One of my current favorite verbs is "visit" (particularly "visit with"), in the sense that is used to refer to misfortunes. May you be visited with boils, the Lord visit locusts upon your land, Europe was visited in the 14th century with a plague of epic proportions, and so on. This week, I have been visited with a project which I will pseudonymically call the Smallville Hotel (and which is also a plague of epic proportions).
Cautious bloggers use pseudonyms as a matter of course, but in this case that isn't my only reason to do so. Using the proper name of the project is, like using the name of the Devil, a surefire way to visit misfortune upon oneself. An architect who says he's relieved not to be working on Smallville will come in the next day to find his desk piled high with Smallville drawings and notes instructing him to review the catering kitchen layout. An unwise administrative assistant might sympathetically ask said architect if Smallville is stressing him out, only to find herself assigned to edit Smallville specifications the very next day. I am that administrative assistant, and the former half of my week was spent buried under a stack of documents about door hardware and paint finishes.
The locusts of this particular visitation took all sort of forms. On Tuesday the flapping of their wings kept me in my chair matching section headings until two hours past my usual quitting time. On Wednesday they chased me up and down the stairs to arrange and re-arrange deliveries, and fluttered in the face of the owner and project manager, who were so distracted that they forgot to invite me to the celebratory end-of-project lunch. It appears that they also got into the phone lines at some point, causing them to ring incessantly and disrupt my concentration. Thursday, the day that the swarm finally left our slightly tattered office in peace, couldn't come soon enough.
I've decided that, after this hardly amiable visit, I'm ready to absent myself from the world of architecture academically as well as professionally. I've unearthed the stack of paperwork that I need to submit to go back to school in the spring, made myself a list of deadlines that I won't miss again, and squared my shoulders impressively. Now if I can keep in mind the fluttering of the locusts, I think I'll manage it this time.
We've been having trouble at work with one of our older laser printers. It doesn't like to take its paper nicely from the paper tray, and insists on being hand-fed from the top tray instead. The top tray is finicky and sloppy and will take five sheets to print one page, so the alert printer user should really be standing over the machine at all times and carefully feeding one sheet at a time into the tray. Since this is a ridiculous way to use a modern laser printer, particularly when it's across the room from one's desk, I failed to do it this morning while printing out a receipt.
When it inevitably jammed, I went over and started pulling out the extra sheets. At one point this required grabbing paper that was halfway through being printed, and when I touched it it left black marks on my fingers. I rubbed them off and tried again. This time when I touched the paper, I got perfect, clear mirror images of the words on the page. "latotbuS," my fingertips said, "gnippihS."
I wandered over into the boss's office to show him. He laughed and told me it looked like I'd been tattooed. It did, I agreed, although not necessarily the design I would have chosen. He suddenly got a thoughtful look on his face. "You know, I heard about this art project someone's doing," he told me. I grinned. "There's this author," he continued -- I grinned some more -- "who's taking an entire story" -- grin -- "and" --
There are times when manners fail me, even at work. I interrupted excitedly to say that I'm signed up to be part of it. The boss was curious to know how it works and how much I know about the story, so we talked for a couple of minutes. I couldn't help but notice that while he was intrigued by the project, and maybe amazed that someone had actually done it, he wasn't the slightest bit surprised to find me involved in it.
Generally speaking, I'm delighted by this. I've been trying reasonably assiduously for the past year to cover my personal interests with a facade of workplace blandness, and it's clearly been a total failure as I'm still recognizeable as myself. I suspect the boss of the same thing: he designs reassuringly beige hotels for a living but proudly displays his awards from the AIA House of Cards competition for "Most Outrageous Design". I suppose, then, I shouldn't be surprised either?
For some reason, I've discovered this weekend, I'm helplessly bewitched and wholly besotted with the city of Portland. Jacob had to borrow a crowbar to pry me out of it so that we could catch our plane home.
It could have to do with the fact that it's smaller than San Francisco and cleaner than Oakland, and that for all my best pretense of gritty urbanity I'm still a suburbanite who likes things neat and unintimidating. It could have something to do with Powell's, where I think I saw the face of God on Saturday in a clearance rack of $1 anthropology books. It could be that every surface in the city that isn't otherwise used and aggressively cleared is covered in an impenetrable tangle of my beloved blackberry vines; on a related note, it could have something to do with the fact that driving 20 minutes north to Salmon Creek means passing roadside farms selling the most incredible berries I've ever imagined. Speaking of purely seasonal delights, it could be that the unusually beautiful weather this weekend has me imagining Portland as an Eden of warmth and sunshine all year long. It could be that we spent a couple of lovely evenings wandering around the abnormally scenic downtown, the intriguingly schizophrenic Pearl District, the unsurprisingly lovely waterfront, and the hell if I know where else. It could have been the discovery of an excellent vegan restaurant located right downtown and doing an encouragingly thriving business.
