Saturday, October 15, 2011
It is Saturday, which is unnoticeable from any other day of the week, except that the post office is closed earlier today and there will be no mail pickup or delivery tomorrow. I have often thought the post office should work seven days a week during the holidays to keep from falling further behind in delivering the mail. Letters and cards I mailed earlier this week have not shown up at their destination, at least as far as Ohio is concerned. What once took two days now take 3-5 days. This is unacceptable and, if having Sundays off and working a half-day on Saturdays is the reason, they need to work a full seven days during the holidays.
I've a pile of letters and cards to be mailed. T'is the season -- Halloween of course. Did you think I meant Sukkot? No, I'm not Jewish. I call Halloween Samhain (Sow-en), but am not averse to calling it what most people use to refer to that end of the harvest time when the walls between the living and the dead is thinnest. Okay, that might be a little long to put on holiday cards. They would have to be bigger, which would be good for the card companies so they could charge more and for the post office so they could charge more, but not feasible. Most people barely get through the usual simple greetings: Happy (insert holiday) and many more. They don't even add the last line or your name. They are just so cheap, except where I get my cards.
When I look at cards in the store and see anything priced over $1.99 (usually $0.99), I put the card back as being too much to spend on a simple greeting or remembrance. I don't feel that way when I look at cards on Papyrus. I don't even look at the cost, except when there's a sale and there's a card or box of stationery I want. Their cards are lovely -- as some of you can attest -- and are worth the money, even with extra postage. I have become a connoisseur of greeting and correspondence cards and my only regret, now that I'm temporarily unemployed, is that I cannot afford to buy more. I'm running low on correspondence cards and will soon have to restock. The box under my desk is getting emptier.
This week and next are busy weeks. My Uncle Bob's birthday is tomorrow (card and gift already sent), Nonny's birthday is next Saturday (card and gift ready to send), and Uncle Bob and Aunt Lois's anniversary is next Saturday (card ready to send, but no gift). It looks like I'll also be going back to work next week. I start training on Tuesday and will finish out the week on Saturday with a Tuesday-Saturday work week (shorter hours, better pay, and cheaper benefits). I think I need to get back to work to provide some structure to my days. I don't do well without structure. Too much time on my hands is too much time on my hands and nothing gets done. Okay, I did a few loads of laundry and cleared off my desk, took out some trash, heated up some meals, and otherwise lollygagged around reading books and playing games with friends. Sue me. I said I needed structure.
Going back to work might also give me the frustration my muse obviously needs to inspire me to write. She's been elusive this past two weeks and give me nada, zilch, zip, nothing in the way of encouragement, inspiration, or time. She must think this is her vacation, too, except I don't remember firing her when I got fired. Oh, well, maybe she'll return when I am back to being miserable. Anything is possible.
In the meantime, that is all. Disperse.
Friday, October 14, 2011
Today has been an early day of uploading book reviews. I should have done them earlier, but got caught up in all the work drama that now seems to be sliding slowly toward a new path. There are worse ways to spend my life, but making more money with better benefits and a whole lot less stress doesn't seem to be one of them. These are the times I go back to basics, one of those being the comfort of an old friend -- a book.
The book is Andre Norton's Moon of Three Rings about a Free Trader (space faring free trader) on a new world caught up in that world's intrigues who ends up wearing fur for a while. The fur is a barsk, a dangerous and violent animal not easily tamed, dying from abuse. The Moon Singer, Maelen, finds and saves the barsk and ends up putting Krip Vorlund in the barsks body, shoring up both spirits since his body has been beaten. Thus begins an odyssey into the interior of Yiktor among the Thassa and a price that Maelen must pay for her actions.
I read Moon of Three Rings for the first time nearly forty years ago and I find something new every time I read it, picking up little details and bits of writing that I missed the first few times. Each time it's a new book, not because I don't remember the story, but because I am coming to the book a little different, older, hopefully wiser, but most definitely changed by time and experiences. I bring a different me to the book each time, as I do to other books I reread. My experiences change me, but they also change the way I view the world and the world within the books. Good books just get better with time, and I was in need of a good book, although I almost opted for the next Disc World book from Terry Pratchett.
