I usually put little stock in such things, but while reading the field notes of a red-haired human, I was intrigued by the Belief-O-Matic religion quiz from BeliefNet.com. It actually takes itself quite seriously, and it has a more new-agey bias than Christian one. It asks a bunch of questions about beliefs, practices, faith, and morality and asks you to rank each question's importance, in an attempt to match your belief system with an existing religion. Turns out that my top match, my "100%" match, is (Jon's going to laugh at me) Unitarian Universalism. New Age was second at 85%, and Neo-Pagan was 4th, after "Liberal Quaker."

Religion is funny.

Did I mention I got elected President of my Toastmasters club? Nifty.

Man, am I pooped!

The team builder on Friday turned out to be quite pleasant. Much lower key than initially implied. And one of my co-workers is dating a professional cake maker, so we had home-made cheesecake. Oooohh.

Girls, girls, and more girls! Tameka, Faith, and Jen came in from their various locations and spent the weekend in my itty-bitty apartment. (Two bathrooms, thankfully.) After a steak dinner, we went dancing at Polly Esther's on Friday—they've got a light-up floor a la Saturday Night Fever. Tee hee. We sat out back and listened to the karaoke for a while, too. There is some real talent in Austin; I think those folks are looking more to get discovered than anything else. We didn't sing, but we really enjoyed a dynamic trio of girls singing "Baby Got Back." Plastic parts are made for toys, indeed.

Then on Saturday, we went to Petticoat Fair and got my girls a bunch of well fitting bras. They were suprised to find out what sizes they properly are, but boy, did they look hot afterwards. We also bought shoes and spa supplies. Then we went to my chef friend Dave's house for fresh, home-made margaritas, guacamole, fajitas, spanish rice, queso, and tres leches cake. Yow. Rolled home around 4 am.

On Sunday we ate through one green leaf-- er, wrong story. Instead, we continued the over indulgence with a barbecue picnic under the bat bridge. Beloved Jonathan also baked us fresh bread, and we went to Central Market for fresh fruits, cheese, and chocolate.

Then on Monday, I made a few treks to the airport, and we spent some enjoyable time in between them by visiting a nature and science center over at Zilker Park. We also stood on a pedestrian bridge over the Town Lake part of the Colorado and watched the canoers go by.

Then I fell fast asleep.

Verdict: Neither imperative nor objectionable.

On Friday, we're having a "team builder" at work. Usually, these are an excuse to have a party. But this one, under my new director, is serious. We are nearly required to participate, and we're being assigned to teams with people we don't work with on a regular basis. So I'm looking over the roster for the three-legged race, and I find myself wondering, "Now who is Kirk W., and is he someone I want to be tied to?"

I'm sucking on a piece of coconut candy from Malaysia. It's sweet, hard, and, um, coconutty. I feel so cosmopolitan.

Sorry about all the JavaScript errors. Blogvoices seems to be off-line. There's no ETA, since the whole site is off-line. If this is still broken tomorrow, I'll comment it out of my template.

Oh, and the girls are arriving in two days! My three best friends are coming down for the weekend for a wild bachelorette party. Eat your heart out, boys. Woo hoo.

Some wit decided to post on my poll comments section that this site has "NOTHING" to do with phlebotomy. I would like to offer the following reply:

Read the definition in the top left. My online persona is arachnoid, I'm sharing my thoughts and insights here, phlebotomy is the drawing of blood. It's a pun. You're stoopid.

Thank you.

I find this week's Bob The Angry Flower intensely satisfying.

Can we call you Dadoo?

o/~ I'm in a Friday state of mind, I tell you whut. I'm not bored so much as distracted. I bought a pair of sunglasses last night ($5, Wal-Mart), and I'm just itching to go out and use them. Well, lookee that, it's lunch time. B-)

Bananas are fickle. They go from crunchy green to mushy brown in a minute and a half.

Anyway, this is cool: I got a crack in my windshield (no, that's not cool), and my insurance company contacted a glass repair place that will come fix or replace your windshield on site! They gave me a four hour time span for the day after I called, and then came out here in a van and replaced the glass. How cool.

Also, if the damage had been repairable instead of needing a replacement, my insurance company (Progressive) would have covered all expenses.

Insurance rep: Can the damage be covered up by a dollar bill?

Me: No.

Insurance rep: Would you like blue or green tint?

So I was responsible for a $500 deductible, but it even ended up costing less than half that. ^_^

Note to self: Customer satisfaction is all about managing expectations, especially when it comes to money.

