Thursday, December 29, 2005

Davis Christmas 2005- Best Ever? You Decide.

I flew into the John Wayne airport late on the night of Wednesday, December 21. Both of my parents picked me up, and my dad came with a bag of food from Del Taco. Talk about starting a vacation off on a good foot. We then drove up to LAX and picked up my brother, who has been studying in Bordeaux. I did not tell him that I had eaten all of the french fries from Del Taco. It was information that he did not need.

I woke up the next morning to 70 degree weather. From this point on, I will refer to home (Mission Viejo, CA)as paradise. Here are a couple of great things about paradise: 1) I can spend the entire day in my pajamas 2) I am encouraged to watch television 3) Other people feed me 4) I think I have made my point.

My parents like to wait until all of the kids are back home before they get a Christmas tree. This year, we went looking for one on the night of the 23rd, even though my sister and brother-in-law would not be arriving until late that night. Whether it was the extremely late date or the late time of day, there were no trees to be had. The next morning we held a family conference and it was decided that getting a tree was too much of a hassle, and it would be much easier to make our own. We took the lamp shade off of a tall lamp, taped an upside-down broom to it, and draped a forest green comforter over it. Voila, the greatest Christmas tree we have ever had. It took about seven minutes to both build and decorate it. The reasoning behind the tree was quite simple: there are no kids in the family right now. There could be grandkids next year or the year after that, in which case, we will exert the effort to create the magic of Christmas. For this year, the bedspread tree worked really well.

An addendum to the Christmas tree story: I went for a walk the night of the 25th, which was a Sunday, aka the night before the trashmen come, and I found a Christmas tree that people had already put out on the street. It looked nice and not too heavy, so I put it on my back and carried it home. Since one of the perks of the bedspread tree was not having to vacuum up pine needles, everyone made me put the tree that I had just carried seven blocks by the front door so that it would not make a mess. We put it out on the street later that night so that we would not have to wait for another trash cycle. I am so glad I exerted the effort.

My dad has been planning for Christmas for months. I saw his to-do list, and at the bottom it said, "Should have a relaxed feel that is well-planned but appears spur of the moment." He held the annual trivia contest that quizzes us on locations/landmarks within two to three miles of our house. It was infuriating this year because all of the questions were about locations within a quarter mile radius. He asked things like, "From the gate on Applegate to the beginning of Sweet Meadow, how many lampposts are there?" and "What is the name of the street below ours?" These were things that I have seen hundreds of times and never taken notice of. I came in second, which is pretty good in the Olympics but not very good when you are only competing against four other people, one of whom is not trying very hard (ahem, Mom.)After the trivia contest, I fell asleep watching Arrested Development and then woke up and set a new high score playing Gameboy Tetris. I topped that high score a few days later. (All previous high scores set by myself during a long, depressing summer in China. To be fair, no one else in the family really plays it.)

This morning my sister and I went with my mom to watch her practice with her trio. My mom plays the violin, Ann plays the piano and Shelly plays the cello. My mom told me to bring something to read so that I would not get bored, but since I have not found anything recently that I have wanted to read, I brought Scrabble. My sister brought dominos. After we tallied the Scrabble points and my sister had won, she admitted that one of her words, fink, was actually not a word, and that she had misspelled sherpa. She hadn't said anything earlier because she knew that I would trust her and would not question her on words, especially when the trio was trying to concentrate on the Brahms. I was angered by her dishonesty. I had pointed it out when I cheated. I whispered, "I am putting this word here. I know it is not allowed, but I do not want it to go to waste. It is 45 points." Upfront. Honest. That's just who I am.

It is good to have the whole family back in one place. I feel really tough when we all go to the gym together and pump iron. I feel less tough when my brother-in-law punches me in the kidneys at the grocery store when I am not expecting it and I let out a loud yelp. I leave paradise to go back to New York on Sunday.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Lynx sweatshirt + pug = home

Monday, December 19, 2005

From my head (head) down (down) to my feet, yeah [guitar solo]

There is so much to tell, I do not know where to begin.

Last night was my office holiday party, held at the Park Avenue Pratt Mansion. It was so delightfully uncomfortable that I pulled out a pen and paper to take notes. Allow me to paint the scene:
Large ballroom on second floor of mansion.
Tall mahogany walls decorated with portraits of white male aristocrats.
Large windows with green tapestry curtains.
Dim lighting.
Cover band in the corner of the room playing "Hurts So Good" as quietly as they can.

The tension was so tangible you could have cut it into slices and served it to the stiff, hungry, business-casual army.

