I have not been a very good blogger lately, and feel generally drained of words, which I spend a lot of time around during my working day (generating content for someone else) and even during my non-working day (generating content for myself). As I still have much writing to do for other purposes, but am not wanting to entirely leave you all in the dark, may I present some snapshots of my life in pictures!

Saturday afternoon run on the C&O Canal trail; the trail runs from Georgetown to Ohio, but we didn’t go that far. We did run close to 6 miles though, so that’s not bad.

This is just a random building at the foot of the trail, but it looks very mid-Atlantic colonial to me, and I still get a kick out of the differences in architecture here.

Arlington, VA from the DC side of the Potomoc. It was a beautiful, clear day, but quite crisp in the upper 40s. In California I would have been bundled up, but here that’s not THAT cold, and for some reason that made me feel fine in running capris and a long sleeve running top.

The iconic John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, from Georgetown. I finally had the pleasure of attending a show here this last week…

Another run, this one through Arlington, across the Memorial Bridge into DC. We passed the Battle of Iwo Jima Memorial.

It hasn’t all been running and attending the theater though…I took some time to attend one of the Occupy protests, which was met with solidarity from local unions and environmental groups. It just so happened that it was the day of the Martin Luther King Memorial commemoration–timely, and beautiful.

And then came Halloween…

Of course, we had a kitty-bat themed Halloween.

So, Californians, there’s something to be said for seasons after all–Fall has been beautiful. And for all of you who have been wondering, where are the cats? Here you go…


Operation love DC has been confirmed as a success in no small part thanks to the discovery of Spa World.

I have tried to explain Spa World to several people since my trip there with my housemate and her sister.  We spent an epic 12 hours at Spa World, a Korean spa in Centerville that costs you all of $35 for 24 hour access to ‘poultice’ rooms, a bade pool, a gym, a nap room, and more. My descriptions of this life changing relaxation have lead mostly to looks (or sounds in the case of long distance friends) of incredulity, with the occasional knowing nod of people who have been initiated into the cult.

Because that’s kind of what it feels like. I mean, where else would you don a gender neutral orange jumpsuit (dubbed the prison uniform) to lounge around on woven mats sipping boba, which you paid for with the bracelet on your wrist? There’s not much I can say about Spa World that the internet hasn’t said already…let’s just say I wasn’t at all surprised when my housemate went back a week later and spent the night in the nap room.

The Washington Post covered the opening of Spa World a few years ago, for those of you who may be concerned that I might lose an organ or something. It is legit.

Suffice to say, if you visit me in the future, you are likely to find Spa World on the list of things you might enjoy about DC. Even if it is in Centerville. Monuments & museums be damned.

When I am traveling abroad and people ask about my nationality, I tell them I am Californian. Not because I want to participate in the Americans-pretending-they-are-not-American-while-traveling-internationally trend (mostly I don’t), but because if I think about my “national” identity, as a part of a cultural group, I identify much more strongly with California than I do with America. To date, the only people who have quibbled with this approach have been other Americans. People outside the country tend to be with me on the notion of California as its own sort of nation–if not politically, than at least culturally. Instead of fielding questions about why people voted for W or complexities of our foreign policy, I get to field questions about Arnold Schwarzenegger and whether or not we all surf and hang out with movie stars.

This said, leaving California to live in the city that is in many ways the pulse of the nation of America, has been a challenge.

Some of this has been logistic. The seasons here actually change. I literally drove into an ice storm the night I arrived. It was very cold. Then it was very hot. Both of these circumstances limited greatly my capacity to be outdoors–something that I rather resent. Furthermore, it appears that for about six months out of the year, I will be mosquito fodder every time I go outside. This just plain sucks. Lastly, they apparently take that adage about not wearing white after labor day seriously.

