Jumping over the lazy dog

or, taking the bull by the horns.

What do Eminem and I have in common?

Um, well…we’re back. And, I suppose, that at times I can be a bit shady, and that once upon a time, I was slim.

These last few weeks have been incredibly crazy. Between having the Brit over for Christmas, heading up for some gallivanting in London, and then having more friends than I have fingers bustling about for a week or so after, I barely had time to finish my scholarship applications, much less blog! But…all that is now a safe distance away, and after a cozy Saturday curled up in bed with a few movies as the rain tapped on my (still-paper-snowflake-covered) window, I was ready to hit the town.  And so I did, in a manner of speaking.

Jim Haynes is the type of person with whom you feel immediately comfortable. And it’s not just the twinkle in his eye and his rosy cheeks that lend him a Santa Clause-y air: the evening he offers is a veritable gift for those able to attend. An apron wrapped around his torso, seated on a wooden stool and notebook in hand, he shook our hands with smile peeking out from below his mustache.

A bit of background info: Aussie called me with some info on an underground dining adventure, one of those “best kept secret” deals, dinner chez Jim. Every Sunday for the last 30 years, Jim has hosted thousands of strangers, people unknown to him, and to the rest of his guests. Over glasses of wine, bottles of beer and a delicious three-course meal prepared by Jim and his friends, strangers become acquaintances, and in some cases, much more.

Yesterday evening, I had the opportunity to meet (among others): an architect from Sydney, an interior designer from Charlotte, NC, a communications consultant from Mexico, a geo-physicist from Italy, and an immunology student from China. Dinner consisted of a potato salad appetizer, followed by boeuf bourguignon, green beans and mashed potatoes, and an apple crumble with vanilla ice cream for dessert. If you wanted seconds, they were up for grabs – in both the food and the alcohol department.  Plenty of interesting conversation and delicious food, all for a small donation (small by Parisian standards, that is).

The evening was a great way to break out of my hermit-ing (understandable, after three weeks of continuous travel), and I can’t wait to go back!

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Filed under: All things French, Around the world, , , , , , , , , , ,

This post will self destruct in 5…4…3…

The topic du jour is secret identities.  More specifically, secret identities on the web.  Even more specifically, secret identities on blogs on the web.  Okay, I’ll just come out with it: I’m curious to know how people decide on a) their own nom de plume and b) the special names for the characters that trapeze through their posts.

Let’s start with a couple of examples.  One of the blogs I’ve listed in the “Foxy reads” section to the right is Petite Anglaise In one of her first few posts, the author explains her reasons for selecting petite anglaise as her blogging alias, and while eventually she was outed to the public as Catherine Sanderson (and not for the worse, I might add, as now she’s writing under her real name and has a real published novel, to boot), she continues to blog as petite anglaise. As for the characters in her blog (I say characters, as it’s easy to forget that these are real people, living real lives on the other side of the ocean), we have: Mr. Frog  (the former partner and father of her first child), Tadpole (said first child), The Boy (the now husband) and an arrival on the way that has yet to be named.  Now the Mr. Frog title makes sense (he’s French), the Tadpole follows logically and The Boy is aptly named, seeing as he is, I’m assuming, male (which, however, begs the question, why not The Man?).  There are other characters, few and far between, that are mentioned, like the boss, or a neighbor, or what have you, but do not get enough air time to merit an alias.

Or, for example, over at Phil the Pill, we have Phil, the author, who’s gone as far as to use his full name in his biography, but who maintains some sense of privacy by assigning code names to his cast of characters: Heathcliff, Pocahontas, Invisijet, and Lupuskiller. Ok, some of the real people behind those identities even I’m not sure of, and I hang out with the guy.  But it adds an interesting mix to his blog – and it brings me to a point: why mention the real names of people online unless you absolutely have to? And do you ever absolutely have to? Even Perez Hilton is a bit obtuse at times!

I chose to use my real name when I created my WordPress account for simplicity’s sake.  I’ve done the alias thing in the past, my first AIM screenname was something godawful, like NDNPrincess007 or RITA4NSYNC or something else equally teeny-bopper-esque. I’m not going to write anything on this blog that will incriminate me, I don’t think, and I figure if employers are looking to learn more about me, they should get a sense of the whole package anyway – someone once told me the interview was more about seeing if you fit into the company’s culture than whether or not you’re capable of fulfilling the job’s tasks.  So I chose “amritaraja” because that’s who I am.  Granted, the blog’s web address is “www.hellobrownie.wordpress.com.” Yes, that means I’m brown (and friendly – hello reader!).  Did you miss the fact that the blog’s title is an allusion to the classic typographic exercise? And the majority of my audience knows who I am already, since there haven’t been any search-related hits yet, only people stalking me on Facebook.

And if using aliases for the RL people that must be mentioned in a personal blog (since it is about what’s going on in your life, and I’m assuming there are other people in your vicinity) is a matter of preserving their privacy, I’m all for it.  It only bothers me to think that using the aliases online reinforces the divide between “online life” and “real life” – that is, it reinforces the notion of leading double lives (or triple lives, if you consider your private life and your public life in “real life” to be two different things).  Anybody got a cure for that problem? A cure, that is, that doesn’t sacrifice privacy and won’t get me into some lawsuit that will drain me of money I don’t have?

I’ll end this post with a poll: if you were to be mentioned in a blog, how secret should your mention be?  And hey, if you think of a specific secret identity you’d like me to use in this blog, shoot me an email at amrita.j.raja@gmail.com!

Filed under: Close to home, , , , , , , , ,