Sunday, February 07, 2010

The Search is On

I was talking to someone recently about the many methods that people use to try to find a romantic partner and it occurred to me that one could use these same no-holds-barred methods to find work that is meaningful and enjoyable.
So here is step one: Tell Everyone What I Am Looking For.

Intelligent, capable woman with sense of humor and many skills is looking for the right work. She wants to:
1. Make stuff - all kinds of stuff
2. Fix stuff - actual stuff as well as problems and puzzles
3. Work with a small group of like-minded, fun people - I do not want to be the boss
4. Make a positive contribution

Willing to re-locate.

Pass it on.

Friday, January 01, 2010

We Made It

Everywhere I go online today someone is expressing relief that 2009 is behind us. I have to agree. What a nasty, depressing, bitch of a year. But it is over now and we can move on, I hope. I don't generally go in for big, loud celebrating on New Year's Eve. I like a quiet dinner with friends with some conversation and a little wine. I don't even need to be awake at midnight. After all, the New Year will be there in the morning when I wake up. But I do really like the idea of starting anew, of having a clean slate. It's the feeling of potential I love, like a ball of yarn or a big box of crayons; in that very first moment anything is possible. This is the first day of my vacation, I am taking a week off, and I plan to spend some of it cleaning. Really. Vacuuming, dusting, mopping, and generally getting rid of anything that remains of last year. I haven't made any resolutions, as such. I was mostly interested in getting rid of stuff that's been cluttering up my brain and making progress a dirty, muddy slog. It is a serious flaw in brain design that we all spend so much time with thoughts that make us feel crappy. So I'm going to let some of the crap go, just let it go. I suspect that the world will not stop spinning and life will go on.

Here is to fresh starts and the potential for anything. Happy New Year! To quote my friend Elizabeth, "Eat well, drink well, have a breakthrough, fall in love, have incredible good luck...avoid sharp objects, boring people, and heavy machinery."

Thursday, December 24, 2009

In the Kitchen

The Holiday Spirit has been elusive this year. I made all sorts of lists of things to bake and knit but most of them are still unmade. This morning though I felt more in the mood. I made some tea and cranked up the holiday music and got to work.

I did not have a whirling dervish in my kitchen. The cats could not be persuaded to dance, even to Run Run Rudolph. Instead I give you...

Coconut Rum Raisin Bundt Cake

There's a 1/2 a cup of rum in this baby. Fortunately there was a little extra batter and I was able to make a bundtlette, just for quality control of course.

Very tasty. Not that I was in doubt, what with the 2.5 sticks of butter, 1/2 cup of cream and the aforementioned rum. It's supposed to have a caramel drizzle but I think that is a little much. A simple dusting of powdered sugar will be much better.

Moving on now to biscotti & chocolate truffles.

I wish you all a very happy holiday and a wonderful New Year.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Winter Wonderland

Are you still out there dear readers? Or have you moved on to blogs that update more than once a quarter? I cannot blame you if you have. But if you are still here, here are some pretty pictures of the first winter snowfall. We will have a white solstice this year.

The Palisades

The Columbia University C

The Henry Hudson Bridge

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Good as New

I seem to be posting only once a month. It is still sort of annoying to type for an extended period. But that will be over soon, I am getting my hand fixed.
As some of you may know, I have had chronic problems with my right hand and wrist. Odd sensations, a feeling of internal pressure, and pain. Prior to having any health insurance I had gone to an acupuncturist and a massage therapist. Neither was terribly helpful. Yoga did seem to help and the pain was receding though the weird sensations remained. Then one day I noticed a lump on the top of my hand. It was only visible if I flexed my hand down, stretching the skin. Weird. What could it be? A bone out of place? Wouldn't that be terribly painful? Fortunately I know someone who has a formidable knowledge of anatomy. When I showed it to him without hesitation he said, "That's a ganglion cyst." Then he felt it. "Yup, feels like a cyst." Naturally I looked it up on the web. Then I made an appointment with an orthopedist and got the thing aspirated (i.e. sucked out with a hypodermic needle). This did not get rid of all the problems though the pain was mostly gone. As predicted by all the websites I'd visited the cyst returned. So I had it aspirated again. Still, no complete relief. The doctor said I might want to consider surgery. Normally I try to avoid that sort of thing but I simply cannot continue this way. I switched doctors at this point, opting for a hand specialist to do the surgery. I am going next Monday. I feel sort of beatific thinking about how wonderful it will be to have a hand that really works.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Pursuit of Happiness

You may be wondering what became of my happiness project. It's still going on. And I am not alone. The New York Times has a whole column about it called Happy Days: The Pursuit of What Matters in Troubled Times. The description says:

The severe economic downturn has forced many people to reassess their values and the ways they act on them in their daily lives. For some, the pursuit of happiness, sanity, or even survival, has been transformed. Happy Days is a discussion about the search for contentment in its many forms — economic, emotional, physical, spiritual — and the stories of those striving to come to terms with the lives they lead.

