People Of The Office Part 2

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It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these posts. Last time, even though I was doing the exact job I’m doing now, it was in a different building with different people. My company got bought a year ago and I got bought with it, so I’m surrounded by new people. Let’s dish the dirt on some current coworkers!

Stripper Shoes

I call her stripper shoes, because she wears shoes like these to work almost every day:

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Our office is casual attire. I don’t mean business casual where you can wear khakis and a buttoned down shirt. I mean casual, as in essentially whatever you’d wear on the weekend. It’s really the only perk of my job.

The only rules we have at all are no open-toed shoes in the warehouse and no ripped clothing, and those rules are simply for liability insurance purposes. Other than that, pretty much anything goes. Hell, I even saw this one day (though he was a model hired for a photo shoot for our lingerie company):

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Casual dress code, yet Stripper Shoes wears six-inch platform stripper shoes to work nearly every day, no matter what she’s wearing. I’ve seen her wear jean shorts and stripper shoes, not a good look.

For the record, stripper shoes are meant to strip in, not to wear in an office. Even when I wore heels every day, and I could run, dance or whatever else in them, I stayed away from six-inch platforms, because they are impossible to do anything in besides strip. No one looks good walking in stripper shoes, because they’re not designed for walking. They make even the most agile woman look like a newborn giraffe.

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Lesbian Stereotype

On the complete opposite end of the girly spectrum, we have Lesbian Stereotype. She walks and dresses like a man, with a lot of flannel and work boots even though she works in an office, and she has a mostly shaved head in the form of a mohawk.

By the way, I’m still mad at lesbians for stealing the shaved head. When I had a shaved head, I never got hit on by women more in my life and I normally get hit on by a lot of lesbians. I think it’s because I’m a bit of a tomboy. I am not, however, a lesbian. I tried it and it didn’t take.

When I had a shaved head, people either assumed that I was a lesbian or in chemotherapy. Eventually, I got tired of the presumptions, which annoys me, because a shaved head was the best haircut I ever had.

Lesbian Stereotype is, in fact, a lesbian, which is good I suppose. If you’re going to be a stereotype, you might as well be whatever you’re stereotyping. She seems to have a mild crush on me. Every time she walks by my desk, she stares at me sidelong.

Oversharer

My cubicle is surrounded by salespeople who talk on the phone all day. This is the main reason I wear headphones. Directly opposite me is the loudest of the salespeople and I can hear her over my headphones.

I know all the intimate details of her life, because she tells them to her customers. I know where she lives, what her dog’s name is, all about her boyfriend, what she did over the weekend and that she went to a nudist beach one weekend. In a year, I think we’ve spoken face to face maybe a dozen times and I probably know more about her than her mother.

Ain’t no know English

I have to deal with our web guy a lot. He seems fairly competent at his job and knows quite a bit about web development. He even has some halfway decent marketing ideas, which continually amazes me, because if you heard him talk, you’d think he was a total raging idiot.

For example, here is a real email he sent me with no editing:

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It was written in red, too, which is another pet peeve. At least it wasn’t in Comic Sans.

His emails are a direct reflection of the way he talks. He uses double negatives in sentences constantly. He actually, not ironically, uses the word “ain’t” when speaking in business meetings. How can someone be fairly competent at their technology job and come off as such a moron?

Rainbow Kitten Lady

When my company was sold a year ago, it was bought by the same company who bought the company I worked for before that. As a consequence, I work with a lot of people I worked with ten years ago. One of them is Rainbow Kitten Lady. I wrote about her before in an ancient post from 2009, so I’ll just quote myself:

[Rainbow Kitten Lady is] one of the meekest people I’ve ever met in my life. She is so demure that, if you happen to run into her in the narrow hallway, she will back up and make room for you to pass. Always. Most of the time, the process of retreat is accompanied by “Sorry, sorry, sorry” until you make your way on by. The only interaction she seems to enjoy is talking to animals in baby-talk. She never gives eye contact and she wears shirts that have puppies, rainbows or kittens on them every day. She is a living, breathing Cathy cartoon.

Rainbow Kitten Lady hasn’t changed a bit in six years. Fortunately, Wall Puncher, also mentioned in that post, doesn’t work at my company anymore.

I Have To Go…

Another of my former coworkers who I am blessed to work with again is my former manager. Back in 2009, she used her teenage daughter as an excuse to leave work constantly. She’d come over and say, “I have to go. My daughter has/needs/is doing…” whatever. She used that excuse at least once, sometimes, twice a week.

Her daughter is no longer a teenager. In fact, she doesn’t even live at home anymore. So, I was curious as to what excuses I Have To Go would use to leave work early now.

So far, it’s mostly been a range of medical ailments. “I have to go to the doctor, because,” this was this week’s excuse and it’s only Tuesday, “I tripped on a grape this weekend and hurt my back.”

