aqua fortis

Friday, April 28, 2006

Another Non-Rejection

So I get this return envelope today from one of the contests I entered, sponsored by a literary magazine called Permafrost. My thinking in entering this one was that, since they are published in Alaska, and the prize isn't as lucrative as some of the other contests I enter, I might have a better shot. But my heart sank as I took in the fact that a) they used my return envelope, not usually a good sign, and b) the envelope obviously was thick enough to have my story inside.

I opened the envelope, and looked at the cover sheet with contest results printed on it. Lo and behold, there I was, runner-up for the Midnight Sun Fiction Contest, for my story "Literacy," possibly the most obscene short story I have written so far. Maybe risque is a better word. In any case, when you have detailed references to masturbation, pornography, and spelling bees in the same story, I suppose it's bound to attract attention. (For any fellow Mills alums reading this, I wrote the story in Ginu's class, which should explain some things...)

What I'm confused about now is that, other than a handwritten note of congrats, there was no indication of whether they will be publishing my story in the upcoming issue or not. It said that winners--i.e., the First-Place winners--will receive $100 and publication, and on their website it also says that all entrants are eligible for publication. But they sent the story back. Does that mean no publication? Does it mean they will publish it and don't need my stinkin' hard copy? Should I now send a note to the other contest I sent this story to, saying, "Um, I got runner-up in this other contest so I think maybe they're going to publish it but I'm not sure"? I have to do something. I guess I'll go for the vague note and be truthful, as is my style in general.

In any case, I'm pretty happy about this, actually. It gives me hope that I'm doing the right thing in terms of trying to write enough loosely similar short stories for a book-length manuscript. And maybe I'm good at being risque, which is an interesting thought. Though honestly, I wasn't intending to be risque--more a combination of funny and "eww."

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Slow on the Uptake

I just have to share this with the world, even though apparently I'm late to the game as far as Snakes on a Plane is concerned. I heard about it a few weeks ago from Math Prof Mike and have also been late to the game in terms of blogging it. Obviously I wouldn't make a very good news source.

Anyway, I just want to quote this bit of Snakes on a Plane trivia for you: "Samuel L. Jackson only signed on for this film because the title was 'Snakes on a Plane.' When the film makers tried to change it to "Flight 121", Jackson was adamant to keep it 'Snakes on a Plane.'" You can watch a trailer here. Math Prof Mike told us about this unofficial audio trailer, but I suspect that's not what the movie will be like, unless Trey Parker and Matt Stone are suddenly tapped to direct it.

The Cycle of Rejection Continues.

So much for Glimmer Train. AGAIN. I think I had made a pact with myself not to send them anything any more because they had already rejected me at least three times. But I caved, and here's my reward.

That's okay, though. I still have at least six other mags/contests I'm waiting to hear back from. I did pretty well sending stuff out so far this year, as the Q1 tab of my "Work Submitted" spreadsheet can attest. But I think I have to write to Margaret K. McElderry books, as they have not gotten back to me within the amount of time they indicated in their letter. I have to be all, like, where's my novel, beeyotches? Or not, I guess. But I should tell them I'm going to be out of town and unreachable in China for two weeks.

Okay. Time to make me a List O' Fun, a.k.a. a list of questions I have to ask the Facilities coordinator at UOP in reference to the summer Welsh course, such as:

  • What happened to the auditorium we requested?
  • What happened to our banquet room?
  • Oh yeah, we need a room with chairs and a piano for our choir practice.

...and so forth. Exciting. It's starting to drive me crazy, because our room reservations keep getting changed, and rooms we reserved are not listed on our master schedule for some reason, and that kind of thing. I wish I was not the one dealing with this stuff, I really do.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Pet Peeves

I have many, but I'm only going to talk about two, because one of them is really just an excuse for a long rant about work.

Peeve #1: Bicyclists who don't obey the rules of the road, like they're supposed to--e.g., stop signs. I really, really hate this. It annoys the crap out of me.

