Thursday, September 28, 2006

Ode to my new hometown

May I walk you home tonight
On this fine and lovely night tonight -
We'll walk past the luscious houses,
Through rolling lawns and lovely flowers -
Our nice new town where the curtains are drawn
Where hope is started and dreams can be borne.
Let us share our insanity
Go mad together in Community
Boys on the corner looking for their supper
Boys round the green looking for some slaughter -
We used to chase dreams now we chase the dragon
Mine is the semi with the Union Jack on.

In our paradise lost we'll be finding our sanity
In this paradise found we'll be losing our way -
For a brave new day.

May I slash my wrists tonight,
On this fine Conservative night tonight -
I was looking for a job so I came to town
I easily adopt when the chips are down -
I read the ad about the private schemes
I liked the idea but now I'm not so Keyne.

Courtesy of Paul Weller and The Style Council

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

My new thing

After the hullabaloo that Lulu made about the Martini vs. the "vodka martini", I decided I should try to pure up my cocktail taste and get used to the classic (gin) martini.

The thing is, I hate gin martinis. I've tried, really, I have. But I don't like the gin/vermouth blend. It's just too much for me. I like the gin/vodka/vermouth fusion, but we've already established that the vodka pollutes the classic M. I'd resigned myself to softening the gin with the brightness of lime or other citrus, and perhaps the metallic fizz of tonic as a balance.

And then I was shopping at M&S the other day and I had a brainstorm. Perhaps the problem with the gin martini was the flavor war between the gin and the vermouth...perhaps I needed another strong flavor to make peace. The answer was there in front of me....COCKTAIL ONIONS!

Sure enough, the verve-y sweetness of the pickled pearl kicks that vermouth into overdrive...shows that gin who's the boss...adds a big bass note to the sharpness of the alcohol.

Yummy. Gibsons for everyone!

I am a Comma Whore

They called me a name at work today. American Comma Whore. Ouch.

I use too many commas. I know I use too many commas. I like commas, plus I like to use commas to help approximate the cadence of my speech, and I am a fan of long-winded sentences that go on endlessly, with lots of descriptors to ensure you catch every nuance of my topic or story. You read me. You know whereof I speak.

The English, they're not really fans of the comma. In fact, they hate the comma. They hate the comma almost as much as they love the "u".

Since I write for a living, the spelling and the punctuation can be quite critical. For instance, they would not separate, "Since I write for a living," from the rest of the last sentence...they'd just run it on into "the spelling...." That just seems wrong to me. I've consulted my grammar books, and the comma is a legitimate separator of two sentences when joined by a conjunction, as I am doing in that sentence above (and this one, for that matter.)

Sure, I engage in some gratuitous comma usage now and again. If you were paying WAY too much attention to this blog, you'd notice that I occasionally go back and edit the commas out of my work. I don't want to be a bad writer, and bad punctuation is the hallmark of bad writing, along with bad spelling and the misuse of than/then and all those "to/two/too's". I want to be smart, witty and well-punctuated so that echo and dale do not ridicule me in the comments.

Sigh. I think it's time to read Eats, Shoots and Leaves again.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The King likes Sexual harassment Law and other lessons

It's been another busy week at school, hence the light posting for the last few days. These week-long sessions are a bit overwhelming. There is so much to know and so much to think about. And there is lots of stress and usually some awful deadline and it usually means a week of five hours of sleep a night.

We had a finance exam on Friday, scheduled for the mid afternoon. I had about 20 people approach me about moving it to the session that happened at 9AM instead, and though I am not a morning person I started asking around and could not find a single person who thought this was a bad idea. So, being an efficient stream rep, I went with the majority and got it moved. Of course, after I did I found the 10 people who did NOT want it in the AM because they were planning to skip lectures to study. There was a lynching. Being one prone to excessive guilt I felt terrible, as this was the first time I'd not taken a vote on something that seemed so trivial...I mean, if you're not ready at 9AM, realistically you're not going to be ready at 2PM, either. Stupid mistake, one I won't be making again. It seems to have blown over, but when marks come I'm sure I'll take the heat for anything remotely low. I'd offer them my mark instead but I have a feeling they won't be wanting it. Finance and I are not good friends.

