Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Decision Fatigue

Yesterday at work, I could only think about one thing—how much I wanted to leave. By the time I got home, I was so crabby, the first thing I did when I walked into my bedroom is have a good cry.

Actually, the first thing I did was curse loudly and clean up the garbage that my housemate's dog had dug out of my trash can and strewn all over the floor, a mess which may have more to do with the cause of my good cry than my day at work. But that is beside the point, because the point is, work is really wearing me down!

I've been kind of distressed about that, because I've always been an enthusiastic and tireless worker (barring heavy labor, because I'm weak). I can plug away at design tweaks for hours without needing a break. I can spend a whole day trying to get a tiny script to work right. I can even commune with various kinds of trail mix for six hours straight without suffering more than a hint of boredom and a sore wrist. And for the most part, I enjoy it! But the work I'm doing now isn't like that.

The work I'm doing mostly consists of questions: Is it better to use these two modules that do just what we want or that one module that does too much? Is it better to use a template to display the whole page or a combination of a template for part of the page and a PHP function for the other part? Is it better to use a text editor with more features but requiring a patch to integrate it, or is it better to use one that works out of the box but requires a bunch of plug-ins to do anything more complex? What is the best way to document our progress? When a module doesn't work the way I want it to, is it better to try to rewrite it, or is it better to try and learn how to patch it? It's very little doing and a lot of deciding.

And deciding is one of my least favorite activities. Another good-cry moment occurred last year - on a vacation - when too much pressure was put on me to choose where to eat for dinner. I burst into tears in a shoe store and refused to have anything more to do with the restaurant selection process. There's a word for this (not the public crying, just the reason for it): decision fatigue. I read about this phenomenon in a news article last year. It causes some people to make bad decisions, and it causes me to become irritable.

So now that I know that I'm just decision fatigued, and I haven't actually become lazy, I can rest my conscience and my mind in the knowledge that this, too, will pass. I just have to wait until we've unveiled the website. Then we will discover all the problems with it and work frantically to fix them. I foresee a whole lot of doing in my future!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Marvelous Market Raspberry White cookie

While I was in Denver, since I couldn't eat enough to take advantage of my food stipend, I spent it mostly on cookies, which I squirreled away for later consumption. So you can expect a goodly number of Giant Cookie Reviews in the near future. But this first review actually comes from the time before I went to Denver.

Whilst knocking about town a fine spring afternoon, my boyfriend and I happened upon a quaint little shop calling itself Marvelous Market. I do believe this is a chain store, but it was cute enough to imagine that this was its sole location.

Big brownies and Giant Cookies lined its shelves beckoningly, and I knew I had to buy one. After all, I have a blog to keep.

I picked the most exotic flavor I could find, Raspberry White, (which I assumed correctly meant white chocolate) and gobbled it the very next day.

It tasted of raspberry, and white chocolate. It had macadamia nuts in it, which are quite my favorite nut to eat in a cookie. It also had that home-baked flavor, which, surprisingly enough, is actually a defect in a giant cookie. The cookies that I bake at home are never very good, and this cookie had that same sort of flavor.

It wasn't bad, but it just didn't have the "Wow, that was so good, I want to buy one every time I pass a Marvelous Market" taste that I was hoping for.

Soft and chewy, yes, soft and chewy and addictive, no.

As for the cost, my 115g cookie cost me $2.25, or almost 2 cents a gram. A decent price for a giant cookie, but not what I'd call a decent price for a "just OK" cookie of any sort.

Bottom Line:
Taste: 3 stars
Texture: 4 stars
Price: 3 stars

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Wednesday, from an enteric perspective

This morning, I woke up at 5:00, feeling nervous. I wasn't sweating, my heart wasn't pounding, but I had something like butterflies in my stomach. The butterflies soon turned into pain, and then into, ummm, several trips to the bathroom.

Whether this has something to do with my difficulty eating yesterday, an accidental overdose of fiber yesterday morning, something I ate yesterday evening, or the guy sitting on the plane next to me on Monday, who went to the bathroom 6 times during our 3.5 hour flight, I do not know. But it made me disinclined to go to the conference at 9 and sit through an hourlong keynote speech that will probably not impart any practical skills. 

Fortunately, my traveling companion texted me a little before 8 to say he wanted to skip the keynote and head in around 10. Unlike me, he did go to the party with the open bar last night, so I think his motivations may be related to that.

Since we were in agreement over our truancy, I headed back to bed to recover. I was unable, however, to sleep, which I thought meant I would be just as unsociable tonight as I was yesterday.

However, I managed to put on a decent show of extraversion that almost made me proud. There are about 10 people from our university here at DrupalCon, and we've formed a sort of social group. Tonight, I thought I would just quickly power through the shops I missed yesterday, then top off my evening with some ice cream. I even found this cute deli where I thought I'd pick up some veggies and maybe even a side dish to eat with it. But when The Group notified me they were eating dinner at a Thai restaurant, I didn't even make an excuse--just made my way there and prepared for an evening of being social. 

