Friday, November 30, 2007

Aphid on Flower

Aphid on Flower, originally uploaded by naturallyraj.

This best part of this picture is entirely accidental - not the flower part, but the little bug and his friend on one of the trumpet petals. He's turned around backwards, which you can't tell until you zoom in really far. It's always exciting to get back your pictures from being developed and see how well something has turned out. That's one of the joys of film photography that I always miss when I use a digital.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Good news!!

Okay, so there were two really cool things about my interview today.

The first cool thing is that is went REALLY well, and the last interviewer (there were four, the head of the German department, head of North American department, head of the Japanese department, and the head of the whole fraud department), mentioned that they were really desperate for someone with my language skills. When I mentioned to the head of the German department that I was also competent in French, he looked like I do when I bite into a really expensive dark chocolate truffle. Well, maybe not quite that much, but you get the idea. The French department is still really low-key, but they're always interested in multilingual people.

The second cool thing is that they reimburse me for all of my expenses. This would have been nothing, since I live close enough to walk, so I don't need parking or a hotel, but the HR person assured me that I could get my lunch paid for. So, like any normal person would under those circumstances, I bought myself a really nice lunch at the organic place downstairs after I got back to work. I bought organic root beer, organic peanut butter cups, Sante Fe Chicken Chowder (fabulous!), and a fruit and cheese medley. Now that I've eaten it all, I feel slightly sick. But it tasted really good, and it was free, which is the best part.

Now, I cool my heels and wait for them to call me.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

boredom ergo lists

I was very busy at work yesterday. I suppose it’s only natural that I should be less than busy today. But tomorrow – tomorrow, I go in for my huge interview with the largest book distributor in the world. Apparently, they have you meet 4-5 people, and the total interview time is around 4-6 hours, at least for programmers. I have no idea what amount of time it would take for the position I’m interviewing for.

These lists are inspired by my unpacking and current boredom.

Favorite children’s books:
Where the Wild Things Are
Sing Down the Moon
Island of the Blue Dolphins
Tuck Everlasting
Chronicles of Narnia
Black Beauty
The Black Stallion
Anne of Green Gables
Little Women

Favorite Classic Mysteries
Murder on the Orient Express
Ten Little Indians
The Hound of the Baskervilles
The Sign of Four

Favorite Classics
David Copperfield
Pride & Prejudice
Sense & Sensibility
The Jungle Books
Treasure Island
The Importance of Being Earnest
King Lear
Heart of Darkness

Favorite American works
Tom Sawyer
Huck Finn
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
On the Road
My Antonia
Angle of Repose
The Scarlet Letter

Disclaimer: This list was compiled without the benefit of being able to check what is actually on my shelves. This is because I am currently trying to waste time, and I generally have better things to do at home than make lists of books I like.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

modern electronics-less

This morning I slept in. It was glorious. Until I woke up and realized I was going to be late – then it wasn’t quite so glorious.

I got an email from a friend in Vienna this morning that made me slightly nostalgic. I did love living and working there. Maybe someday, I’ll be able to go back, without bankrupting myself.

Currently, I have no high speed internet or TV at my new apartment. As soon as I have the money, I will rectify the first problem, but I don’t plan on getting a TV until I can afford one of those small flat screens (I was thinking a 23” or so, which are only $550 for a Sharp at Costco), and since buying a TV is pretty low on my list of priorities, that will be awhile. I was just thinking last night how much we rely on those crutches to pass the time. Last night, I read a novel, talked to my brother for an hour, tidied my kitchen, played with my cat, and got to bed early. You can bet this wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been living in a bubble. Then it occurred to me that this was essentially the way I grew up – no internet (since we didn’t get internet until I was in 9th grade), no TV. I find it rather peaceful.

But I’m still springing for wireless internet as soon as I have the money.

Monday, November 26, 2007

gotta love the long weekends

Thursday, my mom and I went hiking. Really worked up a nice appetite for our chicken pasta primavera and bruschetta on ciabatta, with apple crisp for dessert. Not very Thanksgiving like, but after last year's 15 hour cooking marathon, I wasn't interested. I did miss the stuffing, though.

Friday, I enlarged photos and bought yarn and went to a musical. Good musical - 'Whistle Down the Wind' at the 5th Avenue theatre. On Saturday and Sunday, I lazed around my apartment, cleaned things, tidied things, went through all of my photos and decided which ones would make it into my scrapbooks, read a few novels, hammered away at the Count of Monte Cristo (which, even in my abridged version, is still three inches thick), and played with my cat.

