31 December 2008

Wrapping up 2008

Wrapping up 2007

1. What did you do in 2008 that you'd never done before?

Underwent surgery (somewhere between minor and major surgery), worked a retail job, did not spend Christmas with my family, screen printed, moved in with my boyfriend.

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions and will you make more for next year?
From last year:
This year I just want to be happy. Happy and dehydrated.
I was definitely more happy this year. But I drank more water. Although I spent more time dehydrated than hydrated, so I'll call it a win.

This year, I want to build on my professional goals on a daily basis, probably in the form of a journal, but definitely in a measurable way. I want to find a job - not a crappy retail job (that I love, but Jesus is it hard), but a real, honest to goodness job. I want to be closer to my existing friends. I want to be more selective about the things I bring into the house, whether it's things I buy that I don't need, like clothes or shoes I will wear once, or things that we buy that may make our lives easier, but hurt the environment in the process. I also want to learn how to sew.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Not this year.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

5. What countries did you visit?
None this year, although we went to San Francisco, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, plus we hit up Brooklyn and Manhattan a few times.

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?
Last year I said that I wanted a pair of sensible shoes. What with that job in retail, this became a necessity. The problem? One pair of sensible shoes will not go with every single one of my outfits. GAH. So maybe two pairs of sensible shoes?

I also would like to have a polished, finished, working website/portfolio.

7. What date from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory and why?
March 25th. Kind of. That was the date I had my surgery. Obviously I don't remember most of it, but the surrounding anticipation, relief, and pain will always be with me, beside the elation of having the surgery behind me.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Leaving a job that I truly hated, which had started eating away at my happiness like a cancer.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Getting fired from that same shitty job. I should never have let it reach the depths that it reached, in terms of my performance, my depression, and my anger at everyone around me.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Just more of the same.

Actually, the day I went to pick up the last of my things at the old office, the wheel of my folding shopping cart got stuck in the street outside the subway. It stopped dead in its tracks, but I kept moving, banging my leg (and getting the nastiest bruise I've ever had in the process), and falling ass over teakettle over the top of the cart, spilling my books, papers, everything. Serious insult to injury. Screw you, old job. It took six whole weeks for that bruise to finally go away!

11. What was the best thing you bought?
my iMAC!

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
J's, whose support and devotion have never wavered.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
A few people at my old job. I know what part of it was my responsibility. The rest of it: Shame on you, you-probably-don't-know-who-you-are, because you're pure evil, and that kind of thing doesn't translate or compute in your brain, does it?

14. Where did most of your money go?
the iMac, rent, San Francisco, being unemployed, investments in tools to (hopefully) help my future career (iMac included, I guess).

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
I was uber excited to move in with J this year. It was probably the best decision I made in 2008. I also got really excited about spending Christmas in PA with J and his family.

16. What song will always remind you of 2008?
Time to Pretend by MGMT. Or After Hours by We Are Scientists.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: happier or sadder?
Happier, definitely. It keeps increasing noticeably year by year. Yes, the anti-depressants help, and so has the therapist, and losing the shitty job. All contributing factors in my overall level of contentment. But I'm finding things are just...easier.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
I wish I had ridden my bike more frequently. I wish that I had been more pro-active about learning design skills that would have helped me outside of architecture. I wish that I had cooked more often.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
I could always use less time watching TV on the couch. Which is a good thing, since we're canceling cable.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
With J's family in PA.

21. How will you be spending New Years?
In Pasadena for THE ROSEBOWL!!!

22. Did you fall in love in 2008?
I fall more in love with him every day.

23. How many one-night stands?

24. What was your favorite TV program?
How I Met Your Mother, Battlestar Galactica, The Office, Futurama, Gossip Girl, It's Me or the Dog - also a resurgence of Gilmore Girls and What I Like About You once I lost my job.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Nope. I still hate her, btw, it's just less on the surface, now.

26. What was the best book you read?
I re-read the Time Traveler's Wife, and it was as good this time as it was the first time.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
The Spinto Band, even though I ironically haven't listened to much of their new album, and all of the stuff I like was from 2005.

28. What did you want that you also ended up getting?
A sewing machine, knives and a hand mixer for our kitchen, my life back. My jaw surgery.

29. What did you want that you did not end up getting?
A humidifier - but I'm going to rectify that with my Christmas cash money.

30. What was your favorite film of this year?
Well, this is obvious since we just watched it, but I think 3:10 to Yuma gets that honor, despite its coming out last year. (If we had not watched it on Christmas day for the first time, I would have said Dark Knight, because when we watched it in IMAX I think my heart stopped. Twice. But Christian Bale is Christian Bale, so whatever).

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 24 - we played pool and I only invited a few close friends, which is the best way to have a birthday.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
A better relationship with my parents.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?
Many, many dresses, finally a haircut that fits my personality, awesome Prada glasses, and lots of cool necklaces.

34. What kept you sane?
Medication. And therapy. Again.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Christian Bale.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Women's rights, gay rights. The envir-o-ment.

37. Who did you miss?
I missed my family at Christmas, since it was the first year I didn't get to see them.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
One of my managers. I don't see her, ever, outside of work, but she's such a sweet person, and I aspire to be more like her one day. Or to understand why I'm not at all like her, but why people like me benefit the world, too, maybe. But mostly because I wish I were more like her.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008.
To stop rushing things and ride out the good feelings. Once you get there, there will be new feelings, some good, some bad - but stressing everyone out by pushing things tends to fuel more of the bad ones than the good ones. Oh, and STFU, already.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

"Can’t help but feel attacked, what’s that supposed to mean
I know I won’t relax or act like it’s no big deal
This happens all the time; it’s kind of our routine
But we all recognize that I’m the problem here"
--WAS, Ghouls

19 December 2008

Christmas Story

1. What’s your favorite holiday tradition.
Back at home, my favorite tradition was always sitting around the tree opening presents. It was sometimes really touching to see how thoughtful people could were be (hee. "could were."). Christmas cards are another tradition I love, although I probably don't ever get started on them early enough (I just mailed them out today! eek)
2. A favorite cookie recipe?
I love anything with coconut in the recipe - and sugar cookies are always a big hit, especially because of how flexible you can be with decorations. This year, J and I made white chocolate macadamia nut cookies. I should probably save some for him!
3. Share a story behind a special ornament on your tree.
Two years ago, I went out of town for work to Franklin & Marshall college just before the holidays. My co-worker and I were invited to the construction company's Christmas party, and our party gifts were blue and silver F&M holiday ornaments. I got a blue one, and it's a totally oddball ornament, because my ornaments are all hot pink. I love it all the more for that. I didn't get to travel much for work, so it was nice to have such a concrete reminder of what turned out to be a good trip.
4. All you want from Santa is….?
A job
5. What’s your favorite Christmas movie and why?
It’s a Wonderful Life - I used to watch it every year with my grandmother. I continue the tradition to this day, even though it's not the same without her. She was kind of in love with Jimmy Stewart (um, who isn't?).
6. Are you dong anything special for the holidays this year?
I'm going to join J in PA. I'm excited and nervous and really happy all at the same time.
7. What’s the best toy you ever got when you were a kid.
I'm pretty sure I got a bike one Christmas. I know I loved the bike, it was purple with white handlebars, and white tires - but I can't remember if it was a Christmas or birthday present. It was, however, a totally rad gift.
8. Why is Christmas special to you?
Aside from the stress of shopping, everyone seems so happy this time of year. Things are sparkly because of the lights, cold and crisp (hopefully with snow!), and there's so much hope for the upcoming year, anticipation of the presents and Christmas cards, and a lot of celebration that the year is coming to an end. It's so happy.

18 December 2008

Guide to Good Customer Service

I've noticed that now that the holidays are nipping at our heels, people are coming into the store demanding better service. The problem is their inability to recognize that sometimes it's their own actions that are hampering their means to getting service with a smile. You want to see a smile on my face? Hows about you try not being an asshole, for a start. Here are some tips on how to make it until Christmas when you've got so much shopping left to do, and so many more assish store clerks to deal with:

The person on the other side of the counter is human, too. They've probably got a to-do list that's a mile long, just like you - it is the holiday season after all, which is why you're in the store all stressed out, looking for deals. However, instead of sitting in an office pretending to look busy while they shop or buy plane tickets on the Internet, the person helping you has to stand on their feet for 8 hours of the day, sans internet, often dealing with high-maintenance customers. Sure, they chose a job in retail, but do you think anyone joins a retail team because it's their dream job? Does that mean they deserve to be treated like crap, or that they're obviously unintelligent?

Next time, just try being nice. You don't have to put yourself in their shoes or anything, just maybe don't be a dick. Don't look at them like they have two heads when they ask for your phone number, zip code, whatever. It's not like they're going to get off their shift and ask you to go out for drinks - the computer won't let them through the system unless they ask. They don't give a crap that you don't want any more phone calls, that you're already in the system, or that you get too many catalogs. All you have to say is, "no thanks," and if you say it with a smile, you may get a high five or something, is all I'm saying.

