ilona the pest

insecurity + narcissism = awesome!

Wednesday, January 31, 2007


in the past couple days i've had several new experiences:
1) first visit to long island
2) first trip on the long island rail road
3) first funeral

(aren't i a little old to never have attended a funeral before? yes. just lucky, i guess.)

this was a funeral for the father of someone i work with. i wasn't sure whether to go, but i called my own dad for etiquette advice, and he said i should definitely go. (and to send a sympathy card. which i haven't done yet. reminder: send a sympathy card.) i was like, "it won't be awkward or seem presumptuous or anything?" and he was like, "no. he'll appreciate it."

so i went, along with a few other people from work. i had a feeling i would probably cry, even though i'd never met the deceased, and i was right.

i cry occasionally, but it's such an awkward thing if it happens around other people. the possibility of being seen crying at work, or around anyone except super-close friends or family members (and often even around them), is incredibly embarassing and i would usually do anything to avoid it.

on the other hand, i believe strongly that feelings are healthy, including sad feelings, and it's healthy - more than that, it's important, necessary to express them. it's yet another sign of how unhealthy our culture is that we have so few socially acceptable opportunities to express them around other people.

so my revelation of today is that funerals are a rare & beautiful institution - a communal expression of grief and love and hope and recommitment to fully appreciating our own lives and the lives of everyone around us. i mean, how often do you have the chance to hug the people you work with? hardly ever, i bet (and i bet you think you don't even want to), but the world would be a better place if we did more often.

Monday, January 29, 2007


the L word is the worst show on television. at least the worst-written show. no, but also the worst-acted.

so of course i can't stop watching it.

it's partly because it's the only place i get to see my people -- or at least some bizarro, fancy, vanilla, lipstick version of them -- reflected in a popular medium.

but also because it's just so bad. i love it. i can't look away.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

bacon welcome kit

today my "welcome kit" from the bacon-of-the-month club arrived. the package (which came in a silver, glittery envelope) included:

- a tiny rubber pig to put on my desk (about 1" long)
- a rubber pig snout attached to an elastic string, for wearing around the office
- a pig pen (get it?!)
- a bacon-of-the-month-club t-shirt
- a certificate of membership
- a membership card (although they call it my membership "slab")

i'm too lazy to learn how to take pictures and post them here, so here's a picture of the items i, er, borrowed from someone else's blog:

actually, wait a sec - mine didn't come with any handbook! wtf. oh well. minor glitches aside, it's still pretty freaking awesome. you are so jealous, right?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

the OC loves us!


from OC creator josh schwartz:

"I'm not forgetting the support we got, and continue to get, from The O.C. at Boalt fans," says Schwartz, referring to UC Berkeley's law students, who even started a scholarship in the name of the series' attorney dad, Sandy Cohen. "I'm going to do a very special homage to them in the final episode."

can this really be happening? this is what our club has been dreaming of since the fall of 2003. an homage!!

(well, okay, having peter gallagher visit us for three years in a row to award the sandy cohen public defender fellowship was pretty mind-blowing too. but this is a new & more public form of recognition. not necessarily better, but unprecedented, and totally awesome.)

it's sad, yet poignant, to have our love acknowledged, at long last, in the show's final episode. it almost brings a tear to my eye.

Monday, January 22, 2007

dreams come true

i've been having a bit of a rough week. i've been kind of depressed, and i didn't really do anything all weekend - just watched a lot of tivo and slept a lot. i haven't even been able to get off my butt to write here. (one possible theory: with the round-the-clock birth control pill that i've been taking for about three months straight, my body might be telling me it's time to take a break and have my period. we'll see if it works & i feel more normal after that.)

but the good news is, i just found out that someone loves me enough to make my fondest dream come true. can you guess? yes, yes, it's true...


i feel thoroughly cheered. thank you, kind sir. you sure know how to take care of a lady, even from across the country.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


all week at work i've been reading, and reading, and reading. i'm trying to learn about an area of the law that i know nothing about (like most of them!), and i know it's important, and i'll be much smarter when i finish... but i am going out of my mind with the tedium of it. actually, i am almost done, though. i'm working on a memo summarizing for other people what i've learned. so the end is in sight.

and tonight i'm going to party with my old friend jk, and maybe a new friend or two from work. and then tomorrow i'm going to SF for the long weekend.

but for some reason the impending relief from this monotony makes me feel all the more distractable. you'd think i'd be buckling down for one last stretch - but no, i just want the fun times to start NOW.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

it's snowing!

omg. this is so surreal. i'm sitting in my office and looking out the window and the entire sky is filled with masses of swirling white flakes.

it's not like i've never seen snow before, but it's definitely been a long, long time. this feels inordinately exciting.

yay snow!!

Saturday, January 06, 2007


i'm hosting a tiny dinner party tomorrow night for a few people i am friendly with at work. (including one of my oldest friends who also happens to work there.) they seem fun and nice, and i really think we could be friends, so i hope it goes well. i'm feeling nervous. :( i feel shy about interacting with people i don't know very well, especially with the added pressure of hosting and feeling responsible for the success of the evening.

also i have to clean my whole apartment. i really hate cleaning. but that's also the secret benefit of having people over every now and then (especially people i don't know very well): it forces me to clean everything and make it look presentable. my pride outweighs my laziness.

