Saturday, March 31, 2007

Princess Charming

No, I don't yet have a Match, let alone one made in heaven with a grand HEA. But what I do have is friends. Old friends, new friends, I'm kinda feeling the love today. I just sat with one of my few friends in CA who isn't from my online book club and we talked for hours. A lot of it was about books, so go figure.

But what we also talked about is making me rethink what is perhaps my largest insecurity. After I told her that my brother referred to her as "my friend who doesn't like anything", to which she fortunately laughed so I wouldn't have to invent a time machine to go back and unsay that, she pointed out, among other things, that everyone is annoying. What matters to her in a friendship is if the good that comes her way from that relationship is greater than the annoyance. This really struck a chord with me which I'll get to in a bit.

I didn't ask what I did that annoys her. What annoys my friend about me might not bother anyone else. Or in the words of an ex-boyfriend, maybe other people have decided to find that annoyance charming. And I know that if I ask, it won't be what I thought, it'll hurt in some way, and I'll obsess over it. I once asked someone to tell me the worst feature of my face and it was the first time I realized my nose wasn't perfectly straight and symmetrical and that conversation started my eight year obsession with getting a nose job. That obsession only ended in college when I looked around Boston and realized I had very little to complain about in the nose department. It bothered me enough that 20 years later, I worried that temptation would come back when I moved to the land of fake boobs and face lifts. And I still notice peoples noses. But I'd like to think I've learned to like myself for more than my nose, and so have my friends. In fact, I have friends with even somewhat alarming features who I like just fine, so why would a medium sized, slightly hooked nose prevent me from finding friendship and love?

And here's where I come to my point. I have been a neurotic, needy basketcase of insecurity recently to the point where I'm even making myownself tired of it. I've been rethinking every aspect of myself that I've thrown out for public inspection and wondering whether or not someone will like me, or certain parts of me, and if I could have said or done something, anything, differently, etc... And here's the crazy part, I wonder this even after people tell me to my face that they enjoy my company. How sick and wrong is that?

I can justify my feelings a little bit because I'm meeting a ton of new people and am trying to be open minded for a while before I pass judgment on whether or not these new people will become good friends, people I enjoy once in a while, or someone I'd rather avoid in future. So while I'm judging as little as possible, I'm expecting to be judged. But why do I keep expecting the Russian judges? I need to get over myself and accept that some people will like me and some people won't. And that if someone volunteers that they like me, I can believe them. And that I will like some people, but not everyone I meet, and not equally, or for the same reasons.

The great thing about my long-time friends in Boston (and at least one in Canada) is that they all know that eating dinner makes me have to blow my nose. Yes, at the table, or I wouldn't have time to eat. While I rarely put up any kind of front, I do try to be civil all around (don't hurt yourself laughing) and in this interim honeymoon period with the new friends, I'll be on my best behavior, so the annoying traits don't overpower the magic that is me. And when it comes time to let my civility slip from time to time, if one of my new friends is merely an acquaintance in disguise, or the timing isn't right, or the location doesn't work out, or they're offline, that's ok. We're none of us going to fling ourselves off the nearest cliff in despair. (Also, I'm not asking for anyone who reads this to post a reassuring comment to buoy my ego.)

In the meantime, I've been thinking about how I judge other people, and talking about it, so you may recognize your own words here (feel free to claim them in the comments) and on the whole, it's not that harshly. I have some friends who I enjoy in some capacities but not others, so we avoid those other things when possible which is most of the time, and focus on what we have in common. But I tend to have no patience for people who are willfully ignorant, have no intellectual curiosity, or refuse to at least try to give up on something they define as a problem, learn from it, and get on with life. These are traits I especially don't want to see in myself.

So I think the time has come that I need to give up on my insecurity about whether something I blurt out during a grrls getaway can ruin me forever in the eyes of my new friends or old. I talk a lot and I say what I think; I just have to trust that people who like me think that my good utterances outweigh my annoying ones. I do not have to be the most popular person in any given crowd. And when I find myself unexpectedly popular, or at least novel, it's ok graciously to say "thank you" and not point out all the reasons you shouldn't like me.

This change in my attitude won't happen overnight. I'll probably have relapses. This insecurity is even older than the nose job obsession so I expect a struggle. I'm still not sure how to make this happen aside from talking sense at myself when I catch the insanity creeping back. But for starters, I'll try not to send out any more cringe worthy emails asking anyone to reassure me that yes, you still like me. I'll have to stop thinking I have to apologize for wasting my old friends' time by calling them on the phone or sending them email. Because it's foreign for me to talk to my Boston friends on the phone or through email, I've been hesitant to call or write, even as I now regularly email people I met in person only 10 months ago or fewer. I will try not to think of myself as a pest, but as someone you want to hear from, unless you tell me otherwise. That reasonable? Good.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Happy 50th!

I didn't really know what to title this blog entry until I noticed it would be my 50th. Good gad! 50! Just think of all the other things I should have been doing! But I really am enjoying this. I hope I keep it coherent and entertaining enough to not outlast your attention span by too much, too often.

I've been in kind of a funk this week. It lead to putting off getting the medical reimbursement receipts together, and tomorrow is the last possible day to turn them in. I've been good and proactive for 3 years, but not this year. My place is once again overrun with paper. (I can admit this because I think I really tweaked my friend whom I promised never to let it get that bad again so she's probably not reading this blog.)