The only problem with my long weekend is that everyone else had a long weekend too, which meant that they had no time to evaluate my applications. But, one of my possibles called my supervising lawyer today, and he gave them a nice recommendation, so that should be good. It's the one with flex-time, so I could go four 10's a week, if I wanted to. That would definitely be nice. But still... the siren's call of working in an all-German environment calls to me...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


So, my interview yesterday went well. I won't find out until the end of next week how that one went, because there's a third candidate interviewing on Monday or Tuesday. It is significantly better than what I'm doing now, though.

Today's phone interview went well, I was able to answer all questions well. The part I was worried about wasn't the phone interview - it's the oral test in German. It's actually just a conversation to see how I do with spoken German, but since my spoken German was generally limited to daily conversation, some discussions of politics, and bad jokes in Austria, I'm rather concerned about how well I'll fare. I have no doubt at all about my skill with the written portion of the job - but spoken German tests terrify me. Still, it's an entry level position with the department I'm interviewing with, so I'm hoping they're not going to be overly picky. Plus, I found a German tutor on craigslist and already contacted her.

I got contacted for a third interview yesterday afternoon as well, so I'm feeling rather pleased with myself. I was really upset and worried after finding out about losing the job I currently have, but it seems as though this situation has worked out for the best for all involved. I am certainly not going to regret moving on to a position where there is better pay, better benefits, and options for advancement.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

More good news!

This morning, I found an email in my Inbox asking for an interview! Not only is this job significantly better than the one I have now, it's even better than the one I'm interviewing for today. I would even be using German on a daily basis. Can't get much better than that. Anyway, I'll update the results of today's attempt to get a better job, as well as the results of the next one. Maybe I should write a thank you note to my co-worker, hmm?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thanksgiving break

Tomorrow I have an interview with a contractor for a government agency. Unfortunately for me, I was the victim of office politics – aka, a dissatisfied and insecure coworker decided she didn’t like me/felt threatened by me, I really don’t know – and now I’m looking for a new job. Some people just really need to grow up. Anyway, I’m going to look at it as a blessing in disguise, because now I have the opportunity to get out of the verbal contract I made, and I can look for a better job.

This weekend was spent putting together IKEA furniture and then organizing all of my books and such into it. Those stupid things are a pain to put together. Even following the directions very carefully, I still managed to make a number of mistakes, just from getting certain holes on the top when they should have been on the bottom. Of course, I didn’t realize these mistakes until a few pages further into the manual, so then came the backtracking. Still, the beast is done, even if it did take almost two hours total. It weighs about 200 lbs, too. The kitchen shelving unit was much simpler to put together. Sad thing is, even with my new behemoth IKEA shelving unit, I still don’t have enough space for all of my books and materials. I collect paper.

I am looking forward to Thanksgiving break. My mom and I are having a nice quiet dinner together with some bruschetta for an appetizer, pasta primavera and pan fried turkey for dinner, and pie with fresh ice cream ala mode. Yum!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

IQ is relative

My dad once said that usually people of moderate intelligence accomplish things of import in this world, because truly intelligent people are capable of seeing multiple sides to the issue, and are thus far less likely to jump feet first into any one course of action. I think I would like to modify the definition somewhat - people of moderate intelligence who focus all of their energy and intelligence on bettering themselves generally accomplish more than truly intelligent people who are capable of seeing that life is made up of more than simply themselves and their own goals.

Take for example, our dear President, who is clearly intelligent enough to at least surround himself with people intelligent enough to get himself elected. Whatever else you may think of him, he did manage to get into the White House, which is no mean feat. He is a man I would call more clever than intelligent. He generally seems to be able to get what he wants, which demonstrates that he is clever, but what he wants is generally stupid, which demonstrates his lack of intelligence. For example, there were a number of academics (but who listens to academics anyway?) who prepared a panel back in 2002 on why the invasion of Iraq would be a mistake. Their reasons were well thought out, based on historical precedent, and were careful to consider the questions no one in the government seemed to be willing to answer - what if it isn't a cheap war? What if the Iraqis don't love us as much as we think they will? What if there is sectarian violence? Actually, some of the panelists were disturbingly accurate in their portrayals of what was likely to happen.

However, our dear President knew what he wanted, and set about getting it. This is, I think, the secret to getting ahead in the world. Focus on what you want to the exclusion of all else, and focus on ways you can achieve your goals. The reason why intelligent people - as opposed to merely clever or cunning people - rarely gain positions of power or control is that they generally think about the ramifications of what they do before they take action.

