Wear What’s Comfy And Sod Those Who Think Otherwise

I read an editorial in a British periodical that bemoaned articles and features found in “women’s” magazines.  I, myself, don’t subscribe to any, nor would I encourage anyone else, male or female, to subscribe to them, for they appear to be (with the possible exception of “Ms.”, which, in the 1990’s, re-started itself as a feminist publication that actually dealt with real issues) glossy adverts for fashion houses who want to sell me an image and the publisher of recipes unlikely to be cooked outside of its pages or the culinary fantasies of its readers.  Specifically, the writer of the article didn’t want to read any more articles about what to wear, how to perform sexually with a man, or what a privileged “star” thinks about things about which they know nothing.  Okay.  I can relate to that – kind of…

I listened to an audiobook recently.  It’s titled Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? and is written by Jeanette Winterson.  A very well-written and read autobiographical account of her journey as an adopted child of a non-demonstrative (in terms of love), strict christian couple, Why Be Happy is a book I recommend to anyone who has ever experienced, as a child, the exquisite pain of feeling unloved and unwanted.  Whether this feeling is caused by external circumstances or internal anxiety, her words express the emotions clearly and thoughtfully.  K listened to much of it with me, and I think she appreciated it, as well.

A book that I recently finished is Why We Believe in God(s), by my former shrink, Dr. J. Anderson Thomson.  He wrote the book after 9/11, which he experienced through his son, who worked in a building across the street from the World Trade Center buildings that were destroyed.  I was actually gladdened by his development as both a psychiatrist (in reading what makes people tick) and as a thinker.  He now sits on the Board of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.  Dawkins wrote the Forward.  Thomson writes that humans are, in their very makeup as creatures who seek out patterns, more likely to believe in the existence of external entities with intent and meaning than not.  We must be able to get outside of our own instinctual desire to believe in some greater force or power to understand that there is, in reality, nothing that could lead one to supposedly “know” what so many religionists claim to “know” beyond the shadow of a doubt, though there is no proof whatsoever for the likelihood or existence of such an entity or entities.

Such faith in that which is perceived as spiritual or otherwise otherworldly knowledge is beyond me, as I’m sure you, as a reader, know.  I find myself bound by the scientific method.  I am willing to accept, not on faith, but on reason, such things as immunizations that are shown to decrease the likelihood of dreadful diseases, medicines that have been shown to lesson physical and psychic suffering, and the physics that enables planes to fly.

I heard an article recently that stated that although many people profess religious faith, we, as a society, live as though we are all atheists (except jihadists, of course, who might be the only ones who actually live the commandments of their deity whose dignity is threatened by virtually everything).  Why buy car/auto/life insurance if I’m confident that god will take care of me and my family/loved ones?  Why stop at red lights if my personal angel will make sure I won’t meet up with some nasty traffic incident?  Indeed, we must all, in reality, live as atheists.  Some of us just acknowledge it.  I’m willing to entertain all possibilities, so I will admit that I am, in essence, an agnostic, for I don’t profess to know that there is no “skydaddy,” but at the very same, I’m not willing to bet on its existence, either.  I’m not a gambler by nature (though some of my life decisions were, indeed, calculated risks for which I am now living the consequences), so I’m not betting on the possibility of there being a Supreme Being who takes an interest in my personal well-being, or that of anyone else.

There’s no eternal homecoming at the end of this world and universe (as we know it).  Our species might end, and we will take many other species with us;  but the earth, unless humans manage to create so destructive a force (like the Death Star of Star Wars infamy) that we manage to destroy it, this very planet, the Earth, as we call it, will continue.  If Gaia (if such a personification can be given to the living planet) could rid herself of us, the most invasive and destructive species known, then I think she’d be relieved and pleased.  It’ll likely be at a high cost (other species that will also be lost) to get rid of the human species, but, in the long run, the planet will be, on the whole, better off, and will, given geological time, rejuvenate and continue to evolve.

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And So It Shall Begin

One week from today, I will board an Amtrak train, the Surfliner, and travel to Union Station in Los Angeles.  From there, I will take the Gold Line light rail to a neighborhood between Pasadena and Glendale (though the hotel staff liked to refer to its location as being in Glendale).  I will be taking an earlier train than I’d intended, but all of the reserved seats had already been taken on the afternoon trains that I preferred.  I suppose I could try to take one of the afternoon trains, taking an unreserved seat, but since those seats are not guaranteed, I’d be worried that no seats would be available at all, and that I’d be left with traveling on Friday night, arriving in LA very late, leaving me too tired for the all-day class on Saturday.  On Saturday, I will have an early breakfast (as early as it’ll be available, as my room rate comes with breakfast), then take a taxi into Pasadena for the first of two classes.  The course is a preparatory class for sitting for the LEED Green Associate Exam, which I hope to pass on the first go.  It’s $250 per attempt, but more than that, my continuing my vocational rehabilitation plan depends upon passing.  I am hoping to pass this calendar year, so that I may begin, in January, to take the computer software classes that will make me more employable.

