Tuesday, September 30, 2008

prime minister of rockoslavia

I've been catching up on Tivo'd Craig episodes while working tonight. If this reminds you of my old, crazy ways, trust me, I'm just as sad as you are about it. But Craig is awesome -- the episode I'm watching right now involves a really long, multi-segment diatribe about how everyone needs to pay attention and vote and exercise their civic rights. And in another episode, he called U2's Bono the 'Prime Minister of Rockoslavia', which I loved.

So work went from nothing to out of control in the last two or three weeks. Part of it is my shiny new project, but not really yet -- I had the first meeting of that core team today, but everything else keeping me busy is unrelated to that.

I'm going to stop talking about it tonight, though -- one of the classic symptoms of a workaholic is bragging about how much they work. At least I'm still happy, even if I'm not making as much progress on the romance website right now as I would have liked. But for now, I'm going to bed!

Monday, September 29, 2008

cupid's the one to blame

If you were in my head on my commute today, you would not be surprised to know that I feel rather pessimistic about world affairs. I spent most of the commute thinking about what I would pack and how I would stage my journey if everything collapses and I need to get out of a rioting coastal city. Also, my Ann Arbor counterparts joined a videoconference just as I was expounding to the people in my conference room on the virtues of stocking up on canned goods (which I have not done yet).

I've made a sort of conscious decision, which may not be the right one, that I need to disengage from the internet news sites and focus on the things in my own life that I can influence/change. I really do wonder how much of our economic woes right now are because of the echo chamber of the media -- doesn't it feel like they caused the run on gas prices a few months ago? And then they started reporting more heavily on the mortgage 'crisis', with the effect that it became a crisis. I'm oversimplifying -- but the people who bought houses with zero down and adjustable rates are the same sheep who will enter/exit markets based on a feature news story rather than true research into the consequences for themselves. If I thought that either presidential candidate could actually change matters, maybe I would be less annoyed -- I will say that I am so angry about the state of things that I would consider voting for the other team, particularly after the Sarah Palin debacle. But I think that anyone who believes that Obama will really be able to turn things around is in for a disappointment -- neither party is in touch with what really needs to change in this country, and I don't think he's actually strong enough to stand up to his base.

Anyway. Maybe I'm annoyed because my calendar for this week is completely booked. If you want to meet with me, I'm free from 11-11:15 and 11:45-12 on Thursday. Otherwise, you'll have to take a number. Terry pointed out that I'm on the verge of completely regressing, which worries me; my workload went from 0-60 in the past ten days, which took me completely by surprise, and I need to figure out what to do about it.

However, I did spend a few minutes working on my website tonight; nothing visible changed, but I installed Google Analytics so that I can start getting info on how people find me. Not that anyone will find me until I add content, but at least it's there. Now, though, I should go to bed -- I have an eight a.m. meeting tomorrow, which promises to be tons of fun. Goodnight!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

the cloud is moving nearer still, aurora borealis comes in view

Happy birthday, Jackie!

I spent most of today creating a website and blog for my romance business. I decided to ditch Wordpress and go with a combination of Google Sites, Google Apps for your Domain, and Blogger. Yes, I'm a corporate whore. But, I think there is something to be said for having a website with static content and a blog with frequently-updated content; they create two different kinds of user experiences, appealing to a wider variety of people.

I'll update the links on this blog shortly, but you can see my rudimentary website at www.sararamsey.com and my blog at sararamsey.blogspot.com. I want to really flesh out the content on the website; I already have key photos from my Europe trip, an 'about me' section, a teaser of my first book, and placeholders for intros to my characters, but there's more I can do. I want to have lists of my inspirations (books and movies), links to other great romance writer/agent/editor sites, and an FAQ (even though I've gotten no questions, ha). For the blog, I need to start posting ~3 times/week -- anything from reviews of books I've just read, to links to awesome girly/romantic products, to items of interest in the publishing community, to my own struggles/successes as an aspiring novelist.

The one thing I need to be mindful of is that committing to updating another blog and a website in addition to this blog is a handful -- and it can't cut into my real writing time, or else it's completely pointless. But I can afford to spend a couple of weeks playing around with the content -- I decided I need to take a hiatus from the book and recharge my creative batteries, so a combination of reading, watching movies, playing with the website, and of course slogging away at work is going to be great.

Two exciting friend-related things happened today. The first was that I met Katrina at a cafe for an afternoon of 'working' over coffee. I was somewhat productive, but I will never go back to that cafe again; the apparent owners had a toddler who screamed constantly, ran around and harassed the customers, and was ultimately picked up/teased for half an hour by an extremely sketchy older man while her parents hung out on the other side of the cafe. Also, the place was dirty, the person behind the counter didn't speak English, and Katrina's sandwich was ridiculously small. But, it was good to see her even if Yelp led us astray.

The other exciting thing was that Ritu called me, and we caught up for quite awhile, which was v. lovely. I miss that girl.

I suppose it's my bedtime; I have plenty to do at work tomorrow, so that means I should go to bed so that I can get into the office and start the week. Goodnight!

the road to hell is paved with adverbs

I just read Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft in one go. I've read several writing-related books, but this one of all of them is the keeper. The middle section, in which he actually discusses the mechanics and process of writing, is sharp and insightful; the beginning section, in which he lays out the key pieces of his life that shaped his writer's toolbox, reads like a story; and the final section, about his near death when a reckless driver hit him as he was walking, was gutwrenching. I actually teared up at the end, which is rather rare in a book supposedly about craft. If you have any desire to write, read this. If you love Stephen King, read this, even if you decide to skip the middle segment. Or if you just want an example of excellent writing, read this -- King may be criticized by the literary establishment, but his storytelling is genius.

The rest of my day was pretty laid back. I spent the morning and early afternoon cleaning my bathroom, tossing an accumulation of half-used cosmetics and scrubbing the bathtub in an effort to enforce order on the least ordered part of my apartment. I spent a couple of hours thinking about what I want to do next with my novel, but the temptation to read rather than write was too strong, and the Stephen King book had been sitting on my table and calling to me for a couple of weeks. I really do need to work more time for reading into my life -- and I need to stop trying to read books in one sitting, and instead let them linger and learn to savor them without setting them aside forever.

Tomorrow will be a mix between the book and some must-do stuff for my day job; I am annoyed at myself for breaking my weekends-are-sacred vow after only two months back at my job, but the business plan for my group is due next week, and since I'm co-presenting with a guy who is working eighty hours a week and seems extremely stressed, it seems only fair that I would volunteer to polish up half the slides this weekend rather than leaving him alone to his fate. But I need to restructure my calendar and wrangle it into some semblance of order; I need to get back to writing and/or reading every single day, and I've fallen woefully off the wagon in the past two weeks.

Now, though, I'm going to go to bed, and hope that tomorrow brings some much-needed productivity!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

stories, cookies, and introversion

When I got home tonight, I had grand plans to clean my bathroom or do other similarly productive things. However, in the elevator from the garage to my apartment, I suddenly found myself exhausted. I didn't want to work on my romance novel or the business plan for my team, nor did I want to do housework. I decided to read a book -- but what book? Literary fiction seemed too heavy, and none of the unread romances sitting on my shelves appealed to me. Finally, I settled on a book I had bought in Des Moines several months ago -- 'Fortune's Fool' by Mercedes Lackey.

It's fantasy, which I haven't read in quite some time (other than Robin McKinley, but she doesn't count). However, it's my favorite kind of fantasy -- fairy tales respun into new stories. There is something comforting, engaging, entertaining, heartbreaking, etc., about seeing the same well-known stories retold in new ways. Even though you know the happily ever after will come, the stories still call to the primal archetypes that we grew up with; and really, who doesn't like happy endings? I like reading literary fiction, but I think I read romance because there is a guaranteed emotional payoff at the end. It's the same with fairy tales -- the Beast always becomes a prince, the Princess always breaks the spell, the evil witch always gets her just desserts. While I didn't think the writing was particularly strong (it was good in parts, but it could have used another careful proofreading), the story took bits from Russian fairy tales, particularly Baba Yaga, which I quite enjoyed.

Today was an excellent day at work. I woke up to make chocolate chip chewies for a team event, went to work, had a calendar full of meetings, and spent an hour presenting on company culture to some newer hires (including ten people who now report to me, so hopefully I didn't come across as too insane). Then, I ate far too many of my own cookies at the event; no one showed up for the first fifteen minutes, so Pete, Heather and I ate our own food and laughed at how sad our party looked. I ended up giving almost all of the remaining cookies away, since after eating cookie dough for breakfasts and cookies for supper, the thought of driving home with the smell of cookies in my car was nauseating.

