Wednesday, December 30, 2015

When NOT to Be Sick

In case you were considering planning an illness - one of the sort that saps your energy and makes it unlikely that you'll want to leave the house unless it's mandatory - might I make a few suggestions?

  1. Don't do it before a family event. After all, low energy and family stress are a bad combo - and may result in you feeling worse, not better. 
  2. Don't do it on a weekend. After all - isn't that what paid sick time is for? What's the point of having it if you get sick on the weekend and simply miss out on doing stuff you like to do? 
  3. Don't do it right in the middle of the last events of the year you've been invited to, because then you'll end up having to decide between staying home (and making yourself - and your partner - miserable), or going out and possibly making everyone else miserable as you whine about wanting to go home to bed (or simply fall asleep).
So, if we put this all together, let's see how it all adds up:

Maybe it's not so great to start fighting off the flu right before Christmas, and to end up having to miss out on Christmas and New Year's Eve parties because of it.

Yes, I know I should have gotten a flu shot earlier this year, but it was on my list for January because there has been such a low incidence of the flu in Minnesota this year.

And, yes, I know that no one worth their salt faults you for missing events (or falling asleep during them) when you're sick.

But none of that makes me feel any better at the moment.

Instead, I'm going to be thrilled that I was awake all the way to 9:30 tonight, and then go take some Vitamin C and go to bed. After all, just imagine the partying we could be doing tomorrow night if I get plenty of rest, tonight.

We could go out and paint the town a "slightly feverish" shade of red. Or go out to dinner somewhere where the Early Bird Special would guarantee I'd be home in time for a nightcap glass of Airborne. Heck, I might even stay up until 10 (wrapped up in an afghan on the couch with a cup of hot chocolate)!

Only time - and some well-timed meds - will tell.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Preparing for the New Year

I was answering a question for an online acquaintance earlier this evening, and I decided that I kind of liked what I said. So I'm sharing it here:

I think there is a layer of angst built into the perceived pressure of a new year. It's bliss because it's a new, blank state, but it's also terrifying. The same fear of the blank page that causes writer's block. All we can do is... do. And the next day will dawn, and we'll move into that one and start the new day as we shake off the old.

So... Here's to moving into the new year--and scribbling gloriously all over the blank pages.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Expectations Versus Reality

I seem to be having some issues with getting my expectations and reality to align, lately.

Typically, I can let things like this pretty much just slide off and I can keep going. But the past couple of weeks things have just been kind of "off." I don't know how else to put it.

That's a large part of why I haven't been blogging - I just haven't had anything upbeat to write about and those of you who do take the time to read this really don't need to deal with my random existential angst.

I'm not going to lie - having this happen in the weeks around Thanksgiving and Christmas has been a bit of a bummer. (I'm sure the people I've been interacting with lately would agree.)

We'll see what the next few weeks have in store. Or - you know - the next few hours, since those expectations might be easier to manage.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Bad Quote Quotient - Punctuation Pointers

I highly recommend learning some of the basics of punctuation to pretty much every author. After all, spellcheck doesn't often point out those errors.

Today's error is all about the apostrophe. It's a little tiny mark on the screen, but oh, so important.

Here's what I found:

"Branding began as a simple solution for a person to differentiate his cattle from his neighbors."

It does make me wonder what the neighbors looked like, if they couldn't be recognized as non-bovine... And whether they were branding the neighbors or the cows.

Punctuation. It's important to your neighborliness.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Back Soon...

Sorry I've been out of touch, lately.

Life got a bit crazy and busy, and with the approaching Holidays I kind of spent most evenings focused on other things.

I hope to be back to regular posting soon.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Bad Quote Quotient - Not on My List

It's been a while since I've offered something from the Bad Quote Quotient file, but this one struck me as a cautionary tale about people not to write to.

Among the papers decorating the walls were correspondents, memos from his personal staff, and pages out of old textbooks.

I mean... really... if all it takes is writing to someone to end up hanging on his wall - that sounds like someone you might not want to send a Christmas card to.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Hanukkah Lights

At work today we had a ceremony to light the third candle on our office menorah. It's a small menorah - especially when compared to the eight-foot Christmas tree - but it's there, nonetheless.

It was a nice few minutes of semi-solemn time, with a reading of the basic story behind Hanukkah, as well as the recitation of the prayer that goes along with the lighting. All of which was prefaced with a caution that we had to do this right on time because the candle lighter's grandmother had always worried about being late for sundown.

There are actually only two people in the office who are Jewish (out of 28 people in the office - with various Christian religions, a lot of religious apathy, and at least one Atheist), but there were about a dozen people gathered for the lighting.

At the end, everyone wished each other Happy Hanukkah and an early Merry Christmas, and we tried to run down the list of other things we might wish each other ("Festive Solstice," and the like).

We're a strange little office 90% of the time. More dysfunctional family than corporate entity, really.

But there was something kind of beautiful about ending our workday celebrating traditions together, even though they weren't our own.

For a moment or two, the four little candles on the menorah were brighter than all of the twinkle lights on the tree.

Happy Hanukkah to all - may your lantern's oil burn for eight days, though you have only enough for one.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Subjective Success

Yesterday, I had one of the most successful trips to Target that I've had in ages.

No. I didn't find the perfect sale on the perfect items.

No. I didn't win the lottery while I was there.

I didn't even find everything I needed, when you come right down to it.

What I did do was - three weeks before Christmas - get in and out of Target on a Saturday morning in under 30 minutes.

And I even had a pleasant conversation with my cashier, who wished me a nice rest-of-the-weekend.

If that's not a successful Target run, I don't know what is.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...

...honestly, I'm not sure what it's beginning to look like around here.

I'm having one of those years where I know that Christmas is only 3 weeks away, but I haven't really done any prep for it. I've done a little shopping, but no baking and no decorating. I haven't even dug out all of my Christmas CDs yet.

My work Christmas party is next week, and I haven't even signed up for what I'm going to take to the potluck. That's how far out of the holiday loop I'm feeling.

I think part of my problem is that the weather has been so weird. Kind of warm, kind of cold, kind of snowy, but not really. It's hard to get into the spirit of it when the weather feels more like November.

Overall, though, I'm just not really into it this year. I'm hoping to get there soon, but I guess this is going to have to be a wait-and-see year.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

My Internal Calendar Is Out of W(h)ack

Lately, I seem to have more and more days when in my mind I think it's a different day of the week than it is.

On the way home from work tonight (the 1st of December), I was asking Christopher (who was riding with me - so this was a real conversation, not a hypothetical one) what he was up to tomorrow night. He said "Well, on Thursday, I'm . . . " (Yes, I could hear the italics.)

This has been happening a lot lately. And, unfortunately, it always seems to happen the wrong direction. I never think that it's Thursday when it's actually Friday. I always seem to be pushing myself forward through the week, only to find that I haven't gone as far as I'd thought.

Tonight I've decided to try treating it like jetlag. And we all know what to do about jetlag, right? You do your best to go to sleep at a "normal" time - and then get a solid night's sleep. Of course, since I'm trying to fight back 24 hours, instead of just one or two timezones, I'm taking this opportunity to go to bed an hour or so earlier than usual.

That should work, right?

(Oh - and that whole "W(h)ack" thing from the title? That's because depending on where you look on line the phrase is either "out of whack" or "out of wack" - so I'm hedging my bets.)

Happy mid-week. Whatever day it is.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

This, Too, Shall Pass

Sadly, that's how I tend to feel about long weekends.

On the one hand, I'm thrilled that I had a long weekend and that I no longer work in retail. I was able to avoid almost every kind of shopping this weekend. The only thing I did do was go to the grocery store early on Saturday morning (about 9:30), when it was still almost completely empty. (Christopher can attest to the fact that I find wandering around a grocery store when I'm not in a hurry to be incredibly relaxing.)

I did a little bit of online shopping, and we went out to lunch at an out-of-the-way hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant for lunch. And that's all the spending I did.

