Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I'm a student again. Five weeks, every Wednesday night, sitting in a classroom, feigning interest, tapping the tip of my pen against my notebook, doodling... I wonder if they'll assign us homework. I wonder if I'll have to buy a book. I wonder if I'll ever be able to remember the long ass name of the class. Something about key trends and usability. I don't know. Big words.

Tomorrow I drive to work for the first time. I had to print out directions from Google Maps, and Rand Mcnally for good measure. Downtown is a confusing place with its one-way streets and hilly, rainy, slippery-ness that make me feel like I'm tumbling backwards down a rabbit hole.

The parking lot in our building just raised its rates to $14 per day or $27 if you stay longer than 12 hours. Thank you, narrow, cramped, nasty parking lot. You give me no reason to stop taking the bus on non-school days (even when I have to stand in the pouring rain for ten minutes on the open street and feel fat drops pelt and patter against my hood and stain my plucky leather purse, nay, even then).

I like the bus though, I do. The only thing about it I don't like are the passengers who are incapable of shutting up. I don't want to hear about how you're having a bad ass day, or how Carmen Electra's boobs equal wireless access points. Seriously, the other people? They're laughing because they're polite. Not because you're funny. And I promise you, the book I'm reading (at least until you started shrieking in my ear) is much more interesting and original than your clumsy comparison of sex to a network connection.

P.S. If you're going to make stupid analogies for comedic effect at least get the terminology straight. Bandwidth does not mean what you think it means.

Monday, January 30, 2006

I'm only in it for the beer

The grocery store was out of chopped frozen spinach and dry vegetable soup mix. The bananas were picked clean, and I couldn't find a decent bulb of garlic anywhere. The shelves were as bare as shelves during the grocery strike in southern California. And it's all because of the Superbowl.

I'm not a football fan but I'll watch so I know what everyone is talking about -- what with it being big news *and* an excuse to drink beer and eat summer sausage. I'm sad that my crock pot was donated in the move, because that means no Bourbon Dogs, but I'll live I guess. I suppose I can drink my Bourbon without little hot dogs floating in it. For a change.

Go team!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Slipcovers, crepes, and short stories

I jumped (full throttle) out of my comfort zone Friday night when I went to a girls'-night-out dinner with co-workers I didn't know well. Of course it was fine. The food was decent (PF Changs), the drinks only eh, and there was good conversation. I can safely say I filled my social quota for the week.

But the true star of Friday was lunch: Vietnamese sandwiches, a Nutella/Banana/whipped cream crepe, and snooping around the convention center. Come to think of it, I didn't accomplish a lot of actual work on Friday, but I did up my flibberty-gibbet cred. That's got to count for something.

Yesterday, Jer and I bought slipcovers for the couch and recliner to match the new pub table and chairs, a storage bench for the front hallway, and a couple of candy bars for being such good consumers. Then I played Warcraft. I'm on Khaz Modan these days, building up a Troll Priest named Gurt. But that could change at any minute. I may bow out and go back to my warrior or my mage, it all depends on unseen forces, shaping and crafting my capricious video game whims.

As we walked around Target looking at the varying shades of red available in slipcover technology, my eyes fell upon the novelty pillow section. Also called the "Pink and fluffy, heart shaped nightmare section replete with cutesy stupid sayings embroidered in white script." I looked solemnly at Jer and said, "Nothing says I love you like a pillow that says I love you."

In other news, I'm thoroughly enjoying reading and finding inspiration in Shirley Jackson's short stories. Turns out, there's more to her catalogue than "The Lottery." Take that 8th grade English teachers everywhere!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Debunking is Nothing Like Spelunking

Myth #1: A nation watched as tragedy unfolded
Few people actually saw what happened live on television. The flight occurred during the early years of cable news, and although CNN was indeed carrying the launch when the shuttle was destroyed, all major broadcast stations had cut away — only to quickly return with taped relays. With Christa McAuliffe set to be the first teacher in space, NASA had arranged a satellite broadcast of the full mission into television sets in many schools, but the general public did not have access to this unless they were one of the then-few people with satellite dishes. What most people recall as a "live broadcast" was actually the taped replay broadcast soon after the event.
7 myths about the Challenger shuttle disaster

I was in the third grade. My teacher, short black hair and glasses, rolled the television to the front of the classroom. She plugged in the set and stood back, adjusting the connection. The class fidgeted in their seats.