There is quite a bit riding on this exam, and, naturally, I’m nervous.  One young man whom I met in a seminar at the Energy Innovation Center (on LEED Core Concepts) is studying to take the Green Associate exam and the Neighborhood Development Specialty exam in the next month.  We commiserated about how it is nearly impossible to find a job in architecture without holding some LEED accreditation, with the minimum being a Green Associate designation after one’s name.  Accreditation requires maintenance, as well.  There are, thankfully, free seminars that provide continuing education credits which one can use for the purpose of maintaining one’s accreditation.  In the past, I’ve already attended a number of these seminars, but since I was not (yet) a “LEED Professional,” I was merely enjoying learning the material.  Yes, I’m a little bit of a nerd…

The thing that will make the exam difficult for me is the terminology.  The difference between “integrated” and “integrative,” among other very specific semantics, will likely be tested.  I’ve had a mixed relationship with semantics, because, in some ways, I’m very nit-picky when it comes to certain definitions, but less so with others.  In some instances, I’m willing to accept the “well, you know what I mean,” notion of language, and in others, I’m insistent that no, I don’t know that is meant when the wrong word (or form of a word) is used.  This difference, specifically, if I understand it correctly, is that a method can be integrated into a process, whereas the entire process itself is integrative because it has the quality of being made up of several integrated disciplines.  In other words, architecture is, itself, an integrative profession because it encompasses so many different knowledge bases.  I’ve heard the phrase that an architect is, in essence, a “master of all trades,” having to take into account all of the various specifics that go into the construction of a building.

I will make the return trip, after each Saturday (the two first consecutive ones next month), in the evening after class, likely exhausted and sleepy.  I will need to keep at least part of myself awake so that I can listen for the announcement when the train reaches my stop, Sorrento Valley, since I will be leaving my car there to return home, since parking there is free.  Catching the train there saves me travel, since I don’t have to go all the way downtown to get the train at Santa Fe Station, and time, since I don’t have to travel further to get to the train at all.  Taking it “on its way” heading north.

I’m excited and nervous…  And, as I’ve already said, though I don’t believe in it, you can wish me luck.

Bread!

I started a dough the other afternoon:

~370 g whole wheat flour

~165 g a-p flour

1 1/2 c. cold water

1/4 c. oil (I used grapeseed)

1/4 t. yeast

1 1/2 t. salt (about 10 g)

I let the mixer do the work of combining the ingredients and initially mixing the dough.  I removed the (very dense) dough from the bowl, oiled the bowl (sprayed with additional grapeseed oil), turned the dough so that the oil coated the top of the dough, and then covered the bowl with plastic wrap.  After the dough doubled in bulk, I turned it out onto the stone counter and kneaded the air out of it.  I then resprayed the bowl and set the dough back in for an overnight rise.  The next day, I came back and turned the dough back out onto the stone counter.  I kneaded it again, adding about 200 g of each finely-cubed feta (surface-dried the cheese first so that it didn’t add extra moisture to the dough) and finely chopped pitted Kalamata olives.  I kneaded these additions into the dough thoroughly, and, as expected, my hands were an oily mess when I finally put the dough into a semolina-dusted loaf pan.  I set the oven to 350 deg. F. to preheat for about a half hour while the dough had its final rise, covered with a linen cloth, on the stovetop, where the exhaust from the oven kept it warm.  The loaf baked for about 40 minutes.  The lower baking temperature allowed a crust to form without becoming too hard, so that the resulting loaf has a soft crust and crumb, with the olives and feta evenly distributed throughout.  After removing the bread from the oven, I placed it on a cooling rack covered with the linen cloth.  I gave it one hour to finish the baking process (the interior of the loaf continues to bake after it’s removed from the oven for about an hour, so don’t slice freshly-baked bread that hasn’t sat out for at least an hour!).

So far, I’ve had a couple of slices and a heel.  Kat’s had about the center third of the loaf.  The remaining portion will likely be consumed before we depart this evening for the weekend.

