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.

Dog Whistling Dixie

Because apparently nothing else is going on but some snow in the north, the interwebs have been all over the 18 million Republican nominee "debates" and the 3 election circuses. Presumably something like this overabundance of airtime happens every recurrent season, but in my lifetime, I've never, ever, seen anyone be as blatantly racist* - then double down on it! - than the former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich.

When I first heard NPR rebroadcast Newt's "food stamp president" speech , my jaw literally dropped open. It was a good thing I'd just finished parking or I might have run clean off the road it was so awful. I'm not going to repeat all his shockingly hateful comments here, you can find them online if you want. He's so proud of them, they're in his ads now. And NPR just went blithely on their merry way, not even saying boo. I don't think they should have abstained from the clip, but I would have liked someone to come on and give context and call it out for the hate filled rabble rousing that it is. (The interwebs are also firing up about journalists now being stenographers, and I can only say it's about damn time.)

Republicans railing against "food stamps", if you're one of the 3 people out there who didn't know, is code for "those freeloading blacks who aren't like us good white folks who have have to bail them out with money the gov'ment snatches from our hardworking hands to give to those lazy mofos". The choice of words was not accidental. Codes like these are known as "dog whistles" because it tells the in-crowd what they mean with plausible deniability. "I didn't say Obama's a useless taker, we all know there are lots of people using foodstamps". We know that anything to do with actual foodstamps wasn't your point. You know that wasn't your point. And certainly the crowd that went crazy with anti-black-person rhetoric got your real point. And this anti-black speech was given on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. WTFMFWTHAYT?

What shocked me even more was that the crowd LOVED it. (I guess that's what he was thinking...) Yeah, these are southern base Republicans (which these days means pretty much Christianist bigots), but this, this truly shocks me. I'd thought the dog-whistles would be pitched higher, and they'd at least know better than to be openly racist on camera, at least. Not so much. I'd be surprised if Newt doesn't slip up and call President Obama "boy" in the near future. Maybe give him a nickel to go hang up his coat.

I think it says something about your party's idealization of "real America" rather than truly wanting to help ALL of America when in a state that's 28% black, only 1% of the Republican primary voters were black. And the venom isn't just leveled at the black "usurper", but the Mormon too. Romney lost by 15% or so to this foul serial adulterer who was run out of Washington for ethics violations. Yes, there are other factors like Romney isn't lockstep Republican even if he says the right words, he's from librul Massachusetts, etc, etc... But once again, exit polling showed that people who thought religion matching was important in their candidate (again, a base Republican primary notion) overwhelmingly voted for Gingrich or Santorum and Gingrich wound up with quite a lot of votes. (The youngin's went for Ron Paul, and the wealthy went for Romney.)

I'm not a Republican voter. I don't watch Fox News (except via Daily Show clips or blogs). Mostly this is because I find their definition of "real America" insufficiently inclusive and their policies to overwhelmingly favor the really really rich at the expense of the health and wealth and welfare of the majority of our citizenry, our environment, and our ideals. So I was going to bitch about these candidates no matter what. But I might not even have mentioned them on the blog at all - and there's plenty bad to say about the hypocrisy and bad governance of Gingrich. But I probably wouldn't have bothered to give them that much of my attention.

But this behavior is unacceptable in a leader of the so-called "free world". You can think whatever you want, but if you're running for President, you'd better not be in the habit of making casual racial slurs against large swaths of your populace. I'm not sure if I'm just able to determine bad actors better now in my (gulp) middle age, or if the pitch I can hear at increased, or if this pack of morons is just an exceptionally bad group of bad actors. But based on the openly racist rantings from one of this group gaining a 15% leading win, I wonder what we mean when we say we "won" the civil war. It's been 150 years, when will we believe that the pursuit of happiness and equality under the law applies to all Americans?

*Someone more eloquent than I wrote well on this topic. If you want to argue whether or not these racist words were racist, go read those linked posts first, do a little Googling, then come back.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Happy New Year

Work surprised me this week - I have a new boss! I had liked working for my old one, but I think a change will be healthy. As long as I remember to get my B12 shots and stay healthy myself, this year could go well. Last year, I did as well as I could, but to quote a "fortune" from Jenny Crusie, "He loves you all he can, but he cannot love you very much". My year last year was kinda like that too. My review is tomorrow. I'm hoping for a fair to midlin' result, but since we're doing it last thing on friday, I worry that it's some bad news. We'll see if I get stock options this year - that's where you know something's gone off the rails. (Please, I really want options this year, the stock is trading really low.)

Anyhow, my new boss is a colleague from my group. He completed an MBA recently and has been doing half process engineering, half management in the interim. He has grown a lot as an employee since I started working and has become really pleasant to work with, so I'm hoping we can manage to build from where we are and not screw things up. (This week, he's still bribing us with chocolate...) My former boss got promoted to a higher management level, and I think these choices will be good for us.

As for the not-work stuff, I need to set some goals. Resolutions if you will.
  1. Finish my handy project around the condo
  2. Figure out long term financing for the condo
  3. Continue to work with organizer to polish my space
  4. Date! Try to date at least 4 guys (or so, until I hit it off with someone. Please send any likely candidates my way.)
  5. Continue to dance and work out whether or not I lose weight.
  6. Find a way to blow glass at least 6X this year
  7. Bake stuff (again, at least 1/month)
  8. Visit my grandmother, and call her at least every 2 weeks
  9. Keep up with my B12 shots, try to resolve lingering issues.
  10. Continue to make local friends and keep existing friends.
  11. Outside the top movie marathon, see at least 1 movie a month

I will also be getting #1 wisdom tooth pulled, leaving me with 1 remaining (#32), but that's not really a goal.

With all my "at least once a month" items, I should really start scheduling stuff in, like a regular baking night, movie night, glassblowing weekend, etc... That list isn't even full of all my wishlist items, but it was starting to get crazy long. I should also add "get back to blogging more" but can consider it a sub-task to 'keep friends'. If any of you have "visit friend in SoCal" on your to do list, I have a couch you can crash on, and no particular travel plans as yet (although still hoping for Boston in April or so.)

Share any heartfelt or unusual resolutions you've come up with this year, or tell me what you think of mine - overdoing it or just right?