Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Goodbye, old paint

Scott sold our old 1989 Toyota Camry today. It was technically his, I guess, bought before we shared such things officially. I think of it as our car because it was the one car we had between us for most of our first ten years together, and because we have quite a few memories in that car.

It saw us through college. We didn't drive it much then, since we rode bikes so much, so we got it a car cover to keep the dust off in between longer trips. It was a bit old even then, by car standards. A neighbor in the apartment parking lot watched with interest one day as we unveiled it to go somewhere. He thought that if we bothered to cover it so carefully, it must have been something special. No doubt he found the truth anticlimactic.

Scott taught me to drive in that car. It wasn't the first car I drove, but it was certainly the first car I drove regularly or with any skill. We also (and this gets personal, here!) messed around in that car, before we outgrew such things and found better hiding places.

The car still runs pretty well, without ever having had any major repairs, but it had started to develop little problems. It leaks oil if the oil in it is too thin. It leaks electricity, too, so the battery discharges if it goes too long without running. A year or so ago, I got my own car, and Scott got a new car earlier this summer, so the old one sat in our driveway for awhile, waiting for us to get around to posting an ad somewhere.

Yesterday, someone noted that we hadn't put the new registration sticker on it and knocked on the door asking to buy it. I gather he has little income and a new baby, and just needs something, right away, to drive around town. His offer was a little low, even for such an old car, but it gets it out of our driveway with no particular effort, and it goes to a home that needs it. He will be its fourth owner, and I hope it serves him as well as it has served us.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Exectutive missive

I don't know precisely what it takes to become the vice president of a large corporation, but apparently the place where I work does not require its VPs to write coherent, meaningful prose. The excerpt below, with names and details changed to protect the guilty, went to everyone in the company this afternoon, regarding RL's promotion to director of ABC. (The original acronyms were no more meaningful.)

RL's most recent role was as a Manager for the ABC group for XYZ accounts. As ABC Manager, RL performed admirably in executing on strategic responsibilities by helping to align customer requirements to the strip product development. In addition, RL excelled in his tactical responsibilities by driving multi-functional groups to provide timely solutions.

In his new expanded role, RL will add on the responsibility of providing technical and tactical leadership to Acme to ensure customer satisfaction at our top strategic customer

Personally, I'm glad I am not RL, and I am glad nobody has asked me whether to hire or promote RL. I certainly have no idea what "executing on strategic responsibilities" means, and I somehow doubt I would enjoy doing it very much.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Children say the darndest things

From one of my mom's law school classmates:

They had prepared a child witness and put him on the stand. The opposing attorney interrogated the child, "Did anybody prepare you to testify today, or tell you what you should say?"

The child replied, "Yes."

"Who prepared you?" The child indicated our friend. There were a few tense moments as the attorney closed in for the kill.

"And what did she tell you to say?"

Said the child, "She told me to tell the truth, and if I didn't know, to say I didn't know."

Monday, October 17, 2005


Sixteen years ago today, the ground I live on did not sit quite as still as it is now. The following is my firsthand account of the Loma Prieta Earthquake of October 17th, 1989, written November 1989. I have adjusted the text (written when I was in eighth grade) ever so slightly for readability.

Some details I didn't capture at the time:
When we did get the initial reports on the radio, we heard not that a section of the Bay Bridge had collapsed, but that the entire Bay Bridge had collapsed. Many of the television and radio stations lost power, and it took the better part of an hour to start getting accurate reports. For all the destruction in the area, I think the total damage to my own family amounted to a couple of shattered tchotchkes and some cleanup. Earthquake waves are directional, and the different sorts travel at different rates, hence the light shaking that preceeded the heavy shaking in our area.


The lunar eclipse was recently upstaged by a 7.0 earthquake. While my area was not hit too hard, Santa Cruz, near the epicenter, and the Marina District of San Francisco were. A section of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge collapsed. Mrs. Pierce (my 7th grade history teacher) reports having watched Santa Cruz topple. Apparently the interior of her house was total chaos following the quake.

The above-ground swimming pool behind the house next door split, flooding the neighbor's yard, and a friend of my father reported difficulty removing his cat from the ceiling. Another neighbor lost a 25-gallon fishtank all over her carpet.

My own experience with the quake is as follows: Grandma and Liz [my grandmother's sister-in-law] were upstairs with me when the shaking began. Grandma commented, "Looks like we're having a little earthquake here." The shaking became more intense, and she cried, "Looks like we're having a big earthquake here!" We all got into the doorway. When the shaking stopped, I guessed it had been at least a 7.0 and we agreed that it would be best to get outside.

The worst fear was in the few hours that followed, as we stood around in the street, with the neighbors, waiting for information from the radio stations that knew no more than any of us. Were we the rule or the exception? Nobody was certain what would happen next.

