One Hundred Percent Standard Deviations

Everything is very open with a very clear clarification of the challenges.

-the latest #SpamCompliment. It was attached to my Days All Strange and Vague post, which made me laugh harder than I probably should have.

I still haven’t finished the sweater. Or started watching American Gods.

I’m still doing 50 hour weeks, and the week before school let out for the summer, I had a surprise week-long business trip to Texas. Surprise! But that trip worked out for the best in some ways I can even talk about. I found a pair of cowboy boots that fit me1, a pair of sturdier dress shoes3, and I got to see Wonder Woman in 3D IMAX glory without having to wait for it to go digital. It was a lot better than I expected it would be. There were consequences. A fair number of characters had an approximation of agency. And thank whomever, things still blew up. I was mostly worried that all the explosions would be in the trailer, and the rest of it would involve a lot of standing around and sighing about man’s inhumanity to man while looking wistfully into the distance.4

I finished my Goodreads challenge six months early, thanks to a book I had to read for work.5 I’m still not sure how I feel about that.

I’m also behind in one of my classes, somewhat ironically, since it’s because of ten pagesish of writing, while I’ve produced a few hundred or so for work since my last post. However, I finished another class last week, so I — in theory — should be able to catch up.  In theory.  The Summer Camp Shenanigans start next week, so I will be spending a lot of time in the car, and becoming very good friends with the laptop I’m still not 100% sold on, despite having had it for a year.


1Which were legitimately necessary, since all I’d packed were sandals for the plane ride, dress shoes for work, and workout shoes for ridiculous ambition2, none of which would have fared well during my unexpected opportunity to go out on location to visit one of our video shoots.

2Which wasn’t so ridiculous: I kept myself on Eastern Time for the trip, and by doing so, had enough time to get in a couple of morning workouts. Workouts now make me feel better.  That is so deeply wrong in a way I can’t … yeah.

3Texas is definitely hard on shoes. On day two, I cracked something inside my right dress shoe that made the whole thing shimmy when I walked like it was going to break in half. Fortunately, I found a Dillard’s. I hate shoe shopping (that I have wide feet doesn’t help), but I can always find something in a Dillard’s shoe department. Always. Fortunately for me, Dillard’s isn’t convenient to where I live now.

4Sadly, there wasn’t enough Etta Candy. I felt like most of her arc was chopped in order to save time. I’d love to see one of her descendants turn up in a fixer role for Diana in the modern era movies. Oh, maybe Leslie Jones playing a disgruntled US Air Force Intelligence officer turned hacker/security specialist?

5The survey claimed my Strength Themes are 1) Restorative, 2) Strategic, 3) Learner, 4) Achiever, and 5) Individualization.   The MBTI also keeps claiming I’m INTP.  I haven’t yet found an assessment that’s come back with “She’s odd, but mostly harmless.”

Ninety Percent Thresholds

I still haven’t finished the sweater. To be honest, I haven’t worked on it at all. I was going to during the last two episodes of The Expanse, but I was so fried when I watched them that I didn’t need anything to do with my hands. American Gods debuted recently, so maybe I’ll get the sweater done when I get around to watching the episodes.

If that doesn’t work out, there’s always hope that it’ll happen during Suits or Killjoys — assuming I manage to watch the new seasons when they come on. To be honest, it’s rare that I watch more than one season of a series, and not unusual that I stop watching one right before it gets to a season ending cliffhanger. Pretty sure that would have happened with Season One of House of Cards if @bhoneydew and I hadn’t just binged it one weekend while we were sick.

I haven’t seen any episodes after that, even though I enjoyed House of Cards very much. I just can’t get myself in the right frame of mind to invest the time.

I’m still not sure what’s happening with my Goodreads reading challenge. Despite everything that’s going on1, I’m still way ahead of the curve. If I succeed in my devious Mother’s Day plan to read all day (after I finish my homework) and not look at anything work-related, I may even finish it!

1I’ve been working 50-hourish weeks for the past three weeks, while juggling my night class, Momming and this weird new peace with eating right and working out. Sadly, the good sleep habit I’ve been trying to cultivate did go right out the window — notice when I’m working on this? — but I’ve been cranky about that instead of just resigned2 so there’s hope for me yet.

