December 31, 2005

2005 Wrap-up

A personal wrap-up really. I'll let the ten best lists, the world events, the entertainment and sports wrap-ups, the person(s) of the year, and other such end of the year rituals to others more knowledgeable or effusive.

It was a year of catching my breath and retrenching. A year when I gave up battling a ten year financial crisis, turned around and faced the dragon. Not the first time I have stopped running in my life - but hopefully the last. Life seems more centered of late.

2005 was a year when I started yoga. It was a year of exercise and increasing health.

It was a year of steady work and new opportunities.

I started the year having recently killed off a blog and abandoned an office outside the home, I start 2006 with a newly minted blog and the promise of reopening an office in February. In the long slow parabola of my life over the past few years, 2005 seems to have held a nadir - more and more there are signs of rebirth, growth, opportunity.

According to the christian calendar, its a new year. Celebrate safely, everyone who chooses to celebrate publically. We're having friends over for dinner, and will most likely be snoring as 2006 ticks over.

Do something affirming and positive and healthy and just a little offbeat, for yourself and for the universe.

Return to Racquetball

It's been at least a decade since I stepped onto a racquetball court. I played a bit in college - the court at school was free, we were young and hale, and flinging our bodies into walls and tumbling into the corners was kind of fun, and a nice change of pace from studying or drinking.

When I lived in Bristol, I joined the Chippens Hill Racquet Club, which is now apparently called the New England Health & Racquet Club at Bristol. I played a bit then. I also played my friend RZ (who much prefers skiing, or flying various contrivances) at the Southington YMCA. And I guess I even belonged to a health club in Waterbury. It all blurs together.

I was a lot younger then - these mid-40's bones and joints are more attuned to yoga and jazzercise these days. But the Zipster and I ventured onto the court last night for an hour - and it was fun! I was pleased to see a lot of my intuitive playing sense return - I was volleying off the ceiling into the corners, I was slamming shots down the alleys. Some shots and techniques were missing - but in general, it felt good to be back. Being in the court felt "at home" in a way that some describe a baseball field - the geekette in me loves the geometry, the angles, the chesslike flow of position and shotmaking. Pong writ large in 3D with a first person perspective.

After the game (we both are sore and tired but nothing broken, nobody hurt) we visited the Wood N' Tap where I enjoyed a beer (ah, she drinks!) and a veggie wrap. Uncharacteristically trendy and social for us - we usually stick closer to home and at places less loud and less hip, but as long as I was reviving decades old energy, why not splurge.

December 30, 2005

Nature's Packaging

I just ate a hard-boiled egg. "Aha, she's not a vegan!" - fill in the corresponding dot in your worksheets, you'll suss me out yet. I aspire to lacto-ovarian vegetarianism but I am far from realizing this level of gastro-enlightenment....I'm lazily omnivorous.

Anyway, I was struck by the usefulness and efficiency of the hard-boiled egg from a packaging and presentation perspective. The shell is protective yet easy to remove, the overall shape of the naked egg is pleasing and ergonomic (and many agree). And there is a panoply of eccentric egg utensils, accoutrements, and accessories.

Since one of the definitions of panoply is a protective covering or defense, this officially counts as clever wordplay. My second today, I am still chuckling over Ohmic Enlightenment.

About the only thing that would make a hard-boiled egg better would be to have the shell removable in one or two pieces. Apparently, there is an official way to peel an orange, but truth be told, I prefer a more mischievous way - in which a great circle is carefully scored around the orange, and by careful peeling and prying in an incremental, circular way, one can remove the peel in two full hemispheres. It would be great if hard-boiled eggs peeled that way.

Of course the real purpose for this is to eat the fruit, and reassemble the orange peel carefully, placing it somewhere like a ticking empty fruit time bomb - someone will inevitably pick it up and be amused to find a hollow orange. Situational surrealism.

Props to Al Perrins (aka "Doc") for turning me on to this sort of tom-foolery at my first job, circa 1983-85. Not the first thing he has invented.

One Night in the Call Center

These kinds of books fascinate me.

I'm an anti-call-center kind of woman. I've walked down the halls of North American call centers and they do seem like sweatshops to me, albeit with air-conditioning, and comfortable chairs and plantronics headsets. The blinking LED scoreboard with average call time and customers in the queue and total calls handled that day makes it seem like a sporting event. You just expect to hear the Monday Night Football music (which I hear is available, these days) as your computer welcome theme.