Unfortunately, if one is the sort of person who enjoys using one's brain on occasion, such single-minded devotion to self is rather difficult to justify.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

article endings and bridge jumpers

When I recently sent out an email about my new domicile, I received a reply from one of my old teachers in Vienna, Austria. I haven’t actually written anything in German since May, and I was never a brilliant writer anyway, so I had to look up a couple words (Geburtstermin is baby due date, fyi) and didn’t even bother to double check my articles. I’m sure half of my adjective endings were wrong too. But then, the beauty of writing to a native German speaker is that they never actually expect you to get them all right anyway.

This morning, I kept hearing many, many sirens on my way to work. A little while ago, I was informed by a coworker that a man had jumped off a bridge onto I-5 and stopped traffic and caused a giant hubbub. What is it about people committing suicide on bridges over I-5? Maybe they’re committing suicide because they think no one cares and everyone who has to drive on I-5 and public service personnel will HAVE to care about them for once if they cause a huge problem. I remember being told about a Navy nurse and his buddy who used to have a lot of problems with suicide attempts on long sea voyages. They decided to post a list of effective and ineffective ways to commit suicide because they were tired of cleaning up the mess after someone failed to succeed in their goal.

I will never presume to understand the mentality of someone who wants to end their life because I’ve always been too in love with life to want to end my own. But it seems to me that if I ever changed my mind, I would at least want to get it right, and not inconvenience an important part of a city or medical personnel in the process. There are other people who actually want and need their help who did not choose to hurt themselves.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Federal holidays are nice - IF you get them off

Last week, I made plans to go hiking over Veteran’s Day weekend, thinking that I had a three day weekend to exploit. Well, I was wrong. So here I am, at work on a federal holiday. The only upside is that I get two days off at Thanksgiving, and I only got Thursday off at my old job.

I went walking around in the Theler Wetlands nature park in Belfair with my mom on Sunday. I didn’t even realize it was there until I read about it in a hiking book. It’s really quite fascinating, and so interesting to think that all of Kitsap used to look similar to the preserve. So much of it has been destroyed to make way for housing subdivisions. I’m all for people having their own places to live, but long-term land management doesn’t mean land for me, no land left for my children and grandchildren to appreciate in the future. One of the reasons I hate Wal-Mart so intensely is the way in which they built their stores in Bremerton and Poulsbo. In Bremerton, they decided it was cheaper to pay the fine for building on a wetland than to find a new location. In Poulsbo, the city council voted not to let them build the store, so they just built it right outside of city limits. Evil, nasty corporation. I am beyond glad that they have lost so much money recently.

My apartment is completely unpacked. However, I have not yet bought my shelving unit, so most of my stuff is in piles on the floor. Caesar is finding this to be endless fun, though, and he keeps hiding behind piles, then jumping out and attacking me when I walk by. He is also loving my new trunk, as it is the highest point he can reach in the room. I think it makes him feel powerful.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007 grandmother's house!

Ceasar is bored. This morning, he was sitting on my trombone case, which I have leaning upright against the open closet door, and he was simply staring at me while I ate breakfast. I am apparently the newest zoo attraction for my own cat.

Last night, I got to watch ‘Into the Woods,’ a musical by Steven Sondheim about what happens happily ever after. The first half is so hilarious that it lulls you into thinking it’s a comedy – which it sort of is – but the message of the second half is just so beautiful, it really comes together to make such a wonderful musical. I watched the staging with Bernadette Peters on video with K., and this was my first live performance of it. It was really quite marvelous, and the woman who played the Witch was brilliant! I loved ‘The Last Wish’ that she sang. Her voice could give you shivers.

My favorite comedic element of the musical is the two princes storyline. The best line of the whole musical is when Prince Charming (the elder brother, not to be confused with Prince Charming, the younger brother) tells Cinderella he’s fallen in love with Sleeping Beauty (the younger went after Snow White when Rapunzel died), and she asks him why loving her isn’t enough for him. “I was raised to be charming, not sincere,” he replied, in stentorian tones. The guys who played the princes caught the comedic pomposity of the princes beautifully, not to mention singing beautifully. All in all, a wonderful evening.

Next up, ‘Whistle Down the Wind’ with my mom. I think I’ll see ‘Jersey Boys’ with my brother when it comes out in December, too.

Monday, November 05, 2007

yuppie/hippie hybrid

This morning was a happy occasion because I awoke at 7:20am – the same time that the Bremerton ferry leaves for Seattle. I then took a hot bath in my enormous clawfoot bathtub, ate some yummy Kashi cereal for breakfast, and blow dried my hair in the kitchen because I have no outlets in my bathroom. The place is actually so old that all of the electrical stuff is on the outside of the walls. The window in the bathroom doesn’t fully shut either, so this morning when construction started and the sound of metal striking metal woke me up, it was quiet enough that I thought my upstairs neighbor was eating cereal and banging the spoon against their bowl. I will be getting curtains. And maybe some of that rubber stripping stuff.

