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We have a ticketed event for a pretty major children's author coming up and this guy is driving me nuts.

- Customer "assumes" his 4 year old child can get in for free to the ticketed event because he's already bought tickets for its two older siblings. We tell him no, a ticketed means a ticket for every person.

- We also remind customer that book is recommended for ages 8 and up so this may not be an appropriate event for a child of that age.

- Customer then asks if he can pick up book early instead of at the venue on the day of the event. We make arrangements for this, as it's not really that big of a deal EXCEPT
- Twenty-four hours after picking up the two books, the customer asks if he can return one of them because he doesn't need two copies.

I told him he can go ahead and exchange the book at the venue for another of the author's titles, but it's part of his ticket package and not part of normal store inventory. I also suggested he donate the signed book to his child's classroom or give it as a Christmas gift.

Now, any one of these requests wouldn't be so bad, but the fact that this guy keeps coming back with new ways he'd like us to bend the rules for his family is driving me nuts.

Awesome Pack #6

My latest Awesome Pack arrived the day before yesterday, but I haven't had time to do more than glance at the box, still sitting by our door where my husband left it. But I've got a little bit of time to stop and breathe, so let's see what we got this month.

2-4 players
The original Boss Monster challenged players to become the ultimate villains: video game-style Bosses. Now Boss Monster 2 builds on the original in every way! An all-new set of 160 cards, Boss Monster 2 is playable as a standalone game or as an expansion to the core set.
Dark Heroes and Hybrid Heroes raise the stakes, while Epic Spells and "cycling" rooms give players more options and flexibility. Boss Monster 2 features everything that made the best-selling original a hit with players of all skill levels, with fresh new mechanisms and exciting new options.
With more Bosses, more unique cards, and more ways to slay hapless adventurers, Boss Monster 2 will take your dungeon to The Next Level!

Game's retail price: $24.95

This looks like a fun game to play with Seanie. It looks like a sequel, but the game claims it can be enjoyed without the original so we'll give it a try and see. We do love video game tropes.

2-4 players
Game's retail price: $5.99-$10?

As I stare at the tin containing one set of 28 double six color dot dominoes it occurs to me that I have no idea how to place this classic game.  When I was growing up, dominoes were for lining up in long chains on the floor and knocking down.  I guess it's high time I learn how to play!

UBONGO Teaser Game
1-2 players
Ubongo is a fast-paced, addictive, and easy-to-learn geometric puzzle game. Players race against the timer and against each other to solve a puzzle of interlocking shapes. The faster you solve the puzzle, the more gems you get. The player with the most valuable gem treasure after nine rounds of solving puzzles wins! Here's how it works: Each player receives a set of 12 polyominos - geometric shapes formed of equal-size squares joined edge to edge in different arrangements. At the start of each round, each player gets a new puzzle panel. A roll of the die determines which polyominos you must use to perfectly fill in the empty spaces on the puzzle panel. Any players who complete the puzzle within the time limit yell out "Ubongo!" and grab a gem at random from the bag. The fastest player also gets a blue gem and the second fastest an amber gem. Each gem color is worth a different amount of points. After nine rounds, the player with the most valuable gem collection wins.
Game's retail price: ??

The description above is for the full-sized version of this game.  The little teaser included in the Awesome Pack is just a sample.  It has a half-dozen puzzle board challenges for the player to try, but that's it.  No gems.  I'm not even sure this is even available for retail sale; it just looks like a sample the company gave to reps to help them sell games to their accounts.  It looks fun, but I feel like it doesn't contribute much value to the Pack.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles x kidrobot keychain series: comes in Donatello, Rocksteady, Bebop, Raphael, Michaelangelo, Splinter, Shredder, Leonardo, Foot Soldier, Krang
Retail price: $5.95

I was a little annoyed to see this in the box, because I've consistently requested NO TOYS in my Awesome Packs.  I don't want more adorable little dust-catchers in the house.  However, if I had to get a toy anwyay, I'm glad I got the Shredder - of all the TMNT characters available in this keychain series, he is the best.  I haven't decided if I'll keep him or re-gift him.

This was not a good Awesome Pack.  In fact, it's far and away the worst one I've received.  I'm quite unhappy with it.  The games are cheap and despite the fact that every month I request no toys or pop culture collectibles, they threw one in.  I'm hoping this is an outlier, but if the quality of Awesome Packs has taken a nose dive than I won't be keeping a subscription much longer.

Curious to learn more about this subscription box? Visit Awesome Pack's website for more details:
Last weekend, we had a big sale at the store. Everything in stock was 20% off, with select items discounted up to 50% off. It led to a productive weekend, sales-wise. While I don't think the store was that much busier than usual, the transactions were much larger than usual as people stocked up on books. The extra cash from the weekend will be handy in meeting our payroll and our bills.

Post-sale, the next phase of managing our inventory is returning books that don't sell. Some stores rarely send books back to the publisher, preferring to discount them and clear shelves that way. Others run a tight ship and return any book that hasn't sold in three months. We fall somewhere in the middle.

