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In an ironic and (to me) amusing twist, hang gliding last weekend was pretty anticlimactic. We would never have gotten a large group together, or been able to reserve a nice 8-person AirBnB, if I hadn't planned way in advance; but I also learned that you shouldn't plan way in advance when something is 100% dependent on exact weather/wind conditions.

On Day 1, Saturday, we got to set up a glider, which basically means unfolding it and adding struts to it like you'd add tent poles to a tent. Then we learned how to hold it on our shoulders and trot with it so that it picked itself up for a few seconds. We rotated between four people on one glider, so there was a significant wait between attempts; I'm not sure this was wisest in terms of time usage since there was so much lag between try #1 and try #2 but, at any rate, my second try went fine.

Then we went a little bit up the hill and tried to run downhill! My hang glider picked itself up and then picked me up, but I held it too far in front of me (instead of holding the triangle back by my sides and keeping my chest shoved through) and that led to an inglorious nosedive from maybe a foot off the ground. Obviously I felt fine about that -- hey, very first try, lots of tries left to go! -- and [personal profile] heisenbug got a glorious picture of me going splat. I got up laughing. Sadly, I was strapped into the glider for my second try when we found ourselves waiting for the wind direction to change; it was just a mild breeze, but the direction never changed and everyone came in off the hill. Mild drama was added at this point, as one lone paraglider went up from the top of the hill and went down, observed by many people, as his sail partially collapsed and he disappeared behind the hilltop. (He had a radio and was soon determined to be fine, and they sent folks out with a "rope kit" to fetch him, his pride, and his paraglider from a tree.)

We left early, with the promise of more efficiently getting to the hill on Sunday; and had a perfectly fine social time of lunch, playing Joking Hazard and A Fake Artist Goes to New York, and dinner at the AirBnB. The second game was new to me, and I laughed until I cried when everyone tagged me as the fake artist for drawing a skateboard under (what was supposed to be) the Power Rangers -- I have never seen such a ranger, and thus provided excellent cover to the real fake artist. So it goes. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I was still disappointed at not getting to correct the easily fixable mistake in my first-and-only run downhill, and heartened the next morning when the forecast (which had said "gusty") cleared up quite a bit; our experienced friend thought we would get more attempts. Unfortunately, the morning weather reading indicated not; the mild, pleasant breeze was again from The Wrong Direction. Nobody else went out either, except for some beginning paragliders who were just learning "kiting" or handling their equipment on the ground; and we did acro for a bit on the grass there and went home, with vouchers in hand for another day.

I'll happily try again, and clearly the way to go is to call in advance, go on very short notice in smaller groups, and maximize one's chance of ideal conditions. I grew up daydreaming about hang gliding, and it still seems appealing, modulo the main dealbreakers of needing a lot of equipment and a car and perfect weather conditions, and a few more tries seem in order.

HOWEVER.

This weekend I also learned that if one hang glides during spider parachuting season -- you know how baby spiders will reel out a thread until it picks them up and wafts them to a new home? One can apparently hang-glide along and collect tons of these baby spiders on one's guide wires, then land and be instantly surrounded. Ahhhhhh! Why did no one ever tell me about this nightmarish possibility!?
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Sigh. I was so looking forward to reading Capture. While I still buy its Big Idea (the dynamic of minds getting stuck on things is shared among many mental woes), the book first collapsed under the weight of too many anecdotes and then failed to deliver on practical insights. I appreciated the book's final message, on the possibility of change through "becoming aware of the ways in which we deploy our attention" and working to actively shape these. However, I turned the last page expecting to find a chapter or two of techniques to use to that end, and was surprised and disappointed to already have reached the footnotes.

At any rate, I'm no stranger to the phenomenon of "brain being stuck on a thing" and feeling powerless to shift my attention. Crushes and limerence are like this, of course, but here are some others that come to mind immediately:

MIT: what kind of little kid reads about a certain college at the age of seven and decides to go there, and devotes her life pretty singlemindedly to getting there for the next 9 or 10 years? This little kid! In case you're curious, I read an article in Reader's Digest about the hackers there (roof and tunnel style hacking, not computers); I identified with that nonharmful sneaky playfulness just as I was attracted to the article's message about MIT being "the best" engineering school. I was caught! I look back in some horror at how badly this could have bitten me, if I hadn't in fact gotten in. I did, though, and I'm sure that my obsession made it easier for me to pick up and move across the country, and many good things ensued. I never broke out of this capture, just achieved the thing.