From early on, I've been told I have poor aural retention—I don't remember what I hear—so of course I believe it. (Why can I retain that?) Never mind that I can recite movies and even conversations, that people constantly get the Princess Bride wrong; I obviously don't pay attention because the teacher would definitely have told me that detail.

So I take notes. Careful notes. Copious notes. I'm the only one in staff meetings taking notes. In college, I was a professional note taker.

But here I am, seven years old again, with proof in my notes that a vital piece of information most certainly was not conveyed, but I obviously didn't pay attention because the manager would definitely have told us that detail.

Absense of evidence is not evidence of absense. And nobody will listen to you when you say, "Here. See? It isn't in my notes. I didn't know. I had no way of knowing. And I'm sorry that you looked bad in front of your manager when I got tripped up by not knowing, but IT ISN'T IN MY NOTES." Not in third grade; not now.

And I got a crack in my windshield that I'm sure wasn't there when I left the car this morning. Fucking Texas.

I seem to be on a pendulum. I work towards overcoming shyness, and then try to reign it in and learn to keep my mouth shut. There is no reward for speaking your ideas, especially not in meetings, at least not the way I manage to present them. Anxiety causes me to over-emote. I really should just be quiet.

I hate not having an office door to close.

Bullet dodged. Threat is past. I still have my job.

This made me realize the flexibility I have, though. I don't need to fret about losing my job; I'm highly employable, and we have a good reserve in the bank. I've never lived paycheck-to-paycheck, and I still don't. It's a mode of operation that is both attainable and quite reassuring.

Thinking further about hypertext stories, I am reminded of Choose Your Own Adventure books and Adventure/Zork games. There is a rich community of active creators of text-based adventure games.

Somehow, that wasn't what I'd had in mind. I still feel like I want to do story-telling rather than story-gaming. While I want to be intimate with my reader, I am not yet ready to surrender control of my story to him. And to do so half-assed, holding back and being insincere, would be as unfulfilling as saying "I love you" just to get the sex.

For nostalgia's sake, I recently picked up a Choose Your Own Adventure book, in which you rescue some enslaved troll-creatures. At one point, you have the option of going back to rescue them, or forsaking them and grabbing the gold. I was surprised that I'd actually be granted that choice, so I took the second path. ...Which tells me I make a grab for the gold and am then overwhelmed with guilt and turn back to help the little creatures, now go turn to the page you were supposed to have picked in the first place. Reminded me of my first boyfriend.

So what have I realized about myself?

  1. I want to tell a story.

  2. I don't want to give a false sense of collaboration or interactivity.

  3. It shouldn't be sequential, where the links are nothing more than "Click here to go to page 2."

  4. Nor should the links be simply expository short-cuts, at least for real-world items. Ah! Here's an epiphane (had right here, on the fly): When we talk, and especially when we talk with ourselves in our own heads, we multi-task. One concept has a whole collection of emotions and memories contained within it. The very way we speak is an emotional shorthand, done mostly out of necessity. When I'm talking with my best friend, I don't have to enumerate all the roiling emotions a person creates within me; I can simply say, "He reminds me of Doug." The reader hasn't been my best friend for ...yeegads, 11 years? Anyway, the reader doesn't have my emotional backstory, nor does he have the background of my characters. If I'm not careful, neither do I. But with a link and a frame! Ah, magnificent. I can provide the mood that floods through my character when she talks about her childhood sweetheart, without interrupting the reader's present for a whole lot of flashback. Less confusion, and conversations in the story become more real-time. And, with the understanding that that frame over there is the Flashback Frame, the words, colors, and images(!!) there can be much more like thought, and much less like exposition.



Well, that was productive. Thank you for your time. I've got work to do...

It does help that I've got a fantastic French manicure. I used Sally Hansen's Blushing Bride (just the yummiest opaque, matte pink) and Old Navy's White Out, which can make fine lines with a pen tip and also has a brush inside. Did my toes last night, too.

Maybe the chamomile's kicking in.

I've also got that undirected creative urge I sometimes get, where I've just gotta make something (but if you suggest a project, you will kill it). I've got the whole Adobe suite here, so images and site redesigns are dancing in my head. I also feel that there has to be a story to tell using hypertext—truly using the interconnectedness, rather than thwarting it. Currently, I've gotten to the point of using it as an expository shorthand—I don't have to interrupt my prose to give you the back story on something; I can just link to it, and you'll explore it if you need the explanation. There's another level to aspire to, though, something that goes beyond typing books into the computer, something that tells a story in a way that couldn't be told on paper and is richer for it. And I'm aspiring, baby. I'm aspiring.