This morning, I chopped about a cup of dried sour cherries and added them to shredded coconut.  I preheated the oven to 325 deg. F, then added about an 1/8 t. of salt, 3/4 c. of a-p flour, and 1 T granulated sugar to the cherry-coconut mixture, stirring thoroughly to evenly distribute the flour into the fruit.  I added a can of sweetened condensed milk and mixed the mass thoroughly until it had a consistent, not altogether “wet” consistency.  I used a 2T scoop (1/8 c.) to form individual macaroons onto silicone-lined baking sheets.  I ended up with 39 of them on two baking sheets.  I baked them for about 20 minutes, until they had a tinge of brown on their tops.

Incidentally, I decided to make use of the oven more fully and roasted some garlic as well (I used my enameled cast iron Le Crueset garlic roaster).  Since the garlic roaster has a lid, I wasn’t worried about contaminating the flavor of the macaroons with garlic.

The garlic, roasted with EVOO drizzled on top, is now ready to be mashed and spread onto toast.  Perhaps the feta-olive bread will meet mashed roasted garlic as my afternoon snack!

Wasted Time

I’ve been giving a bit of thought to the notion of wasting time.  While, on the one hand, I could have been spending the last several years wasting time, I’ve at least some accomplishments I can point to as things that I’ve been able to achieve.

Moving to California was not the first option I considered when I was facing divorce (and loss of immediate residence).  However, taking it as something that could possibly lead to something better than what I had, and with the caveat that I could always return to the D.C. region in the future, I decided to make the move.  Settling in took many months.  I spent a lot of my early days walking along the asphalt-paved walkway in PB down to the Belmont Park and then back to Garnet, where I’d catch the 27 bus back to Kearny Mesa, where I transferred to the 20 to get home.  My earliest impression of San Diego was as an huge city, with so many neighborhoods that took just so long to get to (via bus) that they must have been quite distant.  Once I started driving, however, I was able to develop a more realistic mental image of San Diego.  It wasn’t quite as sprawling as I’d originally believed, though it is a spread-out collection of neighborhoods.

I formed friendships through Meetup.com events during which I met people with whom I had at least something in common.  It could have been playing board games, or having intellectually-engaging conversations about some chosen, usually timely, topic, or, as I became a more active member and then an organizer for SDNA&A, dinners at various restaurants in San Diego and picnics in Balboa Park.

I found a community that showed me the regard that I show others when I realize they are “on my team,” so to speak.  SDNA&A is the acronym for the San Diego Neighborhood Atheists & Agnostics.  This was not the original name of the Meetup group, but in his effort to make the group’s name more inclusive, Pedro changed the “N” from “New” to “Neighborhood” and added the second “A,” since all individuals who actually think about it would consider themselves agnostic, because there is a chance, even as unlikely as it is, that there exists a Supreme Being who created the universe.  SDNA&A a wonderful space in which I don’t have to worry about being preached at by a bible-thumper whose mission is to save themselves by saving me.  In fact, since moving to San Diego, I’ve found myself becoming less tolerant of religious gibberish (and most of it is exactly that, gibberish).  Yes, that has limited my friendships, but as an introvert, I’m not particularly bothered by spending time with myself.

I’ve learned to appreciate the time I have by myself by valuing the time I spend with others.  In particular, I’ve found that I can spend days on end in the company of one particular person, who, as it turns out, is probably almost as introverted as I am.  Together, we are able to ride in comfortable silence when taking a driving trip.  When we traveled to Monterey and Carmel, our companionable silence was broken only when there was something that occurred to one of us that we wanted to share.  The ensuing conversation would run its course, then we’d return to watching the landscape pass.  Of course, I had a much easier time of doing this, since I didn’t actually do any of the driving.  I’m lucky that Peter doesn’t mind driving, even though it does eventually tire him out.

In the life I’ve led since moving to San Diego, I’ve acquired a suitable road bike which I enjoy riding, and have developed more than just a passing interest in SCUBA diving.  I became a certified Open Water Diver in time to celebrate what might have been a depressing 40th birthday.  Through diving, I’ve continued to make new acquaintances, friends, and, as it turns out, a loving relationship, which has blossomed into something satisfying, enjoyable, and, I hope, long-lasting.  While neither of us harbors fantasies of lifelong partnership (we’re realists, after all, in addition to being skeptics), we have found nothing (yet) that might serve as a precipitating cause for breakup.  I feel no tension with Peter, alone or in a group setting.  On the contrary, I feel relaxed because of his presence.  I hope I have a similar effect on him.  I believe him when he tells me he loves me, confident in its mutuality.  At this point in my life, I’ve found a true partner with whom to share my life as it unfolds.  The difference in our ages is reflected in the ages of our children.  His daughters are in their later twenties.  Kat is in her mid-teens (though she is just beginning to behave like a teenager, as Peter pointed out recently).  He lends me his experience in raising daughters (even as his wife attempted to keep him separated from them).  He gives me much-appreciated advice when I find myself flummoxed by parental situations.

