Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pick a Cliche, Any Cliche (SD Book Fest, post 1)

If you've read the title of this post, you probably have some idea of what this is going to be about.

So let's just jump straight in with "You can't judge a book by its cover." That's an oldie but a goodie - especially at a Festival of Books.

First of all, I think that that adage is both true and false. I think that a lot of book covers are definitely wrong for their interiors. I've seen a lot of great covers on crappy books, and a lot of crappy covers on good books. But I've also seen a lot of crappy books with crappy covers, and those are the ones where I find myself thinking that I should have just judged the stupid book by its stupid cover.

At the Book Festival, there are a lot of books to look at. There are also a lot of people around. And, as a result, you make a lot of very fast judgments based on... well... covers.

Here's something that I was reminded of pretty quickly: A lot of authors do much better in writing than in person. But - here's the catch - some of those same authors also do great when they're working from scripts (or reading from their books). It's just when they have to truly interact that some of them falter. It's kind of endearing, really, but can also be rather frustrating when you're in a schmoozing situation.

Or... Let's say that you are meeting an author you've always wanted to meet, and you see her speak and she's dynamic and vibrant and all sorts of exciting, but when you actually chat with her later she's much more withdrawn. It's a strange feeling.

Believe me, though, I've worked in the Arts long enough to understand the differences between public and private personas. I know that probably 80% of people in the Arts (be they authors or actors or singers or painters or whatever) would really rather spend their down time alone. And the other 20% tend to be really out there and "on" at all times (based on his social media presence, I would suspect John Barrowman falls into that latter category, for instance).

What I'm trying to say is that I really enjoyed meeting all the people I met. And I took a number of those meetings with a grain of salt. (And I hereby vow that if I'm ever the one sitting on the other side of that table, I'll do my best to lean more toward the gregarious side - for better or worse.)

Now, how about a little "Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder" versus "Out of Sight is Out of Mind"?

You see, I graduated from college in 1989 - 25 years ago. At the time, I graduated with degrees in English and French. As some of you know, I see one of my French professors a few times every year, and we've kept in touch pretty well. On the other hand, I've really never kept in touch with my English professors. I read about them in the college newsletters, and I tell stories about them (either reminiscing with old friends or just boring Christopher), but even though they've stayed on my mind, I haven't seen them in years.

Well... This weekend I ran into three of my professors from back in the day. I got a fairly solid look of "I have no idea who you are, but keep talking and I'll see if anything clicks" from two of them. The third was incredibly charming and openly admitted that she had no idea who I was, and asked a few questions, to one of which I responded "No, I wasn't in that course track, but my sister took one of your classes, although she was in Engineering Physics..." To which she replied, "OH. Sure. I remember her! Tell her I say hello..."

Bubble. Burst. Ka-blooie. >sigh<

Finally, there was the "Are you sure you're not...?" person I ran into in the middle of the second day. (Yes, I know that's not an old adage, but it is kind of a "meet-n-greet" cliche to have someone come up to you and say that they're sure they know you, because you're supposed to be... Even when they don't, because you're not.)

So, I was walking through the main exhibitors' hall on Saturday, looking at the different small publishers' tables, and authors' displays, and the SD Poetry Society table, and the South Dakota Graduate Women in Science table, and the woman sitting behind a table of books gave me a very familiar "Hi! How is your day going?" Good, thanks. Yours? "It's going okay. How was your session, today? Did it go well?" I'm actually not a presenter. But I've been having a good time. "You're not? I was sure you were... I must have you confused with someone else."

It was fairly uncomfortable. Not gonna lie. But - with my vow to be more gregarious in mind - I replied with Oh. Yes. My presentation. It was great. Everyone loved it. Except there was this one guy in the back who kept coughing. But he eventually quieted down. Not sure if he got up to get a drink or if he just keeled over, but either way the rest of the talk went great. She laughed. I laughed. I moved along to the next table.

What does this mean we've learned about the SD Festival of Books, today? If you want to, you can meet a lot of people - who may or may not be exactly who you expect them to be. You can run into people you've known for years, and you can become fast friends with people you've just met (who also may or may not be exactly who you expect them to be). 

Tune in next time for what it's like to be a Fanboy at a very non-Fanboy kind of event.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Work(s) In Progress

Having spent Friday and Saturday at the SD Festival of Books in Sioux Falls, I feel like I should be writing a whole bunch about the experience.

