Sunday, September 30, 2012

Investments of the indirect kind

I paid too much for the steer at the auction this year, going about $650 over what I’d wanted to pay.

But I’m not the least bit remorseful about it. There was simply no way in HELL that I was going to let the lovely gentleman to my left who was so enthusiastically supporting the Lodi-area kids have this particular steer.

Just…not happening, dude.

This steer was going to be Ashley’s last FFH project. This would be the third and final year that I could have the honor of making her project pay off for her; the last time my grocery money would be going directly into her future college tuition.

Selfishly, I wanted rather badly to share this transition with her. I wanted to take that tenuous, few-moments-once-a-year connection we had all the way to its natural, inevitable end.

It’s such a tiny, tiny part I play here, once a year for just a few moments, when I show up at 7:30 in the morning on a Saturday with my buyer’s card and my checkbook. I sit there with my coffee and circle the kids from my hometown in the auction book, and do my humble best to make sure that none of them end up getting less than market rate for their animals.

Which is why I also paid a little more than I technically had to for a pair of hogs.

Whiiiiich is not exactly the best frugal method, and there’s a part of me that rolls her eyes and sighs heavily every time I do it. (And you should hear the ranting whenever I make that little hand signal to the auctioneer: Bump that bid up a quarter, make it three even…maaaaaan, my inner Frugal Zealot goes bananas whenever I do that…but gee whiz, I can’t stand the thought of one of these kids not making at least the break-even on their market animals…!)

But this is an investment in more than meat. It’s not just about feeding my family, or even just about that local, organic-method gourmet-stuff.

To me, it’s a direct investment in the future. It’s a way for me to tell these kids that what they’ve done matters, that somebody other than their parents (who are, let’s face it, contractually obligated to believe that everything their kids do is “awesome” and “meaningful” and “good job, buddy!”) believes in them, and values what they’ve done, and thinks they did a damn fine job, kiddo, a DAMN fine job.

I don’t think it will come down to being the difference between a “successful” life versus one lived on skid row…but hopefully, it can be another chip tossed into the bucket that says “yes, you do matter, and you can succeed, you don’t suck, you are a winner.”

When the hard times hit, and they will, because, welcome to being human which kinda sucks sometimes, maybe that little extra reinforcement will help them keep their chins up, will help them keep slogging forward.

These kids are the ones who will be making the world whatever it will be for my kids – and my grandchildren, and all the other generations after them.

They’re worth supporting. And while I can’t necessarily claim a direct return on the investment, I still feel so very strongly that it is a good one, and that I do get more out of it than I give.

After the auction, Ashley brought over the paperwork and gave me a hug. I shook hands with her parents, and told them how proud I was to have had this small role in her life, what a fine young lady I thought she was.

She’s already started her college courses. Already left the nest for the dorms.

Already has both feet firmly on the path of Young Adulthood.

Considering that I still have not quite gotten my arms around the concept of Eldest being in kindergarten elementary middle high school, I can imagine that this must be a tremendously unnerving time for her parents.

I paid for my animals at the fair office; it’s always a bit of a shock, handing over a hefty sum all in one go like that. I’m still not used to it, and it still gives me a moment of vertigo.

I tend to become rather compulsive about checking the savings account balance in the days leading up to the auction. Am I QUITE sure I ACTUALLY saved enough? Yeah-yeah, I’ve been putting, like, $600 a month into that savings goal, but still…is it REALLY all there?!

I had A Moment as I was writing the check; a moment when yet again the thought occurred to me that this is so not the “cheapest” way to buy meat.

And then I thought about Ashley…off at college now, with checks of her own that need writing, undoubtedly more of them than she had anticipated because anybody ELSE remember how college was?

The money is going to be whipping out of my checking account regardless – that’s just what money seems to do, really.

And if it’s going to be generating that breeze anyway, well, by Gah…I rather like the idea of it becoming part of the wind beneath somebody else’s wings, instead of vanishing into a nameless, faceless void.

It just feels right, like it’s making the world I dream of for my own kids someday.

Which is worth a whole lot more than the price I’m paying for all this.

Fly strong, kiddos. I believe, from the center of my being out, that you guys will make this world glad you were around to guide it, someday.

Fly strong.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Fall Fodder

This weekend is the annual 4H / FFA auction at the county fair, which has me in a bit of a state. How it can possibly be that not only an entire year, but a year-plus-a-couple-months, has gone by since last I was clutching a ludicrously bright buyer card in my hot little hands…is beyond me.

I went out to the garage last weekend to get a feel for what-all kind of mayhem this was going to wreak on me, expecting that I would find a “nearly full” freezer and be all, “AH! AH! OH NO! I’M A BAD INVENTORY MANAGER AND ALSO I DON’T WANT TO DISAPPOINT THE KIDS BUT SERIOUSLY, I’M NOT GONNA BUY ANOTHER WHOLE STEER JUST BECAUSE S/HE LOOKS AT ME WITH THOSE BIG, HOPEFUL EYES…” (<= the kid, not the steer…the steer mostly looks at me like, eh, whatever because, well, he’s a STEER, not a sales-cow)

But it was remarkably empty. So later-but-not-too-much-later this afternoon, I’m going to empty out the chest freezer, move everything that’s left into the upright, and turn it off to defrost so I can clean it.

