Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy End of Year 2012

Having Traveled a lot this year, I'll be calming things down a bit for a while after I drive back up to San Fran to get a dog. Because I'll have a dog. And not one that will be flying coach. Bruno is some sort of large, short haired dog and probably part of the mastiff family. He's down to about 105 pounds.

You might wonder what I would do with a large dog in a small condo, but everyone (his foster families) assure me that he doesn't need much indoor space if he gets a few good walks during the week. He's about 6 or 7 so he's not a hyper puppy. In fact, his favorite things are snuggling with people who are watching TV and riding in cars. Walks are kind of a distant third.

So I'm excited to get a pre-trained dog that mostly just needs food, water, shelter, walks, a safe bed, and love. The rescue folks are so happy to have a home for him that they're driving him to CA from Seattle for me, so I only have to go so far as San Fran. Bruno is my New Year's indulgence.

My New Year's resolution is to walk a lot more!

  • I would like to blog more (yeah, yeah, you've heard that before). I'm going to aim for 1/week.

  • I'm going to try the food blogging again. While I like baking, I'm not going to restrict it to just baking; I need to be using my cook books. So at least once a month, I need to blog about a recipe I made from a cook book. If I want to do an old favorite, I'll need to double up.

  • At work, I'm going to do more up front project planning, keep the projects up to date, and my desk cleaned off.

  • Lastly, I will try to date. Maybe the dog will help with that.

Have you got any plans or indulgences for the new year?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cookie Party VI

Once again, I made a big push to not only clean my place up for the Cookie Party, but to also make improvements. I'm pretty much down to one large, one medium, and one small hoarder pile (indoors) with my exterior closet being in need of more TLC. But no one goes there during the party, so I got a lot of good feedback on the place and I'm pleased with it too.

My cool new mods are the crumbstoppers I devised for the sides of the stove. I hate when crumbs and spills run down between the cabinet and stove. Eeew. Last year I put blue painter's tape over the gaps...and left it there. It worked well enough but was a ratty eyesore. I looked for specially designed treatments and found a couple but didn't like them for one reason or another. At the hardware store, I considered getting a metal threshold to cover the gap but it was too costly and not quite right. Then I found vinyl tubing. It's sold by the foot for wicked cheap. $0.31/foot! I got 5 feet of 5/8" clear tubing and crammed it into the spaces on either side of the stove, angling it forward slightly and making sure it doesn't stand proud where it could get grazed with a hot pan. You can almost not see it, and it stops crumbs, and wipes clean easily. If I get something really hard to clean on it, it's easy enough to pull out and reinstall.

I also bought high temperature magnets for the party to keep the parchment paper from sliding off the baking sheets. Since 4 of the 6 pans were magnetically interactive, this worked pretty well. They did grab on to the spatula, but that's a small price to pay for keeping all the cookies in line. I need 2 more full sized cookie sheets. I'll make sure any new ones will hold a magnet.

The cookie list was most of my standards: chocolate hotties, craisin pistachio biscotti, zaletti (currant rum cornmeal), icebox, and oatmeal cookies. But this year, we actually had time and resources to make actual chocolate chip cookies!! yay! I think it's the first time we've managed to squeak them in and they are always tasty. We also tried some cardamom cookies and an almond-cocoa meringue. Those might make it back next year too. Someone reminded me that I'd bought candy canes, so we also smashed some of those to put on top of cookie candy canes we made by coloring the icebox cookie dough with my gel colors.

There were kids here who were old enough to use cookie cutters with minimal supervision, or roll out those candy cane cookies, so there was good non-hot stuff for the kiddos. We were able to crack out the Star Wars cookie cutters I got for my birthday from mom, and they were really cool. I'll have to use those again. Friend C was a total champ and took on bake timing responsibilities for most of the day.

We also remembered to drink wine this year so the party ran on after the baking petered out. It was fun! Whew! Thanks to all my local friends who showed up. For those that didn't make it, or anyone really, I've decided to do another day on February 10th. This is Chinese New Year, so I'm looking for Chinese recipes, or anything with rice flour.

The cookies are long gone but I'm still getting feedback. I gave some to my trainer and he was able to recall 4 varieties and then say, "and there were others that I don't know what all they were but they were delicious too." We make good cookies here! I had a great time, the place was fairly easy to clean up, and a good mix of people came and went through the day. I felt like I mostly had my act together this year, which was also nice. No frantic last minute stuff, just a calm saturday afternoon shopping spree to get 7 pounds of butter to use of a sunday.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

PHB: Equality Precedes Economy

In this Huffington Post link, The Big Lie: 'I Love My Gay Friends, but I'm Voting for Romney Anyway' by Christopher Hennessy on Oct 30, 2012, the bit that struck me most was his skit with a future son asking a Romney supporter, "is it worth building an economy on the foundation of inequality?" or something like that.

Or exactly like this:
But what good would that future be if it was based on inequality, if people like you voted for someone like him?

Basically, once we come to the realization that our rights are out of whack, we need to fix that along with the economy, but the foundation of equality must underpin the economy, never the other way around.

Without access to birth control, women are not equal citizens - flat out. Without access to the same laws that apply to straight people, gay people aren't equal citizens, flat out. As long as we continue to arrest 10% of the black men in this country, particularly for things that white people are given a pass on, black people aren't equal citizens - full stop. Any argument that has been used to deny rights to minorities in the past should immediately invalidate it in the present. We need to focus on what to do with our future, but one party is making what is hopefully its dying last attempt at putting women, gays, and blacks in "their proper place" as inferior to and at the pleasure of white men. This is not a fight we should be wasting time on, but it's well funded, very vocal, and extremely damaging. So fight it we must. That the equality gains circa 1912 need an all hands on deck defense in 2012 is appalling. No one should be proud that some Americans fight against equal rights for all citizens.

This year the choice is between people and parties who are either for (more) equal rights or who don't give a damn. And if they don't give a damn about some citizen's rights, it's only a matter of time before they don't care about your rights. Without basic legal rights, the economy does not matter because chances are it will screw you. Remember how much businessmen cared about people before unions? Yeah. You're 95% likely to get the short end of that economic stick, so make sure the short sticks aren't all that short. Vote your rights and your money will follow. Vote for money (because Republican neocons have NEVER driven the economy into the ground...), and your rights will vanish.

In theory, we should have two or more somewhat reasonable candidates representing, in mostly good faith, variations on what the country needs to be healthy and move strongly into the future.

In reality, this year we don't. We have one candidate, Obama, that tries to reason through things, make decisions based on evidence and facts, and keep the whole of the population, if not the world at large, in mind when he makes decisions for us, for our country. We have one candidate who based an entire campaign on saying the convenient thing to make himself sound good in the moment, very few of which were based on facts, evidence, reason, or empathy. Quite literally, they want to undo laws that made other citizens legally equal to white men. They want to legislate from the past to the past. I want a president looking to the future, not in the Pres Bush sense of "I don't have to acknowledge failure", but in the sense that we acknowledge gains in equality as victories, not as mishaps, and move forward.

Some times there *aren't* two legitimate sides to a position. One can argue about how to interpret facts and data. One cannot dismiss all facts and data one doesn't like and retain credibility. We should be fighting about the best way to address pollution and climate change, not whether we should address them. We should be talking about how to regulate the business practices that tanked the world's economy, not whether. We should be talking about how to explore our lands and oceans, skies and universe, not whether. We should be talking about the best way to provide income and security for the infirm, not if they "deserve" it. We should be talking about the best way to provide health care, not if we should ensure quality healthcare. we should be dreaming up the infrastructure of tomorrow and patching the infrastructure of today, not pulling the ladder up behind us and saying "that's enough".

Because these things are needs that our, and every country, grapples with. Working on them makes us all stronger. They make us all wealthier. They make us all more free - more free to do the things we love to do and love the families we build.

I'm trying to figure out how to say that the Republican platform is illegitimate yet avoid confounding it with the modern Republican assertion that a democratically elected President is illegitimate. The Clinton impeachment had almost nothing to do with sex and almost everything to do with Republicans forcibly asserting that Democrats were illegitimate. They mostly shut down Congress for two years to make the point.

Then we get, "Look, hey, government is broken! Give it back to us!". It's still not entirely clear to me why we couldn't have taken a month to do a recount. Real data in these cases is better than fast data. But the Republicans battered their way back into power. They inherited the dotcom bust - I don't lay that on Bush. But from then on, the recovery was anemic. (It took me 10 years to recover my 401K funds - not to where they should have been, but to what they'd been 10 years before.) I hated the response to 9/11 and hate it to this day - two unfunded wars - one nakedly unprovoked; the 4th amendment violations required to fly; requiring citizen documentation that would make the Soviets of old shudder; and unrelated to that, firing up the war on women and aggressively throwing money and lives away on the drug war. And war is not too strong a word. then the lead the world into a global economic catastrophe. Whole countries went bankrupt to allow a few thousand businessmen to run the game and take the game ball home with them. They preached then and preach now in favor of the very policies that put much of the world in a tailspin.

Then Obama was elected and the wingnuts flew off their mooring bolts. A black democrat? Extra super illegitimate! Women? Extra super icky? Gays? Bringing about the end of the world. Immigrants! It must be the Immigrants! (The only place I have any respect for Pres Bush II is keeping the nuts in check over immigration.)