On the way home, I made a quick stop at Crate and Barrel to spend the giftcard that Tammy gave me during the Olympics. Of course, I spent a bit more than the giftcard amount, but it was nowhere near as bad as my giftcard-encouraged expenditures at Sephora earlier this week. Then I got home, immediately started reading, and you know the rest. I'm looking forward to spending some time to myself this weekend; after a week of having to be 'on' at work, since I was in meetings most of the time, it will be nice to shut down and introspect for a bit.

I need to get back to the book this weekend as well, so I suppose I should go to bed so that I can get up at a reasonable hour at start accomplishing something. Goodnight!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

don't want to go by the devil

This is a four-minute post. Today was excellent, but I don't have the energy to bake cookies tonight like I was supposed to, so I'm going to go to bed now, get up tomorrow morning, and bake before work.

Work started at 8am, bleh, but progressed quickly. I got three allergy shots and a vaccination, and since I leave the bandages on to keep myself from itching the points of injection and worsening the reactions, I looked like the walking wounded all day. But, I got done with the shots early, which got me back to my favorite cafe in time to order a custom sandwich before the noon rush, which was great. And, I was moderately productive this afternoon, to the point that I might be able to get through the rest of the major stuff tomorrow and not have to do anything work related this weekend. We'll see how that goes...

After work, I had dinner with Terry, which was v. entertaining, although now I'm absolutely stuffed full of enchilada. Then I went to the grocery store to get stuff for baking, but by the time I got home, it was nine p.m. I love living in the city, but there were certainly advantages to living ten minutes from work.

Finally, my new iPod (and the newest version of iTunes) has this 'genius' feature, v. similar to Pandora, that enables you to choose a song and then build an automated playlist based on iTunes identifying similar songs that are in your library. I tried this on the drive home last night, and I have to say that the genius feature just reminds me how awful my taste in music is -- it's one thing when I'm listening to something bad because it's stuck in my head, but that means that over time, my iTunes library has become a monument to bad taste. How sad!

Four minutes are up, it's bedtime!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

when she's sitting to my right, you're out of sight and i lose control

I am dangerously regressing at work. I think part of it is honestly that I've had several partial weeks in a row, between Labor Day, my birthday, the smashing headache I had last week that destroyed Thursday, and the all-day training I had yesterday; since my weeks are usually full of meetings anyway, the loss of a day means that all those meetings have to be squeezed in someplace, often at the expense of real work time. I'm looking forward to having a few more 'normal' weeks (although I'm sure that, by Thanksgiving, I'll be ready for another long weekend).

However, while I've done a good job of not actively volunteering for things, keeping my head down, etc., I can still be tempted by bright, shiny projects, and I got one today that will likely take some significant effort over the next two months. The good (and I suppose bad) thing is that it has a tight, nonnegotiable deadline -- which makes it difficult now, but less likely to drag out over the long term. I'm just going to have to offload some of my other work stuff and redouble my energies on the book -- I also want to start looking for agents by the end of October, so I have to balance my work with my book, and it's going to be tricky at best.

Despite all that (or perhaps because of the bright shininess of my new project, even though I know that it will turn into a frustrating cat-herding exercise), I'm in a good mood; work was good, even if I was twenty minutes late to my eight a.m. meeting due to ridiculous traffic. When I got home, I made some danged quesadillas, procrastinated a little bit, then caught up on emails. There's only two days left of the work week, and I'm committed to not working weekends, so I'll have to get productive tomorrow so that I don't have anything pressing left over.

And on that incredibly boring rundown that should serve as a warning of a potential relapse, I'm going to bed!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face

Today was a much better day. Like any true addict, I gave into the temptation to self-medicate by throwing myself into work rather than thinking about my personal issues, and it worked like a charm. And, best of all, working too much will just get me promoted, unlike drinking too much, which will just get me cirrhosis.

I had an all-day training in the San Francisco office today, and I'm kinda sad now that I know what my commute would be like if I worked there instead of in Mountain View. I hopped on the bus outside my apartment, rode for ~10 minutes, and then had a leisurely ten minute walk to the office. So, it's not fast, but it's not as nightmarish as, say, Friday afternoons on the 101. And it's totally made up for by the fact that the SF office is gorgeous -- the cafe looks out over the bay and the office is right on the water. They even added a slide from floor 3 to floor 2 since the last time I was there -- I went down it, was surprised at how fast it was, and ended up giving myself a nasty friction burn on my left ankle, which hurts like hell, so maybe I should think about growing up and not sliding at any given opportunity.

After training, a bunch of us went for a drink at one of the bars overlooking the water. The weather was absolutely perfect, and drinking a glass of wine on the terrace felt v. civilized. I caught up with some managers whom I don't get to see very often, which was awesome. Also, the sun must have been doing strange things to my eyes; while I rarely see it myself, if I'm standing in sunlight, my eyes apparently turn a freaky, luminous shade of grass green, and based on the comments I got as I was leaving, they were lit up tonight. Too bad flourescent lights don't have the same effect!

Fueled by a single glass of wine (which is enough to make me eager/talkative without putting me to sleep), I went to Sephora downtown, where I spent an obscene amount of money on makeup and skincare products. Aunt Becky's gift card was an excuse to go in, but since I hadn't been in a long time and was out of face wash, foundation, mascara, moisturizer, and my dry shampoo, I already had some substantial purchases to make. So, between the necessities and the frivolous lipgloss expenditures, I'm sure they were v. happy to see me -- and I got bath bubbles as my Sephora birthday gift since I came in within two weeks of my birthday, which was nice. And I loved the girl who helped me to pick out a foundation; she was just completely over-the-top in her praise and told me several times that I was beautiful, which may not have been accurate but was at least a good selling technique.

On the way home, I chatted with a nice guy on the bus; normally I glare at or ignore people on public transportation, but again, the wine made me chatty, and we struck up a conversation when I asked him whether an alternative bus went to the stop I wanted to go to. He encouraged me to check out the gallery that he works for, and I might, but he's in for a disappointment if he thinks that my large Sephora bag and my place of employment put me in the market for overpriced art.

I worked for the past hour or so, and also ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while IM'ing with Heather (aka dear respected madam). I don't intend to fall back into my old bad work habits, but I have a project due next week with an interim deadline of tomorrow morning, and there were a couple of things that I absolutely had to get done. But now I need to focus on burning through the annoyances on my to-do list so that I can pare down and avoid the overworked trap that I fell into before. Whether I succeed remains to be seen -- but since I have to be down in Mountain View by eight a.m. tomorrow, I should go to bed!

photos - my apartment, pt. 3!















Looking out over the city from my apartment, toward downtown















The other view from my apartment; the tall trees in the distance are in the park by where I catch my shuttle; Danielle Steele lives in that direction too, which is good inspiration/aspiration :)

photos - my apartment, pt. 2!















Walk-in closet -- good thing, considering how much stuff I have!















My desk -- I want to hang up photos of my travels above the desk for writing inspiration















I love that the couch fits perfectly in the windows overlooking the city; to the right is my tv, with books where there should be DVDs















My bed, with my awesome cabinet full of romance novels and bedding (I have already changed my bedspread since taking this photo last week)

photos - my apartment, pt. 1!















The immediate effects of the Olympics 'blackberry' shot




















The photo of Chandlord that graces my fridge!
















My kitchen, as seen from my desk
















View from the entrance of the apartment; bathroom is on the left, kitchen on the right, living room straight ahead

Olympic Rings party photos!
















The infamous Olympic Rings Cakes! (blueberry, lemon, chocolate, green funfetti, and red coconut).















The Olympic Rings Dips (blue sour cream, salsa con queso, black spinach/artichoke dip, guacamole, salsa)















The Olympic Rings Fruits (blueberries, pineapple, chocolate sauce, kiwi, strawberries)















The even more infamous blackberry shot (rum, splash of soda water, black food coloring, and a single blueberry)

Monday, September 22, 2008

you've got to cut until it hurts

So today was basically an exercise in frustration; I usually don't blog a lot about negative emotions here (or at least, I haven't in a couple of months because I really haven't had anything), but today was a perfect storm of personal and professional feelings of fury, sadness, betrayal, annoyance, etc. I'm feeling a lot better now, but I had trouble making it through the day; I actually left campus for twenty minutes to go to Starbucks and get a mocha (and coffee for my team leads), even though we have endless free beverages at work, because I really felt the need to get in my car and get away from people for a few minutes. I've been eating healthier since getting back to California and so switched to nonfat lattes instead of mochas, and my first mocha in two months tasted unbelievably sweet -- I used to think they weren't sweet enough, but after cleansing my palate, it turns out they're a little sickly. How sad!

However, I left work at five and rocked out to my new iPod on the drive back to the city, which was pretty much perfect; traffic was relatively light, and while I arrived windblown from driving at seventy miles per hour with the windows down and the sunroof open, I was in a slightly better mood because of it. I made a delicious salmon/cream cheese/guacamole panini, took a nap, and then had an *awesome* hour-long conversation with Heather (aka dear respected madam), who is currently in Beijing. I did about an hour of work while IM'ing with Walter, Oniel, and Vidya, and the combination of the three of them completely lifted me out of my funk. So Vidya gets a label tonight, even though I didn't see her, because she's generally winning and I wish she were here (although if she were here, I would need to find a new place to live).

