Cogito, Ergo Sumana

Categories: sumana | Apartment Life

Living in a flat in the U-S-A

(1) : Anniversary: Today is my fifteenth wedding anniversary!

Leonard and I got engaged on 18 April 2006 and then married on 21 April 2006. For our tenth wedding anniversary we visited Paris. While there we visited the awesome Musée des Arts et Métiers, where I noticed:

Paris's museum on the history of technology displayed not only a Jacquard loom but its predecessors; others had done programmable looms but their versions didn't auto-advance the program along with the weave, or didn't allow composability (replacing individual lines of code), and so on. Jacquard was Steve Jobs, integrating innovations. I need to remember that there are always predecessors.

And -- as I recall with gratitude and relief -- I don't have to be Jacquard. I can be one of those other folks. "Somebody Will". "I am willing to sacrifice something I don't have / For something I won't have / but somebody will someday."

Today Leonard and I are celebrating our wedding anniversary by having a little virtual vacation to France. We drank some French-blended tea with breakfast, we'll get some French takeout later, and we'll watch some French TV ads on YouTube and play GeoGuessr to virtually walk around Paris.

I'm appreciating today the gentle quiet durable pleasures of a long partnership. I hope you get some gentle pleasure today, too.

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: Podguess -- A Little Guessing Game: I came up with this game and Leonard and I have been enjoying it the last few days, so here it is for you. I just came up with the name "podguess" which does not seem to be taken.

One person, using a podcast directory on the web or in a podcatcher app, searches for a really common word, like "five", "light", "box", or "board". That person reads podcast names to the other players, who try to guess what the podcast is actually about. What's "Be There in Five" about? or "Potholes and Penguins"? Sometimes you'll need to go to individual episode descriptions to find out! And sometimes you can't figure it out at all without listening!

While playing this we usually skip really obvious titles like "[name of church] Sermon Podcast" or "[money-related cliche] With [entrepreneur/self-help expert]". Also, I've only played this in person with one other person, but I think it would also work in groups and in a videocall.

This -- like Podcast Roulette -- is a fun way to discover the great breadth of podcasts out there, and to be mystified by odd things. And -- like my Powerpoint Karaoke best practices or this Wikipedia category-guessing game, which a friend built into a web app -- it's a way to harvest the natural weirdness of humans making and sharing stuff on the Internet and turn it into a little game for you and your friends.

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: Three Ways I Exercise In My Apartment:

My mental and physical health are much better if I can exercise, to the point of getting sweaty, for at least 20 minutes every day. The forms of exercise I most enjoy (hiking, biking for errands, helping people move belongings or build things, multiperson sports) are a lot harder to do during the pandemic. So I was very sedentary for a lot of 2020.

I started trying various approaches to in-my-apartment exercise, such as calisthenics while listening to podcasts, working out alone in my living room along with an online video such as this New York Times six-minute workout, etc. It was hard for me to make and stick to a schedule and stay consistent. I eventually came to a few approaches that, combined, work well for me. I have actually been able to exercise approximately every day using a combination of these three activities.

Here's what I'm doing, in case you've been struggling with similar problems.

Nintendo Ring Fit Adventure

Three to five days every week, I play a Nintendo game where I do specified exercises in order to travel through a fantasy landscape and fight monsters. I am told that this is a classic role-playing game (RPG) and that all the stuff about levelling up, collecting potions, choosing the right attack for a particular monster, fulfilling bystander requests, etc. is totally standard for the game genre. I am fairly unfamiliar with it and am learning everything just fine as I go, thanks to in-game instructions. Once, in about 20-30 sessions of playing, I've looked up stuff in online forums (it is hard to get the console to register when I'm doing a plank), but otherwise it's been very easy to learn. And there is immediate feedback to help me learn the proper form for each exercise, as much as the sensors allow.

It works to keep me motivated! There's novel stuff every day, so I want to discover what's next in the story and what new exercises, potions, and minigames the game has in store for me. And I like the immediate feedback. It is easier for me to get myself to do a bunch of squats if it will defeat a monster!

The bits of the game that are not exercise (like talking to characters and turning ingredients into potions) are not exercise, so there's an in-game clock that helpfully tells me how much I have actually exercised in the current session. A 30-minute exercise session might take 45 to 60 minutes of game time for me (your results may vary).

At the start, the game helps the user set a difficulty setting based on things like how often the user currently exercises. I started at "10" and have been gradually cranking it up -- I think I'm at 20 now. I think this means I have to do more exercise movements to beat any given monster.

I dislike that I am using proprietary software and hardware for this. If there were a libre alternative that had approximately all the same characteristics and was engineered to the same quality, I'd love to use that instead.

Technical details: You will need to buy the console (which includes two "Joy-Con" controllers), the game, and two special attachments: the leg strap and the Ring-Con (see "money details" below for costs). One Joy-Con goes into a pocket on the leg strap, which wraps around a thigh and attaches with Velcro, so that can measure when you're jogging or squatting and so on. The other Joy-Con slots into the Ring-Con, which is like a stiff circular resistance band that measures how hard you squeeze and pull it, and whether it's moving and in what direction (so, whether you have lifted it over your head).

You'll also need some physical space to play it -- maybe something like a 6 foot by 4 foot space, where you can also wave your arms above your head and kick your legs and so on without knocking stuff over. I use a couple of yoga mats as a light cushion and to reduce noise.

Money details: To play this, you'll need to buy:

  1. A Nintendo Switch (the console, which comes with two "Joy-Con" controllers): currently about USD$300
  2. The software (the game), which (if you buy it new) costs about $80 and comes with the two attachments listed below
  3. Two attachments, the leg strap and the "Ring-Con"; can be bought separately for like $10 and $30 respectively in case you bought the game used/standalone
Small-group video class with a trainer

Once a week I take a one-hour strength-type class led by a certified strength and conditioning coach in the Midwest. He's a brother of a friend of a friend and he has a little extra time right now. So my friend told me about this class (USD$15/session), and now once a week I get on a Zoom call with 2-4 other people and do, like, leg lifts and weightlifting and whatnot.

If you decide to do something like this, it is fine to shop around for an instructor who suits your style and whose demeanor you like! I like someone who encourages you to only do what you can handle and who tells you how to modify if, for instance, your wrist is not up to pushups today. And I like someone who is straightforward in explaining the anatomical dynamics of what you're trying to do -- this is especially helpful during a remote class since they can't physically come over and help you re-position to do a movement right.

The externally scheduled commitment helps me show up, and, once I'm there, I'm more likely to do hard exercises because a trainer has just instructed me to do so. And the peer pressure helps. I can see my classmates working, and the trainer, and my other classmates, can see through my camera as I work. Also, the professional "bend your left leg more, that's good"-type advice helps me get more out of each movement.

Technical details: I use a Snap to run the Zoom client on Debian Linux. I also use a sports-y Bluetooth headset (hooking over the ear) so I can more easily hear the instructor while multiple feet away from my laptop's speakers. And I have some light (like 2-5 pounds) hand weights that I use for some exercises, and I use a yoga mat as a light cushion.

Money details: The instructor for this charges $15 per session, payable by PayPal. I think it's totally worth it for a one-hour class that includes expert interaction.

1:1 or small group videocalls working out with a YouTube video

About 3-4 days per week, I have pre-scheduled videocalls with a few people I at least kind of know, where we work out together while simultaneously watching a YouTube exercise video.

I pick the videos we use, and generally stick to 10- or 15-minute novice-friendly exercise videos. I prefer videos where the instructor (or a demonstrator in the video) shows how to modify each activity to make it easier or harder, and where the instructor doesn't get sizeist or too imperative. I like Jessica Valant's Pilates videos and have found some reasonable cardiovascular exercise sessions on the POP Sugar Fitness channel.

Again, the pre-scheduled commitment to other people makes it more likely I will show up, and seeing each other through our cameras nudges each of us into trying to move along with the video (or doing some kind of substitute movement if the video's too hard).

I used some private online groups/chats and individual emails/texts/catchup-calls to mention the opportunity to friends and acquaintances whom I know well enough to do a sweaty plank or graceless jumping jack (in UK English: star jump) in front of. I suggested that they let me know if this was something they might like to join in, even just to try it once, and offered to make the videocall arrangements, figure out a few good times, pick videos, etc. So now I have some recurring calendar items set up. And it's a nice way to have some virtual face time with a few friends without having to make a ton of conversation!

The structure is generally:

  1. 5 minutes: Setup, getting a glass of water, talking about what we're up for (including whether anyone has parts of their body that can't take stress right now), choosing a video and length
  2. 10-20 minutes: Exercising along with the video
  3. 5 minutes: How was that -- length, intensity, movement complexity, instructor demeanor, etc.? Things to keep/change for next time?

Technical details: and Jitsi Meet both make it easy to start a free meeting and to watch a YouTube video together (ad-free). The YouTube audio takes over and everyone else is muted, but you can still see everyone else's camera. Meetings on Whereby's free tier are limited to 4 people; Jitsi can deal with, like, 25 people at least. Both Whereby and Jitsi work fine in the browser and invitees don't need to download a new app or plugin, or create a login account.

As with the small group class calls, I usually use a sports-type Bluetooth headset and a yoga mat. I usually choose videos that do not require that you have any hand dumbbells, because some of my friends don't have any.

A few of my friends have a tough time learning a set of complex physical movements while watching and doing those movements. So with them the session is a little longer. We watch the video once to learn what movements to do (maybe on 1.5x speed, sometimes skipping ahead 5 seconds using the right arrow key) and then close it and share it again (at 1x speed) to watch it and exercise along with it. You can do this in Jitsi or Whereby but I think there's a jumpiness glitch in Jitsi; haven't tried it in Whereby yet.

Money details: Free! Fortunately, it's free to watch videos on YouTube. And Jitsi is free to use, and I already have a Whereby account that's good for up to 4 people.

Other considerations

We have a neighbor who can hear when I exercise noisily, so I negotiated via text message to ask what times of day are reasonable windows for me to exercise without bothering them, and I try to stick to those windows.

I went a bit too hard early on and went straight from sedentary life to doing about 45 minutes of intense exercise (with not nearly enough stretching along the way) in one day. This made one of my legs cranky and I had to stay off it as much as possible, and alternate ice and warmth on it, for like two weeks. I am middle-aged now and need to treat myself somewhat gently!

I figure at some point, months from now, I will want to increase the intensity, duration, etc. of some workouts. Nintendo Ring Fit Adventure and the strength class will be able to scale up to provide more difficulty, but the videocalls with friends may struggle to do that depending on what my friends want and need. But at that point I could, for instance, play Ring Fit every day, including days when I have a short additional workout with friends. I have done this a few times already when my videocall workouts have been very light or short.

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: What We Subsume: Still here.

I've gotten a lot better at sewing pleats on face masks, and have found that -- if I cut the material ahead of time -- I can usually finish a mask, or nearly finish it, while watching a one-hour lecture, or while on the kind of conference call where I say very little.

I sometimes remember to do the things that will help set me up for a better day.

