Sunday February 29, 2004

Word Beads on Sentence Strings

When I was in Junior High, or thereabouts, a wonderful store opened downtown. It was called The Knothole and it sold jewelry findings - clasps, links, chains, pinbacks, ... and beads, hundreds of choices of beads. There were large beads, tiny beads, and every size in between. There were beads made of metal, glass, wood, plastic, and ceramic. There were plain beads and colored beads on every shade and hue: painted, glazed, or dyed. My sister and spent a lot of time there, choosing beads. We bought a lot of beads and strung them into necklaces for ourselves, our friends, and our family. It's a good memory.

Words in a sentence are like beads on a string. You can choose large ones, tiny ones, and any size in between. As with beads, you have a choice of many types, in this case nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and more. Your words can be plain or colorful.

Recently I ran across a journalling prompt idea in a writing list group I've joined. I thought it would make a good recurring weblog meme which I've called Word Beads on Sentence Strings. The idea is simple:

beads_strung,72.jpg Each week, Word Beads will present 5 words, randomly pulled from a dictionary of approximately 10000 basic English words. (For convenience, words are linked to their definitions at

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to string those words together with other words of your choosing to fashion into a sentence, several sentences, a paragraph, several paragraphs, a poem, or even a short story.

You can find each week's words at the home page for Word Beads on Sentence Strings. Have fun.

Word Beads on Sentence Strings - posted at Sun, 29 Feb, 09:37 Pacific | Comments (1)

Sunday February 22, 2004

A Little Bit Crazy

[ Today's writing prompt from Purple Ink, an eList for Journallers. If you keep an online (or offline) journal, consider joining Purple Ink. ]

Part of being sane, is being a little bit crazy.
    -- Janet Long

List the ways you are just a little bit crazy.

Blessed are the cracked, for they shall let in the light.
    - attr. to an Old Irish proverb

I'm a programmer. We're all a little bit crazy. (Spouse and self prefer the word "skew ;-)

I do a lot of things my own way.

I talk to myself. I also answer. Is this crazy? I thought this was "normal"?

One of my personal "mottos" is

Ooit'n Normaal Mens Ontmoet? En..., Beviel't?

Translated into English from the original Dutch, this means:

Ever met a normal person? So..., did you like it?
A Little Bit Crazy - posted at Sun, 22 Feb, 18:32 Pacific

Saturday February 21, 2004

Breaking the Rules

[ Today's writing prompt from Purple Ink, an eList for Journallers. If you keep an online (or offline) journal, consider joining Purple Ink. ]

List 20 rules you've broken.

What sort of rules? Who makes them? Written or unwritten? (I'm probably breaking a rule by asking ;-)

Generally, I follow many rules - but not blindly nor just because they are rules. I am more likely to follow rules I agree with in principle, rules that have the force of law (I have an aversion to being stopped, detained, fined, or (gack!) arrested), rules for which the breaking could cause damage to my person or property, and rules for which the breaking would simply cause me too much hassle.

In any case, my following of rules should not be misconstrued to indicate that I prefer to conform. :-) The first and most frequent "rule" I break is "Just do what you're told". :-)

Here are 20 rules I break with some regularity:

  1. I don't "Just do what I'm told" — I question the rules

  2. I question authority (including its right to call itself "authority"), especially in the workplace

  3. I don't watch prime time television and I don't care who got voted off the island

  4. I don't finish everything I start

  5. I am perfectly willing to end a sentence with a preposition

  6. I don't own at least one suit or item of "proper business attire"; I have never worn high heeled shoes.

  7. I send Thank You notes by email

  8. I bring the condiments to the table in their bottles and tubs

  9. I look up the answers to trick questions and riddles

  10. I read ahead; I read the end of mystery novels first

  11. I don't do most of the exercises in "self-help" and "tutorial" books; I look at the answers.

  12. I live in the SF Bay Area and I don't root for the San Francisco 49'ers _or_ the Oakland Raiders (or the Giants, or the A's, or the Sharks, or the...)

  13. I don't use my credit card only for purchases that will last beyond the next billing period

  14. I don't keep my credit card receipts

  15. I don't balance my checkbook

  16. I don't make sure to get 8 hours of sleep every night

  17. I don't answer the phone every time it rings

  18. I don't send Christmas cards

  19. I don't do things the way other people expect

  20. I don't really care what other people think.
Breaking the Rules - posted at Sat, 21 Feb, 15:37 Pacific | Comments (1)

Friday February 20, 2004

The Magnificent Truth

[ Today's writing prompt from Purple Ink, an eList for Journallers. If you keep an online (or offline) journal, consider joining Purple Ink. ]

Every night at bedtime, say this prayer:
God, help me accept the truth about myself, no matter how magnificent it is.
    — Rhonda Hull, Ph.D.

What is the magnificent truth about yourself?

I'm intelligent and I am good at what I do.

I am not necessarily particularly good at what other people want me to do, and that is NOT a problem with me. It's not something I need to "work on" or change.

I won't bend over backwards for anyone else, but when I am allowed to be in control of my life and my direction, I'm confident, careful, consistent, capable, competent, critical, creative, and clever. (Not to mention alliterative :-)

The Magnificent Truth - posted at Fri, 20 Feb, 11:40 Pacific

On a Perfect Day...

[ Yesterday's writing prompt from Purple Ink, an eList for Journallers. If you keep an online (or offline) journal, consider joining Purple Ink. ]

How would your day go if it went perfectly?

On a perfect day, I would wake naturally, not to an alarm clock. I will have slept well and dreamlessly and I will not feel exhausted. There will be cats in the bed when I wake up. It will be before 10 am. Neither of us will have to go to work (or anywhere else in particular).

We'd go to our favorite diner for breakfast and I would have Eggs Florentine, cooked perfectly. We'd come home and noodle around the house, doing small projects. I'd take a nap in the afternoon, joined by all four cats.

We'd have a pleasant dinner with a friend, followed by a quiet evening spent reading with cats, a long soak in the hot tub and then bed with a feeling of contentment and accomplishment.

A perfect day would, of course, present no annoyances, no disagreements, no arguments, no idiots on the road, no meetings or appointments, no bills to pay, no phone calls, nothing urgent to be attended to. The weather would be in the low seventies with a light breeze. And a pleasant time is had by all.

On a Perfect Day... - posted at Fri, 20 Feb, 11:35 Pacific

Thursday February 19, 2004

Three More Questions

[ My responses to the other half of last week's writing prompts from Purple Ink, an eList for Journallers. If you keep an online (or offline) journal, consider joining Purple Ink. ]

Cartoon Characters
List your favorite cartoon characters.

Personality Trait
Name the personality trait you have tried hardest to change in yourself.

Childhood Books
Name your favorite book from childhood.

Cartoon Characters

When I was little, I watched Speed Racer and The Thuderbirds (the latter isn't actually a cartoon). I enjoyed the Hana Barbera cartoons a lot - Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear and Booboo, Snaglepuss (Exit! Stage Left!), Quick Draw McGraw, and the rest. I had a pair of toy mice I named Pixie and Dixie.

Spouse and self prefer the Disney Toon family to those of Warner Bros. We've discussed this often and have come to the conclusion that most of the Warner Bros. Toons are.. naughty. I may enjoy watching Bugs tweak Daffy on TV but I would never invite either of them into my house! (Just look at what they did to Michael Jordan's house in Space Jam ;-). Most of the Disney troupe, I think, would be polite house guests (even Donald Duck).

Of the Disney group, I love the Pooh Family best of all. I have large numbers of Pooh Family embroidered apparel. Within the Pooh Family, my all-time favorite is Tigger. Many years ago (at least 10), Spouse and self visited Southern CA with my parents in tow; they'd never been to Disneyland. (Note that I was at least 30 at this time :-) There was Tigger, walking about, shaking hands, getting his picture taken. I walked over but he was so surrounded by small children. I walked back to my folks, disappointed. "I can't even get close enough to say Hello", I began when... a furry mitten landed on my shoulder and there was Tigger. We got a photo and I had a good day.

Personality Trait

Name the personality trait you have tried hardest to change in yourself. The personality trait I've been working most diligently to expunge is my tendency to react emotionally to everything. I get upset; I cry. I get annoyed; I get angry. I argue; I blow up. Calm, cool, think it through, lower the stress, nothing is that important. Steady. Better.

Childhood Books

Name my favorite book from childhood... Impossible! You're asking a Reader. I spent hours in the library; I always brought home the maximum allowable number of books.

I remember my delight on the days that the Scholastic Books flyer would be handed out at school; I'd rush home to go through it with my parents, deciding which books to order. I recall my anticipation a few weeks later when the box of books would arrive and the teacher would call my name. All those wonderful new books to read!

There are too many favorites to list. Here are a very few that bubble to the top of my mind:
"My Father's Dragon", "A Wrinkle in Time", The Moffats, Elizabeth Enright ("The Four-story Mistake", "Gone-Away Lake",...), The Boxcar Children, Edward Eager ("Half Magic", "Magic by the Lake",..."The Ghost of Opalina", "Winnie The Pooh", Beverley Cleary (I read about Homer and beezus; my sister read about Ramona), "Rocket Mouse", the Uncle Wiggly tales, "Honey Bear (a book from my _mother's_ childhood), "Samantha's Secret Room", "The Phantom Tollbooth", "From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler", "Junior Jamboree for Boys"...

