Saturday, November 20, 2010

It's all Geek to me

Anyone who’s spent more than two seconds in my company will tell you two things about me right off the bat:

1. I am (or so it would appear to the untrained eye) one very, very self-confident person


2. I’m weird.

The same two facts stood as far as my memory extends, even if the order in which they are perceived changed over the years. Apart from a few incidents back in high school – carefully calculated flights into the perfectly made-up face of the middle class elite, one and all – my fashion sense, hairstyle or physical appearance never made the headlines of the (admittedly, somewhat restricted) society levels I circumnavigated. My interests, however…

Let’s just say I was lucky my parents never kept up with the contemporary lingo.

Why am I telling you all this?

As it happens, I'm a parent myself now. And while my four-year-old could give Gizmo & The Gremlins a run for their money in terms of… err… vivacity, my nine-year-old is more of a Bastian B. Bux type; that my nine-year-old is, in fact, a “she” doesn't help her case much, either.

“Girls are supposed to like Disney princesses and play with dolls, right?”

And I’m “supposed to” hold a nine-to-five job and wear skirts, I know. Your point?

As a matter of fact, my daughter does like Disney's lady MCs (Mu Lan and Pochahontas come to mind) and she also plays with her dolls, still; the fact that she renamed them all after Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings characters – Mommy, the sole provider or all things entertaining, not being big on action figures – is completely beside the point.

This is probably where I should mention that neither franchise has ever been as popular here as overseas... Shocking, I know.

Pop music? She's into Beatles.
Disney Channel? She watches House.
Princess Boutique? She prefers Warcraft.
Fashion outfits? You tell me; she's waiting for this to restock.

At this age, it’s probably mostly our doing: her father and I first met in a gaggle of F1-fans and immediately proceeded to tear into each other's throats over the correct pronunciation of Keith Richard’s name. Our courtship took place in a drinking establishment called 'Easy Rider' and included screaming matches on modern-day perception of sexuality Vs the Greco-Roman one, immature pouting over instant messengers and their relative merits to society at large, and an all-out war between Slavic (lead by one L.Tolstoy) and Anglo-Saxon (commandeered by W.Shakespeare, Esq.) tribes.

The first piece of furniture we bought as a married couple? A computer desk; the second one was a matching chair.

Yep, nostra culpa.


For someone as 'unpopular' and 'ungirly' as she might seem, my daughter is – and thank the Valar for it! – rather taunt-proof for her age. We had our fair share of foul weather back in kindergarten and first grade, but as soon as she was old enough to hit the ‘Connect’ button all on her own (even if Mommy kept breathing down her neck to ensure there were no nasty surprises content-wise, and still does) she realized one thing that set everything right in her pre-teen world:

It's not that's she's really different. She’s just a part of a different group.

In a society – hell, a world! – full of little girls hell-bent on emulating Hannah Montana, I’m raising a nine-year-old who ‘wants to be like Spock when she grows up’.

And let me tell you… I couldn’t be more proud of it.

LLAP, geekettes. You are the Force.
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Friday, September 24, 2010

The Day I Learned To Play Dodgeball

Remember that silly old game they constantly made us play in the lower grades of elementary school? A smiling teacher would lead us to the playground, a half-deflated leather ball in one hand, and then divide the gathered children into two opposing teams: the pitchers and the dodgers. To the utter disbelief of my more competitive friends I would invariably volunteer for a dodger - and then stand like a statue in the middle of the field for the rest of the game. Or as long, that is, as it took some eager pitcher to hit me through the flock of running, screaming children.

Then I would happily trot back to my London or Sjenkjevich, and spend the rest of the PE class blissfully lost in reading. Had I known that in the subsequent years I would come to need the faculties other children pursued with such zeal, perhaps I would have shown more enthusiasm for the game. Then again, maybe not…

~ ~ ~

It was late spring in 1999, and life was a never ending source of fun. I had just turned 22, was working for an art gallery as an acquisition manager, my 2nd year exams at English literature department were under way and... As a reward for an exquisite series of tricks a certain ape in Belgrade had performed, my country was chosen to provide the fireworks for NATO's 50th anniversary.

