So Much Trying

It’s already 30 December at 1045, and I have so much to do before I leave for Paris on 3 January. I think the first step is finding clothes that I would never wear so that I can wash all the ones I would. It’s a bigger deal than it seems with so many housemates. I can’t just get everything together and put it in the wash. I have to find a slot. Surely there’s at least one between now and then. The trouble is that I doubt I can fit all my clothes into one cycle. I would rather drop my shirts at the dry cleaner, but with the holidays, I can’t be sure they would actually get done in time. So, the obvious answer is ironing with heavy starch and hoping that my suitcase doesn’t ruin the effect. Most American hotels have irons in the room. Not sure about Europe. Here’s hoping.

With the infinite care the baggage handlers take with our suitcases (insert eyeroll here- I have worked at PDX), I believe I will just take a couple of outfits in one carry-on. The rest of my laundry can go in my closet, provided I can reach it.

The problem with my stunning combination of mental health issues leads me to two conclusions. The first is that my severely less than neurotypical brain gets bursts of brilliance but does not handle the mundane or the minutiae very well. The second is that ADHD people work in piles (I am not hyperactive, but the DSM does not differentiate anymore). I can find anything within a few minutes, but no one else can… unless I put down my wallet, glasses, or phone. I think it is the difference between short-term memory and long. I can find things a lot easier that have been there for a month rather than a few seconds, made horribly worse by monocular vision. If you are not familiar, monocular vision means that my eyes don’t track together, so I have two distinct fields of vision. I can put something down on my dresser or desk, and if my field of vision changes, what I just put down disappears. I have literally lost my glasses when they were right in front of me. However, I have never lost my phone while I was using it…. so I got that goin’ for me.

Because of this, I put my passport with all my other important papers, and have not moved it since. I know for sure that if I did, I would be racing around on the morning of the 3rd, panicked to the point of tears and snot rolling down my face. I have at least learned that much, which is kind of a big deal.

What is also a big deal is knowing that I have readers in France, and though I will not meet them, I will see one of the places from which they read. My stats don’t get as granular as city, but I have had hits from almost every country in the world. I think there are 208, and I have stats from 205.

Once, and only once, my friends said “prove it.”

I got out my phone, opened the WordPress app, and they started quizzing me:

“Micronesia.”
“Check.”
“Lichtenstein.”
“Check.”
“UAE.”
“Check.”
“Nepal.”
“Check.”
“Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Russia.”
“Check, check, check, and check.”

Then they got bored.

Checkmate.

The majority of my readers are in the United States, but I tend to use as much international English as I can, because the next two countries catching up are the UK and Australia. I spell like an American, but tend to use international time and date formats.

I try not to think about spam bots, because certainly there are some from Russia and China. But I have too many hits from those countries by now to think that all of them are. In fact, some of those international hits may come from friends who don’t use a VPN. I have one, but the only thing I would use it for in France is Netflix. You can only stream in the country with your credit card.

This is relatively new. I used to VPN into the UK and Australian versions of Netflix until they caught up with the game. This is because different TV shows and movies are licensed in different areas of the world.

What has changed is that Netflix has realized how much Americans enjoy UK and Australian television, and a lot more shows are available in the United States than were previously. For those not in the know, Doctor Who has moved to Amazon Prime.

Speaking of Amazon Prime, I just got a watch that syncs with my Android phone for $20.00 (it will also connect to an iPhone, but not all the features work). I also had some AMZ credit that brought the price down a little. It has slots for both a micro SD card and a SIM, which means that I can store music and photos, as well as make calls without attaching it to my phone via Bluetooth. I find that bit unnecessary, though, because my phone will stream media through Bluetooth as well. I just need to get some Bluetooth headphones, because otherwise, the media and calls play through a tiny little speaker on my wrist, which is fine when I’m sitting in my bedroom. Not so great when I’m on the go.

I do want a micro SD card, though, because the tiny little camera makes me feel like a spy… and I promise, that is the closest to espionage I will ever get. It’s not like I’m going to run across foreign state secrets, but at least I look the part.

Speaking of which, a few years ago my dad and I went to see Jason Bourne, and a day later we were in a tourist trap gift shop near the White House. I found the coolest CIA baseball cap that has the big logo on the front and the tiny symbol on the back, which means it looks awesome no matter which way I wear it.

