Tuesday, December 30, 2008

martyr, trader, thief

The title references the psychological profiles of the three people to whom my brother offered his breaded mushrooms at dinner tonight -- my mother refused entirely even though she loves breaded mushrooms, I traded him a cheese ball, and my father distracted him so that he could steal one off his plate. I think this is indicative of much more than just our mushroom acquisition methods!

Today was a v. good, v. lazy day; I spent most of the afternoon on the couch bellyaching to my mom about having to go back to work. I also did some last-minute packing, including the quart-sized jar of homemade sweet pickles that I'm hoping will not break in my checked luggage tomorrow. I successfully polished off the remnants of a container of Andersen Erickson french onion dip, and I'm looking forward to returning to the land of spinach tomorrow if only to save my arteries. Then, the four of us went out for dinner, where the breaded mushroom episode happened.

I would brood a bit about the differences between Iowa and California, but I already did that while talking to my dad about our various world travels and how strange and surreal it is to leave Iowa and end up somewhere completely different. Instead, I should really go to bed -- I sadly have to wake up at 3:15am so that I can leave the house by 4:15am to make it to Kansas City in time for my 9:50am flight. It really shouldn't take five and a half hours to get there and get on board the flight, but my brother has to run some errands on the way since he's leaving from Kansas City to go to Nashville for a wedding, so 4:15am it is. But since 3:15am is like 1:15am on the west coast, the likelihood that I'll make it to the new year is slim indeed. We shall see what happens -- but now it's time for bed!

Monday, December 29, 2008

if you don't, well honey then you don't

I have v. little of interest to report today. I woke up late, messed around on the internet, showered, and then ate lunch -- it was my second-to-last day to have Andersen Erickson french onion dip, so I made the most of it. My grandmother showed up for a bit in the afternoon, sadly asking me the exact same questions she asks me every time she sees me ("when are you leaving? are you coming home for Aunt Becky's wedding? have you found a publisher for your book? how much time do you spend at work? etc., etc."). I realize, given my lack of patience with such things even though I feel horrible about it afterwards, that I am likely karmically condemning myself to future senility, but I had trouble remembering that in the moment.

However, I rebounded and spent the rest of the afternoon packing up my clothes and my Christmas gifts for Wednesday's flight back to California. Then, Katie would be happy to know that my mother made ham and bean soup for supper -- Katie has the mistaken impression that ham and bean soup is the only thing we eat, but we only have it the couple of times per year that my mother bakes a ham for a large family gathering, since the soup requires the leftover ham bone to make it delicious. And it was delicious -- for all of us except my brother, who hates the stuff and so chose to eat leftover chicken and noodles.

The only real thing of interest was that I signed up for a creative writing class at Stanford for winter quarter. The class is very craft-heavy; it apparently involves reading the works of great writers and then attempting to emulate and learn through their style in the writing assignments. It's only six weeks, but it's unfortunately on Saturday mornings, adding to my weekly commute. However, I get entrance to the library for the quarter, and so I think I'll likely go to the class in the mornings, and then spend the afternoon reading and researching the Regency period in the Stanford library during the afternoons. Yay.

Okay, definitely time for bed -- there's a lot I need to accomplish tomorrow if I'm going to be ready to leave on Wednesday! Not that I will be ready to leave, but I at least need to make sure that all my stuff makes it to California with me. Goodnight!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Scenes From Iowa, Part Three














Ice-covered trees along what used to be our fencerow; you don't need fence when you convert a field into a yard.














My favorite tree anywhere in our north, south, or back yards -- the south yard is mostly devoid of trees, but this one is gorgeous in summer and winter.

Scenes From Iowa, Part Two














Our Christmas Day dinner: prime rib, baked potato (with lots of my favorite Andersen Erickson French Onion sour cream), green beans, homemade roll, and spinach salad (that's the mayo- and cheese-covered blob of deliciousness on the lower right).


















Ice on one of the branches in our front yard; the ice was even thicker a few days ago. This limb is hanging down vertically, likely after being taken out by last year's epic ice storm.














This is the end of our driveway, turning left (south) onto the gravel road that runs past our house.














Looking through our neighbor's 'gate' toward the cemetery where my family was and will be buried. The neighbor doesn't actually live by us; we can see the rotting remnants of a barn and a corncrib, but his house is in town.

Scenes From Iowa, Part One














From Thanksgiving -- the town Thanksgiving dinner in the Allerton Centennial Building














My father's chickens -- aren't they gorgeous? And if push comes to shove, they're totally edible!














My brother with his gift from Uncle Mark -- the Whomp It!














The view to our southeast when everything was frigid and covered in snow a few days ago.

pancho lost his band, you know...somewhere down in mexico

While eating brunch today (Amana bacon, blueberry muffins, and fried potatoes -- my father's specialty), my brother called out my father over the real lyrics to this Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard duet called "Pancho and Lefty". I never knew that that was the name of the song or that it was by Willie Nelson, but for the past twenty years, my father has occasionally sung "Pancho lost his band, you know...somewhere down in Mexico" to himself without ever continuing the song. It turns out that the real lyric is "Pancho met his match you know, on the deserts down in Mexico", and that it had absolutely nothing to do with Pancho Villa as dad always claimed. Sadness!

We recovered, though, and played a game of hearts in the afternoon, which my brother unfortunately won. Then, I did some shooting -- both in the gun sense and in the camera sense. I shot at some pop cans (you might say 'soda cans') with a couple of different handguns. My brother laughed at me when he saw me shoot the first gun with my ear protection around my neck and my sunglasses on top of my head -- but I forgot to put the ear protection on, and I made a conscious decision that I didn't want to ruin my expensive Bulgari sunglasses, particularly since they likely wouldn't have saved my eyes anyway. However, despite my poor decision-making skills, I still hit the targets several times, which made me happy. Then, I wandered around the front yard and took some pictures of the ice-covered landscape.

I spent the rest of the afternoon watching some documentary on public television with my mom while she made delicious homemade chicken and noodles. The documentary followed a scientist tracing the exodus of early humans out of Africa to Australia, Asia, Europe, and the Americas in an attempt to document our 'family tree.' I should be barred from ever watching such shows; he was in the wilds of Arctic Circle Siberia with some miserable-looking nomadic reindeer herders, and all I could think was "I really want to go there!" While I had my doubts about some of his theories, I quite enjoyed it, although my brother came up with the title I would use if I filmed a similar show: "Cousin Fuckers: A Journey" (this came from a discussion about how the human population got down to a couple of bottlenecks of extremely limited population over the millennia, forcing us to go back to fucking our cousins until the population grew again, which we thought would be a good way to explain in layman's terms some of the theories currently on the table about evolution and migration).

I only have two more days left in Iowa, which makes me sad, so I will go to bed in an effort to make sure I wake up early enough tomorrow to enjoy it. Goodnight!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume breathes a life of gathering gloom

Tonight I left the house for the second time in the nine days (third time if you count the time I walked out to visit my father's chickens). Only a momentous occasion could drag me out into the wilds of my hometown; in this case, it was the opportunity to have dinner with Katie, who was in town for one day only and so lured me out into the treacherous conditions. It snowed most of the evening, after some truly strange weather; I don't know that I've ever seen a day before in which we had thunderstorms in the morning, a winter weather advisory and a flash flood watch in the afternoon, and snow in the evening.

But Katie was, as always, totally worth it. My family met up with her, her husband, and her father at one of the only restaurants in town, and it was surprisingly packed given how bad the weather was. So we had a good, albeit brief, time catching up with each other. She gave me a lovely picture frame for Christmas, but this was a tease because I'm still waiting to see the photos from her wedding two years ago and hoped that the frame contained one of the photos. I was still appreciative, of course -- and I'm hoping to visit her in Dallas sometime in the next couple of months, so perhaps I'll be able to raid her apartment and find a photo myself.

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful. My brother and I watched a travel show on public television and decided that we should put together a travel show -- either we will do one in which we do reenactments of various historical events in different destinations and play all the characters ourselves, or we will do one in which we pretend to go to various dangerous vacation destinations and hope that no one will be able to call us out on the fact that it was actually filmed in the US. Actually, I think we watched that today -- the days are kind of starting to blend together. But I know that the four of us spent the afternoon playing a couple of ill-fated games of canasta, since we only have three days left before I go back to California :( I'm not ready to leave and I'm not ready to go back to work, but it will be nice to be someplace that doesn't dump ice on you at any given opportunity.

I spent some more quality time with my journal tonight; I'm madly brainstorming Madeleine and Ferguson's story, and right now my ideas are totally outlandish. We'll see if I keep the outlandishness -- but right now I need to go to bed so that I can replenish my 'well of creativity'. Goodnight!

Friday, December 26, 2008

the code of the ocean

I'm getting a lot of writing practice in -- I wrote several pages in my journal today, and I also just finished another post for zee romance blog. If I'm going to start writing book number two while keeping up with both blogs, I'm going to have to cut some mindless internet surfing out of my day and shift it into writing time instead.

Today was v. lazy. I stayed up until after two a.m. yesterday reading THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman, before deciding that I would enjoy the ending more if I got some sleep before reading it. I was right; while I hit the snooze button for an hour this morning because I had no real need to get up, I finally dragged myself upstairs, made a cup of tea, and finished the book. It was absolutely lovely, and I highly recommend it -- while it's more young-adult than, say, AMERICAN GODS or NEVERWHERE, the writing is still lush, the story is still highly imaginative, and the characters are still a weird blend of absurd and heartrending. I'll write more on zee romance blog in a few days, so I'll leave it at that.