Romney voters keep saying that they're not racist, they just don't think
  • Obama had an education (He has one of the best available in the country),
  • that he wasn't born here (he was. Besides, how many teen moms fly halfway around the world at 7 months to give birth at their in law's? In a third world country the '60s? They visited later; she was with her own parents for the birth),
  • he isn't a "leader" (he "leads from behind" to avoid the trap of supporting something before the Republicans go on record as supporting it as they deliberately oppose everything he does. If he "leads" the way they goad him to, he loses even more. So he sidesteps their game.),
  • that he's a foodstamp/ affirmative action hire. (Remember that Harvard Education? That DNC speech? Authoring books? Teaching Constitutional law at a top university? He did those in spite of being black.)
No, not every Romney voter is racist, but their primary ideology has racism at it core. And homophobia and mysogyny. It's no mistake that their candidates are clean cut "All American" lily white men, however many binders of women they employ. Romney voters keep saying that they're now "ok with gay people" meaning "as long as I don't have to think about them" and "I'll move from active obstruction of your rights to passive obstruction of your rights, primarily through surrogates so I have plausible deniability". But they're willing to buy your and my rights for a tax break of a few hundred dollars. Equality's one of those notions that is path dependent. But like a hysteresis, once the gaps are seen, it's impossible to not see them. We can fight them, but we do it knowing it's wrong. Losing a superior status is not remotely equivalent to loosing rights. Losing privilege, yes. But in a meritocratic society, privilege should be earned, not given, not assumed. Or the reverse. Assume everyone is grand until proven otherwise by bad behavior. Romney and the majority of Republicans are behaving badly, throwing tantrums when they don't get their way. Guess what? You don't always get your way. Grow up and vote for Obama. Help him cement the gains we've made. Then scramble like crazy to figure out a nominee for 2016. And how to improve the Democrat's platform, messaging, and plans. Team Obama for the win, but he's only one guy. As he recently said, our work is not done.

[Sorry for any weird typos or awkward structure; it's hard to edit on the iPhone and this is probably 5 or 6 posts worth of content that came out all at once. Also, the links entered via the blogger app aren't working Thanks for your support. ]

Thursday, November 1, 2012

What a President Understands

Anyone who knows me knows that I will be voting for Obama. No reluctantly as the least bad option, but as the only politician I've ever gladly helped elect.

I was thinking about what makes him so appealing to me after hearing for the 40 billionth time that Romney thinks a President should primarily "know about business". It occurred to me that this seems to be accepted wisdom, and honestly? I want a president that primarily understands people. Because a government of the people should have a primary representative who understands people and cares about people. What people want, what people need, why people do things. When they don't know, they make an effort to find out. And by a vast margin, President Obama understands people from all walks of life in a way Romney has demonstrated that he doesn't, and doesn't care to, and can't even fake. Romney also demonstrates the kind of behaviors used by bullies - he would make himself better comparatively by holding others down. Obama would rather lift everyone up. And so would I (on my better days, at least).

Even more, for all that business relies on people, businesses don't need to care about people - if they did, we wouldn't have developed unions or regulations. Sometimes we need government to step in and protect the majority of people from the tyranny of the few - and from the businesses. One careless business or one bad neighbor can really spoil things for a disproportionate number of people. There's also a lot of talk about how markets will sort out answers to problems. The two main problems with markets are that there's uncorrectable asymmetry in all aspects of markets, and markets aren't moral. Free markets are needed to achieve those mythic optimal solutions and we expect some solutions to be moral, so unregulated markets aren't the best way to solve those problems as, ironically, they aren't really free.

Even without invoking religion, government can help promote moral solutions (and I can't believe I wrote that either, but "can" =/= "does") and promote market symmetry with regulation and enforcement of business. And historically, solutions that limit business in order to help improve the lives of people in society are better for everyone, including the massively wealthy. The massively wealthy in a land of serfs are comparatively more well off than the serfs, but like bullies, they're less well off than they'd be if the majority of people were productive citizens working on the most advanced thing they can rather than scratching every day to survive.

One example of this is Saddam's palace. It was the "best" estate in Iraq, and from the reports I read, it was kind of a shithole. Ornate, but clunky and prone to breaking and inefficiency. He didn't even have the best available in the world, and the best available in Iraq wasn't all that great. Surely on some things he did have the best in the world, but in the main? Not for the household goods. If the average goods in Iraq were, on average, excellent, the best in the country would truly have been impressive. But he cared more about keeping others down so he could stay on top.

Instead of thinking about ways to make the country better, dictators and bullies spent time keeping others down and consolidating their personal power. It's an enormous waste for temporary gain and makes the average standard of living worse. The better off the average person is, the further they can plan into the future and the less likely they are to stage a revolt. When everyone's hungry, 10 years from now doesn't matter. Ten days from now may not matter. When you can't think past 10 hours, you really have nothing left to lose. I don't want to live in a country with nothing left to lose. I want to live in a country that provides opportunities that allow everyone to do something beyond just survive, and right now, we don't meet that threshold for an alarming percentage of our populace - it's well into the double digits. The richest country in the world should be able to care for its poorest. And our poorest shouldn't actually be poor.

I will to vote for the humanist over the businessman. If the humanist hires good advisors, the businesses can be accommodated.

I like that Obama can multitask. I like his choice of priorities. I like that he has shown concern for all people, even after I may have written them off as not worth the time. I like that Obama considers what he does and says. I know he does this because from the day he was elected, his public speech contains many pauses that didn't happen beforehand - in particular there was a "keep up the good work" speech to his Chicago campaign staff in 2008 that he delivered off the cuff, fluidly, for 15 minutes.

There are some things I'm not as thrilled with (drug war comes to mind), but there isn't a single thing he's doing that a Republican would do more to my liking.

To cap it off, Obama has kept his cool in a way I could never do. Probably because he's had to and I haven't. He knows that he can never be seen as "angry black man", not even once, and so far so good. See the comedy show Key and Peele for good "Obama interpreted by Angry Obama" for a handy reference of how I would react to traitorous intransigence that puts the party over the country. Obama has kept people calm in crisis after crisis. He's managed to NOT get us into war with Syria or Iran, something some Republicans are actively advocating. I think it's hard to judge a person on what doesn't happen on their watch, but after living through the Bush II years, I now know what happens when those things aren't prevented and preventing avoidable issues are some of the most important things a president does. We just had a massive storm wipe out part of our biggest city and several states, and the vibe coming from the White House is "Keep Calm and Carry On" not "Let's Panic and go to War!" I want a president who believes we are strong. I want a president who promotes our strength by allowing us to be strong, not by making others weak. And in this election, that choice is Barack Obama.

I really hope that the storm damage doesn't prevent people from voting next tuesday. Carry on.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


There's a self-help special on PBS right now talking about happiness. The speaker is running through 5 things one can do to increase baseline happiness. Number 1? The ostensible reason for this blog! I'll pre-date a post that included the things I gleaned from the show if you want the guide to do it too. I can say it unequivocally works - when you focus on the good things of your day, it becomes a lot easier to see good things and remember good things.

So here I am, telling you why I'm happy today. It's an odd day, as I will be having a medical test tomorrow which requires fasting today and I'm a bit jittery. If all goes well, I'll learn more about why my guts are balky, and it's driving me to blog, which I do actually enjoy.

The TV is on PBS because Stephen Colbert interviewed Harvard President Drew G. Faust, the author of a book on how the civil war formed some foundational notions of our nation that are prevalent today because of all the deaths that resulted from the war. And that book was summarized in a two hour show which I watched a couple nights ago - I kept thinking I'd DVR it and break away, but I was glued to it the whole two hours. I'm grateful to have watched that, and grateful to see the Happiness show now.

On the civil war show, though, there was a quote that I think applies really well to the death of our Ambassador and his detail this week: I've rearranged it somewhat, but this was written to a grieving father 150 years ago:
Your son is no more. The grim monster, Death, has ravaged him. But one consolation: he died in the full discharge of his duty in defense of his home and country.
I love this quote because it shows that people are people, and it doesn't make a soldier into a victim for coming to an undesirable early death at the hands of people he cared about, but someone who died for a purpose he believed in.

The second thing I'm grateful for today is that my car is fixed because I was persistent. My car has been making a repetitive click/tick noise that was subtle until I drove next to a wall or into a drive thru. I've had several people try to figure out what's wrong, and no one found anything. I took it back to the most honest mechanics I know. (If you drive thru Ventura County, I'll tell you who they are to share the love.) We discussed what it could be. They didn't find it in the exhaust. They found nothing wrong with my belts or tensioner. They did find a cracked motor mount. And replaced it for a nominal sum that did not obviously include the cost of all that troubleshooting. Since, after my medical test, I will be driving to San Fransisco with a book club friend tomorrow, I'm VERY happy that my motor mount is no longer cracked. But 5 different mechanics told me there was nothing really wrong, and I knew there was something wrong and I was right. Hah!

Lastly, I'm happy that I've now had a few vendors over to sell me things and two of them, one today, noticed my tiki, Rikki Tiki Tavi, on the patio and thought it was awesome. It is awesome! I pierced his tongue :) It's not for everyone, but it makes me smile every time I see it, and now it's made other people smile too!

Happiness Helpers

My quick summary of "The Happiness Advantage" which is a PBS special advertising an eCourse. You can delve into this much further, but here are some straightforward, dare I say simple, things anyone can do starting now that will help you be happier, and help you influence the people around you to be happier. If you do any or all of these things for 21 days each and and notice yourself feeling good enough to do more, go get the book, DVD, and/or eCourse. (Or, go donate to and get them that way!) He claims there are 5 things, but I think I split them up more than he did but they're all good.

