So I’m cooking cacti now

This cactus leaf turned up in my vegetable bag. I cut off the prickles and fried it up. Tossed it with some salsa. I call it Totally Desert Salsa.

Yippee ki yay!


I realized I was going native…

…while eating an avocado with a spoon and discussing my new “detox” with a couple of climate change professionals.

Those subtle, penetrating tendrils of socialization permeate my habits and thoughts even as I observe them. We’re starting to fit in here. Sal says things like, “I don’t have the bandwidth to deal with this right now.” I’m eating quinoa and writing about energy startups. It’s amazing how we remake ourselves, shifting bits around to fit the new environment.

I reckon we’re Californians now. I still say “Cheers” and “Howdy” though. You know, to keep it real.

Irrationality Assumption

Freelance writing requires a digital workhorse, and my Asus netbook, running Windows XP Student Edition, is a tired old mule. It’s bluescreening out of spite and taking 30 seconds to like, open the control panel. I’m pushing it too far and too much, I know. It’s time for an upgrade. A rational person at this point  buys a new laptop and ends the story.

Here’s what I’ve done:

1. Research: My hacker cousin messaged me a list of laptops. Good start!

2. Budget: Consulted with the Budget Committee (my husband, Sal) and line-itemed the purchase.

3. Store: Fry’s Electronics, because they are nice to me. They have a rodeo theme. That’s quirky and fun.

This was all decided days and days ago. So why am I typing this blog on Mr. Bluescreen? Why am I flailing my arms at him, stomping around, making idle threats?

Why haven’t I bought a new computer?

It’s a phenomenon of purchasing behavior that economists have missed. I know this because there’s no sexy term for it.* It goes like this: you know you should upgrade a thing – you’ve calculated the benefit / cost ratio and rationally it makes sense. But the one-time hassle cost of the purchase looms in your perception as greater than the accumulation of 30-second mini agonies of your present, outdated thing. Neither self-awareness of your irrationality nor clear benefits of the upgrade are enough to push you to change.

What will ultimately propel me is an explosion of frustration. I predict it will be 3:00 am, midweek. I’ll floor it to Walmart, and buy the first computer I can see through the rage-fog and a pane of glass, to replace the one Mr. Bluescreen broke.

I sent this text to Sal 59 minutes ago:

“I can’t take it anymore. The 12 seconds between every bloody click are tiny eternities binding me in DIGITAL HELL! If we don’t update my laptop to one that works you may come home to find this netbook roped off in a crime scene!! AHHHHH SAVE ME FROM MYSELF!!! love u.”

I’m getting close.


*Feel free to correct me if there is a word for this phenomenon. I’ll use it, acting like I knew it all along.



Gripe all you want, but deep down, you love tekkies…

The data says you do, anyway. Of note: how we feel about the tech industry is nearly the inverse of how we feel about government.

Check it out on

The Enduring Popularity of the Technology Industry.

On how listening to NPR can kind of ruin your day if you let it

To supplement my freelance writing experiment, I’m working part-time at a cafe. Part-time sounds breezy and fun, doesn’t it? Sometimes it is.  Some days, though, I spend seven hours on my feet and want to collapse on the floor in a dramatic faint. But I never do. I just get on my bike and ride back to our apartment, flop in a chair, and drink a cup of oolong. Where was I going with this?

Right, NPR.

So, it’s been a marathon day, and it ain’t over. I hop in the car to pick up the veg bag, and hit Silicon Valley’s infamous rush hour traffic. I mash buttons on the radio, landing on NPR. This guy is talking about organic products, and how maybe they are not organic, and there’s conflict of interest between the farmers and companies that certify organic products.

Are you kidding me, NPR? The organic label is all I have to assure me I’m buying actual food! And now you’re telling me I can’t trust it? That it might be full of pesticides and nano-computers or whatever? That the moral superiority I’ve been feeling in the checkout line has been for naught?