Which is something I actually meant to do from the beginning. Well. Not from the beginning beginning, when I had 42,067,092 pounds of meat and all, but rather that I had meant to practice much more…attentive…inventory management, such that when the overall amount of stuff left was little enough to fit in “just” the one (1) freezer, I’d move everything to just one (1) freezer, turn off, clean, and leave off because they cost money to run and all the other freezer. But I didn’t. Because Life happened. And Work happened. And Too Tired To Deal With That Right Now happened. Which has become something of a trend with me of late, and not a particularly good trend, either. Although I suppose I could pretend that any trend makes me “trendy” and that’s supposed to be a good thing, right? Right. So, there’s that.

{pauses to contemplate how complicated that paragraph got…is it just me, or does it read kind of like “blah blah crazy-crazy blah blah something about peanut butter which reminds me that I like pickles and I wonder if kangaroos have these problems probably not, huh…”?!}

MEANWHILE IN OTHER NEWS…luffa plants. (Yes. I know. This transition does not bode well for this post suddenly getting any less incoherent. Just be glad you weren’t around this morning, when I was literally on two phone calls at the same time and then forgot to go on mute for the one when I switched over to arguing about whether we wanted row level compression, or page level compression on a given table on the other line. Not only was I talking right over the top of the other group, but it was such a completely different topic that it must have been really confusing for them. Nice.)

So, I decided to grow some luffa (loofah, lufah, take your pick) this year, because so obviously need another hobby thought it would be cool.

When I bought the seeds, I was given a ton of advice around how to tenderly, lovingly, with great care and other words meaning “these babies are going to be very finicky and hard to grow, so you’ll have to practically sing them lullabies and tuck them in at night.”

Which I promptly ignored for the most part, because I sort of planted them and then went to work for the next three months straight.

Every so often, I’d think to go back there and squint at them, and they seemed to be doing OK without constant petting / singing to them / ensuring they had such-and-so balance of pH blah blah blah.

Yup, doing just fine. No {luffa, loofah, lufah} yet, but pretty soon, they started putting out Big! Showy! Yellow! Blooms, which the enormously fat wanna-bees love to climb into so they can jump out and scare me out of my socks.

Aww! So pretty! So delicate!

Fast forward about two weeks aaaaaaaaaaaand…


But, still no {luffa, loofah, lufah}. Oh. Wait. Yes there are some, they’re just…wow. Really? Cause, that’s pretty…tiny and while there are probably somewhere like sixteen THOUSAND of them, it’s starting to get kinda cold at night, so y’all really don’t have, you know, a thousand days and nights to finish growing…

(IMMATURE COMMENTARY ALERT: Yes, it DOES look like a Certain Part Of The Male Anatomy. And yes, that realization made me snicker way harder than it had any right to.)

THEN, as I was turning around shaking my head and wondering if perhaps I should have sung to it more, or if my lack of pH-strip-wielding had brought it to this lowly state


Thank $DEITY it wasn’t a rattlesnake, right?!

There’s still a lot of action out there in the garden, really; green beans, onions, carrots, newly-planted peas coming up, okra and peanuts and the last of the watermelons.


I can’t wait to see how many actual tubers there are underneath the mat of yam vines in the back bed; it always seems to be something of a crap-shoot, really, with those root-crops. Sometimes you have robust plants but no potatoes, sometimes you have scrawny plants and lots of potatoes…but then, just when you think you’ve got it figured out and are rolling your eyes because the plants are so vigorous that it must mean there’s no potatoes under them…


And, oooookay. I think I have avoided the freezer task long enough. I’m off to get frostbite and a sore back – have a great weekend, everybody, and may only the cows you want around come home.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Knitting on


Second. Sleeve. SECOND!

I am stunned by how fast this project is going. I guess I've been on finger-gauge, smaller-needle projects for so long, I'd forgotten that when you use worsted weight on 8-10s, well, you can make yourself some headway!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Money Monday: September 24, 2012

We’ve had some significant overtime for a lot of folks on our team these last couple weeks, which got me thinking about things like overtime, and second jobs, and all like that.

A lot of folks will respond to any financial crisis with the suggestion that the sufferer “get a second job” or “try for more hours at work.”

I’ve long thought that this is pretty rotten advice, on the whole. It feels a lot like telling someone who constantly has dirt in their eye to “go rinse it out,” without ever addressing the fact that they installed a Dust-Devil-O-Matic in their living room and that maybe, JUST MAYBE, turning that sucker off might help keep the dust out of their eyes going forward.

Overtime and/or a second job can be great short-term responses to an immediate need. It can provide a badly-needed jump start for a debt reduction plan, especially if you’re caught in that endless treadmill of “my minimum payments are just about 9/10ths of my average take-home pay.”

Adding even a rather small “extra” paycheck at that point can make a world of difference.

But over time, it just never seems to work out as planned. We get tired. Then we get exhausted. We start back-sliding on all sorts of things. Those of us who are married might start to bicker with our spouses; the spouse who isn’t putting in the Murderous Hours has trouble understanding why the spouse who is doing so is so danged grouchy about everything all the time.