Tomorrow I have an all-day training, which is unfortunate, but it's in the SF office, which means I can take a bus rather than driving for an hour, and I should be home by six. Or, more likely, I can stop at Sephora and do some retail therapy. If I look more glittery than usual for the next few days, you'll know why! And now, it's time for bed.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

the only thing that waits is overconfidence

I accomplished quite a bit today; I woke up at eight a.m., laid in bed in disbelief until nine, and then got around to doing things like cleaning up my kitchen, taking out the trash, showering, etc. I met Adit at a cafe at noon, and stayed there until five p.m. While I'm glad that I'm going back to work tomorrow if only because I have a $700 ergonomic chair there, rather than a narrow, hard wooden coffee-shop chair, I was quite productive at the cafe. I'm about 3/4s of the way through the line edits for my manuscript. I feel pretty good about what I have, particularly when I have moments of being surprised/pleased to realize that I actually wrote the stuff that I'm now rereading. So this week I hope to finish the line edits and make the changes on the computer, and then next weekend I'll start with the handful of new/revised scenes that I intend to add/change based on the feedback I've gotten so far.

When I got home, I talked to my parents, then laid on my couch for an hour as the sun set behind me. I was having one of those moments where life suddenly weighs a bit heavier, helped along by the fact that it's been noticeably colder, the sun is setting earlier, and I always tend to get a little bit depressed in the dark slog between my birthday and Christmas. But I picked myself up in time to walk down the street to meet Adit, Oniel, and Oniel's gf Kathryn for sushi, and they (and a generous quantity of eel) helped pick me up the rest of the way. The sushi was delicious, and it's apparently Kathryn's favorite sushi place in the neighborhood -- she goes there so often that the staff gives her free food (in this case, salmon cheeks, which were strange to see).

We had an entertaining dinner, and then Adit came back to my place because he remembered that I have a standing Tivo order for '60 Minutes', and tonight was the Obama/McCain episode. However, when we got here, I turned on my tv for the first time in two weeks and discovered that something's wrong with my cable -- all shows recorded since September 12, and all current live tv offerings, are strangely garbled, like they're not being decoded properly. This is super annoying; clearly not the end of the world, since I haven't watched television in weeks, but I was counting on starting to Tivo the new episodes of the season, so I need to get this fixed. At least it didn't happen during the Olympics, or I would have been super upset!

instead of '60 Minutes', Adit and I played nine holes of Wii Golf before he left about twenty minutes ago. I have work that I need to do for my job, but I'm going to try the doomed-to-fail strategy of 'getting up early' so that I can go into the office early and work there. We'll see how that goes, but I'm in no mood to assess my own performance right now, which is on the top of my to-do list, so going to bed is the only other option. Goodnight!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

sophisticated point of view

I was out of bed before nine, which seems to be part of a dismal, growing trend rather than a fluke. I finally (if 'finally' can be used for 'three days later') finished Chalice, the new Robin McKinley book. Overall, I loved it; again, her language is amazing, even if the story was a little simpler than some of her other work. The weird thing was that the story's climax involved bees (unsurprising, since the main character is a beekeeper, and her honey figures strongly into the plot) -- and then, as I closed the book, I heard a buzzing and discovered that there was a bee or wasp in my apartment. Considering I'm on the fourteenth floor and my windows have been closed for several days, and I've only seen one other bug in the seven weeks that I've been here, this was a somewhat creepy coincidence.

I spent the afternoon with Adit at a cafe; he was working on his real work, while I started doing line edits on a hard copy of my manuscript, making frequent reference to my comprehensive Chicago Manual of Style to ensure that my punctuation, verb tenses, etc. are all used correctly. I have pretty decent grammar, but I'm self-taught from a ton of reading as a child, and so I sometimes find myself doubting my usage (even though I usually discovered that I was okay when I referenced the style guide about something). We may get together to work again tomorrow, which is nice, since it gets me out of the house and also encourages me to dress in a non-slovenly manner, given Adit's general style.

I went down to Palo Alto tonight for dinner with Terry, Lisa, and Kim; Lisa flew into town to surprise Terry, since Terry's birthday was last weekend, and it was great to see all of them. We ate at Zibibbo, which has apparently won all sorts of rewards -- and don't get me wrong, my wild mushroom pizza was delicious, but there are so many amazing restaurants in the San Francisco/Silicon Valley area that it's difficult to understand why Zibibbo has topped some of them in the ratings. Maybe I'm just too much of a country rube to get the whole culinary thing.

Speaking of culinary, though...I was reading an editor's blog, and they linked to this post that gave a list of 100 things that a good omnivore should eat in their lifetime. I've colored/annotated it with what I've managed to eat so far...what about you?

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht

10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart

16. Epoisses [note: apparently this is a super-stinky cheese, and if stinkiness is the only reason this is on the list, then I think tete du moine should count]
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans

25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava

30. Bagna cauda [apparently this is some sort of dip, like fondue, popular in the Piedmont of Italy]
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float [although I prefer Coke floats]
36. Cognac with a fat cigar [I haven't had these together, but I've had them separately]
37. Clotted cream tea [favorite thing!!!]
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O [waaaay too many of these]
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat [ugh, hate this]
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu [Japanese pufferfish, poisonous -- don't know if I'll ever feel suicidal enough to risk this]
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut

50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle

57. Dirty gin martini [I consider Winners Cup gin to be 'dirty', but I didn't have it in a martini, and I know dirty martinis are dirty because of the olive juice, not because they have gin from a $5 plastic jug]
58. Beer above 8% ABV [ugh, I'd rather drink ten cosmopolitans]
59. Poutine [this sounds yummy -- like Canadian Midwestern food -- french fries topped with cheese curds and gravy]
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores

62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin [Wikipedia says it's a clay mineral, in which case I probably had it in radioactive form in those awful clay pots in Ukraine, but I won't count that]
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake [all except elephant ears]
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain

70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini

73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill [I've been responsible for this, but unless the school cook was supplementing our chicken fried steak with possum, I haven't had this]
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie [LOVE that this is on the list!]
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong [I think this tea is overrated]
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky

84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers

89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam [too much of this in Ukraine]
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox

97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

That puts me at 64 of the things on the list. Clearly I have some progress to make before I become a true omnivore. 6 of the things I'm missing are alcohols, though, and I'm more likely to want to eat snake or crocodile than to drink a beer with 8+% alcohol content. And also, this list leaves out all feet, tripe, tongues, and casseroles, so it doesn't capture the true picture of the things I've personally tried -- but look at how my tastes have expanded, considering that I had my first bagel at fourteen and never would have dreamed that things like eel, paneer, calamari, oysters, baklava, and pork buns would be among my favorite foods. Mmm.

Now I should go to bed before I get any hungrier -- and before I start considering how a move to Singapore would help me to cross off many of the remaining items on this list...


he's a pirate

This is a four-minute post. The nicest thing happened today; I was sitting in my favorite work cafe waiting for my sandwich and brainstorming the storyline for a future book when someone sat down next to me to wait for his sandwich. We'd said hi to each other in the halls over the past couple of years but never really interacted -- and the first thing he said to me (after asking if he could sit in the chair next to me) was that he loved when I presented to team meetings because I say hilarious things and clearly don't take myself too seriously. It brightened my entire day, because it was completely unexpected, and rather irrelevant to the immediate surroundings (I haven't presented to any large group in three weeks, and before that it had been 6+ months). Unexpected compliments are the best.

Work was work, but I made it home fairly early, and thought I would make progress on brainstorming the next book -- based on the feedback I'm getting so far, people expect/want the next story to be Ferguson, whom I haven't even planned for, and they don't seem into Madeleine, who is supposed to star in the next book. So I either need to a) write Ferguson's story first (doable), b) change Madeleine in this book (probably necessary)...or c) completely change my mind and have Ferguson and Madeleine get together in the next book.

I brainstormed for about half an hour, decided to take a break to make some fajitas, and then ended up playing Civilization the rest of the night instead. I think I need my sleeping brain to tackle this problem. But the timer just went off, so it's time for bed!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

those flashing lights come from everywhere

I'm going to bed soon because I want to get up early so that I can go to the office without traffic, plow through some stuff, and then leave early so that I can get started with the weekend. Today was good, although I almost didn't go into work because I woke up with a splitting headache, but I felt better later in the day. I unfortunately had to get allergy shots today; I really hope that these things make a difference in my overall quality of life (and in particular that they cure or at least stop the progression of my oral allergies), because it's a pain in the ass (or, more accurately, the arms) to get six shots a week for months on end.

