Monday, December 30, 2013

Splitting Nails

I have no idea what has been going on, lately, but I seem to keep finding myself with split or chipped nails.

I moved a piece of luggage over the weekend and left myself with a crack in the middle of my thumbnail that probably won't grow out for a couple of weeks.

I took my hand out of my glove this afternoon and found a chip in the other thumbnail which snagged on the glove's lining.

My nails used to be indestructible. I was that guy who used his nails for screwdrivers. I could split open taped boxes with them.

Then something happened and I started to get chips and cracks in my nails.

I suspect it has something to do with getting older. I'm probably eating the wrong foods.

All I know for sure is that I won't be treating my nails like Swiss Army knives any time soon.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Whither the Weather

I am having a bit of an issue trying to wrap my head around the actual and forecast weather for today and the next few days. 

Today, we had the warmest day on record for the 28th of December: 46 degrees according to weather.com. Tomorrow, on the other hand, we're supposed to have a high of somewhere around five below zero.

Earlier in the week, we were warned that, with wind chills factored in, the "feels like" temperature overnight tomorrow night could be somewhere around -45 degrees in the Cities. 

Since we had no real wind chill today, that means that the actual high temperature difference will be about 51 degrees. But the "feels like" temperature difference will be over 90 degrees. 

In case you're wondering, tomorrow I don't plan to leave the house except to take care of the pup's constitutionals. Sadly, I suspect that I cannot stay in the house until March.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Brulee - the Follow-up

I think we can all agree that the Creme Brulee story from the other day kind of tops most of the odd cooking stories we've talked about, lately. So I thought I'd just put a quick post-script on it.

Here are some of the follow-up points:

1) Christopher did get some hair singed on the back of his hand and wrist. But no pain was involved.

2) Christopher's dad simply got one of those "I got to close to a fireplace" pink spots on his hand - no actual burn-type burns - he didn't even run cold water over it or anything.

3) By the time we got back out to his parents' house on Wednesday, the torch was no longer in the snow in the front yard. It may have melted its way through to China. Or it may have simply gone out and then been properly disposed of.

4) Dessert on Christmas day was a bread pudding made with applesauce in it, drizzled with a vegan caramel sauce made with coconut milk. Even with that description sounding very much not in its favor, it was quite good. (Honestly, there was no doubt about this - Christopher's sisters also know their way around the very tasty kitchen.) Although, in another time and place I might have suggested carmelizing the top with a kitchen torch. Just not this year.

5) Seriously, though, best creme brulee ever. If Christopher ever invites you to dinner and asks what you want, I strongly suggest putting that on your list of possible desserts to request.

The only problem is that there are never any leftovers.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Brulee Goes the Holiday

Let me start by saying that the creme brulee was incredibly tasty. And no one was seriously injured.

You see, Christopher makes the best vanilla creme brulee that I've ever had.

This is just one of a list of foods which Christopher makes the best of. I don't mean to say that "I like hamburgers and he makes hamburgers, so of course I like his hamburgers." (For the record he doesn't make hamburgers.)

What I mean to say is that I have basically stopped trying to eat creme brulee anywhere else, because none of it compares to Christopher's. This is also a problem I have with pasta with red sauce, lemon chicken, and chocolate spice cookies, to name just a few things.

The creme brulee, though, is kind of a once-a-year thing. He makes it for Christmas Eve dinner with his family. Last year, something went wonky and the batch curdled. Yes, we had other desserts to eat, but it was a sad Christmas Eve with no cracking of the sugar crust on the creme brulee and no scraping of the vanilla flecks from the bottom of the ramekins.

We were worried that we were going to be brulee-less again this year. The oven once again did something weird (we're guessing that the gas oven is not regulating well, and is overheating, then overcooling - I had problems with some cookie batches this year, too), and the first batch of creme brulee went into the trash. The second batch got cooked in the toaster oven, though, and came out perfectly.

But, as we all know, the best part of a creme brulee is the "brulee." If there's no carmelized/burnt sugar on the top to crack with the back of your spoon, there's really no point to it.

We've got a kitchen torch for just that reason, but Christopher's dad gave us his larger torch (the kind you find in a tool box - the kind that Julia Child used to use) a couple of years ago, and since that was good to go, we took that with us when we went to dinner tonight.

Christopher set about lighting the torch to brulee the creme, and the torch was acting up. There was only flame when the match was still lit in the "stream," and as he tried to adjust the flame, it flared a bit causing a bit of a flash and a little bit of a shock to pretty much everyone except Christopher, who just kept moving along as if this always happened. So we all ignored it.

Until... well... something went rather massively haywire with the gas and a leak seemed to start up around the valve where you adjust the amount of gas coming out of the tank. The flare up was kind of big and orange at that point. His sister gasped, and we all turned to see what was going on, just as Christopher tossed the (still lit, since he couldn't get to the dial to readjust the flame) torch into the stainless steel sink.

There was a bit of amazingly calm chaos after that, with lots of people trying to figure out the best way to put it out while keeping the dogs out of the way. (Note to EVERYONE out there: KITCHENS NEED FIRE EXTINGUISHERS! If you don't have one, buy one on Thursday as soon as the stores open.) Eventually, with the help of some kitchen tongs, the torch ended up upside down out in a snowbank in the front yard. Christopher singed some of the hair on his arm, and his dad got a slight - very mild - burn, but there were really no other signs of anything gone awry.

The creme went under the broiler to brulee, where the sugar melted and crisped up and darkened to just the right degree. And we all sat back down at the table and cracked the crust, and dug into the best creme brulee we'll have all year - or, now that it has a story attached to it - probably the best we'll ever have.

May your Christmas also be merry and bright - just not too bright.

C - j t m - R

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Random Work Quote of an Emphatic Nature

Lately, the things I've been working on haven't really had comically bad quotes in them.

There have been moments where they were bad enough that it was comical, but there wasn't anything that was specific that I could pull out.

And there have been plenty of times when the manuscripts have just been so bad that I was fighting back tears or anger while working on them - but I wasn't laughing.

So I've been taking pleasure in the random messages sent in by clients.

I fully admit that the people we work with are passionate people. They've put a lot of time, money, and heart into what they've produced - for better or worse - and many of them obviously feel that now that the manuscript has been sent to an editor they are done. They simply don't realize that there are brand new pieces of work that are just now beginning.

There is the editing - the part I'm most involved in - and the interior design, and the cover design, and the marketing, the website, and - fingers crossed - sales, distribution, and maybe even income and taxes to deal with. And the company I work for can help out at every step along the way.

Which brings me to today's random quote. The standalone message in the message center was the following: "I DO NOT WANT ANY OF THE SUGGESTED WORDS."

First glance made those of us in editing a little worried, because we thought the author might have been actively rejecting the entire edit.

But then we realized that the author was simply emphatically rejecting the marketing copy written for the back cover of the book which had been written for him.

In case you're wondering, no, he didn't say why. He just gave that one line. And, you know, that's his option. We'll see, in a few months, whether it was a good choice.

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Solstice-ish Tiz List

I know that it's been a while since I've written a Tiz List, so here's the explanation of what one of those is: It's a list of semi-random things which you may or may not know about me. 

I got the idea (and the name) from a blog by a very good friend of mine, which you can find at http://tizandass.blogspot.com/ - if you go there this month, she is doing a full 25 Days of TiZMaS thing and writing 25 of these lists. I'm only brave enough to do one every so often. 

So, tonight, I offer you 25 Random Things You May Not (or May) Know About Me: 

1) Although my beard is going massively gray, my hair is not. So I guess I won't be playing Santa any time soon.

2) I'm gradually realizing that shorter hair is my best option, even though I've always really liked my hair. 

3) There was a time, in Grad School, when my hair was so long in the back that I could reach my hand behind my back and grab hold of it between my shoulderblades. And I am not overly bendy, so that's saying a lot. 

