Florence

Sibelius sent me Florence and the Machine’s Lungs. I remember their music from the Eclipse soundtrack. My former room-mate had been a fan of that film franchise. I am surprised my teeth hasn’t fallen off to the rotting sweetness of the love triangle there. It was all Eat me, Drink me, if I remember correctly, with a dash of bed-breaking thrown in for rounding off.

One of my interns graduated and I went with him to help him purchase a car. It was just as tedious as you could expect. I had initially planned to help him find a place to stay too, but I begged off, too tired from the car dealer interactions.

I have a new cafe that I haunt. Thanks to corporate housing taking up their abode near my usual cafe, I have been forced to switch. Hopefully no more run-ins with Monday-Friday only folks.

I have flowers blooming in the garden, and I sit here overwhelmed, watching over them. I hadn’t expected them to not shrivel and die. I wonder why. They must be sturdy plants. And I have managed to acquire a green thumb.

A friend returned this week from a long vacation in Florence. I wonder how long it will take him to slip back into his Silicon Valley mode from his earthy Italian ways.

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reign o’er me

I haven’t been out and about in a while. I got the chance to break the streak, when a lovely woman decided to take me to one of her favourite places.

The restaurant is cosy. The wallpaper is fleur-de-lis, in muted gold over pale rose. There are flowers everywhere and the smell of lavender makes a lovely accompaniment to the complete silence.

It was a house once and some of the rooms have been turned into private dining chambers. There is old-world here in the thick walls and I am told stories of the Gold rush.  My companion is happy to be here, delighted to introduce me to one of her favourite haunts. Their clams are the best I have had in ages. The fois gois, prepared with black truffles,  is heavenly. We share the Grand Marnier souffle. There is decadent port too.

There is coffee at the end. I found it necessary to give me the energy to stir myself from that long four-course meal. The proprietor gave us roses as we prepared to leave, for the road.

We went to a tea house afterwards. Pearls unfurled into leaves of tea as we spoke of life and other petty matters. She was beautiful in her blue dress, at home amid the delicate china and the fragrant jasmine. If it was a portrait, it was a portrait with not a chord in dissonance.

Some of us belong somewhere. Maybe all of us belong somewhere and only some of us are lucky to find our home within our lifetime.

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Squid tales

I discovered a seafood market through a Japanese friend. They have wild squid.

I am vegetarian on most days, but there is the occasional seafood deviation once or twice a year for my mother’s prawn fry or for the crab curry served at a lovely restaurant in the city.

I was feeling daring this weekend, so I purchased some of the squid. This is my first experience with preparing a seafood dish from scratch. I finished cleaning the squid and can’t get their eyes out of my head. In retrospect, I lacked the stomach for this. I like my happy place of denial, and would just prefer to see everything fried and covered in spices, and on a plate.

My Moma membership is standing me in good stead this summer. It was inexpensive, relatively. It has already come in handy multiple times, what with the free entry pass for a guest on each trip. While modern art is not my preferred genre,I have learned so much about it (and I am sure I have only barely scratched the surface).

I have also found a new cafe thereabouts that I like. They serve Austrian dishes. I can’t keep the names in my head and they must think me uncivilized as I stand there and ask for the ‘red and purple one’. I can’t get enough of the rhubarb pastry.

I have made a great deal of progress in the past nine months with my writing projects. While life has been jumbled in parts, this particular side of it has been fortunate for me recently and I am grateful for that. Perhaps the fortune is strongly related to the group I was lucky to fall into. I do well in small groups, and with a great deal of constructive feedback. I have been lucky to get both in the last few months.

Coming out of a tumultuous set of situations that ended in the spring of 2015, I had been in a stage of stasis, trying to coming to terms with all that had transpired. It took me longer than it might have taken someone else. I hadn’t known how to get back to the path that was mine, from the wilderness I had wound up in. Writing helped a great deal to find me again. Looking inside was what I had been once very good at, and somehow I had forgotten how. It took me a pen and paper, and many thousands of words, before I remembered again.

