Tuesday, March 28, 2017

I'm not sure whether this is amusing or not

I'm a writer, so let me tell you a few stories.

Somewhere around fifteen or sixteen years ago, I'd been rocking a longer-haired Bettie Page thing for a while. It amused me - all it takes to "get Bettie'd", as I used to call it, was having brown hair and cutting bangs. But after a while it bored me, so I decided to grow out my bangs.

In those days, I hung out at a blues bar a lot. Enough that I was apparently a fixture - perhaps more than I had realized. One of the resident drunks, a woman I was acquainted with, but not particularly friends with, commented on my hair one night, and I told her I was growing out the bangs. She *wigged out* on me. "But you're our Bettie!"

Needless to say, this rather cemented my resolve than made me trim the fringe.

The fact that I shortly thereafter met a guy online who literally wrote the (crappiest-reviewed-on-Amazon) book about Bettie didn't hurt, either. This was, by the way, pretty much a complete accident. We only dated for four months (four too long), but my divorce from Bettie-ness was complete.


Then there was the time I went as Clara Bow for Hallowe'en. I got a little wig, wore a drop-waist, hankie-hem satin dress, threw a couple strings of pearls down my back instead of down my front. I under-painted my lip line, over-painted my eyeshadow and liner, and tweezed my brows to nothing.

Some time later, when I had photos in costume, I happened to see one of my aunts. She peered at the pics, and SWORE that was not me.


One of the few moments from my middle and high school years that sticks with me was the time one of the more popular kids said to me that my hair looked different every single day. It's a throwaway thing to say, it doesn't have deep meaning, but it has always somehow informed my self-image. I liked being a human mood-ring, or whatever it is that meant to me - and maybe still means. Certainly, I don't want to be the same thing every day, even if that were a pretty thing - how drab, never changing.


For years now, my hair has been the same day in and day out, 95% of the time. Maybe for decades. This is "not a good look" as the kids really don't say these days.

Right now, I have a new hairstyle every five minutes. Short hair can be awful versatile, kids.

Yeah, I don't know with the crazy eyes. Best I could do.

Amusingly, one of the first impressions I had of my new haircut, after the stylist made it sort of big and round, was that it resembled Clara Bow. I remembered my beloved late aunt and laughed a bit.

Then, after I'd emailed mom a few pics so she could have and share them, I heard  that another of my aunts, and my uncle along with her, were saying, "That is NOT Diane!"

(I wonder - if I put on a pair of glasses, would they call me Diana Prince, maybe? It *was* my dream, lo these forty years ago ...)

Let it be said, none of them, including mom, seems to have noticed I got a second piercing in my right ear, the short side of the asymmetry. Observational skills, y'all. (SCIENCE! WOO!)

I was a long-haired person most of my life. After the initial tug-of-war (usually literally, with a hairbrush) with my mom over hair length, it just became a battle of wills, and I internalized long hair. Mind you, I've always loved it. I loved having a living cape, I loved playing with it, I loved the way it felt. I like long-haired men quite a lot, too.

It's been many years since I found my long hair to be pretty.

And I wasn't playing with it so much, and never had it down anymore, to feel it.

Hmmm, sed I.

But you know how that post goes.


Now, I am no Dena Pawling, but when I saw this particular legal story, I had to share. Mind you, it's gross and involves a mouse and a food product, so click if you dare. Grossest defense strategy ever? It certainly outranks the Twinkie, and may even be more unhealthy too.

Sigh. Y'all. It is 2017, and even now there exist ... well, "people" who think this is okay:  "Legs-it". Ms. May, for most women in the world, who don't have your power, this really is not "a bit of fun."

Aaaaaahh, semantics and lawers and supply and demand! On the difference between flavoured (by actual vanilla) and flavour (or, as my brother and I spell it when we're discussing horrible fake fruit tastes: flav-o, which is often to be found in extruded "fud" products). Hey, at least nobody's citing the old tulip story again. Let us applaud The Conversation for such restraint (or theconversation.com, if you are okay with just the flavour).

REALLY interesting look at bigly data. How many "Likes" does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Tootie Pop? Well, three of course, as we all learned from that owl. But a mere seventy can buy you an actual human being's psychology. Creepy. Anyone who still thinks it's nifty-spiffy to hand over your entire life to data-collecting corporate concerns, please raise your hand.

A kind of placelessness

Another interesting tech article - on the way Facebookification turns extreme body modification into bland (dead) commodification. The Wal-Mart of teh intarwebs.

