July 29, 2004

Qwx: Ghouls.

I'm now a level 3 Zydeco Rogue. Jason, will you please play my Clifton Chenier album a few times in honor of my exalted status, since I'm not able to do so at the moment? Thank you.

Roommate Andrew and The Slightly Nicer Cat moved out last night. I saw their new apartment. It's quite lovely. It also contains the Hell Window, with which I'm morbidly fascinated. It's a small slice of evil which was not included in the apartment's excellent remodeling job, a dingy screened and slatted window compartment built for storing meat and other perishables in the cool outside air in the days before refrigeration. I can't quite do this justice. You open a latched panel on the inside and an ordinary white kitchen wall opens to reveal a dark, dirty, rusty 12-inch-deep prison where food can be isolated from the warmth and light of your home to stare gloomily through the bars and contemplate its miserable captivity, shivering in the howling winds and shrinking back from the grime accumulating in the corners.

Katie and Jacob and I spent the car ride home from the apartment speculating on whether the ghouls in the Hell Window will be able to escape and venture into the brightly lit kitchen. The panel latches on the kitchen side, but there is a small gap where they might just be able to stick a claw through to pull the latch open. If they have claws, that is. If there are ghouls, that is. But the Hell Window just speaks of ghouls in the same way that attics speak of spiders. If they're not there now, they will come. They might not initially have claws, but I can't help but imagine that anything that spends any time in the Hell Window will suffer a Gollum-like transition and grow fangs, scraggly hair, and, yes, claws.

Perhaps initially they'll merely be mournful and lost. They'll rattle the panel hinges hopefully, run their fingers along the wood looking for a knob, and cry softly for help. They'll find that there is no knob. They'll find that the hinges are sturdy and the latch is closed. They'll find that no one answers their crying. They'll be afraid, and hurt. They'll moan, they'll scratch at the latches, they'll pound on the wood. Their fingers will become callused. Their voices will become hoarse. Their limbs will become twisted from trying to squeeze out through the cracks in the panel. Their fear at being locked in will turn to vengeful anger. They'll chew on the wood with their fangs and wrench at the hinges with their long, raggedy nails. They'll howl and rage in the middle of the night. The panel will bulge outward under the force of their pushing and warp with their pulling and clawing.

Stronger latches will be required. Nail up plywood to reinforce the panel, bolt the hinges down, add chain locks and deadbolts. Worry that that won't quite be enough. Hang oak beams in brackets across the entire opening. Brick up that corner of the kitchen; wish you'd used reinforced concrete instead. Hear the scratching and scuffling while you make coffee in the morning. Lay in bed listening to the rattling against the backdrop of the nighttime stillness. Envy your neighbors in their peaceful sleep. Wonder why you didn't take the panel off its hinges, clean out the corners and banish the gloom before it was too late. You could have had flowers in there, violets, daffodils. The cat could have curled up there in the sunlight and fresh air, watching the hummingbirds flitting around the neighbor's morning glories: the very picture of a happy home. Shame, really.

Posted by dianna at 11:54 AM

July 28, 2004

You wake up back in the alley, stinking of Mad Train wine.

I'm going to do some ratings for things I've encountered this week a la The Book of Ratings. I don't give letter grades, though. I consider a scale of -5 to +5 to be much more illuminating.

Toast with vegan margarine and peanut butter: -5 Tasted good at first, in a disgustingly salty and gooey sort of way, then made me feel sick. Thoroughly inappropriate behavior for a breakfast food. Notes: whole wheat bread, Earth Balance, Whole Foods 365 peanut butter. Avoid this combination at all costs.

Kingdom of Loathing: +5 Jesus Christ, I'm in love. I'm a level 2 accordion thief (that's Mariachi Larcenist, to you) wearing knob goblin pants and brandishing a razor-sharp trash can lid given to me by Michele. I've also got the Dolphin King's crown and a nice big stack of meat. I'm saving for a meatsmithing hammer, because I'm ambitious that way.

