Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Organizational What?

One of the problems with writing a weekly blog post is trying to come up with something to write about.  That almost requires something to actually happen, and as you know, nothing ever happens around here.  I mean, except for weird ear infections and things that cats do and the kitchen flooding and the refrigerator needing to be fixed and now the dryer's on the fritz and I'm afraid Joan is going to run out of pants before it's fixed and my former boss leaving me weird messages and this old guy turning up on our doorstep, three times on three different days, pounding on the door and demanding to be let in.

What's more, I actually have to come up with two things, because that's how blog posts work.  I'll bet you didn't know there's a pattern to this, did you? Well, there is.  First you spout off for two or three paragraphs about something that's not really important, just to warm up a little.  It can be about anything; politics, a joke you heard yesterday, the religious leanings of grasshoppers or even a monologue about dwarf bowling.  Then you say, "Speaking of androgynous left-handed bullriders who speak Mandarin Chinese, here's something that happened..."  and you go off on another topic.

I don't know how blog posts evolved to follow this format.  They just do.  I don't see any reason to break the pattern, either.  So speaking of slithery touch typists with gout who wear SAS shoes, here's what's new around here: Professional Reading.

Yes, I know. Professional Reading should not be new.  Anybody who has a job, much less a career, ought to be trying to get better at it one way or another, whether that's by taking a class or volunteering for extra projects or, yes, Professional Reading.  But it is new.  Or at least, it's new that I have any desire whatsoever to do it.  For that I blame Joan and these things called podcasts.

I'm pretty sure I posted about this a while back, around the time I figured out that I had heard most of the songs that ever came on the radio at least 9,185 times apiece since the early 1980s.  Joan installed a "podcast app" on my phone, which talks to my car and plays itself over my car speakers, and lo and behold, I could actually learn something while driving all over creation, or all over Dallas, anyway.  What a concept.  My current favorite is this one on neuroscience called "The Hidden Brain."  It's the only podcast on neuroscience I've come across where I can actually understand about 90% of it. I'm also a fan of The 12-Step Buddhist, The Podcast of Doom (failure analysis on a large scale) and Witness, a history podcast from BBC America. 

And just when I realized I was hitting the "refresh" button on my phone a little too often, something new happened. Audiobooks. Audiobooks about business.  What's more, audiobooks about business that are perfectly free.

Yup.  The Dallas Library has this app called Libby that gives you access to audiobooks. With nothing more than a common ordinary library card, you can check them out---again, for free--and download them on your phone and play them over your speakers just like a podcast.  In fact, your phone automatically kicks on when you start your car and goes right back to the place you left off.  I'm currently reading, or rather, listening to "Delivering Happiness" by Tony Hseih, the guy who founded Zappos and then sold it to Amazon for $1.2 billion.  You wouldn't think it, but the life story of an industry titan is actually pretty hilarious.  Especially the part where he declares that his life partner is Red Bull, but you'd probably have to hear that for yourself.

Anyway, the Dallas Library has a pretty good selection of business audio books.  A lot of them have waiting lists, but that's okay; it takes me a couple of weeks to get through each one, anyway, and by the time I'm done, there's another one waiting for me.  I'm not sure why I'm suddenly interested in stuff like management and leadership and organizational psychology.  It may have something to do with my new boss, who is the PR guy at the law firm. (Most law firms are set up like this. One partner is the PR guy, one is the money guy and one is the Brilliant Legal Mind who keeps the others in line.)  My office is right next to his so I get to listen to him on the phone all day, and believe me, he really is on the phone all day.  What's more, he has to be nice to all those people he's talking to, even if they're cranky back.  And he does it.  It's pretty amazing.

So I figure it can't possibly hurt to know how one does that sort of thing, and more stuff about how people work together generally.  I'm supervising two people that are much younger than me and one who's the same age but who comes from a totally different background.  I have to talk and interact with them all the time, and it can't possibly hurt to learn how.  For whatever reason, I've always felt like an anthropologist in this thing called human society, tentatively approaching with a notepad and a pen and hoping not to interrupt the village ceremony.  Who knows; maybe if I learn enough about How People Talk To Each Other At Work and What That All Means, I can at least be a better mimic.  Even if I never start a company and sell it to Amazon for $1.2 billion.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Earregularities

Holy moley, two blog posts in less than a week's time. Could this be the start of a trend? It could.  I would like, if I may, to update this thing once a week.  I think that'd be good for traffic, get me to write more stuff, and keep me off the streets, where I'm bound to cause trouble.  So look for this space to be updated on Thursdays. Thursday seems to be a good day.  It also means I have an extra day in case I miss Thursday; there's rarely anything going on at our place on Friday night, apart from a baseball game, and (snif) the season's almost over (snif, snif).  Remember, kids, writers churn the stuff out on a regular basis.  Once a week is regular.  I'm a regular kind of gal.  Well, okay, I'm really not.  But I'd like to be.  See last blog post re: getting my shit together and things I'm supposed to be doing every day. 

