Saturday, August 30, 2008

i dislike the bennets

I just finished watching 'Pride and Prejudice' with Terry -- the version with Keira Knightley, not the BBC one with Colin Firth -- and I am reminded how much I despise most of Elizabeth Bennet's family. I probably ruined it for poor Terry because I kept either snorting or shouting 'I hate you!' every time one of Elizabeth's family members said something annoying. But, because I despised them so much, and simultaneously loved Elizabeth and the guy playing Mr. Darcy, I really enjoyed the movie. Keira Knightley does an excellent job of sounding both pert and offended, which are two key characters traits for Elizabeth Bennet, and the Mr. Darcy guy excelled at both arrogance and suffering. Sigh!

Today was great; I spent the morning cleaning up around the apartment and catching up on news, and then Terry came up in the afternoon. We walked down to Yerba Buena Gardens with the intention of working (her on applications, me on the book), but I took her to Samovar, and it turned out to be unconducive to laptop use. I had the endless Russian Samovar service, which (as loyal/observant readers will remember) requires the patron to get up and serve their own damned tea from a samovar in the corner. But I like that tea, and I also like their scones, even if their clotted cream is not quite as good as what I ate in England. Yes, I am a snob. So Terry and I chatted over tea, then came back up to my neighborhood, where we worked at a Starbucks for an hour or two. I edited one of my favorite scenes in my romance novel, and then we went out for pizza before coming back here to watch the movie.

I fully intend to spend the rest of the weekend holed up with the book. I only have twelve days until I turn 27, and I want to have a finished draft by then. Also, Terry and I both had a bleak moment when one of the characters (Charlotte) told Elizabeth that she had decided to marry the odious Mr. Collins because *she* was 27 and was unlikely to ever get an offer. Sad! Luckily I live in the 21st century and am not necessarily destined to be a spinster at 27, but the odds ain't good. Ironic that I write romance when I feel like that, but c'est la vie. Goodnight!

Friday, August 29, 2008

a variety of headaches

The main headache on my mind today was the most literal of all of them -- I awoke with a pounding headache, the likes of which I haven't experienced since before I left work last winter, the kind that makes me want to curl up under the pillow and stay there all day...and even the memory is giving me a headache now. I don't get migraines, but I do get bad headaches, and if there weren't a couple of meetings that I felt compelled to go to because of my role as sober, responsible manager, I would have called in sick.

Instead, I went to work, where, as anticipated, the same meetings that I felt compelled to go to were each headaches in their own right. I love the people that I work with, but when I have a bad headache, my patience is v. thin, and my tongue sharpens in direct correlation to the thinning of my tolerance. As anyone whom I have loved knows, I am not always the nicest person in the room; I believe that usually I make up for it with moments of generosity and a series of jhokes, but that may not actually be true. Or rather, maybe the jhokes don't make up for the occasional moments when I say the bluntest, sharpest, most sarcastic things in a conscious or unconscious effort to draw blood. I've grown up some, and am generally better able to rein myself in than I used to be, but I will likely always have my moments.

So today I mostly held myself in, but I left early to nurse my head. I almost fell asleep on the drive back to the city, which was scary; I don't know why I was sleepy, since I slept almost nine hours last night, but getting back up here was difficult. Then, when I got home, I knew I shouldn't take a nap because it would throw off tonight's slumber. So, I picked up 'Twilight', the book I started reading last night.

I promptly finished it...then picked up the second in the series, 'New Moon', and read it through in one go. I didn't even stop for dinner, which likely didn't help the headache; while it's not as bad as it was this morning, six hours of reading without food or drink probably wasn't smart. I just had a bowl of cereal, which will tide me over until morning, but I'll have to be smarter tomorrow.

The last metaphorical headache is that the writing in these books is so great -- the descriptions are just so lush and perfect that it makes me despair of and for my own writing. I've been avoiding reading historical romances because I get all paranoid and start making unfair comparisons in my mind; but apparently reading anything good acts as an agent of fear rather than inspiration. I need to get over this -- two nights ago, I was thrilled with what I have, and just because my style is different than this author's does not make it worse. I will continue to remind myself of that, but right now I think I'll go to bed, and hope that tomorrow isn't nearly as much of a strain on my nerves.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

warn your wolves to turn away

Today was a v. odd day. I attribute it all to waking up at 5:40a.m. At that point, it was still dark outside; by the time I left my apartment a little before 6:15am, dawn was streaking across the city skyline, which was quite impressive. It hasn't been foggy at all the past few mornings/evenings, which is a shocking (and welcome) change. I caught the 6:30 shuttle, which put me in the office by 7:30, well before my eight a.m. meeting. I think I shocked everyone in the room by walking in early, with coffee, and without my bag, which showed that I'd actually had time to make it to my desk and put it down before dashing into the room as I usually do.

At the time, I thought that I should try to do this every day; the city has a fresh feeling to it when people are just beginning to wake up, I was productive on the mostly-empty shuttle, and by the time my eight a.m. was over, I was already caught up for the day. However, by two p.m., when my energy was noticeably flagging and I just wanted to crawl into a corner and take a nap, I doubted that my morning self had really had such a lovely time that it could make a case for waking up early again in the future. So I caught an early shuttle home (although by the time I got home at a little before six, I had been involved in work activities for nearly eleven hours, so it's not like I was slacking), where I sat around and ate a sandwich and watched Shawn Johnson on David Letterman, which I tivo'd the other night (verdict: she's America's Sweetheart, regardless of what Nastia Liukin's shark of an agent thinks).

I intended to work on the book tonight, but I took a Dramamine to keep me productive during the shuttle ride home, and that + the 5:40am start made me feel a little fuzzy tonight. Instead, I started reading 'Twilight' - it's the first in that four-volume young-adult vampire series that created such a frenzy a month ago when the last book in the series was introduced. In fact, it was published during the romance writers' conference, and the conference organizers set up a special location where conference goers could buy/pick up copies at the conference at midnight, rather than walking three blocks to the Borders in Union Square. I've heard excellent things about it but hadn't read any of them yet -- until tonight, when I read half of 'Twilight'.

Verdict: so far so good. Her writing style and prose itself are clearly superior to JK Rowling's, and she's working with a vaguely epic storyline that I expect to get more epic as the series progresses. I can see why the book became a hit; but then again, there are many young adult books I read back in the day that I thought should have become bigger hits than they were (for example, anything by Robin McKinley, whom I adore -- happily she now blogs everyday, which gives me a fix, and her new book 'Chalice' is coming out in less than a month, and I already have it on preorder). So I'll keep going with them, and just hope that by the end of the four-book series I'll be satisfied rather than primed for more.

Tomorrow's another day in the office, but it shouldn't be horrendous, and then I have a three-day weekend! Yay! As one of the last two weekends before I turn 27, I intend to make the most of it. But right now, I'm going to make the most of my bed -- goodnight!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

don't try to bleed me, 'cause i've been here before and i deserve a little more

I wonder if my body suddenly decided to grow up. My sleeping patterns have completely shifted, so that I'm waking up (somewhat) at six a.m., voluntarily, and desperate to crash by ten p.m. It's like my body said, "Hey, Sara, you're turning twenty-seven in two weeks, and maybe it's time you should start waking up early like a real adult!" -- and then promptly decided to force the issue, even though my conscious brain has certainly not signed off on that course of action.

So even though it's only 9:30, I'm about to go to bed. I have an eight a.m. meeting in the south bay tomorrow morning, and I don't want to drive; I drove today so that I would make it in for an 8:30 meeting, but there was an accident on the freeway and I ended up being late. The shuttle in general is much better than driving, since I arrive home more exhausted if I had to drive each way, but the critical issue is that I have to leave half an hour earlier because I have to walk to the shuttle stop, ride it while it stops again on its way out of the city, and then catch another connector shuttle from the west side of campus to the east side of campus when the shuttle arrives in the south bay. In general this is fine because I can be v. productive while on the shuttle itself--but the temptation to sleep an extra half hour in the morning is v. difficult to resist.

Today was good, if you think that 'good' can encompass a day in which one has meetings straight through from 8:30am to 4pm. After work, I got the last bit of stuff out of my temporary storage unit, then spent an hour working on the novel at a Starbucks. I was v. pleasantly interrupted when Vidya (aka the Chandlord) called me; while we've emailed and IM'd several times since she moved to ye olde east coast, this was the first time we'd caught up verbally, and it was v. nice. I'm going to switch my labelling rule slightly and give her a label anytime I actually talk to her on the phone, rather than sticking to my strict policy of using the 'vidya' label only for times when we hung out in person. This has absolutely no bearing on your life, but I thought I'd mention it.

So the book is going well; I'm enjoying the editing process now that I've decided to skip the first couple of chapters. I'm aiming to have a second draft that I can share with a few people for feedback purposes by the weekend after my birthday, and I got approval to take September 11 and 12 off. That means I'll have a four-day weekend, which is the perfect amount of time to get a facial and a pedicure, bum around in some of my favorite city cafes, and make a concerted push to get through the rest of the necessary edits. It also helps that I get a three-day weekend this week; I'm feeling that the goal of a second draft by my birthday weekend is doable, even if I'm (scarily) turning 27 two weeks from tomorrow. On that shocking, depressing note, it's time for bed!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

millions of peaches, peaches for me

I ate a peach today, and it was delicious! I never really think of them in the pantheon of available fruits, but I was looking for something to eat while I was sitting around waiting to see if I would react to and die from the allergy shot I got this morning (verdict: no reaction, no death, try again on Thursday), and I found peaches in the microkitchen. Mmm.

