Thursday, July 31, 2008

so i made up my mind it must come to an end

I had a crepe for dinner! Living within walking distance of the crepe place is one of the critical benefits of living in the city; and now I just have to write a monthly check to Chandlord for the privilege, rather than going through all the jhokey rigamarole of actually being friends with her. Everybody wins!

My earlier post may not have sounded that enthusiastic, but I left the conference at the end of the day feeling like registering for the conference was one of the best decisions I've made in awhile. When I was done with my latte, I went back for the keynote lunch, where I met some lovely ladies and had a pretty great (particularly for hotel conference food) lunch. The keynote speaker was Victoria Alexander; I may need to give her books another try (if I ever tried them -- I can't remember anymore!) because the woman was a hysterical speaker. Here's a fun tidbit -- many of her books have a dead husband/boyfriend/whatever, and they are all named some derivative of Charles, after her husband Chuck. She claimed that she started doing this because her husband never reads her books, and now it's a trademark. It'll be easy to try her books, since there were copies of her two most recent books, plus a clothing/pillow spray, as a gift for everyone at the luncheon. Score!

Following lunch, I went to two workshop sessions, and was blown away by both of them. The first was a chat with Nora Roberts -- if you have ever strolled through an airport bookstore, Borders, Wal-Mart, or wherever else books are sold, you've likely seen her. She's written almost 200 romance novels and is widely recognized as the queen of the genre. I loved hearing her talk; she seems incredibly down-to-earth, blunt, and entertaining, with a voice that is much deeper than I expected (apparently the result of alcohol and cigarettes, which makes me love her even ore), and an apparent hang-up about the nuns from her Catholic childhood, since she repeatedly referenced them as the reason why she does anything disciplined/productive/guilt-inspired. She also reminded me (not me personally, I just realized this as I was listening to one of her comments) that it's okay to not want to be part of a critique group or pay too much attention to the industry/author blogs/websites/magazines -- she thinks that for some people this can all be counterproductive, and from the limited experience I've had with my own process, I would have to say that I agree with her. But whether I could ever be her is a much different issue; for one, I don't know if I could actually write for eight hours a day every single day, with most weekends off, the way that she does. It clearly didn't happen while I was one leave; but maybe if my livelihood depended on it, things would have been different.

The second talk was by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. She's basically the only contemporary author I read, and I adore her; she's known for her witty dialogue and her tendency to pair average-looking but highly-intelligent women with gorgeous athletes and actors. And her talk was also outstanding; unlike Nora Roberts' session, which was pure Q&A, SEP's talk was more along the lines of broad themes/techniques that one should consider when writing. She was a fantastic speaker, and her techniques and discussion got me all excited to make serious progress on my second draft.

I left the conference around 4:30 and walked back to my apartment, where I spent the rest of the night until now unpacking and reorganizing more stuff (with the exception of my awesome crepe break, that is). Phase One, in which things are mostly put away, is nearly complete, and will likely be done by the end of this weekend. Phase Two, in which I decorate and get shelves so that I can unpack the rest of my books, likely won't be complete for awhile. But that's okay -- as long as I can watch the Olympics without feeling like I'm living in a dump, I'll be v. happy.

One more thing -- this morning before I got my latte, I ran over to the opening of the brand-new CB2 store on Ellis St. CB2 is the trendier, hipper, slightly cheaper cousin to Crate and Barrel, and I'm such a loyal Crate and Barrel customer that they sent me several emails to say that they were having the grand opening of the CB2 store today. Since the conference was only a block from the new store, I had to swing by. If only I were cool! They had some really awesome stuff, but CB2 doesn't really fit my style; as much as i wish that I were hip or trendy or urbanized or whatever, I really just like classic styles of furniture, so CB2 probably isn't for me (although I did heart the hourglasses and one of the bookshelves, so we'll see). But if you're in SF and like furnishings, you should check it out; they've done a great job designing the displays, and if I had the money to get rid of all my stuff, move into a renovated factory-style loft, and buy a bunch of new stuff, I would probably buy it at CB2.

Okay, it's definitely bedtime -- I haven't been sleeping enough lately, and I have to get up at 7ish so that I can make it to the conference in time for the first workshop. I suppose I should get used to the lack of sleep, though; I only have three days of freedom left! That shocking realization is enough to make me want to cry, but I think I'll go to bed instead.

Observations

I'm at the romance conference (actually I'm at a coffee shop), and
these are my observations thus far:

1) I may be too cynical for romance. I'm certainly too cynical for the
opening entertainment, a fabulous piano player who is also a less
fabulous, highly theatrical motivational speaker.

2) If you meet a stranger, don't work in multiple references to your
painful divorce...it's awkward in the extreme.

3) On the good side, I was afraid I would be disappointed because I've
been to some pretty awesome work conferences, but so far it's lovely!
And there was free coffee this morning, which was a lifesaver.

Okay. I should finish my latte and head back to the hotel for the
keynote luncheon. More later!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

and liberty she pirouette when i think that i am free

I'm freaking exhausted, which I guess should be expected considering that moving is never a fun experience, and I'm under the gun to get unpacked before my Olympics party next week. However, I sometimes amaze even myself with my foresight. Among the fifty boxes of crap was one labeled 'Olympic Cakes', and it contained everything I would need for the basic cake production -- mixer, mixing bowls, measuring cups and spoons, bundt pans, can opener, wine opener (more necessary for making party than for making cake), oven mitts, spatulas, etc. Happily I've unpacked my entire kitchen, so I'm making good progress, but finding the Olympics box made me laugh.

So my kitchen is unpacked, although there is still some stuff strewn about the counters. I also have most of my closet unpacked, although there is one more suitcase in storage, as well as a bag full of stuff that I need to take to the dry cleaner's. I've unpacked the books that I've been using to research my book, but the rest of the boxes of books (all ~15 of them) are in the closet or sitting on my couch. In fact, books are the only real bulk remaining to be organized, and I face a problem because I don't have anywhere to put shelves. Once Vidya's fully moved out, I can put up shelves in half the closet and use them for books, but I'll have to procure new shelves since the ones I had won't fit. But if nothing else, the boxes can sit in the closet for a couple of weeks until I get around to buying shelves, and I'll just have to force myself to do it so that they don't sit there for months on end.

Despite the constant unpacking, today was a pretty great day. I woke up early of my own volition, did some unpacking, then walked to the nearest Starbucks to pick up some much-needed caffeine. I kept unpacking until Vidya arrived, with the much-discussed second Vidya in tow, as well as their friend Cathy, whom I may have offended when I was merely polite to her before saying to second Vidya, 'I've heard so much about you!' Oops. Chandlord was here to pick up some of the stuff she still had here, as well as take care of her Chandlord duties and replace some lightbulbs. I went with her and the other girls to find the proper lightbulbs, and then we had a v. late lunch at Nick's Crispy Tacos.

Vidya asked me if I remembered Nick's Tacos, and I just stared at her blankly; I was sure I would remember those amazing tacos if I'd had them before. Then she said 'I pulled your shirt down here', and it all flooded back to me -- at night, Nick's Tacos turns into Club Rouge, where I went for a night o' fun in the evil city right before I went to India oh so many years ago. And yes, she did pull my shirt down there, much to my chagrin since I wasn't wearing a bra. That was also the infamous night of the Three Wisemen (Jim Beam, Jack Daniels, and Jose Cuervo) that Adit bought for me, which insured a) that I was miserable later that night and the next morning, and b) that I can't really drink whisky anymore. The night ended abruptly when Adit attempted to escape through the window behind the bar, which got us kicked out, which is probably what saved me from alcohol poisoning. Ah, the memories.

Anyway, the taco place is amazingly delicious, even if it does become a den of iniquity later. There are v. few taco places that have chandeliers, disco balls, and fancy lounge areas, so this is a definite plus. And hanging out with the Indians was fun. So all in all, it was a good afternoon, and I'm really looking forward to discovering more stuff in the neighborhood as I get settled in.

Now, though, I have to go to bed. The Romance Writers of America conference starts tomorrow morning, and I need to get up and actually wash and dry my hair (shocking), put on nice clothes, and walk the ten or twelve blocks down to the conference site. I guess I should get used to it, since I'm starting back to work in FIVE DAYS. BOOOOOO. Goodnight!

hazardous

Two jhokes that I forgot to blog last night that I wish to share with you:

1) I ordered some stuff from Sephora last night, due to the fact that I don't have time to go to the mall and pick up some necessities, and encouraged by the additional fact that by shopping online I don't waste time or money by trying scores of new products. When I was selecting shipping, the system told me that I could only ship my order via ground service because my order contains a HAZMAT product. WTF?! It makes me doubt a bit whether I should really be using any product on my face or hair that can be considered a hazardous material. I mean, I'm pretty sure that the culprit is the spray bottle of dry shampoo, but what if the hazardous part is the chemicals in it and not the fact that it's a spray? Then again, even though I love cosmetics, I'm not using anything with white lead (like all the foundation-type concealers back in the Regency period) or belladonna/nightshade (which Italian women used to distill and put into their eyes to make their pupils attractively dilated, seriously increasing their risk of blindness).