Anyway:  About a week ago, I suddenly became aware that both of my ears were swollen shut.  This isn't exactly an uncommon occurrence, but it was a kind of odd time of year.  I get two ear and/or sinus infections every year, and I have them in April (right around the time of the big Dallas Book Festival, as it usually happens) and November (right around the time I have to get on an airplane to go someplace, as it usually happens).  Which is annoying, but I can live with it.  When I was a somewhat younger person I had so many colds and sinus infections I ended up having The Surgery, and while that was not fun, it did make things much, much better.  Two sinus infections a year are really No Big Deal.  You go see the doctor, the doctor reads your medical history, she skips the whole lecture about overprescribing antibiotics is going to cause the Apocalypse, and she prescribes you antibiotics. You take them for a week and you're fine.

So I called my doc, and she told me to come on in, like she always does. I went in, got weighed, had my blood pressure checked (112 over 70), had my o-sat and heart rate checked (70 at first, then I decided I could do better than that and dropped it to 63; yes, I can manipulate my heart rate, and yes, I do do it to scare medical assistants sometimes).  Then the doc came in, looked in both of my ears with the little scopey thing, and said, "You don't have an ear infection."

I looked at her like she was crazy.  Excuse me, but my ears were swollen shut.  There are only two things that cause that; an ear infection, or swimmer's ear (which is like an ear infection, but it's on the outside of your ear, so you don't always need to take antibiotics; sometimes all you need are ear drops).  So I said something stupid, like, "Are you sure?" and she said, "Yep.  No infection at all.  What you have is eczema."

Eczema, by the way, is a skin condition, usually caused by being exposed to something you're allergic to.  In short, I was having an allergic reaction in my ears.  Which is particularly weird, because not much goes there.  I mean, they're ears.  "So figure out what you've been putting in your ears lately," she said, "and in the meantime, put this lotion on a q-tip and stick it in your ears twice a day."  Oh boy. What if I'm allergic to q-tips?

I found this immensely puzzling. Again, not much goes in my ears.  I mean, I have ear buds, and I wear them sometimes, but I really didn't think it was the ear buds.  I pour a solution of hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol into my ears after I swim, to prevent swimmer's ear, but I really didn't think I was allergic to rubbing alcohol or peroxide, either (though that might have dried out the skin, giving the eczema a place to take root).

And then, I remembered my SwimPod.

Okay, it's not really called a SwimPod. That's just what I like to call it, and that's what it is; it's an iPod that's been modified for underwater use.  My sister, who's awesome, gave it to me for Christmas a few years ago. It clips to the back of your swim cap, the ear buds are very short (and waterproof), and while the sound isn't quadrophonic stereo with JBL quality, it's still an iPod you can listen to while you're swimming.  I mean, how cool is that?  It gets lonely out there sometimes.  A SwimPod makes things a lot less lonely.  I've got everything from Seals and Crofts to Big Country to Lady Gaga on there.  30 years of pop music. Underwater. Not to mention some classical stuff, and even a little jazz, if you call Ray Lynch jazz, and I think some people would.

For a heart-stopping moment, I wondered if I was allergic to my SwimPod. The thought was horrifying.  I mean, yes, I can always try another pair of ear buds. There are actually several different kinds of waterproof ear buds (check them out at www.swimoutlet.com if you're curious), but the ones that come with it are the best. They have the short cord, for one thing, which means there isn't a long cord to get in the way.  Plus, they seem to last a reasonable amount of time.  Something about being underwater means that ear buds have a rather limited life span.  I've yet to have a pair last for more than six months, and some lasted less than three.  Always get the optional warranty when buying underwater ear buds, folks.  You'll use it more often than not.

