Monday, August 31, 2009

Back to the Present in the Future

So, here's the thing I've learned through blogging for the past year: sometimes it is the most random and seemingly unimportant moment that takes on the most meaning.

There is a scene in Thornton Wilder's Our Town where Emily, who has died, asks to go back to relive a day. She is cautioned to not choose a very special day, because everything becomes so much more special when it's gone. She chooses a birthday -- one she feels is relatively insignificant -- but only makes it through part of the day before she decides that she has to leave. The beauty in all of the small moments is too much for her to bear.

There is a little of that in the movie The Time Traveler's Wife, which Kelly and I saw this week. (ha! You'd thought I'd forgotten it was Movie Monday, hadn't you!?) It's a movie with an obvious gimmick (the dude time travels and... eventually... gets married... all with really good hair), but what makes it powerful are the small moments that connect the people. The movie, really, isn't about time travel. Or even about the time traveler. It's about the relationships and the shared moments that the time traveler shares with the people in his life -- for better or worse.

I went into the movie with pretty low expectations. I wanted it to be good, but I wasn't sure it was going to be able to pull it out. But it did. And I found myself pulling for the characters and the day-to-dayness that they longed for.

Somehow, this is the same day-to-day life that Our Town's Emily seems to want as she searches her past in Grover's Corners. And... in some very small way... I think it's what I've spent the past year looking for in this blog.

I love writing about the big events -- the travel, the food, the movies, the parties -- but I enjoy re-reading the stories of the smaller happenings. I like prattling on about the mundane things in life and, hopefully, making them less mundane by doing so.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to do the Proustian thing and spend chapter upon chapter writing about a biscuit, but I'm going to keep stumbling along. Hopefully bumping into a good topic or two along the way, all while finding more movies and more food and maybe even more friends (I've actually made friends via this blog this year -- How cool is that?!). I'm sure there will be tales of gardening and technology and weather and -- hopefully -- even a John Barrowman sighting or two.

Please come along. (And feel free to comment!) I love the company.

Oh. And I give Time Traveler's Wife an A-. I got a lot more than I expected out of it, but there were a few loose ends that even weaving through time didn't tie up.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Celebrating Four Years

Oddly enough, as I was looking back over the past year, I found that what I wrote on August 29th was much like what I'll be writing today.

You see, I missed posting yesterday (as I had on August 28th last year) because it was the four-year anniversary of the first date Christopher and I ever had. And, as we did last year, we celebrated at Erte restaurant in Northeast Minneapolis. No surprise to either of us, he had the top sirloin, I had the faux fried chicken, and we shared the hash browns. Our waitress was someone who knew us from our past visits, and it was an incredibly comfortable -- and delicious -- evening.

We spent our evening talking about where we might want to travel in the near -- and not-so-near -- future. And I was getting a little reflective on where I might be right now had I never met Christopher. You see... When we met, I was still working in the management track at a local Williams-Sonoma. Unfortunately, as much as I liked the company (and some of my coworkers), I knew that my chances for advancement were pretty limited. Christopher is the one who suggested my next job move to The Minnesota Opera.

Which means that, without Christopher, I probably wouldn't ever have seen a full-length opera or met some of the great people I still keep in touch with (Hi, Libby!). Of course, that job only lasted about 16 months (you heard a little bit about the aftermath of my departure from there, here), and ended about 4 months before I started this blog. So, without Christopher, there's a good chance that this blog wouldn't even exist.

More recently, it was Christopher's friend (now my friend, too), Darci, who first came across the Craigslist posting for the job which is where I've been working at for about 4 months, now. And it's through Christopher and his friends that we found out about the Trivia games we've been playing every Monday, too.

Yes. There is also a lot of travel that probably wouldn't have taken place without Christopher. I probably never would have seen Penzance and Stonehenge. And I most likely wouldn't have had that amazing time in Quebec last fall (remember that amazing dinner?). And... well... I could go on for days with this kind of thing. That's obvious, isn't it? After all, in the past year I've written almost 250 posts and we're talking about four years, here.

