Wednesday, September 16, 2009

In 25 words or less

Julia pruned the mini roses and tidied her feng shui relationship corner. Lance walked out with his suitcases. He didn't look back.

That is all. Disperse.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Requiem for a menu change

Taking a leaf from Kaiberie's book, I am getting rid of more time devouring things in my life that slow my writing progress. Nothing that doesn't contribute to a bigger paycheck or move my writing along is going or gone. Everything is being stripped down to basics. I don't have room for anything else, especially not with a big expenditure coming that will move my books to the top of the lists and generate a lot more sales. That's my main focus, along with spending more hours struggling with work.

I emailed my boss yesterday and told her the programs we are forced to use are clunky and inefficient and they waste time, hamper production. I had to explain the concept of integrated programs 3x and I still don't think she got it. She was worried about incomplete dictations because someone closed a document to answer the door or take a break and it being sent back before it was finished. Uh, no, that's not a problem if the job is not finalized and merely closed.

The way the system works now -- or rather doesn't work -- the programs to get and upload jobs are separate and have to be manually activated every time work needs to be downloaded or uploaded. When there are no jobs, getting jobs entails shutting down the program, launching it again and doing the same things over and over and over, wasting loads of time and increasing frustration. In other words, not productive at all. The system I am more familiar with and worked with for 10 years is one that never needs to be shut down, opened and initiated once. It can be set to manual or automatic by the operator to get one job or five jobs at a time, sending finalized work automatically, and downloading new jobs automatically. Less time is wasted. The MT endures a lot less frustration and is hence more productive, which translates to more pages typed and more work done for a bigger paycheck. I'm talking about hours, not minutes. It's such a simple concept.

Her complaint that if a dictation is cut off in the middle and continued on another dictation, then the pieces will not be connected and the job incomplete. That's specious. If an MT is getting one job at a time, finalizes the job and sends it up, and then gets the other half, the pieces won't be connected. It's very unusual for a follow-up dictation not to arrive within the next three jobs and can still be typed, combined, finalized and automatically uploaded with the integrated system, which I explained at length. She said Jason is revamping the system and will take my suggestions into consideration. I offered to work with him; I don't know if she'll take me up on it.

When I finally finished work last night, I was exhausted, aching and tired. All I wanted to do was go to bed, but I checked my email and shut down the browser to find that Patrick Swayze died yesterday. It was not unexpected, but still it's sad. Someone posted a YouTube link to Dirty Dancing where Patrick and Jennifer Gray dance the last dance ("No one puts Baby in the corner.") and I watched with a great big smile and tears in my eyes. Patrick was young and exuberant and so talented in that movie and I am glad it remains as a ever bright memory. That, of course, led me to thinking about Ghost and his touching performance as Sam Wheat, the man who couldn't say "I love you" until he was dead and trapped between life and death because he wanted to find his murderer and protect his girlfriend, Molly, by forcing himself on a psychic conning people who actually was a psychic, Rita, played wonderfully and memorably by Whoopi Goldberg. ("Molly, you in danger, girl.")

And Ghost puts me in mind of so many people who can't say "I love you" or tell people how they really feel, and probably won't until it's too late. Time moves on and few people will leave the legacy Patrick Swayze leaves behind him. He put his heart and soul into his work and his life and left no doubt in anyone's mind what he thought and how he felt. That is a tribute few people can boast. He lived his life broadly and without compromise right to the end and I am so thankful I have even a little bit of his talent and zest for life to remember him. He is one person about whom I have no illusions and no confusion. He was simply a wonderful, loving, intelligent and talented man and I'm grateful to have sat on the sidelines and shared a few happy moments and tears. Can't say that about too many people in my life -- our near me.

It's times like these that remind me most of what is speeding past like a bullet train on anti-gravity rails without brakes and how much time is wasted by waiting for people to wake up and realize what is rapidly slipping through their fingers and out of reach. I have wasted too much time waiting and hoping and am now galvanized for the forward push up the rocky slope. Life is seldom easy, but it's worth every blister, broken heart and struggle to get to the good moments, and there are only moments. It's just as much a waste of time to hang around celebrating when there is another road to cross and another mountain to climb. The heavenly moments are for resting before the next big push, not for sitting around until you're either thrown out or bored out of your skull, weighed down by depression and ennui. To be human is to keep moving, hopefully holding hands, supporting, and being supported by a like-minded companion. The real blessing is finding lots of like-minded companions to share the load and the road, and I've been lucky and blessed, although I miss those who shared the journey for a short time -- too short.

If you do nothing else today, don't hesitate to tell the people you care about how much you care. Don't be afraid to say "I love you" because you might not get another chance. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. The only thing you can count on is this moment. Don't waste it.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Fugue in ouch major

Just when you think you're immortal, or at least not decrepit, your back goes out or an old injury twangs your last nerve, such is the case with me the past few days.

