Monday, April 30, 2012

A Walk in the City

Auckland - The City of Sails
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
I love cites in the morning. Marching through the brisk air with a spring in my step and head buzzing with ideas for what I want to accomplish, it is finally time to admit that I missed this. I still pine for the people we left behind in the States, but most of the life we precipitously abandoned causes me no pain of loss. But this... these cool mornings in a city just waking up, the air fresh from sea breezes, the sky almost painfully blue, the commuters all around pushing through the crowds with feet on auto-pilot while they check email on their phones, the busses rumbling by and the cars getting jammed up at the corners. This city is so familiar, and this walk is reminiscent of hundreds of similar mornings in That Life. The one part of that life I unequivocally loved was going to work downtown with people I absolutely adored, respected, savored.

I play a game as I walk, people watching and trying to match the outfits with their job description. The women are easy, the young ones in tight little outfits with costume jewelry say new to the business world, probably working as assistants, clerks, receptionists. While the wiser, older women in the same outfit are much sleeker, the gold and gemstones real, the shoes fine tooled leather and the overall look so much more polished in a way that says management or executive. Males in New Zealand are either white colar in blue, black or grey suits, open dress shirt of a light color and faint pin stripe, no tie, leather shoes, or they are blue colar and sport some form of flourescent vest. Sprinkled throughout are the geeks -- the IT professionals are an entire gender-less class in expensive jeans, software branded t-shirts, ear buds firmly lodged under hair cuts that are inevitably at least a month past their prime. There are a few students either young enough for school uniforms or scruffly shlepping their way to University. They are hard to distinguish from an entire subdivision of the service sector on their way to retail shops. The baristas are, of course, already in place as are all the many newly arrived entrepreneurs who have opened Korean, Thai, sushi, curry, and Chinese food shops all over the city.

It amuses me to wonder what I am saying to the world with the look I sport this morning. The rough, tattered backpack says tourist or college student, but the iPhone says money and the expensive leather boots say management. The wash and wear haircut, no jewelry, no makeup put me squarely in the old-school feminist camp but the gawdy tanzanite and diamond ring DrC likes me to wear is so girly it messes with my dyke groove. But the strongest signal I send this morning is probably the jeans and t-shirt look.

A confession... During those dot-com boom and bust days when I was a pregnant, tech writing matron, it's true that I found it delightful to watch the eye candy of Hbunny, Noey and Greg parading around in their artfully aged, insanely expensive jeans. The boys (and they were boys at the time even if now they are quite clearly attractive men who would balk at the diminutive) were appealing in a way that a mother, wife and manager should not ever admit. So yes, they are the inspiration for my current outfit. Because it's 10 years later, and I can't resist painting these pants on to my newly sleek legs. Every time I pull on a size 10, I chortle and preen. I strut through the city with the slight bell sliding over my black, pointed boot toe and like to think that I am even half as sexy as my lovely young friends were in the same styles. Of course, the very fact that I am hiking up Queen Street in jeans that cost roughly the same as a smartphone screams tech.

Aquarium - The Toast Mermaid

Aquarium - The Toast Mermaid
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
A casual people watcher might be confused about the mixed signals I send with my basic tech mixed with executive and college student look. That's okay. Frankly, I'm confused, too. I don't know what I want to be when I grow up. Part of me wants to stay scruffy, barely off the boat and picking up the occasional contract to plump the cruising kitty. Another part wants to dive hell-bent into the management career track I left in Seattle. I love telling other people what to do. As with my clothes, the only clear signal my heart is sending my head is tech tech tech. I want to stay in software and hardware development if I can. I love the gadgets and the newness and the constant change and the insane schedules. I like the sexy young engineers who don't know they are sexy because they are so frickin' smart and so incredibly dorky. I want the bleeding edge crap that breaks every time I work with it and sales teams who straddle some strange line between engineer and carnival barker. I love the feeling that I know what's going on in a world that most people find necessary to their very lives but completely incomprehensible. I want to crawl back into the black box.

My pack weighs heavily on my back, chock full of a Windowsian brick, power cords, and a newly emptied to-go mug as I turn the corner on the last stretch to my client. Today, I get to restructure a single-source database for a software company in the business of electronic medical records. It's a start in the right direction. Passers-by can attribute my little smile as amusement at the podcast feed trickling into my ears, but I know it's because I'm exactly where I want to be.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Kidz These Days

It probably comes as no surprise that I am a big fan of Dan Savage, the Seattle-based sex advise columnist whose philosophy could largely be summarized as play nice with friends, lovers, and strangers. I'd say it was the Golden Rule except he does advocate "Do unto others what they ask you to do to them even if you wouldn't ever in a million years want to have that done to yourself." Which, you have to admit, is a rather significant variation.

How Dan enters this blog is that he routinely fields questions from people who have been prowling around in someone else's online space and found stuff that terrifies/horrifies/saddens/maddens/freaks them out. To which Savage points out, you wouldn't have known about this if you hadn't been a slimy, spying twink hacking into something you had no right to poke into.Then at the same time, I keep reading links, posts, articles for parents and about parents where the story is identical, just change the players. Parents hack the computers and online accounts of their off spring and find things that just twist their knickers into hysterical bunches.

Turns out our teenagers are really horrific people with crude sensabilities, miserable grammar, no ability to spell whatsoever, and about the same sexual mores as minx in heat. They are not like us. Kids these days just do not know how to behave. They listen to awful music, dress in ways that encourage licentious behaviour, and eat poorly. They drink when they shouldn't, make bad choices regarding companions, and *gasp* talk about sex drugs and rock and roll all the fing time.

