01 November 2010

Who Is The Worst Blogger In The World?

I am. I have not blogged in over 6 weeks. I abandoned my beloved followers the entire month of October and most of September. Nevertheless, I have a valid excuse. This being a double major in two reading and writing intensive fields--English and history--means one gets an ample serving of homework. The homework itself does not bother me. In fact, nerdy me rather enjoys the homework. Nerdy me does not enjoy how much it has cut into my online time. *sniffle*

Therefore, I apologize for my prolonged absence, both from blogging and the internet in general. I have neglected crits, personal messages, blog posts, and a whole slew of other things that I have truly hated missing, and I am so sorry about that! Forgive me! :( I am trying to catch up, but it’s going to be awhile.

To give a quick update about myself:

  • I have been reading a lot. And at some point, not sure when, I will update you with reviews of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Things Fall Apart, The Dead, Death of a Salesman, A Streetcar Named Desire, a slew of short stories, and a certain book entitled Mockingjay.
  • I have been writing a lot. So far this semester, I have written a poetry explication on Robert Frost's "Home Burial," an analysis of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper," an essay on plagiarism, and a ton of in class assignments and am currently working on an analysis of A Streetcar Named Desire, a rhetorical analysis of my own writing, a research proposal on the Russian Revolution, a research paper on the history of Nigeria, and an explication of The Picture of Dorian Gray. In other words, it may be awhile before you get another update from me . . .
  • Before I moved away to college, I didn't go to bed before midnight because I was a night owl. Now I wish I could go to bed before midnight but never have a chance.
  • The cafeteria is still going well. I have become a master of crafting pizzas *ninja pose* and dismantling the salad bar *special ninja pose* and scanning student ID cards *extra special ninja pose* and sometimes making correct change *extra special ninja pose with a cherry on top*. I am also slowly mastering the art of being a cook's help, though that's a bit more tricky *occasionally extra special super ninja pose with a cherry on top mixed with the more regular epic ninja fail sulk pose*.
  • I have joined Sigma Tau Delta, the English honors society. Basically, this means I meet with fellow bookworms a couple of times a month to plan extra nerdy events. My personal favorite was our celebration of Frodo and Bilbo's birthdays, complete with cake. ^^
  • I have learned that as much as I love history and still intend to major in it, my true passion is in English and that’s probably what I am going to go to grad school for.
  • Since I have been forced off of the internet and don't have time to read anything but what I am mandated to read by fear of failing grades, I have been listening to a lot of music lately. I find it soothing to listen to music as I type. So . . . I have been rediscovering my love for Evanescence and classical music and The Doors and Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd. I used to prefer the darker Roger Waters-era stuff--and still love it with a passion--but I need to find a mental happy place and not a mental not-so-happy place, so the more whimsical Barrett stuff works for me right now. Besides, who doesn't love poor Syd, The Crazy Diamond?! Don't argue with me. I will hurt you. *psychedelic ninja pose*
  • My first homecoming is this week. As someone who hates dancing and is a social recluse, I am somewhat relieved that I will be working through most of it. Haha Not that anyone has asked me to any of the events anyway . . .
  • If you never leave your dorm except to go to class, work, or eat, people will think you’re a little odd. Who me?
  • I have become an even bigger grammar geek than I was. Just warning any of you poor souls who are expecting a crit from me whenever I get a chance. I'm sorry. Blame my grammar class. I will say, in my own defense, that my grammar geekiness has taken on a less malicious tone and is now just a general infatuation with the structure of grammar. So . . . I am less likely to notice only when something is wrong and more likely to stop reading an email and happily exclaim, “That’s a past participial phrase!” In case you’re wondering, you’re right--I have no life.
  • My infatuation with Oreos has gotten worse. I snack on them almost nightly. I have five packages of Oreos in my room right now.
  • My already idiosyncratic eating habits have gotten crazier. Eating in a cafeteria--even a good one, which our college has--means that sometimes you're reduced to eating Cheerios for lunch. Yes, I have done this. Yes, I have done it more than once. Yes, it was good. Don't claim you wouldn't do the same thing.
  • As hard as it may be to believe, I have lost weight at college. So much for the freshman fifteen. Okay, okay, I am technically a junior, but I’m still new here.
  • I have become a connoisseur of microwavable meals. There was one brand that had excellent alfredo, so I bought all of their other pasta meals. I have thrown out all of their other pasta meals because they were inedible.
  • I just learned my spell check does not recognize alfredo as a word. What a sad life you live, Mr. Spell Check.
  • I went to a Career Day my college hosted to gather info on potential grad schools and ended up freaking out the recruiters for the State Department.
  • I stayed up to nearly one in the morning sitting on a sidewalk with two fellow nerds and freaked out security. Apparently, their first assumption is that three college students sitting on the sidewalk late at night are intoxicated or high . . . We were only talking and plotting nerdy mischief and were stone cold sober! Thus, we became determined to stay out later than the security guy’s shift. We won. :D
  • I am good at freaking people out.
  • I really have to go, but I want to say that I shall post again as soon as possible, but that probably will not be until my Thanksgiving break. Until then, have fun! :)

So . . . how is life? Update me! :)

25 September 2010

Blogging a Drive Home From College

In one of my literature classes, we were discussing how difficult it is to write in second person. In my grammar class, we were toying with present tense. I have decided to combine the both of them in a story that is not the slightest bit autobiographical. No, really, it isn't. *shifty eyes* Okay, maybe it is just a little bit autobiographical . . .

You are going to drive home tonight, despite the fact that you've only driven the road once before, it's pitch-black, and you have no sense of direction.

You don't change out of your work uniform because you're in a hurry to get home. You think your uniform makes you look like a ninja, a Russian anarchist ninja from the early 20th century. You think you take Russian history a little too seriously. You even think that you may read too much. You decide you don't read enough. You make a resolution to read as much as you did before you moved away to college. You know this will not happen.

You turn on your car's interior light to find your favorite Pink Floyd CD before pulling out of the dorm parking lot. You didn't get to celebrate going back to school with your annual tradition of listening to "Another Brick in the Wall." You feel like a substandard Pink Floyd fan. You quote to yourself Roger Waters' sarcastic line about feelings from "The Trial" and feel like a slightly more functioning Pink Floyd fan.

You drive along, not paying attention to the music, convinced you will take a wrong turn and end up stranded at night in the middle of nowhere in a somewhat malfunctioning car. You tell yourself you're being paranoid. You count the prepositional phrases in your inner thoughts because that's what you covered in grammar class. You are obsessed with prepositional phrases. You distract yourself by reviewing your day. You analyze each social interaction you had and decide that your true calling in life is to be a hermit.

You wonder why your car seems so bright. You think it is perhaps the moonlight. You see there is no moon. You realize you drove for nearly thirty minutes with your car's interior light on and was totally oblivious to it. You ponder how you have managed to stay alive for 21 years.

You get distracted when you hear Pink Floyd's "Pigs (Three Different Ones)" come on. You sing along. You tap your foot along to it, as well. You get so engrossed in it that you look up and realize you have no idea where you are. You look around for road signs. You see no road signs. You think about how very dark it is. You think about how despite the fact you're on a major road, it is pitch black because there are no other vehicles on the road. You lock the doors on your car repeatedly. You hear a clunk in your car and jump. You tell yourself you're being foolish. You re-lock the car again, just in case. You relax and sing another line. You re-lock the car one more time because you're obsessive like that. You re-lock it another time because that noise distracts you from the unidentifiable noise. You start to re-lock it again when you see your exit is up ahead. You didn't miss it. You just have no idea where it is because you've only driven this road once before. You re-lock the car once more because it's now a nervous tic.

You're finally on a road that you drove every day for two years. You think that you should be able to find your way home with no problem. You forget that you only drove the road at night a few times in that two years. You forget how terrible your eye-sight is. You underestimate how different the landscape looks at night. You shrug off the fact that more than anything else you want to pull over and take a nap.

You see a cop car's lights flashing on the side of the road. You become alarmed and automatically slam on your brakes, though you're not speeding. You grip the steering wheel tightly and hope you're not violating any traffic laws, none of which you can think of because you're too terrified of being pulled over at night in the middle of nowhere. You realize what you thought were cop car lights are actually random light reflections off of a mailbox. You feel somewhat stupid. You wonder why you're so scared of cops. You think that growing up in an area with a nasty reputation for police vigilantism may have something to do with it. You remind yourself that your severe anxiety disorder means you're slightly paranoid of everyone. You feel like Wade Duck from Garfield and Friends--you're scared of everything. You think that driving home from college by yourself at night might help you become less paranoid. You reflect on your journey, which is bringing you closer and closer to home, and decide that view is giving yourself too much credit. You realize you really miss reading Garfield everyday. You decide to get a newspaper subscription at college. You don't really check your mail enough to justify buying a newspaper subscription.

