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wshaffer

June 2017

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Word of mouth

Jun. 19th, 2017 04:26 pm
wshaffer: (deadlift)
Last week, I offhandedly mentioned to Tim, my personal trainer, that if the reaction on Twitter/Facebook was anything to go by, the Wonder Woman movie was going to bring in a lot of women interested in strength training. Tim hasn't seen a movie in the theater in about 5 years, but went to see Wonder Woman and loved it.

Now I really have to go see it, because he keep dropping Wonder Woman references while training me.
ACT for America, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has described as the "largest anti-Muslim grassroots organization in America", are staging a bunch of "anti-Sharia law" rallies in various locations across the U.S. this weekend. One of them is happening in Santa Clara, a few blocks away from where I live. The ACLU, CAIR, and a bunch of other organizations are sponsoring a counter-demonstration.

I am going to be there to show support for the Muslims in my community. If you're relatively local, it would be great if you could come out as well, or spread the word.
One of the work projects that pretty much consumed my work life from last August through this March is now in beta: http://docs.vmware.com.

We made a little video to talk about the project and why we did it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JuFjqkZNF6k

Vanity plates

Mar. 24th, 2017 08:58 am
wshaffer: (in a car)
While commuting last night and this morning, I've spotted a number of interesting vanity license plates.
CATS PT had me wondering if there was such a thing as physical therapy for cats, until I realized that it was on the back of the PT Cruiser.
1NAGA made me wonder if I'd spotted a fellow L5R player. Probably not.
DRNDRN4: I have no idea.
NVRNTME: Never Not Me? Never No Time? Never On Time? Nevada Registered Nurse Too Many Expectations?
I CSHARP: Therefore I not B-flat?
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Coming out of the cafeteria at work with a sandwich and a cup of soup, I slipped on the wet wooden decking in the patio area. Both feet shot out from under me and I landed with my ass in an inch deep puddle. Thanks to a couple of years of judo training, I fell properly and am entirely unharmed. The cup of soup (which had a lid) survived the experience. The sandwich, alas, ended up scattered all over the deck. My pants were soaked, so I had to change into the gym shorts I brought today.

I am currently decked out in a white t-shirt with the words "Guerilla Optimist" (sic), knee length black mesh basketball shorts, and black canvas ankle boots. Peeking out above the tops of my boots, you can see my socks, which have the logo of the heavy metal band Paradise Lost on them. I am stylin'.

I secured a replacement sandwich and a cup of coffee and am grateful that I only have one low-key meeting scheduled this afternoon.
So, Dianne Feinstein was one of 14 Democratic senators who voted to confirm Mike Pompeo as CIA Director. Here is a good summary of why Pompeo is terrible in case you need a refresher.

If you're a constituent of Feinstein's, now would be a good time to get in touch with her and let you know how you feel about this. Also, since Feinstein is on the Senate Intelligence Committee, she will have some oversight over Pompeo's work in the coming years.

Below is the text of my email to Feinstein about this. Yeah, I'm totally buttering her up in my second paragraph, but one thing I know from many years of writing to her is that she's extremely proud of her work on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and I'm certainly willing to try a little flattery if it makes her more receptive to the overall message.


Dear Senator Feinstein:
I was disappointed to see that you voted to confirm Mike Pompeo as director of the CIA. I think there are serious concerns about Pompeo's views on torture and on use of surveillance data collected on American citizens. Furthermore, his history of equating Islam with terrorism and holding ordinary American Muslims to be complicit in terrorism poses a threat to the civil rights and liberties of American Muslims.

However, I know that despite our disagreement on this issue, your work on the Senate Intelligence Committee shows that you are committed to protecting the safety and security of the American people and upholding civil rights and liberties. I would like to ask you to use your influence and position on the Senate Intelligence committee to do the following over the coming years:
* Ensure that Pompeo does not amend CIA rules to allow the use of torture in investigations.

* Ensure that in our zeal to fight terrorism, we do not trample on the rights and freedoms of ordinary American citizens.

* Ensure that the CIA use of surveillance is appropriate and within the law.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.
I played video games with Younger Nephew yesterday. He gets more fun to hang out with all the time. He's still very much a strong-willed kid, but he's learning to put a layer of social polish on it. For example, now when he wants to make sure I'm paying attention to something, he says, "Aunt Wendy, I think you're really going to want to see this."

