Archive for December, 2007

Holidays, and Headstarts…

Yes, I admit it. I fell down on the job. Sue me. Here is a belated “Happy Holidays” message (although, personally, it is more “Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year, but that’s me, and I digress…), that I hope finds you well…

There… that’s the “Holidays”… and now for the “Headstarts”… I have several items in mind for my “End of Year” blowout – movie notes, intended resolutions (and updates on the failing and successes of this years batch), notes on the readings, and maybe a few other items…

But consider this the notice…

When I drop them, it will be a lot going live at once. Brace yourself, it will be interesting…

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‘Tis the season…

For blah? I’m not quite sure what it is, but I’ve been a bit out of it for a couple of weeks – and no, I don’t really think it is too much of the obvious! I haven’t been emotionally “out of it” – that funk of being bleary eyed, mentally numb (or oblivious) to anything more than essential items. It’s been more of a mental and creative funk. Not that the hamsters are on vacation, but because they are dealing with everything else that seems to be going on right now.

For example: It’s the holiday season, and (thankfully) all of my major shopping has been done for some time. Now, I’m just tweaking the existing hordes with any last minute items, and wrapping the straglers to have them ready for Christmas day. On top of that, there are all of the social commitments that have been storming onto the calendar, demanding equal representation (or preparation), and all at different locations. And beyond the social, there is all of the self-imposed personal projects that are clamboring for attention (“I’ve heard stories of there being a floor in the office… I really should try some excavation work and see if it’s true.”)

The catch here, is that my “creative” hamsters get caught up trying to run with everything else, they get fried when it comes time to write anything more than a few lines a day – if I can stop long enough to do even that.

I do think that I’m going to start preparing for the inevitable “New Year’s Resolutions” posts (both a “Year in Review”, and a recap for 2007), which is going to be a very interesting thing – especially if I do any detailed recapping of books and movies.

Right… I think it’s time to start some notes… And this business would be so much easier if I actually brought a notebook with me…

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Hitting the Books…

Well… it is now official. The journey that “officially” started back in March 2007 has now officially come to a close, transitioning to a new adventure.

Jenn and I had been talking about graduate school. She had taken the GRE last fall, looking into going for a Master’s in Public Health, while I’ve been kicking around (for years) about going back for a Master’s in English. After Jenn passed away, I finally decided to bite the bullet, and signed up to take the GRE at the end of April. (For those playing the home game, and keeping score – I met Mary Catherine a couple of days before taking the GRE…)

After getting the scores back (an 1150, again, for those playing the home game), I processed my application, but I dragged my feet on the Letters of Reference, and Statement of Purpose. Frankly, I knew what I really wanted to say in the “SoP” (I work for the university, and I can take up to three classes on their dime), but I didn’t really think that would go over to well with anyone granting admissions, and it took me some time to really figure out how I wanted to present myself. Of course, there was also the slight identity crisis of “What DO I want to study and focus on?” which is always a major concern when starting to specialize…

I missed the chance to get everything processed and admitted for the Fall (which was part of my original plan), but I was able to defer my application to the Spring semester (thus also avoiding the flushing of my application fee).

Again, I sat in my chair at my desk, pondering and planning – but not actually getting anything done – until just before Thanksgiving. I had attempted contacting several possible academic references, but with no response (quite disappointing, actually). The other side of the problem – my pool of potential academic references that I actually know how to get in touch with is quite small, or easily years out of date.

I did get acceptances, though, from a few of my former instructors that would be willing to prepare letters for me, and I pondered some more, and prepared information for each of them (as they requested) to help with drafting and preparing their letters, getting them the information shortly after the Thanksgiving break.

The end result, is that all of my paperwork came together this week, and I was notified by email from the department that I have been accepted into the Master’s in English program. The paperwork has not been processed by the university’s Graduate School to make everything official (read: I can’t register for classes yet), but I am in the program, starting in the Spring 2008 Semester…

Holy crap… I just realized it has now been almost five years since I was last in college (yeah, I know…) But the real kicker that I really just realized – the last English classes I took were almost ten years ago (I spent the last year and a half of my “English BA” taking Theatre classes to complete my minor.

Well… to change a phrase around a bit… write on!

(For the record… the first class I’m looking at taking, is going to be a script writing class… One of those nifty items in the curriculum that was added after I completed my BA in English… But a BA in English is a whole other song….)… Right…. write!

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Journals & Intuitions…

“To journal, or not to journal” is an age old writer’s debate, just like another one that rages today about “Write at/with a computer, or draft by hand first”…

Personally, I’ve always been conflicted by journals… I have always liked the idea of tracking thoughts and projects, but growing up there was always the bombardment of the stereotypical “Dear Diary” – which was so not me. Then there was “Doogie Howser, MD” which started to prod other ways of thinking about journaling… and interestingly enough those were often some of my favorite bits of the show. But consistency is the key to writing, and to keeping a journal… and that’s been my biggest issue.

