Oh, my,

it was beautiful.
Blogger was hacked.

Ev has but to point, and we,

his wild Fremen,

will fall upon the perpetrator.
Watching movies

about my generation (Reality Bites)

always makes me surly and bitter.

And irrelevant.

An anonymous box of cookies
on my desk.

Chocolate chip cookies.

Dashing off for presents
over my lunch hour.

What errands do you s'pose
Santa runs over his?
Windows won't boot?


Let's see what this Linux box can do.
Funny how

random things

are never satisfyingly random.
Matinee for two: $10

Surcharge for ordering online: $1

Taking your geek to Lord of the Rings on Christmas Eve:
Christmas is only a week awah—
omygosh, it's Wednesday.
Rants get things off your chest.

Affirmations get you off your butt.
Upgrading a mere browser causes the operating system not to load.
Because it is inextricably bundled in.

My team really came through on the costume contest. There were goggles and kneepads and jumpsuits and (computer) mice. We were quite a troupe.

I really like these people, y'know?

My monitor mirror has gotten a lot more entertaining since I dyed my hair a lighter shade of blond.

Boy, if there were any doubt about Dell being beige... I think, like, three people dressed up. Sigh.

I've gotten most of my team to consent to being "bug" exterminators. (We're programmers. Get it?) I made 13 little patches to make our uniforms. They have green binary in the background, a big blue bug, and a red no-more over top, a la Ghostbusters.

Over the weekend, Jon and I, along with Ben and Tosha, made masks and costumes. This coming weekend we're going to the Texas RenFest. This year's theme is fairies, and Tosha (who made my wedding dress) is making me a spiffy fairy costume. Now, since there's a limit to the amount of pink I can wear without spontaneously combusting, and because Halloween is all about making masks, I made a creepy mask to cover the lower half of my face. It's just kind of an exaggeration—take beauty and stretch it until it isn't. It has a hinged jaw again, like last year's, but the implementation is more subtle. I'll then put a veil over it, to increase the suggestion of creepiness. (Take a lesson from Jaws: What you don't show is much scarier.) I've got a lacy fan to hold in front of my face, too, allowing me to reveal the horrrrrible visiage at just the right moment.

We did a whole lot of moving last night. We need to be finished tonight. There are just those depressing dribs and drabs left now. Bleah.

Sad news follows sad news. Bastion of fat-girl fashion, Mode magazine will be ceasing production.

As was pointed out in the Cunt book, advertisers just don't think fat girls have money to spend. Boy, are they dumb.



Temporarily disabling the poll, because the page is taking so long to load, it is bugging me. Might be Reblogger, though.

I found the contact information for Fox on the GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) site, folks who probably have many occasions to raise the awareness of Fox executives.

Alright, girls (and anyone else, for that matter). Time to protest the only discrimination still permissible in America. Shallow Hal, opening in theaters on November 9th, is one, long, useless fat joke. Tell Fox we will not put up with this garbage. Tell them that size discrimination is unacceptable. Tell them that fat jokes are dumb.

So here's what we need to do. Write to:

Tom Rothman

President of Film Production

20th Century Fox

10201 W. Pico Blvd.

Los Angeles, California 90035

Tell him what you think of his portrayal of women as objects of ridicule--as objects, really.

In this movie, short, fat Jack Black and short, fat, bald Jason Alexander are presented as plausible swingers. Never mind their stature, they are respected as actors and as comedians. Laughed with, if you will. Black is hypnotized to see only people's inner beauty, so--and here's the laugh riot--he--get love...with a FAT GIRL! The horror. Audiences are then expected to laugh at his plight through countless slapstick gags: What a rube! He doesn't know he's dating a fat girl.

And because audiences have not been similarly cursed, we don't even get to have a fat girl get the supporting role. Instead, to show us the beauty Black is seeing, the job is given to demure, slender Gwyneth Paltrow. I liked her. I feel so let down.

Why should you care? Because gorgeous babes like me are told by the fashion industry, the diet industry, the film industry, the television industry, the cosmetic industry, and lots more that we should cover our bodies, hide ourselves away, become thin. And perhaps if all women would just get thin enough, we'd disappear altogether and stop giving them a hard time.

This is an affront to all of us. Get pissed!

An epiphane about website design: When you're distressed and pissed off because you've just found out that your employer has switched to a dental insurance provider that does not include your own beloved dentist, cute websites are even more irritating.

. o O (Don't give me Snoopy. Give me answers, dammit.)

My friend Tameka, waxing poetic, stated "we invented terrorism" and guerrilla warfare. She says, Boston Tea Party? Hello-o?!

Fight whatever war you want (with my tax dollars); just don't be smug about it.

Texas chili has no beans.
I think I know just what this means:
Texas chili isn't really chili, silly.

No offense.

Hee hee, I was simply noting that we have phone service again, with that post on the 15th, but Tameka took it as a sign--or perhaps a directive--and called. ^_^ I encourage each of you to do likewise.

Also, I'm enjoying the discussion in my comments thread for yesterday's post. I finally had something to say that got people talking. Cool!

Watching the news over the weekend, we had one of those moments—the kind where the bottom of your stomach drops out because you are just horrified and shocked by what your President is doing.

The Taliban has said that they'll hand over Osama bin Ladin just as soon as the President offers some evidence. And the President says, to reporters, on television, "We will not negotiate. Never mind innocence or guilt; just hand him over."

He has no proof.

Y'know, when we put someone on trial for murder, the prosecutors need more evidence than "everybody *knows* he did it. I mean, look at him, with those beady eyes."

He's gotten us into a jihad, and he has no proof. I am embarrassed of my country.

Oh, by the way:


Okay, so I broke down and made a storTrooper—they're just so gosh darn cute. This is a pretty good approximation of me, except that it isn't stacked enough. The hair is right on, and the cargo pants with bare feet are standard attire.

My avatar: dark blond and barefoot, baby.

Ah, bliss...

Weather conditions from this afternoon, 79 and sunny

Oh, wow. We saw the most incredible movie on Saturday. I'm so impressed. The Others, starring the always beautiful and surprisingly talented Nicole Kidman, is a suspensful, mysterious ghost story. It creates real tension, rather than just relying on startling the audience (though one bit made the girl behind me scream--hee hee). There's no gore. It's really just a skillfully told ghost story. Jon and I have been picking it apart since Saturday afternoon; there are so many intriguing levels. I highly recommend it.

After being without phone service for over a week, I received a call from a SWBell technician from within my apartment. We've been going 'round-and-'round with them since last Monday. We finally got an important clue when we called our voicemail--and someone answered! Ah-ha! They plugged our line into the wrong apartment's jack. I can't wait to dash home and hear that comforting dial tone.

We do very much like our new apartment, though. It's nice. 9-foot ceilings are a joy.

So I found I had a flat tire this morning. My first thought was to call Jon, but he was already at work. My second thought was to call AAA. I finally calmed myself down enough to admit that I was perfectly capable of putting the spare on, myself. Good grief. However, when I got to the "Remove the lug nuts" stage, I found I could not do it myself. Those bolts weren't moving. A man cutting the lawn at the apartment complex came over to help and finished the job. I was quite grateful, but I did want to do it myself. Oh well. Now I get to figure out how to get a tire repaired myself. That's good enough, I guess.

I had a scary thought last night, watching the news. Clearly, terrorists are attacking our economy more than our government, with the WTC and then with sending anthrax to Microsoft. So here's my thought: If you attack the world's largest software manufacturer, wouldn't you be likely to attack the world's largest PC manufacturer? This is purely my own speculation, but it's a sobering thought.

My friend Faith has pointed me to the niftiest new toy. Publish to your blog through AOL's Instant Messenger using BloggerBot.

How do I get myself into these things? Here's the note I just sent to Jon:

You like projects, right? And challenges, too, yes? Okay, I just found out, at 3:30, that each VP in I/T is expected to have a team costume for the All Hands meeting on Tuesday, 10/23 (not next Tuesday, but the one after). We, the FISH Committee, thought it would be smart to have a group fish costume. Something like a Chinese dragon would be awesome. With me so far? Thinking about papier mache yet? See how this relates to us? So, do you think, over this weekend and next, we could make a fish head and tail (tail might be cut out of foam instead) out of papier mache?

Better question: Why does Jon put up with getting dragged into these crazy schemes?

Wow. I went to the Learn About Your Benefits Package fair, and a strange man stuck a Stressdot[tm] on me. It's a little dot, the size of a hole-punch, and it has been stuck to the back of my hand. It is looking at me as I type this, in fact. It changes color based on my skin temperature, to indicate my relative stress level.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, a Mood Ring for the New Millenium.

Mine's dark blue right now, indicating that I'm a pretty froody chick. Apparently, breathing on the back of your hand calms you down.

Happy Palindrome Day

Aaaaaaaaannnnnnd, publish!

My family has been having a lot of fun with dates lately. I think 10/10/01 is neat looking, but it isn't the most interesting. Granddad wrote to say that 10/1/01 is a palindrome, as is 10/02/2001. My uncle John then pointed out that 10/11/01 works upside down and backwards. Hee hee.

Wow, 2015 will have an especially excellent Pi Day, giving two more decimal places: 3/14/15. Well, if you want to properly round rather than truncate, I guess you should wait until 2016. Aw, heck with that. Big party on 3/14/15 9:26. With pie, of course.

Ah, seven minutes to go...