I have nearly fallen on the floor laughing several times when people look at me wide-eyed and ask if I work there. I always say that if I did, I certainly wouldn’t be ADVERTISING IT ALL OVER TOWN (huge eyeroll). Sometimes the stupid, it burns.

A couple of times, people waiting for the Metro have gone out of their way to avoid me, which I find equally hilarious. As an introvert, I don’t want to talk to strangers anyway. It’s as efficient as wearing a T-shirt that says “Jesus Loves You” and carrying a Bible.

I suppose that my baseball cap means more to me now than it ever has, because I feel like it says “I support the men and women of intel over our dumpster fire of a president.” Gina Haspel practically has to make a coloring book for him, and he still doesn’t get it.

Same goes for State, although I can’t find a cool baseball cap for that…. not for lack of trying.

And on that note, now I need to try doing my laundry. Wish me luck or send help. Either is fine with me.

Blah, Blah, Blah, Computer

Today I have a bit of nerd advice, and a bit of what’s been going on the last few days.

Nerd Alert

When my iPad Mini got really, really old (as in, I could no longer download current version of apps or iOS), I took a chance on the cheapest Kindle Fire (7-inch, 7th generation). I thought that if it was terrible, I could either return or re-gift it. I have not been disappointed. It’s not the fastest tablet in the world, but it’s also not a $400 Facebook machine. I also have a 10 inch regular Android tablet that I got last Christmas, but I went to Houston and the gentle, careful hands of the TSA ripped that bitch to shreds. I contacted Amazon about it, and there was nothing they could do.

The whole reason I wanted a 10 inch tablet was to completely replace my laptop to make my backpack lighter, but I got over it. There’s just nothing close to the feel of a full-size keyboard, and the newest Synaptic touchpad driver has a feature I can’t live without. There’s a checkbox in the settings that says “turn off touchpad when mouse is detected.” I wish I could say you can do this in Linux, but I honestly don’t know. I tried installing Ubuntu Mate and the driver for my Realtek wi-fi card isn’t out yet, except for downloading it from GitHub, which is hard to do when you don’t have access to a wired connection. Besides, I like taking Microsoft Ultimate Word Games with me on the go. Addictive. Perhaps I’ll end up installing Ubuntu Mate alongside Windows so that I can check every once in a while to see if the driver has been added to the kernel. I know that to most of you, that won’t mean anything. They’re just geek words that come across as “blah, blah, blah, computer.” That’s OK. To the three readers to whom it does mean something, you’re welcome.

Having the option of my laptop or my small Kindle Fire with Bluetooth keyboard is invaluable, because what I love about it is, in fact, its size. I can fit it into any bag I carry, even the smallest purse (shut it- I always carry a purse or backpack so I don’t look like I have tumors in my legs) if I’m willing to type on the screen. The Amazon keyboard is better than any of the others I’ve tried.

Last night, though, my Kindle Fire became even more invaluable, because I discovered the hack online where you can add the Google Play store and get out of the Amazon universe, whose catalog of apps is limited and also sucks. Apps specifically written for Amazon OS are just a poor ripoff of actual Android apps, and they’re buggy AF. Also, I don’t think I’d purchase another 10 inch Android, and this is because most of the apps are coded for phones and thus, not designed to stretch to a large tablet, anyway. The Google suite is fine. Everything else is a crapshoot.

I’d rather have a smaller tablet than shell out the big bucks for an iPad. Again, way too expensive for my purposes, which is just mobile e-mail, Facebook, and WordPress. My phone is actually a shit ton faster than my tablet, because it has a quad-core processor and mind-blowing graphics… but it just doesn’t have enough screen real estate. I also noticed that my phone has more space than I thought it did, so I moved my 128 GB expansion card back to my Kindle Fire so that I could download the crap out of Amazon Prime video and music, plus Netflix and Stitcher. Even with all that, it will take me forever to fill it up, which is exactly the point. If my 32 GB phone fills up, I can always add a different expansion card for cheap. But mostly, I’d rather use my tablet and save the battery on my phone, unless I’m taking pictures. I haven’t really tried it out, but I think the camera on the Fire is only front-facing for video calls (which reminds me that I need to install Google Hangouts). I could have made the whole Amazon universe thing work if it wasn’t for one app. I use LastPass, which is a plug-in for all browsers on a desktop, but a full browser replacement on mobile devices, basically Chrome with LastPass already built in. Before that, I was using Silk (the Amazon web browser), and just logging into the LastPass web site every time I needed one of my passwords. When that started to drive me bonkers, that’s when I started looking up how to hack a Fire.