Calm down. Sometimes the situation is exacerbated because your hysteria is fueling my hysteria. This goes back to the thing about my being human, too. I have emotions, and sometimes I can't control them, either. In my case, I have a super awesome manager who happens to be nice all of the time, but I also have a[n equally awesome] manager who mutters things about customers as they walk away. Like I said, just because we're in retail doesn't mean we're there to make your retail experience sunshine and puppies 100% of the time. And if you simply treat us like someone you might see again (and if you intend on going into a shop more than once, you probably will), maybe you'll be able to respect yourself when you walk out of the store. If you want to take a gander as to whose faces I'm more likely to remember, I'll give you two guesses, and I'll even give you a hint: it's not the people who are really nice to me, as much as I wish it were.

Yes, you do usually get what you want - after a while - and even then, only when we are actually physically able to do it, but at what cost? Maybe you're okay with people groaning when you walk into a store. I know I'm not, but then again maybe that's why you're an asshole to store clerks when I try really hard not to be.

It's not always about you. We didn't deliberately run out of a product because we knew you were coming into the store. Have to wait in line? So do the twelve people ahead of you. Maybe you feel it's deeply personal because you've only got seven shopping days until Christmas, but so does the rest of the community. Happy retailers are more likely to help you as much as they can - except, sometimes, when they encountered a severely pissy customer eight seconds before they were with you (and for those cases, I am truly, truly sorry). Sometimes we're brusque, or rushed, but it's not because you're annoying us at all - sometimes it's simply because someone just spent five minutes of her life screaming at us and berating us because she had fifteen minutes on her meter, and we can't give her the quarters she so desperately needs, because she's not currently in the middle of a cash transaction - she's in the middle of the store yelling at someone.

I'm not saying that being brusque or rushed is acceptable behavior on behalf of the clerk - the message is more along the lines of "don't potentially ruin it for everyone else by being a jerk."

Helpful suggestions...aren't always helpful. You think one of us should be bagging constantly while the other person rings you up? We should have a drawer with "just quarters" that the staff can access without a manager? We really should have a public restroom? Thanks. I mean, really. You're so much more clever than me (I'm a lowly store clerk. With a degree from MIT) and no one has ever said that to me before.

Grousing causes my eye to twitch, and I know my voice sounds flatter, and my smile is less sparkly with you grousers - even when I'm honestly trying to get through the day being nice to everyone, and manage to succeed, you've sucked a piece of my soul. I'm absolutely not saying you shouldn't voice your opinion, especially when it's a valid and thoughtful concern, I'm just saying that your complaint is one in a million of the same complaint - and eventually, yes, it can wear on a person. Congrats, you're the thousandth grousing customer. You get a cold, flat stare!

Complaining is futile, unless you honestly want to fill out a form, send an email, or call our corporate office. And sometimes your ideas are brilliant, and really could help the store - but is the store clerk, or even the manager, the person who can make that change? Never immediately, and usually no.

Also, one more quick thing, because it's come up far too often in the past three days: debit cards are debit cards - the computer, not the clerk, will read the card as a debit card, because it is a debit card and no force in the universe will change that - especially if DEBIT is written on your card in big black letters. However, if you want to use it as a "credit card," please ask - it's always an option if the debit card has a logo on it (mastercard or visa, for instance). And if you don't know the difference, you should feel embarrassed when you snap and gnarl at the clerk that "it's a credit card," because it's not, but I can press a tiny little button so that you can sign instead of entering your PIN1 - it takes all of half a second, and it doesn't require rudeness to work. And there you were being a jerk because you think I'm an idiot for not reading your mind. And, really, who looks more stupid in this situation now that you know what you wouldn't allow me to explain to you at the register?

1"When clerks ask this question, they are really asking you to pick one of two ways they can process your debit – a PIN (personal identification number) based transaction or as a signature-based transaction. One costs the merchant a little more and one takes a little longer to hit your checking account, but fundamentally a debit transaction is a debit transaction." -Debit or Credit? Here's The Answer
And on that note, this writer personally always uses the "credit" option when forking over her debit card. Here's why.

12 December 2008

RIP Phinneas

Well, our fish is dead.

He got dropsy, and by the time he started showing symptoms (he'd stopped eating a week before that), the Internet diagnosed him as doomed. So we had this fish swimming around doing a pretty good impression of a pine cone, and now he's dead. There was nothing we could do, and unlike some of the other fish illnesses he could have contracted, dropsy is the one for which there is no one known cause, and for which there is no [relatively expensive for a $3 fish] cure.

Anyway, I never thought I'd miss a fish so much. We're going to finally get that shrimp, but in the meantime I think we're going to fill the tank with anonymous no name fish (to prep the tank for our shrimpy). No more getting attached. I'll be ready for another betta sometime, but not now.

How ridiculous am I? Yeah, I know - maybe it's time for a puppy.

06 December 2008

It's because you are

I'm sorry, I don't understand. How exactly are you "wonderful" and "tolerant," if you can't tolerate homosexuality...I don't consider myself a tolerant person, but I do consider myself liberal, and I do think that anti-homosexual people are fucking ridiculous not-wonderful assholes...

...Oh wait, did I say that out loud? Was I supposed to be "tolerant" because I'm liberal? Did I just prove your asinine point?

Or about grammar.

28 November 2008

Budgeting for Dummies Series: Thrive.com

The last piece of my budgeting puzzle was justthrive.com. Thrive tracks your spending, savings, and gives you a score (out of 10) based on how much money you are stashing away and how much you are spending based on your income level.

After you've been in their system for a short time, thrive will have advice for you whenever you log in. Whether it's "you're meeting all of your spending goals, keep at it!" or "You're overspending. Slow down!" thrive is like your honest best friend who keeps track of all of your money.

Thrive was how I found my high yield savings account, and occasionally they suggest I move my money around so that I can accumulate more interest. When I decided to get a new credit card, I used thrive in conjunction with mint.com to shop around and find the best interest rate and rewards program.1

I highly recommend thrive.com, although it's system seems to update more slowly than either of the other websites I use for budgeting. I wouldn't use it alone, but your mileage may vary. It's very handy and very helpful in a refreshingly honest way (I was nearly offended once when the website told me to stop spending money, but then I realized that this was exactly why I needed budgeting software).

1I only applied for a new credit card because my old credit card's APR was alarmingly high, even after I called and asked to have it lowered. I have an impeccable credit rating, though, so this is definitely something I do not in any way endorse, because it's not my place to recommend getting a new credit card to anyone I don't know. Any time you apply for new lines of credit, your score can drop, and it's up to you to determine whether a new line of credit is a good thing. While "freecreditreport.com" gets a lot of airplay, I've found that Credit Karma is a much better way to keep tabs on this information - and it's actually free. For more credit advice, there is plenty of information on the web, but you can start here for some tips.

Thrive has recently added a feature that predicts your credit score based on the information they have, but personally I've found that it highly underestimates my score for whatever reason.

18 November 2008

Budgeting for Dummies Series: Mint.com

I have been using mint.com for nearly as long as I've been using Quicken online, since I joined mint about two weeks after I joined Quicken. Mint.com also has some pretty snazzy pie charts, and they have a very similar setup with the categorizing of transactions and budgets, although for me, the budgets on mint.com were more intuitive and easy to set up than the ones on Quicken.

The overview page allows you to set budgets by different categories and the bars will fill with color as you approach each limit, turning from green to yellow if you get too close, up until you hit the limit. It turns red if you go over your limit, and a little red number will pop up next to your budget, letting you know by exactly how much you went over.

Your accounts are listed in the left hand panel, and you can see transactions from each of them individually, or you can see all of them at once. The transactions tab allows you to categorize your expenditures and income, and all of this is very much like what I described in Quicken. Like Quicken, mint is also mostly intuitive, but some of the categories will need correcting at first. The only problem I've run into has to do with duplicate entries. I neglected to mention this last time, because Quicken is better about this than mint, but both systems have given me trouble with duplicates before. I assume this is because when I pay my credit card bills, it is seen as a debit from my savings account, but since my credit cards are also in the system, the actual purchase is also seen as a debit. Then the credit is only counted once, so I've had to hide some of my debits before - and I would recommend watching out for that, but it's pretty simple to catch.

The trends tab is where the fantastic pie chart lives. You can also analyze your expenses of each category by month in the bar chart at the bottom, and then compare your expenses to the averages in other cities in the U.S. If you click on a color of the pie chart, it will break it down further, and it lists the places you've spent money next to the pie chart, by frequency of your visits to each place. The sliding bar at the bottom lets you change the time frame from which the pie chart gathers its data, so you can see a few months at a time if you'd like.

But as I mentioned in my write-up about Quicken, the difference with mint.com is the next tab, where you can chart your retirement accounts. This can be a dangerous thing, maybe, especially in light of the recent economy...but on the other hand, it has been a blessing because of my recent employment status. I need to roll my former 401(K) into a traditional IRA, and mint.com has a lot of suggestions for doing just that.

