Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Earth rang like a bell and the mountains grew a foot taller

No Mass, no Office, no Morning Prayer. Yoga asanas and Catholic meditation and prayer
on the floor next to my bed.

The following text accompanies a yahoo slide in a show about yesterday's earthquake.

Mon Dec 22, 8:14 PM ET

California's largest earthquake in four years struck on Monday, causing Planet Earth to ring 'like a bell' and mountains to grow a foot taller, geologists said on Monday. The quake hit near the coastal city of San Simeon almost exactly half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles, setting high-rise buildings swaying in both cities. Reuters.

The Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce website shows a photo of the clock tower from before 11:15 a.m. yesterday. The yahoo news slide show includes a shot of the tower broken up on the street.

Monday, December 22, 2003


Walk. Mass. Office. Morning Prayer.

Last night I went to bed early, around 8. Read appendixes in the Return of the King until I dozed off and the book fell out of my hands to the floor. Woke up enough to turn out the light. After I'd been asleep for a while, the phone rang. I often get calls in the middle of the night, at 2 or 3 in the morning, and when I wake up with my head hurting and my heart pounding, I can't hear anyone on the phone in my room. This time I heard a faint voice in the phone. I said, "I can't hear you. Call back and I'll get on another phone."

Ten minutes later the phone rang again. It was S who was laid off from Sun at least a year ago. She is old enough to retire, but she is ekeing out disability payments at 70% salary, not taxed, which makes it at least equivalent to full pay. Her town house is paid for. She is able to do pretty much whatever she wants, including going to swim at 24 hour fitness every day, but she is still angry at being laid off and bitter, bitter, bitter. I said, "What time is it?" She said, "It's 10:15." I said, "I'm asleep."

Now, I would think that a person who made a call after 10 o'clock at night and was told that the person called had been sleeping would apologize, offer to call another day, and hang up. Instead, she went on the offensive (at least I was offended): "What time did you call me the other day, 8:45 in the morning?" So? I thought. That's daytime. I never heard any rules against calling people in the day time. I felt a rush of loathing for her. " Are you punishing me?" "No."

I said, "What time do you get up?" "Whenever I wake up." Well, then, I thought, that will make it hard to decide what a good time is to call you.

I said, "Are you over the flu?" She had the flu when I called. I lay back on the pillows. I told her, "I think I must have the flu, I was lying here having sweats, maybe it's the flu." Am I wrong to think that a caller who was informed that the person she called had gone to bed early because she felt ill would apologize and hang up for that reason alone? Forgetting the part about it being after 10 and the person has been sleeping?

But she persisted. She asked me how I'm doing. I knew she meant about being laid off. I told her I'm happy, and that I'm doing all sorts of things to re-start my creative writing career. "Did you join the alias I told you about for Sun alumni?" "I did," I said, "but I opted out of receiving the emails, and I haven't gotten around to reading the postings on the website. "

"You should," S said, "I am not in that position, but I read about a man who had to start his own business because there are no jobs out there. I read lots of those stories. And other people talk about how hard they had to work to find a way to get insurance coverage." If she was trying to strike fear in my heart, she was saying exactly the right things. It felt like she was trying to bring me down, break my optimism. My stomach turned.

I broke in, "I feel awful. I was very happy to hear from you because I wanted to get back in touch. Let's talk some other time. I promise I won't call you at 8:45 in the morning if you don't call me again after 10 at night." And I hung up. I had a long time to think afterwards because I couldn't go back to sleep again.

Today I read a bit more ROTK in the middle, in the part about the scouring of the shire. I think it's Frodo who chides some hobbits who are complaining and blaming and finding fault, tells them they are talking "Orc talk." I want to be open and loving and friendly and accepting and supportive to everyone, but I hereby resolve not to talk with people who practice "Orc talk," and to drop that kind of talk out of my conversation. That's what us laid off writers mostly did after the layoffs for days. I would have done a lot more of that if I hadn't gone to a class on mastering anger two days after the layoffs. The things I learned in the class helped me put a curb on my part of the boss-bashing and paranoia.

Is this little screed against S a kind of orc talk? The precepts of the desert fathers about anger say to turn hateful thoughts into a prayer. I did some heavy praying about S last night after her call. And I offer up another prayer for her now. I need to.

