October 19, 2007

Here in Spain I am a Spaniard.

This morning the rain was pounding my house while I tried to eat breakfast. It doesn't seem to do that very often. What I remember of Southern California rain is a few days out of the year with the skies pouring buckets while the Los Angeles River rises menacingly in its concrete embankments; here it drizzles and drips and clears and then drizzles again, and the Willamette is always stolidly the same. Today my street was a narrow peninsula with lakes rising in the blocked gutters and flooded potholes, but when I dragged myself damply onto the train and rode across the bridge to work, the Willamette was unchanged and unimpressed.

I am not unchanged or unimpressed, and I have begun drinking coffee again. I resigned myself some time ago to the fact that this would happen; I always quit and return and quit and return again as the need arises. When I moved to northern Oregon I understood that I was cordially inviting the need into my life. Last night in the grocery store I walked past the bins of coffee beans, sustainably-grown, ethically-purchased, and locally-roasted, and I thought about my kitchen with the rain and cold outside and the warm toasty coffee smell inside, and while I thought about it my hands operated of their own accord to competently dispense and grind a small bag of Stumptown's finest. While it was grinding I looked around nervously and wondered if the people passing by could tell that I wasn't really a coffee drinker. You see how she's holding that bag? they whispered behind their hands. Tea people. I tell you.

Here in Stumptown, I have just realized, I am evidently a stump. I shall sit here very still with my small cup of coffee, and I will put up no leaves to shield myself from the rain. The weather forecast predicts heavy wind, rain, cold fronts or maybe warm fronts but definitely some kind of fronts, and perhaps thunder and funnel clouds. But stumps give little attention to these things.

Posted by dianna at 03:33 PM

October 11, 2007

Gulo gulo.

This is my freeform nature poem. I hope you enjoy it.

To some it is given
to prey upon the young:
Hippie, it is not for you--
put that baby yam in the microwave
and it will blow up

Posted by dianna at 07:29 PM

October 03, 2007

Comparative reviews: someone else's lyrical boner is always bigger than yours.

In response to my beloved sister's intensive analysis of Interpol's lyrical failings, I offer something which proves that, while Interpol does write some fucking awful lyrics, they are not breaking new ground in embarrassing their audiences. It is always possible to find something a) older and b) dumber, and I am doing so here with a song that, frankly, Katie can probably sing from memory. But lest you think I'm on any kind of musical high horse here, the reason I am able to offer this to you is that I own it, listen to it, and have had it stuck in my head for long enough to get to really thinking about it. Ladies and gentlemen, the Traveling Wilburys.

Tweeter and the Monkeyman were hard up for cash
They stayed up all night selling cocaine and hash
To an undercover cop who had a sister named Jan

Lucid so far. This isn't really a wise business practice in the long run, but at least we're honest about it.

For reasons unexplained she loved the Monkeyman

Error! We are a ballad; we have the benefit of omniscient perspective. We do not have any excuse not to elucidate these putative reasons, and we sound pretty dumb for failing to do so.

Tweeter was a boy scout before she went to Vietnam
And found out the hard way nobody gives a damn

If we could only trust them to be writing these lyrics thoughtfully, this might be a perfectly good line that neatly hints at Tweeter's gender status and life history. But I've always just thought they were either confused or throwing around pronouns without referents.

They knew that they found freedom just across the Jersey line
So they hopped into a stolen car took highway 99

Fine. Fine. Whatever. I'm not even asking who all these theys are.

And the walls came down all the way to hell
Never saw them when theyâre standing
Never saw them when they fell

I mean, a) it doesn't make any sense. What walls? Where? The soundwalls on Highway 99? How far do walls have to go to get to hell? And b) why can we not stay consistently in the past tense here??

The undercover cop never liked the Monkeyman
Even back in childhood he wanted to see him in the can

Now that's just impolite. Some things should be private.

Jan got married at fourteen to a racketeer named Bill
She made secret calls to the Monkeyman from a mansion on the hill

Evidently this song is chock full of Bruce Springsteen references, including this line. That's fun. But it's still a complete red herring. It's like that assignment you get in elementary school where you have to write a story using all 36 vocabulary words and so you throw in these totally unnecessary and frequently incoherent story arcs about rhyming dungarees just to get the damn words in.

It was out on Thunder Road - Tweeter at the wheel
They crashed into paradise - they could hear them tires squeal

This is always a metaphor for everyone dying. Always. Unless it's a metaphor for sex. Neither way makes the rest of the song make any sense.

The undercover cop pulled up and said every one of youâs a liar
If you donât surrender now its gonna go down to the wire

Hard to be a liar if you haven't actually had any lines yet. And if they've crashed into Paradise and the walls have come down, isn't it kind of implied that it's gone down to the wire already?

An ambulance rolled up - a state trooper close behind
Tweeter took his gun away and messed up his mind
The undercover cop was left tied up to a tree

Okay, that's allowed. I actually guiltily really like that middle line. Maybe it's just the way that Bob Dylan sings it*. You know, it's action. It's gritty. I can handle this.

Near the souvenir stand by the old abandoned factory

No. What? I understand souvenir stands. I understand abandoned factories. But why in god's name would you combine them? What are you selling? Churros and rusty disused industrial equipment? Keychains and toxic chemicals? No.

Next day the undercover cop was hot in pursuit
He was taking the whole thing personal, he didnât care about the loot

Reasonable. I take it personally when people leave me tied up to trees, too. But what loot?

Jan had told him many times it was you to me who taught
In Jersey anythingâs legal as long as you donât get caught

You are NOT allowed to transitive that way. If you can't figure out a way to make it rhyme and still be English, you lose all the points you just earned with the gritty Jersey stuff.

Someplace by Rahway prison they ran out of gas
The undercover cop had cornered them, said huh, you didnât think that this could last

More Bruce Springsteen, apparently.

Jan jumped out of bed said thereâs someplace I gotta go
She took a gun out of the drawer and said its best if you donât know

Who what? How? Is she psychic? Anyway, she doesn't need to worry, because I don't know. Anything.

The undercover cop was found face down in a field
The Monkeyman was on the river bridge using Tweeter as a shield

I can't figure out what these tenses are, but I know they don't match. Is the action still going on? Are we sorting through the wreckage later? It's all a blur.