I'm so nervous, I'm vibrating, and I'm about to fly apart like a 1982 Yugo doing 75 on the interstate. At the Starbucks downstairs, I bought a "Calm" tea bag, succumbing to marketing. Crystal the Barrista said she's sold a lot of those today.

A guy from the Facilities department, while freeing a locked laptop that had been left in my cube without keys, mentioned that today there would be layoffs announced. But nobody else seems to be on pins and needles the way I am, so I'm left to wonder why I would assume this guy had access to special information.

I find the prospect of renewing my recruiter contacts tiring. I don't want to go back to contracting (read: temping), I don't want to be the new girl again, I don't want my manager to get laid off either. I just want this all to go away. I want Dell to realize that there's no shame in being number one, there's no need to be the only one.

It's daunting to job hunt in a new paradigm. I've never been a programmer before. But going back to writing now would feel like a cop out (and a pay cut). I like being a programmer. But selling myself as such feels like even more of a scam than selling myself as a technical writer. I'm still waiting for someone to say, "Wait a minute. You're just a kid. You don't have a degree in this. You've been figuring it out as you go along!" Which would be my greatest skill, but that's hard to fit into a résumé.

Glowering Interviewer: Do you know XML?

Me: No, but if you hum a few bars, I can fake it.

I'm not ready for this. I'm not ready to redefine myself. Again.

Well it's time to freakin' get ready.

I never told you all about my trip to Vegas! The boys of Invisible City and I attended the GAMA Trade Show, for manufacturers (us), retailers, and distributors of board games and card games. The trade show was in the Orleans hotel, which had a lot of smokers.

We had a fantastic time, soaking up information in the panel discussions like mad and meeting all the cool people in the industry. I chatted with Steve Jackson, who has since invited me to game night with his gang, but I keep missing the invitations. We also got taken under the wing of Marcelo of AEG, who hosts the Gamer High listserv (an unreal amount of piffle, but it's cute piffle, and it makes us part of the In crowd, so I'll take it), which posits that the industry is like a high school. Hadn't thought I'd be a frosh again any time soon.

But meeting Marcelo had a really spiffy side effect. See, he mentioned that he and some friends were "going dancing." I said I'd like to go, and Jon would come, too. We agreed to meet at 10:00 at the Alligator bar in the hotel, to then go over to the Ra at the Luxor (the big pyramid one on the Strip).

They weren't there at 10. I knew I'd been stood up. We watched a little roulette and then swung by the bar again, and there they were! And they sent me upstairs to change into something more clubby. Sigh. But they waited for me, and then Marcelo's gang went in someone's car, and Jon and I caught a cab, with the instructions to wait in front of the Ra.

Nobody's at the Ra. Well, there's a line of people waiting to be let in by the bouncer, but none of the gang we were going to meet. Taking the cab certainly took longer. Sigh... But while Jon and I stood in indecision, wondering if we should just get into line or not, Marcelo came out of the club, mentioned to the bouncer that we were with his group, and the bouncer lifted the rope and let us in. Yow! All these Beautiful People in line, and we get let in specially. The night was looking up.

Then Marcelo says, "Let me introduce you to your host." He leads us through the club and then into one of the VIP rooms, where there's a private party. We meet the bouncer at the door so that we'll be able to come and go with no problem, and then we're introduced to Peter Atkinson, former owner and CEO of Wizards of the Coast. [jaw drops]

We had so made it. There were folks there who take care of event registration for GenCon and significant contributors to Dungeons&Dragons Third Edition and just... People! We were in a swanky club, in Vegas, at a private party, attended by the movers and shakers in the gaming industry. Hot damn!

Of course you all know that my driving motivator is to meet celebrities and then become one. This was right up there on my list of Really Cool Stuff. What a night.

So I was called for jury duty. A few weeks ago, I attended the empaneling session, which seems to be a rare thing. They assign you to a jury while taking your schedule into account. It made the whole thing rather painless. I was scheduled to report this morning at 10:00. In the jury duty documents, they make a big point about how there's no parking at the courthouse, so I rode the 'Dillo for the first time. It's free, and mostly serves downtown, with a few stops off at park-and-ride lots (all in south Austin). Some of the 'Dillos are regular buses, but one I rode today looks like a trolley, complete with wooden seats. It was very cute.