But I unfortunately didn't get a lot else done.

Whenever someone tells me that he/she had an unproductive break from work I point out that, you know, it was supposed to be a break from work. So, logically, I get that.

Even so, I'm pretty sure that I'll get to work tomorrow and spend half my time thinking of all of the things I should have gotten done.

Thankfully, that, too, will pass.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Day By Any Other Name...

With all due respect to Shakespeare (or whoever wrote the stuff attributed to him), for my blog, it seems like a day by any other name is almost always the day that I'm supposed to be writing on.

I try to post every second day, but since most of my life deals with days of the week - not dates in the month - I don't always know which day I last wrote.

Tonight, for instance, my blog was telling me that I last wrote "one day ago" - but also that I last posted on 11/22.

I didn't remember posting last night, though, so I checked the calendar and - you guessed it - found that today is actually 11/24. That means that my last post was two calendar days ago.

The blog, however, is very literal, and simply goes by 24-hour periods, not calendar days. So, since it has been less than 48 hours since my last post, it feels that I wrote just a day ago.

Usually, of course, this isn't a really big problem. Lately, however, I seem to be all sorts of off my game when it comes to knowing what day/date it is.

With that in mind, I apologize in advance for the number of erratic posts that might happen in the next few weeks during the chaos of the Holidays.

Though, who knows . . . maybe the busier schedule will actually keep me more on task. We'll just have to wait and see.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Rooting for the Home Team

In case I haven't mentioned it, lately, I live in Minneapolis - home of the Minnesota Vikings.

Whenever they're playing, the hoopla is everywhere. It's on the TV, obviously, and suddenly purple and gold show up everywhere around town. Banners outside otherwise sedate houses, newscasters wearing inexplicably bright purple ties, and - wow - my social media feeds go crazy.

I... well... I like football. I do. But I don't really get into the hometown hype of it all. I don't feel like I need to support a specific team just because of where they're based. Right now, while we're watching a multi-million dollar stadium go up, I figure I'd be more likely to support them if, well, if I felt they were supporting me.

Instead, when they're playing in town, I find myself dealing with a ton of traffic and most newcasts spending a third of their time recapping the play-by-play, which - if I were really interested in it - I'd have already watched live.

So, instead, I tend to root for the home team - you know, me, Christopher, and the pup - and hoping that we can get through the game day without too much hassle. To me, that just makes a lot more sense.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Heat is On

I fully admit that when I typed the headline to this, I sang it in my head. (You know - it's a song from the mid-80s. If you still don't know it, I pasted a link down at the end of this post.)

Anyway...

The heat has been turned on at my office at work. In the summer, when it's 90 degrees outside and you want to wear shorts (because we can), it is frequently about 65 degrees in the office. There are two people who sit under air conditioning vents who actually sit at their desks with blankets around their shoulders all summer. It looks like they're working in Siberia or something.

Then the seasons change, and for about a month the office is both too cold and too hot. I'm not sure how they do that. But there are days where the (mostly wide open) office space has pockets of different temperatures, where the air is obviously not mixing. Want to cool off? Go into the small conference room. Want to warm up? Go into the men's room. (For the record, there was a time - 20 years ago or so - when heating things up in the men's room meant something very different to me.)

Now, of course, we're into the winter, so the heat is on at work. I do realize that this has been a strange year, and the heating and cooling systems have probably been under a lot of stress with the wildly fluctuating temperatures. Perhaps this is their way of either getting their revenge or simply sighing and saying "get on with it, already." Either way, now that I'd love to start wearing sweaters to work, the indoor temperature is more conducive to shorts.

I'm thinking of taking in a fan. Maybe I can get one that has dual modes and includes a heater - then I'll be able to use it next summer, too.



Tuesday, November 17, 2015

At Least I'm Using My Jacket

I bought a light, hooded rain jacket a few years ago before we went to Alaska. It was perfect for wearing on warm-ish days when it was damp out.

I haven't really worn it a lot since then, because Minnesota seldom has warm-ish damp days. We tend to have cold, snowy days or hot, steamy days. Very few are somewhere in the middle when it's warm enough to wear a light jacket but you need to be kept dry.

This year, after going out and shopping for a new winter coat, and after wearing each of my leather jackets for about four days, I have found that it has been too warm for any of them for most of the past few weeks.

I've broken out a sweatshirt or two, but then it decided to get kind of drizzly, and I didn't really want to carry my umbrella everywhere - not to mention that during a hard drizzle an umbrella doesn't exactly do any good.

So I have decided to celebrate the one benefit of this crappy weather: After two years of mainly leaving it in the closet, I've been wearing my rain coat a lot.

It's not exactly lined with silver, but I'm taking that as this cloudy stretch's shiny lining.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Remember Those Tomato Plants?

I was clearing out the yard, today, getting ready for winter. After all, it was in the 50s for what could be the last time this year, so it was the perfect day to do it.

I pulled up the tomato plans which have offered me three red tomatoes and a bunch of "are they ripe or aren't they?" green tomatoes over the past couple of months.

Today, I found another TEN green tomatoes.

Have I mentioned that it is the 15th of November?

I have no idea what to do with them - they feel hard, so I don't think they're actually ripe. And I'm not going to have any time to try out a fried green tomato recipe any time in the next week.

Maybe I should put hooks in them and use them as Christmas decorations. After all - at the rate we're going, they might just be ripe by then.

Friday, November 13, 2015

No Words

There are days when I simply have a little bit of a block and can't figure out what witty thing to write on here. Most days I push through and find something. Some days I don't.

Today, though, as I saw news reports of the attacks in Paris, I was trying to figure out what to say. I looked at some maps and realized that a couple of the attacks were in the neighborhood near where I lived when I lived over there.

I found out this evening that two of the restaurants were within less than a block of my old apartment. One of the news reports listed casualties in my old street.

Christopher asked me whether I was okay - whether there was anything he could do - as I was scrolling through the news feeds with tears running down my face.

I tried to explain what was going on in my head - in my heart - but it's too irrational, emotional, visceral.

I simply have no words.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

I'm Dyeing, Here

I may have taken my first foray into covering some gray today.

In part, I attribute this to the fact that so many of the women I work with are constantly changing their hair colors. Sure - they are all in their 20s and are choosing colors like blue and pink - but I'm surrounded by it all the time.

And there have been photos circulating online of men dyeing their hair and beards all sorts of bright colors - think neon green, bright blue, or flaming red.

I'm not really sure that any of those would look good on me. But I do know that, in the recent past, I've been getting kind of tired of seeing the entire front of my beard turning more and more white. I mean, it's not even gray at this point. My mustache is still a bit dark, but the chin area is pretty much white.

For those of you who haven't seen me, recently, here's what I'm talking about:




Okay. No. It's not all that bad. And when I keep it more closely cropped the whiteness of it doesn't seem quite so white (see my "author photo" in the righthand margin). But it's just not really what I think of when I think of me, you know?

So, with a little time on my hands, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I went to the store and did a little shopping around. I opted to see what I would look like with "dark brown" instead. 

Having spoken to a friend who apparently has been doing this for a while, I knew it might take more than one round of color to get it to turn out the way I'd want it. Round one - to quote Christopher - looked a bit "darker gray" in most areas, but not brown.

The second round definitely covered a bit better. And I'm kind of enjoying it at the moment. Is it as  dark as my original beard? I don't think it is. (Christopher says it looks different - like maybe I should have gone for "black" instead of "dark brown.")

Here's what I've got:




Not sure how long I'll keep it this way. I'm really not certain how much upkeep I want to deal with. After all - one of the reasons I keep my beard is because I don't have to shave every day. But, at least until this washes out, we'll see how it goes.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Pasta Nachos

I sometimes eat things that are a bit questionable from a food value standpoint. Most of the time, I do this when Christopher is not around. I find it's truly best to do it when he's out of town for a few days, so that I have time to prep, eat, and remove the evidence of the meal.