I left work in time to finally make it to Goodwill and donate the crap that had been sitting in my car since I cleared out the remnants of my storage unit three weeks ago. This was key, since the stuff in the backseat of my car made me unwilling to drive my car and park it on any city street, given the increased likelihood of having your car broken into if there is visible stuff (even if that visible stuff is a dismantled kitchen table and some Ikea lamps -- unfortunately, I still have the lamps, since Goodwill apparently doesn't take them). Then, I went to my favorite art supply store in Palo Alto and bought nine 8x10 frames for the photos that I want to put up, so maybe I'll get around to decorating my walls this weekend. Or, maybe I'll spend the weekend doing nothing. We'll see!

On the drive home from work, while I was tranced out to a Tiesto CD that I picked up at Best Buy (because I desperately needed to pee and then felt guilty about using their restroom and so bought something, even though since I've spent thousands of dollars with them over the years, I really should have felt no guilt at all), Priyanka called to tell me that she had read my romance novel draft. It was v. nice of her to call with feedback, and what she said was really helpful -- but it was also nice to hear that she seemed to genuinely like it, and that she was interested in going back and reading it again to get a sense of specific things that she would suggest changing. Based on the sense I've gotten from Priyanka, Ritu, and a partial read from Heather in Beijing, it sounds like I'm on the right track, which is awesome. It's totally nervewracking knowing that my baby is out in the world, but I suppose I need to get used to that if I intend to be seriously published.

Now, though, I should get some sleep so that I can get to my weekend as soon as possible!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

saved by the naked homeless man

Robin McKinley's newest book, 'Chalice', drops tomorrow -- but thanks to Amazon preorder, it arrived today. At least, I think that's what arrived today; I didn't actually get the package, but more on that in a moment. As frequent readers who are good at retaining random facts will remember, I absolutely adore McKinley's writing, and read whatever she writes, even though much of it is technically marketed to the young adult crowd (although from what I've read of 'Chalice', it's not exactly young adult -- and her book 'Deerskin' was absolutely not young adult, nor was 'Sunshine'). The quality of her writing is outstanding, in that she creates very lush, very detailed worlds that have soothing similarities and jarring dissimilarities with our own. As I've said before, I sometimes reread her books in the way that some people walk the medieval cathedral labyrinth paths -- they help me to spiral in to a more meditative place and focus my thoughts, mostly because the writing is so pure and perfect that it does a great job of fully sucking you into the story.

So after work, I had to go to Palo Alto for dinner with some friends, and I intended to go to a cafe and work for an hour before dinner. But, I parked behind Borders, and as I was cutting through Borders to get to the other side of the block, I found myself upstairs, in young adult, where I read the first portion of 'Chalice' standing up for an hour. I meant to save the book for this weekend, take it down to Union Square, and read it at Samovar in Yerba Buena Gardens, but I couldn't help myself tonight.

I didn't buy the book at Borders because it was preordered through Amazon and delivered today. So when I got home tonight, I debated whether I should pick the package up from security -- I knew that if the book was in my apartment, I'd be tempted to read it even though I need to go to bed. But when I went to security to pick it up, I ended up telling Charles not to worry about it and that I'll get it tomorrow, because he couldn't leave his post due to the fact that there was a naked homeless man in one of the stairwells. This was shocking, but didn't make me feel unsafe, since the stairwells are fire-escape-only and can't be used to reenter the residential areas, but I thought that it was an omen that I need to not pick up the book and rush through it just because I'm impatient.

Dinner tonight was with Lizzie, Sarah, and Shawn. We ate at Vino Locale in Palo Alto -- it's a bona fide member of the Slow Foods movement, which is apparently a marketing scheme in which restauranteurs give themselves the option of having incredibly slow service and food prep because they can just sniff at you disdainfully for your wasteful, fast-paced suburban immorality if you seem annoyed at the slowness of things. Slow food is actually about locally-grown, organic foods, and while the service was weird, the food and wine were quite good. I had a chorizo panini (mmm) with a glass of v. local cabernet, and we also split a cheese plate appetizer and a few chocolate truffles for dessert. Lizzie was kind enough to treat us to dinner because Sarah and I both had birthdays recently, which was nice of her, and since we avoided most references to politics, everything went swimmingly.

Now, though, it's time for bed -- three nights of staying in the south bay for dinner is enough for one week, and I'm looking forward to getting up here tomorrow at a reasonable hour. Goodnight!

ups and downs

Today was a little weird -- good stuff mixed up with annoying stuff in a way that makes it impossible to categorize my overall impression of the day. It started with an 8am mtg, which is obviously bad; but, if I leave here at 7, the traffic is pretty smooth, so that was a plus. I had quite a few meetings today, but none of them were overly annoying. I got my allergy shots this morning, and they seemed to be fine today, but tonight the grass injection started itching and burning, which is no fun. I stayed late tonight (left the office around 8:15), but from 6pm onward it was spent socializing with Laura, the director who likes to force me to do crafts. She's leaving my company to move back to Texas full-time as of this Friday, and I'm going to miss her, so we got in one last crafting session tonight. She passed on some of her crafting stuff to me, so I'll have to make an attempt to use it sometime.

But, when I left the office, my tire pressure light came on in my car, even though I didn't seem to have a flat tire. I took it to the gas station, measured the pressure, and while each tire was 2-5lbs lower than recommended, none of them were drastically lower--and when I filled them up properly, the light was still on. I drove home, checked the tires when I got here, and none of them appeared to have deflated, so I don't know what's going on -- but it was an unexpected and unwelcome deviation for my homeward commute.

All I really wanted to do tonight was play 'Civilization'; I haven't played in months, and thinking about 'Colonization' last night put me in the mood to play the game. I think it's because 'Civilization' is neither my job nor my romance novel, and I could use some unwind time from both. So I started it up and successfully played for only an hour -- but that was probably because I did a horrible job in the beginning of the game and, while I was on pace for a cultural victory, was so far behind in the power struggle that two other nations declared war on me simultaneously because I was an easy target. Bleh.

To top it off, my face is flushed and I think I'm getting a fever. So, it's really time to go to bed. But in general, despite my not-so-psyched tone the past couple of days, things are good! I just need to recover from last week's time off so that I don't feel behind at work, and then I can get back to the balance that I'm trying to seek.

I just have to be really careful -- I recognize now that I was addicted to work in the truest sense of the word, and I have obvious tendencies to slip back into that addiction, which is something I need to stay vigilant about. And while it's good to take a break from writing for a week or two, I need to get back to it soon if only so that I have something to help keep me from getting sucked back into the office. But now, it's time for bed!

Monday, September 15, 2008

i've got a fever and the only thing that will cure it is subjugating natives

I desperately want to go to bed and so am trying something new -- I have a timer set for four minutes, and this post will end abruptly as soon as the timer goes off!

Today was a good day -- catch-up days after vacation are never fun, but I got some awesome news in the middle of it. My brother sent me an email saying that they're making a new version of 'Colonization', a 'Civilization' spinoff last released in 1994. I played a lot of 'Colonization' back freshman year of college, which, with the subjugate-natives and pillage-villages and build-colonies focus, likely contributed to Claudia thinking that I was a rather bad roommate for her.

It comes out next week, and I've already preordered it. I'm surprised that the concept has survived our politically-correct world, but I'm super psyched. What I'm not super psyched about is that I feel like I might be catching whatever has been going around the office...if I have to catch it, why can't I wait until I have a game to play while I recuperate?

After work, I had a long dinner with Terry, whose birthday was yesterday, so that was v. good. However, as a result I didn't get home until after eight p.m., and then I sort of messed around and didn't accomplish much after that. I made a lot of plans to see people this week, since I was a recluse the past couple of weeks, but there's a part of me that would prefer recovering via romance-reading, game-playing, and early-sleeping, rather than drinks at restaurants and general socializing. But, I'm looking forward to the plans I have, so I think it will be good for me to get out of the house.

Goodnight!

done!

Today was a long, brutal slog through the most difficult parts of my novel, but I'm thrilled and relieved to say that I met my goal for the weekend and finished the second draft of my novel!

I woke up early this morning, of my own volition, and was sitting at my desk and writing by 8:30am. When I told my dad this over the phone later in the day, he basically implied that I must have a fever -- but the need to finish the draft was weighing on me. I spent the morning writing the epilogue, stopping around eleven to heat and eat some frozen enchiladas. I took a break after that, but the break was still writing-related; I had an idea for how to start out a query letter to find an agent, and when I wrote it down, I ended up writing the whole thing. It's something that I'm going to play around with for the next couple of months, since I want the letter to be as perfect as possible, but I think I made a good start.