The "Ways to Save" tab is the best part, so I've saved it for last. Since I started using mint.com, I have found a new credit card with better rewards (and 0%APR for a year, followed by the lowest APR I have ever seen after the year is up), and I have a new payment account that is accumulating a higher interest rate than my former one. Mint.com had all sorts of recommendations for me, and since I've moved on them, I've been happier with what my money is doing for me.

13 November 2008

Budgeting for Dummies Series: Quicken Online

I've never been very good at saving money - as a concept I understand, but it's never been at the forefront of my decision making process. Immediately out of college, I wasn't spending that much, and easily saved that "three months' rent" that was so crucial, but that changed after I got my second job - there was more shopping downtown, so I spent more on clothes, books, music. There were people my age at that company so I spent more on lunch, drinks, coffee. I was dating someone and we were going out for dinner, drinks, movies. And then we moved in together, and suddenly I was allowed to decorate the Whole Apartment, wow! and suddenly saving for three month's rent was the last thing on my mind. Then I lost my job.

I was managing my money using Quicken online, because it was free, but then digg turned me onto a whole slew of websites, and while I highly recommend Quicken for its charts and management system, some of these other websites felt more like "money management for the everyday person," whereas Quicken obviously already has a reputation as a money management system, and can be as complicated as you want it to be. But since I've been doing this for a few months now, I decided it couldn't hurt to share what I've learned while I'm trying to find one or two of these sites and stick to them.

I still check in on Quicken from time to time, although it kind of started taking the backseat last month. Since I started with Quicken online, though, I figured I'd begin this mini-series by sharing my experience with Quicken online.

Adding my accounts to Quicken was no problem, but my local bank still has a difficult time synching itself with Quicken's system, which can be an issue since I use this account to pay for all of my paypal transactions, and all of my outside income is deposited into this account. It was also the main debit card I used until very recently, so having transactions from this account missing from Quicken was obviously a problem.

The thing I love about Quicken is the pie charts. They're colorful, wonderful and easily accessible. There is a sliding bar at the top of each page which allows you to choose a custom range of dates to analyze. On your home page, you'll find an overview of everything. The tiny pie chart updates immediately giving you a very easy to understand visual of your finances by the largest categories. Plus, there are gigantic colored bubbles at the top: [Money in] - [Money Out] = [Money Spent (So I overspent by...) or (So I saved by...)], which gives you an even more general visual to rely on.

Hop on over to the next tab, where you can view an interactive list of your transactions, which are automatically categorized by Quicken, although you can change them manually if you need to (I needed to do this quite a bit at the beginning, but Quicken is intuitive, and eventually catches on). Break it down even further by using the list on the left to select an individual account to view, or organize the list by category, or date, or payee to easily find a specific transaction, and change the "uncategorized" options so that you know where your money is going, specifically.

The next tab allows you to track your spending on a page with an Even Bigger Pie Chart, and this page bullet points your categories by color to break it down for you even further. You can click on the pie chart or the bullets to get a graph that shows your expenditures by month, how they're adding up, and how you're averaging out.

Finally, you can set budgets by category, and Quicken will let you know how much you have left in each of those budgets. These are set automatically by Quicken, but it's fully customizable so you can prioritize your expenses and figure what kind of spending you need to cut back on.

Quicken definitely had it all, which was helpful but at times felt overwhelming. However, it did not allow me to add my 401(K), and the categories were a bit broad - I didn't know where some of my expenses fell in when they were investments in my future, or when they were just plain old shopping. This is not Quicken's fault, though, and that's just one of the many things I'm trying to figure out broadly, in life, although a website could be a little more help to a girl.

Quicken's system updates very quickly on a day-to-day basis, so you won't be wondering where certain expenses are, because they'll be there if you use big institutions like Bank of America or Capital One. Smaller local banks may have problems - mine still does.

All in all, Quicken is a good deal, given that it's currently free. They may start charging again in the future, though, and that would definitely turn me off when there are so many great free options out there. Chelsea from Quicken commented to assure me that there are no plans to start charging for Quicken's online service, so you can be assured that this free service will remain free after you become addicted to monitoring your money. Next: mint.com.

12 November 2008

Unemployment Insurance

I have been on hold with the Unemployment Insurance office for 39 minutes (as of now). The reason? Somehow when I signed up and claimed the severance from EYP, I was one week off, claiming two weeks' severance, when in reality my vacation payout counted as a third week of severance pay. After you lose your job, you are required to wait one week after your last paid week before you can start collecting Insurance. As a result of this incorrect reporting, I was paid a week early. This means that when I collected my first measly check three weeks after my last day at EYP, I was supposed to have waited one more week without an income. This all makes sense now, but I wish that someone had clued me in when I was filing my paperwork (where I was totally honest with $ amounts and was not trying to scam anyone, for the record).

I don't really know who to be more frustrated with, because this is all my fault in the end. Sure, the questions were "confusing," but maybe I could have asked. Although I was sure at the time that I was doing things correctly, I probably could have double and triple checked. I'm mad at myself, more than anyone.

But I'm also pissed at EYP. What kind of petty bullshit are they pulling over there that it has now been two weeks that I have had zero income because they can't deal with this crap in a timely manner. Hey, guys, as long as you're disputing claims over $300 whole miserable dollars, why don't you go ahead and do it asap - it must be nice not to give a shit about time lines since you're sitting all fat and sassy with your next paycheck on it's way this week, huh? That also goes for the Insurance office for not dealing with this in a timely fashion on my behalf.

If the money thing weren't such an issue, this would all be pretty awesome, no longer having to answer to a soulless corporate company, but they still have that hold over me, and that's about as frustrating as barely having enough to cover next month's rent and utilities right now.

Can't wait until this is completely behind me - and I can pretend never to have heard of EYP - "Isn't that the company that had the massive Gonorrhea outbreak? No? Then I've never heard of them." (47 minutes on hold)

03 October 2008

I'm So Glad I Put On Pants

I locked myself out of the apartment yesterday.

I had gone out back to check for our recycling toters, and after giving the door handle an assuring jiggle, closed it and went outside. Apparently the door didn't understand "assuring jiggle," because it was locked when I came back to it. Don't ask me to explain the hows or whys. Maybe I jiggled the inside handle, which turns regardless of whether it's locked or not. Maybe I didn't turn the lock 90 degrees and it was jostled when I closed the door, locking me out from the inside.

Regardless, I was so happy that I had put pants on to go outside. And shoes. I so rarely get dressed to peep out onto the backyard.

Other things I could have taken outside: keys, a cell phone, my wallet.

I walked down to MIT, because what other choice did I have? I could have hung out in our laundry area until J came home six hours later. Or the backyard. Those were my choices, and it was cold. Once I went outside the apartment building, I was out, so I had to make the decision quickly. Was there anywhere I could go without money or ID? Not really. So I walked down to MIT, hoping to find J in his lab before his class started, knowing it could be a shot in the dark. At least he wasn't out in Lexington!

I met J's office mate, who told me a story about the time his wife was locked out of their apartment and he found her curled up, asleep, on their landing. I was again reminded of how very glad I was that I had put on pants.

I played spider solitaire on J's computer.

Then, I got lucky. He came back to his desk before his class started. I got the keys and came home. Will this make me more careful in the future? Probably not. I swear I checked that door before I went outside. Which is why I'm never leaving the apartment again. Without pants.

02 October 2008

Thanks For the Personal Growth, Though, Assholes.

Every time I see the title on my previous entry, I read "Will Knit for Tacos." Upon further reflection, I have decided that I will also knit for tacos, because I have finally reached the end of my severance funded vacation. This means that next week, I start receiving unemployment benefits. Ouch. Talk about a pay cut.

So the other day, J brought home Bud Light Lime. The king of...lime flavored beers. "It was on sale," he said. "I'm a grad student, and you're not working right now. Tonight we're going to drink like it."

It tasted faintly of limeade, it didn't really taste like...what's the word? Beer. If you visit their website, though, by clicking on the image to the left, you can download a free remix of Santogold's Lights Out. Redemption factor: 3/10.

The time off part isn't so bad, really. I set my own schedule, and as long as I don't wake up in the middle of the night, in a panic thinking about health insurance or the fate of my [former] 401k, I can actually start my day at a reasonable hour and get work done. Last night was, unfortunately, a wake up in a panic night. I bolted out of bed to make a To Do list just to stop my heart from pounding so loudly in my head. I couldn't stop thinking about my health insurance and the library book I had to pick up and how the fuck we were going to pay for rent and utilities and still not have to supplement our diet of ramen noodles by dumpster diving (is it at all that bad? No, of course not. Try telling me that at three in the morning). I felt like a rock was sitting on my chest.

I'm going to level with you, though. The stress of my current situation still hasn't rivaled the stress of working for an understaffed corporate nonentity that is in desperate need of management training. I don't work well under those parameters, and I might point out that my panic attacks started with that job and didn't simmer down until after the side effects of my anti-depressants went away. I may have been comfortable with the steady income, but having my happiness compromised on a daily basis was wearing pretty thin by the end. Sundays were unbearable because of the dread I felt - upon waking up in the morning - that tomorrow was, ugh, Monday.