I spent the afternoon doing nothing, unless you count a two-hour nap as something. Then I wrote in my journal for awhile before the family decided that we should all stop taking alternating naps and do something together. Some of us were not in the mood to play games, so we ended up watching FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL. It was totally awesome, knee-deep in my favorite type of bizarre humor (particularly the weird British rocker boyfriend and the main character's Dracula-themed, puppet-performed rock opera musical). After the movie, I reverted to adulthood for half an hour to take care of my finances, then spent some more quality time journaling in an attempt to brainstorm some of the plot arcs for book number two.

I'm getting antsy to start writing again -- 2009 is just days away, and I intend to start writing book number two in January, even as I restart the process of querying and being rejected by agents for book number one. But I'm excited about book number two, and feel like I've learned so much from book number one that number two will be even better. But time will tell -- and I should go to bed, so that I can spend some more quality time with the family tomorrow. Only four days left in Iowa :( And then it's back to my regularly-scheduled city life, where I will attempt to reprioritize so that I can have ample time for writing over the next few months. Goodnight!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

elevator, elevate...take me home

Merry Christmas, everyone! I had an absolutely delightful day, even if I had to wake up at seven a.m. to kick it off. Of course, the eastern view was gorgeous as I stood in the kitchen trying to inject some caffeine into my bloodstream; the sun came up over the hills to the east, streaks of red and gold warming the snow-covered landscape and highlighting a deer walking across the frozen pond. 'Twas truly idyllic in a way that the sirens screaming down Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco can never achieve.

We opened packages and all received excellent gifts that no one else in the family would want. My father got a pair of high-powered binoculars. My mother got some gardening supplies that she will force my father to share with her come springtime (lucky man). My brother got, among other things, a gigantic set of wrenches that are longer than my arms and twice as heavy. And I received books -- lovely, gorgeous books that I now really want to read despite my fatigue. I shall likely blog about them as I read them on zee romance blog; if you like just hearing about my day, you'll continue to get content here ad infinitum, but anything remotely literary is moving to zee romance blog forthwith.

But two of the books were cookbooks - Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics and the Culinary Institute of America's Book of Soups. I also got some fun kitchen gadgets, as well as a heating pad (to help with the destruction that my two-hour commute is wreaking on my back) and a teapot warmer. My brother scoffed at the fact that my Christmas gifts were more suitable for an old person than a twenty-seven-year-old, but I'm quite happy with what I got!

The rest of the day was wonderful. I took a nap after we were done opening packages, then managed to clean myself up in time for brunch. Gram came out to eat with us, and we had breakfast casserole (with farm-fresh eggs, of course), cinnamon rolls, and ambrosia. Then we all watched Bruce Almighty, the Jim Carrey movie in which Jim Carrey gets God's powers -- perhaps a strange choice, but my father *loves* that movie and so got it in his stocking from Santa this year. After that, we hung around waiting until we were hungry enough to eat again -- for supper, we had an absolutely perfect prime rib, baked potatoes, green beans, spinach salad (obviously not a fresh spinach and balsamic vinaigrette salad; think frozen spinach, hardboiled eggs, cheese, mayo, and some other ingredients I can't divulge for fear of having my mom put a hit on me), and homemade rolls. Mmmmmmmmm. I have a picture, but my camera's upstairs, so you'll have to wait to see the perfect Midwestern feast until I can upload my pics.

It's time for bed, and I'll be serenaded to sleep by the sounds of sheets of ice cracking outside my window -- it's above freezing for the first time since before I got home, and it rained/sleeted tonight, so the thick ice covering everything is starting to melt. I suppose this is a good thing, but I'm sad that the winter wonderland will turn to dreary mud. I hope you had a lovely, v. merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

this river is wild

I should really go to bed; even though the youngest person in the house is twenty-three years old, we still have to get up early on Christmas morning to discover what Santa has brought for us. While my parents have stopped hiding Easter eggs and waking us up to make us find them (likely only because we usually aren't home at Easter -- and Aunt Becky did it this year), we still have to get up early to open packages. Even though I threatened to break off my brother's fingers if he knocks on my door (did you know I'm not a morning person?), I should set my alarm so that I can put my contacts in and brush my teeth before participating in our Christmas festivities.

We already had Christmas festivities again today; Christmas Eve afternoon is the usual time for us to celebrate Christmas with my sister and her kids. They came over for a late lunch (ham, baked beans, and scalloped potatoes -- mmm), and then we opened packages. It's nice to still have some kids in the family, although these particular kids are getting too old for toys. They aren't too old to be subjected to books, though, which is my favorite gift to give -- even if it isn't their favorite gift to receive, since Zane expressed gratitude that Michael shopped for him, which resulted in Zane receiving tools rather than books. Whatever, I'm just trying to do whatever I can to help the publishing industry survive long enough to publish me!

Speaking of publishing, I wrote a post on zee romance blog about ebook readers; three days in a row of romance blog posting is a good thing! But now, it's time for bed. Merry Christmas Eve!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

we three kings of orient are

I would love to be a king of the orient. Sadly, I am merely a middle manager in a mainstream tech company, with delusions of becoming a successful novelist. I shall persevere, though, even if it means continuing to feel like I have two full-time jobs until one of them is either so successful or so all-consuming that I quit the other one.

I'm committing to writing more frequently in the romance blog (sararamsey.blogspot.com). Or at least, I've done it for the past two days; we'll see how long I can continue, but it's important to start building my online presence while I'm beginning the long slog towards publication. It seems a little strange to spend more time building an online presence for a pseudonymous persona than I do on genuine personal online interaction with my real friends -- but my real friends can't sell my novel, so my capitalist heart says c'est la vie. That doesn't mean that I intend to cut my real friends off (I'm actually setting a goal for the new year to either stay in touch with the people I'm still in touch with, or get back into touch with the people I see/talk to rarely), but it will likely happen over email or coffee (depending on location) rather than the ubiquitous Facebook.

I had a good day in the heartland. I finished wrapping some more presents, read most of the book on pitching to agents (more on that on the romance blog in the next couple of days), and escaped the house for an hour to run an errand with my father. While it was warmer today (~30), it still didn't get above freezing, and the two inches of snow we got last night merely added some padding to the thick layer of ice that still covers the roads. We're supposed to get more snow tonight, so we shall definitely have a lovely white Christmas. I must say that, while I wish it were a bit less icy, I'm glad that there's so much snow -- in a freezing winter wonderland, abandoned farmhouses and bleak landscapes look picturesque rather than depressing, and you can revel in the charm for a few moments before you remember that your homeland is rotting away.

But tonight is not a night for melancholy; it's the night before Christmas Eve! Merry almost Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

you know your team is morally bankrupt when sara is the nice cop

The title of the post is a quote from my brother; it is a readily-acknowledged fact in my family that I am coldhearted and ruthless, although I don't really know where they got that from. In this case Michael was referring to me and my father's power combo in this evening's canasta festivities; while the game that we carried over and finished from last night was really close, my dad and I smoked my mom and brother in the second game. Hopefully we'll play again and my mom/brother will have some better luck with their cards -- winning is fun, but it's substantially more fun when it's at least a little bit difficult to do so.

The only real story of interest from today is so disgustingly foul that I can't share it here for fear of alienating my sheltered city readership. Suffice it to say that it relates to my grandmother's bathroom and the lengths my father had to go to in order to repair it. But, Gram is home and in possession of a working toilet, my family is current on their hepatitis shots and so should be safe, and we shall never speak of this again.

I intended to go outside today, but was warned against it by my dad -- he said that I wouldn't make it more than ten feet, given that everything is a solid sheet of ice. I wanted to race my brother to see which of us could get farther before falling, but he has ice cleats and so had too much of an unfair advantage. We're supposed to get another 3-5" of snow tonight -- but the temperature made it up to eight degrees today! Lovely!

Okay, no more yakking. Luckily I'm done with my Christmas wrapping, so I can spend some quality time tomorrow either reading up on agent query letters or working on my web presence. Goodnight!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

stroopwafels, lasagna, and waaaay too many wamplers

The Wampler family fun continued today with an early Christmas celebration with my father's side of the family. We were supposed to have dinner and presents at my grandmother's house, but she had a problem with her sewer and so we moved the Christmas festivities up here instead. This was likely a good thing, since we have more space and better heating, but I believe that this is the first year that we've ever done Wampler family Christmas somewhere other than Gram's house (except for the year we did it in the hospital boardroom because Granddad was sick). Well, and the year that my parents and my visiting Aunt Becky got to watch me and my brother put on a totally awesome Christmas program in Ukraine -- which was also a year to remember since I got pepperoni, Mountain Dew, and a variety of other strange items for Christmas that I appreciated more than virtually any other gift I've ever gotten. Ah, the memories.

Anyway, we opened presents before eating dinner (aka lunch). I received some lovely presents, including a necklace made with ancient Byzantine glass, a Stanford sweatshirt and some other cardinal paraphernalia, an artistically-handmade blank book, and an avocado slicer. It was truly a strange and wondrous mishmash of stuff. We then ate our traditional Wampler family Christmas Eve supper as Sunday dinner: lasagna, garlic bread, layered lettuce, and jello salad. It's weird that we've always eaten lasagna, since we actually have absolutely no Italian ancestry, but I love the tradition. I also got to eat some stroopwafel, which Walter introduced me to when I visited him in Holland -- Aunt Becky's scandalous fiance was in the Netherlands on business and brought back a package of the wafer-thin waffles, which are filled with this caramel-y syrup. Mmmm.

