And let us try before we die to make some sense of life

I was going to start by saying “this was a week of mixed emotions,” but I realize that description fits most weeks.

So let me start again.

Work/home wise, not much happened this week, but I was looking forward to Friday, because we had tickets to the 5th Avenue Theatre’s production of Candide. Honestly, I’m not sure if I had actually seen a production of Candide before; I know I had never seen one live, but we may have watched one in Freshman Seminar. Regardless, I became a huge fan of the music just post-college, when Bernstein recorded his studio version. In particular, I’ve been in love with the finale, Make Our Garden Grow, since I first heard that recording. Musically, it’s almost Nirvana for a choral singer: lots of interesting harmony, great use of range, and you know, loud. Lyrically, it makes me melt. The gist is that the lead character has been spending his whole life searching for happiness, and has essentially learned that well, you make your own happiness through work, and making the best of life. I know, I know, this is really Voltaire and not Bernstein per se, but I’m a sucker for this arrangement and really it captures how I try to live:

You’ve been a fool
And so have I,
But come and be my wife.
And let us try,
Before we die,
To make some sense of life.
We’re neither pure, nor wise, nor good
We’ll do the best we know.
We’ll build our house and chop our wood
And make our garden grow…
And make our garden grow.
I thought the world
Was sugar cake
For so our master said.
But, now I’ll teach
My hands to bake
Our loaf of daily bread.
We’re neither pure, nor wise, nor good
We’ll do the best we know.
We’ll build our house and chop our wood
And make our garden grow…
And make our garden grow.
Let dreamers dream
What worlds they please
Those Edens can’t be found.
The sweetest flowers,
The fairest trees
Are grown in solid ground.
We’re neither pure, nor wise, nor good
We’ll do the best we know.
We’ll build our house and chop our wood
And make our garden grow.
And make our garden grow!

Of course I bawled as the cast sang this number. I can’t help it. They were tears of joy, however, and as we made our way to Palomino to meet friends who had been to see the Love Markets show (and indeed members of the Love Markets) I had the warm glow of finally being able to see my favorite music staged. But, we received some bad news there; Michael Orias, the manager of Tula’s, had died that day. Jim and Alicia DeJoie were also at Palomino, and I had gone with them to visit Michael in the hospital the night before. We knew it didn’t look good for him, but we had high hopes.

Michael was a fascinating human being. He had lived a really interesting life, and each time I talked to him I learned more about him. He was a big part of the reason that Tula’s became like a second home to me. He always took care of me, making sure I had food and drink, and we talked and gossiped and laughed, and long story short, I shall miss him.

I think it fitting that I heard Make Our Garden Grow just before hearing the news about Michael. It helped put things in perspective. I really believe that he made sense of his own life and did the best he knew.


You Can’t Always Get What You Want, and That’s a Good Thing

Over the past week, the Seattle Choral Company had the good fortune to perform with the Seattle Symphony Pops and Marvin Hamlisch in a concert version of The Music Man. Ashley Brown was playing Marian Paroo, and as we were standing onstage for most of the show, I got to watch her sing “My White Knight” from about four feet away for five performances. Consequently, I had a lot of time to think about the lyrics:

My White Knight, not a Lancelot, nor an angel with wings
Just someone to love me, who is not ashamed of a few nice things.

All I want is a plain man
All I want is a modest man
A quiet man, a gentle man
A straightforward and honest man
To sit with me in a cottage somewhere in the state of Iowa.

All the while, I was standing there thinking “Oh, so really she wants to live with a nice gay man, then.” Of course, this is not what she wants, given that she then goes on to fall madly in love with the most dynamic, self-centered, womanizing, fastest-talking man she’s ever met.

Last night, as I lay sleepless, presumably because of the left over adrenaline, I thought about how this really is a nice little lesson about most things in life. I remembered how, when I was working on Windows Media Player, our marketing team would tell us what customers wanted, based on what they had said. Designing features based on this input alone almost always turned out either incomplete, or just plain useless. However, when we did usability studies that actually watched how people used things, that was much more helpful.