Other excuses she has used: I have to meet my gardener/pool guy. I have to go get ready for Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur/Chanukah, etc. I have to go take my dog to the vet and once she even had to go buy dog food. At election time, she had to go vote. She lives five minutes away and it took her three hours to vote during record-setting low voter turnout when only 1 in 10 Angelinos voted, and most of them voted by mail.

It’s become a running joke with other coworkers as to the most outlandish excuse. I have to go register for the draft. I have to go defend my property from zombies. I have to go stock up on rocket ship fuel. I have to go.

Air Conditioner Blues

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My air conditioner died. You say, oh, boo hoo, Ms. first world air conditioner. We don’t even have air conditioning! Back in my day, we conditioned air by hand with mules and pulleys!

Yes, but you didn’t foolishly decide to plant your delicate Nordic genes in Los Angeles during a heat wave where it was this hot:

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And that was written before my air conditioning died. It has been in the low-900’s to mid-1000’s (mid-300s to 583° Celsius) for most of August during which my c. twenty year old AC unit was having difficulty doing its job, because it was too busy dying a slow death.

I called my handyman (the joy of renting, not owning) and demanded it be fixed tout de suite! Weeks later, he was crawling around on my roof. He only showed when he received a frantic call that it was entirely dead.

Friday night, at 106° Fahrenheit (41° C), I came home to find a sweltering abode. The result of frantic call: handyman wouldn’t even be able to look at it until tomorrow morning at the earliest.

My house was designed for central air conditioning, i.e., air circulation wasn’t a factor when they slapped the papier mâché walls together. My two-story apartment has only four windows on two sides. Two of them are exceptionally over-sized, but one of them doesn’t even open. The house was designed around air conditioning, which it no longer had.

I spent my Friday night driving to three different stores in search of a fan. I do not own a fan, because my house is designed for central air conditioning. The first store had none. Not one fan. Not even one of those almost pointless USB fans. Apparently, I’m not the only one who found themselves without means of cooling during this heat wave.

The second store only had one ridiculously fancy antique-brass oscillating floor fan priced at $119 (seriously, who needs that?). I like air circulation as much as the next guy, but not that much.

The third store only had box fans. Well, I do have two windows that open in which a box fan might be appropriate. Sold.

I didn’t relish the idea of returning to my house and I did consider running away from home, but then I thought of these guys who sucked all the fun out of such irresponsible notions:

Assholes.
Assholes.

By the time I got back from my fool’s fan errand, it was dark outside. Fortunately, I live in the desert. While this means 106 F is probable, it also means that, once the sun goes away, so does the heat. This is great when your central AC breaks down in a heat wave, but not so great if you’re stranded in the middle of the desert. Heat in LA is not like east coast heat that sticks around all night. With few exceptions, it tends to run away shortly after the sun. Still, it had been 106 degrees that day and my house was all of them.

I set up my box fans to first blow all the hot air out, then, to suck all the cooler night air in. By the time I foolishly tried to sleep, it was probably only around 95 degrees in my bed. I didn’t sleep.

I waited on handyman in my hothouse the next morning. At approximately no longer morning at all, he finally showed. I awaited the expected news that the unit was irreparable and it would take another month of 106 to get a new one. Surprisingly, for once, the news was better than expected.

The good news is, the unit isn’t entirely dead! The bad news is that the condenser is broken and I don’t have another one. Maybe I can fix it later today if I can find the part.

I had to stick around and wait for “maybe later today.” One hundred and six degrees. Someone please explain to me why I live in the valley.

I thought about running away to someplace cool. I even checked into hotel rooms in Santa Barbara. Did you know there’s not a single pet-friendly hotel room anywhere in Santa Barbara for less than $100 a night? Damn my brokeness. Sometimes, being poor really kills spontaneity, especially when I just blew my wad on box fans.

I checked into local hotel rooms, but I just couldn’t justify spending $50+ on a hotel room I can walk to, even if it did have sweet, sweet air conditioning. The innards of my house were somewhere around 30 Kelvins.

Then, right about when the sun went down, handyman proved himself worthy of the name. He rode up on a white horse (alright, it was a pickup truck, but it was, in fact, white) with a condenser! I slept the sleep of frigid northern angels and dreamed of glaciers that night.

Sunday, I sat inside my cold apartment most of the day with socks on my feet because they were cold (COLD!) and thumbed my nose at the sweltering heat on the outside where it belongs. Ah, the joys of air conditioning. Never again will we part ways.

The No Fly List

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I was raised in a middle class family. Before he retired, my father was blue-collar. He was a union operator on the largest and highest quality lithographic printing presses in Detroit. He’d come home with ink all over his rough and calloused hands that never completely came off. I loved the smell. His job is probably a great deal of the reason I’m now a graphic designer.

When I was small, I remember visiting him at work and being mesmerized by the scale of the printing presses. “My dad knows how to make that thing work.” My father didn’t sit in an office all day pushing numbers around; he made things with his hands and had tangible results of his work.

