Wednesday What’s: Errant Edition

Since interesting things aren’t really happening at the moment, I’m forgoing the list and rambling.  Which will actually probably make for a shorter, more easily read post.  Go figure.

No one who knows me will be surprised that I am, on balance, pleased with how the election turned out.  I have a feeling that Obama will be a very different second term president than he was a first term one, about which I am cautiously hopeful.  The balance is more or less maintained in Congress, and the rightwing rape apologists got their wrists slapped.   State-wide, the proposals were a mixed bag.  I would have been happy if two, three, and four had gone differently, but the fact that one, five, and six lost pleases me immensely.

I am all registered for classes, financial aid accepted, and go to an orientation day on December 7.  So far, I see no books assigned, which means most reaings will likly go through blacboard, I think.  Or they’ll get the book lists to the bookstore eventually.  So, it’s really real.  Which is a little terrifying, but there you have it.  I am a grad student.  Or I will be, anyway.

Theoretically, we are going to Iowa for Thanksgiving.  I still need to make some arrangements around that, but it is largely settled.  It will be the first time I’ve traveled for Thanksgiving in…  a while?  I want to say several years, but I think we went down to Indiana for a holiday recently, but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was.  I know last year we had it in our apartment, which was rather nice.  But, Iowa promises to be yummy, and it will be good to see the folks there.  And also the folks in Illinois on the way back.  I should probably warn them about that.

I’ve been playing Skyrim, again, recently.  Someday I may actually finish the main questline of the game.  Someday.  Right now I’m wandering around trying to get  Falkreath to sell me land so I can build a house.  I rather like RPG problems.  There’s always a solution, and in the meantime you can go do other things, like be attacked by bears.  This happens to me a lot.  Not as much as it did in Oblivion (this game’s predecessor, for those who have other things to to do with their days off,) but still rather more than you’d expect.  This world has some very aggressive bears.

Vignette

She worried at the small patch of smooth, hard skin at the tip of her thumb, sharp nails over burnt skin, the sensation oddly distant. Every few seconds she’d switch to smoothing the first two fingers over the same patch, feeling for differences, for sensation reciprocated. Then scraping and prodding once more. She leaned back with a sigh, wrapping her thumb in the fingers of her other hand to stop the nervous scratching. The skin itself lacked sensation, but the nerves beneath were beginning to buzz from overstimulation. “What do you think, Boss?”

The cat blinked sleepily at her from his perch atop the bookshelf, his opinions his own for the time being. He was doing his best knick-knack impression, a lone tchotchke among dust bunnies of minimalism and neglect, orange fur riotously out of place in the subdued blacks and watery greys of the room. She turned her head to the window, lifting her hand to bite at her thumb, stopping only because she didn’t want to get chapstick on her fingers. The view was uninspiring, weak sunlight sliding over faded brick kept fastidiously free of ivy, the comfort of its familiarity losing out to the need for some prompt, some spark of an idea that might tip the scales in favor of one side or the other.. “I just… I don’t know. It’s not like it’s a big decision. Not really. When you get down and think about it.”

She stood and tried to pace, one foot in front of the other, ten steps to, ten steps fro, but the motion felt out of place in her legs, so she sat back down. Waited. Stood up again and moved to the couch and sat, again. Unattended, her nails returned to the burn on her thumb, scratching, scraping, pulling, ineffectually. The cat leapt down, stalking imperially to the chair she’d vacated and jumping into it, leeching a little warmth from her absence. The cat tucked himself into a loaf, facing her with patient, expectant eyes. She glowered back. “Don’t look at me like that. It’s not. Lots of people make far more important decisions every day. Sometimes several times a day. Before breakfast, even.”

The cat took a deep sighing breath, closing his eyes to nap, and she deflated into herself, drawing her feet up onto the couch and wrapping her arms around her knees. She leaned into the back of the couch, its clean clinical lines offering little in the way of embrace. The doorbell chimed, the muted belling descending carefully into the silence, unnoticed save for a twitched ear on the cat’s behalf. The silence swallowed the noise, stowing it away for safekeeping before the bell chimed again, almost apologetic. With a sigh, she pulled herself up from the couch, each step a layer of self building, one atop the other, from sullen and slouching to self-possessed austerity. Her hands dropped elegantly to her sides, fingers loose and unconcerned.

The cat curled in on himself with a sigh.