Last week, we watched an episode of “This Emotional Life” about happiness. There’s a lot discussed in this show, but one thing in particular is we, as humans, are not particularly good at predicting happiness, because when we achieve what we’ve wanted to, we strive for the next thing. One of the secrets to happiness is to be satisfied with what we have, and we tend to be most satisfied when we don’t see any alternatives.

In the last few years I’ve taken this to heart. I’ve really been mostly quite content…right up until my nearly perfect job went all haywire last year. Even then, I was quite content to leave, because I was confident about what was next…I just didn’t know what it was. Now, the not knowing is a bit overwhelming and the confidence is waning. In some ways, being able to wish for something concrete would be good, because it would give me focus. And yet, I know that getting what you wish for is rarely a good thing.

So, when you’re not where you want to be, but you don’t know where you want to be is, where are you?

Quick tip for scheduling odd appointment times in Outlook 2010

Note, if you’re reading this on Facebook, you probably cannot see the nifty screenshots that illustrate my points. To see the original post, go to:

One of the cool additions to the calendar in Outlook 2010 is the zoom functionality. This is also seen in other Office apps, like Word, but I like to use it in the calendar because it means I can quickly and easily schedule appointments in 15 or even 10 minute increments.

For example, when I want to make a 1/2 hour appointment in the calendar, it is (and always has been) super easy:

Select a 1/2 hour block with your mouse:

Then, right click and choose “New Appointment” or click the New Appointment button.

But, if I wanted to create a 15 minute or 45 minute appointment:

I had to click “New Appointment” then manually type in the start and end times, a la:

With the zoom functionality, however, I can quickly modify the increments in the calendar view down to 15, 10, 6, or 5 minute slots:

At 100% (normal) increments default to 30 minutes:

At 110% they move to 15 minutes:

At 120% they move to 10 minutes:

…and so on.

There’s a bonus, which is that you have tasks that you want to schedule time for, and they’re in your task pane (below the calendar), you can drag them into the smaller increments.

For instance, I’ve scheduled a task to pay my American Express bill on a particular day, and that only takes a few minutes.

In the shot below, I’ve dragged into a 10 minute slot at 11 AM (you’ll note that the task remains in the task pane even after dragging, because the scheduling of a task is a separate activity than the task itself):

You can download/install the Beta of Office 2010 from here:

Pobbling Copyright Kathleen Demaree, 2010, All Rights Reserved

I posted the definition of this word on Facebook a few days ago, and a few friends have told me they’ve used it in conversation, so I’d figure I’d go ahead and copyright it here in case any of you big marketing firms out there want to use it and pay me for the privilege.

Pobbling: when a liquid (most often a beverage) escapes from its container via a hole meant for controlled distribution. May seem to defy gravity in the process. Commonly, when a soda or coffee comes out of the straw or sipping hole in an undesired fashion. Combination of the words “pop” and “dribbling.” Example: I got this Coke (TM) from MacDonalds (TM) and it keeps pobbling out of the straw hole and dripping on my pants.

Also acceptable usage, pobble, pobbles. Example: Coffee pobbles out of the hole in my travel cup all of the time.

Imagine the marketing possibilities: (this awesome bubbly drink positively pobbles out of my cup it’s so good!).

Origin: word spontaneously invented by copyright holder ca. 1978 when a soft drink from the local pizza parlor would not remain in place.

He’s not mentally ill, he just acts that way

I had a good conversation with a friend yesterday about characters in a play that she’s in, and it got me thinking about the difference between mental illness and strange behavior. She was talking about the character analysis they had done in rehearsal, and how they had spent time discussing what could’ve happened in the characters’ childhoods (they are brother and sister) to make them behave the way that they do. Furthermore, the actors wondered what, exactly, in the characters’ makeup made one react so differently than the other.

