I Love My Cube

You heard me. Or, rather, you read me. And more to the point: you heard/read me correctly. I do, in fact, love my cube. Of course, my cube doesn’t have those flimsy walls, it’s got nice solid wood walls. It’s personalized. It’s cluttered and messy. But having spent the bulk of my adult life working in crappy retail and food establishments, it’s a well overdue and welcome change.

I love my cube. Primarily for what it represents, admittedly.

I’ll be moving, soon. Possibly as early as the end of this week. Our office got expanded. My department is shifting down. I’ve been sitting in this cube for a little over six months. It’s been my only cube. I have mixed feelings about the move: it’s very possible I’ll get a cube with a, yes, a window. In the meantime, I’m going to make the most of my last week in this cube. Cube, it’s been a great six months. You’ll always have been my first cube. Always.

A Real Katana

My mom’s younger sister got married when I was a few years old. Previously, she’d lived with us just outside Washington, D.C., despite the fact that she, my mom, and her husband, all grew up in or just around Scranton, PA. Her husband, my uncle, I deemed, as a young child, to be my “Buddy.” Today, that’s still how I refer to him: he’s not Uncle Bill, he’s Uncle Buddy. (Well, okay, these days, half the time he’s Uncle Bill, and half the time he’s Uncle Buddy).

They live up in Connecticut, and this weekend, that’s where I was. My folks went up to accompany them to the “Big E”, sort of a state-fair for New England (yes, I do know that New England has more than one state: but they’re all very small!) Given the dreary weather, and that I was very caught up in a book (which is my usual state of being), I opted to skip the festivities and relax around the house. It was just me and Uncle Buddy’s dad, Bill Senior.

Bill Sr. and Uncle Buddy look exactly alike. Bill Sr. was in the Marines during World War II, and when Buddy’s son — my cousin, Will — was a young child, he saw a picture of his grandfather in his Marine dress blues, and thought it was his dad. I’ve seen the picture too, and they’re the spitting image of one another. My aunt knows exactly how her husband is going to look thirty years down the line.

Bill Sr. moved in with them — they just finished a two-bedroom attachment to their home. One room is Bill Sr’s new home. The other room is for my grandmother when she goes to stay with them (she lives with my mom’s older sister in Scranton). The move was a big adjustment for Bill Sr., ever since he came back from the Pacific, he lived in a small house in the Scranton valley with his wife and four kids. The kids have scattered — one son near Scranton, a daughter in Philly, another in Minnesota, and, of course, Buddy in Connecticut.

Bill Sr’s wife died a few years ago. It was hard on the whole family, as I remember, but especially for Bill Sr. Now he was alone in a house small for six people, big for one. A year or two after his mother died, Buddy was cleaning out the attic in the house he grew up in. Buddy’s a big history buff, a huge beautiful bookcase in his living room is dedicated to biographies and histories. Imagine his surprise in cleaning when he found a Japanese sword: a katana. He also found a small flag with the Rising Sun and words in Japanese, splattered with dark brown stains: blood.

Bill Senior is a lot like my own grandfather, who had to be prodded and begged to talk about his experiences in World War II. My grandfather came home minus half an ear and with a Mauser bayonet which now sits about a foot to my right. Bill Sr. came home with a blood-stained flag and a katana. My aunt had the writing on the flag interpreted by a Japanese speaker she works with. The writing is from a family to their warrior son, wishing him luck and victory and success and honor. Sixty years later, his sword collects dust in an attic half a world away.

I’m sure there’s some meaningful lesson to be taken from this. That heroes don’t brag. Or that there are no heroes, merely men who go to fight for the cause their country says is just and honorable. Me? I just think it’s cool that my uncle has a real authentic katana in his house. And I think it’s sad that there’s probably some family in Japan who, at holidays, talks about some distant relation, and wonders what he’d’ve been like if he hadn’t died on Iwo Jima. Me? I’m glad Bill Senior made it back, because I just can’t imagine my life without my Uncle Buddy. (And Bill Sr’s quite a guy, too).

As Seen on Snow Crash

I like creative housing alternatives. And, okay, so maybe Snow Crash actually predicted storage units converted to housing …

I came across this article on CNN: “Shipping containers could be ‘dream’ homes for thousands.”

The house faces two constraints: designing in only 320 square feet and keeping the price to around $8,000 to be affordable for the average worker at maquiladoras, manufacturing plants in Mexico along the U.S. border, McCarthy said.

