I've been feeling like a herd of elephants lately: clumsy and not very good at office work. I don't know where anything is anymore, I've screwed up three successive supplies orders, and I still can't quite figure out how to work the phones. I could swear I've spent as much time fixing my own mistakes lately as I have actually doing the things I'm supposed to. On top of that, I'm pretty sure that I've been surly and rude for the last six weeks continuously.
This morning, after some stammering and general idiocy, I had a sudden flash of inspiration which enabled me to find the particular thing that my boss was looking for. "Thanks, Dianna," he said, "that was really good. Oh, and speaking of good...
"You got a raise."
So saying, he handed me my paycheck. It came along with a short letter thanking me for my good work and remarkable organization, and informing me of my approximately 6% raise effective two weeks ago.
I don't feel quite so bumbling and irritable anymore. And I do know where the surge protectors are, thank you very much.
I make periodic trips across the border to buy the special intoxicants without which I cannot function. I take BART all the way into Oakland, then I walk up to the Khanh Phong supermarket on 9th Street and buy a box of green tea. It's $2 for 100 tea bags, mass-imported from China under the auspices of the Spring Tea Company. Sometimes, when the cravings get bad, I buy two boxes.
If one of the tea bags breaks (you could cut one open, but you'd be throwing two cents down the drain), you can see that the tea leaves have been ground up into tiny, unrecognizable pieces. At that size they could be leaves, or stems, or grass clippings from the lawn outside the packing plant. An article that I once read in a snooty food magazine told me that in making a good tea, the leaves are handled gently so that each one is left whole. This is not a good tea. This is a tea that would make the Stash Company cry, and after two years of drinking it I've found that nice teas taste terrible to me. It's the crack of tea.
The shorter project manager in my office is a coffee junkie. With the move to the new building we no longer have a coffeeshop across the street, so he's been pleading with me to get some ground coffee for the coffeemaker. I assured him on Monday that the office manager was on the job and he'd have his coffee soon. He thought for a second and told me that I should ask her to get me some tea while she was at it. I shook my head and told him that I buy my own tea, at which he nodded sagely. "Organic tea," he said, "of course."
I spluttered and almost spit a two-cent cup of floor sweepings on him. But I'm sure that the pile of sweepings grew without help from any artificial fertilizers, so that's all right.
Scruffy, the orange stray cat that Jacob and I feed, got hit by a car on Saturday morning. She's fine. That's astounding.
We found her about noon on Saturday, halfway up a tree and looking freaked-out. Jacob slunk up a ladder to extract her, at which point we realized that her face was scratched up and her claws were broken. Our downstairs neighbor opined that, since she beat up his boxer puppy without breaking a sweat, it must have been a bear that she ran into. When we put her down and saw her limping we figured it was time to take her to the vet.
"Cat fight," we told the vet, "maybe?" She grilled us about what we'd noticed and then shook her head. When she flattened Scruffy's hind paws we could see that the claws had been ground down to nothing. The vet explained that when cats get hit by cars they grab onto the pavement and get their claws shredded. Then, if they're Scruffy, they panic and run up a tree to get away from the street. Without claws it's impossible to climb down a tree slowly, and with aching paws I can't imagine that jumping is an option. This is apparently how you get a cat stuck in a tree.
Here's where I'm astounded. Scruffy is 12. She only weighs 7 pounds. She's been a homeless street cat for at least a year, and she just got hit by something a thousand times her mass. The only things wrong with her, according to the exhaustive tests we had done on Saturday, are sore feet, tooth decay, and slight dehydration. She's been relaxing in our study, in a velvet-lined shoebox nest, feasting on tuna and gravy-infused water (hey, we need to get her to drink, right?). I'm convinced that she really is some kind of queenly cat immortal, an undamageable supercat. Even going through lives like crazy can't explain how she's so healthy. I'm hoping it'll rub off on me, either through continual contact or faithful tuna-based supplication.
