Sunday, March 25, 2007

Harley's First Birthday




Harley had the world's best birthday yesterday. We played with bubbles, his weasel on a stick and the laser pointer. That's like a trip to Disneyworld for him. We also had all of the traditional stuff... cake, ice cream, presents, a mechanical rat.


You can view the pictures here.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

It's done!

The book is done, at least the rough draft is, and on Harley's birthday, too! I have pictures for you, of Harley's birthday, not the book, but you'll have to wait until tomorrow for those. I actually finished at 12:02 this morning, so Harley's birthday is technically over, but who is to say that my clock was accurate to the minute? Besides, if I want to say I finished on Harley's birthday, I'm gonna. After all, the book isn't actually done, just the rough first draft. I have about 102,000 words written and by the time I'm really done, I'll have half again as many, I think. So, I can say I finished on Harley's birthday because the few words I wrote after the clock ticked over to 12 could be officially part of the rewrite, so there.

Anyway, it feels amazing to have this much done, and I'm actually looking forward to the rewrite. In the morning I'll have probably come to my senses, but at the moment, I'm feeling pretty good about myself and my book. Yay for me!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Qualified Success

My HTML class went pretty well today. I never quite got in the zone, but it wasn't bad. If you've never taught a class or given a lecture or spoken in public you may not know the zone, but it's great when it happens. My friend-who-must-not-be-named said it must be like sex, only you don't have quite as many people watching.

My boss and his boss both attended the class and were complimentary about it. I will have to do better next week, though, I'm afraid, if I don't want to lose some of the students. I didn't engage enough with the attendees and didn't make the connection that makes them really get interested in the subject. That's what I'll focus on next time.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

HTML Class

I'm teaching an HTML class at work, starting tomorrow. I have 17 coworkers who have signed up. That means there are at least 17 people who are willing to give up their lunch hours to listen to me talk. That's kind of humbling. Of course, I'm a great teacher, and they're lucky to have me, but even so....

When I put up the sign up sheet I expected at most 6 people to sign up. I knew Dave would, he tried to take it the first time and had to drop out. You remember Dave... the one who likes to sit on Tinker Bell? I figured Cindy would take the class just to support me. She's a good friend like that. Adam kinda has to since he has to start doing HTML stuff at work and he dropped out of the first class because I gave too much homework.

Starr is the one for whom we developed the ice cream website. Did I mention that at the time? She and her husband own Carousels Ice Cream, a shop in Southern Maryland. She needs to learn how to fix and change her own website so she can take care of it in the future.

I never thought I would get 17 people in this class, though. I am a good teacher, even if it is not very modest of me to admit it. I look forward to teaching and speaking in public in the same way that other people look forward to a scary roller coaster ride. I've got those flutters in my stomach and I'm a little nervous, but it's a good thing.

They say there is no physical difference between fear and excitement. The only difference lies in your attitude. My attitude is that the more people I can get to listen to me about any subject, the better!

Monday, March 19, 2007

TinkTerra

I bought a 2006 Nissan XTerra just before Christmas. It had everything I wanted except for the color, which is dark gray. Yuck. I looked into getting it painted, but that ran into thousands of dollars. Instead I looked for, and found, every imaginable auto accessory featuring Tinker Bell.

I have the Tinker Bell Steering Wheel Cover, the Tinker Bell Seat Covers, the Tinker Bell "I'm No Princess!" Floor Mats in front and the Tinker Bell "Trust Me!" and Tinker Bell "Perfect Little Flirt" floor mats in back. I got this decal, and this one and this one.

I found a couple of keychains, of course, and picked up a Tinker Bell lunch box from somewhere, although that does not technically have anything to do with the car.

But my favorite car accessory I found was the Tinker Bell trailer hitch cover! I can't find a picture of that for you tonight, but I'll try to get one posted here soon.

So, my XTerra is Tinked out... it looks like my ride was pimped by Disney. The guys at work won't ride in it, except for my friend Dave, but that's just cause he likes sitting on Tinker Bell. My dad refuses to drive it and my friend Kirby has warned me not to take it South if I don't want to get shot.

I think it's adorable, but it probably would have been cheaper to get the car painted bright green like I wanted in the first place.

You be the judge

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Nostalgia

I ran across a forum dedicated to one of the high schools I attended a looooooooong time ago. I spent my Senior year in California, but most of my high school years were spent in Munich, Germany. I would post on there to find out if anyone remembers me, but I know they won't. I was so out of the loop I might as well have been in another galaxy. That's ok, I don't remember any of them, either.

It made me curious, though, about the only two names I could remember from high school. One was my first "boyfriend." He lived in Heidelberg and we only saw each other a few times before he found someone cuter and closer. I think this is him. The name is right, and it's an unusal one. I can't remember what he looked like, and it's been almost 30 years. I remember he was a budding computer geek and it looks like this Nathan Stong became some kind of computer guru, so it's probably him.

