Sunday, February 26, 2012

My Future Self: Home Office Excavation: Week 7

I live in a ranch house that was built in the 1950s. My husband and I believe in a decorative aesthetic in that we try to match the interior furnishings of the home with with the period in which the house was built. To that end, several years ago, when we first moved into this house, I acquired two pieces of furniture for my home office: One was the blue drawer unit (on the left in the picture below) and the other was the desk (pictured on the right.) The blue drawer unit was purchased for $5.00 at a yard sale and; the desk was purchased online from a dealer on Ruby Lane for $150.00. Other people who have seen the blue drawer unit have wondered when I'm going to repaint it; but I'm not! There's something about that blue and the fact that it doesn't clash with the wall paint color that appeals to me (What I didn't realize when I chose that wall color is that you have to be very careful about what other colors you set against it, otherwise it looks pissy yellow. It's actually a pear green!) The desk unit was a birthday present from my husband and I was thrilled. At first. What had not been disclosed in the listing was that it originally had been a sewing table. The top had been replaced and the support truss underneath was notched to accommodate a treadle. Moreover, when the guys shipped the desk, they broke off the legs and included the pieces and hardware to repair it. Sigh. It did it's duty for 5 years here; but then something else became apparent overall: The way people lived and moved in the 1950s was really a lot different than the way people live and move today. There are some obvious differences like needing jacks and grounded outlets; but there is a more subtle difference in the way we use space. People live larger these days. Women don't sit primly at secretaries and write thank you notes. They need a little more space for a computer/monitor, printer, keyboard/mouse... in order to compose e-mails and messages. Technically, you could get away with doing it all in a small niche; but given a choice, many would prefer more elbow room. There seems to be a subconscious demand for more space in the things that we do even if the task at hand doesn't absolutely mandate more square footage. Anyway, the cute little '50s sewing table-cum-desk wasn't cutting it. I felt guilty about deciding that it had to go because it was a birthday present from my husband; but pragmatism won out over sentimentality in the end. Also, it helped that my husband has been, and continues to be, very supportive in my efforts in this project. So, the desk went to the Salvation Army, along with the cumbersome computer monitor; and an IKEA work station was brought in.

IKEA?! Yes, IKEA! I've often disdained IKEA furniture as being grad school furniture along the ranks of milk crate shelves and mass market paperbacks. IKEA is notoriously cheap and flimsy. But not all of it. In fact, the original Expedit shelves that I purchased about nine years ago survived a trans-continental move and serve as my non-fiction bookshelves today. The new Expedit shelves that I purchased a couple of years ago serves as my fiction- and TBR- shelves now. Neither has buckled under the weight the way the Billy bookcases did in my old apartment (yes, the one I had during grad school!) So yes, off to IKEA I went last week-end and this is the transformation wrought:

Before & After

Before & After

Obviously, some other things had to happen in order for this arrangement to happen: Most notably, what's left of the Great 48 has been moved into the living room. This coming week, all of that will have to be dispositioned: thrown away, put into storage, whatever; but it will no longer take up unorganized residence in my home office. There are some other finishing touches to this area that need to happen as well: I need to dress the cables, get a poster framed for over the printer area, replace the generic office chair (IKEA's Jules swivel chair in birch finish,) decide how the remaining squares in the work station are to be filed, etc.; but it's a start.

Next week, I'll talk about the last of the Great 48: "Letting Go, Part 2" and "Going Paperless."

See Also:

Friday, February 24, 2012

There Will Come Soft Rains; Sherbet Punch

There Will Come Soft Rains

by Sara Teasdale; performed by Nicole Vilencia

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,

And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,

And wild plum trees in tremulous white;

Robins will wear their feathery fire,

Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn

Would scarcely know that we were gone.