Other things are cultural. The attitude is different. They do not seem to believe in customer service, or at least not service with a smile…. People are more abrupt (ruder, a Californian might complain). Things move faster. They start later (this I wholeheartedly support). The buildings are brick, not stucco. There is no ocean. Within two sentences of introduction, someone is likely to ask you what you do, and assess you for strategic importance to their own relative position. Some people are more subtle about this than others; when Diana was in town we talked to a bartender near Capitol Hill who said people had actually dismissed him as not worth talking to upon learning that he was merely a bartender–saying essentially that knowing you is not going to help my career. This is of course, an extreme, but it certainly illustrates a tendency that I have witnessed.

All told, these changes have taken their toll on me. I didn’t realize how much until I planned a trip to go back home–California. It wasn’t until I committed to that trip that I realized how homesick I had actually been.

The trip was actually a tag-on to a conference I attended in Las Vegas (sociologists do Vegas…that’s worth its own post); I headed there first before my real vacation began. But the need for some California time was affirmed that Friday night when my plane hit down at LAX–I nearly cried to be on California soil, breathing in the cool, dry air of the Pacific coast (ok, with a healthy infusion of LA flavored smog, but hey–I had even missed LA). My flight was supposed to go on to Vegas that night, and when I realized that I had missed my transfer (we had sat on tarmac on both sides of the flight due to weather and incompetency on the part of air-traffic control), I did cry–but not until I had harangued several unhelpful United employees (because let’s be honest, LA is no bastion of good customer service itself) and booked a room at an airport hotel. Still, even the shitty part of LA between LAX and my airport hotel assuaged me on some micro-Californian level. The air was dry! There were palm trees!

And a few days later when I landed in Oakland and was whisked into San Francisco by my sister, my real week-long love affair with my home state begin (aided by flight delays thanks to the hurricane, I got a few extra days of California time. Thanks Irene!). An old friend from San Diego joined me for his first visit to the city, which gave me an excuse to be a tourist, and eat my way through San Francisco with the abandon of a first time visitor and the knowledge of a local (thanks to my own time spent there, and the advice of my sister, who really is).

We ate breakfast at Tartine, visited the San Francisco Mission (as in, the actual mission that the district is named for. This resulted in several iterations of this conversation:

“We visited the mission. I had never been there before.”

“You’d never been to the Mission???”

“Well, not the mission. I’ve been to the MISSION, like the neighborhood…”

“Wait–there’s a mission?”

Apparently San Franciscans don’t think too hard about what the Mission district is named for.)

Also on our tourist circuit was SFMOMA, where we joined the surprisingly dense Tuesday afternoon crowds who packed in to see an exhibit on Gertrude Stein & family’s contribution to the burgeoning modern art scene in Paris in the pre and inter war period. We also went through a beautiful and dramatic photography exhibit that focused on witnessing global current events objectively through the lens. We unfortunately were suffering from sensory overload by that time, and didn’t get to see much from the permanent collection, but we did rest our feet in the sculpture garden long enough to enjoy the cityscape and sculptures and nibble on a left over roll from Tartine that I had wisely stuffed in my bag that morning when my eyes proved larger than my stomach.

We continued our quest of eating through the city with a cheese plate and a glass of wine on top of the Yerba Buena Center, before meeting my sister and her new boyfriend (who was being offered up for approval) for sushi at my favorite sustainable sushi restaurant, Tataki. This is the one sushi restaurant in the world where I know I can order anything on the menu without having to worry about it being unsustainable. Unfortunately we made such a ruckus laughing over an old 4th grade journal that my sister brought to read us that it might be awhile before I can go back there, but hopefully by the time I make it back to the city we will have been forgotten.

The following day took us through Chinatown, Northbeach, and the Marina before I said goodbye to my friend and headed to the East Bay for some quality time with the ‘rents, which included more good food (thanks to dad’s fantastic cooking), mom’s new Micheal Jackson dance video, and also some time with my best friend, some of which included attempting to line dance at a country western club in Fremont. The extra time the hurricane bought me meant an afternoon in the city with the rents. We explored the SF Botanical Gardens until it was time to meet sister for dinner.

Oh, California.

