My People’s Keeper

Listening Ears

The last month or so has been an exercise in emotional control and perseverance: there are the usual challenges (it’s the last productive month before people start to serially take off for holidays, trying to eat healthily when people bring in baked goods is difficult, etc.) and new and unwelcome ones (a dear friend has passed on, the car decided I needed to spend some serious cash on it, a coworker is leaving which in turn throws into sharp relief just how much I can separate work and life). As such I haven’t had time to blog or really reflect on much: I’ve spent most of the month reacting and creating contingency plans.

As November is gone and I find myself firmly in the twelfth month, I have either got better at dealing with these challenges or I’ve become numb to their effect. The result is that I can finally take some time to concentrate on a (relatively) new concept: being self-aware and open-minded during challenging times (especially meetings).

We’ve had some training on this recently at the ‘soft, and courtesy of a side-program I’m getting a larger tutorial in how perspective can shape an entire interaction for the better (or worse). Traditionally I am not one to necessarily assume the best of intentions in dealing with someone during conflict — it’s something most people do not default to. (I know of one person who I think can honestly say that during a contentious debate can keep her “opponent” in a positive light; it’s fitting that she is the extremely patient Executive Director of a nonprofit devoted to helping schoolchildren (and teenagers alike)).

The idea of unconscious bias is not a new one, it’s the reason I assume the teenager in the brand new Porsche in front of me is spoiled rotten (instead of thinking they may be enjoying a ride with Mom or Grandma in their car), that the guy who cut me off on the freeway is a jerk (instead of hoping that whatever emergency they’re rushing off to is quickly resolved), that the person at work who hasn’t got back to me is a slacker (instead of positing that their workload is just as heavy as mine). It’s the reason some bosses assume it is ill-advised to hire single mothers (and some deliberately hire them), why some tourists raise their voice to speak English increasingly loudly to the people who don’t understand them, and why most people think NPR listeners are Loony Lefty Libs. (Hi.)

Nor is the concept of self-awareness a new one, if not practiced terribly often. In an era of “selfies” and Kardashians, you’d think self-awareness abounds, but alas it does not. The next time you think you are self aware, check how long it takes you to calm down after an argument with your spouse: that is, once the issue at hand has been resolved and how long until your autonomic nervous system chills out (e.g., your tone of voice changes, your heart rate slows down, you stop grimacing and feeling like you’re still arguing but aren’t really sure about what anymore).

In other words, it’s hard, when the guy has just cut you off and your latte has landed in your lap, to stop and think “gosh I hope he gets there in time”. It’s equally hard to sit in a meeting with someone who is disparaging your product or questioning your priorities to believe they are coming from a positive (or even just productive) space. It’s a skill set to practice and a useful one at work and at home, to be sure.  It’s harder still when the media (“social” and otherwise) is screaming you about the impending Armageddon (be it ISIL or Climate Change or Global Economies or Airbags or Guns or Presidential Candidates), to be positive about much.

The suggested approach (from training, shortly to be invoked in different ways) is to practice active listening: in other words, to let the other person say what they need to say NOT with a view to “how much longer do I have to listen to this drivel” but with an earnest attempt to understand where they are coming from, and acknowledge that position. This, combined with assuming the best of intentions, should serve to deter the impression that the other person is wasting your time/out to get you. The other tool provided includes essentially a “so what are we going to do about it?” mechanism — it’s perfectly fine to air an issue, but come ready to solve it or to commit to solving it. This should serve to ensure that conflict — when it does arise — is used in a positive and productive fashion. These things sound practical and practicable, but I suspect in the heat of the moment they aren’t that easy to call upon. I think, however, it is better to try, in these trying times.

 

 

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Squashing

Friday morning I found myself squatting in a field.

No, not doing that.

Chinook Farms in Snohomish, WA has, or rather had, a few acres of acorn squash it grows for charity. Girl Scouts planted it, the farmer tends to it, and United Way Volunteers pick it and crate it, and it is then shipped to food banks in the surrounding area. Microsoft’s CDnA group (Consumer Data and Analytics) had a cadre of volunteers to do so, of which I was one.  Acorn squash are delicious but their foliage is sharp and laden with micro thorns, I actually wore through spots of a new pair of leather work gloves and have an impressive rash on my forearm (where my “long” sleeve backed off).

