july, 2008

Wed, 9 Jul 2008 19:22:20 -0700

Even though I keep maintaining that San Francisco has no seasons, and then loudly protesting that I'm freaked out by the ones it has, I must admit that none of it is true. One does go a bit schizophrenic trying to keep up with the microclimates, weeks of disparate miniseasons, and parameters along which to tell them apart, but in this, my fourth summer in the Bay Area(!), I think I've begun to understand. And to like it, like it all. You see, right now, there are fresh zucchini, peaches, pesto-able basil, and huge ripe heirloom tomatoes in my CSA box (that is, when I don't stay too late at work drinking whiskey on Thursdays, using the cover of slight inebriation (hoppy cold IPA in our SRE pint glasses drunk on a hot balcony; smooth, peaty Scotch from my blue-and-yellow demitasse) to get hard answers out of my manager, to bond with my team better (fuck, I like these people) -- and ending up taking too late a shuttle up to retrieve my vegetables). There's fog rolling thickly in from the Pacific, or was last week, blanketing the city and spilling over the hills west of the 101, keeping the urban temperatures under or right around 70 -- so much so that, in a packed yoga class last week, I watched as steam rose off hot, contorted yet calm bodies, filtered densely through the patches of sunlight, the warmth indoors in contrast to the cool Saturday afternoon. Up in Ashbury Heights at Mike's place on the evening of the 4th of July, we ordered in Thai and played with glowsticks, while the heavy, grey, opaque fog dripped through the windswept cypress trees his balcony overlooks. And then the next week it shifts dramatically, pouring down sunlight and moderate heat (warmth, really), and we Californians break out the one pair of shorts we keep in the closet for just such an occasion.

And the best part: I'm not going anywhere. The full summer, between east coast adventures and Chuck & Lisa's wedding in mid-August, I won't have had to go farther than Santa Cruz (we played beach volleyball) or Marin, both for team offsites. People are coming to see me (well, ostensibly, they're coming for work); others are departing for the far-off lands of grad school; we're all starting to feel the adrenaline and excitement of the build-up to Burning Man in a month and a half -- but each Saturday, I can wander through the Mission, looking for a desk lamp or a cup of coffee or a tofu scramble (or all three); each Sunday, I can make Moroccan couscous and watch Casablanca and drink champagne with Matt; any day of the week, I can clean my kitchen and throw hazelnuts and almonds into my Cuisinart and put a romesco and rioja on the table (late, as usual, but fresh as these summer days are long). The opera has had its mini summer season; I've thrown open my closet to find, to my delight, after several years of purchasing, a wardrobe of delightful fancy dresses, and have worn black lace, white appliqué flowers, my orange satin sheath, dangly earrings, and eyeliner galore between dinners at Millennium and Nopa, drinks at Citizen Cake and Absinthe, and through lovely music with various friends.

Today, my unit tests are passing; I have had vegan cake and beer and chocolate (all at work!); I have a golden sunny evening and dinner with friends. The summer goes slowly, quickly, I don't know -- it just is, and I with it, happy to just be here, just am.

Wed, 16 Jul 2008 22:07:12 -0700

My brain has been on overload this week. Usually, I maintain a peppy, quick-firing, can-do attitude -- it's the exact mentality that got me into Perl one winter break during college (and, come to think of it, the same propensity that led me into the rabbit hole of computational linguistics) -- Write this! Fix that! What are the parameters? That's automatable! -- but, either as I get older or more overloaded (hard to tell which, sometimes), my focus narrows and I can prune (as we would say of articficial-intelligence algorithms). Is there benifit in doing this? Has it been done before? Tell me about the design. What would you bring to me?

Erica says this is the sharpening and reinforcement of mental pathways as we age. I often wonder if my mind will continue to whirl like a spraying sprinkler forever, picking out shiny bits and mentally manipulating them and engaging in their minutiae with such a fucking fervor that I have to wonder if it's sustainable -- and maybe this is indication that, while it won't, what replaces it will be more deeply satisfying.

