Friday, August 29, 2008

Notice Anything Different?

Yeah, got tired, after all these years (I started this blog on August 21st, 2005 - Happy Belated Birthday, NVNC IS VIDES, NVNC NE VIDES!), of the green background. I did get some complaints here and there about the color, which I've been ignoring, but it was finally starting to wear on me, too. Also changed text color and restored the text to 'normal' (apparently I had set it to bold instead of just making the size a bit bigger when I decided the text was hard to read - I've learned new things since then).

I added a little blurb at the top - I know I haven't been great about updating, but I do put something up at my other blog almost daily, so I thought, if you're visiting you might be interested in what I've been doing that's kept me from updating here.

I had a great, half-hour long chat with my son today. We're counting the days until he comes home from Iraq. I won't say anything more specific, except that the light is just beginning to glimmer at the end of the tunnel.

He, of course, wants me to be there when he lands and has started 'reminding' me to make plans. I know I don't always do things as far in advance as I could, but it's really to early to be buying airplane tickets, etc. Especially since the current arrival window is about a month wide.

He's always been one to want things structured and thoroughly planned out. Not that he's not spontaneous, but I think just knowing that there *is* even a tentative, flexible, plan keeps him from getting nervous that there won't *be* a plan.

I can't believe it's already Labor Day weekend. This summer seems to have sped past faster than any I can remember. Tomorrow I go to see CSU San Jose vs. UC Davis - my nephew plays for Davis, so I'll be sitting with the Aggie fans instead of the home team fans. Not that college football has ever been much of a passion for me. My college didn't have football. National champion wrestling and basketball, but no football. The local community college had a great team that I think did very well in its division - but I didn't follow it, either.

I don't want to get all political here, but the news that McCain has chosen a woman as a running mate is all over the place. While it's rather stunning that a woman is on the Republican ticket, the choice has me completely bemused. Did he pick her for her looks? Seriously, the woman is probably wonderful, but she hasn't finished her first term as governor (of Alaska) and her other political credits are all very small potatoes. Her positions are very far to the right, but that can't help McCain, he's got the right. Does he think an anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage woman will get him all those disgruntled Hillary Clinton voters in his camp? Color me confuzzled about this one.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tempus Fugit

I went to Office Depot last weekend for printer ink. Of course that's not all I got, but that's what I went there for. Ostensibly. Really, just printer ink...ahem, anyway...and of course the place was packed with back-to-school shoppers.

Now that I have an empty nest, I don't keep track of those sorts of things. Glad I didn't need to go to the mall for something. Watching the girls (for some reason it was mostly girls there with their parents - I maybe saw one boy) looking at notebooks and pens and paper made me just a tiny bit nostalgic for the times my kids and I did our back to school errands. But just a tiny bit and only for a moment.

Back to school also meant clothes shopping, and wincing at not only the price tags, but the clothes themselves. I guess every generation goes through it's "really ugly fashion" statement period and ugly is always subjective, so I'm sure my opinion isn't worth the pixels it's written in, but I don't think in 30 years these kids will look back on their mini-skirts and Ugg boots and think "That was the apex of beauty and style." Then again, I thought the midi-skirt was cool. Hey, I'm tall, I carried it off! My daughter was eclectic in her clothes choices, so she pretty much bucked the fads in high school with my full approval. (She did finally buy Uggs last year - her feet were freezing in the winter and the Uggs were nice and warm.)

I forgot about my weekend reflections in the days between now and then, but just got a Tweet from Wil Wheaton's Twitter feed that said "Did I miss a memo? Are tights + UGG boots + a T-shirt dress thingy + a headband the new thing? I keep seeing this disaster everywhere I go." and it reminded me.

This from the actor who wore some of the (sorry, Wil - I know it wasn't your fault) ugliest sweaters ever, as Wesley Crusher on Star Trek, TNG...I hope he knew then what those girls don't know now - sometimes following the latest fashion fad (or being forced into someone's conception of the future of knitwear) just makes you look ridiculous. I was too old for legwarmers and high-heels with torn sweatshirts (Flashdance), but yeah, I did wear polyester disco dresses, so I shouldn't talk.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

In Which Dawno Plugs a Book

The happy serendipity of the Internet leads me from a post about a great food meme to a post about a book by a waiter...

