Friday, September 29, 2006
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Good design for a real problem.
Some interesting things from the class:
- Incompetent and bungling as we were, sandbagging goes shockingly fast. It must be astonishing to watch a crew with a few days’ practice; like fast motion film, but not.
- If water is channeling through a levee, it will come out the other side in a boil. A boil running clear is not a problem. Levees can seep or even tunnel like that for decades. If the boil is carrying material, which you might see as a little volcano building around the boil, it is scouring the inside of the levee. That’ll grow until the levee collapses.
- So how do you stop a dirty boil? Again, I would never have thought of this; I would have filled a sandbag and plugged the boil. But no, you never stop a running boil; the water inside the levee will find a new exit. Instead, you put a ring of sandbags around it and let the water fill that. Increase the height of your sandbag ring to decrease the difference in head between waters on the two sides of the levee. Stop when the water from the boil runs clear but before you stop the running water entirely. Leave a small spillway for water to drain from your sandbag ring.
- Environmental damage from the gold mining days is still causing trouble. The bed of the Sacramento River was raised several feet for much of its length. Levees built on sands washed down from hydraulic mining are being eaten from the bottom. 140 year old decisions are active problems.
A scary thing from the class:
The guys who taught the class are old school engineers and maintenance guys. They have bellies and they can drive heavy machinery and they make jokes about the enviros. They are tremendously competent at things that impress me, like driving stakes or tying fast hitches. They are pragmatic and know their landscapes and they are largely unimaginative. I absolutely trust them to run crews in a cold rain in the middle of the night, there to save me and mine. Those guys? They are scared and angry at the new development going up in California. They say things like “That levee at that bend is gonna fail everytime. It’ll never hold, but now there’re six thousand new houses behind it.” “I don’t know what we’re gonna do, ‘cause last time we could break out a spillway there, but now… all the new houses… .” “Where we’re gonna get the machinery to protect all those places at once, I don’t know. But we’re gonna have to, if it isn’t farmland any more.” They are not Democrats and they are not environmentalists. But they hate the sprawl behind levees and they make me scared too.
Bad design for a trivial problem.
Look, I hate gadgets in general, except that I love that my Shuffle sings to me as I ride around town. Her name is Julie. Julie is pretty good, as gadgets go, because she has almost no functions and doesn’t force many choices on me. But I am now on my third Shuffle in nine months; the first one stopped working after just one trip through the washing machine and dryer. The second one just kinda stopped working. She wouldn’t hold a charge once I turned her off. Because I hate gadgets and I hate understanding gadgets, I’ll go through almost any ridiculous work-around to avoid dealing with them. I have been bringing New Julie to work (because obviously my home computer doesn’t have a USB port), charging her for the morning and listening for a while in the afternoon, and then recharging her for the ten minute bike ride home. Once I turn her off, she won’t turn back on, so that was it for the day.
Except that the flood fighting class was right by the far Apple Store. And they gave us an hour-fifteen for lunch! And I thought surely I could replace a clearly broken piece of equipment, still under warranty, in an hour and fifteen minutes. Here’s the thing, fucking Apple Store. I do not want to have to have an appointment with a Genius to get a minor piece of electronics replaced. I want to walk into your store, gesture sadly at the broken thing and have any of your hovering clerks walk into the back and get me a new one. I do not require that your clerk have any specialty knowledge to perform basic customer service. I think that replacing my broken Shuffle is a task unworthy of a Genius. I also question the time spent on diagnosing and repairing the problem in what is to you a five dollar product, but you seem dedicated to your fucking Genius Bar system.
And here is why! Your fucking Genius Bar and profoundly annoying appointment system is really a way to minimize the costs of providing that service to the customer. I can respect that requiring customers who want tech support to make an appointment spreads those customers through the day and optimizes the time of your freaking Geniuses. That is a good system, although not one set up for my benefit. But telling me that no one else in the store has the authority to replace my broken iPod and that my problem cannot be addressed in the hour and fifteen minutes I allotted to it? That I can make an appointment and return another time? That just means that the Apple Store does not want to bear the costs of adequately staffing its stores.
When I am angry like this, a twenty-year-old manager with no real authority needs to hear about it. I explained that the perpetual line at the Genius Bar means that they are understaffed. She said that the Genius Bar was for my benefit, and I tried again to explain that customer service does not require genius. But I was out of time for lunch. I returned after my class was done. It took twenty minutes to get seen by a Genius, time enough for several regular salespeople to solicit me. It took another thirty minutes for the Genius to confirm that New Julie was not holding a charge. In ten more minutes, he gave me New New Julie. Two hours and fifteen minutes, Apple Store. Are you proud of that?
Apple people are always on about innovative design and how Apple is more intuitive and does everything right. I genuinely like the iPod, but that and the Apple Store are the two places I’ve interacted with Apple. Mysteriously broken product and annoying as fuck customer service? I am not more impressed with Apple than I am with any other gadget. I am not more impressed with Apple than I am with the DMV. They will not win converts like this.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Also? You guys are here like six times a day. You might trust me to be able to tell a story.
All the sensible advice in the world isn’t going to matter; I’ve done virtually no work on it, but I can tell that I am going to have to write this book. There’s a process I go through every time something like this comes to me. It isn’t like I woke up one day and decided that it would be totally fun to paint the inside of my house in seven different colors, each wall, ceiling and trim piece different. I didn’t want to get into a paint job that took me three years and several hundred hours to finish. It was just that I saw a picture in a magazine that looked neat. Then I saw that all of the colors on my mug looked good together, even though there were so many of them. Then it occurred to me that I don’t like white walls. Then I got an image of what it could look like, but rejected it as way too much trouble. Then the image kept recurring and I would change it up and refine it. Then I’d be driving to school and lists would come to me, of the equipment needed to do the job. I involuntarily started to visualize moving furniture out of the room, prepping the walls and painting. And you know what? I’ll just visualize the process again and again, in all my unoccupied moments. If I hold out and don’t get started, I will visualize the process so often that I get ridiculously bored of it. The only way to stop the loop is to start actually doing it. I have learned to give in early.