I played chess last night at Revolution Café, for the first time in easily 15 years: A curly-haired boy sat down opposite me, and, after a few chance comments, rolled out an 8-by-8 board. Pieces scattered in the semi-dark across their designated squares; glasses of Leffe sat between the black-and-white carnage, giant chessmen. I rolled my already-short sleeves up in the glow of the heat lamp, warming the outdoor tables against the chill July fog, and set to work. And, though it was two of them against one of me -- perhaps it was the beer -- I didn't at all feel the intellectual intimidation I recall from my early-teenage years, the frantic enumeration of the immense branching factor of the game, the embarrassing terror of an obvious capture overlooked; calmly, I drew first blood. We were still contemplating a far-from-decided board when the bartender kicked us out at half past midnight.

My dreams, too, have been in high color this week. I wake up before my alarm, acutely aware than I had prepared two operas for performance, but was asked to present a third. I may have been speaking in French. And, waking unrested, I realize there's more to do at work this week than I could turn over in three.

But at least my brain is moving at such a pace that I can handle it.

Tue, 22 Jul 2008 19:07:14 -0700

I woke early on Saturday, overexcited. Though it was July-foggy through my kitchen window as I ate breakfast before an early yoga class, it felt for the world like Christmas morning. There was an age at which I started understanding why my parents slept in on December 25th, giving us permission to open our stockings, but admonishing us to wait until they woke up for presents. It was agony! Mom would have black coffee and cookies; we kids would have been up since 6 AM, bouncing in eagerness. And then at some point, though I was no less excited, I too would sleep in, letting my small blond sister rummage through her Santa-loot before I ate breakfast, pretending -- and then later, actually feeling -- a calmness about the upcoming day. Such was it as I ate the same poppy-seed bagels, drank my tea, on Saturday morning: feigning an equilibrium I did not feel; blindly excited like a preschooler about all the shiny presents under the tree. Eventually day became evening, and I carefully put on my new stockings, red lipstick, nails freshly done, all the while not really believing he'd make it as far as San Francisco that night.

He didn't. But then Sunday afternoon, there he was under a palm tree in Dolores Park, walking towards me and grinning playfully the way he has for two years. And since then, our cards on the table, like our Sheepshead games of geeks meticulously counting cards and interpreting signals, we've been playing our hands, card by card. Following suit. Evenly matched. Neither one bothering with a poker face. And if this game, too, is zero-sum, it's only in that now we're making up for lost time.

Thu, 31 Jul 2008 20:19:37 -0700

A friend observed some number of crushes ago that industries that rely on the energy and vigor of their young employees also pay an opposite price: the tax of vacant, moony stares when we, unattached, find someone new and exciting, someone who scratches familiar tropes, makes us want a canonical set of things. Part of my lack of focus at work these last almost two weeks, certainly, has been a number of projects that I wanted to all have done yesterday; but there's also been a nontrivial new-romance component -- somehow, these code reviews just aren't quite as exciting as my last night was.

'S wonderful, really. This, with so much riding on it, could have played out in so many suboptimal ways. But instead, we've somehow achieved something like small-scale parity: two geeks watching Hackers and drinking champagne on my couch; wandering hand-in-hand through the colorful Folsom Street; trying out our fancy new outfits (me: sparkly heels, poofy black-and-white dress; him: slim-cut new, slick suit) at drinks, at dinner, dancing at the Top Of The Mark before the fog rolled in and pinned us, smoke in our eyes (or at least mine), blind on the nineteenth floor on the top of Nob Hill, slow-dancing.

Of course, he doesn't live here. They never do.

Sitting on the balcony this afternoon, Jinnah's cigar smoke wafting over the ledge and down to the pools, SREs polishing off remnants of various bottles of Scotch and bourbon, I realize that I'm both in my element (pedantic geeks who correct each other's Latin and who don't do well with assumptions) and out of it (with Weaver's impending wedding, they'll all be married -- different vibes to the relationships in this team than, say, the traditional of some of my friends', but still, commitment & rings & all that good stuff). Again, I have the nagging feeling that my twenties are just going to be this way. But if so, what better way to punctuate them?

all this Šnori heikkinen, July 2008

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