Friday, July 30, 2010

Assessing my social media

I have ...

(in order of adoption)
a Live Journal (actually, I have four LJs, in one of which I never wrote anything and two of which are moribund)
a Blogger blog (this one)
a Twitter account*
a Face Book page
a Dreamwidth account (mainly to have an archive of the first six years of my LJ)
a Linked-In account**

I read LJ to keep up with my friends there.  I occasionally post things of a more personal nature there, because I can friends-lock potentially embarrassing or sensitive material.  (I have posts there about work, for example, that should never see the light of day.***)

Lately, I write here.  I do not know why -- I get less feedback and there is less sense that anyone is reading than either with LJ or certainly FaceBook, but I just seem to like the interface or the type of writing I do here (which is similar in many ways to the public posts I did in the first couple of years of my LJ).

Most of my friends are on FaceBook.  FaceBook's policies make me nervous, and the interface makes me twitchy, and I keep getting friends requests from people I either barely know (or in one case) actively detest.  But if I want to keep up with people, I need to look at their FBs.

Sigh.  It was so much less complicated back in 2002 when I started all this social media stuff.

*Twitter I mainly got in case I was in a collapsing building and needed to notify the world.  You think I'm joking, but I'm not. (I was working in unreinforced masonry building at the time.)  The simple truth is that I am too verbose to be able to say anything much in 140 characters.

**because networking is the way to get things accomplished, right? Too bad I suck so badly at it.

***No, there is absolutely no Title 13 material posted there, or anywhere else by me.  If you don't know what this means, don't worry about it.

Enquiring minds want to know....

If someone has simply mentioned FaceBook in passing, not telling where or what name their FaceBook account is under, is okay to try and search them out anyway?  Or is it simply too stalkerish?

This in no way applies to children.  They're fair game, no matter how old they get.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Tonight, Echidna Boy and I were playing (what else?) MarioKart.   "I'll tell you what, I'll choose the exact same Kart as you, so we'll be identical."

"Oh, so you can say 'we were exactly alike and I still pwned you?'," I responded.

"Mom, no one says 'pwned' anymore.  It's back to 'owned.'  'Pwned' is so, so 2006 -- a dark, bleak time for the Internet."

Alrighty, then.  Good to know.  This from a kid who was born a couple years after I first went on the Web.

Odds and Ends

The mood, she is good today.  I am on an even keel. Pain is relatively low.  Hurrah.  My current assignment is not to wait for the other shoe to drop, but enjoy the moment.

I have given the kids an actual writing assignment, on the grounds that they need to be doing something other than playing MarioKart online, or watching Futurama on Netflix.  Their assignment is to write two essays: one about what they want to do on our vacation, and a rather more important one of what they hope to get out of the coming school year.  Middle Son, predictably, asked if he could do a simple list rather than an essay, where Echidna Boy already has his outlined.

There is good news in my life: the job I love will continue for a short while longer.  In telling me I was allowed to stay a bit longer, my grand-boss told me I do "fantastic work."  Very ego-gratifying.  The good thing was that I had already come to the conclusion that I do very good work, so that his words were a confirmation rather than a surprise.

I think the reason I do so well at this -- and other jobs I have held -- is attitude.  I fight to get interesting assignments.  When I hit a roadblock, instead of saying to my supervisors "this is a problem, take care of it" (although I have to do that a lot, too), I also say "this is a problem, teach me how to take care of it myself."  So the result is twofold: I tend to get more interesting work and my work tends to get noticed.

I need to contact the boss-whom-I-would-walk over hot coals for and tell her.  She will be pleased for me, but not the least surprised.  When I told her that I had to discontinue the volunteer work I was doing at the non-profit she works for because I had a paying gig with the Census Bureau, her reply was "They're lucky to have you."  There's  nothing like having people whose opinion you respect tell you you are capable to boost your confidence.

Oh, and someone passed my resume along to a non-profit and told me last night that they love it, and are simply worried that I will have another job before the end of August when they are planning to hire. I am very excited about this.  This does not mean I will have a job soon; but it does mean that I will be considered for a job.  This is wonderful.  I have no doubt that me being employed currently has helped.

Although I tend to be annoyed at the constantly boring weather (no summer thunderstorms!) in Northern California, the sky does tend to get an amazing color of cornflower blue.  Wow.

Rocket Scientist gets back from the Arctic in a few days.  A good thing: they have had minimal communications this year, so he has been out of touch.

This afternoon, I have had good coffee and good conversation, two of the things on my list of "Things I am grateful for."  Maybe I'll take the kids to Rick's for ice cream, and make it a trifecta.