Once a day for 21 days:
  1. WRITE DOWN 3 specific things that made you happy or grateful today. (Not "I'm feeling good" but "I was healthy enough to do a pushup") This gets you thinking of good things, which makes them easier to spot and remember in the future.
  2. Write down, for 2 minutes, the details of a meaningful experience. This exercise focuses on the nitty gritty of why and how an event was meaningful, beautiful, funny, or endearing. It's practice looking at details instead of the broad strokes and sound bites.
  3. Smile! Consciously add 3 smiles a day. This is one that my brother relies heavily on - when you see someone in the hall, smile and nod or say hi. When someone provides you a service, look them in the eye and smile at them. When a meeting is getting tense, just find a reason to smile. They're contagious too.
  4. Youthful thinking and words. Check your vocabulary such that when you can, think about words with youthful and positive connotations, textured instead of wrinkles, smoky instead of gray, etc... They found people who focused on how they lived and thought 20 years earlier improved their memories and attitudes and postures in the space of a week. (If you were an unrelieved bigot or bum back then, maybe you can think of it as going back while knowing better, perhaps.)
  5. Fun 15! Add a mindful, fun activity. This needs to be energetic, but you have to pick something you think is fun. It's ok to go longer than 15 minutes to keep enjoying your fun moment.
  6. Write a 2 minute note to someone in your social network to share something positive. Take a minute to look up an address and write an envelope, then write and send a note to someone.

Like any plan, overdoing it might not lead to the best results. Pick one of these things and give it a shot. Then try another one. Even if you don't keep doing these things deliberately, they will help you find and keep the more delightful things while crowding out the less delightful things. You'll see how straightforward it is to make a change in your own life and the lives of friends and family so you can live happier ever after.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Not so Young Adults

Earlier today I was perusing The Atlantic for my daily dose of random inputs and ran across a good article by Meghan Lewit on women dominating popular young adult (YA) fiction. The question posed
by the title was, "Why women in YA?"
and by the author, "What's the draw of YA?"
and by my brain, "Why now?"

I went to write a comment and constructed a treatise. That's my cue to write my words where people who like me want to read them, rather than hijacking someone's article. Also, it's apparently National Book Day, and for someone whose major summer vacation was going to a 500 author booksigning, it would be remiss of me to let it pass unnoticed.

Given that I'll be 40 next friday, I am officially not a young adult anymore. I'm ok with that. I'm getting creaky and my guts are weird and I can afford acupuncture and pretty much whatever I want on iTunes. Anyone between the ages of 16 and 26 who doesn't look 12 looks 25 to me these days. The grey streak is still cool, but it blends a lot more than it used to if I stop dyeing my hair. I'm starting to feel like a grown up.

In these four decades, I've spent a lot of time reading books, discussing books, meeting authors, discussing authors, befriending voracious readers, befriending authors, reading about writing, learning about writing, and getting all excited about writing on my blog only to think so hard about some things that they never get written. I've read two of the three most popular YA series, and gotten an earful on the third. Which is to say I've got some idea of what's going on in the book world and the world at large and I've got something to say about the state of young adult literature.

Starting with the good news:
"[C]ommercially, teen fiction is crushing almost everyone else. Three of the biggest book-to-movie franchises of the last decade (Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games) are YA series penned by women."

This is fantastic news. I'm pretty sure she says "*almost* everyone else" because I'm pretty sure Romance is still over 50% of the publishing industry, while it remains a miniscule part of the literature that gets critical attention and acclaim. And the wildly popular YA books made into movies take in a looooot more money than Lifetime movies made from wildly popular romance novels.

Then there's this:
"While teen titles may never reach the upper echelons of critical adulation... the phenomenal popularity makes it increasingly difficult to marginalize the genre."

Young Adult literature is still a lower status genre, despite Harry Potter making Rowling richer than the Queen of England. In the article's comments, even the YA supportive folks tend to qualify their support by acknowledging that some find it "schlocky writing" or "childish plotting" implying that these are valid descriptors of a whole genre. They feel compelled to say that because YA is considered lower status. We feel the need to justify that status by claiming it has less-than qualities whether or not the claim is truthful or fair. Because if we want to be seen as knowledgeable about "real" literature, we can't take YA lit too seriously.

The best books in any genre can be held up to the best books in any other genre. Similarly, so can the worst. SciFi/Fantasy has been battling this problem for decades, they just developed powerful allies and superstars over time. Romance is still fighting it, as the powerhouses of literary/review publications don't seem care what "housewives" think (which is stupid because women control 70% of US household spending), but there are Romance superstars and they're gaining power too. Now there's a new kid to pick on, so YA gets bullied even though it's making people money hand over fist in a down economy. Why do we let that stand? It's ok to give a book a bad review. It's not ok to dismiss entire genres. Let's stop marginalizing genres starting now.

Why women?
My top two reasons:
1) larger pool of female authors
2) status implications

1) There are a LOT of female authors who started writing professionally after they had kids and needed the scheduling flexibility that being an author provides but being a lawyer doesn't. Most authors make a pittance - maybe enough to make it worthwhile - meaning there are likely more women writing professionally for low pay than men because even in this day and age men are more likely to be pulling in the family's primary salary. Comparatively fewer family men are able to write full time (or 3/4 time) for a pittance than family women. Not that all YA authors are moms, but there are a lot of moms out there who need a paid creative outlet.

2) Women are culturally "allowed" to be successful at lower status things. (Oh, isn't she cute!) YA doesn't threaten the status quo of "serious adult literature" so women's success, even phenomenal success, in YA doesn't threaten the status of "real" authors because these women aren't seen as writing "real" books. While I observe this to be true, I find this odd considering how many countries Rowling could buy outright because Harry Potter was the number one top selling book series in the world for ages, but I digress.

Men who are (rightfully) worried about not being taken seriously in publishing would not submit YA novels because once they do, most won't be able to sell "real" novels later if the YA thing doesn't work out, for all that well loved adult fiction authors are happily writing YA novels these days. (I'm looking at you, James Patterson.)

Women who were already not being taken seriously by "literary" or "hard science" SciFi/Fantasy publishers had nothing to lose by writing YA over Romance or any other genre. The marginal cost for women to submit in a "secondary" genre like YA is much lower for women than men. A woman can write a young adult novel and still sell in romance, where she can possibly make a living at her craft. (I'm looking at you, Jax Abott = Alyssa Day.)

Why this explosion of success now?

They only populated the "Young Adult Bestseller list" to keep the NYT list open to non-Rowling authors whose publishers depended on their authors making the NYT list. They didn't create a new list for "perpetual bestsellers" or "Long Term Best List", they demoted her to "Young Adult" even though millions of adults enjoyed her stories. (To my knowledge, Dan Brown's similarly long lived novels were allowed to stay on the list.) And for all that's insulting to think about, it has done the young readers of this world a fabulous service.

The YA genre was around before Harry Potter, but it was marginalized for decades to the point that there was no "YA bestseller" list because there were so very few new YA novels being published before Rowling. The library was full of Nancy freaking Drews, Madeline L'Engle, ancient Little House books, and Judy Blume novels - which are all well and good, but we read them all and did so 30 to 60 years ago. It was time for an update, and Rowling's success with HP meant that publishers were no longer afraid to publish young adult books for fear they wouldn't sell.

Why are YAs so popular?

First, J.K.Rowling (who, honestly, might not have been as successful if readers knew at the outset she was a lady author) put Harry in the world, and got a generation of kids back into reading. Then, to paraphrase a quote in the article, youths fall in love with their novels more than adults do. They're passionate about what they read when their world is still fairly new. This tidal wave of readers demanding "give me something just like Harry Potter but different" is calling for new material and a 20th reread of Little House, or even HP, isn't going to suffice. There's a need for more.

The genre is seeing fantastic success with new authors in part because it had a decades long dearth of new material. I know some authors who have 20 year old YA novels that only got published in the last 5 years because no one would touch them when they were written. That buildup of material, meant there was a lot of untapped potential, readily available to start filling the gap.

On top of that, Ms. Lewis makes some really good points about the genre and the genres dominant heroines:
YA lit offers heroines to suit every mercurial mood and developmental stage, from spunky, disaster-prone Anne Shirley to dreamy, bookish Francie Nolan and the modern ass-kicking incarnation of Katniss Everdeen.

And perhaps, therein lies the true appeal of young adult literature: The stories and the genre itself represent a world of limitless potential. As a young reader, I didn't comprehend that the opportunity to disappear into the lives and adventures of strong-willed young women represented a kind of feminist victory. The best young-adult books provide a portal to characters and perspectives that simply aren't as readily available on the adult reading lists

This wealth of stories about strong, complicated, empowered girls and women has never before existed in the history of literature. So women who grew up thinking they could do anything and be anybody are writing those stories now. And teens and adults are buying, reading, and loving these stories now.

Ideally, all the young women and men reading these books with strong, complicated girls and women (and boys and men) in them will grow into adults who will change the status quo because they have a new normal they're bringing with them. Hopefully more diverse starring characters will also come to the fore and be normal because women should be supporting all women becoming all they can be, even if they're fictional.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hamster Roshambo

With my guts being uncooperative of late, I've been reading up on various studies. Oh, who are we kidding, that's something I do for fun anyway. I'm following @DearSarah on twitter because she's a good aggregator of technical and feminist references. One led me down a habitrail of issues in using rodents for medical testing.

Mild Warning: If animal testing is anathema to you, you may not want to proceed on general principle. But I won't be talking about truly icky stuff, rather one point is about how to improve conditions.