I flirted briefly with another Jasper Fforde, likely The Eyre Affair, the first in the Thursday Next series, but decided a good old book was exactly what I needed.
I often wonder if doctors ever think of library therapy for what ails their patients. It should be a required treatment for depression, ennui, high blood pressure, and stress, among other ailments that have accumulated with our modern age. Sometimes the best treatment is slowing down with a good book, not just any book, but a really good book, a golden oldie if possible. There's something to be said for a trip through the pages of a well loved book where the characters are familiar and the environs comforting. It's the literary version, at least in my opinion, of stopping to smell the roses. A vase of fresh cut roses wouldn't go amiss while sitting down and reading and you'll have time to smell the gentle fragrance while you read. Two birds. One stone.
The world changes so quickly and times begins to feel like it's traveling past at mach speed. The vistas change and so do we, but at the core we are the same people who fell in love with a story or an author as children and need a little reminding. I may even dig up a copy of the very first book I ever owned and read it again, imagining myself lying in the sweet hay on clean sheets in the loft looking up at the stars shining into the attic with Heidi. Or I could journey back in time with John Carter or swing through the jungles with Tarzan or even go on an adventure with Conan the Barbarian.
What I really need is a box full of vintage comic books and a Creamsicle or a bowl of popcorn and a stack of fairy tales or 1001 Arabian Nights. Sometimes the world looks better from a fantastical perspective. Thoreau did say to simplify and fairy tales, comic books, and fantasies are the simplest and best pleasures I know.
Simplify. Find a comfortable spot with good lighting and read a book. You can enjoy your lunch in a comfortable chair as easily as at the table or a counter, but bring a napkin so you don't mess up the book. Don't forget the roses.
In Victorian England, for a fee, it is possible to move out of time and space and see the future or the past at Murray’s Time Travel.
Andrew Harrington, a wealthy young man in love with a common Whitechapel prostitute named Mary Kelly, wants to go back in time and stop Jack the Ripper from murdering her. It is either that or suicide.
Claire Haggerty is a victim of the times, an independent woman with a strong mind who feels stifled in Victorian England. She wants to travel to May 20, 2000 to see the last battle between humans and automatons.
Scotland Yard has its own problem. Someone from the future is traveling through time to commit murder in Victorian England.
Connecting all these tales is H. G. Wells and his marvelous time machine for he holds the keys to the future and the past.
Félix J. Palma mixes science, fiction, and fantasy in The Map of Time to mixed effect. Since the book was originally written in Spanish and translated to English, I wonder if the problems are connected to the translations or to Spanish literary conventions. Spanish writers tend to focus on description and Palma spends a great deal of time intruding to explain and pontificate.
In spite of the uneven pacing and authorial intrusion, The Map of Time is very different, at times funny, shocking, inventive, and somewhat mischievous. Palma gives us his versions of H. G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jack the Ripper, the Elephant Man, and many other mainstays of the Victorian age and integrates them rather well. The three connected stories have their own eccentricities, told in three sections of the book, but do offer a fascinating look at what might have been.
The Map of Time reminded me of Time after Time when H.G. Wells travels to the future to track down Jack the Ripper only by using Wells to power the story. Palma does give Wells and the other characters their due, imbuing them with a new reality and a bit of fantasy. The tale slows in several places but The Map of Time is an admirable rendering of the times and the literary and historical characters he uses to wonderful effect. Prepare to be entertained and amazed.
What do a recently paroled murderer and a successful real estate agent in Florida have in common? They have been modified.
Bill Moore is an enterprising person and he wants success in a big way. He has a lucrative job, a beautiful wife, and everything going for him until he gets a message. Modified. Everything changes and Bill’s life unravels around him.
John Hunter was just paroled. Once he leaves the prison, he sets out to break all the terms of his parole to prove he was convicted unjustly. What he finds is that he and Bill Moore are nothing but pawns to a group of men out to destroy their lives--because they can.