Friday Five: A Rose By Any Other Name

 

  1. Fun fact: when moving back to the Michigan from California, I applied to Wayne State as an undergrad.  They accepted me (though I ultimately chose to go to UofM-Dearborn,) and apparently assigned me an email – so my Wayne email is under my maiden name.  Heh. 
  2. I’ve researched the process of legally changing our name to my maiden name rather than Cariad’s family name, (which he is totally on board with,) and though it looks like a rather annoying process, we’ll likely go through with it in the near future.  It amuses me a little to think that one of the primary benefits of this will be that all of my institutionally assigned email addresses will go back to making sense again.
  3. What a difference a word makes:  Average salary for an Administrative Assistant: $34K.  Average salary for a Development Assistant?  $46K.  Now to find someone who will pay me either.  I remember talking with Bishop Gibb, I believe, who said something to the effect of ‘being a religious organization doesn’t exempt us from paying market price for skills.’  Sad to say, that is not the prevailing attitude.  I realize that economic circumstances create pressure, but it is still frustrating.
  4. I’ve never been much of a cut flower person, but due to a spate of shall we say ‘resident departures’ we have had a lot of flowers lately.  I find myself in a state of flower fatigue – I still like them, but big bunches of them just do NOT do it for me.  I currently have a very ikebana arrangement with a leafy thing and two orchid stalks.  It is making me quite happy.
  5. I am being moved to an office with a sign that says Development and Community Relations.  Maybe now the residents where I work will have some idea what I’m there for…

This Is Not My Beautiful Life

This past Sunday was an almost perfect day.  Gray and damp, with that special push of wind that seems to scour your bones gloriously, enlighteningly clean as it passes by, passes through.  It was a little warmer than it should have been, the unseasonable mildness the only hint of the dis-ease that has riddled the weather this past year even more than those before.

The earth is shouldering its way into the death-sleep of winter, grumbling uncharitably to the too warm air.  Not that the air can help it, not really, the only sign it’s even aware of the unrest its disordered behavior causes a certain apologetic sadness in the rain it scatters heedlessly into earth too swollen or too parched to swallow it in.

And this is the way a year ends, stepping into the dark and laying down, sullen-unwilling and grateful-tired.  People, carried along with it, some fearful of the dark, looking forward to the clamoring holiday clangor of light’s last gasp; some few eager for the dim rest that winter affords.  Working on a personal photography project, I find myself wanting to stop the car, wherever it is I’m going, to take pictures of trees, aflame or enflamed with autumn’s descent into winter.  To capture the most beautiful colors, the ones nature offers only parsimoniously on such a grand scale, an eyeblink of the year before snatching them all away again, hoarding them for the flowerbeds of industrious gardners.

I never stop though, something about which I felt a vague sense of existential discomfort, that needling in the hindbrain signaling something that needs to be examined, teased apart and considered fully.  The trees, the colors, the cacophany that is fall in the northern midwest, it is one of those things that makes the world beautiful.  Beauty that helps to ease * some of the the economic and social discomfort that are the day to day realities of our state.

But it’s not what makes the world around me mine.  Beauty, to me, is sort of an aesthetic anasthetic.  My mind processes something as visually pleasing to a general ‘audience’ and then stops thinking about it, unless otherwise prompted.  As if beauty were not only objective, but an end in itself.   I won’t go into the whys and wherefores, but I will say that it is that acceptance of soialized beauty as a cognitive stopping point that is the source of a great deal of my own alienation.  I find the beauty that ‘everyone sees’ in things, and thus exclude myself from the world they inhabit.**

So this project has a two-pronged approach.  The first is that I (try to) take a self-portrait every day, unedited and largely unprepared for, and then make myself look at them until I can accept the photographic evidence of myself-as-object-in-the-world – because oh, yes, there is a decidedly philosophical bent to this.  The second is to take pictures of the world: not the world as ‘objectively’ beautiful, but as subjectively mine.

I will write more about this oddyssey as the whim arises, but my early stage evaluation is thus: it is an interesting journey that I’ve set myself on.  Interesting in the engaging sense, but also with a sense of nervousness, an awareness that I am uneasy about what I will find.  I know the whole of the journey will not be simply acheiving a sense of engagement-with-the-world, but then going forward with it.  That is what stirs a susurrus of dormant dread in the belly.  Rather appropriate for the witching season, eh?

*Not my state, but a very good piece.  You should go read it.

** If ony body dysmorphia were a rational thing, I might have conquered it already.

Wednesday What’s-es: October Squee

Listening to: Depends which way I’m driving, these days.  Mostly Pandora, really, until I get around to putting more music on my phone.  Usually it’s dance radio in the moring, to wake me up, and then John Denver/Paul Simon/Mumford and Sons type stuff on the way home, because it’s soothing.  

At home, the sound of traffic.  There is this odd quality to the sound of the cars out on Washtenaw when one sits in Cariad’s office – it makes all the cars sound like snowplows – rumbly-scrapy and ponderous – or lawnmowers on crack.  I think it’s nifty.