He went through my game collection and picked out three games he wanted to try: Mass Effect 2, Lego Marvel Superheroes, and The Witcher 3. I can't possibly let him play The Witcher 3 -- it's waaaay too dark and adult. But he said he wanted to try it last, so I figured we just wouldn't get to it, and we didn't.

Mass Effect 2 is a game we've tried before - last time he didn't get through the intro, although he was clearly captivated by the graphics. This time he played for a little over an hour. He needed a little extra coaching to get through the tutorial, he mostly chose his dialogue options at random, and I did the hacking mini-game where you have to match code segments. He was very adept at the circuit matching mini-game once I explained it to him, though, and he got remarkably good at navigating the interface by the time we finished.

Then we switched to Lego Marvel Superheroes. The Lego games are really fun for kids and adults to play together.

(no subject)

Jan. 15th, 2017 05:02 pm
wshaffer: (short)
I drove Older Nephew over to his rehearsal for a school play this afternoon. Apparently he is playing Spiderman in a play about pirates? (School plays seem more interesting these days than I remember them being than I was a kid.)

He was reciting his lines from the back seat of the car:
"Yo ho ho! Yo ho ho!"
"Everyone's talking about Ho Hos. Don't they know that they're full of preservatives and cholesterol?"

That last was delivered with such genuine perplexity that I nearly answered the question.
There's a meme going around on where people list the ten most influential albums of their teenage years. What are the odds of my being able to resist that? I am going to try to resist the temptation to make myself look cooler than I was. And I'm going to try to link to a track from each album on Youtube.

1. First and Last and Always by The Sisters of Mercy.
If you were my friend when I was between 14 and 18, I undoubtedly forced you to listen to this album. If you're my friend now, the only reason I haven't forced you to listen to this album is because I'm somewhat more socially ept about that sort of thing. (Somewhat.)

I'm linking the track, "Nine While Nine", which is one of my favorites on the album not just for musical reasons, but because the title is a rather lovely Northern English expression for "from nine in the morning until nine in the evening" and my fondness for unusual idioms goes back at least as far as my affection for gothic rock: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qejxkXuURuk

2. Children by The Mission U.K.
Maybe this one ought to be at number one, because this was the album through which I discovered the entire genre of gothic rock. I bought this album on the strength of a single paragraph review in Rolling Stone or maybe Spin, which compared one of the tracks to something by Led Zeppelin.

This track, "Beyond the Pale", is the first thing I heard when I popped that brand-new cassette into my Walkman: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lwf7DmM2TGM

3. Led Zeppelin IV by Led Zeppelin.
I arguably ought to include the entire Led Zeppelin discography, because I was saturated in it through my teenage years. My local rock radio stations (in both Orlando and San Diego), regularly did a "get the Led out" feature at 9pm where they played 3 Zeppelin songs, and I regularly tuned in. But I don't think I actually owned every single Led Zeppelin album, and Led Zeppelin IV was almost certainly the first one I purchased. And when I moved to California at age 16, Led Zeppelin IV was the album I chose to listen to on the plane flight, largely for the song "Going to California." (I can be horribly literal in soundtracking my life, sometimes.)

I'll link to "Going to California," because you've probably all heard, "Black Dog," "Battle of Evermore," or "Stairway to Heaven" waaaay too many times: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IZ-jATBq9A

4. Zenyatta Mondatta by The Police.
I could probably also include The Police's Synchronicity or Sting's The Dream of the Blue Turtles, but I remember a period of time where I listened to Zenyatta Mondatta a lot.

Linking to "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da": https://youtu.be/8qtJ9ZnDlpM

5. ...And Justice for All by Metallica.
The first heavy metal show I went to was Metallica touring for ...And Justice for All. I purchased my first band t-shirt at that show. And I learned to never, ever go see a metal band without ear plugs. Metallica was probably the band that changed me from "a person who liked some heavy metal" to a metalhead. For many years, I firmly believed that ...And Justice for All was the last good album Metallica made. I've since come around to the opinion that The Black Album is pretty solid, but it took me 24 years, because The Black Album is not ...And Justice for All.