The rest of my day at work was fine; I had a lot of meetings today, and I have meetings tomorrow straight from 8:30am to 4pm, so that's not going to be fun. I got on the shuttle home at 5:30 with the intention of working for another hour, but of course the wireless on the bus wasn't working on the one day that I needed it to work, and the IT people didn't give me the necessary software for my satellite wireless card when I got my new laptop, so I was connectionless. This turned out to be fine, since I worked on my book half the way home, then tried not to throw up from nauseousness on the other half of the ride.

When I got home, I made some truly excellent quesadillas with peppers, onions, and mushrooms. Then I spent two more hours working on the book -- I edited about fifty pages tonight, which was great progress. Now I should really go to bed so that I can get up tomorow and do it all over again. But the good news is that tomorrow's Wednesday, which means we're only halfway to a three-day-weekend! Yay!!! And I can spend the weekend working on the book to my heart's content.

Monday, August 25, 2008

olympic-sized void in my heart

I would like to claim that today was a grey and somber day, but that would be melodramatic and inaccurate even for me. In fact, the sun was amazingly out early this morning, unlike the usual morning fog, so I woke up a little after six a.m. I didn't get to work any earlier as a result of that, since I sat around in my apartment and caught up on email here instead, but it was quite the change of pace from my usual 'hit snooze four times' routine.

Work was pretty uneventful, although I spent the entire day in meetings. I can't tell you why I have so many meetings; it's just a fact of life. It's just sad that I came back to work with the goal of limiting my meetings wherever possible, and I'm already facing days where all available time has been taking by random meetings. Granted, I am a little better than I was -- I blocked my calendar after five p.m. every day so that I have the option of catching the 5:30 shuttle, and I'm starting to block off some work time during the week. But I guess meetings are the price you pay for climbing the corporate ladder, and obviously a day of sitting in meetings is preferable to a day of digging trenches.

After work, I ran a couple of errands, and then met up with Terry for dinner at California Pizza Kitchen in Palo Alto. I hadn't caught up with her in awhile, nor had I had my favorite roasted garlic chicken pizza in several months, so this effectively killed two birds with one stone. It was good to see her, and we have tentative plans to hang out on Saturday and focus on writing (romance novel in my case, grad school applications in her case...we'll see which is the better idea in the long run :) On the way home, which took less than 45 minutes because traffic was perfect, I talked to my brother, who made me insanely jealous by mentioning that he's going to visit Katie this weekend. I tried to retaliate by claiming that I slept with his best friend, but he wasn't buying it.

When I got home, there was a lot of exciting stuff waiting in the mailbox, including a package from my mom (thanks Mom!) and two envelopes full of photos that I had ordered from the Kodak gallery last week. The photos are great -- I ordered a whole bunch of 4x6s of my trip to Europe that I want to hang above my desk as inspiration for my romance novel, and I also ordered nine 8x10s that I want to frame and place artistically on the wall above my bed. The 8x10s turned out perfectly, so the next task is to find some appropriate frames. I also need to figure out how to hang the bulletin board that I bought without destroying Chandlord's wall; luckily she left some paint that matches her walls, but ideally it wouldn't come to that.

Even thought it's not quite ten p.m., I'm quite tired, so I think I'll get ready for bed. I'm hopeful that tomorrow evening I can get back to the book; I'm taking the shuttle tomorrow, which should help me to power through all of my work work so that I can focus on writing when I get home. For now, though, goodnight!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

i wear my sunglasses at night

I am actually wearing sunglasses -- to be specific, my prescription sunglasses, which I wore once on my way home to Iowa last spring before deciding that they were improperly calibrated. I'm giving them another try -- the problem may not be the calibration, but rather the fact that they are huge compared to my regular glasses, and I'm not used to wearing glasses that cover my entire field of vision.

After that incredibly interesting story, it's time to switch to the even more interesting subject of what I did today. I was actually surprisingly productive; I woke up before eight a.m. (shocking) with the strong desire to work on my book. I didn't actually get around to leaving the apartment until after ten, but then I sat at a cafe for almost three hours and edited a couple of chapters. I've decided that I need to just ignore the first two chapters for now; I'm putting too much pressure on myself with them because if I convince an agent to look at my work, they will just request the first three chapters, and if I fail with those, they won't ask for the rest of the manuscript or offer representation. And once I get past the first two chapters, I love a lot of what I've written, so that's good.

When I looked at the clock on my computer, I realized it was 1pm, which was the starting time for the barbecue I was supposed to go to in Emeryville. So I hauled myself back to my apartment, switched into a cute halter-style ankle-length sundress that I've been wanting to wear all summer, and drove over the bay bridge to the hated east bay. As usual, the hated east bay was quite lovely; it was warmer than it was in San Francisco this afternoon, and the barbecue was at the marina, which is awesome. John and Jess were hosting; they've been in LA for the summer and this was John's first official weekend back (although he was back the night of my Olympics party, resulting in a food-coloring mustache for him and a hangover for me), so it was good to catch up. We hung out for a couple of hours, enjoyed some excellent grilled sausages and a delicious homemade peach pie, and generally had a good ol' time. On the way back to SF, I had my weekly conversation with my parents; I'm trying to convince them to come and visit me, although they will be less than excited about the homeless people and the tranny hookers that they may see if we venture into the Tenderloin.

I spent the rest of the day generally organizing. I did four loads of laundry, washed up the remaining dishes from last night (and ate some of the vegetarian chili -- it turned out fantastically), and finally got around to fully setting up my desk. Now I have all of my favorite little desk toys out and about, my office supplies are organized, my inks and fountain pens are ready for use, and my Hello Kitty calculator is prominently displayed for any simple math that I may need to do in the future. The next step is to get a big bulletin board for hanging up various photos, news snippets, souvenirs, maps, and other things that will help to inspire my books, but that can wait a few days.

So in general, I'm pretty happy. Although I'm sad to report that I didn't even watch the Closing Ceremonies tonight. Part of that is because I don't quite want to acknowledge that the Olympics are over; part is because I was intent on making progress while I felt like doing something useful; and part is because I am itching to get into a non-Olympics routine. However, I tivo'd the ceremonies, so I'll likely watching them sometime in the next couple of days. Then I'll start my countdown to Vancouver, which is v. exciting!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

wariner galloping through the stretch

Oddly enough, the only guy whose cuteness Cynthia Potter, the diving commentator, commented on during tonight's men's 10m platform finals was the 14-year-old from Great Britain. I would wag my finger at her and call her a creepy cougar, but last night I made a terribly inappropriate observation about the way that his tiny speedo drew attention to his package. Then I realized he was fourteen and felt a little ill. Then I blogged about it tonight! Sigh.

While I was watching the women's 4x400 relay, I thought that the call sounded like the announcing for the Kentucky Derby. Then, during the men's 4x400, Tom Hammond actually said 'there's Wariner galloping through the stretch', which seemed almost too perfectly tossed-in. Maybe the commentators have their own little inside jokes? Like Tom Hammond, Ato Bolden, and the others have their own points systems, and they score themselves on their ability to work in references to horse racing, the breakdown of USA Track and Field's leadership, 'it's a fair start', Wariner's coaching change at the beginning of the year, Usain Bolt's 'lightning', etc. And then, at the end of the Olympics, they'll tally it all up and give the winner a ridiculous prize. Or maybe the winner gets to participate in whatever virgin-killing, blood-drinking, soul-stealing ritual Bob Costas engages in to cleanse himself of his latest commentary and keep himself immortal! That would be awesome!

Today was pretty good; I got up this morning and ran some errands, and then drove to Pleasanton for Gyre's kid's first birthday party. That kid is seriously one of the cutest babies I have seen in my entire life; if you don't believe me, check out his blog. I got there around the same time as Lizzie, which gave us a chance to catch up. Pleasanton is a little less than an hour away from here, but I'm glad that I went, if for no other reason than that it was cold and foggy in San Francisco, and ninety degrees and cloudless in the east bay.

When I got home, I walked to Whole Foods (the nearest grocery store to my apartment) and bought lots of vegetables. Then I came home and made two different dinners: number one was veggie fajitas, complete with guacamole, salsa, and sour cream, which were totally awesome; number two was vegetarian chili, which I didn't eat tonight and which I will freeze after it's had a chance to cool down in the fridge. I was really hungry for something other than the turkey and pepperjack sandwiches I've been eating at home, and prepping some spicier stuff that I can freeze and then reheat at my leisure is one of my favorite strategies. I ate my fajitas while watching the men's marathon; normally I don't like eating while watching the Olympics because it makes me feel even more slothlike, but I find the marathon to be such a ridiculous pursuit that I had absolutely no problem scarfing down my guac-laden tortillas while watching a bunch of underfed guys torture themselves for two hours. Any sporting event named after a pseudo-historical incident in which the original 'athlete' died upon completing the event is an event that no one should really participate in, right?

I spent the rest of the night watching Olympics (yay diving and yay an Australian stealing gold from the Chinese diver who could have completed the full Chinese sweep of diving golds) and working on my romance blog. I'm still debating whether to use Blogger or Wordpress; I like some of the Wordpress themes better, but you have to pay to be able to edit your own CSS files, and I'm used to Blogger's ease-of-editing-HTML. So we'll see, but I want to get the romance blog built out over the next few weeks. But I suppose I should finish the book first, right? Regardless, I'm not going to think about it now; it's time for bed!

