may, 2006

Tue, 2 May 2006 10:31:08 -0700

On an even later shuttle than I planned to be -- traffic on the 101 (whose article I've sometimes started prepending in the SoCal style) plus a longer morning routine than usual, will mean I only get to work in time for lunch. Eh, there are worse fates. My hair this morning, as I walked uphill on 24th to catch the J, fluffed out behind me; now down to my shoulderblades, it had doubled in volume overnight to the point where I looked like I'd not merely gone out for a post-work drink, but also ridden a motorcycle to the bar with no helmet.

The indecision of the past couple of weeks seems to be largely settled, at least within my own head, and that of the project manager to whose team it seems I'm transferring. Despite the fact that I've hit my stride as an engineer on my current project, that I know what I'm doing with Python, that I exist comfortably within our team dynamic, it seems unwise to not jump at this opportunity that Ojan is carroting in front of me. Counter to my predictions, there's also a surprising amount of support within my current team for my breaking ranks. I've had to remind myself, as I've been pondering this, that I'm not leaving the company (whose now five cafés feed me exquisitely well; the peers and lectures at which make up for any grad school experience I would want now), nor my belovčd San Francisco, in which the monsoon season seems to have finally ended, exposing a peninsula of bright, sunlit hills and fantastically steep streets -- rather, that I'm just moving offices. Would be just moving offices (I have yet to give my official word; that, and the tail end of the related administrativa is yet uncertain).

This all seems good, albeit scary. But pushing my comfort zone is, after all, more or less what I moved out to California to do. At a pre-Burning Man meeting at Tessa's sunny apartment on Sunday, I ended up tasked with figuring out how to use my huge orange Dutch oven to feed a camp of indeterminate size with something resembling proper nutrition; I begin to have visions of the playa that I know will also push me out of my comfortable box.

Summer looks like it's here, then. Out of the woods on these questions (one more or less answered over a glass of whiskey; the other after it); new-painted toenails (the new polish for which, and a tofu ranchero burrito, made my afternoon on Sunday) to reflect the sun back up at me through my sandals; hopefully even this minor cold I've been fighting for upwards of a week will be shaken loose with a few days of basking on the patio at lunch, or after TGIF like last Friday, with Irish coworkers and a few bottles of mead as the sun set behind the glass archway connecting buildings 40 and 43. Or maybe it's just that the decision-making month of April is over, the continual showers of which have brought forth the traditional bouquet -- poppies; yellow weeds in the field on Charleston; jasmine & wisteria on Church St.; orange tulips on my table -- of May.

Fri, 12 May 2006 09:31:17 -0700

Working from home yesterday morning, I luxuriously took a MUNI downtown to register for the mis-named AJAX conference (just call it a JavaScript conference, people!), registered, foraged for a piece of fruit amongst the non-vegan buffet fare, and home again for my own pot of tea at my green-tableclothed breakfast nook. Somehow, even between making bagel spread, painting my nails a neon chartreuse (and not getting too much on the silvery keys of the Powerbook), I accomplished more than I would have in a morning in Mountain View -- lack of distractions, perhaps.

Green seemed the theme of the daylight hours: some was furtively had before the JSON session (as on Tuesday night, when Tessa took pity on me, stressed out from the pressure of this now-official impending team switch and its concomitant expectations); my new nails (three talons on the right hand; the thumb on the left -- despite the delay in beginning the Bruch with Daisy and Erin, I still play my viola every now and then at work) looked like extra olives in my martini at the swank hotel lounge that afternoon. Post-session, Brian, Matt and I repaired to the couches of the downstairs lounge, led by a blurb on the hotel stationary that this Onyx was "home of San Francisco's perfectly chilled martini." And damned if it wasn't -- I haven't had a good one since DC (it's just not this town's drink the way it was that federal Disneyland's, which, ultimately, is fine by me). Liking the sound of my bombay-martini-straight-up-three-olives, Matt doubled the order. Conferences are genius -- as with the LISA conference that the CS and SCCS student sysadmins, present and past, honorary and legitimate, trolled through in 2002, the sessions were interesting, but half of the fun is that post-talk drink, that workday spent outside of the office.