Eating: I made Chickpea of the Sea spreadlast night, substituting capers for the umeboshi vinegar.  The little spoonful I had was tasty- the substitution seems to be successful – the rest is for sammiches this week.  I am also working my way through the world’s most precious supply of honeycrisp apples – $6 for 3 pounds.  They didn’t have the $4 ones (Jonathan apples, which are not bad for the price but not my preference,) so at that point I was going to pay $5 for 3 lbs if I wated apples at all.  I figured it was worth the extra dollar for apples I actually like.

Drinking:  Not enough water.  I tried a bottle of Lime-Cucumber Gatorade (on the premise that I really like the lime flavor of their “Rain” flavors: it’s lime without the overwhelming acidity, and very tasty.)  This was not a successful experiment, judging by the heartburn.  Fake cucumber flavor is… not a positive use of culinary science.

Reading:  Plato’s Gorgias.  Rhetoric, its relation to politics, then on to a discussion about the goals of life.  That’s what the abstract says, anyway.  I’ll let you know what I think when I’m done, maybe.

Watching: Alphas.  Boy, oh, boy did I start watching this too soon.  Cariad and I are working our way through the first season, and quickly.  Soon I will be reduced to actually waiting for episodes.  Quelle horreur.  Really, though, this show is an actually quite awesome exploration of super-human abilities possessed by human beings.  The characters are multi-dimensional, and the powers they possess are explored in  excellent detail.  Which is not to say there isn’t a certain amount of handwavium, but it’s good.  Which means that it will no doubt be cancelled in the very near future.

Playing:  Dragon’s Dogma.  Jeff calls it the single-player MMO.  I can see why – certainly several of the ‘make-work’ quests are reminiscent of MMORPGs, but I rather like it.  This also marks the first time I have had the leeway to create a character who actually physically looks like me.  Which is interesting, and quite likely part of my attachment to what is otherwise, thus far, a pretty straightforward video game.

Wearing:  Skirts and dresses.  Hah, I say that as if I have multiples.  Which I do, so long as we are talking anything more than one – I have three skirts, one of which is about to be retired for winter (it’s lightweight, and pastel,) and two (work appropriate) dresses, one of which is quickly approaching ‘retirement to the pajama drawer’ status.  But, in an effort to reduce decision fatigue and save energy for things that actually matter, I’m trying to routinize the wardrobe.  If I only  own three pairs of pants that are suitable for work – and right now, I do – then I need to cover the lower half of me somehow.  So, skirty things it is.

Writing:  This stuff.  Trying to do it every weekday, with some experiments.  I make no promises.

Thinking: About how to do Thanksgiving.  Our presence has been requested in/invited to Dubuque, so there will be car renting.  I’ll likely try to leave work early on that Wednesday, drive out, and probably drive back on Sunday.  If schedules and budgets allow it, maybe that Monday, but we shall see.

Feeling:  Nervous to go back to school as a grad student in January.  It’s a little surreal, but it will be a welcome step forward.  I mean, holy crap, I’m going to grad school.  Online.  Doing school things.  Ack!  But on the other hand, whee!  When am I going to have time to do anything?  Oh, right, I don’t do all that much right now.  Well, that’ll take care of itself, now won’t it?

Wanting: UM med development to call back, which is looking rather unlikely att his point.  Which is sad, because I would really have liked to work there, but also because it means I have to back to actively job hunting, which is tedious and humbling.

Needing:  More time or more focus.  The latter would be better, the former would allow more sleep.  Adding concerta into my medication mix has helped, the rest is mostly a lot of scattered-ness that I have allowed to creep in.  Always problematic, because it’s so much harder to root it out than to guard against it.

Enjoying: Hazelnut coffee.  The receptionist ordered a box of it, mostly at my suggestion.  Coffee at work is now suddenly so much better…

And, the weather:  Yesterday was *gorgeous.*  Clear, blue and mild.  A break from the weather Ireally, really like, which is to say grey, colder, adn windy.  Love those fall days.  I could do with lower humidity on those days, to keep my knee from getting cranky, but I tae what I can get.

A Tale for your Tuesday

Fact:  In the last six months of 2012, no one by the name of Rebbecka Murphy had died.  Publicly anyway.  She’d tried searching just “Re* Murphy”, in case her mother’s inability to spell had dogged her one last time, but that hadn’t turned up anything, either.  She’d even spent most of the night paging through search results for Murphy nationwide in the past six months, on the off chance that Cal had died, too, and the circling, penurious vultures he called children had combined their obituaries.  That had come up empty as well.

She frowned, a terrifying expession that had it had a sound would have been described as stentorian, and which seemed vaguely annoyed at having to settle for simply ‘thunderous.’ The libarian backed away slowly, the words drying on her tongue before she could even form the polite, and probably ineffective request she had practiced for the last several minutes that Rebecka allow the next person in line use the computer.  There were several banks of them – Rebecka had sniffed at the fact that there were more computer desks in the fancy new  library than shelves – but there was just the one that had the minor defect in wiring and ineffable being-ness that allowed the only vaguely corporeal presences of the recently deceased to operate it.