Intertwined in this conversation was also the thought that sometimes, people who are otherwise mentally healthy have bad things happen to them, and their reactions to those bad things may be perceived as mental illness, but actually are rational responses to irrational situations. For example, if a woman is brutally raped, she might become afraid of men. To the observer, her fear of men might seem like mental illness, but in reality, that reaction is perfectly reasonable given what has happened to her. It doesn’t mean she shouldn’t work to overcome the fear, or that the behavior is healthy in the long run, but it does not mean she is ill, in the traditional sense. Perhaps, really the difference there is between ‘acute’ and ‘chronic’ mental illness. In this situation, a therapist would be forced to diagnose a condition via the DSM for this person. But, then again, even if you go to a therapist because you get a little down from time to time, they need to diagnose you with a disorder for insurance reasons.

The reason I found this conversation so interesting was I had come out of the play having ‘diagnosed’ the brother with mental illness, and I was assuming that his actions were the result of the illness. So, is he crazy, or is he sane, but behaving in a crazy way?

I seem to get caught up in conversations like this quite a bit. Over the past year or so, I was exposed to someone on a regular basis of whom people are afraid. Not, ostensibly, because she is violent, or even, really, terribly mean, but rather because her reactions and decisions are predictable in their unpredictability. I have spent long hours discussing her motivations with others who were trying to please her, only to counsel them not to bother because, in the vernacular, she is “bat-shit crazy.”

Now, having received my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, I know all too well that you are not supposed to label people as “crazy,” but the term is in fact an easy out when you don’t have the time, desire, or wherewithal to try and figure out whether someone is actually mentally ill, or whether they just behave that way. It’s best to realize that your energy is much better spent communicating with people who can communicate with you. As I said to my friend of this woman “she’s that crazy homeless person on the street with a knife, and you want to stay far enough away that she can’t stab you to death.”

Recently, Washington’s Governor Gregoire indicated that she supports the “Guilty, but mentally ill” conviction, and this also begs the question: do we always care *why* someone does something?

In the case of the “bat-shit crazy” lady, I really don’t give a damn why she does what she does. I’m not in her family, and I’m not in a position to help her. However, I found myself emotionally invested in the play’s characters, and I would, in fact, like to understand them better.

So, does the fact that I care about fake people more than real ones make me the crazy person? Or is that a rational response to an irrational situation?

Deprecating LJ

Since everyone that I was aware of actually reading my LJ is now on Facebook, I’m going to stop using LJ to post. I had been using LoudTwitter to ship my tweets, but again, since everyone I know that read this Journal either reads Twitter or FB, I find no need to keep that up either.

If I do feel compelled to do more long form writing, I’ll likely do it on my Windows Live Space ( Else pithy and brief tweets/status updates seem to work for me most of the time these days.

For those of you who I actually know who still write in LJ, I am reading your posts from time to time.

Take this memory please

I have an almost phobic reaction to paper. My father is an historian, and loves family notes, letters, pictures, etc. I however, feel as if a tremendous weight is created by these things. While there is part of me that appreciates that they exist, I don’t want them to exist here. I don’t want to have to deal with their storage, filing, organizing, or preservation. I will do anything I can to avoid being handed paper to do something with.

Today, I went through a file box from 1998 with the intention of clearing it out and using it for 2008’s paperwork. First of all, I dislike that here in 2009 we still *have* paperwork. I really would love to handle everything electronically, if I could, but there are still some things that are paper. However, I’ve figured out over time that I no longer need to keep most receipts, which is good.

Secondly, my reaction to this exercise is mostly one of revulsion. Instead of looking back through this stuff as a collection of fond memories, I find that I am just disappointed in myself – what I spent money on, what I wrote, what I did or didn’t do. Sure, there’s a healthy amount of self hatred here, but really, I’m just fine day to day if I’m not reminded of all this. I much prefer to live, I guess, “in the moment,” and not look back.

Ah, but I blog, right? Well, I do find the act of blogging to be somewhat therapeutic, and since I choose what I write (and it’s not on paper), I can look back at blog entries without that same revulsion. Also, really, since getting married, I no longer wish to wake up dead. Yeah, that’s right, I used to wish/pray, when I went to sleep at night, that I would die before morning. Actually, it took awhile after we were married to get rid of that, since I also hated work. Now, I just wake up and enjoy the fact that my husband still loves me 🙂 and that my job doesn’t suck (well, most of the time). Progress is good.

*sigh* back to the paperwork – gotta get my taxes together 🙂