Thursday, March 28, 2013

Actual conversation

Me: (______) doesn't know what they're doing!

My boss: [Eyes wide]

Me: I mean, I'm not trying to say they're idiots. But it's like they were given a space ship, and no instruction manual!

My boss: [Laughing]

Me: And not only that, it's like the space ship wasn't even built by earthlings!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

My home remodel will not be televised.

Like a lot of people, I grew up watching episode after episode of "This Old House." My dad is good at that stuff, and can pretty much make anything (surely I told you about the replacement power/volume knob he crafted for my old Toyota Celica?), and he can watch shows like that for hours. As it turns out, so can I. I not only know how to pronounce "Trethewey," I know how to spell it. I've learned a few things from TOH, such as valuing traditional design and workmanship; and though I may not be capable of doing that sort of work myself, I do understand that when you see the words "Master Craftsman" in somebody's title, you're getting somebody a little better than the dude hanging out in front of Home Depot.

(Bob Vila was my idea of the perfect man for a few years there, and might explain my attraction to guys with beards.)

It seemed like a natural transition, then, to shows like "Trading Spaces" or "Design on a Dime," right? I mean, I think that's what the geniuses at HGTV were hoping. Except, no.

It took me a little while but eventually I got tired of those shows (everybody else finally did, too, because I don't think either one is on anymore). For one thing, I'm really not interested in having things (other than edible things) in my home that were homemade by anyone other than my two-year old. Or my grandma. The projects that are created on HGTV shows look like somebody had a lot of extra balsa wood, a $50 gift card to Ikea, and a hot glue gun. This teaches me nothing except that a lot of people have really, really bad taste. The guy who paints you a painting with every remodel? Um. Thanks, but no. And I really don't think that every kitchen needs granite countertops or stainless steel appliances. More than lessons about remodeling or design, we learn that everybody thinks they know what it means to have "made it" in life. A big-ass Viking stove or walk-in closets: I have arrived!

Then, it finally dawned on me that these shows all follow the same script. Nothing new ever happens. For awhile I was really enjoying "Love It or List It" but then the same old storyline about how the designer screwed up started really pissing me off. Hey, lady! Get it together! Or the homeowners would be walking around with such a huge case of "I deserve an en suite bathroom even though my budget doesn't really stretch that far in the market I'm shopping." And that feeling of indignation, every time I watched the show, started building up in me. Wait a minute, I thought. THIS HAPPENED LAST TIME! Look, I don't get to watch a lot of TV time anymore. It takes awhile for things to crack my exhausted shell. But now that I'm thinking about it, every show is a bore.

And man, whoever is preparing those homeowner's for their home inspections is totally dropping the ball! How could you not know that the house needs a new roof, or that there's asbestos in the attic? Doesn't HGTV have any liability? Don't these people work with an experienced real estate agent? Doesn't anybody have a clue?

See, that's what makes me mad, because you don't know if they're really stupid, or if they just think I am.

And now I've been reading that most of these shows are faked - that a lot of the work you think is being done by the homeowners is actually being done by professionals, or that the homes you think they're readying for the market are actually... not for sale. I guess what I don't like is that HGTV tries to sell itself as a channel for people interested in "do it yourself" (or used to, before the actual DIY Channel came along), but none of the stuff they actually show is based in actual reality. I hate relationship-based reality shows (you'll never catch me watching the Bachelor), now that feeling is moving over to home improvement shows.

See, if I ever get the opportunity to remodel my home, my feeling is that I want to create a space that works better for us than the tiny 1940s L-shape we purchased 13 years ago. That doesn't necessarily mean more space, but it does mean, better space. Improving existing fixtures and the floors in every room. Making my horrible bathroom a distant memory. What I would love is a second bathroom and a dining room - or a greatroom that can hold a dining area. These are basic desires for a home that now houses three people and two cats, and someday, I hope, a dog. I want our family to be able to be in the same room at the same time, all while holding forks in our hands, and to be at least 10 feet away from the television. I want to work with the design of my home, which I actually love: a flat-roof, open to the yard (almost none of the rooms have windows that look to the street. Well, the bathroom does). I love the idea of modernizing my kitchen without losing the sort of "grandma" feeling it has. It took me years to figure out that I like old things, and color. I'm not thrilled with the cracked tile countertops, but what would the person who chose those in 1940 pick today? I love the windows in the living room, I love the angles of the roofline. But when it's time for us to do this, I hope we don't go into it thinking we know everything about design, because we don't. That's why you hire a designer, and you let that person educate you.

