Sunday, April 29, 2012

Very Nice Far Away Baby

My walk this past Tuesday took me, in part, from Mission St. and 24th to 24th and Bryant, a very nice strip (if you don’t mind possibly getting killed by a gang member’s stray bullet) with a lush canopy of trees overhead, many curious shops, and the significant visual amenity of Bernal Hill rising green and unexpected just south.

The following day was the informational meeting previously alluded to. I looked great, if I must say so myself, relative to how I usually look, anyway, and I took BART downtown feeling very good. I met my friend on the 24th floor of an office building on Market St. and we joined her colleague in a conference room for a session that really exceeded my expectations.

The colleague was smart and funny and generally delightful, and I liked him right away. In less than 50 minutes, he took us through an elegant, efficient, highly instructive and clear tutorial on the subject at hand, agreed to review my resume, tossed in “UML in Four Minutes” as a bonus, and told me what steps to take next. This was extremely generous of him. I’m positive that what he gave me for free in less than an hour you could spend thousands of dollars and many months to acquire.

I lost track of how many good deeds he did in those minutes. Ditto my friend, who reviewed my resume herself, spent a chunk of time and energy preparing me in advance so I wouldn’t sound like a nincompoop at our meeting, and after the session took some pictures of me outside the office building so I’d have a photo to post on the professional networking website. (And of course I had fond thoughts that day of my wardrobe consultant, Judy. Clothes that fit: wow! Judy has changed my life.)

There’s a very nice feeling in my apartment building lately, even beyond the Queens of the Stone Age that can be heard at all times (except for when “Sweet Dreams” by Probot is on). The grilling neighbor and his wife are going to have a baby, gender TBD (to be discovered, that is; I suppose the determination is already done), due May 5! This is very exciting. I love knowing we’re about to have a baby in our midst, and also love that their apartment isn’t adjacent to mine, which will allow for fuller enjoyment.

On Thursday, I ran into C. while on my walk, which is how I met him in the first place: He’s simultaneously everywhere. In the evening, we went down to the main library for an overview of how to use social media for job hunting. This was mainly for C.’s benefit, as I’ve learned all the same things from Dwightly and her colleagues, but it was worthwhile to sit through this session.

On Friday, my friend who set up the informational meeting passed on her colleague’s feedback about my resume, which is that it doesn’t exactly look like a resume for the intended position, which of course it isn’t and can’t if out-and-out fibs are to be omitted. Even though the colleague is in charge of hiring people who are very experienced in this job, I’d harbored a wee fantasy that he’d think I was so awesome, he’d find me something, or send me to someone who has a job appropriate for my current skill level, and this disappointment soon morphed into something that felt global: I’m a frumpy old freak and no one is going to hire me for anything.

Oddly, this had a distinct upside: my attitude has been so durably excellent that even a handful of hours of feeling discouraged felt extremely strange and horrible, whereas if I’d been going around entertaining negative thoughts every day, nothing would have seemed amiss, and because my superb outlook is so well practiced now, it was easy to recover.

By the next day, all was well again psychologically. Indeed, this kind of job would be or will be a new thing for me. I’m therefore not a shoo-in for it, but I do think it’s something I could be very good at and enjoy, along with various other jobs. If I’m able to make a successful transition into a new thing, which people do every day, that will be great, but maybe it will come out some other way entirely, which will also be great. Unless it’s really not great, in which case, great! Yes to ungreatness.

Yesterday Tom and I went in a City CarShare car to Sacramento to see Ann and Mac at the facility where Ann is recovering from a bad fall and Mac is keeping her company. The place is quite plush. We ran over to get darling dog Sophie from her temporary home—she’s staying with kindly neighbors of Ann’s and Mac’s—and bring her over for a visit.

By late afternoon, we were back in the city and C. and I had Ethiopian food and then went to Community Music Center for an evening of music inspired by working people. Some acts were more satisfying than others, but all had their enjoyable moments, and the evening in general was highly satisfactory.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Quick and to the Pointless

I heard a marvelous song on SnakeNet Metal Radio Friday morning: “Sweet Dreams” by Probot, a side project of Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters. I hastened to Amazon to get the mp3, which doesn’t exist. I had to buy the entire CD (you can hear the studio version of the song on YouTube), and while I was at it, I looked at the “customers who bought this item also bought” and now own $50 worth of mp3s by Queens of the Stone Age—QOTSA to their true fans, like myself. I wish to be buried with QOTSA when the time comes. I never heard of them before. Why didn’t someone tell me?!

