Monthly Archives: September 2007

Cthulhu’se and fancy free

Dealing with database vendors is the most irritating part of my job. A really awful patron can reduce me to a trembling wreck, but that sort of thing is pleasantly infrequent. Communicating with people trying to sell me stuff happens all the time.

A salesperson emailed me the other week and managed to lose herself a sale with one itty-bitty word.

“Dear Mrs. Zellers,” she wrote.

What’s wrong with this picture?

A colon! In a business letter, one should end the salutation with a colon!

Er. The comma was fine, actually. Email’s not all that formal. Try again.

Give up?

She called me Mrs.

I am not married. I expect people to call me Ms.

If I ever get married, I will expect people to call me Ms.

I will accept “Madam” because it’s foreign and it sounds cool, and I would be tickled pink if anyone ever addressed me as “Mistress,” but “Ms.” will always be the safe choice. Mrs. will never be a safe choice.

It’s not that this database vendor guessed wrong. It’s that she guessed at all. Why should my marital status be relevant? Single, married, divorced, widowed, or whatever—none of it affects my ability to choose a database. And we sure as hell don’t address men as “Dear Sir-I-assume-you’re-married Smith," so why make the same assumption with women?

My friend Whitney pointed out something creepy to me. First look at this word:


And then look at this word:


And now add an apostrophe:


ARRGH! Mister’s! Owned by the Mister!

Persepolis at work has assured me that it’s merely a coincidence, that “Mrs.” is just a contraction of “Mistress,” but still. Unsettling.

Should a woman ask that I call her Mrs., I of course will. Should a woman ask me to call her Princess Anastasia, I’ll do that, too. I defer to whatever people request. But otherwise, you won’t catch me using Mrs.

Now I shall discuss happy things, including gentle woodland creatures, fearsome woodland creatures, and evil-incarnate-doom-n-death creatures.

Let’s start with that last. I saw this bumpersticker on the way home from work yesterday.

I already have four bumperstickers sitting in my house, just waiting for their chance to make it big on the rear of my car. It wouldn’t be fair to them if another, newer bumpersticker jumped the queue. They’ve been patiently waiting their turn for a long time, hoping for a vacancy on my car. But oh it is tempting. Cthulhu!

When I got home I wanted a glass of wine.

Here’s the thing about wine. It’s sold in bottles. You can open the bottle, but you can’t really close it back up. Only thing I know to do with it is to drink it in one day.

This is why I don’t often have wine around the house, because a bottle-a-day habit is not an avenue I need to explore. To say nothing of the social and personal cost of becoming an alcoholic, it’s just not a good idea because it would get really pricey really fast. I only buy the cheap stuff, but still. My grocery bill would double.

But occasionally I splurge. So last night I walked over to the Farm Fresh and got a six dollar bottle of merlot. I got the bottle for two reasons: There was nothing cheaper, and it had a picture of some very pretty flowers on the label.

Everyone please note how very green I was being: Not only did I walk, rather than drive, to the grocery store, I then carried the wine away in my reusable cloth bag. No plastic here!

As I was walking back home, a car slowed down. The people inside then proceeded to do a very, very stupid thing.

They asked me for directions.

This is like asking Mr. T. which kind of tampon to buy. He’s a great person in many respects, but you shouldn’t turn to him for advice about menstrual products. Nor should you turn to me for directions.

I can still manage to get lost driving from work to home, and they’re only two miles apart. Mmmkay? Am I making this clear?

Miraculously, I knew how to direct the couple in the car to their destination, though I wish I didn’t. They asked how to get to the Golden Corral. I pass it every time I go to yoga, so it was easy enough to tell them what to do. But why did they have to ask after the Golden Corral, of all places? C’mon, folks, you’re on vacation, you’re in Colonial Williamsburg, you’re in a place that’s teeming with history and culture, and you want to chow down on the same crappy potato salad you can get back home?

Still though, I count it as a victory that I could direct them. I’m really quite certain they didn’t wind up in Canada. Really. Well—very nearly certain. Almost positive. I’m definitely pretty confident about it. As such. More or less.


So then I walked a little further and I saw a spider. Mr. or Ms. Spider was a big critter, sitting all sassy in a spiderweb off the sidewalk a little ways.

“Hello, Spider,” I said. I felt quite the Nature Girl, albeit from a comfortable distance away. No fanged venomous leaping Cthulhu spider’s gonna get me, no way.

Then I looked a little further. Seven deer were grazing.

Suddenly I was Supreme Queen Nature Girl of the Universe. Deer! Right there! In front of me! Doing deer things! In Wilhelmsplatz!

That’s the weird part. Since when do all of the other reindeer join in all their reindeer games in the middle of the damn city? It’s not like we’re Hong Kong or nothin,’ but we’re definitely a city. We’re not rural. We have busses and congested traffic and things.

And then today I saw a bunny rabbit. I suppose the logical next step is to get my own show on Animal Planet. I wonder if we can get live footage of Cthulhu?


