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12 January 2019 @ 07:17 pm
I feel like I reach a new stage of adulthood today because Seanie and I bought a mattress, which seems very important but also so very grown-up and boring.

Our current mattress is an old thing from the late 1970s or early 80s, a hand-me-down from the guest room of some friend of a friend. It's hard and lumpy and terrible, although it was an improvement over the mattress before that. That horror was a mattress that bumped amongst the Buckley boys for who knows how long, and was a truly miserable sleeping experience.

So for Christmas, Seanie's parents gave us a gift certificate to Mattress Firm. It might have made more sense for them to give us the cash, so we wouldn't be locked down to a particular retailer, but lets' be honest: if we had cash, we would have stashed it in savings and never purchased anything. The gift certificate forced us to stop putting off the chore of buying a mattress. So we went in and tested out mattresses, with a saleswoman constantly trying to get us to buy. It didn't bother me too much - it's her job, after all - but after a while it really felt like she was trying to rush us. We left to think about our options, and while searching for reviews of the Tulo mattresses we realized that there was a huge discount on the exact model we were considering online. The Tulo website had the California King mattress marked down to $599 from $850, which was significantly cheaper than the deal we'd been offered.

We'd also noticed that there was a free bed frame with purchases over $500, which was cool because the bed frames are the kind that can be moved into a sitting position with a remote. Since I like to read in bed, that seemed super handy - and while we hadn't factored in the cost, it was a fact that if we did upgrade to a Cal King we would need a new frame because our old one was sized to a queen.

Annoyed that the saleswoman hadn't told us about the bed frame sale or offered us a better discount, we ended up going into another Mattress Firm location and asking the staff to match the online price and throw in the bed frame. They agreed without hesitation, which makes me suspect we might have been able to negotiate even more, but no matter. The price was good enough and thanks to my uncle's generosity at Christmas, the balance after the gift certificate was already paid for.

The mattress will be delivered next Wednesday. I'm excited. This is the first really big purchase we've made as a couple; with the exception of my bookcases, all of our pieces of furniture and appliances have been gifts or hand-me-downs. (Or cheap thrift store finds.) I'm a little nervous because the new mattress is significantly larger than the current one so space is going to be a bit tighter in our bedroom, but it'll be worth it. Poor tall Seanie will finally be able to stretch out without his feet dangling off the end of the bed!
Inventory is coming up on Sunday. It'll be our first time attempting an inventory count with IBIDie, with new machines and procedures. I've done what prep I can: talked through the process with our tech support staff, tested the machines, charged their batteries, and walked through each step as far as I can without actually initializing the inventory process.

I'm a little nervous about it, but I can't really guess at what problems may come up until we muddle through the first time. Yesterday, I made the mistake of saying as much to the bosses, who immediately turned aggressive. One insisted I should be doing more to prepare, and the other countered that she was sure I was coming in the next day (my day off) to do exactly that. When I replied that no, I wasn't planning to come in because there wasn't anything else I could do, they just stared.
"How can you not come in? It's not as if we ask it all the time. Inventory is only once a year, and the least you should do is prepare for it properly."

This comment really got under my skin. Officially, I'm only supposed to work four days a week; that's what I negotiated instead of a pay raise last year. It hasn't actually worked out that way. Due to "once a year" events like inventory and Educator's Night and off-site marquee authors, not to mention in-store weekend author events, tech support, employees calling out sick, payroll deadlines, and just keeping up with the store's communication has me working in the store on weekends at least once a month, and several hours each week off-the-clock from home.

I'm the only one expected to work this much and this hard - to the vast majority of the staff, this is just a fun side gig to help fund a fondness for reading. There's no drive to try new things or hustle. It makes the job unsustainable. My pleas to hire some sort of assistant manager to help with the workload fall on deaf ears even as the owners continue to step back from the business. I'm not sure they even realize how much they've let go, but they can't even operate the cash registers anymore. I'm just exhausted all the time, and at the end of the day it's still not enough and for what? What am I really getting out of this?

First, we get through inventory.
Then, maybe I need to sit down and really think about what this bookseller thing really means. I love this store and this field, but I don't know if I can keep doing this job.
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10 January 2019 @ 11:01 pm
It was about time for a triumphant return from Trader Vic's.

I was nervous, of course. Ever since my fall and subsequent hospital visit I haven't really been able to drink alcohol the way that I used to. I don't know if I'm having some sort of allergic reaction or if it's entirely psychological, but I start feeling sick so easily. I don't want to stop going to Trader Vic's and other tiki bars just because drinking makes me nervous, but I also don't want to find myself face-planting on the tile floor again.

Especially not at a work event.

But it all went fine. I skipped a cocktail and had something fruity and non-alcoholic so I could focus on the purpose of the evening's dinner: meeting author Philip Stead and learning about his newest picture book, Music for Mister Moon . Legendary editor Neal Porter also spoke for a few minutes about the book, but he kept the focus on the Steads as much as possible.

Music for Mister Moon, which publishes in March, goes something like this: A little girl is practicing her cello when a noisy owl upsets her. She throws her teacup out the window and knocks the moon out of the sky. She and the moon become friends, and he confides that he'd really like to go on a boat ride on a lake he's seen from the sky. She's happy to help him fulfill his dream, but his other request, to hear her perform her music, makes her far more nervous. It's a quiet, gentle picture book, the sort of thing one reads at bedtime to calm children down into sleepiness.

