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carding

"Our" consultant and his wife just had their second child - yep, he's been stuck with us long enough to have two kids, with a bit of a gap in between.

I pointed out to the team that we had done gift&card for his first kid...so it seemed we should for this one too.  None of the people who used to do that sort of thing are around anymore.  People agreed we should do it so...I'm getting the card, collecting the money, and getting a gift.  Which I don't mind, but...

I had a lot of trouble choosing a card.  We know the gender of the child, but I dislike every single gender-specific card I've seen.  And all the gender-neutral cards seem to imply not knowing the gender, or not caring enough to have found out.

If I'd planned ahead more, I could have hand-crafted a card like my sister does.  But anything I did now would look cheap&nasty.

Three days seems awfully young to be saddled with gender assumptions.  Thinking back...wow, Mom did a pretty good job of letting me figure out for myself who I was.  Which is incredible for 1970s rural Iowa.

In contrast, my teachers told me "girls don't do that" when I tried ot defend myself from a bully.  There were instructors in college and grad school who assumed i couldn't properly do math or science.  Some bosses have given everyone, including me, a fair shake; others have been baldly sexist.  Most of which I responded to with bafflement, then did my own thing despite them.

Thank you, Mom.

oven-warming

New oven:  electric, double oven (one with convection option - haven't tried that out yet).  Ever so much nicer than my old one.  Lots of burner options on the flat surface, and a nice light that stays on until the surface falls below 150 degrees.  There are times when gas would be preferable, but I'm used to electric.  If I want a gas burner for certain things, I can get a single portable one.

Sprang for a new refrigerator too.  Nothing fancy.  Small - big enough for my needs but nothing extra.  Freezer on bottom.  No water/ice; I dislike those - just another thing to maintain and keep clean.

To christen the new oven, I cooked fancy food over the weekend.  Based mostly on recipes from Taste of Persia.

  • Thanksgiving pumpkin rice:  a nice round squash stuffed with rice and fruit and walnuts, then baked.  I didn't have sour plums so I substituted gooseberries.  I also added some chickpeas, because I generally find a way to add beans to most of my meals.

  • Duck "fesenjan":  a stew of pomegranate molasses and ground walnuts.  I rendered the fat off a couple of duck breasts, then added the cut-up meat and some of the fat to the stew.  I put "fesanjan" in quotes because I don't want to imply I can do authentic Persian cooking.  I did stick fairly close to the recipe, but I should at least go to the Persian restaurant in Madison to see how mine compares.  Anyway, authentic or not, it tasted wonderful, and paired well with the squash rice.

  • Brussels sprouts fried in duck fat.  Not from the cookbook.  Added some garlic and pepper, and dressed with the meyer lemon juice.

  • Miscellaneous fruit cheesecake, using a bag of fruit I found during freezer cleanout (I think raspberry and mango).  I tried to make a glaze of ruby tango and meyer lemon, but didn't get the consistency quite right.  Still tasty, though.  Tequila whipped cream, using tasty Espolon tequila blanco.

Prior to the cooking, I splurged by going to all the "good" grocery stores.  Which explains the $7 finger of goat sausage in the fridge, and the many cheeses.  Metcalfe's has an "orphan cheeses" basket:  wrapped and labeled tiny bits of different cheeses.  Squares of 15-year cheddar smaller than a matchbook.  And Brennan's has all the fruits (that's where I found gooseberries).  Pricey, but free samples everywhere.  It was a very satisfying shopping spree.

In unrelated news, a few nights ago I dreamed I was beheaded.  Can't remember the details leading up to it, I just recall really tensing up and trying to keep my severed head perfectly in place on my body.  I recall noting in my dream that I wasn't nearly as creeped out by it all as I'd expected.

In other unrelated news, another teammate has given notice.  This week, about a third of the remaining team is on vacation and at least a third is down with various nasty viruses.