Today, as I was driving home, I was contemplating what we had to eat in the house that needed to be eaten before it went bad. Some leftover pasta (no sauce), some cheese, and some salsa.

We live in the land of the casserole/hot dish, so I thought that that could all go together pretty well. And - honestly - it did.

I sprayed a pan with nonstick spray, tossed in the pasta, layered on some American cheese singles (don't hold it against me, remember, I was cleaning out the fridge from random past events) and some shredded cheddar, and then poured on some garlic and lime salsa. Tossed it in the oven until the cheese got all melty, and - boom - pasta nachos.

The only problem was that Christopher got home from what he was doing while the food was in the oven. I guess after 10 years, it was about time he found out what I do for dinner when he's not at home.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Catering Customer Conundrum

Hiring a caterer (or at least considering hiring a caterer) is weird.

You spend a bunch of time doing research and asking for possible menus and trying to figure out what they supply (do they bring silverware? do I have to rent napkins?). 
Then, when you decide you're ready, you have to send in a request for a proposal. Because, apparently, they may or may not want to do a proposal for you.

Then, you wait for a reply. Lots of times, they seem to reply (at least with an automated notice saying they've gotten your request) pretty quickly. And you move forward.
But if they don't respond within a few days, you have to decide whether or not to follow up with them. If you do have to follow up, you get one of two responses: "Sorry, it's on its way," or "I've been busy, but I'll get it to you in a while."
Unfortunately, neither of those responses guarantees you'll get a response any time soon. 
Okay. I get it. This is all customer service. I've been in customer service jobs for most of my life. Retail. Box Office. Editing. It's all Customer Service. 
I know that some times you get busy and you drop a ball or two. And that you have to push through and get things done. So I'm prone to giving a lot of leeway to most people in that kind of position.

And, with this in mind, on October 3rd I sent off for a proposal from a company whose food we really like. We've toured one of their venues and met some of their staff and thought they could be a good, fun fit for us. Having not heard from them for a few days, I followed up the next week, and received a kind of snippy email saying, in essence, "I've been busy, I'll get back to you."

Today, however - after waiting a month for that proposal - I tried calling the company's main number, instead of emailing the person I had been going back and forth with. The woman on the phone offered to have me talk to the same person who has ignored me for the past 4 weeks. I re-explained my situation, and flat-out told her that if that was my only choice at this point, then I would go to a different caterer. The person on the phone didn't sound happy when she said she'd have someone else get in touch with me. No apology. No "not sure why it's taken so long." Nothing. 
I'm trying my best to not completely write them off right now (after all, their food is good - and the pricing that we've seen so far was also good), but at this point... wow... that proposal better be stellar - and fast.
   
UPDATE: Barely an hour after my phonecall, I received a very polite follow-up call from someone else in the office. No apology, technically, but a guarantee that if I send him my info today (not sure why he can't get it from the other person...) he'll get me a proposal by the end of the day tomorrow. It's a start.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

A Bulb Went Off...

No, really.

Not like an imaginary light going off over your head like they have in the cartoons. An actual bulb. A little, teeny-tiny light bulb with two little prongs that stick out of the bottom and into the flashlight.

It happened a few weeks ago.

I turned on the mini-Maglite flashlight that we keep in the kitchen so that we can use it when we take the pup out for walks in the dark (not only is she black, but... well... it's hard to clean up after a dog if you can't see the ground) and after more flash than light it was dark.

I looked at the bulb and the lower half of it had turned a kind of milky white. (I do not mean it became the cow from Into the Woods. I mean that the clear bulb turned kind of translucent white.) (Feel free to google it - the cow, not the bulb.)

Today I finally had a chance to stop at the hardware store for a replacement. Just in time, really, because starting tomorrow - thanks to the end of Daylight Saving Time - our evening walks will be in the dark.

So I stopped in and said "I need a new bulb" and the guy behind the counter - who has obviously dealt with this way too many times responded with "Are you sure it's not the batteries?"

I showed him the milky white bulb (again - not the cow), and he said "Oh. Yeah..." and we headed off to find a new little, teeny-tiny light bulb with two little prongs. I stuck it into my flashlight and proceeded to try to blind myself.

Sadly, sometimes that other, imaginary light bulb is just a tad slower in going off.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Ceremonial Distance

I found out today that one of my best friends is - after 23 years with his partner - engaged.

Or, rather, they intend to get married.

When I wrote back in response to an emailed comment about a possible ceremony, I asked if it meant that they were engaged - and when this change had happened. His response was "ROFL - Engagement? After 23 years????"

But apparently there was a bit of a proposal and all, so I think it counts.

The part that continues to surprise me is that this apparently happened almost 10 months ago and I just found out about it - by accident - today.

Ninety percent of my life I'm perfectly fine with living halfway across the country (or the world) from most of my best friends. Ten percent of the time I really wish I lived a lot closer.

Today I definitely felt the latter.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Book 'em, Danno.

There are days when I feel like I don't do anything but work and sleep.

I get up in the morning, I get showered and dressed and I drive to work. I'm there from 9 until 5, then I get back in my car and drive home - sometimes with a stop at the grocery store - and then I have dinner with Christopher and we might watch a little TV or go online for a bit, and then we go to bed. And it feels like that's all we do for 5 days out of every week (only he gets up earlier than I do and is usually at work from 8 until 5).

Yet, today, when asked by a friend of ours whether we could schedule a Saturday or Sunday to get together for dinner, I had to check the calendar.

This weekend? Out. Next weekend? Out. Every weekend of November, actually? Already busy.

We've scheduled - tentatively - a dinner on Saturday, December 5th. Luckily, it wasn't the 12th or 19th - because those are both already booked, too.

Okay. Yes. The weekends are the extreme version, because we tend to book them in the hopes that we won't be exhausted from a day of work. But I was just looking at our weekday evenings, and for the foreseeable future we've got at least one or two - if not more - evenings already booked each week.

For a couple of people who only work and sleep and never go out, our calendar is ridiculously full.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Is It Over Yet?

One week from now, I'll be a very happy guy.

I really can't stand Halloween, you see, and this time of year it is EVERYWHERE.

Ads on line. Ads on TV.

Last weekend there was a zombie pub crawl in Minneapolis, and so all week this week there has been fake blood on the sidewalks.

I really can't wait for it all to go away - both the fake blood and the holiday.

Okay. Some of the candy bars can stay around. But the rest of it can go away.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Saying What You Mean (for better or worse)

I had one of those moments at work today that probably shouldn't have happened. It shouldn't have happened for a LOT of reasons, honestly, but here's the full story, at least as I experienced it.

I was in a meeting. It's a bi-weekly meeting where people who have issues which the IT department should know about - but which might be too hard to put into an email - meet up to talk them through.

I was trying to explain a particular situation which, I think, has probably been causing some problems, lately. (We have a drop-down box at one point which only offers two possible answers. But since clients could actually have other answers, it has a line which says "If your file isn't X, then choose option Y." The trouble is that many people have actually had file Z, Q, P, and L - and so when they get further into the system those can cause issues.)

So, I was trying to explain this issue, and one of the other people in the meeting kept asking me questions like "How many people do we really deal with with that?" and "Well, we can fix that for them anyway, can't we?" She interjected multiple times, and eventually - as my brain was getting overwhelmed with trying to keep my question out - I looked over at her, put my hand on the table, and said "Calm the fuck down" then I went right back to finish what I was saying.

Yep. I said fuck at work. I did say it with a smile on my face and my tone of voice must have been cheerful because a few other people did laugh. And, well, the young woman who had been talking over me the whole time finally stopped.

The end product, then, was what I had hoped for.

But I probably should have just said "Calm down" - though I don't know if it would have done as much good.

Definitely a case of saying what you mean (and meaning what you say) possibly needing a bit of a thought-pause somewhere in the middle.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Scent of Fall

Sure, pumpkin spice everything is around these days.