You pull onto the dirt road your family lives on. You know that home is only ten minutes away. You decide that since you've listened to the Floyd CD twice already, you'll turn it off and listen to the radio. You turn the radio on to a classic rock station that barely gets reception. You hear commercial after commercial but no classic rock. You get annoyed at the radio. You shout "Shut up!" at the radio after listening to 9.5 minutes worth of commercials and a truly obnoxious dee-jay. You calm down as the station then segues into a song. You become irritated as you realize the singer is Tom Petty. You do not like Tom Petty. You suffer through the Petty song anyway because you're pulling into your family's driveway and will turn off the car as soon as you park. You made it home it home in one piece. You think this is a cause for celebration. You try to ignore how silly that sounds as you walk into the house.

My apologies for my absence! My homework has been quite unmerciful lately. I have realized that my school schedule is meddling with my blogging. I have decided to start rotating between weekly posts on this blog and my book blog. So . . . next week I'll post a book review, but the next week, I'll post something here. I'll still be posting weekly, just not for each blog. :)

12 September 2010

The Art of Making Eye Contact

Most of you who know me know that I am a somewhat backwards person when it comes to being social. Since I now have to walk everywhere I go, I have discovered a new social conundrum that vexes me: When passing someone on the sidewalk, what is the correct procedure? Should one look at the person and smile? Look at the person and nod? Look at the person and say, "Hello," and walk on? Look at the person and say, "Howdy! My name is Zella! I am a junior history and English major, but I am new here. My friends think I will be unemployed after I graduate, but that's only because they're jealous of all of the homework I am assigned. So nice to meet you. I deduce you are heading to the cafeteria, seeing as that's the only thing on campus at this location. I have read every Sherlock Holmes story ever printed; hence, my profound skills in deduction. I am sure nobody else besides Sherlock--we're on a first name basis, Sherlock and I are--and myself would have guessed that you were going to the cafeteria. Did you know Sherlock is still alive? Are you hungry? I recommend the quesadillas. Did I mention I work at the cafeteria? While at work the other day, I slightly burnt my hand on a pizza the other day. See? Isn't that a great scar to have for life on my left index finger? I have a lot of scars. I have always been clumsy and prone to trip on flat surfaces, though tripping isn't what caused me to burn myself. I like your shirt, and that's saying something because I don't usually notice other people's clothing. What did you say your name was? Hey, why are you running away!"

This is driving me crazy! I don't feel compelled to talk to someone I pass on the sidewalk because it's not the same as standing in line with someone, but since passing someone on the sidewalk means you often do make eye contact, I think it's rude to not do anything!

My old strategy of combating this was to look at my shoes or look on the other side of the pavement to avoid making eye contact, primarily because eye contact makes me nervous. I don't like people looking into the windows of my souls. I am afraid of what they will see . . .

But the other day I was walking along the sidewalk, watching other people, when I noticed them doing the same thing as me and it was so obvious that they were not trying to make eye contact! I may not want to look at someone, but I don't want them to know that I don't want to look at them. Therefore, for the past couple of days, I have tried to devise a less obvious way of not looking at people when I walk by them. This has proven tricky, primarily because I never know how the other person will react. There seems to be no one-size-fits-all tactic for meeting people on the sidewalk.

Some people make a point of not looking at me. I am not sure if they are fellow socially awkward souls or if I just look that hideous, but I like these people. I can either look at them and not have to fear making eye contact or I can look away from them and not feel bad for my cowardice. Either way, what little self-esteem I possess emerges intact.

Other people, however, are not as cooperative and insist on looking at me. These people unnerve me. I can't look away because that means I am essentially admitting that I am an asocial moron who has a weird phobia about my soul windows. However, I am never sure what to do when I look at them. At first, I was inspired by watching other people's take on this and thought I had a good solution to the problem. I noticed some random passers-by take care of the problem by nodding at me slightly as I pass by. I think this is a useful non-committal greeting, so I tried using it. Sometimes people return the nod, and we go our happy individual ways. But my nod sometimes gets stared at. I am not sure if these people want me to be more friendly or less friendly or if I just look ridiculous while nodding--a distinct possibility--and have confused them.

So . . . what do I do if they don't want me to nod at them? Maybe the nod is too non-committal. I have tried smiling at people. Usually this nets me a smile in return. Sometimes I get a glare in return. If I could figure out who was going to glare at me, I'd glare at them first, but life doesn't work that way.

I don't feel right glaring at someone without provocation, so sometimes I just settle for a slight smile, so it's not quite so happy but is still not unfriendly. This seems to work, most of the time, but, again, you always encounter the glaring types who are apparently not pleased with this.

Smiles can have several meanings, so maybe these people are just unsure of what I am smiling about. Do they not know I am smiling at them? Do they think I am snickering at them? Do they think I am going to mug them? I decided that I should announce my intentions, so they would know that I am just being friendly. But . . . I am not out-going enough to greet someone I don't know verbally, and I have been on the receiving end of this one and have mixed-feelings about it. A "Hello!" or even a "Nice day, isn't it?" are more than okay with me, but I feel trapped when someone thinks that because I happen to be at the same intersection as them entitles me to hear his or her's life story. I only say "Hi!" to someone if they initiate it by acknowledging my smile or nod with a smile or nod in turn. Yet this strikes me as overkill because I have already greeted them and greeting them again makes me feel intrusive.

I really don't think I have any other recourse besides these meager options listed above, so for now I have settled on waiting for the other person to see me and then seeing what they do before I respond in turn. If they don't look at me, I don't look at them. If they smile or nod at me, I smile or nod at them. If they say "hello!" to me, I say "hello" to them. If they glare at me, I look away and pretend to not see them. If they run up to me and decide that we're going to be the bestest of friends because I am going to lunch at the same time they are leaving the cafeteria, I run like a track star in the opposite direction. *sigh* The perils of social engagements . . .

What's your method for making eye contact? Or avoiding eye contact, for that matter?

05 September 2010

The Life of a Dorm Rat

I suppose many of you remember my little series from last semester in which I wrote a couple of blog posts about my daily life. I was recently thinking about how much my schedule as a sophomore commuter to a community college differs from being a junior English/history major at a residential college, so I decided to blog about it. I won't torment you with two posts about my schedule like last time. I'll just torment you by cramming it all in one post. ^^


7:30 am: My two alarm clocks go off, so I drag myself out of bed at some point shortly thereafter to get dressed and brush my hair. If I am good and have time, I check my e-mail. If not, I schlep out of my dorm and hurry to the cafeteria, calling my grandmother en route to say hello and assure her that I am still alive.

8:05am: I am at the cafeteria. My breakfast always ends up being one of three things: pancakes or French toast with chocolate milk, biscuit and gravy with eggs smothered in gravy because I can't eat the eggs without the gravy and chocolate milk, or biscuit and gravy and chocolate milk with some form of pastry when I can't bring myself to face the eggs.

8:30am: By this point, I have finished eating and am either back in my dorm checking my e-mail if I didn't do it earlier and grabbing my extremely heavy bag of books--Note to self: Being an English major means you get to carry an obscene number of heavy books--or I am on my way to my first class. I like to be early, and that gives me time to review our assignments.

9:00am: Introduction to Grammar: This is my grammar class. Those of you who know me well know I am a grammar nazi. As you can imagine, I adore this class. I'm not going to say it's an easy class, per se, because you have to learn a lot of terms and rules, but the daily homework assignments are often done in class and my professor is great. She explains things well and has a lively sense of humor, so it's always a fun time.

9:50am: I don't have any classes at this time, so sometimes I run errands, sometimes I go back to my dorm, and sometimes I just work on my homework for the next class while sitting in the hallway.

11am: Foundations of Literary Studies: This is a class required for all English majors at my school. I think of it as being English Comp 2 on steroids. We cover all of the basic and not-so basic literary terms and concepts that are needed to take higher-level English classes. I enjoy this class because we have read a lot of poetry that I either already loved or that I have never read before and enjoyed very much. The syllabus promises some of my favorite short stories and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Yayayay! I really like my professor in this class--she is also my academic advisor and the sponsor of Sigma Tau Delta. We also always have lively, if not heated, discussions in here. We don't have a murderous reading load, but there are a lot of projects in this class (3 essays, 3 exams, 1 presentation, and 1 list of about 70 literary terms) that keeps me busy.

12pm: Survey of American Lit. 2: I have to run like a maniac from my last class to this one in a neighboring building. As with all of my other English classes, I just love this one! We're currently reading Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. We only have 13 students in here and the professor is hilarious. We always have a daily quiz on what we read, so we're all always shouting random questions at each other based on what we think our professor is going to ask before he comes in. The homework isn't brutal in here, either, but the quizzes are definitely an incentive to keep up with the reading.

1pm: Lunch. I walk up to the cafeteria and find something edible to eat.

At this point, my schedule depends on what day it is. On Monday and Friday, I have nothing scheduled whatsoever after this, so I usually work on homework, take a dinner break around 5:30pm, and then return to homework. So far, the campus clubs I am interested in joining have meetings on these days, so I attend those when they are scheduled, and go to bed around 10:30pm. On Friday, however, I am scheduled to work in the cafeteria. So . . . I get to work by 4pm and stay until 8pm, with a fifteen minute break at 4:30pm to eat. This is my jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none day. I work wherever I am needed, which means one day I'll be serving food, the next week, I'll be making pizzas. (Note to self: Cutting pizzas is more scientific than you'd believe.) Then I go home and play on my computer until the wee hours of the morning.