HGTV doesn't educate you. Well, I know what I don't like, so that's something. It just seems like it would be so simple to show a project from start to finish without any shenanigans in the editing room, but I guess not.

I actually think that "Income Property" is an entertaining show, and not just because I have a crush on the host (Patrick loves to mock his exceptionally white teeth, but come on, that guy has a nice body, and his face isn't bad, either). Then again, I couldn't tell you his name if you paid me, so what kind of crush is this, anyway? At least it feels a little more realistic (using the actual real definition, and not the TV definition), and though I do think the designs are very generic, at least they keep clean lines and seem to do a professional job.

I think it's a shame that a lot of their shows are filmed in Canada, not that I have anything against Canadians, but because (especially the real estate shows) you can't get an idea for comparable prices. And Canada doesn't seem real to me, sometimes, which I know is dumb. But then, anyplace with universal health care seems a bit like heaven.

In closing, I'd just like to say, that if I were on an HGTV show, I like to think that I wouldn't be the person who, in shopping for a new home, gets hung up on inconsequential items like the ugly carpeting or lack of granite countertops. I wouldn't get angry at the TV realtor who shows me homes that don't satisfy my need for grandiosity. I'd hope that we made sure the home was below budget, and that we worked it out with a reputable contractor to make the changes we needed.

But what do I know? Maybe an en suite bathroom would solve all my problems. I might be a better person if I had a laundry room in the house instead of the garage.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Perspective? Kindness? Patience? Yes, please

I think I've posted before about my annoyance with my office situation. We've had some new additions to the workplace, and some of them possess that opinionated, loud personality that almost always rubs me the wrong way. Look, I don't care if you know everything, I just don't want to hear about it. Endlessly. At high volume.

Anyway, I've been talking about it to some of my old friends in the Safety Office, and on Thursday, I went on an errand with one of them. His name is Danny.

Danny said something to me that kind of made me think.

He's a nice guy, younger than me, with a new little baby at home. We talk a lot about our kids. He did the "investigation" on me after I fell and after I reported that I was having problems with my finger. He's not the guy who helped me get my new mouse (I know Alex a little better; we sometimes go get lunch together). Both these people, though, are really sweet, easy to talk to, fun guys. And, it turns out that Danny, along with being a new dad and a surfer, is also a born-again Christian.

He and I talked about that a little, and he told me his story while we waited in line. It's nice, actually, to hear someone who is my age (sort of; I don't think he's even 30 yet; I'm a hundred) talk about Christianity in a logical way. Don't get me wrong: he's totally, head first, COMPLETELY in it. Normally when people want to talk to me about Christianity I break out in a spiritual rash. He told me that his only goal in life is to get to know Jesus and the teachings of Christianity. Somehow, though, maybe because of his funny and sweet personality, I was able to not feel the usual sort of complete desire to be somewhere else when he started talking about it. And, he's a great listener. I was complaining about the people in my office (they were particularly obnoxious Thursday morning), and then he told me something that I've actually heard before. He said, I just don't let that stuff bother me. He said, It doesn't matter in the long run, and I just don't care. He said, I probably do things that annoy other people! He said, I just try to be nice to everybody. He said: I have bigger things to think about (this one's not an exact quote).

You know what? Me too. Maybe not the same bigger things, but I'm going to try very hard to be nicer to these people. When I go home, I'm sure they don't think about me, and I don't think about them, but while we're all here in this office, I'm going to try to ignore the things that annoy me and be more patient. It might make me feel better.

