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Archive for September, 2007

Wherein I Admit A Grave Disappointment

My husband had today off. That means that not only did he not go into work, he also didn’t have to build any wheels, adjust any derailleurs, ride SAG or any of the other bike-related things which generally consume portions of his Saturdays.

So we decided to trek over to the new Ginormous Used Book Store which just opened up in West Nashville. I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about this place. Several people I know have been waiting with bated breath for it to open, and have been squeeing for joy ever since it got here.

You can probably see where this is going so I’m going to cut right to the chase. We went. It was no big deal, as far as I could tell. I like my used media stores to have a lot of funky discoveries available. As far as I could tell, this place–like Books A Million–specialises in having a lot of copies of the most popular items. It was sort of a larger and slightly more raggedy version of Target’s book/cd/movie section. You want used copies of the latest Grisham? Great. They’ve got 16. But if you’re expecting a Bookman/Bookwoman/Dad’s experience on a larger scale, this ain’t it.

Perhaps the biggest disgruntlement for me was that they refuse to down-price their DVD sets. I buy used DVD sets (rarely). But when I’m in the market for one–say ‘Deadwood’–I expect that it will be cheaper if it’s used. Amazon retails Season 2 NEW for $68.99. You can buy it used at Amazon for $39.00. You can also drive across town and buy it used at New Ginormous Used Media Store for $60.00.

I think I’ve reached the place in my life where I’d just as soon patronise the library. Sure, I don’t own the stuff, but at least there’s more to choose from. If I decide I want to own it, I’ll plunk down my debit card at Amazon and have them mail me the stuff. It’s simpler.

Gosh, I’m aging rapidly.

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I just received an email about the most pressing, concerning dilemma we all face right now. Just in time, too.

Is it about The War on Whichever Thing We Have a War On? No.

Is it about the upcoming presidential election? No.

Is it about health care? No.

Dear Katherine, how about a fun and light feature on Boss’ Day?

Fair, honest, understanding and approachable. These are some attributes that make a great boss. And with National Boss’ Day coming up on October 16, many employees are thinking about showing their appreciation to their managers.

Ah! Ha ha ha ha ha!

Yes, that’s what I’m concerned about. What to get my boss for “Boss’ Day”. Nevermind that this is the dumbest holiday I’ve ever thought of, beating Dental Hygeine Day by a mile. I’ve had a lot of bosses. Some good; some bad. But honestly, I’ve never been one to give presents to anyone who underpays me for the work I do or makes me cover shifts for colleagues with children because I “don’t have a family”.

Of course, there’s more:

In addition to sharing her thoughts on great gift ideas, she can also address these dilemmas:

Are there “safe” gifts or “bad” gifts?
You have more than one boss; should you give gifts to all of them?
How much is the right amount to spend?
Tips for gender-appropriate gifts
Is taking your boss to dinner a good idea?
If it’s a group or department present, what are some rules to stick too and how much is too much?

Those are the exact reasons why I opt out of Boss’ Day. Good or bad, I’ve always had more than one boss in every job I’ve worked. I also think it’s unreasonable for society to expect a person making $25-35K to buy four or five presents for people making three times that who don’t give gifts on Secretary’s/Administrative Professional’s Day.

In fact, the last two jobs I’ve had I’ve always gone to my direct-report and been very upfront about it. Politely upfront, that is. I usually say “Hey, let’s do each other a favour. Let’s agree to ignore both Boss’ Day and Secretary’s Day. Fair enough?” The last boss told me that right there was my Boss’ Day present given early. I say any gift-giving occasion interjects an unnecessary amount of politics in an already volatile political situation and is best done away with. Of course I can’t rule out Christmas and Chanukah, but I’m trying my best.

In fact, let’s add a little side-rant here. Offices are not egalitarian places. Not only do different people make different amounts of money, you often have no idea of the household financial situations of those people. Requiring gift exchanges or requesting donations in an office setting is generally a really bad idea. Odds are you have co-workers who are barely making ends meet and the extra pressure of requiring gifts from them is almost harassment.

