Category Archives: books and authors

12-year-old birthday party, Take 1: Girls!

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12-year-old birthday party, Take 1: Girls!

Whose idea was this, anyway?

There are 5 extra girls here camped out in the living room, which looks like a tornado went through it. So far: Water balloon fights, bike rides, make-your-own pizzas, girls being bossy, vegan teal velvet cupcakes {instead of red, and thanks to older sister}, movies, popcorn, dogs eating popcorn, and silly phone videos.

Tomorrow, Take 2: Boys!

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I had my own little Pickup Artist / Brazil day

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I’ve been reading The Pickup Artist, by Terry Bisson. There’s a point in the book where Shapiro (the main character) is calling to find out how his sick dog is doing. There is so much bureaucracy in his world that he gets in this ridiculously long series of phone calls in which he gets the run-around about how his dog is doing, hears recorded platitudes, has to be transferred to grief counseling before he’s even told his dog has cancer, is upsold on a new miracle life-extending drug for his dog which would keep her just barely alive for up to two years (HalfLife™), in case a cure is developed within that time-frame, but then is told his insurance won’t cover it, and has to wait so long on hold to get through to anyone that he dials in the morning, and then carries the phone around with him all day on speaker phone, waiting for somebody to pick up. This is a futuristic story, but so painfully true. The novel reminds a bit of Brazil.

I had my own little Pickup Artist / Brazil government bureaucracy going on today. First of all I spent an hour and half or so waiting patiently at the DMV, just so I could pay them $40 to spend 30 seconds glancing at my  paperwork and various forms of i.d., have me double-check their data entry (twice), and take a new photo. They were, to their credit, very friendly and efficient once I got to the counter. As a bonus I got to try to read while crammed in a room with about 60 other people, many of whom had also been waiting for a couple of hours and had brought along various loud and/or obnoxious family members. I’m surprised nobody busted out a picnic basket. At least I didn’t get picked by the lonely and somewhat confused elderly lady who talked the ear off of the teenage girl next to her. But I did have to listen to her, because, well, she was shouting.

Then, because I’m masochistic, I decided I also needed to call the IRS today. I had already tried to fill out an online form with them on multiple occasions over the last week or so, only to receive an unhelpful error message. I had also tried to call several times over the last week, only to be told that the wait would exceed ½ hour. Today, I thought I better bite it and just wait on hold. So, I put the phone on speaker and carried it around the house with me while doing various things like feeding the animals, going to the bathroom, preparing lunch, etc. Over 45 minutes later an agent finally answered. Things were going along just fine until the IRS employee decided to give me a canned lecture on the importance of remembering that money owed to the government is owed when it is earned, and what did we plan to do differently next time, seeing that we were being gifted this magnanimous extension plan? And no, getting a job wasn’t the right answer, and if I didn’t indicate “compliance,” or basically, state that we had learned our lesson, he would have to put a note in our file. Say what?! {And this is over a very small amount of money owed.} It was condescending, to say the least, and I told him that I knew it was his job to say his script, but that I did not appreciate being treated like an idiot. Poor guy. How would you like a job that required you to be a jerk to people who are unemployed and just doing the best they can to pay their tax bill?

{This upset me almost as much as the day the lady from the unemployment office called to harass me because I hadn’t responded immediately to a job possibility she had emailed me—for a job with a company that I had previously interviewed with and been rejected by. Of course I wasn’t going to apply with them again! “Well, are you even looking for a job?!” she said. Uh, yes. In fact, I had just gone through an interview the previous day. “You’re supposed to get back to me right away, every time.” She sends me another job opp—I email her back within a half hour. Never hear from her again. I have other examples. Here’s a classic from another agency: Me, “Let me check my calendar really quick to make sure I can make that appointment.” Agent, “You’re supposed to be unemployed, so you shouldn’t have anything on your schedule.” OK… so I don’t have 3 step-kids to juggle and a ton of volunteer work. And one car to get 5 people to all of their various activities. If I’ve made an appointment with somebody, I’ve made an appointment—I can probably reschedule, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t have commitments. WTF?}

In spite of the above, over the last 6 months for every one bureaucratic cog that has made me want to cry or pull my hair out, I’ve probably dealt with 3 that were kind, efficient, had a sense of humor, or went out of their way to make things go as well as possible.

What’s your favorite bureaucratic interaction story?

Yin {yawn}, John Irving’s latest, what’s waking me at 3:30 a.m.