I went outside for the first time in three days to visit Dad's chickens. Today was the coldest day in Iowa since 2000 (it never got above 0), and the windchill was apparently the worst since 1990. So despite my heavy jacket, gloves, and hat, I was still cold on the treacherous walk across the ice-encrusted snow to the chicken house. But the chickens are absolutely gorgeous, and my dad clearly loves them. That may sound weird, but my whole family is weird (as evidenced by the fact that my aunt, uncle, and scandalous fiance had a conversation about whether my brother should consider going into bear porn for a living), so raising chickens seems pretty normal by comparison.

The rest of the family sadly left mid-afternoon since there are blizzard warnings and wind chill warnings and all sorts of other weather problems going on across the state. My brother and I played a quick game of canasta, and then the four of us sat down to play -- but we had to stop so that my father could pick up my grandmother again and bring her back to our house to sleep over since her bathroom was out of commission. Then we watched some more fine CBS programming before deciding to call it a night.

I intend to use the next couple of days, while the rest of my family is supposedly working, to think about Book #2 and redesign my approach to finding an agent for Book #1. It's also likely that we'll play canasta, Monopoly, Rail Baron, or something else, but we shall see what happens. I hope all of you are having lovely (or at least warmer) weekends!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

you've got to know when to meld 'em

Today was a v. all-American day in the heartland. I began the day with some not-so-very-all-American sloth and laziness, but I paid the price for it -- just as I was about to get in the shower at one p.m., the power went out, which meant that I had to take my shower in the dark. The power flickered off and on all afternoon, which is likely to continue over the next couple of days. All of the power lines are still covered in the heavy ice that we got on Thursday, and with the winds picking up and snow starting to fall again, the ice-covered lines could easily snap. The ice isn't going away anytime soon, either, since it's currently below zero and tomorrow night's low temperature could get to -12. Brrrrr.

My dad and my brother spent some time this afternoon messing around with the generator that my father rented in preparation for this storm -- they rented a generator last year during the ice storm of the century, and were v. thankful since many people were out of power for several days. So far our power has been on since five or six p.m., but there's no telling what the next few days will bring.

But, for the most part, we all stayed indoors and participated in some v. family-oriented activities. Uncle Mark, Aunt Kathy, and my cousin Andrew (aka Drewbaby) came down, my grandmother came out, and we snacked incessantly before my dad made pizza for dinner. The name of the game today was canasta: a two-deck card game that we used to play all the time in Ukraine but really haven't played much since. It's really quite fun; it's part of the rummy family of card games, so you have to lay down triplets or more of the same face value (your initial lay-down is called the "meld", hence the title of my post), eventually building up to a canasta of seven of a kind (either natural or "dirty", which uses wildcards to build the canasta). I ended up playing two and a half times, since we called the third game quits around 11pm so that the visitors could return to Gram's house for the night. While I'm hopeful that we have a game of Rail Baron in the future while I'm home for Christmas, I bet we'll play canasta again -- it's definitely less time-consuming than Rail Baron, but a good change of pace from hearts.

My parents, brother and I used to play a lot of games in Ukraine -- it was one of the only things we could do, since we couldn't understand any of the television programming and we were there before the days of the (user-friendly, >28k-modem-speed) internet. In fact, the only activities I remember us doing are playing card games, playing Monopoly, and watching each other play old-school computer games (a pastime with limited audience participation, particularly since my brother, father and I are susceptible to motion sickness and could only watch or play for a little bit before being out of commission). Oh, and trying to find edible food, and reading the same books over and over again, and listening to Voice of America radio when the cranes outside our building weren't parked in the position that would block our signal. Those were the days! It's no wonder we're all just a little bit strange...

I should really go to bed; I got my parents to watch an episode of "House" from 12-1am, which they loved, although they'll likely never see it again since it's not on CBS. Now I have to sleep, so that I can get up early to do some wrapping before going to Gram's for Christmas dinner. Goodnight!

Friday, December 19, 2008

the winner takes it all

Today was mostly a great day. I had a conference call at eleven a.m. and successfully set up a webcam for it so that I was able to VC into the office. I am usually adamant about not working while on vacation, but I needed to take care of the stuff being discussed on the call, and then I decided to clear out the remnants of my inbox and cross off the major things on my to-do list so that I can start 2009 with a relatively clean slate. That took a couple of hours in the afternoon, but now I'm totally free and don't intend to do any work at all for my employer for over two weeks. Yay.

I spent the remainder of the afternoon finishing up my Christmas cards; too bad it's so icy outside that it's difficult to drive, and our mailbox was so iced over last night that we couldn't open it. The ice isn't going to melt anytime soon -- it's supposed to get down to -4 on Sunday and -8 and Monday. If I don't freeze to death, the week promises to be fun; my father's siblings are coming down this weekend to celebrate Christmas early, and then we'll celebrate with my sister on Christmas Eve and just the four of us on Christmas Day. It will all be appropriately low-key and somber, given the grim economic outlook -- although my family doesn't really do low-key and somber well, as evidenced by how much we seem to like to talk about alcohol, sex, strange occurrences, etc. Or perhaps that's more of an indication about how every Wampler I've ever met seems genetically programmed to tell stories and try to one-up each other with little-known facts. Either way, it leads to a lot of entertainment, most of which is so strange and ridiculous that it's probably a good thing we live in the middle of nowhere.

My mother made a delicious supper (mushroom steak, baked potatoes, corn, and cottage cheese -- several food groups were missing, but the delicious one remained in higher concentrations), and then the four of us played a game of hearts. It was the first time I've won in at least a couple of years, and I did it by running the table twice. Naturally, I gloated just a little bit, but I expect to lose all future games of hearts, Rail Baron, canasta, etc. for the remainder of my time at home. Then we settled in to watch some fine CBS programming (1.5 episodes of "NUMB3RS", the news, some Letterman) before I decided to go to bed.

The only fly in the proverbial ointment was that I checked my work email tonight and found that, instead of giving us the Christmas bonus that they've given us for the past five Christmases that I've been employed there, they have instead chosen to give us all a new cellphone. Granted, my company launched a cellphone this year to quite a bit of fanfare, and I vaguely wanted one -- but I didn't want to switch to T-Mobile, and I just bought a freaking iPhone last week, locking myself into a freaking two-year contract. Now I have a $400 phone, which counts as part of my overall compensation for the year, and which my company has expressly forbidden me from reselling. Dammit. I know I sound incredibly spoiled, given the overall down nature of the economy and the pleasure that I should take in being employed -- but couldn't they assume that, as employees of a tech company in one of the most tech-savvy areas in the world, many of us would already have some sort of fancy, recently-purchased smartphone? Now I have two phones that don't work in Iowa, particularly since we don't have wireless in the house either, which turns both the iPhone and my company's phone into useless paperweights.

Okay, no more complaints, it's time for bed!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

livin' la vida loca

I made it home safely, despite the fact that the drive from Kansas City to my ancestral home took four and a half hours rather than two and a half hours due to the ridiculous ice storm going on in the midwest right now. My parents and brother picked me up, and rather than stopping to have dinner for my mother's birthday, we drove through a McDonald's so that we could keep on trucking. As a sign of how bad the ice was -- while we drove, the side-view mirrors accumulated five-inch icicles, and the antenna was nearly .75" wide from ice by the time we got home (after having been cleared once when we stopped for diesel halfway home).

However, we had an entertaining time nonetheless -- or at least Dad, Michael, and I did, since we spent the last couple of hours singing along poorly to the "90's at 9" satellite radio station. My poor mother didn't sing along, but I discovered something crucial about her -- you can sing for hours, you can tease other people in the car, you can (like my brother) tell a story about drinking a bottle of rum in a swimming, but you cannot, under any circumstances, make fun of Iowa public television's "CreateTV" programming, which she watches religiously for their gardening shows. Lesson learned!

Driving through an ice storm and singing along to "Livin' La Vida Loca" with your dad and brother is a surreal experience that I recommend to everyone. But, I made it home, and while this may have been nearly equivalent to last year in terms of treacherous driving conditions, I didn't lose my luggage and I didn't have to pay $200 to rent a car to get me out of Chicago, so I feel like it went blissfully by comparison. I can't wait to see what adventure my Christmas trip will provide next year -- I'm thinking I should take the train and see if it gets held up by the last of the great western train robbers. I'm sure one of them has been laying low for the past eight or nine decades, waiting to strike again.

Finally, double happy birthday wishes to my mother and to my Chandlord! Strange that the two people who have provided me with a place to sleep this month have birthdays on the same day...

the best care in the air

Midwest Airlines' motto is "The Best Care in the Air" - but they apparently have the worst care on the ground. As evidence, the check-in counter in San Francisco contains only two gate positions, which meant I had to wait in line almost an hour to check my luggage even though I'd checked into my flight and printed my boarding pass yesterday.

But, this is likely just the tip of the iceberg (for reals): my horoscope for today says:

"You may feel like a billiard ball today as you careen off one experience only to hit another. Your day won't likely unfold according to your plan or anyone else's. Instead, you must keep changing your agenda to accommodate the shifting circumstances. Letting go of concrete expectations can turn a difficult day into an exciting one that is filled with surprise."

It could be an adventure; apparently my father has already rented a generator for our house in case we end up without power like they did during last year's ice storm. So we'll have to see if they can make it to Kansas City to pick me up when there may be three-quarters of an inch of ice on the roads. Yay. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

i just want, i just want love

I'm all packed up and ready to go back to Iowa. Whether Iowa is ready to receive me is another story -- there is a chance of an ice storm tomorrow, which hopefully won't overly delay my flight into Kansas City, but may impede my parents' ability to pick me up.