Four-Leaf: the last bad-spiral kind of capture I had was definitely [personal profile] norwoodbridge's ex-girlfriend. The reasons why are still unclear, but surely she was salient (appearing suddenly, and seeming like a threat) in an area of my life that I cared about. Why her approach to life, which was different from mine, became a subject of my almost constant thoughts is less clear. That was all very bad, and combined with other dynamics that were also going on, which was worse. I did break out of this one eventually, after I realized that my brain being stuck was itself a problem and, in desperation, agreed to (or proposed) just not talking about her for a full month. Talking less allowed me to think less, and a few weeks later the stimulus went away.

The press handstand: AHAHAHHAHA fuck. Still mightily in the grip of this one. I'm not even completely sure when this hit -- could it have been 2006-ish, when [personal profile] justplainuniverse did one in front of me in a park in Philadelphia? I don't think it was earlier and it couldn't have been much later. I also remember being so shocked that I said something REALLY stupid, along the lines of "zomg, if I can't do that in a year I'll want to kill myself" and immediately regretted my wording. So I think there was a strong feeling there, I was trying to make a strong statement of desire/intent whatever I actually said, and that might have been the capture moment. I've definitely gotten attached to handbalancing overall in the meantime, but the initial goal remains, and I've wondered many times whether it's done me more harm than good. Overly ambitious goals can hurt a person, and -- starting where I was starting -- that was too ambitious. No more athletic goals of that sort for me, I think. It's comforting that the splits, too, took me about ten years, and I got that... but still. Stupid freaking brain.

(I wrote all that on Thursday and am just posting it now.)
flexagon: (blue)
Topic that came up with therapist lately, and which could turn into an essay or more structured musing at some point: my mother has always been disappointed in me for not being more into color. Or possibly disappointed for me that I haven't gotten into it... either way, it's especially about colorful clothing. This goes back to at least college:
  • One time when she visited, and said aloud something like "I thought you'd stopped wearing black so much, until I saw you fold your laundry".

  • Just over a year ago I dressed up as Kimmy Schmidt (this outfit) for Halloween. Her response was "Hallelujah, you've discovered color! :-)" Later she laughed about the moment when she realized it was a costume.


Unfortunately for her, my tolerance for color in clothing has taken a nosedive in the last two years, right along with my tolerance for scratchy clothing tags and seams. I haven't talked to her about this but, at some point, I should. And what I should tell her is: bright colors sap my energy and make me tired. She might not realize this, given how long it took me to realize it myself, and therefore might not ACTUALLY be wishing that I'd annoy myself all day more often. :P

I've heard her use the term "feasting one's eyes". Maybe she needs to know that eyes can be force-fed, too.

Anyway, we became curious whether this is a common sensory processing thing, related to the aspie/autism spectrum, and yesterday I did a few searches. Sure enough. Not always, but sometimes, and the specific colors that kids with sensory issues like are the ones that I have always liked. I found a lot, but here are just two quotes.

  • From here, autism parenting magazine: "Reds, oranges, yellows and white are over stimulating and can be highly disturbing, whereas blues, greens, purples, browns and black are soothing and comforting. We educate parents, family members and caregivers to not only be aware of the colors that surround the children, but also what people wear around sensory kids..."

  • From here, "Children with sensory issues typically like muted tones of blue and green, This is according to the research of Rogers, J., & Short, J., in "Sensory Differences: Online Training Module," for the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence. These colors have shorter wavelengths than brighter colors and thus do not create as much stimulation in the brain."


Intriguingly, this all led to a good discussion with [personal profile] heisenbug about how he doesn't like bright lipstick. Somewhere in a tab that I closed was, indeed, a story about a boy who loved his aunt but wouldn't greet her on the days when she wore red lipstick... the contrast with pale skin, apparently, is part of it for the bug, along with the idea that the bright unnatural ick might smear onto one. That, in turn, led me to something else the smithy proprietor talked about, "the hand of the eye", and how we can be displeased by something that looks bad to touch even if we're not planning to touch it.

I still like lipstick, but I don't feel so bad anymore about the mom thing. And I got lucky when it comes to palettes, really: there's good overlap between what I like and what looks good on me. If I were black and looked fantastic in bright orange, that'd cause some terribly interesting tug-of-war between vanity and tranquillity.