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Well, I’m finally getting a little exercise again {other than gardening and yard work}. I’ve hiked Pilot Butte 3 times in the last 2 weeks and also got myself to a yoga class today. It was “yin” and it’s basically a bunch of stretches, each held for a verrrryyyyyyyy long time. Not my favorite—I prefer the active vinyasa type classes, but it was probably a good way to ease back into it. I got to thinking, why am I letting the summer slip away without keeping my fitness level up? I really have no excuses, except that this step-mom thing is more time-consuming (mentally and physically) than it seems like it should be. 

Yesterday, I finally got myself a late birthday present: the kindle version of John Irving’s latest novel, In One Person. I finished up my Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine first, since I was pretty near the end, and this week I’m going to dive into the novel. John Irving is one of my favorite authors of all time and way back in the early days {96ish?} I maintained one of the only Irving fan sites on the internet. I wish he published more frequently, but then again it makes it pretty special when he does.

The last few nights/mornings I’ve found myself wide awake around 3:30 a.m. {even after going to bed around 1 or 2}. Our bedroom window faces east and we’ve been leaving the windows and curtains open to keep it as cool as possible. A sliver of an orange moon has been flanked by two very bright, colorful planets—they must be Venus and Jupiter. Apparently, I’ve hit it just right: Venus is brightest mid-July and according to this site, “For a real treat, get up early to see the waning crescent moon joining up with Venus and Jupiter on the mornings of July 14, 15 and 16.”  It would be annoying if it weren’t so beautiful. Moon, Venus, Jupiter—I forgive you. Alas, my phone did not capture a decent picture of them through the glass, but not for lack of trying. See some photos here.

jacket on, jacket off; prepping for the annual Butte burn; Rosecrans

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I just watched The {new} Karate Kid with the kids. Earlier, we walked Pilot Butte. Well, part of it. I really slacked off in June on any type of exercise other than gardening, but I’m determined to add Pilot Butte and yoga back in on a regular basis. Leave it to me to pick this week to get us motivated—they had the top ¼ of the Butte roped off to start setting up the fireworks. So we had a shorter walk than normal, but at least is wasn’t closed altogether. We probably can’t go again until Thursday.

It looks like the weather will be nice during the day for the 4th, but chilly at night (typical for Central Oregon). It feels weird to have holidays that I used to have as “vacation” days. Now I almost feel guilty having a day off… from nothing. I know it’s a little ridiculous, but I still feel that way.

Now I’m off to check out the Rosecrans Baldwin novel (You Lost Me There) that I picked up from the library earlier. I hope I like it as much or more as his Paris memoir.

Mellow birthday

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Mellow birthday ~

Slept in. Read a clever Matthew Hughes story about thieves and wizards from Fantasy & SciFi Mag, a disturbing Robert Reed sci-fi story from the Robots anthology, an enjoyable short story by Lucia Perillo (hey, I can give a different short story genre a chance), and then half of Paris, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down, by Rosecrans Baldwin. That one had me laughing out loud many times, a welcome diversion. Maybe it’s because I too was once that person working in a foreign country not being able to understand a damn thing anyone said for the first several weeks (I was in Madrid, he was in Paris. I was an au pair, he had an actual job—the comparison ends there).

This evening we managed to go out to dinner as a family to our favorite haunt with all the vegan options. Here’s a pic of my birthday dessert {Bonta Vegan Chocolate Sorbetto with Jem Chocolate’s warm Hazelnut Chocolate Sauce}. And when we got home, we had my favorite—carrot cake made by my step-daughter. It was incredible.

Bonta Vegan Chocolate Sorbetto

Bonta Vegan Chocolate Sorbetto (Broken Top Bottle Shop)

But will there be robots?

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Fantasy & Science Fiction, July / August 2012

But will there be robots?

Funny that this showed up on my Kindle today—I looked for it last night and it wasn’t there yet. Stories by:

~ Kate Wilhelm
~ Matthew Hughes
~ Matthew Johnson
~ Rachel Pollack
~ Albert E. Cowdrey
~ Eleanor Arnason
~ Jeffrey Ford
~ Michaele Jordan
~ Ken Liu

On my reading list… Robots!

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Robots: The Recent A.I.

Robots: The Recent A.I. edited by Rich Horton & Sean Wallace

There’s nothing like some extra sci-fi stories to keep me going between Fantasy & Science Fiction editions.

Funny, I see a short story anthology and I sigh, even if it’s by an author whose novels I love.

But there’s something about sci-fi short stories that just clicks with me.

Robots!