This has been calling me for a couple months now. I have never thought of myself as an author or wanted to see my name on a book. But I am intensely curious about Los Osos. Right now I feel like I could never hear that story too many times, or from too many angles. As I ride home from work, I’ve started to hear my inner voice telling me that I should label some empty binders with different related topics. I’ve begun to think of people I know in the area and who I could stay with when I visit. Yesterday I wondered what resources the California State Library has; they’re only a block away. I can be scared of this or wonder how it will divert me, but I know for sure that it will ride me until I do it.
To those of you who suggest taking one or another angle on the sewers of Los Osos:
I can make all the plans and decisions in the world now about how to tell that story, but since I’ve barely started, I’m sure they will be wrong. I’ll head down there soon and start talking to people. I’ll make a plan then. It will also be wrong, and I won’t realize that for another year. But I am surely not ready to start thinking of themes yet.
And to those of you who don’t believe that people want to read technical pieces about infrastructure? You needn’t be so worried. I also have a law degree. I am just as fascinated by the authority and jurisdiction of special districts. I can totally mix it up.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Oh friends. Take care of your lives.
After another long pause, I broke the silence with “You seem like a guy who knows his mind. How come you can’t get things together?” He said “I dunno. The divorce makes everything bad. You look like her.” Then he rode away.
Yes, I would do that for you.
The County must be breathing a sigh of relief. The San Luis Obispo Local Agency Formation Commission declined to dissolve the Los Osos CSD, on the grounds that its $40 million debt would revert to the county. Seventy people went to that LAFCO meeting. Seventy! Sadly, citizen participation was not a model of measured debate; the SLO Tribune described it as “scathing and often emotional”. We are not surprised. The former CSD Board of Directors asked questions about how the CSD is going to continue to supply water and pick up trash while paying off, you know, $40M in debt. The current CSD Board of Directors said they have a plan, and by the way! They have a new sewer plan, too! Trust them! The CSD board president asked if they are doing such a bad job, why Los Osos hasn’t held a special election to recall them. Oh honey. I think you are a crazy lady, but if I lived in Los Osos, I would vote you into office every term for the rest of your life, just so you had to clean up the mess you made.
The county got to have their say too. County Supervisor Bianchi, whom you may recall was piqued that threats to her personal safety required her to get a sheriff’s escort to attend CSD meetings, accused the current district board of asking her to help them skirt state laws and described their "absolute and total inability to understand that this (water quality regulation) is the reality in our universe". She said that her initial reaction to the proposal to dissolve the CSD was “Hallelujah”, until she came to the conclusion that it would set a bad precedent for overriding local government. LAFCO agreed that they aren’t in the business of negating the voters’ will by dissolving local districts, but did agree to a full audit of the Los Osos CSD. I’m looking forward to the results of that.
I’ve been thinking about this quietly, then mentioning it as an unimportant aside to some of my friends, then quickly qualifying my intentions and then bringing it up again a couple weeks later. But now I’m going to say it out loud, largely to make it more true. I want to write a book about the sewers of Los Osos. I am going to write a book about the sewers of Los Osos.
I don’t really know how one goes about that. I mean, I know how to write, even lots of words in a row. I know water people and they are happy to introduce me to water people in Los Osos. My freaking awesome boss said that if I can tie it to our program (which isn’t such a stretch), he’ll let me spend some work time on it. Thank you, taxpayers of California! I think I’m going to need a laptop.
It is such a cliché, that one writes a blog and then writes a book. But now I know how that happens. It would never have occurred to me that people would want to read about the sewers of Los Osos. But I think of all of you, with your huge eyes wide and impatient, waiting every day to hear what happens next in Los Osos. I want to be the one to tell you and to tell you what happened before, too. I would never have guessed at your insatiable demand for a book about the sewers of Los Osos. But there it is, your burning need to know about the infrastructure squabbles of a small town in California. I can’t let that go unmet.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Just the friendly ones. Don't call the ones who could still get hurt.
Once I realized what the theme for the day was, I called Chris. I explained the theme for the day, and we agreed that we absolutely needed to hang out Saturday night, partially to catch up since he left for grad school but mostly to bring the total up to four in one day. So Chris and I get dinner and were figuring out what to do with the rest of the evening. “Hah hah hah,” said Chris. “I should call up one of my former lovers!” I laughed too, and then we paused. “Actually, let's go see Beth. I haven’t seen her in forever. What is she up to these days?” So we went over to Beth’s house.
Beth asked us about our days, and I described the sequence of coincidences that made up former-lover day. Proving that Chris never did date fools, Beth narrowed her eyes, looked back and forth between me and Chris and shouted “You’re using me!”. I was about to apologize when she said “Which former lover should I call?”
It would have been completely excellent if we had all gone to visit a former lover of Beth’s, but she couldn’t think of a local ex that she could drop in on with a crowd late on Saturday night. Now that I have the idea, though, I totally think it would be fun to spend a day like that. It should start with two friendly ex’s, and both should visit another former lover. They should all go to another former lover’s house, and the party should grow and move through as many people as possible. As long as all the action is old, I bet most the people would be of a kind and entertained by the concept. It wouldn’t surprise me either if the chain doubled back on itself at some points. It could be fun. It needs a name.
Friday, September 22, 2006
Los Osos needs me!