Only in this moment did I realize that when I changed my last name in my early 20s, I chose a color and it's arguably the most neutral of them all... laughing as I post this.
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C'est moi! I jittered my way through the workweek, pushed hard until the last hour, and went out as clean as I could possibly have hoped to for my four weeks of sabbatical/vacation/outage. It hasn't fully sunk in yet, on this first day that was much like a normal Saturday, but two things were different: first, I read a fun book cover-to-cover in between other things (The Girl With Ghost Eyes; yes, it was good. Yes, I read very fast). Second, when the party I was attending kind of blurred on for a while and I lost track of time, it didn't stress me out.

The one thing that deserves (but won't get) its own entry: blacksmithing offsite on Thursday, in which we made bottle openers. I am far, far happier with this bottle opener as an object than I was with the bracelet I made last time I went to this same place; also the bottle opener doesn't have bad memories on it. I might actually keep it and use it! Also, the proprietor of the smithy gave the same wonderful lecture on how when one is a toolmaker, one owes it to the world to smith up and fix things that are wrong with one's workspace or environment. Smith up! Fix it! He didn't know, and I had the honor of telling him, that [personal profile] norwoodbridge and I have had an email thread about "smithing up" running since last year when we got that lecture the first time. He was super touched, and I felt good about allowing that circle to close.

I also learned the lovely phrase "think in the fire", which apparently is the often-lost other half of the "strike when the iron is hot" maxim. It doesn't mean to think while one is on fire but, rather, to use the time while the iron is sitting in the forge to plan one's next move and get things all set up. It has applications to life, I think: use the calm parts of life, get ready, think how you want things to be for the next time you need full functionality. As a manager, it could also mean: use the time when your team is calmly working on their project to be thinking about their next projects.

Little else to report... a freak 80-degree day and a 90-degree day have melted the ice off my bones, and I'm behind on reading/commenting but have a lot of tabs open for perusal tomorrow.
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Weeks and days. It hasn't been my intent to post only weekly or on the weekends -- weeks are the units of my emotional life now, and weekly is the cadence on which, for the most part, the things in my life happen. Obviously that can't be entirely true, because sleeping and eating and such; and also monthly bill payments (mostly automated now) and quarterly work planning and yearly events like holidays, seasons and birthdays. Still, the week is what dominates my conscious sense of how things are going. Did I have good handstands, did I finish with a nice sense of completion or with a sense of "thank goodness I have the weekend to catch up"? I wonder whether I'll be able to change this while I'm on vacation, maybe by creating a few more daily habits. There could be real payoff to experiencing 30 days, as opposed to 4 weeks and a random extra weekend.

Weird exercise stuff

Well, first of all, if you are doing effortless pistol squats in a public place I am probably going to approach you and drop into a pistol to say hi. That's how I met probably the highest-level ashtanga yoga practitioner I've ever talked to in person (he practices third series regularly -- you can't even learn that in this town), on a train ride out to see my handstand coach yesterday. I showed him dragon pistols for fun, and we talked about body-weight stuff and instagram-friended each other at the end.

Second of all, if you are doing something obviously balance-intensive at the gym, I am probably going to approach you and ask what it is. That's how I learned an exercise I have no name for, last weekend. Basically you hold a weighted bar in front of you, vertically, just a bit below its middle, as if it's a sword and you're in an ad for the Marines. Tighten your butt and core, find some stillness, hold the bar there with just one hand. Then put your other hand below your first hand, raise it a bit (the bar is higher now), drop your first hand, find some stillness. Repeat. Repeat. It gets much wigglier and harder by the time you're holding the bar at the bottom, and much easier if you keep the bar in a good place to begin with. I think the guy I saw was doing this with an 18lb bar and I did it with a 12lb for my first try... it felt very like an acro tightness/stillness exercise, and I think my years of flying foot-to-hand came in handy.

Third of all, if you are my handstand coach and tell me to do something, I'm probably going to do it. Yesterday I learned "eye pushups", my coach's name for an exercise he learned at a Z-Health event. One holds a marker (pencil, stick... thumb?) out at arm's length, stares vigorously at one spot or letter on it, then slowly brings the marker in to the face until it's no longer possible to focus well; then slowly back out. Three reps. I don't know WTF is going on here, but I did a few handstands before that and a few handstands after that, and my balance got way better instantly.

