous white female (the adjectives may vary, but we’re all pretty much agreed on the white female bit), and everyone knows I have liberal politics. So why shouldn’t everyone know I’m a queer?

Lest you think I’m willing to discuss anything on this blog, you should bear in mind that part I said about privacy. There are plenty of things in my life I don’t discuss here. (Ask Mom. She’ll tell you.) I would never talk about who I’m sleeping with, except for Johnny Depp. I would never talk about who I’d like to be sleeping with, or at most it would be oblique, i.e., “I saw a Johnny Depp movie.”

Wait, that was a lie. I do talk about who I’d like to be sleeping with, but mainly that’s limited to fictional characters, who are unlikely to jump off the page and complain about violated privacy. Generally this is good, though it also means they’re unlikely to jump off the page and ravish me. Life is all about trade-offs.

Before you conclude that I’m keeping silent about a glorious, super-secret sex life, consider that “personal” encompasses much more than sex. (I mean—conclude away. If you want to think I engage in fantastic passions each evening, and morning and day while we’re at it, I am not the woman to stop you. Just be aware that it’s not true.) When I say I don’t write about personal things on this blog, I’m talking about a whole host of issues. I don’t write about times when I get depressed or times when I’m angry at myself or times when a coworker pisses me off. There are places for discussing those things, but this blog is not one of them.

Sexual orientation, though? And my affair with Johnny Depp? Fair game. The only reason I don’t write more about Johnny is because I don’t want the rest of you to be jealous.

Parkas in a 70-degree December

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It’s funny. Last week I became furious after someone made a lewd comment about my breasts. It was wildly inappropriate, but it was only six words long, and it was, after all, just words. The asshole didn’t attempt to touch me or anything like that. All it took was one degrading statement and I flew off the handle, didn’t calm down for two days.

So there I am the next day at the Girl Parts doctor and the nurse is all concerned because I’m scheduled with a male doctor.

“It’s fine,” I tell her. “Not a problem.”

“But he’s a… are you sure?”

Doctor-who-happens-to-have-a-penis proceeds to check my breasts for weird stuff and check my reproductive organs for more weird stuff, using a creepy medieval instrument of torture, i.e. the speculum, and it doesn’t bother me a bit. I’m lying there on my back in a skimpy paper gown and not much else, and I’m not the least bit nervous. Doesn’t faze me a bit, because the guy is a doctor. It’s his job.

It’s all about context. Doctor felt me up six ways till Sunday and that was fine. I expected him to. I expect lovers to feel me up six ways till Sunday, preferably eight, and in fact I get upset if they don’t. I laugh it off if coworkers at a bar say off-color things about me. They’re people I know, and it’s a bar, ferChrissakes. But a stranger in a library? He’s got no rights. None. Not to touch, not to comment, not to ogle. None of the above—and he managed to sneak in “comment” and “ogle” before I told him off.

I’m proud of the way I responded to him. I am not going to reveal details because this is a public blog, but trust me on this, it was a fine feminist moment.

The sad thing is, I only managed my firm, deliberate sounding-off because I’ve had so much practice at deflecting unwanted attention. I’ve got pitifully little practice in dealing with wanted attention, but the uninvited kind? Hoo boy. I started wearing a bra in third grade. I have double-going-on-triple-D breasts. Except for those days when I wear my 3x heavy men’s parka, I know I’m subjecting myself to potential sexual harassment.

The situation is especially grim when you realize I don’t own a 3x heavy men’s parka. I do not own a parka AT ALL. But it was 70-odd degrees today in mid-December. You understand.

There have been times in the past where I did not respond well to sexual harassment. If it’s a comment from a passerby on the sidewalk, such as “Hey there, hooters!” (I actually got that once) I tend to duck my head and scurry along, when instead I should be delivering a lecture on women and respect. The time this asshole I worked with tried to get me in bed, all I did was blush and politely decline.