4) The last time I went in for a haircut was the first time in a long time that a male stylist cut my hair. It was also the first time in a long time when the stylist didn't make me second guess getting my hair cut really short. We went shorter than I have in... well... probably ever. 

5) Part of me wants to get it cut even shorter the next time. 

6) Part of me wants to Rogaine the heck out of it and grow it out long just one more time.

7) I believe that there comes a time when you get an age stuck in your head and that's kind of what you always think you are. There are people who are 80 who still act 18. There are people who are 30 who act like they're in their 60s. It's not so much one of those "age is a state of mind" things, it's just what you expect to see when you look into the mirror each day. 

8) The age that I am in my mind is 25. 

9) The age that I am in my body is much older than that.

10) The age that I am when there are really good things going on, according to Christopher, is 5.

11) I still cover my eyes when there are gross things being shown on TV or in the movies. 

12) I really don't understand the apparent need to show torture as part of TV dramas, lately. 

13) I've been missing a certain amount of TV dramas this season because my eyes have been covered. 

14) Sometimes I prefer telling a good story over a completely correct story. 

15) The more memoirs I read at my job, the more I believe that telling the whole truth can, at times, be incredibly overrated. 

16) I firmly believe that sometimes a correct story and a truthful story are two completely different things. 

17) I worked on a novel, recently, where the final scene is written truthfully (as in, written in such a way that - although it's fiction - it follows what would normally be done in real life), and I think that changing it to be more of a story would have made it better.

18) The author disagreed. 

19) If you ask me what novel and go out and read it, I'll happily discuss the final scene with you after you're done. But I won't talk about it in advance, because I won't give out any spoilers. 

20) I am a believer in the ritual and tradition of the Holidays. 

21) I bake cookies using the same recipes that I grew up with, because I can't imagine doing it any other way.

22) I used to spend a lot of time on the phone around the Holidays. Now I tend to text Christmas greetings. 

23) It's not quite as fulfilling, but it does kind of serve the "I'm thinking of you" purpose without interrupting whatever the person on the other end is doing. 

24) Sometimes I miss being interrupted by phonecalls from friends just checking in. And, yes, I know that's a two-way street. 

25) I have a list of movies that I need to watch between now and Christmas, which includes (but is not limited to): The Muppet Christmas CarolA Charlie Brown ChristmasHow the Grinch Stole Christmas, and A Muppet Family Christmas (which includes the Muppets, the Sesame Street gang, and the Fraggles). The last of those is on VHS.

**Sidenote: When I spellchecked this post, one of the words that was flagged was "Muppets" - but "Muppet" was fine. Does that strike anyone else as odd?

And there you have it. My almost-Solstice-2013 Tiz List. I hope it finds you warm, cozy, and snuggled in as we light the Christmas tree and hope to push past these darkest days of the year and start looking for some extra light - though preferably not in the form of any more grey appearing in my beard... at least not this week. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Heat Wave!

It's amazing the difference a few weeks can make. A month or so ago, a high of about 35 degrees would have sent everyone to parkas, hats, gloves, and scarves. 

But, after a couple of weeks of highs in the single digits, and a whole lot of below-zero windchills, today's foray into the mid-30s was great. 

The pup actually seemed to enjoy her walk this morning. 

My hands didn't turn white in the chill as I dealt with baggies. 

I was able to fill my car without shivering. 

Heck. I even took my car through the car wash, and the roads were dry enough that when I parked in the parking lot it still looked dark blue, instead of salt-grey. 

Yes, I know that it is going back to frigid starting tomorrow. We're going back to cloudy with possible snow and temps that look more like January than December. 

But today... today was nice. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Almost... Almost...

I kind of think that I might almost be ready for the Holiday.

Cookies are almost done.

The house is almost all tidied and spruced up.

Mailings are almost ready to go out.

Unfortunately, Christopher is almost coming down with some kind of cold/sinus thing. I am almost constantly feeling about half a step behind and an hour short on sleep. And it seems like the Holiday will be almost over by the time we're fully ready for it.

This all almost bugs the heck out of me. But - at least for tonight - I'm too tired to deal with it. In fact, as I'm posting this I'm almost off to bed.

Here's hoping that weather that isn't supposed to happen doesn't result in me tripling my commute times tomorrow so that I can actually try to get some things completely taken care of while I'm at home. (This morning, each time I turned on the weather they said "there's going to be a little snow, but it shouldn't impact rush hour" - then my commute to work took about 30 minutes longer than usual. The drive home took 70 minutes, instead of 25, basically killing an hour of my evening's work time...)

Rats. I almost made it all the way to the end of the post without totally going into whine mode. Almost.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Seasonal Shopping

I fully admit that I kind of like shopping this time of year. I enjoy the heightened sense of adventure and joy during the month of December. I especially enjoy it all when I'm mostly done with my shopping and can kind of wander through all the chaos and not get anxious about anything I've missed.

The problem comes from needing to go shopping for non-Holiday things during this time of year.

When I lived in Maryland, I learned that as soon as a winter storm was coming there would be a run on milk, bread, and toilet paper in the stores. The problem with this kind of thing is that basically everyone would find out about the coming storm at the same time, so everyone would go to the store at the same time. Because, apparently, everyone needed an extra 18 rolls of toilet paper to survive the one snow day that might be coming.

Although there was always a little camaraderie about being in the store with everyone else if you were buying milk, bread, and toilet paper, it was always a pain in the tuchus if you were in the store because... well... you needed to buy groceries. I have no idea how many times I would hear there was a storm coming while watching the news and pouring the last glass of milk out of my jug. Which, of course, meant that I was in the store for a necessity at the same time as everyone else buying milk out of paranoia.

Which brings me back to today's shopping. I needed to go to Target for the things I usually go to Target for. Basics. House stuff. Toiletries. Yes, even milk. Okay, I'll admit that I also went into the Christmas aisles for extra wrapping paper and tape. And, for that, I was prepared for the chaos.

There was no chaos. The calmest part of the store was the Christmas area. I'm not sure whether people shopped early or they're going to be shopping late. All I know for sure is that even though there were no carts available when I got there, there were also almost no lines at checkout.

And, for the record, I'm really glad that Minnesotans don't raid the stores every time a snowstorm threatens, because I would have really hated not being able to buy milk.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

My Life is a College Load

When I was in college, and would go home to my parents' on the weekends, I would always take along any laundry I needed to do. This is something that pretty much everyone I knew did. Just one of those things about college.

Well, when I got home, I'd have a nice load of whites, and a nice load of colors. So I'd start in with doing those nice, specific loads.

But then, on Sunday morning, just before heading back to school, Mom would encourage me to throw in one last load to get everything clean that I'd worn while I was there. That was the "college load."

I don't remember when I kind of stopped having a white load. I mean... I still wear white socks and white t-shirts from time to time, but that's about it. Definitely not enough for one whole load. So now I do one "warm with non-chlorine bleach" load and one "cold with non-chlorine bleach" load. And, yes, when I'm sorting, I tend to think to myself that things are either "warm" or "cold" as I sort.

I feel like, when my life is going the way I would plan it, I'm in a "warms and colds" world. I can sort out everything that I'm doing. I can compartmentalize. And, when I come out the other side, everything looks exactly as it should.

But, lately, I seem to be in a constant college load state of being. Remember how I've been saying that I'm way behind on my Holiday prep? Well, I'm trying to get caught up. But that means that, on nights like tonight when I was actually home, I spent time prepping for tomorrow's work Christmas party/pot luck, doing actual laundry (warms and colds), making cookies, AND doing almost an hours' worth of freelancing.

On the plus side, yes, I got a decent amount of stuff done. I even had time for dinner in front of the TV. But... wow... my list is still really long.