The other one I remember was Todd Blood, who took me to my one and only dance (we spent most of the evening at the emergency room). We used to tease him because he planned on studying medicine and who wants to go to see Dr. Blood? Well, it looks like he made it. He's an anesthesiologist in Utah.

I am sure neither of them remember me, and I would be ashamed to have them see how badly my life has turned out. One is getting awards for his work and the other is a doctor. No doubt they have loving spouses and cute kids. I live at home, have no family, a stuttering career and a few pets. Can you imagine how embarrassing it would be to go to a HS reunion? No thanks.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Time Change

This time change is kicking my butt. I can't get to sleep at a normal time and then I have to get up an hour earlier than I'm used to. I don't know how or why we have Daylight Savings Time, or who thought of it, nor do I care. It's not like you're actually saving time, it keeps ticking away the few remaining years we have left no matter what the clocks say.

Actually, I've been listening to Stephen Hawking's A Briefer History of Time and according to what I understand of what I've read so far, time is not a constant at all. The faster you go, the slower time goes. There's something about the higher you are the faster time moves, too, but I don't pretend to understand it. All I know is that as slow as I am, I don't have much time left. And yet, I'm spending it blogging. Kinda makes you wonder, doesn't it?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Maybe I can finish this after all

My dad and I talked about my book tonight and I think I know what I need to do to finish it. I have to go back a few pages and rewrite what I already have. That will solve the "I've painted them into a corner, now what I do" kind of problem I've been having and will let me finally get the rest of the story on paper. Whether it will be any good or not is not my concern right now. Finishing it is enough for me to worry about at the moment.

I have a question...

When someone says something hurtful to you and then says, "Oh, I'm just kidding" do you assume they were being truthful the first time or the second? I know I'm a bit paranoid, but I usually believe the first statement. I think that people tend to say what they are really feeling and then cover it with the "I'm kidding" comment. It frees them up to say something impolite, but true. A friend of mine performs in local venues and I truly enjoyed going to watch him. But, even though I've asked to be kept informed about when and where he's performing, I never get the schedule. When I asked about it, I asked if they did it on purpose because they don't like having me there (they have not seemed to enjoy my company when I have gone in the past.)

They said, "You figured us out... it took you long enough." Then, of course, came the "Oh, we're just kidding" comment, but still no schedule information. Am I just being paranoid? I honestly don't know. I do know that I won't ask again, and I won't go even if asked. I have spent my life not being wanted, it is impossible for me to trust that I am wanted now. It's a lot easier to stay home and write.

Then again, how will I ever handle the rejection that will inevitably come when I try to get published.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Dog Day

Today was a dog day, especially for Harley. We went outside this morning and played with all three dogs. Maverick chased his flying squirrel frisbee while Dad and I played with the new parachute toy I bought at Franklin's yesterday. (Franklin's is a restaurant/store near work that has some of the most interesting stuff for sale. The chocolate cake is pretty darn special, too.) Mom got out the "weasel on a stick" toy and fished for Harley from the deck. We played until Mom got cold and Dad wandered off to change a lightbulb or something.

I played with my Nintendogs a while and took care of my Showdogs while I finished watching Return of the Jedi and a movie about the making of Star Wars. I still say the people at work who claim Star Wars was a regional thing are crazy, especially after watching the special, but that's beside the point. I cleaned my room and Mom, Harley and I made the bed. It's a queen size waterbed, so it takes at least two of us. Harley's help was completely dispensable.

My writer's group meets here tomorrow, so we ran to Sam's Club to get some cookies, blackberries and grapes to serve them. I know, weird combination, right? I took my buddy Chris with me via my Blackberry. (Same name, different fruit... no, not Chris, the Blackberry. Chris is not at all fruity!) Then we all... Mom, Chris and I... went to the dollar store and looked at My Little Pony notebooks and stickers for Chris.

When we got home I took the dogs outside with the giant bubble wand I bought at Walmart and introduced Harley to bubbles. He loved them. Btw, if you have been wondering what Indiana was doing while all of this was happening... he rolled on his back once and stared vacantly off into space the rest of the time. That's the height of excitement for that poor dog.

Harley helped me nap by chewing on my toes and fingers and, after dinner, I took him outside for a run around in the dark with the laser pointer. After all of that excitement we put on the Harley show for Mom and Dad and now he's collapsed on their bed while I blog.

(Notice... no writing. I'm still stuck on that darn island!)

Friday, March 9, 2007

BS

Meeting today...

Me: That's the name of my gay typing teacher from high school.

BS: They taught gay typing in your high school?

::rim shot::

There followed a riff on what a gay typing class would be like...