Michael Marshall is known for his thrillers, and Killer Move is my introduction to his work. Marshall begins on a slow arc, building the suspense and then unleashing a psychodrama that builds speed and a bit of paranoia in the characters and this reviewer. Told from two different points of view, Marshall piles on the tension.
There are a few soft spots in an otherwise taut thriller and the characters are flat, except for Bill and John Hunter, both of whom are fully fleshed. There are moments when it seems Marshall will be unable to tie all the loose ends together, and some are a bit slapdash, but overall Killer Move is a good example of life turned on its head at full throttle, the kind of novel that will have you racing to change your computer passwords.
Jennifer Stirling wakes up in hospital and does not remember who she is—or was—and has trouble connecting to the people in her life. Most of all, she has trouble connecting with her husband Larry. He is solicitous and does not press her, and the doctor tells her not to dwell on things and just live, but nothing feels right. Jennifer does not fit her skin any more and she is not sure whether it is because of the accident or if her body and soul are showing her what her foggy mind cannot.
When she comes across the first letter, she begins to see her feelings are not far wrong and there is, and was, something wrong with her marriage, so wrong she had an affair. She does not remember who the man is, but she is determined to find out.
Forty years later, Ellie Harworth is flailing when she comes across a love letter. She thinks the letter will rejuvenate her career and give her answers to her own relationship. The letters connect both women and Ellie wants to find out what happened to the couple.
In what purports to be a double love story, Jojo Moyes vacillates between Jennifer’s past and present lives as she struggles to find where she fits in. I could not figure out whether Jennifer was remembering the past or Moyes was offering glimpses of the past to move the story forward and create tension and depth for Jennifer and her lost lover, Boot, in The Last Letter from your Lover. I enjoyed both stories and the budding romance, but felt that a chronological tale would have benefited the story and the characters.
Jennifer is fragile and confused and it was easy to warm up to her as her life falls apart and she struggles with where she belongs, especially when Larry tells her that her love is dead, killed in the accident that sent her to the hospital. His bitterness is understandable to a point, but Larry is no saint and not much of a husband. He has money, but little compassion and fewer reasons to be bitter.
Ellie is not as easy to understand or to like. She is all about the job and her drive, while commendable, is more a vehicle to bring Jennifer and Boot’s story full circle.
I enjoyed The Last Letter from your Lover but with reservations. The writing is wonderful when Moyes focuses on the story, but the plot devices and time switches tend to be distracting and less effective. Moyes, however, has penned a substantial romance with all the right tropes, and one that is memorably poignant.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Jerzy, Mahault, Ao, and Käinam return to The Berengia in their ship after battling the Washers and Ximen. Ao needs more assistance than Jerzy can give on shipboard and Jerzy needs to return to the vineyard. There Jerzy is stronger and he will confront Ximen on his own turf.
The Washers and the Land-Lord Ranulf, all of whom want Jerzy to combine forces with them, note Jerzy and his friends returning. Jerzy may be Apostate, but he thinks he knows how to stop the darkness that reaches up from the Root to shadow all the land. On the Vineart’s soil is where the friends will make their last stand against all the forces against them.
Laura Anne Gilman ends the Vineart War trilogy with The Shattered Vine, bringing all the enemies and friends together for a last stand that ends as it began with Jerzy at the vanguard. The Shattered Vine takes off on a slow rising arc. It was a bit difficult to find my bearings in the beginning, a problem that could have been improved by rereading The Weight of Stone or even going back to the beginning and reading all three books together, from Flesh and Fire through to The Shattered Vine.
Once the tale began to move forward it moved quickly to the end of the tale, leaving enough room for more stories from other viewpoints. Gilman has ended the trilogy with a subtle power that leaves questions about the nature of religion and magic and the truth of Zatim Sin Washer and what really happened to create the Lands Vin and the legacy that comes full circle with Jerzy. Each of the friends—Mahault, Käinam, and Ao—as well as Lil and Detta and Washer Brion, become fuller and more complex as the final confrontation nears, giving depth and complexity to Gilman’s trilogy and showcasing her writing and world building skills. There is so much more that could be written about the Lands Vin and the Exiles and I hope Gilman will eventually take that task in hand.
