Sunday, September 22, 2013


Isn't friendship an odd thing?  I'm not very good at it, all in all.  Or maybe, as a former boyfriend repeatedly insisted, I just have to find the right person to be friends with.  Beats me.  I know that I'm not an easy person to spend a lot of time with.  Am I a narcissist? As the daughter of a Pathological Narcissist, I am a reluctant expert on the subject, and though I exhibit some narcissistic traits (so does everyone, btw, even the Dalai Lama and the Pope), I am not a Narcissist.  Certainly I have a super-ego that frequently demands its self-centered desires be fulfilled, but unlike my unfortunate mother, my ego is healthy and ultimately in control of the situation.  So when my super-ego is being a super-brat, my ego steps in and negotiates away the threatened tantrum.  Still, my super-ego is strong, and it often insists on FAR too much attention, exhausting not just my id and ego, and the id, ego, and super-egos of those around me, too.  You thought I didn't know that, huh?  Nope, I'm fully and painfully aware of how needy a part of me is.  Sux, but there it is.  All this adds up to a person who is sub-optimal friendship fodder.  And that makes me feel sad a lot of the time.

I've been moving fairly constantly since before I was born, and that takes a toll.  I envy those people who've lived in one place all their lives, who know everyone in town and are a vital part of their community.

So how do I go about building a space for myself in the Community when what I'm really good at is quietly pottering about in my own solitary space?  How can I make friends when making friends isn't something at which I'm particularly adept?  How can I be connected when withdrawal is my comfort zone?  Once again, I have to extrude extroverted behaviour from this introverted shell.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Anger Epiphany

Apparently, expressing one's feelings in a public place such as this blog is a social no-no.  Hey, what do I know?  Maybe the person who told me I shouldn't have written what I did is right.  So I've taken it down.  Mea culpa.

One more layer of bricks in the Isolation Wall is now in place.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


I grew up in a strange world.  From parents older than those of most my friends, I was born with three sisters (from my father's first marriage) I never knew, and one (from my mother's first marriage) who was married and gone by the time I was four.  One of my father's set I've still never met, in spite of her relatively close proximity, a mere 250 miles.  Her choice more than mine, though I've never pushed in the slightest for a meeting.

So I was a lone child with considerably older parents than my peers.  Compound the strangeness of that with the lifestyle we led due to my father's work.  See, I grew up traveling the world, moving, on average, every three months.  I never knew what my father did for work beyond a very vague "electrical engineer" or "he works for the government," which was another element that made it difficult for me to fit in with the "normal" child's world.  It wasn't until I had ready access to the Internet that I could finally plug in all the information I had...places, dates, whispered and cryptic references to dad's work...and deduce that he did covert work for our government.  I don't believe he was ever involved in black ops, and almost certainly not in wet work of any kind.  Rather, he worked on the electrical installations of various bases and facilities.  Curious...I actually know more than I'm saying, but all those years of "We don't discuss your father's work" and my father refusing to talk (even in the deepest throes of senile dementia, the integrity of his wall of secrecy remained unbreachable) have apparently made me unable to speak openly...makes my gut tighten to consider the idea.

By the time I was eight, I had lived on every continent but one - Antarctica, and most of that time had either been taught by governesses or simply by reading books and observing the world around me.  When we returned permanently to the States, I had almost nothing in common with other children.  I remember clearly trying to grasp who sports figures, or movie and music celebrities were, with very little success.  Unlike the kids I was finally, actually going to school with, I had been given unlimited access to reading materials, which meant I had zero knowledge of Bobbsie Twins or Nancy Drew, but an extensive repertoire of English children's fiction from the Edwardian period.  Librarians loathed me because I read at a level they were simply not prepared to allow.  My mother had a massive fight over one librarian's refusal to allow me to check out The Last of the Mohicans at age 8, insisting that I was "too young" and therefore "incapable of understanding" the book.  My mother was outraged; I just moved on to other books.  Caring about what other people said I could or couldn't do really wasn't worthy of my consideration until I hit my forties.

On top of all this artificial aging (truly, I was a 40 year old in a 6 year old's body), my parents, both children of physically and emotionally abusive parents (not my paternal grandmother - SHE was a peach), were given an exclusive, all-access 24x7 pass to my isolated little psyche, and they wrecked havoc.

All of this background is simply to give you some understanding of how thoroughly I have never fit into the society around me, and is the crux of the question with which I am currently grappling, desperately trying to find some answer that will smooth my ragged edges; sooth the terrible pain I suffer all. the. time.  Here is my question:

Is it possible for someone to simply be born utterly unlovable? 