The morning started with that crisp, autumnal chill we get in the Northwest that belies an Indian Summer; it was all turning leaves and wishing for pumpkin spice lattes as I drove the windy road into Snohomish. Arriving at the farm I saw some hundred-odd other blue-shirt volunteers, ready to go out and pick squash. Another hundred or so were the contingent from Nordstrom, in crisp white shirts. I signed the photo waiver and so somewhere, out there, there are photos of me with my group, wearing our blue t-shirts, dirty, smiling, posed in front of a pile of acorn squash.

IMG_1851

Pretty sure we didn’t do it right.

Our VP was in the fields with us, tossing squash to collectors; early on we had deviated from instructions and while we did have fairly neat rows of trampled-down, already-picked squash plants in our wake, our piles of squash (to be wheelbarrowed down to the shipping crates) left a lot to be desired in terms of neatness. The Nordstrom folks had symmetrically neat piles, as you would expect.

Several of the volunteers commented that this was hard work and they would thereby appreciate their brain-intensive but body-light regular jobs much moreso. I found this a little wry in terms of the layoffs that occurred the day before: some of us were already in fervent appreciation of still having a job. I mentioned that to my VP (read, 3 levels above) and he said, “That’s a horrible thing to say. Do you like your job?” I replied in affirmative, and I’m not sure that either of us got the point of where the other was coming from. When the sun poked out of the clouds and it got hot, some took to complaining a little more; they were shut down by the volunteer coordinator who pointed out we could have gone to clean the bathrooms in the downtown Seattle YMCA instead. Not a peep after that. I noticed one lady who never complained. She is 7 months pregnant, and was picking squash in the fields with us.

As the group drove away from the farm to the place down the road where free pizza and beer was promised, I drove home; I had a pile of email to wade through that I was (unashamedly) looking forward to. I had done my planned volunteering for the morning, but I still had that job that I love, and am still grateful for, waiting for me.

On the Naming of Me

My name is pretty unusual, in and of that I’ve been challenged by telemarketers, customer service people, and baristas alike that “That can’t be your name” or “What’s your real name?” (As if the sort of person who gives out a fake name would abruptly turn around and provide a real one). My name is in fact Bobbie, although legally it is Roberta; the only people who call me Roberta are telemarketers, teachers, and attorneys.

Per Wolfram Alpha, fewer than 200 people each year are given the name Bobbie (as a given female name – and yes it does say it assumes Bobbie is female). Less than 1 in 3331 people have the name, and the most common age for a person with the name Bobbie is 76 years. (Roberta clocks in at much the same, with 1 in 1823 people having the name and the common age is 57 years).

So it’s safe to say “Bobbie” is an unusual name, and that is that.

Over the years my name has been mangled quite a bit, from the masculine “Bobby” to the alternative female “Bobbi”. I also oftentimes get the email typo of one more o, one less b; for the most part I choose to ignore these and hope the sender goes away. That said, I wasn’t really particularly particular about how people spelled my name (with the exception of that last) until I read Freakonomics.

Freakonomics has a pretty good chapter on Correlation vs. Causality, particularly around naming conventions. The main anecdote is about a man who named his sons Winner and Loser, and the indication that the son named Loser had an extremely successful life, whilst the son named Winner had an extremely unsuccessful one. There is no causality in naming. However it also had a second anecdote, and a study, around names given to female children. Specifically, names that one would associate with strippers.

The idea was thus: if I name my daughter, say, “Bambi” or “Sugar” or something like that, am I dooming her to life on the pole? The short answer is no, you are not. By virtue of naming your daughter anything like that (there is a third indication of a daughter named Temptress who indeed had a pretty name-similar life) you are not going to ensure she ends up with a job whose uniform consists of two ounces of elastic and slightly more than that of glitter. But there’s still a good chance it will happen. Why? Because the parent who names their kid something like that is also probably not going to make sure she gets home in time for a curfew, or is getting her homework done. It’s the correlation – the fact that a parent who names their kid something like that isn’t likely to be hammering on the grades – rather than the causality that drives the preponderance of “Crystals” and the like to the pasties.

