Internet: An On and Off Relationship

image of a latte heart, seen from above the cup
Mmmmm. Almond milk latte love.

My celebration of the arrival of Internet was premature: two days after it was successfully installed, I came home to find a flattish black cable on the ground in front of my home, with white fibers coming out of it, not attached to the pole or any of its cable friends.

This situation made for an awkward customer support call, as I accidentally called the router people instead of the fiber people. (These should be the same people, but somehow are not.) The customer service rep disregarded my “cable on the ground outside my house” scene-setting in favor of telling me that we were going to plug and unplug the router.

Me (in cheerful tone): “Yes, but since the cable is disconnected outside, how will that help, exactly?”
Customer Service: [confusion / panic over departure from script]

I had to console them by reassuring them that they would have helped me very ably if that had been technically feasible. (This cheered them tangibly.)

The fiber people GOT IT right away, and we didn’t play the power-cycling dance at all!

Life is better with the Internet, operationally. (I can order FOOD! I can check the weather! I can pay my bills! I can respond to work emai- oh, wait, less of that part.)

One of my neighbors passed me on the sidewalk and sought confirmation that I’ve REALLY moved back. I understand her skepticism: construction isn’t completely finished, and the Water Department has been using heavy equipment outside, implying that I haven’t had water, and instead am styling my fabulous hair with shea butter hair products and MAGIC.

But soon. SOON. The final inspections will be complete! The sidewalk will be paved! The house numbers will be located AND on the wall in the correct sequence! All the [things] will work! I will put things “away,” and “away” will not just mean ‘in a slightly different pile!’ Please continue to wish me luck.

Writing: Fountain Pens (Crimson-Violet Theme)

collage of four views of a red and violet Noodlers Ink fountain pen in "Forbidden City" design atop handwriting in Noodler's Burgundy ink
Views of my new red and violet Noodlers Ink fountain pen in “Forbidden City” design atop handwriting in Noodler’s Burgundy ink

I am continuing to love Goulet’s stub nibs in various pens – the nib lays down so much ink! The verticals are so thick! The nib is smooth, and makes for a pleasant writing experience.

The topic of my writing when I made this first collage was more private than I could show in full, so I’ve waited for muted daylight to photograph a less sensitive writing sample. (Note that it remains very difficult to use an iPhone to show off ink colors unless you get far away: the phone increases contrast automatically, and so most of my close up images appear to be black.)

Three image collage showing Noodler's Burgundy ink samples, written on dot grid paper with a stub nib Noodler's Konrad fountain pen.
Noodler’s Burgundy ink collage of three images in muted lighting on a cloudy day. iPhones increase contrast, making the ink appear darker in close ups. The lower right image writing sample displays the ink color most accurately.

I’ve historically found Noodler’s inks to be too wet for my pens (it drips!), but this one flows so nicely from their own pen on Rhodia paper that I may change my mind.

Internet: I Haz

I have gone without desktop internet access for about 15 days, and… I know this isn’t a hardship to well-adjusted people, but it was a mild hardship to me.

Also, moving my place of residence is DIFFICULT. I couldn’t find any of the five kinds of coffee I had packed, AND I HAD NO INTERNET. (I remain unworthy of your pity, despite this – these are the least of my problems, but the fun ones to complain about!)

  • The five kinds of coffee I had to move:
    • Peet’s – Yosemite Dos Sierras
    • Peet’s – Major Dickason’s Blend (a.k.a. Major Dick)
    • Hawaiian Paradise – Volcano Roast (a lovely gift of Arabica – I love Hawaiian coffee)
    • Philz Coffee – Philtered Soul (I won this in an Xmas gift exchange, and if I had realized it had artificial hazelnut flavoring in it, I would have tried harder to swap it with something else)
    • Peet’s – Holiday Blend (in lovely packaging, as always).
    • (No, I don’t have Peet’s Ethiopian Supernatural this year. It was too… something two years ago, and it kind of put me off. Also, I have to get down to three types of coffee before I am allowed to buy more!)

Gripe: UNLIMITED CELLULAR INTERNET SHOULD MEAN UNLIMITED CELLULAR INTERNET. If you have ever hit the arbitrary limit for this, you know what I’m griping about: my cellular provider slowed my cellular data to a crawl because I used enough of my data to get their attention for the first time ever. I’ll switch carriers when I get my next [whatever smartphone devices are called by then].

Internet is exciting: getting all of my household devices to talk to the new router is much less exciting. (My garage door opener required persuading, and I upset the spider that lives in the control panel!).