About 20 years ago while wearing heels, I skidded across the slick, tile floor in Sears at Northland shopping center in Columbus, Ohio, ending up on the ground with my right ankle ballooning to Goodyear proportions, which was ironic since I was sitting on the wet floor next to the automotive shop where Goodyear tires were prominently displayed. A cashier rushed to help me up and was followed closely by the chief of security and a very apologetic janitor who forgot to put out the "wet floor" signs. The janitor and security chief helped me to the security office where the store manager met us. He had already called the local Doc-in-the-Box down the street. An ambulance took me to the clinic where an x-ray revealed my ankle was unfortunately not broken, but would have to be casted because the ligaments were stretched and torn in places.

I haven't thought about that incident in year, about 20 years, certainly not since the cast came off and I could drive again. Friday morning my ankle hit me with a wave of pain that nearly turned my stomach inside out; it was a good thing I had not eaten yet. To make matters more interesting, my lower back refused to bear me upright without help, the help being the walls between my bed and the bathroom. I wasn't in so much pain I couldn't breathe, but there was enough discomfort to make every movement an orchestration of dissonant and quickly stifled howls. I had typed most of my pages the night before and decided a few yoga stretches and more sleep would set me to rights. I woke again in enough time to finish my required pages and crawl back into bed for more stretches and sleep and by 8 p.m. my back and ankle had reset their levels to a moderate aching throb.

Sitting up for any length of time provides ample reminders of my ankle injury and the lower back pain from carrying to term four fairly large babies. Standing and walking aren't too difficult once I get going, but lying down and resting after yoga stretches have helped the most and quiets the worst of the muscle spasms. This in turn has had a direct effect on my writing -- I haven't been able to write. I'm saving my energy for the week of work ahead and I am almost clear of the worst of this bout of "Introduction to Age: The Painful Years." At least, I don't have arthritis.

Actually, the cold and damp weather is what brought on the aches, spasms and howling pain, so it's obvious a little arthritis has crept into my bones and must be repelled and set adrift to pirate someone else's life. I have a list of enemies ready for use if necessary.

It's difficult to be reminded of injuries decades after the events, but it is inevitable as gravity and time take their taxes, or rather, balloon payments. I have a couple things on my side: blind faith in my own healing powers and knowing enough yoga to combat the worst of the pain and relax the muscles. After all, it worked with sciatica. Stretches and rest cured the sciatica in two days -- thirty years ago. So, I'm back to blind faith.

Things could be worse. I can't think how right now, but I'm sure something will come to me.

Grammar: How are they dangling?

I debated about whether or not to tackle split infinitives, but decided to try something a little lighter today since I'm knee deep in work, critiques and books. It isn't an unusual state for me to be in, but it's as good an excuse as any to take some time away from work and reading and do a little writing that doesn't require too much work.

A modifier is a word that otherwise clarifies, describes or gives more information about a concept. A dangling modifier is a word or phrase that leaves the subject, concept or word described unclear.

Having finished the laundry, the bed was turned down.

"Having finished" is the action, but the bed (the subject of the main clause) doesn't turn itself down and it doesn't do laundry.

Having finished the laundry, Louise turned down the bed.

In English sentences, the doer is the subject of the main clause that follows, that is Louise. She is the one doing the laundry and turning down the bed. In other words, in the above examples, the modifier left dangling is Louse, the object of the action and the subject of the introductory clause.

Revising dangling modifiers.

  1. Determine the appropriate or logical subject of the main clause:

  2. Without asking first, the car was taken.

    Who took the car? The sentence reads as though the car needed to ask permission to be taken. Revision:

    Without asking first, Marshall took the car.

    In the main clause, Marshall is the subject who "took the car" (modifying phrase). The sentence makes sense.

  3. Change a dangling phrase into an introductory clause by naming the subject of the action in the clause:

  4. Unless his name is given, it will be impossible to introduce him.

    The way the sentence reads now, "it" doesn't know the name to introduce. Who would do the introduction? Consider this revision:

    Unless the butler knows his name, it will be impossible to introduce him.

    It's a subtle difference, but an important one.

  5. Combine phrase and main clause:

  6. To enhance his appearance, the suit was tailored.

    Who wanted to enhance his appearance? The suit would enhance its own looks? Combine the phrase and main clause into a simple, complete sentence.

    John enhanced his appearance by having his suit tailored.

More examples of danglers:

  • Incorrect: After reading the novel, the motivation remains unclear.

  • Revised: After reading the novel, I find the motivation unclear.

  • Incorrect: When you leave your job, your home should be a haven from work.

  • Revised: When you leave your job, you should be able to relax at home.

  • Incorrect: The revisions made no sense, not having read the rules of grammar.

  • Revision: The author's revisions made no sense, not having read the rules of grammar.

I'll grant you some of these examples seem a bit stilted, but they are obvious in order to point out where dangling modifiers often occur. Check your sentences thoroughly and make sure the modifiers are connected and clear without dangling. Until next week, may good grammar become easier and the grammar goofs rare.