Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year Reflections....

It's officially the last day of 2009. I write this from my parent's house where I arrived last night amidst a snowfall that left the ground white and sparkling this morning.




The end of a year/beginning of a new one is a time of reflection. Last year's was tainted with the loss of a friend. This year has been kinder in that regard and, in all honesty, it's not been a bad year. I managed to buy a house this year. It's something I always planned on doing. Now I own one and still, five months after moving in, I'm still amazed that it's really mine. I love looking out of the window at my garden and planning what to plant next year. I enjoy finding ways to make the decorating look a little more like 'me'. It's slow but it's happening.

Also, despite being dissatisfied with my job, I did manage to keep being employed even though, for a while, it seemed like that wasn't going to happen. There's nothing more unnerving than planning a cross-country move for a job and then, two days before you're due to drive out, you find out that the company that hired you is being sold. I chose to come anyway since I was told I still had a jub but I managed to walk into one of the most uncomfortable situations I've ever been involved in. It was six months of painful worrying about whether anyone would buy us or, as we feared most, we'd be bought by a competitor who would then shut us down. It meant for the six months of uncertainty, everyone was preoccupied. The boss who hired me mentally checked out which means my training was non-existent and I had to teach myself how to do a job which, in all honesty, had never really been defined. When we were bought in March by our 'sister' company, I was kept on, as were all the other staff. I had a new boss. I was happy at first and I'm still immensely grateful that I got to keep my job. This is why I feel ungrateful complaining. Yet, my first boss didn't care enough to even help me figure out what I was doing and my current boss has no idea what to do with me even though I've tried telling him.

On the job front, it's been a weird year. It's strange to feel grateful but feel so frustrated at the same time. I want to be pleased my company keeps me employed but there's a large part of me that wants to run away instead of going in the building everyday. I used to have a job where I meant something, where people needed me to do my job; these days, I feel like I'm just a spacefiller who could be replaced by anyone at anytime.



Nevertheless, it's a new year which, means, for me, it's a time to reassess my life. I've done that a little already. I've questioned my decision to not follow a career path as much as just find a job that makes time for me to write my novels. I see my sister excelling in her path to become a nurse and I wonder if I made the right choice. When she's done with school, she'll be a nurse. That's a career. Me...I'm a floater. My vague description is that I work with software but, over the years, it's been a store clerk, legal secretary, part-time reporter, receptionist, administrative assistant, video editor, theatre stage manager...you get the idea. For me, my career has really always been writing. I just don't get paid for it. Say that to another writer and they nod sagely. Say that to someone like my father who needs labels and evidence and monetary proof and I get a lecture on why I should straighten up and be sensible. I'm not angry with my father about it; I'm used to it. To me, my job pays the bills, my writing gives me passion. I'd love to marry the two and get paid to write and, someday, I will. For now, all I want is to enjoy my day job to the point where I'm not going home and trying to shake off the frustration I feel at work. I've had it before, I'll have it again.



I can't say I've really made any New Year's resolutions officially. I'm not sure I ever do. Sometimes, I think we shouldn't need the excuse of a new year to change. However, it is a convenient start point and so, for me, I'm going to focus on trying to fix the things in my life that I'm not happy with and not let everything get me down so much. That's pretty much the only resolution I've made at this point. I'll probably try exercising and being healthier but, well, I got Mario Batali's cookbook for Christmas and being healthy isn't necessarily going to be convenient there. Perhaps I'll try to find a balance.

No matter what the New Year holds, I hope it's a good one for all of you. May your resolutions hold and your dreams come true.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Living in the Future of Sci-Fi Past...

It's almost 2010.

It doesn't take too much to make me excited but I think this might be doing it.

When I was a child, the year 2010 was a year that belonged in science fiction. It was a year unattainable by man, only by science. It seemed a lifetime away.

Now it is 2010. I'd like to say that sci-fi is upon us but, in truth, that has been true for many years. It turns out that it was a lifetime away, at least in terms of my life. I've gone from a child who believed Luke Skywalker was the most perfect man ever, a child who believed in Gremlins, who believed in Close Encounters of the Third Kind and who believed that ET wasn't necessarily fiction to an adult who....is.

It's not so bad, being an adult. There are a great many perks to being a grown up. I actually marveled at this fact tonight when I went on yet another trip to Jungle Jim's and fulfilled my parent's shopping list. This time, my dad requested onion flavoured Bisto- an instant gravy mix crucial to the British middle and lower classes. Now, I, personally, don't like the onion flavoured mix; I prefer the plain. It occured to me as I was walking out of Jungle Jim's that it didn't matter that my dad liked it. Since I now own my own home and, thus, my own kitchen, I can continue to support my own preference for plain old beef Bisto and still manage to indulge my father's love for the onion granules. I think, as sad as it sounds, means that I've finally realized I'm an adult and able to do exactly as I want.

Also, in regards to me being an adult, I did finally decide to turn in my application to Jungle Jim's. I realized there's no harm in it. In all honesty, given how excited I am by my 'prestigious' title at my current job, I realized that it doesn't matter what I do to earn a living, it's more about how happy it makes me. My real goal is to be a published novelist. Once upon a time, I was an administrative assistant. I chose that job because while it had its challenges, it still allowed me the brainpower to go home and write novels. While I was an administrative assistant, I wrote six novels. Then I moved into computers. I wrote three novels. The last was so difficult, I almost gave up on my ability to write.

Then I decided that it was possible to both do my job well and write in the evenings. This is how I came about my last novel, The Reluctant Demon, written in a month and one of the most fun/silly things I've ever written. It wiped away all the pain of rejection, all the bitterness of being able to claim success by being an Amazon.com Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) finalist only to receive my "prize" of a Publishers Weekly review that was so bitter, so cruel, so vicious that I almost gave up writing. I'm beyond that now. I will confess, the invitations to join the ABNA 2010 writing contest pulled me enough that I clicked onto Amazon.com's website to see if anything had changed. Unfortunately, the minute I did so, I was hit with a horrid, drama-queen sized bout of Post Traumatic Writing Disorder that I realized I will be bypassing the contest this year. I can't do it. I can't read those annoying discussion boards, read the self-congratulatory chatter from old-timers and be part of the farce. In all honesty, the two prior winners of the contest have...had their book published by Penguin. However, it's not exactly on everyone's lips. The winners aren't taking the world by storm. In point-of-fact, the Twilight phenomenon is still doing a thousand times better...As much as I think Stephanie Meyer is a lucky little hack, she's hit upon something big. The ABNA winners...haven't. As arrogant/defeatist as it sounds, I think I'll try my luck in just trying to get someone to publish my novel who likes it the way someone had to have loved Twilight. It might be a long shot but having weathered the storm of the ABNA, I'd rather take my chances in the real world than be shot down and left broken and bleeding the way I was last year.

Thus, I'm looking to 2010 as a year of hope. I confess, I turned in my application to Jungle Jim's tonight. I couldn't resist. The idea of working in a place that inspires passion and joy makes me happy. Currently, I work in the place of anti-joy and anti-passion. Anytime, I start to burble over at the idea of something that gets me even mildly excited, I see that deer-in-headlights expression in the eyes of my boss. That's no way to work. A boss should welcome enthusiasm, inspiration, ideas and improvement. Not my boss: He's very much a "Things are going ok" type of guy. He doesn't fix something until it's broken.

The year of hope will begin with the simple dream of escaping the mundane and finding salvation in enjoying a job again. It will continue in my attempts to expound upon the fun I had in writing The Reluctant Demon and writing its sequel, tentatively titled Emmy Goes to Hell. That novel, alone, made me find the passion and kefi I had lost in writing. I'd like to say 2010 is the year of me finally finding a mate but, well, on that front, I am slightly jaded. I'm going to try, however.

I haven't quite made my New Year's resolutions yet. I'm working on them. However, many of them will involve me moving towards the positive and trying not to dwell on the negative. I'm sure 2010 will involve many a subject that inspires a rant but, as for past rants, I'll try to let them go. That includes Twilight, my job, disappointments in life, friendships and dating. It's time to wipe the slate clean, even if the slate did keep me entertained during 2009. It is, after all, 2010.

Back in the 1950's, the year of 2010 seemed as exotic as the high-tech, high-sci-fi future seems to us now. When I look upon what's changed between then and now, I realize that, perhaps, the future has eaten the past. We now rely on portable electronic devices to guide us in most aspects of life. Back then, TV dinners were the height of fashion. I suppose, in a way, we are living in the future. It's up to us whether it's a future of reality or if we let it get swept up in fiction.

As for me...I choose reality...laced with just enough fiction to make it fun.

Happy Wednesday.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Good Endings to Mediocre Days...

There's nothing more frustrating than a computer that doesn't want to cooperate. I've been trying to get this blog posted for a while but for some unknown reason, my browser decided it was no longer accepting cookies and wouldn't let me log in. I find that fascinating. I changed nothing; I downloaded nothing. Yet my computer seems to have a mind of its own. I can't decide if that's fascinating or scary.

Obviously, I managed to conquer my computer's attempt at independence. I merely let it do it's thing then exuded my superiority over the thing. I think, really, that's probably a natural tendency. I am, after all, quite British. We conquer and become victors. Well, we did, at least...a few decades back. Nowadays, our victories tend to be a little less bloody and a little less bombastic. Still, I say...it's in our blood! We reign victorious!
My computer, at least, obeys when I shout at it.

And yes, thank you very much, I am fully aware that my computer is a non-thinking machine comprised of processors, chipsets, motherboards and other techie sounding things. I may have been relegated to the naughty corner of my company, the corner in which I am now, officially, the only member of staff NOT to be promised a new computer, but in my heyday- two years ago, at least- I used to be a respected technical support person. Nowadays, I'm sad to say if I even so much dare to imply that I know what my boss and the programmers are talking about when they discuss backend computer processes, they look at me as though I'm insane. My boss has said to me on several occasions that he's sure the technical stuff bores me and that he changes the subject even though I've tried to explain that I want him to continue because, shockingly, I am quite intelligent enough to follow what they're saying. It's sad that just two years ago, that was what I did for a living and I greatly enjoyed it but, alas, I can't get my current boss to even look at my resume and see that.