By the time the final Saturday rolls around, we're knackered. (Or, for you GEWS FOR GESUS, "Arrrrrrr! We bin learnin' all the week, and now we be tired!) This was compounded by a party we had on Friday night, wherein there was much revelry and excessive drinking. (You can see a video highlight here. It was shot with someone's mobile phone, so the quality is sketchy but you expect that from me after CP's midget-dance. The orchestra leader is my teammate, Kieren.)

I had an early night, with a 2AM departure since my ride to MK was going. I think the final party went down at around 430. We needed help to make it through our lectures.

So we devised a plan wherein we would get as many Elvis song titles into our comments as possible. And as luck would have it, the first lecture of the day was in People Management and the subject was Employment Law, specifically relating to sexual harassment. Start thinking of puns you can play with Elvis songs. There are a lot. In fact, I think the total in the PMAN lecture was around 20, including 6 in one sentence from my teammate, Joe. (I missed this lecture, as my ride back to school decided we didn't want to be there, which was okay by me, actually.)

The day went down from there. No one had prepared properly for the Finance lectures, so we sat like deer in headlights while our lecturer went through the case studies. I had actually understood the pre-reading, but couldn't figure out how to run the numbers in the second case study and I was a bit clueless there, as well. Our lecturer has been a sport about helping people understand things before our test and he knew of our party the night before, so he tried to go easy on us by not putting us on the spot (which he usually does.) I felt bad that no one was volunteering. Unfortunately, I didn't know the answers so I couldn't really help out.

During the Strategic Management lecture it was day two of presentations, and since my team had done ours on Friday I was able to relax a bit and catch up on email. I giggled a bit during my friend Nadine's presentation...she was covering a company with a name that escapes me but that she shortened to "BM." When you haven't had a lot of sleep, it's easy to turn into an 8 year old and find someone saying "BM" over and over amusing. I wish I were more of an adult, but I'm not.

So finally it was 5:20. We were down to one hour left. It was time for Supply Chain Management, which I have taken to calling Trucking and Shipping because so far we've pretty much focused on distribution channels and I hate it. We had a new lecturer who had one of those accents that amuses me. He kept talking about "Eu-wop". And then someone made a comment that included the phrase "Turning Japanese." Which was followed by a comment that included the phrase "Eye of the Tiger," and another that including "Living in America." The next hour was a cavalcade of covert song puns, all made with relative relevance to the lecture going on. There were Elvis songs. There were 80's songs. There was much talk about Teddy Bear manufacturers and how something that is Big in Japan may not go over well with the Kids in America. Every time someone raised their hand, you could see people brace themselves so they wouldn't burst out with full-on laughter. That poor lecturer must have thought we were nuts.

Finally at 630 it was over. I jumped in the car, headed home and was on the sofa watching Pride and Prejudice (the definitive CF version) by 8pm. Have spent today catching up on blogs, practicing my Pirate, finishing P&P and napping. I have a written analysis of case to do on India for Macroeconomics by October 6th, a presentation for Managing Information Technologies and another WAC for Trucking and Shipping by the 20th, and a few team projects being led by others to review in the next few weeks. I just keep telling myself that this is fun. And that next time I'll find a way to slip Come on, Eileen into a comment in class.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Luck

The following list was created by my tutor, Ruth. I saw it posted in her office last week when I stopped by to review my first term and to discuss electives for next year. Ruth is a faithful reader of this blog, and I asked if I could share it with you. She has kindly agreed.

Those who know me will realise that the sort of person who would write this is very much the sort of person who should be advising me.

Thanks, Ruth.

