Thursday, October 30, 2008

pretty soon they've got her headed for the door

I had a training in the San Francisco office this morning, which means that I could take the MUNI to work rather than spending over an hour sitting in traffic. Because the training was on executive presence, and because I wanted to embrace life as a working girl in the city ("working girl" in the corporate whore sense, not the whore whore sense), I wore my high-heeled knee-high black boots, which felt great even if my feet are now killing me from wearing heels three times in four days.

What felt even greater was just working in the city. The cafe is gorgeous, and I had the first hamburger I've had in months while looking out over the bay and having a 1:1 with Pete. And even though it rained in the afternoon, I was still happy; I had my umbrella, and I put it to good use while waiting for the bus. I left work early and picked up my dry cleaning from yesterday, then spent the evening catching up on work emails.

While I'm glad that I got to work out of the city today, it makes me sad to know how awesome my life would be if I could work in SF every day. It's probably good for multiple reasons; going through Union Square every day would be devastating for my bank account, and there are fewer opportunities for 'visibility' (to use a v. corporate word) in SF because the leadership of my organization is mostly based in the south bay. And, I have lots of friends in my current office, most of whom I would never see if I started working out of the city.

However, it's v. tempting to try to swing something related to working in San Francisco. I got home in time to actually feel like I was home, even if I spent the evening working. I enjoyed a pot of the Samovar breakfast blend tea that I bought yesterday, and it was even more perfect than I remembered it from yesterday -- perhaps because my cups and mugs have handles, and I prefer white sugar to raw sugar, even if raw sugar is simultaneously the way of the past and the way of the future.

Okay, my thoughts are particularly disjointed tonight, and I have to be at work at eight a.m. for a meeting. I also have to be at work in costume at eight a.m. -- not too difficult, since my costume (I'm dressing as Laura, one of our former directors) is easy, but I want to blow dry my hair, which means I should go to bed now. Goodnight!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

looking for the answers to the questions i'll never ask

Today was a v. relaxing random vacation day, even if I didn't write nearly as much as I intended. I spent the morning and early afternoon taking care of sundry issues that are difficult to do on weekends -- I finally resolved the tire pressure issue, dropped off fifteen sweaters, four skirts, and a pair of pants at the dry cleaner's, talked to my doctor about getting a prescription refill, bought some stuff for my Halloween costume (and a new notebook, which I didn't need, but I have a paper fetish), and talked to my financial adviser. None of this was book-related, but it was all necessary to the overall order of my life, so I'm glad it's all taken care of.

After I got off the phone with my finance person, I packed up my laptop and walked down to Samovar in Yerba Buena Gardens. I made a stop at Sephora in search of bubble bath, and when I didn't find any that I wanted, I was very good and didn't console myself by buying lipgloss -- perhaps my lack of spending is unpatriotic, but considering that I'm still recovering from six months of unpaid leave + a trip to Europe, and want to go to Bermuda, Japan, Singapore, Iowa x3, Texas, Washington D.C., Chicago, and Boston next year (clearly impossible, even if I technically could swing the vacation days), refraining from buying lipgloss is necessary. However, I did go to the Body Shop and buy bubble bath, so clearly I haven't completely reformed.

I also bought two kinds of loose-leaf tea at Samovar. The first is their masala chai blend (which is the whole reason I went to Samovar -- I've been on a masala chai kick recently, and I like theirs even if it's served in a handmade, handleless, undoubtedly fair trade/'organic' clay mug that burns my fingers) so that I can make chai at home. The second is their breakfast blend because I had a pot of that after my chai today and thought it was some of the best tea that I've had in awhile. Tea is definitely my favorite beverage (even above Cherry Coke Zero, which makes my technologically-advanced heart a little sad, since tea has been around for centuries and Cherry Coke Zero was created in a lab) -- hot or iced, spiced or plain, sweetened or unsweetened (although I prefer sweetened -- I would do well in the South), I like it all. The only downside is that I can't stand to drink it out of a paper cup, which makes it difficult to find when I'm out and about. I'll drink Starbucks products out of paper any day of the week, but tea is more delicate, and I swear I can taste the cup when I drink tea out of something disposable. Luckily, I drink enough tea at home and in cafes that I can stand to drink something else when paper is the only option.

I meant to write a new chapter for my book today, but I just couldn't get into the mood. I have the idea, but am having trouble starting -- I think I've been away from writing too long. This may sound silly, since I work on the book whenever I can. But, for the past couple of months, I haven't written much new material -- it's all been revisions of existing stuff. This causes some anxiety now that I'm confronted again by the blank page. Clearly I need to finish this book so that I can start working on the next one!

I spent most of the evening reading the first few chapters of The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe. It's one of the preeminent Gothic romances of the late 18th century, and it influenced the Gothic romance craze that swept England during the first decades of the 1800s. I vaguely remember reading Radcliffe's The Romance of the Forest for a class on Gothic literature at Stanford -- a class that I now wish I had paid more attention to, although I couldn't spend a lot of time on it because I was taking classes that actually mattered for my major and could ace English classes with relatively little effort. I'm reading Udolpho because Amelia (the heroine of my current book) is secretly a Gothic novelist; while I don't include any fake scenes from her works in my book, I did give a general outline of the plot of her book, and I thought it behooved me to read a real Gothic novel and make sure Amelia's book wasn't too far off. Even though I've only read three chapters, I think I'm all good -- Amelia's book's plot is suitably dramatic, and I'm glad that I'm not including any fake scenes because Radcliffe (and most eighteenth century novelists) is wordy as hell. Her scenery descriptions are lush, but they're so frequent and so verbose that it's almost like the scenery is another character -- which, I suppose, it is, but I'm used to a much more pared-down style these days.

You wouldn't know that I appreciate pared-down styles given the length of my blog posts, so I'm going to cut this one off abruptly and go to bed!

hello taiwan

So I'm procrastinating again (after picking up my car, for which they amazingly charged me only $10 -- at a licensed Toyota dealer, no less).

Check out my friend Joann's blog -- she transferred to the Singapore office a few months ago (I'm jealous but reminding myself that I want to have a life in the States for awhile), and keeps this awesome food blog with close-up shots of all the crazy stuff she's eating in Asia. She went to Taiwan with some friends recently, and posted this: her experience at a Hello Kitty-themed cafe. Given that my Hello Kitty calculator is prominently placed on my desk, I loved this entry.

Now back to work...

new self-imposed goal: comment response

This is a rare mid-day post; you'll still get one later, but if I were leisurely unemployed, perhaps I would blog more in the middle of the day. Then again, I didn't blog in the middle of the day while I was in Iowa -- but I usually wasn't awake in the middle of the day, so that may have been part of it.

Anyway, I'm setting a new goal to respond to comments on the blog. I've been woefully disinclined to respond to comments, probably because they get sent to me via email, and I usually read my email on my crackberry, which means I don't think about going back to respond to comments even when they're awesome and make me laugh.

However, if I start writing regularly in the romance blog (big if), I will need to reply to comments so that I can 'build a community'. I might as well practice here!

Okay, my car's done at the dealership, so no more procrastinating by setting grandiose goals. I'll write later!

take a breath and ask yourself is it worth it to take a chance with me?

In an effort to make space for myself, I'm taking tomorrow off. It could very well end up being too productive and not relaxing enough, given that I have grand plans to get my car serviced, drop of a lot of dry cleaning, talk to my financial adviser, and plow through another dozen or so action items for myself tomorrow -- but hopefully I'll also spend some time with the book.

It will also be a struggle against my nobler instincts -- I'm feeling behind on stuff at work, and while I successfully cleared my email inbox for the first time since Thursday (well, 'cleared' in the sense that I've read everything, but there are a few emails lingering because I didn't want to deal with them), my work to-do list is ridiculous, and it's tempting to spend time tomorrow getting caught up. I just have to remind myself that it's a vacation day, even if a vacation on a random Wednesday is a little weird, and hope that I can keep myself from doing anything for my employer tomorrow.