Apples and cinnamon are in every grocery store aisle.

The neighborhood smells of woodsmoke instead of charcoal.

The chill in the air has brought about a whole new set of aromas.

Yesterday and today, however, were warm - not chilly.

So when I let the pup out this evening the yard smelled of a cross between warm dirt and beginning-to-decompose leaves.

It wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but having grown up raking leaves into piles and then jumping into them this seemed more natural than all the other scents.

Possibly not as marketable, but that might be why it made me so happy to smell it.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

When Did We Become THAT Demographic?

Do you ever watch TV shows and pay attention to the commercials that are being shown? You can - typically - find out what demographic the show is aimed at by doing this. 

Based on the shows we watch - and the times of day - we see a lot of fast food ads. We also see a lot of ads aimed at "Gen-X" watchers, whenever we watch pretty much any show on BBC America or SyFy. 

Lately, though, while watching "The Mysteries of Laura," we've found that we've apparently become... well... an older demographic. 

The ads are for things like insurance and "assisted technology" companies. I have to admit that this has me a little confused. After all, "Mysteries" is pretty young when you look at the characters and the language. 

I've tried to make myself feel better by telling myself that we're not getting older, it's just that people of an older demographic are now watching "younger" shows. 

But after just so many sit-down shower ads and ads for pretty much anything that can happen in a man's private areas as he gets older... well... I guess I should just be glad that the Early Bird Specials get me home before my shows are on. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Streaking

I may or may not have ever mentioned that I may or may not have a bit of a competitive streak.

I mean... I don't really care if I win or lose the office Fantasy Football season.

But, if someone at work told me that there was no way in the world I could win any games in Fantasy Football, I'd start working the roster every week to work to win every possible game.

I've felt that same desire to win kick in when I've gone bowling and been told that some other team would definitely beat mine. I've felt it when I was told someone "never loses" at a game I've just been challenged to play.

Well, I may end up losing a decent amount of my free time in November to answering a challenge. I'll still try to keep up the blog, but we'll see what happens.

I'll keep you posted as best I can. After all - going streaking in November can get a little chilly without at least a little coverage.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Metaphorical Issues

There are times when you really shouldn't talk about things because of the people who may or may not be involved. For once, I'm going to succumb to that social more (which I really wanted to spell "moray" - like the eel) and use a metaphor, instead.

You know how, sometimes, you hear a song on the radio and really like it? At that point, the song is still new, and you don't hear it much and so it's exciting and fun.

Then, over time, you start to hear the song over and over and other people start telling you how great the song is. And you come to a point where you just can't stand it and want it to go away.

That's not fun.

Then everyone keeps telling you how great the song is, which seems to happen just at the point when you're starting to realize that it's not as good as you once thought it was. But everyone keeps talking about it and wanting to sing it to you.

And everyone who isn't singing that song starts to resent it. Soon you might want to toss that song right out the window at work. Or challenge it to a sing-off. Or... something equally bad.

Metaphorically speaking.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Split-personality Day

Do you ever have one of those days where you start out doing one thing, then end up doing something completely different?

I had one of those, today.

I got up this morning and - since it was nice out - I finally got around to dealing with our fall yard prep. So I spent about an hour and a half cutting back the peonies, weeding, and spreading some new mulch around to make things look a little nicer. I even remembered to pull up one of the hoses and bring in the liquid garden sprays.

Then I took a quick shower and got dressed before... of course... going to a wedding fair.

Christopher and I have been to one other fair - but it was geared toward gay and lesbian couples, and was pretty small. This one was a full-on wedding fair in the Convention Center, with fashion shows and giveaways and holy crap a ton of people.

I was good and put on my "groom" sticker and wandered around. Eventually I even talked to some vendors (mainly I was there to talk about photographers and, if possible, valet services). and I got about three food samples. Then - after about an hour, and with a handful of flyers, I bailed out before my brain exploded.

This evening I gradually got myself back to normal - hanging out with Christopher, having dinner, and getting some things taken care of around the house. Oh - and nursing a sore arm, which I assume is from the yard work, not the flyer carrying.

Or maybe a slightly less-split combination of the two.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Entering a Brave New World . . . Timidly

I don't have a smartphone. 

I didn't even have a cellphone until after Christopher and I started dating. Part of why I got it was because it would be easier for us to get in touch with one another (it had been a really long time since I had anyone I wanted so much to be in touch with). But I also wanted more security when I was doing the long drive back and forth to my parents' in South Dakota. Yes - I could make the drive without a phone. But when you've got the ability to make the drive safer, why not do it? So I bought my first cellphone. 

Since then, I've had two more phones. Flip phones, to be exact. I haven't moved to a smartphone in large part because I don't really feel like I need one - and I don't want to become someone who does need one all the time. But I also really like that my flip phone touches my ear when I use it and the mouthpiece is near my mouth. You know - like a phone. I feel like, because of that, I don't yell when I'm on the phone like so many smartphone users do. 

Lately, though, I'm finding there are things that a smartphone would really help with. Like pulling up a scheduling email while driving somewhere and suddenly fearing we're an hour late. Or checking out a map when turning off the Interstate in Idaho. Things a flip phone just won't do. 

I'd love to say that it's not a big deal, because at least my laptop is doing great. But since every time I want to type a d I never know if it's going to take one or two tries, I guess I'd be lying. 

You see, I bought my current laptop about eight years ago (I think) - and it was a refurbished model at that time. But it was good enough to allow me to do what I needed to do. And it has a 15" screen, which makes it great for having two active windows at the same time when I'm editing. 

Of course - as things do in the tech world - after I bought my laptop updates started to happen all around me. So I updated my laptop. Then I updated it again. Until... well... even the guys at the store told me that I had pretty much maxed out what I could do. At the moment, I'm down to only one browser that is compatible with my computer, and about every third website I open gives me a banner notice that I need to upgrade my system to get the best user experience. 

So tomorrow I am planning to go to two stores I have always dreaded: a cellular store, and an Apple store. I am, gradually, going to put my toes into the electronics pool of the 2nd decade of the 21st century. I'm making the first foray without Christopher at my side, because I know that I'll get frustrated, and if he's there I'll take my fear (of getting it wrong) and loathing (of having to be dependent upon condescending salespeople) out on him - which would be very bad. 

I've decided that, to get myself through it, I'm going to sing this song from Phineas and Ferb over and over in my head while I'm there: 


At least that way, if/when I do go mad, it'll be in a sort of steampunk-y way, and with a good beat.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Realization Tiz List

It's been a while since I've done a Tiz List of things that you might not know about me, and while realizing a few things about myself I also realized that. So here we go: a list of recent (though not all new) realizations about myself:

1. I exasperate easily. I mean, I can put up with stupid stuff for a really long time, but then there will be that moment when things just go over the edge and I will go from calm to exasperated in 0.0001 seconds.

2. It takes me much longer to dial back the exasperation.

3. I really dislike it when someone asks for my advice and then ignores it. This is something I have known for eons, but working on the second round of an edit where the author obviously ignored big issues that I had corrected... ugh.

4. People who get away with breaking rules bug the heck out of me.

5. People who let people get away with breaking rules also bug the heck out of me. Yet, somehow, I've realized that the rule breakers, themselves, bug me more.

6. Mainly I think the reason they bother me is because I don't often break the rules - and even if I don't get caught I tend to feel guilty.

7. Perhaps it's really an issue with me and my ethics-related guilt complex.

8. Ninety percent of the time I'm a very non-competitive person, but if you push my buttons I'll do my damnedest to pummel the hell out of you - in a very sportsmanlike way, of course.

9. I've been known to cheat so that I can let others win. And I've been known to feel guilty about winning. Oddly enough, these two things don't often coincide.