In other news, I'm in the market for a computer monitor since mine tendered an unexpected resignation yesterday. Recommendations for used-parts stores, and offers to sell old crappy monitors for $50, are welcome.
Last night I got one of those memory flashes where a tiny fragment of a story popped into my head and started nagging me. It's from a book that I know I read when I was a kid. I'm pretty sure I read it more than once, because for such a tiny, weird story fragment it seems really familiar to me. I can't for the life of me remember what the book was, though, or how the rest of the story went.
The setting was maybe 50 years ago, no more than 75. Someone was sent out to the store to buy some kind of air freshener thing-- it came in a can, with a wick, and you'd expect it to smell like lavender or rose or pine. There was only one left, though, and it was old and rusty and looked a little weird. They bought it, took it home, and found that it didn't have a wick and anyway it was some weird scent, like broccoli or grass or something else green (the green is important here for some reason; I keep losing the snippet of story, but as soon as I remember green it starts coming back again).
It must have been a fantasy book of some kind, because this can was the Significant Fantasy Turning Point -- you know, the thing that Jane Ordinary has to discover in order for Surreal And Supernatural Things to start happening to her. Something was hiding in the can, possibly the Charming Fantasy Companion? I think there was one of those, but I can't remember what it was. I have a clearer sense of the color of the pages and the typeface of the words than I do of the plot or the characters.
These things drive me nuts. Just ask Jacob; I was following him around the house last night adding little details as they came into my head: "...a wick, no, no wick, the wick didn't work, it was green, it wasn't supposed to be green!" while he patiently shook his head and told me that he didn't think he'd ever read any books like that. Please please please tell me somebody else has.
Things that I have eaten this week include, in an even assortment of homemade and store-bought:
One of these things is not like the others. One of these things came in an earth-friendly package with I think a picture of the moon on it, giving rise to the following rule: if the packaging has a cutesy drawing on it instead of an enticing photograph of the delicious food product contained therein, place it back on the shelf and go buy something made by people who understand that food is supposed to be good.
This message has been brought to you by your local cranky foodie and her freezer full of blintzes and chocolate turtle ice cream. Have you had your dessert today?
I went to Games of Berkeley last night. What with the tattooing and the productivity at work I'd been feeling dangerously cool and mature, and I needed to get back in touch with my actual self. Gazing at shelves of strategy games while absentmindedly juggling beanbags is an excellent remedy for that sort of situation. As it turns out, hitting yourself in the head with the beanbags while leaning forward to read a game box is an even better remedy.
I got a set of juggling clubs, because ever since my brief stint in the Berkeley Juggling Club I've been determined to learn to use them. I'm not going to say "if it kills me" because we're talking about things that I fling around in the general vicinity of my head here. I lunged around the backyard for a half-hour or so before dinner trying to put myself in the same place as one club and two balls without, you know, putting myself in the same place as one club and two balls. Ten seconds! I managed ten seconds once before I dropped them! Look out, world!
Jacob bought Carcassone, which is a card-laying game that I think was made by the same person as Settlers of Catan. It's excellent. There's a similar game made by Cheapass Games called The Very Clever Pipe Game, but as much as I love to support the little guy I have to say I find Carcassone much more satisfying. Maybe that's just because I won last night. As soon as Jacob kicks my ass, which he inevitably will in any contest of resource management, I'll change my tune. You'll find me alone in the backyard with my plastic clubs, because any good geek knows how to sulk.
This geek got permission from her boss on Friday to have music at her desk. She's hooked up her Discman to a pair of old scratchy computer speakers and is dreamily listening to Guster. "Good morning, RGSHG Architects, fa, fa fa fa fa fa, fa fa?"