Tomato seedlings are all up; pepper seedlings are mostly up.  This week I will start okra, tomatillo, ground cherry, and a bunch of herbs and flowers.  I have rented a kick-style sod cutter and am taking my frustrations out on the yard, clearing the area for the new (ridiculously large) asparagus bed; after that I will clear more space for yet again still more garden rows. 

If you wait long enough by the river...

About 15 years ago...I was carefully shoveling a large snowstorm off my long driveway.  All went well.  I then celebrated by going to the front yard to play in the snow.  It wasn't good snowman snow, so I decided to build a snow "effigy mound".  Which means I shoveled snow into decorative piles.  (Yes, my idea of fun after shoveling was, apparently, more shoveling.)  And while doing this...I hurt my back.
Hours of driveway shoveling safely done, and I forget to be careful and hurt myself while playing.

For any who have had sciatic pain...I don't have to describe.  I'm no slouch about pain, but this brought tears to my eyes.  The only way to ease the pressure was to lay on my side with ny left knee slung as far forward as possible and my left shoulder slung as far back as possible, and to stretch vertically a little.  Fifteen years later and I still remember it well:  I did this on the tabletop so I could grab the table edges and sufficiently extend the stretch.  In two days, I was starting a new job that I desperately needed.  I got there, and for the next two weeks I spent eight hours a day at a cramped, ergonomically unfortunate temporary desk.

In the 15 years of driveway-shoveling and general life since, I've had no back problems of any note.  So, that's good at least.  This is a lesson I won't un-learn.

But it left its mark.  The lower part of my left leg no longer responded to some commands.  I spent some time dragging the foot around Igor-style.  That improved, at least in part just because I learned to compensate.  My left calf developed an obvious divot where a muscle just...wasn't anymore.  I am incapable of pushing myself on tiptoe on that foot.  There are downstream effects of such an injury:  the body is no longer balanced, and everything becomes a bit...twisted...to compensate.  That said, I functioned fine:  hiking, multiple summers of sword camp...there were just certain actions I couldn't trust my body to do,at least not in any traditional way.

Then earlier this year, I had a bout of what felt like sciatic pain.  Except...everything in my back was lined up just fine.  And...it wasn't sciatic pain:  I could function just fine.  When you have pain due to a sciatic nerve issue, there are certain things your body just won't allow you to do, but in this case I could pick up groceries and everything.  The pain went on for...geez, at least 6 weeks.  Then it began to ease.

And I began to be able to do things with that leg that I hadn't been able to do in over a decade.  Before, when trying to stand on tiptoe, the leg just didn't seem to receive the signal at all.  Now, it's just exceedingly weak - but it's trying.  I am doing exercises to help it along as best I can.  The calf muscle is no longer quite as divoted as it was.  And the body feels like it is slowly, slightly, starting to un-twist itself.

Best guess:  whatever nerve damage I had, it's at least partially repaired itself.  I think that bout of not-sciatic pain was part of the reconnection/reboot.  This is I think plausible:  nerve damage can repair itself, but the repairs are measured in millimeters and years.  I am cautiously optimistic.  I had always been very keen on having a balanced, even body, and it was extremely frustrating for me when that went away.

Also, bodies are cool.

comfort plants

In other news, I've been self-medicating by buying plants, thinking about seeds, and planning spring projects.

From Prairie Moon, I ordered a 38-plug tray of new jersey tea, shrubby st. john's wort, and late figwort.
From Edible Landscaping, 4 small pawpaws, to go under/near the pears.
From Stark, 2 Whitney crabapples and 2 hardy apricots.
I've never ordered from any of those places before, but I think will be ok.

Mom's mincemeat recipe asks for the juice from a jar of pickled Whitney crabapples.  (And yes, I also have the pickle recipe.)

The last couple of days were sleety but now it's once again sunny and above freezing.  I continue to feel like I should be starting seeds already, and planning for the growing season to start early.

potential recycled boss

I'm not a big fan of hope.  It allows a person to avoid the reality of potential problems; hopeful people tend to not plan for what would happen if the thing they're hoping for doesn't come to pass.  But it's hard to not feel hopeful when presented with what seems a relatively easy way out of an unpleasant situation.

