June 30, 2012


June 30th.  A rough time for a transactional attorney.

This AM, after a long work day yesterday to cap off an even longer work week (and too much wine last night to celebrate the end of the quarter), I woke, went for a run while listening to mandarin lessons, and then hopped in the car for a 3 hour drive to a family wedding-related event.

With traffic, it was 3.5 hours.

But, thanks to E's offer to be the driver, the delay didn't bother me, I took advantage of the time.  I marked up a contract, I composed emails, I finalized time sheets for the month.  Eventually, with 45 minutes to spare before arriving at my cousin's bridal shower, I looked up, with the "must do" work finally done, shut my computer, looked out at the laborers in the fields of the California central valley and almost started to cry.

It's June 30th.  The end of the quarter.  Tomorrow, things will be easier.  Lighter.  Less stressful. This is true every end of the fiscal quarter for me.  But, I do not manage the stress as well as I could or should.  And, in the grand scheme of things, my life is *not* stressful.  The laborers could not have made this more clear.

Which just made me want to cry more.

I needed a stress release, but I also needed to hold it together, at least 'til after the bridal shower.

So I did.  And now I'm here, sitting on a balcony, replying to the 20 emails that came in during the bridal shower and watching the sun set over the pacific ocean at a lovely beachside hotel.

When I was a kid, I dreamed of being the person who could splurge on the balcony view over the ocean room.  I never guessed I'd be there one day because I was too busy to book a room until all that was left were the expensive ones.  And I definitely never thought I'd be here because I needed to work and I wanted to visit my aging gran, but because AM visits are much better for her, I needed to stay the night after the bridal shower unless I wanted to get on the road at 5 AM and do a pre-bridal shower visit (which, if I'm honest was not happening with me alone, much less with E as a driver and companion).

So yeah, I finally hit one of the goals I set in my innocence as a kid, I can actually afford and justify staying in the hotel room with the balcony and a view at the beach near my dad's hometown.

I thought that was success, a long, long time ago.

But it's not remotely why or how I imagined.

I'm not complaining.  It's awesome.  It's just completely different than I thought.

In short, it's bittersweet.

June 28, 2012

Garmin: It's a Love-Hate Thing

Oh, I love data.

But man, do I hate being a slave to data.  I want it on my terms. 

So, oh, yeah, when my Forerunner 405 gave up the batterial ghost, those were tough times.

But now, I've sucked it up.  I finally splurged on a Garmin Forerunner 610 and it's been 48 hours of effort and reading and searching and uploading updates and calling the tech support folks who are trying to coach me by text but finally give in (Garmin tech support, by the way, is much, much better, than my last adventure with them a few years ago, when there was essentially none.  They now have phone support, and they are nice!)

After 48 hours of fighting to make it work, the Garmin is totally up to date with what happened this AM, but it won't sync, and won't acknowledge the routes we've done this evening, in other words, it won't own up to the work I've done...

So, I feel betrayed.  I'm really not a fan of the reliability of Garmin products.  My first 205 lasted 2+ years.  My second one the same.  My 405 lasted just a little over a year and in protest I ran without a GPS watch for several months.  But, finally, as I mentioned, I'm getting back into running more seriously. So I need my data!

I spent much of today on-line with their awesome (much improved) help desk.  I've re-installed every driver, I've re-associated every device, I've tried alternate browsers and I've re-installed every piece of software, and I've re-booted at least 5 times.

At the end of the day, after much struggling I'm sure it'll end up just fine.  All of my data in Garmin Connect and my watch working as expected.

In the meantime, I have weekend plans and holiday plans for the 4th!

Also, I spent my last 36 hours migrating Exchange 2007 - 2010 (which was much more labor intensive than the Garmin, but less frustrating as I don't have to deal with it on a daily basis).  So at BBQ, a subset of us discussed how it is possible that the electronic age has not brought net benefits to us... interesting polite BBQ talk in the middle of Silicon Valley, no?

But, really, the important part is...my email is finally migrated (fingers crossed) and my Garmin still has all the data, it's just a matter of extracting it.