Anyway, since work is all I really did today, I have nothing particularly exciting to report. I'm glad I spent so much time cleaning on Sunday -- it's been really nice to walk into an immaculate apartment the last couple of nights, and while I have errand-y stuff to do tomorrow, the apartment itself won't be a distraction.

This post is super boring -- I'm going to go to bed and hope that tomorrow is more interesting for all our sakes!

Monday, October 27, 2008

can't stop, addicted to the shindig

Today is my five-year anniversary with the Goog. While I'm quite happy that I'm here, I did have a moment tonight when I realized that, five years ago, I expected that I would be halfway through an English PhD by now. The PhD dream is pretty much dead at this point, and mostly unlamented, but sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if I'd gone down that road. I would likely have a lot less stuff, given that I would have been on a stipend instead of on a salary, and I almost certainly would not have gotten to live the fancy expat lifestyle in two different countries. I also wouldn't have comprehensive health insurance or a 401(k) or time to work on my romance novel. All in all, it seems like I made the right decision, but maybe I'll have a midlife crisis someday and go back to school anyway.

I had meetings pretty much straight through from nine to five-thirty -- clearly I need to get control of my calendar, but it's v. difficult. Then, I left work promptly at five-thirty to meet Terry at Cafe Borrone in Menlo Park, where I duplicated last week's order and had one of their fantastic sandwiches (turkey and gouda with tomatoes, caramelized onions and garlic mayonnaise on foccacia) while we caught up on life. If I fail in my romance novel endeavors and she succeeds in her long-term entrepreneurial goals, I may be able to score a job through nepotism, which is exciting -- but if I want to keep eating for the next five years until that happens, I should probably go to bed soon so that I can get up in time to go to work tomorrow. I have to attend a meeting with my team's directors tomorrow, which doesn't really intimidate me at all, but I'm a little rusty since I still haven't done much hardcore presenting since getting back from leave -- I made one of the ugliest PowerPoint slides I've ever made tonight, because I've lost all my skillz. I may have spent the last half-decade making graphs and powerpoints, but apparently those skillz are rather fleeting. Sadness. And now, goodnight!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

she wanted everything and nothing now...she wanted everything and more

If I sell my book, the gift I'm going to buy myself is a new chair. I really want one just like the chair I have in my office, but that chair retails for ~$700. However, it's perfect for me -- unlike my current desk chair, which I inherited from Walter, who inherited it from Derek five years ago. This one's fine, but if I'm going to keep spending weekends glued to my desk chair and weekdays sitting in my car trying not to commit an act of road rage, it would be nice for the desk chair to be a bit more ergonomically friendly.

I got a lot done today, but most of it wasn't for the romance novel. I lost an hour this morning because I thought that I had woken up early and so laid around in bed -- but when I finally got up, I found out that my blackberry thought that today was the end of daylight savings time and so set itself back an hour. Despite that, I still got a lot done; I had a nice, long conversation with my parents while cleaning my apartment, and I continued cleaning after getting off the phone with them. After several hours of scrubbing, dusting, vacuuming, and washing, my apartment is sparkling and tidy -- just what the doctor ordered, since a) I'm allergic to dust and the place was getting pretty dusty, and b) I'll have to spend the next few weeks holed up here while I finish the book and start submitting to agents, so having a clean place as a hermitage is essential.

The other big task I accomplished today was filling out my absentee ballot. Between the office elections, the state propositions, and the City of San Francisco propositions, there were three separate ballots. Reading the pros and cons on 34 propositions took awhile, but I fulfilled my civic duty, filled out my ballot, and dropped it in the mailbox. Now I can close my eyes and pretend that the election is over, even though there's still more nine days (or weeks, depending on what ends up being contested). My favorite part of the propositions is how many propositions there were for $1-5 billion bond initiatives, and how every single one of them claimed that the proposition did not raise your taxes. True, maybe the language in the proposition wasn't written to raise taxes -- but how do you think we'll end up having to pay them back? I did vote for the high-speed train from SF to LA since I'm in favor of infrastructure improvements, but in general I laugh when people claim that billions of dollars in bonds won't cost you anything.

I did do a bit of work on the book, but it wasn't writing -- I'm trying to come up with a name for Ferguson's father's dukedom. The problem is that all the v. ducal-sounding names sound ducal because they're actually real dukes -- or, they belong to incredibly small towns, while dukes are usually named after large towns or entire counties (York, Norfolk, Sussex, etc.) I'll clearly just have to get over it and give the guy a dukedom based in a middling-sized town. I've narrowed it down to a few towns on the eastern coast of England -- while I'm not sure exactly where I want that story to go, placing the duchy on a coast leaves room for a possible smuggling element, since there was rampant smuggling during the Napoleonic Wars due to the embargo on French goods. And who doesn't love a good smuggling story?

I suppose I should go to bed; I have to go to work tomorrow, which I'm not completely excited about. But, I'm about a million times more excited about work than I was at this time last year. And tomorrow's my official five-year anniversary at work! Before I dwell on any issues surrounding my life's progress or lack thereof, I think it's time to go to bed.

you broke the boy in me but you won't break the man

I had a fantastic day in the city of sin. San Francisco has been incredibly warm for the last couple of weeks, and I decided to take advantage of the sunshine by walking down to Union Square. I spent a couple of hours at Samovar in Yerba Buena Gardens, eating overpriced food, drinking overpriced tea, and working on my novel. Even though the food is overpriced, it's quite tasty; my salmon quiche was great, as was my cherry oat scone, and both the pot of English Breakfast tea and the later cup of masala chai were excellent. I will say that their cups leave something to be desired; the handleless earthenware mug that my chai came in was so hot that I thought it was going to burn my fingers, which explains why handles became an accepted innovation. But the atmosphere was good for writing, and that's all that matters.

After a couple of hours, the place was starting to get too crowded with tourists (yes I will scoff at them even though I'm about as midwestern as they come), so I vacated and went in search of a couple of card stores that I wanted to check out. Paperwhirl and Avant Card are both on Grant Avenue within three blocks of each other, just below the gates to Chinatown. I spent well over an hour browsing their selections, which was totally unnecessary and totally fun. While neither of them had a great selection of blank/non-themed cards (since I want to send random cards, and not be limited to once-a-year birthday cards), I did pick up my Christmas cards for the year. If Crate and Barrel already has their Christmas ornaments out (I swung through the store and browsed, although I didn't buy anything), I can buy my Christmas cards before Halloween. When I'm going to write them, I don't know -- the book has to be the focus for now. But at least they are sitting on my desk, so I can write them if I'm in the mood.

I spent the rest of the day at home; I took a nap after I walked back to the apartment, then took a bubble bath, then spent five hours working on the book. I'm reworking Malcolm's train of thought through the book, which is an interesting editing experience -- it's a combination of adding or changing single lines in some scenes, and adding or deleting whole paragraphs in other scenes, so that the overall narrative arc paints a different picture. I think I'm getting close -- I need to write a completely new scene from scratch and add a few lines to one of his closing scenes, but it's not bad. My goal for tomorrow is to finish that and do the rest of the main edits that I've highlighted for myself, so that I can spend next week/weekend doing another line-edit and final polish. Then it's time to start querying agents...ugh.