(Though, for the record, when I filed a formal complaint, the investigators determined that “he seems like a nice guy” and that my story “didn’t ring true” and that I should seek psychological help for my “problems.” Excessive quote marks used derisively, albeit accurately.)

Ideally, I would respond to sexual harassment with acerbic comebacks and scathing, humiliating putdowns. I would further respond by kicking out with my thigh-high, lace-up shiny black leather boots, and my cape would twirl glamorously, and my fishnets wouldn’t tear, and I’d kick the badguy into the next county.

Only one problem with this plan: I don’t have any thigh-high, lace-up shiny black boots. I will be sure to purchase some next time I’m in a thift and/or sex store, along with a parka. (Do they sell parkas at Priscilla’s?)

Scum of the earth

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Too bad I’ve vowed not to talk about patrons here. I’d really like to vent about this jerk I dealt with today, but I can’t give details. There’s a miniscule chance that the jerk would discover this page and then sue the library or something. Don’t wanna lose my job.

But if you know me and you want to hear about a particularly abhorrent encounter, shoot me an email or find me in person.

On the bright side, this incident reminds me why I’m a feminist. Wasn’t really in danger of forgetting, but a little feminist ire can be a good thing.

I’m going to go find something strong to drink.

Continental Thrift

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Human rights groups and fashion watchdogs alike are going wild over Jessica Kennedy-Rockefeller’s shopping spree yesterday. Ms. Kennedy-Rockefeller, with her stunning assistant Kharma, reinvigorated the fashion world in a move that rescued hundreds, if not thousands, of children from human bondage.

“We haven’t seen progressive action like this since the Kyoto Protocol,” says Kofi Annan, departing Secretary General of the United Nations. “Though we’d like to take this opportunity to point out, again, that the United States, and the Bush Administration particularly, remains opposed to the Kyoto Protocol. Don’t blame me when the earth melts into a puddle of lava. Even the cockroaches will be lucky to survive.”

It is well known that Ms. Kennedy-Rockefeller, though far richer than you will ever be, lives a humble existence.

“It is a moral obligation, an ethical imperative,” she explains in her cultured voice. It is refreshing to hear multisyllabic words from a woman as attractive as Ms. Kennedy-Rockefeller.

“That is why I drive the cheapest car that was on the lot at the dealership,” she says. “And that is why I don’t employ a maid. After intensive soul-searching, I have concluded that vacuuming up the cat litter on the carpet is less important than devoting myself to the impoverished peoples of the world. Besides, I think the vacuum is broken.”

Because of Ms. Kennedy-Rockefeller’s selfless lifestyle, she decided last night to shop at two thrift stores. In so doing, she galvanized the fashion industry and saved the lives of countless toddlers in distant lands.

“She is an example to us all,” said a spokesperson for Amnesty International. “She… she…” At this point, unfortunately, the spokesperson broke down crying.

By purchasing second-, or quite possibly third- or fourth-, hand clothes from the CHKD last night, Ms. Kennedy-Rockefeller failed to purchase all-new clothes—clothes that, undoubtedly, would have been sewn by infants in sweatshops.

And what fabulous clothes they were! Ms. Kennedy-Rockefeller chanced upon two plaid skirts that will look damn sexy with those little black knee-highs with the bows, if she can figure out how to wear them so the tear doesn’t show.

“She’s the new It Girl,” declared the cover of Time Magazine.

“How DID you find such good clothes in a thrift store?” asked the editor of Vogue, in an exclusive interview.

“It’s hard,” admitted Ms. Kennedy-Rockefeller. “Few women are lucky enough to have my size. There were plenty of clothing choices in size six, in size eight, but as for me? My physique is so uncommon that it’s nearly impossible to find clothes. Of course, the uncommon physique is part of my allure.

[Aside from thelesbrarian: Marilyn Goddam Monroe was a size 14. I’m in good company. Leave me the fuck alone.]

“And what about your assistant?” asked the interviewer from Cosmo. “What about Kharma?”