Sherbet Punch

written and performed by by Nicole Vilencia
Words from the Nictionary

We are the keepers of the secret
of the sherbet punch now
we know how to decorate the tree
how to carve the turkey
how to wrap the odd shaped gifts
we are the Easter Bunny
Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus
and we can fix anything
with a hug or a kiss

We are the ones who know
which closets hold the skeletons
and which closets hold old friends
we know how to clear out the moth balls
dust off the old hats
unwrinkle the crinkled linens
and press them into place
with grace

We are the ones who bury our dead
pushing coins onto their lids
after brushing final kisses
praying Charon will ferry them quickly
fighting off vultures, laying them to rest
collecting their sparkley baubles
and losing our own shine in time

We are the ones who keep secrets
of skeletons and closets and the dead
We hide them behind wise eyes
holding on to the living and hope
creating fables spun of bunnies
and fairies and generosity
we drink life in small cups
dipped straight from the bowl
of perfected sherbet punch

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Quantum of Solace/For Your Eyes Only

Quantum of Solace
by Ian Fleming
narrated by Simon Vance
Ⓟ 2008, Blackstone Audio, Inc.
The first five stories = 5.60 out of 9.30 hours

  • "From a View to a Kill"
  • "For Your Eyes Only"
  • "Quantum of Solace"
  • "Riscio"
  • "The Hildebrand Rarity"

After having shared seven adventures with 007 in previous novels, you become somewhat inured to Fleming's political incorrectness and you start appreciating the other elements of his writing: the way he can create tension and surprise you; the way he shapes Bond's interior dialogue; the attention to detail beyond the travelogue descriptions - and in the end you begin to like Bond again, even after the misogynistic fiasco that was Goldfinger. It's not that Bond has changed much. He's still thinks and says things that place him squarely in the ranks of the mid-century man; but in this collection, we sense that perhaps his views, however much they are shaped by his times, are not concretized - that Bond has the capacity to turn things over in his mind and realize that all may not be as they appear. This idea of deception becomes the theme of the collection (or at least the first five stories):

"From a View to a Kill"
This is the first story in the collection and treats the idea of deception in the most basic and physical of ways. A dispatch courier is ambushed along an isolated highway by another courier wearing the same uniform. Bond, with his ability to sense "the invisible factor" or "the invisible man" - the element of a mission's mystery that had been overlooked by others but turns out to be the key to the mission's success, dresses in two different disguises to figure out what's going on. First, Bond dresses in camo and uncovers a well concealed camp; and later Bond dresses as a dispatch courier himself to lure the would-be perpetrator out.

"For Your Eyes Only"
Set against the changing political climate of the Caribbean as Castro moves against Batista, the story looks at political subterfuge in the grossest criminal way: One of Castro's henchmen, Major Gonzales, goes around Jamaica coercing plantation owners to sell their properties. A political exile, his business transactions are actually incidents of bullying and extortion with violent implications. Major Gonzales and his two sidekicks eventually end up in Vermont (!?) Bond assumes the identity of a game hunter, special attention paid to his clothing and licenses to complete this mission of justice (or revenge depending on one's point of view) and encounters a woman along the way with a similar mission.

"Quantum of Solace"
The eponymous story of the collection, this is the piece that plays as an exposition of social and personal deception in two layers. It is actually a story within a story: Bond attends a rather dull dinner party and afterwards needs to kill about a hour with his host before he can politely leave. An off-chance remark of Bond's initiates a story, as told by the host, about a man who marries an air hostess. The air hostess-wife eventually becomes involved in an indiscreet affair. Her true colors having flown, the first surprise is in what the husband then proceeds to do! The social charades and the personal face the husband tries to maintain play out against the rarefied air of the Service's cliques in Bermuda. The story, which has engaged Bond beyond the hour that decorum had dictated, has a final surprise and teaches Bond a lesson about not making judgements from first impressions.

The term "riscio" means risky business and ostensibly refers to the smuggling world into which Bond finds himself. Sent to Italy to track down illegal opium shipments, Bond is set up with a contact, Kristatos at a restaurant. The apparent quarry is Alberto "The Dove" Colombo, not only the restaurant's owner, but a major player in contraband shipments. The story evolves out into a question of who to trust: Who are your allies and, who are your enemies?

"The Hildebrand Rarity"
This short, more than even "Quantum of Solace" displays more of Bonds interior dimension than the others. Though not has clever as "QOS," even rather ham-handed in its way, "The Hildebrand Rarity" has Bond thinking about relative morality. Mr. Krest, a wealthy American man who uses his pleasure yacht to collect specimens for the Smithsonian (a tax evasion scheme) hires Bond and Fidele Barbery to track down a rare fish, "The Hildebrand Rarity" in the Caribbean. There is nothing to like about Mr. Krest: He is a mean boor, a sadist, a corrupt businessman, a drunk and overall unscrupulous. And yet, Bond puts up with quite a bit, "eating crow" for four days. Bond equivocates, is uncertain about what to do, questions his smaller actions against larger contexts. What does he really see? What does he really know? What is the right thing to do? In this story, Bond himself might not be the man we have been led to believe he is.