10. I hate when people who are obviously not ready to order stand in front of you in line and don't offer to let you go in front of them, since you already know what you want. Or when they aren't ready to check out, but they block the cashier while waiting for someone to bring them something. I suspect the Holiday shopping season will be tense for me this year.

In case you're wondering, eight of the above realizations have happened at work. Three of them happened while commuting to or from work. No, that doesn't add up to ten. It's not supposed to.

Monday, October 5, 2015

I Am . . . Spellcheck?

There's nothing like working on a project for an author for about six months, rewriting large sections of the manuscript, editing, verifying sources, and doing your best to really bring out the heart of the work.

It can be incredibly rewarding in and of itself.

But it's still nice to hear from an author and be told that he appreciated the work you put in.

Of course, there are the times when you really wish the author had just kept his mouth shut.

For instance, the author of the book I did work on for - literally - six months of this year, and for whom I just wrote really good back cover copy (even though I think the book is kind of a crap premise on the whole), wrote in today to say:

Robert worked with me on this earlier this year correcting the spelling, etc. 

Yep. The tens of thousands (again, literally) of changes I made to move it into standard English, the hours I spent researching his quotations online, and the days I spent just trying to make sentences make the most basic of sense... all of that - in the eyes of the author - was a glorified spellcheck.

Warms the cockles of my heart, it does, to hear such praise.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Friday Food - Green Tomatoes

Have I mentioned my tomatoes, lately?

>sigh<

Now that we're dealing with shorter October days, with chilly nights and highs only in the 60s, suddenly I have at least 6 tomatoes on my vines. I actually had to cut the vines back from their 10-foot length to about 4 feet, because the cooler weather had caused them to "sag" across our sidewalk, and in so doing I found out that I have more tomatoes than I thought (I knew I had either 3 or 4).

I'm hoping for one or two of them to actually ripen on the vine. So now I'm in an odd waiting game caused - once again - by the fact that I have no idea if these are the tomatoes that will always stay green, or if they're supposed to be turning color.

Each day I walk past them and give them a squeeze to see if they're ready, then I check the weather and see how cool the night will be. All I know for sure is that I want to leave them out there as long as I can before giving up and bringing them in before they get frostbite.

I'll keep you posted.


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Sometimes I Amuse Myself

There are times when I think of things that I'm sure will be really funny when I tell them to people. There are also times when I - luckily - realize that the really funny thing I've decided to tell someone will only be funny to myself.

This is one of those things that I was pretty sure would only be funny to me, but I decided to share it in my "Top 20 Worst Mistakes in Writing" list.

The reason I'm mentioning it tonight is that I've begun working on the second round of an edit at work. Typically, even if the first round is riddled with misspelled words, by the time you spend a couple of weeks correcting them even if the author mucks about with the manuscript before round two there aren't too many incorrect words left.

This time, though, I started working on the manuscript and as it loaded in on my screen eventually I got a pop-up saying that there are too many misspellings for Spellcheck to display them all.

Which brings me to the quote from my list:

"Spellcheck is not your friend. Spellcheck is a passive-aggressive co-worker who likes to point out when you do things wrong, and just when you really need help goes to take a coffee break and ignores you."

I have no idea whether that's funny to people who don't work with Spellcheck every day. But it truly does amuse me.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Learning My Own Lesson

As I've mentioned I was going to do, I went to Idaho last weekend and gave two talks on the subject of "The Seven Deadly Sins of Self Publishing." They went pretty well, and I'm really glad I did it. But that's not what this post is about.

This post is actually about listening to your teachers, paying attention to words of wisdom, and following the right path - even when you're the one who is teaching/imparting/pointing it out.

You see, I've been feeling pretty good about the two sessions. Yes, three people nodded off during the first session, but the conference room was probably about 80 degrees and pretty stuffy and at about 3:30 in the afternoon they'd all been in and out of sessions for 7 hours. Plus... well... the majority of the audience were not spring chickens, so they hadn't ever learned to over caffeinate to keep going. And it was only three people out of about 18, so I figure that's pretty good.

By the second session, I was a bit more on my game (remember - it has been 20+ years since I last taught a class), and of the 12 people in attendance, only 1 nodded off. And I saw her nod off at the banquet that evening, as well. So I figure she might do that a lot.

From what I've learned, there were about 45 people in attendance at the conference. I had about 30 of them listening to me between the two sessions. Plus I had 4 people sign up for one-on-one writing coaching sessions in advance, then 1 signed up after hearing me speak - and one of the original four signed up for a second session with me to try to answer some more of her questions, and truly seemed energized by what we discussed.

After each session, people came up to chat. People struck up conversations with me later on. And someone even asked if I'd be coming to their conference next year.

I left there feeling pretty darned good about it all. I texted Christopher and we chatted on the phone and I told him all about it. I couldn't wait to get back to work today and talk about it with people.

Then, as I was sitting in the office this afternoon, my boss came in and asked how it had gone. I told him I thought it had gone well - that I had handed out all of my business cards and lots of people asked about the company - and that I was glad I had gone. He asked how many people attended, and I gave him the ballpark numbers, and told him how many people I had spoken to. And he just kind of looked at me and said "Oh," which seemed to include a mix of "Is that all?" and "I'm glad we're not paying you for that." in his voice.

I went from really proud of my weekend to feeling like the conference might have been a bust.

Then someone asked me what my talk was about. And I told him my topic. He asked what the Sins are, as I see them. And he laughed with me as I listed them off, ending with "Sin #7: Judging your success by anyone else's standard." To which he said "Sounds like a good idea for life in general."

Lightbulb. Lightning bolt. Whack upside the head with a pillow. All the cartoon cliches for epiphany moments.

No. I wasn't the opening act at Madison Square Garden. No. I didn't do a Ted talk with 47,000 views on YouTube. What I did do was step out of my daily life, put my skills and knowledge to good use, and - hopefully - make a difference in a few people's lives. Maybe inspiring a few people to write some more. Maybe convincing a few writers to consider self publishing. Maybe reminding some frustrated self-published authors that success is what you make of it.

And I had fun doing it. Which is why this weekend will become cocktail party conversation for the next few months, while the eight hours I spent at work today will simply become a footnote.

I guess you could say I learned my lesson - I just needed someone else to remind me.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Worst Mistake in Writing

I'm working up a talk that I'm going to be giving at the annual conference of the Idaho Writers League later this week.

The catch is that the topic I submitted isn't the same as the topic that showed up on the schedule that was sent out. So I'm kind of working up two different talks. I really like my original topic - and I've got an 11-page outline for it - but I feel like I should be prepared to do the other one, as well.

So tonight, after finishing the outline for Talk #1 (The Seven Deadly Sins of Self-Publishing - as I mentioned on Sunday), I mapped out a quick outline for Talk #2 (Worst Mistakes in Writing).

I created a list of 20 things, which I have found over the years are some of the biggest flubs people have made. Not specific instances, but broad strokes. Things like putting too much trust in Spellcheck, or assuming that every reader will understand your jargon.

When I got to number 20, I realized that there is one thing that is the worst thing any writer can do: Not write.

If you have a story in you, you have to let it out. If you've got a great new strategy for business that could revolutionize the way marketing is done, you need to tell someone. If you feel the need to throw your thoughts against a blog wall every couple of days in the hopes that someone might read it, you've got to wing it up there and hope it sticks.

Not writing when you've got something to say is like holding your breath until you pass out. It's one of those things that benefits no one - and can only hurt you.

Which is worse: being received with total ambivalence, or suffocating yourself with fear? (That's a trick question: they're both pretty horrible.) Sure, you could be met with opposition, naysayers, or angry mobs with pitchforks, but you could also be met with praise, encouragement, and offers of speaking engagements.

So forget the other 19 worst writing mistakes (which, fortuitously, I haven't told you, so that should be easy to do), and focus on fixing number 20. Get out there and write!

(I'll even make it easy on you: There's a comment section at the bottom of this post. Start by putting something in there - a quick "I read this!" or a haiku or the first line of a really great story, even. It'll make us both feel better!)