I had a wonderful set of hardcover books we called simply "the Red books"; each volume was filled with stories, or poetry; each volume had a theme. I wish I had these with me, but my mother insists on keeping them (and using them!)

Three More Questions - posted at Thu, 19 Feb, 10:33 Pacific

Wednesday February 18, 2004

Three Questions

[ My responses to three writing prompts from this week on Purple Ink, an eList for Journallers. If you keep an online (or offline) journal, consider joining Purple Ink. ]

Name Five Things...
Name five things in your refrigerator/freezer.
Name five things in your pantry.
Name five things under your kitchen sink.
Name five things around your computer.
Name five things in your medicine cabinet.

Handling Change
Sometimes we spend a lot of time and energy resisting change in our lives. Many of us don't like change...we prefer to keep things comfortable. But change is necessary for personal growth. How well do you deal with change? Do you try to keep things simple and routine in your life or do you love the challenge of new things?

Bad Ideas
What are three things you wish were never invented?

Name Five Things...

Five things in/under/around my...
    ...fridge - peanut butter, celery, milk, yougurt, eggs

    ...freezer - ice cubes, ice cream, frozen peaches, frozen sausages, edamame

    ...pantry - a lot of canned soup, unopened jar of mayonnaise, canned tuna, canned asparagus, unopened jars of peanut butter

    ...sink - dishwasher soap, dishpans, disposal (takes up most of the space), a bucket (for leaks), a few scrubbers of various sorts (mostly used for the grill) - cats, pens, small toys, papers, cat brush

    ...medicine cabinet - Advil, Excedrin, Actifed, toothpaste, Titrilac

Handling Change

As someone we know once said, "Better isn't always better, but better is always different". Another quote I love is "Things were all so different before everything changed..."

I don't like large changes. I don't like most "new and improved" products (that labeling usually makes me wonder how they broke it). I especially don't like change to be foist upon me! For example, I'm happy to learn a new computer language when I need it for a project, but not because my manager says "I want you to learn X so you can become our X pert".

I need to control the changes around me. Like cats, I appreciate routine and stability in my life. And, also like cats, I get used to small changes, but I prefer to supervise and approve the large ones.

Bad Ideas

What are three things you wish were never invented?
  1. Baggy pants :-)

  2. I could say I wish the telephone or television had never been invented -- or guns, or gunpowder or nuclear fission or any of that sort of thing -- but just because an invention is misused doesn't mean the invention should have stayed (or could have stayed!) un-thought-of. That said, I wish no one had managed to invent things like crack cocaine, or crystal meth, or any of the designer drugs, and that no one had discovered/invented the ephedrin diet drugs. These are all too nasty.

  3. With all the silliness of the past few years, I sincerely wish that the ideas of patents, copyright, trademarks, and the offices that assign those had never been invented. The patent office is willynilly assigning patents for discoveries (NOT inventions), for natural phenomena, for things that have been in use by a lot of people for years! I've heard it said that the Patent Office is so naive it would be possible to patent aspirin. I'm almost waiting for someone to try that!
Three Questions - posted at Wed, 18 Feb, 21:19 Pacific

Monday February 16, 2004

Four Questions

[ My responses to four writing prompts from last week on Purple Ink, an eList for Journallers. If you keep an online (or offline) journal, consider joining Purple Ink. ]

If you could have returned the love of someone you rejected in the past, who would it be?

If you were to pick a city which best represents your personality, which would you choose?

List your hobbies.

Word Use
If you could prevent someone you know from overusing one word, what would the word be?


I don't recall ever rejecting anyone (knowingly). Although once, at a party, a casual (VERY casual) acquaintance mentioned to me that it was "too bad" I was taken or he'd be "after" me. Yech! I immediately went to find Spouse and gave him a big hug and told him how very glad I was that he was in my life! I wouldn't go back and pick up with anyone in my past. I'm quite content with Spouse and life as it is.


San Francisco fits both Spouse and self well. Seattle has good vibes but poor weather. Vancouver might be nice, but again, the weather give it lower marks. We both like the "live and let live" attitude of San Francisco and the SF Bay Area in general. That said, I'm not a City person; I don't like the noise, the congestion, the smells, the parking. So the _region_ that best suits my personality is... the SF Bay Area, the Peninsula in particular. And what ho! That's where we live.


My hobbies include reading, playing with the cats, programming, snuggling with the cats, reading, creating web pages, chasing the cats, going for walks with Spouse, hugging the cats, writing for my Journal or one of my weblogs, creating weblog entries for the cats, reading, sending email, taking photos of the cats, and reading (with the cats).

Word Use

I'm not a fan of either sh*t or f*ck. I don't use either; I don't like hearing them. I'd be happy to prevent anyone within my circle of friends and acquaintances from uttering those two "words" in casual conversation. If you need an expletive, there are many more interesting choices. If you simply need a filler word... you really don't need a filler word.
Four Questions - posted at Mon, 16 Feb, 20:58 Pacific

Thursday February 12, 2004

Sweet Happy Life

[ The fourth and last of my responses to last week's writing prompts from Purple Ink, an eList for Journallers. If you keep an online (or offline) journal, consider joining Purple Ink. ]

Sweet Happy Life

Sort of a continuation of yesterday's prompt:
There is a lot of drudgery, tediousness, and repetition in daily life. There are plenty of things that all of us have to do in the course of a day or week that are absolutely no fun at all. Life shouldn‚t necessarily be one big barrel of laughs, but at the same time, it‚s important that we not get weighed down by the endlessness of it all.

How do you rise above the dailiness? What techniques do you use to help yourself face down that hypothetical tower of dirty dishes? How do you diffuse the unpleasantness of certain things that you have to deal with in your life? Share some of the things that you do to make daily life a little sweeter.

I mostly ignore or avoid any sense of repetition (unless the things that are repeating are something I really enjoy).

We're not manic housekeepers. We're not exactly slovenly, but... housework isn't something we do on a schedule. It's something we do when it needs to be done. The small jobs we do a little at a time, in a constant manner. Pick up the living room, fold the lap blanket, toss the recycelables, wipe down the counter immediately after using it. Bigger jobs get done when something reaches the "do point". Laundry gets done when the basket is full; dishes are washed when the dishwasher is full. Laundry and dishes go into the basket/machine as they need it, keeping the floor and counters clear. Little by little, a bit at a time, nothing ever really jumps us from a dark corner.

Since we never know when anything major is coming, exactly, we don't have anything to look "forward to", There's no "Oh, Saturday, vacuuming day. Just once I don't want to vacuum on Saturday." for us.

I once had a roommate... she believed in vacuuming every Saturday morning. This was an apartment with three young adult women - two grad students and one senior undergrad - who were rarely home; no kids, no pets, no parties. At 8:30 am, every Saturday morning, vazooORM outside my bedroom door. She kept trying to insist I should take a turn. I kept reminding her that it was I who owned the vacuum cleaner. (I sold it to her when I moved out).

Occasionally, as I am sorting whites from darks and tossing them into the wash, I'll think "Too bad we have to keep doing laundry over and over again". But then I think, "Well, I like my clothes. I don't want to wear disposable clothing and use paper plates. A little bit of work here and there for maintenance isn't so bad". And then, with the thought, the sorting is over (two people simply don't generate _that_ much laundry, the lid is down on the machine, and I'm out of the laundry room.

And next, while the washing machine runs (consider daily life in the 1800s without all these delightful labor saving devices!), while the laundry goes 'round, I go engage in one of the repeating daily "tasks" I really enjoy - chasing the cats, catching them, and petting their furry tummies!

Sweet Happy Life - posted at Thu, 12 Feb, 13:22 Pacific

Ignorance is Bliss

[ The third of my responses to last week's writing prompts from Purple Ink, an eList for Journallers. If you keep an online (or offline) journal, consider joining Purple Ink. ]

Ignorance is Bliss

...if a woman was to see all the dishes that she had to wash before she died, piled up before her in one pile, she'd lie down and die right then and there.
- Aunt Jane of Kentucky, "Anonymous Was a Woman"

What knowledge are you glad you didn't have at the time?
What part of your future are you thankful that you couldn't envision as a child?
What aspects of daily life would have made you "lie down and die right then and there" had you but known?

Of course, if one were to see all of the laundry to be done and folded... all of the bowls of dog food to serve... all of the litter boxes to be scooped... the toys to be picked up... all of the time "spent" waiting for red lights ... time in the dentist's chair... time driving the kids to school (and after-school activities)... time pumping gas... gallons of gasoline pumped! Hours shopping for groceries... gallons of milk purchased... eggs boiled...bread sliced... The pile of bills to be paid... mail to be sifted... trash to be taken out... bottles and cans to be recycled.

A lifetime of events piled into one moment would be insuperable for most people!