After that, I took a shower, then settled down and wrote some more before taking another break in the late afternoon for my weekly call with my parents. My dad mentioned that, after reading yesterday's blog post, he debated writing the consummation scene for me -- but I politely turned him down by pointing out that he would likely use too many verbs and not enough adjectives. Ugh. I ran to Starbucks for an iced latte, mostly because I felt that I should step outside the apartment at least once, and then promptly locked myself up again to finish the book.

And other than a brief conversation with my brother, and a break to reheat some of the chili I froze a couple of weeks ago, I've written straight since five p.m. But the last brutal push was worth it. Over the course of the day, I successfully completed the epilogue, wrote/rewrote several connecting scenes between major portions of my book, and wrote the dreaded consummation scene (using *lots* of adjectives, and only one use of 'manroot', which is my favorite absurd romance novel euphemism).

It's finally ready to send off for feedback, although the thought of other people reading it is about as creepy-crawly-freaky as the thought of giving my next business presentation naked. There is something incredibly dangerous about opening yourself up like that -- after pouring my heart into 400 pages of this book, it's as much a part of me as, well, me. But I'm also committed to making it better, and to selling it, and to writing another one, and the only way I will accomplish any of that is through honest, unflinching feedback. Luckily, most of the people who would be good to give feedback on it live far away, and so I won't have to actually *see* any disappointed faces...just infer it from their emailed responses.

So that was my weekend. Is it any wonder that I feel more exhausted than I have at the end of most of my workweeks? Too bad I have to go to the office tomorrow; but while tomorrow will be packed with meetings and clearing my inbox from my birthday vacation, the rest of the week doesn't look too bad. And I'm not going to look at my manuscript again for at least a week -- I think I need to spend some time socializing and recharging before I go back to it again.

The only other thing of note is that it's Terry's birthday! Happy birthday Terry! And with that, it's time for bed.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

the owls are not what they seem

I finally got down to writing today, after procrastinating in the morning while trying to decide whether to procrastinate even more by going to Sephora and Crate and Barrel. I ultimately decided against shopping, instead having another delicious panini before going to my now-favorite tea place to work on the book.

The problem with the tea place is that it encourages me to drink a lot of tea in a short period of time, which a) cuts down productivity since it makes me have to go to the bathroom every ten minutes, and b) gives me a caffeine and sugar overdose that takes awhile to come down from. However, I overheard a couple working with one of the staffmembers to plan a private party, and I realized that it would be an awesome place to celebrate the launch of my book if it ever gets published.

Fueled by that happy dream, I spent most of the day and evening on the book, and made pretty good progress. I finally sucked it up and rewrote the opening chapters, which was not a task that I was looking forward to, but now it's done. I'll likely rewrite them again after getting feedback, since I want to make them as engaging as possible because it's those chapters that make or break agent/editor queries, but they're at least in better shape than they were. I also smoothed out the chapter transitions and did some fact-checking/researching for the next two hundred pages, so I'm closing in on the final things to do before asking for readers.

One of the things left is the consummation scene; I got halfway through it last spring, stopped to have dinner with my aunt and her scandalous fiance, and ended up skipping the rest of the scene to keep going with the momentum that I had to finish the book. I thought that wine might help to set the appropriate mood, and I was also in the mood for soup, so I came home from the tea shop, made some French onion soup and opened a half-bottle of pinot noir. The soup turned out well, but I forgot to buy gruyere to put on top, and the monterey jack I had lying around didn't taste quite right. The wine was delicious too, but it made me sleepy rather than ready to write about the sexual escapades of the earl and countess, so I just did other edits instead. Since wine is out, and I don't have any matches to light my mood-setting candles, I suppose I'll just have to write about sex while listening to electronica music tomorrow, and try to remember while Crystal Method is pulsating in the background that glowsticks and ecstasy were not readily available in the Regency period.

I honestly don't know if I can accomplish my goal of finishing the second draft tomorrow, but I need to make a valiant effort, so in the interest of doing that, it's time for bed!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

you've got to change your slothful ways

I spent the day procrastinating. I started off with good intentions -- I would get up, go to my facial appointment, and then write for the rest of the day. I accomplished one of those two things, and given that only one of them would result in a charge on my credit card if I didn't do it, you can guess which one I did.

The facial was awesome. I was a little surprised when I walked in to discover that the aesthetician was a man; I've never gotten a facial from a guy before, although I have had other memorable facial experiences that I knew would not be topped by a guy in lawsuit-happy America. But despite my initial qualms, it turned out to be the best facial I've ever had -- he excelled at facial and head massage, and I left with clean skin and a sense of incredible well-being. Hopefully I can start going semi-regularly, since I enjoy facials even when I have to walk through the urban wasteland of the Tenderloin to receive them.

On the way back from the spa, I stumbled across this store called You Say Tomato -- it's a British grocery store. I went in and didn't spend any time looking over the merchandise, since it could be dangerous for me -- but I found what I was looking for immediately, in the form of my favorite brand of tea from Ireland. My last stash ran out before I went home for my leave of absence, but it's great that I now have a steady supply. From there I went to Whole Foods, where I spent a lot of money on yuppie-ish foodstuffs that I then had to drag back to my apartment.

The yuppie-ish foodstuffs went straight into my first attempt at using the panini press that my parents gave me for my birthday, and the sandwich was a smashing success. It contained whole wheat bread, fancy deli-sliced pepper-rubbed turkey, pepperjack cheese, tomatoes, roasted red peppers, dijon mustard, and guacamole, and it was simply fantastic. The typical problem with homemade sandwiches is that your fridge can't compete with the well-stocked, constantly-rotating ingredients in a professional sandwich shop. I decided to just commit to either eating sandwiches nonstop for the next two weeks or throwing out the rotting remnants if I can't get through everything, and the decision has already paid off.

After that, I really should have written...but I perhaps exaggerated the progress that I had made yesterday in reorganizing my apartment. While my closet was much improved by yesterday's activities, I had three boxes of books that I needed to find a home for, and my filing system and the general area around my desk was in shambles. So I spent the afternoon and evening resolving those issues -- the books were a dangerous time-sink, but I only wasted an hour rereading part of a book that I hadn't read in a long time, which is better than the *days* that it used to take me to sort and put away books. I also filed or recycled all of the semi-important documents that have come in over the past couple of months, crossed a bunch of paperwork off my list, and have made my desk usable. Yay.

Now, though, my apartment leaves little additional room for procrastination -- other than some towels and sheets that need washed and a couple of things that I need to haul down to my car, I'm pretty much settled in. Of course, I could always go to Sephora or Crate and Barrel, and at some point I want to hang my bulletin board and some art/photos, but I really need to write tomorrow and Sunday. And I suppose that if I should write tomorrow, I should really go to bed now so that I can get started with the arduous process of finishing this draft.

But one more thing first. I meant to wish a happy birthday to Carol yesterday -- she's my mother's friend whom I saw a lot of while I was growing up, and she also happens to share a birthday with me. I should have said happy birthday yesterday, but I blame the two green tea mojitos for my lapse in etiquette. Goodnight!

Friday, September 12, 2008

sara's big city adventure

Today was my birthday, and I did not participate in any of the obligatory somber national mourning. This is not out of any lack of respect/sympathy (although I have been accused of lacking both at various points in the past), but because if I don't celebrate my birthday, the terrorists have won.

I had a truly excellent day! I talked to several family members on the phone, as well as Katie, Lauren, and Irish Matt. I received a multitude of v. kind emails, e-cards, text messages, and Facebook posts, which was quite nice. I also spent most of the day lamely engaged in cleaning out my closet and doing laundry, but I'm happy that I did so because now I can focus on the book for most of the rest of the weekend. And, Charles the doorman just rolled his eyes when I received not one, not two, but FOUR packages today!

Three were things that I had ordered myself: a dictionary of English surnames (to go with the dictionary of English Christian names that I already received), a few great notebooks, and a brand new fountain pen that is my birthday present to myself. It's a sky blue color with 'stars' embedded in it, and I've wanted it for well over a year, so I'm quite happy. But the fourth package was the best -- Aunt Becky's promised package arrived, and I eagerly dug into it. I soon questioned what kind of trouble she expected me to get into on my birthday -- the package contained a mini sample kit of Bobbi Brown cosmetics, a sample eye cream, a sample night moisturizer, and one pair of underwear. Strange, but v. entertaining. She also sent me a gift card to Sephora, my favorite place in the world, and addressed it to my romance novelist pen name, which was a sweet touch. You'll be pleased to note that my scandalous activities tonight did not involve me losing my panties, but I'm sure I'll make use of the rest of the gift in the near future.

The official birthday festivity was a low-key dinner at Osha Thai on 2nd St. John, Oniel, Oniel's gf Kathryn, Terry, Julie, and Tom. When I picked the restaurant, I was only remembering my experience there with Irish Matt in July, when we had a cozy, boozy lunch for two; during lunch, we sat at a table with real chairs, and I loved it. But the chairs made me forget the experience I had at Osha Thai before that, and that we had again tonight -- if you're in a group, you have to sit at the seats that are basically broad, backless, cushionless benches, which, while fun and trendy, is not exactly comfortable.

