Monday, January 31, 2000

31 January 2000

So the Super Bowl was last night, and that had to be the most disappointing round of commercials I've seen in a long time. Traditionally, I watch the Super Bowl exclusively for the commercials. It's during the game that I get up to fix snacks, refill my drink, or go to the bathroom. And last night, the commercials were almost unbelieveably bad.

Oh, there were a few good ones. Yeah, I got sortof choked up at the commercial that had Christopher Reeve walking. The two commercials that made me laugh out loud were Mountain Dew's parody of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, and the "cat-herding" commercial, though I can't remember who sponsored that one. The cats being driven through a river just cracked me up, and the "catboys" sitting around their evening fires winding string and using a sticky-lint-roll on their leather jackets was hysterical. I enjoyed Britannica.Com's quiet list of questions, but figured it would be too staid for the vast majority of watchers.

As if to make up for the lousy commercials, the game was relatively good - at least at the end. I really thought it was going to go into overtime when the Titans tied the score at 16, and then for a minute or two there I thought they might do it again right at the end. Well played!

I more or less quit listening to the announcers pretty early on; when one of them was talking about the fact that Atlanta was hosting the game, he said, "They've been pretty good to you and I." I cringed, and my spine tried to take up residence inside my brain. I thought we'd settled the usage of "me" and "I" way back in like eighth grade! Oh, well. (I now fully expect at least four e-mails telling me I'm being entirely too sensitive to the issue and that I'm probably the only person in the country who even noticed.)

We finished up Matt's Star Wars adventure on Saturday. That was a lot of fun, even if I was mostly ineffectual in combat. (As I pointed out, "Only Imperial stormtroopers are so precise.") And we had Greg along, which means that I didn't actually get to figure out any of the riddles, because Greg is just this much faster than me at that sort of thing. Oh, well; I enjoyed playing diplomat.

Matt's thinking about putting together a 7th Sea game next, so I'm going to have to look through the book again to get some ideas for a character. I had one idea, but it's almost certain that the rest of the party would kill me sooner or later, so it's probably best left as an NPC. No, I'm not going to tell you! I might decide to run it after all, or Matt might decide to borrow the idea for one of his NPCs! (See this box?)

I'm fighting allergies again. I spent most of yesterday in a drugged daze, sniffling and sneezing because the drugs didn't do all that much good. I've started taking my Claritin again, but I don't know how much good that will do, either, because I highly suspect the sinus trouble is a direct result of having the weather systems fluctuate so quickly, and all I can do is ride it out. And invest in a container of Carmex.

I'm thinking of going back on the Weight Watcher's diet for a month or so; I've noticed that I'm eating way too much junk food again. I don't want to go back to going to the meetings, but I can follow the diet without going to meetings. Or maybe I'll just stop letting myself eat so much junk food. We'll see.

I finally remembered to bring diet soda to work to drink, though, so that's a help. What I ought to do is start getting some - any exercise. Dad says it's exactly one mile around the loop that our office building is on. Maybe I'll start going out during lunch and walking around the loop. Dad's offered to let me walk with him, but he "power-walks" which is way too fast for me, and besides he doesn't always go at the same time each day. But now that I'm actually working on a project at work, I'll need to take a break once in a while. And even a leisurely walk has to be better for me than sitting on my duff!

Speaking of that project, I'd better get on with it...

Friday, January 28, 2000

28 January 2000

On Friday my supervisor, CK, came into our office and told us that he was almost done breaking down some task into modules, and said that by Monday evening, we'd all have real projects to work on.

Monday afternoon, he came into our office and said that he had a meeting all afternoon, and that he'd sit down with us Tuesday morning and give us projects.

Tuesday and Wednesday, neither CK nor my officemates came in to the office because of the snow and crap on the roads.

Yesterday, CK seemed to have forgotten altogether about the possibility of giving us work to do. So in a fit of boredom, I'm writing my own personal version of Minesweeper.

I get mesmerized by games really easily. Especially fairly simple games that don't require high levels of thought. In college, before I had Windows, I spent hours at a time playing Tetris - which was especially mesmerizing on my monochrome monitor. When I went to grad school, I cashed in about half of my savings account and bought a brand new computer with Windows installed. I had no life in grad school, and I spent all my time playing Minesweeper. (I'd played it for months before I learned about clicking both buttons. That almost halved my times.) I was the Minesweeper goddess. I'd seen better scores bragged online, but I didn't know anyone personally who could beat me.

I could play Minesweeper without really thinking about it, while I mulled over some other problem. I invented variations of the game - playing without flags, or having to move only to adjacent squares. Like that.

Now I'm at a new job, and corporate policy won't let the IS department install even simplistic Minesweeper and Solitare games on our computers. So when I was faced with another long day of nothing to do, and the idea came to me of writing a Minesweeper game - maybe even include my variant rules and a system of lives and points rather than a simple timer - it seemed pretty reasonable.

It's harder than I thought it would be. But at least I'm not as bored.

Matt was almost done making dinner last night when K.T. called and asked if we wanted to meet her and Kevin and Matt O. for dinner somewhere. Matt put the decision in my hands (which I think was cheating, since it was his night to do dinner) but since I've been feeling sortof cabin-feverish, I decided dinner out sounded good, especially since they'd decided to go to Don Pablo's.

So about forty-five minutes later, Matt and I sat down to a table at Don Pablo's, and a few minutes after that, the rest of them showed up. Our waiter was a stitch.

"What can I get you to drink? Soda, lemonade, marguerita, shot of tequila...?"

K.T. spoke up: "Diet whatever."

"Diet tequila! Right!"

Giving our orders, K.T. asked, "And can I get a side of sour cream?"

"No way!"

When I'm out with my friends, I like a friendly waiter; I fall right into step behind Matt's grandfather, who asks restaurant hostesses to give him "a waitress he can harass." Occasionally Matt and I will be having a romantic evening, in which case I want the waiter to stay in the background as much as possible. But usually, I enjoy having a waiter or waitress who understands that they are part of my experience and who want to make it enjoyable for me.

Ask, and ye shall receive.

We finally got our project. It looks like it's going to be a truncated version of the project I was on at 3GI before I left. Argh! Will I never escape??!?

At least this time I got to pick which piece I was going to work on. I chose the one that, while being potentially more effort, was less likely to make me run screaming for the hills. Why can't I get a job that doesn't involve internet security?

Oh, well. Guess I'd better go read some manuals...

Thursday, January 27, 2000

27 January 2000

Okay, so I didn't write any more yesterday. Just as I was resigning myself to the idea of staying home all day and having to make up rather a lot of missed work at some point, my dad decided to come in to the office after all, so I got to work just over four hours yesterday.

Much to my astonishment, when I added up the hours I'd worked this week, along with the extra hour I have from last week, I'm only short by four hours. So I'm trying to decide what to do about it. If I work ten hours today and tomorrow, then I won't have to make any up. Or I could work nine-and-a-half hour days and make up the last hour from my leave. Or I could just work nine hour days and either make up the two hours from my leave or actually make them up later. Lots of options. I think what I'll do is walk over to the main suite today and ask to see how awful the paperwork is for making up the hours later - see whether it's worth a little bit of leave.

In case you didn't notice, there's a new line at the top: Today marks this journal's first birthday! For one year today, I've been sharing the details of my life! Happy Birthday, Reflections!

Okay, that's enough exclamation marks for now. The "Last year" link won't be there every day, of course - I didn't start writing on a regular basis until sometime in March, and even then I've missed weekends and occasional weekdays. But if there's an entry to show, then I'll show it.

Something interesting about that first entry - Reflections trivia, if you will - I actually wrote it on the 26th of January. If you look at the URL of the link (most browsers show it in the status bar) you'll see the date on it is 19990126. But I didn't post it until the 27th, and so that's the date in the entry, and that's why the journal's birthday is today and not yesterday. I guess you could say it was a long labor.

I must say, I'm a little astonished that I made it this far. I've never been able to keep a paper journal for very long. I've got one at home, and I write in it maybe twice a year, usually when I'm feeling depressed and full of angst. The entries there are full of melodrama and are embarassing to read even a few days later.

So why have I been able to keep an online journal so much better? The simplest answers are that I'm a geek, so a geek journal draws me more; or that I've made my daily writing part of my routine, so my writing every morning is habitual, sortof like brushing my teeth. But the real answer is that I have an audience here. According to my logs, about twelve people a day read this journal. Some of them are random hits, of course, and at least one of them is me, checking to make sure everything uploaded all right. There are some friends who check only once a week, though, so my current guess is that I've got about ten regular readers. At least two of them are people I've never met in the flesh, and I find that somewhat surprising; I thought I would only attract "real-life" friends who were curious to know what was happening in my life and fascinated to occasionally see their names in print.

I'm not really a hit-hound. I write because I want to and need to, and it's enough for me to know that I have an audience even if the audience is - as it was at the beginning - no more than the few who were closest to me in real life. I've debated many times taking down the sitelogs altogether and only learning of my readers when they felt compelled to write to me. I didn't re-establish my Open Pages link when I moved my site, and I'm still trying to decide if I'm ever going to.