I'm linking to "One." I remember tuning into MTV to catch the world premiere of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WM8bTdBs-cw

6. The Best of New Order by New Order.
One summer all the boys I had a crush on were into New Order, so I got a The Best of New Order CD. I never got anywhere with any of the boys, but New Order went everywhere with me after that. I remember going on a road trip to visit East Coast colleges with a bunch of other teenage girls. We listened to a lot of New Order because it was the only musical artist we all liked. They made me sit through a lot of Andrew Lloyd Weber. I am now amazed that they all sat through an entire play through of Kings X's Gretchen Goes to Nebraska, but at the time I was put out that rather than being won over by its musical genius, they just decided I was a weirdo.

Linking to "Blue Monday-88": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GMjH1nR0ds

7. Badmotorfinger by Soundgarden.
When grunge got big, I listened to Nirvana and Pearl Jam along with everyone else, but the Seattle band that I really fell in love with was Soundgarden. That's not surprising - Soundgarden were always much more upfront about their heavy metal influences than anyone else in that scene. They were just unapologetically loud, sweaty, and heavy and I love them for it. Daniel got me tickets to see them live for my 18th birthday. I had already decided he was a keeper long before then, but if there'd been any doubt...

Linking to "Outshined". This song (with several others by Soundgarden) is on my gym workout playlist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4hm52SP-ls

8. Tommy by The Who.
When CDs were first a thing, and they were hugely expensive compared to cassette tapes, one of the first CDs I got was Tommy by The Who. I actually can't quite remember if I bought it or my dad did. I remember that I got my dad into Tommy, but I can't remember if I that happened when I owned it on tape or only after I got the CD. For a brief period when CDs were new, my dad and I pretty much shared our tiny collection. He got me into Janis Joplin and I got him into The Who.

Linking "Pinball Wizard": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pH_T72LgZTo

9. The Joshua Tree by U2.
U2 have just announced a tour in honor of the 30th anniversary of this album. Wow. When this album was released, my local rock radio station decided to play the track, "Bullet the Blue Sky" in heavy rotation even though it wasn't one of the album's official singles. The first time I heard it, it made my hair stand on end. It's not very representative of the sound of the rest of the album, but I loved the rest of the album as well. And I loved all of U2's previous albums, which I quickly bought. I utterly bounced off their followup album Achtung Baby, and while I have respect for some of the music they've produced since, I can't really call myself a fan anymore. But I might just see if I can get a ticket to see them play The Joshua Tree.

Linking to "Bullet the Blue Sky": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdmNC8ylrXI

10. Appetite for Destruction by Guns-N-Roses.
Before the original line-up fell apart, before all curbs on Axl Rose's ego evaporated, before the band took a decade to record an album that nobody gave a damn about by the time it was released, there was a magical summer spent glued to MTV wondering how Axl's hips did that. And like every other guitarist on the planet, I learned the opening riff from "Sweet Child O'Mine".

Linking to "Sweet Child O'Mine": https://youtu.be/1w7OgIMMRc4

Poached quince

Jan. 7th, 2017 06:04 pm
wshaffer: (food)
Safeway has been surprising me by having quinces in there little section of exotic fruit, right between the dragonfruit and the mangoes.

The first time I ever cooked quinces, I bought a couple at a farmers market from a farmer who was surprised that "someone your age" knew what a quince was. They were the size of grapefruit, and hard as rocks. I had to hack them up with a cleaver, and developed blisters on my hands in the process.

The ones I've been getting at Safeway are smaller, about the size of a large apple, and while they're still tough little fruit, they don't require a cleaver.

Here's how I've been cooking them:
2 quinces
2 cinnamon sticks
2 cardamom pods
1/2 cup honey
pomegranate molasses (optional)

Cut the quinces into wedges. Remove the seeds and the woody stuff that encapsulates the seeds.

Put the quinces wedges into a saucepan, and add enough water to just about cover them. Lightly bruise the cardamom pods (I just put them on the counter and squish them a bit with a can or the flat of a knife) and put them and the cinnamon sticks into the water. Add the honey. Drizzle in a little pomegranate molasses.

Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for about 90 minutes.

Remove the quince and set it aside. Fish out the cinnamon and cardamom and discard. Turn the heat up to high and boil the cooking liquid until it's reduced down to a syrup. Strain it and let it cool.

