My Sanskrit book came in the mail on Friday. It's much better than the old one; it's actually a textbook divided up into lessons -- the alphabet, conjugation, cases, special usages -- with exercises for each lesson. I spent most of my weekend hunched over the first lesson, copying alphabets and memorizing consonant clusters. It's going reasonably well. I can transliterate words from the Roman alphabet to the Devanagari alphabet and vice versa without having to look up more than about one letter in five, and, and this is cool, I can do all of my looking-up in an alphabet table that doesn't have the pronunciation guide. Actually, by any reasonable definition of "cool", it's not, but I am proud of it. Gimme back my propeller hat.
So this is my favorite thing. Here we've got a 5,000-year-old mostly-dead South Asian language that nobody, flat nobody, speaks as a first language anymore. At the very best it's what the textbook lovingly calls a "living second language" that people still use for literary and religious purposes. My native tongue, on the other hand, is a young, vibrant Germanic language that's already spoken by half the planet and is being progressively forced on everybody else. One of these two languages is impossible to learn right from the start; its vocabulary is an impenetrable mass of complicated spelling systems, in which educated guesswork won't help you piece words together. The other is beautifully simple; the same combinations always yield the same syllables with the same pronunciation, because the words are all derived from the same language family. So, then, of these two choices, English is the one sweeping the world why?
Hey, no, wait! That's my lunch money! Hey, I need that! Oh no... no... not a wedgie! Noooooooo!
We've talked about this before, haven't we? I told you if I heard you use the word "abomination" one more time I'd give you something to abomination about. Now, I'll grant you that the particular word in question doesn't appear next to your smiling face in the latest BBC article about you, although really, when you get right down to it, maybe that's exactly the word that should be displayed with your picture. Nevertheless. You can't sit there in your funny collar making angelic faces because you obeyed the letter of what I told you and didn't quite say it in those terms. Similarly, you can't sit there making angry faces about obeying the letter of some old piece of oral literature that was written gradually by sixty thousand utterly fallible humans like your utterly fallible self, just because a few of those Western oppressors you reluctantly allow in your organization have decided maybe it's okay to just let people be themselves if they're not hurting anyone. Yet, because the latter is precisely what they're doing, the former is precisely what you're doing.
No, wait, that's generally what you're doing. Precisely what you're doing is demanding that the Episcopal and Canadian Anglican churches withdraw themselves from the worldwide Anglican Communion because they (insignificant worms) want to exercise reasonable tolerance for others' lifestyles and you (lord high supreme queen of the universe, and what's with the extra "most" in your title anyway? It's just tacky) don't. Jeeez. You're just one country, bub, or the representative thereof. The US and Canada are just one country apiece, doing their own things, which makes them a) not a massive consortium hell-bent on conquering you but also b) not any less important than you. Quit telling them what to do, and take some ibuprofen for that swelled head of yours.
You'll be pleased to hear, I'm sure, that my rainbow-flag-wearing self is not, has not, will not, did not, would not, could not, belong to or believe in your church, making this really none of my business at all. But I'm sick of seeing you every week in another BBC article yelling, "Don't let the gays in, they're reprehensible perverts, what's wrong with you all?" Just calm down, will you? Take your head out of your ass. Remember that the rhetoric of homophobia sounds a lot like the rhetoric of racism and gosh, the gay white US bishop whose ordination you're still screaming about has calmly said that he thinks you're all right and he's pleased to share a faith with you. Do him the favor of saying something equally pleasant and pacifying, and then do me the favor of shutting the goddamn fuck up. Thanks.
Love, your (non)friendly (non)neighborhood angry heathen.
Last night at about 11:15 pm I remembered why obscure independent music is great. It's not actually because knowing the bands that no one else knows makes you feel cool. It's not even because you can impress your peers by talking about how you were out at a show in some hipster bar until 1:00 on a weeknight. It's because you can buy one ticket (or Jason can buy you a ticket because he's a fine gentleman) to see four bands. Three of them might be bands you don't know, two of whom might suck, and the sets might take so long that you get home at 12:15 without having gotten to see the headliner at all, but you're still giddy because the third band happened to be great and you bought their CD, and the entire experience only cost you two hours' pay. That's recorded music, live entertainment, and drinks, for barely more than the cost of one major label CD.