I'm fascinated by what my tea is doing to my teacup this week. In the shuffle of packing and unpacking my favorite matte black cups all got buried, so I'm using a shiny white coffee mug. Rather, it was a shiny white coffee mug. Now it's shiny and white on the outside and a dull tannic brown on the inside. Green tea, I'm realizing, isn't green. It's really quite brown. That cup is more stained after three days of holding tea than it was after years of holding coffee.
I should point out here that I'm obeying the sign in the kitchen and washing my cup. I use soap and a sponge and everything, and still the brown keeps getting worse. In addition to the general watercolor effect there are several alarming rings where the tea appears to be actually eating into the cup. This shouldn't surprise me, since I once left tea in one of Jacob's mugs and found it three days later using a tiny pickaxe to make pits in the glaze.
Strangely, my reaction when I notice this wanton destruction of crockery is to pick up the offending liquid and tip it into my mouth. Not the three-day-old tea in Jacob's cup, I mean the fresh, hot, delicious tea sitting in front of me right now. It's a little like clutching a serpent to my bosom, or perhaps more like tossing a serpent into the crib of my hypothetical infant child. My sweet, innocent, defenseless molars are being drowned again and again in deadly poison, calling out to me for protection and receiving none. I wonder if they raise their slightly tattered caps to the heavens and ask why, why is there no mercy? Maybe their cries are heard by my taste buds, which answer to them in ringing tones that fate is cruel and one's joy comes at the price of another's destruction. It's a bittersweet joy, but mostly bitter since I don't put any sugar in.
Speaking of the adjective "innocent", I'm still giggling over an Onion headline I saw this morning: Enchanted By Own Innocence, Michael Jackson Molests Self. That's brilliance.
I've been running around like the proverbial headless chicken for the last three days. It's the chaos and confusion of moving a small business and ten years of accumulated clutter into a new office that's still full of its own clutter. To sum up: chaos, confusion, clutter, cluck.
The title of this entry comes from the excellent book I'm reading, Red Earth and Pouring Rain by Vikram Chandra. (Do not read the Amazon review on that page, because it's full of horrendous plot spoilers. Really.) I've had the book on loan from my sister for several months now, but have been totally unable to read it because of the dazzlingly evocative title. I've glanced at it on the shelf, picked it up and considered the cover, then thought of five hundred pages of sticky heat and thick sucking mud and decided to read something a little lighter. I made myself start it in a park in Ashland over the weekend (sunny, not too warm, pleasantly dry) and realized it's been my loss.
It's a grand epic tale told by a monkey with a typewriter. No, I'm not kidding. It has chapters like "The Game of Cricket" and chapters like "Sikander Learns the Art of War". I'm forming the suspicion that they have more to do with each other than is immediately obvious, but so far I'm still being strung along in ignorance. "Be wily," the narrator monkey is told in the second chapter, "be twisty, be elaborate... Let us luxuriate in your curlicues." Damned if that isn't exactly what the furry bastard is doing.
The only time I wonder why my computer monitor whines is when I'm not in the middle of smacking it upside the screen for what it's showing me.
I can't blame anyone but myself. Probably. I'm running fucking Windows 98 on a Frankensteined six-year-old Gateway that's been slapped into an old server case with broken ports and loaded with bootlegged barely-compatible software. I haven't found myself so stuck for what to do with my money in the last six years that I've had to go out and spend it on a new computer, and just thinking about the work involved in changing my operating system makes me twitch. Jacob's invaluable technical assistance comes at the price of having to apologize and explain why I'm taking out my irritation on him instead of on my beleaguered monitor.
The upshot of all of this is that I've broken two installations of Winamp (Winamp? Since when does Winamp ever not work?) in the last two weeks and my email program crashes every other time I open it. It's gotten to the point where I'm glad to see the "program not responding" dialog box because at least it means something is still working. iTunes, the Gmail Notifier and this damn puzzle game that I want to try all turn up their noses at my pre-millennial operating system, but Starflight I freaks out about my blazing speed and massive drive space. If you don't hear from me for a while, just assume that I've uninstalled everything but DOS, hit various parts of my computer with a hammer until they show signs of decreased efficiency, and I'm happily picking up things with tentacles on that purpley planet two stars over.