The reasons for testing medical treatments on non-humans are compelling: fast turnaround, many samples, controllable conditions, and fair warning, ala the mine canary, of imminent harm. We can all agree that conditions for test animals should be humane above a certain threshold. We can agree that the number of tests should be minimized, especially if there are alternate assessments - aka testing is not done frivolously. Assuming that to be true, I don't have a problem with most of it even though I have a particular fondness for hamsters. /Disclaimer

I have given animal testing some thought. I don't like that they're generally in barren cages, because bored rodents are not healthy rodents, and a lot of medical testing assumes the controls are healthy. So why don't they all have wheels, at a minimum? Ever since I read the hamster blog about the guy who hooked up a rotation meter to his hamster's wheel and recorded wheel spins per day over the life of the hamster, I've wondered why they don't do that with all lab rodents who run in wheels. It would also be a way to check on whether or not your fountain-of-youth medicine really is extending their quality of life - will the hamsters on your supplement run longer as adults than the controls? Will your hamster have off days? Will there be earlier spikes or longer depressions in activity? And you get this just from them being in their cages.

This article, I think from Discover, was talking about problems with mouse models of disease and how things can improve. What I hadn't known/realized/retained was that medical research used to be dominated by rats. They're pretty intelligent and can entertain themselves pushing levers and running mazes. But all the research these days seems to be on mice, so what gives?

The "knockout mice" revolution happened. Scientists figured out a way to drop genes out of mice then breed them true. They're excellent to find out what a particular gene does/doesn't do and whether or not your drug will fix it. Rats resisted the knockout technique until very recently. So for the last 10 or so years, mice dominated the research. But it's emerging that all the tests that had been so painstakingly developed for testing rats... might not be so great for testing mice who don't much like pushing levers or bright lights in white mazes. Reasons for not changing techniques, I assume,include: some people - even scientists - assume rats and mice are much the same being long tailed rodents. Established testing has support in the way of developed instructions and supplies. Uniformity of testing methods makes findings replicable, and interpretation less sketchy. However, if you're testing for, say, stress, your mouse is already above baseline doing these non-preferred things, so you might not realize as much of a distinction between control and experiment as you should. And your tests kinda show that mice are dumb, but maybe they're just balky, or you're not playing to their strengths.

Enter some scientists who've thought about these things. It's actually pretty fascinating. One lady from the breeding facility can talk all day about interpreting their emotions from their interaction with their bedding - Supplied a compressed cotton pad, happy, healthy mice will shred it and make a nest. Some of their knockouts didn't get that memo and sleep on it like a tatami mat, or hide under it in some fashion. And they haven't even gotten to the testing yet! Yet another in-the-cage passive test.

One researcher gave some thought to what mice prefer to do that is different than rats. They're not big on visuals, but they like smelling things. So he buried treats in sand that had been mixed with various spices. Turns out that mice can learn that treats are in cardamom but not cinnamon, or cinnamon but not pepper (for instance). So cdm>cnn>pp right? So cdm>pp, right? Wrong... Like rock-paper-scissors, this tricky scientist made pepper beat cardamom. And mice can learn this! (I do wonder how well they'd do with rock-paper-scissors-lizard-spock...) It's tricky enough that the test can be used to see if they get confused or not, without unduly stressing them out. I'm just really entertained by the fact that somewhere out there, knockout mice are playing roshambo. For science.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Did not see that coming

A semiconductor manufacturing facility, called a fab, takes teams of people to run. The operators move the product from place to place and make the machines go. But before they do that, the process engineers like me have to create a process that runs and devise some way of knowing at any given moment whether or not it should be run. Before that, the equipment engineer makes sure it's safe to turn the tool on and set up according to spec for general use. Before that, the facilities group makes sure there's power and water, gas, and a floor that will support the the tool. Before that... get the picture? There are more people involved, but primarily it's production, process and equipment once things get going. Any problem gets kicked back to process and equipment and when it's a challenging problem, the process and equipment engineer usually work together to solve the problem. Or when we need it to do something new, we work together to make it do what we need it to do.

Our fab has a dozen process engineers, of which I am one, each responsible for a subset of process steps. We also have about 10 equipment engineers. We work together all the time. Just yesterday, my equipment engineer and I met to hash out some action items for one of my toolsets, established some priorities, and from that devise a plan of action to beat my balky tool into submission. There's just one hitch.

My equipment engineer died suddenly this morning.

This was very unexpected and has hit the office pretty hard. He died before coming into work and I have no details. I feel a little outside of it all emotionally because while he's my direct counterpart, we've been struggling to build relationship since we both got reassigned to work with each other. He's a nice guy but we didn't really connect...yet. That meeting yesterday was also an attempt to build rapport. And now we won't. My boss, however, has worked with him for years and years, and has a friendly relationship that includes regular lunches and the like. He's pretty devastated. I'm a little worried that my lack of overt grieving will be seen as callous disregard. I really hope not. But this isn't a death that makes me rethink the direction of my life or think I'm next on the list, and I actually got a large amount of work done today. I like to think it's partly because I was motivated to make sure his toolsets don't go to hell. Because he surely won't.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Progress and Pools

[Time flies! I wrote this on May 25th on my iPhone, but the "publish" button doesn't work in that app, so it languished until I felt like checking in from my computer.]

This week was really good. I felt good. I had energy to burn off. I mostly woke up pretty well (a couple sleep interruptions but not crazy bad). I'm starting to think I could do things outside work regularly again.

Good thing 1: Exercise I've found a hiking buddy.
Three weeks in a row we've gone out to a local trail after work and meandered around. The first day she overdid it a bit and got stiff, so we're doing 45 min jaunts but might try an hour or more tomorrow morning since it won't get dark on us.

I went swimming! Before I get in the water, unless it's clearly a beach day, I almost always resent getting chilly and wet and the amount of time it will take me to clean up after (never less than 20 min in my whole life.) but I get in the water and love it 99 times in a hundred. I love being in water; I don't much care for getting into water. Bearing in mind the fallout my hiking buddy had from her first trek in ages, I set my sights in a 20 minute swim. I actually made it 25, but the last 5 pretty well knocked me out. I was so still in the hot tub afterward that bubbles gathered behind my knees. Long after the agitation ceased, I moved my legs and there went bubbles! It was like I had been carbonated.

Good thing 2: Getting stuff done
I had volunteered to rent a house for some book club friends coming to LA area in July for a conference. I'd looked at one house that was workable but mediocre. I tried to rent it but it fell thru - the owner was kind of a flake. My friend thinks it's because they had no intention of doing the upgrades I'd inquired about. Maybe, but it left me with no house. Then I had a conference myself in Boston, and pushed that visit as long as I could, taking both weekends. Then I had another off weekend and a weekend where I was just lazy. I went to find another house - there had been 60 options when I started looking - and ALL of them were unavailable the dates we need. Oops!

Thankfully my planner friend came thru with alternate websites. I found 3 likely properties, and was able to pick one. I'm going to go see it this weekend to see how reality compares to pictures. Only signing up for 4 nights instead of 7 saves us about $50 each - more if we get the security deposit back. Hopefully this will go well.

Good thing 3: Keyboard design update
My patent attorney contact (college pal's wife) remembered me fondly enough to give me some advice over the phone, then recommend a couple of local attorneys. I'd caught her after my conference but just before hers, so I had a week of impatiently waiting! Then I got the names early this week and got all squirrely about how to approach them. Finally at lunch today, I went with the "you can fix a bad page but not a blank one" mentality and cranked out what I thought was a good query letter. Both offices responded to my email. One of them should work out or get me a referral, and I am making appointments for next week. Things are moving.

I have one friend sending me keyboard newsfeed articles which is awesome, but I'm not going to read any more of them until I file so I don't accidentally copy an idea. I'm keeping the list, though, to read after filing.

Bonus Good thing 4: Kickstarter
Out in Boston, friend J showed me a game he got from sponsoring the makers on Kickstarter. I hadn't realized you'd be able to *get stuff* for the money beyond a warm fuzzy (like mullein) feeling. Suffice it to say, I went shopping for Christmas presents on Kickstarter this week. And a couple things for me. I think candleholders with feet will go well with my vases with arms. My favorite that got me to sign up in the first place is "Roominate". A build it yourself modular dollhouse - with electric circuits. You build the house, add in lights, fans, and sounds by wiring it up yourself. Girls' engineering toys! That don't pander! That aren't an adapted "boy" centric toy. Love it. And it funded, so if it ships by Christmas, I'll have good gifts for at least two friends.

What have you been up to?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Raincheck, cashed

Well, mom will be here in an hour or so. She made it onto a later flight than intended, so I'll be headed out imminently. The weather tomorrow will not be much better than it was a few weeks ago, but it will at least not be worse than weather in Minnesota! The weekend should actually be reasonably nice.

Other good stuff today, aside from mom making a flight:

Lunch at Brent's.
They make a wicked good pastrami, and they customize it for me. I don't like the stuff they usually put on it. They've got some really good potato salad (and I don't much like potato salad) and they put it on the sandwich for me. It's awesome. It's also quite large, so I'm having pastrami sandwich for dinner as well.

Tire Man
My new tires, from the dealer, have never quite been properly balanced. The dealer would charge me another $50 to balance them, so when I had my brakes done, I got them balanced by that shop. And the balance got better, but it was not fixed. Preparatory to mom's arrival, I stopped at the Tire Man and had them rebalanced. The manager gave me two options - cheap and $20 per tire. I went with cheap. When I went to pay, he gave me the keys back and said, "Drive it for a while. If it's fixed, come back and pay. If not, come back and get the expensive balance." So right now, I'm driving on improved balance tires that I have not yet paid for. What a sweetie. I figure I'll ask my mom. If she thinks they're still funky, I still have options.

PHB On Owning Things

I have a handwritten "post" on hoarding that is apolitical. But this post was sparked because I was too lazy to change the channel when NPR started talking about a nuclear Iran, so there will be some politics, but hopefully not much. This is really more about money.

