Surviving BarCamp 2011

“What are you doing today?”

“Going to BarCamp.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s basically a day of douchebaggery and business card distribution, thinly disguised as a day of informative seminars.”

As you may have guessed, I was less than enthused about the idea of spending my Saturday attempting to mingle with people I’d never met. Three years of working from home has made me weird(er), and I wasn’t much of a mingler in the first place. Thus, the idea of being thrown into a room of total strangers and expected to mingle is right up there with “mow the lawn” and “go to baby shower” on the list of things I would rather not do.

I went because I have finally realized that working by yourself at home is perhaps not the best way to stay on top of what people are talking about. Yes, there’s twitter. There are blogs. But neither of those involve BEER, so I went to BarCamp. If nothing else, I would suck it up and perhaps learn how to mingle. Or at least watch successful minglers (aka “marketing people”) in their natural habitat. As I often do, I psyched myself up in order to develop a positive attitude:

“It’ll be like Big Cat Diary. In your head, you can narrate in a British accent. If all else fails, you can do what all other socially awkward people do: you can mess around with your phone and pretend it’s the most interesting thing ever.”

I ended up being pleasantly surprised. While not all of the panels I went to ended up being super exciting, I did actually end up meeting some cool people. I had some very pleasant and non-fake feeling conversations. Yes, I gave out my business card to a few people, but all but one of those people asked for said card. I tend to get into a conversation and completely forget to even OFFER the card, being too distracted by whatever’s being said and the general sensory overload of being in a room full of people.

I ran into a couple of people I know from the coffee shop, one guy I dated for a while and a couple of people I know from Twitter. The surprisingly pleasant day was topped off at the after party, held in a karaoke bar. When one fellow got on stage to sing “Purple Rain,” the initial crowd response was, “hey, he’s actually pretty good.” By the time the guy on stage was hitting the super-high notes at the end, the reaction had grown into “stunned, awed silence.”

“That’s the guy who played guitar for Prince in the 80s!”

“That’s Dez Dickerson?!”

(Of COURSE I knew the guy’s name. Are you new here?)

After he was done singing, I went over and showed him the pictures inside the locket I always wear. Purple Rain-era Prince on the right, Morris Day on the left.

I survived mingling, and I’m glad I didn’t peace out early. I believe this BarCamp thing will have to happen again.

GSAD: Goth Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is episodes of depression that occur at a certain time of the year, usually during winter.
-PubMed Health

Goth Seasonal Affective Disorder (GSAD) episodes usually occur during summer.

In winter, the world falls into a kind of sleep, putting so much energy into keeping warm that projects and to-do lists get put on hold until spring. The world gets distracted by snow days, holidays, and the promise of lying in bed drinking cocoa. Nobody wants to leave the bed. Hell, if you accomplish ANYTHING, you’ve done a lot more than everybody else.

For me, it’s like cold wind hits my face and everything in me says, “yes, let’s do this. Let’s put on boots and run around in the cold. Let’s run around in the fall leaves like dumbass pixies. Let’s collect the gold and red leaves and tell ourselves that we’ll iron them between sheets of wax paper, even though we know we won’t. Let’s leave the house without sunblock. Let’s sit out back and drink tea.”

August is like torture.

Fall sits there, right on the tip of your tongue, just out of reach. You want the tea, the leaves, the boots, the jackets, and they sit behind a glass wall, waiting just beyond the back to school merchandise.

Instead of fall, what we get in August is more endless death heat. More sunglasses, more sunblock, more butt sweat, more places with insufficient air conditioning, more allergies, more lawn mowing, more car seats searing our flesh. Any fascination the warmth may have had back in May (“let’s say ‘fuck it’ and have a picnic!”) is gone. Long gone and dead, roasted to a shriveled crisp on concrete that would cook your feet like bacon.

Mmm, bacon.

No one else understands. They sit there with their tans, tube dresses and umbrella drinks and say “but it’s so nice and SUNNY out. Doesn’t it make you want to DO things?”

No. It makes me want to hide in my house and hold as still as possible to avoid sweating. It makes me want to slather myself in spf 100. It makes me want to stab you and then go hide in an underground bunker until October. Until the endless cross country death march of summer. Thanks for asking, though.

