Monday, August 30, 2010

The Double-Edged Sword of Witness

It was one of those days. I had an early morning dental appointment and an afternoon headache. I spent the day chasing problems and not catching them. I didn't finish the tasks I'd set out for myself. I was so tired in the afternoon I was literally nodding off at my desk. And then just as I was about to head out the door, I ended up in a phone call with someone angry about a new task they're having to perform who sort of took it out on me. And although I didn't shout at them or anything, I kind of ended up saying, essentially, "that's just the way it is, and you're going to have to learn to deal with it." And I feel like I did a poor job of representing my company, which makes me furious with myself.

It's always tough, being a witness. I know I fail in the most important areas as well. The final nail in the coffin of my day was visiting the blog of a Catholic friend who once upon a time, back when I was being more introspective and less shallow in my posts, had a link back to my blog. That link is now gone. And I totally understand, though it felt a bit of a slap in the face. This hasn't been much of a Catholic blog lately. Not much of a Christian blog. It's mostly a bunch of materialistic (and sometimes whiny) thoughts about physical things and writing, and nothing more. Why? Largely because I feel like I can't write well enough or convincingly enough to represent my "company." I'm better off staying on the surface. I'm better off making small talk, because if I try to speak about big important things, I'll embarrass the family.

I'm not sure how to get past that fear. And maybe there's no call to, maybe I should let go of that guilt and just remove that quote I love so much at the top of my page, stop pretending to be anything more than a jumble of random vaguely writing related stuff. Maybe I should start a second blog where I try to sort out some of my more meaningful thoughts, or move my meaningless content posts to a new place. I'm not sure what my blog should be a lot of the time. Everyone else seems to have a unifying purpose. Mine seems to be pure vanity. And that makes me sad. I guess originally I hoped to post *some* of my fiction writing, but also hoped to think and share deep thoughts. Instead my deep thoughts (still too shallow, I feel, for public consumption) remain locked up tight in my private journal.

The other thing I've been struggling with, the other reason I've stayed away from my faith in my recent posts, is that I'm struggling with what I suppose one would call dryness. I go to church, talk about all these things with family, I go to early morning adoration on Wednesdays, I go through all the motions, and I could tell anyone in depth what I believe, but I don't *feel* a deep and committed belief most of the time. I don't feel anything. And how do you write through that?

I'll end off with this poem I wrote in adoration, as I grappled with that question.

So many have written of You:
words of beauty, sweetness, light beyond all measure.
I feel the writing longing,
but what poetry is in me?
I feel nothing.
What poetry can come of emptiness?

My soul walks in shadow;
fear and doubt howl
across the wind-swept plains of my existence
where I walk alone.
And yet I know that it is your love
that holds me in being.
I feel nothing,
but I know this--
and that must be enough for me.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Have I mentioned it's the most dangerous time of the year?

You folks are a bad influence, as always. I'd kinda like one of the Scriptos Speculator mentioned eventually, but for the moment I settled for another classic: Office Depot had two-packs of Pentel Sharps on sale for four bucks--more than fifty percent off--so I grabbed some (actually in a couple different lead diameters...I am weak). This yellow one uses 0.9mm leads, so at least on the hefty side, if not as big as the old Scriptos. Compared to 0.5 and 0.7 lead diameters, these leads feel more like a woodcase pencil, for them what likes such things. And they're almost unbreakable.

Pentel Sharp P209

The Sharps look like something out of the 70s or so, and for good reason: they've barely changed since they came out decades ago. At this point, they're well-established classics. I'm fond of the textured grip: it's nice to find a durable mechanical pencil that doesn't include a squishy rubber grip. Although squishy grips are fun to play with, in a lot of ways I'll be glad when that trend is over. Inevitably they go gooey, and the clear ones get discolored over time. Nothing like having what looks like (pardon me) a big gob o' dirty snot wrapped around your pen or pencil.... These feel very nice in the hand without such stuff.

