Monday, October 31, 2011

Warning: Psychosis Impending

  As we all remember, unless you were drunk when you read that post, dear reader, I mentioned a couple weeks ago that National Novel Writing Month begins November 1 (i.e. approximately 4 hours MT from now! Eek!). Because I will be busting my fingers and my brain to type out 50 thousand words by midnight, November 30th, my blog posts will be fewer in number, but hopefully just as entertaining, or perhaps laughable, as usual.
    If you haven't signed up for Nano yet, and you still want to, there's still time (depending on your time zone, that is)! If it's not midnight yet where you live, jump on Nanowrimo.org and register to begin the madness that is noveling.
    It's not goodbye, dear readers, just good night, and good luck, and apologies for not posting as much over the next month or so. If I'm feeling brave, I may even share a little bit about the noveling process and whether my story is panning out or not. I'm already anticipating lots of conflict and perhaps a death or two. I have outlined it to oblivion, and since that tends to do me more harm than good, I may have to resort to drastic measures to keep that word count going!
Just keep writing, just keep writing :)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Holiday Spirit Appears Early

  I used to insist on waiting until Thanksgiving was over before I even started thinking about Christmas. I even skipped Christmas one year (i.e. did not buy presents or ask for any or put up a tree or anything--though not everyone listened when I said I didn't want anything) to protest the level of commercialism it had attained.
    However, sometimes after you go without something for long enough, the next time it comes around makes you appreciate it even more. (One case in point, the NHL lockout a few years ago made me realize how much I enjoyed watching hockey, even though I had not watched too much of it in the previous couple of seasons.) Case in point two: I really missed Christmas after I skipped it that year.
    I enjoy shopping for Christmas presents and making cookies and putting up the tree and singing Christmas music. Even the people who are hard to shop for, I don't mind as much because I enjoy the season. The lights and the colors and especially the movies. I know there aren't too many people who get to have a happy ending Hollywood version of Christmas anymore, and it has become overly commercialized over the past few decades, but it's still a lovely thought. Thinking about children believing in Santa, families coming together, forgetting all your misanthropy and cynicism and giving in to the holiday spirit, and spreading good cheer and good will towards men (PC term=humanity).
    I already started searching for Christmas presents, as I plan to do a lot of my shopping online this year. I'm hoping that 1) this will save me a little bit of money, 2) I can find things for the hard-to-shop-for people a little easier, 3) this will help me get most of my shopping done earlier rather than last minute, and 4) this will allow me to find a few things that you just can't find at a Target or a JC Penney's.
    I blame this recent surfacing of Christmas spirit on the huge snowstorm we had in my neck of the woods this week. I woke up on Thursday and said, wow, it looks just like Christmas! While most of it's melted already, as the temperatures shot back up into the fifties again, it doesn't change the fact that I'm already dreaming of a white Christmas (despite that we maybe get one every ten years here because it refuses to snow ON Christmas--it always snows too early or too late and it's all melted by the Christmas day arrives).
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

What are your thoughts on this (somewhat) impending holiday? 
Love it? Hate it? (FYI: If you say you hate it, you will henceforth be known as the Grinch.) 
What's your favorite, or least favorite, part about it?
Share in the comments.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Nostalgia Strikes Again

