Suddenly, I Live in a Desert

Suddenly, I Live in a Desert

I walked in a desert.
And I cried,
“Ah, God, take me from this place!”
A voice said, “It is no desert.”
I cried, “Well, But—
The sand, the heat, the vacant horizon.”
A voice said, “It is no desert.”
—Stephen Crane

The above-quoted something circulates in academic circles as a poem. It doesn’t much resemble a poem, but the word of the literary critic is the word of god. What follows from this purported poem, besides that judeo-christian god is mean, is that there is no consensus as to what a desert is. (On an irreligious note, I am aware that I’m supposed to capitalise Judeo-Christian God, except I prefer not to.)

What is this thing, the desert, then? First, what makes a desert desert-ish is its deserted quality. Duh. In other words, the desert is a non-entity in the middle of nowhere where there is no civilisation, vegetation, animation or Wi-Fi. (Again, I am aware that this doesn’t even make sense, but I like it.) I look around—and yep, there’s nothing of substance around here, so check. Furthermore, a quality desert is boiling at day and freezing at night. I feel around—and indeed, these features check, too.

The obvious conclusion is that I live in a fucking desert. (Insert a dramatic pause when I’m waiting for a voice to tell me that this is not a fucking desert. — Nothing. Nevermind.) About deserts, you would have noticed the recent heatwave. Unless you live in an underground nuclear shelter because no one told you that the cold war is over-ish. If that’s the case, stay put, you’re good and cool down there.

I’m mostly glad for global warming. A person has the right to be warm at least a few days in a year and, above all, global warming doesn’t give a shit whether I approve of it or not. So I might just as well approve and have one problem less. This year though, global warming broke its personal record. Before this year’s heatwave, I didn’t live in a desert. And then I woke up like dis and suddenly I did.

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Tesco has AC. I don’t

My accustomed and perfectly acceptable indoor temperature at the peak of an average summer heatwave is 86 F (30° C). My preferred indoor temp in any season is 78.8 F (26° C). Lower than that is not consistent with life. This year my room is at 87.8 F (31° C), which doesn’t seem like much difference, but it’s exactly the difference between yeah, okay and nah, too much. I got hot. Not sexy hot but sweaty-ish hot. (Maintaining that a) I’m always sexy hot, b) I don’t sweat, I perspire, and I don’t perspire.)

I got so super hot that I got to sleep on top of the blanket. Even more appalling, in the worst days, I had to sleep sans clothes. It was highly confusing. I hate to sleep uncovered and uncurled and I don’t particularly enjoy waking up and looking at my boob. All weird, creased and crinkled because boobs are affected by gravitation when their owner is lying flat, and it’s not a flattering perspective. Don’t look at your boobs when lying down.

Also, one day I got so hot hot that I went to hang out in Tesco. They have AC. I spent two hours and cooled down very thoroughly because the place was a fucking freezer. Next time I’ll know to bring a coat. Apart from minor frostbite that I incurred, it was a highly enjoyable stroll. I read all the labels on all the products. I bought a thing or two. And then they kicked me out in the oven outside because they were closing. Tomorrow I’m going again. I’m bringing my laptop to set up an office there. You’re not gonna get rid of me that easy.

I Went to a Party (No, Really!)

I Went to a Party (No, Really!)

I’m like Thomas Pynchon. People know me by name but no one has really seen me. I’m also not like Thomas Pynchon because there’s no mystery to my invisibility: I hardly ever go out and I let no one in. So, duh. Probably also unlike Thomas Pynchon, I recognise that social isolation causes craziness in sane people and boosts craziness in already insane people. The latter being my case, I sensibly decided that I shall bravely go where I have never gone before and will attend a party to which my acquaintance inexplicably invited me, probably acting in a fit of crazies.

After double-checking that the invite wasn’t a drunk misclick (I’m sure it was, but the party person took pity and assured me of his undying friendship acquaintance and his being okay with me coming), I dressed up and ventured out. I assumed that my acquaintance, like me, had no friends and that the party wouldn’t be a big deal. Feel free to imagine in unflattering visuals my surprise (like eyes popping out and tongue lolling from the open mouth) when I arrived to find half the village at the spot. I knew next to no one there, so after presenting my strikingly original present of a bottle of wine to the party leader, I sat down next to the nearest random person.