“It’s hard to get her out of the jeans rut,” confessed Ms. K.-R. “But I spotted a fabulous orange skirt for her. Or rather she spotted it. But I approved of it, and that sealed the deal.”

For further reading on Ms. Kennedy-Rockefeller’s humanitarian thrift store adventure, see the cover of any major magazine issued this week. Chances are the cover of any major magazine for the next few months will work, too. Start clipping now!

Literotica

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Here’s a kinda hokey humor piece about new literary terms.

My favorite is litrosexual: Someone who prefers books to sex.

Praise God. Someone finally found a way to describe my sexual orientation.

When other people describe their ideal date, they say things like “moonlit walk on the beach” or “candlelit dinner by the sea” or, if they’re being honest, “steamy raucous sex with a hot woman, two if possible.”

My ideal date consists of quietly curling up on the couch with a good book, two if possible. This is nearly identical to the way I spend my evenings anyway, but the crucial difference here is that, on a date, there would be another person reading on the couch.

But don’t be fooled. This scenario makes it seem simple to win the favors of a litrosexual, but complications can ensue. If you ever let slip that you enjoy reading bad books, the litrosexual will drop you like a hot coal.

Speaking of which, it occurs to me now that every person I’ve ever slept with (of which there are, um, hordes. No—droves) was a big fan of Dune, which is hands down the Worst Book Ever. The only reason these liaisons occurred was because I wasn’t yet out of the litrosexual closet.

Hmm. I wonder if litrosexuals can get married in this state?

But now I am a proud litrosexual, and as such, I feel qualified to tell you which books were the best of 2006. Very astute readers, by which I mean Marian, will recall that I have no patience for authorities who try to tell other people which books are good, unless the authority in question is me.

Actually—and dear readers, it pains me so to admit this—it may be that I am not, in fact, the best person to do this list. God knows the NY Times isn’t but my problem is that I don’t read a lot of current books. The problem with dead authors is they’re, you know, dead. Nothing new coming out of them, ‘cept for V.C. Andrews.

Some people only read new books. Blows my mind. If you want a book on stem cell research, okay, sure, I see your point, you want something current. But for pleasure reading, who the hell cares when it was written? I can see not wanting a book from the 17th century, but is it really going to kill you to read a book written in 2003?

So I haven’t, um, read very many books published in 2006. Which is going to make my Best of 2006 list kind of tricky. Just humor me, okay?

Eight* Best Books Published in 2006
According to Jessica Kennedy-Rockefeller, the Only Opinion That Matters

(Eight, because I only read 9 books published in 2006, and Stephen King’s Cell just sucked)

The Nymphos of Rocky Flats
Mario Acevedo

Military man turns into vampire in Iraq. Returns home. Investigates fiendish plot by aliens to turn Americans into nymphos.

Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster
Svetlana Alexievich

Don’t just take my word for it. Sarah Statz Cords of Nonfiction Readers Anonymous liked it, too, and she’s always right. (Speaking of which, her book would be on this list if I’d done more than just skim it. The Real Story: A Guide to Nonfiction Reading Interests was published in 2006, and it rocks.)

So anyway, Voices from Chernobyl was written 20 years after the disaster. It is history at its finest: you get to hear the real stories of real victims told in their own words. This is a profoundly disturbing book.

Fun Home
Alison Bechdel

Not since reading Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Men have I had to consult outside sources just to get through the text. By outside sources, I mean dictionaries, I mean encyclopedias, I mean art criticism. (League and Fun Home are both graphic novels, by the way. But we all know that GNs aren’t real literature.)

Fun Home is an incredibly intelligent book. It is a memoir of Bechdel’s youth, and it focuses on her father, a depressed and closeted homosexual. The artwork is gorgeous and the characters are vivid. Another profoundly disturbing book for ya.

Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies
June Casagrande

Not the best grammar book I’ve read—and I’ve read a LOT of them—but one of the funnier ones. Realizing that I am a great big meanie is—forgive the repetition—profoundly disturbing.

Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster
Michael Eric Dyson

Race and Katrina and government fuckups. (That is to say, fuckups (v) performed by the government, and fuckups (n) employed by the government). Profoundly disturbing.

An Inconvenient Truth
Al Gore

You guessed it: Profoundly Disturbing. Why couldn’t Gore have displayed this passion in 2000? This is Gore in his element, talking about something that truly matters to him. The book is about global warming and it has charts and photos galore. It scared the shit out of me, and caused me to amend two of my evil ways: Now I carry around a cloth bag to use at the grocery store instead of plastic bags, and I’ve reconfigured my electronic stuff to not use energy unless it’s actively being used.

The Prop
Pete Hautman

Pete Hautman is one of those unappreciated authors. The man won a YA National Book Award, for crying out loud (for Godless), but nobody knows who he is. He writes great books in all manner of genres. The Prop is a noirish story with a professional card-dealing dame for a hero. It rocks.

Making Comics
Scott McCloud

Who knew art criticism could be laugh out loud funny? McCloud has written an insightful, detailed, glorious how-to guide for people who want to make comix. I’m not one of them, but I was enchanted—remarkable, considering how little tolerance I have for books about things I don’t know how to do, like repairing cars, or cooking food. The book is presented in Graphic Novel format and it is probably my favorite on this list.

In Blog Heaven

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Part of my work as Queen of the Libraries is to select databases for Wilhelmsplatz. In some ways this is the hardest part of my job, because it means I have to talk to salespeople.

If I am remembering Dante’s Inferno correctly, and I am sure that I am, there is a special level of hell reserved for salespeople. One of the nastier levels, something more gruesome than your garden-variety wailing and teeth gnashing.

My own father is a salesperson. I am a terrible daughter.

A few days ago I met with the rep for our Reference USA database. I went into the meeting reluctantly, worried that she would try to sell me something, worried that she would shed her exoskeleton to reveal the alien/locust hybrid beneath.

Turned out she was a really nice lady who didn’t want to sell me anything. She just wanted to make sure I was comfortable with the database. Her costume was flawless; I have no idea where she was hiding the telecommunications gizmos that connect her to the mothership. I hate to make quick judgments* but I suspect she’ll spend her afterlife in one of the cozier levels of hell, the one with the exotic dancers and the beer and the dartboards.

*this is not actually true

We were messing around on the database. It can be really helpful in finding information about businesses (though not, alas, in finding info about Dad’s business.) The nice alien sales rep was amazed at my use of keyboard shortcuts—another point in her favor, since I am inordinately fond of people who are impressed by me.

“How’d you learn all that?” she cooed.

“Aw, I just picked it up here and there,” I said. I am a pillar of modesty. “All in a day’s work, ma’am.”

Actually, that’s about the truth. I am a keyboard shortcut fiend, but not because anyone taught me the tricks. My fluency on the keyboard is a result of too much time spent on the computer as a teen. (And as a 25-year-old, if you must know.)

When I was in the seventh grade, my parents grappled with a financial decision: Should they put their money into a new computer, or should they try to move our trailer out of the trailer park?

I desperately wanted to leave the trailer park, but we wound up with the computer. It was shiny and new. It had the latest OS, Microsoft Windows 95, and it connected to the internet via a dialup service called Pipeline.

So when I was 13, 14 years old, I spent all my free time (i.e., time not spent doing homework or practicing the tuba) in online chat rooms, which—believe it or not—which were really popular back then. Honest.

This was before Instant Messaging. Such a time did exist, though historical records are spotty.

Being the world’s biggest dweeb, I hung out in the Canadian Brass chatroom. I met lots of folks there, and to be able to keep up with the pace of the chats, I learned real quick how to type like a speed demon.

It was there that I met Stryder (that’d be his online name), a fellow tuba player about my age who lived in New York. (I think. Details are fuzzy after a decade.) We got to be friends, and we even talked on the phone a few times.