As expected, all conversations went as follows: hi, something about work, what are your holiday plans, where are you from, how nice, blah blah blah, is so and so here tonight- move onto the next person. You can add slight variations with people that you know well, but it is dangerous and I do not recommend it.

Anyway, there was an open bar and a meager amount of appetizers, so I knew that it was only a matter of time before everyone got blitzed and started creating the kinds of embarrassing situations that I wait all year to watch. I did not have to wait very long. It was only about 45 minutes before I found myself rescuing a colleague from the inviting dance moves of the company owner. He gave me a look of annoyance for ruining his game, as if it was my presence, and not his age and marital status, that kept him from sealing that deal.

I danced my heart out for a little while to support my manager, the drummer in the cover band. He asked me to help get the crowd excited. The lead singer, a medium sized man who I am pretty sure spent all morning waxing his Trans-Am in a cut off t-shirt, recommended that I take my top off. My manager looked terribly embarrassed at the comment, probably feeling partially responsible as the lead singer is his cousin.

I did not take my top off.

I left after about an hour and a half. I like dancing by myself at someone's house, not in front of a half moon of self-conscious, slightly disgruntled employees.

This morning, I woke up to find that the transit strike had begun. I decided that the easiest way to get to work was to walk the fifty blocks. While it was the easiest, it was also about 25 degrees out, and I just never quite warmed up. My finger nails still have a purplish tint, and my hands are a little shaky. That's cool though- you can just start calling me Shaky Hands Leighton or Leighton McShaky Hands or anything else that combines Leighton and shaky hands in a way that makes me sound like a good-natured,lovable criminal who only pilfers watches so that he can support all of his stray dogs.

Whatever happens with this strike, I am getting on my flight to California tomorrow. I will rest when I am home wearing my lynx sweatshirt and carrying our hungry and frantic pug, Abigail, on a walk.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

You've Been Telling Me You Were A Genius Since You Were 17

This is my brother and his good friend, Dana. My brother is, officially, the cat's pajamas. Maybe I should not say that anymore, since our cat was recently eaten by a coyote. One day soon I will write a blog tribute to Libby, the greatest cat that ever lived.

Yesterday, I had to make two cold calls. I was nervous about this for a few reasons: 1)I do not like talking on the phone*, and 2) I have also been told that I am not very good at it. Writing is my favorite means of communication. Writing and hugging. Writing, hugging and singing. Writing, hugging, singing, dancing and pretty much anything that does not involve a telephone, unless I am texting.

* I like talking to my mom on the phone, unless I can tell that she is watching TV.

Someone Please Do Something. Anything.

Things my boss said today that I agreed with:

1) "Leighton, I bet you're sorry you came into my office."

Things my boss said today that I disagreed with:

1) "Well, I am not crazy."

Things my boss does that make me very nervous:

1) Reading to me, out loud, the emails that I just sent to her.
2) Writing each thing she needs to remember on its own Post-It note.
3) Sorting her emails by who sent them instead of by date so that she essentially does not know you have emailed her unless you call her and tell her, thus easily facilitating #1.
4) Pretty much everything that I have not mentioned.

There goes my way of making some extra Christmas money...

Performing monkeys may post serious health hazard

Last Updated: 2005-12-13 16:42:53 -0400 (Reuters Health)

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Long-tailed macaques used as performance monkeys in Indonesia are sometimes infected with viruses that could cross the species barrier and infect humans, investigators report.

Performance monkeys may represent a threat to humans because of the way they are bought and sold and their close proximity to humans, Dr. Lisa Jones-Engel and her associates explain.

The animals are usually obtained from animal markets where they are kept under crowded and unsanitary conditions that could compromise immunity and facilitate disease transmission. They typically live with their owners, sharing food and water. During performances, they are encouraged to climb onto spectators, where they could transmit viruses through bites or scratches.

To evaluate the potential threat, Jones-Engel, from the University of Washington in Seattle and her colleagues obtained blood specimens from 20 performing long-tailed macaques. They report their findings in the current issue of Tropical Medicine and International Health.

Two animals tested positive for to simian retrovirus, one was positive for simian T-cell lymphotropic virus, and one was positive for Cercopithecine herpesvirus 1. Further testing also revealed the presence of simian foamy virus DNA in nine monkeys.

This is significant, the authors point out, because there have been instances of monkey-to-human transmission of Cercopithecine herpesvirus 1, simian retrovirus and simian foamy virus.

Cercopithecine herpesvirus 1 causes inflammation of the tissue surrounding the brain and spinal cord and has a high mortality rate. Infection with simian T-cell lymphotropic virus may precede human T-cell lymphotropic virus, a cause of adult T-cell leukemia and tropical spastic paresis, a progressive disease that affects the spinal cord and the central nervous system.

