Sunday, September 30, 2007

Life is Good, with pictures

I just had the most fabulous day! And I caught a lot of it on camera. I thought yesterday was good with the partnered up glassblowing and all, but today was better. I slept in late after staying up having a crazy saturday evening doing killer sudoku. I made fresh valencia orange juice with my neighbor's oranges and my new juicer, then went out to pick up the glass pumpkins I made yesterday with my new glass blowing partner.

Even the traffic was amazingly fun today. We were going at a reasonable clip even though it was fairly crowded. The driving was all very fluid, with people moving in and out to maintain speed, getting out of the way and going around the slowpokes instead of building up in a mass behind them. People even went fast down the hills, which is rarer than you'd think. It's the kind of day that probably tweaks timid drivers, but it was big fun for me. Loved it.

Here are the pumpkins as I picked them up on the studio. They're sitting on the steel table called a "marver" which can be used to shape the hot glass. I suppose it could also be used to shape cold glass, but only if the shape you're looking for is "broken".
7 Glass Pumpkins on marver

I also got some closeups. This is purple with a metallic stem. I really like this stem. Perhaps you can also see the metallic gold bits (there's some real gold in the color) included in small amounts in the body colors.

Purple Glass Pumpkin with metallic loopy stem

The orange and green aren't so shabby either (well, one is, but this one is a good one).
Orange Glass Pumpkin with Green Stem

And here's where I realized that I really need to acquire more portable lights if I want to take photos in my cave-like-condo.
Glass Pumpkins in bad light

Next, I stopped in to visit a friend at UCLA and snitched an avocado off the tree in the backyard. Then I tooled merrily along Sunset Boulevard, which is lovely and windy and lined with trees and places to buy "Maps to the Stars $10".

Eventually, I found my way over to the Book Fair by the West Hollywood Library. I hadn't realized it was there until I read Jeanine's post this morning and I'm SO glad I went. I had a great time chatting up people. I found Stephanie Vaughn right away, although I had to remember that name instead of Jeanine. Here she is signing some books for moi.
Book Fair Stephanie Vaughn signing books

While I hadn't planned to go and spend money today, I found a $100 gift check in my purse, so despite the little issue with my NetBank account being "read only", I still had money. And I decided to burn it here. This is the stash of books and swag I came home with.
Book Fair
Now I have to put this all somewhere! EEEK!

In the mix here is some stuff I have no idea about. Well actually most of it is, but these people were all very nice to me even when I was gauche and were enthusiastic about their work, so I went a little nuts. One writer was a nice Puerto Rican gay man who used to live in the same town as I did near Boston. And it's his first published book, so how could I not get it? Naturally I bought Stephanie's stuff, and a funky collaborative novel by a couple of ladies who used to work in the makeup industry called "The Immaculate Complexion" which sounded fun and has a great cover so I got that too. And the blue bags in the lower right are stuffed full of books on CD that I got for a steal, without actually stealing them.

Here are some of the spicier books, zoomed in a bit. Lemme know if you want a book report.
Spicier Book Fair books

Later, I went back to show Jeanine my pop-up book of Elvis's Graceland, because really, when it comes to Elvis, there is no such thing as too tacky. I have a tongue in cheek appreciation for Elvis and I've been lured by the siren call of pop-up books before, but this time I bit. I love this book. It's open to the round bed pop-up in the picture of my haul. I found J/SV with a fruity pineapple drink. The sun was less fiery and intense so we got a picture with minimal squinting to prove I really went there and had a good time.
Book Fair smiling happy people with fruity drink in a pineapple

After wandering off to find the pineapple drinks for myself, I stopped off to chat with (cute!) graphic artists. All the ones I talked to are working collaboratively also, and I've had such fun reading about the Jenny Crusie/ Bob Mayer collaboration that I had to chat them up about their process. Plus, they were cute and nice to me.

These guys all do animation for famous shows.
4 Book Fair graphic artists

They've written a comic called "Hot Mexican Love" which made me laugh (tee hee!) and which they were selling for not too much money. So I told them I'd buy some. But it turns out I only had $8 left. They let me have a discount and still signed the books with some of my favorite Futurama characters. It may not be true, but the one guy said Bender was really a Mexican named SeƱor Bender B Rodriguez, and I think that's fun, and hey, truth is not really necessary when talking about cartoons I suppose. Look on the right of this pic for the goods.

Book Fair with personalized graphic of Bender from Futurama

To round out the day, I also got to chat with a friend (who couldn't make it to the book fair), another friend who I'll see next weekend, and my brother. My brother told me about his cichlid fish who gets all testy and changes color when my brother rearranges the aquarium gravel and levels out his/her "sex hole" that he/she spent hours arranging but which my brother claims is unsightly. That boy cracks me up.

Now to figure out where everything goes. Anyone who is good at organizing want to come visit?

