May 30, 2012

White Trash is a Hipster Compliment?

This weekend, I found myself in line at the uber-hip Ritual while wearing black skinny jeans, a black tank top with sequinned words across my chest, a black North Face fleece tied around my waist and black men's Ben Sherman Shoes with orange stripes.  No makeup.  Greasy hair pulled back in a bun.  Sunglasses.

The short version of my attire's explanation? Pajamas with the indecent bits replaced with whatever was on top of the laundry pile.  It was pre-shower.  9:30 AM.  In the Mission.  The streets were empty except for a few folks obviously making their way home after unexpectedly sleeping elsewhere.  The line for Tartine was the shortest I've ever seen.  Given the lack of likelihood of public interaction with anyone other than the folks who'd seen me in my immediate post wake-up state, I put even less thought than I ordinarily do into my appearance.  (Is it possible to have a negative amount of thought?)

While waiting in line for coffee, V and I amused ourselves watching the elaborate dance of the barrista.  Imagine Tom Cruise in Cocktail, throwing cups, dancing, and spinning the espresso holder after each deliberate twist of the packer.  Oh, but extremely pale, with long blond hair, super skinny, and a trimmed beard.  So, if you take the actions of Cocktail Tom Cruise performed in a hipster coffee bar by a 70s rocker going for the Jesus look, then you've got a pretty good idea of the show.

Dancing barrista's sidekick was one of the lumberjack hipsters.  You know the type:  Plaid shirt.  Skinny jeans on some beefy legs.  Big unkempt beard.  Converse.

While we stood a few patrons back, I watched Lumberjack pull Cocktail Jesus aside.  He mouthed something and then motioned with his head in our direction.

As they started to look our way, I realized that my brain had read his lips, it had just taken a while to get to my head.

"White Trash"

I didn't really know what to do with this one.  I glanced around the cafe and realized that I was, in fact, the only person in the entire shop in a tank top, and most definitely the only one in sequins.

Also, I'm a little on the voluptuous side for me right now (Thanks to my Dad's family's genes, when I gain weight I get big boobs that are out of proportion to the rest of my body.  Thanks to my Mom's genes, I am very short, so a small numberical weight gain results in quite a bit of change.  Also, thanks to my Mom's genes, weight gain that doesn't go to my boobs goes to my bubble butt.  There are worse things in life.)

So, the sequins were actually splashed across my big chest.  If you know much about the Mission hipsters, you know that a) very few of the women have much in the way of cleavage, and b) the ones that do try not to accentuate it.  By glancing around, I realized I was one of the curviest people in the room, and my outfit screamed that I was obviously not uncomfortable about it.  In fact, if I'm honest, compared to the way everyone else was dressed, it probably looked like I wanted to draw attention to my tits and ass.

Finally, part of the partial transition from PJs to street clothes was that I'd deigned to put on a bra.  My brastraps, however, were not the right configuration for a tank top, so they were showing as well.  And cream.

Before I could decide if I wanted to compose a reaction to the name-calling, I watched Cocktail Jesus look back from my direction and lean back to Lumberjack with his hand over his heart.  "Looooove It."  They grinned at each other, obviously thrilled with their own coolness and that of the people they serve their fucking awesome coffee.  Blissful in their irony, they went back to the performance of their ritual of coffee making.

And that, my friends, is how I learned that at least on Memorial Day Weekend 2012, "White Trash" was actually a hipster compliment.

May 25, 2012

Holiday Weekend

Every once in a while I recognize that I have been doing too much.

Today was one of those days.

I set my "out of office" at 2 PM letting folks know that I wouldn't be back 'til Tuesday.  I only worked 50% of the hours of the day I ordinarily work (This is despite an early waking hour, a workout that was done by 8 and desperately wishing I could have taken the entire day off -- can you say, "burnt-out inefficiency?").

I finally committed to actually taking the Monday holiday.  I'll get to spend it running in SF, reading, and with friends, E, and my mom, her husband, and brother at the Giants' Game.

I'm so excited.

It's been a long time since I decided I wouldn't work at all during a weekend.  This is, my friends, one of the dangers of a) being your own boss; b) being married to someone who is their own boss; c) being 1/2 of a couple who is ridiculously driven; and d) not allowing children to force you to do things you should probably do anyways.

But this weekend, it's time.

Relaxation is here.  At home.  In our house.  Some gardening.  Some cooking.  Some running. But nothing too taxing.

I've got one more contract to get out (one of the recipients of the out of office actually got a real-time response -- it's better just to get it done, so I must focus...).

But I already wrote off 2 hours this afternoon to go visit a friend I hadn't seen in a long time, and even though I'm technically back at work at my desk, I've already started cooking an elaborate dinner, planning the weekend menu, and just generally checking out of work stuff and into pleasure stuff.