Y'know, Blogger really impresses me, especially as I get deeper and deeper into developing my own web apps. Right now, they've turned off the publishing feature, and it gives me a little message: "Sorry, publishing is temporarily unavailable. (Will be available in 15 minutes.)" And I think, yeah, sure, 15 minutes; it's probably said that all day. But then I posted to another blog, and it said publishing would be available in 13 minutes. So they really have given themselves a deadline and are actively updating the time estimate. Neat!

Conceivably, by the time I finish this post, it will be live again (since I took a phone call in the middle of it).

Whiny blogs are annoying, and if I can't get myself out of this funk, I'm going to lose all my readership. But, man, we're at war. Bob the Angry Flower knows how I feel.

I use Microsoft's plug-in for Outlook to give me local weather and current headlines on the startup page of my email program. I didn't know this was a valid weather condition, but I have been informed that outside it is "DREARY." Then I read the rest of the headlines and see why.

I was exploring the stor site, makers of those annoyingly trendy avatars, and I found they offer a Java chat client, which I thought could be cool for Invisible City. I clicked on the pricing link... *gasp* 25,000 pounds? Now, as I recall, the Brits use a comma for their decimal delimiter, but the three zeros after the decimal point wouldn't make any sense. So, are they making a concession for American readers, and it's 25-thousand pounds, or is it 25 quid? Or am I just confused altogether?

Ah, much better:

I will take the Iron Giant over Al Gore any day. Find your inner robot...

Apparently, the Iron Giant uses sex to manipulate people. Interestingly scientific test, that.

Ever observe someone's behavior and think, "Gee, I am really not liking that person," and then have to think, "and that especially sucks since it's me"?

For the past week or so, I've been spending my idle moments reliving guilt over how I treated a valued friend in a clumsy romance attempt (from three years ago). And I'm not even sure why I'm getting so pissed off at Jon (in the comments). And I've let some stupid piece of web tchotchke make me wonder if I'm boring. I always figured "irritating" is more apt.

Essentially, I feel like an alien. An alien I don't like.

This is more of an apology than a plea for contradictions.

And now the RoboHouse server keeps timing out, so I can't make another stab at it. I'm so demoralized.


I refuse to accept this:

Me? Boring?! Al Gore?!! Hrmph. Go find out what it tells you *you* are supposed to be.

Stupid cutesy web-based personality quizzes... *grumble grumble*

My phone number is staying the same, by the way. But please give me a call to get the new address before mailing any packages.

I think, perhaps, if I focus my attention very, very close, I can be happy. So, to that end:

We went camping with the Unitarian church on Saturday. I so needed that. A while back, we'd gotten ourselves a little 8' x 7' dome tent, which accomodates two—if they like each other a lot. We set it up in the living room last week, for practice, but other than that, we'd never used it. The top is mesh, so you can lie on your back and look at the sky. It then has a separate piece that snaps over top, to keep out the dew and keep in the warmth. It was too chilly on Saturday to sleep with the top down, but the sky was incredible. My only cue that it is actually fall, Orion now rises high into the sky during the night. At 5 in the morning (desperate bathroom run), the waning gibbous moon was bright enough to see by. Imagine if it had been full! The night was beautiful, and the air was deliciously crisp.

On Sunday, we enlisted the help of our Friends With Trucks and moved all of our big things into the new apartment. We then slept there last night. We are discovering, in subtle ways, that this new apartment is bigger everywhere. Most subtle but most significant is the 9-foot ceiling. I feel like I can finally breathe there, not realizing I'd been holding it for the past year.

Sunday, seeking Prairie Home Companion, we switched on NPR long enough to hear the words "cruise missiles" and then switched it off. Oh, look how nice the new apartment is. How very nice.

Gad, I am such a geek. I make a statement of my current state of mind and then immediately think, "Gosh, that would be a great name for a Malkavian [character in a LARP]. Maude Lyn. That's almost as good as Diphtheria."



I'm working my way through Sam's Teach Yourself PL/SQL in 21 Days, with my manager's blessing.

I lack the self-discipline for this.

Good grief. Did I mention that Jonathan won the Area-level Table Topics competition for Toastmasters? His humorous speech came in second. Now he's on to the Division, and then the District. I expect he'll do quite well.

Shortly after the 11th, little flags appeared poking out of many of the cubicles here. It was touching. Since that time, one group down the hall has begun to get competitive with their patriotic display. One row has streamers obscuring the entrance; when the streamers flutter in the breeze created by someone passing by, one can catch glimpses of the red, white, and blue plastic they have laid over the floor. Another row has two twin towers at the entrance, complete with spot lights focused on them from the floor. The towers are made from gray cardboard and have the flags of many countries stuck to their faces. There are some vague words about diversity and unity. One tower has a tall antenna on it, complete with a red, blinking LED. Both rows have streamers and flounces overhead.

It's troubling, really.

Every day, I am presented with this mindless display of patriotism, a reminder of my neighbors' hungy slathering for war. With anyone.

People in Austin—in Austin, Hippie Town, Live Music Capitol of the World... Austin—bombed a mosque. People are harrassing Arabs. People are harrassing South Africans because they're too ignorant to even get their racism straight. Television channels are showing mindless pro-war propaganda. Newscasters are interviewing FBI agents to hear their rationalizations for racial profiling.

How, how can you wave a flag over that?

Oh, hey, by the way. My pal Dave tells me his referrer logs show a lot of traffic coming from a comment he left on this very page. (In fact, right now, it seems to be his number one referral.)

So, just think of it: Leave me a little comment, and tah-dah, more traffic to your site!

Friends helping friends, that's what it's all about, Baby.

Boy, I am a dork. That was really trivial to implement. It seemed harder before.

My friend Michael made me cry. May we all find such compassion in our hearts.

(He also made me realize I have to get on the ball and implement that "permalink" thing correctly so that the link works after the post falls into archives. I'm such a dork.)

Woo Hoo! My apartment complex manager left a message for me yesterday saying she understood our situation and she would let us out of the lease without penalty. Yipee!

Mold-free Livin', here we come.

So... She didn't show up. I made an appointment with the manager of our apartment complex, to discuss being released from our lease, and she wasn't there. She wasn't even on-site. She'd been "called away" to do... marketing? at another rental property. So, I said to Gwen, the only person in the office, clearly not the one I had an appointment with, that perhaps she could help me. She said this was her third day on the job. Hm. Perhaps not.

I explained why I was there and that, no, I could not come back at 10 am tomorrow, I have a job; and I left the letter Jon and I had written, with a note to call me at work when she gets in. That is slated to be sometime late this afternoon.

This strengthens my resolve.

In what way does "Sharon" sound like "Susan"? I am constantly amazed at how many people make that error.

Ah, here we go. The Poltergeist snaps you into action from 0 to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds.

Yeah, it felt like that.

On a more upbeat note, Ben and Tosha took us to Fiesta Texas in San Antonio yesterday. We rode an incredible assortment of roller coasters. It was a marvelous day. Let's see...

I was about to say, "All coasters are steel, except where noted," except that they were *all* steel. Is the wooden coaster a thing of the past? That would be sad. But perhaps they just can't compete for the affections of today's thrill-a-minute audiences.

We started with the Boomerang, which pulls you backwards up the hill and then drops (back through the station), where you then zip off through a loop and an inverted turn and some other confusing things, until you climb up a hill that matches the initial one. And then... kwa-ping! Off you go, backwards through the whole thing again. Tee hee hee! Backwards was definitely better.

Next, we were disappointed by the Warner Brothers coaster, partly because we walked about a mile through the maze, built to accomodate crowds that would never be there again. It had the look and feel of a wooden coaster, yet it was steel. It just never managed to be particularly thrilling. There were some cute cartoon references scattered through the maze and along the coaster track, but, well, ho-hum. And then when we disembarked, we were funnelled through a Warner Brothers logo store. Tacky.

Not to worry, because (bum-ba-da-Daaah-dum) Superman was next! *repressed chortle of glee* This may well be one of my new favorite coasters. It's "floorless" (so, neither upright, nor suspended. Just chairs without floors.), and because I was wearing sandals, I had to ride barefoot. Woo hoo hoo! The loops and turns were wonderfully enhanced by the misty wind rushing between my toes. Somewhere through the track there was a corkscrew turn that caught me totally by surprise and elicited a real scream. Genius!

The order of events gets a little fuzzy for me here, but we went on the bumper cars, to Jon's great delight, and the carousel, at my request. And then we went on the Wave Swinger (Dorney Park name)/Die Fliedermaus (Fiesta Texas name), the big swing thingy. You know what I mean. Once again, I was "required" to ride barefoot. Oh, this was a true delight. I took off my hat, held my arms out to the sides, closed my eyes, and let my shoeless feet hang free in the wind. "I'm flying, Jack." Jon replied, "I still haven't seen that movie." Hmph, boys.

Then, with questionable wisdom, we had lunch. The less said, the better.

Ooh! Go Carts! Ah, but no sandals allowed--and this time, no bare feet, either. So Tosha and I sat and watched as our boys raced around the track. Very earnest, they were. Maybe this is the way to get Jon jazzed about learning to drive... (Better that than the bumper cars.)