Saturday, September 29, 2007


So I got an email yesterday afternoon from a friend telling me to start checking on N.etB.ank. Because the FDIC shut them down. Um, I pay my mortgage from that account, did the check clear first? It wasn't as bad as hearing it from strangers, in that I got that email before I saw it on the news, but I'm thinking quick email from the bank or the FDIC wouldn't have gone amiss. I had almost stopped to get lunch cash from my account and would have been hella confused in addition to resorting to last decade's slang.

It turns out that ING bought the accounts and everything is back up. But I had just had a brain flash a couple weeks ago to print out my recent account histories and totals, just in case, but then I thought "nah, I'll do it later". Well, today is later and I'm printing like mad. The numbers all seem to be normal so I hope I don't have more bad dreams about trying to prove my balances with handwritten numbers on post-it notes. "I swear, I looked it up just last week, honest! That money is MINE!"

Had I not been able to access my kitchen renovation fund for a couple months while the FDIC "protected me", I woulda been more than a tad tweaked. Especially since, in the way of business money, I'm not quite sure why only having a $0.2Billion reserve on $2B in assets requires drastic action. (I could have read the news article wrong, but that was my interpretation.) It kind of made me think they were getting the smackdown for being successful without kissing up to a brick and mortar bank. They've all had to improve service exponentially since Ne.tba.nk made the scene.

I really wish people would stop panicking about the mortgage situation. Did no one else watch those commercials saying "no money down, no credit check, we don't need proof of a job!" and think "that's a foreclosure waiting to happen!". But even so, can't a bank handle a 3% failure rate without collapsing? It just seems nuts.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

People are Strange

Especially when those people are my parents dealing with the internet. My parents have finally started sending me email. My mom has been a semi-regular corresponder for the last couple of months. My dad used to email me from his last desk job, but hasn't logged in regularly for several years. Yesterday, my brother and I got the first email from him in months and months. And it is titled "3 in 1 gun sale." It's not a weird forward, but a completely unique email in more ways than one.

The house I grew up in was really middle of the road where guns were concerned. The folks didn't really keep real firepower on hand, but they didn't advocate against guns either. My dad had been trained to shoot in the army and my mom by a previous soldier-boyfriend. Mom actually drew on an potential intruder once, so they didn't really have much call for "all guns are bad" teachings. We had one wicked old muzzle load rifle made of cast iron with a wood stock that we hauled out for curiosity once in a while. (This was the gun I imagined reproducing until I found out that "son of a gun" wasn't literal.) My brother and I shot off cap guns, and occasionally fired at the woodchuck with bbs; he mostly just gave us a stern look and went on sunning himself. We went to a firing range a couple of times so we could get the feel of shooting a handgun, rifle, and shotgun. (Hello NSA! I fear the clustrmap ads after this entry.)

That background is just to say that my family doesn't make a point of discussing guns for guns sake, but only as part of other stories. So getting an email titled "3 in 1 gun sale" was just strange. Especially when the bulk of the email turned out to be the most comprehensive rundown of my paternal relatives I've ever received. My brother called with a "WTF?" so I wasn't the only one who found it strange.

Here's what I think happened in my dad's brain. My dad likes trivia of all sorts. He can BS on just about any topic for a good half hour before someone trips him up. He loves other peoples stories and marvels of engineering. And good deals. So a "3 in 1" must have caught his attention enough to read about it and try to come up with a way to convince my mom it was a good deal. She probably blew him off, so dad told us about this modern marvel instead. And in thinking of what he could possibly use a gun for, he started reminiscing about shooting rabbits back on grandma's farm.

Rabbit hunting segued into who now lives on my great-grandma's farm, who still lives in town, who did or didn't have kids, and other details, some of which were brand new to me. I found out that my dad's mom wasn't always a speech therapy teacher. I knew she was a teacher when she dated my grandpa (starting on a Friday the 13th :) because she mentioned having to do it on the sly in '39. But it was when she got her speech therapy specialization when my dad was in high school that precipitated their move to the town my mom lived in - so the grands could both teach in the same district. (Grandma recently started needing speech therapy and I wonder if it tweaks her professional pride.)

My paternal grandfather was the only kid from great grand's first marriage, which I knew - g'g'pa died in the flu epidemic and all dad's relatives had a different last name. But it turned out g'gpa's best friend (who treated the flu with whiskey and avoided the hospital) was the one who married g'g'ma. The other new news was my dad's uncles all had different first names than the ones I knew. Turns out they go by their middle names because all the half-siblings had the same first name, although they feminized Aunt F's version. This only lasted one generation, thankfully. I find it amazing that it took 35 years to find out step-great-grandpa's first name, especially when it was common to four living people I knew and visited.

I'm more familiar with the maternal relatives because they are more forthcoming with stories and we visit them more. This catchall history from dad wasn't something I ever expected to be coughed up so coherently and completely without a lot of effort. It was cool, because now I have all the names in one place with a few jobs/careers listed as well in an easily searchable format. But I had to do an edit and re-send to myself the the bro because the history was bracketed in "isn't this gun cool?" And advertising info on a cheap quirky gun with only kind of good accuracy is not really something I want to keep in the permanent record.

Do you get weird emails from your parents or grandparents? Or are they more normal than my family?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

So of course I would do it all over again

Things are going well. I feel like I ought to be more stressed than I am, but I'm happy not to be.

