3.30.2015

life began for me when I ceased to admire and began to remember

  • Have you ever had a dream that you chased only to be let down when you achieved it?
    law school falls into that category. The Village Idiot does, too. Thus far, the dream of this new job isn't exactly living up to billing.

    Anticipation is a rough habit. It can rob the joy from the present (and the future, really) and delay acceptance of what really is.
  • Is there anything about the opposite sex you just don't understand or comprehend?
    in some ways, men are simple creatures that require no great work to figure out. But in the ways that matter, they're mystical and complex and they bewilder me at every turn. All the good ones are taken, a good 75% of them cannot figure out how to have a conversation by text message (seriously, if you text me and then do nothing but stab one or two words at me, don't think I'm going to go out of my way to spend time with you. Use some imagination!), and even the ones that smell good aren't around long enough to make it worth my time to sniff.
  • Who was your favourite teacher at school and why?
    my graduate school mentor. He could lecture on the history of (what's the most boring thing I can imagine?) warm milk, and make it the most fascinating 90 minutes of your life. He is enthusiastic, deeply funny, engaging, erudite in the extreme, and genuinely warm. It was a pleasure and an honor to be a part of his class, and to have worked with him as my thesis advisor was a great learning experience in the subject matter, in research, and particularly in writing.

    And ever year, on April 5, I remember just how much he loved music.
  • What's your favourite party game?
    Three Man

    Wait. How about Ping-Pong?
  • Is it acceptable or unacceptable to smack a child as form of discipline?
    "smack"?

    I'm not a parent, and I am an attorney. {end disclaimer}

    I was spanked as a young child. I remember it, because it didn't happen more than a few times. And I didn't commit those infractions again.

    And, I've turned out reasonably well.
  • Can a heterosexual male ever wear pink?
    signs say Yes
  • Is it criminal to wear socks with sandals?
    it's not criminal, but it generally looks pretty silly. Still, I'd rather see socks than the gruesome foot care that some people reveal through their sandals. If you're baring them, take care of them.
  • If you were captain of a ship, what would you call it?
    the Bounty
  • If you were to join an emergency service which would it be?
    an "emergency service"? This is so British.

    I think I'd like to be a firefighter, until there was an actual fire.
  • If you were to join one of the armed forced which would it be?
    I'd love to say the Marines, but that's ridiculous. Navy wouldn't happen. Likewise Air Force. So, Army it is, then.
  • Whats the worst thing about being your gender?
    bra straps
  • Whats the best thing about being your gender?
    guys. Hee!
  • If you swapped genders for a day how would you spend it?
    scratching inappropriate areas, belching on command, and making outrageous comments. When do we start?

[ripped from here and carved into pieces; the title quotation is by Willa Cather]

3.29.2015

as long as he lived, taking the winding drive to the house would always warm his heart and feel like home

Today was the open house for the best possibility so far, in terms of a home for me to buy. It went on the market on Tuesday, seemed to be priced right, judging by the pictures and for the neighborhood. (I know about the pictures because pretty much any house that's for sale now has multiple photos available on multiple websites; just web-search the address or, like I do, use Realtor.com to see what's out there in a given area.) I was really feeling good about this one.

Alas.

The asking price is $A. It seems to me that it is actually a $A+$25,000 house, so buying it for $A is not the great deal that it seems to be. It will take at least that $25,000 more to bring it up to its potential, to solve some of the material issues, and to address the myriad cosmetic hurdles in place. It's not a bad house, and the neighborhood is wonderful. It's just far more work than I am wanting to do, to make something mine. I'm not lazy, but I'm also not skilled labor in many ways. It will probably cost me more than it would someone experienced in such things, to make my eventual home just right--simply because I lack experience or ability in some areas.

So, if I can start out with a house that's $A, or even $A+$10,000, but where it is pretty well ship-shape (or just needs some paint and TLC), then I'm going to be a much happier buyer.

Back to the ads.

[the title quotation is by Alex Morgan]

3.27.2015

a mind forever / Voyaging through strange seas of Thought alone





"(Finland is a famously introverted nation. Finnish joke: How can you tell if a Finn likes you? He's staring at your shoes instead of his own.)"




"(Newton was one of the world's great introverts. William Wordsworth described him as 'A mind forever / Voyaging through strange seas of Thought alone.')"




