My Predictions for 2020

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blog.radissonblu.com

We are fast approaching the end of another year. It is amazing how quickly time flies. People are beginning to ask the usual question: What do you think the New Year will bring? I’ve made a few predictions; none of which should actually be taken seriously.              

January 1, 2020, 12:01:01 a.m., Wednesday

I will be jolted from a sound sleep by the unexpected feel and taste of bird feathers in my mouth. Our cat, Bonfire, will be sleeping soundly next to me, clearly in the grip of an intense dream. I will realize that, after years of wondering just what exactly it is that he wants, I have acquired the ability to read his mind.

February 3, 2020, 3:47:23 a.m., Monday

Bernd will sit up suddenly in bed. He will throw back the covers and dash out into the kitchen. He will flip several switches before he finds the one that controls the lights in the kitchen. He will search frantically for a pen and a piece of paper. He will not find one in time and his minor case of attention deficit disorder will rob the world of finally, once and for all, knowing what the true meaning of life is. I will be witness to all of this and his utter despair upon returning to bed because I was already lying there, awake, trying to find the off button for my ability to read Bonfire’s mind.

March 2, 2020, 4:13:03 p.m., Monday

Bernd will be at work. A customer will come up to him and say, “I can still see the frames and I don’t want to be able to see the frames.” Bernd will say, “I’m sorry, but we’ve already fitted you with the largest eyeglasses that we have. Why don’t you try not looking at them.” The customer will leave in a huff saying, “I’m never coming back here again.” The only truly amazing thing in all this is that Bernd will have said, “I’m sorry.” Oh, and Bernd will celebrate the sixty-seventh anniversary of his birth.

April 15, 2020, 5:59:59 p.m., Wednesday

I will finally finish painting the stucco on the house, which I began on July 30, 2017 at 1:13:47 p.m. Bernd and I will then have wild pacific salmon sautéed in olive oil with paprika, onion powder, black pepper and potassium chloride, along with steamed snap peas tossed in toasted sesame oil and sesame seeds, and brown rice for dinner.

May 31, 2020, 10:23:01 a.m., Sunday

While sitting at the computer and trying to write a new article to post to my blog, I will realize that I have always known what Bonfire wants and never needed to be able to read his mind. It will have become apparent after one hundred and fifty-one days, ten hours and twenty-two minutes, that all he ever wants is attention and food.

June 29, 2020, 3:25:16 a.m., Monday

I will awake from a sound sleep and remember that June 29th is my sister’s birthday and I have forgotten to send her a card. I will notice that even though Bonfire is sleeping right next to me, I cannot hear his thoughts. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

July 15, 2020, 2:33:49 p.m., Wednesday

Bernd and I will be taking a walk on the Fain Ranch land. We will have finally remembered to take our binoculars along. We will see something in the far distance that we can not quite make out. Bernd will use the binoculars and then exclaim, “Well, I’ll be!” He will hand the binoculars to me whereupon I will see that aliens have landed their spacecraft, debarked, and are attempting to make conversation with a steer. Several other steer will be standing with their back ends to the aliens. The aliens will then, after precisely three minutes and twenty-two seconds, get back into their spacecraft and leave for the next planet on their list. At which point, I will say, “Well, I’ll be.”

August 8, 2020, 10:30:05 a.m., Saturday

Bernd will ask for this day off because it is my birthday and he wants to spend it with me. He will snap awake from his sound, after breakfast nap. He will look at me and say, “What did you say?” To which I will answer, “I didn’t say anything.” He will say, “Sure you did. I distinctly heard you say something.” I will say, “Well, if you so distinctly heard it, what did I say?” He will think very hard for a moment and then he will say, “You said, ‘Feed me. Feed me now’.” We will both look at each other for a moment and then I will say, “Well, I did discover that Bonfire has a maximum range that only reaches down to about the end of the block. Look at the bright side, you work outside of home.” At the precise moment he snaps awake, I will be sixty-eight years and five seconds old.

September 21, 2020, 1:35:41 a.m., Monday

Bernd will be jolted awake by a twelve pound cat leaping from the floor to his stomach. This will be the first time Bonfire has done this to him, though he has frequently done this to me. Bonfire will stand on his stomach and lightly and repeatedly press his nose until Bernd finally comes to his senses. When he does, he realizes that he can no longer hear Bonfire’s thoughts. Bonfire, also realizing the same thing, will have been attempting to engage Bernd’s reset button. Bernd utters a loud, “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” which wakes me up in time to hear Bonfire utter a loud sigh, which my mind automatically translates to, “Well, I guess I’ll just have to go back to meowing again.”

September 21, 2020, 7:45:31 a.m., Monday

I will be sitting finishing reading a chapter in my read-it-with-breakfast book, when I will hear the scrub jays on the deck yelling, “Peanuts. Now. Want peanuts now. Where are the peanuts? Give us peanuts now.” I will throw them some peanuts. They will take them all away. They will begin yelling for more.