I know that I'm totally going to look back at tonight as a successful night. But, even so, there's a part of me that wishes I had time for just a few days of "warms and colds" and didn't have to worry about constantly living a college load life.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Last-minute Posting

In case you've never noticed, I try to put up a new post every other day. I find that there is less anxiety-causing pressure on that than there is in doing it every day.

But, on a day like today where I actually did work all day at work, then came home to have dinner with my parents who have been in town since Sunday but are leaving tomorrow to go to LA for Christmas, then needed to do 3.5 hours' worth of editing on a rush project... well... now it's 11:55 and I haven't posted anything yet.

This is, to a large degree, a description of how my Holiday season is going. I've got it all planned out, I know what needs to be done, but I'm just not sure it's all going to actually get done.

Cookies are baked - just not all of them.

Presents are purchased - they just haven't all arrived to be wrapped and/or re-shipped to their final destinations.

Cards and stamps are purchased and letter is written - but who knows when they'll go in the mail.

I keep trying to tell myself that the up side of this is that I should be able to enjoy "the moment" more, since I'm apparently not rushing around as much and getting things done early like I often do. And yet, with Christmas just 2 weeks away - and this blog deadline just 2 minutes away - the pressure is still there.

Maybe next week we'll enjoy the bliss of the Holiday season. This week I'm still trying to figure out which to-do list to put that on.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Lawn Guys

I fully admit that there is really no good reason why Christopher and I have lawn guys. I mean, we could easily mow the lawn on our own. We could even edge and mulch and aerate, if we wanted. But we don't.

Instead, since before I moved in, Christopher has had lawn guys. They do all that stuff I just mentioned, about once each week. And they lightly nag us about watering our lawn.

And then, when the seasons change, they also take care of the snow that accumulates on our driveway and sidewalks. Even when the city re-plows the snow and creates a massive ridge of snow at the end of the driveway, they come back and clear it out so we can get the cars in and out with having to go mountaineering.

Of course, they only do that when we get at least 2 inches of snow at one time. So when we got a random, day-long snow today, they didn't come by. Since we were expecting guests this evening, I headed out to shovel.

The snow was light. Except where it had been packed down by people walking on it. It was pretty quick work. Except where it wasn't.

By the time I got back inside, my back was reminding me why we have lawn guys. And why I am happy that we do.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Moving Christmas

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that the title of this post means that I'm going to write something emotional and tear-jerking. But, no. What I'm referring to is that I think that Christmas should be moved to a different time of year.

To wit (which I admit I always thought was spelled "whit" but I just looked it up and the h-less version is apparently idiomatically correct), I offer the following:

1) At the point in the year when there is the least light (at least in the northern hemisphere), people are most prone to depression and the inability to focus, both of which are kind of counter to the whole "let's throw big parties, plan a lot, and be happy" holiday set-up. To keep it even between hemispheres, we could maybe move it to spring or fall - even keeping to the pagan calendars (since Christmas is when it is in large part because putting it on the Solstice made a lot of converts happy) by dropping it on an Equinox, maybe.

2) The weather at this time of year (again, mainly in the northern hemisphere) frequently sucks. Both for errand-running and for over-the-river-and-through-the-woods-ing. Again, an Equinox might be better.

3) I found an article online, recently, that pointed out that one of the main Bible stories of the Nativity references that the shepherds were watching their flocks by night (we all know that line), and that shepherds would only have been in the fields during the summer months. During the winter, the sheep would have been kept closer to the towns/farms to be kept warmer. So... If the original Nativity was during better weather months, I'm thinking that moving it just seems better and better.

Okay... Okay... I know that Christmas isn't going to be moved. I know that we're stuck with it when it is. But since Thanksgiving does move around, I'm totally taking advantage of the "I got thrown off by Thanksgiving being so late" factor this year. I think it's the only way I can even come close to being ready for Christmas.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Snow What Fun

I realize full well that it is already December, and that we frequently have snow on the ground in October.

But I also know that we had our last snowfall in May this year.

I realize that it is frequently below freezing for long periods of time in winter.

But I also know that the average highs this time of year are around 30 - not 10.

Which all goes to say that the weather we're dealing with - and about to deal with - is not amusing to me. It has taken me about an hour to drive home from work two out of three nights this week. And it took me about 15 minutes longer than usual to go in this morning (a trip which, on average, only takes me about 20 minutes total).

Consequently, I find myself simply feeling really tired tonight. I think it's because on long, snowy commutes, you're not only paying attention to all of the traffic, but also paying attention to the road. You're not just worrying about the people around you, but also worrying that the road is suddenly going to be glare ice and you're going to lose all control. Mentally, it's exhausting.

I know that, within the next month, I'll readjust to this style of life. I'll be used to the sub-zero windchills and the slippery streets. Not that I'll enjoy them, but at least I'll be used to them.

Until then, I apologize if my posts are less upbeat than usual. It's hard to write when your entire body simply wants to hibernate.

Monday, December 2, 2013

I Admit It: I Cyber-Monday-ed

As much as I avoid Black Friday (which, this year, seemed to start last Monday), and as much as I love Small Business Saturday (which, really, I try to do every day), I usually also kind of try to stay away from Cyber Monday (which was hard this year since it seemed to start last Saturday).

It's not that I am worried about online shopping in any way. I just hate the feeling of being manipulated into buying things. Especially when I feel like I might end up buying something I didn't want in the first place.

Today, however, I admit that I enjoyed the Cyber Monday deals. And, yes, I'm proud to say that I shopped around for the deals. There were a couple of things I could have bought off of sites that I like, but they didn't have any coupons - and my purchase would have been too small for free shipping - so I skipped them in favor of going out and doing in-person shopping later on.

Instead, I bought things that could get me discounts and free shipping. Well, except for the one thing which I thought was a slam dunk, but which kind of fell apart when I went to purchase it. So, instead, I went an alternate route which resulted in me paying regular price and shipping. (The horror!)

The end result? I'm still not done shopping, but at least I know where I stand. And some days that's all you can really hope for.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Answers and Questions

Sometimes, getting good customer service is really all about knowing the right answers - and the right questions.

I was helping my folks do some shipping, today, at a UPS Store, and we had three packages to ship and were in a bit of a hurry. Luckily, there was no one in the store in front of us, so as I walked in with the first box, I set it on the counter, saying "We've got three boxes." Which was met with "All going to the same place?"

I had no idea, so I waited until Dad brought the next one in before I said "Yep."

The transaction probably could have taken ten minutes or more, but since I've shipped with them numerous times, I knew which answers to give before the questions were asked. We breezed through the address labels. We sailed through the "what's inside?" questions. We even aced the "when should they get there?" question.

We were out of the store in about 5 minutes.

When we got to the car, Mom asked if we'd gotten it all taken care of, or if we had forgotten something.

This time of year, it can be massively frustrating to be on either side of a customer service counter. I love when I'm in a position to give the right answers, ask the right questions, and still be able to non-sarcastically smile on the way out the door.

Here's hoping that this is the start of an actually festive seasonal trend.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankful for... Joy

There are so many ways in which being jaded is just the easy way to go. Not being emotional can often be easier than wearing your heart on your sleeve. Granted, I know these things more from the outside than from actually experiencing them for myself. "Emotionless" is seldom a word anyone would use to describe me.

Don't get me wrong - I'm totally jaded when it comes to a lot of things. Like politics. Or most of reality TV. But Christopher will attest to the fact that extremes of happiness or sadness pretty much show themselves whether I want them to or not.

Although there are times when I'd prefer to be a bit more Midwestern stoic, there are also times when I'm okay with the fact that I get emotional at Hallmark commercials or Christmas Folgers commercials or even the occasional (and, sadly, rare) well-turned phrase in pieces I work on at work. And I enjoy seeing that same level of emotional investment in other people.