Jan said to the Monkeyman, Iâm not fooled by Tweeter's curl
I knew him long before he ever became a Jersey girl

Curl? Just one, like the girl in the nursery rhyme? And is Tweeter's hair really the most pressing issue here while zie is being used as a shield?

Now the town of Jersey city is quieting down again
Iâm sitting in a gambling club called the Lionâs Den
The TV set was blown up, every bit of it is gone
Ever since the nightly news show that the Monkeyman was on

I don't even know where to start with this. The action is over and we don't know what happened, the dramatis personae are appearing on talk shows, and all of a sudden we have this first-person narrator who was never here before and may or may not have been the one to destroy a perfectly good household appliance because it was showing the Monkeyman wearing a bad suit and making small talk with Barbara Walters. Or whatever.

I guess Iâll go to Florida and get myself some sun
There ainât no more opportunity here, everythingâs been done

Fine. You do that.

Sometimes I think of Tweeter, sometimes I think of Jan
Sometimes I donât think about nothing but the Monkeyman

I really hope you're prepared to share with the class what it is about them that you're thinking, because we certainly don't have a lot to reflect on. Gosh, it's a shame the way they wound up, you know, with Tweeter [blank] [blank] the [blank], and the Monkeyman [blank] in his [blank] to [blank], and poor Jan, she just [blank] and [blank] after the [blank] at [blank].


(*For those of you not familiar with the Traveling Wilburys, they were a short-lived, though not short enough, supergroup composed of the following individuals who should have known better:
Bob Dylan
Roy Orbison
Tom Petty
George Harrison
Jeff Lynne
And possibly a lot of drugs.)

Posted by dianna at 11:37 AM

May 31, 2007

Today's weather is: suck, with occasional glum.

There's something wrong with the Bay Area this year: no winter, no summer, no spring, just this weird grey funk. And a warm day followed by a cold week so you're always switching from the heater to the air conditioning to the heater again. I sat outside eating lunch today fighting the temptation to take off my coat, then my sweater, then put the coat back on with no sweater, then take off the coat and put on the sweater, then put the coat back on, and start the whole thing over.

My little apartment in my tall spindly house on my tiny dead-end street on the endless Berkeley hill is quiet and seems more remote than it is. When I wheeze my way in the door the noise of the rest of the city is already gone and I'm left in the wood-shingled, un-streetlit hush of a neighborhood where it gets late early. Yesterday's unreasonable chill drove me with my book into bed for warmth, and before it ever occurred to me to think about sleeping I was waking up wondering what had happened.

But all of this is not for the last day of May. This is for October, maybe November, when it hasn't started raining but the world is preparing you to sit inside and watch the windows. It could even be late February when it isn't stormy but still trailing gloom into early spring. March would be pushing it. May is unseasonal. June would be out of the question.

Do you hear me, Pacific low front?

Posted by dianna at 05:21 PM

March 08, 2007

City on the river.

I emailed the goblins in their house on the hill and told them I won't be joining them in their far-flung solitude. With no groceries or restaurants nearby I'm concerned that my tasty flesh might be the nearest convenient meal for them.

With that established, I've returned to trolling Craigslist for early summer postings. The most promising thing to turn up this morning was a summer sublet two blocks up the hill from Kingman -- two actual blocks this time -- starting a few days before co-op moving day and ending within a few days of the end of my job here. I bookmarked it and spent several quality hours arguing with myself. I need something long-term, I said. No you don't, said the voices in my head, you don't have a job in Berkeley after July. But I'll need to find a job after that, I said. No, they said, you'll have found something already and you can look for an apartment wherever your job is. I said, won't I just stay in Berkeley anyway?

This is where the voices started playing dirty. You don't have to stay in Berkeley, they said. I said, where else would I go? They murmured among themselves -- I vaguely heard a short name beginning with a P. Stumptown? I asked. You're not serious, are you? The voices took on a note of tried patience. You like Portland, they said. No, I love Portland, I said, but who do I know there? No one, they said, and what's the problem? The problem is I don't know anyone! I whined. They asked me, do you know how to stop being afraid of meeting new people? I said, no! They said, that's why you should move to Portland.

I tried another defense. Why Portland? I asked. They smirked. She says why Portland, they snickered to each other. Bridges and blackberry vines and trees and local beers, they told me, that's why Portland. Powell's. OMSI. A downtown you can walk across in ten minutes and rent like the Bay Area doesn't want to know about. I said, you're not helping. They said, Oh yes we are.

I checked back this afternoon and found the room listing already gone, and with it some of the immediacy of the voices. They're no longer gibbering at me to run-not-walk to this new house and prostrate myself for the room, but they haven't let up on the long-range pressure. There'll never be a better time, they say, but if you want to be stuck in Berkeley forever I'm sure that's your business. You'll get an apartment here and then a job near the apartment and then another apartment near the job and it'll keep you in the East Bay until you're 40, they say. You live in a co-op, they say, you have no furniture and you could fit everything you own in a station wagon. I don't have a station wagon, I tell them, and they tell me I'm 25 and could rent one to any city I like. I tell them I can't think about leaving the Bay Area right now, and they say no, you can think about it at the end of July. They say, you know, July, when your summer sublet runs out? I don't have a summer sublet, I say, I'm not even looking for one... and they say, oh yes you are.

It's not a plan, at all. Even I can't go from no idea to plan in four purely speculative hours. It's just that for all the time I've spent telling myself I could pick up tomorrow and move anywhere I please, it's never really occurred to me that I could pick up, not tomorrow in defiance of reason but in a few carefully-planned and financially stable months, and move anywhere I please and it might work. And it wouldn't be a way to burn out in anonymity on darkened streets, like my old Chicago fantasy, but a place to live in a brightly-lit apartment with my cat and go to work and come home and go for walks and read books and drink tea and do other things that Diannas find fulfilling. It wouldn't have to be Portland particularly (although there is the great Cementhorizon migration to consider). Pick a minor metropolis, any minor metropolis -- nothing fancy, just a progressive reputation and a small local music scene -- and go. There will be libraries, there will be museums, there will be room for Dianna.

It's weird to feel compelled to go, instead of just to leave. I seem to have fans and motors installed in my extremities all of a sudden. On the other hand, I'm still sick and my head is spinning and my ears ringing, so it's no wonder my mind is way off in the distance. It may come to nothing. But: Portland!