Amateur electronics repair: both +4 and -4 Jacob was mocking me last night for cutting apart the cord on my beloved headphones and being unable to splice it back together properly. I spent hours trying to figure out how to get strange and arcane filaments to connect with one another, using methods including fire, knives, pouting and lots of electrical tape (it's because they're lacquered wires, by the way, not because I'm incompetent). 11:30 last night saw them working perfectly at last, to my great triumph; 8:45 this morning saw them cutting in and out as my connections failed, to my eternal shame.

Elastica: +5 Thanks to my moment of electronics glory and the resulting half-hour of perfectly good headphone sound reproduction, I was listening to Elastica's self-titled album this morning on BART. What the hell was I thinking, forgetting about this and letting it languish unlistened for 3 years? It's fucking fantastic. They're masters (mistresses?) of song-craft. They collectively hold the high honor of being the creators of the absolute best song about car sex ever written. Plus, they're British. I think I'd marry them all if it were legal.

Outsourced architectural services: -3 We got a fax this morning from an architectural engineering company in New Delhi, offering us the benefit of their additional manpower, in full communication with our US team, working while we sleep and all at very reasonable prices. They offer drafting, rendering, modeling, construction detailing, architectural design and planning... in short, all of the same services we offer. I've seen the rate sheets we attach to client contracts and know that our principal architect's work costs around $150 an hour; our project managers and assorted draftspeople range from $60 on up. Theirs start at $6 an hour and top out at $18. I can't slice that any way to make it look good. Maybe it's exchange rates, maybe it's cost of living, I hope it's not quality of life. $6 an hour can't be a living wage for a skilled professional without something being rotten somewhere along the line. It's disturbing.

Posted by dianna at 09:32 AM

July 23, 2004

Must remember.

Must remember to get lollipops tonight on way home. Must must must. Must remember to go to the ATM also. Must.

Lollipops. I'm totally going to forget this.

Posted by dianna at 10:58 AM

July 22, 2004

Holy guacamole!

Clients fucking rule.

This morning a fellow for whom we're building (I think) a condominium complex came in for a meeting with the owner of the office. They talked for a few hours about designs and themes and schemes and planning departments and all that good stuff. Then, on his way out, the client asked if he could borrow me to carry a few things in. I grabbed a nearby architect and we trotted out to the client's car to see what we were bringing in.

"12 people in your office?" he asked. Er... yes? "Plus families," he mused as he opened the trunk. "You can take some home."

Fruit. Did I say fruit? Nine boxes of meltingly ripe, delicious fresh fruit. Apparently he has ties to a ranch that can spare... 12 cartons of organic raspberries. Two giant crates of cantaloupe. 10 pounds of apricots and an equal number of cherries. Peaches. Blueberries (sorry, Katie). Tomatoes. They're stacked in a teetering, tempting pile in the front of the office because really, where else are we going to put them? We barely have room for our staff of 12 in our tiny office, and this is a stash of fruit that would have solved Napoleon's supply problems.

I'm doing my part to defuse the fruit crisis; let no one say that I'm not helping. I ate four giant slices of sweet, soft, ripe cantaloupe and I'm working on a plate of perfect golden cherries. I think there's something to be said for the idea of bringing a bag of peaches to the park for lunch instead of my leftover lasagna, although I do have to consider that I'll be spending the rest of the afternoon dealing with the wafting smell of sun-ripened heaven. I don't want to burn out on it too soon.

Jacob, I'll be bringing home a hell of a lot of fruit. Register your preferences now and I will select accordingly.

Posted by dianna at 12:01 PM

July 20, 2004

I can resist anything except temptation.

It's now 20 days into July, and my landlord hasn't deposited my rent check yet. I asked him at the beginning of the month to hold it until my paycheck cleared my bank, which sometimes takes a couple of days. I think I suggested the 6th as a good time to deposit it; he was fine with that.

