Sunday, January 30, 2011

Acute Startitis

Between the cold, the snow and the basement full of yarn, I developed a wicked case of knitting startitis. Instead of blithely working through to the end of a project, you find yourself casting on one thing after another, forgetting the truth that an idea does not a finished project make.

The most recent manifestation.

That's right.

I walk to yoga after work and I hate that I've not been able to wear my capri-length pants without looking like a fool or freezing.

So, legwarmers.
They'll look like knee-high socks, and I'm using an interesting pattern that I've modified for worsted weight yarn.

I've gotten fairly far on the new colorwork sweater. I have no idea what came over me to start something else, but I don't think it's worth analyzing. Either way, parts of me will be warm and stylish.

Warm AND Stylish.

Dig those pink plaid pants.

And the lovely cashmere top that's been eclipsed by a riot of color, lace and distraction.

Sorry - I'm come back to you.

I promise.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The hazards of moral hazard

I’ve been thinking quite a lot about how, when or even if I will participate in another romantic relationship.

I’ve a long history of not-so-good experiences with men. I view so many of them as negative because I have long maintained a core belief that relationships, at least the more serious ones, are basically an exercise in analytics and economic concepts. Efforts you put in place to ensure that the initial chemistry goes unsullied by fights about things that are actually fights about other things. It turns out I'm somewhat rare in this belief. Although not as rare as I would have thought...

Anyway, lacking a good base in economics, I only recently came to the realization that these were solid and established concepts. I would go to great lengths to develop metaphors in order to explain myself, only to have someone point out to me that the last half hour of baroque language could be summed up as "sunk costs."

Take for, example, Moral Hazard.

Moral hazard occurs when a party insulated from risk behaves differently than it would behave if it were fully exposed to the risk.

Moral hazard arises because an individual or institution does not take the full consequences and responsibilities of its actions, and therefore has a tendency to act less carefully than it otherwise would, leaving another party to hold some responsibility for the consequences of those actions.

This particular one resonates with me, not only because I tend to be a pushover with men when it comes to demanding much of... anything. But also because it gives me that high you get from righteous indignation. (Am I right?)

We've long since lost any sort of robust social infrastructure that disincentives bad dating behavior, so now everybody is pretty much free to be awful to everybody else without consequence. Aside from the emotional leftovers of last year, weakened moral hazard is big part of why I've sidelined myself from any opportunity - reactive and proactive - to experience romance. I just don't care to open that door right now.

And I just keep seeing example after example of individuals who are merely seeking to find solid ground in their relationship being... ignored, undermined, blown off, and sometimes outright disrespected, because their own perspectives and demands no longer carry weight and it's ceased to be acceptable for a third party (hopefully objective) to come in and point out the problem.

I assume we’re all equally guilty of suppressing that fantasy where you confront an individual in defense of someone close to your heart who is: taken for granted; used as a doormat; or being strung along. There are hundreds of conversations I’ve not had with the past, current and future partners of people in my life.

I can't help but wonder if maybe we were in the habit of holding people accountable for their bad dating/marriage behavior, maybe, just maybe, there would be less of it. Strengthened moral hazard = less weasely behavior.

In my earlier dating life, I would have dissolved into a panic if my friends or family dared to step in to my romantic life, but now, now I would love to have some panic button, some way to call out the cavalry, led by an imaginary southern aunt who would come face to face with the offending chap in a not-to-be-interrupted rant that would go something like this:

“Now boy, I hear you’ve been avoidin’ makin’ a firm commitment to our girl? Now why is that, pray tell? Is our baby girl not good enough for you? Do you mean to tell me that after months of pitchin’ woo in such a brazen and public manner that would dare to back-peddle about what the intentions of those actions truly were. Do you think I was born yesterday, boy? Now it’s one thing to change your mind about something, but I would like to assume you were brought up with enough sense to know when you have gone a mile too far and son, I will tell you that at this point, you done passed that mile about three states back and your horse is about to die from exhaustion. I know you weren’t raised up to be wild hooligan, so how about you make your momma proud and dig deep into that cavernous mind of yours and bring to bear some of the more gentlemanly behaviors we expect of our men folk ‘round here.”

See that, THAT, would be that kind of thing that would strengthen moral hazard.

But I do not have a southern aunt capable of letting my suitors know that I am not to be trifled with. And frankly, I do not see how simply adopting and enforcing stringent rules about what constitutes “good dating behavior” is going to turn me into anything but a ball-busting nag.

So I'm just staying out of the game for the time being.

But now and then, I do indulge in what I would want when I find someone new with whom I share chemistry. It would look something like this...