On the other hand, I already have commented on the blue sky.  So that covers "the color blue."  And I am writing. Maybe tomorrow I will go to the ocean.  If I do, I will have made a good start on covering the whole list; other things will come up.

Just this very second, I am happy.
I don't feel like discussing context, at least not yet, but I wanted to post the following, if for no other reason than to look at it in moments of self-doubt:

Damn, I'm good.

Monday, July 26, 2010

To other people, I am the human equivalent of sensible shoes.  Comfortable, supportive, almost invisible.  I've never been anything else, really.  Maybe sensible shoes getting really worn around the edges and falling apart, now.  I've come to terms with this fact, for the most part.

But for just once in my life....

I really, really wish I could be someone's black velvet stilettos with diamonds in the heels.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Today at work was not bad.  Well, not for me, at any rate.

Yes, a situation which had cropped up a day or so ago went completely pear-shaped.  That was okay with me because a) the screwup was not my responsibility and  b) it meant that Yay! I had work to do all day.  I hit 4:00 -- one hour before time to leave -- and went "Whoa! It's 4 already?"  Okay, so it sucked, but I am really trying to look at the bright side of life. (*cue Eric Idle whistling*)

And I reached a milestone: I discussed politics with TL.

TL is a nice young man.  I like him a lot.  He is, however, far more conservative than I am. (But then again, so are a great many people.)  The first formulation of my "Do not discuss politics at work" ended with the phrase "....with TL."

Today, however, we got to talking, and I discovered.... there were things we agreed on (such as how for-profit health insurers are bad for people, for instance).  And even on things where we disagreed, we talked politely and civilly.  And he made me reconsider one of my positions on a recent controversial court case.

So, I am feeling rather good about my decision to actually engage.  Life is more interesting this way.

Note to kid

Dear Echidna Boy:

You learned a valuable lesson tonight, to wit:  it is extremely inadvisable to take a picture of a young woman playing Twister when she has her butt up in the air.  She is likely to react badly.  And, unlike in olden days, she is quite likely to smack you.

And so will your mother, when she hears about it.  I'm so totally on her side in this.

Love, Mom

Saturday, July 24, 2010

My secret weapon...

Echidna Boy is a night owl.  Getting him to go to bed before 1 a.m. is very difficult, especially that we don't currently have the threat of school looming.  (He comes by it naturally: my first week of work I worked 9 p.m. to 5:30 a.m., and loved it.)

Tonight, he went to bed at 10:30.  Why?

I don't know with any certainty, but I am pretty confident that it was because I was insisting on watching the six-part PBS series Broadway: The American Musical in the living room and persisted in singing along with the soundtrack.  He left halfway through the hour on Rogers & Hammerstein.

Show tunes: effective against teenage boys.*  Hee hee.

*Of course, it could also have been my singing.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Just a normal family viewing television...

We were watching the Dr. Who episode about Vincent Van Gogh.  After grousing about the fictional museum curator anointing Vincent "the greatest artist that ever lived,"*  I seriously geeked out over the cinematography of the scene where the Doctor wakes Vincent up.

"No, really, guys!  This is seriously cool! They've shot it to mirror the painting! Don't you see? That's not  normal perspective! The angles are all wrong for it to be normal!  Just like Vincent painted it!"

Middle Son replied -- for his brother as well as himself -- "Mom, that is why we cannot watch anything with you.  Seriously.  It's only a television show, for crying out loud."

Well, excuuuuse me. I thought it was cool.

*I'm not arguing that Vincent was not among the greatest artists of all time, but I'll see your Vincent and raise you a Leonardo and a Vermeer.  Quite honestly, there is no such thing as "the greatest artist of all time."  Art is not something subject to review by the Guinness people.

Well, that's a relief, sort of.

South Florida catches a break.

From the St. Petersburg Times:

The powerful Gulf of Mexico loop current, which seemed primed three months ago to thrust oil to the Florida Keys and beyond, suddenly changed course and helped protect much of Florida's cherished shorelines.
Now, with BP capping the leak, a growing number of scientists think the loop current will help spare South Florida and the east coast from large amounts of BP oil.
 "Things look excellent," said Frank Muller-Karger, a biological oceanographer at the University of South Florida. "They have not looked better in the last two months."
Pollution from the Deepwater Horizon site has blanketed Pensacola and parts of Louisiana and Alabama. Texas saw tar balls.
So far, most of Florida has caught a break.
Tampa Bay and the west coast have been spared because they are separated from the spill by the shallow, 150-mile-wide West Florida continental shelf. It would probably take days of tropical storm-force winds to push oil to the shoreline.
The Keys, which were supposed to get oil weeks ago, have seen nothing from the BP spill, researchers say. It's the same story along Florida's east coast.