Given the elapsed time, I now suspect that he set it aside somewhere and forgot about it. It's messing up my financial calculations a little bit; I know that I don't have $750 in my checking account no matter what my bank thinks, because most of it could get claimed by its rightful owner at any moment. It's a financial will-o'-the-wisp, an illusion that tries to lure me off the safety of the path even as I tell myself firmly that there's nothing out there but swamp and $100 of grocery money.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not enough of a fool to go spending that money; I know it's got alligators in it. The landlord, though--what do I say to him? He should really deposit that check if he's going to, so that my accounts will balance properly. I should call and remind him. But the tiny voice that thinks it saw lights behind those trees and talks about how the snakes are probably dormant at night anyway is pointing out that maybe, just maybe, if nobody reminds him he'll just forget about it and lose the check. And you do need that money to go back to school, Dianna. You could put it all right into your savings account.

Quicksand? There's no quicksand on this side of the swamp. Stop being so paranoid.

Posted by dianna at 11:05 AM

July 17, 2004

The perfect gift for the extra-large trash can in your life

I had a conversation last night with my sister which was so illuminating that I've decided to turn it into a public service announcement. The immediate subject of the conversation was a girl whom my sister met at SF Pride last month, whose behavior with regard to their romantic involvement or lack thereof has been baffling Katie completely. That is because, as far as I can see, this girl may as well be a carbon copy of me. Hence the following helpful reference manual:

Notes For The Care And Feeding Of Your Co-Dependent

  1. There are, in fact, people in the world for whom friends-with-benefits is not a workable relationship model.
  2. They don't necessarily know that.
  3. Even if they do know that, that does not necessarily dissuade them from becoming involved with people for whom FWB (friends-with-benefits) is the preferred relationship model.
  4. They may be so reasonable and accommodating as to try to put their preferences aside and fit into the FWB model preferred by the people with whom they are becoming involved.
  5. This is not a remotely good idea.
  1. If someone who really feels the need for an emotionally involved relationship attempts to meet you (the FWB type) halfway and try a casual involvement, it is probably because this person has already fallen for you, pinned his or her hopes of fairy-tale love on you, and is now settling for what he or she can get with you in the hopes that it will eventually get better for him or her.
  2. Better in this context means happily ever after.
  3. If that's not going to happen, you will need to be offensively blunt in order to make that point understood.
  4. It will probably be misunderstood anyway if you express interest in continued casual involvement.
  5. This is probably not because Mr. or Ms. Cinderella is an immature drama queen who doesn't know how to handle adult relationships.
  6. I mean, it might be. But not necessarily.
  7. This is probably also not because you have been unclear about your own desires.
  8. It's a fundamental problem of preferences. You could think of it like a sexual orientation; if your partner is wired for True Love, it won't matter how attractive you make your Friends With Benefits setup because it's still not compatible.
  9. Do not believe Cinderella if he or she says that he or she can be okay with the aforementioned incompatible setup.
  10. He or she may try damned hard to be okay with it.
  11. What that will actually entail for him or her is hanging around as your fuckbuddy against his or her better judgment, hoping for you to fall reciprocally madly in love with him or her which you will not be intending to do.
  12. That madly-in-love-ness is a form of emotional support which Cinderella craves; the hope that it is soon forthcoming is a substitute which will suffice for a while.
  13. It isn't going to suffice all that well. Cinderella will probably feel vaguely abandoned and you will probably feel vaguely suffocated by his or her hopeful and/or unintentional angling for more of a relationship.
  14. Eventually that will get to the point where one, or both, of you will decide you've had it and can't deal with this anymore.
  15. Think carefully about how Cinderella will feel at this point, having hung around like a kicked puppy trying to do things your way and never getting what he or she wanted back from you.
  16. Shitty.
  17. REALLY shitty.
  18. Angry and ashamed and generally suckered.
  19. Cinderella will think of you as the biggest asshole in the world, not necessarily because you are the biggest asshole in the world but because thinking of you as the biggest asshole distracts Cinderella from thinking of him/herself as the biggest idiot.
  20. That isn't going to be very good for your chances of maintaining an amicable platonic relationship, if that's what you want to maintain.
  21. If you had had this list in front of you, and acted upon it, somewhere around #5, you would have had the opportunity to recognize what was going on and prevent Cinderella from doing Thing #16.
  22. You know, the shitty one.
  23. If Cinderella hadn't done Thing #16, he or she would have much less reason to be angry and embarrassed and suckered and hate you and hate him/herself.
  24. That might allow you to actually remain friends, or at least friendly, instead of bitter and antagonistic.
  25. That would be a good thing.
  26. You shoulda done it.