Aside from the usual too-small eraser that nearly all mechanical pencils suffer from (I carry around a Mars Plastic eraser, so it doesn't bother me) the only other slight downside is the fixed lead sleeve, which is long (4mm) and rather pointy and could be an issue for folks who carry pens and pencils in a pocket. I don't, with the exception of the small and smooth Fisher Bullet Pen, so it's not so much of an issue for me.

I like it.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Multiple Choice Quiz

You spot a Bic Cristal stick ballpoint lying on the ground in the parking lot as you're walking in to work. Do you:

a) leave it where it is

b) pick it up and bring it inside to throw away

c) pick it up and bring it in to use--might as well

d) pick it up, bring it in, gloat mightily over having a FREE PEN(!!!) and use it all day to the exclusion of all other pens, even though you don't even really like ballpoints, and it's a skinny cheap little ballpoint at that

If the answer is d, you probably aren't right in the head...but at least it means I'm not alone.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Chapter One

Not sure exactly where I'm gonna go with this...it just kinda happened. I'm like to never get around to transcribing and editing older stuff....

It was the day my world caved in; the day of the big rain; the day I burned the cutting board. My sister Laura had stopped by to comfort me. On the phone, I’d told her not to bother, so she claimed she'd just happened to be in the neighborhood and thought she’d stop by and return the shoes she’d borrowed for the wedding. It was a pathetically transparent excuse. As if I would believe in a million years that she’d had the shoes tossed carelessly behind the driver’s seat of her immaculate little black Mazda Miata for days, just in case she happened to be in my neighborhood. Still, I was glad to see her.

She hugged me, murmuring I’m sorrys, and I greeted her in an automatic sort of way. She frowned at me, concern making a thick wrinkle between her eyes, but I only blinked at her silently, not trusting myself to speak. “Why don’t we have some tea and chat a bit?” she said finally in a forced cheerful voice, pretending it was an ordinary day. As if I could think of tea right then. But tea is Laura’s solution to all the ills of the world. I swear, if someone were to show up on her doorstop at two in the morning, missing an arm and dripping blood everywhere, she would cluck her tongue, guide them into the kitchen and say, “Now, you just have a seat for a sec while I make us some tea.”

Laura has one of those fancy electric tea kettle jobbers at home: there is a stand that plugs in, and you set the kettle on top of the stand, press a button, and wait almost no time at all. It makes a noise like a tiny little steam engine—or so I imagine, never having seen or heard an actual steam engine—and hey presto, your water’s hot. Me, on some level I cling to the notions my father drilled into us as we were growing up. He scorned most kitchen devices aside from plain pots and pans and plain honest knives, especially those that were really only good for a single purpose. Although he’s softened up in his old age and now has things he wouldn’t have allowed in the house when we were little, like a garlic press and a toaster, I still hear him in my head whenever I shop for kitchen accoutrements. So even though it takes forever, I still use a regular old tea kettle: a blue enameled one that whistles frantically when it reaches the boiling point, so I don’t leave it to boil dry. Since I’m not a real tea maven, it works for me.

Laura sat down and waited, letting me play hostess, and I rummaged through the cabinets looking for the kettle. When we’d moved in less than a month before, Mark had been the one to put away the odds and ends we didn’t use every day, things we only needed within reach but not within easy reach, so it took me awhile to find it. As I searched, I thought numbly, “Mark was the last one to touch it.” Finally I spotted the blue of it, in the cabinet up above the fridge. We had a cabinet in the same spot in the house where I grew up. My mother never put anything in it but birthday candles and Christmas ornaments: things you practically never needed to get to. But Mark is almost a foot taller than me—six-foot five in his stocking feet—and his idea of “within reach” is a little different from most. It was so him, finding it up there, that it made me momentarily dizzy, and my eyes stung. But I didn’t cry. I gritted my teeth, steeled myself, got a chair and got the blue kettle down, trying not to think of Mark’s big hands setting it up on that shelf, of Mark so close and yet so far. I filled the kettle from the sink, feeling Laura’s eyes on me all the while. I was determined not to fall apart. It wasn’t me. I, Sharon Peters, had never been one to fall apart. I’d never been one of those women who cry at work because someone looked at their dress funny, or one to mope for ages after a break-up.