In fact, in my mind, there is this whole set of blog posts about what I did during the 28 hours that I was at the Festival. You know... Seeing people. Listening to cool talks. Learnin' stuff.

And I will. Over the next few days, I'll go into all of that. I'll get all fanboy geeky about meeting a couple of people, and try to explain an epiphany or two that I had.

Right now, though, I kinda want to just absorb it for a bit longer.

It's weird, you know. I work with books every day. I see manuscripts come in, and I see real books go out. And, yes, I also spend time working with authors. Not as much as working with their books, but it kind of stands to reason that every manuscript has an author (and many have more than one author), so working with one means I'm working with the other.

But being at the book festival, with all kinds of authors - published and unpublished - and all kinds of readers - academic, casual, professional, and even beginning - was really fun. It reminded me of why I like to work with books. And why I (usually - not always, but usually) enjoy working with other people who like to work with books.

So I guess this is your fair warning that I'm going to be blogging about the book festival for a few days. Don't worry. I'll be changing a few names to protect some of the innocent, and I'll keep some stories to myself to protect some egos (mine, included). I suspect that only Christopher will get all the unexpurgated stories. (Whether he wants them or not... Sorry, hon.) The rest of you will just have to deal with my usual level of "being private in public" storytelling. (Or we'll at least have to go out for drinks, first...)

(By the way... if you're reading my blog for the first time, you might want to know that I post ever-other day. So the next installment will be on Tuesday. See you then!)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday Food - A Nut Job

Remember how I told you that I had all of those cashews, which is part of why I ended up making the pesto with cashews?

Yeah... so... We're talking Costco-sized container of cashews. So I needed to do more with them. And I opted to go for some spiced nuts from a recipe that showed up in my inbox right in the middle of all of that debating.

Yeah... This is the recipe. 

Not gonna lie, the fact that it took 4 cups of nuts (I used 3 cups of cashews and 1 cup of almonds - all the leftovers from the pesto project) was a big plus for me. I had a fun time setting up the various bowls. I don't think it was just because I was going to be taking a photo of them, but it might have been.

Check out the pretty colors in the sugar/spice mix. Pretty, right?
Ooo... Cool close-up of the sugars and spices on top of the nuts. 

Not quite as cool non-close-up of the nuts. 

Parchment paper on the pan; eggy, spicy nuts on top.

Almost done baking.
There aren't actually any photos of it when it was "done." Basically, it looked just the same, but in a bowl, though, so you've got a pretty good idea.

The taste wasn't as "addictive" as the recipe might imply, but they were definitely tasty. Just the right amount of crunch. A nice amount of spice and sugar that carmelized. 

A put them in an air-tight container and they stayed good for a week or so. I'll definitely try them again, modifying the spices as I go until I find a slightly more addictive - or at least intriguing - blend. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wednesday Worknight

I don't really know why it happened, but I seem to have worked my way through this entire evening.

Okay. Not really work worked, but work, nonetheless.

I did some baking, which I admit is usually pretty fun, but I did a larger-than-usual cookie batch, and by the time I was done (after having gotten home and walked and fed the dog), it was already after 7. Luckily, I had been cleaning as I went along, so there weren't any dishes left to do - until I made dinner...

Then I did some actual work work. Freelance work work, to be more precise. I've been doing a lot of smallish pieces for one of my clients this week because they have a HUGE event coming up this weekend. I like them a lot, though, so it's not drudgery, but it is work.

I topped it all off by trying to set up some new personal/freelance business cards using templates on my computer. I've used the same templates before, and I've liked the results. But I just don't like how they're turning out this time. (Sad part: I think the reason why I don't like them any more is that - when I used them the last time - I wasn't trying to include things like online networking profiles, which just don't fit in the templates.) So I started searching for some templates online and found a really generic one. Which I worked on for a bit and forced Christopher to give me thumbs-up or thumbs-down on.

And then it got to be 10 o'clock, and I realized that it has been way too long a day for me to be dealing with this stuff.

Maybe tomorrow night it will seem more like fun, and less like work...