It would be best, instead to envision flowers smelled, hugs given and received, books read; to consider hours spent reading to the kids, holding the cat, walking the dog. Think of flowers planted, flowers smelled, letters written, letters read, friends made, conversations enjoyed, good meals eaten in the company of friends and loved ones, Look ahead and see the good memories to be made and stored.

The future's not ours to see... that's a Good Thing!
No matter how long it is, life is too short to spend time dwelling on things like dishes.
Concentrate on the positive. Leave the rest behind.

Ignorance is Bliss - posted at Thu, 12 Feb, 13:21 Pacific

Tuesday February 10, 2004

Finding Your Own Style

[ The second of my responses to last week's writing prompts from Purple Ink, an eList for Journallers. If you keep an online (or offline) journal, consider joining Purple Ink. ]

Finding Your Own Style

I received the latest issue of WireWoman's "Lurpl" zine this weekend. Plenty of great ideas in there, as usual, but there was one thing in particular that I‚ve been thinking about since I read it. With any kind of creative venture, most of us have a tendency to seek out every book, website, magazine, and other resource we can find on the subject. We like examples and full color photographs. We try some or all of the techniques we come across. The problem is (at least, for me), that it becomes very easy to get wrapped up in these other people's styles.

How do you keep the scale tipped on the side of Inspiration instead of Imitation? What is your take on what WW calls "Buying The Book"? Whether you keep "art journals" or regular journals, do you like to read up on the subject or do you prefer to keep outside influence to a minimum? If the former, how do you stretch beyond the how-to books and come up with something that is truly yours (describe or show us some examples if you can)? If the latter, why?

Does anyone else suffer from inspiration overload? When it comes to diaries and journals of any kind, I tend to keep the how-to books to a minimum and avoid the magazines altogether. I just can't take it. My brain completely absorbs the stuff from the "experts"and the "real" artists, and I end up in one or both of the above two situations.

I've always been a great admirer of other people's work. As you say, I love to look at the magazine; I love pretty pictures. I like to walk through craft fairs admiring everything. I occasionally think "I could do that" (and not just about paintings that contain three amorphous splotches of primary color :-)

In my primary craft (programming and web weaving) I often take advantage of the programmer's virtues: Laziness, Hubris, and Impatience. ( ). The virtue of Laziness includes never writing from scratch what you can borrow from somewhere else and build upon. Besides, which, I work best when I'm working from models and templates and examples. I work least well when all I have is instructions, theory, or requirements to go on.

My crafts have always followed a similar approach.

I've never felt particularly intimidated, however, nor have I tried to copy anyone else's work too exactly. And if I don't like a craft, or a particular project (or a programming language), I move on to something else.

I would credit my parents for why other peoples work serves as inspiration and example but not as (excessive) influence or deterrent to my own style. My parents are the truly creative people in my family. My mother (who wanted to be a dress designer) taught High School Art until I was born. She's run the crafts program for the Park & Recreation Department for at least 45 (OMG!) years. She's been a Brownie leader since I was entering 3rd grade (and my troop needed a leader). She made posters for a local clothing shop. She is CRAFTY.

I've been following examples, paging through crafts magazines, trying various techniques and simply playing around under an excellent teacher since I was 4 years old. I think, after a while, I just got really used to seeing more examples than I could ever begin to consider trying. For example, every summer, my Mom plans the craft program for Park & Rec. When I was a kid, that meant 10 weeks of crafts for 3 different age groups, thus 30 separate models per summer. It adds up.

My Dad is an architect, a fair hand with a caligraphy pen, quite good at sketching when he bothers. My Dad designed (from my ideas) and drew my book covers through Junior High and High School. He made tiny architectural scale models that I yearned to play with as a child. "Gift certificates" in our house were always handmade.

My parents can both draw. I'm crafty but not artistic and I can neither draw nor paint anything recognizable... maybe something that contained three amorphous splotches of primary color :-)

So I grew up surrounded by models and samples and examples and how-tos. Going beyond those has just never been an issue for me. The delineation between "model" and "my work" was ingrained from a very early age. Also, I'm a VERY independent person, so that, as well, makes me form a strong distinction in my mind between what I see and what I do myself.

My only "problem" has been to try to achieve some semblance of my results being anywhere near as good as some of the models I'm looking at! Once in a while (as with a delightful 1:12 miniature poinsettia I did once), I've succeeded.

Finding Your Own Style - posted at Tue, 10 Feb, 20:37 Pacific


[ The first of my responses to last week's writing prompts from Purple Ink, an eList for Journallers. If you keep an online (or offline) journal, consider joining Purple Ink. ]


Even though the holidays are over, what's on your wish list? What material things are you drooling over right now? Why?

Speaking of material things, what is your gratification policy? Do you try to get what you want as soon as possible or do you prefer to take your time before acquiring new things? Why? What cultural, environmental, spiritual, and/or familial elements shape your policy?

What material things am I drooling over right now?

Books. Always books. More books!

Why? You have to ask? Because, well, because they're books! Books books beautiful books. One can NEVER have too many books. (Actually, one can, because one runs out of shelf space, but I digress).

Prying my thoughts away from More Books!, I'm drooling for a version 2 iPod. Not because I need one, you understand, because I surely don't. Given that I am, at present, jobless (again or still, take your pick), I don't even use the iPod I already have (a 10GB version 1 that is nowhere near to being full). I only drool for the version 2 because Hubby got one and it's sooo spiffy with that cool dock and all those wonderful attachments (that I don't need either) that only attach to the version 2 machines. Sigh.

I'm drooling for a PowerMac G5, too. As with the iPod, it's not like I need one. My blue&white G3 does everything I need. It has never let me down. But the G5 is so FAST. Hubby is similarly drooling. He came into my office the other day and said "I simply can't rationalize a G5. I spend 10 hours a day at work and I'm not going to buy myself a G5 to take to work. I'm hardly in my office at home except on weekends, 'cause when I get home I crash. So it makes no sense to buy one for home. It makes no sense to buy one, period, but I sure wish it did." I sympathize. I'm home all day and even if I had the money (which I don't) I can't begin to rationalize a "need".

But then, both the iPod and the G5 have very high Toy Value. Does one really need to justify a desire for things of high Toy Value?

My gratification policy is fairly simple - if I see something and I think I can afford it, I buy it. My standards for "can afford" tend to follow this line of reasoning: under $20 is a no-brainer, under $50 takes thought, under $100 takes Serious thought, over $100 requires Discussion, over $500 requires Serious Discussion and (hopefully) buy-in (literally) from Hubby.

My gratification policy needs adjustment.

Unfortunately, there are two problems with this policy. Problem number 1 is, when you don't have a job, you don't have an income; when you don't have an income, even $20 should require at least Serious Thought. Sigh.

Problem number 2 is, even when I do have money, all those "no-brainers" can add up to a number in the "Serious Discussion" category fairly quickly (as I learned back when I had a job and simultaneously discovered DVDs at Yowza! (but I did have fun) ).

My family has always been of the "if it makes sense and we can afford it we will buy it" mentality. I wasn't brought up on budgets or allowances or working chores for money. My first "real" big ticket item purchase was the year after I graduated High School. I decided I wanted a camera, a 35mm SLR Pentax K-1000 to be precise. At that time, that camera cost $500. That summer, I took my first summer job (that was the first summer that my family didn't go on our usual summer vacation. In retrospect, I'm never quite sure how I feel about that. But I did love the camera.) I hardly spent a dime until I had the money for the camera. All money I got for anything went into the bank. Everything I spent went into a book. When I had enough money my Dad and I went to the store and bought my camera.

Looking back, I'm both proud and astonished at how disciplined I was in saving and not spending. I have never been that disciplined before or since.

In Grad School, I was essentially a pauper (redundant, huh?) so I didn't spend much. When I got my first job, I was, suddenly, relatively wealthy. Also, I had met Hubby shortly after I started Grad school, and it wasn't just me anymore when I got that first post-grad school job. Hubby was a well-paid independent computer consultant. So... thus began my (no longer feasible but deeply ingrained) purchasing strategy. The only thing that has changed much in the past 20 years is the monetary values attached to the levels. $20 used to require thought back when ATM units weren't so... disposable.

Desire - posted at Tue, 10 Feb, 20:37 Pacific | Comments (1)

Sunday February 01, 2004

Birthday Memories

[ I was the Writing Prompter for this week on Purple Ink. Here are the last two prompts for this week. ]

Saturday: It's your day to celebrate
When you were growing up, were birthdays treated specially? What made them special?

Sunday: I remember one year...
Do any of your birthdays stand out in your mind as being particularly memorable? What made them memorable?


When I was growing up, birthdays were special. My sister and I each had our own special day. We didn't have big parties with school friends, but small family affairs with perhaps one or two family friends.

We got to choose the menu and we always had theme birthdays. Our Mom and Dad are both very talented, crafty, and artistic. Our Mom always created and decorated our cakes herself.

My sister always had an animal theme. She got to choose the animal but she never saw the cake until it came out after dinner. I never knew what the theme would be until the cake appeared. After dinner, we'd always be asked to leave the dining room and not watch as out parents (with the help of the other sister) changed the table cloth, brought out the matching napkins and paper plates and the presents. Then we'd get to return and sit down and (I, at least) would have a few minutes to guess the theme before the cake was brought in, candles lit.