It's a delicate balance to maintain. Really, I write this journal for myself. I think reading the old entries is fascinating, really. It's fun to read over my speculations, knowing how it turned out. It's interesting to read about events that I've completely forgotten and think, Oh, yeah, I remember that now! or even more peculiar, I did that? I thought that? Wow, how weird. But the reason I keep writing is because I have an audience, and I don't want to disappoint them - you. I like to think that if I stopped writing suddenly, if I skipped more than one or two days without prior warning, I'd get a few e-mails asking what had happened, and I'd be reminded to write again. Just knowing that you're there is enough to make sure I write something every day, even if it's just a brief explanation that there's nothing going on worth writing about.

But then, one of the things I've learned over the past year is that it never happens that there's nothing to write about. I complained about it a lot toward the beginning, that there was nothing exciting happening. As the year goes on, I made that statement less and less. If there wasn't anything I wanted to write about, then I made something up. Talked about my childhood or my past or my family or wrote fiction, even. There's always something to write about. It's an interesting lesson to have learned.

I can't wait to see what the next year teaches me. I hope you'll all be there with me as I learn it. I am deeply and sincerely grateful to every one of you - even those of you I don't know or even know about - for joining me on this journey.

In celebration of Reflection's birthday, would you do me a huge favor? Even if you wound up here by accident or at random, even if today is the first day you've ever read this journal and you never intend to come back, would you please follow this link and answer the question posed? (I promise, no statistics will be collected, no cookies set unless you ask for them, and no junk mail will result.)


Wednesday, January 26, 2000

26 January 2000

Since just before 7, I've been calling the company's emergency information line, to find out whether our office is open today. The recording says, "This message will be updated no later than 6:30 am on Wednesday, January 26 2000." Um... Okay.

At 8, I called my dad to see when he was planning on coming to work. He's still debating whether he's going to even try. I think he thought there might be some meltoff or something. I'm trying to figure out how he thought that, since the weather forecasters have been saying that the temperatures won't rise above freezing until tomorrow at the earliest, but hope springs eternal, I guess. He thought it would be a goodly while before he even made his decision. I asked him to call me when he did.

Right after I called Dad, Matt decided he was going to take a stab at going in. I watched him clean off his car and rock it in the snow for a while. After I while, I thought if he just had a decent push, he'd be able to get over the one hump and get moving. I put on my shoes and coat and gloves and went out to ask if he'd like me to push. He declined and started his car back up. I started to head back to the house, feeling irritable. Did he think I was too stupid to know how to push in rhythm with a rocking car? Did he think it would look unmanly for him to have a woman helping him? (I confess, I'm still irritable. I hate having my assistance brushed aside for no reason.)

Almost immediately, a neighbor from down the street, who'd been sweeping the snow off his car, started coming towards us. Matt was too polite to turn down his offer of assistance, though I could tell he wanted to, and the neighbor, Rick, pushed from the front so Matt could back up, and then helped him get the car aligned in the ruts already formed on the road, and Matt's van wobbled down the street.

Now I'm worried that he's going to get stuck on the way to work, or at work - when he called in, he was told the streets were fairly clear but that the parking lot was a mess. Oh, well, nothing I can do about it now. I'll just hope he makes it there and back again all right.

I hope my dad decides to come in. I don't really want to think about trying to make up twelve hours of missed work, even if they give us a whole month to do it in. I'd been hoping to skip out early next Friday to get a headstart on our way to SheVaCon. Ah, well, the best laid plans...

Chances are good I'll post more later. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 25, 2000

25 January 2000

I'm snowed in. We woke up this morning to a good five or six inches of snow, with more coming down. I dug out my duck shoes and real winter coat, and we cleared off our cars. While I was still brushing the snow off my windshield, Matt schluffed through the snow to kiss me. "I'm going to try to go, now." "Be careful," I told him, and went back to scraping snow.

Stuck VanHe managed to back out into the street, and get the car pointed the right way, but then the tires just spun endlessly. After a lot of back and forth and spinning, he managed to get the car over to the side of the road, and that's where it'll stay. I stepped out into the road to see if there was anything I could do to help, but he was already so irritable that I decided not to really bother.

We came in and called our respective offices, and now we're on our computers. I wish I could telecommute today. Oh, well. Another half hour and we'll try again - some of the other people on our street have managed to get out, and the main roads are probably somewhat clearer.

I'll write more later.

Okay, I confess - it's all my fault.

On Sunday, when there was a little snow on the ground, I was gleeful. I went out in it; I played in it; I went for a walk and admired its beauty.

Yesterday at work, I looked with wonder at the delicate lacy patterns of the thin sheet of ice on top of the grass melting slowly. Strictly to myself, mind you, I thought it looked like a fairy bride had laid out her veil. (Even more strictly to myself, I thought that was nice imagery, but never mind that.) Last night on the MeadeHall, I brought on my character Zoya in the midst of taking a break from a prolonged snowball fight with a bunch of children. When Ashby told us it looked like snow for his area (near Washington, D.C., about two hundred miles from my home) I whined and wished and hoped it would come through here as well.

Yep, I got my wish, and it's all my fault.

My apologies to Matt, whose van is stuck in my snow.

My apologies to K.T., who spent two and a half hours driving almost all the way to work through my snow and having to turn around - and then finding out that the university for which she works had astonishingly closed its doors, anyway.

My apologies to Braz, who got halfway to work before discovering the bridge linking his town to the next town over was out.

My apologies to the neighbor-guy, who got so mad at his wife's car for not moving that he was pounding on it with his fist.

My apologies to the neighbor's wife, who had to put up with her very grumpy husband in addition to the two large dogs who were frenetically alternating between thinking snow was just the neatest thing they'd ever seen and wanting desperately to get into her car with her.

My apologies to everyone stuck at home, unable to go to work or school because of my snow.

And you will all know that I am suffering my just rewards: I am at work.

Dad's Big Manly TruckAround 9, I called my dad's office number to find out if he'd braved the snow in his Big Manly Truck®, and he offered to come and pick me up. Well, with practically no leave saved up, and this Friday being the last day of the pay period, and the roads probably being no better tomorrow, I couldn't really say no.

So Dad came in his Big Manly Truck® (Four-wheel drive! 5400 pounds of vehicle!) and picked me up and brought me to work. And while the rest of you get to go back to bed, or watch TV, or watch the neighborhood children and animals playing in the snow, or play in the snow yourselves... I'm sitting at work, not really working because I was supposed to get an assignment today but my supervisor didn't come in... I'm sitting at work, writing this journal entry and wondering when Dad will think we've been here long enough.

Snowdrifts outside my officeThe office's central manager finally gave up and declared the company closed for the day, since there were only about eight people here anyway. Once he made that declaration, half of them packed up and went home, and now we're down to four: The central manager, in the main office. Dad and one other guy in his suite. And me, in mine. (The fourth suite is empty and dark and locked, having no-one in it.)

(Closed doesn't mean we can go home and get paid anyway. Closed means that we've got an extra pay period, or maybe it's 30 days, to make up the missed time.)

It's one o'clock. I've been here for four hours, and every time I look out the window, all I see is blowing snow. It doesn't seem to be getting significantly deeper, and Dad's Big Manly Truck® has only acquired the thinnest veneer of powder since we got back here, so I hope we'll still be able to leave when three o'clock rolls around - that's when Dad wants to leave. It's a very big truck, after all. With four-wheel drive. Fifty-four hundred pounds of steel isn't blown around the road like my little wimpy car is.

But maybe I can talk him into leaving at two.

Dad and I did, in fact, leave at two. Which was good, because by then we were down to just three of us, and the third guy - the guy in the same suite with Dad - did not come to work in a Big Manly Truck®, and wanted Dad to follow him out in case he got stuck. While they wrapped up their business, I called my mom to let her know Dad was on his way.

"Good," she said. "I was just thinking of calling and telling him to come home anyway."

I came home to find Matt in a foul mood. I wasn't sure exactly why until about ten minutes ago, when I read his journal entry, and it turns out that he'd taken my commenting on the neighbor-lady's inability to leave as proof that the rest of our neighbors were watching him be unable to leave. And here I had been thinking it would help him feel better by proving that he wasn't the only one who was stuck.

Too bad I hadn't figured it out earlier; I had cheerfully pointed out to him that our next-door neighbor seemed to have gotten stuck, as well. Sigh. Some days, the communication lines are just down.

About four o'clock, I was sitting on the couch reading while Matt was upstairs doing whatever he was doing, and the doorbell rang. I put down my book and scurried for the door. Who the heck would be ringing our doorbell in weather this foul?

It turned out the be the neighbor-guy. Not our next-door neighbor, but the guy on the other side of the next-door neighbor. This is the guy who works for the city cops, two cities over, and trains search-and-rescue dogs. (I'd been watching his dogs frolic in the snow earlier. When I open the door, they are standing behind him, looking tired but joyful, like kids at Christmas.) "Hello?" I say.

"Hi!" he says. He looks much younger close up. I probably could have expected that; I've met his wife briefly, and she seems to be somewhat younger than me. "I'm Matt - I live in 216!" He points back to his house. I look over his shoulder at his house, then back to him. "I have four-wheel drive," he announces. "I was wondering if you needed anything - I could take you to the store or whatever. Farm Fresh is the only place open."

