Thursday, March 30, 2006

Sigh.

Thanks for all the well-wishes, guys. At least my cold is going away, and that's nice. I'm hoping that with renewed health will come a decrease in hives. Today they're bad on my feet, of all places. I think it's because I wore my awesome boots to work yesterday, and, though comfortable, my feet get tired if I wear them all day. My legs are also hive-tastic, and full of stubble since I'm afraid to shave them and irritate them further. I'm sure you wanted to know all that. Too bad.

I got a different prescription from the doctor today, though, and I hope that improves things. I feel weird and blah, though; still kind of tired from being sick. I've been a little antisocial for a few days--I haven't returned a couple of phone calls, and I've been lax about reading people's blogs. I'm trying to just tone things down a little in my life right now, because I think stress is a huge part of the problem. Helping to organize a 75-person conference this summer doesn't help.

I haven't even been very good at blogging on my own blogs. Hopefully that's a fun project for this weekend, though. I hate it when fun things become work because I've let them slide for so long.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Going Out with a Whimper

The beginning of the end of my twenties was ushered in with yet another head cold, which is why you've heard nothing for several days. Friday, my actual birthday, was a pretty darn good day, until about 8 p.m. when my body decided to fall apart for a while. I'd had a sore throat for a couple of days, but figured it was probably just allergies. I was wrong.

Along with the cold came a renewed bout of my renewed bout (yes, you read that correctly) with hives. A couple of weeks ago, I was crushed and outraged to find that they had started to come back, a result no doubt of allergies combined with extreme stress. For those unaware, about three years ago I had a six-month bout with chronic hives. No apparent allergy, no single discernible cause. I spent months trying different combinations of prescription antihistamines, getting occasional shots for random face swelling, and finally ended up taking 10 days of Prednisone, a steroid. Whee. That's the short version of the story.

Anyway, the hives came back a few weeks ago, several days after I had gotten over a cold (a different one) and had suffered a few hay-fever-related coughing fits. I went back to the doctor, got some more crazy loopy-pills, and started meditating again. The hives started to go away after about a week and a half, but then I caught this latest cold (or relapsed) and back they came with a vengeance. I spent Sunday in the house, refusing to go out because my eyes and lips were swollen and freakish-looking.

Aside from that, though, I had a good birthday. I received the following cool items: an iPod Shuffle (AWESOME), some China-related books for our upcoming trip, the latest Harry Potter DVD, the first season of Home Movies on DVD, and a 1.5-year-old laptop kicked down from my mom, who got a new one from work. We went out to dinner with my mom, who was up visiting, and generally speaking, vegetated. I had no choice about this, of course, what with the being sick and all. So anyway, if you haven't heard anything useful or productive from me in days, that's why; though, in my defense, I also have a Mon-Wed job now, too.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Things You Learn on NPR

This is depressing. Whatever happened to good old lysergic acid diethylamide?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Busy, Busy

While you're waiting (on tenterhooks) for a report of our Seattle trip last weekend, here are some fun things I did over the past few days:

  • Watched the Numa Numa Dance (Thanks to Psychotic Web Monkey Corey)
  • Watched V for Vendetta, which was very good. The requisite comic-book-related and/or Hollywood-related cheese factor was minimal.
  • Went to brunch at the Thai Temple in Berkeley and met up with Writegrrl, Seren, Tea, Kat & Raj, Lisa L., Tadmack & D, and Fumi & Rohan. Sorry, no links; I'm lazy. Ate Pad Thai, Red Curry Pork, and Pumpkin Curry.
  • Felled a lizard man with a single blow of my mighty goat-axe (in D&D-world, not in real life).
  • Read Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler, who passed away recently. They were very good, although too depressing to really be fun, I guess.

More later.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Mysteries of Life

Here's a strange little item of information. The National Rifle Association keeps persistently trying to call my husband. We have no idea why, or how they got his phone number. We do have one friend--a guy Rob knows from childhood--who is active in the NRA, but he is fully aware of Rob's lack of interest in such things.

But they call him like twice a week. Usually he's not here and they end up just telling me, "Could you please tell Robert that the National Rifle Association called?" But despite the numerous times they have failed to actually reach him, they STILL CALL. I've even told them he's not interested. That worked for about a month.

Monday, March 13, 2006

From Rain to Sun and Back Again

You wouldn't think that we'd leave a rainstorm here in California to visit Seattle, enjoy a few days of sun, and then come back to more rain. But that's what happened, believe it or not. Granted, it was still very cold, but no rain. Apparently we missed gumball-sized hail by a few hours.

Two memorable quotes from the weekend trip:

  • Peter: "Beth, you're like the sister I never killed."
  • Flavor Flav: "I've gotta go drop the kids off at the pool."