There is an opening on the team down the hall.  It looks like a reasonably good fit, and I think the pay is sufficiently similar.
It would allow me to get away from the current job without losing the benefits of no dress code, 5 weeks of vacation, a free cellphone and plan, etc.
I've been on the current team...geez, five years?  I need a change of scenery, so I can stop fixating on things that will never be altered.
I need to free up that part of my mind again; there are a lot of other things in the world that I should be spending time and energy on.

As soon as I found out about the job, I started to feel better.  Hopeful.  I talked with another ex-teammate who took refuge on that team a while back, to get a feel for what the work might be like.  We also talked about feeling like a heel for leaving the team - he felt the same way.  But the teammates I've talked to have told me to take the opportunity and get away.  And I know, I cannot save that team.  We've tried and tried....

But at the moment, it is only hope.  I've mentioned it to current boss.  Tomorrow, I meet with potential new boss.  Who used to be my boss, a long time back; we got along well.  Technically, I used to be on that team, but with the Conversion it changed beyond recognition, and the work is quite different now.  Not quite sure how they managed to get an opening posted when we can't even get the okay to fill the opening for the person we lost.  But, not complaining.

Thks week, more overtime.  Just like every week so far this year.  Most weeks over 50 hours, one week 70 hours, a couple weeks only 45 hours.  Lately, averaging 20 meeting invites a week (I don't quite get to them all).

Lanesboro, sink, oven-fire

Going to MN to attend the wedding of two lesbians from Taiwan was indeed good for the soul, and much appreciated in these dark times.
The wedding was tiny - just my brother and his wife and the happy couple, and two of us as witnesses.  Then chocolate cake.

We stayed at the Stone Mill B&B in Lanesboro - very pleasant.  We did a lot of walking around town - brother's condo is at the top of a steep hill; the walking felt wonderful after so much sitting at a desk lately.  Beautiful scenery in Lanesboro, and a small fabric shop, and art shops.

At one stop, I found what is apparently the sink I've been waiting for, from Joel Sampson.  A pottery sink, based on a lotus leaf.  The next inside-house project is a complete gut-and-remodel of the guest bath.  I basically knew what I wanted to do, and had intended to use an ok sink from Menards...but this is way cooler and not much more expensive.  And it's crystallized some design details for me.  I'm still comfortable with doing all the work myself - will be the largest project I've taken on, but I'm barely moving the plumbing, probably not moving any electrical, and not cutting into anything structural.  I'm looking forward to the project.

The drive back was pleasant and scenic.  Dinner with Z - vegetable fajitas.

Then, back to the salt mines.  As of Friday, I'd already logged 68 hours of overtime for the year (even with taking 2 days of vacation).  Somewhere in there I managed to fit in a gripe session with boss...which didn't help much.  I think things will taper off a bit, for me at least...not necessarily for the rest of the team.  But they could easily flare up again, due to all the neglected things that, even with overtime, haven't been addressed and are going to need attention soon.  It is so very inefficient to have multiple people going to so many meetings...I attended 20 meetings last week - which really puts a damper on getting any actual work done (especially when I can't rid myself of the "hold music" earworm).  The mental whiplash of trying to switch back and forth between completely disjoint projects/topics isn't helping either.

Somewhere in there, I finally joined twitter.  More as a consumer than a producer, currently:  to follow some news, and news-related people.

And I got in a little yardwork time over the weekend.  Clearing brush from the site of one spring project - partly in the hope of reducing the tick population in that area.

The first round of "soil sprouts" turned out well - just as idiot-proof as advertised.  I will grow more; a dead-easy source of truly fresh greens in Wisconsin in the winter is much appreciated.