Things I wish I’d known when I was 30

  1. Don’t avoid talking to people who are dying.
  2. Don’t avoid talking to the bereaved.
  3. Most people don’t want to see you fail.
  4. Everyone’s scared sometimes.
  5. Bad things happen, but you do get over them; or replace them with other bad things.
  6. Take comfort from the fact that most people don’t care enough to notice.
  7. Never be arrogant enough to assume that impressions don’t matter. They do. A lot.
  8. Never lose your temper in public.
  9. The customer’s always right, but he’s not always the right customer. Ditto the boss.
  10. If you can’t do anything about it, it’s not your problem.
  11. Not everything is your fault. It really isn’t.
  12. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes. Most of them don’t matter after a while.
  13. Very few people can keep a secret.
  14. Swearing isn’t clever.
  15. It’s difficult to worry about several big things at once.
  16. You shouldn’t let your self-image depend on other people.
  17. Being good at filing makes life simpler.
  18. People think in different ways; they’re not all wrong.
  19. Money is important; it makes life easier.
  20. Give money when people need it.
  21. Ask questions and then listen to the answers.
  22. Most tasks are easier than you think they’ll be.
  23. Have an agenda. And a plan. But it’s okay to ignore them.
  24. A lot of stuff goes on in other people’s lives; don’t assume that you know what they’re thinking.
  25. Always say ‘thank you’. Especially when it’s not expected.
  26. Speaking only one language, however well, is ignorant.
  27. Learn to say No. And Yes.
  28. It always seems like a good idea at the time. The tabloids mightn’t agree.
  29. It’s okay not to like champagne.
  30. No job is permanent; probably, nothing is.

Written by Ruth, September 2006.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Another week of school

I am one day in to seven consecutive days of school. When it's done, I'll have two more weekends of classes, one weekend of revising, and three days of exams and then I'll be halfway through my MBA.

I am feeling a lot of pressure today.

Lucky or accurate?

CANCER (June 22-July 22). Self-awareness is high, which will allow you to pinpoint your preferences. Personal development pays off in unforeseen ways. Tonight you could give an impressive performance.

This is my horoscope for the day.

I don't put a lot of stock in horoscopes, but I am a religious reader of them. I mean, just in case they are harbingers of my future, it can't hurt to be prepared, you know? But I am ultimately a bit of a skeptic and feel they're mostly just party tricks like balancing a spoon on your nose or opening beer bottles with your teeth.

And then sometimes you live your day and you read your horoscope at night and you think OOO! That's a little spooky. Today is one of those days.

I just spent the day (830 - 6) at school in an Assessment Centre. It was brutal. Make that BRUTAL. Here is a summary of the day. If any of this sounds easy or uncomplicated, let me assure you it was not. Plus it all just kept coming at you, a seemingly endless list of tasks and self reflection and problems to solve, with people everywhere just WATCHING you.

It started with a two-hour "In Tray" exercise, where we were given a stack of memos for a fake company and we had to do forecasting and communications exercises like we were their new GM. I finished about 1/4 of that exercise due to poor time management and lack of caffeination. (Remember, I do drink caffeine in the morning, usually in copious amounts.)

Quick break for tea, and then we had to take Ability Tests that were measurements of verbal, numeric, and logic. Break.

Into little rooms where you were given ten minutes to prepare a "sell yourself" speech for a group of international managers, and then asked to give a five minute presentation that was videotaped for your review. The facilitator gave us verbal feedback (I was told I did well,) and then it was lunchtime.

20 minutes of sandwich eating. 10 minutes of coffee drinking. Back at it.

One hour of "meeting evaluation"...my group of six were given a business portfolio to skim read, and then we role-played as senior managers who were trying to set strategy. There were evaluators around the room furiously writing notes about our individual interactions in the group. Break.

Upstairs, for a one hour interview to gauge my ability to manage, process, change, and filter information. Break.

Two hours of class time, including an explanation of the written feedback on our performance that comes tomorrow, as well as detailed personality profiles and 360 feedback from our colleagues. (Summary: I'm a leader, a communicator, a charismatic ideas person, but I don't like to complete tasks or mess with details. Oh. And my direct reports and most of my colleagues and managers think I'm great, I judge myself harshly, but not as harshly as one of the three managers that filled out my appraisal. Hmmm)

If my horoscope is correct, this day is going to pay off. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

How to enjoy a Thursday Night

After a long day at work, I recommend the following:

Change clothes. I picked yoga pants and a glow-in-the-dark tshirt from here.

Run to the gym. Work out your frustrations on the treadmill.

Come home sweaty. Pound a glass of water while you make dinner. I chose a "Count-On-Us Ham and Mushroom Pizza" from M&S and a salad with cos lettuce, tomatoes, spring onions, and a basic mustard vinaigrette.