Today, while watching the NBC coverage of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, I got to see the two different sides of things - the blase and the blissful - all in one segment.

If you don't already know this, the NBC coverage always has performances from a few Broadway shows in front of Macy's prior to the parade entering Herald Square. This year, one of those performances was by the cast of Pippin, and the performance started with Pippin (the title character) sitting in the audience singing the first song.

(For some reason, I can't get the video to link into this, so you'll have to click here if you want to see it.) (Believe me, you want to see it. So if the link doesn't work, copy and paste this into your browser: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WH_-sG_JBk)

If you opted not to watch the clip, here's what happened: As he started, the people around him were obviously focused on the camera filming them, and not looking at the singer at all.

His first move put him between some probably-teenage parade-goers, and they did a kind of basic (staged) hand slap, but seemed kind of baffled by what was going on. They obviously knew they were on TV, but they didn't seem to care that this guy singing with them was a Broadway leading man.

Finally, Pippin landed in the front row, and the young girl who was sitting just a few feet from him had a look on her face that kind of said "OHMIGOD! That's Pippin! And he's singing and he's RIGHT THERE!" She seemed to be moments away from breaking out into tears of joy. Seeing her made me *so* happy. (If you watch the video, you'll see her show up in her polka dot hat at about 1m20s, and the look on her face hits its apex at about 1m29s, as she puts her glove over her mouth.)

I realized right then that one of the things I am most thankful for is that, as Christopher would put it, I am a five-year-old at heart. I get excited about little things. And I love joy - both my own, and that of others.

And so, today, I am thankful for joy. May we all have a lot of it in the year to come.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tuednesday

Someone I know commented, today, that it was "Tuednesday" - and I kind of love that word.

If you're not familiar with the idea, it's a Tuesday in the middle of a three-day workweek. So it is the "Wednesday" of the week, even though it's only Tuesday, hence "Tuednesday."

I guess you could also look at it as "Tuersday" or "Thuesday," since it's also the second-to-last day of the workweek, but there's something kind of glorious about the look of the word "Tuednesday" that just speaks to me deep inside my word-loving brain.

I hope you had a lovely Tuednesday. I know that I, personally, am looking forward to "Wedriday"... "Wednesriday"... "Fridnesday"... ah, hell... I'm looking forward to the weekend starting after work tomorrow, whatever you call it.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

8/28 Cooking Challenge - Ebelskivers

I cannot believe that it has been over 3 months since my last 8/28 Cooking Challenge post. What makes it even more ridiculous is that I've known what I was going to make for almost that entire time.

For my birthday this year, I was given Ebelskivers: Filled Pancakes and Other Mouthwatering Miniatures by a friend of mine who was generous enough to also give me the appropriate aebelskiver (it's pronounced /able-skeever/, and the traditional spellings I've seen typically start with that "a") pan and tools. Since it was time for another recipe from a new cookbook, I did the calculations and came out with a recipe for Dark Chocolate Sauce, which I figured I would accompany with a recipe for "basic" aebelskivers. For no obvious reasons, the book and pan have been sitting in the kitchen for the past 3 months. But we've been doing things like travelling and being social, and I've simply never had the time to devote to a cooking post.

This morning, after a blissful sleep-in enabled by Christopher taking care of the pooch, I got up and was trying to figure out what I was hungry for. Christopher suggested that I just go ahead and make the aebelskivers, since we didn't have anywhere we had to be, so I didn't need to hurry.

So I did.

Now, one of the things that takes time in the posts is buying the ingredients. Since I hadn't planned in advance, we were missing two things: heavy cream and whole milk. I figured there was a good change that the Dark Chocolate Sauce might turn out wrong with milk instead of cream, but that the batter would probably be fine with skim instead of whole milk. So I kept the batter in mind, but swapped the Chocolate Dipping Sauce for the Dark Chocolate Sauce.

And away we go...

You can see the specialized pan in the middle, with the two sticks you can use to turn the Aebelskivers. (See below)


Okay, so, first we make the sauce... (Sorry for the blur factor. Not sure why the  camera seemed to feel like the counter was moving...) 
Yeah... The simple syrup took about 90 seconds to clarify - not 3 minutes. And then I whisked in the cocoa.
Not gonna lie. I love putting vanilla into hot liquids and watching them boil up. There's a Christmas cookie I make that does this, and every year it makes me happy.

Once the Chocolate Dipping Sauce was done, I simply slid it off to the side of the stove and left it in the pan, then went on to make the batter.


Top bowl: Dry ingredients; Middle bowl: Egg whites; Bottom bowl: Wet ingredients.
The recipe called for using an electric hand mixer to whip the egg whites to stiff peaks. It was only two egg whites, so I just did it by hand.
Final step - folding in the egg whites.
Start by filling the wells about 2/3 full. (I learned as I went along that putting in more batter was better, because they got puffier and rounder, instead of kind of flat.)
Use the tools (or two skewers) to flip them once the first side is browned.
If you want to fill them, you put in a little dollop of filling (in this case strawberry jam) and then cover that with just enough batter to seal it.
If you flip the filled ones right, you kind of get a "jelly donut" look.
Once you're done, they kind look like this. (The pan actually only makes 7 at a time.)
Aebleskiver "bowl" with chocolate filling. :-)
So... What did we think?

Well... If I had to choose between making "regular" pancakes or making plain aebelskivers, I'd probably actually choose the pancakes. They're less futzy, and they're bigger, so you don't need to make as many to fill yourself up.

However, that said, I'm sure that with practice I'd get much faster. And - more to my liking - the cookbook has a ton of other recipes in it. Things like spinach and goat cheese appetizers, or crab-cake-style aebelskivers. Those I feel like I could make in advance and keep warm for a party.

I'm definitely going to try them again, sometime. Just probably not at 9:30 in the morning, when all I really want is something to eat.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Things I Don't Do At Work

Having offered up, on Wednesday, a description of the things that I do do at work, I thought that, tonight, I might offer up a few of the things I don't do at work.

I started thinking about this a couple of days ago, when I was hearing what the office Christmas party was going to be like. (Yes, the company is owned by someone who is Jewish, but we still have a Christmas party. It is what it is.)

This year, the party is being expanded a bit. There's going to be the annual pot luck lunch. And there's going to be the yearly "Yankee gift swap." And we're adding in an ugly sweater contest and karaoke. (Oh, and booze, and invited guests arriving any time after 5pm.)

In the midst of the discussion, I started to realize that there are some things that I either don't do, or completely downplay at work.

For instance:

We all know that I bake a lot. I also cook a decent amount. And I'm pretty good at it. But, at work, there are two or three other people who are the ones known for baking. No one even looks to me when they talk about baked goods, because I've never brought in a decorated cake. I brought a salad to the last pot luck. The plus side? Although I know I could do better than a couple of the other people, at least I don't get asked to bake for birthdays.

We've also discussed (you and I) that I used to be involved in theater. Some acting, some dancing, lots of singing. But that is a side of my personality that no one seems to notice at work. Even worse, when karaoke was mentioned, my immediate thought was that I would have to try to stay out of the way when people were singing so that I wouldn't have to perform. When did that happen?

One of the less-normal annoyances comes in in the fact that all sorts of instructional/teaching materials are being created at the moment in the office. By the marketing team. The mostly-online sales and marketing team. I've got experience in instructional design, teaching, and even a little bit of recording. But will that be put to use in the office? No.

A while back, I was joking around with a co-worker and said something which was just a tad "blue." And she laughed really hard. I apologized, even so, and she said "Don't apologize, I like that side of you!"