But I think it is not those things.
Instead, I think I love Portland because it has so many of something I detest: bridges. I hate heights, and I fear water, and ever since I heard of the Tacoma Narrows bridge fiasco I've thought of engineering as a rather speculative and unfinished science. Trusting my physical well-being and general dryness to a strip of roadway plunked down on spindly legs that stand in the middle of a rushing torrent of water has never seemed terribly appealing to me. Portland, apparently laid out by someone who failed to notice a great big river in the middle of the city site, has 8 of these despised marvels of modern engineering, and they're of every description one could hope to imagine. Some of them are swooping concrete highways of thin crusts and plain stems, and some arch delicately in classic curves with the road laid gently across the top. One clings to horizontality by delicate suspension cables; another is a heavy, flattened steel cage dwarfed by its own massive elevator mechanism. A view of the river is a view into acrophobia and waterborne peril, over which cars, bikes and people glide serenely as though resisting gravity were as natural as breathing. Navigating the city without flying suspended from one side of the river to the other is an impossibility.
It's inescapably reminiscent of a future city from a sci-fi book, in which the last unbuilt space is the sky and humans have moved to build upon it. In the fictional metropolis the skyscrapers crowd each other to such dizzying heights that descending to ground just to move to an adjoining building is ridiculous; bridges are built to connect levels that come nowhere near the earth. Portland, where raising three new towers near downtown makes a noticeable mark on the skyline and the bridges rise higher than the buildings in any case, is hardly there. But it's close enough to be awfully compelling.
For more information on why this aesthetic municipal love affair was doomed from the start, write to the Portland university community and inquire about the lack of biochemistry postdoctoral work available therein. For more information on dazzling future metropoli, borrow a copy of the C.J. Cherryh collection Sunfall from your local library. To see the forest of bridges from the air, click here. To end this blog entry, press the star key.
Attention Google searchers: you have come to the right place. Read this entry to find out why, or just skip to the end where I give you my email address and tell you to email me.
I'm still working on setting up my shiny new computery stuff. Since my natural tendency is to set things up once and never change them for ten years, I'd better do it properly while I've still got some momentum. That's why last night I was downloading and installing and configuring a shiny new email client. I told it all of my account information and got it humming along happily, then turned to my household's greater geek for help in importing my carefully saved archive of mail messages. He opened, copied, imported, declared the process finished, and then turned and gave me a look of horror.
All of them.
The one step that I missed while saving them was the step that made sure it saved every message in each folder, rather than one message in each folder, and I never checked to see what I'd saved. Had I realized, I could have easily saved them again properly. Alternately, I could have taken the tedious but safe route and used my Gmail inboxes to store them all. I did neither, and lost five years of email.
The good news is, I've still got everything from my Gmail accounts. I've emailed the erstwhile administrator of modifiedmail to see if I can retrieve those messages as well. The only thing that's definitely gone is the mail from my school account, which I threw to the spamdogs a year ago and only occasionally checked for incoming messages. Essentially, what is lost is the email addresses of everyone who used to send mail to me at uclink.berkeley.edu.
Since I can't remember exactly who that was, I've decided to make myself unfathomably easy to find for when those people say, "Hey, Dianna hasn't emailed me in years; I wonder what she's up to." I'm already pretty Googlable. Can I become really Googlable?
Dianna Joyce Woolsey, UC Berkeley, North Hollywood High School, Wilde House, architecture, anthropology, hardware jewelry, tomato plants, and if there's anything else you'd remember me for I'm damned if I can think of what it might be. Now here's the time capsule message: if you looked for my name and found this page, bloody well email me because I can't get ahold of you otherwise! Put my first name, then a period, then my last name, then an A in a circle, then gmail.com. Just say hi, or whatever you like. Thanks.
...And yesterday he used them to cut away two things that have plagued me for years: credit card debt and Windows 98. Sorry, was I not supposed to say that W-word anymore?