I kept a stash of sunflower seeds under the lid of my desk, but I didn’t like to eat them. The shells got everywhere. Another girl, Mary, gave me a handful once and I never got rid of them. I don’t know why. Sometimes I’d suck on grapes because then the teacher couldn’t see I was eating. You weren’t supposed to eat in class. It was a special day because we were going to watch a rocket go into space and there was a teacher on the shuttle and it was history. We saw the teacher in the official photos, in front of the NASA background. Her name was Christa, and that’s only one letter different from my name.

Then the shuttle was on television and we were all watching. We watched it get higher and higher, and then we saw something that wasn’t supposed to happen. We saw it smoke and break apart and the shock in the classroom was heavy and sudden, and the teacher lunged forward to turn off the set so we wouldn’t have to watch it any longer.

I remember we had the opportunity to buy photographs of the Challenger crew, but I can’t recall if it was before or after the disaster. I think it was a few years later. I bought a NASA sticker and the photos and they came in a big white envelope. I stared at their headshots and group photos for a long time, and I remember I was very sad because no more teachers would ever get sent up into space again.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I should already be asleep but I'm not

After work Jer and I drove out to Lynnwood to see the guys responsible for Penny Arcade, and get books signed. We bought the books last Saturday in preparation and to make a trial run in finding the place. New places frighten and confuse me.

We arrived at the comic book store about 5:30pm -- the signing started at 6 -- so we went inside and wandered aimlessly until a few people started a line. Then we joined the line, which eventually became more like a series of concentric circles, and joked with the other nerds standing around about body odor, anime cons, and mac n cheese. I was a little out of place because I wasn't wearing a black shirt with writing on it, but as long as I didn't make any sudden movements, I was accepted into the nerd habitat. Don't worry. What I lack in witty t-shirts I more than make up for with my lame social skills. These are my people.

Long story short: the signing happened, the guys were cool, we ate at Fatburger, and the heavens poured down buckets of wet. Tomorrow I've got to go to some sales thing and be perky before the sun shines. Some people make hay, I'm forced to be perky. So until next time... respect your elders!

Monday, January 23, 2006

An Evening of Theatre

I admit, I have doubts about seeing the "The Wedding Singer: A New Musical." A musical based on an Adam Sandler movie (a period piece even) has the potential to be a dismal, soul-sucking couple of hours... but that didn't stop me from rushing out to buy tickets to its pre-Broadway engagement. The reason? Stephen Lynch is playing Robbie Hart, and I am a sucker for Stephen Lynch.

His voice mesmerizes. I think if we could hear the angels sing, they would sound a little something like Stephen Lynch. He's got a sound that lulls you into a trance-like state, and then once you've let your guard down, soaking up all the pretty harmonies, he hits you with the true spirit of his awesomeness. For example:

Here we are
Dear old friends
You and i drunk again
laughs have been had
tears have been shed
maybe the whisky has gone to my head
but if i were gay
i would give you my heart
and if i were gay
you'd be my work of art
and if i were gay
we would swim in romance
but im not gay
so get your hand out of my pants
If I Were Gay, Stephen Lynch

I highly recommend his other songs, "Special Ed," "Hermaphrodite," and "Jim Henson's Dead." You can find them all on his album, "A Little Bit Special." Not for the faint of heart, but a lot of fun.

And soon, oh yes soon, I will sit in row R and he shall serenade me with his pretty pretty singing. And I will be happy. And not once will I think of Adam Sandler or Drew Barrymore or Karma Karma Karma Chameleon. So there.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

All in a Day's Work

I walked into the office this morning and the first thing I noticed was the little paper umbrellas stuck everywhere. On my desk I found a clear plastic sleeve with a blue umbrella inside. It implored me to search for its friends and fill the bag. So I did.

I found 60 blue umbrellas hidden throughout the office. In with the sugar, at the bottom of a vase, stuck in the cubicle walls... And for my efforts I won a real black bumbershoot with a curved plastic handle and snazzy red dice painted all over. It's tall and makes me want to prance. When I pick it up I feel like singing "Puttin' on the Ritz" and tipping my imaginary top hat.