What did we do all weekend? Mainly we ate, drank booze, played in the park, and sang karaoke. Also, got behind on work. So, further details of our trip will have to wait until I allow myself another few minutes of blog break-time.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Sad Job Nostalgia

I figure I ought to explain in a little more detail my job nostalgia from a few posts ago, and what better prompt to do so than a strange dream last night in which Peer Schneider (IGN Network Director) was hitting on me? (Actually, I think this was the nighttime manifestation of my occasional unrealistic daydream that IGN would come crawling back and ask me to write for them again, this time for actual money.)

So, in the interests of...well, nothing, really, except my procrastination, I should note that my job at IGN was the Potential Dream Job, which then turned into the Schizoid Job From Hell. I was fresh out of the Art Institute, newly embittered about artmaking and bearing heartfelt grudges for many individuals who purported to teach it; I was looking for work to support myself and Rob, who still had a year-plus left on his MFA degree; and I was already two weeks into a marketing job that I realized was a very poor choice.

Earlier that summer--the summer of '99--I had applied for a job at IGN as Custom Publishing Assistant. It seemed like the perfect place: They reviewed videogames--I liked videogames. It was a lowly position promising growth--I was pretty lowly, job-experience-wise. It was a dot-com just before the boom. I went down there; the interview went great; I was pretty sure I got the job. And then I didn't.

So I took another job as a Marketing Assistant or something at a different dot-com. I liked the people okay, but after a week I realized I was really going to hate the job, despite getting to go bowling as a "team-building exercise." I also didn't like driving from El Cerrito to San Ramon and back. Then one day I got another phone call from IGN. The Custom Publishing Manager had quit, one of the assistants had moved up to take his place, and there was a sudden opening. They'd really liked me during the interview and since I was their second choice, they thought they'd ask if I still wanted the job.

I was ecstatic. I went in for a second interview, but it was a mere formality. I apologetically quit the job I hated and boldly went forth into the world of videogame reviews and adolescent male-oriented humor. My job primarily consisted of editing e-mail newsletters and doing daily updates of the headlines on the main IGN page from the individual sections of the site (PC, PlayStation, DVD, For Men, etc.), via a customized backend, which is computer talk for Fields That You Plug Stuff Into and Then Hit Submit.

It was pretty menial, but I got to read the site all day, which was fun, and I knew a lot more about videogames than everyone else I knew. Plus, my awesome boss, Mike, had started as a Custom Publishing Assistant and was now not only manager but was planning to move to writing content for the site full-time, so I had hopes I might be able to do the same. In order to do so, I agreed to take over Weird Wild Web and Quote of the Day for extremely low pay, and thereby prove myself. Life was good. Work was fun. IGN was a No Farting Zone.

Then, several things happened. One: Mike moved to IGN Gear and instead of promoting Matt Kruse (the guy they hired right before me) or me, they hired somebody from outside. But life was still good. We were in the midst of dot-com delirium. IPOs everywhere, stock options flying like...uh...flies. People riding razor scooters around the office and having impromptu Quake sessions on the LAN. Even though we suddenly had the lame name Snowball.com instead of Affiliation Networks (encompassing IGN, ChickClick, PowerStudents, and InsideGuide), it was cool. We had our holiday party at the Great American Music Hall, with a big buffet, raffles for snowboards and crap, and hired help dressed like silvery elves wandering around taking black-and-white polaroids of people. There were parties thrown by Sega and UbiSoft, with free crap like Tomb Raider watches.

Then Two happened: They decided to merge IGN's individual marketing and custom publishing departments into the monstrosity of Corporate Marketing. Suddenly I had to give a shit about Snowball. I had to do other networks' newsletters. I had to write smarmy copy for ad banners and sit through excruciating weekly meetings first thing in the morning. And suddenly we had an Uber-Boss, and the Uber-Boss was kind of a meanie. The Uber-Boss held weekly meetings with just our IGN marketing group, also first thing in the morning, which was very difficult when I had to commute across the Bay Bridge. Occasionally I was a few minutes late to morning meetings. One day this happened before one of our group meetings, and the Uber-Boss decided she would upbraid me for it in front of the group for several minutes, which I thought was inappropriate.

And Three: Suddenly they were not going to be able to pay me directly for all the writing I'd been doing for them, because there was a new company policy not to pay freelancers within the company. Even though we were planning to move into a giant, cavernous new building, things were going a little downhill already in the dot-com world, and I guess they were saving a little money. First they said they were going to give me the money disguised as a bonus. But that didn't fly. So they supposedly gave me an extra-large raise.

Then the layoffs started. One round happened while I was on vacation; I came back to find one of my immediate co-workers gone. We started having to take care of work other than Custom Publishing and Marketing, like Customer Service, which blew. I was instructed by my boss to keep a low profile around the Uber-Boss if I was working on my articles. There was certainly no chance of me moving to the content side, as they'd entirely halted hiring more writers. Except for IGN Wrestling, which was apparently very popular.

