Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Quotable Finding

I've shared some of the strange things that I've found at work.

Quotes that made no sense - even after they were cleaned up for grammar and punctuation. Plots with no plot. Today, I stopped doing some editing to go to a meeting right in the middle of a sex scene because it was both too boring and too graphic - all at the same time.

It may come as no surprise that we sometimes find that the best pieces of writing in the manuscripts we receive are either quotations from other sources or... well... plagiarized (so "unquotations" from other sources). And, frankly, a lot of the time I don't even enjoy those because they're so poorly used.

Today, however, I came across something that I really liked - so I decided to share it.

Now, I fully admit that it may not work out of the context in which I read it. I was listening to some music at the time and was enjoying some kind of "early winter" reminiscing. And that's when I came across this quote, which is being used as an epigram at the beginning of a book I was proofreading:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,there is a field. I'll meet you there.

It's by a Persian author from the 13th century most commonly referred to as Rumi. And the quote goes on, but I kind of like just that piece. Especially as we're nearing the most reflective part of the year.

Wouldn't it be great if - at least around the Holidays, to start - we could all simply spend time together in that field beyond wrongdoing and rightdoing?

If anyone finds a map to it, promise you'll let me know.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Movie Monday - Immortals 3D

There are times you go to a movie because it looks like a great movie to go to. And there are times when you go to a movie because it looks like a good movie to look at. Tonight's movie was the latter.

"Immortals" is sort of about ancient Greece and gods and men and injustice and revenge. But, frankly, I got the feeling that the movie was put together by someone who wanted to have a four-hour movie and was told that two hours was the max.

Consequently, instead of having two two-hour movies, that might eventually make sense, you get one tow-hour movie which you have to spend some time putting together in your head and kind of guessing what they might have meant.

Don't get me wrong - there's not a lot you have to think about, here. The pretty people are the good guys. The ugly people are the bad guys. The pretty ones who kind of glow are the gods. Everyone bleeds.

And, yes, pretty much everyone in the movie does bleed at one time or another. It's a really gory movie. (I covered my eyes a few times - especially since we were seeing it in 3-D.)

Is it fun? Not as much as you'd hope. Is it good? Oh, gods no.

Overall rating: C. Really. It's incredibly mediocre. Yes, some of the people are pretty. Yes, some of the action shots are cool. Yes, it was better than, say, an evening of editing some of the crap I work with. But the script is pretty awful. The characters don't all make sense. And I'm still not sure whether it ended, or whether they're already filming the sequel - which would explain the final scene.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Traditional Post-Thanksgiving Weekend

I'm celebrating, for the most part, my traditional post-Thanksgiving weekend.

I've been attempting to sleep in (today I made it to 8am).

I did no Black Friday shopping, only going to the store for some windshield wipers, a tail-light-bulb, and a few quick groceries (I love how empty grocery stores are the day after Thanksgiving!).

I put up a few decorations while listening to appropriate music.

And I started making Christmas cookies. So far, I think I'm up to about 18 dozen confirmed cookies.

Unfortunately, I'm also carrying on another of my standard - but less-well-liked - traditions on the cookie front.

I've got a type of "cookie" which you actually don't bake. You boil up sugar and corn syrup and butter and evaporated milk, then you pour that over marshmallows and chocolate chips and oatmeal and (as my mother says) "stir like hell" hoping that everything melts. Then, after you put them out on a bunch of waxed paper, they nicely set up into these great slightly-chewy chocolate "cookies." So far, so good, right?

Well... As I've been known to do, I underestimated how much the sugar mixture "boils up" when you bring it to a boil. This happens about every second year. And I find myself, mid-boil, frantically trying to find a larger pan to transfer the sugar lava into so that I can continue. Which is what I did, today.

The catch is that this sometimes - not always, but sometimes - causes the cookies to decide they don't want to set up after all is said and done. Which means that I may actually have about 30 dozen cookies by the time I go to bed - although right now I just have the 18 dozen that are confirmed.

But, of course, there's really no way to know whether they're going to set up except to wait.