  1. I'm working on a top priority project at work, and it's going well. Not to jinx myself, but it is a new-to-us tool qual. Fortunately for me, the previous process qual I did is for the same process on an existing tool. So the qual plan is the same and I know how it works. Which means I get to run this qual in 3 months instead of 12 (the last 3 of which were not my fault). And it's looking like it will go. My lots are queued up to run tomorrow, I have the presentation ready to get the go ahead to run those lots, and then once those lots go, I know who to talk to to make them move. It's feeling astonishingly low key as I just knock the tasks off my action item list.

    It was a little trick to decide on a process initially, but I kept alternating test conditions and asking questions of my boss and the vendors to finally figure out which parameters were the preferred ones to match and which were better to vary. I went from a process that would work but would probably require a later effort to improve to a process that works well as is and is something I'm proud of. I told them it would be 6 months from the date I got the target in to qual, and I'm on track for that deadline. Although it feels surprising given that I'm not frantic about everything.

  2. Maybe it's the vitamin C. I ran out to a couple of kitchen stores yesterday until I found the ~$50 (not $120+) citrus juicer with a lever.
    chrome citrus press
    I have wanted one for YEARS (at least since my friend worked at Cra.te & B.arre.l one Xmas and let us shop with her discount) but couldn't see buying it when citrus wasn't thick on the ground. I now have a couple of sources for free lemons and oranges, and decided that yesterday was the day to make that dream come true. It works well enough that I can't justify upgrading, and it's cute with a vintage modern vibe. And my new faucet has enough clearance that I can just run it under the water to clean it off.
    glacier bay cheap but useful two handled chrome faucet

  3. Had lunch with a new colleague today. And just got a call from the glassblower I met last weekend and we're on for pumpkins this coming weekend. Also good.
Good. Good. So Good. Something tells me, something tells me, something tells me you can read my mind.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Almost in Business

Good news, good news! I have glass studio time booked for the next several weekends and I met a glassblower who already knows how to make pumpkins and might be available to work with me. Wheee!!! Saturday was "glass networking day". I went for my meet and greet, then wound up helping the studio owner/manager with a piece (which sadly cracked in the annealer, which I hope wasn't anything to do with me). At any rate, after I helped him, he let me make a couple things and so I will have more pictures to post once I get my glass in the sunlight with a camera. He also told me about a local glass sale, so I headed down there and met the potential partner and several others. Got some tool tips for doing glass sculpting too. (The sea monster was supposed to be an alligator.)

Today was engineering networking day and I got to hang at a BBQ with my fellow female engineers and a couple bottles of Oktoberfest. I got sent home with about 10 pounds of vitamin C in the form of tree ripened oranges, lemons, and kumquats. Now to get a less manual juicer!

Also, I have been in a reading slump. I've been pawing through my TBR (to be read) pile and not hitting the right thing. It turns out I'm in the mood for historicals. I got a couple good references for new books from ye olde booke clubbe, and the first one I read was quite good. Just what I was looking for (Elizabeth Rolls, Harlequin Historicals). And 5% of my purchase went to the local library. Cool.

So, good glass, good times, and good books. Not to mention a little more watching of Firefly. Now to get my new tool qual going at work this week, and things will be good all around.

Friday, September 21, 2007


So, books, glass, and condo renovations are my hobbies of choice. Maybe a choir again one of these days. And I exercise, but not as much as I should - and is that a hobby or just a necessary thing? I don't really consider my eating to be a hobby generally, but brunch might be categorized as such. I've also got my secretary gig.

Anything I buy at the Border's today sends 10% to the local library, so I'm going to get a few things. The TBR pile is glaring at me more than compelling me right now. But I have no trouble keeping up with reading.

I need to ramp up my condo plans and actually figure out when to start my kitchen demo. Probably AFTER I get cabinets in and assemble them on the patio. But in order to get them in, I have to order them, which means knowing whether or not to keep the wraparound bar segment between the kitchen and dining area.

For the glass, we finally have progress! I just got a call from a guy who rents space in a glass studio closer to home than my usual place, and we're doing a meet-n-greet tomorrow! Yay! I think I'll take my sea monster to show him what I might wind up doing there. He doesn't have time this weekend, but maybe next weekend. And maybe, just maybe, I can start making some pumpkins. I make a mean pumpkin when I'm in the groove. This might be a repeat picture - clearly, I need more pictures.
clear glass pumpkins with orange and green stems

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

6 up, 6 down

Avast, mateys! Heave to and prepare to read the highlights of my day:

  1. Won a copy of Suz"Anne Brock"mann's book "Give Me Liberty" from an incredibly generous book club friend. Yay!!! I have horrible luck with lottery/raffle type things so I'm always flabergasted when I win something but this is extra fantastic - I don't think even Suz has spare copies of this book.