September 21, 2020, 11:03:01 a.m., Monday

I will walk out to the mailbox to see if there is any mail in it. Our dog, Maddie, will go with me. She will start yelling at me. She will say, “Get away from that post. That’s my post. I pee by that post. Are you listening to me? Didn’t I say it loud enough? THAT’S MY POST!” I will roll my eyes and heave a big sigh and quickly go back into the house before the quails give me what for. The earplugs will be of no use whatsoever.

September 21, 2020, 8:33:11 p.m., Monday

I will be sitting in my recliner, nursing a splitting headache. The male crickets have been telling the female crickets just how desirable they are for hours already and I will be sick and tired of hearing how long this ones antennas are or how far the other can jump. Then all of a sudden, all I will hear will be crick-crick-crick. I will say out loud, “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” and Bernd, in his recliner, will nod knowingly.

October 31, 2020, 6:22:54 p.m., Saturday

The trick-or-treaters will have been knocking on the door since one hour, three minutes and twenty-one seconds previously, when there is another knock on the door. I will open it and see three small aliens standing there. It will be some of the most amazing makeup and costuming that I have ever seen. I will say, “Wow. Those are great get-ups, but where are your treat bags?” The tallest alien will say, “Gort, Klaatu barada nickto.” Then I will say, “Yeah, that’s nice but do you want some candy or not?” The aliens will then turn and walk back out to their spacecraft which they will have parked on our cotoneaster. Then I will say, “Well, I’ll be.”

November 13, 2020, 2:08:49 p.m., Friday

I will be sitting at my computer trying to put the finishing touches on a post for my blog when I will hear a loud whistle accompanied by a dull, booming throb. There will be a bright white light and …

November 13, 2020, 2:08:50 p.m., Friday

I will be sitting at my computer trying to put the finishing touches on a post for my blog when I will hear a loud whistle accompanied by a dull, booming throb. There will be a bright white light and …

November 13, 2020, 2:08:51 p.m., Friday

I will be sitting at my computer trying to put the finishing touches on a post for my blog when I will hear a loud whistle accompanied by a dull, booming throb. There will be a bright white light and …

December 31, 2020, 9:29:51 p.m., Thursday

I will be sitting in my recliner, yawning a big yawn. Bernd will be doing likewise. We will both decide that it is time to go to bed. As I am lying between our nice flannel sheets with Maddie tucked in, Bonfire lying on my chest and Bernd snoring beside me, I will look back on the year just passed and say to myself, “Guess it was all just business as usual.”

I hope that you all have a wonderful and amazing holiday season and a most spectacular 2020!

Killing to Eat

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livescience.com

Here’s something that has bothered me for quite some time. Many vegans say they do not want to eat anything that has to die in order to nourish them. Some say they won’t eat anything that has a face. Some don’t want to eat anything that might be harmed in the production of it. But ultimately, what I think they are saying is that they do not want to kill in order to eat. It’s a laudable ethic, but not one that appeals to me in all its aspects. I enjoy a little meat now and then. And I’m sure that some vegans and vegetarians are motivated by thoughts of better health rather than an overriding concern about killing.

My burning question is this: What do vegans think happens to the head of lettuce that is pulled out of the ground and then has its roots whacked off? For sure, that head of lettuce has just been killed.

To me, this means that many vegans are seemingly displaying a gross animal bias. Or maybe I’m picking nits but that’s how I see it.

I read a science fiction book that had a character that only ate things that were not killed in the procurement of them. The author had decided this character would only eat fruits because they could be harvested without killing the parent plant. But what about the fruit? Well, I suppose that you could argue that a fruit’s ultimate fate has always been death. But so far, with the state of current medical science, that is the ultimate fate for all animal life as well. In any case, as a dispersal mechanism for seeds, the fruit has to die and decompose, or be eaten and then the seeds shat out at some new location for the parent plant to propagate.

So then my mind slips even further along and wonders, what does it mean for plants that we are breeding seedless varieties. Are we depriving them of their genetic futures? Does that mean that we are ultimately condemning them all to a progeny-less death? Is that akin to randomly sterilizing parts of the human race? I’ve indulged in a little reductio ad absurdum to be sure.

It seems a bit ridiculous, but I suppose that is only because I have a fairly firmly seated animal bias. I admit it. I’ll also admit that what a lot of vegans are ultimately opposed to is not always the killing, but the needless suffering on the part of the animals being eaten. So do plants suffer would be a good question to ask.

There are studies being performed that seem to demonstrate that plants communicate with each other. Pea plants that are deprived of water in one location somehow communicate with pea plants in other locations about the scarcity of water. The deprived pea plants put into effect measures to cope with the lack of water. And so do the pea plants in the other locations. Imagine what this means.