Besides, major-label CDs hardly ever involve tubas covered in Christmas lights being played by women with flowers in their hair.
Jeeez. If I promise not to use it for sex, piercings, or anti-alien-consortium defense systems, can I please have my money in time to pay my rent?
Attention Michele and Kristen: I bought the wedding dress.
For anyone who doesn't follow both my life and my shopping in great detail and is wondering why I'd buy a wedding dress, the answer is: it's pretty, it's frilly, it's soft, it fits me, it's creamy old ivory gauze and lace and delicate poofy sleeves, it's frilly, it has a train, it has a little lace sash, it's old, it's frilly, and it was $20 at Thrift Town in San Francisco. It's so faintingly virginal that I as a boots-wearing living-in-sin libertine absolutely had to have it. And it looks damned good on me, even with the boots.
Now here's a call for opinions. Kristen, Michele, Katie, and I all looked at it and said, "by golly, that's a wedding dress right there." The security guard at Thrift Town agreed. Random passersby in the store beamed and asked me when I was getting married (and were probably somewhat distressed when I grinned happily and told them I wasn't getting married at all). Jacob, on the other hand, looked at it and insisted that it didn't look very bridal. It's got the train, yeah, sure, but wedding.... nah.
What do you think? Please select one: bridal, non-bridal, bridal-ghost, or other (explain).
Well, not actually free. $26, actually, which is nothing like free, but with free shipping. Thanks, Amazon. You know I can never say no to you.
It all started this morning with me reading my favorite BART billboard, the one that says "Welcome" in fifteen or twenty different languages. I love that thing. I can't get enough of staring at words in languages I don't know how to read. I mean, there are two different versions of the "welcome" message in two languages that both look like Arabic. What's the other one? What's the difference? What the hell language is "si ya namkela" in, and is "vijijte" a cognate of "visit" or isn't it? There are plenty of subjects on which I'm perfectly happy knowing next to nothing, but when it comes to languages I want to know everything. When Jacob once asked me what I'd do with the technology for a brain-implanted personal computing device, I immediately said I'd get a universal dictionary in my head.
I suppose I could wait for that technology to come around. It will eventually, I'm sure. But while I was looking at the billboard this morning my eyes landed on the Hindi section and the tiny voice of my brief attempt to learn Sanskrit said to me, I've seen those letters before. Too bad I don't know what they sound like or what they mean. Too bad? No, I can't have that. I've ordered the other Sanskrit book I need to understand the first Sanskrit book I got. 5-9 business days from now, it will land in my grubby hands and impart knowledge to me. Surely knowledge is worth $26? After all, so it's said, you will cross over all evil on a raft made of it. $26 isn't so much for no evil.
This morning on BART I sat across the aisle from a cute girl. Cute? Gorgeous. She had strawberry blond hair, super-fair flawless skin, and pale pale bluey grey eyes with long lashes. She also had, as Bob the Angry Flower would put it, full, pouty lips, and in her case the bottom one was pierced. As if all that weren't delicious enough, she was wearing a plaid skirt and ridiculously huge boots, and she wasn't wearing a speck of makeup. Gorgeous.
Then something strange happened. She pulled a makeup bag from somewhere about her person and started brushing and blending like there was no tomorrow. I watched in a certain amount of fascination: eyeliner, eye shadow, more eye shadow, another color of eye shadow, powder, lip gloss, more lip gloss, other things I couldn't even name. I counted 10 individual colored cosmetics before she was done, and when she took her hands away from her face for a moment I considered the results. Colorful, yes, impressively detailed, but suddenly no more appealing than anyone else in the pointy-toed, blazered crowd of morning commuters.
Sometimes I despair.
