Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year's!

Hope you're up to some fun this evening to ring in 2009 in style. For my part, I'm hunkering in, cooking, and watching movies and Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve or whatever the hell he calls it these days.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Holidays Part II: Giant Human Terrycloth Toy Edition

The key, it seems, to cat attention and devotion and the luring away from the charms of radiator heat, is to disguise oneself as an over-sized cat toy.

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Thing That Is Irritating

Do you know that there are layers upon layers of details to enter and hoops to jump in order to to log into individual online secure sites, like, for example, your cell phone provider's? Further, do you know how irritating it is to attempt to log in--after months of meaning to change your text message preferences to a more economical option--and get barraged with text messages from the system while you do so? And the most irritating thing of all is to finally get in to change things, only to find out that the menu option for the add-on features doesn't work and just spins "loading," endlessly, teasingly. Someone get me an iPhone with a master plan, stat.

Hope everyone had a nice holiday and looks forward to stellar New Year's plans. For those of you refreshing my blog while I was sitting next to you on the couch: Yes! I will update. As witnessed by the above, the important thoughts don't just trickle down like rain from the heavens, you know. There's no rushing genius or inanity.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hope You're Prepared for the Season, Also: Heroes!

I'm caught up! I can talk about Heroes now! Hello? Hello?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Your Snowy, Hat-Heady, Short-Day Before the Holidays Friday

It is snowy and slushy, yet I persevered and made it into work--early, even! I don't do it for the mission, oh no. Nor do I do it to wrap up office packing. Today is the last day of my fellow inmate and music guru, in whose honor I spin the iTunes, so that we may see how much of the list came from his vast influence, which I will miss.

1. badhead, blur
2. more news from nowhere, nick cave and the bad seeds
3. letter from an occupant, new pornographers
4. sticky sue, mickey murray
5. i will kill again, jarvis cocker
6. mellotron 1, apples in stereo
7. gimme gimme shock treatment, the ramones
8. burning sky, the jam
9. modern diet, the redwalls
10. dance of the hours, the clientele

He's showing a dismal twenty percent today, but he's truly had a much, much bigger impact than that.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

That Sound You Hear Is My Head Hitting My Desk. Repeatedly.

Why are cover letters so goddamned difficult to write? How does one submit a piece of writing and sell said writing without sounding like a complete buffoon who starts all sentences "I am" and copies the setup to the cover letter wholesale from the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market?? Down to the journal sent to in the sample? How does one then avoid them thinking, "how lovely, she, like the other trillion people in our pile here, pulled us from this book?" When really, the thing is, I Encapsulate What You're Looking For, people!

Anyway, do we have any thoughts about this Rick Warren inauguration brouhaha? I'm trying to check my biases in favor of Obama, in that he's oh so like me, but I've really become a pragmatist, focused on the actual concrete results. So, while I may find someone's views odious, if my options are to either (1) give this person a moment in the sun that doesn't affect policy (sowing good will with his more mainstream, less odious followers and marginalizing the leaders whose views are even more odious, at least in the sense that to bigotry, they add global-warming denial) or (2) having them affect actual policy, I'll go with option 1. You can neutralize the more-odious (see above) and build coalitions for other endeavors (like combating global warming). I'm inclined to suck it up and trust Obama's sophisticated view of long-term strategy.

Juan Williams didn't fail to disappoint me on this topic on NPR this morning, though! In his usual, unique way, he managed to bring up the "black and hispanic support" for Proposition 8 in opposition to gays. Splintered coalition! Oh, the humanity! If only we could reassure the normal white people amid all this chaos.