Of Zombie Bondage

My coworker Currer Bell recommended a book the other day. I read it, and now I’m angry at her: very, very angry. I could practically kill her for not recommending it sooner.

World War Z by Max Brooks is a fantastic book. I would say it’s the best book I’ve read in ages, except that I just finished Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita, which is also a fantastic book. I went all summer without reading a book that I really liked (unless you count the various books of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series which, collectively and individually, are brilliant). Then, bam! September gets here and I get two knock-outs.

Must be the weather. I’ve said it before, but dear sweet Jesus, I love cold weather. Not that mid-70s is cold, but after this boiling summer, it’s such a relief. I’m a reverse lizard. Warm weather makes me sluggish and cranky. Cooler weather makes me active and happy and tolerable as a human being.

The kitties are loving it, too. Any critter that wears a permanent fur coat is bound to like cooler temps. They’re getting snugglier, more likely to curl up on the couch or in bed. And I get to wear better clothes. I’m not suggesting that I look less than stunning in any outfit (or out of it, and don’t you forget it), but if there are degrees of stunning, then I’m stunninger in long sleeves and hats and scarves.

It’s not cold enough for the really heavy clothes yet, of course, but at least today I got to wear short sleeves and a long skirt without burning up. Complimenting the outfit was a little black choker. For as long as I can remember I’ve liked chokers. There’s just something attractive about them. When someone pointed out to me the bondage implications of chokers, I felt dumb for not having noticed it myself. It’s true, of course; besides being aesthetically pleasing, there’s a lot of sexual implication in chokers.

Which brings me to a joke I made today. It’s not actually all that funny, but you’ve got to make due with the material you’re given. I noticed the Standard and Poor’s Bond Guide sitting on the reference desk. It’s got to be the most boring book ever, or at least I assume so. I’ve never actually opened it. Something to do with money and finances. Blech.

So anyway, my joke: I added a sticky note that said “age” right after the word “bond.” Standard and Poor’s Bondage Guide, now—that’s a book I would read.

But back to my original point. It’s as if Max Brooks interviewed me about everything I like in a book and then wrote World War Z as a favor to me personally. The book is the report of the UN Commission after the zombie war.


The book is a collection of interviews with people who survived the war. There are housewives, military personnel, doctors, politicians, and ordinary folks from around the world, all telling about the horrors of the two-year zombie war.

The whole thing is a snarky parody. The whole thing is a study in dark humor. The whole thing is a detailed, devastatingly funny satire.

For two years now I’ve been recommending Robin McKinley’s Sunshine to everyone I know. (Read that one in September, too, now that you mention it.) Now I have a new book to recommend to everyone. Or maybe I’ll just recommend the pair.

Nonfiction-wise, of course, I’m still hellbent on making everyone read Dan Savage’s The Commitment and Inga Muscio’s Cunt. As the library owns neither title, this is a difficult endeavor, but I will endure.

Master and Margarita was my annual reading from the canon. Each year I read at least one classic novel, and at least one fat Russian novel. Often it’s the same book.

I’m making it sound like a chore. I love to read the classics and the Russian greats. It’s just that I’ve already read a whole bunch of them. That’s what college was for. Now that I work in a public library, I need to play catch up and read some popular stuff. But I still allow myself to be sidetracked at least once each year.

M&M is a fine example of Soviet dissent literature, though to be honest, it’s not the best samizdat I’ve read. On the whole, the characters are too well off. They’re not starving, and they’re not homeless, and they’re not persecuted by the State, not too badly. The real reason to read M&M is for the religious themes and the political satire. And because one letter different makes it S&M.

Let me put it to you this way: the main character is Satan. He’s a nasty fella, sure enough, but you can’t help but like him. Despite all the murders and treachery and havoc he causes, Bulgakov’s Satan is a likeable guy, someone you’d like to drink vodka shots with in a bar.

A word about bars. Many of the books that end up on my To Read list come from Nonfiction Readers Anonymous. I don’t want to read Later, at the Bar, but I loved Sarah’s comment: “I like drinking and all, just prefer my Guinness at home. Especially now that there’s no smoking in most bars. I did so used to love smoking in bars. Sigh.”

EXACTLY! Listen, I know that smoking is bad. Not to mince words, but it kills you. That’s a bad thing.

But there is nothing, nothing, like having a drink and a smoke at a bar. Lots of people seem pretty happy that bars are smoke-free these days (“I don’t get that awful smell in my clothes!”) I like that awful smell. I like the atmosphere. Bars need to be a little bit disreputable. A good bar has smoke and cheap bear and neon and men with seriously long hair.


Doing it with style… guides.

Sorry for the recent silence. This week I’m on vacation.

“Ooh!” you’re wondering. “I wonder if she will bring me a nice souvenir from… from… I wonder where she went? Tahiti? Prague? Bangladesh?”

Here is a hint: You can have a souvenir, but the only thing I can scrounge up around here is cat fur and wayward kitty litter.

I’ve been staying in my apartment. This is not what you’d call an exciting vacation destination, but the fact is, I can’t afford to travel anywhere. I am sure this will all change after I become stinking rich, which will certainly happen as soon I finish writing my book. It is unrealistic to think that a library reference book on an obscure genre will bring me anything less than loads of money.