2) Driving through Mountain View last night, I saw an apartment complex that was advertising a "2 bdr, 1 bat" unit. I wish I had had my camera. Do you think the bat is kept out in the open, or does it hide someplace and then come out to terrorize you randomly? If it's like my childhood home, it comes out randomly, but this is California, and people are crazy about pets here...

title change!

I know, it's trite and cliched. But my other option was "Resident Evil: Swamp Time", which I thought was likely misleading to new visitors even if it would serve to remind me every night that I'm living in the evil city.

Also, starting tomorrow I will no longer label posts where I'm just hanging out at home as 'city of sin', although I will use it when something particularly sinful happens. I also added the 'glorious south bay' label to reflect the times when I return to the warmer, safer climes of Menlo Park/Palo Alto/Mountain View.

That's all -- regular nightly update is below. Goodnight!

there's a fire within my soul

I'm exhausted but happy, which is always a nice combination because it makes going to bed feel like a well-deserved reward rather than a slothful necessity. I spent last night in Berkeley, and got up fairly early this morning to finish packing up and tiding up around the house. I had a quick lunch in Berkeley, then came to the evil city (now my residence) to continue unpacking.

The unpacking is going pretty well, as evidenced by the fact that I've made my bed and can sit on my loveseat. There's still a ton to do, but I'm feeling confident that I'll get it all into some semblance of order by next week, even if I am spending three days at the Romance Writers of America conference later this week. However, I keep being reminded that I have too much stuff -- for instance, does any single girl really need thirty coffee mugs? I didn't *plan* to get thirty coffee mugs -- much of the blame lies with the fact that my Corelle dishes were sold in a set w/four plates, saucers, bowls, and mugs, and between my own purchases and Christmas presents from my family, I have service for sixteen. Granted, service for sixteen is probably also excessive, but the pattern was discontinued and so I was encouraged to stock up. Between the coffee mugs, the many Crate and Barrel red swirl glasses (some of which I got for Christmas sometime), and the plastic outdoors-appropriate glasses that I got at an end-of-summer clearance sale, I have enough drinkware alone to last over a month without doing dishes (not that I ever do that, since they would get pretty gross if I did). And that doesn't even get into the issue of cooking utensils, or baking dishes, or small electrics (blender + immersion blender + food chopper + waffle iron + crock pot + toaster + some other things that I've likely forgotten because I haven't unpacked them yet). Oh well, I like my stuff and I'm not going to complain that I have it -- I just need to refrain from adding to it.

I took a shower around 5:30 and then drove down to the glorious peninsula to run a couple of errands before meeting up with Claudia and Adit for dinner/coffee at Cafe Borrone. It was excellent to see both of them, and also entertaining to note how quickly the Adit-flavored dialect changes, just like any other organic language -- Claude had no idea what was going on when he and I both started staying 'ssssssss....anyway', which surprised both of us since neither of us realized that 'ssssssss....anyway' started sometime after Claude left for Yale last August. Ssssssss....anyway. We chatted for some time about our respective lives while watching the counter to see if Adit could score a free frosty mocha (he couldn't, which was devastating). Hopefully we'll get a chance to hang out again before Claude goes back to the beast coast next week, although my romance writers' thing is going to take up most of the weekend.

Okay, no more blogging...I need to get up tomorrow and continue the unpacking push if I'm going to have a place to watch the Olympics. They're only 10 days away!!!!!

Monday, July 28, 2008

the city approacheth

I'm actually sitting in my new apartment; it still feels like Vidya's, but the deluge of all of my stuff is quickly transforming it. I met my movers at the storage facility I had used in San Jose this morning; it took them four hours, including the drive from San Jose to San Francisco, which was pretty good. As I mentioned to Vidya, the cost of movers is well worth it, particularly since I don't think I could find any friends who would be willing to move the sheer quantity of stuff that I have. It's really quite appalling. I think it's because I've been historically impatient to have the trappings of an adult life (adult in the grown-up sense, not the porn sense), and so I've upgraded many things like dishes, bedding, furniture, etc. that many people don't bother with until much later (if at all -- I'm also a packrat, compared to some of my more minimalist friends). But it's pretty telling that, once Vidya sold her bed and couch (which she seemed to have no trouble parting with), the remainder of her stuff fit into ~3 carloads -- whereas my stuff was stored in a 7'x12' space and couldn't be fit into any number of carloads given the preponderance of furniture.

So today was pretty much taken up by the move, but when the movers were done, Vidya and I walked down the street to the movie theatre and saw 'Mamma Mia!'. It's gotten mixed reviews, and I would actually give it a mixed review myself -- it was heavy on musical, not so heavy on plot or development, a couple of the songs were completely pointless and unexciting, and I think it could have been a little bit shorter. However, I laughed harder than I've laughed at a movie in a long time -- Meryl Streep was as fun to watch as she always is, and the trio of suitors included an entertaining Colin Firth and an even more entertaining Pierce Brosnan, who was entertaining mostly because he couldn't really sing and seemed horribly aware of it, which made his performance completely hysterical. Also, there were several points where various members of the cast were wearing ABBA-style costumes, which was awesome. And I liked the weird Greek chorus going on behind most of the musical numbers, since out of nowhere the staff of the hotel would appear, dressed for the moment, to sing backup, and they were all much uglier than you usually get to see in a Hollywood movie. So I'd say that if you like musicals, or like to watch Pierce Brosnan make a fool of himself, go see it. But you can also watch Pierce Brosnan make a fool of himself in 'The Matador', which is by far a better movie, even if Greg Kinnear isn't quite as amazing to watch as Meryl Streep is.

Okay, no more blogging -- I'm going to get in my car now and drive to Berkeley, where I'm going to spend the night. I need to wash my sheets before I can sleep on them, my dust allergy is clearly kicking in since I've now spent several hours unpacking dusty stuff, and I need to get the rest of my stuff out of John and Jess's house tomorrow anyway, so I might as well spend the night there. Then tomorrow, it's back to the evil city and back to the fun game of trying to fit all of my stuff into an apartment -- wish me luck!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

the feds don't know so they stick they noses, while we off the coasts proposin toast-es

As much as I hate the fact that there's a song called 'Wamp Wamp (What It Do)', in which 'Wamp' is pronounced to rhyme with 'tramp', the song is really catchy -- to the point that I actually listen to it by myself, voluntarily. Yay.

Today was a pretty good day for me, at least, although according to my brother there was a massive storm at home, which (among other things) knocked out the power and prevented me from being able to reach my parents for my usual Sunday afternoon call. I made it into the evil city a little after eleven am -- I was an invited guest to 'Sunday ritual', which is basically brunch with Katrina, Adit, and Vidya. I'm intent on taking Vidya's social life as well as her apartment, so this was a key first step for me. We met at Adit's and then walked a few blocks to a grocery store that sells delicious premade sandwiches, which we ate in a park until we realized it was too cold, so we finished at Adit's apartment. My chicken and avocado sandwich was nice, but Adit convinced me to get the dessert sandwich, which was even better -- cinnamon swirl bread w/peanut butter and strawberries. Mmm.

After hanging out with the kids for awhile, I drove down to Palo Alto to run a couple of errands. On the way back from Palo Alto, a bottle of Windex that I'd purchased leaked in my car, filling it with ammonia fumes, so I'm going to have to drive with the windows down for awhile -- but I'm hopeful that it won't be as catastrophic as the watermelon incident in my previous car. Once I got to Berkeley, I did some laundry, packed up some of my stuff, and played online before getting an invite from Vidya to come over to her apartment and spend the night. So on the night before I'm moving into this apartment, I'm sleeping here; but tomorrow, if Chandlord's here, she'll technically be staying with me!

I should go to sleep soon, since I have to meet the movers in San Jose relatively early tomorrow to get my stuff out of storage. I can't wait! And then it's only a week before I go back to work, which is hard to believe. Goodnight!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

v. annoying day

I should preface this by saying that almost everything about the day was actually great, but it was overshadowed by one v. annoying thing -- I scraped up my car in Chandlord's (soon to be my) parking garage. I've never had an accident of any kind before (except the time that I put a pickup into the ditch, but it was snowing heavily, I'd only been driving three months, the truck didn't have automatic steering, and I didn't do any damage, so it doesn't really count). So this was quite a shock, and really upset me for most of the day. The damage is almost entirely superficial and will just require repainting to fix, so I suppose I should feel lucky -- although it's clear that if I had been just an inch farther away from the wall, nothing would have happened. It just sucks because I don't have the time or energy to deal with fixing my car on top of moving, unpacking, starting a new job, working on polishing and selling my book, and making adequate time for future writing/socializing/healthier living.

The funny (as in funny annoying, not funny ha-ha) thing is that when I met with my insurance agent on Tuesday, I raised my deductible to $1000 because I 'never get into accidents' and in general felt it was smarter to pay a lower premium under the assumption that over the course of my life it will even out with the higher deductible. Great move on my part, right?

As I was brooding over my car, though, I realized that there is probably a lesson here. The obvious one is that I shouldn't take corners too fast in unfamiliar garages, but we'll leave that one alone. The more subtle one is that my perfectionist tendencies are so strong that the knowledge that I had just messed up my car was enough to make me nauseous -- and considering that it's just a car and that I didn't damage anyone or anything else, my reaction is rather out of proportion to the actual consequences.