One of the great frustrations of me and many Americans is the size of our defense budget. It's G.I.G.A.N.T.I.C. The frustration is from the sense that this budget is out of line with our needs, and our ability to afford it. Whether our truly gigantic budget - literally multiples of the sum of the defense budgets of the rest of the world - is out of line is something that should be discussed. Why do we have all our bases abroad? What do we get out of it?

I happen to think that we as a society are better off if we, who are able, take some care of our least able members, allowing them to live a life of dignity and worth which they could not afford or get to on their own. I think this is reason enough for a welfare program and international aid. I do not think it is reason enough, necessarily, for OUR welfare program our our current international aid so we don't need to fight on those details here. That doesn't mean that I don't also seek out reasons why we give other countries money. Some of the money we give out just seems insane.

But some of the insanity may have come clear to me tonight. I've never been all that great with current events and politics. Some of it is from my inherent lack of respect for positions given by bureaucracies - I just plain don't see some connections. Some was because my first exposure to it in elementary school was so confusing and over my head that I just had to put it in a "don't know"/"not good at it" category and it has only been in recent years of reading blogs that I feel I've gotten a bit of a handle on things. Which is what makes me think I should blog about this.

As the commentators (really, some of the most knowlegeable and least divisive I've heard in a while) explained some back history of nuclear weaponry, they discussed the difficulties of what to do now. We'd bombed Japan with nukes and it was gruesome. The scale of nuclear weapons give us the potential to do damage on a previously unknown scale. We the people can wipe out countries in moments. This is a tough thing to face. Who gets this power?

Apparently there was "the Irish Resolution", which is pretty simple on its face, and which was considered unlikely. Essentially, my understanding of it from the show is that those countries with nuclear weapons can keep their technology but must not sell it or gift it to others. Those without must not seek to gain nuclear weapon technology, and all must be subject to inspections. Who would go for that? Well, in exchange for promises of protection the world went two decades without any non-nuclear countries becoming nuclear. Hunh. Who knew that would work so well?

But that key piece in there is that those with nuclear vowed to protect those without. Retaining ownership of the bomb means that our defense budget and personnel aren't just for us, they are for our neighbors too. Because the cost of NOT providing that protection is having more nuclear weapons in the world. Containing and negotiating with the governments who do have them is tricky enough. Every new player adds significant complexity to the fragile balance. And that might be worth spending some defense budget money that seems on the surface, rather gratuitous.

File this under "things that make me go hrmmmm."

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Political Hot Buttons (PHB)

Maybe because some of the bloggers I like are heavily political in their updates, I find myself needing to express opinions about politics, including politicized current events. It's not really why I started the blog, especially since politics I want to talk are inherently not about happiness in the now. But to not talk about these things makes me feel dishonest. I guess I want to talk about politics because I have hope that things can improve in the future. At any rate, if politics ain't yer bag, baby, I'll try to remember to start all my political rants with PHB, so you'll be forewarned.

I first learned about the concept of Running While Black (RWB) from a white lady romance author who figured that since the was writing about Navy SEALs, she may as well write a black Navy SEAL because while she's not a SEAL nor a man nor a black man, she wants to write about all of us. I think she does an excellent job at this. Suzanne Brockmann's "Harvard's Education" included as part of the character's motivation the trouble black men have just going about their business in our society. (Ironically, it was the one Team 10 book of hers I was unable to get from the local library - local at the time meant the library was literally a block from Harvard Yard.)

While women face challenges from men in power, we tend not to get disproportionately arrested, handcuffed, or otherwise harassed by the police or others who are in authority, or who consider themselves to be in authority. Black men and teens do. It's a frustrating thing to be concerned about because as far as I can tell, the only influence I have here is to personally make an effort to treat everyone fairly, which is something I try to do anyway. But you see where this is going, right?

A teenaged boy, Trayvon Martin, was staying at his dad's place (or his dad's girlfriend's place) in a gated community. He went out to get his kid brother some Skittles. On his way home, a neighbor who considered himself the neighborhood watch considered Trayvon a threat, called 911, was told not to engage Martin, but left his car, started an altercation, and shot Trayvon Martin dead.

photo of Trayvon Martin celebrating his mom's birthday mere days before being shot

That's terrible enough on its own. Imagine your kid goes to the store on the corner, and on the way home is shot by the neighborhood watch. (Frankly, this guy sounds like one of "those guys" who you just let do his thing because it's not worth the effort of talking him out of it. Besides, he's harmless, and who can he hurt, right?) His excuse was that Trayvon looked scary, and was wearing a hoodie. The reality was that Trayvon was Walking While Black in a gated community.

Where it gets worse? The perpetrator, who absolutely shot this young man to death, claimed it was self defense and WAS NOT ARRESTED. In any situation where that boy was not black and the shooter was, the shooter would have been arrested and then hamstrung in the media. It turns out you can't even die while black without someone doing something horrible. Some popular media outlets and commenters are spewing out all sorts of the usual tripe about how Trayvon somehow "deserved" to be shot.

Way to many of the media outlets are talking about "stand your ground laws" (which, prior to previous convention, do not require you to attempt to leave the scene of an altercation before using deadly force in a public place) as if they apply primarily to the shooter ("Z") in this case. To the cops and the media, Z has the unmitigated gall to claim that after Z stalked Trayvon from his car, called 911, then left the car to confront Trayvon about his right to walk to his part-time home that they fought, Z feared for his life, and shot Trayvon. I'm sorry, but the Stand your Ground law in this case applies to the guy who was rightly concerned about deadly force being inapproprately used against him, Trayvon. Sorry Z, but if you picked a fight with a gun and started losing? Trayvon had a right to stand his own ground against you. Except, you know, he's black.

Because Z was not arrested. Not really even held. He absolutely killed that boy. The only question is whether or not it was legal for him to do so (from my perspective, that's a clear "hells to the no") and if not, how to sentence him. I'd say Z is out free, although he's apparently in hiding. Good. I don't advocate for vigilante justice here; I advocate for justice. [Hey! I just found a Justice League comic in my Lucky Charms.] Only it took bloggers and month of diligence to even get the police of that town to consider that just maybe, they'd handled the aftermath of Trayvon's death the wrong way.

There are cases of shooting someone in self defense.
This is not one of them.
This is not a case where the victim was armed with a traditional weapon; Trayvon had iced tea and a rainbow of flavor.
This is not a case where there's a question about who shot whom.
This is not a case without evidence - there's a 911 recording before the event with a dispatcher telling the shooter that the police don't need his physical help [aka, stay in the car and don't confront the victim]. If the shooter had not gotten out of his car and confronted him, Trayvon would be alive.
This is not a case where the shooter was at a clear disadvantage; not only did Z have a car, he had a gun, and about 100 pounds on the victim.

"But he was wearing a hoodie!", "He looked like a thug!", "He hit me![unconfirmed at this time]". He was a black kid, defending himself from some crazy stalker dude with a gun, who accosted him on his trip to get Skittles for his little brother, in the rain.

No cop, no civilized person, should consider those accusations as acceptable precursors to the use of deadly force.
- No matter what hoodie I wear, I will never be shot for wearing it.
- No matter what hoodie I wear, I will never be called a thug.
- No matter who I hit, no one will ever say that lethal force was justifiably used against me in return*.
If, god forbid, someone does shoot me to death, my family has high confidence that the police will
- Arrest my shooter.
- Identify my body by asking around the neighborhood to see if I lived there.
- Prosecute the shooter to determine in court whether or not the shooting was legal.
But then, I'm a white woman. If you're a black man or boy, good luck with that. Apparently that stuff doesn't apply to you.

[*With the exception of me somehow turning into a domestic abuser. I still have the option of being accused of inviting rape by wearing a short skirt, a low cut top, or drinking too much, but chances are near certain I will never face Trayvon's fate.]

Given that 'a free society is one in which it's safe to be unpopular', this doesn't speak well of our supposedly free society. Like judging people by how they treat the staff, we need to judge ourselves by how we treat those who are at our mercy. There has been too little mercy for Trayvon Martin and his grieving family, and entirely too much for the shooter. There are places that are sticking up for Trayvon; I don't mean to imply they aren't. But the ugliness isn't confined to dark corners and private chats. It's out there in volume. It has powerful legitimizers. The hate gets an airing by people trying to be "fair". We don't need to be fair to lies or echo the slander. We fought a civil war to free black slaves 151 years ago, and then we harsh on other countries for not embracing our example democracy in one generation when hand them examples of justice like this?

For further reading, my go to source on this is Ta-Nehisi Coates. Much of his late March postings cover this case. If you need to have a conversation on safety in the face of public power and force with your black son, check out his book, The Beautiful Struggle.

Thanks to everyone who has spoken up for Trayvon Martin and his family.
So what else can I do? Wearing my lemon yellow hoodie doesn't seem like a sufficient statement of support.
What can we do? How can I be an advocate? How do we make our country a safe place for average black men to do average things without fear of arrest or death?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Obsessive ReKey

Ever since I got my iPhone, I've wondered why it had a qwerty keypad. The thing is virtual, it could be ANYTHING. I know there are good reasons for it, buy legacy is not a sufficient reason. Here's why:
  1. Keys are virtual. They can be any shape in any order. They could move, grow, and learn. There is no hardware reason to propagate the legacy.
  2. Touch screens have no variable feedback. You pretty much have to keep an eye on the typing. If you'e watching it instead of touch-typing, why not change it up?
  3. The given display keys are small enough I can't type with my thumbs (plus I have long nails) so I'm pretty much typing one fingered, including this. You know what isn't optimized for one finger typing? Qwerty.
  4. there's not a physical limit on key response. Keys could do just about anything from typing one letter to inputting a sentence or swapping screens. There's no good reason to not take advantage of that.

