Friday, December 19, 2014

Good Friday

The holiday with this post's title is at another point in the year, but this Friday before Christmas was pretty dadgum good.  For one, the end of my last full week of work for the year.  For two, pay day.  For three:  my job, which I love.  Two of my managers came to me with a gift bag: a pen and pencil set in polished graphite-grey metal, with my name engraved on each.  Very nice, and so thoughtful!  I was a bit blown away.

I've been working with on an IT migration for which my status is neck-and-neck with IT itself, matched by no other area in the company.  So that's good, too - but I'm also working with smart and supportive folks who seem to think I'm coming up with good ideas and doing really well.  One of them is a woman of about thirty; and today she asked me what skin care or moisturizer I use, because some giveaway of my age astonished her.  Hee.  Aww!

When I got home, the bank who held a credit card I closed out a few months ago had sent me a check, following a fraud investigation - so, sixty bucks for me.

This is one of those days when the cumulative effect of events was pretty spiff.

So how was your Friday?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Seriously, Blogger?

I get the little reCAPTCHA "you're not a robot" tool has been updated a number of times lately.  I even like the new simple checkbox method.  But ... I have to prove I'm not a robot on my own blog?  Seriously?

Okay, maybe I'm not quite this far gone.  But it is pretty stupid.  The usual "upgrade means a step backward" tech feature.

Saturday, December 13, 2014


I hope I'm fortunate enough to work with an agent who is as grateful for their job as I am for mine.  There's something intensely rewarding about people who *practice gratitude*.

Mighty Hot Wind

Years ago, watching “A Mighty Wind” with Mr. X, he had a head-shaker moment, in the midst of one of the more breathless faux-interviews about folk music’s supposed sweeping importance, when he was so inside the film he actually said, “I don’t remember it being this big a deal” basically.

Which, of course, was pretty much the point.

Mighty Wind is such a good mockumentary, you fall in like that, you forget it IS a joke at times – as with Spinal Tap actually selling albums in the real world, as with dog shows actually capturing the national attention every Thanksgiving now.  It’s completely sunk into one of those things most people are aware of, but few people are quite as breathless (or windy …) about as those who dedicate themselves to X or Y or Z with the fervor of a calling.

And that breathlessness … I think there are times we all pick and choose those things we accept as epochal, and those we ignore or even frankly deride.  I don’t get baseball, but there are those who would explode with testimonial passion if they heard me say it.  Few people understand how ancient Frankish history could possibly be conceived of as interesting, but for me it’s a rabbit hole well worth the burrowing into, and I can curl up in it all warm and contented.

We all have our fan-child obsessions.  If we didn’t, how would the perfectly astounding world library of documentaries survive – hagiographies of comedians, politicians, birds, towns, pieces of interesting infrastructure … ?  Some are unintentionally hilarious (have you ever seen the “Pursuit of Excellence” series?  The ferrets one is glorious), some you get into (American Experience and Ken Burns are terrifyingly good at this), some teach, some just provide slathering tongue jobs to celebrities.  But they are everywhere, and an awful lot of people have begun to live lives unconsciously dedicated to inspiring this kind of breathless adoration in others.

See also: this blog.  Not only do I get a bit wheezy myself on certain exciting subjects like Carolina dogs, pattern welded steel, and “Barbarians”, but I write the whole thing (as an unpublished one) as my “authorial platform” – which we’re actually *supposed* to do.  When I’m dead, this blog will be the precious, precious snoflake in the internet’s blizzard of silliness and verbiage, paying homage to my own silliness and verbiage.  My testament!

I’m not done with vanity yet, clearly.

If there are times “real” documentary such as the ferrets outing, and mockumentary like “A Mighty Wind” are indistinguishable, it’s hard not to think all of us veer into parody.  For me, that’s dandy and amusing.  I enthuse, but have never expected my blather to actually matter to any but the most particular, kind, and probably acquainted-with-me audience.  I’ve worked to build readership, and had fun with it – and I do take seriously the fact that this is a major facet of my public face, even if it’s difficult to take seriously the notion that my public’s ever going to make documentaries about me, treasure the marginalia scrawled in my personal collection of books, or remember me when I’m dead longer than my nieces live.