Sharon Young, I corrected myself suddenly, swallowing hard. I still wasn’t used to my new name. And maybe it was just as well.

I put the kettle on the front left burner, which fit it best. My new green cutting board, the one I’d bought to go with the soothing green and white colors of our kitchen, was laying across the back burner behind it: a bad place for it. Mark had done that as well, I thought, just the night before: he’d put it aside after using it while he used the counter space for something else. I laid my hand on it for a moment, but left it where it was. It was well back, not in the way of the kettle. I think a part of me felt that if I left it alone, he’d come back to wash it and put it away. I switched on the burner to heat the water and turned away from the stove. Laura still sat expectantly at the table. “Well,” she said, “are you OK?”

“No!” I wanted to scream. “Of course not. I’ve been married just over a month—a month!—to the most incredible man I’ve ever met, and this morning he was gone, just like that. How could I possibly be OK?” All of a sudden, despite the cutting board, despite the tea kettle’s high-rise storage location, the house felt so empty, so full of Mark’s absence that I couldn’t breathe. “Let’s go outside,” I said. “The water will take awhile to heat.”

Even the weather had betrayed me. After weeks of gorgeous early summer—all sunshine and blue skies and big puffy clouds—that day dawned cold and grey. It was the day of the big rain, I said, but the torrential downpour hadn’t started as of yet, didn’t come until evening. In the early afternoon, it was just a dense drizzle. We stood on the porch where it was dry, but were still surrounded by the cold breath of the rain. It clung to our clothes and pulled our hair down, plastering it to our cheeks; it made me shiver even in my heavy blue cardigan—the oversized square-shouldered one Mark used to tease me about. He said it made me look like a big US Mail Box. “Tell me again what happened,” Laura said, though I had told her all I knew twice on the phone already.

I took a deep breath of the misty air, clutching my elbows. “There isn’t much to tell. Last night everything was just as usual, so far as I can remember. Mark made stir fry for supper. I dished up raspberries and vanilla ice cream for dessert. We sat and read for awhile. We each had a glass of wine. At eleven, we watched the news.” It was too much detail, but I couldn’t escape the feeling that I’d missed something. I must have missed something. If I thought hard enough—

“And then?” Laura prompted gently.

I shrugged. “And then we—we went to bed. There weren’t any phone calls or anything that I know of. I don’t remember Mark getting up in the night. But when I woke up—” I had to stop and take a deep breath again. “When I woke up he was gone, with just a few of his clothes, and there was a note on the kitchen table.” Held down by his wedding ring. I couldn’t bring myself to reveal that fact. Not yet.

Laura looked distracted, which made me angry. If she was going to insist on my telling the story again, she could at least have the courtesy to listen. Her nose wrinkled. “What’s that smell?” she asked.

“What smell?” I said, but then I caught a whiff of it too: a thick, waxy smoke smell, like extinguished candles. It came from the kitchen. I rushed in, and found the cutting board smoking. Everything was still so new to me, I was still so unfamiliar with my new house and my new kitchen that I’d turned on the back burner instead of the front. Without stopping to think, I switched off the burner, snatched up the cutting board and ran outside with it, holding it out in the rain. In my mind, I revisited the day Mark and I, just back from our honeymoon to Nova Scotia, picked out the kitchen things. We went to a big box store that had everything you could think of: the usual pots in pans in prices from ground level to the stratosphere, knives in every shape and size and material, towels and pillows and curtains and comforters, grapefruit spoons, cutesy covers for spare toilet paper, place mats shaped like slices of fruit. We went through every aisle, picking out what we liked, ridiculing some of the sillier items, laughing, laughing. I remembered how I’d fallen in love with the color of this particular cutting board, even though it wasn’t the wood board some fancy chefs recommended. It was a pale green plastic, like new leaves, with little golden-brown speckles. It made me think of springtime, of new beginnings. In my mind, in an odd sort of way, I suppose it represented our marriage. I pulled it in out of the rain, dripping wet. One side was still OK, but on the back, there was a spiral-shaped scorch mark melted into the plastic, an enormous blemish.