2I haven’t been working on any creative projects. Seriously, the time I’d ordinarily put to that, I’ve been trying to put toward household foo. It’s not that I’m avoiding creative projects, it’s just that the household foo needs to be dealt with. It’ll get better. Eventually.

Eighty Percent Chance of Getting Stuff Done

Today at work, I followed up with someone I exchanged email with on Friday, and suddenly they no longer exist. As of the end of March.

I’m about 80% sure I didn’t make this person up, so it was surprising.

-Me, @shainorton, five days ago.

I’ve been busy.  This quite possibly surprises you not at all.

I haven’t yet finished the sweater.  I did finish:

    • another book (The Book of Etta, Meg Elison’s sequel to The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, making two more books that I have read recently that are actually recent, who hoo!).
    • multiple homework assignments and a midterm.
    • my gigantic pile of transcripts evaluated for another academic program, which, assuming I can fit everything into the schedule, I should finish in a year and change.
    • a large work project (in very little time), and multiple smaller work projects (in less time)
    • a work transition, but I’m more than eighty percent certain that work has not yet finished its side of the transition.1
    • transferring my cell phone to another phone and another carrier, like I’ve been putting off for over half a year now.
    • a blog post.  This one. In twenty-five minutes, as planned.  YAY!

1This doesn’t bother me; I’ve yet to have a job or even a gig where things didn’t change. There have even been a couple of occasions where they changed on my very first day. I started an engineering internship once, and got swapped into a human resources administrator role before I could put my lunch into the break room fridge. My first analyst job for a government contractor saw me pivoted into corporate business development on Day One — I never set foot on the site of the client I was initially hired for during my entire time with that company.2,3

2I’ve been told there’s a disconnect between reading my resume and talking to me. Can’t count for you how many times people have told me “You’re not what I expected.” I’m never sure how to take that. Are they smiling because they’re delighted or because they’re worried that if they upset me I’m going to manifest some hidden superpowers that involve, oh, wide area disintegration?

3“Why didn’t you say no, Shai? Don’t you care about what you do for a living?” Frankly, no, as long as the money’s good, the scenery changes, and they let me use explosive — er, no, I mean to say if my paychecks clear, I get to solve problems, and it doesn’t require me to make someone else coffee. See, I have a problem making coffee before I’ve had coffee. Sometimes, it’s not even coffee, more hot water tinted brown from whatever residue was left in the coffee maker after I cleaned out the old grounds and failed to replace them with fresh. Or it’s water on top of a thick layer of sludge because I scooped the grounds into the coffee pot instead of the machine. Don’t get me started on what can happen when I have to use a Keurig in the morning…

Throw

No spam commentary this week: all the fake comments I’ve gotten since my last post were all straightforward pitches for the male enhancement supplements I apparently need to be taking. Guess I’m just not a convincing female, despite this pesky c-section scar.

Happy Monday. I’ve been trying to post things on Mondays, to throw something together and stick it up on the blog in twenty-fiveish minutes or so, reckoning that getting what I can say said within that time period is preferable to something I’ve crafted from the finest syllables and polished to within an inch of its life, because you will likely never see that, and if you do, it won’t be within the next ten years.1

Trying, yep. And failing, but in a happy way: I’ve been getting decent amounts of sleep, and balancing work with the spring school schedule (mine and the Monster’s) and the ongoing domestic shenanigans in a way that’s more like, well, balance and less like throwing plates into an overhead cabinet while hoping I’m the only one that’ll ever open that door after it’s shut. I’m continuing my twenty-five minutes of morning reading-stuff-just-because-I-want-to2, my twice-a-week gym workouts, my once-a-week bread therapy, and once I finish the remaining sleeve4, I will have crocheted my first sweater. I’ve also resumed chasing the Monster during his cross country runs, which I’m still certain might be scaring the local wildlife.

Writing? It’s also happening. The piece I submitted in February was rejected, which made me very happy, because it was one of those things that should have gotten lost in an electronic file purge.

And that’s pretty much all I can talk about right now. At least it’s not laundry!


1This is assuming I wouldn’t trash it during one of my every five years or so electronic file purges, because nothing’s safe or sacred when I get on one of those tears. During the last one, I got rid of a journal that I’d compiled out of hand written ones that I’d kept off and on for two decades.

