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It could happen…

I love my boyfriend dearly. Among his many excellent qualities, is his ability to say “maybe” in more ways than I previously thought possible. He has no problem saying no, but an absolute yes is a rare occurrence at best, and so I am left to decipher probabilities from the varied flavors of maybe that he uses to indicate level of preference (or lack thereof).

Me: “Can we go out to dinner tonight?”
Him: “I’ll think about it.”

Me: “Would you do the dishes for me?”
Him: “It could happen.”

Me: “Do you want to see a movie today?”
Him: “Mmmm.”

“Mmmmm” has many meanings, which can sometimes be decrypted through pitch and timber. A low-pitched “mmm” means, “It is highly unlikely,” or “I really would prefer not to.” A medium pitched “mmmm” could mean, “Ooh, that sounds nice,” or perhaps, “I could really care less one way or the other.”

Recently I suggested that perhaps I should get a Magic 8 Ball custom made to display all the possible responses to my yes-no questions.

Will David take me out to dinner tonight?
“It could happen.”

Will we go to the movies tomorrow?
“I’ll think about it.”

Will David help me vacuum the house?

Why Comic Sans is the Devil

So here’s the thing. Even though I claim to not be a designer, and am trying to move my career in a more project management direction, I’ve been realizing that I still have a designer’s sensibility when it comes to visuals. The idea of not having an image editing program on my computer is like having my fingers amputated. And even if I can learn to deal with not being able to touch up every photo to my satisfaction, what is truly intolerable is being limited to standard Windows fonts.

At best, these fonts are tolerable. Arial doesn’t suck too bad, Courier is great when you want your papers to take up ten pages instead of seven. But the font to be avoided at all costs is Comic Sans. This is Microsoft’s version of a “novelty font” and it burns my eyeballs from the inside, it’s so fucking ugly. Lately, I’ve discovered it’s also the darling of the academic world. Any teacher who wants to spice up their documents with something beyond the standard Times New Roman uses Comic Sans. Any time I get documents in Comic Sans, I reformat them into something far less offensive, like Verdana. Were I to receive documentation in PDF format, I would probably re-type the whole thing, just to avoid having to look at the carnage Comic Sans makes of perfectly decent text.

While some of the designers I work with far outstrip me in attention to visual detail, on the scale of normal people, I am an anal control freak.

You can sleep when you're dead.

Coffee is the Devil, and it hates me.

A co-worker enticed me to try his special combination of eggnog and fresh coffee. It’s heavenly. But coffee makes me feel like my eyeballs are being vibrated out of my skull, and that’s the fun part. The less fun part is the irritability, stomach discomfort, and insomnia. Because that’s what I need, more stress!

Synergize Your Potentialities

What’s more fun than reading Stephen Covey all weekend, I ask you? Why, it’s reading Stephen Covey and watching his little brainwashing videos that goes with his brainwashing book. Movies about golden retrievers and six-year-olds playing soccer. I swear, I saw “SUBMIT” flash across my screen at least once.

I have inherited a deep, deep distrust of jargon. And Covey is just chock-full of fun jargon, far-fetched metaphor, and highly unsubstantiated wisdom-nuggets. And charts. Lots and lots of charts.

It’s not that I don’t like anecdotal books – one of the first books I read for this program was largely anecdotal, but the author did not claim to hold the keys to the universe. He was very up front about the fact that his book was based almost entirely on his experience and observation. This made it much easier for me to put my characteristic dubiousness aside and really hear what the guy had to say.

Covey makes no such distinction. If he believes it, and he can draw a parallel between his belief and a scientific truth, then the reader is supposed to consider it just as irrefutable. His books are very prescriptive: if you perform task A, B will be the result. If B is not the result, than you didn’t perform task A correctly. This bugs the crap out of me. Organizational behavior, interpersonal relationships, and self-examination are not fucking stereo instructions. They are messy, difficult, and sometimes impossible tasks that we choose (or not) to slog through during our lives, without knowing if there will be a big earthly or cosmic carrot at the end of the stick. There are no guarantees that if you follow dogma created by someone who is not you, that you will get the same results.

He also casts himself as the hero, the loving guru teaching his flock how they have erred, in almost all his real-world examples. I would find him much more credible if he actually demonstrated the humility he prescribes to his followers.