So... yeah... Lots has happened in the past year. And even more has happened in the past four years. I guess that's not all that surprising, but it's nice to have a reminder from time to time.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

My Favorite Comments

Since I'm sure that not everyone gets a chance to see the comments that get made from day to day, I thought I'd share some of my favorites from the past year. I find that many of them are even more fun out of context, so here we go...

** Please note, these are in order of chronology. I am equally in favor of any and all comments. I love comments on my blog. I love when people tell me in person that they like reading my blog. I like when people comment back. And I like when a conversation happens by dint of my random thoughts. So... Yeah... Comment when you feel like commenting. I like 'em all! (Well... except for the one where the guy corrected me on which neighborhood Charm City Cakes was in Baltimore. That was just annoying... ;-)

We start with the very first ever post on my blog:

Laura said...

Holy cow I had no idea he could sing. And yeah I think he's hot too. We're big Torchwood fans.

And, after that, we had...

Laura said...

I must confess that I do not know what I would say if someone showed up at my door selling frozen fish. :)

beket said...

And what exactly is wrong with being a Luddite?:-)

Christopher said...

Hmm - I'll be wild and crazy and say we should give it a shot...

Libby said...

Yay!! It has to be Libby's... :-)

Libby said...

More wine and cake is always the answer...

CLS said...

Just who is John Barrowman?

MizTiz said...

ephemerality? hmmm...

Christopher said...

If it helps, I'll google some bunny pictures each night for you!

Najla said...

I like bunnies too. My husband does not. But at least I can walk around the neighborhood and watch the bunnies that my husband chased away eat other people's shrubs!

Christopher said...

What can I say - I love Christine Baranski!

Libby said...

Yay for In-N-Out and pretty flowers!

Dragonfly said...

This seems very Gemini of you too, because ruling planet Mercury is the messenger and raced about to deliver messages in a timely fashion!

Libby said...

Mmmmm I love this.

Madam Director said...

I am so glad you see the glass as 1/2 full....until everything smoothes out, ENJOY Rod Stewart. Really? A suite and Rod Stewart? That, is pretty cool. Make lemonade! (Or even better, make OJ, and have everyone wonder how the hell you made that out of lemons!) xxxooo

Libby said...

Happy Anniblogsery!!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Flashing Back

As I mentioned yesterday, I plan to spend the next few days looking at the past year's blog entries. I figure it makes sense to look at my first blog entry. Here it is:

Robert's First Blog Entry

Having contemplated whether or not to write a blog for some time, I finally decided to put pen to paper (as it were) and launch myself into the blogosphere.
I promise to do my best to keep this updated and interesting (both of which may prove to be difficult at times, I fully admit).
Here's to trying something new!

I read on and found out that my second and third entries both dealt with a really bad retail customer service group interview situation (I haven't read through enough, yet, to see how many of my posts talk about unemployment and job searching). In that first week I also posted my first movie review. Eventually, in post number six, I found my first reference to John Barrowman (although, oddly enough, I didn't post any pictures of him until January 13th).

And, well, instead of listing everything off, here's the "Label" list that you can also see in the right-hand column:


No surprise to many of my friends that "weather" is one of the top topics.

Speaking of such things, the sun is just going down. I'm not really ready for it to be turning to dusk at only 7:40 in the evening. I realize that, in 3 months, the sun will be going down before 5 in the afternoon, but this part of the year is always a surprise after the "light-until-10:30" days in the high summer.

And so... to quote Charles Schulz and the Peanuts gang: Thus endeth another day.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

It's My... Wait... What IS It?

Today, August 25th, 2009, marks one full year of me blogging. Which means it's my...


Or maybe it's my Anniblogsery...?

My First Blogthday...?

Yeah. Really. No clue what to call it. Not that it really needs a name. After all, it just means that, for the past 365 days, I've been prattling on about things going on in my life -- and you folks have been nice enough to check in and read it.

Heck. A few of you have even been nice enough to take the time to comment.

Over the next few days, I plan to share some of my top moments from the past 12 blonths. (hmmm... that's just not a pretty word, is it?) I'm going to revisit some of the things I've written about, comment on some of your comments, and see if I can make sense of any of it. All while working my newly-full-time job and trying to have a non-web-based life. We'll see how I do...