"Kafka, for example, couldn't bear to be near even his adoring fiancee while he worked:
You once said that you would like to sit beside me while I write. Listen, in that case I could not write at all. For writing means revealing oneself to excess; that utmost of self-revelation and surrender, in which a human being, when involved with others, would feel he was losing himself, and from which, therefore, he will always shrink as long as he is in his right mind. ... That is why one can never be alone enough when one writes, why there can never be enough silence around one when one writes, why even night is not night enough."


Introverts ... are constitutionally programmed to downplay reward--to kill their buzz, you might say--and scan for problems. "As soon as they get excited," says [University of Wisconsin psychologist Joseph] Newman, "they'll put the brakes on and think about peripheral issues that may be more important. Introverts seem to be specifically wired or trained so when they catch themselves getting excited and focused on a goal, their vigilance increases." 
Introverts also tend to compare new information with their expectations, he says. They ask themselves, "Is this what I thought would happen? Is this how it should be?" And when the situation falls short of expectations, they form associations between the moment of disappointment ... and whatever was going on in their environment at the time of the disappointment.... These associations let them make accurate predictions about how to react to warning signals in the future.


If you're an introvert, find your flow by using your gifts. You have the power of persistence, the tenacity to solve complex problems, and the clear-sightedness to avoid pitfalls that trip others up. You enjoy relative freedom from the temptations of superficial prizes like money and status. Indeed, your biggest challenge may be to fully harness your strengths. You may be so busy trying to appear like a zestful, reward-sensitive extrovert that you undervalue your on talents, or feel underestimated by those around you. But when you're focused on a project that you care about, you probably find that your energy is boundless.  
So stay true to your own nature. If you like to do things in a slow and steady way, don't let others make you feel as if you have to race. If you enjoy depth, don't force yourself to seek breadth. If you prefer single-tasking to multitasking, stick to your guns. Being relatively unmoved by rewards gives you the incalculable power to go your own way. It's up to you to use that independence to good effect.



"[T]alk is for communicating need-to-know information; quiet and introspection are signs of deep thought and higher truth. Words are potentially dangerous weapons that reveal things better left unsaid. They hurt other people; they can get their speaker into trouble."



According to Free Trait Theory [as explained by former Harvard psychology professor Brian Little], we are born and culturally endowed with certain personality traits--introversion, for example--but we can and do act out of character in the service of "core personal projects." 
In other words, introverts are capable of acting like extroverts for the sake of work they consider important, people they love, or anything they value highly.


[T]he best way to act out of character is to stay as true to yourself as you possibly can--starting by creating as many "restorative niches" as possible in your daily life. 
"Restorative niche" is Professor Little's term for the place you go when you want to return to your true self.


We would all be better off if, before accepting a new job, we evaluated the presence or absence of restorative niches as carefully as we consider the family leave policy or health insurance plans. Introverts should ask themselves: Will this job allow me to spend time on in-character activities like, for example, reading, strategizing, writing, and researching? Will I have a private workspace or be subject to the constant demands of an open office plan? If the job doesn't give me enough restorative niches, will I have enough free time on evenings and weekends to grant them to myself?


We all write our life stories as if we were novelists, [Northwestern University psychologist Dan] McAdams believes, with beginnings, conflicts, turning points, and endings. And the way we characterize our past setbacks profoundly influences how satisfied we are with our current lives. Unhappy people tend to see setbacks as contaminants that ruined an otherwise good thing ("I was never the same again after my wife left me"), while generative adults see them as blessings in disguise ("The divorce was the most painful thing that ever happened to me, but I'm so much happier with my new wife"). Those who live the most fully realized lives--giving back to their families, societies, and ultimately themselves--tend to find meaning in their obstacles. In a sense, McAdams has breathed new life into one of the great insights of Western mythology: that where we stumble is where our treasure lies.