Philip wrote the book with his wife, Erin. Well, he wrote and she illustrated, but they're such a partnership that I tend to imagine it's all collaborative. She is a talented illustrator, and for this book she had nearly finished the art when she decided to scrap the whole thing and start over with a new printmaking technique. It sounds like madness, but when you see the images they're so lovely and perfect for the story that you can instantly see why she'd feel so strongly.

Instead of a traditional sit-down dinner, the event was more of a cocktail reception, so there was plenty of time to chat and socialize with other booksellers. Honestly, this is my favorite part of these author dinners. Don't get me wrong – I love meeting creators and hearing about new books! But there's something about being around other people in my field and remembering what an interesting and vibrant community we are that's simply wonderful.

Each bookseller was given a print from Mister Moon to take home, signed by the Steads. I was able to bring an extra print home for V; she LOVES the Steads and wasn't able to make it to the dinner. She'll be so excited.

My photo doesn't do the print justice.
09 January 2019 @ 11:22 pm
Tonight was the bookstore's staff party. The bosses host one every year after the holidays are over at a local cafe. They rent out the upper level and feed us and cap the evening with a gift exchange, a white elephant-style free-for-all with the twist that V&M provided all of the gifts. It's always a fun night, a chance to get everyone liquored up and relax a bit.

Now that I've been at the store for a few years, it's fun to see how new employees will react. We had two newbies this year. One is a quiet mother of two, the sort of woman you might pin as a Mormon with traditional family values. Turns out my coworkers and I missed the mark on that a bit because she drank quite a bit and was quite tipsy all evening. The other new girl is still in high school and looked a little overwhelmed, but she's quite mature for her age and always manages to hold her own with the older staff members.

We've gone to this restaurant for several years because the owner knows my bosses, but in the past few years he's been transitioning away from the restaurant's management. This year was the first time he wasn't at the party, and to be honest the lack of personal touch showed. On previous occasions, he acted as bartender and ensured that no glass ever went empty. This time, I walked in to find a selection of wine bottles on a table and not a waiter in sight. The food was less exciting, too. My first holiday party I had a delectable lamb chop that I still remember with a happy, longing sigh; this year's salmon or steak offerings were far more pedestrian. Throw in overcooked greens and bread rolls straight from a Costco bag and it wasn't the most inspired menu. I suppose I shouldn't be a snob about it, though. The recent minimum wage hike is probably hitting them just as hard as it's hitting us, so corners must be cut when they can.

V&M assign seating at these dinners, and sometimes you end up sitting with people you otherwise don't see more than a couple of times throughout the year. This year, though, I was tucked in-between a sweet old lady who cusses like a sailor to the delight of the millennial staff, and our school visits manager. I work with both of them frequently and it was quite fun.

Every year, as we wrap up dessert the bosses perform some sort of little song or rap about the store. They try to recognize each staff members' contributions to the success of the business, which is very sweet. They sang high praises of our sidelines buyer, who leaves at the end of the month, and welcomed the two new hires. My line in the song tied in with my role acting as tech support, which seemed very accurate for 2018.

The holiday party highlight is, of course, the gift exchange. I had a low number this year, so I was one of the first to go. I picked an oddly-shaped present, and it was an enormous, ugly bird feeder. It was metal and looked like a small umbrella with a dinner plate attached to the bottom of it. I couldn't imagine anyone wanting it, so I was resigned to trying to figure out a place to prop it up in our backyard, but one of the ladies actually stole it for her garden! I was so relieved.

The second gift I picked out was a massage kit. It was an aromatherapy-style one, similar to what I used to sell at Bath & Body Works back in the day. There was a plastic massage roller and a couple of essential oils bottles, a perfectly pleasant set. I once again assumed I was stuck; who would want massage oils when there were far more exciting offerings like exotic orchid plants, kitchen supplies, and fancy candles? But before long our tipsy Mormon mother stole it with an expression of pure delight. I didn't dare chance unwrapping a third present and getting stuck with something truly bizarre, so I stole a ceramic composting unit from one of my coworkers. It sounds so boring – I mean, compost? - but it'll look much nicer in our kitchen than the broken rice pot I've been using to store food scraps when I'm too lazy to carry things out to the compost bin.

There were some pretty nice gifts this year. A pretty turquoise teapot. A soft, fuzzy scarf. There was a bit of a fight over a cute Indian lunchbox. The high school student initially opened it, and you could tell that she just loved it. My f-bomb droppin' seatmate straight up stole it from her, though. Everyone was a little bit shocked that the nice li'l grandma stole from a teenager, but hey. Gift exchanges are seriously business, and these ladies don't mess around.

Some items were kinda neat, but I wouldn't know what to do with them. A desktop waterfall fountain is cool, but who has space for one? There were five or six large orchids, but I'd kill them just like I kill the miniature party favor plants we get at the end of each year's holiday party. In fact, I really need to research the care of orchids since this year we each received a little yellow orchid in a metal pail. I'd like to keep it alive, if possible. There's gotta be a first time, right?

All in all, another fun party and another year at the bookstore is wrapped up and done.
Good times.
Just when I thought I couldn't adore the man any more than I do...

Lin-Manuel Miranda and Friends Purchase Drama Book Shop
By Michael Paulson
Jan. 8, 2019
Original article link:

Lin-Manuel Miranda is already a composer, a lyricist, an actor and an author. Now he’s going to be a bookseller.

Mr. Miranda and three of his “Hamilton” collaborators have purchased the Drama Book Shop, a century-old theater district purveyor of scripts, sheet music and other stage-related reading material.

