alicebentley: Studio photo of me with glasses (north edge)
I've learned it's hard to make myself write things, and even harder to post them. But I enjoy reading everyone else's posts so much I'm once again making the try at it.

For much of the last year I've been trying to do many things, and failing at most of them. My head knows how it's supposed to go, and my heart remembers pulling off projects with delighted regularity, but today's reality is I just don't do it.

So this last couple of months have been me acknowledging the things I've said I would do and haven't, and letting the other folks involved know that they need to get someone else in. I'm really grateful to you all for having faith in me, and the grace and generosity you've shown when I fell short of that faith.

For now, I'm hunkering down. My daily energy is being directed at doing the best job I can at The Country Store and Farm. I'm allowing my time off work to be claimed by extra sleeping, reading a book, and light housecleaning. I've already passed on my responsibilities to all but one outside project, and now I'm going to stop mentally telling myself that I'll go to that drawing class, start back in on martial arts, put time into that stained glass project, or pursue any of the dozen new business schemes that bounce around in my head. Better to have no aspirations, and then accomplish some things anyway, than to constantly be surrounded by the things I am failing to do.

That's the plan anyway. Time will tell what works. Thanks for listening.
alicebentley: Studio photo of me with glasses (Rock)
I haven't been hanging out on the 'net much these last several months, and it was only this afternoon that I read that [ profile] qtrhorserider, Leah Gadzikowski had passed away on Sunday after a long illness. We hadn't seen each other in decades, but I'll always remember our times together fondly.

Best wishes of comfort and support to Paul and the kids as well as all her many other friends.
alicebentley: (after all)
When your dream devolves into two people arguing about the distribution chain for a particular book, it is clearly time to wake up.

Today's contribution to actually writing down (up?) some of the random things in my life.
alicebentley: (after all)
Coming soon to a city near me!
Last year I could only go for a couple brief hours after working all day at the toy store. The years before that I was working the Studio Foglio / Girl Genius booth (which task I loved, but left me out of any part of actually seeing the convention). The last time I was there as a regular attendee was about ten years ago, and while I enjoyed it, I knew I wanted something more involved this year.

At the time I was making plans (October) I had a mid-paying full time job on the island that had weekends off, so I figured I'd splurge and reserve a hotel room for Friday and Saturday.

And to scratch that itch of involvement, I volunteered to be one of the Minions, their vast (~400 to 500) horde of go-fer helpers. It's been years since I last worked a con as anything other than a vendor, but I've always enjoyed it and it can be a great way to meet new people.

Segue to a few weeks ago, when I took a new job working retail at The Country Store. I made getting the ECCC weekend off a condition of taking the job (also Norwescon weekend, when I'll be running the Foglio booth), so the schedule still works. I'll be working all the *other* weekends in the year, but that's OK with me.

So now I'm pumped about the convention coming up, and all the great folk who are going to be there, and realizing that the thing that would really cap this whole experience for me would be if I had other people sharing the hotel room with me. But how best to find someone (or someones) who are planning to come to the convention, but haven't secured sleeping space? A puzzle.
alicebentley: (after all)
It's something I've never managed. I took a year of German in school, and achieved my goal of sufficient vocabulary to read Einstein's Theory of Relativity. But never managed even partial conversational ability.

I love the Japanese language, and have poked at learning it for more than 30 years. I have a *wonderful* set of books and guides, and took classes from some great teachers. Pretty much none of it stays in my head for more than a week or so.

A couple of years ago my son became interested in Norway. (Norway?) I can only guess that it's related to knowing that his maternal grandparents came form there, but who knows. He's interested in learning Norsk, but not in traveling to Seattle every week to do so. So now I'm thinking maybe I'd like to learn Norsk, and we could both go, and it would give me someone to practice with.

I am, however, well aware of the challenge:
alicebentley: (after all)
Random tab-closings that I know I'll never find again if I don't put them somewhere.
Glass harp of Sugar Plum Fairy (or, what to do if you're bored at the wedding reception).
Advice most often missed by time management self help books.
A kickstarter for an interesting-looking board/card game that I can't decide if I'm going to pledge or not. Deadline Feb 16th. If I do, I want to be at the $29 level. But since my income dropped from $2K a month to about $100 a month, I'm not that comfortable pledging to things right now.
Actual investigative reporting on a topic of interest to me. It gives me hope for the future.
alicebentley: (after all)
I wouldn't have thought this would be a problem. I always have a bazillion projects I'd like to do, ideas I get really passionate about. And I have a history of following through on tasks, whether it's helping out at conventions or doing housework.

