COOKIES AND GRATITUDE

I’ve been ripped off. The good folks over a Sunday Stealing have done me the kindness of stealing a meme from me. Since I’ve already completed the second meme for today, I’ll include a link to my answers with many thanks both to Sunday Stealing for honoring me with a theft and the wise Queen Mimi for originating the meme.

Sunday Stealing: Our Players’ Meme

1. You have been awarded the time off from work and an all-expenses paid week anywhere in the United States. The catch is that it must be somewhere you have not been before. Where do you choose to visit? New York City. I want to see the iconic sights, eat all the amazing foods and soak in the atmosphere of the city.

2. Name three of your guilty pleasures. As-hot-as-I-can-stand showers, coffee, and high quality chocolate. I’ve been getting this to feel better about my habit since I’m getting all those antioxidants:


3. The best kind of Girl Scout Cookie is: Samoas, but I never turn down a Thin Mint.

Samoas are the best gril scout cookies.
4. What do you value most in other people? Intelligence, humor, and loyalty., but more than anything a positive outlook on life.

5. Be honest. Do you sneak some raw cookie dough when you’re baking cookies? Who sneaks? It’s part of the process and a valid reason to double the recipe.

6. Have you ever looked back at your life and realized that something you thought was a bad thing was actually a blessing in disguise?! Some questions are best answered with two small words: I’m divorced. Sometimes bad things – hard and hurtful – have to happen to clear the path for good things.

7. What is the most beautiful place you’ve ever visited? Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. I have visited many beautiful places, but even nineteen years later – exactly, in fact, as we’d visited the week of my thirteenth birthday – nothing I’ve seen has matched the raw power of the place, nor the diversity of it’s beauty.

8. Are you more of a thinker or a feeler? A thinker. I feel deeply, but I think on my feelings, examining them from various angles and determining the root causes. It is only in the last few years I have have learned the hard lesson that my feelings themselves are worthy and valid regardless of anything else or how other people think I should feel.

9. Name three things you are thankful for right now. A happy relationship (because it would be unfair to call Chris a thing), my Kindle, text messaging.

10. Have you ever participated in a three-legged race? Nope.

11. When you are at an event that plays the National Anthem, do you place your hand over your heart? Yes. Always. When you were raised a military brat, some things are considered important.

Second meme: (My answers)

12. What kind of work do you do?
13. During the course of your lifetime, which job or career has been your favorite or most fulfilling?
14. Do you think it’s necessary in your life to have a day-to-day “career” that is meaningful and service-oriented or do you function better in “just a job” with a steady paycheck?
15. Was there ever a time in your life when you wanted to stay home with your children instead of working, even if it meant less money in the household?
16. Tell us your worst boss story.
17. Have your ever been the boss?
18. What is your dream occupation?

MY GENERATION


Saturday 9: My Generation

1. What do you think is the most unique thing about your generation? Born in 1980, I am the very tail end of Generation X. We hold the distinction of being the last group to grow up in an analog world and the first to integrate the digital landscape into our lives. People much younger than I don’t understand writing letters by hand or trying really hard to think of where you’ve seen that one actor before. People much older – for the most part – don’t understand posting to Facebook from a social event or what anyone would want to blog/vlog/podcast for or about. My generation remembers the time before, but isn’t afraid of the new way.

2. Do you speak out as often as you should? No. As a rule, I keep silent unless the need to speak out weighs heavier than my nearly pathological dislike of confrontation.

3. How often are you tough and unreasonable? Does anyone think themselves unreasonable? I try to be tough without appearing hard. For the most part, I am a soft candy exterior with an iron nugget in the middle. No reason to be unpleasant in order to stand my ground.

4. Do you believe that sometimes you learn more from a failure than a success? Me, personally, yes. I do not, however think everyone learns well from failure or the proper lessons. Some people “learn” not to try difficult things or that cheating is the best way to win or to avoid trusting others or a host of other lessons which make subsequent success all the more unlikely. Such a sad thing to watch.

5. Do you feel that you always have to win? No. I am not competitive by nature. I would rather play cooperative games or work in team environments where everyone wins together.

6. Do you think tradition matters? Yes. Although tradition matters, I do not believe tradition should be blindly followed. It is better to analyze traditions for the substance of their meaning and decide wither to keep or discard all or part of each one.