It's really taken the bulk of this week for me to chill out. I've been under stress before (I'd link to a previous entry on that, but somehow it would have to encompass oh, say, four solid years of Swarthmore) but have, at least in recent years, usually been able to separate the work concerns from everything else. Not so Monday or Tuesday, during which mounting deadlines, and a jovial but inflexible directive from my manager to continue to kick ass in the seven or so weeks left before I leave his team, conspired to leave me near panic. Remembering that I am well capable of doing what I need to do has taken me most of the week; as my temporary masseur noted last night, I've been carrying all of this tension around in my neck.

I'd even blame that on having missed yoga recently, had last weekend not been spent so far removed from the office that I not only didn't check email for two days, but tossed my phone in a mesh pocket of my Camelbak and promptly forgot about it -- the Goats drove out to Yosemite, three or four hours and a world away. My new camera captured rainbows so thick they were circular under the waterfalls at Vernal Falls in the valley and the tributaries into Hetch Hetchy further north; the unequivocally warm sun beamed down on us as we ogled tiny harlequin lupines and splashed in streams leading down to our water source. As Emily put it, California is turning out to be a lifestyle -- snowboarding in a fairyland a few hours away in the summer; hiking in the stunning scenery of the most glorious national park I've ever seen as near in the summer.

As we inched back down the winding mountain roads, through Modesto and ancient one-horse-, saloon-town Coulterville, I started to remember just how much work awaited me a few hours west, and began to lose it. Composure since regained, I'm determined to keep it this way. Bring on the conferences and working from home; bring on the green nail polish; bring on the deliciously spicy Indian food at the hole-in-the-wall, BYOB place in the Tenderlion; bring on the good company. Now, the challenge is just to get all this work done ...

Wed, 17 May 2006 20:21:54 -0700

I'm clearly drinking too much, but not, I hope, in an alcoholic kind of way. (Obligatory footnote: Mom, just because you're reading this, doesn't give you license to tsk at me!) Monday, Rina, Emilie and I had a mini-high-school-reunion of sorts at Orbit, one of the many bars on Market I've always passed by, with various tech-giant-employee friends of Rina's. Somehow, between Madison, schools in the Tri-Co, and both living in the Bay Area for over a year, we've never managed to connect outside of Alana's December cookie parties. High time for a beer.

And Shane convinced me last night, after the better part of an hour writing interview feedback, that it was high time for another beer, this time at Zeitgeist. One can never go to Zeitgeist, that most San Franciscan of all bars, too many times -- Friday night, I left the god-awful Sarah Jessica Parker movie that Andrea and Sara had put on and biked, already tipsy from the Redwood-Room martini, and in the purple dangly earrings I'd picked up on my way to the final panel of the AJAX conference, over to that biker bar, and felt very badass wheeling my Bianchi through the crowd and hanging it, ŕ la Delafield, on the racks on the patio's periphery. But then Eric decided that something intermediary with a pool table and Red Stripes was in the offing, and, following that, the Bitter End in the Tenderloin with his friend the bartender Jenny, who refilled my water bottle as I shook my head over the combination of beer and biking hills. And so it was that Shane and I ended up back there last night, as a distraction from work, from thinking about a boy, from his ending marriage.

As I told my new GP yesterday morning, four blocks from my apartment, I consume alcohol as a stress reliever, and it's exacerbated by the exact reason I was seeing her -- that the ball of my right foot has gone from mildly unhappy to unfavorable to actively bruised and painful, to the point where I'm trying to not put weight on it, all of which means I can't make use of my usual source of boy- and stress-relief, the afternoon run. So, deprived of a more healthful means of release, I end up needing something artificially chemical. Hence the beer. (Thank god beer is vegan!)