But the last week of post-holiday, still-unemployed has been one of my most unproductive times ever. All right, massive loads of paper have been sorted, stored or disposed of, but the instigating piece of paper was not found, and there is still an equal massive load to store or trash. It really brought home to me that I have NOT in fact been doing a good job on the housework. Just having things not be dirty in not sufficient.

This very moment I should be posting mercilessly on eBay, as I have towering stacks of cool things that I wish was in someone else's care, and an oncoming train of a bill that needs to be paid next month. But I delay, and read FaceBook, and make some lunch, and putter about. I'm not like this when I'm at a job, or when I was doing the bookstore, and I'm not sure what has changed. The methods I can think of to change back aren't really an option. Get someone else to come in and work with me would do - but this isn't Chicago where I can think of five good options without effort. This is Vashon Island, home of no one else we really hang out much with.

So here's a post to share my quandary, and hopefully nudge me into getting things done.
alicebentley: (after all)
There are several conversations that recurred with almost alarming frequency back at the bookstore. We're talking 1988 here, so no big chains (there were some pocket-sized Waldenbooks and the beginnings of Crown), no internet (Arpanet was old, universities and many companies had email, but it would be years before we faced Eternal September) and verbing nouns was not yet a thing.

Any question booklovers had was likely to come up over and over again, to the point where I had some streamlined answers just as useful as any sweeping generalization is when discussing complex situations. (That is, not very, but can be amusing.)

How to Get in Touch with an Author
Unless they were that rare breed that regularly showed up at conventions and socialized, the most commonly successful method was the Three Envelope system.

Innermost is a friendly and professional letter from you to the author, briefly covering what your interest was (invite to a convention? request for an interview? set up a signing? help with your homework (more common than one would think)?). Alongside it is a Self Addressed Stamped Envelope so that if the author chose to reply and didn't want to phone they could easily do so.

Those both go into an envelope with proper postage, and the authors name, but the address area left blank. A polite note goes alongside this, requesting the publisher to complete the address and send the envelope on its way.

Those go into the exterior envelope, which is addressed to the publisher of the author's most recent books, or one you feel will be likely to pass the package along.

This method was by no means foolproof, as the outer parcel sometimes never made it out of the publisher's hands, and the second envelope sometimes just joined the drifts of unopened mail at the author's house. but it worked more times than not.

That was back when there were about 15 publishers producing speculative fiction, and perhaps 100 to 150 titles per month on the outside.

These days I have trouble estimating the number of new titles coming out, and the pool of authors to contact is at least orders of magnitude larger. Thank goodness for the internet.
alicebentley: (after all)
That's become a pretty serious question to me.
I know that my personal method is quite chaotic, and that I'm likely missing many titles that I just have to hope I encounter later.

I read quite a number of author's blogs, and so I often know months in advance when a new book of theirs is coming out. But that's still a tiny portion of the authors I might like to read.

I listen to my friend's post about what they're reading, and what they're looking forward to, and that helps a lot especially with the new authors.

I'm sad to say I haven't found the Amazon recommendations worthwhile at all. Besides the slightly annoying tendency for half the group to be books I already own (more than a few bought through Amazon, so you'd think they should know better), it's almost rare for one of the others to be something attractive. And all too often it looks like a title is only in there because they paid to be. I don't know if that's actually what happens or not, whatever the algorithm is it sin't finding good matches for what I might buy.

So let me ask the vast readership here: what sources do you use to choose your new reading material?
alicebentley: (after all)
and surf the web, and read an old favorite book again, and talk more with Mike and Marty, and spend part of each day skimming job openings ...

I come back around to what I knew at the beginning. That I'm happiest when I'm taking on projects I believe in, and seeing them take shape in reality. I want to be part of something where I can point at it and say "I'm doing that" or "I made that thing" or even "this thing happened because of me".

I have dozens of ideas, some crazy, some with potential, swirling around in my head at all times. But ideas in my head can't become reality. It's going to take writing the words, making the connections, maybe pouring the bricks.

So, first up on the hit parade: teach myself to produce output. And I may as well do it here on LiveJournal, where I already have a paid-for place to post. Down the line I will need to set up a dedicated page, but I'll plan to have echoes here as well.
alicebentley: (after all)
LJ and FaceBook feeds starting to have a number of pings about the severe weather in the MidWest. Stay safe and warm and dry guys!

I'm home today switching between tasks: email response, book shelving and sorting, clearing counters (a never-ending battle) and the occasional Animal Crossing sprint.

All made more pleasant by having a space heater under my desk.


Oct. 3rd, 2013 07:17 am
alicebentley: Studio photo of me with glasses (You don't say!)
This question feels like "do my homework for me" but the truth is I've done what surfing I could and haven't found anything remotely like the reference I need. So I come to the All Knowing LiveJournal crowd to get some input.