7. Do you tend to root for the underdog? I find the idea of “rooting for the underdog” on principle as baffling as jumping on the bandwagon of the popular guy. Best to, you know, make value judgements based on the value of the various choices, not some arbitrary factor.

8. Have you ever felt that you want to exceed your parents’ successes? Again, not competitive by nature. I am also a very different person from any and all of my parental units, so I can hardly compare my life to theirs.

9. Of all the cartoon characters that you know of, which is most like you? Slightly neurotic and extremely bookish: Twilight Sparkle.

UPON TURNING THRITY-TWO

As is my habit, I am composing a post to commentate my birthday and to reflect upon the last year of my life and making plans for the coming year. Once upon a time, I did a similar thing in my paper journals for my eyes only, but as spiral notebooks have given way to WordPress, I publish the results for the world to read if it chooses. I have skipped years under both methods and, with the exception of last year, my words are gone, but here I am having lived one more year.

And a what a wonderful year it has been. Never have I been so busy. Just a few days ago, I told Chris how I often wish I could move up time from all those years I didn’t have much going on to now when every moment of every day seems packed to the gills.

We went from my birthday last year to Dragon*Con Labor Day weekend in the blink of an eye, then on to the holiday season. It was my second in a row working retail and hopefully my last for the rest of my days. Going from sixteen or twenty hours to thirty or more for the holiday season was rough on my body more than the rest of me. In large part, my recent return to working in a call center was based on the need to stop abusing my feet, knees and hips on those concrete floors. But I am getting ahead of myself as I didn’t start the new job until June. In fact, only a few weeks came between my decision to find something and accepting the new position.

The New Year brought one thing and one thing only: sewing. We thought we planned plenty of time for the work we’d committed to in preparation to be the Klingon wedding at Trex Trax Atlanta in late April. We spent almost as many hours telling friends and co-workers it would not be a legal and binding wedding, or at least not on this planet.

In March, I took Chris to Seattle to meet my family and George Takei at Emerald City Comic Con. I cannot speak for Mr. Takei, but my family was very impressed with Chris and thrilled he chose to propose at the convention while they could be a part of it. I was surprised at the timing, not the question itself, as it should be. The setting was perfectly us and couldn’t have been more geek-romantic including a video of the moment I innocently thought was to tease our con-going friends who couldn’t be with us.

Being engaged leads to the inevitable question: “When are you getting married?”

We put off those questions for a while with the urgency over getting every detail ready for our Klingon ceremony. Outfitting ourselves from head to (in my case) toe was no small undertaking. I was at the sewing machine until 2 AM the night before the convention and stitched a detail or two on the car ride to Atlanta, not to mention a few missed seams I didn’t find until ironing everything in the hours before the big event. Don’t let me fool you, though, it was better to be busy than to worry about the performance itself.

For better or worse, too, I’d agreed to compete in the Miss Klingon pageant that weekend. And I did. I was awful, but I entered to round out the number of contestants to a robust three Klingon ladies. I certainly hope enough warriors step up next time that I will not be needed next year. I’ve made it clear I never, ever want to see video of the event, but I’m glad I had the guts to do it.

I am far more proud of the costume I tossed together in the last 48 hours before the convention than I am my time on the stage, but admittedly, I am extremely proud to have fulfilled the dream I’d had as a little kid to learn to sew. Chris was instrumental in teaching me how to use a sewing machine and encouraging both my costuming projects and general craftiness. While there aren’t enough hours in the day for all the ideas in my head, for the first time in my life, I feel like I’m allowed to have hobbies even if they require the twin resources of time and money. It doesn’t sound like a big deal for most people, but it’s huge for me.

About that wedding stuff: While it’s very important to us to have a marriage legal here on Earth, not just in the Klingon Empire, I’m not concerned in the least about the details of a wedding. It’s just not something that ever mattered to me for a variety of reasons. We do intend to figure out a time when, at the very least, my parents will be able to fly out for the event. Early next year seems likely, but at present other factors keep us from setting a firm date. Truth be told, the main thing I’m looking forward to is changing my name. It will be the main practical change marriage will bring as it is with so many couples who live together beforehand, but it is of special concern to me. I elected to keep my married name when I got divorced, both because it did not seem worth the effort in paperwork to change twice within a couple years knowing Chris and I were intending to marry eventually and because my ties to my maiden name never went as deep as most since I’d used my step-dad’s name growing up. While I don’t regret that choice, I think it’s understandable I’m ready to shed the last day-to-day reminder of my previous relationship. It’s weird sometimes to think nearly everyone I interact with on a daily basis doesn’t consider the association and after nearly eleven years, I don’t think about it every day either.