My enduring aspiration, even with my work, which I honestly want to support, is to become that dusty book on a shelf which some desultory kid will discover on a disused relative’s bookshelf (and, yes, I mean that adjective to modify “relative” there), and accidentally fall into and unwittingly love, someday.  All the rest is business.  Worthwhile, hopefully rewarding in a real and financial way, gratifying in ways I can’t even imagine from where I sit.  But beside the point of storytelling.

We can get breathless again tomorrow (or, perhaps, in January, when the agents say it’s okay!).  For now.  Just breathe.  Maybe smile, too.

Chappy Channukah, Merry Holidays, Sweet Kwanzaa, Hippo New Year, and a blessed Christmas (and all the rest) to all.  I’m so in this season.  Hoping it is wondrous for all of you, too.

It's the Good Kind of Head/Desk

I’m my mother’s child enough that I stress out about things unnecessarily sometimes – and enough, too, that I get to have a bit of a good time laughing at myself about it when things resolve.  Something to be grateful for.

As happens in this world, there are tech problems at my job.  Starting a week or so ago, the handy-dandy “MFD” (multi-function device; a scanner, copier, theoretical fax if I were suicidal enough to request a phone line for it, and printer) stopped printing.  It kept whining at me that it was having a paper jam, and I kept gently opening its covers, looking for a damn jam, finding none, and ever so patiently closing back all its doors and drawers, to no avail.  It was not printing, and I was stuck running to the WORK ROOM with all the other worker bees.

Given that most of the hard-copy printing I do actually tends to be for my boss, and he vastly prefers the resolution on the work room printer, this wasn’t a huge issue, but it cropped up every day for a few days and generally chafed my delicates in a low-grade but consistent way.  Smartypants machine, what’s it doing not printing for me!?   But the main reason I have the MFD is for the scanner; *that* I use constantly.

In any case, I was moving too fast and doing too much to waste a call to the Help Desk (who does THAT but the truly desperate!?), and resolved to resolve the matter when it rose higher on my priority list.  My priority list being what it is, that was looking like January.  I shrugged – as I do, adapting to ridiculous inconveniences (ask me about my two bathroom home …) – and got things done.

Monday, we started a new week.  I’d had a highly productive and yet relaxing and good weekend, I was clipping along, I managed two iterations of what once was a several-day project for me in the matter of less than one afternoon.  Life was good.

At some point, I happened to open one of those printer drawers, I was going to steal a piece of paper to make a sign (and, unthinking, wasn’t going to PRINT it, but actually hand WRITE it! shocking).

Funny thing happened when I went to steal paper.  There was no paper in drawer 1 on my MFD …

So, yeah, I loaded it up and all was well.  The thing happily got printy, it’s positively sighing with pleasure, it’s fine, all is functional (except that fax functionality – and who wants THAT on their desk, I ask you!? only geriatrics and people with hand-push non-electric lawnmowers use fax machines …).

And I got a laugh at myself.

Apparently, when I was opening doors and drawers last week, I … forgot there were two drawers in my MFD, perhaps?  Was too out of my mind busy to stop and properly check my machine?  Am stupid?

Who knows.  I was prepared to deal with it as it was, and now it’s fine.  For my money – particularly given no folderol with the Help Desk, and no EMBARRASSMENT when a tech came by to check on my issues (hah!!!) – it’s all win from where I’m sitting.  I got to use the Work Room printer, which means saying hi to people and occasionally finding a snack to enjoy, perhaps.  My SCANNER never hiccupped, and that is the functionality my job most depends upon every day.  There’s been no actual problem (except in my own wee and paltry brain), and the inconvenience was pretty minor.

And I got to laugh at myself.