Surprise surprise! The generation gap isn't different or more extreme than in any prior generation. It's just gone digital! Technology enables the snoop parent to actually walk in the shoes of their spawn, dive into the sticky morasse of teenage lives. It's icky. It's a bit scary. It's oft times stupid, and it's sometimes dangerous. However, there is really nothing new here.

So just keep moving. Do not hack your child's account. Do not try to log into their Facebook page. Resist the tempation to look over their virtual shoulders. Just because you can does not mean you should. You are not helping your child become a good citizen of the networked world by becoming yourself a twink and a spy. In fact, you suck. You are modelling the worst kind of trollish behaviour.

We teach our kids to be safe and healthy online the same way we teach them everything else. Model smart, supportive, safe behaviour online. Participate in discussions for which you have passion and knowledge. Lurk in those for which you have an interest but are as yet a n00b. Friend people you know, ignore people you don't, follow people who interest you, but don't stalk them. Only put online information and photos which you do not mind sharing with absolutely everyone in the world including the government, your mother, and the creepy guy that stands at the bus-stop breathing heavy as the nubiles parade past. Block people who send you spam, ask you for money, or solicit you for sexual acts (unless you actually want to deliver them). Stop being a monkey and clicking everything! Avoid flame wars, do not feed trolls, avoid breaking Godwin's law, make a regular habit of doing a vanity search on the major search engines to make sure your name isn't being taken in vain. Own your own domain.

Can you do all that? If you can't, get your own house in order before you start trying to tell your teenager how to behave online. If you can and do, then make sure your kids know it. It doesn't hurt to market your blog feed, web site, Twitter handle, and Facebook profile to your kids. Link up with them when they let you (it goes in phases), follow them, read and comment in meaningful ways on what they post. It's okay to friend their friends IF you consider them friends in the Real World. Same with the parents of their friends. When your kid drops you like a hot potato or puts you into a ghetto circle where nothing is visible, be patient. They get over it and start talking to you again eventually.

Will your children do something stupid online? Of course they will. Will it be a part of their permanent record? Yep. Welcome to the 21st century. Are the college admittance officers and employers of the future going to take all this drunken photography, illiterate rambling, and questionable linking seriously? Not if they want to keep their own youthful puffing-without-inhaling on the downlow.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Little Obstacles

Small changes can really bollux the day. Today, the problem is a kayak. The floating tennis court next door (otherwise known as s/v Pzazz) has always been a large white shadow next to Don Quixote. She's absolutely enormous. Her engines are incredibly loud, and she's embarassingly clean. We really like the owners, of course, but let's face it. Pzazz makes us look bad.

But as I said, the problem today is actually the kayak. First, it doesn't match the rest of Pzazz. Kayaks are inevitably made of some highly visible shade of orange, red or yellow. This kayak somehow manages to be all three simultaneously. So the big white building in the dock next us is now a big white building with a toothpaste toob of fluorescent flame. Worse, the kayak is somehow ideally positioned to completely block our view of the rest of the marina, including the brand new Lagoon 400 which moved in last week on Dock E.

So on second thought, maybe the kayak is a good thing. If there is one thing worse than being an old, abused family catamaran toddling next to an elegant modern mega yacht, it's being an old, abused boat across the aisle from a brand new boat of the same model. The neighborhood keeps getting nicer. This is going to be a problem when we go to sell the old girl.

The whole thing reminds me forcibly and metaphorically that I too am an abused, old family boat surrounded in beautiful younger models. I thought it was distressing when the girls started to outgrow the sobriquet 'little girls' as they became teenagers. This recent phase of becoming young women, however, is so much worse. As is often the case, the newer models fix many of the deficiencies of the earlier iterations. The new ones are prettier, smarter, faster, and all around nicer than their increasingly canterkous, much-patched mother. The metaphor breaks down only when we start talking storage space and bilges. Let's be honest. I've got them beat all over when it comes to places to store extra calories.

While I could itemize the many broken bits on the good ship Toast, it seems a pointless waste of bytes. I'm more interested in this damn kayak blocking my view. The owners are good people. As soon as I bring it to their attention, they will move the kayak. As I am given to lyrical metaphor and infected with GTD goodness (having committed to rereading the complete David Allen oeuvre as penance for not getting a job fast enough), I wonder what this kayak really means to me. What other obstacles are there between me and what I want. What flaming walls of smelly new plastic stand between me and my hopes and dreams?

Six months ago, my horizons were literal. I am mean literal in the most literal possible sense of the word. The horizon was the HORIZON. It doesn't get any more horizon-ish than staring out across the big blue Pacific 500 miles from anything. Now it feels like there are stoppages and blockages between me and absolutely everything. In only months, the family has accumulated so much cruft it feels like we are already due for a good colonic. We are literally trapped in this slip by weather, broken engine, and inertia. Even if we could get out, we can't get together as every time I try to schedule something, one or more of the crew have a prior committment. It's exciting to see everyone engaged in off boat activities -- plays, climbing mountains, netball, friends, boyfriends (okay that's just weird), music lessons, jobs. However, the family that spent so long living with only each other, now appears to be have burst apart like an overfull water balloon on hot concrete.

It's hard to go from unlimited outlook to a kayak in the face. Even if all I have to do is go over and ask them to move it, it's still there. Getting it out of the way takes time and effort. Getting the kids mustered out for a weekend up in Russell took time and herculean effort. Unfortunately, what stands between me and my children is my children who are not children any more but sexy new models ready for boat shows and yacht races and all sorts of new adventures. And no amount of bitching about it is going to move them out of the way to restore my view of our future as a place where we all bobbed along side by side, linked by a network of docks, lines, and shared goals.