29 March 2008

An Open Letter to the Downstairs Neighbor

Dear Clueless Downstairs Neighbor,

On a Saturday afternoon, when Cat Power is being played semi-loudly, our car is in the driveway and yet we aren't answering the door, what do these clues say to you?

Apparently these signals mean nothing to you, since instead of waiting twenty minutes and trying the door again, you kept ringing the fucking doorbell until someone came down. Because you needed to get your registered-out-of-state-therefore-not-entitled-to-local-street-parking-permits truck out of the driveway RIGHT THEN. Do I need to put a fucking sock on the door handle, or would you miss that, too?

Look, I understand that you probably don't know how busy we are and how rarely we see each other and how therefore we only have a few, uh, windows of opportunity in any week. That's fine. But after you rang the doorbell the first ten times and no one came down, maybe you could have wondered why. Maybe you had to get to work, and it didn't occur to that taking your truck to work would involve getting it out of the driveway until three minutes before it was time to leave.

I'm not even going to hate on you for not having ever bothered to change your registration from NH to MA, because yes, one pays pretty dearly to re-register it in a new state and one also pays Massachusetts taxes for the privilege of owning a vehicle (in addition to all the other Mass taxes.) I'm broke too, you know, and you don't seem to use the truck very much and cutting this corner isn't really hurting anyone. EXCEPT FOR CERTAIN INSTANCES, like when you interrupt sex and ruin my afternoon because Dave has band practice and had to leave soon anyway. Thank you, Downstairs Dumbass, for thereby making my already difficult life a little less enjoyable.

Yours sincerely,

Your Upstairs Neighbor, Who Hopes You Feel Like Listening To The Ramones Played Very Loudly On Sundays Before 8 AM

P.S. Your kitten is pretty cute, I always say hello to him when he's playing in the window.

27 March 2008

self pity, part one trillion

I cried in the car all the way home tonight. It's true that I only live 3.5 miles from work, but there are a lot of stop lights. I just turned Superdrag up really loud (I hate listening to myself sob, I sound so undignified) and just wailed. It felt pretty great, apart from when I almost didn't notice there was a fire truck behind me with its sirens on because the car stereo and I were making so much noise together. The flashing lights were a good tipoff though. For some reason I feel really safe in the car, it tends to be where I cry and it's where I am likeliest to have a panic attack. (I don't know for sure about the frequency of my panic attacks in the car vs. in other locations, I've never actually kept track and run the numbers. Even I am not that self-obsessed or that much of a stats wonk.)

Rationally I know that I'm actually most likely to die an unnatural death when I'm in my car, but that doesn't translate to the part of me that really digs that I can fine-tune the car's temperature and turn up music as loud as I want without pissing off coworkers or neighbors; it's also SO unlikely that anyone else on the road will notice I'm losing my shit. Not many people look past the windshield at the person driving, you get your cues from turn signals and the car's position on the road. So it's an awesome place to be alone. Plus, perfect excuse not to answer the phone! Apart from the inherent unsafety of being on the road during a crying jag or a panic attack (yes, I'll pull over if I get that upset), it's perfect.

Not that I have any more reason to cry today than any other day, except that it's Thursday, which is usually the hardest day of the week for me - I'm so exhausted on thursdays and I can't keep reminding myself that at least it's Friday.

This week hasn't been that different than any other recent weeks - the unpacking work that's yet to be done still looms hugely, Dave has midterms (okay, that's a little extra stress but it's not like I'm the one taking the tests) and I had a Wednesday evening commitment (not yoga, grrr) that got me home at 11, which happened to be exactly the same time that Dave got home from class.

When I did get home last night, there were FOUR separate piles of cat puke to clean up, and Dave had already cleaned up after Zoe earlier in the day when she barfed on the bed five minutes before he needed to leave the house. What is with that timing, anyway? It's like they hold it in until it's least convenient and then puke on the soft furnishings. Or Zoe does, anyway, and I'm lucky - I guess - that she's the less frequent offender in the barf arena.

Quite apart from the ick of cleaning up, which at this point I'm pretty inured to, it's upsetting because it means that the medication for one of them isn't working. If I knew which one was puking all the time, I would be a little less worried but they tend to yak when I'm not home or when I'm asleep. I guess that's not that surprising since I spend my limited time at home either sleeping, cleaning up cat barf, cleaning normal stuff, or cooking. In about that order, too.

But it would be really helpful if I knew which one was upchucking all the time, because then I would know which one to bring to the vet. Could be Zoe's diabetes OR Interim's IBS; I think the ralpher is probably Inty, but I'm kind of dreading that vet visit because the next step for her is exploratory surgery so they can ascertain that she does, indeed, have IBS. And surgery = expensive. Could be Zoe, though, because we're having trouble getting her blood sugar consistently stable (which I've heard, via Dr Internet, is common with cats.) Either way it fucking sucks.