Pardon me, I think I'm starting to get a little bitter. I'm working on that. In fact, I intend to begin next year by fully discarding my bitterness. I can't promise it will vanish completely but I will do everything I can to remind myself that it's ok not to love my job and to focus on everything else in life.

Still, I have a couple of days before the New Year. I get to be a wee bit frustrated before I turn over my new leaf. It wasn't so bad today. Ok, so out of 27 or so employees, at best, there were only nine people working all day. Also, it was very quiet. However, someone did make popcorn in the popcorn maker so that was exciting.

Ok, I admit...I have absolutely nothing exciting to share with you about my work day. My evening, however, did include a trip to Jungle Jim's. I decided tonight would be the best night to go and complete my shopping list. I love going on week nights; it's much less busy and I can actually browse without feeling like I'm holding up a line. I went last weekend and, let me tell you, it was a scary zoo. Being a regular shopper there, I know my way around. I think I'm a little spoiled. I have my little route through the shop and I know where and how I want to navigate. I get a little bit frustrated when I'm scanning the wine specials and, without failure, there's someone cackling over the bottle of "Bitch" wine that they find. It's funny, I suppose. Yet, like with everything else, the charm wears off over time. Thus, I tend to dodge those folk and head instead to the next aisle. Sometimes, that works out well. Take tonight, for example. I found an absolutely lovely bottle of Kenwood red table wine on sale. I'm a sucker for red table wines. While I like a good, expensive bottle that's aged and mature, there's something soothing about a good, basic table wine. I think wine deserves respect but I also like it when it's respectful of someone who doesn't necessarily want to do the full production of sniffing, swirling, sipping, savouring and declaring. Table wine is meant to be consumed, it's meant to be enjoyed without pretense. I've had some bad ones- Sutter Home, for example- but, for the most part, many of them are innocent and flavourful.

I didn't intend to do too much shopping tonight but, as is usually the case, I bought more than I planned. My weaknesses are the cheese and produce section. I escaped the cheese tonight, thankfully. Yet the produce section seduced me. I ended up with far more than I needed. I was just so excited to find cardoons. I got Mario Batali's "Molto Italiano" cookbook for Christmas and there's a lovely recipe for "Cardoons- Roman Style" in there. I couldn't resist.

In case you haven't figured out, I'm becoming a bit of a Jungle Jim's junkie. If you've read my blog comments, you'll see that I'm fortunate enough to have someone from Jungle Jim's actually reading my blog when I tout the store's fabulousness. Thus, I shall give a subtle shout out to Phill Adams, Director of Development who occasionally is kind enough to comment on my blog. I'm eternally grateful whenever someone actually reads my blog, never mind commenting on it. So thank you, Phill Adams. You and your store are greatly appreciated.
As a side note, I actually did print out the application for the Assistant Manager of the Cheese Department and I'm seriously considering turning it in. Clearly, I'm dissatisfied about my job and I think it would be rather nice to do something I actually enjoyed. Also, I've recently decided that in addition to novels, I'd rather like to write about food and wine. I'm not sure how you actually get to do that but I think I'd quite enjoy it. I even confess I considered culinary school but there's a huge difference between pretending I'm Iron Chef Monkeypants and actually having to show that I can chop onions correctly. Oh, come on, don't tell me you haven't imagined you're on the Food Network when you're in the kitchen.

And now, as I realize that I may, indeed, be alone in that delusion, I'm slightly embarrassed. Yet not enough that I'm going to stop. I'm also not going to stop longingly caressing the Le Creuset Dutch Ovens whenever I see them nor the Mario Batali one that Jungle Jim's has in stock. One day, I shall own one. However, it may take a while. Those things are expensive. However, the orange ones would go just lovely in my kitchen which now has a rather attractive orange/persimmon accent to the utensils. I love my family for indulging my obsessions at Christmas.

I just realized that I spent eight hours of my day at work and only one hour at Jungle Jim's market. However, the one hour was infinitely more enjoyable than the preceeding eight. I think that's a bad sign. Also, it helped that when I came out of Jungle Jim's, it was snowing heavily. There's nothing better than a good snowfall to make me wax poetic about the simplicity and beauty of life. It doesn't matter whether the simplicity and beauty comes from a good snowfall or a trip to a good grocery store, it's how we feel in the end that counts. The end of my day was far better than my beginning and, for that, I am thankful. Sometimes...that's all I need.

Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Back to Reality (For a Few Days, at Least)

I can't believe it's already the Sunday after Christmas and I'm going back to work tomorrow. Fortunately, it's a short week. We get Thursday and Friday off. I wish I had enough paid time off to skip going back to work at all between Christmas and New Year but, alas, I used it all up before Christmas.

Nevertheless, I'm trying to remain in the Christmas spirit. In our house, and many British houses, Christmas lasts until after New Year- we don't take our decorations down until January 6th- Epiphany. Thus, even though I'm back in my own home away from my family, I'm still going to be celebrating Christmas so that when I go back later this week, we can continue where we left off.

It's a bit of a long drive to come back home for three days but it had to be done. People wonder why I bother going back home for New Year's when I could stay home and relax here. The truth is, I think New Years is a time of celebration and for me, celebrating means being with loved ones. Granted, it's not like we're party animals but it's a nice time of year to sit at home and be mellow with my parents.

Coming home from the parent's today was a bit of a nightmare. For one thing, my poor mother fell last night and fractured her shoulder. She didn't think it hurt that much until she woke up this morning. Unfortunately, it's also her right arm so she's feeling a little handicapped. I think she'll get used to it but I know it's going to be frustrating for her. It's another reason I would like to have stayed with my parent's instead of coming home. Also, it's snowing. Now, regular readers knows that Captain Monkeypants adores snow. I do. In fact, I'm viewing this snowfall like it's my belated Christmas gift from nature. We had the anti-est white Christmas you can imagine- it started white and then as the day went on it rained and the whiteness melted into soggy greys and greens.

Thus, I'm claiming today's snow just for me. However, it did make it a little hard to drive the 2.5 hours to get home from my parent's. This is a note to the state of Indiana: PLEASE PLOW YOUR ROADS! Seriously! Ohio makes you look bad!

I'm not joking. The entire time I was driving through Indiana, the highways were snow-covered and unplowed. Literally, the minute I crossed the state line, the roads became clear and merely wet. That part of my trip wasn't so bad. Driving in Indiana, however, was a little tricky. I actually had to focus instead of zoning out like I normally do.

I am home now. I've unpacked my Christmas goodies. My family was ridiculoulsy generous this year with their gifts, as were my friends. It's a little sad to put everything away and not enjoy the standard Christmas muddle for much longer but, at the same time, it's also nice to get everything put a way. It's a paradox.

Now I plan on relaxing since I have to work tomorrow. This is probably the real reason I'm not too happy about leaving my parents'. It means I have to work. It's going to be a quiet week since many of the staff chose to take this week off rather than last but I still have to be there. Hopefully the time will fly by and I won't find any new ways to be resentful at my company. I think I'll have to make that one a New Year's resolution. Actually, I might make finding a new job a resolution but we'll work on that. Is it sad that I've been eyeing the jobs at Jungle Jim's and wondering if there's any possible way to make a salary that's competitive with my own by being an assistant Cheese Manager? I love cheese. I know quite a lot about it. I think it would be far more interesting than my job. And, also, I love Jungle Jim's International Market. But you've probably figured that out by now. I do blog about them rather a lot. I might have actually bought my house because it had the added bonus of being less than 15 minutes away from that store although, obviously, it's not the only reason. It's just nice having such a splendid place that supports my new obsession with cooking nearby. Where else can I find the ingredients that Mario Batali and Alton Brown recommend? Also, it makes it convenient for my family who usually have a few items they want me to pick up.

For now, however, it's back to the office I go. I'll try to do it with a smile or, at least, without a quiet growl as I sit at my desk. I think my boss is gone this week so hopefully the flaunting of the Mac computers will be minimal. Also, it means we can be a little more relaxed in our cubicles because he won't be in his office nearby. That's always a nice thing. Then, at the end of the week, barring bad weather, it'll be back off to Indiana to continue the holiday festivities.

Of course, I do have to stop at Jungle Jim's first. I have a shopping list from my family. Naturally.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas to All...

The shopping is done, the presents are wrapped, all that lies ahead is to enjoy the days ahead. I hope you all feel the same way. Christmas Eve is my favourite day of the year; I love the anticipation of the day that lies ahead more than Christmas Day itself. By this time tomorrow, the presents will be unwrapping and the turkey cooking. But today, the sweet promise of a fun day is tickling away at me.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and it's filled with happiness, joy, not wanting to run away from your families screaming and much celebration. I won't be blogging until next week but I did just want to simply say to all my readers, friends and family...

Merry Christmas...


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The (Electronic) Complications that Men Devise

I'm getting a late start on this blog today for no other reason than I just haven't really had time to sit down. I tried to sleep in a little this morning but, as is usually the case, that didn't really happen. Nevertheless, I think I finally have time now.

I spent the last half an hour trying to find a way to put on some nice, peaceful music for my mother who is currently wrapping gifts. My mother does not like to wrap gifts so I thought it might be quite nice if she got a little festive. Unfortunately, my father has one of those ridiculously complicated set-ups for his media system. Thus, you have to turn on the right combination of equalizers and things to even get a CD to play. After having no luck at this, I gave up only to try one other method of getting a CD to play. It's finally working. I find it rather ridiculous that you have to work that hard to play music. At home, I have a CD player. You pop in a disc and voila!...music.