It's a little like practicing for Santa. You put your wishes in a bowl, stir, spread them out, and then hope for a good outcome.

Or maybe that's what New Year's Resolutions are all about.

Either way, for me, it's all about the traditions.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Blame the Tryptophan

I had every intention of blogging, today.

I got up early (for a holiday), and after letting the dog out and feeding her, I got around to making the Toll House pie that was my contribution to Thanksgiving dinner with Christopher's family.

Somewhere in the middle of watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, I turned off the computer and got ready to head out. (Well... after watching the beginning of "The Music Man" on TCM...)

Now, about 7 hours later, I'm home and - having watched "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" on the couch with Christopher and a very pooped pup - I realized that I owe a blog post.

And, well, this is as good as it's going to get. I blame the Tryptophan.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Travel Tuesday - Thanksgiving Week

As we're all planning varying amounts of Thanksgiving travel (whether across the country, across town, or just to and from the grocery store), I'm always reminded of how great this holiday is.

I love that it's about coming together with family and friends (and friends who are like family and - if you're lucky - family who are friends). It's about traditions - both on the table and around it. And it's about being thankful for what we have.

It's not a holiday with a wishlist. It's not a holiday which requires a lot of shopping. Heck, these days it's not even a holiday that requires a lot of cooking - although that could raise the shopping level.

There's a parade. There's a wishbone. Consequently there are bands and floats and wishes. How can that be bad?

But, mostly, it's that coming together around a table to be thankful for making it through the year that has gone by.

This year, as I've done almost every year, I'll be watching the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and I'll be eating way too many carbs along with my protein and veg. I'll probably watch a little football, and spend a decent amount of time in the car going over some rivers and through some woods.

But, in my mind, I'll be celebrating every Thanksgiving that's come before for me. The years with a big table and the years with a table for one. And, in a very "Dickensianly wrong holiday" sort of way, I'll be thankful for all of them from the past, while also looking forward to the ones that are yet to be.

I know it's a little early, but since some of you may be travelling this week, I just wanted to say Happy Thanksgiving.

(And thanks for reading.)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Chickens vs. People at Target

I was out shopping, today, and one of the things on my list while at SuperTarget (the kind of Target store which also has a full grocery store) was eggs.

I had seen an article on the news this morning about Target pulling some of their eggs they had because of possible bad chicken-raising techniques from the main corporate farm where they come from.

When I got to the store, there were some "high-end" eggs on the bottom shelf of the case, but a stock clerk was hurriedly filling the rest of the shelves with other chilled items - mainly lots and lots of butter (which, obviously, could stack easily in any space).

I didn't think much about it, really. I mean it's kind of funny that one video shot by a biased videographer (someone who, admittedly, went into the report already planning/hoping to say that the chicken farm was doing unthinkable things to its chickens) has prompted Target - and McDonald's - to stop using these eggs. After all, the farm - Sparboe Farms out of Iowa - has NEVER had a confirmed case of salmonella, and - up until these charges came out in the news - had never had a single federal inspection which raised major red flags.

So, what we've got is one video - shot by someone biased - which has resulted in Target pulling them as a supplier within just DAYS of the report coming out.

On my way home from Target - which I admit I stopped shopping at for a time prior to the 2010 MN gubernatorial election due to their iffy political standings (that's written up, here) - I started thinking about this.

It seems that, when you've got one video of a bunch of chickens which may or may not be getting mistreated, Target is quick to pull all support from the supplier, demand they change their practices, and go somewhere else.

But, if you've got a political candidate who actively opposes granting basic human rights to large segments of society, you simply apologize it away, say you'll look into it, and then gradually back out of your promises to make things right.

Yes. It's partially my fault. After all, once the election was over (and the money they had spent was negated), I went back to doing a large chunk of my shopping there. And I can see how a viral video would scare customers and make a company wary.

But - forgive me if I repeat myself - why is it that one video about mistreatment of chickens is more important to a company's policy than thousands of emails over the course of months about someone's blatant mistreatment of people?

