Monthly Archives: October 2010

Avoiding the Golden Arches

My hubby and I gave up fast food for the entire month of September. Never once did I eat a greasy burger, chicken nugget, “orange chicken,” or slimy taco.

At first it killed. I used to eat fast food several days a week. I c.r.a.v.e.d it. It was so. hard. not to stop and get some.

And then, right at the end of the month, I got used to it. I haven’t had any since.

And I haven’t wanted it. The food doesn’t sound good. It’s greasy and cheap and full of chemicals, and now that I eat more healthy food the junk is not appealing. (Well, the extreme junk, anyway :P )

Except.

McDonalds is BRILLIANT. BRILLIANT in their advertising.

First there was the two-for-four deal. The Bic Mac was one of my favorites at Mickey-Ds, and it was on sale. Even now, the idea of a Big Mac is appealing. Until I think about the Big Mac itself, and am grossed out. The idea is delicious, the reality is not. And I know that. But still, every time the stupid “two for four” deals came on the radio, I had to remind myself I really didn’t want one. Especially since the stupid songs would get caught in my  head. And last year I sang them to/with my hubby all the time. So it was a very positive association.

Then, Monopoly is back at McDonalds.

Monopoly at McDonalds is STUPID. It is. The odds of winning are nothing. I can’t keep track of all of the stupid little tags. Even if I did get a winning combo, I probably couldn’t find all the pieces.

And yet.

I remember “playing” as a kid. It was so fun. And it is making me want to go in and get some damn McDonalds.

The food is gross.

But the marketing is so, so very good.

It’s like they know their food sucks, so they come up with other ways to get you in. Monopoly. Mini beanie babies. Whatever it takes. And they repeat them, just often enough to form a strong, positive memory, so next time it comes up you remember how fun it was last time. And you want to go back in. But not so often you get sick of it.

I have freed myself from desire for the food. But the desire for the marketing is still there.

I hate them for it.

This is why marketing jobs exist :P

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Anyone up for some ASL?

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m working to learn ASL. I already know sign language, but there is a range of sign in the US.

At one far end of the spectrum is SEE (Signing Exact English), which is nothing but words in English word order. There is no spatial use and no translation of meaning, it is like typing in the air. If a word is spelled the same and pronounced the same, the same sign is used. It’s basically like only using the first dictionary definition when going from one language to another. If you were to translate “I’m going to the park” into Spanish, you would use one word for park, and if you translated “Park the car” you would use another. With SEE, you would use the same word in both cases, despite one being a noun and one a verb, and them having entirely different meanings.

ASL is its own language with its own grammar. While spoken English derives from..well..England, ASL derives from France. It has its own word order and its own grammar rules, and just like when translating between any two languages there are multiple word choices for any one sign, and the sign you pick is based on meaning, not phoenetics. So for example, you might translate “beautiful” and “pretty” using the same sign, but you would never translate “bow of the ship” and “bow at the waist” as the same sign. ASL is a visual language, which uses space well and has it’s own flow that works for a language that is seen instead of heard. There is a lot of non-manual information included in ASL, such as expression, mouth shape, head/body tilt, and more. These are like the tone of words in spoken English, they can change the meaning of the sentence in the same way the meaning of “That was great!” varies greatly depending if you say it enthusiastically or sarcastically!

I do not sign either. If you view sign language as a contium, with SEE on one side and ASL on the other, I’m right about smack dab in the middle. My word choice is dependent on meaning, and I use some ASL grammar structures that I have picked up, but for the most part I use English word order. While this style of sign makes more visual sense than SEE, it is still tiring to watch/read, and I want to get all the way along the spectrum to ASL!

I recently got myself a copy of Signing Naturally, a great workbook/DVD set that I bought on Half.com for about $30. It is all about learning ASL. It is aimed at people pretty much exactly like me, who know sign but  not ASL. There is not a lot of vocabulary in it, it is mainly grammar and visual skills needed to speak fluently. (Alternately, you could say it’s aimed at people learning their vocabulary somewhere else!) I am greatly enjoying working through it, and in four days have completed three out of twelve units. I will slow down as I continue, I promise, I just already know a lot of the intro to Deaf culture and vocab, and even some of the basic ASL skills. Already, though, by Unit 3 I am learning great ASL skills! They put into writing things I had picked up on..but never quantified, so I only used them sporadically. Things like the way you hold your head/face for a yes/no question vs and wh- question. It’s great!