I've never understood those complex audio systems. I know, they sound better when they have about ten components to ensure the best quality sound. I just find it baffling that there are about five different 'on' switches you have to hit to get a CD to play. I've found, for the most part, it is men who care about this sort of thing, really. I know it's a little sexist but it seems to me that we women tend to like things a little simpler. Sure, we like improved sound quality but if it involves much more than either intuitively knowing how to use the equipment OR following more than a simple set of a-b-c instructions, it's just not worth the bother.

Men, however, will go to any lengths to get it right. They will climb on ladders, take out walls, redesign an entire room just to make things just perfect. At least, that's how the men in my life are. I have learned that the translation for "I have a fantastic piece of electronic equipment and it'll only take an hour to install. It'll be a breeze!" really means "I've got this gadget that someone told me was cool and I'm going to spend the entire day trying to hook it up and I will most likely scream and shout at you by the end of the day because it's not working right."

Nevertheless, there are some times when men are simpler creatures than we are. Take, for example, shopping. Yesterday, my shopper's assistant abilities were called into play by my brother. I think I've mentioned that during the Christmas season, I tend to accompany my family individually to help them pick out gifts for each other. Well, yesterday was my older brother. The day before was my mother. I adore shopping with my mother. She contemplates items, wondering if it's just right, wondering if she should buy it. Not so with my brother. You give him a suggestion and there's little debate. It's more of a 'Right! Good idea! Let's buy it."

And that is how we did at shopping. I'd point out a good suggestion for a sibling, nephew, niece or parent and by brother would simply scoop it off the shelf and buy it. In a way, it's quite fun. There's no argument. Mostly there's a 'do you really think that's a good gift?' If I say yes, the item is bought. If not, he often buys it anyway.

Don't get me wrong, my brother is extremely generous and thoughtful with his gift buying. It's just that he needs a lot of guidance. Otherwise, he ends up buying odd gifts that he thinks are great but we tend to wonder what we'd do with them. For example, one Christmas upon which he did not have assistance in shopping, my mother, sister and I all got those Febreze Scent Story machines. Do you remember them? They had a 'compact disc' of scents that would gently waft out. I think, in theory, they were a cool idea. It's just that the discs cost rather a lot of money and really only lasted about three days before it started to get faint. In addition, they stopped making the scent discs quite shortly after we got the machines so, in the end, we had these nice machines and nothing to do with them. It's not that I wasn't grateful but it was a bit of an odd gift.

The year after, he started asking for suggestions and, for the most part, every year since, I've helped him shop. It's a nice way to bond with him as well as make sure he's actually buying gifts that suit people. Tomorrow, I'll be accompanying my father. This is also a slightly necessary thing to do. I don't know what we're buying but usually it requires some intervention. We always go shopping for things for my mother and if I'm not careful, she always ends up with a stack of books that are comprised of serial books. Unfortunately, my dad doesn't always seem to notice this which is why mum often ends up with book 4 of the series when she hasn't read books 1-3. Also, one year, he bought her this rather, um, hideous clay vase thing that you plugged in and it had a diorama of an angel holding out her arms in it. It was not my mother's taste at all.
Thus, I staged an intervention and, as with my brother, it has now become a fun tradition. We always have lunch then head home for a relaxing Christmas Eve. It's a fun thing to do.

But, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Christmas is all about gifts. It just is part of the holiday. The way I look at it is that it should be a chance to show people you love that you know them, that you care about them enough to find something that they'd like. Sometimes we get it right, sometimes not so much. Yet it should still be a fun experience. For me, shopping with my family is part of Christmas as much as opening gifts.

For now, I have to go check to make sure the music is still playing for my mother. It's gone rather quiet in there. I'm hoping her disc hasn't run out because putting a new one in involves a CD changer that doesn't seem to work quite right. Wish me luck.

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Snowman Building Type of Day

It's another snowy day today. It wasn't supposed to snow anymore: Just the occasional flurry. However, it's been snowing steadily since sometime in the night and the cars are covered again.

I'm currently writing this with a string of tinsel around my neck. My three-year-old niece is here to visit and she decided I needed to play dress up. She, currently, is wearing a little fairy-winged tutu with a long strand of silver tinsel as a boa. I have no fairy dress but I got the tinsel anyway.

We just baked sugar cookies that are currently cooling, ready to be decorated. That's going to be an activity for later today. We have the springles and frosting ready to go. We're also going outside to build a snowman later. Apparently, it's a rarity that my niece has assistance building snowmen since her parent's apparently share the same dislike of snow that my own parent's do. I remember many a day as a child where I'd be outside alone, trying to build a snowman. Unfortunately, I never got further than a baby snowman or a blob before my hands would freeze and I'd give up for the day. Nevertheless, every year I tried. Some years were more successful than others.

I'm hoping today's snowman will be spectacular. If not, I hope he does, at least, look like a snowman rather than a blob with eyes. I'll let you know how he turns out.

I'm hoping the snow does abate a little though: I'm supposed to meet my brother to go shopping tonight. I tend to be the designated shopper's assistant in my family: When Christmas rolls around, I am requested to assist with picking out presents with my siblings and parent's. I actually love it. I love to shop, especially when I'm not the one spending money so it's quite a fun activity. However, it all hinges on the road conditions really. We're not supposed to get too much snow but then again, we weren't supposed to get more than a flurry so it's hard to say really.

Nevetheless, the snow is making everything seem very Christmas-sy which is the way it should be, really. With the scent of cookies in the air, the soft flakes falling outside and my tinsel boa around my neck, I'm feeling decidely festive. In addition, I'm not at work. I did check my email yesterday to discover that our company cannot afford Christmas bonuses this year because we have a deficit. I'm absolutely not shocked or even mildly taken aback. In fact, generally speaking, I just wanted to say, "duh!"

To be honest, I've never in my life received a Christmas bonus. I've never expected one. I think the most I've ever had was a $25 gift card/certificate. For me, that's always been something nice, a gesture to say, "Thanks for working for us and doing your job." Sometimes, that's all you need. Sometimes, the gift card is even unnecessary. As cheesy as it sounds, sometimes just a simple "Thanks, you're doing a great job" is enough. At my company, we're told that as long as you're not being told otherwise, assume you're doing a good job. I try to but, occasionally, an individual, 'hey, you did good," would go a really long way.

Nevertheless, it's Christmas and I'm not at work. Instead, I'm about to seek out my niece and mother and propose either cookie decorating or snowman-building. The snow seems to have stopped falling. It's like a picture postcard out there. All it needs is a lopsided snowman to complete the picture.

I think I can help with that.

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Dreaming of a White Christmas

It's a snowy day out there today. Naturally, I'm extremely happy about that. I didn't even do the snow dance. I think it's important to state that outright, that Sausage and I did NOT do the dance, nor did we communicate on the subject of snow.

The reason it's important to state that is because my good friend and loyal blog reader, Saz, had a bit of a snowy situation this weekend. As has been mentioned, Saz lives in Washington D.C. If you watch the news, you'll have seen that Washington D.C. got a little dumped on with snow this weekend. Saz was supposed to fly out at the crack of dawn on Saturday. By midday on Friday, her flight had already been cancelled. So was her rebooked one. Finally, last night, she was able to fly home for the holidays.

I'm glad for her. She had planned her vacation time wisely, trying to get as much family time in as possible. As a former holiday flier, there's nothing more frustrating than not being able to get home when you plan on it becuase of weather, bad airlines, any of the many factors that are part of flying. However, she made it home and I'm glad for her.

And I promise, the snow was NOT my fault. Even my own sister blames me anyway. Apparently, putting a status of "I hope it snows but not enough to upset travel plans," on Facebook, that's considered a contributory factor in the weather. It's not my fault I adore the white stuff. I just want a white Christmas. I'm a classicist. Snow and Christmas are meant to be.

It's nice to be able to appreciate the snow. I'm off from work this week. I decided to use my precious PTO and actually have a real Christmas week. I'm glad. I need a vacation, a chance to regroup and stop being quite so snarky about things at work. You'll be happy to know, by the way, that the popcorn maker WAS finally used. It makes...popcorn. The popcorn tastes quite nice except there's no butter and people don't like to use salt. I tried a kernal just to see what the fuss was about. It tasted a bit styrofoamy because of the lack of seasoning but it smelled nice.

That's the problem with popcorn in general. It's instant enticement. For me, it means I suddenly want to be at the movies, sitting back in my seat, tub of popcorn in my lap, ready to be distracted from life by escaping into a motion picture. This, naturally, is a bit of a problem when you're at work. It's not like you can say, "hey, I'm taking the afternoon off to go see "Avatar" or something like that." Bosses don't understand impulses like that. I think it would be dandy for companies to start offering a little "Free Fun Time" where you can randomly blow off work for an afternoon to do something like that. Of course, realistically that would most likely cause mass chaos and mess but the idea is nice, right?

Anyway, I'm not at work this week. Instead, I'm ensconsed at my parent's in snowy northeastern Indiana, about to go Christmas shopping and walk in a winter wonderland. I might be doing that alone though. Apparently, no one in my family likes snow the way I do. Not even Sausage even though he does do the snow dance with me.

Silly dog.

Happy Monday.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Spirit of the Shopping Season

Christmas is getting closer. A couple of weeks ago, I was miles ahead of the curve with my shopping. Now, with less than a week to go...I'm behind.

I'm not quite sure how that happened, to be honest. I think it's the fact that my family is growing exponentially and every time I think I'm done, I realize that there's still one person for whom I need to buy a gift.

As I've said earlier, I love Christmas. I love shopping. I accept the commercialism because it's part of the season. I love the scents, sounds, vibe....you know all this because I've said it before. Yet, there are times, I confess, as a Singleton, that Christmas is slightly lonely. I have some good friends who are also single so it's always nice to commiserate. Yet when Christmas Day rolls around, I wonder where, exactly, I went a little wrong.

It's a purely passing frame-of-mind. Once Christmas Day is over, I'm ok again. Well, at least until New Year's. Then I start to wonder where my year went and whether it was really worthwhile to spend the year trying to come to grips with a job, write a novel and buy a house.