They’re a bunch of evidently straight guys, but decided that calling themselves queens instead of kings would be more welcoming to women. Some guy was thrown out of the band when there a rumor he’d physically abused his girlfriend. The bandleader told him, “If I ever find out that this is true, I can't know you.”

They have a song called “Quick and to the Pointless”! Their lyrics are bitter musings on the misery of romance (“find yourself another slave,” and so forth). Their music is fairly heavy, grinding and repetitive, and takes gorgeous and unexpected harmonic turns. Some of the singing is in a high register, lending a sweet feminine touch here and an overwrought one there.

Yesterday I went to meet C. for the Cesar Chavez parade and fair, to which I felt a vague connection, having spent the summer I was 10 picketing in front of an A&P store in Ann Arbor on behalf of the United Farm Workers.

We ran into a person we both know (Charlie), and as C. was talking to him, I glanced about and saw someone standing several feet away who looked quite like Ross Mirkarimi, recently elected San Francisco sheriff but now suspended due to allegations of domestic violence against his wife. When it was my turn to speak to Charlie, I whispered, “Who is that standing behind me?” He peered over my shoulder and said, “Gee! Looks like Ross Mirkarimi. Or could it be John Avalos?” John Avalos is on our Board of Supervisors. A Google image search confirms the two are similar in appearance.

Later C. and I encountered the same person at 24th St. and Mission, standing with a small group of people. C. drifted up to him and asked him who he was, and it actually was Ross Mirkarimi. I heard him on Forum the other day and it sent me into a rage. He sounded very self-justifying, and I also think it would have been the mature thing for him to step down rather than drag the whole city through this ordeal with him for however many weeks or months it’s going to be, but his ambitions evidently outweigh the preferences of the other 700,000 of us.

However, when I found myself so close to him, I had the impulse to touch him, the same way you’d want to touch Christopher Walken if he was next to you (right?), probably mainly so you could say later you had done so. I was trying to figure out how to achieve it—just, like, poke him in the shoulder with one finger?—when C. shook his hand, so I followed suit, and he thanked me. I have to say I could see the pain in his eyes.

I know he’s a suffering human being like the rest of us, trying to get his needs met in ways that are often clumsy or self-defeating, and that he has as much right as anyone to strive for happiness, but even beyond that, I felt a trace of sympathy for him for being in pain, even if he caused it himself, and also for now having to be a member of the club of men who hurt women, even if he very probably does belong in that club. For instance, in the few minutes we were standing near him, some guy demonstrated how he grabs his wife’s shoulder and how it isn’t a big deal. Cringe. Ross M. said, “Well, that is wrong, and it was wrong when I did it, too.” He must get to have that conversation ten times a day now. Some guy called into Forum saying something similar.

As for C. and I, I’m sorry to say that in the course of the day, it emerged that his inner child and mine are manifestly at cross purposes and we got into a huge fight. I should have listened to QOTSA! I mean, I did listen to them before leaving the house, as I now do all the time, but I did not comprehend and heed their message, which I think is that you’re better off in the garage practicing guitar rather than trying to blend your psychological pain with anyone else’s.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Hair-Mashing Elixir

When I was choosing between the two career consultants, I learned that one offered unlimited SkillSoft classes while the other offered only three. In all other respects, I preferred the latter, so I asked if they might also be able to offer unlimited classes, and Dwightly, my coach, was able to work that out.

Actually getting signed up for classes has proven to be frustratingly slow, so much so that I emailed my old company on Monday and asked if it was too late to switch consultants, which it was. The person who provided that answer offered to escalate the difficulty registering for classes, but I said no further action was needed.

Next thing I knew, a higher-up at the career consultants telephoned to make sure everything was all right! I was chagrined and embarrassed, because Dwightly might have gotten in trouble—I left her a very apologetic voice mail—but I was also kind of swooning over my ex-company’s chivalry—it’s like a hulking boyfriend or girlfriend who spends three hours a day at the gym and won’t let anyone kick sand in my eye.

That problem solved, I walked up 18th St. to get my hair trimmed. Before Max began to grapple with my coiffure, he asked, “What style?”

“Why does it have to have a style? OK. How about the style where it’s draping off my head in a lank manner?”

Or at least I thought later it would have been humorous if I had said that, or perhaps something about sprigs. In fact, I said I was torn between sort of a square shape and sort of a round shape, whereupon Max suggested I grow it out and then have it straightened, and subsequently mentioned the straightening of hair so many times that it dawned on me he must have just invested in a vat of hair-straightening chemicals, so it was more of a business need on his part than anything to do with my actual appearance. I told him I have cancer in my family, so I can’t put chemicals on my head.