Monday, September 22, 2014

Movie-ish Monday - with Special Guest Shirley Jones

Sorry. No. Shirley Jones isn't going to be writing this blog post. And she's not actually here at the moment. But I did see her last weekend. Oh... But not in a movie. Live. On stage. Which means, of course, that the title of this post is way off. Perhaps I should back up a bit...

I have a friend who goes to concerts with her dad. They apparently go to a bunch of rock concerts - or things of that type - where there is the definite chance that the band won't be doing another tour again. Ever. Due to age-related mortality.

I know. Morbid. But kind of creative and funny, too. And it's a good way to kind of force yourself to go out and see shows that you might never see, if you really think about it.

So, a month or so ago I heard an ad on the radio for "The Music Man in Concert, starring Shirley Jones and Patrick Cassidy." And I fully admit that I almost immediately thought "I wonder if she'd like to go to that."

She did. So we did. We even got "box seats" for us - and her new boyfriend - right in the middle of the theater. (Christopher didn't think it sounded so interesting, so we left him at home.)

I wasn't really sure what to expect of the show. Or, rather, I do know what I expected. I expected her to kind of stand on stage and tell stories about filming the movie and the two of them to do a few songs and maybe a dance or two.

She looked like this in the show. She wasn't wearing the wig and hat from the website photos. But, then, the show is scaled down from what you see on the website, too. 

What we got was... well... a little of that. What we mainly got during the first act was kind of a strange semi-pro staged concert of "The Music Man" with black and white images from the movie projected on a screen (not sure why they were in black and white, since the movie was in color). They did about 80% of the songs, with Shirley Jones playing Mrs. Paroo, Patrick Cassidy playing Harold Hill, and about 10 other people playing all the other roles, along with a small orchestra, and about 10 people at the back of the stage singing the chorus parts.

At the start of intermission, I turned to my friend and said - with absolutely no malice - "It's incredibly mediocre. It's wonderful!"

The second act was much more interesting - for me, at least. There was more of Shirley Jones talking about the show. There was more interaction between Shirley and Patrick. There was a local high school band at the appropriate climactic moment. And, at the end, there was a short Q&A, where we got to see how much people really love them and... ya know... get reminded of why we were there.

It really was wonderful. Shirley looks wonderful. She and Patrick shipoopied well together. She was funny and I would have happily sat and listened to her tell stories for another hour.

Was it the best show I've ever seen? No. Would I go to it again? Definitely.

(Check the website link to see where they'll be performing in the near future. Seriously. Do it. It's totally worth it.)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

You Know It's An Odd Day When...

I took my car in to the shop last night to get the tires rotated and balanced. I've been getting some odd road noise, lately, and I figured that should fix it. Since I bought them all at the same shop, they do this for free - along with an alignment. So I was all set for that.

This morning, they called and suggested I add an oil change to the list (I was about due, so I figured why not...), and they offered to (finally) fix one of my brake lights that has been a problem for a while (the bulb isn't the problem, the connection is, which put that out of my wheelhouse).

So I was set to have Christopher drive me over to the shop this morning, run a couple of errands, and then come home. Notice that I expected Christopher to drop me off before the errands - he's not a big fan of them.

But he offered to actually run errands with me, which made for a fun late morning/early afternoon. We finally signed up for a membership at the new food Co-op near us (I'm definitely taking my Mom there the next time my folks are in town), we went to the post office and the bank, and then we split up for a bit to tackle the grocery store (me) and the liquor store and pet food store (Christopher). After a quick lunch, we were finally at the shop to pick up my car.

(This is where the title of the post comes in.)

I walked in with my cup of soda in one hand, and an old "flapper" from my toilet tank in the other. As I went to hand over my credit card, I set them both on the counter. The guy just looked at me, and then at the stuff on the counter.

"Looks like you're having an interesting day."

"Yeah. You know it's going to be an odd day when you walk out of the house with part of your toilet in your hand."

"At least it's something small."

"True. But when you're reaching back there to pull it out of the tank - even though your mind tells you the water is perfectly clear - it's still one of those things..."

The guy at the counter and the guy behind him both laughed, then wished me good luck as I walked out to claim my car.

(For the record, the local Ace hardware had the replacement piece I needed and I had it all swapped out within minutes of getting home. Now we just need to get the chain length sorted out so that it falls correctly and seals the valve every time...)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Feeling Unplugged

I'm working on a book right now that is about child rearing and how to spot if your child is having difficulties, or might be outside the "normal" ranges and in need of therapy. It's a bit one-sided (as you might expect, since the author is only one person - so of course she has her opinion), but some of the info is actually kind of interesting.