The partners looked at clever designs for small condos and lofts, travel trailers and even private jet planes, adapting ideas they felt would work.

“We started with a kitchen and bathroom because they’re the most necessary and most basic ingredients of a home,” McCarthy said. They designed a galley-style kitchen with a stove, sink, refrigerator and dinette, and a 48-square-foot bathroom with a pedestal sink, shower and commode. Adjacent to the kitchen is a bunk area for children; separate sleeping quarters for the owners lie behind the bathroom wall.

The house may be sparse by U.S. standards, but Nava said it’s a huge improvement in safety, security and health over where many now live.

When drawings and color pictures of the prototype were shown around a poor Juarez neighborhood, people said, “You know it’d be like a dream to live in one of these,” Nava said. “You know, just the thought of having nice fresh air ventilating through the house, a large bed … a normal kitchen and a safe home that locks and closes each night was more than appealing.”

Annen cites modern architectural design, with bare metal and piping. “This would fit right in any major city,” he said.

What a great idea! And not just for the slums of Mexico, either.

I pay an astronomical sum for a 400-square foot studio apartment in Northwest DC. I’ll probably be renting for the next several years, as the idea and the expense of buying a place in DC is like waaaay over anything I think I’ll be able to afford between now and my next several annual raises, and, yeah, I know the $8k price tag is unrealistic in this city …

Still, if you could get a co-op to buy some land in DC, and stack some of these ontop of each other, have some nice architectural framework to go over them and look creative and have sturdy staircases and elevators and what not — wouldn’t that be cool to have the infrastructure of a building where you could plug and unplug the living modules?! — you might be able to keep prices low or, no, this is just a pipe dream.

Oh, did I say 400 square feet? When you take out my 64-square foot closet, the wasted space in the foyer, the odd nook in the kitchen I can barely squeeze into and can’t fit anything into, the actual living space (not including the kitchen proper and the bathroom) — the space for bookshelves and couches and futons — is maybe 150 square feet. So, really, cutting down the overall space of my living area by 80 square feet wouldn’t bother me too much.

Anyway. Back to work.

Eyes Wide Shut

… is how a lot of people seem to react to Sarah Palin, anyway. The media, too.

Andrew Sullivan, it seems, is beginning to wrap up his multi-week criticism of Sarah Palin with “The Twelve Lies of Sarah Palin.” Personally, I hope these posts continue. While he’s been a little over the top with some of his posts – which is a shame, because it makes it easier for party-loyalist blogs to dismiss his criticisms of the McCain/Palin campaign (like they couldn’t find a way) – he’s been making relevant and timely commentary on McCain’s pick that the mass media doesn’t seem to want to pick up on.

Sweet Sweet Canvas

I sure do heart my Messenger Bag, or, as some of my coworkers call it, my “Murse” (Man + Purse = Murse). Whether it doubles as a laptop bag, or whether I’ve got it packed with an umbrella, map, light reading, and my re-usable shopping bags, I’m so very very glad I snatched it up at Target all those years ago (year ago?) for $20.

Of course, back then, I had no idea I’d be a resident of Washington DC come summer. I had no idea I’d be working in a cube farm in Bethesda, and a bookstore downtown. I had no idea not only that I’d’ve sold my car, but that I’d’ve wrecked my car (the one I had a year ago) into a deer, bought a new car — my first brand new car ever — and then gone and sold that.

In any case, and especially in retrospect: Worth. Every. Penny.

Brilliant political stunt

Verbatim from my in-box:

A brilliant idea! I just did this for $5.00. Please consider joining in with a donation to a worthy cause, and PLEASE pass on! :) Rita (If you don’t want to get these from me please say so, I don’t want to offend anyone)

Instead of us all sending around more emails about how horrible she is, let’s all make a donation to Planned Parenthood in Sarah Palin’s name.

And here’s the good part: when you make a donation in in her name, they’ll send her a card telling her that the donation has been made in her honor. Here’s the link to the Planned Parenthood website:

https://secure.ga0.org/02/pp10000_inhonor

(this is where http://www.plannedparenthood.org/ takes you)

You’ll need to fill in the address to let them know where to send the ‘in Sarah Palin’s honor’ card. I suggest you use the address for the McCain campaign headquarters, which is:

John McCain 2008
P.O. Box 16118
Arlington, VA 22215

Have fun! And a worthy cause too. Spread the word!

