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


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. 


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 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.