  Nostalgia, from the Greek, means a sense of pain, sadness or yearning to return to times gone by. It's not just homesickness or recalling fond memories, though it is often used in that sense. And although not everyone uses it in this way, I tend to use it to embody an entire era, one in which I had not even been born, rather than just memories contained within my own life.
    Sometimes I say I'm old-fashioned or conventional (more in my taste than in my actual ideas and opinions--in that case, vintage might be a more appropriate word), but mostly, or perhaps more accurately, I am nostalgic. I watch old movies and old television shows, and new movies and television shows that take place in that particular period of time, and I wonder why we thought it was necessary to evolve certain aspects of that culture into what we have today. Because today's culture is lacking some parts, parts that should have persisted, from that era. This has nothing to do with the technology overload or anything like that--I'm talking about our communication, interaction and the overall way in which we present ourselves on a day to day basis.
    I'll admit, I may be whistling dixie, and you can chalk a lot of this up to me having seen way too many episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show and Mad Men, but there's something I really love about the fact that everything seemed so much more orderly and comme il faut about American life fifty or sixty years ago. These examples may have you scratching your head, wondering how I could call Dick Van Dyke in any way orderly and organized, or any of the characters' personal lives in Mad Men normal and as they should be, but there are things that exist in those shows that no longer exist.
    Today, everything is about comfort. We wear jeans to work (or we do where I work), nobody carries a proper hat or an overcoat, we all have sweatshirts and stocking hats when the weather calls for them, and we yell down the hall rather than politely phone someone in their office (though in my situation, not all of our phones are hooked up, so that one wouldn't be possible anyway).
    But it's not just what they wore. They had a certain way of acting--a politesse, at least outwardly, that has all but disappeared from the modern world. Some people might call it disingenuous, or phony, but it was correct--tactful, polite, and appropriate. It was being respectful and treating other people like they were people--not good or bad people, or well-liked people or disliked people, just human beings. There are things you can say in certain company, and there are things you absolutely don't say in certain company.  People held umbrellas for strangers and walked them to their cars. They held doors and elevators and didn't panic at the idea of saying "hello, how are you," to someone they happened to be stuck riding 10 floors up with.
    Back then, you kept your thoughts or opinions to yourself when it wasn't your place to speak up, and you addressed certain people with respect whether you liked them or not. While some of this propriety has managed to survive, at least in certain circles or for certain people, a lot of it has disintegrated. Lots of people now say whatever they want whenever, wherever, and to whomever they happen to be in the vicinity of.
    While this may seem more real and honest--qualities which have become more valuable over the years as politeness and respect have become less valuable for whatever reason--I still feel like there is a line somewhere that's being crossed. It's just that so many years have passed, and so many people have stepped on that line, that we can't quite see where it is anymore.
    Call me sentimental, but i think it'd be nice if everyone still wore suits and high heels and pencil skirts. The world would seem to me more civilized, less cutthroat and ugly, as the news inevitably portrays it. On the other hand, then I'd have to learn how to do my hair so it looked perfect all day. Maybe sweatpants, cursing like a sailor, and instant messaging are not so bad after all.
We're going back--back to the future, man!

Are there some customs or mannerisms you'd like to see make a comeback, 
or do I just need to get over the fact that I was born in the wrong part of the century?
Share in the comments.

PS: NaNoWriMo starts in eight days. Have you picked your topic yet?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Being A Little OCD Sucks Sometimes

  I spent the last couple days sorting through 410 articles for our new site at work, trying to sort them into categories and find relevant tags for all of them. It covers a lot of ground, so the lists got pretty long. I think I put together a pretty decent one though, one that was comprehensive but not exhaustive. I took it upon myself to put it together because it was starting to look like the alternative was another brainstorming session that probably wouldn't yield too many finalized results. And I guess it went over well, for the most part.
    The problem with this one is that there are too many cooks in the kitchen, I think, and everyone has their own idea of how to sort the content out. But, being that I'm the one who's going to be managing the content and probably the one who will have to go through and categorize and tag a lot of the content we currently have, My idea makes the most sense. I don't think that's immodest or stubborn, I think it's just realistic. I have a good overall understanding of how the content stands currently, and I think the way I've planned the organization of it makes the most sense for what we have on hand, as well as being a good place for us to move forward when we get new content in.
    I'm not saying my way or the highway, but kind of. When you have a website of this magnitude, there needs to be a process in place for handling certain areas, like content, as we move forward. If I create a process, I know I can stick to it. All that's left is making sure whoever comes in at any point to help with the content knows how I do it and does it the same way so that everything on the site is uniform and nothing gets confused or messed up because somebody didn't follow procedure.
    I am aware of how neurotic and OCD this sounds, but I am a little neurotic and OCD. When I have a job, I find a way to do it the best, most efficient and most organized way possible. It's one thing for the articles themselves to have different content--of course they would--they're written by a bunch of different people with different writing styles. It's quite another for them to be SEO'd and formatted differently because the people we have in-house are not all doing it the same way. I think that looks sloppy. And if I'm in charge of the content, you better believe it won't look sloppy for long.
    So, I may be compulsive and excessively organized, but it pays off from time to time. My high school psych teacher always used to tell us there was a method to her madness, which I always found terribly amusing because a psych teacher talking about madness is pretty funny/ironic, and I completely agree. I may do things the hard way and I may dot every single I and cross every last T, but there is always a reason for everything I do when it comes to this stuff. I don't do things without thinking, and while maybe my solutions or processes aren't perfect every time, I always have a very reasonable explanation for having done things that way. I don't think this makes me inflexible, it just keeps me organized.
One more person says "a whole nother" and I think I'll scream.