For each of us, the 21st birthday was the last "party" birthday. For my 21st, my sister ordained that the theme would be a classic Birthday-party theme, with streamers, balloons, confetti, and pink and white icing. In return, I declared a tradition to be made and we did the same for her three years later.


My twelfth birthday had a dinosaur theme. The cake was a chocolate sheet cake with a volcano at one end (another cake baked in the smallest mixing bowl and upended). The cake was iced in chocolate (mud) and red, yellow, and orange lava (icing) flowed down the sides of the volcano (along with wax lava from the 12 candles all stuck together at the crater). A dozen plastic dinosaurs walked across the top of the cake, having left footprints in the mud. It was a most impressive cake.

One year I had a Snoopy theme. The cake was a three-dimensional doghouse / Sopwith Camel (with chocolate chip "bullet holes") and a plastic Snoopy "World War Flying Ace" rode on top shooting down an imaginary red Baron.

One year I had an elegant gazebo in a garden with a sugar-icing Southern Belle i the gazebo. I kept her in a glass jar until she eventually disintegrated.

Birthday Memories - posted at Sun, 01 Feb, 08:59 Pacific

Friday January 30, 2004

Purple Birthday Prompt (2004.01.26/F)

[ I'm the Writing Prompter this week on Purple Ink. Here is today's prompt. ]

Friday: Another place and time...
If you could choose to have been born at another place or time in history, would you? Where or when would you choose?

I'm happy with when I was born. I like this time; I'm heavily "into" technology. Also, as a woman, I'm acutely aware that women didn't have many rights or privileges throughout much of history. I'm happy with where, as well. I was born in central Pennsylvania and grew up in a "statistical; metropolis" , a College town, with a high emphasis on education and a lot of perks (off-Broadway show tours, the Army/Navy band, the 4th of July carnival and fireworks display, a good Park&Rec system in the summers, decent public schools...)

Purple Birthday Prompt (2004.01.26/F) - posted at Fri, 30 Jan, 11:01 Pacific

Thursday January 29, 2004

Happy Birthday!

[ I'm the Writing Prompter this week on Purple Ink. Here is today's prompt. ]

Thursday: Happy Birthday!
What does your birthday mean to you?
How do you celebrate your birthday? Quietly alone? With a friend or two? With a big party?


Happy Birthday to Me

And it is, too (thus the theme of this week's prompts :-)

My birthday is a special day to me. When I'm employed, I often take that day off as a vacation day if it falls during the week. I celebrate with Spouse and sometimes a friend or two. On occasion, I've bought myself a cake, taken it in to work, and invited friends to join me.

Tonight we're meeting three friends at the Outback Steakhouse for dinner. We drive down to Cupertino (35 miles) because that Outback is the best (although it's not the closest) and because two of our friends work across the street (making it convenient to join them there for dinner!). Two of our friends also live very near the Outback; the other lives 35 miles away in a different direction.

We'll have a lovely dinner of steak, shrimp, and salad; we'll splurge on a "Sinful Sundae" (shared) with extra toasted coconut; then we'll come home and play with the cats and read till bedtime.

And that will be a lovely birthday celebration.

Happy Birthday! - posted at Thu, 29 Jan, 07:29 Pacific

Wednesday January 28, 2004

Purple Birthday Prompts

[ Three of this week's writing prompts, suggested by me, from Purple Ink. If you like journal writing, join Purple Ink! ]

This week has a theme.

Monday: Seasons
What time of year is your birthday?
If you could have chosen to be born at any time of year, what would you choose and why?

Tuesday: Surprise! Make a wish!
How do you feel about your cultures' celebration of birthdays?
Should a birthday be treated specially? Like a holiday? Do people spend too much energy on on birthdays?

Wednesday: You don't look a day over...
How do you feel about getting older?
Have your feelings changed over time?


My birthday is in mid-winter (late winter using the old calendar that says mid-winter is Dec 22 :-) I like it when it is; that's just long enough after Xmas. As a child, I used to ask for special gifts "for Christmasormybirthday". A birthday at the end of January (in that long greywhite winter period with few holidays) was a nice respite from day-to-day


I like the special treatment of birthdays, although I stop short at surprise parties. I think the choice of how to celebrate should be up to the person whose birthday it is. If they want a party, don't wonder about the etiquette of that request! If they don't want a party, accept their wishes gracefully.

I prefer to celebrate people's birthdays (and give birthday gifts) rather than Xmas.


I've never paid much attention to my age. I can't remember ever caring. In fact, when I need to tell someone my age, I have a tendency to need to stop and think (and subtract my birth year from the current year). It helps to have been born early in the year.

I don't pay much attention to other people's ages either. Friends are contemporaries, whatever their chronological age.

Purple Birthday Prompts - posted at Wed, 28 Jan, 16:00 Pacific

Sunday January 25, 2004

Purple Prompts #8-#10

There were 10 writing prompts this week on Purple Ink, so I've been posting a few at a time over more than one day. I posted three on Wednesday, four on .Friday and the rest are here.
Remember: if you like journal writing, join Purple Ink!

    8. List the dishes your mother or grandmother made that you would love to have the recipe for
    9. Name all of the books you have in your possession that you've never read.
    10. What is your most prized possession?

8. List the dishes your mother or grandmother made that you would love to have the recipe for

Ah... but I do have those recipes! I made sure to get them, years ago!

My Nana's cobbler recipe. My Mom's Pork & Sauerkraut. Burger bundles (though I never make them). Lemon sponge pie. Gram's salad dressing. Mom's fried chicken and potato salad (which, sadly, Hubby doesn't care for). Fashnachts. Sand Tarts. Cranberry fruit salad (with or without the Jello). Corn fritters (which Hubby doesn't like either). Mom's fruitcake (say what you will about fruitcake, go ahead and make jokes - this one is GOOD). Everything is there (including recipes from my Junior High Home Ec class) in my personal cookery book.

9. Name all of the books you have in your possession that you've never read.

Surely you're joking. I don't have enough time (or enough space) to list them all. I have stacks. We have our own library. (I really do plan to read everything eventually, even if I may not succeed. I don't "just" collect books. Although sometimes it seems that way!

Rich reads faster than I do. We have similar tastes. He's read a lot more of what's on the shelves than I have. Ricght now, he's zipping through Barbara D'Amato's "Cat Marsala" series (of which I had read two before he passed me and left me in the dust.)

I have the full set of Terry Goodkind's "Sword of Truth" novels in hard cover (I've read three to date). I have the full set of Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" novels (I've read 5 of those). I have the full set of Harry Potter but haven't read the 5th one yet. I have the full set of Baudelaire Orphans "A Series of Unfortunate Events" and have read the first 4.

I have stacks and stacks of mystery and fantasy fiction, often full sets of a series (e.g. I recently purchased all of Barbara D'Amato's Cat Marsala novels and have read the first two). I have pretty much every Charles de lint book I can find (that I can afford ;-) and have read a bit over half.

With the shelves full of books of Rich's and my choices, we have oodles I've never read and may never read, but I do try to get to each and every one of them. Eventually.

10. What is your most prized possession?

My Hubby and my cats! Although I don't really 'possess them" any more than they possess me.

I have a dollhouse I painted, decorated, and filled ( ). I don't work with miniatures anymore, but I'll never give it up. It's carefully stored in a back room where the cats never go.

I don't do needlework anymore, but I prize each of the pieces I have done ( ).

I have a large and lovely collection of ruby red glass - along with some green - that I prize highly ( ). I also prize my collection of Vaseline glass - stored in a display cabinet fitted with blacklights by my ever so creative spouse! (Vaseline glass glows under blacklight - ).

Finally, and by no means least, I have a beautiful fire agate ring and stickpin, gifts from that same creative spouse over twenty years ago and prized above anything I have bought for myself, before or since.

Purple Prompts #8-#10 - posted at Sun, 25 Jan, 19:29 Pacific | Comments (1)

Friday January 23, 2004

Purple Prompts #4-#7

There were 10 writing prompts this week on Purple Ink, so I'm posting a few at a time over more than one day. I posted #1, #2, #3 on Wednesday.
Remember: if you like journal writing, join Purple Ink!

    4. If you won a million dollars, what would you do?
    5. List your favorite subjects or topics. (The ones you're always reading about)
    6. List all of the ways you've simplified or streamlined your life.
    7. List all of the things you wanted to be "when you grew up".

#4. If you won a million dollars, what would you do?

If I won a million dollars I would pay off the mortgage that afternoon. I would then (most likely) quit my job (if I happened to have one) and do personal projects till the money ran out.

#5. List your favorite subjects or topics. (The ones you're always reading about)

In school, my favorite subjects were Science: Biology, Chemistry, Computers, Biochemistry. These days I am more interested in the Web and Social software, weblogs, journals, and books. Always books. I've been buying books about books and reading :-) I also devour fantasy and mystery fiction.

#6. List all of the ways you've simplified or streamlined your life.