Good news, except for the poor people in the Panhandle, Alabama and Louisiana. Here's hoping the hurricane season continues to be quiet, although the most storm activity tends to be in August and September.

Okay, I'm sorry... One more post

True story:

I was on Jeopardy!  I was one of the probably well over a hundred people who were cannon fodder for Ken Jennings' runup to $2 million.  (Ken, by the way, is a lovely human being, and very funny to boot.)

At any rate, by the time Final Jeopardy rolled around, I was toast.  In the break between taping Double Jeopardy and Final Jeopardy, I commented to Ken that all those hours my kids had me playing MarioKart to speed up my reflexes hadn't worked.  His response?  "MarioKart?  I love MarioKart.  I nearly failed a couple of classes in college because I spent all my time playing MarioKart!"

So the moral of the story is: Keep playing, kids.  You never know when those MarioKart skills will come in handy.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Just one more...

Okay, so by this time you are perfectly fed up with me posting.  (Seven posts in one day? Geez, girl, get a life!)  And you're probably fed up with xkcd as well -- although that would be a shame because it is so darn funny.

But I saw this one, and I had to put it here.  It is geeky, geeky, geeky (although not nearly as geeky as the one about Paul Erdos -- sorry, I have't figured out diacritical marks yet) and I love it.  It reminds me of an advanced logic course I took at MIT more years ago than I care to remember (and I'm certainly not telling you).

I am seriously displeased

For technical reasons, I have had to delete one of my all time favorite quotes from my sidebar.  This will likely be the case until I can figure how to eliminate said technical glitch.

The quote?

"An idea is not responsible for the people who believe in it."  Don Marquis.

I firmly believe this to be true.

I have taken it very easy today.  Pain levels are the lowest they've been in a very long time.  I have done nothing but hang out, blog (a lot!) about inconsequential things, and nap.  Even the discovery that Google Reader contains posts I thought better of and deleted from my actual blog did not faze me.  Much. (Note to self:  posting at 2:00 am after several of the Elephant Bar's wonderful pina coladas is a mistake, because the Internet is forever.)

Tomorrow I have to actually get things done, but I do not think that will be a problem.

Right now, I have my beautiful Penwiper (see photo) lying on my side, purring and poking holes in my relatively new peach colored shirt with the ruffle around the neck.  I don't even care, much, about the holes -- at least not until I need the shirt to  wear somewhere, such as work.  The boys are on their own for dinner.

Things are what they are.  Life needs to be taken on its own terms, not mine.

Right this very instant, that's okay.
I have added a new quote to my "Words to Live By" sidebar: "

Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary." Reinhold Niebuhr

(Niebuhr is best remembered by most non-theologians as the composer of the Serenity Prayer.)

Another classic xkcd cartoon....

Another I love (too big to be embedded here) is about

Still another is about dreams (warning: warning, strong language).

Randall Munroe is a  genius.

Okay, so this is sort of cheating...*

I would just like to note that, as of this post, I will have posted just as many times in 2010 as I did in 2009 and 2008 combined.  I think this is a very good thing, and hopefully will continue.  I mean *I* like it, which is what matters here, right? 

*It's cheating, because I really sort of made this post so I could say that I had posted so much.

What all that Census data is good for


(larger version at link) 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

One thing that has come about from working is that I am once again reminded of how it is possible for people to have completely divergent political views and still get along.  Tonight, I discovered that one of my favorite coworkers, a very sweet and funny man, is a ... conservative. 

He was saying how he could not believe this country elected Bill Clinton over George Bush, Sr. I did not say anything because I have a firm rule about not discussing politics in the workplace -- I like my coworkers, and would hope they like me, and really want to keep it that way.  In my world, discussing politics (or law, for that matter) is not something to be casually bantered about while reviewing census binders. 

It is a blood sport.*   I tend to be passionate about my views -- read the political posts in this blog and that becomes evident -- and a lot of people find that passion off-putting, especially when they disagree with me.  (I do, however, try to be respectful of those on the other side.)

The end result is a narrowing of my views.  I am most likely to talk politics with people I know will agree with me. 

I do not think this is a good thing.  I am far less able to learn from people who think like I do.  But on the other hand, public discourse has gotten to be so polarized, so vitriolic, and I am by nature a conflict-adverse person. 

Who knows? There might be a great deal that my conservative coworker (whom I still think of as a lovely human being, even though I think he was dead wrong about the elder Bush) might agree on, and there may be ways in which talking with him could change or refine my views on things.