  2. I spent the morning being comatose on a chair in the Jury Lounge. They tell you that the threat of being able to call in a jury at the drop of a hat helps convince people to plea bargain and settle out of court. They called off lists of names twice to head into the courtrooms and my name didn't come up either time. This makes 6 jury duty calls with no trials sat and another 12 months off the hook. I spent the afternoon in the court's courtyard making vitamin D and trying to move around a bit to make up for my earlier hours of corpse-like stillness.

  3. We got to leave about an hour early. I was able to mail some stuff (glass ornaments I'm donating for a friend's charity auction) and get the car washed. It's not insane to wash it even if we're expecting rain as they also throw out my trash, vacuum the floors and seats, and wash the insides of the windows.

  4. I found the website for a glass hot shop that rents space in the Valley and sent them a query email. Hopefully I can schedule some time to make pumpkins. If not, I'll crank out more ornaments. I'm not super happy with all my current colors, and I'm having trouble making them small, but I should be able to fill my pre-orders soon and then make some more for the arts council sale in December (where I will also sell the wonky colored ones).

Now for the wonderful thrill of taking out the trash, unloading the dishwasher, and either re-wrapping 4 dozen ornaments or taking out even more trash so I have exercise space. Nothing but thrills in the crankyotter condo.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Civic Duty

Yep. Jury Duty. Groups 1&2 were called for monday. Groups 3-23 were called for tuesday. Group 40 didn't look so far down the line after tuesday. I got the call for wednesday. So. I'll be at the courthouse tomorrow. I think I even know where it is. It's literally called the Hall of Justice. Maybe I can bring my pocket constitution for light reading. Hopefully I won't wind up in Group W while I celebrate "speak like a pirate" day.

Contract Revoked

While ordinarily I wouldn't touch this with a 10 foot pole here in my happy space, I seem to have no impulse control lately. I need that forehead tattoo from Snow Crash to warn people of the coming danger. Consider this your warning.

I woke up to the NPR news that the (henceforth referred to as BH2O) has lost their Ira.q privileges. In a sketchily described incident, they were escorting a state department vehicle, some exploding type things started going on, and they fired into the crowd, killing 8 people. Wounded people were not reported, but likely exist. (They may be referenced in more recent articles).

While the 8 random deaths concern me, certainly - I'm never a fan of innocent bystanders being mowed down - no one seems to have played up the angle that BH2O was a security detail for the STATE DEPARTMENT. If we're relying so heavily on contractors to provide security for our top government personnel, how can we just up and say "get out, get out now"? I've been curious all along why our top government officials aren't protected by our top military guards, but by a private security firm.

I admit, this odd situation was first pointed out to me by Mar.ine and author Nate Fick at a booksigning. Certain government employees are in that interesting position of being able, even being ordered, to ki.ll people with relative impunity. Corporate employees are not. Even more, "kil.ling" people could be considered a core function/unique property of the military. Except that by hiring contractors in large numbers, we've outsourced core competencies and condoned corporate kil.lers from the beginning. It's one thing to hire out peripheral jobs of piecing uniforms, constructing roads, or cooking dinner, it's another thing entirely to hire out the muscle and firepower. Although one could argue that feeding soldiers is *the* core function of the army, and not to be messed with, it's conceivable that food prep could be done by people who are not trained and sent out to ki.ll. One can't provide security in a highly lethal combat zone with the expectation that the security detail will do no kil.ling.

But until this incident, contractors really haven't gotten any airplay in months - there's plenty of "pull the troops out!" but the status of contractors with heavy firepower and lots of helicopters is not even brought up. Now it feels like the government was hanging on to the contractors as a scapegoat plan - anything goes wrong and they're handed to the Iraqi court system for "justice". As much as I'm not thrilled with the whole contractor army, I'm less thrilled by our government contracting them to provide security for the the STATE DEPARTMENT then hanging them out to dry.

I'm by no means an expert, or even particularly well read about this, but this feels very, very wrong. If BH2O goes home tomorrow, how many state department officials will be scrambling for an escort (which should have been military all along, but I digress)? What do they expect will happen to these contractors in the Ira.qi courts? Was the whole "20K surge" plan merely a way to get enough numbers of bodies over there to displace the 20K or so contractors? I need to stop thinking about this if I ever want to sleep again. I may regret saying so, but feel free to sound off here, informed or not.

Edited to add: Apparently Ira.q is kicking out BH2O, not us. That changes things a little bit, but my rant still stands.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Artsy Medicine Woman

There was a medium sized, varied draw, art show in my town this weekend. I didn't make it Saturday because I had to go pick up my own art. I had just shy of 2 dozen glass ornaments to get from the studio. They're mostly all good, although I'm iffy on the new red. It was a lovely day and after noon, so I took a canyon road over to Malibu and drove along the coast. In addition to the fine (low 80s, sunny) weather I got a chance to talk with a friend who is feeling much happier than the last time we spoke, and my grandma who got the birthday card, into which I'd tucked some postcards of the local area where I'd marked things related to my new life.

I also got to see where they are filming on the 105. Westbound was open, eastbound had cameras, still cars waiting for the scene to start, and a bunch of semis, "landscaping" trucks, and canteen trucks. There were two cars sitting side by side with drivers in them, doing nothing, so while exciting for my first glimpse of filming action scenes, there's room for more excitement.

