well-informed beggers.

I don't know whether to be scared or amused by the people who sell newspapers on the medians of busy intersections. I say people out of a habit of political correctness; the only ones I've ever seen are men. The first couple of times I saw them, I thought they were beggers. Then I noticed that instead of displaying a poorly-spelled plea for help, they displayed the days headlines instead. Maybe they're just well-informed beggers.

The one I see most often is the black guy who works the intersection of the off-ramp from Silas Creek Parkway South and Stratford Road. He keeps a stool and extra papers sitting near the intersection, but he wanders farther back to peddle to the line of stopped cars. He carries a cane, and his right foot bends inward at an unnatural angle that I don't like to look at too closely. I can't hear what he yells, but he holds up his left index finger. I assume he means that newspapers are a dollar, rather than other possible interpretations of the gesture, like "Wake Forest is #1," "Turn to the Lord," or "Look up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane!"

I've never bought a paper from him, or any other of the vendors like him. If I wanted to read the Winston-Salem Journal, I would have bought a subscription when they called my house. But people do buy their papers this way. Seems like every morning I take that off-ramp, someone is holding a buck out the window. It's a good corner to work - my route is the same as a lot of business-types who live in the suburbs. Plus, the light is long, giving him a lot of time to hobble along our right sides, pointing upwards.

I assume these people are hired by the newspaper, rather than them just being independent entrepreneurs who buy a stack of papers to sell for an increased fee. I'm not even sure if they work on commission, because though my guy works his corner pretty hard, others stand still at the front of the intersection, not really giving anyone behind the first few cars a chance to make a purchase. Bad business.

And that makes me like the fella who works the off-ramp. He's got a bum foot, but if he's gonna sell papers, well then he's gonna sell papers. Maybe the newspaper even assigns the corners. Maybe he got such a good corner because he earned it by being so enthusiastic about such a crappy job.

In any case, I will likely never buy a paper from him. But I'm glad he's on my route to work. Even though I'm currently on the bottom of the pecking order and only doing grunt work right now, if he can be happy selling copies of the Winston-Salem Journal on the corner of the off-ramp of Silas Creek Parkway South and Stratford Road, then I can be happy building program installs.


peruvian cotton polo shirts from lands' end

I don't do much here yet. I'm training to do a specific thing, and that thing doesn't have to be done all the time, so the training is slow without examples. So I have a lot of down-time to basically spend reading. It's not as exciting as it sounds - my choice of reading materials consists of the InstallShield Manual and C# For Experienced Programmers. Sometimes I play with code, making up programs when I get tired of reading about them.

I'm the Install Girl, the Build Master. I don't write programs yet. I build the programs that install the programs that other people write. Just today, something I built was burned to a disc and mailed to a customer. I felt proud. I don't even know what the program was. Something to do with forklifts.

I like the company. They let me in and gave me my own office, a company polo shirt, and a coffee mug, which I use for my afternoon tea. I had to bring my own half and half (not fat-free) for my afternoon tea, but they let me keep it in the company fridge, and no one uses it but me. And my company polo shirt is from Lands' End, made from Peruvian cotton, and has the company logo embroidered on it. I think company polo shirts from Lands' End is the mark of a good place to work. They've also ordered me some business cards and a nameplate for my office door so that I can take down the one that says "COAT CLOSET." Just kidding - a company that gives its employees Peruvian cotton polo shirts from Lands' End would never do that.


waking up is hard to do.

As slack as I have been lately, I wasn't even going to write tonight. But then I came up with that title, and I took it as a sign.

I've always been a frequent user of the snooze button. And I've discovered that grown-ups have to get up so early. True, my office allows me to come in as late as 10 am, but I've been told that I should make a good impression by coming in early the first couple of months. Then, once it's established that I'm a good worker, I can be not a good worker.