Isn’t this post titled Operation Love DC? you might be wondering by now. And it is. So where’s the DC love?

Well after reveling in California for a full week, I got on a plane to head back to my storm-tattered east coast home with mixed feelings. Although I had had a wonderful trip, and had been thoroughly reminded how much I loved my home state, I was also looking forward to going home.

Throughout all my eating and drinking and reveling in the golden state, some wheels had been turning during and after my stint with the sociologists in Vegas. More on that later, but when the wheels arrived at their destination, the conclusion was that I am likely to give DC a few more years of my life before being ready to move on to the next step (return to the ivory tower–more on this another time). Which meant that like it or not, DC was where I needed to learn to call home. And not just because it was where I had an address, but because it was where I was deciding to live.

So, no white after today. I will learn to love the stupid weather (if not the mosquitoes). I will continue to get comfortable wearing suits, and being sized up by people wearing their career goals on their sleeves. More importantly though, I have decided to redouble my efforts at finding things to love about DC.

There are a few things already on my list. I love my yoga studio–it is the closest I have come to feeling a sense of community since arriving here. I love the Takoma Park farmer’s market, even if shopping there means I will eat nothing but butternut squash for much of the winter. I love the metro (if not the metro-bus); because if there is one thing that is far superior on the East Coast, it is public transportation. I love the abundance of museums–especially since most of them are free–and the sense of something happening that comes from being in the Capitol (even if nothing is being accomplished).

That’s a good place to start–so in the future, I will try to update new things that I have found to love about DC. For starters, a friend took me to H St. NE yesterday, a neighborhood that is billed ‘up-and-coming’ (i.e. in the middle of transitioning from a rough neighborhood to a destination neighborhood). We played shuffleboard at a game themed restaurant/bar that includes skee-ball and mini-golf (which people here insist on calling putt-putt…), and then had a great dinner of moules frites at a gastropub that won ‘best mussels’ in one of the city papers. Kind of a weird category, but they were damn good (so was the oatmeal pie we had for dessert–yum). We also poked around the National Portrait Gallery, which has the distinction of being the museum I go to the most here simply because it is open later than the rest (until 7 instead of 5).

As much as I still miss home, I think there will be plenty here to keep me occupied for a while. And although I somewhat feared that my trip home would reinforce my homesickness, I think it has made it go away simply by reminding me that as much as I may miss it, California will always be there for a visit, and an eventual return.

As an improvement over the last few months, I seriously considered updating my blog multiple times this week. I had all sorts of thoughts that led me to think, that would be a great blog post. They ranged from highbrow thoughts about the numerous political and economic disasters that are playing out here in DC, to much less highbrow thoughts about food, cats, and popsicle sticks. What they all have in common, is that none of them resulted in a blog post. That may be for the best.

And now, here we are on Friday afternoon, and I’m too brain fried to write much of anything. So instead, I’m going to share some pictures. No real theme, just some general DC fun-ness, with the requisite cat pictures thrown in.

This kangaroo graces the front lawn of a house in my neighborhood, Takoma Park. When I moved here, I was told that Takoma Park is the most California like neighborhood in DC–it’s progressive, has declared itself a nuclear free zone, and apparently encourages giant lawn marsupials. I feel right at home.

I got a photo editor on my iphone (PhotoStudio) so I can play with my shots, and I just love this one of Alyssa washing her butt–who knew a butt washing shot could end up looking like a cat Glamour Shot?

Those of you who are related to me might recognise this as an attempt to recreate Oma’s strawberry meringue cake. It didn’t turn out the same, but it was still good. The only thing that stretched its lifespan into two days instead of one was the social pressure that the housemate and I exerted on each other not to eat an entire half a cake in one sitting.

The rollerball challenge deepens. I couldn’t catch him on video, but he spent a bit of time trying to make this work.

A conversation with a co-worker reminded me that I hadn’t pulled the cat hats out in a while. Needless to say, the cats now have a bone to pick with said co-worker. Here is Patches modeling “grumpy elf”.

