Notes from a LiteraryVixen

Snarks and Randoms for Your Enlightenment.

Back in Black. August 19, 2008

Filed under: Randoms — theliteraryvixen @ 7:47 pm

All right. This has been too long an absence. If anyone was actually holding their breath for my next post . . . well, you’re dead by now, so no use apologizing there. But for those who went on with their lives, but occasionally wondered: “Where’s Amy? Has she lost her fondness for writing usually meaningless blather and posting it to my interwebs?”

Well, never fear, my friends. I am alive and well.

Just a couple of small snags have prevented my cheap therapy (read: blogging) as of late. Number one: work. I have been working my butt off (shut up – yes, it’s still there) herding cats. ‘Cause that’s what getting seven people to make one, subjective decision is, you know. It’s a tough job sometimes, made tougher by the fact that I am not of one world – I straddle the worlds of the developers (right-brained) and the marketers (left-brained). I like to think of myself as a translator – from clouds into boxes and back again.

But sometimes, even MY Esperanto fails me.

The other thing that I’ve been struggling with as of late is my Internet connection. I’ve been pirating for months, and my patsy either moved or blocked his network.

Don’t get me wrong – I totally pay for DSL, and I have had a wireless router for as long as I’ve had a laptop. I just didn’t set it up.

Yes, I’m rather lazy. But mostly, I just hate hardware.

That may be a weird statement, given that my job title is Marketing Technology Specialist. Shouldn’t I, therefore, enjoy and be good with technology?

No, not really.

See, I enjoy software. It’s oddly pliable, and I can make it bend to my will with a little creative problem solving. It’s very Matrix-esque: you learn what rules you can bend and what rules you can break.

Hardware is cables and plugs and acronyms. Very little wiggle room, and completely incomprehensible to people who just. don’t. CARE.

Ick.

I finally set up what I think is a very secure, encrypted network that I can utilize from the comfort of my bedroom. I kind of stumbled into it at the end. I think my desperate voicemail to my IT-savvy brother was what gave me the last boost into connection. You know, Murphy, and all.

But whatever got me here, I’m thrilled to be back.

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Unplugged? Unsettling. June 28, 2008

Filed under: Randoms — theliteraryvixen @ 10:15 pm
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Sure, I knew that I was a product of my generation, but it wasn’t until a recent gift hunt that I realized just how dependent on technology I actually am.

It has gotten to the point where being disconnected from the Internet for more than 12 hours is actually physically unsettling. I NEED to check my e-mail. I NEED to reference and cross-reference things with the Holy Trinity of Daily Fixes: Google, IMDb and Wikipedia.

Now, before you get the wrong idea, please allow me to clarify: I do not spend hours and hours trolling the Net for random sites. Neither am I a gamer, unless you count my ongoing rounds of Scrabulous with friends (which is more of a fun “task” really, similar to sending an e-mail, as the rounds go back and forth as people log-in. No chatroom coordination is necessary).

But, while I don’t need to be logged-on for long, I get a bit twitchy if I can’t log on at all.

Cementing my own perception of this addiction was my recent trolling for a very specific item. I was looking for a vintage piece as a birthday gift for my father – who is in the running for the coveted “Most Difficult Person to Find a Gift For” Award. I knew exactly what he was looking for, as he had run across it once and had neglected to buy it . . . and has been kicking himseelf for it ever since.

So, I checked with eBay, I checked with Google. I modified my search strings over and over. I checked again and again for a month solid. But there was nothing. Not a trace of the elusive piece. Anywhere.

This was disconcerting. This has never happened to me before. I felt as though my most trusted friend, my ROCK, had let me down.

I have been an online shopper for years, looking for what is sometimes the truly random. From out-of-print VHS and DVDs, to bootlegs of an 80’s TV show that will likely never be released for home viewing; from discontinued lipsticks and fragrances to Japanese imports . . . all have been found, if not purchased (depending on my value of the item, compared to what the market would bear). But to not find even the slightest shred of validation that the sought-after item exists? Unheard of. It’s like finding a hole in the fabric of my life. A void of information which SHOULD exist.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I would never survive as a pioneer.

Hell, I’ve never even made it through an entire game of Oregon Trail.

 

Breathtaking (but not in the good way). June 17, 2008

Filed under: Randoms — theliteraryvixen @ 6:31 pm

“Congratulations, it’s a . . . . baby.”

Let’s start this post with getting one simple fact out of the way. Clear the air, so to speak. Here we go (deep breath!): Not all babies are cute.

It’s not a popular sentiment, and some people will never dare admit it, but come on. Denial is healthy for no one.

Anyhow, now that we have that out of the way, I have a theory to share. I believe that adorable babies have no chance of being attractive adults.

