April 29, 2005

I hate modernists, I hate modernists, I hate modernists.

I, Dianna Woolsey, firmly believe that:

  1. The appeal of severe right angles and flat planes is grossly overrated;
  2. Efficiency and beauty are not inherently the same thing;
  3. Conventional ornamentation is not a crime;
  4. The shapes that appeal to people's existing notions of things like "building" and "chair" do so for a reason;
  5. It's 2005 and you're all fucking yuppies who couldn't care less about the economy of mass-production or the social ramifications of making design widely available, and your $800 square glass table has shit-all to do with modernism anyway;
  6. The people responsible for turning a midcentury California bungalow into this eyesore should be fired. Yes, fired, from the company that I think they own. I found this in the latest issue of Architectural Record that just came into the office and it makes my blood boil. The print article included some pictures of the original bungalow, showing it as a 650-square-foot stucco house with a shady porch, sitting quietly in the middle of its lot with room to breathe on all sides. The new version, as you can see, is a massive weird box (sorry, a casual and funky home) that looms into its neighbors' space and shoves its huge windows into everyone's faces (sorry, it's breezy and airy and brilliantly merges inside and outside). It's antisocial and self-indulgent and deliberately attention-grabbing, and the architects have the nerve to say that what they've done is give the house a new look without changing its essential character unless of course you count tripling its square footage and redoing every visible surface in a new shape and material as changing it.

Total crap, you guys. Cut it out.

Posted by dianna at 11:26 AM

April 27, 2005

Undead! Undead!

An architect asked me this morning to look for an old title document from one of our long-running projects. Since he wasn't totally sure where it might be, this meant flipping through a big stack of 3-ring binders full of memos and reports and sketches. This is the sort of task that I don't mind being asked to do; I have a strange and somewhat embarrassing love of busywork. I riffled happily through the rumpled pages, absent-mindedly reading sentences as they caught my eye. This is the part I particularly enjoy: free education, in more detail than I ever thought possible, about the mechanics of laying out a bathroom and how to negotiate road improvements with picky city planners. I'm easily entertained by the minutiae of consulting relationships.

It was with great joy, therefore, that I found myself reading a letter of complaint about the sub-par work of X Y, employee of Z Subcontractor. He's been holding up the work, I learned, and failing to respond to requests for adjustments in his drawings. Worse, "he refused to acknowledge RFI* #13 because it's 'unlucky'." This threw off communication between us, his employer, our consultants and the other subcontractors because we had to rename all of our subsequent RFIs to specifically exclude the number 13.

This guy is my hero. Real people don't do things like that. Snarky essayists write about doing things like that and we all giggle delightedly while being totally sure that they made it up. I'm utterly entranced.

*RFI: Request For Information, a formal request by a contractor for the architect to clarify a particular item in his drawings or specifications.

Posted by dianna at 04:24 PM

April 25, 2005

From zero to itchy in 172800 seconds.

I was told on Friday, for the second time in my life, that I have good skin for tattooing. Since I've spent several years speculating on what that might actually mean, I had to ask for an explanation. Apparently it means that while some people have rubbery skin that pulls at the needle and makes lines come out looking wiggly, I have -- here antonyms eluded everyone present -- something different. Non-wiggly lines means not having to go back over them to even them out, which makes things go faster and turn out neater. This is joy for everyone, right? You betcha. Less pain, less time, less money, less annoyance. Less scabbing, less scarring, fewer days of hurty showers. My new outlines are feeling almost like normal skin already except for one thing.

My back itches like crazy and I can't scratch it. Some of it's new-tattoo itch: the tiny tiny light scabs are already drying up and they feel prickly. Some of it's just the usual sort of tickly-shirt general random itching. The rest of it is a bloody-minded rebellion by five square feet of my skin only because I know I can't fucking scratch it! Yesterday I told myself I could still scratch the right side of my back, since there weren't any lines there. When a spot above my right hip itched I scratched it... then a little further up... then a little to the left... and discovered, to my utter astonishment, my fingernails poised directly over the (itchy) outline of one of my tomatoes. Fuckity fuckity fuck. So I've outlawed all scratching and am considering revoking my fingernail privileges entirely.

I just needed to relieve my feelings about this. I'm maliciously hoping that after reading the words "itch" and "scratch" so many times in two paragraphs you'll all be feeling as desperately prickly as I am. Tickle tickle. Tickle. I should buy stock in the company that makes those little wooden scratchy arms.

Posted by dianna at 11:36 AM

April 22, 2005

Rise, let us be on our way.

One session down. Christ-on-a-stick this hurt.

