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So, I have stuffed a (very)well-paying job down the tubes to follow my talent.

Am I doing the right thing?

I'm posting here because I don't remember the p/w to my other existentialist crisis blog. So.

I'm also getting married in two (2) weeks. We bought the dress for my fiance today, and to be honest, she looks beautiful in it; even though I'm upset the custom dress didn't work out (and I mean the seams were all f'd up, the zipper was crooked, and it was not at all flattering), this one is pretty damned good off the rack.

Have I written anything lately?

No. I am recovering. I just finished my BA in English after 140 years, and frankly, I'm tired. I have a paper to write still, but the wedding is taking priority; I also don't have a summer job yet. But I know something will come up. If nothing else, I'll deliver pizza or Chinese food, fml. But, starting this fall, I have an assistanship for graduate school. Full tuition and a stipend, nothing to laugh at. So I have to figure out something for this summer so we can afford the apartment and damned bills for the wedding.

I'm broke and not loving it.

I feel like I should take the time and write some poetry. I'm getting to that point. Course, I'm a poet, so that's my natural inclination, but it also is work for me since I take it too seriously. So I don't want to do it.

I think I'll work on my paper this week in between applying for jobs, and post it to my VIRB blog, since that's where all of it has gone in the last coupla years.

Since I am a poet, and this is a blog, how about a poem to finish off here?

Roses are red, Violence is blue,
We've bought a dress, and my honey looks good.

I am broke, so's my card,
here's to the times, never looked hard.

But here I am, can't work and can't play,
money is tight, and though I can say

I'm in love, it doesn't get far
with the down payment for a new car.



New digs

I want to point the way to my current locations. I've not kept up with Blogger in so long, and I'm not sure anyone looks at it anyways, plus there are few community features. So, on to the new worlds:


So, that's it for now. The internet is wide, and maybe we'll learn something about ourselves and the real world through it.


One Down

Well, just yesterday I got one acceptance letter! 4 more to go, we'll see where I end up...




Life runs deep....

Long time, no posts

I know nobody looks at this particular corner of the web2.0.... but I have news, catch ups, and etc., so please bear with me.

Last spring (May, 2007), I graduated from Northern Virginia Community College with an Associates Degree in Liberal Arts. I have a 3.25 gpa.

In January of 2004, I got my honorable discharge from the USMC... I did not immediately go back to school, but eventually I did. Despite my 3 years at George Mason University, it took me a long time to get back into the swing of things, as they say.

Lately, I have been working on my applications for transfer to a four-year university, and I have been having the difficult time of getting everything together as needed. But I make progress and submit as can be expected.

I do have good news, however... During my (2006) semester at NVCC, I served as an intern on the art/literary magazine, Calliope, I edited the photos of the art and had a say in the makeup of the magazine, although I recused myself from voting on the literary side of things, seeing as how I submitted several poems. Lo-and-behold, I ended up with a 2nd place prize in poetry (nothing on this page, you'll have to wait for my actual publication), though I could not make the ceremony because of a test in another class.

Anyways, I also received a commission for 2 poems: to be performed at NM Productions production of Too Many Sopranos, which had to be cut down to one act. There was no pay involved besides the performance of something I wrote, and the publication of two of my poems in the program (I'll upload a scan later)

Since then, I have been treading water, trying to keep my nose out so I can breathe, but still getting washed over by waves.

I turn thirty this year, sometime. I don't want to be thirty. I feel eighteen, still. I don't understand the world yet. My only rock is the woman who loves me, and who I love, and the fact that I don't make time to write like I would like to...

I want to submit something to publish.... I want to have written well enough to warrant reading... but I have yet to take action on that goal. I fear, above anything else, rejection.

For me, it is like walking into, instead of jumping over, a bonfire.

The flames don't even matter, it's the hot coals that eat your flesh....


The Cathedral Glen, Introduction

Below, you will find parts one and two of a four-part short story. These are each on their second revision, and parts three and four are currently in SFD (Sh**ty First Draft) status. This is a story I have wanted to write for a while, although I never knew how to start it. Finally, about two weeks ago, I began writing a story, and though it was not intended to be this one, it did turn into it.
Finding the boundaries within our world is a task with which children are familiar; the thin places that separate our world and time from others, where the imagination, or magic, or science rule instead of the politics of our world. These worlds are ideal, they are places children escape to, or believe in, or know exist. They are places we lose as we age, and come to terms with our own reality, with the car payments and crookedness and harshness.
Our real world drives our imagination into the ground, and insists that those things are unreal, and so unimportant. Personally, I like to go to those places where we can travel the stars, and meet creatures of our fantasy.
I hope this story will bring out the child in its readers, the wonder and imagination and love...
Let me know what you think.