An unfortunate side effect of my participation is that everywhere I look now I think I see colored paper umbrellas sticking out of the walls. All together there were over 500 hidden in the office. About 170 are still out there, haunting me, mocking me.

I'm afraid I won't have a moment's peace until those 170 return home to their families. Yes, in times of crisis, I'll be the one who steps up to the plate and takes one for the team. Because I am the Umbrella Wrangler. And we wranglers are a proud, but dying breed.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


I saw a car go the wrong way down a one-way street. The driver turned into a parking lot before colliding with anything.

On the bus, I sat next to a smelly man. He slumped down in the seat beside me and spread his legs wide. The woman across the aisle flashed me a knowing smirk. I considered moving, but stayed put.

At 4th and Pike, two men scrubbed the cement sidewalk with power washers. They didn't stop when I walked by.

When I paid for a small coffee with exact change, the woman behind the counter feigned napping because I took too long to extract three pennies from my purse. I laughed nervously and put a one dollar bill in her tip jar.

The man I see every morning on the corner of 5th and Pike who sells "Real Change," always smiles and says "Good morning." Today there was a woman in his spot.

I ran to cross a street before the light changed.

The sky was dark blue. White lights still strung in trees. A sick man howled at buses in the square, his voice booming nonsense over the traffic. In the same spot the day before, a homeless woman ripped out the garbage liner and dumped its contents on the ground, edging the trash around with her foot. White liquid seeped into the sidewalk cracks. Then she turned and moved to the next can.

There were two ambulances at 1st and Pike.

A poster that advertises the Scooba -- a robot that mops -- hangs in the Sharper Image window. In the Adidas window, a basketball player is dressed as a gladiator, his mouth frozen in a throaty rebel yell. Headless mannequins pose fashionably in the Banana Republic windows. They wear smart fitted blazers and dark wash jeans. Some clutch leather handbags.

I change tenses because I don't think you'll notice.

Thank you for not noticing.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

As of today, internet at home tentatively returns to our lives. Now I can fill you in on all the gossip. For lunch I had a hot dog and a big fat pickle. For dinner, hot pepperoni pizza. And the first of my tax documents arrived in the mail. Yep. You're caught up.

While we were in Portland, Chiana locked herself in the bathroom for an unknown period of time. Good news is she's no worse for wear. Bad news is she built a nest for herself out of teeny bits of toilet paper. I don't think she was in there long because the litter box is also in there, and Vash didn't leave us any presents... Speaking of Vash, he's learned how to open the accordion doors to the pantry and spends his free time chewing on the dry food bag. He is a cat of many tricks. I think we have foiled him though by removing the bag to higher ground. But then he is wily and it is only a matter of time.

I am reading Shirley Jackson's "The Haunting of Hill House," and it's excellent -- one of my Powell's purchases. I also bought plays by Neil LaBute, Brendan Behan, and Terence McNally, a Harlan Ellison graphic novel, two Shirley Jackson anthologies, a book on writing software documentation, and a novel by Kathe Koja.

Now I believe you are truly caught up and there is nothing left to say. Please enjoy the photo of Seattle below that I shot on an excessively foggy and strangely striated late afternoon in October. From my balcony.

Downtown Seattle under the grip of weird haze. October 2005.

Monday, January 16, 2006

A Weekend in Portland

If you consider yourself a book lover, you must make a pilgrimage to Powell's City of Books in Portland, OR. It is so big you need a map. It is so big, all the computer books are in a different building. It is so big, I got lost in the elevator.

We drove down to Portland early Saturday morning and made excellent time. It was a pleasant drive, not too much rain, a little bit of sun, no traffic. We found the hotel without a hitch, checked in early, and did a little exploring. After a couple hours at Powell's and some half assed shopping elsewhere, we stopped at a tavern for a couple beers and a plate of gorgonzola fries. Then we stumbled back to the hotel, I took a nap, and we went to a night of plays. After the plays, one of the playwrights -- my former teacher and all around excellent writer -- took Jer and I out for a beer and we talked about the plays, life, and everything. By 1am, I was asleep.

The next morning I went for an early morning photo walk along the Willamette River. The sun came out and lit up all the bridges. Freezing cold, but pretty.