This week, I'm pulling any title that hasn't sold since March. If no one has been interested in five months, there's probably a reason. I don't mean to imply that something is wrong with the books, because that's not always true. Sometimes a title just isn't right at our store at this time, or it just isn't a hit with our demographic. For example, I found some Valentine's Day themed books in a dusty corner of the store. They're great, but it's the wrong season and we're unlikely to find a buyer. So they went straight to the return pile. Adult graphic novels also don't do very well, which I attribute to the fact that we have a thriving and wonderful comic book store less than a mile away. So I ended up pulling a lot of those, too. They're great comics - many of them are ones I own and enjoy - but for whatever reason, we have trouble selling them.

It's hard not to get sentimental for favorite books. When I pulled a Christopher Moore title for returns, I was so bummed because he's one of my favorite authors. I don't know why we don't sell him! My boss has trouble with this, too. When I was processing returns last week, there were several books she pulled out of the pile because they are classics. In fact, she calls them "wallpaper", titles that are integral to the character of the store and thus should always be in stock.

I've been at the store for about ten months. I have to admit, I have a few wallpaper titles too. So far, they've been selling well enough that there's no need to worry about taking them out of inventory, but when that day eventually comes I wonder if I'll be standing there, grabbing them out of the return pile and putting them back on the shelves.
10 August 2016 @ 09:34 pm
Seanie's brother moved out of the duplex at the beginning of April to his new place, a rental belonging to Seanie's mom. He's not far away, just on the other end of the Willow Glen neighborhood. When he and his wife left, not all of their stuff went with them. He has been storing multiple vehicles, some lawn furniture, and a lot of miscellaneous stuff on the duplex property.

It's not entirely his fault. When his mother's previous tenant moved out, she found out that he'd left parts of the property in pretty bad shape. In fact, Jared and Erin had to spend a month or two just doing repairs on the house before they could move in. Worse, the garage was completely trashed. The foundation had to be replaced, the door had to be removed and a new one installed, and the walls needed repair. For all I know, in fact, the entire garage may have been rebuilt from the ground up. Until the construction is complete, Jared can't move his cars and his stuff.

The work is being done by a contractor who rents property from the Buckleys, but this isn't as beneficial as it sounds. True, he does the work and the cost is applied towards his rent, so it doesn't cost the Buckleys any money. But the contractor does the work only when he has money to hire men, so it gets dragged out a LOT. A project that normally would take a few weeks has now stretched on for four months, with no end in sight.

It's really frustrating because Seanie and I really need the garage space for storage. Our home is cluttered and so full of stuff that it's difficult to clean, and making one room presentable means moving piles of things into other rooms and closing the doors. We can't have people over because it's too embarrassing with the mess everywhere, but without sorting space it's hard to see what we have.

I know that decluttering shouldn't be so hard (you just gather up your stuff and throw away the things you don't want anymore) but if we had the garage, we could do simple things like move seasonal decorations into storage so that our linen closet doesn't have to be filled with Christmas ornaments and Halloween-themed dishes. If all the blankets could be in the linen closet, than my clothes would fit in my closet and wouldn't block my bookcases and my books wouldn't be piled on Sean's desk in the office. It's a cascading effect.

Some people are rolling their eyes at this and saying, "So why don't you just get rid of the stuff you don't need?" We are moving to that point, but it's hard to know what to get rid of when you aren't sure what you have in the first place.

I just wish that Jared can move his stuff out before winter comes and the rain hits. It would be nice to be able to sort things out while the sun's shining and the weather's pleasant.
09 August 2016 @ 10:49 pm
Today was a little different from the normal routine at the bookstore.  An artist named Karl Johnson came to the store to cut silhouette portraits for our customers.  Appointments for a sitting have been sold out for weeks.

It was a wonder to watch Karl work.  He was sitting on our stage, and a child would sit down in front of him.  In less than a minute he would size the child up and start cutting the silhouette out of special black paper.  In another minute the cut-out would be complete and he would paste the image onto a background, and if the customer wanted it framed he would take a few more seconds for that. He moved so fast and the silhouettes were so accurate that you could match the child to the picture with a quick glance.  He had a sitting every five minutes from store opening to close, with only a few short breaks to stretch and eat inbetween.

Jeans was helping him throughout the day.  She checked people in, took payment for the silhouettes, and managed the schedule.  When a squirmy baby or bored toddler started to fidget, she would distract them and keep them entertained.  Jeans is great with kids, so she was perfect for the role.

When we first set up Karl's day at the bookstore, I reserved two spots for Kitty's daughters.  Aria's first birthday was coming up and the silhouettes seemed like the perfect gift.  Sure, some might say that a baby won't appreciate that sort of present, but let's be honest - Aria's just one, any present I got would have leave no long-term impression on her.  At least the silhouettes would capture her and her sister Kairi, in this moment, at this age, in a really cool way.

The silhouettes turned out really well:

Kairi, age 4

Aria, age 1

Every time he cuts a silhouette, Karl ends up with two identical copies.  He gives one to the customer, and they have an option to buy the second silhouette.  If they choose not to purchase both copies, the second one is thrown away.  Knowing that I was connected to Kitty, he saved the duplicates of her kids and gave them to me at the end of the day.  Aren't they sweet?  They're growing up into such adorable, fun girls.  
08 August 2016 @ 09:57 pm
I haven't written about my nephews in a long time.  I don't see them very often, especially now that their parents have split up.  They spend much of their time in Morgan Hill and Gilroy, closer to where their mother lives.

They are growing up, though I tend to think of them as toddlers still. In fact, they're so grown up that they'll be starting kindergarten in the fall. Pretty exciting, right? Even better is the fact that they'll be going to school here in San Jose, at the local elementary school across the street from my work. With the twins close by, it's highly likely I'll see them more.