I can’t remember how the cat hats came up–he said something that reminded me of this best of craigslist post, and that somehow led me to defensively admit, “I mean, I only have three cat hats…”

When he told me that up until that point he had thought I was really normal, I felt proud that I had mislead everyone for so long.

I spent the 4th of July weekend on a beautiful island off the Atlantic coast, with a wildlife refuge, beach, and amazing wetlands, and this is the one picture I took.

One thing I think it’s important to remember when writing a blog, is that that blog is on the internet. Luckily, I have a mother who reminds me of this frequently.

“Your last post was great,” she told me, “and the reference to the Office made us laugh…but you really should be careful about what you write about, because remember, it is on the internet.”

This being the internet, I know I’m going to hear about it for sharing this conversation (hi mom!). But all jokes aside, I acknowledge that this is rocky terrain.

The internet is full of potholes. Potholes where you hit ‘reply to all’ instead of reply; potholes where your boss adds you as a facebook friend; potholes where you blog about work and work finds your blog and does not appreciate your witticism at its expense.

I’ve thought about this a lot, and it’s frankly one of the reasons that I don’t post as often as I would like–or I should–to actually have a meaningful blog that is not, itself, full of potholes. As a result, my readership hovers around a faithful low (thanks guys!), and the chances of this blog causing me any sort of trouble remain slim.

But being overly cautious doesn’t make for a very interesting blog either; at some point I have to acknowledge that this blog is my platform to talk about things that matter to me. And the things that matter to me include my workplace, my work, my cats, my yellow coat, and things that may or may not offend certain people along the way.

The internet has made us question the public-vs.-private terrain in a soul-shaking I-didn’t-even-know-that-would-ever-be-an-issue kind of way. I certainly don’t expect to answer any deep questions on public vs. private in this post (it’s Saturday morning and I am only half a cup of coffee in), but just to state, for the record, that in spite of this blog’s location on treacherous web-based terrain, I strive for it to be authentic and true not to any particular organization or field, but to me personally.

Because for all its faults, the internet offers an unparalleled opportunity to connect. And for all mine, I love to write this shit and have a platform where even a handful of people read it. So stay tuned. The next post is going to be juicy…

(Just kidding, mom!)

Hello. I’m back.

Even though I have not blogged in an embarrassingly long time, I’d like to tell you about a decision I am making to no longer hate my job.

A lot happened this week, considering Monday was a holiday and I took Tuesday off for one more extra day on the beach. Good thing I got some extra relaxation in, because I needed it. As soon as I got back on Wednesday I lost a co-worker and was offered a new job.

These are somewhat unrelated events, but in a small office that seems to be constantly in limbo, there aren’t really any unrelated events. The co-worker was let go because her position was eliminated. As for my job, that’s been in limbo since a new director came on in May. It’s been a relatively positive limbo; I was hired to do policy analysis but the new director and I quickly identified that there was a gap in our communications efforts, including media, social media, and member outreach, and that I had the skill-set and the interest in filling that gap. I’ve been doing so ever since, but as my title is still policy analyst, I feel like a bit of a marauder.

The limbo culminated yesterday in a two-part negotiation over the terms of my job, addressing an ongoing workplace conflict, my salary, and other forms of compensation. These are generally things that one does not post freely on the internet, so I won’t, but I will say that I feel closer to being in a place where issues will be resolved and I will feel valued as an employee.

Following the upheaval of the week, I had a pretty major breakthrough regarding how I want to approach my work place, both my job and the work environment. A lot of it has to do with trust–which I don’t have a lot of right now, either towards organizations or people in my professional sphere. And I can’t be as effective as I want to be without it. The rest of it has to do with what I actually am trying to accomplish, and what I want out of both my current job and my future career path. Although there’s a lot of work still to do, I feel like I finally reached a place where I am ready to invest myself in this organization, if they are ready to invest in me.