About two months back I blogged about an old housemate of mine and how much I missed him. Today, I ran into him in Dolores Park. He was walking with his boyfriend and bandmate. Bandmate? Ohhhh, right. The band that he started with a few other housemates as, I was pretty sure, a joke, is up and running and apparently not a joke any more than the general lives of its members are jokes. That is to say, they might be, but they're also real.
Holy shit! They have a website. They have a mailing list. They have a CD? They have shows? All right, guys, it's on. You play a show, anywhere within my extensive transit-taking range, and I'll be there. I'll probably be jumping up and down on both feet and giggling maniacally just because of being so excited, but I'll attempt to also pay attention to the show itself. I miss you! And you're doing something cool! Squeals of excitement are even now trying to emanate from me! (Hey, cut that out, I'm supposed to be working here.)
The crowning glory of my sewing this weekend (and probably the crowning glory of my sewing life so far) was a surpassingly complicated skirt from a slapdash homemade pattern. It had three pieces, two darts, one pleat, and a zipper, and it fell loosely -- around here we cling, we do not stretch -- to just below the knee. It was based on the pattern of my absolute all-time favorite soft, comfy, versatile grey skirt, but in a cream-and-black hound's-tooth check that Jacob said made his eyes hurt. Scavenged from the remnants bin at Discount Fabrics, that stuff was, and the thirty-something punk chick working the counter was jealous that I'd found it before she did. I wore the finished skirt on Saturday and a woman I'd never met complimented me on it as she walked past me.
Can you tell by the past tense here that something is wrong? I washed it on Sunday night. Yes, the wash. The bane of my existence for all periods of my life except when I routinely wore flood pants. That motherfucker shrank my beautiful perfect skirt to fully two inches above the knee. Now I have a short pleated skirt and the following options.
1. With boots: cowgirl!
2. With sneakers: cheerleader!
3. With a blazer and mary janes: Catholic schoolgirl!
I really can't be having with any of these things. The only option I can see myself living with is to take the pleat out, shorten it another four inches and wear it with stilettos, stockings, a severe long-sleeved blouse and reading glasses on a chain. Then I'll sue Maytag for sexual harassment for trying to force me into a career as a dominatrix. Maybe the settlement money can buy me another yard and a half of fabric so I can try this again.
It's irritating me immensely that, having just put down an absolutely wonderful book, I can't think of anything eloquent to say about it. I would have thought that I'd be more likely to write interestingly after 15 hours (or whatever) of basking in someone else's wit; instead, for some reason, I can barely string words together to write a review. So, screw it.
The book is Cakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham. (I should point out right now that I've never read Of Human Bondage, so general posterity's view of the man is pretty much unknown to me. I grabbed the book off a shelf mostly because it had a picture on the cover with a really interesting hat.) It's ornately snide, or snidely ornate, and I mean that in the best possible way. It goes for three lovely flowing paragraphs about someone's charm and talent before being kind enough to let you know that you're being had and it's really all about what an unredeemed twit the guy is. It's the perfect kind of prose to come from a malicious cranky bastard, which Maugham may or may not have actually been. I really have no idea. I'd like to think he was. If you know otherwise, don't disillusion me. Just go read the damn book.
Now that I'm done with it, I'm spending the rest of the weekend sewing. It's all part of my dream to re-invent my wardrobe in a form that contains only homemade skirts and thrift-store shirts. It's working pretty well so far, although I ran out of long-sleeved black t-shirts today and soundly cursed Michele and Kristen for stopping me from buying any more last month. They have no understanding of my great vision. Posterity will forget them, and remember the way my neatly draped hound's-tooth check contrasted so elegantly with the plainness of my black shirt. At $1.49 a yard and $3 for the shirt, they'll say, that's a hell of a vision.
To the guy (or girl, quite possibly) in rather impressive gutterpunk regalia who was apparently shooting up next to the bus stop at 24th and Valencia this morning, and yesterday also:
Did you realize that if you cross the street and continue 30 more feet there's a totally deserted alley in which you could perform this morning ritual in comfort and solitude without people smacking you (as it were) with shopping bags as they walk past and without needing to hunch over against the bus bench to ineffectually hide what you're doing, or were you just looking for attention?