As part of this chapter in Freakonomics, there is a list of the top 10 names found amongst strippers at time of publication. The name “Bobbi” – with an “I” – is on that list. The name “Bobbi” with an “I” has a common age of 39. That means those Bobbi’s were born in 1975 or thereabouts, and Freakonomics was published in 2005, with data from studies probably the year previous, and so I think it’s entirely reasonable that their stripper population was about 29 at the time.

Since reading that I’ve made it a point to educate people on the value of the “e”. I don’t look good in glitter.

In Development

I was at a holiday gathering the other day and during the usual course of “…And what do you do?” I replied that I was a developer. The inference was that I was a Real Estate Developer; I had to explain that I was a Make the Computer Do Useful Things Developer. I was talking to two ladies about my age (Hi, I’m 40), and was surprised at the reply: “Oh, that’s unusual!”

I suppose I should not have been. I know a lot of women in IT, but darned few who do development.  To be clear: most of the women I know in the Information Technology space were at one point developers, or have a passing knowledge of some development language. They merged into Project or Product Management, or Business Analyst roles. These roles require knowing what is possible of code without actually having to write any of it, and so if you get tired of the incessant progress of development technology then that is one way up and out (and it is a way I took, about five years ago).

Careers arc and opportunities knock and itches flare up and I am once again a developer.  And I find myself, when talking to people who don’t work with or know other developers, battling not only the usual misconceptions about development, but the gender-based ones as well.

Development (in IT terms) is the handle one applies to the concept of using a series of commands (code) to tell the box (tower, laptop, server, etc.) what you want it to do; if you want it to take in something or not, if you want it to spit out something or not. In order to create this blog post many people did varying forms of development (from creating the templates that instruct the browser how to make this post look all shiny, to the protocols that tell the server where to put this post, to the widgets on the front end that tell you things like I haven’t posted in a while). If I typed it in MS Word, that required a bunch of other development by a bunch of other people.

Development is not:

  1. Something you can do on five screens drinking 3 bottles of wine to create a “worm” that appears as a graphic on your screen (as in Swordfish), and usually doesn’t involve a developer logging an Easter Egg of themselves in a bad Elvis costume with sound effects (as in Jurassic Park)*. If I drank 3 bottles of wine and was looking at 5 screens they’d probably be the ones you see in a hospital room, and the only graphics I would see appearing would be the “worm” that is my heart rate monitor flat-line.  And while I have myself buried Easter Eggs and commentary in code, it isn’t that elaborate because you don’t typically have time to build elaborate things. You’re busy rewriting all of the stuff you just wrote because someone decided to change the scope of your work.
  2. Anything involving a graphic user interface (GUI). When a developer talks about manipulating objects, they are things that are typed out phrases, they are not boxes that are dragged and dropped. There are some development environments that offer up a GUI in tandem with the “scripting” – that bit about writing out words I was talking about – but they are there to illustrate what you have scripted more often than not, and not there to assist in your scripting.
  3. Finite. Development technology is constantly changing and no one developer knows all of the development methods or languages. That would be like someone knowing all of the spoken languages in the world. Rather, it’s typical you’ll find one developer who “speaks” one development language really well, or maybe a branch of languages (much like you run into a person who can speak Spanish and French and Italian, because they are rooted in the same “base” of Latin, it’s not uncommon to find someone who can code in ASP.Net and VB.Net and C#.Net, because they’re all of the Microsoftian .Net base).  No one hires “a developer”, they hire a .Net Developer or a Java Developer or a Ruby Developer or what have you. Specialization exists because the base is so broad.

Modern cinema has done an injustice to developers in terms of making what we do seem both simple and sexy; the “shiny” environments typified by the interfaces “hackers” use on-screen looks really slick and probably took some real developer hours of time to make look good… with absolutely no real purpose. That said, actual development can be simple (with clear requirements and a decent knowledge of the things you can and can’t do) and can be quite sexy (if you’re sapiosexual). It’s just not well-translated in current media. (To wit: Jeff Goldblum uploaded a Virus to an alien system on a Macbook. He didn’t have to know the alien system’s base language, machinery, indexes, program constraints, functions, etc. And it was on a Mac, in the 90’s, for which development was not one of its strengths).