Sometimes I notice someone saying, about telecommuting and distributed/remote/virtual conferences and paperwork moving online because of the pandemic: So we could have been doing this all along?! And I notice the "all along" because it's subsuming or blurring a more specific claim about how long we've been wastefully delaying. If you joined your institution in January and they said no to remote work, and now they're allowing it, then yeah, they could have said yes all along, because "all along" means "since January" and there have been very few advances/innovations in bandwidth and installed connections, hardware, software platforms (such as operating systems and servers), relevant software applications, relevant professional skills, etc. since January. But at least in the US, I think that even five years ago, and certainly ten or twenty years ago, there were lots of kinds of infrastructure that would not have been up to the task of moving work online. Of course, we should have been properly investing in those things, at all levels, so really I'm just quibbling and "well-actually"ing with some wording in a way that might not look great. I will be turning off comments on this one.

Irritability. Fluffy fanfic. Peanut butter on celery or apples. A hollow ache inside my torso. The whirr of the sewing machine. Other people's faces via videocalls -- oh how great a solace that is, for I love my spouse but I need some variety in the faces I see. Light through the window, always through the window. Endless emails from every organization that has ever heard of me, earnestly telling me what they are doing, or importuning me to do something, because the sky is falling and we all need to hold it up. Using a video game to pretend I am outside, to pretend I can visit a friend or stand on a rocky shore. Trying to be there for my friends, my family -- Leonard suggested we compile a list of funny YouTube clips to send to our sick friend and so we did and maybe it will be a tiny comfort to her. Watching the National Theatre plays and Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals and concerts and music livestreams and being overcome with gratitude for the artists.

Yesterday was the 29th, which means it was one of the days of the month that I would let myself drink alcohol (days with a 9 in them, so, the 9th, 19th, and 29th) and I just realized today that -- as the wording in my head popped out -- I forgot to drink yesterday. I briefly thought about making up for that day, but I think the fact that my reflexive phrasing made it sound like an obligation rather than an option reinforces the stricter part of myself, which says, no, wait till the next window comes round again.

I've made some good work and volunteer progress in the last few weeks! I've had some great laughs with my spouse and my friends, and I'm glad I'm getting better at sewing, and not all is gloom. Especially when I have a chance to help someone else. But at this very moment, this afternoon on this Thursday, oh readers and oh future self, Sumana is hearing and feeling the gears grind as she bears up under the load.

Sometimes we talk about that impossibly distant past, The Before Times. Back in the Before Times, I thought I would .... we signed up for .... we had just started.... it seemed like ..... Fewer of us use the corresponding phrase for the future: The After Times. Perhaps judiciously and perhaps superstitiously and perhaps exhaustedly, we decline to make predictions and plans. But right now is The During Times. Right? That feels right. Duration, during, endure, endurance. We are enduring. I hope you are too.

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: We're Still Fine: We haven't been outside since ... Saturday?

The CDC says all households "can "practice routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces"; the New York Times (see "Clean your home") has an animated GIF saying "Clean high-touch surfaces in your home every day." So I'm improving how frequently I use an alcohol wipe (especially on my phone) or some bleachy spray cleaner on the refrigerator handle, doorknobs, light switches, and so on. Last night my hands smelled like bleach when I went to bed. I wonder if I will learn to associate that smell with dread.

It's such a pretty, sunny day outside. I have the window open and the sunlight warms my elbow.

I've gotten better this week at concentrating on work. I sometimes use a timer to limit myself to 10 minutes of what I saw someone call "doomsurfing."

A friend's best friend has COVID-19, went to the hospital this week, and, as of yesterday, is on a ventilator. I talked with my friend this morning, listened, gave her a bit of welcome distraction, like how funny the governor's interview with his brother was.

Yesterday I teared up at how generous so many artists have been this month -- giving away new albums, films, books, for free, online, to help everyone cope. Ken Burns's Baseball, for instance.

Most of my writing is in email, chat, or GitHub. I added an item or two to a crowdsourced list of free and open source video or audio conferencing platforms. Cool Tools ran my review of a great sports bra (with a stock photo of a model who is not me, by the way). I finished and published a blog entry about my team's pip work and helped a colleague move a lot further toward a new pipenv release. I collaborated with Leonard on starting a shopping list for the day, weeks from now, when our desire for eggs and onions is strong enough to make us reset our isolation clock.

PyCon North America is cancelled; it would have been in Pittsburgh, PA, USA, in April. Title of Conf would have been on May 7th in Detroit, and WisCon was going to be in Madison in late May. All of them (at least the in-person bits) are cancelled. I am figuring out whether and how to present the Otherwise Auction online anyway, just as I would have at WisCon, and how my team working on pip can still form relationships and swap tips and experiences in small group calls to partially replace what we wanted out of PyCon.

This morning my mom called, worried. New York City is now the place in the US where COVID-19 has infected the most people. I reassured her: we're staying inside, we're taking all the precautions.

The fundamental and inherent subtext of every diary entry and every blog post is today closer to the surface. I'm still here, I still exist, I'm still here.

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: Background Music: So in my household we have a zillion little shared references, and some of those are about pop songs of the late 20th century. For instance, if we're in a restaurant or something and we hear "Higher Love" by Steve Winwood (I just had to look that up, it's not like I knew the name of the song or the artist already), we laugh because of the time Leonard pointed out that the main lyric kinda sounds like a complaint a customer might give a server.

Bring me a higher love
This love is insufficiently high
Leave bad review on Yelp

(Upon a full listen: the synth riff from 3:04 to 3:11 reminds me of the start of the Doogie Howser, M.D. opening theme. A lot of the folks I meet are not people who went to schools in the US in the late 1980s/early 1990s while younger than approximately everyone else in their grade cohort, and thus they did not experience being called "Doogie". Nor did they experience Head of the Class which was -- for me -- sympathetic representation of book-smart nerddom in mass media. Not sure I'd feel that way if I re-watched it now.)

Every once in a while we go use YouTube to watch the music videos for songs that are in sort of the "you will hear these in public spaces in the US" canon but that we've never really listened to. Always feels like popping the hood in a car where up till now I've just been a passenger.

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: As The Saying Goes, I'm Part Of The Precipitate: Tonight, I'm gonna attend my local Community Board meeting, which will include an MTA presentation on the Astoria Boulevard ADA & Station Renewal project. (I hope that, after the meeting, I can hang out with other locals and toast to the end of the Amazon HQ2 giveaway.) I wondered aloud to Leonard: how will people at the meeting use the Astoria Boulevard station closure as a demand for more parking spots? (The members of my local community board mostly own homes and cars, and are far more interested in the alleged lack of parking in Western Queens than I am.)

The easy answer is: the MTA is closing a station for renovations, so more people will have to drive, so they'll say we'll need more parking spots. But: who should be responsible for providing that parking, and how? Some satirical answers we came up with:

I do not recommend anyone do any of these things. I do recommend you joke about parking-hungry community boards.

Also if you can figure out how to make a good joke combining the Lisp function cdr and the fact that we should lengthen the G train, do make it somewhere and let me know.

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: Puns About Domain Names Are Kinda Par For The Course Around Here: I blearily woke this morning - Leonard was already up. I wished him a happy Valentine's Day.

"I think we really match. And in some sense, because we met online,* we met in e-harmony. And when I think of you, I say: OK, cupid."

He was definitely laughing by this point.

"But even though there are plenty of fish in the sea, I'm glad that we're consumating, that we ... something, something, spark, tinder ..... OK, I can't figure out how to work in JDate."

"Isn't that where Ashley Madison works?"

"Oh, that's good... wait! No! Not that one!"

He also offered to get me a "coffee and bagel" which reminded us of someone I met who showed me how the Coffee Meets Bagel app works. I had mentioned that I'd heard of the "bagel of the day" mechanic from the New York Times "Vows" section, and she'd replied, somewhat resentfully, that "Vows" is filled with people marrying their "bagel of the day". "Oh, it's The Ladders of dating apps," Leonard compared. (I'd also asked her: ok, if you have a "bagel of the day", and they have you as a "bagel of the day", then who's the coffee??!! She and I settled on the unsatisfying conclusion, "everyone is their own coffee".) We talked about how the "bagel of the day" seems to create temporal scarcity, to push the user to be more impulsive and go ahead and say yes.

"No, you have 24 hours to make a date, not to meet them -- how would that work? Like, you use NFC or Bluetooth and tap your phone to theirs? It's a dating app, not a scavenger hunt....I'm glad we're together, that we don't have to do the dating world, go through that grinder .... Grindr's actually even less appropriate to us than Ashley Madison."

Anyhow! My sympathies and best wishes to everyone today. I literally loathed Valentine's Day so much, as a teen, that I wrote an anti-Valentine's Day editorial every year, for all four years of high school, in my school paper, including one science fiction story where future kids marvel that back in the 20th century people had this awful destructive ritual. Now I have an old, familiar "grah" about it, plus a friend who works at a greeting card company and has to attend to battle stations all day.

So, whoever you are, I hope you get some laughs today and some unexpected delight, and, if you like puns, puns. More than the ones above, I mean.

* I met my partner online the old-fashioned way, by reading his blog.

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(1) : Non-Influencer Fashion Blogging: I've heard fleece-lined tights could be a game-changer regarding wearing skirts and dresses when it's cold. A friend recommended the Homma brand in particular, since they're footless and since (if you turn them inside out) they are machine-washable.

But the Homma brand/maker doesn't seem to exist in terms of an independent manufacturer or brand of an existing manufacturer that has its own website or catalog somewhere. It might be an Amazon-only brand. Sort of a mystery, and I've used up my Ask MetaFilter question for the week on a request to decipher a handwritten letter from 1792 and translate it from German. I'd welcome insights from Homma wearers regarding non-Amazon vendors!

So the other day I had a spare chunk of time in midtown Manhattan and went to a few shops asking about fleece-lined leggings and tights. Nothing in my size that wasn't made in China, so I'm still low-key seeking fleece-lined leggings/tights/whatever-new-jargon-emerges-in-the-next-week.

On my way home I stopped by the Grand Central holiday market and looked around. No tights, but the Carina Hildebrandt stall did have "joggers". They were very nice when I asked what that word meant (I mentioned that a problem with upward mobility is that you don't know all the right words). It turns out joggers are basically posh sweatpants.

I thought, maybe it is time for me to level up from the old black cotton sweatpants I've had for like 20 years! these are super nice! they have pockets! they're made from alpaca wool! I could take really good care of them and they would last for decades! they would be, like, investment sweatpants!

I asked how much they were, mentally preparing for, like, "$200" or something like that, thinking "well if I literally use them for the rest of my life, I could justify that." Those joggers are 535 United States dollars.

No I am not that rich! I demurred. The vendor mentioned that it was handmade, 100% alpaca wool -- I said, oh, I'm sure it's worth that much, I just can't afford it! Maybe in ten years.