Friday, August 22, 2008

those cats were fast as lightning

I had an epiphany. Bob Costas has been more ridiculous than usual, and Mary Carillo's color commentary segments have sometimes bordered on offensive; the combination has made me question what NBC is thinking in not reining them in a little. However, then I realized -- anyone who has a tendency to be offended is already boycotting the Games. Just think -- all those people who can't overlook human rights violations, censorship, crass commercialism, exploitation of young athletes, etc., have already decided not to watch these Games. Which, by extension, means these may be the easiest Olympics for Bob Costas to host. He can do ridiculous things (like keep pressing Hugh McCutcheon, the volleyball coach whose father-in-law was stabbed to death randomly at the start of the Olympics, in an effort to see if he can strike ratings gold by squeezing some tears out of a stoic but tragedy-scarred coach), but as long as his offenses do not top the things that China does (like send two eighty-year-olds to labor reeducation camp for filing a request to protest the destruction of their homes in the construction of the Olympic buildings), no one cares. Brilliant!

My favorite part of any night is watching Bob Costas try to one-up his fellow commentators. I don't know how successful he is with Cris Collingsworth, since as I mentioned last night, I always skip him. But when Bela Karolyi was commentating, he showed video of Bela a couple of times in an apparent effort to embarass him. And whenever Mary Carillo gives one of her color commentaries, he always has to have the last jhoke -- in the case of tonight, this was quoting the 'Kung Fu Fighting' song because she had done a feature on kung fun monks. Mary Carillo's good for a few laughs too; I scored big with Katrina by claiming, in answer to Oniel's question about what Mary Carillo used to do, that she used to be John McEnroe before getting a sex change. Considering that she seems more masculine than Bob Costas, this is potentially believable.

So anyway, today was good; work wasn't bad, and then Oniel and Katrina came over to watch the Olympics. We ordered takeout Chinese, and it turned out to be really good -- and super close to my apartment (less than a block away), which is awesome. Oniel also brought 'traditional Chinese desserts' - in this case, well-received cookies that he bought at a convenience store on the way over. Katrina struck out with her dates, but only because I was so full from Chinese that I didn't have room or inclination for them :(

We had a fabulous time; I showed them some of last night's coverage, in particular focusing on the devastating disqualifications of both of the American 4x100m relay teams and the scathing commentary/dissection of the USA Track and Field organization by the track commentators after the event. Then we watched most of tonight live, while discussing other ridiculous tings (like how Oniel wants some of Michael Phelps' elusive chest hair, mostly because it seems impossible to get; or the origin of Cynthia Potter, the diving commentator; or the awesome glasses of Cuba's Dayron Robles, who rocks a style all his own (to the point that Tammy dubbed him a 'cheeterd' for being half cheetah/half nerd), but makes me wonder if he could be even faster if his socialized medicine could provide him with contact lenses.

Oniel left about twenty minutes ago, and I seriously considered going straight to bed without writing a post. But I've gone a long time w/out skipping, and I wanted to continue. Also, Katrina said/threatened that she will read in the morning to see if I left out any crucial issues, and I would hate to disappoint. Finally, I'm going to start another blog (already linked to above) so that I can start collecting content for a future romance novel website, so I need to make sure I'm dedicating time to both projects and don't let this particular form of communication fall by the wayside. Now, though, I'm falling asleep over my keyboard, so it's really time for bed!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

laying a giant egg in the bird's nest

Bob Costas' commentary continues to amaze and delight, and by amaze and delight I mean annoy and delight. He is well on his way to being the Dick Clark of our time, given that he appears to have stayed the exact same age for the past three Olympics, but as is befitting of the 21st century, he's a little bit sassier. The fact that his commentary is so weird this time (like the quote in the title of my blog post, in relation to the performance of the American track and field team) obviously entertains me, but only on nights like tonight, when I've gotten enough sleep and am not cranky like I was on the night when he condescendingly told America that we just need to get over our sleep deficit.

But the diving commentator just said "It's very sad to watch a dream die" in relation to Laura Wilkinson's meltdown on the second and third dives of the women's 10m platform finals, which I thought was a great melodramatic line. And I can marvel over the Chinese divers -- even if they look like they've been starved, their dives are incredible. Although I must say that the female commentator doesn't seem to understand biology -- she's great at bitchy remarks about divers, but in regards to one of the Chinese divers, she said "she didn't blink during that handstand...there wasn't a single rapid eye movement". Unless she was expecting that the diver would go into a quick bit of REM sleep on the platform, that seems irrelevant.

I'm gonna finish watching diving and then go to bed; there was plenty that I could skip while catching up on last night and watching tonight's coverage, since they played the women's gold medal beach volleyball final, a long interview with those annoying gold medalists, a Cris Collingsworth piece on the men's beach volleyball players (it's easy to know to keep fast-forwarding because his teeth are so bright and wolf-like that they scare me away from the 'play' button), and are getting ready to show the men's beach volleyball final. This is good news, despite my dislike of beach volleyball, because it means a) beach volleyball is done, so tomorrow and Saturday aren't tainted, and b) I can go to bed tonight and not stay up until the end. Yay.

Tomorrow I have to go to work, obviously, and I'm hoping that Oniel and Katrina come over and watch Olympics tomorrow night. But overall I really need to get back to my book -- I was feeling really antsy and annoyed today, and I attribute it to the fact that I haven't really worked on the book since I got back to California. When I got home from work tonight, I had something approaching a vision about how I want my third book to open up. There's so much stuff about the next two books bubbling up while I'm commuting, cleaning my apartment, etc., and it's frustrating that I'm not working on them. I have no one to blame but myself, obviously, since I've been focused on playing, moving into my apartment, getting settled in at work, and watching the Olympics -- but starting this weekend, that all needs to change.

Now, after watching a "fifteen-year-old [thrill] her country with a dive for the ages" as the Chinese took gold and bronze in the women's 10m platform, it's time for bed!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

gegrillte nünberger bratwurst mit sauerkraut und kartoffelbrei

Tonight I had dinner with a blast from the past -- Jesse, my co-RA from the old Mirlo days. It's been years since we've actually caught up; any time one of us reached out to see if the other one was around and willing to hang out, the other one was in the process of moving or doing something else. But Jesse's back in town for a couple of months, since his team is based here but he's living in Phoenix, and this time we finally managed to catch up.

We met up at Suppenküche, a German restaurant in the Hayes Valley neighborhood, which is about a mile from my apartment. I should have just walked there, since I ended up paying $7 for parking rather than continuing to circle, but it was nice to be able to drive home at the end of the night. I'd heard good things about Suppenküche, but the majority of my dinner-sharing friends are vegetarian, so places where the only vegetarian options are spaetzel and beer are usually out of the running. It was insanely crowded, especially for a Wednesday; we waited around half an hour for a table, which we ended up sharing with another party because the tables are long, 8- to 10-person communal affairs like beer houses are apparently like in Germany. I don't remember that from Germany, but since my German experience mainly consisted of three days of dancing to blaring techno music and my calories came mostly from vodka, rum, and Red Bull, I may have just missed out on that side of German life.

It was awesome to see Jesse, and I'm sad that we lost touch over the years; there are always a few people whom you will wonder about over the course of your life, and Jesse's one of them for me. I've mostly forgotten the other kids in that dorm (other than Tammy, Shedletsky, Terry, and Lisa, all of whom I'm still in active contact with, as well as characters like Texan Dave, Eric the Viking, Jason, Emma, Peter, and the pot-smoking athletes on my floor), since for me my better RA experience happened the following year in Loro, but Jesse's great. So it was good to catch up, and even better to catch up over pork sausages and mashed potatoes. I probably won't go back to Suppenküche just because of my vegetarian-friend dilemma, but I recommend it if you're into meat, potatoes, or beer.

The rest of my day was pretty uneventful. I wanted to watch Olympics tonight but I got home from dinner at ten p.m., and I'm so tired that I think I should go to sleep, wake up early tomorrow, and make it to the shuttle in a more leisurely way than my forced-march stride up the hill that I had to make this morning. Tomorrow should be interesting; I have a variety of meetings, but I also start my allergy shot series - allergy shots every Tuesday and Thursday for the next three months. I got the results of my blood test back, and it turns out everything's negative, so my doctor thinks that allergy shots will help clear up the cross-reactions I have between certain weeds/pollens and certain fruits/vegetables. With my luck, she'll cure my oral allergy to bananas just in time for them to go extinct, but we'll see what happens. Now, though, it's time for bed!

the agony and the ecstasy

Iowa went 1 for 2 in terms of Olympics results tonight. Lolo Jones, the favorite in the women's 100m hurdles, clipped the ninth hurdle and ended up coming in seventh, which was a devastating finish for her given how great she looked in the qualifying rounds. Granted, she was honored with a likeness of herself carved in ice at the Iowa State Fair, but I'm sure she would have rather had gold instead.