Okay, so there's this huge pillar into the sky, this Masochist's Tower of Babel, where you can willingly get flung into the heavens and then unceremoniously dropped back out of them. And Tosha just had to go. And, therefore, so did I. Because it holds 12 people at a time and this was the first attraction that we actually had to wait for (it was after noon by now), I got to watch this so called "Scream" quite a few times. Folks sit on little chairs, their toes free in the breeze (moreso, for the sandal wearers), they get strapped in, and then Pow!, they're gone. Then they drop back down, seemingly in free fall, bounce back up like a bungee cord, get a few seconds to contemplate their fate at the top, and then Zing!, back towards the ground. Whooptee. But I wasn't going to be stopped by some irrational thing like fear. And, I got to take my shoes off again. Turns out, it was wonderful. I sat on the side away from the park, and I could see for miles--red, desert-y rocks, patches of greenery, flat land stretching away forever. And the drop really wasn't quite free-fall, so I didn't get that tingly feeling in my tummy. If the line weren't so long, I think I would have pushed to do it again, so I could get a different view.

Oooh, the Poltergeist. Now here is an impressive coaster. The train fills up in the station and then--kwa-ping, it's gone. No chain, no laborious climb up a hill, just instant speed. It was so surreal looking from the station. Even more so from the train. So we're fired out of the station like a rail gun and catapulted into a dense tangle of turns and loops. As the ride started to wind down, with momentum running out, we then start to go faster and faster, unbelievably so. The sense of speed was probably augmented by the fact that reason says we should have been slowing down. More swoops, more screams, and then, rest, and rolling into the station. Wild! We figure it must use electromagnets, which made Jon realize the pun in the name: A poltergeist throws things around without touching them. It is a masterpiece of technology.

Was that all? I think so. It was a very full day, and we all realized that we are, in fact, aging. We finished up with a funnel cake, for old times' sake. Then back to Ben and Tosha's for water, pasta, and recovery.

When I finally put my head back together after getting beaten up on a national scale, I then get beaten up on a local scale. We're planning to make a fight to be released from our apartment lease. The mold is terrible, and they let the residents below us move out. We visited another apartment complex, and we're just beside ourselves with longing. It's so nice. The apartment is big and dry. And they have a commitment to address all maintenance requests within 24 hours. Can you imagine? It makes it that much harder to stomach the current place.

On top of that, something is fishy with our package delivery. Jon's sister sent something addressed to our old apartment; we never got it, but "Jonathan Leistiko" signed for it on August 27th. So. UPS is crooked, the apartment complex is crooked, or the people in our old apartment are crooked. Once I get confirmation of details from UPS, I'm going to swing by the old place and then file a complaint with the police. Can you believe this crap? Makes me wonder how many of our other gifts have gone awry. My mother shipped Jon two packages over Christmas, while we were still living at the old apartment, and they never arrived either, despite UPS asserting that they had been delivered. The companies she'd ordered from were gracious enough to resend, but clearly that was not where the breakdown occurred. I'm so pissed off. Use DHL.

I also didn't win the Toastmasters Area Humorous Speech Contest. I came in second out of three. I'm so dejected. I really wanted this win. I got a second place at last year's contest, too.

Ah, dentistry.

Went to the dentist this morning, about four months overdue for my four-month cleaning. I got a deep gum cleaning *shudder* and a good scraping *goosebumps*. I also made a follow-up appointment for October 4th, to get impressions taken for a new bite guard, to protect my teeth from grinding at night. This dentition thing is, like, a full-time job.

So, the dentist appointment was at 9:00, so I figured I'd just go to it directly. I got into the office at 10:30 and got rounded up at 11 for a farewell luncheon for a co-worker. Back in the office at 1, full of tofu and cheesecake, punting around and feeling sleepy. But everything is nearly ready for my code deployment next Friday. Yay.

I'm telling you, we need nap rooms...

I am an American, and I am opposed to war.

Oh, Goddess, please oh please inspire our leaders to more successful, more fruitful, more just alternatives. Please guide them to show the world that we are not terrorists. Anymore. Please lead us to a course of action that does not include killing the innocent citizens of a nation to exact revenge on a group of radicals.

Please, no more terror.

Back in the groove. Making up for last week's inability to program, getting back on schedule. Also, made some headway on the project Dad asked me to do for his company. Woo woo.

What a fucking asshole.

"The Rev. Jerry Falwell said gays, feminists, 'pagans,' [sic] and a host of liberal advocacy groups have made 'God mad' and must share the blame for the terrorist attacks this week that took the lives of thousands of Americans at the World Trade Center in New York and at the Pentagon outside Washington." from the Washington Blade

Watch out for spam collecting donations. That would be the easiest scam in the book. Stick to reputable sources.

Happy update of reassuring news items:

My Uncle David is alive and well! He lives in California and travels back and forth to New York all the time. I finally found my aunt, his sister, online, and she gave me the reassuring news that she has talked to him.

My best friend Tameka has a brother who was at the Pentagon and stepped out to get something from his car at just the right moment, so he is fine, too.

And beloved Faith in New York is fine and has found all of her friends who still worked in the WTC, and they are fine.

To my knowledge, no one I know was harmed.

I just had a very illuminating conversation. It turns out that the irritating guy listening to music without headphones... is using headphones. He just has it *that* loud. Yikes.

Time Bandits was good. The DVD has commentary from Terry Gilliam, which I hope to listen to tonight. ^_^

My e-friend Michael over at Agent9 shares a nice sentiment: There are so many heroes.

Surely you've heard about the request to wear red, white, and blue tomorrow. I like it. When I got the (first) email about it, I was struck by a great idea that I'm going home to paint on a t-shirt tonight: A sunrise, with the horizon washed in red, white, and blue (so that the sun is rising over the flag), with the text, "It is darkest before the dawn."

And now, after a day of using Blogger to keep me sane(ish), I'm heading home. A coworker has lent me Time Bandits. Should be a good evening.

I. Got. Stuff. Done.

Programming stuff, even. Put the headphones on, loaded about 50 mp3s into Sonique, hit Shuffle a few times and then Play, and programmed. Whee.

Oh, gee. My goofy friend Fred doesn't tell me these sweet things about being at my wedding. No, he tucks them on a weblog with no links to it, and I stumble upon it, trying to find some scrap of his writing on his site by sifting through site index listings. Perhaps this is like opening someone's medicine cabinet, but I want to share. He talks about all his difficulties in getting there, and then says:

Because none of that matters. I got to see Sharon and Jon, who I haven't seen in over a year, and I got to join them on one of the most important days of their lives. That's worth a trip from anywhere. It's certainly worth a little awkwardness.


So, Fred, polish up that blog and get it ready for public consumption. At least, if you put an "index.html" file on, I won't be able to peruse your directory structure unsupervised. And why should you write a blog? (Tell Claire she's a dork.) Well, I write to (1) keep my hand in, keep writing; (2) efficiently tell my friends how I am; and (3) say all the things to my annoying coworkers that I'm not comfortable saying out loud. Heh, you could have a Kuoblog, along the lines of "can you believe these guys are for real?"

But I was looking for stuff on your site because I miss you.

I noticed one thing last night, listening to Bush on the TV and the other patrons of Wal-Mart standing around me, glued to the bank of televisions in the electronics section: You can't break our spirit. At least, not by overtly attacking and hurting us.

That just pisses us off.

A lot of people are wearing their Dell I/T shirts today. I think it is an unconscious expression of community and solidarity. On the day when the first layoffs were going to be announced, a lot of people wore their I/T shirts then, too. It's comforting to belong to a group right now.

A satallite photo.

...Why does this guy even have external speakers?

Am I becoming a misanthrope?

No, I think my patience is just short right now. And I really need quiet. There is too much noise in my head already.

If I were to just log out of Blogger, I might get something done.

Oh, good. He's drumming on his desk now.

Oh, someone reminded me that I'd left the Disgruntled Toastmaster Lady item unresolved. That would be because she has. She never responded to me. She also didn't show up at our meeting yesterday, but yesterday was a little weird.

Hush, hush, hush. Stop talking about Yesterday! I'm trying to write programs. Do your jobs, be quiet. Man, people are driving me nuts. I want an office with a door!

How do you deal with a sociopathic cubicle neighbor?

Put on headphones and quit whistling, you jerk!

Yes, this is the snorker. He also turns on his monitor every morning and causes mine to make a Gaussian jump. Yeesh.

A great group keening is what I need. We had one at the end of the Starwood pagan festival (I assume they do it every year), just a raising of voices expressing sorrow at leaving. It is a horrific sound, but it is very healing.

Americans are uptight about sorrowful sounds. I doubt I could get much support for the idea outside of a pagan or Unitarian Universalist gathering.

I'm thinking back to events on Monday evening and how easily we laughed. The memory seems strange, like, surely we weren't laughing so easily, in light of what's happened. But, of course, it hadn't happened yet. My current feelings are casting a pall over the memories.

I want all the moping to be over with, but it seems like laughter would be inappropriate, seen as belittling our situation.

I'm craving some kind of communal love-in. I wish we'd gone to the church last night. Maybe there's something going on tonight.

Oh, god. It's 7:52, and my coworkers are talking about it again. Sit down, be quiet, quit speculating, and let me concentrate.

I'm distressed by the frequent use of the word "evil." There are few things born of this world that are really evil. In fact, I'm not sure I particularly believe in evil (it also requires a belief in absolute good). This act was devastating, malevolent, desperate, and cruel. But evil? No, I don't think so. The participants were motivated by strong beliefs that differ significantly from our own that they did not believe they could express adequately in any other way. We've done similarly.

A morning when the news on your car radio makes you cry.