So wow, several paragraphs about cat effluvia. I guess it was kind of on my mind. I also clean most of it up, since Dave works full time and goes to nursing school half time, so he gets a pass on most of the housework (he would by default anyway, he's here even less than I am.) As I mentioned above, he's got midterms this week and boy are they making him into an asshole. I totally get that A) working your way through school is tough no matter what, B) because he's so stressed his back is in spasm again and therefore he's in constant severe pain, and C) midterms are extra fun. Can't wait 'til finals! They are happening the week before we get married. W00t! Anyway, I feel that these are understandable, forgivable reasons for temporary displays of assholery but at the same time it's no fun for me to constantly cheerlead for someone who's angry and anxious and pretty down and who therefore remembers less frequently than of yore to ask how my day was. Also it's not like we SEE each other very much, so maybe he wants to know how my day has been but forgets to ask during the rare 15 minute intervals when he's actually conscious and in the same room as me. (I'm positive that if you asked him, he would tell you how it's really hard for him - which it is - and he's doing the best he can - which he is - and maybe he would have a separate rant about what a jerk I am. That's okay, that's how relationships ARE sometimes, I think.)

But hey, everyone tells me, school is temporary, right, and then it'll be done and he'll be a nurse and things will be better. True but three years is a long time for a "temporary" situation to go on, and it feels like forever when you're in the middle of it.

And also I have residual anxiety over the "this is temporary while we build our future", since that was the line my first husband fed me for years until I finally realised that he wasn't doing anything to make the temporary workaholism go away. (If that's what he was really doing on all those late nights and it probably really was.) So I told my ex that things had to change because I was miserable NOW and had been for a long time and no changes were forthcoming and I left. And then I was pretty much like, fuck that plan, life is too short to be miserable in the present for the sake of an intangible future. Which I still think is true. But also I think Dave should go to nursing school and get his degree. And rationally I know that the school situation is actually different from persistent workaholism, and actually does have a built-in stopping point. But it's hard not to feel like I've been here before, and it ended badly.

Seriously, though, I shouldn't bag on my ex for working so damn much since I seem to be doing more of that lately myself. After I left my job at a marketing agency*, where I was super-overloaded with work, I swore not to put in ten or twelve hour days regularly again, that it just wasn't worth it. But! There have been shakeups at work, and I've got a new boss, who is only temporary but who I need to prove myself to. And actually temporary new boss is doing a really great job managing the team, which I am super ultra happy about, which means I am ending up putting in more hours because I'm really excited about the work I'm doing. And Dave isn't home anyway, so why not stay until 7? There's only cat barf waiting for me at home.

So to sum up, all this unhappiness is temporary and a direct by-product of the hard work Dave and I are doing to build our careers. So I am sucking it up, which is why I'm ranting here and not, like, telling Dave in a heavy tone that "we need to talk" or calling anyone who will take my calls to cry and rant and whine about how fucking hard I have it. But sucking it up kind of sucks, and it wears on you after a while, and this is a good place to vent. And rants from unhappy people with fucked up lives usually make the best blog reading/comedians/musicians.

Anyway. Off to cook risotto, which does involve stirring at the stove for 40 minutes but it's a comforting one-pot dish, and I rarely fuck it up, so it meets tonight's needs. I'm thinking about having a glass of wine with it (you know ... it's the risotto that needs the wine, not me, but as long as it's opened) but I'm a little worried that would lead to a migraine, since I have basically stopped drinking. Maybe if I drink a lot of water and stick to a single glass it'll be okay. Stupid vascular headaches. Ima risk it, though. Go me and my small life!

*I've learned since that heavy workloads are typical in an agency, for a variety of reasons. It sucks if you're good at your job, because along with a lot of very flattering and seductive praise and attention and possibly promotions and raises you're given all the problem accounts to "work your magic on", e.g. overdeliver on sales's overpromises to a disgruntled client that someone else has already angered. The other reward at an agency for doing good work is more work, and bigger accounts - you are the star so they bring you in on all the biggest and most important pitches and then the client, once they've signed the contract, naturally think they'll be working with you, which adds another client to your already too-long roster. I'm sure not all agencies are run like that, but it's common in the industry. There's a lot to like about being part of an in-house team.