News from the periphery of the earthquake

At about 11:20 I felt the earth move, twice. I stood up from my desk, where I was editing my website, and glanced around quickly to see if anything was falling or swaying. Nothing. After a few more seconds trying to see if the quake was over and trying to decide if I should stand in a doorway or get under a table or go outside, I realized I probably didn't need to do anything to protect myself since the shaking had stopped.

I walked to the back door and shouted for Liberty from the top of my steps across the driveway. One of his doors to his garage apartment was open, but he didn't hear me. Wind chimes, mobiles, and the hummingbird feeder were swaying back and forth in the windless air. Everything else seemed normal. The big palm tree in the back yard was steady. When I went down the stairs and across the pavement to Liberty's door. I looked in and said, "Did you feel the earthquake? He said he hadn't felt anything.

To prove what had happened, I pointed to the wind chimes, which were still swaying. I asked him where he would go if there was a major earthquake. He said, "Nowhere." "Not stand in a doorway?" "I don't think there is anything to worry about" "Well, the house has been standing for over a hundred years, but not the garage," I said with a laugh. He said, "I think the garage has been here that long too." I looked at him to see if he was serious about the garage being a hundred years old, but didn't say anything.

I went back into the house and turned on the radio to KCBS. A bigger quake had happened about 5 minutes before the one I felt. After listening for a few minutes, I went back to knock again at Liberty's apartment, but he had left. He had gone out by the door in the wrought iron gate and was almost at the end of the driveway near the street when I saw him. Late for work. "It's a 6.4 earthquake, near San Simeon," I shouted. He kept walking. "When we first moved here in 1989, in August 12 or so, there was an earthquake like this before the big one in Sept. I'm scared." He said, "I'm sorry you feel that way," and started to turn away again towards his car.

I called to him again, "If the big one comes, what should we do to get in touch with each other?" He looked like he was making an effort to be patient. I continued, "Do you have Peggy and Raymond's address?" "Yes." "If we get separated and can't get in touch with one another, call their number." "Even the big one wasn't a big deal." "Except for people on the highway overpasses." "Except for San Francisco and Oakland." I guess he never heard about what happened to people in Santa Cruz city and mountains, closer to Loma Prieta.

I told him, "I just found out this year that some people in San Francisco didn't have power for months. So, if we lose power and cannot reach each other, call Peggy and Raymond and leave word about how you are. I will too. " I forgot to say that he should leave word about where he was staying and how he could be reached.

The big quake in 1989 was a 6.9. This was a 6.4. There doesn't seem to be as much damage, but the reports are still coming in.

One man on the radio reported he was in an estuary near the epicenter. Before he felt the quake, the thousands of birds in the estuary all rose up from the water at once around him. He was awed.

The clock tower in Paso Robles was knocked down. Apparently some of the old brick buildings in the center of town came down. Cars in a motel parking lot were "bouncing up and down on their tires." Three people have been reported dead so far.

It briefly crossed my mind that if the quake had been strong enough, and I had been in the wrong place, I could have died tweaking my website.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Blown day

No walk. No Mass. No Office.

I spent all day updating my website. My eyes and neck and wrists hurt. I didn't leave the house, barely left my desk. The web site does look a lot better. I added my story about the trip to northern Minnesota for Theresa's wedding to an Ojibwe man. And I standardized the pages some more.

I do my own HTML, because the web page programs seem to be more trouble than they are worth. They always introduce strange codes and reformat stuff on me.

Well I did spend part of today straightening out financial things about the computer purchases. I made clam sauce for fettucini for lunch. Ate the rest of it for dinner at the computer.

Tomorrow my friend Christina's daughter is coming for her second tutoring session. And I forgot I had the baby shower to go to for Francesca, daughter of Bruno from Italy. He is in ILM in the same year as I am. I'd better check the time.

I did not spend one minute on my marriage paper or on my resume. I am in the grip of the procrastination demon.

And I have done nothing about Christmas. I did write a Christmas letter, but didn't send it out.

And her words space out into the silence.

Dire warnings about traveling to India

The following emails with warnings about traveling to India came to me from my daughter. I include the email as part of the flow of ideas I'm getting about this tentative plan I have to go to India.

A woman I used to work with is from Wisconsin and married to an Indian. She gave me the impression that India is a distasteful place to visit. She isn't very forthcoming with details, but from what she said there is a stench that hits you from the time you get to the airport. That would kinda lessen one's enjoyment of the place.