With that in mind, I set out to design a keypad for typing American English one-fingered. And I have a solution I'm extremely happy with. I'm torn about whether or not to upload it here, because the blog is Google archived. Email me if you want to see it while I consider posting it. An early version did go up on facebook, where I learned that the Android Platform has a programmable keyboard option. But that doesn't help me on my iPhone.

Still and all, I'm looking to program it in some testable way. A colleague's CS prof may be interested and has experience programming for the Apple platforms. If that doesn't work out I'll keep trying. I'd also like to see if I can work it for the Android, since they were so open about options.

My design principles:
Frequent letters belong together. The most frequent combos should be adjacent.
Order should trend L-R like word order, so prefix heavy mid-list letters go left, and suffix heavy letters go right.
Common keys should be bigger to allow for more slop at speed.
Adjacent keys should be swipe-able for fewer taps.
We need a few helps beyond straight letters like a comma key. And cursors (for when my blogs run long and finger dragging causes weird effects. )
By making typing more clear, autocorrect can be less aggressive and energies can be focused on value-adds over cleanup. All good stuff. I can't wait until it works!

Now, I'm 5min from boarding a plane to FLA via Dallas. My cousin is getting married and I'm a bit of a wreck because I've been keydesigning in all my spare time! I need a manipedi something fierce before the wedding ensemble's open toes.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


I had some actual plans for this St. Patty's day weekend. It started with Excursion Day plans to visit a Botanical Garden somewhere here in SoCal on my mom's birthday. Mom's a Master Gardener and I thought, hey, it's usually something like 39F in the ancestral homeland this time of year, maybe she'd come visit me that weekend and see the botanical garden. She liked the idea and we made tentative plans - my parents fly standby and don't like to plan so pretty much all plans are tentative.

Firming up the plans this week, I found a St. Patty's day parade, a local community theater Gilbert & Sullivan play, a corned beef and cabbage feast (she likes it, I don't), I snagged a half day off (part of my required 5 days), checked on whale watching, got the remainder of the living room wall painted, and rescheduled the cleaners to come today.

But my mom has a superzero power: she makes hot places cold. When we went to Disneyworld on our only family trip there, it was 10 degrees warmer back in MN than it was in Florida. When we went back to Florida a while back for Thanksgiving, it was 85F when I arrived. Then next day it was 55F when mom flew in and stayed that way until she left, when it went back to 85. The first time she visited me in SoCal, it snowed in Malibu. She was allowed a rare exception to see the Rose parade in temperate weather a couple years ago, but it came back in full force this time.

For this coming weekend, my mom was supposed to be here from Thursday to Monday. It isn't supposed to get above 52F the entire time and it will likely rain all weekend. That wouldn't be so bad if MN was hanging out at its average temp. But it will be something like 75F and sunny at her home that entire time. We were finalizing plans today when she mentioned that her planned route filled up with passengers overnight making the standby situation iffy. Rather than fuss with the planes, we're tempting fate another way. We've rescheduled for after Easter.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Good Neighbors

Last night was a little rough; I had to call the cops on my next door neighbors. They're relatively new. We don't meet up much, but most often, I run into him. He's helped me carry heavy things. He lets me pet their dogs which are kind, curious, and well behaved. They don't slam the door like the previous tenant's teen did.

Around 1:30 AM I heard a loud bang/smash sound. It was the second loudest thudding noise I've heard since moving in - the louder one was caused by an earthquake. I thought the guy upstairs knocked something over. Then a woman outside started screaming. A lot. I put pants on and walked outside to see what was happening and if I could help. Because I'm a big lady and the ruckus was alarming and I don't like to think that neighbors would ignore something like that.

As I was walking down the shared access sidewalk, I could hear her yelling, "Don't touch me you psycho!" from the bushes on the right. I could not see her, but he was standing over or near her. When he saw me, he headed my way saying soothing things like "she's just being crazy". Without a word, I did an aboutface, went inside, and locked the door.

Here's the weird part: I debated calling the police.
- He gave an appearance of calm.
- Maybe this is something they've played out before.
- They're nice to their dogs.
- Nothing like this has come up with them before.
- She was screaming, but not saying "help".
- The situation seemed to be a little diffused after having been obviously caught out.
- I didn't know for sure what had happened. I know they rent but not if they sublet from the previous tenant, whom I know they know. They could be living there sub-legally.
- He's a large guy with large muscles and he knows me and saw me. My kitchen window is not really a barrier to entry for a determined person who doesn't care about making noise anymore.

On the other hand:
- Abuse is not ever ok. (But did this qualify? I asked myself this.)
- He was really trying to downplay things, trying to look calm and rational. (It was surprisingly effective. I worried that if she had issues that it wouldn't help or would cost a lot as a result of intervention. My parents' neighbors got charged $1200 or so ever time the emergency ensemble rode to the rescue - several times a year.)
- When I thought it through, anyone who takes themselves outside and screams as loud as they can is asking for help, no matter what words they're using.
- It looked like she'd climbed through the patio screening, over the 4 foot walls to get out to the sidewalk, and was not standing up.
- They're my next door neighbors, if I call the cops, I'm judging them. Maybe she wouldn't want me to complicate her life more by getting the system involved.

I sat in my dark living room and updated the situation on facebook. By about the time I finished typing, I'd decided to call the police. Here's why:
- Women don't jump over 4 foot walls screaming in fear for no reason.
- Someone screaming with fear or panic after taking it outside is asking for intervention.
- He was going the "it's all her fault" route a little too hard while trying to softpedal things and it set my back up for all he sounded "reasonable". Later, I realized that he was also herding me away from her while hulking toward me. If she was having some sort of problem, you'd think he'd ask for my help instead - even if he didn't have me go physically to her, he could have asked me to call someone or get some supplies or something.
- It started with that very loud noise. I had no way of knowing which of them caused it. Either one could have been the danger.
- I do not want to be the person who does nothing when I can do a very little thing and stop imminent harm happening in front of me. I don't want to wake up to caution tape and asking myself why I let that pass.
- Even if she was crazy or crying wolf, the consequences of this behavior in public should result in professional intervention. I don't want them or the neighborhood thinking that one can do that sort of thing and *not* have the cops get called to investigate.

I sucked it up and called the police. I was able to give the exact unit number. I'm not sure if other neighbors also called - I'm pretty sure their upstairs neighbor would have too - and the cops were already on their way, or if I just live in Law Enforcement Central, but they were there in under 5 minutes. These are situations where I'm glad to have the police around. Because I was staying inside and away from windows and doors, I didn't know if it was cops or just neighbors. Then they all went inside, which seemed cop-like and I tried to listen harder when they exited later, and confirmed that it was indeed the actual police who had arrived before I'd finished my facebook update.

It appears that after the police came, took a tour of their place and spoke to them both. The very small snatches I heard were the police warning him to back down from his bluster because there was a lot of paperwork involved if they had to take him to jail, but they were willing if he kept it up. The emergency broadcast system was tested and worked, which is good. There didn't seem to be an overreaction, which is good.

Keeping in mind that he knows I know, and he was making upset noises at the police, I stayed awake for the next couple hours, despite desperately needing to sleep, making sure no one would try to break in in retaliation. Their front door slammed a few times like when the teen lived there and I finally got to bed around 4. Which means I missed my sleep cycle window and slept clean through my alarm and woke up an hour after I was supposed to be at work. I'd considered leaving a message for my boss about being late, but I'd been hoping I wouldn't be any later than usual and could just let it slide. I should have called. Fortunately for me it was a quiet day - all the managers were involved with something that didn't need my assistance. Here's hoping tonight is more peaceful for all involved.

After action report: Nothing from the neighbors. It was the right thing to do to call the cops and let them sort it out. It was a surprisingly difficult judgement call in the moment though. If I recall correctly, this is only the 2nd or 3rd time I've ever called the police on someone. (The last time was the crazy ex of a neighbor who would repeatedly ring the apartment buzzer for an hour at 2am if we didn't call the cops. Or she'd let him in then scream at him to leave *immediately after* letting him in. The dispatchers were like "those guys again? *sigh* Yeah, we know them.")

While we're here... So far as I know, none of my current friends or family are involved with someone abusing them. My brother got out, but it took a long time to accept that the relationship was abusive and had to end because her good side was really good. I didn't know for a long time but my mom suspected and I didn't know if I should believe her, but she was right to worry. Since one of the things abusers often do is cut people off from their other resources, I worry that someone wouldn't ask me or their other friends (or former friends) for help thinking "hey, I wasn't a very good friend to her" or "she won't believe me". Don't be thinking that. (I wasn't sure if my mom called it right. I believed my brother, once he stopped hiding it.) If you find yourself needing away from a bad situation I will do my best to help you.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day

A great title did not leap into my brain but who can resist February 29th?

OMG. Just saw adorable "chimpanzee" movie ad from DisneyNature. Probably some Bambi level horrors in it, and chimps are the domestic violence kingpins of the great apes but it still looks adorable. So grateful for LOLCAT speak that makes saying "adorable chimp looks adorable" culturally acceptable.

It would be funny if google just erased everything that happened online today at midnight+1. Horrible but hilarious. They could maybe restor it in time for April fools day?

Stopped by the ubercrunchy granola hippie health food store today to pick up some Mama Chia beverage (with floating chia seeds and omega 3s) and found my TOM "wintermint" flavored toothpaste. Cool mint is not a sufficient replacement. I was tempted by the mango, but I've searched nearly every store in town for this flavor-and came up empty online. How long can one stockpile toothpaste before it goes bad?