7:30pm: I wake up at the same time, but I'm usually lazier about getting out of bed at this time because my roommate is getting ready to leave for an early class. When I do get out of bed, my morning schedule is pretty much the same as the previous day as far as breakfast and pre-class activities.

9:30pm: History of Africa: This is an upper-division history elective I am taking. I have little knowledge of African history and my professor is very good and is just an all-around nice person who also double majored in history and English, so I look forward to this one. There are also only 6 of us in this class. Please don't cancel us. We have to do a presentation on an African country of our choice in November, so I'll be doing research for that soon. Until then, I just have reading assignments, so the homework load is reasonable.

11am: I wander back to my dorm to check my email and wait for the cafeteria to open at 11:15 pm, in which I walk over to eat lunch. I spend the next couple of hours doing homework or research in the library for my next class.

1pm: Introduction to Historical Research: This is a required course for all history majors and is one I just relish, though it is very time-consuming. Basically, we're learning the ins and outs of conducting historical research with the library as our laboratory. (My professor's own words.) This professor has a wonderful sense of humor and a biting sense of sarcasm, so his lectures are always amusing. But there is a ton of homework, including maintaining a daily journal of assignments, extensive reading, and a semester-long research project. Mine is on the Russian Revolution, which is one of favorite historical periods. So . . . I enjoy this class very much, but it sure does take up a lot of my time.

2:20pm: What happens after I get out of my last class depends on what is day it is. On Tuesday, I have some time to do homework or crash in my dorm until I go to work at 4pm. On that day, I am a cook's help, which means I get to take very hot stuff out of its pan and take it to the serving line and clean the kitchen. On Thursday, I have to run like a crazy woman from my class all the way across campus to the cafeteria because my shift starts at 2:30pm. I work on salads on those days, so I usually spend an hour chopping up vegetables before setting up the salad bar and running it and putting all of it away solo. It's not too bad of a job, but I don't eat salad and there is a ton of stuff to set up and put up. Woe is me.

7:30pm: I am finished with work on both days, so I go home to take a shower to get rid of the grease or ranch dressing that is covering me and my uniform. (I must say, if my roommate were not in the room, I would so lick my uniform when it has ranch dressing on it. Ahem.) I am usually too tired to do much homework, so I usually just review my assignments for the next day and call it a night at 10pm. (Though one time I was so exhausted I came home, collapsed on my bed, and woke up two hours later to find that I was asleep at the foot of my bed. I changed positions and promptly fell back asleep until the next morning. Talking to my coworkers, I have learned that we "caf kids," as the cafeteria workers are called, are quite prone to this. My next-door neighbor and coworker and newly acquired friend told me she crashed for eighteen hours last weekend.

So . . . there's my weekly schedule. I have to work every other weekend, like this one, so I spend those days chilling out or doing homework and work from 4:00-7:30pm both days as a cashier for the cafeteria. (The great part of this is I get to open the cafeteria doors with a fascinating tool that looks like a cat burglar's tool and an instrument to perform a lobotomy. I rambled about this on Twitter yesterday. Anyway, as soon as I saw it, those are the two things that ran through my head. Unfortunately, since I am insane, I immediately blurted out those thoughts to my boss who was showing me the tools. Fortunately, my boss is slightly insane, too, so instead of glaring at me, he started nodding his head and agreed. Yay for meeting like-minded people! Erm, yeah.) On the other weekends, I usually go home for a day or two to say hello to my family and apologize to my Chihuahua for abandoning him.

And that's that.

29 August 2010


Hey, y'all! After my self-imposed exile from blogging, I am back in action! At least, for now, I am back in action. In the time I have been gone, I have moved into my dorm, underwent a one week orientation, and finished my first week of classes. A lot has happened--more than will fit in a blog post--so I have condensed this into a greatest hits-type collection of random things I've learned this past couple of weeks:

1. When you move into your dorm, unpack your own stuff so you know where it is: I unpacked most of my stuff, but I had to go register my vehicle and log into the college's network, so my grandma finished putting things up for me. She is a very organized person, so she put everything in a logical place. Alas, I am not logical, could not figure out where anything was, and had to call her at 7:30 am one morning to ask where my laundry detergent was. I have since discovered where everything is, but this taught me a valuable lesson in unpacking.

2. Get there early on the move-in date: This advice is courtesy of my aunt. She called me my last day home to tell me this. Both of her kids went to big universities and she said it was utter mayhem on move-in days, so being early is essential. I'm going to a pretty small private college, so move-in day wasn't totally chaotic, but I did get good parking and since I was the first in the room, I got to claim the bottom bunk--We shorties find this essential--and move all of my stuff in before my roommate moved her stuff in. Yeehaw!

3. Getting out of your comfort zone is part of college and that can be awesome: My college does a program during orientation in which several of the groups get together and put on skits. I haven't done anything like this since I was in elementary school and I am so shy, so I was dreading this. It ended up being one of the most fun things I've done in a long time. And even though I worked on sets and backstage and never had to be on stage, it did jar me out of my comfort zone and made me realize how much I enjoy theater. At least, the being backstage and collaborating part. So . . . getting out of your comfort zone is a good thing!

4. However, there is such a thing as getting too far out of your comfort zone: Don't worry. I didn't do anything crazy or illegal. But I did go to my first rave-type dance during my orientation. It was all right. I slightly danced for all of like one minute, but that is just not me! I am a nerd. I do not dance. Thus, I sat down and drank Powerade and had way more fun watching everyone else who could not dance dance. But I at least gave it the old college try first. (Did you note the terrible pun? Please say yes. I thought of that for a couple of seconds before writing it down. Please acknowledge my terrible pun or I will torture you with more.) ^^

5. The whole "You'll escape your reputation at college" saying is only true if you don't really deserve your reputation: If you're still being labeled as the kid who ate mud in third grade when you're in high school--I do know someone who did this--yes, you probably will escape your reputation at college. However, if you deserve your reputation, everyone will soon come to that conclusion about you on their own. In my case, I have always been perceived as a neurotic nerdbag. This reputation has followed me ever since elementary school. It has followed me to my new college because, well, I am a neurotic nerdbag. I realized this the day my orientation group was sitting around a table and someone dissed 1970s music. Someone else objected, insisting that some good music was produced then. Me being me, I indignantly blurted out, "Pink Floyd!" The girl sitting next to me told me, "Oh, Zella, you would say that."

6. Working in the cafeteria is not too bad: My college requires work-study, so I was assigned to the cafeteria. I work as a cook's help, server, cashier, cleaner, and general "Hey, do this!" person. To be honest, it's a physically demanding job--way different from the library--but I actually enjoy it. Most of my coworkers are pretty cool, and we get first dibs on meals. Also, on the closing shift, if we finish early, we sit around eating ice cream until time's up. It's called fringe benefits. ^^

7. Upper-division classes in your major are delightfully nerdy: At my community college, I took general ed classes and though I liked most of my professors, most of my classmates complained about everything. Thus, I got dirty looks for getting excited about reading Lord of the Flies. What heathens. Now I am taking only history and English classes--no more general ed!--with fellow English and history majors. The result is we actually have great class discussions, as opposed to everyone sitting in silence because most of them didn't read the assignment and everyone else is too self-conscious to speak up, and my classmates share my nerdy delight in reading Mark Twain and Robert Frost and historical textbooks. This is also the only time that my telling people I am double majoring in history and English is not greeted with stupefied expressions or sad looks that indicate I will be unemployed for a vast period of time. Instead, I get "Oh, those majors complement each other so well!" Note to readers: If you ever take an English class with all English majors, mention the detestable scenario in which Twilight is assigned academic reading. The horrified expressions that uniformly form around the room are priceless. ^^

8. Eating in a cafeteria takes some getting used to: I had not eaten in a cafeteria since I was ten--am now twenty one--so this was a bit of a culture shock for me. In fact, the first few days, I couldn't really eat anything. It took me four days to eat a small full meal and a good week to eat anywhere near normal. It's not that the food is bad--it's pretty good for cafeteria food--but I was a bit overwhelmed by the whole atmosphere and it took some getting used to. Now that I am in classes and walking everywhere, I've actually been eating more than normal--yet I have still managed to lose weight--so it's not an issue, but all of that food is so tempting! As much as I love junk food, I have made an effort to actually eat better. I avoid drinking soda--they serve lemonade and chocolate milk in the cafeteria!--and I try to stay away from burgers and pizza and stick with more healthy options. If I don't like the looks of the more healthy stuff, I will get a burger, but I try not to do it more than once a week. I also try to schedule that for when one of my friends is working the grill. We worked on the skit together and got our worker training together, but we're not scheduled to work with each other--an outrage!!!--so this the only time we see each other. This time-honored ritual involves both of us standing on our tiptoes (the food stations have a top that is at our eye level. The designers did not have short people in mind when they made it), and shout the following conversation at each other over the noisy cafeteria:
"Hey, how are you?!"
"Fine! How's the grill?"
"Not bad. How's salad?"
"Good. Classes going well?"
It's the little things that count. :D

9. Cramming a fridge and microwave in your dorm is worth the space they take up: All of you know my well-documented obsession with Oreos and milk. I can partake in this nightly ritual because my fridge houses a half a gallon of milk to accompany my cookies. Ditto for the popcorn that is cooked in my microwave. I can munch to my heart's content!