I wish I knew how to get past this.

*  The 2008 primary season was grim, my husband being a Clinton supporter and me for Obama. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Conversations ...

Middle Son, putting away groceries:  "There's no room!"
Me:  "Fridge Tetris.  Learn it."
MS:  "I don't want to learn it.  It's a boring game with no bonuses."

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Unseen Strength

My husband will turn fifty next week. To celebrate, last weekend he went skydiving. I have no plans to ever follow suit.

On my fiftieth, I'm getting a tattoo.

A butterfly, between my shoulder blades. Something I will always know is there, but not visible when I am wearing work clothes. Not that I believe in totem animals, but if I did have one, it would be a butterfly.

Butterflies appear fragile and delicate. They seem weak. This is misleading. They are far stronger than they appear. Monarchs, for example, migrate thousands of miles each year between their summer and winter homes.

I am stronger than I would seem. I am stronger than I allow myself to express, to think, to feel.

I need to remember this. Maybe the butterfly on my back will help.


Since I have started writing again, I seem to be stuck in writing about myself. While the unexamined life is not worth living, perhaps there is such a thing as too much introspection. Besides, that's what I have a Live Journal for.

I mean, I do not think I've written more than two non-me posts this year.

However, it is likely to continue for some time. I think I want to get the hang of writing again before I wade into political/social waters.

Although there are a couple of posts percolating...

Such as the things that the Supreme Court did right last term. (Including, suprisingly enough, at least to me, the gun control case from Chicago.) And what I think about the people in Utah who circulated that list of alleged illegal immigrants (although anyone even remotely familiar with my politics can probably guess what that one's likely to be like).

But in the meantime, I guess it really is all about me. Hope it's not too boring.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Today's mantra...

Be Here Now. Be present in the moment, and do not fear about the future. Do not ruminate about the past. Find what is good in your life and concentrate on that.

I have had a bad afternoon, and a sad one, even though the morning was quite charming. I have been reciting the Serenity Prayer, and it's not working.

I wish I could freeze time. I wish...

Oh, hell.

One can intellectually understand that change is inevitable, even necessary, without being able to embrace it emotionally.

I have written about the job
. I am still employed. However, as I said in that post, the job is temporary. People are leaving. I am sad about that.

Several friends have or are going to shortly relocate out of the area. I am sad about that.

I am feeling ill, and will be unable to go to a dinner I was looking forward to. I am sad about that.

The physical pain I suffer from seems like it will never go away. I am sad about that.

It is summer, and I am sad about that.*

I need to remind myself of the things that I am grateful for, the ways in which my life is so much better than 90% of the people on the planet.** It's a hard slog.

In the end, it comes down to: good coffee, and good people to share it with. The Pacific Ocean. Hummingbirds. Jane Austen. Really fresh corn on the cob. Rick's Rather Rich (or Marianne's) Ice Cream. Shakespeare in Love and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Terry Pratchett. Great Big Sea. Alfred Hitchcock. iTunes. The job, and the people I work with, while it lasts.

The color blue. Autumn afternoons. Art. Music.


It may not be a long list, but it's a start.

* People with Seasonal Affective Disorder are negatively impacted by having too little light. I (and a couple of other people I know) are negatively impacted by too *much* light. Summers are rough.

** Well, there are the very obvious facts that I have a roof over my head, food to eat and shoes and clothes to wear, and I do not fear soldiers with guns knocking on my door in the middle of the night. I need to remember and be grateful for those.

Things I have learned at work

1. Good coworkers are more important than interesting work. At least in the short term. Especially coworkers who have good senses of humor.

2. I really can go several weeks without swearing. Other than an occasional "goddammit," I have been very good about not saying anything that will get me written up.

3. I cannot go several weeks without at least occasionally turning sarcastic.

4. I get cranky in noisy situations. One of the reason I have been very aggressive about snagging computer work when it's available is that I can sit quietly and work without having to feel that I need to join in the conversations around me. One of the nice side benefits is that I have been pretty proficient in the program we use, which means right now I have work. Which is nice.

5. The federal government can be completely shortsighted about the realities of workers, especially outside the Eastern time zone. Which is reflected in a computer system that shuts down at midnight EDT. My LCO is on the West Coast. So the computer shuts down at 9:00pm. Pooh.

6. I am extremely competitive. I keep finding myself repeating the Olympic motto: Citius Altius Fortius (Faster, Higher, Stronger).

7. Most importantly, I really like working.

Lastly?  A piece of knowledge that will stay with me a lifetime:  I really know how to spell "questionnaire" correctly.