So 3 good things this week.

  1. Went to the podiatrist, finally. I had been to one just before leaving Boston but he was a putz. So despite the fact that one of my two best friends from high school is herself a podiatrist, I've been putting it off. And maybe that was a good thing because I just went to the doctor next door to the internal medicine doc I got a referral for and she's fantastic. She gave me tips for the tootsies and medicines that actually work. For other "make your own medicine" kind of folks, she says tea tree oil is a great tool for your pedicure box. It remains to be seen if I need prescription orthotics so I can run again. Or at least stand for a while.

  2. Wine class was pretty good. I rated 3 wines a 15/20 on my personal rating scale, out of 3 for appearance, 4 for aroma, 4 for flavor, 3 for aftertaste, and 6 for general opinion. This is the best rating I've given any wine in the class so far. I think what I've learned is that I prefer cheap wine, so that should make me happy, right? I avoided posting right after the class because instead of bringing home bottle ends, we just polished them off in class this week. I had a nice WALK home afterward, but didn't want to repeat my 40,000 word lecture format.

    (Cranky detour:) It was easy to see why our instructor broke off from his former teaching partner though. This other guy was our guest speaker on "wines from Italy" ("There is no Italian wine! The people who live in this country called Italy have regional identities." Of course I knew this from my visit to Genova and was able to point out the one classic Italian trait of holding a grudge: Vendetta!) But this guy was a know it all wine snob. No one could make a statement that he wouldn't correct, refine, or refute. He was especially bad about doing this to our instructor who took it with good grace. Yeah, this guy knows a lot about, dare I say it, Italian wines. But he was such a snot about it! Dude, you're 60 or so; Grow Up! You don't always have to be the most right.

  3. Got a lunchtime tour of the local P.rocte.r & G.amble factory that makes C.harmin and Bounty paper towels. It's funny; they derive from the same pulp stock, but I love Bounty and think C.har.min is like unto dryer lint. HUGE machines. LOUD machines. It was with SWE so we got the steel toed boots tour. We didn't get free Bounty, but that's ok because I just stocked up on my Select-a-Size.

So. Those were big good things. Had small good things too: anticipated package came in the mail, several get-togethers with friends near and far are coming together, I had a good engineering moment at work this morning. I just wish I was more alert to enjoy it. I've been doing the minimum possible home-work to survive this week. It's a little sad that I finally emptied my dishwasher run from last week because I ran myself out of peanut butter knives for my breakfast toast. But I can't beat myself up for it or I just feel worse. I did finally call around to find a tax preparer who is willing to take on someone with taxes from two states, moving expenses, stock sales and a first home purchase this late in the tax season. Because I sure don't want to deal with it.

Monday, March 26, 2007

I left my cheese in San Fransisco

Lots of good stuff.
  1. I got invited to head back up to hang with the book club ladies in the Bay Area. One of my friends offered up her house and hostessing abilities and took me and another friend out for some very tasty artichoke soup at Duartes after a quick scenic drive through Half Moon Bay. We also got in a hilly hike at the Stanford dish walk before heading to dinner with yet another book friend at Pappo in Alameda, just across the island from the USS Hornet, a retired aircraft carrier/ museum having a fundraising swing dance on the hangar deck. Lots of good dancing going on and they encouraged period dress. I got a poodle skirt outfit put together with a little help and a used clothing store in Westwood and it was fun to be all decked out for dinner and entertainment.

    The next day, six of us got together and had a huge tex-mex brunch and bookswap. I have pictures of the flats and bags of books brought for the taking. I'll have to upload them to photobucket to show the amazing display. We also got in a nice walk through the neighborhood and the upgraded and staged house for sale down the street. I felt a little guilty not helping out with the cleanup, but I was packing up and heading out for the longest drive home so I think they forgave me.

    Thanks again ladies!

  2. The drive wasn't bad. In places it was quite nice. The hills in the SF/Monterrey area are green and lush right now and just gorgeous. There were a few instances of people who were just not paying attention, or seriously don't know how to drive, or just like to toy with other drivers, but for the most part, it went well. I got up and back without much incident, but feel an increasing need to post my road rules. There were several moments of zen in the less populated areas.

    I did realize on the way back that I forgot the remains of my healthy snacks (and not healthy drink) in my friend's fridge. Oh well. I hope she likes peas and cheese and coca-cola. Last time I forgot my pants in her car so I'm calling this an improvement.

  3. Love that monthly car wash plan. The mazda spent the weekend under a popular tree and desperately needed a scrubbing. And the guys at Tire Man found and patch the nail in my right rear tire friday afternoon so the car drove well at speed. 26.5mpg is not exactly as advertised, but I do drive for power not conservation, and there were big hills, so I'm not unhappy with it. Mazda 3. Get one.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Uneasy listening

So I poked my finger in a hornets nest today. On the bulletin board where I all too often post, I offered up women's plight as lesser than to someone else's new experience of feeling the injustice the world metes out. I waffled for a while about whether or not to edit it or remove it, but decided that I did mean it and left it posted. The politics is always a tricky thing to navigate, but I'm not good at shutting up if I feel I have something to say and think others might benefit from hearing it. I got some interesting responses. One implied they thought I thought I was preaching the gospel, but I do realize I'm just proffering one opinion of millions. Stridently, yes, but just one point of view. Several were very thoughtful and offered up different or compromise positions to take.