I'm not about to follow the lead of Nicole Cliffe's friend who super loves Brooks Brothers (I found that thread very funny), but I've come to some kind of playful détente with the world of trying-to-look-good clothes? I guess part of that is because of Project Runway and my friendship with Elisa DeCarlo, which helped me see more of what high-end clothes are trying to do, and then knowing Lea Albaugh and seeing how she makes and reads clothes, and a whole bunch of low-stakes thrifting, conversation, and so on in between. And having more money makes it easier to try more expensive stuff, and the longer I live, the more I see how durability pays off. In retrospect this feels kind of like how I grew to enjoy wine.

photo of Sumana in long blue coat in front of a trainIt's interesting to look back on the time I spent over the past year seeking out a winter coat, especially in contrast to my approach last decade. Back in my mid-twenties when I was about to move to NYC, saying goodbye to Bay Area friends, my friend Claudia asked whether I already had a winter coat. I gestured to some kind of light cotton jacket I had on to protect against the mild late-December chill. Claudia, who had lived in Boston, went to her closet, took out a shiny puffy waist-length H&M coat, and handed it to me. And that was an excellent move and I used that for years. I wanted something longer, so at some point I hit an army surplus store and bought a long blue Canadian army surplus? coat that was a little too big for me. I gave it to a Recurse Center friend during our fall 2013 batch, depriving my spouse of the opportunity to call me Colonel Sumana.

Last winter I decided that I'd like a formal-looking (so, probably wool) warm winter coat, with a lot of leg coverage (mid-calf or so) and big pockets for my hands/gloves/phone. I bookmarked dozens of coats online and learned that the word I wanted to describe my desired length was "maxi" and that well-made maxi wool coats cost hundreds of dollars at least. I went to try things on at Nordstrom Rack, but a lot of off-the-rack stuff fit weird, in terms of shoulder and chest. I asked friends: Where in NYC do I go to find a well-made, non-slave-labor coat of this type for under, like, $200? If the answer is "what you want is not available at that price, you need to INVEST and it'll cost at least $400" then I will also accept this answer. I poked around sample sales and thrift stores opportunistically.

And then this past weekend, hanging out with a friend, I went to a vintage shop in my neighborhood and they had about 20 maxi-length coats. My friend told me what looked good, and we agreed that one of them suited me well -- I put it on and looked in the mirror and said this is it!. I got it for about $100 (it was $129 but I got a Small Business Saturday discount). It's a grey mostly-wool coat, 70% wool/15% mohair/15% nylon, and there's a union-made-in-the-USA label on it but no brand label. The owner said she thought it was from the 1980s or 1990s and might have been made by Jones Of New York. It makes me happy to put it on! Although I need to wear a scarf with it till I get a tailor to add a felt lining, because the collar scratches my neck.

A few nights ago, my spouse and I went on a little date and I dressed up a bit. I wore a red knit V-neck dress I got in a shop on Valencia in San Francisco a few years ago -- its material and shape are pretty flattering and forgiving of weight fluctuations -- and a string of pearls my mom gave me, and the new wool coat. We did a crossword puzzle and ate and talked about Steven Universe, Legend of Korra, and She-Ra.

Then we came home and watched a bit of the latest season of Great British Bake-Off. At one point, to cheer up a baker, Noel sketches a cat on their instruction sheet, then adds a speech bubble and writes the f-bomb inside the speech bubble. And the video is not blurred or otherwise redacted! I gasped, scandalized, and my hand flew to my neck in shock. Leonard asked: "Are you literally clutching your pearls?"

So I am not currently in possession of any trousers that only seem inexpensive when compared to $750 palazzo pants from the same vendor, but I am prudish about cuss words on TV and in my blog. I'm upwardly mobile financially, but in case you ever wondered what social class I'm in, I feel like that's a big clue.

Disdisclaimer: as you can probably tell, I received no payments, discounts, subsidies, or gifts from any of the companies mentioned in exchange for this post; indeed, in 2028 when I am able to afford to buy anything from Carina Hildebrandt, I may be required to recant portions of this post as a precondition of purchase. Also, Leonard hasn't seen the new She-Ra. For that part of dinner he mostly listened while I went on about it.

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: A Misheard Moxy Früvous Lyric, Corrected: Sometime around 1999 or 2001, I first heard "King of Spain" by Moxy Früvous. The UC Berkeley a cappella group DeCadence performed it during one of their lunchtime concerts near Sather Gate. (Four out of five weekdays one of the a cappella groups would do a noon concert -- DeCadence, Artists in Resonance, the Men's Octet, the California Golden Overtones -- and I caught as many of them as I could.) And then Steve Shipman introduced me to more of their songs and albums -- it was Bargainville, which ends with that haunting a cappella "Gulf War Song", that I was listening to on September 10, 2001.

In 2014 it came to light that band member Jian Ghomeshi had a fairly sordid history, and for a while I couldn't listen. Now I seem to have the ability to listen again; that change I don't have as much insight into as I'd like.

Just now Leonard and I were singing bits of "King of Spain" to each other; he sang:

Lord, it looked good on me

I said "What?!" Because back around 2000 and through all the years to the present, I heard those lyrics as:

Lord of the good ennui

So for the entire time I've been with Leonard, he and I have interpreted that song slightly differently. He heard the narrator figuratively wearing royalty like clothing, like a fashion statement, which connects to the silk he mentions in the next line, and which logically connects to the garment swap later in the song. Through my mondegreen, I heard an emphasis on the narrator's malaise and boredom (a reason for the prince-and-pauper swap) and a connection to the literal meaning of an additional French loanword, laissez-faire, that he uses later.

A quick web search tells me that Leonard's version is the consensus, that to join intersubjective reality I would let go of "Lord of the good ennui". I shall bury it here, with due ceremony. Goodbye, old mondegreen friend! You were a lot of fun.

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(2) : Scifi Takes on Coen Brothers Movies: Leonard writes scifi novels, and one of them (that a publisher is currently considering) has the working title Situation Normal, a followup to the previous working title, Explosion of Honor. It's witty military scifi -- like Star Trek as directed by the Coen brothers, as I told some folks at MergeSort. A few of them didn't care for the title Situation Normal and didn't get a "this has humor" vibe from it, so I told Leonard.

"OK, here's a title suggestion. 'Bargo," I said. "It's, like, short for 'embargo' but it'll remind people of Fargo."

"I got some bad news for you. It did not remind me of Fargo. Also there is no embargo in the book."

"Oh there isn't?"

However we did start thinking of more scifi takes on Coen brothers movie titles:

(If you liked this, consider skimming "Tonight's Episode".)
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: Clover: On Sundays I make omelets. Today's omelets included three diced cloves of garlic.

"I wish to make you aware that we are basically in a garlic ratchet. I will be increasing the number of cloves of garlic involved in our Sunday omlets basically ad infinitum. In sort of a manigarlic destiny approach. So if at some point you find it's going too far, well, file a complaint with your local consulate."

"Well, since I am the one who buys the garlic, I think I can pretty effectively --"

"Oh, that's where the executive orders come in. You think you control appropriations?"

"Are you going to draw from the Strategic Garlic Reserve?"

"There's a slush fund."

(I see that I sort of went from early US President to ... emperor? ... to modern US President over the course of this flight of fancy.)

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: We Are Softies: At his job, Leonard is having trouble getting SQLAlchemy to do what he wants with regard to automated testing. Today he's going to construct a tiny app and test to validate his understanding of the problem so he can fix it or get help.

As I was seeing him out the door this morning:

"Good luck, honey, with SQLAlchemy! I hope you vanquish it!"
"That's what I hope too."
"Actually, I hope you learn to work together better, in a peaceable manner."
"That is, in fact, what I actually hope too."
"I love you, nonviolent Leonard."
"I love you, nonviolent Sumana."

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(1) : N Questions: Leonard and I have taken to playing a kind of "Twenty Questions" variant where there is no limit on the number of questions or guesses. We discover stuff about ourselves along the way. Sometimes it turns out the guesser has not heard of the item in question (e.g., Rick Bayless) or the teller doesn't know as much as they thought they did about the item they chose (e.g., the Bilderberg Group). Also I often ask whether we have the thing and whether we like it; Leonard is less likely to ask those kinds of personal relationship questions. Tonight's items included several abstract concepts or categories of objects and some super-specific concrete nouns:

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: Ways to Toss Your Stuff in NYC: I've been on a house-cleanout kick recently. Thus I am grateful for the New York City Compost Project, this list of food banks & food pantries in New York City, SAFE (Solvents, Automotive, Flammables, and Electronics) Disposal Events in the city, and Greenmarket textile recycling collection.

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(3) : The Eight Mile Road Between Republic City and Massachusetts Bay Colony: Leonard and I have started watching The Legend of Korra, which is fun. In one episode, a character says to the guy who's just arrived, "Oh, hi, 'Shady' Shin." And then proceeds to let Shady hire him for a pretty sketchy job.

Leonard said that, as a rule, he would not become business partners with someone who's commonly known as "Shady." I asked whether Eminem counted; Leonard replied that for Slim Shady, "Shady" is a surname, but in any case, Leonard would insist that some non-Shady collaborator be involved. And besides, he said, what might Eminem even want to hire Leonard to do?

I said: a Twitter tool. Specifically: sometimes people tweet bits of Eminem lyrics (without attributing the song or artist), or incorporate snatches of Eminem lyrics into the sentences of their tweets, and so we'd want to monitor the tweetstream to find those, and analyze whether those people are "influencers" (and whether it's likely they and their followers buy music or pirate it). And then, based on that data, Eminem could forecast trends in sales of his music, and hook that forecast up to his investments, to automatically change his strategy towards riskier or more conservative options, as appropriate.

Leonard had been nodding this whole time. I finished: And the name of the tool could be: Increase Mathers.

(Incidentally, in other Korra-rap relations, a big reason I got interested in The Legend of Korra was this fanvid set to "Mama Said Knock You Out" by LL Cool J.)

(Also, Eminem's clothing line of course ought to be "Cotton Mathers".)

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: Marconi Plays The Mamba, Listen To The Radio: screen capture of 'Another Sunday'When Leonard and I lived in the Bay Area and drove south to Bakersfield to see his mom every few months, he got a satellite radio subscription. I'd navigate the music channels and look at the device to see the name of the artist and ask him to guess. When he couldn't tell, he often guessed "REM" (for loud stuff) or "Belle & Sebastian" (for quiet stuff).

Right now I'm working on an ambitious fanvidding project and am thus watching a bunch of other ambitious fanvids (e.g., chaila's "Watershed", danegen's "Around the Bend", counteragent's "Coin Operated Boy") to take notes on technique (e.g., exactly how many 100%-dark frames serve as a good stutter in frightening montages, versus how many blank frames help reset the eye and prepare it for a new sequence). Just now I was watching "Another Sunday" by Jescaflowne, set to "We Built This City" by Jefferson Starship. I checked the timecode scrubber. "Hey Leonard," I said facetiously. "Did you know that rock songs used to be four and a half minutes long?"

He looked at my screen as we made up Freakonomics-worthy nonsensical explanations of why this used to be the case. "What show is that?"

"Stargate Atlantis."

At this, Leonard developed a hypothesis that Stargate Atlantis and Supernatural are like REM and Belle & Sebastian, viz., if he can't tell what fandom a vid is, and there are spaceships and lots of guns, it's SGA, and if there are no spaceships and nearly no guns, it's Supernatural.

As a data point, I've watched zero SGA and one ep of SPN ("Fan Fiction"), but have spent happy hours enjoying fic and vids about both, particularly the critical readings -- if you're waiting for Ann Leckie's next Ancillaryverse installment, you could do worse than reading "Second Verse (Same as the First)" by Friendshipper/Sholio. I wonder whether the same thing will happen to me with Teen Wolf.

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(1) : I Love You, Sweetie: I have the best spouse.