Meanwhile, the spouse putting in the hours is thinking, …seriously, why can’t you people just SHUT UP for a damned minute so I can hear myself think, geeeeez, would it KILL you people to just…HANDLE IT, handle ANYTHING, your damned SELVES instead of dragging me into every.single.thing. that needs doing around here?!?! (<= not that this has ever been my internal dialog, mind you, but I have this friend who has felt this way from time to time…)

We start to make ‘tired’ decisions. We start to buy our way out of dealing with the things that make us feel tired.

And then, we start to become increasingly dependent on that ‘extra’ income.

And since we’re using so much of our time working in “the now,” so to speak, we aren’t working on things that would constitute working “smarter.”

We just keep working harder. And harder. And harder still.

If we’d just stop for a second, if we’d look up and around and realize that hey…I’m getting $10 per ditch I dig…but if instead of digging two extra ditches a day, I put my energy into, say, engineering school…in a few years, I’d be the guy telling guys like me where to dig the ditches, and I’d be making $300 more a day to do it…

That’s moving into working smarter, not harder. Like most things, it’s simply about being aware of how the bigger picture is playing out around you – and reacting to that rather than the far smaller world of “my immediate environment.”

It’s been my experience so far that Life tends to reward attempts to work smarter at a better ratio in the long run than it does “just” working harder.

(And that it’s a lot easier to preach about doing it, than to actually do it. Kind of unfair, really, how ‘obvious’ things will be to everybody EXCEPT us when it comes to Such Matters, ain’t it?!)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Meanwhile, on BART...

Agent, hailing a woman casually sauntering onto a rather full train: Ma'am! Ma'am! I'm sorry, but there is no eating or drinking on the trains, you will have to dispose of that before boarding!

("That" being a VERY lidless, VERY full, steaming-rising-due-to-hotness paper cup of something.)

Herself, in tone of Absolute Superiority: Oh, it's not. It's herbal.

Everybody In Ten Foot Radius: urrrrrrrrgh?!?!

...I will wonder until I die what she THOUGHT he said...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Made my list and checked it twice

SO we’re in this “final” push to production for this warehouse. I can’t honestly say it’s the biggest such migration of information I’ve ever worked on, but I can definitely vouch for it having been (and continuing to be) one of the most complicated, twisty-logic, no-two-pieces-alike ones.

It’s also something like two years past the original due-date, and an awful lot of money has been spent on it, for which the buyers have seen exactly…well…they’ve seen…


Lots and lots of bills.

But not a whole lot of, you know, data.

Which, when one is shelling out lots and lots of bills for a data warehouse…can cause one to become…slightly testy.

And/or anxious.

And/or demanding.

I have frequently have trouble remembering that Certain History when someone charged up to me and asks for something pointless and/or inane and/or somewhat insulting and/or irritating.

Liiiiiiiiiiike, say, when the command was issued forth that yea, verily, we should tabulate our estimated hours-remaining on this project, to be submitted post-haste.

{cold stare}

Now mind you, I understand. I understand that they want to know what they’re in for on this deal. They don’t want to hear “blah blah whine whine problems problems not my fault and she took my favorite bear” and so forth and so on.

I actually have a lot of sympathy for these folks. This project has been…ahem…slightly less than ideal from the get-go over two years ago.

AND, honestly, if I were in charge of All This? You’d better believe I’d be snapping my fingers rather imperiously and pointing at my desk. Remaining hours. Project plan. Task list. Daily. IMMEDIATELY.

But still in spite of All That…

{cold stare}

FIRST OF ALL (I wanted to inform Various Parties), believe you me, there is nobody on this team who wants to see this thing in the rearview mirror more than yours truly.

I ain’t dawdling, kids. Fact is, I’m that voice yelling, “PUSH HARDER, C’MON, GANG, WE CAN DO THIS, LET’S HAVE THIS BAD BOY PUT TO BED BEFORE THANKSGIVING!!!” in a semi-hysterical, shrill and slightly breathless voice…because I’m pushin’ the broken-down bus as hard as I can.

MOREOVER (I wanted to continue), I think if there is one thing we should all know by now, it would be that this whole ordeal is more prone to Imponderables than I would have previously considered even remotely possible.

Seriously? I’m beginning to wonder if the project is cursed. Like, literally…cursed. By an angry god. Or demigod. Or something.

Like, take the last week. (Please. I don’t want it.) The server I’m using for the vast majority of my work suddenly got…unreliable.

Today, “something” kept restarting it. Randomly (from where I was sitting, anyway). Without warning.

Just when I was thinking that maybe I should rethink my decision not to start migrating over to the new server (which I don’t want to do because it’s an awful lot of code and data, and the new server doesn’t even have DB Mail set up yet let alone linked servers, so I’d have to do a lot of fiddling to make everything work again over there), well, guess what?

The new server is sick. Or out of space. Or something.

Anyway, they can’t get a clean backup on it.

Hmm. So, the idea of moving the data it took me about five weeks to fully compile to a server that isn’t being backed up makes me a little queasy…oooooookay, so, can’t reliably use the one I have, can’t move to the new one…um…question…?

THEN, there’s the business team itself. They keep changing the requirements on one of the big pieces. Do it this way. No, that way.