Blaming my parents has been a convenient way to deal with my pain for decades, but maybe it's the wrong approach.  After all, at this point the problem is mine, and mine alone.  Maybe I am simply unlovable.  Maybe I was born that way.  Maybe there really IS absolutely no hope.  I don't know.  I just keep trying to find an answer that will allow me to unclench and eventually to love myself a bit.  I'd like to love myself.  If possible.  And therein lies most of my hope and most of my despair.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

A Long, Strange Trip

My best friend and I are in a rough patch, and one of the things 
she said yesterday was that she was worried about me because I 
am "obsessed with death." I was taken aback, because I don't see 
myself obsessed with death at all, and because I've always 
been obsessed with death. And there you have perhaps the perfect 
description of my strangely dichotomous being. 

I have more death-related memories than any other set except for 
those involving light and pattern.  A large part of that is probably 
due to growing up as I did, traveling the world, experiencing the 
world in a more adult way than most children.  So AM I obsessed 
with death? Perhaps with the paraphernalia and trappings thereof, 
but not with death itself. 

In the past 9 months, seven friends, five of them extremely close
at one time of my life or another, have died. My closest friend on 
the planet for the past 25+ years, my closest friend in high school, 
the boy who gave me the greatest kiss of the last 45 years, 
another dear, dear friend from high school, and a friend from 
another time, another place...all suddenly gone, far, far too soon. 
And yes, losing your friends makes you think about your own 

And so it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut said. Life is strangely 
long, and short, both simultaneously. I have begun to wonder, as 
my father did fairly constantly toward the end of 96 years, "how 
long is this going to go on?"  Will I, like him, be the last one 
standing?  Do I have to watch everyone I know and love fall off the 
earth?  How did my father endure the loss?  How will I?  But endure 
I will, for I have little choice, really.  As often as I've contemplated 
it, suicide is not an option.  No, I'll go on, and I will do my best to 
enjoy life for all those friends who die before me. One aspect of 
the recent losses I find comforting is the sense that all those friends are at my elbow whenever I need them, lending me their love.  And that's a very nice feeling.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Math 101, or I Am A Sensitive Plant

Anyone who knows me well is aware of my feelings regarding the process of learning about mathematics.  My father, deeply frustrated when trying to teach me (I need to understand the WHY of things before I can simply "accept it."), usually vented that frustration on me, thus creating an additional layer of loathing whenever someone tries to explain a mathematical concept.  I had one teacher, in the Seventh Grade, who actually took my flinching in the face of math as a challenge, and I ended up getting a solid, shining A+ in his class, which was all about fractions and decimals.  Thank heavens for that man, for he taught me that I COULD learn math, given the right teacher.

Quick aside - my father once told me I needed to learn algebra because I would need it in life, and when I retorted that I would NOT need it, he asked me what I would do when I needed to calculate something complex, and I said "I'll HIRE someone."  I could hear my mother choking on her laughter from the next room.

Over the years, one friend (all male...not one female has ever attempted) after another has tried to teach me various mathematical concepts/skills, usually because I've asked a specific question.  I say God Bless Them for trying, but it's largely a thankless job, because I generally find Math pretty silly, and giggle through an explanation, or I get frustrated and cry.  I have simply learned to avoid asking about the how or why of calculations rather than face the emotions of trying to learn.

Saturday last, whilst picking through the trash and treasures at a local thrift store, I spied a miniature slide rule in a little leather case, and memories of my dad trying to teach me to use it bubbled up.  I actually remember that as a fun, though mostly baffling experience, but throughout the years, I have always wanted to understand how to use those suckers.  When I showed it to V last night, he asked me if I knew how to use it.  Warily, but with the ever present hope of a Fool, I replied that I didn't, but would like to.  Oy.  After showing me how to do basic multiplication with it, we rapidly descended into a discussion of logarithms, which quickly led to terms like indicies, exponentiation, inverse functions, etc.  And I braced for a mind-numbing lecture, already searching for any easy exit.
Dad had a slide rule very much like this...sure wish I had a full sized one in a nice leather case again...
Needless to say, I was amazed that he never got angry when I giggled (I know math is supposed to be ALL about logic, but it seems HIGHly illogical to MY way of thinking), and when tears welled up, he simply backed up and took a new tack.  When I argued and/or asked what might seem like stupid questions (I'm someone who tells people "there ARE no stupid questions," so saying that of myself is truly damning), he steadily, and utterly without distress, explained, over and over.  And staying the course as he did, with calm and gentle guidance, I actually ended up with a fresh and mostly clear understanding of all the terms and concepts we covered!  Stunning!  Seriously, I really love this man!