I am touched. I am immediately almost certain that I don't need to be taken to the store - we'd done our grocery shopping for the week just last night, so as long as the power stays on, we're fine. But for some reason it seems rude of me to turn down his offer. "Just a minute," I say. "Let me check with my husband. Would you like to come inside?" I can tell he is tempted, but then he declines to track snow into my house. I am even further impressed. I gently close the door to keep the heat - and the cat - in, and turn to go upstairs. Matt is standing at the top of the stairs, looking down.

We agree that we don't need anything, and further agree that it was nice of him to come and ask. I opened the door back up and told neighbor-Matt that we'd just been to the store and didn't need anything, thanked him profusely for the offer, and promised to let him know if we encountered a need for transportation. When I looked out the window a minute or two later, he was working his way down the other side of the street. I wonder how far he went.

What a nice guy.

Monday, January 24, 2000

24 January 2000

I had a pretty good weekend. Mostly. We went over to K.T.'s early on Saturday to help her move in some furniture her dad and stepmom were going to be bringing. It's funny - for as long as K.T. and I have been friends, her dad and I have yet to meet. I've slept in the same house where he was, even, but he gets up so early for work that I missed him. Every time he comes to down, I seem to miss him. He's taken to calling me her "theoretical friend Liz."

Happened this time, too - he got called into the office on an emergency, so instead of coming down to deliver K.T.'s furniture, he just sent her stepmom. Denise turned out to be very nice, and promised to carry back word to K.T.'s dad that I really do exist!

Sitting around before the game, we had a great conversation about the nature of Stuff. We observed that it seems like every time we move, our Stuff expands to fill our homes right away. Based on this, Matt hypothesized that Stuff is a liquid, since it conforms to the shape of its container. Kevin thought maybe Stuff was a gas, since it tends to expand to fill the whole container - except near the ceilings, but one supposes it could be a heavy gas. K.T. mentioned that Stuff sure felt solid when she was moving it, to which Kevin replied that Stuff just had very large, heavy molecules.

Intellectualism abounds.

We also got to hear about Kevin's rule of pets. According to Kevin, you can have no more of a particular type of pet (mammal, reptile, etc.) than there are people living in the house. So K.T. and Kevin are at their limit, having two cats and two lizards. Well, I suppose they could get two birds, but I think K.T. hates birds. Or fish, but I know she thinks fish are especially boring as pets. They have lots of insects, but those aren't pets - they're food for the lizards.

At any rate, they can't get any more cats or lizards. If they got another cat, K.T. would have to have a baby to bring up the number of people in the house. She says so far this has kept her from wanting another cat too much.

K.T. told Kevin about my categories of snow drivers and Kevin said (a touch arrogantly, I thought) "I really can drive in the snow!" I forbore mentioning to him that that's precisely the response expected from my category of driver that used to live somewhere with frequent snow and still thinks they know how to drive in the snow.

After all, hardly anyone is actually willing to admit to falling into one of those categories - each person thinks that the way they drive is reasonable, and it's the other people who are completely incompetant. It wasn't worth the effort of argument. Not that I'd wish ill-luck on Kevin, but I don't know how well I'd be able to hold my tongue if he did have an accident in the snow. Of course - like most of us - he'd probably blame it on the other idiot.

Apparently, K.T. read my dream about the squishy snake and it took up residence in her own brain, and she dreamed that it was lying in wait for her, trying to make her touch it. As revenge, she loaned me her copy of the movie Reservoir Dogs.

Now, let me make something quite clear, here: K.T. and I have wildly different tastes in movies. There's some overlap, but even when we both enjoy a movie, it's usually for different reasons. So I tend to take any movie recommendation from K.T. with a grain of salt. In particular, K.T. especially likes high-body-count, big-explosion, big-gun action movies, while my own reaction to the vast majority of these movies is something like Was there a good reason to make that so gross? Could the plot possibly be more inconsistent? Am I supposed to give a shit about these people?

See, when I go to the movies, I want to care about the characters. Comedy, action, drama, tragedy, whatever - I want to feel a connection with the characters and care about what happens to them. I tend to lose myself in the movie, feel like I'm actually there, and I really prefer happy endings, though occasionally I enjoy the release of a good tear-jerking tragedy.

But both K.T. and Matt were recommending Reservoir Dogs for a while, and I like the soundtrack, and the teeny bit of plot they gave me made it sound sortof like Usual Suspects, which I absolutely loved for being funny and thoughtful and intelligent and surprising me at the end.

I should've known better, from a Quentin Tarantino movie. Quentin Tarantino doesn't write intellectual movies. He writes brain-fucks. The basic gist of any Quentin Tarantino movie is, "Here, can I fuck you in the brain? Would you mind turning your head a little?"

I'm going to spoil some things right now, so if you haven't seen Reservoir Dogs and you're planning on it and you do like unnecessary violence, skip to the next divider bar or something.

Ready? I hate movies involving torture. Hate it. Hate it when they show it, hate it when they imply it, hate it hate it hate it. I've learned to put up with a certain amount of body-count and violence in movies. That doesn't bother me too much. All the cops that got blown away? Sure. Why not? They're cops; it's a criminal movie, you've got to shoot some cops. And you've got to have a bad guy who's completely disconnected with reality and is threatening all sorts of horrible things so you feel justified and righteous when he gets scragged, sure. But I can't handle torture and mutilation, whether the actor playing the victim screams in agony or passes out right away, it makes me sick to my stomach. Don't care for it much in books, either - I've got comic books that involve psychopathic killers, and I skip over those scenes when I re-read those comics. I just can't handle it.

The one moment of real joy I got out of the movie was when the psychopathic asshole got blown away. I felt good about that. I'll also confess to a feeling of nauseous relief when the mutilated cop got shot. The poor boy. I was glad he wouldn't have to grow old getting bitter about the way people looked at him when they saw his face. But I am never again going to enjoy the song "Stuck in the Middle With You" and that makes me, frankly, furiously angry. I liked that song, and for at least the next month, I'm going to have to change the radio station whenever it comes on, and even after that I'm never - never - going to be able to sing along, dancing while I'm driving. It upsets me.

K.T. tells me that Reservoir Dogs is the movie that introduced her to Steve Buscemi as an actor - that she really enjoyed his performance. I have to disagree with her on this one. He didn't perform. He brayed like a donkey about being a professional. He whined. He sounded like a stooge - in fact, for the first twenty minutes of the movie, I was convinced that he was the stooge. I couldn't stop staring at his awful teeth. (I have this thing about teeth lately, I guess, because I couldn't stop watching Alan Rickman's teeth in Dogma, and I adore Alan Rickman and really enjoyed Dogma.) The only really good acting he did was in a one-second shot, where he was in the background of the scene, lifting his hand to his eyes with a lovely "Dear God spare me this" look. Other than that, I thought his acting was pretty mediocre. Not bad, mind you - just not anything special.

And in the end, it turned out to be a pointless movie. There were a couple of good scenes, a few amusing lines, but at the end of the movie, I could only be glad that it was over. The only characters I'd felt any sympathy for were dead. Heck, everyone was dead. And they weren't tragically dead; they were stupidly dead. Every one of them. The only one to survive the movie wasn't a strong enough character to give a shit about. What was the point of that?

Well, as I said, Quentin Tarantino movies don't have a point or a real plot. The only real purpose is to fuck you in the head. There was no point. There was no message. There wasn't a happy ending, but it didn't have the emotional release of tragedy. It just ended, and left me feeling very cold and wishing I could detach.

At any rate, I guess this was K.T.'s revenge for my giving her my snake dream. Because the cat woke us up at 5:00 this morning, and after I put him in the garage, I lay awake in bed, trying to go back to sleep and being unable to because the stupid fucking torture scene kept replaying over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and fucking over in my brain. I couldn't turn it off, I couldn't look away, I couldn't think about anything else no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't go back to sleep.

So now I'm tired, short on sleep even though I went to bed early last night, and I'm tired enough to want to have a cup of coffee, but still brain-fucked enough to be afraid to get one because I'm scared it will taste like blood, and I'm crying because I know it's stupid, and I'm grateful my officemates aren't here yet because I don't think I could explain it. I spent the morning trying to act normal and smile at my husband when he complimented me and made jokes, but my smile felt wooden, and I spent the whole morning dreading the moment when I'd have to touch him to kiss him goodbye, because that's what pointless excessive violence does to me - I want to withdraw into a shell and not touch other people because then I'm reminded that they're made of flesh, too.

Someone remind me never to ever again watch another Quentin Tarantino movie, no matter how good everyone says it is. One of the worst things is that, without that scene, I think I could've enjoyed the movie. It could've been an enjoyable kind of brainfuck, like Usual Suspects was. I could've ended that movie thinking, Wow, what fantastic irony, if I'd actually cared. If the asshole psycho had been shot right after, oh, I dunno, after he slashed the cop's face with the razor - if I could've enjoyed the acting without having to see just how gruesome a job the makeup department was capable of - I could've understood just how fucked up Mr. Blonde was without having to be this traumatized by it. But instead, I spent the last half hour of the movie just wanting it to be over so I'd know for sure I wasn't going to watch any more psychopathic assholes carving on innocent people.