As mentioned above, I took a new job in a call center. Chris and I managed to end up in the same training class and we are both working a weird late night shift. It is my personal policy not to discuss work on the interwebs, except to say, work is work and it pays the bills.
I’m grateful to have always been extremely employable. I still, and likely always will, consider the possibility of college, but this fall is not in the cards and likely not spring either, and I’m not sold on my desire to do it like I was a few years ago.

Worth mentioning is the one frustration I can’t seem to get past: Despite efforts – my own and others – I’ve reached yet another birthday without a driver’s license. I was 18 or 19 when I first got a learner’s permit in Washington State, but never actually drove there. Sometime after I moved to Western New York in 2001, I again got a permit and this time actually drove, but I hadn’t driven at all since I left there in 2005. I’ve had more than a few road blocks since I’ve moved here, too. First, my eyesight is now bad enough I couldn’t pass the DMV’s vision test without glasses like I could when I was younger. Now, I have a permit, but I seldom have access to a car I can drive as I’m limited by my height. Plenty of short people are going to see that and claim they can drive anything, but I assure you, the difference between being 5’0 or 5’2 tall and 4’9 makes that not the case for me. Our friend Alex has taken me out driving a few times. I can drive his van, but our schedules, the restriction on permits to driving between 6 am and midnight, plus various other responsibilities on both sides make it tricky to rack up the necessary amount of practice time. It was, however, a relief to find I hadn’t lost the knack entirely in all the years since I was last behind the wheel, but I am not even close to ready to pass a driver’s exam. We are, slowly but surely, saving for another car and hoping Chris’ car (which I can’t drive) will remain on the road long enough to allow us to have two cars while saving for it’s replacement.

Truth be told, I feel defeated by the whole situation and I don’t really see myself ever having the independence nearly every adult in our country takes for granted. Most adults who aren’t licensed drivers have done something to be striped of the privilege, but that is not my situation. No one thought to make it a priority when I was a teenager and, as an adult, it’s been one struggle after another and I just haven’t been able to make it work. It would be one thing to live in an area with mass transit, but living where I do, I am effectively trapped and totally dependent on other people to get around. My choices are limited in so many ways. I can’t take just any job. I can’t make a doctor’s appointment without figuring out who is going to take me. I can’t go to the store by myself unless I want to spend an hour, round trip, walking route with no sidewalks or street lights which only gets me to the closest places. If I really need something, of course, I have more than I few people who would be willing to come get me and I am thankful for that, but the difference between needing something and being able to go somewhere because I feel like going is a large gap. I try really hard not to let it get me down, but it’s hard not to dwell on it when I’m stuck at home on my days off.

Not to leave my post on a downer, though I’ve past my midnight Eastern standard time birthday deadline for publication, I should share my more hopeful plans for the coming year. It is good to remember I have control in a handful of areas of my life when I don’t always feel like I do.

After a too long period of slacking off on proper eating and fitness, I’ve been back on track the last month or so. I bought myself a Wii Fit and while my goal of logging an hour of workout time every single day has proved a bit lofty, I have at least stepped on the balance board every single day. I try to divide my time primarily between yoga and aerobic games. Food-wise, it’s as simple as keeping the house free of problem foods. My big one is bread. I would eat toast all day and often would when I was stuck home alone. Sticking with simple to cook proteins, veggies and fruits and limiting meals out to a few times a week is easy enough, really. I don’t think of it as a “diet” and it only takes a few weeks to remember how much better I feel when I’m taking care of myself. I’ve also started (as of today) a joint supplement which comes highly recommended and I hope to get relief from the aches which keep me from working out as hard and as much as I’d like.

The other area I am looking to make some headway in is various creative pursuits. As always, I’m going to maintain a blog in some form or fashion. You’ll notice, I’ve been more regular lately than I have been in the life of this site. As I always say, blog hosting is cheaper than therapy. I may or may not make an effort to monetize. Certainly, it’s not my main goal with being here or I would worry about SEO and the like.