I know I hated living across the freeway from the Milpitas dump for 11 years. And the smell of human excrement is worse than the smell of a huge metropolitan land fill operation. I was in a kind of upscale apartment complex with mostly invisible neighbors. And the outside air: Whew, what a stink! Now I roll up my car windows when I drive south through Milpitas along 880. The reek stays with you for about 4 miles. It annoys me that I've seen articles in the Milpitas Post quoting the landfill folks as saying that any odors people may be complaining about could not have anything to do with their operation.

Now for the emails.


Subject: Re: Query letter for your review
Date: Thu, 18 Dec 2003 19:11:00 GMT
this is part of an email I just got from a friend of mine.

so you're mom and bro are headed to india eh? *sigh* where? i DO hope their
trip is better than mine. we were in mumbai (bombay) and pune (pronounced
poonah). talk about craziness. there is absolutely NO infrastructure over
there. it's kinda complete anarchy, and despite the filth, waste, poverty,
etc. that was what affected me most. that and the fact that almost everyone we
met was openly hostile to us and tried to take us for every penny we had. al
You should research the dangers before you go. You should be informed about what you're getting into.

This is funny. I just sent a preachy email to lib and now one to you.What am I? Some kinda wanna be jewish mom?


The opinions she quotes from her friend in the email below are not mine. I see a big problem with the logic of the last sentence from the friend too, but I can't help that. I'm a compulsive editor.

   despite all that? i was so happy to be back in the states (even in
    so. cal!) i just wanted to kiss the ground!!!

I would think she/he means "because of all that" instead of "despite all that." Oh well.

Subject: about india
Date: Thu, 18 Dec 2003 19:14:55 GMT

Hey mom,
this is part of an email I just got from a friend of mine.

so you're mom and bro are headed to india eh? *sigh* where? i DO hope their
trip is better than mine. we were in mumbai (bombay) and pune (pronounced
poonah). talk about craziness. there is absolutely NO infrastructure over
there. it's kinda complete anarchy, and despite the filth, waste, poverty,
etc. that was what affected me most. that and the fact that almost everyone we
met was openly hostile to us and tried to take us for every penny we had. all
in all? i did not have a pleasant experience at all. i don't know if i told
you but even after a hellish plane ride back home (on which we had to make an
emergency stop over in canada for 'lack of fuel' or so they said and have a
crew change over), and when we got into the l.a. airport and our terminal was
on fire, despite all that? i was so happy to be back in the states (even in
so. cal!) i just wanted to kiss the ground!!! so yeah. i hope they have a
better experience than me!!!


Almost midnight, just half past Return of the King

After a year or more of trying to decide which computer to buy, I bought two MACs today, a 20" iMAC and a 12' powerbook laptop. Wireless cards and Bluetooth (for syncing my Palm) on both of them. Wireless keyboard and mouse. Adobe Creative Suite. Microsoft Office Professional. What a splurge.

Liberty is disappointed I didn't by the sale priced Dell 4600 he pointed me to. I tried to, but when I got to the end of hours on the phone configuring a Dell desktop and a laptop to my requirements with the Dell sales guy, and it turned out the desktop he was building for me didn't have the DVD burner option after all, I started thinking, why not buy the Mac I've always wanted. The Dells were getting expensive as I added bluetooth and CD and DVD burners. And because I wanted a big screen for graphics, the screen was going to blow the price off the charts.

If anyone ever deserved to make a sale, that salesman did. (In case you ever read this, I am very sorry Michael Wesley in Nashville for wasting so much of your time.) I had started by spending an hour at the end of his work day yesterday configuring a computer to buy for my sister (don't tell Liberty). We held the order until today for him to try to get me a discount for something. Then while I was finalizing that first order today, I decided to go ahead and order the office equipment I've been planning to use to set up my home business, one desktop with a big screen and all the extras like both a DVD and CD burner and lots of processing power and hard drive space, and the lightest laptop I could get for lugging to places like India.

After I found out that the desktop wasn't going to meet my needs, how expensive it was getting to be, and how the monitor wasn't going to have SXGA+ resolution, I started remembering how much I didn't want to have another deskside tower under my desk with a bunch of cords. So when while the sales guy was crunching numbers, I idly looked at the Apple web site, and there it was brand new and alluring, the 20" iMAC. I told the salesman to send me bids on the two systems I was configuring for myself and went ahead with the order for my sister. Then I called an Apple Store salesman . . ..

