Shortbread Shopping

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As the world goes up in flames, we carry on. This week’s hyperfocus on minutiae had us contemplating the grocery store…

One of the joys (?) of moving is finding all new everything – dentist, chiropractor, doctor, community… and it’s never an easy transition. We’ve been flailing, trying to find a decent place for groceries. We love the Farmer’s Market, but skipped during last weekend’s Journey to the Center of the Volcano, in no mood to brave the bowels of hell just for fresh peaches. One good thing is that we have great options for produce here – those peaches are a regular feature this summer at the market, and there’s usually decent produce at most stores, including the big box like Costco. However, Costco here is ridiculous – we were spoiled, living where we had access to one in Vallejo, one in Vacaville, and one in Fairfield, within close proximity. Now, we’re down to one SUPER busy one, and unless you like to play Cart Derby, it’s a lot to ask. We had known the staff of our local Raley’s since before we moved to Scotland and had our house in Benicia, and knowing the staff by name (hello, Bernadette at the pharmacy) made everything easier. The Raley’s here, though is downtown, which means that it’s busier, has a city-type population, and our first day there including a clerk dragging a homeless man out of the store, castigating him loudly for shoplifting. Um. Maybe not.

With a much greater Asian and South Asian population, there are tons of Indian groceries in the area, as well as a Ranch 99, which was pretty neat but probably only for occasional shopping, as it was super crowded and full of what we term “field trip” food, as in we buy it just because we want to try it. This past weekend we tried Trader Joe’s which was kind of a relief, as it always seems to be the same store, no matter its location. We laughed that they both stocked Walkers Shortbread – both Ranch 99 and Trader Joe’s. Just in case, you know, you felt the need for imported Scottish Shortbread with your bitter melon or two-buck-chuck.

We’ve been bemused by Sprouts (with their “vegan sugar” and bizarre layout), amused by Whole Paycheck which, now that it’s owned by Amazon, we’re not sure it’s going to be any better than it’s always been, and spooked and stunned by the Safeway which is OK but came with an overly inquisitive checker who wanted to know a.)if we were married, b.)how long we’d been married, c.) if we lived at home (?!) and d.) to tell us that her son had married a colored girl… Y’know, if it wasn’t a total lazy cop-out and basically unnecessary, we’d get groceries delivered.

The world continues strange. How are you?

-D & T

Living Life

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We have survived the heat wave, despite not having air conditioning. We’ve been in this house now for six weeks or so and are feeling more settled. Tomorrow we audition for a local choir – the first choir we’ve thought would at all compare to the choir in Glasgow… which means that it’s been over five years since we’ve been on a regular rehearsal schedule!

Today is a day to relax before the week – to put together casseroles, to make a batch of raisin bread, to read. Now that the heat has gone, it’s a day to sit with the door open and listen to the hummingbirds complain about the world. In awhile we’ll maybe sit out in our lounge chairs and listen to the fountain splash.

Enjoy your week and find time to listen to the ducks, geese, and other wild things!

-D & T

Crown Shyness & Intersections

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So, there’s this thing, this inexplicable phenomenon in trees called ‘crown shyness.’ It’s where, for reasons of either reluctance to spread organisms or compete too much for light, trees grow up…and spread their canopy only so far, so that their leaves don’t overlap with the trees next door. Looking up at these canopies from below is striking; those trees really are like, nu-uh, no thank you, stay in your lane. The spaces between the leaves are small, but distinct, and the whole thing is a little mind-boggling.

This phenomenon put us in mind of a few things — mainly how weird it is sometimes when one’s cultures and communities overlap. Or don’t.

Over the past weeks, we’ve seen blogger friends grapple with many Big Questions on their blogging platforms. Some of the big questions have had to do with what they ate this week, or what to make for dinner; others have tackled current events.

