Sunday, October 30, 2005

Sparse blogging on the horizon, or at least I assume that will be the case as I attempt to become a novelist for the month of November.

Here's why this is important: from the time I could string sentences together, I had decided I was going to write a novel. I figured I'd have it finished by the time I turned 13. I reached 13 and generously gave myself an extension to age 20. When I was 20, I was entrenched in college and parenting, which I felt was good for another ten-year extension. Next month I turn 30, which means it's pay-up time. I'm good for it. Procrastination is my thing.

After hooking up with a few NaNo folks this afternoon, I'm all full of enthusiasm and purpose. I think I get it now. It's like singing at full tilt in your car with the stereo cranked. You don't have to know the words. No one cares if you're in tune. The point is just to keep singing. All month. 50,000 words' worth.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

I have just returned (to my desk) from a great and perilous journey to the farthest reaches of the building.

And let me just tell you right now, the length of this blog is exactly 1,667 words, which is the number of words I need to write every day for my NaNoWriMo novel. So if it seems long, you're right, it is. Bring a snack.

It all started in a meeting on how to promote the 8th edition of a nursing textbook, and the book's editor had an idea.

"Lo, and we shall have a brochure that does depict a grand collage of all book covers of editions past! Editions one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven shall be pictured on the brochure, proudly displayed in their historical significance beside the new 8th edition."

It wasn't a bad idea. We'd never really done anything like it, which is always my first complaint whenever we're asked to execute something that specific. Like, let's put the book cover on the front of the brochure! Same as every other brochure! And we'll show a student.. a happy student… and she's happy because this book is really student-friendly and accessible. But it's got comprehensive coverage of the material, you get me? Are you feeling it? Student-friendly, accessible, and complete! That's our hook. Hell, that's our headline! I think we've nailed it here, people.

After about five of those meetings in a week, I start picking at my wrists with my fingernails to see if I can find a vein.

But this concept might be worth pursuing, and it might even be fun. Tracy, my design teammate, always the pragmatist, asked where we might find images of the covers from such aged editions? Were there digital files somewhere? Did they have hard copies of the books that we could scan?

They handed us editions six and seven, and wished us luck.

Tracy caught up with me after the meeting. "Would you like to accompany me on a little scavenger hunt?"

Our Quest began in the most logical of all places, the corporate library.

It's a gamble what you're likely to find in this library.* Many years ago, it was managed properly with card indexing and a system for checking books out. We had a librarian on staff who was very sweet and willing to help you find a certain book or obtain permissions from other publishers if you were working on a manuscript that included references or tables or artwork from books that weren't ours. Very handy. But after a few mergers and shifts of ownership, our librarian is gone (her office has been converted to a conference room) and the stacks are spottily populated with certain books here and there, with no real logic behind any of it.

But it was a good starting point. I headed for the shelf it should be on, figuring I could begin with optimism at least.

And there, lo and behold, sitting on its shelf in perfect alphabetical order was a beat-up copy of the fifth edition.

This early success inspired us to keep searching. We scoured every tiny little bookcase in every hallway and every abandoned office. We asked managing editors, developmental editors, publishers, even editorial assistants if they had ever heard of the book. Those that had merely shook their heads when we asked for anything older than the sixth edition. "Did you check the library?" some asked.

We walked in circles for a while, examining bookcases we'd already seen. "There's no way," I said, beginning to lose hope. "The old editions don't exist anymore."

"I wonder if they ever did."

"You know, there's one place we haven't checked yet…"

By that, I meant Production.** The production department and my own Creative Services are polar opposites. We toss footballs, play with play dough, and fill out Mad Libs with fart humor of a third-grade level sophistication. Production has no patience for anything loud, childish, or playful. This is a business, people, and we're here to have as little fun as possible, now will you please keep it down. I've often thought that if you brought Production into direct contact with Creative Services, we'd explode like a matter/antimatter reaction.

