Sunday, June 29, 2014

Just Another IKEA Sunday

Although the mattress hunt at IKEA was a bust a couple of weeks ago, Christopher found a desk he thought he'd like for his office. So, after a couple of weeks of contemplating, we decided to go back and pick it up. 

This afternoon, we found ourselves wandering back through the store heading for the office section to figure out what we needed. And then - as can only happen at IKEA - headed for the self-serve area to pick up our boxes of flat-pack pieces and parts. 

The cart, of course, pulled to the left and didn't like going around corners. 

The small, four-drawer unit came in two packs of about 30 pounds each (though, through the miracles of flat-packing, they weighed about 80 pounds, each, when they were picked up). 

Putting the desk top into my car meant we had to slide the seats forward and avoid any quick stops to avoid decapitation. 

But we did get it all home and unloaded. And Christopher plans to put it all together next weekend. 

And there we have it: Another IKEA Sunday, some assembly required. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Sometimes Off is the Best Bet

I've been having a few days lately where the "there's nothing on TV" bug has been hitting me pretty hard. I've actually been - gasp - turning the TV off instead of just having it drone on.

The other day, I tried to watch a movie that I'd recorded, and turned it off after about 45 minutes, just because I didn't really care about the main character.

I've even been turning off my computer earlier in the evenings. Sometimes I turn it back on to check email (or blog) before bed, but mostly I just turn it off and figure I'll deal with things the next day.

It's been kind of nice.

I've gotten through 2/3 of the book that I need to finish for my book club. I've gotten to bed on average an hour earlier than usual (one of those nights I was actually in bed reading said book for said book club). And I don't feel like I've been missing anything.

I'm sure that this will all change in a few days. I'll be back to enjoying watching nothing on TV, and searching the same websites over and over.

But, until then, I'll keep turning things off and enjoying the quiet.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Your Frenemy: Spellcheck

With so many people doing everything online these days, it almost seems that worrying about Spellcheck in programs like Microsoft Word is passe. 

After all, so much of our lives is now only done electronically - via text or email or instant messaging - that most people don't worry about actually using word processing programs any more. 

Although, as I see things showing up all over the place with strange words that don't make sense, it reminds of the times when I was teaching and dealt with students assuming that Spellcheck was always right. Like times when "the whole process" would show up in a paper as "the hole progress" because a student had typo'ed the phrase and Spellcheck hadn't pointed it out. 

Of course, at the same time, the issues that Spellcheck was known to cause now tend to show up in programs that use AutoCorrect features. And, to make matters worse, many of the electronic communications methods that feature AutoCorrect are known for their speed. You're expected to be typing and hitting send immediately, not going back to re-read and edit what you've written. 

As you might guess, I'm not always a big fan of either of these programs. 

Yes, I use Spellcheck every day at work. I have it turned on so that the computer will point out any words which are obviously spelled incorrectly. But that wouldn't ever help me catch "the hole progress" in a book about "the whole process." So I use it as a back-up and use my own wordsmithing as my primary source. 

That's how I found one of my favorite Spellcheck goofs this past week. Spellcheck wanted me to change a letter in a word that the author had used, because according to the program the word was wrong. 

You see, instead of having a police officer "unholster his gun" (which, okay, may not be the best word), Spellcheck tried to change it to "upholster his gun." Which, I dunno, might have made the whole scenario seem a bit chintzy. (ba-dum-bum)

So I will continue to urge people to avoid as many fabricated (get it?) crimes against spelling as possible and admit that while Spellcheck and AutoCorrect are nice, taking the time to proofread is even nicer. 

(Yes. I also spell-checked this post. And while I know that there are some intentional words in it that probably aren't found in Webster's, I'm more worried than usual that there might be an accidental typo somewhere in there, too.)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Internet Shminternet

Some days I really wish I had never learned about the Internet. And wi-fi. And laptop computers.

Christopher and I are having some weird tech issues, this evening. Which - though they were fairly quickly solved for him - took much longer to fix for me. Why? Because although my laptop isn't all that old, it's ANCIENT in computer terms.

I hate that. I hate the fact that I am now going to have to plan for a thousand-dollar expense to buy something new when the one I have is perfectly fine - it's just old.