Posted by dianna at 10:37 PM

Dear Spain, you rock. Dear Pope, you suck.

Two hours two hours two hours. I left my sketch of the eyeball at home and re-drew it on a post-it note; I think I like the redrawn version better than the original. Maybe I should have left everything at home and started from scratch.

The shorter project manager commented that it seemed like something was different about me today; I told him it was just that I'm wearing my comfy grey pants today instead of my usual work pants. I failed to mention that it might be that I'm practically peeing said pants out of a combination of excitement and nervousness. I also didn't mention that I lost control of my spoon while eating breakfast this morning and launched cereal and soymilk all over said pants and (unsaid) floor. Nerves? Me? No, I'm cool as a c-c-c-c-c-cucumber.

In other news, Pope Benedict XVI's first action as pope has been to roundly condemn the bill passed by Spanish Parliament (there is a rose in Spanish Parliam...ent) allowing gay marriage and adoption by gay couples. Vatican officials, who, I realize, are not the Pope, are urging civil servants in Spain to lose their jobs rather than perform their job duties in the service of gay marriage. "Iniquitous" is how the bill is being described -- slightly ironic, I must say, since that my own definition of iniquity definitely includes being barred from adopting because of one's own and one's partner's gender. You fuckers.

Prime Minister Zapatero, on the other hand, you are a wonderful man. I salute you. Keep going.

One hour and forty eight minutes one hour and forty eight minutes one hour and forty eight minutes.

Posted by dianna at 12:12 PM

April 21, 2005

One day one day one day one day one day!

In 24 hours I'll be leaving work and getting on MUNI and going to Everlasting to get tattooed. When I get home tomorrow night I'll be the proud and permanent owner of something massive and essentially ineradicable. What? You thought when I said "realistic" I was referring to the style and not my attitude?

I have my bag of lollipops, I have my money, I have my stack of pictures and Photoshops, and now I also have the one essential thing I could never get tattooed without: butterflies. My stomach is very quietly saying "eeeek" and practicing its calisthenics. By 2:00 tomorrow the eeeeks will be louder and as soon as I set foot in the shop my stomach will master somersaults and move on to double aerial flips. There's no way around it. Even when I went in to look at portfolios, knowing full well there wasn't going to be any tattooing happening on me that day, the sound and smell of being in a tattoo shop made me try out for intestinal gymnastics anyway. I didn't make the team, but tomorrow will be another story.

The story will say, Once upon a time there was a tomato, on a stem, and the stem went over a little way to the left and up into a bigger stem and one side split off and had a whole slew of little leaves coming off. Then the other side of the stem went this way and joined another stem with more tomatoes on it, and past that there was some more stem and leaves and then it ran up against this blackberry vine with thorns on it. The blackberry went off the other way but you see, they kept crossing each other and at this one point they looped around and then off on the edges there was this eye, okay, and it had wings and what? It was pretty. You'll see.

Jesus fucking Christ on a pogo stick I'm excited.

Posted by dianna at 01:49 PM

April 20, 2005

This is really fantastic news!

Geez, no wonder these guys are so interested. I wonder what the compromise is about?


Image and caption courtesy of the BBC. Good job, guys; news is almost never this funny.

Posted by dianna at 01:45 PM

April 19, 2005

Ways to make yourself the subject of official scrutiny.

I've been playing with Google Maps's satellite photos for the last few days (note the words "map" and "satellite" in the upper right and click whichever most interests you). They're a good way to pass time during slow afternoons at work: legal, decent, non-profane, unobtrusive and utterly inoffensive, yet still fascinating and even educational! Yesterday I invented a little game in which I'd click on a completely random spot in the U.S., center the map there and then zoom in as far as I could to see what I'd clicked on. I wound up in a forest in central Michigan, so far outside of the nearest city that the streets weren't even labelled (they key thing about Google Maps that makes this work is that you can click back and forth between map and satellite at the same scale, and I had to zoom waaaay back out to see anything labelled on the map at all).

That was such a successful experiment that today I started doing it again. I roamed around northern Mexico and southern Texas for a while looking at perfect circles of green god-knows-what. I investigated a dark red blob of unknown (and unlabelled) nature growing out of the side of one of these perfectly circular fields. Somewhere around Lubbock I started wondering how close I was to the Mexican border, so I zipped back to the map and zoomed in on it only to find it pretty boring. I tried the border crossing south of San Diego (which was much more interesting with its million lanes of highway and big official-looking checkpoint), followed a nearby railroad line for a while, and found myself at a tiny airport just over the line in Mexico. I could see planes on the runways! I tried Burbank Airport, and then JFK, and when I got to SFO I actually found a plane that had been photographed while taking off. It was so close to the ground that I could see its shadow on the runway.