Of course, his success went to his head, because this morning he decided to teach me why using 3/4" to the foot vs 1" to the foot scale was better,  (because of how rulers are laid out), subconsciously thinking, I suppose, that he was able to explain the more complex concepts, so this should be a breeze!  FOOL!  First of all, don't try to explain anything to me first thing in the morning, because I am NOT a morning person even a little bit.  Wait until the afternoon and I will be FAR more receptive.  Same goes for sex or anything else you want.  Generally, give me a few hours (NOT minutes) to thoroughly wake up.  More importantly, though, if you have had a successful discussion with me involving math, LEAVE IT ALONE.

Let me explain how mathematical discussions effect my system.  Are you familiar with Mimosa Pudica, aka "The Sensitive Plant"?   That's what I become after very brief exposure to anything regarding math.  I need time to recover, so don't expect me to react in any fashion but a rapid flinching away if you come back too soon.  It's just best to wait for me to ask again.  Please.  'Cause I really do appreciate learning about this stuff, I just have to take it in very small doses.

Mimosa Pudica in action

Monday, April 29, 2013

Windows 8 is a MASSIVE Shit Sandwich

“The most common user action on a Web site is to flee.”  - Edward Tufte

Yep, this is how far back my direct Nrrd Grrl influence goes
Many of you reading this may not be aware that I was once neck-deep in computer engineering.  Specifically, I was a Human-Computer Interaction professional, an Information Architect. I worked with a number of high tech OEMS, including IBM, where I worked with both the OS/2 Lan Server/Requester and with the RISC 6000 groups. And I worked at Dell Computers, where I was in charge of worldwide usability.  As such, I was pretty much joined at the hip to Microsoft, as our hardware had to play nice with their software.  We also wrote a fair share of software that had to integrate seamlessly with all the MS code.  My part of this labyrinthian quagmire was an endless and earnest attempt to ensure some measure of user friendliness to our end product.  I was successful in some ways, not so much in others, primarily because I was leading the effort for usability during Dell's Halcyon Days of selling computers faster than they could produce them.  In otherwords, there was little belief in any "Value Add" in increasing the usability of the product.  My work was generally perceived as simply adding to the bottom line. To be fair, given the sales volume of the time, they were probably right to see increasing the cost of their products for ANY reason as, well, useless.  I stand by my belief that creating a better product is the right thing to do, and that in the long run will result in a healthier bottom line, but in a seller's market, who cares about the future, right?

So that's my background with computers.  I just wanted you to understand that interacting with computers is second nature to me; they don't scare or baffle me even a little bit.  At least, they never have before today.

Yesterday, V's ancient, creaking, and extremely patched-together (in some ways literally, with tape and glue) Dell portable (you know it as a laptop) finally let us know it was time for The Big Sleep.  So while we were at Costco, we thought we'd look at new ones, and of course we found a flipping BRILLIANT deal on a nice little HP.  Fast forward to this morning.  The new system's set up, V's gone to work, and I have gained his permission to install Skype so we can talk f2f when one of us is out of town.  Easy-peasy, right?  WRONG!

This is an edlin screen in process
It's been a VERY long time since a computer made me cry out of frustration, but the new Windows 8 interface has managed to drag me down to a level of misery and loathing unequaled since I first started learning edlin (look it up, kids, and be very very afraid). I'd been using vi, and foolishly thought the segue to the DOS editor would be easy. Boy Howdy was I WRONG!  But enough arcane computer lore...

I beLIEVE I finally managed to install Skype, though I was FORCED to create a MS account to do so (let's not talk about the LOATHSOME degree of personal data one is required to share with MS to simply use their product - they act as though they still own FULL rights to the very thing you just paid them hundreds of dollars for...grrr).  However, I cannot even find a way to FIND it on the system, let alone create shortcut for it on the desktop.  Oh sure, it's now in that heinous graphical interface that neither V nor I care to use, but I want it in shortcut icon form on the desktop, and the extreme arduousness of what would seem to be a very simple task had me crying this morning.

Windows 1.01
I say this as both Usability Professional and as humble human user; the number of things I see as wrong with Windows 8 are legion.  I truly wish I had been among the test participants for this product, as my feedback would've set some hair on fire.  Windows 8 is the single worst software system interface I have EVER seen, and remember, I date back to Windows and OS/2 1.0, CPM and  DOS...just to name a very few contenders for Best Frustration Fandango dancers.

Given the choice, and I fully plan to make such a choice available to me 24x7, I will NEVER take another bite of the shit sandwich called "Windows 8."  With a single interface, Microsoft has pushed me from a solid "oh, MS isn't so bad" to the ranks of those who join me in an intense and focused loathing for a company that apparently believes a product this poorly designed is an improvement to our lives.  Or maybe they simply believe that because they control the market (ask any OEM enginerd how much lubricant MS uses whilst screwing them over), they can do whatever they want and the Users will have to change.

