January 27, 2006


I had a fantastic day today solely because I had a chance to emulate my hero, Kaylee, at work. For those of you who don't know who Kaylee is, there is simply no excuse for you, but I added a link anyway so that you can stop being so lame. Some of my friends accuse me of being a lot like her, and I think that's probably true despite the fact that my family claims I have no mechanical aptitude.

The ASVAB (which is a military test, don't let them fool you) thought I should repair the army's tanks (I scored high in mechanical comprehension, which is over to the right at the bottom of the list). And at the time (and since) I've often joked about the fact that they would probably want me to repair the enemy's tanks because that's how much I suck at all things mechanical.

Yet, now that I have a job where I'm the only one who can make the computers run or who can unjam the copier (and one day, I did fix it. I had to twist a dial and press a button in the tray and everything), I've started to think that they might not have been so far off.

Which brings me to why my day was so excellent. I fixed a stapler.

This is not the simple task that it might seem, and to fully appreciate how complicated it is, you should probably go get an office sized stapler to look at while we discuss. Go ahead. I'll wait.

Dooo do dooo do dooo dooo.


OK. Now, open it up like you would if you were going to replace the staples. See the long spring? Well, it came off of my stapler, and now you need to look at how it's wound underneath an obnoxious piece of metal and then comes back up underneath itself to hook down at the bottom. And believe me, that spring is not actually that long. It's probably about the size of my index finger when it is not being wound around obnoxious metal. And also notice that you can't get your fingers in there to actually manipulate the spring.

Why even bother, you ask? My department's budget is frozen. Nobody can buy anything. Couple that with the fact that a million students use that stapler and the fact that it was brand f-ing new before Christmas, and you have a recipe for my fix-it-ness.

Also, I am a show off.

Using only two paperclips, another stapler as an example and the sheer force of my will, I was able to fix the stapler. While being interrupted at irregular intervals to help people figure out Word, too.

So, then, of course, I had to go around bragging. I was quite stoked.

Back when I was a kid, I used to watch Dad and Grandpa fix the machines. My cousin and I would play around on the combine while Dad and Grandpa tinkered somewhere underneath. We'd pick up bolts from the floor and my cousin would clean them and somebody gave him a penny for every so many or something like that (because farmers are constantly dropping and losing those sorts of things and our family had been doing so for years and years without any small children who liked to dig in the dirt). I just liked to hang around. This was, of course, before Mom's yelling at me about being covered in dirt and machine grease finally took.

At one point, Dad asked my cousin if he could reach something under the combine. I watched, but my cousin's hands were too big. My cousin said, "Maybe L can do it; she has small hands," but Dad said, "No, she can't do it." And even though I said I could, he refused to let me try. I always thought that it was because I was a girl, and that, at least in my memory, marked the end of me playing in the machine shed while they worked. I knew that while I might visit and climb on the combine, I was never going to be part of the work that went on in there, so I found other things to do.

I'm long over blaming my dad for things like this. He may not have meant this the way I took it at four or five years old. He was just a farm guy trying to do the best he could with what he had, and it probably didn't even cross his mind that I might be able to help. Who knows? Maybe he was right.

But that's the thing I'm constantly wondering about. I wonder what would have happened if this hadn't happened in the middle of harvesting and if he hadn't been trying to beat whatever natural distaster was next on the list to the crop. If I had been encouraged to tinker, what would have happened?

I fix all my own stuff (well, what I can fix anyway). Jewelery, my watch, my chair, bookshelves, light fixtures (which, true, I did accidentally pull down myself). If something falls apart at my place, I put it back together. I glue it or take my screwdriver and screw it back together or prop something under it or take my pliers and pinch it back together and I never thought of this stuff as mechanical before. I was the first one to laugh at the ASVAB test because the idea was preposterous.

And yet, here I am fixing a stapler and getting a thrill from it.

How very Kaylee of me.

Posted by LoWriter at 03:57 PM | Comments (7)

January 25, 2006

Side Show

It may have occurred to you that while I am writing a lot lately, the quality of said writing has gone down a bit. This is true, and to find out why, you should look at the month picture on the side of my blog and notice the lovely checkerboard pattern. Yes, that's right, it was my goal to make the month look like a checkerboard.

Now you know that I am officially a side show. Enjoy it for what it is.