It feels foreign.  But good.

And necessary.

In fact, I think I need to do this more often...

May 21, 2012

On Motivation

Ben Casnocha's latest book review about chasing daylight hit me pretty hard.

Ever since I freaked out my poor babysitter with a crying fit in the shower over the realization that one day I was going to die (age 6 -- yeah, I was a fun kid), I've always kept the idea of my own death in the back of my thoughts.

It's a great motivator. Each day is a gift. Our time is limited. How we spend it is permanent.

But, I hadn't really given much thought to just *how* limited my time is until I read one of the comments to Ben's post. The commenter encouraged people to calculate their "Number" (aka, how many days you have left, give or take). If I assume I live to 75, I have somewhere in the ballpark of 14,000 days left.

Now that's some *serious* motivation.

May 16, 2012

On Writing

The fun of talk is to explore, but much of it and all that is irresponsible should not be written. Once written you have to stand by it. You may have said it to see whether you believed it or not.

-Hemingway (The Paris Review, 1958).

I wonder where "talk" and "write" would be divided for Hemingway in a world of email, texting, Twitter, Facebook, and blogging.

May 14, 2012

Travel Inventory

The first 5.5 months of this year are nowhere near last year, in terms of total plane flights (a temporary move to the Seattle area while maintaining a law practice in the bay area = lots of airline miles).

But, even so, E and I have been discussing how we much we are looking forward to the rest of the year, where there isn't too much travel left on the horizon.

Sure, last year, our trip to Europe was one of the best vacations we've ever taken, even when you include the working tail in London.

But, upon arrival home, we agreed that missing summer in California for travel elsewhere is not ideal.  So, we were already committed to staying home as much as possible this Summer.

Why, then, are we so excited about how many weekends we have scheduled for staying home? Oh...the calendar makes it clear.  

So far, this year, while ostensibly living in the bay area and leading a non-nomadic existence, I've done overnight or longer trips to Carmel, Palm Springs, Washington DC, my hometown area, San Francisco, Cambodia, San Diego, Oakland, San Luis Obispo/Pismo Beach/5 Cities, Savannah, Spokane, and Newport Beach.

E's been with me for most of those and has added 3 or so business trips to his list to make up for the missed ones.

Essentially, that's 12 trips for each of us in 19 weeks, not including day trips (for example, I spent today in SF, onsite at a copyright conference at the St. Francis and E regularly flies to western major metropolitan areas before 6 AM to return home before midnight).

So, of course we're very pleased to see big blocks of uninterrupted time at home for the rest of the year.  In fact, if we stick to the current plan, we've only got 3 overnight SF trips (super easy), 3 trips associated with weddings (fun!), 3 trips to visit family for the holidays/birthdays (extra fun, and double duty), and only 3-4 other trips for the whole year (which are all associated with races and friends/family combined).

That's just 11 trips in 32 weeks, or the lowest travel frequency we've had for the last 2 years.  No doubt, at least one or more work trips will sneak in there, but even so, it's on track to be a great California homebody summer and second half of 2012! 

May 11, 2012

Being Direct

There's a quote I heard years ago that I really like:

Why is it that all the people who pride themselves on "Keeping it Real" think real means being an asshole?

I like it for many reasons.

First, because I am very direct.  And, unfortunately, I often err on the side of overt directness and don't deliver messages in a manner that is just as clear but more gentle and compassionate when I could.  There is nothing gained by this error, plenty is lost, and it is an area of my life where I strive to improve.

Second, because whenever I'm on the receiving end of a too direct message that stings, I try to think of this quote, and when I do, I smile.  It brings levity and perspective.  It has, on occasion, stopped me from responding with my own (not welcome or helpful) "real" response.

And Third, I like it because it reminds me that my faults are funny.  People's faults, in general, should be viewed through a prism of hilarity.

Most of us are not evil.

But damn, most of us, on occasion, are ridiculous to the point of extreme.

To generally laugh at this reality, instead of responding with immediate anger or harm, seems to me to be one of the greatest things we can do.

So thanks, random quote person.  I really like this one.

A Silicon Valley Culture Snippet

Last night, E and I were eating dinner at our local favorite Mexican food joint when a man walked in with a pin-striped button up shirt (very common) hanging over what appeared to be boxer shorts (very uncommon).

He stood in line and joked with other patrons, several of whom were in biking gear or spandex (also, very common).  E evaluated the situation and decided, "He must have lost a bet." 

Eventually, he was seated at the patio to eat by himself, walking through the restaurant in what to me, appeared to be a half-dressed state.

