Everybody Sing!

It's been a rough couple of weeks, because I learned my Dad has developed cancer, and it's spread to other organs. I've been trying to get him moved to my city, as well as arrange for care, all while trying to balance my job, which keeps me in Cheez-Its and eyeliner.

That's the distinctly non-funny part.

But, I like to think that when life hands you cabbages, you might as well make cole slaw. Not that I actually eat cole slaw due to my acute mayonnaise-a-phobia. But you get the drift.

So while I assure you I will find my funny for you with next week's post-- I mean, I'll be traveling, so there will have to be humor fodder in there somewhere-- in the meantime, I give you an apt little musical number from our friend Eric Idle.

Don't be afraid to sing along there at your desk!... If you're at work, your coworkers will love it. If you're at home, your kids will moan, "Awww, Mom/Dad!" and you'll totally embarrass them, thus doing your job as a parent.

If People Acted Like Pets- Office Edition

I've learned a lot about living with a pet, since adopting my cat, Alice, almost two months ago. Things like: puncture wounds really can mean love. And: wool pile stroking your cheek in the night doesn't mean the area rugs are getting frisky.

But I've been thinking, the lives our pets lead might not apply well to the world of humans, particularly in the corporate world. Simply because this is how that might go:

  • Business breakfast meetings would start with coffee, danish, and half the execs running circles around the conference room table excitedly sharing tales of what a great poop they just had.
  • All group projects would require two employees to attempt the task, and two to hop up and lay on the project planning document.
  • Dull meetings would be filled with long, loud sighs bearing the weight of the world.
  • All project discussion would cease when someone accidentally drops a paperclip. Meetings would allow time for executives to compete and see who will bat it around the room.
  • When you can't find one of your colleagues in his office, you know he's in the shipping room, leaping in and out of the mailing boxes.
  • The corporate cafeteria would serve meat, bones, meat and meat.
  • Powerpoint presentations would find half the staff in the audience, and the other half up front blocking the screen.
  • Business restrooms would be the same, but TP would be tracked with gusto around the office space.
  • Dropping the ball in your job would suddenly also involve digging your teeth into it and refusing to pass it to the person you've been working closely with.
  • And when your boss asks you out for a bite... you bite him.

You pet-owning folks have any more to add to this list? I'd love to read 'em!

Deep Thought: Firefox Browser's Rainbow Cursor Hypnotism Show

Lately, my Firefox browser has started navel-gazing. Or the computer equivalent of it-- "cursor-contemplation," "arrow-oogling" or "mouse-minding"-- in lieu of a navel-esque region.

Yes, in the last few weeks it's grown introspective... Free-spirited... Philosophical...

Or, to put it a different way, it's become a giant frigging "Road Closed- Detour!" sign on my Internet Highway. And there are no Men at Work, either.

See what happens is, about every ten minutes of an hour, Firefox goes out for a smoke break. Or skirts the astral plane. Or has a bag of microchips and a nice data dump.

All I know is, it turns my cursor into this little rainbowy Dark Side of the Moon laser light spinny-do-- a colorful hypnowheel of death-- and it says, "Talk to it, babe. Be back in ten." and leaves me hanging.

It doesn't even play me "Comfortably Numb."

Most annoying is not that it processes something behind the scenes like Oz and his curtain. It's that it spins for five minutes, stops, waits for me to click on something thinking it's done fooling around, and then...

It does it again for another five minutes.

It's like it needs that taunting interaction between five-minute personal time. Just to make sure I'm still there mesmerized by this spectral beachball from hell.

Ten minutes is just long enough-- I might add-- for me to completely forget everything I was trying to accomplish online.

So now I keep Notes to Self about what I was writing, before the Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes came along.

I just hope during these little staycations , that it is out there doing something productive. Trying to calculate the meaning of life maybe, and not just off beer Googling or taking a browse down memory lane.