My sister read this list and posed the excellent and slightly plaintive question, "Why does your scenario call for me to be the bigger person here and not her?" I considered it for a moment and decided that whoever has a talk with her sister and thereby acquires an understanding of the other person's point of view is the one who has to do the inevitable breaky-up thing because the other person hasn't figured out that it's inevitable yet (well, or they could give in and have a relationship, which of course sounds better from where I'm standing). Also, the magic of perspective makes it much easier for me to rant about what I wish those non-committal types would do differently than to figure out what those emotionally needy types should do differently.

In any event, Katie will be composing a similar instruction manual, for the care and feeding of your commitment-shunner, in response to this one. Look for it either in her journal or here; I'll probably add it to this entry when she does get it written. Until then I will be gloriously, self-indulgently one-sided. Ha.

p.s. The title of this entry is not related to the topic at hand. It's merely something that had me doubled over laughing at work when I found it in the Office Depot catalog.

Posted by dianna at 05:54 PM

July 16, 2004

Bitch bitch whine whine winge moan

Sunday: visit from Erik, Berkeley, home at 11 and bed at 12. Up at 6:45.
Monday: murder mystery, SF, home after 11 and bed at 12. Up at 6:45.
Tuesday: gardening, front yard, dinner started at 10 and bed at 11:45. Up at 7.
Wednesday: baking bread, kitchen, finished at 12 and bed at 12:30. Up at 6:30.
Thursday: Straylight Run concert, SF, home after 11 and bed at 12:30. Up at 6:45.

Next week I'm staying in my damn house and going to bed at 9:00 every night. I don't take enough stimulants to handle this.

Posted by dianna at 09:43 AM

July 15, 2004

Naturally delicious

We've really let our front garden go to hell in the last few months. The sage has gone feral; it sits on the sidewalk hissing and menacing passersby. It's been trying to mark the neighbor's yard as its territory, and will probably succeed soon if not re-tamed. We hacked out some brush last year to let the rosemary have some breathing room, but now it and its sneaky purple-flowered friend are making moves on the lavender bushes with their creeping tendril things. Not that the lavender is entirely blameless, mind you, not when it's eaten up one gazania and is already reaching for the others.

The backyard's no polite tea-party either, of course. The nasturtiums are creeping over from next door and squeezing through the fence. They would stay out if the ivy would only stick to the fence, but the ivy can't be bothered to stick when it can stretch out across the ground and head for the grass instead. Perhaps it could take a lesson from the blackberry vines, which are happy to stick to the apricot tree, the cottage roof, Katie's sweet peas, the other fence, that spiky plant with the red flowers, and the obscene potato-sunflower union going on in the brick planter. I was hoping to get the suntatos into therapy to get them straightened out as soon as possible, but maybe we should give the whole thing up and just grow a bumper crop of blackberry brambles instead.