Eat dinner. Drink another glass of water.

Go in the kitchen and grab the Makers Mark.

Ice the shaker. Three parts MM, one part plus a kiss of sweet vermouth, three dashes bitters. Cap the thing and shake it like a hurricane, preferably dancing about to Soul City.(If you've got my 40@40 it's on there.) Serve up with a cherry, or a strawberry if that's what you have.

Sit down on the sofa and watch the new season of Extras whilst you sip your delicious nectar of gods.

The Wonders of Fark

I seem to have mistakenly accused our friend, Bubs, of being a Farker. I suppose that sounds dirty if you don't know about this. The smartest people on the internet are on Fark, or so says my friend Brad. I think he's onto something.

So sorry, Bubs...but with your encyclopedic knowledge of ridiculous news stories from obscure sources, I just assumed.

And if you weren't before, I'm thinking you might be now. Oh, and it was the tinfoil hat thing that made the connection.

The Essence of Evil, Part 2

My, my....such a little post causing such a ruckus!

I can't defend myself. Everything you say is true.

I used to be a triple-americano-with-room twice a day. I was on a first name basis with every barista at Uptown Espresso on Queen Anne. If I splurged on a cappuccino, one even made an "M" in the foam for me. Hell, I actually SAY barista, for god's sake. But I don't say "Ven-Tea" OR "Ven-tay"... I just call it "the big-un" to piss them off.

I am well aware of the evil in my life. But frankly, it's sometimes just so much WORK to make coffee in the AM. I blame the tea culture. Kettles boil water almost instantly. With lightening fast PG Tips Pyramid Tea Bags, you can brew a strong cup in about 20 seconds and be merrily sipping away whilst you watch the morning chat shows talk about what the "world-famous Haircut One Hundred" is doing these days, or about some couple in York whose dog taught their cat to fetch.

You become addicted to the quick fix, and in the absence of a flip-the-switch-and-shower drip pot, other methods seem so difficult, what with all that brewing time. So you buy premium instant coffee from M&S, you tell yourself it tastes good, and soon you forget the loveliness of a fine french roast or a properly pulled espresso. It's like Brit pizza...I've come to accept the doughy crust and the uninspired sauce, even though I'd much prefer a zesty square from Red's Savoy Inn.

As to the decaf, that's just age. I have become somewhat of an insomniac, and I find if I have caffiene after about 7PM, I'm guaranteed to be watching tv at 3 AM. Do you know what they play on tv at 3AM here? It's not pretty.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I am a sinner

I don't know what came over me. I don't know why I did it.

I know better. I really do. I didn't even want to do it, it just kind of crept up on me. It started innocently enough...I told myself it was a one-off situation....I promised I would never do it again. But then the next day came, and I did.

I have started drinking instant coffee. And I like it.

I am so ashamed.

And even worse...I've expanded into decaf now.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

To CP

So after a rather heavy post yesterday, I am going to lighten my mood with this one. I dedicate this to my dear CP.(We're the one in the pink.)
xxoo

Monday, September 11, 2006

Ground Zero + 40 blocks

There is a blog effort to remember the victims of September 11, 2001 called Project 2,996. Their main website is inundated and seems to be down for the day, so instead I'm linking to Beth at Cup of Coffey, has links to other bloggers who are participating. Bloggers are taking time today to write a little bio and pay tribute to the people who paid with their lives when the planes downed the WTC, smashed the Pentagon, and hit a field in PA. My heart aches for their friends and loved ones, who have to live with this sadness the rest of their lives.

I'm so sorry.

I didn't get my act together to enroll, so I don't represent one of the 2,996. Instead, I'm going to tell you my story. I don't talk about this often...even if you ask me directly...and I'm unlikely to start anytime soon. But I think of it. All the time. It informs everything I do. It's one of the happy stories. I am lucky. I am charmed.

I ramble, so this is long. You don't need to read it. But I feel like getting this out tonight.