With some reluctance, we climbed the stuffy stairwell to the second floor. Production assistants and project managers looked up from their proofs and printouts, eyeing the outsiders with suspicion.

While wandering those eerily quiet halls, we stumbled upon what appeared to be a conference room undergoing a transition into a makeshift library. Stacks of books were leaning against the walls, ready to be shelved. "Do not remove books from this room," said a severely handwritten sign by the door.

We looked at each other, then ran a finger down the rudimentarily alphabetized shelves. S…R…Q…P… "Oh my God… it's the FOURTH EDITION!"

Tracy held it out from her in wonderment and a light seemed to shine down on it from above.

I glanced nervously behind me. "We can't take it. These people shun daylight and drink the blood of animals."

"Well, what should we do? Ask?"

She propped the Holy Grail up on the floor to lean against the shelf.

"Who's in charge up here?" I said.

"I don't know," said Tracy. "Why don't you go back out into the hall and shout for help really loudly."

"Are you trying to get us killed?"

But it wasn't long before we found someone who would listen to our situation. We confessed to being stumped and asked for suggestions.

"Try the mail room," she said.

We chuckled. The mail room! Who says Production people don't have a sense of humor.

But she went on. "Rick in the mail room keeps tabs on old books."

"Okay!" said Tracy. "We'll, uh, try the mail room. And by the way, you know the room full over books right over there? We found on of the editions we need… do you think it'd be okay to borrow it?"

"Sure," she answered. "Just let someone know."

"Right." A pause. Then Tracy said, very deliberately, "We're… going to… borrow that book."

"Okay," she said.

Tracy and I exchanged a sideways glance and then backed away.

The mail room. Assuming we weren't being led astray for the twisted amusement of our Production sister, this Quest was now about to take us to, of all places, the darkest, loneliest corner of the building. The mail room. As the door opened onto concrete flooring and warehouse shelving, I could have sworn I heard a flutter of bats scattering overhead.

"So this is where old books go to die?" I whispered.

"Rick…?" called Tracy, her voice echoing off the far walls.

A figure stepped out from behind a towering shelf of boxing materials. His shoes clacked against the hard floor and he was holding something, thwapping it against the palm of his other hand. A box cutter. That wasn't intimidating or anything.

"Yep. Whatcha need?" he asked. I'd said hi to Rick in the halls, and he's a nice guy. But surrounded by his domain, in the dim, poorly distributed light, he seemed a little more rough around the edges.

"Yes," said Tracy, stepping up to the proverbial plate while I pretended to be very interested in a stack of Fed Ex labels. "We were told that you might have something to do with locating some old editions of a textbook."

"How old," said Rick.

"Old!" I said. "Like the 80's."

"Ohh…" Rick scratched the stubble on his chin with the edge of his box cutter. "Yep. Those are gonna be at Iron Mountain."

"Sweet Christ!" I blurted out. "Iron Mountain! Are there dragons?"

"Which ring do we use to get back? The green one? Or the yellow?"

Rick acknowledged neither of these references and led us deeper in to the warehouse to his desk, which contained stacks of white printouts gummed up with dusty fingerprints. He picked up a handful of papers and studied the top one for a moment. "Yep," he mused. "Iron Mountain. That's where everything that old is archived."

It slowly dawned on us that Iron Mountain was an archiving service, not another stage of our journey to be conquered or climbed.

"Tell you what," said Rick. "Can you send me an email letting me know the author and title of the books you need? I'll get to it first thing in the morning."

It seemed funny to me to think of anyone tapping away at email surrounded by delivery truck exhaust and packing tape. But why not?

On the way out, Tracy said, "Look! Iron Mountain." She was pointing to a stack of boxes with Iron Mountain imprinted on the side.

"Why have I never heard of it until now?" I said.

"Who even knew there was an archive?"

"It's not as if there would be a system in place for instances like this. That would be silly."

Tracy rolled her eyes at me. "What, and eliminate fun excursions like this to the bowels of the building searching for something as simple as an archived textbook?"