I need to find something I enjoy doing that pays a teeny bit more than the unemployment insurance - with medical benefits. That shouldn't be so hard. And in the meantime - in the daylight, at least - I am enjoying the time off to the fullest of my ability. Who needs a job when they've got daytime TV?

[Currently Spinning: Yeah Yeah Yeahs]

24 September 2008

Will Knit for Tattoos

I lost my job last monday. I'm not going to beat around the bush here: I am so effing happy about it. I was not happy doing what I was doing, and I needed a change so badly. It wasn't a matter of whether or not I was going to walk into my manager's office and quit, it was a matter of when. Yes, they made that decision a little bit easier for me by letting me go, thereby making my *life* a little bit more difficult (maybe?), but I haven't been this excited about anything since I got into MIT.

I've started developing my own website, where I plan on hosting my portfolio, and maybe eventually my blog. I've started to spray paint our dining room chairs, which were in serious need of an overhaul. And most importantly, I've gained a lot of perspective. I don't know what I want to do with my life, but that's okay. I have a general direction, now.

14 August 2008

Five Hours and Fourty Seven Minutes

The other day I wanted cream in my coffee, but the kitchen on my side of the office was out of cream. Because there was only one carton left in the other kitchen, I filled a small cup with creamer and brought that to the kitchen with me, instead. Imagine my surprise later in the day when I came to check on the cup, and MORE CREAMER was in it. I could have exploded with happiness. I wanted to cover the person who did that with kisses. It's not often someone does something so small that actually restores my faith in humanity.

So imagine how dark a cloud spread when, no less than an hour later, I went to the kitchen and couldn't find the cup. When I threw away my sugar packets, I saw it sitting at the bottom of the trash can - STILL HALF FULL OF CREAMER.

If it had been empty, fine. BUT IT WASN'T. I am having trouble concentrating on anything other than counting the minutes until five.

07 August 2008

Gold Star

I parallel parked for the first time, ever today. Yes, I realize that at 24.5 years old this is a ridiculous statement.

I have to say, I did a damn fine job. It only took me one try, and I was thisclose to the curb. Time to go celebrate!

05 August 2008

An Educated Fish

Phineas H. Bubblesworth, Esq.

Allow me to introduce you to our new roommate, Phineas H. Bubblesworth, Esq. You can call him Phinny.

Phinny likes eating bloodworms, hiding in his cave, and resting in his plant. Also, sunsets and long walks on the beach.

J and I are already the world's most sickening fish parents. We really need a puppy.

28 July 2008

Kodak Duaflex - Through the Viewfinder

I am obviously way in love with my Kodak Duaflex, so much so that it's not enough to just use the camera, but I have to take pictures of it and screen print it onto a canvas, too:

But how can I not? I am really loving these:
Sidewalk Sunflower Red Bus

24 July 2008

Taco Flavored Fishes

I believe that I am getting a fish this weekend. I haven't done ridiculous amounts of research about this, but I've done enough to decide that we will be getting an Anabantid or Gourami of some sort. Anabantids and Gouramis, or "Labyrinth fish" have a labyrinth organ, which a) allows them to live in water with less oxygen support than other fish, and b) Labyrinth is a movie featuring David Bowie.

They are hardy fish, and while most of them are somewhat aggressive and are not community fish, we are going to be an only fish couple for a while, anyway. If we want to introduce small freshwater schools, we will be able to do that if and when we upgrade our tank.

I won't be able to come home and cuddle with my fish, but we know we won't be getting a puppy for a while, and this seemed like a fair compromise. I hope to be working less hours, preferably from home, when we do get a dog (I say puppy all the time, but most greyhounds come into your heart and home as adults). We already have a name picked out, and a title. Now we just need to find the right fishy for our home.

21 July 2008

It's Because My Job is Making me Crazy with Last Minute Deadlines

Last night I had a dream that J and I were getting married.

The whole thing was completely disorganized and had been slapped together at the last minute. I remember that I kept saying to myself, "SHIT, if only I had had more time! I would have thought of this!" (This being any number of things from the dinner to the location to the invitations, and if I remember correctly, we'd been engaged for a while...or were embarrassingly stupid enough to think we could plan a wedding in a day?) I think the worst part was the invitations, which ended up being printed the day of, and even though the wedding was happening that evening, we were still using a laser printer at home so that "at least people would have something to remember it by." (Who? Since no one was invited...I don't know who was coming...)

My dress was something hideous that was borrowed at the last minute, and the ceremony+reception were being held in the basement of an old used bookstore (any poetic notions about that were blasted when I saw the cast iron spiral staircase with slap-shod blue carpeting that led down to the basement, which was equally dingy, leaky, and poorly lit).

The whole thing was a nightmare, but through everything, I just wanted to get it over with because the important part was that J and I were together - I didn't care about the wedding.

I woke up and went to therapy. Not only did I not get what I needed out of my session, but instead of deciding that my suggestion of once every other week was fine, we figured that in reality, I probably should ramp it up to twice a week (as if. Hello - I need to have a life, too. I can't just spend my life being in therapy and working my shitty day job, then recovering from therapy and my shitty day job every day). I left feeling like I kind of wished that I could go no times a week, hating that my therapist knows things about me that even I don't want to know about me. Yes, that is the point, thanks. I left kind of wanting to smack some hypothetical someone in the teeth.

I'm unreasonably angry with myself about being myself, and I'm also kind of pissed that I have to be at work non-stop for the next two days. This is why Wednesday is going to be a beach day. Unless it rains, in which case it will be screen print some arts for my walls day. Either way, by then I hope to no longer be hating myself.

17 July 2008

For My Fellow Bike Commuters

Dear Cyclist-Who-Thought-He-Almost-Got-Hit-By-A-Car-This-Morning:

That car had its turn signal on long before you approached the light, and the light turned green just as you approached his blind-spot. I know, I know - you were in the bike lane, which naturally means that all those mean-old cars have got to stop for you, even when you're not biking defensively* or paying attention to anything, which is why you yelled at him, I presume. God - that motorist was such an asshole. Except...wait...he didn't even honk at you!
*(See Collision Type #3)

I noticed that you had the decency to seem embarrassed when I yelled that you should pay attention, and that the guy had his turn signal on. I probably shouldn't have called you an idiot, though.

Dear People Who Got Tickets After Running The Red Light on Hampshire and Broadway:

I'm sorry. I totally empathize, because it's happened to me before, and half of you did check for cars, although you managed to somehow miss the bike cops (who were positioned in the middle of the bike lane)...but who am I to judge.

I do not, however, empathize with the guy who got exasperated with me for waiting at the red light and ran it even after I said, maybe with not enough conviction, that there were cops ahead. You, sir, definitely deserved that ticket. Perhaps, though, it was a little mean-spirited for me to shout "HAVE FUN WITH THAT" just before the cop held his hand up in your face and pulled you over.

But three cheers to the Cambridge Bike Cops. Thanks for finally starting to do your jobs (for the most part...well...it's a start).

10 July 2008

I was reading stories about the bicyclist who was struck and killed by a trash truck in D.C. on Tuesday, and while wading through all the comments on the WP story about drivers vs. "asshole bicyclists", I saw this:
No, the stories about bikers who choose to run red lights aren’t irrelevant. Someone has placed a bike spray painted white at the intersection of Connecticut and R as a memorial to Ms. Swanson. This morning, as I sat in my car on R St. at a red light during rush hour, I watched as a young woman pulled up right next to the white bike. She appeared to be in her twenties, and was wearing a helmet. Having seen the aftermath of yesterday’s tragedy, I wondered if she knew what had happened just 24 hours earlier, at that very spot. Just as I pondered that thought, she glanced quickly in both directions, then rode across all six lanes of Connecticut, rather than wait the extra 30 seconds for the light. Yesterday’s horrible accident may have been entirely the truck driver’s fault, but bikers and drivers alike can do much to improve safety on our streets.
Let me tell you, lady, I will bet you money that this girl was perfectly aware of what had just happened in that intersection, was probably scared shitless to be on her bike at that moment, and used the "extra 30 seconds" to put herself ahead of traffic - which is actually a smart way to ensure you won't be wedged in by the cars waiting at the light with you - provided, of course, you check that all six lanes (omg, so many lanes) of traffic are clear before you go. I get a kick out of the philosophical pondering regarding this girl's safety, when the cyclist likely did make the decision, not out of haste to reach her destination, but out of a desire to not get taken over by a car.

I've gotten a citation for running a red light on my bike before. I admit, fully and freely, that I deserved it, but where are these damn cops when cars are parked in the bike lane? When people are riding their bikes on the sidewalks? Where's the city funding for cops who actually do their jobs? Since that citation, would I run a red light again? You betcha. Especially with the frequency that people use their turn signals out here. It's just safer, sometimes. It's sad that it takes stories like this to make me sit back and think about how recklessly I ride, but with every one I read I try to take a little bit of knowledge away, and hopefully will be more conscientious (and alive) for it.