“Hey, guys!” I snap. “Remember, these things take a good 16-20 hours to generate each individual month, and we’ve got 16 months to load. Make up your damned minds, QUICKLY, or accept that you will not have them in anything like a Timely Manner.”

{more arguing and ‘fine-tuning’ happens}

THEN it turns out that they sort of forgot to mention a couple of the rebate systems.

Oh. And also? Those aren’t the prior-period adjustments. Who told you they were? Oh? Really. Huh. Don’t know why she would have said that, those aren’t the XX937GD0075s…those are the XX937GD0065s, the ones you want for that bit are on {another server I never heard of, and don’t have access to}…

Server up. Server down. MONTH CLOSE, EVERYBODY OUT OF THE POOL SO WE CAN RUN THE MONTHLY JOBS! (By the way, everything is still due in three days…)

And in this environment, you want me to try to guesstimate, in ANY way that will end up being even in the same GEOLOGIC ERA as accurate, how many more hours I’ve got to go on this deal?!

…why…do you want to make me cry…?

But, well, to be honest…I’d been sorta putting together a spreadsheet of sorts on that myself. More because I like to gather those kinds of statistics for my own purposes – which rhyme with “knowing whether or not I have enough time to walk up to Union Square for lunch after I start this.”

These are important things to know.

So I pivoted things around, and adjusted a little here for ‘this will get faster as I figure out better automation tools’ and tweaked a bit there for ‘buuut as we go further back in time, reconciliation is going to become a manual nightmare’ and then I looked at what I had and whimpered, “That can’t be right, that just can’t be right…!” and I tugged at it and fiddled with it and checked everything on it twice and argued with myself but eventually…I had to own that it was probably true.

I’ve got another 500 hours to go on just the initial load.

And after that 500 hours? I’m looking at an ADDITIONAL…oh gah, there goes my stomach again…an additional…two…THOUSAND…urk…two-thousand-three-hundred-hours-there-I-said-it.

I sincerely hope I’m wrong. I hope things get faster, and better. That things won’t be as bad in the Ancient History as I suspect they are, and that things will balance sufficiently right off the bat.

That magic will happen, and all of the crazy stuff that keeps breaking my automation will simply go away and it will Just Work and I will be done in, like three days and we can all have a good laugh about my CRAZY time estimates.

Preferably over some adult beverages.

But…I made the list. And I checked it twice. And then twice more. And made it thrice for good measure.

Unless we find somebody else I can hand this thing off to, I’m going to be sitting in this chair for a looooooong while yet…

{envisions self with long white beard}

{falls out of chair laughing…hey look, I’m not sitting in that chair anymore!!! Woo hoo, I apparently finished ahead of schedule!!!}

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Coming Unraveled

So, there is a certain person in our every-year-Christmas-gift-giving group who collects things pertaining to a certain member of the animal species – and has been doing so for a number of years now.

The length of time spent building this collection makes finding things that are “unusual” enough to present as gifts an increasingly tricky thing to accomplish. A person who is an actual collector doesn’t want to have fifteen exactly identical because they are also readily available statues of Buddha conveniently available for purchase at any even vaguely Oriental-themed store, ya know?!

I’d been having one of my infamous “you know what would be cool?” thoughts about this for a while. (Which, as y’all know, generally prefaces something that will take hours and hours and HOURS of work to accomplish and which may or may not actually BE cool at the end of all things.)

AND THUS IT WAS that, first morning cup of coffee in hand, I logged into Ravelry this morning to start searching for an existing pattern relating to this animal.

It’s not that uncommon an animal.

I figured there had to be somebody out there who had the same lack of taste sense of humor as I do.

So I start leafing through the Ravelry pattern library.

{several hours pass}

{several completely unrelated patterns are added to favorites / queue}

{several yarns are researched}

{a few Thoughts are expressed on topics such as mittens v. gloves, whether or not a given yarn is ‘scratchy,’ lace knitting, steeking, and whether or not vintage patterns are worth all the huff and bother and how it is even possible that Victorian knitters could produce anything resembling clothes when their instructions did not always include such basic things as such-and-so weight of yarn}

{several internal dialogs re: you already have a similar-enough yarn in your stash, quit shopping for new yarn! are held}

Finally, I found a perfect example of what I wanted to do! Perfect!

…aaaaaaaaand, only found in a long-ago discontinued pamphlet…


{several hours pass}

{approximately $3,800 in unrelated vintage patterns, yarns, instruction books in new crafts, and an antique butter churn are added to, and then removed from, my cart}

EVENTUALLY, the pamphlet is found and acquired.

And then I look at the time and go, “!?!?!?!?!” and have a minor meltdown because ohmygah, did I SERIOUSLY take over two hours JUST to get the pattern squared away?!?!

Also…my coffee got cold.

…sigh…I know, right? The trials and tribulations of my life rank right on up there with

Anyway! While I’m waiting for that pattern book to arrive by media mail (rhymes with, “don’t hold your breath”), I’m working on this – which is Norah Gaughan’s “Breaktime Beauty” from ‘The Best of Knitter’s Jackets.’