However, the company, the food, and my two green tea mojitos more than made up for it. It was the first time I'd seen Tom since his going-away party in February, but like me, he's back in the area, and I think we're going to meet up at a cafe and write tomorrow afternoon. It was also the first time I'd seen Oniel's girlfriend since Chris/Connie's wedding, since she was boycotting the Olympics and incurred some serious wrath/skepticism from me as a result. My friends were v. nice and not only paid for dinner, but got the staff to dim the lights and bring out some fried bananas with a candle while singing 'happy birthday' (my friends each used their own preferred nickname, so I doubt strangers could understand who the song was for). There was one ridiculous moment where Oniel claimed that I had never verified that we were friends before, which is patently ridiculous since we've known each other for nine years, and then that gave me a moment's pause when I realized that I've known John and Oniel for nine years, Terry for seven, and Julie and Tom for six. Crazy.

True to form, I pre-judged something (in this case, the pumpkin curry that John ordered, which in my defense sounded disgusting, mostly because the 'shit in a pot' dish that we had at our hotel in Ukraine was filled with nasty stewed pumpkin) which turned out to be my favorite thing. My curse is truly a curse -- anytime I claim that I don't like something or don't want to do it (moving to the city, working for my current employer, getting a blackberry, staying in California, eating pumpkin curry), I inevitably end up doing a complete 180. Now Oniel's holding out for me to do the 180 on my refusal to go to business school and my refusal to support him via a cushy fake job after the fact -- and given my track record, he's making a reasonably safe bet.

After dinner, we parted ways, and Oniel and Kathryn showed me the mysterious intricacies of the bus system. I walked the 1.5 miles to the restaurant because I like that walk (through the Tenderloin, where I saw someone peeing against a wall, and straight into the upscale Prada, Burberry, Tiffany, etc. stores lining the blocks around Union Square), and I intended to take a taxi home, but the bus was significantly cheaper even if it also took longer. That's fine for now, but now that I'm 27, I can't keep wasting time like this or else I'll die without accomplishing anything.

On that extremely melodramatic note, it's time for bed. When I wake up tomorrow, it won't be my birthday anymore :( At least I'm taking the day off so that I can mourn!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

double bonus

When I got home from work, Charles the doorman made fun of me because I had yet another package. I talked to Aunt Becky earlier in the day and she indicated that she had sent me a birthday present, so when I saw the Crate and Barrel box, I thought it was from her. But no -- it turns out that when I suggested to my parents that they could get me a panini grill or a French press coffee maker, they decided to get me both! Yay! Thanks parents! I should have known it was from them, since Aunt B tends to go in more for gifts like the lovely Hello Kitty calculator that graces my desk (and which I actually used last week) -- but it's exciting to know that I still have another present in the mail. I also got a birthday card from my grandmother, but I saved it so that I have something to open tomorrow.

In other birthday-related news, my team surprised me today. Heather and Pete (the two managers who report to me and with whom I went out last weekend) brought a donkey-shaped pinata to today's team meeting. I may have astonished the team with my level of aggression because, when confronted with the issue of having no stick with which to beat the pinata and no string with which to hoist it up, I used a pen to stab it open. Then, when I got back to my desk, I discovered that they had absolutely destroyed it with streamers and ribbons, so I couldn't sit down or dock my computer. And, they got me a lovely birthday card with a horse magnet (you can see they're as weird as I am, which is why we're working well together), so I was quite happy.

I really am like a small child when it comes to my birthday. So far, I have yet to hit a birthday with which I am not delighted -- I may not be thrilled that I'm 27, which is one step closer to death, but I am at least happy about the day itself. I suppose I should say that September 11, 2001, was not delightful -- but I was delighted about my birthday up until the moment when I saw the news coverage.

Anyway, I'm taking tomorrow and Friday off, and I made a list of what I want to accomplish this weekend. It's really quite a bit, but I love being overly ambitious. Topping the list are a) finish the second draft of the novel, b) get a pedicure and maybe a facial, c) reorganize my closet so that the other half of it is usable, and d) do the ten loads of laundry that have piled up. Most of this laundry is either towels/bedding that I don't have an incentive to do often because I have so much backup, or wintery/dressy clothes that remained packed up because I haven't had a need for them yet. But fall is around the corner, and I need to wash the stuff that has been sitting in suitcases and get a massive amount of dry cleaning done so that I can look like a promising young professional rather than a slovenly hag.

I'm obviously not going to be productive the whole weekend, though. Even though I want to spend a lot of time on the book, I also want to see friends, and so I organized a small birthday dinner for tomorrow night, which should be fun. I'm also debating checking out the Ming exhibit at the Asian Museum of Art. But in general, the book is the main focus -- twenty-seven isn't bad if it's the start of a career in writing, as opposed to yet another small step in the long slog toward corporate retirement.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

ask and ye shall receive

Work was fine today; if nothing else, I realized grimly that I'm slipping into the danger zone because I stayed until seven p.m. for the second night in a row. Given that I had to be there at 8:00am, it's not like staying until seven was necessary for my overall contribution for the week. This is not a huge deal, and I didn't work when I got home, but I still need to be careful not to slip into my nasty old habits.

However, on the bright side, it was quite the red-letter day in terms of acquisition of stuff! First and foremost, both my birthday card and my birthday present from my parents arrived two days early; greedy and impatient, I opened both of them, when I probably should have saved them for the actual day of. I was just so surprised to get them so early -- particularly the present, since I hadn't expressed any wishes to my mom until Saturday afternoon. But they got me a panini grill! Thanks Mom and Dad! (and please forgive me for opening early!) I'm v. excited about this; I eat a lot of sandwiches at home, and the only thing better than a sandwich is a hot sandwich. Granted, I need another kitchen appliance like I need another , but I'm quite happy about getting this.

In addition to the panini grill, I also got two more packages -- in fact, the security guard was so eager for me to come and relieve him of the packages that he must have been looking for me on the security cameras in the garage, because he shouted at me over the intercom at the second gate to come and get my stuff. One package was the 'Chicago Manual of Style', a must-have reference book for my ever-expanding writing library, since it covers a lot of the quirks of formatting/style that I need to get right with my manuscript. The other package was the 'Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names' -- another book for the reference library. I got it used through an Amazon reseller, since it's out of print, but I'm quite happy with it -- the key thing about this, as opposed to most general baby name books, is that it's a) only names that were used in England at some point in the past, and b) discusses first appearances, decades/centuries of popularity, etc. This is key for making sure I don't name my characters something that wasn't even around during the Regency period -- or, if I give them a ridiculously uncommon name, explain why.

Finally, as I mentioned yesterday, I was despondent because my iPod gave up the ghost. Then, today, Steve Jobs announced brand-new iPod nanos, already on sale on the Apple website. Coincidence, or fate? I would have been so pissed if I had ordered one last night when I started looking at the site, since the ones released today have 16GB of memory for the same price as the 8GB models I was looking at yesterday. So I went ahead and ordered one; I've actually been enjoying my commute, but it's much, much better with the varied music made possible by an iPod rather than the ridiculous CDs I have in my car. If I get an iPod and a finished draft of my novel by the end of my birthday weekend, I will consider it to have been a smashing success.

Now after this extended discussion of my crass consumer ways (and, that reminds me, a quick chuckle about the fact that those annoying Berkeley tree protesters finally climbed out of their damn tree -- maybe they're concerned that the world will end tomorrow when the hadron collider in Switzerland is fired up, and they wanted to actually shower before that happens?), I think it's time for bed! I'm looking forward to taking four days to work on the book -- I just have to make it through tomorrow at work, which should be fine. I did a little bit of book-work tonight, in the form of running back through the narrative to make sure that I know exactly how many days the narrative covers so that I can go back and assign dates. I also finally decided on a year for the book: 1811 -- v. early Regency period, but advantage is that it sets up later books in the series for heightened drama -- 1812 was both when Napoleon was invading Russia and when the War of 1812 started, and I'm thinking that the second book in the series will involve a French plot and the third will involve some privateering in the Caribbean in relation to the British/American war, and then that still leaves plenty of Regency-era years (including the lead-up to Waterloo) for future yet-to-be-determined spin-offs if necessary. Yay. Now really, goodnight!

Monday, September 08, 2008

your feet make tiny imprints in the snow

I meant to work on the novel tonight, but I ended up staying at work "late" -- I left around seven, which is the latest that I've stayed since coming back from leave, but early compared to when I used to stop working. But by the time I made it back to San Francisco, made dinner, and procrastinated, I was starting to get tired -- and since the remaining work to do with my novel is either writing new scenes or rewriting tricky scenes, I'm not really in the mood right now, so I'm going to sleep early.