By the way, the nicest thing a cop has ever done for me in my life, ever, was force a car to remove itself from the bike lane when he saw me coming up the road - I seriously wanted to make out with him for that.

P.S. - the "white bike" she was referring to was a ghost bike.

02 July 2008

Seems like a fair price to me!

How much would you pay for the luxury to not give a crap about something?

Yesterday, at work, we were given the numbers for the bonuses we will be getting at the end of the week. We recently switched to a Performance Based Compensation plan that involves all kinds of ratings and algorithms and numbers. It's kind of cool, actually, since I tend to prefer numbers (because I went to MIT or why I went to MIT...the eternal question).

Yesterday, one of my coworkers came over and asked (aggressively? Am I projecting?) whether they had messed up one of my numbers, because they seemed to have messed with hers. In the previous round of bonuses, they had screwed up some input or another and instead of fixing it then, they promised it would be fixed in the future.

She stood over my shoulder and watched as I opened my spreadsheet (I had not checked it before she came over - the reality is that I forgot that this spreadsheet is downloaded as a one page PDF, and our bonuses are right there in a bright yellow box, which the eye is immediately drawn to on our great big 19" monitors). She saw my bonus, then pulled a printed copy of her own out of her pocket, opened it a sliver, and said, "Nope, they didn't screw yours up, just mine," and walked away.

Fortunately, paper is not opaque when it's lit from behind, or I wouldn't know that she made a whopping $300 more than me - the cost of not passing the LEED exam. She did not get paid more than me based on merit, or because she's more awesome or pretty or better than me in any other way than she studied her ass off, gave up her life for a while, and passed an exam. We've already been through how I felt about not passing, and how I spent all of seven hours studying, and I knew that my bonus would be the consequence. Were she actually a friend, she would have at the very least looked away when I opened that file, but because she doesn't care about other people, it's completely beyond her comprehension not to be an asshole (otherwise in an ideal world, she would have shown me hers, too, because I honestly don't mind sharing these things with friends (I should have seen the whole thing coming, since it was barreling at me like an freight train)). I've known this about her for a while; It's not her fault I'm so damn gullible.

So, against my will, I started justifying the whole thing in my head last night; not because I need anything to change, but because I needed to feel better about the fact that she is a jerk. I know for a fact that when I started, I was paid more than another one of our co-workers, presumably because I graduated from MIT and, even though it is from an accredited university and they have worked here for three years (one year longer than me), their degree is from a less prestigious school. More people may have heard of her school, but it's still not MIT - and she has one year less work experience. I wouldn't normally think about these things so much, because I'm perfectly content with what I make relative to the market these days, but she annoyed me yesterday, and so I started rationalizing that she should go ahead and be happy with that $300, because I'm 89% certain it's absorbed into my slightly higher paycheck. Plus, I can always pass the exam at the end of the summer, if I decide I want to waste two weeks of my free time. I know she only feels she has to make other people feel badly about themselves so she can soothe her non-existent self esteem. Knowing that doesn't make me want to punch her any less.

So. I suppose that $300 is the cost of not giving a shit around these parts. Reasonable?

16 June 2008

Weekend Bike Fun

On Sunday, Aaron, J and I took the commuter rail out to Ipswich for some fried clams. I did not have fried clams, but I did try one, threw up in my mouth a little bit, and remembered why I generally stay away from seafood. We went to Woodman's in Essex, and I would go there again in a heartbeat for some more of those onion rings. Mmmm.

Lobster Claw redux

After eating our own weight in fried food, we zipped off to catch the 7:51 pm commuter rail back to Boston. Unfortunately, J blew a tire on the way, and had to stop to change it. Aaron rode back to help him after riding the rest of the way to the station with me, where I waited.

Bike Wheel

A half hour and the train went by and there was still no sign of the boys. I was reminded of how awful life was back in the '90s - when people had no cell phones.

That's right - on a highway bike ride out in the middle of Rural Anywhere, MA, I forgot my cell phone. All I could imagine was that one of them had been overtaken by a drunk or negligent driver, and the other was frantically calling my cell phone while they waited for the paramedics to arrive, blood everywhere. It became so unbearable that after about 40 minutes of waiting for what, in perfect circumstances, might have been a 20 minute tire change, I borrowed a local teenager's cell phone. Fortunately, no one had been run over or doored, but Aaron's tire had also gone flat. There was blood, but it was from mosquitoes and not from a mangled car accident.

Silly me.

We ended up watching the Celtics game at a bar while we waited for the 10:20 pm commuter rail, and polished off a bottle of wine in the process. While I wouldn't have actively chosen to be out as late as we were, and blown tires are never fun, it was actually a successful bike ride - and we will be taking the commuter rail out of the city more often.

15 June 2008

The Other Boleyn Girl (i.e. the Stupid American Version of the Story)

This weekend J and I watched The Other Boleyn Girl. To get the awful taste out of our mouths, we also finally watched Gone Baby Gone. I recommend Gone Baby Gone if, like us, you are the last people on earth not to have seen it. But right now I have to gripe about the Other Boleyn Girl.

As someone obsessed very interested in Tudor England, I have read enough on the subject to know the basic plot-line. Especially regarding Henry VIII and his various wives. Yes, a lot of my "research" has been in the form of historical fiction, but I promise that I do my share of non-fiction reading as well.

The only [moderately] appropriately cast character was Scarlett Johansson. Natalie Portman is no Anne Boleyn, and the only thing Eric Bana has going for him as Henry VIII is his girth (comparing him to Jonathan Rhys Meyers, anyway). And going into it, I figured I would be bothered by the casting, but it turned out that the casting was the least of my concerns.

However, in the interest of time, I need to get off my chest the one thing that bothered me enough to warrant a blog post and ban further discussion of this crap in my house. I am referring to the scene where the Boleyn/Howard group is sitting down at the table, and someone mentions, in abject horror how their plot would mean that the king would break from the church. Oh My God! Break from the church?! Insert horrified face, here.

Jesus Christ. That's the whole POINT, isn't it? One of the political benefits of having a Boleyn on the throne was to reform the church, and they're not even portrayed as Reformists? Anne herself is known to have shared Reformist literature with the king. It's a good thing we don't have bricks in the house, because that's when one would have hit the TV.

The book took a lot of liberties that, while entertaining, were at least plausible - this movie didn't even attempt to pretend to know anything about anything - and what's more, they didn't even show any boobies, which is the only way I could convince J to watch this movie with me; we figured with Johansson and Portman, there'd be at least one far-fetched, stupidly inaccurate lesbian scene. I mean, I'm angry. We're talking exponentially worse than Everything is Illuminated, which at the very least stands on its own as a movie, and has a stellar cast.

Also, if I see another brown haired, dark eyed Spanish "beauty" playing Queen Katherine...I will be writing an angry letter to someone.

10 June 2008

In other words, things are going well

Last night, J got me an air conditioner. He may as well have given me a ring.

This morning, I told him that I was thinking about getting table runners for the kitchen table instead of place mats. He looked at me and said, "okay."

Yes, there has been a period of adjustment, and yes, there have been a few incidents over some things like closet space and beds and my pile of clothes...but how can I not be totally head over heels for this guy?

We're slowly making it a home.

03 June 2008

Photo a Day Challenge

This sounds like an incredible motivational tool to start using my fantastic Rebel XTi more often.

I am frequently frustrated with the quality of my photos, but it's almost as though I know exactly what I could have been doing right...only I didn't. The only way to improve is to take more photos, and I keep *almost* being "the person with the camera," but I'm not quite there yet (I am known as "the Polaroid girl," but that's another story).

There are a bunch of great shots I want around my new neighborhood, so I think I'm going to start there. It's J's "old" neighborhood, and I already have a few picked out from all those times I walked to his place. I think this is going to require a bit more thought, though.

29 May 2008

Unprofessional, Like all the Kids These Days

I went to my orthodontist yesterday to get the "news" on my post-surgical braces status. Several things went wrong.

I am seeing a student at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. I started going there as a patient in 2004 - when this whole orthodontic debacle began. Since 2004, I have had 4 different orthodontists. Well, three if you consider that I have only met this fourth one once, at an appointment with my previous guy.

I have always gotten lucky with the students I've been assigned, and I am still under the same faculty adviser, so regardless of the student, my broader treatment plan will stay the same.

Unfortunately, yesterday I had to see a student that was not my regular orthodontist. Nor was my faculty adviser there - none of the people who have met me before or are familiar with my case were there. Instead, I had to see a faculty member who is not familiar with surgical cases (not just mine! ANY!), and who hadn't even seen my chart before he met me (I don't think the student had, either, but that's just one of the many nuts on this sundae).

My original appointment was scheduled for last Friday, but it was canceled, presumably because "the clinic was closed," so my new guy called to re-schedule for this Wednesday.