Oh, goodie...

“You think this was a smart move?” Daemiel asked as we rode the 5-mile bus line to the city center with a bottle of red wine in the backpack each. It was our friend O’Milyana’s birthday, and what better way to celebrate a friend’s birthday than getting royally sloshed while watching the firecrackers?

“Why not?” I shrugged; the absence of sirens throughout the long hours of early afternoon had left me unusually optimistic. “It’s not like I’d be wrapped in cotton if I stayed home, either.”

The street I grew up in was one of the most peaceful in the town - at that point, however, it boasted the presence of assorted high officers in the local army and therefore could be considered a legitimate military target.

“True”, Daemiel consented absent-mindedly, looking out past the row of empty seats and onto the street below. “Our stop comes next.”

We got off the bus and into the nearest liquor store. “God loves variety”, Daemiel nodded her approval as I emerged behind the counter with a bottle of dry gin and Indian tonic water.

“I think we’ve got everyone covered now”, I mused as we walked out of the store - while O'Milyana and her mom were wine persons, Daemiel and myself preferred the sparkly aroma of good old gin&tonic. But just as my friend opened her mouth to profess her enthusiasm for the forthcoming festivities, a loud bang echoed off the surrounding buildings.

“You don’t suppose it’s…?” Daemiel searched my face, her pupils acquiring the quality of miniature flying saucers.

“Nah…” I shook my head with a scowl. “If it were, the air-raid alarm would have already gone off.”

I turned to continue on my way when, just to spite me, the damned things did go off. The air filled with the wailing of a thousand horny cats from Hell, and within seconds Daemiel and I were alone in the street.

“Great…” I grumbled, looking for the nearest shelter. “Now what?”

“I think we better get to O’Milyana’s place…. Fast”, my suddenly monochrome friend spat out and hurried towards the 14-storey-building which harbored the birthday girl.

By the time we entered the building the electricity was already out, and we were facing the threat of panting up the 10 flights of stairs in complete darkness. Fortunately, the preceding couple of weeks left us well-trained for this sort of emergency and we promptly produced our compact flashlights out of the backpacks.

At the third floor we almost collided with a frenzied group of tenants clutching supplies of food, clothes and covering that would see a lees ambitious party through a fortnight in the Andes.

“Watch your fucking way!" Exclaimed an elderly man with a battery-operated TV set under one arm; he almost knocked Daemiel down with the bird cage he hung over the other.

“What’s wrong with these people?” I muttered as we approached the door that had our friend’s last name printed on it in capital, bold letters.

Before I could raise my hand to knock the door flung open, and we were all but shoved inside by O’Milyana’s mother. “You kids are crazy”, she glared at us, motioning for O'Milyana's room. “She’s in there, but we are leaving for the shelter so be quick.”

We stumbled across the narrow corridor, completely baffled by the lady’s words. "Be quick… What the Hell did that mean?” I wondered as I kissed my friend to wish her many happy returns.

It turned out it meant Daemiel and I were not invited to the little underground party tenants of the building threw whenever they heard the cat call. “You know how it is…” O’Milyana shrugged, plump cheeks red with embarrassment. “No one likes strangers in the shelter.”

Sure, we already suspected as much. To the untrained eye, Daemiel and I could indeed look like two members of US special units on their way to kill off the unsuspecting civilians with a bottle of drink and a flashlight.

We trudged our weary way down the staircase, and found ourselves back on the street where we came from.

“Now what?” It was Daemiel’s turn to inquire.

Unfortunately, O’Milyana was telling the truth: unless you were a resident of the building in question, or a relative close enough for someone to stick his neck out for you and face the edgy crowd, there was no way to gain entry into the classified circles of shelter-dwellers. We could either sit it out, or walk it out.

We decided to drink it out.

“There goes another plant!” Daemiel raised her bottle as a stifled detonation reached our camp at the base of a gray skyscraper.

