Saturday, August 18, 2007

what i want

I kind of think I should not write this here; it's more like a journal entry. But what the heck...maybe it will be of assistance to someone else.

I haven't reached any final conclusions yet, but many things are ordering themselves neatly in My Crazy Brain regarding where I'm headed in "the future." Specifically this means "my career." Over the past several weeks I've been getting (I hope!) a much better vision of (again, career-wise) what I enjoy, what I'm good at, what that means, and what I should do about it. If I had to give a word to the result of all this thinking, it is CLARITY. Not utter and complete clarity, but clarity nonetheless.

But something else has happened as I've been attempting to muddle through myself and all that is me. Not only can I now look through job ads and say, "Nope...nope...not quite...hey that one's" (instead of my previous method: "Hm...well...I could do that...but I'm not sure if I'd really like it...but it's a job...and it's at a pretty good institution...and maybe if I work on that virus for a while I'll learn to like it...") but I also feel a bit more capable of viewing people this way. I can't believe I just wrote that - it sounds excruciatingly cruel, judgmental, and mean. But I don't quite mean, "Hey, let me go down a line of people and give them a plus or a minus and decide whether I will give them the time of day or not." I'm still all about being kind and respectful and friendly to all people. However, I think I can also tell with more clarity who is a good "mesh" for me and who isn't. (Please, if you do insist on thinking I'm being cruel, judgmental, and mean, please please please tell me -- I'm still open to being wrong, even in my own self-evaluation!!!)

The concepts of "compatibility" and "chemistry" in the study of social interactions have long been rather repulsive to me simply because they seem to be so...categorical. "Ruth, you'd do well with someone who is intelligent, conservative, driven, and family-oriented." What, so I need to just reject all people who are not highly-educated, liberal, working hard at a dead-end job, and prefer dogs and cats to children and babies? Of course, that's not precisely what it means, but you get the picture. Where's the "give people a chance" and "sometimes people change" in all of that? And isn't that saying, "I'm too good to associate with that sort of person"?

But as I understand more about who I am and what I am all makes me realize that those categories, however limited, do indeed mean something. If I can say "I like this, I don't like that, I'm good at this, I'm bad at that" about myself...why in the world can I not say, "I like this type of person, I don't like that type of person, I'm good at relating with this type of person, I'm bad at properly dealing with that type of person"? I sort of think that I can...and should! It seems rather foolish to get into a relationship - friends, dating, anything - saying, "Well, no matter how utterly difficult it is to get along with this person and no matter what we do to hurt each other, I am determined to make this thing work!" That's called Control Freak and oversimplifies things.

I am believing more and more that sometimes...some people are not good for each other. May be because of one person, may be because of both people. But sometimes, there are, in fact, irreconcilable differences. ...Much better to recognize this before getting emotionally attached or - worse - making a lifelong commitment to the person, right?

Friday, August 17, 2007

politics and economics

There are many things I know something about, but two that I am quite incompetent about are politics and economics. To my credit, I have in fact taken a university course in economics, and I did in fact get a good grade in it. I have never studied anything at all about politics.