Further studies of performance monkey owners and their families will help determine the rates of viral transmission from these animals, Jones-Engel's group concludes.

SOURCE: Tropical Medicine International and Health, December 2005.

Monday, December 12, 2005

I'm Rockin' the Suburbs

UCLA will be playing Northwestern this year in the Vitalis Sun Bowl, and I would like to brag a little about my contribution. I tutored the fellow in the picture (along with a number of men's basketball and women's crew athletes.) Granted, I do not think he gets playing time, but if it were not for me he might have gotten a lower grade in his American Folklore class, and we all know how everything affects everything else- you put it together.

As I work with mostly women, I have taken it upon myself to fill the necessary office role of the cranky old man. I wear a suit vest, carry around a cup of tea, and when people make comments like "Happy Monday," I like to grumble stock answers such as "No such thing," or "Not when you don't have knees." I feel it helps to foster an intense atmosphere of fear and disappointment. I really need a picture of my grandchildren so that I can make disparaging remarks about them when people come to my desk.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

If you still want me, please forgive me

The office is decidedly creepy on Saturdays. There is a big medical meeting going on, so I am here today media monitoring, faxing stuff, getting a bloody nose, talking to my mom, listening to Arcade Fire, talking on IM, printing emails and, obviously, posting my deepest hopes and fears.

This week, for some reason, I was able to get caught up with a number of good friends that I have not talked to in a while but that I am used to talking to every day. I said these a lot- "You're what?!" or "What?!" or "You're doing what?!" Everyone just kept dropping statements like, "Elevator guy and I have been emailing," or "I am at the computer lab with the girl I am dating," or "Remember Brian? I found out he has two daughters." It was hilarious. Have I been asleep for five years? I had not talked to some of them in a few weeks, but for one it had only been three days. Oh you guys...

Ok, I thought I was the only one here today, but I seriously keep hearing noises.

I am not running the sound board at church tomorrow; I get a week off and am pretty excited about it. Last Sunday, I felt like I was in a sound technician class and taking my final exam. One service ended at 10:45, and I had fifteen minutes to transition the stage from two keyboards and four singers to a set up with one keyboard, three guitars, drums, bass and six singers. As I am changing the mics, someone comes up to me and says, "Hey Leighton, this is Mike from Atlanta. He and Maria are going to sing a duet, and Mike is going to play the guitar. Where should we plug his guitar in?" I don't know- why don't you call me a week ago and we'll discuss it? There was no sound check, they just all started playing at 11:05. Then, the left speaker kept cutting in and out, so it would go from really loud to really soft.

I am looking for suggestions for more stressful hobbies than improv and running a sound board- Gambling my grandparents' retirement money? Juggling newborns?

I had a really nice conversation with my mom. She said, "I'm sorry you're at work; if you were home, I would make you tuna casserole and we could watch Everwood." If home was closer than a four day drive, I would head there right now. I would say, "Mom, start the tuna casserole. I will be right there."

I am going to brave the dark halls and get myself some tea. If I do not post for another week, call the police.

Friday, December 09, 2005

You are the sunshine of my life (Yes, you)

As of January 1, 2005, I have kept a running list of what I do every day. Each day gets one line on my legal pad. There is no commentary on how the day goes or what I feel; it is merely a list of where I go and with whom. On top of that, in order for my company to be able to accurately bill our clients, I keep a timesheet here at the office that details what I have worked on, down to each fifteen minute increment. This is also done on a legal pad.

Basically, if you give me any date in the last 12 months, I can tell you exactly what I did. If you give me a weekday, I can tell you what I did each half hour. Seriously, try me.

This project was only supposed to go on for a year, but it may continue. I don't like looking back on long periods of time and not remembering what I did, and journals get tricky because I won't write for a long time and then I feel like I have to do major catch-up. I feel like I can recall the thoughts and emotions of the experience as long as I am supplied the details of time, location and company.

Four more hours and I am out of here, suckers...

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Jersey Thursday

Ok, probably not the best time to be posting considering things are pretty busy over here, but if you are going to keep me here for 12 hours at a time, I am going to take breaks.

Karen Brewer, the six year-old step-sister of Kristy Thomas, the president and founder of the Baby-Sitter's Club, always used the adjective gigundo. Last night, while I was thinking about medium-sized sandwiches versus large sandwiches, I thought that gigundo was a better adjective for a sandwich than large. However, I was quite surprised that the word gigundo even entered my mind. I have never used the word; I have only seen it used by Karen Brewer when quoted in the Baby Sitter's Club or her inferior spin-off book series, Babysitter's Club Little Sister. (Seriously, don't waste your time. Bigger font, less depth.)