9 Sept 01 - my company was doing a multi-million dollar presentation for a financial services customer on Monday the 10th and I had to be in New York ...since I hadn't seen Tom and George in ages, so I decided to fly in a day early. Took a Sun Country flight full of Jehovah's Witnesses to JFK. They gave me hershey's kisses and a copy of the Watchtower to read. Had a nice chat with the lady across the aisle, and wished her a friendly farewell when we parted in the terminal. My friend Tom (CP to those who know us through blogs) picked me up and took me to Brooklyn. Georgie and Tom and I went for all you can eat sushi. We belly-laughed and had classic TomandMindy time. We talked about how cool our lives were, now that we were jet setters. Went home and pressed our suits. Slept well. I was happy.

10 Sept 01 - Tom and I rushed around in our undies and ate breakfast and got dressed. Tom had an interview at a law firm about 10 blocks from my office, so we were sharing a car into the city. Just as we crossed into Manhattan my phone rang. Presentation delayed...instead of doing it in our offices uptown today, we were doing it at the WTC on Tuesday AM.

Cool! Another day in the city! Amid promises to call Tom if I had time, we kissed each other for luck and said goodbye...Tom jumped out of the car and waved me off. "Love and Miss You!" he shouted...our traditional farewell.

I called my folks, who were in Minneapolis for a few days and were expecting me at dinner that night. "Sorry, won't be there until tomorrow night...but I get to present tomorrow at the WTC...how cool is that?" They were excited for me.

Spent the day working on the proposal and took a late lunch at a funky Italian place where we had too much wine for a Monday afternoon. Strolled back to our offices where all hell had broken loose. Our sales account manager and the client were in the middle of a huge row on the phone.

She told him to "go fuck himself"...if he was going to steal our ideas he could bloody well come uptown and get them himself. Bad call, Hillary. Never use the F-word with a customer.

Called Tom to cancel our plans for the night. He'd had a good interview, and was bummed we couldn't celebrate. Next time. Love and Miss You!

The presentation was off, then on, then off again.

Final score at 7PM - We'd won this round...Presentation ON, in our office building on Sixth Ave, just south of Radio City Music Hall, 9AM sharp. Not sure if the clients would show, but the plan was set.

I was glad I'd remembered extra underwear. Slept well. I was happy.

11 Sept 2001

The clients started arriving around 830. We chatted over coffee, and then opened a conference call with a woman who had to stay in her office at the WTC because she had another meeting. More small talk...and then she stopped talking and started saying, "Oh MYGOD!" Echoing all over the conference room....OHMYGOD, OHMY GOD! She told us a plane had hit the other tower and they were being evacuated. She said a fast goodbye and hung up. We're thinking Cessna. What a moron!

We wanted more info. We went upstairs to our main office where there was a TV. Couldn't get any reception. I left them to work on it and called my mom. I was thinking she'd be worried, and I wanted to tell her I was okay. She didn't know anything about this plane-into-building thing. She turned on the Today show. Told me what she saw.

Oh my.

I promised her I was fine. I was 40 blocks away (though she doesn't know New York and I later learned that meant nothing to her.) Told her I loved her. Lost cell phone service after that, so didn't talk to her again until I was somewhere in Pennsylvania.

We found a Spanish language channel that gave us a picture, and my colleague Paul tried to translate since he speaks Italian. We had a radio with English updates. Our clients were panicking....their offices were there...their friends were there....they felt helpless and freaked out. The second plane hit. The towers fell. The Pentagon got hit by a plane from NYC.

Oh no. Tom was flying to DC this morning. Where was he??? Was he okay????

Phones didn't work. Planes were bombing us at one every 15 minutes. We were under attack. I'm in a room of strangers...people I'd met the day before, people I'd only known from a few hour-long meetings in a conference room. The world was ending, and I felt completely alone.

But I couldn't cry.

I finally got a phone line. I called our office in MSP. We'd checked out of the hotel we were in, so I asked them to get us rooms somewhere for the night, preferably out of the tourist areas that might be targets for more attacks. We stayed in our offices until noon, then figured we had to go somewhere....we felt vulnerable, and our clients were in shock and wanted to get home. It was a long walk ahead of them to Long Island and New Jersey.

We went into the street. It's noon on a Tuesday. It's Sixth Avenue. It was silent. Hundreds and hundreds of people walking north, in total, utter silence. No honking of horns. No pushing, no shouting. Silence.