“Mm-hm” I nodded as I performed the astounding feat of mixing gin and tonic straight from the bottle. I would have broken the world’s record too, but for the second explosion that sounded too close for my liking.

The contents of my mouth came splashing all over the pavement as I grabbed the backpack with one hand and the sleeve of Daemiel's shirt with the other.


We ran down the empty street, debating whether the word “civilian” would be more effective written across our backs or on our foreheads and whether a deserted playground would prove more secure of a shelter than an empty bus station, when the monotonous tone of the siren announced that the air was finally clear.

“What the…?” I glanced up, almost toppling over a trash can some idiot of a dustman left at the end of the pavement.

“Saved by the siren…” Daemiel laughed. It might’ve been me, but I could’ve sworn there was something wrong with the wine Daemiel was drinking back at the base camp; she didn’t seem a least bit drunk to me.

We caught the bus back home only to be informed half-way that we could either turn back or walk the rest of the way: a two-mile area stretching right across the only road to our home town was strewn with cluster bombs, and there was no bus driver depressed enough to brave the crossing.

“How long will it take to clear it away?” We asked the police officer securing the scene.

“I’d say three hours, at least”, he shrugged.

Daemiel exchanged glances.

“But the road is clear, yes?” I tried again, hoping beyond hope.

“Sort of…” was the helpful answer I got, so we decided not to push our luck any further and got back on the bus to the city center.

That night, as we returned from a friendly game of yamb at Daemiel's boyfriend’s place, we heard the air-raid alarm go off again.

We were standing at the end of a treelined path leading through the park that separated us from the relative safety of our respective homes. We were expecting to hear distant detonations, like we always had in the past, but this time the explosion was much closer and the air blast broke the boughs of several trees along the path. Too close.

“It’s the transformer” Daemiel whispered. It was rumored that the power supplies would be the next “legitimate military target”, and the said transformer was situated less than a mile away. She crouched beside the road with her arms around her knees, and started rocking back and forth; there was a look of genuine terror in her eyes.

I caught myself thinking about earlier that day, the old man with the cage and O'Milyana's mom, the sobbing young mother with a feverish baby and belligerent pensioners on the bus we caught back home. I could have sworn I heard something crack at that moment, and found myself taking a step towards the park.

“What are you doing?!” The utter stupidity of my act shook Daemiel out of her hysteria. “You will get hit!” Whether she was referring to the boughs or the bombs, she didn’t say.

“Nah…” I smiled to dismiss her worries. “I’ll dodge”, I winked and started walking down the branch-strewn path with my eyes firmly set on the finish line.

And so I’ve been walking ever since.
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Thursday, August 26, 2010

The 'F' Word

It's controversial. It's derogatory. It's almost-but-not-quite work safe.

It's the 'f' word.

And I have no compunctions whatsoever using it to describe myself.

All right, folks: the word of the day is "fan".

No, I do NOT mean "the blower" (although I'll admit to a passing acquaintance with a handful of individuals who would fit both descriptions quite nicely), I mean "the enthusiast"!

Now, I'm not denying my lack of reluctance to apply the said (hash)tag to my person probably stems from age-related confidence (it's not like I'm in danger of being designated a fangirl at the ripe age of 33... Hell, I could probably use the ego boost, too!), but the fact remains that 'yours truly' is fanatical... about books.

I love them. I love everything about them: the architectural plans, the construction, the façades... I even love the urban reconstruction planning that inevitably follows the purchase (have you ever tried to fit two generations' worth of paperback purchases into a 172 sq. ft. room? no?! holy typeface, you have no idea what you're missing!).

From the ultimately heroic (if slightly self-destructive) act that is writing/editing, through the noble quest for the cover design, down to the arcane magic of paper grade choice, I'm hard pressed to name a single aspect of immortalizing the written word that doesn't make me want to squee like a twelwe-year-old on a Twilight premiere.

I love the blasted things, shoddy big-name endorsements and all!