There were more layoffs, but somehow I escaped; it was just me, my boss, and one other guy who was partially in another department. Rob theorizes they would have just kept dumping work on me and paying me the same crappy salary. My co-worker Linda, who was in a different area of marketing, and I would hold two-person meetings just to bitch. (Fortunately, our cavernous new building had meeting rooms aplenty.) Then, instead of taking up both floors of the building, they compressed everyone onto one floor, since it was huge and echoing anyway with all the layoffs they'd done. Every time the CEO called a company meeting, people shivered in dread. Anonymous posts to on FuckedCompany abounded.

So I quit. We were probably going to have to move anyway depending on where Rob got a teaching job, and I was kind of thinking about grad school. I was pretty sad about it, but I had to get out of there. Watching my stock options plunge, I was convinced that the whole company was going to fold, so I sold them before they got too low. But IGN survived. They amputated everything non-IGN and contracted to their original, pre-Snowball, pre-Affiliation size, back when they first split off from Imagine Media (now known as Future).

But I don't regret any of it, intolerable as it became. It was actually two IGN people who were Mills alums (Linda, mentioned above, and Sarah K., now of Entertainment Geekly) who inspired my interest in Mills College, and it was all the writing I did for IGN For Men that made me think about going to writing graduate school. And sometimes I can't help hoping that, since they called me back for that second interview, they'll call me back a third time, years after the fact, asking me to write for them. But that probably really is a daydream.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

SIGHHHH....

Sigh. That's all I have to say about this morning. I don't want to go into too much detail, but suffice it to say that I did not get the freelance factchecking job I applied for at the College Board.

Rather than bore you to death with my self-pity, which is, I assure you, voluminous, I'll summarize: I can't even get a job I was personally recommended for. How sad is that?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

At Last.

So here is the promised picture of the new kitchen floor, shown here still in progress. You can see the fancy linoleum in there already, but the wooden baseboards are still in a pile at the right of the picture. Everything is now in and hunky dory. It actually hides dirt rather than just looking sort of dirty on its own, like the white tile did.

And here's a sort of blurry picture of the hallway fridge, which was convenient for beer when watching television (not unlike Chris's setup) but made our house into a "no fat people" zone. All in all, having the fridge in the kitchen, where it belongs, has been much better, despite having to walk into another room for our refreshments. It's not like it would have been very good during parties, either. Our house is just not set up for very many guests at one time. Sure, we've got the second bathroom, but our living room is kinda small. We only have a two-person couch and the cat has totally taken over the easy chair. (I don't mean she peed on it or anything. She just sees it as her personal chaise longue.) It just isn't a huge room, especially once you put a large HDTV and a spinet piano in it.

It's sad. I haven't practiced the piano much lately. I got very motivated to for a while, and then I accidentally was overheard by our friend David, who is a music professor (guitar). He made what he intended to be helpful practice-related suggestions but I ended up feeling totally discouraged. I'm not an exceptional musician or anything, and at this point in my life I just play for enjoyment. I don't even really like having an audience, except for Rob, because mostly I'm out of practice and make a lot of mistakes. The current piece I'm trying to relearn is Mozart's Sonata in C Major. But I think I last practiced two weeks ago, which isn't good.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Nostalgia

This just tripped me the hell out. While doing housework, I was watching the only interesting television available on a Sunday afternoon--G4 TV's Icons series about videogame icons such as Donkey Kong and Mario--and who did I see but Peer Schneider and Matt Casamassina, former co-workers from IGN. Sigh. That really made me nostalgic for the good old days. I know they both worked at IGN back before it was Snowball, and apparently they're still there. They were good guys.

I remember Rob (being the totally obsessive video gamer that he is) was the only person the folks at IGN64 had heard of who had actually gotten to the closing animation of Donkey Kong 64, so they had me bring him in so he could play the ending for them and they could record it. Those were the days.

Friday, March 03, 2006

SIGH.

I got my very first actual phone call from a publisher today. And I was not at home. Of COURSE.

I'm still excited, though. This call was from the people who are going to publish the YA anthology in which my third-prize-winning short story will be included. So, no matter how you look at it, it's cool. Except that she said she's going to call back tomorrow afternoon, when I already KNOW I'm not going to be home. But I think this is a good enough reason to change our answering machine message, don't you? I'll just stay glued to my cell phone all afternoon. In fact, I think I'll just go charge it now, just in case. (It's old and retarded and runs out of juice now after, like, two phone calls. One call, if it's my mom.)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Sentimentality

After a really kind of crappy day--mainly due to my mood than anything tangible--I had an excellent online chat with my writing group and feel quite a bit more cheerful.

We--the group--have this bright idea that we're going to put together our own anthology of YA short stories and try to get it published. We put our heads together to create a fictional town on the California coast, where all of the stories will be set. That's the only guideline. We're two stories in so far, and so far, so good. It's very exciting.