So I’ve spent the majority of the weekend reading The 8th Habit, and consequently feeling really annoyed. This is not an uncommon occurrence for me during study weekends, so don’t be alarmed. But annoyed is also not a fun way to spend your weekend. I’m going to be REALLY glad when I’m done with this book.

Only in Austin, Vol. 1

When I first moved to Austin in 1996, I was struck by how friendly and talkative people were. In the store, on the street, people would make eye contact with me, say hello, or make conversation. After living in San Francisco for seven years, I automatically assumed they wanted my money.

Eventually, I learned that Southerners are just nice that way. It took getting used to, but now it’s one of my favorite things about living here.

But Austinites are a little bit different than your genteel, polite Southerner. The first afternoon I spent in Austin was when my ex and I came out to investigate UT for graduate school. We made our way to his friend’s house in Hyde Park, where we had made arrangements to stay, where me met his girlfriend. She was very friendly and talkative, and described to us how eccentric Austinites were – how they would tell strangers random, often somewhat disturbing stories with no provocation. She then proceeded to tell us how her next door apartment neighbor had recently stolen her dog, because she thought the dog had eaten her chickens. In the middle of the city. In an apartment building.

Case in point.

I’m so used to talking to strangers now I barely notice it anymore, but once in a while I have one of those “Only in Austin” conversations.

I went to the post office this morning to ship a large and somewhat fragile container, and decided to wait in line to see a postal worker for advice on what services to use, rather than use the handy computerized DIY system.

The postal worker was very friendly, and I commented on how it was going to get very busy soon at the post office. He replied, “That’s what I have Valium for.” Amused, I replied, “I’m a prefer Xanex, myself.” I think at that moment he felt some kinship with me, and so he told me about how he had really painful urinary stones, and often took Vicoden for them. He also told me about his recent surgery for said stones, and that he was having them with such frequency that his doctor was recommeding further tests, as he has difficulty passing them. This was all by way of telling me how his narcotic pain perscription makes him so loopy that if, for instance, I was rude to him, he would probably say something like, “Stop being such a bitch!” His supervisor has to move him away from the front desk when he’s high on Vicodin.

I’m not complaining, I’d rather have a postal worker with low filters, than a repressed one, because we all know how badly that can go. But I think that if a survey was conducted on American cities regarding verbal filtering, Austin would probably be at the bottom of the list.

This is actually an advantage for me, because on the scale of normal people, I have a tendency to over-share, myself. But in Austin, I’m a paragon of restraint.

Make your own seal. Pretty sweet.

The end of my week is taking too long. I feel sandwiched by time, unable to tolerate the discomfort of now, and when it’s not uncomfortable, unable to not fixate on how it will be again soon. How’s that for a convoluted sentence? Roughly translated, I’m feeling twitchy.

I recently re-read my earliest entries, and one of them was about what I wimp I’ve become about cold. That trend continues. You can never have enough snuggly scarves and warm socks, when it gets down into the brutal mid-50s here in Texas.

On a less self-indulgent note, I want to say a few words about my family’s dog, Zack, who died last week after a short battle with what turned out to be prostate cancer.

Zack was a beautiful dog, tall and lanky with long shiny black fur, and huge, deep, golden eyes. He loved attention, and would bat at you with his foot or nose if you took a break from petting or scratching him for longer than a few seconds. He was a master of inserting himself into tight spaces, using his nose as a boring tool. He was father to eleven gorgeous puppies with his mate Amber. My brother Shaun rescued him as a puppy from squalid conditions, and Steve, our family vet, didn’t expect him to survive, let alone grow big enough to mate with Amber. We sure showed him.

Zack was a retriever through and through, and in the absence of freshly killed birds and small mammals to retrieve, he would pick up whatever was lying on the table, counter, or floor. Not to eat or destroy, but just to carry around softly, and offer lovingly to whomever he though would appreciate it the most. I was gifted with many damp washrags in this fashion. He would often carry around multiple items, so one Chirstmas we decided to see how many pieces of wrapping paper, ribbons, and bows we could get him to accept. It was a lot.

Zack is survived by his human parents, Nancy and Dave, human siblings Shaun and Michelann, his canine mate Amber, daughter Ladybug, and niece Bee. He will be missed by all of us.

Happy trails, Zack. May you never run out of soft things to carry around.