Then I remembered that I actually hadn't been listening to my SwimPod for the last couple of weeks. I'd taken it out of commission to add some more music to it and take some off, and I'd left it on my desk, where it promptly disappeared into a haze of gel pens, random pieces of paper and stuff I'd brought home from work and didn't know what to do with. I fished it back out (luckily, it was still there and hadn't been carried off by a cat) and examined the ear buds. Silicone. I'm sure that some people somewhere are allergic to silicone, but I'm pretty sure I'm not one of them. And never mind how I know that.

So if not the SwimPod, then what?  Oh yes. The morning I first left my SwimPod on my desk, I'd arrived at the pool with no ear buds, so I bought a pair of ear plugs at the front desk.  I pulled those out of my swim bag. Latex.  People, I'm almost 50 and just found out I might be allergic to latex.  I'd appreciate it if somebody would fill me in on those things sooner.

(Though, I also woke up one morning a couple of weeks ago and discovered that I'd become lactose intolerant virtually overnight.  One day I could have milk, cream in my coffee, ice cream or frozen yogurt. The next day the same stuff made me sick as hell.  Bam.  Just like that. So I guess these things can happen.  And I'm in good company. Joan is lactose intolerant, too.)

I stayed out of the pool for a couple of days to give the weird ear lotion time to work. Then I tried out the SwimPod again.  No problems. I am definitely not allergic to silicone ear buds.  But I am allergic to latex ones.  I think if you're allergic to latex, you have to tell your doctor and you can't have some kinds of surgery or wear certain kinds of Band-Aids (come to think of it, the flexible fabric ones, which use a latex adhesive, always did make me itchy). 

So now I'm allergic to latex, milk products, codeine, sulfa drugs and their derivatives, cockroaches, five of the most common trees in the United States and every kind of grass there is.  Yes, including the kind you're probably thinking about.  I never understood why smoking that stuff is so much fun when all it ever did for me was cause projectile vomiting.  Peace out.

Monday, September 3, 2018

You Can't Do That On Television


I hope it's okay to get your shit together the day before you die, because I think it's going to take me about that long.  There's all this stuff I'm supposed to be doing every day that I'm not doing.  Reading from the Big Book (that's Alcoholics Anonymous, not the Bible, in case you were wondering).  Writing stuff in my journal. Working on The Book (still not the Bible; just the book I'm working on).  Meditating.  Household chores.  Cat cuddling/paper ball tossing/feather toy flinging.  Honestly, adulthood is like a to-do list just never ends.  I get to the meditating most days, but the rest of it doesn't seem to happen very often.  Most days, when I walk in the door, I'm all up for sitting down to dinner, looking at my cell phone for a bit, then going the hell to bed. (Well, I get up at 4:30, so…)  

Apart from baseball, I'm trying to think when I last even sat down and watched a TV show.  Unless you count "The Dead Files," the haunted house show that Joan is crazy about and that puts me right to sleep.  See above re: I get up at 4:30. 

And it's too bad, too, because suddenly there are a LOT of good TV shows out there.  Once Netflix and Hulu started cranking out their own content, the gloves suddenly came off and everybody was making good shows. We got shows about music producers and we got shows about hair stylists.  We got "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" (again) and we got shows about what happens after you die (that aren't documentaries).  For a second there we even had a show about Van Helsing, but I think we can write that one off without too many regrets.

And in the middle of all this, we got "The Handmaid's Tale," and honey, this show is doing for television what "The Hunger Games" did for YA fiction.  If you thought it couldn't be done on television, "The Handmaid's Tale" has done it.  And I'm not just talking about sex and violence (yawn, how too too passe, dear).  I'm talking about subject matter that you couldn't get on TV before now.  This show is way beyond cutting edge. It's maybe 20 years ahead of where we are now.  (Maybe even in real life.)  Oh, and it also won a pile of Emmys, including a Best Actress nod for Elisabeth Moss. 

So why aren't I watching it, you ask.

Well.  That's kind of hard to explain. 

I watched the first season.  For the most part I watched it 20 minutes at a time, before bed, while falling asleep, but watch it I did.   Joan didn't like it so it never really graced the screen of the TV in the living room, but it looked just fine on a tablet.  (If you ever watch this show, keep an eye on the colors.  They mean different things. There's a lot of red in this show.  Lots of deep green, too.  Interesting.)  And it was riveting television. I mean it was edge-of-your-seat, nail-bitingly tense watching.  Even if you've read the book and you know what happened, you don't know what happened, because a TV show is a whole different universe and Just Because It Ended That Way In The Book Doesn't Mean It'll End That Way On TV. 