The goal is to be there at 8 am. It hasn't happened yet. And I usually go to bed before 11 at night. I just have a hard time getting up in the morning. I don't think clearly that early, and I make some great excuses while my hand is traveling to the snooze button. I don't have to be in early. I won't shower. I'll wear the same thing I wore yesterday. Depending on what kind of dream I was having at the moment my alarm went off, sometimes the excuses don't even make sense. Sometimes I have no idea if I'm delaying the next alarm or, say, the next shuttle launch at Cape Canaveral. In any case, soon it's 7:27, and I really have to get up.

I could set my clothes out the night before. It wouldn't help. I could shower in the evenings, but then my hair would look ridiculous. I could go to bed earlier. Wouldn't help. I could set my clock fast - that will help. And I could prep the coffee machine.

This evening, I went ahead and got the coffee maker ready for tomorrow morning. I put 4 cups of water and a clean filter filled with freshly-ground coffee in. I figure that'll save me a good five minutes when I only have to push a button to start the coffee.

I just hope that I don't remember that I prepped the coffee tomorrow morning. I'll just use it as another excuse to sleep in.


such a lonely word.

I am a big fan of honesty. No, not the Billy Joel song, thought it's not bad. I mean the concept of not being a big liar. I know some big liars, and their lack of honesty is my least favorite thing about them. And I know some very honest people, and their honesty is one of my favorite things about them. My philosophy is to give me the truth, because I can handle it. And if it turns out that I can't, well, then it's my own fault for asking for it.

Casey is a very honest person. When he tells me something, I believe him unconditionally. If I want to know something, I ask him, he tells me, I trust him, and that's that. I love that I can do that with him.

All this leads up to going shopping with my beloved the other day. I found a pair of pants, lovely blue ones on sale for ten bucks. I went into the dressing room to try them on, and I found them to be questionable. They didn't fit so well or so badly that I immediately knew whether or not to buy them. So I poked my head outside to ask Casey's opinion on them. He said, "They're not very flattering."

Did I say I was a fan of honesty? I didn't mean it.

It's true, I asked for his opinion, and I would have wanted him to give me his true opinion. And if someone had asked me what I didn't like about the pants, I would have said, "Well, they're maybe not as flattering as I would like." I would have used the exact word that he used. So why is this any different? Why did my eyes widen in an expression of extreme injury when he gave his verdict on the pants?

I dunno, it's just different. In the world of relationships, there is an understanding that all pants are flattering, girlfriends are not fat, and size does not matter. And it wasn't that I disagreed with his assessment of the pants and the way they looked on me, I was just shocked to hear him say it. Apparently, love isn't so blind after all. Not only can it see, love thinks I look fat in those pants.

It's okay, really. I'm ready to joke about it, which he will say means that I'm not over it at all (That's not an unfair assumption; jokes mean many different things in my world). I asked for the truth, and it turns out I can handle it. Maybe next time I should ask for tact, too.

Needless to say, I did not get the pants. I never would have been able to put them on without thinking about how unflattering they were. And maybe next time, I'll just go shopping with my big fat liar friends.


the only fashionable computer scientist.

Tuesday, I start my life as a working woman. So by Tuesday, I need to come up with some working woman wear. Just what does a computer scientist wear once she's exhausted her supply of Linux t-shirts?

The majority of my clothing would not constitute as business casual. Until now, I've had very few occasions to wear work clothes. Basically, the only time I had to wear business clothes was when I went to interviews so that I could earn the right to wear them every day. Now I have that right, and now I have to find some clothes, because I think even computer scientists would notice if I wore the same suit every day.

I've actually been on the lookout for work clothes for months now. By that, I mean that I've been browsing thrift store racks with the idea of work clothes in mind. I haven't come up with much. As much as I love thrift shopping, when you need something, it's not very helpful.

I'm trying to get a lot of basic pieces to create a good mix-and-match situation for myself. Computer scientists won't notice that I'm wearing the same black pants three times a week if I wear three different shirts with them. All I need is a versatile pair of khakis and two more shirts and I've got a workweek covered.