I read of another study wherein a researcher took potted plants that react when touched and dropped them. She dropped them from about 16 inches in the air onto a pillow. When she first dropped them, the leaves all closed up. After repeated droppings, when the plants learned that they were not harmed by being dropped (that was the researchers working hypothesis), they stopped closing their leaves. To be sure that she wasn’t just “wearing them out,” she let some days go by and then dropped them again. They did not close their leaves. But plants new to the procedure did.

This would seem to say that plants can learn and also remember. If the results of these tests can be relied upon, well then, I am seriously going to have to rethink my animal bias. And until science can figure out some other way of sustaining life, we all, vegans and meat eaters alike, live at the expense of other lives.

Rewrite, Rewrite, Rewrite

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My husband, Bernd, recently started reading the sequel to “Millie’s Adventures in Time.” At least what I have written of it so far, which is actually quite a bit; something close to 80,000 words. Bernd is a good person to read the sequel because his memory for what he has read is not really all that great. So he’d forgotten … well I won’t say much, but he’d forgotten quite a bit about the first novel. In his defense, he remembers what he hears with an uncanny precision. He can quote dialogue from DVDs like you wouldn’t believe.

Here’s approximately how our first conversation about it went. And he hadn’t even read more than about 25 pages.

Bernd, with a questioning note in his voice: “Sweetie, did you mean this to be a stand-alone or part of a real series?”

Me, a little tightly:  “I meant it to be a sequel but also able to stand alone.”

Bernd:  “Hmph.”

Me, a little more tightly:  “What’s that mean?”

Bernd, with some uncertainty in his voice:  “Well, there are parts that might need more explaining.”

Me, finally walked into the living room and looked directly at him:  “Yeah. Like what?” I wasn’t being adversarial. Really. Okay, maybe a little.

He went on to explain. He had some good points. But I can’t say that I wasn’t a bit disappointed and frustrated. I thought I had done a good job of getting enough from the first book into the second for it to make sense. Hopefully without it being pedantically boring to anyone who had read the first novel. And as I said, he’d only read about 25 pages. If there were that many problems so early on, well, I felt I was looking at a major rewrite. As we went further along in our discussion, he also mentioned a couple of places where Millie said something he thought was out of character. Hoo boy.

I’ve read from some authors that they think your first draft should just get it down. If it’s a dirty, muddled mess then you will fix it in the second draft. By the fifth draft, you have a finished and finely polished piece of prose.

I don’t work that way. I don’t really expect to get it exactly “right” the first time around. But I also don’t expect to have to do any kind of major rewrite. Usually, my final draft isn’t that far off from the first. Maybe that’s a total error on my part. Maybe trying to be your own editor is akin to what they say about never trying to represent yourself in a court case.

I guess I will know more once I get some feedback from the couple people I know who have purchased the first novel.

In any case, over the next few days I will re-reread the sequel and see what I might change to make it less confusing. I guess it can never hurt to have a good look at it often. Maybe I’ll find typos I missed the first time around. That’s about as positive as I can feel about it right now. And yes, I realize I have made about a dozen changes to this post since first writing it and pushing the publish button.

The Adventures of Millie Continue

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Maybe this is what I need.

I had suspended working on the sequel to “Millie’s Adventures in Time” while I was getting said title published. It took longer than I thought to accomplish that once I decided to go forward with self-publishing and drop the search for an agent. So recently, I reread everything that I had written so far on “Millie’s Further Adventures in Time.” I was somewhat amazed at how much I had already written and I made a discovery.

I had completely forgotten that I was trying out a different way of writing the sequel from how I had written the first novel. The first one was written rather doggedly, one chapter after the other. I had to frequently go back and reread previous chapters to remind myself what a certain character had done or said on a particular topic, or just what had transpired before I could move on.

For the sequel, I was trying a different tactic. I set up a number of plot lines, gave them titles to help with saving them and retrieving them and then started writing. I’d write several chapters about certain characters and certain elements of the plot until I came to a point of no more inspiration at that time. Then I would move onto a different plot line. It helped to keep it fresh for me and required a lot less backtracking.

I think it must have been working well because once I finished rereading what I had put into the manuscript, I had this niggling little memory of there being more and I looked through the file and found about 30 pages worth that still needed to be fit into the manuscript.

I thought “wow” this is really great. I have all this “new” material to add to the manuscript. The only problem was, in what order should I add those chapters. Should it be two from this plot line and then one from that? I realized that this part was going to be harder than I remembered.

I reread all those “bonus” chapters and started making notes about how the chapters should be ordered. It required a couple days of fairly intensive work, but I got it done and it looks pretty good.

I haven’t quite decided if I should continue in this manner. The basic pros and cons are about even in my mind. I’d have to assign weights to each one in order to figure it out from a statistical standpoint. I’m not sure I have that much patience.