What got me thinking though is the lack of services most of our vets are coming back to. I feel horrible about it. Bad or no medical care, jobs not held, time needed to reorient, grieving, missing the excitement or absoluteness of the battlefield - all of these things and more are potential time bombs and from what I see, we don't have enough services in place to prevent preventable problems.

My question for blogland, then is what do I do? I want to help, but short of standing at the dock yelling, "Hello, sailor! Can I buy you a beer?" What can I do? Does it make a difference if I write to my representatives who already support my position? Maybe. Does it make a difference if I blog about it? Almost certainly not. This is something that calls for action, and I have more time than money to give. But I'm not really a nurturing people person, either. I'll have to see what turns up.

Happy things!
  1. The iPod/iTunes combined feature of "Top Rated" with "Shuffle". It's like an amazing blast of audible wonderfulness with every change of tune. I love it every time. Shoo Fly Pie actually mixes fine with the Throwing Muses, Pet Shop Boys and Flaming Lips. I swear!
  2. Bought a white shirt today. It's my first since about 1994 because I'm messy, but this one is fun. I also think I found the shirt for my swing dancing outfit this weekend.
  3. My online book club. I'm currently planning on attending 3 get-togethers in 3 different cities with Suz Brockmann fans, starting this friday. I'm actually planning part of one, which is scary. It's also my source of people who recommend books like Carla Kelly's Beau Crusoe which has been just delightful to read. Somehow I wanted regency instead of vampires this week, and it is just hitting the spot.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Metaphoric fractals

It's wine tasting night again and this week went better. We were learning about the wines of France and tasted good/classic wines from some famous regions. Our instructor likes to expound on his favorite topics even more than I do. But eventually, being tipsy and looking at the map got me thinking of drinking wine on the beach in Marseilles ('92) and seeing a Mandelbrot butt reflected in my wine. (Think a circle with a rounded crack in it.) I've been thinking recently that a lot of big things have similar qualities to small things, which is what fractals are all about. So, Cranky Otter has another Opining Lecture tonight.

I like this definition from
fractal [(frak-tuhl)]
    Contraction of “fractional dimension.” This is a term used by mathematicians to describe certain geometrical structures whose shape appears to be the same regardless of the level of magnification used to view them. A standard example is a seacoast, which looks roughly the same whether viewed from a satellite or an airplane, on foot, or under a magnifying glass.
My big leap with this is to compare people to molecules, specifically our behavior in public spaces with confined gas molecules. Take your standard "pivnert" equation to define ideal gas behavior, PV=nRT. Or Pressure times Volume equals the number of molecules times the Temperature/energy, with a constant (R) thrown in to make it useful for calculations. But qualitatively, if you have a constant amount of gas at a constant temperature, making the space the gas is in LARGER reduces the pressure which is to say the molecules move further apart. Or add more gas to a bottle and the molecules crowd together, and maybe even precipitate out into a liquid or solid.

You can also see this with people on a train. Strangers (n) get into the car (V) and sit as far away as they possibly can from each other (low P). You can also get pairs or groups of people coming on board who stay together, like covalently bound molecules, but this group is equally far away from the other singles and groups. At some point people start standing to keep the strangers at a consistent and even distance. Sometimes strangers will sit a little closer to one person, if another one is scary (polarity). But with every new addition, the allowed stranger space gets closer and closer until at rush hour, you're dry-humping someone you don't look at in the face as the train rocks back and forth. This all occurs repeatedly whether you're dealing with a gas or with people who supposedly have free will, which makes me wonder about how free our wills really are. Then the train rocks to a halt, the seal is broken on the pressure vessel, and people spill forth like uncorked champagne. Or like sparkling wine, if it's not a French train.

And this is why I blog. Because I think things like this that feel smart in my head, but might not be all that interesting to you unless you've had as much wine as I have, and they need a place to go. Otherwise these thoughts will rattle around in my brainbox, gaining an importance to me that is unwarranted. Well, that and I can't tell all this stuff to my long suffering buddy at dinner.

And still, we are not done; this one has been brewing for a while! I also think that all hobbies and professional interests are much like branching fractals. You can take in a broad scope of them, and there are many unrelated things that grow away from each other, and yet occasionally overlap in weird ways, and can be clustered with related things. But as you look into each particular area of expertise, the focus gets more and more specific, but has more and still more elements to be discovered. And you'll still find these weird overlaps with other things.

It always makes me crazy when people say things like, "I don't like science." There's too much to "science" for that to be true! But someone only looked at the big branches of the tree and decided that one looked too daunting, without realizing that some of the ends of these branches are very accessible and have low hanging fruit. Not all of them require you to climb the whole tree straight up to get there. I know biologists who detest physics - although physics drives biology too, it's not always necessary to know it to do good zoological studies. I know macrobiologists that can't stand microbiology and vice versa. This I think is funny because in order to know which things in "science" you like or don't like, you've actually had to have some contact with it and some self awareness, rather than a knee jerk reaction. I never actually took any biology courses, unless you count 4 days covering natural proteins in my grad polymers lecture. (If I'd known about how cool natural polymers were before my senior year, I might have made different choices, but c'est la vie.)

