Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Pro Tip

On September 29th, I received a promotional email from the Idaho Steelheads hockey team. I guess when you buy tickets online, they get your email address and send you junkmail advertisements for ticketing deals for the next season. 

I was actually glad to receive the email. I like going to a hockey game, and the Steelheads offer a fun night out, especially on dollar beer night. Sure, I'd rather go see the Blackhawks, but I can't afford to get myself to Chicago, let alone get tickets to the Madhouse on Madison.

Now, this particular email had a deal that was interesting, though the details were a bit lacking. The tag was "4 games for as low as $56." If that's 4 single game tickets for $56, that's not a super great deal, unless the seats are better than nosebleed. If it's 2 tickets per game, 4 games, then we're talking a great deal. Still, I had to turn the deal down for a very important reason.

You see, this promotional deal only ran through the month of September, which means that they left me less than 36 hours to take advantage. While I'm not living paycheck to paycheck, I'm on a budget. My husband manages our finances well enough to allow us to attend the occasional hockey game, but these aren't spur of the moment decisions. The funds are planned, at least a month in advance, if not far more for big things like our trip to the Washington coast this past summer.

And so, I did the only thing that I could reasonably do in the circumstances. I replied.
I sure wish I had heard about this deal sooner. Since there's less than two days left in September, I don't have time to budget for this great deal. :(
I am interested in hearing about other pricing deals since I do love going out to see the Steelheads.
Okay, my initial reaction was a reply more along the lines of:
Pro Tip: When advertising a month long sale, send out emails at the beginning of the month, rather than the day before the end.  
Either I'm reading Kameron Hurley's* marketing tips too closely, or this hockey team's marketing department isn't.

*There are marketing tips on that Twitter feed, but also hilarity and swearing.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Like a Boss

A few months ago, my boss was on vacation. She was going to be gone for two weeks, a nice long trip. We had prepared for her absence as best as we could, and my own long vacation would be happening two days after she came back. Summer's not a busy time at my workplace, which worked out great for both of us, since we both liked taking outdoorsy vacations.

But, the week before she was supposed to come back, the gut punch arrived.

She was not coming back.

At first, I didn't believe it. Classic denial. And then I proceeded quickly through the rest of the stages, landing more in limbo than anything else. For several weeks, I waited to see how things would fall out in my section of the office.

And, two weeks ago, the word came down. I was promoted into my boss's position.

Supervising isn't something that I'd ever planned on doing, but this would be a small team and I would have a mentor in my boss's boss, who had actually been my original boss when I first started in this office. I felt that my path wouldn't be easy, but it would be possible. Something that I could handle. I could learn to supervise.

Then an uppercut came out of nowhere.

My now-boss, who had been my boss's boss before my boss left, was also leaving the department.

When she told me and my direct report, I maintained an outward calm, because I had to take this without freaking out. If there was ever a chance to prove that I could keep control over my emotions sufficiently to be a good supervisor, then the time was now. At the least, I wouldn't be able to prove it to her for much longer.

But it was important for me to prove it to myself as well. I know that one of my weaknesses in this team environment has been a tendency to be overly emotional. Inside, my head is spinning at the rapid pace of change, but outwardly, I'm working on projecting the kind of calm that will hold my team together.

I'm trying to take these punches like a boss.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Aisle Rage

There's no place that proves we shouldn't have jet packs better than the grocery store.

Not because there are a lot of crashes, but because in no other place do people act as if they are alone when surrounded by other people.

Why else would someone park their cart on one side of the aisle and then stand in the space between it and the other side of the aisle to browse the shelves and single-handedly block an entire aisle? Why else would someone abruptly turn around without even a glance to see if anyone else is in the space they want to enter? In the grocery store, the cart is your own personal world, the store is your private freeway, and other carts are not other people, with hopes, fears and dreams of their own, but obstacles that are in your - your! - way.

It's easy to fall into cart rage in such situations. Too easy, to snarl at the idiot who can't decide which way they want to go, or which aisle has the items they want. You can build up a head of steam even in the moments before you get a cart as the person ahead of you blocks your way to grab one.

But that's just not healthy. Better by far to stand back, take a deep breath, and smile at the absurdity of the oblivious.