Blame my late grandfather; he was in the business when I was growing up...

I'm one of those annoying people that will go see a book-based movie and spend the entirety of the show internally griping about plot inconsistencies.

I'm one of those oddballs who like to track down obscure references, revel in obvious onomasticon uses and am, in fact, addicted to book porn.

I'll never miss a chance to gush about my favourite title, author, or a publishing house.

And I'll never, ever economize on books.

So yes, it would seem Dags is indeed an archetypal fan(girl). And if you have a problem with that...

I have another 'f' word for you, and it's definitely not work safe.
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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

(Over) The Counter Culture Treatment

This is not to say we didn't have our moments before she decided to pick up her higher education right where she left it (somewhere on the outskirts of the 20th century), but having Selver back in the daily grind of the academia definitely came with a few unexpected perks.

"So, I've been thinking..."

There is a reason I befriended her, you know...

"Remember how everyone used to balk at us for reading Musashi, roleplaying Chronicles and learning Quenya back in the first grade?"

She's talking high school, people. Breathe.

For a split second I was tempted to point out that, some decade and a half down the road, the majority of people would still balk at us for the same reasons... but I wisely decided to keep my peace.

"Yes, and?"

"And Diablo, of course..."

(That would be Lamborghini, not Blizzard Entertainment - the latter doubled as anti-missile defense system several years later, though)

Her eyes took on the usual slightly feral gleam as she went to rattle off all of our cultural transgressions: "And Quasar emissions, that chess game in PE, your 'resident preacher' getup... And Cicero! Gods, the Cicero stunt was a blast!"

She was all but wiping tears of mirth by this point, wheres I was more inclined to gnash my teeth and glare.

"All right, I get it... we were nerds. Your point?"

And there it was. The eyebrow.

"I can't fucking believe she's using the eyebrow on ME!"

"Oh, come on!" Selver, ever the bitch, actually laughed at my facial expression (She did have 18 years to build up resistance to The Scowl Of Imminent Immolation, mind you!). "Both of your kids could double-click open a browser before they could use the potty, for Senna's sake!"

You don't want to know. Trust me.

"Fine..." I huffed. "We're still nerds. Will you get to the bloody point now?"

Finally satisfied with the boost she gave to my blood pressure levels, The-Best-Friend-From-Hell relented.

"I used to think I was just anti-social, and you were some kind of Japanese Elf warrior in your past life."

"Ha, ha..." I drawled. "I'd reschedule that literature exam if I were you - the whole 'Appearance Vs Reality' thing is messing with your brain."

"You're just jealous," she quipped; unfortunately, she did have a point.

"So tell me, oh Wise One..." If all else fails you can always fall back on snark with Selver, I learned quite a while ago. "What great truths has the Triple Goddess imparted on you while you were deconstructing doll houses?"

The wench simply ignored my jibe.

"Classical case of defensive mechanism. To our credit, we did work our way up through the levels quite efficiently."

I groaned.

"I'm well aware I was a neurotic teen, all right? Tell me something I don't know."

"You're still a neurotic teen, but that's rather beside the point," she shrugged. "Immersion in alternative cultures is a sign of immaturity..."

"Maturity is grossly overrated," I muttered.

"...and so is witticism, FYI."

She actually pronounced it that way: "ɛf-waɪ-aɪ". It was the perfect moment for me to return the eyebrow favour, and I did so with unabashed glee.

"Fine. You got me." Selver was always the more graceful loser of us two. "But the point I was trying to make is: we were always clever bastards, you and me."

"How so?" Now she really had my attention. It's not often I fail to follow her reasoning outside the slightly illogical fascination with browser games.

"Can you imagine the amount of both cash and recuperative years spent, had we taken the traditional, rehabilitative way to sanity?"

A brief cataloguing of our teenage years (the hyperinflation, the so-called 'Yugoslav Wars' and the subsequent economic and political sanctions, and the constant, deranging presence of the Socialist Party came to mind) finally had me nodding a heartfelt agreement with her rhetoric.