However, Shawn Johnson finally won her gold medal, coming on the last night of competition in the balance beam final. I should have gone to Katrina's tonight to celebrate her birthday (happy birthday, Katrina!) and watch some Olympics with her, but I emailed her this afternoon to politely decline the invitation because I wouldn't have been able to stand watching the final apparatus final with someone who was cheering for Nastia Liukin instead. I have nothing against Nastia at all, but Shawn is adorable, and I wanted to see her come home with a gold. Happily, Shawn and Nastia won gold and silver, closing out an amazing performance by both of them at these games. Shawn indicated in the post-event interview that she was interested in coming back in 2012, but you can't expect that she'll perform as well there as she did here, if the performances of other 20-year-olds (Cheng Fei, Alicia Sacramone, Chelsea Memmel, etc.) are any indication. Then again, the 33-year-old who competed for Germany came away with a medal, so I suppose anything is possible.

The other 'great' segment of tonight's coverage was Mary Carillo's feature segment on kite-flying in China. I think that her commentary sometimes borders on offensive, although I felt that the most when I was watching her segment on Chinese food, and then later remembered that I am a perpetrator of a great crime against Chinese culinary culture by playing the Shrimp or Feet game and laughing hysterically at the dim sum Cart of Horrors every time it rolls by our table. Anyway, apparently there are dueling kites, in which the strings are made out of crushed glass and glue -- man, if only the US safety standards were less stringent for children's toys, we could take care of some overpopulation issues and teach kids the art of kite-flying at the same time.

Now I'm going to bed without finishing tonight's coverage; I skipped the two men's apparatus finals because I started watching coverage later than usual tonight and had to prioritize so that I can go to bed. I had an 8:30am presentation to the directors this morning, managed to drag myself out of bed and get there on time, only to discover when I got there that they wanted to push me to 9:10. I was surly about my lost sleep the rest of the day, but unwillingly made up for it on the shuttle ride home -- this particular driver handled the bus like it was my old Pontiac Sunfire, stopping and starting abruptly, which was exacerbated by heavy traffic, and so I was only able to work for five minutes before I began to feel queasy and so went to sleep instead. Hopefully I get a better driver tomorrow, since the shuttle is more productive when I can get some work done on it. Goodnight!

Monday, August 18, 2008

shut up, bob costas

Bob Costas is really rubbing me the wrong way this year. Maybe it's because he doesn't seem to respect Bela Karolyi. Or maybe it's because NBC made the ridiculous decision to tape-delay live coverage for the West Coast, which means we have to watch from 8-midnight, three hours after everything 'live' actually happened, when they could have done 6-10 or 7-11. And then he has the audacity to offer these words of advice for people suffering from sleep deprivation:

1) stay hydrated
2) tell yourself you only need four hours of sleep
3) wear sunglasses to hide red eyes
4) crank up your ipod and listen to anything michael phelps does
5) skip work (you're never going to see an olympics like this again anyway)

Granted I'm addicted, but to be told this by the company that paid like a billion dollars for these games and then tape-delayed for a third of the country seems obnoxious. What are they going to do when the games are in Vancouver? Will they force Canada to schedule events late at night? Or show them live on the east coast and tape delay for the west coast even though we're in the same timezone?

At least there's no beach volleyball in the winter olympics. And now I really really have to go to bed, since I'm just getting crankier and I can't be cranky tomorrow morning. Goodnight!

of course i lied

I ended up staying awake for the uneven bars event final, since I'm addicted. The gymnastics scoring is nauseating. You just have to remind yourself of the small pleasures in life -- like the fact that Steliana Niestor's Romanian coach has an 80's porn star mustache. But seriously, the gymnastics federation needs to revisit the scoring system and bring back some experienced judges -- why should the Olympics be judged by people from New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, and other countries that have no one of any real talent in the gymnastics finals? I understand they want to remove bias, but it seems that the judges keep screwing up. It's just sad, because the gymnasts are doing amazing things -- all three of the medal winners on the uneven bars finals deserved medals without question, but it's being overshadowed by the craziness of scoring. Boo.

Okay, really time for bed!

athens was apparently "the waterloo of chinese gymnastics"

I love the over-the-top comparisons used by commentators; but do you think Tim Daggett referred to the battle of Waterloo because he's a fan of history, or because he's a fan of ABBA?

I don't think I'm going to make it through tonight's coverage; it's been a long week and a half since they started, and the advent of Tivo makes it easier to go to bed when you know that you can catch up later. I'll be sacrificing seeing the women's uneven bars and the men's vault tonight, which means I may find out the results tomorrow, but I care more about Shawn Johnson's attempt at the beam, so it makes sense to go to bed tonight and stay up tomorrow. I also have an 8:30 meeting in which I have to present to a bunch of directors whom I haven't presented to in six months, so it would be nice to be awake for that.

Despite the exhaustion, today was great. My meetings were productive, I had lunch with Dan, and I ended up on the same shuttle as Alaska Matt, which was quite entertaining. Now, though, I'm going to get ready for bed!

return of the shrimp or feet game

I still adore the Olympics, and I of course am amazed, in awe of, in love with, etc., the sheer athleticism, competitive drive, and amazing overall performance of Michael Phelps. But I have to say that NBC's focus on him is a bit overwhelming; it was completely understandable when he was actively competing, but they ended with another replay of several of his races to cap out tonight's coverage...and he's completely done with swimming for this Olympics. They also ended w/some shots of Nastia Liukin's all-around final, even though Shawn Johnson beat her in the floor exercise tonight.

Granted, I'm just a little bit annoyed because I love Shawn Johnson and it was too bad that she had to go first on the floor, but it was also sad to watch Alicia Sacramone come in fourth after Cheng Fei fell on her vault and still scored higher. Watching Bela Karolyi say 'this ripoff was inadmissable' while almost crying made me feel better, though.

So despite that, today was a great day. Tammy, Shedletsky, Joanna and I had dim sum at the Hong Kong Opium Den (note: not the real name, but similarly addictive) before Tammy took off for LA. We played the Shrimp or Feet; for those not familiar with the rules, it involves someone in the dining party choosing a spatial location and an amount of time to countdown, and then eating whatever ridiculous thing happens to occupy that location when the countdown is finished. Since we're not going often enough to do a tournament, we chose today's player by drawing lots; Tammy won/lost and so had to play. She got lucky with some kind of pancake filled with green onions. She got very very lucky when you consider the other things that passed us by right before the timer went off, including some sort of stew with a plethora of feet, and the infamous Cart of Sadness which, with the addition of some serious tentacles and some questionable-looking puddings, has been tentatively redubbed the Cart of Horrors.

We ended up getting many of our old favorites -- both deep-fried and steamed shrimp in bean curd, shrimp egg rolls, shrimp dumplings aka shrimp families aka har gar, siu mai, bbq pork buns, steamed egg custard buns, rice noodle with shrimp, and deep fried shrimp dumpling w/mayonnaise, although we did not order any awesomely flat Cokes. We also got to sit in one of the best tables, on the second floor overlooking Millbrae, which is bad in terms of frequency of carts but nice in terms of view. And we had a ridiculous conversation, as usual, so that was quite entertaining.

After saying goodbye to Tammy, I came home, rubbed my tummy, took a nap, and then cleaned my apartment. Then I made shortcakes in honor of Katrina's birthday on Tuesday; she and Adit came over to watch Olympics, do laundry, and generally take advantage of my resources, and Adit had suggested that we get a cake for her. Since I had the ingredients for shortcake and a lot of leftover berries, I cooked instead, and they turned out perfectly. So we enjoyed some substantial family time, and they just left around midnight, when gymnastics and the women's 100m dash were finished. Now I desperately need to sleep -- this whole getting up and going to work thing is really cramping my style! Oh, well, I'm sure I'll forgive it once I actually get a paycheck again.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

not as dramatic as dong dong

What an amazing day! I adore the Olympics regardless of what is going on, but the last hour of primetime coverage tonight was nearly perfect. Tammy and I watched almost the entire thing live; we skipped some of the middle of the women's marathon to watch a bit of stuff that we'd Tivo'd from the afternoon, but the two women's swimming races (women's 50m individual, women's 4x100m medley relay), the men's 4x100m medley relay, and the men's 100m dash were all incredibly exciting. If my neighbors weren't watching the Olympics, they must have known that we were, since the end of the men's 4x100 (and Michael Phelps' last race) had us jumping up and down and shrieking hysterically, while the men's 100m dash just left us stunned by how fast the winner was.

I know it sounds absurd, but there was something just so awesome about watching history happen, even if I was watching it on the floor of an apartment half a world away (and three hours after it actually happened, thanks to NBC's ridiculous tape-delay-for-west-coast policy). Michael Phelps deserved all the hype, even if his teammates (Piersol, Hansen, and especially Lezak) probably deserved a bit more than they go. And Dana Torres is amazing, as is the guy who won the 100m dash.

This of course followed a full day of Olympics for us. We woke up around eleven and had brunch with Adit -- the place had the best French toast I have ever had in my entire life, and brunch was v. entertaining. Sadly Adit had to work and couldn't watch Olympics with us, but we persevered without him. I spent the whole afternoon watching various sports, like badminton, rowing, and trampoline (featuring the Chinese male trampoline gymnast Dong Dong, who was the subject of many bad jhokes). Tammy and I took a break at 6:30 to grab some Thai food down the street, and got back just in time to start watching tonight's coverage. Now we're 'warming down'; we watched a Tivo'd episode of "Dinner:Impossible" (in which a chef creates a meal for a large group in absurdly bad conditions), and are now watching latenight coverage.

