Sunday, August 28, 2011

Geographically Challenged

While driving down to San Mateo (which, it turns out, is to the south of San Francisco) to visit K-poo a few weeks ago, I drove on a portion of the 80 that I hadn't driven on before. I expected to eventually cross the Bay Bridge to San Francisco -- when I saw a bridge in the distance my first thought was "Hey, I made better time than expected." And then my second thought was "That's not the Bay Bridge". Then I crossed over the short bridge and had no idea what bridge I had just crossed.

That, in a nutshell, has always been my approach to geography. I've lived in or near the SF Bay Area for about fifteen years, and I managed not to realize that SF was on a peninsula for at least the first ten of those. I grew up in Orange County and only know two freeways there. I'd be hard pressed to identify more than half the states on a US map. (To be fair, though, there's no point to all those little states on the east coast, and I don't feel bad about that.) At one point in high school I had memorized all the countries in Africa, but I think at least fifteen of them have changed names since then, so what little knowledge I had is still wrong. (Burkina Faso? Really?)

It's not that I have a bad sense of direction -- even if I take a wrong turn, I can usually figure out how to head back to where I'm trying to go. I just don't know anything about where I am when I get there.

I know that Tahoe is at a higher elevation because that was used as an example in my respiratory physiology class (and the point of the question was to prove why you shouldn't take a dog in heart failure with you to high elevations), but I don't actually have any real idea of where Tahoe is, and I couldn't name the mountain range it's on. Also, I'm pretty sure, but not positive, that I live within a few hours of Tahoe.

So pretty much my grasp of where things are is limited to the following:
1) Is it my house?
2) If it's not my house, have I walked there before?
3) If I haven't walked there before, have I driven myself there within the last two years?

If the answer to all of those is no, it may as well be in Ouagadougou.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Can I keep a secret or what?

While looking for early evidence of my photographic failures, I came across this little gem:

(The title "My Daily Diary" is a lie. It reads somewhat like most of the blogs that you get if you hit the random button on blogspot -- most entries start with an exclamation of how long it had been since the last entry and then conclude that there isn't anything to talk about. It stops completely on page ten.)


Tonight is graduation night for the 8th graders [edit: Eric & Jeff were in 8th grade at the time, I was in 6th, and Mike would have been a sophomore in high school] so Mom, Dad, Eric, and Jeff went to the Arches for dinner. [edit: The Arches was the default nice restaurant for special occasions. I never actually went there.] Shortly after they left Mike told me he was going out to eat pizza and that he would be home before Mom and Dad got home. Well, he did. He walked in the door and said, "I'm asleep in bed." I was doing the dishes at the time so I washed off my hands and went back to his room. He started putting things under the blankets in his bed so Mom and Dad would think it was him if they glanced in the room. I asked him where he was going and he said bowling...

Looking back on this, I can only believe that there is no way in heck my parents didn't know what was going on after they got back, because I kept repeating that Mike had gone to bed without being prompted. I've always been the world's worst liar. Oh well. He turned out to be a productive member of society, and I'm sure his daughters would never, ever do anything like this...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

All's Fair...

The Yolo County Fair was held this weekend. I'm still recovering from the crud I ate at the fair last year, so I didn't go this year, and as a consequence I don't feel like vomiting this year. See, you really can teach an old dog new tricks. (Not my actual old dog, mind you -- she's still tearing up paper plates into little tiny pieces because she can't turn them over -- but the metaphorical old dog, yes.)

Last year I was astonished at how closely my contest choices lined up with ribbons on quilts until I realized that pretty much everything in the entire building had a ribbon on it. I had even threatened to create a quilt and enter it this year to see if there was any way to not win a ribbon.

This year one of my friends entered a photo and won a blue ribbon.

Now, I am in no way saying that his photo didn't deserve to win a top prize in the competition. For all I know his picture is of Ansel Adams quality. True, it's a picture of a baseball diamond, which means that the subject is a little lacking in my book, but I realize not everyone feels this way. But my point here is not the quality of his photo, but the fact that I may have found something that I am even more unqualified to do or judge than quilting.

Back when I was in college the first time, I didn't have an inkling of how bad a photographer I was. Then I took a photography class. In that class I found out that a) I couldn't compose a picture, b) I couldn't get the exposure correct, ever, and c) I couldn't focus the camera if my life depended on it. It's a good thing this wasn't a required course or I'd still be trying to graduate (for the first time).