And now, you do too.  Hoping you got a smile out of this.  I don’t want to have to start checking doors and drawers on Teh Intarwebs now.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


I wanted to start off with the clip above, because it's not just interesting, but if I could get my mom (and, perhaps, about 58% of the people I know) to watch this, it would make my writing life so much easier.  But they're unlikely to savor eight and a half minutes of an agent being interviewed, explaining some of the most important information about publishing an author (most especially unpublished/first timers) can use.  ( Courtesy of the BookEnds blog.  I'm terrified to hit her link to other interviews, and end up down a rabbit hole!)

Again coming from Jessica Faust (who else is inspired to sell their soul for an agent!?), the words I've wished I could shout loud enough to be heard - on agents who need to define their brand!

I asked Janet Reid a question, and here's what she said.  Once again referring to Jessica Faust in a way, we consider agents' perspectives on querying during this festive season ...  (No Gossamer included, but click through if you're into kittens winking AND sticking out and curling their tongues!  Beyond cute, all the way to precious.)

Looking for a link unrelated to authors, agents and the quest for publication?  The History Girls has a wonderfully detailed post about sainted dogs.  Read about Guinefort, not quite canonized by the Church, but revered in any case for centuries.  The post ends on a sad note, but it's most interesting.

Prefer your furbabies of the feline persuasion?  The History Girls didn't forget you:  on naming a cat.  All my friends, Janet, and online pals who swoon for his name would be surprised what a hell of a time I had naming Gossamer.  I'm a little glad Grimalkin never occurred to me, though it's a great little name, and it's sweet to know I share a cat-warmer writing companion in common with Francis Hodgson Burnett.

Fashion more your bag?  Here's a refreshing post not sneering about the eighties, at Two Nerdy History Girls.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Fortunate Cookie

I am one, and I am so grateful.

About one year ago, these two fortunes popped out of a cookie in my delivery Chinese:

Yep, that second one especially.

Intrepid Baby Jesus - Dustbunny Adventures - and Is it Like the Flag ... ?

So, yesterday I came home from work and discovered the donkey, the manger, and the cow on the floor, having been toppled by a happy kitten who left the Holy Parents amusingly ooh-ing and aah-ing over nothing in the stable.

Baby Jesus has been nowhere to be found.

A friend at work suggested perhaps he’s probably had quite an adventure.  Intrepid little baby Jesus.  (… or is that Baby Jesus? Does the Baby become title case in its holy use?)

In any case, the intrepid little baby Jesus/Baby Jesus was not under the couch, and couch-crouching was roughly my limit once I’d replaced the animals and non-miraculously empty manger, and so we have yet to discover (though hope springs eternal) whether Intrepid Baby Jesus (this title case thing could go on forever!) is, as I surmise, playing happily with dust bunnies under the Boob Tube (see … ?).

All this comes but one day after I put out the nativity in the first place, and it is somewhat dispiriting (har), because the entire holy family were only replaced LAST year as Christmas presents, after my 23-year-old figures in Fine Corinthian Resin suffered the loss of Joseph and Baby, thanks to a drive by Penelope-ing.

Hee.  Penelope-ing.  *Gigglesnort*

Okay, not funny.  We’re speaking of Holy Things, and being respectful (I swear).

My original Joseph had a truly gruesome head wound, in that the entire back of it was gone.  Baby Jesus, for his wee yet weighty part, was chewed in a pretty disrespectful way.  Puppy teeth just can’t resist a good, somehow-gummy-but-sturdy chew on the finest hardened chemicals.  Nom nom, Original Baby Jesus.

The good news is, New Baby Jesus didn’t fall prey to actual teeth (Penelope is baby-gated out of the living room, and Gossamer never puts anything but kibble into his mouth).  The bad news is, until I crouch again, He is lost.  Not quite so inspiring a Christmas message as His Birth, but the failure to look provides the room for hope.  If he’s not under the TV, I may resort to Pla-Doh, not sure I can ask for new Holy Family figures every year.  Mom, of course, was mildly scandalized Gossie used the Holy Baby as a toy.

