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I'm home by myself this week and getting pretty bored and lonely. It's been a long work week - I got some bad news, and apart from that, I spent basically every waking moment either writing performance reviews, or feeling guilty about not writing performance reviews while watching L&O:SVU.

I probably should have picked something other than SVU, which has a penchant for dark endings, but Netflix has the whole thing and I can't seem to stop. I love living in the future. (I also kind of like watching Olivia Benson shoot people. It's cathartic.)

In happier news, the baby is active as fuck. If his current activity level is indicative of energy level after escaping his protective wrapping, we're in for a world of trouble. It's really neat, but also a little exhausting - he moves almost all the time. Throughout the day, when I wake up at night. Basically the only time he's noticeably still is when I'm driving. I'm optimistic that this means he'll like race cars.
6 people came to play or come play with me
I have spent nearly all day (except for a couple of procrastination breaks) working on performance reviews, and am now barely capable of forming sentences. The last one took four hours; partially a factor of complexity and partly of overload. It is always harder when it's important.


counting up costsCollapse )
4 people came to play or come play with me
I drove up to the city this morning, for my once-per-decade pilgrimage to the consulate, to renew my passport. I discovered just as I was leaving that the passport photos I had were wrong - US spec has the head too small - and fixing that took a long time, and then I was running late even though I sped like a demon to get there, and then I got there at 12:05 (after they'd left for lunch) and I was hungry and basically wanted to cry. But after half an hour or so, a nice young Australian man eventually appeared to conduct the required 30-second interaction, and after that I had about forty-five minutes of blissful freedom in the middle of a Thursday afternoon in the financial district in which to have lunch.

I maybe need some more unstructured time.

There's something nice about being alone in a totally random location with a bit of time to kill. No pressure to make decisions for other people, nothing familiar to stick to. I know perfectly well how to Yelp the best restaurant in a five-block radius, but I kind of like wandering randomly into places and seeing how that works out. (Mostly it's forgettable, but sometimes you get something that Yelp never would have predicted. Not to mention the pleasant fiction of originality.)

Also, it's been ten years since I last got a new passport. That can't be right.
4 people came to play or come play with me
I keep thinking it'd be nice to pop back up with a long post about television, or something equally fun and engaging. But life is busy and it keeps happening, and a few days ago, my brother died.

He was diagnosed with leukemia 18 months ago, and a year ago was declared in remission following a bone marrow transplant. But remission doesn't mean the cancer won't come back, and in his case it did. He went through a second round of chemo, and for a while it seemed all right. But then, about a week ago, he was told that the leukemia had recurred a third time, and about two days after that, he died of a secondary infection. He was 25.
heading out for parts unknownCollapse )
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So right now I'm listening to the Alexi Murdoch album I just bought, which I should have bought in 2006 when it came out, and I don't know why I didn't. I heard one of the tracks on the soundtrack to Real Steel, which had Hugh Jackman and fighting robots, and was better than it had any right to be.

This is the first weekend I've had with absolutely no commitments in about a million years. It's a lot easier than you'd think to get out of the habit of doing nothing. I crave being alone a lot less often since I got used to having people around.

It's been nearly everything in the past few months: heartbreaking and hopeful, catastrophic and unchanged. There's been some very good television. (Okay, I'm up to date on: Fringe, Castle, The Good Wife, Game of Thrones. Tried Grimm, didn't love it; behind on Mad Men but working to catch up. Looking forward to sampling Once Upon a Time.)

There's a quote from a Katharine Whitcomb poem that I've thought about often over the past number of years: "you can get used to anything rapturous, disaster or bliss". At any point in all that time I would probably have told you I was unhappy about something. But part of those years is over now, abruptly shut, and the moment it ended I realized: it's been the best seven years of my life.

And now it's easter, which always gives me a moment of pause; something to do with childhood and chocolate eggs and a bone-deep love of narrative, and if I'm being honest the endless hope of beginning and end, death and life, and the nature of sacrifice (simultaneously self-important and profound) and the quiet inevitability of tomorrow. So I've got this, which is one of my favorite poems.