If I were dealing with encylopedias and pens and paper, none of this would matter. If I were planning my travel with a travel agent and AAA maps and postcards, none of this would matter. If I were editing longhand with a red pen, none of this would matter.

Of course, most of those things would drive me crazy if I had to revert to them. But that's beside the point. Or maybe a different point, entirely.

I'd spend more time debating it, but I'm not sure how long my Internet connection is going to hold out...

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Solstice Sleep

The longest day of the year is kind of cool. In theory.

There is something exciting about the sun being up for so long, for night being driven out, and - in places like Minneapolis this year - it was glorious to have sunshine for the entire day.

Unfortunately, for those of us with pets who feel that getting up at 5:30 in the morning is a duty, it also means that the sunniest day of the year becomes the longest day of staying awake.

I tried to nap this afternoon. I went to bed and read for a bit, then set my alarm and tried to sleep. And I think I did drift off for about an hour. Though that didn't really make up for having gotten up between 5:30 and 6.

And, since it's light so late, today, it kind of feels like - although it's nearly 10 - it's actually only 8. My body is telling me it's time to go to bed. My mind is telling me it's way too early. Hopefully, if my body goes to bed, my mind will eventually follow.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Zer Floot

With all of the rain we've been having in and around Minneapolis, people are beginning to talk about ark building and animal gathering and kayaking down the streets. People have been getting washed away in their cars, roads have been getting washed away... It's kind of insane.

But whenever I hear someone talking about Noah, I tend to think about inappropriate laughter.

I don't remember how many years ago it was. But I was home in South Dakota and the priest at the time was... well... he was not from South Dakota. And his accent was thick. Really thick. Like "ask the phone customer service person if you can speak to someone else" thick.

He was kind of melodious to listen to, but that doesn't mean he was understandable. And, while we could follow along for most of the service and figure out what he was talking about, during the sermon we were on our own. That's when we heard it.

"Zer Floot."

And he didn't just say it once. He said it a few times. And none of us had any idea what he meant. I contemplated all sorts of possibilities, but couldn't come up with anything. Until he said something that sounded like "No-eh."

"No-eh ant Zer Floot."

Of course.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Encylopedias Never Told Me This

One of the interesting things about my job is that I pretty much work with different topics with each book. On some levels, that's really fun.

I get to spend a few weeks getting immersed in a topic I probably wouldn't read up on, otherwise. This works for both non-fiction and fiction.

In fiction, I can spend time reading up on whether or not plot points would work when a character is crawling out of an overturned pickup truck, or whether or not two Parisian streets are close enough together that a cancer patient would be able to walk from one to the next without sitting down.

In non-fiction, I get to learn about some cool topics - regardless of whether or not I agree with the author's point of view. I spent 3 weeks last fall researching Global Warming while working on a book by a Climate Change denier. I spent nearly 4 months looking up information surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Last year, I spent time researching Nazis, the integration of Ole Miss, sex trafficking, and the metamorphosis process of butterflies. (I'll let you guess which of those were for fiction and which were for non-fiction.)

Most of the time, I kind of wonder what it would look like if someone was trying to track my web searches. I would imagine that some of the topics and sites that I'm on could throw up red flags, but since the topics change fairly often I suspect it would be confusing for someone tracking my usage.

Today, I got to do something different from anything else I've searched. I was trying to figure out what body shape a man who was 6'1" tall and weighed 180 pounds would have. But... you know... when you google something like "What body shape would someone 6'1" and 180 lbs have?" you tend to get... interesting... results.

And yet, still no red flags.

Can't wait to see what I'm looking up next week.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Soccer Fever?

I have to admit that I don't understand World Cup fever. I mean... I understand it for other parts of the world. I just don't understand it for places like Minnesota.

Soccer is not a big deal in Minnesota. Honestly, as many of you know, soccer is not a big deal in most of the United States. I mean... once little kids get done playing it in grade school and junior high, that's often the last we hear about it.

Even in LA, where the population is largely non-white, it took bringing David Beckham out of retirement from England to get the LA team any news. And, honestly, all I know about that is that Beckham showed up. I don't remember hearing anything about how their matches went beyond that.