Yesterday was good too, but I was exhausted and fell asleep while watching a tivo'd episode of Craig, so I didn't blog. Work was bleh, but I had a long dinner with Terry and Lauren (aka Subz) -- Subz was on sabbatical and just got back this week, so it was great to catch up with her over margaritas and enchiladas at Fiesta del Mar. Nathan showed up about halfway in, so I got to see him as well for the first time in a couple of months. It was a great way to start the weekend, particularly since the rest of the weekend is meant to be v. hermitlike. Now, though, I should go to bed so that I can get up tomorrow and keep writing. Goodnight!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

boom boom dollar

I was pretty stressed out after work today -- too many days in a row full of meetings, too many little annoyances exploding into bigger issues, too many nights of hanging out with coworkers and not getting home until bedtime. I ended up going to downtown Palo Alto to spend a couple of hours a) buying nail polish and b) working while drinking a tiger spice chai at Coupa Cafe. Paying $3 for an eight-ounce cup of milk is silly, but sitting in the office would have been sillier. I spent the whole time at the cafe plowing through my piles of unread emails, but I was remarkably efficient, and decided that I wouldn't do any more work when I got home. I also got some great nail polishes -- I had to replace the deep purple color that I loved because the bottle exploded at some point on the drive from Iowa to California this summer, so I have a new bottle of 'Lincoln Park at Midnight,' which makes me happy.

When I got home, I ate some frozen enchiladas (although I ruined the first batch because I was so annoyed about something else that I forgot to turn down the power setting and I ended up scorching them), and then painted my fingernails and toenails while watching tv. Two things are shocking about this: I haven't painted my fingernails in months, and I haven't watched tv in at least three weeks. But it was exactly what the doctor ordered -- I can't spend all my time working + writing or I'll go crazy. So now my toenails are a nice shimmery fuschia and my fingernails are glimmering silver, and I feel more relaxed than I've felt in awhile.

What I watched was two tivo'd episodes of 'The Mentalist,' one of the new shows on CBS. Some blog said this about 'The Mentalist": "In a recent issue of Entertainment Weekly, THE MENTALIST creator Bruno Heller proudly proclaimed that he’d “much rather please 10 old ladies in Iowa than one hipster in New York.”" Since I self-identify more closely with old Iowans than with NY hipsters, it's no wonder that I really liked the show. Simon Baker is awesome, and by 'awesome' I mean 'lust-worthy' -- he was the 'other guy' in 'The Devil Wears Prada,' and the main reason why I thought the chick in that movie should keep pursuing the glamorous life so that she could get with him rather than going back to her schlubby boyfriend. Some of the cast is still a little wooden, but it gave me two great hours of relaxation, so I can go to bed happier.

And go to bed I must -- I want to get to work early so that I can do the things I should have done tonight before my meetings start tomorrow. Goodnight!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

consequence is no coincidence

This is a four-minute post. It's a bad week when, between 1pm on Monday afternoon and 5pm on Friday afternoon, you get a combined total of one hour and fifteen minutes at your desk. Fifteen of those precious minutes happened this afternoon, and I actually decided to vacate the desk and take a few moments to make myself an iced latte in the kitchen downstairs. I get half an hour tomorrow and half an hour Friday, but both days start at 8:30. Today was supposed to start at 8:30 too, but I didn't get to work until 9 because there was a tanker truck explosion in Oakland that shut down one of the major north/south freeways on the dirty east side of the bay, sending traffic flooding down the glorious west side and destroying my commute.

However, at least tomorrow I can leave work and not have to socialize with people -- I genuinely like the people I work with, but I've spent the last three nights being social, and I could use a reprieve. Tonight I had a nice dinner with Dave and Meghan (both in from Ann Arbor) -- I took them to Zucca in Mountain View, where we had delicious Italian food and caught up on general gossip. But I didn't get home until after 9:30, and even though I didn't read my email all day, I figure I'm far enough behind that I might as well go to bed.

Four minutes are up -- I will focus on the book this weekend regardless of how behind I am at work. Goodnight!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

deprioritizing the title line tonight

I'm too tired to come up with a title. Today was a failure on the balance front; not so much because I worked too much today (although I was at the office from 8:30-7, then worked when I got home until now), but because I was taking part in a summit to set some longer-term strategy, and realized just how much I'm inadvertently signed up for. It's not even stuff I necessarily signed myself up for, but somehow the things that I'm working on, from the whole team itself to several of the projects that I'm signed up for, are seen by much of the organization as vital to our success over the next few quarters. Sounds exciting/important/great for my naturally competitive/ambitious nature, but not so great for my goal to become a romance novelist. The way I visualized this was that scene from 'The Little Mermaid' where Ariel is singing and Ursula's ghostly magic hands reach down her throat and pull out her voice -- my job is getting its hands down my throat and threatens to pull out my creative voice if I can't manage to find the key to unlock the spell. Since the key lies totally within myself and it's utterly up to me to make sure that I don't get overwhelmed by my job, theoretically I should be safe -- but I'm often my own worst enemy, so it will be interesting to see how things go.

Other than that, though, things were good; I'm not the most patient person in general, and all-day management things tend to annoy me, but at least I like the people I'm working with. I dropped someone off at the Mountain View train station, which gave me a chance to get another earl grey milk tea from Verde (yay) before driving home. Sadly, all but two hours in the next three days are already scheduled, including meetings every morning at 8:30. Bleh. So, I suppose I should go to bed -- goodnight!

Monday, October 20, 2008

one minute i held the key, next the walls were closed on me

This is a four-minute post. I wanted to shoot myself or the occupants of half a dozen other cars on my commute this morning; I actually left home a bit earlier than I thought I needed to, made great progress out of the city...and then hit a snarl through Redwood City and Palo Alto that made me ten minutes late for my 8:30am meeting. Ugh. *Not* a good way to start a Monday, particularly since this week is even more meeting packed than usual. Also, before the snarl, I was having some great ideas for the couple of scenes that I want to add to my book (to the point that I was making notes on a scrap of paper precariously balanced on my steering wheel while I was going sixty miles and hour...probably not smart). But instead of writing the scenes, I had to work, and when I got home tonight, I completely crashed and couldn't think of writing.

But, the day wasn't actually bad -- I had a team-building thing all afternoon with the visiting managers from the other offices I work closely with, and that was good. The first part was personality-test-based, which always makes me feel like a raging bitch, considering that my personality has some rather strong strains around needing to be efficient and get things done and make rational decisions regardless of the emotions of others. The second part was more of a group exercise, taken from Pete's Army background, involving getting three boards, two 25lb buckets of sand, and all your people across a field of burning lava (where 'burning lava' = 'grass'). The exercise is similar to the one that we used to do when recruiting RAs for FloMo, although this one was actually easier since the buckets of sand weren't too difficult -- the FloMo exercise involved balancing the boards on milk crates, whereas this was just setting the boards on the ground.

We followed it up with dinner at La Fiesta in Mountain View, which was delicious. Then I made Pete wait while I stopped at Verde for an earl grey milk tea (sans pearls, since I didn't feel like eating a lot of tapioca balls right after enchiladas), before taking Pete to his apartment in SF and then proceeding to my own.

Four minutes are up, bedtime!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

someone's gonna tell you lies, cut you down to size

I should be happy with the progress that I made on the book today, but I'm having one of those "I need to accomplish everything RIGHT NOW" moments that is making it hard for me to do the whole "celebrate small successes" thing that all the self-help gurus recommend. I basically worked on the book all day, with some procrastinatory breaks -- and the breaks weren't totally useless, considering that I did two loads of laundry, talked briefly to my parents (who weren't able to talk for long because some of my mother's cousins were staying with them tonight), and ran errands to the mailbox, the ATM, and Walgreens.

One of the requirements for the current phase of editing is to finally answer the little research questions that I hadn't gotten around to (like, was the Grecian style on the way out by 1811 -- yes; would the Scots Highlanders say "ain't?" -- yes, but I decided to sprinkle in some "amn't" instead; is Scotch considered "whisky" or "whiskey"? -- whisky). And since I love history, the research phase is dangerous, and led me down some treacherous tangents, although I did manage to put down my copious book on 19th century British fashion as soon as I answered the Grecian question, rather than losing myself for hours in descriptions of spencers, pelisses, tippets, reticules, etc. If you don't know what those things are, rejoice in the fact that you have likely spent your life learning more useful things.