I plan to upgrade it, to see if that will improve the situation. But I have this nagging fear that will only toss all my bookmarks to the wind like pick-up sticks, develop selective amnesia on my passwords and up its holidays to include travel time.
"Hello-- is there anybody in there?"
Oh, and Firefox-- to save you the trouble, the answer to that question about the meaning of life?-- It's 42. Please don't call a time-out to verify.

Question of the day: What's your biggest pet peeve about computer technology?

And has your browser been strolling off for personal time? Maybe it's been hanging out with my browser.

Drafting a Novel: Lessons Learned, Albatrosses Groomed and the First Day of Kindergarten

I finished the full draft of my novel last week-- that loose-leaf albatross that's kept me company for many months, hanging around my neck and weighing heavily on my mind.

And now that I've shed it, and started the serious Albatross Grooming Process we call "Editing Like Ya Mean It," I thought I'd share a few favorite things I learned along the way.

Everyone you know is also writing a book...
Or has a Best-Selling Idea for a book...

Or has been thinking they might think about writing their memoirs of that one wacky time in college with the thing and the stuff.

It's pretty cool to learn that the only thing holding 75% of our populace back from winning the Pulitzer Prize for literature-- or kicking Dan Brown's symbolically-coded butt off the NYTimes list-- is that this material just hasn't been committed to paper yet.

So be prepared that when folks ask where you've been hiding yourself away lately, and you mention the novel, everyone from your cousin to your mail carrier will reveal themselves to be the next Rowlingpalinclancykerouac.

Thankfully, there is room for everyone.

You'll start rewriting history for your characters, like you were PR for a political candidate.
With the whole book together, you start to see scenes where your character is saying and doing things he never would have done once you actually got to know him, on page 521. Maybe it was the day you drank too much coffee. Or weren't feeling the motivation. Or you were distracted by... oh... a really noisy SunChip bag.

So you sit your character down and tell him, "No, you didn't say that. You said this. This is more you." He might recall very well having once held strong opinions on migrant workers or a new ketchup bottle, and now it's wiped away.

But like in politics, soon with careful attention, spin, and the Wonders of Word Processing, you'll make him forget-- as if it never was. There might only be some lingering discomfort.

There is a special panicky moment when you realize someone might read what you've written.
Talking about the writing process is always fun. It's safe. It's intangible. "It's a work-in-progress," you say fleet-footedly. "It's too soon."

You can stall so nicely with vagaries to the point your material gains in Fabulousness an amount inversely proportionate to the quantity of people who never, ever see it.

But once the novel's actually done, and all your friends have been hearing the blah-blah about it for years, suddenly they get this idea they might want to...oh, I dunno... read it.

And it turns into the first day of kindergarten for your novel. As in, you know very well the novel might still pick its nose in public and may not always use its Indoor Voice. But you have to let go sometime, right?

You begin creating elaborate scenarios of how people will misread what you've written.
The less you describe, the more readers will grab onto what you did say and try to interpret it their own way. And you start to worry your demure heroine will become rumored to be a crack-smoking Lady of the Evening with narcolepsy. And her dog will suddenly become symbolic of her desperate need for control in a male-dominated society.

You envision your simple childrens book about a squirrel who forgot where he buried his nuts will become your personal treatise about the nation's hoarding problem.

Once it's on paper and before eyeballs, it's out of your control.

You realize you've been on a Manuscript One-Arm Strength Training Program, from carrying 500+ page double-spaced draft everywhere you go.
Fifty pounds of dog kibble will seem like cotton swabs to your mighty physical power now.

You will have to boil down years' worth of blood, sweat, snot and brain oozage into a few heart-pounding, eye-popping, irresistable sentences if any agents or editors are ever going to pay attention to it. The giant stack of manuscript pages will seem like a happy day at the beach compared to this. It's fitting War and Peace on a fortune cookie. And you don't get room for that nifty Chinese Word of the Day either.

No one will understand why it's taken you so long to write the damned thing, because, heck, James Caan only spent a few weeks writing that whole Misery Chastaine novel-- his best one ever-- and he even spent half his day trying to break out of Kathy Bates' house.