The problem is that I adore my car, and I have that uniquely American love for the automobile and the open road that pretty much guarantees that I will hold on to my car even as gas prices skyrocket and more fuel-efficient, less fun cars take over the roads. And I really do see my car as an extension of myself -- I've said before that I am enthralled by the idea of being a cyborg, and when I'm driving, I feel so 'at one' with the car that I tend to do some of my best thinking on the road. So the knowledge that I wasn't paying close enough attention to the physical space around me and scraped up the car as a result got an even more visceral reaction than, say, the moment I realized that the three-inch burn scar on my arm (received while baking cookies last Christmas) will never go away -- the scar on my arm may be a little unsightly, but it's nowhere near as bad as driving around in a scraped-up car that proclaims my 'inability' to drive.

That gets back to the perfectionist thing -- it doesn't really matter that I'm driving a scraped car, but at the same time I know that I profile people on the road based on the state of their bumpers, and am much more cautious toward people who have visible dents and dings. The idea that someone, somewhere, might think me incompetent at something actually upsets me to a degree which I am usually not comfortable admitting (even if it's probably obvious to those who have seen me in action). From there it's a swift downward spiral into feelings of guilt and remorse over the times that I've shoved people away because I didn't want them to get to know the messier sides of me, and on into the even worse feelings of sadness and regret over the handful of times that I've let people in and then not gotten from them the type of emotional response or relationship that I wanted.

Luckily I recognize where that spiral's headed, so I'm just going to stick to the top level of 'general car annoyance' rather than continuing down that path. And really, the rest of the day was lovely; I woke up at Vidya's around 7:30, which was far too early considering that we played Rock Band until 1am last night and then watched all of 'Batman Begins'. Chandlord and I went down the street for some coffee, loaded some stuff into my car, scraped it against the garage wall, and then went to San Jose to drop her stuff off at her parents' house. Her mom made lunch for us, and it was delicious; I hadn't had anything Indian in six months, and homemade Indian is pretty great even if it is vegetarian. Then we went back to the evil city and played some Rock Band before going out for Salvadorean food at a great restaurant near her (soon to be my) apartment. Now I'm back in Berkeley, figuring out what I need to take care of tomorrow, and planning on going to bed in the next twenty minutes -- I think an extensive period of sleep will help me to recover some of my equilibrium and get over the damage that I caused to my poor car. Goodnight!

Friday, July 25, 2008

boo vegetables

I always knew I was meant to be a carnivore. This was confirmed today by my allergy test; while the results need to be substantiated by some bloodwork (which I had drawn today, luckily by a nurse who didn't go through the bruise that's lingering on the top of my hand from Wednesday's bloodwork), I showed initial positive reactions to half of the vegetables tested. Amusingly, none of the foods that I've actually been avoiding (tomatoes, watermelons, and bananas) showed up as positive -- which according to my allergist the other day means that they're just oral cross-reactions to my grass/weed allergies, and so might clear up while I do the allergy shots.

However, these are the foods that came up positive:

Cereals: corn, oat, rice, and rye
Fruits: cantaloupe
Vegetables: string beans, garlic, lettuce, soybean, broccoli, squash, carrot, and potato (!?!)

So obviously the good news is that I don't have any signs of the scary allergies (shellfish, nuts, dairy, and egg products). But obviously the bad news is that cereals, garlic, soy, and potato comprise a significant portion of the more delicious aspects of my diet. But all of this needs to be confirmed and then discussed with the allergist before I know whether it's just a skin reaction or something potentially more serious, so I'm going to keep going as usual until that happens.

Anyway, I woke up this morning feeling better than I deserved but worse than I wanted; but that was to be expected since I only got four hours of sleep after drinking several glasses of wine, a mojito, half a martini, and a tequila shot. I dropped Geetika off at her apartment and made it down to Palo Alto for the allergy test in excellent time. Then, I met up with Sri for one last sandwich-based lunch; he's leaving for Providence, Rhode Island next week, and I will likely never see him again, so we had one last heart-to-heart (and by heart-to-heart, I mean I participated in my customary game of asking questions in an attempt to get him to divulge what's going on with him, while he expertly parried my questions and tried to turn the conversation back on me). I'm sad that I'll never see him again, since he's quite a winning fellow, but at least I was able to trap him into one last awkward hug as we said goodbye.

When I got back to Berkeley this afternoon, I slept for three hours, then engaged in some desultory internet-surfing and car-cleaning before taking a shower. Now I'm getting ready to go back to the evil city (which is why I'm blogging early tonight) -- several of us are going to play Rock Band at Vidya's apartment, and since it will be my apartment in a couple of days, this is an excellent opportunity to move my Wii and the Rock Band set to the other side of the bay. I'm planning on staying there tonight, although I definitely intend to stay far more sober than I did last night; I'm getting too old for these partying ways!

swamptruffle

This post is titled in honor of Vidius Chandicus!

Right now I'm watching '10 Things I Hate About You' with Chandlord and Geetika in Chandlord's (mine in four days!) apartment. This comes after a v. exciting day; I saw my gynecologist (hot), then had lunch with Anthony (John's friend, also hot, and by hot I mean entertaining), and then came to Chandlord's for drinks. We didn't actually have dinner; instead, we went to a wine bar, where I had several glasses of wine. Then, Vidya, Geetika, and a couple of Geetika's frosh went to a bar near Chandlord's apartment, where I had a mojito, a tequila shot, and a blueberry martini. This has of course made me v. drunk, which makes it close to bedtime for me! So you get an abnormally short post, I get a hangover, and everyone is satisfied. Goodnight!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

nobody makes me bleed my own blood!

I am usually fairly sympathetic to staff in training. But I don't feel the same level of sympathy when the person who appears to be in training is getting ready to draw blood from my veins. I had a doctor's appointment this morning, and the doctor wanted to do some routine bloodwork since I hadn't been in for a checkup since before I went to India. So she sent me down the hall to the nurse who could draw my blood. Except apparently she couldn't really draw my blood; she ended up calling in the head nurse to consult. Turns out neither of them could find the veins in my arms, and so they ended up drawing blood out of the vein on the top of my right hand. Ugh. The upside was that they made that decision before they just rooted around in my arm with a needle hoping to stumble upon the vein (I had that happen once, and it wasn't pleasant). The downside was that since they have to use a smaller needle to go in through the top of the hand, it took longer. But the nurses were very nice and chatted with me to keep my mind off the needle in my hand, so all was good. And I got an extremely glittery silver bandaid and a lollipop at the end, so all was well.

It's a little incredible how nice the doctor's facilities are, considering this is the *free* doctor at my place of employment. When I went in to get my immunizations and malaria pills before India, she was working out of a storage closet; now, there's an actual suite of exam rooms, a waiting room, and the ability for them to draw blood rather than having us go to an outside clinic. Since that's where I'm going to start doing my allergy shots, this is all v. good.

Also, since when did I start talking like an old woman, going on and on about my health? Next I should tell you about the weather (it was lovely today), what I ate (a sandwich at one of the work cafes for lunch, leftover Chinese for dinner), and who I saw (Adit), before getting back to something like the state of my colon (confidential) or the latest news about my grandchildren (nonexistent).

Anyway, after the doctor, Adit met me at work for a nice lunch at my favorite cafe. I still had some of the stuff that he left with me after Chris's wedding, since he and Priyanka boarded a plane for Greece (while still drunk from the wedding, since they had to leave the hotel at 6am and I'm pretty sure I saw them at 2am when I was still drinking) and he just got back to the bay area. So we had a delicious lunch, and my hip-factor was no doubt heightened by his nicely tailored shirt and the fact that he left his mirrored aviators on during the entire meal. It's sad but true that I will never be that stylish, although my Bulgaris are pretty great.

After Adit went to work, I went to Coupa Cafe in downtown Palo Alto and worked on the research for my novel for a few hours. I had an incredible chai tea (with 'tiger spice') there, which made up for the less-than-stellar experience that I had at Tea Time a couple of days ago. I also got quite a bit of research done while discussing Regency-era costumes online with Oniel, who is nice enough to feign interest in some of my obsessions. Then I came back to Berkeley, ate leftover Chinese, took care of some stuff online, and am now ready to call it a night!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

it's not in the way you look or the things that you say that you'll do

In my progression toward adulthood, I took another critical step today by revisiting and making changes to my insurance policies with my new insurance agent. I took the BART into the evil city to meet up with the agent; amusingly, I don't know my way around the city that well, and so you can imagine my surprise when I turned the corner onto Grant Avenue and suddenly found myself directly under the main gates into Chinatown. The office was about halfway up the block, so I got to walk past several shops selling cheap Asian knickknacks, and I managed to refrain from buying any crap, which is another indication of my maturing state. The insurance lady was nice and my discussions with her were quite painless, so that's good.

I was supposed to meet Vidius Chandicus (aka Chandlord) directly after my appointment, but she was delayed by an important phone call, so I wandered around the Union Square area and window-shopped. I bought some amusing birthday cards at a paper store, then went to Borders and started looking up info on Bermuda -- I'm trying to decide where the pirate brother in my romance novel series is going to be based, since I need to make reference to his 'plantation' in the current book, but I don't want to choose arbitrarily and then find out later that the island I chose doesn't allow for the storyline I'm planning for him. But before I could figure that out, Chandlord called and stole me away from my research.