It's about vacation time, or Paid Time Off, or sick leave, or whatever a place of business chooses to call it. In the case in question, employees earn 10 days vacation/sick time for their first year of employment, and an additional one day for every subsequent year they are there. All new employees serve a three month "probation" period before they are eligible for vacation and/or health insurance (and yes, company-paid health insurance is provided for all full timers).

It's in the details where I get lost, and my guess is that there are some industry standard answers, but I would rather hear what you know about it.

Would a new employee (A) accumulate those PTO hours while on probation, and then have access to them after the three months are up, or (B) only start accumulating PTO at the three month mark? (I would guess A.)

The Employee Manual implies that there is no difference between vacation and sick time, but the payroll services company being used requires knowing which category any used time is from. Is there some special consideration, perhaps legally mandated, that makes those two classifications different?

Once I know more about how PTO accumulates, I get the fun (not) task of going back in time for all of our full-timers and figure out what they really should have, since all I know for sure right now is that what's on the payroll report is not correct. At a minimum, one person who has been there more than a year isn't listed, and two others have accumulation rates that don't line up with the 80 hours per 24 pay period baseline.
alicebentley: (after all)
Autohrs of one of my favorite novel series recently made the ARC of their next book available, and (weeks later) I have finally found a quiet moment to dive in. And. hmmmmm. I can't tell if I'm just not in the mood right now, or if this really is one of the most boring first chapters I've even slogged through. I could swear there were paragraphs just dropped in randomly as well. Chapter two seemed only slight improvement.

Now I'm contemplating my options. Do I just keep reading, hoping it will become the delicious experience I was expecting? Do I start again, and take notes about which parts were confusing or unnecessarily droning? (That sounds like work, and not even work I'm very good at.)

or perhaps I will finally put some time into some of my other pending projects, and let entertainment book reading wait for another day.
alicebentley: (after all)
I think of myself as a pretty social person - I score top of the charts in the extrovert range, I greatly enjoy talking with people, hanging out, meeting new folks, reconnecting with friends.

There's a social event coming up in just a week or so that I've been more or less planning to go to - no commitments made, but I have the time and a bit of a budget.

And I'm finding almost no internal impetus to go.
There will be a whole bunch of people I sorta know, but no one I could count on hanging out with.
The potential housing arrangements went from "watch this space for where we're all staying" to "oh hey, looks like all the rooms sold before we could tell you, but there's another location far enough away to need a shuttle, and significantly over your budget, and I don't know anyone else who's staying there instead". Note: I do not feel like I'm being shut out, nor complaining about organization - I know just how that sort of thing happens - but the result remains the same: even less chance that I wouldn't be spending the time sitting against a wall wondering why I was there.

Meh, time to get ready for work and let this stew in the back of my brain for a few days.
alicebentley: (after all)
Kale, that amazingly high nutrient leafy green, is purported to be actually delicious if prepared correctly, and an abomination in most other circumstances.

Today I tried yet again to discover that elusive proper preparation: bought this morning, rinsed, trimmed all the stem-stuff out, tossed with high grade olive oil, dusted with salt, toasted in oven at Broil for a couple minutes.

Verdict: not good.

Ah well. Sometimes the answer to any research process is "well, not THAT way".
alicebentley: (after all)
It's the end of my first week at the new job, (office admin at Law Seminars International, a company that (you guessed it!) hosts seminars on law) and it's just exactly what I thought it might be. A thousand things going on at once, with a dozen people busily juggling them.

New employees are trained by that old favorite Drinking From the Firehose of Whatever is Happening at the Moment. I think I'm doing fairly well at it, although I'm far from error-free. Thankfully, forgiveness is available in plenty, and they really don't seem to mind either my endless stream of questions or the sad reality that some of those questions are about things they already showed me just hours ago.

Now I'll see how much I retain by Monday.

Meanwhile - weekend! How I have missed you!
alicebentley: (after all)
Yesterday, while technically counting as part of my unexpected four day weekend, was spent journeying into Seattle to pick up my stuff from the toy store, say goodbye to three of my co-workers (I'll miss working with you!), and have a tasty lunch with the spousal unit.
By the time I was back on the island, the walk up Parking Lot Hill just about did me in (unusual) and I retaliated with a mid-afternoon nap.

Today has been a slackitudinal compilation of sleeping late, kitchen tidying, LJ surfing, and comic reading, with a high expectation of yard work for this afternoon.