But I'm also thinking about those of us not directly affected, the rest of America, and I'm getting increasingly concerned. These times of crisis always seem to mean infingements on liberties, restrictions put into place "temporarily" that never get lifted. These events are another toe-hold for the Federal government.

I freely admit that NPR only talks to flaming liberals, but many of the people interviewed said they feared our government would make some sort of retaliatory strike and get us into a retribution war that makes more sense in street gangs or the mob. If so many people are opposed to this, why do we have to fear it? Don't we have a say in our government?

No, not really, apparently.

You heard George make his threats last night, essentially declaring war. Just as soon as we can figure out whom to fight.

Geez, what if it were perpetrated by Americans? Other than the fact that they were suicide missions, do we really have any evidence that these attacks came from outside? (One news station pointed out that most of our security is based on the assumption that the perpetrator will be trying not to get himself killed. We're vulnerable, obviously, to suicide missions.)

I feel really helpless when contemplating terrorist attacks. You can't concede, or they'll just hit you again. You can't really fight back unless you can destroy every disgruntled individual. You can't even really defend against the possibility of attack while still maintaining any freedoms for your own citizenry. For internal attacks, the only successful way to prevent them is to address the issue that causes such desperate dissatisfaction. When the attack is external, how do you address it? How do you apologize for simply being something they hate? And why should you.

And may I just point out, once again, that Fox News is reprehensible? They showed the same footage—on a loop, even—and reported the same lack of information all day. You know, you're not supposed to just read the AP wire stories. NPR, on the other hand, got out on the street and talked to people. They made the human horror of this event much more real.

I continue to notice how the Pentagon is kind of an afterthought on these news reports. Perhaps because the volume of people killed at the World Trade Center is just such an undigestible number. Perhaps also, though, because the people at the WTC are seen as innocents, while the Pentagon is seen as Government. Let's not forget that people who just go to their jobs every day make up our government. Let's also not forget the people who crashed in Pennsylvania; while the plane didn't crash into anything nationally significant, it still had passengers and crew. I'm looking forward to the recovery of the cockpit recorder from that plane; I suspect a hero will emerge, someone who prevented the plane from reaching its target.

I'm going to try and finish up my project at work today. Dad has also commissioned me for a neat project, and I look forward to spending the next few evenings putting that together. Headphones are essential today.

And my love to all of you, my friends. If nothing else, feel free to leave a little comment here on this post (click on the spiders). Mousekateer Role Call, if you will.

Now, may I move the news a bit more local? Our Toastmasters club contest last night, about which I was so worried, went swimmingly. All the competitors performed very well, and the site was nice, and we had lots of audience members. It was really great. And, I won the humorous speech contest. Now, since Jon won his club's contest, if we both win at our respective Area-level contests, we will go head-to-head at the Division. I can't wait.

My manager said I can go home, and I really think I might. When he walked up to my desk to say he might reschedule our afternoon meeting, I was in the process of looking at photos and crying. So he suggested I go home. I really want to finish up this project, but I'm obviously not working on it, right? Dang, I wish I had a laptop. I put in a request yesterday. Yeesh, I'm not even being coherent here. I should go home.

Oh, shoot. I just remembered what the other announcement I wanted to make at the Toastmasters meeting was: A moment of silence for those trapped in all of this mess.


There are some days when there is simply too much to report on.

The only thing I can grasp onto right now is: The Twin Towers are gone. Throughout my school years, we took many class trips to New York, and the first, most recognizable landmark, signalling that we were finally almost there, is the Twin Towers.

And they're gone.

I'm staggered by how many people have died, and I'm frightened of what this might be the beginning of. If nothing else, it'll be a lot tougher to get through airport security. ...See? I can't really face this. But, using Blogger, some folks have put together a site of breaking news, photos, and personal prayers.

I'm intellectualizing, I know, but this is interesting to me. I am impressed by the planning and the effectiveness of this attack. The coordinated plane hijackings took real planning. And, while the Pentagon was also attacked, note how much coverage that is getting, compared with the World Trade Center. The latter is a very effective attack on our morale. I'm horrified, but I'm intrigued. I think I would like it very much in a novel. I just wish it could be fiction.

Ah-ha. Reblogger lost its old hosting location, hence the errors on the page and in the commenting system. Jesse has found a new one, so we're back in business.

I was getting dressed this morning, trying to make as little noise and light as possible, and I noticed that Jon was smiling at me. His eyes were just barely open, and his brain was ever so slightly awake, and he was just smiling at me.

So I have now decided that being smiled at by the sleepy person you love is simply the best way to start a day.

I love my text editor even more. Select a chunk, hit Shift+tab, and it scoots it out one level.

So, what a disconcerting state of affairs. If Reblogger is down, my blog is offline. Gotta get my own PHP-powered commenting system going.

Humorous Speech contest tonight, with Toastmasters. I'm competing, but I'm more nervous about the logistics of the contest, since I'm the club President. No real responsibility, but all of the blame. Sigh.

Code for my project at work is working! This morning, when you edited an item and clicked Save, it cheerfully deleted the item. Then, when you edited this other thing over here, my code very helpfully deleted everything on the page! I've fixed that now. I am much relieved.

I have an unpleasant lump on my finger. I think it's a spider bite. The area is all red (right on my cuticle. Yow!) and puffed up. And boy, does it itch!

What? No, I'm not going to tell you what my humorous speech topic is. Espionage, and all that. I'll tell you tomorrow.

Oh, shoot! We'd meant to borrow Time Bandits from Ben before leaving yesterday. I just have a hankering to see it again. Jon's only seen it once and doesn't get my references, so we *have* to remedy that.

Ohmygoodness, I love my text editor. I just discovered that clever little UltraEdit will indent an entire chunk of code if you highlight it and press the tab key. See, you use levels of indentation to keep the hierarchy of your code straight, and if you want to move this piece from here to there, you'll probably have to go along and put a tab in front of every line, to scoot it in to where it's supposed to be. But not with UltraEdit! Select the piece, press the tab key, and viola: Indentation.

I am so happy.

Oh, man, I amuse me. I drew up a little cartoon, which I may scan and post later, but you don't need the cartoon to get the gist of it. But first, a little explanation.

This came about from wasting too much time reading cartoons on the Perspicuity Review. One depicts The Trepanator; in his explanation of the cartoon, Craig explains that trepanation is the cutting of holes in the skull for medicinal reasons, and then he links to a book exerpt about modern-day trepanners. Do-it-yerselfers, in fact.


Unlikely titles from Klutz Press...

D.I.Y. Trepanation Kit!

I did it, I did it, I did it! I fixed my broken code that has been plaguing me since Friday. I had a moment of insight in the locker room this morning after T'ai Chi. The insight was right, but I implemented it wrong this morning, so I thought I hadn't solved it. Looking over the flowchart I made this weekend, I saw where I'd goofed. Tweak here and there... and Kwa-Pow, it works! Whoopee.

What an empowering weekend!

A little bit ago, after a longer than expected search, I got a copy of Klutz Press's Body Book. It's recipes for facial scrubs, hand moisturizers, foot soaks, bath salts, and so on. And on Thursday I finally got some of the ingredients I need: a coffee bean grinder (that will never be used for coffee beans, since those overpower other things you would grind), oatmeal, and mint tea. So yesterday evening, I gave myself a complete facial. I started with an oatmeal, yogurt, and lemon juice scrub (drippy gooey fun!); then had a ten-minute peppermint steam (tea bags in a bowl of hot water, face over the bowl, towel over your head, making a tent to catch the steam); followed that with an oatmeal and honey mask (eww, but lying on the floor and breathing for fifteen minutes was well worth it); and finished off with a toner made of witch hazel and peppermint essential oil. Pink and smooth and clean!

Amidst all of that, I've read about a third of the Cunt book. It is fantastic. I keep getting all pissed off and riled up, but she addresses a lot of the things I've been concerned about—birth control pills are poison, feminine "hygeine" products line the pockets of men who don't think of me as a goddess, and, while PMS is real, it doesn't have to rule my life—and gives some solutions and alternatives. Condoms plus a rigorous understanding of your body, your cycle, your changing fluids, and the appearance of your cervix equal birth control, empowering reproductive control. Girls and boys should read this book.

And it just makes me love Jon more, because he does respect me and revere me as a woman and encourage me to grow and develop and stretch my independence.

I am so thoroughly disoriented. After an arid stretch of something like 50 days, it has now rained every day for the past five. I keep thinking I'm waking up in State College. Do you suppose Noah checked the paper every day: "What, again?"

The rain is quite needed, but we're starting to get flooding in various areas around the city. Not that I think I have the necessary connections, but it can't hurt to ask:

Could you make it, like, one rainy day a week for the next few months? Wednesdays would be good. Thanks. And, uh, I love your work in the sunset circuit.


Grrrr... After I so graciously agreed to subject myself to Disgruntled Toastmaster Lady's litany of complaints, she never answered with a meeting invitation.

Continuing to enjoy our Clerks DVD, we listened to the commentary from Kevin Smith last night. Unfortunately, the room during the recording was full of people, and you could never really hear anyone but Kevin. It did confirm, however, that Jason Mewes really is a lot like Jay, the character. Jay the actor spent most of the commentary session drunk and passed out, punctuated by a few "lucid" moments containing the f-word and some permutation of "snoochie boochies."

Yeah, it's worth renting.

That was cathartic. I think I feel better. Programming stuff is going swimmingly, at least. I'm back in that mode where I'm focused all day and then am surprised to notice that I've been here for ten hours. I love it. I feel smart.