That's really a trick question to myself: I've had a pretty good year, even if I don't particularly adore my job.

On a normal day, it's easy to look back and reflect upon the good things that have happened over the past year. I wrote a novel, I bought a house, I came up with another novel in my head, I had some minor writing successes, I managed to stay in touch with my good friends, I managed to spend time with my family. All in all, it's been a good year.

Yet there's something about the holidays that make it just a little harder to realize that I'm alone. I've dated more this year than I ever have which, admittedly, isn't exactly a world record. Nevertheless, I've tried. I did finally accept that I'm a wee bit of a commitmentphobe and I needed to move beyond that if i wanted to find someone. Unfortunately, the someone's just don't seem to be matching up.

Nevertheless, I don't want to say I need a significant other in order to enjoy Christmas. I don't. I know this. However, I do sort of wish they'd stop playing all those jewelry commercials on TV. You know the ones I mean, the ones that show the man placing a necklace around his wife's neck while she sleeps soundly. Yet, somehow, when she wakes up, her hands immediately go to her throat and she smiles with pure love and adoration and kisses her husband even though she hasn't even seen the bloody necklace!. I mean, what if, to her, it was the most hideous thing she's ever seen? Yet, they don't show that. They just show her smiling lovingly at her man, knowing he bought her jewelry without even seeing it.

Ok, I know...that's not the point. It's still a stupid commercial. It's not intended to make me feel lonely because I don't have a man to accidentally almost strange me in my sleep by trying to be romantic. It's meant to make men say, "hey, look! I could do that to my wife."

Sometimes I wonder if there are statistics on "Near Death Experiences of Women Who Are Victims of Their Husband's Trying to be Romantic."

Perhaps it's no wonder I'm single.

Yet it's not just jewelry commercials that annoy me. There are plenty of other ones. For example, they're now commercials that tout "Give the Gift of a Lexus."

I'm thinking there should be an entirely different TV network for rich folk because when I hear that commercial, the first thing I want to do is laugh somewhat insanely. Then I want to hit the announcer with my shoe. I mean, ok, so our economy is slowly improving but do you honestly think that the people watching the commercials can afford a Lexus? Yes, I thought not. Those that can afford a Lexus generally can also afford a DVR so they don't even watch commercials.

I hate commercials where the gift is a car with a big red bow on it. I'm guessing that the largest percentage of the audience for those commercials could barely afford the bow, never mind a car. I, personally, don't think a car is a good gift. First of all, it's a bit of a money trap. Ok, so in the beginning it's shiny and sleek. Then it needs gas. Then it needs an oil change. For the richer folk, the driver gets fed up of it and trades it in thereby making the gift slightly redundant. If it's not driven by a rich person, it's driven by a normal person who, most likely, puts off the oil change because they're overpriced. They need to get new tires but don't bother until the tires are bald and scary. Then it starts to cough...then die. Then the owner may decide to enroll in AAA or, more likely, not. The car dies. The owner gets mad...

You get the picture. Cars are NOT good gifts.

It's also like cell phones. Every year, there's a plethora of commercials for cell-phones as gifts. This is just lovely except...cell phones aren't easy. First of all, a real cell-phone needs a plan which means it needs a provider. Every provider has a 'catch.' Secondly, when you buy a phone as a gift, where does the commitment end? You're considered cheap if you just buy the phone and don't bother with a plan. If you get the plan, are you also responsible for overage charges? Do you pay for that extra text message that cost $2.00 to send because the phone-user had just reached her limit when it was sent? Does the recipient of the cell-phone-as-gift hand you the bills to pay? Do you pay up front and assume the user will be obedient and never go outside the limits of their plan?

You can see why I would never, in a million years, give a cell phone.

Me, I prefer to give non-conventional gifts, gifts that aren't necessarily on a Christmas list. I've run into some slight problems with this. I've had friends who have raved about an item they'd love to have and I've made a mental note. Yet, by the time Christmas has rolled around and I've bought them a gift I thought they wanted, they tend to act like I'm crazy for buying it. I also try to buy gifts for people that I know they almost bought themselves but ended up being practical and saving their money. Sometimes this works out but, occasionally, you run into the friend that accepts the gift but seems to think it slightly odd that you actually bought the gift for them.

I suppose it is easier to use a Christmas list. Yet, I confess, I have a slight problem with lists because, to quote my father, "mail order Christmas's aren't right."

I agree with this. I don't like using the holiday as a chance to restock someone's video game supply, movie shelf or book collection. I like to go out and think what it might be that the gift recipent might actually want rather than what they need. I like to think of Christmas as a time to give gifts that show that I actually know a person rather than just feel obligated to buy them something.

I think, perhaps, this may be why I manage to retain my love of Christmas: I blantantly find ways to ignore the commercial side and I make up my own version.

Whether or not my gift recipients agree, that is another story. At the very least, it's fun to shop, to wrap and to remember why I'm buying gifts. At this point, it's not an obligation, it's a fun past time in December that I look forward to every year. Perhaps it's a rebellion against the fact that I'm still single and my obligations are relatively few but I'd prefer to think of it as being strong in the fact of intense pressure.

Either way, it's still Christmas and I still love it.

Happy Friday.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Small Methods of Rebellion....

It's the middle of the week and the weekend is inching closer. So far, the week is going quickly. I'm very much looking forward to my weekend because it's the beginning of an entire week off work. I decided to use my PTO so that I could actually have a Christmas vacation. Thus, on Friday, it's my last day at work for over a week. Then, the week after Christmas, I only have to work three days before New Year's. All I have to say is if all weeks were short, I think the workplace would be much happier.

The workplace is still the workplace. I'm trying hard not to spend my entire blog venting about it but somedays it's hard. I'm trying to cultivate my 'don't care' mentality rather than dwelling on every tiny injustice. I will confess, sometimes it involves being overly passive agressive. For example, being that I'm the ONLY person in my department without a new, shiny Mac computer, I find it a little grating that in every meeting, a conversation ensues in which the rest of the attendants wax poetical about how much they love their Macs. I get a bit fed up of this, obviously. It's actually incredibly rude and insensitive but I work for a software company: Manners aren't exactly something that are top priority. I try to ignore it but sometimes, I find myself envisioning taking a Mac and throwing it at the window when I, once again, have to hear about the Command Key vs. the CTRL key or whatever they babble about. I've stopped listening. Instead, I've taken to drawing little bananas on my notepad every time they digress into a Mac conversation. I've got four bananas so far. I've had three meetings.

I've also drawn a little banana on a Post-it note and pasted it over my HP logo on my PC. Hey, I'm a Monkeypants. Bananas are my fruit. As I said, it's passive-aggressive but it makes me feel better and that's all I need.

In addition, I've taken to dressing up. I used to do it all the time for work. I have a wardrobe full of nice clothes that I forget to wear because my company is very much a jeans and t-shirt/sweatshirt type place. I like dressing up. In addition, my boss is very much a, uh, GUY. He seems to get a little uncomfortable when I act feminine around him. For example, many of my other coworkers chat to him about sports or manly things. Silly me, I ask him about his daughters and their gymnastic meets. He always acts like I'm being horribly sarcastic when I ask him these type of questions even though I genuinally want to know the answers. He usually blows me off with a snarky response. I don't get offended because I realize he's not used to this type of question. It's too personal, too...uh...girly.

So, I've been dressing up a little because I know it will make him realize that I am not a typical tomboyish programmer because, really, I'm not. Also, because I know it might make him wonder why.

Sure enough, today he came up to me and asked why I've been dressing up. Twice, actually. Ironically, today, I was just wearing a nice blouse, dressy trousers and jewelry. I wasn't even wearing a skirt as I did yesterday. I simply told him that I felt like it. He seemed a little taken aback. I think he was curious about whether I had a job interview. He was definitely fishing.

Yes, it's passive aggressive but, sadly, it's all I have. I can't verbally express my opinion because a) I've tried that and, three times now, I've been blown off and b) Complaining=getting fired. Thus, I have to do what I can. I'm just doing what I want to do and getting a lot done. I figure I'll keep doing that until I'm told otherwise.

I have been looking for other jobs but no interviews so far. Ironically, when I went to Monster.com two days ago and searched within my zip code, my company was the first job listed. Apparently, we're hiring sales people. Reading the advertisement, I sort of wish we were hiring for someone who could punctuate and use correct grammar which sounds very arrogant but, really, the job advertisement made me cringe just a little.

I did not apply. Obviously.

Neverthless, I am working hard to be zen about everything at work. I'm finding ways to be amused. For example, we have this nifty, shiny, new popcorn maker. You've probably seen them in the store flyers: They seem to be a popular item around the holidays. They look like mini popcorn carts and the ads claim they make old-fashioned tasting popcorn and cost around $99. Personally, when I hear the phrase "old-fashioned tasting", I thing..."stale'" although I'm sure it's not what they mean.

Nevertheless, we have one in our break room. It's pretty. We also have a massive jug of oil for it and a huge bottle of popcorn kernels.

I went in the breakroom a couple of days ago. Someone had made popcorn.

In the microwave.

Admittedly, we've all looked at the popcorn maker to see how hard it is to use. It's not even the fact that it's a little complicated. It's the fact that if we use it, we have to clean it.

No one wants to clean it. So no one is making popcorn.

Did I mention that it's very pretty? It's red and glossy. It sits about 20 feet from the microwave.

You can make popcorn in the microwave.

For some reason, this whole thing just delights me. I can't tell you why, really. It just amuses me.

I think that as long as I'm amused, I'm not depressed, enraged or begrudging. Instead, I can hide in my wide-open cubicle and let the workday enfold around me while I continue to do the work I want to do. I drink tea. I don't eat popcorn. I dress up. I draw bananas. As I always say, it's the small things...

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Raves and Rants...

