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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

China Clipper

Just for those who are still salivating from Saturday night, you too can make China Clippers at home. The recipe for the Five Spice Syrup and for the drink are in an SFGate article.

Random Road Angst

In the past 24 hours, I've had an altercation with a bicyclist in Golden Gate Park who was aggressively riding in the cross-walk and screamed at me to stop for pedestrians. I screamed back he was on wheels, not feet and is therefore not a pedestrian, but rather a law-breaking asshat. He was completely convinced that I was totally wrong and he was a pedestrian.

I've also been honked at for stopping at a red light. When I stopped at the next red light, I looked in the rear view mirror to see if the crazy bitch in the truck was upset that I also was stopping for this one and she was animatedly cursing at me. I had to laugh. That REALLY pissed her off, so she sped around me just past the intersection, going at least 45 on Stanford campus, where the speed limit is always 25 or less. I can only dream of the traffic ticket she deserves.

But what they hell? What makes people feel some damned entitled to break the laws of the road and blame those who are following the law for doing so? I'm used to this on the freeway - folks tailgating and being aggressive because you're not speeding sufficiently, but wow. New level. Get a grip folks!

Happy Birthday to Me!

Sunday was my birthday, so I spent my day playing an Alien bent on destroying mutant humans and later as a stewardess aboard a doomed airship. It was awesome.

Let me back up a bit. I took my birthday holiday on Friday and got my hair cut by Jane, who is working again for the first time this past week after her knee injury. With cute hair in place, I headed to Daly City for my 90k service. Luckily, Kirsten was working, and I saw her as I pulled up. She got to take care of my car personally (which is why my mileage sticker now says "Hi Ammy!"). And yeah - that's 90,000 miles in 3 years. There are very good reasons for me to own a Prius.

So then it was time to head to KublaCon. Friday night, Erik, Erik, and I ran the Evil League of Evil auditions again. My favorite new add-in character was the embodiment of teen angst: Whatever. She was hilarious as were many other folks. It's a different game every time because it's all about what the players bring to it.

Saturday, I was lucky enough to get into T & Danielle's game and got to play a character best described as "What if River joined the Reavers before Simon rescued her?" Yeah, messed up. I slashed the doc with his own scalpel and pinned another guy against a wall with a hospital bed. Well, that's what I mimed anyway. Then I spent the rest of the game being a cookie kleptomaniac and learning to play baseball. It was awesome.

Saturday night, I didn't get in to a game and neither did Erik, so we found ourselves at loose ends. A trip to the game library let us check out Tiki Mountain and Category 5. Tiki Mountain was sort of a chutes and ladders type thing that was sort of meh. Category 5 was awesome still. I played it back at the Reg Office game lunches back in the day, but it was out of print then and Max couldn't get another copy. Playing again, it was still an awesome game. The LARPs wrapped up at around midnight, and a lovely post-game party ensued. I served up a few China Clippers and many folks have a new favorite cocktail. The shortest birthday song was sung and life was good.

The next day, I made it into Joe & Dave's game due to the results of the party - seven folks didn't show up on time, so I got in. Woohoo! I was an alien helping the human faction resist the mutants who were taking over the world. I created the mutants in the first place, and they kind of escaped from the lab, so my plan to fix it was to just kill them all. Later, I decided that a bunch of the humans were annoying me too, so I was out to get the mutants and the stupid humans too. This led to an alignment with Dr. Mayhem. Mayhem ensued. Go team evil!

After the game, we checked out Category 5 again and played for another hour before grabbing a burrito for dinner before Xavier's game. I was playing a stewardess on the most chaotic, most doomed airship ever. There were pirates, and murder, and mad scientists, and zombies. My main goal was to make sure everyone had a nice, smooth evening. Um... yeah, no. After the first hour or so, I realized we were totally screwed, so I started serving the alcohol and said to the pirates, "Hey, you guys have a plan, and like a ship and stuff right? Can I come with you?" At the end of the game, my dead (but not really) husband, my benefactor the vampire, and the staff sergeant were all trying to get me off the ship. I'm not sure why, but I made it off alive.

We headed back to San Jose to sleep in and got up to order pizza from Pizza My Heart and head to see Night at the Museum 2, which was awesome. I really adore Hank Azaria, and didn't realize I also had the joy of Amy Adams. She's adorable!

This was followed by snacking on soft serve dipped cones on my front stoop and then dinner with Michelle, Fred, Malaya, Alex and Sherman at Nona's. It was Michelle's first trip and Joreth was in rare form, which was just perfect. In between the caprese salad and the entree came the cherry-vanilla ice cream experiment course. After dinner came the blackberry pie of infinite joy and happiness.