So by the end of today, I answered a lot of little questions and finally entered all of the line edits I did on my paper copy into my electronic copy. I also finally edited the last sixty pages of the manuscript and put that into the computer as well, so my computerized copy is as clean as it's likely to get. I took care of some annoying formatting issues, like the fact that half the manuscript had smart quotes and half didn't, and laughed at the sheer stupidity of most of Word's grammar suggestions.

The only real things left to do are to go back and add in some more of Malcolm's perspective -- as I believe I mentioned before, my understanding of the reason why he didn't want to get married kept changing, and so his train of thought through the book is a little muddy. I also need to add a scene or two towards the end to show more of their falling-in-love stage, but that should be fun to write. Then I need to write a clean, tight synopsis of the story, craft the perfect query letter, and start looking for an agent.

All of this could theoretically be done in the next couple of weeks, but I think I'm cranky because seeking publication is such a risk, with such a high possibility of rejection, and I'm definitely stepping out of my comfort zone by pursuing something that I'm not completely convinced I can succeed at. Don't get me wrong, I love my manuscript and think I have something great, but if any of the little pieces aren't exactly right on (such as the all-important query letter, or the energy of the first three chapters), potential agents will reject me out of hand. And I *hate* rejection -- so this will probably be a good learning experience for me. If I'm going to go down the rejection path, I might as well start as quickly as possible, so that means buckling down and finishing the final draft regardless of how much I want to procrastinate.

I should go to bed; I didn't do any work work this weekend, and since I was behind on emails when I left Friday, tomorrow should be busy. It's compounded by an all-afternoon offsite, followed by a management team dinner, followed by a separate all-day offsite on Tuesday, as well as an unrelated training that I have to attend on Thursday. How I'm supposed to do my real job when I'm sitting in meetings all day is a question that I have never satisfactorily answered. But, one of the ways in which I procrastinated today was to block off one Friday each month through next August so that I can start having regular writing-focused three-day weekends. I also blocked off a week for Aunt Becky's wedding to the scandalous fiance and a week for the Romance Writers of America convention in D.C. -- and since I'm now so tenured and already have vacation stored up, even that excessive amount of vacation leaves me with four unused vacation weeks that I can spend sometime next year. Ha. Goodnight!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

you're under the gun, so you take it on the run

This would be a four-minute post if I didn't feel so gosh darn good about today; the need to make sure I hit all the highlights outweighs the need to go to bed. As I've complained about bitterly in the past, I've started getting up earlier of my own accord. Today was no exception, and I was out of bed around eight a.m., giving me plenty of time to do stuff around the house before meeting John and Adit for our afternoon festivities.

Today was the Red Bull Soapbox Derby, held in Mission Dolores Park. It was definitely worthy of the city of sin -- waves of humanity packed into a park to watch crazy people careen down a hilly street in self-built contraptions. In order to prepare for the experience, we had to eat lunch first. We went to Ike's Place, which I blogged about in February -- it's the sandwich place where Ike used to make sandwiches by appointment only. He's apparently decided to capitalize on his fame, since he now takes orders over the phone and no longer requires an appointment. I'm glad we called in our order, though, since the line to order a sandwich and the wait to receive it was long. But Ike no longer runs the place alone with his mother; he's hired several kids to help him out, including the one who inexplicably checked the garbage first when we said we were there to pick up our sandwiches.

The sandwiches were absolutely delicious. I had the [name of the girl you're dating], which consists of chicken, pepperjack, avocado, and honey mustard on dutch crunch bread. Perhaps you can tell that my favorite sandwiches involve poultry, pepperjack, and avocado, but this one was particularly good, even if I chose not to get Ike's special dirty sauce because I didn't want to destroy my new sweater. We ate them on the steps of the Mission Dolores church, a slightly sacrilegious venue that was nevertheless perfect because of the bright sunshine and ample people-watching opportunities.

The derby itself was quite entertaining, although perhaps not as entertaining as my viewing companions. Adit seemed to be overly entertained by the fact that one of the announcers claimed that his name was Sheboy (not sure if that's how he spelled it, but it was pronounced sha'BOY, which I loved). People clearly put a lot of effort into their derby cars; I don't know who won, but winning involved a combination of pure speed in getting down the hill, style of the car, and strength of your pre-race skit (?!). Every team had a driver plus 3-4 pit members, and they would do a skit at the starting line before pushing the car to get it started. It was all totally ridiculously amazing, and there was a huge crowd; the weather has been gorgeous here, and people were clearly excited to hang out in the sunshine, drink, and smoke pot. Ah, San Francisco, how I love you.

After the derby, we hung out at a cafe for awhile, and marveled at how all the kids had the same overly-large, sad-looking eyes as their father, who appeared to own the store. John and I spent a significant amount of time trying to explain to Adit that you indeed would not want to buy the cow when you can get the milk for free because the cow is only good for milk -- you would typically not want to eat the cow, since you just want to keep it around for milk production, and dairy cows are not as delicious as beef cows. Adit tried to counter by saying that if we were stuck in the wilderness, one of us would of course eat the other one to survive, which devolved into debating whether John or I would die sooner, given that we are both totally allergic to the wild. On that cheerful note, we parted ways, but I'm hopeful that we'll get together again in the future.

I took a nap when I got home, and then drove down to the south bay to hang out with Chandlord. Chandlord is perhaps the only person I would have driven to Mountain View for today, given that I spend too much time in my car as it is, and seem to be developing back problems as a result. But, she's in town for just a couple of days for a wedding, and I wanted to make sure that I saw her before she took off again. We had dinner at a Thai place in Mountain View, followed by lattes at a nearby cafe, which was v. nice. I'm glad we got to hang out; while she can keep up to date on my life via the blog, I don't know what's going on with her unless we talk online, and I'm rarely online due to my constant attempts to be efficient with both work and the book. Chandlord is quite winning, and I'm glad that she's settling into her routine in Boston, even if I don't want her to get *too* settled because I want her to move back. Then again, if she moves back, I'm homeless, but I'm willing to pack up my eighty boxes of stuff and move again if it means Vidius Chandicus is back in the area.

Now that this has gone well beyond a four-minute post, I think I should go to bed. I'm really happy that I took a day off from both work and the book, but the deadline for the romance contest that I entered -- and my own personal deadline for finding an agent -- is rapidly approaching. So even if all I want to do tomorrow is hang out, I'm going to spend most of it working on the book instead. Goodnight!

Friday, October 17, 2008

what you need boy? i need a hot girl

This is a four-minute post. My ipod continues to amaze and delight; the weirdest combo put forth by the shuffle mode was BG's 'Hot Girls' followed by Elton John's 'Can You Feel The Love Tonight?'. 'Hot Girls' is a rap song, heavy on references to hoodrat bitches. The also extol the virtues of a girl who will take the fall for you if the cops show up, and spend the rest of her time spending your grands and giving you head. Ironically, even though 'Hot Girls' is about as misogynistic as it gets, I listened to the whole thing, but then skipped the Elton John song after fifteen seconds.

I'm totally brain-dead by Friday afternoon, and today was no exception. I was a little cranky at work all week, and I'm hoping that some relaxation this weekend will take the edge off. Nothing bad happened, I just felt antsy because I'm not making as much progress with the book as I want to. I ended up skipping dinner with Doug and Shedletsky tonight because I was so exhausted that the idea of driving to the city was daunting enough, without having to take a break in the middle for some Indian food. I wanted to work on the book tonight, but other than unloading my dishwasher and doing a load of laundry, I did nothing else productive. I'll save the book for the weekend, although I have some other fun plans with John and Adit tomorrow afternoon that will force me to take a break from the writing.