Viva (Data)!

June 25, 2012

Getting Back in the Swing of Things

Sunday, I headed out for a hilly loop of 13 miles with H.

It's been a long time since I tried to do a true long run, much less one with serious hills.

It was a beautiful day and I finished.  I also bid H farewell around mile 8 when it became glaringly apparent that I was just much too slow for her.

Year to date, I'm at about 515 miles.

Last year, I did 1659 miles, total.  So,yeah, I've been slacking.

But, I've got 2 marathons in the pipeline (Equinox and CIM), so this weekend's ass-kicking was exactly what the doctor ordered. I took a few walk breaks, and I erred on the side of slow and steady, but at the end of the day, I'm back in distance runner mode.

Apologies (to my 13 loyal readers as well as randoms) in advance for the likely increased frequency of boring running posts.

Niece Week 2012 -- Success

She's 10, going on being a teenager.  It's scary to realize how fast she's grown up.  And yet it's easy to understand, visually, as she's grown 3 inches since her last visit and now she wears my shoe size (which she enjoyed to no end).

I'm also so proud of her and just love her so much.

The fun part is how she internalizes everything we strive to share with her.

She proudly informed me at the rocket launch at Moffett Field on Saturday that she had to be patient with some of the kids because, this was her *5th* time setting off rockets and many of the other kids had never done it before.  Ahhh.... a rocket expert, how could we not love her? 

Only a few hours before the end of her visit, she reminded me that I'd promised to pay her for watching/playing with a friend's child one of the evenings of her visit.  I explained that we'd have to negotiate her pay and it was such fun to watch her little brain grow with the idea that when someone is paying you, it is a 2-way discussion.  I made her pick hourly rates, do the multiplication, and then assess whether it was a fair price for me and for her.  She did well, and we arrived on a totally reasonable $15 for 2.5 hours. (It didn't hurt that Uncle Rocket was coaching her on the side, "She does this for a living... start high!")

But it was the subtle internalizations that were the best.  I overheard her telling my mom (who came to pick her up) "I went to Auntie's Mandarin lessons.  I learned to say, "Dui" (correct), "Xiexie" (thanks), and "haochi" (good food).

Early in her visit, I decided that while doing Mad Libs before bed (our standard pre-bedtime activity),  I would only use words I also knew in Mandarin and I'd tell them to her and let her repeat.  She was a quick study and quickly learned to differentiate the tones.

In fact, she made me bust out laughing when she said, "Level 3 sounds like you are puking... Haaaaaaooooouuuu" (complete with gestures).  

This is hilarious because: a) she thinks of the tones as levels, like on a video game; and b) she's right, 3rd tone does sort of sound like gastrointestinal distress.

There are a million other adorable things she said as well as a couple less adorable attitude pre-quels for the teenager she is likely to become.

But, overall, I'm so happy she was able to come stay with us and I'm so thankful she has parents who are willing to let her come.

Also, for the record, I got *much* less work done than normal last week (turns out, Mad-Libs, teethbrushing, boundary setting, supervising clothes-laying-out and lunch-packing, and general kid time mean I can't work even close to my normal hours).  In other words, I'm in awe of lawyers with full-time children.

June 21, 2012

Why Women Still Can't Have It All

This Article is brilliant.

Yes, the majority of her analysis and discussion centers around women, careers, and balancing a family and how to raise children.

And yes, I've mentioned in the past that opting out of the child-rearing often leaves me feeling left out.

But, I've personally observed many of the realities Ms. Slaughter discusses in this article and I'm so pleased that she has brought them to the forefront of the conversation.

Much of my decision not to have children revolves around the reality that I just don't want to make the very real sacrifices that mothers have to make.  To pretend these sacrifices don't exist is to fail to support the mothers (and fathers) making them.

No one can have it all.  Our time is limited and our life is defined by the choices we make about what to do with our limited time.

June 15, 2012

Mid-Year Mandarin Check In

Amongst other things, one of my New Year's Resolutions for 2012 was to study Mandarin.

