If it doesn't explode, you're doing it wrong.
My First Kiss 2013-01-05
Being a bit lonely while organizing stuff in my new apartment, I started thinking about the first semi-serious romantic relationship I ever had. It actually wasn't very romantic at all, now that I think about it; It was more exploratory lust tempered by extreme awkwardness and a complete lack of understanding of what we should be doing. It still led to my first real kiss, though.
Her name was Cara. I think I was eleven at the time; I think she was too, I don't remember our ages being any more than a few months apart. She was my sort-of best friend's sister. I say her brother and I were sort-of best-friends because we spent a lot of time together, mostly playing video games, though we never really had any serious emotional connection. He was also violent, scary, loved to play with knives and fire, and got really upset when he lost.
Anyway, back to lady-kissing. I know a lot of you are already assuming how I totally lady-suaved my way into her heart, but it's totally the opposite. She persued the relationship with me, at the time I wasn't really trying to find a relationship (I was very happy borrowing my sister's back massager thing). She said I was 'cute', and wanted to 'go with me' and that was all it took for me to agree.
We were watching a movie, for some reason I think it was "Ernest Scared Stupid", but we were pretty distracted by each other. After a bit of girly whispering back and forth we started looking into each others eyes, I remember seeing her close her eyes and she started to move in close to me, tilting her head slightly. I instinctively closed my eyes and tilted my head the other way and our lips met.
It felt soft; Warm too, it was really nice. After a couple of seconds she put her hand on my thigh and pushed in closer, pushing her tongue into my mouth. I was initially a bit shocked, but I remember feeling how slippery the bottom of her tongue felt against mine, and how she tasted like twizzlers (she had eaten one a few moments earlier). I think she sensed my shock and abruptly ended the kiss. She smiled at me, and asked if I liked it.
We spent the next hour or so talking about and experimenting with kissing, seeing what felt best, trading off bits of candy in a kiss, and seeing how long we could keep a kiss going.
I'm pretty sure she's where I picked up my love of kissing. My ex-fiance was not a good kisser, and assumed that any kissing was just a short intro into sex. I'm content to make out for 45 minutes or more, just slowly experiencing things, whispering things in your ear, and leaving hickeys all over.
If this is all too weird for you, here's a robot dancing instead.
Cooking For One 2013-01-04
I guess I'm technically a spinster now, though that term is quite outdated. Either way it's left me cooking exclusively for myself. Cooking for one is something that is surprising hard to do well, and economically.
It's also hard to work up the willpower to actually cook something when you're by yourself. It's so much easier to do something uncivilized like eat just a hunk of cheese, or eat cereal for dinner. It's taken me a while to convince myself that I'm worth pampering with a decent meal.
I have a sort of go-to list of meals I can construct quickly, but are also satisfying and way cheaper, and better than reheating some frozen entree. They're generally a bit free-form, depending on the items I have at hand, but I'm going to start posting them.
I wanted to start with one of my favorite recipies, it makes something really quite delicious and I always have to tell people it doesn't taste anything like they imagine when I describe it to them.
Absurdly Buttery Lima Beans: (no seriously, try it.)
- 4-16 ounces (110g-450g) dried large lima beans (these are apparently called butter beans in some parts of the world)
- 2-8 ounces (55g-225g) butter
Preheat oven to 250F/120C add beans to dutch-oven or large heavy pot, cover with enough water to submerge beans by ~2 inches (5cm) add enough salt for the water to taste vaguely like sea water. Cover, bring pot to boil on stovetop, immediately insert into preheated oven, stir after 45 minutes or so, let cook another 30-50 minutes (the beans should be creamy, and not chalky at all). Strain, add back to pot with butter, stir until butter is melted and luscious buttery sauce forms from butter meeting with the bean starch. Goes well with a simple pan-seared steak, or anything really.
This basic method (sans the butter)actually works for nearly every dried bean-type out there. Most of the beans similar in size/shape/taste to kidney and black beans will usually take slightly longer than lima beans, but they also freeze well and you can make a bunch for a whole week for anything from chili(see below) or quick refried beans, or tossing in a salad, or whatever.