While working, Max provided an analysis of the career paths of those who start out as go-go girls, dancing in the clubs: Many of them have fantastic-looking straightened hair, but many of them also end up as prostitutes.

On Tuesday I went to a group resume editing session led by Dwightly, where I learned that my resume still needs work. I’d noticed the word “optional” somewhere on the career consultants’ website and used it to excuse myself from writing a scope statement for any former position, this being the high-level description of responsibilities that precedes the bullet points listing accomplishments. Dwightly said scope statements are not so much “optional” as “highly recommended.”

In the afternoon, my friend who lined up the informational interview for next week spent an hour on the phone with me providing some background on the topic we’ll be discussing, which was wonderful of her, and after that, three meditation friends and I had dinner at Sunflower and went on to Howie’s.

Because of the informational interview next week, for which my interview outfit would be a little too fancy, it was time for clothing acquisition again yesterday. Judy and I went off to Goodwill and I tried on nine pairs of pants, every possibility from that section, and not one of them fit. But then Judy stumbled upon a rack of coats where someone had evidently refiled all the pants she didn’t want, and voila! Four pairs of awesome work pants and two blouses for a total of $24. Meanwhile, Judy, a ruthless and efficient shopper, managed to find about 20 garments that will support her objectives, career related and otherwise.

As we were leaving, the really nice employee who had let us into the changing rooms was getting off work and as we all headed for the bus stop, she asked, “Can I tell you guys something?” We stopped and she pointed out a mannequin in Goodwill’s window and said her boss had assigned her to dress it, which turned out to be much more difficult than she would have thought.

It proved to be larger than most human beings, and unwieldy, and its foot fell off, then its whole arm. Finally the task was done, and she said with contagious enthusiasm and wonder that ever since then, when she sees a mannequin in another store or even a model in a catalog, now that she herself has dressed a mannequin, she has a whole new perspective on the matter.

Judy and I went back to the Mission for lunch at Papalote and I walked up to Pete’s on 24th St. to drop my new togs off for environmentally friendly dry cleaning and minor alterations. It was a sunny afternoon and the stroll home from Pete’s was idyllic and blissful.

I got a call from C. in the evening proposing an outing to the main library to hear Kay Ryan read her poems, and since the largish lunch at Papalote meant dinner could be skipped, we BARTed downtown. I’ve never really warmed up to Kay Ryan’s poems, which seem to me to be missing something—I suppose she thinks the same of my blog—but it was fun to hear her read. She herself is dazzling, and was clearly having a great time. I don’t know if I like her poems more now, but I would like to marry her, which must count for something.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Really Too Precocious Little Fellow

Once you know what employers are likely looking for in regard to skills and experience, you write “CAR stories”—what challenges did you face in a previous job (or elsewhere), what actions did you take, what were the positive results? Once you get those all written out, you draw from the actions and results sections to write the professional experience part of your resume, and if you actually get an interview, you can then regale the interviewer with harrowing details about the challenges you faced.

Just to make sure a first draft actually got completed, I registered for a resume review session at the office of the career consultants tomorrow, and vowed that no DVD would be watched until the draft was done.

I spent all day yesterday on it, and it was truly work, beginning with organizing all the pieces of information acquired on this topic over the past 15 years, and tackling the preparatory steps recommended by the career consultants, including writing the CAR stories. Nothing near a whole draft was completed by bedtime, but the prep work was mostly done and I got a couple of sections drafted.

Quite often I’ve been having that “relaxing in the isness” feeling, which I greatly appreciate for its pleasant and soothing qualities. Prior to birth, I was, I think, drifting along as an undifferentiated part of the cosmic cloud of pure consciousness, then manifested as Bugwalk and am getting to have the extraordinary experience of being human, with all its tremendous sense pleasures to enjoy (as well as giant piles of crud, of course), and later will sink into the ocean of personality-free wakefulness again, Rumi’s free-swimming fish (“Tending Two Shops”). Pardon this loathsome expression but I often do feel this way now: it’s all good.

I went to Rainbow today and was in the checkout line behind a disgruntled pudgy boy of about three who was in the company of his harassed-looking grey-haired father. The child was a total brat, snatching things away from his parent and threatening to scream at the slightest hint of opposition or redirection. I couldn’t wait to get away from him, and as the father was retrieving yet another item tossed to the ground, I said, “Looks like you have your hands full,” which caused the child to say directly to me in fairly high dudgeon, “That’s not very nice.”