But, if and when I get home, I'm looking forward to really relaxing for a couple of weeks. Even though I was just home a couple of weeks ago, the last three weeks have been ridiculously hectic. I'm feeling the need to get back to my roots -- or, at the very least, stop thinking about my corporate life and all the petty betrayals and economic worries that seem to be affecting everyone.

I'm also super excited to start refocusing on my romance writing. I intend to use the break to fully plot out book #2 (or at least as fully plot it as I can without writing the thing -- challenging, since I tend to not know what the characters are going to do until they do it). I also want to get ready to start aggressively querying agents in January, in the hopes that the post-holiday good cheer will a) make them more receptive to my work and b) make me less sensitive to their rejection.

Pete got me an awesome gift today -- a book of thirty postcards of romance novel covers. The artist who painted the covers is clearly incredibly talented. I took photos of three of my favorites:




















I love this montage: any book in which a riverboat and a mountain lion figure prominently is a winner. In fact, I read a book with a riverboat in it once; I wonder if there was a mountain lion...

















WTF is going on here?? Is the guy raising his hands to the heavens over the car the same guy who is facing right? Is he some sort of mild-mannered office man who turns into a race car god? How is any of this romantic?
















This one may be my favorite: a car accident AND a UFO sighting. Super hot!

I really hope that my cover turns out half as nice someday. But right now, it's time for bed!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

i could fall into the arms of anyone but you now

Today was generally excellent. It rained heavily throughout my commute, making me fifteen minutes late for my 7:30am meeting -- and so I decided to skip the whole thing and work instead, which was a key decision because it gave me over two uninterrupted work hours. Even though they ended up being interrupted by a fun/depressing conversation with my friend Joy, I managed to scrape the bottom of my email inbox -- I'm down to nineteen emails, and I haven't seen a number that low in weeks. It brightened my whole week, which is a rather sad and pathetic thing to say.

I had another bright spot -- Chandlord came for lunch, and it gave us a chance to catch up in a one-on-one format, sans the awful caterwauling we experienced from our fellow Rock Band players on Sunday. As usual, it was v. lowely to see her (and no, 'v. lowely' isn't a typo). While I adore living in her apartment, I would rather have her here, so hopefully we will live in the same general vicinity again someday! I also got to see Katrina for a few minutes, since she works in the same building as my favorite cafe, but I had to abandon them to their fun for another string of meetings.

I left work at 4:30, but by the time I got home and ran a couple of errands, I was too exhausted to rally and go to a bar for drinks with two of my work friends (Sarah and Shawn) who are moving to Singapore :( I feel lame, but I would have felt lamer if I fell asleep in a cab and got taken for a $70 tour of the city, so I think I made the right decision. And now, even though it's 9:30pm and my youth is slipping away from me, I'm going to go to bed -- I have another 8am meeting tomorrow that I can't be late for, so I should get some sleep.

But finally, I leave you with this picture that Katrina took of me and Adit at the holiday party on Friday. I was tipsy but not falling-down drunk -- and I always smile in photos, despite Adit's tendency to look too-cool-for-school:





Doesn't he look stylish? And for once, I feel like I *almost* held my own with him (almost).

Monday, December 15, 2008

you try to tell yourself the things you try to tell yourself to make yourself forget

Despite all the lessons that I learned about balance and finding my inner peace and all that crap this year, today was a complete failure in my workaholic recovery process. I had meetings straight from 8am to 4:30pm, answered email for an hour, had dinner with Terry from 5:30 to 6:45, and then had a meeting with someone in India from 7pm to 7:30pm. Since I have another meeting with India at 7:30am tomorrow, I really want to go to bed.

I really wish that I could completely stop caring about my job -- it would make my quest for balance easier. But while I've 'recovered' in the sense that I no longer work weekends and I rarely work nights, I still care waaaaaay too much, so that I spend much of my commute stewing about stuff. This might be good in some ways, since it gives me a chance to 'detoxify my left-hand column', to use the language of the management coaching firm we paid an obscene amount of money to teach us common-sense stuff wrapped up in more interesting words. Detoxifying my left-hand column involves transitioning stuff that belongs in the left-hand column of my darkest feelings and emotions into positive, action-oriented language that I can share externally in my right-hand column. So where my left-hand inner monologue may be "I hate you and this entire project," my right-hand outer dialogue might start with "This is an interesting approach, but have you considered x?" Too bad my left-hand column is way more entertaining than my right-hand column -- but my left-hand column also begrudgingly accepts the need for a paycheck and so defers to the right-hand column. But if I ever stop getting paid, watch out!

Anyway, I'm looking forward to Christmas and to a two-week period of detoxifying my left-hand column while eating a lot, hanging out with my family, and hopefully catching up on reading and starting to brainstorm Book Two. It will be an interesting experiment to see if my left-hand column becomes more or less toxic under the influence of an Iowa winter, since it was apparently ~7 degrees today. Ugh.

Okay, I could rant some more, but as I found out yesterday, apparently Katrina and Vidya both read every detail of my mundane "this is what I ate/bought/did today" posts, but skim my brooding "this is how I feel about life" posts. So in the interest of keeping up my readership, it's time for bed!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

return of the chandlord

Chandlord is currently sitting on my couch with me; we are recovering in the aftermath of the first annual Chandlord Festival that I hosted at my/our apartment tonight. Apparently the Chandlord Festival includes rituals such as creating a Mii for each person at the party, and performing really poorly while playing Rock Band. Before the party descended into complete aural hell, it was quite lovely -- Adit, Vidya and Katrina showed up within a short period of time and we hung out in a laid-back way, and then Oniel, Kathryn, Tom, Julie, Shari, and two of Shari's friends showed up separately two hours late. I made four pizzas, a greek salad, cookies, and lemon cake; the pizza and salad were in appropriate quantities, but as usual I went overboard on dessert, so hopefully Chandlord will take some home with her tomorrow!

So today was a lovely day! I v. much like my friends, and I tend to prefer social gatherings that revolve around hanging out and eating rather than those that involve alcohol, pounding music, and strangers. Granted, the music at my party was bad -- I tried to be culturally-inclusive by creating a Pandora mix of Christmas, Hannukah, and bhangra music, but it was just terrible. But all in all, it was a smashing success! And Chandlord will still be here when I get back from Christmas in Iowa, so we shall see each other again before she returns to the beast coast.

Okay, I have to be at work by eight tomorrow morning, which is going to come much too fast. Goodnight!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

king of wishful thinking

Tonight was my company's holiday party. I can barely type, due to the fact that someone on my team bought me a kamikaze shot shortly before the party ended -- but I had an excellent time. Adit was my date, which was v. lovely; he seemed to enjoy talking to Pete and Pete's fiancee Bridget, and so we had a good time. I met up with Pete and Bridget for a drink before the party, and then hung out with them off and on throughout the evening. Since Pete was part of the first invasion of Iraq while I was taking winter finals at Stanford, he has little patience for my complaints about the quality of parties, microkitchens, perks, etc., which is a good check and balance even if I'm annoyed that my 'war stories' can't compare to his actual war stories.

I must say, many things were different between tonight's party and the parties of yesteryear. For one, budgetary cutbacks were evident, since we each got one drink ticket (instead of an open bar) and there were cookies and plastic-wrapped candies as food instead of the lavish dinner spreads of yore. For another, I either directly or indirectly managed 50+ people at the party -- that's about 1 out of 20 employees there, or 1 out of 35 or 40 when you count guests. Since I sent out an email this morning suggesting that they remember that this is a work function, it would have been hypocritical of me to go over the top.

But, I survived, Adit survived, my team seems to have made it through unscathed, and Katrina successfully crashed the party before giving me a ride home. So, all is good! It's bedtime for me, though -- there's a lot to do this weekend if I'm going to make it home on Thursday. Goodnight!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

information travels faster in the modern age

I'm thoroughly exhausted and going to bed almost immediately. Despite that, today was good; nothing too eventful happened, but given how must I worked and how little I slept (as evidenced by the fact that I just typed 'sleeped') early this week, I still felt like taking a nap by 2pm. However, I persevered, and while both my work and personal inboxes are out of control, I decided to push it all until tomorrow.

The reason is because I have a bright, shiny new toy in the form of an iPhone. Only a week ago I had mentioned to Terry that I wasn't sure I wanted an iPhone anymore. But then my beloved crackberry's back cover jammed, and since the internet dies on it occasionally and can only be reset by popping the cover and moving the battery, this was catastrophic. After looking at phone and not really liking any of the normal ones, I decided to go with the iPhone.

So far I'm in love, and I have a snazzy pink silicone cover for it that amuses me. I can't text message quite as effectively because there is no physical keyboard, so I may have to stop being a road warrior and emailing while sitting in stop-and-go traffic, but other than that I really like it.

No more, though, it's definitely time for bed - I have to get some substantial stuff done tomorrow, but then I intend to leave early so that I can get home in time to pretty myself up for the holiday party tomorrow night. Yay! Since I have to send a "don't be 'that guy'" email to my 50-person team tomorrow, I can't get too rowdy at the party, but it should be fun nonetheless.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

and every word is nonsense but i understand

I'm v. glad that today is over. Today was my third pre-eight-am work start in a row, and given that I have an 8:30 meeting tomorrow, I really need to go to bed. But today went well -- the culmination of my bright/shiny (dull/tarnished) project was this morning, and my piece of it was a smashing success. I had to organize, introduce, and lead an exercise (in the mental sense, obviously, since no one would select me to lead calisthenics) with 200 somewhat senior people in my organization across six offices. It necessitated getting in around 7am so that I could print and staple 75 copies of something for the people sitting in my room, but I managed to be articulate, concise, and just witty enough without shocking the people who didn't know me well enough to understand my incredibly sarcastic sense of humor. The only time I almost lost my composure was when Alan, my former director, told me to stand up -- a reference to my shortness, since I was standing up but wasn't totally clearing the podium as well as most people, despite my heels. But that was entertaining rather than upsetting, so it was all good.