I spent basically the entire afternoon and evening waylaid by an inexplicable short-term illness (I would blame food poisoning except I can't work out the causality). Leonard's super solicitousness extended not just to preparing and giving me exactly the right amounts of whatever foods and fluids and analgesics I thought might help, but also to reading aloud to me from my current book (Courtney Milan's The Suffragette Scandal) when I wanted my comfort reading but couldn't bear to take it in visually. He also noted that Edward's early self-presentation to Free is rather like how Q talks to Picard, which is SO TRUE.

This is in addition to his help and reassurance last night on a programming project of mine. Deployment is terrible. I had successfully SSH'd into that machine before! I know I had! He has heard me grumble "all is vanity" in a stompy way many times, and he always gently supports me so I can change my mind. Not all is vanity. And it will be fun to launch this thing, this week I hope. I think you'll like it.

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: *crackle*: After we watched The Ref and ate our Thai takeout, I web-sought a fire log video and started playing it. "It's amazing that people make these," I said. Beat. "I am sort of waiting for Mike Gravel to show up at any moment, though."

A few minutes later: "Is there a problem with the net? Because the video paused. And I didn't stop the fire."

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(1) : Doldrums: I've been sick for something like the last six weeks, so Leonard booked an appointment for me and I finally saw a doctor. It's such a nasty trick that illness leeches away the energy one needs to fight illness properly; I'm so lucky to have a partner who's willing to manage those details and take care of me. He made an extra trip, tromping through the slush in his boots, to get my meds at the pharmacy.

In recent years I'd gotten better at not confusing momentary physical fatigue or mood weather with persistent problems that need fixing, but it gets harder to distinguish when the ought-to-be-ephemeral things last for so long. Various boxes with lots of fine print now surround me and soup is in the offing. I hope they help.

Once, Leonard and I had to have a difficult conversation. As I gulped breath and tried to get up the gumption to go into the living room and talk with him about this thing, I did a bit of math. There are maybe 350 million people in the US, which means tens of millions of couples - maybe even a hundred million couples, just in my country. Some tiny fraction of those couples had the same problem, so, maybe twenty thousand? And it might take years for the couples to talk about it, and there are three hundred and sixty-five days in a year, but even so, I thought, there must be at least a few other couples having this same hard talk tonight, maybe five. I imagined them as points of light, with bright lines crisscrossing the continent to connect us.

Just the hypothetical existence of this community calmed me. We are not alone, we can't be. We talked and came out the other side together. This illness will pass. Spring is coming.

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: It Is A Fun Word: This MetaFilter comment, plus not actually knowing how the song goes, caused my household to start chanting bringing in the sheaves; bringing in the sheaves as a sort of "la la la can't hear you!". Like, during the spoiler trailers during Drunk History. But I was saying it pretty monotonically. Like it was a song robot farmers would sing. Or sort of a ritual fear-driven shout. And now Leonard and I just say "sheaves" to each other sometimes, as a random "hey" or "just passing through the living room" substitute.

I offer this to you.

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(1) : Only About Twenty Years After Joining Usenet, A Realization: Emoticons are pretty essential.

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(1) : Breakfast Conversation: "You can look up [shop name] to get the address. They have a map and everything."
"Oh I already did it."
"I did it thirty-five minutes ago."
"Well, I did it about five minutes ago."
"Shorter Watchmen."


"Man, Mountain Goats would be just the worst songs to put into commercials. But in your arms, in your arms / I buy vegan shoes..... Like, remember when Devo did those ads where they turned 'Whip It' into 'Swiff It'"?
"Yeah, but that's not surprising, because Mark Mothersbaugh has written a lot of music for commercials."
"Yeah, but imagine some Devo fan who doesn't know that, but to whom Devo is really important, and they see that, and are like 'Aaargh!' And, like, there were probably fans to whom They Might Be Giants is, like, an anti-selling-out-machine, and then they did the Dunkin' Donuts ads."

I am listening to The Sunset Tree over and over because I just listened to a great interview with John Darnielle, Mountain Goats frontman.

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: Early Morning Soundscape: Rain on the air conditioning unit.

The susurration of pills inside vials -- the few slow clicks of big gel capsules versus the quiet tumble of small solid tabs.

Birdsong, far away.

The laptop fan, and the rhythms of my fingers tapping at the keyboard.

My joints cracking as I roll my neck in a tight circle.

Inhaling, exhaling, then yawning as I turn to work.

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: Griping: I get sick more often than I'd like. Part of this is because of travel, no doubt -- the stress of travel and my inevitable sleep deprivation lower my immune system's defenses, and new exciting people pass me germs, thus achieving their marketing departments' dreams of virality. But I think some of it is stress and lack of exercise. I feel overwhelmed a lot, and the defensive reaction is to huddle on my couch with my laptop and dither. This is not helpful. Also, I live where I have to do a bunch of planning to get anywhere really nature-y, which makes it harder. And I travel often enough that I don't want to sign up for a regular group activity and then miss it a lot and burden my groupmates.

I want to come to solutions eventually but right now I just want to sulk a bit.

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: A Merry Christmas: Yesterday in my weekly one-on-one with my boss, we talked about matters ranging from recruiting and hiring to Firefox OS to Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning. I got to introduce him to the management fallacy "We must do something; this is something; therefore we must do it."

Today: slept late, edited Wikipedia and commented on MetaFilter, listened to Civil War songs, read fanfic. Ate warmed-up frozen stuff and leftover greens and Brussels sprouts and drank instant coffee and chamomile tea. Very quiet.


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: Prepped for Stormicane: I'm in New York City hearing the winds blow. We have food, water, batteries, a crank radio, books. I'm trying to get a bunch of work done today because we might lose power and internet tonight.

Update from the next afternoon: We're fine, thank goodness!

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(2) : She Was a Buuuuuuuuug Filer, Defect Ticket Yeah: So this morning I discovered, while chatting with Leonard, that "(Now) I'm a Believer" by the Beatles has the line "Not a trace / Of doubt in my mind," where I had gone three decades thinking it was "Not a trace / I'm out of my mind." My feeble arguments led to:

L: I think you should take this up with the Beatles.
S: I already did! In Beatlezilla. The Beatles' bug tracker.
L: And what did they say?
S: They said, "We love you, yeah yeah yeah, we love you, yeah yeah yeah." But I think that was an autoresponse.

Postscript: Leonard told me he was filing a bug report against this very blog post as "I'm a Believer" is by the Monkees, not the Beatles. Given that I evidently filed my bug with the wrong tracker, Leonard suggests that "We love you, yeah, yeah, yeah" is the Beatles' equivalent of WONTFIX.

(The Monkees use IBM Rational ClearQuest.)

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(4) : Patdown: When I leave my flat, I usually check to ensure I have my phone, wallet, and keys. They each have a specific spot in my pockets so I can feel the pockets to make sure they're there. I often say "keyswalletphone" or "phonewalletkeys" under my breath as I check. Do you have a ritual chant like that? Does the ordering make a pleasing rhythm?

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: Everybody Loves Raiment: As a certain variety of corporate-office woman knows, it's great to have a variety of black trousers. (Or, as time goes by and one does not replace them when they fade, a variety of fairly-dark-gray trousers.) Non-denim black slacks go with a lot of tops, look professional, have pockets, hide stains, and so on.

Today I ran into a wrinkle (ha!): I pulled a pair of black drawstring sweatpants out of the bureau. They looked kind of familiar but I do not remember acquiring them. They fit, so they're probably mine. Did you give me a pair of black drawstring sweatpants, sister N.? This seems like the kind of nice thing you would do and have done -- you know, like how you gave me the black hoodie that (until Wikimedia gave me a Wikipedia-branded hoodie) was the only hooded sweatshirt I owned.

I decided to wear the sweatpants. Leonard and I sang the traditional putting-on-black-pants song, a filk of Soundgarden's "Fell on Black Days":

Put onnnn ... black paaaaants....
Put onnnnnnnnn .... blackpantssssss....
How could I know! That these would be my paaaaaants....
How could I know! That I would wear these .... paaaaaants

Leonard also can't remember getting the jeans he's wearing now. "Their origin is shrouded in mystery," he informed me.

S: And where did you get that shroud?
L: Turin.
S: Did you get it from Kenneth Turan?
L: He gave it four stars.

(Rejected titles: "Garb Gab," "Slack," "The Wrong Trousers.")

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(1) : Self-Care, Sometimes On A Larger Scale: I think some people I know might find Sam Starbuck's experience useful. He has social anxiety but wanted to leave the house more often, so he developed methods to cause himself to do so.

The idea originally was just to get out more; not even necessarily to have more experiences, but not to spend every single night at home. There's nothing wrong with that, in and of itself, but it wasn't what I wanted for me. So I developed the Adventur Programme.

I should say that I suspect the Adventur Programme would be different for everyone, because the key to doing it is finding something that will motivate you to actually follow through. Here's how I did it; the basic theme of all of this is to arrange things in such a way that making the decision to go isn't difficult....

Sam said that his plan

worked well. I think it's because it wasn't a resolution; it was a plan. Resolutions can be broken, and thus expose you to feelings of failure and despair. Whereas plans aren't broken. Plans are rescheduled for a later date. You haven't failed. You've just changed up your calendar a little.

I admire people and organizations that thoughtfully manage their sustainability. You can see Alexandra Erin develop this theme in her behind-the-scenes blogging; as a self-employed writer, she works as hard at developing her own infrastructure as she does at making fiction. For Sam, Alexandra, and me, the structure of a successful process must avoid causing feelings of failure and despair. We know that if we feel those, we'll stop. So we find patterns that suit our strengths and work around our weaknesses, and get us to our goals -- more adventures, more good fiction, better technical skills.

Maturity requires recognizing granite walls and finding workarounds, saying no to machismo.

We know from experience that counting only on unpaid volunteer effort to work on helping women in open technology and culture leads to burnout and inconsistency. So The Ada Initiative works as a nonprofit that pays two people's salaries to work fulltime on the issue. (I volunteer on their Advisory Board.)

In Notes on Nursing, Florence Nightingale wrote of management, "How can I provide for this right thing to be always done?" Even when she's not there? Nightingale focuses on executive energy, attention, and putting the proper processes into place such that patients have the resources and quiet they need to get better.

However, there is a habit of mind that scorns all visible processes (and sees no value in formal communication containers such as meetings or performance reviews). I was talking about this with Ari yesterday, about (for example) software developers who think source control is needless overhead. I imagine some of these folks have suffered from their own personal resource curse, coasting through day-to-day tasks, the accreted cruft not yet salient, atherosclerosis not yet completely blocking the bottleneck.

Some have the useful skill of translating to them, getting across why hygiene is important in some particular case. Sometimes I can do this with analogies. Others use diagrams. But by the time I'm working with someone, it's usually too late to inculcate in them that habit of mind, a critical respect of social infrastructure.

(If you can, try never to work for someone who has this blind spot.)

Like Sam, I'm also working on sustainability and process improvement in my personal life. For me, it's cleaning and housework. What can I do to make it more likely that I'll do my fair share? I already knew that podcasts help. As of last week, I've discovered that I am way better at doing the dishes if I do them first thing in the morning. With enough tips and tricks, maybe I can adequately simulate a good flatmate.