This next one is what I make when I'm feeling especially lazy, but really need to feel full in the next 30 minutes.
- ~2 cups leftover cooked beans OR a 15 oz can of beans (kidney beans, black beans, cannellini, navy, any in that family will work)
- 1-2 tablespoons tomato paste (amount depends on brand, and desired tomatoeyness)
- 1 cup water (may need more, or less, depending on various factors)
- 1/4th to 1/3rd cups chili powder
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- cheese, grated (I usually top with 2oz/57g of a mild or medium cheddar, freshly grated because I'm worth it)
- salt (amount depends on how salty above things are)
- meat (optional, see notes at bottom of recipie for what to do)
- 1/4th cup diced tomatoes (optional)
Place about 1/2 cups worth of beans into a pot with the tomato paste. mash with a potato masher until reasonably broken up(you can do this in a food processor too, it makes grating the cheese easier as well if you have the disc for that). set pot in heat to medium or medium-low. add chili powder, stir to integrate, add all remaining ingredients except for the cheese. Cover, maintain heat until beans are heated through and flavors have melded (~15m), adding water if necessary, stirring occasionally. Place in bowl and top with cheese.
If you wish to use leftover, already-cooked meat, add it when you add the water and increase the heat slightly to ensure that the meat will reach an internal temperature of 160F, (making sure the chili maintains a simmer when stirred is more than enough indication).
If you wish to use raw meat, cook it separately in a skillet with a small amount of oil and add to the pot along with the water (or if you start them at the same time, really as soon as the meat is done, you can toss it in).
I usually freeze the leftover tomato paste if it was from a can (I sometimes buythe kind that comes in the toothpaste-ish tube though)
Neither of these are particularly fancy, or really the best form of themselves I could make; but they are easy to prepare, and still make me feel civilized.
I Hate Systems Engineering 2013-01-03
I've been a Systems Engineer my entirely working life. What do I mean by that?. It's really hard to explain what you actually do when you're in the field.
It generally comes down to the following components:
- Fixing someone elses' broken shit.
- Doing the DBA's job for him (again)
- Telling software developers how computers actually work
- Figuring out why everything is broken (I actually like this part)
- Keeping Project Managers and/or software devs from breaking everything.
- Reluctantly getting pulled into every faction's office politics
- Not sleeping
I know this has a pretty negative tone already, but I'm feeling a need to rant. I tried to quit the field over a year ago, but I wasn't able to make ends meet, and it doesn't help that I'm actually quite good at it.
It consumes all of your time, and parts of your soul
To be successful as a systems engineer you really need to go all in. You're going to be on-call whether you're supposed to be or not. You're supposed to always be thinking about work when you're at home, sleeping, watching tv, etc. Many veterans of the field exit with severe sleep problems, energy drink additions, and a thousand-yard stare that will haunt you for days.
I was recently linked this xkcd comic, It's meant in jest but it's really the sort of life you are forced into when you're in the field. The key is that the company expects you to care about it above all else. This is especially troublesome when you also find yourself easily disposed of by them later. You're basically asked for the mental and social investment of a Corporate VP, or even a C-level executive, only without the golden parachute and six figure bonuses.
During my career as a systems administrator I've:
- Been on a single conference call for over 30 hours, with multiple VP-level higher-ups demanding updates every 10 minutes.
- Been the key stakeholder on 3 meetings all scheduled at the same time.
- Had on-call days where something broke every 15 minutes. (even at night)
- Driven 5 hours on 2 hours of sleep in a car with no shocks and 12,000 miles overdue for an oil change(company car) to fix some shit at a remote data center.
- Drove a car with no brakes several miles for a meeting because dying would be better than what the project manager would have done without you being there to set it right.
- Developed severe insomnia.
- Cried every day for 6 months on the way home, knowing you're not actually getting a break and it'll only be worse tomorrow.
This list could be a lot longer if I really wanted to sit and think.