10. Attending 26 policy presentations in a week is not too bad if you get good speakers and a mix of funny skits and videos.

11. Your ID card is your friend: Seriously. At my college, you need your ID card with you for pretty much anytime you go to an office or eat in the cafeteria or clock into work. On the flip side, this ID card has netted me free admission to the campus museum and over 30% discounts at the campus's restaurant. Befriend your ID card and never leave home without it.

12. Communal bathrooms are strange at first, but you eventually get used to them.
Am I saying that I do not want to transfer to one of the dorms that has personal bathrooms? God, no! But after a few days, you get over it. Ditto with dorm rooms. I have read horror stories of students waiting for nearly an hour to use the showers, but so far I have never had to contend with that for any longer than a minute.

13. Having a roommate can be awkward at first, but it's not necessarily totally horrible: My roommate and I were complete strangers and we don't have a ton in common, but we get along and try not to get on the other one's nerves. Also, our schedules are not the same and she goes home as often as she can, so we're not getting cabin fever and going psycho on each other. I have learned to look up in the top bunk before turning on the lights and talking to myself aloud and slamming drawers. I did that once for an extended amount of time before realizing my roommate was asleep in her bed. She never said anything about it, but I felt terrible. And foolish. And crazy. Oh, wait. That's me everyday. :D

14. Always have your dorm keys with you: Otherwise, you'll lock yourself out at 7am and have to wait half an hour whilst wearing a bathrobe for the RA to get back from breakfast to let you back into your room.

15. Likewise, make sure you have everything before you leave your dorm: That is, unless you like walking halfway across campus and then having to run back to your dorm and then bolt up 2 flights of stairs to get things . . . more than once in the same hour.

16. 14 college students can fit around a table for 8: My orientation group did this all of the time. Some of you just have to be willing to eat with your plate on your lap--I was always one of these people. No, I was not raised in a barn.

17. If you and 8 of your new college friends decide to go to Wal-Mart together in multiple vehicles, make sure everyone has each other's numbers: Not doing this means someone named Zella will spend the whole time walking around the store looking for everyone else.

18. Living at a college in a tourist town means there's always something to do off campus, but it also means you'll be a tourist attraction, too: This is usually positive--boredom never strikes--but this can suck on occasion. Specifically the being a tourist attraction part. Here at my college, we have a lot of tourists, most of whom are very nice. But we also have a service called Ride the Ducks. And people will use those to tour the campus. It makes us feel like zoo specimens, especially when they quack at us with artificial quackers. (I am not making this up. I hide every time I see the Ducks coming.) Ah, but revenge is sweet. And when we all got to do this ride for free--again that student ID has its perks--we quacked at random tourists with a vengeance. Then again, we also quacked along to "Who Let The Dogs Out?". ("Who let the dogs out? Quack! Quack! Quack! Quack!" Try it sometime. It's catchy.)

19. My campus has a strict no-alcohol policy, so I don't have to worry about crazy parties, which is one reason I wanted to come here. Parties annoy me. A delightful side effect of this policy is that, in addition to the school sponsoring constant events to keep us occupied, we students devise all sorts of eccentric randomness to amuse ourselves. One of my personal favorites of these was a snipe hunt that I participated in.

And now I am going to tell you a story. If you have never been on a snipe hunt and would like to eventually go on one, you are not allowed to read any further! Sorry! It will spoil all of your fun.

For the rest of you, that being those of you who have been on snipe hunts or those of you who have not and are determined to read this post anyway, a snipe hunt is a traditional rite of passage in rural areas in which you're taken into the woods to hunt a small bird called a snipe. You will be given bags to capture the snipes and various instruments to murder the little buggers. You will then be left in the woods to wait for the snipes for several hours, or at least until those who are taking you snipe hunting have decided that they've had enough fun at your expense because, um, it's just a huge practical joke. You will not capture a snipe--which are notoriously difficult to hunt--and you certainly won't do it standing out in the woods in the middle of the night holding a plastic Wal-Mart bag.

I was heading back to my dorm one night at about ten o clock when I heard one of the orientation leaders was hosting a snipe hunt. I couldn't resist showing up because a) I am from a rural area and know exactly what a snipe hunt is, b) I am mean and enjoy practical jokes, and c) I know the guy who was leading the snipe hunt has an outrageous sense of humor--and is quite easy on the eyes, if I may say so *cough*--so I knew it would be a fun way to spend a couple of hours.

We--there were nearly twenty of us--all met at the edge of campus, which is basically a huge tract of woods. Those of us who were "experienced" snipe hunters offered to flush the birds out for the newbies. The newbies were given bags, baseball bats, turkey calls, and plenty of ludicrous instructions on how to hunt snipes. We told them we'd put them in a flat area at the bottom of the hill and chase the snipes to them because snipes can't run uphill. We also warned them to be quiet because snipes have excellent hearing but poor eyesight.

We abandoned them and took the hills above them, wherein we made weird noises--ahem, they were snipe calls--and threw rocks into the woods to sound like we were flushing the prey toward them. After about twenty minutes, we discussed whether we should leave our poor friends in the woods, which is how a proper snipe hunt is conducted. But though we were mean enough to trick them, we were not quite that mean. (Also, my college has a weekday curfew we have to observe.) It was decided that we would conclude the snipe hunt early by scaring them. See, ain't we friendly and considerate?

After several minutes in which we all laughed hysterically--but silently--and plotted our next move, we sent one guy running down to where our snipe hunters were stationed, screaming that the snipes were overrunning us and that our fearless hunters needed to escape! "There are too many of them! RUN!" The rest of us, shortly after that, went running back up the hill--in front of our comrades--screaming bloody murder and shouting, "RUN!" " and "They're biting me! Get them off me!" and "OWWWWWWW!" and--in a tribute to Monty Python--"Run away!"

We stood at the top of the hill, trying our best not to laugh, when we saw our hunters running up the hill away from the vicious snipe. When they got to us, we asked them if they saw any snipe and after being told that they hadn't, we regaled them with tales of how we were viciously attacked by snipe--"They bit my ankles!"--and some of us, including yours truly, complained that back home we go snipe hunting all the time and have never had this problem. What is the world coming to when snipe attack you?

As you can imagine, we had more fun with this than the poor snipe hunters did. But . . . they'll get to be in on it next time. ^^

20. I am really enjoying my new college and I'm glad that my anxiety about transferring has so far been proven totally unfounded.

All righty, guys. I am definitely back to blogging here regularly--probably on the weekends--but it may be a few days before I resume doing book reviews on my other blog. I have been too busy to read for pleasure and I still need to write a review for the book I have read. Good to be back! I missed all of you. :)

11 August 2010

Brain Vomit

Okay, I am going to start by apologizing to any and everyone who is subjected to this post! I was going to blog on a new addition to my nerd collection. However, doing a proper post like that takes me a few drafts and a couple of days and I just now sat down to type up my blog post. So you poor souls are going to be subjected to Zella's projectile brain vomit. You poor things. *shakes head in a grandmotherly fashion*

To start off this subconscious ramble, I am going to attend to two matters that I have forgotten in my last posts--and one of them was triggered by my use of the word "grandmotherly". I'm sure you guys remember my blog that detailed my transformation from a pathetic nerd to an angry granny at the sight of Bratz dolls. My good friend Sana has drawn a quite accurate and very scary portrait of this scene on her own blog. I encourage you to have a look at it. ^^

Also, remember my guessing contest a couple of weeks ago where I had you guys guess what movie I took the name of my dog, Tuco Benedicto Pacifico Juan Maria Ramirez, from? I had someone get the answer right and totally forgot all about it! Argggghhhhhh! I am an idiot! Sky correctly stated that I got the name from the classic spaghetti western The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Tuco is a rather colorful bandit played by the great Eli Wallach. During a hanging scene, Tuco has all of his crimes read to him and his full name is stated then. If you have never watched that movie, you simply must see it. Sergio Leone directing Clint Eastwood and Eli Wallach and Lee Van Cleef in a tale of three bad outlaws in a search for gold. Can it get any better than this? NOOOOOO! See it now! *attempts to stop being hyper*

I promised to mention Sky's name because she did know the answer--and is a fellow fan of the movie--and I neglected to do so. I am terribly sorry about that, but I am rectifying that as of now! SKY WON MY GUESSING CONTEST!!!!!!!!!!! And Penguins garners an honorable mention for posting the initials but not giving away the movie's title.

I usually am not quite that forgetful, but I have been extremely scatter-brained lately. That always happens when I am stressed out. I go completely bonkers. Just yesterday, I was at work and I had a handful of movies to file away. Just then a long time patron who always checks out books--and never movies--came up to the desk to check her latest reads out. Idiot me scanned the movies I had just checked in and checked them out to her! She stared at me with a highly alarmed expression until I realized what I had done. Then I apologized profusely and took the movies off of her account and checked her books out to her. After that I went to the bank I have had an account at for thirteen years and forgot my account number when I withdrew money. I have never once forgotten my bank account number! I felt like such a world class goober. Afterwards, I sat in my car and stared into outer space for a long, long time.