We walked back in silence for a while. Then I said, "I did kind of want to go to Iron Mountain, though."

A song began playing slowly, sadly in my head.

Oh, to live on Iron Mountain
With the barkers and the colored balloons,
You can't be twenty on Iron Mountain
Though you're thinking that
you're leaving there too soon,
You're leaving there too soon...

* This is the point in the story where you might interrupt me to say something like, "Wait a minute. Why wouldn't a major publishing company keep copies of all the books it publishes? Doesn't that just make sense?" To which I would reply, "You've never worked in publishing, have you."

** The possibility exists that I have now offended several loyal readers who work in Production. Do not be offended, for most of this blog contains exaggerations added for dramatic effect. I love you, Production. Please don't eat me.

Monday, October 24, 2005

NaNoWriMo is terrifying me. The closer November 1 gets, the more convinced I am that anything I write will be incredibly embarrassing. I have nothing planned. I have no ideas, just half-formed glimmers of idea fetuses.

I'm apparently going to show up on November 1st's doorstep naked and empty-handed, hoping for charity's sake that arrangements have been made to hook me up with a stray plot (or at least a handful of characters).

I would love to tell you I haven't written anything fictional in years and that's what's holding me back, but of course that's not true. I blog, that counts…some elements of most everything I write are fictionalized, you know, uh, to protect the innocent and all that. And writing fiction at work is my specialty! Well, fiction may be too strong a word. Gary calls it "benefeature" writing – turning lame-ass product features into compelling and exciting benefits. (I love him, for he is the coiner of all terms humorous.)

I just need to convince myself that no one ever has to actually read my fetal novel. The problem is, secretly I do want people to read it. I want hundreds of people to read it and tell me lies about how good it is. That's exactly what I want from you, lies. False praises and lies. The more transparent the better.

Feel free to lie about how much you love my blog, as well. Right now. Go.

The comments button is RIGHT THERE, PEOPLE.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Today I thought it might be fun to dig into the back of my closet and pull out some boots, since it's pretty hard to justify wearing sandals in rainy, 58-degree weather. The problem is, these boots I love really hurt my feet after a few hours.

But that's okay! Because unless I'm walking to the bathroom or rummaging around the office for candy, I'm usually sitting at my desk. Feet unseen. I work just fine in socks.

So I wore my cool boots this morning for as long as I could stand it. Then I unzipped the sides and wiggled my feet out of them. The circulation began to trickle back into the balls of my feet. So much better!

Just as I was getting comfy, my phone rang. One of my coworkers said, "Hey, can you come take a look at something on my screen?"

"Sure," I said, propping the phone between my ear and shoulder. I began fumbling around under my desk for my forsaken footware. "I'll be right there. Just let me re-boot."

"Oh!" Pause. "Mine is acting a bit funny today too. I think there's something going on with the network."

MS2 clue 3

MS2 clue 3
Originally uploaded by squeakyweasels.

Ta da! Clue 3 is finished, just in time to start Clue 4.

You are not going to believe what happens next. See those live stitches at top? Well, bind those off and pick up 231 stitches along the other two sides, essentially turning this shawl on its head.

Whoa man! They're blowin' my mind.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

I went to my chiropractor yesterday to make sure my whiplash was nothing serious.

What he said: "Whiplash is serious. Anything that's causing you pain is worth looking into."

What he meant: "You were in a wreck that wasn't your fault? Their insurance is footing the bill? I think I hear a Ferrari calling."

I'm just joking.

He kept me waiting for an hour and a half, I think to prove he loves me. And because all the cool chiropractors are doing it these days. Then he took some x-rays.

As he flicked the film up on the light board, he commented, "These are great-looking x-rays. In terms of technique, I mean."

"My modeling career must finally be paying off," I said.

"Oh, do you model?" he asked, in what I think may actually have been all seriousness.

"That was a joke," I said.

"Well, you could model, that's why I ask."