Please do not disabuse me of that notion.

The book is the other reason for staying put. Writing an (anticipated) 800-page text takes a bit of time.

This is not to say that I’ve slaved away the whole time. I’m on vacation, after all. Probably no one will be surprised when I confess that I’ve spent some time reading for pleasure. This week it’s been a lot of fantasy. This year it’s been a lot of fantasy. What can I say? It’s my favorite genre. I knocked out two Terry Pratchetts and I one Tad Williams, though technically the reading of his Tailchaser’s Song counts as work, as Williams is the subject of my next piece for NoveList. Tailchaser’s Song was a surprisingly satisfying book. It reminded my fondly of two other fantasy faves, Watership Down and The Hobbit.

I went to yoga, too. Recall that I’m now embroiled in the Level II/Level III class. Last week’s session was my first attempt at this advanced level. Afterward, I wanted to die. When I got home and realized I had to walk up 14 stairs to get to my apartment, I seriously contemplated waiting around to see if the apartment complex would ever build an elevator.

In contrast, after this week’s class, I did not want to die. I wanted morphine and convalescence, but I did not want to die. I even managed to get up the stairs to my apartment in one attempt.

Tonight I did a headstand for the very first time. Or rather, I did a headstand for the very first time as an adult. When I was six I stood on my head like it was nothing. All healthy six-year-olds do.

I am not clear on the benefits of doing a headstand. Does it make me a better human being? Will it help me defend against attackers? Will it help me achieve nirvana? I’m really not sure, but it looks cool, so I’m not complaining.

Also this week I went bookstore hunting. There are four bookstores in Wilhelmsplatz. (I think. Maybe I missed one?) It was my first time visiting two of them.

This may come as a surprise, but I never go to bookstores. It’s a healthy precaution. Each time I go in a bookstore, I come out in my skivvies, because I’ll have sold the clothes off my back to get my paws on another book.

I love bookstores. Used books, new books—doesn’t matter, I love them. I love seeing books arranged in a non-Dewey way. And then I love buying them, and carrying them home to a small apartment that simply does not have room to hold another book.

But I had to go hunting for a specific book this week, the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th ed. That’s the style guide used by Libraries Unlimited, the press that will be publishing the book that will make me a zillionaire. I only found it in two stores, and for the unreasonable price of $55.

I feel like such a louse. I’ve been an MLA girl my whole life. During a few social science classes I condescended to use APA, but otherwise it’s been MLA all the way. (I think a history professor wanted me to use Turabian once. I sweet-talked him into MLA.)

I am not paying $55 to go over to the dark side. I am a woman of principle.

Instead I am paying $34 to go over to the dark side. Amazon had a nice deep discount on the CMS.

Back now to writing. Today’s focus is on books about women in antiquity. It can be tedious, but I keep telling myself that, after I come into wealth with this book, I’ll be able to buy style guides without fretting about paying rent.

See you in Bangladesh this time next year.

Littering in the neighborhood

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This is Beelzebub.

He wasn’t in the mood to show off his babydoll blue eyes or adorable kitty tummy, but I kind of like this yawn/growl. Just trust me that he has pretty eyes.

Ever since I got Bubby, I have resolved to be a better cat mom, i.e., I have vowed to take the cat litter out more often.

I’ve been able to keep this resolution for two reasons. One: the threat of three-cat stinkiness has kept me in line. Two: I have converted to crystal litter.

Cat poo is still cat poo, and therefore gross, but somehow it’s less bad with the crystal stuff. It’s less onerous for me to scoop out poo in the crystals, while the kitty pee is practically unnoticeable.

But every so often I need to haul the entire contents of the litter box out to the dumpster. When I got home from work this evening, I dutifully dumped the stuff from the box into a trash bag, after first ascertaining that there were no cats in it.

Somewhere between my front door and the apartment complex dumpster, my trash bag developed a hole. Too bad I didn’t notice it right away. It wasn’t until I tossed the bag in the trash (“Huh! This feels light!”) and turned around that I saw the trail of litter and poo.

Because I am a decent human, and also because I didn’t want to get in trouble for littering, I trudged back up the stairs and hunted for my broom. Wasn’t even sure I still had one. When your kitchen floor is 9 square feet, you don’t sweep much. Finally found it in the coat closet.

Then I went downstairs and attempted to sweep up the cat litter. It was pretty much hopeless, but I managed to disperse the litter around to a wider swath of parking lot.

More on cats: As I was leaving work today, Assert-y noticed that I’d left my shopping list on the desk. (Thank GOD she found it. I was down to the very last squiggle of toothpaste in the tube. Otherwise it was gonna be dragon breath at work the next day.)

She noticed that I had included “cat fud” as an item. I always write “cat fud” on the grocery list because of Gary Larson:

What’s scary is that Assert-y does, too. She does hers with a long line over the U, while I use umlauts, but still. That’s alarming.

Any more of you Cat Fud people out there?