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(2) : Milk Stout, Vanilla Porter: Leonard and I both spend most of our time at the apartment these days, me working for the Wikimedia Foundation, him working on Constellation Games, his science fiction novel, launching Tuesday. (The novel's done, but he's been working on the bonus stories, Twitter feeds, and so on.) So we have to take care to give each other some regular alone time in the apartment. Yesterday he left for several hours, and today I did.

I read the end of a Kim Stanley Robinson collection, first in a park and then over beer and fries at a tavern. I liked the funny stories, like "Escape from Kathmandu" and "Arthur Sternbach Brings the Curveball to Mars" and "Zürich," and upon a second reading still found the end of "A History of the Twentieth Century, With Illustrations" kind of inexplicable. I read "The Lucky Strike" and "A Sensitive Dependence on Initial Conditions" for the second time and loved them all over again. Sensible people sweating out hard choices, that's KSR. Sometimes they find courage, sometimes they don't. Math, history, geology, biology, mining, astrophysics, poetry, music (the best fiction about classical music I've ever read), cleaning, archaeology -- all the disciplines get this gentle, straightforward, clear attention. He's funnier than Vernor Vinge, but Vinge talks about software more, and I'm a sucker for that. And I think Vinge writes about more kinds of characters.

Home, and the electric light on, because it gets dark at freaking four-thirty now. After I hit Post, some together time with Leonard, because we need that too.

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: Boarding Passeth Understanding: Now that I'm most of the way through 2011, how did my travel wishlist go?

I did go to Arisia. Ended up in Berlin for a MediaWiki conference, but not for the GNOME Desktop Summit, and I didn't go to the fall GNOME summit either. WisCon yes, Open Source Bridge yes, but QuahogCon no since the conference organizers cancelled it. And I didn't get invited to Foo Camp.

Unanticipated travel: just across the state line to PICC, somewhat more time in Washington, DC than I'd anticipated, and then so much work travel. I went back and forth to San Francisco a lot. I went to OSCON and Community Leadership Summit, which I hadn't anticipated this time last year. And I went to Haifa for Wikimania and New Orleans for a hackathon, and I'm going to Mumbai in a bit for another, none of which were on my radar last year at all. Also I went to Staten Island for the first time.

I have learned that it's hard to do the same thing for pleasure that I do for work, like travel and going to conferences (even science fiction conventions). I have learned more about napping and caffeine titration than I knew before. I have learned a little teensy bit of Hebrew and of German. I have met a lot of people, some of whom are now close friends. I have learned a little about how to pack for a trip, but not as much as my boss's boss's boss.

Today Leonard and I went shopping for a new bedframe (the old one doesn't fit our new mattresses; long story). It's good to make an investment in the place where I theoretically live.

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(5) : Cooking: Leonard and I are making dinner: pasta with mushrooms and kale. I was frying the mushrooms in the cast-iron skillet.

Sumana: Do you ever make up stories about the mushrooms as you move them around?
Leonard: No. Do you?
Sumana: .... no.
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(2) : Don't Worry About Me: Leonard and I are not in a hurricane evacuation zone. Our apartment is not on a basement or first floor so we're not at risk of flooding. We're preparing sensibly in case Hurricane Irene knocks out our power; our internet may go away but we'll be fine.

I was going to be visiting San Francisco for work this coming week, but the hurricane cancelled my originally booked flight and forced a change of plans; I'll now be there September 4th-9th.

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(5) : Checksumana: How do you remember that you have already locked the door?

Whether I'm leaving the house or going to sleep, I usually have the urge to double-check that the door is locked. Then I check it once and am satisfied. In a vanishingly small percentage of cases, I haven't locked it. If you're in the same situation: what do you do to firmly recollect when you have locked it and reassure yourself that you don't need to check it again?

In cases where I've had three locks on the door (say, knob, deadbolt, and chain), I've gotten some mileage out of audibly chanting "Batman, Spiderman, Superman" as I lock the locks, working my way from bottom to top. Then I can recall saying it, because I remember things I've said better than I remember instances of habitual actions with my hands.

Just today I came up with this idea: if multiple people are leaving the house together, they can lock the door simultaneously, like missile silo workers turning keys to launch weapons. That, too, might be more memorable.

What do you do?

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(2) : Transactions of the House: I saw a five on the bureau in the bedroom.

"Leonard, you literally left a crumpled bill on the bureau... I'm trying to figure out what I'm being paid for."
"You're not! It's my money! You can have it if you want."
"I'm offended!"

Also, our décor now includes a copy of the US Constitution, which led me to realize you can passably filk the Preamble to "Doo Wah Diddy Diddy." At least the start of it.

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(1) : Cooking: Succotash: On Saturday, I made a succotash inspired by the succotash I liked at Whitmans. People liked it. Also, this is the first time in years that I've cooked a savory dish from scratch. It's been far too easy to let Leonard, restaurants, and the frozen/refrigerated readymade foods industry take over. Leonard helped me by cutting and roasting the acorn squash, but the rest I did myself, including carbonizing the broiled carrots on my first try and setting off the smoke alarm. (Less Maillard reaction and more a "Merde!" reaction.)

So: one oven-roasted acorn squash (blargh, peeling that thing afterwards was tedious), three ears boiled fresh corn, two drained cans of cut green beans, one chopped carrot broiled in oil, salt, and pepper, one or two raw grated carrots, and more salt to taste. Combine in a bowl. Bits of parsley and avocado to garnish. Serve warm if possible; makes four-ish meals? Go ask a better cook (such as the Internet) how long to apply heat to all the individual components, or just do it by feel.

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(1) : Draw A Tasteful Curtain: The other day my mother got on a plane to go to India. Last night, in my apartment with my husband and no one else, I fulfilled part of my dream by drinking wine while eating a salad while we watched Psych.

I leave again, of course, in less than two weeks' time. Since July, I haven't spent more than two weeks at a time in my own apartment. This is one reason why one of our living room windows currently has a torn sheet as a curtain placeholder. My mother and sister decided to give us the gift of drapes -- the gift that keeps on draping -- so on Sunday a few of us went to a big-box store (ugh, not my choice, but I pick my battles).

[Why do I get so grumpy about buying home-ish things like curtains and a nightstand and extra bedsheets? I have no expertise in the process or products (I wasn't involved in these decisions or processes growing up), so the stores and packages seem full of lies and superficial distinctions and chances to get it wrong. One has to choose for both function and form, and I am uncomfortable trying to be aesthetic. And I have a general allergy to homemaking and I'm not quite sure where it comes from (lack of expertise/psychological infrastructure, fear of doing it wrong, laziness, leftover knee-jerk function-over-form reflex, suspicion of companies and cultural forces trying to get me to buy things), just that I want to get rid of it.]

The draperie was a general gift, I think part of our delayed wedding-present collection. (Our wedding didn't provide affordances for Mom's gift-giving tendencies.) Because of my sister's upcoming wedding, Mom wants to give Leonard and me an additional, special gift. It is hard for her to buy us gifts, because we don't want/need gifts of clothes, money, metalwork, or religious paraphernalia. (At some point I stopped trying to tell Mom that really, she doesn't need to get me anything from India when she goes back and forth, so we have a sort of agreement that she'll give me sandalwood soap, Parle-G sugar cookies, and Amar Chitra Katha comic books.)

Mom was sitting in our living room, asking once more what Leonard and I wanted, since she wanted to give us something. Mom's inherent nature is altruistic; maybe the problem is that she passed it on to me, and so we clash because neither wants to take from the other. I looked around my living room and realized we could use some bookends. So Mom will get an artisan to hand-carve a few sets of bookends based on our ideas. If I just end this post here, does that still count as graceful bookending?

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(2) : The Dangers of Metadata: When I'm in a bad mood, sometimes I forget to do the things that will help me feel better. (A short list: Tea, a funny podcast or short story or TV show or blog, sunshine, seltzer water, doing a quick mindless yet productive task like cleaning a particular spill's stain residue off hardwood floor or organizing the t-shirt drawer, hugging, peppy music, exercise, making a list of things I've accomplished this day or week, talking to someone whom I impress, smiling, deep breathing for a minute, dark chocolate, helping someone.)

So I created a playlist called "sumana-cheerup" on the entertainment center's jukebox and filled it with songs I like. I often play it because, hey, songs I like! Then I found out Leonard thought I only played it when I specifically needed cheering up, viz., when I was feeling down. Uh, whoops, rename time.

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(1) : Bricks: Astoria, NY current conditions for 8:23 am, May 26 2010: Temperature: 72.3°F | Humidity: 72% | Pressure: 30.32in ( Falling) | Conditions: Clear | Wind Direction: West | Wind Speed: 0.0mph

Leonard and I are moving to a new apartment here in Astoria. It's larger and cheaper than our current place. With the help of Pat, Mirabai, Lucian, and Hal, we've given away a bit of furniture and moved most of our fragiles and personal items to the new place. Today we finish that, and tomorrow the movers move about 80 boxes and the few pieces of furniture that can't be disassembled, folded, or otherwise made wieldy enough to push on a Magna Cart and lift up the stairs. Hal got us the boxes so it looks like we have far more comics than we actually do.

I'm fairly exhausted, even though Leonard has been doing most of the physical work. As he puts it, I make the phone calls and he lifts heavy objects. I've tried to help with the latter. It's easiest before 8am: cool, low-traffic. And I've already been waking up at 5 or 6 despite myself. This does not bode well. I'd hoped to be well-rested before going to WisCon and Open Source Bridge. Perhaps I will conk out on the plane.

I only got one chance to play Once Upon a Time with friends; I'd hoped to get my game up before the panel. Somehow I predict my stories will involve packing tape.

A few links: OKCupid questions are problematic, femininity and consumer culture in style blogs and style role models, and artefacts of paid work as the substrate of open source.

Last night was the last time we'll have slept here. The mattresses lay on the floor; Pat and Leonard had taken the bedframe over already. That's some real wood right there. Leonard's grandma had that bed, and he doesn't know how old it is. Decor was long gone. We'd given away one nightstand and moved the other, so my red desklamp sat on the floor next to my head. I've had it for ... fifteen years?

This was our first apartment in New York.
It was the second place we ever lived together, and the apartment we came home to after we got married. We've had some important arguments here, and some great love-filled days.
It's where he wrote part of Ruby Cookbook and all of RESTful Web Services and "Let Us Now Praise Awesome Dinosaurs," and where we created Thoughtcrime Experiments. It's where he finished "Mallory" and has written most of his novel, and it's where I wrote most of my newspaper columns.
I lived in this apartment through three jobs and a master's degree.
This apartment is where we watched Babylon 5 and Battlestar Galactica and University of Laughs and The Lives of Others. It's where we had Backup Thanksgiving parties with Powerpoint Karaoke. It's where Leonard met Jake Berendes for the first time.

It's the place I've lived longest in my adult life and it's hard to say goodbye.

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: *clap clap*: Leonard was pretending to be angry beyond reason. I said, "Wow, looks like you're a savage beast!" and hummed.

"What are you singing?"

"The 90210 theme song."


"Because 'music hath charms to soothe the savage beast.'"

"Not the 90210 theme song."

"...It doesn't say which music."