I've got a friend gearing up to teach a "survey" class on architecture - the history of architecture in 15 easy lessons - how can one possibly cover it all? One can't. Some teachers hate these classes because they're the guided-bus-tours of education. But if someone enthusiastic doesn't teach these classes, who is going to get the students to realize that even if they hate barrel vaults, they can study post-modernism; even if they hate microbiology, they can still be a beekeeper; even if Milan is a polluted hole, Genova is charming and Firenze has the best gelato in the whole world. If you'd just stopped at Milan before knowing about Firenze/Florence you'd have some fantastic outfits, but would have missed the duomo and, seriously, the best gelato in the world.

And here's my point with interests being fractals. Take any hobby or profession, and you can find someone who knows more about it than you do, someone who knows as much as you do but about a different subsection, someone who goes to do something really offbeat with it, several people in the mainstream, the conference organizers, the rule makers, etc... in every single topic. They're all the same structure. You can't ever get totally away from the elements you don't like because those elements are everywhere. But it also means that no matter what you enjoy, you know to start with the big picture and find something in it that interests you, and look at that more closely and repeat.

But I find my preference, for the most part, is for seeing the bigger pictures, for knowing of the depths to be plumbed, not the tediousness of plumbing of the depths. I'm a generalist, not a specialist. While I loved having a multi-talented beekeeping friend tell me all about how healthy bees make regular patterns with the way they fill the cells in their hives while sick ones tend to pack things in irregularly, I'm comfortable with that level of knowledge. I have no need to make my own honey or know what parasite makes bees schizophrenic. While I loved listening to our guest speaker rattle off the best vintages of the last two decades of French Burgundy wines from the top of his head, I have NO desire to ever be so immersed in wine lore to ever do that. I just need a working vocabulary good enough to get me something I consider palatable. Like this wine I'm finishing off now, because they offered the remains of the tester bottles at the end of class, and I was able to get the one I'd rated most highly. Although I am getting really good at glass ornaments and pumpkins, so I do plumb some depths. But it's really hard, sometimes, to choose what I want to spend my curiosity on.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Tea for Two

And two for brunch. Finally got to see my good friend who tends to be very busy. We had brunch and hit a used clothing shop that had a poodle skirt and cool shoes in my size that she convinced me will be the basis for my swing dance outfit next weekend. It was a beautiful, beautiful day. We walked all over, up and down hills. Got ice cream (her) and a smoothie (me) and checked out architecture and plant life after a little more shopping. Good stuff.

Missed the S.uze booksigning, but did snag a signed stock copy for my friend. I figured it was better to spend the time hanging with a friend than going to the store by myself, even if half the town showed for it. Still had difficulty tracking down Catherine Mann's latest, but finally got a copy at the B&N. Tomorrow is the Robert Crais booksigning. I'm meeting up with at least one, possibly two people from my online book club for the signing, then doing dinner afterward.

Well, I have 8 books newly stacked on the TBR (to be read) pile. And it's St. Patty's day and I hear a Newcastle Brown calling my name.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Would you, could you, with a goat?

Things that made me smile today:
  1. How does it feel, Sam I am?

  2. I had a blind date at lunch with a former co-worker of my only good friend in town. He looked like Lou Ferrigno only not green. And he's more of a Luddite than I am so he'd be out as a potential home IT guy.
  3. Happy Hour! Though I did have to buy the first round of margaritas. That thing I complained about someone else doing last week that tweaked me so much? I kinda did to my boss's boss. I'd been working with my boss nearly every day to get a presentation done for this morning. I stayed late last night to make sure it was polished. I get to the meeting first thing this morning to present it and my boss asked, "Did you tell X about this?" Uh? No. It is our policy that we don't surprise him like this. In my defense, he was out of town most of the week, it's kind of a weird project in that I feel like an assistant, not a lead on it, so it didn't occur to me that it was my role to tell him. And unlike with my complaint, he was at the meeting to see the data and be in the discussion, and the news was good. But I still screwed up. And apologized.
Good weekend coming up. Got the books I've been waiting for, have 2 booksignings to go to and am meeting up with people both sat and sun. And finish up an outfit for the big band dance in San Fran next weekend.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


I titled this piece with a particular topic in mind but realized it can work with a lot of the ideas floating through my head. So I'm veering off the happiness format again to work on the Cranky Otter Opining Lecture Series.

Dirty Topic 1: Laundry!
I have odd bursts of organization. I can be hyper-organized in one area and completely unable to even conceptualize a way to organize another area of my life or environment. One thing I do have licked is how to sort laundry, specifically answering the question, "What do I do with incompatible brights?"

I've always found the white/bright/dark method of sorting useless. I own maybe 6 white things and 2 are pillowcase liners and 3 are gym towels. (I do have a couple of white shirts but they get drycleaned.) The trick is not about white though, it is how to wash YELLOW. If you wash yellow with bright red, it turns orange. If you wash it with whites, they turn yellow. If you wash it with darks, it gets dingy. But there's a solution, and I feel like a genius for figuring it out even if my method and devotion to it has provoked no small amount of mocking.

CrankyOtter's never-fail 4 load method to sort colorful clothes:
  • Yellow/Green/Brown
  • Orange/Pink/Red/(purple)
  • Blue/Black/Grey/(purple)/very dark
  • White/pale pastels
    You can safely wash yellow with green and brown because the dies for green and brown are not harmed by, nor do they seem to harm yellow. Green and some browns contain yellow themselves. I can wash light khaki and chocolate browns with bright and sage greens and various yellows and it all comes out well in the wash.