I had not expected any toddler to understand what I was saying, let alone articulate a germane response. Next thing I knew, the father was insisting that the child apologize, but I interrupted and said, “No, he’s totally right.” Then I said to the child, “You are correct that I was suggesting something unflattering—I apologize.” What an astute wee sprout! But I do feel for his parent, and I hope there is a second one in this particular case. (My favorite checkout person murmured to me, “He does seem like a handful.”)

I did my cooking and then it was back to resume editing. I cannot believe how much effort it took, but it should never be quite this painful again. Now I have a process to follow and some practice doing it, plus I have at least the draft of a resume targeted to one particular position to take to the resume editing session, and shouldn’t need more than a handful of other versions. What I’ve got now is much better than anything I had before.

When I spoke to my mother on the phone, I extolled the virtues of networking and told her what I’ve been up to.

“You’re doing it!” she marveled.

“It was the threat of having to live in a basement in Ypsilanti that kicked me into higher gear.”

A natural saleswoman, she said, “If you keep the gutters clean, it won’t be wet down there and it won’t be so bad. You can use the weight bench and the sofa.”

“Really? I can use the weight bench and the sofa? Maybe I’m being too hasty.”

And the sofa? No, I don’t think I said that. I think I said, ‘you can use the weight bench as a sofa,’” she said, adding, “There is no sofa down there.”

Gainful employment is, yep, starting to look a little better.


Friday was a stellar day. I have not been expecting anything magical to happen in the job hunt. My assumption is that the process is going to be long and require many, many things to be done. I don’t know what the result of my efforts will be and am not in charge of that part. I’m in charge of taking what I believe to be appropriate, constructive action, and so far there has not been a single day where the path at least for the hours immediately ahead wasn’t crystal clear. (Thank goodness for being able to work with the career consultants! This has generated lists and lists of things to do.)

I was about to step out the door for a walk when the phone rang. It was a dear friend who some time ago had mentioned she thought I would be good at what she does and had even told this to the person in her group who is in charge of finding new hires, but he had said that he really needs people who already have these skills, not just apt-seeming trainees.

I thought no more of it and was astounded to learn, on Friday, that my friend had continued to hammer away at this poor fellow and that he had agreed to spend an hour with her and me doing a tutorial! This is not a job interview by any means, but more of an informational meeting. How tremendous that was! There’s a little bit of magic to it, after all.

But that wasn’t all. The last time I did laundry, I ran into my neighbor in the building next door who was so marvelous about never, ever again smoking in the shared trash area between our buildings after being asked not to do so only once. I think he’s a splendid person based on that alone. I often catch sight of him at his kitchen window as he stands at his sink and I at mine, but had studiously tried to appear not to see him to protect mutual privacy, but at the laundromat that day, I asked if he would mind if I gave him a little wave on such occasions, and he said in a most friendly manner that it would be fine, that he likes saying hello.

So we have waved at each other several times in past weeks, and when I went to do laundry Friday afternoon—which basically took from 3:30 until 10 p.m., one reason it’s better to do it a little more often—there he was again, and another pleasant chat ensued. (He should really also do laundry more often unless he's been sneaking over there behind my back.) It turns out he is an IT professional and said it would be OK if I looked him up on the major professional networking website; he told me his last name so I could find him there, and I told him mine.

So there you go: networking. It is doable.

Friday morning, before my friend called, I heard Anne Lamott on Forum. It was a good day to hear Anne Lamott. She said, maybe even in these words, “You don’t need to know more than you do.” Whew. She equated “helping” others to attempting to control them, which I agree with, and she shared a handy acronym for the control freak, oversharer and/or narcissist to employ now and then: WAIT—Why Am I Talking?

I decided, and my career benefactor concurred, that it would be prudent to have a resume ready to go on tutorial day just in case. My friend C. had been invited to go to radio station KPFA in Berkeley yesterday to record some poems in his beautiful resonant voice, and he had invited me to tag along, which no doubt would have been interesting, but time was of the essence, so I stayed home and, even though it was Saturday and, along with Sunday, a universal day of rest, worked on putting together a first resume a la the career consultants, which is an involved process.

Their key point regarding resumes is that every last thing on them should be targeted to the desired position, so you start by studying eight to 10 job postings to see what qualifications employers want. This involved going to the professional networking site for research, and at that point there was a significant digression as I started sending invitations to “connect” to various and sundry of those known to me, including my kitchen sink neighbor.

