Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Post Office Rant

The other day I went to the Post Office, that shinning pillar of customer service and efficiency. I didn't have a tall order. I had one piece of mail, already stamped, to drop off for a coworker, and I had one package that I needed to have sent to Aurora. I got to the post office at about 1:30 on a Thursday. I figured by this time I'd probably have missed the lunch rush and wouldn't have to wait too long. That was stupid of me.

I got in line behind ten to 15 people, many of them had already adopted body language that said this has taken way too fucking long and I'm still waiting in line. One window didn't have a sign up in front of it or anything. Another window had a sign directing customers to the third window. There was a person standing behind that window doing precisely dick. The third window had a staff member at it who was actively helping people. The person behind window number two would occasionally announce that the other person who was able to help us was at lunch and would be back in 20 minutes or so, and that if anyone had something to drop off and didn't require any actual assistance, she would take it. At least one cranky customer in line asked if there wasn't someone else who could help out, but of course there was. This despite the fact that the one woman was standing behind the counter doing nothing and at least two other Post Office workers stood behind the counter at one point or another.

No wonder everyone bitches about the post office.

I've worked in the customer service industry in one capacity or another for roughly 12 years. About 10 of those years were in retail and the last two years are with the library. I know good customer service and I know bad customer service and I know horrible customer service. This was horrible customer service.

I got through the line faster than I anticipated, and never got to see this mythic second clerk who would be able to help move the line faster. I do know that by the time I left the line was just as long as when I had got there. Also, I counted nine security cameras in the lobby of the Post Office. What the hell? Why would a Post Office in a small, well to do community on Chicagoland's north shore need nine security cameras in the lobby?

I've been thinking a lot about customer service lately. The good and the bad, and the people that can, can't, and can but aren't willing to provide it. Aside from being a pain in the ass, this little trip provided a good lesson on what is necessary in making a strong customer service experience.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Happy Birthday Logan

On what was a very cold and surprisingly snowy October 12 four years ago I became a father. I don’t know that I was fully prepared for it at the time. Sometimes I still don’t know if I am fully prepared for it, but I suppose that feeling’s going to stay with me for the rest of my days.

Much like his little sister would prove to be years, later, Logan was stubborn and was happy right where he was. After a long day of going to the hospital, making phone calls, checking on Brandi and waiting, lots and lots of waiting, my son came into the world. We had some scares those first ten days or so, as well as here and there throughout the first four years of his life. Still, it’s nothing I would change or give away for anything, even when I’m tired and frustrated and the kids are driving me nuts and I might say something to the contrary.

Happy birthday Logan. I hope the coming year gives you everything you need and some of the things you want.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Happy Birthday Ava

It’s hard to believe that only a year ago we welcomed you into this world. It’s also hard to believe how much you’ve grown and changed over the last year. I can’t wait to see what the next year will bring. Happy birthday sweetheart!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

So Close!

I'm so close to my monthly writing goals this month I can...feel it?...taste it?...sniff it? I don't know, but whatever you'd do with an end result like that, I'm almost there.

My goals for this "month" (September 15-October 13, which is the cycle of the Writer's Support Group I went to) are:
  1. Write 10,000 words of the Sold Soul story. I've got about 1,900 words to go, or about 250 per day, which is totally doable. I should have room to spare for that one.
  2. Complete one revision of a short story about love potions. Done!
  3. Write 10 blog posts. I've got 8 done, and this counts for another, so I'm almost there. I even have one planned for tomorrow.
  4. Complete one revision of the Merlin's Yard Sale story. This is the goal I'm farthest from at this point. I did start on it the other night, but was so tired I was having a hard time staying awake. Honestly, it was my own exhaustion that put me to sleep, not the story. I swear.

I'm in a really good mood about all this, which is helping to keep me motivated. And I'm starting to think of next month's goals and what will keep me going. NaNoWriMo is coming up, and I plan on torturing myself with that again, so I'll have to work that into the goals somehow.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Caveman Viking

It was after a particularly warm winter, while Sven and his clansmen were tracking game across the melting tundra, that they came across the shadow of a man seemingly embedded in a block of ice. It was a curiosity to them all, for even Swissgar Torbaldson, eldest warrior of the clan, had never spoken of such a thing as the shadow of a man in ice. Thinking this to be an omen, but not sure of what, Sven and his companions carefully removed the block of ice and returned with it to the village.

Everyone marveled at this thing, which must surely be a message from Odin. A great feast was prepared and the fires were piled high with wood to thank Odin for this omen and ask him for guidance. Soon the clan was sleepy with drink, and they returned to their lodges. The block of ice was left in the center of the village near the still roaring fires. In the morning, the members of the clan awoke to find that the ice was gone, and in its place was a man-thing.

He was naked, and cold to the touch, but getting warmer as the day drew on. In his hand was a crude club. While his shape resembled a man, he was shorter than anyone in the clan, built squat and hunched. His forehead was tall and looked like it could be used to as a ram to smash his enemies.

“Could this be one of the dwarves from the mountain,” asked one of the women of the village. “Perhaps Loki played a trick on him, or maybe he angered Odin.”