2I just finished Jenny Lawson’s Furiously Happy (which I still conflate with my favorite Björk song). In ways, her stories were awkwardly familiar. While I haven’t ever put on a costume to infiltrate a band of koalas, I did stay up for an entire week once to do a research project on Lucky Charms. Not for money. Not for a marketing class (never taken one). I don’t even like the cereal. I had the idea stuck in my head that General Mills had increased the frequency rate of new marshmallow introductions as Nickelodeon had gained market share, and I wanted to prove I wasn’t crazy. Yes, I know that was asking a lot from breakfast cereal, but at least it wasn’t poetry.3

3I don’t mourn the loss of my old journal. It wasn’t something I would have wanted to share with the world, even if I’d known there was a market for batshit.

4The idea of making a sweater has daunted me for years. I start with the “make a swatch to check your gauge” step each time, fail that each time, try it again, fail it again, and throw everything into the closet for another year, rinse, lather, repeat, WhyCan’tIGetThisRight?, et cetera. This time, I skipped the gauge swatch step, and just tackled the project as something to do while I finally got around to watching Suits while waiting for this season of The Expanse. I don’t watch much television. When I do, I like to have something to work on that makes me feel like I’m not completely wasting my time while parked on my butt, but my habit of blindered focus on story-based entertainment means that I don’t have much attention span to spare for that which is making me feel like I’m not completely wasting my time while parked on my butt. So, I’m getting a sweater made by ignoring it while I’m in the process of making it. Yep. I’ll post a picture when it’s done.

To be clear, I’ll be posting a picture of the sweater, not my c-section scar.

Low Bars

This is not a post about Halloween. It’s best that I don’t talk about how Halloween is going right now, or rather, not going. This year was supposed to be the year where we had our patio and fire pit finished, so we could have little monsters traipsing safely across our backyard instead of negotiating the dark spots and trip hazards to get onto our porch.  Preparations for this started in April, and were supposed to take three weeks. Three! Weeks!  Notice how Halloween was not moved to Spring this year!  We were finally supposed to get the gas line run and everything hooked up today — but now there’s a problem with the permit, namely the County can’t find the one for the fire pit, and is questioning if one was ever obtained for building it, never mind that they’d already inspected it when they checked the landing and the patio back in early September…

Like I said, it’s best I don’t talk about how things are going wrong with my favorite holiday in this year where everything else is going wrong.  Not that the patio’s the only thing to go wrong:  haven’t decorated, haven’t carved any pumpkins, haven’t … arrgh.

My goal for today, work willing, is to put candy out in a bucket on the lawn and just not be here tonight.  Just not. I don’t want to deal with being repeatedly asked why we didn’t decorate this year.1

Like I promised, this is not a post about Halloween.

2016challenge

12 Books, Two Months ahead of Schedule.

Yeah, that happened last week.  I am both proud of myself for completing this year’s Goodreads reading challenge two months ahead of schedule, and embarrassed that I set the bar so low in the first place.

You see, when I was a kid, I used to read everything that was nailed down, and most things that weren’t. I didn’t start developing discriminatory tastes until I got older; when I was around my son’s age, I was reading beauty magazines2 side by side with nursing textbooks3, and a juvenile Heinlein in the same can’t-check-out-more-than-three-books-at-a-time-Shai library stack as a fat Herman Wouk and James Clavell (or The Silmarillion stacked with The Captains and The Kings and Gone With The Wind3 … or The Book of Skaith if GWTW was checked out.)

As an adult, well…

Okay, I still read everything that’s nailed down and most things that aren’t. Unfortunately, far more of everything is now articles, research reports/white papers, RFI/P/Qs, blog posts and lordhelpme Facebook shares5 than it is books. So, very likely I am reading the same amount of material that I used to, perhaps even more, it’s just not…

It’s not the same.  It aggravates me. Perhaps next year it’ll aggravate me enough to do something about it. Hey, it’s possible! I got aggravated enough at my lack of fitness this year to start working out with a trainer, and now I’m able to keep up with the Monster on his Cross Country days.6

In case you were wondering what books I read this year, here’s the list:

Plot Perfect, by Paula Meunier
Level Up (Fandom Hearts: Book 1) by Cathy Yardley.
A Bitch Called Hope & Betting Blind (Lennox Cooper #1 & #2) by Lily Gardner
NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity by Steve Silberman
The Martian by Andy Weir
The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan
The View from Flyover Country by Sarah Kendzior
Best Served Cold, Red Country and The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

On second thought, maybe I haven’t developed discriminatory tastes after all. These are still a fairly random mix.  The only pattern I’ve noticed emerge is that I tend to alternate fiction with non-fiction/reference.