Most of what development is, is trying to solve a problem (or two), and generating endless logic loops and frustrations along the way. You build a “thing”, you think it works, you go to compile it or make it run, it fails, you go dig through what you wrote, find you’re missing a “;” or a “,” or an “END” or a “GO” or a “}”, re-run, find it fails, and go dig through some more. For every hour you spend writing out what you want it to do, you spend about an hour figuring out why it won’t do it.  This process of “expected failure” is not sexy or shiny or ideal, and that’s why it doesn’t show up on-screen.

These are misconceptions every developer, regardless of gender, has had to deal with at some point. Some deign to explain, some gloss over, some simply ignore; much like I really hope we get a socially-functioning, intelligent person on-screen soon, so do I hope that we get a showcase for the simple elegance of real development.

It would be great, too, if there were more female developers on “display” as well (and not for their bodies, hence the scare quotes).  Think through every movie you’ve ever seen that shows people doing any real development, “hacking” even (a term that is abused beyond recognition); how many were female? Go back to the movie “Hackers”—did Angelina Jolie actually, ever, really type anything? You inferred that she did, but the real development, the real “hacking”, was done by the crew-of-guys. Oh, and that’s right, she was the only girl.  The Matrix? Carrie Ann Moss spent precious little time in front of a computer there. She did look damn good in skin-tight leather.

Fast-forward a decade (or two) and we’re pretty much in the same boat. You see women behind computers on-screen, but they are typing in word processing programs or moving the mouse to click it on the shiny picture of the Murderer/Prospective Boyfriend (or, you know, both). They aren’t buried under a desk trying to trace a network cable or eyeballing multicolored text trying to figure out *WHY* it won’t compile, they’re delivering the shiny printout to the Chief/Doctor/Editor from which Decisions Will Be Made.

We find it surprising in social circles, I suppose, for women to be in development, because we don’t see it exemplified or displayed in any of our mediums.  TV, Movies, even proto-development toys for children often feature eager-looking boys interacting with them, the girls are reserved for the beading kits and temporary tattoo sets (actually, there’s precious little out there for getting your child, regardless of gender, to learn code, but that is changing). We have crime-solving anthropologists, we have NCIS ass-kickers, we have cops and coroners;  maybe it’s time we had a developer.

*Jurassic Park is a good example of both great and poor development display. Right before tripping that “Dennis Nedry Elvis Graphic”, Samuel L. Jackson’s character is eyeballing Nedry’s code. That stuff that looks like sentences that don’t make sense? That’s code. That’s what it looks like, for the most part. Unfortunately, later on when the little girl is hacking the “Unix System” that “she knows”, it’s all graphical. And that’s not accurate.

A Pluot Principle

“…And then I heard this guy say, ‘I feel like I’ve missed pluot season’…”

It was a surreal Seattle moment: at a friend’s house for the Sunday before Labor Day, eating fresh, organically home-grown grafted tomatoes from a tomato plant nestled next to kale and squash, with three young urban professionals (not including yours truly and the Editor), one of which we will call John.  (The others we will call K and Margles). John had been on Bremerton for the day, rode the ferry (and heard the above quote), cycled to K and Margles’ house for dinner, and shared the quote.  (Note: my garden failed this season due to rabbits, deer, opossums, raccoons, and possibly a plague of locusts. I’m not bitter.)

There is nothing not Seattle about all of that. From the cycling* and the ferrying and the home-grown tomato-ing and the quoting and the pluot piece, that was all so clearly Seattle it made me ache (appreciatively). It also made me vaguely jealous: somewhere, out there, is someone for whom that is a thing. Someone out there has TIME to worry about whether or not they’ve missed a season of a fruit that is only a recent addition to the fruit sphere.  They’ve worried enough about it that they were talking to someone else about it, like there is some sort of Pluot Appreciation Week or Festival that was missed. (NB: you can get a 12 pack of pluots at Costco. I’m not sure how artisanal they are anymore).