“Well,” said Laura, “At least you didn’t burn the house down.”

I burst into tears.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

What I did on summer vacation

Went to the Mt. St. Helens Bluegrass Festival in Toledo, WA. I learned a new tune--or at least, how to play it on guitar: Rickett's Hornpipe. Also got to hear some great local and semi-local bands, plus one of the greatest female vocalists in bluegrass today: Dale Ann Bradley. Her band is awesome, too, especially her current mandolin player, Chris Harris. That young man is going places.

Drank many, many cups of coffee, many of them at Mud Bay Coffee. I'm still mourning being on the other side of town, though in all other ways my move was a good thing. It was nice revisiting some, and I have plenty of their coffee beans on hand for at home.

Also had way too much junk food and such: a Dairy Queen Blizzard, chips and dip, my first hamburger and fries in a long while. And got my first ever Papa Murphy's pizza. I didn't have a working oven in the last place, so I couldn't have baked one until recently. I got The Cowboy: Italian sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, black olives, cheese. Good stuff, though next time I want more vegetables. There will be a next time. Mmmm....pizza.

Drank about a glass and a half of wine, all told. A real party girl, I am.

Went on a couple nice long walks with thedog. I love my trail...

Read an average of a book a day. Mmmm....books. I also spent an afternoon at the library, and much time at Goodwills looking through the book section, among other things. I pretty much hit every thrift store within easy driving distance. My wild and crazy fun is not your average wild and crazy fun.

Speaking of books, I blew a Border's 33% off coupon on Connie Willis' Blackout, which I just read but want to read again before All Clear comes out, and I don't feel like getting back into the waiting game with the library hold queue, since I can't predict when I'll actually get a book that way. Now it's mine--all mine! Bwahahah....

Wrote a lot in my journal, and bits and pieces of stories. I didn't do as much writing as I intended, honestly. It's the sitting down and starting that's the hardest part. I did, however, in the last few days, finally get my writing space organized and continued working on some short stories I had set aside.

(I also reorganized my bookshelves, and at the moment I actually have more shelf space than books. This must be remedied ASAP.)

I went to The Tea Lady (awesome store, by the way, and highly recommended for anyone who even vaguely likes tea) and got some nice orange cinnamon spice tea, and the package of blueberry rooibos I've been coveting. It smells sooo good, that blueberry tea! Good stuff, too. It's a nice evening beverage, whilst reading a book. No caffeine.

Went to Shipwreck Beads and got stuff to make more earrings. That store...it's hard to even convey it in words. It's enormous, and there's nothing like being able to actually handle the beads, hold colors together for comparison. The hardest part of visiting is narrowing down what one wants to buy.

Got Avatar from Redbox and watched it. This is the first time I've turned on the TV since I switched off cable back in June, and it took me awhile to get everything going. I spent quite awhile searching for the remote before remembering that the all-in-one was Comcast's. Duh.

The movie itself? Hm. I'd heard it called Disney's Pocahantas in space, and I think that's pretty close to the mark. The story is pretty cliched. You've got the native princess who sticks up for one of the invaders even though he starts off as a misunderstanding, boorish lout. You've got the eeeevil, greedy invaders (updated by Hollywood into representatives of the military and the corporate world) who see the natives as subhuman and expendable and just want them gone so they can steal their property. Etc. That said, it's a very pretty movie. The animation and real footage are almost seamlessly combined, more so than anything I've ever seen before, and the planet (Pandora) is gorgeous.