What struck me today, though, is that a lot of what she talks about for infants and small children about how they learn and learn to interact is also applicable to adults.

I just finished a section all about how very young children shouldn't be over-exposed to computers/tablets/smart phones because they can become - in essence - addicted to the stimulation. Over time, they stop being interested in the world around them and will only focus on the screens, or other things with instant sensory gratification.

What struck me as odd about that, today, is that on the radio this morning they were talking about some city in China which is (supposedly, at least) creating "tech lanes" on the sidewalks. Basically, these are areas where people who are using their technology can walk, while people who are not using tech can walk in other areas.

I'm not entirely sure whether these lanes are supposed to protect the people with their heads down who are totally oblivious to the world, or if they're supposed to protect the rest of the world from getting run into by those people with their heads down.

I found myself having the same reaction that one of the people on the radio had. He said "Or maybe people could just turn off their phones for long enough to walk outside and actually interact with the world."

As I was leaving work, today, the twenty-something husband of a co-worker was walking to the garage with us. He had dropped his smart phone and the screen had cracked, and he was kind of giving the "that's the way of the world" response. So I held up my flip phone, which I've dropped enough that the back has popped off and the battery has come out, but which still works. His response was "You don't ride the bus. I'd be so bored for 45 minutes without it!"

Whatever happened to people reading books? Or listening to the world instead of having earbuds in all the time? When did small children have to be stimulated and entertained at every waking moment? When did it become impossible to enjoy a quiet bus ride as a time to just calm down and not be connected? Why do I suddenly want to go live in the middle of a no-wireless-service zone?

And who wants to come with me?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Travel Tuesday - Pick-ups, Drop-offs, and Planning

I've been getting laughed at by our HR person at work. Every time I request time off it's for time to pick someone up from the airport or to drop someone off at the airport.

I haven't actually taken a vacation this year. At least not a physical one.

Pretty much each time I do the drive to or from the airport for someone else, I'm planning my next trip, though. It could be an actual trip that I'm planning, or just a general trip that I would like to plan.

Sometimes, in fact, I think that might be the best kind of travelling. The five-minute version where you have a complete trip all in one daydream. I can go all sorts of great places in five minute increments, in fact.

Without having to deal with the TSA.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

8/28-ish - Pesto, Change-o!

I realize that it has been a very long time since I posted a recipe on here. Almost immediately after setting the goal of blogging more about food, I realized how much time and effort goes into it.

Granted, I think it might be easier if I simply wanted to make recipes that I already know and take pictures of them. But since through my "8/28 Cooking Challenge" I have been trying to make random recipes from even-more-random cookbooks... well... that gets to be tough. (If you need a refresher on what that challenge is supposed to be, check out this post about "Turkey Amandine on Toast.")

I mean, there have been a lot of recipes that I've opened up to and realized that I had one out of 18 ingredients on hand - and was missing one of the primary tools, as well. So... yeah... some recipes got shelved even before they got prepped. I do plan to get back to it, though, and now that it is getting cooler out, I hope to have more time to do it.

With all of that in mind - and because I harvested quite a bit of basil from our garden, yesterday - I decided to do a variation on The Challenge by trying to make pesto. With almonds and cashews (not together, but each in its own batch of pesto), instead of pine nuts (which I don't have in my pantry).

I've had pesto made with cashews in the past. And I really love the flavor. It's not really as nutty as you'd think, and it tends to be a little more dense than typical pesto. A friend recently said she makes it with almonds, and Christopher liked the sound of that, so I struck out for a recipe for either.

I did some online searching, but didn't come up with anything definitive. So I did the next best thing: Social media searching. And I was sent a couple of tips ("don't use those nuts, it's supposed to be pine nuts" was a common theme). And then one friend sent me the following, which is apparently a Jamie Oliver recipe:

  • handful of basil
  • 50g almonds
  • 50g Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • splash of lemon juice

Yep. It seems pretty random, so I figured it was a Jamie Oliver recipe and went with it. (Luckily, we have a scale that does grams, so I was fairly set.)

