Monday, February 28, 2005

Sunshine and Sanity

My coworkers are insane. I came in this morning to find that three of them had not left the office since early Sunday. Not only had they spent the majority of the last two weeks in the office, including weekends, they had now gone more than 24 hours without leaving the building, not even stopping to sleep.

I'm sorry, this is crazy-people behavior. There is a thin line between dedication-to-a-project and outright mental illness. They have crossed that line. Sure, today was the deadline to get their book out, and if it wasn't out today we’d lose thousands and thousands of dollars, but was it really worth it? Probably. It just makes me uncomfortable that this might happen to me. Becoming a work-zombie isn't on my list of fun things to do.

The boss assures us that this kind of thing won't come up again. We're better spacing out our projects, she says. Let us hope she's right. I'm all for taking one for the team, don't get me wrong. I've put in my fair share of late nights, coming in weekends, etc. In fact, I came in on Saturday and spent a few hours writing photo captions for this project. It was a sunny weekend, too, and instead of basking in the warmth, I was huddled over my computer describing civil war photographs.

Sunshine is my prozac. It severely affects my mood, no lie. I could be cursing the human race and kicking small children, angry as the day I was born, and then step out into a bright sunny day and suddenly I’m skipping along grassy paths, distributing lollipops and french-kissing nuns.

It's scientifically proven that weather affects mood, so I know I’m not alone here, but I think my case may be a little extreme. A sunny day can turn everything around for me, as if I was some kind of chlorophyll starved chia pet. Which brings up a good point: if I believed in reincarnation, I would swear I was a plant in another life. It all fits together too perfectly--my longing for sunlight, the fact I like that's pretty much it.

Let's drop the plant metaphor. In fact, let's just go ahead and end this post entirely. The moral of the story is that you shouldn't work yourself to death and also that winter sucks monkey groin. The end.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The 2D Revolution

The phrase "Oldie but goodie" applies to lots of things; movies, music, art, Audrey Hepburn, cheese...

I'm just not sure it applies to video games anymore. Way back in the eighties, when I was a child, everything was new and fresh. Atari was the standard, Nintendo was revolutionary, and I could rock the Apple IIe like nobody's business. I even dabbled on the Commodore 64--now that's old!

I don't have nearly as much time or desire to play video games as I once did, though I'm still an occasional gamer. As a child, however, I was obsessed. Bubble Bobble was sweet, sweet love, and Toe Jam and Earl was as mind blowing and addictive as rock cocaine.

My sister visited me over the weekend and for some reason had a strong craving to play these old games again. I was down with the idea because, frankly, it's not like I have a life. After a bit of searching on the internet, I downloaded a couple emulators and in no time the shrill, repetitive tune of Bubble Bobble was beeping away. "This is great," I thought at first. "Just like old times." We discussed how we would play this for hours with our brother (now somewhere in Mexico) and how fun it was.

Then after about thirty seconds of blowing bubbles and popping them, reality set in. "This freakin' sucks," I admitted. "This really isn't that fun," she said. "What were we thinking?"

We tried good ol' "Toe Jam and Earl." That one, I was sure, would not disapoint. Playing funky aliens was better than pixel-like lizard creatures, but the terrible sound and graphics eventually became unbearable. We went upstairs and turned on my gamecube.

I guess there's no turning back. How can you get excited about ugly, 2D dragons hopping on bubbles, when you've played amazingly detailed modern games like Prince of Persia: Warrior Within. I'll just stick with the good memories of these old games. It's all sunshine and glitter when you're looking back. Atari is still cool, Mr. Rogers is entertaining, and He-man isn't blatantly homosexual. Life is better in retrospect.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Ding Dong The Book Is Done

The kiddies can rejoice! Well, at least the ones that live in Pennsylvania and are in the 4-6th grade age category. Those kiddies.

My book is finished. I've been designing it for 9 months now. 9 months! It's as if I got pregnant when I started on this thing, and am now finally giving birth. But instead of pink, fleshy, baby-like creatures coming out, it's 336 pages of state history textbook. Corner edges are incredibly painful, let me tell you. Next time I'm definitely using protection.

