27 April 2009

Recent Reading Vol. 2

What I read in 2008:

1. Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett
2. Dzur by Steve Brust
3. Old Man's War by John Scalzi
4. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
5. Thud! by Terry Pratchett
6. Going Postal by Terry Pratchett
7. Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
8. Night Watch by Terry Pratchett
9. Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett
10. Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett
11. Last Hero by Terry Pratchett
12. Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett
13. Mort by Terry Pratchett
14. Blue Moon by Laurell K. Hamilton

I stopped keeping track mid-October. There may have been others after that point that I've forgotten. On the other hand, Nanowrimo happened in November, and December had interstate travel in it, so it's just as likely I didn't read anything after that.

What I know I've read so far in 2009 (not in order):

1. The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi
2. The Last Colony by John Scalzi
3. Zoe's Tale by John Scalzi
4. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
5. On Writing by Stephen King

I'm trying to get my library habit started back up. Something I've noticed, though, is an interest in memoirs and nonfiction. Often, the first parts of a book I'll read are the author notes. I also enjoy following the lives of people with completely different lives than mine - to see what paths they've travelled and how they came to be the way they are today (yay blogs :) ). Since there's a library to explore, I may have to do some more in-depth exploring along those lines...

19 April 2009

What do I believe?

Fellow UCFer Jeri lost her husband very suddenly a month ago, and asked for thoughts on life after death. Here are some of mine.

My father survived his death, and I saw him in the corner of the ceiling behind me when I went to visit his body. It was one of the most distressing things I've ever seen - for here was my father, in the room with me, but he wasn't in his body. His body lay before me and looked just like any other inanimate object, a piece of furniture, like it had never been alive. And he, no longer hidden beneath all those representative facades that everyone wears as they go through life in various roles, he was purely him.

I don't know that I'd call it a soul, because that word is laden with so many connotations from every religion. Maybe spirit, or (as I called it before I knew anyone else had vocabulary for the same concepts) essence. Everyone has an essence, and when they are open and being themselves, glimpses show through. Right after my father died was when I saw the whole thing, he as himself and completely true.

I was very upset, because due to a miscommunication between the hospital staff and the rest of my family, nobody warned me before I stepped into the room that he was dead. My first instinct was to grab hold of him and put him back in, but I didn't know how and also thought that might be bad. I wanted to turn around and look at him directly, but there was the nurse with me, and what would she think of me if I did? So we didn't talk to each other, and I'll always wish that i'd been better prepared so that we could.

After that, there came the dreams. He would visit me and try to talk to me. The first one, my mundane dream had taken me out into our garage, and he was standing there like he always did when he smoked, and he asked how we were doing. We talked while my own dream tried to call me back, until eventually I was distracted and pulled back in. Other times, we were in our original house, in his office area on the third floor.

But his questions almost never made any sense. Dreams are places where reality is ever-shifting, where things change around as attention shifts from moment to moment, and where communication doesn't happen in speech, but in symbols and emotion. But he kept coming back and we kept trying.

A lot of the early ones were colored with dark melancholy, and I remember them all as being tinted blue. There was one in particular where we were on a very long journey, on a flat, featureless road across an empty plain. I drove while he wallowed in despair. Our car broke down and we stopped at a tiny motel. He was blind stinking drunk, chain smoking, in a completely self-destructive mood, and absolutely did not want to go anywhere. I think he wanted to just lie there and rot away. But I knew we had to keep moving, he had to get to where he was going (which I knew in the dream, but don't remember now). Our car disappeared at some point while we were resting - while he was resting while I was scouting ahead. Forward momentum was clearly going to be totally hopeless, because the only way to continue was on foot. I accepted that with quiet resignation, because stopping wasn't actually an option. But he didn't want to go, so I had to half drag, half carry him along. Finally he turned to me and asked, why would I want to help a sad, pathetic, miserable wretch like him? couldn't I see how worthless he was? And I stopped, the journey disappeared as I turned to him and replied (and I think my voice resounded through the land), because he was my father and I loved him, what kind of stupid question was that? now come on!

I like to think that I helped him along the way to where he was going. As time went on, the blue melancholy tinting went away, and there were dreams tinted in yellow. In the next to last dream, he appeared to me outside some kind of public building (a school, maybe), and he was in good spirits. We did our usual try at talking, where he asked questions that made no sense and my answers probably made less sense, and then I thought that was the end. After that, I assumed he had moved on and all was well with him.