The place was lousy with them, too, slouching and sagging about the place, the mystical improbability of their gothic existence entirely at odds with the heavy-handed Danish Modern aesthetic that the place had been assaulted with.  Concrete and brushed nickel everywhere you looked.  Rebecka shuddered, wondering off-handedly if she’d given money to abet in the perpetration of this particular architectural monument to bland disinterest.  She glanced out the window.  The place hadn’t been named after her.  It seemed a pretty safe bet her conscience could rest easy on that score.

Narrowing her eyes, she stood, walking toward the window with a disinterested wave to the wilting librarian.  She knew that there had to be an obituary before the estate could be dissolved.  She had very carefully written it into the will.  In order for the lawyer – and wasn’t she going to miss that little bedwarmer now that her bones were cold –  to release any funds to the slavering gold-diggers her husband had saddled her with from his first marriage, they had to produce proof that the obituary had been published, exactly as she had written it, in daily newspapers in each of the cities they lived in, at least one of which had to have circulation of over 100,000.  And yet nothing had been published.  Slowly, grimly, she began to smile.  The wretched little ingrates would have none of it, then, and every cent would go to the Titus T Alba Fund for the Preservation of Famous Authorial Typewriter Ribbons and Assassinated Politician’s Spittoons.

She turned, finally deigning to acknowledge the tunnel of white light that had been following her around for several days now, sickly sweet voices cooing gooily after her from the beyond, raddled with the faint windchime-tinkling of celestial static.  “Well, let’s have it then,” she demanded impatiently.  The light seemed to spasm, surprised at having been noticed at all.  She rolled her eyes and shook her head.  “You’ve been hanging about for days.  Haven’t given me a moment’s peace what with your ridiculous lux eternam nonsense.  I can’t go back, so you can’t back out now.  Let’s get this little farce over with.”  Squaring her shoulders, she started marching forward.  The light shrank back a little, not the first being to be daunted by her grim singularity of purpose.  Shuddering for a moment, it pressed itself forward, trembling and trepidatious, and Rebecka Ignatia Alba Murphy marched on through to the afterlife.

*            *            *            *            *            *            *            *             *

[Possibly] To be continued.

Friday Five, Sausage Edition

  1. I caught up on my HBR queueueueue (she knew how to start spelling it, but not how to stop.)  I think there might be one of you out there that looks at my google reader starred items, and probably stopped looking because it’s been about 80% Harvard Business Review.  That’s because in the past three days, I’ve caught up on about 90+ entries.  It’s actually a really interesting – and totally non-nauseating! – source of business news / info / trends.  I recommend it, actually.  Many posts are applicable to more than just their primary subject, talk about the personal as well as the personnel, and some don’t read like business articles at all.
  2. Apropos of the VP debate, which I did not watch, but read the twitter feed while it was going on: an excellent post which I’ve seen referenced on Facebook, but I finally got around to reading through metafilter, about the difference between opinion and argument.  A difference that a lot more people need to learn, really.  Some of us (me) need to be reminded of it occasionally, as well: I am in charge of finding reasons why I am right, no one else. 
  3. Also through metafilter, GLOSS: an online resource for “lessons [that] are developed for independent learners to provide them with the learning/teaching tools for improving their foreign language skills.” The language selection is actually quite impressive – all the usual suspects with others like Pashto, Urdu, Punjabi and Hausa as well.  Time to polish up my German skills, and learn some French, too. 
  4. Two blogs that I’ve recently added to my list:   Study Hacks (through Wandering Scientist, but I think it might also have ben mentioned elsewhere, maybe Gretchen Rubin) but I started reading back through it for posts like this.  Number two: Raptitude This piece, posted to metafilter I believe, lured me in.  This piece made me stay for coffee.
  5. The office manager in my building is totes going to make one of these using all first gen (i.e., Keaton) sets.  Just a reminder that nerds are awesome.
  6. And a bonus: if you use dates as file identifiers, like many of my projects do, you probably (should*) use the (YY)YYMMDD format.  If you do that for today, you’ll notice something that  think is nifty that everyone else probably really doesn’t care much about: 20121012.  Twenty-twelve-ten-ty-twelve.   Yes, I am easily amused.

*This keeps things like correspondence, which I generate in massive quantities, and deposit tickets, which I also produce rather prolifically, together by date in chronological order.  So you don’t have April-August-December-February-January-July-June, or worse, January-October-November-December-February.  When you produce a LOT of these files, these things matter.

Also, I did this today. I will NOT tell you how long it ook me to figre out how to take a pictureof my phone case with my phone Just send coffee.