In case you've been hiding under a rock and you don't know jack about "The Handmaid's Tale," the story takes place in the near future.  There's been a war, the United States no longer exists, and most of the northern East Coast has been turned into something called the Republic of Gilead.  The birth rate is dropping precipitously all over the world; only one in every five pregnancies results in a live birth, and that's even assuming you can get pregnant in the first place.  There's no birth control, no abortion, no morning after pill, nothing like that--and the population rate is still dropping.  So the government of Gilead is hunting down all the women who have proven that they're fertile (previous pregnancies, an actual kid, etc.)  and turning them into handmaids--women who have babies for the elite households.  Doesn't matter if you had a job, husband, kids, family beforehand; if you're fertile, you're now a handmaid and your job is now to have babies.  Oh, and your children are taken away and raised by other people.  Gilead comes up with a religious explanation for how this is all okay, but they don't really need one; they're doing it because they can.  And because they're desperate. Something or other about the danger of the human race going extinct trumping individual rights.

And it's good.  As I mentioned, it's riveting.  But the whole second season is out and I haven't watched any of it. And I'm probably not going to, at least not for a while.

I blame Donald Trump.  

In all seriousness, I'm not supposed to be watching the news. The doctor even told me not to watch the news. He didn't specifically say anything about not going to news web sites, so I still do that sometimes, but without watching the news, I'm in a much better frame of mind. Because, frankly, all the news is bad.  And there's so much more of it than there used to be. Well, of course there is; something had to fill up all the news channels and Web sites and magazines that have been proliferating at a ridiculous rate since, oh, the advent of cable TV.  

I dunno about you, but I kind of like being in a better frame of mind.  It beats the heck out of the way I feel after I watch the news.  And the way I feel after watching "The Handmaid's Tale," as good as it is, is about the same, unfortunately.  It's a very hard show to watch.

This must be why parents don't want their children to watch horror movies.  (Though, personally, I think a lot of parents don't want their children to watch horror movies because they don't want to have a lot of conversations about man's inhumanity to man and what happens to us after we die with a nine-year-old. But I digress.)  In short, I'm trying to be an adult about this. And a Buddhist.  Precept Five is all about not consuming intoxicants, which includes certain TV programs and Web sites in addition to drugs and alcohol. (And gambling. In fact gambling is specifically mentioned.)

And, really, why would you want to consume something that's bad for you? You know, like heroin or cocaine or maybe lots of sugar. But people do. Fortunately for me,  it is just a TV show,  and I can stop consuming it by not going to a particular Web site. So that's easy.

NOBODY TELL ME WHAT HAPPENS. I still have this fond hope I can get back to it someday. And hopefully it won't jump the shark in the meantime, like "The X Files" did in season 4. Cheers!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

It Begins WIth A Cat.

As things often do in this life. Not just any cat, though; Uhura the Cat, a sleek, coal black female with bright green eyes.  I don't have a picture of her. (This is a stock photo.  It's pretty close though.) I wish I did; actually I have lots but they are all actual photos on paper, and if I have to try to get that scanner to come online even one more time I will probably pitch it out the window and leave it for the Jawas But anyway, she was a beautiful and very smart cat.  She lived with Joan, who had had her since she was a tiny kitten, and then, roughly about 1996, I came along.

Here's the thing.  I had just broken up with somebody, and in the breakup, the somebody stole my cat.  I was so thoroughly undone by the breakup and everything else that I not only swore off dating for life, I swore off cats. I would never have another cat. Forget it. I did not need that level of heartbreak and aggravation.

Then Joan moved in next door, and, well, we know how that ends.  And Joan came with Uhura the Cat.  And if Uhura the Cat hadn't liked me, well then, Joan wouldn't have had anything to do with me.  But Uhura did like me, and darn it, I liked her too.  It was hard not to like her. This was a cat where, if you picked her up and she decided she wanted down, she beeped you on the nose with her paw. I'm not kidding.  Sometimes she beeped you emphatically, as if to say, I want down now.  Other times she'd hover around your face with her paw.  Maybe I want down and maybe I don't.  Hm, I have to think about it.  Again, a very smart cat. With a sense of humor, no less.

