December 30, 2004

Qwx: The vessel with the pestle holds the pellet with the poison.

I used to live with someone who was the most sweetly, fantastically strange human being I've ever known. His name was Michael. He wrote convoluted abstract poetry that wandered all over several sheets of paper, and posted it in bathroom stalls for people to consider. I spent a week of pee breaks debating with myself about a word in one of these poems, which a footnote insisted was in Aramaic street slang but which I eventually decided he absolutely must have made up. I never asked him if he had, because if he was ballsy enough or addled enough to claim to know Aramaic street slang then he would certainly be ballsy enough or addled enough to convince me that he really did know it.

When there was an open mic night in the house, Michael would get drunk on boxed wine and stand up to read his work with a pen held between two fingers like a cigarette. After a few lines he'd have to stop and explain that now the words were starting from the other side of the page, see, okay, now it kind of goes like this, and he'd get distracted and have to take a break to smoke his pen. Once he got so caught up in trying to describe what he was looking at on the piece of paper that I think he actually stopped speaking English. Another house member had to take the paper from him, finish reading it, and lead him back to the couch where he sat and giggled for the rest of the night.

I was thinking of him earlier today, after reading an interview with Morrissey and finding something extremely familiar in the spontaneous self-contradictions and stylish surrealism. I googled Michael's name and didn't come up with much: just a frame from his acting/directing masterpiece, The Sentimental Education of Gustav von Thunderpony, posted without elaboration on a page created by another former housemate. She also posted this out-of-focus snapshot of people cuddling on the house couch, which is what's really captured my attention. I recognize three of the people in the picture straight off the bat and can guess who the fourth might be. I recognize the couch, and the lazy, tangled group hug that could have meant "bedtime" or "soap operas" or "too many margaritas to stand up".

Only now, of course, when I live in a nice quiet house with my one boyfriend and two cats, could I possibly miss living with a shifting cast of 40 drug-obsessed, self-absorbed, perpetually helpless and artistically unhinged layabouts who'd race each other to come up with the next preposterously impractical harebrained idea just to have an excuse to stay on that couch and talk about it instead of getting up and entering the world of school and work and showers and meals. So, now that I'm here and not there, I can tell you: I miss it like hell.

Posted by dianna at 10:22 PM

December 27, 2004

December 27, 2004: waterproof.

It's been raining steadily since I woke up at 2:00. That makes today a perfect day to try out the new boot-waterproofing goo I bought yesterday, so about half an hour ago I sat down and started dabbing and spreading. I put two coats on each boot and then headed to the sink to wash the stuff off of my hands, which was when I discovered what an amazingly effective product I'd found.

  • It waterproofed my boots.
  • It waterproofed the sponge I was using to spread it (a waterproof sponge ranks among the 16 most hilarious things in my personal universe).
  • It waterproofed my left hand.
  • When I started rubbing soap and hot water around to wash, it waterproofed my right hand too.
  • It waterproofed the towel I used to dry my hands after giving up on getting unwaterproofed.

So. All of this was accomplished with maybe 1/5 of an ounce of REI brand Ultra-Seal Silicone Waterproofing Treatment. My purchase yesterday was 2 jars of the stuff at 4 ounces each, for a total of about 40 times what I just used. The question now is, what will I do with the rest?

  • Waterproof the cats.
  • Waterproof the porch rocker.
  • Waterproof the outside of my house.
  • Waterproof my books so I can read them in the shower.
  • Waterproof myself and go play in the rain.

Posted by dianna at 04:03 PM

December 21, 2004

Things I think I've learned today

1. To make a major chord you need the root note, its fourth, and its seventh*.
2. To make a minor chord you need the root note, its third, and its seventh*.
3. The opening riff from "Today" by the Smashing Pumpkins is played on the E and B strings between the 11th and 15th frets.

4. The nice hot cup of soothing mint tea that you forgot about when you started dicking around with items 1 through 3 will be stone cold and quite unappetizing by the time you remember that it exists.

I survived my trip to L.A., albeit with a nasty head cold that I think was only made worse by the dry air down there. Lovely visit, vegan lasagna, ridiculously cute cousins, no longer being able to say that my boyfriend of almost three years has never met my parents, card games, beer, lots of driving and sitting and wondering why the expected hostility and social tension was failing to materialize. I've concluded that I'm good at giving my parents either too little credit or too much credit, and I'm terrible at actually predicting what they'll be like.