Now I don’t even want to do that anymore. What I would really like is for a man to come along, so I can be blissfully captivated by our romance for the next couple years, and then have kids to take all our energy for the next ten until I can have two thoughts in order again. I’m finding that I can’t count on that, however, and I would like to be productive in the meantime.
Right now I’m real interested in the stories of people who had an effect. Téofilo wrote about one such woman today. My dad knows the guy at the FAA who decided that people shouldn’t smoke on planes. He just decided, and then spent twenty years making it happen. I know people who think that Martha Davis is the woman who saved Mono Lake. I believe that one person can institute profound change, and also that it requires an all-consuming zeal I’m not feeling right now, and also that it takes about twenty years.
I also wonder about working to type. I mean, what I know about myself is that I’m good at sports leagues. What have I never done? Worked with people unlike me. Poor people, for example. Or people with different priorities, like religion. I avoid national politics as too remote to get any good out of my efforts. I’m scared of personal involvement, like visiting the Children’s Home, as too emotionally draining. I’m sortof casting about right now, looking for a cause, something with some leverage so my efforts would get larger results, something where my pride can trace my influence, and something I believe needs doing. But should that cause be in my strengths, ‘cause then I’m likely to do it? Should it address my weaknesses head on, so I’m not doing more advocating for people who are already fortunate?
I know this process, where I’m done with an activity and dormant for a while before the next hits. I watch and gather information and think quietly for months or a year. Something will slowly start to seem more interesting than all the other things, until it is the only interesting thing (besides my real life). Then the next burst of activity isn’t even work. It’ll be a while, though, before I know where this iteration will take me.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
What, your geometry phase?
I'll post any responses I get.
Date: Wed, 20 Sep 2006 22:29:58 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: strange police behavior
I ride my bicycle everywhere and tonight as I was riding west on W St, a police car pulled over to within a half-foot of me, slowed to my speed and drove parallel to me for two or three seconds. It was very peculiar and felt somewhat menacing. I wouldn't write you for such a small matter, except that this is the second time a police car has buzzed me like this.
I have always had pleasant, professional interactions with the Sacramento police. Since I am entirely bland-looking and ride sedately, I can't imagine what professional purpose is served by driving so close to me for so long. Perhaps there is a good reason for the officer to do that, and I would love to know what it is. Without knowing a good reason, it feels like the officer is just bullying a cyclist by edging her back into door range.
I know that the city of Sacramento believes in alternate modes of transportation and wants to support her cyclists. Is there a way to remind our police force that cyclists are not secondary users of our roads and that their purpose includes supporting bike riders?
Thanks for your attention,
I don't expect anything to come of it. My councilman will write me back, because he is conscientious like that. The other three? Don't know. Can't think what they could really do about it either, except maybe a one-liner in whatever internal newsletter the police department puts out, saying 'be nice to cyclists!'.
I guess I just have two more thoughts. My sympathies have always been with bike activists, because it is an environmentally kind mode of transportation. But riding my bike exclusively for two months gives me a whole new understanding of the fervency behind bike activism. It genuinely feels like people driving cars are willing to be careless with our lives. It is hard not to get angry and strident over that.
Second, I am the fortunate of society that this is the type of complaint that I have about our police force. I usually like and trust authority. I want it to live up to its privilege.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Backgammon or chess would be fine, too.
The running path around McKinley Park is just about a mile, because McKinley Park is perfect in every way. I have run it many times. The first time I ran it with Ali, I told her that you can get a ticket if you don’t slalom in and out of the trees planted in a line by the tennis courts. I also told her that there is an alligator in the duck pond, and every winter we all worry about it but someone always takes it home before the first frost and brings it back in the spring and if you watch carefully, sometimes a duckling will get sucked under before your eyes. I also told her that sometimes the guy who runs in wool slacks and loafers will call you a whore as he runs past. She didn’t believe me anymore by that point, but that last one was true.
Ali and I run counter-clockwise, as God intended. Ali said something about not caring which direction she runs in, but as a good friend and kind person, I pretended not to notice her shame. When Margie and I went walking, Margie made me walk clockwise, which puzzled me until I realized that she is lesbian and everything is backwards to her. It was too uncomfortable for me to do two laps the wrong way and Margie is open-minded, so we reversed direction for the second lap.
The McKinley Park running path is said to be a scene, but it has long bothered me that it is not a very well organized scene. I have been working on a plan for years, in which single people all run at the same time of day. Women would run counter-clockwise, as God intended; men would run clockwise, and I am sorry for the discomfort they must endure. But it will be worth it! Because then, instead of maybe running the same direction as the potential love of your life but a half-mile separate, never to see each other, you would be certain to see every potential honey at least twice per mile!
Only the fact that I cannot resolve how to include gay people keeps me from writing to the Bee and the News and Review to propose this plan. I just can’t figure it out. Would gay people run at the same time as the rest of the singles? If gay men run with the guys, they would only encounter women. If they run with the women, they’ll be checking out straight guys. We can’t have all gay men run the same direction; he would never meet the hot guy four minutes in front of him. If there were strong pitcher/catcher tendencies, we could have the types run in opposite directions, but I don’t know how strong those tendencies are and whether men want to declare them so openly. Lesbians pose the same difficulty. Like Brad Pitt, I am unwilling to participate in a system that benefits only straight people. My plan goes unimplemented as I run pointlessly in circles.
Monday, September 18, 2006
Where was the ref?
One commenter (and I wish I could find the link to her) said that she always, with every portrait she views, covers each side of the subject’s face sequentially. She says one side of the portrait will reveal the public persona, the other, the person’s private emotions. I tried it with this Economist cover. The right sides of Bush’s and Hu’s faces were neutral enough. But the left sides! Holy shit, I would never fuck with President Hu. He would eat me for breakfast. That direct gaze and cocked eyebrow? He’s freakin' steel. Then I looked at Bush’s left face and couldn’t believe how sad he is. I almost had some compassion for him.