So I came home and crawled in bed and promptly fell asleep without setting my alarm. Work is still not a joy, but I got there mostly close to on time-ish. It was a lovely weekend and a nice getaway and my hair is cute and my car is happy and my clothes are... well tighter than last week. Ahem.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Smile Sheets Never Lie, Right?

Let's face it - I suck at being in a bad mood for very long. Give me two presentations to do in one day and a chance be a brat to my manager by throwing his words back in his face, and ultimately, I can't stay mad. I still don't trust the man and he's still going to piss me off again, but I've got too much to do right now to pay him much mind. Ultimately, the clients like me and they find my presentations animated, clear, and helpful. Says so right on the feedback sheets from the end of the session.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Lost in Austen

What is the special fascination with Pride and Prejudice? I've read and loved the book. I've read Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife. I've read The Darcy Daughters.There are dozens of further extensions of the story that I've not picked up. This year has seen Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I've seen Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy in Pride & Predjudice and in Bridget Jones's Diary.

Now I've just finished watching Lost in Austen, and once again find myself in love with the characters and amused by the twists in this version.

But what is it about this story that begs us all to return? And why is it so easy to run with in new and different ways?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Vacation

I planned a vacation back at the end of last year. They'd been pressing me to use some of my vacation so I figured I could take off from Thursday last through Memorial Day and spend some time up at the cabin, spend some time working on the house, and spend Memorial Day weekend at KublaCon. It was a good plan, but it got a bit messed up by the voice messaging launch and the calendar user-testing.

But, the cabin part was fixed. I'd arranged it with my grandparents. I'd invited friends. I'd planned it before the UM project rollout was set or the calendar testing was scheduled. I was going. Can't stop me. (Though there was some last minute meetings attempting to be scheduled during those 3 precious days that had me at the limit of my capacity last week.)

I made it out, leaving a bit after six on Wednesday with no intention to return until Tuesday.

The first stop was lunch with Ray. Ray is working for Edutopia at Big Rock Ranch. I was most thoroughly invited to have lunch at Lucas Ranch. I met Ray at Big Rock and we wandered around there a bit. It's in the style of the Awahnee or the Grand Californian. It's unrelentingly gorgeous. The lobby sits on a lake. The fountains in the courtyard are also skylights to the garage. The whole building is decorated with a fabulous selection of original movie posters. It's extraordinary. But then we drove up to the main house. Allow me to just say... Oh. My. God.
Ammy at Lucas Ranch
We had lunch on the veranda around the back. It couldn't have been a more gorgeous day. We took a turn around the main floor, looking in the display cases holding things like Obi Wan's light saber from Episode 4 or the amulet from the head of the staff in Raiders of the Lost Ark, but also Charlie Chaplin's derby and cane. Passing through the hall into the library. It's a fantasy world come to life. The library is a working research library, stocked full of books on costume and history and geology and so on. There were JC Penney and Sears catalogs dating back to the 19th century. I could've spent days in there, but we passed through into the atrium, glass roofed like a proper Victorian conservatory with trees growing from the lower floor reaching up towards teh ceiling. Then we walked up to the winery and wandered through. Then down past Ewok Lake to the fitness center/pool/shop. On our way back to Big Rock, we passed the barn that is the archive. It's conveniently located right next to the fire station.

The other big bonus for the day was a visit from Dave and his son Phil. I haven't seen Dave in far too long, but he's still the best boss I've ever had. He took Phil to see the Grateful Dead at Shoreline. They crashed here and Dave and I stayed up talking til 2 a.m. It was awesome. I suggested Hobee's for breakfast, and Dave remembered it from back in the day. Sure enough, the next morning, Hobee's had balloons celebrating their 35th birthday.

Back from breakfast, I packed up the car and headed for the hills, with a stop through Davis to fetch Erik and a stop at Grandma's to pick up some things that needed to make the journey. We arrived at the cabin a bit after six and handed some fresh cut zucchini from Grandpa to the neighbors. Alex & Sherman arrived a bit later, and Emily and David arrived later still. So began 2 full days away from telephone and internet. We compared T-Mobile to Verizon to Sprint to AT&T and no one had service. This was perfect. Ari and Andy joined us on Saturday afternoon.

There was walks in the woods, reading good books, and too much food. There was a game of Uno Attack and Scrabble. There was crunching through the leaves and identifying the poison oak. There was walking round the little lake and fishing in the big lake. There was dozing in a comfy chair and birthday pie. It was just lovely.

Back to the real world today to catch up on too much email and so forth. But for such a little vacation, I feel worlds better for it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Can I Has Layoff Plz?