Okay, I'll stop raving. I was hoping that if I wrote it out, I'd feel less rattled by the whole thing, but it's just making it worse.

My first paycheck from Syscon, which was supposed to arrive on Friday, hasn't come yet. I went and asked HR about it, and they shrugged and said, "It's late. I didn't get my pay stub, either." I'm slightly miffed - I'm not on direct deposit yet (that usually takes one or two paychecks) and I have a mortgage payment to make this week. I think a company has an obligation to get paychecks to its employees on time.

So, with no remorse, I'll be on the clock when I finally get my paycheck and go to the bank to deposit it. If the company isn't going to pay me in time for me to deposit my check on Saturday, then the company can just pay for me to go to the bank.

It snowed Saturday night and most of the day Sunday. I mentioned before that I like snow, didn't I? It only took about five minutes of watching our next door neighbors having a snowball fight with their daughter and the two little boys from across the street before I decided I wanted to join in.

Of course, by the time I'd gotten dressed and got outside, they'd gotten tired and gone home. Sigh.

I made a few snowballs and threw them at our garage door, then wandered around outside some. I noticed that thick green shoots are coming up from the pot in which I planted some tulip and daffodil bulbs, and I went around to the front of the house to see a couple of shoots coming up where I planted the daffodils, so maybe I'll actually have a few flowers in a couple of months!

I took some pictures of the house in the snow, and of the tiny snowman the next door neighbors had made, and of the green shoots (as proof, I guess, that I don't kill every plant I touch). Then, for a while, I just sat on the porch and watched the snow come down. Then I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood and see if I could get any ideas for landscaping our yard. I even got some good ideas! (And some ideas of things not to do, too.) Of course, now I have to remember the ideas and actually get off my ass and go to Lowes and a gardening store when spring rolls around.

The extra-cold weather has dried my skin out completely. Dry skin is relatively new for me. I didn't even get it when I lived in Blacksburg, where there was an actual winter that lasted more than a couple of weeks. But about three years ago, I found myself scratching compulsively at my shins because they itched so badly. One night I actually sat down and looked at them and was astonished to discover that my skin was flaking off, and after a couple of days in a row of rubbing in some moisturizing lotion, the itching subsided.

(It took me so long to bother to look because I have a very mild case of psoriasis that only shows up in the winter - that started while I was in Blacksburg - and I just assumed it was that.)

I'm still not very good at remembering to put lotion on my skin; it's a holdover from my high school and college days, when my skin was oily enough to start with that lotion never soaked in and left me feeling greasy and dirty. Now, I can even put lotion on my face and it will absorb pretty quickly, but I never remember to do it regularly, so I still get itchy skin during the winter. I'm writing about it now because my forearms are driving me crazy.

Yeah, just what you wanted to read about, I know.

Friday, January 21, 2000

21 January 2000

SCENE: It is 5:30 in the morning, in the Brooks' bedroom. It is dark, except for the slightly eerie green glow of the nightlight in the bathroom. Liz and Matt are both asleep.

Diamond jumps up on the bed.

Liz: What an odd dream. Building... Building... Damn. Lost it already. (Composes herself to return to sleep.)

Diamond bats tentatively at Liz's alarm clock.

Liz: (moans) What time is it? He waited until right before the alarm went off, yesterday. Is it really almost six? It can't be. I'm so tired. (Rolls over slowly and looks at the clock, then moans again and pretends to go back to sleep.)

Diamond steps on the alarm clock, causing several buttons to depress, and the plastic to creak.

Liz: No. I am not getting up. Maybe if I lay here long enough, it'll wake Matt up and he'll go put the cat in the garage.

Diamond begins knocking things off Liz's nightstand.

Liz: Scissors. Necklace. Hand lotion. ...What was that? Glasses. Come on, Matt, wake up.

Matt: (half-asleep, protesting) Spud....

Diamond walks over Liz's pillow to Matt. Matt pets the cat for a minute or two before dropping back to sleep. Liz dozes off again. As soon as Matt dozes off and stops petting him, Diamond walks back over to Liz's nightstand and begins poking at the alarm clock.

Liz: I know it's driving Matt just as crazy as me. Why doesn't he just get up and put the cat in the garage?

Matt: Why doesn't she just put the cat in the garage?

Liz: (Determinedly rolls over and snuggles with Matt. She is not going to give in to the cat.)

Diamond, for whatever perverse reason cats do things, eventually gives up and curls up against Liz's back. Maybe he just wanted her to move over all along. Finally, at 6:00, the alarm goes off.

Liz: Okay, if I'm going to train him that breakfast is when the alarm goes off, then I'd better get up and feed him right now. (Rolls away from Matt reluctantly, stretches, and gasps in pain.) Ouch! Oh, ouch, shit, ow... (Curls up in a ball, leg jerking spasmodically as she tries to figure out the least painful position for it.)

Matt: Leg cramp?

Liz: Ow, yeah.

Matt: I'm sorry. Should have drunk more water.

Liz: I emptied my mug yesterday!

Matt: Maybe should have had some right before bed.

Liz: Oh, go away.

When lunchtime rolled around yesterday, I discovered that the thought of microwaved frozen diet pizza just didn't - for some reason - appeal. Becky confessed that she wasn't in love with the thought of her frozen lunch, either. So we gathered together Jim and Jerry and went out to Second Street for lunch.

No one had a car that fit four people comfortably, so I rode with Becky while Jerry went with Jim. Becky, I found out, has a language-learning tape in her car. I'm sure you've seen these before: Slowly, calmly, and clearly, a phrase or sentence will be said in English, and then repeated in whatever foreign language you're learning (in this case, Spanish), and then the set is repeated, in case you missed it the first time.

Becky's tape, specifically, is teaching her Spanish vulgarities.

Fuck you. Chíngate. (pause for repitition) Fuck you. Chíngate. (pause) Shit. Mierda. (pause) Shit. Mierda.

What made it especially funny was that the man reciting the English wasn't smiling as he said it. Have you ever noticed that if someone's smiling when they're talking, you can sortof hear the smile, even if you can't see them? We were quite certain that this person was nowhere close to amusement as he read off in a slow, clear voice, "I never leave home without my vibrator." We weren't sure about the guy doing the Spanish, but we thought we detected a hint of smile in his voice in a few places. But something about the English speaker's careful, unsmiling repitition of "I like to scratch my balls" just sent us into hysterics.

Thursday, January 20, 2000

20 January 2000

Well, no one wrote to say whether they liked my story fragment, except for K.T., who wrote to tell me I should use the word said instead of greeted, returned, answered, chided, protested, wheedled, and promised. (She didn't actually list all those for me; I just now did it myself. It does seem like too many special tags for such a short snippet of story.)

She also said some things to try to make me feel better (though I wasn't feeling bad, but that's the way of best friends, I suppose - better to comfort too often than not enough) and to defend her grammar. She tells me that in a finished, edited work, her grammar is just fine - that it's not so great in her journal because there she wants to write the way she talks. Well, I suppose I can understand that, since I do it myself to some extent. I guess I've just never seen much from her in the way of "finished work."

At any rate, no one else said anything good or bad about it, which I'll take to mean that it was a fairly mediocre bit of science fiction and that if I intend to add to it, I'd better keep it to myself until it's finished.

Our house in the snowSnow, snow, wonderful snow!

When the radio-alarm turned itself on this morning, the DJ's were reading a list of all the school systems that are closed or running late today. (Keep in mind that this is coastal Virginia. We're lucky if we get three snowfalls a year, and each county only has one snowplough, so a pathetic inch of snow is enough to shut the safety-obsessed schools down. When I was in school, we used to make jokes about taking a sack of flour to the superintendant's house.) There's about two - maybe three - inches of snow on the ground, and it's still falling! It's very heavy, wet snow, so it's sticking to everything. It's absolutely beautiful.

I tried to take some pictures of our house this morning - first real snow, and all that - but it was so dark, I had to use the flash. That's when I discovered the snow was still falling; the flash didn't make it to the house for catching on the snowflakes in the air. The pictures are pretty, but don't show the house very well. I brought my camera to work and took some pictures of the trees around my building, which turned out better simply because it's lighter now. The sun should be fully up now, but it looks just barely past dawn. I guess the cloud cover is pretty heavy.

Snow falling in front of our houseUnfortunately, the weatherman says it's going to turn to rain later today, which means all the lovely snow will wash off before the sun comes out and makes it really pretty. Also, it will make the roads completely insane. No one here knows how to drive in snow. There are essentially three kinds of snow-drivers around here:
  • The timid drivers who, if they have to go out at all, creep along at 10 miles an hour. These are actually the best snow drivers in the area.
  • The drivers who get impatient with the timid drivers and think that all they have to do is take the wet road into account. The fact that only half their tires are actually touching pavement doesn't make any difference with them, nor the possibility of black ice. These people are dangerous.
  • And worst of all, people who used to live somewhere with regular snow, who think they know how to handle it. They drive slower than the impatient people, but zip around the timid drivers, and then they start feeling smug and superior because they know how to drive on snow, and - as they say - pride goeth before a fall. Or in more cases, a slide into the ditch.
Me? I fall somewhere between the second two cases. When I was living in Blacksburg, which had an actual winter, I managed to handle my car fairly well most of the time. I only got stuck once, and that had more to do with an inch-thick coat of ice on the parking lot and the 45-degree hill I had to drive up to get out of that parking lot. After three tries and a backslide almost into the tree in the middle of the lot, I gave up and slid my car back into its parking space (more or less) and called the office. So I did, in fact, once know how to drive in snow and ice, at least a bit. So I'm slightly more cautious than to assume it's the same as driving in the rain, but not much.