Blue lies: how to draw some people together, while driving others away (or marginalizing them completely - FUN!). Fascinating concept. One wonders whether Cambridge Analytica is using this dynamic. Also, sigh.

Sunday, March 26, 2017


For my costume or textile loving readers, Luciakaku has a beautiful post about her collection of kimono - well worth a click if only for the luscious photos. The peacock one is my favorite! ("Of course," says everyone, with indulgent rolling of eyes.)

Believe me, they feel your indifference.

Food for a very great deal of thought here. In the past, I once said of a woman who married an unrepentant bastard that I knew (not an abuser - that I know of, but a greedy, narcissistic, cheating sociopath), "She signed up for it." This woman knew what he was, and she married the jerk. But this link ... Well. As my oldest friend and I used to say: "It is to sigh." It's never as easy as that. And it isn't as funny as this. So read this link, please read it - and take it to the final paragraph, which is incredibly important.

Have a while to get lost in a beautiful, detailed tree-style map of the history of world languages? Sure you do! So enjoy. It's gorgeous.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Poem of Sorts

Today, I wrote a poem of sorts to Mr. X in an email ...

http://dianelmajor.blogspot.com/2016/01/fractured-light.htmlYes, that wasn't written today. But it's my heart again today.
I want to cut my hair. I want another piercing in my right ear. I want a new tattoo.
I want you.

The thing about cutting my hair ... it would be hard for anyone who has never met me to understand just how "big" a statement that is. My being long-haired is so much a part of who I am it's almost a point of stubbornness. Well, it IS stubbornness. Resistance of my mom's utter loathing for long hair. Resistance of What is Expected of me - of women. Resistance of making anybody happy but myself.

So it's weird, these thoughts - this near-obsession I've been nursing for a couple or three months now, of cutting my hair. I'm forty-nine, for goodness' sakes. I resisted cutting it when I reached A Certain Age - now I want to chop it all off?

But here's the thing.

I look around myself, and more and more women my age - and older - are long-haired, and what they seem to be resisting is their age.

Hmmm, sez I. Hmmm.

When I was very small, I had long hair and bangs for a very short time. Tangles and my sensitive headbone screwed that up for me. I was horrible for my mom to work with, brushing my hair - and so, in the seventies, when super long hair was in, when hippie chic was my equivalent to Disney Princess glamour, I lost my long hair and got a PIXIE cut.

I hated that cut. I hated the shags that followed, and every iteration of NOT LONG HAIR my mom dictated to every stylist she ever dragged me to. I managed longer hair in middle school, but somehow (still under maternal control as under the paternal roof) ended up yet again with Mackenzie Phillips's layers come high school. If you look at the old photos of me at the link above, though, you'll just manage to perceive - I also managed a sort of take on Cyndi Lauper's hair, senior year. The cut as produced by a stylist was as seen in the purple sweater, but as it grew out, I would razor it myself, and it was much shorter. I kept it this way for some time, but eventually I tired of maintaining the shaved-right-side.

(Side note - being My Brother's Little Sister, he of the punk rock and scariness: I did not know at all that shaving one side of my head was the least bit odd, for many years. It honestly was just easier for doing schoolwork - I didn't have to constantly throw my hair out of my own way.)

By my freshman year in college, it was plain old shaggy, and I had my eyes on the prize: out of mom's control, my hair could be under my own control. I grew it out. And grew it, and grew it.

I never got Crystal Gayle with the stuff, but it was long enough at times it'd get caught in my armpits sometimes. Heh. That grossed my sister-in-law out once, when I said that. I never could sit on it, but I've always sat BACK on it. Even today, if I didn't wear it up most of the time, it would be long enough to hang between my back and any seat-back.

But I wear it up most of the time.

Hmmm, sez I. Hmmm.

There was a time I didn't wear my hair up all the time. I liked to let it fly. I wore it differently all the time; one of the hallmarks of my style was the time in my teenage years when someone said to me my hair was different every day. I liked that.

These days, it is limited to knots, braids, and very rarely I'll do a barrette on top (and then I end up knotting the hanging length half the time) or a hair band (and then I end up knotting the hanging length more than half the time).

Even when I am alone at home, I twist it out of the way. The stuff is almost never down.

And these women - a lot of them even older than I - with long hair. I don't like their aesthetics. I don't like the sense they're clinging to youth gone by. The sameness. The sadness. I never had much problem with ageing, even though people do tell me I am relatively poor at it. Jamie Lee Curtis's story about Jessica Tandy has long stuck with me. JLC kicks copious amounts of bootay. And she has uber-short hair: undyed.