Buses went past with white, sooty people pressed against the windows. Blood on their foreheads or arms looked really red against the ash. People clustered around mailboxes, listening to boom boxes for news of the world. You could whisper a request for an update, and someone would tell you the latest in a hushed tone.

We moved to Fifth Avenue and started walking towards the park. The shops had their riot windows down. People were sitting on curbs, resting their feet. Crying. No one would look downtown.

Silence.

It was a clear day, warm and sunny...but there was something in the air that made it hard to breathe so we decided to walk at a slower pace. We had about 50 blocks ahead of us. No hurry. Nowhere to go.

Where was Tom???? Verizon mobiles were still working, so I borrowed Brenda's phone. I called his mobile. Left a message. Please call me to tell me you're okay...you'll get voicemail, but eventually I'll know. Love and Miss You.

I didn't cry.

We strategised as we walked. I got directions to a car rental place and made Paul run the 10 blocks out of our way to get a car, ANY CAR they'd give him. Stand there, don't move, MAKE them give you keys. There are five of us...I don't care if we cram in like clowns....we'll get something bigger once we're out of the city. It would be our only way out.

When we got to our hotel, we looked out over the Queensborough bridge at the slow-motion marathon of people slowly walking home. Thousands of them, crossing the bridge, miles to go before dark.

It was a sunny day.

I didn't cry.

Got a call through to work. Gave my friend Mark a few family phone numbers and asked him to call people to tell them I was okay. He sent me to my voicemail. I changed my outgoing message for callers so they knew that I was safe. I listened to my messages.

Message one...my mom. Mindy, where are you? You said you were four blocks from the WTC....are you okay?

Two...Tom. Crying. Panicked. Desperate. Please tell me you're okay. Please tell me you weren't in that building. Please. Love and miss you. Please be okay. Love and miss you. Love you.

We sat in the lobby with other lost souls, watching CNN for updates. The bridges were closed. No one was leaving. We went to a restaurant on Second Avenue for lunch. They'd decorated with angels everywhere we looked. This made us feel better.

Paul showed up with the car. A Mercury Marquis we nicknamed the Silver Bullet. Brenda and Lisa were panicked at the thought of leaving, Paul, Jean and I were not about to stay. We agreed to part ways, with B&L hanging out to wait for flights and P,J, and me hitting the road.

Drove the wrong way on a one-way through the Bronx. By the time we got to the GWB they'd closed it again...explosives in a Ryder truck in the middle of the bridge....We headed north to the Henry Hudson Bridge and were the last car they let out for the night.

Once we reached the Tappan Zee Bridge, we had no choice...we had to look down the Hudson at the city behind.

The smoke and dust and fire made for a beautiful sunset, silhouetting the city in a burst of colour. I took a picture. Never got it developed. Don't need to.

We drove through the night, taking turns at the wheel while the others called their loved ones to tell them we were okay.

Still couldn't find Tom. Had he gotten my message? Did he know I was fine? Where was he? Was he okay?

Somewhere in the middle of Pennsylvania, Jean said it. What we'd been thinking for 15 hours. What no one wanted to say. We were supposed to be in that building. We were supposed to be in that building, only a few floors from where the plane hit. We were supposed to be there.

But we weren't.

Pulled over in Ohio to get some sleep. Turned on the tv. Saw people jumping. Saw flames. Saw planes. Saw buildings tumble. Again. And again. and again.

Called my voicemail. Tom had left me a message. He was okay. He was so glad I was safe.

Finally, I cried. And in some ways I haven't stopped.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Counterpoint

Bush Was Right

My friend Brad sent me this as a response to the Meat Purveyors video, so I figure I'll post it in the spirit of bi-partisanship. It's deluded, but it's better than that moron Toby Keith.

I mean, it's hard for them to compete, bless them. What with all "the gays" and "diversity" on this side of the aisle, everyone knows our side has all the talent. Consider...