What I splurged today is about one mortgage payment. I have some savings. If worse comes to worse, I'd lose the house one month sooner and still own a better computing option that fits on my desk without a tower to get in the way and a bunch of ugly cords. What I splurged today is about one mortgage payment. I have some savings. If worse comes to worse, I'd lose the house one month sooner and still own a better computing option that fits on my desk without a Dell tower to get in the way and a bunch of ugly cords. I hate the cords especially since the accident a few weeks ago where my feet got tangled up in the mouse cord the way Liberty had it set up. I landed on a tin wastebasket and hit my head on the oak file cabinet. Ludicrous, I have to admit. Liberty's friend Piers got absolutely too much of a kick out of the image of me flattening the wastebasked. But still. It was a hazard to my health.

My sister, Martha, broke her wrist by falling like that the week before I fell.

I did the same kind of splurge when I made my last car buying decision. For years I bought the cheapest thing I could afford that I needed. My first new car in 1985 or so after I got my first professional job was a Chevette that was so low-end that it didn't have a glove compartment door. When I got a little extra money, I went to a junkyard and bought the door and had it sprayed to match. Then when that car died in 1990, I bought a Toyota. Then after I crashed the Toyota in 2001 (after 135,000 trouble-free miles), I bought a car that I loved, a brand new 2001 and 1/2 VW Passat, "fresco" green, which is a kind of distinctive silver green. They had changed the model half way through the year by adding a cup holder but more importantly a lot of beautifully designed chrome on the grill and side panels. I glimpsed the new model when I was test driving a regular 2001 Passat through the dealer's back parking lot, and I fell in love, with the chrome and the color and the style. It has wheels instead of hub caps, which repeatedly came off on the Toyota from the first week I bought it. And I got a 6 CD changer, a sun roof. It cost a good deal more than the cheapest thing I could by, but I had enough money in the bank, and so I got what I wanted.

Now I realize it is more car than I need. I should have a two seater that uses less gas. Hope I don't feel the same way about my beautiful Macs in a while.

When I started this, I was only going to write about going to the Return of the King tonight with Liberty. After all the hours I've spent watching the extended DVDs and the commentaries on the first two movies in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I am attached to the actors. Probably too much so. A comic strip I saw today had a young girl character hoping that Orlando Bloom (who plays Legolas the Elf) was going to be in every scene in the movie. As we drove over to the theatre, I personally was eager to see Frodo again . . .. Trying not to get a crush on Aragorn. What a movie, impressive in many ways. I laughed, I cried, I was amazed, and I was uplifted, I loved the city of Minas Tirith. We kept exclaiming at the gorgeous shots of the city. And I loved it when Eowyn cut off the winged beast's head and then slayed the Nazgul Lord who was riding it.

Just found out from googling Eowyn Nazgul King that Tolkein had Eowyn kill the beast and had Merry kill the Nazgul Lord from behind.

Spent about 30 minutes working on that marriage paper today. I was on the phone so long with the sales guys that the turkey soup I labored over for an hour picking meat off the bones and chopping carrots boiled down twice.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Got another email from Guru from Mumbai, which I'll post later.

No walk. Mass. Office. Morning Prayer.

Need to write my paper on marriage for the Institute of Leadership in Ministry. It's two days late. I've been blogging instead of writing.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

I received an email back from Gurudutt. He signed himself, Guru.

Maybe I can learn from him more details that would go well in my article.

Subject: RE: Great columns on technical writing
Date: Wed, 17 Dec 2003 11:14:58 +0530
From: Gurudutt Kamath
Organization: Gurudutt Kamath
To: "'Roseanne Sullivan'"

Hello Roseanne,

Thank you so much for a wonderful email. It was a pleasure reading such
a well crafted email.

I am delighted to hear that you and your son are coming to India. I look
forward to meeting you both, if possible. Let me know your schedules so
that I can plan a trip to Chennai or wherever, if possible. Of course,
if you are passing through Mumbai (Bombay), nothing like it.

I very much appreciate the points that you make and am in total
agreement with them.

Let us keep in touch.

Looking forward to meeting you and your son.

If I can do anything at all for you in India (from Mumbai), let me know.

My contact details: XXXXXX

I am available on MSN Chats as XXXXXX@hotmail.com.