In the meantime, as kind of a starter, I thought you might like to see one of my favorite statistical finds of the past year. You know how there's that map in the left-hand column? Well... I only added that a couple of months ago. When I first started my blog, I put the counter on it (you can see that down at the bottom of the page).

Over the past 245 postings (wow... that's more than I thought!), I've had over 3,000 visitors. Now, granted, those are simply each time someone stops by, so it's not over 3,000 different people, but I still think it's kind of cool.

And, even more fun, here is the generalized breakdown of where people were located when they logged in (no, I'm not sure why this only adds up to about 2,200):

United States1848 (83.66%)
Unknown316 (14.31%)
United Kingdom11 (0.50%)
Canada8 (0.36%)
Australia7 (0.32%)
France4 (0.18%)
India3 (0.14%)
Ireland2 (0.09%)
Japan2 (0.09%)
Bulgaria2 (0.09%)
New Zealand2 (0.09%)
Viet Nam1 (0.05%)
Trinidad and Tobago1 (0.05%)
Thailand1 (0.05%)

Russian Federation1 (0.05%)

Like I said, it's nowhere near record-breaking, but I think it's cool that people from Ireland, Thailand, and Australia have stumbled across my randomness. (Now if I could only get them to return -- and comment!)

And now I have to go read through almost 250 posts to figure out what else to say over the next few days. After all, how do you celebrate the start of a second year?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Getting What You Paid For

Sometimes, when you go to a movie, it's not so much a question of "Good movie vs. Bad movie", but more one of "Did you get what you paid for?"

This week I went out to see a movie which -- while I'm sure it won't be up for any acting awards -- pretty much gave me exactly what I had paid for: explosions, tech gadgets, sexy stars, and a plot so easy to follow that you could sleep through the middle 2/3 of the movie and never miss a beat.

The movie in question: G.I. Joe. (By the way... I'm having issues with whether or not the G.I. portion is supposed to have periods. Depending on where you look it does or doesn't. I'm going with them, since the letters were, originally, abbreviations.)

G.I. Joe is a summer blockbuster in every sense of the word. Dashing young men fighting dastardly evil villains, saving damsels in distress, and demolishing things along the way.

Sure. Okay. Some of the actors couldn't act their way out of a paper bag. (Channing Tatum is pretty enough to look at, but... wow... someone should have told the casting director that actors also have to deliver lines.)

Sure. Some of the plot holes were big enough to drive a train through. (I was especially irked by two things: 1) the incredibly circuitous path they take driving through Paris; and, 2) the fact that all of the ice sank.)

And, yes. Whoever wrote it made a mess of some of the most basic plot/character points from the cartoon I grew up watching. (I mean... really... why change a character's nationality?)

But, all that aside, it was a fun movie. The gadgets were cool. The interpersonal relationships were believable (once you ignored the acting). And I didn't even get the feeling that this was simply a set-up for the next franchise of movies. (Okay. I did get that feeling, but not too often.)

Overall score: A-. I got what I expected. I just wish they had hired a few more actors who could... well... act.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I Think I Had Forgotten...

I think I must have forgotten how frustrating weekends are when they are only two days long.

You see... For the past 15 months (give or take), I've had at least 3 days off at the end of each week. Heck. For about 11 months of that I'd had 7 days off each weekend. And then, since I went to work part-time, I still had Friday-Sunday off.

I really enjoyed the 3-day weekend set-up. It gave me Friday to get errands and "outside of the house" things done, then Saturday to do "around the house and yard" stuff -- and both of these days were frequently capped by something social. Then, on Sunday, I could completely collapse if I wanted to -- or Christopher and I would go out to dinner at his parents', or whatever.

Well, this weekend is my first two-day weekend in quite a while. I got done with work on Friday and came home through rush-hour so that I could stop at the grocery store and then collapse for a while. It was an evening made even stranger by the fact that Christopher didn't come home from work until after 9 (having gone in before 7 in the morning).

Consequently, yesterday -- when we had every intention of working in the yard all morning -- Christopher and I both ended up sleeping in kind of late (for us, at least), and we put off the yardwork in favor of other events. He had a scheduled outing with friends, I had a scheduled afternoon with a couple of freelance projects. We "met up" for dinner at home, but then we went our separate ways as he watched some TV and I went back to working on the projects I wanted to get done.

