Monday, June 25, 2012

Customers that make me cringe

Had a return today from a gentleman who didn't like the flip flops he'd bought.

"These have two problems," he told me very seriously.  I put on my best grave attention face.  "First of all, I want you to see this."  He took a flip flop and pushed it across my counter as if it were a Hot Wheels special edition car.  It went about six inches.  I had a really, really hard time not laughing, especially since he looked even more serious.  "Did you see that?" he exclaimed.  "I wore those on a vinyl floor and almost had a very serious fall.  You should pull these all off the shelves immediately."
I imagined demonstrating the Hot Wheels flip flop to my boss and almost laughed out loud again.  I think my serious face cracked a bit around the edges.  "I don't think they'll let us do that."
"Then you'll just be part of the pay out for the lawsuit against the manufacturer when someone is seriously injured in these."
I thought about people suing because they wore high heels in sand and broke their ankle.  Mmm, not so much.
"The second thing is that they have this cloth on the bottom that's peeling off," he said.
"Yeah, that's really bad."  I finished processing the return, thinking about kids skating gleefully around hardwood floors in these things, and why more people don't sue manufacturers for making those hard plastic bottomed slippers that are far, far worse than the Hot Wheels flip flop.  But I left it alone.  "Sorry those didn't work out for you."
He gave me that 'you'll be hearing from my lawyer' look and stalked off.

I also had a lady dash in.  "I just bought this," she said breathlessly, setting hair color on the counter.  "I just want to trade it for a lighter color.  It's way too dark.  I didn't notice until I got outside."
The color was 'Clove,' a very dark, reddish, almost black brown.  "Sorry, I have to run this as a return unless we're trading it for the identical color."
"Can I go grab the one I want?"
"I need your information--"
She left her ID on the table.  I filled out the stuff while she was away.  When she came back, she had a very, very dark brown, but without the reddish tones.  "This is the one I want," she gasped.  "How much longer will this take?  We're buying a pickup truck and I have to meet someone."
And you're buying hair color ...? Now?  Oh, never mind, it's not worth it.  "Just take this to the cashier and you're all set."
"Thank you."
"You're welcome."  Enjoy your almost indistinguishably dark brown hair color.  It'll cover your light brown hair ... a lot.
I expect to see her back tomorrow.

Monday, June 18, 2012

TMI and Stuff No One Likes to Think About

It's official.  I'll be going in for a colonoscopy in about a month.  Yay.  The peace-of-mind part sounds great.  Some members of my family have a genetic hiccup that makes us pre-disposed for polyps, so it'll be good to find out if I got dealt that card or if it passed me up.  The bathroom time (I expect I'll be reading rather than writing, and reading a lot) and the anesthesia, not so much.

At least it'll be a twilight anesthesia rather than general.  I'm not a big fan of general.

Anyway, I get to walk up to this particular milestone sooner than most.  I do hope that I can amble on by like most people.  But the fear--of discomfort, of complications, of what they might find--is very low key, and being a little nervous and then more than a little uncomfortable for a little while is a small price of admission to pay for life.  We're made of meat.  All of us.  Until someone comes up with a way to make that meat invulnerable, or makes our various parts easily and quickly replaceable, we gotta take care of the meat we got.

Every time I feed my goats and chickens (though Beatrice sometimes doesn't let me) I put my hands on them.  Are they thin?  Too plump?  Do they feel strong?  Are they bright-eyed?  When I come home from work I say hi to all the dogs and cats, and it's the same thing.

The sad thing is that I don't check myself over nearly so often.  Good thing that I have a working nervous system, or I'd never figure out when I'm hurt or sick.  Unfortunately the nervous system isn't hooked into everything.  There's a whole bunch of stuff that has few or no symptoms, and a whole bunch of stuff that has symptoms we can ignore or write off as our imaginations, or stress, or whatever. It's sooo important to get these checkups, whether you have insurance or not.

And that's another thing.  I think people are far more willing to spend a couple of hundred bucks (if they're lucky) on having their car checked when it makes a funny noise or doesn't steer right or blows smoke than they are to go to the doctor for the same or less money because they don't have insurance.  Really?  I wonder how much regular folks spend on pop in a month.  I don't drink it, but if I did, I might save the pop money for a few months and go to the doc instead.

Okay, that was totally self-righteous and catty, and I don't care.  Go to the friggin' doctor, people!  Save your pennies for tests and get 'em done.  If you're 'that age', better start saving more in the thousands rather than hundreds for those nasty tests like I'm going to have done.  But get it done.  It's a necessary expense like food, rent, etc.  And call your mother, for pity's sake.  Seriously.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Meatloaf. Mmm.

I had a pound of hamburger, and I wanted to make something simple with ingredients I had just sitting around the house that I could eat on for a few days.  What to do, what to do ....