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sin Manufacturing

In what I'm realizing more and more is a bit of a strange and exciting turn of events, later this week I'll be speaking at the Idaho Writers League annual conference.

My talk is going to be a little about editing, but mainly about the world of self publishing. So, when I was working up the topic proposal, I was debating what to call it. I didn't want to go for anything too bland (because I want people to come to it), but I didn't want a title that was all flash, because I also wanted people to know what to expect.

After some consideration, I came up with "The Seven Deadly Sins of Self-Publishing."

I like it. It's catchy. It's sort of self-explanatory. It's a little intriguing and a tad irreverent (which, hopefully, is what the talk will be like, too).

There's only one problem: I have to come up with Seven Deadly Sins of Self-Publishing.

Oh - and I have to make them last for 90 minutes.

(For a little context, I just read the above text out loud and timed it: 45 seconds. So I need to do something like 120 times that.)

I've got a partial outline that includes interactive moments. Q&As. And at least one quick writing exercise. 

I also have a reminder to make sure that I have a very large glass of water with me.

What I don't have, so far is those Seven Sins.

Perhaps I should start with "Deadly Sin #1: Titling your book before you have any content" but that might be just a little too on the nose.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Sleepy in the Cities

It's not quite as catchy as "Sleepless in Seattle," I realize, but it's kind of all I've got right now.

Twice this week I've had to get up extra early to be places an hour earlier than my usual start time. And multiple nights we've been up later than usual, too.

I used to do great when I was in my 20s - or even my 30s - but these days I just can't function as well on days when I've misplaced an hour or more of sleep.

I keep waiting for the "as you get older, you need less sleep" thing to kick in, but it hasn't yet.

So for now I'll just sign off and try to at least have an "even" night before we launch into the weekend.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A Baker's Dilemma - Frosting

It is impossible to make just the right amount of frosting. There is always either too little or too much of it.

As someone who has dealt with the trauma of having too little - which almost always seems to happen when it's a colored frosting which will be impossible to duplicate - these days I pretty much always aim for having too much.

SO close!
But then you get done frosting whatever you're frosting and you have a leftover mound of amazing sugary goodness. It's never quite enough to use for something else, and yet there's always just enough left that you'd feel guilty to throw it out.

I admit that tonight's problem was caused by the corollary dilemma of not wanting to bake a partial sheet pan of cookies. The batch of cookie dough I made makes just over 8 dozen cookies. We have 4 cookie sheets, each of which can hold 2 dozen cookies. So when I was done filling the fourth sheet, I looked at the cookie dough still in the bowl and debated whether I wanted to spend another 15 minutes watching about 5 cookies bake, or whether I should just throw out the rest of the dough.

Had I not chosen option #2, I definitely would have gotten closer to using all of the frosting from tonight (and had less of a dilemma). But I had other things to bake - at a higher temperature - and didn't want to wait. So the dough went into the trash, and I ended up with leftover frosting.

The cookie is there for size comparison - and because I also didn't have enough room on my cooling/drying rack for that one last cookie.
It probably should have followed the dough into the trash - and it might, yet - but for now it's in the fridge. No idea whatsoever what I'm going to do with it.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

A Wrinkle in Time

There seems to be something really odd going on with time, lately. In part, I blame the weather for this, but mainly I blame weird marketing and such.

You see, it was really warm last week - the first week of September - and so it felt like it was still summer. But this weekend it is really cool, making it feel more like the first week of October.

Christopher and I went to a birthday party tonight held in a neighbor's backyard - and although I was comfortable in shorts and a long-sleeve shirt, by the time we were leaving, they had turned on a propane heater in the yard because people were getting cold. If they had had it last weekend, they'd have needed extra ice and fans, instead.

But - even more than that - there is the fact that we're already getting pushed toward Halloween. The grocery stores are full of Halloween candy and ephemera. Even if I didn't hate Halloween, I would still think this is way too early.

That's how I feel about the fact that I'm already seeing some pushes for Christmas.

It all just makes me want to unplug from the world - or else plug in an iron to smooth the calendar back out.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Tomatic Proof

I actually remembered to take photos after picking my most recent two tomatoes! (If you're counting, that means I've now had FOUR tomatoes this year.) Although I thought that these were going to be green tomatoes, after a stretch of warmer days, I found out that this first batch were all Cherokee Purple tomatoes.

The first one I picked got eaten - without benefit of camera - as part of two fried-egg-and-tomato English muffins. The second was chopped up and made into a chunky avocado/tomato salsa. 

The third, however, became the photographic centerpiece of two open-face "tomato-and-egg-on-toast" sandwiches:

Tomato #3 and tomato #4 (which became part of a Salade Nicoise)

The Cherokee Purple tomato is an heirloom variety that is purple on the outside with red flesh, flecks of green, and yellow seeds. It's a little weird looking when you cut into it, but very tasty.

Gotta have fried eggs in this sandwich. I may have added butter...

Toasting - in the toaster oven, obviously. Yes, basic white bread works best for this.
There seems to be the outside chance that I over-fried my eggs. So let's go past this picture to the next one.

Buttered toast, mayo, tomato, fried eggs, salt, and pepper...  If that's not a summer dinner, I don't know what is.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Confusion in Aisle 7

Could someone please explain to me why two grocery stores - both part of the same chain - can have such completely different stock?

I was looking for some toothpaste this past weekend, and after striking out at Target and Walgreens, I tried our "local" Cub grocery store. They also didn't have what I was looking for. 

So I went to a different Cub, where I didn't find what I was looking for, but did find something really close to it, which I thought maybe had replaced it. When I got it home, though, I realized that it wasn't the same. 

This led me to going to Cub number three after going to a movie tonight. I returned the toothpaste I'd found at Cub #2, and then went down the aisle just for the heck of it. Lo and behold, on the bottom shelf, there were probably a dozen or more boxes of what I had been searching for - the kind which didn't even exist in any of the other stores. 

Now, I know that some stores carry food items specific to their shoppers' demographics. I used to live near a "mainstream" grocery store that had a HUGE selection of international foods because most of its clientele were first-generation immigrants. And when I lived in Baltimore there was a chain grocery store in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood which carried no pork products. 

But toothpaste? Why would there be such a huge disparity between stores in the types - not even the brands, but just the types - of toothpaste they stock? 

Some things I suspect I will never understand. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

A Retro Weekend

I've been spending a certain amount of time streaming Netflix, lately. But I'm not watching anything recent. Everything I'm watching is actually from a while ago.

Having just wrapped up season 3 of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," today I watched the first two episodes of "The Gilmore Girls" as well as the first ten minutes of the pilot episode of "Ally McBeal."

I'm not sure why I've been doing this, but I am enjoying it. There's an aspect of it that is kind of like meeting up with old friends and telling old stories as a group. You all know the stories, but you all tell them slightly differently, so it's good to hear someone else's version.

Except, with these, you can turn them off after 10 minutes and no one gets mad.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Ironic Holiday Ads

I was listening to the radio a couple of days ago, and an ad came on talking about Labor Day.

Some kid said, "Mom, what is Labor Day about?"

And as the mom launched into the story behind the holiday, another voice (we assume it was Dad) interrupted with "Picnics! Grilling! No one has to work!"

Then the announcer started in on all of things that were going to be on sale... in the store... on Labor Day.

So... Let's look at this: The ad is all about how "no one has to work on Labor Day," but it's an ad for a store that will be open - with hundreds of people having to work.

I only heard the ad once. Makes me wonder if someone at the company actually heard it and realized that the irony cut a little close to the bone...

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Branding - Not the Cow Kind

I used to have a website. It wasn't a great website. It was a build-it-yourself website that kind of came along with having my email address at the time.

I was able to put up a sort of basic portfolio of things I'd worked on in the past and add in my resume. It wasn't exciting, but it was workable, and it gave me somewhere to refer people who asked about my background.