Indeed, the counter-culture treatment beats over-the-counter treatment any day.
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Friday, June 11, 2010

When Life Gives You Lemons

I have never considered myself a particularly unlucky individual, but I do understand where the idea is coming from - all you need to do is Google "Serbia", and you'll get my point.

However off-putting our recent history is, there are certain recompenses for living in a culture so blatantly id-ridden it tends to shit its own bed simply because someone thought it was a good idea at the moment. For one, it takes the freedom of speech to a completely new level... the one where you can say whatever you bloody please to whomever you bloody please, as long as you're strong enough (or accomplished at martial arts enough) to take the beating that might follow up your speech.

So, as I was saying...

I had the good fortune of growing myself a personality at a time when the political censorship was breathing its last as well, so "political correctness" is as familiar a term for me as "quasi-stellar radio source" for most.

In other words, I've never learned to be evasive in my native language (unsurprisingly, backhandedness comes to me naturally in English - after all, I mastered it as a semi-adult) nor to self-censor my attitude and beliefs.


What I did learn was that Life has THE shittiest Customer Service in the whole known universe, and that complaining about the mistaken orders doesn't help:

At the age of seven, I wanted to be an underwater camera(wo)man. I found out it was impossible here.

At the age of thirteen, I wanted to be a parachutist. I found out it was impossible here.

At the age of sixteen, I wanted to travel around. I found out it was impossible here.

At the age of twenty three, I wanted to have a kid without having to get married. I found out it was impossible here.

At the age of twenty four, I had had enough of it, said "Fuck you, Life!" and proceeded to do exactly as I bloody well pleased; Life, the sour loser he is, proceeded to throw annoying quantities of lemons my way.

Now, there's only so much citrus one can digest without permanently ruining one's digestive system. But the sour bastard didn't count on the fact I grew up in S(up)erbia...

When life gives us lemons... we simply pop open another beer before going back to whatever it was we were doing.

It's called "spite". We have it trademarked. Fucking live with it.
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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Show Up, Show Off, Show Out

"You're turning 33 in a few days," Daddy Dearest said the other day. I was tempted to respond with the old Anglo-Saxon saying ("No shit!"), but seeing as his English is kind of rusty...

I just shrugged.

"So, what do you have to show for it?" he persisted.

"Show for what, exactly?" The eyebrow elevated on its own, I swear - after three decades of conversing with my parents, it's an acquired instinct: 5.6 seconds, express incredulity.

"Your life," my paternal parent elucidated.

Had it been anyone else, that would be the point when I began questioning motives behind the question - after all, the local average life expectancy already hit mid-seventies - but my parents love me (another thing I've been conditioned to supply instinctively)!


"Not much, unless you're into hardware," I shrugged again.

"Hardware?" Father blinked. "Like... cutlery?"

Eyebrow again; the man never disappoints.

"No, like disc drives," I countered. Though, if I was honest, there was one piece of cutlery which fit the occasion: a spork.

"Disc drives?"

Honestly, it's a mystery how he ever manages to wrap up a conversation...

"That's right. Desktop, laptop and..." Here I tapped my forehead for illustration, "...headtop. Disc drives."

You know how they say a look on someone's face can curdle milk? Well, if he ever gets bored of quality testing my father definitely has a career in dairy.

"No life savings, retirement funds, stocks... anything?!"

"Nope." I admitted. "I wasn't exactly planning on kicking the bucket yet, you see, but if you insist..."

All right, we're adding butchery to the list of prospective careers...

"You know, when I was your age..."

And that's when it happened - something went 'snap' in Dags' brain and the SNARK LOCK button engaged.

"You were living with your in-laws, driving halfway across the town to your workplace, and had two kids in the kindergarten, I know. I, on the other hand, live on my own, have my work served to me with my morning coffee, and both of MY kids are at home... Googling."

I bet he didn't even know "g" could be a sibilant. One does learn something new every day.

As my progenitors were leaving the premises, I caught another snatch of their conversation. "Yes, but she's female so she's vulnerable. If anything goes wrong between them, she's not going to..." my father was saying.