Which brings us to today... Sunday.

Christopher was up before me, and by the time I was up he was already baking a graham cracker crust for a Key Lime pie which we're taking to his folks' this afternoon. I watched some TV while reading the paper, then headed out into the yard to take care of "yesterday's" yardwork (spraying for weeds and putting up some more chicken wire in the continued anti-bunny battle). By noon the pie was in the freezer and I was back in from the yard. Time to relax.

But... well... we need to leave in about 2 hours to go out to dinner, and we probably won't get home until around 8, at which point it will be time to start getting ready for bed.

I start my first full week back in the 9-to-5 world tomorrow morning. I'm sure I'll readjust to the lack of flexible time. Although... having mostly enjoyed the unscheduled freedom of the past 1 1/4 years... the readjustment might take a little while.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Okay. I Think It's Safe To Post This...

I grew up in the very small town of Scotland, South Dakota. Which, honestly, wasn't all that small when I was growing up. After all, it had 2 grocery stores, 3 bars, 2 cafes, 3 gas stations, a florist, a dentist, a hospital, multiple car dealers, 7 churches, and -- of course -- my parents' drug store. Okay. So the town only had 1100 people. But...

We also had -- and they still have -- one of the best small rodeos in the country every summer. I went a few times when I was a kid, but it wasn't until I got older that I learned that the prizes were actually kind of huge for the small rodeo circuit. So we got a lot of really great talent coming through town that weekend. And, as befits such an event, the Scottie Stampede Rodeo has come to be surrounded by a weekend of festivities.

This year there were the usual events, like Cow Patty Bingo (a whole blog post of its own), a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, a watermelon feed, and some bake sales and all. New this year was a "Kuchen Queen" pageant, sponsored by a company which has now become a huge Kuchen baker in town. (You can see an article about these folks, and the "State Dessert of South Dakota" here.) And, in the middle of it all, was the parade.

This is one of two parades which happen yearly in Scotland. The other one is the High School Homecoming Day Parade, which, obviously, focuses completely on the high school. This one, though, is more town-focused. And -- gradually getting us to the point -- every year someone gets chosen as the Grand Marshall. It's one of those strange honorary titles that small towns can bestow on its residents.

Grand Marshalls in the parade get to ride in a convertible and wave at the crowd and get cheered for as they go through town. Basically, it's the one time in a year (and, since people pretty much only get to do it once, it's the one time in most lifetimes) that everyone in town gets to cheer for you.

This year, the honor went to a couple of people who have been community boosters for as long as I can remember. From School Board to Scouts, from the Chamber of Commerce to the Rotary Club, to the Library Board, the board of the Youth Center, the Horizons development committee, the Historical Society, the couple who were chosen this year have done it all. And throughout the ride, they got cheers at every turn. Oh. And when the parade was done, they went back to work at the Youth Center fundraiser bake sale.

Who were these people? They were my parents!

That's them in the back seat of the vintage Mustang, in this photo from the great folks at
The Scotland Journal.

And I waited until they were on vacation to talk about them, because I figure that gives me a week before they get a chance to read this, and by that time it will really be too late for them to do anything about it, right?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Got Milk?

I would like to apologize, in advance, if the following blog posting causes any mental pain or anguish. Or cravings. Or uncontrollable humming. Or midnight shopping trips... (You've been warned...)

Oh Oh Oh Ice Cold Milk and an Oreo Cookie...

I am closing out my Thursday by watching the news and having a glass of milk with some Oreos. Unfortunately, Christopher has already gone to bed, so he won't be able to attest to the fact that I am NOT eating an entire third of the package (as I did when I first opened them). I'm being very good, in fact. My glass of milk is half gone, and I've only had 2 so far.

They forever go together, they're the perfect combination...

I'm not sure what it is about Oreos that does it for me. I like the chocolate. I like the filling (and have been known to eat it before eating the cookie "sides"). And, for the most part, I'm a purist. In fact, up until a few years ago I was known to turn my nose up at the Double Stuf ones -- although I've come to appreciate them, lately.

When a dark, delicious cookie meets an icy cold sensation...