I wrote him back as follows:

Subject: Re: Great columns on technical writing
Date: Wed, 17 Dec 2003 19:50:10 -0800
From: Roseanne Sullivan
To: documentor@vsnl.com

Hello again Guru,

Thank you for your kind offer to meet
us when we come to India. I don't know
the date yet. My son, whose name is Liberty,
told me at first it would be the end of January,
and yesterday he said it won't be until February.

I'll let you know when I know anything more.

I'm trying to change careers from being a technical
writer to something more creative. I have
in mind "new journalism," which is nonfiction
written using the techniques of fiction. I have
a masters in creative writing, specializing
in fiction and memoir writing.

I'm reading the Writer's Guide for contact
information and submission requirements
for the big magazines I've always wanted
to write for, and I prepared a draft of
a query letter. If I can get an editor
interested in a story about off-shoring
with my personal experience, that would
be great.

Thanks again for your interest.


P.S. I don't know MSN chats. But I just
started a blog. I hope you don't mind
but I posted my letter to you there.
If you object, I'll remove it. If you
don't object, I'll keep posting our
correspondence if I think it fits
my theme. Let me know, okay?


Some of my non-work writings are at:


Walk on the North Side

Mass. Morning Prayer. Office.

I live in San Jose, California, in a neighborhood called Northside. It has its own yahoo group, consisting of yuppies and mumpies who bought some of the interesting older Victorian and Craftsmen style homes here and want to improve the area. The people who live here are mostly Americano, maybe second generation Hispanics. Then there are Pilipinos, some Vietnamese and Hmoung, old Italians (in their 70s and 80s from when the neighborhood was mostly Italian) and some Eastern European mutt newcomers like myself. I grew up in working class neighborhoods, my house in Minneapolis was in a similar kind of place. So I like it here. Subdivisions and apartment complexes seem like lonely, disconnected lifeless places to me.

I used to want to live somewhere groovy, such as returning to San Francisco where I lived for three and a half years during the 60s, but I can't afford the rents, the trouble, the risks.

Postal service is BAD around here. The nearest mail box I know about is four miles away. Today I took the long walk to the mail box.

I walked to the mail box because I had been trying unsuccessfully to send a postcard to my daughter by leaving it clipped to the mailbox for two days, but the mailman didn't pick it up. It is a sketch I did in Maine at hole in the wall Marcy's restaurant, which I stuck to a postcard backing. I like the sketch. It shows the specials written on the whiteboard over the grill, and the odd things hanging on the wall, the clock with a fork and spoon shaped hands, and the tatoo the size of a dinner plate on the back of the waitress, who displayed the tatoo effectively by wearing a tank top. I did the part about creating the postcard for Sunshine over a month ago, but lost track of it. When I found it again, it took me another two weeks to write something on it and address it. And now another week it took to get it in the mail. I didn't have to walk to the mail box, but I took it as a chance to get some exercise and have a little adventure.

Between my house and Holy Cross Church, the neighborhood is pleasant and residential. It has corner stores, and the block-square Baquesto Park. Holy Cross is on the corner of 13th Street and Taylor.

13th is a busy corridor, not as nice as the rest of the neighborhood. When you travel north from Taylor, 13th becomes old Oakland Road, a major truck corridor on the edge of the city. The corner of the next block up from the Church has some Victorian office buildings. A graphic design and sign firm, two liquor stores, and a Head Shop (!). Further along are tire stores, a carros donados (donated cars) lot, cabarets. Maria's cabaret (Live Music) is particularly striking because a wooden statue of (presumably) Maria stands on top of the rectangular concrete building. She has black hair in a top knot and a red sheath dress and holds the sign "Maria's" above her head. Guys with cowboy hats and cowboy boots hang out in the parking lot at night, probably ducking out of the bar for a breath of fresh air.

Two or so blocks north of Holy Cross, I saw the pleasant middle-aged black man who panhandles on the median strip of the road near the entrance to 101 and waved at him just before he turned into a Vietnamese restaurant on the other side of the street. When I would be waiting to turn onto the freeway in my Passat on the way to work, I would give him two dollars. That started because the young Mexican priest (who studied in Rome and speaks good Italian) told me to give two dolars to beggars as a penance. (Previously, I used to give only one dollar.)

I'm sure the panhandler didn't recognize me outside of my car. When I drive my old VW van, he doesn't recognize me.