There’s never any requirement, per se, from our blogging communities to Say Something About Things, but there’s a certain feeling of… expectation(?) that we will have an opinion, in other circles. That we are happy to speak, if asked. That we will Have Some Wisdom To Share. And then there are the friends who definitely, definitively do NOT want us to say anything. They arrive with a Statement: Everything is Awful Right Now, And We Hate It, and then, they hold their out a hand, a visual time-out; signaling Stop… as if they have the right to tone police, word police, corral or contravene what we might have had to say.

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So, all that is… interesting.

There are deeply complex and complicated feelings surrounding one’s right or responsibility to speak or not speak. Especially right now, when we are a biracial couple with acquaintances of various races, eager for our countersignature on their opinions.

And yet, what is there to say? That everything is awful, and we hate it? Noted.

It’s easy to gasp and clutch pearls, but this is history on repeat… You’ll pardon us if we seem cynical about the reactions of the eternally surprised, who say “this is not us, our country isn’t like this!” It is easy to be impatient with the lachrymose, and allow ourselves and our feelings about things to be centered in a narrative that is not entirely about us, and yet, this is about us, about too many things, past, present, and ongoing, to disentangle. Where we are living, truly, where we always live is in history, though capital ‘h’ History is something we don’t always recognize. Yet, here it is: a messy and painful and real time… but for many people, there have been many, many times which are painful, messy, and real. As mentioned: history, on repeat.

Because of that, maybe this is a time for reading, thinking, and listening… and for thoughtful conversation. Perhaps this is not a time to command performance; not from your friends of color, especially. Perhaps the time is less for performative reaction or virtue signaling, and more for quiet decisions about how one will act when those Certain Topics come up, when Certain Situations are witnessed. Maybe now is the time to decide how you will move forward. How each person does this, what words and actions feel right is …as personal as speaking about religion and/or politics used to be.

Meanwhile, History is a daily event, as your conversations and communities intersect, or don’t. Looking up through the canopy of your friendships, you may see spaces between your communities and cultures. As the wind blows, however, those crown shy trees may end up touching anyway. How we deal with that feels like something it’s important to think about before it happens.

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Nearly Settled

Another week! Another pile of collapsed boxes! As of today, all we have left to unpack are the art supplies and to hang what mirrors and paintings are going to go up. Everything else is unpacked and has a permanent home and/or is sorted into donation boxes, awaiting pickup on Wednesday. Less clutter = more peace, and that’s really helpful to T getting creative work done. This is a very quiet neighborhood (except when someone gets the odd urge to mow something, or the train blows its whistle), even on the weekends, and the wind whistling through the house works as natural white noise. It makes for good napping conditions – and we are still exhausted enough to take advantage of them. Well, we think about it, anyway…

On D’s work front, his first week at the new job was immensely enjoyable – so much so that he neglected to come home until after seven, occasionally. There’s much to be done, and much chaos to organize, and he’s enjoying the challenge (or the chaos, one or the other. Not clear which just yet).

To those who’ve complained we’ve gone radio silent and feel as far away as we did when we lived in Scotland: apologies! You’ve asked what the house looks like. Here’s part of downstairs. A glimpse of upstairs to come next time.

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Above is what we’ll call “the den,” simply because the living room / dining room is the next space over. As you can see, we’re still sorting a few things, organizing the kitchen space, using a folding table. That table will get tucked away until holidays or some other need, soon.

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If you’re in the den, you’re looking into the kitchen. Yes, those are sticky notes on the cupboards – we had to decide what went where, and haven’t quite gotten it down to memory yet. Things are still shifting around (the flour moved all the way across the kitchen, just last night, to find a home in a cabinet next to the sink, rather than next to the fridge). We’re still trying to get the cupboard space to work well, which is odd, since they’re so narrow and some of them are so deep. As large as the ones next to the fridge are, they’re still too narrow for our largest mixing bowls, so those have had to relocate to the closet next to the garage door.