We spent a couple of hours at a cafe, drinking delicious coffee drinks while discussing life, etc. I also had the quite depressing realization that, other than work friends whom I've made in the past few years (mainly in India and Ireland), Vidya was the last non-work friend I made. And I made her in 2004 -- which is kind of a long time to go without making a new friend outside the office. I guess Katrina is a new friend, but she also works at the same company I do, so it's unclear where the line is. And I like spending time outside with the kids I met at work, so it's not like I've been completely antisocial -- but I seem awfully young to freeze my friend group in its current state. I would claim that I'll be more social in the future, but considering that Vidya then invited me to dinner so that I could meet the kid she was going to hang out with, and I turned her down to come home and fill out change of address forms, I don't know that I can hold myself to that promise.

So seeing Vidya was good, and she didn't make me cry, which was awesome. I took the BART back and then did end up 'crying' on the walk back to the house because I had something awful in my eye and could barely see, but that's not Vidya's fault. Then I took care of all the change of address stuff that I needed to take care of, caught up on some other stuff, and generally had a decent if uneventful evening.

Finally, check out the article Dan sent me tonight. You may not think you're interested in people who dress up guinea pigs, but go through all the pics and you'll see why I was way too entertained by this. Now, it's time for bed!

lonely but never quite alone

Only 18% of adults under the age of 30 identify themselves as Republicans, according to an article I just read about the doom and gloom sentiments among young Republicans. Amongst my friends/peers at work, that number's probably closer to 1.8%. Then again, it's very hard to tell -- Republicans come v. close to being a discriminated-against group (such as the time that someone told me, on the day of the 2004 election, that she hoped I would get into a car accident so that I couldn't vote -- a shocking sentiment, particularly considering that I was voting in California, which is nowhere near a swing state). So even to people whom I have known for quite some time, I rarely if ever bring up politics, and they likely either assume that I'm a Democrat because all 'smart' people are, or they assume I'm a Republican because all Iowans are (which is patently false, considering our Democrat governor, state senate, and state house). And considering how outspoken I am about many things, the fact that even I hesitate to bring up politics makes it likely that there are other young conservatives out there amongst my peers who, like me, go with the crowd just to avoid the rabid attacks to which one is sometimes subjected by supposedly open-minded liberals.

This is also possibly the last time that I'll blog about it, but it's been brought into sharp relief by living in Berkeley, where nearly every car has a bumper sticker which annoys me, and I'm living in a house with a prominent Barack Obama window sign. San Francisco may be the city of sin, and it's not exactly a conservative stronghold, but there's something so in-your-face about Berkeley, with the kids living in trees and whatnot, that I'm not eager to continue experiencing. Don't get me wrong, there are nice things about it too -- it seems to encourage a genuine feeling of community and a sense of striving to help others. I just don't agree with some of the tactics, or much of the worldview behind them.

So anyway, it's amusing that I was thinking these thoughts since I didn't leave the house today; I stepped outside for a few minutes to eat a mango and some blueberries on the deck, and again later to take out the trash, but for the rest of the day I holed up inside and crossed more stuff off my to-do list. I have my move into Chandlord's apartment all scheduled for Monday, I have more allergy tests later this week, two doctor's appointments, and a meeting with my new insurance agent. I also spent a good hour with a map of Scotland trying to figure out exactly where I want the location of my current romance novel to be -- you would think I would have figured this all out, but basically I just glossed over placenames and dumped them someplace convenient (within a day's coach ride of Edinburgh, just far enough into the Highlands that it feels wilder without being so far that there is no society/opportunity to make it easily back to England). My map of Scotland is now covered with about twenty different post-it flags of possible town names, and I'm going to sleep on it before choosing one.

After I talked to my parents tonight for the first time in several days, I read most of that Suze Orman book that I bought yesterday. It was written in a style that was a bit too overexuberant self-helpy for my tastes ("You can make this change, if you visualize and bring into action these eight simple concepts", etc.), but there was some decent advice in there. If nothing else, it helped me to realize that I'm in much better control of my finances already than most women are, even if I haven't started a Roth IRA. And I almost laughed out loud when it turned out that one of her 'eight characteristics of a wealthy woman' was 'cleanliness'. I thought she was just struggling to come up with eight characteristics, but she soberly said that cleanliness was just about the most important of all, because if you weren't organized, there was no hope that you would be wealthy. Maybe she should have said 'organized' instead of 'clean', because I can see her point, but when I first read it, all I could think about was soap.

Now it's time for bed, even though I only got up twelve hours ago; I'm not staying up reading tonight because I need to start getting back onto a work-appropriate time schedule. Goodnight!

Monday, July 21, 2008

i just want to show you what i know and catch you when the current lets you go

I had a fantastic, laid-back, entertaining, productive, and slothful day all at once. I actually got up relatively early for an unemployed person on a Sunday, and made it down to Palo Alto by eleven a.m., where I spent a couple of hours working at my formerly-favorite tea place (Tea Time in Palo Alto). I say formerly-favorite because I began to doubt why I ever loved it; I've now had two bad experiences there, and given that I'm moving to the city, there's no reason why I would go back. My first bad experience was months ago, when I had just sat down with a whole pot of tea when the owner rather rudely informed me that I would have to leave because they were booked for a private party later in the afternoon. Then today, I'd been there for awhile, using the internet for which I had been given their access code, when the internet died. The owner was rather bitterly complaining about how there were always too many people using the internet and that it prevented her from working on her computer. Rather than wait to see how this resolved, I cleared out and went to Borders instead, but given that I am not a fan of the staff, the service is slow, and the food is ridiculously overpriced, I will go to other places instead.

But I was productive while I was there -- I made it through some research questions on forms of address and certain points about the Napoleonic Wars, so I was happy with that. At Borders, I bought a comprehensive history of 19th century Britain, a book of maps of London for the past few centuries, Suze Orman's book on personal finance for women, and 'Whitney, My Love,' a romance novel by Judith McNaught that Priyanka rather forcefully recommended to me. I read the intro to the history book at Starbucks, and am looking forward to delving into it more over the next few days.

I met Marco (Claude's brother) at the movie theatre for an afternoon showing of 'The Dark Knight'. I have to say that I loved it -- I thought that it was just a tad too long, but Heath Ledger's performance was truly outstanding, and I think he would have been up for an Oscar for it even if the Oscar campaign wasn't being driven by all the nostalgia over giving him a posthumous Oscar. I'm also a big fan of Christian Bale (in the 'lusting after' sense, not in the 'admiring of his work' sense), so that was another plus. That's true of Aaron Eckhart too, for that matter, although not quite as lustily as Christian Bale. And I thought the storyline was unexpectedly dark and thought-provoking, so it exceeded my expectations. But, I did laugh at the waste of advertising dollars when they actually showed a trailer for 'The Dark Knight' in the promo clips leading up to the actual pre-movie trailers. And the trailers got me excited for all sorts of ridiculous action movies coming out in the next year -- 'Quantum of Solace' is going to be great, and I'm strangely excited about the third 'Mummy' movie. Now if I can just find new friends who weren't burned by 'King Arthur' or any of my other movie fiascos....

After the movie, I grabbed a burrito, came back to dirty Berkeley (sssss), and proceeded to read all of 'Whitney, My Love', which is why I'm blogging after my parents have probably awoken in the central time zone. It was pretty good, although I found out after purchasing that this is a republished version of the original 1980s novel, and the author took the opportunity to 'enhance' the ending, which I felt was similar to the ending of the final 'Lord of the Rings' movie -- you know they all live happily ever after, but it just drags on, and on, and on, with small skirmishes well past the point where you know everything is fine. However, I liked the characters, and it was entertaining to go back in time to the 1980s/early 1990s-style romances, which is what I first started reading; back when men were men, women were women, and there were a lot of almost-beatings and near-rapes on their paths to happiness.

Seriously, the change in romance novel structure and conventions has been quite interesting over the past twenty years; almost all of the 1980s novels were about abductions, forced marriages, and very dominant alpha-male heroes set in poorly-researched 'historical' settings, often medieval castles, Viking strongholds, pirate ships, or exotic Arab harems. By comparison, the historical novels of the 2000s have been primarily lighter-hearted society farces, and the settings themselves are more accurate, but the characters in them are complete anachronisms -- sensitive politically-correct heroes and headstrong, independent heroines who are thoroughly modern, but dropped into a Regency setting in which the intricacies of the historical setting merely serve as luscious backdrop. My conflict-avoidant self prefers the banter of the more recent books, since the constant fighting in the 1980s romances is at odds with my passive-aggressive nature and tends to give me a headache, but I'd forgotten how much fun it is to read a knock-down, drag-out battle of the wills between two over-the-top characters. 'Whitney, My Love' has that in spades, even if it could have ended about a hundred pages earlier. I was even able to get over the fact that the hero's name was Clayton, which is the same name that one of my high school classmates had; the Clayton I've known since kindergarten is a funny guy, but he's about as far from the arrogant Duke of Westmoreland as you can get.