I’ve toyed with the idea of participating in National Novel Writing Month and even read No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days. I don’t know if November is the best month for me to make the attempt and the idea of joining the big group of people who make the attempt every year doesn’t appeal to me. I am too much an individualist to desire that sort of thing. Now, a few well placed friends would be another matter. I still don’t know if fiction is something I’m suited to write, but I do feel I ought to try if for no other reason than to prove to myself I don’t want to pursue it further.

One thing I know for sure having spent many, many hours over the cutting table (okay, actually, the bed with a cardboard cutting mat on it) and the sewing machine is that writing alone is not enough creative outlet. I need pleasure of making something with my hands. Inspiration and gathering supplies followed by the frustrations and triumphs of developing new skills or the calming tedium of tasks like cutting patterns or sewing straight lines all contribute to a sense of accomplishment like I’ve not found in other tasks. I think it is having something concrete to show for my labor, something both attractive and practical, which not just anyone can recreate without some level of skill. I also find a certain pleasure in a project which can be accomplished in a few hours, especially between more time intensive projects. To that end, and because I am a cold blooded capitalist, I’ve decided to open an Etsy store with some small projects. My inventory is still under development, but I’ve had good feedback so far on the items I’ve been working on. You’ll be able to search me under “Nerdbliss” and once I have everything set up, I’ll have a widget on the blog and will bore my few but precious readers with pictures and links. I have no illusions about quitting my day (night?) job, but I wouldn’t mind if it paid for the additions to my stash. I’ve carefully compared prices on supplies so even if my sales are modest, my profit margins will make it possible to invest in more variety of materials with the goal of a modest but steady income.

Before, I write past midnight on the West coast, I should call it a year. It’s been an overwhelmingly good one. Even on the hardest days, I am content with the most important parts of my life. I am happy, but still driven to make my life and the lives of those I care for a little better as we go along. I have opportunities to express myself and be productive. I am well loved and cared for by a diverse network of family and friends. I am both lucky and blessed.

GENIUS… MILLIONAIRE… CRIMINAL MASTERMIND…


His name is Fowl. Artemis Fowl.

All that and he’s twelve years old.

Fowl is the evil hero of Eoin Colfer’s series of children’s novels.

I have written before about my overall dislike of the unlikeable protagonist and anti-hero, however I confess I make an exception for Fowl. He is the classic brainy villain that is dangerously simple to romanticize. Sort of a Dr. Evil for the middle school set.

In truth then, I dislike reading about characters who wallow pathetically in their unhappy, unsatisfying lives or crushing ignorance. Both of these problems are best exemplified in my utter loathing of William Faulkner’s writing.

I can enjoy, even relate too, a reprehensible person like Artemis. While he is “differently moralled” to say the least, he is not intentionally cruel. What he does is not always legal or moral, but I can understand someone who goes after what they want with all their resources. Think of the story if Richie Rich or Johnny Quest had sociopathic tendencies.

While I am fond of young Fowl, I see myself in Captain Holly Short. She’s a fairy, one of the “People” who are basically all the mythical creatures that humans don’t realize are real and living underground. Short is a member of the elite law enforcement group LEPrecon. As the first female LEPrecon officer, she has much to prove.

Fowl manages to kidnap Holly and plans to ransom her for gold.

I love how clever this book is with all the mythology and campy humor. Get this: the LEPrecon techie guy is a centaur named Foaly. Punny, very Punny.

There are five novels in this fun series, plus a companion book with two short stories and extras, and a graphic novel adaption. Much thanks to Kate for recommending the book. Now I’m hooked on them.

Originally published October 3, 2007 on my old blog.

AUTHENTIC MEME

Sunday Stealing: The Authentic Meme

1. How long have you been blogging? I started in late 2006 on MySpace, moved to my first domain in 2007 and registered NerdBliss in December 2010.

2. Did you go to college? I look several classes through University of Phoenix Online many years ago, but otherwise, no.

3. Where have you traveled? Throughout much of the contentious United States, three of the Hawaiian Islands and several parts of Canada.

4. Which celebrity do you get mistaken for? I do not strongly resemble any celebrity.

5. What are your three biggest pet peeves? Lack of professionalism, people who project the assumption the world revolves around them and no one else matters, and being treated like I don’t know what I’m doing by someone who has asked for my help. You can’t tell I work with the public from those answers, can you?