Anyway, it went v. well, and so the rest of the day was just a nice haze from the depleted adrenaline rush. After work, I had dinner with Dave (my manager, visiting from Ann Arbor for the week), then managed to make it home without falling asleep on the drive. Yesterday was similarly exhausting -- all day planning for the exercise today on top of doing my real job, plus showing up at seven a.m. for a meeting with some India managers who didn't bother to tell us that they had an office holiday and wouldn't come to the meeting, plus an evening 'margaritas and pie' gathering with my management team, plus another couple of hours prepping for the exercise after I got home from dinner last night. Bleh.

But, it's only a week until I go home for Christmas! And the weekend promises to be fun -- lots of holiday activities, with hopefully a bit of time to finish my shopping. But the only way I can make it home for Christmas is if I make it through the next week, so I should go to bed!

Monday, December 08, 2008

hey hey hey goodbye

You don't get any content tonight because I was at work by 8am this morning, left at 6:30, made dinner, and then worked until about fifteen minutes ago. I can't label this post 'recovering workaholic' because I have relapsed - I fell off the wagon headfirst into a big pile of work, mostly of the glass-shard-filled, tetanus-inducing variety. This is mostly because my formerly shiny project that I was so excited about a couple of months ago has turned out to be a tarnished trainwreck that must be done by Wednesday morning, in addition to a quarterly director update on Thursday, my manager's quarterly visit this week, another major project whose first phase culminates next week, and my departure for Iowa next Thursday. So don't expect anything too grand on ye olde blog for the next few days, since I need to get through all of this so that I can go home with a clear conscience, a happy heart, enough presents to satisfy my relatives, and enough breathing room to start brainstorming the next book in earnest.

I'd like to get 5.5 hours of sleep tonight, and since I have to be in the office for a seven a.m. meeting, that means going to bed right now. Goodnight!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

ukrainian bell carol

I'm still listening to Christmas music. Today was a Christmas preparation day -- I spent the whole day cleaning, shopping, and talking to my family about shopping. I was quite productive, but now I'm exhausted and I didn't do anything that I should have done for work. As a result, I'm going to go to bed now so that I can get up tomorrow in time to drag myself south for a day completely full of meetings.

I'm over half done with my Christmas shopping (by dollar amount, if not by number of packages), even though the physical shopping I did outside the apartment today ended up being all for me. I walked down to Union Square and spent a couple of hours in the mall and in the shops around the square. The economy is clearly taking a toll on the holiday shopping season. For one, even though there are only two more weekends left before Christmas, and even though Union Square is one of the major shopping destinations in the entire city, it didn't feel any more crowded than a summer weekday afternoon. I didn't have to stand in line to check out at Victoria's Secret, when normally a stop there in a normal December would have resulted in an agonizingly long line.

It's too bad I'm not in the market for clothes right now, though -- the sales were amazing in that "it must be the end of the world" kind of way. The reason I went shopping was to look for a dress for my company holiday party. I thought about wearing the dress from my senior prom, but even though it fits and I like it, it's perhaps a bit too formal and it's also ten years old, so perhaps it should retire. I ended up getting a cute dress that was originally priced at $185 for only $22 at Bloomingdale's. I also got a bathrobe, to replace my college bathrobe, at Victoria's Secret for $29.50 (marked down from $70), and a pair of black boots from Nine West for $43 (marked down from $119). It's crazy that I got a dress, a bathrobe, and a pair of boots for less than the original price of either the dress or the boots alone.

By the time I carried my purchases back to my apartment, the physical exhaustion from shopping and the guilty exhaustion from avoiding eye contact with the homeless people by averting my gaze through my overpriced Bulgari sunglasses threatened to derail the rest of the day. But, I persevered; I talked to my parents while cleaning my kitchen and bathroom, vacuumed, took care of my finances, and generally tidied up. I need to wash some towels, go grocery shopping, and do the rest of my Christmas shopping this week, but in general I'm in pretty good shape.

I hope you all had lovely Pearl Harbor anniversaries! Goodnight!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

i scoured your town completely aroused and making love to your memory

I go through social cycles; sometimes I am a complete hermit, while other times I am a social butterfly. I've been in hermit phase for several months -- I had an intense six-week butterfly period in January and February, then a four-month hermit period in Iowa, followed by another six-week butterfly period in July and August and a hermit phase from the end of the Olympics until now.

I hadn't realized until now, but it appears that my hermit:butterfly ratio is 4:1. I'd already committed to myself that I would be social from the beginning of December to sometime in early January, at which point I'll start working on the second book. So if you want to take advantage of my willingness to hang out, call me! Just make sure you're calling my California number, since it turns out that several people still have my Iowa cellphone and think that I hate them because I never got their messages.

Anyway, my butterfly status was why I didn't blog last night. I had a great day at work, despite meetings until five p.m. I went to the kitchen to get a drink and ran across Terry, Joy, and Natasha doing crafts in one of the conference rooms, using supplies left behind by Laura (the former director who would force me to craft with her). I ended up staying with them until ~7:30, although I didn't successfully make any cards. Then, as I was finally getting into the city, Adit called and asked if I wanted to see a movie.

We settled on "Milk," the movie about gay-rights activist and San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk, who was assassinated by another SF supervisor in 1978. The show we decided to see wasn't until 10:30, so we had dinner at the crepes place a couple of blocks from my building. The movie itself was good, but in retrospect we should have chosen something shorter and more light-hearted; I cried at the end, giving vent to my well-suppressed emotions, but given that the movie was over two hours long, I didn't get home until almost one a.m., which was unfortunate. I'm glad I saw it, though; I don't know much about San Francisco's history, even though I've lived in the area for nine years, and it was cool to see footage of streets and neighborhoods that I'm familiar with. And Sean Penn is a great actor, despite my general disagreement with his politics, so I give it a thumbs up (although perhaps not as enthusiastic a thumbs up as the person who told me to see it, since that might raise your expectations too high). It's very of-the-moment; Milk fought against a California proposition that would have forced the state to fire all homosexual teachers, and won his fight, but given the controversy over Prop 8 this year, the parallels to the current situation are obvious.

History is strange, and what is even stranger is how very quickly society has changed over the past few decades. Milk was assassinated thirty years ago, at a time when cops could still raid gay bars and beat patrons without any recriminations. The civil rights movement is still well within living memory. Major events like World War II, the Depression, the Teapot Dome Scandal (okay, not major, just checking to see if you're still paying attention), and even the Civil War are really not that far removed from us. For my optimistic side, this is all great, and I think we will continue to see progress in my lifetime. My pessimistic side says that we could just as easily revert. Either way, the next few decades will be an amazing experience -- and if all else fails, I can move home and eat eggs.

Moving on -- I had brunch today with Heather, Lauren (aka Subz), and Nathan. We were supposed to meet at 10; when I called Heather at 10:20 to see where she as, she flipped because she thought that today was Friday. Clearly the readjustment from China has not been perfect. Anyway, brunch was delicious, and it was good to catch up. I don't see Lauren enough because we're not on the same team, and while I'd seen Heather on a VC earlier in the week, it was the first time I'd seen her in person since I went back to Iowa. After brunch, we did some desultory shopping in her neighborhood. I saw a cute little yellow teapot, perfect for one person, and intended to buy it -- but Heather bought it for me as a Christmas present, which is great since I now feel compelled to have her and Salim over for dinner. Given that I haven't cooked anything substantive for anyone since the Olympics, that will be nice.

I spent a couple more hours at her apartment, hanging out with both her and Salim, which was a riot as usual. Salim is v. excited for his character in a future romance novel; I have plans to use him as Salim the Moor, a fearsome sidekick for the Marquess of Folkestone in the book that I plan to write third or fourth. Heather suggested that he have a pet tiger, which amuses me, but I'll have to avoid the pitfalls of having the hero seem like he's taking himself too seriously. With a sidekick like Salim the Moor, though, I doubt that will be an issue.

When I finally vacated their apartment, I drove to the glorious south bay to get an oil change and a car wash. I know there must be places for that in the city, but I like the places I always went to in Palo Alto. Then, I picked up Terry, and we had a lovely dinner before I decided that I was too tired to see another movie. We parted ways, I came home, and browsed the internet in an effort to force myself to stay awake until ten o'clock.

Now that I have succeeded, I should go to bed. I have a lot to accomplish tomorrow -- I want to change my bedding (fun task -- H/S told me about a bedding store downtown that custom-makes down comforters and duvet covers, then forbade me from seeking it out given my known addiction to bedding), thoroughly clean my apartment, do laundry, and run downtown (not for bedding!) to do a bit of Christmas shopping. But the desire to be a butterfly is running strong, so we'll see what happens. Goodnight!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

so what, i'm still a rock star

Today was excellent. I had meetings straight from 8ish until 5ish, but it included lunch with Gyre, which was fun. It also included a ninety-minute meeting that I didn't really have to go to, but I wanted to see how it was run now, since I used to run it as one of my main projects. Someone asked me later why I was the only person in the room with a smile on my face, and I have to say that it was a combination of being amused at how things never change and happiness that I can just enjoy the madness and not be responsible for it.