Because this was back in the dark ages, we developed our own black and white film and printed it. That didn't help things either. My prints were always distinguishable by the fingerprints all over them. Everyone else was doing fancy dodging techniques and experimenting with different sepia tones, and I was trying not to crumple the film into a little ball while getting it out of the canister. The instructor kept looking at my stuff and moving on without making any comment at all.

Anyhow, the point here is not that I suck as a photographer, it's that I realize I suck as a photographer only because someone pointed it out to me. I would have gone through my entire life not realizing how bad I was if I hadn't taken that class. And the thing is -- I still don't understand what makes one photograph better than another. It's like this whole area of my brain is just completely missing. If something has pretty colors and is more or less in focus, hey, looks good to me!

So anyways, congratulations to my friend Keith on his winning entry. Despite the fact that it's a picture of a baseball diamond, the photo has pretty colors and is in focus. I can't ask for more than that.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sounds like...

Another snippet from work:

Present at this time: Ngoc (who previously believed Rvan when he told her married women don't wear heels), JLo (not mentioned on the blog before now -- the funniest thing I can say is that his wife gave him a bottle of a Rogaine knock-off for a present), Jeff, and me. All of us are in our cubicles except JLo who is standing in Ngoc's cube.

Ngoc: (some conversation I didn't hear) "... and what is that called, when you can't remember the words?"
Jeff (mumbling): "Alzheimer's"
Ngoc: "Is it Parkinson's? When you can't remember the words."
Me: "Aphasia?"
Jeff (louder): "Alzheimer's"
Ngoc, JLo (together): "What?"
Jeff: "It's when you can't hear what people are saying."
Ngoc, JLo, me: "What?"
Jeff: "Alzheimer's"
Ngoc: "Oh, Alzheimer's. I always confuse that with Parkinson's. That's like this..."
Me: "Is Ngoc doing Charades of Parkinson's Disease back there?"
Ngoc: "What is Charades?"

And on it goes...

(Amazingly enough, I was super-productive at work today -- despite, or maybe because of, stuff like this.)

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Before I start this, I'd just like to acknowledge that this post really needs a picture, but I just can't do it.

There is a house within a stone's throw of mine that sat vacant for the first eight years I lived in Woodland. Yes, that was during the time that housing prices just kept rising. (Also during the time that prices fell back down again.) The first real sign of economic recovery I believe in was the fact that this house sold last year.

I have no idea what this house looks like on the inside, but in a neighborhood filled with Victorians and Craftsman houses, it looks like a 1970's duplex even though it's just a single family dwelling. The 70's had many things going for it (disco! bean bag chairs! lawn darts!), but it was a low point for architecture and if even I notice that sort of thing you know it must be bad.

So, essentially this was an ugly house to begin with (although it does have a pool, of which I am mildly covetous).

Then a few weeks ago they painted it. Normally that would be a good thing, but there are two problems:
1) The color is a bilious green. It's really, really hideous.
2) To compound the color problem, they painted the whole house one color. The walls, the trim, the front door, the garage door, the fence, everything.

So yeah, it looks like the 70's vomited up something in my neighborhood.

On the other hand, sure, it's ugly, but it lowers the bar and I don't feel so bad about my lawn.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Take Me Away!

Because all I've done is work lately, here's the funniest thing that I've been around all week:

A couple of evenings ago Eric and Scrawny Mike were still at work as they often are. Both of them are known for being able to talk at great length on subjects they know little about, and Scrawny Mike has the added bonus of liking to argue, to the point that he will change his opinion just so he can be on the opposite side.

So there they were, standing in my cubicle, discussing whether or not women like to take baths.

As the sole possessor of two X chromosomes in the building at the time, I tried to inject some actual facts into the conversation by giving the opinion of an actual woman (me), namely: 1) who has time for that?, 2) Even if I had time, why would I want to marinate in dirty water?, and 3) the whole "women taking baths" concept is a mirage created by advertising in order to sell Calgon.

Scrawny Mike and Eric, however, declined to register my input because (and I'm actually quoting here) I'm "not the target demographic". So instead they argued about it for another fifteen minutes until they got sidetracked on Star Trek actor information.

At least they weren't talking about video games.