The Shattered Vine is intelligent and complex and satisfying. I am glad I had the chance to follow Jerzy’s education and his journey and sad that the tale is ended. Aside from a few minor pacing issues, the Vineart War trilogy is a rewarding and rich experience of high fantasy. This book -- and indeed the trilogy -- is worth keeping.
Simon & Schuster did send me a copy of this book in order to read and review it. It goes well with the previous two books, which I also read and reviewed for Authorlink. The free copy in no way affected the outcome of my review, however, Laura Anne Gilman's writing did.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
For the past two years I have had a running battle with the post office about mail carriers shoving, stuffing, wedging, and otherwise bulldozing packages into my mail box, the one that's half a block away down at the street. I've spent hours over the past two years working wedged packages and crumped, chewed up, and otherwise mangled mail out of the box cursing the mail carrier of the week and vowing revenge. Instead, I call the mail carrier office and ask them again not to put packages in the mailbox, but they persist. I suppose the turnover is too high and the quality of education of the new hires too low to understand that simple request.
I suppose I should be thankful they even deliver the mail, since several times over the past two years they have left a notice saying my box was too full and please arrange to pick up the mail at the post office or request redelivery. I requested redelivery yesterday and was asked if I'd be home. Of course, I am home. I live and work here and am currently not working at all, thank you very much. The supervisor told me they would redeliver my mail that day. They didn't.
In my empty mailbox was a catalog I didn't order along with a notice neatly printed. "Your mailbox is full again. Please go to the post office tomorrow to pick up your mail." In the empty mailbox where I put several letters going, which had been taken, my mailbox was full. Again. And she left a note after I had called and requested my mail be redelivered yesterday. To my house. Where I was at home. Right.
Now I have to go to the post office and pick up my mail If there was another way to get my mail and packages I would. It seems the post office hires people physically unable to walk half a block up to the house and deposit the packages on the doorstep where the mailbox should be. They are physically able to write a note and leave in the mailbox so I can go to the post office to pick up my mail. I'm half tempted to get a mailbox at the post office so I can pick my mail up directly instead of dealing with these idiots, and it also keeps me out of prison for torture, dismemberment, and murder of the constantly changing kaleidoscope of people who play post office with my mail six days a week. I almost wish Clyde has stuck around a little longer, but he got a better route again.
Clyde is the mail carrier who demanded to see my ID when I happened to be on the porch and asked him to give me my mail. Clyde refused to give me the mail until I had gone upstairs and brought the ID back down for him to check. He'd been leaving mail for me in the box or on the bench on the porch for months without asking to see my ID, but he would not hand me my mail without ID. I also had to write, date, and sign a letter that stated he could leave packages and bulky items on the porch when they wouldn't fit in the mailbox. He also had a penchant for leaving notices to pick up mail at the post office, and he threatened to force the landlady to get a bigger mailbox and put it on the street so he didn't have to walk 20 yards up to the porch, climb the stairs, and put notices in my mailbox.
One of my cousins was a mail carrier and he never behaved that way, but he was a decent guy not living by a rule book and growing a beard every winter so he could deliver mail as Santa Claus. He died a few months ago and so did the last mail carrier who understood the meaning of customer service. No wonder the post office is in financial trouble. They're probably paying death benefits on most of the rude, impersonal, and downright stupid mail carriers.
I imagine that people would be lined up around the block waiting to be hired for the post office, but maybe not since the life span is so simple. Then again, what's a little population control by death in the line of duty while delivering -- or in my case, not delivering -- the mail? Talk about your hostile work environment and that's just from the people like me who have trouble not getting their mail.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Monday, October 10, 2011
The back of my throat has that dry feel that presages a bout of sinus infection, or possibly a cold, but it couldn't be just because I didn't mix up my fizzy vitamin and mineral drink for the past two days. Could it? Maybe it is the reason. Time to stop being lazy and mix up a double dose this morning. If it keeps the germs at bay, I'm all for that. I don't like being ill, except when I need a reason to take a day off work.