Edit! Extry! Extry! The posting wasn't gone after all; it just moved into the "sublet/temporary" section. Hot damn. I've already sent an email.

Posted by dianna at 05:43 PM

January 27, 2007

Afternoons and coffee forks.

My house had a room-to-room party last night. In theory, the room-to-room is the platonic ideal co-op party, in which a majority of the attendees either live in the house or know most of the people who do, everyone gets really excited about hosting their own little themed space, and it's generally an evening of house bonding and well-mannered frivolity.

This is not how a room-to-room ever actually works.

At least, this is not how a room-to-room works once it's actually gotten into swing. People make elaborate plans, decorations, costumes, activities, fancy refreshments, and after the first few rooms there are just too many people and they're just too drunk for it to be anything but an all-night all-comers dance party in every room of the house. Which is to most co-opers like the mythical never-ending frosted fudge brownie to a kid with a sweet tooth, and people generally enjoy themselves into a stupor that lasts the rest of the weekend.

But I am that rare bird, the co-oper who likes quiet evenings with games and movies and a few beers or maybe hot chocolate and people you mostly know who can still walk upright and carry on a conversation. I came home at 1:00 after just such an evening, at a cozy pub in the city with a few old friends from work, and found people wrestling in the pool room and doing kegstands in a sea of crushed Doritos outside my door, and I was not happy. And I wandered upstairs to knock on my friends' doors and found them all gone or in hiding, and I was not happy. And I found my old roommate in a room full of party-crashers from Cloyne, and he was teetering around telling me it was the perfect party, and I glared at him and told him it was supposed to be an in-house party, and he told me "look at all these happy people", and I looked and found that it really didn't help a damn bit.

And I made my way back upstairs in a state of petulance and martyrhood to the relative peace of the spoon-themed room, and I sat and watched the flocks of spoons hanging on their slender threads from the ceiling and twinkling faintly as they moved with the air currents, and by the time I made my way back to my little room in the land of spilled beer and drunken strangers my head was full of spoons and the general chaos couldn't intrude. And had this been a movie or a corny short story I would have fallen asleep and dreamt of spoons, and woken up in a dreamy calm and picked up a brush and started painting the lithe, strangely beautiful spoon images which would slowly and quietly work their way into the lives and hearts of critics, become the icon of the new Peace And Spoons movement, and make me world-famous but still so very content and unassuming. But this is not that kind of story, and I woke up grumpy about the mess and snapped at my housemates while I mopped the kitchen. And drawing spoons is way too much work.

But I have spent the afternoon listening to Sufjan Stevens and eating jam toast and watching the gloomy sky turn darker, and it's pretty nice, spoons or no spoons.

Posted by dianna at 05:05 PM

January 20, 2007

Lessons from my bookshelf.

I've spent most of today trying to get properly moved into my new room. This means unpacking my increasingly ridiculous book collection and cramming it into less than half the shelf space that I had in my old room. To manage the ensuing enormous headache and compensate for the inelegance of my shelving, I'm trying to employ some basic librarianship and organize them roughly by genre.

The problem with this is that my rambling, scattered book collection doesn't divide neatly into shelf-lengths of similar items. For instance, to fill the rest of the shelf designated Fantasy, it was necessary for me to include Chariots of the Gods by Erich von Daniken, Robert Graves' books on the Greek myths, and eventually my Chinese-language Bible as well. But then I opened another box and realized that the only place I had left for A Game of Thrones was in Respectable Fiction. I couldn't handle that, so I had to take out the Bible and move it to Respectable Fiction instead. This left the Bhagavad-Gita and the aforementioned Greek mythology books still in Fantasy, and prompted a half-hour of nail-chewing and convoluted logical arguments before I agreed to disagree with myself and leave them there.

The whole process is also fraught with uncertainty. Flatland is technically science fiction, but it's old and frail -- by publication date, I mean, not by the condition of my copy -- and I can't bring myself to leave it to the tender mercies of shelfmates like Niven and Asimov. Is Best Bisexual Women's Erotica 2001 fantasy, fiction, or reference? Does my bartending book belong with reference or cookbooks? Is American Psycho respectable fiction, or do I have to set aside a shelf for Disreputable Fiction?

It's also very dependent on my mood. If I'm feeling agreeable I'll put Foucault in Reference or Anthropology, but if I'm feeling particularly grumpy he may have to go in Fiction. An optimistic Dianna would put her language textbooks in Reference, but, honestly, they may be better off in Fantasy. My few issues of Transmetropolitan -- Science Fiction, or gritty realistic Reference? After several hours of this I'm about ready to throw the whole project out and put absolutely everything in Lies.

The real issue, though, the way I see it, is this: what demon could possibly have possessed me to purchase two copies each of two entirely separate X-Files books? I'd still be asking what demon possessed me if I'd only bought one copy of each, but two has me really worried. Was I out of town and unable to cope with being away from my original copies? Did I want a backup set in case I read the originals so many times they fell apart? They all still have that pristine look of uncreased covers and dog-ear-free pages that tells me it's doubtful I ever finished them once (although I cannot in honesty claim I never started them). Am I just horribly forgetful? Did I find them in the bookstore the second time and find them compellingly familiar without knowing why? And is it unethical of me to donate them to the house library as a way to dispose of them with minimal shame? Actually, the free pile is closer to my room and paints a much more accurate picture of their worth. I just can't shake the feeling that it should probably still qualify as illegal garbage dumping.

Posted by dianna at 11:27 PM

November 02, 2006

Sometimes I think I'm bipolar. Other times I think I'm fine.

Yesterday it hit me: summer is over.

My actual summer finished months ago. I no longer spend my days fingering 500-year-old bones and watching the skies for the afternoon thunderstorm. In the time it's been since I talked to any of my summer classmates, the Berkeley beauracracy has requested three kinds of supporting documents and given me credit for the class so I can graduate. I've heard it said that only when you're forgotten are you dead, and east of the Mississippi I'm definitely starting to stiffen.