When I finally got into looking at the job postings, I was delighted to see that the major skills required for this job—business analyst—are ones I happen to be excellent at and also happen to really enjoy using.

For instance, verbatim from one posting: “Responsible for ensuring that all documentation accruately reflects the current status of changes and outstanding issues … .” I think I can do that! Especially the accruately part. (And note the correctly used ellipsis.) So, as I wrote my dear friend, whatever happens when we meet with her colleague, this could be a turning point in this whole process.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Jingle Shoes

Here in San Francisco, a cyclist recently plowed into a crowded crosswalk at Market and Castro and killed an elderly pedestrian, so Forum on KQED Monday morning was about cyclists following the law or not. I intended to miss it to avoid a spike in blood pressure but ended up being in the kitchen at that time and got to hear Bert Hill say, in regard to the proper course of action at a stop sign, that he does slow down to about one percent of his normal traveling speed, and then he finds that many motorists graciously just wave him through at that point, which is super because cyclists are at their unsteadiest when mounting and dismounting, etc.

It was disheartening. I know Bert and like him a lot. He’s a truly lovely guy, and he’s also probably our premier bicycle educator so it would really have been nice just to hear him say, “When you come to a stop sign, uh, stop.”

I went off for a walk intending to go to Randall and San Jose but at 24th St. was strongly overtaken by the urge to shop for shoes. I actually do (did) need shoes, along with garments that can be worn to the career consultants’ office and perhaps will be needed for my next job. I have also lost weight, which I had no particular desire to do, but it has been the inevitable result of the anti-cancer eating program, and has made some things no longer wearable. It seems a little strange—that flesh was mine and I didn’t give it explicit permission to depart—and I feel a little vulnerable without it, though I also notice an enjoyable new sense of ease in my body.

Anyway, I turned onto 24th St. and went to Astrid’s Rabat and got an absolutely darling pair of Naot girl boots. I love them. They make a little jingling sound—zippers—which I didn’t realize in the store, but people are just going to have to hear a little jingling sound. (Judy, my wardrobe consultant, gave me permission not to obtain shoes, socks or underwear from the thrift store. In fact, she explicitly told me to pay full price for those things.)

The box says to apply a “suitable” sealant spray before wearing and to polish or oil periodically with an alcohol-free product. The Internet says every shoe polish commercially available has toxic ingredients. So, you know, every possible thing opens its own little can of worms. Now I must learn how to make my own environmentally friendly shoe polish, which looks like it won’t be too difficult.

Tuesday was Margaux’s birthday, so I gave her a call and sang “Happy Birthday” and we had a long, satisfying chat. We met when we were 14, and whereas I will be 50 in just under two months, Margaux, by some mysterious universal force, is turning only 29 and a half. Before we hung up, I mentioned the longevity of our friendship, during which we’ve never had the remotest fight. Oh, well, there may have been some slight unpleasantness when we were in our early teens and she took up with a fellow I’d just broken up with, but that’s so very long ago. I don’t remember it as being a big deal. “How amazing to know someone 36 years,” I mused. “In your case,” she cheerfully reminded me.

In the evening I walked to Howie’s with C., who lives near me. Howie was away again, this time replaced by Yvonne Ginsberg. Afterward, we walked home in the pouring rain.

Yesterday I took an online class, an introduction to computer programming, and learned a lot. Here’s the best thing I learned: that the first-generation computer, the ENIAC, circa 1945, weighed 30 tons and failed every seven minutes.

I am also working on my own through a book on Perl programming and noticed a sudden and distinct clutch of fear in my stomach that afternoon when I didn’t immediately understand something, because of course no actual effort should be required; I should already know everything. I had to get out a piece of paper and painstakingly write the variables and values out in detail and go over it carefully five times in a row. When it finally made sense, it was a good feeling.

Today I took BART to the main library to return some books and pick up others, and walked home, after which there was a webinar on search strategy and networking, which yielded a long list of things to do, many of which looked daunting, but I’m positive I’m far from the first to think that I can’t network because I don’t know anyone and also never leave my house, so I didn’t bother to think that. The fact is, I can do whatever needs to be done, and I will do whatever needs to be done, and the only place I can start from is this exact place.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Particularly Agreeable Relationship Reaches Exciting Milestone

Yesterday I met C. at a café near 22nd St. and Guerrero. He was seated outside the place mostly concealed behind a big potted plant, but I could see his hands and wrists undulating in the air from about a quarter of a block of way. When we were making our arrangements on the phone the day prior, C. said, “I don’t know what I’m doing except for what I’m doing right this minute, and I don’t even know that,” which I thought was rather charming.