Shortly after we bought our first house, the condo in San Diego, Uhura got sick with fibrosarcoma, a common cancer.  She had surgery and some chemotherapy (it doesn't make cats sick the way it does people).  It didn't cure her, since fibrosarcoma generally can't be cured, but it did buy her about six more months, during which she didn't know she was sick. Two days after she had the tumor removed, she tried to tear through the screen door to get at the orange cat that liked to lounge on our patio. Not until she quit eating and started coughing a lot in the last few days of her life did it become obvious she was really going to leave us. We had her put to sleep in December of 2000.

It wasn't the next day, but it was probably not very many days after that we woke up one morning and the house was too quiet.  Any house without a cat is too quiet.  We went out that afternoon and adopted Caesar and Chloe, a brother and sister pair, from a cat rescue service.  They were inseparable at first; then, once they realized they lived in a safe house with nice people, they decided they really didn't like each other all that much and spent much of their time at other ends of the house from each other.  Well, that was okay.  They were great cats.  They survived a flooring installation, an attic remodel, a move to Texas and (in Caesar's case) cancer at the age of five. And if you've ever been over here you probably met at least one of them, or maybe both of them.


One of our neighbors gave us a kitten (gee, thanks), with an eye problem. Eventually the eye had to be removed.  This was Sparrow the Cat, named after the infamous one-eyed "CaptainJack" Sparrow. Only, as it turned out in the second movie, he actually had two eyes; the eye patch was a prop.  So we'd named our cat after a bird for nothing.  Well, that was okay. Sparrow didn't know she was named after a bird.  She did fine without the eye, the only problem being that she'd sometimes jump for the feather toy and miss.  (Depth perception and all that.)

Caesar, our cancer survivor, came down with another case of it, as sometimes happens, and died at the mighty age of sixteen.  Not long after that, Joan found a kitten outside under a truck during a rainstorm.  She took the kitten to the vet, and the vet told her he could put her in with a litter of feral cats in the back but was Joan sure she didn't want to keep her? She was very sweet.  And so we met Artemis.  Boy, was Chloe less than happy.  She was sixteen herself by then, and not impressed with the pipsqueak.  But Sparrow liked her, and put up with having her tail pounced on and her ears chewed on and, once in a while, being the victim of a flying leap from the other side of the room.

Sparrow developed a neurological problem and lost the use of her  back legs.  Being unable to walk is a deal breaker for a cat, so we had her put to sleep at the age of twelve. Then it was just Chloe and Artemis, at least until last week when Chloe slipped out of the world at the super-advanced age of eighteen.  And a few mornings later, Joan and I woke up (with Artemis; Artemis is fine) and realized it was still way too quiet in the house.

Meet Grayson, our new handsome boy.

It all comes back to Uhura the Cat. Without Uhura, there wouldn't have been Chloe and Caesar, and without them, we wouldn't have met any of the other fine felines we've been so lucky to have. I don't know if I'll make it to the age of eighteen in cat years (around ninety-five, we think), but even if I do, I will still have a cat.  Can't live without a cat. Can't write without a cat, for one thing; if you don't have a cat, you don't have anybody to curl up on a fresh pile of pages from the printer, so how do you know if they are any good?

Thursday, July 5, 2018

These Kids Today...


I think I've told you guys that I have a rather chequered past when it comes to work.  I mean, let's just say I don't have a stellar resume dating back to the early nineties with only three jobs on it showing a steady progression toward higher and higher levels of management.  In fact, my resume is a collection of short stories, some by Jodi Picoult but the vast majority penned by either Douglas Adams or Stephen King (or his son Joe Hill, who is wickedly good, maybe even better than his dad, just in case you've never tried him out).  I have had some seriously weird working experiences, in other words.

Actually, some of the better stories aren't even on there.  One of the places I worked is not on my resume because I'm embarrassed to admit I ever worked there, even for a brief time.  The first day, I walked in and they handed me three Motions for Sanctions to which our client had to respond.  They stemmed from a thing called discovery, which you might have heard of.  Everybody in a lawsuit has to participate in discovery.  Them's the rules. If you don't respond to discovery questions, or if you respond badly and don't give any information, the other side will file a motion to compel you to respond. But that's not what a motion for sanctions is.  A motion for sanctions means the other side has *already* filed a Motion to Compel, got an order requiring you to respond, and you still didn't respond, and so now the other side is asking the Court to fine you, usually for thousands of dollars, to say nothing of disobeying a Court order, which is a Really Bad Idea.  And they handed me three of these things.  In one day.  If I'd have been smart, I would have turned around and walked out right then.