In defiance of such fatalism, Jacob and I spent an hour on Tuesday evening planting iceplant and festuca, digging out the ghosts of garbanzos past, and battling back the invading sage forces with clippers (because in the absence of a good sharp broadsword you have to use whatever weapon you can find). The front yard is looking much better already, but I'm paying the price in mosquito bites. I counted five this morning, all itching like crazy. It was only last week that my bites from the Trinity trip stopped itching, and now this? Apparently I'm the fancy feast of choice for the discerning mosquito, and now everybody from here to the Oregon border knows it.

It's nice to be appreciated, but couldn't they just send flowers next time?

Posted by dianna at 11:02 AM

July 13, 2004

The principle of ATMsa

I went looking yesterday for a co-op network ATM near my work, in the hopes of evading transaction fees from my jealous and inconvenient credit union. This led me to a mini-mart containing some kind of leased ATM thing affiliated with a financial institution I'd never heard of before.

As I was putting in my card, I noticed that the label on the machine said samsarATM. What, really? The endless cycle of death and rebirth, from a banking machine?

It charged me a transaction fee anyway. I'm not sure what that means. Perhaps it's a symbolic (or financial) death, which requires me to be reborn as a customer at a different ATM next time.

Posted by dianna at 12:01 PM

July 12, 2004

From the Denotation-Versus-Connotation Files

I just found an advertising postcard in today's stack of mail. We get these all the time, and for good reason; any company that can talk us into putting their products in one of our projects has just made a massively good sale for itself and earned back the cost of the fancy color postcards a thousand times over. This particular company is trying to sell us on some lovely window films for safety, aesthetic effect and thermal control. They've showcased a few products in particular on the postcard, with brief descriptions of their fantastic qualities. Scotchtint Solar Control Film, for instance, reduces solar gain and winter heat loss. Then we get to Scotchshield Ultra Security Film.

"Contains broken glass for safety and security!" the postcard enthuses. I stared at it in sheer disbelief for several minutes before realizing that this was meant to describe the product's function, rather than its ingredients. Now--improved! With aloe for moisturizing action, and broken glass for safety and security! Buy yours today.

Posted by dianna at 02:19 PM

July 09, 2004

Qwx: Baby baby

I glanced up this morning and found myself looking at a girl. She was a hippie princess, gleeful and girly, almost hidden behind a tumble of coppery-brown curls that faded gently to sunny gold at her shoulders. When she saw me staring, she smiled shyly and stared back. Her smile pulled her eyes into slits that twinkled at me from between dark eyelashes. I looked at her, she looked at me, and she was beautiful. She showed her teeth like a little kid in a school picture, saucy, embarrassed, giddy, decades too young for her nice pants and sensible shoes.

Posted by dianna at 03:09 PM

July 08, 2004

That wasn't a review, that was a fucking mole burrito!

Hands up, everyone reading this who's ever had a vegan tofu molé burrito.


Oh, sorry, that's just me. My immediate boss and I went to Papalote, the brightly-colored Mexican grill at 24th and Valencia, and had a fantastically delicious lunch while chatting about food, camping, hippies, and the Pacific Northwest. Oh, and skiing. And Vancouver, Washington. Half an hour after returning to the office, we were still talking about how good the burritos were.

Also, I'm staying here for another year or two and I'm getting a raise effective today. I've done a fantastic job. The office is quite fortunate to have me.

(Exeunt Dianna, grinning like an idiot.)

Posted by dianna at 03:05 PM

Nothing that a $1,000 prescription couldn't fix.

I sometimes wonder if I have anxiety issues. Rather, I'm pretty certain that I have anxiety issues and I sometimes wonder if they're more serious than I give them credit for. On a related note, I've decided to finally create categories to classify my blog entries and this entry is going in Neuroses.

I have a three-month employment review today. My immediate boss is taking me to lunch at a tasty Mexican restaurant in the neighborhood and we're going to talk about, as she puts it, my future here. To stay until September as a temporary employee? To stay longer as a permanent employee? This is the question.