While baking brownies last week, I heard a noise from the kitchen - like a junebug caught in a window, if the junebug were six feet tall.  I turned around, to see the inside of my oven glowing like the gates of hell.  I had simultaneous thoughts of "shit! my house!  where are the cats?!" and "COOL!!".  I turned off the oven.  Then, feeling less trusting of it than I had, I unplugged it.  Pretty sure the heating element shorted out and all I need to do is replace it.  But that thing is old and filthy and has never run true to temp (and the fault isn't linear, so baking gets very tricky).  This seems like a good excuse to get a new one.  Maybe also a shiny new fridge, we'll see.

(The brownies survived the fire.  Cherry-pecan.)

the day after

Friday, Z came over.  We thought an appropriately disturbing film to watch on inauguration day would be The Birth of a Nation (the 1914 film, not the 2016 one).  Got about 15 minutes in...nope.  Switched to fluffy tv.
And we vented, and talked about how to approach the coming years; I appreciated that, as some of my friends aren't ready to face things yet, and I'm trying to respect that.  For my part...I am a non-joiner, so I must find other ways to try to help make things better.  To "maintian the individual within the herd", as it says on the spirit guide my friends once helped pick out for me.

Saturday, K brought Pho King for lunch, then we headed over to Madison.  We arrived as the marches were starting to break up; being downtown Madison, the post-march vibe lasted all night.  We went to Chazen and saw (among other things) Beth Cavener's "L’Amante" - pic below.  Then we took Karen to see the John Muir desk.  Then we walked and walked...went to a fantastic art supplies store, and A Room of One's Own bookstore.   Then dinner at Kabul.  I had vegetarian ashak (scallion-filled dumplings with beans and yogurt sauce), topped with bamya (okra with spices).  I never knew scallions could taste that good.

At the bookstore, I got Taste of Persia, The Complete Persepolis, and Born a Crime.
Also on the current reading list are Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening and The Bio-Integrated Farm.

Next week I'm escaping work (and missing at least six meetings, including an "all hands") to go to MN:  eldest brother's daughter (by adoption/patronage/friendship) and her girlfriend are visiting from Japan and they're getting married.  I hope the weather cooperates so I can go; scheduling winter travel is always tricky.

fortress of squalitude

There has been yelling and crying at work (so far, just yelling from me).  The re-org could only even marginally work if we added people...but after the re-org the managers got the word that none of the promised people would be added.  Then one teammate left - a very reasonable response, since they had re-orged away all of his most interesting work and effectively demoted him, even though he's one of the best people on the team.
Bosses were caught off-guard by the lack of people and don't know how to re-re-org.  And newBoss and idiotBoss are way not on the same page about where to go.  The result being that we're all frustrated and overworked and almost completely without direction.  I did have a good talk with newBoss, and wrote up some stuff for him that might help a tiny bit, and reiterated that if they don't get their shit&message together immediately, they will lose more people.
The main project I'm on is mostly not falling apart now.  But I just picked up two more projects that seem determined to ruin themselves - I have nothing like enough attention to give them.  In my current position, I'm not supposed to have any projects past some initial triage/guidance but...re-org/headcount.
I got a promotion out of the deal...but the new job title didn't have any of the right permissions in the system - I'm still trying to reconstruct the access that I had before.

Well anyway, Friday was vacation.  Today was holiday.  Tomorrow is my work-from-home day.  I've holed up and haven't left my property since I got home Thursday night.  I'm exhibiting the signs of a significant drop in stress levels.  (I now officially have no family obligations for the holidays...I'd prefer it if Mom were still around, and I'd prefer it if more of the family talked to each other.  But they still talk to me at least.  And I'm fine with a semblance of holiday observance no longer being required of me.)