But then, today I saw this comment:
Check this pic and get out your whistle:
Regardless of which caption correctly describes the behaviour of young George, (as a hero or a villain) observe his left arm, positioning himself for a *head high tackle.* This type of reckless and dangerous play frequently occurs in the final stages of a game due to a close score, skill level, fatigue and surface in particular personality types when under pressure. [additional text omitted]
Posted by: jtfromBC Sep 17, 2006 at 10:27 AM
And I remembered how much I believe you can tell who a person is by how she plays sports. Several years back, there was an entirely pleasant and well-socialized woman who played pick-up with us. You could have her over and she behaved at parties, made friends with people. But I gradually came to the conclusion that she was a sociopath, or whatever you call people with zero empathy for anyone and the belief that the rules don’t apply to them. She would do small sneaky things all the time, like look down, see that she was o.b. and then step back in without stopping play and turning over the disc. And she would do overt things, like shout at you as you were catching (foul). She constantly cherry-picked, which is just ruinous if you care about your defense, but she wanted to catch the score more than she wanted to play as a team. She invariably hucked it long, with her beautiful throws and terrible judgment. As our game got more formal, people were increasingly unwilling to play on her side, which she attributed to our sexism.
In fact, she attributed a lot to our sexism. When people called her on her shit, she’d get angry and tell us that she was playing the way men did and it only seemed strange coming from a woman. (She may have had a point about the pointless long hucks.) But no one else in any game I’ve played in has ever behaved like that. One guy told me that the only time he has ever been low-bridged in the twenty years he has been playing was when he went up for a disc against her and she intentionally knocked his legs from under him. The sexism defense was especially frustrating, because I want to support aggressive woman players. I want to support any woman players. But not her. When I decided she wasn’t right (um, not on any issue, but in the sense that she was wrong inside), I adopted a policy of staying far away from her. I think that broken people are too unpredictable to interact with safely.
I don’t know enough about rugby to know what Bush is doing in that picture. Like Snopes says, sports pictures are ambiguous and I don’t even know what a head high tackle is. But if Bush did dangerous, sneaky shit on the field, I hate him in a whole new way. I hope he is as sad as he looks and I revoke my earlier almost-compassion.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Results! Scandal! Bacon!
Ali's and my cherry pie took:
3rd place overall
1st place presentation (because Ali cut cherry shapes out of the top crust).
One of your peers, a reader who knows me from here, took first place in the fruit pie division, with a yummy peach-blueberry pie. Congrats to Helen and Jen!
The winning pie was a chicken pot pie, a surprise victory from the Savory Pie division. After I announced that it won Best In Show, the baker stood up to announce the recipe. He used Bisquik in the bottom crust! Violating the rule that a pie is baked in a round dish with sloped sides and an unleavened bottom crust! I didn't know what to do! Stand up and disqualify the "pie"? Shame him in front of everyone? Second place was by only one vote, out of a couple hundred. Maybe his Chicken Pot "Pie" would have won from the "That's Not a Pie" category, which I created for exactly this type of nasty situation, but we'll never know now. I kept my peace and he kept his victory, but as far as I am concerned, there'll forever be an asterisk next to his name in the records.
It arrived too late for judging, but you might like to know there was a savory bacon cheesecake at tonight's contest. The top was a woven bacon lattice. Sadly, I don't think anyone got a picture. I heard it was very rich.
Friday, September 15, 2006
I'll still cook for you, though.
Other people also have this attitude, but they are patently wrong. I suspect Justin got into his woes with his girlfriend because he initially offered to do all sorts of things for her so she would like him. That may, in fact, be why his girlfriend likes him, but I think Justin’s great and he’s never done a thing for me. I adore Justin just because his tone is so distinctly, relentlessly him. I had another friend make a terrible comment that all he was worth to me was helping me be handy and introducing me to his single friends. I was shocked at that, because he has never done either of those things, and yet I always like to spend time with him. Had he not noticed? Worst and most heartbreaking is that I get Google searches nearly everyday asking “what can I do to make my boyfriend love me”. Oh honey. Honey, I’m sorry. In the first place, I obviously do not have the answer to that one. But second, honey, there’s nothing you can do to make your boyfriend love you. He already loves you for who you are, your person and your self and nothing else, or he doesn’t. If he doesn’t, you cannot cook enough food to make him love you. I know that one for fact.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten over much of this attitude. I’ve stopped a lot of the one-sided doing for people. It makes me tired, but more than that, it makes me resentful. People who don’t view friendship as an ongoing exchange of small gifts and chores and hospitality will simply never reciprocate in that vein. I cannot control their gratitude for another batch of cookies, (which they likely never valued as much as my company and thoughts and smile), but I am in charge of my resentment. When I feel like I am giving away more of myself than I am getting back, I simply stop. The fallout comes where it will. But mostly, it doesn’t come. People still want to play with me, even if we don’t go back to my house for mac and cheese. I go to parties empty-handed and they let me in! I had to change, and it has been a tremendous relief. It is nice not to be so driven. It is nicer that my friends like who I am.
*The answer to that is no, but that is a combination of two things. First, you slackers don’t throw dinner parties. Second, some of you throw dinner parties, but then you only invite other couples. Single women notice this, by the way. I will not be accepting your invitations when I have a boyfriend. There are exceptions (looking at you, Tall Chris and Anthony), and they are much appreciated.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Even in the case of marriage, why is it expected to keep the money even?If one makes more than the other, is it expected then that the one making less pitches in in a different way to make up for the fact that they're making less?It seems at one point in time the even split in assets made sense, since there were pretty well defined gender roles. But, if both are working, and doing house work, and cooking, and taking care of kids, why would the money just be split 50/50? Everything is split equally, except the money making, why doesn't the one making more get to keep that extra share?