The Cathedral Glen, Part 2

So Brad and I were playing in the stand of trees that to us was nearly the size of a cathedral, and that is what we called it, The Cathedral. Between the tall trees with arching branches, and the vine-covered brush around the outside and the one tunnel in that you had to know was there… It always seemed that when we got on our knees to crawl in through the brush and thorns, and stood in the clear space with filtered light and the columns of tree trunks, that we had entered another place and time. Even that young, each of us knew it was a sacred place, one of those thin places in the world. Whenever we went there, we would stand quietly for a while, and when we played, we played quietly (as I am now sure our parents wished for when we played at home), and there was an unspoken agreement that older kids and adults were not ever invited. We always left The Cathedral feeling a little different, a little… Well, older, or more reverent, or spiritual, just a little, indefinably different…
So Jimmy and I were there, playing with the new B-29 model, and the Transformers, and the Star Wars heroes when he suddenly paused in the middle of a bombing-run. He looked around and said, carefully and quietly, “E___, you wanna see something?”
Of course I wanted to see something, because in this place it could only be something new and strange and wondrous. So I agreed, and he led the way through our Cathedral of trees to the far side. There, he found a particular tree with smooth silver bark and shiny green leaves. It was the first time I’d seen it, but it was young, barely as big around as my leg and maybe as high as the two of us, if Tommy stood on my shoulders. I looked at him with a question in my mind and he said very clearly, “I was here last week, and it was only this high,” holding his hand at his waist, “and this big around,” and he made a circle with his hands so his first-fingers and thumbs were overlapped. It was so much bigger than he said that I almost did not believe him and said,
“But that’s imPOSSible! Trees don’t grow THAT fast!”
“But it DID! I was here yesterday, and it wasn’t even THIS big,” and he stretched his hand over his head. “I had to show SOMEone!”
“But…” I had nothing to say, really.
“It’s bigger since yesterday, I can tell. An’ I bet if we sit over there we could even watch it grow!”
And we went and sat down, because I still did not really believe him, and we watched, and as we watched the tree grew. We saw branches grow out, sprout buds, and leaves emerge. We saw the top get higher, by inches. I still swear that I watched that tree grow with my eyes.
“See? I told you, E___.” Brad said a while later. We watched the tree grow, and the shadows move across the ground with the sun, and I though and said, “Yeah.”
A little later, I realized how long it had been, and jumped up, saying, “Brad, we havta go home. Our Mom’s’ll be worried!” So we scrambled out of our wooded Cathedral and ran across the length of the field, and as Brad veered off toward his backyard he yelled, “Tomorrow! We havta go back!” and I yelled back to him, “Okay!”

The Cathedral Glen, Part 1

There are stories that are old in the story-teller’s life, old enough to not quite have all the facts exactly right. This is one of those…
There was a boy. His name was Jim, or Tommy, or Brad…I’m not too sure anymore, because it was a long time ago that these things happened. At that time, there was a wide and long field that all the neighborhood houses’ backyards gave on to. The boy lived in one of those houses a ways away, toward the far end. By a long time ago, I mean at least twenty-two or twenty-four years. I was very little then, only six years old and small-ish for my age. But Jimmy, who was also my age, was even smaller than I. All the children of the neighborhood used to play in the field. There were places, where the neighbors would not cut the vines back, and where wood pallets and tires had been thrown, that we used as forts, and castles, and secret clubs. It was generally overgrown, though there were bare patches of dirt and grass to play soccer or baseball, and clusters of wildflowers close to the houses to pick for Mom or the cute red-head who lived on the other side of the field (her name was Beth).
There were places in the field, secret places we knew about where the border between worlds and times was thin. Very thin like muslin gauze, or like the sheer drapes a lot of our mothers put up after reading Better Homes and Gardens or Interior Spaces to dress up shabby living rooms. There were some places that were more like the lace table-covers at grandma’s house, where little things could slip through between worlds, and where you could, if you were patient enough, catch glimpses of the field in the other world. Nothing so big as a faery, and certainly no elves or leprechauns could have passed, and as small as Tommy and Beth and I were, neither could we… But sometimes, maybe a bug could fly though, or a seed drop through one of those little tears in the fabric.
Jimmy and I were playing one day in the copse of trees near the far side of the field where the woods and power lines bordered. We had some GI Joes and He-Mans, and one of Jimmy’s B-17 models. He was famous among the kids for jealously guarding them, which I kind of understood, since he made them with help from his dad. His room was covered in finished hanging ones, boxes of unstarted ones, and several in the middle of construction. Each time he finished one he would bring it out and relegate the last to the growing dogfight in the sky above his bed. Looking back, I cannot see how he could sleep at night with all those planes above his head waiting to crash down to earth… But I digress; he had a newly-minted B-17 with him that “took like four months!” It was pretty impressive, all put together and painted with even oil stains on the engines.