Four minutes are up, goodnight!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

if you insist on knowing my bliss, i'll tell you this

I had an incredibly great day. I slept in slightly, blow-dried my hair, and still made it to work in time to get my allergy shots before going to my first meeting of the day. I unfortunately had more meetings than anticipated in the afternoon and so couldn't have Doug and his European friends over for lunch, but I was able to meet up with Adit and Katrina for an earlier, quicker lunch at my favorite cafe. My sandwich wasn't quite as good as usual because they forgot the sprouts, but considering that the turkey, pepperjack cheese, tomatoes, and avocados were all free, I suppose I shouldn't complain. And they more than made up for it with their homemade ice cream -- the chocolate brownie ice cream today was absolutely stellar.

It was v. nice to see Adit and Katrina, and to take a total break from work in the middle of the day (and to show my work friends that I do actually have a life outside of work, which could easily be called into question given my years of workaholic history). I'm hopeful that we'll make this a biweekly tradition, but we'll see how that goes.

I spent the rest of the day in meetings, and then at the end of my meetings, set a goal that I would get through as much stuff as possible but stop at 6:30 regardless of what I had finished. I didn't end up stopping until 6:45, but I felt good about what I'd gotten done, and left with a light heart. I went promptly to Cafe Borrone in Menlo Park, where I had a truly excellent sandwich -- turkey, gouda, tomatoes, lettuce, caramelized onions, mayo, and garlic on foccacia. The sandwich was huge, so I brought half of it home, but it was v. satisfying even if it's absurdly overpriced.

While at Cafe Borrone, I wrote ~1000 words, which became the new first chapter for my book. Or rather, it's Amelia's new first chapter; I think I'll actually open the book with Malcolm's first chapter, but the feedback I'd gotten (and wholeheartedly agreed with) was that Amelia's first chapter wasn't interesting/excited enough. I'm much happier with the new version -- and I actually posted it on the romance blog! So you can check it out for yourself, if you're so inclined.

Now that the first chapter is in better shape, that's a huge weight off my chest. The rest is all fixing the line edits that I made on my paper copy a couple of weeks ago, adding in some bridging and details to make the story clearer and tighter, and perhaps adding a few scenes towards the end to show their progress towards love even more emotionally. But I'm very excited about where I am!

Tomorrow's another day in the office, but I'm hopeful that I'll get some productive writing in this weekend, despite my other fun social plans. Now, though, I should go to bed so that I can get to the weekend as soon as possible!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

return to innocence

For the past couple of days, I've been playing my entire ipod library on shuffle mode while in my car or working at my desk. This leads to some v. strange combinations -- such as the string I listened to while driving through the city tonight, which involved Counting Crows, a v. fast-paced techno song from Walter's happy hardcore mix, and Enigma's 'Return to Innocence.' As you can tell, this strategy is also serving to remind me, through an example-based framework that makes the feedback difficult to ignore, that I have terrible taste in music. Sigh.

I made it to the shuttle this morning on time, and spent much of the bus ride staring out the window while listening to my terrible music. My day was rather meeting-packed, and I decided to leave early to work on my romance novel. I spent about an hour on it, and it was going well, but then my dinner plans were thwarted because Terry is getting sick and couldn't make it. I consoled myself by going shopping -- totally unnecessary, but I more wanted to browse than anything else, and I got a couple of sweaters on sale. The Stanford Shopping Center was emptier than I think I've ever seen it -- but it's more likely the debate than the economy that affected it tonight, since most of their stores cater to a crowd that will likely weather any economic fallout.

I intended to work on the novel some more tonight, but by the time I got home, put away my purchases, and ate supper, it felt a little late to get started again. Instead I'm going to go to bed early, get up and go to work early so that I can get done early, and then start focusing on the book again in earnest. My personal deadline for starting to look for an agent was the first week of November, which is only two weeks away, so I really need to be making fast progress towards the final final draft. Goodnight!

pontius pilate? he doesn't sound very honest

This is a four-minute post. Today was an okay day at work; it started off with a politically-charged breakfast with Sarah, who wanted to hear my views in a 1:1 setting rather than in a group (since groups are always dangerous), and then went downhill, since I had to get allergy shots and then had some annoying meetings. But, it rebounded briefly during lunch at my favorite cafe with Gyre, before declining again through more meetings. Actually, the meetings themselves weren't that bad, but most of the issues I had to deal with today were total headaches, and I'm trying to get out of the headache business.

My commute this morning was bad and I couldn't stand the idea of driving back to the city, so I left my car at work and took the shuttle home. This was pretty productive, although I had to pause a couple of times to avoid getting carsick, but I left the office at 5:15 and was home a little before seven. Clearly the shuttle takes longer, but there's efficiency to be gained by not stressing about the drive and doing some emails on the bus.

I had eaten supper and was just settling in to work on zee romance novel when Doug texted me -- he's in town w/three Danish/Macedonian friends, and they were having dinner with Shedletsky, Joanna, and Brendan. I joined them and had a glass of wine (since I had to taxi over because my car was still in Mountain View), and we had a great time, followed by some fun times playing 'Apples to Apples' at Shedletsky and Joanna's place. Then Shedletsky was nice enough to give me a ride home, and I have to get up in 6.5 hours to get ready and then catch the shuttle back to work. But I'm glad I went out tonight; it took my mind off my headaches, and Doug and the gang are always fun. Hopefully I'll see them again later this week.

Four minutes are up, bedtime!

Monday, October 13, 2008

pull me up and out the door

This is a four-minute post. I was wildly successful in my work/life balance today; while I was at the office for 10.5 hours, I still left on schedule at 6:20pm, only five minutes after the last meeting of the day ended. And I didn't do any work from home tonight -- while I wasn't as focused on the book as I would have liked, I did take care of some personal administrivia, eat a delicious frozen pizza (Amy's Margherita Pizza -- I should abhor foods made by a company that specializes in purely vegetarian cuisine, but I'm in love with both their pizzas and their enchiladas), talk to Heather (aka dear respected madam) for a few minutes, and spend about half an hour on the book.

I need to be making more progress than that -- the deadline for the Golden Heart contest is at the beginning of December, and my manuscript absolutely has to be done by then, particularly since I already submitted the entrance fee. The contest is run by Romance Writers of America, the preeminent professional organization for the romance genre, and recognizes the best unpublished romance manuscripts of the year. Even more important than the contest, I want to start looking for an agent, and I had hoped to send out my first query letters in early November. That's horrifically only a couple of weeks away, so I really need to get cracking. The biggest hurdle right now is rewriting the beginning -- I'm putting so much pressure on myself to make it awesome that I'm having trouble making progress. That needs to end now, though -- I'm starting to get impatient, and I need to stay patient if I'm going to make it though the long years until publication. I also need to stay on track with the work/life balance thing -- I'm hereby committing to be out of the office by 5:30pm or within 5mins of my last meeting of the day, whichever is later, for the rest of the week.

Four minutes are up, bedtime!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

turning nightmares into dreams that bring you around

I just got off the phone with Tammy -- I'm not particularly good [editor's note: I'm terrible] at keeping in touch with my friends via phone, but Tammy called me, and I'm really glad she did. I've been in a funk all weekend, and while I don't feel totally better, I at least feel like I'm on my way back to being happy.

One reason I was in a funk, and the reason why she called, was because one of our mutual friends committed suicide last week. We found out on Friday, but I didn't blog about it because there's really nothing much that you can say -- it's tragic, obviously, but there's so much that's unknowable about something like this, and it's the unknown that leads to survivor guilt for so many people. I don't know that what I felt this weekend could be characterized as guilt -- perhaps it's more along the lines of regret, because despite some of the more negative memories I have of Jason (he was one of my residents in Mirlo and had a habit of setting fire to things and breaking into my room), I also have some great memories of him, and will always feel sadness and regret that he's not out there using his newly-minted medical degree or playing endless rounds of Tetris Attack.