That hasn't stopped it feeling like summer, though. As long as the sun is reasonably shining it's always high noon and midsummer at Kingman. There are bikes and parks and frolics and lavish expressions of love. But I came home last night, late for dinner after working on a class project, and found home dark and cold and lonely. Dinner was gone, my late plate was sitting unfilled and unnoticed by the side of the food line, and nobody I wanted to see was around. I don't know who I was hoping for, but they weren't there. Outside was cold and damp, my room smelled like my roommate's pot stash, and I orbited for a while around the house's common rooms before ending up huddled on a futon under the roof deck with a cup of tea and an archaeology book. I woke up long enough to sulk at people who'd done little to deserve it and brush off everyone who offered me human contact, and then collapsed into bed.

It's the usual annual cocktail: it's cold, it's gloomy, it's dark when I come home from class, and it's going to be that way for months. I'm behind in my classes and buried under papers I haven't started. My double honeymoons of being back in school and back in the co-ops could only last so long, and these things have become routine just in time for routine to become exhausting.

A few weeks ago I posted a chart on my door listing stimulants I'm allowed to have and how much of them I can use. There are daily not-to-exceeds for tea and coffee, allowable circumstances for chocolate and sugar binges, and a dosage guide for love. My housemates look askance at it; I'm known to be one of very few stubbornly sober people in the house and seeing "Dianna" and "stimulant" together seems to throw them. But I know it's not for them to judge. I can only hope that when they inevitably find me sprawled on the floor and twitching, overdosed on the Magnetic Fields, they'll pick me up gently and tell the doctors that I'm not really a bad person. I just never learned how to say no to ukeleles.

Posted by dianna at 12:24 PM

August 15, 2005

Once upon a time we were made of plastic.

A romp through old pictures this weekend led me to discover this fascinatingly LiveJournalish webcam image from October of 2001. This is Dianna as she was: braided, beringed, oddly lit and unusually shiny. The monster emerges from the vats in which it was created, glistening with the slime of its incubation. Its blinking eyes, wide with the dawn of consciousness, rest upon the only sign of life in the world to which it has emerged: a tiny red dot glowing atop a blank, unmoving lens. The monster is drawn closer, not yet understanding why, until it is near enough to peer into that plastic eye. It sees nothing that it can comprehend, and the fumbling of its fingers toward the beckoning light elicits no sign of welcome. The image captured in the machine's tiny brain by the accidental push of a button is one of wonder starting to fade to disappointment, and the monster moves on.

I've discovered that the illustrious Mike Doughty, late of Soul Coughing fame, will be playing at the Independent in San Francisco on September 30 (a Friday) and October 1 (a Saturday). I think I'll be going. Fun fact: a Soul Coughing concert at the El Rey theater in Los Angeles was my very first date. Between my lack of driving and the venue's lack of parking it's almost certain to be either a transbay-public-transit debacle or a question of finding a couch in the city on which to spend the night. If anyone's interested in going with me or willing to provide such a piece of furniture, I say to that person, speak!

Posted by dianna at 10:09 AM

July 24, 2005


For some reason, I've discovered this weekend, I'm helplessly bewitched and wholly besotted with the city of Portland. Jacob had to borrow a crowbar to pry me out of it so that we could catch our plane home.

It could have to do with the fact that it's smaller than San Francisco and cleaner than Oakland, and that for all my best pretense of gritty urbanity I'm still a suburbanite who likes things neat and unintimidating. It could have something to do with Powell's, where I think I saw the face of God on Saturday in a clearance rack of $1 anthropology books. It could be that every surface in the city that isn't otherwise used and aggressively cleared is covered in an impenetrable tangle of my beloved blackberry vines; on a related note, it could have something to do with the fact that driving 20 minutes north to Salmon Creek means passing roadside farms selling the most incredible berries I've ever imagined. Speaking of purely seasonal delights, it could be that the unusually beautiful weather this weekend has me imagining Portland as an Eden of warmth and sunshine all year long. It could be that we spent a couple of lovely evenings wandering around the abnormally scenic downtown, the intriguingly schizophrenic Pearl District, the unsurprisingly lovely waterfront, and the hell if I know where else. It could have been the discovery of an excellent vegan restaurant located right downtown and doing an encouragingly thriving business.

But I think it is not those things.

Instead, I think I love Portland because it has so many of something I detest: bridges. I hate heights, and I fear water, and ever since I heard of the Tacoma Narrows bridge fiasco I've thought of engineering as a rather speculative and unfinished science. Trusting my physical well-being and general dryness to a strip of roadway plunked down on spindly legs that stand in the middle of a rushing torrent of water has never seemed terribly appealing to me. Portland, apparently laid out by someone who failed to notice a great big river in the middle of the city site, has 8 of these despised marvels of modern engineering, and they're of every description one could hope to imagine. Some of them are swooping concrete highways of thin crusts and plain stems, and some arch delicately in classic curves with the road laid gently across the top. One clings to horizontality by delicate suspension cables; another is a heavy, flattened steel cage dwarfed by its own massive elevator mechanism. A view of the river is a view into acrophobia and waterborne peril, over which cars, bikes and people glide serenely as though resisting gravity were as natural as breathing. Navigating the city without flying suspended from one side of the river to the other is an impossibility.

It's inescapably reminiscent of a future city from a sci-fi book, in which the last unbuilt space is the sky and humans have moved to build upon it. In the fictional metropolis the skyscrapers crowd each other to such dizzying heights that descending to ground just to move to an adjoining building is ridiculous; bridges are built to connect levels that come nowhere near the earth. Portland, where raising three new towers near downtown makes a noticeable mark on the skyline and the bridges rise higher than the buildings in any case, is hardly there. But it's close enough to be awfully compelling.

For more information on why this aesthetic municipal love affair was doomed from the start, write to the Portland university community and inquire about the lack of biochemistry postdoctoral work available therein. For more information on dazzling future metropoli, borrow a copy of the C.J. Cherryh collection Sunfall from your local library. To see the forest of bridges from the air, click here. To end this blog entry, press the star key.

Posted by dianna at 10:17 PM

May 04, 2005

Qwx: I'm not thinking about cookies.

I explained to one of the architects yesterday that when I'm asked a question, my answer is almost always going to be either purple or cookies. This was after I was asked by two people in separate incidents whether I was "the purple person" responsible for the persistent rumors that the new office will be decorated entirely in violet. I explained both times that while I've thrown my support to the purple campaign, I'm neither its instigator nor its only backer... but if I'm ever going to run for public office I can't be seen denying the obvious truth in the accusation.