All any of us can think about is Halloween, the feel of velvet and the smell of crisp air laced with the smell of leaves. Cinnamon. Knee boots. Crinolines. Driving around on cold, cloudy days listening to Nick Cave. Coats that swish in the wind. Candles. Blankets. Wearing fingerless gloves as I work outside at some coffee shop, warming my fingers on my tea.

It’s all right there, behind the glass. Beyond the back to school stuff. We just have to wait for it.

It’s coming, you guys.
I promise.

Passionate (part 2)

If you didn’t see yesterday’s post, you may want to start there. If you did see yesterday’s post, let’s continue on. In addition to the predictably goth pasttime of cemetery roaming…what things do I love?

1. Music
While I don’t get much time to play music anymore, I still love it like it was invented yesterday. Goth music still feels like home, but I also like a little Beyonce.

2. Dancing
I don’t have time for classes, and I have no intention of being on a stage, but I do still get a strong need to go tear up a local gay bar from time to time. Failing that, dancing around in my house works, too.

3. Antique malls
On the surface, this just looks like shopping. It’s not. It’s an opportunity to interact with history, see weird things, and touch vintage clothes. It’s like a museum, except that you can take things home with you.

4. Thrift stores
Again, this looks like shopping. This is mainly about seeing what weird, one of a kind things you can run into. What horrible, neon-colored fringed monstrosity you can hold up for your friend to see. What bizarre knick-knacks you can point and laugh at. Oh, and if you seeing anything truly horrible or awesome…you can take it home with you.

5. Makin’ web pages
Yes, work. I wouldn’t be damning myself to a life of trying to keep up with the internet if there weren’t times that made it rewarding. For every frustrating email, there’s a code victory. For every under appreciative boss, there’s a beautifully-styled bunch of body copy. For every thankless banner ad, there’s a well thought-out solution to a clusterfuck of an idea.

6. Sewing
Again, I don’t get to do as much of this as I’d like, but Jen and I have gotten into a delightful pattern of getting on Skype and doing things together. Sunday, she cleaned out her closet and I worked my way through my sewing pile and started a pair of shiny silver bloomers. To my added glee, Mr. Puss is now old enough that I’m allowed to lay out pattern pieces without them getting shredded.

7. Collage
This started in high school as a way of covering huge, bare walls. It keeps my hands busy and usually results in some huge collage rife with bizarre juxtapositions.

8. Brains!
Sometimes, the most rewarding thing you can do is just sit around, possibly with a glass of wine, and talk to your friends. A good conversation almost always results in some good blog idea, or at least a new perspective on an old thought. Because I promised myself I’d keep this list at an even 10, I’ll mush “writing” in with this one. Shh. Nobody has to know we actually made it to 11.

9. Crossword puzzles
I’m slowly trying to get good enough to compete in that tournament that’s put on by the New York Times. I can still only finish a Sunday New york Times puzzle about 20% of the time, but that’s not too shabby for my age. When I finish a puzzle, it goes on the fridge.

10. Exercise
I know, I know. Everybody hates the person who’s like “I just love exercise, cause it makes me feel good!” but sorry. It does make me feel good, and there’s a sense of accomplishment that comes from being able to jog a quarter of a mile farther than I could the week before. Doing the 6-mile loop on the weekends is also a nice way to commune with my Lady Gaga Pandora station.


noun. any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as love or hate.

“What are you passionate about? What is your passion?”

Frankly, that’s a lot of pressure, and I think we Americans use the word “passion” a little too loosely. There is not one thing on Earth that makes me want to jump up on a table and yell for hours about how I love it so much that I can barely contain my passion for it. There’s not one damn thing that I would point to and say “yes. This thing right here. THIS is my passion.” I think that would only result in putting a lot of weight on one thing in my life. Once upon a time, I spent 4 hours a day playing the piano. Even then, I wouldn’t have called it a “passion.” I would have described it as “this thing I do that I enjoy that keeps me from killing people.”

Does that mean I don’t have any passions? I don’t think so. It’s just means that I simmer instead of boiling. Keeps me from scorching things, don’t you know.

There’s a lot of shit that I get excited about. I get excited about stuff in my career all the time. The other night when I realized how to apply the stuff I’ve learned in my .NET class instead of them just being pretty learny things, I got all giggly on the inside. The idea of learning proper JavaScript and AJAX next semester makes me want to crack the book open before the class starts. I just also realize that people don’t understand when I talk about that stuff so, instead of talking about it and being disappointed when people don’t understand, I keep it to myself.