Chorus, Katharine WhitcombCollapse )
1 person came to play or come play with me
Work has been pretty difficult lately, but one thing that's okay is that I've had some good conversations with colleagues. My favorite so far is this one:

"Wow, yes, now that I've gotten to know you it's different, but since you mention it - yes, you were a total bitch. God, I could point to some emails and meetings. You used to be terrible. But once I got to know you it was really a lot easier."

Seriously, <3

(Also, I hope I've grown as a person since then...)
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We were in Hawaii last week, and it was amazing.

I grew up by the ocean and so I have the usual set of inexplicable tropical childhood attachments: waves and sand, being tumbled by high surf, a personal relationship with sunscreen. I grew up with public-access oceans fronted thoroughly by highway on one side and dunes in between. Nobody was allowed to build right on the sand, so no matter how crowded the area, there was always this silent, undeveloped median. There were no private hotel beaches. The water was always bathtub-warm, and full of crazily poisonous animals. That's how Queenslanders roll.

Hawaii is great partly because it reminds me of my childhood minus the plague of jellyfish. The weather is warm and the waves crash like they ought to, and there are hibiscus and bougainvillea, and it's not until you grow up and see the world that you come to realize that the idea that a plant comes from somewhere else means something. There is a globalization of universal British colony tropical flowers, and I think it's fortunate for everyone that the heritage of colonialism doesn't include the widespread distribution of box jellyfish.

One of the things I always wanted as a kid was to play with a boogie board, which doesn't seem like a lot to ask these days, and the rental house had some, but it was still the first time I got to live out my long-held dream. Which, being a simple one, was glorious: me and my styrofoam board and the waves. Rob got dropped on his head but we still had a good time.

I got to snorkel and we went scuba diving. Scuba was all one might hope and more, but dwarfing the sheer joy of breathing compressed air through tubes while looking at fish for the first time ever was: WHALES. On Monday while we were snorkeling out by the deepwater dropoff, in a bay called Honaunau (or Two-Step, as a nice vietnam vet dude advised the day before) I went diving down and heard them singing.

It sounded like a door swinging loose or a boat pulling on a dock maybe.Collapse )

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2 people came to play or come play with me
Shanghai's central district is huge, very tall, brightly lit. Many of the towers are quite beautiful, with art deco-esque flourishes that mimic some of the city's older architecture. Others are entirely modern, full of curves or circles, or mid-century-modern geometric. They're mostly new construction, the biggest boomtown I've ever seen. Walking around the People's Park, which used to be a racetrack in the colonial days, I thought, there's going to be a global run on totalitarian regimes. Look how much you can get done.

I have mixed feelings about China. Shanghai is a wonderful tourist experience, a very comfortable way to see some of old China and a lot of the new, with a walkable central business district and a lot of visible history (mostly the colonial, imperialist kind, rather than the ancient Chinese kind). Little stalls selling fruit and live animals (crabs, fish, chickens, ducks) and noodle stands and old row houses lie right next to Gucci and Prada and Ferragamo stores, being slowly consumed by the construction of more skyscrapers, and re-colonized by Starbucks. It takes absolutely no imagination to think of it as a science fictional city, because it looks like every dystopian (or utopian) near-future you've ever seen: gritty brown skies that never see sun, huge brightly-lit ads for every kind of expensive designer product, little warrens of cheap stores selling pirated goods (DVDs, designer knockoffs) in alleyways.

Read more...Collapse )
4 people came to play or come play with me
Tomorrow morning I'm leaving for Shanghai, which is pretty cool. I normally try to rise above dropping things like that into conversation, but-- Shanghai. It's hard to resist.

I'm told that Shanghai is a fairly nondescript modern city these days, and not at all the den of sin, iniquity and art deco architecture described in the pile of books sitting next to my couch (I admit, I overbought on research material for a five-day vacation). But it's still one of the great cities of the world, living or dead. Among the stacked books is a fantastic history entitled Shanghai: Rise and Fall of a Decadent City, which covers the city from the founding of the treaty port in 1842 to its occupation by the communist party in 1949, and helpfully feeds into this impression.

I've got at least one day to wander around and get into trouble, so I expect to make it to the museum there. The former French district also apparently has a few old houses, which I think are going to be pretty cool. Art deco covered in smog.
plus a few details...Collapse )
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2011: not my favorite of yearsCollapse )

I hope you all had a better year than mine, and I wish us all a gentle and kind 2012.
1 person came to play or come play with me