I'm planning on looking at satellite photos of the Pentagon next, just so the government can stop wondering if all this border-and-airport searching means I'm up to something. I am undoubtedly up to something, and if you figure out what it is, please let me know.

Posted by dianna at 04:24 PM

Rolling salsa blackout!

My tomato plants are all dying this year. I mean, tomato plants don't last forever, but these are dying before they get their third set of leaves. It's probably just because I don't have any good place to put them in the new house, but it seems like they're dying no matter what I try. Kitchen window? They all died. Plant some more and keep them out on the front porch? They're all dying again.

One small problem with this is that I need good, detailed pictures of healthy tomato plants to show Mike so he can make my tattoo look realistic. My less-than-crisp printouts of pictures I found online are a start, but they're not good for minutiae like the shape of the blossoms and the fuzziness of the youngest leaves. My latest plan, hatched last week, was to buy a couple of big thriving plants from a nursery and take pictures of them with my old analog camera so that no inkjet blobbiness would creep in. Easy!

I stopped by OSH last night because, well, I missed my chance over the weekend to go an independent local nursery with frustratingly short hours. I picked out two beautiful lush plants (which, the way things are going, may be the only ones to actually grow in my garden this year) and brought them home. Because there wasn't much sun left for taking pictures right then, I brought them inside and set them near the living-room window for the night. I fussed over water and light and keeping them out of reach of the cats. Very important, I told myself. Very! Important! that these plants stay as healthy as they are until I can get some good pictures!

That is why, when I got out of the shower this morning and discovered that a) I'd put them on top of the furnace and b) the furnace had been on full-blast for twenty minutes, I was actually, incredibly, too appalled even to swear about it. My babies have been cooked! This is like cannibalism, but worse because nobody except me is going to think it's so terrible!

Posted by dianna at 10:02 AM

April 17, 2005

Splinter Cell: Tangerine Bicycle

I could either start by saying that I saw my parents this weekend, or I could start by saying that I have a bicycle. Alternately, I could start by making one of the billions of other possible statements in the English language, such as tangerines are delicious or the left door of Jacob's car makes a noise like an angry duck, but you're not here to talk about tangerines or ducks. So, I have a bicycle.

It's my spiffy black and yellow road racing bike that I got as a birthday present in high school and foolishly left behind when I moved to Berkeley. After four years of driving everyone nuts talking about how much I miss my bike, I finally got it up here in a box and had it put back together. The guy who opened up the box in the Bent Spoke called it "old school" and called my bluff by putting the original (horrible) toe-clip pedals on it instead of the big clunky ones I actually used to ride it with. My position on this is that he mistook me for someone who knows how to ride a bicycle, but it's only because he never saw me try.

Lots of other people saw me try today, because Jacob and I went out on a ride around Berkeley to celebrate my new gear-assisted mobility. It's important to mention that I didn't die, but I did spend five minutes explaining to Jacob how certain I was that I had nearly died and how, excuse me, your attention seems to be wandering, can we please get back to the part where I almost died? I don't have bike instincts anymore. I have no idea how long it takes me to get across a street, and twice I just barely started to cross only to brake in a panic and back awkwardly out of the oncoming car's way. I'm used to stopping by not moving my feet, which is why I was halfway into traffic both times before I remembered that there was something I had to do in order not to keep going. Jacob, nonchalant and expert in the starting burst of speed, would cross calmly and easily and wait on the other side for my shaky self to join him. In other words, I was schooled.

Tune in tomorrow to see how much I regret this. I'm placing a wanted ad in the paper for some thigh muscles; for trade, some nicely developed calves? Great for walking up hills, not bad-looking on top of a pair of boots, but, as I have discovered, not the necessary power supply for two-wheeled vehicles.

Posted by dianna at 10:54 PM

April 14, 2005

I'm being oppressed by the British!

I was urged this morning to have my say on this BBC article about airline security. It's an interesting article that tries to discuss both zealous enforcement of minutiae and security holes going ignored. I'm generally a fan of these "have your say" features, so I decided to participate.

I thought perhaps it would be germane to talk about the rather surreal phenomenon of having one's footwear examined in more detail than one's identification, as happened to me the last time I flew somewhere. I decided to discuss the random fluctuations in security procedures that have allowed me to board unchallenged while carrying an opaquely-wrapped electric guitar but not a dozen small plastic animals. I made my comment concise and concluded it by positing that the air travel industry is eager to be seen to be working hard on appropriate security measures but nobody's really clear on what those measures should be.