"Ha ha! That's funny. No really, I was being sarcastic."

"I just assumed you were serious!"

"Yes, well." I tried to think of ways to change the subject.

Just when I thought the horse was completely dead: "Have you ever thought about modeling?"

"Wow, is that my spine up there? Look at the impingement between the 4th and 5th vertebrae! That's got lumbar subluxation written all over it."

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Not long ago, on my way to pick up Gertrude after work, my little red Neon was totaled when another driver decided to make an ill-advised left turn directly into the path of my car. There was much slamming of breaks and inflating of air bags. No one was injured except the vehicles.

Yesterday, on my way to pick up Gertrude after work, another driver decided to make another ill-advised left turn directly into the path of my little green Ion.

Okay, can we pause this story? I love my Ion. I love it like one of my children. It's small, it's green, it's cute, it's made of plastic, and it gets excellent gas mileage. The man who sold it to me after the death of my Neon didn't have to convince me of its intrinsic cuteness, but he did repeatedly insist that Saturns are safe, safe, safe, safe cars. Sure, I said. And throw in some zero-percent financing! We'll take it. I pull my Ion into the garage every night and pat him. He is my beloved.

Now, I'm driving along thinking, of all things, about my Ion and how much I still owe on the loan. And how much it might be worth in five or six years when Matilda is old enough to either drive it or trade it in.

I'm not making this up. Those were actually the thoughts going through my head at the exact moment a silver PT Cruiser came hurtling through two lanes of traffic and impaled itself on the front end of my car.

The PT Cruiser hissed and shuddered. My car merely glared at it. We pulled out of traffic while the PT Cruiser gasped and wheezed and spit fluid into the street.

I got out to look. A few witnesses came up to me and looked too.

"Wow," said a man, shifting his gaze between my car and the ruined PT Cruiser.

"Yeah," I said. "This thing did all right." I patted my car. His bumper had shifted a bit. A piece of his plastic siding was cracked. He grinned up at me with a brave, broken-toothed smile. "Yes, you're a good boy!" I told him.

The other driver, a confused college student wearing too much jewelry, was on her cell phone yelling at her mother. "No, mom. I just got in an accident!… No, it got out early. I didn't skip it!…"

As her car was towed off and the police officer handed us our information, the college student plopped down on the curb with her impractically stylish purse, overstuffed backpack, and large art portfolio. All of a sudden, she looked very, very young. And alone, with no car.

"Do you need a ride anywhere?" I asked her, surprised to find myself feeling protective instead of annoyed.

She looked surprised too. "Um. I think I've got one." She didn't say thanks.

"Okay," I said.

Now bring on the insurance claims.

Monday, October 17, 2005

It's amazing how crabby I become on Monday morning when I'm forced to cut short my weekly easing-into-the-week ritual of methodically listing and ordering the week's scheduled tasks. I like my lists. I do not like having my listings interrupted by impromptu Monday morning meetings. And as a discussion about printing costs and format sizes ate into more and more of my morning list time, I started feeling incredibly unsettled and annoyed.

I have not yet recovered. I may never recover.

But never mind! Because this is the year I'm going to take a stab at writing a novel and shaking loose some of the creative constipation by banging my head against a keyboard into the wee hours of the morning.

It'll be fun, honest. I'll have the bruises to prove it.

Writing doesn't start until November 1, but I'm already off to a great start. I jumped out of bed to jot some ideas on a random piece of paper the other night. Now I cannot find it. And I have no idea what I wrote, except that I'm sure it would be really embarrassing if anyone else were to read it.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

You know, sometimes I entertain myself by thinking about where I was and what I was doing half my life ago. I'm 29 now and half my life ago I was just starting high school.

I know a lot of people enjoyed their high school career, but I really did not. I was nerdy, chubby, and socially backward. I spent most of it engaging in compensatory behaviors and hence dodging referrals to the counselor's office. I can't even tell you how glad I was to get away from the set of mean, snide, privileged, self-satisfied brats with whom I shared way too much personal space five days a week.