All in all, I rolled my eyes a number of times, but still enjoyed it.

I didn't end up going anywhere very far or very out of the norm. It's not really something to do alone, I guess. It's one of the biggest problems with being perpetually single, especially if your friends and family all have families of their own. If they do think to invite you when they go on vacation, you're a third wheel, not really sure what to do with yourself, but most vacation fun stuff is really meant for couples and families, especially in the realm of the cheap and free. And yes, I am left feeling a little wistful. It's inevitable, I suppose. Another year, when I'm not so broke, I want to go back home, to visit Dad and hang out with my sister and visit my old haunts and break more out of my day to day.

But for what it was, it was a very successful vacation.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Home Groovy Home

OK, you all got me thinking...so here's another thrift store story. I dunno why it's in the present tense, since I usually despise present tense. It just seemed to work. Here's the vase kinda thing that inspired the tale:

Ugly vase


As Jeannette fumbles with the key, I stand on the broken concrete slab at the bottom of the steps, shivering in the chill dampness of an early March morning, arms folded across my chest. My eyes take in the torn screen flapping in the breeze and the green film that climbs up the windows, seeming to sprout from the blackened sills. I bite my lip. It could be worse, I tell myself. I have been telling myself this over and over again since we first pulled into the drive, since I first caught sight of the green-scummed white trailer, since I first saw the overgrown yard, the piles of mouldering boards and old tires half covered in ivy and moss as we pulled into the drive. It could be worse. I can fix it up.

The door swings open at last, and I am on alert. Jeannette disappears into the dimness ahead of me, and stops short. “Oh,” she says in an odd little voice, and turns back to me, her bottom lip drooping slightly.

“What is it?” I ask, starting up the steps. One of the steps is broken, rotting away; I am careful not to step on it. I can fix it up.

“It’s just—it’s not very—” She shrugs; she has no words, so she steps aside for me to see for myself.

It is dirty and smells like mice and stuffiness, but I had braced myself for these things. But on top of these faults, it looks as though the very worst parts of the seventies came here to die. One wall in the kitchen is covered in broad avocado, orange and goldenrod stripes; another sports enormous daisies of the same color. The linoleum, where it isn’t worn through, has a random pattern of rectangles in a pea green that makes me feel a bit queasy just looking at it. The kitchen counter is aluminum-rimmed formica in a slightly paler shade of the same color. The living room walls are paneled in dark fake wood, warped and bulging in spots. The stove is also yellow: a dirty shade, browned around the edges as though pre-burnt. “Well,” I say, and then stop, just as Jeannette had.

I walk through the rest of the trailer, and find it much the same. Even the bathroom has plasticky flowers on the walls, and fixtures of the same dirty-yellow shade as the stove. There is brown shag carpeting in one bedroom, dingy orange in another. "It isn’t so bad,” I say, though my voice rings hollow in my ears. “The roof hasn’t leaked recently.”

Jeannette is quiet, and seems slightly embarrassed. “Mrs. Boyle warned me it hadn’t been kept up, but I hadn’t really pictured—”

“It’s fine,” I say firmly. It is. I can’t stay with Jeannette and Brian in their tiny apartment forever, and I can’t go back where I came from. And I can’t afford much. This ugly place is a godsend.

“I suppose you can decorate it some,” Jeannette says doubtfully. Her own little place is beautiful, tasteful, modern. She walks to the striped wall and runs a hand down it, and then turns back to me with her face all scrunched up as if in pain, and I can’t help but laugh. She shakes her head, but laughs too.