First, I got some fresh bok choi from the garden and chopped it up into small pieces.  Mmm, bok choi.  I had a portabella mushroom, too.  Chop chop chop into cubes.  Bergenost cheese in the fridge.  I'm briefly tempted by smoked gouda, but I realized that bergenost is just the thing to go with the portabella mushroom.  I grated a whole bunch of it.

By now I had a whole pile of non-hamburger stuff, way more than I had hamburger.  Not a biggie.  I set the oven for 350 degrees F and put a small cast iron pan in there to heat up.  Then I put the hamburger into my bowl.

Seasonings.  Hmm.  Salt, but not too much because there's already cheese in there, and I squeezed in some ketchup, which is also salty.  Can't have meatloaf without horseradish.  I got a tablespoon from the drawer and scooped out a big glob.  Of course I have a big enough jar of horseradish that I can get a spoon in there.  Who doesn't?  A tiny bit of mayo, a sprinkling of mesquite seasonings, and then I stirred the ingredients together.  When they were more or less even, I washed my hands with soap and hot water.

The hot water feels good.  Have to scrub under the nails, of course.  And then it's mushing time.  I kneaded the hamburger like dough.  It was cold, and it made my fingers cold, but it was fun, like playing in mud.  When it held together more or less, and the mushrooms were nice and pink from absorbing blood, I washed my hands again and got that hot pan out.  I rolled the hamburger out of the bowl into my hands and made a loaf.  When it hit the hot iron it hissed and sizzled beautifully.  I loaded it into the oven, and washed my hands in that lovely hot water, and waited.

When it came out, it was delicious.  I had it for lunch and dinner for two days, and it never got boring.  And ... best meatloaf sandwiches for work, ever.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Best in the Bunch

I had a brilliant lunch with a friend yesterday.  We went to a couple of stores after lunch and snooped around for things.  I found some discounted clothes for work and got much-needed cat litter.  I think she had fun, and I know I did.  I think I've found a shopping buddy! We're going to have a shopping date soon.

She has this great way of looking at shopping that fits the dynamic in my household perfectly.  It seems the boy and I are gatherers living with two hunters, my DH and the girl.  My friend's son asks her, when they go shopping, whether it's going to be a hunting or a gathering trip. I like that distinction.  Maybe it'll become part of my family's vocabulary too.

Gatherers like to look around and see if they can find something better.  They like to touch everything if they can, and sort through piles seeing if there's a shinier object mixed in with the others for the same price.  This makes me think of how I used to shop for stuffed animals.  I looked through what appeared to be identical, mass-produced critters, but I was looking at the spacing between the eyes and the ears for the one that clicked for me.  To me, at least at close perusal, they all looked a little different and I wanted the cutest one.

When it came to clothes, though, my inner gatherer hid away in terror.  Through jr. high and high school, I wasn't bullied, but I was ostracized.  At least in high school I finally found a group I could be a part of, (I'm still close friends with one of them!) but clothes weren't on that group's radar, so I continued to dress myself defensively.  The idea that jr. high imprinted in my vulnerable brain was that since I was laughed at and looked down upon even more when I wore something new, it was better to keep wearing the same things over and over, and buy things very similar to what I already had.  And I hated shopping for clothes.  It was stressful.  I didn't want to buy anything, because it felt like anything I chose would be make me an easy target for weeks.

Anyway, in college I went on a non-shopping trip with a whole new set of pals (it took me a year to find them but once I did, again, I'm still friends with some of them to this day), clothes shopping became a delight.  We couldn't afford anything except ramen and frozen peas, so we didn't buy anything, but we tried on all kinds of clothes.  Clothes we didn't dare wear.  Clothes someone else picked out for us.  Clothes that made us look like entirely different people.  Thinking on it now, I wonder how much this experience of clothes changing the outward personality influenced the ideas behind Masks.  We had so much fun, it shocked me out of my hatred of buying clothes.  And I've never looked back.

Now hunters just want to kill it.  They want to buy something convenient, within their price range, that will function the way they want it to.  If they don't see it, they don't mess around looking hopefully at other things, nor do they consider upgrading, or shopping for something else 'since we're already here.' I can't speak to the inner process in a hunter's mind, but I expect that shopping is a boring but necessary chore that ought to be made as quick as possible.  If something they grab is sufficiently defective that it won't work, they either return it or just let it collect dust.  Of course some things I've carefully picked out don't work out sometimes either.  Maybe gathering behavior doesn't gain me anything.  But I like it.  It's not a chore.  So I persist in it.

