May 25, 2005
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Last Summer I blogged about subway-stairs games (1, 2). Well now I discover that not only is the get-on-the-train-such-that-you-get-off-near-the-exit game not totally idiosyncratic to my friends, but there actually exist crib sheets for this game, in some subway systems (thanks to reader Dan Strunk for showing me, and remembering the old posts). This particularly vindicates me from Hei Lun's claim that nobody else plays the get-on-for-easy-exit game, on which my get-on-such-that-you-get-a-non-crowded-car game was predicated.
This summer I have been too distracted to start playing in earnest (the lawyerly hours here at IJ mean a far sleepier commute than the more student-like hours at TNR did), but if I do I shall have to invent a new game, to start staying ahead of the cheat-sheets.
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I grew up in books and movies. As such, it's always a bit strange, often disappointing, for me to go someplace "new"--what gall it shows in having a life of its own! New York was disappointing until I could let go of Woody Allen, and I'm scared to travel to Paris because the 1920s haven't quite ended in my mind.
In any event, the incessant rain and indoor paper-writing leave me a bit antsy. Internet surfing turns to mountains and plane tickets. Thus: vacation. East is cities, and West is outside. (California has its own map.) Abandoned ex-industrial towns are great for late-night walks and history but not for summer travel--wilderness or woods, nothing deliberate.
Yes, July. The mountains are almost bare of snow except for patches within the coulouirs on the northern slops. Consoling nevertheless, those shrunken snowfields, despite the fact that they're twenty miles away be line of sight and six to seven thousand fee higher than where I sit. They comfort me with the promise that if the heat down here becomes less endurable I can escape for at least two days each week to the refuge of the mountains--those islands in the sky surrounded by a sea of desert. The knowledge that refuge is available, when and if needed, makes the silent inferno of the desert more easily bearable. Mountains complement the desert as desert complements city, as wilderness complements and completes civilization.
A man could be a lover and defender of the wilderness without ever in his lifetime leaving the boundaries of asphalt, powerlines, and right-angled surfaces. We need wilderness whether or not we ever set foot in it. We need a refuge even though we may never need to go there. I may never in my life get to Alaska, for example, but I am grateful that it's there. We need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope; without it the life of the cities would drive all men into crime or drugs or psychoanalysis.
- Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire
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John Tierney, the new fellow over at the NYT op-eds, has written a column entitled What Women Want that argues what women don't want: they don't want, or don't value, the results of competition as highly as men do. The greater personal cost inherent in the chase, he contends, prevents as many women from taking the necessary steps to reach the upper echelons of commerce.
Still, for all the executive talents that women have, for all the changes that are happening in the corporate world, there will always be some jobs that women, on average, will not want as badly as men do. Some of the best-paying jobs require crazed competition and the willingness to risk big losses - going broke, never seeing your family and friends, dying young.
The women in the experiment who didn't want to bother with a five-minute tournament are not likely to relish spending 16 hours a day on a Wall Street trading floor. It's not fair to deny women a chance at those jobs, but it's not realistic to expect that they'll seek them in the same numbers that men will.
To the extent that Tierney's conclusion applies to me (conclusions of David Brooks, my co-blogger Will has told me before, are not meant to), I agree. I am not particularly competitive. The last time I competed in anything on even a semi-regular basis, it was as a Pub trivia player on behalf of the team known sometimes as "Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God," and at other times as "Lemmings over a Cliff" (I throw these names in in case any of our past opponents are reading). It was a wonderful way to spend time with some friends with whom I used to live, and I didn't particularly care much if we won random bar kitsch, the cash pot, or nothing at all. My teammates, male and female, did care, at least, generally more than I did.
Let me modify that slightly: I am not generally motivated by beating other people. I used to ride horses. Unlike most other girls of my level at the stable, I didn't compete. Get up early on a Saturday morning to drive somewhere to spend a great deal of time waiting around for the chance to ride for the chance to get a ribbon? No thanks. The payoff was not worth the expense of entry fees or time. (Clearly, though, it was worthwhile for those girls, just as the other girls on my Pub trivia team were more interested in winning big than i was.)
I am, however, motivated by beating expectations. This has proven useful in the past. When I entered high school, the chattering class that attempted to rank people as freshmen deemed that I would do decently well, but not notably well. I didn't care for that assumption, and thus the student who would attend the University of Chicago was born.
And now I'm mainly motivated by the thought of finding a job I enjoy going to. Occasional 16 hour days in the pursuit of something immediate and long sought-after? OK. Never as a way of life, though. I'm not motivated by the thought of something that doesn't afford me leisure. I need a balance between the means by which I can fulfill my whims and the space in which to do so. To be perfectly honest, I'm lying awake with insomnia at the very moment partially because, thanks to a conversation earlier today, I can't get thoughts of surfing out of my mind. Waves crashing down on me sounds frightening---I'm a bit in doubt of the strength of my swimming---but the thought of succeeding at surfing excites and intrigues me. I like adrenaliine sports; I want to know what it feels like to surf. [How utterly stereotypical. She goes to California and now she wants to learn how to surf. -- Peanut Gallery True.-- ALB]
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