I don't think I'll ever really understand that.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Food Shopping

I fully admit that I enjoy grocery shopping. I really do. I can even go wander around the grocery store when I don't need to buy anything.

I guess I kind of like the possibility of all the stuff that's there. Kind of like getting travel catalogs in the mail just so that I can look at all the places to go. (Yes, I still like getting physical catalogs. But that shouldn't surprise most of you.)

The one thing that has always bugged me, though, about grocery shopping is the check-out. There never seem to be enough open registers, and the Express Lane always seems to be on a break. So you can imagine how happy I was a few years ago when they started having self-check-out in the grocery stores.

I started using those when I lived in Baltimore, and I loved them. No waiting in line for someone who might be having a bad day and decide to read every package before scanning it. No standing behind the person who wants to chat. Just walk up, scan my stuff, and leave.

They rolled out self-check-out lanes in the Twin Cities two or three years ago. And I was one of the first people always in those lines. When no one else was using them, I was there - always being offered help by someone, and never needing it. Quick, easy, done.

Then there are times like tonight. I was in my local Cub store (one of two which are "local" to me, but the more blue-collar of the two), and there was a line for the self-check-out. Well, it started out as a line, but then some people decided to line up behind specific registers. So there were kind of two-point-five lines. And no one seemed to know how to use the lanes.

One woman was trying to scan things but wasn't putting them on the scale-thing, so it wouldn't let her ring anything else (I suspect the two screaming kids with her may have played into that). Another woman walked past the "20 items or less" sign with a cart that was full to the top and started scanning and chatting with the "monitor" - who said nothing about the item limit. The guy behind me was on a blue-tooth cellphone call the entire time - by the time we were done I knew exactly where he kept his files in his office, because he'd been explaining how to get them to the person on the other end of the phone.

I walked into the store for three things. I walked in in a great "it's the end of the workweek" mood. I walked around and picked everything up within about 3 minutes, and then stood in line for about 10 listening to screaming kids and the loud cellphone guy. I probably could have gone through a "regular" line in that time - and I wouldn't have ended up walking out frustrated.

I suspect there's a life metaphor in there, somewhere, about potential versus reality - but we might have to wait until the clean-up on aisle seven is done, to find out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Workaday Wednesday

In the middle of the day, today, I got an instant message from the person who took over my old position. That position is - in my estimation - one of the hardest in the company (and *so* much more difficult than my current one) because it is all about customer service.

Actually, that's not true. It is definitely customer-service-centric, but it's also very detail-oriented and takes a lot of focused multi-tasking. So for the past couple of months while my replacement has been adjusting to the position, I've been her back-up - both for the job and, when needed, for her mental health.

Today, she sent me an instant message saying that she was forwarding a call to me because the caller was demanding to speak to me. As soon as her name popped up on the screen, I knew the call would be a challenge.

The call basically started with me being told that the caller was in a hurry because she is 84 and wants her books right away. Even though the last time I worked with her was almost a year ago, the spiel seemed very familiar.

We were on the phone for about five minutes. At one point, the people within earshot of me both audibly inhaled as I spoke. I think, at that point, I had said to her "Is there a reason why you decide to yell and scream when you're on the phone?" (Her response was "Because it's how I get you people to understand what I want." To which I replied "And how is that working for you, today?")

The call eventually ended when I reiterated (for the umpteenth time) that the person she had been speaking to before was the person who could place the order. She simply got quiet. After about 15 to 30 seconds of no speaking (although she'd obviously not hung up), I transferred the call. Apparently she did not speak again when the other person picked up - so the call was ended.

At times it's nice to be reminded what your job used to be. Especially when you're only in it for a few minutes and then you get to go back to your "real" life.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Movie Monday - In Time

I think I might have mentioned in the past that I find that I most enjoy movies when I go to them with very low expectations. That would be the case of this week's Movie Monday movie: "In Time."