That did not help because I kept having horrifying flashbacks of my drive to work in which the large selection of library books I was returning turned on me and attacked me! I have never ever in all of my years of reading been attacked by a book! But it happened Tuesday morning on what seemed like a perfectly normal morning. I sat my stack of about 14 books on my seat next to me and backed out of my driveway. As I was doing so, without provocation and with absolutely no warning, the books began jumping out of the seat and hurling themselves in a highly threatening manner. Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy flung itself at me and landed just centimeters away from a very terrified Zella. Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside Me launched a vicious assault on my gear shifter and was aided with shocking bloodthirstiness by Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian and Deborah Blum's The Poisoner's Handbook. Not all of my soon to be returned books attacked. Laurie Halse Anderson's Fever, 1793 must have been on the sluggish side--no doubt due to the yellow fever--for it chose to slide to the other side of the seat and fall, wedging it between the seat and my passenger door. Several other innocent books followed its lead and took shelter. Meanwhile, I screamed like a little girl and swerved, narrowly avoiding driving off of the road. It was an outrage! Imagine a world where one is attacked by books! Unthinkable. But it happened to me yesterday. *backs into corner, wary of the next literary barrage*

Today has been much more quiet. I have been packing clothes to take to college with me and dividing them into various piles: take with me so I look like a functioning person at school and work, take with me so I can have something to wear when I feel like being a slob, take with me so I will not look like a complete fashion disaster for halfway formal occasions, not take with me but still keep because I just loved that shirt when I was fifteen, didn't know I had but will take with me because I like it, didn't know I had and not taking but not bad enough to give away--I need something to wear when I am home!, relatively nice stuff I need to give away so someone will wear it, and stuff that I am not in any way taking with me and never will wear but cannot bring myself to give to someone else--either due to sentimental attachment or the fact that I would never ever torture another person with said garment. One such item is a denim dress that looks like something a 1960s era Russian cosmonaut would wear in a sadly misguided attempt to re-enact a Western. Weirdly enough, the couple of times I wore it, everyone told me it was lovely. I don't think so! That is not going to school with me. I deny all knowledge of that dress. So will you. *glare*


Okay, I think you guys have suffered through all of the brain vomit you can handle at the moment. As many of you who also follow my book blog already know, I am going to be taking a vacation from blogger for the next few weeks. I intend to resume blogging in early September, but I have to leave for a one week long college orientation in exactly 31.5 hours and my internet time will be limited. After that, I will be at a new college, with a new job, living in a dorm, which is a first for me. I am excited--for the most part--but I think it's best that I get adjusted without having to worry about posting two blog posts a week. Unfortunately, because I will have very limited online time, you probably will not be seeing me much of anywhere for at least the next week. Not on Blogger or Sparklife or Critique Circle or Facebook or Twitter or any other website I frequent. I will try to keep up with PMs and email, but I may be a little delayed in getting to those. Sorry! I am going to miss all of you, but I look forward to coming back ASAP! :)

04 August 2010

What's In Your Wallet?

Today--in my quest to prepare for school--I opened up a bank account at a bank in the town where my college resides. (My regular bank does not have a branch there, so I figured I'd better have some money stashed away for emergencies.) Overall, it was a pretty uneventful day--excepting my nifty new bank account and a somewhat deja vu moment I had at a local diner.

The place had good food, but horribly slow service, and they put lettuce on my burger after I specifically said they could put whatever they always put on it except lettuce. I saw the waitress write this down on her notepad. There was no excuse for botching that order! I didn't complain. I just peeled the lettuce off and munched away happily.

The reason I mention this is I have a random childhood memory that always flashes before my eyes when I see lettuce. It was December of 1998. I was 9 years old and my decidedly religiously apathetic mother decided that the perfect family holiday memory would be taking her agnostic German Jewish parents and my brother and me to a Unitarian Christmas pageant. You know those well-meaning family moments that are just doomed from the start? This was one of them. I remember nothing about the play except for the bored expression on the face of my grandpa, who bore a disturbing resemblance to one of my favorite authors, Elie Wiesel--I am not joking; they could have been twins--and a skit set in the Titanic's dining room. (This was when the movie was really popular.) Anyhoo, a man was sitting at a table to order, and the waiter asked him what he wanted. The guy said salad, so the waiter asked him what kind of lettuce. The man said "Iceberg!" and right then, an iceberg tore up the ship. I remember being nine and thinking a) What the heck does this have to do with Christmas, b) That pun amuses me in a horribly corny manner, and c) That was some excellent special effects for a local play. Thus, every time I see lettuce or say lettuce or hear the word lettuce, this scene flashes before my eyes. And it flashed before my eyes in slow motion this afternoon as I gazed down upon the lettuce that contaminated my hamburger.

But I digress--lettuce has a tendency to do this to me. While I was setting up my new bank account, I had to hand over my driver's license and social security card. As I was digging through my wallet to do so, I realized that I have a ton of stuff in there. I decided to organize my trusty wallet after I got home. And now here I am, staring down at all of the cards I have in that wallet and wondering what I am doing with half of them.

  • I carry a driver's license, which is nice, seeing as I have been driving for a couple of years now.

  • I carry my social security card, which is senseless because I know my SSN and also have read it's not really safe to carry the card with you.

  • I carry photo IDs for two separate colleges, one which I no longer attend and one I haven't started at yet.

  • I carry a handy little tip chart that shows the correct percentage for tipping waiters for meals that range from $1 to $200. I never use the handy tip chart.

  • I carry a Wal-Mart gift card that I received for Hanukkah last year. I believe it's been used up, but I am not sure.

  • I carry an Aeropostole gift card that I received for my eighteenth birthday in 2007. I went in the store once and never found anything I liked. I am not sure if it's expired by now or not.

  • I carry two current insurance cards for my car--I think I forgot to put one in my glove box--and two expired insurance cards.

  • I carry a campaign card some guy who was running for sheriff handed out. It has a calendar on it. The calendar is for 2008. I did not vote for the sheriff because I do not even live in that county.

  • I carry a somewhat more useful 3 year calendar card from my insurance agent. (It's still current. :D)

  • I carry a hunter orange card that affirms that I did pass a hunter safety course three years ago. I have yet to use it.

  • I carry a library card. Mine is red, but we stopped issuing red ones a few months ago. In fifty years, I believe it will be a rare treasure for that reason.

  • I carry a voter's registration card. *launches into "responsible nerd who does her civic duty dance"* After working two elections where eighty percent of the voters did not carry theirs and had no idea which precinct they vote in, I think not carrying one's voter registration card should be punishable by flogging. Don't argue with me. I'll flog you.

  • I carry a Post Office box card that I rely on because I can't remember my newly minted P.O. Box's zip code.

  • I carry a handwritten ID card that lists my name, address, phone number, and emergency contact information. I have no idea why that's in there because I have so many other cards that list my name and address.
I also carry a bunch of business cards with me. I have my mechanic's business card, though I never call him because my grandpa--my other grandpa who does not look like Elie Wiesel--knows him and does that for me; I have my hairdresser's business card, but I never call her because I stop by her shop when I want to book an appointment; I have two bankers' business cards--one of which I just added today; I have my vet's business card, but I always forget that I have it and look his number up in the phone book, though it is programmed in my cell phone; I have two different attorneys' business cards, though I never use them, either; I have my insurance agent's card--she sure hands out a lot of stuff, doesn't she?; I have a business card from the local pawn shop because I like to compulsively swipe people's business cards; I have a friend's business card from Sears because he told me if I ever had mechanical problems and needed help to call him. If I ever have a problem, all I have to do is call, and I'll have a tall blond knight in shining armor show up! Well, a tall blond knight in a polo shirt and jeans . . .

But the one thing that really puzzles me and that I barely remember putting in there is a large folded index card that literally lists the phone number of every relative I am in contact with. It also lists all of my then friends' numbers. There are two of them. I haven't spoken to either one in nearly a year--nothing personal; I just don't see them anymore--and neither of the numbers are accurate because one friend is now divorced and lives in another state and the other is just married and moved away. The card also lists the numbers for the local tow truck company, my eye doctor, a doctor who my grandma goes to but who I have never been to, the electric company, the post office, the library, the city police, the county sheriff, and--get this--Wal-Mart. I have no idea what possessed me to write this out, let alone carry it around with me for years. I feel sorry for whoever finds this card and tries to figure out who would feel compelled to write down the local Wal-Mart's number.

After I was done, I decided to blog about my wallet. I then promptly restored all of its contents to its rightful place, including the creepy card with mostly outdated numbers. You never know when you'll need to call Wal-Mart . . .

What's in your wallet?