Friday, January 05, 2007

norwegian, cantonese, and ebonics

i've been having a lively debate in the "comments" section of my last post (the one about old english). so lively, in fact, that i figured it would be more fun if i reproduced it out here so everyone could see.

some anonymous prescriptivist wrote:

So you are pro-ebonics then? I'm sure people used to pronounce things differently in the past, but we live in the present. There's a proper way to pronounce things now. Beacuse you found some peasant pronounced ask like "axe" hundreds of years ago, doesn't excuse illiteracy and lack of academic drive today.

the pest replied:

So you are pro-ebonics then?

that question has a ridiculous premise: how can you possibly be "for" or "against" a dialect? languages are value-neutral (except to the extent that linguists value ALL languages). to a linguist, the natural diversity of languages is extremely valuable, because it provides fascinating clues into the history of cultures and the patterns that govern the shifts that occur in all languages over time, among other things.

people who speak cantonese are not speaking mandarin incorrectly. people who speak danish are not speaking norwegian incorrectly. people who speak black english vernacular (or "ebonics") are not speaking standard english incorrectly - they are speaking a different dialect of english that is equally legitimate, internally consistent, and lovely.

the prescriptivist retorted:

people who speak cantonese are not speaking mandarin incorrectly. people who speak danish are not speaking norwegian incorrectly. people who speak black english vernacular (or "ebonics") are not speaking standard english incorrectly - they are speaking a different dialect of english that is equally legitimate, internally consistent, and lovely.

Those are bad analogies. Danish and Norwegian are different languages, not dialects. Ebonics is just improperly spoken english, NOT another language. You cannot compare a different language to a dialect. How is ebonics legitimate? The California school system was basically going to give up on black children and say ina racist manner "we think Blacks are incapable of speaking english properly, so we'll just teach them the improper english in school". Would you write any of your memos or briefs in Ebonics? Why? Because it's not proper english.

and the pest concluded:

Those are bad analogies. Danish and Norwegian are different languages, not dialects. . . .You cannot compare a different language to a dialect.

remind me, which of us has a degree in linguistics, again? oh yeah, that's right: ME. danish and norwegian are mutually intelligible, yet they're called different "languages". cantonese and mandarin are NOT mutually intelligible, yet they're called "dialects". i chose those analogies to demonstrate that the line between "dialects" and "languages" is often difficult to discern. it's more helpful to view varieties of language as falling on a spectrum from similarity to dissimilarity, with similar varieties usually termed "dialects" and further-apart varieties termed "languages".

Ebonics is just improperly spoken english, NOT another language.

that's exactly what the speakers of "proper" latin thought about speakers of what became italian, french, spanish, etc. your prejudice toward the language of the less privileged classes is as old as language itself, son.

Would you write any of your memos or briefs in Ebonics? Why? Because it's not proper english.

first, i'm not fluent in black english vernacular, so i couldn't write briefs in that dialect even if i wanted to. second, the legal profession is extremely conservative. you succeed for your client by winning over the usually conservative, usually white, usually male judge, who is steeped in the formality of the ancient profession. in fact, the legal profession is so conservative that its lexicon includes a large number of outdated words - remnants of old english, middle english, and middle french - that the rest of the english-speaking world has long left behind.

anyhow, anyone can see that there is a dominant dialect in this country, which we could call standard american english. as usual in societies with multiple thriving dialects, the variety that came to be thought of as the "standard" language happened to be the dialect of the privileged classes. thus its careful use conveys a sense of education, wealth, power, and whiteness (since whites are the dominant group from whence that particular dialect emerged). that's why lawyers master that language. but it hardly justifies promoting the eradication of alternate dialects with the fallacious argument that such dialects are simply "mistaken" versions of the "original".

if you want to learn more about black english vernacular (or african-american vernacular english, as it's also known), check out the wikipedia entry:

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

old english

i'm finally starting to get into the book on old english that i bought over a year ago but never read past the first chapter. i can't wait til i can read and pronounce old english! it's basically a foreign language - it looks and sounds just about as foreign as german or french. but it's awesome to look at some of the strange-looking words and realize their direct evolutionary relationship to modern english. like, cyning (pronounced [KOO-ning]) (sort of) is 'king'. and hwelc (pronounced [hwelch]) is 'which'. i love to ponder things like, when did we decide to swap the H and the W at the beginning of all our WH words?

there are all these online exercises that go along with the book, and you can even listen to readings from actual texts to get a feel for the pronunciation.

i love to read little tidbits like: "When sc was pronounced [sk] it sometimes underwent metathesis (the sounds got reversed to [ks]) and was written x: axian for ascian, tux for tusc." take that, everyone who thinks it's horribly uneducated to say "axe" for "ask" (as is standard in modern black english) - that pronunciation has a venerable pedigree! and besides, languages undergo that kind of switch all the time (see, e.g.,what happened to our WH words). i hate linguistic purists. all languages change and that is the most interesting thing about 'em, in my book.

Monday, January 01, 2007


i suppose it's resolution-making time again. i doubt i've ever actually taken a new year's resolution seriously and consciously followed through on it, but it seems like a good idea to at least make a few small aspirational statements and hope that they will somehow influence the choices i make during the year.

so here we go: resolutions 2007!

(1) start taking a multi-vitamin (again)

(2) write and publish a real law review article

(3) take belly-dancing classes (don't make fun! it's really good exercise -- strength, flexibility, and cardio - and seems to come from a similar philosophic tradition as yoga. and dancing to music seems way more fun than regular boring exercise.)

(4) take some kind of language class

(5) try to be less unpleasant to the people i care about

(6) be less anti-social!!!!!! don't be scared to call up people i don't know and invite them to hang out. i am lovely and charming and smart and funny. most anyone would be happy to be my friend. (i think. but it's better to operate on that assumption than on the opposite assumption.)