We're not nearly done yet. But we've been making progress. Lately we managed to clear out the storage locker, giving away (or throwing away) an inordinate quantity of "stuff". We gave 15 copy-paper boxes full of paperback books to a local used book store. We've cleared out some cabinets, rearranged some furniture, put up new shelves. It's helping.

I've been learning how to clean up more immediately after myself - when a pot is emptied, wash it then. Wipe off the counter immediately. Keep the stove top clean. Maintenance is easier than major cleanup efforts. Although vacuuming still waits till I see a need... then again, with four cats, that's often enough!

With no job at present, my life is very pleasantly streamlined, but, sadly, that can't last forever.

#7. List all of the things you wanted to be "when you grew up".

At one point I wanted to be a model-maker for a museum. I still have fond memories of that idea. Eventually I wanted to be a scientist; then that morphed into a scientist with a strong sideline in computers. Eventually I settled on programmer.

When one is unemployed, a frequent question is, "Should I consider a career change?" I've thought about this a lot in the past few years (and, even when I was employed, when a job wasn't going well).

I'm a programmer and technical writer with a passion for process, quality, and documentation. I specialize in tools and data filters and the use of "little languages" (aka high-level languages) such as Perl. That's me. I have some flexibility within that realm but I won't be moving outside of it.

When I look at lists of careers (such as the one published by the IRS for choosing one's job area for a Schedule C) I think "My goodness there are a lot of fields I've never heard of and have no interest in pursuing!"

Although the model-maker was left behind long ago, I've pretty much fullfilled my "what do I want to be when I grow up" dreams.

Purple Prompts #4-#7 - posted at Fri, 23 Jan, 16:27 Pacific

Wednesday January 21, 2004

Purple Prompts #1-#3

There were 10 writing prompts this week on Purple Ink, so I'll be posting a few at a time over more than one day. Remember: if you like journal writing, join Purple Ink!

  1. List the contents of your purse or carryall.
  2. List all the jobs you've ever had.
  3. List everything you have accomplished today, no matter how small.

#1. List the contents of your purse or carryall.

I use a medium-large leather "belt pack" purchased at a craft fair years ago and still holding up. It has several compartments. I went through it recently and removed everything I hadn't used in recorded history ;-)

In the "forward bay" I have:

  • A wallet with Barnes&Noble "Preferred reader" card, Target card, AAA card, healthplan card, and a spare $20 bill.
  • A rectangular metal "Wallace and Gromit" tin which originally contained a watch (a co-worker got the watch; I got the tin) containing my emergency meds: Excedrin, Advil, Actifed, Sudafed, a nail clipper, antacid and Tylenol Sinus caps (the last for hubby).
  • Tissues (specifically Puffs Extra Strength which can be carried around and don't self-destruct)
  • A very small pepper grinder.
  • A spare set of car keys for whenever we take the car in for servicing.

In the "middle bay" I have:

  • a small notebook and mechanical pencil
  • a velcro-closure "pouch" that I use if I need to carry checks to the bank
  • a pair of chopsticks
  • two sets of high-DB foam earplugs in plastic screwtop cases

In the "rear bay" I have:

  • A small cloth sun visor that fastens onto my glasses
  • A velcro-closure "pouch" containing pens
  • A screwtop plastic bottle of spare peppercorns
  • A hair scrunchi (just in case)
  • My card case - license, credit card, ATM card; if I have to grab and go, this is all I need.
  • An 8-ft measuring tape

In the "top bay" I have my Handspring Visor PDA.

In the side bays (one on each side) I have a mini maglight (in one) and a mini leatherman tool (in the other)

#2. List all the jobs you've ever had.

The summer after High School I worked as a cashier at the community swimming pool - lots of small wet children running around. Yipes.

The next summer I had a work-study job in the Bio department stockroom at the university in the morning, alternating with a temporary secretarial job for the Park and Rec department in the afternoon. It always took a while to decide how to answer the phone ("Park Forest Pool, no, Stockroom, no , Park and Rec")

No other part-time College/Summer jobs loom in my memory.

In Grad school I had an assistantship (I taught labs in return for a small stipend and a reduction in tuition).

My first job out of College (Grad school) was as a "Clinical Data Specialist" (next step up from Data Entry clerk) which I parlayed into Unix Specialist (i.e. programmer-to-order) within a month. After two years of that, I had a stepping stone to a Unix programmer job at Apple which I held for 6 years. Then through Quality Lead, Project Manager, Technical Support and Webmaster, Scientific programmer (for two companies in a row), Technical Writer, Programmer again for a few contract jobs... at the moment, I'm unemployed.

#3. List everything you have accomplished today, no matter how small.

(entry written yesterday)
I got out of bed. I fed the cats. I wrote a couple of weblog entries, read and answered email. I looked at a software bug (which I still haven't solved) but maybe I have a better idea for a direction to take. I went to the grocery store, bought groceries, brought them home. I took a short late-afternoon nap. I got the charcoal started for dinner (now that's an accomplishment. In One Try yet!). I grilled the salmon (and it came out exquisite - another major accomplishment!). Ate; cleaned up; did some more email; sat in the hot tub; went to bed.
Purple Prompts #1-#3 - posted at Wed, 21 Jan, 13:27 Pacific

Sunday January 18, 2004

Purple Miscellany

[ This (past) week's writing prompts from Purple Ink , If you like journal writing, join Purple Ink!]

Monday : Pick your favorite color and write about it: why you like it, how it makes you feel, what 'pictures' come to mind when you think of that color.

Tuesday : Spray your favorite air freshner then write what you think about.

Wednesday : Look at yourself in the mirror for a few minutes. Describe the you that you see physically, emotionally, spiritually.

Thursday : Describe what it is like when you wake up in the morning.

Friday : What is your favorite time of day? Describe it.

Saturday : Close your eyes and imagine yourself on a walk around your neighborhood. Imagine all the things you see, hear, and smell. Describe your walk.

Sunday : Decide what is your favorite word. Think about it for a while and write why you like that particular word.

Monday :

My favorite color... see Color Me Maroon.


We don't use air freshener (or perfumes, or scented candles, or...).

I love the smell of real vanilla. I love the smells of spices: cinnamon, nutmeg (especially fresh nutmeg), ginger. I even like cloves (in smaller quantities). When we drive down US Hwy 101 to Santa Barbara, the road goes past the McCormick/Schilling plant in Salinas, CA. We always roll down the windows to catch the aroma of whatever is "cooking". Often it smells of poultry seasoning; in November/December the smell is pumpkin pie spice. Ahhhhh. Ummmmmm. It's just... really... nice!

I love the smell of pine - it reminds me of walking through a piney woods. I can close my eyes and see the woods, feel moss and pine needles under my feet. The same goes for eucalyptus (although I hate the taste, I like the smell; we often walk through areas under eucalyptus trees). I love the smell of menthol. Vick's mentholatum spray and balms make me feel comfortable, relaxed, and sleepy (possibly because I can breathe better).


When I look in the mirror...

...I see someone I've known forever :-)

...I see a familiar face, familiar hair and eyes. I haven't changed much since College. I wear my hair only slightly differently (across the forehead now; same length). My glasses frames are lighter. I weigh more (too much more!) but I don't notice that unless it's a full-length mirror and even then I may not notice right away. Although, intellectually, I know I'm overweight, (and I'm working on that - seeing steady downward progress since September!), I have always had a good body image. This is both a blessing and a nuisance (in terms of losing weight).

...I see my mother. It's a good thing I like my mother (and how my mother looks) because aside from the hair, my face is slowly becoming my mother's face. (Mom says she sees my grandmother in the mirror now).

...I see someone who's doing fairly well for herself. Happy with spouse, cats, and home. Living in a place she likes. Satisfied with her choice of career (if jobless at present). Someone who has had more than her share of downs, some ups, is still holding in there. No grey hairs yet. Not too many wrinkles. A bit too much dark under the eyes at times. A pleasant smile, even teeth (slightly tea stained but whatchagonnado?). Not gorgeous, not bad looking. Nice.

...I see a friend. I get along pretty well with myself. I've always been able to look myself in the eye (in the mirror :-)

...I see me.


First thoughts upon waking up: "I don't want to get up. I'm sleepy. I want to go back to sleep". (this is regardless of whether an alarm clock woke me or not. I tend to wake up slowly and sleepily, as opposed to Rich who normally wakes up and is, then, pretty much awake). If I've been dreaming, it's especially difficult for me to wake up.

Next thoughts: cats. Are there cats in bed with me? This makes a difference in how quickly I get out of bed. Am I under a cat, next to a cat, snuggled with a cat? Then out of bed. I stagger to the bathroom, ruffling kitty heads on the way. I do all I need to do. Then back to the bedroom; more ruffling of heads.

About now I usually hear Squirrel calling from somewhere in the hall, the living room, or the kitchen. Squirrel is very much attuned to Vickimom waking up because that process heralds breakfast.

If this is a weekday and I awoke to an alarm clock, I usually rouse Rich at about this time (unless he's already awake). Then I may take the opportunity to sleep for another hour, as I don't "have to" get up quite so early (not having a commute ahead of me).

Raven may show up demanding lap; if he does, we'll sit snuggle. Or Bebop will come for some loving. He usually kneads the back of my neck (and my hair on the pillow).