I am not married, and entirely willing to hear from the married folk that I don't know what I'm talking about. I trust you will let me know if you disagree.
Why keep the money even? Because having extra money on one side of the partnership is the same as having extra power on one side of the partnership. One person's reserving extra power to herself makes both people feel like they aren't in this together. When you keep a little power to yourself, you are keeping the ability to get your way just a little more often and both people will notice that. Because most people's conception of marriage is that they are both working together against the rest of the world and they pool their resources to do that. Keeping extra money to yourself is also reserving just a little advantage as against your partner, suggesting that the marriage isn't the two of you against the world, but one spouse against everyone, including the partner. Because a marriage is a gift of yourself to your beloved, and that includes the money you earn.
All that said, I personally like a different allocation rule. While I can't guess how it will actually work out when I am faced with this in real life, I like the idea of both partners putting two-thirds of each paycheck in a joint account and reserving one-third to themselves. 'Cause why argue, or even discuss, some personal purchases? Buy it for yourself with your own money, and look, no one cares! It would also make gifts more meaningful, if it came from your own hoard rather than shared money. And give you a reserve, if you are the cautious type.
Also, is it creepy if I wanted to give my imaginary fiancé a gift of, say, an hour's time with a divorce attorney before the marriage? I bet you think it is. But I took a semester's worth of Marital Property. I know how property is allocated between spouses, during the marriage and after dissolution. Some of that is pretty surprising. It doesn't seem fair for me to know all that, while a non-lawyer imaginary fiancé doesn't. (See? Not preserving a power advantage.) Wouldn't it be an unromantic kindness to get that evened out before a wedding? Or too creepy?
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Goes without saying.
That's why the reactions to this letter in Cary Tennis' column were strange to me. A woman wrote in saying that her 12 year old son was making a good deal of money and wanted to give some of it to help his college age brother through college. I simply do not understand the people who oppose this. My sister and I are both financially independent now; our basic needs are met. I know that if either of us got a windfall, for whatever reason, we would split it without a second thought, simply to keep us even*. Any windfall would be bonus to me, so half a windfall would be bonus to me. My winning the lottery would be exactly the same as my sister winning half the lottery (and the littles winning some chunk). We don't even talk everyday or agree on everything, but my sister is my own self. What is mine is hers; my house and money, should she need it, my debt, should I need hers.
People whose parents couldn't help them don't understand why I have no qualms at all about accepting a college education or medical emergency money or a down payment on a house from my parents**. But I don't, not for an instant. Our familial resources are communal, except that they seem to only flow down the generations. But I also assume that my resources are communal. Should something happen to my parents, it is a fact that my sister and I would pay for our baby siblings' college. On the day my nephews need something, all of mine is available. When I have kids, if I can, I'll give them what my parents gave me. If I can't, my sister will.
*If I didn't need it, I would defer in favor of my nephews. But I would be very surprised if she didn't offer. She has before, in other circumstances.
**I would never take money for a wedding from my parents. That is fortuitous, because I am sure they wouldn't offer.
The death threats aren't helping.
The RWQCB should be pissed. I’ve heard through back channels that the woman at the Regional Board who is responsible for all Los Osos matters gets death threats at her home. Death threats, people. Community activists opposed to the septic tank fines are trying to say that other sources are polluting local groundwater and Morro Bay estuary; the RWQCB has studies going back to 1969 showing the pollution comes from septic tanks. From 1969! This has been going on for two generations! I know some of you don’t understand my fascination with Los Osos, but I am deeply curious how such a banal infrastructure decision, an infrastructure decision that hundreds of cities have made without ever once arousing anyone’s interest, has gone so desperately wrong here.
The conflict may be resolved in the foreseeable future. Blakeslee’s bill, transferring authority over sewers from the Los Osos Community Services District to the County of San Luis Obispo, passed the state Assembly and Senate unanimously. My friend Anthony, who has lobbied the Legislature for years, wrote me that “I don't think I have read more adamant descriptions of why a bill is necessary... .”. The bill awaits the governor’s signature. I’ll let you know if it becomes law.
Odds and ends:
- I'll be taking the Flood Fighting Methods day-long course this month. I really like the idea that if I am called out for flood fighting this winter, I will have some idea what to do.
- Ali joined me for my lunch-time swim yesterday. She was a collegiate national champion swimmer. I haven't seen her sprint yet, but when she isn't trying, her cruising speed is exactly twice as fast as mine. At the end of a lap, I looked up to see that a crowd had gathered on the deck to watch her strokes and turns. I bragged about her, of course, but wish that I had a good enough eye for swimming that I could appreciate her technique as well.
- I subbed in for a friend yesterday and gave a lecture at Sac State. I'd forgotten how much I love being in front of a class. I should see if I can find a lecturing gig somewhere, because that much attention leaves me exhilarated.
- Also, I tried Ali's fixed-gear a couple nights ago. Her bike was too tall for me, but it was FUN. Now I have to find a non-poserish way to ride a fixed-gear. The kids all ride with no hands, so naturally I've started too. I can take corners with no hands now, and should admit that I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself. (The kids also ride around standing on their crossbars and handlebars, and I have no desire to copy that at all.)
I don't mean to be a tease, but I have to mention this and I don't have time to write it up. It seems kinda like leaning in close and talking in a low breathy voice while playing with your buttons, but I'm still gonna do it. Here's a promise for you, baby. After lunch, more Los Osos.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
How secret can it be?