Your positive contributions are rarely noticed
I used to work for a large telecom company in their "Network Operations" division. As a sort of side-investigation to a separate project, I researched some of the discrepencies we had in our handset authentication database (containing something on the order of 40 million records), and the official upstream source. I determined that in many cases the upstream system was wrong, and in many cases our system was wrong, (and in some cases, both D:). I was able to determine using other pieces of data which records on our side were invalid and correct them. I fixed over 300,000 (partially) broken users. Using the somewhat-informal internal metric for that sort of thing ($10 per tech support call), I saved the company three million dollars. Two months later I was laid off.
You're always extremely visible when something is broken.
By default, you're going to be at least part of, if not the key person working on fixing any sort of technical issue. Sometimes things get fixed quickly and with minimal impact, other times not. Either way higher-ups didn't enjoy the stress of the situation.
Unless you move into management, you've already reached the glass ceiling
While I am getting paid more, even adjusted for inflation, than I was when I started. I'm really doing the same shit I've been doing for the past 15 years. There's not really any growth in the field. The troubleshooting parts are "fun" but eventually you rack up enough of those that you can sort of just remember how to fix most problems.
So what does this mean?
I'm really tired of all the sacrifice. I don't want every day to feel so overwhelming. I don't want to cry when I drive home. I don't want to be preoccupied with work when I'm supposed to be unwinding. I really wish I could make it some other way.
Thanks for listening to my rant,
Why Adventure Time Is Awesome 2013-01-01
I've spent a large chunk of my holiday downtime watching Adventure Time. I've just finished the third season, and am enjoying every moment of it. It's one of the best shows I've come across in years. I wanted to talk a bit about what makes it so great. Warning, spoilers ahead.
Adventure Time is a cartoon about a boy (Finn), and his magical dog (Jake), and their adventures in the fantastical land of Ooo. It's full of a lot of random sillyness broken up by some surprisingly deep moments. Even the most often recurring villain is a someone you can sympathize with(though he is still comically evil enough for the kids). And there are some characters, like Marceline in particular, who seem expertly crafted to speak to certain people about what they're feeling, but not always in an overt way. It manages to do all of this in a mere eleven minutes.
Nothing in Adventure Time's world is normal. There are "tiny house people", who are, well, tiny houses. There's a snow golem who, when he leaves his house, puts a round-stick thing around his face. why? I dunno, but it's awesome!
If you were to ask me to draw a dragon, it would look something like a dragon informed by european or chinese folklore, easily recognizable and completely devoid of creativity,
This is a dragon from Adventure Time:
I don't oven. How do you trick your brain into letting you draw things like this when you hear "dragon"?. I'm not sure how, but they've figured it out over there.
Cuteness as cover
Everything in Adventure Time is smeared with cuteness, much in the way science fiction uses aliens and/or sciencey things to euphemistically talk about more mundane things, Adventure Time uses cuteness for similar purposes.
The world in Adventure Time is actually a post-apocalypic wasteland where Finn may be the last surviving human. Civilized cute-people are constantly being attacked, eaten, kidnapped, killed, or otherwise dimished by the horrible things around them.
It's a horrible place to be, and it does need heroes. It's also a place cute and silly enough that that hero can be a teenage boy.
Each episode is eleven minutes long, this is half the length of a normal half-hour cartoon. Having to fit everything into such a short timespan focuses the creators on making sure each minute has the maximum communicative capacity, and fluff is minimized, they rely on songs often, which allow emotional content in particular to be understood in less time. Exposition is usually to the point, and done in a way that works well with Finn's eagerness to jump at any problem that needs a hero to solve it. Action scenes are always appropriate in length (some cartoons really overdo this). The choice to do eleven minute episodes keeps the show extremely precise and focused.
Deftly handling pubescent frustration.
Society talks very little about what puberty does to little boys. In a short peroid of time, you have to turn from an adorable little boy into a man, just as your body floods your brain with chemicals that make you unstable and clamps down on the emotional parts of your brain that would normally help you process what's going on. It's really pretty horrible, doubly so since it's really hard for people to talk openly about.