We walked extremely slowly over to Church and 24th St. to the sidewalk sale of two sisters who had lived in their house for 40 years but now have been foreclosed upon and evicted. We didn’t buy anything, but I made a contribution.

Then we went to El Majahual for lunch. It’s on Valencia St. and serves Colombian and El Salvadorean food. Next we went to C.’s place for a bit to see how things were there and to sing a little, and then to my place to see how things were here. It was quite an enjoyable day.

I was riding my bicycle to Rainbow today along 20th St., with a white car following fairly close behind, not really too close, but not as far back as I prefer. When I stopped at a red light, the car pulled up to my right and the driver, a man, said quietly that he thought it would be courteous if I were to pull over and let him go by.

I said politely, “Well, I have the legal right to be exactly where I am. You know that, right?”

I’d assumed he was on my right because he was getting ready to turn right, but when the light changed and I had crossed to the other side of the intersection, he sped angrily by me on my left, showing his true colors, or some of his other colors, anyway.

Of course, brooding and visions of alternate scenarios ensued.  For instance, I might have said, “You are operating your vehicle in a safe and legal manner, as far as I can tell. You could go further and demonstrate extreme courtesy by pulling over and letting me have the road to myself, but would it really be reasonable of me to expect that? By the same token, do you really think it’s reasonable for you to suggest that I, also operating a vehicle in a safe and legal manner, should pull over so you can have the entire road to yourself?

“My pulling over potentially puts me in the door zone, an unsafe place to ride. You feel it’s the right thing to ask a complete stranger to place herself in jeopardy so that you can get to the next stop sign two seconds sooner? [Here I’d naturally be warming to my topic a little.]

“There is, however, a law [CVC 21656] that applies perfectly in this situation, as it calls upon a slow-moving vehicle “behind which five or more vehicles are formed in line” to pull over and let faster traffic pass, and rest assured that if you were five faux-reasonable fellows, I would be happy to comply.”

But that’s all a bit disingenuous. The truth is that I often do move slightly to the right to let a motorist know he or she is welcome to pass; sometimes I wave the car by with my arm. It depends on three things: my mood, if the motorist has demonstrated poor manners or aggression (in which case they’re welcome to follow me all day; i.e., they are not welcome to pass, unless I think they would actually be willing to drive over me, in which case, please, after you), and what kind of car they’re driving.

This fellow had made the error of addressing me from a BMW, that car which, along with the Prius, automatically raises the hackles of many cyclists, because their drivers are so often rude and self-entitled. If this guy hadn’t stomped on the gas after our chat, I might have ended up wishing I’d been even milder in responding, perhaps just saying, “Duly noted; thanks.” But since he did do that, he seemed to prove once again that BMW drivers really do think no one else should be on the road.

But it wasn’t a major thing and did not affect my weekly visit with my favorite checkout person at Rainbow, a friendship that has reached the two-year mark and is really one of my favorite relationships because the ratio of time invested to satisfaction achieved is completely off the charts. Ten minutes per week affords, say, one hundred or so units of pleasure. Happy anniversary and so many thanks, dear favorite checkout person!

Friday, April 06, 2012

Perfectly Good Lane Lane

Today I rode to the beach again, and after a couple of days on the new separated bikeway on John F. Kennedy Drive, am ready to share my observations. Formerly, scanning from right to left you had, in this order, the lawn extension ending at the curb, parked cars, and finally a wide lane readily shared by motorists and cyclists. Where was the problem? I’ll tell you where the problem was: there wasn’t one!

Now what we’ve got, at no doubt vast expense for planning, getting approvals from agencies and citizens, engineering, and implementation, are the lawn extension ending at the curb, the bike lane, a buffer zone about two feet wide, the area where cars are supposed to park, and then the lane where the cars are supposed to drive.

This strikes me as an overly tortured idea on its face, and in practice, motorists are not always parking in the area designated for cars. They are sometimes parking right on the divider or into the bike lane itself, meaning that parts of the bike lane are basically door zones (areas where cyclists are in danger of hitting car doors after they are opened).

Formerly, when people opened their car doors to disembark, the doors on the right side of the car opened over a curb, while the doors on the left side of the car opened into the lane shared by moving cars and bikes and were easily enough avoided. Now the doors on the right side of the car theoretically open into the buffer zone, but often enough into the bike lane, depending on where the car is parked, so that the bike lane, besides sometimes being a door zone, is also one big loading/unloading zone. I’m finding it a bit nerve-wracking to ride there. I really don’t want to frighten, flatten or otherwise wreck the day of any out-of-towner or even an in-towner.