I almost never call, because I know they are following a script, and I know that the same script is in the help file or manual or online support somewhere, and I can look it up myself without burning up the phone liness between Connecticut and Bangalore. By the time I want to talk to a live person, I am well off the script with a GPS and a machete, and call centers can rarely handle off the script.

But India.

One of my good clients these days is from the sub-continent - a lovely man who has done a lot to dispel my learned biases. You see, Indian engineers have frustrated the be-jaysus out of me at times - I think there is some peculiar amalgam of British rooted education and Indian culture and attitudes that make an engineer's training in India unique. Western engineers can at time be cowboys; if the simulation software is broken they whip out the slide rule or start jotting notes on the back of an envelope, toss in some fudge factors, overdesign things, make some guesses. Not, I might add, the best way to design a bridge or skyscraper or airplane. But good enough, quite efficient in fact, for many decisions.

I work in a field filled with maybes and probablies - it's almost artfully intuitive and there is almost never one single answer derived from formula and fact. I am pretty good at artful intuition, which is why I get paid the big bucks. In days gone by, I would get calls from Indian engineers, working at A&E firms, looking for the one true answer, the textbook formula, the path to Ohmic enlightenment. Barring that, they wanted me to take responsibility for making a guess. There does not seem to be a lot of cultural or educational support for making guesses in the Indian engineering system. Probably for good reason, truth be told. I suspect a cowboy was involved.

I've done this dance a lot. "I know you can't tell me what size wire to use because you do not have all the information or know all of the facts, but if you were going to specify a wire size, what would you use?" I need to find someone to phonetically write out the Hindi translation for "I am not going to tell you what wire size you should use, you will have to take responsibility for this decision yourself" - because a lot of times English does not seem to work....

December 29, 2005

New Quote

But when December comes and grabs you by the throat
Better look for something burning deep inside your coat...

Hugh Blumenfeld - "This Mountain" from "Mozart's Money"

December 28, 2005

Dinner Redux

So, the restaurant was actually there, and it was fabu. High praise for Rovezzi's in Sturbridge - I had the eggplant which was wonderful. C and I had a nice meal.

But something odd happened - C was talking about relationships and dating - and I started effusively spouting a new age sort of "ask the universe for what you want, and you'll get it". AND I BELIEVED IT. Wholeheartedly, unconditionally, with the zeal of an evangelical preacher. Open your heart. Ask for what you want. It will come to you.

Now, I have been a cynical, jaded, crusty curmudgeonly sort - pretty much everything I say or do has a back-door, caveats, lowered expectations - irony at minimum and serious sarcasm more likely. And while life has given me some pretty decent things in the past few years - I've always had a "pinch me this can't be real this can't be happening to me" kind of aura around the wishful expectations that I would be taken care of.

And I am sitting in an italian restaurant in Sturbridge MA and selling her this without a trace of irony.

Open your heart. Ask for what you want. It will come to you.

Somebody is in big trouble for wrecking a perfectly good cynic.

Cell Phone Refusenik

I am having dinner tonight with my friend C who has no cell phone.

It's not because she can not afford one - she can, she could write it off, and cell phones are lower cost than a second land line these days.

It's not because she does not need one - she is self employed, visits her clients at their homes, and a cell phone would be incredibly handy to confirm appointments or permit her clients to connect with her while she is traveling from place to place. Not to mention it would provide her with a separate business line.

It's not because she has never experienced the sort of event where a cell phone would come in handy - she recently related an experience where she traveled many miles to a client's home to find nobody at home, waited 15 minutes before giving up, missed the client by 5 minutes, and returned home to a message on her machine from the client saying they were running late, and could she please hang out.

I mention this because one of the amusing incidents we associate with C (besides the way she tells this joke, but that's a different story) is the time we were supposed to meet her at the Picadilly Pub in Sturbridge. I made a mistake and thought we were supposed to meet at the Ninty-Nine. So we missed each other, after much confusion, waiting, frustration on both parts. If she had a cell phone, we would have had a nice meal, perhaps a bit late - but we would have connected.

I am not 100% sure why she is cell-phone averse. I think its a back to nature, pre-technological revolution, my mom and dad never had one so I do not need one either kind of thing (she lives in a house dating back to the 18th century, and she has a vegetable garden that is larger than the lot we live on that she tends by hand). That, or she is just a skinflint.