This was before cell phones, when long distance calls were a big deal. Life back then was nasty, brutish, and short.

It will not surprise anyone that I developed a crush on this guy. We spent hours chatting each afternoon. We eventually wandered onto different paths in the Forest of Tuba Playing, but at the time my friendship with him was as real as anything I had in real life.

You may be wondering what kind of loser has a crush on someone she’s never met. Was I too unpopular, too ugly, too awkward to meet real people? Yes, but that’s beside the point. Was I just crazy?

No. A new study, complete with statistics, shows that I was not abnormal, and we all know that statistics never lie.

The BBC reports that virtual friendships are really, really important to people. (I could have told you that 12 years ago, but you didn’t ask me.) Among other findings:

  • 40% of net-users were using the web to stay in contact with people
  • 37.7% believed the internet was enabling them to communicate more with friends and family
  • 7.4% of those surveyed kept a blog, double the figure in 2003
  • the number of people posting pictures online grew from 11% to 23.6%.

Based on these results, I am forced to conclude that there is more to the internet than just porn. Remarkable! I had no idea! This may very well revolutionize the way I use my laptop!

So my first e-crush was over ten years ago, and online things do still occasionally develop. I am no longer too unpopular, too ugly, or too awkward to meet people in real life…

HEY. I heard that. Shut up. At least concede that I’m not too ugly, mmmkay?

…as I was saying, I am no longer too unpopular, too ugly, or too awkward to meet people in real life. Any circumstantial evidence to the contrary has been fabricated by enemies of the Kennedy-Rockefeller cause.

But though potential suitors have been clamoring at the door to the Kennedy-Rockefeller estate, causing the beleaguered Kennedy-Rockefeller butler to buttle overtime, Ms. K-R has not neglected her distant admirers.

Most recently was an ill-advised liaison with this guy I met on fiction-l. Fiction-l is a listserv for librarians, and it can be a right pain in the ass. The problem is that a few of the members are idiots. It makes me scared to ever visit another library, on the off chance that one of these people might try to help me find something good to read. “I’m looking for someone like Dostoevsky, like Gogol,” I would explain. “Ah! I know the perfect thing!” would be the response from one of the idiots. “What you need is Karen Kingsbury!”

Most of the fiction-l people are smart and knowledgeable, but there are enough bozos to skew the results.

The nice part, though, is that when people post something really top notch, there’s often a flurry of off-list email. I’ve contacted a fair number of people off-list to privately praise their posts, and once in a while, people will email me to say something nice about what I’ve written. (Recall that I am a sucker for people who like what I say.)

So that’s how I met this one particular fiction-l’er, and for a while it was lovely: We got to talk about libraries and reading and cataloging. It was really fun, and we talked on the phone a lot, even though we were separated by half a country.

Alas, he turned out to be too saccharine for me. Case in point: I had relayed a pun about fiction-l, one created by Nebucheddnezzar (and this before I had even met N. I hadn’t started working at Wilhelmsplatz yet, and only knew of this pun because of a presentation I saw him give at a library conference.)

“Is it fiction heaven or fiction-hell?” I asked this guy, cackling.

“Meeting you makes me think it’s fiction heaven,” said the guy, in all seriousness.

Immediately after he said that, my Sap Sensors started to flash lights and blare sirens. At that point I realized I could not, in good faith, keep calling this guy.

…I mean really, what would you have done?

Fortunately not all of my e-friendships end in maudlin tragedy… though, to be fair, most of my online communication (though not all) is with people I know in real life who, unfortunately, live at a distance. (Hi, Marian! Hi, Queen of Claremont!)

Or not at a distance. I’ve had some lovely email conversations with people I work with. It can be difficult to socialize while on the job (for reasons unfathomable
, we’re supposed to work while we’re at work. Really, they’re so uptight around here) but after hours there is a lively trade amongst coworkers in email swapping, MySpace page visiting, and blog commenting.

It makes a great distraction from internet porn.