And perhaps a tour of art galleries this evening, as it's my first time on-island during First Friday in almost a year.
alicebentley: (after all)
Yesterday the toy store called and instead of working Thursday through Monday (what I expected) they're making last Monday my last day. So I'll be skipping in today (Thursday) to pick up my cubby stuff and drop off my keys. I start at the new place (woo Hoo!) on Monday.

This is so much nicer than the nine day work week I had expected.

Making good news even better, the weather is expected to stay non-rainy for days, so some outdoor fun is certain to be in the plan (yard work counts).
alicebentley: (after all)
Your Monday is my Friday - but only for another week.
I gave my two week notice at the toy store. On June 11th I'll start my new job at Law Seminars International. I'm doing my usual almost-compulsive pre-change preparations: running through the new place's website, reawakening old skills (anyone have good tutorials to point to for MSAccess?), imagining what they are going to need from me, and how best to have it ready for them.

Selling toys has been fun, and I do love working retail, but I very much look forward to a job that doesn't require nine hours a day of standing, and lets me have my weekends back. I never knew how important those were to me until I didn't have them for ten months.

There's another, unrelated, change I'm slowly coming to realize I should choose. Did you ever have something that by any rational objective measure is completely unimportant, or maybe has a tiny impact but is inconsequential, and yet every time you encounter it adjusting it becomes important to you personally? Like, I know some people really do care about which way the toilet paper hangs on the roll (I am not one of those people).
Well I have some places online where I've been methodical about answering questions, giving feedback and just generally providing response whenever I think it might help. But while it's been fun, and something I'm doing out of joy, it feels now like it hasn't actually mattered. If I don't keep up with it, not only will no one mind, no one will even notice.
I'm thinking it's time to find out if that's the case. Maybe someone else will jump in. But maybe I've been talking more to myself than I realized.

Now - off to sell toys!
alicebentley: (after all)
I wanted to compile a list of Favorite Webcomics to send to one of the other folks at the toy store, and can't find the one I made a while back for the convention panel I was on. And so many have changes since then anyway, that scrawling a new list here is probably more efficient anyway. No promises on getting ALL my favs in, as I'm doing this on the fly. I may edit and add more later... [Ahhhh, there are more, so many more, but I'm tired now, so ... POST!]

Updates 5 to 7 days a week:

Bad Machinery by John Allison -
The Devil's Panties by Jennie Breeden -
Diesel Sweeties by R Stevens -
Dominic Deegan by Mookie - (1)
El Goonish Shive by Dan Shive -
Girls with Slingshots by Danielle Corsetto -
Kevin and Kell by Bill Holbrook -
PVP by Scott Kurtz -
Questionable Content by Jeff Jacques -
Safe Havens by Bill Holbrook -
Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal by Zach Weiner -
Schlock Mercenary by Howard Taylor -
Sinfest by Tatsuya Ishida -
Skin Horse by Jeff Wells and Shaenon Garrity -
Something Positive by Randy Milholland -
Stinz by Donna Barr -

(1) ending in the next few months, after running for 10 years

Updates 2 to 3 times a week:

All New Issues by Bill Ellis and Dani O'Brien -
Archipelago by Hannah D -
Candi by Starline Hodge -
Dan and Mab's Furry Adventure by Amber Williams -
Freefall by Mark Stanley -
A Girl and Her Fed by Otter(...) -
Girl Genius by Phil and Kaja Foglio -
Goblins by Taral Hunt -
Gunnerkrigg Court by Tom Siddell -
The Interstellar Tea House by Irony-chan -
Kiwi Blitz by Mary Cagle -
Leftover Soup by Tailsteak -
Monster Pulse by Magnolia Porter -
Namesake by Megan Lavey-Heaton and Isabelle Melançon -
Penny Arcade by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik -
Punch and Pie by Aeire and Chris Daily -
Sam and Fuzzy by Sam Logan -
Slightly Damned by Chu -
TwoKinds by Tom Fischbach -
The Whiteboard by Doc -
Weregeek by Alina Pete -
Widdershins by Kate Ashwin -
xkcd by Randall Munroe -
Yellow Peril by Jamie Noguchi -

Updates once a week or irregularly:

The Abominable Charles Christopher by Karl Kerschl -
Darwin Carmichael is Going to Hell by Sophie -
Johnny Wander by Ananth Panagiriya and Yuko Ota -
Oglaf by [I don't think she's telling] - (so very NSFW)
Order of the Stick by Rich Burlew -
Paradigm Shift by Dirk Tiede -
TJ and Amal by E.K. Weaver -

Completed (link to first page):

Concerned by Christopher C. Livingston -
Get Medieval by Ironychan -
Narbonic by Shaenon Garrity -
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