Posted by LoWriter at 03:06 PM | Comments (4)

January 23, 2006

An Open Letter to the Idiots

I'm going to say this once more, and only once more, for the peanut gallery.

I don't answer phone calls from numbers I don't recognize, so if you call me, leave me a message. I know someone out there likes to call from random numbers and hang up after my voice mail is done speaking (and even to play me music sometimes), but seriously. If you're hoping that someday I will be around to answer, the truth is that I will never answer a number that isn't in my phone book. If, on the other hand, you are calling for the mere pleasure of listening to my voice on the answering machine, then you are creepy and you have my pity, but carry on.

Posted by LoWriter at 02:37 PM | Comments (5)

January 21, 2006

The Blues

I'm fairly certain I've got 'em. And while it is true that I have plenty of blues music, particularly on my Cowboy Beebop soundtracks, those are not the blues I mean.

Neither do I mean denim although I have plenty of that as well.

No, I mean that I am in a funk. I am surrounded by piles of grant writing books and sample letters, and I am sitting here trying to write a letter and having absolutely no luck.

Why? Well, I'm glad you asked that. It's because I've turned into my students. And part of it is that I work with so many students that I've become really good at "fixing" what's already on the page but not so good at creating new material. More than that, though, it's because I am a procrastinator who is so busy making excuses that she can't get her work done.

For starters, I don't believe in writers' block. I've said this before and taken ribbing for it, but honestly. Writers' block does not exist in the way that most people believe. So maybe I've been saying this wrong. I don't believe in giving in to writers' block. This is because I don't believe it's a disease like so many people. I believe it's an excuse.

Case in point: My morning. I have been sitting here thinking of ideas, but every time I try to write them down, my mind draws a blank. I could look at this and say, "Oh, woe is me. I have writers' block" and start looking for a treatment. Instead, I have been looking at the reason for this, and primarily, it's because I'm scared shitless.

I'm writing a letter that is going to have major signatures on it eventually and could determine the entire course of my future, and my mind thinks that "flight" is the response it should take rather than "fight" in regards to this fear. For some reason, my brain thinks that avoiding doing it will make it turn out OK.

Not only that, but I'm trying to make it perfect on the first try, which is the surest way to kill inspiration ever. EVER. It's ridiculous to think that you'll do anything perfectly on the first try, so why do we think that our writing should be error free the first time through? I don't know.

Also, I went to see Narnia last night, which I thought was faboo (read f-ing awesome for those of you who don't remember your Animaniacs), but I always stand in awe of C.S. Lewis (and Tolkein) to the point of becoming completely crippled when it comes to writing. I have nothing left to say after I stand in the light of their works. I can't say anything about human existence that hasn't already been said by these two (at least that's how I feel, which is pretty ridiculous considering neither of them talked much about women at all).

Additionally, everyone and their mom is getting married, and while I don't begrudge (or envy) anyone their happiness, part of me feels like Anne Shirley who just wishes that everything could stay the way that it has always been and not change.

Grandpa's also still really sick. I don't really think he's going to pull through.

Link all that with the fact that I worked much harder this week than I should have (I'm pretty sure I was trying to distract myself from thinking about Grandpa) and the fact that I have severe piles of laundry and dishes that need to be done this afternoon, and you have me in a state of blues. I can't even afford to do retail therapy until the paychecks roll in two weeks from yesterday.

So, I think this means that I am definitely going to go to the broomball game I was invited to play in tomorrow (apparently they are not aware of how much I suck). I think thwacking a frozen rubber ball with a big stick would be a huge comfort right now. (And possibly the side benefit of accidentally checking people in an un-reffed game doesn't make me really sad, either.) See you there if you're bold enough to take me on right now. ;)

There's nothing quite like sweet broomball action ("broomball swaction" if you will) to cure the January funky blues.

Posted by LoWriter at 11:43 AM | Comments (0)

January 19, 2006

Everybody Gets Cancer

I would like to dedicate this to all the people who keep insisting that I should spend twice as much on organic pears as I do on regular pears by saying what everybody in my hometown knows. You will get cancer anyway.