I am going to run for public office, in fact. I haven't decided which office, but my platform will be cookies. No, literally. I will make a platform out of cookies and stand on it (wearing special protective gear to avoid dirtying it) to deliver my campaign speeches. At the end of each speech I will signal my caterers to pour hundreds of glasses of soymilk and invite the entire audience to symbolically consume my platform as a delicious snack courtesy of their very generous future Undersecretary of Whatever. I will break off the first chunk from the podium myself and hand it to a small golden-haired child in the first row, who will stuff it into her mouth with a tiny fist and give the cameramen a happy, crumb-covered grin that we can splash all over the papers the next day.

My election will be practically guaranteed from that point forward. The coastal liberals will appreciate the cruelty-free progressive nature of my cookies and my gesture of sharing food equally to any member of the public who walks in off the street to attend my speech. The family-values-oriented Midwesterners will feel drawn to the motherhood-and-apple-pie appeal of my cookies-and-milk snack and the traditional, nurturing spirit which it represents. I'll be the biggest American hero since George Washington.

Most importantly, when I'm elected I won't have to wait until 4:30 to go home and try the brownies I made last night that were too gooey last night to eat and too messy this morning to pack in my lunch. I'll have a full kitchen in my office, and I can use my spare time to volunteer with a non-profit group (which I'll have started) dedicated to protecting the right of all workers to have fresh baked goods in their workplaces. Posterity will remember me as a great humanitarian.

Posted by dianna at 11:50 AM

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

February 22, 2005

Qwx: Possible explanations for my bank's impolite behavior this month.

  1. Psychological research has shown that honest people deposit their mid-February paychecks at the main branch ATM, while criminals deposit paychecks at affiliated ATMs in outlying locations, and my bank has a policy of indefinitely holding all funds deposited by criminals.
  2. I have previously been so consistent with my main-branch-ATM-using habits that my use of the ATM downtown instead triggered fears that I might be an identity thief making the single, revealing, false step that would give away the fact that it wasn't really me. Clearly, this necessitated holding my funds while the investigation was underway.
  3. If I had been single on Valentine's Day, I might have taken that money from my paycheck and blown it all on hookers and strip clubs, thus ruining my plans to save for college, therefore it was necessary for the bank to hold my funds to make sure I didn't endanger my great plans for my continued education.
  4. If I'd been prevented from having a Valentine's Day full of expensive debauchery, I might have saved up my debaucherous intentions for Presidents' Day weekend, therefore it was also necessary to continue holding my funds through the next weekend, still in my best financial interests.
  5. Either of the two foregoing scenarios, if allowed to debauch as planned, could have resulted in serious health consequences if I'd engaged in unprotected sex with the aforementioned hookers. Serious health consequences are expensive, and my bank prides itself on helping me save my money in every way possible.
  6. The closure of the main branch ATM on my payday was not, unfortunately, due to a malfunction or a shortage of $20 bills, but was actually the only visible sign that my bank had been taken over by an alien consortium hell-bent on dominance over the human species. I didn't catch on in time, and now the tentacley bastards are in charge of my finances.
  7. Sheer caprice.
  8. The bank manager overheard me making plans to go to Gottsi over the weekend, and resolved not to let any funds deposited in his financial institution be used for any kind of appalling mutilation like that, thank you very much, she'll thank us when she's 40, you mark my words.
  9. My bank actually does, for some reason, have a policy of holding all funds for one day if deposited at the main branch ATM and for one week (not an hour less) if deposited at any other ATM.

Jeeez. If I promise not to use it for sex, piercings, or anti-alien-consortium defense systems, can I please have my money in time to pay my rent?

Posted by dianna at 08:02 PM

February 08, 2005

Qwx: Noodles?!

When you design an entire retail development (or strip mall if you're feeling uncharitable), you have to deal with several physical buildings that are part of one master plan. Each one has its own foundation and needs its own grading, code calculations, utilities hookups, and so on. Call the whole shebang a building pad. If you're dealing with a big project with lots of building pads in it, you may as well split it up and treat each pad as a separate project. Give each pad to a different person to handle on their own, and it'll be much less confusing than one person trying to remember which one is which. We've got one of those going on right now.

Yesterday, the taller project manager made $25 on the office Superbowl betting pool and graciously decided to treat everyone to lunch. What, he mused, could you get for $25 in the neighborhood to feed an entire office? Aha! Thai food! "What," he asked the other architects, "do you guys think of Pad Thai noodles?"

The Southern architect looked up wearily from her CAD drawings. "Pad Five noodles?"

The Mexican architect's head snapped up. "There are noodles in Pad Five?" she asked. "Are they putting noodles in Pad Two also?"

"Pad Two noodles?" asked the interior designer, who'd only just joined in the conversation. "What?"

"Ohhhhh," I said from the front of the office. "Tattoo noodles. It makes perfect sense."

The office clown walked by my desk and nodded. "Pad Two Pad Two tattoo Pad Two tattoo," he said helpfully.

"It's just like the Tower of Babel in here," sighed the taller project manager, ordering Pad Thai noodles anyway.

Posted by dianna at 10:30 AM

January 07, 2005

Qwx: Our office, which art in heaven

Our office, which art in heaven, or is at least long overdue to be dead, is a historically significant 19th-century San Francisco row house once converted into an antique shop and thence to an architecture office. This gives it the following wonderful qualities:

  • Authentic, period-appropriate HVAC system!
  • Maximum glass exposure along the two street sides!
  • Cutting-edge front door closer installed as early as 1950!
  • Electrical wiring installed in 1925 and maintained in original configuration!

In other words, there's no heat (or air conditioning either), the two walls that meet to form the corner where I sit are as thermally transparent as single-ply Kleenex, the door 5 feet from me won't stay shut, and if all four of us along the (thermally transparent) south wall turn on our heater fans at once, the power goes out. The lease is up in two months; can I interest anyone in this lovely Victorian property?

Posted by dianna at 01:00 PM

January 05, 2005

Qwx: Sleep all the time, or not sleep at all?