Bhoneydew’s been after me to read Scalzi’s Redshirts next, which I might do after my networking class ends — which coincidentally, is around the same time my current massive work project wraps. I think I will need something to stop the bleeding from all the holes in my mind once those two things get yanked out of it. Some of my penguins like the idea of my adding Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy to the fiction side of next year’s reading challenge, so I might do that too, even if their agreeing on anything is a little disturbing.  I’m not sure what to read next in non-fiction, though Jane Ziegelman’s A Square Meal:  A Culinary History of the Great Depression looks fascinating.


1Because the house is always decorated for Halloween. Never with tombstones and smoke machines or zombies erupting from the ground or such things, but it’s always festively lit even if it is draped with fake spiderwebs and spiders.
2Because my aunt had left them at the house.
3Because my aunt had also left them at the house. I grew up in a household that never gave or threw books away, and married a man with a similar disposition — so our son has access to all sorts of books, plus the access to bookstores (and yes, Amazon) that neither one of us had as kids.
4Hands down, this is still one of my favorite novels. I’ve always had mixed feelings about the movie:  I think it scrubbed more warts off Scarlett O’Hara than it should have (e.g. she more-than-less abandoned her first two children, who weren’t even mentioned in the movie) in order to make her seem more conventionally appealing.
5Even though I spend more time blocking or hiding Facebook shares these days than I do reading them.
6I set a low bar for that too: get butt to gym, don’t fall on face or pass out during session, remember to drink your water. Yep. That’s my bar. If I clear that each week, everything else is cake. Umm … delicious caaaaake.

No Love For Robots

Oh, hey, the spammers found me again.

i see your website needs some fresh & unique content
writing manually is time consuming
[trust me]
[you will love your robot masters]
please help me to rank my website for some toys
[after you load this operating system atop yours]
[trust me]

-the latest #spampoetry

The spammers are right on two counts.

One,  I should stop talking about my laundry.

(Freaking laundry.)

Two, speaking of robots, I feel the need to vent some about Political Survey Calls.

We’ve gotten so many at home (we live in a county that CNN featured heavily in the last Presidential election) that I’m now cringing whenever I see a Caller ID pop up on the house phone that I don’t recognize.  If the number is flagged as Anonymous or Unknown or Out Of Area, I don’t answer the phone at all.

It’s not so much that I don’t like answering questions about my political beliefs1, it’s that I don’t like not being able to answer questions about my political beliefs. Every single telephone surveyor I’ve had this election season has handed me a set of answers to choose from, like so:

SURVEYOR:  Do you support [Issue A]?

ME:  In what aspect?  I am okay with [A-1], think we could do a better job with
[A-2], and [A-3]? [A-3] just doesn't make any sense, even from a political
mercenary standpoint...

SURVEYOR: So is that a yes or a no?

ME: Uh. Let's say yes. I really am okay with [A-1]. I'd also like to see
[added feature]. This is something we are already doing in [other issue area]
and it is having a positive impact...

SURVEYOR: You said you support [Issue A]. Is it because of [Politician]'s work
in [A-3]?

ME: Did I not just say that I didn't think [A-3] made any sense?

SURVEYOR: [Politician] is looking out for [perceived social group:  since I'm a
middle-aged woman, this is usually 'families']...

ME: Interesting. Are you going to ask me what I think of [Politician]'s work
in [other issue area]? Because I'm pretty sure that's not what you're looking
for in a candidate who is looking out for [perceived social group].  Did someone
actually vet this individual, or was this more of a 'so and so can raise
a buttload of money and be the loudest dog in the park' scenario?

SURVEYOR: Ma'am?

ME:  Loud Dog Phenomenon. It's like a squeaky wheel, but ... okay, Google's 
now telling me nobody's ever published an article about that, so maybe I just made
it up, sorry, but ... it's from Dilbert, sort of, when Dogbert decides he 
can get what he wants just by making a lot of noise. 

SURVEYOR: I ... see.  So, is that a 'no'?

1Like my religious beliefs, my political beliefs have never neatly fit into a single easily-labeled box, so I tend not to talk about what’s in that box.  It’s just better that way, as I’m sure most of the political surveyors who have called me would agree.