Sadly, Tammy leaves tomorrow :( That means I'll have to watch track and field all by my lonesome next week. But we're saying goodbye in style -- we're meeting Shedletsky and Joanna at the Hong Kong Flower Lounge, and after watching Mary Carillo's color commentary story a couple of nights ago about the ridiculous things that you can eat in China, I'm really looking forward to some great dim sum. Then it's back to the Olympics, with perhaps a brief break to clean up my apartment, before I have to sleep so that I can go to work on Monday. Yay! Now it's time for late-night hurdles; more tomorrow!

Friday, August 15, 2008

sex, drugs, and olympic watching

Actually I'm missing the sex and drugs part, but the Olympics have taken over my entire life. I woke up this morning after 5.5hrs of sleep, quickly showered, and hoofed it up the hill to the shuttle stop in time to make it to work. I have to say that the shuttle is pretty awesome; I took it last night and this morning for the first time, and I think it's great. I didn't get carsick at all, and was able to work on my laptop both last night and this morning. I think it will be good for me to have a chance to do emails in the morning and evening; when I got to work this morning, I was already caught up with emails, and I was able to get other things done. Combine that with the fact that I've been actively avoiding all news, video, blogs, and Olympics-related conversations this week to avoid finding out anything about the Olympics, and I've been remarkably effective.

So I worked all day, came home, and sped through the coverage from last night's women's gymnastics individual all-around. I was devastated about Shawn Johnson getting silver; while Nastia Liukin did a v. good job, and obviously silver is nice, I just adore her, and she must have been sad not to make it to the very top. I also got way too angry about the judges' scoring because I get way too excited about this kind of stuff. Then I took a fifteen-minute nap before Tammy got home -- it wasn't enough to rejuvenate me, but it was enough to get me through the night.

Tammy and I went out for dinner; the criteria were a) someplace within a couple of blocks, and b) something where we could drink something alcoholic. Using Yelp, I found Fina Estampa, which was a block and a half away; it's Spanish/Peruvian, which meant sangria, which meant awesome. When we walked in we were virtually the only people there, which gave us plenty of reason to think that we should go someplace else, but it turned out to be awesome. The sangria was good, the seafood paella was just about perfect, and Tammy and I had a v. entertaining conversation.

When we got back, we actually watched tonight's Olympics -- we're finally caught up on everything that happened the last few days (except for diving, which we're powering through tomorrow morning). The Michael Phelps race was absolutely incredible, and I'm glad we're moving into track and field. I also thought that Mark Spitz's interview was great. Tammy and I are just so super psyched about the whole Olympics thing, and I'm glad we're caught up. When I was getting off the bus today, the driver probably thought I was insane; the radio announcer mentioned Michael Phelps, and I immediately blocked my ears so effectively that I couldn't hear anything else, but that also meant I looked stupid and couldn't say goodbye to the driver. Ridiculous.

Now I'm going to bed, even though there's more Olympics to watch -- I'm just too exhausted to keep going right now. Goodnight!

you know who jonathan horton needs right now? jonathan horton.

I still think Bela Karolyi is the best commentator, followed by my beloved Dick Button, but Al Trautwig gives them a run for their money. He says ridiculous things regardless of which sport he's commentating; given that he commentates some rather out-there sports (like Olympic gymnastics and the Tour de France), he gets plenty of chances to make weird comparisons and absurd references. I love him!

I'm exhausted, but I can't stop Olympics!!! I had to be at work by eight a.m. today, and I made it, but getting through the multiple meetings the rest of the day was v. difficult. I left early and came home so that Tammy and I could keep on our death march through several days' worth of tivo'd Olympics coverage. We spent a couple of hours watching the women's team gymnastics final from Wednesday night; I already knew the results, and it was heartbreaking to watch it again with Tammy, hear the hope in her voice, and then watch Alicia Sacramone's meltdown. Not that the silver medal was all her fault, but watching the beam and the floor routines again was really sad.

We took a long break from gymnastics tonight to have dinner with Shedletsky and Joanna. Tammy picked the restaurant - Bushi-Tei on Post St in San Francisco. It was incredibly good, sort of Japanese/French fusion, and we stayed there for around three hours. We had a great bottle of wine, and then I ordered three starters as dinner. This is what I had (mainly for Felicia, who loves food): a tuna tartare with tobiko, wasabi-crème fraiche, coriander seed, and herb oil, a miso-marinated Wagyu beef with upland cress, apple, fennel, and French blue cheese, and green beans with fermented black beans and almonds. Of the three, the tuna tartare was really incredible; I like raw fish, and the presentations was gorgeous. The beef dish was good but I thought that the various flavors kind of overwhelmed the meat. However, overall everything was lovely, and I really liked the atmosphere -- we sat at the end of a big banquet table like we were aristocrats waiting for a dinner party to start, which was fun. We had a great time, and it was worth hanging out even if it means that Tammy and I couldn't get caught up tonight.

Now it's almost two a.m., and I'm still watching Olympics. Tammy and I got home from dinner around eleven, and spent the last three hours speeding through Wednesday's Olympics coverage. Tivo is great for fastforwarding through beach volleyball, and we can see the results of the swimming heats without having to watch every single race. But we haven't fastforwarded through any gymnastics -- we're on the last rotation of the men's individual all-around. The Americans don't seem to be doing well, the Japanese guy had a horrific fall on the rings and has come back to fourth at this point, and there's a Russian guy in third place whose name sounds like a bird call. All in all, it's fantastic.

No sharing results with me for tonight's women's all-around or Michael Phelps' quest for the gold -- we're watching that tomorrow night, and then hopefully will get all caught up. We have to go back through this past week's recordings and watch the diving events, and then fun things like track/field, synchronized swimming, and the gymnastics event finals start this weekend. Yay! But now I need to focus on gymnastics so that I can go to bed, get a few hours' sleep, and do it all again tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

ready for action

I just got back to my apartment after a rather exhausting trip to Ann Arbor. I meant to sleep on the plane so that I could watch more Olympics tonight, but I ended up spending the majority of the flight reading a romance novel, which probably wasn't smart -- I have to be at the office at 8am tomorrow, which is not nice.

But, I just watched the 4x100 men's freestyle relay that played Sunday night while I was on my way to the airport -- I obviously knew who won because it was one of the biggest races of the entire Olympics, due to trash-talking by the French and the fact that it contributed to Michael Phelps' amazing golden journey, but the race was still awesome even if I knew what happened. Now I'm waiting for Tammy to get back from a visit to the south bay so that I can watch some gymnastics, but I can't stay up too late.

However, after work tomorrow, I'm dedicating myself solely to Olympics, and it's going to be all Olympics all the time until they're over. YAY.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

just one...more...routine

I lied in my earlier post; once I started watching the women's gymnastics final (because I wanted to see the men's 4x200m freestyle relay, which was in the middle of the gymnastics), I couldn't stop. Now it's 12:30am and I have to wake up in seven hours. But for those of you who are on the west coast, where NBC says the coverage is 'live' when really it's only live in the eastern/central time zones, you're in for a treat -- Bela Karolyi has to be one of the most awesome commentators in existence, perhaps even topping my beloved Dick Button (who has commentated ice skating since the days of radio). The fact that he was able to work in allegations about the Chinese gymnasts being underage in just about every statement was nothing short of amazing.

Now, though, I really am going to bed!

nothing cutens up a country like panda bears

I love Mary Carillo -- she's the commentator on NBC who's doing the reports on Chinese culture, and she just did a story on pandas. She also sounds like a man, which makes the story about pandas even better.

Today was good, albeit exhausting; we basically sat in a conference room and brainstormed all day, which is an activity I have devoted far too much of my life to. Afterward, one of my coworkers and I had a drink at the bar on the first floor of the office building while waiting for our other coworkers to get done with their meetings; my strawberry/basil caipiroska was absolutely perfect, and I wish that I could make drinks that delicious. Then, we all went over to the team manager's house for a barbecue. The house was lovely, the barbecue was great, and we had a v. fun evening. I'm glad it ended earlier than last night, though; I hope to sleep a lot tonight so that I can make it through tomorrow, get on the plane, sleep some more, and then catch up on the Olympics coverage that I've missed.

I watched some beach volleyball tonight and I'm going to watch the Michael Phelps race, but then I'm going to go to bed without watching women's gymnastics. I think that I accidentally saw the results of the men's gymnastics; the hotel put the newspaper on my bed, and when I came in I saw a fragment of headline before hastily flipping it over. But I want to watch gymnastics with Tammy when I get home, so I'm going to go to bed before the gymnasts take the floor. And then as soon as I'm back in SF, it's all Olympics all the time until they're over. Yay!!!

Monday, August 11, 2008

wizard of the moon

I had a fabulous day in Ann Arbor, despite my almost complete lack of sleep. I slept <4 hours on the plane last night, awoke groggily at 4:45am Pacific time (7:45am Eastern) as we were getting ready to land in Detroit, and then had to find my reserved taxi and make it to the Ann Arbor office in time for our morning's meetings. The meetings throughout the day were pretty good; I was pretty proud of myself when, during the icebreak survival game, I convinced the team I was on that one of the five items we should take to a desert island was an 'enormous bucket of Legos' -- because the bucket could be used to carry/store water, and the Legos could be used as entertainment and to build useful things. I was v. proud of myself and think I demonstrated what it takes to be a manager.