I mash buttons again, landing on “With or Without You” by U2. I wail along happily, cracking the window to release those inconvenient facts into the California breeze.

Some days I just want the radio to be nice to me and not challenge deeply held beliefs, ok?

Is that so much to ask?

Dead Houses

Walking home from work, I take a different route down Emerson Street and pass a curious house with nonsense written on it. Wacky Californians, I think. Posting poetry on their houses.

'Box of Rain' and something of Wolves...sorry, that's a terrible photo. My phone sucks a little.

‘Box of Rain’ and something of Wolves…sorry, that’s a terrible photo. My phone sucks a little.

While I’m snapping a photo, a woman stops and smiles.

“Trying to find all the Dead Houses?”

“Sorry?” I look at the house. It doesn’t look deceased. A little love worn, maybe…

“They’re named after Grateful Dead albums,” she explains. “You know, ‘Box of Rain,’ ‘China Cat’…”

I nod slowly, but I don’t understand. I never took to the Grateful Dead.

“This guy bought up all these houses and fills them up with students and they split the costs. They’re like communal living houses. He thought it would be cool to give students a cheap place to live. And I guess he’s a big Grateful Dead fan.”

She points out a few more down the street. I thank her and snap more photos.

'Uncle John's Band' complete with an urban veg garden in the front yard.

‘Uncle John’s Band’ complete with an urban veg garden in the front yard.

According to a recent article in The Stanford Daily online,  there are nine of these Dead communes in Palo Alto and a few in San Francisco. The juxtaposition intrigues me. Here in the heart of Silicon Valley, down a stretch of street lined with millions and millions of dollars of real estate, a bunch of Stanford kids are growing organic tomatoes and sharing household chores. I wonder if, in the wee hours of the night, they strum a guitar and sing the Grateful Dead song for which their tiny paradise is named.

I reckon there’s still some of that hippy love left in Palo Alto. Some dude out there is keeping it real. That’s good to know.

'Touch of Grey'

‘Touch of Grey’


Throwback Thursday: Chat rooms

O, the chat room! You may no longer be popular, but I remember you fondly. Conversing with strangers, on any topic, at any time of day or night! The thrill of a pop-up message from MrRight22, inviting you to a Private Chat!

Confession: my friends and I didn’t use chat rooms to chat. We used them as social science experiments. Many an hour of summer break we spent dipping in and out of chat rooms, observing people’s reactions to our comments.

One of our favorite avatars was “Pog”, whose modus operendi was interjecting absolute nonsense into a normal chat and then ditching. For example:

Brian: So my dad says I have to go to piano camp, but I really don’t feel like it.

Mary: That sucks, Brian. Do you hate the piano or something?

Brian: Naw, it’s just that I already know how to play, you know?

<Pog has entered the chat room.>

Mary: Hi, Pog. a/s/l?

Brian: So, like I was saying, I’m pretty much a prodigy or whatever…

John: I play the piano, too. But I like the guitar better.

Mary: Wow, there are a lot of musicians in this chat room! He, he!

Pog: I ate a piano.

John: Yeah, I can play like Jimmy Hendrix, with like, a Pink Floyd twist…

Mary: Wait, did someone just say they ATE a piano?

Pog: Erm.

Brian: Yeah, what the ****, Pog?!

Pog: It was delicious.

<Pog has left the chat room.>

We never got personal or bully-y, but we were teenagers and said stupid teenager things. One time, we pissed off a hacker who threatened to send us a computer virus. I don’t know if that was really possible, but we shut the computer right down, just in case. We were more careful after that.

The chat room to the budding social scientist was a laboratory, providing hours of research on social codes, courting behavior, herd mentality – with live, unsuspecting subjects! You didn’t even have to chat to be a part of it. You could just “listen in”, like sitting in a thousand subway cars, catching patches of countless juicy conversations.

I’m sure you’re all too young to remember the chat room. You’ll never know those heady summer days of silly banter before it was “trolling”, innocent eavesdropping before it was, well, creepy and weird.