The surprise move is an effort to sustain the store, which is a mainstay of New York’s theater scene — in 2011 it was recognized with a Tony honor for excellence — but has struggled to survive the brutal Times Square real estate market and recently announced that it was being forced to move from its current location.

The rescue plan is a joint venture between the “Hamilton” team and the city, which has pledged to find the store an affordable space in Midtown.

“The store is a gem and a cultural institution in New York, and we want to make sure it’s saved,” said Julie Menin, the mayor’s media and entertainment commissioner. As precedent for the arrangement with the bookstore, she cited the city’s work with the Berklee College of Music to save a Manhattan recording studio.

The Drama Book Shop, which currently sells about 155,000 items a year, will close at its current location, on West 40th Street, on Jan. 20, and will reopen at a new location, not yet being named, in the fall.

The new owners of the store are Mr. Miranda; Thomas Kail, the director of “Hamilton”; Jeffrey Seller, the lead producer; and James L. Nederlander, the president of the Nederlander Organization, which operates the theater in which the show’s Broadway production is running. They purchased the store from Rozanne Seelen, whose husband, Arthur Seelen, had bought it in 1958. (He died in 2000.) Ms. Seelen said she sold it for the cost of the remaining inventory, some rent support in the store’s final weeks, and a pledge to retain her as a consultant.

“It’s the chronic problem — the rents were just too high, and I’m 84 years old — I just didn’t have the drive to find a new space and make another move,” she said. “Lin-Manuel and Tommy are my white knights.”

The new owners all frequented the bookstore at various points when they were seeking to build careers in the theater.

“When I was in high school I would go to the old location and sit on the floor and read plays — I didn’t have the money to buy them,” Mr. Miranda said in a telephone interview from Puerto Rico, where he is preparing to star in a three-week run of “Hamilton” in San Juan that opens on Friday. “After college Tommy Kail and I met in the Drama Book Shop basement, and I wrote a good deal of ‘In the Heights’ there.”

In 2016, after a burst pipe caused damage to the shop, Mr. Miranda came to its aid by urging his fans to patronize it. The store needed a lot more help this time.

“They’re like family to us,” he said, “and when we heard that the rent increase was finally too precipitous to withstand, we began hatching a plan.”

The store is particularly important to Mr. Kail, whose post-college theater venture, Back House Productions, was a resident company at the store. “I was in many senses professionally born in that bookshop’s basement — I spent the first five years of my career there,” he said in a telephone interview from London, where he was checking in on the “Hamilton” production there.

Mr. Kail and Mr. Miranda both said that they were also inspired by “It’s a Wonderful Life,” in which townspeople rally to save an endangered family banking business. “There was no hesitation,” Mr. Kail said. “The Building and Loan was struggling, and we could do something.”

Mr. Seller’s office, which is already running a “Hamilton” merchandise store in Midtown, will oversee the day-to-day management. He said the book shop would have a revamped website and expanded programming; the goal, he said, would be to break even, which in recent years the store has done occasionally but not consistently.
07 January 2019 @ 09:22 pm
Me: Wash the dishes! If you do it every day it only takes a few minutes.
Also me: Sean’s home on Friday, that’s not so very far away...

Usually it's Sean's chore to wash our dishes, but he's out of town this week so if I don't want them piling up in a gross mess, I have to do it.

I timed myself and it took about eight minutes to wash all the dirty dishes on our counter and about half an hour of procrastinating beforehand. But now that the counter's empty it looks so nice and I feel like I can actually cook!

But Sean hates doing dishes, and will let them pile up for a week or more. No matter how many times I've suggested in the past that he just do it every night, he says he doesn't have time. I think if I want to keep this counter clean, I'm gonna have to start doing all the dishes myself.
06 January 2019 @ 09:09 pm
Death Becomes Her (1992)

Once upon a time, a friend described a movie that she thought I’d enjoy. It sounded crazy, a story about two vampire women trying to kidnap the one man who can save them from some sort of disease or disorder that renders them unable to heal after injury, so every scratch or scrape remains on their skin forever. If she mentioned the name of her movie, I forgot it almost immediately, but after seeing Death Becomes Her this weekend I think it must have been the film she was trying to remember.
Her description was also wrong on several key points, so I wonder if she fell asleep during a portion of it or only caught half of it.

Two women, formerly best friends, become bitter rivals after Madeline (Meryl Streep) steals the fiancé of Helen (Goldie Hawn). Helen spends years in a psychiatric hospital plotting revenge, as Madeline marries Ernest (Bruce Willis) and settles into an unhappy marriage. As the women grow older, Madeline’s acting career dries up as her looks fade, but Helen becomes a bombshell and rising star author. Determined to outshine her rival once more, Madeline bargains with the beautiful, mysterious Lisle (Isabella Rosellini) for an immortality potion. It restores Madeline’s youth and beauty, but at a price: when Madeline is killed by a fall down the stairs, her life doesn’t end. Like a zombie, her body continues on, unable to heal or recover from the injury. When Helen returns to see Madeline’s body, it’s revealed that she, too, has drunk the magic potion. Knowing their dead bodies will be in constant need of maintenance, they conspire to kidnap and control one of the most talented mortician they know: Madeline’s husband, Ernest.