As It's Been Two Whole Days Since Our Last Snowstorm

We are supposed to be getting a foot of snow--mixed in with some ice and sleet, just to make it interesting. Yay!! I may have to bust out the new snowblower, if I can successfully (1) start it and (2) shove it through the frozen weeds on the side of my house (don't ask. my yard-care mistakes become apparent when it seems least likely).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Detritus of a Life

Things you find while cleaning out a desk:

1. Matches belonging to predecessor (tenure: circa 1998-1999), who smoked
2. Ketchup packets, dated 2000, salt and pepper packets, dated similar
3. John Grisham novel, indeterminate origin, sticky, stained with unknown substance
4. Unknown person's rolodex, times 2
5. ATM receipts from Philadelphia (???)
6. Travel guide for Cancun/Cozumel/Yucatan
7. Necklace not seen in at least 5 years and presumed lost
8. Unsent Christmas cards to people I no longer keep in touch with
9. Cheerful holiday card and kid pictures from now-divorced and estranged friend
10. Mailing address for sending sympathy card to family of friend who died in 2000

I Am in Love . . .

With the good samaritan who cleared my sidewalk (twice!). Whether this individual be man, woman, child, or St. Bernard with harness attached, I pledge my undying adoration to him/her/it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Words Not Used Enough

This occurs to me every time I'm listening to Belle & Sebastian: I love the phrase "herbacious border." It sounds simultaneously pompous and down-to-earth, conjuring up English estates and a grandmother's modest cottage garden. What's not to love?

More broadly, why don't we, as a society, make more of a conscious effort to use the word herbacious in everyday language?

Well, That's a Mild Bummer

The bloody blizzard going on means that festive annual birthday/holiday dinner plans at my favorite restaurant have been postponed.

Stupid Chicago winter.

Watching the Mileage Tick Over

I won't lie, I'm officially old. But as I am partaking of the Helen Mirren preservation rituals (bathing in the blood of virgins, etc.), I don't look a day over 23.

For my packing ambient music, I'm tucking into the newest collection of Motown singles (coincidentally from the year of my birth!). This one is from 1969, but I like it anyway.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Merry Betamaxmas

If you want to burn time in nostalgialand, go here. I will be going back later, when I finish filling crates and sorting through every fax I have ever sent ("Hi, I'm Laura, the new XXXX here, and I need you to review this. . . .")

Thanks, Erik.

Things That Go Well with a Packing Extravaganza

Sunday, December 14, 2008

We're More Corrupt! We're More Corrupt!

Than Louisiana, at any rate. Unclear is where Alaska falls on the continuum, but I'm confident that they don't approach it with Illinois's style and dedication to tradition. By god, if a racket works, you stick with it. It's somewhat endearing, if you think about it.

Illinois and Louisiana continue to have different styles of fraud—David Mamet vs. Walker Percy. Illinois' corruption culture tends to be mingy, pedestrian, and shameful. State legislators who sell their votes for $25 cash in an envelope (a scandal of the 1970s) do not tend toward braggadocio. When former House Speaker Dan Rostenkowski was caught filching postage stamps from the House post office, he pled guilty and apologized for his crimes (and was pardoned by Bill Clinton).

Louisiana's culture of corruption, by contrast, is flamboyant and shameless. Earl Long once said that Louisiana voters "don't want good government, they want good entertainment." He spent part of his last term in a mental hospital, where his wife had him committed after he took up with stripper Blaze Starr. When Sen. Allen Ellender died in office in 1972, Gov. Edwards didn't try to auction of his seat. He appointed his wife, Elaine, possibly to get her out of town. When Edwards ran for governor in 1983, he said of the incumbent, "If we don't get Dave Treen out of office, there won't be anything left to steal." (He also memorably said Treen was so slow it took him an hour and a half to watch 60 Minutes.) Raised among figures like these, Louisianans tend to accept corruption as inevitable, to be somewhat proud of it, and to forgive it easily.

And on an absolutely unrelated la vida Laura note, I went to a party yesterday at which I ran into the Worst Date Ever (you all have heard the story of New Year's 2006, which will live on in infamy, or at least as a cautionary tale to earnest single women everywhere). The tragic thing was, I was one unfortunately timed conversation away from making a clean getaway before he showed up. And instead of staying decently and sensibly at the other end of the house, perhaps waving absently ("You look somewhat familiar, maybe we've run across each other? This gesture should cover our social obligations"), or, better still, pretending we'd never met, he insisted on standing right next to me and making awkward chit chat! About my hair. Fun.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Here's to the End of the Week and a Successful Brie Endeavor

The brie: successfully assembled and baked, with no injuries reported! Furthermore, it was a big hit among the gathered.