Finally (possibly an hour or so later, if I went back to sleep), I choose clothing for today; I get dressed. Then we all troop out to the kitchen to get breakfast for the cats and to start the day. Friday :

My favorite time of day is between 7 pm and midnight or a while after. I'm reasonably alert (this is my most alert time of day). If I've been lucky enough to get a nap, I'm awake again. The cats are up; they've had dinner and we often play games between 7 and 10. Rich and I are both home and awake during these hours. Dinner is sometime between 7 and 8 most nights. There are few pressures. It's a good time of day.


We go for a walk around the neighborhood fairly often, generally after dinner (after dark). We tend to head out across the street and through the park. Then down the hill on the other side of the park and through a corner of our development. We follow one of the two roads that lead out of the development, through a eucalyptus grove, where the eucalyptus nuts (they look like Hershey's kisses) roll under our feet. If it's foggy, or it's been raining, the trees give off a pleasant, pungent aroma. Both sides of this road are mostly trees for about 1/4 mile (no houses at road level), then it goes uphill a bit into another, newer development, where the houses are large, interesting, expensive, and much too close together. We walk on through to another, older neighborhood, of smaller, mostly one-story houses, around a long block, across the entrance to the nearby community College, and back around the loop, into our development, back up the hill, across the park and home.

Sometimes we come the long way around the hill. That way the houses stop on the west side of the road because that area is all county jail land (first) and then preserve (Golden Gate National Recreation Area). The jail, oddly, doesn't belong to our county, but to San Francisco County. They rent the land for it here because they "don't have enough room" to have their own jail. The jail is always well lit. As we pass from jail land to preserve, we usually hear frogs croaking. I think there's a swamp down there, somewhere.

At some times of year, we can hear coyotes in the ridge, or owls in the park across from our house. We walk back home through the west end of our neighborhood, slightly up hill and back to our house. It's not a flat walk but the way we do it isn't very steep either for most of the distance covered.


My favorite word.... do I have a favorite word? I'll go for the first one that popped into my head when I read this prompt: feline.

Feline is a cat. Feline is whiskers swept, eyes bright, ears cocked, tail held high. Feline is sleek, smooth, soft, graceful, athletic, sinuous, limber. Feline is running, jumping, climbing, pouncing, sleeping. Feline is fur, short and smooth or long and silky. Feline is a deep rumbling purr, a musical trill, a soft meow, a full-throated yowl. Feline is a leopard in the jungle, a desert cat on the prowl, a house cat in the sun. Feline is eyes that glow in the dark. Feline is magic.

Purple Miscellany - posted at Sun, 18 Jan, 13:40 Pacific

Thursday January 15, 2004

In My Room

Think about all the rooms in all the houses you have lived in. Describe them in your journal and reflect upon whether where you have lived may have affected how you felt at different times in your life.

From Writer's Digest via Spark (11 January 2004)

My parents bought the house I grew up in a few months before I was born; I loved there for over 21 years, until I went away to Grad School in another state. My parents continued to live in that house for another 5 or 10 years.

It was a fairly large (3-story) duplex; my parents owned both sides. Initially, one side was ours (2 stories plus half a basement); the "other side of the house" was rented out as apartments - a "railroad flat" on each of the first and second floors, and the entire third floor "suite". Our side was big enough that my sister and I each had our own rooms.

When my sister was born, I moved from the center bedroom to the back corner bedroom (two windows). Before I moved into it, my parents painted that room - three walls in pink; the fourth wall in vertical candy stripes (dark pink and white, 12-inches wide). That was my room for the next 18 years.

I loved my room. I loved looking out the back window at the yard and the lilac trees. I loved the breeze in the summer (when there was any) and the rain during thunderstorms. I loved having my Christmas tree in front of the window. When I was in Junior High, we redecorated. My Dad moved the closet to the other side of the room. We installed a window seat under the back window and a counter, with shelves above and cabinets below, along the wall opposite the other window. I painted the room myself, light green with dark green for the wood. Through High School and College, that made a perfect study area.

When I was in the third grade, the city gave my Dad a choice - install a fire escape or stop renting the third floor. He stopped renting and we moved into that part of the house. My Dad had an office up there; my Mom had a sewing area; my sister and I got a room that we shared as a "playroom" and a place for one or the other of us to sleep when our grandmother visited. Most of the time, that was me; I enjoyed sleeping on the third floor! It was special.

Some number of years later (I can't exactly remember when but I know it was prior to 7th grade), my folks decided to stop renting the first floor on the "other side" as well. My Dad re-did the front room as his new (and far more spacious and nicely appointed) office. Mom got the back room for crafts and projects. The bedroom (with en suite shower) became our guest room (wow! a real guest room!). Now when our grandmother visited, neither my sister nor I needed to vacate our bedrooms. But wait! There's more.

Our previously shared 3rd-floor room became my sister's, all her own, and I got the front room on the third floor! It became my second bedroom (with a bed in an alcove under the eves), my office, my workshop, my laboratory. We added shelves and a table to hold my projects; I did much of my school work there. I think I loved that room even more than my bedroom.

When I was in College (living at home and walking to campus) friends would occasionally say, "you live at home?!". I'd say "Yes. My mother is a good cook, we have a 13-room house and two of those rooms are mine, all my very own, shared with no one else. Either one of them is bigger than the dorm room you share with a roommate! Why wouldn't I live at home?!

How did those rooms in that house affect my life? I'm used to having my own space. When I first went to Grad School, my apartment was a flat, the second floor of a house much like the one I grew up in! I had a flat mate, but I had my own room (and I chose the one in the back corner of the house, with two windows, one overlooking the back yard). In my (second) attempt at Grad School, I had a one-bedroom apartment to myself (no roommate).

After I met Richard, I knew we were meant for each other when he offered me my own office space. Neither of us thinks twice about each of us having a separate office, a room of our own. It's important to both of us. It give us some privacy (although the other is always welcome), a place to work, and a place to keep things out of the way of the common areas of the house.

A room of my own. I've had one (or two :) since I was four years old. I think a lot of who I am has been shaped by those rooms, then and now.

In My Room - posted at Thu, 15 Jan, 09:00 Pacific

Tuesday January 13, 2004

Color me Maroon

[ Today's question comes courtesy of Purple Ink ]

Pick your favorite color and write about it:
why you like it, how it makes you feel, what 'pictures' come to mind when you think of that color...

I prefer bright colors and dark "fall" and "winter" shades. I'm not a fan of most pastels, certainly not for clothing.

When I was little, my stated favorite color was red. Possibly because I have red hair. Any other "reasons" are lost in the mists of time... Does one need a "reason" for a favorite color? or is it just a visceral thing? Some colors one likes, others are so-so, still others hit you with a feeling of yuck.)

Most yellows, many oranges, and browns in the yellowey- orangey- range trip my "yuck" sensors. I've read that "most people" pick blue as their favorite color when asked; personally, I can take blue or leave it.

I've also read that "favorite color" is an "American" thing and that people from other cultures often respond, "favorite color _what_?".

As I've grown older, I've narrowed my description from "red" to (more specifically) the bluer reds. The orangey reds do nothing for me (probably related to my dislike of yellowey- orangey- shades!). I'm a blue-green side of the color wheel person. Depending who asks me, I'm more likely to say my favorite color is "maroon" (aka burgundy, dark red).

My second favorite color is teal; again, I don't know why (although it goes very well with maroon). I just like it. It "feels" good. When I was little, I don't think I even knew teal existed ;-) I like all shades of teal, but I prefer the dark shades of maroon.

Whenever I set up a new computer, I set my system highlight color to a light teal. When I'm required to use Windoze (I use a Mac by choice), I set my desktop and window colors to the Teal theme (with the desktop lightened up a bit).

How do these colors make me feel? Calm, happy, centered, familiar, oriented, comfortable.

What pictures come to mind? Interesting question. Maroon is a fall/winter color. Maroon and Teal are "winter" colors. Oddly, winter is not my favorite season. I'm not overly crazy about fall, either. No real "pictures" come to mind; in my mind, I simply see the colors. I might briefly think of snow, or of a warm maroon sweater.

For two fun essays on color, take a look at The Man's Guide To Color and Singing Those Taupe, Coral, and Ecru Blues

Color me Maroon - posted at Tue, 13 Jan, 10:11 Pacific

Wednesday January 07, 2004

I Scream for Ice Cream

[Today's question is courtesy of purple ink ]
"I doubt the world holds for anyone a more soul-stirring surprise than the first adventure with ice cream".
-- Heywood Broun

What is your favorite flavor of ice cream? Hard or Soft-Serve? What type of sundae do you usually order?

Oh, yumm, ice cream. And me on a low-carb dieting adventure and not supposed to eat much ice cream anymore. Oh well, after I lose the weight, I can have it back (in small quantities)...

I am much more adventurous than Spouse. He usually sticks to vanilla, Vanilla Swiss Almond (Haden Dazs), coffee, black cherry, and chocolate; occasionally praline and butter pecan. I don't eat chocolate or black cherry but I'll try almost anything else! So we often share a coffee flavor or (at home) it's usually Vanilla S. A. (which goes equally well with strawberries, or bananas and hot fudge, or a Pepperidge Farm peach turnover :-)

If we're out, it depends what's available (and whether I'm sharing). By default, I prefer a vanilla with something in it to a flavored ice cream, but I make exceptions for certain flavors!