In fact, I am smart.  I'm just also stubborn.  I was going to Make This Work, by God, at least until it became so obviously impossible that even I got the message.  Besides, being unemployed kind of sucks, and if it's the kind of unemployment that doesn't even come with small checks from the state of Texas, it sucks even more.  Well, I don't know.  Maybe some folks like rolling funds out of their 401k.  Or selling their possessions, or--whatever.  Myself, though, I like having a job.  I can't stand being in the house alone with nothing to do.  It. Drives. Me. Crazy.  Yes, I know I could probably write a book (and did one time, while incredibly manic; fifty pages in less than eighteen hours, and Joan finally had to pry me away from the computer and take me  to a movie.)  But I prefer writing books in off hours. There's also that thing about a paycheck coming in on a semi-regular basis that I've grown rather fond of.

Anyway.  I was recently out of a job in a weird way, for about two weeks.  It all started when the place I was working started advertising my position on public job boards (!).  Not only were they looking to replace me, they were going to pay that replacement more than I was making, which, as far as I'm concerned, is a fine genteel way of telling you to fuck off and  go to hell at the same time.  And, I mean I guess I could have had a big confrontation with the manager or something, but I'm not that confrontational a person and besides, there wasn't any point in wasting anything else, including breath, on this position.  Oddly enough, the guy I used to work for who I'd left for this job I was now leaving called me up and said he was slammed and needed extra help.  So off I went to be the extra help.  In between and around I went on some job interviews, and one company said they were going to hire me but kind of never actually did. Another one said they had to get approval from their head office to hire me but could I start right away, whenever that happened? People, you don't need to be this flexible. I promise, you don't.  

So I worked for the former boss and I ran around on job interviews, and in between there I think I did get an unemployment check but it was pretty negligible.  Then the former boss offered me my job back, with a raise, and said he'd fix all the stuff that was wrong. Unfortunately, he A. couldn't afford me and B. wasn't really able to fix the things that were wrong, because I'd been gone for five months and they were still wrong and besides, Joan would have killed me.  She hated it when I was working there and I couldn't imagine how to tell her I'd just accepted my old job back.  

And then, out of the blue, one of the companies I'd interviewed with called me and said they needed somebody to start tomorrow, at a law firm that was sort of the exact parallel opposite of what I was actually looking for.  They caught me at the right time on the right day.  I said I'd do it and it actually hasn't been bad at all.  The pay is very good, the benefits are nonexistent because it's a contract position, but I have health insurance through Joan, so that's taken care of.  And it's true that a contract position can theoretically end at any time, but here's a news flash, folks: Any Job Can End At Any Time.  There is no such thing as job security.  I'm not sure there ever was.  Well, maybe for a while, in the 50s and 60s, for white people (specifically, white male people).  You would think that if you showed up every day, neatly dressed and ready to work, and you did a good job, you could stay there as long as you wanted to. But no. 

I keep hearing that "these millenials," which is I guess the equivalent of "these kids today", like to job hop.  They'll stay at a job for two or three years, or as long as it's fun, and then move on.   And people my age roll my eyes about this and explain, in exasperated tones, why having three jobs on your resume since the mid-1990s and moving steadily up the ranks of management is the correct way to do this career thing.  If you ask me, people my age just want something to feel superior about because the reality of it is, some of the people I know have been through a lot of jobs. People move.  People get laid off, companies decide to shut down, and sometimes you get blamed for something that isn't your fault, for which you have proof in fact, but you get fired anyway.  So I'd suggest to the hiring managers of the planet that they quit worrying about how long somebody's held a job and worry instead by what they've learned. Because honestly, there's no way to learn things faster than starting a new job. Anymore, there's no training, nobody you can follow around for a few days.  Nope.  There's nothing in the budget for that. Most of the time they just throw you right in.