Things that I don't need are confrontational, spirit-crushing emails, first thing in the morning. One of the members in my Toastmasters club (I'm the President, you may recall) sent an email saying she wanted to talk about the things she's dissatisfied with, rather than simply dropping out and leaving the other members to "stand alone about some of the mutual issues."

So, what? You all get together and talk about how you hate me, and now you'd like a private audience to air your grievances?

Or is it just you, and that other smoker who has disliked me from the day she met me, egging each other on?

Or does this all get down to a simple resistance to learning Robert's Rules of Order, which are stated explicitly as our governing principle in our unamendable club constitution? Excuse me for trying to finally get our club into compliance. (Toastmasters revokes charters, you know.)

I've been all pissed off and exasperated and upset all morning. I thought really hard about how to reply, and finally settled on the "so glad to hear you care about the quality of our club" approach. I said: "If you've got some suggestions for how to get people involved again, I'd be glad to hear them," subtly but firmly stating that I am not the least bit interested in complaints without solutions.

This is so fucking hard. I hate running this club. Attendance is the lowest it's been since I joined, mostly due to Dell's layoffs and furloughs and general climate. We have to hold a club contest, and we can't get contestants or judges. At least I've got help on that one. And our Area Governor, who oversees our club and four others to make sure we're providing the Toastmasters Experience, sits one row over from me and attends all our meetings. With suggestions.

I can't fix everything that's broken in just two months.

Or even in one whole term. Leave me alone. I'm counting the days.

It sure is Tuesday, ain't it?

Um... We had a big I/T All Hands meeting today. That kind of sucked the life out of me. Or, at least, any creative spark I may have had.


I had a dream this morning that I broke my wedding ring. It hurt.

Yesterday, we went to see Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. It is quite ridiculous and filled with swear words, but it was kind of charming and rather fun. I dig Kevin Smith, and it's nice to see him succeed. We then had to go rent Clerks, of course. We didn't get to watch much of it, though, because a big thunder storm came up (finally! Rain!), and our DVD player is Jon's iMac. We prefer to unplug the computers during storms. We found out that a few more of our windows leak, but at least the floor seems dry.

Speaking of shoddily made apartments, I had the coolest idea on Saturday: I'm going to propose to my apartment complex that I make them a web-based "trouble ticket" system for their maintenance requests. Residents log in, create a request, and can then follow its status. I'm still trying to decide how I'd like to be paid. Above all, I'd want the following two things:

  1. Define what "a reasonable amount of time" is in a Service Level Agreement.

  2. Answer—just acknowledge—my requests in that amount of time.

Beyond that, a month without rent would be nice. Or, better yet, 10% off each month. But I really want this system to happen, so I won't mention money unless they're really enthusiastic. I swear, just getting the god damned sink fixed (since January!) would be payment enough.

Apartment complexes really do think they're in a different kind of relationship, here in Texas.

I'm not able to distill the key attributes of site designs I really, really like, the ones that make me go "Oo." But, Textism is one.

One more note on how to talk to I/T: You don't need to use exclamation points. Nobody's that important.

Along the same line, though, error messages should never have exclamation points either. Half the stress in the workplace is caused by unnecessarily alarming alert messages.

I finished the Gilda Radner book, It's Always Something, this morning. It made me cry, often ('course, I was reading it within a day of getting married, when nearly anything would make me cry). Last night I dreamt I was undergoing chemotherapy, but trying not to let my friends know, but trying to explain why I couldn't walk all the way up Shortlidge (State College) in the snow, and would they please drop me off at my door? They were more of acquaintences, actually.

Shrinky Dinks make me so happy. Ooooh, you can buy them in bulk!

So anyway, wedding. It was a terrific party, and I'm kinda sad to be back at work. There's almost too much to report; I'm overwhelmed by the pressure of having to sum it up in a few paragraphs. Briefly, though, I'm married, I'm so in love, and lots of wonderful family members and friends were there to dance with us. Good food, though I only got the one bite of cake, and the site, the Barnhouse Village, was really outstanding. The bridal suite has a four-poster bed and a hot tub, and they had this wonderful dessert wine waiting for us (and everything tastes better in champagne flutes). It was just really fun, the whole week, goofy girl-tears aside.

Yesterday we played hookey from work, rented movies, and played video games. Ben and Tosha had left a goody basket on our doorstep, with wine, cheese, *fresh bread*, chips, and salsa. We haven't actually dug into those yet, not quite being properly hungry all day, but we're quite eager. I did snag a piece of bread on Sunday night, when it was still warm. Aren't they awesome?

And I've decided to be Sharon Jeanne Cichelli Leistiko. Sharon J. C. Leistiko. Jon says, any name that shares initials with a messiah has to be good. Now I just have to figure out how to make this transition, paperwork-wise.

I can't win. My chewing gum has a health warning on it. It contains something that causes cancer in lab rats. Currently I'm reading Gilda Radner's autobiographical story of her battle with cancer, It's Always Something.

C'mon, people, I have to do something with my jaw. Sigh.

Posting from PA... (It's cooler here. Whew.) So, we have some pictures of the ceremony with the JP, uploaded for your enjoyment. We're still learning with the camera, so some shots are blurry: with the flash, everything looks austere and terrible; without it, the shutter speed is too slow to avoid serious blurriness. We're thinking about putting a filter over the flash or the lens. I'll let you know.

Wow. You leave a poll up long enough, and eventually every option will get at least one vote. And here it is: Someone has endorsed hyphenating two three-syllable names. Golly.

What a weekend.

We started Saturday morning with a Toastmasters club contest. Jon competed in both the humorous speech and table topics competitions...and won first place in both! I was a timer for the contest, which was just plenty of involvement for me. After that, we got my dress from Natosha, packed it up, and mailed it off. Mom should get it by Tuesday morning, in time to take it to the dry cleaners for a pressing. ...And then, we went to the office of the Justice of the Peace and got married. Married. Maaaaarrrrried. Married. Right.

The ceremony was really nice, actually. I enjoyed what the Justice said, about how Texas doesn't marry us, and he doesn't marry us--we marry us--and about our love being strong enough for us to stand as individuals as well. Ben and Tosha were there, putting their house warming party on hold in order to be there, and they brought me a white iris so that I had a flower to hold. Mo and Jon also attended, and it was great to have them. Afterwards, we all went back to the house warming party, and Ben fed us incredible food, and I tried to get used to the word "husband."

Then on Sunday, we took care of some more wedding errands at the mall, had one last dance lesson (more after the wedding, but last for now), and then got together with Adam, one of my best friends, who is down visiting his brother. We took them out for barbecue, overshopped at Central Market, strolled around the Capitol building, and then took Adam to see the bats at Congress Avenue. They did not disappoint. Then, to complete the Austin-in-Brief tour, Amy's Ice Cream on Guadelupe. The coolest girl was working behind the counter. Usually, the guys will flip the ice cream scoops (and often catch them), but girls hardly ever have the guts. Not so, with this chick. The line was out the door and into the parking lot, so to help move things along, she was handing out samples of ice cream, so that people could make up their minds more easily. No, let me amend that: she was not handing out samples, she was throwing them. With a little wooden spoon of "Turkish Coffee," she calls to the man behind me, "Can you catch it?" He says, "No!" and then does, because she's already thrown it. Then I ask for a sample... "Can you catch it?" "No!!" *catch* I asked her, "Does everybody say 'no'?" She said that they do. Anyway, to be sure Adam got the full Amy's experience, I told her that this was his first visit to Austin. She tossed and caught one scoop, and for another... she handed Adam a bowl. Luckily, he used to play lacrosse. It was great.

So I had a completely fantastic, totally non-restful, vow-exchanging weekend. I'm pooped.

You may not have been thirsty, but when they tell you this section of the city has no water, you will suddenly become desperately thirsty. It feels like the stiflingTexas heat is pressing on the windows, squeezing us, wringing out any water that may remain.

The city expects to have water restored in half an hour, but it's still a weird feeling. Never forget your dependence on technology and societal infrastructure.

Password madness

My network password expired, so I created a new one. I then spent all day typing the wrong one each time I sat down to unlock my machine. Then some other network things got hinky, and I got locked out of my account. So I called the helpdesk and had them automatically reset it. That then prompted me to create a new, as-yet-unused password.

I am completely befuddled.

You're not a real geek if you don't have desk toys.

My co-workers threw me a surprise happy-wedding party during our staff meeting today. They had a card, gifts, and a whole mess of desserts, along with guests who wouldn't normally have been at the staff meeting. I must have looked like a goof, since I was totally caught by surprise and blushed a lot, but it was just so awesome. I really like working with these people, and I genuinely like them, too. ^_^

They gave me a gift certificate to a local theater, and some of the aforementioned desk toys: a squishy tube thing, Silly Putty, and a dancing gorilla water toy (remember the things with a column full of water and a big push-button on the bottom, and pushing the button made stuff inside the column move, like swirling up rings so you could hook them on a spike? Yeah, like that. With a gorilla.)

As unfathomable as it may seem, this turn of events has made me yet goofier. tee hee

Do you suppose it would be inappropriate to go home over my lunch hour to check on my camera, play with it, take it out for a walk and refill its water bowl...

I ask, Jon delivers: How to record from a cassette into MP3 format

Oooooooh, Toy!