Hunting of the snark

I am naturally a rather snarky person. ("Nooooo," you say. "We're shocked, shocked! to find this out.")

I am really working on this. It is, however, a measure of how comfortable I feel with a person or situation -- or how hopeless I assess it or them to be.

As I have been feeling more comfortable at work (and as the time draws near for the Job to end, *sob*) my snark level has increased. This is not necessarily a good thing.

Because, really, people do not like being the target of snarky or sarcastic comments. Or most people, anyway. Tuesday, my annoyance at a particular coworker boiled over, and I said something I immediately regretted. He took it as a sign of affection. Definitely a mixed blessing.

I also was snarky to my supervisor (or one of my supervisors) on Wednesday. I later apologized, saying "I wish I could say this was out of character, but I'd be lying." The supervisor in question seemed amused rather than offended (at least as far as I could tell), but I as I get further along, I can see that I am testing my luck.

And again, I like my coworkers. I do not want to be cruel or sarcastic, but things just ... slip out.

I'm working on this.* I'll let you know how I do.

*along with that swearing thing. In fact, now that I think of it, the less I can swear in a situation, the more I am likely to be sarcastic and somewhat nasty.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Two more things about me....

For an icebreaker at the "Hurrah! NRFU is done" party, a co-worker distributed questionnaires for us to fill out with interesting tidbits about ourselves. Most of what I filled out is found in my previous two posts on this subject, but a couple were not. So, for completeness sake, as an add on to a previous post....

22. I have a geographical feature named after me. Pat's Cove is a small and remote glacial inlet on Devon Island, Nunavit, Canada. My husband, who was the first to find a path over there and lead a traverse there, named it after me. He has since told me that names are not immutable, and that over time can be forgotten if not used or referenced, but for now, it's mine, so to speak. Pity it is in such an inconvenient location, otherwise I'd like to visit sometime.

23. Long-time readers of this blog know this, but I have had work featured on the cover of a nationally distributed magazine. Okay, so it was a back cover ad for Fire Mountain Gems, but still... for a beader, getting your work in the FMG ad on the cover of Beadwork magazine is really hot stuff.

So, maybe I'm not as boring as I think I am.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Well, he finally did it.

Echidna boy broke one of our rules for his continued use of the computer. Fortunately, not the one involving the FBI.

He downloaded Blender, an open source 3D graphics software package. He was teaching himself 3D graphic design. All well and good.

He did a few small pictures. We should have known something was going on because he started to complain that the machine was getting slow.

He then decided to do a larger -- screen-saver sized -- picture. And ended up overwriting the entire hard drive, including the operating system. He may also have overheated the CPU, we don't know yet. And he cannot find the proper OS X release to reboot the system. Apparently, a trip to the Apple Store is in order.

I am terribly conflicted. On the one hand, he fried the computer. This a serious inconvenience. (Not for me, I write on my laptop anyway, but for his brothers.)

On the other hand ... he was trying something new, and creative. He was showing initiative. He was being curious. All of these are things I am extremely proud of him for. (I've actually told him this.)

On the first hand, he still trashed the computer. We have a large, sleek paperweight on our counter. This is a very bad thing. (I have also told him this, and that he'd better not do it again.)

So, as I said... conflicted. When people said parenting teenagers was hard, I never expected this.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call and may not be denied

John Masefield, "Sea Fever"

Sometimes, there is a story which hits so close to home that following it simply hurts, and there is a temptation to go around with fingers in your ears saying "la la la, I can't hear you."

The BP oil spill fiasco is one such story for me.

I have spent more years of my life in Northern California than anywhere else. But for all of those twenty-two years, I have never been a Californian.

I am a Floridian. A Western Floridian at that.

The Gulf of Mexico was my first ocean. It is a great starter ocean, with manageable waves and warm waters ripe for swimming. Not wild and exciting, like the cold and forbidding Pacific, my current ocean. It nonetheless beckons, promising adventure in its own way, and the gateway to the exotic Caribbean. It has its own dangers, mainly in the form of hurricanes that come sweeping through in the summer months.

It was on the beaches of the Gulf that I first learned about shuffling your feet to avoid stingrays. Where I first saw the breathtaking majesty of a thunderstorm at sea. Where I first walked along the tide-line looking for scallop shells and whelks. My first exposure to sand. (I was in my teens before I learned that not all beaches have sands the color and consistency of cane sugar.) Where I saw my first gulls, my first pelicans, my first cormorants.

The thought of all of that being drenched in black, sticky crude oil almost makes me weep.

