Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Another Blog

I finally posted a link to Peter's blog over in the list. It took me a long time to do this. Sorry, dude. But I wasn't sure if you were still keeping it as it had been a few moons between updates. Anyway, it is now officially in my list, yo. And I really wish we could make it to your awesome-sounding James-Bond-themed New Year's Eve party.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Companionship, Weirdness, & Sisters.

It's been an eventful couple of days. Sunday I met up with a handful of friends from Mills College for brunch in Berkeley, which was moved to Le Bateau Ivre due to pouring rain. Alison, a fellow Cal alum, and I, both agreed that it was one of those restaurants we'd always passed and wanted to go to but somehow never did despite years of living in the area. So, we finally ended up there. And it was yummy. They have an array of alcoholic coffee beverages, which I was unable to take advantage of due to intestinal issues after eating some dubious Indian food the previous night. (We did not know it was dubious until the following day, or else we would have avoided it in the first place. Was it the Palak Paneer? The Tandoori Mixed Grill? We may never know, since we are not going back to that restaurant.)

Anyway, we celebrated a couple of birthdays, caught up on what we've been doing since graduating from Mills, had some eats, and discussed some truly strange knitting patterns. Here's another one. I have no words that express my reaction to this, although it did remind me of this graduate student in the Cal art department who did an exhibit in the Worth Ryder Gallery of penis cozies.

On a completely, utterly different note, I finally received a picture of my half-sister via e-mail. Strangely enough, she doesn't really look like me. My first cousins look more like they could be my sisters. She must resemble her mother. Her hair is darker than mine, but we have similar eyes and face shape. Other than that, we seem not to be very similar. I found out that I have a nephew named Declan and a niece named Elise, age 6 and 3.5 respectively. I was also reminded of the bizarre fact that it is currently summer down in Australia, and they are about to start summer vacation. We've been discussing several other cultural differences, such as their lack of Halloween or Thanksgiving. And, she has promised to try to take me to an Aussie Rules game when we visit. (That was her "when," not mine--I liked that.)

Saturday, December 17, 2005

At the Risk of Believing Everything I Read...

...I found this fascinating tidbit about Coca-Cola's labor practices at bottling plants on Rhys's blog. If it's true, I can't say I find it surprising. But Rob won't be very happy if I tell him he can't drink Coke any more.

I only have about two or three more shopping errands to run before all our Christmas shopping is done. Tomorrow's will be rather odious because it really involves at least two separate stores, plus some random street fair wandering--I'll be meeting some friends from Mills at someplace in Berkeley I've never been called Thai Temple (scroll down for listing), which should be cool. I'm sure I'll be very hungry as the shopping will precede the food.

I am looking forward--at least in theory--to buying some tiny Cal schwag for our 9-month-old nephew Miles. I am not, however, looking forward to fighting the crowds that will be thronging Cody's and the Telegraph Holiday Street Fair. Sometimes I'm amazed I used to live only two-and-a-half blocks from Telegraph, on Channing. (Of course, I had other routes to walk to and from my apartment, such as cutting through a church parking lot.) I kind of miss that apartment. It was decent-sized, for a studio, with a huge bathroom containing a bathtub with feet. One of my psychology TAs lived upstairs, which was weird, because every once in a while I'd hear people having screaming fights up there. I always kind of liked that, in front of the building, there used to be a worn-down statue of a nude maiden of some sort, made of what appeared to be poorly cast concrete.

One time I locked myself out of my place on a Sunday, when most locksmiths seemed to be closed. At that point, I only knew one person in the building, this quiet bearded man named Joel who lived across the hall, had a nice white cat named Casper, and sold strange items made of reconfigured silverware on Telegraph. He had helped me move in, and I hardly ever saw him after that. So I knocked on his door, nearly in tears, and he helped me look (fruitlessly) in the phone book and calmed me down. (His apartment, by the way, was FULL of ALL KINDS OF CRAP. I guess that's not all that unusual.)

He then said he was going to try one last thing before we continued looking for a locksmith. He went to my door and put in his own key. Lo and behold--and shudder--it actually opened my door. I shit you not. We exchanged a significant look which meant both "this should not be," and "we will pretend this never happened and never speak of it again." I thanked him profusely, and hoped that he wasn't some secret weirdo who would abuse his newly-discovered ability to enter my apartment. And apparently he wasn't, and didn't. He'd been living there forever, and seemed to be the closest thing we had to a building manager, which there wasn't in our building. The rental company seemed to bend the rules for him as a result--cf. the cat in a no-pets-allowed zone.

Later, the rental company sold the building to Reddy Realty, whose manager shortly thereafter was convicted of running an underage prostitution ring of Indian immigrant girls or some such ickiness. Plus they made a bunch of noise building a laundry room in the basement. And every time they needed to get hold of me by phone it was the most urgent thing in the world so they'd call me like twice in a day and leave me these pathetic messages like "We call you so many times, but you never call us back." Good times, good times.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A couple of shout-outs. Or should that be "shouts-out?"

I've been meaning for a couple of weeks to plug a few new sites connected with friends. Here I finally go.

Firstly, my friend Shin Yu Pai has a new website with a schedule of upcoming poetry readings, a gallery of her photography, and more. It's a really nice-looking site. Plus her poetry is excellent, so buy some if you get a chance!