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We have done our first proper baking here, though, 10 days after moving in (the quiche last weekend doesn’t count, really). A gas oven is miles off from an electric, and there’s an adjustment of all the senses, especially sound (that whoomp as the pilot lights), and smell (that little whiff of gas). Touch is the one sense that doesn’t fare quite as well here… because the oven thermostat is so far off, we had to order an external thermometer. It takes about 45 minutes to get up to close to full heat (set it at 390°F and it’ll get to 350°F in that time), and then gradually slides even hotter, so you have to adjust the temperature down when you put your baking in. We notified the invisible property management people, who report that the owner insists that this is what an oven is supposed to do, and we’re just going to live with it until it falls over.

We are not amused.

At least the bread turned out superbly.

Onward into the new week, with its goals of placing the last mirrors, rugs, and artwork, figuring out the irrigation system and finding a home for the last odds & ends. Until next time,

-D & T

Rivendell, Population 45,812

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Described as “The Last Homely House, East of the Sea,” Rivendell in Tolkien’s Hobbit is our name for the East Bay city of Newark, where the wind turns on like AC every afternoon at 3, the salt smell of the marshes rides the wind, and the occasional giant heron flaps awkwardly by. After dashing to move last Tuesday, we worked straight through to do the remaining sorting on this end. Moving into a smaller place is a blessing, in a way, in that it reminds you to keep your hold on Things light. We did a Store, Toss, Keep, Donate version of unpacking that used up all six days we had to settle in, but here on the eve of D’s first day at the new job, we have actually made enough progress that we have nearly all the boxes flattened and in the garage to be Freecycled, and a date for a donation pickup, which makes T. very glad.

This move has been challenging, mainly because we had to hurry-hurry-hurry, but also because we had to fit into the near-Silicon-Valley culture here; we got this house with an app and signed electronically for it. We never did actually SEE any property managers or owners… they left a (fiiiiiiilthy) empty house and we moved in… unfortunately, the lack of human interaction has been incredibly frustrating, as we have basic questions about the HOA, irrigation system, etc., that have yet to be answered. And the things left behind – other than the 12-year-old whiskey (you’d think someone would miss that), boxes of CDs, and other bits of ephemera, the cooks in this place were frying enthusiasts who didn’t like cleaning, so T discovered that you can indeed spend six hours cleaning a range and still not like how it looks! Thankfully, Goo Gone has a product for cook tops. Who knew!? We’re still not happy with the state of things, but it’s a work in progress…

Meanwhile, we are feeling blessed: it’s a gorgeous house, even beneath the spatters and smudges, a quiet neighborhood, a tiny, sunny yard, a two-minute commute for D. and we have Bay trails less than a mile from our house. What with the scrubbing and sorting, we haven’t had much time to explore, except briefly on Saturday, but the air is heady and cold, even on these hot summer days, and the Bay sparkles. D might start cycling to work, though weighing the exercise against being more of a boss and needing to look a bit more coiffed when arriving may mean we just amble the neighborhood in the evenings and save real workouts for later.

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Happy Week! Cheers as you find your feet and your organizational skills for the tasks ahead.

No to Seattle

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Well, Seattle isn’t in the cards for the moment. So, D will continue mixing and matching his work from a few different clients here in the Bay Area and we’ll see what else turns up. It could be that we’re just going to end up staying around here, but we’ll see. This job search is more about finding the right place than about finding just any place, and we have the luxury of not having to rush, so we can be a bit choosier than we’ve been in the past.

-D & T

Seathl City

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Seathl is a more approximate spelling of the Duwamish/Suquamish tribal chief’s name.

Seattle has changed a great deal since we were last there for more than a stop at the airport – which was about in 2000, when we were sponsors for a class of Seniors who are now approaching their (mid?) thirties and have kids of their own (sheesh). The picture above is from out the window of our very posh (fireplace, footstool, comfy robes, views, and teddy bear, natch) waterfront hotel, where we saw varying sizes of ferries crossing the Puget Sound every half hour or so, and two cruise ships pull up for servicing – which allowed us then to see a close inspection of the external portholes by burly men on mechanical lifts, and what we assume must have been an inspection of luggage and passenger areas by a gentleman from the DEA and their his chipper, tail-wagging drug sniffer dog.