But that drive only sucked up a couple hours. Then I had to make a spin by work to check on some data out of a cranky tool. It's running ok, but not great, and it wasn't a call I wanted to delegate to a tech. By then, I was STARVING, so I went to the place that makes a great avocado burger (after stealing some grapes and Fritos from the tech). The burger place also has the free newspaper most like the Boston Phoenix which lists all the cool stuff to do. I searched through the paper to find out where the art fair was - I had thought Moorpark Rd, but couldn't see any sign of it from the freeway - and dang it, I couldn't find it in the paper either. So I backtracked a couple blocks to the library where I knew they posted a sign. And where was the fair? Next door to my house. Of course.

The fair was closed up by the time I meandered over there, but I got ahold of a friend in the area and she was able to get a kid free evening which we blew on Thai Food, gossip, and sitting on my new couch.

Today I got up bright and late and wandered to the fair. I immediately bought a new ring. (I wear rings and necklaces, mostly.) It's in 3 parts so I can fiddle with it. Then I started thinking that I should start looking for christmas gifts. There was a wide range of stuff there - most of it was paintings and out of my price range, but some was smaller, more affordable stuff in various media. I met one artist who welds found stuff into animal shapes (I want a turtle), and dyes the fringes of her tiny dog's huge ears bright red. She was quite nice (and might be willing to trade glass for a turtle). I found some cool stuff for gifts and for me. And I got an application for a booth at the arts council December fair.

What makes this day just a little surreal is that one of the booths was Jane Seymour's art and books. This would be whatserface Quinn, Medicine Woman and for some reason the thing I remember most about her was that she had twins at age 42. She was there the same times I was, scheduled in to sign things. For part of the time was also getting interviewed by someone with a big camera. Her art was ok and I couldn't afford it. She also had kids books that I considered, given the number of people I know who have and are reproduc-ed/-ing. I could have even gotten them signed, but I wigged out a bit and couldn't bring myself to touch anything. Normally, I'm a big fan of buying signed books from authors.

Then I went shopping while hungry. Bought a ton of new food. What did I eat? Leftover Thai and seedless watermelon. Because I didn't read the sign on the other side of the watermelon bin. I wanted seeds, dammit! SEEDS! Although really, I just want flavor. And you reader(s) might want a point to this story; it's not your lucky day.

Friday, September 14, 2007

And Now for Something

I just need to post to get the previous posts deflating title out of the way. I'm Cranky Otter, not whiny depressed otter! It's an important distinction.

Besides, things are swell.
  1. It feels like fall - the light is less harsh, something feels different in the air like it's pausing to catch its breath - yet I eat my lunch outside because it's 85F and I can.

  2. I completed a big milestone in a project this week - actually determining which process to qualify - and my attitude has gone from "I hope I can do this in time" to "I don't know why I doubted". And my tech is back on night shift after kissing his appendix a speedy goodbye last week.

  3. While I'm on call for jury duty next week, they called only groups one and two to report on monday. I'm in group 40. What are the odds that they'll get to me? It's my 6th jury duty call, and I've not yet sat on a jury, so karma says the odds are higher than straight mathematics do.

  4. I did 2 sets of BodyRev legs and 3 sets of abs this week. I feel good about that.

  5. Quiche sent me a link to the most beautiful oven ever. Normally I'm all about function. If something works like the dickens AND looks great, the item is more than a sum of it's form and function, like my Mazda 3. Occasionally I'm sufficiently seduced by form that I couldn't give a rat's ass about function. And that is the case here, although their product specs assure me that it does indeed, work like the dickens.

In with the love, out with the jive turkeys.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Punctured balloon

Well, High Drama on the board today. I finally waded in and tried my best to be polite and friendly but firm in asking a certain new poster to lay off the unprovoked insults to all and sundry. On a standard day, I get something like 0-2 people mentioning something about a board post gone wonky. Usually 0. Rarely 2. Today? I got a dozen or so. So I was not out of line in thinking that something had to be done. Somewhat like puncturing a balloon or taking the bottom orange out of the fruit stack, there was some brouhaha that came after my post and I spent an inordinate amount of emotional energy on this. I tried to help someone in the best way I knew how. Some others tried to help, some others yet, not so much on the helping. The object of my intent may not like it or thank me for it, but I hope this person manages to find some help in learning to communicate in a friendly way. I think I am finally done with it. Come to think of it, I'm pretty well done with today.

Don't know really what else to talk about so here's another happiness update to remind myself it wasn't all just drama and a greasy salad dressing stain on my shirt.
  • My new process, a base layer for a subsequent process, works properly as that base layer.
  • I got a DVD photo album from the friends I vacationed with earlier in the year. I need to see if I can use my DVD player to watch it.
  • I did the BodyRev legs again but instead of being sore today, I am looser and more relaxed.
  • I don't have to type up minutes from the SWE exec meeting.
  • My town has an art fest/sidewalk fair type thing going on this weekend. I'm hoping there's lots of free stuff to do.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sluts Across the Street 8

Because "Sluts Across the Street" 1 through 7 were AWESOME! CrankyOtter is courting an NC-17 rating today. Because it was a good day.

