Monday, December 31, 2007

-- For Allison (Aud Lang Syne)


This is for Allison, my childhood best friend that I lost touch with and only recently learned that she died. I will never forget you. This New Year's eve song applies in more ways than one.

(Translation of) Aud Lang Syne

Should old acquaintances be forgotten,
And never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintances be forgotten,
And days of long ago !

Chorus:
For old long ago, my dear
For old long ago,
We will take a cup of kindness yet
For old long ago.

We two have run about the hillsides
And pulled the daisies fine,
But we have wandered many a weary foot
For old long ago.

We two have paddled (waded) in the stream
From noon until dinner time,
But seas between us broad have roared
Since old long ago.

And there is a hand, my trusty friend,
And give us a hand of yours,
And we will take a goodwill draught (of ale)
For old long ago!

And surely you will pay for your pint,
And surely I will pay for mine!
And we will take a cup of kindness yet
For old long ago!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

-- Just what I always wanted: a million random digits with 100,000 normal deviates (be careful what you wish for)


I can't believe we actually got this for a holiday present. Every year my dad asks for a list and every year I kid around on it. When I was a teen, he could tell b/c my lists would have, interspersed with real items like CDs and books, intangibles like a house/boat/car/etc. -- they were obviously items he and I both knew were a joke.

Well this year we discovered the world's most obscure book so we added it to the list, never thinking they'd even be able to find it let alone buy it. But buy it they did:
"A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates: Not long after research began at RAND in 1946, the need arose for random numbers that could be used to solve problems of various kinds of experimental probability procedures. These applications, called Monte Carlo methods, required a large supply of random digits and normal deviates of high quality, and the tables presented here were produced to meet those requirements."


628 pages of pure numbers listed neatly in columns. We nearly died laughing when we opened it thinking maybe they bought it as a joke but quickly realized they were serious. I love my dad for wanting us to have this. And anyway now we can look up any normal deviate we might possibly need!

Friday, December 28, 2007

-- relief for stiff neck


So I'm still getting over the flu, now I just have a cough. Sometimes it wakes me out of a sleep choking and gasping for air. Last time this happened I propped up about 90 pillows and went back to bed; got up with a stiff neck. Hurt like hell.

Got an app. to see a massage therapist and get the knot worked on -- can I just say I am such a dweeb? I walk in and the therapist is like "have you ever had a massage before?" me (thinking back to the dude in the Edison mall who chopped at my back for 15 minutes) "um yeah but it was a while ago." "Ok" she says brightly, "you can lie here after you take off your clothes."

Um?

I oblige hesitatingly and crawl into the sheets feeling self-conscious. That melts away once she grabs at that knot and starts disassembling it. OMG, it felt so good to have some relief.

So anyway, massage is cool. You should get one.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

-- recapping the last few months


My last few months in a nutshell:

- Dr. tells me I might need brain surgery, I prepare to die.

- A month later it's confirmed I'm ok, no brain surgery needed. Breathe deep sigh of relief.

- Sarah dies and I am just utterly incapable of dealing with loss.

- I stay up until 4:30am working on freelance project and become incredibly sleep-deprived and stressed out.

- Catch flu.

- Look for best childhood friend on Internet and find her gravestone.

- Spin into images of Allison young and happy, playing the "now" game ("just think right now I don't know what will happen in 5 minutes!"). Realize with deep sadness that as 8 yr olds we didn't know she would die too young.

- Cry. a lot.

Am finally feeling better but man, these past few months really taxed me.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

-- So myspace really *does* check their new submissions


A friend of mine emailed me her myspace page a few days ago, but I can't view it b/c I'm not a member. I am so SICK of websites requiring me to join. Not another one! Not another darned password to remember! Still, I wanted to see her pictures so I figured FINE. I will set up a fake account, just for this purpose.

20 minutes later, Mr. Horace Microopthalmia is beaming out at me from behind his wheelbarrow-carrying self. Tho I scooped the pic up from somewhere on the internet, I did at least photoshop it and rub out the face out of respect for the original guy. No harm done and I had a laugh. Myspace didn't win!