First, I toasted the nuts. I did them in the toaster oven, and worked with the theory of "as soon as you can smell them they're done." (Basically, I threw them in when I turned it on and by the time the oven was preheated, they were done.)

Hmm... Notice any difference between the amount of cashews and the amount of almonds - both at the same weight? Yeah... that played into things later on. 

My basil had been harvested yesterday, so it had already wilted, so I had to guess how much of it would have been "a handful," yesterday. (And, remember, I was making two batches, so I had to split it up.)

You can see that the basil was looking a little sad by today. But I still used most of it, because when it's going to get pulverized, anyway, being a bit saggy isn't exactly a problem. 
I started out with the almonds and followed the recipe as it is listed, above. I tossed everything in the food processor and got ready to amaze myself with pesto after a couple of quick pulses of the blade.

Not gonna lie. I think it looks kind of cool like that. 
I got... paste. No. Not even paste. I got plaster, maybe. Chunky paste if I squinted. Not pesto.

So I added more stuff. More oil. More garlic. Some salt. More cheese. More lemon juice. I kept walking out into the living room with a spatula full of it and asking Christopher to taste it (he did not eat a full spatula's worth - he just dipped a finger in).

I think this was about halfway between plaster and pesto.
Gradually, we came to a consistency and flavor that we decided were decent. And then I accidentally added too much salt. So we had to add more garlic and oil to balance it out. Probably should have added more basil, but needed to keep it for the next batch.

Once we decided it was good to go, I portioned it out into some ice cube trays. (Note to potential dinner guests: If you reach into the freezer for ice and grab the tray with the ice that looks a tad green, do NOT use it in your drink.) One of the recipes I saw suggested covering the top of the "ice cube" with more oil, so I tried that on the first batch. Then I shoved it into the freezer for use the next time we want a quick, fresh pesto to go on pasta (or anything else).

Would anyone like a little almond/basil pesto in their cocktail? 
The second batch went much quicker, because I had some idea what I was aiming for. (Also because I didn't take any photos.) The cashews weren't actually raw to begin with (they were from one of those huge containers from Costco, so they were lightly roasted with salt), and they took the flavors really quickly. So I was pretty much done with that after the first blitzing. (Christopher, again, suggested more basil might be good, but... well... second batch meant I had used all the useable leaves by then.)

So what do I think? I think the cashew version has a slightly better flavor. It's more "robust," the garlic comes through better, and I prefer the texture by just a hair. The almond version is a little less flavorful - I contemplated putting in some red pepper flakes, just to amp it up a bit, but decided we'll just have to work with it on the back end when we're cooking with those cubes.

Oh. And the eventually arrived-at recipe:
This was one of my "handfuls" of basil. As you might guess, I had to factor in "shrinkage," among other things...

  • handful of basil (this worked out to about 15 grams of it by weight, and probably would have been about 1 1/2 very lightly-packed cups of fresh-from-the-garden)
  • 50g nuts (lightly-toasted almonds or cashews)
  • 75g shredded Parmesan cheese (roughly half of the one-pint-looking container you can buy in a grocery store, which I believe listed a weight of 141g)
  • 4 cloves garlic (the cloves I used were fairly big, but we like a lot of garlic)
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil (enough to make it not plaster)
  • 3 splashes of lemon juice
  • salt to taste

(Tune in in a few days to find out what else I did with my nuts in the kitchen, today...)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Stupendous Perspicuity

Do you ever have those moments when people are asking you all kinds of questions about things which either aren't in your wheelhouse or you simply don't care about?

That happens a lot at my job.

Like, I had some guy - who told me up front that he had created a document in one program and then transferred it to another, which is when a whole bunch of weird characters started showing up in it - ask me why that had happened and whether or not his computer had a virus. To which I gave one of the following three answers (I'll let you guess which one).
  • Sorry, I'm not an IT person. 
  • Dude, I'm not a freakin' IT person with access to your computer. 
  • You're a doofus. 

Sometimes, however, the questions come from inside the office - kind of like how, in horror movies, the call is always coming from somewhere inside the house.

Frequently, the ones from inside the office are the ones that cause me to kind of lose it and write weird responses. Like the person who wanted me to weigh in on whether "cow's" was correct as the possessive form of an informal version of "cattle." The response which I crafted for her to send to the author ended up having a lot of quotation marks in it when I explained that "cow" is not an "informal" version of "cattle" - and may also have included the word "dipshit." (I recommended she not include "dipshit" in her mail to the author. She, on the other hand, chose to use a completely different set of much more professional-sounding words.)