I’m using some Cascade 220 that I’ve had in my stash for, um, well…a whole lot of years. It’s not actually navy, either – it’s a very deep purple that my phone’s camera really doesn’t seem to like to render correctly.

I started that because I (finally) finished this.

Which is one of Those Things where I started off having a pattern, but then did so much “oh, but, I don’t like that lace pattern with this yarn” and “but, I’d rather if it came in a little more below the breast…and also did not expose my midriff because, well, let’s just NOT do that” and “wait…given that the yarn has such looooong pattern repeats…if I do each side separately…it’s going to be way different left-v-right, front-v-back…is that going to bug me? it totally is, isn’t it…”

So then I went all maverick and worked it in the round right to the bitter end, adding some stitches for a steek and making it have very-short sleeves instead of bare shoulders.

And then I got amused by the idea of it being “pointy,” so when blocking it I tugged the hem down into scallops and the sleeves out at the tops so that it looks vaguely like something out of Star Trek when worn. Mwah.

(Yeah, my sense of style is sadly lacking. And also I am far too easily amused. But at least you can [probably] sleep soundly at night, knowing that you’re not about to receive a giant, hand-knitted lizard-patterned sweater for Christmas from your rather off-the-beaten-path family member…)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Nothing much, just the usual

So this week in Lifestyles of the Poor and Stupid™, Your Faithful Correspondent had come down with a case of The Scrounge.

You know, one of those illnesses that aren’t exactly a cold, but also doesn’t seem to be a traditional flu…and which play with your mind by being rather indecisive in terms of just how bad is this, anyway?

For bonus amusement points, I decided Wednesday night that a) I was better “enough” and b) I had some things I wanted to discuss with some people who tend to be a bit hard to track down when I’m not there in person, but who will appear at my elbow about every eight minutes when I’m there.

And that was how I learned that the only reason I felt even marginally OK was because I’d been sitting on my rump scarcely even breathing let alone moving around much for the last three days.

(head-desk) (<= literally)

I had to go home sick less than two hours after I got there. And I had to stop along the way about five hundred times to be sick / wait for dizziness etc. to pass. And then I sat down at my desk and was all like, “OK, so, my server crashed hard, TWICE, this morning, and it’s been sicker than me all week, so I’m going to log in…um…in a few minutes…after I take care of {blurrrrrrrrrgh!}”


And, weird but true: I wasn’t actually asleep-asleep. I was, rather, in this weird dozing sort of state. So whenever the video ended, I would start another one automatically. But I wasn’t really watching them. Nor was I aware of how much time was going by, until suddenly…it was dark outside. Whaaaaaaaa?!

Just, wow.

The next day, I felt almost fine…as long as I stayed more or less still and didn’t get all rambunctious / ambitious about Things.

Same thing today. I feel almost fine…as long as I stay parked and don’t decide that I’m well enough to {clean the bathroom, plant something, weed something, harvest something, cook something} and start dashing around (<= which is another thing I need to learn not to do – I tend to dart rather than just WALK, which when I’m not feeling well or having a bad hip-joint day, doesn’t help me much)

Why? Why? WHY?! Why can’t I seem to go more than three seconds without coming down with something?! I eat healthy foods! I am within the “ideal” weight range for someone my size! I get regular outdoor exercise! I even take frickin’ vitamins PLUS ALSO these kelp-containing things that give me belches that could kill insects WHILE THEY ARE IN FLIGHT and which I loathe BUT they have blah-blah-blah minerals-oxidants-joint-STUFF so taking them will probably give me Super Powers someday.

of course…I also don’t get nearly enough sleep and work has been rather…intense…lately…and also the Female Troubles thing is still plaguing me and I can’t help but wonder if something about All That is playing into my sudden seeming-inability to get through even one lousy month without coming down with at the very least a case of the sniffles…but still! Daily. Kelp. Burp. Pills.

I should be immortal.

And immortal people do not get the flu.

(I have no scientific proof of this, but I can’t imagine it not to be true, can you?!)

Thursday, September 06, 2012

For the record…

…I did actually take a shower before I went to work this morning. Because I know y’all have been on pins and needles, like, ALL DAY about it.

OK, probably not.

And mostly I took a shower because my eyes were practically glued shut and I thought, Maybe…if took shower I with soap of water maybe a…more wakefully alert I could attain?

Yeah, slightly slow start this morning.

IN COMPLETELY UNRELATED NEWS, guess what I had for lunch? (I know. Next, I shall share my plans for reorganizing the pantry, and perhaps also externalize my currently-internal-only debate in re: should I paint my toenails a festive color this weekend, even though I always end up wearing closed-toed shoes because they are more comfortable/practical/and besides, if the Zombpocalypse were to strike while I was at work, well, that’s a LOT of walkin’ to get back home, ya know? Possibly through broken glass. PLUS, if I have to fend off any zombies along the way and I’m wearing open-toed shoes? I’VE LOST A VERY IMPORTANT WEAPON IF I CAN’T KICK THEM OFF ME.)

Anyway! For lunch, I had onigiri. Which are Japanese rice balls. Which I’d never actually had before, which was why I went, “Hey! I’ve never had one of those, and also I love rice and have been wanting to explore more Japanese cuisine in general! I should totally get some of those today instead of continuing to haunt up and down Kearny like some kind of lost soul looking for a body to snatch or something!