On Wednesday, school was closed, so they could clean up and check for damage. We did about the same thing at home: enter a room finding that various objects had fallen. After one of the smaller aftershocks, Mom commented to Liz, "Welcome to California." (Liz, visiting from the east coast, had never felt an earthquake before.)

The aftershocks have now gotten to be more of an annoyance than anything else. I finally start to calm down about rattling and such until another aftershock starts the fear back up again. Even the Stanford students [doing a health survey at my school at the time] were late because of it, but I only had to suit up for P.E. one day last week. Among their questions was a section on the quake. The rest of the questions were all the same boring and irrelevant health questions as before.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Today's musing

If I ever go back to college just for fun (say, because I am independently wealthy and just want something to do), I will major in music with a minor in quantum physics. The quantum physics will be to make all my music major classmates squirm.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


I often surprise people when I tell them I am an engineer. They don't generally argue or protest. They just raise their eyebrows. They are surprised, of course, because as a young woman, I don't look to them like an engineer.

For the most part, their surprise does not stem merely from stereotype. According to this article, "only 17 percent of engineering bachelor's degrees were awarded to women" and "less than 7 percent of electrical, aeronautical, and mechanical engineers" are female.

Numbers aside, how are we doing in terms of equality? Most people, once they get past their surprise and perhaps ask a couple of questions, are fairly supportive of my chosen profession. I, personally, haven't encountered overt discrimination.

We do have a few bad apples out there. A former coworker tells me that our boss made amorous advances toward her and asked her to stay late at work until she started wearing a fairly prominent engagement ring.

One man I interviewed and turned down for a job called me up shortly afterwards and asked me for a date. I was probably 22 at the time and he in his forties. He was polite enough to desist when I also turned him down for the date, at least.

Some writer to Machine Design in the past couple of years advanced the antiquated notion that women would be foolish to choose a career over a family. I do not question the value of a family or the rewards of being a caregiver, but that should be for each woman to decide.

The more common sort of indignities are the smaller, often unintentional ones. The guys exchanging mildly off-color jokes in the back room, for instance, clam up when I walk in. I understand that they do so in the name of courtesy, but it puts a damper on the banter and chills the rapport.

One former classmate related her experience working in a union shop. Engineers were, technically, not permitted to transport parts within the plant. On the surface, this policy makes sense. Large metal objects can be heavy enough to require trained personnel to move them safely. While the union members regularly bent the rules for the guys, they demanded that my classmate wait for assistance to transport any part whatsoever, even if it was just a tiny packet of washers.

All in all, I'd say attitudes have improved from what they once were, but we still have a ways to go.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Sending the Wrong Message

I stopped at my (large, commercial) bank on the way to work today to deposit a couple of checks. I wandered inside to prepare the deposit slip, and they had the radio playing. It was blaring an ad proclaiming the virtues of credit unions. Because they are not for profit (said the radio in my large, commercial bank), credit unions can offer better interest rates than large, commercial banks. Way to advertise, folks.

When I went back out to my car, the radio there was enthusiastically promoting somebody's "Columbus Day linen event." I can't think of very many things less eventful than linens, can you? (What exactly do linens have to do with Columbus Day, anyway?)

Finally, someone sent email to the entire company where I work reading, "I am pleased to announce the promotion of [Mr. L] to Field Service Manger." I have no doubt that Mr. L. will give "field service" a whole new meaning in his new capacity as a "manger". Congratulations to him.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Go tell Mommy

We ate at a friend's house Saturday. Their 5-year-old son had recently studied Johnny Appleseed at school. Tradition has it that Johnny Appleseed wore a tin pot upon his head, though tradition is a bit fuzzy on why this was so. Pots being a fairly simple shape, their son had fashioned a construction paper pot to wear as a hat.

Dad helped son put the hat on and told him in that enthusiastic talking-to-children voice, "Go tell Mommy you're a pothead!"

Mommy overheard this instruction and hollered from the next room, "Son, do NOT repeat that!"

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The most fun I've ever had on a birthday

Birthdays have never been a great favorite of mine, but I've been having fun with this one. For one thing, for the first time, I know two someones who share it. One such someone, though she doesn't know it yet, is the target of this page. I have thoroughly enjoyed inflicting this birthday on others.

For tonight, I expect it will be a quiet dinner with friends. I'm pretty sure they don't even know it's my birthday, and I'm just as happy that way. I'll go play with their kids, enjoy the lasagna, home-made, and relax.

My family took me out to dinner last weekend, a little early because they're out of town this weekend. Naturally, someone quietly informed the restaurant that it was my birthday. The staff, in turn, trotted out the ice cream, the silly hat, and the loud, off-key song. I endured the song, ate about half the ice cream, and narrowly avoided being photographed in the silly hat.

Then, on my way out of the restaurant, I dropped the hat, without a word, onto the head of a nearby six-year-old stranger and kept on walking as I listened behind me for the stir I had created.

So to the rest of the world, if you like my birthday, fine. Enjoy it all you want. Just let me sleep, okay?