Tammy and I had a good conversation about guilt, regret, personal responsibility, etc., a conversation that I didn't really feel like having with anyone else because it's easier to have that conversation when you both know the person involved. The reasons why some people will keep on surviving in the face of overwhelming tragedy, while others collapse in less disastrous situations, have always fascinated me -- if everyone only has one story, one of the main threads of mine is understanding why some people bend when others break. Perhaps it's because I have a tendency to allow myself to be broken -- I don't set boundaries effectively, and then work/friends/relationships get their claws into me until I feel the urge to break them off and throw up protective walls.

Balancing strength and vulnerability is perhaps my biggest struggle; even though I don't set boundaries effectively, it's that I don't set boundaries on my *energy*, not that I don't set boundaries on my core. And because I allow too many people/projects/obsessions eat up my energy, I lose sight of my longer-term goals. But my strength vs. vulnerability spectrum is almost entirely weighted on strength -- there are v. few people with whom I have been truly vulnerable, and when it happens, I risk going overboard in my attempts to regain strength, to the point that I lose any benefit I may have gained from opening up in the first place.

Clearly I just went off on a massive tangent here, but at least I feel better even if my strength vs. vulnerability dilemma may never be resolved. Today was mostly a wash; I went to the gym and spent most of the day thinking about my book, but I produced v. little. At least I know what I need to do -- and when I'm a little more settled this week, I'll get started on it. Now, though, I think I'll get ready for bed. Meetings start at eight a.m. tomorrow and run through most of the day, so I should really get up early and get a start on the day. Goodnight!

you in the sea, on a decline, breaking the waves...watching the lights go down, letting the cables sleep

Today was more action-packed than expected; I went to the gym this morning, and when I got back, I discovered that Adit had invited me to brunch, and I had approximately twenty minutes to get ready. Priyanka's in town for the weekend, and so I knew that I would feel like a total slimeball if I met them without showering, since Adit and Priyanka are one of the most well-dressed couples I've ever met. I managed to pull myself together in time to go to Dottie's True Blue Cafe -- the irony of this is that, even with my awesome cream-colored sweater and carefully-applied makeup, I was still too underdressed for my friends, but I was way too overdressed for the grunge-fest that is a cafe in the heart of the Tenderloin.

Considering that the cafe is in the heart of the Tenderloin, the wait is ridiculously long, even if the food is great once you get in. We actually got lucky and were seated within half an hour, which is something of a miracle. Katrina also met up with us, which was v. nice, and Priyanka and I spent much of the brunch defending the merits of romance novels against the scurrilous attacks (from Adit) and the unknowing insults (from Katrina) of our dining companions. So, great fun was had by all, and I'm planning to hang out with Adit and Priyanka again tomorrow if things are properly aligned.

Tonight was my Stanford class reunion. I almost didn't go, but I had already paid the $x for the ticket (where I believe x=35, but I can't remember for sure). I was engrossed in my romance novel, but I pulled myself away and drove down to Stanford. It turned out pretty much exactly how I pictured it going down. I spent about an hour hanging out with Lizzie, who used to work at my company and now works at a company down the street, and whom I see often enough that I didn't need a Stanford class reunion to reconnect. I then spent another hourish with John and Jessica, which was again silly because I see them relatively frequently -- but, just like with my overall Stanford experience, I looked around, realized there was no one else I was interested in talking to, and stuck with my regular friends instead. I did catch up with a few other people -- I saw Allie again, for example, and I also saw Jackie, who has sort of inadvertently disappeared from my program since Claude moved to Yale. But I feel properly reunited; other than John, I didn't see anyone else who lived in Loro my freshman year, and since frosh dorms are the most fertile grounds for making friends in your own class, that pretty much sums up why I knew no one at the reunion. That, and I was a hermit at eighteen and continue to be a hermit now.

After I left the party (at 12:15, after consuming one diet coke with two maraschino cherries, so I guess I paid $35 to drink a diet coke with John and Jess), I took a quick nostalgic drive around Campus Drive. I checked out FloMo, and drove around back to see Loro -- looks like their theme this year has something to do with that WALL-E robot movie, but I couldn't figure out how they put that together with Loro. Unless Walter's legacy continues to this day, and they've just started making every Loro dorm theme about him? Then I took 280 back to the city for some variety, since I spend far too much of my life on the 101 -- 280 is gorgeous, even at night when you can't actually see anything.

Perhaps my ten year reunion will be more interesting -- but I don't know if it will ever be interesting for me, because other than a bare handful of people, I really have no friends in my own class. However, Stanford's cool, and it was nice to be back on campus for a few hours. I'm looking forward to staying in the city tomorrow, though -- I really do need at least one day a week when I'm not driving to the south bay. But now, it's way past my bedtime -- goodnight!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

but you're just my toy and i can't stop playing with you baby

I woke up with a major stomachache, reminiscent of the worst of my stress-filled days around a year ago at this time, and knowing that I didn't want to sit in meetings all day with my stomach feeling like it was trying to claw its way out of my abdomen was enough to convince me to call in sick. I showered just like I would have if I was going to work and did a bit of work on my couch, but I ended up napping most of the morning. I felt sufficiently better in the afternoon to drive down to Stanford for some prearranged plans (more in a second), but my stomach hurts again now, so hopefully it will clear up this weekend.

This is my five-year class reunion weekend, which is hard to believe. Allie and I had planned a dorm reunion for the kids who lived in Loro my senior year, and since I was the one who sent out the invites, there was no way I was going to miss it. I went down early to beat traffic and to pick up my registration for tomorrow night's class party, and to keep my dinner plans with Terry. We didn't really end up eating dinner, since I wasn't feeling particularly hungry, but we split a sandwich at Cafe Borrone in Menlo Park while we caught up on life, so that was nice. We browsed through the bookstore next door afterwards, and I finally picked up a copy of the 2009 directory of literary agents, so I can narrow down the list of agents that I want to query about my book. Yay.

I'm sad that there wasn't better turnout for the Loro reunion; there are more people in the area than those who showed up, but they didn't show. However, the people who did show were entertaining, even if I see most of them fairly regularly. The people I don't see regularly were great to catch up with -- Felicia is in from Boston for the weekend, and she stopped by for a bit, which was great. Allie was in fine form as well, and since she's actually in my class, I'll likely see her again at the party tomorrow night. And Amanda came -- I haven't seen her in ages, but she's back in the area to start Stanford med school, and so we caught up on everything, including her engagement to the guy whom Allie set her up with many years ago. I also ran into Jesse separately; he was my co-RA in Mirlo the year before, and we spent a few great minutes discussing our plans to evacuate California and our hope that if everything melts down, it will either do it now or wait six months, since it's hard to get through the mountains in the winter.

I'm not actually that excited about my reunion tomorrow; I really don't have many friends in my own class, since most of my friends were either sophomores in my freshman dorm, or were my residents in later years. But, provided my stomach is better, I'll still go. That means I should go to bed now so that I can maximize the feeling-better possibilities. Goodnight!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

it's not in the way you look or the things that you say that you do

Today was totally awesome. It didn't feel totally awesome at the beginning; I woke up at six, after six hours of sleep, and proceeded to press snooze a couple of times. I made it to my eight a.m. meeting a v. respectable two minutes late, and proceeded to have a productive day. I had to run to main campus for my allergy shots later in the morning, and was dismayed to find the doctor was giving them instead of the tech -- the doctor is awesome and I love how straightforward she is, but she also doesn't try particularly hard to lessen the impact of the shots, and the result is that they hurt like hell. In fact, one of the three injection points is actually bruised. But, she's v. quick, which I suppose I appreciate.