I had asked for water to start with, so I set my plastic cup in front of me and proceeded to introduce myself to my neighbour. The neighbour probably told me his name, which I didn’t forget—because I didn’t even hear it to start with. I wonder whether it’s a sign of egoism that I never listen to people when they’re introducing themselves. If it is indeed the case, consider me sufficiently punished because the longer you’ve known a person, the more awkward it gets to ask their name. My conversation with the random unknown party goer was more than disastrous.

The stranger showed me a wound on his leg, which was bleeding through the bandage. I spontaneously attempted to summon a deity in which I don’t believe (“OMG!”) and inquired what had happened. “It was at work,” he says. “Oh,” I say, more or less successfully feigning interest in the bloody blotch, “what were you doing?” He says, “Working.” I see. I don’t see, of course, but I don’t want to pry. So I try something different: “And what do you do?” He looks at me and says, “Same as everyone else.” Oh. I’m puzzled but choose to assume that I’m doing it wrong.

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The party took place at the yellow river

After a while, the stranger bends over and unties my shoe lace. Somewhat taken aback, I’m waiting for what it’s gonna be. The stranger resumes his seat and does absolutely nothing. So I say, “Okay, that’s it?” He confirms. That explains everything. Not. I tentatively express my disappointment, “You know, I was waiting for a point to it…” He says nothing. After a bit, I go on, “That was a token of affection or an act of hostility?” The former, he says. Instead of yelling, What the fuck are you, four or what?, I practise the Buddhist teachings of acceptance, honour and respect, and say, if somewhat insincerely, “Oh, that’s nice.”

Because I didn’t have the balls to tell the stranger that I was worried that idiocy was infectious, I said, though quite frankly, that I needed a drink and moved on. I didn’t grab a drink until much later and went on carrying around my cup of water, causing many eyebrows to raise. The ultimate havoc I wreaked was however when I politely refused the pot that was being passed around, laughing that I was a bit too grown-up for that crap. I should’ve kept my trap shut. Though I’ve meanwhile become a village legend (the village equivalent of the urban legend) because I genuinely can’t speak the colloquial variant of my mother tongue, which raised major suspicions.

Against my better judgement, I eventually had a few shots, but managed to stay the most sober person around, second only to the dogs and kids present. I recently decided I was too grown-up to get stupid drunk. Shrug. I tried my hand (tongue) at some more conversations. I was the most successful with someone’s mother, who was twice my age and apparently found herself at the party by mistake, like me. I totally killed it (in the bad way) when someone was explaining that they sought to be awarded invalidity pension and I thought they were joking, so I joined in, “Haha, a good one, who’d want a pension, right?” Except they weren’t joking. They thought I was joking when I attempted to explain my view that it takes an exceptional person not to get uselessly wasted away once they’re on pension and don’t have to do anything.

When it got dark, cold and people started slurring beyond comprehension, I took the liberty to leave. I went depressed and despondent. How do I never fit anywhere? Like, it’s probably me, right? How do I literally and figuratively, on all planes, don’t speak the same language as everyone else? And, are there people who do speak my tongue? If so, where the fuck are the suckers hiding? I do wonder what the other party goers’ interpretation of my presence at the party would be. Provided they’d remember anything of it or bothered to care about it in the first place. I’m sure it’d be totally different from mine. I’m stumped.

I Have a New Psychiatrist (That’s My Life Now)

I Have a New Psychiatrist (That’s My Life Now)

My old psychiatrist retired (probably to devote himself full-time to his drinking hobby) and was replaced by a new psychiatrist. Unlike the old guy, the new lady is less than a hundred and doesn’t appear to have a drinking problem (good for her).

I bear no grudge against her (yet), but as per usual, I’ve been quite passive-aggressive at our first date. She surely hated me at first sight, which is only right and mutual because I hate people by default. This might explain my passive-aggressive tendencies.

My new psych person had the old psych person’s office completely cleared, so now she practises in a large and mostly empty room. I’m scared of open spaces, so here you go. Also, she brought in a new table and positioned it in the wrong place. I’m OCD, so here you go again.

I tried hard to conduct myself, so I didn’t point out that she ruined everything for me. (She even moved the nurse’s station to the wrong wall, and nothing will ever be the same.) We had the following largely disappointing conversation.