In any case, I am unable to find the restaurant where we are supposed to be meeting tonight (Rovezzi's) on Yahoo / Google / Maps / Yellow Pages. It's supposed to be in Sturbridge, and I see nothing even vaguely Italian near the intersection of the roads where she says it is (in case its a place that has changed hands or been renamed). I did find a place with the same name in Worcester (bad sign). So.....let's see if we replay the chaos.

It might be a new place, not yet on the map, so to speak, and 6:00 pm may see us sitting down to a nice meal. But....I might be making a run for the border on the way home, and vowing not to do dinner with her until she puts down the stone knives and bearskins....and picks up a 20th century communicator....

Blogger vs. Livejournal

I know a lot of people with LJ accounts. I read a few of 'em, all people I know in person or have met at some time in the past. But I also read their "friends" entries - and for the most part these are people I heve never met, perhaps people I have met once or am acquainted with.

I find it interesting / sad / amusing when a livejournal friends list blows up in an incestuous, positive feedback loop of opinion, venting, ranting, emotion, assumption, comments, snarks and slights (real or perceived). I'm watching one right now. Someone started talking about the merry christmas / happy holidays thing (pro-xmas, with a "please do not diminish my joy" slant) and got jumped on by non xtian friends. It's kind of ugly. Also mildly entertaining (since I know a few of the people involved and could have written the script ahead of time....)

Mostly, it's why I prefer a Blogger-ish thing to a LJ. I'd prefer my readers have to come actively find me. I'd prefer that my readers do not get the instantaneous option of reading what my friends and acquaintances are doing simultaneously and en-masse. I'd rather not write about a workshop or party or cultural event without having 2 or 3 other camera angles / perspectives right there, for the reader to see. I am not producing a documentary here or great art - this is just my little slice of the world, opinion and editorial. I'd like to say BLUE without having a chorus suggesting that it was really light blue or teal or periwinkle or You're color blind, you moron, it's red!

Connected. But not too connected.

December 27, 2005

Not working / Not not working

Weird week. Much of corporate america (my clients) has the week off. So its pretty quiet out there. 2005 ended fairly well for me so my receivables are pretty healthy moving into 2006. I have three days of production work schedule for the first week of January. I have no specific urgent, deadline induced projects in the queue. So I have little incentive to get busy.

On the other hand, I have things to do. I can start my 2005 wrap-up stuff (taxes); I have some apps notes to design and start to generate content for a client (back-burner project). I have one website I've been meaning to develop for a friend, another that needs its 2006 makeover, and an idea struck me to add a major section to my professional site related to writing / freelance (if you build it, they will come). I could organize the office. So I could be / should be, working. But its hard to get motivated this time of year.

Time to put together a to-do list, my usual prescription for motivational malaise.

December 26, 2005

Welcome to 2003 (or thereabouts)

My brothers (who rock incredibly) chipped in to gift me with a Dell DJ Ditty MP3 player, which is something I would never purchase for myself (too extravagent) but is perfect.

It all installed pretty easily; I charged it up overnight via the USB port and I am listening to it now on Shuffle mode. For the record, the first 5 CD's I imported (a quick random pick off the rack)

* Hugh Blumenfeld - Mozart's Money (I should just put Raphael on repeat....)
* Richard Shindell - Courier
* Hedwig and the Angry Inch
* The Very Best of Elvis Costello and the Attractions
* Famous Blue Raincoat - Jennifer Warnes (songs by Leonard Cohen)

I am feeling very trendy (which I guess means that MP3 players are officially passe, and something new will come along) and am excited to explore the possibilities (roller blading and long airplane trips, downloading audio books and/or podcast streams of favorite radio programs)

December 25, 2005

Happy Christmas II

Colin McEnroe's column today. Just because.

Because I am all about tasteless and tacky gifting....

Giant Microbes
or alternately: Parasite Pals

Happy Christmas...

...if that is your holiday of choice.

We went to see Ushpizin last night - really liked the movie, but more of the same patriarchy run amok (this time among hasidic jews in Israel). The theater was full of the local jewish population (many of whom were new to the theater, which is one of our favorite places) which was fun, after the movie it had a "post-services social" feel to it as people hung out and chatted or called greetings to each other across the theater. As someone raised roman catholic, who has always done christmas, its kind of fun to see what non-christians do on this religious / secular / legal / commercial juggernaut.