But the kids are nervous about starting school. That's understandable. I'm not sure that they've ever been separated from each other from more than an hour or two, and they've spent nearly all their time with their parents or grandparents. Now that the time to start school is rapidly approaching (I think they start next week?) the twins are not too happy about it.

To help them through this fear, Terry took the boys to check out Willow Glen Elementary's campus. We met the kids at the street corner and went in with them. The kids had shiny new handcuffs so all they wanted to do was "arrest" Seanie and me. They chased us all over the playgrounds for to slap the handcuffs on and drag us off to jail. The cuffs were just a touch too small for Seanie, so he was able to slide them off pretty easily, which made the kids so frustrated because they couldn't figure out why the cuffs didn't work. Unfortunately, whenever Liam gets frustrated he has a tendency to physically lash out and he punched Sean once or twice. Arlo isn't as aggressive, but he's trickier and will try to convince adults that what he wants is also what they want. Right now, he's little so his attempts at sneakiness are pretty transparent.

It was fun, though. The kids got a chance to see the slides and the jungle gyms, which got them excited for school. Since the classrooms were all locked up we couldn't show them where they'd spend the majority of their time as kindergartners, but we tried to peek into the windows and guess about what was inside.

When it started to get dark, we walked over to Terry's house for ice cream. With hindsight, it was probably a bad idea to load the kids up with sugar right before bedtime, but as aunts and uncles everywhere gleefully acknowledge, that's the parent's problem. We got to go home and watch TV instead of trying to wrestle two bouncing boys into pajamas. That is a pretty good deal.
05 August 2016 @ 10:31 pm
Awesome Pack #5

My boss was on vacation for a big chunk of July, and then we had a string of events.  When I got home in the evenings, I was so tired that all I wanted to do was zone out with a book or by watching TV.  Seanie and I played hardly any games at all.  I hope we'll have more time this month for our new Awesome Pack games.

2-8+ players
Codenames is a social word game with a simple premise and challenging game play. Two rival spymasters know the secret identities of 25 agents. Their teammates know the agents only by their codenames. The teams compete to see who can make contact with all of their agents first. Spymasters give one-word clues that can point to multiple words on the table. Their teammates try to guess words of their color while avoiding those that belong to the opposing team. And everyone wants to avoid the assassin. The game works very well with 4 players if you prefer to guess without help. Or you can add more players if you prefer lively discussion. There is also a cooperative variant where a single team tries to achieve the highest score they can by playing against the game itself.
Game's retail price: $19.95

Interesting.  I like that this game is so flexible for parties of any size.  I don't think this game would have caught my attention if I saw it sitting in a store, but since it's here I'll try it.

Trap! Zany Zombies
2-4 players
Introducing TRAP!, the new fast-paced, deductive, dice-rolling card game system for 2-4 players by the designer of Killer Bunnies, Jeffrey Neil Bellinger. In TRAP! you're trying to ensnare the biggest sets of creatures over the course of five rounds. This assortment features 6 increasingly zany zombies that players will have to hunt down as well as an exclusive bonus link and lock card for use with TRAP! Nimble Ninjas!
Game's retail price: $14.99

I didn't know IDW made board and/or card games.  I only know them as a graphic novel company.  I guess they've expanded, or they've always been a multi-platform entertainment company and I never realized it.

2 players
Elegant design, natural materials and simple game rules are combined to offer players an exquisite and original game. Each player tries to be the first to place 6 of their pieces on their opponent's camp while ensuring that their remaining game pieces are not left too far behind. An environmentally friendly and beautiful game.
Game's retail price: $16.95

This looks cool.  I love simple games like mancala and this looks like it'll be a relaxing and fun game.

Curious to learn more about this awesome subscription box? Visit Awesome Pack's website for more details:
05 July 2016 @ 08:18 pm
Awesome Pack #4

Seanie and I attempted to play some of the games from May's Awesome Pack, but we weren't terribly successful.  It turns out that Press Start Pocket is virtually impossible to play.  The rules are written poorly and it's unclear what the numbers on the cards mean during gameplay.  We got so frustrated trying to figure the game out, even seeking out advice on board game forums and scouring Youtube for game instruction videos.  All we found were other disappointed players.  We also opened up Jeopardy! to but quickly realized we wouldn't get very far without a third player, so that has also been shelved for now.  We had a lot of fun with Set from April's Awesome Pack.  The game is easy to learn, quick to play, and the compact size will make it great for entertaining ourselves when we stand in line at Disneyland.

Another Awesome Pack came in today's mail.  Let's see what fun it has in store for us.

2-5 players
Another day, another mammoth hunt. But the spoils of the hunt remains to be divided, and everyone tries to secure the largest share for themselves in this quick and clever family strategy game.
Game's retail price: $18.00-$23.00

This looks like a lot of fun.  It doesn't seem overly complicated, so it should have a quick learning curve, but the game requires strategy so it's not mindless either.  It's the sort of game that will bring out the competitive streak in me and my brother.