On Bookstore Employment

For the most part, working in a bookstore is pretty cool. I mean, as a guy whose apartment is dominated by bookshelves overflowing with books, there’s really nothing I like more than grabbing a stack from the recovery cart and walking through any of the fiction or history sections reshelving. I like any of the fiction sections – Literature, Mystery/Thriller, Horror, Sci-Fi, yes, even Romance. Why? Well, with the exception of romance, I tend to like the subject matter. Primarily, though, because those sections (including Politics & History), tend to be pretty well ordered: alphabetically, by last name.

That’s not the rule in all sections. In travel, sections are ordered by region, country, state, city. Usually. Some exceptions may apply: like, biographies? Under the name of the person they’re about, not the author. Unless they are filed under the author’s name, which generally happens when people aren’t paying attention. The Kids Section is a wreck: that might be a Dr. Seuss book shoved into the rack between coloring books, but it could also be an unwrapped Playboy. Magazines? I can never find anything in there. I won’t comment on any of the other sections: Crafts, Cooking, Gardens, Science, Animals, Architecture, Art, Foreign Language, Religion, Metaphysical, etcetra, etcetra, ad naseum.

Sometimes I really hate the customers. You want a gift receipt? That’s nice: tell me before I finish the transaction. (With apologies to the customer who did request it before I finished, but then I forgot to key it, and it just turned into a gigantic clusterfuck). You need help? There are two information desks, one on each floor. Standing around waiting for someone to magically deduce that you need assistance, and then picking up the phone and paging, “I NEED HELP ON THE BOTTOM FLOOR!” is really no help. It’s a big bottom floor, and I was already assisting a customer, who I then had to abandon, because you are clearly Priority Number One. Also, do I really need to hear a five minute lecture about how you couldn’t find a copy of Newsweek because it was buried behind so many copies of The Economist? Come ON, there’s a line, move it!

I don’t hate the insane customers so much – they can’t help it, they’re insane. From the lady who flips out when asked if she’d like to sign up for a frequent shoppers card; to the one who told an African-American clerk that she hated all the non-whites who’d come to the country because they’d taken her job (except, of course, for African-Americans, because they hadn’t wanted to come); to the homeless guy with no teeth who constantly orders obscure policy books then refuses them when they come in and then blames the Jewish-Marxist conspiracy for never ordering them in the first place (except, of course, that they were ordered, and they did arrive, and he didn’t want them!) . I’ve never had to deal with the guy who seems to think we print all the Manga titles in-house: he is forever complaining about some obscure misprint and demanding that we correct the issue: employees have been known to drop stacks of books on the floor and scatter at first sight, and managers seem to come close to blows in determining who will have to listen to him. Woe is the day when I’m at the Music Information desk and I hear that “Mr. G.W. is on his way down”: I will spend the bulk of my time looking up music and movies that are out-of-print or have never been released, and then trying to find a creative explanation for why that is so. Because, clearly, as an $8.50 hourly employee clerking a desk, “Because the computer says so” is not a valid response.

Sometimes, I really hate my coworkers. Especially the manager who decided to subject us all to a thirty-second lecture on why we need to flush the employee toilet. See, the employee toilet doesn’t flush for whatever reason unless you lower the seat. I’m sure it’s got one of those sensor-things, which is possibly a bit high tech for our bathroom. It took me about ten seconds to figure out, on my first day. Apparently, someone either didn’t figure it out, couldn’t be bothered to figure it out, or forgot. In any case, the next person to use the bathroom was one of our managers, who, instead of chalking it up to forgetfulness, or just, y’know, flushing the toilet and forgetting about it, decided to get on the radio and take up valuable time imploring us to, please, flush. Have you ever tried to assist a customer with a straight face while in your earpiece you’re being lectured on bathroom etiquette? (Seriously, though, I need to get this manager to write up a notice that I can post on the stall doors at the Office Job).

They sold off all the Master Replica lightsaber stock we had: for a long time, they were collecting dust down in Music. A now departed coworker and I used to open them up and duel: they’re made of pretty sturdy stuff, and now, due to renovations of the building, we’ve got enough open floor space in that section that we could really have some fun (instead of running up and down a narrow aisle in Pop/Rock).

There’s a sense of impending doom over the entire bookstore: whispers of a post-Christmas fire-sale, and pink slips by January. I’m debating moving: on one hand, I don’t want to wait until these rumors because reality and I’ve got no more part-time check incoming every other Friday. For one thing, I’d have to compete against all my current coworkers for jobs. On the other hand, Black Friday, Christmas Eve, December 26th? Off. Off. And Off. I won’t get that moving somewhere now. I guess that it’s steady as I go, and why couldn’t I have been a bit more judicious in picking what bookshop to work at back in March?