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(1) : GNOME & Conference Planning & Writing: I'm back in New York City. Big priorities this week include:

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(2) : Less-Beaten-Path New York City Tourist Suggestions, With A Side of Whoo: Saturday: Got an Archive of Our Own account for encouragement in writing fanfic (today's awe-inspiring AO3 discovery: Oregon Trail fanfic!), got lovely orange roses from my husband, ate baked beans on toast, discovered that a member of the British Fantasy Society nominated Thoughtcrime Experiments for Best Anthology of 2009, talked with Mel, and took an out-of-town friend to Home On 8th and Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind for dinner and a show. Hmm, written out like that, it sounds pretty good (ignoring my failure to exercise, write more of my GNOME Journal article, or write conference proposals, or follow up on myriad errands).

Ah yes! I wanted to post a short list of some favorite NYC experiences I like to share with visitors. The Circle Line tour is great, the Met and MoMa and the main library and whatnot are good, but here's some more idiosyncratic stuff.

There's more that I can't cudgel out of my melon at the moment, but that's the current braindump.

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(2) : Life Update That Might Very Well Do Better As A Bulleted List: Sorry, I haven't blogged in the past week (except microblogging & linking). Since last Sunday, I:

visited the Merchant's House Museum with Beth, went to a fun storyreading and met new Dan, had a lovely talky dinner with Rupa, gossiped and saw a Jane Austen exhibit with Julia, breakfasted with her and Moss and Mirabai, submitted a conference proposal, met Elizabeth Yalkut, visited Yahoo! Labs New York to hear lightning talks by Yahoo! researchers, bought Diana Abu-Jaber's Origin, tried stout-based hot chocolate, went to McGinty's to celebrate a peer's escape from an abusive situation (and ended up talking Python & PostgreSQL with her sister & Beth), ate a jar of pickles (and drank the brine) while reading in Union Square Park, talked with Joe and Elisa and Brendan on the phone, introduced Leonard to new Dan, walked around Astoria with Pat and helped him find no-kill mousetraps and explored the Socrates Sculpture Park and brought him home to Leonard (where we all squeed), there's probably more but it's not in my calendar.

I remember reading Gordon Korman's Zoobreak and Maureen F. McHugh's Mothers and Other Monsters, and a bunch of TVTropes (won't even link! admire my civic responsibility) and some Lassiter Psych fanfic. Also watched several episodes of Psych. Is there a more intertextual dramedy on the air?

Thanks for the McHugh, Julia! And for warning me about the DESPAIR NOOOO in "The Cost To Be Wise" and the BLATANT FANSERVICE in Psych: "Death Is In The Air." Although no warning is quite enough.

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(2) : Turn Style: "Is that your MetroCard?"
"Yeah, it has 50 cents on it."
[examining magstripe] "Oh, I didn't know you could put music on these now."

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(3) : Removal: The one-way tickets are bought; December 8th is our date of departure. We'll return to the States in 2011 or 2012.

Now: estimates from movers, giving away and selling belongings, I haven't even started address changes/cancellations, and have I mentioned that this cold has me working at like 40% cognitive capacity? Whine complain blog.

Update: A bit premature as it turns out! The move's on hold till early spring for a variety of reasons; it'll be nice to have a somewhat more leisurely approach to the logistics.

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(1) : Not Too Much Food After All: Yesterday we had one of two 30th birthday parties for Leonard, months late. Thanks to all who came!

I am sort of out of practice at nine-hour parties. I used to think that every gathering of geeks eventually looked at YouTube. Now I think it's Cake Wrecks.

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: Jokes And The Unconscience: Misunderstanding number one:

"You're it. You're me. You're what I've got. Like in that song."
"I don't know that song."
"What I've Got. I think that's the name of the song. Something about a microphone."
"That's 'Where It's At'."

And another misunderstanding, less because someone takes a particular type of joke badly than because I make that joke rather badly.

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(3) : A New Low: Leonard made some ice cream using the ice cream maker. He put the mix in the freezer. Later, I heard an odd hissing sound coming from the kitchen. Had something gone wrong with the ice cream? Does ice cream emit a hissing sound when it's failing to set? "Do you hear that sound? I don't know what all your crazy kitchen gadgets do," I said to him. Then we looked and it was a kettle of water I'd put on to boil, for tea, and forgotten.

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: 9AM And We Have A Quote Of The Day: "I think the construction of gender in snowmen is beyond the scope of what I understand."

Update: "There's a new movie that a lot of people are going to compare to Eternal Sunshine."
"Is it Eternal Sunshine?"
"Then there can be no comparison."
"That's all right."
"'Cause I'm saved by the bell."
"Worst medley ever."

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(3) : Happiness: Leonard and I got to hang out with Jed Hartman, an editor of Strange Horizons, this afternoon! We talked about scifi and editing and his magazine and our anthology. Then he left, then Aaditya came over to Astoria and we went to Sparrow, the great new indie restaurant just northeast of the Astoria Blvd. N/W station. We've come home and played some DDR, and watched some web videos, and now they're talking about video games and Guster is playing, and Leonard just made peanut butter chocolate brownies and they're cooling on the rack. Leonard just told Adi about robotfindskitten.

How long have we been rolling the dice and hoping to be surprised by joy? I won.

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: Experimental Beverage Disposal: If you have leftover coffee, a zester, a bit of citrus, freezer space, and some time, try making a coffee granita. Mine is turning out nicely.

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: If Only: Leonard reported seeing a guy with an Open Planning Project tee moving into our building. I garbed myself in my oldest EFF tee and went to welcome him. Turned out he was just helping a friend move out. Blah!

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: The Invalid Coughs Piteously: Am siiiiiiick. Leonard characterizes my amount of whining as "not more than is seemly" and has been providing very homemade chicken noodle soup (seriously, made noodles from scratch and turned a whole dead chicken into soup) as well as tea and whatnot. Napped extensively, reread Zodiac: The Eco-Thriller and watched some over-the-top Psych. I should construct a Grand Unified Theory of Easy-To-Digest Media For The Sumana Sickbed. Criteria include: funny, not too original, happy ending.

Funny typo in my incoming email: "Sumana: Thanks for conforming." I'm assuming he meant "confirming" but why risk finding out what he really thinks of me?

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: Not-So-Durable Goods: OK, a few NYT links and then a commentary. Paris and relationships, anorexia and struggle, and Michael Lewis's classic "The Satellite Subversives". Oh, and I'll also throw in Adam K.'s Clifford Pickover parody for no good reason. ("You stomp your right foot in fury, reaching for your cup of delicious coffee. You only drink the best coffee, Jamaican Blue Mountain beans imported for forty dollars per pound.")

So now: "Ordeal by Appliance: Weekend Home Tales" from today's NYT. I had to call Leonard to tell him this line:

Together they collect their clients' complaints like fireflies in a jar until it is bright enough to shine beacon-style in the direction of mainland service providers.

Basically this story is a tale of the New York Times Least Needy Cases, mixed with a "My 3 friends = trend" piece. As Leonard put it, this is a story of people so rich that they own a summer home, and so rich that they buy high-end kitchen appliances for that home -- rich times rich equals megarich. Given that we have a lot of acquaintances, I suggested that we might know someone who has a dacha, and Leonard momentarily thought that Dacha was a brand name.

Now that the desperation of rich people has been brought to light, I figure it's only a matter of time before savvy appliance-service entrepreneurs find a way to squeeze the market with high-end service in summer-home spots at ridiculous prices. Leonard suggested that they charge for travel time, which seems eminently reasonable.

Leonard had another point, though: these people are trying to get old-school high-end country living, which basically requires live-in servants, but we don't really do that anymore in the US unless you're really rich. You can't afford a live-in maid, and you certainly can't afford a live-in appliance fixer. The labor is too expensive and too specialized.

Another unanswered question: Why are these high-end appliances such crap that they're breaking all the time? Possible answers: they aren't actually, it's just a few anecdotes (Leonard); they're shiny gadgets meant more to impress than to work reliably (Sumana); improper use by wealthy idiots (Leonard); installation in creaky old houses with weird pipes, electricity, water, etc. that's not up to code (Sumana); unhealthy patterns of use, like "unused for 9 months then continuously working for 3" (Leonard).

One woman, tired of her Viking dishwasher breaking every December when guests came by, said, "We finally ripped the dishwasher out and replaced it with a KitchenAid." Not only will she get parts and service more easily, it probably won't break as much, even though it's cheaper. Reliability (like usability, and shipping) is a feature! Shouldn't a huge, top-of-the-line investment in a durable good come with top-of-the-line maintenance service that will fly or drive to you to ensure that feature? My coworker's horrible experiences with Mercedes amaze me in much the same way. How can a company invest so much in a brand, then let it slip away in the follow-up?

A last note. From the article:

Consider the extreme plight of second-home owners in Saltaire, N.Y. The village is on Fire Island off the south shore of Long Island.

Leonard's response: "Oh my God! The village is on Fire! Island."

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: The Science of Sleep: Leonard and I just saw the new Gondry film. He liked it more than I did, although I found it quite beautiful visually. I remember that I used to have more empathy for mentally ill protagonists, or flawed ones at least. American Beauty, Housekeeping, House, Enterprise....over time I just get more irritated with main characters who don't stop being self-destructive, or who hurt others.

On the other hand, I'm reading a book of short horror stories by Joe R. Lansdale. I've historically shied from horror, but a worker at Borderlands recommended this to me, and I'm enjoying it. I used to avoid horror books and movies because I was afraid they'd cause nightmares. At least that's one thing I'm not afraid of any more.

The upcoming Emma Thompson/Will Ferrell movie looks neat. Curiously enough, given its premise, it involves neither a Kaufman nor a Gondry.

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: Miscellaneous: On Saturday Leonard and I (and some Fog Creek people) visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I got to see a Georges de la Tour that I'd long admired. I especially love this detail of a woman's face. In other art news, a print of The Death of Jennifer Sisko now hangs in our living room.

Learning to listen, learning to interrupt. I used to interrupt far too often; I've gotten better about that. Now that I work in tech and almost all my colleagues are men, I have to learn to keep talking when it's my turn.

Shukr provides modest clothes and tries to treat its workers well. Wouldn't an Underwriters Labs/kosher-type certification for modest clothes be cool? LDS, Muslim, bashful, etc. people could check it when shopping. But different denominations and levels of reserve would call for different thresholds on skin coverage, tightness, conservatism in color and plumage, etc. And big-busted women will always find it difficult to find tops and dresses that don't call attention to bosomage.

What in the world is going to happen with China? We bet that engagement would lead to democratization. Were we wrong? DeLong and his commenters puzzle over that billion-person question mark.

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: Leonard Quote: I asked, in our incredibly hot apartment, "Why are only some of your [shirt] buttons buttoned?"

Response: "Oh, I take life as it comes."

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: Freaking Mouse: Aaaaargh. I hate hate hate having a mouse in the apartment. I don't know what's worse, seeing it or not knowing where it is.

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: Moved!: Huzzah for having moved. Huzzah for ABF U-Pack and for LaborReady. Huzzah for easy access to a subway station and to cheap restaurants that deliver. And a giant huzzah to Leonard for not only following me to New York but doing almost all the heavy lifting.