I am on Twitter. I tweet. I read other folk's tweets. I follow about 50 tweeters, one of whom is Wil Wheaton, actor, writer, blogger and uber geek. In a tweet he sent last night, he recommended reading a post by the writer of Waiter Rant, a blog, and also, as I find out at his blog, a book. I followed the link in the tweet and read the post, which was insightful. Went to take a look at his book. The Harper Collins website had preview pages, so read all there was available of Chapter 1 and decided I wanted to read the book right then - and, as luck would have it, they had it available as an e-book, so I could download it immediately and not have to wait for it to come in the mail.

Download completed, I dropped everything else I was doing (I've been very busy with the whole beading thing lately and was in the middle of re-organizing my beading area, doing an inventory of my creations and re-naming and creating tags for them, amongst other stuff) and started reading. By 11 pm I was getting rather tired and went to bed with about 3/4 of the book completed. I have just finished reading it.

Waiter Rant (by Steve Dublanika, The Waiter) starts off with a preface that introduces you to the author's conversational, first person style. He's obviously educated and witty:

"Today waiters are expected to be food-allergy specialists, sommeliers, cell-phone-rule enforcers, eye candy, confessors, entertainers, mixologists, emergency medical technicians, bouncers, receptionists, joke tellers, therapists, linguists, punching bags, psychics, protocol specialists, and amateur chefs. Foodie-porn TV programming has generated a new class of entitled customers with already overblown culinary expectations and a rapidly diminishing set of social graces. Economists say that the restaurant business is a bellwether of the nation’s economic health—but I think it’s a bellwether of America’s mental health as well. And let me tell you, 20 percent of the American dining public are socially maladjusted psychopaths. We should start putting Prozac in the Perrier."
147 words into the book and it's got me completely hooked.

The sub-title is "Thanks for the Tip -- Confessions of a Cynical Waiter" and yes, he's cynical. But he's also self-analytical, a keen observer of people and a writer whose descriptions neatly place you right in the setting - I felt like I would be able to recognize his anonymized restaurants and the people who worked there, if I ever made my way out to New York City.

About mid-book the reader has learned a lot about the author's life, what led him to become a waiter, how and why he struggles with the culture of the restaurant world and its denizens. If you are going into this thinking it's just a series of anecdotes about the behavior of quirky customers, you will be disappointed - it's that to a point, but it's also an introspective memoir and very nearly a psychological/sociological treatise on the way people treat people in the service industry. He keeps it all moving apace, however, with his personable writing style and sense of humor. You also find that he puts his education to use with mention of, or allusions to, classical literature, but also from popular literature and culture. While his prose is accessible, it doesn't talk down to the reader, either.

The book is also about the author learning that he *is*, indeed, a Writer. Starting with a blog that eventually gains a large following and then on to getting an agent, and a book deal, the author discloses the ups and downs many writers experience before finally breaking into publication. I know a bit about that as a moderator on Absolute Write where daily writers discuss their triumphs and challenges and disappointments.


Because I want to make a point about writing, I'm going to discuss the end of the book - please don't read on if you don't like spoilers and intend to read Waiter Rant. There's nothing else said after the spoiler, so if you're going to pass up the spoiler bit, you're done - thanks for visiting!


The book closes with the author still working as a waiter, even though his book has sold. Unlike the lotto winner who walks into work the morning after the numbers were posted (yeah, you don't have that dream, do you?) and says "take this job and shove it," he takes a respite from waiting and then, eventually, goes back to it, albeit at a less stressful place and pace. The hopeful thing about his return to the job, is something he says just a few paragraphs from the end of the book:

"Now that I’m a waiter trying to become something else, I feel like my life has direction. The chip I was carrying on my shoulder fell off. My sense of hospitality has returned. I no longer feel like a loser. Those horrible dreams about wasted talent have disappeared. For the first time in a long time, I’m at peace with myself."