The movie has a pretty basic premise. It's the not-so-distant future, and people stop aging at age 25 - at which point they are given one more year to live. They can earn more time through work, and time is also the currency through which items are bought and sold.

Our main character (played by Justin Timberlake, who is actually a not bad actor, it seems) loses his mother due to some nefarious dealings, and he decides that he wants to avenge her death. At which point we insert political underpinnings where time = money, and we learn that it is being hoarded by an elite group of greedy people.

So he goes in search of more time, and stumbles across Amanda Seyfried, whose father has lots and lots of time. And who - kind of surprisingly - adds a great amount of humor to the movie.

Realizing that all the characters in the movie have stopped aging (at least physically) at the age of 25, you realize that everyone in the movie is fairly young and attractive. Yes, there are different levels of cragginess - as well as layers of wealth - but for the most part, it's a fairly pretty movie to watch, as well.

I feel like I should have more to say about it. That it was pithy or thought-provoking, or something. But, really, it was just a fun movie. A chase film of sorts, with Los Angeles as the backdrop and a reminder that we all have a finite amount of time together.

Overall rating: B+. It wasn't the best action flick of the year, but it was definitely better than average and not something I'm embarrassed to admit that I went to.

Oh. And, in the same way that when leaving "Contagion" I jumped when I heard someone sneeze in the restroom, when I got into my car in the parking lot after "In Time" the song "Time After Time" was on the radio. I found myself asking the radio "But what if there isn't any time after this time?" So maybe the movie was pithy, after all.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Bunny Steeplechase!

I fully realize that the title of this blog posting will mean nothing to most of you. But, to me, it was pretty much a perfect way to wrap up my weekend.

Christopher and I had a really great Saturday. We took the pup to the spa, then ran a bunch of errands - including spending about 45 minutes at a frame store working on getting three pieces of art framed (or re-framed, in one case).

When we first started dating (can you believe it's been more than six years?), we were both pretty busy, so we often only got to spend time together on weekends. And, since that's the part of the week when errand-running happens, we'd spend our time doing just that. This weekend, errands included a pet food store and some gift shopping, as well as lunch. And, yes, it was good. (Much more fun than the yardwork and garage cleaning that followed.)

Today, well, we didn't really do much of anything. We read the newspaper. We watched TV. We napped. We had dinner. Then we went our separate ways so that I could watch "The Amazing Race" and he wouldn't have to deal with me pacing. (I keep telling him that I seldom pace or yell at the TV, these days. But he says I just don't notice it.)

Anyway... There was, in fact, some Bunny Steeplechase running on the episode tonight. And I have to say that it was one of the few athletic events on the show that I think I'd do well with. After all, running down a short course trying to get a bunny (which naturally enjoys hopping) to jump over some obstacles... well... that's about my speed.

If you want to check it out, within the next day or so the folks at CBS will probably be posting the show online. You can find the show's page, here, and the episode is called "Super Shady."

Or, if not, just try saying, aloud, the phrase "Bunny Steeplechase" and see if it doesn't make you smile.

Friday, November 11, 2011


I'm not sure why, exactly, "11-11-11" has such a huge fascination for all of us. After all, the calendar has been juggled so many times that it could just as easily be 11-12-11, or 7-13-15. And, yet, today people definitely seem fixated on the date.

I kind of get it. I mean... I like looking at random numbers from time to time and finding them interesting. I like when my clock says "12:34." I like when math problems end up with sequential numbers or numbers that have patterns. I pay attention each time my car rolls to a new "big" number (like when it hit 100,000 miles last summer).

I'm kind of surprised that none of the doomsday predictors chose this as a final day - after all, you add those three sets of numbers and you end up with a dreaded 6.

For me, although I haven't made any resolutions or anything, I kind of feel like today is supposed to be a reset day. After all, when you start counting, you always start with one.

Not that I know what I'm resetting, of course. And since tomorrow will be 11-12-11, it's not like we're really counting up, anyway...