Jab: Real-Time Boxing
2 players

Get ready to rumble. Jab is a strategic boxing game unlike anything you've played before. In Jab, you get direct control over your boxer's fists, providing an experience as close as possible to real boxing without getting punched in the face. Jab is real-time. There are no turns. You can play as fast as you want, but remember playing smart is more important than playing fast. Finally, you can beat up your friends and family, without the annoying assault charges and anger management classes. 2 players. 15 minutes. Jab re-invents the Real-time genre by slowing down gameplay and challenging you with strategic decisions. The innovative engine tests a player's "strategic agility" by forcing constant quick decisions.
Game's retail price: $15.99

Hmm.  Boxing, huh?  I've never been especially inclined towards a boxing game, but this one does have a major hook to draw me in: it was designed by Tasty Minstral Games, and I've enjoyed other games they created.  Plus, a two player game means that Seanie and I can play this together, and that's always a good thing.

New York
2-6 players

You are in the construction boom in New York in the early 1930s. As a player, you get involved in the planning and building work of creating a fascinating metropolis.
Game's retail price: $25.00-$30.00

I haven't seen this before, but it's based on the game Alhambra, which is quite popular amongst board game afficiandos.  To be honest, I can't remember if I've ever played the game.  a New York City building game sounds like a lot of fun, though.  Count me in!

There are definitely some fun games in this set.  It'll be a lot of fun to play them with friends and family.

Curious to learn more about this awesome subscription box? Visit Awesome Pack's website for more details:
Savor the Dark Book Club
June 2016

Quarterly Co. is a subscription box service company that partners with celebrities to "curate" boxes, usually themed around food or fashion or cool gadgets, which are mailed out four times a year. For their book and chocolate-themed box, Quarterly partnered with Ghirardelli.

Chocolate and books are two of my favorite things to consume. I go through both in absurdly large quantities. Pairing the two items in a subscription service? That's a match made in heaven! I found out about Quarterly's Savor the Dark Book Club, a subscription box limited to only three mailings, and immediately wanted to sign up. I did question the wisdom of shipping chocolate bars in the summer heat, but after considering the amount of candy I've had sent to me and the fact that I can't think of any major meltdowns, I thought it would be safe enough.

I opened the box and it looked like there won't be any problems with melted chocolate. It was packaged separately in its own box, next to an ice pack and wrapped in another bag. I turned my attention to the letter at the top of the box, a note from Miranda Beverly-Whittemore welcoming readers to her novel. Attached to the letter was a list of discussion questions for her novel June and several recipes that I think must tie into the novel, because not a one calls for Ghirardelli chocolate.

JUNE: A Novel by Miranda Beverly-Whitemore
Twenty-five-year-old Cassie Danvers is holed up in her family’s crumbling mansion in rural St. Jude, Ohio, mourning the loss of the woman who raised her—her grandmother, June. But a knock on the door forces her out of isolation. Cassie has been named the sole heir to legendary matinee idol Jack Montgomery's vast fortune. How did Jack Montgomery know her name? Could he have crossed paths with her grandmother all those years ago? What other shocking secrets could June’s once-stately mansion hold?

Soon Jack’s famous daughters come knocking, determined to wrestle Cassie away from the inheritance they feel is their due. Together, they all come to discover the true reasons for June’s silence about that long-ago summer, when Hollywood came to town, and June and Jack’s lives were forever altered by murder, blackmail, and betrayal. As this page-turner shifts deftly between the past and present, Cassie and her guests will be forced to reexamine their legacies, their definition of family, and what it truly means to love someone, steadfastly, across the ages.

Sounds OK. It's not a novel I would have been likely to pick up on my own, but it sounds interesting enough. I'm sure I'll find it diverting enough on a lazy summer afternoon.  The book was not autographed by the author, but a bookplate that she had signed was thrown into the box. It's not nearly as collectible, but the fact that they thought to include it was a nice touch.

GHIRARDELLI INTENSE DARK 72% Cacao Twilight Delight Chocolate Bar
The luxuriously deep and velvety chocolate in Ghirardelli Intense Dark is made by selecting the highest quality beans to create our all natural exclusive bean blend. Experience a moment of timeless pleasure as the intense chocolate pleasure lingers and time stands still.

GHIRARDELLI INTENSE DARK Cabernet Matinee Chocolate Bar
The luxuriously deep and velvety dark chocolate in Cabernet Matinee is infused with the tart flavor of blackberries and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes delivering unrivaled chocolate intensity. Experience a moment of timeless pleasure with Ghirardelli's Intense Dark chocolate.

GHIRARDELLI INTENSE DARK Hazelnut Heaven Chocolate Bar
The luxuriously deep and velvety dark chocolate in Hazelnut heaven is infused with crunch, deep roasted hazelnuts delivering unrivaled chocolate intensity. Savor a moment that will carry you through your day.

All three of these chocolate bars sound delicious. I've had some of the Intense Dark chocolate bars before, and they always have a nice balance between the bitterness of the chocolate and the added in flavors like blackberry and hazelnut.

The Savor the Dark Book Club is a nice enough idea, but it's rather a poor deal. Each box is $45 ($40 + $5 S&H) and the value of the items inside is nowhere near that. June is a $26 book, and 3.5 oz Ghirardelli chocolate bar sells for $3.95 at the grocery store (and often will be on sale for $$2.50 or $3). Most subscription boxes have a value higher than the price tag, since it's likely that the recipient will like every single thing in the box. After seeing the contents of this box, I immediately canceled the subscription. I can pick my own book and my own chocolates without the risk of getting something I don't want.