*Not just John who is the cyclist – K and Margles once spent a season doing nearly every long-range ride (including at least two double centuries) the Cascade Bicycle Club arranges. They called this “fun”.

What I am getting at (albeit laboriously) is it seems to me, more often as of late, that there are a wide variety of things out there to learn/do/participate in/obsess on and a diminished resource of time, and that some of the prioritization I have had to make of late (work… obsessive housecleaning…) combat with this time scarcity issue.  I’m not entirely sure if this realization is driven from a burgeoning sense of mortality or if this is something that’s been floating around in my head for a while and now it’s just beginning to gel. I find myself increasingly weighing the experiential benefits of a reorganized library or an extra couple of hours’ sleep on the weekend against a bike ride or sailing or woodworking or such. In effect, the culmination of years of only marginally completed “to-do lists” seems to be weighing in more heavily as I head to 40. This is compounded by the fact that I am the product of four hyper-driven parents, each with hobbies that involve activity and analysis (cataloging, if you will).

I haven’t been entirely a bump on a log this time, and have done a little cycling here and there, for example. But I think it’s time to start a new list and drive a little harder on it.

Item one: experience pluots. Before they go out of season.

Plus One To Self Worth

In Dungeons and Dragons (yes, I used to play D&D, get over it) the very first thing you do, once your DM has declared the arena in which you are playing (or RIFTS — we did that too), is you wrote up your Character Sheet. Inevitably a piece of Xeroxed paper, it had check boxes and blank spaces for you to detail your character’s physical appearance, social abilities, physical, mental, and emotional abilities/proclivities, as well as a back story. It was not uncommon for everyone’s character to be a fantastically good-looking crack-shot nuclear physicist and ace-pro lover, ala Buckaroo Banzai, but there would be the “fatal flaw” they’d introduce in their character: you know, to remain interesting.

Life doesn’t hand you a character sheet. You are given the looks you inherit genetically, you are alloted the IQ points that amass themselves in your grey matter. Your character, however, is something you can develop and change. (Yes, you can “train your brain”. Yes, you can use surgery to enhance your physical appearance. But really, your character is something both easier and harder to manipulate, and it’s what we’re discussing here, so let’s ignore the caveats and nota benes, shall we?)

One of the best speeches in recent movie history was in The American President, where Michael Douglas’ president makes the statement that a the upcoming presidential race would be *entirely* about character. Any race: presidential, rat, or otherwise, is about character.

I’ve spent some time evaluating the things about myself I don’t like: I send emails too quickly, I take things to heart too easily, I spend too much time worrying about others opinions, I continue to not have the discipline to have the physique I’d like. Some of these are correctable via self-direction, some of these I will have to run into a brick wall or two in order to acquire the necessary mental note. Others seem doomed to compromise: my weight being one of them. 

I’ve known a few people who have taken stock of their life completely, and turned it around in a fashion amazing to those who knew them well and those who knew them casually. One good friend lost nearly a hundred pounds,  got divorced, acquired all sorts of new hobbies (including running, triathlons, and barhopping); another lost a significant amount of weight (she is not telling, nor should she), stayed married, took control over her education and career and is literally living the dream in Hawaii. Some friends have made changes not so sweeping: leaving an unsatisfying job, taking on new hobbies, reinvesting in their health; I think part of the human condition is to self-evaluate and, for some of us, to target improvements.

I have no idea how much of this is driven by the checklist mentality or the presumptive dopamine rush that comes from living this way. I do know that I have a few things I’d like to change, and maybe if I’m open and outward about them, and write them down, and profess them, if not in a character sheet with 8 or 12 friends and a 20-sided dice but in a blog with 8 or 12 readers and a 20-sided life, maybe then, I can upgrade my character.

Resolve

I have no resolutions this year.

Available data indicates that I’m not terribly good at keeping them, and that the things that need to get done get done anyway. Ergo, no formal resolutions. There is the list, which is the same list I tackle every year. This year includes finally learning to drive a stick shift (lesson two is next Saturday) and learning to ski; there is also some plan to get my Spanish back in gear. Oh, and there’s the STP and apparently I’m back in a book club (thanks, Carla).