My evening only got better from there. I gave Katrina a ride back to the city; she moved into a building in my office complex, which for some reason made carpooling seem like a good idea even though she was only a five minute drive away from me before. But it was great to drive back to the city with her, since traffic was pretty bad but having her in the car was a distraction from my road rage. After getting home, I walked over to Julie and Tom's place; I hadn't seen either of them since my birthday because I've been in complete hermit-mode with the book, but it was great to see them tonight. It turns out that Julie thought I hated her, because she had my old Iowa cellphone number and had left multiple messages/texts over the past couple of months, which my Iowa phone deletes after a week. Sad! So we made dinner (she made salmon and asparagus, I made Rice-a-Roni, which is, after all, the San Francisco treat), hung out, and generally caught up. It was all quite lovely!

But now I really need to go to bed -- the downside of having friends is that you sleep less, but I think it's good to come out of my self-imposed exile for a few weeks. Goodnight!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

sweet dreams are made of these

This is a four-minute post. Today was a brutal slog through nine hours of meetings, followed by a drive home, where I worked for another three hours. The good news is that I feel much more caught up than I did over the past few days, so I may actually be able to get to the weekend with a clear conscience and a happy heart.

It says a lot about how bad yesterday was that today seemed like a cakewalk by comparison. And it was a cakewalk even though I received Rejection #2. I'm not precisely worried -- many authors go through thirty or forty rejections, or write several books, before they are ever picked up by an agent, and I shall persevere.

However, I am beginning to wonder if I should go back to my original belief that submitting in December is a bad idea. I submitted because I'm eager, impatient, excited, etc. -- but every publishing blog I read is talking about the disastrous publishing forecasts, how major houses are laying off staff, halting acquisitions, and divesting or merging product lines. Even if this wasn't going on, I would think that agents would be somewhat less likely to accept new clients in December because they're focused on end-of-year housekeeping with their existing clients -- but the knowledge that the publishing trade seems to be falling down around their ears has to be making them more cautious.

So, hiatus on submissions to agents until January. Then I'll hope that they all made a new year's resolution to acquire a client with a penchant for witty, character-driven Regency romances. And I'll start writing the next one so that, in case my beloved Malcolm and Amelia are destined for the box of forgotten manuscripts under my desk that every author supposedly has, I'll be ready to sell something else. Sounds dreary, but it's the best I've got.

Four minutes are up, goodnight!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

hemoglobin is the key

Today really was not such a good day. In order, these bad things happened before 11:30am:

1) It took an hour and a half to get to work, some of which I spent on the phone with some incompetent people from FedEx who assured me that even though their system has no proof of it, my entry into the Golden Heart contest was delivered last week. I'll just have to hope they're right.

2) When I got to work, I went to the wellness center to get a routine blood test. They couldn't find a vein in either arm, so they tried going in through my right hand and failed. Another nurse tried going through my left hand, got a bit of blood -- and then the vein rolled away and she started digging around with the needle to try to find it. After having told her five minutes earlier that I have no trouble with needles, I almost fainted. They had to put my legs up and bring me cold compresses and the whole nine yards.

3) When I could finally stand up, I went to get my allergy shots. This time, the grass shot reacted, and on top of the remaining wooziness from my near-fainting-spell, it was more than I could take, so I decided to go home for the rest of the day.

4) In retrospect, driving while woozy was not smart, although I didn't really think I could lie down on the couch in my office for a couple of hours. I decided to stop at Peter's Cafe in Millbrae to get my blood sugar up -- where I discovered that they're no longer open 24 hours a day. Tragedy!

5) While sitting in the booth waiting for my lifesaving food, I checked my email on my blackberry and got my first official rejection letter from an agent.

Blah. So I spent three hours sleeping this afternoon to recover from the fainting feeling. Then I watched "What Not to Wear" before doing some work this evening. I didn't do enough for my real job, so I need to go in early tomorrow. But, I did thoroughly rewrite my query letter and submit it to another agent -- you just have to get back on the horse, I suppose, and I would rather get back on the horse with the agent-querying process rather than with the blood-drawing process.

Tomorrow is another day, which means I should go to bed!

Monday, December 01, 2008

greensleeves

My sleeves today are actually white - the sleeves on my awesome sweater would be three-quarter-length sleeves on a normal girl but are more like seven-eighths sleeves on me -- but I'm listening to Christmas music on Pandora. To be specific, I'm listening to instrumental Christmas music in the style of Mannheim Steamroller. I may have gone off the deep end; I'm clearly only a year or two away from being found dead and eaten by my horde of cats.

Today was quite good, despite my lack of desire to go back to work. However, because I was behind before I even left for Thanksgiving, and then boycotted email, calendar, tasklists, etc., I was even more behind today. So, when I got home at 7:30, I took a break to eat and then worked straight until now. But my to-do list is much shorter, and while my email inbox is still full, there is hope.

In general things are just peachy, even if I have to get three allergy shots and a blood test tomorrow. I can feel my unconsciousness simmering with ideas for the next couple of romance novels, and I'm eager to start researching them, learning more about the characters, and figuring out how their stories will take shape. And, thinking about my next book takes my mind off the current book and its naked, vulnerable sojourns out to strange agents who will likely never love it as much as I do. It also takes my mind off the fact that I paid $60 for second-day air FedEx delivery on my Golden Heart entry last Tuesday, and FedEx's system has shown it as 'out for delivery' in Houston since Wednesday. I called FedEx today and they said they'd put a trace on it to try to locate it, and assured me that I would get my money back if it's not delivered by tomorrow -- but money is little consolation, although if the entry doesn't get there I can always tell myself that I would have one. Ah, there's nothing I like better than delusions of grandeur.

Okay, that's all for now -- goodnight!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

honey, honey, how you thrill me

Today was excellent, overshadowed only by the fact that I have to go back to work tomorrow. I spent the morning at the Peet's Coffee beside Books Inc.; this gave me a great hour of journal-writing while drinking a latte, followed by some nice browsing through the bookstore. Then I restocked on groceries and did two loads of laundry before meeting Katrina for an afternoon at another cafe. The cafe in question was called Coffee Bar; it seemed overrun by people who work at our company, since I recognized one girl, Katrina knew another, and there were at least a couple more with bags or shirts or laptops that indicated membership in our unholy fraternity. It's unsurprising that it was overrun. It's perhaps the trendiest cafe I've been to in the entire city. There are two levels of seating, an outdoor patio, lots of big tables that force strangers to sit together, and a gorgeous late-afternoon view of Twin Peaks through the glare on the two-story windows.

It was a nice place to catch up with Katrina. It was also a swift and brutal reintroduction to the San Francisco scene after my time in Iowa. When I'm home, I rarely leave the house -- I think I left the house three times in the six days that I was home. And when I do leave the house, it's not like there are teeming masses beyond the fence. So even though I'm now used to the different worlds in which I live and appreciate the idiosyncrasies of each of them, the first day back in either place is a bit strange.

The vast differences in coffee choices in my two homes are perhaps the most difficult to deal with. At home, my favorite "coffee" beverage is "cappuccino" made from powder at the convenience store where I used to work. It's little wonder that the first time I ever had real (or at least realistic) cappuccino, at the Stanford CoHo during Admit Weekend when I was seventeen, I was bitterly disappointed; where convenience store cappuccino is heavily sweetened and utterly lacking in espresso, coffeehouse cappuccino is espresso with just a bit of milk and foam. While I now like real cappuccino (provided that I add some sugar) and frequently order it for dessert when I'm at a nice restaurant, I don't think I'll ever forget the letdown of my first taste of real cappuccino.

Somewhat shockingly, I've now lived over a third of my life in California. I never thought that this would happen. I think I'm far from figuring out where I want to live during the next phase in my life (as an aside, in my journal today I decided that I'm officially out of the post-college phase, but I don't know what the name of my new phase is), and that's mostly because a) I don't like commitment, and b) there are things I love and hate about both Iowa and California, and regardless of where I am, there are things that I miss about the other. Maybe I should just pick up and move to a neutral territory (like Switzerland?). Of course, I still need a job, and so I'll likely stay here for awhile, but when I'm caught up in the excitement of writing and creating new stories and having more adventures, it's very hard to let my pragmatic side regain control.

Okay, since I like getting paid, I should go to bed so that I can go to work tomorrow. Goodnight!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

he talks like a gentleman

I successfully made it back to San Francisco tonight, after traveling for a little over eleven hours. The fact that my parents live an hour and a half from the airport and there are no direct flights makes the trip ridiculously long, and happily for me I get to do it again in less than three weeks!

But, the time at home was good and my trip back was uneventful. I spent most of it reading "The Lives of the English Rakes," which is a fascinating history of some of the most debauched men in England. It covers the Restoration, the late Georgian/Regency period, and the late Victorian/early Edwardian periods; while the Georgian/Regency period is of most interest for my romance novels, the Restoration rakes were awesomely insane in their own right. I read the whole thing; for more info, you'll have to check out my Sara Ramsey blog in a couple of days.

I suppose I should go to bed; I need to accomplish some stuff tomorrow, and I will likely see Katrina. Then it's back to work on Monday -- it will be interesting to see how well I can get back into work mode when I know that I'm going home again in only eighteen days. Goodnight!