I was never ashamed of my dad’s blue-collar job. Quite the contrary; it made me proud. I still have a bit of one of the lithographs my dad made framed on my wall, even though he’s been retired for some fifteen years now. Instead of framing the whole thing, in a fit of artistic folly, I cut out just part of the volcano. I used to have two volcano bits, but the other one was destroyed years ago.

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My mom, on the other hand, went through a phase of wanting more. Our huge house in Detroit wasn’t in a good enough area to raise children. Our public education wasn’t good enough. All of her friends had husbands who wore suits to work. My dad had permanent ink stains on his fingers.

She enrolled us in private Catholic school even though we weren’t Catholic. When I was fourteen, she moved us to a custom-built house way in the suburbs on a golf course, even though none of us golfed ever, not even after we moved there. The house was so cheaply slapped together that you could hear a fart in the basement from the second floor. It was the type of subdivision that has a name and a gate house. The only differences between the houses were exterior color and which side the garage was on. We went from a block of houses with straight lines to curves and cul-de-sacs for no real reason. There were no fences. There was no privacy. They bulldozed all the big, old trees only to plant new ones.

I absolutely hated the suburbs and still do to this day. They give me the willies. My dad had to drive an extra hour to get to work, but it was a more prestigious address than Detroit. My mom sold it by saying that the schools were better, so they didn’t have to spend money to send me to Catholic school even though we weren’t Catholic.

Still, it was not good enough. All of our neighbors drove fancy cars. My dad drove an old pickup truck with an American flag sticker on the back. Always with the American flag sticker on the back, even now. Nothing was good enough. More more more.

She wasn’t always that way. When my sister and I were firmly ensconced in school, my mom got a job. She worked in the arts. At fifteen, when she forced me to start working, she got me a job in the arts through her contacts. She worked with liberals. She was a moderate.

Something happened when we moved to the suburbs. Something in her shifted. She went from moderate to conservative and stayed there. She found Jesus out there. I never had any use for him myself. The more conservative and greedy she got, the more liberal and humble I became. Though, I came by it honestly enough through the genetics of my father; he never cared about material possessions.

When I was in high school, and my mom and I were both working in the arts, there was a Republican gubernatorial candidate who pledged to cut funding for the arts if elected, as if that was some sort of selling point. My mom and I talked about it and how we both would likely lose our jobs if he was elected. I was too young to vote. She voted for him anyway. We both lost our jobs a few months later. Still, she was not dissuaded. She kept going down the Conservative Party line and our political paths parted ways forever before I could even vote.

Politics and religion are on the No Fly List, a list of topics I’ve created and honed over the years that I never discuss with my mom. As long as we don’t talk about the things on that list, we get along fine. Other topics include sex, tattoos, her mother being an awful human being, the child sexual abuse I endured and she denied, and most women’s rights issues, including, for some reason, pay disparity. As a woman in the workplace, she somehow seems to think it’s appropriate if she’s paid less for the same job as a man.

The other day, my sister and I were driving past a newly constructed Hobby Lobby. I have never and will never set foot inside a Hobby Lobby, because of their religiously-derived and now Supreme court-justified fervor to take reproductive rights away from their female employees and make them pay for birth control themselves.

As we drove, my sister related how Mom had told her that they were getting a new Hobby Lobby in their small conservative community in northern Michigan, whereupon my sister blurted out, “Don’t shop there! Hobby Lobby is EVIL!” but she couldn’t remember why. I said it’s probably for the best that she couldn’t remember the reason, because mom might be more inclined to shop there if she knew.

My sister said that I might be surprised. None of us would exist if it wasn’t for abortion.

What?

When my sister was in nursing school, they made her do a study of her family medical history, and she discovered that our grandmother was pregnant before she had my uncle and mother. The pregnancy would have killed her had she carried it to term, so she had an second-trimester abortion. Had she not done that, my mom, uncle, sister, two generations of cousins and me wouldn’t exist.

“I think you’d be surprised about mom’s opinion of abortion.”

I suppose it proves that you never entirely know anyone, not even someone you’ve known and lived with for decades. Still, I think I’ll keep that topic on the No Fly List for now.

The Estate of Goldfish

Male's ugly lamp, framed robot picture and chest of drawers from Goodwill.

If I were to die tomorrow and you were to scrutinize my belongings for anything of value, you would be sorely disappointed.

I don’t own a house. I have a twelve-year-old car. I have about $500 cash, no savings and one year’s worth of saving for retirement. I have at least a dozen original works of art, but none of them are from famous artists. I have a ton of books, but none are valuable first editions.

The only things of monetary value I have are a few scant pieces of jewelry inherited from my family. My grandmother’s ring. My grandfather’s pocket watch. My great-grandfather’s gold and amethyst chain that he wore every day over his judge’s robes. They’re worth less in money than in sentimental value.

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If you were to add it up, everything that I own, you might get $10,000 for all my worldly possessions if you sold them individually on Ebay or the like. At an estate sale, my entire lot would maybe fetch $5,000.

I have nothing that’s worth much. I have second-hand furniture, second-hand clothes, second-hand lamps and t-shirts. Everything I own is gently to vigorously used. Some of it isn’t even mine.