I've also recently discovered tights. Maybe I should say that I re-discovered, since I'm pretty sure I discovered them initially a good fifteen years ago. I hated them then. Now, they are the best thing ever. Take a casual skirt, add some tights, and suddenly that skirt is business casual. Plus, they squeeze in excess flesh, and you don't have to shave your legs! That's legwear that I can get on board with.

I probably have enough to last me a couple of weeks. Then I can just wash the whole batch (I've been buying only machine washable fabrics, of course) and then start all over again. I even bought a special mesh bag so I can wash the five pairs of tights I bought today (JCPenney's, 70% off). Of course, I really don't know why I bother. It's not like these computer scientists are even going to notice what I wear.


my father's daughter.

My sister Carla tells the story of going to some soda store (The Pop Shop? The Pop Stop?) with my dad when she was a little girl. She wanted to try something different, so she went for a Diet Pepsi. Daddy took it away, telling her it was gross and she didn't want it. So she got something else. Daddy paid for the drinks, including one for himself, and they went out to the truck to enjoy their cool frosty beverages. Daddy took a great big sip of his and then spit it out all over the place. He had forgotten to put back the Diet Pepsi he took from her and ended up getting it for himself.

This is classic Daddy. He's the kind of fella who sees the big words on a product and then ignores all the little qualifiers. Let me tell you, those qualifiers are important. The only time we ever had any sort of fat-free or diet or low sugar version of a regular product was if Daddy bought it and just didn't pay attention to what he was getting. If for some reason you hated things that taste good and wanted the low-fat crap, he could not be relied upon to bring that home either. Basically, it was whatever he saw first.

Daddy is a very intelligent man; he's just not one of those attention-to-detail kind of guys. And that's no big deal. We can all just suck it up and eat the low-fat yoghurt. Or, we can avoid eating it until it goes bad and then next time not let Daddy do the grocery shopping. To be fair, usually the thing he gets is something only he eats anyway, and in true Daddy style, he doesn't seem to notice the difference.

Then, last week, I bought a quart of fat-free half and half. Man, it sucked.

I realized my mistake as I was putting the offensive stuff away, but I wasn't about to drive ten minutes back into town to exchange it. As important as fat levels in dairy products are to me, making an extra trip for the sake of full-fat cream was silly.

So I used the stupid fat-free stuff. I drink a lot of coffee and hot tea, so I use a lot of half and half. And apparently, the fat is the good stuff. I had to use much more cream per cup of beverage to get it to taste/look right. Which turned out to be not such a bad thing, since it meant I got rid of the fat-free cream quicker. This morning, I used the last of it, and I'm now enjoying a nice cup of Earl Grey with all the fat. And it's good.

So now I'll pay more attention to the words on the containers I buy before I put myself on a diet without realizing it. Of course, now I live a mile from the grocery store, and I'll go back and exchange that sucker before I suffer through another week of defattened cream.


dance like no one's watching.

I can deal with solitude. True, I need my regular dose of social contact, but it does not take much for me to overdose. Then just leave me alone. I have no problem with my own company even if public opinion seems to say that it sucks.

That being said, I do get lonely from time to time. It doesn't happen much, and usually I can just give somebody a call and ask if they want to hang out. I am fortunate to be blessed with many people who are just fine being my friends of convenience. They don't take it too personally.

But now I've gone and ruined all that by moving to a city where I don't know anyone. Suddenly, being a friend of convenience to someone an hour and a half away isn't so convenient anymore. So I turn to my other friends: books.

I read a lot when I'm lonely. And by a lot, I mean Oh-Dear-Lord-How-Does-A-Body-Intake-That-Much-Literature. When I consume words, they really consume me. Most books to me are the kind that I can't put down. Luckily, I read fast, so I only lose like six hours of my life with every book. Today, I read a book. And the day before yesterday, I read a book. Now, I need to unpack some more so I can find a book to read tomorrow.