In celebration of that, as well as to mark the end of this stress-laden week, I shall randomly dial up the tunes.

1. darling, sons & daughters
2. somebody got murdered, the clash
3. decades, joy division
4. operators manual, buzzcocks
5. surrender, black ivory
6. banking on a myth, andrew bird
7. f-hole, squeeze
8. harry rag, the kinks
9. dream time, the jam
10. needle time, elvis costello and the imposters

bonus: lullabye, by emitt rhodes

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Getting the Most Out of Your Office's Toaster Oven

I probably shouldn't get too ahead of myself until I successfully bake some tasty brie, but I think this could be kind of a brilliant book idea: Small-Scale Cuisine: 101 Dishes to Cook on a Hot Plate, in a Toaster Oven, or in a Microwave.

One of my coworkers was just saying how he had a roommate in college who used to cook, gourmet-style, on a hot plate. That is ingenuity. Shrimp scampi: Yum.

Also: This is really cool, a short animated film about real requests submitted to the Hulton Archive (online archive of historical photos).

(Why, yes, I'm on my lunch. . . . Why do you ask?)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cracker Vetter

There are many responsibilities in organizing a party, large responsibilities, small responsibilities, and teeny details. Just yesterday, for instance, someone came in to ask whether she should bring tunafish as her pot luck offering. Trying, unsuccessfully, to conceptualize this in bite-size-snack form, I told her, "Uh, if you want to . . . sure." Apparently sensing my hesitation, she suggested crackers, which I readily agreed were a handy and necessary accessory to many foods at a party--cheese, for instance, goes well with a cracker. She then went on to explain that she has some crackers just sitting in her cupboard, which were the wrong ones from what she meant to buy, so she could just bring them in. Okay. As this conversation progressed, I was starting to feel like I was collecting unused canned goods and other items for needy families.

So this morning, this same woman brought in her cracker offering. I thought she was just depositing them with me until party time, but apparently she just wanted to get my thumbs up on the type of crackers. As they were Ritz, I declared them to be sufficient. And these types of executive-level decisions are the reason why I'm getting my own office.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Last Class!

Underwhelming. Could have done without the weirdo chick insisting on writing, and reading aloud, porn and telling me she "thought of" me while she was writing it. How very nice. I think she thought she was being devastatingly funny. But these things remind me that I am no longer 19, and this, in fact, is a good thing.

Also: more snow. It's like Chicago is trying to torture me in small increments.

Test Your Thug IQ

Rod Blagojevich or Tony Soprano? Match those quotes!

Maybe He and Our Last Governor Can Share a Cell?

Proud times for Illinoisians (apart from the other guy, what's his name?):

Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff John Harris were arrested today by FBI agents on federal corruption charges.

Blagojevich and Harris were accused of a wide-ranging criminal conspiracy that included Blagojevich conspiring to sell or trade the Senate seat left vacant by President-elect Barack Obama in exchange for financial benefits for the governor and his wife. The governor was also accused of obtaining campaign contributions in exchange for other official actions.

Blagojevich was taken into federal custody at his North Side home this morning.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Stapler Saga: An Office Minion Playlet

It's been so very long, hasn't it, since I've regaled you with the drama of the office? Like yesterday, right? So picture the following scene. . . .

Office of soon-to-be former employee (STBFE), on his way to commanding an entire building and a staff of his own. Before he can reach that lofty height, he must slog through the next two weeks of office dilemmas/crises.

Student worker (approaching STBFE's door): Hey, STBFE, I'm looking for an industrial-sized stapler. [Office minion, Lord of idle students] says that you have one.

STBFE: I know that we have one that goes like this [gestures vertically, compressing large stacks of imaginary papers]. We also have one that goes like this [gestures horizontally, skillfully inserting stacks of imaginary papers].