  1. My brother and I were yakking on the phone again. At some point he wound up flipping through the pay per view channels while we discussed dating verses booty calls and SAtS8 and subsequent commentary was part of the dramatic reading that ensued. That boy cracks me up.

  2. I have been listening to Into the Storm on an mp3 audiobook signed by the author. The inscription says "Enjoy Patrick as Izzy" because Suz was channelling this narrator's voice when writing one of the main characters. Izzy and Jenk and friends remind me of my brother and his posse - same age, same banter, same physicality but in better shape. Bro was telling me about when he last played tackle football with younger friends. While he was the only guy to catch the ball every time, he was so slow that the scrawny guy in geek glasses was able to give him turf burns on his cheek and a bleeding nostril. On each side, in back to back tackles. He's old enough now to afford professional dermabrasion instead.

  3. Work went well. I got a "Thanks" award for $100. A cost savings team I was part of saved 4X what we were asked to save. (This project also netted me the thanks vacuum cleaner.) The people who were supposed to process my wafers actually did. I have a process for my new tool. And I didn't have to scramble to update my bi-weekly "projects update" file because I had updated it as I went along for the first time ever. There were pretty charts and everything.

  4. Lunch was not lonely! The past secretary for our SWE chapter met me for a data transfer. I am the new suckersecretary. We had a good chat, and since she works next door at Amgen we made plans to make plans for lunch more often, and a nice walk after work! She reminds me a lot of a good friend from Boston who could talk me down off the cliff at lunch. Only not a foodie.

  5. I learned a new mashed up word: adorkable!

  6. Other people told me about good things going on for them - new job interview, new coffee, solid everyday goodness.

  7. Lots of blog traffic. Thanks everyone, I love comments!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Swiss Grasshopper

This blog title is not a "hamster sangria" - something I've misheard, and badly at that. It comes from what I think is a kung fu quote, "you have much to learn, young grasshopper" and my attempt to be civil, if not neutral like Switzerland, in matters of personality conflicts. Yet I am a mere babe in the woods. Or rather a grasshopper in the Alps, and I have much to learn.

The inspiration for this post is that Suz had an online question and answer session today which she'd billed as a writing workshop. She was unfailingly polite to everyone, and gave every question serious consideration, even the rude ones, even the incoherent ones, even the shy ones. I find the occasional person who posts to her board (otherwise referenced as my online book club) to be grating and hard on my nerves. Mostly I enjoy spending time there. Yet some days, and some people are worse than others. Some new posters just start awkwardly, but sort themselves out and make an attempt to be friendly and open to new ideas. Some people are deliberately exclusionary. Some people start at insulting and go down hill from there. These people try my patience. I can only stand back with awe and hope to be as gracious as Suz when I grow up.

This desire to be civil, gracious, and fair to all comers, even if it is a pipe dream, derives from having had some memorable spans of social awkwardness in my own life, with brief periods of being part of the "in" crowd. I didn't like being excluded or ignored, especially when I didn't know why, so I make it a point not to exclude people. I make an effort to see every side of a situation before making a judgment about a person whom I don't take to right away if it looks like we will be repeatedly occupying the same space. I like to give people more than one shot, let their personality settle in to the atmosphere, before writing them off as someone to exclude. (There are times when I have to make exceptions to this non-exclusionary policy and I always agonize over it.)

I also try to analyze precisely what it is about a person that bothers me. By deferring judgment and analyzing what bugs me and what doesn't, I find that I'm perfectly able to be friends with people who detest each other. (Persons A and B don't like each other, but A likes me and I like A, and B likes me and I like B. I try very hard not to discuss A or B with the other, or if I do, keep things positive or neutral.) I have one friend who likened friendships to a balance sheet - you'll put up with the stuff you find pesky if the reasons you like the person outweigh the peskiness - and she's not wrong. What one person might find objectionable in the other just might not bother me at all, or not enough to care about. This is important to me because I don't like excluding people, having spent time being excluded and not knowing why, and because sometimes those people everyone else hates are really entertaining.

If I find that what bothers me is something that also bothers other people, is easily fixed, and is causing the offender some frustration, I try to politely tell them what to fix and maybe how. (I try to be wise about this and not assist someone who has preemptively stated that all other opinions are unwelcome.) I liken it to telling someone they have food schmutz on their teeth after lunch. Better to find out now and effect a simple fix than have the VP so fixated on your mouth during your post lunch presentation that the VP does not hear you. Or have the five next people at a party try to ignore it too. (My brother will occasionally tuck TP in the back of his pants just to see how long it takes someone to tell him. His ego is stronger than mine.)

I've found that my ability and willingness to see all sorts of viewpoints this leads me to a life of indecision. Prioritizing is a skill I only learned recently and it's still wavering between "conscious incorrect" and "conscious correct" on the habit forming scale. I often find it hard to prioritize/judge one perspective over another which is strange because I can be really judgmental. I can also be talked into changing my mind if new ideas come to light.