3.24.2015

to escape, you have to accept the fall when you are thrown

  • Do you believe in destiny, fate or free will?
    sure - as if any of us have a concrete clue about any of it! I sometimes think that all our complex philosophical conundrums are only so much squirrel chittering.
  • If you could talk to one species of animal which would it be?
    platypus. I want to know what all that stuff's about.
  • If you had friends 'round, what DVDs would you have to watch?
    depends on the friends, of course. I'm into classic (old, critically acclaimed) films with my parents, newer and art-house sorts of movies with D&R (though he's more the shit-blowing-up sort, and she's the happy-ever-after queen of the universe), and wackadoo independent stuff on my own. I have a very large movie collection (and access to a zillion times more, of course) so it can really be tailored to the moment.
  • Do you like vanilla or chocolate?
    yep. I probably have chocolate more regularly, but I've definitely had a hankering for a vanilla milkshake lately. Maybe tomorrow morning, I can make that happen. (Break time!)
  • Are you a giver or a receiver?
    sorta yeah, sorta no. I'm incredibly awkward with receiving "big things", but at ease with things like alternating paying for meals or spotting a round of drinks. Or with asking if a friend can loan me money (and then paying it back promptly) when I'm in need of a Coke or something of the sort, too.
  • Do you have any enemies?
    I suppose, in a sense. There are a couple of people that I'm likely to have confrontations with at some point, with whom I'd prefer to never come in contact. I'm not actively targeting them in any sense at all (except maybe spiritually, which only dings my own aura), though.
  • Are you scared of needles?
    nope. Not a huge fan of having blood drawn, but it would be seriously hypocritical to whine about needles at this point.
  • How many piercings do you have--if any?
    six. I keep thinking about getting one more (I like odd numbers and asymmetry) but can't settle on where to put it.
  • Have you ever got majorly lost trying to get somewhere?
    yep. I saw a great deal of the lower peninsula of Michigan once, inadvertently, on my way back west. And notoriously wandered about the lakeshore in Chicago, looking for a hotel.

    Being lost isn't the worst thing in the world.
  • Do you say "Zee" or "Zed" to describe the letter Z?
    I say "zee." I don't actually know anyone (anymore) who would say "zed", and, outside the countries where it is standard to do so, I would find it enormously pretentious. (I find anti-American [or vehemently pro-foreign] Americans very trying. Not that I'm so patriotic, but the protests seem so "firstworldproblems"-ish.)
  • What was the last thing to make you feel happy?
    my friends' teenaged kid hurtled down a flight of stairs yelling "Nooooooo!" when told by it's parent that I was leaving after spending the night at their house. I was then glommed (?) upon in a 5-minute hug and good-naturedly whined at not to leave. I felt loved, accepted, and appreciated.
  • What was the last thing to make you feel angry?
    work.
    I. Don't. Get. It.

    People keep telling me to give it time, that it will come. But I don't feel like I'm being given the tools to eventually do this job on my own. I feel like there's an expectation that I will just "pick it up", although a great deal of the job is not a task or a skill but reams of material to memorize (and exceptions to note). It is horribly complex, while still being endlessly dull for large chunks of time each day.

    I really don't get it.
  • You are walking to work. There is a dog drowning in the canal on the side of the street. Your boss told you if you are late one more time you're fired. Do you save the dog?
    exchange the dog with a cat and you know the answer in a heartbeat.

    I would likely still try to save a dog.

    I couldn't work for someone who couldn't make exceptions. Who couldn't recognize the gray in between the tiny stripes of black and white on the margins.
  • Are you the kind of friend you'd want to have as a friend yourself?
    in terms of my capacity for friendship and the various qualities that are valuable within it, certainly. But, to have a friend who is just like me? No thank you. I'm better with someone who's a counterpoint to me in some way: more argumentative, more loving, more forthright, more attractive, more outgoing, more demonstrative. That allows me to be me, without trying to be all (or any) of that, too.
  • Do you have any questions or queries about things you're just too scared or embarrassed to ask anyone about?
    of course. There's no one among us who's fully willing to blurt out whatever, whenever. I want to know how my best friends manage to create and maintain such amazing marriages. I want to know what the lizard-brain attorney was thinking. (For that matter, knowing what anyone was thinking, ever, would be lovely.) I want to know what really happened the night that was lost in the mist with Rowdy. I want to know what changed, with my former physical therapist's former girlfriend.
  • If you were a wrestler what would your stage name be?
    According to Seventh Sanctum, I answer to "Barbara the Mean".

    Alternately, according to TheWrestlingFan.com, I go by "Stench Beefgnaw".

    The final alternative, from KROC, gives me Mighty Spawn.
  • ...and what would your special move be called?
    I'm a big fan of everybody's favorite, the bridging cobra clutch. We can call it The Gerbalicious Special.

[ripped from here and carved into pieces; the title quotation is by Deng Ming-Dao, from Everyday Tao, and reads in its entirety: "Grappling with fate is like meeting an expert wrestler: to escape, you have to accept the fall when you are thrown. The only thing that counts is whether you get back up."]

3.22.2015

skill and pains, bring fruitful gains

It's snowing. After a couple of weeks of spring weather, it's winter again in a big way. We're supposed to get 5-8" overnight, which should be a big mess by the time the temperature hits 38° tomorrow afternoon.

