violetcheetah: (butler)
First, a product review for a product I've never used.  As you might imagine, we've been processing a rather larger-than-average number of cards (versus letters, postcards, etc.) for the last few weeks at the post office.  Some of these get ripped through no fault of their own: a corner gets caught on a diverter gate in the machine, or they get involved in a 7-card pile-up behind some card that has frickin' BEADS as part of its decoration.  But there's one puzzling thing that I've noticed several times a day.  A card will come through the machine, and the envelope will look like it's been slit with a letter opener, only on three or on all four sides.  This is kinda a problem when the side of the envelope with the address maybe ends up no longer with the card; sometimes all that ends up in the tray is that single side of envelope, with no clue where the card is; sometimes the card ends up envelope-less in the reject tray and we can't find the envelope.  Particularly awesome when there's a check inside the card; I don't honestly know if we mail those back to the address on the check or not, because it might not be kosher since it's not a return address per se, so there might actually be rules that prevent doing that.  Anyway, I noticed a couple of things about these envelopes: they were all the same off-white/light-grey color, and they were all of a texture rather more like newspaper than like a normal envelope.  And, since the envelopes are open on 3 or 4 sides, and since I needed to check for a check in case the card needed special handling, I couldn't help but notice the company name on the back of each and every one of the cards was the same: Paper Craft.  Now, I don't know how many of their cards do make it through the machines intact; maybe this problem only affects one in a thousand, maybe less.  But this particular problem doesn't seem to be happening with any other company's envelopes.

Now, back to the beaded cards.  Also, this new trend than I can only refer to as "Bedazzled" cards, with little faux gemstones on the cards.  They probably look really cool when your first get them, but be aware, once they've gone through a postal machine, which moves the mail through lots of narrow slots, there's a good chance that the envelope over those little gemstone thingies is now going to be punched through like you've used an awl.  It actually makes for a pretty cool-looking envelope.  But probably not the look you're going for.

Finally, a word on sealing your envelopes: DO!  Seal them with the adhesive strip pretty much all envelopes have.  Seal them all the way across.  Don't just stick an adorable little snowman or Santa sticker in the middle of the flap and think that's enough.  Because there's a good chance that your envelope is going to end up in a tray with another piece of mail that slides under that unsealed flap, and the two fornicators are now going to be fed as one into the machine, and they'll go in just fine, but somewhere along the path in the machine, they will have a falling out and each go their separate ways, and chances are decent that when that happens, it's gonna rip off the unsealed flap on your envelope and the twee little sticker, and now it's not so frickin' cute, is it?

Of course, all of this is moot for this Christmas-card season, because presumably you've either already mailed your cards or you've said, "Screw it, I'll save them for next year."  But file the info away for upcoming birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, get-wells, what have you.




violetcheetah: (Default)
[written last night]

I feel the need tonight to share some wisdom I've gained from working as a USPS mail processor clerk. You know how sometimes you get a piece of mail in one of those "oopsie" plastic bags because it's been ripped nearly in half and looks like a kindergartner tried origami? And you're like, "What the hell?? It's a plain flat envelope with two pieces of flat paper inside, why the blazes would the machine spindle -that-?" Well, the problem isn't your envelope; the problem is, maybe 5 pieces of mail -before- yours was an envelope in which someone decided to mail a thumb drive, or a rosary, or a lanyard with two keys attached. Or, a fru-fru hotel could decide that the best way to reunite a former guest with his fugly necktie was to fold it in quarters and put it in a plain ole envelope and stick it in the mail, like we encountered tonight. And then -that- piece of mail jams in a machine, and there's a 10-car pileup by the time the machine can stop, and those 10 pieces of mail are crammed into such a small space that we nearly achieved nuclear frickin' fusion. And in most cases, some anal-retentive clerk like me spends 2 to 5 minutes carefully extracting those 10 pieces of mail, including yours, trying not to rip anything any more than necessary, and sometimes failing. In the special cases, like tonight's necktie, I won't even try, because the technician has to come spend half an hour taking part of the machine apart to get the damn thing out. And in the really special cases, the technician will have to come back 4 more times over the remaining three hours trying to recalibrate everything, because now the machine is jamming on anything that isn't a postcard. In between each visit, the anal-retentive clerk will try running more mail, only to have yet more pieces accordioned, and no, she will not actually go postal, largely because her co-workers are commiserating with her, and eventually the number of f-bombs will reach critical mass and again with the nuclear metaphor, only here they decay into sardonic laughter and off-color wordplay involving mail/male and thickness. All because the guy at the desk at a hotel that likely charges 400 bucks a night couldn't be bothered to swing for a 50-cent padded envelope and the buck-thirty or so to send something as light as a tie first-class mail. So anyway, here's a rule of thumb, literally: if it's thicker than your thumb, DON'T FRICKIN' STICK IT IN A PLAIN FRICKIN' ENVELOPE. Because karma's a wench, and she's gonna turn your next tax refund check into confetti and you'll get about two-thirds of it an oopsie bag and you'll be left asking "Why, God, why? It was just an innocent piece of paper in a normal envelope!"