The part about the knives is a lie, but the part about being gleefully rid of things is true. I paid off the last of my credit card balance all in one shot and then watched wide-eyed while Jacob reformatted my hard drive and installed Windows 2000 on it. I only managed to lose one useful thing that I'd meant to keep, which was some record of my internet bookmarks (if you have the URLs of anything interesting lying around and you think I might want to be reminded of them, please help). My excuse for what else I did with my evening is that since I lost my bookmarks I needed to fill the gaping hole in my life with delicious sushi.
The FedEx delivery driver who brings packages to my office is a friendly butch woman with cool glasses. The glasses are a non sequitur, but the delivery driver is not. Last week she came in with a package and wound up in a discussion about food with me (vegan) and the office manager (has a thing about organic food). She, meaning the driver, mentioned that she's been eating raw lately and has found some restaurants in the Bay Area that do surprisingly good raw food. It's not a diet to which I'm likely to switch myself, since it's lacking in breads and legitimate cookies, but I wouldn't mind seeing what people are doing with it. She mentioned a name, which I just looked up.
Unfortunately, I could never eat there. Not because it's not vegan (it is, actually, vegan). Nor because it's geographically or financially unfeasible. No, it's because I wouldn't be able to stop laughing long enough to actually eat. And people call me a hippie?
This weekend I received my just desserts for casting the pearls of a new monitor before the swine of my outdated and rather schizophrenic computer. After a thoroughly typical and not unexpected blue-screen-of-death operating system freak-out, I restarted the beast, only to receive an error message I hadn't seen before. I can't remember the exact wording at the moment, but the gist was that my hard drive had just noticed a problem with its addressing. Jacob sat me down and told me tales of data loss and system crashes, and explained that the best thing to do would be to dump everything off of that drive and reformat it. Argh, I said, but okay. Maybe a new drive would be needed, he continued, at which point I arghed some more.
He had a brainstorm just then and suggested that rather than buying a new drive, I could make use of the laptop I inherited from him. The short battery life wouldn't matter if it was always connected at my desk, and it was already running a more stable operating system than what I have on my desktop. That sounded good to me, so we hooked up the laptop to its base station to see if it would play nicely.
It seemed to be playing nicely. Jacob was doing something arcane with drive diagnostics on the desktop, so I turned to the laptop and tried to think about what I'd need to make it my only computer. I opened a few folders, looked at a few programs, and decided I couldn't think about anything without music. I put in an Interpol CD and waited for it to start.
Pop. Pop. Snapkchssst!
That is not the beginning of any Interpol CD with which I'm familiar. That was the sound of the laptop's power supply shorting out, complete with sparks, a puff of smoke, and the acrid smell of burnt electronics.
This is what I've decided to do. I'll keep the power supply in a special violent-electronic-death display with my old audio card, which has an honest-to-god scorched crater in it. I'll take the laptop, which is now responsible for the destruction of at least two power supplies, and seal it up behind a brick wall Cask of Amontillado-style. And I'll take my fucking desktop computer and reformat it, wipe every trace of Windows 98 from its drives, and never speak that name again.
Will you look at what this bastard did to me? I'm the white pieces with black icons on them; Jacob's the black pieces with white icons. It's my turn, four moves into the game, and I'm three different kinds of screwed.
I hate this game I hate this game I kind of really love this game. I did manage to win something this week, but, well, that was a round of Battleship.
Oh. Are people irritated when I make my pictures popups? If you've got popup blockers and I'm making things a hassle for you, let me know and I'll start making them open in the same window instead.
I've been exhausted all week, and now I realize it was because my psychic sub-brain saw today coming and dreaded it. You see, at 10:30 this morning, the power went out at my office. It was back on by 11:00 and everything appeared to be just fine, but then one of the architects came down from the third floor to tell me that the phones up there weren't working.
Oh, I thought. That's interesting. I tried calling a few extensions on the third floor. Two out of six worked. I tried the second floor, and got zero out of six. Eight phones down in an office that gets 30 calls an hour isn't good. I threw my hands in the air and wished aloud for our one-man IT department to be around, which he wasn't. The Southern architect shook her head and told me he wouldn't know what to do anyway, so I should just call customer support and sort it out myself.