I have no problem with other people’s resolutions… save one. The gym resolution. Now, many folks resolve to get in shape in the new year. Some have attainable goals (I’m going to lose 10 pounds! 20! 30! in 2/4/6 months!). Some have wildly fantastic goals (I’m going to lose 50 pounds by April!). And one and all, they arrive at the gym on 2 January, clogging up my classes. For those of us who were there the day before Thanksgiving and on December 23rd, as well as December 27th, 28th, 29th, and 30th, the inevitable barrage of well-intentioned people into the gym class means that we have to get to each class extra extra early (example: proper etiquette is to arrive at spin class 5 or even 10 minutes early to get your bike, fill your water, acquire the appropriate towelage, figure out if you really want to be behind *that* person, if you really want to be in front of *that other* person, etc. In the Resoluter Month, you need to arrive 20 minutes early to do all that *and* navigate around the newbies).

I would wager that most of these folks are gone by the end of January — maybe February. So it’s a discomfort of short duration. I think I can get through that. And if that’s the most I have to complain about, well, then, my life’s pretty darned good.

Drive

There is a really, really good short video on “Drive”, aka, what drives people. What makes them want to succeed. And things not to try in that venue.  You can get it here.

I have spent  the last two days in Vegas surrounding various concepts of “drive”. How to drive money. How to drive production. How to drive traffic. How to drive employees.  How to drive change, innovation, and how to drive drive itself. You name it, we have contingency plans to push it. We are a V8^2 machine, on racing fuel, listening to Metallica.

This evening’s party was at Gillys at Treasure Island. For those of you not familiar with Gilly’s it features bikini-and-chaps clad drink waitresses and a mechanical bull. And really, that about sums it up, doesn’t it?

Except yours truly decided to find something to do. Now when you’re at Work-Fun events, usually there’s a center of interest — sometimes it’s the “boss”, sometimes its the event itself, but this event was about release. And there was a mechanical bull.

I decided to work on my powers of persuasion. You see, I’m a geek. I was trained to ferret out information, issues, data, contingencies, anomalies. I was not trained to convince, addle, wheedle, or persuade. This is something that has, until recently, been merely a hobby.

I am proud to report I got someone up on the mechanical bull. The fact that he nearly broke his nose is not a point of pride… he is clearly more man than I … and I did NOT succeed in convincing my boss, my boss’ boss, or my boss’ boss’ bosses into doing it. Still: I got one up there.

After nearly two weeks straight of daily work, at 10-16 hour days, to get Plan out (and other initiatives), I find myself exhausted in Las Vegas. I have an incredible room — next post is a hotel review about The Venetian and It’s Inherent Awesomeness in One Thousand Words or Less — and supportive folks and I have no right to whine. I even have Discovery Channel on the telle.

And with that I’m going to it. It’s almost midnight, I have meetings in 8 hours. Whee!

Black Friday

No, I didn’t go shopping. I worked. I worked yesterday too.

I’ll work tomorrow and Sunday. All of this is most unfortunate because I had a series of conference calls and email round-robins with folks as early as July, and yet no one figured out until about a week ago that *something* needed to be done, and apparently it’s me with a huge S on my chest, for “Super” or “Something” or “Silly”, because I’m doing it. By “it” I mean cramming about 7 days worth of work into a 3-day period.

In honor of this momentous occasion, and the fact that by virtue of working I completely missed the two things I was going to purchase on Black Friday (1, I’m in Arizona; 2, the online sales I was after were apparently on Eastern Standard Time and I just finished working for the day. It’s 11pm local), I give you optimism.

Or pessimism.

This all started with a fridge. I’m at my parents house in Scottsdale, Arizona, where they have two refrigerators. One in the kitchen, and one in an anteroom. This isn’t uncommon but what *is* is that both fridges are completely stocked. My mother could be Mormon if she wanted to be; the secondary fridge is stocked with flours and cereals and spare juice and all kinds of things. As we played Tetris to get the Thanksgiving leftovers put away, I remarked that most people’s fridges are only half-full.