The Gecko Grill, a sort of upscale taqueria, doesn't serve breakfast, in spite of what the desk clerk at the new Comfort Inn on the corner of Hedding told me when I asked where he sends his customers for breakfast. That reminds me of what Richard Henry Dana reported as the most common phrase he heard when he asked any of the California Indians anything in 1835: Quien sabe? Who knows? Nowadays, the answer you often get is something completely made up. People don't like to admit they don't know something.

I broke my fast at the taqueira in the Mexican market the other side of Hedding from the Comfort Inn. Burrito con lengua (with tongue). Yummy.

Since the market is near a freeway exit, truckers regularly stop there to grab a bite to eat. Two men (who also happened to be black) were trying to order a burrito like you can get in Taco Bell or one of the similar chains. "I want ground beef," one man said. "We have beef, " said the waitress. Because she speaks more Spanish than English, I thought she was going to serve him a burrito with some non-ground beef, so I decided to try to help, since tengo un poquito de Espanol (I speak a little Spanish). I said, "He wants hamburgesa." Jesus, the grill chef at Sun's Newark cafeteria had taught me to order a hamburger as "hamburgesa."

When the customer received his order, he said, "No, I don't want that." The waitress had given him a hamburger sandwich. "I don't want bread." In a mildly reproachful tone, the waitress told me that hamburgesa includes pan. My mistake. "No," I said, "He wants it on a tortilla." She didn't look like she understood, but a few minutes later I saw that she had put the contents of the sandwich on a big flour tortilla, broken up the hamburger patty into chunks, folded up the tortilla, and the customer was satisfied. I was embarassed about my contribution to the mixup.

I bought a pound of molita de rey (which I now think is the Spanish for hamburger) from the butcher's counter before I left the market, put the plastic bag into the pouch on my sweatshirt, along with my Liturgy of the Hours and Magnificat magazine and my credit card, and then went on my way. Now at least I understand another nuance about the difference between English is and Spanish. In English, hamburger can mean the meat and the sandwich. In Spanish, hamburgesa apparently only means the sandwich.

I passed the White Way Motel and tried to guess who stays there. I never see anyone coming in or out of there, or of the Oh La Lodge a few miles farther up Oakland Road.

Another odd eating place along the way I passed, is the Garden City barbeque at the Garden City trailer park. Two black men were (what else?) manning a big black barbeque outside, and the smoke drifted up and north from where they were standing. One of them was vehemently and repeatedly declaring that some woman should go get a f***ing makeover. A coworker brought a group of us to this one-of-a-kind restaurant for lunch from work one day a few years ago, when I was working over on North 1st Street in Sun SJC01 building.

Garden City is a place where you go with a big appetite for large servings of barbecued ribs, chicken, or sausage. Side dishes include corn on the cob, macaroni and cheese and potatoe salad. They sell little homemade sweet potatoe pies and bread pudding with whipped cream on top for desert. The staff is from a Church and the restaurant is a fund-raiser. The customers range from residents of the trailer park behind them to engineers like the one in our group who was willing to drive miles out of his way to eat there.

Further along my way to the mail box, I passed another two black men carrying boxes to a bus stop. It looked like they had just come out of the self-storage place across the road. I glanced at the top of one of the open boxes to see what might be in it. A change of expession, maybe just heightened alertness, passed over the face of one of the men, who then looked down at me and said pleasantly but insistently, "How you doing?" I said, "Fine." The other man took out one of the blue and red boxes that I had glimpsed inside the bigger box he had been carrying. "See, it's a nail kit that you might be able to use." He opened the smaller box, removed the kit, and spread the kit out for me to look at. "Oh I couldn't use anything like that." He said, "Have a nice day." Obviously they had noticed me looking, and decided to let me know that they knew I had been putting my nose into their business.

I spent a few minutes talking with a white woman called Dolly at her hot dog stand. She seems to be the single San Jose manifestation of a commonplace practice in Florida, where women sell hot dogs on the the corner. In Florida, from what I've heard, the hot-dog-selling women wear string bikinis. Dolly is a lot more circumspect. Her outfit consists of short skirts with high heeled shoes, and her hairdo is big, teased, dyed blonde. (Today I noticed a long blond wig hanging from the side of her cart.)

Dolly's spot is on a sidewalk across the street from the self-storage building near some light industrial buildings and trailer parks. She's losing her clientele to layoffs from the businesses that used to rent the light industrial buildings.