Psych: So, how have you been feeling?
Me: (What I thought: That’s a question beneath your profession. If I were feeling anything else than poorly, I wouldn’t be here, right? Elementary, doctor.) What I said: Poorly. (What I didn’t add: But I accept that it is what it is and I let it go, as my positive affirmations have me believe.)

Psych (staring at me): You look anxious.
Me (staring in a wall behind her): (What I thought: Right, that’s because I have anxiety, just check my bloody chart, duh.) What I said: Yes.

Psych: What about we try increasing the antidepressant dose?
Me: (What I thought: Whatever. It’s not like I’m a doctor. Oh, wait. I am a doctor. Whew.) What I said: Okay.

Psych: And what do you do?
Me: (What I thought: Ow fuck, now we’re going to chit-chat? As a doctor, you should know that it’s not what I do but how I deal with it. Also, don’t try to outsmart me. You’re no match for my intellectual arrogance.) What I said: Work from home.

Psych: You don’t talk much, right?
Me: (Nothing. Why state the obvious.)
Psych: OK, so see you in a month.
Me: (If I live to see the next month.) OK.

I guess I’m not a very amiable person. Actually, I’m sure of that because I spend a lot of time with myself and I hate every second. I’m such an annoying little smartass. Currently on more antidepressants than before, so we’ll see.

So I Was Trying to Cook…

So I Was Trying to Cook…

I cook every day. Still, I’m even worse than the worst cook ever. In cooking, I follow strict principles:

  • the dish must not require more than two ingredients
  • no more than two pots and one piece of kitchen utensil are allowed
  • it has to be done in under ten minutes

I usually end up with cooked frozen veggies and tofu.

I was feeling ambitious today, though, so I procured exotic ingredients to produce a shockingly complex meal. An omelette.

It involved eggs, bacon and onion. (This breaks the rule of maximum two ingredients.) It took half an hour to make. (This breaks the ten-minutes-tops rule.) I had to dust off a plethora of kitchen utensils I own just so but never use. (This breaks the two pots/utensils rule.)

In short, I wasn’t recognising myself. I forgive myself though for I did not know what I was doing. (Literally.)

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Guess what! An omelette.

I needed to Google the recipe. Why, no, I don’t really know how to make an omelette. The recipe called for a pan, but fuck that, I don’t keep such devilish devices at home. So a pot it is instead. The instructions demanded that I beat the eggs. What? I’m pacifist, I don’t beat anything. I compromised though and massaged the eggs for a bit in a mug with a fork. That’ll do.

I was also peeling and cutting an onion. I couldn’t believe what was happening. It was seriously surreal. Onions might be nice, but they’re optional and I don’t remember ever going for the option. (It goes against all that my minimalist cooking code represents.) I was trying to make small cubes from half an onion, alas, I somehow ended up with thick crescent-shaped slices. Whatever.

I vaguely remembered from my random observations of people cooking that you put the onion in first. Which I did. It well quite well to start with. Then I put in the bacon and poured the eggs over it. Only then did I attempt to add salt and pepper, which turned out to be a bit late because it didn’t mix. Oh well.

I proceeded to hypnotise the pot and wait.

The recipe claimed the omelette is ready when the top gets crusty. The top refused to do such a thing and while I was willing to wait for it, I was increasingly disturbed by the smell of something burning that started to emanate from the pot. I tentatively poked the work in progress and found that it got stuck to the pot. *shrug* I peeled it off and discovered the omelette’s bottom is burnt and the top is raw. Interesting.

It tasted better than it looked but you’d better not try this at home.

I’ve Been Actively Anti-OCD Today

I’ve Been Actively Anti-OCD Today

It’s not often that I try to go against my OCD. After all, I have more urgent issues to struggle with. But when I do go anti-OCD, it’s in the weirdest ways. You’d never believe what one can OCD about. For example, a computer game.

The only game I ever purchased is Age of Empires. Yes, the 1990s game. The idea of the game is that you build a town and defeat your enemy. I don’t care about the fight (see above, I have enough to fight with) but I care about my virtual city immensely.

So my idea of this game is that I set the difficulty to the easiest level and spend the game time carefully aligning my town buildings, producing a predetermined number of villagers and distributing them equally among various tasks.

