May 26, 2004


My devotion to language studies has paid off, as I find myself able to read passages apparently written in a foreign language and accurately discern their meaning despite the hazards of translation.

"[Ashcroft] also warned that terrorists may not have a typical look and that 'the face of al Qaeda may be changing.'
Ashcroft said the group adapts quickly to new security measures and may be recruiting operatives in their late 20s or early 30s and 'may travel with families to lower their profile.'
'Our intelligence confirms al Qaeda is seeking recruits who can portray themselves as Europeans,' he said."

After careful consultation with a dictionary, I have translated the foregoing into English as follows:

"It's really important to us to be able to nab people and then talk about how they were terrorist operatives. That lets us show that we're very necessary for your protection, and not at all arbitrary and invasive. We really don't like it when people object to the nabbin' on the basis of silly arguments like whether it was likely that the people we nabbed were connected to al-Qaeda. This way, you see, absolutely everyone is subject to suspicion. We noticed the way that you all responded to our racial profiling of people of Middle Eastern descent, and by the way, your mistrust and your tolerance for mistreatment of Middle Eastern folks within your own communities was incredibly helpful. We'd like you to do the same thing for everybody else now, please."

Posted by dianna at 03:23 PM

May 25, 2004

Studio was never this fiendish.

The advent of technology in the design field has brought with it a new and hilarious reason to love working in an architecture office. Around here, formal drawings are done in AutoCAD and printed on a specialized large-format printer referred to as a "plotter". Because there's only one of it for the office, and because the printer cartridges and paper are expensive, questions often arise about who's using it to print what. A lack of communication can result in two architects printing the same sheet for the same project because they each thought the other was doing something else; failure to speak up and claim some time on the plotter can result in never getting a chance to print the drawings you need. It's a small office. People usually just yell.


"All right, who's plotting something? Jim! What are you plotting over there?"

Posted by dianna at 11:45 AM

May 21, 2004

I swear, it's not only because I'm sleepy.

It's because sometimes there's really only one acceptable option, and when Arianna used the Beatles and Erik used They Might Be Giants, what can I do but use REM?

Describe yourself: World Leader Pretend

How do some people feel about you: Pretty Persuasion

How do you feel about yourself: Stumble, mixed with I Believe

Describe your ex girlfriend/boyfriend: Sitting Still

Describe your current girlfriend/boyfriend: Talk About The Passion

Describe where you are: I Remember California

Describe where you want to be: How The West Was Won And Where It Got Us

Describe what you want to be: Superman

Describe how you live: Gardening At Night

Describe how you love: Tongue

Share a few words of wisdom: Good Advices

I will admit that I had to look up a discography to find the song titles because half of my albums are still on cassette, and I haven't listened to them since I moved in with that high-tech-audiophile not-having-a-tape-player boyfriend of mine. I need to go to the record store and get them all on CD. Anyone want to come with?

Posted by dianna at 10:40 AM

May 18, 2004

Qwx: Lessons from history, in 1/16 scale

If we use the partitions for the new desks to make a big square box instead, and get the contractor to come back with his wheelbarrow of concrete and stop up the cracks, we can fill it with water. We can float FedEx boxes in the water and put up sails made of old, soft, tattered specification drawings rigged to document tube masts. Just haul on the long network cables dangling down from the ceiling to pull in the sail. I'm not sure about gangplanks and docks, but maybe we can roll out tubes of plotter paper to meet the ships as they sail up to the conference room table. The partition with the windows in it, next to the product library, can be inns and warehouses and brothels. Longshoremen can grunt and shout as they push and carry boxes and bales off of ships and through the wide cargo doors; buxom wenches can lean over their balconies to taunt and tempt the sailors staggering around with their flagons outside the taverns on the first floor.

It'll all work wonderfully as long as the government keeps its hands off. Let commerce go on, let the sailors and whores have their fun and let the innkeepers and merchants make their profits, and our tiny, landlocked harbor town will run smoothly with no more problems than a drunken fistfight here and there. Take a moderate tax, just enough to make the governors wealthy but not enough to make anybody lose their tempers. Trust me on this. Tax too much and the next thing you know, flames will be licking out the tiny windows of the inns and chewing up the paper gangplanks while the few honest citizens round up their children and head out of town.

If you stand on the table dock and squint against the orangey brightness, you'll see figures on the cardboard decks of the ships, pulling tea out of the cabinets in the office kitchen and throwing it all into the choppy water of our square harbor. First the Tetley, then the green, then the chamomile. After the flames are put out, tiny men in white wigs will sit in our tiny chamber of commerce with their heads in their hands. I'm not sure the city will ever be so prosperous again.

Posted by dianna at 11:34 AM

May 14, 2004

In other news...

