Saturday, November 18, 2017

My Entire Life is on Backorder



(Warning: Major Spoiler Alert towards the end re: Dan Brown’s “Origin”)

Lately, I feel like I am being driven slowly insane by a continuous game of Consumer Roulette—not in my personal life for once, where I expect chaos, but in the orderly, well-oiled machine of my job, which I have worked very hard to forge into said orderly, well-oiled machine. Although I work in a very large organization, I run a one-woman shop within it, and I like things ship-shape: My deadlines met, my e-mails returned, and my promises delivered on. But my credo of “Deliver the Goods” has been challenged lately due to what appears to be a complete breakdown of the office supply store social contract. You see, I recently took on something of an extra-curricular project that requires a large number of photo frames. My strategy was to order a few frames in different styles and finishes, and decide which one would work best before placing the large order. Upon unpacking the first delivery from Anonymous Gargantuan Office Supply Store, I was puzzled to find a solid block of wood accompanied by a flimsy sheet of laminate and some dodgy-looking “wood tacks.” Upon inspecting it further, it turned out to be what I can only define as a mounting block—a far cry from the picture frame that I was certain I ordered. I placed a second order for what I also thought was a picture frame, and received yet another mounting block, although this time they did honor my request for mahogany wood.

Upon the third order, it was clear they weren’t even trying anymore—they sent me a glass display box with a white painted frame, which was decidedly not the walnut wood picture frame that I had actually placed the order for. I finally hopped on with Customer Support live chat, and found myself desperately trying to explain to the poor person on the other end that I needed a picture frame, for an 8x10 photo, one where you slide the little velvet-covered back off and put the picture in it and put the velvet thing back on--you know, like what you would put your kid’s pictures in? That was maddeningly unproductive. I politely disconnected and slumped at my desk, head in hands. Words used to have meaning. I don’t know what is going on with AGOSS, but I suspect it probably got too hard to locate the actual products I was ordering, so they just starting throwing similar-ish things into boxes, figuring they were “close enough.” They’re not close enough, AGOSS. They’re not. I am now waiting on yet another frame, which is, you guessed it, on backorder.

The other thing I am having trouble with is paper. I run an event for work every year, which is the functional equivalent of putting on a wedding, and I have to start the planning a minimum of eight months out. Everyone thinks I’m crazy, but here’s just one example of why I need eight months lead time: For next year’s event, I need a certain grade and shade of fancy paper for the program inserts. I am a bit of a paper snob, and I don’t want to use cheap colored copy paper. Details are important to me, and I take pride in having beautiful programs. After an extensive and disappointing search across not one, but two AGOSS’s, several art stores, as well as a general internet search, I finally found a product that met my criteria. When I went to place the order, I was crestfallen to find that it had been discontinued. After going back to the drawing board for yet another maddening round of Find the Paper, I came across something not as good, but workable. And of course, it’s backordered. I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s going to be straight-up discontinued, though. I’ve started to feel like Patty Simcox in “Grease” when she screams “I don’t know what’s happening!” Meanwhile, the non-event planners in my life just shrug and say “What are you so worried about? It’s, like, four months away,” while I am struck with event-planner panic at the thought that it’s four months away--and I still don't have program insert paper!

My office products aren’t the only thing on backorder—so is my sense of personal ambition. With darkness falling at 4:15 in the afternoon these days, getting dressed on the weekends seems like a foolish waste of energy, and spending four hours in the evenings curled up on the couch reading a middling novel feels like a perfectly legitimate use of time. In case you’re wondering what the middling novel I refer to is, it’s “Origin” by Dan Brown. MAJOR SPOILER ALERT:
   
The Artificial Intelligence did it. All of it. The assassination, the framing, the murders, the set-ups, the lies. And he didn’t feel the least bad about it, either. AI wasn’t one of those things I had the emotional bandwidth to worry much about before I read this novel, but now I am legit terrified of it. Thanks, Dan Brown!