violetcheetah: (Default)
After getting involved in other stuff for, oh, nine months, I was in the mood to play with ancestry.com again tonight (spurred by the knowledge that my 80-year-old aunt whose the genealogy buff on that side of the family is in a nursing home with bone cancer, so I should really collect what I have found so far sometime real soon now).  And I found a tidbit that only makes sense now that I understand the nuances of colonial Massachusetts:

My 7th-great grandfather was born in 1683 in Bristol, Massachusetts.  Died in 1757 in Bristol, Rhode Island.  Same place, brand new breakaway colony.  So I wasn't surprised to find that yup, his father was born in 1651, his mother in 1655, both in Salem, Massachusetts.  My response to this: Yeah! I don't just have pilgrims in my family, and have the pilgrims who said "F*&^ you" to the soon-to-be witch-burners and got the hell outta dodge before things got toasty!  Counterculture hippy pilgrims!  Yeah!


language

Jun. 14th, 2013 12:28 am
violetcheetah: (daisy tongue)
I wrote this at the first Write Here Write Now workshop I attended back in April.  Fair warning: there's a great deal of cursing — in fact, that's kind of the whole point.  

-----

I never swore before I came to college. I had literally said the f-word once in my life, and that was when I was six and mimicking my father, with no idea what it meant. I mean, the word "mother" was right there in the phrase, so it couldn't be bad, right? I didn't say hell even when I meant the place, because even though I knew that wasn't really swearing, it still felt wrong on my tongue. And then, freshman year in college, I was roommates with Heather.

She sewed, and cooked, and baked, all the things that were too girly for me to do growing up. The first month I knew her, she got drafted into costume designing for the Musical Theatre Guild's production of Oklahoma. 15 pairs of bloomers. She bought a sewing machine at the Woolworth's, and it was about what you'd expect for a sewing machine from Woolworth's. I sat on my bed trying to figure out my calculus homework while she fought with the bobbins.

"God dammit! Mother fucking, ass-sucking piece of shit!"

I started laughing out of shock. I hadn't heard that kind of litany of curses from anyone but my father. But there was such beauty. I'd never noticed the rhyme of "fucking" and "sucking" before. And "ass-sucking": what a perfect, perfect image: the excrement implied but never stated outright. She was hunched over the machine, a pair of pink bloomers hanging off the back of the table, telling it to do things that would only be possible if it were an incredibly limber dog. I would have still been laughing if I could have inhaled. I had to get up from my seat and lie in fetal position on the floor before I could draw in a breath and shriek with giggles.

She came back to campus early after Christmas break that year, and she taught me how to play Parcheesi while I got paid to watch the front desk at the dorm even though there was pretty much no one coming or going. There was some confusion over the rules of the game, it had been so long since she played. Did you get to send your opponent's piece back to start — and also get to move twenty spaces — only if your piece landed exactly on the other person's piece, or just by passing their piece? Fuckit, let's try the second way and see what happens.

What happened was three-hour games, with pieces getting sent back to square one with a frequency that brought out a kind of gleeful rage I'd never had playing board games with my mother and brother. There was a new level of creativity in the curses. She passed one of my pieces, sent it home and got 20 spaces, which sent her past a second of my pieces, that one back to home and another 20 spaces for her. "Fuck you! Fuck you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!" At one point, she blew on her hands cupped around the dice, shook them while chanting, "Six. Six. Six." I put my hands on my hips, even though I was sitting down, and nagged, "Six, six, six, that's all you ever think about." She snorted. "What are you, Satan's wife?" "Well, that makes you Satan, chickie." It was my turn, and I rolled high enough to pass one of her pieces. "And now I shall send your demon spawn back into the fires from which they came!"