I of course treated them all to my weird eating habits, refusing to eat anything for dinner but a side of edamame beans, and then, amazingly, roping them into coming with me for frozen yogurt, which was my main course. Sure, after that, they all continued on to some party where there was purported to be free beer while I returned to my room, but for a brief shining moment, the group mindset actually aligned with Valerie's unconventional ideas about how an evening should be spent!

After the frozen yogurt, my stomach ache returned full force. Darn my dysfunctional digestive system. Here the college is reimbursing me for 40 dollars of food purchases a day, and I can't even eat a bowl of soybeans and a small frozen yogurt without getting sick!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tuesday night in Denver, Colorado

John Denver once sang a song about Toledo, Ohio, In which one of the lyrics was, "they roll back the sidewalks precisely at 10..."

Ironically, I could say the same thing about Denver. The city, not the singer.

Only I'd have to replace the 10 with a 7.

During dull moments in the conference today, I passed my time searching for things in Denver that someone like me (someone with no vices, who would rather wander around a city alone than go to a party with an open bar) could do after 6:00. I was so desperate that I even "asked Denver" on Twitter, when I have an admitted aversion to using Twitter to communicate. Denver didn't reply.

For lack of any better suggestions, I made a beeline for the shopping district, which I figured could keep me occupied for at least one evening. On the map for the Free Mall Shuttle (which is a true piece of public transportation genius, running trolley-like buses up and down the street at what seemed to be two minute intervals!) I saw that there was a river to the north.

Denver is a city best known for its outdoor entertainments, so -- even though those entertainments usually consist of something much more adventurous such as skiing -- I decided I would make do with what I had and go see the natural wonders of downtown.

And since my airport adventures yesterday had set a standard for public humiliation, I also decided I would leave my pride on the bus and play the part of the crazy tourist/photographer, lugging around two huge sacks of stuff, sitting on rocks in the middle of a stream to get the perfect shot of the water running over the rocks (I didn't get it), and leaning over the edge of a bridge for far too long taking shot after shot of a duck, hoping that in one, its head would not be in the water. Alas. that was not to be, either.

Following the photographic tour de something, I returned to the shopping area for dinner and shopping. Unfortunately, by the time I was done with my macaroni and cheese at the Cheesecake Factory at around 7 (I know, you'd think in a new place, I'd want to branch out and try something local, but when you have eating habits like mine, it's best to just stick with what you know), all the stores were closed. I guess they didn't hear that stores are supposed to always stay open until nine.

So I returned to my suite at the ripe old hour of 7:30, to while away the evening blogging, searching for something more gratifying to do with my evening tomorrow, and possibly topping it off with tv. I do have to say that i had been a bit disappointed that our luxury hotel lacked a gym, but with all the walking I did today, I don't think I need one. And at no point did I get any more breathless in the alleged thin air of the Mile High City than I do anywhere else. Except that one time on the stairs in the convention center, which I attribute more to malnourishment than poor respiration--the last few days, I've had the stomach capacity of a hamster.

One last point. I've learned that typing on my iPad results in a lot fewer mistakes if I just use two fingers rather than my whole hand, so it's back to hunt and peck for me!

This is a test.

I'm in sunny Denver, typing this on my iPad in a hitherto untested mode of blogging. I brought a laptop with me, generously lent by my employer, and when I arrived at my hotel room and turned it on, it immediately turned off because the battery was dead. I Plugged in the charger, which failed to perform to expectations. somehow the charger died between my office on friday and denver on monday You'll have to. Excuse a few typos and weird capitalizations because typing on an iPad is only marginally easier than typing on a phone, which I hate. And trying to go back and fix your mistakes is definitely an exercise in maintaining your sanity.

But anyway, I'm here to talk about Denver. When my. Coworker and I arrived late last night, we were dismayed both by the cold and the flat landscape. As we stood jogging in place (ok, only I did that, because I value warmth more than I value my dignity) for thirty minutes while waiting for ouR rental car shuttle, we commented on how we could not see any mountains.

Well, when the morning sun peeped into my (palatial) hotel room this morning, they revealed themselves, majestic and snow-capped, on the horizon! Too bad I can't shoW you, because you can't uPload pictures from an iPad.

You also may be interested in how I nearly missed my flight due to a poor choice of Metro lines on the way to the airport and a poorly laid out airport that failed to indicate that the ticketing area I was in was not the ticketing area I needed to be in. The two mistakes cost me a half hour of traveling out of my way and wandering futilely, but I made it! And was actually the second-to-last person on the plane! I dream of a day when I will not have to beg every person in the security line to let me go ahead of them.

In 10 minutes I must be downstairs for breakfast and a conference, so I shall close now, but you can look forward to more tales of my Denver hijinks--as long as I can overcome my distaste for this keypad enough to write on it again.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Grammar, go back where you belong!

As a person who fills a lot of blog space pondering the right way and wrong way to communicate in English, I often find myself wondering what is the right word to describe all that stuff I ponder about.