Not that work doesn't have its moments, but for the most part...

Top ten reasons why my job is way better than high school

  1. When someone passes you in a narrow hallway while you're carrying an armload of papers, you don't have to worry that the other person is going to smack them down.
  2. When another female tells you she likes your hair today, she's probably not being sarcastic.
  3. You can eat lunch all by yourself if you feel like it.
  4. You don't have to bring a note from your mother in order to get out of any physical activity.
  5. Teams and partners are assigned.
  6. There are no motherfucking pep rallies.
  7. I have a picture of Legolas on my wall, and people are still willing to be seen with me.
  8. There are no loud bells, buzzers, alarms, broadcast announcements, or public prayers.
  9. I no longer have to remember a locker combination.
  10. If you feel something brush the back of your head during a meeting, it's probably not a spitball.

Hooray for being grown up (mostly).

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Mystery Shawl 2 - Clue #2 completed!

Mystery Shawl 2 - Clue #2 completed!
Originally uploaded by squeakyweasels.

Yay, more of the mystery revealed!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Hello and welcome to Remedial Lace Knitting 101. Everyone go ahead and open your textbooks to the chapter on Why Mistakes Cannot Be Ignored.

If you've already ignored a mistake in line 34 and went right on blithely knitting up to line 78 figuring it would all work itself out somehow, raise your hand.


Okay. Now, has anyone made it line 78 and become so freaking pleased with yourself that you removed all previous lifelines, making it impossible to safely rip back your work in a controlled manner?

*yes, that would be me*

Riiiight. Well, did you at least manage to salvage any of the work you did prior to the mistake row?

*looks sadly at bare, empty needles and pile of unraveled yarn at feet*

You have much to learn, Grasshopper.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

If you've been inside your local Target lately, you may have noticed them selling yarn in their $1 section. If you're like me and thought, "Yay! Cheap yarn!" only to get it home and have no idea what to do with it*, may I humbly submit my suggestion:

Two-Dollah Mittens action shot

Fabulous Two-Dollah Mittens

Need: 2 skeins pink boucle Target yarn
A few yards of yarn in a complementary color
Size 4 double pointed needles
crochet hook
tapestry needle

This size will fit a ten-year-old girl, but it also happens to fit me (a medium-sized adult girl). You can adjust your size from there. It's two dollah! What you want for two dollah?

Cast on 30 stitches. Divide stitches equally over 3 needles. Join and work the next 1.5 inches in this exaggerated garter stitch as follows:
R1&2: Knit
R3: Purl
End on a purl row.

Work in 1x1 ribbing (K1, P1) until your mitten cuff measures about 3 inches total length. Increase as follows:
[Increase by knitting into the front and back of the stitch, K9]3 times. Knit the next round. Continue increasing until you have 39 stitches.

Work the first 6 stitches of your first needle. Move these stitches to a safety pin or stitch holder. Knit the rest of the round. When you come back around to the held stitches, cast on 6 stitches and continue knitting until total mitten length is 9 inches.

Decrease the next row: [K1, K2tog]repeat to the end of the round. Knit the next round. Divide stitches equally over 2 needles so that the mitten lays flat with the thumb on the left for the left-hand mitten and thumb on the right for the right-hand mitten. Graft these stitches together and weave the end in inside.

Put the 6 held stitches on a needle. Knit these stitches. Pick up 8 stitches around the thumb hole. Knit in the round until thumb measures 2.5 inches or the length of your thumb. Decrease [K1, K2tog] to the end of the round. Break yarn, thread through stitches, cinch, sew a few stitches over the top to secure, and weave the end in inside.

I would love to tell you how to make the flower, but I have completely forgotten. Just know that it's a simple chain stitch and that each petal is a chain 5 stitches long. Sew flower to wrist cuff using main color yarn.