After wrapping up for the day, a bunch of us crashed a happy hour for some of the other managers in the Ann Arbor office. We chatted for a couple of hours, enjoyed the Irish-pub atmosphere, and generally bonded, before the other two team leads from California and I adjourned to have dinner at a posh restaurant down the street.

However, there's a plumbers' and pipelayers' convention in town this week, which is why we had trouble finding rooms, and the restaurant we wanted to go to was participating in this downtown 'block party' for the convention. They blocked off a stretch of one of the main roads in town, played live music, and showed some great antique cars. The weather was perfect, so when we were told that it would be over an hour before we could get a table, we grabbed seats outside the bar next door and drank (Guinness, in my case) until our table was ready. Two other people who are friends with one of my team leads showed up, and the five of us had an absolutely marvelous time.

Then we went into the restaurant, and the marvelous time turned downright hysterical. It was also delicious -- I had one of the best french onion soups I've ever had, followed by an absolutely perfect filet mignon, and paired with a fabulous, expensive bottle of wine shared by the table. I'm extremely happy with the team I'm working with; I feel that the three of us have struck up some instant rapport, helped along by the camaraderie we developed tonight over several glasses of wine and beer. And I laughed harder, longer, than I have in a long time, so that says something about tonight's festivities.

Now, though, I'm desperate for sleep -- during the only break of the afternoon, I actually took a twelve-minute nap in my temporary Ann Arbor office. I just hope that the people sitting outside that office, who belong to the team that I am now involved in, don't recognize me and realize I'm the California lead -- I turned off the light, shut the door, laid facedown on the floor, spread my pashmina over me, and actually fell asleep. It was just enough to keep me going the rest of the afternoon, but I don't want to repeat that misery. The only bad thing about today was that I didn't get to watch any Olympics at all :( But Ann Arbor is totally gorgeous -- I could see myself living here, which is v. interesting, so I'll have to come back someday when I have time to explore and am not just looking forward to getting back to watching the Olympics with Tammy in the evil city. Sigh. Goodnight!

detroit rock city

I am in the San Francisco airport, awaiting my flight to Detroit for
my three-day meeting in Ann Arbor. Today was an excellent day...Tammy
and I hung out all day, walking down to Union Square, where we had an
adventure by setting a timer and picking the first food establishment
we saw after the timer went off. The ambience' what with homeless
people showing up to eat the leftovers as soon as other diners
finished, left something to be desired, but it was fine nonetheless.
Then we went shopping, and Tammy encouraged me to get a pair of
versace sunglasses, which are awesome because they are so unnecessary.

We ordered takeout sushi and spent the evening watching womens
gymnastics. The US team was pretty rough, but easily qualified for the
finals, and Iowa's sweetheart Shawn Johnson was incredible. Sadly, I
had to leave just as swimming was coming on...having to travel and do
business things during the Olympics is doing bad things to my
willingness to lead a 'productive' life. But the trip should be good,
and I'll be back Wednesday, which gives me several more days with
Tammy.

I should go. But one last thing...happy birthday to Katie!! Yay!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

dazed, confused, and on fire!

Man, I absolutely adore the Olympics. Surprisingly, though, I didn't start watching until 8pm today. When I woke up, hungover, all I could think about was facilitating my recovery. I ended up meeting up with Adit and Katrina for a late brunch; by the time we actually got a table and started eating, it was 2pm. But the eggs and potatoes were just what I needed, and I felt much better afterward. After brunch, Adit and I spent a few hours working at a cafe; this was the first time I tried to write in over a month, and I'm eager to get back into the swing of things with the book. I started editing the first chapter, and I think it went pretty well. If nothing else, I feel a little bit more back into the story, and I'm hoping to get that momentum going so that I can have something more polished by mid-September. A complete second draft would be a great birthday present to myself!

After Adit and I parted ways, I came home and tackled the aftermath of the party. Cleanup was surprisingly easy; in my drunken state pre-club last night, I managed to refrigerate everything that needed refrigerated, so there was nothing truly disgusting waiting for me. I was surprised to see that we went through a whole bottle of rum, and I'm guessing we would have made it through more vodka if people had looked in the freezer to see the bottles that I had used to mix up cosmopolitans. Actually, it's a good thing they didn't, since I'm the one who would have ended up drinking it, and last night I reached the upper limit of what I can feasibly drink if I want to not vomit at some point in the next twenty-four hours. But my kitchen is nice and clean again, my living room is back in order, and other than laundry I won't have to do any other chores while the Olympics are in motion.

Tammy got stuck in traffic and was late arriving, so while I waited for her, I watched last night's Opening Ceremonies again. TiVo is a magical device during the Olympics. I got to watch the whole artistic component of the opening ceremonies, sans commercials, while recording tonight's stuff so that we could start watching it when Tammy arrived. I must say that the opening ceremonies were really incredibly impressive, and I'm glad I watched them again when I could see the whole thing and not play hostess. Tammy showed up just as the parade of nations started, which was perfect timing, so we started to watch tonight's prime time coverage. Adit also came over at the same time and did some more work while Tammy and I ran our own color commentary on swimming, gymnastics, and other events. It was awesome! And the awesomeness is going to continue for a couple of weeks! But now I should really go to bed -- Tammy and I are going to hang out tomorrow, and then I need to pack so that I can get on a red-eye flight to Ann Arbor. Goodnight!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

good work, drunk sara!

After waking up, lying in bed to stop the spinning, sleeping some more, taking some advil, drinking some water, and eating some cake, I feel surprisingly alive and refreshed despite the misery of this morning's early hours. I'm getting ready to go meet Adit for brunch, but I just reread last night's post, and am amazed by the a) spelling, b) coherence, and c) truthiness of the entire narrative. If you knew how drunk I was last night, you would be too! On that self-congratulatory note, it's time to shower, eat, and then watch some more Olympics!

arrrrlympics

I'm probably too drunk to blog effectively -- it's not quite to the point of the infamous 2005 ski trip, for those of you who remember that ridiculous drunk blog post, but it's almost there. I had an excellent day! If you don't know that the Olympics started today, please stop reading my blog, since we're officially not friends and you're completely cut from the program. The Olympics are something that I look forward to with rabid enthusiasm every two years, and this year is no exception. In fact, because of the political climate and the human rights issues and the general sense of unease, I'm looking forward to these Olympics even more than I was looking forward to Athens -- which is saying something, since Athens was a complete clusterfuck from an organizational standpoint (to use more vulgar language than I do when I'm sober).

Ssss...anyway, I had a party in honor of the opening ceremonies. This was a good thing, since it encouraged me to unpack. I went a little overboard on the theme -- I baked the requisite five Olympic Rings Cakes (tm), but I added on this year with Olympic Rings Dips (salsa, guacamole, cheese, sour cream dyed blue, and spinach/artichoke dip dyed black), and Olympic Rings Fruits (pineapple, kiwi, blueberries, strawberries, and chocolate sauce). I also made cosmopolitans and mint juleps, and had ingredients for mojitos. Unfortunately, drinks are not my strong suit, but the cakes and dips were quite delicious.

The party itself was lovely. I had a good mix of old Stanford friends and new(er) work friends, although the work friends are pretty much old friends at this point. There were just enough people to feel like a party, but not so many that it was overcrowded. And some of my more ridiculous friends showed up, which is why I'm rather inebriated right now -- John and I relived old memories by drinking whatever we could come across (in this case, a 'blackberry shot', which started off as a shot of rum, club soda, black food coloring, and a single blueberry), and Adit refined the idea with some concoctions of his own (still with black food coloring and a blueberry, but I don't know what else he put in it). After two cosmos, one mojito dyed blue, four 'blackberry' shots, and then the drinks I had at the Geary Club afterwards with Adit and Oniel, I'm quite a happy camper. Tomorrow I will be a sad camper, but I will deal with that when it arrives. And I probably won't be as sad as John -- he showed up with a pirate hat, and then added to it by painting a mustache on his face w/black food coloring, but food coloring doesn't wash out easily. Too bad for him, but v. entertaining for the rest of us.

So the party was excellent. Special shoutout to Alaska Matt and his wife Alaska Kia -- they claimed this was the best party that they had been to in months, which, considering the fact that they said this after Matt was subjected to a mint julep and then watched me dye my mouth black with all the 'blackberry' shots, says a lot about their social life. I think a good time was had by all, and I'm looking forward to the games kicking off in earnest tomorrow. I tivo'd the opening ceremonies, so I'll probably have to watch again when I'm not playing hostess, but I'm glad I got to hang out with my friends.

After the party ended at midnight, Oniel and I met up with Adit at Geary Club. We hung out there for an hour and a half, which was fun, before Oniel walked me home. Initially we said that this bar was someplace we should take my parents...they actually allow smoking, which I don't understand how they can get away with in California, but whatever. However, on the way home at two am, we walked past a lot of sketchy people, including a guy walking around in pink tights and a camouflage speedo. So we decided that perhaps it wasn't safe to take my parents out in the neighborhood when all the crazies are out. But Oniel kept me from getting stabbed in the kidney, and now I'm turning in for the night. Happy Olympics, everyone!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

let's melt the sugar

I just made simple syrup, two cakes, and a chocolate ganache. I also frosted two of the cakes that I made last night. This is the most cooking that I've done in months, since living at home made it v. easy to not cook (particularly since my family is unappreciative of my "California-inspired" cuisine). But I'm happy to report that I've got the cake-baking down to a science; I'm much more efficient than I was the first time that I made these things, as evidenced by the fact that my feet don't hurt -- I clearly haven't been standing over the counter mixing stuff long enough to merit foot pain. The only hard part about making these cakes is having them all sitting there taunting me, since out of principle I can't cut them until the official start of the Olympics. And from the taste-tests I took of the batters, each of them is better than the last. I can't wait!