Liberals = Spielberg, Stewart and Colbert, Springsteen, Fountains of Wayne, They Might Be Giants, OK Go

Conservatives = Tom Selleck, Kelsey Grammar, Drew Carey, Pat Boone (not to mention Britney, K-Fed, and Jessica Simpson)

Must I go on?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Look On Your Face

This is good music AND a good message from The Meat Purveyors.
Kim Lenz

See, this ain't so bad!
S.C.O.T.S,

This is what I'm talking about. I decided this Conan clip was best, because even a toned-down S.C.O.T.S visual (as opposed to a live show clip) is better than just sound. (I'm lifting my Makers Mark to all y'all as I type.) Oh. And have I mentioned that I think Rick Miller is the sexiest man in rock?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Brits don't get country music

I had a couple of friends over for a beer. Put the iPod on a mix of some of my favourite alt country and rockabilly basics. Here are a few of the artists that grace that mix:

Hem
Gillian Welch
Neko Case
Cigar Store Indians
Caitlin Cary
Kim Lenz and her Jaguars
The Honeybees
The Paladins
Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys
The Bad Livers
The Meat Purveyors
Damnations TX
BR5-49
Hank Williams III

They wanted to know what it was and when it would stop. Sigh. They just don't get it.

But there's an American expat event tomorrow night in London at an alt-country bar, and if I can get out of work on time I'm going.

Monday, September 04, 2006

No good, very bad day

Everyone has one now and again. But as no-good-very-bad-days go, this one was one of the no-good-very-baddest of them all.

I am under serious deadlines at work. And I'm working on most of them with the same guy. Who is, shall we say, not my favourite. And the thing that amazes me is that he can spend hours telling you what you must do to earn his trust and respect, yet he does not once stop to consider that he also has to earn yours. I cannot fathom being that boorish. How can one not even pause for a second to acknowledge one's culpability for the fact that no one enjoys working with you?

You'd be proud of me...I kept my temper. (Okay, you can be a little disappointed, too, as my tempers make for better blogging.) I listened to him, and I continued to attempt to make my point even when he wasn't listening to me. When he asked me why I'd been repeating myself for 15 minutes I explained that it was simply because he'd yet to hear what I was saying. When I suggested I could continue talking all night, if that's what it took, I think he realised I meant it. He agreed to set the meeting tomorrow that I'd been asking for.

He's been very busy. I should know, as I've been writing all of the briefs that are currently draining his energy. And he wanted to get home to his family. I understand. My house is only 5 minutes from the office, I've got stacks of homework to do, and I was hours away from getting here. But I've been trying to pin him down to review concerns with our project for almost a week now (four business days, to be exact,) and he only made time for me this AM. Now we've thrown out all of our original plans made over the last two weeks, and have three days left to write an entirely new proposal, and that deadline may be shortened to two since he neglected to mention until earlier this evening that he is out of the office on Friday.

He treats me like I'm a mouth-breather with shiny lips of drool. Fair play to him...he has standards, and I haven't earned his trust and respect yet. Good thing he's a complete asshole and I don't want it anymore.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Books

I was tagged a week ago by CP, but with way too much going on at work and too many things in my personal life to distract me, I have not had time to respond.

This is a hard assignment. Since most of my fellow bloggers have already responded to this, I know you understand when I say that books aren't a hobby or a part of my life, they are an integral part of who I am. Narrowing the list of books I've read down to a few influences or opinions is like asking a parent to pick a favourite child. You might get a joking reply, but the reality is way more complex.

My opinions of books change with time, as well. I make a habit of rereading important books periodically, not necessarily for what the book has to say but as a way to assess my personal growth. For example, as a young adult I found the work of Milan Kundera to be profound, honest, and beautiful. I read The Book of Laughter and Forgetting when I was in high school, and moved on to The Joke, and The Unbearable Lightness of Being in my early twenties. I loved that he and his characters were Czech (as is my last name), and I loved his intellectual and artistic references. I loved his distant, nihilistic worldview. But when I reread him at thirty I thought, "What a fatuous narcicist. Cheer the f**k up, pal." This got me thinking about the ways my own worldview had changed, how life had given me perspective, how I'd let go of some of that overwhelming anger that drove me when I was younger and was actually engaging with my life. Great learning, but perhaps not what the author intended.