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Seattle is sometimes… so very Seattle-y, to those visiting. Moreso than our last visit, we noted the man buns, manly beards, and the plaid, oh, the plaid. Also, the ├╝ber-woodsy, hyper-folksy, log-cabinesqueness of the place was not lost on us (What. Is. With. The. Antlers.).Seattle 12 An epic winter has produced more greenery than usual, to the extent that it’s growing out of the tops of buildings, which reminded us a great deal of Glasgow. T. was most amused at the Seattle-ness of being at the posh hotel restaurant and being served, instead of cedar plank salmon, cedar plank tofu and roasted vegetables. (It was okay.) D. was most amused by the Seattle-ness of the canine cavalcade parading past at the big tech company. Pet friendly workplaces, doggy daycare and coffee shops are all over the city, along with microbreweries and [electric] bike shops. Phrases like “Fur Baby” were tossed around … Both childless and petfree, we felt a little left out. (But, not enough to actually get one of either.) We noted that while Northern California at least keeps its bona fides as a place more easily full of health foodies (there were both a surfeit the of spandexed and lots of pastries and doughnuts on offer all over), we did chuckle that every second car was a hybrid, and certainly every Lyft car was, so well done, Pacific Northwest for that.

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Of course it rained during the four days we were there, but there was also a lot of wind and sea and sun. A charming, sprawling green mess of fauna and water, all beauty and art and earnest hipsters, fifty dozen Starbucks stores, loiterers, dog walkers and …traffic. D. was invited to come over for grueling interview (those six hour ‘invitations’ from big companies are a doozy) but T. was looking forward to meeting a blog-friend in person with whom she’d only ever corresponded…. and had the laughable coincidence of dining two nights with her friend, whose husband works for the company with which D was interviewing! Seattle is huge, but the tech world is teensy, in some ways.

Still a great deal up in the air, but it was a nice break from the ordinary.

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Meanwhile, God bless those hipsters.

-D & T

“Oh… that’s why.”

Rarely in life do we get the reasons why behind the way things go. At least, rarely do we get them this clearly. This is a circumstance D was assured, as he interviewed, “never” happened.

We were embarrassed, honestly, when this job – for which we gave away furniture and for which we were halfway packed to leave – didn’t turn out. It shook our faith in our own good sense, for one thing. What did we miss, and how? we kept asking ourselves.

And now we have, if not the answer, AN answer.

Representative Democracy

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With all of the political chaos going on in the US, there’s been quite a lot of political engagement, particularly with people going to “town hall” meetings between the representatives and their constituencies. Well, I went to one the other day, here in Vallejo, for Congressman Mike Thompson.

I should have brought knitting.

It was like going to the most horrible, boring, irrelevant church service ever, except they didn’t even have singing.

Dear Politicians: do not tell us the same old schtick. We have this thing called “the internet?” It tells us all of these things. It’s how we knew where to track you down. We do not need for you to tell us these things. We know them. We want to ask you questions. We want to know what you are going to do. We want to know that you hear us, which means you need to actually listen to us.

Of course, at least the congressman had the guts to meet with us (in the Vallejo Senior Center, which is why there’s a permanent Bingo board behind him). This is unlike Senator Dianne Feinstein, who apparently doesn’t meet with you unless you cough up a bunch of cash. And I guess he was interesting enough, if you’re used to listening to the radio or watching TV – you know, low-bandwidth information consumption.

To put this into context: I either read my news or I listen to podcasts … and the podcast app I use lets me turn up the playback speed, so I can adjust it so the information comes at me way faster than having to listen to someone’s natural speaking voice. This is me: I consume information rapidly. Listening to a speaker drives me crazy unless I have something to do, and playing games on the phone isn’t quite enough to make me OK with the hard chairs and the repetitive information.

Representative democracy. Bleh. It’s either doomed or it’s entirely irrational. (Go read those articles, please – yes, the author is probably a liberal, but these are about political science rather than policy.)