Cold, cold, cold.... this 50-degree weather just isn't working out for me, Boston. It's been weeks, the house's heating system seems helpless against clamminess in a way it's not against true winter cold, and I'm sleeping in heavy fleecy clothes that I usually can't wear to bed in the winter without waking up all sweaty (now, it's working just fine). I'm only warm when I'm exercising. Bleh.
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Punched Out -- it's rare to read an explanation of suicide this cogent and grounding. It makes me sad that more neurotypical folks did such a bad job of dealing with this man while he was alive, though. People are often very quick to anger when there's a perceived slight.

I found the best anagram in English is a fun read if you're a crossover wordplay/programming nerd, with some very satisfying anagrams as a final payoff (excitation and intoxicate)! I won't give away the best one, but it's VERY good.

A "5 questions" self-help thing that I rather liked; first for the sheer chutzpah of claiming "Buddhism, Stoicism and neuroscience" as a combined source, and second for the content. I particularly like "Does the world owe me this?" and "Must I have this to have a happy life?".

A Silicon Valley abuse story, in which physical abuse and death threats are judged "offensive touch" and the abuser is given less than 30 days in jail, is a link you probably shouldn't read. I found it more disturbing than anything I've read in quite a long time. Some of the abuse-scene transcripts (which she recorded on an iPhone) read much like BDSM scenes, having the same sort of, well, silliness to them. Except there's the most horrible crossover into the realm of her professional knowledge (“What is a bug?” he asks. “Come on, bitch! What is a bug?”), and the whole thing of demeaning her, and blaming her for things is done without consent (“You don’t want to get beaten up?” he asks. “Then control yourself”). It's about a million miles away from the in-joke between [personal profile] norwoodbridge and me about how everything is my fault... and when he hits her it's not because they both like it, and there's no safeword. Not only was this article hard for me to get through, I think I finally understand why BDSM scenes are upsetting to some people. Ugh.
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Fluevogs -- I went to Fluevog, as I do every year or two. The idea was to look at a nice sensible plain pair, and naturally those things hated my feet and my feet hated them right back. These chunky, mildly witchy platform sandals though? Surprisingly wide toebox and a comfortable stride. I wouldn't have picked them out online, but they came home with me, and on some non-rainy day soon I'm going to startle my co-workers by wearing them. How deliciously tall I will be, that day. :-)

Head scritches from the corporate overlords -- behold, my highest ever performance rating! It seems to have been a combination of me dealing with some next-level shit and the bar moving slightly (as a manager, I know perfectly well that the bars move, which means I can pry it out of my own managers when the bars affecting me move). It required some explanation, but now I know what counted as next-level. And I managed to quickly squelch my reaction of "oh shit, I'd better not take that vacation if I want to hold on and get this rating again", because that is no bueno and also a trap. My new plan is to take the vacation, clear my head, get the rating ANYWAY and consider floating a promotion packet in the fall. Things are changing (new definition of tech-manager levels probably going into effect, plus unknown process changes) so it'll be a guinea-pig cycle where nobody quite knows what's going on anyway.
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Welcome to new friends: I made an intro post over in the [community profile] 2017revival community and have picked up some new readers/friends as a result. I'm hoping that some will stick, and offset a bit of the disgruntlement I feel at how quickly LJ has left my life.

Taxes happened this weekend, and brought to light exactly how much more I make right now than my husband (no DW name yet). It got awkward when he didn't want to split the bill evenly, but an hour of calculating "married filing singly" shut up my whining: that is a hellscape made of razor blades, and I would have owed a lot more alone than we do together. So we ended up splitting it proportionally to our income and calling it a day. It's funny... we've had all kinds of different income ratios over the years, and every year we decide something different regarding fairness at tax time. Radical idea: maybe the government should stop caring whether people are married. But that might be unrealistic... there's a lot of economic thinking baked into the current legal idea of "marriage", and one change would probably mean a cascade of changes. The right set of changes isn't obvious and would definitely not be an easy political win for anyone trying to push it.

A quote: From Ursula K Leguin's The Dispossessed, on the topic of deserving things and not deserving things.