My gut tells me to continue in the same manner. After all, the sequel is already more than half as long as the first novel. Of course, I have no way of knowing how long this one will actually be. But I tend to have a lot to say most of the time (the length of this post should be an indication), so I have every reason to expect it to be at least as long as the first one. Since it has gone well so far, why not. Right?

I guess only time will tell on this one. I’ll just take it as it goes and see what transpires.

What we take for Granted (or how we just don’t see it anymore)

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I was sitting at the computer and talking with my husband, Bernd, the other day when the trash can to the left of me caught my attention. You can never know what will start me thinking. More particularly, it was the trash can liner that got me going.

Trash can liners. Wow. Now there is something that most people probably never think about, including me up to now. But consider this; when I was very young, there were no plastic trash can liners. Now and then my mom might put a paper bag into the kitchen trash can, but if she put anything wet in there, that rendered it pretty much useless. So, whenever one of our household trash cans was full, you walked with the can out back of the garage where the rubbish cans were located and dumped out the contents. Dad favored old oil drums because the lids fit very tightly. I don’t think he gave much thought to the aching backs of the men who picked up our trash (there were no huge plastic waste cans and automated trash trucks back then). We had one can for kitchen garbage (and you were always sure to hose out the kitchen trash can after you dumped it), one for yard clippings and another one for all other waste. The oil drums got hosed out regularly so they wouldn’t get too nasty smelling. The yard clipping can would take several weeks to fill up and the others required a couple. It seems to me there was less waste when I was younger.

And actually, when I was very, very young, there was no curbside trash pick up. You took your waste to the dump yourself. That is, whatever of it that was not burnable in your backyard incinerator. Ours looked a lot like a free-standing fireplace with a heavy metal door, much like a blast furnace door. Everyone had one. But California banned them in 1958 in the war on smog. I can remember walking home from school and the smog was so bad on some days that I could hardly see for the tears in my eyes. I’m sure banning the incinerators helped. In any event, you were careful not to create too much waste because it was not always easy to get rid of it.

But back to trash can liners. You can probably figure where this is all going. It has to do with the environment and saving natural resources and all the stuff we take for granted and don’t really think about. Trash can liners are made from polyolefins and low and high density polyethylenes. Polyethylene is derived from natural gas and petroleum. Some manufacturers are recycling plastics to make their trash can liners. But realistically, most of them end up in landfills. Maybe in a million billion years they will turn back into petroleum. Who knows?

Where possible, Bernd and I reuse the plastic shopping bags, in which we bring our purchases home, as trash can liners, padding for packages and sometimes insulation. Even so,most bags simply find their way to the landfill where they mostly just sit undisturbed, holding within them the materials that would actually otherwise biodegrade (food refuse, garden clippings and leaves and the like). How stupid is that? They could be made from polylactic acid (PLA), a biodegradable polymer derived from vegetable-based lactic acid (there is still the pollution of its production to be considered). There is also a degradable polyethylene film, but it does not decompose in landfills and requires exposure to weather and ultraviolet light to degrade.

Most of the plastic shopping bags are made from polyethylene like the “official” trash can liners. One (mainly me) has to wonder how much petroleum we could save (and production pollution we could eliminate) if we all just stopped using plastic shopping bags and used those made of fabric and webbing over and over. And let’s go one step further and consider ending the use of trash can liners. Okay, so we’d have to go back to washing out our trash cans, but it’s a small thing compared to helping our environment. Right? Will I do this? I’m seriously considering it. We already have two stainless steel bathroom trash cans that we do not line and that I wash regularly. It’s a start.

It boggles my mind how easily we slide from one way of doing things into another. Three men, Canadians Harry Wasylyk, Larry Hansen and Frank Plomp, invent a trash can liner and suddenly we can’t live without it. Can’t conceive of not using one. Just take it all for granted. How many other things in our lives have we never wondered about? Things that surely warrant a second look.

Do you plan out your grocery shopping trips for the most efficiency or do you just hop in the car every time you run out of something? I grocery shop once a week and combine it with all my other errands. If we run out of something before the next shopping trip, we make do. Do you try to purchase items that have a minimum of packaging over those that are “insanely” packaged?

I do the bulk of my grocery shopping at Costco where they never send stuff home with you in paper or plastic shopping bags and I always decline a box (Costco recycles them). So I’m good there. But I will seriously have to get with the fabric shopping bag thing for my forays to WalMart and Fry’s. If I put the fabric bags directly back into my car after I get home, I will have them with me always. Then I just have to remember to take them in with me. No mean feat.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the convenience of buying foods in resealable plastic bags, though I may never look at them quite the same way again. And I’m not going to cure all the ills of the earth by eliminating plastic shopping bags and trash can liners from my life. But as a starting place, it sure couldn’t hurt. I will do my best to “see” where I can help. I never want to take the health of our planet for granted. And to my way of thinking, what’s good for Mother Earth is good for me too.