*Under no circumstances do I recommend actually purchasing this yarn for this project. It's incredibly unfriendly to work with and impossible to undo mistakes. If you make a mistake, you're best off just shrugging it off and living with it. Honestly, go out and buy a skein of some Lion Brand or Red Heart. You'll use about two dollars' worth of it and be much happier.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

I’ve joked before about how there might be bodies buried in my yard. I didn’t actually think there were bodies. It was a joke, okay?

So all summer I’ve been growing tomatoes and peppers along a fence I share with my Russian neighbors, and on the other side of the fence they tend flowers and attract butterflies. Since we basically share the same soil, I felt like it would be the right thing to do to share my tomatoes. I left a big container of tomatoes on their doorstep and walked away feeling pleased with my good deed.

I didn’t want, need, or expect any form of reciprocation.

Yesterday, I was rummaging around in the kitchen trying to find something to make for dinner when the doorbell rang. Gary answered it.

I heard Gary saying things like, “Oh wow! Thank you so much! Yes, they’re beautiful! Thank you!”

As he closed the door, I came around the corner to see what was going on. The next few seconds unfolded like a slow motion scene in a horror film. Gary turned toward me holding two plastic grocery bags. There was something large, wet, and heavy bulging out the sides of each one.

“It’s fish,” he told me.

I heard: “It’s FFFFFFFFF IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII SSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH” because I was stumbling backward in a horrified, knee-jerk recoil.

“That… was… nice… of… them!” I choked.

“Yes!” said Gary, who was clearly trying to figure out how and where to set down the bags without thinking about their contents. “Really… nice!”

I like fish and all. But if I’m going to eat a being, I’m kind of partial to things that haven’t been recently extracted from their natural surroundings for the purpose of my eating it. That may seem like a vague distinction, but let’s just say I can eat fried chicken but I have a hard time squishing bugs.

Gary set the fish down on the counter with a thud and pulled the bags down around them. One of them moved. “OH GOD, IT’S STILL ALIVE!” I shouted. Or maybe Gary shouted it. I don’t remember. I’m traumatized.

The fish wiggled its fin at me and sucked air with its gill. At that point I wanted to cry.

We talked for a while about what the hell we were going to do. Neither one of us had it in us to clean it or otherwise conceptualize it as food. We spent an hour or so on the phone with everyone we could think of who might enjoy fishing or be willing to accept a gift of dead fish. We talked about giving them to a food pantry, bestowing them upon folks who fish at the lake nearby our house, and yes, even burying them in the back yard.

We had not yet, at this point, reached the level of detachment needed to find humor in the situation, and so we did not immediately start throwing out ideas for our Top Five Things to Do With a Dead Fish list, or the Top Five People We’d Like to Give a Dead Fish To. That would come later.

Gary packed the fish in ice in our cooler and put them in the garage. I tried to find something to make for dinner that had never had its own spine.

There are bodies out there, and I think I’ll be having nightmares for months.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Despite the fact that I spend most of my work day being best friends with a keyboard, I'm not the world's greatest typist. My fingers can do qwerty without thinking about it, but when one hand shifts just a few milimeters in one direction, it takes me a while to notice that what I think I'm typing isn't what's coming out.

Lots of times I think I'm typing "FINAL" on a status report. I'm actually calling my projects "FUBAK". And I don't even know what that means. But I bet I could guess.

When I put my name at the end of an email, sometimes I'm unware of signing off as Cjros.

That's my alien identity, apparently. Creepy.

Better go attend to the piles of fubak on my desk.


Saturday, October 01, 2005

Mystery Shawl - Clue 1 DONE

Mystery Shawl - Clue 1 done
Originally uploaded by squeakyweasels.

Look ma, lace!

This is the first clue. I love it. It's addictive. I want more. But now I have to wait until next Friday for the next clue.

Oh, and those needles? Did you know Laura made them? She actually made them for Matilda, but I've commandeered them for this shawl, and they work great. Knitting a lace shawl on handcrafted needles just seemed like the right thing to do.