So, here in a part of the country where winters are long enough to play outdoor hockey 8 months of the year (or at least it seems that way), and where football (the American kind) is so big that even rugby (much closer to American football than soccer) can't get a foothold, it's weird to see so many people suddenly excited about soccer games taking place on another continent.

It's a little like the news story I heard this weekend about people being cautioned about contracting Dengue fever from mosquitos while in Brazil and bringing it back with them. My guess is that, once the fever is diagnosed, it will fade away and become just one more "remember when?" summer story to tell.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Deadly Equilibrium

Having finished that behemoth of an edit I was working on for four months, I moved on to a self-help book about creating some kind work-life balance.

It's not a horrible book, but the author has some problems with her use of idiom.

My favorite showed up yesterday when I found this gem:

     After all, your life will never be in balance if you're dead. 

And, really, who's going to argue with logic like that?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Having Words with Word

It is late. I am up way past my bedtime. But I've been doing work this evening.

Actually, the doing of the work isn't what caused me to be so late. What caused me to be up so late is the preparing to do work.

You see, my computer is a few years old, now, and Microsoft Word has gone through multiple variations since I got the version I currently have. So when I tried to open the 20-page document that I needed to work on, it wouldn't open.

It wouldn't open. And then it wouldn't open again. Or again.

I finally sent it to Christopher to open it on his computer and save as an older version of Word and re-send to me.

That worked.

But then there was something wonky with a couple of charts and each time I would do an edit in them Word would freeze and stop working. Each and every time.

Finally, I went back to an earlier version and started saving every time I made any change - no matter how small.

I'm guessing that I spent a good 45 minutes or so just fighting with the computer. The rest of the editing went pretty quickly.

But now it's way past bedtime and the only thing that is going to go quickly is the night's sleep.

Wish me luck on getting through work, tomorrow. Hopefully I won't be having words with Word again any time soon.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Movie Monday - A Three-fer

Yep. Tonight's movie review is a three-for-one. Three very different movies. One very abbreviated blog post.

Maleficent - I really wanted to like it. I mean, I really wanted to like it. But I'm not an Angelina Jolie fan, so it had that against it from the outset. It wants to be dark, but it's not. It wants to be a kids' movie, but it's not. It wants to be Wicked, but it's not. It's a perfectly fine movie (some of the people we went with absolutely loved it), but the sacrilege part, for me, is that Disney mucked about with their own mythology. That did it in. Score: C+. 

Mr. Peabody and Sherman - Taken from the old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons. Lots of very smart humor that goes over most kids' heads. Some action and stupid humor to keep the kids interested. Some fun historical "facts." And, actually, a quite touching story about a dog and his boy. Did I love it? No. Did I laugh a lot and rather enjoy it? Yes. Score: B+. 

The Way, Way Back - A kind of coming-of-age movie with this quiet teenager who is dealing (poorly) with his divorcee mom's new boyfriend, which is made worse by the fact that they go to Cape Cod for the summer and have to deal with this all in a much more claustrophobic way. He accidentally gets a job at a water park and the people there give him a self esteem boost, but he still has to go home at the end of each shift. I liked it, for the most part. It's a quiet, kind of melancholy, movie. But here's my problem with it: it felt like someone had written a script and wanted it to be set in the early 60s, but had realized that they didn't have the budget for the sets and costumes for the 60s, so they set it in present day. That really threw me a few times. And it was a clumsy choice by the director/designer/whoever, which could have easily been avoided. So the more I've thought about it, the more I've been bugged by that. Which is too bad, because the cast was really good, and I liked the story. Score: when I first finished watching it, I probably would have given it an A-, but a few days later, having had more time to think about it, I'm going with a solid B. I definitely recommend it, but try to ignore the very 2014 aspects (like iPods and cellphones) and think of it as a period piece, instead.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Bed Hopping

I know that Christopher and I seem like pretty normal, well-adjusted people. And we are pretty normal, most of the time.

Today, though, we spent the day with two strangers, hopping from bed to bed.

We were mattress shopping. Obviously.

I gotta tell you... It's one of the stranger things you do in a shopping environment. You walk into a store, and - while chatting with a salesperson - start lying down on beds. Rolling over. Bouncing a little to readjust.