Why is it so hard to let that side of me out in the office? Well, you kind of have to understand the office dynamic. I'm old enough to have fathered about 3/4 of the staff (even my immediate supervisor was born when I was 16 - and she's considered "old" in the office). And - although I'm actually not 100% certain any more - I believe I'm the only gay person in a staff of 30. (There are a couple of question marks on staff, one of whom is a guy that I just totally cannot get a read off of, and one of whom is a woman who... well... gets interesting when she's had too much to drink.) Put the age and the orientation together, and I'm the first to admit that this is not a group I feel peer-to-peer with.

So, instead, I just sit in my office and do my work. I let someone else bring in baked goods. I let someone else get excited about karaoke. And, yes, I let someone else do the parts of the job that I'm probably the only one in the office actually trained for.

I wish I had a good way to wrap this up. Some nugget of wisdom or witty commentary. But I don't at the moment. So, instead, I keep my snarky asides to my social media and try to let out my bursts of creativity when I'm on my own time.

I think I liked talking about what I do do at work, better.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What *Do* I Do All Day?


Every so often, at work, I receive emails from students looking for tips on becoming - or being - a book editor.

They all ask different questions, based on their needs, and so I tend to use my lunchbreak to answer them as well as I can.

This week, the questions came from a 7th grader, and I thought I'd share my (slightly expurgated) answers, here, since... well... sometimes it's interesting to see what the answers are. (Remember: It was written with a 7th grader in mind, so please forgive the tone...)

(While you're reading, why not consider what your own answers to the questions would be?)
  • Full name 
 Robert Schmidt, Coordinating Editor
  • What do you do day to day?
Because of the different parts of the company, my day can be pretty varied. Most days, I start out by proofreading book covers which our designers have created to make sure that they don't have any typos on them. Then I go through my email to see whether or not any of our editors need to be paid for jobs they've completed, and whether I've gotten any new assignments. I send out new assignments if they have come up, and I reply to any correspondence (like yours). Usually, after an hour or so, I can start on my actual editing, and I do that for most of the rest of my day - which means that I sit at my desk and read and comment on manuscripts for hours every day.
Of course, since I work in an office with Graphic Designers, Book Publicists, Printing Coordinators, and e-Publishing Managers, I also spend some of my day wandering around the office talking to people to see what they're up to. And eating lunch, of course.
  • What if your favorite part of your job?
I really like being able to see a manuscript go all the way through the process. When people sign up for editing, some of them only want to have their work edited, but some are working with our other divisions and are working toward having "real" books at the end of the process. It's pretty cool to see a Word.doc go through the editing, design, formatting, and printing steps, and show up a few months later as an actual book.
  • What are some of the difficulties you are faced with in this job?
I have to admit that there aren't many real difficulties to being an editor in my job. A few things that can make it a little unpleasant, though, are things like Internet problems (since it's hard to send files back and forth - or do online research - with no Internet), or authors who ask you to edit their work, but don't want to actually listen to any of your suggestions. But neither of those things is really earth-shaking, as far as difficulties can go.

If you are a freelance book editor - meaning that you don't work for a specific company, but you have to go out and find work on your own - it can be very difficult to get enough work to pay all of your bills. Luckily, I work for one company and don't have to go out and search for work.

  • Since when have you known you wanted to be a book editor? Why?
I have always like working with words. I wrote stories when I was in grade school, and when I was in college I thought I might want to be a teacher. I found out pretty quickly that I'm not patient enough to be a teacher, but I still like helping people with their writing. That's when I started to realize that editing might be a good fit for me. 
  • What preparations did you have to make to reach your current editor status?
Hmm... I have a Bachelor's degree in English, and a Master's degree in Composition and Rhetoric (which is a fancy way to say that it's another English degree that focuses on writing). Mainly, though, I had to get a lot of practice. Just like with any job, until you have done it a lot, most people won't really want to hire you. So I did a lot of editing and proofreading for friends, and did some of that in other jobs I had. Eventually, when a position came open in my company, I applied for it, and since I had a lot of experience, I got the job. 
  • How long have you been in this field?
Well, I've been helping out friends with editing for a long time - probably at least 20 years or so. But I started at my company about 4 years ago, and have been in my current position for about 2 years.
  • What do you do to make it easier to work, or "get in  the zone"?
I do a lot of the same things I did when I was your age (which was a long time ago, I admit). I listen to music. I try to close down all of my other computer windows (so that I'm not distracted by Facebook or email). And I have a bad habit of putting my feet up against the wall and leaning back in my chair so that I'm facing away from the door. (This isn't usually too bad, but sometimes my feet slip on the wall and I end up kind of falling over - which disrupts my officemate...)
  • What is an example of a particularly difficult client(s) you've had to work with?
I worked with one author who rejected almost all of my edits in his manuscript. Then, when his book came out, he contacted my boss and complained that it was full of errors. I had to point out that the errors were things I had tried to change, but that he had kept the way they were. That wasn't fun.
A lot of the time, the authors are just very nervous - many of them haven't ever worked with an editor, so they aren't used to being critiqued. And that can be hard for anyone, so I try not to take it personally if they get upset.
  • Any particularly interesting stories you've gotten to edit?
I've gotten to read some really great stuff! (Okay - just between you and me - I'll admit that I've also read some really pretty bad stuff... ;-)
I worked on a book called El Caracol, which was all about a young boy growing up in the Labor Camps in California in the early/mid-1900s.
I worked on a novel about what it was like growing up in Germany before World War II, called All the Dogs of Europe Barked.
And I really liked a set of short science fiction pieces that a blogger sent through to me to edit - but I don't know what he ever ended up doing with them.

A lot of the books I've worked on are very personal for their authors, so although they may not be great books, the emotion in them is always very clear. And those are the ones that I like the best. 
  • Advice to someone who is interested in this career? 
Read - a lot. Read pretty much everything you can get your hands on. The best editors are people who have read all kinds of books and can help the authors find their voices. And the only way to do that is to be exposed to a lot of different writing styles. A lot of people will tell you that you have to read "great authors" to learn about writing, and I think that's true - to a point.

I think that it's really good to read some classics so that you know what writing has stood the test of time. I love reading books that have been around for years, because the style of the writing - and the words they used - makes them really interesting. But I think it's also important to read newer things so that you know what's current.
I also think it's important to read a lot of different kinds of writing - everything from poetry to science fiction, and from Shakespeare to J.K.Rowling. And don't forget that there's a lot of non-fiction out there, too, which is a huge portion of the work that gets edited every day. (Although, I admit that I prefer working on fiction.)
Once you've read a lot, then  you want to start working on editing and proofreading for your friends. The more you do it, the better you become. You can learn how to give advice without sounding too much like a hall monitor, and you can figure out ways to help people without being pushy.
After a while, you'll find that it will get easier - and that the people you work with are really happy to have you work with them. That's when you know that it's time to start getting paid!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Why Not Hamsters?

From time to time, words kind of strike me as odd.

Maybe it's because I work with them for eight hours a day, and so they start running together. (Not, unfortunately, a good thing when you're trying to proofread something.)

Maybe they're always odd, but it's only some days when they allow themselves to be seen as such.

Today, as we near the holidays and the food festivals that they are, I am left wondering why it is that "guinea pig" is the animal left being used - nominally, at least - as a... well... lab rat.

Why not rats? Why not voles? Why not hamsters?

Like I said: odd.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

We've Got Mail! (And It's Not Digital!)

Christopher and I were away from home last week and we had our mail held.

Remember how I had mentioned last week that we were getting a ton of mail before the election? Well, with that over, all I really expected to see when our mail started back up was two Netflix envelopes and - hopefully - a freelance paycheck.

We were around the house most of the day, and the mail never came. Or at least we assumed that the mail didn't come because, even though we weren't expecting much, we figured there would be those two DVDs from Netflix.

Just before Christopher headed for bed, he checked the mail one final time. The packet he brought in was held together by three rubber bands. Honestly, I'm not sure how it fit into our mailbox.

Apparently the 2nd week in November, this year, was Catalog Week. There were enough catalogs that the stack, all together, was probably about 3 inches thick.