Peeve #2: Doing good work that goes unappreciated. I realize that it's usually futile to worry about that kind of thing, but it still bugs me. For instance, at my current temporary day job--my recurring Office of Education temp thing--I do a lot of work that, frankly, I'm underpaid for. Technically I am a clerical sub and/or temp, which means I get paid an hourly wage dependent on how they classify the specific job I'm called in to do.

Usually--like now--I'm just a plain old Admin Assistant I. Somebody needs extra help with backlogs of filing, or they need someone to fill in at the front desk for a day, and they call me, and for a decent clerical wage I come in and help out for a few days, so I don't freak out about how little money I'm currently making at freelancing.

But for this particular job--working on some yearly projects that I helped with last year--I do way more than an Admin Assistant I should be asked to do, and don't get paid any more for it, NOR do I get much in the way of props, either. Not only am I essentially doing the work of a project lead--receiving stipend applications, processing the applications, setting up an Access database to plug in information so that I can mail-merge it into various mass mailings, spreadsheets, etc., plus printing all of this crap out and stuffing it into envelopes--I'm also doing graphic design and desktop publishing, including designing two different business cards, and a whole suite of matching items for an upcoming luncheon, including two invitation designs, reminder cards, place cards, certificates of appreciation, and an agenda/program booklet. I tell you, I get no love.

Plus I have to deal with the caterer because my supervisor has never had Mediterranean food and hasn't heard of any of it. Who--in California, anyway--hasn't heard of baklava, or hummus? But I'm serious. And she's the one who wanted a beach-type theme and asked me for thematic food suggestions. I thought, well, classy business lunch, how about Mediterranean? She was thinking hamburgers and hot dogs. In the Board Room. And her ideas for a beach theme somehow keep including bamboo. I had to point out that that would only work if she's doing a South Pacific or Southeast Asian beach theme, whereas, to my knowledge, bamboo doesn't really grow in the Mediterranean. I seriously had this conversation with her. Swear to God. Later in the same conversation I found out that she doesn't eat anything other than very plain American food, and no vegetables except for green beans. Not even salad.

So now I'm dealing with two catering situations, because I'm also going back and forth with the caterers for the Welsh conference this summer. Guess what? I don't think I like it.

Friday, April 21, 2006


Please view my updated profile and note the messed-up "random question" they gave me to answer. I think I was rather restrained in my response. I didn't use the word "cock" once, nor did I refer to anything coming out of the rooster and onto my morning pancakes. Although, let me just tell you, I was sorely tempted.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Humor, Part II

As a sort of addendum to my previous post on names that amuse me, I was just thinking today about people on a different end of the spectrum, those who deliberately change their names to something weird. I'm not talking about famous people; that's relatively commonplace. I mean people you or I actually know. Like the following two examples:

  • Back when I worked at IGN, there was a guy somewhere in the company who was named Geoff FortyTwo. As in, What is the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. That forty-two.
  • Apparently there is a guy at Rob's work, a friend of a friend, named Opportunity One. However, I can't find any Internet linkage proving this.

Editor's Note: I made a boo-boo in number 2 there, as Ross kindly noted below. It should be "Optimism One." Which is no less weird.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

It's worse than you thought.

I was just watching this Nova program and found out a very disconcerting fact, as well as an answer to all the climate-change skeptics who insist that any rise in temperature is minimal compared to past fluctuations. Apparently the actual effects of global warming are being masked to a large degree by all the particulate air pollution, which is dimming the sun. That's just great. I'm going to go play a video game now and pretend the last hour never happened.


So, on a few occasions Rob has officially verbalized the idea that we all have certain friends who get a "free pass"--these are people we've been friends with for so long, since childhood or whatever, that we are still going to be friends with them regardless of the strange adults they might have become. These are people one might not actually become friends with if one were to meet them NOW.