“For we each of us deserve everything, every luxury that was ever piled in the tombs of the dead kings, and we each of us deserve nothing, not a mouthful of bread in hunger. Have we not eaten while another starved? Will you punish us for that? Will you reward us for the virtue of starving while others ate? No man earns punishment, no man earns reward. Free your mind of the idea of deserving, the idea of earning, and you will begin to be able to think.”
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Burnout and victories

Another week of work burnout is down to its little nub of ash (though topped off nicely with an unexpected Friday lunch with [personal profile] melebeth). There were some victories, two to be precise: I got one of my junior folks promoted after writing an appeal that the appeals committee actually complimented, and I struck a deal to hire another person (before the headcount I was borrowing could evaporate or be yoinked on its string back to California, as they are wont to do). For those playing along at home, yeah, that means I also lost one appeal and, with it, a promotion case: my first such loss as a manager. Thoroughly expected, I might add; the engineer in question really wanted to put himself up, though, and I will defend to the death his right to do that.

With those top priorities taken care of, I'm just down to the angry buzzing list of emails and design docs that want attention. It's hard to focus on them; burnout means that I feel overwhelmed and filled with heart-stopping ennui all at the same time. I'm trying to acknowledging and observe the feelings while still doing the things people expect, and setting up for that four-week vacation. Five full weeks remain between now and then, so I guess self-care will continue to be a huge priority for a while yet.

Sapiens

This weekend I finished reading Sapiens, which I enjoyed for its biological focus and absolute lack of species-centric snobbery. A taste:

Most members of agricultural and industrial societies are domesticated animals.... Today, the society called New Zealand is composed of 4.5 million Sapiens and 50 million sheep.


Handstand presses off boxes!

And I also made some handstand progress, consistently straddle-pressing off of 24" boxes at the gym. I know the height is unimpressive, but it's a start. I had a breakthrough when I realized that I can press off the wall but have a harder time starting on a horizontal surface -- so I put my toes just over the edge of the boxes, so that I was pressing away from the side instead of off the top, and voila. If I can improve on this over time, it'll just be a race to the bottom.
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First post from DreamWidth; it helps that ALL my most active LJ friends are here already.

Cheese.

I've spent an amusing amount on artificial cheeses, what with all the new products popping up at the new grocery store that's a block away from me. Who knew that daiya has a "smoked gouda" style, until last night? (It's not The Same, but it tastes decent on a cracker.) And kite hill makes a dairy-free spinach and ricotta ravioli that's based on almond-milk ricotta. And there are cashew cheeses with live cultures!

If you'd gone two years or more without pizza in your life, you might be on this weird little bandwagon too.

Press progress

I did indeed impress my secondary handstand coach yesterday with my strength and balance, then unimpressed him with my inability to press up from having my feet on benches. That's my next goal. I should be able to do it... but I lose my spinal curl and go from press to planche right after my toes lift, and down I sink. What a strange and esoteric thing I am into; but I've been calm and happy about it lately. This year's very likely my year. Today's not my day though, today my shoulders get a rest.

The recruiter game.

Recruiter sez: I like to think our engineers are true bar raisers - they work cross-functionally and tackle insane technical challenges in order to [blah, blah...]

And then I sez: No thanks... and I doubt you're going to have much luck recruiting female tech leaders / engineers with wording like "insane". Why would I want to pit myself against "insane" challenges when I could lead a growing, healthy team that sets achievable goals for itself? If you're interested in pitching your job listings to encourage diversity, you can read more here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/02/textio-unitive-bias-software_n_7493624.html
flexagon: (evolve-fish)
The new LJ Terms of Service, though it claims to be legally non-binding, forbids breaking Russian law:

"User shall be liable for breaching the terms and conditions hereof, including the requirements to Registration and Content posting, as well as for violation of applicable laws committed by User, including the laws of the Russian Federation". Also, "Mark Content estimated by Russian legislation as inappropriate for children (0 −18) as “adult material”". I can't promise to do those things -- I don't know Russian law, though I'm told it forbids pictures of Putin as a gay clown.

It's been a good 14 years and I'm as change-averse as anyone. I'll miss giving monthly virtual gifts to [livejournal.com profile] norwoodbridge. But the import is done, and I won't be cross-posting. My username there is the same as here.

Here is a FAQ entry on moving from LJ to Dreamwidth (it works).
Here is a good post on "How to move to DreamWidth and Like It".