When I've stopped to buy a hot dog from her when I still had a job and was driving to work after working at home in the morning, Dolly would assemble the hot dog all by hand to my preference. She'd ask me, "You want dijon instead of that regular mustard? Want one of these French rolls?" The hot dog seems to taste better from her giving it personal attention.

Dolly told me she can't change locations to try to find a busier spot. "I've been here 25 years. Where would I go?"

A few blocks before I got to the mail box, I explored a path under an underpass that leads down to Coyote Creek. Got a strong sense there that I was in a dangerous environment. Homeless campers under the overpass have littered the path and the space under the bridge. I started worrying what might happen if I surprised someone still sleeping down there.

On the other side of the overpass I passed the San Jose Golf Course, behind a chain link fence. A sign advertises its restaurant, and I just remembered that Liberty took me there for a disappointing Mother's Day brunch about six years ago.

On the way home, back over the bridge over Coyote Creek. I decided to leave the noisy road with the trucks and construction work, and took a gravel road that followed the curve of the creek behind a set of industrial buildings. With my back turned to the street, I could see a vista of green, and notice the sky with its few clouds, and felt a drop in tension with the view. The greenness called to me. My tension shot right up again when I noticed a poor man on a bicycle with a very large garbage bag apparently full of cans and bottles he was picking out of dumpsters near the loading docks.

The gravel road continued parallel to Oakland Road with wild grasses and shrubs on the land sloping down to the creek on my left and the trailer parks and other businesses to my right, and the feeling of being unsafe came back strongly on me. I kept thinking how vulnerable I was and about the woman who was jogging in Contra Costa county during her lunch break and got killed. I prayed most of the rest of the way, examining the fences to my right for a gate that I could take to leave the road without turning back. At one point I saw on my left what looked like a permanent homeless structure roofed by the biggest canvas tarpaulin I've ever seen. A sound like somebody clanking pots and pans around came out from under the tarp.

Thought I, "Stupid 50ish writer woman leaves the safety of her home to place herself in danger at the edges of the city. Body found near Coyote Creek. News at nine." And then I prayed some more. Finally I came to a gate, but it was across the road, and it was looked. After failing an attempt to squeeze around it on the right between some rails and an adjacent fence, I found I was able to crawl sideways through the horizontal metal rails. Within a few hundred feet, I was at a set of railroad tracks. I can't quite express my relief when after following the tracks for another seemingly interminable length of time I glimpsed the busy Oakland Road again.

I stopped at the Burger King at the freeway entrance for a Coke and a glass of water. The Indian owner had selected an odd assortment of wall hanging. A print of a Dali-esque painting had two semi-transparent girls in a living room where the ocean poured in through a doorway, and a fire crawled from the fireplace towards where one of the girls was reading on the rug. This was next to a bar sign like you'd see in someone's recreation room in the 50s, next to an insipid nature painting. Rope lights serving as Christmas decorations outlined the wall hangings.

It was a relief to cross Hedding back into the neighborhood, and 10 long blocks later I was home. I'd left the house at 7:15, and it was 1:10 when I came into my warm kitchen

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Forgot to mention: No Walk, No Mass. No Morning Prayer. Office. Slept late after staying up after midnight dashing off a query letter about the off-shoring article I want to write. Too many things are not aligning. Can't follow Liberty to CISCO in Chennai. No permissions. Could get him in trouble with company. After reading everything I can find on the web, I see the subject has been well-covered. All I could do is personalize it. If I can't get my foot in the door of CISCO while Liberty is there, then would there be anything else interesting to say? I would be like Hunter Thompson who was paid to attend something like the Democratic National convention and stayed in his hotel room and wrote about doing drugs.
Tried to work on the marriage paper for the Institute for Leadership in Ministry. Couldn't as they say get traction.
It's almost midnight. I'll try to go to bed and start again another day. I feel like I'm waiting for something to happen to break the miseries.

Letter to an Indian tech writer

I wrote the following letter to a technical writer who has a column at http://www.expressitpeople.com.

Subject: Great columns on technical writing
Date: Tue, 16 Dec 2003 20:19:48 -0800
To: documentor@vsnl.com

Hello Gurudutt,

I am a Sun Microsystems technical writer whose job is probably going off-shore to India. In searching the web for anything to support my theory that one cannot automatically assume that Indian English is the same as American English, I found two of your columns, "Grammar stammer" and " the art of stylish writing." You're good! You write very well and make good points.