Today was pretty great, though. The meetings that I had were generally fine, and I like the team I work with, so all of that was good. I had lunch with Jay, one of my favorite people at work because of his infectious lust for life; I don't see him very often, but it was awesome to catch up. In a surreal moment, we were joined within thirty seconds by two people I haven't seen in two years, as well as my friend Kim who was on leave for the past couple of months; they didn't stick around, but it was a very strange moment. Terry and I spent a few quality minutes in my office discussing life and work, and then I got some stuff done that needed to be taken care of.

The highlights of the day were talking to Chandlord on the phone right before I left the office, and IM'ing with Salim (who informed me that Dear Respected Madam - aka Heather - hates me because I haven't emailed her in a month). The only real lowlight came when I discovered that my ipod may have spontaneously died; it worked this morning on the way to work, and now it won't wake up or charge or play or anything. Boooooo. So now I'm going to go to bed and mourn my ipod; hopefully tomorrow I'll get around to working on the book!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

doesn't seem to be a shadow in the city

I am slightly miffed, partially bemused, and generally surprised at how much I like living in the city. I have railed against this place to anyone who would listen -- and now I am living in one of the most 'city' parts of the entire city, and I'm happier than I have been in California in several years.

However, I think the verdict is still out on whether it is the city that is making me happy, or my amazing sense of focus on my writing in combination with the nice balance that I've found with my real job. After all, I barely went out this weekend; after my cosmopolitan-fueled Friday night, I spent yesterday and today mostly holed up in my apartment, with a break both days to go to the tea shop a couple of blocks away. But, the city does at least allow for more impromptu socializing -- both my Friday night misbehavior and the time I spent with Katrina this afternoon would not have happened on the peninsula.

I've made some great progress on the book over the past couple of weeks. Today I finally reached the end of my comprehensive editing -- I had been going through the book line by line to change both small things like word choice and large things like points of view in entire scenes, and I hit the end this afternoon. I then went back and made a list of what I need to do next -- specifically, I want to rewrite the beginning to make it tighter and get my hero and heroine together sooner, and there are a couple of scenes in the middle of the book that I haven't written yet. But overall, I'm getting very close to having something that I feel comfortable sharing, and I think my four-day birthday weekend will help me to make that final push.

I spent some quality time talking to my Uncle Mark, who called to ask a question about India, as well as my parents, who did not call because they expect me to call them on Sundays. I missed my dad last weekend during my usual call and the bastard never called me back, so today was our first conversation in two weeks, which was nice. It also got him out of cleaning the garage, so hopefully he was appropriately grateful.

Then, as mentioned above, I met Katrina at the tea place near my apartment, where we spent an hour and a half partially working. Since I was in no mood to start writing new scenes, this actually worked out very well; I spent the time reformatting my manuscript to fit actual publishing guidelines rather than my previously-lazy formatting, so it now looks like something I could send someplace as soon as it's complete. We continued our conversation over sushi, and managed to spend v. little time talking about work (even though we work at the same place -- but we met through external sources and aren't in the same department, which helps a lot). Instead, Katrina asked me questions about the romance novel, which was entertaining -- it's always fun to explain romance novels to someone who hasn't read them before, and I'm looking forward (with a mixture of amusement and dread) to the moment when I can share my published book with non-romance-reading friends. I shall stoically take whatever they throw at me, particularly since I am aware that a significant subset will either a) not read it at all, or b) skim for the sex scenes. Regardless, I shall persevere.

I suppose I should think about bed, since I have to be at work early tomorrow. I may stay up a bit longer, but I wanted to make sure that I blogged tonight -- I was a paragraph into a blog post last night when I fell asleep with the laptop in my lap, and when I woke up an hour later, I trashed the post and went to bed instead. Since you, gentle reader, no doubt look forward to briefly skimming these posts for mentions of yourself before moving on to another site, I couldn't do you the disservice of missing two nights in a row. Goodnight!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

little compact asian girl

I really meant to be good tonight. I came home early, made dinner, changed into pajamas, took a nap, and then started rereading key classic scenes from favorite romance novels in an effort to discern what works and what doesn't work from a point-of-view standpoint.

Then my willpower failed me. Both Heather and Pete (who are the managers on my team who report to me) texted/called me to get me to come out to the bar that they were at, and I ended up relenting. I then made the further mistake of ordering a cosmopolitan -- and anyone who knows me knows that cosmopolitans are my downfall. It's amazing I can still drink the damn things, given that anytime I have one of them, I inevitably have at least five. Anyway, we were at the bar in support of Heather's boyfriend Mike, who is the drummer for a recently-launched amateur band.

The craziest of crazy moments happened when I realized that the lead singer of the band was none other than Guru, whom I've crossed paths with many times at Stanford. He was John's resident my sophomore year, which means he was the same year/dorm as Walter, Felicia, etc., and I saw him many, many times over the course of his time at Stanford. He also starred in one of Adit's video productions as one of the profiled 'Underground Indians'. So to walk into a bar that I had no intention of going to, and find that I was cheering for Guru as a lead singer of a rock band was v. surreal to say the least.

But the show was entertaining, and I got to meet Pete's recently-affianced girlfriend, which was v. nice. After the show, we progressed to a karaoke bar, which was v. entertaining. Pete and Bridgette (the fiancee) went home after that, but Heather, Mike (the boyfriend), Guru, Guru's girlfriend, and I went to a diner and had hangover-mitigating greasy food. I tried to use the restroom there, but someone was locked in the bathroom, presumably passed out; the staff tried to use my credit card to open the door, but I ended up waiting until I got home a few minutes ago, so hopefully the girl isn't dead in there.

Now I should really go to bed and hope I don't suffer too many ill effects from my cosmopolitans; the novel awaits this weekend, and I need to make some progress on it, so goodnight!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

i'm a lead farmer

I'm so happy - I finally conned someone into seeing a movie with me! In this case, the victims were Adit and Oniel, and the weapon was 'Tropic Thunder', the latest offering from Ben Stiller and company. Like many of Ben Stiller's recent movies, it was somewhat inconsistent, but there were a few absolutely hysterical parts. I also thought that Robert Downey, Jr., did a great job with his part; in general, the satire on actors was pretty good. Tom Cruise's role maybe wasn't such a wise move on his part, since everyone seems to think that he's crazy, and his role in this movie is probably a little too close to what people imagine he's actually like in private, but it was still entertaining in a sort of horrifying, can't-look-away kind of way.

It was lovely to see the boys as well. We had some delicious crepes before the movie, and then Adit took care of me -- but where my mother would probably hope that he was looking out for me by walking me home or something, he actually looked out for me by bringing a flask of rum and dumping almost the entire thing in our coke at the movie theatre. Yay. It actually didn't affect me much at all, which was v. surprising; maybe the sheer giddiness of actually convincing someone to see a movie with me, after the string of dismal failures I've subjected them to over the years, was enough to keep me sober.

The rest of my day was fairly uneventful; I worked, of course, and also had my second set of allergy shots for the week. Because of the reaction I had on Tuesday, the tech split one of my shots, which means I got three shots today -- two in the left arm, one in the right. Turns out it's the stuff in the shot that went into the right arm that I'm reacting to -- the grasses. This is not very surprising, given that my skins burns and swells up if I spend too long lying in the grass, let alone having concentrated grass allergens injected in my arm. This doesn't bode well, though, since I reacted to the third-least-intense dose, and I have 20-30 to go before I'm anywhere close to being done. Boo.

I'm looking forward to the weekend -- it looks like the weather is going to be gorgeous up here. I intend to spend most of the weekend working on the book, but maybe I'll try to get outside for some of it. Right now, though, I should go to bed, since I have to be at work by 8:30 tomorrow and would ideally get there sooner than that so that I can get out of there tomorrow afternoon. Goodnight!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

knock me out every time they touch me

Please allow me to take a moment to be a corporate shill. I downloaded the new Google Chrome browser to my personal laptop tonight, and so far I quite like it. The best feature, in my opinion, is having thumbnails of your most frequently visited sites whenever you open a new tab -- if your most frequently visited sites are pornographic, this might not be an improvement that you are comfortable putting on a publicly-accessible computer, but I do not have any such issues. Also, I've been having weird issues with Firefox 3, and am hopeful that Chrome will not have similar issues. So I suggest trying it out, if you are at all interested; mama needs a new pair of shoes, so any support you can give me via downloading free products is much appreciated.