Portland reminded me of Bizarro Seattle. The public transit was much better and there was a Carl's Jr across from our hotel, but I didn't get that Seattle vibe I like so much. Portland just seemed so much more spread out and the homeless people were far more aggressive. Maybe that soured it.

It comforted me in one small way at least; I'm glad I'm not a sucker for any ol' Pacific Northwest city. Portland was nice, but we didn't click.

I highly recommend the Portland Big Deal (do a Google search, you'll find it) if you're planning a trip anytime soon. We stayed in the Hilton smack dab in the middle of downtown, king bed, no smoking, $119 pre-tax, free parking, plus coupons. Parking is normally $18 per day. It was awesome. I can't say enough good things about the Big Deal.

Until next time...

Portland, OR. January 15, 2006

Portland, OR. January 15, 2006

Portland, OR. January 15, 2006

Portland, OR. January 15, 2006

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Back to School

Today I am not a fan of people who brag that they are early-adopters. This is because early-adopted products don’t usually work like you expect them to, and then when someone hands it to you all excited and says, oh the old way? The old way is inefficient, we use this spiffy, sparkly, new way now. Well, then you’re screwed because the new way’s best feature is making you want to rip your eyelashes out and paste them into pretty pictures of unicorns. It’s only fun to play with new technology when there isn’t a deadline of yesterday.

I’m taking a community college class in usability or software something-or-other that starts Feb. 1. Stay tuned for wacky back-to-junior-college stories. I worked it out and if I cared I could totally get a (insert awed whisper here) Certificate. Yes, I know what you’re saying. You’re saying, Christy? Don’t you already have two bachelors, and one-third another? And I will say, shut up. I don’t have a (awed whisper) Certificate. I wonder if it’s got a fancy gold foil stamp on it and the signature of an impressive personality. There’s only one way to tell. Come hell or high water (hello twenty-something consecutive days of rain), I’ve got to get me one of them (head bowed, eyes glistening) Certificates.

Know how I know I’m an optimist? Today I didn’t bring an umbrella.

The condo association opted not to discuss the cable/internet problems in favor of condo board political turmoil, an event which I am tempted to capitalize. Instead, the cable providers are considering replacing a strategic node which may yet serve as our very own deus-ex-machina in an otherwise completely uninteresting tale of sound, fury, and blue plastic booties.

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Same Old Song and Dance

As I was jogging slowly and painfully tonight in the rain, a thought struck me. To be successful, I have to stop comparing myself to other people. The only thing that matters is how I perform and how I improve. It's not an accurate measurement otherwise. How do you calibrate against infinite possibility?

In my oxygen deprived, lung burning haze, I wondered in a similar vein: what if the reason that a blank sheet is so terrifying, is that it represents infinity and writer's block is simply the act of being overwhelmed?

The white page is a high-level view of static. With practice, you can cross your eyes and drill down into every variation of every human story on each intersecting time line in curved space. It's not that there's nothing to write about, it's that there's too much to write about. The job of a writer is then to separate the wheat from the chaff, or rather, focus on a dot the size of a period and see how deep it goes.

Or maybe the writer's job is to just shut up and write already. The world may never know.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Fun at Parties

I walked to the beach this morning and bought a mocha and a slice of banana bread at Tully's before heading back. The Tully's plant you can see from the freeway used to be the Rainier Brewery. Maybe that's why I like their coffee so much, the lingering essence of beer. It was a cold walk, even with the sun out. The front of each leg turned red, actually burning from the wind. Is it possible to be partially frostbit? Because otherwise, I am the lamest power walker ever.

My nice and relaxing day ended with two Bloody Marys and Celebrity Fit Club 3. Everything is better with Absolut Peppar Vodka, I tell you what. I tried to write today. I did. I sat at my computer and opened Word. I typed in the date and that was that. Then I went in the living room, far from my computer, and read Robert McKee's "Story" for a little while, but I never got around to actually typing anything. Although now I can tell you more than you ever wanted to know about an inciting incident.

I'm sure that knowledge'll come in handy at parties.

I'm reading an excellent sci-fi novel called "Earth Abides" by George R. Stewart. It's making me think I should acquire some survivalist skills. Like blacksmithing. Or herb growing. Something really useful. When most everybody dies of the plague, nobody's going to want a lousy Technical Writer to start a new civilization with. (Ignore the grammar, I'm making a point.) I bet if I could milk a cow, then I'd be welcomed into the future with open arms. Or coax a hen to lay an egg. Then I'd be worth my weight in future gold. At the very least I should be able to use a Y shaped stick to locate underground wells.