Then that went away, and aside from this blog (which, honestly, I'm not planning to refer people to if I'm looking for a job) and a couple of social-media-type sites, my web presence disappeared.

But I'm going to be speaking at a conference in a few weeks, and I really want to be able to point people to somewhere if they want to find me. So I'm trying to find a website building/hosting company that is quick and easy (and cheap) so I can put something together.

There are apparently a bunch of places that do this - at various rates of cheapness - so I've spent a few nights scrolling through lots of template designs searching for just the right look. But this is the kind of stuff that people pay companies thousands of dollars to develop and design. The all-important "brand identity" can make or break an online business.

Do I want to be slick and modern? Do I want to be cozy? Do I want to be artsy and laid back? Or do I just want to be Times New Roman on a white background?

How do I know? I mean... I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up - and I've had a LOT more time to consider that.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Fried Egg and Tomato on Toast - Finally!

There are no photos. No evidence at all, honestly. But I can happily attest to the fact that I picked my first tomato of the season, yesterday.

After assuming that all of the tomatoes that were growing were green tomatoes (as in the kind which remain green - even when ripe), I noticed that one of them was finally getting softer/riper on Saturday. It was also changing color.

Yesterday, the tomato had become happily kind of a deep purple, with a green top. The squeeze test proved that it was ready.

After three full months, and off of a plant that is probably nine feet tall, I picked my frist tomato.

Tonight I toasted two English muffins, fried up two eggs, sliced that tomato, and layered it all with a little mayo.

I didn't have to share with Christopher, because he simply doesn't understand the joy of the tomato and egg on toast.

So I sat on the couch and blissed out a bit while the tomato slices dripped and the sandwich made me culinarily happier than I have been since planting my tomatoes a quarter of a year ago.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Writing Good Copy for Mediocre Books

One of the pieces of my job that I typically really like to do is writing back cover copy for books. I think, in part, it's because I get to battle the "Don't judge a book by its cover" aphorism by truly asking people to judge books by their covers.

Most of the time, writing them is pretty decent. I sit down, I read the book, I look at the marketing plans the authors have proposed, and I write about a page of copy for them to use. About 75% of the time, they use about 75% of my copy. About 20% of the time they dump it entirely and put up something of their own. The remaining 5% - if I'm lucky - they actually use what I've written in its entirety.

(Ironically - though most authors don't know this - I actually proofread their covers before they go to print. So I see what they've done to what I've written. Sometimes it's interesting to see what they think the point of the book is. Sometimes it's really well done. Sometimes it's just not good...)

As I've said, most of the time this part of my job is pretty decent. When it's not decent is when I find myself having to write copy for books I don't find to be good. Some are really well written, but about really bad topics or with characters with really horrible morals/ethics/politics. Some of them are really interesting ideas, but are just poorly written. (Yeah... we write a lot of copy for books that didn't get edited.)

Writing this stuff sometimes makes me feel like I'm writing press releases in support of a natural disaster ("You're going to love the flooding from this next hurricane!") or maybe asking people to buy an unfinished cake ("Sure it needs frosting, but just look at how level the layers are!").

But it's all part of the job, and it's something that I've found I'm pretty good at. So I do it and get paid for it and go on with my life hoping that the authors approve and their books sell.

And - every so often - I come here to confession. Your forgiveness - though not mandatory - is greatly appreciated.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Annual Review

I cannot think of a single person I know who likes work-related annual reviews.

I used to kind of enjoy doing them when I had a staff that I was reviewing. I would sit down with the forms and think about the past year and try to coach - where possible - and to point out issues - where necessary. I spent a lot of time on those, and I usually felt like they were appreciated.

When I was teaching, I even kind of liked reading the students' evaluations of me. Some of them were fun/funny, some were just snarky, but a lot of them were fairly interesting and thought-out. Not all good, mind you, but if the students actually took the time to write things out, I was impressed.

What I really dislike, however, is when you have to do a review of yourself. Granted, I know people who have to do this multiple times throughout the year, so I'm lucky to only have to do it once. But sitting down to answer questions that really have nothing to do with me is just painful.

 - Do your peers encourage your development? Really? In what company have you ever worked where development was a peer-based event?

 - How well are your personal/professional goals satisfied? Professional goals? Sure. That would be nice. Personal ones? Maybe it's just me, but I'm not really sure I'm looking for my job to help me satisfy my innermost goals and desires. Although... a huge raise would certainly help with planning for some goals like a really good vacation.

Possibly my favorite this year is:

- How do you most like to be shown appreciation? "MONEY! MONEY! MONEY!" is probably not the answer they want to hear, but I did put a softer version of that on this year's form.

We'll see how that goes over later this week.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Black Socks

When did it become okay to wear black socks with tennis shoes and shorts?

When did it become bad to wear white socks that showed on your ankles with tennis shoes and shorts?

I remember being in junior high and high school and simply knowing that you could not be caught wearing black socks - or socks of any color - with tennis shoes. Yet, these days, you almost never see anyone wearing white socks.

From sporting events to the average person on the street (with or without sandals - but that's a different issue) it seems that dark socks with sneakers is now the way to go.

It's weird.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Aug-tober

I know that I'm supposed to be upset about how cool it has been the past few days. And I fully admit that I was getting a bit tired of the rain (but - wow - everything is so green!). The problem is that I've really been enjoying the temps.

I've still been wearing shorts, but I've been wearing a long-sleeved shirt with them. It has been perfect for walking the dog in the morning and for getting from the parking garage to the office. And - thankfully - it's stayed cool so that the same clothing has also been comfortable on the way home.

Lots of people are freaking out about how "cold" it is and how this is summer so it's supposed to be in the 80s or above with high humidity. I understand that, to a certain (no pun intended) degree. But this past few days have been a glorious respite from the usual summer heat and humidity.

I'm sure we'll get more humidly oppressive days before we actually head into fall. After all, the MN State Fair is coming up and it's always hot and sticky during the fair.

In the meantime, though, I have to say that I've really been enjoying this "Augtober" fest.

*Note: I did not coin the term "Augtober". I heard it from a radio weatherperson a couple of days ago.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Movie Monday/Travel Tuesday - The Man from U.N.C.L.E

Maybe not exactly "elegant"... and not entirely 60s, either, but Christopher and I saw the new movie "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." tonight. And there was a decent amount of travel in it.

We start in Berlin (both East and West), then head for Italy and wander around Rome for a bit through the ruins as well as some really swanky hotels and office buildings.

All of which takes place while watching British Henry Cavill (who plays an American), American Armie Hammer (who plays a Russian), and a host of other people who play various other nationalities.

(from the official "Man from U.N.C.L.E." website)
Here's the thing, though: I had a blast. It was kind of "buddy cop movie meets James Bond" or maybe "White Collar meets the Cold War" or something like that. The two protaganists antagonize the heck out of each other, and they do it while being dashing and rugged and (kind of) getting the girl(s).

And, of course, at the end the set-up arrives to make this the start of a possible new movie franchise - so you know that everyone survives to the end of the movie. Because, of course, they're the good guys.

Was it the best movie ever? No. Was it a great way to spend a couple of hours on a rainy night? Definitely. Heck - I'd even go back and spend those two hours on a sunny day to see it again. (Though I'll probably wait and do that when it's out on DVD.) I'd totally give it an A.

And, yes, when/if a sequel comes out, I'll definitely go see that, too.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Epitome of Editing Needs

I've been working on a really difficult manuscript at work this week. It's short - which is good - but it was written by someone who doesn't own a computer and had to borrow one to put it together and send it to us.

I suspect - based on the book's subject matter - that the author has also done a certain amount of drug use over time. Based on the writing, I suspect some of it was while the book was being written.

But that's not the point of this post. The point of this post is that Spellcheck only helps if you have it on your computer AND you actually pay attention to it.

