september, 2005

Fri Sep 9 18:03:42 PDT 2005

Settling into my routine in this odd Western state (what month is it? I have to look up and count cycles on my knuckles to remember that we are but a week shy of my quarter-century birthday), I'm beginning to expect things. I look forward to mornings, my bagel and tea; to Science Friday podcasts on the shuttle to work; to sandwiches at the yet-unnamed No-Name Café with jasmine iced tea; to dinner at home, if I can get out on time; to devouring entire quartos of the book (Middlesex) Sara just lent me with tea or Lillet before bed.

But does this mean, as it did last year at almost this time, that I am getting complacent in my new ways? I assert that it does not. If complacency is the same as habituation, then we're all surely doomed to a life of resigned rat-racing, unless we quit our jobs, move to India to study yoga, and never come back. But if we do that, our former roommates, with whom we broke our sublease, will revile us (ahem). We'll also have to keep moving just for the sake of novelty every time we encounter something familiar, to continually whet the palate. And I postulate that that might get fatiguing after a while.

Therefore, stability does not imply -- nor entail -- complacency. It remains to show that a diversity of experiences can be had while happily rooted in one place.

Mine are mostly mental, these days. Ploughing through the Rhino Book at work, absorbing Javascript and Python like a sponge, winning a bottle of kriek lambic for Akshay's gmail search (is:unread) and talking about the client's paradigm over same, I am learning more about practical computer science than I ever could have in college. Friends continue to leap into grad school: Joanne (of the matching 2005 Bianchi Volpe, up for wine tasting en bicyclette last weekend) for her Ph.D.; Matt into law; Sara worrying about the GRE. I stay above the fray. Though before earning my B.A. I always assumed I would continue, like my parents and my grandmother, for six more years and a dissertation, I can't now fathom what I would do with the degree (besides prepend "Dr." to my name, of course). The opportunity to study something is appealing, but of course that's exactly what I'm doing here -- reading up on design patters; applying what knowledge I glean over lunch with random Googlers to my code that afternoon.

Yes, but is that a diversity of experiences? I realize I'm dancing around the question. I have a nagging fear that it might not be, given that I still write less than I did in college. If my brain is not spinning out new ideas, synthesizing new content, at such a rapid rate as before, it will be reflected in the frequency with which anything new goes down on paper -- yes? Perhaps. I still have to make lists to remember even a fraction of what my head spins through on my morning commute: paint the bathroom blue / order the parts to that Schubert string quartet / find a yoga class in town / read the food issue of the New Yorker / add a permalink to my Google comparison search / figure out something to make for Sunday's potluck / buy a bike light so I don't get run over at night. At work, I am kept creatively on my toes; at home, I do not lack for substance.

So why the persistent doubt? Perhaps because routine, up until now, has increasingly come hand-in-hand with boredom and need for a change. But I've left DC; despite what I miss there (and despite what I miss from other places: seasons!), I feel no need to uproot, to drop it all and move to India, or to even leave my employer (why would I, for all the fig-walnut-braised-green salad in No-Name?).

Thus: routine does not entail complacency; ritual can be comforting and lend a sense of place, which I should sit down and enjoy. As I have been dissuading Sara, grad school is not for me, not now at least. See what this turn in my life has brought me before I worry that it's somehow not enough.

Tue Sep 20 15:23:22 PDT 2005

It's raining. This may not seem significant to those of you who do not live in the Bay Area, but it never rains here during the months between April and November, that perpetual, seasonless mid-spring. Never. Happened once in June; sent people agog. And today, as I'm sitting in a meeting in the conference room mirroring my corner office on the other side of 44, we hear a rumble, look up, and the windows are wet.

It always turned cold on my birthday in Madison. Even in Swarthmore, Vienna, and DC (the only other places I've been for my various twentieth-of-Septembers), it would snap a little chillier, and remind me that the summer was over and the leaves would fall soon. The canonical new beginning is in spring; mine, by birthright, is the beginning of the academic year.

I've abdicated responsibility for my own birthday planning this year since the first time since my themed parties up through, oh, middle schoolish (dinosaurs; frogs; découpage). My mental capacity extends as far as work, showing Mom around the Bay this past weekend (Muir Woods; SFMOMA; the 'Bowl), and getting back to sleep, and I've left all the planning to Emily. A welcome passing of the buck this year. I haven't expected much -- a brightly-colored massage coupon and an internal Easter egg from work -- but people surprise, as they always do, and already I'm feeling fêted.

So it is entirely un-looked-for, but this is the best unwitting California birthday present I could have received at this juncture: to see it cool off, smell the oncoming petrichor hang over the brightly-colored parasols oven the patio at lunch, and now to watch fat drops slant across the windowed curves of the office. Reaching above Akshay, Qing, and Eric's heads, I pull everyone's blinds open to watch.