Male's oldest and most prized t-shirt gifted to me after his memorial.
Male’s oldest and most prized t-shirt gifted to me after his memorial.

You wouldn’t want to be listed in my will. If I were to die tomorrow, I’d leave more debt than valuables.

How can one work for decades in this world, from the age of fifteen years old, without acquiring anything of value? How is that even possible?

You could take a Buddhist slant on the state of my material possessions.

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You could even Fight Club it:

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And if you did that, you’d be right.

Part of the state of my owning nothing is intentional. It’s the same reason I have this on my knuckles:

Photo stolen from Ra's Instagram.
Photo straight-up stolen from Ra’s Instagram.

I have knuckle tattoos to remind me never to take another stuffy and conservative corporate job again that sucks my soul away little by little just for a paycheck. Among other things, that’s what stay down means. Their location prevents me from getting a fancy job again, since conservative types aren’t fond of knuckle tattoos.

I used to have earthly possessions. I used to have antiques and heirlooms that I painstakingly moved around from place to place. After living with the furniture of long-dead relatives for a decade, after carting it all around from apartment to apartment, state to state, I finally had enough.

When you get down to it, why should I feel obligated to live with the interior decorating choices of people I never met who died long before I was born? Just because we’re related, that doesn’t mean we’ll have the same taste in furniture. I would never expect my family to cart my junk around generations from now, so why must I?

I’d had enough of wood oil and “there’s a trick to opening that dresser since that drawer is broken.” I got tired of living with delicate dark wood, marble and glass. I was sick of planting my ass in the same uncomfortable chair in which my great-grandfather planted his ass. I wanted color and things I didn’t need to be careful of breaking and/or were already broken. I wanted change.

I loaned out all the antiques like a furniture library when I moved from Boston to Los Angeles fifteen years ago with the stipulation that I get first dibs if the loanees ever wanted to get rid of it. The stipulation has only come into play once when a friend wanted to get rid of the aforementioned dresser with the broken drawer, the same dresser that lived in my bedroom my entire life. He asked me if I wanted it back. I said no.

I haven’t asked for, nor do I want, any of that furniture back. The antiques of my progenitors are all happily living new lives outside of the family and I don’t particularly care whether my great-grandfather’s ass would approve of that or not.

Stuff is just stuff. “The things you own end up owning you.” Until you have a house full of family antiques that you have to carefully move around the country more than a few times, you cannot fully appreciate this fact.

Getting rid of it all allowed me to have colorful cheap-ass crap like this around instead, which makes me way happier:

Male's ugly lamp, framed robot picture and chest of drawers from Goodwill.
Male’s ugly lamp, framed robot picture and chest of drawers from Goodwill.

Yet, part of me yearns for a little homestead to call my own. Part of me wishes for a yard and a deed to some property so that I might recall all those antiques to come live with me again. Part of me wishes I wasn’t so damn broke as the result of the stay down choices I made, and rails at the unfairness of the seeming inability to be rich and happy. Part of me me wonders why I even bother with poor, since I’m not particularly happy without money either, but at least my soul is intact.

Not owning much of monetary value is my choice, or at least, it’s the result of choices I made. I don’t begrudge it. I don’t regret it. I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ll take Male’s ugly lamp over grandpa’s chair any day.

Fragile Connections

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To any of you bloggers out there wondering if you should keep going, if just one person in your own little vacuum can make a difference, if your words even matter in such an enormous sea of other words: let me tell you, they do.

Maybe not today, tomorrow or next week, but someday, something you say will matter to someone. It will cause a memory to stir or finally make someone realize they are not alone. That’s why I keep going. Well, that and a pathological need to get these stupid words out of me like a splinter. They form in my brain and won’t let me rest until I yank them out with tweezers.

For over five years now, I’ve sat at a keyboard in my personal vacuum and churned out more than 1,200 posts. At least half of them are fairly useless silliness that I wrote just to have something to write.

Out of the other half, there are at least a dozen posts that I’m genuinely proud of having written. I read them every so often to remind myself that I can actually write when I put my mind to it. Those are the posts that get the least attention.

The posts that get noticed are in the other half–the fairly useless silliness half. But, you never know what will get someone’s attention, so I keep writing.

I’ve been Freshly Pressed four times. I’m not really proud of any of my Freshly Pressed posts. One was a letter to Santa Claus and another was a satirical recipe, hardly anything I’d put on a resumé.

The most read posts on this blog, the ones that still get views sometimes years after I wrote them, are Tattoo Trends That Should Stop, The Pros And Cons Of Dog Ownership, 12 Things We Did Before Technology and The Worst Products For Left-Handed People. I’m not going to link those, because you can generally always find them in my sidebar under What You’re Reading.

You get the idea: None of those posts are going to change the world. Not one of them is something I’m proud of having written. The reason I bring all this up is that, every once in a while, one of those random posts does make a difference.