Which started, in my head, all of the ways people look at things. I want you to know that between this and distributing a 10-figure sum I stayed up late last night with insomnia.

  • Optimist: the glass is half full.
  • Pessimist: the glass is half empty.
  • Realist: it’s a glass of water.
  • Engineer: the glass is too big for the water it contains.
  • Project Manager: we overspec’d the glass, just in case.
  • My counterpart in Europe: Over here, we say it differently, and we’ve been drinking longer.
  • My counterpart in Asia Pacific: Our glasses are a bit more engineered than yours, you may want to stick with yours.
  • QA Tester: hey, look, you told us to drink from it, but there is no use case for measuring how much water is in there.
  • UAT Tester: so, just the one glass, then?
  • End User: damn, it would’ve been great if the glass was pink.
  • Trader Joe’s Employee: you know, I have a glass just like this at home, and I like to fill it with…
  • My son’s Principal: I’ve been meaning to talk to you about the glass and its contents…
  • My son: well, you see, I tried to make the glass out of Legos, but it couldn’t hold enough water, which is why there’s only what you see there, and if IronMan/Tony Stark made it, it would have had this cool gun on it…
  • My stepmother: you should drink more water.
  • My mother: that glass should be filled with wine.
  • My dog: if the glass has water in it maybe she’ll go to the kitchen to put more water in it and bring me bacon.
  • My postmaster: Are you sure this is your glass? (In reference to the question marks I often get appearing on letters to not-necessarily-me-but-people-I-traffic-mail-for)
  • My stick-shift driving instructor: The important thing to note about the glass is how it sounds different as you drink from it.
  • My best friend: I’m with your mom on the wine thing.
  • My boyfriend: I’m with your best friend on that. Well, not *with* her, I mean honey, I’m really with you, and whatever you want is fine with me. It’s your glass and I support your choices.
  • My boss: Water, huh? You may want to switch that to coffee after this next meeting.
  • My skip level: Can I get a 3-or-4 slide deck, nothing big, with a complete analysis of the glass?
  • TSA Agent: put the glass on the belt, walk through here, and yes there may be less water by the time we’re done.
  • Alton Brown: Water is two hydrogens bonded to an oxygen at a 112 degree covalent bond angle, which explains why it boils/freezes/makes a good base/etc… blah blah blah science meets yummy food.
  • Virtuous Person at Work: is that all the water you’re drinking? I have this 128 ounce BHA free stainless bottle that I tote while riding the bus and bringing in my lunch when not riding my bike the 25 miles in.

and lastly, I give you my father:

  • Drink the goddamn glass of water already.

A Ballet of Another Sort

I live on a 9% grade hill, which is nothing to sneeze at. I’ve biked up it, run up it, walked up it, sashayed, sauntered, and even, once, slunk up it. I can also drive up it, in the snow and ice, even.

Most unlike the unfortunate souls out there this evening.

It’s Snowpocalypse 2010 in Seattle and the Eastside, and here I am looking out my library picture window onto my main street. It’s a two lane road, with one going “up” and one going “down”, bike lanes on either side, generous sidewalk as well. It’s the main drag between the area arterial and most of the McMansions I live amongst.

You can tell who has AWD or knows how to drive in snow and ice: they go thundering on up (or down) the hill at the usual 25 (30, 35) mph. Then there are those who climb the hill…

…and brake. For no apparent reason.

Then they discover they can’t start again, and the melody of skidding, slipping tires fills the air. It’s not long before this is joined by the merry (!) honking of the horn of the person behind them who, instead of simply driving around them, also brakes. And is stuck.

Inevitably, one or more of the cars involved pull over in a sense of despair, put on their hazard lights, and trudge up the hill. A few are on their phones, making arrangements for someone to retrieve them (presumably) at the top of the hill. As they trudge off into the dark, I hear the familiar slithering sounds of the next round of tires.

The resultant detritus stands at six cars currently, 3 of which are minivans. As of this writing my driveway is not blocked but there are, of course, no guarantees.

Sigh. 7.