Seems like I'm always tired lately. I just read about Kristen's always foggy and always night San Francisco and remembered a Berkeley that was like that. It was always too empty, too late, too steep, and dinner was always gone when I got home.
It isn't what you think. I'm wearing a sweater today because of the horrible, unseasonal weather, and it's itchy. My shirtsleeves keep riding up under the sweater sleeves so that the prickly sweater material is poised to torment my already itchy upper arms. It's a terrible cycle; it itches, so I rub through the material, which catches on little pieces of skin, which cling to the fabric and stick around to poke my arms and make them itch more. Eventually there's nothing for it but to make a beeline for the bathroom, tear off my sweater, roll up my shirtsleeves and rub frantically at the itchy bits. At least I'm not scratching... much.
I hope the Corn family isn't offended by vines. Six hours in the car with prickly sleeves is more than I'll be able to stand.
The little scabby lines on my arms from the new outlines are driving my tactile obsession to new heights. I seem to need to run my fingers over them every few minutes. Sometimes it's to gently trace the lines with my fingertips, and sometimes it's to rub back and forth over them for the prickly rough feeling. I even made Jacob touch them last night to see how weird and fun they feel. Hang on, I have to touch this thing, it's prickly.
My office is moving this weekend while I'm in Oregon with Jacob's family. We went en masse to see the new building yesterday. It looks like I have a half-finished floor to myself and no desk, which must be the price I pay for missing the moving process and making other people haul my crap across town. No matter. I ate lunch yesterday on the bleachers of the softball field at Glen Canyon Park and stared out over an altar to quiet sunny greenness. The view was of a scrubby hill instead of the cityscape from Dolores Park, but the grass was lush and there wasn't a soul on it. I can live with that.
I don't know, the tattoo pictures have got to be getting kind of humdrum for you guys. No, dear, the vine looks fine. Yes, yes, that's very nice, Dianna. If I give you a cookie will you go away?
Today was shoulders and arms, and now the outlining is mercifully finished. Here's a not very illuminative picture, because Jacob's at the lab so it's just me here with the auto-timer and the slack-jawed self-picture-taking faces which marred all of my detail shots. You get the idea; I have a short-sleeved tattoo-shirt. It's unutterably badass, so I won't utter anything further about it.
It was a wily one too. It stayed under cover. I think it knew I was there. It led me on a wild-goose chase through the sheltered places where I couldn't follow. When it stopped, I had to be a silent shadow as I waited for my chance to catch it.
Usually catching a unicorn is pretty simple. You throw a trap over it from above, scoop it up, and carry it off. Not so for this one. It was massive; each leg was the size of a lesser unicorn. My traps were barely adequate to contain it, and in the confined spaces where it was hiding I couldn't be sure I wouldn't cut it in half instead of enclosing it whole. In the end I had to hold the trap in front of it and wait, hoping it would enter instead of coming for me. It was nerve-wracking to watch it delicately investigate the mouth of the trap and hesitate to place a foot inside, but finally it entered and I closed the trap with a sigh of relief.
This would all make much more sense if you knew that unicorn is another word for spider.
My buy.com order has been declared missing. Someone somewhere in the postal service must have picked up the box, telepathically sensed what it contained, and realized how much richer their life would be if they had a snork feezle brbrbrbrbr whubba loofa poofa ding dong (item name ciphered to prevent it falling into the wrong hands). They were absolutely right. Everyone should have one. I can't tell you how much joy and how many life-changing experiences Jacob is missing by not having his. The reason I can't tell you is because I don't know, because he doesn't have it.
Poor, poor Jacob. He's gone so long without a snork feezle brbrbrbrbr whubba loofa poofa ding dong, but can he go any longer or will the stress and deprivation do him in? I guess in the meantime he'll have to content himself with a new KitchenAid stand mixer. Whoo hoo hoo hoo eeeeeee!