Got the camera last night. It is so cool. I'm pretty handy with it in Auto mode; I've started in on the 190-page Guide to Digital Photography now, to learn how to do cool things with aperture settings and shutter speeds.

It's a real paradigm shift, though. It's very different to take pictures where there isn't a sense of wasting film and processing costs and you can get immediate feedback. It's freeing.

A little digging regarding the digital camera I ordered on line revealed that the company did not have it in stock, despite mentioning nothing of the kind on their site. I got rather nervous about getting ripped off (relieved a bit because I'd used my MasterCard, so I could dispute the charge), but I called them today, and they were quite willing to cancel the order. We'll see if it successfully gets cancelled, but I got the impression everything would be fine. So, we're going out tonight to go buy one from a brick-and-mortar after all. I can't wait!

We've been listening to stories on tape by Stephen King. They're a lot of fun! We pile a whole bunch of pillows in the living room, light a bunch of candles, and, optionally, snack on things like strawberries and chocolate. Just last night, we listened to Rob Lowe read "Dolan's Cadillac." A few days before, it was Yeardly Smith on "Rainy Season." (There is nothing quite so surreal as hearing Lisa Simpson say the f-word.) Whoopi Goldberg read one that I fell asleep during (no fault to author or reader, I was just super snuggled). But the real triumph is Tim Curry reading "Crouch End." He gives every character a different voice, a different dialect--his American is really quite good--and the story is a Cthulhu story. What a hoot.

Boy, they'll let anybody get married. No extrance exam or nuthin'. I just turned in the marriage license to the Justice of the Peace for our appointment on Saturday. That, and a whole chunk of cash, as they take only cash, and don't give change. Your government in action. Or, mine, anyway.

This is so close!

When stuck for what songs to list on your wedding DJ's request list, the best brainstorm-freer is to put a stamp on an envelope and seal the list inside.


Hey, wow, nifty! Reblogger is a new blog commenting system, to replace BlogVoices, which was forced to close its doors. Finally, I can hear from you again!

Therefore, tell me why you are voting for the various name options that you are. I'm really shocked at how high a rating "Cichelliko" is getting; perhaps society (the web-enabled, anyway) is ready for some revolutionizing of the way we think of marriage. I know I am.

In other news, we bought a digital camera and all its accoutrement this weekend. UPS should deliver it early this week. I can hardly wait. But it does herald ominous things for the paradigm of the brick-and-mortar store: It was cheaper--by a lot--to buy it online and have it over-nighted. And we still have a return policy, a service number to call, and Nikon's manufacturer's warranty. Granted, we ordered through the website of a brick-and-mortar, so maybe there's hope. But this is the harbinger of another mass extinction. Evolve or die, folks.

Jon and I also went for another drive, with Jon at the helm. Once again, we toured the lovely and scenic Dell parking lot. He's gettin' there.

Much errand running, this weekend. In six days, I will be a wife. Heaven help me.

One of the first projects for my digital camera, other than the wedding, is a website about stick-figure abuse. You know those signs, warning you of all the awful things that can happen to you? Dreadful abuses are being perpetrated against stick figures, just to make those signs for you. Shameful! So I want to capture the atrocities on film and post them, to raise awareness and promote advocacy. My boss has already sent a marvelous contribution to my collection. You can, too.

This. I want this.

I want to buy a digital camera before Tuesday, August 14th. Recommend one? Things that are important to me are storage space, battery life, and camera size. I'll use it mostly for pics to post on my website, but I might want to print some on a fancy printer and use them in my scrapbook. So, when you make your recommendation, please include some estimates on how many photos you can store at what resolution, what type of media the memory is, how long the battery lasts, and how big the thing is.

Much obliged.

How to Talk to I/T

So, you've been given the dreaded missive, "Go ask I/T." Well, here are Sharon's handy tips for getting along with the programmer in your life.

  1. You're allowed to ask for a feature that sounds tough to create. Challenge is good, and new ideas are better.

  2. Tell us (and our managers) when we do something you like, too. We are people, and praise is remembered when you submit your next request.

  3. Do not preface your support requests with, "For some strange reason..." You know and I know that it is either a bug in the code, a problem with the network, or a mistake by the user. Just ask your question, already.

  4. Don't suggest how the code should do what you want it to do. We know how to program.

  5. Look at the prototype more than three days before the release date. Heck, let's go wild and say more than a month before.

  6. We don't like business jargon any more than you like technical jargon. Let's hear it for simple, clear writing!

  7. Remember that our success is directly tied to your success. Why would we want to make a product you don't like? Think of this relationship as a partnership.

  8. Feeding your programmer chocolate makes for tighter code and faster response times. This programmer, anyway.

There's something fun about sitting in a meeting, chin resting on cupped hands, grinning wolfishly for no apparent reason. Especially when the non-apparent reason is simply that it's fun to grin wolfishly in a meeting.

I think I did have a reason, though. I'm going to be somebody's wife in less than two weeks. Thankfully, though, it's a nice somebody. And I've accomplished the hardest task on my wedding to-do list: Found a gift for my dad. ^_^

A while back, some disk drives wandered away from Los Alamos, and folks flambéed the security at Los Alamos. Now, when some talented programming shows you a serious flaw in Microsoft technology, you rant about those awful, horrid hackers?

Mind where you place the blame, there, folks, and don't shoot the messenger.

I just bought a book called C*nt. Perhaps after I read it, I will feel empowered enough to actually use the word on my blog (since, by then, the likelihood of grandparent eyes will have greatly decreased).

Uncharitable Thought of the Day:

What kind of a sociopath are you, that you listen to your voicemail on speakerphone?!

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog.

If you've been taking notes (and if I've actually stated things overtly), you'll have noticed that we'll be getting married by a Justice of the Peace a week from Saturday and then having a ceremony with family, friends, pomp, and circumstance a week later. Chatting with Jon last night about which day to celebrate as the anniversary, I hit upon an idea: Celebrate the whole week, like Advent, with little presents for seven days. He said it was a great idea and developed a gleam in his eye that made me very uncomfortable, wondering what Origami Boy would do with a whole week for our first anniversary, the paper anniversary. But Jon had one condition: I don't tell Hallmark about it and give them the chance to commercialize it. So, if you work for Hallmark, you are getting verrrry sleeeepy, your eyes are getting heeeeeaavy, you are forgetting everything you have read in this paragraph. You will awake, refreshed and aroused, when I snap my fingers.


and so everything worked out for the best, except we were never able to get the peanut butter out of his fur.

Oooooh, t'ai chi makes me so h'ap pi! My back feels great. My knees and ankles are very aware of themselves currently, but I think that just means they're getting stronger. I could eat a whole cow by myself right now, though.

Renewed our lease last night, at the last possible moment. That wasn't deliberate; it was just such an obvious thing for us, why go fill out paperwork? But our rent is staying at the same rate, though we're no longer getting the first-year, major-employer discount of $10/month, but instead they gave us an incentive of $250 off the first month's rate. So it works out to being $10 and change less, overall. Sweet!

So, yes, the housing market is finally calming down to sane levels. And with the new management at our complex, we've been getting better service. We got a new dishwasher a bit ago. I'm now ready to tackle the two leaking toilets (leaking into the bowl; they just run periodically. Wasteful, not wet.) and the drippy faucet. I bet once those three springs are tightened up, we'll see a dramatic reduction in water costs every month (and my conscience will breathe easier).

And Jon adjusted the location of his blog. But turn down the brightness on your monitor first... my eyes, my eyes...

Are you sick of wedding updates yet? Yeah, me, too.

Alright then, a proposal:

You may all start calling me "Tex" now.

Thank you.

My mother writes:

Dear Texas,

Yee Haw! Happy Wedding!

My honey has a weblog. ^_^

The magical, mystical shirt of non-staining.

Perhaps it is indicative of the kind of day I'm having, but I spilled both coffee and Coke on this shirt, and it hasn't stained a bit! I did get a wet paper towel and wipe up the coffee, but I didn't have a chance to attack the Coke before dashing off to an hour-long meeting. Not a mark. How extraordinary.

It's a mix of cotton and spandex (and I just got a phenominal headrush and weird eye-floaty things from craning my neck around to look. wooo.). Viva technology!

It's funny what it takes, isn't it? Now, finally now, I'm getting excited about this wedding. Why now? I just made an appointment with a Justice of the Peace for Saturday, August 11, at 5pm.

We also picked up my back-ordered ring a few days ago. And a box full of blow-outs with sparkly fringe arrived yesterday (the rice/birdseed/bubbles/bells replacement). We've ordered the stickers with our names and the date for sticking onto the blow-outs; those will be in in another week or so. Dance lessons continue. Dress is coming together; bride's maids seem to have their dresses under control; boys are being flakey and are late getting me their measurements, which is why I made their deadline a few days earlier than mine.

Mostly, I'm exhausted.

Finally, some good programming. Boy, that's a nasty one.

I found a cool thing, and I want to find it again, so I am sharing it with you. iArchitect provides numerous examples and reviews of software user interfaces that work and don't work.