I was reading tedwords's post about his in-law and outlaw problems with his son-in-law and it reminds me of a similar situation with my eldest son.
Dred Scotty has been a trial since day one. He preferred strangers to me and spent his formative years lurking about and collecting information to feed to my mother so she'd get angry and slap me in the face. His reasoning was that whatever he did was copacetic because it paid me back for punishing him when he, say, climb out his bedroom window on a phone cord after stealing money from my purse to buy a toy I had forbidden at 6 AM or getting up in the middle of the night to pile chairs on the table after pushing the table closer to the door to the kitchen, which was locked with a hook lock to keep him out of the kitchen and away from the gas stove. He still managed to get the door unlocked until we padlocked it with a key lock. That thwarted his middle of the night and wee hours of the morning rambles and kept him from burning the house down so he went back to sticking wire hangers in the outlets to try to start fires and shock the crap out of his hand. As I said, Dred Scotty was a trial.
He continued to be a trial as he played my mother and I off against each other, working through her to control things because I know how he works, like the time he claimed a teacher had sexually assaulted him when the teacher didn't even know who he was, a fact I became aware of when I stormed into the principal's office to have the teacher fired and brought up on charges. The abuse claim came about because he had given Dred Scotty detention for wandering the halls during classes without a hall pass. Yes, my son, is a devious and manipulative fella at best, and you don't really want to know his worst.
He broken into my apartment twice to steal things to sell because I wouldn't give him any money, the last time stealing my first computer on which was kept (password locked, of course) all of my writing and journals transferred from paper. He didn't know the password and no pawnbroker would touch it, so he tossed it in a dumpster "somewhere." All that work, and a couple of books, gone with the foulest of winds. He stole my tool box and money and the usual things one steals when he's deep into the drugs, even stabbing himself in the leg with a pocket knife to prove that he had been mugged and that's why the radio was missing from my car, which I had loaned him to go out looking for a job. I didn't believe that for a second and he finally admitted to it.
I cut him off financially and seldom heard from him unless he was in dire straits, turning on the tears and that tone in his voice that said he just couldn't take it any more. He should've been an actor. He would have had a couple of Oscars and a few Emmies by now. I was adamant. This ATM was closed for business until he grew up and took responsibility for his own actions, and I was not about to be his ATM as long as he only popped up long enough to get money from me. The ultimatum was simple: Either have a relationship with me or stop asking me for money.
Cut to now.
In January he contacted me by letter and sent me pictures of his children and his wife. He was married again (for the third time) and had a beautiful set of fraternal twins, Connor and Sierra. We wrote. We talked. He didn't ask for money, but then I made a mistake. I sent the twins a really nice gift of clothing for their first birthday. I was happy for my son and not a little surprised when a letter arrived with an installment on some of the money he owed me. Then everything fell apart.
His wife Aldonza, a recovering alcoholic, was drinking again and he was drinking with her to keep her company, and covering up the drinking. He can't drink because it's a direct route to drugs, alcohol being his gateway drug. He had his back surgery and returned to work too soon and ended up with more problems. Aldonza got a job and soon lost it because she was ill, but the truth was she couldn't make it to work because she was drunk on too many occasions. They were in trouble and asking for financial help. I refused to help them out that way, but I did send two cases of diapers for the babies, and I kept sending them every month, something I stopped after Aldonza lost the children when she was found drunk and the kids running around the house dirty and getting into everything. She was charged with reckless endangerment two days after Dred Scotty went into a church rehab program to get sober again, falling off the wagon after four years clean and sober. We don't even want to talk about Aldonza's wagon, and it can't be completely blamed on her mother and father, both of whom are career alcoholics. At least her parents managed to keep their jobs and their children, although they did pass down the alcoholism like a bowl of stuffing or cranberry sauce at the Thanksgiving table.