It's a week before Christmas Eve. I'm excited by this fact. I, personally, love Christmas Eve more than any other day of the year. That's not to say I don't like Christmas Day but, as I've said, I love that anticipation of Christmas Eve, that waiting, that excitment that builds and grows and becomes the embodiment of Christmas. I always find Christmas Day to be just a wee bit anticlimactic, the presents open, the turkey cooked and...exhaustion hits.

No, I'm a Christmas Eve Monkeypants. I like the preparations that lead up to that day, the rush and activity of Christmas Eve as the last presents are wrapped, last minute stocking-stuffers are bought and the thrill of something hovers in the air.

For now, however, there's a week left. It's a week for me to continue with my cliched salute to the holidays, my Trans-Siberian Orchestra CD/Playlist blaring in my ears, my gingerbread waiting to be baked, my roster of Christmas DVD's on a stack, waiting to suit my mood. I admit: I know it's a lot of commercialism. Yet, if you combine the commercial side of Christmas with the side that actually understands why the season exists, you have a pretty nice balance. I, personally, can't say anything other than "I love Christmas!"

It puts me in a good mood, even when there's things conspiring to level my mood to that of unhappiness. It makes me focus on the positive and only dwell enough on the negative that it inspires one tirade and I'm done.

So, in all fairness, I think it's only fair that in addition to my rants, I give a rave or two before I rant again.

Thus, my first 'rave' goes out to United Airlines. I can't say you're perfect but, well, you've redeemed yourself slightly. If you're a regular reader, you'll know I've had issues with United in the past. I can't say I truly support the Economy vs. Economy Plus seating. I mean, on other airlines, it is perfectly normal NOT to fly with your knees up by your ears when you book a coach flight. On United, unless you pay the the $49 for 'extra room', that's how you're going to fly.

Nevertheless, when I flew to L.A. this weekend, United did redeem themselves by simply getting me to where I needed to be without problems. I confess, on the way home from L.A. to Dayton, I was cynical. I had 40 mins to connect from one flight to another AND I'd checked luggage. Given my myriad of past experiences, this could have been a problem. Normally, I'd be landing, a sense of panic in my throat and tummy and I'd be running as soon as I got off a plane to find out exactly how far I had to peg it in order to board my flight. Not this time, however. For once, United actually got me to my connection early.

I know, I know. It's a shock. I got to the Chicago airport early and was taken aback by the fact that I only had to go one terminal over and I had an extra 20 minutes to do so. Given that I was travelling on a $250 voucher, it was a bit of a shock to discover there were no complications: My plane had landed early and I was going to make my connection on time.

Thus, I have to salute United Airlines. I think you could improve the legroom thing a bit but I do respect your improved customer service. Given that my prior United experiences have ranked on a scale from pure suckiness to tolerable, having a good experience is something to write home about. Thus, I salute you. Keep it up.

I also have to salute Jungle Jim's International Market. A week or so ago, I blogged about not being able to find quails' eggs at the store. In fact, having scoured Whole Foods, Jungle Jims, Trader Joe's AND Kroger Fresh Fare and finding no quail's eggs at all, I was going to give up hope. Then, in response to my whining, someone from Jungle Jim's did respond. I was humbled and happy that someone actually read my blog and listened. I even went to Jungle Jim's last night and found the quails' eggs as suggested. Unfortunately, the ones suggested were in a can. As a snobbish foodie (and as someone who watches WAY too much Food Network) I was hoping for fresh eggs, the type I used to see all the time when I lived in California. I wish I'd known then what I know now because those quails' eggs would have been mine. Nevertheless, I completely respect the fact that someone actually bothered to read this blog AND offer suggestions. I will continue to frequent Jungle Jim's- partly because it's the only place in the area that caters to my obsessive needs but, also, because it's awesome.

Now onto the rants. I hear that when life hands you lemons, you're supposed to make lemonade. Me, I tend to yell at the lemons for a while until they start to mean nothing. Then I drink my lemonade quietly.

It's time for me to yell at the lemons.

In this case, the lemons are UPS. You know them. United Postal Service. "Brown." The friendly representatives who are supposed to pay $8 just to wear the offical socks of their company.

Yes, I know for a fact that their socks cost $8. When I worked at USC, the UPS guy was my buddy and once I knew he'd answer, I asked him about his socks. For the record, yes, they're supposed to wear the offical UPS brown socks with a logo. They cost $8. My UPS driver could not afford this type of expense for socks and, thus, he went elsewhere, bought brown socks and pushed them down so they were 'slouching'. This not only covered up the fact that they weren't UPS socks but, also, saved him money. He was a bit of an odd UPS man, I'll admit that. He was the type who said "You should check that out sometime," when he talked of an event in the area. He never asked me out. He never mentioned we should date. He simply said vague things like "You should check that out. I'll be there!" He also said it to my good friend so I can't even pretend that he liked me in particular. He was odd.

Nevertheless, even though he worked for UPS, I tried to distance him from the company for which he worked. Yet...he was a loyalist. He loved UPS.

Now me? I want to but, really, I despise them. Hence...we enter the Rant portion of this blog.

Once upon a time, Captain Monkeypants had a best friend (Saz) whom she'd known for many years. Captain Monkeypants had known her friend since high school, a time in which they both joined Drama Club, had bad experiences and had embraced their college years as a time in which things started to matter.

Even with the obstacles of different lives, Captain Monkeypants and Saz remained friends. They eventually travelled together and found that bi-annually trips to New York and Los Angeles were fun. Then Captain Monkeypants moved to L.A. and Saz found that trips to L.A. were even easier becasue she had a futon on which to sleep.

Captain Monkeypants and Saz would find things to do in L.A . that were fun. Eventually, they discovered Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez valley. They went wine tasting. They had fun. They found a nifty winery called "Sanford." It was a small, family owned place in which the wine pourers were knowledgable and friendly and, also, the wine tasted wonderful. The favourite selection of Saz and Captain Monkeypants was vin Gris. It was a variation on Pinot Noir that was pleasant, aromatic and wonderful.

Then a movie came out called "Sideways." Sanford was featured in the film. They mentioned Vin Gris. It became impossible to buy Vin Gris. For several years, it was difficult for someone to order Vin Gris because it was always sold out.

Then came 2009. Captain Monkeypants realized Saz's birthday was approaching and, remembering how much Saz had loved Sanford Vin Gris, she daringly checked the website.

Success! Finally, Sanford had the elusive wine in stock! Thus, it was that Captain Monkeypants ordered two bottles of the delicious libation to be delivered to Saz for her birthday.

And thus became the horrors of UPS.

In order to receive a shipment of wine, a human must be 21 years of age. Saz is over 21 but, unfortunately, missed the first delivery attempt.

Then, even though she left strict instructions on redirecting the package if a delivery was unsuccessful, Saz was thwarted in the second attempt to receive the package.

Thus, tonight, she decided to reign triumphant over UPS. She took the afternoon off work to ensure she would be home when they tried to deliver. She made sure her front call box was hooked up to her apartment, in case UPS came by. She even left a note telling UPS where to buzz if they had a package for her.

The story does NOT have a happy ending.

For, you see, UPS apparently does not require identification to deliver a package. Thus, it was, that some random, cruel stranger told the UPS driver that he was, in fact, Saz and, thus it was, that he received Saz's package.

Now, here's where I abandon the tale and I rant. The question is this: If someone (Saz) does EVERYTHING in her ability to make sure UPS knows how and where to deliver a package, how is that a random stranger from the street can waltz up to the UPS driver, claim that he is my friend and receive her wine???

I get it. UPS drivers are overworked. They're tired. They don't have the time to dial the ten-digits that it might require to inform a recipient that their package has arrived. I get that.

What I DON'T get is how come it's not ok to redirect a package that requires an over-21 signature because it contains wine but it's ok to just hand it off to some nasty, selfish pig who decides he wants to steal?

And yes, I am aware I sound harsh but what kind of person just takes a package, pretends it's his and doesn't worry about the fact that he's robbing a person of a gift?

I hate that I'm not more shocked about his world in which we live. Yet, sadly, I am not. I am, however, disgusted at the pig who doesn't even worry about the fact that he's stealing but, rather, that he's got a package from UPS that isn't addressed to him.

My anger is directed at UPS. Seriously? SERIOUSLY? A person on the street walks up to you and claims they're the recipient of a package. A smart person/company would say, "well, let me see some i.d.".

But not UPS. Instead they hand it off to the stranger. Saz forwarded me the signature. It is not hers. It is an imposter. SHAME ON YOU, UPS. I get that you're busy but, really? You're so busy that you can't say, "can I see some ID?" before you hand over the box?

Fortunately, I ordered from Sanford. Let me tell you, this is a top notch business. Not only was their representative- Donna- nice but she was also sympathetic. She quickly offered to reship my order and, endearing herself forever to me, told me that she'd be yelling at UPS the next day.

I am lucky. I ordered from a place that recognizes customers individually, not as a number. Donna made me feel better. Saz will get her Vin Gris, somehow...somewhere.

Yet it is UPS whom I question. What kind of business sense do they have? Really? You deliver to some random idiot on the street who happens to know the last name of an apartment occupant? Shame on you, UPS...check the damn driver's license next time!

That is all I have to say on that for now. All I can add is that I adore the Post Office and, given the UPS blunder, I will be relying on USPS far more now than ever. I know I'll be alone in my resolve but, if you're reading, think again about UPS...you don't want your shipment ending up in the wrong hands.

Nevertheless, with a week before Christmas Eve, I shall keep my fingers crossed that Saz shall recieve her package. The element of surprise at the gift is gone but maybe, just maybe, the element of surprise will exist in the fact that UPS ever manages to get her wine to her without someone stealing it.

Christmas is full of hope, right?

Happy Wednesday!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Reading Recommendations...

I have a lot of friends that like to read. Since I also loves to read, this makes sense. We often befriend those that have things in common with us. It makes for a bonding experience, something shared.

I love that I have friends that love to read. It means at any given time, I can seek them out via email, on the phone or even in person and ask them what they’ve read lately that they’ve loved. It’s a great way of finding books to read without having to read reviews. What better way than to ask someone who has actually read a book and whose opinion you trust?