Lesson learned: politicians are a low-bandwidth form of information delivery, and deliver information which can be easily consumed elsewhere, and they choose places with hard chairs. Oh, and they don’t want you to bring signs.


On a totally different note, we’ll be off to the Tri-Cities area of Washington State next week for interviews. We’ll be off sometime the following week to Seattle for interviews. And my current client has apparently realized that I’m seriously going to be going somewhere, so they want me to come and and do some work and, oh, would I be available to support them remotely through to the end of the year at least.

-D

Santa Barbara … Nope.

Well, that was one of the stranger interview experiences I’ve ever had! Long story short: I’ll not be taking that job in Santa Barbara!

So, I went down to Santa Barbara to interview with this company after having had a few phone interviews, including a technical interview. Before going down it had seemed like things were really going well, like we were a great fit (albeit with a few things I’d have to get used to). I get to the interview at 11:00, we chit chat, go out to lunch, and then settle in for interviews. At this point, I’m expecting to meet people, talk with people – basically, to see what things are like and have them sell me on what a great company they are and how much of a nice place it is. Hahahaha, Nope!

Instead of selling me on them, they proceed to ask me tricky programming questions. Which, OK, fine, yes, people do this. They usually do it earlier in the process, but whatever, I can roll with it. The questions are usually idiotic, so that’s not unusual, even though I thought we were past this point, but hey, not getting hung up on that. Did I expect each of the three different interviewers to demonstrate odd personality traits that I would find distasteful to work with? No, certainly not. Did I expect to be pushed to answer when I had stated that I did not know the answer? Nope. Did I expect someone to mimic my body language? Like, I was fiddling with an earring while thinking about a coding question and the guy goes and tugs on his earlobe? Oh, no, I did not expect this. Nor did I expect them to be rude to other employees (a lady asked to change the thermostat in the conference room, since it was freezing in their space outside the conference room, to which the interviewer responded that he didn’t care).

After this strange day, wherein I sell myself to them and straight up do not respond to complete rudeness, I go back to the hotel basically exhausted and play some mindless games on the phone (frozen bubble is fabulous for not having to think, by the way). As I’m playing, I’m thinking over all the little things, and I’m adding them all up, and I’m reaching the conclusion that these are not nice people, and this is not going to be a nice place to work.

So, we drive home, and I talk it all out with T, and I write the recruiter a politely worded response to say that I don’t think it’s going to be a good fit.

And then I get a call from the hiring manager, wanting to talk it over.

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The hiring manager tells me that these behaviors were intentional. They had intentionally done these things to see how I would react.

Let that sink in for a minute.

A potential employer essentially conducted psychological experimentation with a candidate. Over the course of 6 hours, and by 3 different people, they attempted to see whether I would react negatively to their behavior.

Here’s a little secret, people trying to hire: if you act like someone with whom the candidate would not want to work, that candidate is going to decide that they do not want to work with you. If you later try to tell them it was all a test? Well, that says that you felt entitled to know how the candidate would respond to stressful situations … which says that you intend to subject them to those types of situations, else why subject them to the test? If you do not intend to treat them poorly, why would you need to know how they will react to being treated poorly?

I don’t think there can be any ethical justification of such a test.

In talking with the hiring manager I told him that maybe, if he’d told me what they’d been doing before I left the interview, I might have reached a different decision. Thinking it through, though, I do not think so; I think that even knowing it was a test I would be offended because, again, If you do not intend to treat me that way, Why do you need to know how I will react?

I think I find this especially frustrating because I feel like it was a lie: that I wasted my time going down there because they were not being honest about the purpose of the meeting. Whatever they learned, I hope that they learned that some people react to macho BS by being polite and then removing themselves from the situation as quickly as possible.


I have a few more interviews lined up for the coming weeks, one of which I think looks like it could be quite interesting, the other of which is more “let’s talk more and see what kind of a company you really are.” We’ll see.

-D