Meeting adjourned

P.S. Brian Sweeney wants full credit for the above.... Sorry Brian

How important is Star Wars, really?

Back when I was in high schoo/college and they first started talking about VCRs I remember thinking how amazing it would be to watch Star Wars in my own home any time I wanted to. Now I'm finding out how much of a dinosaur that makes me, not just because I can remember a time before VCRs but because I actually remember when Star Wars was the new, exciting movie franchise.

We were living in Munich, Germany when the first Star Wars movie came out and someone who had seen it before moving to Germany was trying to tell us about it. It just didn't sound that interesting to me, but when I finally saw it, I was a complete convert. The epic nature of the movies, the startling special effects, Harrison Ford... Star Wars had everything.

When Empire came out I was living in Las Vegas and was in college. We went to see it over and over again in the theaters even though we really couldn't afford it. I gave my sister tickets to see it one more time for her birthday, even. These days, how often do you go see a movie at the theater more than once? I went to see Pirates of the Caribbean twice and that was a big deal. I don't remember how often we saw Empire at the theater, but it was probably five or more times.

So, what is the point of all of this? Well, I TiVo'd all of the movies, starting with the disappointing 1-3 saga and ending with the original films. The special effects in the old films don't hold up well, nor does poor Mark Hamill's acting, but I still prefer the originals. Anyway, I was watching Empire this morning, still my favorite, and I mentioned to my buddy, Chris, that Mark Hamill never looked the same after his car accident. Chris didn't know what I was talking about! Now Chris has lost all computer geek credibility. He's got to spend the weekend watching Princess Bride, Young Frankenstein and Monty Python to prove he's a true geek.

In the meantime, I asked the girls from work if they knew who Mark Hamill was. Four out of four could not identify him and only one of the four has seen the movies, and that was under protest. When I expressed shock, they told me that maybe the movies were only a West Coast thing. What??? This is Star Wars, people, not some obscure indie film. Am I the only one who remembers how much impact these movies had on our culture? Star Wars ranks up there with Star Trek and... I can't even think of anything as big. The Star Wars phenomenon dwarfs the Harry Potter franchise. Sure HP is fun, but it is not Star Wars. Of recent movies, only the Lord of the Rings trilogy can really compare.

So, how important is it that people know and love the same movies? If you believe, as I do, that every culture is defined by the stories they tell and the legends they share, then movies perform a much greater role than merely entertainment. They give us a frame of reference, a shared experience. We no longer sit around firesides and listen to stories of heroes who face down evil and survive, we sit in darkened theaters, but the effect is the same. Sure, most of the movies we see are forgettable and many of them are pure dreck. But when something comes along that speaks to our core values and connects with us on a deeper level, it binds us with other human beings who feel the same feelings. It gives us a starting point and a shared experience even if we have only just met. It gives us a history together.

How important is Star Wars... it's just entertainment, or is it?

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Fat Chick

Some guy at work made a fat comment about me in our meeting this morning. It was offensive enough to put me in tears, but not so blatant that I can call him on it. I am so tired of being the brunt of fat jokes. I am so tired of being fat. I thought I had the fat thing licked a year or so ago, but I've regained just about everything I've lost and I've given up on hoping I'll ever lose it again. If I had made a comment about his nationality (he's Vietnamese) everyone would have jumped on me, but it's perfectly acceptable to poke fun at fat people. After all, we bring it on ourselves. We weren't born fat, right? If we don't want to be laughed at and made fun of we should just lose the weight. Or, we can just accept that we're pathetic losers, which is the route I'm taking.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Writer's Block

I hate to act out a cliche, but I'm having trouble with writer's block. I've reached a point in my story where I know where I need it to go, but I can't get it there. I even asked Chris to help me again, but he is stumped, too. I'll figure it out eventually, but it's frustrating in the meantime. This writing stuff would be a lot more fun if I were better at it.

Work is getting crazy and I'm falling further and further behind. All in all, I need another 20 hours a day.

Want to help with the book? Why not suggest a magical talent for some of the bad guys to have? I need something for the big finale, and I'm not good at making up this stuff. If you've got a suggestion, leave a comment. Who knows, maybe some day I'll get this thing finished and published and you can tell people you helped me finish it! :) You won't get any royalties, though, so don't go getting too excited.

Monday, March 5, 2007

TiVo Trouble

You know how much I love my TiVo. Well, tonight it refuses to change my cable box channel, so instead of taping "How I Met Your Mother" I got an episode of "Spongebob Squarepants." Ugh! I spent a long time trying to fix it but I finally gave up and sent out my ezine, Giggles & Grins. I wish I had time to do that every day like I used to, but lately I don't even have time to sleep. I had to choose between keeping in touch with all of the people I enjoy on the Giggles and actually writing a book. I have always wanted to be a writer, so you can see my dilemma.