Perhaps it would be better to say that today is for remembering the past (after all, it is Armistice/Veteran's Day), being thankful for the present, and looking toward the future - each with two hand up to make a wish.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Full, but Un-Fulfilled

Christopher and I just got home from dinner out with friends for someone's birthday. It was, overall, a very nice evening. We always have a good time when we go out with these folks, and we constantly say it doesn't happen enough. So, on a Wednesday, we had a chance to do it.

The waiter seemed a bit overwhelmed, though, and it took a while for basics like water and bread to show up. And our drinks took a little while, too.

But we kept moving forward, and everything seemed fine - if a little slow. Until the food came out and only three of our four entrees were correct. Instead of a Potato Pizza, mine came out as a Pork Tenderloin.

Apparently the waiter mis-keyed my order when putting it into the system. Giving the waiter (and the restaurant) credit for what they did right, I was offered the Pork for free, and told that the pizza would be out momentarily.

So three of us (those of us who aren't vegetarians) shared the Pork, and everyone at the table pretty much finished their entrees. And, eventually, the pizza I'd ordered did show up. I ate a couple of slices, but - frankly - had already filled up on the salad that Christopher and I had shared, and the bread, and the bit of Pork. I asked to have the pizza packed up to take home.

It came to me in a small plastic to-go container, with the four remaining slices stacked on top of each other - kind of like a "pizza lasagna." (They have a bunch of pizzas on the menu, so I'm not sure why they don't have pizza take-out boxes.)

But, again, overall the meal was good - and the company was, as usual, outstanding. And our waiter seemed to be just *that* far away from being good. Which is why I'm not naming the restaurant, here.

All told, though, it was still an unfulfilling evening, foodwise.

Kind of like when you've got your mouth all set for chocolate mousse and you find yourself with a mouthful of pate.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Movie Monday - How to Steal a Million

Sometimes, if you're really lucky, you stumble across a good movie while scrolling through the channels. It's rare to find something that you weren't expecting. The serendipity moments tend to be few and far between. (Unless, of course, you really do want to watch something from the past 5 years. And you want to watch it over and over and over and over...)

Well, yesterday afternoon, I came across a gem of a movie I had never seen before. It was a "caper" film (which was, really, more of a romantic comedy in today's definitions), starring Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole, called "How to Steal a Million."

Really, beyond the cast and the "caper" description, what more do you need?

There's a bit of mistaken identity. There's gorgeous Parisian scenery. There's Audrey Hepburn in stunning Givenchy gowns. And there's some really great banter.

Okay, so it's about a forger who is about to be caught so he has to steal one of the works of art he's created from a high-tech museum. And... yeah... that's kind of most of the plot of the 2-hour movie. But it's TOTALLY worth it.

Overall rating: A. Find it on Netflix. Stumble across it on TV. Use a boomerang to steal it from a museum. Then just sit back and revel in it.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Time Change

I know that we're all (at least in most of the US) dealing with the change from Daylight Saving Time to Standard Time this weekend. (At least I think that's right. Honestly, I can never remember which part of the year is "CST" and which is "CDT.")

But since when did changing the clocks at the beginning of November also mean changing of the seasons from Halloween to Christmas?

I've heard people talking about it, lately, but I hadn't seen it for myself. Today, though, our newspaper came with Holiday Toy Guides. And, when I went to run errands, there were Christmas decorations all over the place. (Oh, come on, red and green trees? And they want to tell me it's for "Holidays"? Stop trying to be so politically correct and admit to what you're marketing already.)

I heard someone say on TV, today, that we - as Americans - should be proud of Thanksgiving. We're one of only two countries in the world who have a fall celebration like it (the other is Canada - they celebrate it in October). It's a holiday about perseverance and pluck (well... at least if you ignore the fact that pretty much all anyone learns about it is probably a lie).

Thanksgiving is also the one holiday of the year that isn't all about commercialism. There's no push to buy candy or toys. There aren't massive marketing blitzes. The stores don't open at midnight the day after Halloween for the sales.

Instead, Thanksgiving is about getting together with family and friends and celebrating what we have - not what we want. It's the joy of simply being together. Muddling through. Wishing on a wishbone that we'll all be together and happy again in a year.