Growing up, journals were usually treated as homework – given a prompt to write about (usually related to a story or issue being discussed in class), which became another reason to have issues with the form. There was no real explanation (or education) on expanding the creative potential. It was treated as, “Write at least 1/2 page on this.” All task, no real creative endeavors.

After getting to college, and getting into some writing classes, I would get more insight on journaling – suggestions how to, and reasons why we should journal. Since then, it’s been a casual affair – I would solidly make notes, then get sidetracked with other projects, or start other journals for other projects. I still love the idea of journals, and am finally grasping at the “write every day”… which is part of the inspirations.

The best part of a journal, for “creative writing”, is the well-spring of ideas – that we have already had! If it was something that moved us enough to write it down, it may prove to be useful at a later time. I had an instructor that said that he wrote various street signs and bumper stickers in his journal, and he later used them in a story. Neil Peart did the same thing with church signs when he was travelling and preparing Roadshow. Great stuff to ponder, that could have been even greater much, much earlier in life if it had been extended to us as kids.

Now here is where it all starts coming together… One of my projects that I (finally) started, was journalling here at work. Really interesting names, bastardized pronunciations, or interesting calls – just making basic notes on things that make me giggle (or shake my head and sigh) at the time of the call. They may never be used, or they could be useful items that add extra elements at some time down the road…

And the neat bow on top: If I’m travelling, or just in daily life, tend to draft (journal info) by hand. I’ll draft ideas, and sketch them out in a combination of (my) shorthand, and longhand, to type them up later when I start to expand and really work on things. When I’m at work (like now), I tend to type… or if I specifically set out to spend time working on a project (another vice of mine – avoidance/procrastination), I’ll probably type.

But one of the coolest things that I liked about Doogie’s journal, was that it was on the computer. Personally, I despise the idea of trying to have a running Word document for a journal… which may be why I like the blog format so much. It’s a computerized journal, that can be a very dynamic environment, and each new post starts from scratch – on a blank field. Each new entry can stand alone. Which, of course, I write and proof as I go (but rarely go back and edit – which is another value in keeping a journal)…

Now… where did I put my notes…?

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McRib Issues…

The only truly redeeming menu item for McDonald’s is the McRib. Sure, the Big Mac and all of the other sandwiches are ok, but I have a “take-it-or-leave-it” disposition about them. McDonald’s isn’t my favorite place to go for food, I usually only visit when I need something cheap, or relatively fast… or it’s really, really late at night and they are the only thing open… that’s fast.

But I am willing to brave the crappy service and other issues that I’ve come to expect from fast food restaurants in general for the McRib. It goes back several years, and is also a shimmering memory of my father (discusing how he had a McRib when they first came out, and mentioning how they “toned down” the sauce by the next time they were out)… Maybe it is because they don’t have ther McRib on the regular menu that I am more inclined to venture forth…

Anyway, I digress to the point of my story. I like McRibs, I’m not too much of a fan of McDonald’s. Normally, I get the sandwich sans onions – which has become a craps shoot. The other night, despite the “No Onion” request, and special tag, it had onions. Today, I got two sandwiches, asking for both to be sans onions… and the server heard this, registered this, but apparently only pushed the key once, and I got one with and one without… But another digression…

I examined the menu board while waiting in line. Most places give a listing of “Meal” or “Sandwich Only” pricing, but I didn’t see any such listing for the McRib – just the meal pricing. When I finally got to the register, I indicated that I would be eating in the restaurant, and then I asked my question, “How much is it for just the McRib sandwich.”

The response that I got was one of those wonderful, make-you-want-to-step-in-front-of-a-bus types. “I have no idea,” she said, staring back at me. Nice, bitch.

As she stood there for a few seconds, obviously not intending to go through any extra effort of looking for herself, I followed with my next, nicely phrased question. “Is there a way to find out?” Yeah, sure. It might sound a little condescending, but this should be basic common sense in a customer service position.

She leaned forward for a moment, and turned to look at the menu board where the signage was backlit by glowing flourescent lamps. I could see the hamsters spinning inside their wheel, sensing that she wanted to say something like, “If you had read the sign…”, but the hamsters stopped, and held to the wire treads, spinning wildly… as if the thought quickly changed to, “Oh, crap… he can read, which is why he asked.” No shit. If the price were listed, I wouldn’t have to ask – duh! The hamster wheel tottered a bit, as she looked up the price in the register.

I placed my order, which as I mentioned before, was keyed incorrectly, and I ate, and left the restaurant. Personally, I like the convenience of going out for food, but I’m finally getting back to the point of “Why bother?”… After this run for the McRib, I imagine I’ll slide back to my older habits of trying to eat less crap, and going for more “home cooked” fare…

But for now, could you please pass some napkins?

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