Now, though, it's almost four a.m., and I should really go to bed if I hope to get anything done tomorrow!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

i discovered that my castles stand upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand

Considering that I didn't get around to taking a shower until after noon, I actually accomplished quite a bit today. I walked a few blocks to the surprisingly-clean cafe that I found the other day for a late lunch; my ankles were killing me, which I realized was likely a direct result of way too much vigorous foot-pedalling on the drum set for Rock Band last night. But lunch was well worth it; I had a nice sandwich while mulling over my to-do list for the next couple of weeks. I stopped at Whole Foods on the way back and picked up some fruit and tea, which meant that I could enjoy tea all afternoon while crossing things off my to-do list.

I tackled two of my messiest items, both of which I had been putting off for weeks: getting financial tracking software for myself and my romance novel 'business', and putting together a framework for collecting the research I've done for my romance novel so that I can use the same research for future books. Obviously neither of these tasks is truly pleasant, but they were both holding me back from progress on the larger goals of getting control of my finances and completing the second draft of my novel, so I'm happy that I got through them today.

On the finances side, I picked Quicken for home and business. I have a stack of receipts from my trip to London/Scotland, and anticipate having more expenses once I begin the manuscript submission process. It's important to track them all accurately so that I can a) deduct them from my taxes and b) have a true understanding of my romance novel income (if I ever make anything!) so that, if I get truly lucky, I can figure out whether it makes financial sense to quit my job someday and write full-time. That could be years or decades away, but tracking it makes it seem like a reality. After I set up the software, it helpfully pointed out that I'm living beyond my means, which it cleverly deduced from the fact that I haven't had a paycheck in almost six months and so am spending more than I'm earning. Thanks for the memories, Quicken!

On the romance research side, I'm a huge fan of Microsoft OneNote. I know this is akin to sleeping with the enemy, but I'm quite pleased with it. I already had one 'notebook' in OneNote for my personal data, another for thoughts on character development for the current series I'm working on, and one for random ideas for future romance novel series. But tonight, I fleshed out a structure for a research notebook -- I collected all of the pending questions from the current book (such as what type of carriage the girl would have arrived in, when the ban on kilts in Scotland was lifted, etc.), divided them up by subject (history, life and style, staff and horses [don't ask why these went together -- I'm just getting in the snotty mood of my characters], etc.), and created subsections for the areas that I want to delve into a bit more.

There's still work to be done, and once I get settled into Chandlord's apartment, I need to file all the paper stuff I collected in the UK. But I'm pretty happy with the structure I have, so now it's time to actually start searching for the answers to these questions.

Finally, I spent an hour browsing/reminiscing through Picasa, looking for photos that I want to print and hang. I haven't printed any photos since I got back from India, so I'm missing wide swathes of interesting stuff -- Ireland, South Africa, Ukraine, England, Scotland, and a couple of years of fun times in California and Iowa. I flagged about seventy pics that I'd like to have hard copies of, and will likely pick a few to blow up into larger, frameable pieces before I place an order in the next couple of days.

I will likely be less productive tomorrow; I have plans to see 'The Dark Knight' with Claudia's brother in the south bay, and I'll probably go down early to go to one of my favorite cafes for lunch and attempt to get some research done. And after tomorrow, I only have two weeks of freedom left before I have to go back to work. But the upside to that is that it's less than three weeks until the Olympics!!!! This of course guarantees that this autumn is going to be one of the most depressing and bleak ones I've ever faced; after getting through the awesome high of the Olympics and coasting through Labor Day to my birthday, I'll be getting settled back into the routine just in time for the shorter days and colder temperatures that always seem to get me down.

So if you've never liked the 'brooding' posts, you might want to take a break from the blog between, say, September 12 and Thanksgiving. Until then, though, it's a straight-up party!

Friday, July 18, 2008

welcome to the rock

I'm even more excited about moving to the city than I was earlier this week, mostly due to the fabulous day that I had with Irish Matt. I went into the city via BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) -- considering that I've lived around here off and on for almost nine years, it's an indication of my disdain for public transportation/love for my car that I've never ridden BART before. But one of the Berkeley BART stations is only a ten-minute walk from John and Jess's house, a BART ticket to the city is only $3.30, and that saved me the bridge toll, gas, and $30+ parking fees that I would have ended up paying. And city people ride public transportation, so I guess I should get used to it.

Matt and I met at Osha Thai on 2nd Street. Long-time readers will remember that Matt was in India with me, and our dinners out there, in Sri Lanka, and in Ireland were usually more of the alcoholic variety than anything else. Today was no exception -- we each had a green tea mojito with our appetizer, and then ordered a bottle of wine to split during the main course. A cocktail + three glasses of wine was enough to make me rather gloriously buzzed, which made the trip to the SFMOMA (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) even more entertaining.

SFMOMA has a special Frida Kahlo exhibit on right now, which Matt wanted to see, and I was quite excited to see it with him -- I did a project on her husband Diego Rivera for Spanish class in high school, and while the project was best remembered (at least by Katie) for the fact that my left nipple was "cold" and therefore visible during the entire presentation, I was quite interested in Kahlo's work as well. The exhibit was packed, but very good; they had several of her most famous paintings, and while I'm not really into art, I like a lot of her stuff.

After the MOMA, we grabbed a taxi and went to Alcatraz. I wanted Matt to say 'welcome to the Rock!', but he claims that he can't do a Scottish accent, so my request was denied. But we did do the guided audiotour, which is quite good; it was no different than when I saw it with my parents, but there is something moving about the whole place, and it was nice to see it again. If you live in San Francisco and have never been to Alcatraz because it's too 'touristy', you should really go -- it's v. interesting.

Getting back to downtown turned out to be difficult, due to a dearth of taxis and the completely overcrowded state of the MUNI that would have taken us back, but we finally made it in time for me to catch a BART back to Berkeley. So Matt and I parted ways today, and I don't know when I'll see him again, but I'm glad that we had a chance to hang out in a completely non-work setting for a few hours.

The rest of the evening was uneventful, and by uneventful I mean awesome because I played Rock Band. Now, though, I'm exhausted -- it's going to be so hard going back to work and actually having to get up in the morning. I got up at nine today and it almost killed me. So I think I'll go to bed, hopefully get up at a reasonable hour tomorrow, and perhaps try to accomplish something worthwhile. Goodnight!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

do you believe you're the victim of a great compromise?

Strangely, considering that I'm not getting paid, I spent most of the day at the office. Maybe it's not so strange when you consider that I get copious high-quality free drinks -- I'm particularly excited that they've brought back both my favorite Tejava iced teas and my favorite Martinellis sparkling apple juice. But considering that I had four meetings, a lunch, and a dinner scheduled for today, as well as an appointment with the onsite allergist, I put in a full day's work.

I have to decide tonight what I'm going to say to the two teams who are recruiting me, since I owe them an answer tomorrow and will be in SF most of the afternoon with Irish Matt. I think I know what my answer will be, but I'm going to sleep on it, so I'm actually going to go to bed soon. And then once I make a decision, I'm not going to have any more meetings or work-related events until I'm actually getting recompensed for my presence.

Today was good, though; my meetings were more fun than anything else, and lunch was with Gyre and Lizzie (even though Lizzie left for another company down the road, the traitor). Dinner was with Laura, which was fun, even though we didn't do any crafting. And I left campus for a couple of hours in the afternoon to meet up with Claudia at a nice day spa in Cupertino to get pedicures -- I hadn't gotten a pedicure since Katie came out to visit in February, and my feet were definitely showing the effects of too much flip-flop wearing. Now they're buffed, scoured, and my toenails are a delightful magenta, so I'm quite happy.

The only slightly sad thing is that my allergist has recommended doing allergy shots twice a week for three months. She says that it will clear up my weed and grass allergies, which may help to prevent future food reactions, which I suppose is a good thing. But, she was very annoyed to find out that Chandlord is leasing me a carpeted apartment -- she wasn't mad at Chandlord herself (and in fact doesn't know who Chandlord is), but said that I really should have gone for hardwood floors because of my severe dust allergy. So she gave me a catalogue of dust-mite-preventing mattress and pillowcovers, which is almost like buying bedding, which of course makes me happy. Too bad the apartment is going to cost me the gross GDP of a small Iowa town, which will limit my bedding procurement. Sigh.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

jhokes, guitars and toilets

Today was a great day, except for the two minutes when I had half my arm in John and Jess's toilet.

Everything start off well. Vidya (the Chandlord), Claudia and I made plans to have lunch together at my employer's office in San Francisco; the cafe there has gorgeous views of the bay, and since neither Claudia nor I have jobs and Vidya is for all intents and purposes unemployed, free lunch in a nice place sounded like a great idea. I went in early to have a conference call with Lauren (my old manager) to discuss career options, which went well. Then Chandlord, Claude and I had a nice lunch, followed by some coffee, while catching up and looking at the Bay.