It’s Real

Yesterday, my author copy of my paperback arrived in the mail. My heart lurched in my chest when I saw the envelope. It did another little thump when I confirmed by feel that a book was inside. I can’t really describe how I felt when I actually opened the envelope and held my book in my hands. It was a cascade of fleeting emotions that had way more impact than I ever thought possible for what is, in reality, such a small thing. A book. Just a book. But yes, my book.

This morning, I can look at my book and hold it and not feel overwhelmed with emotion. I sat for a moment and turned the pages and began reading it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read it. I read it to remind myself where I last left off writing it. I’ve read it to proof read it and I’ve read it to edit it. I’ve read it so many times that it boggles my mind. But each of those readings was from a computer monitor.

I don’t know why reading it from the written page, from a book I was holding in my hands, should be so different. But it was.

From time to time I enjoy reading some of the books that Bernd gets from Kindle . He syncs his tablet to his phone and then lets me read from the tablet. But I don’t think that I will ever give up actual paperback or hard cover novels.

I like the look of them. I like the feel of them. Shoot, I even like the way they smell. So for me, it will always be the Real that I prefer.

And now I have one of my own making. There’s nothing much better than that.

A Million Miles per Hour

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Wind. Winding up like a batter about to swing. Then smashing the ball to oblivion and gone. Wind. Slamming into the house and rattling the windows. Howling around the eaves and whistling through the cracks. Think your house is sealed up tight. Wind will tell you.

Wind. Spinning up like a motor bent on overload. Racing faster and faster, changing pitch as it goes. Higher and higher. Pushing freezing rain against the windows. Tick, tick, tick-tick-tick. Rapid fire.

Sleep. Not well or long. Wind awakes. Did I stack the chairs? Have they left the deck by ones and twos? Do my neighbors own them now?

Lie and listen. Wind, bellowing like a beast outraged. Anger spent, it drops into a stupor only to take up the rage once more. Jolted from my doze. Will the trees survive? What about the birds? Safe in my bed I wonder, how do they survive?

Morning. Bright and sunny. First time in days. Wind, in its fury has pushed the clouds away. Last leaves are chased from the trees. And no more need to rake the yard scoured clean by Wind.

Quiet … after so much noise for so long. Empty. Missing something. Wanting Wind!

Weird Words 4

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 1973 edition

Piaffe

And no, it isn’t edible and I haven’t forgotten how to spell (the French seem to have a much harder time spelling than I do). You are probably thinking of “pilaf” and it usually has the word “rice” in front of it.

The horse world is just chock full of weird words. Many of them are French if you are working in dressage. It looks like pee-affy, but that is not how it is said. I shouldn’t really get down on the French and their spelling, after all we have words like knight and caught and limb. And we don’t say k-niggit, k-ow-g-t, or lim-b.

Piaffe is French in origin, as you might have guessed from my earlier comments, and is most commonly spoken pee-aff, but I have also heard it said pee-off. I suppose that is what you might be if your horse doesn’t perform it properly in competition. Or maybe no. There is a saying:  there are no bad horses, only bad owners. I think you could substitute “rider” for “owner.” That would certainly have been my case. But I worked hard and I got better. When my horse would do something I didn’t want her to do, I would ask myself what I did wrong. I’d like to think other riders are as considerate.

Piaffe is basically a trot in place where the horse makes exaggerated movements of the front legs. There should be lots of bend in the front leg and the opposite rear leg should come off of the ground at the same time. The step (I don’t think you can really call it a gait because the horse does not cover any ground) was originally used to keep a horse warmed up and focused before battle. It’s kind of like how a city jogger will jog in place at a red traffic signal.

I’ve seen a lot of pictures from horse shows with riders in their shadbellies and top hats sitting on horses performing the piaffer and it is quite impressive. The horse manages to look very elegant. As for the riders, I’ve no quarrel with top hats, but those coats gotta go.

I like to include, here, words that I have personally used. I have not yet used piaffe in the course of a normal conversation, but I have used shadbelly (don’t even ask). You will never catch me wearing a shadbelly, of this I can assure you.

Shadbelly

Remember those old black and white movies that they show late at night when only the insomniacs are awake? All the people talk kind of funny and the women run around in fancy gowns with cigarettes in long holders while the men wear those funny long-tailed tuxedo coats and smoke cigars. Those odd tuxedo coats that stop at the waist with a Weskit hem (if you draw a line along the bottom of a Weskit hem, it would make a “w”) and have the long, split tails hanging down the back are basically shadbellies.

It is a sad fact, but true, that not all riders are slim and fit. In my experience (oh, the poor horse) quite a few are overweight with bulging stomachs. It just seems to me that a standard show coat (looks a lot like a black blazer with shiny buttons and a short slit in the back) would be much more esthetic. I’m not saying overweight people shouldn’t ride horses (oh boy, I’m probably getting myself in trouble here), just that they shouldn’t wear shadbellies. I guess there’s no way for me express this opinion without being politically incorrect and seeming totally insensitive.