I see now that the morning's comments are posted and mine isn't among them. Those limey bastards are walking all over my free expression! I'm being stifled! Silenced! Help! Help! I'm being repressed!

For the second time today I'm forced to admit that a properly closed (/dork) tag has no place in anything I'm saying.

Posted by dianna at 01:54 PM

April 13, 2005

Qwx: Post it.

I'm very forgetful, and what I appear to have forgotten this week is that a 12-person office does not need 30 individual packs of 3" post-it notes. That's not strictly true. I didn't forget not to order them; I just made a mistake on the form and got an extra dozen of the stupid things.

Now what to do? I can play it cool and insist that I meant to do that because I'm very pro-active about office supplies. If we run out of post-it notes and you're not outraged, I'll say indignantly, you're not paying attention. Or I can hide the extra dozen in my desk drawer and pretend I never ordered them; no one will be any the wiser except the office manager, who checks the order records. The downside to this is that I'm likely to forget that they're there, with obviously hilarious consequences.

Neither of these quite satisfies me. I'm convinced that there are more worthwhile things to do with 3,000 3" square sticky notes. Here are some possibilities that intrigue me:

  • Create a Hansel-and-Gretel-style trail of paper scraps from here to the park or from here to the BART station, in case I forget how to get there.
  • String clotheslines across the interior of the office, cut the sticky notes into t-shirt and pants shapes and give the impression of thousands of tiny pieces of laundry hanging out to dry.
  • Wad up each note into a ball and hide them in the grass at the park for a massive Easter egg hunt.
  • Re-shingle the upper floor of the building.
  • Wrap them around the horizontal blinds in the front window, tinting the incoming light yellow, pink, blue, green, or a mosaic of all of the above.
  • Stick them to the ceiling fans and pretend that I'm hearing hordes of butterflies fluttering gently above my head.
  • Write myself 3,000 notes saying, "Dianna, don't order any more post-its."

Please add your own suggestions below.

Posted by dianna at 01:18 PM

April 09, 2005

I have found love, and its name is Crap.

Jacob and I went to Urban Ore today, on the flimsy excuse that they might have bricks we could use for the backyard. I didn't see any bricks while we were there, but it's possible that that was because I was eyeball-deep in so much dirty, jumbled junk that I couldn't have seen bricks if they were 3 feet in front of me. But who cares about bricks anyway, when we came home with a book, a kitchen chair, a static duster on a long stick, a muffin tin, a corkscrew, and a hand mixer? I came close to also buying a sewing machine table, a copper bundt pan, several pounds of large hex nuts, a grey thermal shirt, and two small wooden fu dogs. I don't think Jacob knew about the fu dogs, but they were weighing heavily on my mind.

This brings me to my essential point: I have a long-standing, obsessive, passionate love of crap. Not just stuff in general, but crap. Piles of discarded, disordered, cheap, mismatched things turn my crank like crazy. Bonus points if they're unnecessary, redundant, or, indeed, entirely useless. This is why I love thrift stores, and it's why I particularly love the East Bay Depot for Creative Re-Use. It's why I have a spool of five thousand small blue resistors under my desk. It's why my fingers start itching every time I walk past the storefront on Adeline Street where the antique store keeps its hundreds of pieces of extra furniture. Who cares if they're only chairs, and I couldn't fit another chair into my house if I tried? I don't care. They're stacked up in a messy heap and nobody wants them, and therefore, I want them.

I have to touch them, too. It's not enough just to look, or to pick up and place into a basket for buying. If I see a bin of assorted shelf standards I have to pick one of them up. If I find a perfectly ordinary potato peeler, but it happens to be at the bottom of a box of rusty knives, I'll risk grievous bodily injury to reach in and pull it out. Then I'll probably tell myself an outright lie, like, "I think I'll start a potato peeler collection," to justify buying it.

It's probably some kind of socially-conscious kleptomania. I don't believe in stealing, but paying thirty cents for a kitchen implement is almost like stealing, so hey! I think I'll do it. Certainly I know that I can afford to buy a much larger quantity of disorderly crap than of new shiny nice things. 'Course, that doesn't really stop me from lusting after new shiny nice things either. Expect another entry about that when I come home from Sur La Table. I need to find a pair of $10 replacement beaters for my $5 mixer.

Posted by dianna at 07:15 PM

April 08, 2005

And the worst thing is you were nice about it.

The change machine at Ashby BART swallowed my $20 bill this morning and gave me $5. I was getting all ready to be furious about it when the station agent told me they'd had that problem with the machine before, they were sorry, and they'd give me a pass for my commute both ways today and mail me a refund for the rest of the money. She was incredibly nice about it and everything went very smoothly.