Death Becomes Her has the same delightfully campy, macabre humor as films like Little Shop of Horrors. It’s so much fun to watch. The offbeat story is entertaining as heck and utterly weird. What really sells the story is how good it looks; the special effects are top notch for a movie produced in the early 90s. A mix of practical effects and computer-aided illusions completely sell the bizarre concept. It’s no wonder the film won the Oscar that year for Best Visual Effects; it earned that award.

Looking back from twenty-five years later, I also appreciate the costumes and make-up so much. Madeline Ashton wears some of the iconic fashion looks from the time: giant hair tied up with an enormous scrunchie, black catsuits under semi-sheer drapes of fabric, and always tight dresses and blouses with a plunging sweetheart neckline. Goldie Hawn’s dead blue eyes are so unsettling, especially against that flaming orange hair and blood red lips. If my friend happened to tune into the movie as Helen climbs out of the pond, water dripping everywhere, I can see how the idea that she was a vampire took root. I also love the theatrical, Egyptomania clothes worn by Lisle. The timeline doesn’t quite work to place her at the height of her beauty during the 1920s, but she certainly looks like a displaced flapper. In another version of the script, she was meant to be Cleopatra herself...I rather like that interpretation of the character. 71 seems a trifle too young for Lisle to amass the fortune and beautiful people with which she surrounds herself.

Also, is that really Bruce Willis? I’m so used to seeing him play action-oriented roles, like in Pulp Fiction and Die Hard and Looper. It’s weird to see him as a henpecked beaten down little man...but it’s also super fun. He did good.

I’m so glad Donna suggested we watch this movie. It’s just the sort of thing I love, and it’s really unfortunate that I wasn’t exposed to it sooner. My old friend certainly tried; if only she’d gotten a few more details right this would probably be a household staple every October.

Also: I really think that Jeans, Seanie, I should dress up as Madeline, Ernest, and Helen for Halloween sometime.
05 January 2019 @ 10:19 pm
Yesterday marked the official end of the Christmas season. Mom had all of us kids over for a turkey, but the bird was a bribe so that after dinner we'd do the chore that nobody loves: removing Christmas tree ornaments and packing everything up until next December.

It usually takes a couple of hours to get all the decorations wrapped up, but with Jeans, Donna, Kenny, and me all pitching in we got everything taken care of in about forty-five minutes. Go team! Seanie would have helped if he could, but he had to rush home to finish packing for CES (he flew out to Las Vegas this morning) and track down his passport, since we're not sure if he needs it due to the new regulations regarding air travel and ID.

Today Donna hosted Jeans and me for a girl's day in. We drank tea, wore face masks, ate lots of unhealthy snacks, and watched Death Becomes Her, a comedy horror movie from the early 90s starring Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn and excellent special effects. It reminded me that there are so many enjoyable films I've missed, and I really should try to make the time to go back and catch a few.
04 January 2019 @ 11:36 am
5 Podcasts I'm Listening To Right Now

1. Pod Save America
For my politics jam, the Pod is where it's at: four intelligent adults, former Obama advisors all, discussing the weekly news in all its crazy scary Trumpian glory. Obviously, the show skews to the left, but after two years of this President and this Republican party, my interest in neutrality is gone. The Pod hosts have the background to understand the issues and the ability to explain it in a way I can comprehend, and listening to them kvetch is extremely cathartic.

2. Dressed: The History of Fashion
It's fashion history! Of course I enjoy it. Each episode focuses on a particular garment or designer or cultural moment, and the hosts frequently interview fashion experts from a wide variety of backgrounds. Most episodes are about an hour long, which is the perfect length, and if you follow their Instagram account you can see pictures of the different clothes discussed.

3. Stuff You Should Know
This is the perfect bedtime podcast. I pick a topic (they are many and varied) and start the show. I may nod off right away or listen for a bit, but the soothing voices of Josh and Chuck eventually send me to sleep. I do a very poor job of retaining the information, and sometimes I'll listen to the same episode 2-3 times in a row because I fell asleep so quickly, but Stuff You Should Know has become my favorite sleep aid.

4. Lore
Aaron Mahnke has built a bit of an empire off of this podcast, with a TV show and a book series in addition to regular new episodes. It's very impressive. He has a very distinctive way of reading his scripts that seems a bit stilted but once you get used to it, it really works for his style of storytelling. I also like his other show Cabinet of Curiosities, and his history podcast Unobscured was fine.

5. The Daily
Each episode of The Daily, which is produced by the New York Times, is a half-hour deep dive into a particular news topic. While it's often politics, they also file reports on international current events that I otherwise would never hear about. I'm really impressed that they produce the episodes with the regularity that they do, and the quality of the reporting is top notch.
I was never very good about keeping diaries or journals, but I've always loved notebooks. I'm one of those chronic people that buys them and then stashes them away to use later, or starts a few pages and then loses track.

Right now I've got several active books, and I'm going to try to keep up with them this year.