And, yet, I'm not a big fan of the various flavors of them. I've tried the mint ones (fine, but not as good as Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies). I've tried the peanut butter ones (if they show up in your area, don't try them). The ones with the coffee flavoring aren't bad, but they just don't taste like Oreos. And, as for all of those seasonal ones with the colored filling... well... they're fine (especially after the holiday when they go on sale), but I do think they taste different.

Like the one and only creamy crunchy choc-o-late O-R-E-O...

So here I sit, with my glass of milk, dunking my cookies. And, to make sure they get plenty of milk, occasionally dropping one in (okay, I'm up to 4, now, for the evening) to let it float on top until it's fully saturated. Then, when you pick the cookie back out of the glass, the logo on the cookie stand out in relief against the white milk that is trapped in the crevices. Yum. Does it get any better than that?

(Keeps your milk from getting lonely)

** Stormy sidenote ** I feel that, before I sign off, I should comment on the big weather than hit Minneapolis and the surrounding areas on Wednesday. Christopher actually got to watch some of the tornadic action from his window on the 20-somethingth floor where he works in downtown Minneapolis. The storm, which did in fact spawn a twister, did some fairly large damage about a mile south of downtown, and Christopher saw things flying around as it went through. Most of us just got lots and lots of rain -- about 2" in the past two days. Very strange August... ** End stormy sidenote **

Oh. There is one problem with dunking and eating Oreos. It's almost impossible to dunk and blog at the same time. So... Yeah... You're on your own.

They forever go together, they're the perfect combination...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Wrap-up Continues...

I fully realize that a "wrap-up," in a perfect world, would do exactly what it says it will: wrap-up the points at hand.

Well, this week is proving to me that wrap-ups don't always work that way. So, with that in mind, I give you the latest wrap-up on a few topics:

- The across-the-street neighbor's Garage Sale: The stuff is still out on the boulevard. Since today was trash day, he really could have put it near his dumpster for pick-up by the "large trash" folks. But, no. He simply left it all on the curbs. And -- for extra added fun for us -- apparently someone has found it to be fun to roll the office chair around. This morning, it was on the sidewalk in front of our house. So not amusing. (Yes, I put it back on his yard.)

- My job situation: As of tomorrow, I will be employed full-time at work -- working 40 hours per week, and even getting benefits. I have no idea what I'll be doing (aside from what I currently do during the 15 hours per week that I'm there), and I have no idea what the promised benefits entail (although I believe they include medical and parking). But I will be making a little bit more per hour which, when stretched across the extra 25 hours, will make a discernable difference.

Oh. And I feel I should share this, just because... Tonight I'm going to be going to the Rod Stewart concert at the Target Center in Minneapolis. My boss is taking all of us to the show, and even got a suite for us all to hang out in. It's been a while since I've gone to a concert. It's been almost that long since I actually chose to go out socially with people I worked with. (Not sure this is a choice... It was kind of an "optional, but mandatory" event.) I'm sure I'll have stories to tell after the fact.

Finally, since I've gone on and on about my job situation and you've all been kind enough to listen, I feel that I should explain why I didn't come home last night and jump up and down and blog all about it in exclamation points. (I mean, aside from the fact that it was Movie Monday and I wanted to talk about Julie & Julia.)

You see, part-way through this latest job discussion meeting thing -- after being told that everything we had discussed 2 weeks ago no longer really applied -- my boss told me what my new salary would be. I already knew it was going to be crap, so I was ready for it. But he then went on to reiterate that "since it's a buyer's market right now, [he] really can't see paying someone like [me] any more than that. After all, there's probably someone available tomorrow who would take the job for even less." Wow. Nothing like being told "yes, we think you're doing great and want you to come on-board" and "you know, you're totally expendable" all in one breath. The good news? I like having more money and stability. The better news? It will give me money and stability when I decide to relaunch my jobsearch with more vigor than ever. (I really can't wait to say to him "I'd love to stay, but I'm actually going to be paid a living wage, and I'm sure you'll find someone new tomorrow...")

And, as with all of the above... I'm sure that this wrap-up isn't anything final. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Movie Monday - May I Suggest a Book?