Across from the Conservatory of Flowers, on the south side of the street, is a stretch of bike lane that is narrow and quite shaded and has branches sticking into it—downright claustrophobic and a good place for a cyclist to lose an eyeball. Today I just used the “car” lane there instead of the bike lane and was glad I did when a roller skater came shooting toward me out of that narrow, dark stretch of bike lane just as I would have entered it. Fortunately, there is no law saying you have to use a bike lane just because it's there. In fact, there’s a law saying you don’t have to, though using a “car” lane that is in such close proximity to a bike lane does feel a little strange—it certainly must appear to others that one is doing the wrong thing.

Until lately, I have had (almost) nothing but compliments for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. They are amazing, dedicated people—beyond dedicated. They are fire-breathing zealots, unstoppable and determined. They have reformed this city before our eyes, and I genuinely believe they wring $1.25 worth of good out of every dollar they take in. They work long hours and they never tire, but in some respects I think they have overshot being helpful. At any rate, they are starting to make my life more difficult with all these bike lanes right next to perfectly good lane lanes. Honestly, just about anyone can learn the skills needed to share most lanes with motorists. Cyclists, for the most part, are not delicate flowers who can’t ride unless it’s in a garishly painted special lane with stout brick walls on both sides of it.

I wish bicycle advocates would expend less effort on installing special facilities for cyclists and more on educating cyclists and motorists alike about safe, confident cycling and related laws. I try to avoid bike lanes as much as possible, because you know what’s in bike lanes? Clueless cyclists who ride in the door zone and pass other cyclists far too closely, generally on the right! 

P. S. After I'm killed cycling in a "car" lane, I understand it will be irresistible to cite this post as an example of bitter irony, and you will have my permission from beyond the grave to do so.

Thursday, April 05, 2012


On Monday I attended a “webinar” on resume development, which led directly to feeling, on Tuesday, gloomy about the job situation for the first time in quite a while, though everything was the same as it had been the day before. Maybe it was knowing I now need to do a crapload of work on my resume, which I’d thought was pretty good already, after a bit of recent polishing.

Or it might have been because I slept twelve and a half hours before I got up on Tuesday, which is almost unheard of these days, and cast my schedule into disarray. A bike ride to the beach cheered me up, plus an unexpected phone call from my friend C.

Tuesday evening I went to Howie’s. Howie was away, but the highly genial and accomplished Anushka Fernandopulle was there in his stead, plus I had a very agreeable co-greeter. Before I left the house, I was thinking of wearing a certain shirt and when I tried it on, found this note in the pocket: “A. would like to know how to make chess pie.” The last time I wore that shirt, A. was alive and I was seeing him for the last time, not knowing it was so. I haven’t cried over losing A., I think because he was very matter of fact about the whole thing himself, focused on what he could enjoy, not what would soon be gone. Perhaps I can best honor him by doing the same.

Yesterday’s webinar was on looking for a job after age 50, which I’ll be doing in a couple of months, at least the over 50 part. It was a rare day of getting no exercise at all, and by evening I felt even more downcast than I had the day before: I’ll never find a job. This despite not even having produced a satisfactory resume yet, let alone sent it to anyone! I’m partly having a chicken-and-egg problem: A resume is supposed to be focused on the desired position, but what’s the desired position? Figuring this out may involve doing some research on LinkedIn, for which I need an account and preferably a full profile. How do you make a good profile for LinkedIn? You cut and paste the pertinent sections of your resume.

Of course, you don't really need a good profile just to do research. You could have a terrible profile or even borrow someone else's, I suppose, but it would be nice to have a solid profile before starting much on LinkedIn. I might immediately bump into someone I want to connect with (pardon the expression) but not want them to see my lame profile. Anyway, my overall problem is that I really, truly have no idea what I'm doing. Fortunately, there is plenty to do while I figure it out (acquire new IT skills, for instance).

This morning I made sure to take a bike ride to the beach, which might have been a walk instead if I’d realized how breezy it was, but it wasn’t too windy for safe cycling, and it turned out to be just glorious. The sea was a beautiful dark blue and the minor gale was highly refreshing.

Post-ride, I did my taxes, which was fairly painful. I had to fill out a form or two for the first time and had to read the instructions over and over, a word at a time. It seems better to start by looking at the form itself, which is often quite self-explanatory, than with the instructions for the form, which are almost always incomprehensible and very like chicken-and-egg problems themselves. I did finally finish my federal taxes and then really appreciated how simple California makes it to file state taxes. It takes about 20 minutes online.