On to the point of this post (hope you’re still with me): Is there anyone out there in a similar position to me, who knows at least some sign, but wants to improve their ASL? I ask because I am looking for a language partner(s)! If anyone out there would like to chat periodically via webcam with only sign, that would be awesome. If you live in the Puget Sound region, we could meet for coffee. I’m flexible. I’m too cheap not in a position to take an ASL class right now, which would also be a lot of review for me, and I don’t feel quite confident enough to go barge into the Deaf community with my skills rusty (plus I can’t find them). So I have no one to practice with. And, you know, it’s hard to learn a language when you don’t use it! We could go through the book together if you wanted, incorporating their partner activities, or just chat. Flexible! Really!

So. Any language partners out there who feel like chatting in ASL? I promise I’m not a creepy stalker or anything! If you’d be interested, leave me a comment and I promise I’ll get in contact with you!

*crosses fingers there’s SOMEONE out there who’ll be interested!*

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Cheap date(s)

You may remember a few weeks ago when I was a moron and missed a soccer game I’d been planning on attending with my hubby.

I was very upset by missing this game. Very upset. Disproportionately upset. To a level I don’t really feel like going into.

And I realized (with the help of a trained professional) that the reason I was so upset was that my hubby and I never really go out and spend quality time together. We spend evenings at home, watching TV, cuddling, sometimes even playing games. But…we never go out together. And somehow, that is a different kind of “being together” that I’ve been really missing.

Problem is, hubby and I don’t really share any common interests. Which makes it hard to find things to go and do.

OK, clarification: Problem is I hate leaving the freaking house, so there’s very little I’d want to go and do anyway :P

Anyway.

We made a list of things we could go out and do:

  • Learn to ski
  • Go to movies
  • Visit our local Science Museum, (esp. the current Harry Potter exhibit)
  • See plays
  • Get involved together in coaching/helping with a kids science olympiad/quiz bowl team
  • Go to the zoo!
  • Go bowling
  • Take dance lessons

Some of those are more likely than others, but at least they’re ideas! My problem being, oh so many cost (a lot of) money. And I’m very sensitive to money, what with leaving my job and all. But still, I just want ideas!

I need help. What kind of (possibly though not necessarily cheap) dates do/did you and your hubby enjoy going on?

Help a girl out, here!

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Tears

Funny how an innocent little Facebook chat with a former coworker can bring me to tears.

Especially when I’m already feeling useless.

Talking with an old coworker (“T”), a junior engineer who started the week before me and who I’ve stayed in casual contact with, he mentioned casually, half-joking that one of the senior engineers, call him A, thinks that I left engineering because of him. T wasn’t sure if A was joking when he said this, probably was somewhat..but people don’t typically make jokes if they aren’t at least partially based in truth.

This seriously brought tears to my eyes. Because A was one of my favorite things about working at my engineering job. A is an amazing, brilliant, analytical guy who thinks a lot like me. I loved working for/with A. My absolute favorite projects of all time were working with/for A. He was the perfect balance: respectful but guiding, giving me responsibility but also giving me the tools to use it wisely, correcting while still building up, and really letting me have the freedom to innovate and develop and put my name on things. Working for my three lettered friend was insufferable. Working for A was incredible.

And he thinks, at least on some level, that I left engineering because of him.

My old job was a small, close-knit company. Me leaving with no explanation was shocking to everyone. Especially my structural group. And it makes sense that there’s speculation about why I left. Especially since I think a lot of people thought I’d be leaving for a very short-term time, to get some minor medical thing under control. Even though I never said that. They just cannot imagine what kind of long-term illness could keep me away this long, or permanently.

I don’t blame them. Until it happened to me, I couldn’t think of a long-term illness keeping people away from their jobs forever, unless maybe losing a limb or sense. People have a hard time visualizing long term illness. For most people, you get sick, then you get better or you die. One way or another, the illness ends. They can’t picture it not ending. And I’m still alive.

So it doesn’t surprise me that there’s speculation.

But it doesn’t make it easier to hear that one of my favorite coworkers is blaming himself, to some degree. Wondering if he made it too tough for me to “want” to stay (the implication being that I really just left because I wanted to).

It also doesn’t help that people are doubting that I had medical reasons for leaving. Like I just lied to them all and didn’t feel like it anymore.

Which is hard since I *still* feel like I didn’t have to leave. And that I’m just being lazy now. And that everyone feels this way about their job, and I’m just too weak to handle it.