This was a productive weekend, out of character for me. Right after work on Friday, I headed to a friend's house. Their teenaged child will be confirmed in a month or so, and they're getting their house freshened up for the party. A couple of weeks ago I was there for re-flooring a room. This weekend was for painting the living room. On Friday night, we moved all the furniture out and took everything off the walls. Then we Spackled the parts of the walls that needed smoothing, taped off all that needed to be protected, and cleaned. Saturday morning (I stayed over), we got up really quite early and got started. They sanded down the Spackle mounds, I taped some that had been missed the night before (it's just not the easiest thing to do without daylight), and we assembled all the paint supplies. Then they got started. I don't have any confidence for painting, so I was mainly the gofer, re-loader for rollers, switch-plate remover, work light holder, step stool mover, etc. I was up and down that ladder a hundred times, and up and down the stairs to the basement another fifty times, at least! The amazing thing is that we finished the entire room in one day, with an unexpected stop in the middle to trundle into town for more paint. (Why is there never quite enough?)

Today, we went to a local builder's show. There were booths for various house-related companies (contractors, tile installers, window distributors, etc.) and a lot of boats. The big hit was a company that sells cold-blooded pets, though I was glad to stay away from that.

I also managed to read a couple of books of poetry (April is poetry month!) and most of a novel. And folded and stored all my clean laundry. And wrote a couple of letters. Oh, and I got a plant for my office (because it would be sad if I only had plants in five different locations - which had been the case for the last 4 1/2 months).

It would be wise if I went to sleep right now and got up a bit early, because tomorrow's commute is likely to be treacherous. Not so much because of the weather conditions (really, with the ground thawed in most places, it ought not be bad at all) but because people are crazy and will be driving like maniacs. Best to get there and parked before the real wildness happens. I have plans for lunch with a friend I've known since college, which will be fun. It will at least make Monday less Monday, anyway.

[the title quotation is by William Lawson, from A New Orchard and Garden {1597}]

3.19.2015

sit down to write what you have thought, and not to think what you shall write

  • Are you a good cleaner? I used to think that I was, but have begun to realize that life is just a series of half-finished attempts and miscommunicated mistakes. In other words: no, it's all pretty messy and more often than not, probably my fault, too.
  • Are you a good actor? to the extent that I remain employed, yes
  • Are you a good writer? good question, isn't it? I think that I am. I've been told that I am. But if I can't prove it, than am I, really? Since part (or most, or all) of writing is the production?
  • Have you ever been bungee jumping? no, and I never would. The process and result couldn't appeal any less. How in the world does it end, except ignominiously or worse? I don't even want to know.
  • Have you ever been canoeing/kayaking? yes, on the murky local lake. I've no desire to do it again, either. Ish.
  • What types of holidays do you prefer? quiet
  • What's the furthest you've ever been on holiday? further in my mind (and heart) than in reality. I suppose last May's trip to California was the actual winner in this category.
  • What was your favourite holiday? if this is intended in the British sense, I'll say the vacation in Miami that I took not long after the blog was launched. In the American sense, I'll take July 4. It comes along at a time when a day off from work is a blessing.
  • Where would your dream holiday be? a month-long ramble on the coast, with friends nearby but not right there. A sleek cat for company. Lots of good books and woolly sweaters. And tea.
  • Can you tap dance? no, but it doesn't stop me from clomping around occasionally as if I could--when no one's there to see it. And I would strictly deny it if anyone ever said that I did it.
  • What's your favourite zoo animal? meerkats
  • What's your favourite sport? to play? Table tennis. To watch? Golf.
  • What's your favourite pizza topping? Canadian bacon and fresh tomato

[ripped from here and carved into pieces; the title quotation is by William Cobbett, from A Grammar of the English Language, in a Series of Letters {1818}]

3.16.2015

you need to be brave and respectful and sometimes get out of the way

I've had Tom Waits and Charles Bukowski on the brain for a while, thanks to conversations elsewhere with friends. This is a reading by Waits of Bukowski's "The Laughing Heart," from Betting on the Muse.


And this is Waits' "I Hope that I Don't Fall in Love With You" from The Early Years Vol. II.


This is Bukowski himself, reading "Consummation of Grief"--my favorite of his poems, from Mockingbird Wish Me Luck.



[the title quotation is by Tom Waits, and reads in its entirety: "When you're writing, you're conjuring. It's a ritual, and you need to be brave and respectful and sometimes get out of the way of whatever it is that you're inviting into the room."]