Points on a Woogedy Timeline

Woogedy (woo-geddy) was a word I grew up hearing1; [x] is woogedy or woogedy [x] translates to “[x] will progress or is progressing, but the progression will be/is neither in a direct nor predictable manner”, comme ça:

curvy-road-ahead-sign-01

Having woogedy in my vocabulary made it possible for me to understand one of my Most Favorite Short Stories Ever (Alfred Bester’s “Galatea Galante”) as soon as I accidentally read it as a young’n2, without needing to know what the heck a Drunkard’s Walk was.

So, this week?  Woogedy life is woogedy. I’ve made it to Week #3 of that Coursera course, yep, Week #3 and there’s only four. Only four, so I am so close to finishing it that I can almost taste it … which is exactly when the universe tends to decide to drop more Bright Shiny Objects into my life. Or Dark Spiky Objects, because it’s 2016, and I am beginning to think that as a planet we’ve hit a cloud of them like we haven’t seen since, oh, maybe 1968.

History books strongly suggest (to me, anyway) that year also sucked. I can’t say much of it was my fault, since I wasn’t born until that December. Nor can I take much credit for our going to the moon the following year, even though I’ve been told I was genuinely fascinated by all the news about space … as opposed to just staring into space so intently that I look blurry in almost all of my candid baby pictures.3

We did go to the moon in 1969, though. We also managed to get through the Cold War without blowing ourselves up, so we didn’t terminally screw things back then — and  though we’ve had as many setbacks as we’ve had successes, there are still signs that as a whole, we’re still growing and learning more about our universe, despite some of us being hellbent on keeping us locked in windowless dark basements listening to the mice chewing the insulation while telling ourselves they’re all Godzillas.

And I’m rambling … because I’m also woogedy. I sat down to bang this out in an hour, and while it’s probably been about an hour of writing on this, there have been many, many Do Now Objects between when I sat down and now, and probably there will be many more before I finish this.

Today is the Monster’s first day of Middle School. He got up, got dressed, ate most of his breakfast, then noticed that we hadn’t taken out the garbage and recycling yet, so he wandered away from his breakfast and took care of that before getting on the bus.  When I was eleven, I wouldn’t have wandered away from shoving breakfast in my face before school to take out the garbage, no matter how necessary it was to get done.

So, I got some sun in my eyes, and got all misty about The Monster’s not being where I expected him to be, but still growing and learning, and being exactly where he needs to be on his woogedy.4

We’ll be okay. The rest of 2016 will probably find new ways to suck, but we will be okay. Eventually. Overall, we are still better than we were.

Except for the laundry.

Freaking laundry.

1 I did some quick prepost research to see if woogedy was a genuine word, or just one lifted from (what is becoming increasingly apparent and a little uncomfortable making) my family’s invented dialect … which, yes, I’ve spread to my husband and son, and good grief, maybe that’s how language starts in the first place. Woogedy was apparently used in a kid’s cartoon series called Rocket Power starting back in the very late ’90s. I’ve never seen the series — as a semi-grown person then with not a lot of time I wanted to spend watching television, I was only following this obscure cult cartoon called The West Wing. I’m sure you’ve never heard of it. [INSERT APPROPRIATE EMOJI HERE]

2While I’d repeatedly read every science reference book I could get my hands on by that point5, I wasn’t introduced to science fiction until 1980, when Tara Thompson, one of my middle school classmates, got stuck with my name for the classroom gift exchange. She had no clue what to get me, but knew I liked books and I liked science, so she gave me Terry Carr’s The Best Science Fiction of the Year #9, which probably wasn’t appropriate reading for a just-turned-twelve year old but heck, since it wasn’t a romance novel6, my grandmother and mother didn’t mind, and that’s what mattered.

3The Monster inherited this trait.

4The Monster is more even-keeled than I was at eleven, and more cheerful than @bhoneydew was at the same age, and is still more of an athlete than both his parents will ever be, unless we snap and start doing Ironmans (which he’d want to do too, and be better at it than both of us, so vicious cycle).

5If I didn’t understand things then, I just kept reading them until I could make them make sense, and honestly, that hasn’t changed all that much now that I’m a little further along on the grownup trajectory. We do have Google now, which does make that process faster.

6I was reading those, too, just when they weren’t looking — especially the ones they’d thought they’d hidden under the dryer in the bathroom.