After lunch, I dropped Chandlord off in Oakland, and then met Claude at John and Jess's house. She came over to play Rock Band, which we did...for over four hours. It was great fun; her presence encouraged me to unpack the drums and the microphone, since I had just been playing guitar before. We made it through about half the songs and did quite well, if I do say so myself. I'm getting much better at guitar, but want to switch it up with the drums sometime when I'm playing in the afternoon and won't antagonize any neighbors with drumming at night. But at one point, she was singing some song whose name currently escapes me, and I started laughing so hard that I was crying -- she was quite good at it, I was just laughing because the lyrics were so dumb, and then the feeling of tears drying on my face drove me crazy as I kept playing.

However, we had a rather somber interlude -- Claude used the bathroom and came out to report that, just as she was flushing, she managed to knock my deodorant into the toilet. Shockingly, the deodorant actually flushed, but we knew that it couldn't possibly have made it through the pipes. We stared at the toilet for a minute, then I took of my ring, bracelet, and watch, grabbed a garbage bag, and stuck my hand in to try to find it. The deodorant hadn't made it past the first curve, but was still a little tricky to fish out, but I managed. Sadly, the bag (which I thought was a brilliant idea) had a hole in it, so I still got contaminated, but the toilet was none the worse for the wear, even if I did throw my deodorant away.

After finishing with Rock Band, we used Yelp to find a great Thai place in the general vicinity, where we had pad thai and some great chicken w/peanut sauce. Then Claude went home, I spent some time prepping for tomorrow, and now I'm going to go to bed -- I 'thrashed' too hard at Rock Band, and I have to be in Mountain View by 9am for the follow-up appointment with my allergist. Goodnight!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

i used to rule the world, seas would rise when i gave the word - now in the morning i sweep alone, sweep the streets i used to own

I was going to say that I'm pretty sure I just heard a gunshot, but that would just worry my parents, so please strike it from the record.

I had a great, laid-back day. I finally braved the Berkeley streets on foot in search of a cafe; I found one a few blocks from the house in the form of Mokka, which served up a great turkey and roasted pepper sandwich in a perfectly clean and friendly environment. I hung out there for a few hours and read the first half "Then We Came to the End" (more on that in a moment). While I was at the cafe, Emily (work Emily, not friend Emily) called to ask whether I've made any decisions about what I'm doing when I come back to work. This led directly to a couple of hours of meditative/contemplative Rock Band playing; not that strumming a plastic guitar will really help me make any decisions, but it did help me to focus my thoughts a little. I also tidied up around the house, ordered some takeout sushi (which turned out to be delicious, and I have leftovers for tomorrow), and then finished the book I was reading before turning my attention to the internet, the blog, and my impending bedtime.

If you haven't read "Then We Came to the End" (by Joshua Farris), I highly recommend it. It's the first fiction book I've read in quite some time, which is inexcusable considering that I've been gloriously unemployed for five months -- and it may have been the absolutely worst one to pick up when I'm going back to my job in less than three weeks. It deals with office life and is tragically funny, but is definitely not pure humor -- I think Farris hits exactly on the dynamics of a group of semi-strangers brought together in the office every day, the tendency to believe that you understand these people and the weird, shattering moments when you realize that you do not know them at all and will never know their motivations and their thoughts.

There's also an interlude in the middle that felt like a kick in the stomach, but that may have just been me; it's related to a storyline about the senior partner on the team, a single woman who may or may not have breast cancer. I was just thinking this morning that 98% of the time, I'm quite content with my single life, but today I really wanted someone who could scratch my back and relieve the remnants of yesterday's allergy test, since the weeds/grasses were tested right between the shoulder blades where I can't satisfactorily reach them. But obviously the story of a woman who has no one to turn to and nothing in her life but her job and a fancy highrise apartment touched a nerve, even if I'm 26 and far from that fate. So between the call from Emily and this section of the book, which I read just minutes after that conversation, I was in a contemplative mood all afternoon.

You would think that I would have figured something out on my break, but you would be wrong. All I know is that I want time to polish and then publish my book, but I also want to go back to work. The rest of it -- whether I ultimately want a career as a full-time author, whether I instead want to have a high-flying business career, whether I want to pursue the marriage/kids/white picket fence (does anyone still dream of white picket fences?), whether my own personal need for freedom and disinclination toward commitment is more important than compromising for love and happily ever after, whether I want to stay in California or move back to the midwest in the future -- all of that has been deferred yet again with the vague promise that I'll reconsider in a couple of years if this book thing doesn't work out.

But really, I'm okay with that. I just need to figure out what my job will be when I go back, and then get back to the business of polishing the second draft and sending it out to get some feedback. Now, though, I'm going to quit brooding and go to bed!

Monday, July 14, 2008

are you sure asthma isn't contagious?

You may think that you know the answer to the question posed in the title of my post. But my friends and I are convinced that John is Patient Zero (as Oniel put it) in an outbreak of contagious asthma. The facts:

1) Many people have developed asthma after meeting and living with/near John. Adit developed asthma after sharing a room with John and took the extreme step of attempting revenge by contaminating John's stuff with pinkeye, which wasn't really called for, but the development of chronic lung problems does make people annoyed.

2) When I was in college and spending a significant amount of time with John, I was diagnosed with asthma, and was given inhalers as a result.

3) When I was out of college and not seeing John so much, my asthma went away. I went to India, home of air pollution, came back, and my doctor said I didn't have asthma and didn't need inhalers.

4) I have been living in John's house for the past week. Today I went in for some allergy testing. The tech had me do the breath velocity test, frowned, handed me some albuterol, and had me repeat the test. She seemed to indicate that I have asthma, although I'll have to wait until I see the doctor on Thursday to confirm.

Coincidence? You be the judge! In fact, as John has spread his asthma to more people, his own asthma seems to be gradually less severe. Hmmm.

So today was a jam-packed day. I had an extensive allergy test (more on that later). Then I went into the office and had a v. nice lunch with Alaska Matt before meeting up with Alan (my former manager) to discuss possible roles for me when I come back. Nothing was decided, but I'm talking to some more people later this week and am confident that I'll find something interesting. Then I spent some time catching up with people on and around my old team, which was super fun even if my presence probably destroyed their productivity for the afternoon.

After the office, I went to Hayward (in the dirty east bay) to have dinner with Oniel and Claudia. We always made Oniel come to the peninsula when we were living there, but we finally met him in the east bay instead. I was not a fan at first -- the street the restaurant was on also contained trailer parks, check cashing services, pawn shops, and a variety of other shops that did not instill confidence in the niceness of the restaurant. But the restaurant itself was actually great -- really delicious Italian food. I had a cannelloni stuffed with seafood (in a nod to Oniel's allergy to shellfish), followed by one of the best tiramisus I've had for awhile. Fauxneil and Claudius were good, and we had an excellent conversation, including a couple of my favorite conversation topics (the Olympics and the end of the world).

Back to my allergy test -- I'm allergic to everything! I kind of guessed this, but it's official. The tech pricked my back with 58 different allergens, and I'm allergic to 42 of them. It itched and burned like crazy during the reaction period, and it didn't help that she retested eight of them by injecting them deeper under my skin. I need to see the actual allergy specialist on Thursday to discuss the results and see if I should do the food allergy test as well, but here were the results:

Environmentals:
Allergic: cats, dogs, dust mites
Not allergic: feathers, horses, rabbits, cockroaches, hamsters, rats

Molds/Fungi:
Allergic: 4
Not allergic: 6 (including penicillin, which is good)

Weeds:
Allergic: all 12 of them! I laughed to see that alfalfa is considered a weed, since my parents actually planted it in their field for hay. Ragweed, sage, cockleburs, alfalfa, lamb's quarters, russian thistle, sorrel, and five other weeds were part of the test, and they were all major allergies for me.

Grasses:
Allergic: both that were tested (plain grass and bermuda grass)

Trees:
Allergic: 20, including Chinese elm, juniper, birch, oak, walnut, cottonwood, mulberry, sycamore, maple, and the tree of heaven, whatever that is. Basically all the trees in our yard at home.
Not allergic: 4 - pine, Monterey cypress, eucalyptus, and liquid amber/sweet gum

It's no wonder I'm a mess when I'm not taking my drugs. It will be interesting to see if the allergist thinks there's anything I can do -- I don't know that I really want to go the whole 'take shots every other week for months in the vain hope that one day you'll be less allergic to things'. But knowing which foods I should be avoiding would be helpful too.

Okay, enough allergy talk. I want to get up and actually spend a day working on my novel, so it's time for bed!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

rise of the chandlord

Provided that Vidya doesn't back out of our gentleman's agreement to rent me her place, I am definitely moving to the city! We settled matters this afternoon in Lafayette Park, sitting on some steps with a lovely view of the ocean, eating some mangoes and strawberries and drinking half a bottle of excellent champagne that she had left over from a brunch thing. So now she gets a tenant who won't smear feces all over her walls, I get to call her 'Chandlord', and all is right with the world. And the champagne was particularly delicious, even if the wind was occasionally blowing dirt and tree particles into it.

I had not intended to see her or anyone else today. At around 1pm, I was getting depressed -- I wanted to go out and work on my novel at a cafe, but I'm in freaking Berkeley. That means that when I used Yelp to find a cafe near the house, all the reviews said things like "I love this cafe! It's so dirty!!" In Berkeley speak, "dirty" = "authentic", but in Swampler speak, "dirty" = "unsanitary", and I can't write in unsanitary conditions. I was about to go to Starbucks, which around here gets 2.5-3 stars (as opposed to the dirty places, which get 4.5-5) -- I figured I'm pro-corporation enough to withstand the glares of the hippies, the hipsters, the foodies, and the crackheads. But then I got an IM from Jasmine, whom I haven't seen in months, asking if I wanted to have dinner with her and Michael tonight.