My day was a pretty average one (remembered my spoon but forgot my Sanskrit book, was brilliantly efficient and telephonically brave at work and wished someone would notice, declined beer and tortilla chips with the office in favor of sundried tomatoes and crosswords at my desk, found out good news for camping trips but made myself late for lunch by hanging around to find it out), until I got home and checked my email.

Our Canadian roommate, whose employer sent him to Germany earlier this week for a trade show, discovered at some point after arriving that he wasn't supposed to leave the U.S. on his visa. He discovered this by having said visa confiscated and torn up as he watched with, I can only imagine, mouth agape. In order to come back here, he has to reapply for his visa. In order to do that, he needs assorted college and work paperwork.

The paperwork is currently in Berkeley.

He's currently in Ireland.

I'm no end of amused by this. It's totally turned my day around from mundane to hilarious and surreal. Best of all, it's not me to whom it's happening! I get all the amusement value of hilarious travel and immigration mishaps, with none of the being stuck in places I hadn't intended to stay! Karma's a bitch, I know, but sometimes the misfortunes of others really are delightful. Anyway, I have every intention of helping reunite him with his paperwork and visa. Perhaps that will save me from eternal damnation.

Posted by dianna at 07:27 PM

May 12, 2004


I'm at work, and I feel drunk. Unlike Kristen's delightful recent experiences drinking with her boss, though, this is a state of affairs which I can only assume is as unwelcome to everyone else as it is to me.

I woke up this morning under the profoundly mistaken impression that taking two Tylenol Cold tablets would be a good course of action to enhance my existing qualities of being awake, alive, upright and functioning. I remember cherishing the thought that such tablets would make my nose slightly less runny, thus greatly diminishing the dreaded postnasal drip which leads to the dreaded throat tickle, the dreaded cough and the dreaded lost voice. Two tablets, I said responsibly to myself, is the recommended dose for safe and effective temporary relief of the symptoms associated with the common cold, including runny nose and associated throat irritation. Two shall be the number thou shalt take, and the number of the taking shall be two. Best of all, I said to myself, they're non-drowsy. This wonderful quality of theirs will allow me to go about my day as my usual capable, alert self.

Somewhere in all of excellent planning I fell victim to a miscommunication between McNeill-PPC, Inc., the manufacturers of Tylenol Cold, and myself. "Dianna," they didn't tell me, "this product will make you feel woozy."

"Taking the recommended dosage of this product for safe and effective temporary relief of the symptoms of the common cold, including runny nose and associated throat irritation," they failed to specify, "will result in safe and effective temporary relief of the symptoms of the common cold as well as safe and effective temporary relief of your sense of balance, your normal reaction time, a certain percentage of your cerebral processing capacity and your control over the dilation of your pupils."

"You will," they failed to continue, "feel precisely as though you are under the influence of any of several recreational mind-altering substances, despite having sworn off of the substances in question several years ago. You'll be unstable on your feet and want to lay down, but you'll have too much energy to ever quite stop moving. You'll recognize the scenery around you, but feel as though it's unfamiliar and slightly distant. On the plus side, you'll be quite sure that your decision to stay recreationally in your right mind was the right thing to do. On the minus side, you'll be nonrecreationally out of your right mind for several hours whether you wanted to be or not."

As you may be able to tell, I've been writing this entry over the course of an hour or so and the medication is starting to wear off. I can't say I'll miss it. It was keeping me from comprehending my Sanskrit book, although I doubt I'll read much now with the new and intriguing distraction of people putting in concrete right in front of my desk. As someone just remarked, an entire architecture office all standing around watching concrete poured as though they've never seen it before is a pretty silly sight. But with drafting and typing to be done and clients and contractors to be wrangled, can you blame us?

Posted by dianna at 11:24 AM

May 11, 2004

It took some time, but my dreams have been realized.

I've finally managed to convince my office that I'm a harmless lunatic. Apparently, and this is good to know, being vegan and tattooed and wearing capacitor bracelets is perfectly normal behavior but studying mostly-dead languages at one's desk for fun is not.

My effort to become obscurely multilingual, or at least multiliterate (which is much more likely given that this is me I'm talking about), began today thanks to the combined efforts of and the US Postal Service. With their powers combined, they will be... an entity engaged in the business of delivering to me a copy of William Dwight Whitney's Sanskrit Grammar, 5th edition, first published 1924.