She is quieter than usual through dinner that evening, until Brian has gone into the back to play a computer game and we settle down for more girl talk. “Marcia,” she says, “You know, I’ve been thinking. At first I was trying to figure out what even goes with avocado and orange besides more avocado and orange. I don’t think you could paint over that stuff in the kitchen, even if we could find cheap paint—it’s like plastic sheeting. So you’re probably stuck with things as they are, at least for now. But you know...if you can’t beat it, why not embrace it?”

“How do you mean?” I ask.

“Well, why not get more avocado and orange? Why not go all out? The place can’t get any uglier. We could purposely seek out the weirdest, kitschiest retro-ist junk we can find. It’d be...cathartic, or something.” This means shopping. Jeannette is getting more excited by the second. “What do you think?”

“I don’t know,” I say doubtfully, but Jeannette is already chattering away merrily and doesn't hear.

We drive to the thrift store on Saturday. Jeannette is bubbly; I remain doubtful. Our first find is a giant misshapen vase sort of a thing, bright orange, with stamped flowers and unreadable letters on the bulbous body. Jeannette pounces on it joyfully. “This would be perfect!” she says. It is likely the first time anyone has used that particular adjective in connection with this...object.

“It’s too big!” I protest.

“Too big for what purpose?” she asks, and I have no response. She sets it heavily in the cart, dusts off her hands on her jeans, and we move on. The vase is soon joined by a lava lamp, curtains of a heavy orange and brown speckled cream fabric, a dusty bouquet of obviously fake sunflowers, a quilted wall-hanging of concentric red, white and orange circles. By this time, I am getting into the spirit of things, and I heap orange bath towels and a bead curtain onto the pile. I feel like seeking out a bandana and bell bottomed pants as well, to complete the stepping back in time.

We drag everything back to the trailer and spend the whole afternoon scrubbing and scouring the trailer top to bottom, inside and out. Brian stops by and fixes the broken step, and helps us begin clearing the yard. And then Jeannette and I spend a rainy Sunday afternoon decorating the place with our found treasures. We put the giant vase-like object in the bathroom, filled with the fake sunflowers. The door to one of the bedrooms is missing, so we hang up the bead curtain across the doorway. I decide it will be my office; the mesmerizing movement and sound of the beads helps me think. The wall-hanging goes in the living room, and the lava lamp goes on a red table in front of it.

I drive back to Jeannette and Brian’s house for my things. “I made tea,” Jeannette says when I return, handing me a steaming mug: one of the heavy earthen mugs I couldn’t resist at the thrift store, though they are as ugly in their own way as anything else we’d found, a muddy olive green, slightly crooked and speckled. “It’s tradition: Mom made tea for us to celebrate with after I finished moving into my first apartment after college.”

“Once is a tradition?”

“Now it’s twice. It’s tradition.” She lifts her mug and sips carefully, holding the tea bag to one side. “Cheers.”

I wrap my hands around the heat of my own mug. A thought strikes me. “What did you heat the water in?”

“You don’t want to know.”

“Not that old pot we found under the sink? The one that had a mouse nest in it?”

“I washed it! Really well.” She takes another fierce sip. “Besides, the water boiled. It’s fine.”

I wrinkle my nose, but sip my own tea just the same. I am surprised by how good it is, sweet and spicy. Hot cinnamon lingers on my tongue. Mug in hand, I find a convenient corner and slide down against the wall with my knees pulled up in front of me. Jeannette comes to sit beside me, sinking to the ground with a deep sigh. “You need some leopard print bean bags or something,” she says.

“Mm,” I reply, “A nice finishing touch it would be.” I gaze around at my cheerful little kingdom and the amazing ugliness we have assembled, and I know that for what it is, it is good.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Vicarious thrifts

The conversations I overhear around me at Goodwill make me feel hopeful for the human race. These are true descendants of pioneers: plucky, resourceful, optimistic people who make the best of every situation, who thrive on adversity.