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People don’t “win souls for Christ”.

God may use you to get some message across to someone.  But the Holy Spirit does the heavy lifting.

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Atonement

I’m fascinated by how we cross-evaluate ideas in the various realms of fiction. We can have what is essentially the same narrative idea, but it’s worth is continually judged not only on its merits but in the context of its expression.

To my mind there is no clearer example of this than Ian McEwan’s Atonement. Now that the acclaimed book is going to receive even broader exposure thanks to the recent movie adaptation with Scary Keira Knightly, I’m reminded of this issue.

Don’t read any further if you wish to remain unspoiled for either the book or the movie, because what I’m going to talk about is the Big Shocker Ending which played such a fundamental role in the acclaim for the novel.

The book concerns how one lie taints the entire lives of a dozen or so people. The movie’s press would of course have you believe that the lie is a “small” one, when it is relatively huge–as it involves falsely implicating a man in the rape of a young girl.

The novel plays out in four acts, as we watch the various characters live their lives as changed by the initial false witness. The first act sets up the lie, the second act shows the conflict of the ramifications of the lie and the the third act has a happy ending where the truth is told at last and all is made right with the world. The last stage–the twist, which in the movie is played by Vanessa Redgrave–is that there is no happy ending. The book’s “author” reveals that SHE is the liar and SHE wrote the book with a happy ending in order to atone for her sin. Which in ‘reality’ has a sadder, more realistic outcome.

All of this is written by Ian McEwan and is very well-crafted and literary.

But none of it is particularly shocking to anyone who watched the last two-part episode of Rosanne.

Because that popular TV show ended the same way, with the same authorial conceit of a fictional author rewriting the fictional story with a fictional sad ending. That was about 5 years before Atonement was published, of course. At the time it was considered lazy writing, vulgar and a disappointment to fans.

Of course, Roseanne was not ever shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

And that’s what fascinates me–that constant need we have to not only weigh the merits of a thing on its ideas but on its packaging.

Roseanne was a lower-middle-class, populist sitcom. It doesn’t seem unconventional now that there have been so many lesser imitators, but the show was groundbreaking. However, it was a groundling entertainment directed at the masses. So it’s not the literary acheivement of a “shocking” work like Atonement.

But it was, and is, the same stuff. The same ideas. The same challenging of preconceptions. Why is one high art and the other tossed aside in the afternoons wrapped around Bart Durham ads?

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Patrick & Lydia’s tips for going to Disney World made the Tennessean. Apparently this happened while I was on Mars, because I’m just now finding out about it.

The column was one with which I have a love-hate relationship–Ms. Cheap. I love Ms. Cheap when she’s talking about saving a few bucks on your groceries or at the dry cleaner. I honestly believe there’s a difference between frugality and outright stinginess, though.

Nowhere does stinginess bother me more than at Disney World, which is why Patrick and Lydia’s final “tip” pleased me so much.

Be realistic. This is a vacation. There will be some things that you will want to do that will cost more than you would ever spend in another situation. Plan your splurging opportunities and enjoy them when you experience them.

I would live at Disney World if I could. But Husband and I simply won’t go at all if we can’t afford to do a trip in a relaxed, non-worried fashion. I know it’s a personal taste thing. But my personal taste does NOT include such “money saving ideas” as

  • Make a salad for your meal by using the condiments bar at one of the hamburger restaurants. Mix mustard and mayonnaise (provided for free) for a tasty salad dressing!
  • Ask for free water in the parks and make your own soft drinks using Crystal Light packets.
  • Buy one kids’ meal for up to three children to split, and take turns deciding who gets the main course on which day.

These and countless other ‘money-saving tips’ are at Ms. Cheap as well as dozens of other Disneyphile websites.

They drive me nuts. I know it’s a personal taste thing, but I honestly can’t see how vacation-like it is to put yourself on wartime rations to save eleven bucks a day.