And yet, some people just make me cranky. I realize there's nothing I can do about it but change how I react to them. But that usually comes after the bitch analysis session, which I try not to let get out of hand and snowball into a hate-fest. I have a long way to go before I can just be gracious right off the bat.

This stuff initially fit into my blog concept, but not so much now. I think it's funny in a self depreciating, life lessons learned kind of way, so here 'tis anyway.

I had social problems and I had to be instructed on some basic, basic stuff:
  • Like when someone passes you in the hallway and asks "What's up?" the only answers are "Fine", "Go Team", or "School sucks, dude." That the questioner is really not interested in exactly what all is going on with me and does not want to be held hostage by my long winded answer was a rude shock to me. Naturally, once some kind/brave soul clued me in, it was obvious and I could see that behavior pattern repeated everywhere.

  • Don't read a newspaper in a small classroom while the professor, or anyone for that matter, is addressing the group. (It turns out I was not "Real Genius" reincarnated and B students don't get to be eccentric.) Yes, I had to be told this.

  • Having a point or theme to what I'm saying helps people not strangle me. Not everyone, meaning anyone who isn't my mom, dad, or grandma, will listen to me ramble on and on and on. Although I appreciate that you all do to some degree, I won't quiz you on the contents here. I use the blog to practice this skill. I'm betting better about sticking to a topic, but the verbosity is still egregious.

  • When your boss asks for something specifically? Do that, and do it NOW, don't "get to it" later.

  • Lastly, and ironically, "Don't bury the lead". Think more about what your audience wants to know than what you want to tell them. Get to the point first, add supporting details later, especially in work related conversations and email. I found and still find this hard because I have to write everything out first, then go back and figure out what my point is and what I've said to support it. If I try to write the summary first, I'm usually wrong.

There are more lessons, but a lot of it falls into the "I don't know why that train wreck happened" category. Some things I get by myself; some things I don't get unless someone tells me. Please let me know I'm not alone in having to have some simple things explained! Brains are weird things. Somehow despite all the idiocy I unveiled above, I always knew, without any help at all, that wearing fantastic underwear gives one a happy start to the day.

Monday, September 10, 2007

BodyRev Butt

I need something good to focus on since my tool appears to be jinxed and I have to pay yet another round of taxes. Or two.

  1. I got my first copy of Domino magazine today. It's a birthday present from friends who know I'm looking for style ideas. This is the kind of magazine you use for window shopping before you go to the thrift store and try to recreate the look for 10% of the cost. It comes with free stickers that say "renovate", "design", "shop" and the like which I can use to mark pages of interest. I know it's third grade, but some days I just love stickers.

  2. Even though I was reading my magazine, I did not spill, splash, or splatter anything oily on my shirt at lunch. At least I beat the odds on that.

  3. I can feel my butt. It's the burn that comes when you truly exercised and all the muscles are telling you so. Next time I take it back up after a couple week hiatus (with Pilates, TYVM), I'll try to remember not to use all the weights on the first day. The burn is preventing a lot of forward bending movement. On the plus side, I have excellent posture today because there is no other choice.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Cranky Cable

I need to pay the cable bill or something because my internet is not working at home although it could be due to someone digging in their yard. I'll find out and post later. Of course, I need the computer to pay the cable bill, I think. Although I thought I had that rigged for auto pay.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Spoiled Seedless

Our manager sent out an email today entreating everyone in our group to eat healthy food. It was a little strange. Apparently he's being contientious these days and other people were saying "yeah, I should do that, or something" so he wanted to invite everyone to join the "fun". Discussing this consumed a fair amount of the morning, in bits and pieces. Some one suggested that all we were allowed to eat was the highly fiberous cardboard that food comes in.

During the discussions on healthful food, though, people were skirting around a huge mound of concord grapes one of the other managers had picked and brought in to share. Concord grapes, along with cherries, are one of my favorite foods. No fewer than four people let me know that they had, shudder, seeds! Never been a problem for me. I bite halfway through the grape in a way that squirts the juicy inside out. I chew on the skins a bit. I suck a bit on the sweet center and may or may not chew it some more before I swallow it. If seeds come out, I spit them out, if they don't, I swallow them. No big deal.

It has started to alarm me how many people cannot tolerate the idea of seeds in their food. It's a reaction I would expect from a toddler, not a full grown adult. They're seeds, not shards of broken glass. What with seedless grapes, watermelon, and the like, people are removed from the entertainment value of spitting while snacking. I worry sometimes about this. Although if it means there are more cactus pears left for me because seed panickers won't eat them it might not be all bad.

No wonder we rely so much on modified, pre-packaged, post-seed-removal foods. The more that show up, the more people forget that there's any other way. People go on and on about the benefits of skinless boneless chicken breasts - probably my least favorite portion of the bird. It's the meat equivalent of cardboard having all the color, flavor, and texture removed. I like the dark meat, myself, even if it comes with bones and tendons. I also eat the knuckle meat and small legs from the lobster.

