Wednesday, October 30, 2002

At loose ends

It's the middle of the day and I feel guilty for logging onto the computer to post here. I'm still adjusting to being out of work, and student mode hasn't yet kicked in again. Yesterday and this morning, I worked on a handwork project I was trying to finish for tonight as a gift for my (now) former boss. But it was one of those things I've not done before, and thus much thought and experimentation and running around asking for advice and looking for things and just trying to figure it out have been going on. I finally ended up having to let someone else (i.e., an expert) finish it, but that means it won't be done for tonight. When I get it back (sometime next week), I will post pictures of the process and of the finished product. Then you will know what "it" is.

I now have a lull of a few hours until I go out this evening. I should study. I should tidy my MESSY house. I should figure out a plan for the next few weeks, if not the rest of my life. I should...I should...I should....

Monday, October 28, 2002

Last day

Today was my last day at work. At 2:00 I was told, oh no, something happened with your paperwork and your last day technically isn't until the 30th or 31st. But by that point, I said, that's OK, I'll go with what I've been told all along; today's just fine. I don't need to come back. Anyway, I'm hoping to work something out with another department in the company. Meanwhile, there's a ton of other stuff to be done.

I was so busy doing "real" work today that I didn't have time to clear out my desk until it was almost time to go. Then I drove home, the last time to carpool with my colleague. I will miss the conversation on our drives, but hopefully much of our group is going to end up back together, but in a different department.

On Saturday, I FINALLY printed out the final version of the commentary manuscript. So that project is off my "To Do" list. What a relief!

So, suddenly, I have a whole new landscape to cultivate. I think I will sign off here and sink onto my couch in relaxed oblivion to watch whatever might be on TV and not torture my readers any longer with this entry written as I decompress from the recent events of my life.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Lunchtime update

I finally got a break from a hectic morning, which is only part of a hectic week. My To Do List finally is finished, except that when I tried to print the ms. Saturday night, the printer decided it would not print nuns. It would print the transliterated Hebrew letter just fine if I printed one page at a time, but would not print any nuns when I printed a chapter at a time. And because I am not going to print a 600 page ms. one page at a time, I've got to figure out something else.

I feel like I have been running flat out. I know things are going to change soon, and maybe then I'll have a chance to gather up all the scattered pieces of my life and try to order them somewhat. But right now it's just blind running.
Early morning

I drove by myself to work today and arrived rather early. I listened to a Mozart piano sonata, No. 15 in B Flat, as I drove through the Santa Susana Pass with the slightly-less-than full moon hanging over Rocky Peak in the blue-grey sky. Now the day may begin.

Friday, October 18, 2002

Like the end of term, part II

The signal that the end of term truly was at hand was when we'd come up to the dorm after class was over and find that our large suitcases had been taken out of storage and placed at the foot our beds ready to be packed.
Like the end of term

At work today it feels like the end of term at boarding school. There's not much to do at the moment—all my projects are on hold waiting for responses from others. I also have a couple phone and e-mail messages "out there" for which I'm rather impatiently expecting return phone calls. Those of us who've been laid off were told we could use work time to look for other jobs, so the rules have suddenly relaxed. Which is why I'm posting here even though it's not yet lunch. There's also that feeling of anticipation, tinged with excitement, about what will happen next.

Then I just finished a half-hour conversation with the professor whose manuscript I'm working on about the pros and cons of whether he should upgrade his current computer system or buy a new one. It is so easy to absorb his intensity, even though I can manufacture plenty of my own. Intensity is not a bad thing, it's just exhausting, especially in the midst of other intensity-generating situations. I think I will take a walk around the block at lunch, after writing my report, to try calm my mind.
To do

  • Write and send AAR student rep. report at lunch
  • Reply to Susie's note
  • Find ticket and go to art exhibit this evening
  • Go out to school and print ms. on Saturday
  • 90th anniversary celebration at church Sunday; help clean up afterwards since I won't be helping with preparations on Saturday

Monday, October 14, 2002

It is finished

The evil deed is done. The ax has fallen. Our department has been wiped out—at least its current personnel have all been cut. But the company's lay-off procedures have advanced from its former slash-and-burn days. We actually get two weeks notice, and full-time employees (not me) get severance. The company is also offering employees assistance in finding work elsewhere, either within the company or externally. It's been a fascinating morning observing how the lay-offs are being executed. It's quite a shock for many people, I'm sure, but hopefully they will find something else soon.

Of course I feel somewhat apprehensive about what might happen next, but at the same time, I'm not too worried (at least at the moment). There are people working on arranging possible positions for me. Also, there is the whole other side of my life (i.e., school) that has been shoved to the periphery about which I need to be making some decisions, or at least some progress. So, a little goading probably is not a bad thing.

But it is difficult to concentrate today. Fortunately, my current tasks don't require full attention.

Friday, October 11, 2002

The end of the week

Well. It's here. The weekend, which will be just as busy as the week, only different. With the uncertainty at work, I'm working as much as I can while I can....When you're told to make sure to finish the department policy and procedures' manual soon, you know something's up.