From the top of the pile to the bottom (or from right to left, if you'd rather):
E. E. Cummings: I received this little book in a subscription box. I'll be using it to record the list of books I read in 2019. I'ts been several years since I tracked the titles I read, and I don't know how large the total will be. Maybe 100? It might get as high as 200 or 300 if I include graphic novels and picture books!
Honeycomb Decomposition Notebook: This was a sample from a trade show, I believe.  When I started at the bookstore, I used this for taking notes because of the "bee" in our store's name. I started using it again recently for my work to-do list. It will soon be full; I think there are less than ten pages left.
Jane Eyre Journal: My personal to-do list. It's full of chores and tasks that are probably quite boring for other people to read, but if I didn't have a line reminding me that I need to get my glasses adjusted or return my mom's tupperware containers, I'd probably never do it.
2019 Planner: That's pretty self-explanatory. I didn't pick out a very pretty one this year, just the cheapest one at Walgreens. If I find myself using it faithfully, perhaps I'll upgrade, but I didn't want to make a large initial investment in case I stop using it in two weeks.
2018 Planner: I haven't finished transferring information from last year's planner (which was used very intermittently) but once I do this will be headed for the trash bin.
Budget Book: This blue notebook was a freebie at the 2017 Winter Institute in Minneapolis. We were meant to use it to take notes, but I always forgot it in my room and ended up bringing it back home with empty pages. I'm not using it to do monthly budget calculations and cashflow worksheets.  Boring, but very useful.
02 January 2019 @ 07:43 pm
New Year's Resolutions 2019

1. Blah blah blah blog
In the last few years, I've really let blogging fall to the wayside, and I've come to miss it. Some people are blessed with glorious detailed memories, and they can recall conversations they had with decades ago word for word and a performance they watched with crystal clarity. I...cannot. I an barely remember what I did three days ago, let alone three months or three years in the past. So I need to get back into the habit of journaling daily, even if it's only a sentence or two of the most mundane variety.

2. Create an "art" each week.
When I started working full-time, the first thing that dropped dramatically was the number of books I read. My creative output in the form of sketching and painting was the next to go. I want to reverse this utterly depressing trend in 2019. If I can find a place to take an art class, some sort of community center painting or life drawing session, I'll sign up for it. And no matter how tired or unmotivated I feel, I'll make myself go. So much of my identity as a child and young adult was tied up in being an artist, and I don't want that to slip away permanently.

3. Read two Asian-American books each month.
Asian-Americans. My people. Or as much "people" as I have. There's an old chestnut that if you're black, you're black - it doesn't matter if you're full, half, or quarter. Take our former president Obama; Barack's mother was as white as they come, but nobody ever called him anything but African-American. If you're mixed Asian, it's not the same. A half isn't the same as full-blood, and a quarter is even less so.
It has gotten better since I was a child, because there are more and more of us half-breeds out there every day.
Anyway, I have seriously digressed. To get back to the point: I want to read more books about people like me, and support authors with backgrounds like my own, so I'm going to try to read two books featuring Asian or Asian-American characters each month. One adult book and one children's book. I'm sure it'll vary month to month, but if at the end of the year I'm exposed to two dozen new Asian-American voices. I think that'll be a good thing.

4. Get a financial life!
Get a Financial Life is the name of a book on personal finance that I was given at a booksellers' conference after attending a session about managing your money when you work in our poor-paying industry. As I get older, I want to make sure I'm stretching my dollars as far as I can while still maintaining a lifestyle I enjoy. Seanie and I are going to make a budget and stick to it. I'll cut back on impulse spending on stuff - because I have plenty of stuff, do I not? - and try to build up our savings for future big life events.

5. Get into a regular exercise routine.
Because I'm getting really freakin' old and I need to, obviously.
I've had a few health scares over the past year that have just driven home that I need to prioritize health, and yes, that includes physical exercise.

6. Build my personal brand.
What a millennial goal.
But it's important all the same. Basically, the bookstore I work at now isn't going to be around forever. This year it turns forty years old, and it's still being managed by its original owners. They aren't getting any younger, and there's no succession plan, so there's a very real chance that when one of them calls it quits, the whole thing shuts down. Oh, they might try to sell it, but it's going to be a hard sell, convincing someone that a low-margin business like bookselling is worthwhile in one of the most expensive places to live in the world.
So, before that happens, I need to establish enough of a reputation that another bookstore will want to snap me up, or some entrepreneur will think I'm knowledgeable enough to partner with for a new endeavor, or that I can do some sort of consulting and freelancing work because I know useful things.
I'm not sure what I think this means. This is the goal that will require the most consideration and setting forth of concrete steps. I can think of little things: attend local literary events and network like hell, get active online in bookseller groups, try to position myself to participate on award committees, etc. But the overall plan is something I still gotta figure out.

7. Start that darn Youtube review channel.
For the past couple of years, I've been nagging Seanie to help me build a Youtube channel to review Disney-themed books. He never has the time. So, I've got to stop waiting on him and just figure it out on my own. It's something I want to do (and it connects nicely with the previous goal, doesn't it?) so I need to take ownership of the idea and make it happen.

8. Schedule a monthly adventure.
You know what I didn't do nearly enough of in 2018?
Museum visits.
I love going to art museums and I don't think I went to a single one!
I like going on hikes. I enjoying going to tea.
I have a closet full of fun and fancy outfits that I don't want to wear to work but I really want to enjoy.
So I need to take the time to schedule in opportunities for fun.
This stems into something Michelle Obama said when I saw her speak last month. She talked about a difficult period in her life where she was being run ragged, and it made her realize how important it was to schedule in self-care. Like, in your planner, before you add anything else like work or family obligations, you have to schedule in your self-care time. If you don't, you'll fill that calendar right up and never take care of yourself.
So that's what I'm trying to do. Take care.

Eight goals. That's certainly enough of a start!
01 January 2019 @ 03:40 pm
This year, Seanie and I opted for a quiet New Year's.