Well I go to login the next day to view updates and guess what -- the whole thing had been deleted. Frak! My disappointment lasted 0.02 seconds and then I thought oh well, there goes 20 minutes of my life. (But I will not be setting up a real account.)

Here is my memorial to Mr. Microopthalmia. Your 20 minutes of fame served you well.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

-- Sara died.


Learned 2 weeks ago that Sarah, Jeffrey's wife (a client that I became friends with) was diagnosed with cancer. She had just been diagnosed but it was already stage 4. I started getting stuff ready to send her a care package and got everything assembled including a letter I was writing, when I learned she died. She was only 62, my mom's age. It's just too young. She was so vibrant and funny. She went from diagnosis to death in 6 weeks. Linda and I were planning to visit -- Linda was going to drop everything and drive down from Vermont and we were going to go together.

Both of us got together these care packages we were going to bring and I had 2 books on cancer survivor stories and a pendant I found that I really liked that read, "What cancer cannot do... it cannot... invade the soul, suppress memories, kill friendship, destroy peace, conquer the spirit, shatter hope, cripple love, corrode faith, steal eternal life, silence courage."

I had this ready to go when I got home today from an all-day seminar in DC only to collapse in front of my computer and find out she died this morning. I felt terrible. Only 2 days before we were going to see her. I never got to say goodbye.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

-- just say no to brain surgery


Relief. I was getting checked over for optical migraines last month when an MRI revealed a vascular abnormality. It was either an arterio-venous malformation aka AVM (extremely worrisome), or a venous angioma (no big deal). AVMs require surgery for correction, venous angiomas do not. Just had a second MRI which confirmed the latter (Thank the spaghetti monster!). There was just a wee bit of stress in that interim period...

Anyway it's not a big deal. Life goes on.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

-- where the masses come to graze


Getting ready to fly. Back at the airport when I was standing in line in the huge crowd, it really seemed like I was in a herd of cattle. This is where America comes to graze, at airports and rest stations, where large numbers of us gather and wait.

I had the visual equivalent of being in the mall and suddenly being aware of the whoosh of noise all around yet you can't hear what anyone's saying. Voices fuse into one giant white noise of conversation. Standing there, I felt like everyone blended into one, husbands and wives standing passionlessly away from eachother, banal expressions on their faces. Women who'd given up on themselves distant from Archie Bunker husbands, both nursing impending deliveries, drinking to occupy themselves in a meaningless life where losing intimate connections with loved ones seems to have been the only successfully-realized side effect of the goal of living.

Because of this, I can kindof understand the Korean girl I met once who said her first impression upon coming to the U.S. was that everyone looked alike. How is that possible, I thought. We have different hair colors, styles, texture! Different sizes and shapes! But standing here, now I realize we can be unexpectedly predictable in all our phenotypic diversity.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

about me

Spleen (n.)

A large, highly vascular lymphoid organ, lying in the human body to the left of the stomach below the diaphragm, serving to store blood, disintegrate old blood cells, filter foreign substances from the blood, and produce lymphocytes. This organ is conceived as the seat of emotions or passions: venting one's spleen.

Suffix "-ess": indicating a female (e.g.: lioness, actress, waitress, sculptress, stewardess, etc.).


About Spleeness

I only have one spleen but it tries hard anyway. Right now my spleen and I live near Washington DC. I studied communications and biology as an undergrad because I love science and, well, communicating. I might be the smallest-haired person you've met that hails from the big-haired state of NJ. I grew up on the Jersey Shore but have yet to see the infamous TV show.

In my free time, I run a few blogs, Twitter feeds, a Flickr account and a few other social media sites. I'm especially interested in usability data. I sometimes informally tutor a group of seniors on technology and this is one reason I pay such close attention to good design and navigability; people adopt tools when they're truly useful, not just hip. Online communities thrive with participation, just like real-life communities, so it's important for me to be active online, not just lurk. But I like my contributions to be valuable, so you'll rarely find me announcing what I ate for lunch. A number of my social media contacts have turned into good friendships -- I met my oldest online friend in a Usenet group in 1994!

I live 3 Ani DiFranco songs away from work and like to make jewelry on weekends.

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