By the way, for those not in the know, hacking is not a bad thing. If you think it is, you’re thinking of cracking, which is hacking with malicious intent. Hacking makes things better. I know I’ve told this story before, but it’s so funny it bears repeating. When I interviewed at Alert Logic, one of the questions was, “what is the difference between hacking and cracking?” I said, “hacking is an attempt to make software better to suit your own needs. Cracking is generally software written by 13-year-old script kiddies to see how much damage they can do to a network in the shortest amount of time.” The interviewer said, “that was great. Can I use it?” Unsurprisingly, I got the job.

Life Update

Yesterday was the second anniversary of my mother’s death. Lindsay had some great ideas as to places I could visit that would mean a lot to her, but I just couldn’t even. I spent the day doing my usual, which is lying in bed with my laptop and watching movies and TV shows. I ended with the episode of The Newsroom where they report that UBL has been killed. I absolutely squalled my eyeballs out, which is generally how I cry. I put on something that I know will elicit tears and then just transfer into whatever it is I need to cry about for real. It’s a concrete way to make sure my emotions don’t stay bottled until the Mento drops over the Diet Coke.

Especially because I take medication for my mental health, sometimes I am not so good at being able to tap down far enough to show real emotion. It’s not that the emotion isn’t there, just harder to reach and bring to the surface. I’m not a walking zombie or anything. I still feel. It’s just that the highs and lows are more muted, which is invaluable most days. When I’m not taking my meds, I get angry and/or cry over damn near everything. But there are some days when all I need is a good cry. I finally wised up enough to let myself have one.

Today, I’m going to work at 1500, something also invaluable because it takes my mind off of everything else, and I do mean everything. I can’t work without total and complete focus, because the stakes are too high in terms of injury. Dan said she was worried about me- “just look at your arms!” I said, “would it help if I said it was worth it?” I do wear my Kevlar wrist guards that she gave me, but they honestly just can’t compete that well. Perhaps I need to buy a chef’s coat, but even those are only three quarter sleeves. I just have to wear the badges of my profession and realize that they are part of me. The only thing with which I see a true problem is that I have burned scars into the tattoo on my left forearm and my right wrist. It remains to be seen whether that will carry lasting damage, because it’s hard to tattoo over scar tissue. But the next one I’ve planned has been in the works for five years, and will be placed nowhere near anywhere I can get burned. However, it will be expensive artwork, which is why I haven’t done it already, and only two people in the world (and the artist, obvi) know what it is. Let’s keep it that way, at least for now.

In other news, I’ve finally gotten over my need to spill my guts over grief regarding the living. Separation just isn’t important anymore. I still think about Dana every day (how could I not, working in a kitchen?), but it’s only good things. I wish her well, and that is the sum total of my feelings about that. I made my peace (piece by piece by peace) regarding Argo, and that’s the end of that. I’ve finally reached a place where I just don’t think about it. It is what it is… though I also remember her often and wish her well, too. Both women still carry enormous weight in my heart, but it’s clean, pure, white light. In Argo’s case, I am comforted by the fact that we sleep under the same modicum of sky, and that is enough for me, because she once called me her goddess of the moon. I highly doubt I still am, but I’d like to think so in moments where I remember how badly I screwed things up. In both cases, I have forgiven them completely for what I perceive was done to me, but I still haven’t forgiven myself for what I perceive I did to them. It’s strange how that takes so much longer, considering I live with me.

But the plain truth is that there are no do-overs, only begin-agains. I’ve gotten used to it by now. There have been so many times in my life where I’ve just had to say, “OK, Mrs. Lanagan. What’s next?”

It’s kind of fun waiting to see.