Of course, sometimes, you find you disagree with their taste. Hence the fact that I did read the Twilight saga without knowing the full-scale assault it was going to have on the literary world as well as the assault it was going to do on my poor brain as I tried to see what the fuss was about. As I’ve said, I’m backing off it now because there’s no point. Granted, I still dislike the books but, well, let’s just say that having good friends who really like the books and can argue their value in escapism (Thank you, Lady Aero), I will respect the fact that some people like them. I never will.

So, a wee bit tainted from being told that I’d love Twilight and not liking it at all, I was just a little hesitant when another good friend told me about two books I had to read in the same fictional series. The books were The Hunger Games and its sequel, Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins.

I tried repeatedly to get the books from the library with no luck. It seems there are some teens out there reading other books betweens the Stephanie Meyer collection; I salute that. So, I ended up borrowing my friends copy. I started the books a little hesitantly: When anything comes that highly recommended, it’s always a little intimidating to start reading just in case you don’t like them.

The premise of the book is deceptively simple. It’s the future. The U.S. does not exist but has been divided into 12 Districts, each producing one essential item necessary to life. The districts are ruled from the Capitol, a city set in what used to be the Rocky Mountains and in which the people live luxuriously and excessively, ignorant of the plight of the people in the districts. The Capitol is strict and firm, allowing nothing that it does not approve. The people are oppressed because the Capitol does not want an uprising in the Districts and thus it rules with an iron fist. Every year, they stage The Hunger Games. A barbaric pastime in which children from age 12 to 18 are ‘reaped’- their names thrown into a giant lottery. From each district, a boy and girl is chosen annually from this lottery and must compete in the Games, a fight to the death in which only one victor will survive. The winner receives food and money for life.

The heroine of the tale is Katniss Everdeen, a tomboy who bears the weight of her family on her shoulders. Katniss hunts illegally in her district, trading in a black market to both survive and to get enough food to feed her family. When Katniss’ sister is reaped for the games, Katniss steps in and volunteers to take her place, placing her in a competition that makes her question everything she knows.

The thing about the The Hunger Games is it sounds like a familiar premise. When my friend described it to me, it reminded me of some Stephen King stories: The Long Walk and The Running Man. Yet there is nothing in The Hunger Games that is unoriginal. It is a well-written piece of young adult fiction that deserves as much, if not more, acclaim than the Twilight series.
For one thing, take Katniss Everdeen. She’s a girl who is plucky, smart and a survivor. Even though there’s a love triangle in The Hunger Games reminiscent of the Bella/Edward/Jacob mess in Meyer’s novels, never once do you question it. Katniss is the same age as Bella Swann yet because she’s faced hardship, she puts everything above love rather than making it the only thing worth living for. Katniss has two men in her life: Peeta, the male representative from their district in the Games. Peeta has loved Katniss for years. She’s wonderfully oblivious, believing his acclamations of love to be a strategy for winning the games even though it’s quite clear to the reader that he means them. Peeta is sweet, devoted, kind and nice. He wants nothing more than to see Katniss survive the games. Then there’s Gale: Katniss’ hunting partner from District 12. Never more than a friend, Katniss clearly feels more for him and as the books proceed, it is obvious Gale feels the same way. Gale is brooding, strong and opinionated. He’s a good match for Katniss as the two find a natural rhythm in just being together.

Yet, even with a love triangle, there is so much more to the books. The story is one of growing rebellion and questioning of authority. It is the movement from sad acceptance to awareness and action. The other characters are rich and defined. My favourite is probably Cinna, the stylist who takes on Katniss’ case for the games and turns her from a wild tomboy into a symbol of unity. He’s quietly rebellious in his own way without taking a more active role than helping Katniss discover who she is. One of the most disturbing things about the books is the dramatic and unpredictable ends that befall characters who lend their hearts and souls to Katniss' quest. Cinna is an example of that; for his rebellion, he is punished but the stories leave you wondering and desperately hoping that he's ok, even if he took a stand in a place where doing such a thing is forbidden.

Catching Fire is a disturbing book. It’s not full of sparkles and cottages in the woods, perfect honeymoons and disturbing birth-scenes. It’s dark and twisted and bad things happen to a lot of good people. It’s the type of sequel that climbs into your head and haunts your dreams because you can’t stop thinking about it, wondering what will happen and having your heart break just a little for some of the amazing characters who sacrifice themselves to try to save others.

I think it’s obvious I enjoyed these books. Thus, I am recommending them to anyone that challenged me to tell them what’s better than Twilight. These books are better. These are books in which something actually happens besides love but still allows love and feelings to be a huge part of the story. They’re books with characters that make me care without having to do much at all, although no one in these books is idle. The writing is good enough that you don’t even notice it as you’re turning the pages to see what happens.

The books are part of a bigger series. The next book isn’t out yet and I don’t know when it’s going to be. I do know that until it is, I have a feeling that Katniss and her world are going to pop into my mind quite a lot as I wonder what will happen to her, Peeta, Gale and the other characters in the story. What I don’t care about is if she ends up with either of the men and who it might be because that’s incidental. It’s a nice change of pace. If you're looking for something to read, I highly recommend it. And, even if you're not...I still recommend it.

Happy Tuesday!

A Whirlwind Weekend...

It’s back to work after a good weekend. Flying to L.A. is always interesting because of the time difference. You wouldn’t think that three hours makes that much difference but on a workday when you’ve been up since 6 a.m. EST and you don’t get to sleep until 3 a.m. PST, that’s a relatively long day. Nevertheless, it was worth every minute.

L.A. at Christmas has always seemed odd to me. At night, it doesn’t look that different than the Midwest, light-strewn trees and bushes everywhere, inflatable yard decorations glowing from within and neighbourhoods dressed up for the season. In daylight, it’s a different story. The trees are palm trees, lights tossed into them. The ground is green, the trees are leafy and full.

When I left Dayton to fly out for this trip, it was, literally, freezing. We had a windchill that made it feel like six degrees outside. The hike from the car park at the airport to the terminal was so cold that my ears numbed in the wind, even with my hood up. When I landed in L.A, it was a balmy 50 degrees. I used to consider that cold when I lived there. Now I know better.

Yet, it wasn’t all balmy. It was a very wet weekend, the type I used to long for when I lived in Southern California in which the raindrops pound against the windows, the wind sends waves of rain at you and the roads are wet and shining.

It made Disneyland interesting. The rain mostly held off although there were a couple of downpours. During the fireworks at night, the rain poured but we still stayed to watch. As the fireworks ended, so did the downpour but it was still too slick for the ‘snow’. This usually drifts out gently into the night air after the fireworks, bubbles so fine and tiny, they really do move like snowflakes on a breeze. Yet when it’s raining, these soap bubbles make the ground slippery so they have to hold off on making it snow. When I lived in L.A., I would have been sad about it, deprived of snow and longing for something that even just reminded me of it. Now, I get to go home to the real stuff, freezing cold as it is. There’s nothing I love more than a snow flurry around the holidays.

The rest of the trip was also wet. Going to an outdoor outlet mall was a little wet but still rewarding. It was nice to lay in the comfort of my friend’s room and enjoy the sound of the rain at night. Even if it was a wet weekend, it was well worth the trip.

It’s an interesting thing to do, reverse that which I used to do annually. Once upon a time, this time of year, I was counting down to hop on a plane to go back to the Midwest to visit. Now I’m heading back to L.A. for a visit and going back home to the Midwest.
I can’t say it isn’t a little surreal. Everything’s backwards: The airports, the flight routes, the time change. Yet no matter how much I miss my friends who live there, I can’t say I don’t regret the decision I made to move back to the Midwest. There are things I miss about Southern California. There is something rather nice about being able to walk outside, coatless, in the December air, go to the farmer’s market for fresh berries and eat them while walking on the Santa Monica pier without having to bundle up to fight the cold. Most of all, I miss the people who made it hard to leave in the first place. Yet, one thing I have learned is no matter how far apart you are, friends don’t really go anywhere.

Happy Monday.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Short Days and Short Blogs...

Just a quick blog today as I wasn't successful in getting a blog up last night. Yesterday, we had really gusty winds which took out my internet for a short time but it was a long enough time to prevent me from blogging.

This morning, the wind has died, leaving really, really cold temperatures in its wake. The weatherman is claiming that it feels like 4 degrees out there with the wind chill. Currently, I'm warm in my house but outside, there are veins of snow dotted around. The snow has settled in the cracks and crevices of the world outside and its an interesting effect.

I'm off to work in a few minutes. I can't complain, however. It's a short day because I'm lucky enough to be heading out to Los Angeles in a few hours. It's one of those last minute trips, the kind you take when you can get a plane ticket for $50 because one of the airlines screwed up the last time you flew.

I'm hoping to not run into flight issues this time. With any luck, I'll make it there without any trouble so that, as planned, I can go to Disneyland with my friend tomorrow.

I do love Disneyland at Christmas. I've probably said it before. It's so pretty and festive. I like that I can leave real snow to go to a place where the snow is fabricated by using bubbles. I don't know if there'll be snow and fireworks tomorrow because it's supposed to rain. What I'm interested in is to see if I get as cold as I used to there or if, I susect, my body has acclimated to the colder temperatures of the Midwest and the cool Anaheim night will feel balmy.

I've been looking forward to this trip all week. It's a great way to make a not-so-great time at work feel better. I will attempt to get a blog up for tomorrow but it really depends on interenet access.

Thus, on that note, I must depart for work. The office awaits. A meeting awaits. Nothing better than starting the day with a meeting. But it doesn't matter. I'm going to Disneyland!

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

An Ode to Gingerbread Pancakes...

It's a wet night out there. The streets are dark and shimmering with puddles. I think the rain has calmed, at least for time time being but, ever since I got home from work, it's been hammering downwards, making me glad I'm safe inside, the glow of my Christmas tree reflecting against the rain-spattered windowpane.