I'm not one of those fawning fans of Steve Jobs.  My observation was that he was, in a myriad of ways, just the other side of the same Bill Gates coin.  They just weren't very different.  That said, the most important difference between them, as I see it, was in their intent.  Gates has always had a very linear view, and is all about the monetary result; Jobs was far more holistic, and although he was about the financial result, too, he was always far more attuned to the overall function of the product, and thus made the world a little better place for his efforts.

“To design something really well you have to get it. You have to really grok what it’s all about. It takes a passionate commitment to thoroughly understand something — chew it up, not just quickly swallow it. Most people don’t take the time to do that. Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask a creative person how they did something, they may feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after awhile. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or have thought more about their experiences than other people have. Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. They don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions, without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better designs we will have.”
- Steve Jobs, Wired (March, 1996)

Windows 8 will certainly work for a segment of the User Base, and due to MS's  aforementioned market share, even disgruntled users will struggle with the interface and finally learn to use it to some degree because they have no choice, but ultimately it's not an improvement on the knowledge and understanding already existent, and that makes it a bad product.   The tasks that are supposed to be easier and enhanced through technology are suddenly made more difficult and arduous with Windows 8, simply because of what seems to be a decidedly selfish view of what Users "should" desire.

I realise my rant is too little, too late, and my efforts will go unheard.  I am a User Advocate from birth-to-earth, and occasionally I cannot bear to keep quiet another second.  Experiencing an interface so frustrating that I was literally weeping whilst using cannot just be allowed to stand without objection.  I've been on a real gratitude-to-the-Cosmos kick the past couple of weeks, and today I am proFOUNDly grateful that I made the decision to return to the Land of Apple a few years ago.  I'm truly sorry I wasn't in a position to do battle against the advent of Windows 8, but I am grateful beyond reckoning that Steve Jobs and his team of Wunderkind worked so hard to create this elegant, efficient, beautiful system for us.

“One bad experience and poof…customers are history. Sure, you can replace them, but at five times the cost.”  - Pavvo Hanninen, Director, University of Alabama

Thursday, April 4, 2013


I know I should have a, make that A Purpose.  Everyone tells me I need one in order to be happy, and I don't really doubt that they're correct.  But I just don't care.  I know I should, but I don't.  Oh, I get small spikes of purpose-driven living.  Clean this, feed that, get something done in one mental space or another.  But really?  I don't care overmuch about almost anything.  I wonder if I would care more if there was no roof over my head or food for my cats,,,probably so.  And I DO hope that question is never tested.  But I don't really care about ME.  I even feel guilty SAYING that, cause it feels as though I shouldn't care about me, that it's not allowed, that I'm not worthy.

Jen keeps asking me if I "feel worthy," and I've decided it's a good question to ask.  I feel I deserve some good coming my way, love, laughter, light, but I'm not really sure I believe I'm WORTHY of any of that.

Which, of course, brings us right back to self-worth.  Of which I have almost zip, it turns out.  So how do I regain or rebuild or just gain/build for the first time Self-Worth?

I've read many a tome on the subject of building self-esteem, but to be perfectly honest, I've gotten VERY little from any of the pundits and their books and talks and workshops, etc.  Probably the single best workshop, in terms of long-lasting usefulness, was with Hale Dwoskin, teaching The Sedona Method.  The Sedona Method is an interesting amalgam of techniques and approaches, most of which can be found in the world's religions as well as all the self and corporate help work that's around.  It works by simply asking a series of questions that are geared toward achieving the mindfulness necessary to alter one's intent.  I've tried a number of different approaches to feeling better, taken a number of workshops and read dozens of books that promised change, but The Sedona Method was the only thing I've found that worked and continues to work over time.

Hale Dwoskin leads an exercise in letting go

So there you have my suggestion for one way to be pro-active in making your life a bit better, day by day.  Has it worked for me?  Yes, but only when I actually make a point of practicing the technique, every day.  Unfortunately, that is NOT the case, so I continue to lurch from wrecked moment to miserable minute.

See, there's this wicked cycle.  I'm depressed, so I don't work at that which might actually make me feel better.  Know this; chronic depression is exhausting.  I'm tired fairly constantly, and being tired, actively DOING something - even going outside to sit in the sun, as a simple example - is just too much for me to manage, most of the time.

Earlier this week, I reached a point of emptiness, and I decided it was time to die.  Now before you freak, understand that even the act of suicide is more than I can manage at the moment.  I also truly understand that what I REALLY want is to feel better, not die, so I continue to put one foot in front of the other, day after day.

Will things get better?  Sure.  Temporarily, at least.  But given a bit of time, I'll find myself right back here at the end point again.

I wonder if the cycle gets shorter over time?