03 May 2016

Yet Another Edition of What Not To Put On Your Job Application

Once again, we are looking to hire someone at my place of employment. Once again, we roll our eyes at some of the letters and résumés. I am torn between offering these gems with snarky commentary, or letting them speak for themselves.  [I can't resist.]

I am seeking a job in a non-for-profit where I could participate in the development of projects that help people's development. [Nice use of development twice, but what does it mean? Also, it's either non-profit, or not-for-profit, not a hybrid.]

I am sedulous in arts advancement, theatre and dance educated, office experienced individual looking to obtain a position in a stable environment utilizing my education and past experience in a role where I can feel good about the work that I am doing and develop my skills and experience. [My head hurts trying to unpack that sedulous sentence.]

• I have travelled to Canada, France, Monaco, Italy, Germany, England, Austria, Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina and Czech Republic. [Is travelling a skill? Maybe for a roadie.]
• I also have years of office work experience.  [But what skills do you have?]

I hope that you will give me this amazing opportunity that I have been hoping to achieve.  [I fear that we will be dashing your hopes of achievement.]

I have experience in speaking on the phone.  [Don't we all?]

Some like to think of themselves as out-of-the-box thinkers, I prefer to think of myself as able to make origami out of the box.  [Truth be told, I love this.]

• College Graduate  [This is a skill?]
• Fluent in English [Okay, this is a skill.]

Helped raise over $5,000 independently to dance and did not sit or sleep for 46 hours in connection with the world’s largest school-wide philanthropy efforts to raise over $6.6 million for pediatric cancer. ["Independently to dance"? Stayed up for two days?]

• Electric bass and vintage mopeds [Okay, this is pretty adorable too.]

Seeking Program Development, Coordination, and Administration especially in a people-oriented organizations where there is a need to assure broad cooperative effort through the use of sound planning, strong administration, skills of persuasion to achieve goals. [Word soup.]

Age : 63 Height: 5’ 10” Weight: 240lbs Hair: A little Eyes: Brown [But what color is your thinning hair? No, scratch that, I don't care about any of that personal data and I wish you'd left it off of your résumé because we are not casting a TV commercial or Broadway show.]

I consider myself one of those lucky people who were born with a split personality- not in the clinical-crazy sense, but in that I am capable of adapting easily between being wacky and creative, and incredibly organized. [Wacky. Wacky!]

01 May 2016

"The Many Portals of The World"

Dear Patti,

On a whim, I picked up your book M Train at the library last week. Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite a whim, because the book was on my Wunderlist of non-fiction books to read, but I hadn’t gone looking for it - it was out on one of the “Rapid Read” shelves up front and it just leapt into my arms. And it blew me away.

Somehow, I had no idea that you were such a gifted writer. Songwriter? Sure. Singer. Yes? But writer of books writer? This is something I didn’t know.

I’m hard pressed to pigeonhole the book. It isn’t really a memoir, it’s too non-linear for that. It might best be described by a line towards the very end: “An aria for a coat, a requiem for a café.” It meanders all over the place, back and forth in time. So many books! So many cups of coffee! Objects galore, intriguing articles of clothing in spades. How did you come to own a pair of Margot Fonteyn’s ballet slippers? [When I was a kid, my mother and I saw her in the audience of a ballet performance, and she refused to give me her autograph. If she were still alive, would she refuse a selfie with a pre-teen fan?]

A few pages before that phrase about the coat and the café, there's a paragraph about lost possessions. Are they still with us?

My house is full of objects, clothes, furniture that mean something to me - but perhaps not to anyone else. Sometimes I want to catalog them, but who has time for that!

Your simple domesticity slayed me – Patti Smith sews curtains, Patti Smith makes packing lists, Patti Smith cleans up her room. I feel stalkerish in that I jotted down books to read (Frankenstein, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle) and a toothpaste to hunt down (Weleda salt). I’m thrilled to know that you have cats: one of mine is currently chasing a housefly all around my living room and I think she wishes she had wings. You like Luther, and your favorite Doctor is Tennant – could we hang out and watch Broadchurch one day?

I took the book out of the library, and it slipped into being overdue – I never do that! I’m itchy fingers away from buying my own copy, so that I can re-read it and dog-ear some pages and scribble in the margins.

Hey, thanks. I'm grateful to have been given a portal into your world.


A New Fan

28 April 2016

Little Pitchers Have Big Ears

A friend saw that I'd been reading Georgette Heyer, and thought that I might like a set of mysteries set in Victorian England. So she sent me a stack of five paperbacks, three of which I've finished and mailed off to my sister-in-law. The high-falutin' series name is The Robin Paige Victorian-Edwardian Mysteries - such a mouthful! They are fun, though, and very undemanding, which is what one wants once in a while.

I was distinctly amused to open the second book, Death at Gallows Green, and find a bright pink post-it with a "necessary spoiler":

Okay, thanks! When the girl finally turned up missing, I remembered that she was not going to be hurt or killed and that therefore, she had to be found. And she was!

More amusingly, to me anyway, was finding the word "pitcher" scratched out on page 55, and replaced with "jug".