 

Work has kept me busy this month. Hopefully, it will ease in the coming weeks.

I am off to a Marilyn Manson concert soon, with my faithful concert partner who likes to sleep while I drive. We are hopefully over his Bernie Sanders phase, but I am worried since he seems to be extolling the virtues of Trump’s daughter these days. I can’t quite see the bridge from Sanders to Ivanka, but what do I know?

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Six month update

I haven’t been at my most dutiful in updating the blog.

In January, I spent most of my time searching for a new place to live. I complained at length about the rent prices and the quality of life around here. I combed various listings and ran around visiting many, many apartments. I did manage to find a place that suited me, and met most of my criteria. Now I hope I can extend it for another year. Work was finally easing after a few grueling months, thanks to the annual demo faring relatively well with the upper echelons.

February saw me rushing around to complete the move. Then I packed up and went home to complete some legal formalities. It was a quick trip, with little peace or settling in. The jet-lag left me unusually drained.

Back again in March, I spent a great deal of time setting up the new apartment. Work was picking up pace again, and I had interviews going on. The end of March saw the wrapping up of interviews, thankfully. I decided to take time away and go to the East Coast.

New York was lovely, and I walked about listening to Cohen. Elvis died and Madison Square Garden was purple. Sibelius joined me and showed me the sights that he had wanted to show me for a long time. We went off to Boston, and there was sailing at Harvard on the Charles River. We went to rallies for Bernie Sanders at Long Island. I came back, with more purpose than I had in a long while, and decided on where to go work next.

May was tumultuous. There was a great deal of paperwork. There was a great deal of paperwork that needed to be redone. Then there was a blues event in an unincorporated township nearby where we ate cioppino and danced until midnight. Then it was off to the new job. Someone I had hoped to see there had already left. It didn’t make for the most auspicious start. Life went on. I made a getaway to the Northwest, into the wilds on the verge of the Oregon border. Summer was setting in then, and I found myself sunburned.

 

In June, there was some minor improvements all around, though none significant enough to write home about. There were blooms in my new garden. I got a gift of new running shoes. I went off to the East Coast again, to Ann Arbor, and then to Atlanta, and participated in Elisabeth’s annual summer party. I spent some time in the Peninsula to help a friend move.

July began well, and I finally made it to Fremont to visit a couple dear and their lovely son. They assured me that there was plenty of time to get what I wanted, and that I was trying to rush for no reason. It helped.

Then there was some terrible news; about a friend who had died, and the causes were unknown. He had given me a bright, blue sari. He had taught me some Hindi. He had been supportive of my goals at a time when I had been unsure.  He had been kind to everyone, and that sort of person is a rare thing.

I am still in the process of rebuilding from the wreckage of the last few years. It is not easy at times, especially when I catch myself thinking that I should have fixed matters sooner, that I should not have prolonged what had been necessary to end, in various aspects of life. Regret is a queasy feeling, but it is a passing one, as much as it seems to last forever while contemplating in the moment. It’s all about the forest and the trees, as an old friend is fond of telling me.

 

I have a bunch of concert tickets for the summer. I look forward to those. Most are in San Francisco, but some are in Concord and LA.  They will keep me busy for the next three months and I will see friends there. Hopefully, there shall be no more dire news and things shall even out a bit. At some point, after all, life must move from the plot of a Russian novel to mundane suburbia.

Someone I had known for a good portion of my life with was married recently, and it was done in a hasty manner, without telling friends. I felt alienated, only due to the secrecy and the lack of trust in old confidants. People change, but the message doesn’t need to be as drastic. Life must go on, and I am told that I need to lighten up. Hopefully, Douglas Adams will fix all of this.

I haven’t been good about remembering birthdays or anniversaries, or about congratulating folks on their weddings, babies or promotions. For what it is worth, it isn’t deliberate. Things have been rough and they needed work with my head down and focused, and I have been trying to get enough momentum to make a few changes I really want to this year. Scattering my thoughts and time messes life up in unexpected ways, so I am trying not to do that. Much love and good wishes to you.