I've found as many of my LJ friends there as I can, and my plan is to basically subscribe/grant on DW and at the same time unfriend on LJ; that will let me keep track of who hasn't migrated or created an account there, and encourage me to read DW first.
flexagon: (racing-turtle)
Really interesting lunch conversation today with a Zillianaire who's been there for a few years. I knew (though it's not widely known) that he actually came out of an early retirement to take this job, and for weeks we'd been planning to have lunch so that he could talk to me about early retirement and the pitfalls he encountered there. In the kitchen earlier this week I couldn't help noticing out loud that now he's got a hard-driving job and an infant -- he is, I said undiplomatically, like the kid who beat Super Mario Bros and is now playing through it again, starting over on the way harder mode where all the easily stompable Goombas have turned into fast-moving metal-coated beetles.

So we had lunch. Apparently he retired even earlier than I'd realized: in his "mid or early thirties". After this he drifted for a few years. He learned to make jewelry, which was super cool (and oh, I just realized this is why he has an awesome wedding ring. He probably made that). He got a masters degree in CS for fun. He took writing classes, but learned he wasn't a writer. He traveled around seeing friends, hoping to hang out with them as he'd done in college, but found out that the friends had jobs and kids and it wasn't the same.

He also got depressed. And when he did try to get back into the workforce, he found that most companies didn't want to hire him because of the gap on his resume. (Zillian didn't care: he spent four weeks practicing coding questions and then he interviewed well, and that's all we wanted to see.) Which turned into kind of a silly mistake on his part, since he'd intended initially to get a lower-stress job than this one, but so it goes.

He lost a lot of his social life -- even more the loose connections that a person says hi to, then any especially close work friends.

He lost something good to say when people said "so what do you do?" Our culture revolves strongly around work, and he never identified enough with his hobbies to feel comfortable answering like that.

He felt disconnected from the culture he'd been part of. It's more fun to be in it than be observing it, he said.

He got bored. A feeling I can only vaguely remember.

And he felt useless and not needed, with no particular reason to persist at anything that got annoying.

Any early retirement of mine would be almost 15 years later than his, it sounds like -- so I'll be that much older and tireder -- and maybe my heavy involvement in acrobatics and fitness would give me an obvious non-work place to keep belonging and keep trying to achieve things. Maybe. That bit about having trouble getting back into the workforce after time off, though, would probably be much worse for an older woman than for the man he was at the time. So it's definitely worth thinking through the psychology of the whole thing, before pulling any triggers; it's likely to be a one-way trip.
flexagon: (racing-turtle)
Just finished reading The Boys in the Boat, a gift from my biography-loving father-in-law about a 1936 rowing team. It's not my usual kind of thing, but turned out to be a nice read this long weekend as I lay around like a zombie trying to recover from work. I suppose my FiL thought the athleticism would interest me, as well as the childhood poverty and neglect faced by the most closely followed character, Joe Rantz.

As often happens with stories like this, I was sobered by (what appeared as) the sudden acceleration of time as the author flashed past the rest of the boys' post-Olympic lives in just a few pages. The 20th anniversary row, the 30th anniversary row... the 50th... and the deaths. It invites the obvious question: if anyone were to write my biography, what parts would get a gloss like that, and what would get the closeup? Thus far, the most statistically unusual part of my life has still been my childhood, a span of time I don't want to romanticize. Maybe I can beat that by doing something awesome when I'm old, or maybe I can escape the biographer altogether. (As some of you know, my dream is the anti-legacy... living contentedly, and, in the end, slipping away without leaving a void. Maybe it's possible, maybe it's not.)

It's funny but, sitting here thinking about it, some of what impressed and disturbed me about the book was the sheer detail it pulled from so long ago from interviews, newspapers, photos. I still have family photo albums of my own, stuff bequeathed to me by my mom after she finally divorced my dad... so sticky and family-saga-esque. I don't know for sure why I haven't shredded it all, but "just in case" and "waiting for more people in the pictures to die, so they can't be hurt" seem like the most plausible answers.

Note to self: biographies make you morbid! Knock it off and go to the gym.
flexagon: (catnip)
This week hit its apex yesterday with a thousand-dollar vet visit followed by a ten-plus-hour workday to a hard deadline. Everyone's self-assessment was due, including for me and for my three reports who are up for promotion.

The amusing crossover between the two: I'm realizing that backing assertions up with numbers and evidence works in nearly every area of life.