It's supposed to snow tomorrow morning again. I hope that doesn't mean the roads will be bad for the commuters who have to come into the office from further distances than me. Naturally, I'm concerned for their safety but, also, selfishly, I don't want to hear how 'lucky' I am that my house is so close. I am 'lucky' but, really, it just means I'm quite smart. I bought my house with the full knowledge that I had one left turn from the street on which I live in order to get to my office. Mostly, this is because winter driving still scares me a little; I got a lot of practice last year but the unpredictable nature of tires on ice and snow still keeps me alert in bad weather.

Yet, tonight, it's still just rain. I'm safe inside my house. It's been a festive day for me. Though I had an almost-insufferable three-hour meeting at work, the day was made better by the celebration of a coworker's birthday. All I can say is "Gingerbread Pancakes." We went to IHOP for lunch because there is a restaurant, literally, in the front car park of our building. I think our CEO may actually own the IHOP as well as our office park. We didn't get a discount though. Our birthday girl chose the brunch location specifically because of the gingerbread pancakes. Normally, as a pancake non-enthusiast, I'd be apathetic about speciality pancakes. Yet, I cannot resist gingerbread. Thus, it came to be, that I decided to be adventurous and order them.

Let me tell you, if you like gingerbread, you simply should try these things. The pancakes are basically warm slabs of the delicious baked goodness. You can get them with whipped-cream and festive decorations. I chose just powdered sugar. They were, like a good cup of chai, a celebration of Christmas in my mouth. There's nothing like a bite of warm, soft gingerbread to kick home the fact that it's the holiday season.
It's hard to go back to work in a bad mood after such a thing. Even though the afternoon passed slowly, I didn't mind. I even had a cup of holiday tea to make the day seem even more Christmas-sy. It wasn't the best day at work. It wasn't the worst. It was just another day in which I realized that my job and I are not made for each other. I don't think anyone can say I haven't tried. I've now approached my boss three times with suggestions for ways to improve my job so I'm more productive and help be an asset to the company. Each time, I end up watching my coworker be put on every new project and I get to sit at my desk and keep myself busy.

To be fair, I'm learning that it's not so bad to sit there and keep myself occupied. I'm undertaking a project that has needed to get done for several years. It's coming along nicely. As long as I have time where I'm not instructed how to spend my minutes, I'll keep working on this. I like it because it's the first time in the entire year and couple of months in my job that I've found something I like to do a lot and I think I can do well. It's writing, really. Just like this blog. Just like my novels. Yet the writing at work is instructive and formal, a way to get newbies who are using our software for the first time to understand how to use it. Too many times I've read technical documentation that makes me feel like I need to be in MENSA to understand it. Thus, I tend to try to not make my readers feel dumb and inexperienced. That's the nice part of being on both sides of the fence: You get to know what really is needed, even though the Powers That Be try to be high falutin' and fanciful with their efforts. The people who actually do the work just need instructions in English as to how to get started. That's it.

So, in actuality, work isn't horrible, as long as I can cut most of the people out of the equation. Granted, my desk is literally falling to pieces which I handily repaired with a paperclip and tape (thanks, MacGyver!), my chair is still not dried from the gluing and my computer is the only non-Mac in the entire area, as long as I keep my mind occupied, it's not so bad. Also, I've decided that until I'm told off, I shall continue listening to Pandora and KROQ online since I caught one of the bosses streaming media to his computer the other day. These are the small perks.

Also, there's gingerbread pancakes to be had, just across the parking lot. Combine this goodness with coming home, having a mug of mulled wine and watching "Elf", you have a rather nice, festive day. I love the Christmas season, it makes everything pretty with the addition of fairy lights, spices and Christmas cheer. Yes, as I've said before, I'm a walking cliche but I don't care. It makes me happy and, sometimes, that's all we need in life.

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Snowy Start to the Week

Another Monday has passed. It started out very snowy. This was quite unexpected. I had gone to bed thinking there was a 'chance of snow' and woken up to hear Mr. Weatherman say it was snowing quite a lot. One quick peek out of the window later and I'd confirmed that it was, indeed, snowing. It was beautiful. There wasn't enough for a full ground-cover but there was enough for a dusting, enough to settle on the festive decorations in people's front yards and declare them ready for Christmas.

Naturally, I was happy about the snow. Driving to work was tough because even though I only have two roads to navigate, some of it hadn't cleared and had frozen over but slowing down and using caution worked nicely. Even though I'd left ten minutes early, I arrived ten minutes early into the office. I was greeted by a coworker who said, "must be nice to be you!" I think it was meant in that way that people use when they're a little jealous but trying to sound like they're being tough and resiliant. However, it came out rather bitter.

I confess that, yes, I do rather enjoy backing out of my warm garage and NOT scraping my car. It was a little tricky navigating down my bendy street that is narrowed significantly when cars park on both sides, as it was this morning, but I also enjoyed that even though the road to the office was snowy and icy, it was a straight-shot. What I don't appreciate is masked-bitterness by people who decide they hate that I live so close. These are the same people who seem to forget that, up until a week ago, I had their reverse commute. It didn't snow during my commuting days, a fact for which I am grateful. Yet, at any time, it could have. I might not have liked it but I made a conscious decision to buy my little house in the neighbourhood in which I now live, knowing that I might have a 45 minute commute for a while.

I do feel for the commuters. It's not that I don't have sympathy. I just don't have sympathy for the slightly-viscious verbal lash-out I got from two people who were angry I had it so easy.

Nevertheless, it snowed. I had visions of peppermint hot chocolate dancing in my head, a reward for a long day at work. I had visions of going into my backyard and spinning and letting snowflakes dance on my tongue.

Yes, I know I'm a thirty-something year-old Monkeypants but if I feel like acting like I'm a child, I certainly will. I'm not too young to be a curmudeonly old person!

By mid-morning, the snow had melted, dashing my cliche winter ideas. I feel certain that if it had continued to snow, I would have had a good day at work. Yet, reality always sets in and so my grand hopes for a nice day at work turned into the usual slightly-irksome routine of trying to seem enthuiastic about my job but feeling slightly violent all the same.

Yet, I don't want to waste this blog venting about work. It was a Monday. That says it all. A snowy Monday beats a normal Monday but when the snow melts, all I have left is a vague reminder that it might have started nicely but it is, after all, a Monday.

Instead, I'm going to just sit back in my nice cosy bed, for this is where I am blogging, and be grateful that I have good friends and a great family in whom I can confide. I have a couple of good friends at work who do understand why I can't always smile and more friends outside who love me, even when I'm negative. Best of all, I have a mother who never fails to let me unleash the wrath of a bad day at work and still doesn't hang up on me.

So, all in all, though it was an un-good day in the office, it started well and ended with me feeling loved and happy for good friends and family. It will truly end with me getting to curl up in a warm bed with a good book and a glass of wine. In truth, there's not better end to a day than that, no matter how bad the middle of the day felt. Any day that starts with snow has an advantage.

Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Festive, Productive Weekend...

I tried to hold onto the weekend but as is always the case with the passage of time, it slipped away from me just as I was enjoying it most.

Friday passed slowly at work. You might be happy to know that my broken chair situation in the office is being remedied. They bought me a tube of glue. Sadly, I am not exaggerating for comedic effect: They spent thousands of dollas on new computers for quite a few of the staff members and they gave me a tube of glue. To be fair, our HR manager is taking care of the actual gluing but part of me would seriously love to take that tube of glue and show them where to stick it.

However, I need my job, as has become my mantra.

Besides, I had an entire weekend to decompress from the fury of being shown a tube of glue. It was a lovely weekend as well so I'm going to start out the week by thinking positive. I feel like the weekend was nothing but business. I managed to completely clean my house, cook a three course meal for my lovely parents who came down to visit and to shop at Jungle Jim's for holiday supplies. (Note to Jungle Jim's: Can you please stock some quail eggs? Your mantra is "Welcome, Foodies!" and any good Food-Network-Obsessed-Foodie knows that quail eggs are important to gourmet cooking. I just want to try them and ever since I made up my mind to buy some the next time I saw them, I've never been able to find them anywhere!)

Anyway, moving on. I also managed to finish my novel completely. Yes, I know I said I was finished last week when I 'won' the National Novel Writing Month challenge. I did win that. I wrote 50,000 words in a month. Well, actually, to be completely honest, it was really only about 3 weeks but I had a lot to do in November so it's hard to write every day. But even though I'd met the word count, it still lacked an ending. I gave it one on Saturday night at about 12:30 a.m. Interestingly, it's not at all the ending I thought I'd give it; instead it's a sequel-hungry, slightly black-humoured ending. I quite like it, actually.

In all honestly, I love this novel I wrote. Not only is it the silliest thing I've written in ages but it's actually quite funny. In addition, it truly has helped me scale that enormous bump in the writing road that almost made me quit a few times. It reminded me that writing is supposed to be fun and if you can't laugh at a demon's version of Red Riding Hood, what can you laugh at?

I'm back to feeling empowered in life because I have something other than my job to care about. I can go home and hide in my own creative efforts and it makes the drag of a humdrum day disappear.

I'm also loving that Christmas is coming. I love the holidays. I love the cliche parts, the classic parts, the parts that make you tilt your head with delight because it's just so....fun. I love the movies: I watched "The Holiday", one of my favourite new Christmas 'classics' with a friend on Saturday and it was lovely. We made dinner, drank wine and just got to be girls. It was fun. I'll probably watch "Elf," while writing Christmas cards. "Love Actually." is soon to be on my playlist. I baked gingerbread today. I have my decorations up and I'm listening to carols. If there's a bigger Christmas cliche than me, I'd like to find him or her.