So today was a good day; I am starting to get set up in my new office, although I'm missing a keyboard, a mouse, and the connector necessary to convert my monitor's plug to the different receptor used by my laptop's docking station. I also had lunch with one of my new team leads, which was really great; we hadn't met before today, but I had fun getting to know him at lunch. I'm having lunch with the other one tomorrow, although I know her from previous experience since she reported to me before I went on leave. And the three of us will have a chance to do some more bonding next week, since all of us are going to Ann Arbor. I spent the rest of the afternoon in various meetings of the catching-up variety, then came home to finish the baking.

Tomorrow's going to be a little hectic early on -- I have to be in the office at 8am for a videoconference, but I'm going to leave early so that I can come home and finish prepping for the Olympics. There isn't much left to do, but I have to assemble the cakes, make some spinach-artichoke dip (which I'm dying black -- I found black food coloring at Safeway! miracle!), take out the trash, and shove any remaining detritus in my closet. And then the Olympics start! It's the culmination of a long two-year wait, and I'm so excited I can barely contain myself.

I'm expecting to see some awesome sports performances and some even more awesome controversies -- like the fact that Joey Cheek, America's speed-skating darling from the Torino Olympics in 2006, just had his Chinese visa revoked because he's part of a group of athletes who are advocating for action on the Darfur/Sudan genocide situation. But even better, the guy the athletes selected to carry the American flag in the opening ceremony's parade of athletes is one of the 'Lost Boys of the Sudan', who actually escaped the violence in Sudan and sought refuge in the US. Drama! If you know anything about me, you know I love a good drama, preferably with a high portion of absurdity thrown in for flavor, so this Olympics is going to be right up my alley. Now, though, it's time for bed!

gimme gimme gimme a man after midnight

The critical advantage of a longer commute is that I have time to rock out to a full album -- which, for the past couple of days, has been the soundtrack to the 'Mamma Mia' movie. It's no wonder I'm single.

Today was great. I got my new laptop, and it's insanely small. It's also the laptop of the future; rather than having to type in my corporate password whenever I boot up/come back from screensaver, I can just scan my fingerprint! Now that I've told you this, please don't attempt to break into my company's computer system by killing me, chopping off my finger, and using it to access my computer -- you can't get to the internal stuff with the fingerprint, so all you would get is some photos and some ABBA songs.

I came home with a mission -- to get through a couple of Olympics Rings Cakes (tm) and start getting the apartment shaped up for the party I'm having on Friday. I was v. successful; I baked three cakes, cleaned the bathroom, and stacked up the boxes that I need to recycle tomorrow morning. The only snag I ran into was that I didn't get enough red food coloring; it's nearly impossible to make a white frosting look red instead of pink when you're using food coloring, and I didn't buy enough food coloring to even get close to respectable. So I'll have to make a stop to get some more tomorrow. Yes, it's silly that my self-imposed rules about these cakes include the stipulation that the colors be relatively pure; the outsides don't always look like that anyway, because I make three frosted cakes and two glazed cakes, which means the glazed ones don't look as colorful on the outside as the frosted ones do. But the Olympics only come every couple of years, and I'm determined to honor them properly!

I also had a v. exciting IM exchange with Jesse, who was my co-RA in Mirlo oh-so-many years ago. I haven't seen him in years, which is mostly my fault since any time we've tried to get together I've ended up moving to another country or not following up on the plans. But he's in town again for a few weeks, and we made plans to have dinner the week after I get back from Ann Arbor. So that should be fun; unfortunately he's out of town this weekend, or else he could see Tammy, Shedletsky, and Terry (who all lived in the dorm that year), but he'll just have to make do with me.

Now, though, it's really time for bed. Chandlord will be happy to know that, due to bitter experience with the first Olympic Rings Cakes (tm), I am v. careful to wipe up any batter/frosting spills as soon as they happen, since food coloring stains counters like nobody's business. But considering that she's leaving for Boston and has cut me from the program, maybe she's not interested :( Goodnight!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

if you change your mind, i'm the first in line

Day Two at work was slightly more productive than Day One, even if I had to leave early; the snazzy new laptop that I ordered yesterday arrived this afternoon, and so I had to leave the old one with the tech people so that they could transfer my files tonight. Since I am even more useless without a laptop at work, there was no point in staying. Instead, I ran a couple of errands and had dinner with Can at Naomi Sushi. Can was even more crazed than usual because he was having issues with a project and probably should have skipped dinner to fix it, but it was great to catch up with him. After dinner, I stopped at the amazingly-beautiful new Safeway in Menlo Park that replaced the hideous, decrepit Safeway that I remember from my college years, and I stocked up on the rest of the stuff I needed to start the Olympic cake baking process. Feeling satisfied with my progress, I drove back to the evil city, arriving around 10:30pm.

The highlight/lowlight of the day, though, was saying goodbye to Chandlord. She and Katrina met in my building for a quick cup of coffee and a facilitated drop-off of various things that Vidya and I needed to give to each other. Katrina had to go early to do some usability stuff (jk - she gets horribly offended by usability, since "usability" is to "what she does" as "paint by numbers" is to "Picasso"), and then Vidya and I hung out for a few more minutes. This was our final parting before cutting each other from the program, and it was actually quite sad to watch her drive away. Of course, we'll be in touch when I give her all my money every month, but it's not the same. I'm going to print a photo of her to hang in the apartment so that I can feel near to her. Also, at her behest, I'm starting a new label regarding her apartment. I told her that this could be a liability for me since she'll have documentary evidence with which to sue me if I blog "I got drunk and defecated on the carpet". But I'm just going to have to trust that I won't ever do something that disgusting, and go with the new label anyway.

So Chandlord is not much longer for these parts. I will take solace in the fact that the Olympics are in three days!!! That means I have five cakes to bake over the next two nights, but it's no hill for a climber. Just as long as I don't burn my arm again like I did the last time I baked a substantial quantity of goods, I'll be quite pleased. Now, though, it's time for bed!

Monday, August 04, 2008

anticlimax

I made it into work by nine this morning, which I thought was impressive considering that, back when I went to work every day, I rarely made it in by nine unless I had a meeting, and even then I was usually two minutes late nine o'clock meetings. It was even more impressive considering that my commute was almost an hour, as opposed to the <15mins from Palo Alto. However, I really had v. little to do, which was obviously welcome, but also rather strange -- in many ways, it felt like I never left. I got roped into one meeting, which felt v. deja-vuish, because it was in essence the same people discussing the same topics that we were discussing when I left, and it doesn't seem like much has changed. I spent the rest of the day clearing out the 5000+ emails in my work inbox (most of which I didn't read, but I skimmed the headers and read anything that looked interesting). I also ordered a new work laptop and a new work blackberry -- as much as i may wish that I were a starving artist someplace, working for a company with a lot of resources has some obvious advantages.

So really, for a first day it wasn't too bad. I had a doctor's appointment at 3:30, and I left work after that to run some necessary errands; by the time I went to Best Buy, Bed Bath and Beyond, Target, Diddam's, REI, and Lowes, I didn't get home until after 8pm. Then I made a perfect sandwich (I actually bought a container of sprouts -- I really have become a Californian), hauled some stuff downstairs that I intend to sell tomorrow, and generally relaxed.

The other thing I did was start to fiddle around with a new blog. I had lunch with Terry today, since she sits down the hall from me, and we were discussing viral marketing for books and the importance of a strong web presence. I think that, given my age, my love for technology, and my interest in blogging, it will make sense to attempt to publicize my book as much as possible through a website, blog, Facebook/MySpace profile, possible YouTube videos, and other forms of online marketing. Terry got me really excited about thinking more about this, even though I clearly need to finish the book before I can start marketing it. But, I think it's in my best interests to start writing the romance blog early; if I do sell the book, I'll need to have a website and several weeks/months worth of blog content so that new readers aren't greeted by a blank screen or a seldomly-updated website if they decide to seek out more info about my books.

Right now it's time for bed, so I'm not going to continue the blogging conversation. But once I get the romance blog started in earnest, I'll of course link to it from here. You may unfortunately find that the amount that I write here may go down if I have to produce content for another blog as well, and obviously I shouldn't be putting blogging above actual writing, so we'll have to see how I balance that. But here's hoping that I start to get a sense of what my job at work really is; anyone who could have possibly told me what to do today was out of the office, which was a good way for me to ease back into things, but it will be easier for me in the long run if I actually know what I'm doing. Now, though, it's time for bed!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

down to business

Today was my last day of freedom. I spent it in a v. laid-back way -- I woke up around nine, and spent most of the day attempting to organize the unorganized stuff in the apartment. I also talked to my parents, who were lovely, as usual, and set up my television in anticipation of needing the mind-numbing, pacifying stream of visual content when I start working in earnest.