Mmmm, wintermint. And leapday!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Oscar Marathon 2011B

Thanks again to AMC Woodland Hills for providing the Oscar movie marathon venue. And the 44 oz Icee, which I fortunately did not finish. Today was still a high sugar day, though.

For the last 5 movies, I'm again reviewing them in order of my favorite to my least favorite of the day. Of all 9 films, my favorite is still Moneyball, I think. My other tops are The Help and Midnight in Paris. They all stood up as complete movies that were just the length they needed to be to tell the story, with a minimum of irritating elements.

Overall, 2011 was not a fantastic year for movies. One of the critics on the panel talk I went to at the Egyptian Theater, sponsored by KPCC, last week pointed out that not only were there a large number of sequels this year, nearly all the top picks were nostalgic and/or set at least partially in the past. And it's true. Only the Descendents was actually set in present day. Afterward, I stayed and talked to several people, including a couple of the critics and it was brought up that they think quarterly profits are ruining the movie biz because films take 2 years to film and a year to prep and market, at least. Which gave me the epiphany that probably all the films coming out recently were greenlighted in the depths of the worst recession we've seen in decades. So few companies took real risks to make great movies, and only wanted to make good-enough movies that would get repeat viewers in the seats. I'm still thinking about Winter's Bone a year later - it was an excellently done movie but scary realistic dystopian in ways that made it difficult to enjoy, or even to watch. It wasn't an enjoyable movie, but it felt like it was worth watching. Even among the best picks this year, I'd rate several not even worth watching unless you have a specific taste for what they are: Warhorse, Tree of Life, EL&IC and maybe even Hugo. But lets start with the positive. I'd give a solid A to Moneyball, and an A- to the Help and a B+ to Midnight in Paris.

movie poster, the Help standing by the bench with the white ladies sitting
The Help

To clear it out of the way first, the only black critic at last week's panel was said, "well it's a nice movie but it doesn't say anything new that Driving Miss Daisy didn't say 20 years ago. Why, 20 years on, are we still making this movie? The best answer I have for that is that it's a "woman's tale", not just a black woman's tale, and those don't get a lot of support from the old white dudes still running Hollywood. I'd add to that that it's a fully realized movie starring only women where the male characters are mostly incidental. I know of two this year - this one and Bridesmaids. I'd also ask why, a decade after the new millennium, we're only now making good movies with lots of good actresses of multiple ages that get the full media machine behind their promotion. (My fav from a couple years ago, Whip It was excellent but didn't get the same press.) I watch The Help, and it's packed to the gills with some of our best actresses, yes, including the adorable Emma Stone, and I start to think that they piled into this movie because it's the only place for them to work. So part of me is exceptionally glad that a high caliber movie was made with all this female talent. Another part of me is still a little appalled that it wasn't in service of something beyond black maids.

That said, this was a good movie. Sort of coming of age, comeuppance of the uppity, revenge of the underdog, costume drama, day in the life sort of movie. I really liked that their selection of actresses for the married ladies with young kids were the age we'd still consider to be girls today - early 20s - because I think we forget that in the 1960s, 50% of people were married by age 23, 75% by 25. (The youngest marrying decade in the last 12 decades.) The age selection felt real. The setting felt sufficiently authentic (in stark contrast to Warhorse), and the production values were quite good. When I watched it, I felt like I was watching the characters, not the actors. Nothing stood out to me as wrong, which is a ringing endorsement this year.

The main characters, Skeeter and Milly and Aibileen were decent people you could root for, and their successes were our successes. If you haven't read the book, as I haven't (yet, mom!) it's about a young woman who wants to be a writer finding a topic that "bothers her but doesn't seem to bother anyone else" and that's how the people who raised her generation are treated when that generation becomes adults. It's really not safe for the maids to speak out - they risk losing jobs, going to jail, or even getting killed. It's really not safe for the white girl either as there was a law on the book saying it was a jailable offense for trying to upset the social order by promoting the rights of minorities. For all that it's a message of what happened in the 60s, versions of this still happen today, and we still need to stand up for the unpopular today so the movie still has a relevant message for today. And for a viewer who's for the advancement of civil rights, the message goes down with a spoonful of sugar, rather than two slices of pie.

My favorite scene was toward the end when the authors (Skeeter and Aibilieen) get copies of their book signed by "all the black church goers for two counties" and they tell her to go live her life.

Go see it! Except you probably already have. Hollywood is generally wasted on me... I'm still trying to justify why I rank it below Moneyball. Probably has something to do with Aaron Sorkin and how much his stuff hits my happy places. I don't think either will win for best movie, given the crowd and critical response to them last week. That will probably go to one of the next two, which is all right, I suppose.

movie poster
Midnight in Paris

This is a Woody Allen flick starring Owen Wilson. I've forgiven him for his nose, but if it bothers you, you don't see a lot of it in this - they use camera angles and lighting to minimize it. It's a charming tale of a guy who is engaged to the wrong woman figuring that out *before* he marries her, and figuring out a little of what he wants in life. He does this via time-traveling taxi, which departs from a roadside staircase at midnight. In Paris.

For more reviewing,

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Oscar Marathon 2011A

Today was day one of the movie marathon featuring the "Best Film" Oscar picks. Preview: I'm no longer wondering why they only picked 9 instead of 10. The wonder is why they picked some of these. I'll try not to be too spoilery if you haven't seen the flicks, but since they're all old (for this town) I'm not going to be strict.

Today's films in the order I rank them:
The Descendents
War Horse
(every other movie released this year)
Tree of Life.

moneyball poster

Written by Aaron Sorkin and starring Brad Pitt geeking out on stats, I had hopes for this. I was not disappointed despite setting expectations high. This movie is a metaphor for why it's important to promote and use good minority ideas (and people) and also how it's hard. You want a man to understand the glass ceiling? Send them to see Moneyball - and then take away the interim job security (such as it was) and the final job offer. It's The King's Speech of 2011, and the best of everything that implies. I don't yet know if it will win, but it was far and away the best of these four. Given that it starred absolutely no adult women, it spoke a lot to the environment faced by lots of women. And I'm recommending it as a great movie despite being by men, about men, for men. Anybody could get something good from this.

Moneyball was highly watchable, set up to get you a payoff without too much manufactured feel-good. The goods felt real. I even got a little verklempt at the scene outside Fenway Park. My lack of baseball knowledge outside of Indians/Red Sox superficials meant that the game results were a surprise to me, although the music does anticipate the climactic play. The only off note was at the end where I thought the GM and stats guy were a team, and it didn't play that way, rather each implied the other incidental to the success of the pair, which was sterotypical-guy-like, and wrong. It wasn't clear if they stayed together or not, and needed resolution. Very minor quibble with a long explanation.

Lastly, the biggest female role in the film was the daughter. She and her singing was arced through the show, and the arc had payoff too - well done, mostly. She sings a song, quite well, and it builds. I'm not sure it had to be the same song; it was ok that it was. It showed that the GM had similar life pressures as the team guys he was hiring, firing, and trading. And that he cared about someone outside himself since his role as GM impeded forming relationships with his players, and the relationship to the rest of the staff was rocky at best. I can recommend this movie without reservation.

For the rest of the movie reviews,

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Math for the Masses

The president has made remarks in several speeches this year about promoting education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM Education). He's mentioned yhe idea of a technology expert as a Cabinet post. This is all well and good in theory. I have some thoughts on it as follows. He then made some noise about forcing people to go to high school until age 18 (presumably allowing one to graduate younger than that but not explicitly stated). This, I think is madness. There are better things we can do for people that aren't successful at high school that hold them in a failing stasis for more time. Here goes!