You know, I know that when I write these kinds of things, it probably sounds like I'm an idiot. I mean, this seems so simple, and Danny's not the first person to tell me something like this. When I worked at the Rizzoli in Beverly Hills, I had a lot of the same sort of frustration. My friend Bo told me the exact thing. Bo's no Christian, nor is he particularly spiritual: that's not the point. The point is that these guys have some sort of thing inside that allows them to not worry about what other people are doing. I just don't. I'd like to acquire it, though. Is it wisdom? Confidence? Simple patience? I'm going to start by being kind. Maybe I'll be faking it a little at first. I'll just have to grow into it.

Wish me luck.

Monday, March 4, 2013


Sometime in early January of this year, I was sitting at my desk at work. My job involves a lot of sitting. And typing. I was sitting there, working, typing, possibly rocking out to Radiohead on my earphones, when I realized that my hand was hurting me.

My right hand.

I started rubbing it, and felt something strange. At the base of my right hand ring finger, where the finger meets the palm, I felt a bump.

I didn't panic, but I did wonder what it was. So I called Kaiser and made an appointment with my doctor, who couldn't see me until the end of the the month.

I went to see Dr. Reid, and he looked at it, felt my finger, and got me a referral to see an orthopedic hand specialist. He thought maybe it was a cyst but he wasn't sure.

When I went back to work, I started wondering if it was work-related, and put through the paperwork to get that business started. I thought perhaps it was a repetitive movement issue or possibly an ergonomics issue. My friend Claris in the Safety Office came out and checked my space out, and then she and another Safety person, my friend Alex, hooked me up with a new mouse to try. Since we didn't know what was causing the bump, it seemed like it could be possible that something I was doing while using the mouse was the problem.

When I finally saw the ortho, he also felt my finger. He was not as gentle (or cute) as Dr. Reid, and after his 30 second examination, my hand hurt more than ever. He then called for an x-ray.

It turns out that I have a ganglion cyst.

I did a bit of reading, and I'm lucky - some people get these on the other side of their hand, in pretty prominent places. They're not pretty, and they look like they hurt. Mine is pea-sized and not visible, but it does cause some soreness.

And since I've been trying to make an effort to practice my flute more, that's becoming an issue.

I've always had a bit of trouble with my right hand, especially when I'm out of practice. Now is one of those times. Somehow my right hand just doesn't always do what I want it to do, in the way I want it to work. It can't keep up sometimes, and notes get sloppy. The worst thing is when I'm practicing and I get bogged down because I can't play something as fast as I think I should. Or as cleanly. Being clean is a huge thing for me: it's so important. Feeling the rhythm and the beat: I always feel like that, the hardest thing for me sometimes, is the most obvious sign of a good musician. I got a chance one night in the summer to practice for about an hour (rare!!!!), and I was being really obsessive about a certain passage in one of the Muczynski flute duets, and I had the hand position and finger control all totally synched up... but that was months ago.

I remember watching the Winter Olympics figure skating one year and the announces kept referring to a certain move (a lutz) as a "flutz" because the skater made some technical error related to the edge of their blade and the way they take off for the jump. I don't know much about figure skating, and even when watching the slowed down up close video, can't tell if the skater is on the outside edge or what-have-you. However, the word is totally evocative of the way I feel about what happens when the notes aren't clean. It seems to be the worst on things that involve F#, which, coincidentally, involves the right hand ring finger.

On Saturday, I had a little time to play and I spent the time on chromatic scales and the loop pattern. I did a lot of work in the key of G, and F# (fun scale!). I only ended up with about 15-20 minutes to play, but that was fine, because afterwards my hand was sore.

It worries me.

My doctor is recommending surgery. I have an appointment next week with the orthopedic surgeon. I have a lot of questions! It sucks that this is coming up now when I'm trying to get more involved with my flute playing. Our flute choir group is enormous this quarter and there are so many talented flutists. I need to work hard to keep up.

Anyway, it's not a big deal, really, and it could be much worse, so I don't want to make a big deal out of it. Maybe just more practice will help work it out. And some Advil.