Restaurant Etiquette

As you enter the restaurant, you are greeted by the smiling host and shown to a table. The server appears as you settle in, introduces himself and informs you of any special items for the day. He returns shortly with your drink order and answers your questions about the menu. The appetizer you ordered arrives in short time and the server engages you in a short, but entertaining conversation as you enjoy the perfectly prepared calamari. Just as your date licks the last crumbs off his fingers, the server brings your salad, split for you in the kitchen, the dressing on the side and without onions, just as you ordered. You leisurely enjoy the salad with the ice-cold pinot grigio you ordered and conversation with your date. Just as you are thinking the salad may be finished, your dinners arrive cooked and presented with perfection. Just as everything else, the server presents the lady’s food first, offers any condiments or refills you may want, and whisks away the dirty plates and utensils. Some time later he brings you boxes to take your leftovers home and talks about the football game on tonight, he hopes to see the replays after work, and then brings your cappuccino and desserts. The evening is lovely, the server is entertaining, prompt, and accurate, and you leave a well-deserved tip. From your server’s perspective, however, things are very different. Your server is not an autonomous robot; as a professional, hard-working individual, he deserves your respect and gratitude. He works in a dynamic, high-paced, stressful environment with many responsibilities; we shall examine these responsibilities with the goal of educating the general public who have not had recent experience within the industry.

A server’s responsibilities are wide and varied in the majority of restaurants. He is responsible not only for his tables, but also various tasks in the “back-of-house.” But let us start with the “Front-of-House,” which is what the guests see of the restaurant. Most establishments divide the dining room into sections of between three and seven tables, depending on server strength, the day and time, and holidays. With an average of two to five guests per table, this means “your” server is responsible for between six and thirty-five individual guests, each of whom has different communications styles, requests, drinks and entrees, paces of eating, and, yes Virginia, demands. With each guest the server is responsible for timeliness, including: the greet (saying hello, informing of specials, the drinks order), each of the one to eight different courses, refills, and check presentation and return. Each ordered item is expected to be presented correctly as ordered. A pleasant demeanor is also a must for interacting with each and every guest, no matter their attitude or rudeness. The server is also expected to maintain the cleanliness of his section, and tables, keeping used plates, utensils and glassware to a minimum on the table. Finally, in the Front-of-House, the server is expected to help when necessary his fellow servers, the bartenders, and even the hosts. That is quite a load, right? Well, your server’s tasks don’t end there.

In the Back-of-House, most restaurants also have server responsibilities. Coffee and iced-tea must regularly be brewed; coffee mugs, soda and bar glassware, and silverware must be cleaned and restocked; the ice-bin needs to be refilled sometimes ten times a night; the bread warmers need to be stocked with freshly cut bread; all the to-go boxes need to be stocked; all of these server areas, including the dish area and food pass-through area need to be kept clean and usable; finally, food needs to get run out to the dining room. Each of these duties is shared between the servers on shift, and each is concurrent with his Front-of-House responsibilities. Now things are starting to look like a difficult job… Servers tend to be exceptional at juggling responsibilities in a high-paced environment, and also at communicating with many people in rapid succession.