Okay, one more job related story and then I'm out of here.  I was working at a public law library.  We had, shall we say, some interesting clientele, as well as lawyers and judges and stuff.  There was this one guy in particular who told me the same story every time he came in.  He said that he'd lived in a small town that had been the staging area for some tests of an experimental CIA mind control nerve gas that caused everyone in the town to forget that any of this had ever happened.  He wanted to file a Freedom of Information Act to find out more about this, but the problem was he couldn't remember the name of the town (on account of the nerve gas, you understand).  I. Am. Not. Making. This. Up.  The guy came in every month, told me the same story, and every month I took him back to the Freedom of Information Act section so he could look up how to file a Freedom of Information Act request.  This went on for four years.  And four years is an eternity in CIA mind control research.

Anyway, y'all take care and stay gainfully employed.  And if the CIA ever comes to your town, write down the name of the town  so you don't forget it.  Cheers!                    

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Epic Flood

My sister was here last weekend and she reminded me that I hadn't told y'all about the epic flood.  (And she said lots of other things, too, and we went to the zoo and the Dallas World Aquarium, and had dinner with some friends and stuff, but anyway):  It all started, as these things often do, at two o'clock in the morning.  I woke up to hear a tremendous crash, which Joan apparently slept right through.  And as it goes when one has cats that are primarily nocturnal, I lay there listening for another crash before deciding on whether or not to get up.  No subsequent crashes followed, so I went back to sleep.  I mean, I figured somebody had just knocked some precious knickknack off a shelf and broken it or something, and if that was the case there'd be a mess to clean up, and I always deal with messes better after a decent night's sleep.  I don't know about y'all. 

Anyway, the next morning I got up (and two innocent-looking cats, lying at the foot of the bed, also got up).  I headed into the kitchen and put my stockinged foot down in an enormous puddle of water.  Lights, please. Ah, there we are.  Yes, it appeared that the entire kitchen was flooded to a depth of about an inch, which, in our kitchen anyway, is a lot of water.  No idea where it was coming from or such, but it did appear to have stopped. Which was good.  If it had gone on it might have filled up the entire house. 

So Joan got up and brought many towels.  This was an eight-towel job, including wringing some of them out and going back for more.  I mean it was really a mess.  And the tremendous crash I'd heard?  Well, that was the younger cat apparently trying to climb a chair in the middle of the night to get away from the floodwaters and bringing it and herself down on the floor and right into the cat food bowls. Which spilled everywhere,  making cat food soup.  And in the midst of the cat food soup were the three bras which had been hanging on the chair drying.  They, uh, weren't dry anymore.  They were soaked in cat food soup.  And kind of weren't wearable, at least not before serious washing went on.

At this point, the only thing more important than determining the source of the water became the quest for a decent day's lingerie.  I was going to wear one of those bras to work, thank you very much.  I have only one other and it was missing a hook.  So while I was hunting all over the kitchen for suspicious wet things to blame for the cat food soup, Joan was executing an emergency lingerie repair so I'd have something to wear to work. 

At about 7:30, our normal time of departure, Joan finished the emergency lingerie repair right about the same time I discovered the source of the leak.  The dishwasher. Aha, now we could call a plumber.  The plumber couldn't come until the next day.  So, the wet towels went into the washing machine and the cat food bowls got refilled and I got dressed and then we headed off to work, only like 15 or 20 minutes late. Yay, go us.  But don't think we're superheroes or anything. We totally stopped at McDonalds for breakfast and coffee.

Anyway, the dishwasher guy told us to have funeral services for it, and so we no longer have a dishwasher. Well, we have a dishwasher but it can't be used because of its potential to cause epic floods.  (Hey, on the plus side that was soapy water all over the floor. So at least the floor got washed.) We're doing the dishes by hand.  Kind of like in the old days when your cell phone screen was lit by candlelight and the Internet was all in pencil.  There's some possibility that we can catch a post-Memorial Day sale and still get one at a decent price.  Otherwise we're stuck with the rubber gloves for a while.  (And I have to wear rubber gloves, even though they make me clumsy, because otherwise my hands break out from the dish soap.).  Number of glasses broken so far: 3.  (Hand washing is rough on glasses.)

So that's the story of the epic flood and the cat food soup.  I mean, I guess it could have been worse.  We could have had wet cats.  Cheers!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

So How's The Class Going, You Ask

Or maybe you don't, but I'm going to tell you anyway.  It has gotten a lot better since I got my mitts on this portable keyboard here, which now clicks into my tablet and basically means I no longer have to haul my laptop around.  Except maybe for meetings.  The keyboard is by Arteck and it was all of about $20 bucks from Amazon and I can't even tell you how much easier it's made everything.  I'm typing on it now, in fact, in my favorite restaurant, Afrah, in the 20 or so minutes I have before I take off for my Meditation Group (TM).  (It's like church. Only quieter.)  