Which was what I was doing because everything I saw for lunch was some combination of meh or blech or $$!!Ouch!!$$ or I can actually feel my arteries hardening, just LOOKING at that.

And then I saw ‘Onigiri’ (which is the name of the restaurant) and then it said ‘gourmet Japanese rice balls’ and finally, my sad, aimless wandering ended.

Now, it might be that the concept of a “rice ball” sounds like yawn but it isn’t yawn because look at these things.

(The one on top is more than half eaten. The salad disappeared about four seconds after this picture was taken. Also, why do I keep forgetting that I like to snack on edamame? And also I had picked some of the fillings out of the other two because this was a brand new world to me and I was like Jack Skellington charging around Christmastown bellow-singing “WHAT’S THIS? WHAT’S THIS?! THERE’S SOMETHING IN THIS RICE! WHAT’S THIS? WHY THAT LOOKS SO UNIQUE!”)

I learned several things about these today.

One thing I learned is that I love the filing, but the seaweed wrapping was a bit…much for me, and I rather wished there were a lot less of it on these. Not only because whoa, SALTY to the point of ‘I can taste NOTHING but salt right now',’ but because of the distinctly fishy overtones.

Alas, I am still not a huge fan of seafood.

Especially if it is unmistakably seafood – you know, fishy-fish. I can handle the ‘almost-tastes-like-chicken’ fish, but the minute it becomes “flavorful” fish, I start making the blech-face.

Which saddens me no end, because I feel as though there is this enormous gaping hole in my love affair with food because of this irrational rejection of this one particular flavor.

I want to like fish. Or at least tolerate it. I do not want to gag because I accidentally got a bite of sea bass, or because somebody added fish sauce to the miso.

So from time to time, I march in and order up something with fish in it, in tones that suggest I totally know what I’m doing. And I will take my fish-product and I will jab my utensil into it with great confidence, firmly telling myself that this is going to be delicious, just look at all the happily chewing people all around me!, and then I pop the first bite into my mouth and ack, I just totally made BLECH face…!!!

And then I weep inside. So much time is being lost here…someday, I just KNOW I will stop despising fish…!

(Which I must do, because someday, I am totally going to visit Japan. And I don’t want to be insulting people everywhere I go because I didn’t know what the heck I was ordering and ended up with chunks of smoked eel in my noodles or something and then I made Blech Face like a proper Ugly American.)

ANYWAY, where was I? Oh, right. I ended up stripping off most than half of the nori, expecting that this would result in fallen-apart rice balls BUT IT DIDN’T, because the rice proved to be perfectly capable of holding itself together, thank-you-very-much.

Which leads me to something learned not by me, but by my coworkers by way of me learning something else entirely.

In case there was any doubt in their minds (…um…I don’t think there was…), my coworkers are now 100% certain that I am certifiably nuts.

Because as my too-small appetite began to run out of steam (and the fishy-salty nori got to be too much for me), I started picking apart the rice balls because…the rice…it was fascinating me.

(In my defense, I came into this with an already rather over-developed liking of rice in all its many forms – from “plain” white rice with a little soy sauce or butter [or even swimming in warmed milk with a little sugar] to the fanciest of grains, from long, slender, jet-black beautiful grown in the wilds of California to short, jolly grains of ambemohar (have you ever tried that stuff? Dog my witness, it almost tastes like mangos). It’s a bit sad, really, that for so many Americans “rice” means “white flavorless stuff, usually paired with chicken as part of a ‘healthier’ diet or some junk like that.” It’s an amazing grain with an expansive family tree, a rainbow of colors and an encyclopedia of flavors.) (IN RELATED NEWS, the Bean Festival [stop laughing!] is this weekend – my annual spasm of stocking up on harder-to-find bean varieties and [hopefully again this year] small, expensive bags of rice varieties I never heard of is upon us! Dear $DEITY, please let them have moccasin beans again because I almost cried last year when they didn’t…)

Anyway, this rice was definitely something different. It was firm, but sticky. It wasn’t mushy at all, or slimy. It looked like brown rice, but wasn’t “just” brown rice. It had a lot of the characteristics of ‘sushi’ rice, buuuuuuut, it had more character, a definite nuttiness and a sort of I am not just a starch here to make you feel full solidness – but not a jumping up and down yelling and doing battle with the sweet pickled radishes (think ‘butter pickle,’ only, with thinly shaved radishes) (which by the way were AWESOME and now I’ve decided I have to grow radishes just so I can attempt to make some myself).

AFTER QUITE A BIT OF EXPLORATORY RESEARCH, I’m pretty sure it was “gen-mairice.

And so are my coworkers. Because of course I shared my findings! Team Spirit and all that.

(Shortly afterward, one of them caught me ‘conducting’ the server in a vain attempt to make a bunch of stuff run faster. This passage is supposed to be vivace, you’re not even at allegro! You’re all, like, adagio and some junk! C’mon, HERE we go, and a-one, and a-two…! Which is why I now know for a FACT that my coworkers all think I am 110% nuts.) (But in a Mostly Harmless sort of way, so, that’s totally OK.)