Finn (who is 13 years old in the episode I'm up to) is struggling with the adorable innocent boy and the sex-crazed man that all boys that age are dealing with. As the show needs to remain kid-friendly, most of this is handled with subtext, or veiled jokes (see next section). But the writers accurately show the duality that boys that age have.
It's revealed that Finn keeps a bit of Princess Bubblegum's hair that he uses for his "special time", but, again, to keep the show kid-friendly, sexual feelings are mostly denied or played for laughs.
In "Wizard Battle", Finn enters the annual wizard battle, not to win the kiss from Princess Bubblegum, but to 'save' her from being kissed by someone else. In the end he confides in Jake that he wants to kiss her and that hiding his feelings is exhausting.
Another example is in "Marceline's Closet", Finn and Jake are hiding in Marceline's closet, trying to sneak out so she wont kill them. About three quarters through the episode, Finn sneaks out to see if the coast is clear, while Marceline is bathing, Finn sees her (presumably) naked, blushes, immediately sneaks back into the closet and says, with wide-eyes, "I'm not going back out there". Finn feels ashamed of how he feels, again, something that should speak to boys of that age.
Intentionally Ambiguous Subtext
A lot of deeper things happen just outside of earshot of the kiddies. Sometimes this is just tell adult jokes, but it is occasionally used to speak very different messages to different groups of people. It's even used as a way to communicate emotion alone.
For example, in "What Was Missing", A "door lord" steals the item most precious to a buch of the show's characters. Finn loses his glob of Princess Bubblegum's hair that he uses for his "special time" (see sexual frustration above), Jake loses his favorite blanket. Princess Bubblegum and Marceline join Finn and Jake to get their stuff back. Trapped at a door that will only open to music, Marceline sings the absolutely divine and emotional "I'm Just Your Problem" about how badly she feels Princess Bubblegum treats her. At the end of the episode it's revealed that the precious item that Princess Bubblegum lost was a t-shirt that Marceline gave her a long time ago.
There are many possible interpretations for this, and what you feel when watching the episode reflects on who you are. Most adults have people with whom they were extremely close with (especially when they were teenagers) only to later drift apart, sometimes over trivial reasons, sometimes not. So this scene can speak to innocence that both Princess Bubblegum and Marceline lost as they got older. However, being a life-long bisexual, who was especially active with the ladies in my teen years, I relate this more with a particular relationship (actually a series of relationships, we were on and off often) I've spoken vaguely about before.
If they had fully explained what exactly happened, or if Princess Bubblegum had simply lost her favorite sciencey thing, it would have had no impact. The writers of the show explicitly chose to imbue that scene with subtext to let us feel what it means ourselves, through our own hearts.
Feeling totally math,
I See Faces Everywhere 2012-12-31
The title pretty much says it all; starting quite recently I've been seeing faces where most people don't. Take my purse for example.
Oh man, my purse is pretty dirty D: ; Oh well
It seemed to start when I got back to futzing with pixel art for my sad story video in February. I found it interesting at the time, just noticing how many objects your brain can sort of register as two eyes and a mouth, and how much emotion can be expressed with such small changes in detail. Once I started on anti-depressants, however, things changed quite a bit. Not only was I noticing faces a lot more, but when I did always made me smile.
For most I've my life I've been pretty awkward when confronted with faces, I often have trouble looking people in the eyes, but suddenly I was craving the sort of feeling you get when connecting in that way, even if it's just with a few sticky notes stuck on my monitor.
It's gotten to the point where I've started getting giggly and/or smiling for no visible reason to people around me. They don't see what I do, and I probably appear crazy to them.
Here's a good example; There's a pillar in the parking garage at work, It appears that someone managed to scrape something hard against it (a car maybe?) and take off most of the paint, while most people just see a random bit of missing paint my brain fills in all of the details.
Yeah, you totally are crazy.
Hearts and smily faces,