Last weekend, I noticed a preponderance of owls around my home. Naturally, I took pictures and posted them for you to see. It was just a silly Saturday post about noticing that I have inadvertently collected a lot of owls. The post definitely falls into the fairly useless silliness collection.

One of the pictures had a card that Ra gave me in it. In the post, I referred to her as Rarasaur, because that is the title of her blog:

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She wrote a post about all the names people call her. In the comments, she replied to someone mentioning that I called her Rarasaur and she linked my silly owl post:

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I didn’t even know that comment was there until I got a pingback from a stranger.

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Why would someone I don’t know link my silly owl post? My first thought was, “How embarrassing.” And then I read the post and my heart melted. It was a beautiful post by Deborah The Closet Monster about missing her mother:

I read this post about the names Ra is called. I commented on the post with my own names. Ra replied by pointing me to two examples of bloggers calling her other than “Ra.”

One was full of owls. My mom sent me many owls while I was in law school. I never did know why, but came to like owls because she sent them.

Remembering Mom’s owls thanks to that Ra-linked blog, I posted a note about them on Instagram. I said I’d be keeping her close by wearing owl earrings that evening, even if, I told my husband, I had no idea why my mom originally figured me for an owl person.

He presented a possibility so thoughtful and beautiful, I started crying.

(I’m keeping it for myself.)

My younger sister actually knew. She commented:

Mom sent then to you because she said the owl represented wisdom… And she always thought you were the wisest and that the owl would look over you, and help guide your way.

In a roundabout way, as only the internet is capable of producing, my silly owl post had somehow made a stranger connect with her mother.

Her post came full circle, since I am missing the love of my life who died four months ago and I’m in need of fragile connections to keep him alive in my heart.

So, dear bloggers, I’m telling you to keep going, keep writing, because even if you think your posts are silly, even if you’re writing in a vacuum, maybe someday, if you’re very lucky, someone will read something from the fairly useless silliness collection and it just might make a difference to them. That is, after all, what this blogging thing is all about. You never know what will get someone’s attention.

Happy blogging.

Guest Post ~~ Arcane Words ~~ A Fish of Gold Specialty!

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goldfish:

I’m guest posting with some strange words at To Breathe Is To Write today. I hope it doesn’t cause you cacaesthesia.

Originally posted on To Breathe is to Write:

Hello People!

I know it’s been awhile since I’ve posted. Sorry about that. Been super busy most times and super lazy other times. Ha! I’ll have a post on Monday with a surprise. You won’t want to miss this one and I’m super excited! (I’ll give you a hint…it’s book related!)

Now onto my special guest poster for today. Many of us know her as Fishy, Goldy or Fish of Gold. I know her as ‘friend’. Please welcome a rare occurrence in Blogville, a guest post by our own Goldfish. Even though she is going through some difficult times, she volunteered to do a guest post for me. I feel honored. Thank you, Fishy! <3

She’s here with some arcane words and their meanings. I love when she shows us some of the long forgotten words of days gone by. Take it away Fishy!

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A long time ago, Jackie put…

View original 517 more words

Awkward Moments With Goldfish Part 7

Sometimes, polar bear facepalm is the only appropriate reaction.

I’m a fairly awkward individual with below average social skills. Interactions that vary from the norm sometimes leave me flustered. I’m also terrible at remembering names, faces, and other relevant information about humans. Here are some of the results.

Glowing Demon Eyes

I mentioned this one before. I was sitting at a restaurant with Rara and Mamasaur, when the waitress came over to take our order. She did a double take, then a triple take as she leaned in way too close to me. Ra thought she was going to kiss me. She was staring at my glowing-red demon eyes.

I’m a big fan of personal space and strangers not invading mine without my knowledge or approval, and that is exactly what the waitress did.

It turned out that my eyes were not actually glowing red; they were merely reflecting a nearby red umbrella and I wasn’t a demon after all. At least, not because of that.

Dog Park Lady

The dog park I go to has a sort of lobby at each entrance with two gates that act as a double barrier to keep the dogs from willy-nilly running into the street, like so:

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I arrived at the dog park one night to find both entrance gates open. As the sign says, you’re supposed to close one gate behind you before you open the next one like an airlock, so it was rather strange that both gates would be open with no one in the immediate area.

I asked a woman in the dog park if she knew who left both gates open. I’m not sure why I asked since there was nothing to be done about it, but that kind of behavior irritates me. Someone’s dog could have easily run into the street and gotten hit by a car.

I didn’t ask her accusingly. I merely asked if she saw who did it, without implying that it was her. She responded icily that she had come in the other entrance and didn’t see who left the gates open, but it damn well wasn’t her. Taken aback by her attitude, I just wandered off.

Well, it seems that the woman I talked to was the very same woman who yelled at me for hitting her dog just a few days after Male died, so I’ll just quote the exchange:

Her dog had used the drinking water to wash his muddy paws, so I refilled it. I wanted my dog to get a drink before he muddied it up again, so when I put the water bowl down, I put my hand out at chest level at her dog to keep him from stepping in it. Helicopter mom came over and accused me of hitting her dog.
“He’s sensitive. Don’t touch my dog.”