When you wrote that simplicity and brevity are essential with tech writing, I agree wholeheartedly. But I want to quibble with one idea, where you wrote that if a writer creates a manual, the goal should be that "the users of the system should accept the system wholeheartedly."

By the time users are reading the manual they must have accepted the system. At that point they need to know how to use it.

I have always held that technical writers have to get out of the way of the readers. Find out what your readers need to know, tell them, and stop. Use as many words as you need, but no more.

In any kind of writing, as you are aware, the goal is not to get the reader to pay attention to your writing. Samuel Johnson wrote that if you write something that strikes you as particularly clever, you should strike it out!

Keep up the good work.

My son is going to Chennai to train CISCO tech writers in January, and I might go along with him to write an article about off-shoring. So I might be in your country sometime soon for the first time.

Enough about me!


Monday, December 15, 2003

When I write more than a few lines, I stop being able to enter text. So I'm starting another post to finish my thoughts. Never seem to tie anything together. I start with a story and then something fails technically, and I don't get to closure.

Liberty came to the loan signing. I had lots of follow up to do afterwards, with the hazard insurance company, the title company, my 401K loan company. Had to go through my papers and remind myself when I absolutely must pay back the loan. I think it's due 90 days after termination date before it is considered a "disbursement" and then becomes taxable and liable to penalities.

At the end of January, Liberty, is going to India to train writers who will be doing CISCO documentation. I would like to write an article on what just happened -- with my group of technical writers being replaced and my son being sent to India to train writers. So I spent a few hours searching for what has already been written about off-shoring. Talked to an Indian friend of mine who has strong opinions that Indian writers won't write standard English. Loaded an old version of Writer's Guide onto my hard drive from a CD from the library and read about query letters. Oops, out of space again and still no closure.

Busy day today. Walked to Holy Cross for Mass. Frost was on the lawns and roofs. Hands were cold. Stopped to read Office of Readings and Morning Prayer in the Church afterwards. From now on, when I do the above, I'll use the abbreviations: Mass. Walked. Office. Morning Prayer.

Sunday, the choir director Peter greeted me and said someone told him I'll be joining the choir. He asked me if I'm a sister. I thought it was because I was wearing a black crew neck sweater over a white cowl neck sweater, and a black skirt with black stockings and shoes. Very nunnish colors. Then I guessed it must be because of my short haircut. He said, No because you look like a sister. A holy woman. Best compliment I've ever gotten.

At 9:40 I had to be at Lens Crafters for an eye exam. Need to have the prescription redone. Can't find my last pair of glasses, which I'd like to reuse for the reading glasses I need to supplement my progressive glasses. I'm going to get disposable contact lenses too. I am a little ashamed at my vanity, wanting to spend money for contact lenses. But I keep thinking about how the Pope used to have thick black rimmed glasses in all his photos, but then for many years, no glasses ever appear. I'm thinking that if the Pope, whom I regard as a Holy Man, wears contacts, I can too.

At 12, I went to sign papers for the home equity line of credit that I opened so I can pay off the 401K loan I took out as a down payment on this house. If I don't pay it
back within a certain number of days after Sun terminates me, I'll owe $5000 extra in taxes in 2005.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

I want to have a place to record the things I do and read and think and learn each day. So this is it.

I picked blogspot.com because a blog in http://stealinghome.blogspot.com cracked me up. I came across the blog in a google search for RCIA. The posting was about an RCIA class the blogger, Jaclyn, was attending. (Rite of Christian Iniation classes are how converts get taught about the Church.)

Jaclyn wrote about a cheerleader who got a funny expression on her face when she found out that the Catholic Church teaches that sex outside of marriage is wrong. The poor girl apparently didn't know whether she wanted to join a Church like that!

One thing that drives many people away is that the Church is counter-cultural. And sexual self-control is not even considered healthy in the culture of today.

Today I read some more in Richard Henry Dana's _Two_Years_Before_the_Mast_. Where I left off last night, the crew had just gotten past Cape Horn after horrendous storms on their homeward journey from California back to Boston. Whole pages of the book are almost incomprehensible to me because of the sailing jargon, but it still fascinates me. The book shows vividly what the hard work of being a sailor was like for Dana, who was a Harvard student who went to sea for his health.

People used to work harder than I can imagine ever working myself.

I'm too tired to write any more.