As 41 Approaches…

My birthday has gotten started a bit early. My dad asked me what I wanted for my birthday, and I said, “a new phone.” So I picked one out on Amazon, and I am ridiculously happy with it. It’s a Samsung Galaxy, my go-to in terms of new phone purchases (I’ve had three in various versions). This is because I download a LOT, and iPhones fill up fast with no way to add extra space. My current phone is, I think, 32 GB, but I added a 128 GB expansion card. I haven’t added my music to it, but my library of podcasts is extensive. I download them all because most Metro stations are underground and reception is spotty at best. Pro Tip: buy a refurbished phone and pay outright so that you are not on the hook with your cell phone company in terms of paying it off. There are also different variations of the same phone… for instance, you cannot root into mine (nerd alert- no need to carry the nerdiness further by explaining why), but I didn’t want to, anyway. Not my bag, baby.

Back to the cool stuff about extra space. Both Netflix and Amazon Prime will let you download movies and TV shows, which can take up plenty of room, especially if you are downloading a whole season at once. Prime has a limit on the number of downloads in terms of things that are temporarily licensed to them, but you can download anything and everything they produce themselves… For instance, on my last phone I had every episode of One Mississippi and The Man in the High Castle. Invaluable waiting in the ER, the DMV, the Metro during outages, etc.

The only thing is that it is such a powerful computer that you must have a battery saving app to go with it. My former go-to was Juice Defender, but for some reason, the link to the professional version is still live, but it says you need the free version to get it to work, and when I clicked on the link to grab it, I got a 404 error. I got Google to refund my money and bought a subscription to Kaspersky Battery Life: Saver & Booster instead. So far, it’s been magnificent. I highly recommend buying the professional version, because even though the free one works, it is inundated with annoying ads, and it’s not that expensive.

I have only bought two apps in the entirety of my smart phone-owning life. The second is Alarm Clock for Me. It looks like an old school digital clock radio, but it has some amazing features when you unlock the professional version, like waking up to your own music, a gentle lead-in feature where the alarm starts out soft and gets louder over time, weather report in the top corner, and something new- perfect bedtime, which tells you what time to go to sleep in order to wake up refreshed for said alarm. If you hate waking up, might I suggest a military grade phone cover for when you feel like throwing it against the wall? 😛

You would think the birthday surprises would end there, but wait! There’s more!

I think I genuinely frightened Dan with all my burns. They do look pretty gross, to be honest. So, she pulls out a package from Amazon and says, “open it.” Inside are Kevlar cuffs that prevent burns and cuts. I was told specifically to take a picture in the kitchen with me wearing them.

Yes, ma’am.

I didn’t have time tonight, but I will before the week is out. They were actually Autumn’s idea, because she’s worked in a kitchen before. Apparently, they also come in gloves, but I definitely wouldn’t wear those. I would be mortified if my grip on pots and pans was even more loose than it is right now…………… I’m sure they’re helpful for both chopping and taking things out of the oven, but they picked well. They’re yellow, so I look like Wonder Woman.

I was half hoping that I would make a mistake cleaning the griddle tonight and accidentally slam my wrist down like I’ve done a thousand times before (the griddle brick has a mind of its own) just to see my cuffs in action. Alas, tonight went perfectly, so no dice. I am sure I will have other dumbass attacks in the future where they will save my bacon, though.

On Sunday, we had our end-of-summer company party, where the flyer said that significant others and children were welcome. I decided to ask Dan if she wanted to come, because we’re good friends, and therefore, she’s significant to me. No one gave me any grief about it, but if they had I was fully prepared to say that I’d just adopted her.

She got to meet my whole crew, who said some extraordinarily nice things about me, and not just because Dan was there. My lead line cook says every shift that he’s not going to turn me into the chef he wants me to be, but the chef I want me to be…. that inside of a month, I’d be ready to run this kitchen, and inside of two, I’d be ready to run my own. I am growing to accept this praise at my ability, because there were so many awkward and embarrassing moments in my past cooking jobs that I still see myself as a n00b, hanging desperately onto Dana’s coattails. Now it’s time to get on board with the fact that I don’t need to fill her shoes. I brought my own.