Now. About my plans for the pantry…!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Raindrops, dry spells and a certain sad mortality

It rained on the way home tonight – an unbelievable wetness after what seemed like endless weeks of dry, pulsating heat. I felt the first fat drop on my face as I slogged from an interminable BART ride and had a moment of stark disbelief as it slowly dribbled its way down my cheek, like an unexpected tear during an NFL commercial break. Really? Here? Now?! But, WHY?!

I left the office at a quarter to four – it was ten after six by the time I made it off the train…and by the looks of the traffic from the station platform? It was gonna be a looooooooong parking-with-frequently-changing-of-position drive home from there.


Rain danced new patterns in the dust on the car as I opened the trunk, highlighting how dirty it really is right now. Pointless to wash it until the tomato-and-corn harvest is in, though…the dust, so much dust, from the tractors in the nearby fields, or from the young man riding his motorbike on the little track right over our back fence, or from the other neighbor’s horses having an occasional go at being wild in their tightly-contained arena.

Futile, really, trying to keep the car dust-free this time of year.

Futile, like so many things are futile. A clean kitchen, matched socks put away in drawers, a year without tomatoes that were not quite ripe enough to pick, I SWEAR TO GOD THEY WEREN’T, only moments ago!, flung sodden and already molding while still on the vine into the compost, jewel-bright and defiant like sins I’m trying to forget.

Our train stopped in Lake Merritt station for going on half an hour while medical personnel were summoned to tend to a Fallen Comrade in another car…but, thankfully, not one under another car. As we sat, and sat, and continued to sit, and still not moving…as I wondered for about the third time what on earth could be taking them soooooooo long to get this poor person helped…the awful possibility slithered out from under the seat and hissed, “Hey. You know what takes a lot longer than grabbing a gurney and hauling somebody off a train? Extricating somebody’s remains from UNDER it, THAT’S what!”

My mind loves horror almost as much as my heart abhors pain. It sadistically painted the pictures for me while I squirmed and shrieked inside. Stop it, stop it, STOP IT, CHRIST-AWL-MIGHTY, ISN’T A ‘MERE’ HEART ATTACK BAD ENOUGH?!?!

I sat, and knitted, with my feet tucked neatly under the seat, a composed face with bifocals perched trimly on my nose and my hair up in that ridiculous twisty-bun-thing that looks all fancy but is actually either a case of ‘Tama is two seconds from letting out a primal scream and cutting her own hair with a box-cutter because it is pissing her off today’ or ‘Tama sort of neglected the shower part of personal hygiene yesterday [possibly due to having three daughters who can go through six thousand gallons of hot water and still be in the shower] and thinks that if she puts her hair up, nobody will notice any greasy side-effects of this.’

I must have looked like somebody’s Saintly Librarian Auntie or something, while inside I’d alternate between growing more and more annoyed with why are we not MOVING yet?! and feeling guilty for being that way. Look, Self, you think YOU’RE having a bad time of things? Somewhere very close to you, somebody is having a WAY, WAY WORSE go of it…how about a little @^*&@ing compassion, huh?!

And then I’d say a few words to $DEITY (trying very hard not to end them with and please make the medics hurry the @^*&@ up, hallelujah amen), and think I’m more evolved than that thoughts while somewhere deep inside my mind, the gremlin insisted that there could be severed limbs right under me, that very moment!

…sometimes, I hate my own mind so much I wish I could get a divorce…why will it be so determined to gross or freak me out, to be at best unkind at worst downright cruel, so cynical and uncaring, so willing to view the life going by us as if it were a movie…no reason to actually CARE, it’s just a story, after all

Eventually, of course, the “situation” (as they like to call it over the intercom) was “controlled” and the crowded, stuffy, BO-laden train full of crabby commuters lurched back into motion.

I wondered what had happened, in that other car. Why did I want to know, anyway? Morbid curiosity? Targeted prayers?

…nah, probably the former, not the latter…and the gremlin laughed and danced and suggested all kinds of horrors that could befall a person drifting through a business-as-usual day, never suspecting that this was THE day, the day that everything changes, the day that they met with Horror in a place so mundane.

Hey, maybe this will be YOUR day, huh? MAYBE, this will be The Day that somebody falls asleep at the wheel while chewing a bagel and texting and drinking a coffee in their Chevy Subdivision and runs RIGHT over your poor little Civic, huh? Could ALWAYS be that day!

And then he laughs again, and laughs and laughs and laughs, and dredges up images from movies to help set the mood…remember that one they showed in high school, remember THAT one, with the girl and the glass from the windshield…?

Yeah. Yeah, I remember that. And that these first spasms of rain make for some of the most dangerous driving there is, as the oil and other car-ooze from summer driving combines with the water to provide a slick, traction-free surface.

Yes, I know, I know.

Odd how lacking in sensible fear I can be. Thinking these things, of high school images of broken, gouged flesh, unspeakable pain, of all the ways in which I had almost no control over whether or not this was The Day my number would come up and I would be taken out by someone I didn’t know, couldn’t avoid, possibly never even saw coming…thinking these things, I hurled my belongings into the trunk, climbed behind the wheel and began to drive.