I won't see my baby for a few months, however, since it's being printed in Asia. Meanwhile, I'm finishing up the 7-9th grade sibling book, which is supposed to go to press next month. We'll see about that.

You can view sample pages if you're into that sort of thing. Just click on the cover and investigate to your heart's content.

Friday, February 11, 2005

More Pierre

Pierre may be coming to visit in May. He makes an annual trip to the States to feed his unhealthy obsession with America. Sometimes he stops by Utah, sometimes not. The last time he did was two years ago. He had brought two friends who wanted to float in the Salt Lake. Floating in the lake isn't half bad, if you don't mind the stink and the flies. So we floated, then took in the city sights, then stopped to eat.

Pierre wanted to eat in the food court at the mall, because of all the "variety" of fast food restaurants. His two friends were U.S. first-timers, and he wanted to expose them to America's fast food choices in one sweep. There are two malls in downtown Salt Lake that are across the street from each other. This was an ideal place, according to Pierre, because you get twice the food court.

I went into the first court, perfectly satisfied with my options, ready to eat. Not so with Pierre. "This one doesn't have a lot of variety," he told me. "We should go to the other one."

"The other one is pretty much exactly the same," I said. It was true. How much variety can one expect in a mall food court? This isn't Disney World, Pierre. But he insisted, so we went. We split up, bought our food, and met back at a table. I came back with lemon pepper chicken from some Asian restaurant. All three of the Frenchies came back with...burgers and fries. Rather ugly White Castle looking burgers and fries, I might add. It was hard not to laugh.

"I thought you wanted variety," I said.
"I didn't know what else to get," he said.

This is still hilarious to me, to this day. Pierre and his burgers.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Champagne and Big Macs

I'm glad Condie Rice is off chatting it up with the French, trying to patch up relations. I like the French. There's no good reason to hate them. If we have to hate a group of people why can't it be dwarves? They're smaller than us.

Which makes me think of a time when I was with my family, visiting my sister's friend in Northern France. Let's just call this friend, Pierre, since that's a safe, generic French name. Also, that's his real name.

So Pierre wanted to take us on a picnic up in Champagne country, not far from Reims where he lives. This was a good idea, because frankly, how many cathedrals do you have to look at before you just want to shoot yourself in the face? They're old and beautiful, we get it!

Picnics are nice, especially in the countryside where you can enjoy the scenery and the great food France has to offer. We headed to the market for supplies. But wait, says Pierre, that will take too long. There is too much to do and see up there in the vineyards. Let's just stop by “MacDo” (French for McDonalds) and save some time. This did not sound so great to us, but we went along with Pierre's wishes, fearful that angering him would lead to violence, as it so often does with the French.

We hiked up onto a ridge, toting McDonald's bags, and settled down at a scenic picnic area overlooking stretches of vineyards. Butt-ugly gargoyles couldn't hold a candle to this. It was fantastic. Then we heard the chortling. A group of natives at a nearby picnic table were pointing at our lunch and giggling freely. We overheard words like "Les Americains" and "MacDo" in all their mirth making. Of course this was hilarious to them. What do American tourists bring to the scenic French countryside? McDonalds. How quaint. Silly Americans and their gastronomic ineptitude.

One of them approached and asked if we had a corkscrew for their wine. We could barely get out a "No" before they all burst into laughter again. At this point, I wanted to slap these people. It wasn't OUR fault we looked like uncultured swine with McDonalds bags. It was Pierre's fault. PIERRE! One of your own! He did it! But we couldn't explain this without hurting Pierre's feelings, and on the other hand, who the hell cares? We enjoyed our MacDo and they sipped their wine and chewed their cheese. The vineyards were beautiful. It was a cultural experience.

I don't often find myself form-fitting a stereotype, but what can you do? At least I'm not a "cheese-eating surrender monkey," to quote the Simpsons. In fact, I've never surrendered to anything while eating cheese. Except maybe to deliciousness.

P.S. Apologies to the little people. You’re okay.