You'd think that grocery shopping would turn into a sort of hunting trip for me, but it really doesn't.  I'm still gathering.  The only reason I get it done quickly is because of familiarity.  I know, of the things I buy, what's available and what a high-quality item in a given batch will look like.  So, if I snatch the first bunch of celery in the center top and stick it in my cart without a backward glance, it's not because I'm hunting.  It's because within that glance I knew immediately it was a good bunch and sorting through the whole bin will not produce a better one.

It's a fun and potentially useful way of looking at the world.  I wonder what I'll learn from my friend next time.  I can't wait to find out!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Wacom Bamboo Create Tablet Review

I've been producing a lot more art lately, thanks to the Bamboo Create.  It's an awesome tool for creating book covers.  One of the things that I found fascinating was that although this is apparently considered a non-pro art tablet, or as one reviewer put it on Amazon, a 'fun' tablet, the only limitations I ran into were the limitations of my own artistic abilities.  I would not have been able to create the covers for Masks and Confidante without the tablet.

The only features I found lacking related directly to the software I downloaded.  For example, in GIMP, there's no way that I've found to create a virtual group of color dabs that I can then mix and have several different colors on the 'bristles' of the same brush that would then behave like a brush dipped into several colors before it's applied to the canvas.  Oh how I long for that!  I'm sure it's available somewhere or somehow.  I just haven't found it yet.  Also, I haven't figured out a way to tell GIMP or any other software program to, instead of a gradient forming in stripes along a line (so that if I'm making a ribbon, the ribbon is blue then green then yellow then orange then red then violet) to make a ribbon with the gradient running across the surface.  So in my rainbow example, the center would be yellow and the edges would fade out to blue on one side and violet on the other.  I'm sure it's possible.  The way I've gotten around it is to start with a thick line of violet, then a slightly thinner line of blue on a new layer, a thinner one of green on yet another layer, red, and then yellow and carefully using the smudge and erase functions to fudge the colors so that they obliterate what I want to disappear and leave behind only the colors that I need.  Obviously, making a rainbow ribbon this way would be a huge pain.  It's much less so with a tablet then it would be a mouse, but still.  That's a lot of switching between layers, and a lot of pen strokes.

But, back to the tablet.

Whenever I needed more control over an area, I just zoomed in on it.  And I learned to be patient.  My computer isn't the fastest in the universe, and so I had to sometimes wait while the pen figured out where I was and what I was doing.  I wait less now then when I started out, because I learned how close to hold the pen so that it didn't have to reconnect with the tablet.  I also found that by pausing briefly in one place whenever I moved the pen too far away and then back into range again, I recovered more quickly than waving the pen around near the tablet trying to find my spot.  In fact, now that I've had some practice, the vast majority of the time I'm working as fast as I can without having to wait for the tablet at all.  Also, in a matter of a few days, I quickly learned how to switch between mouse, keypad, touch pad and the Bamboo Create which helped me to do things like save files, name files, move between programs and multitask.  Lots of fun.  The tablet was much easier to learn how to use than the software that I interface with when I use it.

It does burn my battery power quickly, so I learned that it's best to have my laptop plugged in while I'm using it.  The pad comes with extra tips.  I bought extra tips in addition to the ones that came-with, under the assumption that I'd burn through them quickly.  So far I haven't had to change tips yet.  When I do, I may experiment with a different kind.

I also ordered a protective cover made for the tablet, but by another company.  Initially I was disappointed.  The cover wasn't big enough to cover the entire tablet area, and it wasn't small enough to fit between the guide corners interior to the 'touch' area, so there was no tidy/pretty way to apply it.  Also, it sticks on rather than being a magnetic-style screen protector like I expected.  Maybe those don't work on tablets.  I don't know.  It bugged me to basically 'tape' it on.  But once I had it positioned I was happy with it.  I had the area on the tablet that used the most protected from the pen tip (which makes little, tiny scratches on the surface that I'm sure would have built up over time) and the cover makes a very yummy surface to work on as far as resistance to the pen tip I'm using.  (It's the one that came originally with the pen.)

Overall I give the tablet a four happy kitty review out of four happy kitties.  I expected a lot less, considering the reasonable price.  I thought I would eventually have to upgrade, but I have no plans to do so.  So far, this tablet does everything I need it to do.  I doubt I'd get more quality work done more quickly with a 'better' tablet.  If I do upgrade, though, I'll let y'all know!

Links in case you're curious ....

The nibs I got don't appear to be available anymore.  I hope there wasn't a problem with them!  Mine had a couple of felt ones in the mix.  I included a link to the 'normal' extra nibs.  Also, the center link to POSRUS is for the Bamboo Create protective cover I mentioned.  I know, it looks like another tablet ....

Extra Nibs

Friday, June 01, 2012

I'm Mean

Retail employees see a lot, and some of it, frankly, we don't want to.  Makes us mean.