Serve the quince drizzled with the syrup. (The syrup is also nice on plain yogurt and I bet it would be nice on ice cream.)
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(no subject)

Jan. 2nd, 2017 08:55 pm
wshaffer: (not-helpful)
A bunch of older entries on the dreamwidth version of my journal appear to have collected a vast amount of comment spam. :-/

I've tweaked my comment settings to screen anonymous comments, which should cut down on that sort of thing. I apologize for any links to porn sites you might inadvertently come across. Sheesh.
I was playing with a friend's 4 year old daughter today, and we made the discovery that if she rolled herself up in a blanket, I could pick her up by the head and foot ends of the blanket and swing her back and forth like she was in a hammock. Which delighted her no end.

Thing is, knit blankets are kind of slippery, especially when they have squirming, giggling children in them. So, at one point, I was picking her up and the blanket started to slip out of my grip. So I set the blanket down, saying something like, "My grip's slipping."

She looked up at me with wide eyes and whispered, "You can do it! I believe in you!"

I love little girls. They are the best.
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Migrating

Dec. 30th, 2016 01:54 pm
wshaffer: (calm)
So, there is weird stuff going on with Livejournal. More details at the linked post, but the short summary is a) the Livejournal servers are now located in Russia b) the Russian government now has access to everything posted on Livejournal, including friendslocked and private posts and c) there are unconfirmed rumors of Russian-language accounts and posts being purged.

Given this, it seemed prudent to log in to my long-dormant Dreamwidth account and import my Livejournal. For now, until the situation is clearer, I'm going to be posting on Dreamwidth and having the posts cross-post to Livejournal. I don't intend to jump ship on Livejournal right away - I'll still be reading and responding to comments posted there - but it seems prudent to have a backup against the possibility that Livejournal will become unusable or become a platform that I no longer want to use.

If you're reading this and you're also on Dreamwidth, feel free to find me over at https://wshaffer.dreamwidth.org.

Earwormed

Dec. 12th, 2016 10:28 am
wshaffer: (Default)
It's not that unusual for me to dream about music, or for me to wake up with a song running through my head. However, this is the first time in a long time that I've woken up with a song running through my head that as far as I can tell isn't a song I've heard before.

Annoyingly, I can really only remember the chorus. It's a super-chirpy girl-group pop song, with a chorus that goes, "But oh no!/ What about that?/ Ain't nobody gonna care about that! Oh oh!"

A google search does not bring up any song with those lyrics. It's entirely believable that this is just my brain coming up with inventive ways to get me to chill out, but if you happen to recognize this song as something that actually exists outside my head, please let me know.
Lacuna Coil recorded a Christmas song. Hah.

I've been slowly working my way through an audiobook of The Kalevala as my accompaniment to chores and errands. This morning, I was thinking about the phrase, "the dismal Sariola," which occurs quite frequently. Honestly, it doesn't seem that dismal unless you go wooing there, which is, of course, what everyone does in The Kalevala. Anyway, while I was picking out produce, I found myself idly wondering if Sariola were an identifiable place, and if one could visit it while in Finland, and what it would look like these days. I pictured a run-down gas station staffed by a single surly attendant in a little shop that carries beer of dubious vintage, a much dog-eared guide to pike fishing in the river of Tuoni, and T-shirts that read, "I made the Sampo for Louhi and all I got was a lousy betrothal."

It was something of a relief to discover that Sariola has no identifiable location and so there is no reality to contradict that mental image.
A mosque in San Jose that's about a 20 minute drive from my house received hate mail yesterday.

There's something kind of surreal about a letter that begins, "To the children of Satan," with the "i" dotted with a cute little circle. There's nothing else funny about the letter, though. The writer promises that Trump "is going to do to you Muslims what Hitler did to the jews."

It just so happens that the Evergreen Islamic Center, which received the letter, is fundraising to complete the construction of a new masjid (mosque) right now. I've sent them a small donation and a message of support, and I think it would be wonderful if other San Jose residents did the same to show that Muslims are welcome in our community.
On a recent visit to Point Reyes, I snapped a photo of some excerpts from the Keeper's Log:

1874, July 19, During the night the English ship Warrior Queen went ashore in a thick fog on the beach, north of Point Reyes (no lives lost).

1874, July 20, Mr. Lincoln, first assistant, left the station for the purpose of visiting the wrecked ship and did not return at night - he is supposed to be drowned.

1875, August 13, 1st Assistant Mr. Rane refused to work over 1/2 day. Said he would not work over 1/2 day for any man in the Lighthouse service.