The topics of the column have ranged from near death experiences to spiritual retreats to the nature of sin among many others. I read it regularly and usually enjoy the essays though I don't always agree.

I have been having some troubles at work. One person's behavior has caused me and others to feel demoralized and increasingly stressed. I am not one of those people who can easily leave work behind; it follows me home, lurking in the back of my mind like some virtual bogeyman, ready to leap out and cause renewed irritation just when I begin to relax. I imagine conversations and plan speeches in my mind. What would John Adams say?
(He did say: “Be not intimidated… nor suffer yourselves to be wheedled out of your liberties by any pretense of politeness, delicacy, or decency. These, as they are often used, are but three different names for hypocrisy, chicanery and cowardice.”)
Perhaps just a wee bit much for a troublesome work situation. I have also found myself wishing that a particular event - poorly planned at the last minute - would tank and thereby teach the troublesome person a lesson. Disturbing and a sure sign that something must be done. The obvious thing is to find a different job but going about it willy nilly will not get me anywhere. That has been my modus operandi in the past - run away, not toward - and it just leads to the same situation in a different setting. I'm like the stereotypical battered woman who moves from one abusive man to another. So what can be done?
I intend to make an effort to bring back those little things that I have let slide. Like this blog for instance. And knitting. I don't know about you but I find it is easier to do something if I do it every day rather than once in a week. It becomes part of the structure of the day, a habit. So I will do some writing and some knitting - even if it is only a couple of sentences, a couple of rows - every day. And I will go out and sit in the park more often and cook interesting things for myself and maybe take a class here or there. I have allowed my jobs to take over my life and I have to take it back if I am to have any hope of transcending the cycle I have created for myself. Apathy is an easy habit to fall into and like all habits it is hard to break. Vigilance and faith will be required.

This brings me to Commandment 6. Live in the present. This is another toughy. I was thinking of getting a sign made. Attention: This is your life. It is happening now. Right now, this very moment. Be here. Or maybe I should get it tattooed so I can carry it with me wherever I go as a reminder to myself. Maybe I can even turn it into a habit.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Free Will or Not?

I've been reading Brian Greene's "The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality". It's quite readable, particularly since he likes to use the Simpsons in his explanatory metaphors. Some chapter names:

The Universe and the Bucket: Is Space a Human Abstraction or a Physical Entity?
The Frozen River: Does Time Flow?
Teleporters and Time Machines: Traveling Through Space and Time.

In this last one, Greene explores the concept of free will. If one accepts the tenets of classical physics then free will is an illusion. Bear with me while I try to explain.

In the beginning we had the Big Bang. All of the particles that make up the universe exploded outward in a specific way, their movement governed by the laws of physics. Therefore, if you knew the exact state of all of the particles in the universe at any given moment you could predict exactly where they would be at any other given moment. Therefore, you could predict the future. Everything that is happening is happening because it must. To quote Greene:

" You are made of a collection of particles, so if the laws of classical physics could determine everything about your particles at any moment -where they'd be, how they'd be moving and so on- your willful ability to determine your own actions would appear to be fully compromised."

Are you with me? This idea is simultaneously horrifying and incredibly comforting. On the one hand, you have no real choice. All of the good intentions and good will cannot avert disaster if that disaster is predetermined by what happened billions of years ago. If we are able to affect an event or to change something about ourselves it is only because that is how it must be. On the other hand, we can completely eliminate the dreaded what ifs. We agonize over decisions and when they do not turn out they way we want we think, what if? What if I had made another choice? Well, if you accept the deterministic view, then you made the only choice possible, there is no what if, not in this universe. This doesn't mean that we don't go on living each day, making choices, taking action; it just means that we make the only choices possible.

This is a very intriguing idea for someone like me. As has been noted, I have control issues. I have a lot of trouble just accepting things and spend a lot of time going over past events trying to find a way in which those events would have turned out differently. Faith that a higher power has things in hand is not an option; I just don't believe it. But this, this is science, logic, and reason. I understand it and I could accept that it is true, in spite of my need to control every last thing that happens. And if I can accept it and really believe it then it might release me from some of the endless rehashing of the past and worrying about the future (cue Doris Day singing Que Sera, Sera).

However, we do not live in a classical universe. Quantum theory changes things. It may be that even in a quantum universe particles behave in a predictable way, that if you could observe the quantum wavefunction for a particular particle you could use quantum mechanics (in this case an equation written by Schroedinger) to determine the wavefunction at any other given moment. But there is the problem of observation. Does the act of observing change the object being observed? Are we missing something, some part of the quantum reality? If that is so, it is quite possible that free will might play a part in physical laws.

Have I thoroughly confused you? Not to worry, as Greene points out, physicists exist in a state of confusion. And that is okay. We do not need to know everything but we do need to explore and to theorize and to dream of what is possible.