Aldonza was supposed to go into a 90-day rehab program to get back her children. In the meantime, her stepfather took her car, a car she and Dred Scotty had paid for and on, even though stepdaddy's name was co-signer on the loan, which was not in default, and Aldonza took Dred Scotty's car so she could run the bars at night. She was even caught hanging all over some guy she swears she's not having an affair with and denies that the blatantly sexual text messages and pictures of the fella's not so privates were on her phone (she forgot to delete them when she took Dred Scotty's phone and lent him her phone to call someone). What seemed idyllic and working, with a few minor snags, turned into a full fledged five-car pileup on the highway to Hell.
True to form, Dred Scotty called me for help crying -- that snotty-nosed, hiccuping kind of crying -- that was supposed to soften me up. Some friend of Aldonza's was granted guardianship over the twins and her daughter from a previous liaison was with her mother and stepfather, who just couldn't deal with taking the twins, too. I'd rather mummy and stepdaddy not have the twins and infect them with alcoholism, not that it isn't a possibility if Dred Scotty and Aldonza ever get it together and put their family back together, a possibility that grows dimmer every day since Aldonza moved in with the bar guy that she wasn't having an affair with.
Their lives couldn't be more of a train wreck or highway to Hell pile-up than it is, and my son will be 38 next month. Holy hopping hell toads on crack.
It just doesn't get any better than this, unless you add in my larcenous younger son Ajay and his equally duplicitous wife Jack-em-all, but that's a tale for another time.
Even though I seldom talk about really personal matters, I do have them -- in spades.
That is all. Disperse.
I don't like putting my private business out here, not that I don't trust people, but because I don't want pity or people reading just for the thrill factor of someone else who's in trouble. I prefer to look on the positive side, like seven years ago when I was diagnosed with breast cancer only to find out, after two months of worry and hassle and testing, that I didn't have breast cancer. The doctor's office mixed my file up with someone else's. I never did find out whether or not they caught her in time and saved her life. I was so looking forward to perky breasts with upturned nipples. Oh, well. The same is true of losing my job.
Long story short: I called off work because the rain took out my electricity and phones -- again -- and I wasn't able to finish the day. I had vacation time coming and my boss took that opportunity to email me with a termination notice and demand I send back their equipment overnight at my expense, an expense that cost me $700, a month's rent and the groceries. I had some money saved and looked forward to my last paycheck and clearing out my 401K, but I should have known that would fall prey to the boss's tender mercies as well. It did. After a 20% bite out of my 401K, taxes, and surcharges, and the loss of all my accrued vacation time, I was little better off than when I had a job. Not a problem.
I filed for unemployment and am now waiting out the waiting week, which is government speak for not getting paid for one week. I wanted to take off six months, enjoy the unemployment and the time to read and write (mostly write), and kick back and relax after so many years of work without paid vacation even when I earned vacation time (she didn't pay me for that or compensate me for the vacation time in three other instances). I find that I need to go back to work and work I shall do.
I was offered three jobs (I'm a hot commodity with great skills and a solid background history) and accepted one of them. Now I need to decide when to start back to work, and it's looking like Oct. 25th, just in time for the Nov. 4th paycheck. It will be slim, but it will be a check and I do have other resources, and another job that pays a guaranteed salary each and every month without fail -- until it fails. It has before.
In a way, writing about my little pot hole in the road of life makes me wonder if I should share that information when so many people I know are either on disability or have been out of work so long their unemployment ran out. How can I talk about my little hiccup when so many others are in much more difficult straits? It seems unfair and needlessly cruel.
Suffice it to say, I always land on my feet and, aside from having to start over at a new job, I will get better pay, shorter hours, bigger paychecks, more vacation time, and cheaper benefits (benefits from the old company cost nearly a month's salary each and every month) with disability benefits. Like I said, I usually land on my feet. I do have to buy some equipment and may have to buy a program or two, but they are tax deductible. It's best to get on with the show. I still have two months off from writing book reviews after nearly nine years of nonstop reviewing and that I won't give up and may extend to three months, going back to reviewing at the beginning of the year, the same time I am giving up handling the PPRAA VE team exam sessions (someone finally stepped up to the plate after four years of me doing the job). Life is not all beer and skittles (I hate beer and don't really know what skittles are, except for the candy, and I know that skittles predate the candy), but it's workable.
That is all. Disperse.