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OCD style

Mind you, there must be an equal proportion of male and female villagers. The total number of each gender and the total number of villagers respectively must be divisible by two. Female villagers must not be assigned strenuous tasks, like ore mining or wood gathering. Male villagers must not be farmers, fishermen or gatherers.

Also, soldiers must come in even numbers. The army must consist of only one type of soldier, though extra siege weapons are allowed. Should anything go wrong at the first attempt—a building is misaligned or villagers aren’t divided into two equally sizeable groups by gender—the unit must be deleted and replaced as applicable.

Today I ended up with one extra female villager. That was a bugger. The villager insisted that she feels to be a woman, hence I couldn’t pretend they were transgender. That pissed me off and, against all idiosyncratic rules I created for the game, I assigned the poor woman to gold digging, along with three males.

I didn’t enjoy the game and resigned it after a few minutes. This might or might not have to do with my OCD. I’m pleased with myself because I’ve been actively anti-OCD; but I’m somewhat upset that nothing holds my interest these days. I used to play this game often and with pleasure, and now I can’t find anything that I’d marginally enjoy. So please excuse me, I’ll try my hand at reading for a change.

Making the World a Better Place

Making the World a Better Place

Because that’s what you say in tech, right?

I’ve always wanted to be a software tester. (Always means ever since I got sense and shifted my flaming passion for Scottish Literature—why, yes, Scotland has a literature—to all things tech. After all, it is a truth universally acknowledged that code is poetry.) If you’re, like me, deeply in love with WordPress and testing, I have a secret to tell you. You can totally test WordPress! Check out WP Horizon testing environment! (This so deserves exclamation marks in two consecutive sentences.)

That’s however not how I got to be a WP tester myself. (No, I’m not really a WP tester, but I had a go at it, twice!—another excited exclamation mark.) A few days ago I received an email from WP offering me to take for a test drive a new commenting interface. I nearly spammed the message (because, hello, if it’s too good to be true, then it must be spam). Then I googled the sender, who actually appeared to be WP staff. (Either that, or I’m the victim of a conspiracy scheme. Or I’m just paranoid.)

I replied not at my earliest convenience, not even ASAP, but immediately. I jumped at the opportunity, obviously, and reserved my slot for a video call straight away. Another day, I found another email from WP in my inbox. It was an invitation to do user testing of WP’s new editor. (Yep. That’s how popular I am.) I tried to act casual. It didn’t work out because I replied in the affirmative (What’s more than affirmative? Superlative?) and hastily signed up for a slot for another video call. (Whew!)

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WordPress swag ❤

I got instructions that I didn’t need to prepare for the testing in any way. So I took a day off to prepare for the testing. (Yes, I know.) On D day, as the H hour was approaching, I started to panic. For no good reason, but try telling that to my anxiety. I ended up medicating. (Perfectly legit and prescription sanctioned.) Shaking just a bit, as the Lexaurin was starting to take effect, I opened the link for the video call as my clock struck five. (Kidding, I don’t have a clock, this is the 21st century.)

A youngish good-lookish male face popped up on my screen (the youngish good-lookish guy would surely prefer not to be named here and I can’t vouch for the youngish and good-lookish part because the picture was small and blurry). But, that was a reason to panic. I know what a video call is but it didn’t occur to me that we’d be exchanging faces. I thought we’d be exchanging screens (screen is not an euphemism). Damn it. Seriously. I wasn’t presentable. I was wearing pants, but a hairband and no make-up isn’t presentable. (Of course that no one cares, but I do. Full stop.)

For convenience, let me call the youngish and good-lookish guy GOD. (At the uni, I’d idolise professors, now I idolise tech people, so GOD it is.)  God spoke to me: I can’t see you. I talk back: It’s a good thing you can’t (not what I said). Of course God can’t see me, I have my camera covered for paranoia security reasons. (Also, I didn’t switch on the video function in the app—duh.)

After initial ice-breakers (Hello, I’m God and I am who I am. — Hello, I’m Mara and I don’t have a life and you’re the first person I’m speaking to in days, so please excuse my, uh, everything.), we got down to the testing. I opened the new commenting interface and went aww. Seriously, guys, it’s pretty and practical and when I love it, you’ll love it too. I wouldn’t bother praising something I don’t adore.