Anyway, I'm in what should be the third week but is actually the second week of the writing exercises in the book, "90 Days To Your Novel" by Sarah Domet (accept no imitations.) You're probably going to be mildly appalled to hear this, but the actual novel writing hasn't even started yet. We've been doing writing exercises this whole time. Now, I am no big fan of exercise of any kind (except for swimming and lifting weights and bicycling and once in a while I'll walk somewhere), but I'm actually really enjoying it.  Sitting down at the keyboard and being unable to write anything positively sucks. Sitting down at the keyboard and realizing I have something to do because I have to knock off the writing exercises on page 105 and 106 is actually kind of awesome.  One thing I was Not Doing before all this started was making time to sit down and write.  And I mean, yes, there's the Very Demanding Job and the Chauffer Duties and the Household that I'm supposed to keep running and two Cats that I need to make happy, but I just wasn't using my spare minutes very well.  I blame baseball season.  Luckily, the Rangers are tanking.  

The class meets in the basement of somebody's apartment building, which happens to be right across the street from where Joan works. So she Rollators over there and meets me, and does cross stitch while the rest of us (there are, I think, about nine people; we'll see how many show up this Friday) talk literary things. And writing exercises.  And one of the things I've figured out is that I might only think I know what I'm doing.  Seriously.  It's entirely possible I've been writing stuff for close on thirty years without the foggiest idea how any of it actually works.  

So I'm not sure when the writing exercises end and the manuscript writing actually starts, but it's completely untrue we're writing this thing in 90 days. It sounds like it's going to be a lot closer to 60 days or maybe even less than that.  Now, I did the National Novel Writing Month thing, which involved 50,000 words in November, and that, for the record, is crazy talk.  Of course, I once wrote fifty pages of Spellbinder in eighteen hours.  (And yes, I was manic as hell at the time, but That's Not The Point.)  So it can be done.  And hopefully, once we finally charge in there, I will have enough background put together to do a good job, or at least a passable job. (First drafts can suck. That's perfectly okay. Ask anybody.)  

In fact, so far my biggest problem has been which of the various works in progress I have strewn around my brain is going to be the winner of the Great 90 Day Novel Experiment.  Because I always have works in progress strewn around my brain, from a wild romp through alternative Dallas with Loki, Thor and living statues to the fifth part of the increasingly-inaccurately-named Mindbender trilogy.  But I think I've finally settled on one, and I think you're going to like it, and it's not my fault it's going to get lumped into that vague, nebulous category of YA fiction.  These days, you have a protagonist that's under thirty and the whole novel is suddenly YA fiction, even if it features blood, gore, gratuitous torture scenes and wild sex with men/women/fantasy critters.  After The Hunger Games, all bets were just off.  Kids killing kids was the last taboo in YA fiction, and Katniss Everdeen didn't just cross that line, she plowed right through that sucker with guns (oh, okay, arrows) blazing.  So anything goes.  Really.  Absolutely anything.  Next thing you know they'll have YA books about how to do your taxes and the finer points of the Microsoft Office suite. 

Anyway, I've settled on a project and I've done a bunch of exercises and I think I'm starting to write an outline, though the way these exercises work, they kind of sneak up on whatever thing it is you're doing, so you may not know you're writing an outline until you're halfway through it.  Now the only thing I need is for people to keep showing up to this class.  Every week we have a few less.  Of course, that's true of any school-type situation; I started paralegal school with 13 other wide-eyed and eager legal eagles to be, and there were only nine left when we graduated nine months later.  But it's also, I think, a function of the class not costing anything. Seriously, it should cost something.  If you pay money for a thing, you're a lot more likely to show up and see it through.  Or so some researchers said once, and I believe them.  Not, by the way, that I'm arguing for this particular class to cost something because the orange guy is still in the White House and the moon still goes through all its phases every twenty-eight days and I'm still broke, thank you very much. But it's something to think about.  

Anyway, that's the State of the Class.  Everything else kind of sucks at the moment, and I don't know if that's me, or the orange guy in the White House.  But hey, Memorial Day Weekend is coming. And so's my sister. So that's cool.