It's too bad, because the box idea was a good one. If another company attempts something similar in the future, I'd be open to trying again.
Powell's Indiespensable Book Club
Volume 59: Homegoing

Since 2008, Powell's Books of Portland, OR has run a book club/subscription service that sends a new, autographed hardcover book in a custom slipcase to its subscribers. Each mailing is accompanied with notes on the selected book and a surprise selection of extra items.

HOMEGOING by Yaa Gyasi
A novel of breathtaking sweep and emotional power that traces three hundred years in Ghana and along the way also becomes a truly great American novel. Extraordinary for its exquisite language, its implacable sorrow, its soaring beauty, and for its monumental portrait of the forces that shape families and nations, Homegoing heralds the arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction.
Two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.
Generation after generation, Yaa Gyasi’s magisterial first novel sets the fate of the individual against the obliterating movements of time, delivering unforgettable characters whose lives were shaped by historical forces beyond their control. Homegoing is a tremendous reading experience, not to be missed, by an astonishingly gifted young writer.

I'm really excited about this month's selected book! I don't know much about Homegoing but one of my co-workers has been absolutely RAVING about it for weeks, and her enthusiasm makes me want to drop what I'm currently reading and dive in.

Like all Indiespensable books, Homegoing is signed by the author and comes in a custom slipcase. It's so simple, yet elegant.  I love the way these slipcases look when they're all lined up on my shelves.  A small yellow chapbook is also included with the book that includes an interview with Yaa Gyasi.

This is just the sort of notebook I'm always looking for!  It has unlined blank pages, a pocket on the back cover for miscellaneous bits of paper, an elastic band so the book won't fly open when jostled in a bag, and it's roughly 8" x 6" so it's quite portable.  This is great!

When I'm not geeking out about notebooks, I can get pretty obsessive about pens.  I'm not a snob, by which I mean I don't have a brand that I'm strictly loyal to, but one of the easiest ways to put a smile on my face is to tell me to go to Office Depot and pick up some new pens for the office.  I'll spend an hour poring over the different features and testing the smoothness of the ink flow.

I think it's so cool that Powell's is encouraging Indiespensable subscribers to express themselves.  Whether this notebook gets used for taking notes on books while you're reading or for making diary entries or observational sketches, it's a fun, bookish thing to include.

Powell's Indiespensable subscription costs $39.95 per box. To learn more about it, visit the Indiespensable page at Powell's Books.
22 June 2016 @ 09:06 pm
So as predicted yesterday, it was waaay past midnight by the time we de-planed and made it to Casa de Santos, our home away from home in Florida. Papa Santos is a social man, and despite the late hour he wanted to stay up and chat and get caught up. Oh, and feed us. Every few minutes he'd ask if we were hungry and wanted something to eat or drink. Seanie chased me off to bed when the clock struck one, but even after I'd brushed my teeth and settled in for the night I could hear the sound of voices downstairs. It must have been nearly three by the time I drifted off...

...which wasn't nearly enough sleep for a conference like Children's Institute. I couldn't get myself up in time for the keynote speaker (thus missing a chance to see Kate DiCamillo! The heartbreak!) but Alexis dropped me off at the conference hotel just in time for the first session. It was a pretty good one called “Stemming the Summer Slide With Summer Reading and Book Camps”; back home in San Jose HB's was kicking off our own summer program so I was really curious to hear what other stores were doing.

They're doing a lot of cool stuff is what they're doing. One store talked about their summer camps, where they watch kids every day from 9-5 with different literary-themed activities. So one week they might do a Camp Half-Blood while another week is Harry Potter-themed. These were stores with whole rooms set aside for community events, and I got the sense that when it came to entertainment in town, other options for parents were fairly limited. It sounded neat, but it also seemed like an incredible amount of work. I couldn't imagine trying to pull something like that together at HB's, even if we had the space (which we don't). Another store talked about summer book clubs that they do with teens, and that made me feel a little puffed with pride because I thought HB's TAB program was much better than what they described.

The next talk was about the children's book market. Kristen McLean went over numbers gleaned from book sales and highlighted what the hot sellers have been (non-fiction and graphic novels) and what categories have slowed down (non-fiction that ties into Common Core curriculum, which I thought was really interesting). It was very similar to a talk she gave at Winter Institute, but this was purely kid-book focused, while Winter Institute's talk included adult books.

I was exhausted and nearly nodding off, even though the talk was really interesting. The lack of sleep was really catching up with me. As we headed into lunch, I also started feel nauseous. I thought maybe eating would help, but every time I looked at food my stomach started to churn. I hoped caffeine would help.

Lunch at a bookseller's conference is still working time. At this particular lunch, reps from the different publishing houses were “speed dating” their way around the room – they'd stop at a lunch table, talk for a few minutes about upcoming titles, and then move on to the next group. I could not focus, not even when forcing myself to take notes. When the next break came, I went to the hotel lobby and called Papa Santos to ask him to pick me up and take me home.

Conference: DEFEATED.

It can't be helped. Some people are strong enough to get by on a couple of hours of sleep, but I'm not one of them. I slept the entire afternoon away, missing a talk by Dana Suskind about developing children's brains and another talk about Disney's approach to business excellence by Jeff James. An even bigger disappointment to me was that I missed the Author Reception. It's such a great opportunity – I think there were fifty authors in the room and the reception is the best time to make an impression and hopefully get them to come to the store. (You also score the best books at the reception.)