None of it is fun to hear, from an external voice or an internal one. And I’m not sure how to process it.

I’m not sure how to pick myself up. I’m not sure how to find myself now. I’m not sure how to feel proud of my current life. I’m not sure how to find good in myself.

And I’m not sure I can do it while I’m still grieving the life I wish I was strong enough to could have.

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RTT: The one where I can’t make any decisions

It’s time to get our random on!

I have, approximately, the most adorable puppy on the face of the planet:

What should he (we) be for Halloween? (We go to a couple parties where the dogs and people dress up…don’t judge me)

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I am going to take two at growing citrus at home! The first time I planted the tree outside…the Puget Sound isn’t exactly a citrus growing climate.

I am thinking I’ll buy two trees, so I don’t have year-round work for just a couple of months of payoff. I debated getting a Meyer lemon tree, for year-round fruit, but I’m thinking that might be too many lemons…not sure I’d use them all. I’m torn. I could also get two mandarin trees which bloom at different times, but then I have to decide between Satsuma or Tango for the second tree.

HMMMMMMMMMMMM.

So, higher payoff but possibly less useful lemons, or lower payoff but more delicious off-the-tree mandarins? Given that this is just for the second tree, I’ll get one mandarin no matter what.

Decisions, decisions. Advice?

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I LOVE this comic. I mean, I love most of xkcd’s comics, but this one seemed fitting to share here:

Click the image to see it full size

The tool tip (what you see when you hover your mouse over the comic) says: And what about all the people who won’t be able to join the community because they’re terrible at making helpful and constructive co–…oh.

Hehehe. Go surf xkcd’s archives. You’ll fall in love, too!

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Ooooh! I could use lemons to make lemonade! Now more confusion, lemons are more useful in cooking than tangerines…HMMMMM!

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My bestest bud Erica just got a new kitten. I am so excited for her. Kittens are adorable. And I love her description of new-kitty-moving-in-ness :-D

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I joined a community orchestra. I am super excited for our upcoming Christmas concert. After all the classical stuff, there’s even a Christmas sing-along! How fun! I downloaded my first set of music for the group, since I’m missing a couple rehearsals for this concert. Looked at the music.

Couldn’t remember how to read it.

Crapcrapcrapcrapcrap.

Cello music is in bass cleff. Most solo instrument music is in treble cleff. For a long time, now, I’ve only been playing cello as a solo instrument, which means almost exclusively treble cleff.

Luckily, after a few minutes of panic, it came back to me :-D

Now, to practice! Wonder how the aminals will react :) Anyone want to come practice with me?

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I am so screwed for Halloween costumes. Mine and Toby’s are supposed to be done by tomorrow evening. Um….I still don’t know what to do.

HELP!

And then go random it up with The Unmom!

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Filed under Dogs, Life, Random Thoughts Tuesday

Inter-Cultural Communication (aka Yes, Americans have culture!)

In trying to prepare to earn my certification in ASL, I am reading a book called Reading Between The Signs: Intercultural Communication for Sign Language Interpreters. And loving it. Not so much for interpreting (I’m still in the set up for that). But for the discussion of culture.

The Deaf (capital D) are a minority with their own language and their own culture. Not all deaf people are Deaf, but there is a big sub-culture of American Deaf in our country. When you are an ASL interpreter you are doing more than going from one language to another; you are going from one culture to another. For example, much that is considered rude in mainstream American culture is typical in Deaf culture, and visa-versa. Interpreting involves interpreting the message, not just the words.

In order to discuss itercultural communication the author first has to discuss what culture is, and, more specifically, what (mainstream) American culture is, so interpreters can recognize that we are indeed coming from our own cultural viewpoint and assumptions, and try to check them at the door.

I want to photocopy the 3rd and 4th chapters of this book and distribute them to our entire population for reading. Especially since oh-so-many people don’t even realize that assumptions and statements they make about what is the right way are not the right way universally! That blindness is actually a halmark of American culture, itself!

We Americans are notorious for our unwillingness to acknowledge that our perceptions and behaviors are culturally influenced…Like most of the world’s inhabitants, we feel that the way we do things in our country is the right way to do them. Members of certain nationalities insist that their superior culture has passed down the proper ways of behaving (think of the French pride in their language, art, and cuisine). Many Americans, on the other hand, assume that any values they hold, they have individually selected. (Emphasis added, pg 65)

I am lucky enough to have spent time in high school out of the country, so I have always been aware to some extent of the existence of our culture. Plus, such things just fascinate me, and while being a wall-flower I have always informally studied them.