It's called Poplar, by the way, that alley I was talking about. The name's pressed into the cement at the curb so you can't miss it, and since your morning routine apparently takes you across Valencia in that direction anyway, it would be awfully convenient. Next time I see you at that damn bus bench I'll kick you in the pants and drag you over there myself. I mean, I won't, but I'd like to.
When you design an entire retail development (or strip mall if you're feeling uncharitable), you have to deal with several physical buildings that are part of one master plan. Each one has its own foundation and needs its own grading, code calculations, utilities hookups, and so on. Call the whole shebang a building pad. If you're dealing with a big project with lots of building pads in it, you may as well split it up and treat each pad as a separate project. Give each pad to a different person to handle on their own, and it'll be much less confusing than one person trying to remember which one is which. We've got one of those going on right now.
Yesterday, the taller project manager made $25 on the office Superbowl betting pool and graciously decided to treat everyone to lunch. What, he mused, could you get for $25 in the neighborhood to feed an entire office? Aha! Thai food! "What," he asked the other architects, "do you guys think of Pad Thai noodles?"
The Southern architect looked up wearily from her CAD drawings. "Pad Five noodles?"
The Mexican architect's head snapped up. "There are noodles in Pad Five?" she asked. "Are they putting noodles in Pad Two also?"
"Pad Two noodles?" asked the interior designer, who'd only just joined in the conversation. "What?"
"Ohhhhh," I said from the front of the office. "Tattoo noodles. It makes perfect sense."
The office clown walked by my desk and nodded. "Pad Two Pad Two tattoo Pad Two tattoo," he said helpfully.
"It's just like the Tower of Babel in here," sighed the taller project manager, ordering Pad Thai noodles anyway.
I occasionally have to stop and edit myself for public consumption. The other Indian architect came in today and told us all that she's pregnant. I gaped and babbled something about, "What, really?" while replaying through my head the things she's said recently about having children. The ones I could remember seemed to be mostly along the lines of "not ready" and "I hope not", so I opened my mouth to ask her if she'd decided to actually have the baby.
Just then my tactful alter-ego stepped in and kicked me hard in the shin. "Dianna," she told me while I whimpered and clutched my metaphorical leg, "Everybody in this office is older than you. Most of them are married. Three of them have children already and two are now expecting. Most of them are from outside the U.S. and Europe, and several of them are Catholic. Shut your 20-something, unmarried, atheist, non-procreating, radical-liberal-feminist mouth before you get yourself in a world of trouble." So I did.
I have to admit that my tactful alter-ego is probably in the right. Everyone's talking about baby books and names and how her mother's taking the news, which seems to indicate that a baby is a foregone conclusion. It's making my skin crawl a little, though, especially because she looks more bewildered than happy (the Indian architect, I mean, not her mother). It would almost be worth offending most of the office just to ask and be reassured that she weighed the available options and chose parenthood deliberately. You did... I mean, you did stop and think that you don't have to if you don't want to... right? Please tell me you did. Like hell you should be doing this if you didn't.
Jacob and I have volunteered for possible co-ownership of a third cat. Wait! Look, it's not what you think! We're not going to make the news when the police find us wearing our underwear on our heads and keeping 65 cats in the living room! Honest!
It's just that there's this little scruffy ball of orange fluff who turned up stray on our street a few months ago. She's incredibly sweet and friendly and has huge bright green eyes. When you walk by she comes up to you and rubs against your legs and meows with the kind of scratchy voice you'd expect to hear from a cat who's been smoking and drinking heavily since kittenhood. She's so completely adorable that the guys in the house where she mostly tries to hang out found themselves totally unable to resist her, and started feeding her and taking care of her. Then, the fools went and got a roommate who's allergic to cats, so she can't come inside anymore.
