july, 2006

Wed, 5 Jul 2006 11:10:29 -0700

This last week -- ostensibly my last on my current team at work, though the details of moving desks, bibulous valedictions, and putting in a request for 24" monitors apparently have yet to be worked out -- I've all but stopped reading email not addressed directly to me, or not labelled "code review." Staying late, drinking late, and driving home between 10 and midnight comprised a week I'd not like to repeat, albeit one that was a fun (if masochistic) farewell to the team, and one that earned us the rest of this following, July-4th week off (aside from managerial grants, we'd already put in the equivalent hours in nights and weekends).

Saturday, my first day off in weeks, did me in early, beginning with my much-missed Castro yoga -- this pedal pinched nerve, along with the extended hours, have made it impossible to exercise in any other way. Swimming, even in the infinite pools at work, has never looked too attractive -- but perhaps I'll have to try out my new suit in the Pacific this week.

And I do mean Pacific. I've ditched Ocean Beach and the cold, low-sixties San Francisco summer for a bit of actual sun and sand, at least temporarily -- the timestamp on this entry is probably inaccurate, since I'm likely in some medial zone between here and Hawaii. Mom, having given up on the Sunday crossword, is stiching in the crapmed, non-reclining seat to my left; having given up on the Wednesday, I'm about to devour the Lonely Planet Oahu I picked up on a spree of preparation (bikini; orange linen pants; guide book) on Sunday. Hawaii! I've never been, and now I'm damn glad to have the time off, and the wherewithal, to drag Mom as far West as the east coast is from me. Yes, okay, I'm bringing a computer -- but I don't intend to use it much. Well, maybe just to post this ...

Tue, 11 Jul 2006 08:49:59 -0700

Okay, so I tanned more yesterday, sitting in my new summer dress (with jeans on under -- because it's summer in San Francisco -- to which I eventually figured to clip my badge) on the patio outside No Name at work yesterday, than I did in four days of sitting on Waikiki beach this past week. Which, given the natural pigment of my skin (hint: nonexistent) is probably a good thing. I freckle (the bridge of my nose is now a testament to that); I burn; tanning doesn't come naturally to this white girl. So, huzzah sunscreen; guess I can kiss the idea of that I-just-went-to-Hawaii bathing-suit tan showing under tank tops goodbye. Plus, in this weather (I said I was warming to the fog? Time to test out that hypothesis, as the mercury doesn't rise above sixty and the drippy clouds don't rise above the hilltops), tank tops aren't exactly the apparel du jour.

Only thing Oahu lacks for the tourist, as far as I can tell, is good, hippie vegan food. (Derek the chef suggested I go to Kauai next time, if that's what I was looking for.) Everything else -- brilliant sun, directly overhead in the tropical(!) climes; cerulean, salty water like I must have seen in Florida when I was little but don't remember, surfing onto the shore; fine-grained sand and cheap, hibiscus-printed towels on which to sit on it; Kona coffee (not a blend; the 100% at the Hawaiian Coffee Co. outside the Moana was all straight from the hillside a few islands away) -- was all there in abundance. Really, I can't remember ever having seen the ocean that color. Maybe in Japan with my youth orchestra in 1998; maybe, as I said, at the time-share we used to have in Florida with Grandma, before my parents were divorced. But not within memory. And the palm trees, and the sunsets! -- one sees postcards of it, and is incredulous; one must try to steady one's small digital camera and snap shots of the sun setting into the ocean, or the moon rising behind Diamond Head, to believe.

Though we stayed at the more reasonably-priced Hawaiian King hotel, Mom and I pretended we were at the fancy Moana -- built in 1901, recently after the taro patches were cleared from Waikiki and a canal dug to drive out the mosquitos and drive (well, ship) in the tourists, it's as colonial and resort-y as you could hope for. A giant Banyan tree spans the courtyard between its original, six-story wings; the courtyard hosted the radio show Hawaii Calls for 40 years; now, it is the perfect Mai-Tai-drinking venue. Though I'm not usually one for sweet cocktails, somehow, the island flavor made me want them, and Mom helpfully ate my pineapple garnishes. A constant breeze blew in off the ocean when we were on the shore; elsewhere on the island, trade winds kept up the constant circulation of the fresh air, meaning that, even though the temperature held at around 86F the whole time (a few degrees below the highest ever on record; 53 is the lowest the island's ever seen!) -- a degree of warmth usually well above my preference, or even tolerance -- I was kept happy with my new haircut (the bleached ends gone; the sun-lightened ones remain in layers) billowing around my face.