Because I am so close to having these braces off, the plan was to get me in as soon as possible - I guess my next appointment couldn't be until late June, which is kind of when we want to start getting on this whole retainer business - and get me the fuck out of these godforsaken braces, so no appointment before then was kind of not an option in my book. I think he gets that.

What he evidently DOES NOT GET is that if I am not going to be seeing HIM or anyone else who has dealt with my case in ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM - maybe a PHONE CALL WOULD BE NICE.

We are no less than one hour into our acquaintance, and the words "Unprofessional" and "Asshole" have already crossed my mind multiple times.

Also, the guy I saw gave me a new upper wire, so my teeth are moving - PAINFULLY. They'd better be moving in the right direction, too, because at my next appointment this kid is already going to get a big damn lecture from me on professionalism and how I do not like him very much, yet.

25 May 2008

Deer Island Bike Ride


J and I went for a bike ride today. It felt nice to be out, and it's not humid enough for riding in the middle of the day to be miserable. Here's the route we took:

Dear Island Ride

That little loop between markers 22 and 28 is the little "detour" we took when we turned right instead of turning left. It was a nice detour - took us right through a Jewish cemetery, which was really beautiful. It was also a hilly detour, unfortunately. 30 miles or so in total.

18 May 2008

Boycott Starbucks? Well, Now I Don't Want To.

Starbucks Logo Under Fire

According to the post, "A Christian group based in San Diego called The Resistance says the logo looks like a naked woman with her legs spread like a prostitute."

Well...thanks. Now it does.

How hypocritical funny is it that a group with higher moral standards than "the rest of us," is even capable of seeing something so profane in a harmless image? It speaks worlds to me about the inner workings of their minds. In response to the lewd picture on Starbucks' temporary new label, they are calling for a national boycott of all Starbucks.

Now, I do think that there are loads of other, more important reasons to boycott Starbucks, but I'm feeling oddly torn. While I do buy the occasional latte or coffee from Starbucks, I prefer to support local coffeehouses - and while it has more to do with personal preference than making a stand, I certainly feel a slight tingle of ethical superiority whenever I walk out of 1369. Sure, sometimes I walk out of Starbucks thinking about how reprehensible it is to support a "big corporation" instead of my little local house, but mostly I think about how much the caffeine is going to help me get through the rest of my miserable day (I usually only purchase on particularly bad days at work).

So if you'll excuse me, now, I'm going to go out and buy a venti caramel mochaccino, to show my support for real-sized whorish mermaids with half-exposed breasts.

17 May 2008

Because I Heart Science, That's Why

Last night J and I were watching How It's Made, the one where they describe the process of making wheel loaders (Season 3 Episode 3).
Me: *starts laughing hysterically*
J: ...did that wheel loader just get bukkake tsunamied?
Me: *continues to laugh hysterically*
We both love learning about technology. Especially technology that ejaculates lubricant. It combines our love of science with our love of being twelve.

16 May 2008

An Open Letter to the Woman Whose Day I Ruined

Dear Probably-Otherwise-Law-Abiding-Citizen who maybe recycles and, I'm guessing, totally loves puppies:

Today, when you made that right turn onto Highland while I was in the crosswalk, and I pointed at the walk sign after you hesitated, tried to keep going, then finally decided not to hit me with your SUV, you were in the wrong. I only say this to educate you because you felt the need to [incorrectly] educate me.

See, the lights at this street - as at many others - turn yellow, then red. The typical protocol for such an event would be to slow down, and then stop your car (or floor it to beat the yellow, yes, I know you do it. I do it, too). Yelling that you "can't see it," referring to my walk light...well, that was just ridiculous. See, I know you can't see my walk light, the one that's perpendicular to your line of vision? - that's why I rely on the traffic light - the red one - to let you know that, okay, you need to stop now. Not because there's a pedestrian in the crosswalk, which I happen to think is a perfectly valid reason to stop, but because stopping at a red light is the fucking LAW.

When you tried to justify your law-breaking reckless idiotic driving, I flipped you off because a)I almost got run over by your car while I had the legitimate, carefully thought out right-of-way - I was in the MIDDLE of the street when you turned, and b) shut the hell up, lady - if I wanted to hear about why you almost hit me, I'd have stopped in front of your car and asked.

I'm going to let bygones be bygones, though because you made me laugh - hysterically, actually. I absolutely loved your parting shot of, "Oh! Just....Just...GO BACK TO YOUR COUNTRY." Like the time the SUV driver called me a "Jew," and I wondered why he felt the need to guess at my ethnicity/religious preference to form an insult, I have to wonder how and why you think I wasn't born and raised here.

Probably because I wasn't driving an SUV like a Masshole.

But anyway, thanks for making me laugh. I know I shouldn't be really happy that I totally ruined your day, but...well, I am. Hope you don't mow down any pedestrians on your way home.


12 May 2008

Two Months

Tuesday marks the two month "anniversary" of my surgery. Eight weeks will have gone by, and even though there's still numbness, even though I can't chew everything I'd like to - I like to think that the worst of it is behind me.

I've already said how little the cosmetic side of this surgery played into my decision, but today I took some progress shots (missed week 6 due to puffiness and week 7 due to blurry camera syndrome), and I am really happy with how much softer I look:

8 Weeks Front

Here's a before shot for comparison:

Day 0 Front

My orthodontist told me I looked "younger" when he first saw me. Now, I think that's way harsh (just kidding), but he's right. I do look different, and probably for the best. The thing is, now you can see my braces even more than before - so next step is to get those bad boys off my teeth. Like, now.

11 May 2008

A Day of Chairs

Since I'm moving out of my old apartment, I've started assessing my needs versus my wants in terms of...erm, shall we say, crap I own. Some of the crap is very very necessary - I need it to live. Things like my CD collection or my box of matches, or a rather large accumulation of pens.

J is, in contrast, a minimalist. He's coming into this apartment with what I consider the bare necessities (and believe me, he's going to act all aghast by how much stuff he has, you wait and see). Furniture. Clothes. A computer. The bare minimum.

Lately, mostly to avoid going through my matchbook collection, I've been complaining about my honking big leather office chair. It's comfortable, and at $30 second-hand, it gets the job done. Or it used to. This chair has served me well for over 4 years now, but the time came to finally get rid of it - partially because there's barely enough space for it in my room now, and the new space is going to be exponentially smaller. Mostly because I found this chair on sale at Target:

Office Chair

Today, I convinced J to go to a yard sale with me, and along with a muffin pan, for a grand total of $5, we picked up these:

Yard Sale Chairs

So many chairs. So much awesome.

06 May 2008

Bike New York Ride

Highway to Staten Island

J and I participated in the Five Boro Bike Tour this past weekend. The ride itself was exhilarating and very, very cool. We started at Battery Park, rode up through Manhattan, over to Astoria and Queens, down through Brooklyn, and finally out to Staten Island. We took the ferry back to Battery Park, and then we rode back to Brooklyn (although we walked a lot of the way once we got over the bridge).

Gearing up for the Ride

The things we saw during this race...they will stay with me forever. Firstly, and most significantly, we saw someone get maced. While we were waiting in an enormously long queue to get into Central Park (made infinitely worse by the sidewalk jumpers. You know who you are. Each and every one of you is going straight to hell, I hope you know), some homeless guy started causing a ruckus. We didn't personally notice anything until he slammed his cane down onto a car and started screaming nonsense at one of the cyclists. A cop came out of nowhere and nonchalantly maced the guy in the face. I would have been screaming my lungs out, but the homeless guy just leaned over on a nearby railing - defeated. I don't have any social or political commentary about it, I just have never seen anything like this. Then some mentally disturbed and presumably homeless woman started screaming things about cops and homeless people, but it was impossible to tell whether her rage was directed at the homeless guy or the cop. Thankfully, we made it into Central Park unscathed, shortly after she started her screaming rant.

There were several accidents. Whenever there was a ramp and a turn, people would take the turns too quickly, and there were one or two of those. Honestly, I have never seen such blatant disregard for other cyclists, and I have a pretty rough commute (relatively, I mean). There was also a nearly fatal heart attack on the Queensboro bridge, but fortunately, the man made it. It was decently scary, and did not help to ease the anxiety I was already facing when going over two of the major bridges.

A lot of people have noted that this is a great ride to do. Once. Which is what the friend who recommended this ride told us, too.

That being said - in total, it was an amazing ride. Too many people, but riding through NYC (and vowing never to go to that dump again) without any cars was too good an opportunity to miss.

Too bad my jaw is a wreck two days later (my surgeon said I should be good to go as far as riding my bike went, but a little bit of research and a conversation with my OD has indicated that maybe 50 miles was a bit much before my 3 month post surgery mark...).

02 May 2008

Rage is a four letter word

I am now five weeks (plus) post-op. To be honest, I thought that after about a month I would be a little bit happier. Things I am actually very happy about involve having the surgery itself out of the way, and knowing that because I was the "optimal" age, the recovery (and braces!) will be over sooner rather than later. Unfortunately it only gets me so far.