Almost forgot. I couldn’t really find any definitive etymology for this word. One entry mentioned that shad is a fish and, seriously, I don’t see how that relates.

Top Hat

Most of us know what a top hat looks like. And I’ll admit it’s not really a weird word, but I can’t help myself sometimes. Just seemed natural to go from shadbelly to top hat.

Thankfully, the horse show top hats are not nearly as tall as the classic top hat, otherwise they might provide too high of a profile and fly off the rider’s head during a speedy canter around the arena. Actually, I’ve no idea what keeps a rider’s top hat on his/her head. There are no straps visibly going under the chin as in the schooling and show helmets. But why are they called top hats?

The word top is defined as highest point, summit or crest. Your head certainly is the highest point on your body (as long as you are standing up, if you are lying down that could conceivably be your belly; I seem to be a bit fixated here). But wouldn’t that make every hat a top hat? I mean, you are not going to wear a hat on your shoulder, are you? Ooh! New fashion trend … shoulder hats … we could call them sha … okay, maybe not.

All I could find out about it (okay, so I only searched for a couple of minutes) said that the term dated from 1881 and is related to topper, which means the best of anything (first recorded in slang in 1709). Personally, I don’t see that a top hat is better than any other type of hat. Actually, they are inferior if the point is to keep your head comfortable in cold weather, though they would do a good job of keeping the sun off. Oh wait, here’s an idea and really, it just now popped into my head. Maybe they were worn to make a man appear taller because taller has always been associated with greater power and success in males. Now that makes sense to me. Top that!

As always, I’d be delighted to hear about any “weird words” that you know of or use regularly.

Heard it Through the Grapevine

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from Google Image Search
shouselaw.com

“… opening another office,” said one of the employees she hadn’t met yet. A smallish woman with a bit of gray in her hair who looked to be in her mid-forties.

Another employee, a bit younger than the former, she also did not yet know, who was standing at the water cooler said, “Really? I hadn’t heard that.”

“Yes,” said the first employee, “and they are planning on hiring the manager for it from within the ranks.”

She, Nancy (a fairly new hire), stopped in her tracks on her way to get a drink and get away from her desk for a while. The fake potted fig shielded her from the view of the other two employees while her mind worked furiously. She backed quietly away and went back to her desk.

It’s not that Nancy wasn’t grateful for her job. In these lean times, jobs … good paying jobs … are really hard to find. But she always figured that her talents were wasted sitting at a desk all day. And frankly that crappy little task chair they gave her was making her back cranky. And the man, Tim, who worked in the next cubicle wore way too much cologne and she had a headache every day. An office of her own, away from the noise, and a nice cushy executive chair would be wonderful. Nancy started thinking furiously.

“I’ve just got to get that managerial position,” she thought to herself, “I’ve never really enjoyed being bossed around by others. It would be nice to do the bossing instead.” She set about getting her days duties finished so that she could go home, have a glass of wine and plan her attack.

Later at home, glass of wine in hand and dinner warming in the microwave oven, Nancy came a bit to her senses and the doubts started flooding in. There were probably a dozen people with more seniority than her. Maybe some of them had actually been managers in the past. But she had a lot of experience in the field. Admittedly it was all in the bottom end of it, but that shouldn’t really be an impediment. After all, she’d had lots of managers and knew how they had handled things. Surely she could do as well if not better.

The ding of the microwave interrupted her thoughts and she went to retrieve her meal. Maybe the best thing to do would be to watch a little television while eating, take a nice hot bath and go to bed early. Well rested and refreshed in the morning, she might be better able to create a plan for landing that position.

The next day at work was really busy and Nancy despaired of ever finding any time to give her plan some thought. When lunch was still about an hour away, her back was starting to give her fits, so she got up to walk to the water cooler. When she arrived, the same two women were standing there and talking.

“They’re moving really fast on it. I’m surprised at how fast. Usually these things take forever,” said the first woman.

“But that’s a good thing right? I mean, too much delay and before you know it a month has gone by and nothing has been accomplished,” remarked the second woman.

“Yes, but things are in such disarray. It’s a real mess all of a sudden.”

“It will be over soon and you’ll be much happier and wonder what all the fuss was about.”

Nancy was starting to wonder if she would ever get another drink of water as she backed quietly away once again. She wondered if the first woman was in Human Resources and that is how she had this “inside” information. She was going to have to get on the ball and make her bid for the position as soon as possible. Darn! She really wished she had more time.