We had no plans at all until an hour before my shift at the bookstore wrapped up, when Seanie called and said he'd made a reservation at Kula Sushi. Kula is that silly restaurant we enjoy because the sushi goes round the restaurant on a conveyor belt, and the plates you finish can be used to win little prizes like stickers, keychains, washi tape, and erasers. The wait wasn't dreadful now that you can reserve a place in line through their app, so within an hour of arrival we were on the road again, stuffed full of sushi and the proud owners of a Naruto Shippoden eraser.

I thought we would go home and read or watch a movie, but Seanie's brother Terry called and invited us over to do an early New Year's Eve with his kids. We watched a Donald Duck cartoon as we waited for nine o'clock to roll around, and then we shouted "HAPPY NEW YEAR'S!" as the twins beat each other senseless with swords. The cutlasses and lightsabers, newly acquired in Disneyland last week, had been flying most of the evening as Arlo and Liam showed off their sword-fighting skills over and over and over again; I imagine the kids sleep with a dagger shoved down their drawers and a blade in each hand, so attached were they to their weaponry.

We adults sat around a bit after the kids were packed off to bed, nibbling on Jelly Bellies and drinking champagne until we were nodding off like grandparents at a nursing home. Seanie and I were back at home long before midnight. It turns out that was a good thing; as the clock struck twelve and our neighbors set off fireworks all around, our heater shot out another fireball, proving the fix from a few days ago had not been as effective as we'd hoped. Since it was the middle of the night and there was nothing to be done, we shut down the gas to the house and went to bed.

So today the Buckleys have once again been messing around with the heater while I ran away to my parent's house. We want to replace the whole heating unit, but we probably won't have time to shop for one until Seanie gets back from CES so for the time being they're figuring out a workaround.
31 December 2018 @ 09:59 pm
I didn't make any New Year's Resolutions this year, thinking that it probably wouldn't make much of a difference since I never complete any of them.

I was wrong.

While it's true that my track record for completing resolutions is absolutely dreadful, taking a few minutes each month to check back in on myself and the meandering path I wander does keep me on my toes a bit. I blogged more, even though I was just as busy as I am now, because failure to meet my monthly entry count would be irritating. I prioritized travel and making art and other forms of self-care because it was always there at the back of my mind. I might not reach the final stage, but the list of annual goals at least promised that at some point I would give it a go.

But in 2018 I didn't feel like writing up a list, and now it's December 31st and I feel like I accomplished nothing this year except working like a dog for the bookstore. While that's nice and all, it's not really something I do for me. It doesn't really contribute to my self worth and peace of mind the way taking a ceramics class or something as silly as daily blog posts does. Simply put? It adds stress, while most of the things I put on my resolutions list takes stress away.

So in 2019 I am definitely going to jump back into the resolutions game. At this exact moment I don't know what that list is going to look like, but I'm going to give it a think for a day or two and come up with something because at the end of the year, it turns out I rather need that arbitrary annual meter to measure myself.
29 December 2018 @ 10:55 pm
On Christmas Eve, Sean stepped out of the shower and saw a little fireball shoot out of our wall heater. As you can imagine, this was just was rather alarming. He immediately turned off the gas and called PG&E, who sent at technician out to inspect for a gas leak. He wasn't able to find anything, but to keep things safe Sean decided to keep the heater off-line.

That was a smart move. On Thursday, while he was out of town, I smelled gas and called PG&E again. They once again sent someone out - same fellow, it turns out - and while he was able to detect the gas as well he was unable to find a source. His best guess was that the 'off' valve was loose and a minute amount of gas was occasionally slipping through. He said it was non-hazardous, but it's never comforting to hear that there's a tiny gas leak in your home. He strongly replacing the wall unit as the one we have is old and frankly, a bit janky.

It was a cold couple of days with no heat. Luckily we live in California, where 'cold' is still well above freezing temperatures, but Sean and I were bundling up in fleece and thick sweaters and piles of blankets. Every night I pulled out a small space heater, loaned to us by a brother-in-law, and ran it for a couple of hours in the bedroom to raise the temperature of the room before going to sleep.

Today Papa Buckley rolled in to fix the heater. He and Sean discussed the matter and decided that a new wall unit was too costly (we were finding them for around $1000 online) so they replaced the gas valve and hose and voila! the leak was fixed. It was a pretty simple solution overall. It's lucky that this happened when Sean was of from work and able to make the repair quickly. If this had happened at the beginning of the month or in January, we'd probably have to wait a couple of weeks for everyone's schedule to align. Brrrr!
15 November 2018 @ 10:27 am
Welcome to California.
Did you bring your mask?

The closest wildfire to San Jose is hundreds of miles away, but so much smoke has been blown in that the sky is an ugly dirty brownish-orange and it smells like a dying campfire. (At least it did last night when I walked from my car to the house. I haven't been outside since.)  My phone's weather app has warned about unhealthy air quality all week, so I've been carrying a mask around in my purse to put on whenever I go out.

If this is as close as the fires get to San Jose I will be so grateful.  It's such a minor inconvenience compared to the thousands of people who have lost their homes and/or family members in the last week. It's so heartbreaking to see the body count rise every time I check the news. I can't imagine the challenge faced by the people of Paradise: rebuild their town or start over somewhere else? I have no idea what we'd do in their shoes.
04 November 2018 @ 09:52 pm
Mouse-Con is a small, regional Disney fan event. It's nowhere near the scale of D23 Expo; in fact, it's smaller than almost any other convention I've attended. For an event of its size, it manages to get some pretty good speakers, so even though it was at a hotel in Concord this year it still seemed worthwhile to go.