I squared my shoulders and called customer support, who told me to do a thing. I did the thing, which didn't work, and then called back. They suggested a different thing that I could try, so I did that one. It didn't work either. By my third call we'd moved on to cluster reconfiguring, which is a dread procedure far beyond my communications-technology comfort level, but I did it anyway. It failed utterly, breaking things that had previously been working, leaving me alone in the office during lunch with a broken phone system.
When I got done crying in the bathroom, I came back out to my desk and took stock of the situation. I decided that the Southern architect could pretty much shove it and I'd call the one-man IT department anyway. He was out today on day two of a one-day jobsite visit, so I called him on his cell. He answered grumpily. I told him what customer support had told me and what I'd done.
"You shouldn't have been doing that," he told me. I groaned. We don't want to be messing around in the guts of the phone system, he continued, so call the phone consultant and tell him to send someone out to fix it. I called the phone consultant, who answered grumpily.
"You shouldn't have been doing that," he told me. Customer support should never have had me trying to do procedures like that, he said indignantly. I wholeheartedly agreed and asked him if we could get a technician out, and he hemmed and hawed and put me on hold for twenty minutes.
I gave up, informed my boss that I was throwing in the towel, and took my hour-late lunch break. When I came back, I called the phone consultant again. He told me he couldn't get any technicians, but he could walk me through fixing it and it would work fine. Oh, I asked him, what are you going to have me do? He named the same dread procedure that customer service had directed me to perform.
I managed to stop myself from shouting "oh fuck no!", told him to talk about it with the one-man IT department, and hung up so I could concentrate on cursing the name of all telephonic devices invented by mankind. When the one-man IT department called back an hour later, I answered the phone eagerly, hoping to hear that he'd worked things out and my role would be to hover around the service technician and ask unhelpful questions. That was hardly the case. The phone consultant had clearly poisoned his mind.
"Dianna, the phone consultant can walk you through fixing it," he told me. I informed him that no, he absolutely couldn't, since the thing he was proposing had broken the phones last time and two people had insisted to me I should never touch those settings. The one-man IT department sighed. "You know I'm going to have to drive home and come into the office tonight just to get this sorted out? It's a perfectly simple procedure; you can handle it easily."
I'm just glad to be going home, is all.
When I came in to work this morning the first thing one of my co-workers said to me was, "So, no strike, then?"
I spent most of yesterday staring glumly at bus schedules and ferry maps and doing calculations that always seemed to have final answers like "7:15 a.m.". My spiky-haired upstairs neighbor and I nervously agreed last night to try to catch the same miserable early transbay bus this morning. I set my alarm for 5:45 and still got out of bed at 2:00 to see if anything had happened yet. The front-and-center this-just-in headline on sfgate.com was, "No news yet on BART strike". I guess there's no better way to find out how important a transit system is to a city than to threaten to take it away and watch people scramble.
There's no better way to find out if two people are geeks than to present them with a fridgeplay Go set and watch them spend an hour sitting in the corner of the kitchen playing it. We actually got two sets, the fridgego and the fridgechess, and Jacob pleaded with me to have both matches going simultaneously. If there were ever two games that were meant to be played with exquisitely polished wood pieces in a setting of elegance and concentration, instead of with magnets on the fridge while eating macaroni and cheese and sitting on cat food canisters on the floor, well, they've sure as hell fallen into the wrong hands now. I'm kicking Jacob's butt in the Go game, which I think is almost over, and he's guaranteed to trounce me in the chess game, which just started. They both make my head hurt in the most delightful way; I can't think far enough ahead to figure out half of what's going on, but I get these flashes where one little section of the board will start to make sense and then I think I know why people love these games so much.
This from a girl who can't concentrate long enough to follow the plot of an hour-long TV show.
At 1:30 a.m., I was awake.
Between 2:00 and 4:30, I dreamt that I was at work.
At 5:00 a.m., I was awake.
Between 5:30 and 6:00, I listened to the cats running frantically around the house.
At 6:30, the alarm went off.
It is now slightly before 12:00 and I am devoting my entire available energy to being unpleasant. I figure that if my morning can do it, so can I.
I'm trying to work my way through the sci-fi movie canon, or if there is no such thing, then at least the vast category of Major Sci-Fi Movies I Haven't Yet Seen. Greencine is helping with this; in the last two weeks we've rented and watched Dune and Blade Runner. That's one faithful adaptation of a book I vaguely remember liking, and one extremely loose adaptation of a book I adored and continue to adore.