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: The Golden Ticket: I signed a lease on an apartment in Astoria, in Queens. Astoria feels like San Francisco's Ingleside/West Portal with a bit of the Mission, only lots of Greek instead of lots of Spanish. Many thanks to Fog Creek and to John for their instrumental roles in getting me the place.

The shipping container gets delivered Friday morning; anyone in NYC want to help me move boxes for an hour?

I am getting used to the tradeoffs of living in New York. Various protocols are byzantine and efficient. One enters it after many players in all the markets have brutally competed and iterated through a lot of opportunities and loopholes, and though "[i]t is usually incorrect to believe that you are on the efficient frontier", businesses in NYC seem nearer the efficient frontier than in other cities I've visited.

The best preparation I had for living in New York was probably living in St. Petersburg for a summer and visiting Tokyo for two weeks. I learned how to get out of people's way.

In conversation, Adam and I decided that living in New York City is a skill with a big learning curve, like knowing Unix. Many people use it all the time without really mastering it, which is fine, because you only need to know the bits you use. And having a goal, or a set of tasks to accomplish, directs and facilitates one's study.

Off to change my address in a billion places.

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: A Long Goodbye: A zillion people, including people who never worked with me or are no longer at Salon, came to my goodbye lunch at Taylor's Automatic Refresher and my goodbye party at Town Hall (a restaurant/bar on Howard). I was touched.

This weekend: a zillion people want to come over, to see us one last time before we go, to help us move boxes into other, larger boxes, to buy us dinner and drinks, to give back borrowed books and take away unwanted furniture.

We are so busy, so frazzled, and so lucky.

I'm listening to Vienna Teng and to the William Shatner/Ben Folds collaboration. I'm watching the house empty, pouring my life into cardboard boxes, keeping track of a thousand details, and convincing myself (with Leonard's help) that it'll all be okay.

Maxine Hong Kingston wrote in The Woman Warrior that it's tough to distinguish the layers of one's heritage. What comes from your parents, and what from theirs, and what from your village, and what from being your ethnicity, and what just from your own idiosyncratic history?

Saying goodbye is like that. All at once, I say goodbye to Salon, and to my loose affinity with Berkeley, and to BART, and to Northern California, and to almost all my friends, and to San Francisco, and to the futon I've had since 1999, and to the comfy brown chair I've had since 1991....

The rituals help. I sent the mass email, Subject: Farewell. There will be more. It's never enough.

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: Request For Help: There is one piece of sentimental-value furniture (a large dresser) that needs to get moved down to Leonard's mom's house in Bakersfield, and we'd pay to get that moved. If you know someone with a pickup truck who regularly travels between San Francisco and Southern California, please let us know.

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: Collections Of Links For Advice: Book-shipping advice from one who knows!

The Moving Scams website is being very helpful to me in finding a way to get stuff across the country.

Note to self: join MeFi and ask this user and this user for moving-to-NYC advice, based on hints they've dropped in some threads.

Leonard and I need a two-bedroom in Queens or Brooklyn with a non-awful commute to midtown (Fog Creek is on 8th Avenue around 37th St.). We'll be looking in all the usual places: Craigslist, etc. If you have special magical knowledge of a place with the below-mentioned criteria, please let me know.

Apartment criteria listed in descending order of importance:
 Under $1800/mo
 2 bedrooms
 Brooklyn (Park Slope? Sunset Park?) or Astoria in Queens
 <= 5 minute walk from subway, 10 minute walk maximum
 <= 3 blocks to full service grocery store
 Low crime neighborhood
 Washer/dryer in building
 Low street noise at night, preferably during day also
 Big kitchen
 Well-lit by natural light
 Part of house rather than apartment building
 Gas range rather than electric
 <= 10 minute walk to restaurant clusters
 Known responsive landlord
 Little or no vermin problem
 On first floor of building

Things that are okay:
 1 bathroom
 Small apartment building (< 6 units)

Open questions
 How much storage space?
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: Big Giant Announcement: I have been extraordinarily fortunate in the caliber of the institutions that have employed me since I left college. I did a tour as a retail warrior at Berkeley's landmark of literacy, Cody's Books. I've now worked for more than two and a half years at another incredible institution -- I'd been reading Salon Magazine for years and couldn't believe it when they called me for an interview, much less hired me.

I've been reading Joel Spolsky's weblog for years and he's consistently given me new ways to look at software, economics, psychology, and a mess of other fields. So I applied for the Fog Creek Software Management Training Program and Fog Creek has done me the honor of accepting me.

Fog Creek's office is in the Fashion District (a.k.a. the Garment District) of Manhattan, in New York City. Within the next month, Leonard and I will sell and give away a lot of belongings, pack, and find and move into an apartment, probably in Brooklyn or Queens, with a reasonable kitchen.

Three and a half years ago:

Paulina, my roommate at the time: "You could go to New York and try to make it big."
Me: "Oh, that's so twentieth-century."
Last month:
In other cycle hypotheses, many smart suburban/small-town/small-city Californians I knew went to Berkeley, then moved to San Francisco, and are now moving to New York. I assume they will then move back to smaller towns to have kids.

It's all happening fast, but it was prefigured long ago.

Please email recommendations, advice, and congratulations.

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: Column and Moving Sale: MC Masala this week recounts the tale of the one and only hickey I've ever gotten.

I gibbered that it was a bug bite and looked, pleading, at the nurse. She saw the desperation in my eyes.

Also, my friends Steve and Alice Shipman are selling stuff at great prices so they don't have to move it across the country. (Bah to friends moving great distances away! But huzzah for neat opportunities and cheap airfares!) There is awesome stuff.

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: Nonexistent Shirt: Sumana: Should we dress up for Thanksgiving at your uncle's?
Leonard: No, we don't need to dress up.
Sumana: OK. I'll put on my ripped Poison t-shirt, then.

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: Decluttering: This week's MC Masala focuses on how to make more from less.

Some people may react to a nomadic past by living lightly, keeping only enough possessions to fit in two suitcases for quick getaways. I lived with someone like that, whose room resembled the cell of a secular monk. I would peek in, awed.

Completely unrelated: Libelous Claims About Large Corporations is a comic strip/blog sort of in the fashion of Spamusement!, but also like that other stick figure one with stories of a cat and a grandmother and whatnot.

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: Decision Procedures: When I go to a restaurant, I limit myself to choosing from a fraction of the offerings at that restaurant. I have made one very big decision (continuing to be vegetarian) that frees me from many tiny decisions throughout my daily life. It is much easier to choose among four equally appealing options than among fifteen. Since I live in an area where restaurants always have a few vegetarian options, I don't lack for variety, but I space the variety out among meals.

Sometimes, I'll go to Greens, or Herbivore, or Golden Era, and find myself gobsmacked at the choices available to me. Just as, after turning 21, I had to rerender my map of the world, reminding myself of each bar I passed that I could enter it freely and legally, I stare at the Lucky Creation menu for minutes, trying to accustom myself to the concept that I could eat anything on there.

I've cleansed my closet and dresser of clothes I didn't want. So now I have a slightly more limited selection of clothes, but all of them are ones I want to wear. I've both created and removed constraints. And constraints are how we get anything done.

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: Progress Redux: It's Weekend O'Minor Renovation! Recaulking the sink, building tacky snap-together furniture, hanging up pictures, sorting stacks of dead tree for shredding and storage, and sending notes to charities asking them to take me off their mailing lists. John, you'll be happy to know that I've been, you know, opening and filing or shredding that old mail you saw.

It's so easy to get over decluttering inertia when I just concentrate on getting one little thing done, get it over with, enjoy the surprising and wonderful change that's made in my life, and ride the high to the next, spontaneously chosen project. The cause could also be the stimulants in my anti-allergy medication.

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: Progress: Yesterday (Saturday) I tidied my room, dug a bunch of seldom-worn clothes out of my dresser and closet, took them and Leonard's rejects to Buffalo Exchange, got a tiny amount in store credit and dumped the BE rejects into their donation bin, washed my sheets, and cleaned some more. And then I went to a party! Parties feel so much better after accomplishments.

I'd wanted to toss some dresses for years. Last night, I finally realized what was holding me back: the internalized, imaginary voices of my mother and sister, who think they are nice dresses and that I should wear them more often. Bah! It's my closet and my tastes and needs shall reign.

Two weeks ago, Sarah gave me some very nice clothes that don't fit her needs anymore. In fact, I am currently wearing my new favorite pair of pants, a khaki-esque dealie that she gave me. So now I feel bad that I did not reciprocate and offer my perfectly nice dresses, pants, shirts, skirts, etc. to my friends and acquaintances. But many of them were not attractive, and I really just wanted them all gone and out of my home and my life.

One can get a high from decluttering. The Buddhists know what's going on.

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: Miscellany: I helped put together a pile of stuff to give away, and a corresponding list, yesterday.

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: Self-Plagiarism As Cannibalism: As I'd sort of warned you, my MC Masala column this week is about a silly anecdote. Specifically, I cannibalized a July weblog entry about seeing a mouse. Enjoy.

I slammed the bedroom door, immediately ceding the rest of the apartment to the mouse's dominion. This was no time for thoughtful action or empowering gestures. This was a time to freak out.
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: Trader Joe's Goodness: Am currently eating the frozen mushroom risotto mixed with soy taco filling. It's pretty good.

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: Mice Are Completely Unfair: How is this fair? The day after I clean the kitchen, I see a mouse. Now I'm stuffing towels in the cracks under my bedroom door as though waiting for firefighters to rescue me from smoke inhalation, and making loud glossomanic sounds before leaving a room so as to scare away the vermin. The neighbors must think I've started a home Pentecostal church. If only I had snakes around my neck - maybe they'd catch this damn mouse.

If you have a cat that catches mice, would you consider visiting me? Soon? With your kitty? I'm allergic to cat hair but I can sweep it up. Mice, no.

I had a moment while writing this where I feared that the mice would read it and learn of my countermeasures. No, these are not The Rats Of NIMH. These are not terrorist mice where it's not politically correct to try and figure out what they want and how to deny it to them. As far as I know, it is one solitary mouse who has succeeded in changing the way I live. Congratulations and damn you.

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: Stayin' Awake: When I wake up very early, I wonder whether I can get back to sleep. Sometimes a cup of water or trip to the loo will do it, sometimes daydreaming will. But what doesn't help: hearing the following sounds from the street:

  1. firework or gunshot
  2. only a second later, a second identical sound
  3. car driving away from said sounds

So I called 911 and made my calm, lucid report, and now I am definitely awake. Time to write.

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: Batteries It Is: The ugly little cubes that plug into a power outlet and recharge a phone or power a mobile cassette recorder or what have you have a special name. The hip call them "wall warts." Tonight I am upending the house in search of the wall wart for my tape recorder. Any wart supplying 3 volts of direct current would suffice. I found 4.5V, 15V, 3.7V, all sorts of mutually incompatible adapters instead. Standards, people!

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: Cleaning Service RFC: Request For Comment. I'm considering hiring a cleaning service to thoroughly clean a one-bedroom apartment - a bedroom, a living room, a kitchen, a small bathroom and a tiny foyer. If you have any experience with San Francisco-area cleaning services, then please email me recommendations and tell me the reasonable price range. I could imagine reasonable vendors charging anywhere from $30 to $100 and could stand some guidance.

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: Conversation: "I was just pointing out another reason that I'm right, and I think you should take that in the spirit in which it was intended."