Friday, November 28, 2008

in which our author gives thanks for delicious turkey

I've had an excellent time at home, although it's drawing rapidly to a close. Most of my family was together for Thanksgiving; Uncle Mark, Aunt Kathy, Drew, Aunt Becky, and her scandalous fiance all came down for the day, which was lovely. We had Thanksgiving Dinner Round 1 with the town -- my grandparents started a community Thanksgiving over thirty years ago, and my grandmother insisted that we go this year. I'll post a picture when I finally download them. The dinner was in the town Centennial Building, which I have blogged about before -- it's a multipurpose community building, holding the city clerk's office, the library, the fire department, and a large space with a kitchen and a stage for town plays, Christmas pageants, auctions, etc. It is probably what Thanksgiving is supposed to be, since it's all about community. We started with a few words from the organizer, and then we all had to sign a hymn that no one knew (the woman who picked it was a war bride from England who moved here after World War II, and she said that they sang it all the time in England), and then the Presbyterian minister said grace before we all ate the lukewarm/cold potluck offerings. Mmm. Apparently the best food was the one I didn't take -- a couple from Cambodia moved to town recently, and they brought egg rolls that were reported to be fantastic. Yay diversity.

After that, we all came back to my parents' house and played Apples to Apples before Thanksgiving Dinner Round 2. My mom wanted turkey leftovers, and I'm glad she did; the turkey she made was one of the best I've ever had, particularly with corn casserole, homemade rolls, mashed potatoes and gravy, and awesome pumpkin pie. I had variations of that meal for lunch and dinner today, and it continues to be awesome; it sucks that I have to go back to California before the leftovers have overstayed their welcome.

We spent today engaged in a traditional Wampler family pursuit -- playing Rail Baron for six or eight hours. We took a break in the middle of the afternoon to accomplish stuff, and I took a tour of my brother's house; while he has some work to do, I'm still jealous that he's a homeowner, even if I wouldn't want to own a house in our hometown right now. When we resumed the game, Dad ended up winning, beating Mom by one turn and about a thousand dollars -- heartbreaking after playing for most of a day, and eerily similar to her loss the last time we played.

I spent the rest of the night updating sararamsey.com and my romance blog -- check them out! Now, though, I should go to bed so that I can get up tomorrow in time to go to the airport. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

the cookie is tainted

My father brought home twelve chickens and two roosters today. If you want eggs, we will have plenty of them; one of the chickens laid an egg in the truck on the way home, which is a good sign for their later productivity (unless the cats figure out how to get in and kill them, in which case we will have a lot of chicken and noodles).

The other big news of the day is that I submitted my first official query letters to agents! I submitted to two agents; I'll likely submit to more over the next few days, but I kind of want to see how brutal the reaction is to these letters before I try again. The querying process will likely take months, but at least I'm on the path. I'm going to be sad if I find out that I'm like one of those mothers who never seems to suspect that her kid is actually ugly -- perhaps my book is one of those homely babies, but I can't accept that right now, so I will persist in my belief that it's the most beautiful baby in the whole world.

Of course, that all pales in comparison to the terrorist attacks in Mumbai today. I didn't stay in the Taj Mahal hotel that was attacked, but I stayed in the Taj President in 2005. I met Vishal and went to a nightclub in the Taj Mahal, and also had lunch in one of its restaurants that same weekend. While I didn't have the best time ever in Mumbai due to an extreme bout of food poisoning, I still have fond memories of the place, and it's sad to hear about such insane violent acts. I love India and would like to go back, but I'm sure my family is happy that I'm safe in Iowa instead of gallivanting across the subcontinent in the midst of an upswing in terrorism.

Okay, if I'm going to wake up in time to eat all day, I suppose I should go to bed.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

it's the most wonderful time of the year

Several times on the way to Des Moines today, I saw the same ominous sight -- a large pool of blood on the highway, with rough smears showing that body had been dragged off the roadway into the gravel shoulder. Of course, I assume that these were deer-related, but my overly-fertile imagination went down the serial-killer path before I sternly told myself to keep my eyes on the prize.

The prize in this case is the Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart competition, which I successfully entered today. The award is given yearly to the best unpublished romance manuscripts, and if I final in the contest (which I won't know for months), it could give me a boost in the publication process. It's why I didn't blog yesterday -- I worked on the synopsis for the contest entry almost all of yesterday, and was so tired at the end that I couldn't summon the energy to blog (particularly since my parents could just come into my room and hold a mirror under my nose to check whether I was alive, rather than fretting because I had not blogged). But I finished the synopsis last night and emailed the synopsis and the first fifty pages of my book to a FedEx store in West Des Moines, so six copies were waiting for me when I got there this afternoon. After checking to make sure they were complete, I FedEx'd the entry to the organization headquarters -- and now I just have to wait until March to find out whether I am a finalist.

The rest of the day was pretty good; the other reason for going to Des Moines was to drop off the rental car that I used to surprise my parents, and so they and my brother picked me up at the airport. We had a very late lunch at 2:30ish, at which point I was so hungry that I was afraid I was going to faint, and ended up eating strawberry jam straight out of a packet, which was actually kind of good. We spent the rest of the day shopping and running errands, then came home and had supper before watching another fabulous episode of 'The Mentalist' -- and by "fabulous episode of 'The Mentalist'" I mean "fabulous forty-five minutes fantasizing about Simon Baker, the only blonde whom I love." Did I say too much?

Okay, enough creepiness, I should go to bed!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

over the river and through the woods

If you've ever wondered why I'm crazy, I chalk it up to my formative youth. Case in point -- my father today told me that fertilized eggs are better for you, and when I asked him why, he said that it's the 'little bit of spoo' in them. Yay.

I got to hear this bit of wisdom in person -- I'm in Iowa for the week! It was a surprise; no one knew I was coming except the people at work (in particular Terry, with whom I trusted my itinerary in case I died and she needed to call my parents). I just bought the tickets on Monday, but I got a fabulous deal, and so I'm staying until Saturday. I successfully surprised my parents, which was exactly what I wanted -- maybe I just wanted to be that awesome 1980s Folgers commercial where the guy comes home early on Christmas morning and wakes up his parents with some freshly-brewed coffee. But I didn't brew coffee (although I did have convenience-store cappuccino, a far-but-delicious cry from my nonfat lattes) -- instead, I sat around and watched Mom make supper for me. The only person not pleased to see me was my brother, but that may have been because he'd put a bunch of stuff in my room -- or it may be because he genuinely hates me.

Anyway, Iowa is good, but I'm ready for bed. Goodnight!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

i'll stay alive just to follow you home

I had an excellent day! I decided, based on the cafe that Adit, Katrina and I went to a couple of weeks ago, that the Pac Heights area to my east/north deserved some more exploring. So, I walked over to Fillmore, and then up toward Sacramento. I intended to go to the Peet's Coffee at Fillmore and Sacramento, but stopped a block early at a different cafe. This was good and bad -- the problem with more family-style cafes is that the wait staff's family is there, which means bored, annoying children. And, they were doing construction on the street outside, so it was loud even without the kids. And, two very grumpy old men sat next to me and proceeded to discuss unions with a stance that makes me shudder -- but despite all that, I still enjoyed myself, and was awesomely productive. I finished line-editing my final draft AND input all the changes into my laptop! There are two scenes that I want to rework a little bit because the points-of-view change too abruptly, but that should only take a couple of hours. And then I'm done done done. Hopefully I'll accomplish that tomorrow!

After leaving the cafe, I stopped at Whole Foods to pick up some groceries, and then came home and baked chocolate chip chewies while taking care of stuff around the apartment. If I didn't know what goes into them, I would think that the secret ingredient was liquid crack -- those cookies are insanely addictive. I don't make them now that I'm living by myself because I could easily eat an entire pan, but Terry requested that I make them for her dinner party tonight, and I was more than happy to oblige.

I went to Terry's around six p.m. -- she was having a v. belated birthday celebration (obviously belated, since her birthday is three days after mine), and since we share some friends in common, it was quite nice. I caught up a little with Lauren (aka Subz), hung out with Lisa (in town from LA for Big Game, which was kind of a waste since we got trounced), and continued to develop my budding friendship with Natasha (we may try to have brunch together, which is a key step in the friendship-development phase). I was supposed to go to the movies with them after dinner, but I'm rather tired and wasn't sure I could make it back to the city -- and, true to my hermitish ways, I want to make sure I can get up early enough tomorrow to be productive. Sigh. When the book is finished and submitted to agents, I think I'll take a break through the rest of the holidays (even though I have a fantastic idea for the next book and want to start it...)

Okay, that's all, goodnight!

my public persona

Trolling through my usual suspects on my Google Reader (it's a blog aggregator, for those of you who don't use it), I found a link to typealyzer.com. It purports to determine the 'personality' of your blog by analyzing your entries and determining what your thought process was while writing it.

My blogging personality is:

ESFP - The Performers

The entertaining and friendly type. They are especially attuned to pleasure and beauty and like to fill their surroundings with soft fabrics, bright colors and sweet smells. They live in the present moment and don´t like to plan ahead - they are always in risk of exhausting themselves.

The enjoy work that makes them able to help other people in a concrete and visible way. They tend to avoid conflicts and rarely initiate confrontation - qualities that can make it hard for them in management positions.

I've said before that my blog personality, while accurate in the sense that I don't lie (except lies in omission) about what's going on in my life, is not 100% 'me' -- so perhaps a performer-style personality for my blog is right on. In real life I'm an ENTJ (although the last test I took said I was back to an ENTP, so maybe I'm softening in my old age) -- but either way, I've never been termed a Sensing or a Feeling, but have always been strong on the iNtuition and Thinking.

Okay, no more internets -- I should go out and write!