I was being extremely helpful. Such as: Oh, the Spam icon is the same red colour as the Bin icon, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. On which I went to my desktop to check what colour my Windows bin is, and it was grey. God, shall we make the bin grey, pretty please? I got an hour to play around with the new interface. According to God, it should roll out in a few weeks. Also, I was granted permission to blog about it because it’s apparently not secret. (Unless it is, and I’m an Edward Snowden.)

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Packed with Jetpack

The testing was awesome and thoroughly enjoyable. I even got excited. (I never get excited unless there are kittens involved.) I was so excited I could hardly talk. You’d never believe they gave me a doctorate in English Literature if you heard me struggling with conditionals and spontaneously constructing new, never heard-of tenses at the spot. (*shrug*) At the end, I was asked for some general feedback on WP. I complained that with my second-world earnings, the cost of the paid plans is a small fortune. (Another greatly helpful feedback. Not.)

We said goodbyes. And God will never know I’m pretty. (Does one qualify as pretty when one is only pretty when made-up and dressed-up?) Anyway.

Cut. Enters God2. That’s the nickname for the other youngish and good-lookish WP guy whom I had a video session with. This testing was about the new editor. (But really, it was all about me. Better than therapy.) God2 says that he isn’t testing me and that there aren’t right and wrong answers. I say: Sure. (And I think: Sure, that’s what you say, but I’m prepared, and I start: “WP was founded in 2003 by Matt Mullenweg and is currently running on more than 60 million websites etc. etc.” Because I’m a Wikipedia.)

To start off on the right foot, I immediately offend God2’s professional pride by confessing how I disapprove of the new editor. However, I blame myself. (I’m not sure why but I say so, and that’s enough.) God2 is visibly upset and blames himself. On which I’m sincerely sorry, from the depth of my cold black heart, and I mention kittens. Not related to anything whatsoever, but kittens! God2 cheers up because he has three of them. Kittens. I cheer up because he’s a cat gentleman (the male mutation of a cat lady).

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I have a rainbow WP sticker and the cat isn’t impressed

I beg God2 to outlaw hamburger menus and toggle options. Because I WANT TO SEE IT ALL. At once. That’s how greedy I am. In exchange, I promise God2 that I will give the new editor yet another chance. I mean it. For God2’s sake, I’m writing this in the new editor! Also, to give the impression that I’m knowledgeable (and to pass the test which isn’t a test but it is), I throw around random terms: Calypso. Framework. CMS. target_blank. White screen of death (no, seriously, that’s a thing!).

I wanted to conclude with something deep and important but I forgot what. Instead, I’d like to thank everyone involved, that is, WP staff, particularly God1 and God2, my laptop Lena and myself, who collectively made all this possible. Also, I’d like to thank my cat (who makes the world a better place too). The testing opportunity was a geek girl’s dream come true. So you know, WP people are really trying to do their job, as I’ve seen for myself. Let’s gloat in that. Here’s to WordPress (*raises her mug of generic brand coffee*)!

Socially Awkward Is Just a Nice Word for Incompetent

Socially Awkward Is Just a Nice Word for Incompetent

I’m socially anxious and therefore socially awkward by default. But when I’m feeling low, awkward doesn’t come anywhere close to adequately describing my social interactions. Totally incompetent is a much more fitting expression here.

Today it’s been one of these days. I thought a trip to the supermarket would cheer me up—because of Oreos. I always reward myself with Oreos when venturing out to get groceries. I thought wrong though. If anything, my outing made me even more depressed.

I attempted to reply to random people who tried to communicate with me, but it was pathetic. A Tesco employee nearly ran me over with her manipulation trolley because I wasn’t looking. She said, Sorry. Guess what I said. I said, Thank you. Thank you for what exactly?

In the supermarket

The cashier checked in my Oreos and asked the usual, Cash or card? No-brainer, right? Well, not really because I said, Yes. Yes to which? Duh. Wordlessly, I waved my card. The cashier got it. She even bagged my shopping, which is not a standard practice here.

I was so moved by her kind act that I was on the verge of tears. Why? Dunno. Probably tears of gratitude. Or tears of frustration. I wanted to say something—here my previous thank you would have been apparently appropriate—but I could think of nothing, so I grabbed my groceries and ran.