I like a book with a happy ending.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My Goodness! A Meme!

Edit to add: This font doesn't bold! I'd forgotten. I'm going to go back and change the ones that should be bold somehow so they show up. Sorry!

Haven't done one of these in ages. Found it on Electric Velocipede Blog:

"From the sublime Andy Wheeler, a list of all the food items you should eat at least once in your life.

Here’s what I want you to do:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten. (I'm going to put *'s around the ones I've eaten)
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at linking to your results."

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. *Venison*
2. Nettle tea
3. *Huevos rancheros*
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. *Cheese fondue*
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. *Calamari* (didn't like it)
12. *Pho*
13. *PB&J sandwich*
14. Aloo gobi
15. *Hot dog from a street cart*
16. Epoisses (per Wikipedia, a really smelly cheese)
17. Black truffle
18. *Fruit wine made from something other than grapes*
19. *Steamed pork buns*
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. *Foie gras*
24. *Rice and beans*
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche (looked it up because I've had the Häagen-Dazs ice cream but never the real thing)
28. Oysters
29. *Baklava*
30. Bagna cauda (this sounds really good, I hope I can try it someday)
31. *Wasabi peas* (only tried once, drank a gallon of Arizona Diet Green Tea immediately after)
32. *Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl*
33. Salted lassi (doesn't sound appealing, but I wouldn't cross it out, I'd taste if offered)
34. Sauerkraut
35. *Root beer float* (had AW Root beer floats in frosty mugs from AW drive-ins as a kid - there's a great memory - the different sized mugs, the tray on the car window, the waitress who'd walk up to the car window...)
36. Cognac with a fat cigar (not on my list of 'must do' foodie type things, but I wouldn't turn it down, either)
37. *Clotted cream tea* (had this in Australia with warm scones and strawberry jam - so yummy!)
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O not a big Vodka fan
39. *Gumbo*
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal - this is a 'conditional' strikeout - sounds too hot for my taste
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu Just not that bold.
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. *Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut* oh yeah - I was thrilled when Krispy Kreme started opening stores here.
50. Sea urchin I've seen these, didn't appeal to me
51. Prickly pear - I may have had this as a child, I remember a school unit about desert ecology (lived in the desert as a kid) and vaguely recall having some, but maybe it's just my imagination.
52. Umeboshi - I think we had these in Taiwan, but again, I'm not certain and they probably were called something else
53. Abalone
54. Paneer again, not appealing, probably wouldn't try it, but who knows?
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal don't like thousand island dressing on my burgers. Now a Quarter Pounder with Cheese Meal, yep, had those many times.
56. *Spaetzle*
57. Dirty gin martini don't like gin
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine I know some Canadians, so I'm familiar with this one. If I ever visit a Canadian friend and it's offered, I'll try it. I won't go out of my way to find some, though.
60. Carob chips
61. *S’mores*
62. Sweetbreads uh, no.
63. *Kaolin* if you count being dosed with Kaopectate as a child, I've had it.
64. Currywurst lots of curried foods in this list. I'm not particularly fond of curry, but I guess I'd try it.
65. Durian Interesting looking fruit - the description of its scent as: "Regarded by some as fragrant, others as overpowering and offensive, the smell evokes reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust." makes me wonder where I fall on that continuum.
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, *churros*, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis really not appealing - but if a Scotsman would get insulted by my refusal to try it, I would try it, so that's a conditional strikeout.
69. Fried plantain - I may have had this, too - just can't recall for certain.
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette - wouldn't mind a taste
71. *Gazpacho* Had wonderful Gazpacho at Baur's in Denver just last week during WorldCon
72. *Caviar and blini*
73. Louche absinthe - couldn't find this, but "louche" refers one to "Ouzo Effect" and all in all, not interested in absinthe anyway...had the chance to have some, too, and didn't partake.
74. Gjetost, or brunost anther cheese - sounds interesting, so I'd try it.
75. Roadkill uh, nope - just the idea makes me shudder.
76. Baijiu Might give it a sip if offered
77. Hostess Fruit Pie I've managed not to have one of these in 51 years of living, I think I can abstain for whatever's left. But, I wouldn't say "never consider eating" because if I were starving and that's all I could eat, yeah, I'd have a Hostess Fruit Pie. You know, under those conditions, I'd probably eat anything on this list...
78. Snail I've had the chance and turned it down so far...but, see above...
79.* Lapsang souchong* not my favorite tea, but interesting to taste once
80. Bellini - sure, sounds nice, I'd try it
81. Tom yum I've had soup at a Thai restaurant, but don't remember what it was, so I'm not sure if I've had this or not...
82. *Eggs Benedict* not crazy about it
83. *Pocky* the kids love this stuff
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant. Yeah, I'd like to do that someday
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare - as in rabbit? Have had rabbit, got violently sick afterwards and had to leave the Winter Formal because of it.
87. *Goulash*
88. Flowers - I think I've had flowers in salads at some fancy L.A. restaurants back in the 80s...
89. Horse only if starving, etc...
90. Criollo chocolate - didn't find a listing for this, just "Criollo cocoa, a variety of highly prized cocoa" on the disambiguation page
91. *Spam*
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa would try if ever offered
94. Catfish
95. *Mole poblano*
96. Bagel and lox I love bagels, I love salmon, just don't like smoked salmon, but I might try it some day
97. *Lobster Thermidor* My mother served this at my (first) wedding reception, which she catered beatifully at her and my father's home - it was in a lovely silver chafing dish...
98. *Polenta* had this once with a wonderful dinner of all Eastern European dishes prepared by a colleague from work.
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee - wouldn't pay the premium, but I'd drink it if given a cup
100. Snake ref above, re: starving...