Me, I don’t know how he got on the table and only knocked over the cow, the donkey, and the baby, but he’s a remarkably nimble little demon.  With velvet toes.  So there’s that.

Here is my question, as regards flags.  When you have two holy figures to retire - is it like the American flag?  Do you burn them?  (Seems contra-indicated, given that stuff about chewy chemical goodness.)  I suspect I know an archaeologist who would suggest a burial - perhaps one of them here on my coast, and the other on his, just to be smart-alec.  Perhaps the right choice.

What would you do?

The remaining/unretired Nativity set, for its part, remains where it was ... for now.  I live dangerously.

Kind of like the Intrepid Baby Jesus.  I have this mental image he’s miraculously weaving pet fur into tiny little harnesses, and riding the dustbunnies quite ragged.  Yes:  wearing palazzo pants.

Monday, December 8, 2014

34 Years

I can still remember the little early-morning crowd who used to glom onto that one science teacher we thought was cool, hanging out before first period in middle school.  It was me, and TEO – still in my life today – the girl we called “Fuzz” because she had the then-ubiquitous tight curly perm, a couple other of the cool-nerds.  The teacher liked to impart to us wisdom beyond the classroom, particularly that of good music.

The morning my mom told me John Lennon had been murdered, forty seemed an incredibly advanced age to me.  That he was still important at that age, as a rockstar, was widely regarded as incredible back then.  Of course, now, with the Rolling Stones still relevant and what Beatles we have left literally institutionalized, and Jimmy Page enjoying a somewhat disturbing sainthood under the crown of silver hair and his crinkling eyes, aged rockstars are not the shocker they once were.  But in 1980, when John Lennon died, it was still a bit of a joke.

His murder was no joke to us.  I’d hardly even begun my juvenile career as a Beatlemaniac – and, you have to remember, back then, they’d only been split up for a decade.  Even as creakingly OLD as they seemed to someone my age … they were all still alive.  There was still this fantasy that they’d get back together, somehow.

Lennon’s death was the death of that dream, and the beginning of a self-seriousness about music I never got very good at maintaining, but which seemed a beacon in my life at twelve.

Holy crud, I was only twelve.

I remember, hideously, the offhand way my mom told me at breakfast, and the fact I had to go to school anyway.  We gathered at the foot of those short stairs in the green-tiled hall, devastated.  And there was hardly time to mourn together before homeroom.

For years after that, the two years of middle school in particular, I cultivated my fandom of the Beatles.  I still have the album I bought in Greece.  I still have them all.  I can remember adoring “Dizzie Miss Lizzie” because it was my own monogram, DML.  Any connection I could make, at that age.  It was important.

I never have had the heart to give away the “Fifteenth Anniversary” (!!!) tee shirt my brother gave me back then.  It’s still important, and I don’t even know why.

For all my memories of trippy music like Zeppelin or Pink Floyd … The Beatles were really my first real music, the first *I* cared about, the first *I* sought out and cultivated and cared for.  My dad’s music, and my mom’s and my church’s, have come to mean much over the years.  But The Beatles were the first musical interest I had that was only my own.

In a post like this, there’s a powerful desire to say, “I can’t believe it was thirty-four years ago” – but, the fact is, I can feel every moment in time between the heart I have today and the girl I was then, still even working to build a heart at all.  Things affected me so profoundly then entirely because I had hardly experienced profundity at all.

Thirty-four years later, the thought of Lennon at seventy-four is an exercise, a curiosity, a sadness, a new loss.  It’s like thinking about my dad, who would himself be not so much older than that.  It’s like every what-if and woulda-coulda-shoulda we come to know between twelve and forty-six.  It’s bitter, but not hard anymore.  Not bittersweet.  Nothing sweet in the senselessness that stole from us his voice, his mind.