I don’t know about you, but I could use a good old fashioned dance party about now:


--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Smug Glowworms, Mouse Vindication, Self-Publishing Manifesto



The other day I was in a waiting room reading a magazine when I came across an article on female glowworms. The article said that female glowworms who have brighter lights tend to attract more mates and produce more offspring. This is unsurprising, but nonetheless, it delighted me. I imagined a dazzlingly bright glowworm, for some reason named Tracy, surrounded by admirers at a glowworm cocktail party: “Yes, it’s true. I am very bright. I was born that way. The doctors were all stunned. Of course, I take exceptional care of myself. Even the genetically gifted have to work at it,” followed by a smug chortle. Of course there was also the obligatory cluster of jealous female glowworms sniping in the corner: “That bitch Tracy thinks she’s so much better than us just because she’s bright.” When my therapist came to get me (okay, yes, it was my therapist’s waiting room, okay? Yes, I see a therapist. There, now everybody knows and can judge accordingly,) she asked me if I read anything interesting. I told her about the female glowworm discovery, and she said, “Hm. Maybe that’s why I’m not attracting men,” at which point I suggested that she start wearing shiny things. She laughed, and I felt a little thrill of victory at having accomplished my good deed for the day.  

Speaking of the animal kingdom, Mr. Typist and I were minding our business in the computer room a few nights ago when suddenly, the most godawful terrifying racket exploded in the kitchen. Normally, this would be Buddy knocking a pot out of a cupboard he’s forbidden to climb into, but the clatter continued for a full ten seconds before Mr. Typist jumped up and ran into the kitchen. I followed a few beats behind so that the ax murderer would take him first, and that’s when I saw it: A trail of cat food leading to a small opening in the floor underneath the dishwasher, and Buddy, feverish with rage. Ha! I felt totally vindicated. You see, Buddy had periodically been perching under the kitchen table, staring hypnotically at that exact spot, for weeks. At first I thought he was just being a nutter, but one day, I was heading into the kitchen when I swear to God and all that is holy that I caught a glimpse of a long brown tail vanishing under the dishwasher. It happened so fast I wasn’t sure I had actually seen it at first, and Mr. Typist didn’t seem to believe me. But the evidence was now right there—it was obvious that a cat food thieving mouse had emerged from this hidey-hole and, in broad daylight, attempted to swipe some of Buddy’s food. And Buddy was not having it.

Mr. Typist grabbed a flashlight and knelt down to look under the dishwasher. Buddy crouched right down next to him, growling, his eyes burning with fury, as if to say, “Let’s get this bastard already.” Well, it was not to be. We couldn’t find the mouse anywhere, and settled for ordering a humane trap from Amazon. We’ll see if any mice end up in it this week. *Shudder*.

When I haven’t been daydreaming about smug glowworms or tracking down errant mice, I’ve been hatching plans for my novel publication. It’s been very hard for me to move on without getting it out there, and I’ll be ready to pull the trigger on something soon. I’ve grown weary of the literary gatekeepers, my friends. I’m fed up with waiting up to a year for a response to a poem submission. I’m fed up with working really hard to prepare a submission to a publishers exacting standard, only to hear nothing at all on the other end. I’m tired of rejections for absurd reasons such as “the main character isn’t very nice.” (Right, because that’s what attracts a reader to a character—that they’re “nice.” Because we all know the greatest works of fiction feature “nice” characters. *Eye roll.*) I’m tired of the impossibly slow response times, magazines shutting down without telling their authors, dead websites, and the general literary snobbery and cronyism that pervades the industry. I want to get my writing out there, and there is no longer any reason to wait for the grand stamp of approval from on high. I know the novel is good, and I’m proud of it. Watch this space for new developments on that end soon!

Since I’m on about glowworms this week, check out this confident little guy, letting his light shine:


--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Post-Tagging Marathon, Creative Brooding, Explaining Weather to Cats



Well, I did it, folks! I spent a total of twelve coffee-fueled hours this weekend going through a decade’s worth Good Typist posts and labeling every single dang one of them. I am so sick of myself and my own inane babbling right now. Apparently, I’ve had a lot to talk about it, despite often being accused of being “too quiet.” At any rate, if you scroll down a bit, you’ll see that you can now search this blog by labels, so if you’re not interested in the aforementioned inane babbling (“essays”), you can click on my poems instead, or read one of my game reviews before you drop thirty bucks on the latest Tomb Raider. Cripes almighty that was a lot of work, but I do feel a rather virtuous sense of accomplishment now that it’s done. And yes, I do realize that the labels are a little goofy at the moment with the plurals, but I’ll clean all of that up later. I should get out of my chair before I meld to it and they have to pry me out with the Jaws of Life.  (Oh, also, you may notice that I made a few small nips and tucks to the blog interface, so it’s cleaner and crisper.)