Like CP, I am currently not an owner of books. I sold most all of them before I moved to the UK because it seemed foolish to pay storage fees for paperbacks. And while I kept a few significant works that I knew I'd want to see again in a few years, I didn't pay the shipping on the non-essentials. I'm currently engaging in "Read and Release" at bookcrossing.com, so the shelves here only have things waiting to be read or recently completed. You are therefore left with whatever springs to mind. They may not be the answers I'd give if I were sititng in my library, and they are definitely NOT the answers I'll give you in 10 years. But they are my answers for now.

A book that has changed your life

Squares Are Not Bad, Violet Salazar

Written in 1967, this book is light blue, about eight inches square, and has simple illustrations. Mind you, I don't own it anymore...I had a wacko roommate during my first senior year of college, and I believe she stole this book from my belongings when she moved out. (She also tore down and ripped up my official party images of Castro and Gorbachev while she was "cleaning.") But the power of this book is so great that I can close my eyes and see it. It's selling for $40 on Alibris...I may just buy a copy for future reference.

Anyway, the BOOK...Circles live in Circle Town. Squares live in Square Town, Triangles live in Triangle town. And everyone knows that they themselves are smart and pretty and wonderful, and that the other shapes are stupid and ugly and bad, bad, BAD. Thanks to poor urban planning, however, Circle Town is built on a hill....and when the Squares start a rumble, all hell breaks loose. Everyone goes rolling down the hill, the Triangles and the Rectangles come running to see what's causing the ruckus, and when the dust clears they all see a few wounded shapes in a pile....they are piled in a heap that makes them look like a house or something. So the shapes start to think, "Hey! By ourselves we are merely circles/squares/triangles/rectangles, but if we work together we can create all sorts of things!" They form a train (or a "choochoo," as I called it in those days,) and they dance off into the night, singing a diversity song. "We are glad, glad, glad! Being different is not bad!"

Gave me my mantra for the first few years of my life. Heck, I think I said that to myself just the other day.

A book that you have read more than once

Animal Dreams,
Barbara Kingsolver

A classic in chick-lit for the brainiac girl. There's a love story (with a dishy bad-boy ex-lover), social justice (involving Nicaraguans and Native Americans), poignant family tales (her distant father has Alzheimer's and is dying,) and all sorts of self-examination. This book always raises my spirits, so I reread it when I need a lift.

A book that makes you laugh

Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris

I agree with echo. This book is one of the funniest things on the planet. Laugh-out-loud funny. As are all works of Mr. S, but this one is the masterpiece, in my humble opinion.

I also agree with CP, though...A Confederacy of Dunces is sheer genius, as well, and I've had many a laugh whilst reading a Roberston Davies book, as well.

A book that makes you cry

Everything is Illuminated, Jonathan Safran Foer
The Adventures of Kavalier and Klay, Michael Chabon
Complete Poems, 1904 - 1962, e.e. cummings

A book you wish you'd written

The Holy Bible

Then I'd have a cohesive argument for those people that I instinctively know are bastardising God's word. Plus, I like to think I'd have added some humour and edited some of that "begatting" that happens early in the plot, as it's not really crucial to what comes next.

A book that you wish had never been written

My joking response to this is The Catcher in the Rye, as it's provided a justification for some seriously bad behaviour in this world. Don't get me wrong, it was my constant companion as a kid, but I'm just saying...

My actual answer is:

The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen

What a load of depressing, uninteresting, annoying blather. If I met any of these people I'd give them a good smack. Especially that brother that's lost his job teaching at the university. Sheesh. Can't really go into too much detail here, as CP has the task of identifying the point in the novel at which I threw it across the room. But MAN I hated this book. Didn't finish it. Got it out of the house the day that I decided I'd had it with it and wouldn't be sacrificing any more of my time. P-L-E-H, PLEH.

Books you are currently reading

Principles of Macroeconomics, Joseph G. Nellis and David Parker
Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Martin Christopher
Managing Business FInance, D.R. Myddelton
Saving Fish from Drowning, Amy Tan
Special Topics in Calamity Physics, Marisha Pessl
The Areas of my Expertise, John Hodgman
The Undercover Economist,
Tim Harford
So Many Ways to Begin, Jon McGregor