    If you're worried about something of any color that's so dark as to be nearly black, pop it in the blue/black load. The purple can go in either the red or the blue load depending on load balance or depth of blue and hue in the purple color. The very pale pastels can go in with the bolder color group or, if you're not adding bleach, just put them in with the whites.
Dirty topic 2: Dirt!
I love that show. Even though, to paraphrase Happy Bunny, it makes me feel a little dirty. (It's about tabloids, which I like better in fiction than in reality.) I also love Designed to Sell, where they get rid of all your dirt so that other people don't have to buy it.

Dirty topic 3: Books!
I just finished reading Megan Hart's novel "Dirty" and recommend it. It was a good story, well written, well executed, moved along, and was SMOKING hot. Well, smoking for the first half, then there was much angst. You can easily avoid the angst by only reading the first half to 2/3rds and it would still be worth reading just that first bit. But most of the character growth happens at the end. It was an upended romance where the sex came first and the love (and lack of sex) came later.

But what struck me like a bludger to the head was the difference between this book and another book that was sold to me with a warning about being erotically inclined. While dealing with the reality of the character's feelings about sex, Author Hart maintained a positive tone toward sex throughout. And the main character, Elle, had every reason not to feel positively about it. But there was no judgment of the characters or the reader in this book of sex being icky, gross, disgusting, perverted, and saved only for the one you love.

Whereas I started reading a supposed "romance" last week that didn't have a single scene where sex wasn't considered foul, depraved, unnatural, to be apologized for, and all manner of horrible things. This all with no actual sex in the scenes. Straight, gay, married, unmarried, all the sex, thoughts of sex, thoughts of body parts, etc... were portrayed first and foremost as shameful. It put me right off my feed, it did. In fact, it was so bad in this regard, there was nothing in the rest of the book that could recover it. It was easily the least romantic book I'd ever tried to read. And that's saying something - The bookshelf by my computer easily holds 300 romances I've read and enjoyed enough to keep and I've only been buying them for about 5 years, and I still get many from the library.

So if you're wondering why I went all political in my footnote yesterday, it was a combination of things: The news headlines of our asinine "Don't ask/Don't tell" policy that is stripping our military of necessary translators, among others, yet is still better than the previous policy; reading these two books back to back and finding them like bookends on the topic of sexual judgment; the extreme tolerance of violence and lack of availability of positively portrayed sex in visual media; and the realization that saying nothing might make me complicit in the persecution of people who love.

A blog is a weird thing. It's not really a diary just for my own use, but it's not like requested journalism either. I've got lots of political opinions that I plan to stay away from publishing because it does no good and makes me intolerably cranky, the antithesis of why I blog. I can't make enough of a statement with my blog that politicians will straighten up and fly right because of it. But I can tell my friends and friendly strangers who wander by that I will accept them for who they are. And I can remind myself that sex is not dirty, even if it does generate laundry.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Does it come with a free Frogurt?

I've got a "that's good/that's bad" analysis format in my head that I will forever associate with the Talking Krusty and a free frogurt. I've decided I'll be doing a Frogurt Analysis blog every once in a while.
Tonight's FA is Wine Tasting.

Good: Wine shop I can walk to is hosting a wine tasting class
Bad: Class cost actual money
Good: Instructor is very knowledgeable
Funny: The instructor's pronunciation
Good: The people in the class seem nice
Bad: They're mostly not in my friend demographic
Good: But for the first time in almost forever, a gathering of people doing something I like (engineering excepted) had more men attending than women
Bad: The single men mostly set off my gaydar*, which for me is like hanging out with women; or the "I'm too sexy for my shirt" vibe, which means they plan to ignore me.
Good: I'm going to re-learn some of what I used to know and learn more about wine tasting terminology so that I have a hope of speaking about wine in way that is understood by other people
Bad: None of the good wines tonight were any good, so the words I learned were "corked", "oxidized", "mosquito repellent", and "horse ass".
Good: I make it home in time to watch Dirt.


* I want to be clear. I don't give a good goddamn who anyone sleeps with, lives with, or loves, as long as you all freely chose it and are of an age to give consent. Further, I am absolutely for gay marriage. As long as any adult is allowed this legal status called marriage, all adults should be allowed this legal status called marriage. To paraphrase a state rep from my old state: Finding someone to love who loves you back is tough enough, the state doesn't need to be in the business of making it harder. Marriage works from the inside because of love and the honoring of commitments to each other, but the legal benefits of marriage are grants from the state which protect your relationship from the outside. And denying your neighbor the legal rights you enjoy because you think their choice of partner is icky is hateful and wrong. Thank you to all who honor your neighbor by allowing them to pick their own mate.

Breathe (2AM)

Well, ok, so last week it would be midnight now, not 2am, but it feels like 2am. Nonetheless, I bring you, Today's Happy Things
  1. Put up my M.atch Profile. That's one less worry. My friends think my profile sounds like me, and I think it shows snatches of who I am and what I'm looking for and it's shorter than most of my blogs, so I'm actually happy with it. Now lets see who loves me.
  2. Due to the wonderful innovation of Early Daylight Savings Time, there was this mysterious ball of fire in the sky when I left work today, lending color and shadow to my world. Plus I got to wear my blingy C.hanel sunglasses. (Which reminds me I need to turn in my medical spending account receipts.)
  3. A colleague gave us a slideshow of his recent photo Safari in Africa (more specifically, Kenya and Tanzania). He was actually a good photographer! And he patched it together as a show with labels and everything. There were several shots that were quite frameable: stretching cheetah, pink bellied hippo, impalas all staring right but one. The videos were fun, but his daughters are not as hip to the idea of framing a shot as he is, they took the videos. Management also bought drinks and dessert for all. We quite enjoyed ourselves. It was almost enough to make me get over my somewhat irrational fear of traveling to Africa.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

I'll do it Myself!