“I didn’t touch your dog. I put my hand out so that he wouldn’t step in the water bowl two seconds after I put it down.”

“It doesn’t matter what you did, but don’t ever hit my dog.”

“I didn’t even touch your dog, let alone hit him!”

It wasn’t until later when a dog park buddy told me it was her that I remembered the incident at all. What’s that saying? Keep your friends close, and try to remember who your enemies are?

Have A Fun Surgery!

As I mentioned the other day, my dentist’s office had a month off recently. I was their last patient before vacation.

I asked one of the dental hygienists if she was going to be doing anything fun for vacation. She told me she was having surgery. Nothing major, but it would leave her on her back for most of her time off. She said it wasn’t a very fun way to spend vacation, but since she had the time off of work anyway, it seemed like a good time to have it done.

As I was leaving the office not even an hour later, I told her, “Have fun on your vacation!” It was only on the last syllable that I remembered that she was having surgery, pretty much the opposite of fun.

Hey, Yogurt Girl

One of my coworkers has the same name as a yogurt brand. Specifically, this one:

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Only, unlike the yogurt, it’s pronounced day•non, not dan•non. For the life of me, I cannot get this right, because all I think of is the yogurt.

Fortunately, I’ve never mispronounced her name to her face, but I have mangled it many times to at least four or five coworkers. I’m constantly saying, “Dan… dayn… mother of goats, I cannot get that name right.”

More Awkwardness

Musical Preferences Vs. Personality

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I heard about a study where they linked the type of music you like with your personality traits, or vice versa; I’m not sure which comes first in this chicken/egg scenario.

Any time I hear about music studies, my interest is automatically piqued. And then, I forgot about it for a while, until I added some music in very disparate genres into my iTunes library. So, today, we’re going to study the study and see how it holds true.

The study was published at PLOS ONE, a science journal I’ve never heard of, however, the article seems to be peer reviewed, which gives me slightly greater confidence in the results. In any event, I take the source material with a grain of salt.

Unless otherwise linked, all quotes in this post are from the article at PLOS ONE.

The Premise

Why do we like the music we do? Research has shown that musical preferences and personality are linked, yet little is known about other influences on preferences such as cognitive styles. To address this gap, we investigated how individual differences in musical preferences are explained by the empathizing-systemizing (E-S) theory.

OK, so they’re trying to link cognitive styles to type of music preferred. What’s this empathizing-systemizing (E-S) theory then?

The empathizing–systemizing (E–S) theory suggests that people may be classified on the basis of their scores along two dimensions: empathizing (E) and systemizing (S). It measures a person’s strength of interest in empathy (the ability to identify and understand the thoughts and feelings of others and to respond to these with appropriate emotions); and a person’s strength of interest in systems (in terms of the drive to analyse or construct them).

I’m highly skeptical of horoscopes since they shove people into only twelve pigeon-holes; this empathizing-systemizing (E-S) theory uses only two. Also, is it a theory, i.e., provably true with data to support it, or is it only an hypothesis? The Wikipedia page refers to it as both.

Theories and hypotheses are not the same. You can’t just call a scientific premise a theory willy-nilly. Until you have definitive proof, it’s an hypothesis. I’ll get off my soap box now, but that drives me batty.

Essentially, the “E-S Theory” is supposed to graph all people on a chart between systemizing and empathizing. Most people are supposed to fall closer to one or the other, which makes sense I suppose when dealing with only two sort of contrary criteria.

Also, in the interest of disclosure, I noticed that both the empathizing-systemizing (E-S) theory/hypothesis, and the study from the Journal PLOS ONE were written, at least in part, by this man, Simon Baron-Cohen:

(wikipedia.org)
Simon Baron-Cohen (wikipedia.org)

Not that his picture has anything to do with anything, but I like to know who’s doing the talking. Also, his name is remarkable similar to this man, Sacha Baron-Cohen, a comedian and professional bullshitter:

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Sacha Baron Cohen (Wikipedia.org)

Anyway, moving on since that’s probably not relevant at all.

Essentially, the premise of the study is to categorize all musical preferences and personality types into two groups: empathizing and systemizing, which automatically makes me leery.

Today’s Horoscope: Be cautious of studies from unknown science journals written by people with the same last name as comedians.

The Mechanics

Since this study separately measures (I hope it’s separate–otherwise we’re dealing with a correlation/causation problem from the get-go) what type of music a person prefers and what type of personality that same person has, before I looked at the study’s results, I was most curious as the mechanics of the study. According to Baron Cohen, that would make me a systemizer.

There are millions of possible variations in both personality and musical preference, so I wanted to see how they took that into account.

Facebook users were able to complete a variety of psychology-related questionnaires.

So, Facebook. They used personality test results from people who take those online personality tests and share them on Facebook. Automatically, that means you’re limiting personalities and dealing only with certain personality types, since only some people are likely to do Facebook surveys, e.g., not me.