The piles of boxes all around the house have been replaced by piles of things that were in boxes in two particular rooms. I want to reestablish my household in a slightly modified way, but can’t move heavy things on my own, and am very tired after work. Wish me luck.

  • Manga I hope to write about when publishing is complete (or I get to a good stopping point)
    • Tappytoon.com
      • Ashtarte by SOON, Tappytoon Studio (ongoing) – child neglected by corrupt religious influence survives (ongoing)
      • The Broken Ring: This Marriage Will Fail Anyway, by Chacha Kim, Chokam, Cheong-gwa (ongoing) – dark second chance story set in imaginary imperial Spain
      • The Castle: Keeper of the Sacred Eye by Jin Soye, hyeyong, pecan (just started) – contemporary imaginary Korean royalty battle evil spirits trapped in paintings through heterosexuality (this is an incorrect summary, but it is funny, so I am leaving it) (ongoing)
      • How to Clear a Dating Sim as a Side Character by Cherti, DALZO, Metal Kang (ongoing) – one of those waking up in a video game stories, but with system dialogues telling the heroine when she is winning the men over
    • Viz Media
      • The King’s Beast by Rei Toma – a beautifully drawn, Chinese costume drama where a member of the oppressed animal-eared group attempts to avenge her fraternal twin brother – the way the artist draws EYES is just so gorgeous!
      • Mao by Rumiko Takahashi – an exorcist meets a girl who survived a freak accident, who may team up with him to beat evil spirits. (It feels a lot like RIN-NE by the same author.)
      • Yakuza Lover by Nozomi Mino – a college girl falls in with a model-handsome, well-dressed criminal who is good in bed
      • Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon by Takashi Shiina based on characters from Rumiko Takahashi: the next generation of the Inuyasha saga, in which the children of Inuyasha/Kagome and Sesshomaru/Rin team up to rescue the parents who lost them as infants. (I couldn’t cope with the anime preview voices, but the manga isn’t bad!)

I am sorting through my observations, and hope to get back to writing here soonish, but only if it doesn’t slow down my reading!

Fountain Pen Ink: Colors of the Moment

Image of three sections of a journal, with outer edges of three pages displayed showing handwriting.  Each page is in a different color of ink.
Inks in my journal, all flowing quite beautifully from my stub-nib fountain pens.. At left: Faber Castell’s Garnet Red (more transparent than I expected); Center: Rohrer & Klingner’s Alt-Bordeaux (so rich! so deep! I love it!);
Right: Private Reserve’s Claret (more red than I expected).

Oh, I am wallowing in ink in all the best ways.

Some of my pen friends enjoy it; some don’t notice. I know I became one of those ink people when I identified a colleague’s ink by brand when he was taking notes in the office. [shaking my head]

It’s difficult to show the inks off, especially the inks with multiple colors and sheens: my clever phone tries to increase the contrast on its images in a way that hides the subtle changes of colors. And how likely is it that you’re looking at these on a color-calibrated monitor, anyway? I’ll likely need to put the inks on my flatbed scanner to show them properly – the scanner’s flat light is more honest (and harsh), though it may struggle with the glitter.

Just the same: it is satisfying to write with good inks. I don’t need the colors, but I like them.

Book (Manga): Light & Shadow by Hee Won

Cover of manga Light & Shadow, original novel by Ryu Hyang, Comic by Hee Won

Light & Shadow
Original novel by Ryu Hyang, Comic by Hee Won
published by Tappytoon.com (complete – 103 episodes)
2019

Prince Eden has a secret: his mother is raising him as a boy to protect him from the fate of women in feudal society, and so she can retain some safety as mother of the heir to the throne, rather than as the mere mother of Princess Edna. The prince is a great student, and a great swordsman to boot! But when the profoundly corrupt king is overthrown, Eden must die along with the rest of the royal family… But the queen throws Edna out secretly, to live as an anonymous woman who escapes only with her life.

Then things get complicated.

Edna is abducted, sold into servitude, abused, and sent off as a substitute bride for a soldier with Butcher in his nickname…

This has all the things you want from a Korean drama: Cross-dressing! Secrets! Murderous royals! Plots! Scandals! Rough-on-the-outside, kind-hearted, misunderstood men with amazing abdominal muscles! A heroine who is good at literally everything! The threat that the people who you’ve fallen in love with could you will kill you if they discover your bloodline! Romance between battles! Weird scars! Good hair!

The idea that heroines of these stories are so good that people would die for them soon after witnessing their kindness is a bit alarming (how desperate are people for signs of kindness, exactly?). It does makes for good comedy scenes from otherwise hardened characters that softens the stories with humor.

A fun read.