Better to nod to yourself with wisdom, knowing that this, this is why we can't have jet packs.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Creative Nonfiction

This semester, I'm taking a class on Creative Nonfiction. So far, I'm enjoying it. The teacher has been with the university for more years than I've been alive. Compared to last fall, when I was in the guinea pig group for a new, last minute replacement adjunct, that alone is wonderful.

But there are other aspects of the class that I'm finding useful. We write each class session, even if it is just fast writing in response to an excerpt from an essay in the text. The homework isn't burdensome, at least, not yet, and it keeps me writing.

Last semester, when I dedicated myself to the insane project of writing over 80 blog entries in response to the readings we did, I got a lot of practice in writing. But more is always better. I am tuning my writing, honing my skills and keeping up with my Hike with Me book.

I've had my smart phone for a little over a year now, and it is only in the last few weeks that I've started exploiting it for my writing. Yes, the screen is small and the typing is awkward, but the words come quickly and I can use the time waiting for class to start to just write.

Writing about the trip energizes me to write in class. Writing for homework feeds into writing for the trip. Writing begets writing, and, I hope, better writing.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Come on, Get Happy

What is the value of happiness? Recently, I engaged in an online conversation in which a friend of mine decried the idea of happiness as worthless. To him, there is no meaning to life, a theory which he claims is proven and inarguable.

Naturally, I wanted to argue the point.

This isn't just because I have a degree in arguing; I remember what it's like not to believe in being happy. I remember the empty feelings that depression breeds so well. A perpetual hitch in the midsection like being caught on a rollercoaster that never regains an upward trajectory. From the inside of that dark canopy, it does seem to be incontrovertible. Fact. Misery is the norm, and happiness is for deluded suckers. From the outside, I find myself wanting to prove the value of happiness to someone who can't appreciate it.

I know that it’s a futile exercise. There is nothing that can break that bulwark from the outside. Only the person inside it can break it. Only the person inside it can choose to break it. Those choices aren't easy and sometimes you need medication and therapy to make them. The best anyone else can do is try to motivate them to make that choice for themselves.

I can ask him why he keeps pissing into the wind if he doesn’t like getting wet. I can ask him how his philosophy is working out for him, if he likes the way that it makes him feel. I can demonstrate that there are other ways to consider the world by being happy.

But I cannot push a wet noodle up a hill.

No matter how much I might want to.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Author Event: John Scalzi

Last Thursday was a momentous occasion. John Scalzi, for the very first time, visited both Boise and Idaho. He is an Idaho virgin no longer.

To celebrate, he stopped by the Boise Public Library and held a reading (sponsored by Rediscovered Books, which does not - at the moment - have the space to hold such an event). Personally, I had never been to the William F. Hayes Memorial Auditorium, and so, in that both Scalzi and I were breaking new ground.

Since I have a Boise State parking permit, my husband and I chose to park there and then walk to the library, considering that there may be a crowded lot at the library. As we crossed the wooden bridge into the Anne Frank Memorial, I spotted Scalzi entering the library with an escort - identification certainty of 95%. I mean, I've never met him before, but he posts a lot of pictures of himself online.

We entered the library, and I immediately identified the location of the restrooms, because I need to know these things. Then we walked into the auditorium.

It's not really an auditorium. It doesn't fit my conception of one at any rate, which would have to contain, minimally, a stage and tiered seating. This is a meeting room. A classroom even. Chairs were lined up facing a table and podium, and behind the chairs was a long table covered in books. (All by John Scalzi - conspiracy or coincidence?)

I chose a seat near the front. Not the front row itself, mostly because it was occupied, but also because you never know which people might spit when they talk.

My husband and I settled in to wait, observing the room filling, noticing that Scalzi was chatting with the event organizers in the rear, and giggling a bit that the couple behind us did not recognize him, despite having walked right by him, close enough, because of the dimensions of the entrance, to have touched him in passing.

When it was time for the reading to begin, Scalzi was introduced to applause and then proceeded to outline the evening's events. He would be reading from an upcoming work, and then from some humor pieces and from his blog, Whatever.

I would love to explain in explicit detail the content of the reading from his upcoming urban fantasy, but I'm under strict orders to simply lord the fact that I know and you don't over you. Therefore, I must sum up that experience up as follows: I enjoyed listening to Scalzi read aloud from his work. His reading voice is not monotonous or boring, and it's neat to hear character inflections from the author himself. This novella sound really neat, and you should be jealous of me. And my husband. And everyone else who managed to attend one of Scalzi's many tour stops. Still a limited club!