As far as I can tell, I started doing this the summer before my senior year of high school. I went to Governor's School that summer, and I didn't know anybody then either. And though I was perfectly happy reading, I didn't want to do that the whole summer. So I made sure and positioned my reading spots in places where people would hang out. I also tried to read interesting books, so that these same people would think that I was interesting. I read three books that first week, checked out from the Old Salem library (which is not very extensive), and I read them out by the fish pond. By the beginning of the second week, I had become a part of the fish pond crowd, and I didn't read another book the whole summer.

Last night, I stopped at the Lewisville branch of the Forsyth County Public Library and applied for a library card. I'm very excited. The Lewisville branch is smaller than my apartment, but I can order anything from any of the eight other branches via the website and have it sent to the tiny one a block from my house for convenient pick-up. The only possible way that idea could be improved is if they were to actually bring it to my door with a complimentary cup of Earl Grey.

I even thought about joining the book club that meets at the Lewisville library, but I'm afraid I'd walk into a room of middle-aged housewives for an hour long discourse on a Nicholas Sparks novel. Here there is no fish pond for me to go read by, though there is a park where old men go to power-walk. Somehow, that's not quite the same.

The point here is not that I am lonely; I've only been here five days. The point is that I wish I read more. I enjoy reading when I do it, and even if I feel like the book wasn't that great as a whole, I can usually glean something from everything I read. So now I add one to that old phrase: Work like you don't need money, love like you've never been hurt, dance like no one's watching, and read like you've just moved to a new town where you don't know anybody.


read my lips.

When I was in elementary school, my classmates and I were submitted to all the usual extra-curricular type classes required by the state or the county or just general unwritten public school rules. We had music and spanish and drama. In music we learned about composers and in spanish we learned about the confusing idea of objects having genders. I am at a complete loss as to what we learned in drama. Most of the time we had a male teacher who later got into trouble for something or other and was not allowed to teach little children anymore.

But during my first grade year, we had Ms. Reis. She did teach some sort of acting, as I distinctly remember being a puppy learning to walk. But she also taught ventriloquism. She had a dummy named Dr. Pepper. This was back in the day when I was insanely popular and all the little first grade boys had crushes on me. And so somehow, maybe from the suggestion of all the little first grade boys, Dr. Pepper developed a crush on me. First grade merriment ensued.

Through Dr. Pepper, Ms. Reis taught us how to talk without moving our lips. She taught us the troublesome letters, like B and V, which you couldn't really say without the use of your lips. There were only about six of these letters, and I figured that was a pretty low percentage. I was amazed at all the things you could say without looking like you said it.

And I loved ventriloquism. We were encouraged to bring in our own puppets. I brought a sock that I swiped from Daddy's drawer because I was not one of those rich kids that had a lot of impressive puppets lying around. For the other poor kids, the ones without the imagination to bring a sock, Ms. Reis supplied giant sesame seed hamburger buns to use for practice.

I wouldn't dare say that I am any good at ventriloquism. It's not something that I would attempt for a living. But it's useful. Ms. Reis shared her lovely craft, and gave me a fabulous way to talk in class and never, ever get in trouble. Between minimizing lip movement and perfecting the art of saying something just loud enough to be heard by neighbors but not by teachers, I talked pretty much nonstop all the way through college. The only times I got in trouble were the times that whoever I was talking to had not mastered those arts. Sometimes my teachers suspected me, since people around me would be hiding snickers and I'd be sitting there with the most innocent of looks on my face. But they didn't hear me, and they didn't see my lips move. What could they do?

But here's the best part, particularly if you're a big fan of irony like I am. Ms. Reis was only our drama teacher that one year. I didn't see her again until sixth grade, when she suddenly became my chorus teacher. Apparently she was a woman of many talents. I sat in the middle of the third row of her class, and again, I amused myself during class by making constant comments under my breath. One day, Ms. Reis was griping about a couple of girls who were talking during her class. She asked why they couldn't be quiet all the time, just like Sandra. My neighbors, the only witnesses to my crimes of conversation, were amazed. The moment was probably the only time in the class that I was silent, but only because I was trying so hard not to laugh. It's harder to do that without moving your lips.


forced hiatus.