Eyebrow again.

"I wouldn't bet on it, Dad. If I were you... I really, really wouldn't bet on it."

Just watch me.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Sleighs 'n' Roses

(aka "How a moment of compassion can screw your head up for ever")

A couple of days ago, my mother showed up on our doorstep in a true 'Balkan grandparent' fashion - meaning, armed to the teeth with sweets, home-made traditional dishes, and random gifts for grandchildren. Being an adult (no, really!) I managed to refrain from burrowing into the goody bag for a respectable amount of time, busying myself with brewing coffee and distributing fizzy drinks instead (we Serbs have a thing for tormenting our livers)...

...only to join the kids in squeeing over the latest Ancestor Allowance as soon as the front door creaked shut on the said ancestor's skirtsuit-encased back.

It turned out to be quite an experience.

You see, the 'entertainment' part of the offering contained a DVD of 1957's "Snezhnaya koroleva" - one of the first feature-length animated movies 'yours truly' has seen as a preschooler. Which wouldn't register as more than a blip on the remembrance radar, if it wasn't also the first animated movie Dags has spent crying over 'the bad guy'.

Yep. Dags and the underdogs go that far back.

And you can pick your jaw up from the floor right now - I didn't say I saw it the year (or even the decade!) it came out, did I?

For some inexplicable reason, the whole 'BFF' theme didn't impress ickle Dags at all: apart from the initial "That Kay is an evil boy, wanting to burn the Snow Queen like that!", the kids' characters left her completely 'blah'. Poor Gerda's trials and tribulations were met with barely concealed glee ("Now the Queen will be able to spend more time with Kay!") and the remaining movie time was spent contemplating the sad fate of the slush sovereign, who "had to live without love, because everyone who could love hated her".

Kids' logic. It a wonderful, wonderful thing...

That very same evening I snuggled with my kids on the living room sofa, fully intent on atoning for my childhood delusions by rooting for the BFF. As it turned out, it was already way too late...

You see... Gerda spent her life surrounded by family and friends. And all the Snow Queen had was Kay.
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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Pros & Cons of Life

(aka "Idealism is what precedes experience; cynicism is what follows.")

My significant other was never known for his ability to turn experience into sanity-preserving snideness, but lately he seems stuck in some sort of a defeatist limbo - so much so I can almost imagine him switching his morning coffee and strings of work-related expletives for tea and "Shikata ga nai". And if there's one thing Dags can't stand...'s self-inflicted passivity; it drives her up the wall.

And not in a small vehicle, either.

Let's make one thing clear from the start: life is a cheat. There's no way in hell you're winning the round if he gets to deal the cards, and he almost invariably does. And seeing as declining the game is not an option, either... the best you can do is use the (limited) time you have as a kibitzer to work out a way to keep yourself out of debtor's prison.

In other words:

a) you either come up with both the tactics and the poker face and turn pro...


b) you keep acting like an awestruck teen and end up a con for the rest of your days; there's neither reprieve nor remission for that particular offense.

Now, usually, I wouldn't bother with free lessons. But seeing as I ended up partnered with the man and there are two novice players to consider...

*takes a deep breath and counts to 100 Hufflepuffs and back*

"See, love... this is what you do: you take this card here and..."

Men... Their unarmed combat skills suck. *rolls eyes*
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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Aspersa, the Muse of literary criticism

The one advantage of resuming one's academic pursuits at the ripe age of thirty... something, is the ability to meet one's educators on a (more or less) equal footing. In the Perpetual Wonderland that is Dags' life, that translates into 'snarking at random pieces of literature to your evil little heart's content'.

Yes, I have serious issues with authority figures. Isn't that just great? XD

My first foray into the world of formal education after years of abstinence will most likely involve literary criticism - unfortunately, I find myself sorely lacking practice in that particular department (months of articulation comprised of 140 characters or less will do that to you). Yes, I can argue a point like it's nobody's business... but can I really come up with an essay to meet both my own (exacting) standards and those of our lit professor?