There are times when I'm busy and don't really have time to deal with other people's stuff. And those always seem to be the times when people say "Could you give me an opinion on something?" but then don't tell you what they need the opinion on. Earlier today, that situation resulted in me saying "Lime green is seldom a good hair color."

But my favorite spur-of-the-moment response today was the most recent one. I was asked my opinion on the change of a title, and how I felt the removal of a comma would alter it. My response? "STUPENDOUS PERSPICUITY!" of course. Even though, as I was typing it, I wasn't entirely sure that perspicuity was a real word - or that it was applicable to the situation.

Oddly enough, when I looked at the title - and verified the word's veracity - I found that there was, indeed, a certain level of clarity offered by the comma which was lost when it was taken out. So... in some serendipitous way I was actually both strange and spot-on in my response.

How stupendously perspicuous of me.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Comes the Darkness

I will start by admitting that I am of two minds on tonight's topic. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with it. And I'm kind of okay with that.

I'm talking about the early sunsets that happen at this time of year.

In the summer, when it is light out until 10 o'clock some nights (at least for a few days in mid-June), it often feels like I'm supposed to be doing something. Anything. I feel like Mother Nature is telling me that I should be outside playing tag with the neighbors, or at least sitting on a patio somewhere drinking a glass of wine late into the evening.

It's not quite so bad when it is only light until 9 or so, because then at least you have an excuse to be home and curled up on the couch by 10.

But, then, suddenly - and always seemingly without warning - the sun is going down so early that by 9 o'clock it's actually pitch dark outside. Heck. It's dark by around 8. And I know that, in December (thanks, in part, to the time change), there will come a point when it is already dark by the time I get home from work at 5:45. (We won't get into the idea of it also being dark when I get up in the morning...)

On the one hand, I like when it's darker out earlier because the pressure seems to be off. You don't feel like you have to go out and do things, because if it's dark out it must be almost time for bed. But I also hate that my body decides that it needs to go into hibernation mode, and I find myself wanting to stay in bed for 16 hours per day. But, then again, curling up on the couch when it's dark out is pretty nice... (Like I said, I'm kind of torn on this.)

I was doing some work this evening, and looked outside and assumed it must have been close to 10, when I realized it was only 8:30. I'm not sure if it was the work, the darkness, or something else which made me feel like I should be headed for bed. Maybe a combination of things.

Thankfully, I finished the work and am now curled up on the couch. Ready to hibernate for a few months. Or maybe to move somewhere where the daylight doesn't have such massive Seasonal Affective Disorder. Maybe both.

Monday, September 8, 2014

When Helpful Isn't, Part Two

I was trying to look up the hours of a business, today. I tossed the business name and general address (city at least) into Google and it popped up a list of possible locations.

So far, so good.

I clicked on the location I wanted more information on, and it took me to...

The company's main site.

Even though the information that I clicked on was for a specific store (it listed the phone number, just not the hours), the click-through went to the main page and I had to enter in the information all over again.

I have no idea if this is a problem with my search engine (did it show information it didn't really have?), or with the company (does it force every searcher to go to the main page?), but it was annoying, either way.

It was your basic "not helpful helpful" piece of information.

I'm happy to say that I did, eventually, find the information I needed. But I'm still kind of oddly frustrated by the number of clicks it took to get there. Which I guess is a little contradictory - the fact that I don't really love technology, but I also wish it would work better.

Oh, well. That's a story for another time - possibly told in person, as opposed to over the electronic medium that is the Internet.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

When Helpful Isn't

Today was a strange day for customer service and me. I was in a bunch of really diverse situations over the course of the day, and while some interactions were great some were not great.

But - unlike most blog posts that start with a comment about customer service - in almost all of these situations the person on the other side of the conversation was really trying. I could tell. They weren't blowing me off. They weren't bored. They weren't trying to make a quick buck. It's just that they're help wasn't helpful.

The first was at an outdoor dog-related festival. We've been on the lookout for low-sodium dog treats ever since the pup started having issues. So I asked the guy at a booth for a local pet food company. He gave me this great rundown of how the foods they sell are organic. Great for pets. Grain free. And as for the sodium content... well... the stuff is organic, great for pets, grain free... and may or may not have added salts. But, if I want, I can check their website.