I brought back my guitar, my lovely shiny blue Strat which has spent the years of my absence playing surf gigs in Huntington Beach. I can't decide whether to find myself another guitar teacher who will determinedly assign me complicated jazz songs that I've never heard and will never practice, or to fool around with my leftover stack of chord books and sheet music and see if pretty sounds eventually start happening. Lessons are expensive, but it's dangerous to leave forgotten cups of tea lying around where the cats can get into them. It's a terrible dilemma.

*Footnote: per Chris' comments below, I've given myself the assignment of writing "I will not use musical terms if I'm not sure I know what they mean," 100 times on a piece of paper and then burning it in offering to the gods of music theory. Or I might skip the second step and just recycle it instead.

Posted by dianna at 04:04 PM

December 17, 2004

Just one sentence.

Clients, developers, and franchise directors are all people who should be forbidden by law from walking unannounced into architectural offices 45 minutes early for scheduled meetings.

Posted by dianna at 09:27 AM

December 15, 2004

Jesus Christ, again with the stems?

A girl sitting in front of me on the BART was reading Marie Claire magazine this evening and I found myself casting frequent surreptitious glances at it over her shoulder. I haven't subscribed to any beauty magazines since I was in high school, so they hold the combined fascination of the unseen and the generally insipid. I can't not look.

One page which caught my attention contained a woman in a colored box labeled "Size 8". Yeah, and? I thought, trying to get a better look. She was pretty cute, with long dark hair and dramatic smoky eyes. I craned my neck to see the rest of the article and noticed that, in fact, it was a piece on the emerging recognition of plus-size beauty. Ah. Oh? I suppose so. The woman in the picture was dressed in the classic plus-size-model outfit: the long-sleeved knee-length dress with a plunging neckline, paired with some nice tall stilettos. You have to cover up those flabby arms and elongate those chunky legs, after all, and you may as well call as much attention to the saving-grace cleavage as you can. It wasn't a terribly flattering look on this particular woman, but in her size she should just be glad she didn't look worse. Right? Of course. It's nice to see such large women pictured in beauty magazines at all.

In that spirit, here are some pictures of a fat and sassy size 8 woman showing off her social-norm-defying body. Shake that chunk, sistah!

post-1.jpg post-2.jpg post-3.jpg

Posted by dianna at 06:35 PM

December 14, 2004

Do the bald, do the bald, do the bald

I've been trying for ages now to get an appointment with that girl who cuts my hair. I don't know why I keep going to her, since she doesn't do a very good job. It's always uneven and kind of choppy, but not in that stylishly-blunt kind of way. It's like she just takes the scissors and hacks randomly until she feels a sense of completion. The artistic temperament's approach to haircutting, maybe. And she's moody and hard to get ahold of and she never ever ever wants to see me. I've been telling her my hair needs cutting for probably three months and she keeps telling me she'll do it later. Later later later. It's not like she even has to come up with small talk to make with me while she's cutting my hair; she just puts on music and doesn't say a word until she's done with it. At least it's good music, I guess.

I finally got an appointment with her today, on absolutely no notice. I came home and found out she was available right then, so I scrambled to make it before she changed her mind. She did as crappy a job as she ever does; my hair's shorter than I wanted it and the layers are messy AGAIN. It's a good thing I have curly hair so the mistakes don't show. Man, after four years of this you'd think I'd find a new haircutter. It just goes to show you how much I'll put up with for the sake of good prices.

For those of you not getting the joke, I cut my own hair. It's fun. You should try it sometime, but if you care a whole lot about how it turns out, you might want to have a real haircutter on emergency call.

Posted by dianna at 07:21 PM

Herbie doesn't like to make toys.

Peanuts. Tofu. Broccoli. It sounds like a stir-fry, but you're not going to stir-fry it so don't even fool yourself. Just take them out of the fridge and eat them raw. Take your vitamin. Drink some water, go put on a sweater, curl up on the couch and take a nap. It doesn't sound like a stir-fry now, does it? Pay your credit card bill so you don't get another late fine. Yes, I mean now. Do it. Re-read a Pratchett book. Put away the candy and chocolate from the office potluck and don't even touch it; you've had enough caffeine and sugar for this week already, and it's only Monday. You have four days of work, then three days of visiting family, then three more days of work, and then you can sleep all day and skip meals and freak out and slouch in your desk chair playing Mah-Jong until it's 2005.

If I'm talking to myself like this, it must be December.

Posted by dianna at 09:49 AM

December 12, 2004

Here's an entry that will never see the light of day.