Jacob left for Colorado this morning. He's too excited about the paper he's writing to keep quiet about it, and has decided to barge into some big science seminar and tell everyone what he's doing. It'll totally spoil the element of surprise, but he's bound and determined to spend all week there spilling the beans.

No Jacob means no one will trick me into watching scary movies, but it also means I'll be watching my non-scary movies by myself. No cooked mushrooms sneakily inserted into dinner, but then, no witty repartee over the sautee pan. On the plus side, when I wake up at 2 a.m. from a nightmare I can turn on all the lights without disturbing anyone, but on the minus side, I can also huddle in bed with the covers over my head until sunrise without anyone reminding me that there aren't actually zombies in the water heater closet.

On that note, here's a sample conversation you can follow if I call you and babble hysterically about something that doesn't make any sense:
Dianna: "Ceramic seventeen ferocious west byway!"
You: "No, it's just a raccoon in the crawlspace."
Dianna: "High roller lukewarm turdmuckle?"
You: "Stomp on the floor and it'll run away."
Dianna: "Pitch! Absinthe gruesome travertine!"
You: "No, it's normal raccoon size. Yes, I checked. It's fine."
Dianna: (warily) "Breadbasket furry noodlespoon?"
You: "Oh, well, that one's true. They do have laser eyes. Yeah, who'd have thought?"

Posted by dianna at 03:21 PM

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 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

November 02, 2004

Qwx: Lovey dovey.

More pigeons today. This time they were the reddish ones, and they trailed behind me on 24th Street. The males gazed at the bay with pained looks, while the females wept quietly into dainty lace handkerchiefs. They walked slowly, sorrowfully, each bird lost in its own thoughts. I felt bad for them; it was such a beautiful sunny day that their grief seemed both ironic and out of place. But what could a stranger possibly say to them to ease their pain? So I only tipped my hat and greeted them politely. "Mourning, doves."

I'm so nervous about the election today that I don't know what to do with myself. I've already done my bit; I voted by mail. That means I don't have anything useful to do today except politely tell last-minute campaigners that it's no use handing me flyers. I can also chew my nails and worry, I suppose. I'm good at that. What if good guys win? What if all the stuff I voted for passes? What if everything goes all wrong? What if tomorrow it really is Dick Cheney menacing people with a scythe outside 24th St. BART station instead of just a guy in a mask and glasses? I looked suspiciously at everyone I passed on the way to work this morning. Did she vote? Did he vote? Is she going to vote? Oh god... what if he doesn't vote?

I wonder if this would be a good time to get religion. I'll be accepting suggestions for likely denominations until 12:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, at which point I'll make a selection and pray like mad to the appropriate power until the polls close.

Posted by dianna at 10:16 AM

November 01, 2004

Qwx: Bok 'n roll.

I was briefly surrounded by a small gang of pigeons in Dolores Park today. They were the grey kind, not those reddish-tan ones. They slouched past me with their wings in the pockets of their torn jeans and surly expressions on their beaks. One of them was smoking a cigarette. Another had a leather jacket. They all had greasy unkempt feathers and dirty t-shirts. They were an alluring sight, gorgeously reckless poster pigeons for adolescent rebellion. I was caught up in the moment; who wouldn't be? I threw out my fists, pinky and forefingers extended. "Yeah!" I hollered. "Rock doves!"

They cocked their eyeballs at me in pigeonly affront and waddled off down the sidewalk. A few passers-by gave me curious looks and I suddenly found myself completely engrossed in eating leftover lasagna. I placed my lunch bag obediently in the trash can when I was finished. Maybe rebellion just isn't for me after all.

Posted by dianna at 08:24 PM

October 28, 2004

Qwx: "Needless to say, they planned to spend another night of heat and fire."

The above was snatched without mercy from the loving arms of the novel being read by the woman sitting next to me on BART this evening. I carefully memorized it before she turned the page, figuring that if I ever find myself asked to write a cautionary volume for would-be writers of sex scenes in popular fiction I'll at least have one thing to say.

Okay, maybe two things. One, a night of heat and fire is what you get when your radiator explodes at 2 a.m. and you have to evacuate your entire family down three flights of stairs because, you know, they say not to use the elevator if there's fire in the building, the bastards. What do they know about trying to get 3 kids down the stairs with their shoes untied, I'd like to know. Probably all live in their own houses with no stairs and no 80-year-old heaters anyway, 'cause they made so much money telling people how to trip over their shoelaces and then the kids start crying and don't want to walk at all and you have to carry them down the stairs but you've got your own shoelaces untied too and you just know you'll go sprawling as soon as you miss a step, and anyway they write that kind of instructions and get paid so much money they never have to live in an apartment again. I swear. Don't give me this "night of heat and fire" crap. Just say they're going to fuck like bunny rabbits and she's probably going to get her ass spanked cherry red by the time he's done with her, all right? Secondly, avoid stock phrases like "needless to say"; overusing them can make your writing seem cliched. Try to give each sentence its own personality.

I was planning to spend, not a night of heat and fire, but an hour or two riding the bus down to the craft store and browsing around for things that could be worn to good silly effect tomorrow. It's a good cause. I like silly effect. Somehow, though, I can't seem to bring myself to go out in the increasingly dark and increasingly freezing freezing darkness. It's full of late buses and terrifying and/or unterrifying people, and brisk half-miles between bus stops and destinations which may or may not have anything appealing. I don't want any of those things. I want hot chocolate and cats and Death Cab for Cutie. I want to sit around under an afghan because, damnit, I'm cold.

A new plan, then. I'll bring my chaotically multicolored patch afghan to work tomorrow and huddle under it at my desk while I answer the phone and fill out shipping forms. If anyone asks me if that's a costume I'm wearing, I'll nod. So, they'll ask, what are you?

I'm cold!

Posted by dianna at 07:02 PM

October 18, 2004

Qwx: The secret lives of fruit.

The peach paused in the doorway and looked around. It wasn't quite the packed club sandwich he'd been hoping for-- who was he kidding? It was a dingy endive bar with a few fruit barflies nursing drinks at rickety tables. He shrugged. This or stay at home? It's got to be this.

Eighteen, thought the pumpkin pie in the corner booth, watching him. Nineteen and sheltered, maybe. Firm, round, not even ripe. She grinned as he looked over and caught her glance. "Fuzzy navel, hon," she called lazily, flicking her eyes toward the bartender only after she saw the peach's faint flush turn into a furious blush.