This has been my mantra since I first started to talk. But I've decided that I no longer want to do everything myself. I'm pretty good at being on my own. But there are some things I just don't enjoy doing alone. I can go out to eat on my own just fine, shop, drive, swim. But I don't tend to watch movies, go for walks, or declutter my space unless I have someone else around.

I think with the movie thing is because I don't like to choose to go sit in the dark without someone else nudging me to. Walking is something I find incredibly boring - my mind races immediately with all the things I'd rather be doing. Even walking from the front door to my parking space at work I often call my brother for a quick chat about inconsequentials. But the decluttering, no matter how useful, I just hate doing, unless I have someone helping me out.

When I do organizing jobs by myself, I feel like I've been locked away being a recluse so I tend to avoid them even though I feel lots more relaxed after the tasks are done, and all of my stuff has a place to be. I think I have some (not so sub-)conscious desire to always be available to do anything but what I am doing. So when I deliberately decide to take on large projects or go to a movie, I'm locking myself in by choosing one thing over another. And above all other things, I have difficulty being decisive. So I do the little things, the transient things, and avoid making commitments to big jobs. Like last weekend, when instead of getting out my very own DVD and watching the Bourne Supremacy, I noticed it was on TV and watched it because it was it was on, independent from my choosing it to be, commercials and all.

The irony of my lack of decisiveness is that I spend more time dreading the big jobs than it would take to do them and wear myself out mentally in the process. Or I spend so much time doing other "quick things" that I don't do what I need to get done to achieve my goals. Sometimes reminding myself of my goals helps. Setting goals helps. Sometimes I just like to watch TV. Or blog.

Here's the current punch list of stuff I should be doing:
  • declutter and file LR papers
  • figure out itinerary for 4/7.
  • finish glass website
  • finish sending out "I've moved" updates
  • unload that last box of CDs
  • repaint the LR, move the desk and 2 bookshelves to make way for couch
  • buy my couch
  • organize and build shelves for outdoor closet
  • power wash the patio
  • pester my friend and architect about kitchen plans

Back on the East Coast, I'd hired an organizationally minded college student to come over for a few hours every few weeks to help me get projects done. It worked amazingly well. It's kind of how I picture my married friends getting projects done, although I can't say for sure. But having two people on a project is so much more satisfying and motivating for me. So I spent a few minutes checking out for PAs today. (Although if anyone feels like helping out with these things, come on over!) But I'm going to spend the next half hour finishing up that Match Profile once and for all. While Harold and Kumar go to White Castle.


BIG NEWS! Doesn't fit with my "I'm so ronery" post, but I have to post it because it's the better of the two things I have to say today:
    My brother just won "Salesman of the Year" for his entire company!!! It was announced at their national meeting. He was expecting best in his region, but not this! What can I say? The kid loves his nurses and selling colon scopes.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

In with the Love, Out with the Jive

I've just had the most amazingly aggravating week. The kind that gets me all wound up and vibrating in my skin as I let loose at every conceivable target. Need me to let up my guard and say inappropriate things to all and sundry and air my dirty laundry in public? This would be the week. It didn't even require beer! (Newcastle Brown, Sam's Seasonal, or a nice chewy Hefeweizen)

I'm not sure how much crank is internal and how much is external. Readers are probably thinking "the hell, you say! Have we taught you nothing?" Well, yes and no. Some days I'm able to take a deep breath, stand back, re-frame my experience, and let it go. But this would not be the week for that. This is the kind of week where every experience just makes the next one more annoying, even with a one day break for cooling off. And if I started the breathing trick there's a little imp in place of my conscience saying, "You won't regret this! Forget the yogic calm! Everyone will love to hear you rant. They'll think it's cute." I'm pretty sure it's not cute, though. I actually jumped up and down and squealed on wednesday and am still not able to regret the tantrum. (It was kind of fun.) I can hear people chanting "calm blue oceans" at me now. I've got the Mellow Mix on the iPod running, and I did a solid 45 min cardio workout after work which seemed to help.

So here's the bizzare thing - I had a really good week!
  1. My best buddy from Boston stopped by on his way Down Under. I was able to take a day off work and show him my zen drives and the asphalt seeps and the view of the Pacific descending into Malibu from a Canyon road. And we went out for brunch like it hadn't been 10 months since our last one. I really miss having a brunch and dinner companion who gets me and entertains me. Ok, I miss having a dinner companion at all. But having one who wants to split the Avocado Eggrolls at the Ch.eesecake F.actory and listens to me rant without internalizing it is a real treat.
  2. I picked up the glass ornaments I made forever ago and they look good. I got the mojo back! And the studio is soon to reopen after the February rebuild. Now if I can just find a partner and a pair of pinking shears I can see if this glass alligator idea I have will work out.
  3. Despite MANY work related aggravations, I did some good engineering this week. I worked pretty much flat out which is fun every once in a while but is a tiring pace to keep up. I got all my concerns addressed regarding my new tool install, I did a throughput analysis and process review, I got a good photo record of an experiment, I spoke to my boss about something before flying off the handle about it (I'm not a complete loss). Of course that could be the imp's critique, but I think the good work might have edged out the attitude. One can never be sure with attitude. Along those lines, I learned/relearned an important lesson. Even more, I think my gut finally learned it too.