Nancy decided to skip eating lunch and use her break to craft a letter to Human Resources and turn it in that very day. She put together what she considered to be a slick proposal explaining her qualifications (some a bit exaggerated) and reasons for wanting the promotion (though none of the real reasons). She sent it to the central printer and hurried over to pull it out so that no one would see it. Then she put it into an envelope and dropped it on the mail cart to be delivered. She considered it well worth missing lunch not to miss out on this opportunity.

Nancy finished her shift with a light heart and optimism and went home to another microwave meal and a glass of wine. She was so keyed up by the prospect and was so bound up in imagining herself in her new job that she had trouble going to sleep. But she finally did sleep and woke up the next morning a bit bleary eyed and not quite all there mentally. Most likely skipping a meal the previous day had something to do with it as well.

When Nancy arrived at her desk, she saw that there was a larger than average number of orders to be processed and so she got right to work. All thoughts of her letter and the job vanished under the onslaught. So she was mildly surprised when she got a call from Tricia, the Human Resources woman who had hired her. Tricia asked that Nancy come to her office for a chat. Nancy’s heart started to beat wildly in her chest and she thought, “This is it! If it was a turn down, she’d just send a memo. This is it!”

Nancy finished processing the order she was working on and headed for Tricia’s office. She was fairly skipping down the hallways and smiled at everyone she passed. When she arrived, Tricia was on the phone and waved Nancy into a seat and made little wait a moment movements with her free hand.

When Tricia hung up the phone, she looked at Nancy and said, “Good morning, Nancy. Thank you for coming. How are you feeling today?” The fact that Tricia was not smiling and had a small frown on her face gave Nancy a few momentary misgivings.

“I’m fine,” said Nancy, “but I didn’t sleep all that well last night. Still I’m doing okay.”

Tricia said, “I’ll get right to it then. I got your letter at the end of the day yesterday and I have a few questions and things I would like to clear up.”

“Yes?”

“Yes. I’ve looked into your productivity and you are clearing orders at a fairly average pace. But your quality of work and lack of errors is considerably above average. Since you have been here almost three months, I went ahead and did your three-month evaluation a little early and I can tell you that you would be receiving a one dollar an hour raise in your next paycheck. I hope that is good news to you.”

Nancy replied with a rather tentative tone, “Oh, it is. Really. It is.”

“Good,” said Tricia, “So, do you feel you are settling in well? Are you getting a good sense of how the company operates and a feel for the company dynamic?”

Nancy had to think about that for a moment. This wasn’t really going at all how she had imagined it might. She would have to answer those questions carefully and in such a way that she could show she was ready to be a manager. After all, at 27 years old, she was certainly old enough to take on a management position.

“Yes, I have settled in well. I get along well with my fellow employees and I’ve learned a lot in a very short time about how the company operates. Of course, there is always more to learn and I look forward to learning new things.” There that should do it.

Then Tricia surprised her by asking, “Nancy, are you happy in your job?”

“I’m not sure I understand the question,” was Nancy’s reply. And again some doubts started to creep in and a small frown furrowed her brow.

“I mean just that. Are you happy in your job? I don’t know how else to put it. Do you like your working conditions? Does the work bore you? Do you dread coming to work?”

Nancy decided to seize upon the boring aspect and said, “Well, it is a bit boring and while each order is different, the processing of them is always the same.” She paused momentarily and then decided to continue. “And truth is that the cubicle doesn’t really cut out a lot of the noise. And Tim who works next to me wears so much cologne that it gives me a headache every day. Also, my chair is making my back ache.”

Tricia thought for a moment and said, “Hmm. Well these are mostly all issues that can be easily addressed. You should have come to me much sooner with them instead of suffering. I can speak to Tim or move him further away. And we can get you a better chair. Or if you would like, you should go purchase one that suits you and the company will reimburse you for it. As for the noise, there isn’t much that we can do about that, I’m afraid. We would really hate to lose you. You are always on time and you do your work well.”

Now Nancy was really confused and said, “Lose me? I don’t understand.”

“Well, there is the letter that you sent to me. It’s a bit confusing and it seems like you might be considering leaving the company. We would be very sorry to lose you.”

“I’m very confused,” said Nancy, “I thought I made it clear that I was applying to be the new manager of the new office that we are opening.”

Tricia’s eyebrows shot up in surprise and she said, “Whatever gave you the idea that we were opening another office?”

“Well, I uh overheard a conversation at the water cooler about it on two occasions. I assumed that one of the women, whom I have not yet met, worked in Human Resources and that she had some inside information.”

Tricia thought about this for a moment and then said, “Nancy, as you know, our company is relatively small and so is our Human Resources Department. The entire department is just William and me. I don’t know what you heard or why you interpreted it as you did. So do you wish to continue your employment with us?”

Nancy could feel the heat of embarrassment starting in her face. As the redness slowly made its way down her neck and onto her chest, she said, “Yes, I do wish to continue working here.” Nancy dropped her head and looked at her hands which were wringing themselves in her lap. Thankfully out of sight of Tricia.