As I may have mentioned, my immediate boss is a very friendly and casual person. She's not particularly intimidating. I'm fairly certain that we'll be having a pleasant lunch conversation rather than a terrifying military tribunal. She's complimented me frequently on my logic, attention to detail and half a dozen other qualities one might desire in an administrative assistant, so I very much doubt that I'll get any nasty surprises along the lines of, "You're terrible and we don't want you here anymore." I've already decided that if her idea of permanent employment meshes with my idea of a couple of years before going back to school, I'll happily stay.

One might wonder, then, precisely why I'm so damned nervous. I'm getting jittery halfway through my cup of tea, which is a sure and familiar sign that what's bothering me is not the caffeine but the nervousness. Oh, and I had a dream two nights ago that I went in to work but spent the whole day in my bedroom listening to music instead of at my desk working, realizing at the end of the day that I shouldn't have done that and I was going to be in a world of trouble. Thank you, Mister Subconscious. Thank you so very much.

Posted by dianna at 10:18 AM

July 07, 2004

Creativity is everything.

I've decided to make a concerted effort to improve the quality of my swearing. Quantity really hasn't been a problem for me, so I think it's about time that I turn my attentions from expanding my profanity business to refining my product line.

For example, if I were satisfied with my previous uncreative approach, I might discover my pen missing and say, "Oh shit, where's my pen?" Functional, effective, but hardly exciting.

Moments ago, someone passed by my desk and walked away with the pen I'd just been using, and I'm delighted to say that the first words to pop into my head were, "Blast and hellfire! Pen thievery!"

I'm expecting to put this to good use in the next 24 hours as I look forward to my 3-month employment review.

Posted by dianna at 11:07 AM

July 06, 2004

Charming and lovely.

There's a 60-ish, grizzled, codgery sort of man who appears out of nowhere every day during lunchtime and walks very slowly from one end of Dolores Park to the other. He leans heavily on his cane as he hobbles up 20th Street to Church, stopping to say something to everyone he passes. He asks the dog-walkers with their handfuls of seven leashes if they have any dogs to spare. He compliments me on my choice of sitting spot. He congratulates me on having ice cream, even when what I actually have is a granola bar. The first time I saw him he said, and I quote, "This is the last time I'll show up when you invite me to lunch! You've et it all up already!"

He actually used the word "et". I stared at him like he'd grown an extra head, he repeated himself, I continued to stare, and eventually we both grinned sheepishly at each other and continued about our respective tasks.

Today he walked slowly up 20th Street toward me, and I turned around and smiled at him as he approached. He told me I'd picked a beautiful spot to have lunch, and I wholeheartedly agreed. He stopped walking for a moment and looked out over the city. "I used to live along here in the Fifties," he told me, "and I'd cut across this park on the way to third grade." He looked nostalgic for a moment.

"Anyway, no one used it back then. Now you see people here on the weekends, all the time." I looked around at the sunbathers and nodded. "I don't blame them," I said. "It's a beautiful park."

He paused for a moment. "The name on all the city maps is Mission Dolores Park," he stated, then hobbled slowly up to the corner and disappeared into a MUNI bus.

Posted by dianna at 04:29 PM

July 01, 2004

Drugs? No, he's addicted to product samples.

This is the blog of unrelenting positivity. Honest, it is. This entry has been heavily edited for failing to live up to our standards of saying nothing but nice things about absolutely everyone, but the following snideness has remained despite our best efforts to reprogram it.

Public service announcement: the English language counts at least 7 punctuation marks that can be legitimately used in common sentences. The most common, I believe, are commas and periods. Others are less general and should be used carefully; semicolons should be counted among these (as should parentheses). One in particular requires caution for correct use: the colon. Another--my personal favorite, the em dash--is easy to use but tricky to space correctly. Lastly, who could forget the question mark?

There's no excuse for writing an entire entry using only ellipses. The many Internet users who do so should be collectively forced to re-attend elementary school English class.

Posted by dianna at 04:36 PM