Thank goodness for Wikipedia, where I had to look up a number of foods to decide if I'd strike through them or not. I linked to them, too, in case you do the meme and were as unfamiliar as I.

If I didn't comment on it, in general, it's something I'd try if the opportunity arose. Let me know if you do this so I can come see your list!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Worldcon Report Day 1 & 2

Spotted "in the wild" at Denvention: John Scalzi (seated and chatting, I probably rudely interrupted), Lois McMaster Bujold (on an escalator and in the dealers room but I didn't get to meet her), Jo Walton, Jay Lake, Robert Silverberg, and Kaja Foglio. Had drinks with friends at the other end of same long table with Jo and Jay and got Jay to sign my new copy of Escarpment, introduced myself to John Scazi, was too shy to say hi to Robert Silverberg who was chatting with a group near the escalators up to the dealer's room, which I had just left with some lovely new jewelry in hand.

A new friend got Lois to sign a copy of a very special chap book with stories inspired by beautiful beaded jewelry which included one by Lois. Have Kaja's autograph and a picture of the two of us. She was very pleasant to chat with. I was practically the first one into the dealer's room on the first day, so I didn't have to fight any crowds to talk to her, either.

I got said lovely jewelry from Elise Matthesen, who is quite the artist in stone and glass and wire. I also found an autographed copy of I am not SPOCK at Jim & Melody Rondeau's table and Saturn's Children by Charles Stross and Escapement by Jay Lake (who signed it and drew some cogs on the cover page at the bar last night) at the Borderland's table.

The night ended (Thurs.) with a great gathering of Viable Paradise alumnus visited by Teresa Nielson Hayden and Madeline Robins who regaled us with tales of days in the comic book biz and other publishing stories.

Tomorrow I'm going to sleep in so I'll be able to stay up late for the Making Light and Tor parties.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Denvention is Nearly Here!

I'm looking forward to going to Denvention, the 66th Annual SF WorldCon. I voted for the Hugos and I've been reading the pocket program. There's a party on Friday night I'm looking forward to attending - I "know" everyone who's going to be there, although I'm such a lurker on the site that's hosting it, they'll probably go "Dawno who?"

I may have to hand out these (well, not the last one, I'll be wearing that):

I'll try to post about the trip, we'll see if I have enough energy left at the end of the day.