So I got stuff done, sent stuff out, and headed out to the car. And the best way to end a bad day at work is not with a parking ticket, but there it was. A parking ticket for not having my sticker in the lower left corner of the windshield. Not that it wasn't in the windshield and not that it wasn't in a lower corner, but depending on whether you interpret lower left from the inside or the outside, you could define it either way. Seriously? What is wrong with the Stanford parking enforcement people? Do they have to be this petty? I've got a valid permit prominently displayed in a car parked in the right spot for it's permit type, and they quibble over which corner it's placed in. Wow. They couldn't be pulling over a kid running a stop sign and turning left in front of traffic. No, they have to harass me, to the tune of $45. Awesome. Petty. Too many petty little despots in my day.

Today is fired.

Science News! (plus a wee bit of sci-fi)

The news story I've talked about most in the past few weeks is about night owls versus morning people. There are two reasons we go to sleep - circadian rhythms and sleep pressure. While night owls and morning people have very different circadian rhythms, what's more interesting is how they respond to sleep pressure - controlled by how long someone has been awake already. As it turns out, night owls are able to resist sleep pressure far better than morning people. As a true night owl, I can attest to that. If I'm engaged and busy, I can stay awake as long as I need to, well past my usual bed time. Anyway, interesting evolutionary adaptations behind that.

Then there's the little article about marital success. For both dating couples and married couples, "the primary predictor of happiness is your perception of whether your partner motivates you to live up to your aspirations and supports you in pursuit of your dreams." But for long term marital happiness, the other thing that's required is "support for the more mundane and immediate obligations." No really, it actually is all about the dishes in the sink, the trash that needs to go out, and picking up something from the store on the way home. Wacky, but true.

Meanwhile, if I had all the money I could ever use and could go study something really arcane, I'd probably study utopian and dystopian fiction and what it says about the fears and expectations of the time it was created and how those visions have changed over time. So imagine my glee when I stumbled on a list of the top 50 dystopian films of all time! I could add quite a few more to this list, and I've watched the lion's share of these already, but having this list is like a little checklist of things I can add to Netflix. Fun!

Mountain Air

I suck at taking vacations. I live in a project-based existence where there is always a deadline looming. But this coming weekend, I've managed to save Thursday through Monday with nothing to do but to go up to my grandparent's cabin and breathe the mountain air.

I was up there last Saturday for the day, prepping for fire season by raking a hundred foot perimeter around the buildings. That's a lot of raking. But there's something magical up there. Tromping through the dirt that squishes gently under foot because nothing has tamped it down for a while, with pine trees soaring overhead and the birds making a ruckus. Crunching across layers of leaves and pine needles, with pine cones rolling under foot and stepping over the busy little ant hill. Kicking the red dirt off your shoes before going inside to drink a glass of ice cold water from the tap that pulls from the spring. Breathing deep the fresh air full of mingled scents of pine and wood smoke. I can't wait to spend a full weekend. I need this break. It's a little break, but it's worth every minute.

The Good Manager

My current manager is sadly not an awesome manager. He's not a bad guy; he's just not a great manager. I bring him issues, and rather than suggesting solutions and ways to make things work, he tends to freak out and dwell on them. This doesn't help me.

But when I hit the wall of despair today, another manager down the hall said, "Oooh, you should feed that up the food chain so that it doesn't catch anyone off guard. Go talk to Nancy or Jan about that." This was an awesome suggestion. It gave me something to do about it and let me cover my ass. But the really big thing was giving me something to do, rather than to sit at my desk and spiral into doom. So, after a very rocky start, my day concluded with me feeling a bit more empowered and capable of fending off the drama llama.

For me, the good manager is the one who you say, "Ack!" and they offer suggestions. I don't need someone to commiserate on how screwed I am. I need someone to open a window.

You Can't Always Get What You Want

I just spent an hour working with a dean and her assistants to get her moved from Meeting Maker to Stanford Calendar. It was awful. She was immediately able to point out all of the deficiencies of the system, the problems with her data conversion, and dismissed the whole thing as unusable. It turns out, the killer function is never what you expect. It's more important to her to be able to see the full title description of 15 minute appointments at a glance throughout her week on her computer than to be able to see her calendar at all on her iPhone. By 20 minutes in, I knew it wasn't going well. By 40 minutes in, I was talking about the challenges of change and how these transitions are never easy. By the time the hour was over, I felt like I could never convince anyone that any alternate system could ever work, which is, you know, kinda my job. It's noon, and there's no part of me that doesn't just want to go home and hide under the covers.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Congress of Vienna

I am a Fezziwigger to the deepest core of my soul. Our job at Fezziwig's is to introduce every last visitor to the joy of Victorian dance. I'd much sooner grab a stranger holding up a wall for a Congress of Vienna than dance with someone I know. It's the one dance where the lady can lead and help from her position just as easily as the man can from his. It's not nearly as much pressure for new dancers as trying to keep a rotary waltz rotating a full 360 degrees for 3 minutes. And most folks have watched it once and thought something like, "I could never do that" or "That's so elegant!" or "I hope to learn that sometime."