However, despite this lack of understanding of these two subjects, I still feel like I have something worthwhile to say about a plan one of the Republican presidential candidates for 2008. I heard Mike Huckabee on NPR this morning, and he discussed an interesting concept: get rid of income tax. Again, I'm not economist, but I have this very huge gut feeling that making income tax a thing of the past is not going to do all that Huckabee says, and the immediate repercussions of doing so seem to be quite drastic and not at all helpful. I'm happy to hear others' comments - again, I really have no idea about economics, and this is all based on my perhaps naive common sense and the very small amount of microeconomics I remember, most of which is focused around tacos and burritos (for some reason those were the commodities my econ professor ALWAYS used for examples and exam questions...):
  • Huckabee boldly and rather giddily presents his listeners with the notion that when income tax is over, the IRS will be no more. As if the IRS is some Evil Monster That Sucks The Life Out of All Living Organisms. As if our main enemy is the IRS. As if the IRS is what everyone gets mad about when they have to pay taxes. Personally, I don't blame the IRS for the taxes I have to pay; obviously they are not making the laws about's people like senators and congressional members and presidents who are creating and approving the tax laws. But that's not my point. The point is that if the IRS goes away...that means over 100,000 people suddenly don't have a job. Great start - a 1% increase in unemployment, if I am calculating unemployment rates properly. From what I can gather, Huckabee doesn't have new jobs for these IRS workers in his plan.
  • Too bad for the IRS, but that's not all who will be out of work. Ever needed a CPA? Won't need one anymore! Not for personal income tax returns, and also not for corporate taxes. Which means the people at your company who do all the tax stuff...yeah, they won't have a job either. And probably a few of the people who do payroll will be out of luck, also, because without payroll tax, there will be less work for payrollers to do, so some of them will get the boot.
  • Let's pretend that all the people who lose their jobs at the IRS and accounting firms and company payroll offices are all able to find nice jobs at McDonald's. (I'd love to go on a tangent here, because Huckabee - and I admit I admire this about him - is big on encouraging health to prevent the need for treatment later on. The tangent would go something like this: nice job at McDonald's = eat lots of BigMacs = get more health problems = need to participate in those weight-loss programs Huckabee wants to make low/no cost = more money needs to be spent by the government on the weight-loss programs, but that's a problem, because there's no income tax and all the people who are eating all the Big Macs are at poverty level and so, due to Huckabee's plan, they're not really contributing any money to the funding of the government spending budget because all the tax they "spend" gets refunded back to them.) Let's pretend all those people find jobs, even if they're not at McDonald's (hm, maybe it's the new Wal-Mart that gets put in down the road... Those Wal-Mart people are so good at creating new jobs in places that need jobs! And they also seem to be pretty good at causing landslides). But I think it's fairly safe to say that the people are probably going to be making a bit less than what they used to. That means they're going to have less money to spend. And that means either they will use credit more or that less of their money will be spent on items that would put consumption tax money into the "government money pool." Credit isn't so cool, but that's another whole Hairy Beast. The larger issue is the fact that these (and, of course, all other) non-wealthy people will effectively not be paying any taxes. And the people who didn't work for the IRS, accounting firms, etc. -- who have high-paying jobs and are "wealthy" -- WILL. Does this seem any different from the way it is now?
  • No corporate taxes. Let's get back to that issue. If you're a company and there's now tax on U.S. goods, why in the world would you want to buy U.S. goods? You're a big company with huge buying power and a big bottom line that reads MONEY. You simply buy more stuff from other countries who don't have all that tax on them. That, by the way, also means fewer U.S. jobs. This is because A)if corporations are buying less from the U.S., the U.S. has smaller need to employ people to make stuff for corporations to buy and B) smaller corporations or businesses won't be able to compete with the big corporations who can buy the cheaper non-U.S. the smaller guys will get shut down (okay, so maybe that one is a little anti-Wal-Mart biased...but still!).
Ugh, I'm getting tired of this!! My weariness definitely proves that I am not politically-minded... I acknowledge that there are some good points in Huckabee's plan and argument for his FairTax plan. That's great except that they're interspersed with such diabolically ungood points. I think I can muster a bit more strength to comment on a few other statements on Huckabee's website page about this issue. If nothing else, I at least want whoever reads this to be encouraged to not, not, NOT be swayed by the lovely, persuasive words Huckabee or others use to try to sway you emotionally into buying into a particular view. For example: Huckabee says that when his plan is implemented, "it will be like waving a magic wand releasing us from pain and unfairness." Um. Excuse me? ...I don't know about you, but I sort of feel uneasy about trusting someone who is going to just wave a magic wand and solve all the problems of the country. Which, truly, if you read it, is what he's saying! Yow! Perhaps if you were really desperate and were looking for someone to save you from your miserable existence this would be a welcome invitation. But I'd say that for the majority of Americans (in particular, the majority of those who would be reading Huckabee's website), they don't want magic. (Can you imagine... President Huckabee signs the FairTax bill into law...and POOF!!!! The Dow Jones Industrial Average soars to 20,000...everyone who's been laid off gets a call to come back to work IMMEDIATELY!...backruptcy is reversed...the people who foreclosed the houses and farms track down the displaced and bring them back home...the lame walk, the blind see, all pain is erased, there is racial and religious and ethnic and gender fairness as far as the eye can see...!)

One final rant - I've gotta go catch the last bus to my house!! - on this paragraph: "I believe that globalization, done right, done fairly, can be a blessing for our society. As the Industrial Revolution raised living standards by allowing ordinary people to buy mass-produced goods that previously only the rich could afford, so globalization gives all of us the equivalent of a big pay raise by letting us buy all kinds of things from clothing to computers to TVs much more inexpensively." Whom, precisely, do you mean by "us," Mr. Huckabee? I realize that you are interested in not just free trade, but also fair trade, but I think you forget that when goods are mass-produced...from the very beginning of its inception, somebody, somewhere is certainly not enjoying the "blessing" on society. I'm no history expert, but I do recall things like child-labor and deterioration of family life being quite rapid results of the Industrial Revolution. It sounds like Huckabee is convinced that the primary way to be happy is to have luxury items easily at one's disposal. Ugh...I could go on, but...I'll stop.

Tell me, what do you think of no IRS?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

socks galore!

FINALLY...socks are done.

Not just my sockapalooza socks, but also the Retro Rib Socks I've been working on for over a year... Ugh. That is not cool. AND I even got my own pair of sockapalooza socks in the mail yesterday. Woo hoo! If I could, I would take a picture to indicate that I have socks coming out of my ears!