But several months later, he was back with the blue tinting. I didn't handle that visit well at all. What are you doing back here? You're supposed to have moved on! If that's not what really happened, leave me to my fictional belief that I helped you and that all is well now and that you're gone. And he withdrew, and I haven't seen him since. And now I'll always wonder what that last visit had been about, and wish I had been better prepared to listen.

So what do I believe, about what happens after death? I don't know. I'm standing on the wrong side of the veil, on the beach at the edge of the sea, and the ones who have departed are seeing things and doing things and concerned with things that I couldn't begin to comprehend.

14 April 2009

Oh, The Pressure

My blog is up to six followers. Last week there were only three. I should probably say something entertaining. o.O

05 April 2009


Despite the low pay, the perks of working where I do largely outweigh the lack of money to do a lot of other things. Such as:

a) No dress code. I can wear whatever I want.
b) No set lunchtimes. I can eat whenever I want for as long as I want. (I prefer to just munch on things all day long while I work, instead of having an actual mealtime.)
c) No required clock-in/clock-out times. I can work whenever I want, so long as I do 40 hours' worth per week.
d) Full internet access. I can do whatever else I want at work, so long as I do 40 hours' worth of work per week. (We're not allowed to look at porn, and we'd get in serious trouble if caught, but it's not actually blocked (at least, not as far as I know. I've never checked).)
e) No restrictions on how we decorate our work areas. (Weaponry isn't permitted, but compared to tales I've heard of other places, that's minor - and doesn't really apply to me anyhow.)
f) Beautiful workplace. We're next to a river, surrounded by trees, and have our own nature trail.

My first office was in a large labspace at the far end of a building with no other offices near it, and I had it all to myself. I had multiple large windows with great views of the trees and river. I had full control of the thermostat, could play my music as loud as I wanted, and could eat whatever I wanted (e.g. Indian curry was not a problem). When I code, I tend to do a lot of pacing, muttering, and bouts of maniacal laughter - which was possible without bothering anyone else.

Then some drama happened with the owner of the lab, and my second office was in a cluster of other offices, and about a quarter the size of the first office. It had a single small window with a view of a parking lot and a brick building. It had thin walls, no thermostat control, and a tantrum-prone grad student across the hall who came in no more than twice a week on no predictable schedule and hated my music, my food, and the way I breathed.

Then some politics elsewhere shook out, and my third office is in the main building, is shared with someone else, and my part of it is half the size of my second office. I have no view of our small window because the other guy decided to take the half that includes it, and then he put up a bookshelf between us. Despite the lack of view and thermostat control, it's still a step up from Office #2 because the walls are thick, and everyone around me is on a predictable schedule - I can plan food, music, and the bulk of coding accordingly.

Last week I got an email about how my phoneline has been scheduled to transfer to a "workstation" in our new, almost-finished building. My fourth office will be a cubicle in a large, central plaza, with about half the space of my current office.

I'm wondering if I can beg my way back into my first office (the drama resolved while I was in the process of moving out, and then it was too late). If not, my new workschedule will resemble my current one, but the four days will be Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday - and on Tues/Thurs I'll probably just not arrive until 4:30pm.

If there's ever a fifth move, I'll probably have to request a red stapler.

03 April 2009

Soup Without Cornstarch

Today I ordered some egg drop soup from a drive-thru Chinese takeout (not the one I worked at), and asked for it to be made without any cornstarch.

The lady at the window remarked that the kitchen staff prefer it that way too. She had never tried it that way herself, but now she was curious.

I told her that the reason cornstarch is added is because Americans like it that way. Americans prefer their broths and sauces to be thick, so Americanized Chinese food has cornstarch in everything. But Chinese people themselves prefer thin and watery.

("Americans" is the term that Chinese communities use amongst themselves to refer to white people. That or "foreigner" - as in foreign to China. The thought that it doesn't technically apply when all people mentioned are living in America, never really comes to mind. (Black people are just called "black people."))

Of course, then I had to start saying "non-Asians" in order to make sense to the window lady, who was white. I probably still managed to offend her. Doh.