Mom and I both sorely needed this vacation. Though I wouldn't usually call myself either a hot-weather- or beach person, I recognized after that week of too much work that I needed to abstract myself from not only my usual scene, but usual pace. We'd discussed trying to go to Europe, but on such late notice, it would have been incredibly expensive, not to mention more stressful than needed, and further away. Hawaii, though, is apparently only five hours from the west coast! So we sat on the beach from Wednesday through Saturday (using Sunday for travel, sitting in the Kona "airport" (really, an outdoor collection of thatched yurts whose entrance was controlled by a security screening) and doing the entirety of the overpriced Times crossword). Slathered with sunscreen as I was, the greatest visible markings I bear from last week are abrasions on my knees and upper legs from trying to surf (holy crap, Chris, how do you do it?); the only reason my arms aren't abraded, too, is the long-sleeved board shirt I was lent (apparently my torso is too narrow for me to swim while lying on the board, leaving me all but unable to move through the water, out and back to the waves I was trying to catch).

But the point of this vacation was not to attain a tan; rather, peace of mind. And that's held up well enough so far, even after one day back of fire-fighting bugs in precipitously-launched applications, after which I already felt compelled to stay late and drink the rest of the gin left over from the week before. But I left by 7, and found Mom for a vegetal dinner of tapas (man, my body has missed vegetables!) back in the city. Hopefully this vacation will have been enough to keep this stress in check until I actually switch teams.

Mon, 17 Jul 2006 08:59:49 -0700

One of the downsides of working for a very public, very scrutinized company is that it forces me to censor myself when it comes to most internal matters. I suppose I should have been more circumspect while at StreamSage, too, but not only did I not feel much like posting about my dreams of the Java finite-state machines which I was improving, it just didn't seem to matter much when we worked out of a dilapidated house on Delafield Ave., everyone sat on beanbag chairs with their laptops, and I constantly felt overdressed if I deviated from the de-rigueur jeans-and-T-shirt garb. Here, there are likely people reading this (or who have read this; presumptuous to think I've hooked them) precisely because they know where I work, and even though we have bigger and squishier beanbag chairs than did my dot-com in DC -- or perhaps, precisely because we do -- the minutiae of our operations are in quite the spotlight.

Suffice it to say, then, that work is stressing me the fuck out. (You will note that it's Monday morning as I write this, and I'm still on the shuttle, not even there yet.) Five days in Hawaii helped out a lot -- I've had less of a chemical need to consume chocolate in the past week, just to unclench my jaw -- but immediately upon return, I've been slammed not exactly with work, but with meta-work (meetings; decisions; expectations) that have collaborated to make me half crazy. Both a long farewell to teammate Matt (for a quarter, that is) at Zeitgeist at Tuesday night, and a post-meeting dinner at a steakhouse (yes, this vegan was well-fed -- but more to the point, well-lubricated) at which the trouble started with Lagavulin and had yet to culminate by the time the fullest, sweetest, leggiest port came out in lieu of dessert -- both of these distracted from, if not mitigated, some of this anxiety. I guess.

But it's precisely for weeks like this that, on the seventh day, god created weekends. Not that I planned to take much of one. Yoga (still sans feet, though the way Les leads a class, that's plenty, thank you) Saturday morning began to help, as well as reminding me that there are many worse off than I, especially in Beirut and Haifa (Jaime's family is safe so far) these days. I hopped a Caltrain south for Joanne's birthday dinner, bringing the Powerbook on which to catch up on work amongst baseball fans going back home after the game, and met up with Joanne and a small crew for her birthday, an evening which eventually scuttled three plans of mine, namely: not drinking tequila; catching the last Caltrain back; working the next day.

And here again, self-censorship is the better part of valor. A factual account of Sunday is beside the point, just as would an enumeration of my bones to pick at work be. Not that I didn't find something vegan to eat and soy milk to go with my coffee at a diner in Palo Alto (I love you, California!); not that Shane (B., not L.) and I didn't overcome said tequila, buy a pair of shorts (for him!) off Andrea in exchange for her favorite IPA, and exercise just enough proactivity to drive up to, and do some pro-forma hiking on, the gorgeous Mt. Tamalpais in Marin, but not enough to bring, oh, water; not that the Sunday Times didn't end up all over my room. Rather that we didn't get sick of each other. (Why yes, I am doing a shitty and hypocritical job of this censoring business.)

Thank god for nalgenes, estrogens-like compounds though they may leach. Between my pink one with its Debian swirl sticker on my desk, and the refill of the emergency chocolate supply in my drawer at work, I just might make it -- happily, even -- through today.

Tue, 18 Jul 2006 19:47:15 -0700

Somehow, between Saturday night and Sunday, driving his stick shift to brunch, and then riding as its passenger up and down the hairpin turns of Marin; between last evening, up 101 to a fantastically delicious Millennium, and back down again this morning, Indigo Girls and Rufus Wainwright cranked up to at a singable volume; between a Bolero playing from the kitchen stereo and now irreparably in my head; between the five-course meal and its wine flight; between the excitement of a new interlocutor and intersecting lexicons; between marathon dates, I have managed to forget, for the time being, that I'm upset about work. I throw caution to the wind in posting this. I wax romantic. So be it; gather ye rosebuds.