The main attraction was the man behind many of Disneyland's attraction vehicles, Bob Gurr. He was speaking at noon. Due to a mishap with my glasses (the screw on one side popped out, disconnecting the frame and the temple) I was a few minutes late, but it seemed like the presentation was just Bob freewheelin' for an hour, taking questions from the audience and answering them in whatever manner he found appropriate. Sometimes this resulted in a quick dismissal, usually for questions that approached controversial or contemporary topics, but more often Bob would answer with a story from his days working at Disney or on other theme park rides. He spoke proudly of his lack of formal schooling in engineering, explaining that he was free to come up with creative solutions to issues that came up because he didn't know the 'right' way to tackle the problem.
One audience member asked him something to the effect of "What ride do you wish you worked on?" and Bob said that if he'd been born a few decades later, he would have loved to work on Universal Studio's Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey attraction. I can see why he'd pick that one. It's wonderfully immersive and blends screen technology with physical props.

The other presentation we saw was a Vintage Disneyland slideshow by two of the hosts of the Mousetalgia podcast. I love retro slideshows and Jeff and Dave had a good collection of images. We didn't catch the entire talk because the room was a little hard to find, but what we did see was very entertaining. We weren't the only ones who thought so; the room was packed and I ended up sitting on the floor while Sean and Jeannie crammed up against the wall.

After the Mousetalgia talk, we wandered around the dealers' room and caught up with old friends. It was a pleasant afternoon. Between the three of us, I don't think we bought anything except a package of peanuts to snack on. There was some interesting merchandise for sale, but most of it was either overpriced or too worn and ratty to be desirable to anyone but the most nostalgic collector.
One interesting note: there were several authors of Disney-related books and DVDs attending, and for the most part they were all lined up by the doorway. I'm not sure if this was a benefit for them. On the one hand, it gave them visibility as guests walked past them before moving on to registration or leaving the convention, but that location also made them easy to ignore if you weren't interested. I wonder if they would have fared better with their tables in the main dealers area? I wish I knew one of the vending authors because I'd love to know what they thought of the arrangement.
23 May 2018 @ 10:11 pm
Last night, PBS aired the launch special for their The Great American Read initiative. Throughout the summer, PBS is asking Americans to vote for their favorite book from a list of one hundred titles, culled from a survey of people across the country. The winner will be announced sometime in the fall.

As Meredith Viera talked through the one hundred choices, Seanie got to listen to my running commentary on the books I'd read. Here's the full list for your enjoyment. Titles I've read are in bold:

1. 1984 by George Orwell
2. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
3. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

4. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
5. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
6. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
7. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
8. Alex Cross Mysteries (series) by James Patterson
9. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
10. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
11. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
12. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
13. Another Country by James Baldwin
14. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
15. Beloved by Toni Morrison
16. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
17. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
18. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
19. The Call of the Wild by Jack London

20. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
21. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
22. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
23. The Chronicles of Narnia (series) by C.S. Lewis

24. The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel
25. The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah
26. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
27. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

28. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
29. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
30. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
31. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
32. Doña Bárbara by Rómulo Gallegos
33. Dune by Frank Herbert
34. Fifty Shades of Grey (series) by E.L. James
35. Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews
36. Foundation (series) by Isaac Asimov
37. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
38. Games of Thrones (series) by George R.R. Martin
39. Ghost by Jason Reynolds
40. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

41. The Giver by Lois Lowry
42. The Godfather by Mario Puzo
43. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
44. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
45. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
46. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
47. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

48. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
49. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
50. Harry Potter(series) by J.K. Rowling
51. Hatchet (series) by Gary Paulsen
52. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
53. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
54. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
55. The Hunger Games (series) by Suzanne Collins

56. The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
57. The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead
58. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
59. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
60. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
61. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
62. Left Behind (series) by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins
63. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
64. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

65. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
66. Looking for Alaska by John Green
67. The Lord of the Rings (series) by J.R.R. Tolkien
68. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
69. The Martian by Andy Weir
70. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

71. Mind Invaders by Dave Hunt
72. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
73. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
74. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
75. Outlander (series) by Diana Gabaldon
76. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
77. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
78. The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
79. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
80. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

81. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
82. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
83. The Shack by William P. Young
84. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

85. The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut
86. The Stand by Stephen King
87. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
88. Swan Song by Robert McCammon
89. Tales of the City (series) by Armistead Maupin
90. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
91. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

92. This Present Darkness by Frank E. Peretti
93. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
94. Twilight Saga (series) by Stephenie Meyer

95. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
96. The Watchers by Dean Koontz
97. The Wheel of Time (series) by Robert Jordan
98. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
99. White Teeth by Zadie Smith
100. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

I'm tempted to try and see how many of the unread books on the list I can knock out by the time they announce the winner. I mean, some of these I don't think I need to read. I read the first chapter of Fifty Shades of Grey and that was more than enough. The writing is awful. I've seen enough discussion about the series since to know the basic plot. I also saw the movie of Ready Player One and Seanie assures me that since I didn't care for that, I won't like the book. But maybe this list will be the motivation I need to kick a few classics off that I've always meant to get around to, like Hatchet and The Giver and Robert Jordan's series.

I don't know if I can pick a top novel yet, but if I had to narrow it down to my personal top 10 here's what I'd pick:

- A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
- A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
- Ghost by Jason Reynolds
- Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
- Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
- The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I ended up cutting some books, even though I love them more than books on the list, because they aren't by American writers. In my head, the 'Great American Read' should be set in America or at least written by an American. Sorry Austen, Brontës, Rowling, etc...but I think you'll all be just fine without my little vote.