There has been a rage inside of me for the past week. Something indescribable and ugly. Something hideous and so unlike "me," it's hard to watch.

Things that may have contributed are the fact that J was gone for two weeks. He was gone, and he was working hard and he was stressed. He was stressed and I missed him tremendously by the second week, and it was not a good combination. I may have had some conflict with certain people in my life - things that normally I am capable of pushing beneath the surface and airing at therapy - things between me and someone I actually like. It left me tired and vulnerable, and I was incapable of dealing with other people in my life that I don't like, but can typically interact with using a modicum of friendliness. I'm puffy and swollen again, and I'm sick and tired of having a "broken" face; sick and tired of not being able to eat real food. I'm feeling better about the whole "I'm going to be beaten, gang-raped, or hit by a car" thing, but "better" is relative, obviously.

In short, I am feeling off. My roommate can sense that I've been off (even though she's been working a lot), and even if J is too stressed to notice all of it, we've discussed it. I haven't been able to call home in over a week because I just can't deal with it.

Is it the medication? The rage I've been feeling has been absolutely apoplectic, and it makes me remember my very second psychiatric evaluation when I was prescribed this medication. One of the side effects, my psychiatrist said, was blinding rage. He told me how one of his patients described how she suddenly found herself screaming at cars as they went by because they were making her angry. Because they were driving by. That's how I've been feeling this week - except I'm muttering angry things at people on the streets instead of screaming at cars. But I firmly believe that's next.

The troubling part is how I've been on this medication for a year now. How I haven't changed doses. How, while I missed a few pills while I was immediately post-op*, I haven't missed any in weeks. (*several doctors and nurses told me it was okay because the drug is slow release, and builds up in the system enough to skip one or two)

If it is my medication, I have a lot to think about. I was prescribed these meds specifically because I'm young and my depression is mild. The sexual side effects are rare, which was genuinely the biggest concern at the time, but a new medication would mean a new round of "adjustment," which is currently more daunting than facing another week of this.

I feel empty inside, and I want to feel whole again, like I have in the past three months. I've been riding it out for a week, and I'm coming up with nothing. My biggest problem in the past was believing that if I dug deeply enough, I would find the answers within - but that only made deeper wounds. This time I want to be stronger than that. I want to admit that I need help. Why is it so hard to be okay with that?

25 April 2008

Tokyo Police Club @ Paradise Rock Club


So I did end up going to the Tokyo Police Club show, after all. I had to leave early because my jaw was hurting, my feet were sore, and I was exhausted (I would say I'm old, but I'm "recovering from surgery," people. Seriously). I was out of pain medication (and by that, I mean ibuprofen; all I'm taking these days), and the thought of dealing with jaw pain plus having to find a cab, plus being afraid of being mugged/stabbed/raped if I tried to walk home (I should talk to my therapist about this fear: it's very real and exaggerated and probably not entirely normal), I decided to leave in time to catch the T.

All of my issues aside, this concert was great, and I had a front row view standing between a really cute couple that had been dating for 2 years and five months, and a girl who kept giving me the death stare. I think she thought I was going to invade her space, so I went ahead and did, at least with my camera lens.

These guys never disappoint and the opening acts were also stupendously awesome. Meligrove Band opened with their rockin' Canadian sound - they were exactly the type of band I'd expect to open for TPC and their banter was amusing.

After Meligrove, I was completely blown away by Smoosh. Like everyone else there, I had previously heard their cover of Bloc Party's "This Modern Love," and when they played it, I was in heaven - but their entire set was amazing. These girls are incredibly talented and beautiful, and they drew me in from the first beat to the end of the last song. The drummer, Chloe, rocked out like she was part of that drum set, with a blue halo around her the whole time. Asya's voice was so beautiful, I think she replaced Karen O as the female vocalist I would give my left arm to be.

Then, Tokyo Police Club came out. Graham had his back to me the whole time, so I didn't get to watch him very much, but my view of the other three was pretty darn good:

Rock Out

Dave's Fast Hands

Their new album, Elephant Shell, came out this week - and it is really good. Decidedly more polished than their original sound, but it definitely still has the raw feeling to it that made me fall in love with them. Plus, they're fucking adorable. And I want to have their babies.

24 April 2008

Minutiae Mashup

Things that have happened this week that were probably blog-worthy, but I didn't blog about:

Sunday I rode my bike for the first time this season (to work...and then back home...seven hours later). There are so many muscles I use to ride my bike and, let me tell you, most of them aren't anywhere near my legs! Ouch. Riding has improved vastly since then - the two other times, I mean.

On Tuesday, I had dinner with my friend, Matt. Matt is going to Northeastern, he works at the Boston Globe, and he "freelances" at Tomb. In short, he is an interesting guy. He was supposed to go to a Tokyo Police Club show with me this week, but in an unsurprising display of stupidity I have him the wrong date (Tuesday), so we had dinner, instead. I heart Border Cafe.

Border Cafe

Wednesday morning, there were cops outside of my windows. So, there is a set of condos that went up next door to us recently. They've been done with construction for about seven months now, and already the yuppie couple in the top unit has moved out. We assumed that this had something to do with some neighborhood gossip about the husband in one of the couples being wasted out of his mind at the end of our block one night. Another neighbor found him and walked him (more like dragged him) home. But three cop cars? Either both of those completely normal looking yuppie couples were crazy or the other couple moved out because of the crazy in the lower unit. There's also some Rock Band going on over there. I know. I've heard it. To further confuse us, my roommate attests to witnessing some naked peeing off the balcony, but that was the top unit - so see what I mean?

I decided to sell the tickets to that TPC show on Craigslist. Then I decided to go. Then I decided to sell only one ticket. This all worked out, but from point a to point b was kind of stressful and crazy. However, it all worked out - the end.

J has been out of town for essentially two weeks now. He flew to New Mexico last week on Tuesday morning (5AM - who drove him to the airport thank you very much?) then came back in on Friday night. We celebrated one of my friends' birthdays on Saturday, then he flew out to Arizona early on Sunday morning. I should be glad I got to see him on Saturday, but two weeks is a seriously long time. I might be complaining, but that would be unbecoming, so let's just say I'm stating...

...In the meantime, I have watched a lot of bad TV that he won't typically put up with and I have started "packing," which means that I have taken stuff out of places and am trying to decide whether or not to keep it. "Packing" looks a whole lot like "dumping out every single one of my drawers and then not cleaning up."

I should be better about updating this thing.

16 April 2008

Apartment Hunting

Did you know that the average person will live in ten places over the course of their lifetime? I believe it - this new apartment will be my fifth, and three out of those five times I have had to deal with Craigslist. Craigslist and realtors.

I'm moving on June 1st. And so is J. We found the new place fairly quickly - with relatively low stress. And yeah, that freaked us the hell out, because we expected to have to jump through more hoops. To be honest, I've always been lucky enough when it comes to apartments, but not without hard work, and this time there was hard work, but it was concentrated, and we got it over with kind of quickly. I'm kind of sad to be moving, but I'm also so ready for the next stage in my life.

After seeing quite a few places that were really sub-par, J and I found a total hipster apartment with hardwood floors and a newly updated kitchen in one of the trendier, younger neighborhoods in Cambridge. The second bedroom is really small, but who cares?! We just need the one, anyway. The thing is, we walked away excited, but not sure. There were two places we could manage to live in out of six that we'd seen that day, but neither of us had that feeling in the bottom of our gut.

We ended up taking the apartment after deliberating for an entire night. We decided because we both felt that our previous apartments were miracles from heaven that we were probably putting them on a pedestal, and we were probably never going to have that feeling at our navels. Nowhere was going to be as cheap as either of our places and still have the same standard of living - but neither of us was willing to be "the roommate" that said "get out of here" to our roommates, and also, J was unwilling to live in the 'ville. Do you know how much of his life he owes me for making me move back to Cambridge? A lot.

We are going to make this place look so boss. I'm excited. About everything but the Cambridge thing.

04 April 2008

Queen of Wishy-Washiness

I signed up for a screen printing class yesterday. It is one session, from 4-6PM on April 26th, and I am looking forward to it. At first I wasn't sure if I wanted to do it...$35 is cheap for a class, but couldn't I put that money towards a kit, instead, and learn how to do it myself? But then I considered how long I've been telling myself that I'm going to do that, with no results.

I've been thinking about actually listing stuff in my etsy store. I am the queen of no follow through. But then again, I did sign up for this class. So maybe I can trade in my title for "queen of procrastination," instead.

31 March 2008

Finally. Six Days Post-Op.

I (finally. FINALLY) had my jaw surgery last Tuesday. I am six days post-op, and I'm feeling much better now. I think I may even be able to stay awake all day, although I won't be running any marathons any time soon.