"I think I did!"

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: Aha: Elephant Pharmacy IS a chain!

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: The Chart Does Not Lie: Make A Cost-Per-Wear Chart and embarrass yourself into wardrobe reasonableness!

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: America's Moving Adventure: Leonard just moved slightly further from my apartment. It will now be slightly harder to visit him for dinner four nights a week.

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: Post-Weekend Update: My performance evaluation went fine. Evidently I am doing a very good job but we still have ideas for goals and improvements.

My haircut makes me look like Anjali from Alison Bechdel's strip.

On Wednesday evening a guy harrassed me on the street in my neighborhood. I responded calmly and prudently but he unnerved me; this hasn't happened to me before in my neighborhood. Among his blithering I heard him ask whether I was Iraqi. Real reassuring.

I left work early on Friday to talk about tax history with a Berkeley professor and then to see Mike Daisey. Both rewarding. Then I basically spent the whole weekend working on Heather's show. No major mistakes on my part - huzzah! I'd forgotten how tedious and nerve-wracking shows can be. No offense, Heather.

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: I bought some mockmeat bacon and got home to discover that the expiration date was the next day. So I ate it all. I think the last slice was not quite as tasty as the first.

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: I have to go to Leonard's place to watch Last Comic Standing on NBC, as I don't get Channel 11, and Enterprise's new season on UPN hasn't started yet. So the worthwhile channels that I can see on the TV at my new place are PBS and whatever Channel 32 is. Sometimes Channel 32 shows English-language German programming from DW-TV. The DW Journal has anchors with US accents, which makes me wonder whether I'm watching the US version of the show and DW-TV produces the show in five languages every day, ACK-style.

Sometimes channel 32 is the ARTS channel, with operas and dance and so on. But it's on TV, so I don't feel pretentious about having it on in the background. How hoity-toity can it be if they don't want my money?

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: Tonight is the last big load. After a bit more net I'll disconnect the computer and load up the last of my belongings here into my car. Goodbye, internet at home. See you again someday.

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: Graaa. Finishing up the big move. Man, I hate moving cathode-ray tubes. Fortunately I persuaded a man on each end to help me lift and move the TV my sister's giving me. The VCR is lighter than my CD/radio/tape player; huh?

Things I'll miss about Berkeley include: walkable, familiar, nearby downtown; campus memories & resources; friends; lower prices; laid-back atmosphere. And Internet access at home, although I'll remedy that eventually.

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: S*** I Don't Need: I packed most of my belongings today. Michael made brownies, remounted my old corrupted disk image from months back so I can copy the important stuff off it, and helped load the van. Zack loaded, twiddled with, started, and drove the huge, clunky old van that my landlord very kindly lent me, and he and I unloaded it at my new place. My new landlord gave me a rice cooker. I drove us back.

I still have a sedan trip or two to make before the end of the month, but at least the hunk of it is over.

I won't have Internet access at my new place for a while, so for weekends and nighttime phone will be the best way to reach me.

The title references a Janeane Garofalo bit. "When you're moving, a month before you start packing. The first few nights your boxes are neat and labeled. 'Books.' 'Clothes.' The night before, you're throwing stuff in boxes, scribbling, 'S*** I DON'T NEED.'"

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: Geeks Great and Small: Adam is staying at my place for a bit, as he's between apartments on his way to New York City. It's barrels of fun. Yesterday we saw the awesome spelling bee documentary Spellbound (Flash site), which we both really liked. So many smart kids! And so many of them were Indians! (IMDB solves a mystery: "...there was a total of 165 hours of material, and that they originally followed 13 kids. Dropping five of them was a very painful decision....")

Then Leonard came over and we all had dinner and they played songs on Adam's guitar for hours. How extremely pleasant it was, I can't convey.

Today I'm at work, grinding through the weekend backlog. However, I am cheered by the fact that I get to call Andrew Leonard "Andrew," and that from the back he really resembles Adam.

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: Sumana Homesteading Update: My time at Salon has only reassured me as to my future there, and it gets tiring to live an hour away from Leonard and forty-five minutes from work. And lots of my friends are moving away from Berkeley, so it's not as much of a saddening thing to be across the bay from the remainder. So I decided to move earlier than I'd thought.

After viewing a few adequate places, I snagged a beautiful three-room apartment just a few blocks from the Balboa Park BART station, with non-outrageous rent and a sensible-seeming landlord. I'm moving in this month, and hope to stay there for at least a year. Heck, any new job I get will probably be in SF, so I don't feel too much anxiety about entering into a long-term commitment. Yeah, the immediate neighborhood lacks excitement, but I work downtown. That's what glamorous Salon parties are for.

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: America's Moving Adventure: IF this job lasts, as I believe it will, then sometime in the early fall I'll move to San Francisco. Leonard doesn't plan to move his homestead, so now I have solid criteria for my new place: within walking distance of public transit to work (preferably BART), within walking distance of Leonard's place, at least a bedroom to myself, not too much more than $800 per month. Heck, if something doesn't work out I can always find another job and/or move back to the East Bay, or somewhere entirely different for that matter.

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: What Adam & I Ate Last Night: Apples. Plums. Dried sour cherries. Roasted almonds. Linguini and marinara sauce with olive oil and mockmeatballs. Whole wheat tortillas. Hummus. Soy ice cream pies. Orange juice. Water.

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: I'm writing this from my much more functional PC. Thanks, Michael. Thanks also to Leonard.

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: Geek or Weak?: My PC has been nonfunctional for months, since a few really unfortunate accidents where I hit the power strip button without shutting down. Last night I finally attempted to reinstall the operating system with a Debian CD that Michael had lent me.

For those of you who don't know (and if you are a computer geek, don't read this paragraph, as the simplifications will annoy you): I use Linux at home, not Windows or the Mac OS. There are many flavors of Linux, many independent distributions each concentrating on enhancing certain aspects of the software. Debian is the "I'm such a geek, I want all the functionality you can possibly give me, and if something doesn't work I'll fix it myself by hacking the code" distribution. The Debian organization is also well known for its commitment to software freedom.

Well, I shouldn't have done the Debian dance. I should have used one of the "You don't really know what you're doing, do you?" distributions. As of right now my computer is running a very minimal installation of Linux, but I can't figure out how to connect to the Net, so I can't download the software that I need. I was too exhausted to use Michael's computer to trawl the Net for help documentation, and he wasn't here, so I just cheered myself up with my Firesign Theater tape and went to bed. I've waited nine weeks, I can wait another few days.

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: Brief Fierce Conversations in Hideous Climates: One nice thing about living with Michael is that he has many neat friends and acquaintances. I meet them and they guest star in my life for a few hours. The cameos have rarely turned into recurring gigs, but it could happen.

Last night I met Geordan Rosario, who played for us The Moog Cookbook, which I dubbed "They Might Be Esquivel" (or "They Might Be Weird EsquivAl"). It's mindbending and wonderful and I recommend it. Geordan is quick on the riff and quite observant: during our meal at Cancun Taqueria (tasty nopales), he pointed to a mural featuring a many-winged bird and said, "Did it drink Red Bull?"

Ladies, he's single!

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: Poetry Slum: Another trick to not getting booed by hostile audiences: rap or recite poetry at them so quickly that they hear no pause to fill up with booing. In that spirit, well, in a completely different spirit, I present the poem I wrote my ex-flatmate to get him to return my stuff. ("I'll bring it back given the appropriate ransom (let's say, a limerick about shampoo).")

I told you that our word "pajamas"
Originates in Balarama's
land. So does "shampoo,"
and "karma" does too
So gimme it back, or your mama's!
(Balarama is a character in Indian mythology. Krishna's brother, I think.)

And then there's the lovely note I saw hanging from my doorknob a week back, "Ode to a Phase-Shifted Roommate":

Every night
   except a few
I sleep at home
   and so do you.

We both wake up
   and check our mail,
And look for food
   to no avail.

We both have weekends
   off from work,
And both enjoy
   this little perk.

We often walk
   the same small street --
Some day, we
   might even meet.
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: I turned into Andy Holloway for a weekend. I'm still up, dawn has long since broken, but my room has order and a visible carpet and décor.

Michael: "Any time you feel conflicted about your identity as a geek, just look at the crimper in the drawer, and remember that you know how to use it."

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: The Island of Mathematicians and Morons: Last night Michael shared a logic problem with Devin and me. Evidently Smullyan, in What Is the Name Of This Book?, mistakenly said it was insoluble, and Michael corrected him. But it took Michael at least a few months, at age 14 or so, to realize the solution, so expect a solution in this space perhaps five years from now. Title credit Devin.

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: Pinging in the Rain: Well, I'm sure rain will come soon enough. My point: I finally implemented network access in my room, with Michael's help. Finally, broadband on Unix in my room! I never knew I wanted this till now, much as with my recent NewsBruiser upgrade. Thanks, guys! ("Guys" here includes the inventors of broadband and python and all the foundations for my current fun.)

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: Flashback to AcaDec: My flatmate is watching Saturday Night Fever (IMDB entry). I heard, on the soundtrack, "Night on Disco Mountain," which reminded me of good old "Night on Bald Mountain" from my Academic Decathlon days in high school.

Watching prime-time TV requires me to say "What?!" about every thirty seconds. This last commercial break was no exception. Some ABC ad for The Music Man convinced me to watch it and then nearly convinced me not to watch it. Then, I found out, it's "Coming in February." February? I'm supposed to make room in my head for a Television Event two months from now? Who knows where I'll live, or how many civil liberties I'll have lost by then? Rights come and go, TV grinds on.

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: Yesterday the flatmates and a friend and I spent about six hours, on and off, making food. There was turkey and mashed potatoes and cranberry-sauce salad and pumpkin pie and gravy, and I made a pretty good spontaneous-ish soup; I'll post a recipe here when I have more time.

Tip: when you're slicing a carrot, and it occurs to you that you're doing it unsafely, and go ahead and do it that way anyway, you *will* cut your finger, as I did.

All the food was good and people said what they were thankful for and dug in and loved it. Also, I played Dance Dance Revolution, and it was fun. Whee!

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: A good evening last night: the flatmates and I made burritos and ate them. A feast! Sure, I usually use avocadoes, tomatoes, lettuce, Herdez salsa, cheese, and sour cream, but I never would have thought to use bell peppers or grilled onions. Also included: yummy Morningstar "Grillers" (fake ground beef) and homemade taco seasoning (cumin, oregano, paprika, salt, cayenne). Dessert: blocks of Ghirardelli chocolate and raspberries. Music: mix CDs, including the one Adam made for my birthday. Conversation topic and internet- and whiteboard-facilitated demonstrations included Kannada script and language, Cyrillic script and Russian language, Japanese script ad politeness, forbidden American English, "The Eye of Argon" vis-à-vis "The Good, The Bad, and Scarface", currencies, Cliff Stoll's sale of engraved portraits of Gauss, and the music and food. Of course, Michael and I watched "The Best of the Chris Rock Show Volume Two." Hey, movie rentals are expensive and I'm gonna get my $3.51's worth.

Today I really start my new job in School and Corporate Sales. In other bookstore news, I got to show a customer our books relating to The West Wing yesterday. He may have been unnerved by my enthusiasm; whoops.

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