Actually, what's fun at the moment is watching people pull into the parking lot and try to figure out where the dividing lines are. Having played that game myself about an hour ago, I know what it's like. (Just to brag, when I got out of my car and scraped a stripe of snow off the ground with my foot, I was almost perfectly lined up. The fact that there's a tree to use as a guiding post had nothing to do with it.)

Wednesday, January 19, 2000

19 January 2000

It snowed yesterday - started about half an hour before I left work, and continued until seven or so. It wasn't enough to cover the grass, but it did look pretty. Of course, it's not any warmer today, and it all got packed down by traffic yesterday, so this morning half the roads are packed snow and ice - fun!

Ah... Our first snow in our new house.

Well. Since nothing exciting is going on in my life just now, and I already talked yesterday about my job satisfaction and in the previous section about the snow, I hope you'll bear with me if I venture into fiction. I've got what might be a story rattling around in my head.

When she opened her eyes, it was September, and the leaves of the tree outside her window were just beginning to turn, touched on their tips with flame as if some god had whispered to them.

She had expected to be disoriented. With a lucidity she'd never felt before, she wondered if she'd woken up before this, only to drop back into drugged and dreamless sleep. If she had, it was before the healing had completed, because the newly implanted memory banks were empty but for a still of a single leaf.

Without considering how, she pulled the image up before her new internal eyes and considered it. She didn't remember taking the picture, but it was very good. She could almost see the leaf trembling in the faint breeze. For several moments she admired the composition of the picture she didn't remember taking, until she heard the door to her small room open. Sighing softly, she closed the inner eye and focused the outer set on the tall man coming through the door.

"Jill," he greeted her calmly.

"Doctor," she returned. Consciously this time, she took another picture, delighted with the contrast of the ebon skin of his hand against the pristine white sheets of her bed. And another, of his face as he smiled at her. So many darks, she mused, had eyes that were yellowish around the edges, but his were not, though the pupils were so deeply black that she wondered how light could pass through them at all. Was it possible, she wondered in fascination, that he had no lights at all in his ancestry?

He'd been talking, and she missed it. "What?"

His laugh was warm, and she recorded it. "I said you're likely to be easily distracted for a few days, so we'll be keeping you here until you learn to concentrate again."

"Oh, yes, that's fine," she answered. "Where's Jack?"

He sat on a chair by her bed and began to do routine checks. "This isn't the vid," he chided gently. "You won't be assigned a Jack until you're ready to go up the Hill."

"I could go up the Hill this afternoon," she protested. "I feel strong enough."

"Not until your concentration comes back. It's dangerous." It came out like a routine response to an argument he'd heard hundreds of times before.

"I'm concentrating now!"

He laughed again, quickly. "All Jills can concentrate on getting up the Hill. But once you're there, what will you focus on, eh?" He grinned as she impatiently brushed this concern aside. "See? Best to give it a few days. In the meantime, we'll bring in a portable so you can download and run through the emergency drills." He felt the pulse at her throat, nodded in satisfaction, and stood to leave.

"What about some data files, then?" she wheedled.

"I'll see what I can do," he promised.

What do you think? Does it make you want to read more, or is the whole thing too boring to comprehend?

I've been reading about writing for several weeks now, and it makes me want to write again. (Wow; that was almost convoluted.) Not write in this journal - I do that every day, and it's usually just a diary of the day-to-day events of my life. But really write - to compose sentences that have meaning, and meaning behind the meaning. Graceful sentences, which I'm not especially good at but which have occasionally managed to slip out. I want to have characters that have life and meaning, and a plot...

When I was in middle school and early high school, I thought I wanted to be a professional writer. But I don't have the discipline for it. I kept signing up for creative writing classes in school that would be cancelled for lack of interest. But I'm interested! I wanted to scream.

In college, I submitted what I still think is one of my best short stories as an audition for a creative writing class. The day before the first day of classes, I went to see if I'd made it in - I didn't see my name on the list. I asked the secretary of the English department, hoping beyond hope, and she kindly told me that if it wasn't on the list, I wasn't in the class. I sighed heavily and waited while she dug out the copy of my submission to take back to the dorm.

A week and a half into the semester, with my schedule full of other classes, the professor of the creative writing class called me to ask why I hadn't been in class. "I wasn't on the list!" I told him. Turns out that there were two lists - I'd only seen the one for the Advanced Writing class. But it was too late to drop one of my other classes to make room in my schedule for the Creative Writing class, and anyway my ego had been so firmly trampled by the presumed rejection that I didn't have the self-confidence to fight for it.

Sometimes, I regret that.

Most of the time, I don't really think about writing anymore. I am surrounded by better writers. My spelling and grammar are better than K.T.'s - she will even admit it if you ask - but good spelling and grammar do not make a good writer, and she's much better than I at coming up with plots and ideas. And she's much more dedicated to writing than I am, and works pretty hard at it. Matt is a fantastic writer, when he puts his mind to it. (If you've never read anything of his, may I highly recommend his discourse on Girl Scout cookies as a fantastic and hilarious start?) He's got a gift for wonderful metaphors and similes that are hysterically funny yet get his point across perfectly. Even my mother told me Matt was a better writer than me, and mothers are supposed to side with their own children on everything! Our friend T is even published - he wrote a comic book that lasted five issues, which is pretty good for an indie comic these days, and is going to be continued as a secondary feature in another comic!

Now, I know my writing isn't exactly awful, and I know plenty of people whose writing is nowhere near as good as mine. My ego does re-inflate after each crushing, albeit slowly. With some good hard work, I think I could be almost as good as K.T., though I don't think I could ever match Matt's effortless flair. But I'm lazy, and so I don't work at it. Most of the time these days I'm content to sit back and devour what others give me (offering advice on writing and grammar when asked for it, and playing devil's advocate for plot suggestions).

But every now and again, I feel compelled to take another stab at it. Lucky for me, I don't let my ego get involved when I'm writing anymore, so if you'd like to make critiques and suggestions, feel free.

Tuesday, January 18, 2000

18 January 2000

Today is my dad's birthday. Happy birthday, Dad!

Gods, what a night. I got a nap yesterday afternoon and was feeling pretty happy because I'd gotten all caught up on my sleep, and then I spent half the night tossing and turning; alternating between being freezing cold and broiling hot; having the strangest dreams...

One dream involved a snake. At least, I think it was a snake. It was reptilian, about two feet long, no limbs. But it was triangle shaped - it was probably about four inches wide at the jaws, and tapered regularly back down the tail. And it didn't feel quite right - have you ever held a snake? They're very firm; all muscle. This felt sortof squishy, exactly like - now that I think about it - my gel wrist-rest. Anyway, it had... Um... Secondary eyes? Antenna? No, it wasn't antenna. There were these two little eye-stalks, like cartoon slugs and snails have, growing out of the spot just between and above its regular eyes. They were retractable; I think the eyestalks only popped out when it wanted to look in more than one direction at a time. In the dream, I was vaguely repulsed, but for some reason, I had to hold this snake-thing. If I tried to put it down on a shelf or something, it would start to crawl off, but if I offered it my arm to sit on, it would sortof curl up into a sloppy coil and sit there quite calmly.

So here we are, Tuesday morning, and I'm sucking back coffee like the nectar of the gods, hoping desperately I can manage to stay awake until lunchtime. Lucky for me, my supervisor is planning on coming in late, if at all, today.

Speaking of my supervisor, he put together a list of stupid macros in Microsoft's C++, which is sortof funny, if you're a programmer, in a sick kind of way. Here's a few:
Presumably these macros offer something that int, char, long, float, double, and void don't. I'm open to ideas.
These macros are apparently designed to punish those too lazy to learn the actual values of a boolean operation with extra typing.
Apparently Microsoft finds this more intuitive than (void *)p.
There. If you think those were funny, I've got a bunch more - ask, and ye shall receive. (If you didn't think they were funny, then you're probably not a C programmer, and you're welcome to ignore the whole thing.)

Afternoon update: My day at work was surprisingly fulfilling. On Thursday, my supervisor had pulled me and the Two Mikes into a meeting to go over his method of handling application windows and tab controls (again, if that didn't make sense, don't let it bother you) and I decided that my job for this week would be to take his template and mess with it until I felt I understood it.

And by about three, that's exactly what had happened. I don't think I'd have come up with this code on my own - CK uses too many tricks that I didn't know were possible, and occasionally takes the long way around things to make up for some things that I think are pretty minor and could be done without. But that's okay; I not only was pretty sure I understood how the structures worked, I tested my understanding by making some additions. I didn't have it right on the money, but my additions needed only one minor fix before they worked.