Wherein Dianna makes a liar out of herself by actually posting the entry she wrote on Friday night, despite her original intention to let it languish indefinitely as a somewhat embarrassing draft.

Occasionally, I have the unspeakable audacity to leave my house in a skirt. To compound the egregiousness of this act, I sometimes make it a short skirt -- short by my standards, that is, meaning knee-length or slightly below. With my chosen footwear coming up almost to mid-calf, that leaves 8-10 inches of each leg brashly exposed to the elements and the tender mercies of the general population. The general population rarely comments directly on my questionable decision to uncover such a large swath of my lower half, but periods of leg exposure are remarkably accurate indicators of when the general population will feel inclined to comment on the sheer fact of my existence.

This makes me both livid and terrified. There's a kind of strange reason why, and I just figured it out today.

Here's the thing: I don't really consider myself conventionally attractive. I definitely don't consider my face conventionally attractive; I have a large, beaky nose and rampant acne that I don't find remotely pretty. My legs, on the other hand, I find downright dazzling. So why should I be so upset that people ignore me most of the time but comment when my most appealing feature is apparent? They're only acting exactly as I'd expect them to, after all.

It's something like this, I guess: a guy (because the majority of people calling me "sunshine" and whistling at me across the street are guys) who'll hit on a pretty girl is something average and unsurprising. He could be paying attention to anything about her, really: her eyes, her smile, the tone of her voice, anything, because it's all lovely enough to warrant it. A guy who'll hit on an ugly girl because she's got nice legs is something creepy and different. Suddenly the come-on sounds singlemindedly sexual and uncomfortably objectifying; it's not a spontaneous "you're nice to look at" but an analytical "you're not nice to look at but the legs might be worth it". When you believe that everyone who's looking is watching your body and ignoring your face, every admirer is a rapist and every comment is a threat.

So we come to today, when I spent the afternoon running errands in what happened to be a skirt. Eventually I found myself on Shattuck Avenue after dark, crossing the street to escape the sound of someone angrily asking if it was so damned terrible that he'd called out and waved to me. Yes, of course it's so terrible. That's why I gave you that irritated look and walked away so quickly, and now we come to the real problem. You may very well have been innocently flattering me -- I'm willing to believe that in the dark you saw flowing hair and a confident stride instead of a regrettable face and nice gams -- but now you're pissed off. Now I'm not a briefly-noticed and appealing passerby, but a stuck-up bitch whose attitude you're apparently spending some time contemplating. Did I do that? It would seem that I did. Did I just increase the amount of my personal danger tenfold? It's entirely possible. Next time, will I instead smile sweetly and wave and take it as a compliment?

I will not, because the absolute last thing I want to do is encourage something that always feels like a creepy and demanding act of aggression. So instead I think I'll walk around making turned-on strangers angry, because lord knows that's a safe thing to do.

Posted by dianna at 09:41 AM

December 10, 2004

Life revolving around a bean.

Today's a half day, there are ten minutes left before it's time for me to go home, and I'm shamelessly playing Java games on the admin desk computer. So? There's only one architect here right now, floating around in his own world of unworkable dimensions and obscure bathroom fixtures, and no one seems to have any pressing need to call us.

I've written myself a list of six things to do with my afternoon off, and looking over it I can see that three of them have to do with chocolate. What, you expected the bean in question to be coffee? Soy? The bag of split peas sitting at home waiting to be made into soup?


Posted by dianna at 01:02 PM

December 08, 2004

Let's be specific here.

Jacob and I watched Sleepy Hollow last night. It's a Burton/Elfman film, it's got Johnny Depp, and a quick glance at the DVD case confirms that it's both stylish and strange. You can hardly go wrong with qualities like that, but on the other hand, it's also described as a "classic tale of horror". That bears careful checking, so I interrogated Jacob about it.

He described it as fun, creepy, okay, wait, not really creepy, I mean, there's a headless guy, it's a ghost story, right? There are some kind of "boo" moments. Fun, though, really. Fun! Come on, there are gadgets! I shone gestapo lights in his eyes and asked him if he thought it was creepier than Donnie Darko, to which he replied that Donnie Darko is pretty creepy but no, no way, Sleepy Hollow isn't any worse than that.

Is it obvious where this is going? We watched it and I went to sleep and had gory, unsettling dreams. I woke up at 3:30 and spent an hour trying to simultaneously keep my back to Jacob, keep my eyes open, think about things that didn't involve the words "severed" and "bloody", and ignore all the little sounds of it being 3:30 on a rainy night in an 80-year-old house with two wakeful cats and one sleeping human. Thump. Creeeaaaaak. Jingle. Drip. Drip. Drip. Exhale. Thump. It was a treasure trove of sound effects for the murderous-equestrian-ghost specialist.