For the California special election, the downstairs wing was full of young pretty sharp dressers who paced aggressively around the courtyard talking very seriously on their cell phones. They didn’t seem to want to talk to those of us who amble around in jeans and make jokes where the punchlines are equations. Then one day I decided I wanted to know who they were, and the fuckers wouldn’t tell me! I asked nicely, “what is this office? Who are you working for?” and the guy who’d made eye contact with me on several occasions said “it’s a secret nuclear facility” and I said, “right, jackass, but what is it?” and they all laughed and didn’t tell me. My bosses couldn’t tell me and I couldn’t find any mention of a secret governor’s office anywhere.
When the special election ended so poorly for the governor, the downstairs wing cleared out. In the past month, young pretty people in pinstripes have reappeared, smoking in the courtyard and talking very seriously on their cell phones. I notice it isn’t any of the same young, pretty people. Maybe one of these ones will tell me what their office is.
Monday, September 11, 2006
I don’t think I knew how to quit. It just didn’t make sense. TKD was what I did, every weeknight since I was twelve. There were no decisions about it. I came home from workout and packed my bag for the next day. When the clock said 6:15, I left the house to go back. There was only routine, no choices to make. In retrospect, I realize that although I had boyfriends the entire time I was in college, it never once occurred to me to skip workout to spend an evening with him. It didn’t occur to me to stop breathing, either.
Habit and a lack of introspection kept me in tkd, but even at the end there were times when I loved it. It is utterly beautiful, in its lines and arcs and spins. I never got jaded about watching those fast, fast people throwing flickering kicks in our ugly gym. For a couple years, I saw those kicks in the mirror, too.
If I hadn’t left Berkeley, I don’t think I would have stopped tkd. But I couldn’t get the tkd I was used to after I left. The Berkeley team was the best in the country; our club had about three dozen active black belts. Of those, a good dozen or so were better than me. But in any small local studio, the instructor may be better than I am, but no one else is. Being the best in the room at your sport is no fun. Also, for the last years, I worked out enough that my tkd was consistently at its peak. But I didn’t want to work out like that anymore, and tkd felt bad when I did less. TKD had run out for me.
I was lost for two years after I stopped doing tkd. I put on forty pounds. I didn’t know who I was, or what to do with the extra day in my week. There was so much time in an evening. I loved not hurting. Not hurting was great. I didn’t know what my accomplishments should be, and how to work out when I wasn’t training for a tournament. I had to learn how to fall asleep when I wasn’t physically exhausted. I wondered a lot what my next sport would be, but nothing grabbed me. Whenever I could, I talked to other former collegiate athletes, but most of them just said they were lost too.
I gradually adjusted, but three years after quitting tkd, Ultimate snapped me back into dedicating myself to a sport. The monomania felt like coming home; playing or working out every evening is how I’ve lived for two intermittent decades of my life. Ultimate, too, shall pass. I know how leaving your sport works now; I don’t expect to be as lost. But I have the same energy and capacity for work in between obsessions; it just doesn’t have a direction. Better that I prepare the transition to a next phase.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
Maybe I'll captain, if they need me to.
I ran league for a couple years; now the thought of running another makes me wince and throw my hands up to ward it off. Part of it is that I already know how; arranging the round-robins on our fields is a chore now, not an interesting problem. Some of it is just that our leagues have gotten substantially larger and there is more prep involved. But mostly, I think last fall’s league broke me. Between team practice, beginners’ clinics, and pick-up, I went into fall league after two months of being on a different field five nights a week. I wasn’t the league director, but last fall’s league required that I be on the fields three nights per week, to set up fields, tell people where their games are, explain the rules and collect scores. I was already longing for a night at home when two teams got into a brawl.
If you don't play Ultimate, it is hard to understand how hurt we were. It was on beginners’ night, and the teams came from a background of other team sports. Ultimate players would never do that. We asked around and no one we talked to had ever heard of a fight between Ultimate teams. The longer someone had played Ultimate, the more shocked he was. After the sheer shock of it came the hurt. These people would come into our league and hurt each other? On our fields? The ones we pour our fun and spirit and respect into every week? We spent tens and tens of hours setting this up, and they would use our structure to fight? While wearing t-shirts that said our name?
Then we had to figure out what to do. Kicking them out was obvious and tempting, but we finally arranged and led a reconciliation between the teams. (We also required that they intermix their teams whenever they played each other. And they forfeited all their games, on the theory that if they couldn’t concentrate on Spirit of the Game and winning simultaneously, we would relieve them of one consideration.) That brawl alone must have cost me forty hours of discussing and arranging a response with the other organizers and teams. I was never so ready for a league to end.
Since then I’ve found that I can’t work up any enthusiasm for organizing Ultimate. I commit to tasks, but find them so profoundly uninteresting that I can barely make myself do them. I’m all proud of how well I can arrange stuff, but that doesn’t count for much when I don’t actually get around to doing it. I have to either get back on the ball or stop taking on responsibilities.
Last week I put out a call for help running fall league. About ten people showed up for the organizing meeting yesterday. Very impressive Roxie said she would be league director. People readily took on jobs to help her. I didn’t. I didn’t say I would do a thing (although I’ll end up doing some amount of advising). There is now a fall league committee. When everyone left I took some deep shaky breaths and got tears in my eyes. There will be a great fall league and I won’t be much more than another participant. But more importantly, ten whole people heard me describe every task involved in running a league. If I am hit by a bus, they can piece together the process. Our leagues will continue, with me sometimes and without me sometimes. I think my life is starting to turn in a new, still undefined direction. I think yesterday’s meeting was a step toward freeing myself so I can find that new direction. I certainly feel freer. I’m even looking forward to playing in fall league.