07 March 2008

The internet makes me happy and not happy at the same time

good news first:

Google released a calendar sync for Outlook. This is wicked good news for me since when I got a new phone a few weeks ago, I basically said, 'I text a lot and I want something that can sync with my calendar at work because OMG! TOO MANY APPOINTMENTZ! I LOSEZ TRAX!' (I didn't really fall into lolspeak but the sales guy understood me.) I ended up with a windows smartphone, a dash, which has a qwerty keyboard and is a microsoft platform. I know, I know, Bill Gates is not teh coolest, but I do know the msn OS pretty well and wasn't up for learning another platform. So my phone syncs with my work computer (where most of my appointments are; I kept making doctors appointments that coincided with meetings. Oops. Guess which got cancelled? Hint: not the meetings.) And now I've got a cloud version of this data too, so I can access a larger version from my home computer (because I still don't completely know how to use all the functions on my phone. I know, I know - lame.)

Also, this article by Gord Hotchkiss is kind of interesting, about the way human memory works and how that informs the way we use search engines ...

Satisficing behavior also extends to the actual interaction with the search page in a number of ways. First of all, we have capacity limits to the number of results we can put into our working memory for consideration at any one time. We don’t scan the page, load up all 18 or 20 results in working memory, and then make our optimal choice. Here too, the capacity of our working memory and satisficing play a part. In this case, the heuristic cut off is simply the fact that results show at the top of the upper left. This is where we expect to find the best results, so it makes sense that we take the top 3 or 4 results (this seems to be the typical channel capacity for most people with search results) and load these up for further consideration. A quick 4 or 5 second scan, looking for which of these is the best match to our query, and we either click or select the next group of 4 or 5. But everyone, yes, everyone, scans the same way at the beginning. We all start in the upper left corner and scan the first “chunk” of results. We’ve done hundreds (actually, thousands at this point) of eye tracking sessions, so take my word for it. This is typical behavior.

I know that Enquiro has done a lot of research on how Chinese users scan a page and I know Chinese (Cantonese) is read differently than English, so I'm assuming he's including Chinese users in this. Cooooooool.

Although I'll quibble with Hotchkiss's citation that "It depends on the type of information, but generally speaking, our limits, as discovered by George Miller in the mid 50’s, seems to be 7 “chunks”, plus or minus two." He does say plus or minus two but Chinese speakers typically can juggle 9 - 10 numbers in their active memory at any time. (Thanks, New Yorker, for that similar article.)

I also think this is a little dubious, mostly because any time cavemen get dragged into social sciences my radar starts to twitch:

Consider that our social circle in the past, a concept known as Dunbar's number, generally was about 150 people. These are not mere acquaintances, but people we know something about. To use the definition provided by Dunbar himself, these are people who, if you saw them sitting by themselves in a bar or coffee shop, you would have no hesitation going over and joining them. Just like our working memory, our ability to maintain social relationships has finite limits. And, once again, there are evolutionary reasons for this. The average size of the human tribe 40,000 years ago on the African savannah? You guessed it, about 150 people.

but still, it's a good read.

Also, if you're wondering how I got to that article and topic, that's what I do all day at work, search engine stuff. It pays the bills.

Bad news:

Want to have a baby? Now's the time. The Boston Globe wrote a scaremongering piece of offensive claptrap that completely made me want to barf. My local rag! But how can I not be outraged by statements like this:

No generation of women has had more trouble with fertility than this generation, who received the terrible baby boomer advice, "Wait. You have time. Focus on your career first."

Yeah, because it's fucking terrible advice to want to be financially stable before you have a kid. Is the writer of this article unaware of divorce statistics? And how well single mothers typically fare, financially, after a divorce?

Compare this statement:

If you are past your early twenties, and you're single and want to have children, you need to find a partner now.

to this:

There is plenty of evidence to show that the quality of your eggs takes a nose dive at age 35.

Um ... correct me if I'm wrong, but there are about TEN YEARS in between ages 25 and 35 in which you can simultaneously pursue a career and look around for a mate. (The heteronormal assumptions in this article are also beyond breathtaking. Since when is it neccesary to settle down with a mate before you have kids? yeah, it makes sense for a lot of people, but everyone doesn't have to follow that path to have a kid.)

The good news is that psychology research shows you will gain more happiness anyway by finding a partner than by having a good job.

Leaving aside the weakness of using "the good news is" as a bridge in a formal piece of writing, what "psychology research" is this? Because from what I've seen, being broke and financially dependent on your partner (I presume; or maybe the author is suggesting women who want to have babies become so-called welfare queens?) ... anyway, having no job and no control over how money is allocated in your household isn't really conducive to gaining happiness, in my opinion.

The whole article is bullshitty linkbait, of course, but it made me really mad anyway.

thanks to feministing for the link.


Other stuff:

we moved, it was very painful, and I didn't kill Dave, and since I'm typing, obviously he didn't kill me. I would like to write a blog post enumerating all the things I did wrong and right for next time we move, but this is all I've got time for now. (No time for spellcheck or proffing! sorry.) I'm running late picking him up, actually.