The constant grogginess and crankiness is something I'm looking forward to living without. I think that I have kept a very positive attitude about the surgery and the recovery so far, but I also know that I haven't been little miss sunshine over the past week, either. I decided to continue on the pain medication, even though I was told by the doctor that I didn't seem like the kind of person who would depend on it. I took his words entirely too far, and sort of stopped taking it when I got home from the hospital (they only kept me one night), relying on the Ibuprofen instead. You know, there's a reason that they prescribe the pain meds, and as someone who battled with a lot of inner conflicts to finally decide to take anti-depressants, you'd think I'd have finally learned that pain medication is no different than any other medication. Relying solely on the pills to keep me hazy and remove me from reality is not the same thing as using them to help make my recovery less stressful. It took me two days of incredible pain to figure that out.

My face is changing every day, now, and as the swelling goes down, I am starting to hope that everything falls into place without altering the way I look too drastically. I liked my face before the surgery, which was never considered cosmetic. My surgeon, however, is of the opinion that it will improve my profile and minimize the impact of my chin, a nice by-product of trying to stop the mind-numbing headaches and inability to eat chewy things. Thing is...I really liked my face before. Okay, so I wasn't in love with the chin, but I had never had to teach myself not to hate it, either. I just don't want to have to get used to any drastic changes. I guess I'll have a long time to wait and see, though, since the message board I've been using as support has indicated that my face will be changing for months, maybe a year. In the meantime, the thing that surprised me most as I was examining my face today was the bruising:

Bruising, Right Side

Bruising, Left Side

I guess now that the swelling has gone down a little bit, I'm more anxious than ever to get my "old face" back, which I just said will take a while. Then again, the bruising makes me all the more aware of the fact that...well, they took a saw to my skull...and moved a part of it forward. My face has suffered some serious trauma. And despite all of it, and whatever may happen in the future, I'm really really happy right now. I feel complete, like I just crossed a major finish line in my life. I may not have run any marathons, but I did cross off a BIG to do on my life list.

Next up, I can't wait to get these braces off, y'all.

*The funny thing about the bruises being a reminder of the enormity of what has happened to me in the last week is that they're the bruises that occurred from my wisdom tooth removal. Simple wisdom teeth bruises that 99.9% of the population understands because people go through it all the time. Not that my surgery was in any way special, out of the ordinary, or even particularly serious, but the thing I'm most concerned about is a side-effect of the most mundane and routine part of this jaw stuff.

19 March 2008

[People] Watching History Repeat Itself

J and I saw a pretty bad couple-fight last night. After they both stormed off, I asked him why we always had to be the ones to witness these things. I'm sure it's because before the wonderful days of anti-depressants, we subjected plenty of other people to these sorts of scenes (just in case anyone is uncertain, I was always the one causing the scene. Yeah, I'm wondering why I felt the need to clarify, too).

We had just had a great dinner at Border Cafe, and were standing outside the Harvard T entrance. A couple walked by, and the guy was telling [presumably] his girlfriend that she "should take his credit card, and...

...I don't want your credit card! Besides, it's my credit card."
"Yes, but I'm the one who is paying them off, so..." (he keeps trying to give her the card.)
"You know what, you can take that card..." She grabbed the card and threw it at him as hard as she could, and then put a finger to his chest and drew her face up to his until they were touching noses, "...shove it. Up. Your ass."

She stomped into the T while he picked up his the credit card and walked in the opposite direction. I couldn't tell if he was angry, frustrated, sad...or probably a combination of all the emotions in the world, except maybe the happy ones.

This reminds me of the time...well...actually, I don't remember details. But just yesterday while I was walking to Border Cafe, I saw a bench in Cambridge Common, and I thought, "Hey, I remember having a really bad fight at that bench." Sigh. Memories.

18 March 2008

Death Before Yielding

A very interesting article about the mentality of pedestrians in the Cambridge (&Somerville) area.

I found this buried in a comment section somewhere else, but I felt it was worth reposting here, both in light of yesterday and just because this is a subject of general interest.
Death Before YieldingRenewed efforts to ease the age-old blood feud among Boston’s drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians blow right past a key question: What if, deep down, we kind of enjoy the madness that transpires on our roads every day?

By Joe Keohane

I nearly killed a woman in Cambridge a few years back. I was driving at a reasonable speed through Harvard Square when she stepped off a curb and walked right into the street without looking. I hit the brakes, bringing the car to a hard stop about three feet from her. Since the woman wasn’t even in a crosswalk, I expected some acknowledgment of wrongdoing—a chagrined wave, a “my bad,” anything. Instead, I got a look that suggested I had just taken away her right to vote and buried a meat axe in her adopted greyhound. Clearly, I was the oppressor in this little tableau, and she, as the oppressed, was no longer obligated to follow the law.

The whole encounter was no doubt partly due to Cambridge’s being a monument to the ecstasy of fake victimhood, but it’s more complicated than that. This woman didn’t develop a habit of blindly forging into the middle of the street on her own. Something had to happen to make that behavior seem acceptable. My guess is that she, like many of us, had spent a lot of time marooned in a crosswalk with cars hurtling by on both sides, and at some point just said, “Ah, to hell with it. If you’re not going to recognize the crosswalk, neither am I.”
read the rest of the article here

17 March 2008

Look Both Ways, Then Never Leave the House

Update: It looks like they've made the identity of the victim public. It's such a hard thing to have had to witness, even after the fact. It only serves to remind us of our own mortality.

Someone commented on one of the articles, saying she witnessed the accident - that Isaac walked right into the back wheels of the truck while he was trying to cross at the crosswalk, possibly listening to an ipod - assuming that he and the truck wouldn't occupy the same space at the same time. This is consistent with a lot of the speculation and, sadly, the evidence I (and many others) witnessed. I have been caught off guard before when the rear wheels of a truck clip the curb and I have to jump back to avoid being hit. I also am among good company here in Camberville when, even while being a vigilant pedestrian, I stand [just barely] in the street, impatiently waiting for any opportunity to walk (whether it's at a lighted crosswalk or at an unlit one). It is tremendously scary when things like this happen. They're accidents. Simple. But how many times have we been lucky not to be victims of those accidents ourselves?

My heart goes out to the family and friends.
If you live in the Boston area (or any other metropolitan area, I'd imagine), you've probably done your share of jaywalking. Whether or not you're always careful, you've probably had a few near run-ins with some vehicles, and hopefully, you've always been okay.

The corner of Russell and Highland has always been this intersection for me, where the buses come barreling around the corner at (what feels like) 55 mph, regardless of the status of the light. There is no sign that disallows right turns on red, but whenever I'm watching this intersection I'm lucky if I see cars even pause before speeding around the corner, where the crosswalk is inconveniently and unsafely located. I want to go up to cars that actually stop and look, so that I can give the driver a high five. And on the same token, I want to smack pedestrians that just walk into the street when the light is green.

On the corner of Mass Ave and River street the volume of pedestrian traffic mixed in with the morning rush has made for some harrowing moments for me, too. The potentially deadly mix of man and vehicle was halted this morning, though, after tragedy struck. A 28 year old Harvard student was in the crosswalk when a Shaw's delivery truck turned right onto Mass Ave, and hit him, dragging him 25 feet (right in front of the subway entrance). The driver says he didn't see the guy. At 6:45 in the morning, it's very likely that the pedestrian had the right of way, and the truck simply made a (perfectly legal) right turn on a green light (the green traffic light and the walk signal both happen at the same time, despite a high volume of right turns. Stupid much, Cambridge?). Many people are blaming the morning sun. Could either one of them have paid more attention to the situation? Probably, but I doubt that any of us think like that when we're just trying to get to work - walking the same route we walk every morning. You shouldn't have to fear for your life when you have a walk signal. The driver should have been more cautious - always.

If your commute takes you to the Central Square T stop, it's likely that you saw this accident, or the grisly aftermath in some form or another. Unfortunately, Monday is the only day that my commute takes me to Central Square. I stopped to look at what I thought would be an exploded manhole cover (frequently happens in the area, unfortunately), or, when I saw the semi-truck, someone crashed into a pole. I never dreamed that I would be staring at the remains of a fatal pedestrian accident, thinking about how terrifying it is to watch cars blaze through red lights, or pedestrians walk blithely into traffic.

My mom always used to say, regarding right-of-way, that it's better to be wrong than to be dead right. I do honestly think about this frequently while crossing, but how many times have I bolted across the street to beat a blinking orange hand, trusting the traffic lights to keep me safe? It's enough to make a person doubly cautious, and even that won't do it sometimes. There's no traffic light that's going to protect you from the laws of physics, or someone else's carelessness.

Unfortunately, the Harvard student didn't make it. If you're the praying type, you should keep his family in your prayers. If like me, you're not, then just keep them in your thoughts. And be careful out there. I imagine sometimes what I would do if J were ever hurt, and it knocks the wind right out of me. And that's just pretend.

(edited to add: I got into an interesting discussion on someone else's livejournal, and he pointed out that the truck was going at a low speed, and the pedestrian got caught under the back tires (true, I also noticed this when I saw the scene). He made note that this could have been any kind of accident where someone was or was not paying attention - someone wearing headphones, someone tripping, a truck clipping the curb...so I'm not trying to make the point that anyone is to *blame*, but a person can never be too careful!)