When I opened the manuscript, MS Word informed me that there were too many incorrect words for them to all be marked. (That's never a good sign.)

Today, I came across one of the "best" misspelled words: "appitamy."

Based on context, I figure out that he meant "the perfect example of..." something - the epitome of it.

I gotta tell you... it's the epitome of something, but that something sure ain't good.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Friday Frumpery

I've never been one for going out on Friday nights. I'm the kind of person who really prefers to finish a long week of work and then go home and collapse.

I might be persuaded to go out on any other weeknight - although these days that's a much earlier night than it was a few years back. But I've never really seen the draw in going out on a Friday night.

Saturday night? Sure... I could consider that - as long as I'm not expected to start the evening at 10pm or something. (Honestly... who in the world - or at least in the Midwest, where the average bedtime is 10pm - who is over the age of 25 starts their evening later than about 7pm?)

Sundays... I'm much better for brunch or an early dinner than for any time out and about. But at least I typically have the energy for a dinner out or whatever.

Fridays, though... oy... Can't we just all agree that the best way to celebrate the end of the week is with a rest?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Stepping It Up

We are becoming one of those pet families. Oh, who am I kidding, we've always been that kind of pet family. So what is making me feel differently this week? Steps.

We have purchased steps which now live at the foot of the bed, because the pup turned 11 a little bit ago, and has been having trouble jumping up on the bed.

We've also started her on Glucosamine, and now I'm kind of jealous because hers is apparently a very tasty chewy treat, while the kind I take is a huge pill I have to swallow.

But the important thing is the steps. We put them next to the bed and had to spend a few nights coaxing her up them. She was not a fan - we're guessing it's a combination of the texture of the fabric on the treads, and the sound of the plastic - but she has begun to adjust.

She's choosing to use them from time to time, instead of waiting for one of us to lift her up. And I think she's kind of enjoying the freedom that gives her.

I, on the other hand, am also learning to adjust to the steps. They're not small - and our bedroom is not large. So when I walk around to my side of the bed I'm now dodging the steps. Most of the time it's fine, but when I got up yesterday morning I almost killed myself as I bent to pick something up off the floor and came within inches of taking a header across the room.

But I survived, and she's happy, so we're just taking one more step toward our lives as those people.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Movie-ish Monday - "Clipped"

Christopher and I have been having problems finding new shows to watch. So we pretty much watch the same shows until they die - and some of those we continue watching for a while through repeats and syndication. 

But occasionally we'll decide to try something new. Usually, this seems to result in the show being cancelled just as it gets good (like last season's "Forever"). But this summer, as "Melissa & Joey" and "Hot in Cleveland" (and "Phineas and Ferb") were wrapping up, we figured we really needed to try to find a new half-hour comedy to watch. We decided to try "Clipped."

It's an ensemble comedy set in a barber shop in Boston. There are the high school sweethearts - now in their twenties - who have an on-again/off-again thing they don't admit to. There's the owner, who mainly just walks around kvetching all day. There's the owner's best friend and comic straightman. There's a caustic young black woman who cuts hair right next to an overweight gay white guy (who used to own the shop). And in the middle of it all (figuratively and literally) is a very Catholic young woman who is the receptionist. 

Sounds pretty lame, doesn't it? 

And the first episode was. But the creators also created "Will & Grace" so we decided to give it a chance and watched the second episode. It was... better. And tonight - after 5 or 6 episodes - we found ourselves laughing out loud at some of the jokes. 

It's on TBS, which probably helps them get away with some of the jokes and the topics, but it's not exactly R-rated, it's almost entirely G, with just a little PG-13 thrown in. 

If you try watching it and the first episode you see doesn't do it for you, give it a week and try the next one. Much like the hair they pretend to cut, I suspect it will grow on you over time. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

You Don't Say (Really--Please, Don't)

When you're in the middle of planning things, the last thing you want is to have people telling you all of the things that could go wrong.

Sure, you want to be realistic and prepare for all of the contingencies, but you want everyone to tell you that - in the end - it'll be fine and you don't need to worry about anything. 

So when Christopher and I were out tonight and people were asking us about wedding plans, we were happily chatting away, trading stories, and enjoying the free flow of ideas. 

Until...

We were told a story about someone who never actually got to see her wedding cake. You see, on the way to the venue, the cake apparently got dropped - not on the ground (they were assured) - so the cake delivery folks kind of mashed it back together and shoved some flowers into it hoping that no one would notice. 

Sure. That doesn't happen very often. And they said that it was still really tasty. But if you have any more stories like that please hold onto them until September 2016. Thanks. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

(Mis-)Targeted Advertising

If you've been on pretty much any website that has advertising in the margins, you've probably noticed that the ads start to "follow" you.

On the one hand, it's a little like having an overly helpful shop assistant who won't let you simply look around in the store on your own and wants to help you shop.

On the other hand, it's like getting home from that store to find a stalker sitting on your doorstep saying "You looked at this half an hour ago. Are you sure you don't want to buy it?"

I've started using some of it to my advantage, though. If I'm considering buying a new pair of shoes, for instance, but am not sure which exact style to get, I'll go to Zappos and click on a few pairs of shoes that I like. Then - for the next week or two - I'll get a rotation of ads from Zappos, each showing me a different pair of shoes like the ones I've clicked on.

This also works for book suggestions, if I go to a site like BarnesandNoble.com or Amazon. I let the sites do some comparison shopping on my behalf, and then sit back and let the photos scroll.

But then there are the ads offered by the companies who don't really have all of the right information.

For instance, though I am in my late 40s, I'm not quite ready for the "Meet singles over 55 in your area" ads. (If for no other reason than... you know... I've been with Christopher for nearly 10 years.)

The dating ads also miss their marks when they all want to suggest that I need to meet women for dating. In the margins of a couple of sites, I'm frequently shown buxom young women "looking for men in my area." Somehow, I suspect their not looking for men like me. (See above comment about being with Christopher for nearly 10 years.)

On the whole, though, I don't always mind the targeted ads - when they get it right. If there is an offer at some new restaurant, or flight deals from MSP, or a discount on books I want, I'll happily take it. I'll also happily ignore the ones that are just so wrong for me that they're laughable. I just hope that the advertiser gets some money back from the site that was so far off the mark.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Sunday Wrap-up

We now have leftovers from India, Thailand, and... umm... wherever Caesar salad comes from... in the fridge.

I'm happy to say that the weekend was pretty darned fun, even though it was so busy. But... wow... seven events between Thursday after work and this evening, plus the basics of laundry and bill paying, and trying to also have some semblance of peace and quiet and resting up for the week ahead - that's just not a recipe for success.

On the other hand, I'm happy to say that we currently have FOUR tomatoes on the vines outside the back door. One of those vines is currently about nine feet tall - stretching all the way up to the eaves. It's a little bizarre.

But I'm taking the green tomatoes as my way to look toward the future in some grand metaphoric gesture. Hopefully that will get me through the crush of Monday.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Friday Food (and Thursday, and Saturday, and Sunday...)

Christopher and I seem to go weeks without going out to eat. Sure. We'll pick up burgers on the way home from a shopping expedition. Or we'll get a pizza ordered in.

But looking at our calendar for the month of July we had one planned brunch out on it, as well as one dinner out when my sister and brother-in-law were in town. That's it.

We both really like to eat out - we both like food in general - but we just haven't been taking the time to eat out. Luckily, the way a hard rain can break a drought, we're making up for lost time at the moment - and we're doing it internationally.

Last night, after doing some errands after work, we decided going out to eat on the way home would be easier than making dinner. So we ate at one of our favorite Indian places.

Tonight, we had dinner with a friend at a French place in St. Paul. Tomorrow afternoon we're going out with friends to a Mexican restaurant, and then on Sunday we're capping the weekend with Thai food.

It's all great food, but... wow... by the time I'm home on Monday night hanging out with the pup, I'm really going to just want a peanut butter sandwich on white bread and a glass of milk.