On Monday I went to school, picked up the ms. I've been helping out with, and entered the edits my professor made. Now I just need to double-check a few things, and it should be ready to print. The problem is finding time to go out to school to print it when the computer lab manager is around, just in case. (Most recent word processing lesson learned: Make sure the Auto Correct/Auto Format feature "Match parentheses" is de-selected or else all the ’alephs that are typed by using the right parenthesis in the transliteration font will morph into a strange character, and you will have to double-check all the transliterated Hebrew words throughout the 600 page ms.)

The rest of the week I went to work. My boss will be taking a three-month leave, beginning next week. Signs of further change are obvious. Senior managers are meeting often behind closed doors. Senior managers seem to be having difficulty looking one straight in the eyes.

Tomorrow I'm meeting my aunt who is flying to So. Cal. from Washington to run in a half-marathon in Long Beach. Sunday I play the piano for two church services again.

With everything that's happening, last weekend I escaped into an Iris Murdoch novel, Nuns and Soldiers. I'd never read any Iris Murdoch novels before. I rather liked it, especially the ideas in it and Murdoch's depictions of the experience—with all its confusion and uncertainty yet powerfulness—of being in love. I marked quite a few passages.
Any artist who is not a beginner faces the problem of enlarging into a working space that runs between 'just begun' and 'too late.' The hard work lies in the middle, when preliminaries are done, and the end is not yet enclosing the form. This is the space which longs to collapse, which the artist's strength must faithfully keep open. Tim was vaguely aware of this, but he was idle and lacked confidence (p. 124).
Of course, I read the above in terms of being a Ph.D. student. Or this, about Anne, who had left the cloistered life of a nun, and whose faith was being re-formed:
Anne knew how terribly close, for human beings, all things spiritual lie to the deep fires of the demonic. Concerning this, she waited, she cultivated still the metaphysics of waiting. And she noticed in herself, like the slow growth of an innocent indifferent plant, a renewed impulse toward worship and toward some kind of prayer. What kind of prayer this new prayer would turn out to be she did not yet know (pp. 312-13).
Murdoch's writing is wonderfully concrete, for example, when she describes the Count, who lives alone and listens to the radio.
He hated television. He lived in a radio world. He listened to everything, news, talks, plays (especially thrillers), political discussions, philosophical discussions, nature programs, proms, symphony concerts, opera, the Archers, Women's Hour, A Hundred Best Tunes, Desert Island Discs, On Your Farm, Any Questions, Any Answers. At some times of the year the steadily changing weekly copies of the Radio Times seemed the most evident movement of his life's clock....At times, sitting alone at night and listening to the gale warnings, for Fastnet, Hebrides, Fair Isle, Faroes, the Count had sometimes upbraided himself for wanting so ardently to console his beloved (pp. 35, 116).
Listening to gale warnings for far away places reminds me of listening to traffic reports for freeways I won't be taking that day when my clock radio awakens me early in the morning.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Burrito Express

[Written Sunday, October 6, 2002] I'm sitting at Burrito Express, my manna-from-heaven source. I wonder how many bean and cheese burritos, spicy, I've eaten during the three years I've lived in this neighborhood? A bean and cheese burrito, spicy, is the ultimate in comfort and convenience food. It is hot, soft, fairly nutritious, and filling. The restaurant—except restaurant isn't quite the word, even though there are three tables with benches squeezed inside where you order and tables outside under an awning and surrounded by a wainscoting-level wall with a two-foot wrought iron railing fence on top of the wall—is excellently situated on my way to the freeway when going to school and on my way home when I come back. A traffic light conveniently lets one get back on the busy street after picking up a burrito. And a burrito, expertly wrapped, can be eaten with one hand while driving. Today I'm sitting in the lately hot late afternoon sun with my back to the busy street and have almost finished my burrito.

On my drive here via the cash machine, I wanted to write everything I saw and remembered, like Laura's Chinese notebook(s?). Except that I'm writing on the back of a print-out of my sister and brother-in-law's wedding registry. (I still have to get their gift; according to the Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette, it is acceptable to give a wedding gift up to one year after the wedding.)

There was a woman I'd see when I used to hang out at coffee shops, back when I was a "real" student when I first moved to California. She had three or four journals she would hold up to her face and speak into as though they were dictating machines.

At the cash machine I heard two men talking behind me, and I knew they were speaking Armenian. I tried to figure out how I knew it was Armenian—it's sort of guttural and the diction is quite deliberate. But would I be able to identify it if I was in a place I didn't know there were people who spoke Armenian?

[Today] I wrote more but have recorded enough. I am tired and blank.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Gladwell articles

I just came across a site (via Arts & Letters Daily) that archives Malcolm Gladwell's articles from The New Yorker (and other publications). I've been carrying around the August 5 issue because I wanted to comment on Gladwell's article, "The Naked Face: Can you read people's thoughts just by looking at them?"

What intrigued me, besides the people who are very skilled at picking up give-away clues from the subtlest facial expressions, is that certain physical expressions produce certain emotional effects—and not just the other way around. Two researchers, Paul Ekman and J. J. Newberry, sat across a table and "made faces" at each other in order to catalogue all possible facial expressions. They realized after making sad and angry expressions at each other all day, they truly felt sad and angry.