My latest crop of affirmations: I’m right where I’m supposed to be, I have everything I need, and life is unfolding perfectly.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012


Hammett moments after coming upon two white dishcloths hanging from a doorknob.

He does seem to have a genuine gift when it comes to the arranging of fabric. Either that or he's channeling an unruly little dog.

(Yes, I'm planning to look into dusting that door.)

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Greetings to Number 19 and Thank You for Not Breaking My Jaw

Last Monday, KQED’s Forum program was about the shooting of Trayvon Martin. The day before, on On the Media, they had played the extremely upsetting tape of the 911 call. On Forum, some of the African-American male guests were talking about the very frequent experience of seeing that white strangers, particularly women, appear to be afraid of them. One said he now just takes the initiative to cross to the other side of the street himself when he sees a white woman walking toward him.

On my way back from the ocean that day on my bike, I saw a black guy walking by himself in the park, and smiled and said, “Good morning.” I recognize that this could be construed to be condescending, but we had a very pleasant interaction, and I (anyway) felt uplifted. Also, if he had been thinking, “This woman probably thinks I’m a criminal,” at least on this occasion that notion was banished.

After more than a year of not being able to use the left side of my teeth for chewing because #19 was on a gay holiday elsewhere, I found myself still avoiding that area even after my dentist placed the implant crown. The day the crown was placed, I first visited my oral surgeon so he could attach an abutment to the screw that was sunk into the jawbone; the crown itself attaches to the abutment. He explained that when we chew, all of our teeth shift slightly, the upper ones up, and the lower ones down. He said that when my dentist adjusted the crown, she should make it so its surface wouldn’t meet any opposing force until after that slight downward shift of the bottom teeth had occurred and that if there was a choice between the top of #19 being a bit high or a bit low, it should be a bit low.

He didn’t go into graphic detail, but I think he was trying to say that if #19 encountered undue pressure, because it can't give a bit the way other teeth do, my entire jawbone could shatter where the titanium screw was driven into it and it would be unfixable, as well as hideously painful, and I’d have to go around for the rest of my life with a big sling around my head holding the lower third of my face on.

Ergo, crown or no crown and already being in practice, I decided just never to chew on that side again. But as luck would have it, pain arose on the right side Monday morning during my power breakfast—thank goodness it didn’t happen before the crown was placed—and I was forced to chew using the left side teeth for the first time in 15 months, and my jawbone did not shatter.

Later that day I finished installing MySQL and was kind of thrilled to have done so successfully; it was not entirely straightforward. On Tuesday I installed the latest version of Perl (a scripting language) and went to Howie’s and fulfilled my greeting duties. Wednesday was a fun day of playing with the computer, which bolstered my idea of maybe being a developer.

However, on Thursday, I discovered I’d broken the iMac, which I realized when I was unable to update iTunes and also the Logitech Media Server, the software for my beloved Squeezebox Boom. This all caused me to remember how much I hate computers: ixnay on becoming a developer. I ended up having to reinstall the Mac’s operating system, which fixed every problem, thank goodness. Then I reinstalled Perl but was thinking that if computers ever start to seem fun again, it might be a good idea to get a cheap Windows laptop to experiment on.

On Friday I took a long walk. I’ve really been enjoying getting to know the largely Latino Mission St. better. The stretch between 16th and 20th has been somewhat familiar, but everything else I had only a vague idea of. I’ve lately been walking the 13 or so blocks south of 20th, on alternating sides of the street, looking carefully at my side and the other side, and have seen so many wonderful things.

Yesterday Howie’s group did another lovely half-day of meditating together at the Happiness Institute and afterward four of us ate at Ananda Fuara. After lunch I telephoned the hospice facility to say I was on my way to visit A., and learned he had died Thursday morning, after my 26th visit to him, last week. Maybe the very last piece of U. S. mail he got was the recipe for chess pie. It is touching to think that his mother and something she cooked long ago were on A.’s mind in the very last week of his very long life.

Thus at loose ends, I went instead to Mission Pie with N., on my new favorite street, at 25th. She had lemon pie and I had a sort of horrible tea called “vital green.” Then she took me to see her place. Back at home, I found I’d broken the Mac again and had to reinstall the operating system from scratch a second time! Well, it has been a week of learning. I’m now persuaded that even if the Mac’s version of Perl is six behind what’s current, it’s really not a good idea to remove it. You can have yours as well, but don’t remove theirs.