Yes, there were also those two DVDs, a paycheck, some coupons, and even - gasp - one postcard and a real letter, but we were absolutely deluged with catalogs.

Part of me wants to be frustrated by that. But the other (much more giddy) part of me wants to stay up until the wee hours imagining all the things I could buy and have shipped to my door. Or - heck - it's almost Christmas, so I'll even happily imagine shipping some of them to other people's doors.

Either way, although I really want to be upset by the shift from election mailings to crass consumerism, all I can really do is enjoy the early stages of the pre-Holidays.

After all, the tree won't go up until after Thanksgiving, so the five-year-old kid inside me has to take what he can get in the meantime.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Bad Quote Quotient - Senseless Brutality

Some of the worst bad quotes at my job don't come from manuscripts. Some of them come from emails and messages we receive.

In general, I don't pay any attention to bad spelling/grammar/whatever in anything sent to me by friends. Use the wrong form of "their/they're/there" in a personal email to me? I'll read past it and continue on.

Text me something that has words like "teh" or phrases like "Do you wand to got?" and I'll ignore them and try to read between the lines.

But send me a business message with a massive typo in it and, yes, I'm going to notice. After all, to me, there's a hierarchy to communications, and I've always believed that you have to pay more attention to business communications than you do to casual messages.

Well, I'm not sure whether the author in question would agree, since this was the (complete) message he sent earlier this week in response to an explanation about one of our procedures:

"This makes complete sentence."

And, you know, that does make a complete sentence. I'm just not sure it makes... well... sense.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Travel Tuesday - More Alaska Pictures

Okay. It's been forever since we got back from Alaska, but I still haven't gotten many pictures up. Since part of that is because I've got a TON of pictures and couldn't ever put all of them up, I've decided to just give you a few of them that I like.

(Oh, if you want to catch up on earlier posts from Alaska, you can find a food post, here; and some only-in-Alaska signage, here.)

The 4th Avenue Theater (closed, unfortunately) in Anchorage.
The Anchorage Art Museum was really cool - complete with a whole section coordinated through the Smithsonian. But we saw this "rehearsal" one evening on our walk past it. *So* cool. 
On our way to see a glacier on the Kenai Peninsula (below), we passed this. 
I wish the color showed up better on this. The "glacier blue" that I'd always heard about came to (very cold) life in front of us.
A chunk of glacial ice (not from the one, above, but from a land-locked glacier which was dropping bits of itself into a stream. At the urging of our tour guide, I tasted it. It was... cold... and - for lack of a better term - "pure" tasting. 
We found these in an outfitter outside of Denali National Park. We did *not* try them, even though they made me laugh.
We saw the full rainbow on our drive across the Kenai Peninsula. It was one of those kind of amazing drive days (Christopher drove for *hours* as we covered lots of miles), but the scenery was worth it. (This is also the trip which landed us at the amazing cafe in Old Town Seward.)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Baking Season

It seems that every time I've gone to the grocery store over the past week or two, I've been stocking up on baking supplies.

I had a coupon for sugar - and it was on sale - so I bought both white and brown sugars. (No sugar substitutes for me, thanks.)

I bought flour a couple of weeks ago, and when I looked in the pantry a couple of days ago - having used almost none in the meantime - one of my first thoughts was "I should buy more flour."

I used the end of a gift card to buy vanilla.

I even found a coupon for a no-knead bread mix and decided to pick it up, just so that I could have the smell of baking bread in the house.

Yep. It's definitely the start of the baking season. And it makes me very happy.

Now I just have to figure out what to make.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Friday Food - Frugal

This actually isn't going to be a post about food. Sorry. Instead, it's going to be a post about fiscal responsibility, of sorts.

I work in an office that has about 25 people (I think we're still under 30 people), and I am amazed on a daily basis how many of them go out to eat for lunch. Sure, they go out to "quick service" places, or the new Whole Foods market down the street, but they're still buying lunch out almost every day.

And, as I watch them come and go, I've been trying to figure out if I've ever done that.

I remember a time when I was working in retail when I would go to a bagel place once each week and get a mixed bag of "day-old" bagels, and then use those to make sandwiches for the week. Even surrounded by mall food, I only bought lunch about 15% of the time.

When I worked in box offices, I probably ate out - or ordered in - a little more, but definitely not every day. And when I was working my really weird hours in a phone queue (5pm to 2am), a lot of places weren't even open when I wanted dinner, so it was either bring it in or go to the 24-hour grocery store down the road.

All of which goes back to say that I really just don't get how the people I work with can afford to eat out so much.

Of course, it might bother me in part because we're near a pizza place, so when people go out, I often have to sit in my office and smell pizza. Kind of a lunch-Grinch jealously thing.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Oddly Quiet

On Sunday, we got four calls from the same telephone research company asking questions about Tuesday's election.

On Monday, we got something like 5 flyers in the mail, and 2 or 3 hang-up phonecalls.

Yesterday, we had a couple more hang-ups which simply registered on our phone as "missed calls."

Today, we got nothing.

After a couple of weeks during which we got enough flyers to stuff a mattress, today we got two DVDs from Netflix, and a catalog. No flyers. No missed phonecalls.

Just a lot of nothing. A strange, wonderful silence.

The day after Election Day. Who knew it would be a combination of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all in one?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Election Eve

No, it's not a Presidential election year. In Minnesota it's not even a gubernatorial election year. But tomorrow is, in fact, an election day.

We've got City Council people up for election in our area. And - you may have heard of this - we've got 35 people running for mayor of Minneapolis.

Yes. Thirty-five.

There are some serious candidates that you can actually take seriously. There are some not-very-serious candidates who would like to be taken seriously. And there are some people that you can't believe are serious.

There's a pirate - but he's not part of the Pirate party.

There's the group who profess that Laura Ingalls (yes, that Laura Ingalls) is God.

There's the guy who I'm pretty sure swore in the online ad where he came walking out of one of the lakes in a bathing suit.

And tonight I have to figure out which people to vote for. You can probably assume that I'm not going to vote for any of those last three I listed. But I really have to figure out which of the seriously serious people to vote for.

I figure that if I start studying the ballot now, I'll be good to go by tomorrow morning.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Letting Sleeping Dogs Lie

I totally understand the idea of leaving well enough alone much of the time. Unfortunately, in our house, the whole "let sleeping dogs lie" thing tends to be more literal.

You see, the pup has a tendency to want to sleep just in the wrong places. And she's remarkably difficult to move for a dog weighing only about twenty pounds.

In bed - especially this time of year - she'll creep up to between our shoulders and then decide to stay there. Sometimes it's fine. Sometimes - like the other morning - it's not so fine. She moved into place when I rolled over to hit the snooze on my alarm and left me lying on about 8" of the edge of the bed.

Tonight, as I sat down to write this post, she hopped up on my lap and stretched out across my legs. Perfectly placed so that I couldn't even set my laptop down. Luckily, she shifted when I started trying to type.

So I guess, in this case, it might just be best to let her lie after all.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Happy HallowGivingStmas! (?)

I was out shopping during my lunch, yesterday - which, with our office in it's new location, I can now sort of do.

I say "sort of" because, by the time I walk anywhere that I want to shop, I've already killed almost 15 minutes of my 30-minute lunch, so I kind of need to turn around and go back to work. But, anyway...

I was out shopping during my lunch, yesterday, and was in the Macy's in downtown Minneapolis, where I found that their entire kitchen area is currently decorated for Christmas.

Now, aside from the fact that we're not even past Halloween, yet, I'm a little bothered by the idea that they've jumped directly to Christmas. I mean... We have a whole other holiday in the middle, yet. And... you know... you'd think a kitchen store - or at least the kitchen portion of a department store - might kind of want to focus on the biggest food holiday of the year.