I say this because my home county has one of the highest per capita rates of cancer in the state (possibly in the country, but I can't remember for sure). This in a place where almost everybody grows their own vegetables (becuase we're poor) and has their own well (because we're poor). I don't think my grandparents ate a store bought vegetable a single day in their lives, and both of them have had cancer, and my grandpa is probably not going to make it through his. They ate nectarines from time to time, which they couldn't grow themselves, but most of our food came from our farm. We raised our own beef, like so many others around us, and we never fed the cows anything but "organic" feed. We never allowed growth hormones to enter our minds, much less our herd. Hell, for half of my life, we had farm fresh milk and eggs, too.

And here we are, living the same damn nightmare that everybody else in my county has to live at one point or another. I can't think of a single family I know whose lives haven't been touched by cancer in some way. And since I know pretty much every family in the county, you can imagine how many people that is. Nobody knows why.

I'm trying really hard not to be bitter about Grandpa being so sick. He's had a really good life, and he's been a significant part of mine. I'm extremely lucky to have had him around this long, and I want what's best for him, even if that means that he has to leave us. But I get so fed up with people acting like microwaving my food in a plastic container is the 8th deadly sin (for the record, my grandparents don't even own a microwave) that I just want to smack them upside the head.

The chemicals that cause cancer are in the air and in the water and in the ground. They get into the food supply from there. Yes, it's true that you add risk when you add pesticides to foods, but part of the truth is that the pesticide residue is already in the soil, regardless of whether or not the current owners use pesticides because previous and neighboring owners use pesticides. The chemicals fall from the sky in the form of acid rain (and we don't even have any industries). The groundwater gets polluted and nobody realizes it. A million things can cause cancer, and the only thing that is going to stop it is a complete lifestyle change, which no one is willing (or able?) to do. We can't support the population of the planet if we go back to an unidustrialized way of life, and we can't keep ourselves healthy if we continue to live in the way we live now. The bottom line is that you can't feed the planet on organically grown crops because they don't yeild enough, hence their incredibly high costs. We have grown beyond our resources and cancer is the price we pay for our expansion. Pretending that you have some kind of control over who gets it and who does not is not going to change the fact that you don't.

So stop hassling me. My sedentary lifestyle, stress-filled existence, and salt-heavy diet is going to cause me to die from heart disease long before I have to worry about cancer (which, if I do get it, will be caused by the fact that I don't eat enough vegetables and fruits, not because I don't eat the right kind), all right? (I have my mom's heart and my dad's habits, which is a potentially deadly combination.) I'm not going to waste money on something that is unlikely to help or cause the world to change in anyway. Neither should you.

Posted by LoWriter at 08:47 AM | Comments (1)

January 17, 2006

Landmark Event

1-17-06 Update: As it turns out, I have no actual spine. I stayed late at work, and I'll probably stay late tonight because I am a greedy, selfish asshole who likes to snap at people who are unneccessarily nice to me. Feel free to look at the following and laugh at my idealism.

1-16-06I would like you all to celebrate what is, in my life, a landmark event. I told someone who was offering me more work "no."

Why is this such a landmark event? Well, those of you who know me will recall my "extra semester" of college where I virtually went what I can only describe as insane (probably due to sleep deprevation) trying to do all the things that I had committed to doing. This, of course, meant that I didn't do anything very well. I just continually took on more and more things until I just started letting things drop. That's the thing about juggling; add enough objects to your routine, and eventually, you're going to drop one of them.

So, since I am currently working 61 hours a week, an adventure which I started last week (through a pseudo part-time job of sorts at my day job) (I'm helping with grant writing. Yay!), I decided that adding four more hours from my night job (bringing my grand total to 65 hours a week) to the mix would be a very bad idea and told them that, no, I was not looking to increase my hours at this time, even though I was very flattered by the offer (and could have potentially gotten vacation benefits from the deal-y-o).

My mom told me that she'd never seen anybody "get so excited about getting more work" when I told her about my excursion into the world of grant writing at my day job, and that's probably true. I'm just very excited because it's fabulous experience, exciting work, and, let's face it, more money. It's been in the works all fall, but since I'm officially doing it now, I figure I can share the news.

So basically, I think I am at last crossing the bridge into responsible adulthood. Yay me for being responsible and learning to say, "No."

Posted by LoWriter at 02:59 PM | Comments (0)

January 11, 2006

Fic or Non-Fic: Who Really Cares?

If you're interested in literature, you are probably going to see this Strib article today. A Million Little Pieces (and The Summer of Ordinary Ways in another article late 2005) are fueling the age-old debate about how factual memoirs have to be. In the case of The Summer of Ordinary Ways, the author's family is trying to get a court order to make the publisher stop printing the book (as I understand it).