I made it back in time to grab a sandwich from my favorite cafe before the place filled up, and then I spent the afternoon alternating between meetings and getting caught up on emails. I also managed to spend a few minutes hanging out with Gyre; I barely see him anymore, but we filled each other in v. effectively on everything going on (yes, this is a veiled way of saying that we gossiped like old ladies).

The highlight, though, was that I went for an early dinner with Pete and Heather (the two team leads who report to me), and we spent a couple of hours hashing things out over margaritas and enchiladas. Simply put, it was one of the best two-hour work/play periods I've had in awhile. While we were eating, we just talked about life -- but the point of the evening was 'margaritas and pie', only without the pie. It's based off of a tradition on another team of 'punch and pie' -- in which the team gets together, sans manager, discusses the state of the team, and then passes the feedback back to the manager anonymously. Obviously since I was there it completely changed the punch and pie purpose -- but the addition of real margaritas was totally welcome.

We just have an awesome management group, and I feel really great about how we're working together. The purpose of tonight's margaritas and pie was to give each other feedback on how we're doing, which went fantastically. It was so successful that we intend to keep doing these sessions regularly, not necessarily to give each other feedback, but to talk about management challenges in a non-conference-room setting.

So that left me very energized, excited, etc. -- all those positive emotions that make it hard for me to stay disengaged enough to focus on my book as well. After dinner, Pete rode back to the city with me, and we got into a heated political discussion -- we share similar viewpoints on a lot of things, which makes it easier, since I usually avoid bringing up politics at work because I get infuriated by the totally hypocritical refusal to see anyone else's viewpoints and to believe that conservatives are just stupid/ignorant -- hypocritical because this often comes from the same people who get all furious about disenfranchisement and equal rights, etc., even as they seem to think that most Americans shouldn't be voting and should let someone smarter take care of them.

Now that I have likely offended 90% of my readership, I think I will take a deep breath and go to bed early. I have an 8:30 meeting tomorrow, but I'm cutting out early to have dinner with Terry. Then, I'm going to the Loro dorm reunion! It's my Stanford five-year class reunion this weekend, which I'm not totally into just because most of my friends were other years and I already live in the area, but since Allie's up for the weekend, we're using it as an opportunity to have a Loro five-year reunion as well. So, that should be awesomely fun, as long as I don't fall asleep on the way home. With that in mind, it's definitely time for bed!

deep in your soul, a quiet ember

A casual onlooker might be able to guess that I am v. slightly less than sober -- I am wearing a ratty red tshirt, a pair of Stanford sweatpants in a clashing color of red, and a pair of boots with three-inch heels. I'll take the boots off before I go to bed, but I'm enjoying them in the moment.

Today was Adit's birthday, a joyous occasion that he mysteriously dislikes celebrating. His dislike for his birthday is evidenced by the fact that he is v. good about planning parties, dinners, etc. for other people, but as of last night he had no plans for his own birthday. I was beginning to worry that I had been cut from the program, but Katrina emailed the two of us about taking Adit out for a drink tonight, and that set off a chain of events that culminated in dinner with Adit, Katrina, Peder (aka Timmy Timer), Anton, and Amanda. We ended up in a v. non-birthdayish setting -- a taqueria in the Mission, chosen purely because it was across the street from the slightly more upscale Mexican restaurant across the street, where the wait for a table was over an hour. However, my burrito (the first one I've had in quite some time) was excellent, and the mural on the wall was awesome -- a v. lush woman kneeling on the ground, with windswept hair and giant gold earrings, wearing a tight bodice w/v. prominent nipples, holding a Mexican flag, a rifle, a bugle, and a couple of other props, while several v. small men in the background waved rifles around in either aggression or surrender. It was gorgeous! And by gorgeous I mean awesomely ridiculous.

While Adit's birthday was the reason for the season, so to speak, Katrina also had some exciting news in the form of a brand spankin' new tooth! So we spent quite a bit of time at dinner discussing the false-tooth industry, with a tangent regarding the complete inefficiency of the Indian consulate (which made me miss India) -- and the disaster that ensues when the inefficiency of the Indian consulate meets the ineptitude of the United States Postal Service. Following dinner, we had wine at this place called The Monk's Kettle, which was nice; but, I realized that I'm a) getting old and b) becoming too successful at my 'getting up early' strategy when I started flagging at ten p.m. I stuck around, though, until we all cleared out, and then Adit was a perfect gentleman and saw me safely to the bus. He also texted me to make sure I got home okay, which was nice, considering that the bus route is 'entertaining' in the sense that it is a haven for drunken party kids and cracked-out crazies. The crazies were tame tonight and the drunken party kids were not yet overly drunk, so it was all good.

Sadly, it's time for bed, since I have an eight a.m. meeting, which means I only get six hours of sleep tonight :( But the weekend draws ever closer, which is exciting. Happy Adit's birthday, everyone!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

victory is ours once we strike the source

I'm blogging v. early tonight because I don't want to risk missing two days in a week, and I know that I will want to go straight to bed when I get home. I'm at the office, but I'm done working for the day; I got here around eight a.m., and got through everything I wanted to accomplish today, but I have a conference call with India from 7-7:30 that I'm sticking around for. As soon as that's done, I'm driving to San Mateo (which is happily on the way to the city) to have an impromptu dinner with Jasmine and Michael. Jasmine IM'd me a couple of hours ago asking if I wanted to come over, and since I hadn't seen them in ages, I decided to prioritize hanging out and reconnecting over working on my book (or, more likely, over going to bed early). I'm looking forward to seeing them and their new place, even if it means it will be hard to drag myself out of bed in the morning.

Today was great. I wonder how much happier I would be if I were totally set and committed to a business career -- for someone who wants to be a novelist, I'm doing all the right things to be an executive instead. I'm definitely not unhappy -- I'm actually quite happy right now. But I also recognize that, given all the lessons I learned over the past few months about my passions, long-term desires, etc., my level of commitment to my career does not match where I should be focusing my time. Highly ironic, since my job is all about maximizing efficiencies, determining the next strategic opportunity and shifting resources there, etc. -- and in my own life, I'm not putting maximal effort on the highest opportunities. One could argue that I am (since my job is high opportunity, and writing is high risk), but I need to shift some of my personal resources away from work and towards the book, even if it's so difficult for me to do.

Okay, meeting time -- and then San Mateo, and then bed. Goodnight!

Monday, October 06, 2008

i want the stupid girl who gives me all those dirty looks

This is a four-minute post. It was much longer, but I just wrote several paragraphs that I ended up moving to the writing blog, so I need to wrap up the blogging and go to bed. I tried out the super-early-morning commute again today, and it was amazing; getting up at 5:45 is not amazing (well, it's an amazing accomplishment, but it's not an amazing sensation), but the fact that the commute takes 45 minutes is pretty freaking awesome. And, between the two hours of work I was able to do before my first meeting, and the several hours of miraculously non-meeting-based time on my calendar, I was able to get through a ton of stuff that was niggling at the back of my mind, so I feel much better about my work load. Whether I'll continue the early commute remains to be seen, but so far I'm planning to do it again tomorrow, so we'll see how it goes.

When I got home, I reheated some potato and leek soup (even better the second day, of course) and ate it while drinking half a glass of white wine (I bought these mini-bottles of Barefoot chardonnay, which is awesome, since I don't like wasting bottles of wine but occasionally like to have a glass with dinner). Then, I spent two hours brainstorming the storyline for my second book, which I'm super excited about. You can read about it in the post on my writing blog. If I can keep up the "work during the day, write/read/brainstorm at night" lifestyle, I'll be happy camper.