Thu Sep 22 14:41:48 PDT 2005

The scene: I'm caffeinated from the No-Name Peet's after lunch, the birthday album Black Cherry pounding in my huge headphones,

Mon Sep 26 19:45:10 PDT 2005

The new plastic of the clear shower curtains in the upstairs bathroom stirs a memory, for the moment indiscernible. Then Emily and I pinpoint it simultaneously: inner tubes. Somehow, despite the amount of plastic in our daily lives, the only time I've interacted with it in hot, humid circumstances and in sheets has been on trips to the Wisconsin Dells with my family at ages far remote. (There was probably the odd inflatable sled, too, but the snow must have must have muffled its scent.)

Having so long languished low on the priority list, the upstairs bathroom is finally getting tackled, while, with every coat of paint (as opposed to floor-length coats of blue fur), I'm investing more in the Goat House, and in Berkeley. I remember, the first few weeks of college (soon before I started this what-I-must-now-acknowledge-is-a-blog, or I'd link to it), looking around at the upperclassmen (sophomores on up! and how young they seem to me now) shrieking to greet each other after in Sharples after an unbearably long summer, filling each other in on new turns of events in their lives, and thinking, soon, my life will have that much content -- and, while knowing it would be true, still disbelieving, as it seemed so improbable. And of course, it happened: I found friends, loves; more cookies than God and 4-AM pumpkin pies were made; events, in other words, transpired. They always will. But it's hard to believe that, looking at a fresh slate.

Perhaps I didn't have time to think about it when I moved to DC -- my first job started the day I got there; I was out dancing with new friends until 4 AM barely after I'd even found my own apartment. But there it was again, moving to Berkeley, even moving in to a strawberry welcome and a house of eager-to-see-and-meet-me, to-be friends: that unsurety of future continuation.

And surely, this collegiate scenario in which I find myself contributes to that -- college, in that we go out on a Thursday night; older, in that we go to a bar instead of a club on campus (though the same in that I feel guilty leaving work behind). Another company SF happy hour last week, which I went to over protests of my body ("you need sleep! Your roommates dragged you out for your birthday on Tuesday!"), the rationalizing part of my brain telling my body that it could sleep when it was dead, that there was partying to be done, that I had such fun the last time. And thus did I end up crashing in the city that night, inertially staying where I was, opting for spilled Stella and furry coats. Miraculously (my body appears to be giving me an annual birthday present!), I woke up completely functional, and with the help of a nearby Urban Outfitters and the showers at work, managed to even be cute for my second birthday party that night (people in orange and pigtails!).

New friends continued all weekend: Claire called from a martini party chez GR, and, talking to Murrik, I was reminded forcefully of the vodka sauce that I knew should be made out of the indulgences still on the counter. Matt the no-longer-Republican geeked out with no-longer-quiet Josh; the one declined an outing into the city, music and stories traded with the other despite (because of?) a prohibitive ticket price for the spectacle of Paul van Dyk and a traffic jam on 80 forcing me and Josh in the latter's hybrid to detour as far south as the San Mateo bridge.

Three of us painting the bathroom blue on Sunday night. The more I invest in a place, the less I want to go. Good thing I plan to stay this time.

The utter blank-slateness has never been so intense as it was that first time, standing in the hallway of my new dorm, Willets first south, wishing with determined intensity for me to be involved in social scenes, conundra. But it's always nice to be reminded that it is all forthcoming, given a little time.

Thu Sep 29 17:56:09 PDT 2005

Just submitted a chunk of code for review that turns out to only 153 delta lines (94 added, 17 deleted, 42 changed), that took me all night, almost literally. Was at the 'plex until midnight, at first streaming WEMU, then blasting the new Paul van Dyk whom I didn't get to see Saturday night (it's good -- a slow start, but this two-disc set warms up), in an office lit only by my Google-issue lava lamp and desk lamp. Crashed chez Akshay, which was really the only option at that hour (going back to Berkeley being not only infeasible but impractical); unlike last Friday when I woke up in the city and had the option of procuring myself a new shirt, I'm now broadcasting the fact that I didn't go home, sporting the company Bike To Work Day 2004 shirt: conspicuously large, and conspicuously from before I was hired.

Woke up this morning dreaming in Javascript (in, not of). I always know I've been looking at a certain language a little too long without pause when that starts to happen, like when I started dreaming in recursion while taking Scheme and typesetting my discrete math homework in TeX. This time, I was trying to web-program my way out of my dream ...

Why did those 153 delta lines take me over 24 hours? Damn. (And I'm still not done with the larger project.)

all this ©nori heikkinen, September 2005

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