Each sample completed the same empathy measure but they differed in the musical stimuli presented to them.

Well, at least we settled the correlation/causation question.

By reporting their preferential reactions to musical stimuli, samples 1 and 2 (Ns = 2,178 and 891) indicated their preferences for music from 26 different genres, and samples 3 and 4 (Ns = 747 and 320) indicated their preferences for music from only a single genre (rock or jazz).

So, the first two groups of 3,000+ people were asked to give their opinions on 26 styles of music, while the second two groups, made up of 1,000+ people were asked to give only their opinion of rock and jazz respectively.

If I was in group 4, I’d be screwed since jazz is one of my least favorite genres ever. Anyway…

Results across samples showed that empathy levels are linked to preferences even within genres and account for significant proportions of variance in preferences over and above personality traits for various music-preference dimensions.

Alright, so they found that even in groups 3 and 4 that only listened to rock and jazz respectively, personality differences (between only empathizing and sympathizing) were apparent.

Conclusions

Those who are type E (bias towards empathizing) preferred music on the Mellow dimension (R&B/soul, adult contemporary, soft rock genres) compared to type S (bias towards systemizing) who preferred music on the Intense dimension (punk, heavy metal, and hard rock).

And that right there is why the study first interested me, because I like music in ALL OF THOSE GENRES.

Analyses of fine-grained psychological and sonic attributes in the music revealed that type E individuals preferred music that featured low arousal (gentle, warm, and sensual attributes), negative valence (depressing and sad), and emotional depth (poetic, relaxing, and thoughtful), while type S preferred music that featured high arousal (strong, tense, and thrilling), and aspects of positive valence (animated) and cerebral depth (complexity).

Again, depending on my mood, I like all of those descriptors. I like hip hop, hardcore punk and heavy metal. I like classical, classic rock and country. I like big band, blues and bluegrass. Ska, soul and stoner rock. Progressive, psychedelic and post rock. Folk, funk, flamenco.

My iTunes library has over 40K songs in practically every genre from all of recorded human history. It has over 26 genres of music in the letter A alone. My full shuffle just went from Frank Sinatra to Astronautilus to Cause For Alarm to Parliament. This could go on forever, but you get the picture.

Classify that, Simon Baron-Cohen.

Based on my musical taste, you can’t presuppose that I’m either empathetic or systematic. So, which am I? Well, just to be thorough, I took the personality test.

Just as my musical taste is all over the map, so is my emphathizing and systemizing. At least that much is consistent.

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According to the test, I’m almost right in the middle. I have a “lower than average ability for understanding how other people feel and responding appropriately” and “a lower than average ability for analyzing and exploring a system.”

Because I’m almost dead in the middle, I’m terrible at both systemizing and empathizing. I’m an anomaly and below average at everything. I have failed at human; maybe I’d be a better sea otter.

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Commentary

I think it’s fair to say that, just as every human who has ever or will ever exist on this planet cannot be easily classified as one of twelve astronomical signs, it’s even less accurate when you attempt to shove those same people in only two categories. Then, when you extrapolate those results into musical taste, well, things start getting silly.

And, really, what’s the point anyway? We like what we like, no matter whether we’re an E or an S.

Also, I think generalizations of any kind are bunk. So, thanks for that.


Following the incredibly broad brush strokes laid out here, are you a systemizer or an empathasizer based on the music you like? If you want to go for extra credit by taking the personality test, how accurate are your results, especially when compared to the type of music you prefer?

Grief Diary: The Dream

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Somehow, I always knew this day would come. I knew that, one day, I’d wake up thinking that Male wasn’t actually dead even though I know he is. It’s the dream where Male just shows up and tries to prove to me he’s not dead.

Much like when four of my friends showed up at my house one afternoon in March to tell me he was gone, those same four friends woke me up in my dream, but they were not alone. Male was with them.

He was battered and scratched and bruised, and wearing his favorite ugly orange shirt with those glacier blue eyes. Even in my dream, I didn’t believe it was true. I had to be convinced that it was really him. I don’t remember what excuse he gave for disappearing for four months now, but he had one. I believe it had something to do with falling off cliffs and bears.

I think part of the reason I didn’t believe it was him in the dream was that he had no facial hair. From the time he was old enough to grow it, Male wore a goatee or a full beard. He only shaved it off once when he noticed that all the successful males at his editing company had no facial hair. He wondered if it would make a difference. I asked him if he really cared enough about American Idol, the television show he worked on, to fundamentally change his appearance. He said it was worth a try.

Besides, he hadn’t seen himself with no facial hair since he was a teenager. He looked much younger and cuddlier without facial hair. He looked entirely different. I hated it. It lasted a week. In the dream, he fell off a cliff and wrestled with bears, but somehow, he found time to shave.

I’m not sure why my subconscious would choose that image of him to try to convince me he was really not dead. Perhaps my brain didn’t actually want me to think he was still alive deep-down. Perhaps it was trying to spare me that heartache again, but I would have rather not have a dream with a spurious Male at all.