I would go into a long, navel-gazing reflection about what it was like to look back on ten year’s worth of my writing and emotional history, but it’s just not in me right now. I’ve had enough of myself for a while. Suffice it to say, there were no real surprises, except that, despite everything I’ve been through over the last few years, I actually believe that I’m much happier now then I was ten years ago. Or, if not happier, at least far stronger and more resilient that I ever thought possible. I don’t really believe in happiness per se anyway, at least not in the Oprah-esque, vision board, motivational speaker sort of way. I have come to value strength and emotional steadfastness over the ephemeral and elusive concept of “happiness.” The people I know who chase happiness constantly all seem miserable to me, besides, I don’t think I’d even know what it was if it flitted right up to me and kissed me on the lips.

It’s been a good weekend to hole up inside, brood, and work on this marathon of a project, since it’s freakin’ freezing, dark, and dare I say, even a little snowy here in the rugged Pacific Northwest. I’m happy about this because, one, I always love a good excuse for not leaving the house, and two, I can now legitimately wear my super-warm, thick, snugly Galway hoodie, one of my most prized possessions from Ireland. I held off on buying a hoodie during the trip until I found exactly the one I wanted, and I’m quite proud of this one. It makes me happy to wear it, like I’m being warmly hugged by the spirit of all of Ireland. By the way, did you know Galway was established in 1484? That’s legit ancient for a city, to my American way of thinking.

Speaking of blustery conditions, poor Buddy doesn’t have any sense of object permanence when it comes to weather. He seems convinced that if he comes in, waits two minutes, then goes back outside, somehow in that brief time span, it will magically go from freezing cold and rainy to warm, dry, and gloriously sunny. He is excruciatingly disappointed each and every time, but until recently that hasn’t stopped him from trying. Today, however, I think he finally gave up. At his behest, I opened the sliding door for him this morning. He stood there on the precipice, sniffed the air with a trembling nose, then turned around and stalked off. I found him later slumped in his cat tree, looking utterly defeated. Good. He’s supposed to be an indoor cat, anyway. Maybe he’ll stay out of trouble and stop dragging the dead in for a few months.


--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Ten Year Anniversary of The Good Typist!



I realized with a shock this week that I have been blogging here at The Good Typist for ten years. Ten years! It totally snuck up on me. After combing through years of content this weekend, it became pretty clear to me that I haven’t done much if anything to “optimize” my site for better ease of reading and for finding posts by subject, type, etc. So I’m going to be making some changes to this blog over the next few weeks to make it easier to find things like my poems, short stories, creative essays, writing advice, and game reviews. I’ll be organizing and linking posts, so, if you wake up morning and suddenly have a hankering to read one of my poems or short stories, or you simply can’t fall asleep without knowing what I thought of Tomb Raider 3, you’re in luck! Hopefully, with the new organization, a few quick clicks will get you to your destination. However, I’m not that familiar with the deeper functions of Blogger, and I have ten year’s worth of accumulated content to sort through, so this is not a “snap of the finger” proposition. I also have a sneaking suspicion this may end up becoming a gateway project that leads to an actual, proper website.

This is probably something I should have thought about doing about two years in instead of ten, but hindsight is 20/20. While I biff off to sort out how I’m going to make this happen, here’s a poem. I’ll be back next week with a regularly scheduled, proper post, in which you may look forward to my complete emotional breakdown when the reality of how complicated this project is actually hits me. 

By the way, if any of you out there are Blogger experts, I am accepting suggestions!

Leaden

Who wants to read my poem
about the struggle
of the poet to write poems?
Who would like to commiserate?
Who would like to say oh that sounds just awful,
and but you're very talented you know,
and I'm sure you'll come up with something brilliant quite soon.
Who will send me a bouquet of scarlet pansies
with a little card to wish me
well in the way of words?
Who will leave chocolates in my mailbox, a yellow
beach ball in my driveway? Who will tell me jokes,
and call me afternoons to ask me:
How goes it with the dearth of words?
Would you like take a walk along the pier? Or share
a bowl of onion soup and warm French bread?

Who will lend me their feather boa, and suggest
sage-scented candles to open up my chakras?
And who would like to give me tangerines?
I'll accept compelling tales as well; your latest
horrid breakup or breakdown--anything will do
just as long as I can use it as my own.
Please leave all offerings within arm's reach.
I will gather them with idle hands, I will
collect them all.


--Kristen McHenry