29 July 2010


You know those guys who forget their wedding anniversary and then scramble to redeem themselves with last-minute hysterics that backfire? And you don't feel any sympathy for them because if the goomba would have written the date down on a calendar, he wouldn't be in this fix? We all know one of these, right? One of my friends accidentally bought his wife a sympathy card for their anniversary because he sent one of his employees, who was barely literate, to pick up the card. (Talk about doing it yourself if you want to get anything done right . . . )

My point is, I am like one of those deadbeat significant others. But my case of mind-numbingly stupid forgetfulness was toward my blog. We had our one year anniversary here on Blogger on July 17th and I totally forgot! Well, I didn't entirely forget. About a week beforehand, I had a nice blog post devised in my head in which I would discuss my year here on blogger and have a an e-party with my dear followers. But I forgot all about it until today! I felt like a failed blogger, but I can't let this occasion pass by! So . . . I decided that I would celebrate my 1 year and 12 day anniversary on Blogger! Yeehaw!

Just 377 days ago, I had one blog, one blog post, and no followers. Now, I have two blogs--and am a contributor to another (Penguins, I will write a chapter! I promise! I have just been busier than I had planned!), 91 posts, and over forty followers. When I first started blogging, I didn't think anyone would ever read what i was writing. I assumed it'd be like talking to myself online, which I do in real life all the time. But you, my wonderful followers, have prevented that from happening. Thanks for putting up with me on a weekly basis, both here and on my book blog.

I had planned on having a vlog up for my blogiversary, but seeing as I missed the original blogiversary , I suppose it is only fitting that I do not have a vlog for you. I shall vlog! I really will. Scott tagged me to do a vlog and with his and Feathery's superb tech support, I will do one as soon as possible. (Time is a factor.) But until then, I figured that you guys are sick of that picture I always use for my profile. That's my high school graduation picture . . . which was taken two years after I graduated high school, though I was home schooled and didn't technically graduate high school and, in fact, hold a GED, instead. Yep, that picture.

Today, my library had a party for all of the kids who attended our summer program and, in addition to getting 6 hours of overtime, I also came away with a delightful frog balloon I named Leonard. So here's a pic of Leonard; my fearsome attack Chihuahua, Tuco Benedicto Pacifico Juan Maria Ramirez; and myself.

There on the left is my fearless trusty fido, my cute frog balloon is to the right, and, erm, that's me in the center wearing one of my library shirts. Just ignore my crazy hair--it got trimmed this week--and the acne, okay?

Now that we're past the formalities, let us partake in e-cookies and e-cake. :D

P.S. If you can guess what movie I got my Chihuahua's name from, I will mention you on my next blog . . . and use lots of exclamation points to do so. ^^

22 July 2010

Let's Get Ready For School!

The summer before I went to kindergarten, I watched the Berenstein's Bears Let's Get Ready For School video almost every single day. I also, erm, sang the theme song a lot at that age. (Yes, I was nerdy and obsessive even as a small child.) Now I am getting ready to move away from home for my junior year of college, and you couldn't force me at gunpoint to watch the Berenstein Bears and yet that song is still stuck in my head . . .

This point was driven home to me yesterday when I drove up to my future college with my grandparents to pay my room and board fees for this semester.

I still don't know my way around the campus too well, so I stumbled through two different buildings looking for the cash accounts office. This wasn't a bad thing, because I at least found a vending machine that offers cinnamon rolls and Danishes. Not bad to know when you're running late and need a quick breakfast. After we found the office and paid, I asked where I could find out what dorm I am in. (Room assignments hadn't been posted on the website yet, though they were supposed to be up this week.) I was told to go to the Dean of Students' office, back in the other building I'd wandered around in. Luckily, I noticed this office when I was studying the vending machine that may be providing my breakfast one day, so it wasn't too difficult to find.

Once I got there and asked, the woman at the desk told me that the assignments were posted and that I could log into a computer at the library. Yay! Now I just needed to find the library . . . After getting directions, the woman asked me if I had my ID card yet. Nope. She asked me if I wanted to go ahead and get one. One less hassle during orientation. I decided that she merited some sort of canonization for thinking of that.

In turn, I was rewarded with the best ID photo I have ever had. Usually my driver's license and student ID photos are hideous. My hair is always crazy and I look like a demented geek on speed. This one wasn't necessarily a glamour shot, but at least I won't mind anyone seeing it. (My student ID at the community college I attended was so bad, I wouldn't use it to get discounts at local stores just because I didn't want anyone to see my picture. My forehead had caught some weird reflection in the room, so it looked like I had a huge silver mark on half my forehead. *sigh*)

I was then asked if I wanted to go ahead and register my car. Sure! One less thing to do at orientation. I was asked how many transfer credits I was bringing in to determine if I was officially a sophomore or a junior. I earned 64 credits at my old college, but apparently only 60 were showing up on the computer. That would officially make me a sophomore and that required a different tag. Eeeep!

I walked over to the registrar's office and asked what was up with my credits. The guy at the office told me that they were still processing transfer transcripts and that mine should go through with no problem. I think it must be my geology class that hasn't been officially accepted yet. I sure hope they take it. I made some of my worse grades ever in that class. It was, in many ways, an easy class. But the labs always got me. They were based on visually identifying different rocks and minerals. For those of us with crappy eye sight, that was a major challenge. I, erm, sorta, kinda almost failed my igneous rock quiz. They all looked alike to me. *sob* But I did well on the worksheets and the lecture tests and went on the extra credit field trip, so I still ended up with an A. But, point is, I really don't want another dance with geology or, God forbid, chemistry to fulfil my physical science requirement. But if only one course doesn't transfer, I can't complain too much. I've talked to people who had to repeat several after transferring, so I am in pretty good shape, as far as all that goes. However, not being able to officially say that those 4 credits were accepted means I am in limbo between sophomore and junior and must wait to get the tag.

Oh, well. I was directed to the school post office where I got my first personal address. Yeehaw! I now have a post office box. And with it came a key that almost refused to go on my key chain. Mean post office key. You will learn to love me and my key chain . . . or else. ^^

I finally made my way to the library where I fell in love . . . with the library. It was a gigantic library full of books! *happy nerd dance* One of the places I applied to work for work-study was the library. I am really hoping I get that job because a) I have over two years experience working in libraries with that very same computer database system, b) I like working in libraries, and c) I found my dorm assignment and realized that my dorm was very close to the library and the building that houses the English and history departments. This means that, conceivably, all of my classes and jobs would be next to each other and easily within walking distance. Also, the building that houses the college printing press, which is the home of a publication I would like to edit at some point, is right there, too. Oh, all of the admin buildings are nearby as well. Whoohoo! The only bad thing is the cafeteria is quite a ways away, but I suppose it wouldn't hurt to walk there. I am not a gym rat, so I guess the exercise will be good for me, especially considering you can get pancakes for breakfast every day if you so choose . . . ^^

So . . . in all of three weeks I will move in. I am looking forward to going, but I am not really looking forward to the move in part. I hate moving with a passion. There was that nightmarish year when I was ten that I moved eighteen times in eight states. Did I mention I hate moving? But it's just part of getting ready for school, I guess. But so is pancakes every day for breakfast. :P

15 July 2010

Zella Kate, Library Detective

My name is Zella--I carry a badge. Well, not really. But I sorta feel like I do. Or that I should. Same difference.

My beat is the local public library. I wish I had an intimidating, muscular colleague to help me enforce law and order, but until we have the funds to employ this gentleman, my fellow librarians and I are the only things standing between our dear library and utter anarchy.

Fortunately, I have been well trained for my role in literary law enforcement. I have read, erm, trained under the tutelage of classic strategists like Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Nero Wolf, and Miss Marple. I have also apprenticed under the hard boiled detectives of yore, such as Sam Spade and Philip Marlow, and the not so easy to categorize procedural cops, like Jules Maigret, and quirky cops, like Thursday Next. And, as a multi-faceted learner, I have also studied under the TV greats, such as Adrien Monk, Dragnet's Joe Friday and Law and Order: CI's Robert Goren, though technically the reason I watched Goren was because Vincent D'onofrio--who is only one of the most underrated actors ever--was playing him. But enough about my extensive apprenticeship with awesome detective, lest I inspire your wrath and everlasting jealousy. Ahem.

Our most vexing criminals in the library world are not the ones who incur outrageous book fines, believe it or not. The most vexing, obnoxious, nay, dangerous miscreants we face are those who abuse their computer privileges. They make our blood boil. We have a lot of these law breakers at our library, and they are of all ages.

This week, I had to interrogate one. He is one of many hard core recidivists at our library. Recidivism. REPEAT O-FFENDER! Not a pretty name, is it, Hi? (If you have no idea what I am talking about here, you should rent, no, buy a copy of Raising Arizona immediately.)

I had the late shift, and it was about twenty minutes before closing. A boy of about ten or eleven who I will call Martin asked me if he could use the computer. Now, I was instantly suspicious because Martin is always trying to whine his way onto a computer. At our library, one must be thirteen to use a computer without his/her guardian present. He likes to show up without an adult or with one who is not his legal guardian and fast-talk his way onto a computer. Some of my fellow librarians are nice to him and give in. I am not one of those librarians.

Oh, don't get me wrong. I let things slide with a lot of people. I learned very quickly that if you try to enforce every single rule, you will feel like a pathetic failed librarian. But I am sick of Martin getting a free pass to do what he wants. Call me mean. Call me by the book. Call me an anal-retentive jerk. Whatever. Martin wasn't using a computer without his guardian present.