It’s like when you hear a song that you LOVE and you play it for a friend and the friend is like “it’s ok.” Their lack of enthusiasm kind of harshes your buzz. You still love that song, but you’re a little frustrated that no one loves it like you do. You could play it for 100 people, and no one would love it like you do. Eventually, you decide to stop frustrating yourself and just say “I love this song, and that is enough. I don’t need anyone else to love it with me.” But there’s still that little part of you that wishes that someone would love it with you.

The most I ever do anymore is make someone a mix CD. “Don’t tell me what you think,” I’ll say, and hand the thing over. I construct a delusion where the giftee loves every song on the CD but never says so because I specifically told them not to tell me. I also never ask if they even bothered to listen to it. I don’t want to know. I don’t want to know if that thing I spent hours on is being used as a coaster. I don’t want to know if it’s lying under a pile of bills. My delusion is so much prettier.

The point of the music metaphor is exactly why I don’t go around standing on tables, yelling about why I love something. If other people respond with “well, that’s dumb…and get down from the table,” there’s a part of me that is really hurt. If I keep quiet and keep things to myself, I never get hurt.

Thing is, when you express your love for something by saying, “I like this thing” instead of jumping on a table, people accuse you of not being passionate about anything. Like you’re the human equivalent of oatmeal. A soulless automaton built for work and closet organization. (OK, I also get excited about closet organization. Stop judging me.)

I keep quiet about my passions because I know damn well that a lot of people would indeed respond with, “well, that’s lame…and get down from the table.” Sure, the appropriate responce is to be like, “well, that’s what I’m into and fuck you if you think it’s lame” and to sincerely not care what those people think. However, we all know that some little part of us still would be a little hurt. If you’ve mastered the art of perpetually sincerely not caring, here’s your fucking cookie.

In writing this blog, I remembered a day that sticks out as one of the best days I’ve had with my boyfriend. We hung out, ate Taco Bell and then walked around Mt. Olivet. Previous to the this post, I had thought that I enjoyed that mainly because walking around Mt. Olivet was good “couple time,” free of the distractions of phones and computers. That’s part of it, but the other part was that we did something that is one of my “things” and he had a good time. I like cemeteries because they’re quiet, they’re full of history and human drama, and the headstones and monuments are pretty. It was a lovely day and we walked around and looked at things without being rushed or interrupted. Part of the reason why that day sticks out in my mind is because I was able to share something that I love with someone that I love. It’s like making someone a mix CD and having them say that they loved it even though you told them not to give feedback.

Tune in tomorrow when I at least stand on a chair (as opposed to a table) and list 10 things I’m totally into.

Of Strangers and Discarded Clothes

Sometimes, life as a web designer can feel a bit thankless. If you’re not careful, you can start to feel like you work all the time, study new stuff the rest of the time, and all you have to show for any of that is a bunch of ugly, client-ruined sites, spam email templates and hideous, wordy banner ads. You end up secretly waiting for a friend to move or have a meltdown just so you can step in, help and feel sort of useful. Seeing as how only one set of friends is moving in the near future and I don’t actually wish meltdowns on people, what’s a girl to do?

In an effort to feel like less of a waste of flesh, I signed up to volunteer with Hands On Nashville.

Hands on Nashville has a super neat online calendar where you can just sign up for volunteer jobs a la carte instead of having to commit yourself for long periods of time. I looked at my schedule and signed up to help sort through donated clothes at a thrift store. Granted, going through giant bins of clothing at a thrift store doesn’t feel as “kumbayah” as feeding the homeless or doing flood relief, but it’s something, and it takes place in air conditioning.

My co-volunteers ended up being two high school students who were volunteering to get free Ke$ha tickets. Let’s not judge. We all make mistakes in high school, and if wanting those tickets gets those kids to do community service, then that’s a good thing.

So, it’s me and two teenagers digging through bins of donated clothing, keeping the good stuff and throwing stained and faded things into a giant box. I think it took about 3 minutes for us to become the fashion police.

“Oh my God, acid wash. This should be trashed just out of principle.”

“Who donates underwear to a thrift store?!”