6. What is your favorite movie? If I had to pick one (today): Office Space.

7. What is your drink of choice; wine, beer, or liquor. Or Water, Soda, Tea? Of the first set: liquor. Of the second: tea. The only one of the six I’ll always pass on is beer. I’ve yet to find one that’s not icky.

8. What is something you enjoy to do when you have me time? Reading or sewing.

9. What is your biggest phobia? I don’t believe I have any fears which qualify for the strict definition of phobia, however, I do have anxieties and neurosis. The biggest ones all really come down to a fear of loosing what I hold dear or being trapped, physically or in circumstance.

10. Share with us an embarrassing moment of your past?

11. What day would you love to relive again? Why? Any given day during the summer between my seventh and eighth grade years. Those days spent with my best friend Kate in Hawaii were pure gold.

12. If your life was turned into a movie… what actor would your best friend think should play you? Someone pretty, but shorter than the actress playing her. Years ago, I would have said Drew Barrymore, but I don’t know if that’s still a relevant pick.

13. What are the jobs you had in high school/college/the early years? I worked for Payless Shoe from the beginning of my senior year of high school until the week I turned 25.

14. Show us a picture from high school or college. If you insist. I don’t have many, but my friend Amy sent me this one a few years back. I know it was taken the week I graduated high school because Kate had flown out to attend.

15. If you could travel anywhere in the world, all expenses paid, where would you go? With all the Doctor Who I’ve been watching lately, I’d love a grand tour of the British Isles.

16. Where do you see your life 6 and 1/2 years from now? Where will I be – assuming my math is correct – the 13th of January 2019? Let’s see. I’ll be 38 years old. Chris and I will feel like we’ve been married forever. We’d have either moved to a house in the Greenville area or moved to Atlanta, but either way, settled in for the long haul. We’ll either have one child and be deciding if a second is in the cards or already had two children. I’ll be busy with family and juggling employment of some sort with creative endeavors, some of which will hopefully be adding to the household income. I might be taking my sweet time earning some sort of college degree, one or two classes at a time, or I might have finally decided what I learn on my own is more than enough education.

17. If you could choose to stay a certain age forever, what age would it be and why? Now isn’t bad. I’m old enough to be generally respected but still young enough to be considered youthful.

18. What 5 songs are included on the soundtrack to your life? (You can pick “Middle School”, “High School”, “College”, “Post College” or any format you like.)
1. “Puttin’ on the Ritz” – A gift from my Uncle Danny on 45 and the first piece of music I ever owned.

2. “You’re My Best Friend” – Queen always deserves recognition, for Kate and because Queen and Kate are intertwined in my life.

3. “When I’m Sixty-Four” – My favorite Beatles song which isn’t nothing and a good representation of my ideal romance.

4. “Who Needs Sleep?” – To represent my late teens, insomnia and sleep apnea along with Barenaked Ladies’ Stunt which I’ve listened to a billion times.

5. Art of the Dress (Trance remix) – For MLP:FiM and learning to push past the frustrations in sewing.

19. Romney picked Paul Ryan to run as his veep. Any thoughts? Nope. I’ve stayed out of political discussions as much as possible for a very long time.

20. Your chance: Pick a meme you’ve done for us to steal. Bud and Judd will visit EVERY post today. Feel free to say, “Bugger off”, or anything like that. How about the Employment Enjoyment Meme?

A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN

This post was originally published August 27, 2007 on my old blog. I’ve made some small changes and additions before presenting it here.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, first published in 1943, takes place in the years before the first world war. It is the story of Francie Nolan’s childhood as a poor child in a poor neighborhood. Her mother, Katie Nolen, is a true hard worker struggling to keep food on the table. Her father, Johnny Nolan, is a charming alcoholic singing waiter who everyone loves, but cannot be counted on by the family. Francie has a younger brother, Neeley, who is not as sensitive or smart as she is, but their relationship is mostly good.

I read my mother’s copy for the first time around fifth or sixth grade. While the novel follow Francie well into her adult life, I credit the book with beginning my passion for coming of age stories.

I related to Francie, because books are her best friends, and she doesn’t have an easy time making friends in school. She loves writing, is thoughtful and melancholy. My life might never have been tough life Francie’s, but I still felt like she did inside some of the time.