But even after I woke up, I figured it was best to stay home and rest so that I'd have the energy for the second day of Children's Institute. So I had chicken soup with Papa and Mama Santos while Seanie and Alexis were off having their own adventures fishing on the Florida coast. Papa Santos told stories about his early days working at Disney World and the challenges he and his family faced when they first moved to the United States from Puerto Rico. It was a lot of fun, although I felt a little guilty about missing all the work stuff earlier.

Better luck tomorrow!
21 June 2016 @ 07:10 pm
Today has been a travel nightmare.

Seanie and I were dropped off at San Jose's airport at half past six in the morning.  Our flight wasn't until 8:40 but after the nightmare security lines I experienced in Chicago last month, I didn't want to take any chances that we might miss our flight.  Luckily, our line was on the normal-to-short end of the spectrum, and we were through after half an hour or so.

The first leg of our flight was fine.  Friendly Southwest employees, take-off was on time, and we were given cookies to snack on in addition to the usual little bag of peanuts.  But when we landed in Dallas things quickly took a turn for worse.

Nobody likes layovers, but this one was okay.  De-plane around 2:30, get onto the next one around 4:30.  Two hours?  Not so bad.  But when we actually arrived at the airport, we learned that our plane was delayed in San Diego and would not make it into Dallas Love Field until after 9:00 pm.  That's an hour after we were supposed to arrive at our final destination!  The only explanation we were offered for the delay was there was a personnel issue in San Diego.

Seanie asked if there was anything they could do.  A Southwest representative managed to locate another flight for us to Orlando by way of New Orleans.  We'd still have to cool our heels in Dallas for a while, but even with the detour to Louisiana we'd reach our destination a couple of hours before our original flight's new estimated arrival time.  So we switched the tickets and comforted ourselves with the thought of beignets in New Orleans.

The Southwest terminal in New Orleans, it turns out, doesn't have beignets.  No matter, our layover was only about half an hour so by the time we'd walked the terminal and hit the restaurants, it was time to board our third plane.

We managed to score sweet seats at the front of the plane with plenty of leg room. Sean and I stretched out to wait. And wait. And wait..?  What's going on?  After the entire plane was boarded and we'd been sitting for about twenty minutes without moving, a stewardess announced that the co-pilot hadn't yet arrived so we couldn't take off.  His arrival was anticipated in an hour or so.


Luckily, they let us off the plane until the co-pilot showed up.  I think I would have gone nuts sitting in that cabin with no air conditioning in stuffy, humid New Orleans.  Once back in the terminal, Seanie and I scanned our food options.  We could eat Lucky Dog hotdogs or Zatarain's Kitchen, pick up some po' boys at a kiosk, or eat prepackaged meals from one of the markets.  

We ended up at Zatarain's for the simple reason that it was the only full-service restaurant in the terminal.  The food itself was all super-heavy and greasy, as Southern cuisine trends, and it did not sound the least bit appetizing. On the plus side, they were serving tiki drinks so I could at least take comfort in a good ol' Hurricane.  Anything is better than being trapped in that airplane cabin for an extra hour!

Our arrival time in Orlando is currently estimated around 11:00 pm, I think.  By the time we get our bags and drive out to Alexis' house, where we're staying, it'll be midnight or later.  Children's Institute starts right at 7:30 am tomorrow morning and runs 'til late; I hope I won't be too much of a zombie for it.
07 June 2016 @ 09:53 pm
I am just dying to know who will win the primaries here in California tonight.

At this moment, with 7% of precincts reporting, Hillary Clinton is leading Bernie Sanders by over twenty percentage points.  It's not terribly surprising. Much of Bernie Sanders' appeal was to independent voters, the folks not registered as Democratic.  In order to vote in the primary, indies had to either re-register as Democrats or go into a polling place today and request an alternative ballot.  On neighborhood Facebook pages, there are reports of voters who went in but were unable to get the new form, or found they were registered for a party that doesn't allow its members to vote in other primaries.  That's what happened to me.  I didn't realize until after the May 23rd deadline that if I wanted to vote for a Democrat, I had to re-register as a No Party Preference.  Since I'm registered as a member of the Green Party, I vote in the Green Party primary.

Well, nuts.  I like Jill Stein a lot better than any of the other Presidential candidates but I would have given the vote to Bernie to try to keep him in the running.

My fault.


At least I got to weigh in on the California Senate race, where Barbara Boxer's departure from her post has led to a wide-open, crazy field.  I like voting third party - all the self-righteousness and none of the responsibility for the final results, ha ha - and I'm pretty much a one-issue voter.  A candidate's environmental policies makes or breaks their campaign for me.  This made Mike Beatiks the perfect candidate for me.  He's running on pretty much a single issue: protecting California from climate change.