  • To be able to stop the inevitable emotionally-charged conversation with, "Wait. This isn't about ___________. Can we figure out what this is really about?"
  • To know that he understands that emotionally-charged conversations are fairly commonplace in emotionally-charged relationships, and frankly, represent a good way to quickly identify issues that could continue to cause problems.
  • To willingly face those issues as you would face any other challenge: with research, data, trial-and-error and logical decision-making.
  • To understand that doing this doesn't negate the chemistry and fun of a relationship - it tends to shorten the laundry list of Things That Cause Tension, which actually leaves more time and energy for all the fun stuff that we're all looking for from another person.
  • To think it's adorable that I want to distill the logistics of a happy and healthy relationship to economic concepts and understands exactly what I mean when I talk about how weak moral hazard leads to bad dating experiences, and then proceeds to tell me about the time when asymmetric information led to a truly awful first date a couple of years ago...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sick Day Knitting

Caught a nasty cold, stayed home yesterday: drinking soup, knitting, sneezing, more sneezing, some weezing and snuffling, more knitting and even more sneezing.


Sunday, January 16, 2011


I was thinking about what to write, and I keep coming up with the same dilemma - do I continue the navel-gazing pseudo-psychology mumbo-jumbo? Or do I have the stones to share what I've been thinking about the current mess of politics? But I'm just not sure how my voice could add value to the discussions already taking place.

I am an expert (in progress) on me, but I know only bits and pieces about politics. Same for economics. And alternative energies. And the hundreds of other things I read about in my free time. I refrain from bringing these things up and weighing in on them because I am aware of how little I understand regarding the nuance and subtlety of these subjects.

Case in point - Ohio Politics...
After increasing the pay for his senior staff, Gov. Kasich decreased the salary of an Administrative Assistant from $35,000 to $23,000. As of late 2010, $23,000 was 212% of poverty for a household of one. At 200% or less ($21,660), one becomes eligible for energy assistance and a variety of other federal and state subsidies. I am appalled. I am outraged.

But I also don't know the whole story. I assume it's one person getting a life-altering pay cut, but what if he's hiring some supporter's wealthy spouse/child/relative into the role? It certainly provokes a different negative response. Or what if that person has requested unpaid leave? Or a decrease in hours? I don't know these details and I haven't seen them listed anywhere. So I don't tend to consider things like that here.

My job is all about detail, finding references and data and double-checking them - so in my free-time writing, it's easier to ignore these things and focus on the only thing I feel I can speak to with some authority - Me.
What you get is a truly self-centered blog. Which is probably a good reflection of who I am right now. Not terribly proud of it - but I'm totally willing to cop to it.

So, increase my expert opinion on me where there can be no wrong answer? - Or go into more effort to discuss the rest of world and risk being wrong?

Hmmm, maybe my next post should delve into my fear of being wrong...

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Audacity of "No"

Despite a constant treadmill of thoughts, analysis, and decision-making that actually occurs in my life, I realize that I haven’t been delving into anything of any real substance here. So I’m going to try to put some of it down into words.

That was the whole point of this project in the first place. It was somewhere to chronicle my experience so I could go back to it, somewhere I could put my thoughts – clear or jumbled. This isn’t for you, reader; it’s for me. In the rush of doing, I’ve neglected to document, and I’m going to try and remedy that.

So… where’s my head is these days? I’ve adjusted to my new job, adjusted to my new habitat, adjusted to my not-so-new solitary state. I seem to be focused on attaining larger goals through denial - which is odd for me. I’m not a “no” kind of girl. I spent the whole of my twenties saying yes: to food, to purchases, to ill-advised romantic entanglements. It was a decade characterized by experience for the sake of experience. No real goal – just living in the moment and placing the consequences of actions in that box over there labeled “Later." I placed blame for uncomfortable or unattained things on vague externalities and ran off in random directions to see if that thing over there was better than what I currently had.

But that started to change, in small degrees, when I went back to school for my Masters. I was 28 at the time. It was a true challenge, since I used to hate writing. I hated process and methodical anything. I was rash, impatient, impetuous, impertinent, and stubborn. I wanted to jump from idea to conclusion without bothering with the middle bit. But I was determined to succeed, so I learned to make lists, think through things and start tackling projects with smaller steps. I learned that I had the strength to ignore distraction and meet procrastination halfway.

A bit of fallout from the degree and time that came before was debt.

When one is rash, impatient, impetuous, impertinent, and stubborn, one tends to gather debt. There is no such thing as “saving up” nor is there the inclination to deny oneself anything. So I just kept adding to the debt with the belief that one day I would be able to painlessly manage it.