What are your little pet peeves, idiosyncrasies and neuroses? 
Or are you so easy-going that nothing bothers you?
Explain in the comments. ;)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Batman - Superhero With No Superpowers

  While I probably should chalk my affinity for the Caped Crusader up to the fact that I grew up in the nineties and that's when a lot of the Batman movies were in circulation, not to mention all the animated series, I can't attribute it entirely to that. 

    Yes, Batman has the cool gear, the cool house, the cool cars, and the really attractive dates, but there's more to the Batman than his toys (the dates, of course, are excluded from this category). While I continue to defend Batman against Superman lovers and even Spiderman, Hulk, or other superheroes, I do understand why they prefer those guys to Batman. Bruce Wayne is one wealthy dude. We'd all be superheroes if we had unlimited means and resources to create Batsuits and utility belts and Batmobiles. But I don't think that's the whole story. 
    While those things are incredibly handy (citywide sonar, anyone?), Batman can hold his own without them. The reason he has these things is because he doesn't have a superpower. If Batman was impervious to bullets like the Man of Steel, he wouldn't have to spend all that money on a fancy Batsuit. If Batman could repel down buildings and swing through them like Spiderman without his suit or anchors, he could leave those things in the car. But the thing is, Batman didn't come from an alien planet. He didn't get bit by a radioactive spider. He wasn't born with any genetic mutations that gave him a new ability. And he isn't a bad science experiment that turns green and huge when he gets pissed off. Batman is a regular man. He just happens to have a lot of money. 
Taken from NY Times Online
     But in spite of that, he still finds it necessary to fight evil in Gotham City, however hazardous to his health it may be. He could be one of those wealthy guys that just holes up in his mansion, afraid to go out with so much funky shit going down in the city, worried he might get blood on his $3000 shoes. But he isn't. He is the only guy in that whole city brave enough to go out there, and lucky enough to have the resources to combat people who are hurting Gotham's citizens with noxious gases, mind-control devices, or just a general bad attitude. 

    So, say what you want about the Dark Knight, but you have to admit, where would we be if we didn't have Batman? We'd be bored out of our minds criticizing the old Superman movies (and the new ones) and wondering why they bothered to make 4 Spiderman movies, not to mention a musical. Batman is just a better conversation piece, and the movies aren't bad either (movies meaning Tim Burton's Batman films and Christopher Nolan's films--the other ones sort of fail, on so many levels). 
Kapow!

How about you? Which were your favorite superheroes? Or did you have any favorites?
Share in the comments.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

5 Reasons To Do NaNoWriMo Next Month

  For anyone who even remotely considers themselves a writer, and who doesn't know already, November is National Novel Writing Month. This means that for 30 days, crazy people all over the world will be fiendishly writing into the wee hours of the morning to finish 50 thousand words by midnight on the thirtieth.
    I have done this, twice now (and won, I might add), and it's a lot of fun. Not the way that going to the movies is fun or playing pool is fun, but it's fun in that it's a challenge. It breaks down to about 1,667 words every day. When you think about it, that's not that much. It's like 5 double spaced pages of whatever you want. It doesn't have to be Shakespeare, and it doesn't even have to have all the commas. (You won't find me as Constant Writer on the Nano website, though. I was doing Nano long before I was doing Insistent and Persistent ;)