That's very interesting. It's always nice to see one's field of interest recognized as important. Anthropology has an unfortunate reputation as a fuzzy, easy major for empty-headed slackers, so I'm thrilled that the CIA understands the great benefit to be had from researching and comparing human societies. I'm less than thrilled that their purpose in doing so is to gather information without the knowledge and permission of the people it concerns, and less than less than thrilled that the purpose of that information-gathering is to gain political and military advantages over said people. That's not exactly in keeping with the spirit of political neutrality and sharing of information which anthropology (and every other academic discipline) is supposed to value.
It doesn't stop at a faint sense of ethical ickiness, though; there are two more problems. One is pointed out midway through the article: when people start associating anthropology with international espionage, their response to actual anthropologists is going to range from uncooperative to really fucking hostile. It's not exactly a secret now; this program is announced on the CIA website and is being reported by major international news media. A bad time to be an anthropologist abroad could begin really whenever people feel like it.
The last issue, which you'll find at the very end of the BBC article, is that the field of anthropology has been visited (in the plague-of-locusts sense) with people like Felix Moos of the University of Kansas. He says: "The United States is at war. Thus, to put it simply, the existing divide between academe and the intelligence community has become a dangerous and very real detriment to our national security at home and abroad."
That's right. If you're interesting in learning and you're not putting that to work in the service of war, you're a threat to all of us. I'd better see you putting down that potsherd and picking up a gun pronto or there's going to be trouble.
That's the sound of me hitting myself over the head because I just realized I could have bought Jacob's present from Amazon.com and maybe actually gotten it. Then again, maybe I couldn't.
I'm just irritable because I have a tracking number for it, but the postal service doesn't recognize the number as anything it should be tracking. Buy.com has a procedure for declaring a shipment lost, but it only applies if the tracking information shows it's been delivered. They also have a reassuring statement about if you can't see tracking information for your package, but that only applies if your shipment just went out today. I have an impressive and persuasive pouty face, complete with trembling lip and big sad stricken eyes, but that only applies if there's someone to look at it. Looks like it's a stalemate.
In other news, I've been reading the interesting, informative and shamelessly oversensationalized book The Boxer Rebellion by Diana Preston. It's truly amazing how everyone in China in 1900 was either sexually lawless, tortured to death, or both. Actually, that's not quite true; there was one English girl who was apparently merely fat. If you tune out the yellow journalism, purple prose, and scarlet letters, though, it's a very good read. The Boxer Rebellion is one of the thousands of significant events of modern history of which I know next to nothing, so it's totally fascinating to me. Some of it really defies belief -- I'm a little stuck on imagining how this would play out today. I'm pretty sure if you had 400 foreign diplomats barricaded inside their own embassies in the capital city of anywhere, and being bombarded by Anywhere's national military right alongside Anywhere's unchecked peasant uprising, Anywhere would get bombed into Nothing pretty fast. I don't even think the U.S. could get away with that one.
In the interest of honesty, I'll also admit that the sensationalizing makes the book easier to follow. There are so many names of missionaries and diplomats and military commanders being thrown around that it's simpler to remember them as "oh, right, the gay one" or "the fat one" or "the one with all the mistresses" than to keep track of the names. It just makes it a little embarrassing to be sitting on BART reading what's allegedly a serious historical book and then realize that the person next to you is looking over your shoulder at a description of the Empress Dowager's favorite sexual position.
I wrote a fantastic entry yesterday, only to take it down two minutes later because I couldn't bear to air my secret sneaky plans for the sake of a blog entry. It was a good one, though. Pithy. Suspenseful. Kept you on the edge of your seat and groaning in sympathy. I've been looking for other things to be witty about to replace it, but I can't seem to find anything of significance. It's all just S5.1, S5.2, and S5.3.