So I'm feeling pretty happy with myself, pleased with the universe, and ready to spend the evening relaxing.

Monday, January 17, 2000

17 January 2000

Well, I went and did it. Dyed my hair this morning. It's still to wet to see what it lookslike, but my guess is that almost no one will really notice - it was a pretty subtle color change, from the soft medium brown that's my natural color to a soft medium reddish brown. I'll have reddish highlights for a couple of weeks, and that's about it.

If I ever do this again, I need to remember two things: One, to pick up a redder dye. (I wanted a subtle change. I didn't want it to be so subtle as to be unnoticeable. And two, to buy some decent rubber gloves. The stupid plastic things that came with the kit tore in one spot while I was putting the dye in my hair, so now there's this brown smudge on the knuckle of one finger that won't go away, and the other glove ripped completely in half when I was taking them off between applying the dye and rinsing it out. Luckily, it wasn't really necessary to have the gloves on while I was rinsing out the dye.

Oh, yeah, and I need to be more careful about rinsing - the instructions on the package said to work the dye into a lather before rinsing it out, and in doing so, it splattered a lot. Most of the splatter hit the walls of the shower and rinsed right off, but a few drops hit the painted wall above the shower, and I'm guessing the only way to get rid of those stains is to paint over them.

Well, we'll see how it goes. The package says the dye will last for 6-12 shampooings, which I figure means it'll either wash out in two days, or it'll last about four weeks, depending on whether I love or hate the way it looks. ::grin::

So I'm sure you're dying to hear how MarsCon went.

I thought it went pretty well, though as is typical for cons, we kept oscillating between being bored and not having enough time to do everything we wanted. It was great to see Braz and Kris, and we even got Kris to play in K.T.'s Greyhawke game on Friday night. (Well, we got her set up to play, and I was ready to help her out, but she didn't actually get to play much - we'd given her a fighter to run, fighters having the fewest weird rules to remember, and there wasn't much combat, so she didn't get to do very much.) The gaming room was too noisy, though, so Matt and I sortof avoided gaming for the rest of the weekend.

Saturday, Kris decided she was going to stay at the house and read, and maybe go out and do some shopping. So Matt and Braz and I headed over to the Con together. We walked into the Con Suite just as they were serving lunch, so we had a couple of sandwiches and some chips and watched the assembled geeks filing past us in the line. At one point, Matt's eyes got very wide, and he snatched a piece of paper up and started scribbling on the back. When he showed it to Braz and me, it read, "How can someone so fat have no ass???" Braz and I looked up discreetly at the line.

You understand, sci-fi fans tend to fall into one of two categories: The overweight, and the underweight. Very few gamers are well-proportioned; we've got better things to do with our time than work out. So there were a fair number of people in the line who could easily qualify for "fat" - but Braz and I locked in on the person Matt was talking about without a single instant's hesitation.

You couldn't miss him. He had to weigh at least 450 pounds. His hands could barely touch each other in front of him. It was disgusting. I'm no welterweight myself, but next to this guy, I looked sleek and svelte. And Matt's note was right: He had no ass. None.

Now, K.T. is overweight, usually in about the same proportions as me. (Both of us yo-yo so much that it's hard to tell at any given time, and she's several inches shorter than me, so the actual numbers don't match, but I think most of the time, we're about the same percentage over our medical idea weight.) She carries all her excess weight above her waist, so she's got a tiny ass and fairly thin legs, comparatively speaking. (I confess; I'm occasionally jealous - I carry most of my weight in my thighs and hips, so my butt is big and I have to wear pants at least two sizes larger than my shirts.) But this guy did not have a small ass. He had no ass. None! The back pockets on his jeans were caving in!

It was scary, and we fled.

Having nothing better to do, we decided to sit in on the Mendhi body-art workshop. I'd bought a henna kit almost a year ago, when I was actually contemplating a real tattoo and decided to play with something less permanent first. But when the kit arrived, one of the bottles of oil in it had leaked, so I wasn't sure I'd have enough to add to the powder, and I wasn't sure what consistency to make the powder, either, so it just sat around and languished. At the workshop, the instructor (who turned out to be someone I knew; a friend of a friend that I've run into at parties occassionally) told us that she didn't know anyone who bothered with the oil, and showed us how to mix the henna powder with coffee or tea and lemon juice until it was about the consistency of toothpaste.

Matt and I each drew a design on our left arms, and I had the instructor draw another design on the back of my right hand. We tried to convince Braz to let us draw on him - an Apple logo, even, we promised! - but he declined. The design I drew on myself wasn't thick enough, so when the henna flaked off, it already looked faded. The one on my right hand smeared a little, but looks like it'll last for at least a couple of weeks. I may go to the dollar store and see if I can find the sorts of bottles the instructor was using; it seems easier to control than the plastic bags that came with my kit.

After that, we decided to leave for a while. We stopped by the Comic Cubicle to pick up our comics, and I dropped by the grocery store to get the ingredients for the peanut butter pie I was going to make for my dad's birthday, and then we went back to the house. The plan was to read comics, make the pies, and relax until it was time to head back to the Con for dinner and the evening's entertainment.

We'd been home for maybe ten minutes when K.T. and Kevin showed up. K.T.'s ex-husband had turned up, and she was badly shaken enough to want to leave.

I don't think we gave her quite as much sympathy as she was looking for. I was a little low on sleep, and was beginning to get a case of con-crankies (I can't stand not being able to be alone from time to time, and I'd been around people for 24 hours solid at this point), I was trying to make this pie for my dad's birthday party, and Kenny hadn't actually done anything to her except say hello. (He's not very bright; he still hasn't figured out that she isn't interested in being friends.)

At any rate, I tried to express sympathy for the surprise, but I was busy and irritable and not actually feeling very sympathetic. (I get like this at cons. I'm a little worried about what will happen at SheVaCon in a few weeks, because we're sharing a room with her and Kevin, and if I try to escape back to the room for privacy and they've locked us out for a mid-con fuck, I'm likely to blow it up out of all proportion and get very grumpy. No, knowing about the problem in advance isn't likely to help any. We'll see, I guess. I've mentioned the problem to K.T., but I don't think there's much we can do, and anyway I'd rather get locked out for an hour than wake up to it in the middle of the night!) At any rate, I couldn't dredge up much sympathy to offer, but when she suggested that we all go out to dinner at Second Street, that sounded like a good idea. I had reached the point where I wasn't interested in standing in line for my food any more, so I asked K.T. to run the idea past the boys while I finished the pies, and then we went out to dinner.

Everyone had a drink - I think we'd all acquired a case of the crankiness, for our various reasons. Matt wound up with the strongest drink, which Second Street called "Rum Runner" but which Matt dubbed "Drinky!" (Yes, the exclamation point is necessary.) We passed it around, and everyone else exclaimed "Drinky!" and when K.T. finished her dessert-drink, she ordered a Drinky! for herself. Everyone except me had a hamburger for dinner. I had steamed vegetables, but that's because the steamed vegetable platter at Second Street comes with this wonderful ranch dressing, and I basically consider the vegetables to be a vehicle for the dressing.

By the time dinner was over, K.T. had decided that while she was still feeling a little shaky about her ex-husband's presence, she wasn't going to let him spoil the con for her. So we went back for the evening entertainment.

The first act up was a fan comedy troupe called Luna-C that I don't think is very funny - they have funny punchlines, but the setups always take too long and I get impatient. Also, the acting is so awful it makes me wince. But since I wound up in the hallway talking to people until they were almost done, that was fine. Then they had a guy come up and sing a few filking songs. (If you don't know what filking is, I'm not going to try to explain it.) Most of those were okay - there was one that I thought sucked, and another that I thought was absolutely hysterical, and the rest were pretty average. K.T. hadn't witnessed filking before, and she enjoyed it enough to buy the CD.

Then there was the charity auction, which was fun. Don't ask me how an auction can be fun; it just was, OK? And then finally, the act that keeps me coming back every year - Caprizzio, the Women of Whimsey! They sang more drinking songs and fewer bawdy songs than I liked, but it was still a fun performance.

And that was it for this year!

Friday, January 14, 2000

14 January 2000

For no reason in particular that I can think of, I woke up this morning thinking about the milkman.

When I was little, there was a milkman. I never saw him - he made his rounds much too early in the morning for me to ever see him. There was an active dairy not that far from us - Yoder dairy - and every week, my parents had delivered two quarts of milk (or was it three?), a dozen eggs, and a pound of butter.

Well, that's the order I remember, at any rate. They adjusted it from time to time. My mom had two special recipes that she brought out when we'd used fewer eggs than expected during a week. One of them was angelfood cake, which is made with egg whites, and is still one of my favorite desserts. The other was a cornmeal muffin that called for egg yolks and was probably terribly bad for us. Especially with butter smeared all over them.

I can still remember turning the milk carton away from me on the table because the Y on the carton had two flourishes that I thought looked like eyes staring at me. The idea of my milk watching me eat breakfast disturbed me.