So . . . when he came up to my desk and asked for permission, I asked him if his guardian was with him. He hem-hawed around and wouldn't directly answer my question. My detecting skills were immediately suspicious by this display of suspicious behavior, so, as a highly skilled library detective, I repeated my question. His exact response was "My guardian for the day is present." Yeah, well, that could mean his mother or his twelve year old cousin. I told him there was a big difference between one's guardian and a guardian for the day. Me being me, I nearly launched into a long diatribe about the difference between one's legal guardian and any ol' "guardian" you pull out of the woodworks. But then I decided to be a bit more shifty with dear Martin.

Me, trying best to not raise eyebrows and look sly: "Exactly who is your guardian?"

Martin points to some lady who he comes in with but who I know is absolutely not his guardian.

Me: "So, what, is she one of your relatives?"

Martin, after pausing and then breaking into a wide grin while his eyes brighten: "Yes!"

And that's when I knew I had him. This is Lying 101, but if you're lying to someone and they ask you a leading question, never pause, then answer brightly with a sly flicker in your eye. Because that immediately makes the person asking leading questions assume that you briefly considered the best way to answer it and then felt smug when giving what you believe is the answer they want you to say. Any experienced liar knows the best way to go about this is to keep a solemn face and answer in a monotone voice to avoid being perceived as a liar. But young Martin has a way to go before he learns this. I decided to pounce.

Me: "How is she related to you?"

Martin, pauses and furrows his brow: "Um, I don't know."

Me: "You don't know? Well, what's her name?"

Martin: *shrug*

Me: "So, you have no idea who she is or what her name is, but she's your guardian? You know, I don't really believe you."

Martin: *blank stare*

Me: "She's not related to you, is she?"

Martin: *puts head down* "No."

Me: "Then, why did you lie to me?"

Martin: "I didn't lie to you."

If there is one thing in the world that I cannot stand, it is being lied to and then having the liar deny it. I feel like Michael Corleone in The Godfather: "Only don't tell me you're innocent. Because it insults my intelligence and it makes me very angry." And this is when I transformed from a mildly sadistic nerd to a furious nerd who was more than a little bit hysterical in my questioning.

Me: "What do you mean you didn't lie?! You just told me she was your relative and then you said she wasn't. How is that not lying?"

He continued repeating his line that he didn't lie and had this deer-in-the-headlights look, as if he had no idea why I was jumping down his throat. I decided to just stare at him and not blink.

My interrogation had morphed into a Mexican standoff, with Martin looking at me pleadingly and me emotionlessly glaring at him. He made the first tentative step toward detente. "Can I get on the computer now?"

He made a very boneheaded step toward detente. "No." I kept my voice flat, to avoid totally losing my temper.

Now was Martin's turn to be indignant. "WHY?" he squealed.

I leaned forward, narrowed my eyes, and answered in an icy whisper, "Because you lied to me."

Martin may suck at lying, but he's not stupid. Rather than arguing further with me, he decided to stomp off. As an idealist, I would like to think that he comes away from our little battle with the moral that lying does not pay or, at the very least, that if one is going to lie, do it less obviously. As a realist, I know that, in all probability, I will now be Martin's sworn enemy, forever known as that evil librarian who wouldn't let him get on the computer. That's fine. Next time, I'll let Conan deal with him. ^^

So . . . ever get to interrogate anyone at work? Who are your favorite detectives?

07 July 2010

I Am A Ninja

Even though Monday was a national holiday, I had to work. I didn't mind working--I love my job at the local public library--but I was perplexed that we were even open. All other city offices were closed that day, but we noble suppliers of free books and internet service remained open. Being at work didn't bother me--I only worked half a day, anyway--so much as the fact that my coworker and I were the only ones there. Our library was deader than R. Pattz's facial expressions.

I had an inkling the library would be slow Monday when I participated in a little pre-work ritual of mine. Before or after work--depending on when I go to work--I like to indulge myself by walking to a delightful little roadside diner that is about a block from where I work. I love this place so much that I can forgive the fact that their sign features the conspicuous absence of a badly needed possessive apostrophe. Those of you who know me well know that is saying something. I have been accused of grammar nazism in the past, but delicious burgers, sumptuous chocolate milkshakes, and the best homemade fries I have ever eaten assuage my anguish when I look at that sign, so it all evens out. I had to run an errand before work, so I decided that I'd walk around the town square--which is right next to the library--and treat myself to a milkshake before work. (Do not judge me.)

As I walked along the square, I realized that everything was closed. Not just government buildings like the post office--insurance offices, barber shops, my favorite used bookstore. All were closed and nobody was on the square. It was an eerie feeling. I felt like I was walking through a ghost town, and as a paranoid, neurotic, angsty Jewish nebbish, this was a little more than my poor nerves could handle. I kept expecting an ax murderer or a face-eating alien or a mugger wielding a pogo stick to jump out of the alleys. As you can imagine, when I got to my diner of choice, they were closed too. So I hoofed it back to the library parking lot, which was deserted, and started to head across the street to the local courthouse, which is the residence of a vending machine that provides me with Oreo cookies on a regular basis. Alas! The courthouse was closed because, you know, it was a national holiday. Duh, Zella.

So I went to work with a heavy heart . . . and an empty stomach. But I am not so easily dissuaded from a tasty meal! Tuesday I had to work, so I decided that on my lunch break I was going to march over to my favorite diner and order myself the works. I deserved a tasty meal after being deprived the day before. Even better, this time I had time to kill. The reason I like this diner, besides the great food, is that it is a roadside diner with outdoor tables. You can sit outside, munching your victuals, and watch the proceedings of my small town. Masterpiece Theater it is not, but for a nerd who likes to people watch, it is perfect. It is even more perfect if you want to idly read while waiting for your food. I like to carry books with me--you never know when you'll have the chance to read!--and there's something about outdoor tables that is just bliss for reading. On the day in question, I had myself a collection of classic noir novellas. I love me some good noir, and the only thing better than noir is several good noir tales bundled into one package. Yeehaw! Noir is also just so fitting for perusing while at an outdoor diner. I am not sure why; it just is. Maybe it is because so many James M. Cain stories are set in places where you can get a bite to eat. Hmm . . .

Anyway, as I happily walked up to the diner, I planned my meal. I know which seat I wanted to sit at, I knew what I was going to order, and I knew which novella I was going to dig into first. Then, I got there and noticed the huge sign that I only glanced at the day before. The one that said they'd be closed for the whole week because they were on vacation. Um, yeah, I didn't read that when I was there the day before. D'oh!

But all was not lost! The courthouse was open, so I decided that if I couldn't get a yummy burger, I could at least get some tasty Oreos. Lady Luck was smiling on me. Not only did I get my Oreos, but for the first time ever, I was able to walk through the courthouse without slipping and falling. I kid you not. I think the local county is trying to assassinate me. Every time I walk into that place to get cookies, they are mopping. I assume they have an insider source who has revealed my clumsiness and predisposition to wearing tacky rubber shoes. Well, I fooled them this time! With my highly developed ninja skills--cultivated through watching way too many Chuck Norris and Jackie Chan movies as a child--I was able to maneuver my way through the slippery gauntlet without ending up on my back. Victory is mine! As are the Oreos. ^^

How was your holiday weekend? Do you like Oreos? Does your local government want to kill you?

30 June 2010

My Life According to My Bookshelf

My dear friend Penguins recently posted this clever game in which one answers a series of questions with the titles of books currently on one's bookshelf. A few months back, we did the same thing with song titles from favorite bands. (Mine is on my book blog in the right bottom corner. It's "My Life According to Pink Floyd") So . . . let's have a bit of book fun.

Using only titles from books on your bookshelf, cleverly answer these questions. Pass it on to 10 people you like and include me. Try not to repeat a title. It's a lot harder than you think!

Are you a male or female: Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)

Describe yourself: The Reader (Bernhard Schlink)

How do you feel: Great Expectations (Charles Dickens)

Where do you currently live: No Country for Old Men (Cormac McCarthy)

If you could go anywhere, where would you go: The House of Mirth (Edith Wharton)

Your favourite form of transportation: A Streetcar Named Desire (Tennessee Williams) Yes, I know it is a play, but I own it in a collection. :D

Your best friend is: The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)

You and your best friends are: Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoevsky)

What's the weather like: The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (John Le Carré)

Favourite time of day: The Night of the Hunter (Davis Grubb)

If your life was a TV show, what would it be called: A Morbid Taste for Bones (Elizabeth Peters)

What is life to you: Persuasion (Jane Austen)

Your relationship: And Then There Were None (Agatha Christie)

Your fear: The Great Mortality (John Kelly)

What is the best advice you have to give: Something Wicked This Way Comes (Ray Bradbury)

Thought for the Day: The Postman Always Rings Twice (James M. Cain)

How would you like to die: Killing Hitler (Roger Morehouse)

My soul's present condition: Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe)

My motto: Talk to the Hand (Lynne Truss)

Now you know that I am an even bigger nerdbag than you imagined. So . . . how would you answer these questions? Do it in the comments or on your own blog. :D

23 June 2010

My Favorite Characters From My Own Stories

Jean recently did a post--from the 7 Things tag--in which she blogged about her seven favorite characters from her own novels. I thought it was a fun idea, so fun that I wanted to do my own version. Jean, being a kind person, informally tagged me. (Don't fear. I am not tagging anyone.) Before I start, I think I should give a little glimpse at my writing development, which will help keep this in perspective.