Saturday, September 09, 2006
I am personally proud that I have taken another small step toward fulfilling my New Year's resolution to become a drinker. At 34, I have still never been drunk, but I have now played a relay drinking game. I mean, I played with water (other people did too!), but experiencing the format must count for something.
Friday, September 08, 2006
My Dad believes in physical solutions too.
One of my most pervasive memories as a kid is of my father insisting that he would not raise daughters who could not fill a damn gas tank. Therefore, I had to pump the gas when I was about seven and my hands were not big enough to go around the handle and it always made that webbing between my thumb and fore finger hurt. I still resent him for that. I don't resent him for teaching me how to change a tire--that has come in handy because cars never get flat tires on slow moving city streets with ample parking and a phone nearby. No sirree.
My Dad wouldn't let us take the test for a learner's permit until he watched us change a tire by ourselves. But he never made us pump gas. Which is why it took me half an hour to figure out how to put gas in the car the first time. I hadn't ever paid attention and there was a long sequence of not knowing which side the tank was on, and how to start the pump, and how to apply pressure to the handle. I think I went back and forth to the vendor a couple times, 'cause I didn't know when you paid. I wasn't too frustrated, 'cause I wasn't in a hurry and I knew I would eventually get it. I think someone finally came over to show me, which is what happens when you are a cute white girl. I haven't changed my own tire; it would be a far worse betrayal of my father to exist in the world without a road service policy.
I told you that my Dad thinks I'm lost in the clouds. He didn't trust my driving at first, and installed a back-up alarm on the car I got to drive. He said it was a gentle reminder to look in the direction I am driving. My sister and I got to school early every morning after that, so we could pull through the parking spot and not have to go into reverse to leave in the afternoon. The back-up alarm had a switch on it, so he could turn it off when he was driving. I still regret that I didn't put on my thickest Valley Girl accent (which still surfaces sometimes when I'm with friends from home) and call Car Talk to ask Click and Clack how to turn off the back-up alarm. Honestly though, I think their sympathies would be with my Dad.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Except that I sort of know how they got there. They are interested in being handy, or they are interested in clothes. I am interested in food and I am scared to cook nothing. I don’t usually make ornate foods, but if I wanted to, it would just be a longer sequence of familiar steps than I am usually willing to do. I understand how food will act. My stirfry sauce starts with soy sauce, oil, garlic, ginger, salt, sugar. Sometimes I’ll add a blended tomato, for heft and a different flavor. But you know, if I don’t have a tomato? Well, oranges are another sweet acid; that’ll work fine, cut back the sugar. Baked goods are just a spectrum of flour, liquid and eggs; the continuum runs from crackers on one end to soufflés on the other. Making a cake, but don’t have the sour cream? Yogurt is fine, might have to add additional fat and something to calm the tang. If the cake doesn’t come out exactly like the recipe, well, maybe this iteration lands next to cake on the continuum and I call it a brownie. People will still eat it. I browse cookbooks and menus, and think about ingredients and make things with no worry about the end product. It’ll taste good this time, or maybe it will taste good next time.
Not as much as I used to be, but I am also interested in arranging Ultimate tournaments. When I started doing that I thought about them all the time. What are the qualities of the field facilities that lead to a good atmosphere? What schedule and seeding will provide a fair route to the finals for every team? How do I move the teams through their schedule? What are the organizers’ obligations to the players? I read the UPA Manual of Tournament Styles recreationally and then I read it again. I talked shop with other organizers, who sent me their spreadsheets calculating the field-food quantities after you put in the number of teams and predicted temperatures. I constantly critique our events, and love hearing from someone who is mad enough about something that she’ll give me a full-fledged rant about how some detail ruined her day. I’m sorry about that, but thrilled someone will let me know why something didn’t work.
I don’t feel like cooking or organizing are difficult tasks. Learning to do them never felt like work. Is that how being handy feels to those of you who are? How did you get there? Did you take things apart when you were little? Do you watch someone build a house on your block and notice how they put in the plumbing? Do you talk shop? When did you feel like you could walk into the hardware store and know what you wanted and what was an acceptable substitute? When did you know that there was a tool that would make that job easy, and without it you would take off your knuckles and hurt your back? Stylish people, are you interested when you browse fashion magazines? When does that stop making you feel like an unpretty slob, and instead start to become about the way you can layer fabrics? How do you trust your taste in anything other than plain t-shirts and jeans (just to pick any old example out of the air)? How do you judge whether your clothes are sending the messages you intend? Do you have days when it all flops? Are you horrifically embarrassed, or do you just take mental notes for the next time you might use a variant of that outfit? Either of you, do you think that I can get to be adept without the genuine interest behind it? ‘Cause I really just want being handy while looking fabulous to magically happen by itself.
*This is crap, by the way. I am a water engineer. I can diagnose flaws in an irrigation system from an aerial photograph. Why am I scared of a persistent leak in my bathroom that will eventually eat the floors and plaster wall?
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Thank you, -K!
So here goes: Your tall upper zones (the downstroke of the 'h', the 'l's) emphasize your intellect, perhaps to the point of being 'in the clouds.' Your middle zones (the size of the small 'e's, etc.) indicate that you have an average self-image, not too egotistical at all. Your lower zones (signifying id) are not big.
You might be able to make something out of the fact that the 'y' of 'may' is invading the upper zones of the 'l' below. Is lust conflicting with intellect? [I sound like a two-bit carny, by now.]
You separate your words by spaces that may be disproportionate -- may be an indication of your willingness to be intimate.
You're not a gossiper and you're slightly shy. Your handwriting is unadorned (even your name, Megan), which may indicate your sense of aesthetics.
That was totally fun. I want more people to analyze my handwriting.