I don't know if my parents cancelled that service because it became too hard to predict how much of any individual product we were going to use in a week, or if the service stopped because the dairy closed. I know the dairy closed - there's now a mall where the cows used to graze, and a restaurant in the old barn. I like shopping at that mall, but I've never eaten at the restaurant. Maybe I should try it sometime.

I bought a new computer game last night while we were out shopping for my dad's birthday present. It's called Pandora's Box, and it was designed by the guy who wrote Tetris. Since I spent my first year and a half of college absolutely addicted to Tetris, I thought I'd pick it up.

It's pretty neat. Astonishingly good, for a Microsoft program. (I shouldn't say that. Microsoft writes pretty good programs, they just can't build an operating system to save their lives.) It's essentially ten different kinds of puzzles. I won't try to describe them, because it would take too long, but they're pretty good.

The puzzles are wrapped up in a storyline: When Pandora's Box was opened, seven trickster gods escaped, each taking pieces of the box with them and scattering the pieces all over the world. If you follow the storyline in the game (You don't have to - you can just do puzzles if you prefer) then you have to go from city to city (it tells you where to go) and find the pieces. Each city has ten puzzles attached to it, and when each puzzles is complete, you wind up with some piece of art from that culture - photos, statues, paintings. It's neat. One random puzzle in each city hides the piece you're looking for. Between each city, the game tells you part of a legend about that particular god. For each god, you have to find four pieces of the box, then the god himself, and then you have to do a challenge with that god (which I haven't got to, yet, so I don't know what that's like.)

Anyway, the puzzles are simple enough not to be too frustrating, but addictive. The game itself is visually stunning, and pretty well put together. I like it.

I get to leave the office very early today. Because of MarsCon and the Brandts coming to visit, Matt and I are trying to leave work as early as we can, though Matt's leaving early depends on what he finds out about his review. But I got to work just a hair after 7 this morning, and I have an extra half-hour on the timesheet I can use, and so if I work through lunch, I'll get to go home around 2:30. Life is good!

Thursday, January 13, 2000

13 January 2000

No, I didn't write an entry yesterday. I think it's because writing an entry isn't a scheduled part of my day anymore. I just didn't think about it until after I'd gotten home, and by then I didn't really want to slap something out just to get something up.

I think I'm going to go back to forcing myself to write the journal entry first thing in the morning. I just won't be able to post it until evening.

Actually, I'd like to automate this a little better. The layout and stuff doesn't really change from day to day; I could just put the text of each entry in a database, but then.... Oh, well. I'll keep thinking about it.

We had an all-hands staff meeting this morning, and for about an hour and a half we got sensitivity training. This was reactionary, on the part of the management - apparently, around Thanksgiving, someone said something extremely offensive - I got the impression that it was something along the lines of "I wish all [race]s would just die." This person said it in a semi-public area on company ground, on company time. It didn't get reported to management until just before Christmas, and it didn't make it to the top of the company chain until the beginning of January.

Calling the whole company in to a meeting to tell us not to be offensive wasn't the right move, though. I think they should have disciplined the person who made the comment and then sent out an e-mail or memo from the head manager's desk reminding people to maintain professional behavior, and to report unprofessional behavior right away - I think the primary reason a meeting was called was that the head manager was upset that it took so long for him to hear about it.

So now there are little pockets of friends all over, purposely "offending" and "sexually harrassing" each other, as a sort of reaction against overreaction, I think.

I was actually mildly offended during the meeting - the head manager told us a story about how he'd served a long time in the army, and seen minority soldiers die in his arms... This was slightly overdramatic, in my opinion, but not too bad. Then a bit later, he told us that he believed in God, and felt that God had not given him the right to harm anyone else. That, too, in and of itself, wasn't especially offensive. But to combine it with the thought that this man without the right to harm anyone else had made a career in the army - and in combat, since he'd seen men die and he's not a doctor - that offended me. Shifting his moral high ground to make whatever point he wanted to make at the time was offensive. Pick your ground and stick with it! But then, expedience has always been a primary advantage of Christianity.

(To be fair, this manager is a good person and a superb manager. And I suppose he could've come to his anti-harm conclusions after he left the military. But I wasn't thinking about it at the time, so I thought it was slightly obnoxious. I don't like double standards.)

On a funny note, just as he was reminding us about the freedoms we have - like flex-time - Mike and a couple of other people came in to the meeting, late.

I realized last night that, with MarsCon this weekend, we're not going to have much time to get my Dad a birthday present before we have his birthday dinner on Sunday. In fact, the only good time we have to get him anything is... tonight!

Hm... Guess I'd better think of something quick.

Tuesday, January 11, 2000

11 January 2000

I haven't quite gotten over the spurt of domesticity I had while I was unemployed. I keep thinking of things I could do for MarsCon - mostly baking and cooking - and then remember that, for one thing, I don't have enough time to do any significant cooking before (or during) MarsCon, and for another, MarsCon will feed us quite well enough.

I think I'm just looking for an excuse to make meringue kisses again.

I'm feeling much better today, thank heavens. I guess I had just eaten too much at K.T.'s party, or else I ate things that disagreed with each other. Actually, I'm thinking it might have been the combination of the wine in the punch and the irish cream in the mixed drink I had.

At any rate, I'm feeling better, which is good. But today seems to be going rather slower than yesterday, which is not. Oh, well, I can't win them all, can I? It's a lovely day; maybe I'll take a walk later.

When Becky and I decided to walk around the circle to a local restaurant for lunch, I thought the walk would do me good. I'd already eaten half my packed lunch, so I went with Becky mostly to get out of the building for a while. I just had a cup of soup and a few french fries while she ate her sandwich, and we enjoyed the nice weather.

I know people who insist that beautiful weather makes them feel invigorated and energetic. It mostly just makes me lazy. By the time we got back from lunch, what I wanted to do was take a nap - preferably outdoors, in a hammock between two big trees, with a light blanket to keep the breeze from getting too chilly.

Being outside in the cold makes me want to play, especially if there's snow. Being outside in the heat makes me want to sit still and do nothing. (I never understood why people would want to go to a tropical location for a honeymoon; the idea of having sex when the weather is warm grosses me out completely.) If there's a body of water nearby, I want to soak, but only moving enough to keep the water cool against my skin. But weather that's perfect - sunny, temperatures in the high sixties or low seventies - just makes me want to nap in it. Am I a freak, or what?

K.T. tells me that since I've started this new job, my entries have gotten sortof choppy. I didn't think that they were all that smooth to begin with - I've always skipped from topic to topic with no better transition than my divider bar. But it makes a certain amount of sense. Before now, I've been writing my entry all at one go - sit down first thing in the morning, and write until I feel like stopping. Now, I write my entry in little dribblets throughout the day,and each section is going to be affected by my current mood and very recent events.

I have hopes that as I go, it will get smoother. Maybe I should go to one of the writing topic sites and pick a topic each day? I'm not really sure I want to do that; it seems like it would limit the things I talk about unreasonably.


Monday, January 10, 2000

10 January 2000

I think I will be all right if I just don't eat.

I'm sick. Whether it's a virus or a touch of food poisoning or simply having overeaten, I'm not sure, but I've never been this close to throwing up before without actually doing it.

Around 3 in the morning, I turned over in my sleep - and came completely awake in about half a second as my stomach rebelled rather violently. I sat on the side of the bed, taking deep, slow breaths and trying not to think. For the next half or so, the gorge in my throat rose and fell as if it was on a ship. I managed not to throw up, but I was positive it would happen any time - I even took the precaution of putting my hair in a ponytail, and at one point went on into the bathroom and sat on the floor.

But I didn't lose it, and eventually I felt stable enough to go downstairs to the kitchen and take a couple of Tums. I went back to bed and laid very flat and fell asleep trying not to move. When the cat woke me up this morning, I'd managed to roll over without upsetting my stomach again, but I still feel pretty queasy. If I had any leave time to spend, I'd be taking the day off and spending it in bed, eating Tums and soda crackers to try to settle my stomach. (It occurs to me just now that I could have brought some crackers to work with me, but at 7:15 this morning the thought of food still made my stomach roil in protest, so I'm not surprised I didn't think of it earlier.)

Now, I'm still sortof queasy - but in between lurches, my stomach is starting to demand food. (I skipped breakfast, of course.) I'm not sure what I'll do; maybe go see if the vending machine has been re-stocked with crackers.

One package of peanut butter Ritz Bits sandwiches later, and I'm feeling much better. Not quite top notch, but not on the edge of tossing my cookies, either. What a relief. Now I can have a cup of coffee and contemplate the rest of the day with something other than dread.

In the effort of not thinking about the state of my stomach, I got caught up in working - I set myself an exersize to do, and it didn't work the way it was supposed to, and when I looked up from wrestling with the problem, it was almost 12:20. So I went and reheated the leftovers I had for lunch, and continued glaring at my computer screen while I ate.

By the time I figured out what I'd forgotten, it was 2:00. Not bad for a Monday. Especially a Monday that, at the beginning, promised to be awfully long, subjectively. And since I worked through lunch, I can go home a little early. (Not a whole hour early, since I have to save up a little time for my doctor's appointment on Wednesday, but half an hour, I think I can swing.)