I label it in my blog as "language," but that term doesn't adequately indicate all the nitpicking, preaching, and value-judging I do regarding the use of words. "Grammar" is an oft-used catch-all, but even if I don't understand the exact technical definition of grammar (it's apparently even more specific than I imagined), I know that spelling does not fall under it. So what is the word for that mythical all-inclusive English rulebook?

Apparently other English lovers are wondering the same thing, and apparently there isn't an answer.

For example, see "It's All Grammar," a blog post by Arnold Zwicky, who claims that the only thing all these things have in common is that they are cause for annoyance by some people when they are misused. Well, he's the professor of linguistics, not me (OK, OK, "I"), but I daresay that if grammar and syntax and spelling and usage all have rules, and they all have to do with written language, then they have at least two things in common.

So maybe not everyone considers every rule to be hard and fast. And certainly different institutions have different rules (we call those house rules), but that doesn't mean that they don't all apply to the same game.

And if the best term for them proposed so far is garmmra, I feel quite free to invent my own term, which will be suitably pompous and lengthy. When I figure it out, I will let you know....

And I hope I figure it out soon, so I can ease my conscience and stop using the word "grammar" where it doesn't belong!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Stouffer's Macaroni and Cheese

This entree was a staple in my childhood diet. One evening a week, my mother would work late, and that evening, my father would exercise his considerable culinary talents and pop one of these in the microwave for me and my brother.

It was almost always my favorite meal of the week. The glut of carbs! The cheese! The way it caramelized into a brown crust around the edges! I ate it one noodle at a time, savoring each bite.

These days, I've discovered fancier macaroni dishes at restaurants, but for ease of preparation and plain-old comfort-food value, Stouffer's macaroni can't be beat. Now they're even making this Farmer's Harvest variety which is made with whole grain flour (mixed with processed white flour), so it's even marginally better for my health!

One happy noodle for the crispy edges,
One happy noodle for the memories!

1 happy noodle1 happy noodle

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Tech Peeves

It doesn't come often, but it's time for one of those posts about "Things that Annoy Me." Today's theme: technology. Those modern conveniences are all well and good...except when they're not. Here are a few examples.

Telephones: My telephone can remember everything for me. Its most useful feature, considering how it's a telephone, is remembering other people's phone numbers. I never need to commit a number to memory any more—all I need do is type it into my phone and forget about it. And I do. If you asked me to tell you the phone number of the one person I call more than any other (my boyfriend), I wouldn't be able to. I would be ashamed, except it's not my fault! My phone not only remembers his phone number, but it blocks me from seeing it! All I can see when I dial is his name. Convenient...and crippling. Come on, Apple, couldn't you at least display the number below the name, so I have the opportunity to try to learn the number?

Email: Along the same lines, Microsoft Outlook, which I started using for work after being a dedicated Thunderbird user for years, blocks me from seeing a sender's email address if they're already in my address book. Great. What if they, like me, have 4 or 5 different email addresses? How do I know which one I've received a message from? And how do I memorize the address (you know, in the event that I'm away from Exchange Server when I need to contact them)? Come on, Microsoft...

No, wait. Let me broaden my complaint.

Come on, software vendors! Give us some options! Let us maintain some semblance of autonomy!

Digital Content: Digital content is grand. Who doesn't love being able to have instant Internet access to their favorite media? But digital media's big, huge, whopping downside is the complete inability to resell it. For this subject, allow me to use as an example two of my favorite things: books, and Doctor Who. I'm kind of a single-use consumer of media. Stories are only good once, and I never watch the same movie twice. So when I read a book, I want to be able to re-sell it. This cannot be done with e-books, so even though you might think I, lover of words and inhaler of books, might be a prime candidate for e-books, I am not. And instead, I can only sadly look at the outrageous prices of e-books, shake my head, and sigh.

The same goes for TV shows, including my favorite TV show, Doctor Who. Since I don't subscribe to cable, my only option for viewing this series is to watch dubiously sourced episodes on the Internet or buy them online. I would be willing to pay a reasonable price to see Doctor Who, but for a single viewing, I consider a reasonable price to be a dollar or less. iTunes, the only legal source of standalone Doctor Who episodes I've found so far, charges $2.99$. I might pay 2.99 if I wanted to keep the show and watch it over and over. But that's not what I'm going to do. So why can't I just pay a lower price for a single viewing? Or barring that, why can't I sell my rights to the content to someone else at a discount? The limitations of digital content seem just built to turn every good citizen into a thief.

Doors: I'll close with something related to closing: the overuse of handicapped doors. I never gave these motorized doors much thought until I started working in an office directly across from one. Now I spend my entire day watching able-bodied people push the handicapped button instead of just pushing open the door. Why? Why wait for a door to slowly swing open when you could just push and walk through? Surely you are not so weak that you need a motor to do what your hands and feet could do! But you choose to let the door do all the work and then stand open long after you've passed through, needlessly gobbling up electricity in its opening and letting cold air to come sweeping into the building. What a waste! For shame!