Me: I really love my cat...
Person: Aw, of course you do.
Me: Yes, she turns 19 in a month, and I've had her since she was 8 weeks old.
Person: WOW.

So as for that vet visit, it was at the New England Veterinary Oncology Group, and it was a follow-up to Nala's surgery six weeks ago (we'd found out after that successful surgery that the lump removed was indeed cancerous). The vet clearly came in with the assumption that my cat was dying, and soon; he told me a lot about the terrible odds before even doing any tests, and how this usually kills cats within three months. How it spreads (locally, but early and fast), the high odds that it had spread before surgery even though the surgery went well, how our various options for aggressive care are limited by Nala's age and kidney issues. Also how nobody knows a whole lot about treating anal sac carcinomas in cats, because they're very rare; they're more of a dog thing.

Off he went to do tests, anyway, his respect for me bolstered by my use of the phrase "palliative care". Ultrasounds, X-rays, a rectal exam, and kidney panels... I waited in the room and read a book that [livejournal.com profile] apfelsingail recommended I buy last Christmas, and the badass lady character did rather cheer me under the circumstances.

The know-it-all vet came back looking about an inch taller. Want to guess what he found? The rectal exam revealed no palpable growths or bumps, only a scar from surgery. The kidney numbers are better than they were at surgery time. The ultrasound showed... smaller-than-usual kidneys, which is in line with known kidney troubles... and nothing else. The X-ray showed ribs and lungs and the body of a fine, durable feline. HELL YES.

So my cat is an odds-beating BAMF, even if she is now an elder stateswoman, and she went away from the oncologist with no follow-up visits planned. Perhaps that vet will test first and talk later, next time.
flexagon: (putt putt putt)
Most of my thoughts lately have been about work. I took a class a week ago that basically hit me like a truck, about managing larger teams and how managing a 15-person team or bigger is fundamentally different from managing a 5-person one. It was useful, and actionable, and deadly depressing. I've been getting more unhappy feedback from people who report to me in the last year than I ever have before, always been one person at a time, and the class pounded into my head that in some ways that's working as intended. The group is now too large to lead purely by consensus, and that means somebody will be unhappy with nearly every decision I make. There will also always be somebody unhappy enough to affect the group, just because life. (And, apparently, someone always out on baby leave -- my reports are nothing if not fertile.)

The class had good advice: deal with the reality that your job is not what it once was; learn new skills; stop having a standup status meeting with way too many people trying to go around the room; don't succumb to the temptation to regress to what you're good at, or to fill all the gaps in your team with yourself. (cough. I totally do that.) But damn it, I'm still reeling from the realization that my team is never all going to like me anymore. To be clear, I'm no fragile flower; I've been disliked plenty and I can deal with it pretty well in general, but, sigh... it was so nice to be the non-asshole manager for a while. Must those days really be over, so soon, and just when things were otherwise going well? I'm not sure I want to move forward in this direction.

Then there's the creeping burnout. This is easier to deal with -- I mostly need vacation, or at least more disconnected time. I've been doing work, sometimes tiny bits of work, on both weekend days for a while now. So guess what I just did? I went over to my work window and requested next Friday off. Yeah. And two days for my birthday while I was at it.

On this note, birthday. It's coming up, it's my 40th, I probably ought to do something to celebrate. Nothing felt right, until last Friday when I started asking myself if I had any childhood dreams left unattended to. A lightbulb went off: of course! I need to go to hang gliding camp! Probably this one, a weekend thing in New Hampshire, though it would be rather wonderful to work toward a Hang 1 certification. I can do a fancy view-of-Boston-skyline dinner on the day of, but the gliding will be the real celebration. :D
flexagon: (racing-turtle)
Despite everything else in life, I'm thrilled by how well it's working to focus on maintenance in my own workouts (while still trying to learn new things in circus). I have my list of 10 skills to maintain, and have done nine of them so far this year, and every single one of them feels good every time I do the thing, and in each case I've granted myself this whole year to get comfortable at a level and enjoy it and not push beyond (unless of course I feel like it, and I have felt like it sometimes on Turkish get-ups, and I hope I feel like it soon on my splits). It's fun to go to the gym and try to tick a bunch of them off, and know I can write that day's date down on the relevant sheet of paper when I get home.