I didn’t entirely believe it was him before I woke up. Yet, when I did, I still reached over for him. I still lay there wondering if it was real for a few seconds before I realized it was only a dream. Fuck you, subconscious.

I got out of bed, downhearted and dejected and just as sad as the day I found out the truth. But, as things seem to do lately, something comes along to make it better.

Last night, my sister got back from visiting our parents and brought another of my dad’s wood carvings back for me. The first thing I noticed when I got out of bed was an eagle.

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And, only yesterday, I said I only had two non-owls in my house. I love the fact that my 85-year-old father still carves wood into little creatures. He’s not the greatest artist in the world, but he keeps going.

I love even more that he carved me an eagle. My sister got a butterfly, but I got an eagle, a symbol of freedom and soaring and pooping on windshields and everything good and just in the world, or at least, that’s how I chose to view it this morning.

I glanced at The Shelves of Special Things on my way downstairs to make coffee and spied the new additions that Rarasaur gave me. My heart sang a bittersweet note, full of contradictory emotions like the rest of life. I remembered that I am not alone in this.

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Then, I took my dog out for a walk and noticed a package at my door. I swear, it was not there when I took her for a walk in the wee hours last night. Either the Post Office is doing wee hour deliveries now or I’m just not that observant.

It was an impeccably timed and unexpected package from one of my favorite and most benevolent bloggers, Alex. It engendered the kind of smile I rarely show in public, because in the box, were these guys.

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My unicorn collection keeps growing larger, mostly thanks to Alex. In the box was also a note with the words: Stay strong. I’ll try.

Material possessions aren’t everything, but sometimes, they make all the difference. Thanks.

P.S. I was also excited to find that my new unicorn friends were wrapped in a limited edition opportunity to “walk with the wolf and see the world by moonlight” with the first ever glow-in-the-dark wall sculpture.

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Surplus of Owls

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I was going about my normal Saturday morning business of consuming much coffee while noodling on the intertubes, when I noticed something about my surroundings; I have a lot of owls.

I have a lot of critters in my home in general, but I seem to have more owls than anything else. This wasn’t intentional on my part. I’m not even all that fond of birds; I’m too jealous of the fact that they can fly and I can’t. I only have two birds in my home that aren’t owls and one of them is a hummingbird my dad carved out of wood.

As soon as I noticed one owl, I noticed another and another, until I started to feel somewhat uncomfortable and paranoid about all the blank owl eyes staring at me. So, naturally, I started taking pictures. Word on the street is that photographing someone captures their soul.

So, today, I’m going to share some of the owls around my abode. Perhaps we’ll turn this into a series and next weekend, I’ll show you all the monkeys.

IMG_0452The first owl I noticed was the guy in the middle since he normally lives on a shelf above my computer. He’s supposed to be some sort of solar owl, where his head turns to and fro in what I imagine to be a creepy fashion when charged by the sun. When I first got him, I put him on my windowsill in the ample sunlight for a week and he didn’t move. Fortunately, he’s never worked properly.

The owl on the left is my own. I drew him and framed him, because I like the colors. You can buy your own here.

The owl on the right melts wax on his head, which is supposed to release a pleasant aroma in the air. It does for a few hours, then the wax just smells like wax.

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This owl is one I bought on Redbubble. Before I put my own stuff up for sale there, I was a customer. When I moved into this apartment, I had a surplus of wall space, so I bought some prints. I think this owl is even cuter than the one I drew.

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These guys live in my bathroom. The one with a pump on his head dispenses hand sanitizer.

The little guy dispenses lip balm from his butt. It’s not as gross as it sounds. I bought him at a regular store and not second-hand. If I had bought him second-hand, I wouldn’t use the bounty of his butt on my lips. I use a lot of second-hand things, but I draw the line at lip balm.

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This trash can also lives in my bathroom. It was dented when I bought it for $1. I took a hammer to it and smoothed out the dent. Now you can’t even tell. I don’t know how many owls are printed on it, but it’s a lot.

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The owl on the left is a card holder and I stuck a card that Rarasaur gave me on his head. It seemed fitting.

The owl in the rose is a print my sister got me at ComicCon last year, and the pink owl is a tin. I have a bunch of tins, because I keep buying them thinking I’ll find a purpose for them, but I rarely do. Sadly, pink owl is still bereft of purpose, but that’s okay.

 

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The blue owl is my favorite of all the owls. I call him angular owl for obvious reasons. He looks like origami and I love the fact that he inadvertently matches the color of my walls almost exactly like a chameleon ninja origami owl.

The little green glitter owl I bought at a thrift store, because he looked sad, and really, who doesn’t need a green glitter owl?

Unless otherwise stated, all of these owls came from thrift stores. As far as I know, that’s all of them, but now I wonder how many more owls lurk in what little shadow there is in my house.


Do you have a lot of one thing in your home? Do you collect random critters from thrift stores just because you’re sad that they’re homeless? Or is that just me? Why did I just refer to all of the owls in this post as “he”?