I was clearing up messages on my phone, and I noticed that most of it was just me throwing emoticons over the fence at other people. Sometimes, I can’t be arsed to bring myself to write words, to think of words, and emojis are an excellent defense. I can be wildly cheerful, optimistic, and generally awesomely American by blandly thrusting emojis into your face. Take that, you intrepid communicator!

(Take that, and suck sweetly and long on it…no, wrong blog).

Not everyone is receptive to my emoticon tactics. My previous landlord outright told me that English was the only acceptable language.

Even she thawed, though, in the end, when I was moving out, and offered me a rent cut and two sad-face emoticons. We had brunch together at my new place, and I’d made a mushroom-gruyere tartine that I’d first learned to make in Atlanta. She deplored the lack of a garden here and wondered how her little villager tenant was faring. We’d managed to move some of my flowering plants over to her garden last week. I’d been writing when she arrived. Taken by a sudden whim, I monologued the first few pages to my captive audience. She did not run away frightened. Perhaps there is hope for my legacy, after all. I’ll write for the goth teenagers and the lonely housewives eating up Valium like candy. I’ll write for the depressed, anxiety-ridden tech workers living cooped up in their tiny studios, and we can spend our old age battling carpal tunnel together.

I picked up emoticons from my Japanese friends. There is enough to mine an anthropological thesis or two in their obsession with emoticons. Let the Kawai flow, they taught me. So now I am all about that Kawai.

Sometimes, I wonder if I find them easier because I find words precious. Giving words feels at times like giving myself. When I write of someone, or write to someone, I feel it is an attempt at gifting just like giving darned socks for Christmas. Giving emoticons, on the other hand, is cheap and effortless, perhaps as many other find words to be.

Most emoticons look like my facial expressions anyway, round-faced and toothy and very expressive despite the audience. It is faithful communication, then.A few friends from Japan had visited me over the weekend. They gave me a nekomata scarf, because it tied in with my excessive emoticon use, because it reminded them of my endless fascination with myths of the old worlds, because my intern and I had once searched for nekomata on nico-nico and ended up flagging the IT folks when the search results took us to role-play site where the men were old and the women were high school girls dressed up as feline yokai. I am not particularly a cat aficionado. I don’t use cat emojis. And now I have a nekomata scarf.

“It was either this or going to vista print to make you a shit-she-says scarf,” one of them told me.

Ah, yes, I’d forgotten that they used to snippet my rambling and tweet those out. We had very little entertainment in the garage, now that I think of the lows they had fallen to.

“It wasn’t me, it was Spinoza,” I’d tried telling them, to little avail. What did it matter? Spinoza was a grumpy sort who stated the obvious and the random, who managed to inspire Rawls and Wittgenstein and the rest who actually could put blocks to build a house. If philosophers were emoticons, he’d be 🙄.

My Japanese friends noticed my haircut. And they were the first, other than my mum. Figures, she has an eye for meticulous detail, and wouldn’t be out of place in their company.

I’ve been getting to the beach after work since the weather turned. It has been a wonderful way to end the day. It is that coastal blood in me, needing sand and coconuts and the ocean breeze to feel alright. My beach is rather desolate during the weekdays, except for those layabouts knocked out on weed (they are in the same location each day – hope somebody checked they are breathing still) and the intrepid yoga practitioners (sunscreen, Gaiam mats, and Athleta). The weekends are a different story, once the tech armies converge. Ah, no wonder the poor locals complain so. It is a rather beautiful land, when we aren’t around to flatten it down to the Bay Area’s general lack of personality.

I’ve some delicious treats from Japan thanks to the visitors, and my family sent savories for Vishu. Since I have a mostly empty wine rack, I’ve been encouraging guests to bring me gifts of libation. So the evening is set for tea and kuzhallapam, and then wine and wagashi.


–begin existential angst–

My current workplace consists of people I get along with, generally pleasant and nice humans (except when loose-tongued by alcohol, when they notice I am female). There are a few who seem to be interested in me, pursuing that with the stereotypical push-pull courting rituals that engineering workplaces seem to bring in the Valley. I’ve been avoiding them like the plague, with skills honed from years of practice (It isn’t that I am too good for you, it’s that you are too good for me.) Plotting my exits so that they can’t catch me outside work, not even in the parking lot, while still ensuring that it doesn’t impact my ability to collaborate with them professionally. Despite that usual issue, though, they are some of nicest people I’ve worked with. They are about IPOs and ROIs. I admit I am bored out of my mind when they start going on about that. Financial security is important. God knows I learned that the hard way (and God forbid I should forget that lesson). Still, it is drudgery to hear people talking about money all the time. It’s easy to float along on repeat-mode, as almost every conversation is simply an echo of a previous one. Grin and bear it with grace, they used to tell the child I had been growing up. I’m doing that now, though sulkily and not with an iota of grace. And then I wonder how many of us are doing the same, doing and talking ‘geek’ things just so that we are networked in and considered ‘one of us’?

Now that everyone can’t stop raving about AI and robotics, I guess I’m resigned to being a killjoy with my weak smiles when they gush on about how cool it all is. Quite so, my darling. Quite so.

I’ve a dinner invite tomorrow. Must remember to retrieve my agreeability and manners before then.

I don’t shirk effort, but I’ve never sought it either. So I planned to stick to the norm, to just do whatever seems to work for most of us, to follow that well-paved road with plenty of trail markers and handholds, avoiding risk and uncertainty wherever possible. There seems to be vague contentment in following that path. What more can one ask for? I’ve been thinking how perfect it would be if I can stick to that standard valley recipe. Date that boyfriend who works for the competitor, spreading the risks nicely, and get married, and get a mortgage and two kids, and then spend the rest of my life in a bubble with a bunch who’ve followed the same recipe. It’s proven difficult though. Mind over heart, or heart over mind, they say. I wanted both, and I’ve no idea whether that is even achievable in this place. At least there is inspiration in the insipid, and a morbid fascination with my reluctance to leave behind a place that’s not working for me, and in this pit of existential angst I can get some writing done. I notice more when I am unhappy than when I’m happy, and observation is key to writing.

Meanwhile, I use emoticons.

— end existential angst–


I’ve a new Mathematica subscription, as a Vishu gift to myself. It is one of my favorite tools. My friends were all about Matlab, back when we were young. I liked Mathematica for the power and flexibility of its representational primitives. What are we, but nodes and edges?