    The purpose of all this writing is to crank out a draft of a novel that you've been thinking about without worrying so much about getting it perfect. No first draft is perfect (you may know this as pretty much anyone who's taken a writing class will have read "Shitty First Drafts" or parts of it), but for some reason, we all manage to convince ourselves that it has to be. And this fear of writing something that isn't totally mind-blowing and amazing right out of the gate is what prevents us from actually writing something.
    So, what keeps you motivated for thirty days to actually keep writing? Stats. If you have any competitive streak, you can make friends through the forums and battle each other with your word count. One of the important things to the process is that word count matters, not page count. So it doesn't matter how big you make your font or how wide you make your margins, it's the number of words that count.
    This isn't just a numbers game, though. There comes a satisfaction that is indescribable when you cross the 50k mark. Even if you have more to say, once you hit that point, the pressure is off and you have such a wonderful sense of accomplishment.
    If you like to write, or if you're just feeling a little crazy, check out the Nano website and sign up (they help you track your stats) and get ready for one wordy month!
Word Nerds Live Here.

**UPDATE** SOOOO I totally forgot that I had put "5 Reasons" at the top of this when I started it and realized driving home that there may or may not be 5 separate reasons. I will try to enumerate them in the comments, but it wasn't a completely thought out plan, so, apologies, dear readers ;)

Have you written a novel? A short story? Some piece of writing that you're proud of?
What's your favorite part about writing?
Share in the comments below.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Talking Bout My Generation

  I read an article today that made me think about my generation. People in their mid to late twenties, and sometimes even early thirties, have had to put their lives on hold because of the economy. Fifty years ago, people were getting married at my age, buying houses, having babies, and starting that grown-up life before they had even fully grown up. Now, people my age are prolonging their youth, not entirely by choice but by situation. We are largely unemployed, homeless (meaning, without our own homes or apartments), and we are often broke, or damn near. [Thanks, Pete Townshend for a good lyric to put in my blog title ;) ]
    While I am the exception--I have a job, and as you read recently, I just hit the one-year mark (*hooray again*); I have an apartment that I am paying for all by myself; and I am extremely frugal and meticulous about my money, so I am never really broke. I may not have any cash on me sometimes, but I always have some money somewhere. On the other hand, I know that many people in my generation are broke, don't have their own place, and can't find a job. This was all my life before I found my job. I was unemployed for nine months after graduating college, I had moved back in with my dad, and even after I found work, I was still living with my mom for a few months until I could find an apartment.
    Moving forward in life has become overly complicated for people my age. I personally feel like I've hit the peak of adulthood. I don't have those same goals as firm, set-in-stone goals. If my life moves in a certain direction, yes, I might eventually want to buy a house. If my life moved in another direction, I might consider getting married. And if my life moved in a really different direction, several years from now, mind you, I also might consider kids. But right now, all of those possibilities seem so distant, not only financially, but in terms of my own maturity. I can't even imagine having any of those things right now. Five years from now though, who knows?
    Still, I can't help wondering about the other people my age who are broke and want to take those next steps in their lives and just can't. It's not pity, but frustration I feel about this whole thing. Why are we the ones denied what many of us consider to be rights of passage and a natural progression of life when our forebears had full access? Why did these people in control of the economy and the economic future of this country not think about how their decisions would affect their children? (Make no mistake, we are at about the age that those people's children would be--just because their kids have trust funds doesn't mean we're not part of the same generation.) Why, if they did think of our futures, did they not care enough to stop what they were doing?
    The Almighty Dollar wins again. Greed was good twenty five years ago, but the "free market" economy has spiraled out of control in such a way that the rich cling desperately to their wealth, while the poor, or the working and middle classes, must cling desperately to their next paychecks, knowing they may still have to rely on credit to meet all their financial responsibilities.
    I am, by no means, an economist--in fact, I have no idea how I even passed my high school economics class with an A because I don't remember a thing--but some of these things seem so simple that I can't understand how how people could have screwed it up so badly as to leave my generation in the position to try to move forward and clean up their mess without the means to do it.
Greed sucks. Unemployment sucks worse.