But no. I had to learn how to use FrameMaker. If you need help setting your change bars, post apocalypse, I'll totally be there for you. Or indexing. I rule at indexing.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Chance of Connectivity: 35%

Turns out the entire condo complex has bad wiring. All the residents are having trouble with their cable and internet connectivity. There's a condo association meeting later this week, but historically, renters don't attend those meetings and that's what we are. With luck, the owners will be fed up enough to get the place rewired. It really is dismal. Wires strung outside the building, split randomly, exposed to the elements. The signal is so weak that anyone with digital cable can't even get a complete picture.

I think it's almost three weeks now since the trouble started. Three weeks of spotty internet access. It's maddening. No World of Warcraft for weeks and weeks. And to make matters worse, my employer is particularly strict about how I use the internet at work. No connection at home, and no freedom at work. How will I feed my addiction? I'm damn near fetal here, sweating through my chair as I go through withdrawal.

The negative still doesn't overshadow the positive, however. The view outside our living room window remains fantastic.

Next weekend Jer and I are off to Portland, OR to see a play and stay in a fancy hotel. And I bought tickets for next October to see the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Pacific Science Center. This is how I get my mind off the internet. I buy things that force me to leave the house and experience real life. Unfortunately, real life is usually a poor substitute for Warcraft. I guess it wouldn't be that way if I lowered my expectations.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

My Vegetable Bowl Matches My Tea Kettle

I now have a complete set of Pfaltzgraff Monaco dishes. This is a feat because the pattern was discontinued June 2004, but I persevered and now I can have a proper dinner party -- if I were the sort to throw dinner parties. Ah, luxury... People who I only sort of know, please come over and eat the delicacies that I have prepared because the dishes match. See how they match? Oh, you are so jealous with the matching.

The wine tasting went well. We bought several bottles at the Columbia Winery in lovely Woodinville, WA. I liked their Red Willow Sangiovese the best. Then we ate at Dairy Queen. My buffalo chicken strips were superb and the Chocolate Extreme Blizzard was a delight to the senses. We left satiated and full of good cheer, plus grease.

I love the sound the rain makes. I'm at my desk, a cat in my lap, and all the computers humming their toneless tune. Life is good, with the mild exception of the cat's stank breath.

That's right. I said stank.

I'm slowly trying to set some fitness goals, but it isn't easy. Turns out I'm incredibly lazy and not inclined towards athleticism at all. I mean, not at all. Like, not even a little. But that's the fun, I guess. Lots of pain, sleep deprivation, and constant crankiness in exchange for a waist.

There's a possibility that Jer and I will soon be spending a weekend in Portland. Why? Because we can. And also? Because the dishes match.

Only not at all.

Monday, January 02, 2006


I'm sitting here, waiting to leave. We're meeting friends at 11:30am to go wine tasting, but first we have to find our friend's place in Queen Anne. I'm not in a great mood to drink, so I hope wherever we end up has a nice gift shop or maybe garlic fries. I'd settle for garlic fries.

Our New Year's Eve was uneventful. I fell asleep at 10:45pm and woke shortly after midnight. I missed the fireworks off the Space Needle, but I didn't miss the traffic jam outside of our apartment. Apparently our "front yard" provides a prime and popular view of the explosives. Also, immediately following the fireworks, high school boys stood in the street, hooting and hollering as they stopped cars and pretended to direct traffic. I was glad to be cozy and warm inside, and not stuck in high school boy traffic. Because I am no fun at all.

Due to too many glasses of bourbon, white russians, and beer, my head is a wee bit cottony this morning. No better way to start day two of the New Year than with the ghost of a hangover.

I watched the Rose Parade on television this morning because Jer's grandmother worked on one of the floats. I don't normally watch these things, but I guess Pasadena doesn't usually have rain on float days. Man, the decorative seeds were washing off some of the floats. It was heartbreaking to think how much time and energy went into these things, and then see them destroyed in front of your eyes. Some of the marching band uniforms, there colors started to run! It was anarchy. Or maybe just very very wet. I get those words confused.