I've been torn over writing this entry ever since I saw "Julie & Julia" last week. You see, for as much as I enjoyed watching the four lead actors in the movie (Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, as well as each of their male counterparts), I just couldn't get into the movie.

There are some marvellous moments, but also some real clunkers. There are moments taken directly from the books, but also moments fabricated from other sources. Honestly, I think that it would have been a much better movie if they either focused entirely on Julia, entirely on Julie, or... well... created something new from wholecloth.

I don't usually worry about reading a book before seeing a movie. I don't necessarily stay away from the book, but I also don't put it on my "must-read" list. Reading the Harry Potter books in advance has been very helpful (since so much of the books doesn't make it into the movie). But, having read the short story "Breakfast at Tiffany's" prior to seeing the movie, the movie completely befuddled me.

The Julie/Julia Project (originally a blog on, starting in 2003), was nowhere on my radar until I started hearing about the movie coming out. As I mentioned to people that I wanted to see the movie, I heard some not-so-great things about the book (which was made from the blog), but had no clue where any of those comments came from.

On the other hand, I have read Julia Child's "My Life in France," which I absolutely loved. I've also seen hours and hours' worth of Julia's TV shows. And I've made the pilgrimage to see Julia's kitchen in the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Oh. Yeah. And it should come as no surprise that we've got at least one of her cookbooks in the house.

But... Back to the movie...

The Parisian scenery is gorgeous. The life that Julie is living in post-9/11 New York City is opressive (she answers phones at a help-line for families of victims). The food is gorgeous -- when it's supposed to be -- and incredibly believable at all times. And, honestly, I had no trouble buying each of the actors as their characters. But, somehow, the movie just didn't do it for me.


Overall reaction: If you want a really amazing food movie, go rent "Babette's Feast" or "Chocolat". If you want more Julia Child, thank WGBH Boston for keeping her on Public TV. If you want to see the movie, go ahead. But, overall: B-.

My recommendations? Read the books. Use the cookbooks. And, above all else, remember to look for the joy in whatever you're doing.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Week-end Wrap-up

(Okay... I don't know about you, but if you're anything like me you probably read the title easily enough, but then went "Wait. Shouldn't that be pronounced /week-end wap-up/?")

Not sure what you've been up to this week-end, but here's some details on mine:

- I have just caused Christopher to threaten to move me to a different house. How did I do that? I baked what are either: a) my first six dozen Christmas cookies of 2009; or b) my last six dozen of 2008. Why did I do that? Because my boss is taking the office out for the 2008 Christmas party this Tuesday, after apparently not having one last year, and --consequently -- it seemed like we ought to have Christmas cookies in the office. (On the plus side, realizing the party is 8 months late does make me feel a little better that it's taking so long to hear from him about my job.)

- Christopher and I played host to a miniature Schnauzer for about 3 days -- from Thursday evening until this afternoon. This was Fred (we know his "parents" and Fred has been here, before), and we had a very nice time. Lots of hunkering down on the couch, balanced with running around in the backyard playing fetch.

- Our across-the-street neighbor did not have an overly-successful garage sale. To make things more fun for us (yes. that's meant to be very sarcastic), much of what he didn't sell is now sitting in the boulevard, half-buried by the overgrown grass. He's done this before, hoping to have people pick things up for free. Here's the problem with this, this week: He's got upholstered furniture out there, and it has rained. Ain't nobody gonna pick that up. And I don't think the grass is ever going to be tall enough to hide it all.

- Speaking of growing things... We picked our first red chili pepper this weekend. It was -- as Christopher commented -- kind of anaemic/anemic. But it was the first one to turn red, and that was exciting enough for me to comment on it, here. The plants have a ton of green peppers on the way, so this fall/winter should have plenty of peppers for good amounts of lemon chicken and others of Christopher's hot-and-spicy specialties.

- Katie and Kris are just days away from the Breast Cancer 3-Day. They sent out info on "Cheering Stations" today. If you want to know where they are, let me know and I'll post that info.

- I found out a couple of days ago that another friend of mine is blogging. For those of you who know some of my college friends, you can find Lori's blog "Life in the Limelight," here.