But, you know, no one asked me.

So, instead, I welcome you to the eve of the first day of the new 56-day HallowGivingStmas.

May it be full of... geez... I dunno... carved pumpkins filled with stuffing hanging by the chimney with care. Or something.

Monday, October 28, 2013

New TV Dinner - Southern at Heart

Christopher and I tend to watch a lot of TV. Which is frequently difficult to do, since some weeks we seem to not be home a lot. So it makes it hard to stay caught up on everything we have recorded on our TiVo.

We tend to choose one or two new shows each season to replace the things that have been cancelled. And we each have shows that the other doesn't care about, so we can watch them together or singly.

I tend to record a few shows off of HGTV and one or two off of the Food Network. But, if you watch Food TV at all, you know that most of that channel is now competition shows - very little cooking.

I'm happy to say that the winner of last season's "Next Food Network Star" had her premiere episode of her new show this past weekend. And although it had all the problems of a first episode, I loved it.

The host - Damaris Phillips - is from Kentucky, and is proud of that. She's Southern in all the best ways. Charming, and funny, and smart, and witty, and makes you want to come in and take a seat and while away a couple of hours.

Or, in my case, I found myself wanting to invite her to dinner. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that that is pretty normal for me - I love the idea of inviting a bunch of people over and cooking and eating together. The list includes a fairly eclectic group of people like John Barrowman, Lauren Graham, Samantha Brown, Angela Lansbury, and Nigella Lawson.

And, as of this weekend, I'm now adding Damaris Phillips to that list.

Fingers crossed that "Southern at Heart" stays around for a while. Since there's really no way that I'll get her here for dinner with Christopher and me, I'd love to at least get to enjoy her on my TV for a while.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

All Hallow's Annoying

I admit it. I'm not a fan of Halloween.

I don't like blood and gore.

I don't like freakishly sexy children's costumes.

I don't like people using it as a drinking-and-driving "amateur night."

In almost the same way that people count down to Christmas, I count down to Halloween. Only my count is to see how many days I have left until it's over.

Here's to making it through this party weekend and surviving until Friday.

And then buying clearanced-out snack-size candy on my way to work. There has to be a silver lining, after all.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Well, Now, That's Just...

There are things about Minnesota which will always surprise me.

I am always amazed to come across someone who actually speaks with the traditional Minnesota accent. Of course, I'm also still amused by people who have a stereotypical Baltimore accent.

I think that I'm probably just generally amused by accents. It probably has something to do with growing up in South Dakota with a dad from South Dakota and a Canadian mom who had done a lot of growing up in Southern California. I was always told that my accent was funny, so I paid attention to other people's accents, too.

But then I also was a teenager in the 80s, when "valley girl" was an accepted way of speaking.

So the other day when I drove through a small town in western Minnesota named "Bechyn," I kind of broke out laughing. It sounds like the perfect combination of Minnesotan "Ya, sure, you betcha," and a very 80s "Bitchin'." You know, as in...

"Ya, sure, that's Bechyn."

Or maybe it's just me.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Wimping Out

My sinuses have decided that the massive change in the weather is a bad thing. 

Granted, so has most of the rest of my body. After all, going from 80s two weeks ago to 40s (barely) this week just isn't all that fun. 

Even worse, I've lost the opportunity to wear a bunch of my mid-weight fall clothing, and I'm having to go directly to heavier coats. 

And, yeah, my sinuses are hurting pretty much every morning and evening. 

So I'm going to just go to bed. 

I'll try to write something more interesting in a couple of days.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Fall Prep

I guess it's time to admit that we're moving into fall pretty seriously. After all, we are technically a month into it.

But when you have really weird, warm weather at the start of October, it's hard to think about fall and winter. A week ago, Sunday was a gorgeous day, so - of course - I spent it in the basement doing work. This weekend was... not quite so gorgeous.

Unfortunately, since I had worked in the house last weekend, this weekend I had to go out into the yard. I started to go out yesterday afternoon, and looked outside to see a sudden downpour. Because that's the kind of thing that happens in October. (Seriously, I'm just glad it wasn't snow...)

An hour later, I finally headed out. I swept out the garage and moved all of the "yard liquids" into the basement. I hauled in the hoses after trying to empty them. I covered the A/C. And - the saddest part - I took out all of the dying annuals from the flower beds.

The part that bugs me every year is cutting back the peonies. I know that I could leave them until spring, but then in the spring they've gotten all slimy after being under snow for 4 months. So I went out and cut them back, yesterday. So all of the great big bushes (which, granted, had started to look pretty sad after a hail storm in August/September) are now just little stubs. And the yards (both front and back) look kind of naked.

I know it's for the best. After all, in 5 months or so I'll be out there, again, laying down fertilizer and hoping for warm days and watching for sprouts. But right now... sigh...

You'll forgive me as I go eat a box of Girl Scout cookies... After all, it's feed a cold, starve a fever, binge to fend off seasonal affective disorder, right?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Friday Follow-Up

Okay, so I've actually gotten some responses, lately, and I've meant to write back to people, but things keep getting away from me. It's times like this that it's a really good thing I don't keep chickens, because all I'd have left by now is an empty coop...

Anyway...

There were a lot of responses to the "Barefoot..." post. A lot of people seemed to come down on the "Eww" side of things. But there were some notable "What's wrong with that?" responses. Mostly from people who spend much of their lives barefoot, but probably wouldn't take off their shoes in a movie theater. But one person did say that she takes off her shoes in the theater - and puts her feet on her shoes on the floor. That, actually, sounds perfectly fine to me. The people in the movie theater with us that night, though, had their shoes off and nowhere near their feet. Which still cranks the "Eww" factor way up for me.

I also had a question or two about the close call I mentioned in the "Manic Monday..." post. I am happy to report - more clearly this time - that we only had a close call. No contact between cars was made. I'm very happy about that. I'm also happy that I had no cavities at that trip to the dentist.

I was reminded, last week, that I haven't posted any actual Alaska travel pictures - I've only posted the food pictures in the "Travel Food..." post. I swear that I plan to remedy that in the immediate future. (Please refer back to the chicken-keeping analogy in the first paragraph.)

And, finally, something which has nothing to do with any posts except this one. I'm working on an edit right now which... well... the entire manuscript could be one huge Bad Quote Quotient entry. It's as if the author was writing it with voice recognition software which was set to pidgin English (except that he spelled it "pigeon" English - not kidding). The problem is that when you're fixing that much of a manuscript, it's just not funny after a little while. It's more sad than anything. Well... Mostly. Because occasionally you come across a gem like this:

There was a chicken coup in the backyard.

Which immediately made me wonder "Was it organized, or fly-by-night?" and "Did he know he might be sheltering a few bad eggs?" and "Was it something about the pecking order?"

But truly amazingly bad quotes, in a sea of just normally bad writing, are hard to come by. So I'm kind of looking forward to my next decent manuscript with that one perfect gem in it. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wednesday Web Weirdness

I've often joked with people that I kind of wish the NSA would track what I research at work all day. I mean... I'm an editor, and I frequently have to work on books whose subject matter might otherwise be outside my wheelhouse.

There have been times when I've spent weeks with my browser open to topics like Nazi history, or infectious diseases, or the proper names of deadly herbs. Or, this week, I have a Bible search site, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and something called "rosary-center.org" all up at the same time in the background.

I almost always have at least two dictionaries open on my screen, and I'm usually in search of the arcane meanings of words, trying to figure out if authors are totally wrong, or just trying too hard.

Today, I came across a version of the last of those. An author trying a little too hard on his word choices, who ended up saying something he really probably didn't mean. But, giving the author the benefit of the doubt, I tossed his word into the dictionary to see what came out. And, wouldn't you know it? One of the definitions of "bestiality" does, in fact, simply mean "in a beastly fashion, without humanity."