From the start this has been the most enjoyable of all of the goals I set for myself this year.  By March, I could laugh at simple jokes spoken in a language I'd never understood before, which has to be one of the greatest joys a human can experience.

I'm sad I didn't do this earlier.  I was intimidated by the fact that Mandarin is a tonal language (which is true, and definitely one of the more difficult things about it), but I had no idea how many other wonderful things there were about the language that would more than make up for the difficulty of the tones.

First, the lack of conjugation is a serious gift to learners of Mandarin.  Learn a new verb? Bam.  You are done.  You can confidently use it with with every subject in existence and, if you hear it, you know what it means.  AWESOME!

Second, the San Francisco Bay area has so much Mandarin -- I had no idea.  I have learned that every single ABC ("American Born Chinese") friend I have speaks more Mandarin than they'd ever let on.  It's only when confronted with my terrible Mandarin that they correct me and hint as to just how much they know and  understand while refusing to acknowledge a command of Mandarin.

Living in the Bay Area, I now know that I have the opportunity to listen and comprehend Mandarin every day.  I stop and listen to Mandarin speakers on the radio, on public broadcast TV, and, more often, in the street and local stores, every day.

Third, and a completely new linguistic bonus of fun for me, Hanzi are like a constant crossword puzzle at every turn of my life in Northern California.  I can't walk down the street or drive down any major thoroughfare without encountering characters.  Every day I stop (when walking) stare, and try to derive some meaning from the few radicals and characters I know plus the context of where the sign is.  Every day I think I discover one or more new "secrets" of this awesome code.

As someone who self-identifies as an auditory language learner, I had no idea I'd find learning the characters to be such a source of happiness.  I can't help but wonder if this is how fun it was for me to learn to read as a child.  Pure joy at recognition of written meaning is such a foreign concept to me at this point in my life.  What a gift to reclaim it through Mandarin study!

So, suffice it to say, this goal is going well.  Better than I expected.  The almost mid-year check-in is as follows:

- I've completed 34 newbie lessons on Chinesepod.com including listening to the Show, the Audio Review, and Reviewing the written materials for each one.  For a subset I can recognize all of the characters, but for the most part, with Chinesepod, I've focused on the auditory aspect.

-I can recognize and speak at least 100+ Mandarin words by sound alone and I can follow basic conversations about food, work, weekends, etc.  Every week, I have a Mandarin night with my teacher and a good bi-lingual friend.  Occasionally, we invite other bi-lingual speakers.  The ability to interact on simple topics in Mandarin has been one of my strongest sources of pleasure in this endeavor.

-I can recognize and write 57 Hanzi characters (as of tonight), plus I can guess at the meanings of others based on radicals.  I think I'd like to shoot for at least 200 by the year end.  Ambitious, I know.  But I think it's doable.

-Last week, I successfully hosted a party of bi-lingual Mandarin-English speakers and understood most of what was said in Mandarin, including jokes.

In short, this going better than I expected.  Every restaurant I go to, I hear Mandarin -- that's just the demographic of my life.  I hear it at In-N-Out, I hear it at Fiesta Del Mar, I hear it at the ramen joint.  It's just a question of whether I understand it.  Menus for Chinese restaurants, of course, are an additional welcome addition to the exposure.  And, I recently learned the bonus of Japanese menus as well... turns out, the Kanji and Hanzi are close enough that I can read them and understand a bit, too.

Mandarin 2012 -- going well! 

June 4, 2012

Summer Rituals

It's that time of year again: We got our first sunburns a few weekends back.  We planted the summer garden.  We emptied the shed of the summer furniture. And we've already had a few BBQs.

But we *really* know it's summer (despite the fact that it's raining today), because this weekend, we finished the one summer ritual that never fails to materialize:


We know we can finally welcome in summer when E, the great wasp warrior, sprays liquid death upon the nest that they build *every year* right at our front door.



Also, yes, we finally admitted that we *have* to get a new roof.  (We are hopeful it will proceed on a slightly faster schedule than the bathroom remodel.)