Take yesterday.  Two girls came in looking to do a little foraging.  These are awful girls, pre or early teens--hard to tell.  I can't help but imagine what terrible parents they must have, but that may not be necessarily so.  I've seen some nasty kids come out of great families, and some great kids come out of the worst situations you can imagine.

Anyway, I was checking and they got into my line.  Yay.  So I was already in a bad mood when they started picking on the customer I was helping ahead of them.  This disabled lady lives a full, independent life and she is tough as tough can be, but sweet and my kids like her a great deal.  I suspect that she knew that the girls were being mean, but accepted what they said at face value when the taller one said, "I like your eyes.  I think they're pretty."  The lady smiled from behind her coke-bottle glasses, her two lazy eyes wandering independently of each other, and said, "Thank you.  I'm just a brown-eyed girl.  You like brown eyes?"
The girl snickered so subtly that I almost missed it.
The lady noticed the shorter girl had zebra-striped fingernails.  "How did you do that?  The lines--they're so clearly defined."
"Oh, we were real careful," the taller girl said, and this time the smaller one couldn't help but smirk.  The nails, of course, were just a paste-on pattern.
I wondered if they thought I didn't say anything because I thought they were amusing, or because they thought I was stupid and didn't realize what they were doing, or because I'm just another mindless drone with no personality too meek to stand up for others.
Actually, I didn't say anything because I didn't want to pick on someone less than half my age and half my size.
Of course now I'm writing this blog post.  So much for that ... I'm not a very nice person.
After they bought their candy they started making the rounds.  Sadly, we didn't catch them, but they stole all the tampons out of the tampon machine in the bathroom.  (So that's why we never have any!  Mystery solved.)  Then they hovered near the birth control/intimates area.  My boss watched them, and overheard something about needing a pregnancy test.  He was too close for them to make the grab.  I guess the condoms they stole last time didn't work.
My cattiness emerged from its long sleep.  I'm not proud of it.  It's just there.  The girls went out the door, back in, out again, back in, circling, trying to get that pregnancy test but didn't manage it.  As far as I know, all they got were the tampons, unpaid-for of course, and the candy, which they forked out a couple of bucks (probably begged for--we've thrown them out for begging for money from customers before) and some coins, and probably used the bag to get more candy for free on one of their many rounds.

The second-to-last time the shorter girl was almost in tears.  "I'm sorry!" she cried to the other girl, who waited outside with a nasty expression on her face.  And I laughed.  Because they were so mean, they couldn't even be nice to each other.  I didn't even feel bad about it.

I know.  I'm terrible.

The last time they came in I laughed at them again, knowing that by this time every employee in the store was watching them and they wouldn't get squat.  I can be mean too, just like them.  It's human.  I think the difference is, I try to spend as little time being mean as I can.  These girls, who want (and often get) everything that adults have with none of the responsibility, who delight in mocking others, and who take advantage of others whenever possible, who steal and lie and cheat and leech off of others and yet are never satisfied, who feel cheated themselves and probably wonder why they can't have what everyone else seems to have, who most likely know that others look down on them and try to believe that it's everyone else's problem ...
Will be unemployable.  Even if they get a job, they won't keep it because they'll get caught stealing.
Will (maybe even soon) end up pregnant and living off of government money, assuming their health lasts long enough to take them into adulthood (age of majority adulthood--I don't know if stunted creatures like them are able to grow up.  That's a terrible thing to realize when you're looking at such very young girls.)
Will likely spend time in jail, wasting precious moments in their lives they will never get back living among criminals who will be mean to them and who will teach them how to become even nastier and less likely to live any kind of life above what the weakest of animals can scrabble together.
Will never know real friendship.  I thought that maybe at least they had each other, until I saw the vicious look in the taller girl's eyes after she turned on the shorter one.  (For spilling the pop they shared, it turns out.)
Will not understand the joy of real accomplishment or know the true value in striving or creating or being part of a community that doesn't despise them.

I hear the song "Mean" by Taylor Swift running through my head.  ... and a liar, and pathetic, and alone in life and mean ....

And I feel badly for them.  The person they picked on is so much better off than they are.  She is an independent, beautiful and kind woman, liked and appreciated by so many in our little town.  Those girls will never get anything from me, but that lady will always have my undivided attention and help whenever she asks for it.  She spared the unworthy a smile and a moment of her time.  They, the poor foolish children that they are, felt superior to her.  They probably always will.  I doubt that they noticed that I was laughing at them because they were too caught up in trying to score emotional/social points on each other.  I know that they didn't realize I wasn't cheering the lady on, and that I planned on writing about them, revealing their petty natures and stunted souls to the world.

I'm just not as nice a person as that disabled lady.

I'm mean.