So, all in all, even though it's srill about three weeks to Christmas, I'm already celebrating. Every day will be something small, something nice to remind me of the season whether it's bringing in my miniscule, cute, metallic tree to work to sit on my desk or it's drinking a cup of holiday Chai and inhaling the scents of nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon: All the scents of the season. It might be taking in some leftover gingerbread stars to eat when I'm reaching that point in the workday when I'm ready to pound my head against the monitor. It might be tuning my iPod so that I can hear the Trans-siberian orchestra, my very favourite Chirstmas music, to drown out the chatter of my coworkers who are all just way too happy to be at work.

No matter what I do to honour the season, I love the month of December, several of my favourite people in the world have December birthdays including my parent's and my best friend. It's a good time of year. I plan to appreciate every single moment, and not dwell on that stupid, annoying tube of glue.

Now, if it was glitter glue, that'd be another story.

Happy M0nday.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Broken Chairs and Fear of Change...

It's finally Friday. This has been a very long week even though the days have gone strangely quickly. I can't say it's been a bad week, per se, not in the grand scheme of things. It's just been one of those weeks where, every day, it's been a small thing that's just set the day just a little off kilter.

I'm enjoying my 8-10 minute commute to work. That's my positive experience for the week. Also, I quite like the beaten tin tiled effect in our new kitchen. That's rather nice. I like the fact that someone put brown paper over the back of the women's bathroom doors so that no one can see you when you're going to the loo. Of course, now I have the urge to dig out my boxes of crayons and decorate the brown paper. I won't, however because that would probably be frowned upon. Part of me wants to draw a giant crayon christmas tree with stick people hanging from it with little labels naming who they are.

I probably shouldn't have told you that. Now you'll think I'm peculiar. Of course, you are reading this blog and if you haven't figured that out yet, you should probably back track a little.

All joking aside, I'm trying to ignore the fact that my chair at work is broken and if I lean back too far, I have to do a wild flail to stop from falling completely backwards. It's not even that far that I really have lean back, any sort of weight on it causes a bit of flailing. Also, my desk is scratched, my file cabinet attacked me and I'm one of the few people in my are not getting a nice shiny computer. My computer is too new, you see. My first boss at the company picked it out not long before I started. Now it's mine. Everyone else is getting Mac's. I have a little PC.

It's actually not the PC part I mind. I think it's more a case of "New Computer Envy". While I have to admit Mac's are quite nice, there's something about them I don't trust. I think they're too shiny, too glossy, too slick....even smug. Everything about Apple/Mac's strikes me that way a little. It's like those PC vs. Mac commercials with John Hodgman and Justin Long. They used to be clever with Mac always being just a little slicker than the PC and always making him look antiquated and defective. Now I think they're just mean. Also, that commercial for the AT&T iPhone where they make fun of Verizon and their 'maps' ad campaign. Verizon's "maps" campaign, if you haven't seen the commercials, is to make fun of the ridiculous amount of 'apps' for the iPhone by showing maps of where Verizon has coverage vs. AT&T.

Let me tell you, having a couple of friends with iPhones, the shoddy coverage of the iPhone is not much of an exaggeration. The retaliation campaign has Luke Wilson standing under a map filled with Verizon markers that show their coverage. The markers slowly tumble off the map as Luke Wilson hawks the merits of AT&T's 'smart phones' (i.e. the only phone anyone cares about from them...the iPhone). He talks about how you can't surf the web and talk on the phone like you can with an iPhone. Except, here's my question: If you have no coverage anywhere, what difference does it make if you can talk on the phone and surf the web at the same time? No signal=No real usage. So, shut up iPhone/Mac/AT&T.

I digress. Back to those Mac's. I know they're a lot more reliable than PC's, that they're less prone to viruses, that they don't rely on Microsoft but I still don't like them. I don't trust them. I can't tell you why; I just don't. I like PC's, even if they do rely on Microsoft. To be honest, I don't NOT like Microsoft either. I find their software products easy to use. Yes, I'm not a fan of the Blue Screen of Death which I tend to get rather a lot but in some ways, Microsoft is responsible for a lot of my computer knowledge. To fix a problem, you must learn everything about the problem. Thus...I know more about computers, Windows and Microsoft software than I ever thought I'd learn.

Anyway, I'm sure it'll be my turn to get a new computer in the office in about two years which, I think, is the timeframe of our 'computer cycle'. Every three years, they're replaced. Since mine is not a particularly good machine and it's very slow, I will admit sometimes that can of Pepsi on my desk looks awfully like a good way to accidentally 'break' my computer.

I'd never do that, I promise. I have too much respect for working computers. I've been around too many that haven't worked when they should have.

It doesn't really matter. For me, I'm looking ahead to the weekend. It's been a hard week; I don't like change as much as I should and this has been a week of changes, some of them big. Some of them are smaller, like the fact that I transformed my living room by putting up my Christmas tree and decorating for Christmas. Those are the kind of changes I embrace.

I intend to keep embracing them this weekend. I have more decorations to put up, some Christmas shopping to do and company to keep. I'd love for the weekend to go slowly so I'm going to keep a firm grip on it lest it slips away and, all to soon, I find myself back in my cubicle trying not to flail madly in my chair as I try to stop it falling backwards. I've was told I might be able to get a new chair when I asked my boss if something could be done about my broken one. It's not new Mac but it's a start.

And that would be a change I might embrace without complaining.

Thanks, as always, for reading. I promise my week of New Office venting is officially over. Next week, I shall move onwards. In the meantime, have a great weekend.

Happy Friday.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Horrible Reliance on Technology...

I promise not to complain about my job today. Nor will I complain about the office building. I tend to get on a subject and stay there for a while so I'm going to make myself move away onto something else.

Technology, for example.
Once upon a time, there was a society of people who used to have to visit one another in order to have a conversation. They could write letters but there was no Fed Ex, no Next Day Air, there was only the old fashioned method of someone delivering a letter as soon as they could. Then, came telephones. Then, I'm pretty sure came telegrams although they might have come before telephones. I'm not sure.

Telegrams were a way of getting a message quickly to someone by having an office write it out and then deliver the message that came over 'the wire.'

For many years, society lived with only one phone in their house and only telegrams and mail post to get messages to one another. If they wanted to speak to their wife, child, aunt, uncle, friend, they had to make sure that the recipent either had access to a little old telephone or they had to get off their behinds and find them.

Then came...cell phones and the internet and many, many ways of finding instant gratification when you needed to talk to someone, get them a message or send them a package.

Thus, I give you....our spoiled little generations who can no longer function without the use of technology because we've forgotten how to do so.

I am including myself in this group because today I experienced a prime example of how useless we are without technology.

It all started when I dropped my phone in the toilet. Fortunately, I hadn't gone to the bathroom yet. Fortunately, there was no one at work in the bathroom besides me so no one could see what I was doing through the backwards-doors-that-you-shouldn't-really-be-able-to-see-into-but-you-can-anyway. I retrieved it quickly, took out the battery and did my best to pat it down with soap without making it any wetter. I also scrubbed my hands. A lot.

Needless to say, my phone ceased working. The screen began to fog. Since this exact same thing happened a few weeks ago, I knew that all I needed was a spaceheater to help dry it out.

And yes, I am freely admitting that this is, in fact, the second time this phone has literally been in the toilet. Both times were clean toilets, thankfully. Both times were a result of me thinking it was secure in my jeans' pocket and was horribly mistaken just a little too late. Both times, I felt like a complete and utter idiot.

Also, this is the second phone I dropped down a toilet. My other one was at an airport. Never do that. Just a word of advice.

Anyway, so, I spent the whole afternoon being just a little obsessed with the fact that my phone was not working. I tried to dry it. I kept putting the battery in to see if it was all better. Naturally, it was not. My biggest worry is that I have no landline at home so my cell phone is my only method of contacting the outside world. Well, except for my office phone and the computer. I intended to post on Facebook that my phone was out so if anyone needed me...email, don't call.

Of course, that was when our office network died. When I say died, I mean that the phones went out and our computers couldn't connect to the internet at all.

Now, to most companies, this would be a large inconvenience but there would be ways around it. For us, it was paralyzing. Everything we do is on a network or connected to via an internet connection. Our software needs databases that are off-site to which we network. The documentation I was working on is web-based and so without a working internet connection, I couldn't do anything with it. 100% of my current workload is internet/network based.

I was not the only one. In fact, almost every single person in our company couldn't work. We spent about an hour and a half waiting hopefully for something to get fixed. We socialized which was rather fun, actually. We all kept attempting to connect. There was nothing. We couldn't call out, we couldn't call in.

Normally, I'd be able to update Facebook or read email on my phone but when it takes a dive into the toilet, it sort of puts a damper on that idea. (pun intended).

Thus, I had a perfectly nice, wholly unproductive last hour and a half of work. I won't lie and say it wasn't fun because it was. I got to talk TV, mock the weathermen and discuss tea with my coworkers. We probably could have gone to the exercise room and fought over the fancy elliptical machine or treadmill but I think we were all afraid the network would go back up and we'd be caught slacking.

I think we're all just slightly paranoid at the moment.

Thus it was, I finally left only ten minutes earlier than usual. Because I'm a technology junkie and also because I was afraid I'd really murdered my phone this time, I decided to take a precaution so I bought a pre-paid phone from Target.

I know. I probably could have waited. Yet there was this crushing sense of feeling completely cut-off from the world without having my phone. I knew I had missed a call or two. I had text messages I couldn't read. Naturally, I began to fear for the worst.

It turns out that I hadn't missed much because now my phone is slowly coming back to life. It's drying out in front of my spaceheater and allowing me to make calls. Now I can put the prepaid phone away but keep it for emergencies. For example...if I drop my phone into the toilet again.

Which I hope I don't.

Tomorrow, I'm hoping we're back up and running at work. If not, we'll find ways to amuse ourselves. I think the bosses got their cable TV hooked up on their very large flat screen TV's that they have in their offices. I won't make a comment on that but I'm sure you can imagine how that makes us lowly employees feel. Maybe we'll all flood into their offices so we can amuse ourselves while we're waiting to be able to work again.

Technology. There's no escape.

Happy Thursday.

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