Yep. That's right. I was checking dictionary.com to see exactly how bestiality was defined. That, of itself, was fine. The weirdness came in when I was offered a follow-up by one of dictionary.com's advertisers, which is a visual thesaurus company.

Now, you may or may not know that a "visual thesaurus" is not the same as a "visual dictionary." A visual dictionary typically has pictures of the things that it is defining. A visual thesaurus, on the other hand, gives you a bunch of words connected by lines, and if you choose the intersection points, it tells you how they are related. Which is all well and good.

But, the ad for the visual thesaurus takes the form of an "if...then" problem. ("If you're looking up acrimony, then you can find similar words on the visual thesaurus.") Only it doesn't use those terms. Instead, it suggests we "explore" the term using the visual thesaurus. You know, throw "acrimony" into the mix, and watch the little lines go out to connect it to other words. Find out why it's connected to "spite" or "animosity" - that kind of thing.

(Can you see where this is going?)

In what was a totally inadvertent (you assume) act of the algorithm, instead of "Explore acrimony in the visual thesaurus" my screen offered the following follow-up to my search:

"Explore bestiality in the visual thesaurus."

Umm... yeah... No.

(For the record, okay, yes, I did search it just to see what would come up. It's linked to a few other words which are pretty much what you'd expect and, yes, I decided to suggest one of them - inhumanity - to the author as a substitute.)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Manic Monday Morning

I've been thinking about this all day, so I decided to share it with you folks.

I had to leave early this morning to drive to St. Paul for a dental check-up. You see, when I moved out here, I lived in St. Paul, so I found a great dentist over there. But then I moved to Minneapolis five years ago. And, unfortunately, I also started a job since then  which requires me to be at work by precisely 9am.

So I'm left with the option of going to the dentist very early (their first appointment is at 7:30am), or very late (but their final appointment is about 4pm). If I do the 7:30 appointment, I have a chance of getting to work by 9 and not missing any time. So that's what I try to do.

Today, that meant I left home at about 6:45, when it was still mostly dark out. I reached the end of our block, looked both ways (remember - it was dark out), and started to turn the corner. At which point a red car - with no lights on - pulled into the lane next to me.

As near as I can figure, the red car had been parked at the curb and pulled out just before I turned, but without turning its lights on. So it basically pulled out right in my blind spot, then accelerated past me as I turned the corner.

I have to admit that that kinda got my adrenaline going for the morning. Just what everyone needs for a trip to the dentist. Right?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Bad Quote Quotient - Wicked Bad

Sometimes you really wonder where people live in the stories they tell. 

I'm guessing that the people being written about in today's Bad Quote might possibly have lived in Oz: 

They did not anticipate the untimely event that fell on their family.

In case you're wondering, I changed that to "befell" - no ruby slippers required. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

When Good Feedback Goes Awry

This week, work has been a little wonky.

For the most part, since Tuesday, I've been working on doing an unsolicited edit on a manuscript which was sent in by one of our freelancers with a note that it had no errors needing to be fixed.

Since you've seen a number of the gems that have come in via the manuscripts I work with, you can only imagine that "no errors" kind of threw up some red flags for us in the editing office. But it was a second-round edit, so we figured it was possible.

Then we opened it. And there were obvious errors on the first page. In fact, by the time I was done today (luckily, it was a short manuscript), there were an average of 8 errors per page.

Now, that's not a lot. Especially when I went back and looked at the first round of editing, where there were an average of 40 errors per page. But some of the errors were just *so* obvious. There were errors where the editor had changed some wording in the first round, but had left in some of the erroneous piece. There were errors in spelling (family's was spelled families). And... well... there were some just plain "oopses."

But we've had a lot of great work from the editor, so we went for the benefit of the doubt, and put together an email to point out what was wrong, what should have been fixed, and things to look for in the next edit. After all, from what we could tell, this was obviously a good editor who had had a bad day.

About half an hour after that email was sent, though, we got a "thanks, but I'm done" email in response. It was accompanied by a claim of "I didn't know that was required..." (umm... yes... we require our editors to fix egregious spelling and grammar errors - it just seems better that way).

It's funny, sometimes, how well-intentioned emails can result in very odd... umm... results. It would be funnier if it didn't mean that her workload was landing on my desk this week.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Barefoot at the...

...Cinema?

When did it become a thing to take your shoes off wherever you go? I mean... aside from taking off my shoes to go through security at the airport, I seldom feel like taking off my shoes in public.

I work with people who take off their shoes in the office. And while I know that the floors are pretty clean there, I just don't really want to take my chances to find out what someone dropped on the floor while bringing their lunch back from wherever.

And I have a LOT less faith in the cleanliness of the floors at a movie theater. Even in the "VIP" section of the reserved seat theater in the area. Sure, it's not the sticky-floored situation that you get in a theater with linoleum floors, but I'm not about to put my stocking feet on the carpets.

Yet, tonight before the movie, I got up to use the restroom and there were two people - one man in canvas loafers, one woman in sandals, not together - who had taken off their shoes. Which means that they were both barefoot on the theater floor.

At the end of the movie, the guy sitting next to me took the time to put his shoes - ankle-high lace-up boots - on before leaving.

So that makes three people in the same area who had all taken off their shoes. In the movie theater.

And, no, they weren't making noise or texting or anything else, so they really didn't bother me. But knowing that they were mostly barefoot did creep me out just a tad.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Bad Quote Quotient - A Light Snack

The book I'm currently working on has had a few near-misses in it. But nothing in the first 490 pages really was silly enough to call out.

Okay, so there was the issue with people throwing a "shovel full of dirt" into a grave. (Why throw in the whole shovel? Why not just throw in the shovelful of dirt?) But that, as good as it was, was overshadowed by this gem:

[The central court’s] gray austerity was softened by floor lamps that had been brought in for the occasion. They stood in small groups, drinking champagne and eating hors d’oeuvres, some of them feigning worry about the over-indulgences of the holiday season.

I walked it around the office after printing it out to post on my wall of bad quotes. After people squinted at it and did the "confused dog" head-tilt, they all started to laugh.

In my mind, I'm seeing shaded floorlamps wearing pearls, chatting with torchieres wearing bowties. How about you?

Cheers.

Friday, October 4, 2013

When Expectations Meet Reality

I don't know if I've ever mentioned it, but there is a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant near where we live that Christopher and I kind of use as a fall-back place to eat. It's probably what would be called "quick service" dining, where you walk in and place your order at a counter, pay, and then they bring the food out to you.

But instead of it being a burger joint or fast food, it's a steak house. In fact, it's "Best Steak House" on Nicollet Avenue, just south of 54th Street in Minneapolis.

The first time we went there was a few years back. We had a coupon for something like two steak dinners for $15 or something like that, and so we decided to try them out. We learned pretty quickly that when you walk in, you have to make a fast decision, because depending on what you order you may need to get your salad right away - as in less than 6 feet in from the door.

The place has a bit of a Greek leaning, so you can get gyros and Greek-spiced chicken (and baklava), but it mainly focuses on steaks. And they may not be the greatest steaks in the world, but they're also not the most expensive steaks in the world.

Monday night, Christopher and I ate for about $23. He had the 12oz Sirloin special (which comes with a salad and choice of baked potato or fries), and I had the Gyros platter (with fries), and we each had a soda. And it was $23. For all of that.

Sure, the decor is a little lacking, but on Monday we had the choice of watching the pre-game show for Monday Night Football or a Telenovela - depending which way we faced. And there was no line, we didn't need reservations, and the staff were actually friendly.

The first time we went, I think that our expectations of a place called "Best Steak House" were pretty high. But these days when we go we know what to expect and... really... it may just be the best steakhouse in our neighborhood.

(Just don't ask me whether or not it's the only steakhouse in the neighborhood...)