My shift was over at 2 a.m., but we stayed up and played through the night. At 8 in the morning, the guy came down to take the morning shift, and we headed upstairs to sleep, passing through the lounge, where a middle-aged woman I'd never seen managed to somehow glare at us while simultaneously avoiding looking at us. Halfway up the stairs, I muttered, "Who the hell was that?" Heather said, "You know Lisa from the third floor?" "The fundy girl?" "Yup. That's her mom."



violetcheetah: (peter)
Let me preface by saying I've had a... character-building week.  Found my breaking point, and then had to keep going.  Twice.  So I got home last night still on edge, and was of course immediately swarmed by cats, which is both stressy and adorable.  I generally talk to them as I get ready to feed them: "Yes, you are starving, I see that, and as soon as I get my coat off, I will feed you."  I feed them dry food, but a few months ago, Chess, my 14-year-old girl, decided that regular food was no longer tasty enough, even if she was hungry.  She sniffs at it and it's like she doesn't recognize it as food.  So now when I feed her, I mix in a bit of Solid Gold brand cat-formulated tuna, just enough to coat the kibble and make it smelly.

Of course, everyone wants her food now, except for Butler, who generally ignores the festivities.  So I placate OJ by putting the tuna-residue spoon by his food dish, so he can kill time licking it off while Chess eats.  Peter is more butt-in-y, but also less picky when it comes to food, so I've been putting some wet foods in his kibble that I took from the cat shelter where I volunteer; they were fru-fru donations that the cats there showed no interest in.  Currently, he's getting a spoonful of stuff from a packet of shredded chicken and pumpkin.  All this is by way of set-up for last night's conversation:

"Yes, Chess, you get food now.  With goo!... Yes OJ, you get food now, and a spoon!  Yes, Peter, guess what you get?  That's right: food!  Who would've thought?  Nobody expects the Spanish Inqui-chicken!"
violetcheetah: (butler)
I pretty much never do silly-homage poetry, but on the way home last night, shivering in 25 degrees after a high in the 50s the day before, the line "Beware the Ides of March, my son" popped into my head.  Today during my lunch break and my homeward commute, I worked out the rest.

-----

Middle-Marchy
(with no apologies to Lewis Carroll)

'Twas sprinter, and the grimy roads
Did run with water from the rain;
All slushy were the sidewalk curbs,
And the slurry clogged the drains.

"Beware the Ides of March, my child
The winds that bite, the boughs that crack!
Beware the fickle weather mild:
It will change in half a snap!"

She put her YakTrax on her boots;
Already were the sidewalks fraught—
No resting by the maple tree,
The temperature was Aught.

And as she trudged the gritty road,
Above, the looming sky of grey
Let loose its load of stinging snow,
Wind shrieking as it came!

One, two! One, two! Her boots strode through,
The YakTrax going clicker-clack!
Through the door, and home once more,
And met by hungry cats.

"Oh hast thou come, prehensile thumbs?
Spoon the tuna on our plates!
Serve our kibble without quibble,
Lest hunger make us faint!"

'Twas sprinter, and the grimy roads
Did run with water from the rain;
All slushy were the sidewalk curbs,
And the slurry clogged the drains.

-----

The original, for comparison:

Jaberwocky

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand;
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
violetcheetah: (Default)
I work near Copley Square now, which is nice, because my Commuter Rail train stops at Back Bay Station two blocks away, so I don't have to change to the Red Line and then the Green Line. The walking part of my commute is generally uneventful. No so much today.

On the way to work, I was crossing Boylston Street, a major street but only one-way traffic. Traffic was going from my left to right, and the intersection was on my left, so as usual, my attention was decidedly not on my right side. About three feet from the curb, someone bumped into me on the right. I reflexively said, "Oh, excuse me," not so much because I'm polite but because I just always assume I'm at fault when someone comes in contact with me. But when I turned, there was no person there. I looked down; I think I expected a wheelchair or stroller or something, maybe a large dog.

It was a car bumper. The driver had been parked just beyond the crosswalk and apparently just backed up -into- the crosswalk without looking.

I was totally fine; it really wasn't any more of an impact than an average jostle from a passerby, certainly nothing to compare to trying to board a subway car at rush hour. It wasn't until a couple of minutes later that I realized that I was -really- aware of everything around me: the smell of a passing cigarette smoker, the sting of the brisk wind, the idling utility truck, the guy sweeping the sidewalk in front of the store next to mine. I wasn't afraid, just very, very alert. It still took a second before I realized that, hey, maybe the heightened vigilance is cuz I was kind technically hit by a frickin' car!