On one hand, the Giggles (and to an even great extent, this Blog) gave me a forum and a training ground so that I could learn to express myself in a cohesive, semi-entertaining fashion. On the other hand, this is a book, the epitome of my writerly ambitions. No one is ever going to remember Becky, the writer of the Giggles. But, if I can get a few books published, I stand a chance of being remembered after I'm gone. Since I have no kids, other than Harley and company, the only legacy I can leave in this world is the written word (or lots of words, I don't think anyone would remember me if I wrote just one word).

I guess I'm a little vain, but I hate the idea of being gone and not being missed. I would be thrilled if I were remembered for being a wonderful human being and a great humanitarian, but that's not happening so I'd settle for someone saying, "Oh, Becky Shiles, I read her books. They were great! How come she hasn't written anything lately? Oh, she's dead? Bummer." Wouldn't it be nice to know you could make someone's day just a little sadder just because you were dead?

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Harley is freakishly smart

I have had smart dogs before. Penny, my beloved Shetland Sheepdog, was so smart that I used to swear she could read my mind. She knew a number of off the wall commands like, "Penny, I'm cold" which just meant that she needed to get up and cuddle closer on cold winter nights. Maverick is smart but in a lovely, gentle, regular-dog kind of way. He's obedient and fun and remembers to do what he's told more often than not, but he's not going to win any science fairs if you know what I mean. Clark, Indiana's son, was so smart he would jump in my window and get my pillows so that he could take them back out through the window and sleep on them. (Indiana is so stupid his doggy IQ is in the negative numbers, but that's a whole other story.)

Harley is a freak. Harley is so smart it literally weirds me out. It took him a little over a week to learn to roll over on command, but it took less than a week for him to learn to shake hands, speak, sit up and beg, walk on his hind legs and dance on his hind legs. Each weeknight for one week he learned a new command. It got to the point that we were running out of tricks to teach him.

Earlier today Mom asked me how I would teach him how to play dead. I rolled Harley over on his back, told him "Play Dead" and gave him some praise. I told Mom, "that's how."

Tonight, we were running through his list of tricks while I fed him itty bitty pieces of cat food. Mom said, "Tell him to play dead." So, I did... and he did!

I had never shown him other than the two second demonstration I gave her earlier, but he remembered and did it, not just once, but over and over. Ok, that is an-alien-who-only-looks-like-a-dog-mated-with-your-doggy's-mama kind of smart! I once read a book with that subject (great book) and one of the signs that the dog was half alien was that it would wind its rope around a tree and then unwind it. Harley does that, too. I'm telling you, it's not a coincidence.

He isn't even a year old yet and he's already smarter than most men. If this keeps up he's going to bypass even some of the women I know. In another year or two he could even get as smart as I am... nah, no male could ever do that.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

R & R

I decided to take a couple of days of Rest and Relaxation before tackling the task of finishing the rough draft of my novel. I read a chapter to a tiny writer's group I belong to at work and they were very complimentary. The problem is I'm reading this stuff and thinking it just isn't good enough. I have never been good at rewriting and I'm worried that I won't be able to polish it up as well as I need to so that it can find a publisher. I also worry that I can't retain all of the great advice I have been reading lately and I won't be able to apply it even if I remember it. It sucks being a perfectionist.

I found a game that Harley likes even more than the laser pointer. I dragged out a toy I bought for him last year and he went nuts. It looks a little like this. It is basically a horse's longe whip with a bit of sheepskin at the end. It acts like a doggy fishing pole with me dragging the sheepskin lure along the ground around me and Harley dashing around to get it. If I go in circles long enough, he cuts right through the circle and tackles it. A few times he hit it so hard that he rolled over, but he always came up with the toy in his mouth. We played for a looong time today, and he has been more quiet tonight than he ever is, usually. I wish I had video to show you just how much he loves it.

I have been really disappointed in American Idol this year. Only Chris Sligh shows any promise at all, everyone else is boring, boring, boring. I wish I had Season 2 on tape, I'd just watch it instead. I know that no one will ever compare to Clay Aiken, who could, but I keep hoping that someone will come along that is almost as good or as interesting. It's not happening this year, I'm afraid.

As long as I'm on the subject of TV... what do you think of Lost and/or Heroes? Isn't it fantastic to have two shows on TV that get it right? For some reason TV really lets us down when it comes to Fantasy or Science Fiction. For ever Twilight Zone there are a dozen My Favorite Martians or Battlestar Galactica. Other than Quantum Leap, which really was more about the people's stories and less about fantasy or sci fi, I can't remember any show I've liked better. I don't know why everyone is complaining about having to wait for the answers to all the mysteries. I'm enjoying it exactly the way it is. I just wish there were more episodes in a year... would one a day be too many?