The peach took a breath and walked over to the bar. "I'll take that." He picked up the fruity-smelling glass and glanced back into the shadows. She was still watching him. Well, what the hell. He made his way to the booth and slid the drink awkwardly across the table. "T-two fuzzy navels." The line came out all wrong, and the flush crept up his cheeks again.

The pumpkin pie chuckled and picked up the drink. The peach studied her in the dim light. Smooth, he thought, silky. Artificial, maybe, but with a body like hers, who's got time to worry about that? The last swallow of her drink was sliding down her throat and he hadn't even seen her stop to take a breath.

She set the glass down and leaned across the table. "You're not supposed to be here, are you, Sugar?" His eyes flickered guiltily, but he recovered and gave her a pouty look. "So where am I supposed to be?" She grinned like a Cheshire cat and the peach caught a whiff of spice. She slipped past him and out of the booth with one hand finding a grip on his belt on the way. He followed; helpless, maybe, but what a way to be helpless.

The bartender watched the alley door swing closed behind them. He didn't bother to comment; she'd be back, anyway. Everyone knew that by now.

Twenty minutes later the jukebox in the bar was playing Neil Young. The peach heard it through the door as he strolled away down the alley. "I could be happy the rest of my life with a cinnamon girl..." Sure, he thought, life's a long time, but maybe there's room for another twenty minutes sometime.

The pumpkin pie hummed softly as she straightened out her stockings and headed back into the bar. There'd be hell to pay for this, as usual, but maybe this time she'd do things a little differently. She sat down, leaned back against the crackly vinyl of the booth, and smiled to herself. After all, she'd always wanted a little persimmon of her own.

Posted by dianna at 11:30 PM

September 04, 2004

Qwx: Frottage

We spent our first night in the cottage last night. I fucking love it. It's quirky and strange and it smells like new paint and old wood. The floors are soft and smooth; they make me take my shoes off every time I get inside and pad around barefoot. The walls are wiggly, wavy, patched-up plaster and when you touch them you can feel 80 years of paint layers under your fingers. The doorknobs rattle, the doors sit funny in their frames, the hardware is eclectic. The front door closes by itself with a creak that would make Alfred Hitchcock proud, and the knobbly-footed tub wiggles ever so gently back and forth on its legs.

In all of this, the outlets all work, the lights are new with fresh bulbs, the windows open and close, and the screens are intact. No holes, no rotted floorboards, no spiderwebs. No leaks. New granite countertops, new cabinets, a nice modern fridge. Brand-new shower hardware. Everything is beautiful.

I drifted off to sleep last night thinking, "This is the test. If it's haunted, I'll find out tonight. Maybe I'll have horrible grisly nightmares. Maybe I'll hear things in the middle of the night. Maybe I'll wake up and find Jacob kidnapped or mummified or something." I always think that in old houses; if a place has had more than half a century to attract ghouls I automatically assume that it has done so. But I dreamed of taking mysterious trips and meeting interesting people, and woke up at 7:30 feeling refreshed and giddy. You hear that, ghouls? This is my house now. I belong in it.

Posted by dianna at 11:51 AM

August 26, 2004

"Never ask an architect anything."

"A full-size drawing is thirty inches by forty-two inches, but you always say the width first. So it's forty-two by thirty."
"Well, but we always just say thirty by forty-two."
"Really? Width first?"
"Oh, so, you look at it this way [drawing a tall skinny rectangle in the air]. So it's thirty by forty-two."
"But, you know, when you look at the document in AutoCAD it always says thirty by forty-two."
"Width first."
"Long ways!"
"When you specify a door you'll say something like, three-oh by seven-oh."
"Forty-two by thirty."
"It's a portrait, see."
"Never ask an architect anything."

This is what happened when I asked three architects and one interior designer whether full-size drawings are thirty-two by forty, or forty-two by thirty. I spent fully three minutes looking from one of them to another and occasionally saying, "Yes, but thirty-two doesn't feature anywhere in here, right?" "Okay, thirty by forty-two, then?" "Forty-two and thirty are the key dimensions here?" and finally, "I'm never going to believe anything you tell me again" (that last was to the interior designer, who was flat-out lying with a miraculously straight face).

The company picnic is this weekend. I can't wait to see what happens when you put these people in a park with four six-packs of beer and two jungle gyms. I'm confident that it will be an event to remember.

Posted by dianna at 02:53 PM

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 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

June 21, 2004

Qwx: You really can't hear the teacher with beans in your ears.

Me: Fallacy press-fit gramophone.
Architect: What?
Me: [Insert name of contractor] is on the phone.
Architect: For me?
Me: Belly sauna heartthrob butter fizzy.
Architect: What?
Me: Well, he wanted [insert name of owner] but he's busy.
Architect: So tell him he's in a meeting.
Me: Grime Lester vindaloo.
Architect: What?
Me: I'm just about to.
Architect: So no one needs to talk to me, then?
Me: Fallacy press-fit gramophone! Purdue!
Architect: What?
Me: You are from Mars.

Posted by dianna at 04:04 PM

June 07, 2004

Qwx: Good morning, RSDFJSGDSHDG Architects. How may I help you?

-Well, I've got a question about the plans for a project.
Oh, is this the Hfiwrufhsd Inn & Suites in San Rdfigdh, California?
-Yes. The plans came into my home yesterday and ate my first-born son. Were they supposed to do that?
Well, no, I don't think so. We did put out an addendum addressing some of the questions we've gotten, if that helps.
-Addendum? No, I didn't get any addendum. Look, he was only three. My wife and I have been saving for his college tuition already, we wanted him to go to a really good school.
Um, I'm really sorry.
-I mean, I didn't like the look of the plans to start with. I thought the red eyes and goat horns were really tasteless. But I thought they'd be okay to build from; I mean, I never thought plans would actually eat anybody.
No, I wouldn't really think they'd do that either.
-Did you know that in 43 years I've never seen a set of plans eat anybody's first-born son?
No, as a matter of fact I didn't know that.
-They just came right in and picked him up, drew this star thing on his chest, and started eating. Chomp. Chomp. Two big bites and he was gone. How does paper even digest, anyway?
I really couldn't tell you, sir.
-These plans are bad. I mean, really, really BAD.