I left the house at 8, returned at 8:15 because I thought I had forgotten some necessary paperwork (but there was none to forget), and then drove south on IH-35 for 45 minutes (bleah). The 'Dillo arrived shortly after I did, I chatted with a fellow juror and helped her find the courthouse, and then arrived about ten 'til ten, right on time. I read my copy of Six Easy Pieces, physics lectures by Richard Feynman, so that I could answer honestly that that was the last book I'd read, in case the lawyers asked. Partly, I thought it would be likely to get me dismissed, but mostly, I couldn't admit that what I've been reading these days is a John Saul novel entitled The Right Hand of Evil. It's a dumb title; the book is okay.

By 10:20, we had been dismissed. Oftentimes, when faced with the reality of an actual jury, people will settle their cases. But that satisfies my obligation, so I've done my bit, and I'm off the hook.

But it was too nice a day to dash right back to work. I mean, really. I'd blocked out the whole day, and I was only two blocks from the library. What's a girl to do? Nosing around for something either on spirituality or feminism, I found The Tao of Womanhood, which seems a good compromise. I looked for a book that Tameka had recommended, but I wasn't entirely sure of the title, and I couldn't find it. I think it was Reinventing Ophelia...or Redefining. Meeker, you can leave me a note by clicking on those little spiders right there.

I was back to work by noon and had lunch outside with a friend. Nice morning. Wish every day could start with a jaunt to the library. That would be heaven.

On a more upbeat note, this past weekend was the District 55 Toastmasters conference, in San Antonio. My friend Shafali, who had already won at the Club, Area, and Division levels, took second place in the International Speech contest at the District level. I'm so proud of her. I heard some good talks on leadership, and I got re-fired up about Toastmasters, deciding that perhaps I really could be club president in the coming term. Jon came along, and he's bound to join soon, too. There's a local club that meets on Saturday mornings, so we might attend that one.

Then on Sunday, Ben joined us for The Mummy Returns. It was pretty cool. There were some plot decisions that I didn't find satisfying, but it looked really cool. And there was no more blood than a scratch on the face, which was rather weird, considering somebody got ripped into four pieces. Very cartoony. Also, we were treated to some movie trailers that look promising: Tomb Raider (yay, Laura!), in live action with lots of computer effects, and Final Fantasy, in really spiffy computer animation of the quality seen in the Starship Troopers: Roughnecks series. Jurassic Park 3 looked skipable, though Sam Neill is so lovely, I might suffer through it just for him--as a rental.

And speaking of hotties in movies, Hugh Jackman is doing another film, due out June 8. It's called Swordfish, and it's about hackers (ho-hum). I received an email about it because there is some serious Dell product placement in it. Interestingly enough, Dell doesn't have to pay for the placement, just provide the servers and racks temporarily. How wild. Maybe in Rocky XII you'll see people playing Inevitable.

A press release has gone out. 3,000 to 4,000 shall fall. Résumé tonight.

Oh, I should have mentioned the other day: I've also got some experience in relational database design.

Faithful reader Derf asks just what it is I do, in response to my lamentations about layoff threats. Well, silly, I'm a programmer. I work for Dell's I/T (Information Technology -- and, no, I don't know why there's a slash there. Drives me bananas.) department, developing web-based applications for the procurement (negotiate for the parts that go into Dells) department, using ASP, SQL, DHTML (HTML, CSS, JavaScript), and VBScript.

Basically, I have fulfilled my destiny: I am a Web Diva.

And I might be job hunting in the next few weeks. *winning smile*

Little known fact: Okay, maybe it's better titled a "hardly known fact," since most of you will probably say, "Duh, Sharon, even I knew that." So, my hardly known fact: Six hours in a car on an early May afternoon in Texas is hot enough to cause a bottle of nail polish to explode. Wheee.

I've got an idea for a new reality-tv program: Layoff! Each week, another dedicated, hard-working employee will be voted off the island.

It's the secrecy I can't stand. Rumors are rampant throughout Dell, and they're even getting published in the paper, but the silence from above is deafening. I'm trying to stay loose, to roll with it. I figure, this very job came up out of the blue, and I was just flexible enough and adventurous enough to grab it as it ran past; so if it's time for it to go away, then that must mean there's another longhorn running by. I've got my hand out.

Note to self: Tech writer? No, it's time to spiff up that résumé...