Soon, I will be starting on a journey, a return, to the world of architecture and construction.  I’ve completed creating an Individual Plan for Employment with my Department of Rehabilitation counselor, and will soon receive, probably in the post, study materials for the LEED Green Associate exam.  Next month, I will attend a course (two class meetings) which are designed to help me prepare for sitting for the exam.  I am nervous, but excited, as well.  Very excited.  My counselor is planning on my success in achieving the credential, after which I will commence on a year-long study program that will reacquaint me with an architectural software program as well as learn to work within a different operating system.  Through a series of biweekly courses, I will develop a “feel” for and familiarity with the software and be able to apply it.  At the same time, I will be maintaining my Green Associate credential through attending classes that focus on sustainability as it pertains to the built environment.

Life is about to become much, much busier.  I’m looking forward to the ride.

The Law is NOT My Friend, But the Future Can Be

I’ve learned, the hard way, that being right doesn’t mean one will prevail in American jurisprudence.  I suppose the worst part is the money I actually paid to an attorney, which ended up being more than if I’d conceded the case from the beginning.  However, I was (foolishly, as it turned out) confident that the judge would see the correctness of my actions and decide in my favor.  No such luck.

Turns out that some judges, as the one sitting my case, are swayed by emotional arguments.  Therefore, the judge in my case neglected the legality of my actions, and judged the case according to the emotions (some might label near-hysteria) expressed by the opposing party.  Unfortunately, this took place in Virginia (and, as we all know, air fares between Virginia and California are not cheap, as are hotels), so I was dependent on an attorney who was described to me as a specialist in the field.  Apparently not special enough.

Perhaps this judge was already prejudiced against my case because of who my attorney was, or that I actually used an attorney instead of flying out there, staying at a hotel, and showing up myself.  I suppose, though, in the long run, at least the other party is just about out of my life and there is very little that needs to be done.  As we were instructed to say in college, after any final exam, “It’s over.”

There remains some financial obligations that will surface in the coming days and weeks, and I intend to use my legally-available time frame to complete such actions.

Yes, I am embittered by my experience with legal settings and the entirety of American jurisprudence, or, rather, the “justice” system as it exists in this country.  Well, I’m about to move my interests out of Virginia, anyway;  soon, all of my real concerns will have moved west of the Mississippi.

In my personal life, I am scheduled for an initial consultation with a surgeon in LA for potential elective outpatient surgery that offers to improve the quality of my life.  No, not cosmetic surgery in the classical sense.  Never mind that.  I would think that anyone who has ever followed anything I’ve written to know that my vanity does not reach that level of financial investment.  It’s not that i don’t give a rat’s ass about my outward appearance (though, for the most part, that is true), but that I’d rather feel better in my experience of life.  Yes, I’m already medicated to my eyeballs (not really), but this concerns something much more physical and less emotional, though of course, any physical characteristics of one’s body will affect one’s self-image.  If I decide to go head with it, it’ll cost more than the attorney’s fees that I just paid out.  But as an investment in myself, it seems a fairly low price to pay for improving my life in a rather intimate way.

In other news, I will be meeting with my DoR counselor, Jeffrey, on Wednesday to discuss my Individual Plan for Employment.  I will make my presentation to him of the recommendations of Jean-Louis, and my own feelings on pursuing future employment.  My proposal will consist of:

  1.  computer training in the software that has become the industry standard;
  2.  LEED training and study for the Green Associate exam;  and
  3. learning Mandarin.

If Jeffrey resists my desire to learn Mandarin, I will refer to the job posting that I’d sent him just after our first appointment, during which he suggested that I put off studying Mandarin until I start working, which will likely not come until at least next year.

In the long run, I’ll see what the Department is willing to pay for.  It behooves me to “shoot for the Moon” and gain as much training as possible, as soon as possible, to make myself the best job candidate I can be.  I’m nervous, for sure, at the prospect of going back into the job market and the working world, especially since I’ve been out for almost a decade, but working on real projects that improve the lives of real people will make the entire enterprise worthwhile.  The thing that I loved about practicing architecture was the human interaction and the satisfaction of making a real positive difference in someone’s life.  I really enjoy setting my mind to a program and inventing a solution.  I know I’ve done it before, and, with some practice, I can return to it.  Although I don’t believe in it, please feel free to wish me luck with this venture.