See? Friendly. Nice. Trying really hard. Not helpful. At all.

Then I was at a bank, purchasing some foreign currency. Last week, when I ordered it, the woman I spoke to asked me all the "pertinent" questions: Where am I going? (I'm not, it's a gift.) When am I travelling? (I'm not, it's a gift.) Am I sure that's enough for a whole trip? (It's not, it's a gift.) And then, thankfully, just took the order for the currency. Today, when I went in to purchase the actual currency, there was a different woman at the counter. Guess what she asked me? Yep. She hit all of those. She went on to tell me that if I want to use my ATM while travelling I need to call the number on the back of my ATM card so it doesn't get shut down. (Umm... Again... I'm not travelling.) But... wow... I am totally ready with all the questions if anyone wants to practice buying foreign currency at a bank.

At a pet food store, following up on the dog-festival Q&A, I had a very sweet (apparently bored) young woman hover around me to suggest things that I might or might not need to buy.

At a liquor store, trying to find Lazzaroni Amaretto - but unable to remember the name - I was shown to the Amaretto section. When I said "Thanks. It's obviously not here." the guy offered to have me ask other people in the store if they knew of it. So I said "It's a tall, square bottle with a red label," and they proceeded to show me small round bottles with other labels. Amaretto? Yes. What I was asking for? No. But they tried. And tried. And tried. And after about 5 minutes I thanked them for their time and went on my way.

Finally, at dinner tonight, I asked "Does that come with fries?" which was answered with "One dinner with fries. Good." Then he turned to Christopher and asked, "And you?" I took that as a yes.

Then I ate my meal with fries and came home. It seemed like the best option.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Serious Comedy in Musical Theater

Christopher and I went to see "The Book of Mormon" tonight, and although I kind of knew what to expect, I didn't quite know what to expect. 

You see, you hear everyone talking about how funny it is. How the show is so irreverent. How you laugh all the way through it. How the guys are all kind of geeky/nerdy hot. 

But you never hear about how amazing some of the songs are. Or how touching some of the scenes are. 

I had heard the discussions about whether or not is was kind of sacrilegious (it is), but how it is also kind of honest about Mormonism (it is). 

But no one ever mentioned how much it's simply about faith and beliefs. And - in some weird ways - good triumphing over evil. 

Yes, I laughed a lot. Yes, I was grossed out by some of the "South Park-style" humor. But I was also surprisingly moved by some of the rest of it. 

And that was good. Because I think that if there are some people who go to it only looking for a laugh and leave there having felt something a little deeper, that's a good thing. 

And - at the heart of it - I think that's what musical theater is kind of supposed to do most of the time. Not all the time. But sometimes. 

(Oh, and - yes - some of the guys really are kind of geeky/nerdy hot, too.)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Letting Sleeping Dogs Lie

As you may remember from last week, I was talking about "sleeping like a dog" and how that phrase seems to make more sense to me that "sleeping like a log."

Well, there's a reason why we've been spending a lot of time watching the dog sleep at our house, lately.

Ever since the pup has been home from her 36 hours in the ICU, Christopher and I have been tasked with watching her sleep and counting the number of breaths she takes per minute while at rest.

The optimum number of breaths per minute would be less than 30. She averages around 32 when we're counting. Which isn't perfect, but it isn't too bad. (For reference: When we took her to the ER that morning, she was breathing at an astronomically high rate of 120 breaths per minute.)

There is something very zen about watching a dog sleep. Almost more than with watching a person (which is sometimes referred to as "creepy" or "stalker-ish"). After all, as a dog, she's hyper alert to everything around her, even when you think she's completely out of it. So you have to be very quiet and still while watching her so that you don't wake her up. (Because, of course, a sudden awakening results in a spike in quicker breaths.)

Yes, one of her favorite places to sleep is on the back of the couch.
We gave up on keeping the cushions looking good ages ago.

So every so often one or the other of us will kind of zone out and stare at the dog and watch her breathe. Yes, there is a little anxiety in that (hoping that the time ticks by before she hits that 30-breath mark), but mostly it's very peaceful.

I highly recommend it - though I don't recommend the anxiety part.