Have you ever seen a bird covered in oil? I have. Many, many years ago my brother brought home a bird that had been fouled in a small spill in Tampa Bay. The volunteers were cleaning the oil off the birds and then keeping track of them until they could be released. The bird lasted less than 24 hours, a victim not of the oil on its feathers (which had mostly been cleaned off) but poisoned by the oil it had ingested. It was a terrible way to die.

Even though veterinary medicine has come a long way since then, the toll on wildlife will be enormous. Not to mention the beaches despoiled.

I could go on a rant about how this represents the failure of the free market to create and maintain adequate environmental safeguards because they are far too focused on the bottom line, or how the dismantling or refusal to create meaningful governmental regulation of the oil industry led to this mess.

To tell the truth, I am too heartsick. I have seen the satellite images of the spread of the slick, and it makes me want to cry. While there is some hope that the beaches I grew up in near St. Petersburg may be spared, almost certainly the beaches along the Northwest coast, in places like Destin, will not.

I know for a lot of people the fate of animals matters less than people. That issues such as the Proposition 8 case now winding its way through the course are far more involving and immediate. I get that, I really do: it matters very much to me, too.

But this... I feel like I may lose the best part of what was in very many ways a difficult youth and adolescence. Those beaches go, and a part of me will, too.
Yesterday was a freaking bear.*

A person I was looking forward to having coffee with flaked. I did spend the time blogging and talking on IM, though, so it was not a complete loss. No, the trouble began fifteen minutes after I got to work.

I was in the most pain I've been in at work yet. I contemplated going home. I tried my best to keep a smile on my face and do a good job of pretending. (It helped that I had had a good night's sleep beforehand. Today, on only a few hours of sleep broken by pain, might be quite a bit more difficult.) I didn't want pity, and I did not want anyone -- such as a supervisor -- suggesting I would be better off if I went home. Because I would have. And thus far, after over two months, I have only let my disability get the better of me once (when I got sick enough from the meds that I was throwing up -- I ended up going home for three hours until I felt better). I was certainly not going to start now.

Work helps amazingly. It keeps my mind occupied, and makes me feel competent in spite of my disability. Yesterday, pain not withstanding, I kicked ass. I was one of if not the most productive production clerks in the office. (We were filling binders that will be sent out to the field over the next few days. At the end of the day I was in a virtual dead heat with another clerk for most binders assembled.) And by the end of four hours, the pain had abated somewhat so that I was able to complete the day without too much trouble.

I can't take the fibromyalgia drugs now on the market. They interact with other drugs I have to take, and have side effects that would be difficult for me to deal with. I can take pain meds -- except for ibuprofen, which my doctor has taken me off of out of conern for my stomach. Pity, because ibuprofen is the drug that works most effectively (even better, in many situations, than Vicoden, although that is better if I want to sleep).

If I go home, if I give into the pain, then I become an invalid. I've done that, and the hit to my self-esteem is in some ways worse than the pain. It certainly does not make me feel better.

Have I ever mentioned exactly how much I hate this disease?

*See? I really am trying to work on the swearing thing.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Nobody's going to die....

I was planning this morning to blog about the BP oil spill, and my reaction to it.

But you know what? It is a lovely day here in Northern California (albeit with a promise of serious heat later) and blogging about something that causes me such pain on a personal level would be a waste of a perfectly good mood that I seem to have woken up with.

So... fluff. Or maybe not, depending upon how seriously you take your television.

My current favorite show is, bar none, Criminal Minds. In spite of the occasionally graphic violence, it has a humanistic view of people that fits very well with my own. There are few monsters, and even many of the UNSUBs (the "unknown subjects," i.e. serial killers) are shown to be human, albeit damaged and very dangerous humans. The death of prostitutes, junkies and homeless people is treated as being as worthy of the same consideration as that of blond teenagers. The main characters are human, themselves occasionally capable of horrendous acts, which the writers do not excuse even as they show how people can be driven to do them.

And it has strong, strong women characters. It routinely passes the Bechdel Test.* (And yes, I am extremely unhappy at the network decision to jettison one of those strong women characters and reduce the screen time of the other.) The women are treated as being equivalent to their male counterparts.

Except the technical analyst Penelope Garcia. She is head and shoulders above the other characters, and is probably the main reason I keep watching the show.**

Garcia is probably the first character I have ever seen on television that caused me to say -- "Wait, I know her!"*** Not someone exactly like her, of course, but she is an amalgamation of a number of women I know in technical fields: uber-competent, unique, and utterly secure in their own abilities. Unafraid women, for whom a major annoyance is the failure of those around them to take them seriously.

Every time I see Garcia on CM, I think of my friend, the fabulous Sarah Huffman.