On my way walking through the lobby of my building, I imagined that the other people around me had little bubbles detailing their commute. One woman’s read, “Drove from Renton, left at 7:00am, drove bumper to bumper for forty-five minutes, then waited in line for ten minutes to get coffee at Starbucks.” Another’s read, “Rode the bus from Capitol Hill, took a half hour.” A man dressed in a sharp looking business suit with droopy skin under the eyes had a bubble that read, “Drove from Tacoma, there was an accident blocking traffic and it took an hour and forty-five minutes to drive less than thirty freeway miles.” What did my bubble say? “Left apartment at 8:15, took ten minutes to walk in the sunshine and fresh fall air to work.” I was feeling entirely too bright and chirpy thinking about how wonderful my imaginary bubble read in comparison to what others must have. Of course, there are the ones who make piles of money and can afford one of those lovely condos down at the waterfront. I’m not one of them.

My mom is bringing me my cell phone that I forgot at her house last night and she’s bringing along contact paper (which was the only thing that the adorable little grocery three blocks from where I live didn’t have last night. It’s like A Capella, only cuter) so I can finally unload my kitchen. I plan to have my whole apartment completely organized and tidy by the 16th of November (because I can’t buy shelving units and my second steamer trunk until the 15th). I love my new place – it’s about the size of a shoebox, and it’s got more character than my first apartment in Vienna, and I love it. It fits my aesthetic, it fits my budget, and I just love living in Seattle.

I think the attitude of this blog has much improved since my time spent in Singapore. Even horrible news doesn’t tick me off nearly as much, merely because I’m actually happy. Imagine that….

Friday, November 02, 2007


I did a quick check recently of the Seattle Police Department crime statistics for my new address. While the location is fantastic in terms of how close everything is, it does have its drawbacks. Other than residential burglary and car theft, my neighborhood is one of the statistically worst neighborhoods in Seattle. That is such a happy thought… I’m assuming that residential burglary and car thefts are somewhat lower because there are nicer homes and cars elsewhere.

Well, I’ve always thought that the safety of the suburbs was an illusion. Statistically, you’re far more likely to be hurt by someone you know than someone you don’t, so just living in the suburbs won’t protect you. Still, those aren’t precisely comforting thoughts. The numbers themselves aren’t all that bad, though; there aren’t nearly as many of the most violent crimes (homicide/rape) as there are the somewhat less frightening crimes (theft/assault).

I’ve never been particularly worried about getting things stolen from me, because most thieves are smart enough to realize that I’m a lousy mark. When K. and I were in Austria, and traveling around Europe as well, we never had any problems with getting things taken. But her mom hadn’t even been in Austria a week when she had her wallet stolen. The difference? We looked poor; she didn’t. I’m hoping that this will benefit me here at home, as well. I also take comfort in knowing that I lived in a similarly tough neighborhood in Vienna, but there it was the roving gangs of Turkish boys who liked to beat people up and steal their wallets. I had heard, however, that they considered it beneath their dignity to beat up women. I doubt thieves in Seattle will have such compunctions.

Halloween + moving

Okay, I admit it – mom and I were “those people” on Halloween - the ones who give out a small amount of lousy candy, these little hard sucking candies that mom’s had for ages because no one wanted to eat them. We forgot! I was moving my stuff to my new apartment, not to mention being disgustingly sick. Then the kids started showing up. We gave granola bars to some teenagers. The last group, we didn’t have even granola bars for them, there were at least ten of them. Poor mom, she ended up having to give out the lousy candy. I was too embarrassed to volunteer to do it myself.

On to more interesting news – my new place is totally cute, and I absolutely love it. It’s really very small, but the location couldn’t be better, and it’s my very own little place in Seattle. I did not have to settle for a roommate, thank God! I’m looking forward to painting my allowed number of accent walls (one per room), and figuring out a way to build in enough shelving space to accommodate all of my books and such. Next time, I’m paying people to move me. Luckily, some dude was walking by (I live across the street from a food bank, so that’s probably why), and offered to help. I’m all for handing out cash when it’s been worked for, so I said yes. He carried all the heavy stuff, too. Now, off to IKEA to get cheap shelves. My steamer trunk that I’m using instead of a wardrobe or chest of drawers is arriving this evening. I’m very much looking forward to that as well. Happy Friday, all!