Perhaps "deception" is too broad a theme for spy thriller adventures - after all, espionage is built on subterfuge; and yet with this collection, one can't help but notice the different kinds of deceits being played out very specifically in each story: From the basic physical deceptions of "From a View to a Kill" to the questioning ruminations of Bond in "The Hildebrand Rarity," Fleming skillfully writes in layers about the various kinds of deceptions.

Simon Vance narrates the audiobook edition of Quantum of Solace. Inasmuch as readers and listeners may have become inured to Fleming's provocative passages about social issues through seven novels, listeners have come to expect certain things from Simon Vance in the series as well. He narrates the stories, and wholly creates Bond and M. Though his American and female characters are usually suspect, SV delivered credibly and well in this collection. Mr. Krest ("The Hildebrand Rarity") speaks like Humphrey Bogart and SV does an imitation well enough that the listener understands the vocal inference. Other foreigners (Italians, Jamaicans, etc.) are differentiated from Bond's British accent and while they may not exactly sound native, the characters are well delineated.

See Also:
The first five stories in Quantum of Solace are contained in the audiobook, For Your Eyes Only. The next two featured films in the Shaken, Not Stirred... Challenge are Quantum of Solace (starring Daniel Craig) and; For Your Eyes Only (Starring Roger Moore.) Both movies are based on these first five shorts in the collection. For a complete breakdown of the short stories featured in Quantum of Solace and their related movies, see FYI: Quantum of Solace. For a look at my brain while it is watching NFL playoffs and trying to figure out what Bond novels go with which movies, check out Old Skool "Infographic": Bond Novels 08 - 14 :-)

For a breakdown of the tracks on the Quantum of Solace MP3-CD, see Quantum of Solace: MP3-CD Track List.

For other Shaken, Not Stirred posts, see:
Casino Royale (by Ian Fleming; narrated by Simon Vance)
Goldfinger (by Ian Fleming; narrated by Simon Vance)

Other Stuff: Quantum of Solace (by Ian Fleming; narrated by Simon Vance) is a part of the

I received a MP3-CD edition of Quantum of Solace (by Ian Fleming; narrated by Simon Vance) from Blackstone Audio, Inc. under professional courtesy/reviewer auspices.. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

My Future Self: Home Office Excavation: Week 6

Before: 6 Weeks Ago

Last week I mentioned that I've had an unintended, but not altogether unpleasant surprise: Now that I have space cleared in my Home Office, the dogs and my daughter now like to come visit! In the case of my daughter, she has actually moved in! She has a whole playroom to herself as well as a bedroom; but my Home Office is now where she likes to do her homework. So, we brought in her bean bag chair, her desktop and got a little rug to define her space. Now she has her own little encampment next to my non-fiction shelves. I found this very appropriate as my child has a very non-fiction sort of mind. My DH and I both love to read; but are somewhat more inclined towards fiction. Our daughter, however, is very much a non-fiction-oriented child. She would rather read reference books, books about how machines work and even cookbooks - rather than read a story. As cool as this is, she still needs to understand narrative; and chapter story books are a part of her required reading. After much fussing over homework and the mandatory 20+ minutes of reading that she must do every night, we finally hit upon the solution: She reads in her space, in her bean bag chair while I hang out with her. When she has finished reading her book en toto, we go to the local bookstore and pick out another book. This seems to be working well enough for now. I say "for now" because I'm not sure what is going to happen at the end of the year when the local bookstore closes. They have decided not to renew their lease, which will leave this town of sixty-thousand people without a bookstore. Sure there are a handful of used bookstores and an independent bookstore eleven miles away; but the neither has the selection that one would want and besides, I hate the indie bookstore that's eleven miles away - They are not helpful, friendly or knowledgeable :-( The library is another headache altogether and a topic for another post.