I think my standard favorite (starting when I was very young) is Mint Chip (which, growing up, we called Bittersweet Mint). The Gold Standard for this flavor is made by the Penn State University Creamery). When I was growing up we'd often visit the Creamery for ice cream on a warm summer afternoon or evening. I remember the large pretzel sticks you could buy to eat along with the ice cream (a surprisingly good combination). I even remember getting little cups of water from the drinking fountain to fend off ice cream headache!

After Mint Chip, I look for Peanut Butter Cup if it's available (vanilla ice cream with actual peanut butter cups broken into it, or the variation with gobs of peanut butter and chunks of dark chocolate). Double Rainbow makes a perfect Peanut Butter Cup ice cream; sadly, the Double Rainbow stores have mostly disappeared.

Another favorite, growing up, was Teaberry, available in Central and South-Eastern Pennsylvania but, sadly, too exotic for California :-( In the summer, if I can find it, fresh peach ice cream can be heavenly. The Penn State Creamery's fresh peach ice cream is World's Greatest as well. I miss it! (The Creamery will ship ice cream to anywhere in the US, but, sadly, the cost is, well, exorbitant. So far, I've held off; maybe someday... ;-) From November to January, I'm on the lookout for Pumpkin ice cream; a good Pumpkin ice cream tastes like a frozen piece of pumpkin pie, sans crust).

If I'm sharing with Spouse, it's usually a coffee flavor such as Baskin Robbins Jamoca Almond Fudge. I don't drink coffee much (and never more than a sip hot) but I love iced coffee and coffee ice cream. Occasionally we'll find a good butter pecan (my mother's favorite). We never share the mint or the peanut butter; (Rich says blech!).

Last week, at a Japanese restaurant, I had the most delightful mango ice cream! Rich thought it was too perfumey, but I thought it was delectable. His choice was banana (turned out to be banana nut) which could have been perfumey but was actually very subtle. The unchosen choice was green tea (which can be nice, but is not a favorite). I've also had sesame ice cream at a Japanese restaurant - very nutty! I was the only one of four people who liked it (but I loved it!).

Hard or soft-serve? Definitely hard; so many more choices (and refreezable of you don't eat it all at once). As to sundaes, we rarely have them, but Rich and I will share a hot sludge fundae on occasion (with or without bananas). Only I like caramel, or butterscotch, or marshmallow sauces; even the plain ol' Hershey chocolate syrup is something Rich can readily do without. Otherwise, is vanilla ice cream smothered in fresh strawberries considered a sundae? I guess it is; we love those in strawberry season (with or without a small slice of angel food cake ;-)

While I was growing up, my parent's church held a "strawberry festival" every June. A church member with a dairy donated the ice cream, the Ladies Guild sliced strawberries, guild members baked all sorts of cakes, and attendees paid a reasonable price for a big bowl of ice cream with stawberries and a slice of cake. It's where I discovered chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting (a once-a-year treat I never got at home).

My mother recalls when she was young, her family would visit an Amish family they were friends with. After dinner, the Amish family would serve huge bowls of freshly made (cranked!) ice cream. If I had a chance for a trip back in time, I'd like a chance to attend one of those dinners as a friend of my younger Mom!

Ah... ice cream. I don't know if my first "adventure with ice cream" was a "soul-stirring surprise", but I can't remember a time when I didn't love ice cream. And I have many happy "ice cream memories".

I Scream for Ice Cream - posted at Wed, 07 Jan, 11:46 Pacific

Saturday January 03, 2004

My motto, 'tis of thee...

[ Today's question comes from ThreeWay by way of Spark (10 December 2003) ]

What would your motto would be for the place you're at in your life right now? Is it different than it would have been five years ago? 10? 20?

mot·to (n.) pl. mot·toes or mot·tos
  1. A brief statement used to express a principle, goal, or ideal. A short, suggestive expression of a guiding principle.
  2. A sentence, phrase, or word of appropriate character inscribed on or attached to an object.
  3. A maxim adopted as a guide to one's conduct.

Entry:   motto
Function:   noun
Definition:   saying
Synonyms:   adage, aphorism, apothegm, battle cry, byword, catchphrase, cry, epigram, formula, maxim, precept, proverb, rallying cry, rule, saw, sentiment, shibboleth, slogan, war cry, watchword, word
Concept:   communication entity

There are two that I think of first. Both come from a series of three fantasy novels by Doris Egan — the first introduced in The Gates of Ivory; the second in Two-bit Heroes. Both are displayed prominantly on my desktop, on my whiteboard, and in my head.

Ishin na' telleth

Penathi so mai

Ishin na' telleth is described as "the strongest way of saying 'I'm not about to care' that it can be said". However, actual usage in the novels seems to range from the simple 'Don't make me no never mind' to the monks who "spend their days thinking and tending gardens... saying 'ishin na' telleth' to the world".

Penathi so mai , literally, "the wind we hear in the branches, that we'll never see", means "Let it go".

It was 10 years ago or more that I realized I can't care too much about what goes on around me but outside of my control, especially at work. It's a fine edge between caring enough and not caring too much. I'm still working on that. I'm still working on letting go of things I can't change (or of never taking too firm a hold in the first place).

Like Theodora, the heroine in Egan's novels, I'm not sure I can ever live up to either of these mottoes. But I keep them near me at all times, nevertheless.

Two others are also affixed to my computer desktop:

Find out what you love. Do it because you love it. Stick with it. Start today.

Ducunt fata volentem, nolentem trahunt

I first heard "Find out what you love...", phrased somewhat differently, in 1981. At that time, my then graduate advisor told me "If you don't love what you're doing, you should be doing what you love." Those words have stayed with me from that day.

The Latin translates as "The Fates guide those who go willingly; those who do not, they drag." This showed up in my Inbox within the last year, yet I think it's timeless (and fits in well with the rest).

Then there's one I've had on my desk since 1983.

Ooit'n Normaal Mens Ontmoet? En..., Beviel't?

Translated into English from the original Dutch, this means:

Ever met a normal person? So..., did you like it?

This question is on a small plaque, front and center on my desk at home. If I commute to a job, I have a second small plaque to take with me. The phrase first showed up on a poster many years ago and I was introduced to it when I met Richard (who found it sometime in the mid-seventies). I've adopted it for my own; I even have it imprinted on my checks :-)

My motto, 'tis of thee... - posted at Sat, 03 Jan, 17:53 Pacific

Thursday January 01, 2004

2 Teach is 2 Touch Lives 4 Ever

[ Today's question comes from Diarist.Net Spark (30 December 2003) ]

Who has been your most influential teacher? What did he, she, or even it, help you learn?

Consider different answers to this question. Certainly you have school teachers, professors, community leaders... But where else have some of the most important lessons you've learned come from? A friend? An ex? A stranger, or celebrity? Could it be loss, or time, or failure?

If you could speak to this teacher right now, what would you say?

My earliest, best, and longest-held teachers are my parents. They taught me to read — the best gift anyone can give — and to enjoy learning. They taught me first that I could choose my own direction, do anything I set my mind to, and be anything I choose to be.

Long before articles were written on the subject, my parents involved themselves in my school work, helping me to find project assignments, quizzing me before tests, going over homework assignments, working with me (but never doing the work for me) when I had difficulties. My mother used to help me choose my weekly vocabulary words by quizzing me on words from the Readers Digest "Word Power" column. (It's a good thing we saved all the old issues; as my vocabulary expanded, we needed more and more choices to come up with 10 words!)

Although it must have come as something of a shock for an architect and an art teacher to have a daughter so clearly interested in science and technology, my parents have never been anything less than totally supportive. When, in my junior year of High School, my science course load threatened to cause me to miss lunch period on Wednesdays (egad!), my mother readily wrote a note to the school to tell them this was perfectly fine and Vicki could take classes or miss lunch as she chose! (Thanks Mom; that Bio II class was one of the best I ever took).

I still learn from my parents. My Dad helped us with our screen porch, calculating load and beam size and position. My mother astounded our favorite diner waitress when she taught me the word "thixotropic".

From High School, I remember two teachers with special fondness. Miss Riley taught Advanced English and made it fun. Although I had other English teachers before and since (two of whom were the worst "teachers" I ever had!), I will always remember Miss Riley as nothing less than wonderful. I can't say my interest in writing comes from her, but she was one of the teachers who most encouraged it.

Mr. McCall taught "Computer Math", a one-semester course in FORTRAN programming. That course set me on the road that took me where I am today. It was my first programming course (and a very good one, in my estimation). That course fostered my decision to sign up for a double major in Computer Science in College (and made my initial programming classes at Penn State much easier).

My next most memorable and treasured teacher came along after I graduated from College. Thinking I might enjoy a career in Forensic Science, I entered a grad School program in Connecticut. Dr. Ganesslen was my department head, advisor, and primary instructor for the program. When he talked about Forensic Science, for the time he was talking, you knew this was the most fascinating subject in the Universe.