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The diversity dilemma

Someone I spoke to recently was discussing the New York Times/Bloomberg article which laments the lack of diversity in the AI community and how men are making all the advances in the field. He wondered if we should stop making progress until the diversity equations are sorted out. Put that way, does one stop trying to improve lives with science and technology until the right proportion of men and women is found?

I wish there was more diversity. I wish it everyday. I have felt an outsider in most teams I have worked with, at the beginning. Life goes on, the teams get used to me, I get used to them, and then I cease wondering about the unusualness of being the only woman in the room, even in very large groups approaching a hundred or so. It ceases being jarring once you go through the same experience a few times.

I find it not really necessary to go out of my way to find women in workplaces, even if they are in a completely different line of work. I know all the receptionists, the services staff, the facilities personnel and the purchasing department employees. They are usually more knowledgeable about the company, its collaborators, its products, and vision, than the engineers are.

Now, where I work, I also have the chance to see a few female engineers in software, in other groups, even if they are far, far removed from my domain of work. They are more difficult to relate to, somehow. I find that at least a few of them put on a front of fitting into a programming culture where everyone fits in by speaking like men, by walking like men, by dressing like men, which confuses me greatly. I am sure there is some benefit to it. I am also sure many of them actually prefer to act and interact that way.   It is only sad if they actually feel that they need to do so because of the line of work they are in. I hope that isn’t the case.

The other issue that flares up is that of comparison. It makes me feel out of place and upset when an engineer in a different field comes to me and is all eloquently in praise about my line of work and how he or she could never do it. No, that isn’t the case. It is only that I made different choices during my school years, to select a domain that had no hopes of a straight and clean path to a stable job, especially as a non-citizen, and it was miserable until the domain somehow rose to its fifteen minutes of fame.

Back in grad school, I had tired of people in other fields telling me that I should prepare for a mainstream software engineering job track, since that is where the jobs were. Every campus job fair proved them right. Every job search I undertook proved them right. Now the same people tell me that I should encourage more students to follow this course. How can I? It seems irresponsible to encourage students to take up this path when I know well the difficulties involved.

 

 

 

 

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Look up here

The year started off well. There was a lovely Bowie album opening. It seemed dark in patches, but I thought it was merely a reflection of the times. Then we were left to wonder where Monday had gone, left to look up at the stars.

I had been dealing with work-related issues at the time. It had been stressful, and I put this aside. It took  me months to get around to reading the news articles about his death. It is painful to be sitting at my dining table alone, to read the catch-phrase laden bulletins armed only with a cup of lukewarm tea.

This moment of existential angst is a long one. I am nowhere close to where I want to be. I have fallen out of the habit of comparing against my reference trajectory, and it has helped certainly to stay even-keeled in the face of unexpected circumstances. Maybe this improvement is only a function of age, to care less about matching to what you had once expected. Life is still similar to walking in treacle. Learning to like treacle seems to improve it.

And there are other matters too, but I can’t give everything away.

 

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Half done, half undone

It is June now. It had been January before that, and we had been trying to set goals and make plans. It had been October before, and we had been waiting for the year to go away and to give us something new.

I think I am finally making progress in certain aspects of my life, slowly, after a prolonged bout of perseverance that is difficult to relate to, after many false starts and dead ends. It is not easy still, and there are so many matters to resolve yet, but progress, even if by inches and not by yards, is still progress.

In other aspects, the work I had put in has been futile. Some matters unravelled brutally, and some more gradually, and some are still in the breaking, but perhaps they will all clear up soon enough. I am concerned, but I am not worried yet. I think I have reached my worry quota for the year already.

While the year has been difficult, I feel it is still the worthwhile sort of difficult – for once, I am working towards what I want instead of working, without control or choice, to deal with circumstances or people that were purely detrimental. It might come down to the same means and measures of work in the end, but emotionally there is a difference from the beleaguered victim situation that I have been in before.

There are still a few more months to get through, before writing off the year. Maybe they will surprise me. Maybe they will even surprise me pleasantly.

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