Student worker: Yeah, the one that goes like this [gestures vertically], that's the one I need.

STBFE: I don't have one. It's in the work room with the other supplies.

Student worker: That one's broken. [Office minion, Lord of idle students] says that you have one that's black with red on it.

STBFE: I just have that one, on my desk. It's a regular stapler. It just plugs in.

Student worker: Oh. I'll tell [Office minion, Lord of idle students.] [leaves]

Moments later, phone rings.

STBFE (looking sucked of will, speaking mechanically): No [Office minion, Lord of idle students], that black with red stapler is just a stapler. It plugs in.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Why Must the Holidays Be So Stressful, Then Even More So?

My weekend mission: research, manic revision, and unpacking (ahem) from the Thanksgiving holiday in anticipation of the Christmas break. I wish I hadn't zoned out during the "submission tips" portion of our class, because I understand there's a cover letter component and precise instructions on paper binding that need to be observed. Plus, the snow keeps coming, in defiance of this "snow showers" description that insists upon.

On the work front, my office journal submission deadline (complete issue, in form that doesn't later make me want to rip my hair out in frustration) is December 15. In anticipation of this, my OCD academic editor is besieging me with correspondence minutia, e.g., volleys between him and Merriam-Webster (no, he doesn't just look words up) on existence and/or proper use of various words. This, friends, is why we have copyeditors and style manuals. No, I cannot convince him of that. My head may explode before we get to the 15th.

Also, my office is moving! I must pack and purge, as well as address the tender and vital concerns of those other obsessive souls in our suite: can we, in fact, set people to the task of pulling apart printer proofs and old bluelines and recycle the relevant portion??? I'm as green as the next granola, vegetarian type, but I can't stress the degree to which I don't care and can't rush this dilemma to the top of my list. Trash, recycle bin, whatever, figure it out, be an active citizen.

And one of my rocks at this place is leaving. I'm really trying hard not to think about it until I absolutely have to. But because I thrust myself into the departure-party logistics (with the sensible plea that folks actually consult the fetee before getting carried away with the details), I got drafted to be Organizer-in-Chief. It's supposed to be about arm-twisting volunteers for snacks and the like (austerity policies of the institution). However, we have one individual running amok with the idea that we need a Classy Do for bigwigs and all, all my friend's colleagues throughout the institution, because he has so very many (my friend has no idea what she's talking about).

So, because of this woman's insistence, we are doing two parties. And she seems to expect me to spearhead all the details on her insisted-upon Classy Do. I spent half the day on Friday designing her an invitation. She now is passive-aggressively pining for folks to volunteer up homemade dishes ("those dips in plastic containers are so tacky"). She also wants me to look into places to get a proper cheese tray.

Somehow, I've turned into this woman, queen of the party-planning committee.

If I snap, you'll know why.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Things That Would Be Really Lovely

1. FOOD. On account of imminent blood draw, I fast. The hallucinations are about to kick in. I must must have caffeine.

2. Another human being in my office space with the highly specialized, top-secret, elite skills of creating and executing mail merges. Every year, around holiday season, it is exhaustingly the same. Here I am, teaching people how to turn a spreadsheet (your friend) into a series of addressed envelopes suitable for mailing. It is always a revelation. Then, I end up doing them all myself anyway, because no one can trouble shoot the printer/xerox.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Entering Strange Territory

My writing teacher apparently may require my grammar-goddess expertise for professional development purposes.

He also thinks one of my stories is ready to be shopped around. Hence, research begins on where the hell one shops a story about a scorned woman with a voodoo doll and Loretta Lynn hallucinations (it's funnier than it sounds, unless you think it sounds funny, in which case, it's exactly as funny as it sounds).

It's Coming!

Oxford American's annual music issue, in bookstores, December 5. The rumor is that it's a special anniversary issue, with 2 discs--on with new tunes by previously featured performers, and one with all-new performers and tracks.

Through this, I also find out that Neko Case was actually born in Virgina. Huh.