And hence my presence at the Sports Page tonight, watching a hockey game I knew nothing about, digesting a discussion that was half-IM, half-closed-office-door, and about not playing games, keeping each other posted. And because one can only reasonably eat at work so many times a week, despite the goodness of soy beans, kale, and mushrooms with Arborio rice and teriyaki sauce, I am playing Sudoku on iGoogle on the shuttle home, where I will find a burrito, and perhaps a beer.

Tue, 23 May 2006 18:25:29 -0700

I'm discovering, through careful, empirical experimentation, that I'm old enough that I can't really pull off a full day of work with any degree of coherence after four hours' sleep. This was rediscovered last Friday, when, post- beers at the grad-student hangout the Nut in Palo Alto, Joanne and I caught the terrible thriller of the da Vinci Code on the company dime. I made it back to work for tofu scramble the next morning; groggy, I only enlivened enough for a scotch tasting in the city, followed by a perfect Pancho Villa burrito. This morning, though, having woken up at six to move a car that was about to be illegally parked, I remembered just how useless I'd been last week, and didn't try to do anything stupid like getting into work early. Amazing what I can do on five hours that I just can't on four.

A week and a half before the actual Alumni Weekend, to which I'm somehow going again this year, I'm having my own little alumni weekend in the best place on earth. Evangelizing my city, I walk the visiting New Yorker up to the corner of Duboce and Buena Vista East, my favorite view in town. The familiar velcro boot on my right foot -- a temporary solution to an inscrutable problem that turns out not to be a fracture, but may or may not be a weird neurological condition(!) -- doubles my exertion up the hill so steep it has low-riser steps cut into the sidewalk; it's worth the climb to be able to show this panorama -- framed by palms; the lazy suspension cables of the Bay Bridge leading back to Berkeley behind the low, eclectic skyline -- to someone new. At Toronado, we compare notes about who, despite our respective ages, gets carded more often, and I smile more than usual, happy to be happy in my surroundings reflected in his eyes. Supine on my bed, we apply our collective music theorists' knowledge to the best track on the new Flaming Lips: the harmonically simplistic yet viscerally contrapuntally satisfying Pompeii am Götterdämmerung, a white earbud in each ear. I recall previous etymological inside jokes.

The pleasance of the evening was in welcome contrast to the previous few days, during which I've alternately limped; gotten freaked out that I might have something called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, a chronic pain syndrome that, according to my podiatrist, affects women ages 20-40 with Type A personalities (what the fuck -- that's me, but that doesn't sound like you know much about it!); gone to my regular Saturday-morning yoga class and participated sans feet, much to the dismay of my upper body and abs; pictured myself as the one-legged woman I saw running the San Francisco Marathon last summer with one Ironwoman quad, and one froggy prosthesis; and generally been annoyed at the foghorn susurrations of my round-soled boot. Even though I couldn't participate in the craziest annual race in the world (well, with the possible exception of the Urban Iditarod or the Red Dress Run), the Bay To Breakers, I had planned to get up and watch the "salmon" "swim" "upstream" (you know it's a good race when you need three simultaneously scare-quoted words). But somehow, Sunday morning was grey and uninviting (unlike last weekend's blissful sun-and-paper in Dolores Park), and I knew that all I would want to do amongst a sea of tulle-skirted, half-naked, half-drunk runners would be to join them. So I stayed in, moping at the lilies on my green breakfast nook table, convinced that this gimpitude would be permanent. (I still have no confirmation that it won't be, for that matter.) Could I live with one foot? Obviously, yes; but I have no interest in doing the mental reďmplementation of my personality from a biped to a monoped. Cramping my style would be the least of it.

And so, while I wait for an opening in the neurologist's calendar and wonder if the bruise on the ball of my right foot will ever go away, it helps to have distractions. And if nothing else, at least this boot will be a conversation piece at Alumni Weekend.

all this ©nori heikkinen, May 2006

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