Today was a great day. I realized, as I may have mentioned before, that I've achieved the focus at work that is normally only achieved by people attempting to balance strong passions for both career and family -- just like the people who come back after having a baby and seem to get the same amount done in a more condensed period of time due to their desire to get back home to Junior, I find that my book is effectively my baby. For instance, this afternoon I had to edit some slides that needed to go out before seven or eight p.m. By the time I got back to my desk to work on it, it was almost 5pm, and I needed to be out the door by 5:20 to run an errand in Palo Alto. In my past life, I would have procrastinated for twenty minutes and then done the slides at home; instead, I spent a concerted twenty minutes knocking them out, accepted less than perfection (but not much less -- yes, I am conceited), and moved on with my life. Granted, I didn't actually work on my book tonight, but I did take care of some random minutiae that has been piling up, so all's good.

So anyway, work was good, and then I ran my errand (which was to buy more felt-tipped pens) before meeting up with Terry for dinner. Since I had seen her over the weekend, there weren't a lot of surprises in the catching-up department, but I'm glad I drove today so that I was available for an impromptu dinner. Then I came home and took care of some very boring paperwork, and now it's time for bed. My goal for tomorrow is to get back to working on the book -- since I want to have a second draft done by September 14, which is a little more than a week away, I really need to keep making progress!


i am the warrior

Today was comprised of a variety of unfortunate events, interspersed with some great things, which made it truly a mixed bag. I woke up on time, felt good on the way to the shuttle -- then got overconfident about my stomach and started checking my email before we got out of the city. This made me so violently carsick that I thought I was going to throw up, and the nausea plagued me for several hours after that. I also got my allergy shots today -- now they're doing one in each arm (dust on the left, pollens and grasses on the right). For the first few sessions, I didn't really react at all, but this time my right arm has swelled up and there's a hard, hot lump about 2.5 inches across around the injection site. Bleh.

However, as mentioned, the rest of the day was just fine. I was productive at work, and also took a minute to wait for a custom-made sandwich at my favorite cafe. It was a truly excellent sandwich, although I surprised even myself by ordering it without meat -- but with havarti and pepperjack cheese, roasted peppers, onions, mushrooms, avocados, tomatoes, and sprouts, all run through a baking oven so that everything melted together, I didn't feel that I was missing out. I ran a couple of errands on the way home from the bus stop before coming home and eating a frozen pizza (but since it was purchased at Whole Foods, it of course is organic, and it was quite a different experience from Tony's or Red Baron).

Finally, I was going to work on my book, but I needed a night off after the intense focus on it this weekend. So I decided to watch one of my recent Netflix arrivals -- 'Gosford Park'. It's crazy that I haven't seen it before; period dramas, Clive Owen, and Ryan Phillippe are all right up my alley, and the movie won some pretty widespread acclaim when it was released a few years ago. I adored it -- as you might be able to tell by the fact that I just watched 'Pride and Prejudice' as well, I'm looking for visual inspiration for romance novels, and feel that I can learn some stuff about storytelling from movies in a way that won't make me feel incredibly inferior like I do if I read something that is particularly well-written. So if you have any ideas for classic romances/period dramas/comedies that I should watch, let me know!

Monday, September 01, 2008

serenity

The ambient/trance song playing on my Pandora right now is 'Serenity'. This is ironic because I just read a comment that someone left on a blog post that I wrote during the Olympics -- and they seem to be even more obsessed/crazy than I am. You can read it here, but basically the chick is all mad at me because I contended that NBC should have stopped focusing so much of their prime-time coverage (via constant replays of every single one of Phelps' finals) on Michael Phelps after he was done with his quest for gold. Whatevs. I loved watching him swim, and yes, I watched him in Athens as well, and I'm of course looking forward to seeing what he does in London in 2012, but what I took umbrage at was *not* the fact that they focused on him during the swimming events, but that NBC continued to play his events days after they were over, when there were other sports that didn't get covered at all. To be criticized for my lack of dedication/obsession with the Olympics is something that, if you know me, took me completely by surprise.

Anyway, today was an absolutely lovely day in the city of sin. I made quesadillas for breakfast -- these are a holdover from my happy memories of endless weekend brunches in college, when I usually ate quesadillas while sitting in the dining room for several hours and chatting with everyone who cycled through. While there was no one here to keep me company, I must say that the quesadillas themselves were much better. Then I did the dishes, took a shower, and eventually made it out the door, down the block, and into my surly neighborhood Starbucks.

I worked on the book for a couple of hours, editing two more chapters while sipping an iced latte and people-watching -- my neighborhood may be strange, but that makes for some excellent people-watching, particularly if you like hipsters and toothless meth addicts. Then I came home and talked to my mom for awhile before venturing out again to pick up groceries. Whole Foods was expensive, as usual, but I'm excited about my purchases -- particularly the peaches, since I rediscovered them last week, as well as some applesauce, frozen enchiladas, and ingredients for more quesadillas. When I got home, I made myself a sandwich (with sprouts! I'm so Californian) and relaxed a little bit before working on the book until now.

My project for the past couple of hours was to go through the ~200 pages that I've currently polished for the second draft and start to write a synopsis of them -- not a polished, submittable synopsis, but rather a thorough outline showing key points, characters, settings, points of view, and page numbers for each chapter. I'm trying to make sure that the point of view (hereafter referred to as POV) switches make sense and aren't too frequent. Common wisdom says that each scene should stick with a single POV -- for instance, the opening scene between Amelia and her friend Madeleine should be entirely in Amelia's point of view, while the next scene could switch to someone else as long as it stays there for the duration of the scene. And for the most part, I've stuck to that and believe it makes sense. Where I'm struggling, though, is with the critical moments in the story -- like when Malcolm and Amelia first meet, or when they're exchanging their vows, or when they're "getting physical" (although clearly not while listening to Olivia Newton-John, since she came about 170 years too late). In those moments, when their feelings are evolving rapidly, it feels right to switch between their POVs in the same scene, so I'm playing around with it to see what I feel comfortable with. I need to go back and read some of my favorite first-meeting or first-sexy-times scenes to see how other authors have handled this, but that's a project for another night.

Unfortunately I suppose I should go to bed; tomorrow is a work day, which means I have to set the novel aside for the whole day and focus on other people's business. That's actually kind of nice -- as I said before, my job gives me a break from the book and my book gives me a break from the job, and so far it's all balancing quite well. Whether that continues as my job picks up or as the days get shorter remains to be seen, but for now, I'm quite satisfied.

nice shot!

Adit and I just played several rounds of Wii Golf. It's almost like the announcer was programmed especially for me; whenever he said 'nice shot!' about Adit's game, the shot was actually nice, but when the announcer said 'nice shot!' for me, it usually meant that my ball had gone into a bunker or over a cliff into the ocean. Bastard.

Today was excellent and v., v. productive. Terry and I woke up early and attempted to have brunch at Dottie's True Blue Cafe, in the heart of the Tenderloin, but despite its sketchy location, it always has lines out the door, and the line at 9:15am looked to be at least an hour long. Ridiculous. So we did exactly what Vidya and I did when she tried to take me to Dottie's -- we turned around, walked back toward my apartment, and had breakfast at Moulin Rouge instead. It's this cute little diner run by an elderly Asian couple and their son, decorated in a weird, grungy pseudo-french style, with excellent greasy hash browns and great eggs. Adit told me that when I described the 'family' and the 'reasonably priced food' and the 'atmosphere', I sounded just like every other San Franciscan, which is horrifyingly true. Give me two more months, and I'll be a poster child for stuffwhitepeoplelike.com. Ugh.

Terry went home after breakfast, and I decided to venture out in search of a cafe where I could spend the afternoon working on my book. I found the Leland Tea Company a couple of blocks from my apartment, and am thrilled thrilled thrilled -- they have just as wide a variety of teas as Tea Time in Palo Alto or Samovar in SF, but the service is better than Tea Time and the teas and foods are cheaper than Samovar. And, it's a five-minute walk from my place, which is perfect.

I started out with a pot of the Russian Country tea -- smoky, of course, just the way Russian blends are supposed to be. I had been there for about an hour when Adit called; he was in search of a working partner, and he ended up meeting me at the tea place. We sat there for another few hours, doing quite a bit of work and sharing a pot of Irish Breakfast tea. I didn't have as much tea as I could have had, but what I did have made my hands a little twitchy, so I decided to take it easy.

We came back to my place around six and split a container of frozen enchiladas while playing Wii Sports. Then we worked for a little over four hours while watching the US Open match between Djokovic and Cilic (Djokovic reminds me a lot of our Ukrainian friend Vova), followed by an episode of 'Law and Order:SVU'. Then we played more Wii golf before Adit finally decided to call it a night.

I'm glad that Adit and I hung out; I would have likely thrown in the towel much earlier if I hadn't had him around, and so I was v. productive w/the book today as a result. I edited 38 pages, but of that, nine of them were for completely new scenes, which meant that I wrote 2250 words plus the various words that I plucked out and rewrote in the other sections. All in all, a good day's work -- a few more days like this, and I'll feel ready to share it with some trusted feedback providers.

Now, though, I'm exhausted -- time for bed!