Jon got his learner's permit, we got our marriage license, I got the car inspected (waaaay overdue), and I got all the fluids and such flushed (also waaaay overdue). That was Friday. Then on Saturday, we went to the Arthur Storer Toastmasters meeting, where they had a guest speaker playing host for "Who Wants to be a Toastmaster?" I actually won and was the only one that day to do so. I got the 100,000 Grand... candybar. It was much less dorky than I had expected; it was a good time, and I was rewarded in chocolate. What more could you want? After that, we went to Ben and Tosha's for Dungeons&Dragons and dress fitting. I'm gonna look so pretty! Finally, on Sunday, we attended another private dance lesson. It's coming together, but the figures we're learning are harder and take a stronger lead (and better following). Then, on the way home, rather than running our errand to Wal-Mart for oven cleaner and a tape measure, Jon suggested we just go see a movie. Any movie. Who cares? So we went up to our favorite corporate theatre, perused a selection that was not as dismal as I'd expected, and selected The Score, with Robert deNiro, Ed Norton, Angela Bassett, and, last but not least, Marlon Brando, directed by Frank Oz, of all people. Jon wasn't so impressed, but I thought it was pretty cool. It ended up not being all that violent, which was a relief, but it certainly had a lot of tension. I like those intricate plots where you can't figure out where it's going or who's on whose side. The after-thought romantic conflict was completely useless, but the rest of it was very cool. I'm starting to become a real Ed Norton fan; he's just nuts. Robert deNiro is always in charge up on that screen, and I love watching him work. Marlon Brando was reprising his role, and that was fun to watch, but he seemed to be included more for nostalgia than anything else. After the film, we did go run our Wal-Mart errand, but they were out of tape measures. Sheesh.

Meg writes about her granddad, which, as with many things, reminds me of Grandpa Joe. I wish I had gotten into astrophysics earlier; we could have had some great chats. I wrote a poem the morning I found out he died, and I might put it up in my poetry section, but it's about me, not him. I want to talk about him.

Yes, astrophysics. Like my other grandfather, Grandpa Cichelli, Grandpa Joe worked for Dupont. Grandma told me about a time he was listed in the town newsletter, under the prodigal son category, as studying Quantity Physics and Difficult Equations. (Maybe they knew more about it than they thought.) Of all the things he taught me, I wish he'd pointed me at the quantum physics, rather than letting me discover it, too late, during my junior year of college. But then, maybe he had; I haven't always been the best at listening to grownups.

If the pictures on the wall are to be believed, Grandpa Joe was an actor, back in the day. He taught me three things about acting:

  1. To walk like a lumbering monster (human or otherwise), move the arm that's on the same side as the foot you step with, instead of the opposite one.

  2. To act drunk, concentrate on acting very sober.

  3. And the most important thing in comedy. "What's the most impor--" Timing.

He also drove the four-hour round trip to attend most of my high school plays.

Grandpa Joe was a bit of a linguist and quite a character. He taught me to say "grandfather" in a bunch of languages. He thought it was terribly funny that "grandmother" in one of those languages sounded something like "haatsmama," finding it quite fitting that my grandma be called a hot mamma. I didn't get it at the time. I do now. He also rode his bicycle every morning into town to get the newspaper. Joe Downing on the Red Bike... I went with him one morning, on my pink Huffy. Those bikes are aptly named; I nearly died.

And the other thing I did with him, once, was the annual Walk Around the House. Well, yes, it is a big house, but that's not really what's salient here. On the first snowfall of the year, Grandpa Joe would walk all the way around the Big Gray House, once. Barefoot. And I joined him, once, barefoot. The last ten feet are over those coarse gray stones used for paving an area you don't want to pave, but by then, one's feet are far too numb to notice. I think the year I joined him was the last year he was up for making the Walk.

And, to make sure I was a lady of good breeding and grace, Grandpa Joe taught me to play pool. His primary guideline carries over well into many aspects of life:

Don't swear until all the balls stop moving.

Can you believe this: Another dance lesson tonight.

I finally, finally put some poetry up in my poetry section. It's all new stuff, so if you've only read what was on my old site, this might be new to you. Whee.

Gee, it's Tuesday already, isn't it. Hm. We had another private dance lesson on Sunday, and signed up for four more. It's really starting to come together. We also went to Warehouse Music to get one song and ended up buying six CDs. The kicker, though, is that the arrangement of Sing, Sing, Sing, the song we went there to get, is mad-fast. I couldn't imagine dancing that fast in formal wear, especially in that bustier. Sigh. I don't know what we'll do at the reception.

On Saturday, we went to a concert of music by P.D.Q. Bach, performed by the Austin Chamber Music C...oalition? whatever. It was quite a bit of fun, and we felt so refined. Afterwards, we went out for steak. Mmmmm, steak.

We skipped the group dance lesson last night. I felt like I had too much to do, and Jon felt under the weather, and the Monday group lesson is probably the least useful for us, since that has the highest attendance. I hope to go on Thursday, though.

Went to T'ai Chi class this morning, and my back feels much better than usual. I had been fighting the evening rush hour traffic and driving the half-hour+ up to the Dell Round Rock fitness center, but I skipped one class back during my furlough, and then I didn't feel up to it the next week, and then we started dancing on Thursdays, and... It wasn't the class that was the deterrent, but the traffic. Bumper-to-bumper on IH 35, that death trap. But now, thanks in part to my plantive pleas I think, the newly opened fitness center down here on my campus has started offering a T'ai Chi class from 7 to 8 on Tuesday mornings. Doug, the instructor, said they might add another on Thursday mornings. That would be great! I definitely feel better when I'm actively attending T'ai Chi classes.

...Grow roots in my queendom.

Come, come, come into my garden.

Come, come, I know that you're starvin', so

Come, come, come into my garden.

Come, come, come into my garden.

Big Village, "Garden"

One final note about interfaces and accessibility: When you visit my cube, don't comment on my keyboard.

Thank you.

I just had a user-interface epiphany. I'm using Mousetool, which clicks my mouse whenever I pause with the pointer, and that makes navigation that you have to hover over to know where it's going really annoying. This is an important consideration in the drive for accessibility. Then, on a technical point, a lot of the technologies that drive tool-tip-style popups are unavailable to various segments of the web viewing public. The "title" attribute on anchor tags (links) only works in IE. Javascript popups don't work on text-only and non-javascript-enabled browsers (and, again regarding accessibility, not on speech readers for the blind, either). And, I don't care what anyone says, the dynamic CSS positioning of elements on a page (like, the aforementioned tool-tip popup) does not work as advertised, in either of The Big Two.

A call to action for web designers: Remember that the best art is most beautiful when it fits its function perfectly.

Oh, yeah! Hey, happy Freaky Friday. ^_^

I have been informed that I should report on last night's dance lesson, for the benefit of those evaluating the prospects at Go Dance. I dunno. The practice is good, dancing with a variety of partners keeps you from cementing bad habits, and it's a fun way to spend an evening, but they could have their act together a little better. So far, we've had three classes and three different instructors who, apparently, don't talk to each other. We've gone over the basic step in baby steps too many times. The instructor last night was so cute he could have been made out of marzapan, but he could have done with a little focusing, and his explanations weren't entirely transparent. Not until I danced with Jon did I realize that I was learning a move I already knew; instructions were a little obtuse.

The most frustrating thing is that these instructors explain technical points in a way that completely contradicts what our instructor in last week's private lesson said.

That said, we certainly are learning this dance. We practice in our living room, and Jon really has it together. He still looks white and, at times, like he's trying to pass a cue ball, but he's connecting the figures into sequences, and I think we'll look great at the wedding. Provided my bustier allows me to move.

Clue #34 that You Are Lacking Focus at Work: You consider setting your pager to "silent" mode and paging yourself.

Clue #35: Instead, you post a blog entry about doing it.

Actually, I've gotten good things done today. It's just been eight-and-a-half hours, so I'm starting to watch the clock. Also, in the past, I have made project timeline estimates without sufficient data, neither about the project nor about my own abilities. So, when writing a detailed project plan this time, I was determined to give conservative estimates on the amount of time needed for each task, to make sure I made my deadline without turning myself into a hollow-eyed nerve ending. The offshoot is that there is not enough pressure on me to get my brain into that caffiene-hum, supergeek, laser-focused, productivity burn. I know, with absolute certainty, that somewhere down the line, a major snafu will pull me off this project onto support, or that I'm completely wrong about how complex one of the tasks on this project actually is, or that my business partner will have a Change of Vision, provided he deigns to look at my prototype before the coding is completely done, and this unforseen (though I'm seeing it here, aren't I?) calamity will eat up all the extra time I built in. But this still doesn't get me sharpened and on task.

I need to set myself some tighter deadlines. Sigh.

It didn't last nearly long enough.

I reinstalled Mousetool, which sends a mouse-click event to your computer every time you move and then hover your pointer. It's a "donationware" (if you like it, give money to a charity of your choosing) repetitive-stress-injury preventer, saving you the strain of the constant clicking (and the gripping that accompanies the clicking (and, if you're me, the griping that accompanies the clicking. Somewhat. Mice are a stupid user-interface tool)). I had been using it for a while last year but, until now, hadn't reinstalled it after my machine got migrated to Windows2000. It's a friendly little tool, and it reminds me every hour to take a stretch break. How neighborly.

Another dance lesson tonight. This is another group lesson, and I expect it to build on last week's classes, giving them the benefit of the doubt on Monday just being a repeat of the previous Thursday.

Apropos of nothing, my friend Dave is trying his hand at ASP and hosting his own site and running his own server and all that, so here's a plug: Dave's photography portfolio and resources at

And I'm sucking on a Hershey bar. Because it needed to happen.

Holy cow. Hoe. Lee. Cow. Shpedoinkal, even.