Fri, 21 Jul 2006 18:46:30 -0700

Even though I changed my contacts on Monday, they've been feeling like an old pair this week -- neither sleeping in them nor encrusting them with salt does anything but cataract one's vision. I surprised the Goats and Hans (not to mention myself) as we were meeting for dinner last night with a less-than-dry-eyed answer to the perfunctory how-are-you. Whence this intensity? And bred in five days' time! Like infections, I've learned to recognize this affliction early in its onset. Classic symptoms: I threw away part of my bagel this morning, appetite diminished from overthinking the ramifications of a certain flight eastwards. Unbearably light.

Yes, I know I was supposed to be looking for a Pacific fish. But, it's said, though the odds ought to be good for someone of my gender in the geeky wonderland in which I work (Shane goggled, here for lunch yesterday), the goods are odd; it's perhaps unsurprising, then, that I'm now halfheartedly trying to suppress thoughts of showing up in New York more frequently to see someone more bicoastal than Pacific, a hybrid of the best of both sides of the county.

Caution to the wind; my cards mostly on the table (I should probably go back to blogging about the safer topic of work). I live for opportunities like this; tenacity makes me hard-pressed to let them slip through. And though the distance remains, I'm pretty sure it's only geographical. But -- vamos a ver -- we will see.

Mon, 24 Jul 2006 17:36:32 -0700

It's been legitimately hot these past few days (and no, I don't mean that in reference to my last week, though it could be apt -- now with a cellphone signal carrying across 3000 miles, we try to avoid hotheadedness, but remain hot-hearted). I suppose that's what I get for acclimating to the moderate, seaside climate of my pocket of hippie happiness, for beginning to think of seasons as things I could visit. But even in SF (that's ess-eff -- half the length and many fewer the consonants than the full nomenclature), the mercury must have hit the mid-eighties on Saturday, which made the locals droop and open their windows (precious little residential AC out here!) but didn't deter the tourists from queueing up to ride the cable car at Powell as I looked for, purchased, and then dropped off for tailoring, a new pair of jeans. And Napa's foray into the low 100's yesterday didn't deter the tipsy, yuppie winos from thronging around the air-conditioned bar at Artesa, itself nestled into a steep, golden hillside of a vineyard; but it did deter me and Joanne from actually getting our matching Bianchis out of her trunk, or working up a sweat from any activity but walking through tasting rooms and galleries in clipless shoes, and throwing wishing-pennies into fountains. (We bought a bottle of pinot to show for it, which we put with a leek tart and French lentils later that night.) Which is probably for the better, given the level of hydration necessary to ward off sublimation at these temperatures, let alone sustain physical activity, not to mention the fact that I'm beginning to think that this pinched nerve was perhaps caused, and is certainly exacerbated, by my SPD bike shoes. Hmph.

The heat is welcome, though. Much as I prefer the cooler climes, there haven't been enough cold beers on warm summer nights since I've moved to the Bay Area. And, at least until last week, there certainly hasn't been enough of the other type of heat. Here's devoutly hoping that the latter outlasts the former.

Sun, 30 Jul 2006 21:12:08 -0700

Despite my protestations last night past midnight, past Andrea's unbelievably vegan lasagna (I've taught her well; only had to rescue her on a few particulars), past having created a new drink out of odd materials ("gin + basil = crazy delicious," read one of my text messages east), Inger pinned me to the wall, found my socks and shoes, and, along with Emily, dragged me out dancing. And though succumbing to peer pressure isn't my style, dancing is. (More text messages were sent and received from the floor of Little Baobob.) This all meant that waking up this morning to BART across the bay for Thai brunch -- that quintessential Berkeley experience: odd but wonderful Sunday-morning food; incense curling by the entrance; eating forkfuls of mango sticky rice while Rupa explained India's dal shortage and Scott & I did the Times crossword -- was less pleasant than it would have been had I gotten a real weekend night's worth of sleep.

But who cared? I read my guilty-pleasure Sunday Styles on the ride over; after the first contingent left, the assembled Goats moved to the lawn, where I soaked up sun while listening to the dredded Cal students playing guitar, looking at their tattoos. After coffee, I made the hajj to the Berkeley Bowl to commune with edible bagels and bulk herbal shampoo; Emily and I then walked Ashby-wards, almost as if home.

But "almost" is the operative word -- I love visiting all of this, and am glad I no longer live there. Rather, San Franfuckingcisco, in which I'm beginning to contemplate buying a place(!). The recent heat wave having finally broken (the weather, I mean), a cool breeze now blows down Duboce from Buena Vista, which shelters us from the fog; looking out my bay windows under which we had read the paper two weeks ago, I described to the humidity-stifled New Yorker on the phone this evening how the sun shone prettily on the eucalyptus leaves across the street, how a light wind kept the bright afternoon flirting with seventy. I told Shane, already impressed with my seeming nativeness ("more San Francisco than most San Franciscans," I believe were his words), that I was about to go out for vegan Chinese food in the Mission; you could hear him shaking his head as he laughed and said, "You live in a strange, wonderful world." Yes, I do. And I love it.

all this Šnori heikkinen, July 2006

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