Even so, a lot of the things mentioned in this book about American culture were surprising to me, and I kept catching myself saying, “Yes! Exactly!” in my head.

I have talked a lot about my search for identity, now that braniac/engineer is no longer “who I am.” But why is it not who I am? I am still a very intelligent person. And I still have all my engineering training/certification, even if I’m not currently practicing.

Evidently, the reason it’s not who I am, and the reason it’s so hard, is our American culture.

The inevitable icebreaker when getting to know someone is “What do you do for a living?” And our first question after running into an old friend or acquaintance is often “What are you doing these days?” Our fixation on doing seems to pervade our every waking moment, because what we do provides a large part of our identity and helps define who we are. (Emphasis added, pg 69)

In American culture we really are defined by what we do, and that is why losing (really, leaving) my career is so hard for me. It stripped away my identity. And I am reminded of it every time I see someone new, or someone I haven’t seen in awhile, and they ask.

More on this thought:

Why are we not surprised to hear that a man who recently won many millions of dollars in his state lottery continues to work at his old job as a garbage collector? Because, as we know, work in the United States is more than simply a means to make money. “Work constitutes a practical ideal of activity and character that makes a person’s work morally inseparable from his or her life” (Bellah et al. 1985, 66)…It is common for Americans to take only one or two weeks of vacation a year, while many Europeans are guaranteed four to six weeks annually. (pg 70)

Our identity is formed by our work. It just is here. So when I have no career, or even job, I’m really proud of..how can I feel proud of myself?

It is also American culture that makes it so hard for me to relax. When I’m happy, I feel guilty! How ridiculous is that? But I feel like if I’m happy, then I could be working harder and getting something done.

Because success in American life is measured by external accomplishments, we feel compelled to keep accomplishing more and more. While we may complain to those closest to us that we are always too busy, who among us would care to be the opposite–as defined by Webster’s–“idle, lazy, indolent”? Activities valued in other cultures but assessed by many of us as unproductive–mediating, standing around chatting, or sitting and relaxing and doing nothing–tend to make us nervous, as if they represent lost moments in which we could have been doing something useful. (Emphasis added, pg 69)

I struggle with this all.the.time. I cannot relax. I can’t. I feel so guilty. And that is much of why I still have a hard time in my current life. It is not that I am not working. I currently have 5 jobs. Five. I do all of them every week. But I also spend a lot of time sleeping (necessary). And a lot of time relaxing. (And, to the above point, none of my jobs make *that* much money). And so I feel like I am being lazy. Unproductive. A mooch. And when those thoughts keep circling my head, it is hard to feel happy with myself!

There is so much more discussed about American culture in this book. Things like how we are individualist instead of collectivist (“Compare the American saying “The squeaky wheel gets the grease” with a Japanese proverb that translates as “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down.”” (pg 42)), how we are convinced (by scientific studies, the written word, experts and logic rather than the stories of friends, historical context, or passion), how we organize our arguments and presentations (topic sentence/main point -> supporting arguments -> conclusion VS. background->information->main point only at the end). It is fascinating. Cultural studies just suck me in.

And it is helping me learn more about myself and why I am the way I am. I figure perspective can only be a good thing!

What unspoken cultural rules can you think of, in America or your own home?

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Filed under Books, Invisible Illnesses, Life

We need wardrobe over here!

Writer’s Workshop: Take II!

3.) A wardrobe malfunction.

This prompt made me instantly think of one of my husband’s and my early dates, back in our first year together.

My not-yet hubby came and picked me up. We went out and had fun; of course, always in the full public eye. Remember, we were good-kids. And my dad would have neutered him otherwise. I can’t remember exactly what we did, there’s a good chance it involved some bowling (a good, cheap, fun date), and some time sitting in a park talking or playing guitar (him, not me).

At the end of the day we hugged goodbye. The not-yet hubby put his chin over my shoulder as we hugged. And saw the tag of my shirt.

’cause it was on inside-out the whole time.

It’s a weird little shirt that is made of a very textured fabric. The fabric is the same front and back. It’s one of those where the seams are all visible, and the shirt and stitching are white so it’s like a subtle accent. There’s no turned-under seam, the edges were just surged. So…it was hard to tell if it was on right or not.

And it wasn’t.

And since this was one of our earliest dates, I was mortified!

Not to mention it went over real well at home when I came home from my date with my shirt on inside-out ;-)

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