With a great deal of relief, Tricia said, “Oh good! I’ll get right on the cologne issue. Would you like to purchase a chair for yourself or shall I see what I can do?”

Nancy was still having trouble meeting Tricia’s gaze when she said, “Thank you. I’ll go get a chair myself. I should be getting back to work now.”

“Excellent. Be sure to keep your receipt and bring it directly to me. I’ll see that you are reimbursed. I really am glad that you are staying with us. Have a good day, Nancy.”

With that, Nancy headed back to her cubicle. She couldn’t understand why she had been so mistaken. The conversations of those two women were pretty clear. Then a thought occurred to her. Maybe they had known she was behind the fig and were having a little joke at her expense. Or maybe they had been hazing the newbie. Suddenly she felt a little righteous anger building up. There they had gone and made her look like a fool.

The water cooler was on her way to her cubicle and those same two women were standing there gossiping about something. As Nancy was walking passed she heard, “… and so she got a dressing down.” And then they both laughed.

Well, that did it! Lack of sleep. Calorie deficit. Embarrassing encounter with Tricia. It was all too much and she turned around and confronted to the two women saying, “I bet you think it’s all pretty funny!”

One of the women said, “Excuse me? We haven’t met. I’m Anne and this is Margie. And you are …?”

“Yeah. Right. Does it matter?”

Anne said, “Oh wait, you’re that new hire in my processing department, right? Nancy? Right?”

“Well, I guess you certainly know who I am. And it’s really not funny hazing the new employee. That’s just totally sophomoric.”

Margie looked inquiringly at Anne who shrugged her shoulders and then said, “Nancy, we have no idea what you are talking about.”

Then Nancy just went off, “You most certainly do. Monday you were talking about the company opening a new office and hiring a manager from within while at the water cooler. Then on Tuesday you were talking about how they were going ahead with it really fast. And just now you were laughing about me being called into Tricia’s office. You deliberately set out to make me think that there was an opening and that I should go for it!”

Anne and Margie were completely taken aback by her outburst. So much so that they actually took a couple of steps back. Nancy had been so loud and sounded so angry that they had drawn a small crowd. Finally, a look of understanding came to Margie’s face.

“Golly Nancy, it was nothing like that. Monday, Anne and I were discussing a mutual friend and his bid for a manager’s position at his company. Tuesday, Anne was telling me about how the remodel of her kitchen was going. And the very last thing I said before you accosted us was the punch line to a joke that is a pun.”

Nancy was mortified. She didn’t know what to do and blurted out, “I’m sorry! Oh my God! I’m so sorry!” And she fled to her cubicle. What a day! She didn’t know how she would ever live it down. She finished her days work without any more idiotic mistakes (thankfully) and went home to have two glasses of wine and some macaroni with cheese. Mac and cheese always could make her feel better.

The next day walking to her cubicle, she stared resolutely at her feet. She glanced up briefly as she passed Tim’s cubicle, but he wasn’t sitting there. Anne was sitting there. “Oh my God,” Nancy thought, “I’m being punished.”

A couple more steps brought her to her cubicle. There was a box of chocolates sitting on her desk with a note on top. Her head went to the side and she looked at the floor for a while and took a few deep breaths. She decided she’d had way too much confusion for a while and simply opened the note. It read “No hard feelings. Anne and Margie.”

Nancy couldn’t believe her good fortune and poking her head around the corner and into Anne’s cubicle she said, “Good morning, Anne. Thanks. Want some chocolate?” And she offered her the box.

“Don’t mind if I do,” said Anne. And they enjoyed a few sweet bites together before settling down to work.

I was reminded about this short story I once wrote in response to an assignment titled, “Eavesdropper.” What reminded me was a short story by one of the writers here on WordPress. He’s always making me think about things differently. Thanks!

Millie is Alive!

Yesterday, after much ado, I pressed the “publish your paperback book” button on Kindle Direct Publishing. To say it was an emotional moment would be an understatement. I required several hours after finishing the final proof to work up the courage to actually publish my novel.

I was advised that it could take up to 72 hours for the review process to be completed and for my book to go live on Amazon.com. It did not. When I checked my emails this morning, I had a notice that my book was available, but that all services might not be; such as “look inside.”

My husband got excited and since he has the Kindle app on his phone, he looked it up. As he was looking at the listing, the “look inside” service became available. Well, at least for the eBook. I don’t really know how it works for the paperback.

Now I have a whole host of new things to learn and figure out. I have friends and family to notify. I’m having a hard time prioritizing it all in my mind.

Probably I should be looking over the email they sent to me and getting set up with Author Central, seeing if there is a link to my book’s page on Amazon and all that sort of thing before posting this. But I’m kind of excited right now and a little bit scared too. So this was the easiest thing for me at this moment.

There will be more later. Possibly a link to purchase. Oh my.