So I went to the evil city, and saw Vidya briefly to discuss the lease and friendship (but not our own friendship, of course). The park is right by the [my employer] shuttle stop, so I tested the walking portion of my upcoming commute -- the first four blocks are short, flat and easy, but the last block up to the shuttle stop is a killer climb. I suppose it's better to have the climb at the beginning of the day rather than the end...and a free shuttle is a pretty awesome benefit.

Then I went to Jasmine and Michael's for dinner, where I stayed for a few hours. Jasmine made some great curried chicken, and we had blackberries and blueberries with whipped cream for dessert, which was excellent. It was fantastic to see them; for desultory readers of the blog, I've known Jasmine and Michael since before (and during) their initial courtship, since they were both in Loro my senior year; when they got married a couple of years ago, I was a bridesmaid. We had a v. entertaining series of discussions which I won't go into here, but mostly revolved around names like 'Ranger' and 'Archer' and 'Cooper'. Then they were nice enough to drop me back off at Vidya's to retrieve my car so that I wouldn't get stabbed, and I made it back to Berkeley in less than half an hour.

I should really go to bed -- tomorrow's a crazy series of appointments and fun times in the south and east bay, and I need to be in Palo Alto by 10:30 for an allergy test. I'm hopeful that I won't have a severe reaction right before my meeting with my boss, but time will tell. Goodnight!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

this is happiness (wooooo)

I think 'This is Happiness' off of Gavin's album has grown on me; I particularly like how he says/screams 'this is happiness', followed by a sarcastic 'woooo'.

Actually, today was lovely. I spent a leisurely morning bumming around, ate some delicious leftover pizza, and then dolled myself up in my new black tshirt-style dress, awesome blue necklace from London, and my blinding gold gladiator sandals. Then, I went down to Palo Alto to look at an apartment. After seeing the outside, I didn't even bother to keep the appointment to view the inside; I could tell that I didn't want to live there. And I really am now eager to live in the city (more on that in a minute). So I went to Target, and then to a Starbucks to look at apartments in SF on Craigslist.

Around 4:30pm I went to a going away party for my friend Jen Lui, who is leaving in a few days to go to business school. One of her friends hosted a barbecue for her, and several of my oldest coworker-friends showed up, including a couple who have left the company; Tolu, Lizzie, Kim, and Jane were there, and Joann showed up as I was leaving, which gave me a chance to hug her before she moves to Singapore for 2+ years. It was lovely to catch up with all of them, although of that group, between people who are on leave or have left the company or switched offices, only Tolu and I are left in this office now :( But I'm having a traditional lunch with Lizzie and Gyre on Thursday since she moved to a company down the road, so it's not like I'll never see them again.

I made it back to Berkeley just before sunset, and then played some desultory Rock Band. I also talked to Vidya -- if the stars align, I may get to call her 'Chandlord' for a year, which I'm v. excited about. But if the stars don't align for that apartment, I still intend to move to the city, so I've been reading up on Craigslist, identifying where my employer's shuttle stops are, etc. Rent in both the city and the south bay is horrifying; in fact, when I told my parents how much I would be spending on rent, they told my brother, who said to me: "If I could budget [$x, where x>$2000] a month for rent, I could drive around, pick out a house, ask the family to pack up their shit and be moved out by the end of the day, and for that price they'd probably leave their daughter to cook and clean for me." And yes, the idea of paying rent in SF for a small apartment when I could buy a small town in Iowa is appalling -- but I don't want to live in a bad place, and I can forego some of my more frivolous expenditures (although Dolce and Gabbana's sunglasses line may go out of business). So, I'm resigned to my fate.

Now, though, it's time for bed; if I do move into Vidya's apartment, I will have little to do for the next couple of weeks, and I should really put that time to good use by working on my novel. Goodnight!

Friday, July 11, 2008

i plead insanity

I'm seriously debating moving to the evil city. When I was driving around yesterday, I realized there was nowhere down in the peninsula that I truly *want* to live -- and my friends down there are rather few and far between. Many of my friends are actually in the evil city or the equally-evil east bay. And what's the point of having a bigger place with room for dinner parties if I don't have any friends who can come to those dinner parties?

Part of this was fueled by the incredibly nice day I had, and the equally incredibly nice days I've had in the evil city in the past. I had a meeting in the SF office this morning; I've never seen the office before, but it's severely tempting to try to work out of there. The cafe (free of course) has panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge, which is pretty spectacular. And it's an easy public transport ride from many places in the city.

Fast forward a few hours to tea with Vidya and Claudia at Samovar in Yerba Buena Gardens. I got there early and had an English tea service (delicious salmon quiche, but the scone and clotted cream were nowhere near as good as what I had in Britain) and contemplated a possible move. Then, when Vidya arrived, we discussed her apartment; she's moving to Boston for a year, and so it's potentially possible for me to lease her place if that's what I want to do. I just don't know what to do!

Apartment hunting aside, today was lovely; Vidya, Claude and I enjoyed Samovar, then switched locations and ended up having a little bit of sushi at a really funny Japanese restaurant in Noe Valley; the elderly Chinese woman acted like she was on crack, which was entertaining. We dropped Claude off at her dinner/party thing, and then Vidya and I picked up takeout pizza from Little Star (mmmmm...nothing like Casey's pizza in Iowa, since this was a half vegetarian/half spinach/ricotta, but still delicious). We went back to her place and watched 'Sahara' -- she finally decided she should see it, but I don't think she enjoyed it as much as i did. Too bad for her!

Now I should really go to bed; tomorrow I'm going down to the south bay for an apartment showing and for an afternoon going-away barbecue thing for a friend who is going to business school, and I should really get some rest!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

i've got my spine, i've got my orange crush

Looking for an apartment is an incredibly frustrating endeavor, particularly since I start back to work in three weeks and want to spend the last few days of freedom doing anything but viewing potential dwellings. It doesn't help that the rental market around here (and by here I don't mean Berkeley, which is where I am, but rather Palo Alto/Menlo Park, which is where I want to be) seems to be in complete meltdown -- I saw lots of 'for sale' signs and v. few 'for rent' signs, which I assume is tied to the mortgage crisis. The very apartment I lived in six months ago is available now -- for $220 more than what I leased it for. And of the two apartments I saw today, one was tiny, and the other was built in the 1960s and apparently not updated since then. The tiny one was $1725, and the old one was $1950, which does not give me a lot of optimism.

I made a bit of progress; I have calls out to several landlords and am waiting to hear from them about appointments, and there are a couple more people I want to call tomorrow. I'm also keeping an eye on Craigslist, and indulging in some internal debate on what percentage of my income I'm willing to spend on rent; coming from Iowa is probably exacerbating the situation, since I would be in a great position to buy something there and yet am contemplating spending twice as much money to rent something here instead. Lame.

But despite the frustration, it was a good day; I had lunch at Stacks while I perused Craigslist on my laptop, spent the afternoon driving around (and therefore not really helping out the Spare the Air campaign), and then spent some more time on Craigslist while drinking a lime italian soda at Cafe Borrone, my favorite place in Menlo Park. I talked to my parents on the way back to Berkeley, and then played some Rock Band. It's insanely addictive, but I did pretty well; of all the songs I played, I only failed one ('Bite the Hand that Feeds' by Nine Inch Nails) -- but I failed it repeatedly, which led to a feeling of ridiculous satisfaction when I finally got it. Yes, I need to get out more.

Tomorrow I'm taking a break from apartment hunting to go to San Francisco for a meeting, followed by tea with Claude and Vidya if Vidya will ever make a freaking decision about when we're meeting. Then the weekend is back to the apartment wars -- wish me luck!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

lured to the east bay

I'm staying at John and Jess's place in Berkeley, which is lovely, except for the fact that it's in Berkeley. If this house were in, say, Iowa, or Palo Alto, I would love it. But the very fact that I am technically living in Berkeley (if the requirement for 'living' is 'sleeping/spending more than 24 hours in') bothers me. So I'll likely get up early tomorrow morning, drive down to Palo Alto/Menlo Park, and start looking for apartments.

Today was a good day at the conference; we heard from some more excellent speakers, had a delicious (particularly by conference-food standards) lunch, and had enough free time that I was able to catch up with a lot of people. I ran into Gellman on the way out of the hotel and ended up giving her a ride back to Mountain View, which was great since it gave us plenty of time to discuss everything that's going on in our respective lives; what we didn't cover today, we'll likely get to when we have lunch on Monday. Then I drove around, looked at neighborhoods, and met up with Terry for a quick dinner before driving up to Berkeley for the night.