Even so, I can't get too high and mighty. I will fess up to not caring for wings, being only skin and tendons with sauce. (Just point me at the drumsticks.) I don't eat enough beef to feel that I need to resort to tripe. Or hooves. I have ordered stuff from the butcher at the Mexican grocery across the street and have not liked it. I don't recognize most of the stuff they sell, in fact. It doesn't look a thing like the American grocery butcher counter which is now mostly prepped food like stuffed chops and deli treats. I wonder if it is is good, bad or indifferent that I don't recognize someone else's regular meal as food. Are they laughing at me the way I laugh at the no-seed-eaters?

Every generation makes more convenient food, and that's generally to the good. But we've moved so far away from where food comes from that our tolerance for its little peculiarities alarms me. I try to can stuff every so often and realize that there are tricks to preserving food that are being lost that used to be common knowledge. Recipes and instructions leave out some details that make things go better. Frankly, my grandmas love Green Giant. If they never canned another thing as long as they lived, they'd consider it a blessing. They've forgotten their canning tricks but I still remember their bread and butter pickles.

I wonder if the day will come when we want that knowledge and have to re-learn it the hard way. Maybe I'm just a luddite who wants to know how things work. At least sconome and I can make pickles that don't kill us or our friends. And I have a nice can of freshly packed Alaska salmon staring at me from the counter so all hope is not lost. And here I've only just started reading the grow-your-own food book and I've started to get insufferable even knowing that I am not a reliable gardener and depend on others to make things grow.


Speaking of grandmas, Happy 91st to Grandma P. She's been remarried for 5 years and 2 weeks now and is enjoying the heck out of life.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Animal, Vegetable, Irony

I've been meaning to blog about the heat. But you know how heat can kill motivation. It's been 100F here (give or take 2F) for the last four days. When my car's thermometer showed 10 degress as I was leaving work the other day, I was thinking, "drat! it's busted" but it turned out that the final 1 was in the shade. Once I went around the corner, I was able to see the full 101 displayed. At 5:30pm. It's a little alarming just how late it stays hot. Last night it was 96F when I left at 7pm and 86F when I returned at midnight, full of birthday cake. The locals swear it's more humid than normal, which could explain the lingering hot.

But to my midwestern and northeastern skin, this is a dry heat. Aside from my contacts baking onto my eyeballs, I've been rather comfortable. (Granted, I do have central air. I'm not suffering.) I've purposefully parked myself by the pool, or in the pool, in broad daylight, and have felt just fine. I took a little walk around the neighborhood today and found that almost all the stores were shut for the holiday. I wonder how many made that decision only after finding out about the weather. Myself? I still like the weather.

Next up - Food.

Sometimes I like to cook, sometimes I want someone else to make things for me. Today I was having a "someone else do it" day. I'd had watermelon and my fresh cut cucumber salad earlier in the day and inexplicably wanted a big ol bowl of pasta. When will I learn that when I know what I want, I'll be less disappointed if I make it myself?

I went to the Mac.aroni G.rill. I'm not sure what to expect for a standard or a holiday monday there but I went at 6:30, not some weird off hour. The bartender was not really with it, when he bothered to stay behind the bar. So after I accidentally slid my hardcover book through leftover oil on the bartop, waited for a long while to even get someone to clean said bartop, I was a little testy. It didn't help that ordering was like pulling teeth. I don't think I looked that hostile, but maybe I did.

I asked for the bar to be wiped off so I could have dinner. He wiped off the bar and disappeared. Later it occurred to him that I might want a drink. I ordered water. (Yeah, not something predisposed to make a bartender love me, but it's been hot out.) After a while I got some water. At some point I asked if I could order. Duh! I'm not going to come to a restaurant bar with a book and just drink water. At this point it would have been faster and less messy to have waited 15 minutes for a table.

I wound up ordering the "make your own" pasta with mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, broccoli, and buffalo mozzarella over bowtie pasta with a tomato cream sauce. I had to beg for bread while I was waiting. I drank my water. My 'garden salad" of enormous hunks of iceberg lettuce and very little else (aside from the onions I picked off) was not really worth buying. Then my pasta showed up with fresh tomatoes instead of sun dried. Not quite the same thing. Barboy put in an order for sauted sundried tomatoes, and I toyed with my dish until they came, but it just wasn't right. Add to that the cream sauce was alarmingly oily, I had 4 tiny broccoli florets, and it was all very underwhelming.

So I sat there, reading a bit of "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" which is about eating local food, and ate food that probably traveled the globe twice over to become the pathetic disappointment in front of me. Next time I want pasta, I've just got to make it myself. It would have been cheaper, quicker, and better had I done so this time certainly. Including the shopping trip for broccoli, mushrooms, cheese and tomato sauce.

Then because of the book, I realized that I don't even know what the season is for broccoli, cucumbers, and mushrooms. I can find them all the time, and they never look better or worse than any other time. Do the farmers trick them into producing off season? Do they come from Chile? Heck, I barely trust the farmer's market to have stuff grown locally. I do wish I could find a source of yard-long beans which for all I know are in season now.