I can deal with changing the clocks (all 15 of them, if I counted correctly). I can deal with the dog not understanding that I'm supposed to be getting an extra hour of sleep. What I can't deal with is missing out on the one holiday that still seems to truly mean something.

That's a changing of the times up with which I will not put.

(Sorry for they hyper-grammatization of that last line. But it makes me laugh that way. And I needed some levity in my own posting.)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday Food - Take-out

A few days ago, one of Christopher's sisters started a new blog. It's a food blog, and will be featuring posts from at least 5 different people (friends and family have been recruited, so far).

The focus, mainly, is simply - and mostly simple - food. But the plan is for a broad range of foods - from main dishes to desserts and every other course you can think of. If all goes well, there will be recipes and photographs, and witty banter, as well.

I'm working on my first post to send over to Colloquial Cuisine: Food for Folks in the next day or so, but - in the meantime - I suggest you check out what's already there. Possibly add the blog to your list of daily online check-ins.

Bon Appetit! Or, more colloquially: Go. Read. Eat. Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Whiney-Song Wednesday

Let me start by saying that I fully understand the need for a good cathartic make-me-wanna-cry song from time to time. I think it's good for the soul to let out your emotions on occasion.

If that can happen in the car, when you're driving and no one is around, who will argue with that?

But here's the deal: Most of the songs that elicit that kind of reaction from me are NOT whiney songs. They are not the songs wherein the singer is moaning about being left behind. Or being wronged. Or going on and on and on about some perceived badness.

When I hear one of those songs - you know the kind, where the singer only has about three lines to sing about losing someone and sings those same lines over and over for four minutes - all I want to do is yell at the radio. Why do those people not just get over themselves, write a new freakin' lyric, and move on?

For me, it's the songs that are out of the blue that make my emotions churn. The songs with the intelligent turns of phrase that surprise you with their heart. They are the ones that make me want to sing along - on both happy and sad times. Sure, they could be from Broadway, but they could also be country, or pop, or almost any other genre.

Perhaps it's the difference between poetry and simply rhyming words on a page. Anyone can make sad rhyme with mad, had, sad, mad, sad, add, and bad. But not everyone can take "orange" and blend it with the right amounts of emotion to make it suddenly rhyme with the entire dictionary.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Travel Tuesday - Home Again

Christopher and I spent the past three nights away from home at a "condo resort" up on the North Shore of Lake Superior. We've gone for at least four years, and we've mostly stayed at the same resort. This year, we even got a unit which allowed us to take the pup up with us.

It's a very relaxing time of year to go up there. The resort is in a slow point, so we get a "3-for-2" deal on the room (pay for two nights, get the third for free), and since these are fully furnished condos, we take food with us and then we don't spend a ton of money on dining out. And it's not like we spend our time shopping or going to shows. I mean... In the past few days we did some hiking, some driving, a tiny bit of shopping (mainly looking) at a gallery, and a whole bunch of sitting in front of the fire.

We watched a few movies. We ate some s'mores. We walked the dog. And we had windows open pretty much the whole time so that we could hear the waves crashing against the shore. Last night we spent about half an hour in the outdoor hot tub under a mostly-cloudy sky, but with a sliver of moon and some stars visible from time-to-time.

I think I turned my computer on once, for about an hour. And that was mainly to winnow down my inboxes so that the re-entry into "real" life wouldn't be too bad. Driving home, today, was nice, even. The sun was out and it was actually warm enough to walk around in shirtsleeves when we stopped for gas.

So we got home, we sorted through everything - putting away leftover groceries and starting laundry - and we started settling back in.

It's amazing how comforting it is to be back home after having been away. I mean... It was a great weekend. We really enjoyed ourselves. We had great breakfasts at this little place that no one believes would be good. We had good conversation with some folks around the hot tub. And we got some good sleep listening to the waves.

But... you know... there's a reason why, when Dorothy clicked those ruby slippers, she didn't request a trip to Vegas.