And... Well... I think that's most of my weekend. Exciting, no?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Self-Editing While Editing

At work, while I'm doing my part-time gig as "book order guy," I spend a lot of time listening to what's going on around me. We all work in cubicles in a great big loft space, and although there are some conversations you just don't want to listen to -- or even hear -- there are also a lot of things that I've learned while listening to the people who have been there longer than I have.

This is how I've learned the standard ways of dealing with authors, how I've figured out how much of the day is work-related and how much is fluff, and exactly what the sales folks say to get some people to sign up. And... well... the final of those three has given me some of the most "interesting" information.

Which brings us to "Self-Editing Point Number One": Ignoring the ignorance in the office.

Let's just say that the main person in sales right now kind of sounds like a pushy used car salesman when he's on the phone. The guy spends a lot of time giving out great information, but I've talked to other people in the office about how wild it is to hear how he describes some of what goes on. When he is selling editing packages, he actually says that we employ "real professional editors, not just some out-of-work English teachers or anything."

Hmm... So... I've got my nice MA in English, focusing on Composition and Rhetoric, and I taught Freshman Comp for 4 years (okay... 2 in Grad school, and 2 part-time after that). That means that I've actually been trained not only in how to edit and proofread, but also how to contructively critique manuscripts. I'm not sure what credentials the rest of his "non-former-teacher professional editors" have (and I know some of them are really really good) but I bet that I -- a formerly out-of-work former English teacher -- have got more relative experience than most of them do.

But, before I rant, there's also "Self-Editing Point Number Two": Critiquing a manuscript, without critiquing the author.

I made it to the end of the first round of one of my editing assignments, today. It was a fairly interesting read -- basically a memoir of a man's journey from college to a police force, to the war in Iraq, and back to civilian life. He's got some really good stories which are mired in jargon (which is not surprising, since the jobs he's been in have had pretty specific ways of talking about the world). But he also spends a few chapters basically ranting about the way he perceives the current state of American politics.

Consequently, I spent a lot of time this week inserting comments into his manuscript, asking for clarification of military and law enforcement terminologies. And I also spent a decent amount of time biting my digital tongue and not commenting on the political rants. Don't get me wrong -- I still critiqued those sections, but mainly to ask questions, such as "Could you explain why you feel this way?" or, in reference to comments like "THEY WERE INSANE!" asking questions like "Who were insane?" But, overall, I kept the critique constructive and completely removed my personal politics from it.

You know, I think that's probably where my time in Grad School -- as well as my time being one of those teachers that I keep hearing aren't good editors -- really comes in handy. After all, when you're working with college freshman, the last thing you want to do is frustrate them and force them to stop writing. You want to encourage them to write, and you want to coach them to write well. Which, hopefully, is what I have done with the manuscript I've been editing this week.

Of course, you'll all be able to find out how well I did in a few months when the book comes out. Not that I'd suggest you buy it, but you could... (Don't worry. Comments like that are pretty normal in my office. But I may need to bite my tongue pretty hard when I have my "editorial phonecall" with the author later this month.)

(And we won't even go into how much self-editing I've done while writing this posting.)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

ISO: One Shepherd. Must Have Own Flock.

I sit here this evening with the shades closed, as they have been all day. Not to keep people from looking in, mind you. Not even to keep the bright hot sunshine out. But to keep myself from having to look at the trash-heap which has become of our across-the-street neighbor's front/side yard.

You have to understand: Christopher and I live in a very nice, well-kept, not-quite-suburban urban neighborhood. Most of the houses have been around since about the 1950s, and they have decent-sized lots and big trees and wide sidewalks and nicely-kept yards.

We have a bunch of neighbors who even do what we refer to as "competitive gardening" in their yards and on their boulevards. In fact, we've always felt a bit like we were dropping the ball since we were simply focused on keeping up a few planting areas around the garage, the shrubs around the house, and a few seasonal flowers in planters at the corners of the front walk. After all, across the alley from us (thankfully, our boulevards don't technically touch) a master gardener has turned her entire lot into a showplace--a theme which extends for about 3 houses beyond her (on the other side of the block from us... whew).