"This would work great, don't you think?" says a woman in faded jeans and a threadbare t-shirt as she holds up an unidentifiable monstrosity of twisted metal and wood for her friend to see. "We'd have to trim off this part, of course, and angle it some..." Her eyes shine as the dream takes shape in her mind's eye, cast off junk transforming into something wonderful, though I've missed too much of the story to hear just what, and looking at the thing, I can't imagine. A coatrack? Something to prop up a plant? An organizer for cords in the garage?

Other people are obviously gathering supplies for art projects: transparent bags filled with odds and ends of old yarn, rags, odd little bits and pieces from the bottom of bins at the ends of the home decor aisles. They talk excitedly amongst themselves about glue and fabric and other crafty things, and I try to imagine how the components they carry could possibly come together. I long for craftiness of my own, and then resignedly poke through the bin full of rejected stationery and unused thank-you cards: the closest I'm likely to come to art.

In another aisle, a young couple surveys the most hideous dresser you could imagine. It is a pale green color, with a top covered in water-stains, and on the front, there are stickers upon stickers: smiley faces, flowers, foil stars, cartoon children, the dirty back layer of what were once puffy stickers. All are sticky and blackened, scuffed, peeling around the edges; the dresser looks diseased. Only one drawer still has a pull knob. On the others, there are only blank holes with vague circles around them where a knob once spun; the empty spaces with the screw-holes in the middle look like eyes dilated in fear or anguish.

The woman bounces her baby on her hip. "We could clean it up," she says, " sand the stickers off if they won't scrub up. And then we could paint it blue or red--something bright. And put white knobs on it." She smiles into the baby's uplifted face. "We could even stencil something fun on it, huh?" she says to him. "We could put your name on it, huh, Jack? And maybe a doggie."

"Goggie!" Jack shrieks, waving a well-loved plush hound, its ears flapping wildly.

"Shh!" says his mother sternly, but she is smiling. She looks to her husband in appeal. "What do you think?"

He grins lopsidedly and shrugs. "I'll bring the truck around front. Better see if you can find someone to let us use a dolly."

Her face lights up. "We could stop for paint on the way home."

"Sure."

He strides off toward the front of the store and out, and she lays a wondering hand on the ugly dresser, her face lit up with the thrill of ownership, before heading off in search of a Goodwill employee. I smile for them, tuck the pair of shoes and stack of books I carry more firmly under my arm, and head for the check-out counter.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Vacation anticipation and request for movie recommendations

I have a ginormous book of sudoku puzzles and a box of pencils, I have pens and ink and notebooks, guitar and mandolin and music books at hand, stacks of books to read (both edifying and purely entertaining), trails to walk and a bike to ride, the daily Mass schedule, fresh fruit available nearby, a freshly roasted bag o' coffee and the half-and-half to go with it, various and sundry teas, and a bottle of wine.

And I have next week off.

I'm not doing much if any traveling and have no set-in-stone plans, which is what I wanted out of this little vacation/retreat. I may get up early and go to the coffee house to hunker down and work on transcribing my '08 NaNo, which I'm *still* not done. I may sleep in some mornings and then meander down the trail with a notebook and pen, maybe even pack a lunch and a book to read at a good stopping point, and make a day of it. I may just lounge around with a book and the sudoku puzzles and a cat in my lap. And I'm thinking about going to see a movie in the theater for the first time since the last Indiana Jones movie. Anyone have any current recommendations?

In addition to all of the above, I get to go to a little bluegrass festival on Saturday and hang out playing music with friends, plus hear some great bands and performers. Life is awful good.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sharpie's Mad Science Experiment

Apropos of nothing except my recent obsession with pencils....

Sharpie just released an interesting chimera of a writing instrument: the Sharpie Liquid Pencil. In theory, it writes like a pen, erases like a pencil, but after a day or so, becomes permanent and non-erasable. Permanent like a Sharpie, they say, which makes me wonder. In my experience, Sharpie writing changes color, fades, or otherwise acts in less than permanent ways after a few years (or months, if exposed in any way.