1875, November 4, 3rd Assistant Parker left station at 9:00 a.m. without asking permission and remained absent until 6:00 p.m. on November 5. ... Took government horse with him and returned to station drunk and unable to perform his duty that night.

1876, Novermber 1, 3rd Asst J.C. Baker resigns and leaves the station complaining the duties are too heavy for him, an old man to perform.

1879 April 6, The first good day for outside painting for a month.

1889, January 30, 2nd Assistant left station at 1:00 p.m. crazy and was taken by 1st Assistant and his brother to Olema and turned over to a constable.

1891, September 16, Cleaned lens and clockwork.

1891, October 8, Fog watched stopped at 10:30 a.m. - 61 hour run.

DSC07930.jpg
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Yesterday was a somewhat stressful day. On top of ongoing current events, it was just hectic, full of meetings and small fires to put out. About half an hour before bed, I picked out a guided meditation from Spotify's playlist of guided meditations. I picked a "body scan" meditation, which is typically done lying down, so I lay down in bed. I woke up about 30 minutes later, having slept through most of the meditation, but feeling more relaxed than I've felt in days.

I figure I'm not the only one who can use a little relaxation, so I thought I'd share a few of my favorite guided meditations.

Guided Body Scan Meditation by Mark Williams. This was the one I listened to last night. Strictly speaking, I'm not sure how it works as a meditation, but it's excellent for relaxation and falling asleep. You can find it on Spotify, on Youtube, or buy the book from Amazon/Audible.

Banishing Depression by The Honest Guys. The Honest Guys are a little more woo-woo than I usually go for, but their guided meditations are fun because they really take you on a journey - you're usually asked to visualize yourself in some place, and very vividly imagine the sensations of being there. (They have a whole set of guided meditations centered around locations in The Lord of the Rings for example.) In this guided meditations, you visualize handing over bundles of negative thoughts to a spiritual guardian, who crumbles them into dust. I now sometimes use this as a visualization technique even outside of meditation for dealing with an anxious thought that I'm having trouble letting go of - I imagine wrapping it in butcher paper, labeling it with a Sharpie, and handing it over to my guardian, who looks at it, says, "Nope, you don't need that," and tosses it over his shoulder. (My spiritual guardian looks like a Finnish heavy metal singer. I find this mildly embarrassing and yet entirely predictable.) You can find this meditation on Spotify and on Youtube.

Guided Meditation I - Breathing Calming Body & Mind by Erica Rayner-Horn. This is a really good basic guided mindfulness meditation. It's great if you're a beginner or just want a simple meditation experience. You can find it on Spotify, on Youtube, or buy the CD/MP3 from Amazon.

Triage

Nov. 11th, 2016 09:26 am
wshaffer: (ace)
In the wake of Donald Trump's election, I've have been hearing the usual calls for unity and "putting our differences aside", and lots of pleas to understand the grievances of the people who voted Trump, who are not all horrible racists.

I am, by nature, a consensus builder. One of my favorite phrases is, "Can we embrace the power of 'and'?". I don't believe that everyone who voted for Trump is an irredeemable racist. There may come a time when I decide that the most productive use of my energy and talents is to reach across that political divide, to try to understand that point of view.

But honestly, I am not worried about Trump voters right now. Here is a partial and incomplete list of the people I am worried about: My gay, lesbian, and bisexual friends who are worried about whether their marriages and families will be recognized as valid under a Trump presidency. My friends with disabilities and chronic illnesses who don't know whether they'll be able to keep their health insurance or get the medical care they need. My transgender friends who don't know if they'll be able to access health care or get identification that reflects their actual gender or even visit a public bathroom without being beaten up. Anyone who might experience an unintended pregnancy. My friends serving in the military who will have to serve under a dangerously volatile commander in chief. The Muslim business owners in my community who have to fear being deported or being the targets of hate. Every person of color in my community who gets up and leaves the house every day knowing that a routine traffic stop could be fatal.

I could keep going, but I'm not sure if I'd ever stop.

These are the people we need our attention and our energy right now. The Trump voters might not all be racists, and they might have many legitimate grievances. But right now, as Laurie Penny said, they are people who were "willing to fire at the elite directly through the stomachs of their neighbors." First, we need to stop the bleeding. And we need them to see that there is bleeding, not allow them to kid themselves that it's okay because they weren't actually aiming at us.

Then maybe we can talk about finding some common ground.