After we finished, my curiosity (plus the margaritas) got the best of me, and I convinced E to let me go talk with him.

I had seen enough pointing and joking and discussion while he was waiting, that I knew he'd be a good sport.

"Hi.  I'm just curious, how come you are in a dress shirt but not dress pants?"

He laughed and said, "I'm not from around here."  (Umm... yes, we could tell.)

"I wanted to go for a run and so I parked my car in the lot, went for my run, and then changed into my dress shirt to avoid eating in my sweaty shirt."

He paused.  "I guess these running shorts do sort of look like boxer shorts, though."

"Huh."  I said. "Where are you from?"


"Interesting.  Well, thanks for chatting.  Have a nice dinner."

I'm fascinated to learn that in Colorado, it's apparently much more acceptable to walk around in only the top half of the Sand Hill Uniform (pin-striped blue shirt, khaki pants) than it is to wear a full work-out uniform if it's sweaty.  To me, he looked half-naked, and a little creepy 'til it was obvious that he was embarrassed.  My perception of the inappropriateness of his attire is even more interesting because I had these thoughts while he was standing next to a guy in full cycling spandex.   

Apparently the social rules are different here than what this Colorado dude expected.  In my experience, walking into a restaurant in your workout clothes, even in a sweaty post work-out state, as long as you were willing to sit on the patio so as to avoid being stinky near other folks, wouldn't be considered odd at all.  Whereas being more clothed, but in a way that most folks in the restaurant seemed to perceive as half-dressed, made this guy stand out horribly.

May 6, 2012

An Awesome Sunday at Home

After last night's fun with the college roommate and a ridiculously early bedtime, I woke at 6:50 for a local 5K, the Mission City Fun Run.

B, a good friend, was supposed to join me, but she's sick, so that was a bummer.  Even so, it was a fun event, and very much the fun-run that was promised.

This morning was a perfect example of why I love racing.  There is no way I would have been up and running hard by 8 AM without the race to motivate me.  Instead, I did a respectable 27 minute (on the dot) 5K, which was a pleasant surprise since I was running without my Garmin and last weekend's 10K with my sister had been almost a minute per mile slower.

When I got home, I attacked the garden for hours and did Mandarin lessons on my MP3 players.  There's tons more to do in the garden in the next two weeks, but it felt great to get 2 beds and 6 varieties of tomatoes finished.   Plus, I caught up with R while finishing gardening and heading out for a nice walk.

E and I had a wonderful brunch downtown and watched the world walk by for the festival that had shut down traffic.  We hit up the hardware store and bought necessary bits for the garden.

The menu for the week is planned and I'm reading for fun to hide from the afternoon heat (it hit 91F in the eaves today!).

I was feeling pretty good about my productive day -- So many tasks accomplished and it's only 4:30. Then I realized I'd done half of those tasks in public with my shirt on inside out and a large tag hanging from my waist. E, of course, was surprised when I asked how he didn't notice and clue me in at brunch, at the hardware store, or while chatting with the neighbors. So, on this perfectly relaxing Sunday at home, I'm reminded that E & I are made for each other.

Also, I'm reading 867-5309 -- Jenny, the song that saved me (note to self, I should really sign up for Amazon's referral program).  The best bit I've encountered by far?

New Orleans, just like I pictured it.  America's Alcoholic Disneyland, where the normally straight-laced Protestants of the Midwest and the South funneled on down the Missouri, Ohio, and Mississippi rivers to become momentary Catholic-Voodoo worshippers at the fire-fountain altar of the Big Easy.

So much description, history, hints of cultural depth and movement in a single passage.  Of course he wrote songs that topped charts!

May 2, 2012

Trip of the Tongue

Just forgive me in advance, please. I can feel that this is going to be one of those posts that results in E gleefully interrupting me in public and letting people know that I've developed yet *another* girl-crush.

But, seriously, Elizabeth Little's book was one of the best reads I've had in a long, long time.

E and I have fairly divergent reading tastes.  The only real places where we overlap are modern science/technology books, economics, science fiction, futuristic fiction, and historical novels relating to war or technology.  His pleasure reading tends to be much more empirical than I enjoy.  Additionally, he is much less picky about the writing.  So long as the data or analysis is good, he is happy.

I'm a sucker for words.  Topics like science, technology, travel, language, food, sports, economics, law, and policy all interest me and I do specifically select books to learn more about them.  But really, I'm a language slut.  If the writing appeals to me, I'll read anything.  If the writing is extremely engaging, I'll re-arrange my life to maximize my book time (See REAMDE).  