Lennon was a prototype of the mouthpiece rockstar that’s become so ubiquitous since that it’s lost all meaning.  But his early, activist, earnest yearning – for peace, for peace in himself, for art and rock and roll and to be a good man – has a naivete’ about it most of the celebrity cause endorsers don’t quite have anymore.  Sure, they’re naïve, but not because they believe they can make a difference.  They’re just naïve about the fact they’re not actually important.

John Lennon’s naivete’ was something different.  It was honestly innocent – he wanted to use his mega-fame the same way they want to use it today, but he didn’t have all the algorithms and management on the job.  He just had this yearning, and some dizzy understanding that, accidentally, he’d become – well, bigger than G-d, to drag out the old horse even if not for a good beating.  (He was right in the sense of that statement, no matter how it read.  Can’t fault the guy for being dumb – only tone deaf, for one epochal moment.)

Thinking about that green-tiled hall, the polished cement floors, the girl with whom I mourned the murder most deeply – the losses of relationships and lives far closer to my own – over thirty four years, sentimentality over John Lennon’s murder is almost an indulgence.  For all the connection I wanted to feel, the older woman I’ve become knows that was not about me, and feels for the family left with media stories about anniversaries.  For the older son, whose relationship was not the one with the most fulfilment going on when his father was stolen.  For the younger one, who throughout his life has endured sharing his father – and his loss – with presumptuous strangers.  For a widow reviled before and after this terrible loss.  For those who learned they would never play with him again.

My loss was so dramatic, back then.  I was angry at my mother for dropping the news without sensitivity to How Very Important it was to me, and for all those fancies one has about idols at the age of twelve.

When I listen to Double Fantasy or the Beatles, if I do so this evening, it’ll be pretty dramatic again.

But only because, even if he died too young:  John Lennon did what he set out to do.  He affected people he never met.  He made music that means something ineffeable and something individual – incredibly intimate – the world over.

As epitaphs go, I don’t imagine a single media story will improve on that legacy; this anniversary, or any other.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Hacksilver, Liberty, and Equality

We've discussed here in the past that the Frankish name came from the francisca, their emblematic blade, and that this name comes from a word meaning freedom or liberty.

The problem with etymologies and concepts is that their meaning is always filtered through perspective, and the contemporary understanding of the terms freedom and liberty are affected by our experience, our education, our PRIVILEGE, and the standard of living that defines just how free "free" is, and so on.

The expectation of liberty for someone whose life is dependent upon crops or weather or military success far more directly and immediately than, say, most modern Americans, is difficult if not impossible to understand or conceive.

Equality, too, is a different matter.

All this is by way of introduction to the concept of hacksilver.

In the societies of Late Antiquity in Europe, "Barbarian" peoples enacted the precepts of equality through distribution of wealth:  specifically, to soldiers, after conquest.  Booty was collected and evenly divided - and, by even, what I mean to convey is that equal portions were allotted to all by way of cutting down precious objects, not merely by division piece by piece.  A large vase of gold might be hammered then snipped to ensure egalitarian distribution:  hacksilver (or gold, copper, etc.).

With items indivisible in themselves, the award of some particular treasure was a mark of significant prestige, and all divisions had to be agreed upon.  A king would lose face in the profoundest way, if he presumed upon the division of booty. This led to one of the most famous incidents of Clovis' early reign, the legendary shattering of a great crystal vase:  the vase of my title.

The effect of a king's failure to provide for his forces with booty - and to divide that booty equally - was the deepest betrayal of his duty as a military leader.  To fail, as Clovis did in the incident of the Vase of Soissons, was unthinkable.  His spectacular revenge, then, becomes a matter not only of legend - but, more immediately, and for him, propaganda.  Proven a failure as a king, he has to prove his authority in order to hold the throne from which he can remediate this black mark on his prestige.

So hacksilver is more than the "barbarian" destruction of treasures, it is the reflection of a society so fully invested in equality for those who defend and fight for their king and people that to short-change any of them might be the end of their king.  It is the reflection of the "barbarian" definition of liberty - and equality.

And maybe it's an interesting look at an ancient recycling program!