Cute babies, and even VERY cute babies . . . sure. They can ostensibly grow up to be very pretty people. It is the ADORABLE babies that end up weird-looking.

“Why?”, you ask?

Well, the very features that we prize in babies – short, wide faces, huge eyes, small, pouty mouths – don’t exactly grow and stretch when the rest of the child does. When the head grows, and the body stretches, the disproportionate scale which works in their favor during their youth – that pushes them over the boundaries of cute, into the “Awwwwwwwwww!” territory –  turns on them.

It’s just a theory at this point. You may feel free to try and prove me wrong. But so far, I stand by it.

 

The Absence of Malice. April 14, 2008

Filed under: Randoms — theliteraryvixen @ 7:02 pm

“Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk – these are just a couple of my cravings.”
 – Rufus Wainwright

Battling one’s demons is one thing, but what are you supposed to do when they’re gone and you’re still fighting?

Lately, I’ve been trying to retrain my brain away from some nasty habits I’ve acquired over the course of my 29 years of existence. I was introduced to the idea many years ago, when one of my friends, upon getting braces, used a repetitive mantra to convince herself that she, in fact, did not even LIKE gum. Now, I’m not doing anything that extreme (after all, why deprive oneself of minty refreshment?), but I have had some success with the technique. Which has, in turn, unleashed a newer, weirder problem.

You see, when I’m just tooling along, living my life, and suddenly realize that I am NOT craving the things that I once did, it strikes a faint but palpable fear into me, driving me to the behaviors I seek to avoid. “Wow – I don’t even want a cigarette right now” leads me to light up within five minutes.

It’s totally creepy.

During a discussion today, another friend brought up a recent news item regarding the phantom pains that amputees often experience from their missing body part. Which led me to realize that this is what these are: Phantom Pains-in-my-ass, that is. Though, sadly, I’m not missing any of THAT particular body part.

The new theraputic treatment for these amputees involves the use of mirrors. Apparently, the brain has problems learning new channels – it gets confused when sending neurons to the missing limb which are not received, which then causes it to panic and tell the sufferer, through these ghosts of pain, that something is wrong. Something is missing.

The amputees use mirrors to reflect the present limb; by “seeing” the limb in it’s rightful place, even though it’s trickery, the brain calms down and starts to relearn the ways that it communicated with the body.

So, that’s my next task. To show myself that these new patterns ARE, in fact, normal. They’re just a new normal.

How to do that? Well, I’m not quite sure. Repitition, perhaps? A modified mantra? Partial lobotomy? Who knows. But I guess I’ll just keep plugging away.

I mean, “giving up the ghost(s)” must be easier than battling one’s demons, right?

 

The Living Daylights. March 11, 2008

Filed under: Randoms — theliteraryvixen @ 3:38 pm

Daylight Saving Time blows.

 

NOTE: Much like Groundhog [singular] Day, the correct usage of Daylight Saving [singular!] Time is NOT pluralized, I’ve come to discover. Who knew?

 

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not against it in either practice OR principle. It’s a lovely goal to try and conserve energy (ostensibly the goal of the program). And luxuriating in that “extra hour” of sleep in the fall is just LOVELY.

 

So why am I possibly whining about it, then?

 

Because, come on: it’s KIND OF ridiculous.

 

First of all, who the heck RUNS this program? Who decides when we’re turning our clocks forward or back? It’s a federally-mandated program (under the The Uniform Time Act of 1966), even though entire states opt-out of it, like Hawaii and Arizona. But who is on this committee that decided to bump our “spring forward” back?

 

Secondly, if I could find these mysterious people (shrouded in as much secrecy as the MPAA Ratings board), I would berate them heavily for MESSING with the dates. . . In 2007, they started to make us spring forward three weeks earlier. Which means that we get one week of awakening to sunlight, then [whoosh!] back to waking up in what feels like nighttime.

 

I’m fairly convinced they only did it because they have some sort of arrangement with Starbucks to boost consumption. I know I certainly need a caffeinated boost to get my system through that shock! Why not leave it the first weekend in April, as it has been my entire life, so that we can still wake up to sunlight?

 

Plus, we’re no longer on the same schedule as the European Union. They “spring forward” three weeks from now, in the last weekend of March. Meaning, if you already have to do the calculations between one time zone and another to do business or to connect with family, for three weeks, you need to remember to augment your math until the rest of the world catches up.