My writing has always developed in stages, two of which overlap. The first went from the ages of 7 to 10. I don't remember much about this period, except this was when I first started writing and it consisted mostly of personal essays and short stories. There are only two pieces I remember from this time. One is the first thing I ever wrote--a short story about jewel thieves in Paris. Before you ask, it sucked horribly. All of the characters were French yet had American/English names and accents. We won't even go into the nonsensical plot. But it was my first creative effort. I also remember an essay I wrote for school when I was about 9, in which I turned my hated stepfather's rants about the messiness of my room into a celebration of how messy my room was. My teacher adored it, my stepfather hated it--Hehe I directly quoted him--and I learned that the pen is truly mightier than the sword when waging war.

My second phase was from the ages of 10 to 17, but mostly between 10 to 15. This was my emo poet stage. I had a lot of "issues" at this time and I consoled myself by writing angry, depressed poetry, most of which was pretty crappy--and having looked back with hindsight--quite disturbing. As I got older, my poetry got more refined and less angsty, but by then, I had shifted into my next stage of writing, which overlapped some with my poet days. This was my novel writing stage, which lasted from about 13 to 19. I dabbled with several genres--most of the ideas blended historical and crime fiction, but I also played with spy thrillers, fantasy, horror, mysteries, and Westerns--and ended up with a few manuscripts and several more undeveloped ideas. I also wrote one play--an adaptation of the story of Esther. (Do not look for that to be staged at anytime in the near future.)

Looking back as an older--and hopefully wiser--writer, I see that I had some interesting premises and complex characters and some good lines, but my writing at the time was uneven and my plots were often overstuffed. (You know . . . only so many people can die before things get ridiculous. And too many plot twists can be jarring. And too many complex characters, no matter how fascinating, can be distracting.) I think my biggest problem was I was too ambitious. Beginning writers shouldn't set stories in places they have never been, in time periods they have never lived, and attempt to write experimentally a la William Faulkner. I bit off more than I could chew. Waaaaaaaaay more than I could chew.

I stopped writing completely my first year of college--other than diary entries and academic essays--and then resumed writing the next summer on my book blog, posting book reviews. By this time, I was an English major and in between reading classic works and literary fiction, I felt like I would never, ever be a writer. I would read beautiful prose from writing masters and one part of me would think "OMG! Pretty!" and the other part of me would think "WAAAAAAAAA! I can't do that!"

Then, I was assigned to write a poem for one of my classes. Some of you have read it--"Oedipus in Hell." To make a long story short, I was supposed to put an ancient literary character in hell and punish him. I chose Oedipus--a character I actually like and feel sorry for--and banished him to hell, dooming him to pay for his self-mutilation with an, erm, ironic punishment. Most of the people who read it liked it, I made an A++, and I managed to frighten my grandparents with it. (The last one sort of bothered me, because I didn't want to disturb them, but deep down, I was thrilled that I was able to elicit such a visceral response from a reader.)

That assignment made me realize that I could write and I could only improve if I worked on it. To that end, in the past 6 months, I ended up writing and submitting a comic piece about crimes against punctuation to my college's literary magazine, which is not likely to be published, but it was the first time I ever subbed anything; entered and placed second in my college's sonnet contest; and worked on my college's literary journal as an editor. This last one was a great experience, because it confirmed how much nerdy delight I take in editing and revising (I do; I truly do) and it made me realize that there are a lot of talented writers out there--many much more so than me--but there are also a lot of people who think they can write and, well, to be nice, can't. But they at least try to write and they have confidence! So I am working on my writing confidence . . . and my writing. This summer, in some weird full circle, I am back to my early writing career of short stories and poems. I have a few short story ideas I am working on and this July I am going to try to do NaPoWriMo, even though it usually occurs in April. (Hey, I was busy in April!)

So now that you know a bit more about my writing, I will list my favorite of my own characters, all of which come from my still most definitely unpublication-worthy attempts at novels:

1. Ed McPherson (Chicago): Ed is a Depression era mobster in what ended up being my first (and still remains my most complete) novel that I keep changing the title of. (I am leaning toward Once Upon a Time in Chicago, but that's just because I adore Sergio Leone and want to pay tribute to him.) The title isn't the only thing I keep changing. Poor Ed has went through three major personality revisions. At first, he was the tale's antagonist--and his name was David. He was a somewhat charming person, though his charisma masked an over the top psychopathic personality. Then, I decided that those kinds of villains are a dime a dozen in novels, so I changed his name to Ed and made him a relatively good natured, if not somewhat murderous, bad guy who was not the antagonist only because there were no good guys in this story. This was all fine and good, because I adored Ed. He was a fun character to write about. In fact, I adored Ed so much I refused to write an unhappy ending for him, though my brother--who is the only person to ever read my novels--kept telling me that for the story to really work, Ed would have to, you know, kind of, sort of . . . die. *bursts into tears* I refused to write that! Ed was not dying! Ed was my fictional buddy! NOOOOOOOOOOOO! Ahem. I finally decided my brother was right and that the problem was that Ed was too likable. I mean, he kills people for a living. He's not really someone you'd invite home to meet your mother and no matter how laid back and good natured he was, nothing could change that. So I rewrote his personality . . . again. Now Ed is not really psychopathic, but he's acerbic and cynical and ruthless and, to be honest, quite moody. And I don't mean Ed-weird Twilight "But he's so charmingly moody" moody. I mean moody, as in "Leave him alone when he's in one of those moods" moody. Ed's still not the antagonist, but he is no longer a likable character. *sniffles* He's not the man I used to know! But this personality change was for his (and the story's) own good.

2. Carla (Killing Tiny): This is a story--likely a novella--that I started when I was fifteen and, in many ways, is still one of my absolute favorites. Killing Tiny is a noir comedy about, erm, well, killing a fellow named Tiny. Carla is Tiny's sister and is the chief conspirator against her brother. Carla is one of my favorite characters because, though she is far from bright, she has all the tenacity of a pit bull. Come hell or high water, Tiny is going to die! Hehe Now if only Carla and her pathetic band of assassins would stop screwing up their attempts to put Tiny six feet under . . .

3. Shlomo Rabinowicz (Killing Tiny): Shlomo is Tiny's friend and business partner. He's one of my favorites because, well, though I am Jewish, he's the only one of my major characters who is Jewish. My brother has said that I like Shlomo so well because he reminds me of me. That's probably true. I just like writing his kvetching rants. He lives to kvetch. :D

4. Virgil (Chicago): Remember when I was discussing Ed and said his story had no good guys? That's true. But some are better than others. Conversely, some are worse than others. Virgil is about as bad as they get. He's a former hit man who now makes a living fleecing poor hapless souls. He runs a scam charity that purports to "help" those hit hard by the Depression. Of course, the only person Virgil is interested in helping is himself. I can't stand Virgil as a person--partially because he's based on someone I know. No, my acquaintance was not a hit man for the mob, but he was a sleazy scam artist, so I have fun seeing how slimy and smarmy Virgil can be. And O Evil Me has a lot of fun making sure Virgil gets his proper comeuppance. ^^

5. Louie and Nelle (Chicago): If I really and honestly had to choose just one character who is my favorite, it would have to be one of these two. They are the employers of one of my other characters in Chicago. Initially, they didn't even have names. They had no important role, but then I decided that I needed some comic relief. Louie and Nelle seemed like likely suspects. So . . . they went from being nameless employers to hideously tacky employers who bicker with each other constantly--much to the dismay of everyone unfortunate enough to be around them. In fact, I had so much fun with these two knuckleheads that I ended up giving them a major role in the plot just so I could keep writing about them.

6. Jack (Chicago): Jack is a detective in my mobster story. I adore detective novels, but I have found that there are usually only two types of detectives--the utterly brilliant, morally upright, well-to-do amateur detectives of classic English mysteries who are detectives for the sheer fun of it and the disgruntled, disillusioned, dysfunctional detectives of classic American hard boiled fiction who usually despises his job but feels compelled to do it, even if it means breaking the law he is trying to uphold. Jack is a bit of a mixture of both. He's not disillusioned, per se, but he's not really the most ethical guy you'll ever met. (If you want a favor, you should know he likes cash, preferably in non-consecutive bills.) But he is brainy and he does take a great deal of delight in being detective. He's also self-destructive but not in the traditional alcoholic sort of way. He's more neurotic and obsessive in his self-destructive tendencies. Again, my brother says that last point is me coming out in my characters. I think my brother should shut up.

7. Effie (untitled): I have never figured out a title for this story, which is a murder mystery set in Western North Carolina. My family is originally from there, and this novel is based on a true story--with names changed and some artistic license taken. Effie has a small role, really. She's in only one scene, but she was so much fun to write that it wouldn't be right to not mention her. Let's just say the scene she's in involves Effie taking some well-deserved vengeance out on her philandering husband. ^^