It's February. Our neighborhood is full of big, aggressive raccoons. Scruffy's a five-pound cat, if that, and she gets all soggy in the rain. And she follows us home and tries to follow us inside and I picked her up last night to move her away from the door and she squirmed around in my arms and then snuggled down and purred and I was completely lost. I dropped off a letter with the guys who feed her to ask see if she's found a real home yet and say that we'll share her with the upstairs neighbors if she hasn't.
Oh, hell. I embrace my inner crazy cat lady. Bring on the underwear.
One of the Indian architects showed up today wearing a turban, just for the hell of it. He's not a Sikh, he doesn't have long hair, and he doesn't observe any hair-covering customs for what hair he does have, but today he figured a turban was the way to go. We all gawked at him when he walked into the office and demanded to know what the occasion might be, how you wrap that thing, what's it made out of, isn't it heavy, what's that other fabric underneath for, how do you wrap that thing, how does it stay on your head, and most importantly how do you wrap that thing? So he took it off and showed us. It's enthralling.
You take a double-wide strip of thin cotton fabric about two or two and a half yards long, stretch it out diagonally, flip the free corners into the middle, roll the edges in, scrunch it up (don't forget to pull those ends), hold one end in your teeth and start wrapping. The bit in front where it looks like the wrapping switches directions? Optical illusion. You just give the fabric an extra twist to make a point and keep going the same way. The very top, that looks so heavily layered that you could bounce a ruler off of it? Also optical illusion. It's a great big hole that you leave until last and then fill in with one thin layer that you pull over. It explains a lot about why the things aren't deathly suffocatingly hot. Actually, I don't know that for a fact. Maybe they are deathly suffocatingly hot. I'll have to ask.
Apparently, though, this office isn't the only place people are fascinated. Regular patrons at the coffeeshop across the street, who see him there every day, gave him weird and unsettled looks when he wandered in with his new snazzy headgear. San Francisco architecture firm suddenly sprouts dark-skinned men in turbans; Department of Homeland Security raises terror alert level to "orangey-red, we swear we could turn this thing all the way up to red any time we wanted to". Funny, and yet not very funny.
My psychic powers stand unrivaled! I declare myself the new Nostradamus!
I also offer advice on love, food, art, and family. Reasonable rates and accuracy more or less guaranteed.
My back is essentially completely better (cf. entry titled "Flat"), but last night I went and slept funny on my neck. It feels okay as long as I keep my head down like I'm trying not to hit the ceiling, but if I straighten up or try to tilt my head back it hurts. It's just your run-of-the-mill sore neck, really, so why am I blogging about it?
Because I was once again lured in by the siren song of heat. I noticed my hot/cold pack sitting in the office kitchen and thought, hey, I bet if I heat it up and put it on my neck that will feel nice. It's just like the hot shower that I thought of when my back started hurting. "By golly," I said then and now, "heat is just the thing that will make everything better."
Earth to Dianna: this is not the case. Take two hours and put the cold pack in the freezer and then put it on your neck, you dummy, and it'll be cool and not hurting instead of pleasantly warm and otherwise totally unimproved. Aha.
Fact: the phrase "non-dairy creamer" is a misnomer.
I just read the ingredient list on the back of a packet of instant Thai iced tea that someone brought into the office today, and it could be summarized as follows: tea, non-dairy creamer, sugar, color, flavor. My heart leaped. Could I actually have some? Could I be so lucky? When I read closer I noticed that the ingredients in the non-dairy creamer were palm kernel oil, glucose, and casein. Casein? I've run across that before. It's a milk protein that unscrupulous people put in soy cheese to make it temptingly tasty and frustratingly unvegan.
I looked it up. The official word of the food manufacturers is that casein is not a dairy product... anymore. It's made from skim milk which is heavily processed and refined so that there's no lactose, cholesterol or milkfat remaining in it. It's a nice technicality, and I like the humor value of saying, "Well, we took some milk and took out all the milky bits," but I still have to mark it down as misleading.
Shame about the iced tea, then. I'm just in the mood for some sickly-sweet overprocessed instant food imported from a strange and exotic place, but I'll have another cup of plain green tea instead.