The other thing that brought me back many times over is the imagery of Betty Smith’s story telling. Everything is so vivid: the people, the places, the ideas. It’s the details that have stuck with me. Little things like Francie’s mom teaching her to order a piece of meat at the butcher shop then ask the butcher to grind it fresh, rather than letting him sell her the inferior pre-ground meat. Yet Katie Nolan also believes in a little bit of waste being good for the soul, so she makes coffee each day for each family member to have a cup. If the children just enjoy the warmth of the cup and the aroma, then so be it. It is their cup to enjoy and pour the rest down the drain if it comes to that.

I do believe that much of my understanding of compassion and human nature came from the books I read. Francie’s family is loving, but imperfect. Hardworking mom Katie can often be just plan hard toward Francie, partly because although she has always loved her husband, she wants Francie to have an easier time in life. She drives her away from boys and frivolity towards education and employment. My favorite of the extended family is Aunt Sissy who has lots of boyfriends and husbands. She’s buxom, passionate and plays with the kids with gusto. She is much frowned on in the neighborhood, and is in no way considered a good lady in that time period. I love her exuberance while knowing I am not a Sissy type of person. I worry about the consequences of my actions and endeavor not to make the same mistakes twice more like Katie. Of course, as a kid, I could only see myself in Francie, but that is the beauty of reading the same book throughout a lifetime.

Does anyone else have a favorite coming of age novel they’ve loved forever?

ALL OVER THE PLACE

The Queen’s Meme: All Over the Place

1. Pretend you are making a passion quilt. What would be on the center square? If not the Enterprise, the whole quilt would be book spines featuring my favorite novels.

2. One of those traffic cameras catches you running a red light and you get a ticket in the mail. What else did the camera catch inside your vehicle that you might not want everyone to see? Empty Starbucks cups on the floor.

3. When is the last time you had to cancel plans? I’m in the process of canceling plans for Dragon*Con 2012, but still squarely in the denial phase of mourning. It’s Labor Day weekend and I haven’t been able to set even a single day off approved.

4. What is your favorite magazine? National Geographic. I haven’t had a subscription since my early teens, but it’s the only magazine besides Highlights for Children for which I have nostalgic longings.

5. What is the riskiest thing you have ever done? Moving to South Carolina without ever having set foot in the state with a year lease on an apartment. Nearly two years later, I can safely say my risk paid off in all sorts of ways I never could have predicted.

6. Have you ever worked in an office with someone who drove you crazy? What did they do and how did you handle it? Yes. The type of stuff that drives me crazy is usually one end of the spectrum or the other. Blatant lack of professionalism drives me crazy. Swearing, dressing nice for the club or stealing co-worker’s lunches out of the break room fridge. Not cool people. Act like a grown-up. Just as annoying, however, as I find unprofessional people, I can’t standing being micromanaged or people who get all uptight about pointless details. The bottom line of what I have to do to satisfy the client(s) and keep my boss from being annoyed with me is pretty much all I want to hear about, then leave me be to do my job. The example I can give of this is an old team lead of mine. I worked in a third party call center for a telecommunications company. Sometimes accounts would require credits for various reasons and we agents would fill out paper tickets with all the information for a team lead to review. This guy would come back hours or days later to let me know about my tickets, explaining in great detail, why he elected to approve or decline the credit. It was not in the form of coaching, but a follow up on my request. Now, to those who have never worked in a call center, it sounds rather nice to hear back on an issue you’re working. But, in a call center for a national company, you’re never going to see the account again and if you do, you can read the notes. I would have taken dozens or hundreds of other calls since I wrote out the ticket. Bless his heart (as they say here in the South), I never found a diplomatic way to say, “Once the call disconnects, I don’t care. Note the account with what you did to cover both our butts and forget about it.” I don’t know how people who sweat every transaction and maintain their sanity, but I know it doesn’t help anything.

7. What is the weirdest or most unusual thing you’ve ever done in an elevator? I once took a picture of a Wookie with a disassembled robot on his back in an packed to the brim elevator.

KINDLE DAILY DEAL: BIGGEST DECISION OF THE DAY

I love Amazon.

Since I got my Kindle for Christmas, I’ve spent more time shopping on Amazon and ordered more items from them than ever before. Note, I did not say I’ve spent more money with them than before. After Christmases 2011 and 2012 alone, I can safely say my book downloading hasn’t yet come close to my physical orders in cost.