I've seen this musical, and here it is, getting performed in New York. If I weren't half a country away, I'd get tickets. Go on my behalf, and then tell me about it, so I can relive it, vicariously.

What's weirder yet is how I found that. I was reading, and Meg informed us that my cat hates you, whose letters page directs us to a story about the angriest cat in Chinatown, the author of which was considering attending this theatrical gem back in June. Reading a bit more of the blog, I have to assume he didn't go. Having seen it, one just couldn't fail to comment.

Dance, dance, dance, and boy, did we. Last night's class was a review of Thursday's, and because it started at 7 instead of 9, there were quite a few more people there. Jon and I were feeling like old pros (and I was wishing the classes would actually build on each other, as advertised). I expect next Thursday will teach new moves. We did learn the hammerlock turn last night, and I finally, by the end of the evening, got to a point where I looked sassy, rather than worried about my shoulders popping out of their sockets. Jon is looking just plain spiffy. He's really getting the hang of it. After the class, we pushed the furniture out of our living room, vacuumed, and then cut a rug to Glenn Miller. What a hoot!

So, to find your dream man, do not waste energy trying to get a dancer to be a reasonable human being. Instead, find an awesome guy, and teach him to dance.

I am being manipulated.

I was craving chocolate, so I trotted over to the vending machine. I selected a Snickers. Why? Because I love caramel? Because that creamy nougat (whatever that is) satisfies me? No. Because enough commercials have planted a seed in my head that Snickers bars are a little more nutritious, a little more like a meal than other candy bars. Phooey.

But I ate the Snickers bar. I am so ashamed.

Weekend of Accomplishments.

I read more than half of Robert's Rules in Plain English, prepping for my role as President of the Dell Toastmasters club. Jon and I had our private dance lesson and signed up for two more. And I made the cake topper for my wedding cake.

Our Toastmasters club hasn't been adhering to Parliamentary Procedure since I joined, ten months ago. One of the goals for this term is to get back into the habit, educating the officers and the club members in Robert's Rules of Order along the way. If everybody knows the rules perfectly, I can see how it would make meetings run smoothly. There will be bumps, however, the first time I have to tell people that they have to vote to amend the amendment, then vote to accept that amended amendment to the motion, and then vote on the motion. On the upside, it's like playing a game.

So far, Jon and I have attended one group lesson in swing dance and one private lesson, which mostly focused on swing, too. The private lesson was pretty cool, but 50 minutes is over in nuthin'. We had hoped to have our first dance at the wedding be a waltz to Sarah McLaughlin's "Ice Cream," but it's way too fast, and the waltz is way too hard. At least, the instructor was working on what I think is the Viennese waltz; I get the feeling there is a less formal, far easier version. But it looks like our first dance will be "Sing, Sing, Sing." I can live with that. Maybe we'll play Sarah as the recessional.

Ooooooh, the cake topper. Okay, so I had this vision, right? Sweet, accommodating boy; blustery, high intensity girl... Kermit and Miss Piggy. Right. Do you know how hard it is to find figurines of Kermit and Piggy? I wrote to, who wrote back to say that maybe some of their stores would sell such a thing. Well, the girl at the Disney store in our mall didn't even know that the Evil Empire had bought Henson Studios. Flake. It became increasingly apparent that I was going to have to sculpt this myself. I went to Hobby Lobby on Tuesday and bought a mess of bakeable Sculpey clay, some seed beads, and eight cents' worth of lace. Last night, I built the darn things. I have to admit, I'm incredibly pleased. Unfortunately, during baking, Kermit fell over and then hardened up too much to straighten up properly, but I built up big shoes on him (spats, even) so now he stands on his own, though he looks like he's already dancing, with those bent knees. I dressed Piggy in a dress like mine and put Kermit in a tuxedo with tails. They're too much. My concerns now are transporting them safely and whether or not they are too tall and too heavy for the cake. If so, we'll stand them nearby. They're just freakin' awesome.

We did try to go to the "dive-in" movie at Deep Eddy Pool. The pool is spring fed and, I believe, not chlorinated. There was a lot of debris. But it's tucked away in the trees, just off of Lake Austin. We were confused, though, as more people seemed to be leaving at 8 than arriving. I finally asked a life guard. The movies are, um, on Saturday, not Friday. We enjoyed our splash in the pool, though. We also did not get to the midnight showing of the Muppet Movie; just too tired to go out. Instead, we ventured to I Love Video, which is one of those distinctly Austin establishments. At first, I didn't think there was any organization to the tapes. After some wandering, I began to see the patterns, some by category, some by decade (notably, the 80s), some by actor, some by director. We rented Head, by the Monkees, which Jon has been wanting to show me for a while, and Funny Face, with Audrey Hepburn (yay!) and Fred Astaire, who didn't dance nearly enough. Head was less coherent than a typical Monkees episode, but it was very Monkees. I haven't seen their show since high school, so that was some fun nostalgia. I did go to one of their concerts around that time (sans Mike Nesmith, since he was off being a Serious Musician, I think). They were, um, older, but at least they had the good sense, unlike Flock of Seagulls at the Retrofest last summer, to play the stuff people know them and love them for. Funny Face, complete with Gershwin tunes, comes from that comforting era of movies. I want more films like that, where the most distressing thing that happens warrants a pouty, "Oh, pooh!" But Fred definitely did not dance enough. What was up with that?

It was a good weekend. More dancing tonight...

Bend over, lemme see you shake your tailfeather.

We went swing dancing last night! (And I'm currently listening to Ray Charles from the Blues Brothers album.) We signed up for a month of classes at Go Dance. We can attend as many group classes as we can stand; there are four hour-long classes each day, all week, in varying styles and skill levels. Level 1 Swing meets twice a week. We had a terrific time, and Jon is already showing improvement. The thing I liked best is that the instructor spent time teaching how to lead.

Then, as new members, we get one free private lesson, which we'll have this Sunday. They're also having a special deal during July, where we can get two more private lessons for $50 total. We met our instructor last night and talked about the wedding and such. He said, if we wanted, he could choreograph a wedding dance. Could you imagine?! Ah, I'm so excited. (And, he is proficient in Italian, German, and Russian, having lived a few years in each. Not that world-travelled, suave, chiseled dance instructors would catch my eye, or anything. I'm just saying, is all.)

It was a fun date. And speaking of fun dates, we might go to a "dive in movie" tonight. One of the local swimming pools shows movies for $2 on a big screen, so you can float and watch the film. This evening, it's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Tomorrow night, the Alamo Drafthouse is showing The Muppet Movie at midnight; we're not sure we're really midnight-movie goers, anymore, but it sounds like fun. Then Sunday is our dance lesson! ^_^

Note to self: If you have magpie tendencies, do not paint your fingernails with chrome-colored, shiny... sparkly... Oooooohhhh

Sitting in a restaurant eating food I never would have touched two years ago, I am struck by how much I have adapted. Watching friends shoot off fireworks from a mortar in front of the house, next to my car, I am struck by how much I have not.

For me, fireworks displays mean sitting on a blanket in J. Birney Crumb stadium, listening to the Allentown Band play the 1812 Overture while the fire department provides the cannon. I was completely ill at ease last night, surrounded by neighbors with bottle rockets, watching my sometimes common-sense-free boyfriend hold a Roman candle. The afternoon started pleasantly enough, with ten of us gathered for a little cookout, but by 9pm, we were in the driveway with fireworks littered all over the bed of a pickup truck. (One spinner lept up into the air, flew over our heads, and bounced off the end of that pickup truck.) See, in Allentown, they outlawed sparklers. In Texas, outside of city limits, anything's game, and my friends live in a little chunk of No Man's Land between Austin and Cedar Park.

We escaped at quarter to 10. I suppose the evening ended without incident, but I had a vivid vision of Jon running to me with third-degree burns on his face and three fingers gone from his hand. This holiday makes me home sick.

Butterscotch lollipops can do a lot for one's mood.

I feel better today. All the invitations are out, except for five, for the people who have not answered me about their addresses. And the bridal registry is complete and up at I feel so sexy for programming it. We bought rings on Sunday; they're very pretty, and we can't wait to wear them. We signed up for dance lessons, group ones starting this week for the month and a private one on this coming Saturday. We bought Jon some proper dance shoes and ordered a pair of character shoes for me.

We also saw Moulin Rouge on Saturday, and it was impressively cool. Kind of La Boheme/Rent-ish, very rich in color and sound. Well-suited for the MTV Generation, raised on a density of input. I think it would overwhelm my grandparents and bore my parents. But we liked it a lot. It made me cry.

We found a new TexMex restaurant, across the street from the dance shoe store, tucked back in the trees. We had the funniest waiter, and the food was good. We both got fruit smoothies, too, which was just the thing in that afternoon heat.

Did I mention that the bridal registry is done? Whew!

I was looking through some old papers and found our initial Austin apartment search. There's a complex just a few miles from our current one (bikable distance) where we could get a lot more space for less money. They've got a 1200-square-foot three-bedroom/two-bath for $795/month. We're paying $839 (about to be $859, when we renew) for a 972-square-foot two-bedroom/two-bath. And three bedrooms means three closets! But it is in a scarier part of town, so the apartments might not be--as hard as this is to fathom--as nice. We are at the bottom of my tolerance for crappy service and rotten buildings. I hope this year has made me shrewder, so that I'll be able to accurately assess what this new place would be like. It's exciting to think of three bedrooms for less money. It's daunting to think of moving in the next four weeks. Maybe next year.