“Surely not,” replied Swissgar, “because he has no beard, and no dwarf would ever carry a weapon as crude as that.”

The men of the village brought the man-thing closer to the fire to warm and wake him, but kept careful watch in case he should arise and be an enemy.

When the man-thing finally woke, he was groggy and disoriented. He struck out at the people around him, but he attacked in fear, not from hate. Being trapped in the ice for so long, he fell tired quickly and was subdued easily. The men of the village brought him away to a storage house, but left him with food and water, and dressed him in some of the clothes that were too big for the boys and too small for the men.

After many weeks and a God’s worth of patience and effort, the man-thing, who answered to Grog, was taught the way of the Vikings, taught to use their tools and weapons. And he became one of their fiercest warriors, rushing into battle without fear of pain or death. The other clans learned to fear the members of Torbaldson’s clan and their caveman Viking.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Latest Time Suck

More than anything else lately, I’ve been spending the greater part of my free time writing. A couple weeks ago, though, I had the fortune/misfortune of looking at some of the software in the iTunes store when I came across Undercroft, which is made by the same folks that make Runescape.

It’s a basic dungeon crawler type game, where the player controls a party of up to four adventurers as they travel the country to complete one big quest, with many, many other side quests along the way. Players can choose from Warrior, Mage, Priest, Summoner, and Assassin. It uses a turn-based movement and combat system, and the only real drawback I’ve seen for it so far, in terms of game play, is that it’s very items-heavy, and it seems like you have an infinite storage capacity. Despite selling off a lot of junk every chance I get, I still accumulate a lot of crap. Overall, though, I’ve really enjoyed it and it thus far has been my favorite app for my iTouch, free or paid (it’s a free app).

For a while now, I’ve felt a hankering to get back into Dungeons & Dragons, which I haven’t played in years. But things get in the way of that, kids, wife, work, house hold shit, life. And it’s the same for the friends I used to play with, adding in distance now that we all at least think we’re adults and don’t all live 5 miles from each other.

The worst part of the game though, is that every time you save, it the game tells you how long you’ve been playing to that point, up to the second. Looking at my most recent save file, I have logged 12 hours, 57 minutes and 5 seconds playing the game. This does not include times I forgot to save, the couple of times my character has died, or the times I’ve gone in to try and solve of puzzle, haven’t solved it, and not bothered to save. Counting all that I’d probably round up to 13.25 or 13.5 hours worth of game play. There’s nothing wrong with that when you consider I’ve been playing the game for a week and a half to two weeks, but still, that makes me wonder what all I could have accomplished in all that time.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Mmmmmm Hamburger aaaagggghhhh

It was a long day. A long day after a series of long days. My plans for getting out of work "on time" didn't work out, and neither of us really felt like making dinner. So we got Hackneys. Check it out.

We both got the inside out burger, which was full of cheddar bacon goodness. We did carry out, and it took me a little while to get home, damn traffic, and so the burgers weren't exactly hot when we had them. We didn't go with the brick of onion rings this time either. Much like Paradise Pup, this is a place that I've driven by many times before, this time it's too and from work, and I've wondered how their food was.

The burgers were good, and juicy, and big. I got mine on a dark rye, which enhanced it even more. The cheese was still gooey inside, and mine was a delightful pink in the middle. Was it Paradise Pup? No, but seriously, once you've had Paradise Pup, nothing else stands up. Next time we get Hackneys, we're definitely going to have to eat in, not bring it home.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Current Writing Method

For the current writing project, which I'm calling the sold soul story, I've gone back to writing by hand. This time around I'm writing on some loose sheets of 20-pound blue paper, folding each sheet in half long ways, and then usually short ways too. I'm numbering each side of the page and hand tallying the words as I go.

Why am I doing it this way? That's a really good question. For one, the blue paper was on hand when I started, and now that I've been working on it for a while in this manner, I've decided this is how I'm going to keep going with it. I've filled six sheets in my small handwriting, and not counting the writing I did last night, I'm at 8,346 words. My goal is to be to 12,899 words by October 13. Including today, that means I've got to do about 330 words per day. That's totally doable.

I ended up not writing on Friday--I was just too damn tired--and when I went back to it last night, I just didn't know what to write. After staring at the paper for more than an hour, writing a few words, and crossing them out, I finally was able to pick up and put something down on the page.

The blue paper also makes me think of Stephen King. In On Writing he said that one of his earliest books (Carrie maybe?) was written on a ream of green paper using an old typewriter. I'm no Stephen King, and I don't know that I ever will be, but something about that keeps with me and helps give me the push I need to keep going.

NaNoWriMo is coming up again and I'm trying to decide how I want to proceed. I don't want to completely abandon the project I'm working on now, and I want my NaNo experience to count, so I'll want to type it up. There's another project I started a while ago that wasn't quite working right, but I think I know how to fix part of it, so I might restart that (I was only about 6,000 words into it when I moved on) and maybe work on both, doing the 1667 words per day of NaNo and 300 words per day of the sold soul project. We'll see how well that works out.