My intellect “in the clouds”: Now, I think of myself as very prosaic, focused on the physical world and the domestic. But my sister accuses me of being spacey, and I am often working on some storyline “…we both arrive home at the same time, and as we step out of the rain onto my porch, he leans over to push back my wet hair and kiss me…”. I’ve always thought this was strange, but both my father and my seven-year-ex have said exactly those words, that I am helplessly in the clouds. I never understood why. I am always on time; until I was out of work forever, my credit was perfect; I don't get lost and there’s food in the fridge. But they both would breathe a sigh of relief when they saw me, as if relieved that I hadn’t wandered daydreaming into traffic in their absence. It doesn’t accord with my self-image at all, but I can’t entirely discount an opinion that the two men who knew me best independently arrived at.
Average self-image, not too egotistical: Sounds about right, although this blog is tempting me into more narcissism than usual.
Id not big: Don’t think it is. Containing my primitive desires doesn’t occupy much of my day. Except...
Is lust conflicting with intellect?: Not more than several times per minute.
Disproportionate spaces between words, an indication of your willingness to be intimate: Hmmm. I do have a strong sense of privacy, which I have clearly abandoned since I started the blog. My willingness to be intimate is largely binary. Strangers don’t get much of me at all; I don’t withhold much from friends.
Not a gossiper: Sorta. I love stories about what people do and I want to speculate about why. I keep tabs on all the people I know and love getting updates. I am not a negative gossiper (and thankfully, none of my friends are); I work very hard not to badmouth people (except, I guess, Randians, ex-pats and extreme athletes). I do talk about people a lot, but I truly do not tell secrets and we don’t get catty.
Slightly shy: Not shy at all in most circumstances. Occasionally self-conscious around beautiful, hip people.
Unadorned aesthetic: Very much so. No prints or messages on my clothing, and I’ve been meaning to put art on my walls for years. I could stand to branch into more curly sparkliness.
Any other handwriting analysts? 'Cause talking about ME is great.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Monday, September 04, 2006
Can't fight the filling.
The 6th Annual Pie Contest
Sunday, September 17th.
Presentation judging will be promptly at 7:00pm.
- You can enter pie(s) in any division: Fruit Pie, Non-fruit Pie, Savory Pie, Presentation and That's Not A Pie.
- A pie is baked in a round dish with sloping sides and has an unleavened bottom crust.
- Cheesecake is not a pie. Pizza is not a pie.
- Anyone may enter; everyone judges all pies.
- Remainders of any pie must go home with the baker.
- A big Pie Contest will have about forty-fifty pies, and I expect this year to be a big Pie Contest. We'll have table and tables of pie.
- Each pie is assigned a number and gets judged anonymously. This is a pie contest, not a popularity contest.
- Everyone will get a ballot. You can assign three points as you like in each division. You can give all three points to one pie that wins you over; you can give one point each to three delicious pies.
- Pie Contest runs late because it takes so long to count the ballots. Winners will be announced at about 10pm.
- I would love to meet you, but you won't get a chance to talk to me that night. Pie Contest is a blur of coordination for me.
- Eat a meal first. You'll be sick by the end of the evening if you don't and maybe if you do.
- Berry pie virtually always wins the Fruit Pie division. Winner of the Fruit Pie division usually wins Best In Show. Peach pie often comes in third in Fruit Pie.
- Don't bother entering the Fruit Pie division. Ali and I are going to win it this year.
- Savory Pie never gets the attention it deserves. It should attract a much stronger field, especially considering that everyone is sick of sweets by the end of the night. Anything with bacon will do well.
- Come even if you don't want to bake a pie. There is more than enough for every guest.
The title of this post and the idea for Pie Contest both came from The Gata, who was nothing but gracious when I told him I've been copying him for years.
Perhaps sleep will ease my pain.
We came in second at Pub Quiz tonight. We tied for third and the sweet, sweet porn, but won the tie-breaker. Dave and I have been trying to win the porn for two years now. We’ve come in fourth several times. We have come in second before. We once won third place, but the quizmaster counted our score wrong! Tonight, only our accurate guess of the first year that a weather report appeared in the newspaper stood between us and twenty-four hours of barely legal teens. Two years of striving, and still karma holds our prize out of reach. I don’t know how much longer I can stand to work towards our long-denied dream. Tonight I sob myself to sleep.
Friday, September 01, 2006
Well, some additional self-righteousness. But not as much as I hoped for.
The best part of not having a car has been that now I ride my bike at night. Riding your bike at night is SO fun. Just like running after dark, riding after dark feels faster, like you’re way speedy. At night, Sacramento is the darkest city I’ve lived in. There just aren’t many street lights, so you can glide down entirely dark residential blocks and no one can tell you’re there. The other great way to ride at night is with a pack of friends. That’s totally fun, because then you’re taking ET home with the feds chasing you.
Please don’t scold me (Tall Chris), but I’ve started listening to music as I ride my bike. I know! But I wear my helmet now, so we’re even, right? I love when the music speeds up and I speed up to like, barely subsonic speeds. It is taking all my willpower to not sing out loud. I know I shouldn’t, because my bedroom window is a five-foot setback from a busy street. I hear conversations all night long. Happy drunk people, mostly. Sometimes shrill drunk girls, trying to be naughty enough to get some guy’s attention. I would have felt bad for the man sobbing helplessly, except that he kept saying “I’ll show that fucking slut who the man is.” And I hear people singing along to the music in their headphones. They don’t sound the way they think they do. In fact, I’m usually hard-pressed to identify the song they are singing along with. But I would be different, right? If I were singing along as I pedaled through the streets, don’t you think people would wonder “Where is that beautiful song coming from? Is that a nightingale?” But by the time they rushed to their windows to look, I would be long gone, riding fast through the night.