I find today's article about A Million Little Pieces particularly interesting, however, because a large percent of the facts that were purportedly "fabricated" are facts that, to me, sound like things someone might have experienced during a DRUG TRIP (i.e. the fact that he thought he got on a plane covered in blood and vomit or the fact that the police say they don't think he went through the crack houses he claims he went through or the fact that he thinks he had teeth removed and dental work done without anestesia). Since the book is about addiction, I find it interesting that they're surprised that maybe, perhaps, some of the details are less than 100% accurate.

Additionally, who cares? I can understand why the family of the woman who wrote The Summer of Ordinary Ways might be upset because they were portrayed in a way they felt was unjust, but I don't see why people are up in arms over this. Having never read either book, I hesitate to say too much regarding content, but it seems to me that if an individual wants to make his/her own life more horrible on paper than it really was, then why should anyone else care? Maybe it was that horrible to him while he was experiencing it. I mean, if he had labeled it fiction, no one would be having this conversation, and presumably, a person can learn as much from a work of fiction as one can from a work of non-fiction. In fact, I learn far more from my science fiction/fantasy reading than I do from most of my literary reading about human nature. Additionally, no one views events in the same way because we all have a different perspective on events. I don't think this makes our perspective any less real for us at the time. Sometimes our memories are faulty.

I've thought about this issue a lot because someday, I want to write down my story. Any writing I've done so far for it has been done either in the safety of a classroom where no one knows me or under the umbrella of a pen name. These two books and the public reaction to them have really made me desire to have a private pen name and remain somewhat annonymous. I keep an annonymous blog in addition to this one, and I can't tell you how freeing it is, especially for the exploration process. I've found out far more about how I feel about things in the last three months than ever before. I can't say that everything I remember happening in the past actually happened. I mean, who can recall a precise conversation? I've kept excellent notes, but I can't say that I know everything is factual. It also took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I was never as bad ass as I imagined I was. Just because I broke the rules at Bethel doesn't mean that I was a miscreant in society, and it took me a long time to realize that.

Fiction is considered good if it "rings true," but does non-fiction have to stick to purely factual events in order to be meaningful? Isn't the purpose of journalistic writing to stick to purely factual events, and don't we read creative non-fiction because it does embellish the facts or fill in the spaces between what happened and how we felt about it? What do we do about the works of creative writing that fall somewhere between fiction and non-fiction?

Bottom line? Does a work of literature have to be "true" in order to be meaningful? If so, what does it take to make a work true?

Posted by LoWriter at 10:28 AM | Comments (8)

January 09, 2006

December Books

Sorry for the long delay. (The uber-delay, if you will.) Here is the December book list for your reading pleasure.

Thud by Pratchett: Fantastic. It's a Watch book, so of course my favorite, Vimes, is the lead character. It's all about tension between the dwarves and the trolls and how Vimes has to fix it, or there'll be a war. It has some really good imagery.

A Monstrous Regiment by Pratchett: Also a good read. Vimes makes a cameo appearance, but other than that, not many of the previous Discworld characters are included. It's all about two little countries fighting with each other and women in the military.

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis: This book was an excellent little work of satire. It's set up as a correspondence between two demons: Wormwood and his uncle Screwtape. I especially enjoyed Screwtape's address to the demon college (I can't remember what it was called). On the whole, highly inappropriate in the extremely funny way that only satire can acheive.

Going Postal by Pratchett: Ahnk-Morpork gets a post office, which promptly goes into competition with the clacks (Discworld telegraph). Hillarity ensues.

Blankets by Craig Thompson: Excellent graphic novel. Somebody recommended this to me as a book about faith, and it definitely delves into the issues of losing your faith. I enjoyed it a great deal. Very beautifully done.

The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Sherlock returns from his supposed death, resulting in the re-birth of Watson's narrative regarding him. This book was once again a collection of short stories with each story revolving around a seperate case. Excellent read.

That's it for the books, kids. For those of you who are keeping track, this brings my yearly total to 91 books. Lots of candy reading, but I deserved it, I think. Feel free to share your own (and probably more intellectually stimulating) reads in the comments.

Posted by LoWriter at 02:42 PM | Comments (1)