Anyway, the buzz from that actually lasted a couple of hours, with occasional mini-jolts throughout my shift. Then it was time to go home, and for the first time in the two months I've worked there, I forgot to clock out, so I had to backtrack a block to do that, but I left in plenty of time to still stop at the drug store to get a half-gallon of milk and make my train without rushing.

There was a panhandler outside the drug store, not the usual guy, fairly generic, "Spare any change, miss?" As always, I shook my head but made eye contact and a little smile; I don't give money, although if I have a spare granola bar, I've offered those. I went into the store, got my milk, paid at the self-checkout, and as always, didn't bother with a bag. As I walked out, the guy asked, "Spare any change?" again, and I shook my head and met his eyes, and he sort of frowned in a way that wasn't indignation or anger, and before I could put my finger on the vibe I got, he said, "Did you just -steal- that?"

I laughed; it was so completely out of the blue, and humor is mostly about surprise. "I never use a bag," I said, and kept walking because my light had changed and I wasn't sure exactly how much time I had to make the train. But I really, really wanted to explain, "No, see, if I were going to steal something from the drug store, I'd be sure to have a used bag from that drug store with me first, because otherwise I'd attract attention. The key to getting away with a crime is acting just exactly like everybody else."

Anyway, those were the bookends to my workday.

Pot is rot

Sep. 2nd, 2012 11:14 pm
violetcheetah: (daisy tongue)
I have never done illegal drugs, or drunk alcohol. There's nothing moral about that, it's just that I'm a control freak. The effects people describe from mind-altering substances always sounded way too much like dissociation felt to me; I'd do that on purpose -why-, exactly? But also, in the case of alcohol and pot, they smell repulsive to me. I've described the smell of pot smoke as: Get a cigarette damp, seal it in a plastic bag, and leave it in a warm spot until mold forms, then dry it out for a couple of days and light up!

I mowed my friend's yard earlier this week, over the course of two days. I was bagging the clippings to keep any plantain or crabgrass seeds from planting themselves. Two or three times on both days, dumping the clipping into the compost bin in the corner, I got a whiff of pot smoke. I looked for someone toking up in the parking lot across the street, but no. The neighbors weren't on their back deck, not that I ever smell anything illegal from them. It was a mystery.

I was over at my friend's again today, doing something over in that corner, and finally the lightbulb went on over my head. Last week, I'd pruned the Burning Bush. I wanted the leaves to dry out before I put them with the other stuff over there, because there's this mantra with composting of having equal parts "green" and "brown" stuff, and between weeds and grass clippings, there's plenty of green stuff in summer, but not much brown stuff. Dry leaves are brown, so I put the pruned stuff in the wheelbarrow, planning to dump it on the brush pile in a week or so. And then it rained. And the wheelbarrow bottom is partly watertight. So while the top 18 inches or so of the pruned stuff was drying out this week, the bottom -four- inches or so were, uh, marinating in their own funky juices. And apparently slow-brewed Burning Bush green tea smells like pot smoke. I don't know if you can get high off of it, but feel free to try it out sometime and let me know.
violetcheetah: (daisy tongue)
I said yesterday that I wanted to see a sci-fi movie where the government or military uses pollen season to disguise a test of some nefarious chemical that turns people into trees. The town where it happens would be named Birnam, of course. Anyway, for some reason I found myself thinking about it while I was waiting to fall asleep, and coming up with a protagonist who is a TV weatherman, and contemplating more overlap with "Macbeth," and this morning I wrote this snippet. It's so completely not the type of thing I write, and I may very well never continue it, but I'll put it out there anyway.

-----

"Birds do it, bees do it, and now uneducated trees do it." Quincy held back all but the slightest smile as he pointed to the pollen map. "Pine trees, in this case: they've been goin' at it like root-bound bunny rabbits, and you've seen the day-glo green results on your car, your deck, and maybe your TV screen if you've had the windows open." He squinted out at the hopefully thousands of viewers at home. "Yup, right now, you could be seeing me through a haze of piney man-seed. Uh, Malcolm, can I say 'man-seed' on the air?"