In fact, one of my managers brought his girlfriend to the party, and he introduced me as their most dependable employee, and that it was embarrassing how many times I’d bailed them out of a jam. Let me assure you that you don’t even have to be that great a cook for a compliment like that to carry you very, very far in this industry. You can be the best line cook in the entire world, but showing up is even more important. This is not an industry known for emotionally stable, responsible workers. Egos clash. Brown bottle flu happens, as does “I didn’t know I was working today.” But the team I’ve got now has none of those problems. We love working together, and it shows. I am being rewarded beyond my wildest imagination. People have started to call my lead line cook, me, and our most experienced expo “The A-Team.”

It really is amazing how even though I’ve been working on internal validation for years, I’ve grown exponentially with some external praise. It’s not required, but it is definitely changing the way I see myself. I am not sure that I ever want to be a chef, but that’s not the point. The point is that someone believes in me enough to say that I’m capable of it.

Quick aside for people not in the know….. I get called a chef all the time, because people who don’t work in kitchens tend to call all cooks “chef.” But chef literally means “boss,” and there can be only one. For most of us, it feels disrespectful to be called a chef when we haven’t earned it, but we also don’t expect everyone on earth to understand the inner workings of the culinary world. So, we might be a little internally irritated, but we won’t say anything. However, if I do earn the title, you’ll be able to hear me scream from coast to coast. Fair warning.

Because of jumping back into the kitchen, my 40th trip around the sun has been an incredible year of self-discovery, reaching heights I never thought possible. It has allowed me to become less self-deprecating, which you do when you believe in yourself. I mean, I still tell jokes at my own expense, but they aren’t deep jabs. They’re actually funny.

Which has been another hallmark of my 40th year…. giving myself permission to be funny again, after years of grief and loss. Though losing my mother has reworked my version of normal, I am glad to see that with the passage of time normal hasn’t been stolen from me altogether. The only time that I really feel punched in the stomach is when I can’t do things like call her up and say, “you won’t believe how amazing I’m doing at work. I’m even having trouble.” Through our long relationship, though, I know exactly what she would say…. “I certainly can believe it. You can do anything. Just remember to wear your Kevlar cuffs, because those burns look like they hurt.”

Yes, ma’am.

When the Weather Report is Wrong

The Capital Weather Gang wrote a long article about how they thought snow was over for the season. I have never been happier that they were wrong. Living in a sub-tropical climate for all those years renders snow magical for me…. especially when it is big, fluffy, ski-worthy weather without ice and sleet. Of course, it could turn into that later on, but for now, the goal of the day is to take my laptop downstairs to the picture window in front of the porch and just think. I finally figured out how to start the clock running on my book review, therefore, I have more time than I thought I did to get it done.

I am finished with the basics, but not the editing. So far, it’s turning out to be interesting, even though the book was not something I’d have chosen on my own. I can’t tell you much, only that I chose it because it covers a subject in which I know nothing, and I love Knowing Stuff.™ There’s enough character development so that it’s not all about the sport at hand, but should I want to engage in such sport later on, I’ve found myself a solid foundation. The web site I’m working with has been around for years, which is how I know it’s the real deal, and not just a way to get authors to submit their work for free…. I also found a web site for freelance authors, but I don’t think I’ll sign up for that one. It’s because I think that the ads for work should be paid for by the employers, and this one is $100/month. It says that satisfaction is guaranteed as long as you can prove you’ve actually done the work, but there are better ways to go about freelance writing than having to pay money in the hope you’ll get something. Besides, this is not a job so much as a side hustle.

I’ve applied for jobs in several restaurants because I’ve noticed that I do not have time to write if I am tethered to my phone and laptop with IT. Now, I would not turn down a job in IT should it come along, but there is something to be said regarding being done with a shift and going home to write, rather than having your phone ding at all hours of the night with clients expecting a 30 minute service license agreement. The hard part is finding a job in a restaurant that will cover all my bills in the meantime. It’s a good thing I put in an application at both Starbucks and Costco, because both pay well and offer benefits. With my fanatical devotion to good coffee, it also doesn’t suck that I’m also gifted a bag a week. I also don’t want to go a minute longer without a Starbucks baseball cap. I had a friend in college that worked there for three weeks just to get the hat and the apron and then quit, because he was a Linux server administrator. I will not be doing that, but it was funny at the time.