Unfortunately, I realized very quickly (within two weeks!) that it wasn't the career for me. I hesitated to tell Dr. G that I didn't want to work in his field. When I did tell him, he told me something that I have treasured ever since. He said

If you don't love what you're doing, you should be doing what you love.
Out of respect for him, I stayed in the program for two trimesters (I had a teaching assistantship and couldn't be replaced any earlier). During that time, I learned a lot about Forensic Science — and even more about loving your work.

My next most influential teacher wasn't (officially) a teacher at all! Shortly after I started my second Grad School program, in Maryland, I met Rich, the man who became (over time) my best friend and spouse. Rich introduced me to the Unix Operating System at the same time that he was learning it. He encouraged me to learn everything I could about Unix.

When I realized that (once again) I didn't want to be" what my Grad School program was teaching me to be (in this case, a Microbiologist), Rich encouraged me to consider computer applications in biology. He supported me when I dropped my advisor (a royal louse ;-) and began to research alternatives. Rich hasn't been with me as long as my parents, but like my parents, he has supported me for the entire time we've been together.

"Last" (but never least) I would have to name the woman who was most influential in getting me where I am today. When Dr. Colwell learned I had dropped my advisor (and that the department summarily dropped my teaching assistantship!) she immediately offered me a position in her lab, a thesis project, and an advisory team!

I am honored to have been Dr. Colwell's only "terminal Masters candidate". She told me she believed firmly in giving women a chance in the sciences, and she had a tailor-made project just perfect for me — a computer and statistical analysis of data her lab was in the process of collecting. That project got me my first job, which got me my second, and so on to today (in fact, my Micro background has been responssible for several jobs I've had over the years). Much of where I am today can be traced back to a pivotal few months in Maryland and the solid support of two people — my advisor and my best friend.

What would I say to (any of) these people today? What could I say but "Thank you".

2 Teach is 2 Touch Lives 4 Ever - posted at Thu, 01 Jan, 11:40 Pacific

Tuesday December 30, 2003

One Shared Thought

[ Today's question comes from Diarist.Net Spark (26 December 2003) ]
Imagine that you had the power to imprint in the minds of every child born today one phrase, one piece of permanent wisdom. What would you tell them?

A personal motto? A snippet of philosophy? A message of hope? A lesson you had to learn the hard way? Would it be a rule or a suggestion? A statement or a question? If you could only have your words surface on each birthday, would they be different? What would you say?

Expand on your message. Where did it come from? Why is it so important that the next generation should hear it?

One phrase?

I first considered Thou Shalt Not Kill.
My second thought was Live and Let Live.
But then I realized there was one even more all-encompassing meme I would choose to impart:

There is No One True Way

Whoever you are...
Your opinions matter — as do those of everyone else.
Your religion, your faith and your beliefs are true and right and just — as are the religion, faith and beliefs of everyone else on the planet.
Your politics, your ideals, your dreams and your aspirations are no more worthy than those of other people.
Rejoice in your way... and let others rejoice in theirs.

With many thanks to Mercedes Lackey and her tales of Valdemar.

One Shared Thought - posted at Tue, 30 Dec, 14:25 Pacific

Wednesday December 24, 2003

Today I am an Adult

[ Found yesterday at Spark ]

When was your childhood over? Do you agree with the concept of adolescence, or did you go from being a child to being an adult?

Excuse me... did you say "over"?

What are childhood and adulthood? Are they determined by a simple range of ages? Does "childhood" end at 13 (as some cultures determine?). Does it end at puberty? Is there a conscious boundary? A societal line?

Are you an adult at 16, when you can drive or (in some states) marry? When you get your first job? Or are you an adult at 18, when you can leave school, leave home, marry, join the Armed Forces? Are you an adult at 21, when you can vote or enter a bar. Are you an adult when you graduate from College? Do you become an adult when you marry? When you move into your own home? When you say so?

Are childhood and adulthood determined by a physiological state? Does childhood end at puberty? Does adulthood begin at puberty? Or after puberty? Is adolescence another word for puberty or is it a range of years?

I think the real difference between "childhood" and "adulthood" is a mental state.

Some children "grow up too fast" — a parent dies, they're required to leave school and find work, they help take care of younger siblings. They become "adults" at 9 or 11 or 15.

Many adults retain "childlike" aspects throughout their lives. We don't give up the thoughts, dreams, and joys of "childhood". We read "children's" books with delight; we still enjoy the movies we enjoyed as children (or younger parents, watching with their children).

Am I a child? I think not; puberty is long behind me; I live on my own with my spouse. I work. I drive. I vote. I pay taxes. Most of the time I look, act, and feel like an "adult".

But I read whatever I want to read. I enjoy Harry Potter as much as any 11-year-old. I love the Burl Ives' Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer holiday special (Bumbles bounce!) as well as A Charlie Brown Christmas. I have a large collection of stuffy toys. I play delightedly with our cats. I may be an "adult" but I'm not going to claim to be a "grown-up" (at least, not all the time).

I think childhood is a continuum. If you're lucky, it's never really over. You add things to your life (marriage, taxes, job, your own home), as you take others away (early bedtimes, school, curfews, mud pies). Some things last forever, merely changing form — responsibilities, chores, homework, friends, siblings, work and play.

Am I an adult? Yes. Is my childhood over? No. I hope to keep things that way for a long, long time.

Today I am an Adult - posted at Wed, 24 Dec, 13:31 Pacific

Tuesday December 23, 2003


[ This question is courtesy of Out There! Collaborations (December 2000) by way of ]
What kind of people do you surround yourself with as your friends?
Do you find yourself more comfortable with people your own age, or does that matter?
Do you like to surround yourself with lots of people, or do you like to have a smaller, more tight-knit group around?

How easy or difficult is it for you to meet new people and make new friends?
Is it easier or harder to make friends using the Internet, and what kind of positive effect has meeting friends online had on your life?
What are the greatest kindnesses a friend has shown to you?

What kind of people do you surround yourself with as your friends?
Do you find yourself more comfortable with people your own age, or does that matter?

Most of my friends have similar interests to me... technical interests or feline interests.

Age doesn't matter and never has. I joined Mensa when I graduated from College and moved from Central Pennsylvania to Connecticut (New Haven area) for Grad School. Mensa gave me many opportunities to meet new people: some with similar interests, many with different interests, but all interesting. Many of the Mensa members were older than my then 21 years; it never mattered to me. I occasionally would hear that they had trouble attracting "young adult" members because they wanted to be with people and participate in activities for their "age group" and I recall thinking "all of these people are smart and interesting; they all like to talk. What does "age group" mean??"

Looking back, I see that the Connecticut group was very special. All Mensa local groups are different. Connecticut did many dinner things, small special interest groups, lots of "sitting around a living room and chatting". It was a great way for a new arrival to join an instant group of pleasant and welcoming acquaintances. The greater Washington DC group was much larger and given to dinner groups, animation festivals, and pleasant parties. I met Rich there! Neither of us participates much in the San Francisco Bay Area group. Oddly, this group is more into bar groups and very special interest subgroups divided, (wrongly, in my opinion) on the basis of age! They have the "under 30" group and the "40-50" group and... yich. Even if I "approved" of age splitting like this, Rich and I have a 10-year difference between us (which I only occasionally, in situations such as this, consider :-). So, which groups would we attend?

Here in CA, there are so many techie people that our friends tend to be techie people, Perl programmers, Unix operating system types, and people we met through those people.

Do you like to surround yourself with lots of people, or do you like to have a smaller, more tight-knit group around?

I prefer a smaller group. I like to know everyone's name and some of their interests. Even my "jokes to friends" email list is pretty short. I'm not a party person; in large groups I'm pretty shy (Although people who know me better have a difficult time believing that :-)

How easy or difficult is it for you to meet new people and make new friends?

It's non-trivial :-); As I've said, I'm actually shy and introverted in groups. Then again, so are many of my friends. We meet best through other people.

I have three friends from College with whom I communicate often; three others with whom I communicate less often. None from High School. A dozen or so from work over the past two decades. More recent friends from user groups. Some friends of friends who became friends of us.

Is it easier or harder to make friends using the Internet, and what kind of positive effect has meeting friends online had on your life?

Easier, I think. Different, certainly. I get to meet people I never would have met. I can meet people who share my interest in the Web, or my interest in cats, or my interest in technical things. I meet people around the world. I'm more "myself" when I write; I write so much more fluently than I talk! So I just jump right in and write and people write back.

If you didn't see my weblog entries on Internet friends, I invite you to read them and comment if you like.

Online Relationships (Dec 10)
Online Friends (Dec 12)

What are the greatest kindnesses a friend has shown to you?

Listening! Being there when I wondered where I was going (should be going), what I should be doing, whether my choices were the right ones. Responding. Discussing. Considering my viewpoint as valid and worth considering simply because it's mine. Believing I could do whatever I wanted or needed to do. Judging my decisions in the light of my thinking rather than anyone elses. Believing in me. Sticking with me for 20 years or more!

Friendships - posted at Tue, 23 Dec, 15:36 Pacific