But that was only one of a litany of unrealistic expectations. I assumed that by 31 years of age I would have traveled the world. I would have a small wardrobe of clothes tailored to a body that was much different from the one I was actually lugging around. I would have the mutual and unwavering love and adoration of a brilliant man. There was no plan for how I would achieve any of these goals – they were just goals.

I think I may have actually believed that one day I would wake up and magically things would have fallen into place overnight. My bank account would always be overflowing (without having to attend to it), my body would reflect years of tireless training (without sacrificing the time), my soulmate would be at the ready (without having to search for him or compromise anything.) Instead, I was carrying around a decade worth of plane tickets, suits for interviews, the GRE, entertainment, gas bills and groceries – my past was keeping the present from happening.

In fall 2007, I saw the debt was becoming a problem that could no longer be ignored. I firmly said, “STOP.” And thus began the time of fiscal austerity in earnest. I stayed put to save money, I cancelled all my credit cards, I created a budget and learned to tell myself no.

That final bit, the learning to tell myself no, was hard.

Is hard.

So very, very hard.

But “No” seems to be working for me. I am nearing the end of my debt. By late spring, my car and consumer debt will be 100% retired.

Since I seem to be doing so well with these self-imposed austerity measures, I went ahead and decided to return to vegetarianism - something I left behind long ago when I lost the willpower to deny myself Dad's barbecue. Then I decided to tackle the weight thing, with a fairly high degree of success.

Now, before you get to thinking I’m all smug with my almost-retired debt and loose pants, know this. There is a price to be paid – there’s always a price to be paid – and that price is the word “No.”

I hate that word.

I want that word to die and to go to hell.

Despite how well that word is working out for me, I hate it. Hate it hate it hate it.

Daily – Daily! - I say “No” to myself exponentially more times than I say yes. And I have ADHD, so imagine how many disjointed ideas, thoughts and concepts are freely bouncing around while my pre-frontal cortex is left cowering in the corner.

But ugh!, “No” – that word pulls the plug on indulgence and makes the hubristic assumption that there will be another day to travel, another cupcake to eat, another man to love. Saying "No" in the present in order to have delayed gratification means you truly believe that the day will come when you will reap your reward. And for some reason, I have to work really hard at that.

I see Now and I see vague, blurry Tomorrow – but this whole attainable future thing to almost too much for my head and heart to handle. I come from fatalistic stock - a people who assume the worst and can pick out the one grey, gloomy cloud in perfectly blue sky. I have an authentic optimistic streak, but at my deepest, darkest core, I seem hold a belief that It Will All End in Tears - so eat the god damned cupcake, kiss that questionable boy, and put it on the credit card, since you may not even be here tomorrow.

So I'm treating this as an experiment. I've traded the small and ill-advised indulgences of the present for restraint that will bring me a greater measure of freedom and health in future I can't yet imagine.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Good, the Unexpected and the Bad

Every day I discover more interesting changes as a result of the weight loss...

The Good:
I can do more yoga poses. I kept my strength, but decreased my mass, so it takes less effort to do more. And less volume means I can do binds and a deeper plow pose.

The Unexpected:
Some of my shoes are too big now. I never thought of feet as appendages that gain or lose volume with weight loss.

The Bad:
I've switched to a smaller bra.
My boobs were always a feature I felt consistently good about.
Here's to hoping that sentiment will extend to an increased roster of parts.

I can't say enough positive things about this process, but I also have twinges of guilt that "Too much food" is the problem I face. I exist in such a unique time and place in the world, when a legitimate personal challenge includes learning how to fight the evolutionary and biological directive to eat as much sugar and fat as possible.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Forecast: Quick and dirty is relative.

So this pattern has been in my Ravelry queue for ages. After finishing the Urban Mandarin, I needed a quick and dirty sweater. When I added it to the queue, it seemed terribly daunting... the bobbles, the cable, the dramatic sleeve decrease, the all purled construction. (sneer)

I started it December 12, finished it on January 2nd.
Not too shabby.

Picked out some vintage buttons from my stash, 10 that turned to 9 when one was sacrificed to that place where things that you swear you just had mysteriously disappear.

I mentioned in my last post that I got red glasses and provided no visual evidence.
So this is that.

See, red glasses. And a model train over my shoulder - there, to the right.

Knitting is very serious business.
Look how very serious I am about my knitting.

Or maybe I'm about to throw down.
I can't tell.
It's a bit unnerving, really.

Here's what it would look like if it were a vest.

Not that that was an option, but the light in that bathroom was just really good.