Anyway, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it (Can you cross a bridge before you get to it?) and for now we'll take a look at the progress I've made at the Home Office. There's still a lot of tchotchkes on top of the shelves. I seem to be fascinated by mostly three kinds of gewgaws: tins, figurines and mugs. With the lifestyle and space I'm leading and living in respectively, there's really no room for this stuff. What I need to do is throw away the broken figurines and Altoids tins and; pack the mugs and figurines away. The mugs and figurines I'm packing away may come out at another stage in my life, like when I'm old and take a liking to gilded vitrines; but not now :-)

If you're wondering, "Hey! You've posted two "Before" photos; but no "After" photo!" that would be because I haven't made much progress in this area. And that would be because as you're reading this, I'm actually in another city shopping for a couple of things for this room! Next week, I will show you what I came up with and talk about "Letting Go."

Also, next week on my tumblr blog, I will be introducing another phase of My Future Self. This phase will have to do with physical self improvement, health- and beauty-wise, from head to toe. That will be a feature that will post every Wednesday. If you're interested in following on tumblr, I'm "dog eared copy"

Before: 2 Weeks Ago
That blotch of light on the wall?
That's sunlight coming in from the window!

See Also:

My Future Self: Home Office Excavation (Physical & Psychological Effects of Clutter)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

My Future Self: Home Office Excavation: Week 5

The sorting continues with me taking sections of the Great 48 (the roughly 48 cubic feet of landfill that was occupying the floor of my office) and dumping them into two white bins, and then breaking down the contents of the white bins into papers (see last week's post), stuff to put away and stuff to donate. When I first started sorting things out, I hadn't realized how much stuff other than papers was hidden within! I found more office supplies to be returned to the company I work for, audiobooks, jewelry, trash (like expired hand warmers, dead pens and toys that I have no way of ever acquiring the skills to repair) and quite a bit of stuff to donate!

The kinds of things I donate go into two stacks: Items that will go to my niece who is three years younger than my daughter and; items that will go to a charity. The items that go to my niece are brand name clothes, books and/or toys in excellent, new or-like-new condition. The items that go to charity are clothes, books and/or other stuff in very good condition. I don't use either my niece or a charity as a dumping ground for stuff in poor condition because I think that's just, well "bad form" or downright tacky.

Anyway, yesterday I took a station wagon load of stuff over to Salvation Army. I was shocked. There was virtually nothing in the receiving area and when we went into the store front, the floor and shelves were nearly empty. I know many people only remember to donate at the end of the year because they want to be able to get the tax write-off; but I was stunned at the lack of inventory nonetheless. The people at S.A. were extremely grateful for the stuff I was donating and I admit I felt a little guilty knowing that I still have so much more that I no longer want or use that could go to someone in need.

So now, I've decided that every second Saturday of every other month is going to be the big Donate Day in our household. Why every second Saturday of every other month? Because that's the day that The Medford Food Project picks up the food donations from our doorstep and it's an easy reminder to give in other ways too: set out the bag of food and then load up the car with stuff to go to a charity/charities.

There were a couple of unanticipated side effects to my Home Excavation project that occurred this past week. One was that my DH also became inspired to do some "Home Work!" He is currently working on trying to ameliorate the mess that is our one and only bathroom in the house. Yesterday, I nearly went insane looking at paint and tile samples in various shades of white, beige and neutral; but we somehow made it out with a gallon of paint and our relationship intact :-)

The other effect of my Home Office Excavation project is that people and dogs now want to come into the room! The dogs now saunter in and lay at my feet as I tippity-tap at the keyboard. Before, there was no room and, in fact, at one point there had been an incident where our yellow lab walked into the room, but was unable to get back out. Some dogs don't do backwards walking very well :-/

The other new visitor to my office space is my daughter. Next week, we'll talk more about the purple bean bag chair and Princess rug now in my office, along with what it means to be "Fiction Parents Raisng a Non-Fiction Child!"


One corner of my office 6 weeks ago (left) and the same corner 1 week ago (right)


The same corner of the room this morning

See Also:
My Future Self: Home Office Excavation (Physical & psychological impact of clutter)
My Future Self: Home Office Excavation: Week 2 (Physical & psychological impact of light; and importance of planning)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

My Future Self: Home Office Excavation: Week 4

So you've read about the shifting strata creating mini-avalanches in my home office. These were mounds of stuff that roughly took up 48 cubic feet of space in my home office. It has been daunting to tackle; but I made steady progress this week-end by clearing roughly half of it. I've been shocked at The Paper Demons that have been taking up residence in my Mom Cave! Last week, I mentioned the stamps and envelope thing; but there are other Paper Demons:

Receipts: I saved receipts of everything! There are three reasons:
  1. Upbringing: My mother is a hoarder, a legacy of the Depression and I learned this behavior from her. My Mom not only saved the receipt, but the original box to a major home appliance that stopped working one day before its 30-year warranty expired. The snarky customer service rep told her that she would only get a refund if my Mom had saved the original box. My Mom got her refund and the last laugh besides;
  2. Paranoia: I used to think that something bad would happen to an ex-boyfriend or someone else I didn't like and I would be the police's number one suspect. I envisioned scenes where the officer would ask,"Where were you on the night of March 8, 1993?" And I would be able to whip out a receipt and playbill and say, "I was at The Shakespeare Theatre seeing Hamlet being performed by Tom Hulce!"
  3. False Sense of Historical Importance: I envisioned a future anthropologist digging through my stuff and oohing and aahing over the fact that s/he had discovered that I had a Big Mac on January 4, 2012 at 1:15 in the afternoon, effectively forgetting that upon my death, my immediate/closet of kin or a marshall would not care about this and throw it all out way before some historian had a crack at it. I blame this False Sense of Historical Importance upon Anne Frank, who kept a diary of her quotidian routines and inculcated a love of journal keeping and artifact retention in countless little girls, myself included.
Coupons: Again, this is something learned at my mother's knee. In years past I have clipped coupons, saved receipts with discount offers on them, and even kept used/expired gift cards. The problem is, I never use coupons. I shop at a grocery warehouse that doesn't accept coupons and, even on the rare occasions I go to a "real" supermarket, I forget the coupons at home.

Lists: Oy, the lists. I have fought with this particular Paper Demon for years! I have tried to become the person who is not tethered to lists; but I'm afraid it's a part of my neurotic, compulsive self. I make endless lists every day, on Post-It Notes of every size, backs of envelopes and papers, memo pads, (not to mention google docs and Notes app on my iPhone!) What's on these lists? Titles of books, audiobooks, challenges, series and, quotes; timelines and schedules of all sorts; lists of people and contact info; things to pick up at the grocery store, hardware store, wherever. I create the lists and then they get eaten up by the Great 48 never to be seen again and so, to be re-constructed yet again on another piece of paper.

What do do with all of this stuff and make sense of it all?

I started by dumping sections of the Great 48 into white bins, labeling the dining room table into six categories and sorting through every single piece of paper:

  1. Important Papers: Bank statements, medical receipts, tax-related materials and insurance papers...
  2. Memorabilia: Ticket stubs, playbills, photographs, personal correspondence (letters and cards), artwork & drawings of my child's
  3. School Papers: My child's report cards, returned homework and tests and, school artwork
  4. Recycle: Old catalogues, newspaper clippings (heck, even whole newspapers!), lists that were written on index cards...
  5. Shred: Credit card offers, alumni and Church appeals, receipts that had rather detailed personal information in them
  6. Trash: Paper with any sort of adhesive on them (Post-It Notes, envelopes), used up and expired gift cards, three-dimensional artwork and artwork created from foodstuffs, food wrappers...
After a couple of weeks of this, my DH insisted on re-claiming the dining room table so The Important Papers, Memorabilia and School Papers each got assigned a much smaller blue bin (I discovered five of them in the Great 48!) and later I will break down each bin even further. At that point, I'll talk about storage solutions.

There was one other category that I hadn't planned on but which became quite the consideration, and that was the Donate stack! Besides papers, I was finding a lot of "artifacts" as well. Some of these things got put back where they belonged and others ended up in a couple of bags to donate to local charities. Next week I'll talk about donations.



The picture on the left was taken at night (actually at about 4:00 a.m.) and appears a little murkier than the picture on the right, which was taken during the day.

See Also:
My Future Self: Home Office Excavation (wherein I talk about the impact clutter has on me, both physically and psychologically)
My Future Self: Home Office Excavation: Week 2 (wherein I talk about the effect light has one the space and me and; the importance of planning)
My Future Self: Home Office Excavation: Week 3 (wherein I talk about momentum)
Flashback Friday: The List (to see an example of a list I kept. Imagine about a thousand of these lists! That's the nature of the beast I'm contending with. BTW, I came across that very list at about 2 o'clock this morning and it was put in recycling)