My train had brake problems and stopped and started from Ashby to the transbay tunnel. A few hundred feet into the tunnel it stopped in a screech of brakes and a cloud of chemical-smelling smoke. It stayed there for a few minutes while the operators talked about it, then stopped and started the rest of the way to San Francisco. The driver came into the first car a couple of times to apologize. Once in San Francisco, the train stopped and started to Civic Center station and then went out of service. We piled off onto the platform, and the next SFO train pulled into the station after only a couple of minutes.

Naturally, on my way out of the 24th Street station the agent was extremely sweet and polite as she okayed my "I got gypped by the change machine and all I got was a pass to 24th Street" pass. As soon as I got outside the station I got soaked by the pouring rain and the wind whipping it in under my umbrella, but there wasn't anyone around that I could blame for that.

Couldn't someone please just give me some attitude so I can take this crap out on them?

Edit: Crap. I just went to look up how to get a copy of my transcript from the university, and of course I found out that the office I needed to get to was closing sooner than I could get there. But then I found out that I'm still in the student database and I could just get all my old class schedules that way, which was much easier and was all I needed. So I guess I'm having a good day after all.

Posted by dianna at 10:10 AM

April 06, 2005

An unlikely place to find mystery.

We all know that there are some things we cannot know. Some things are so deeply mysterious that they must be shrouded in secrecy and kept from those who cannot appreciate them. One of these things is sewage.

I've just discovered that it isn't possible to call a major plumber in the city of San Francisco and receive any information about their going rates for plumbing service. Estimates are blasphemy. The mysteries must be revealed in person. It isn't possible, for instance, to say, "The wax seal at floor level on my toilet is broken," and hear a loose, rounded-the-nearest-$50 estimate of how much the last person with a broken wax seal might have paid. The only way to get any numbers is to wait until the plumber comes out and looks at your problem and comes up with an estimate in person.

It's brilliant. The persuasive power of the plumber standing in your flooded bathroom waving an estimate is, well, powerful. Even if you don't like the estimate, you've got the flooded bathroom, you've got the guy right there, and no other place will come out to give you a different number in less than 45 minutes. If you've consumed at least 8 ounces of any kind of beverage in the last two hours, unless you're very good friends with your next-door neighbors, there's about a 95% chance you'll sigh and tell him to just get it over with.

Never assume that someone whose work doesn't require extensive education isn't intelligent. This is fucking genius.

Posted by dianna at 03:40 PM

April 02, 2005

It's a Sin.

I saw Sin City last night with Jacob and Andrew. I'll admit that I went in with high expectations; the comic books are gorgeous and the movie posters were too. That's where it ends, though. The movie stunk.

A Sin City comic book is fifty or a hundred pages of appalling violence wrapped up in a vigilante-hero fable and beautifully stark noir graphics. A Sin City movie is two hours and fifteen minutes into which they jammed three entire comic books and followed them word for word and frame for frame. It's a mess. The monologues that the books spool out slowly through five pages of reflective, mostly-black frames are delivered as an unceasing, long-winded irritation. That's pretty much the same as the problem with the movie as a whole; it never pauses because it's got too much material to go through, so it just grinds on unstoppably until the constant action is tedious instead of climactic.

Ooooh! How many words for "bad" can Dianna come up with? You get the idea, I think. It was excruciating. After an hour I was just hoping for the big baddie heroes to go out in their damned blaze of glory already so I could leave. After an hour and a half my new pastime was thinking of appropriate punishments for the people who actually brought their fucking 2-year-old children into the theater, which is grounds for loss of custody if you ask me. At the two-hour mark I was weighing the rudeness of walking in front of people to leave early versus my total lack of desire to stay.

Let's see, how does that line go? And when the screen goes dead the hell you walk out into must seem like heaven after the movie we've put you through.....?

Posted by dianna at 09:33 AM

April 01, 2005


Google's April Fool's feature for this year is really a masterpiece. Try loading the Google homepage first to see how quietly they added the new link. It smoothly replaces an older feature link that looked almost identical, and as a consequence I missed the Fool entirely the first three times I looked at the page.

Here's the new feature (because I want to save a link to it for posterity). Google Gulp! I find myself inexplicably seduced by the bright, fresh-looking pictures of the new product, but I can't shake the feeling that I'm not quite quick enough on the uptake to understand how it works. Maybe if I could just get my hands on one, it would help! Yes! Yes! I must have a Google Gulp in Sugar-Free Radical flavor!

Sadly, I have no way to get one. Read the FAQ to find out why.

Posted by dianna at 10:55 AM