There has to be some kind of reference scale that can be used to reliably predict whether Dianna can handle a given movie. Perhaps I can make a formula with variables describing gore, startlement, supernaturalness, and slow creeping horror. When G=4 and S=3, SN and SCH must be less than or equal to 2 or nightmares will ensue? G + S^2 + SN^3 + SCH^3 cannot exceed 30? That one might actually work. On the one hand you have, let's say, Finding Nemo, with all four variables approximating zero and Dianna calm and happy. On the other, you have The Ring, with all four variables needing to be expressed with double digits and Dianna refusing to sleep for a week. In between you have varying degrees of crime flicks and spook stories that sit on the line described by the equation and only pass into unacceptability when one characteristic spikes unexpectedly.

Math: it beats having nightmares.

Posted by dianna at 10:56 AM

December 06, 2004

Good professional relationships are essential.

I know I've scoffed before at the falsity and excess of the corporate holiday season. People send out extravagant overpriced gift baskets to other people who are already up to their eyeballs in chocolates and Dijon mustard, and half of it goes to shooting the hell out of people's regular nutrition while the other half goes bad and gets thrown away. I've probably sworn up and down that people only send out these things during the holiday season because of a combination of guilt and one-upmanship (what if they send something and we don't? We might look bad!) and inability to resist advertising (Godiva says it's the season for giving $35 truffles, and who are we to say otherwise?) and it's all quite unnecessary and irritating.

While that's all undeniably true, you won't hear me saying it for a while. Not because I've become a sucker for it myself -- no, no, perish the thought -- but because my mouth is too full of spiced toffee peanuts and jelly beans to speak out very clearly. Our printing company brought us a stuffed-to-bursting treat basket today, as a polite and heartfelt way of saying, "Shit, man, you've given us $100,000 of business this year. Don't you guys ever stop?"

Posted by dianna at 02:15 PM

December 03, 2004

Qwx: We want cock.

"We want caulk," said the owner, poring over a drawing with two of the architects. "They just want to have this butt right up against here, but we want caulk."
"Yeah, definitely caulk."
"We're okay with that?"
"Yeah, I feel fine about it. This screw is better than that other one. It'll work with caulk."

Architecture, like everything else, is more fun when you're immature about it. You should have seen me the day I had to copy notes about erection aids.

Posted by dianna at 01:51 PM

December 01, 2004

If you can't lick 'em, join 'em.

Since I am unlikely to find myself licking Erik any time soon, I will instead throw my hands skyward and join Operation: God Jul. For those of you lacking in Scandinavian heritage and/or Swedish language instruction, that's Operation: Merry Christmas.

The occasional Canadian architect walked in the door this morning and excitedly announced, "It's December! Time to put up the Christmas tree!" It sounded better than project filing, so I shrugged and started hauling boxes down the rickety metal stairs from the office's tiny mezzanine. The tree came first and exploded into piles of plastic branches all over the admin desk while I puzzled over the instructions. Let's see, there's one set of instructions for the base, another set for the top, where's the set for the middle? Which branches go where? Do they think I'm a mind reader? and so on.

These were the thoughts going through my head when it crept over me that something had changed in the office. I felt... relaxed. Gleeful? I popped a branch into place, twisted a few wires to spread out the taffeta needles, stepped back and thought to myself that it looked pretty good. It would look better, of course, laden with lights and ornaments and tinsel and lit up and twinkling softly on and off and on and off while the gentle plink of a piano playing a warm jazz version of "O Tanenbaum" wafted through the air.... that was it. Someone had found, and started playing, the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas. I was lost.

I put the tree smack inside the front door, sitting on a five-foot vertical file with two large papier-mache reindeer nestled under it. The best word for it is inescapable: walk into the office and you will get Christmassed. I opened a box of decorations and found two big glittery silver stars mounted on 6" wands, which I stuck in my hair like big shiny antennae and wore all day. I handed out names for the Secret Santa gift exchange. I advised people on their contributions to the office holiday potluck.

Cockles? Warmed. There may yet be time for me to regain my sullen nonparticipation before the holiday season is over, but then, there may not. If there's not, we may yet get to see what happens when Dianna tries to explain the "Is this not a Christmas tree?" song to people who've never heard it.

Posted by dianna at 06:28 PM