Most of us have at least one or two of those. On Sunday, we visited one of Rob's, A., and his wife J., and were rather disconcerted to find out via casual conversation that they are actually quite racist.

Even bearing in mind that both of them work in the State Capitol for Republican members of Congress, the extent of their unquestioning, even naive, adherence to certain stereotypical attitudes was truly amazing. "Our neighborhood's been going to hell in a handbasket ever since they started enforced busing," they griped. "Our friend has just got to move somewhere else--his sound wall is open to the street and there's always black kids hanging out on his lawn." And, rather insensitively considering I was right there in the car, "I need to buy some cigarettes--I think there's a Habeeb-mart a few blocks away."

When they looked at us expectantly, as if they thought we would cheerfully agree with their righteous outrage and say, yes, isn't that just terrible, we said, "Actually, our favorite neighbors by far are the Latino family across the street, because they own a local business and are constantly making improvements to their house. Whereas the white trash neighbors behind us have a noisy punk teenage kid, hardly even do routine upkeep, and can go to hell."

Also funny was the fact that when they directed us to the nearest Chevron station, they warned us it was across the freeway on Florin and therefore "on the bad side of town." We noted that, having lived on San Pablo Ave. a few blocks away from Richmond, we weren't too worried about a Chevron off the freeway in the Pocket. (Note the sentence in Wikipedia that reads "In 2005 Richmond surpassed Compton as the (statistically) most dangerous city in the state." I'm not sure where they got that information, but I'd believe it.) When we drove up to the Chevron, it was...fine. Completely normal. COMPLETELY.

It certainly didn't compare to the time we were trapped in the drive-thru line at the El Cerrito Jack-in-the-Box with a guy getting arrested by the cops about five feet away from our car after having harassed a girl in the parking lot, some homies in the car behind us playing REALLY loud music and accidentally (we hope) tapping our bumper with their car, and us on the tail end of a shroom trip and trying to put something in our stomachs before going home. I was cowering down in the passenger seat, terrified for my life. This was back in the day; my life is pleasantly more boring now.

I have to note that this is a really ghetto Jack-in-the-Box. Another time we were in the drive-thru line there, the guy in front of us got pissed off at the cashier for some reason, and leaned out of his car to hit the glass window. We could only conclude that he was a complete dick.

On a related note, at the McDonalds further down San Pablo, they once asked us if we wanted jam with our bacon-egg-and-cheese biscuit. JAM.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Where Does the Time Go?

I'm trying to come up with better, more creative ways of managing my time so I don't end up all stressed out and covered with hives. (The hives, by the way, are slowly going away--veeeery slowly--but still aren't gone. Sigh...)

My current method of time management, a very demanding weekly calendar printed out on an Excel spreadsheet and then filled in, seems to be having the opposite effect that I intended it to have. That is, I still can't finish everything I put on the calendar, and I still end up feeling stressed and exhausted. Having a three-day-a-week day job has only complicated matters.

I'm sort of considering ditching the calendar worksheet, and instead making a checklist of general to-do categories (e.g., writing, organizing, CM, research, housework); putting down a goal of how many hours I want to spend on each one in a given week; and then having a grid. Each box in the grid would equal a half hour, and I would check off the time increments as I complete them. This would have the added advantage of giving me an idea of how much time I actually spend on things in a week as compared with how much I think I should be doing.

Wow. I just read that last paragraph over, and came to the realization that I really have an anal-retentive side. Maybe I shouldn't do all that. Maybe I need a vacation.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Freedom from "Should"

I've been thinking a lot about that word "should" today. I realize that it lurks in the back--and more often the front--of my mind almost constantly. I don't know if that's a healthy or a good way to live. I do know that it's been that way since I was a child. Maybe it's my dad's fault and maybe it isn't, but he has always spent long strings of words telling me what I should and shouldn't do.