As you probably know (since my only readers are close friends or niche Internet meme-sharers), one of the things I love to learn about is language.  Accents? Dialects? Foreign language? Usage patterns?  I haven't been formally trained in linguistics at all (unless you count the French Phonetics class I took in college, which, I don't, because much to the shock of the instructor, it's not the most important thing in the world, and the only application I've found for phonetic representation is pronouncing dictionary phonetic spellings when learning a new language or laying down Scrabble words).  But, like many areas of my life, a lack of formal training doesn't stop me from spending a good bit of my time thinking about (and thinking I know stuff about) language, paying attention to the way people speak, and studying and trying to communicate in foreign languages.

Within the first dozen pages of Trip of the Tongue, I was laughing out loud, and thrilled to find that this book's words could yank me in and entertain me.  Even more satisfying, it's technical and academic enough (there are footnotes and an index of citations!) for it to feel like an equal bedside book to E's Cold War Submarines: The Design and Construction of U.S. and Soviet Submarines, 1945-2001. (Yes, that's actually on his bedside table right now).

For someone like me, this book is like finding a new best friend who shares my interests, but is much more focused on them than I am.  Thankfully, she's nice enough to give me an inside view into what it would be like to spend time formally pursuing and understanding cool stuff about language that I've always wished I could take the time to learn.  (The fact that my mother is a watercolor painter of a certain age who appreciates Sante Fe didn't hurt at all.)

Ms. Little's reference to Inigo Montoya and the impossibility of defining creole uniquely made me smile at the synchronicity.  Only a few weeks earlier I'd noted on my (semi) professional blog that I find myself thinking of his catch phrase on a daily basis while playing/battling with the language of contracts.

When Ms. Little mentioned the strange fact that she'd been to Elko before commencing her inquiry into American Basque culture, I smiled again, twice.  I, too, had been to Elko, just last spring, on E's and my Northwestern US Washington-Yellowstone-Bay Area loop, and, I also have a bit of a gambling problem (blackjack is my second choice to craps).

This book reminded me I'd actually been to Basque Country.  My work colleague from the summer I worked in Bordeaux was Basque and her parents insisted on sending us by train to the Basque festival in their hometown.  Her grandparents hosted us and I couldn't understand any of the Basque and only 50% of the French and Spanish, but I've never eaten and drank so much in 48 hours in my life.  I kid you not.  I was instructed to clean my plate and take naps repeatedly.  I'd never been told to take naps by a host (to rest up for the next big meal and walking in the center of town with, of course, copious amounts of drinking in the streets), either prior or since.  It is important to note that I was a collegiate athlete at the time and was often pointed out and laughed at during my stay in France for how much I felt I needed to eat -- but not in Basque Country.  I'd completely forgotten the richness of these memories and now, thanks to Ms. Little's descriptions of the colors, the clothes, the dancing, and the culture of the American Basque, part of it has come back and I've added a todo list item of, "Dig through hand-written diaries and find France summer of 1994.  Locate all you can about the Basque Festival and the friend who took you (with whom I've completely lost touch)."

The Gullah and Creole portions of the book reminded me about my experience in Anguilla with the fishermen.  We went to the docks to buy some lobsters and fish, and E, P & M couldn't understand a word the Anguillan fishermen were saying.  At dinner when they asked me, I thought about it and realized that to my brain it sounded like a bit of Hawaiian pidgin grammar attached to Puerto Rican accented vocabulary overlayed on a dialect of English that was new to me but not incomprehensible (Not for a sales transaction regarding fish, anyway).  When they turned to speak privately to set the price, I couldn't understand a word, but when they turned back with the offer price, I looked to the group and said, "That sounds fair, right?"  They laughed, and I was confused. E explained, "Babe, I have no clue what he is saying.  And frankly, you've been talking a little funny, too, for the last 5 minutes or so.  You look like you think you understand what's going on, so let's go with your version."

After reading this book, and thinking about how confused everyone was, including M, who was raised in a Spanish speaking household, I'm now convinced that what the Anguillan fishermen spoke was a much more interesting language than I realized at the time.  I'm a bit sad I didn't know that then, I would have loved to spend more time parsing it and asking about the history and language of the people I was speaking with.

Each of the other sections of the book challenged me to think in new ways about language in America and the histories of the peoples who've kept and lost their words.  But, truly, the best part of this book for me was that Ms. Little did all the hard stuff related to learning about new langauges.  She did the flights and the long haul drives, the hotels, the motels, the getting lost, the chasing down of the knowledgeable folks, the research and the compilation of the interesting facts.  Then, she packaged up all the good stuff from her trips and gave it to us in this book.

So, if you are an American who enjoys language or linguistics or words, I guarantee you will love this book, and, as a bonus, it may even trigger memories of linguistic experiences you'd forgotten.