Does he have a chance of winning? No way.
Is his entire campaign a joke? Probably. Hard to say with a domain name like IWillNotDoNothing.Org.  He doesn't have a lot of specifics in his platform, but should he win a seat in the Senate his plans include:

Sit patiently outside of fellow lawmakers’ offices, waiting for them to talk to me.
•  “Peacock” – wear unique and showy pieces of clothing and/or jewelry that will catch fellow lawmakers’ eyes and pique their interest in me. Then, I go in for the kill.
•  Eat bugs for votes.
•  Stand over the shoulders of certain Senators during climate votes and puff my chest out. I won’t actually do anything, but they don’t know that.
•  “Negging” – give fellow legislators backhanded compliments to lower their self-esteem. Then, I go in for the kill.
•  Learn about other politicians’ interests. Use that to strike up conversations with them. Lure them into friendship. Have them over for dinner with my family. Enjoy a few drinks and a few laughs. Set up scenarios where I save their lives. Cash in on those debts.
•  Spend every session of congress crying loudly until climate change is fixed. You’d be surprised how hard it is to ignore a 200-pound crying man.
•  Disable the thermostat on the senate floor. Just as, like, you know, a gentle reminder that, ultimately, we exist at the whim of the planet that sustains us.
•  Use every dollar and ounce of support I can get my hands on to recruit the right scientists and policy experts to get us the exact perfect plan for the political and scientific climate we will be inhabiting when I am in office.
My kind of politician. Can I get a beer with this guy?

Yeah, I know that Kamela Harris will likely be duking it out with another Democrat when the fall election comes, but the beer offer is still good if Beatiks wants to take me up on it.


I haven't paid as much attention as I should to the local races. Oops.  There was one local councilman that I really want to see replaced, because he's made some decisions that I really disagree with, but he ran for a different position and his potential replacements failed to distinguish themselves in a meaningful way.


Looks like that stupid pot initiative (Measure AA I think?) is going to go down in flames.  It's currently 65% NO, although with only 15/432 precincts reporting there's a lot of counting left to do.  But I can't seem to go a day without selling someone smoking weed in San Jose, so I really don't believe there's any need to bring in more dispensaries.  I am surprised to see that Measure B, which would raise the city's sales tax, appears to be carving out a sizable lead.  Every time the local sales tax gets raised, more shoppers turn to the Internet to avoid paying it.
05 June 2016 @ 11:58 pm
When Seanie plays online video games with his friends, he usually wears headphones so that he can hear them talk.  He doesn't use cheapie freebie earbuds like I do; his headphones are a quality set with good sound-blocking.

If I need to ask him a question, I'll go up to him and call his name several times.  No response.  Eventually I'll reach out and tap his shoulder, or shout his name once, and this happens:

One of these days he'll have a heart attack.  Poor Seanie.
31 May 2016 @ 10:45 pm
Awesome Pack #3

When you sign up for an Awesome Pack, they ask you for some biographical information about your family. Names, age of family members, and other basic information so that they can make sure the games they send are appropriate for the family. Since both Sean and I were born in May, our May box came with two birthday cards in it, one for each of us. It's cute little touches like this that really personalize the boxes.

I don't know if our birthdays were a factor, but it felt like this box was just stuffed and practically bursting at the scenes. They sent a total of FIVE games for May! I'm so excited I don't know where to start!

2-4 players

A game by Kimmo Sorsamo for 2-4 players aged 8 and up. The bazaar in Cairo is bustling already early in the morning. Carpets, precious oils and exquisite spice are waiting for their customers. But only a large booth will attract their attention. Being traders, 2 to 4 players expand their market stalls to lure rich clientele. Players balance expanding their sites against drawing customers in -- bigger shops give you more victory points, but only when customers enter. Resources must be gathered, but each turn spent drawing is a turn the other players are building. Sometimes a market barker will be of good help, because the competitors are not idle and the customers don't like to walk long distances.
Game's retail price: $35.00 - $40.00

This is a great looking game! Even Seanie was excited when he read the description, and he isn't nearly as fond of board games as I am. (In fact, I strongly suspect he would never play them if I wasn't such a fan.) I can't wait to bust this one out at the next family party.

Empire Engine
2-4 players

Once, the world of Mekannis was united and prospered under the guidance of the Great Engine-an enormous thinking machine built into the molten heart of the world. Over millennia, Mekannis was transformed until every piece of land was incorporated into the gears and levers of the Engine itself. An act of hubris by the world's rulers caused a series of devastating malfunctions that shattered the land and the death of the Great Engine. Now four empires rise to dominance. Each empire vies to fulfill the prophecy and restore the Great Engine, the source of ultimate power.
Game's retail price: $9.99

This is a fast version of civilization-building games like Settlers of Catan or Civilization. It looks like fun! It's the sort of game my brother and I would have taken camping when we were little.

Jeopardy! Travel Edition
3+ players

Jeopardy!® Travel Edition Card Game puts the big fun of Jeopardy into a small package to take on the road. The card game features exclusive content not contained in the big box board game.
Game's retail price: $20.00?

I love trivia games, and this travel version of Jeopardy looks like just the card game for entertaining my husband and our friends when waiting in line at Disneyland or for a play to begin. If I play often enough, do you think I can become the next Ken Jennings?

High Command Rapid Engagement
2 players

High Command Rapid Engagement is a two-player deck building card game in which players raise and lead mighty armies to capture strategic objectives across the Iron Kingdoms. Leverage your resources and command your forces to set your banner above all western Immoren!
Game's retail price: $11.99

This looks like a game for my brother. He loves deck card games like Magic: the Gathering. He might enjoy mixing it up with something similar, but set in a completely different world and possibly different strategies.