A bit of last minute present adornment (ribbons and bows) this morning, then a relaxing morning before we trek north to MA and the annual disgorgement of gifting that we call christmas in my family of origin. I'm celebrating the solstice and the return of light, and if the archetype of a divine child come as a symbol of peace and hope gets mixed in there somehow....well, so be it! My heart is large enough for multiple symbols, myths, and imagery.

Namaste, all.

December 24, 2005

Baraka

Wow, what an amazing work. It's hard to get it all in, in some ways the work is elusive, you just watch and let the waves of emotion wash over you. It's hard to know what to get from it. Here are the things that struck me:

* The absolute beauty of the camerawork - both the normal photography and the time lapse footage
* The absolute beauty of the planet - I wanted to travel more
* The dehumanizing aspects of civilization - the sheer numbers of people crammed into smaller spaces, doing mindless work.
* The egg factory - beautiful, fascinating, horrifying, and mostly, not unlike the way humans live their lives in some of the places filmed.
* The universal quest for a higher power. So many beautiful sacred images. The footage of the pilgrims circling the Kaaba was most particularly riveting, the whirling dervishes most entrancing and beautiful.
* The patriarchy. One would think all of those seeking the divine were men. And in fact, in many cultures and locals, they are.

It was a definite treat. About 1/2 way through I was feeling quite down, quite hopeless. Yet the beauty of the planet, the horrors of civilization, and the quest for the divine all formed a somewhat stable three-legged platform. Perhaps we seek the divine since our need to rise above our lives is so acute.

I was actually left with somewhat of a feminist spin on it all - a sort of "men have sought the divine for centuries and the results are evident (overpopulation, dehumanization, torture, war, genocide). Perhaps it is time for the feminine to exert itself....". In that way - hopeful.

One of our friends makes this an annual holiday pilgrimage, and I can see why.

Oh, and then we did a drink (yes, I do drink, now and then) and some really nasty but yummy bar food at the Corner Pug. Kind of hope yoga is somewhat tame this morning, if I sweat a lot its gonna be guinness and irish nachos....lovely....

December 23, 2005

Happy Jewmas

Well, we really do not qualify to celebrate Jewmas: my family is celebrating THE DAY (and we are participating), I'm a recovering catholic skewing pagan-buddhist so I can pretend its solstice, and the Zipster is only nominally Jewish even as she has a fetish for all things Catholic (most evidenced by a collection of 40-50 large votive candles of the type you find at Botanicas and urban Stop & Shops, which we have prominantly displayed).

However, even if we are doing something more culturally attuned on Sunday, we lack a lot of the cultural underpinnings of christmas eve, christmas weekend, etc - we're not cleaning, we're not hosting a special dinner or an open house, we're not wassailing or making merry or feasting or churching....

So instead we are going to movies, in the spirit of Jewmas. Tonight, Baraka at Cinestudio and tomorrow Ushpizin at Real Art Ways.

Pass the popcorn.

December 22, 2005

Yule Season Ramp-up

From my days in corporate america I recognize the long slow slide into the holidays. Things are really quiet out there - phone calls go to voice mail, emails are unanswered, my phone is silent. Not that I am complaining - I have gifts to wrap, things to clean, socializing has begun, gifting is underway. Just seems like with the christmas holiday on a Sunday, there is a really long run-up to the big day this year.

As my holiday gift to you, a link to an oldie but goodie: the 2000 North Pole Gazette. Which is still pretty fresh, all things considered....

And another fun thing that will appeal to the engineers. I got it via email, but it appears to be the handiwork of the good folks at Winzler & Kelly

December 20, 2005

Solstice

You can't fool me, little baby Jesus was not really born on Dec 25th, but they celebrate his birthday this time of year to mesh up with solstice and steal some mojo from those pesky pagans who knew that the world needed a little bit of light and warmth in the dead of winter.

There have been a lot of things on the political landscape: the way the government dropped the ball during and after the hurricanes, cracks in the right's support of the war, talk of a pull-out, the recent uncovering of NSA spying on US citizens, the Patriot Act not being rubber stamped, the drop in popularity and support for POTUS, and most recently, the federal decision (by a W-appointed judge, no less) that Intelligent Design is Creationism in new skins, and shall not be taught in a science classroom.