It was surprisingly difficult to cut Jurassic Park because while it may not be the most literary work, it seems a quintessential American story that captures our cultural zeitgeist so very well. Plus, it's so much fun. I may slip it back in there if I can find the heart to boot something else.

The last book I took off was The Joy Luck Club. I so want the book to be on the list, but I also have to admit that it's been at least fifteen years since I read it and I don't really remember it that well. If I get a chance to re-read the book Amy Tan might very well pop back on the list.
10 December 2017 @ 10:28 am
Every spring and fall, my boss does a book preview where she talks about her favorite new children's titles from the season. It's a ticketed event, and included in the ticket is a list of the books with her notes on each title. She spends several days assembling the list and puts a lot of work into it, so we don't give it away to those who choose not to attend the event.

Last month, a woman e-mailed one of our employees asking for a copy of the list. This woman used to live in the area but has since moved out of state, and for a while this employee would send her copies of the list. However, a pattern emerged: the woman would ask for recommendations and for the list, but as best we can tell she never ordered anything from the store. The employee wasn't getting orders through e-mail in response to her recommendations, and there were no records of the woman buying books through our website or any receipts from shipping packages to her. With no proof of purchase, we declined to send her this year's list, citing the policy only to share it with event attendees.

The woman went nuts. She called several times trying to talk to the employee, and when that didn't work she started asking me to send her the list. She had a whole litany of reasons why we should make an exception: she lived out of state so she OBVIOUSLY couldn't attend the preview, she was a long time customer (fact check: you aren't a customer unless you actually spend money at the establishment), she sends her friends in all the time, she loves my boss' recommendations, she's willing to pay the ticket price, etc and so on.

It escalated on Saturday when I sent a response recommending our online holiday catalog and Book of the Year lists as alternatives to the preview list: in the next twenty-four hours she e-mailed twice and called three times absolutely DESPERATE for this list of titles. The boss said I had given her the answer, so I was free to ignore her, so that's what I've done.

Don't get me wrong, the list of books we create is good, but it's not as if there aren't thousands of other lists to get gift ideas from. Her reaction is mind-boggling, to be honest. If a customer makes an annual holiday purchase someone on staff would recognize her name and some sort of paper trail would exist, so it's pretty clear she's not buying the books from us.

I know some people might think, "It's just a list, why not give it to her in the name of good customer service?" Well, she's not a customer of ours and there is no benefit to us of giving her proprietary information. In fact, to do so would cheapen the gift we give to those loyal customers who do attend the previews.

Ah, well. She's not the only person picking our brains and then running off to Amazon. This time of year brings them out in droves.
06 December 2017 @ 09:58 am
Always get a second opinion, right?

I met with another IT company to get a second bid for our computer upgrades. (I would have done so anyway, but the fact that the first guy I met with disappeared after promising a quote the next day made it quite necessary.) They came highly recommended by my old boss at RHA, and after just a few minutes it became clear that this company better understood a small business like our bookstore. The owner of the company came out and after looking around and asking questions started discussing possible solutions. Some of his observations corroborated the previous company's ideas: the wiring is a hot mess that needs to be cleaned up and/or replaced, our computers are old and possibly failing, and it's going to take a lot of troubleshooting hours to get things running smoothly. But this company was more willing to work with the fact that we (obviously) don't have a lot of money for the project. He broke down the project into what he thought had to be done immediately, what could wait, and what might not be necessary at all. He was upfront about the costs of bringing himself or one of his employees to the site, but suggested that for simple fixes he might be able to teach me or Sean how to do it on one computer and then let us complete the action on the other machines. He also wanted to talk to the company that makes our inventory software so that he could better understand what the store needed - an idea that the other company didn't propose and didn't seem interested in pursuing when I suggested it.

When he left, we had a definite game plan: next week he will stop by with another contractor that does the wiring for his projects so that they can give us an estimate for how much re-networking the whole store would cost. To demonstrate the benefits of this, he drew a map of proposed replacement network with such simplicity that both our bookkeeper and I could understand it. And he was upfront with the cost: from past experience his best guess was that a new network would run us between $1000-$2000, but since it wasn't his area of expertise he could be off. That at least gave us a number to play with.

RHA hires good people so I trust that this company will do a good job, even if they're a little more expensive than other companies out there. The boss wants me to call around and get a few more estimates though, just to make sure we'll be getting the best deal we can.
Met with a professional IT guy today.  I showed him our computers and described what we expected for the project and the approximate timeline we were looking at. His feedback was not too encouraging.  He described our computer upgrade as a "big" project due to the number of machines, the way they're scattered throughout the building, and the absolute rat's nest of cords and wires he'd have to sort through as he worked to get everything up and running.  He highly doubted he'd be able to complete the work in the two-day window proposed by the store owners.

Of course, a large-scale project comes with a matching price tag.  He's e-mailing a quote sometime tonight, but based on his hourly rate I really doubt we'll be able to afford him.  He looked at our computers for about two hours today and couldn't get the printer/copier back online, so tomorrow I'm to look into getting replacement routers from AT&T in hopes that this will kick the network back into submission.

I knew the diagnosis for the main overhaul would not be good, but I hoped fixing the relatively small issue of getting the network running would be easy, that I'd overlooked something stupid and this IT man would swoop in and flip a switch and make it all run again.  I guess life can't always be so simple.