We had a really nice weekend. Friday Matt got an e-mail from Carrie, an old friend of ours from William and Mary, saying she was going to be in town over the weekend and did we have time to meet her? I got his message while I was in the middle of writing him to tell him that my mom wanted us to come over for dinner on Saturday. So we conferred briefly and he wrote Carrie back to tell her that we'd love to meet her for lunch. While Matt was doing that, I was chatting with K.T. about the MissMas party, and she asked if I'd pick up some bread ends and house dressing from the Cheese Shop. (The Cheese Shop, for those of you unfamiliar with Williamsburg, is a local sandwich and gourmet foods market. Their "house dressing" for sandwiches is nearly universally adored by college students, and makes a great dip for the thick ends of bread generated by the sandwich shop. The dressing is moderately expensive, but the bread is very cheap, so almost every William and Mary student I know has made more than one meal on the combination, and so now it's sortof a nostalgia thing for us.) Boy, did I get sidetracked there, or what? Anyway, at the same time I was telling K.T. I'd try to get by the Cheese Shop for the bread ends and house, Matt was - entirely independently - suggesting to Carrie that we have lunch at the Cheese Shop.

So Saturday afternoon, Carrie and Kathy came over to marvel at our house-ness (the last time we saw Carrie was before we got married) and then we trooped over to the Colonial district for lunch. When we returned, our tummies were full of roast beef and cheese, and our arms with a bag of goodies.

Not long after they left, we drove down to my parents' house. Dad showed off this FaceMaker program on his new computer, and he and Matt and I built a head-and-shoulders portrait of my brother, a little at a time - it was really spooky how much it looked like him, too! Mom served us corned beef brisket and boiled potatoes, carrots, and cabbage for dinner. I'm not usually the world's biggest fan of corned beef, but once in a while, I really like a slab of it with some cabbage on the side. Yum! There wasn't very much left over, so Mom put all the leftovers in one dish and gave it to me to take home. After dinner, Matt and Mom went upstairs to play with the computer a bit, and Dad and I sat and talked, which was nice and relaxing.

Sunday, we slept in very late and then scrambled to get to the MissMas party on time. We wound up being about fifteen minutes late, but it didn't matter too much, since we were still the first to arrive. (K.T. and Kevin were starting to get a bit nervous when the appointed time rolled around and no one was there...) K.T. had a lovely spread out - strawberry punch and cheese and meat and burgundy weenies (which Matt didn't care for but I thought were great) and smoked oysters. She put out the bread ends and house dressing, and it was mostly gone by the time we left! (The bread was all eaten, and I wound up taking home about half a pint of the dressing which we'll have with pretzels.)

But everyone else came in a fairly steady stream after us - Becky, Matt O., and Jeremy and Elizabeth. K.T. called Greg, only to discover that he was working and would be too late to participate in the gift exchange, so we went ahead and started without him. With only eight of us, it went pretty fast, but we had a lot of fun, and we could only have fit about two more people in the circle comfortably anyway! The variant I invented with the 20-sided die worked pretty well, at least after we figured out we needed to pass around a flat rolling surface with the dice. Once, I almost got caught up in the struggle for one of the presents Matt and I brought and demanded it myself!

All the presents were opened to appropriate moans of horror, and then we decided to watch Star Wars, since Becky has never seen the full trilogy. Greg arrived in the middle of the showing, and afterwards we sat around talking. Around 7:30, Jeremy and Elizabeth went home, and the rest of us decided we should attempt some food that was at least sortof good for us, and all drove over to the local Denny's. However, the temperature in the Denny's was up in the 80's, and the hostess warned us that the cook in the back was new and slow (slow! For Denny's!) and we couldn't all sit together... We decided to leave.

When the cool air hit my face after standing in the overwarm Denny's, I suddenly felt slightly queasy, and since Matt hadn't been hungry anyway, I suggested that he and I head on home. I'm guessing it's the same queasy that woke me up this morning, but I'm not sure - but at any rate, it's probably a good thing that we left while we were still having fun.

This coming weekend promises to be fun, too - MarsCon is a nice, relaxed sci-fi convention, and the hotel is less than a mile from our house! Braz and Kris will be coming to town for it and staying with us, which we're looking forward to, too! (Well, Braz is coming for MarsCon; Kris isn't much into sci-fi, but she likes to come to Williamsburg and shop, so I'm sure she'll be able to keep occupied.)

Matt and I look forward to MarsCon every year. Most conventions use the majority of their budgets to attract guests and activities. For years, MarsCon never even had any discussion panels - the big event was the sauna party at 10 on Saturday night. They billed it not as a sci-fi convention, but as a "Relax-a-Con" and spent the lion's share of the budget on food for the Con Suite. At most conventions, you feel lucky if the con suite sports a vegetable platter and the fixings for peanut butter sandwiches - I've been to big-name cons that can barely manage to provide soda and chips. Not MarsCon. MarsCon provides hot meals and elaborate snacks. Swedish meatballs, a taco bar, salafor the li, pizza, ice-cream sundae fixings, homemade cookies, at least a dozen varieties of soda... The food alone is worth the price of admission.

Even if we accidently registered twice.

Add to that seeing friends we hardly ever get to see, the occasional LARP or table-top game, a show by the Women of Whimsey, and an invariably-fun auction for charity causes, and it's a great weekend.

Top that off with getting Monday off from work and a birthday party somewhere in there for my Dad, and I'm really looking forward to this weekend.

One day down, four to go...

Friday, January 7, 2000

7 January 2000

It's Friday. No one really works on Friday, right?

CK actually spoke four or five consecutive sentences to me this morning! Without my talking to him first! Astonishing. (According to my dad, when CK first started working here, he wouldn't even respond to a friendly "Hello" in the halls. Dad says that getting married and having kids have really improved him. Dad likes this joke, but every time he tells it, I wonder how someone as anti-social as CK apparently was could have met someone and gotten to know them well enough to get married!)

We have to fill out weekly status reports here. Yuck. At least CK doesn't care if we use the actual form or just drop him an e-mail. As I told K.T. earlier, there are certain advantages to recording what you're working on, but having to fill out a report every Friday smacks of micro-management and corporate clusterfuck.

K.T. thought that was very poetic, so I thought I'd share.

Mike Behind The File Cabinet actually spoke to me today! He asked to see my t-shirt (I'm wearing the shirt that says <body> on the front and </body> on the back) and laughed and asked if I had the matching hat (which would presumeably read <head> and </head>). I don't, but it's a neat idea - maybe I'll find out how much it would cost to get one.

Hmm. Lots of short sections. Well, that's been my day so far, anyway - A half-hour to play with the phone system, a little time spent filling in my timesheet and sending off my status report, a little time talking with CK about what he wants me to do next... I haven't actually had time to do more than half an hour's work on programming, but I haven't spent much time goofing off, either. Weird.

The weekend's going to be busy. I'm going shopping tonight for some things I need, now that I'm working here. Tomorrow we're going to meet some friends from out of town who just spontaneously decided to come visit - they're staying with other friends, but want to meet us for lunch or something. Saturday afternoon and evening we're going to my parents' house to have dinner and help them figure out their new computer.

Sunday afternoon K.T. is having a MissMas party. MissMas started as an annual event in my parents' circle of friends. It's something like a White Elephant party - you take something awful and wrap it beautifully and bring it, and there's a game to determine the exchange of the gifts. With MissMas, though, it's a hard-and-fast rule that the thing you bring to exchange had to have been given to you as a gift - it can't just be something old you had around the house and were going to replace or give to goodwill anyway.

The usual game goes like this: You sit in a circle, with all the presents piled in the middle, and the host of the party puts a pair of dice in play, starting with a single winning combination, and the dice pass around the circle from hand to hand. If you roll one of the winning combinations, you get to select any present in the circle - including presents held by other players. As the game continues, the host gradually adds additional pairs of dice and additional winning combinations. (Winning combinations start with traditional things like 7, 11, snake-eyes, doubles, etc.) By the end of the game, almost every dice throw is a winner, and people have begun to fight over the most attractive or intriguing presents. This usually takes several hours, with a break in the middle for people to stretch and snack and such. At a pre-determined time, the game is stopped, and everyone holding more than one present chooses one present to keep and puts the rest back in the center. Then the game starts back up, with the additional rule that if you have a present in front of you, then you're not allowed to roll the dice. This game is obviously much shorter, and ends once everyone has a present. And then, going around the circle one final time, everyone opens their presents. MissMas rules state that if the present can be used, demonstrated, or worn, it must be. (It doesn't necessarily have to be used, demonstrated, or worn in its intended fashion, however. Many an awful piece of lingerie has been displayed as a belt or hat.)

I was chatting with K.T. about the party a bit ago, and it occured to me that since something like 80% of the people coming to her party are gamers, we could add a gaming twist - throw in a 20-sided die to each set of dice as a sort of wild die: If you roll a 20, you get to pick two presents, and if you roll a 1 (on the 20-sider, not on the 6s) you'd have to put all your presents back in the middle. I think I'm getting carried away.

I forget - did I ever mention that the pictures from the New Year's party were up?