Makes me think we are perhaps turning the corner politically even as the shortest day rolls around and the light starts to grow.

New Quote

So I bid you pleasure, And I bid you cheer
From a heathen and a pagan....On the side of the rebel Jesus

Jackson Browne - "Rebel Jesus" from The Chieftains "The Bells of Dublin"

Yoga Booty Ballet

I dunno. I bounce around to Jazzercise. I do yoga. Not at the same time, mind you.

But this just seems wrong on some sort of weird level of cultural misappropriation and personal mixed messages. Surprised they did not get salsa / latin culture in there.

December 19, 2005

Evansville, Indiana

I'm visiting a hospital here for work. Kind of an odd week to be traveling (before the Christmas Holiday and all) but yanno, being self employed you take the work when and where you can find it. I actually tried to suggest a few things to try to resolve things remotely (but would have earned me no money) since I did not really want to travel this time of year - if they had me on retainer I might have gone a few steps further in remote assistance. Ah well. Southern Indiana in December. This, my friends, is the heartland.

As I drove from the airport (tiny, mostly commuter jets) to the hotel, I passed a huge Whirlpool Plant. The kind of plant we easterners think have all moved to Mexico or China. Somebody is still doing manufacturing in the USA. And they are doing it in Evansville, IN, among other places. It almost makes me sad to hang the laundry outside...

I also stumbled on a xtian rock/pop station down at the public radio end of the FM band. This happens a lot when I am in this part of the world - I spend a minute or so setting the rental car FM presets in the sub-91.9 range to things that seem interesting (college, classical, news) and then channel surf. More and more, at least one of the stations I settle on thinking its the local college turns out to be xtian - and I'm bopping along to something vaguely Ani-ish or Dar-like and thinking I should try to find out who it is and then I actually listen to the words. Amusing. They talk about the secularization of christmas - what about the xtianization of secular music? We need a fair an unbiased news channel to talk about that...

I made my plans to be here on Monday (fly in Sunday night) but since we cannot get access to the equipment until 3 pm, I have all day to kill. Not too much work to do; if I were smart I would have brought along my holiday cards. I dug up a local Jazzercise class for this morning (in Newburgh, 5 miles due east) and I will probably visit the local Kohls looking for some xmas gifts that can be returned back east if needed.

Post-Jazzercise: Also, unbeknownst to me, Evansville was the site of some pretty nasty weather on Nov 5. One of the women in class was talking about not having her roof back, and when I drove back, I noticed a decimated neighborhood less than 1/4 mile from the facility. Roofs gone on the fringes, trees sheared, homes destroyed. Sheesh.

Also, the fact that the heartland women of this great country of ours are exercising to Eddy Grant's Gimme Hope, Joanna is something: hopeful? ironic? subversive? colonizing? weird? In any case, I got a decent workout....

About the ::cough:: trans stuff

Yes, I am.

But I am not gonna write about it here. I am not gonna editorialize or kvetch or tell the world how it is. I'll leave that for others more successful, more interested in guiding others, more conforming to the standard narrative.

I was. I am. I survived (so far). If the fact that I am a woman with an unusual path, a person with a past drops to the 6th or 7th most interesting thing about me, that will be just about right. I stay connected in small ways and large ways; it will always be a part of my life, I give back - but I'm not gonna write about it. OK?

Since the implosion of Jude Mood had a lot to do with my writing about that part of my life, lets just call this an act of blog-preservation.

If you want to ask or talk about it privately, feel free.

Guess What, I am Back

It's been a long time. November 2004 was the last update before I pulled the plug on Jude Mood my previous blog (which for the record, ran from November 2002 through November 2004), neatly bookending a certain major life event. I did archive the old blog....not sure what if anything I will do with it but it does provide a nice life record.

I pulled the plug for a lot of reasons: I was pissing people off, I was filtering what I was writing because of who was reading, I was letting too much of my personal life out there.

I am too much of a iconoclast in certain subjects and with certain communities, and I needed to learn to shut up about stuff....

I hope to avoid some of the mistakes of the past. Have I grown wiser? Have I put some distance between me and the painful angry stuff? Have my wounds healed sufficiently so that I am able to re-engage?

Time will tell.....another experiment.