For all of this intense work and stress, in most states the server is paid a measly $2.xx per hour. Few states require that tipped employees earn minimum wage; one I know of is Washington State. Generally, that $2 per hour covers income taxes on tips the server earns through working. Most restaurants stick to that amount, excepting some five-star restaurants that charge much more than the average person is willing to spend on Monday-night dinner. Additionally, in many establishments, a tip-out is assessed to the server at the end of his shift. This is generally around three percent of the server’s sales for that shift, and the money goes to pay the busboys, the bartenders, and in some places, the hosts and other staff. The result of this practice is that any individual tip is reduced by three percent of the check, or in other words, a 10% tip becomes a 7% tip, while 15% and 20% tips become 12% and 17%, respectively. All this adds up to a server making less than the average person realizes, in a job that is both more demanding and more stressful than many desk jobs (having done both, believe me, I know).

In an effort to have the most pleasant dining experience possible, there are several things a guest needs to keep in mind. The first is an elementary idea, the Golden Rule. Servers are most definitely people, and return treatment in favor: the more you leave your deplorable day at the door, the more likely you are to receive wonderful service. In the same vein, if there is one particular thing you look for in “excellent service,” if you let your server know in a pleasant way, he can see that your needs are met. A good rule of thumb for interacting with your server is to think of the experience as a first dinner with your girlfriend’s or boyfriend’s parents. You would not suck a soda down when the host sets it down, do not do it at a restaurant. If you do plan on emptying your glass thoroughly and quickly, ask for a carafe or pitcher, or for two sodas. As long as the establishment offers free refills, you should only be charged for one drink, since you are making the server’s job easier. Keep in mind as well, that your server more than likely intimately knows the menu and food at the establishment. When recommendations are presented, they are for your benefit to enhance your dining experience. Finally, please expect a level of service appropriate to the prices you are paying. Five-star restaurants provide that level of service because they charge enough to pay more servers, to provide busboys and food runners, and a larger kitchen staff, not just because of the food. A server at a restaurant charging between ten and thirty dollars a person has many more responsibilities than at a restaurant charging fifty to one-hundred-fifty dollars per person.

As far as splitting and paying for the check, keep some things in mind. For a party of five or fewer people, most servers and restaurants will gladly split the check individually. However, for larger parties (especially if bottles of wine or salads are shared) splitting a check more than four ways will delay your party and hobble service to other guests (splitting a check for a party of twenty can easily take up to twenty-five minutes). In most cases the guests, the server, and the restaurant are better served by evenly divvying up the check at the table. Also, one person should be selected to deal with the money and the server. This ensures the check is completely paid (the remainder often comes out of the server’s pocket), as well as an appropriate tip is rendered (more on that shortly). If a server agrees and goes above and beyond by splitting individual checks for your large party, an additional tip is appropriate.

Finally, we come to tipping. As mentioned above, most servers are not paid a mentionable hourly wage. Additionally, they often are provided no benefits, and assessed a ‘tip-out’ at the end of the night. Keeping these things in mind, a general guide to tipping is provided here. When planning on a budget, try to keep a twenty percent tip in mind. Call the restaurant to determine the price ranges, and if you cannot afford the prices with that tip in mind, you can choose another restaurant, or wait a week until you can afford the prices. Given the wages and tip-out servers have, a fifteen percent tip is now an appropriate standard tip for service in a dining restaurant. This indicates average service with few mistakes, and few or no special requests or orders. With good service, special orders, a busy night, and/or few or no mistakes, a twenty percent tip is appropriate; finally, when excellent service, no mistakes, correctly delivered special orders and a busy night are involved, a twenty-five percent tip is appropriate. Remember that these are the server’s earnings, and that he works very hard for them. A couple of other things to keep in mind when figuring the tip: remember you are tipping for service, not necessarily by the total of the check. If a coupon, free (birthday or other) dessert, or half-priced bottle of wine (often found in neighborhood, family-style restaurants on Mondays or Tuesdays) are involved, it is appropriate to tip as if you are paying full price on those items. With split checks, be sure to check the total of the tip and the check, the server will often provide a full check if asked, and your friends might surprise you unpleasantly; also, as mentioned above, when a server goes above and beyond, and splits a check individually for a party of more than six people, it is appropriate to tip an additional five percent on top of the gratuity (if included), or otherwise to tip a minimum of twenty percent. Finally, people will often provide written or verbal compliments in addition to tipping, and while these are well-received, if they are not backed up by a monetary tip, then they are not good for very much, and make the individual look cheap or rude.