And the older I get, the more keeping up with my roots annoys me. I got to about an inch and a half of white showing last month, and my most recent dye job is already growing out. Not obvious to anyone but me - YET - but the point is, the upkeep is constant. And it takes two bottles for me to dye my hair.

Mind you - I LOVE my contrasts - the fair skin and dark hair. The light brown eyes and freckles. Playing with makeup and coming out Morticia.


I have said for maybe 15 years now, that when I get around 50 and I have "enough" white hair (my hair is WHITE-white, like my mom's and my grandmother's; not steel, not grey), I'd strip it and cut it. I had images of a 50s style and a body wave, something soft and sophisticated.

With the onset of the earliest symptoms, I think, of menopause, have come more concrete ideas in this direction. It began amorphously - jokes with my friends about using bright color in it, once I do go white. Random interest in certain haircuts. The realization of just how edgy it could be, even before I let it go white. A glossily dark bob, curled. A crunchy zhush of short, crispy layers, framing my face. Letting the bangs grow out. One long, soft dark wave.

And, frankly: the fun I would have, shocking the crap out of everyone I know. Not least of all: my sainted mother. She would love me to cut it, of course. She'll both hate and laugh with anything more subversive I do. She will never believe it. That's a fun mental game, right there - just showing up one day, shorn and  super stylish. Crazy colors or spiky bits or no, she would DIE.

The thoughts: they have become more specific. More focused. And they're sticking with me.

The Gift of the Magi
I had a beautiful moment recently with my beloved friend Cute Shoes. She gave me an absolutely stunning hairpin; a vintage Deco piece, with grey rhinestones. Graceful. Meaningful. Gloriously beautiful. I had my hair down the day she gave it to me, and immediately put it up. I've worn it several times since.

I had all but set an appointment for a cut that very Thursday. Of course I could not bring myself to do it, suddenly.

A few days later, I researched ways to wear a hairpin in short hair. (This is, by the way, almost as tricky as researching ancient Carthaginian women's names.)

The cut I had in mind, I don't know how well it would work ... but hair grows, too. And I have many styles in mind; I plan to change things regularly.

It came over me again today - how exactly I want it to be, how I'd need to explain to a stylist about the inconvenient cowlick on the wrong side. Working out twice in a fitness room filled with wall-sized mirrors, I mentally pictured it. Looking at those high school pictures, I looked at that short-on-one-side thing.

Tonight, I'll let my hair down. And leave it.

And tomorrow, I'll be wearing a beautiful, gorgeous hairpin. And I love you, CS. And I'll figure this thing OUT.

Saturday, March 18, 2017


This is REALLY funny. It may take a nerd like me to get all the jokes about Braetwalda etc. (or an English reader), but this is funny even if you're not a pre-Conquest history lover.

Unraedy, by the way, actually means ill-counseled. I'd say 'merica is witnessing a bit of that these days.

Thursday, March 16, 2017


Okay. Y'ALL. I love my country, but even apart from the sulphurous-tinted mass metastasizing in the White House, there are reasons much of the rest of the world finds us bewildering (not to say bat-splat cray). I ask you: kitten. fur. perfume.

Nobody's beating the sweet, bread-baking scent of my Gossamer, no way no how.

"The HELL you say?"

Casey Karp has an insightful post about security and yet more pitfalls of modern technology. Now doesn't Luddite little me feel all smug I never so much as connected my Bluetooth? But man. I can remember when I used to change the oil and even my pads and rotors. And yeah, I'm going to keep linking stuff like this. When did privacy become so recklessly unhip?

Maggie Maxwell has another uplifting one - on how to handle that bad review. Oh, ow. But she's right!

Okay, enough doom and gloom. Take a trip over to American Duchess's blog, where the saga continues, with the 1820s dress and its restoration. Post 1, linked previously. Post 2, here's how they dated it. The comp dresses and fashion plates are fascinating; but then, I'm a research nerd. Post 3 - the guts of the gown! - coming soon.

Grammar pedant and/or legal story time - why the Oxford Comma matters. A labor dispute digs into gerunds and forms, and drivers get better overtime terms.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Indirection Misdirection

"Say WHUT now?"
(Image: Wikipedia)

One of the things about office life that has always confounded me is the absolute refusal and/or inability of many, many people to take a direct route.

This morning, I received an email which was sent to me, a few other admins, and a few people I wasn't familiar with. It was in regard to an expense for "John Doe" - how should this be processed?