I learned that if I'm in charge of a project, I want to know what's going on with my data before it gets distributed, and other people want this too. This is probably a blinding flash of the obvious to anyone else in the world, but the concept has finally been forcibly cemented in my tiny, self-important head just this week, that I need to make updating my boss a bigger priority. Knowing something intellectually is not the same as understanding it viscerally and incorporating it into your worldview.

While it's been pounded forcibly into me over the years that I should give stakeholders an update before presenting stuff at a widely attended meeting, the trick is that my default style is to work on my work and let people know when, alakazam, I'm done, maybe. My thoughts can to run to, "Why? I'm preparing for the meeting so you can review it there." Or pathetically, "I'll just be intruding, they don't have time for this little ol' project." Or just plain wanting to avoid an unpleasant conversation. But there are many reasons to let the boss/project lead know what is going to be presented, even if it means presenting twice, or not having a firm recommendation ready and working from a draft. Because there may be a different spin to put on it, more questions that need to be answered, slides to be reordered or deleted or summarized, or other people to clue in. Because you don't want to surprise your boss with new information that they then have to process in front of everybody and everybody's boss's boss. Because you want to do damage control before the meeting so you don't use meeting time to cause more damage. Despite knowing these reasons, those sneaky thoughts still sometimes intrude. Me being me, though, I learn better from bad examples than from good examples. And I had a fantastic bad example to learn from this week.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Good voice for TV.

After posting an extra long rant to my online book club about a book I really didn't like, I popped in to my favorite non-celebrity-stranger's blog to unwind and found a cute quiz on accents. I "don't have an accent".

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The West
North Central
The Inland North
The South
The Northeast
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Naturally, I do have an accent. But our media cultivates their voice talent from the Midwest so I match the broadcast norm, meaning that most people who watch the news will think I speak normally, even if it's different from them. For the record, my parents are from Illinois but lived in Texas, Monterrey CA, and northwoods NH before having my brother and I and eventually winding up in MN where kids play "Duck, Duck, Grey Duck", not "Duck, Duck, Goose" as we'd learned during our brief stint in Illinois. (Which is pronounced /ill-ih-NOY/ for those who don't know. The 's' is silent. Really. I'm not trying to get you beat up on the playground. If I wanted to do that, I would expound more on the Duck game.)

There was one question in the quiz I found particularly interesting. Here's why!

I teach Cued Speech. It's a method of using hand shapes and placements while speaking (or mouthing speech) to clearly distinguish the meaningful speech sounds of consonants (hand shapes) and vowels (hand placement). It allows someone to "lipread" without guesswork. And it's pure genius, IMHO. It was developed by Dr. Cornett at Gallaudet to increase literacy among the Deaf by allowing them visual access to the phonics of spoken language and it works like no other method. It is just fantastically successful in this regard for the people who use it consistently. (See Cued Speech link in "Stuff what I do" sidebar.)

But within the Cued Speech community, as in all communities, there is bitter, bitter debate about a minor issue. Ours is whether an unstressed /ee/ is cued as the vowel sound /EE/ at the mouth or /i/ (/ih/) at the throat. A sound recording engineer and storyteller from my first class quit halfway through in disgust because he was adamant that the /ee/ is an /EE/ whether stressed or not, and the teacher was holding the party line that /ee/ is /i/, though she's flexible in private, it turns out. I'm on the sound engineer's side of that argument. I have sung in choruses for many, many years, and "ay" is /ah-ee/ not /ah-i/. I may not have known much of phonics, phonemes, or phonetics before this class, but I know my /ee/ is not an /i/. The overarching philosophy in Cued Speech is "cue what you say" so why there is such absolutism on the ee/ih issue, I have no idea.

I finally allowed myself to just "cue what I say" and to hell with the party line after I read this entry in my Webster's Collegiate Dictionary's pronunciation guide:
    "/ee/ in unstressed syllables, as in easy, mealy. Though the fact is not shown in this book, some dialects such as southern British and southern US often, if not usually, pronounce /i/ instead of unstressed /ee/."
And where was CS developed and researched and where is the highest concentration of users? Maryland. Where they do say /i/ for an unstressed /ee/ to the point where they can no longer hear /ee/ (this sort of thing happens, really). Why the arbiters of CS don't fuss about distinguishing Mary, merry, and marry if you don't distinguish them but will insist with their last breath that you have a cook-ih for desert, I just don't know.

But I do have a point. Which is that I'm right and /ee/ can be /EE/ OR /i/ depending on accent. The makers of this completely inconsequential internet quiz were hip to this /ee/ as /i/ enigma that many language professionals of my acquaintance flatly deny, in spite of being otherwise good and skilled people. And since I have *no accent* you should believe me and all other things you read off the internet. And pay no attention to the fact that I play fast and loose with phonetic transcription.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Good stuff, Maynard

If someone knows where that title quote comes from, please let me know. I've been using it so long, I no longer remember the origins.