The next two pieces he read for us were from an ancient website known as America Online. I am, in fact, old enough to have had an AOL account. Just - I was 13 when we got it. The pieces were from when he wrote for their humor section, which I'm pretty sure I never read, being more interested in chat at that age (I got my reading fixes from books - made of paper!). They were topical for the time of year, focused on back to school, one aimed at gradeschoolers and one at parents. Both were amusing.

Scalzi then read from a relatively recent blog entry from Whatever, "Standard Responses to Online Stupidity." I, being a regular reader of the blog, had already read that particular entry. However, again, the experience of having it read aloud by the author was quite enjoyable. For some reason, especially the single swear word in number 8.

Once the reading portion of the evening was concluded, the signing portion could begin. There were a few rules, reasonable limits on the number of books that could be signed at a time (if you wanted more, you were free to go back to the end of the line). Photographs were welcome, and Rediscovered Books even offered a photographer. We snaked our line through the chairs, so as not to trail out into the library, and I got in line to wait while my husband walked over to where he could take the picture when I got there.

I chatted a bit with other people in line, commiserating with one that the event had a distinct lack of ukulele and yodeling (to which Scalzi replied, "I heard that!"). The wait was not too long, since I had been sitting near the front, and there, I finally asked the question that had been burning inside me since July 22nd, when my husband and I went to see a movie for our meet-iversary and I saw that our theater offered Oreo churros.

"Oreo churros - abomination or awesome?" I said. I had to repeat it, partially because he was surprised I think (and partially because I was nervous and speaking softly).

The face of a man who likes churros. 
Scalzi proceeded to give me much more than I expected. Not a simple yes or no, but an enthusiastic explanation which boiled down to the cinnamon churro flavor being an intrinsic part of its churro-ness for him. Nothing against others who like Oreo churros, but for him they are not properly partaking of churro-ness - although a churro flavored Oreo would be acceptable.

This question gave him something to use for personalizing my book, and I now am the proud owner of a copy of Old Man's War inscribed thusly:

I then got my picture taken with him, because I could. All in all, a nice way to spend a Thursday evening.
Before next time, I will teach Ambrose how to use the zoom.
Or maybe I was told to write that. You wouldn't know. After all, you weren't there... or were you?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Best Laid Plans

I'm not even supposed to be here today!

I had been planning this summer's solo hike for over a year. On August 15th, my husband and I would drive to the Willow Creek campground outside of Featherville, ID. The next day, I would set off on a short, but epic, 60 mile journey, taking either three or four days. My husband would be waiting for me at Grandjean, keeping an eye out on day three and trying not to be anxious on day four.

I knew I could do a 20 mile plus day with  pack and elevation. I tried it out in late July and it worked. An afternoon thunderstorm and rain couldn't stop me from doing it, nor the hot sun and hard climb of the early morning.

I reduced my pack's base weight by going with a no-cook eating schedule and not taking any reading or writing materials. On August 13th, my pack, complete with food and water, weighed in at just under 30 pounds.

My mind was ready. I had studied my maps and read up on the terrain. I knew which trails I needed to take to get where I wanted to go. I knew I could do the distance by myself.

My spirit was ready for a time of solitude and testing. To push myself further than I had the last two years. To find out just what I was capable of doing on my own in the wilderness.

My body was not ready.

Since my husband and I came back from our backpacking trip on the Washington coast, I had been tired. Exhausted, even. I tried to rest and recover. I didn't continue with my pull up workouts, deciding I could resume them after the solo. I didn't get any Crossfit done, and when I tried to run on Wednesday, I found that I couldn't run for more than 90 seconds at a time.

On Thursday, I found that I couldn't keep up with my boss during a walking meeting. First we slowed down, and then we sat, because I couldn't keep walking - with no pack.

And, on Friday the 14th, the final blow came. Abdominal pain bad enough to suspect appendicitis brought me to my doctor's office.

I will not be taking a solo hiking trip this year.

My solo trip has been what I've been using to write my Hike with Me books. With no solo trip this year, the plans have changed. This year's installment of Hike with Me will be more accurately Hike with Us. I am going to write up my coast trip for the book - but also for my hiking blog.

In some ways, I'm devastated not to be doing what I planned, but I'm also trying to see it as a challenge. Sometimes we don't choose change, but we have to adapt to it anyway and make the best of what we've got.