We watched Blade Runner first. It was nice to look at, and they got some important things right (for instance, there was no way Deckard could win a hand-to-hand fight against Roy Baty). Other than that, I hated it. It wasn't Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and while I realize it wasn't supposed to be, I think the parts they skipped were the best things in the book. The desperate, reflexive protection of living things, the ravaged emptiness of the post-war world, and the cult--Mercerism--that sprang up to offer what people needed most in that time and place, which was empathy. It's such a tremendously intriguing setup that some of the best scenes in the book are the ones that just set up the background. And then there's my favorite hardly-fictional science fiction invention ever, the creepy, invasive Penfield mood organ. They tossed all that out the window and made it a find-the-monster-outside find-the-monster-inside story. But at least it was attractive, right?
Then we watched Dune, and I dearly wished to be back watching Blade Runner again. I blame that squarely on David Lynch. He has an incomprehensible passion for casting Kyle McLachlan as mysteriously important and importantly mysterious characters who muse repeatedly over things until you're sick of hearing their voices. No, I wasn't turned off by Twin Peaks; why do you ask? It's been probably eight years since I read Dune, so I don't honestly remember if it was as self-important and tried as desperately to be eerie as the movie did. I suspect it wasn't and didn't. I might have to read it again to be sure. At the very least I know it had fewer shots of Sting making weird faces, and that's got to be good.
So far the Sci-Fi Canon Project has done little except convince me that sci-fi is better read than viewed. That's partly inherent in the genre; visions of the future, when made into film, are usually terminally tied to the era in which they were created instead of the era they're trying to evoke. Sometimes the books are too, but lucky and gifted authors can escape it. Somehow the movie directors don't seem to manage as well, or at least, when they're weird masturbatory bastards like David Lynch, they don't manage as well.
I'm posting this from the safety and comfort of my own home, thanks to a cheap-as-sin used monitor and two helpful men named Jacob (the other one was the clerk at Computer Renaissance in Pleasant Hill). It's spectacularly awesome not to have to share a computer, particularly when the person whose computer you're sharing is more of a computer geek than you are. It makes for not too much computer time.
Fun activity, relevant to the above entry: Google shai hulud. Then Google shai hulud dune. That's right, it's a horrendous aggro screamy band named after a sci-fi monster. I have a small handful of mp3s of their songs (acquired in a period of "oh hell my boyfriend listens to this stuff I have to at least try it"), and I must tell you that merely reading about the hilarity doesn't do it justice. Notable song titles include "The Bonds Of Those Who Have No Understanding Of Consequence" and "Eating Bullets of Acceptance". But now you know the secret: they're even bigger dorks than you or I.
I've been meaning to get a bikini. I spend too much time fully clothed for a bask-happy girl with a tattoo to show off, and I believe that the ability to be effectively naked but technically decent will help remedy this situation. (Last year's sewing experiment, the plaid flannel bikini, fails marginally to meet the technically-decent requirement on account of inappropriate hemming allowances.)
Now since this is one of the few categories of things which I will not seek first at a thrift store, and I'll spend more than $25 on a piece of summer clothing when the sun turns black and dogs and cats live together, this really only leaves Target. That's where I went today, courtesy of a spiffy four-day holiday weekend from work. I grabbed a bunch of the least objectionable tops and bottoms I could find, tried them on, and was struck by the following inescapable truths.
As any reasonable person would do in my situation, I got indignant. How can they not carry my size at all? I huffed. These tops are all made for people with boobs! Don't they realize they have a customer with the chest of a twelve... year... old... girl? Huh.
I wandered over into the little girls' section and poked through the rack of tiny swimsuits. The bottoms, I thought, will definitely be too small, but maybe the tops will work. I found something in a girls' extra-large and wandered back to the dressing room with it. I tried on the top.
It fit fine. It wasn't padded out to here and didn't hang off me.
Since that was almost too easy, I tried on the bottoms.
They fit fine. They weren't scooped up to there and didn't have any weird little sashes or rosettes on them.
$12. One classic blue Hawaiian-print bikini, the likes of which couldn't be found for love nor money in the women's section. Ass: covered. Boobs: covered. Weird little sashes and rosettes: none. I've decided to bake a cake for my chest, to show it how much I appreciate it making all this possible. At this point I'm not sure if I should reassure you that that won't be the cake I bring to 4th of July, or if I should assure you that it will be, so if you have thoughts on the matter you should feel free to share them.