This second item should be of interest to any soap opera fans out there. Jaime (aka MeiMei)--who has been toiling day and night as a script editor for One Life to Live--was given a special freelance project to write a fictional blog from the viewpoint of a character with a split personality. They measure site traffic, so go visit--the more hits the better. Go MeiMei! I now know far more about OLTL than I ever have in my life. I'm still not going to start watching, though.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Plastic Wear

I found this disturbing yet amusing item on memepool today. I personally like the boob bracelet, or maybe the one with all the eyes. Frankly, though, this artist needs to give the line a catchier name. Perhaps "Barbie-Queue," or "Plastacular."

I'd just like to say that Gmail is cool. I can now get blog RSS feeds from all you cool people right at the top of my inbox, which is good, because I'm not very good at visiting people's blogs regularly. Thank you, Gmail, for making me a better friend. Awwwwww.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Triple Threat!

I guess things do come in threes, though in my case, there had better be more than three instances of good writing luck--since I am trying to make a living and all.

Well, the first piece of good news came in the mail on Saturday. I got a very brief letter from Margaret K. McElderry Books in response to a query letter I sent a couple of months ago. The letter was so brief as to strike fear into my heart, but although it began with "Dear Author," it went on to ask me to send my manuscript. So that's good news. Another nibble for The Other Olwen.

Exciting piece of news #2 is that I'm going to, in fact, get paid for a profile article I wrote for the upcoming issue of Mills Quarterly, the Mills College alumnae (well, really, alumni since there are a few male students there) magazine. I was not expecting it to be a paying market, for whatever reason, but I was still happy to get a publication credit. So, bonus!

Number three is the most exciting of all. I might not have found out first thing this morning if Tanita hadn't called me and told me to check my dang e-mail because I obviously hadn't yet. In my e-mail inbox was a link to the announcement of the winners of the Smartwriters short story contest I entered a few months ago. This was a short story contest for children's and YA writers. There were two surprises here. One was that I got third place for the YA category for "This Is Jane." The other is my friend Jaime, aka MeiMei, got a Special Mention for her piece "Barefoot," which they mentioned in the same sentence with The New Yorker. All the winners (mid-grade and YA) get published in an anthology, so this will officially be my first fiction publication!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Procrastination Street

I have recently had some additional responsibilities fall into my lap. The brief and tactful summary of this situation is as follows: I am currently vice-president of a non-profit volunteer group that promotes Welsh language in North America. I'm also helping organize its annual conference for 2006, which will take place in Stockton, CA. The current president called me last night to tell me that his father had a stroke and he will, understandably, be unable to make the group a priority for the time being. The situation is, of course, more complicated than that, but that's the gist. Hence the additional responsibilities.

Apparently what I do when faced with additional responsibilities is a) create a very organized and prioritized to-do list, and b) procrastinate. So I hereby present A. Fortis's Top Ten Ways to Procrastinate (in no particular order):

10. Blogging. Like this. (In fact, this seems awfully familiar. Have I done this top ten list before? No, really--I can't remember, and Blogger's search function is totally unhelpful.)
9. E-mailing. I always have several unanswered e-mails to attend to, as I'm sure some of you are fully aware.
8. Reading. Since I'm a writer, I'm good at convincing myself it's research. Plus, the cat likes to sit on my lap, and then I'm too warm and cozy to move her.
7. Burning CD Mixes. Yeah, I know, that's a totally high-school way to procrastinate. But it works. I might use that one tonight.
6. Making To-Do Lists. It's like I'm being productive. Kind of.
5. Cooking/Baking. Again, I feel like I'm doing something useful and so the guilt just melts away.
4. Doing Crossword Puzzles. I don't always take advantage of this one. But I spent like an entire week earlier this month doing a Sudoku puzzle from the Sunday Datebook. (And I finished the damn thing, damn it!)
3. Exercising a Poor Attitude. This category includes all the various species of stressing out, moping, having anxiety attacks, complaining, being fatalistic, and so forth.
2. Watching Television. I watch way more TV than is justified by the sheer amount of stuff I have to get done.
1. Running Errands. Granted, this is a different form of work, but it keeps me from getting other types of work done, the type that requires me to sit for long periods of time and think or type or paint.

You may notice that there are several potential procrastination activities missing from this list. They are not there because I am most likely not spending enough time doing them to merit them being rated procrastination activities. Now they've just become back-burner occasional items, like studying Welsh, or required-but-not-worth-mentioning items, like housecleaning. On that note, I was watching a documentary earlier this week about J.K. Rowling (see #2 above) and she revealed the secret of how she managed to write a book as a single mother raising a small child: she lived in squalor. This made me feel a whole lot better about, say, failing to fold the clean laundry until I actually need the baskets again for the dirty laundry. Next time anybody hassles me about keeping house I'm going to tell them that. And, with a great sigh, I shall hereby interrupt my procrastination with some actual productivity.

Just So You Know...

...the approximate final word count was about 35,000. Not too shabby, really. The hard part will be disciplining myself to keep going for another week at the same pace, with no tangible reward at the end of it. Of course, that's writing and art for the most part--steeling yourself to keep producing even though there's no guarantee of success or even making a living. On that ambivalent note, I'm going to go back to this self-portrait that is my final project for my mixed media painting class. My hair is currently green, something I need to rectify. (Green makes a good undercoating for portraits, and helps create a more lifelike skin tone.)