To the first email, I responded with, essentially, "Good luck/not mine" and went on about my day. To the second email about it (a complaint that nobody ever notes their location when setting things up), I took six seconds of my day and looked up John Doe. Turns out, JD is an employee in IT at our location, corporate headquarters. Admins copied on the initial inquiry? Did not include the admin for IT. Maybe one of the other folks is in that department.

But the point is, this is a person IN OUR BUILDING. This is a person, clearly, with functioning email and possibly even a telephone of some sort. Maybe they even use our instant messaging function! (I took *four* seconds and checked. He does. And users' telephone numbers are imbedded in IM; all you have to do to call them is type their name in and hit the green phone icon.)

I've been a secretary for thirty-plus years now. It's in my nature to shorten routes as much as possible. It's ABSOLUTELY part of my job to be a guide for others to do that too - I make it my business, and it is my bread and butter, to know to-whom-to-go-for-what. Playing Julie McCoy Your Cruise Director is an important function I fill, and I enjoy it most of the time. I especially enjoy assisting my own team when they need to find where they need to go.

So perhaps I am uncharitable for being confused. Perhaps I miss some important part of another person's process when I field their questions. It is possible I'm uncharitable when I think to myself it's just another a LMGTFY moment.

I was about to link that acronym, but you can look it up if you do not know it. It may cause you to blush, or it may give you a smile. (My intent would be the latter, of course, dear readers.)

So my second response, to the second email, was to look up John Doe, screenshot his deets, and cut-and-paste them into an email reply, asking, "Have you tried to contact him?"

It is not for nothing, ladies and germs, I often say I am passive-aggressive for a living. The key to doing it right is to perform the passive-aggression for all the world as if you could not imagine all the world is not smarter than yourself - as if surely there must be some *reason* NOT to take a direct route - while pointing out the direct route.

It's the opposite of the old "My locker door is stuck." "Oh, did you jiggle it?" scenario - where everyone in school in succession asks - and usually tries - to jiggle the catch. Instead of trying at all, when confronted with something we don't know, we just ask someone we think does know.

Let it be said: with basically a *generation* of experience in my job, I don't hate it that people think I am so good that they come to me with All the Questions. It reinforces how good they think I am, when I get 'em there. It reinforces my own confidence, too.

More often than not, my own kids tend to come at me with things that are easy for me, but which are not inherently obvious. There may BE a direct route, but it was not marked. Like the guy who called me this week asking how to extract a receipt from our travel tool. (You can't; our travel agency emails receipts, and email is not where they're used to looking, so they don't. Easy question, maybe - but only if you know that.)

The thing about going to people you know instead of asking the person whose expense is at issue is - this is SOP for every office in every industry I've ever worked in. There is a worship of PROCESS in play, that overrides even the most basic intellect, no matter who walks in the door of an office building. Because process itself can be so confounding, people self-confound, and forget how to get from point A to point B almost prophylactically. Because there are so many things that work indirectly, people don't even look at anything directly anymore - they just ask the admin.

A friend of mine and I often laugh about the years we spent in a department together, before the big changes of 2008. We were in a regulated industry, and we were used to PROCESS (and even prossa-SEEZ, but that's another rant for another day). She and I still get a grin out of That One Guy we worked with.

That One Guy called me one day - he worked at the suburban location, I was downtown, literally in the executive suite. "Diane, what's the process for me to get a box?"

The idea of walking into the copy room and removing a few reams out of a paper box and taking that box was inconceivable.

We are so hemmed in we call the admin downtown to help us find the special requisition form or online widget just to get a box.

But there is more to it than that. PROCESS is one part of the issue, but hierarchy also plays in: people sometimes do not take a direct route because the relevant personage is significantly higher in an org chart than they are.

Direct routes aren't always practical or career-enhancing.

This is where being Just a Secretary is oddly helpful; we're off to one side on the org chart: but we can pretty much knock on any door we like. I will go direct to most any executive any time, and am both allowed and justified to do so.

Is there a problem with one of our drivers somewhere out in the field? Is the Transportation Manager not available? Diane Major goes to the Vice President of Operations, and nobody ever blinks. Is my boss (a Senior Vice President) in a meeting? I can open his door and pop my head in, when even directors and management will hesitate, even when they have urgent issues. I'm not into pestering the CEO, but my boss's boss? He likes me, and I can get in front of him easy as pie when need arises.