I’ll tell you something right now. Disney World is expensive. It is more expensive to eat a hamburger at Disney World than at your local McDonalds. But not by much. I believe last time we went I calculated that a DisneyWorld hamburger meal was 17% more than a local McD’s combo. The sticker shock comes from being accustomed to paying one price in your daily life.

The thing is that you know Disney World is going to cost some money. You can’t spend a week there as cheaply as you spend a week at home.

We’ve never gone to WDW with unlimited finances. We always have a trip budget, and we always pay cash. But it doesn’t feel so punishing if we just acknowledge our limitations and have fun within our means.

Speaking of “means”, the Irish would call many of the ‘Save Money At WDW’ tips ‘mean’. That’s their word for “stingy”. And I think it fits.

Funny Update: I swear to you I wrote this after reading “Patrick and Lydia”. P comes before W in my feedreader, which is why I wrote this before reading Sarcastro

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How did [this show] make it on to the air while Arrested Development got cancelled?

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Nothing good can ever come of feeling guilty.

I knew that Husband was expecting some rims via UPS for his latest wheel-building gig.  That usually means that between 1 and 2 I can steel myself for the doorbell and two crazedly-barking dogs.   So around 9:30 I decided I’d take my shower.  And that’s when UPS decided to come by with the rims, and that’s when I missed signing for the rims.

The story gets longer and more complicated, but the end result was that I felt guilty.  So when husband (who works very near to the UPS center) had to drive BACK to the UPS Center to pick up his rims at 7:00, I figured I should at least ride along to keep him company.

He was already peeved, because he went over straight after work, about 5:45, and was told to “come back at 7:00″ for his package.   So we got there at 5 til 7:00.   He went in and I waited.  Feeling like utter cack, of course.  After about 10 minutes I hauled my pitiful slag into the office.   We were all standing around because the packages had to come from The Hub.

After about 15 minutes I asked how far the hub was.

IT WAS 25 YARDS AWAY! WE COULD WALK THERE ALMOST EFFORTLESSLY! WE COULD SEE THE BULDING! WE COULD SEE OUR PACKAGES IN THE BUILDING! WE COULD SEE THE PEOPLE WHO WERE SUPPOSED TO BE BRINGING OUR PACKAGES TO US ON BREAK IN THE BUILDING!

I asked the UPS man what we were waiting on.  He explained that we had to wait for “The Truck” to bring all the packages.   It was apparently a very special truck because you could only drive it if you were authorised.

(I’m sorry this post is so poorly written.  I just have a hard time recounting all of this without laughing, crying or stabbing myself in the thigh repeatedly out of frustration.)

We ended up waiting about 40 minutes.   The desk people grew progessively more terrified of me as I stood laughing maniacally in their office, and pointing at the far-distant hub.   I grew progressively more manaical as we overheard phone calls about Authorised Eric (the only man who can Drive The Truck) getting to work late, the other members of his team on break, etc.

Finally, at 7:43, in comes Authorised Eric with a dolly full of packages.  The frightened desk people asked me if I “still wanted to talk to him”.

“You betcha I Do!”  (Kat passing a kidney stone on PMS waiting at UPS is some sort of terror that should not be unleashed on the world.  I promise you that.)

Authorised Eric tried to explain to me that “be here at 7:00″ actually means  “Be here between 7:00 and 8:00, and whenever the person who is authorised to drive The Truck gets here is when your package will get here.”

I told him that I didn’t really care and that all I wanted him to do was go out, get my package and put it in my hands.

So we get the package.

On our way out we then pass the mysterious Truck which can only be driven by certain people.

it was a minivan.

I had pictured some giant thing with a jillion wheels and gears and clutches in odd places.   The awe and reverence the counterman showed for Truck Driving Authorisation lead me to believe that it was some special, magical vehicle with superextrafabulous transmissions.

It was a minivan.

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