A few highlights included a t-shirt emblazoned with “FREE DANNY TATE!” (a phone web search revealed that he was some musician who was imprisoned for some white collar crime), a home made toga (as opposed to those designer togas) and a shiny gold jacket that prompted me to yell, “STOP! Hammer Time!”

After our shift was over, I did a little shopping (I am physically incapable of entering a thrift store and NOT shopping) and found a skirt and a vintage hat which cost me all of 4 bucks after my 50% college student discount.

Do I feel like I’m saving the world? No.
Do I feel like I did something helpful? Kinda.

Did I get out of my house, break the monotony of day to day life and do something new that didn’t cost me anything? Did I have a good time with two total strangers and a bin of other people’s discarded clothes? Well, yes.

I have always been a fan of strangers and discarded clothes.

How We Roll

It hadn’t been the best day. My pay had been cut, and then I put a serious dent in Pseudo Date Day by almost crying, having a panic attack or bursting into flames while watching a movie.

You know how it is: someone tries to take your mind off of a bad situation by getting you out of the house, and the result is just you pissing all over someone’s attempts to cheer you up. Then you feel even worse because you’re screwing up someone’s attempts to be nice. It’s a swirling spiral of suck, and mine was still bubbling just beneath the surface.

I didn’t actually have a panic attack in the movie theater. I didn’t even really do any proper crying at lunch. However, lunch ended up getting spent discussing work troubles instead of discussing puppies and rainbows or whatever you’re supposed to talk about when the sun is shining and you don’t care how many calories are in your Chinese food.

I think there was a huge part of my boyfriend that really wasn’t interested in discussing work trouble for an entire meal, but we’ll have to agree to disagree on that. You have a new problem to walk through? Fuck yeah. That makes me feel useful and needed, like you care about whatever advice I might give. Like I’m useful for something other than making ugly banner ads and mowing the yard. We can cover last night’s episode of Mythbusters later. Or never. Never works just fine for that.

So, we’d seen a movie and had lunch and were sitting in front of Whole Foods eating post-lunch tiny tarts when we both notice the parking lot across the way.

As you may have guessed from the fact that we were eating outside whole Foods, we were in the more bourgeois part of town. It’s that area where everyone hates to go because the people there all drive luxury cars and think that THEIR errands are way more important than yours. That area where beige brick buildings are practically mandated and women in Life is Good shirts gather to drink $5 lattes and complain about their plastic surgeons, the wait time for the valet at the mall and how there’s no proper cell phone pocket in the new line of Vuitton purses.

As for the aforementioned parking lot, it was barely big enough for two rows of parking and 2 lanes of traffic, 1.25 of which was being occupied by a woman in a Soccer Mom Assault Vehicle (S.M.A.V.) who had decided that it would be much easier to block traffic than pull into one of the three available spots.

As people pulled up behind her, she would wave them around, not realizing that attempts to go around would result in other drivers being wide open for head-on collisions with people turning the corner into the lot.

“I can’t believe she’s just SITTING there.”

“I kind of wish someone would yell at her.”

“Dude. Dare to dream.”

So, while munching on our tiny tarts, we forgot about work drama and enjoyed the reality tv. One by one, cars pulled up behind the SMAV. One by one, they would honk or stare as they maneuvered around. Eventually, one car just pulled up next to the SMAV…

“YOU CAN’T PARK HERE!” Yelled a man in the passenger seat, his wife leaning over from the wheel to add two cents the boyfriend and I couldn’t hear.

The woman in the SMAV paused her phone conversation to offer some reply, but it didn’t matter. As the man and his wife drove away, the man stuck his head out of the car in order to keep yelling. The car behind the man and his wife followed suit to a lesser degree.

“Oh shit! Awesome!!” (The boyfriend and I are wishing we had DVRed this particular episode.)

The SMAV finally gives up and pulls into one of those three parking spots and its driver emerges, huffy, hot and bothered. Honestly, we’d never seen such angry swinging of purse and whipping of mom bob. As the boyfriend and I did imaginary voice over of her phone conversation (“Well, Beth, I swear! What IS the world coming to? I just came down here to exchange little Madison’s yoga pants and now this!”) the woman disappeared into a shoe store.

Having sated our needs for Chinese food, tiny tarts AND street justice, the boyfriend and I headed back to the East Side.