I work all day Sunday. All day, every Sunday. Except next Sunday (I’ll be in New England). By the time we close, my feet are on fire. I’m staggering from section to section with the last of the recovery, groaning when I see stacks of magazines left by a careless customer in some remote section of business or dieting. By the time I get to the Metro, I’m about ready to cry if all the seats are taken. By the time I limp the block and a half to my apartment, I see my plans for the few free hours of my evening evaporate: Dinner? Nada. Laundry? As if. I wind up reclined on the couch, or the floor, music playing, a book open across my chest but too tired to lift it and read. Or the TV on, and too tired to change the station, so I keep watching the same news stories: over, and over, and over again.

It has been suggested I look like a middle manager

And, to be specific, that I look like a middle manager from a certain NBC comedy. I hope this isn’t everyone’s opinion of me at work, or I’ll never get promoted to middle management! (Actually, I think they were just joking).

Personally, I think it’s the mug that gives off that impression … (yes, I drink from a beer mug … at work*.)

*I don’t actually drink beer in it … well, in that one. I have four more at home that I do drink beer out of.

Updates

I took advantage of not being able to fall back to sleep by updating the About Me! page on the right-hand column.

Malnurtured Snay lived for several years in the Baltimore City area, but moved to Cleveland Park in Washington, DC in June of 2008, where he rents a very expensive and very small studio apartment overlooking the National Zoo. Perpetually single, he shares hilarious misadventures with his felines, Guy and Tippy, who somehow never manage to clean up after themselves.

Malnurtured Snay is a registered member of a political party which is neither the Republican Party nor the Democratic Party. Malnurtured Snay’s political views include a diverse range of viewpoints, and he is pro-gay rights, anti-death penalty, pro-choice, anti-torture, pro-1st and 2nd Amendment, and pro-legalized drugs (even though he has only smoked weed once). He is voting for Barack Obama in 2008.

Malnurtured Snay used to get road rage. And then he moved to DC and sold his car. Now he suffers from Metro Rage.

It was only about two years out of date.

Part-Time Dilemma

I like the hours I work, I like the people I work with. Thanks to turnover, in the six-months that I’ve been working there, I’ve got the seniority where, coupled with the relatively low holiday traffic our downtown location affords, I probably will have Black Friday and Christmas Eve off.

Here’s the problem: it’s no secret the bookstore I work for is in financial trouble. Well, I mean, not just the location, but the company as a whole. A former corporate-level employee who was demoted due to layoffs is predicting a post-Christmas fire sale and all stores shuttered by New Year’s. That’s probably a worst case scenario, but it’s also probably not too far from the truth.

So here’s my dilemma: do I stick with this company, and hope things work out for the best and we’re able to keep operating and I’m not scrambling for a part-time job at the start of the New Year? Or should I bite the bullet, accept that I’ll have to work a crappy holiday schedule, risk not getting the hours I get now, and make the jump before a whole ton of unemployed booksellers are trying to get in at our big competitor?

NEW MOZART!

A French museum has found a previously unknown piece of music handwritten by Mozart, a researcher said Thursday. The 18th-century melody sketch is missing the harmony and instrumentation but was described as important find.

Ulrich Leisinger, head of research at the International Mozarteum Foundation in Salzburg, Austria, said there is no doubt that the single sheet was written by the composer.

“This is absolutely new,” Leisinger said in a telephone interview. “We have new music here.”

“His handwriting is absolutely clearly identifiable,” he added. “There’s no doubt that this is an original piece handwritten by Mozart.”

The work, described as the preliminary draft of a musical composition, was found by a library in Nantes in western France as staff were going through its archives. Leisinger says the library contacted his foundation for help authenticating the work.

“It’s a melody sketch so what’s missing is the harmony and the instrumentation but you can make sense out of it,” he said. “The tune is complete. It’s only one part and not the whole score with eight or twelve parts.”

“One can really get a feeling of what Mozart meant although we do not know how he would have orchestrated it.”

No, really.

Bi-Folding Closet Door

My closet had, seriously, a four and a half foot or so wide closet door: obscene!

When I signed my lease, I was promised the door would be replaced with something a little more user-friendly. It took a while — big amount of work for the maintenance people in the summer — but I came home to a note informing me the contractors would finish the work tomorrow.

Check it! I have a closet door I can actually open! (Seriously: I used to only be able to open it like, maybe a foot and a half, because it would then hit my futon …)