Friday, November 21, 2008

lying in my bed i hear the clock tick and think of you

Today was generally good -- I worked out of San Francisco today, which was quite lovely. I had to be at the office at eight a.m., which was a little less painful when I could take the bus/walk rather than sit in traffic cursing the idiots around me. My performance review for Q3 was at eight a.m., and it went well. I did have a moment, though -- my director said that there was very little constructive (i.e. negative) feedback for me, and that I should take this as an opportunity to coach my team so that they write better peer reviews in the future. I almost retorted that maybe they didn't write a lot of constructive feedback because there wasn't a lot of constructive feedback to give me, but I decided to bite my tongue. A few minutes later she said one of my biggest strengths is that I'm so straightforward and 'authentic' in my communication -- while it's true, and I don't lie to people, I do sometimes lie by omission by refraining from expressing exactly how annoyed I am about some of the stupider things I see around me. But, that's probably made me easier to work with in general, so I suppose that's a good thing.

I spent almost the entire day in meetings; because we have a lot of videoconferencing equipment, I was still obliged to do my job even though I wasn't in my home office. I did take a break to have lunch with Katrina, who was working out of the city today as well, so it was nice to have some non-meeting-related human contact. I would have left the office right at 4:30, at the end of my last meeting -- but I started to switch out of my heels and into my sneakers, only to discover that I'd somehow lost a shoe. I went to the previous room and saw it sitting under the chair I had sat in, but two of my colleagues were meeting in the room. I waited for ten minutes, since the sign on the door suggested that they would be done imminently, but I finally had to interrupt them to tell them that I'd left my shoe in the conference room. That's a rather weird thing to announce, but they were v. nice about it and we spent a couple of minutes catching up while I retrieved my sneaker, so all's well that ends well, as they used to say in "Little House on the Prairie."

On the way home, I made a quick stop at the Gap to exchange a shirt that I bought last weekend (the first version had a hole in it), and also did some browsing at Sephora and Macy's but didn't buy anything. When I got home, I made a list of things I want to accomplish this weekend, and am dismayed by how long it is -- so I spent the evening taking care of general household tasks so that I can spend some quality time with my manuscript tomorrow before going to Terry's for dinner. And then the end of the weekend will come all too soon..and the deadline for my contest entry is in a week and a half. That means I need to go to bed RIGHT NOW -- goodnight!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

see me working on the factory floor

I hope my arm doesn't fall off -- when I went in to get my allergy shots today, I told the doctor that Tuesday's dust injection had swelled up fairly sizably, to the point that it was still somewhat red and swollen today. So, she didn't give me a dust shot today, but did give me my tree shot and my grass shot. But the dust and the tree shots had been given in the same arm last time -- and now the new injection site is totally swollen, so it's likely that I misjudged and it was the tree shot that caused the swelling instead of the dust. Since she thought the swelling was bad enough to skip the dose this time, but then she *increased* the dose of the tree shot since that didn't seem to be the issue, the swelling is even worse than before. Fascinating, eh?

Today was an excellent day, although I was late to my eight a.m. meeting. My meetings were all nice, and I had a great mid-day interlude; first I had the allergy shots plus a doctor's checkup (and the doctor asked if I'd gotten my flu shot yet, I said "no" because I didn't intend to get one, and she immediately injected me -- gotta love the free healthcare at work, but in this case I just hope that I don't get the flu from the shot). Then, I saw the end of a talk and had lunch with Bill Murphy, who wrote "In a Time of War," which followed West Point's class of 2002. Pete (one of my team leads) was in that class at West Point, and so he'd helped to arrange for the author to give a talk in our office through our authors program. I really want to read the book now; Pete's pretty open about his experience (he served two tours in Iraq), but I'll never grasp it, and while a book can't make me grasp it either, I'm at least interested to learn more.

Tonight was my management team's monthly "margaritas and pie" get-together; while there is no pie, there are margaritas, and it's a chance for us to get together outside of the office, talk about how we're doing, get to know each other better, etc. It was v. entertaining -- and it was also nice to remember that, regardless of how ridiculous things sometimes are, I really love the people I work with, and that's a big motivating factor.

After margaritas and pie, I drove Pete home (which was basically a continuation of the margaritas and pie discussion), then came home and procrastinated. I get to work out of SF tomorrow; while I have to be there at eight a.m. because I have my performance review with my former manager then, I can spend the rest of the day getting some stuff done and then get home at a v. reasonable hour. Now, though, I should really go to bed -- I need to prep for my review, so I should get up early and make sure I get to work in time to get some caffeine, make some notes, and generally be more awake than most eight a.m. meetings. Goodnight!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

he took her out to high class places...he made a promise in the dark

I am IN LOVE with Simon Baker from "The Mentalist." I was in need of some non-work time this evening, and that included a break from the book, so I watched two episodes of "The Mentalist" while painting my fingernails a nice sparkly red (OPI's "Don't Toy With Me" from their Christmas collection). I totally adore him, and his cheeky little grin, and his three-piece suits (who still wears a vest?), even though I'm usually totally averse to blondes. I probably adore him even more because he's all about the powers of observation, which is v. nice. I will say that I also figured out who the killer was in every episode I've seen so far, but it wasn't because of the reasons that Simon Baker's character had -- it was because the camera lingered on them early on before they were suspects, so perhaps they should rework their indicators. But, I like the show a lot, and it's a good break from my otherwise-ridiculous life.

I'm in a better mood today than I was yesterday, even though nothing really changed -- I'm just calmer. I had meetings all day and the first two hours sucked, but things picked up after that, with a particular bright spot when I ran into Gyre when I was grabbing dessert (homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream) and spent a few minutes gossiping with him, and another bright spot at five when Terry scheduled me for a meeting to break me out of the possibility of another meeting and give me a chance to vent. So I left work feeling much better, and came home and decided that nothing on my achingly-long to-do list was more important than lusting after Simon Baker.

I suppose I should go to bed so that I can get up in time to look presentable for my eight a.m. meeting. Bleh. But tomorrow night is margaritas with my managers, and Friday I get to work out of SF, and then it's the weekend! And next week is a short week, so I just need to make it through five more work days before I get a substantive break. I think I can, I think I can...

Lastly, happy birthday Daddy!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

that's not a secret agent - that's a roided-up cabana boy

I'm watching an episode of Craig Ferguson right now from last week, and I was sad when he said "It's a great day for America everyone -- it's Friday!" I *wish* it was Friday! Sadly, it's only Tuesday, and I shall have to persevere.

My horoscope for today says: "It still may be hard to explain yourself clearly as you are not finished dealing with the challenges presented by your friends or family. You may be quite hopeful today about your future, even if the concrete information you have doesn't paint a pretty picture. All is not lost now because your desire for change may be sufficient to get the ball rolling in the right direction."

I am definitely feeling a desire for change, and I need to remind myself that I don't actually *want* change. I had a lovely hour with Alaska Matt this afternoon (for a meeting entitled "Summit on the Dangers of Feeding Corn to Salmon", since we like to pretend that our get-togethers are summit-level interstate trading discussions); he's leaving for Japan on Thursday, and that made me really want to move overseas again.

Then again, part of it is because I went to a meeting this morning (at 7:30am) for a project that I was on a year ago, and it felt like exactly the same meeting as the one I sat in last year at this time. That's always fun. And I was at the office until 7:30pm, which was way too late. But, I took a quick break around 5:30 (after the Alaska/Iowa summit) to drop off some pants at a tailor in Mountain View, and I picked up an earl grey milk tea on the way back to the office. I may adore Iowa, and I may prefer casseroles, steaks, and various potato dishes over just about anything else, but I do have a soft spot in my heart for Taiwanese pearl milk tea (sans the tapioca balls).

Sorry this is so boring; I basically had a bad day and am annoyed by just about everything, but none of it is stuff I can blog about, nor is any of it important or interesting, so I think I'll go to bed and just hope that I'm in a better mood tomorrow. Now I'm going to focus on watching Craig show us how he would make out with the camera -- goodnight!

Monday, November 17, 2008

bluegrass -- like country music, with more soul and less teeth

I'm watching Craig; he's still v. funny, but I'm not feeling his new hairstyle. He needs to go back to boyishly tousled, or dying it, or whatever he used to do before he became an American citizen.

I've grown increasingly despondent about Mondays; I really didn't want to go to work today, and my feelings were justified given the generally overwhelming number of meetings that I have this week, in addition to feeling that I was super behind since I hadn't read email since Thursday. However, things got better in the afternoon; we had a team offsite at Laser Quest, the laser tag place down the street from our office.

I've never played laser tag before, and while I was bad at it, I wasn't as bad as I am at shoot-em-up videogames (like my disastrous attempt to play Halo, where the person I was playing against got so bored that he decided to only kill me by hitting me over the head with the butt of his revolver, which is usually impossible, but was quite easy for him). So, it was quite fun. Then, I played a couple of rounds of Dance Dance Revolution in the arcade outside the playing field, and I think my general skills at DDR shocked everyone who saw me play; while I'm by no means an expert, and don't even consider myself to be very good, I was able to hit a harder difficulty level and do a couple of songs that were impressively full of jumps, so that was quite entertaining.

The string of happiness continued when I left; I expected traffic to be a nightmare at 5:30, but I miraculously made it home in less than an hour. I took a shower, ate a delicious frozen mushroom and olive pizza, and did some work until now. I'm much more caught up than I was, and while I may not get totally caught up this week anyway, I guess I'm ready for tomorrow. But since tomorrow starts with a 7:30am meeting, I should really go to bed -- goodnight!