Archive for July, 2008

Free Rice

Remember Free Rice? I could never figure out how people in Sudan were going to benefit from my sitting in Hawthorne, NY on the day before Thanksgiving 2007 playing this online word game.


Here’s my observation on it that I published on David Singer’s blog


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If only we knew he was sincere

How I wish I could vote for this man…

Barack Obama at Yad Vashem.

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Stillborn blind date

He seemed more promising than most of the other online candidates. A good-on-paper guy.

The man identified himself as a New York writer. Now, it’s not as if I am looking for a carbon copy of myself. If anything, I might actually prefer to be with a pygmy biochemist or an Inca porter or a Mongolian builder of yurts rather than somebody who is brooding and befogged like yours truly. Self-contempt you say? Maybe. I am always running away from people I might have something in common with. Mutuality should be a sign of comfort, but for me it is often cause for panic.

New York Writer responded to my online profile with a genial offer to meet for coffee. In my brooding way, I examined his profile. It gave me pause. He seemed to hold himself in some esteem, styling himself “well educated and traveled.” He wrote about his recent career as a “successful manager of renowned musicians and attractions,” which came to an abrupt end on 9/11. I didn’t see an obvious connection between the end of the entertainment industry and 9/11, and I couldn’t help but wonder if he was one of those guys who lost his last job and never looked for another one. I mean, New York is still so rich with entertainments and diversions that the greatest culture hound would not find enough hours in a long day to indulge in even one-tenth of them. But maybe music and theater reached a state of ruination that I, stuck interviewing computer scientists about parallel processing, simply hadn’t noticed. When it comes to my not really getting the zeitgeist, anything is possible.

Toward the end of his 500-word “About Me,” New York Writer said that he began writing after 9/11. Writing, he said, was the fulfillment of a promise made to him in high school, college and — specifically and abstrusely — in ’02. Did New York Writer have a book contract? Or — and this is where I am totally jealous — did the Literature genie rise up out of his Word Doc program and promise him literary fame and fortune in exchange for his soul? Sounds like a pretty fair trade to me. But what I really worried about was that he had given up trying to earn a living and had turned to writing the way other lost souls turn to Lotto. What were the chances that writing was going to pay off?

I decided I was being a jerk. I sent him a note saying that we had some things in common and it would be nice to talk. He wrote back asking which I preferred — that I call him or he call me? I thought about it a bit and then requested that I call him. I named a date and a time.

His response was a rather long note about his online dating experience, including a recent “thing” he had with a woman who was quite a bit younger. They became familiar, as he put it, via e-mail, but never actually spoke by phone or met in person. When they finally arranged to get together, she didn’t show. As a result — but who knows what the sequence of events really is here — he is “reassessing” online dating. I shouldn’t take it personally though. I am still the lovely woman he sensed me to be when he first contacted me.

I had to read this note over a couple of times before I understood that he didn’t want to get together. I can see how I might have missed that point: In his last sentence, he asked me to keep writing to him.

I did write back — a friendly little note about my own experience with online dating, limited as it was to only two in-person meetings. He sent back a note with more details about his blind dates. The women he met didn’t look like their photos. One of them asked if he would be a sperm donor. Another surprised him with the news that she had three children. The rest — how many were there? — left him intellectually and physically cold.

He concluded by saying that speaking by phone would be awkward because “I am not footloose and fancy-free.” He is staying with mutual friends of his and his (ex?) wife’s. He has agreed that he will not arrange to see women while he is under their roof. If I gave him enough notice, maybe he could arrange to speak. “Nobody has ever found this situation troublesome,” he assured me.

Were men always this weird?

There’s a story here. I don’t know what it is, but I think that if you get to be fifty years old and you can’t figure out a way to have a telephone conversation, and in all your successful career you didn’t save up enough money to get an apartment in the event that you might get divorced — I’m bad at math, but I think I’m putting two and two together.

Do you think the ex threw him out?

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