So I scan the crowd for someone who is watching the floor, but hanging back looking like they don't want or don't know how to dance. Last Saturday, I found one. He was elegantly dressed to the theme and when I asked, he pleaded the usual, "I don't know how and I've got two left feet." I said not to worry and that I'd be happy to guide him through. He trusted me enough to go out on the floor. I coached him through the usual - two opens and closes, some turning, two more open and closes, some turning, and 2+2=4, so now we'll do four open and closes, and some more turning. Then I stopped and faced him grabbing both hands and saying, "Whatever happens, don't let go." This is the riskiest part of the dance, because some hold on for dear life and won't let you turn, and others let go accidentally and then feel like they did it Wrong. He took my hands and I turned under and said, "Now just walk forward." And he did. Then we turned around the other way and walked forward again. Then I said, "Now you stand here while I sneak around you." He let me run around and I took his hands with me. I pulled back gently on the one behind his back and said, "Now just pivot backwards a bit." Then I snuck to the other side and did the same again. Back to the two hands, don't let go for a moment, and then we're back to the beginning.

By the second time through the full dance, he was looking really relieved and said, "I've been watching for four months! I didn't think I could do this." And that's it. That's why I do this. That's the moment that will fuel my love of dance for the next year.

Today I got a follow-up email from my dance partner via Facebook. It said,
Thank You So Very Much for the De-Liteful Waltz last Sat. evening, it was nice + really wonderful getting on to the floor, It's a kaleidoscope of magic, ever changing patterns - The way I'd hope it would be!!

Yay! I win! I'd thought he just meant he'd be watching Congress. Turns out he'd been watching it all. I'm a happy happy girl. And I have someone new to make a point of dancing with once at each event for a while.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Rolling!

Yesterday's margaritas really seemed to help me bust through my block on one of the handouts for the Cool Tips and Tricks for using Stanford Email & Calendar class. This was awesome, because I'd been dithering about it for days, and finally had summoned a sufficient amount of "Aw, what the heck" to get some real work done. Words on the page! Hooray!

Tonight I drew up the outline for the Executive Assistant's course and arranged for a meeting with the EAs for review. Then I busted a move on the checklist page that's been taunting me for days and it's finally starting to look like something I might show to a real person. Finally.

I had to break through. It had to happen. There's less than 30 days til I teach the first Sundial to Stanford Calendar migration class. There are already people signed up. But when you're feeling really stuck and you just can't seem to make it go, it's terrifying.

The Voice Messaging replacement is really happening on May 17th and I'll really be completely inaccessible and away from phones and the internet from May 15th through May 18th. This scares me, but folks will live. They have to. The ball is rolling and nothing will stop it now.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Cinco de Mayo

I got scolded for the casual approach to the last Campus Partners meetings because we didn't have a few details worked out. This led to a few mid-meeting surprises, and some last minute in-meeting decisions - like when the Campus Partners should have their list of testers to me. I didn't know they were sending their lists to me before the meeting started so I was caught a little off-guard, and suggested that they could send their lists to me by May fifth, and heck, since it's Cinco de Mayo, they could send them with margaritas.

The School of Humanities and Sciences campus partners just walked across campus to bring me margaritas.

We sat in my office, talking smack and swapping tales for the past hour over margaritas.

That was awesome. They said they like me casual and that I'm not allowed to change. I keep things real and fun and down to earth. I could only agree as I sipped my margarita. Good thing I've got a few more hours of work to do before I can leave, because while I'm sober enough to type right now, driving would be bad.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Kitty Snuggle Assault

I came home after my trip to the dentist (Look ma! No cavities! Plus all sorts of compliments on my gum health. Hooray for the diligent application of dental floss.) so that I can work from home for the rest of the day. The kitten has gone home and things are back to relative normal around here. I think the kids missed having me all to themselves because within a few minutes of sitting on the sofa, I had both of them lying on my chest. Two hands for cats and no hands for keyboard, and getting smothered in a sea of orange cat hair. Luckily, this didn't last long. One snuggle kitten at a time please!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Worky Rant

I'm consistently amazed by the requests to be removed from mailing lists on campus. I just got a rather snotty message from someone saying that if I wanted to communicate with him that I needed to do it in a printed letter and to please remove him from the list.

Um... no? Oh no wait... Hell no.

Like I'm going to kill a bunch of trees to mitigate your self-importance?

Oh I'm sorry, did you not realize that this is a business email address and that your employer (who is providing that infrastructure) is entitled to send you messages about your job, your tools, and your workplace? Apparently not. Gotta love university life.

Please forgive me for writing this here. It's all in an attempt to avoid writing back to one of these dudes saying, "Dude, just delete what you don't want like the rest of us. Now shut the fuck up."