So that's all that's exciting with me; I'm looking forward to staying in one place for a couple of days and getting some sleep, even if I am driving down to the peninsula or into the city every day for the next week or so. I'll just have to hope that the east bay isn't as evil as I've made it out to be. But for now, it's time for bed!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

i tuck you in, homie, buenas noches

I'm having a great time at this management offsite. As I told a couple of people, it's a completely different experience when a) you aren't thinking about all of the things you have to get done, b) you don't see people who owe you some action item, and c) you aren't running into people who are wondering when you're going to get back to them about something. Also, I have great relationships with a lot of the people on the global management team, since I've worked closely with people in Hyderabad, Dublin, Ann Arbor, and Boston, so I've run into a lot of fun people.

Still, it's hard to focus on work; by five p.m., I really just wanted the ability to escape and go play Wii, but I stayed dedicated. I may not be so dedicated tomorrow, but time will tell. Most of the stuff today was genuinely interesting, which was good. Even better (since I'm not getting paid right now), we got a new sweatshirt at the dinner tonight; they rented out AT&T Park (aka Giants Stadium), and even though there wasn't a game tonight, we had fun eating hot dogs, doing a mgmt awards ceremony, etc. The sweatshirt is my new favorite; I was needing a replacement for my favorite work sweatshirt, which I got almost five years ago, and this one is particularly nice. Of course, it's 97 degrees here, so I can't wear the sweatshirt for awhile, but I'll be happy this winter.

Okay, I suppose I should go to bed; I'm meeting someone for breakfast at eight a.m. tomorrow, which is painful. And I need to get started looking for an apartment asap if I'm going to be unpacked in time for the Olympics -- they're a month from today! Yay!!!!

Monday, July 07, 2008

bitch don't just stand there with your nose up

So John looked up 'wamp' on Urban Dictionary to find out what it means in the 'Wamp Wamp (What it Do)' song that we were listening to last night. While there, he found this definition for 'Wamplerosis': "The feeling of extreme persecution that results from the knowledge that somewhere, someone disagrees with you." Now, this may be accurate since I definitely hate it when someone disagrees with me...but he really didn't need to snort when he read it, or vote for that definition along with the eleven other people who had already agreed with it.

This is the first time I've had actual internet access in a week, which is v. exciting. I'm sitting in a fancy room at the InterContinental in San Fransisco, reimmersed in the fun expense-account life; I just got back from dinner (at Pazzia, where we had the memorable Vidya-birthday dinner at which my car got broken into) with a couple of my manager friends from the Michigan office, and the ability to expense dinner meant there was no question about whether to have wine, salad, and entree, and dessert. I may go out again to get a drink with Irish Matt, and I will valiantly attempt to prevent one drink turning into five like it usually does when I'm around Matt.

So all in all, this was an incredibly awesome weekend. I feel like a little kid after a day at a theme park; tired, cranky, but so excited that I probably still can't sleep. Actually, that's how I felt after I went to Disneyland six months ago -- I can't seem to grow up properly. But I have my manager pants and my stylish pumps ready to go for tomorrow's manager conference, so I'll fake it 'til I make it. I'm excited to see my manager friends, but I'm less excited about faking knowledge about the business, so we'll see how it goes.

The drive up from Pasadena was fine; I left there at ten and got here a little before five, with a longish break for Taco Bell and another couple for gasoline, so that's not bad. And it's nothing compared to the drives I took for four days last week...this was like a nice Sunday afternoon drive by comparison. I must admit, though, that I'm glad I don't have any day-long drives coming up in the near future. Now I'm going to take care of some more internet stuff before my drink with Matt; have a great night!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

i've created my own prison

This has been a truly excellent weekend. The fun continued today,
although given the extreme lack of sleep I've had in the past seven
days, and the three straight nights of drinking, I was in kind of a
bitchy/antisocial mood at breakfast this morning. Coffee and an
excellent buffet helped me to recover befor taking Zach and Maggie to
the airport, which was an excellent way to catch up with them one last
time before they go back to the east coast.

After that, I went back to Huntington Beach and had lunch with Chris,
Connie, Ritu, Steph, Emily, John, Jess, Chris's brother, and another
guy...but since it was less than two hours after breakfast, I didn't
eat much. Then I took Ritu and Steph to the airport, which was another
excellent conversation...I'm going to miss both of the even more now
that I've seen them again.

I was supposed to drive back to SF today, but I was tired of driving,
and when the more appealing option of staying in Pasadena presented
itself, I took the offer. So after the airport, I drove to Pasadena
and arrived at John's parents' house, where Emily and I are both
spending the night. We spent much of the afternoon playing Rock Band,
which I am going to have to get...it's awesome! Then we went out for
sushi and frozen yogurt, came home, and listened to the rap song 'Wamp
Wamp (What it Do)' waaaay too many times. When I'm blogging from a
real computer again, I will share some entertaining quotes from Urban
Dictionary, but you're going to have to wait a couple of days.

Now I must go to bed...I want to be in SF by five tomorrow, so I can't
dilly-dally tomorrow. Goodnight!

best weekend ever

Chris and Connie got married today, and it was fabulous. I cried
throughout the ceremony, as did my entire row, Chris, and some of the
wedding party. For me at least, it was a truly fantastic party; in
some respects I lived up to my brutal/cold-hearted reputation, but in
almost all others I was just thrilled to be there and get a chance to
hang out with so many of my friends. At dinner I sat between John and
Subz (aka Lauren, who is dating my friend Nathan and so got into the
wedding through him); my table also contained Zach and Maggie, Jess,
Emily, and Dan. I also got caught up with Oniel (fauxneil), his new
girlfriend, Chris and Kristen, Jav, Victor and Laura, Adit and
Priyanka, Ritu, Steph, Eric, Bob, etc, all while dancing our hearts
out (periodically) to some great songs with fun memories of past
college parties. We afterpartied in Dan's room, but our board meeting
was unproductive...although the board did finish off a bottle of
whiskey, sans glasses, which was a great way to kick off Q3.

Now I should go to bed; I'm taking some people to the airport tomorrow
morning, and I will need to shower/pack. But this weekend exceeded my
expectations for fun! Yay!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

evil shenanigans

So I survived the day, but barely. Adit and I woke up and had a lovely
morning watching news features about horse breeding while getting
ready, and Adit was kind enough to iron my shirt for me. I hung out in
the lobby for several hours and worked on my romance novel
brainstorming, which was great. Then Emily came and we hung out with
the boys, went to the pool, had dinner, etc. Then Dan and I went to
buy an extreme amount of alcohol, which we took back to the hotel
before going to the beach to watch fireworks.

The party was ridiculous; Dan somehow got out in a suite with a
boardroom setup, so we had a board meeting with Southern Comfort. We
also got warned by security a couple of times; the second and last was
right after I walked out the door, which was great timing.

So today was completely awesome...I feel like I've gotten a chance to
really catch up with a lot of my friends, and will have even more of a
chance tomorrow. Now I should go to bed so that I can have more fun!

Friday, July 04, 2008

ultimate family time

It turns out the drink Adit bought me was a vodka/red bull, which was
a good idea in theory, but wasn't enough to keep me awake after four
days on the road. But now we're sharing a bed, watching Oceans
Thirteen, which is the ultimate in family time. So parents, I'm safe
for the night...we'll see what tomorrow holds!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Lucky shamrock

I am sitting in a bar in Huntington Beach...which is a brutal
continuation of a day that started in San Francisco at 6:45am. I got
to LA at seven, after taking two hours to drive forty miles, and left
the hotel at 7:10 to have dinner with Chris, Connie, Adit, Ritu, and
some other wedding guests. Now Adit is buying me a drink, which is
always dangerous. I'll blog later!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The city by the bay, the city that rocks, the city that never sleeps

I am lying in bed with Vidius Chandicus! I got here around 6:30pm,
after driving for almost twelve hours due to some ridiculous
construction around Tahoe. It's sad that the glorious scenery of the
past couple of days has been eclipsed in my mind by the traffic and
frustrations of the California freeway system...and there's more of
that to come tomorrow!

Vids and I caught up over sushi, then unearthed my DVD player from the
bowels of my car to watch 'Anchorman'. Now it's time to
sleep...tomorrow I'm headed to LA!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

I spent the night in Utah in a cave up in the hills

Actually, I am at the Wendover Nugget. I got upsold on a 'nicer' room
for only $55, which was half of what I paid to stay at a Comfort Inn
in Cheyenne...roadside motel prices have increased substantially in
the past few years. And I doubt that this hotel will result in me
passing up free breakfast because a fellow boarder is complaining
loudly about the rat he saw in his bedroom the night before...the
Cheyenne Comfort Inn is no longer on my list of recommended I-80
stopovers. Then again, the Nugget has a few flaws...there was a pile
of dirty towels outside my room's door when I arrived, there is
minimal lighting (likely to encourage you to seek out the lights of
the a slot machines), and the 'closet' is two hangers in the 2.5ft of
space underneath the TV. I expect to swoon at the upcoming luxury of
the Huntington Beach Hyatt, even if I also swoon at the price tag.

Anyway, today was lovely; I like driving through Wyoming, and I had a
great time with John and Holly. We had a lovely dinner at a little
Italian place in Salt Lake City, and it was awesome to catch up with
them and find out what they've been up to since getting back from
India. After seeing them, I wanted to make it a little farther
tonight, but had to stop in Wendover. Now I should go to sleep...I
want to get up at 6:30 and be on the road by 7:15. And if you believe
that one, I'll tell you another...