Sarah is not exactly like Garcia -- they dress differently, for one thing. But I can see in Garcia some of the attitude I came to love about Sarah.

I first really got to know Sarah on a trip to Spain. She was a sysadmin for a NASA project which my husband was running, having been hired as a last minute replacement two days before she left for Madrid. With nothing but the most general knowledge of the project. She was hired based on an interview done via Internet while she was on a Greenpeace ship off the shore of Alaska. She was able to conduct said interview by virtue of swiping wireless from various fishing villages with the help of an antenna made from, if I recall correctly, coat hangers. [Edited to add: Sarah has corrected me on this. She did in fact use an actual antenna -- hanging off a broomstick.]

When we got to Spain, chaos ensued. The scientist responsible for seeing that all the equipment got to Spain had decided, against all advice to the contrary, to go with the government shipping office rather than FedEx. With the probably foreseeable result (at least by most people) that said computer and telecommunications equipment was sitting gathering dust in California rather than in the offices of the Spanish branch of the European Space Agency in Madrid. There was panic. The project looked doomed! doomed I tell you!

And then Sarah entered the picture. She figuratively bitch-slapped people into the next week, handing out what would become a mantra for that trip for everyone: "Nobody's going to die, Nobody's going to jail." (I think we should have had t-shirts made.)

Sarah later explained to me that that philosophy had come about from working with Greenpeace, where people dying -- or certainly going to jail -- was an actual possibility. That people went out on actions with the name and number of the local legal representative written in Sharpie marker on their forearms, so that they would have someone to call when they were arrested.

After injecting a sense of reason into the proceedings, Sarah then proceeded to save their collective asses. Trips to the Corte Inglese (a large shopping center type place) and the local Ikea (yes, they have Ikeas in Spain -- except for the language spoken, they are identical to any Ikea I have been to in the States) resulted in enough equipment for her to cobble together an impromptu communications system that allowed the project to head to the field. (The government equipment later arrived, and was integrated, but it was Sarah's system that saved the day.)

The end result was that a many-hundred thousand dollar NASA project was saved from complete collapse. And there was much rejoicing.

This is a woman who is capable of cobbling together computer systems, replacing sparkplugs on malfunctioning ATVs and cooking a mean salmon with blueberry sauce. Who once went to the Canadian Arctic as a joint sysadmin and cook (not your usual combination of job responsibilities).

Sarah has moved to Arizona now, and I miss her. I am very bad at keeping in touch with people. But I think of her every Wednesday evening, when I watch Criminal Minds, and see one of her fictional counterparts shining on the screen.

It's not the same, but it's something.

*The Bechdel test requires that there be at least two women, who have a conversation, which does not revolve around a love interest. CM passes this in spades.

**Although the high proportion of handsome men does not hurt: Thomas Gibson, Shemar More and Matthew Gray Gubler are eye candy, and Joe Mantegna's voice has a tendency to make me go a little weak at the knees.

*** I have yet to see a character in either television or film that reminds me of me, unless you want to count Princess Fiona (after dark) from Shrek. Which is not exactly acccurate either, because I do not have .... red hair.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Twenty [More] Statements about me. Plus one.

I've done this before, but what the heck, I'm bored.

More things you should know about me (or not, as the case may be):

1. I don't eat fish. My father fished a great deal when I was growing up -- both as a hobby and a way to feed a household of seven -- and I got spoiled: I only ate fish that had been frozen within an hour of being caught, or fresh fish that was less than half a day old. I do like fish chowder, and clam chowder, and I adore shrimp, crawfish, crab and lobster.

2. I like to read or recite poetry aloud, although I have not been called upon to do this in public since I was in high school.

3. I used to read in church. I was very, very good at it. So good at it that at one point when I was lector coordinator I would hold workshops on how to read in church.

4. I love to travel. The number of countries I have visited now stands at either fifteen or sixteen, depending upon whether you classify Scotland as a separate country. (In my last list I forgot to include the Bahamas, which I visited on my honeymoon.) I have visited forty-four of the fifty states (everything but the Dakotas, Montana, Idaho, Wisconsin, and oddly enough, Arkansas). [ETA: Alaska! How could I forget Alaska! Although I have now gone to Hawaii.] I have also visited the U.S. Virgin Islands. Yes, I count myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel this much.

5. I have a cookbook signed by Alton Brown. ("Pat, don't run with kitchen shears! Alton".) At the time I went to the book signing, I had no clue who Alton Brown was (I was simply keeping a friend company) but I have since become a big fan. AB is even cuter in person than he is on tv.