With your shoes on.

Goldilocks was referenced a few times in the course of the afternoon. Foam, latex, and inner coils were talked about as if we knew what they meant. Eventually, we stopped being surprised by mattress sets that could cost as much as a car.

And we got to play with the remote to raise and lower the mattresses, too.

By the time we left the first shop, we'd actually kind of gotten used to the whole process. In the second store, it didn't seem as odd to hop on and off the beds while talking to a stranger about how they felt.

It still felt odd, mind you, just not as odd.

Which, when you think about it, is probably not a bad thing.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Summer Hours

One of the perks in my office is that, in the summer, we can opt in for summer hours.

Typically, we work 9-5. No actual lunch breaks, just the 8 hours straight through.

Summer hours are 8-5 Monday through Thursday, then 9-1 on Friday.

In the past, I've worked regular hours through the summer, because the pup stayed in a kennel all day, and we didn't want to leave her in there any longer than necessary. But we've moved her to the kitchen, so now we don't have to worry about her cramped in the kennel all day. So I decided to try out the summer schedule.

The optional schedule started this Monday. And although it was hard to get out the door on Monday, it didn't feel that bad to do the longer day.

Tuesday night, Christopher and I went to a movie, which meant that Wednesday morning felt kind of early.

Last night, I met a friend of mine for dinner and a movie - but it was relatively early when I got home and I was still in bed pretty early.

Today, though, the day stretched on for hours. Of course, I've gotten used to getting up earlier this week, and tomorrow I don't have to work until 9.

I have the feeling that I'm going to enjoy the summer hours, overall. But, in the immediate future (such as tomorrow morning), this is going to be a little rough.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Let There Be Cake

Christopher and I decided that we were going to have a few people over for brunch last weekend. And, since it was just after my birthday, we decided to have cake. But we also decided that it wasn't going to be a birthday brunch, since we didn't want to put any undue stress on people who were coming.

So I started looking around for cakes to order, and I stumbled across an amazing deal. One of the local grocery store chains is currently offering 1/2-sheet cakes for the price of 1/4-sheet cakes. More cake. Same price. How could I turn down that offer?

Sure. We weren't inviting nearly enough people to eat a 1/2-sheet cake. But we weren't really inviting enough people to eat a 1/4-sheet, either, so we were looking at leftovers - yummy, cakey leftovers - no matter what.

So we decided to go for the larger cake. One catch: It had to be a Graduation cake. Yep. They were only offering one design for the discounted rate. A very nice "Class of 2014 Congratulations!" cake.

We decided we were okay with that. So I went ahead with the order.

They required a name to be on the cake. As in "Congratulations, NAME!" When I mentioned that to Christopher, he jokingly suggested we put the pup's name on it. So I did.

So we celebrated her graduation last Sunday. Not sure, exactly, what she graduated from. And since the cake was chocolate she didn't get to eat any of it. But we had a nice time, just the same.

And there are still leftovers.

Let there be cake, indeed.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Absence of Light

Usually when you notice a sudden flash of light it's because of its brightness. You notice lightning because it brightens the sky. You notice a light in a room because it makes the room brighter.

And, yes, when they go out you notice that, too. But it's typically the suddenness of the darkness that gets your attention. In a "faster than the speed of dark" kind of way.

Tonight, though, I have been sitting in the living room and looking out at the street as the evening turns darker and the sky goes from cloudy grey to blue and all of the green trees move into silhouette. And as I've been sitting here I realized that I thought it had been brighter in one section of the silhouetted trees.

Not that it had been "light," mind you, but in my mind's eye I was pretty sure I had seen it somehow brighter.

It was the absence of light in one particular area of the darkness that caught my attention.  Not suddenly, but kind of gradually. Like a dawning of realization - if the dawning were dark, instead of light.

A truck turned the corner and headed down the street as I was looking out the window, and in the middle of the dark mass of the tree a streetlight flickered on. I read somewhere that this can happen if the wiring is old. The vibrations caused by passing vehicles can make the lights turn on - and off.

It was only on for about 30 seconds - barely enough time to color-shift as it warmed up - and then it was out again. And that mass of trees seemed even darker than before.

The speed of dark. It may be gradual, but it's definitive.