I am, rather, as thrifty in my ebook habits as I ever was in acquiring physical books. Used books, hand-me-downs and, occasionally, PaperBackSwap were the main ways I grew my paper library. For Kindle, it’s Pixel of Ink for scoops on free books on Amazon and Project Gutenberg for all kinds of classics, plus Kindle Daily Deals and other promotions. I’ll buy a book at list price if it’s really important, but I begrudge anything over $10 as publishers hanging onto the last bit of extra cash they can garner before the market corrects for the fact the physical product costs more to produce and deliver. I am all about writers, editors and (please hire one, people) copy editors getting paid. Even in the digital age, marketing a major author takes some cash. I’m not cool with seeing the Kindle edition go for the same as the paperback. There are millions of books in the world and I’m happy to find one within my price range.

While I am still not spending much on books, in many ways, Amazon’s features and business practices have changed my reading experience.

The Daily Deal is certainly the most obvious change. Each night around 3 am Eastern Standard, an extremely good deal goes live for 24-hours. I pride myself on being thrifty, but not cheap, so I try to look at the one day only specials Amazon posts with a critical, but not too critical eye.

A few titles, I’ve pounced on without a second thought. I’d seen How We Decidereviewed at some point, likely on Slate. I bought Matched based on the recommendation from a book blog and because I love dystopian stories. Neverwhere because Neil Gaiman is wonderful and weird. As I already explained why How to Read Literature Like a Professor was too tempting to resist.

Up until recently, I didn’t check out the Daily Deal every day. My change in schedule has made it more a part of my routine. I get off work at the same time the deal goes live and find myself pulling up the page on my phone in the elevator on the way out of the office. Since the prices typically range from $1.99 to $3.99, I’m pretty comfortable going ahead with as many as are worthwhile especially since I am often disappointed with the offering. Dog the Bounty Hunter’s memoir somehow isn’t my idea of compelling literature.

The nights when I instantly nix the title are the easiest. Most often, as the old saying goes, you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. Since my taste in books runs broad, the tiny blurb on the Kindle store page is seldom enough to rule out the deal. Next, I read the summary to establish wither I’m interested in the slightest. I can’t explain the factors which get me past this point, except to say most books make it to the next stage: I download a sample, usually the first chapter and a half, to my Kindle for inspection.

Sampling is one of my favorite things about using Kindle. It is a million times better then standing the the bookstore, reading the back cover and making a rush decision. Maybe if I’d had the luxury of hanging around Barnes & Noble for an hour whenever I wanted, I wouldn’t be so enamored, but for me starting a book before making a financial commitment has been a revolution. Plus, rather than keeping a wish list of books I want to remember to buy down the road, I simply download the sample.

With the Daily Deals or, my new discovery, $3.99 and under monthly specials, I prioritize sample reading and decision making for those titles. Naturally, I don’t want to discover after the price has returned to normal that I must finish the book. Some would mention the Kindle lending library, but it only offers one book a month which is nice but not enough to keep me in reading material.

The Daily Deal, even downloaded as early as 3:02 am, causes the most pressure. I find myself looking at these works far more harshly than I would if, say, I checked them out of the library on a whim. Rather than letting the story roll over me, I look for things which would drive me to stop reading: Characters who seem annoying or unrealistic, historical inconsistencies or plot holes. If I am to invest both my precious reading time and my hard earned $1.99 in a book, I don’t want to put it down unfinished.

In a book offered at regular price, the effect is not so drastic. I can safely say, I won’t buy it unless it was pretty much a sure thing before I read the sample. Take Scali’s Redshirts. Even at $11.99, I happily pressed “buy it now” because I knew I would love every moment and was unwilling to wait for the price to drop and considered it more of an early adopter tax.

I am sad to say, I have given free books – paper and digital – far more of my time than I should on many occasions in an effort to given them a fair shake. Maybe it is better that I am so terribly critical of these early chapters. I feel a strange near-guilt over cutting books I find unworthy. Worse, it seems arbitrary and unscientific as I can sometimes say why I didn’t buy a book, but I can hardly ever name the reason I say yes without an honorable recommendation or a known author. What if I was wrong to buy On Bear Mountain and not to buy Garden of Lies, nixed because I felt it unrealistic to have a wealthy 1940s American woman out shopping by herself in the final weeks of her pregnancy. Since the entire plot hinged on it, I could hardly continue. If I was wrong, I may never know, but I may read a glowing review in the coming weeks and regret my decision.