Slightly horrified, mostly just tired, wishing I were already home, feeling oddly sad over somebody I didn’t know going through…something…that just could not have been fun, wishing that ugly part of my mind would find something else to talk about for a while.

Startled windshield wipers rattling inexpertly across the glass. Crap, you mean we hafta DO something? Already? I think we forgot HOW to get moisture off this thing…! Smearing dust-now-mud so that at first, my vision is infinitely worse than it was before they began.

Why am I not afraid right now, as I fumble for the lever that adds a splash of windshield wiper fluid to the glass, to clear away the dust-mud, to make it easier to see the other cars rocketing around me as fast as they can possibly go, all trying to get where they’re going just as soon as they can? How can I simultaneously be so aware of the fragility, the futility, the terrible delicacy of the web we call life, and how swiftly it can be blundered to pieces by the whim of fate…and yet be terrifically unconcerned about it, hurling myself directly into harm’s way without the slightest quiver, or even a moment’s hesitation?

I don’t believe I’m somehow exempt from the casual tragedies of life; and yet, I just can’t seem to work up a decent worry over them.

They are what they are. Like dry hot spells and unlooked-for rain.

And sure enough, I make it home safe and sound. My bedroom is hot, and dry, and stuffy. Huh. Funny, that…I was cold all day at work today, and rained upon on the way home, and now? I’m too hot and flicking on the fan to move the cooler air from anywhere-but-this-room into it.

The Denizens are bouncing, thundering up and down the stairs, yelling their news through the house, laughing, chattering like squirrels, young and immortal in their thoughts, unburdened by nameless, faceless sorrows that point at their wrinkles and laugh at them. You’re not getting any younger, either, by the way…aches and pains and the threat of medications with Certain Side Effects, screening for cancer and strange-but-common diseases you never heard of before the words ‘as we age’ began to be uttered during routine exams…

Rain drops and dry spells, mortality and continuity. Things beginning, things ending, things changing, things staying the same.

I suppose that’s why I can’t work up to worry. Whatever is can, and will, change…it may seem bad, it may seem good, it probably is actually neither. IT just is, and IT is not the enemy.

Only I can be the enemy, really…and I don’t want to be.

I’m too tired for that tonight, tired of thoughts that think they are being clever when actually they’re just being, well, tiresome. Like people who chastise others (at great length) for holding a wine glass “wrong,” or for not knowing the fundamental differences between avant-garde and art nouveau. Or who think they are being something special when they correct people on the proper use of some archaic word, or issue forth a lecture on the history of sushi. Oh, DO be quiet, there’s a dear…nobody cares, you daft creature, NOBODY. CARES…!

I log into the servers, check a few files that have been loading and counting and aggregating and sorting since about noon today. Ugh, no, not good enough…I create new partitions for the tables and realign the indexes to them, OK!, that’s pretty slick, test query going from 280 seconds to less-than-one, let’s see what that does for me…tradeoffs, storage, indexes, please, just, frickin’ FINISH this tonight, I’m sick half to death of LOOKING at it, of answering the same questions the same way, over and over…I can’t just make the answer BE what you want, it IS what it IS, the only thing that changes it is some NEW input, some NEW variable, something like THIS, done by somebody like ME who knows what the h-e-double-toothpicks I’m even TALKING about right now…

Finally, counts are climbing. Triumph, if only temporary…so I hit buttons that set the main job running, incrementing through the partitions one at a time, climbing inexorably upward toward finished, current day, DONE.

And then I sit and watch it for a ridiculous period of time, refreshing the watcher-query every so often. Ten thousand. Ten million. A hundred million. Twenty-seven minutes to a hundred million rows.

Yeah. That’ll do for now. That’s the first hundred million of the three billion I need to take from here and move to there, to aggregate, sum, sort, order by, NTILE, parse, package and send to military school with instructions to help them find discipline and be all they can be.

Yeah. I’m pink-elephant-seeing tired. Bed now.


I didn’t wash my hair again, I got all caught up in the…

…eh…I’ll do it in the morning…

Enter the ubiquitous arguing with myself: You KNOW you won’t, you’ll stay in bed until The Last Second, what is WRONG with you, WHY won’t you do those sorts of things RIGHT AWAY instead of always…?

…eh, who cares, it’s not like I’m still looking for a mate…I can look more hag-like than usual, it’s hardly going to hurt my chances at scoring a trophy husband or anything…

Heh. So many things change in this world, but other things never do. I’ll never be glamorous, or able to hold onto a view that perhaps, a little extra effort in the appearance department is worth trading a little sleep for, now and then.

Plus, sarcasm.

Scruffy + Sarcasm = me in a nutshell.

Check one more time…still running fine, counts still climbing, and climbing fast. Triumph, fleeting…by this time tomorrow, some NEW disaster will have struck, some NEW problem will have arisen, something ELSE won’t be making sense, won’t be running as it should, won’t BE what we WANT it to be… 

Life is good, is it not, to give me the challenges I need to feel as though I’m living each day?

Don’t bother with me tonight, $DEITY, I’m fine, thanks…but do look in on our Fallen Comrade, will You? I suspect that’s a house that could use a kindly visit, while mine spins madly and cheerfully on like a demented top toward whatever Eternity holds for us…