On page 56, "pitcher" was unassaulted.

And on page 58, it was again struck out!

The great mystery is why a jug and not a pitcher. Why? British vs. American usage. The book - though set in England - was written by a pair of Americans.

My favorite part? Adding my own annotations to those the book came to me with.

Do you write in your books?

26 March 2016


It used to be that I never wrote in books. Then I decided that if it was my book, it was okay to write in. But library books? They shouldn't be written in, even if there are errors that ought to be edited. Right?

Imagine my amusement at finding that someone perceived there to be a typo in a library copy of Georgette Heyer's The Toll-Gate: fractionally.

Clearly, the reader thought fractionally was wrong, and so crossed it out and wrote in franctically.

In fact, fractionally is correct, because the whole sentence is "Fractionally, as they struggled together, shifting this way and that over the damp, uneven rock-floor, John was moving his grip nearer and nearer to Coate's wrist." That is, John was moving his grip fractionally, not that they were struggling frantically or frenetically.

But it's the misspelling in the correction that slayed me.

20 March 2016

Another Reason Why I Blog

Every couple of years, I sit down and dump my blog to one of the printing services, so that if (when) the internet blows up, I have a copy. Recently, I printed the last four years, from 2012 to 2015.

The books were sitting on the coffee table, because I hadn't put them away yet, and the girl picked one up. She proceeded to read all the entries about her, in all four of the books.

"I did this?" "I said that?"

And in that moment I realized that it really does act as a sort of baby book. No first words, but her height's in there at least once, and there's a haircut, and the first day of kindergarten, and the first day of middle school, and various and sundry other milestones.

And it makes me happy that I now have printed, bound volumes from 2006 to 2015.


Because a number of people have asked, the service I use is Blog 2 Print. It is not perfect, but it is fast and reasonably easy, and there's not a lot of futzing required. It supports Blogger, Wordpress, Typepad and Tumblr. You provide the URL for your blog and select some parameters (like date range, whether or not to include comments, whether each post is on its own page). You get to write a little dedication, you choose from a bunch of preformatted covers, and you're able to choose (or upload) a picture for the front and back covers. Because I'm cheap, I go for the most compact layout (because it's fewer pages), but it does mean that the photos aren't necessarily where they had been in the original post. Also, I found a handful of places where the wrong photo got sucked in - I think in every case it was an instance where the photo had been hosted elsewhere, like a book cover image from Amazon. And it doesn't play nicely with Instagram - a photo inserted using the Instagram embed code comes through as just the widget code. While I'd rather the final product had been perfect, I'm not concerned enough to spend a lot of time going back and making it perfect (and paying for a reprint). In short, it got the job done.

(PS Blog 2 Print didn't pay me to write anything, and didn't ask me to do this.)

24 February 2016

He Named Me Malala

I confess that I never go to the movies. Or maybe once a year - which is awfully close to never. It means that by the time the Oscars roll around, I've rarely seen any of the nominated films. One movie that I missed when it came out - though it didn't get an Oscar nomination - is He Named Me Malala. I'm pretty happy that it's going to be on television next week, and at a reasonable hour so my twelve year old daughter can watch with me, and on a commercial-free channel so we don't have to DVR it to watch later.

If you'd wanted to see it too, it's on on Monday February 29 on the National Geographic channel at 8:00pm (Eastern).

17 February 2016

Would you like some freshly ground wood shavings?

Today's entertaining/appalling news story is that "The Parmesan Cheese You Sprinkle on Your Penne Could Be Wood".

Now, they aren't talking about fancy aged Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated with your super sharp Microplane. No, they mean those cardboard cans of cheese dust:

According to the FDA’s report on Castle, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, “no parmesan cheese was used to manufacture” ... [snip] ... Instead, there was a mixture of Swiss, mozzarella, white cheddar and cellulose, according to the FDA.

However, I am reminded of my childhood. In the pantry, screwed onto a shelf, there lived a cheese grater. It was sturdy metal, with a wooden handled crank, and a knobbed wood block to force the cheese down towards the grating cylinder.

On spaghetti dinner nights, one of us children would be deputized to cheese grating duty. Moky would hand us a lump of cheese and a bowl, and staring idly out the window onto the driveway, we'd grate enough for a few plates of pasta. Sometimes, she'd be more ambitious, and we'd have to grate enough to fill up an old blue quart-sized Mason jar. That Mason jar, with a zinc lid, lived in the door of the refrigerator, cheek by jowl with a Mason jar full of sweetened grated coconut. Once, I was sick, confined to my bed on a spaghetti night. My mother decided that I could have pasta with butter & cheese for dinner, no red sauce. One of my siblings brought up my dinner; it was pasta with butter & coconut. The blue Mason jars of grated white stuff were unmarked. Happily, it wasn't as awful as it could have been: no red sauce.

I digress.

The wood block pusher was shaped at the grater end - rounded to conform to the shape of the cylinder. One day, I was doing the grating, and I put that wood block pusher in wrong - it was rotated 90° and therefore no longer conforming to the cylinder.

Yes, Virginia, there were wood shavings in the parmesan that night. And the wood block was never the same.