Here are some photos and the tales to go along with them:
  • Sockapalooza Socks knit for my pal Anne.
These are made with "Peach Sherbert" Flock Sock yarn from Van Calcar Farm. It is wonderful yarn...I love it. I went with the Shimmer pattern from MagKnits. I loved that the yarn did not pool and that the colors all blend and stand out individually at the same time. I just hope they fit...! I had stupidly not started these socks until the beginning of July, knowing full well that the deadline was the start of August (and based on my skill with the Retro Ribs...yeah...knitting socks in a month...?!?!) - but I figured that with some weekly goals, I'd be good to go. That as true until the last week, when a) I had to start working ALL THE FREAKING TIME and b) I ran into some dropped stitch issues which had to be fixed...then a realization that I had messed up the pattern (probably because I was knitting after working for so long...)...then the whole binding off issue. I don't know what my problem was, but I could not for the life of me get the top cuff bound off loosely enough for someone to actually stick her foot through the hole and get the sock on. I had to redo it three times. I really hate undoing bind-offs...but at least now I'm pretty good at it!
  • Retro Rib Socks for me.
I love this pattern. I think I could even use a crazy-colored yarn and it would be very lovely; generally I wouldn't be a fan of texture with multi-colored yarn. But, like most everything else, I had a few issues with these socks, too. The largest of which you probably have already noticed: I have two dye lots of yarn. If you look at the sock on the left, you'll notice that just past the gusset (that's the part that connects the heel to the foot) the color changes. Yuck. I kind of coulda gone back and made this color change a bit less visible, but...I didn't want to. Recall...I have been working on these FOR A YEAR. No way was I going to undo any of my knitting just to fix a part of a sock that usually will be covered with shoes anyhow. So...if you see me wearing these socks, please don't say anything about the two-tone... I also could have made them a bit less long in the foot. But not a big deal. The worst thing I did with these socks was put them on the day after I finished them and then did a bunch of cooking. Somehow I managed to effectively "clean" the floor with the socks...the poor wool is now a filthy mess. Bleh. Gotta bust out out the hand-wash-wool soap... I also learned with these socks that I quite dislike having to recalculate everything when I choose a yarn for a project that has a different gauge than the yarn specified in the pattern. Not only did I have to do that for these socks, but I had to do it twice because in between sock 1 and sock 2 I lost the copy of the pattern on which I had written all my calculations. Grrrrrr....
  • Socks Made For Me! by my sockpal, Cathy.
When I took out these socks, the very first thing I said was, "These are WONDERFUL!" It's always amazing to me how people who don't even know me can pick out yarn and a pattern and make socks for me that I absolutely adore. The color: perfect. (I actually think I have a shirt my sister gave me that matches it precisely!) The pattern: awesome. I'm rather tempted to make some myself with this Uptown Boot Sock pattern from Favorite Socks - enough of a texture (and knitting challenge!) without being crazy and making my head hurt. I put on my new socks right away, but immediately put on slippers (you can see one in the picture) lest I decided to go venture into the kitchen to do some more "cleaning"...

And that is the story of the socks. The sockapalooza socks are getting into the mail today ( I'm a bit late for the August 2-7 took a few unexpected turns, we'll leave it at that), and that means all of my knitting-for-others is done! Woo! Perhaps that means I can make something for myself (that won't be socks that take a year...).

Or...perhaps not, because my friend Jen had her baby on Thursday...and perhaps he needs a cute little crocheted bunny...and a sweater...and some booties...?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

i'm okay

Er, well, at least I am alive. Perhaps "okay" is not how many would describe me.

In brief, here is what I have been doing:
  • Camping with Mom and Dad
  • Attempting to get my Sockapalooza socks finished by the Absolute Final Deadline, which was today, and which was not accomplished because I am apparently incapable of binding off in a manner that allows one's foot to still fit through the top of a sock
  • Trying to finish a piece of writing for work that I wanted to finish about 6 months ago
  • Preparing for doing a ton-load of work in the lab
  • Plotting my future
  • Doing the ton-load of work in the lab
This last is where I'm at right now. It's been something to the tune of 15-plus hour days for 8 days straight, and it will be this way with perhaps 5 days off between now and August 22. So if I don't appear to be in existence based on my writing on this blog, that is why.

By the way, do you realize how much time is left over for sleep when someone works 15 hours daily? Particularly when it takes between 15 and 30 minutes to get to or from work (depending on which road is closed at the specific hour on the specific day of the commute) and that it's utterly impossible to just roll out of bed and leave for work -- give at least 30 minutes for feeding a rabbit, showering if at all possible, locating clothing and food...and (most importantly) brewing some good, strong coffee.