Have you been unemployed? How did you deal with it? 
What do you think about the economy and its effect on Generation Y 
(i.e. people born between about 1985 and 1995, if that)?
Discuss it in the comments below.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Overwhelmed But Flattered

  I was taken to an almost impromptu lunch yesterday (meaning I didn't know about it until that morning) and offered what might be considered a promotion. Good news, right? I was scared shitless the entire time they were talking about it. It felt kind of like an ambush, as I had no idea that that's what the lunch would be about. My coworker and I were both taken out and offered a similar position, added responsiblity, added stress, and a pay increase, though no mention was made as to how much that would be.
    My one year review was today, it was positive, and I did get a raise (yay!). But my concern was not even really how much the raise would have been for. It was more the added stress and added responsiblity that I was not sure I was ready for. It would be additional content management for our new site, which I was expecting, and the possibility of training an intern and supervising them directly, both of which I know I can handle. The thing I was wavering on had to do with the "project management" thing, which was the title that came with the promotion. Part of this position would have included me having to manage my coworkers' tasks and check on their progress on those tasks and projects, on top of doing my own task and time management. I don't mind checking in with people when my bosses are out of town, but I wouldn't want to do it as part of my regular job. I can't bug people about their jobs. I can't be the nag. I can't write on the whiteboard what they're supposed to do. And I can't sit there and tell them it has to be done by Friday because, honestly, who am I? Unless I can fire them if it's not done, who am I? Their coworker, who is younger than most of them, that is trying to keep them on track? I'm fairly certain that at least two of them would feel extremely pissed off about me in that position, not jealous, necessarily, but angry that a person of my age and experience--which is still pretty limited if you measure it by time--was put into a position of this caliber.
    We're a small company, and I've known for a long time that they've wanted to put somebody else in a semi-supervisory position to free up my bosses' time. I've had a job for one year. All the experince I have, the majority has come during this one year. I just don't feel ready to do all the work that that new position would have required. I don't feel like I have the personality to manage that many people's tasks. I can manage myself, and maybe one other person who would be doing the same kind of work as me, but five additional people? Plus my own workload managing content? It was just too overwhelming.
    Don't get me wrong, I was flattered as hell, but intimidated more. I know how much confidence my bosses have in me, and while it's appreciated, I know that a job like that would not just put me close to a mental breakdown, it might actually CAUSE one. So, without mental health benefits, or general wellness benefits (anti-stress benefits, to be precise, massages and the like), I cannot sign on for a job where I have no idea what the workload or stress load is going to be, only that it will be more. I am already stressed and I already work hard. More seems like I might be setting myself up to fail at this point. And maybe in a few months, once I get my bearing with this new site, I might feel up to taking on a little more, but until then, I'd like to have some idea of what I'm getting into. And in the meantime, I'm very happy with what I'm doing now, and I look forward to taking on the new challenges within that particular aspect of my job.
    I did get a positive review, which I was very pleased about. In light of the fact that it was my one year review, I went out of my way to put together a list of all the major projects, tasks, and writing assignments I've completed over the past year. There were a lot. Even I was surprised. I have written so much, and completed a fair number of major projects as well, and it was kind of cool to see them all in one place, rather than spread out over so many weekly activity reports. It was sort of as a defense against any poor performance things that might have come up, though thankfully, none did.
    It's strange to think I've been at the same company, and to think about how far I've come from what I was doing this time last year to now, but it's cool. I've never had a job this long, and I'm looking forward to seeing what else I can accomplish in the next year.
Happy work birthday to me... Happy work birthday to me... :)

What are some of your accomplishments in the past year? Either work-related or in your personal life.
Do you have any goals for the next 12 months?
Tell me about it in the comments below.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Commute or Telecommute - That Is The Question