For those who are wondering why I would rather work at SBUX than an independently owned shop, it has to do with health insurance and not much else. I also learned that once you’re in the system, you can take a vacation to anywhere and pick up shifts wherever there are stores. This was a piece of advice given to me while I was waiting in line at Dupont Circle, from a barista that “took off a month” and went to the original store in Pike’s Market (Seattle, of course).

The biggest problem I have is in getting around the city, because it would be a godsend to work in Silver Spring or downtown DC. If I got a job in the tech corridor or Annapolis/Baltimore, it would take me over two hours every morning to get to work with what would be a 20-40 minute drive. Of course it would be more than that with traffic, but with computer jobs, there are generally programs for both working at home and off-hours so that traffic would be a non-issue. Fingers crossed. This is because everything on the server is keyed by changes in file time and tied to user account. I could work anywhere in the world, but I am reticent to leave the 32-inch monitor on my desk…. although I did once see a guy drag a 22-inch iMac to Starbucks.

Believe it or don’t, there are even terminal programs for iPads and Android tablets, which, to me means my laptop just lost six pounds. Full-size Bluetooth keyboards have made my backpack lighter and my muscles hurt less. Plus, the weight of my backpack with my laptop and all the things I need in order to keep from going back to the house bothers my corkscrew scoliosis so that one part of my spine is absolutely scraped to bits. I even had Hayat (landlady) cover the rip in Neosporin and a thick bandage, to no avail.

I talked to my old friend Meag, an RMT in Ottawa about it, and sent her a picture. She told me she couldn’t wait to get her hands on me, but nine hours is an excruciating trip without a car…. and would make the trip prohibitively expensive whether I was flying or taking an Uber. If I was going to go to a clinic that specialized in both massage therapy and chiropractic medicne, she’s the only one I’d want to see. In Canada, the requirements for getting licensed are much steeper than in the United States, and she is one of the people on the legislative board who approves others. I have been told that eventually I will need surgery, but not for another 15-20 years or so. Until then, I just have to nurse my pain. Making my bag as light as possible is as good as it gets- for the moment, anyway.

It was nice being able to stash my bag in my car while it lasted, but here’s the thing about that. Like most people, I do not like to exercise. Walking and taking the bus/train is the only workout I get, because I don’t even notice I’m doing it. If the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, the destination is being mentally healthy. Medication and a great diet help, but there is nothing greater than natural endorphins that adds fuel to the fire. Silver Spring Station is only two miles from my house, and when the weather is nice, I’ll generally walk at least one direction, possibly both. Though I don’t often walk fast enough for true cardio, the landscape is hilly enough to add incline. Plus, the bus schedule for the main road back to my neighborhood runs every ten minutes, in those moments where I just cannot even, I have someone to bail me out (Hiiiiiii, George!) It is absolutely amazing how much walking overclocks my processor, though I wish I could add memory….. and then I think to myself, God will provide the RAM.

But seriously, folks, I do my best writing while mobile. My head space is just so positive, and God help me if I don’t have my phone. I used to carry a notebook, but if I write things down, I have to retype everything when I get home. I now use Google Keep, but my favorite words in the English language used to be, Siri… open Notepad. This seems like a no-brainer, but I have to use my phone rather than my tablet (if you have 3G on yours, that’s fine, too) so that the notes sync immediately. I am a nerd that needs my information on all my devices instead of just the one I have to hunt down- because of course I’ve dropped it somewhere in my house and the battery has died.

Still using my old iPhone while I search for my Android. I am operating system agnostic, so the only reason I really want to find my Android is that I am missing the tons of extra space I have on it due to the fact that expansion slots are par for the course. Apple just makes extra space prohibitively expensive. Yes, Apple devices are designed well, but so are Android. And for less than half the price of a new iPhone, I can get an Android with 128 GB of space. It’s especially useful now that Netflix and Amazon Prime Video will let you download movies and TV directly to your device. But, if you want to pay $1,000 for a phone that you’ll fill up in two weeks, who am I to stop you?

The amount I know about IT is somewhere between organ grinder and monkey.

Well, that’s not true. At least I, most of the time, remember to buy my own bananas.