I do not even know what gigundo means. I assume it is synonymous with gigantic? It is not in dictionary.com.

Yesterday, I saved the world by e-faxing myself 48 pages of references in only two tries. I have perfected the craft of holding down the stack of papers in the fax feeder so that only page is taken at a time. This company is pretty much going to fall apart when I leave.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

This is why I hate my life right now

Monday, December 05, 2005

Bagel Monday, My Loyal Friend

You know what I like? When I am not hungry at all and thinking, "I am not hungry at all," and then I get busy and my appetite sneaks up on me and suddenly my stomach growls and I think, "I am hungry now even though last time I checked I was full!" That just happened.

I visited my friend, Adam, this weekend in Princeton. It was a welcome respite from the city. I got back just in time on Saturday night to watch UCLA get absolutely destroyed by USC. Since the collective UCLA ego has been crushed, I think that I will take this time to mention some things very good things about my beloved alma mater, UCLA:

1) The high number of possible locations for a nap: If the weather is good (and we are talking about LA), you can nap outdoors one on of the many nicely-kept lawns. If temperatures dip down into the sixties, you can sleep inside Powell Library on a couch, chair or desk. I usually did not do either because I think any good nap lasts over two and a half hours, and I felt weird waking up in the library or on the lawn when it was dark outside. However, other people napped there.

2) The possibility to run into people you know or not run into people you know, depending on which you wanted: Most of the time, I walked up Bruin Walk to get to class. However, if I had just stayed up all night writing a paper and was wearing a baseball cap, my brother's basketball shorts and my sweatshirt with the lynx on it, I could take a back route and avoid all contact. I have attached a picture of a lynx sweatshirt. Mine is cooler because it is black and the lynx is painted on and the eyes are emerald green, but you get the general idea.

3) The health services: I had a number of embarrassing procedures done at the ASHE Health Center, and I did not feel embarrassed about any of them. The doctors were all very good at keeping me in conversation. The only embarrassing thing was waiting for the doctor (and usually the med student who was tagging along that day) and wearing only a paper vest (that opened in the front) and a paper sheet. I don't know what happened to the old days of the hospital gown. At least with that thing everything was covered, assuming you stayed seated.

I think that is enough about UCLA. I feel much better.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The River Was Wide, and Too Hard to Cross

(Parts of address have been whited out for safety purposes)

This came in the mail the other day from Kentucky Fried Chicken. Talk about mass advertising having an individual effect. I saw the coupons on the counter addressed to "Chicken Lover," and I thought, "How did they know that???!!!! I eat chicken ALL THE TIME." Then my roommate Katrina came home, and she thought it was addressed to her, because she loves chicken too!

I wonder how they got my address. The last time I had KFC was a few weeks ago. It was a real low point in my life. Katrina and I were locked out (again) and our apartment had been broken into the day before (ironic- burglars can get in but we cannot), and we sat in the 100 degree heat of the hallway and ate KFC snackers. On second thought, was it a low point or a high point?

Last night I went to a comedy show at the Parkside Lounge with Katrina (http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendID=15965955&Mytoken=4B3E51C4-BB25-4231-906B1736100E4052504954812) and Hella (http://www.myspace.com/fabulousbabe) to see a comedian named Dave Hill (http://www.davehillonline.com/). We arrived a few minutes after the show was supposed to start, and there were five women at a table and no one on stage. We thought we might be at a private party. Much to my relief, the show started a few minutes later. The format of the show was standup, improv skit, standup, improv skit, and so on and so forth. Dave Hill was the first act and also the funniest. The stuff for the next hour and a half was not very funny. At least, the acts were not funny. It was really funny to watch Hella entertain herself once she got bored. She was crocheting a hat and kept putting it on to see if it fit, and then she would check her cell phone clock. Katrina and I made comments about the acts, and that was fun too. For example, "how did he manage to get a girlfriend?" or "that wasn't very funny." (The mean comments were from Katrina.)

Having done two improv shows and been in scenes that were not funny at all, I do not appreciate the fact that I criticized people who got up there and took a chance. But I was sort of bored and could not keep it in. And Katrina eggs me on.

After the show, I went and met my friend, Ashlee, who was only in town for about a day and a half. She was staying at the Mandarin Oriental, so I stayed with her, and we ended up eating pumpkin pie and playing Sudoko and watching TV. I forgot to pack a hairbrush, and Ash doesn't use one, so let me tell you- I look really pretty today.