And, apparently, our side of the block is taking notice. This summer, our immediate neighbor dug out his boulevard grass and planted assorted small shrubby flowering things. Across the street from them, a whole bunch of landscaping was done to show off the new siding. And, well, our planters are flowering quite nicely, if I do say so, myself.

But... well... then there's the house you're destined to see if you look out the living room's plate glass window. According to what I've been told, the house is a rental property. And, while we all know that some renters take better care of their houses than the actual owners do, I'd have to say I don't think that's happening across the street.

** Sidenote ** Christopher has told stories about the woman who lived there when he first moved in--she used to practice pole vaulting in the front yard, using the front step as her "pole backstop." Feel free to ponder that for a moment. ** End Sidenote **

Currently, there's a single dad who lives there, we believe, with two or three kids. (We've introduced ourselves on occasion, but even so we never really see them.) This summer, the young (5?) son has frequently been outside running through the sprinkler or riding his Big Wheel. The 'tween daughter is often outside sulking. And the yard... well... the yard constantly becomes more and more interesting.

Along with the kiddie pool and the Slip-n-Slide that were out in the yard a few weeks back, a spinning wind-catcher rainbow-bug-thing showed up next to their front walk the weekend my folks were in town. Then, last weekend, the contents of their garage slowly started to creep out onto the yard. I thought, maybe, that he was simply cleaning the garage, but the stuff didn't leave the yard at the end of the day.

On Monday evening, in the middle of the chairs and dressers and who-knows-what, there appeared a lighted floorlamp sans shade. The lamp has been on every night (and day) since, showcasing the disgorged contents of the garage, and backlighting the overgrown lawn to great cinematic effect for anyone who drives past our house.

You'll understand, then, how happy I was to see a sign saying "Garage Sale, Thurs-Sat, 9-5" show up on the yard this morning.

Please come and shop. If they make enough money, maybe they'll buy a mower. Or a sheep.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Travel Tuesday, Of Sorts

I just got home from seeing a movie with my friend Kelly (Hi, Kelly!), as I am wont to do on Tuesday nights. I know that my blog posts that talk about movies are "Movie Mondays"--that's because I usually need some time to digest a movie before I write about it.

On the other hand, my Tuesday label is "Travel Tuesday" and I must admit that, although I haven't gone anywhere, recently, my mind certainly has wandered. And tonight's movie didn't help. I won't tell you what movie we saw, but I suspect you might be able to figure it out. You see, I sighed my way through the movie (Sorry, Kelly!) watching the scenes in Paris and New York. The scenery wasn't a big part of the movie, but there was just enough to make me want to go back and experience those places again.

I also found myself once again wondering what my great passion in life is. And, frankly, whether there's anyone out there reading this blog. Okay. I admit that the latter of those is a little melodramatic. I know there are people reading this (I even have four people officially "following" me, now! Hi Jen, Laura, Kelly and--to keep the semi-anonymity--Sstriking!), but I have to admit that there is a strange "yelling into the void" feeling about writing this.

Anyway... Back to the whole Travel Tuesday thing...

Remember last Friday when I mentioned that I'd been at a daylong seminar about job searching? (I have to admit that even I wasn't sure I'd talked about it in here. That story about the woman in the tight hip-hugger jeans on the escalator kind of blocked out the whole rest of the day for me.) Well, we started the seminar by talking about our likes and dislikes, as well as trying to nail down things we're good at. We were asked to write down a... well... a "vision statement" I guess, describing what we wanted to be doing in five years.

I should mention that we were not asked to write down what we would say if asked that in a job interview. After all, who really bares his soul in a job interview?

My answer was something along the lines of: "In five years I hope to be working in a job which affords me enough money and time to be able to travel more and spend more time with friends and family."

I was the only one in the room (well... there were only 3 "students" after all) who didn't go all "I want to be the CEO of a major corporation" about it. But, to the credit of the woman who was leading the class, she said to me: "So, you want to really focus on finding a job which allows for a good work/life balance." (Now if I could only figure out how to put that on a resume without sounding like a total slacker...)

So... I came home from tonight's movie sort of inspired. Sort of intrigued. Sort of... well... wistful and wanderlust-y.

And you want to know the funny thing? I'm still not sure what I thought of the movie. Luckily, I have until next Monday to decide.