For your ease, I am providing a simple math to help figure out the tip:

Based on a check total of $100.00,

10% can be found by moving the decimal one place to the left:
$100.00 becomes $10.000

15% is 10% plus half of 10%, or:
$100.00 10% is $10.00, plus half of 10% ($5.00, in this case) = $15.00

20% can be found by doubling 10%:
$100.00 will be 10% ($10) x 2 = $20

25% is 15% plus 10%:
$100.00 10% is $10 plus 15% is $25.00

When dealing with change or not-neat totals, two methods are appropriate:
1) Figure the approximate tip first, then round to the next whole dollar, or
2) Round to the next whole dollar, then find the percentage.

I hope this essay has enlightened you to the duties and responsibilities of your favorite server, as well as provided a realization that your tips are all the money he sees.

Next Week, I will take up some great free utilities available online, that can replace everything from your $300 Operating System to your expensive subscription-based antivirus program. See you then.

The Friday Post

Last Monday I wrote a propposed schedule for updates. While I am trying to stick to this schedule, I am a little late on the Friday post. But I have made the intention of writing essays for the Friday post a reality. These will be on a variety of topics, and the first is getting posted tonight. Tomorrow, I again hope to post a new or revised poem. Again, the proposed Schedule of Posting:

Mondays: A new or revised Poem

Wednesdays: An overview or review of something I have recently read

Fridays: A short essay on various subjects.



Yes, it's a made-up word. Of the several books I have read since my last regular postings, I have found one new-to-me author who has really stirred my imagination. He writes science fiction in the vien of William Gibson or Bruce Sterling.
I must warn that I enjoy reading science fiction and it functions as one of my favorite pastimes. The opening of the near and far-future intrigue me, challenge me, and entertain me. Often I cannot get enough of a book, and then the challenge is putting it down so I can really get on with my life (including writing my own science fiction). So, after reading one of his books, I could not help myself from continuing in seeking out the others.
Charles Stross is a writer who seeks out the human stories in the near and far futures, as one can tell by his treatment of characters both human and no-longer human. Where will evolution take the homo sapien, when he can create tools to meet nature's challenges? Mr. Stross provides a new angle of vision on that question, as well as creates characters who lure your mind and heart into caring. Accelerando was the first book of his I read, and since then I have sought out and read each of his other novels. I await anxiously for more.

In another note, I am currently reading through the 2006 issue of The Year's Best Science Fiction, 23rd Annual Collection, edited by Gardner Dozois. It is full of short stories from some of the biggest names in the genre, including Stephen Baxter, Alastair Reynolds, Bruce Sterling, and many others. For me, it represents an excellent chance to study not just the genre, but the current subjects and styles in a wide range of settings. Seeing how a breadth of authors deal with characterization, plot and detailing, for instance, allows me to make my own work that much better. Nearly all the authors are award winners, and for good reason, they are at the top of their game. For anyone interested in the science fiction genre, I highly reccomend this anthology.

Until next time,
Best Wishes.

edit - ps- a thought for the day:
They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
-Ben Franklin


Been a While

Yes, by now I am down to zero readers. Updates have been few and far between. Now, hopefully, I will have a more regular schedule. Along with more frequent and interesting updates, I propose to also have a regular schedule of posts... I haven't exactly determined what yet, but some things I am thinking: A regular posting schedule, with specific types of post each time. Something like this:
Monday, a new or revised poem
Wednesday, a new book or story review/impression/or something
Friday, a few open ended thoughts (maybe an essay?)

Start looking this week for more frequent updates!

Remnants of a Broken Home

It must be from a nest
of birds. That leaf, all
tangled in thread-like matting.
Not just any fallen, dried-
up dead thing, but one
used up: tattered, vein-
bare; a leaf that has seen
many, many things: loved, birthed,
hatched and shat upon.

Tangled in hair and fibers
by a sparrow (plenty hereabouts)
that wanted nothing more
than a soft place, a comfort
place to nest,
raise young to fly,
grow old, flightless, and die;
now just a leaf. Tangled
in fur and hair rattling
along with the breeze
on the sidewalk.