Press Start Pocket Series 3
2 players

ACTION PACKED! A card game adventure like no other. Select your 8-bit warrior and head into battle versus your 8-bit foe. Use huge weapons, super enhancers and attack cards to outwit and out-muscle the 8-bit competition.
Game's retail price: $8.99

This game looks like it was made for my husband. Using 8-bit characters, players head into battle with each other? Yup. Totally a game for a video gamer like Seanie.

We have so many games this month that I don't know if we'll be able to play them all before the next box shows up. Luckily, we do have some travel planned this summer so I will save the card games for those trips. They'll be worth their weight in gold on a long, boring plane flight across the country.

Curious to learn more about this awesome subscription box? Visit Awesome Pack's website for more details:

I guess you could call this comic strip appearance #13.5, but since it's a single panel with no dialogue I figured I probably didn't need to repost it here.

People really seem to expect that we'll every book ever published on the shelves. If only we could!  Tens of thousands of books are printed each year, and it's impossible for a bookstore to have anything but the smallest fraction on the shelves at a given time. A lot of those books are pretty much crap, and you're better off having booksellers cull the herd and present you with only the best choices.  But we're always more than willing to order something for you because we know we've missed things you may want due to the never-ending flow of new titles competing for space in our little space.  

A customer like this would drive me absolutely batty.  Common sense, people.  You need very little to get by, and yet some people survive without any at all.
Also, don't ask stupid questions.  If you need a book in French, absolutely ask where the French books are. Don't stand around asking inane questions and wasting my time for no good reason.  I have real work to do.
17 May 2016 @ 08:57 am
IPSY: MAY 2016

The bag this month is incredibly cute! It looks a little like an envelope with its triangular flap closure, and it is covered with icons from around the world. Statue of Liberty, the pyramids at Giza, Stonehenge, and so many more famous destinations make this purple bag just SCREAM travel. Well, I'm always down for an adventure. What products does Ipsy think I should take with me?

EPICE Hydrating Mask: Kaolin clay to detoxify the skin and rosemary and witch hazel provide their astringent properties. You know, the ingredients for this mask don't exactly scream hydration. It should be great for cleaning up clogged pores, though. Travel size. $12.50

PACIFICA Natural Mineral Coconut Eye Shadow Trio: The colors in this trio are “Skinny Dip”, “Crush”, and “Lovely”. I like Pacifica's body lotions and fragrance line, but I've found their cosmetic colors to be disappointing. The colors aren't very vibrant and tend to have poor staying power. I like this combination of copper/brown/beige so I'm sure I'll end up trying it. Sample. $12.00

BELLAPIERRE Gel Lip Liner Pencil in “Nude”: I don't really use lip liners, although I often wonder if I should. I avoid it because I go through lipstick so fast that I feel like I'd be walking around with a ring around the edges of my lips, but if you use a pencil to “color in” your lips before applying your main color it's supposed to increase the staying power of your lip stuff. Full size. $18.00

PEEK Nom Nom Natural Plumping Balm in “Miracle”: Does anyone remember Lip Venom from the early 2000s? I think the product is still around today, but it got a lot of press in my early college years. This seems to be a milder version, a balm that uses chili pepper extract to get blood flowing to the lips, creating a plumping effect. The stuff is pricey at $22 for a two gram tin! Full size. $22.00

SMASHBOX COSMETICS X-Rated Mascara: What can I say? It's mascara. I've tried for years to become adept at using this stuff, and it just doesn't work for me. I can't seem to prevent clumping when I apply it and it always seems to flake, giving me raccoon eyes. I'm happier just not using it. Trial size. $10.00

This is a bittersweet bag for me, because it's my final Ipsy bag. I canceled my year-long subscription a few months ago and have been waiting out the last few bags. After three years I have more lipsticks, eyeliners, and tubes of mascara than I can ever possibly use! I'm well-supplied on palettes, highlighters, bronzers, and blushes. My make-up bags runneth over.

For the price, I think Ipsy is a great subscription service, especially when you're young and looking to experiment with different kinds of cosmetics. I'm so glad that my friend J introduced it to me all those years ago, because I've had a lot of fun with these monthly surprises.
08 May 2016 @ 11:46 am

I am a sucker for mystery packages.  I mean, why do I have so many subscription boxes?  Because I can't resist the allure of a box with unknown contents appearing magically on my doorstep.

Disney has recently started Lego figures based on their popular animated characters, but instead of selling Peter Pan or Minnie Mouse directly, the figures are only available in mystery packs.  You have no idea which figure you bought until you open the package.  It's an excellent way to ensure people with addictive personalities will spend tons of money trying to complete the set - or at least to find their favorite character.  I haven't bought any yet, but only because I know it is a dark slippery slope to start climbing down.

If only I knew someone like Mike in real life...
02 May 2016 @ 08:06 am
2016 New Year's Resolutions

Eliminate blogging backlog
k00kaburra : up from 420 to 441 entries
fashion_piranha : up from 121 to 132 entries

Between travel and work I just haven't had a chance to do much blogging.  I thought that while Seanie was away in Japan, I'd have more time to write, but that just hasn't worked out.

Get my weight to match my driver's license.
No progress.

Roam and ramble the world a bit.
I went to Japan!  I left the country!
Even if I don't travel elsewhere this year, I'll consider this resolution completed.

Get creative!
This is a second-tier goal this year. Blogging will take priority until I'm caught up. My hope is that once I AM caught up, I can use that time that was once reserved for writing for more creative projects like painting in the backyard or getting myself back into a ceramics studio.