Whether it's his voice internalized in me, whether it's years of childhood spent being told about my gifted potential that created even more shoulds, or whether it's just my own inherent perfectionistic tendencies, my mind is filled with the word should. At any given moment, some thread of thought is unraveling in my head, a string of things I should be doing or should do later or should have done. I should have done the dishes earlier. I should be writing right now. I should do X hours of work on the computer later. I should be more successful/more relaxed/more physically fit/more ambitious/more hardworking.

I thought, what if I took a day off from "should"? What a mental vacation that would be. Then the folly of this thought occurred to me. I don't think it's even possible for me to take a day off from shoulds and shouldn'ts. I can't even spend fifteen minutes of sitting meditation without shoulds invading my mind's ear. Even thinking that I shouldn't be thinking about "should" becomes a problem. How does one rid oneself of that pesky word, that pesky concept? I think it causes me a lot of heartache, headache, and mental/spiritual fatigue. It's out of control. If I could only un-enslave myself from that idea, make it so that everything wasn't a should or a shouldn't. I could rephrase everything. Would that really change things? Would changing a word really reshape my thoughts? Or would it just be disguising reality?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


I planned on reminiscing about co-op life some more, but that's going to wait until next time. I've been putting off posting this list for a couple of days because I wanted to expand it to a Top Five List, but I've been unsuccessful, so it will just have to remain the Top Four Names of Actual People that Cause Me to LMAO:

1. Dick Butkus. That's just plain unfortunate.

2. Dick Schaff. We don't know who Dick Schaff is, but his name appears on a clipboard of math-related events and competitions owned by a math professor friend of ours. He has a junior high math competition named after him. Apparently whoever named the competition failed to read his moniker aloud beforehand, or they would know that junior high was the wrong place to have a name like Dick Schaff.

3. Rod Johnson. Rob and I were driving around Stockton one day and we kept running into this guy's work van, which proudly proclaimed "Rod Johnson Air Conditioning." It sounds like a setup for bad porn to me.

4. Albert Pujols. Please click the link and note how his name is properly pronounced. That is what I hear every time someone on TV or radio says this guy's name. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Laughing isn't nice. But I can't help it.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Amusing Myself in Various Ways

You know how smells can really bring back memories? Today when I was doing some dishes--a small pile of non-dishwasher-friendly items had built up--I used this new bottle of dish soap, which was green Palmolive (my preferred Palmolive is yellow and smells lemony). Immediately, memories rushed back to me of doing morning breakfast dishes during one of my workshifts when I was living at Stebbins Hall, a student co-op in Berkeley.

Student co-ops are student owned and operated. That only means it's a guaranteed shithole if more than about 75 people live there. We did have a few mice in ours, but really, they can be a good and affordable option for those who don't want to get an apartment. I enjoyed my time at Stebbins, the first semester of my junior year. I just got burnt out by roommates, shared living, and yes, 5 hours a week of workshifts. I had breakfast dishes for half an hour one day a week (in addition to a snack-cooking shift and some random post-meal cleanup), and they must have used the green Palmolive because man, did I suddenly get this strong memory of standing there at the giant sink, industrial-showerhead-sized spray nozzle hanging over the basin, tubs of nasty dishes that had been soaking since the previous night waiting for me to soap them, rinse them, and put them in the sanitizer. We had this huge dish sanitizing machine that would heat dishes to ridiculous temperatures while spraying iffy chemicals on them.

Morning dishes wasn't bad, though. The workshift I was glad I didn't have was pot & pan scrubber. Or hot tub cleaner. (Yes, there was a redwood-paneled hot tub. That was just too scary for me to use, mainly because I didn't trust the guy whose job it was to clean it.)

Stebbins was pretty cool. We never had huge parties open to the public, which was good; only in-house events. Casa Zimbabwe and Cloyne Court, both on our street, were huge and held parties with actual local bands. I was happy to go and glad not to live there. I was also glad not to live at Le Chateau, a huge co-op on Southside, because at some point I heard that their basement was flooded and a bunch of people got hepatitis. Ah, the good old days.