So I *understand*. I get why we have lost the thread and become a web. I don't even condemn this, not in itself. PROCESS develops because one too many nits went off and did something unexpected, and they did it with a purchasing card, or the company name on their vehicle, or they just did it wrong. PROCESS isn't a bad thing; and even hierarchy has its place ...

But I still don't get the John Doe question.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Fröhliche Geburtstag, Herr Professor Doktor Einstein

My grandfathers were not close by in my childhood. One died when I was seven, and the other became very ill for some years. So it was that I adopted Einstein as my granddaddy. He was always there; just above the couch. I'd lie on it, feet up along the backrest, my back twisted along the seat, looking up at him in our cool, shadowed family room.

Portrait of the Old Man by an Artist 

The painting was done by a student of my father's. He was from Malaysia, and once went home to visit his family. When he came back to school, he brought gifts. I still have the shells he gave me, one thick with mother of pearl, pink-veined and shaped like a fan. The other is a delicate, spiny spiral.

We got close to a number of dad's students when we were kids. I remember some of them so vividly, though none of them have I seen for twenty-five years - and many far, far longer. We had wonderful picnics at our house, volleyball, and hot dogs on the brick grill dad built, too many sweets, and cases of soda from a specialty place called The Poppe Shoppe (I think it was spelled so).

The artist who painted the above piece was one of the early ones. I would have been three or four at his advent. Memory of him is hazy; and yet, I have always been grateful for his kindnesses. So distinct, they still mean something to a toddling moppet near half a century on. And his great talent. The portrait was painted in mere hours, part of an art class he took because he wanted to be well-rounded. It is glorious, and was the great gift my father left me when he died. We discussed it when he was ill; my brother would get the pocketwatch, I the portrait. Nothing - no *thing* - could have meant much more to me, from him. We all love the painting; my mom has wished from time to time that she could have it. But, though I try to be undemanding with her, this I will not give up. It is a very literal legacy.

Dad was a physicist, you see. Einstein was practically a fixture in our family culture, and literally part of the furnishings, in this painting. Dad's students were part of our lives well beyond their graduations; we followed careers, dad received beautiful invitations to important events for them; his university, his colleagues, his advisees and lab assistants were ingrained with us.

The painting is more than a sentimental present, it is the history of our nuclear foursome AND the history of our nuclear understanding in the scientific sense.

The painting is a bold thing, marvelous in its execution, beautiful to look at - formative not only of my philosophy, but very much of my aesthetic. I love its incredibly powerful reds, yellows, negative space. Its seventies mod-ness. Its connection, almost beyond dad, to the *influence* he had in this world, in this place we occupy even now without his presence.

The painting *is* his presence - and it is his absence. That is relativity for you.

A year or so back, I had a contractor out to the house, quoting me a job. As he stood in the front door saying goodbye when he'd inspected the pertinent area of the home, he stopped cold - transfixed. He fell in love with the Einstein portrait instantly, and we ended up talking a good while longer about it, about its presence. Closest I've come to falling in love since Mr. X. I still think about that (the guy didn't get the job in the end, possibly unfortunately).

The presence of the dead can be exquisitely random, and yet it can be predictable. I know every time I go to the dentist, I'll cry - not because I've been hurt, but because the guy I go to was one of my dad's advisees. And he always has memories - such respect, such almost AWE at my dad's intelligence. His goodness. My dad had an elegant expansiveness; he was more than a marvelous teacher, he was a teacher of marvels, and he cared immensely about the students.

I remember the year he went from being the kid on the physics faculty, to being the oldest. Just the right retirements, a couple new hires - boom, suddenly he was the old war horse. He wore it so well.

The thing about the painting. The thing about the student who painted it. The thing about the guy transfixed by the portrait. The thing about my dentist, and the very books I inherited and the dog he never knew and the dog now years-gone, whom dad did love though she was so hard on his lungs ... the thing about the flotsam and the furniture of my life ... is that dad is part of none of it now - not the way he was. But he is part of all of it - and always will be.

My dad is me. He is my brother. He is my mom. He is the reason, and the question, and the answer, and the causation. He is how I came to be. What I hope *to* be. He IS, even still, a good man.

He gave me Einstein. And so did that student.

And all three of them - though not alone, not by a long shot - taught me gratitude. All these things are me.

And old Albert ... he made a good substitute granddaddy, when I had none left to "give me a little bit of that applesauce" or to love, quietly, while grandma took care.

Happy 138th birthday, Herr Professor Dr. Einstein. And thank you for *our* little corner of relativity.

And how has it always escaped me ... that Einstein's birthday is Pi day?