For the next few days, I will be taking a brief hiatus of the no-internet-access variety. It will last about as long as all the other brief breaks I've been taking lately. Those breaks have been more of the no-inspiration or no-motivation or just-plain-lazy variety. According to Time Warner, my no-internet-access hiatus will end sometime on Tuesday between the hours of 10 am and noon. After that, just assume I'm being lazy.

So yes, I'm moving. I've been packing off and on for over a week now, and I'm now down to the objects that either I will need up until the very last minute or just things that are shaped weirdly and don't fit anywhere.

I'm very excited. Not about the actual moving; that part sucks. But I'm excited about living in a new place and taking all my stuff and arranging it in a new way. And I think moving is a good thing for me in that it forces me to get rid of crap, of which I have a lot. Granted, I got it at a good price, but crap is crap. I've taken tons of clothes and little odds and ends to the mobile Goodwill donation center. This morning, I took a desk chair, a TV stand, and a large mirror. I rewarded myself by buying a new coffee table. That seems like a fair trade, right?

But enough. I have to get back to packing all the crap I decided to keep. When I'm not doing that, I'll be busy worrying about rain and breakage and tornadoes and any other unlikely possibilities that I manage to come up with. It should be a good time.


a farewell to boone: the perfect reuben.

It took me a couple of years of living in Boone to find The Perfect Reuben. First I had to discover that despite the fact that pretty much every ingredient in a reuben is gross, nothing beats them when they are combined properly. I realized that fact when working at Vintner's, which served Very Good reubens, though maybe not perfect.

For the uninformed, a reuben is a sandwich consisting of corned beef, sauerkraut, swiss cheese, and some sauce closely related to Thousand Island dressing all served together on toasted rye bread. And I hate sauerkraut and rye bread. I never eat corned beef or Thousand Island when it is not on a reuben. Swiss cheese I enjoy every once in a while when I can't get provolone.

That being said, it is no wonder that it took me so long to try a reuben. And had I tried the wrong reuben, then I never would have discovered how very good they can be. But the secret is the ratio, that is the amount of corned beef to the amount of sauerkraut to the amount of sauce to the amount of cheese. The amount of rye bread is pretty much a constant two slices, unless you are dealing with one of those avant-garde open faced reubens, which I just made up. When the ratio is done right, you never taste any individual ingredient of the reuben, only the conglomeration. The reuben is the sandwich illustration of "United we stand, divided we fall," except it's more like "United we taste yummy, divided we are crap." It's the most patriotic sandwich I know.

After discovering that reubens were good, I went through a stage where that's pretty much all I ever ordered everywhere I went. I immediately discovered that some reubens are bad, and some are Very Bad. Macado's, for instance, makes a terrible reuben. Way too much corned beef - the ratio is all wrong. Murphy's reuben is bad, too. The reuben at Pepper's is okay. The ratio is close, but not quite right. Carribean Cafe used to have a pretty good reuben, if a little greasy, but then they closed down.

No, The Perfect Reuben can be made to order at Our Daily Bread in downtown Boone. The ratio is perfect, the ingredients are fresh, and the meat is well-sliced. I am passed the stage where I eat reubens all the time, but I get the craving every once in a while, and Our Daily Bread is always where I go to satisfy the reuben urge. It's consisently perfect, and then there is happiness in my mouth.

But now, I am moving, and an hour and a half is a little far to go just for The Perfect Reuben. I knew that I would have to find a new hairdresser, a new doctor, a new dentist, but finding a new reuben place just only occurred to me today. So I drove into downtown Boone this evening to have my symbolic last reuben as a resident of Watauga County. I would have been sad, if not for the distracting idea that I was about to have a reuben from Our Daily Bread.

And it was Perfect.