Time to call on some outside help, I assume... *clears throat*

Sing Heav'nly Muse, that in the secret Alcove
Of Uni Athenaeum, didst inspire
The Student, who first expounded to the Teaching Breed,
In the Beginning how Characters and Themes
Rose out of Chaos;
I thence
Invoke thy aid to my audacious Thesis,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above the
Banovina, while it pursues
Things unattempted yet in Prose or Rhyme.

There. That should suffice for a "passed", correct?

*ignores the sound of Milton turning in his grave. repeatedly.*
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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Chop, mince, season

Over the years of stating my (often dubious) opinions all over the World Wide Web I have acquired the reputation of 'one who does not mince words'. Curiously enough, it is precisely the minced quality of certain words - and, by extension, expressions - which makes me enjoy (ab)use of English so much.

Then again, I did have the misfortune of growing up in the socialist times...

Speaking of which, do you have any idea how pathetic Sir Hiss would sound back then, dubbed? "You, sir, have taken my seat!" could have easily become "You, comrade, have confiscated my couch!" and yours truly would have been denied the pleasure of discovering the potential for bitchiness in that single-syllable honorific.

Imagine the detriment to mankind.

Fortunately, my parents had the foresight to insist on nurturing my talent for non-Slavic languages and completely un(Eastern)orthodox behaviour - otherwise you sorry lot would have been served pages upon pages of oppressive prose instead of the speculation salad you've all become used to.

I might not know how to mince words, but socialist scribes sucked even at chopping the wordcount. Trust me, you're better off this way.

Giving credit where credit is due, though... the unfortunate vernacular of the social system of my youth did have its moments - especially in public transport of the time.

"Would you be so kind to allow the old lady to leave the vehicle... sir?"
"Don't you 'sir' me! I'm not a gentleman, I'm a..."
"I never would have guessed.... друже."

Camaraderie with random plebeians: because indignant sputter in the face of suavity never gets old.

"O tempora o mores!", indeed...
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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

No one expects the Snarkish Inquisition

The first rule of running a successful business is finding (and then actually hiring) the right employees. Any HR manager worth his or her salt will tell you that, qualifications and experience aside, one of the most important traits to look for in a prospective employee is "team spirit"...

...and then, for some godforsaken reason, they'll go ahead and hire me.

Before I venture any further with this story I want to state for the record that I am one of the politest freelancers you will ever work with; after nine years on the market, I've got the fine art of business communication down to a T. I even know the proper honorifics to be used, as well as the socially appropriate moment to drop them (a subtle indication that the Project Manager in question can now start calling my cell number at all sorts of ungodly hours for the so-called 'follow-up translation', which is just a fancy acronym for 'pieces of text that silly chit from the tech department forgot to include in the original strings, so you're supposed to do it for free now to get the agency's arse out of a tight spot with the client').

In short, I'm the very paragon of civility in normal circumstances. However...

Translating is my JOB. Which, by definition, means that I am supposed to receive financial reward for the trouble. And when the said reward goes MIA...

Dags. Is. Not. Happy.

There are two highly professional, market-approved ways to begin the process of financial settlement with lazy clients: the first is to call the Project Manager directly and start screaming, the other is to grab a bag of popcorn and ring an international debt collector (or three). But there is also a third way - the path less trodden, but by no means less enjoyable - namely, a follow-up(yours!) email.

'Dear Mr/Ms So-and-so,

I do apologize for the somewhat repetitive nature of my emails as of late, but seeing as time is money (and I am running a bit low on the latter) I have no doubt you will graciously extend your understanding in this case.

(copy and paste all relevant emails here here)

To save us both half an hour's pay, I have taken the liberty of forwarding our correspondence to all the relevant parties.

(meaning, you send a copy to everyone in the company and their pet!)

Best regards,
Firstname Lastname'

I give it two hours before they send you the money, a page-long arse-kissing reply included. Gotta love digital messaging...
Click... you know you want to