Posted by dianna at 01:38 PM

June 02, 2004

QWX: Zucchina: Altaforte


Damn it all! all this our Kitchen stinks hunger.
You whoreson dog, Pimiento, come! Let's to dinner!
I have no life save when the pots clang.
But ah! when I see the burners gold, purple, blue, warming
And the broad skillets above them turn smoky,
Then growl I my stomach nigh mad with anticipation.


In hot summer I have great rejoicing
When the juices kill the earth's foul thirst,
And the salsa on brittle chip flash crimson,
And the fierce onions roar me their breath
And the garlic shrieks through my taste buds mad, delicious,
And in all the hot kitchens God's tomatoes simmer.


Hell grant soon we hear again the mushrooms sizzle!
And the shrill whistles of potatoes in oven baking!
Hot butter to juicy onion opposing!
Better one hour's morning than a year's afternoon
With no breakfast, no lunch, wine and no dinner!
Bah! there's no wine like the beet's crimson!


And I love to see the bread rise golden-brown.
And I watch his bubbles through the oven door
And it fills all my heart with rejoicing
And pries wide my mouth with fast chewing
When I see him so firm and turn golden,
His long might 'gainst all unbakedness opposing.


The man who fears weight gain and squats opposing
My words for dinner, hath no buds for tasting
But is fit only to rot in unsatisfied hunger
Far from where sauces are poured and the forks flash,
For the death of such diets I go rejoicing;
Yea, I fill all the air with my chewing.


Pimiento, Pimiento, to the dinner!
There's no sound like teeth to peach opposing,
No cry like the eater's rejoicing
When our elbows and fingers drip the orange
And our lips 'gainst the fuzzy skin clash.
May God damn for ever all who cry "No thank you"!


And let the music of our swallows make them envious!
Hell grant we hear again the mushrooms sizzle!
Hell blot black for always the thought "Not hungry"!

With moderately sincere apologies to Ezra Pound.

Posted by dianna at 04:01 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 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

April 26, 2004

Qwx: Memory lane, next right.

I remember having Krazy Glue on my fingers for years. I remember that I never left the house without wearing something I'd made. I remember that the loose wire ends always snagged my hair and pulled it out of my pigtails. I remember the college counselor at my high school being frustrated because she couldn't get me to talk about anything but my art projects. I remember the explosive ideas and the heart-soaring feeling of walking around with a brand-new creation. I remember how the one thing I could never make was a way to keep everything organized.

I remember the things that didn't work, and how there were more and more of them until nothing worked at all. I just found that black necklace with the hex nuts and knots, and I remember finishing it and feeling like I'd lost something. I found a bracelet made of candy-striped capacitors and I remember making it for my friend Tamar. I remember her asking if I could make her something else instead, because that one was kind of ugly. I don't remember whether I ever told her how much that sucked.

I remember sitting at my desk under the window listening to Murmur and making foil balls out of copper foil. The corners cut my fingers to hell, but by the next day it didn't matter because they were covered in glue again. I remember the puddles of slowly-drying resin on the back patio, the smell of metal, the shoes covered in buttons, and the weight of a bag of 500 spiky washers. And the grey top hat.

I don't have the clothes anymore, and sometimes I think I don't have the brain anymore either. But I've taken a bunch of the jewelry out of its bag in the closet and pawed through to see what's still intact. I'm wearing guitar-string ends on my right wrist, resistors on my left, fractured window glass around my neck and one of those damn blue wire spirals on my thumb. It feels familiar. The necklace is itchy and the bracelets are too heavy, and when I look in the mirror it looks weird to see cargo pants and a sensible, sporty green tank top instead of that godawful acid-print dress and the yellow paisley tights.

What, you may be asking, the hell is Dianna talking about? I don't know. Once upon a time, I was a giggling 15-year-old mad scientist working with pliers and string instead of scalpels and sutures. I woke up in the morning and was greeted with thoughts like, Wear every watch you own to school, and Zip-tie chains are the bangles of tomorrow. I was high on my own synaptic fluids because I believed that my ideas were genius and the world could only watch me admiringly as I worked my magic upon everything in my path.

I miss it. I'm not sure what changed. I do know that just now when Jacob wandered out into the kitchen where my old jewelry was all spread around, and came back and told me how great he thought it was, I felt like he was complimenting someone else. I don't even know what to say here except that somewhere in the process of growing up, I think I lost the personality I used to respect in myself. Maybe not lost. Maybe just... misplaced.

I'd like it back.

Posted by dianna at 12:15 AM

December 29, 2003

Qwx: Dianna, can I come in?

-No. Stay outside.
Aw, come on. Please?
-I said no! Stay out there.
Dianna, I said I want to come in.
-Too bad. Stay out.
I'll come through the window, then.
-I'm closing it. You're not coming in.
I can damn well try.
-Try all you like. You're staying out.
I think I'll come in the door when you let the cat in.
-No you won't!
Fine. How about the wall, then?
-What about it? It's a wall. You can't come through it.
No, of course not. Did I say wall? My mistake. Pay no attention.
-Wait, what are you doing? Stay away from that wall.
Oh, I'm not (seep) doing (seep) anything (seep). Don't mind (seep) me.
-Stop it! Stop it! Get out of my wall, you bastard!
Sure, sure. No problem.
-Look, will you just leave me alone? Go in someone else's house.
Oh, don't worry, I am.
-For the last time. This is my house and I don't want you in here. LEAVE ME ALONE!
Who, me? I'm not doing anything much. What do you have against me?
-I just want you to stay out there. Please?
Oh, fine, fine (drumdrumdrumdrumdrum). Have it (drumdrumdrumdrumdrum) your way.
-Really? You'll leave me alone?
Yep (drumdrumdrumdrum). See how nice (drumdrumdrumdrumdrumdrum) I'm being?
-Wait, what's that noise?
What (drumdrumdrumdrum) noise?
-That one. That drumming.
Oh, you mean this?

Talking to the rain is all well and good for spring showers, but today it's not being a very nice conversational partner. It's a little like having a sneaky hitman hanging around outside your house looking for an opportunity to come in and do some dirty work.

Posted by dianna at 04:16 PM