 

Also, can we actually say this works? Consider this:

“The argument in favor of saving energy swayed Indiana, where until 2005, only about 16 percent of counties observed Daylight Saving Time. Based on the DOT study, advocates of Indiana DST estimated that the state’s residents would save over $7 million in electricity costs each year. Now that Indiana has made the switch, however, researchers have found the opposite to be the case. Scientists from the University of California, Santa Barbara, compared energy usage over the course of three years in Indiana counties that switched from year-round Standard Time to DST. They found that Indianans actually spent $8.6 million more each year because of Daylight Saving Time, and increased emissions came with a social cost of between $1.6 million and $5.3 million per year. Commentators have theorized that the energy jump is due to the increased prevalence of home air conditioning over the past 40 years, in that more daylight toward the end of a summer’s day means that people are more likely to use their air conditioners when they come home from work.” [Source: webexhibits.org/daylightsaving]

 

Now, Ben Franklin was a pretty smart guy; he thought up a lot of great things (did you know he’s the one responsible?) . . . but this may be an ideal that is either not living up to its potential or is past its time.

 

But maybe you’ll just have to forgive this diatribe. I had to get up REALLY early this morning.

 

What’s the Buzz? Tell Me, What’s-a Happening? February 19, 2008

Filed under: Randoms — theliteraryvixen @ 2:18 pm
Tags: , , , ,

People, as a general rule, are pretty dumb.

Evidence: Buzzwords. These, of course, are trendy words/phrases that appear in the cultural lexicon and are glommed onto by media, motivational speakers, advertisers and the glib. Wikipedia states “Buzzwords are typically intended to impress one’s audience with the pretense of knowledge. For this reason, they are often universal. They typically make sentences difficult to dispute, on account of their cloudy meaning” Famous past examples include: “thinking outside the box”, ironic (thank you, Alanis Morissette), paradigm, synergy, iAnything, e-Anything, next-gen, etc.

Now, what bothers me is NOT that these words/phrases become popular, but the fact that people use them incorrectly . . . and sometimes to blatantly lie.

Case in point: Whole Grain – the latest buzzword to hit food marketing. Fruit Loops are now, apparently, whole grain. You can also get “whole grain” white bread, any oxymoron if I ever heard one. Now, I’m all for sneaking nutrition into foods, but seriously, bleached wheat flour is pretty much WHITE flour. And highly processed grain is certainly no better for you. People are kidding themselves if they think that Froot Loops, even if “made with real fruit juice!” is ever going to be a good alternative to, say, Kashi . . . or another “adult” cereal of your choice.

But cereal is not the reason behind this tirade. Popcorn, in fact, is. While fueling up with some afternoon caffeine from the vending machine at work, I noticed that the microwave popcorn sacks for sale were emblazoned with a little starburst containing the words “Made with Whole Grains!”.

Seriously? Do people not know that, by nature, popcorn IS a whole grain? That the little hull that, when popped, gets irritatingly stuck in your teeth is basically what constitutes it being “whole”? Come on, now.

Besides, this is just another prime example of the distraction factor of buzzwords. People see phrases like “whole grain” dangled before them and they automatically think “healthy!” But of course, perhaps the artificial butter and real sodium ATOP the whole grain is really what they should not be distracted from.

Buzzwords are essentially the linguistic equivalent of dangling something shiny in front of a baby. It’s our own fault for falling for it, really.

 

Get a (Vice) Grip. February 7, 2008

Filed under: Randoms — theliteraryvixen @ 1:10 pm

NOTE: Yes, I am aware that it’s VISE grip, when speaking of the tool. And if you were going to point that out to me . . . you may be a tool yourself.

Anyhow, on to today’s topic.

A vice is defined as a moral weakness or character flaw; some habit recognized as “bad” that is rather unshakeable.

Everyone has vices. Some people smoke. Some people bite their nails. Some people gamble. Some people eat junk food. Some people drink too much. Some people watch reality television.

I don’t think it’s necessarily bad to have a vice. My problem, however, is that I have too many of them. And that’s just inviting weakness into my life, which I definitely don’t have enough time for.

I procrastinate, I smoke, I eat unhealthy things, I don’t fold my laundry right when it comes out of the dryer, I choose extra sleep rather than being fully prepared for the day, I watch too much television, I drink, I don’t keep in touch with family and friends who are far away, I close myself off emotionally, I . . . well, you get the point.

This is my year to tackle my vices. Of all people, I know how to recognize and confront issues – I should certainly be able to handle these trivial matters.  

Already, I have a three-step plan to quit smoking by my birthday (April 1). I folded every piece of laundry in the house last night. I don’t keep processed foods in the house. And TV is off by 11:00 p.m. on weeknights, to facilitate good sleep, starting this week. 2008 will be my year to take charge and kick my vices to the curb!

But, of course, my favorite and longest-standing vice is being a procrastinator.

Hmmm.

Maybe 2009 sounds better?