  If you haven't noticed, and the only way you couldn't have is if you read Insistent and Persistent in an RSS reader rather than directly on the site (though I hope if you do that, you at least visit the site occasionally...), I put a new header at the top of the home page.
    I know the design quality is poor, but what do you expect from a philosophy major with only MS Paint as a tool instead of Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator? My hope is that it will bring a little color to the page :)
    In other news, I got to thinking about working from home today after I read an article on Thought Catalog about the topic. I don't think I'd want to work 40 hours a week from home, because, honestly, I would start buying cookies and ice cream and I'd probably gain another five pounds every month or so. But the thought of working a few hours a week from home is appealing. Maybe two half days or one full day. I wouldn't be interrupted with meetings or drama or crises, and I wouldn't have to drown out my coworkers with my Walkman.
    On the other hand, I wonder whether that is really a good solution to whatever stress or overwhelmed feelings I have, and I know that it probably isn't. Working from home might help relieve some stress, but there are other, better ways to deal with it.
    One is to stop eating so much crap. We eat out so often at work that the only motivation I have to eat out less is financial. I am desperately trying to either eat yesterday's leftovers for lunch or to bring a sandwich and fruit for lunch at least two or three times a week. Also, I really need to quit drinking so much soda, and probably stop having more than the occasional beer (though after the infamous tequila shots incident, I've been damn near abstinent with almost all alcohol).
    The main thing I need to do is stop interneting so much! Of course, I wouldn't cut back on my blogging, but I spend way too much time reading and researching online when I get home, especially considering I spend a lot of my workday online doing the exact same thing. TV is a de-stressor, and reading books are a de-stressor, and writing is a de-stressor for me, but reading news and ads and polls online are all probably doing my mental state more harm than good.
    The last thing I need to do to help my stress levels is to be more active. I'm not a runner or a bicyclist or a tennis player or even a stairmaster user. Because those suck. They're painful, they're not fun, and they make me feel worse, not better, about myself after. Usually because my lung capacity fails me almost immediately. Yoga is the only form of exercise I can stand, but I always give up on it after a while, usually due to time constraints (or since I left school, financial constraints for going to classes). I just have to keep reminding myself that I don't hate it and then make time to do it, which is always hard. Especially with all the interneting.
    My eventual goal was always to be a writer, one that makes money from her writing and can actually make a living at it. But working from home seems to me right now to be just another way to become a recluse. And I like people. Some of them, anyway.
Write More. Read More. Plan More. Critique Less.

Would you work from home if you could? Would you miss anything about going to a workplace?
Discuss it in the comments below! 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Working for the Weekend

  For the first time, I was asked to work this weekend. I didn't have to go in to the office or get anything done by a weekend deadline, but it's more the why I had to work this weekend than the fact that I had to at all that bothers me.
    I work hard, and I put a large part of myself into the company. I get stress headaches, my eyes get dry and bloodshot, I get back pain sitting in a chair all day, and I strain my brain staring at a computer screen for 8 hours a day. I'm not complaining. I'm just saying: I put a lot of time, effort, and both mental and physical strain on myself at my job. I do this willingly. I work hard, and I take pride in the work that I do. I don't half-ass it, and I don't cut corners because that's just not how I was raised to do things.
    So when I am asked to work over the weekend to redo an assignment that was originally assigned to someone else, I get a little perturbed. The assignment was completed by this person, who shall remain nameless, but it was not up to snuff. I will leave the reason for why it was not up to snuff out of this, because it is a really poor excuse for poor work, but I will say that, not only should someone not turn in work like this in the first place, but they shouldn't be in such a state as to turn in work like this.
    If you are not able to do what is assigned to you, you probably should take the day off until you are ready to come back and adequately do your job. I do my job. I don't like doing other people's jobs for them. I will do it when asked, because I figure, if I'm asked to do it, that makes it part of my job. But I also figure that if I have to do someone else's job for them, that makes them a liability rather than an asset.
    It's one thing if someone has pneumonia or has a relative in the hospital--those are reasonable, good excuses. And in those cases, I'm fine stepping up and taking on a little extra work while they're out. But poor work quality while you should be in fine working capacity, leading to someone else having to fix your mistakes, is not ok.
    This is a job, not a class. You don't get to take it over if you fail a paper or test. Separate your personal life from your work life. Don't air your dirty laundry in public. And if you can't do your job, don't do it badly and leave it to someone else to fix it. I'm telling this to you, dear readers, because unfortunately, my aversion to confrontation will prevent me from telling it to the person whose job I had to do this weekend.
Welcome to Adulthood. Failures Will Be Shot. Or maybe just fired.

Have you ever cleaned up somebody else's mess at work? Did you confront them about it? 
Leave a comment, and feel free to use phony names to retain anonymity.

+Constant Writer

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