  1. I called a good friend from back East on friday after work. Within minutes of starting the conversation, all my crank from the day/week/wrong name debacle had drained right out. Just completely gone. Among other things, she told me about touring a trombone factory with her fiance. We're both in manufacturing (she's a Quality Manager), so it was interesting hearing about a process that really doesn't follow written instructions, or make all components to the same tolerance, and is more art than science. They make each slide and u-bend component to match each other, not to be interchangeable with other slides, so as long as you get a good combination, it doesn't matter if it's exactly the same as the horn before or after it. Huh. In semiconductor manufacturing, we make a million of the exact same thing week after week. If our finished goods aren't interchangable, we're in big trouble. Totally different mindset.

  2. I finally got to my local UBS (used book store) while it was open and they have a TON of Romance!!! Sometimes you get used bookstores that don't deal in Romance. There's a place for them, just like there's a place for research libraries, but they're not much good to me. I read mostly fiction, and I don't want it to be full of depression and despair. There's enough of that going around without having to invent more. The proprietress was able to recommend some authors I haven't tried. I'm not sure if her taste is similar enough to mine (she loved a book that I remember as having 2 egregious errors on the first page), but for $25, I have 7 options that I didn't have yesterday. Maybe some of the authors and publishers won't make me cranky with their carelessness and I'll find a new favorite.

  3. Jenny Crusie's blog. She writes about her writing process. Her inspiration and the tricks which work for her baffle me - I don't know how she even thinks to do what she does. Then she explains her thought process and the sun comes out and it's as clear as anything. Of Course one should figure out what fonts belongs to the heroine and the story! Doesn't everyone know that? (Trust me, it wasn't obvious to me either! Although I did leave my last job shortly after they started making us write our reviews in "COMIC" font. Really, not kidding.)
        Her moment of clarity involving the vocation of her next heroine is just a joy to read. It was a book she was working on that just didn't gel. The heroine had been a cookbook writer. JC put the story away when it went nowhere and wrote some other books including one with a cookbook writing heroine, wonderfully named "Cranky Agnes". So if this other heroine can't write cookbooks, what can she do? Read the vocation blog and find out how the new career made the book-to-be make sense.

  4. I'm not convinced that Ca.scade automatic dishwasher cleanser is great at cleaning, but it is superior in removing food stains - my formerly handwashed white tea mug no longer looks like the inside of a Chinese restaurant teapot. Why do I bring this up? I have an old white enamel sink with destroyed enamel. Until it gets replaced, I don't want it to look disgusting. Soft S.crub doesn't do a thing for it, but I tried Ca.scade yesterday and it's now shining the bright white of freshly capped teeth.

  5. I got up yesterday and it was too windy to go hiking. (It turns out weather in SoCal can cancel plans, who knew?) So I did my BodyRev Bootcamp workout instead. It's a challenging workout for me and I got it out of the way instead of obsessing all day about how I should exercise. Plus, I added an extra toe pushup. When warmed up, I can now do 6 consecutive toe pushups. Yay! I love being able to do pushups. Don't necessarily love doing them, mind you, but being able to do them makes me happy.

  6. I had lot of good things for this weekend. That makes me happy too.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Say My Name...

Or rather, spell my damn name correctly! I'm siding with Harry D.resden on this; Names are powerful. If you want to personally address me in an email and my username is firstname.lastname @, assume that the username is spelled right and use it as a reference to check that you're not calling me by someone else's name. Don't add or substitute letters for any reason. The only time you can change it is if I sign my name with a nickname. Which I don't. Be professional and make the effort to show me you care. Especially when your own name is an uncommon variant. It's not that hard and just common courtesty.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Baby Boom

One of my best friends from high school just had her second baby yesterday. Now she has 2 boys born in February. They are doing fine and are at home asleep already. Her mom sounded tired too. While she did call me, she didn't tell me if they chose a name! But he's average size which is good. I mention the average size as I seem to know an inordinate number of people having babies in the last year and a fair number of the babies were either 5 pounds (scary) or 10 pounds (ouch).

Inordinate is defined here as "at least one unique birth or pregnancy announcement every two weeks where the mother is someone I know, or the relative of a close friend of mine." This covered a period of 18 months spanning 2005-2006. It has slowed down to about once a month in the last 5 months or so. This is after approximately 10 years with a single digit count of birth announcements, then 5 years of my slightly older colleagues having their 2 kids. There are 3 new babies and one on the way among my current colleagues. What is in the water? I still don't want one of my own. Good thing I drink filtered water.


Damn that punk rock car commercial! It's sick and wrong and must be stopped. Also on commercials, I think I've counted about 5 commercials (M&Ms,UPS,?) using "The Postal Service" tunes over the last year. It reminds me of 1994 or 95 when about a dozen movie trailers used the Carmina Burana to whip viewers into an excited, but non-specific, frenzy of movie enthusiasm.

3 Good things from this week, quickly
  1. New baby! Duh!
  2. Got wedding announcement for one friend and wedding planning update from another. They chose wisely.
  3. Friends told me they liked my posts to our book club (usually about non-book things). I kind of think I border on "know it all" - it's mostly troubleshooting, trying to find process solutions, and offering advice - but it seems to be a unique and valued perspective. It's good that the readers like it because it comes from my profession and is hard to turn off. But it's not all one-sided advice - from this group I have good remodeling rolemodels who are happy to share their expertise.
Time to stop obsessing and go exercise.