Since I live on the East Side, I wrote a blog about the whole thing. Passive-aggressive blogging: it’s how we roll.

We are Siamese if You Don’t Please

Every so often, I have a thought that seems perfectly rational to me for about a minute or so before I realize that it’s kind of insane. I will admit that the thought is insane, but there’s still some little part of me that thinks, “but you never know…”

See, The Wingman* and I have taken to referring to Herr Puss as Douche Cat. He earned this title by doing such things as meowing loudly throughout the night, putting his butt in people’s faces, attempting to eat people’s food and drink people’s water (a behavior that has now extended to Crystal Light), and generally being up in everybody’s business. In other words, HP is referred to as Douche Cat (and sometimes Troll Cat) simply for being a cat. At the ripe old age of “twelveish,” Herr Puss may be starting to look a bit threadbare, but shows no signs of slowing down or being any less ornery. He’s Siamese. Evil keeps him young.

Once we started calling him Douche Cat, the yelling seemed to get worse. Then, the insane thought came.

“He’s been around for 12 years. Maybe he’s learned to understand English.”

If he were a human, he’d have understood probably 8 years ago. He’s not human, but he is a pretty smart cat, having figured out how to escape from cat jail (aka the laundry room) AND how to get non “cat people” to pay attention to him (aka “rub my belly” aka “the a game”). So maybe learning English just took him a bit longer than it would a toddler?

Does this mean that he knows we’re mocking him? Can he understand me when I’m talking about him on the phone? He doesn’t know what a douche is, but maybe he understands that, whatever it is, it’s not nice? Are we being terrible bullies, like the cool kids in the cafeteria?

No, Amy. This is insane.
He cannot understand you.

In truth, the thing that most convinced me that he can’t understand English is the fact that, if he could understand me, he probably would have peed on something of mine by now. Or he just doesn’t want me to know he can understand me because then I’d be onto him. I’d try to make him get a job.


* I realize that calling someone who is officially my boyfriend The Wingman is kind of silly, but using the word boyfriend is still a little jarring, and calling him The Wingman allows me to picture us as pilots from Top Gun. No official word on who’s who in that equation, but I suspect I may be Goose. Obviously, Herr Puss is Iceman.

I Didn’t Tell You to Drink that Whiskey

Question: If I’m in a public bathroom and you try the knob and the door is locked, why oh why, do you then KNOCK?

No, really. I’m asking.

Because, clearly, someone is in here. Since we’re in public, I’m assuming that I don’t know you, so you’re probably not welcome to join me. Hell, even if I know you,you’re probably not welcome to join me. It’s all well and good to put your face in my crotch, but a woman sitting on a toilet to pee is just not a good look. As far as I know, I don’t need any help with my urination.

Are you suggesting that I pee faster? I so, fuck you.

Surely this is not the case, because you JUST checked the knob. You just got here. You can’ t have been waiting that long, unless the half second between when you twisted the knob and the knock really WAS the longest span of time that you’re willing to wait to take a pee. If that’s the case, I’m going to go ahead and assume that you never went to a party in college.

“There’s a line outside the bathroom? Fuck this PARTY! I’m going to go home and watch Matlock!”

Frankly stranger, if that’s your attitude, I wouldn’t invite you to a party anyway.

Maybe you’re having some kind of digestive issue. With all due respect, like I said, I don’t know you. Thus, the goings-on of your intestines aren’t really any of my concern. Maybe you shouldn’t have had all that whiskey last night and maybe you should have stayed home instead of pooping in a public bathroom like the homeless. Or a dude in a touring band.

Maybe you’re pregnant and really need to pee.
Maybe you have to puke. Maybe you have to puke because you’re pregnant. At any rate, none of those is my problem and maybe you should keep your legs closed, you whore.

I’m just in here trying to pee.

So quick knocking. You’re harshing my buzz.

Truth or Dare

“Fine. Dare. Damn it.”

If I knew anything at all about being in high school, I knew better than to choose “dare” in a co-ed game of Truth or Dare. The game was practically invented for bizarrely socially acceptable sexual experimentation. However, I’d been getting away with “truth” for a solid hour and everybody was getting sick of my shit.