It's an interesting concept, and one that I expect will set a trend, but I'm skeptical. And I'm not sure I see the point. As a commenter on one of the blog posts I skimmed on the subject said,
You know what else is permanent, like a Sharpie, but still erasable? A pencil. Just don't erase it.
Good point. ;-)

I go through phases when I worry about the longevity of my writing, even though it's not of much consequence, and most of it isn't anything I want anyone to read but me. I've had some bad experience with certain fountain pen inks utterly vanishing after a few years: cheap blue ink on cheap paper. At the time I was young and foolish and had no idea inks could just disappear like that without a trace in less than decades. Now I'm older and wiser and a little paranoid. At one point I was worried about using pencil in notebooks I wanted to keep around for awhile, just because it's erasable. But I got to thinking...*unless* it's erased, pencil is more permanent than pretty much anything, and the chances of my notebooks experiencing heat or humidity are a lot higher than the chances of a stranger armed with a Pink Pearl breaking in while I'm out and going to town on my old journals. I'm probably safe to use pencil.

Getting back on subject, I'm not sure what target audience these Sharpie things are really best suited for. I like pencils, I like pens...but both in one doesn't necessarily sound like the best of both worlds to me. That isn't to say I wouldn't try one if someone at work shows up with one or something...or I may buy one just because I'm curious.

Getting back off subject, here's a link to another random blog I stumbled across in my meanderings:
Notebook stories

Makes me feel like this whole notebook accumulation thing is normal and even applaudable. I like that in a website. A fun time-waster, for sure.

Also been hanging out here and here.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

It's the most dangerous time of the year

I'm an office supply junkie, totally, and it seems like you can't go *anywhere* these days without encountering large bins of such things at discount prices. Even the grocery store isn't safe: they've got piles o' paper and pencils even in the frozen foods aisles.

Thus far I've managed to restrict my purchases to a small stack of Wal-mart composition books (currently a quarter apiece) and a package of USA Gold wood-case pencils (last of the Made in the USA wood pencils, so far as I know!), for a grand total of about three fifty. But I somehow found myself at Staples today, wandering around with some fancy(ish) Pentel mechanical pencils in an 0.9 width, which I don't currently own, plus a packet of leads, and a couple Black Pearl erasers. I don't need them. I put them back. But it was a struggle.

I've kind of been in a graphite mood, if the above paragraph didn't convey that strongly enough. Some time back, Speculator of La Vie Graphite sent me a very generous sampler of all sorts of pencils, mostly wood-case. I played with them for a bit, and then they got shuffled aside during my move earlier this year. But in the last few weeks, they're all I've been using for journaling, and even for notes at work. The joy of pencils is a little more subtle than fancy pens, I suppose, which makes them all the more appealing. I'm really enjoying cycling through them over and over, noting the slight differences in feel (some are smoother, some have more "grit", which isn't necessarily a bad thing) and even within the same grade, some are darker or lighter than others. Some have that wonderful cedar aroma, some have cool colored wood. (Rhodia!) My current favorites are a few basic Pentel mechanical pencils (hence the near miss at Staples), Helix Oxfords, and yes, the cheap USA Golds, despite the fact that they're a little thinner than what I'm used to and do have a certain amount of that grit I just mentioned.

So...on that note, here's my first ever pencil cast, about--what else?--pencils, of course. I cheated: this is just a recent entry from my journal, scanned in (rather poorly, I might add). Yes, I yammer on about this stuff even to myself.

Pencilcast1

PencilCast2_0001

PencilCast3

Friday, August 06, 2010

Just another day in the life of a nerd...

NPR ANNOUNCER: During the housing bubble, investors threw money at real estate as if it was Monopoly money. This is an apt metaphor--

ME, INTERRUPTING: That's not a metaphor, you knucklehead. It's a simile!

*change station to "Mozart at Eight" on Classical King FM*