6. Red beans and rice is a comfort food for me, and it grieves me that no one else in my household will eat it. Three of them are vegetarians, and proper red beans and rice is not vegetarian (seeing how it contains both bacon and andouille sausage).

7. I have trouble remembering whether my anniversary falls on July 2 or July 3, but I can recall with ease which scientific term first appeared in a work by James Joyce, and which child's toy was created by the son of a famous architect.*

8. I hate Scotch. Passionately. Various attempts to get me to drink it have generally met with failure (with the exception of some Highland single malt I drank at the bottler's). When I drink, which is rarely these days, I drink wine or mixed drinks (I like rum-based drinks best of all).

9. In law school, my best grades were in Criminal Procedure, Advanced Criminal Procedure, Appellate Advocacy, and Evidence. Which is, of course, why I went into ... land use and real property law.

10. A man who would go on to run for vice-president (albeit on a third-party ticket) once gave me a photocopied booklet of short stories by J.D. Salinger. Matt Gonzalez is a very sweet guy.

11. I have a soft spot in my heart for Marines. I am the daughter and niece of Marines who served honorably in the Pacific during World War II, and I have never met a Marine I didn't like. My dad used to sing the Marine Hymn as a lullaby.

12. My very favorite t-shirt was a gift a few years ago and reads "Certifiable Mad Genius. I have a Death Ray and know how to use it. Better living through merciless experimentation." Unfortunately, it seems to have disappeared around the house. My favorite t-shirt that I don't own (yet) is from, and says "You read my t-shirt. That's enough social interaction for one day."

13. My kids are messy and disorganized. They inherited this. Sadly, from their mother. Unfortunately, they did not also inherit my clear handwriting -- theirs is almost illegible.

14. I have been known to swear like a sailor, although I have been really working on this lately. Mainly because swearing a lot in my workplace can get you written up.

15. It says something about the crowd I used to run with, but for one ten-year period (1995 - 2005) I attended more ordinations than weddings.

16. Until I was forty, I pretty much dressed only in black, and shades of green and blue. At some point after that, I ended up owning six pink shirts, as well as several in shades of magenta, peach and salmon. I seem to look better in brighter colors. As the song goes, I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now.

17. I firmly believe that life is too short to eat bad ice cream.**

18. I once typeset an entire press ready publication in Word. In 1990, when it was much more difficult to do so. (I was the managing editor of the Stanford Environmental Law Journal at the time.)

19. I have had one professional singing lesson. For one of my birthdays, I was given a voice lesson with Elissa Weiss, a gifted professional musician and wonderful singing teacher (and good friend) in New York, who taught me to sing "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" and suggested that I get more lessons when I get back home to California. I never followed up (sorry, Elissa). I regret this sometimes.

20. I have a fondness for underdogs and losers, which explains my devotion to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Democratic Party. (Sorry, I could not resist that last one.)

21. I'm much nicer in person than I am on the Internet, although I have still been told that I intimidate people. This confuses me no end.

Anything else you want to know?

* The answers, in case you are even slightly interested, are quark (which first appeared in the pages of Finnegan's Wake, where Murray Gell-Mann saw it, although he had previously decided on the sound that the word should have, based on the sound ducks make), and Lincoln Logs, which were created by John Lloyd Wright and based on the foundation supports created by his father Frank for the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. See, don't you feel smarter already?

**Bad chocolate, on the other hand, is occasionally a necessity.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

The way to a girl's heart...

Is through bad puns.*

As a public service, we here at WWF would like to pass along the most recent bits of (ahem) humor that we have run across....

First as, seen in a Criminal Minds fanfiction** at Live Journal:

A cop pulled over Werner Heisenberg. The cop walked up to the driver's window and said "Sir, do you have any idea of how fast you were going?" "No," replied Heisenberg, "but I know where I am...."

Secondly, a conversation between me and a coworker, R., yesterday morning:

R: "So why do they want us to write the CLD*** number in pen, not pencil? That makes no sense."

Me: "Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do or die...."

R: "Yeah."

Me: "Of course, that worked out so well for the Charge of the Light Brigade...."

R: "Yep, that was a real Turkey shoot."

Me: *groan*

R: "A lot of war crimea were committed there."

Me: "Stop! Please! Or I'll be laughing too hard to work!"

(R did stop, which was fortunate from a productivity standpoint, even if it was much less amusing.)

We will, of course, be passing along any other stellar examples of the punster's art as we come across them.

*Or chocolate, of course.

**Don't ask. Seriously. I have gotten to reading slash on the CM fan community on LJ. Why, I cannot fathom.

***Crew Leader District. R and I are census clerks. Again, don't ask. It's all pretty boring.