The news feed changed to the camera on the anchor desk, and Malcolm looked at an imaginary wristwatch. "It's 11:23 p.m., so I think the young children and censors are all asleep. But if you start singing 'Every sperm is sacred,' I will personally cut your mike."

"Well, these guys are definitely not sacred in my book. Fortunately, I don't have allergies, but, well, I'm not allergic to black pepper, but I'm still gonna sneeze if I get it up my nose. Anywho, as you can see from our lovely red map here, levels are about as high as they can get right now. 'But Quincy,' you say, 'relief is in sight, right? Rain is on the way.' Yes, the rain will help a bit, but not as much as you think. Because like I said, tonight's rain will be thunderstorms, so first we get lots of wind, the better to whip that pollen all over the place, and then we get big fat raindrops, the better to spatter it back up into the air. So for tomorrow, I'm still forecasting... forecasting... Yo, Dave! tomorrow's pollen! Wake up back there! Well, it is late, folks, and, ah, there we go, tomorrow will still be orange in the morning, and then back to red levels by the afternoon, because those frisky trees are just gonna pump out more. And Dave's telling me I've run over, as usual, so I'll quickly say: red pollen levels for the foreseeable future, and turn it over to Ted, who has much-needed good news on the baseball front."
violetcheetah: (Default)
What would you use to glue rocks together?

See, I have a small flower bed in front of my condo, and a plethora of rocks that I put between plants for aesthetic effect.  Some are flat, so I experimented with stacking them two or three high, which pleases me, but of course weather and bunnies and squirrels tend to dislodge them, and I'd also like to try making other structures, and taller structures.  Anyway, the two best ideas I have are (1) some type of mortar mix and (2) aquarium glue.  Anybody have any experience with either of those?  My concern with the mortar would be that in order for it to hold the rocks together, I'd have to use enough that it would show.  Is a quarter-sized dollop enough to hold a couple of 4-5-inch rocks together? 
violetcheetah: (butler)
Dear well-dressed, perfectly coiffed lady on my commuter rail train:

It's called a weather forecast. They're on the the big light-and-sound box in your living room on a regular basis. Heck, there's a whole channel for them. They're also on the smaller light-and-maybe-sound box on your desk or desks; the intertubes most likely reach both your home and your workplace, and not to stereotype, but you are dressed like someone who works in an office.

But I digress. That forecast thing? The time to check it is maybe before you leave home in the morning, or at the very least before you leave work. Because when you are standing on the second step of the train as it pulls to a stop at your station, peering with mournful indignation at the pouring rain that that they've been forecasting for two days, and when you're saying "I didn't know it was going to rain; I didn't bring my umbrella" in that cajoling way like you think surely someone on the train is going to jump up and offer you the spare umbrella they carry for just such an occasion, and when you repeat variations of this twice while standing motionless on that step with about 40 people waiting to get off the train, well, that's a little too late.

On the plus side, thanks for that warm, smug feeling you imbued me with; I needed the boost.

Yours truly,

The lady wearing the men's XL raincoat over her backpack like a hunchback, who probably scares you while making you feel fashionably smug, but whose untrendy hair will look better than yours by the time you totter to your car in your spike heels.
violetcheetah: (susie yawn)
People often scrawl messages on the hard-plastic backs of the commuter train seats.  I don't often pay attention to them, but last night's seat had "bite me" printed in what I presume is white-out pen, vertically.  The white caught my eye, which led me to ponder the other notes.  There was a partially erased "I love jeebus."  And next to it in blue Sharpie, "I love CaCl."
violetcheetah: (susie yawn)
A major bookstore chain is going out of business, leaving hundreds of storefronts vacant across the country.  In Arizona, they are trying to build a fence, even setting up a site to take private donations.  I suggest we ship the empty buildings to Arizona and build a Borders fence. 
violetcheetah: (chess)
I finally poked around and dealt with setting up an author page at Amazon.  There isn't really anything on the page that my friends don't already know; I'm largely posting here because you can link from that author page to your outside blog, via rss, and I want to make sure I did that right because I've never tried such newfangled stuff, and the format that Amazon gives as an example, when typed in my browser, redirects to a different format, so I'm not positive it will work right.  So the entire purpose of this post is to see if I see this post when I go to my author page. Of course, the blog link doesn't seem to show up immediately on the author page, for reasons I don't understand, so this whole post might be futile and I might have to do the same thing again in the week.

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Violet Wilson

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