Life: Locally Rough Times

One of the things that is easy to take for granted living in the innovation hub of the San Francisco Bay Area is that there are jobs. There are absurd boom-bust cycles here, along with lots of companies that ride a wave of hype-based funding into nothingness, while a tiny percentage go on to become improbably massive employers. After each cycle, there is always a New Thing, and the cycle starts again.

In the core business districts, some of which have been lively since the gold rush of 1849, the success of any industry feeds others by catering to the workers in the booming sectors, creating ripples of success for businesses offering essential supplies, convenience, and services. Famous universities and even more famous hospitals anchored companies in the area, providing a flow of research and graduates.

Or, at least it did.

From my apartment this past year, I have read of mass layoffs in tech, and within weeks I watched the lights go out up and down the apartment building across the street as it emptied of workers who could no longer afford them.

It is happening again.

Across multiple industries, including my own.

Across multiple employers, including my own.

And the wave of trying to refer people for jobs, screening lists for potential roles for them, comforting people with survivor’s guilt, being sympathetic to colleagues who set work goals for the year that are now impossible to meet, those are all happening again, too.

Superb HR colleagues are reposting departing colleagues’ work-seeking announcements, which are all quite concisely written for this purpose, and are easy to respond to for boosting purposes on LinkedIn, which is new to me, and really good.

But.

Things are rough. Be extra compassionate to everyone you interact with. Lots of people are in uncertain situations. This is something that is always true, but this comes in waves, and some waves are bigger than others.

If you ever wonder about the scale of local layoffs, or want to scope out the habits of specific companies, those of us here in California can read the WARN filings of companies engaged in layoffs.

It is not pleasant information, but it is a lot of information, and some of it is useful. Scope this out before accepting a job offer, so you know how potential employers have operated on this front historically.

Language: Still Studying (Mostly German)

Duolingo language app graphic that reads, "I'm on a 1639 day stream and a Streak Society VIP!"
Special graphic from earlier this week. I am still rolling along, and the lessons get updated around me…

I am ridiculous.

I usually practice German, and will eventually choose my alternate language this year. I should go back to Spanish, but I forget it instantly. I want to return to Japanese, but I found my study notebook, and I don’t understand my own notes! (GAAAAAHHHHH! [Scream that sounds similar in Japanese, actually.])

Google Translate has improved, but often uses less common words or is too literal. I use it when translating discussions of new subjects, but have had feedback multiple times from native German speakers that it isn’t quite right, and they prefer my efforts. But… But…

Life: Talking to Strangers In My Kitchen

My maternal grandmother and mother are both somewhat famous for talking to strangers, often in unusual situations.

I take after them.

On a recent work from home day, I was wrapping up a call when my entry doorknob moved. I wasn’t expecting anyone, and my boyfriend has the keycode, so it didn’t make sense that someone was trying to enter and was failing.

I went to the door, and found a couple looking a bit lost, staring into their phones. I asked if they needed assistance, and they said they were here to see my apartment, which is listed as being available soon.

[Insert me shaking my fist in the general direction of my landlord, who knows I’m moving at the end of the month. Reader: it is not the end of the month.]

Being me, I offered to show these total strangers my apartment, which is a total disaster because I’m inventorying things for packing, and also was working from home at the end of the week, by which time most order has broken down.

I asked them not to judge me IN FRONT OF ME. They said yes, so I showed them how the locks work, gave them a tour of my unit (have I mentioned it was the messiest it has been in months?), talked about the merits of other units I toured here when I was selecting, and answered their questions about my experience living here for the past year, safety, neighborhood features, temperature comfort, and so on.

Beyond that, we chatted about why they are in the market for an apartment, and it turned out one member of the couple got her Ph.D. in blood cancers and is interviewing at local biotech companies. By coincidence, the famous commercial drug for treating blood cancers was my responsibility in legal contract writing at a famous local biotech company. We chatted about the local biotech and biopharma landscape, employers I could recommend or warn her away from, and the wild over-qualification of many people in this industry. We also spoke in detail about specific blood cancers and HER+ breast cancers, because this is totally the sort of topic I can speak about in depth with strangers in my kitchen.

‘Nice couple. Small world, if I move out and another biotech person moves in.

Also, I have to keep an eye on my landlord, because sheesh.

Music: Soundtrack for Recent Weeks

During November and December, I listened especially often to my favorite SomaFM station, Secret Agent. I’ve surely described it before: it is a Jazzy, spy-movie-themed mix of music that ranges from retro to downtempo electronic.

The variety over the past few months was even better than I expected (there was a lot of new-to-me songs), and it was a great soundtrack to set my mind into a different, stylish, fun setting.