I've had my grubby mitts on the text in question for four and a half hours as of this writing, and already I find myself plunged into a torrid and giddy love affair with the Devanagari alphabet. It's gorgeous. It's weird. The basic unit of the written language is not the letter, which changes form depending on the surrounding letters, nor the word, which is freely abused by the writing conventions of joining final consonants with the initial vowels of the following words and omitting all spacing between words, but the syllable. The book idly exhibits an example of a Vedic verse translated, transliterated and divided into syllables as it would be written, and written in its natural form. I've been picking through it trying to identify the syllables and their components, scribbling clumsy characters and excited notes on a sheet of scratch paper when I figure out that, for instance, that neat little loop under the upturned L is a letter that's a little like "v" and when it's written with a right-facing hook above it it's a syllable like "rva". The short "a" sound is implied, and that tiny hook is a diminished form of the graceful sway that is an "r" standing alone.

I'm in heaven. It's like learning a secret code, but the letters are either architectural or alive. A word is a row of lean-to roofs holding each other up with tails and antennae poking out above and below. The dipthong "ai" gives a word delicately protruding limbs, while a long "a" gives it stability. When I recognized the curly tail of a "d" without consulting the alphabet chart, I got so excited that my scribbles took up half of the next line on the page.

I would continue, but I can't rhapsodize properly when someone's arguing with me about my plants. Please hold; all calls will be answered in the order they were received.

Posted by dianna at 06:38 PM

May 10, 2004

Measles, mumps and purple bumps.

I think, she said bravely, I'll probably survive.

In the scheme of not-feeling-well, I'm doing pretty well. In the scheme of feeling well and being at work, I'm sulking and my head hurts and my stomach is unhappy and my throat hurts and I feel generally somewhat dazed. Being at a sort-of-reassembled-but-not-really makeshift desk in the newly razed front corner of the office isn't helping, since it's loud with the wall gone and everything I'm used to having neatly arranged at my desk is now piled in a teetering and chaotic stack 4 feet to my left.

Dazed. Razed. Fazed. It would be great if I knew how this being-sick-and-not-at-work business works around here.

I suspect that finding out may be in my future.

Posted by dianna at 11:04 AM

May 06, 2004

Tomorrow is my birthday. So there.

I have people to bother, stacks of stuff to sort through, project materials to organize and lists to update, but my morning tea hasn't woken me up yet.

This provides me with a perfect opportunity to point out two things. One, I made something two nights ago. It was a ring. It was blue. It had two resistors on it, attached in a way I'd never thought of before. I wore it gleefully to work yesterday with a small and discreet assortment of color-coordinated things. It's a new era, a deceptively tasteful chapter in the history of mad hardware science. When my paycheck clears, I'm going to the hardware store to buy myself a pair of non-scratching round pliers and then the world had just damn well better look out.

Two, I know I posted a while back about billboard distribution in BART stations. Has anyone else noticed that Apple has purchased every single billboard in the Powell Street station for its iPod ad campaign? It's a row of black silhouettes against brightly colored backgrounds as far as the eye can see. On Monday I saw one billboard remaining for a housing complex in Hayward; after trying to see around inconveniently-placed trains for two days I've finally confirmed today that it's gone. We have achieved iPod uniformity. Buy or be assimilated.

It's ironic and strange given Apple's image in the computer world as the quirky minority competitor, the salmon to the PC/Microsoft stream. I am officially unnerved.

Posted by dianna at 10:39 AM

May 03, 2004


Today, while I sat in Dolores Park eating lunch, I watched a girl sitting near me trying to be sneaky about smoking pot. She was carefully watching to see when people were looking in her direction, and when they weren't she'd light a little tiny pipe and take a hit from it. It was pretty adorable the way she tried so hard to be unnoticeable, exactly as if her lighter weren't making a loud clicking noise that gave her away to everyone in the park.

Adorability notwithstanding, I have to say it was a terrible waste of nice air. You see, cities don't generally smell very good. It's just inherent in urban-ness. It's pretty inherent in suburban-ness as well, for that matter. City environments just smell like car exhaust and spoiled food and perfume and hot asphalt. It makes the air sub-optimal for breathing purposes, and San Francisco air is usually no exception.

Dolores Park air at noon on the first sunny, clear Monday in May, however, is an exception. It's green. It's warm. It's rich, and not in that week-old tuna kind of way. It's what you get when you crank up the heat and pull the photosynthesis lever over to "Turbo". It's air that drips out of the sky at 85 degrees Fahrenheit and settles down into the cool green grass, bounces around among the blades and comes back up feeling wiggly and alive. It's occasionally joined by stray whiffs of sugar and vanilla from the bakeries in the Mission, unless that's just coconut from the various tanning products being used by the sunbathers basking on their towels. Ahhhhh.

My boss complimented me on my logic today. Tomorrow I'm bringing homemade vegan banana bread to the office. Is it wrong to experiment with stimulus-response conditioning in the workplace?

Posted by dianna at 10:58 PM