Housecleaning, poring over seed catalogs, posting seed reviews, sleeping....
Made experimental...let's call it a vegetarian gumbo lasagna.  And experimental cranberry cherry walnut pie with sort of a fruitcake topping.
Both turned out shockingly well.
jtj608 came over and we watched the Doctor Who Christmas special.
I finally ordered K's belated birthday gift - and a couple things for myself.
Tonight, more seed orders.  Or maybe I'll work on C's birthday gift, or that pocket-ful skirt I keep meaning to make out of the old cargo pants.
Or, maybe I'll play games on my phone and take another nap.  8am meeting tomorrow, and a 2-hour meeting for one of the new doomed projects.

Grateful that I'm not in North Dakota, with the blizzard and ice and wind.  We have some serious wind here, but it was 43 degrees today.
Yesterday I hear a birdsong that I associate with impending spring - which freaked me out a bit.

Manabu Ikeda

Last week we made it to Chazen, to see Manabu Ikeda's work - "Rebirth" - before it went to Japan.
It was like pulling teeth to get out of work early, but well worth it.  Pictures and videos of the art/artist here and here.
He spent three years on it.

An earlier work - "Meltdown" - is also at Chazen.

The earthquake/tsunami/meltdown is still heartwrenching to think about.

I could have stared at Ikeda's work for hours or days.
Chazen has some nice stuff...wandered about a bit.  I should get to UW more.

After, we stopped at Browzer's bookstore - I got there 10 minutes before close.

There was a game that night, so the wait at Dotty's was over an hour.
So we went to Porta Bella for dinner instead.  We all had chocolate tartufo for dessert.

the last 6 weeks or so

I (voted first then) drank bourbon for 6 hours, but still survived the election.  I was one of the weird ones who wasn't entirely surprised by the outcome.  Deeply, deeply disappointed, but not surprised.  I've decided the best response is to try to be a better, kinder person.  I'm not sure I've made much progress yet.

A friend once said "a perceived injustice is still an injustice".  There are people who perceive themselves as being disadvantaged and ignored - and voted accordingly.  Berating them does nothing but add to the discord.  But I'm not sure yet how best to defuse/redirect/repair.  I took vacation the entire week of the election - it's a mixed group of voters, and some are quite vocal, and I wasn't ready yet.

The current big project at work is...too many kinds of messed up to enumerate.  The way things work (for all projects, not just this one) is that the consulting company writes our design, and we hope we are able to correct it before we are expected to implement it.
Meanwhile, our teams had an internal re-org, to try to do something that isn't going to work with the available headcount.  And even if we did have enough people, half the team gets the short end of the stick.  We've already lost one teammate who had all the work he loved best ripped away from him.  For my part - what I do isn't changing much, except there is somehow now even more of it.  Oh, and I got a promotion...and some automated system somewhere disabled all my permissions because of it.

I took in Z's cat - WoolyBear, the tortoiseshell manx that turned up in my yard.  Z needed to move the house rabbits back downstairs, and there just wasn't any way to keep predators and prey separated.  WoolyBear seemed a bit off; we initially thought it was bad teeth, but the eventual conclusion was intestinal cancer.  She was with me for only three weeks; she died Friday evening.  She was a real sweetie - purring and sleeping on my head every night until she was too weak to get to the bed.  Well, even after that, as she would gaze up pleadingly and I'd lift her up and she'd settle in.  Even in the final days she'd painstakingly, politely make her way to the closest litterbox, or as close as she could get - then need a nap before she could travel the six feet back to her fuzzy blanket on the floor.  I gave her pain meds and subcutaneous fluids and petting.  She went quietly at home, spared yet again still another trip to the vet.

I first saw her a year ago, sleeping in a pile of sun-dappled leaves along the edge of the white pines.  That's where and how I buried her.

I'm just now reading through my friends feed for the first time in over a month.  It seems there are plenty of troubles to go around.

But there's good stuff too.  A friend who's been in the hospital for various things most of the year is on track to go home soon.  Friends were over a couple weekends ago for gaming and it was very pleasant.  Z and K came over for a low-key Thanksgiving meal and socializing.  I finished my sword holder.  I've been reading more.