We were coming back from a game in some town over an hour away, and the bus broke down. We had no choice but to wait for the cheerleaders’ bus to get back to school, unload and come back for us. In the meantime, those of us on the football team’s bus had no choice but to wait, pray we didn’t end up having to pee in the woods, and amuse ourselves in whatever fashion we could find. I pled an excellent case for “let’s make up a story!” but with a 3-to-30 girl/boy ratio, a game of Truth or Dare was inevitable, even if the team had to make do with the girls who taped their ankles and made their Gatorade instead of the cheerleaders. Any snack in a famine.

By the time we’d switched buses, I’d confessed such juicy details as the circumstances around my first kiss and possibly my bra size. As the new bus got rolling, everyone started feeling a certain sense of urgency. We would be back at the school soon. Something more interesting needed to happen, or we’d wasted the whole “broken down bus” situation. It would have been like playing Seven Minutes in Heaven solely to discuss societal themes in Crime & Punishment.

“You CAN’T pick truth! You’ve been picking truth the whole TIME!”

So, I took the dare, expecting something almost as benign as having to tell everybody my shoe size. I was just a sophomore, small for my age, and had the appearance of a 7th grader. I was not the football manager people wanted to take to the back of the bus and do gossip-worthy things to. I was the asexual little sister.

This would explain my minor shock when this bus of clueless teenaged boys dared me to kiss my crush. They were also sharp enough to give stipulations: at least 10 full seconds, on the mouth. There’s nothing awkward about kissing your crush on a moving school bus, in front of 30 people. Nothing.

There’s also absolutely nothing awkward about biting a hole in his lip when the bus hits a bump.

There’s really, really nothing awkward when he bleeds like a stuck pig and proceeds to address you as Vampire Girl for the rest of football season. I thought it was hilarious in its own terribly, horribly awkward sort of way.

He and I eventually went on a double date to a Mexican restaurant. I think his attendance was largely based on having lost some bet to his best friend, the boyfriend of my good friend. I was mainly in it for the food.

I kissed him at the end of the date.
Nobody bled.

Forward, Finally.

I am sitting at my computer. Counting Crows are playing, a space heater is warming my feet and I smell a little like sweat because I mowed the yard earlier and haven’t showered. I am back in my pajamas. I am seemingly always in pajamas. I have Firefox tabbed to email, Facebook and TurboTax.

I am crying.
Let’s back up.

Work sends me a 1099. They don’t take out taxes, so I usually just have to set money aside and brace myself to write a HUGE check to Uncle Sam every March. There’s this ever-present fear, like maybe I haven’t saved enough. No optional large purchases are made before tax time. The fear sits on my shoulder like a cat perched on the passenger side pillow, laser eying me through the sheet, blanket, duvet and other blanket. Pet me. Pet me. Pet me. Who knows how much you’re going to owe.

Everything started to go to hell in 2009. By the time things started to get better at the end of 2010, I had no savings left and I had borrowed money from mom multiple times. I blew through everything I’d ever saved, all the while thinking, “if you were just better at your job, this wouldn’t be happening.”

I felt like I had nothing of value to offer. I felt like a non-adult. I had to close my savings account because I didn’t have enough money in it to avoid service charges. I went 6 months without buying produce, instead living on beans and pasta. I watched things around my house break and have to stay broken. I watched shoes fall apart and prayed that they would do so slowly enough that they’d wait until Christmas. By the time my office’s ceiling collapsed, I wasn’t even surprised. I just took pictures and started spooning bits of my house into trash bags with a dust pan. When I was done, I juts closed the office door and pretended nothing had happened as the room took on a parade of wasps. I did all of these things knowing that I had focused on work my entire adult life.

So this year I did my taxes with some trepidation. I stalled as long as I could, trying to wrap my head around another money-seeking call to mom. You get used to feeling like a half-adult after a while. I started my taxes just because I wanted to get them over with.

When the number at the top of the Turbo Tax window came up green (refund), I realized that whatever money I’d saved would stay with me. I could reopen my savings account. It would be like being an adult. It would be like being ME circa 2007. It was a sign screaming “the worst is over, and we survived it.”

I have been waiting for the worst to be over for almost two years. I have earned my tears of joy and I will keep them, along with what I’d saved up to give Uncle Sam. With my refund, I am purchasing a sandwich, a cream soda, a semester of school and the kitchen hardware I have waited two years to buy.