For the curious, the one I haven't done yet is a backbend kickover, which I was doing in late '16 but lost the hang of over my break. I'll give those another serious try tomorrow. And I did another for the first time just today: two 5-rep sets of pistols on each side, which I've been able to do for years but recently had to pause because of hip annoyance. Less of an athletic victory, that one, and more "yay, I'm getting better".

(The one that feels most magical is touching my cheekbones to my shin bones in a pike. It takes some warmup, but it's soooooo worthwhile. Truly I am the envy of my 25-year-old self.)
flexagon: (emily)
This is a good article on how to stay outraged / politically active without losing one's mind (or being shamed into stopping entirely).

Here's some information I found about MA members of congress, and executive orders. )

If this sounds like I'm still a mewling newbie, in the phase of learning to gather information, you're right. What I have actually done this week: paid for 6 months of digital access to the Wall Street Journal (I was already a paying subscriber to The Atlantic). Joined Twitter specifically so that I could subscribe to my members of Congress: @SenWarren, @RepMikeCapuano, @SenMarkey. Subscribed to that newsletter. Did my reading about executive orders.
flexagon: (racing-turtle)
I did really well in Monday's handstand class and it felt nice. I held a handstand for over a minute (according to the teacher's timer), and also kicked up and did five "tick-tocks", which are side to side weight shifts, without my spotter touching me. That all felt really good. Wednesday didn't go as well, handstandwise, but on Wednesday I nailed a standing reverse h2h with [livejournal.com profile] soong and I'm sure not complaining about that.

As I have not told you yet, the growth removed from Nala's rear end last week did turn out to be a carcinoma. This validates my surgery decision, but means a follow-up appointment with an oncologist, which I sincerely hope results in "no more treatment necessary". For now, I go on helping her recover from surgery; this mostly means keeping her in one room, and feeding her a mix of metamucil and baby food to encourage her little system to poop. She is still a conehead, and very sleepy.

Most of the rest is work: I just can't catch up, though it's improved. Last week I found out that one of my team's efforts has basically been a waste of time for the last year but nobody remembered to tell us things had changed, so I'm going around flipping tables and winding the project down. (Curiously, when people find out that we've been doing work for them all this time, they suddenly become interested in us continuing, even though we've been working based on the wrong metric).

Politics is a continual and horrifying distraction.

[livejournal.com profile] norwoodbridge went on a successful first date last night (basically ALL of his first dates are successful), bringing his sexy-creature count to three, and I didn't really jitter at all. Partly because of recent poly successes, partly because if Four-Leaf didn't kill us then this more sane-sounding person who lives a couple of hours away is seriously not going to. And also, let's be honest, I was working too hard to feel much of anything. A potential problem. :-/
flexagon: (putt putt putt)
Yesterday I marched in the Boston Women's March! Estimates are now that 125,000 people were there. It was my first such event ever, which is why I'm posting about it -- so I can tag it with my "firsts" tag -- and I did in fact find it worthwhile and uplifting. I went out because I knew attendance would be counted (at least estimated) worldwide, and I wanted to be in the count, in the Inauguration-attendance-crushing count. It was a "show up and be counted" kind of day, in a more literal way than any since Nov 8 of last year. And some of the signs were excellent.

Today, already, the internet is full of scolding, scowling reminders: to people who marched about not sitting on self-congratulatory laurels now, to white women who marched about how white women voted for Trump, to everyone everywhere (or so it feels) about how we haven't yet done ENOUGH.

Okay, internet, but my house needs cleaning now because of the march yesterday. Can we have just a minute to breathe, here? Preferably without an accusation of "white tears"? I need to fold my laundry. Then do some work. Then I will do some other political thing.
flexagon: (racing-turtle)
Nala is home again! She has an Elizabethan collar (Cone of Shame), and is bumbling around the bedroom bumping it on stuff. Well, right now she's purring on sleeping [livejournal.com profile] heisenbug; she's alternating between angsty bumbling and very aggressive snuggling. To my unspeakable relief, her surgery went well on Monday, and pre-surgical scans did not show any masses or growths in her body besides the one we had removed (still being analyzed). So we get some time together, still. <3

It's a surreal evening here; we had a power outage more than an hour ago, and I've been working in the dark thanks to laptop battery, phone battery + tethering. The batteries and my own energy level are running out, though. Time to set the phone alarm clock, turn off the light switch in here and succumb gracefully.

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