One perk I put on the table that my boss granted me eagerly was the opportunity to go and get some out-to-sea experience by volunteering on a research vessel in the fall. I suggested it hesitantly because it would take me away from the office for at least a week, but his response was not only yes, do it, but “that sounds amazing! I want to do that!” An enthusiastic yes. Because as much as I love the writing, reading, thinking and talking part of my job, I get sick of doing it at a desk. Field time makes me not only happy, but more creative and productive.

On a lighter note, during our long discussion around these issues, I kept thinking of the episode of The Office where Michael uses negotiation tactics from Wikipedia to intimidate an employee seeking  a pay raise. I’m pretty sure my boss used some of the same tricks. For example–tactic #6: change the location of the meeting at the last-minute. When we went in for round two, he suggested going for coffee. Unfortunately for him, it was raining really hard. Nice try, boss. He also declined to speak first, and spoke very quietly so I had to lean forward to hear him. At least he didn’t accidentally cross dress.

A few weeks into DC and I already feel discouraged by this mess we call government. And actually, this has nothing to do with fish (which is what they pay me to feel discouraged about).

One of the projects we’re working on is thinking about appropriations and budget. It’s a constant cry in the world of agencies required to do something (in our case end overfishing) that they simply can’t do it because they don’t have enough information/money. The two are generally acknowledged to be equivalent; it takes a lot of money to get the level of detailed data and statistics that you need to manage something as complex as fisheries.

Sometimes this is just an agency trick to get out of doing what they don’t want to politically. And it tends to work, because we all identify with this. You don’t have enough money? I don’t have enough money either! That’s ok then…

Of course the caveat is, no one ever has enough money; the question is, do you have a reasonable amount to take a stab at what you are supposed to take a stab it.

In the case of fisheries right now, they actually really don’t. So we’re crunching some numbers, and following the budget process pretty closely, both asking for more money (haha yeah right) and trying to do some damage control regarding what gets cut.

That part has been interesting. What has made me angry/sad/ashamed to be an American has been watching the Republicans use the budget and the seemingly lofty goal of deficit reduction as a way to legislate ideologically in the back alley of a ridiculous amendment process.

I’m willing to concede to the Republicans that the deficit is a problem that needs to be addressed. That’s pretty much all I’m willing to concede, and I’d say the Democrats are pretty much there too. We’re spending more money than we have, and, as mom and dad taught me back in the day, that’s not a good idea. Of course mom and dad also taught me that if you REALLY REALLY want the full version of the CATS CD and you spend the day poking around kitchen drawers and couch cushions, $30 in change will materialize. I’m not sure how that lesson would translate to fiscal policy though, so we’ll stick with the don’t spend more than you have lesson. The point being, that I kind of get the panic, even if I don’t think it’s quite time to batten down the hatches yet.

So the new rule is no earmarks–specially reserved money for pet projects is out, regardless of the validity of the project. Ok, I can even come along with you there. But then there’s the amendment process, which has become an anti-earmark extravaganza. Instead of rationally considering what programs are really essential and which could maybe tighten their belts, the House of Representatives has come up with an astounding 500 or so amendments going after programs like the Environmental Protection Agency, Planned Parenthood, and Obama’s teleprompter.

The amendments have ranged from downright ridiculous (for example, the amendment that would have de-funded Obama’s use of a teleprompter) to the run of the mill in my world (such as an amendment prohibiting funding going towards catch share programs, a particularly controversial fisheries management tool) to the outrageous and seriously damaging, such as the ones that have me up in arms–removing all federal funding from Planned Parenthood, and gutting the EPA.

The good news is, the Republicans are dealing with their own level of internal chaos quite poorly, which I hope will alienate some of the swing voters. I mean, I always think they’re a bunch of dipshits. But yesterday they passed the CR with no Democratic votes (and 3 dissenting Republicans), in spite of the fact that it is very unlikely to make it through the Senate, or be signed into law by the President. There’s been a lot of blustering from the House leadership, but it’s very likely that they are blustering their way to a government shut down, hopefully reminding the rest of the voting public that it takes more than ideological hatred to actually get something done–even in DC.