Reasons why education in science, technology, engineering and math might flounder in the upper levels, from someone who successfully graduated from from MIT.
1) STEM courses are cumulative.  If you learn 12 concepts and only master 10 of them, you could be floundering in your next course. Then you either have to do extracurricular studying to catch up, retake a class, or you're unable to complete the work at higher levels. If you partially fail at an english course, the concepts and skills are still cumulative to some extent, but a "C" level writer can continute to be a "C" level writer in their next course, and has some hope of improving to a B.  A "C" level mathematician is more likely to be a "D" level mathematician in the following course.
 There's some ability to choose to continue where your interests and talents lie, but sometimes you get tested on things your brain just doesn't want to wrap itself around. (My nemesis is electron tunneling. I've seen the equations to work it out but cannot reproduce them with any understanding of what I'm doing.) Two courses down the line, either you've caught up, chosen a path to avoid your problem areas, or given up. 
2) Status. STEM = geek/nerd.  If your chosen university doesn't reward STEM students with some sort of social status, only the most dedicated will pursue these degrees.  At MIT, you can geek out to your heart's content and be socially rewarded for it. Also, in that environment, failure in one STEM track can lead to a different STEM major. (My Bio major roommate hated Physics more than any English major I know.) But at most universities,  the social structure does not reward sticking it out in STEM, but in transferring to a more socially rewarding major. 
3) Money.  Our current high paying jobs are in finance and "business".  I make a decent living as an engineer, but am doing nowhere near as well as I expected to be.  Many of my contemporaries have gone on to get MBAs because it's the only way to break into the jobs where you make top 10% money, and it's hard to live in a major city and feel successful if you've excelled at school your whole life and are only earning a median salary for all the effort you put in.  A colleague used to reminisce about trudging home with his engineering text to go do problem sets and passing his business major friends already at the bar.  Upon graduation, the business majors earned more than he did, and spent more time at the bar drinking with clients.  It turns out their college bar time was preparing them for life on the job after all.  He felt a little cheated.
I know a fair few STEM PhDs. Unless you love, love, love it,  I don't recommend it.  You live pretty far into your adulthood on a paltry stipend in substandard housing, with no guarantee that things will substantially turn around later. (One silver lining is that STEM graduate studies are more likely to get funding than humanities students, who have to pay out of pocket.)  Contrast that with doctors who make the same upfront sacrifice, but have much higher earning potential down the road.  At least one friend completed a PhD in biology at one of the top 5 universities in the country, only to find that this qualified her to be a glorified lab tech.  She felt a little cheated.
Both of those "cheated" friends went on to get MBAs and nearly double their salaries.
4) Encouragement. At least one study has shown that women continue in the STEM courses if they are excelling; men continue in STEM courses if they are passing.  So women who are getting Cs and low Bs are either likely to conclude that they are not good at this and go do something else, or there is less support for them to continue, or they have false expectations of how good they need to be in school to be successful in industry.
If we want to successfully get students to stick with STEM educations, and I think we should encourage more to do so we need to:
1) Acknowledge that one doesn't have to be good at all science or math to be good at some branch of science or math.  We need current practitioners to talk to younger students about the diversity of available options.  
2) Give more chances to succeed.  Start science classes earlier - like 4th or 5th grade, when kids are really curious.  Even if they don't do so well the first time, by the time they hit the standard bio-chem-physics in high school, they've already had time to become familiar with the concepts, if not the details, and are much more likely to succeed in building on established foundations.
3) Monetarily reward STEM majors. Right now, engineers are cogs in the machine that can often be outsourced to India.  Before outsourcing, the big thing was to fire older engineers and replace them with 2 new college graduates who would work 80 hours a week for 40 hours pay.  Even people taking these jobs knew it wasn't a great idea - the older engineers are often more efficient, getting done in 40 hours what it takes 2 new engineers 80 hours to do because they don't have the work experience - not because of technical qualifications.
4) Socially reward engineering.  Right now, it's assumed that engineers are people lacking social skills.  And they're right a lot of time time.  So how do we convince social people to major in engineering too?  A presidential focus is a good start, a cabinet member for technology is a good start, but I don't know how we fix it.  Maybe other readers have some ideas.
On a related note, the longer I went to college, the more I realized it wasn't for everybody. I think we should be rejuvinating more vo-tech programs that produce capable people through more applied fields starting around age 16.  And the training should include fields that primarily attract women as well as men. I don't want to go back to the days of exploiting child workers, but adolescents are not incapable. Instead of doing straight classwork 8 hours a day, why not offer half days with accredited apprenticeship opportunities. These would start as, perhaps, unpaid for school credit, but move to being paid so kids aren't hitting the college years, or their first apartment with pocket change and a placeholder fast food job.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Is is Wet? Is it Yours?

Still in the spirit of happiness blogging, here's a brief takeaway from yesterday.

  1. The equipment tech supervisor came in person to tell me that he appreciated my communication.

    The day was going pretty well, then some things happened to harsh my mellow. Silver-lining it,
  2. Being worked up meant I got through my workout rather more enthusiastically than usual. (And my trainer didn't cancel.)
  3. I didn't mean to rant and rave when I called my mom, but I was still worked up. She let me rant and rave and didn't disown me, or even hang up early. I think if I were her I'd be tired of this by now, but maybe she's decided to find it charming. I think I burnt through it, which is good because all this angst over teapot tempests isn't a great use of my energy.

Today wasn't bad either.
- I woke up on time - early enough I was able to get into the earlier CPR refresher class on standby so I don't have to take it tomorrow and mess up my routine. Done!

My "Hollywood Diva" stilletto, pencil-skirt, & heavy mascara wearing instructor has moved on, sadly, and the refresher was just a class. But I retained most of the info from last time on First Aid, CPR, AED use, bloodborne pathogen training, and fire extinguisher training. They've simplified the CPR a lot - 30 compressions, 2 optional breaths. If you don't have a barrier and don't want to breathe? Don't. Still good to go with chest compressions alone. They've also added the tourniquet back into the instruction after a decade of recommending against it for urban use. (Any ideas why?)

- I got my fastest time yet for putting out the test fire, 4.4 seconds! Must have been the leaf fire experience from thanksgiving. heh.

Lastly, I remembered to pick up my mail. Go me. I even had two cards - one thank you and something from my mom written on elephant poo paper! Then I paid off my non-questionable bills as soon as I got home so I can poke around online without guilt.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Hollyhock House

I've just heard an NPR interview with Andrew Weil, where he didn't sound crazy. He mentioned the things that can help reverse or alleviate depressive sypmtoms:
- Vitamin D (check)
- Anti-inflammatory food (sometimes)
- Anti-inflammatory supplements (sometimes)
- Anti-inflammatory medicines (sometimes)
- regular exercise (check, sorta)
- writing down things you're grateful for at the end of everyday for a week. (hrm. that sounds familiar.)

Today was Excursion Day. A friend, formerly "friend of a friend", puts together excursions to LA points of interest roughly once a month. So it came to pass that I get together with a bunch of folks, or just a few, from the OC including a book club friend. I really enjoy seeing classic Los Angeles bits of history. Category, effort, and frequency wise, it's on par with going out with a good Boston friend on local area hikes, which were often in historical locations.

I'm grateful for friend K for taking me into the excursion group on the say-so of my internet book club friend. I enjoy the company and the new things I learn. I'm grateful to have a replacement activity for something I used to enjoy but can't replicate exactly.

Today, I learned that there's a little hill in Los Feliz, adjacent to a space where I once lost cell signal four times while talking to another book club friend in Alaska. I was quite surprised to find I had been literally across the street from this location and hadn't realized I was standing by a little slice of decaying heaven called Hollyhock House.

Hollyhock House was the home and vision of Aline Barnsdall, who identified with the flower as a strong independent sort. By virtue of an oil inheritance, she was independently wealthy, never married (did have a daughter) and was able to produce art. Olive Hill was envisioned in the 19-teens by Aline as a place where she could have a house, a couple of theatres - one "regular" live, one new "cinema theater". Also there would be housing for actors, studios and stores along Hollywood Blvd and parkland around the estate with 360 views of the LA basin from the ocean to the mountains. Today, the view south is blocked by a large medical facility, but the north has two icons in one:


From the rather egyptian crypt-like art deco entrance arbor, one can see both the Hollywood Sign, and Griffith J. Griffith's observatory (where more people have looked through a telescope than anywhere else on earth). If you've come to visit, I probably took you to see these things - it may have been a drive through or we may have gotten out. Now, we have another viewing location - if there's parking! I parked on a side street that looked close by on my Google map. And it was, but I had to hoof it up about a hundred stairs.

I'm grateful that I was able to huff and puff up the stairs, more so since I had to miss dance today, and even though I was reminded that I used to walk up that many stairs pretty much every day. I'm grateful now for my first floor abode, but I do need to find myself more stairs. Today was a good start.

Frank Lloyd Wright did the design for this enclave. Only part of it ever got built, then there was some backing and forthing with the city on ownership, and like most of FLW's architectural masterpieces, it has issues with decay and self destruction, not to mention the havoc wreaked by various owners. The place is currently half under scaffolding, giving me some flashbacks to Rome the summer before they hosted the World Cup. Nonetheless, there was still evident beauty.

The house itself is highly art deco, but with the FLW twist. Long, low ceilings, which I dreaded given the resemblance of the exterior to an Egyptian or Mayan tomb, wound up being kind of interesting and not prevalent throughout. The least covered side is the western view. The spiky designs around the edge of the mansard-ish roofline are art-deco stylized hollyhocks. The water feature, which also goes in to the fireplace area, is not currently holding water.
Hollyhock western facade looks egyptian

On the north side, the Japanese garden next to the entrance "arbor" which is through the "pierced screens" (wooden slat trellis dividers) on the right. There are some really fabulous stained glass windows on this dining room. The balance of viewing window to stained glass and arrangement of design really worked for me; minimalist enough to be functional and not overwhelm when used in repetition, decorative enough to add interest, well designed and well placed enough to really work in the space. And I'm a sucker for clerestory windows.

Hollyhock zen garden, stained glass windows to dining room, and edge of entrance arbor

The backside of the house had a playroom with more of the great windows. Due to scaffolding and muddy lawns, this was the best angle I could get. The website probably has better. But I could get used to having these windows around.

wide, long Hollyhock stained glass playroom windows

Inside, the somewhat odd docent explained that FLW kept the ceilings low where he wanted people to move, and heightened them where people should settle. That did work in the few rooms we saw in the house. The built in storage was excellent and well integrated (he didn't want folks buying an ugly catalog hutch to put in his house, apparently). The ceiling in the living room is a marvel. There's uplighting all around, and it's not just a vault or arch, but a multi-angled, multi-surfaced affair which just suited the space quite well. (Insulation might suit the house well too, but one must suffer for art.) The funky moat around the fireplace was drained, but they'd had the furniture re-created. I was struck by how there were about 6 desks built into the sofas, probably for artists to spend time creating there.

I'm grateful for finding something about Frank Lloyd Wright's designs that worked for me. There was some true genius in that design, even if there were places I would have bonked my head. And true to the original intent, the city has erected buildings for art, theater, and dance at the top of the cliffs of insanity stairs.

All in all, it was a really good day. I saw friends, I saw art, I had a burger from Umami burger that was funky and ordered without eliminations or substitutions of ingredients (one of my rarer small joys). I was able to stop in and see another friend on the way back and swap the book I read for the next in the series (Kushiel's Dart --> Kushiel's Chosen by Jacqueline Carey). I stopped at the grocery on the way back to pick up noodles to pair with a stew I made last night, and found some standard items on sale, so I saved about 40% on my standard pantry/stock items and even remembered my noodles.

Today was a good day.