Four minutes are up, goodnight!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

wind you up and make you crawl to me, tie you up until you call to me

I'm ready for the apocalypse -- or, at least, for a couple of weeks in which it might be difficult/foolhardy to venture out of the apartment and go to the store. Not that my stocking up on canned goods was extensive -- for one, I don't have enough cabinet space for that, and for another, I'm not totally convinced that the end is near -- but I did buy quite a bit of non-perishable foodstuffs when I went to the grocery store today. I also bought a lot of peppers and onions, cut/chopped them, and froze them in individual packages so that I'm set for fajita/quesadilla ingredients for a few weeks.

My day was not entirely focused on household preparations; I met Shedletsky and Joanna for dim sum in Daly City. Observant readers will recognize that that means we did not go to the Hong Kong Flower Lounge in Millbrae. I must report, though, that the dim sum was just as good, even if the interior does not hold the same special appeal as the opium lounge does. This feels like blasphemy even as I write it, and as I bit into the first shrimp family, I did feel like I was betraying my one true love -- but, like most philanderers, I got over it quickly and surrendered to the pleasure of the moment. It was great to see the kids, and I need to do a better job of reaching out to and seeing people -- there are a whole host of people I haven't seen in ages, and I even committed the faux pas of skipping a birthday party Friday night, so I really need to get a little bit back into the social groove.

After dim sum, I did my grocery shopping and vegetable chopping, at which point it was after four p.m. I talked to my parents for quite awhile while making supper -- a perfectly awesome potato and leek soup, which I made all creamy and smooth with my fancy immersion blender. The soup is rather decadent, given the half cup of butter, the two cups of half and half, and the rich chicken broth, even if something like 'potato soup' sounds anything by decadent. The key secret finishing ingredient is a few drops of Worcestershire sauce, which flips the soup into the awesome realm. I have leftovers for tomorrow night, and then I'll likely freeze the rest for the future.

You'll notice that I said nothing about writing, reading, or working on my website; I'm chalking this weekend up as a victory in terms of my housekeeping, and I feel that I accomplished a lot, but none of it was book related. However, since I don't have to go grocery shopping for awhile and am set on laundry for a month, this should clear space for me to focus energy on my more strategic goals.

Seriously, though, if you catch me having the same week at work this week that I did last week, please call me and remind me that I have dreams that do not include becoming a senior level executive or an MBA grad or any other sort of high-powered role -- the book needs to get some serious TLC over the next few weeks if I'm going to be able to start looking for agents at the end of the month. And that's not going to happen unless I carve out time for it starting immediately.

two can keep a secret if one of them is dead

I missed posting last night for the first time in over a month. Our business plan presentation to the directors was yesterday morning at eight a.m., and I was so paranoid about being late (since I often am a few minutes late to my first meeting of the day, which is just like being a few minutes late to every other meeting of the day, which is completely common, except that people know with the first meeting that you're just late because you're late, not because you were held up in another meeting) that I woke up at 5:30am and was at work by 7:15am. Forty-five minutes early was totally excessive, but it turns out that if you leave at 6:30, the trip takes 45 minutes, and if you leave at 7:00, it can take an hour to an hour and a half.

The presentation went exceedingly well, but I as the flood of adrenaline subsided, my energy burned out over the course of the day, and by the time I got home, all I wanted to do was sit on the couch and stare at the wall. I did that for awhile, ate dinner, and then reread 'The Blue Sword' before going to bed -- silly to reread a young adult book that I practically know by heart, but it did a v. good job of breaking me out of my corporate prison and grounding me back into my life.

Today, I pursued a path of productive hermitage -- I did fifteen loads of laundry, which took most of the afternoon. I'm happy that it's finally done, though; I have multiple sets of sheets, towels, etc. and plenty of clothes so that I don't have to do laundry very often, but when I let it pile up this badly, it's rather annoying. I also hung the painting that I got in South Africa, which has been wrapped in bubble wrap under my bed since I moved in. I intended to hang a couple of other pictures, but discovered that the picture hooks I have don't work with the frames -- and so I hung up my Stanford diploma instead. It's temporary, since it looks silly in that location and perhaps pretentious anyway -- but since my brother gave me a gorgeous frame for my diploma for Christmas one year, it looks awesome even if I feel ridiculous about having it up.

I spent the rest of the evening taking a bubble bath and reading The Devil You Know by Mike Carey. If you like hard-boiled first-person detective stories with a paranormal twist, you will *love* this book. It takes place in London, roughly the present day, although in the protagonist's London, the dead arose in waves shortly before the turn of the millennium, opening up an opportunity for him to make his career as an exorcist. The book has many of my favorite things -- it's set in a document archive, the protagonist (Felix Castor) reminds me of many of Murakami's protagonists in the amount that he drinks, there is a strong theme of justice and retribution, and the book is populated by Russians, demons, mobsters, the undead, and many other strange and interesting characters. The metaphors are almost too good and in some places feel a litle over the top, but in general the writing style is engaging, hilarious, and filled with word plays and twisted meanings. Highly recommended -- I'll have to order the next books in the series now that I've validated this one.

Tomorrow I'm having dim sum, and then intend to spend the rest of the day working on the website for my romance novel. Then it's back to the corporate grind, where I need to come to grips with my shocking failures on the work/life balance front over the last three weeks and figure out what I can do about it. But that's a worry for another day; right now, it's time for bed!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

follow me, don't follow me

Complete failure on the work front. I worked twelve hours today, plus my two hours of commute, which was rather unfortunate. I had meetings straight from nine to six (which you'll notice means no lunch break -- I had to be ten minutes late to my 1pm meeting so that I could grab a sandwich). However, despite that, I still had a good day -- part of the reason I'm drowning in work is because I have a lot of direct reports, but meeting with them is the highlight of my day, and I had some great conversations. My shiny new project involved a rather frustrating two-hour meeting, but I'm meeting about it again tomorrow and hope to make progress. And, the reason I stayed late was to do final edits on the slides for the business plan that I'm co-presenting tomorrow. The short-term bad news is that the preso is at eight a.m. (which means I need to go to bed asap); the long-term good news is that we don't have to do another business plan for a year, and this will free up a lot of time.

In other news, Doug called me while I was on my way home; we have an online mafia game going, and it's probably a good thing that I got killed the first night (Monday) since it turns out this week would have been bad timing in terms of my ability to find breaks in the day to play. I'm looking forward to brainstorming the ruleset for the next game -- while I have in many ways managed to bury my dorkier instincts in the pursuit of corporate success (since advertising divisions are substantially less dork-filled than engineering divisions), mafia does give my inner weirdo a good outlet.

Okay, that's all you get out of me -- it's time for bed! And I'm vowing not to work this weekend, regardless of what sky-is-falling things happen.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

better lock it in your pocket

This is a four-minute post. I might not even make it four minutes -- I'm rather exhausted. I'm officially relapsing; I stayed in the office until after 8pm, which means by the time I got home and had dinner, it was 9:45. I still have some stuff that I could theoretically work on, but I'm going to do it tomorrow morning instead.

Think happy thoughts. I'm absolutely in love with my team -- every 1:1 with the people who report to me leaves me even happier than the last. That's probably a big contributing factor in why I'm starting to fall back into my bad habits -- 1) I can't say no to meetings with them, 2) I get excited and so start things before thinking about the consequences to my work/life balance, 3) I don't want to let them down. I mean, I would rather be excited about my work than bored, but there has to be a balance, and I have to keep reminding myself of that.

Another happy thought is that our business plan is done on Friday (in an eight a.m. presentation to the directors, ugh), and so I can spend the weekend not even thinking about powerpoint slides and metrics and other annoyances.

So I think that, given that I'm letting the book rest for another week, I'll spend the weekend building out content for my romance website. I may also try the tactic of writing 2-4 blog posts on Saturday or Sunday for the romance blog, and then post them over the course of the week -- the stuff I would blog about there is not time-related, so it can be prewritten (unlike this blog, which is heavily and boringly related to my current day-to-day life).

Four minutes are up, goodnight!