Around 6:30, I met up with Adit and Katrina for some much-beloved family time. The dinner was originally planned in honor of three departures (Claude, Sri, and Chandlord) and one birthday (Fauxneil), but amusingly enough, none of the guests of honor could ever make it to a dinner. So Adit, Katrina and I went without them, although we did have an empty chair to which we could toast. We went to some restaurant called Beretta SF -- it's Italian, reasonably tasty, but in my opinion rather overpriced. When we got there, they told us that the wait for a table would be an hour, but about ten minutes later they offered to seat us in the basement. Adit asked if we could see the table before committing, and I have to admit that it was initially a little absurd -- there were absolutely no other guests in the basement, which had a rather dungeon-y feel. But I love absurdity and Adit was hungry, so we ended up taking the table, and the basement slowly filled up as the night progressed. The food was actually pretty good; we had some bruschetta-type thing with fava beans and cheese, and my entree was a mushroom and wine risotto, v. similar to the risotto that my parents despised when I made it for them. We also split a nice bottle of red wine. But the bill came out to ~$35/person, which seemed a little high; luckily, Adit owed me money from Chris's wedding weekend, so it felt like it was free for me, but I don't think I'll go back anytime soon.

Despite that, family time was quite nice, and I'm looking forward to exploring more city of sin restaurants in the future. But now, I really should go to bed, since I have to get up early tomorrow, make myself presentable, and venture down to the south bay and my reentry into the working world.

I don't know how exactly I feel about this. On the one hand, I got the job that I asked for, and my 'career' looks like it's moving in the right direction; I get to manage two team leads, which will be an interesting challenge. But on the other hand, I haven't had to think about 'challenges' and 'opportunities' and all that corporate-speak stuff in six months. And after the romance conference, all I really want to do is write. And really, I'm great at being unemployed -- I didn't get bored or tired of not working, even though I spent most of the time watching CSI reruns in Iowa.

I must say, though, that I feel satisfied with my break; while I didn't finish the final final draft or go to Siberia, I did accomplish much of what I set out to do. In particular, I finished the first draft and I got to go to England and Scotland, which was incredible. So at least I'm going back to work knowing that I accomplished what I set out to do and enjoyed myself while I was doing it. Now I just need to make sure that the passion that I feel for writing and revising doesn't get lost in the grind of corporate America, while also making sure that I'm contributing enough at work that I feel like I'm still a valuable member of society. And I also need to make sure that I get my beauty sleep so that I don't show up tomorrow morning looking like a hag; I want to preserve my relaxed glow for as long as possible, even if I probably don't look that relaxed since I spent the last few weeks living out of other peoples' houses, moving, and attending conferences. The next time I blog, I'll be getting paid! Yay!

money money money -- ain't it funny

If you ever consider writing romance novels, I highly, highly recommend that you go to the Romance Writers of America conference. The conference ended today, and I have to say that going to it was one of the single best things I could have done right now (even if I am in the middle of moving into a new apartment and I go back to work on Monday). The quality and variety of the workshops was amazing, and I feel that I got a lot of useful information about the craft, the industry, the research, and the mechanics of building a career. Even better, it was just so cool to see how varied and interesting the women (and handful of men) at the conference were; the professions that these women had before writing (doctors, computer systems engineers, lawyers, librarians, professors, etc.) just demonstrate how incredibly smart and talented this group is.

Today I saw several great workshops. The first was 'Writing Regency in the Here and Now', given by Stephanie Laurens (one of my favorites), Jacquie d'Alessandro (I'm sure I've read something of hers before), and Candice Hern. It was reassuring that they think that Regencies are going to stay popular for the long term, since that's what I want to write :) I then went to a session on blogging, which was good, but I was mostly interested in going because I wanted to see what they were saying about Google and the blog market, and when it became clear that I wasn't going to get a surprise, I left to grab lunch instead. After lunch, I went to "Doddering Butlers, Pert Housemaids, and Faithful Retainers", which was simply awesome -- the speaker, Janet Mullany, has done an amazing amount of research into the Regency period, and I got her card afterwards to that I can email her to ask for copies of some of the prints she was showing (via the transparencies I was so shocked to see in her presentation). I also stuck around at the end for a panel on paranormal novels; I don't have plans to write paranormals myself, but I enjoy reading them, and I was curious to learn more about that market.

I think the most useful workshop for me, though, was Stephanie Bond's workshop on how to make a living from writing romance novels. She really appealed to me, probably because she sounds really insanely organized; she was talking about how she will sign contracts to write books up to two years in advance, and all about her yearly calendar to make sure that launch weeks don't coincide with deadline weeks for a different editor. A lot of what she talked about revolved around creating a business plan for your romance novel career, but she also talked about understanding your own process. And, she made the excellent point that if you can write one page a day, you'll have a full book at the end of the year. Perhaps cutting down the goal and making it clear to myself that I just expect an attempt, and not succumbing to the 'must be 3000 words before I quit' or 'must be perfectly polished', would be a good idea.

So the conference was fantastic -- it got me reenergized for tackling the second draft and then getting some feedback and reediting as necessary before focusing on the query letter, the submission process, and the next books in the series. As long as I'm in a good place with my manuscript, I'm hoping that I can go to the next RWA national conference, which is in Washington, D.C., next summer. But by the end of the today, I was pretty conference'd out. I ended up skipping the awards ceremony dinner. Instead, I drove down to the safe and happy Mountain View area to have dinner and watch "Mamma Mia!" with Terry and Lauren (aka Subz). I'd already seen "Mamma Mia!" with Chandlord on Monday, but I was v. happy to see it again; it's just so ridiculous that you can't not love it.

Now I should really go to bed; I'm falling asleep over my laptop. One more day of freedom, and then I go back to work!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

whoa

I'm in a session at the romance conference where they are using
transparencies! I haven't seen an old school projector in years! Now
back to the conference, I'll blog later!

the tears of a clown

I had another excellent day at the romance conference. I missed the 8:30 session because I was rather tired form yesterday (which doesn't bode well for going back to work next week!), but I then pulled myself out of bed and walked the ~15 blocks to the conference from my apartment, stopping along the way for one of those lattes that has firmly cemented me in the absurd California lifestyle to the detriment of my more prosaic Iowa roots.

The workshops today were mostly excellent, although I attended one in the late afternoon in which the speakers were just reading straight from their handouts; the information was good, but the delivery didn't feel as spontaneous and inviting as some of the other sessions I had been to. However, I must say that the quality of the workshops and talks over all has far, far exceeded my expectations, and left me aching to get back to revising my draft. In fact, I skipped the lunch to go to a nearby cafe, where I had an excellent tuna nicoise salad and some yogurt while contemplating my current draft, how to up the tension, and how to slightly tweak the heroine's character, while simultaneously writing down all the ideas I had for the next book in the series.

I think that this conference came at exactly the right time in my writing process -- I've finished the first draft, so I don't feel like a complete fraud or imposter by being there, but I'm not so stressed about finding a publisher or an agent that I had to worry about pitching and networking and all that other stuff that I probably should be focusing on soon. Instead, the sessions have left me really energized, with some great ideas and tips for how to improve my writing as well as a list of books and movies about a mile long that I somehow need to work into my reading/viewing time ASAP since they tripped my curiosity.

After I left the conference, I stopped by Borders; being within walking distance of Borders is dangerous for me and will likely mean that, more often than not, I'll have to take a cab back because I'll be too loaded down with stuff to attempt the walk back up the hill to my apartment. I bought three romance novels; one is a new Eloisa James, one is by Jordan Dane (who writes contemporary thriller/suspense, which I usually don't read, but I went to a panel discussion on 'Bad Boys and Naughty Girls' - essentially villains and anti-heroes - and she really intrigued me), and the third is from Gena Showalter's 'Lords of the Underworld' series (more on that in a minute). The last thing I need is more romance novels, I know, but they're my version of the drugs that have destroyed the lives of so many people that I walk by in the city of sin. So if you see someone wandering around someday, dazed and confused, wearing a tattered and dirty pink coat, give me a book rather than a quarter -- I'll appreciate it more. Or I'll start stealing shit from you and pawning it to support my reading habit. Then we can go on Dr. Phil and get our fifteen minutes of fame the easy way!

After Borders, Vidya (aka Chandlord) picked me up, and we hung out for a couple of hours. We had to pick up a cake for a party she's attending tonight, and the bakery looked like it turned out some incredible stuff; I wish I had been in the mood for dessert! Then we dropped stuff off at her sister's house before going in search of a drink and some food, which we found at Panera. The Panera here is much more expensive than the Panera in West Des Moines, and at the behest of Vidius I made the mistake of ordering the sweet green tea, which was pretty awful. But my soup and sandwich combo made for an excellent dinner. And Chandlord and I had a generally good time catching up; even though I haven't been here for the past few months, I'm still sad that she's leaving, and I'm going to miss her :( But on a brighter note, I won't have to use the 'Vidya' label quite as frequently! That may cost me the readers who only check this blog to find out what's going on with her, but I'm hopeful they'll become friends with me instead.

When Chandlord dropped me off at the apartment, I didn't even claim that I was going to continue cleaning/unpacking; instead, I stayed up and read the entire Gena Showalter book. I was going to go into more detail about it, but a) most of you don't care about romance novels, and b) I'm too tired to keep typing. Perhaps I'll review it tomorrow! But don't hold your breath -- I've got the romance conference all day tomorrow as well. Then I only have one day left before I go back to work!