Likely it is better, this new vetting process. While my fondest wish may be to get to all the wonderful books, I must face my time is limited and read accordingly. Still, it feels strange to scrutinize so in the early pages of a book I wonder if I’ll ever feel it normal.

Now, excuse me, it’s nearly time to pull up Amazon and hit refresh until the Daily Deal posts.

STILL TOO TIRED

Sunday Stealing: The Too Tired to Think Meme, Part 2

26. What type of errands do you like running? I love shopping at Costco. Once you have a routine, it’s fast and pleasant. It’s easy, too, to keep in our primary good eating items for much less than a regular grocery store: Frozen meats and fish, fresh and frozen veggies, and various fruits.

27. Have you ever eaten snow? Not that I remember, but most of my childhood was spent in places where it seldom snows enough to eat snow without also eating grass and dirt.

28. What color are your bedsheets? The current set is Ivory, but their is a pale blue set, too.

29. What’s your favorite flower? Lilacs or Queen Anne’s Lace. Both low maintenance and abundant blooms.

30. Do you do ballet? Like all little girls, I went through a period where I wanted to take ballet. I was around seven years old and in first grade. I would have been awful, but I am in favor of kids and grownups alike trying things at with they naturally stink for the many benefits struggling to learn a new skill brings. Plus, maybe I’d be slightly less awkward if I’d taken a dance or martial arts class.

31. Do you listen to classical music? Does the Animaniacs soundtrack count? Classical music was MADE for cartoons.

32. What is the first TV Theme song that pops in your head? Tossed salads and scrambled eggs:

33. Do you watch Sponge Bob? I have seen a handful of episodes in the company of various children, but I do not like it. I always say, I prefer my “chemically enhanced” style of cartoon to be made for adults like Auqa Teen Hunger Force.

34. What temperature is it outside right now? Hot, but not unbearable is my unscientific assessment. Weather.com says 85 degrees.

35. Do people consider you smart? Generally, yes. I am well spoken with a large vocabulary and a head for trivia. I’m not sure if that makes me smart, but it does make me seem smart.

36. How many piercing do you have? One in each earlobe, same as I’ve had since I was nine. I rarely wear earrings.

37. Are you signed on [to] AIM? Not since ’99.

38. Have you ever tried gluing your fingers together? Lucky for me, I learned how to separate my fingers for the Vulcan Live Long and Prosper greeting without resorting to adhesives.

39. How do you feel about your family? I love my family. I don’t know most of my relatives very well.

40. Do you have an iPod? Nope. I’ve never owned an Apple product. I started using iTunes a couple years ago to subscribe to podcasts which I sometimes transfer to my Android phone. Not impressed enough to join the Mac culture.

41. What time do you go to bed? These days, bedtime is 5 or 5:30 am.

42. What CD is currently in your CD player? I don’t use a CD player. We have an FM transmitter in the car and I have a few dozen tracks on my phone.

43. What movie do you know every line to? The Princess Bride.

44. What is your favorite salad dressing? French.

45. What do you want for Christmas this year? I never know what I want for Christmas.

46. What family member/friend lives the farthest from you? Where? Gloria lives in Australia. We met through blogging, but have spent enough time chatting and shared serious enough conversations to count as “real” friends.

47. Do you like hugs? When appropriate. I am not typically an “I just met you, let’s hug” person, but I love hugs from friends and family.

48. Last time you had butterflies in your stomach? At the dress rehearsal for our Klingon wedding.

49. What’s the way people most often mispronounce any part of your name? Not exactly a mispronouncing, but I find people often get my first name wrong or shorten it any which way without regard for what I actually am called. My full first name is Christina and my nickname Tina. Most people call me Tina and many are confused when they don’t see a Tina on the roster even though it’s a common shorting. I have even thought about legally changing to Tina to avoid having to explain I’m Christina to people who know me as Tina. Besides not being sure how my mother would feel about it, the fact I’d still have a paper trail of documents under Christina and would have to explain I changed it legally to avoid confusion would be trading one confusion for another. The other thing that happens I get called Chrisy, Cristy, Christine or, the worst, Chris. While those are perfectly fine names, none of them are mine.

50. Last person you hugged? Chris.