Wednesday, December 31, 2008

In the year 2009...

Instead of some New Year's Resolutions, I have decided to list out some of my New Year's Expectations.

In the year 2009, I expect:
  • A phone call in the middle of the day with good news
  • A phone call in the middle of the night with bad news
  • New friendships to emerge and grow
  • Old friendships to require some investment and energy
  • To laugh on at least one occasion
  • To cry, but not as often as I laugh (I hope)
  • To complain about the weather at least 27 times, maybe even twice in one day
  • Some rain
  • Some sun
  • Some snow and flooding and landslides and fires – but not near my house, I hope
  • At least one memorable trip or vacation
  • At least one picture of myself that makes me cringe
  • At least one victory in racquetball
  • At least 10 defeats in racquetball
  • To sleep in a few times
  • To oversleep maybe once
  • Gas prices to rise
  • Gas prices to drop
  • To hear worse economic news
  • To not let bad economic news bring me down
  • To covet an iPhone at least once
  • To read some books I enjoy
  • To read at least one book that deserved a refund
  • More friends on Facebook
  • More friends on Facebook to make easy jokes at my expense
  • More friends on Facebook to experience the same toward them
  • Deeper intimacy with God
  • Deeper questions for God
  • Greater clarity from God
  • Greater wonder toward God
  • Many moments when I feel younger than I really am
  • Some moments when I'm reminding how old I'm becoming
  • Opportunities to act my age
  • Opportunities to act immaturely
  • To reach the end of 2009 wondering how the year passed so quickly

Friday, December 19, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Snow in Yosemite.

Cool. This storm system is dropping rain on us in Sacramento right now, but the mountains are getting snow. This pic is from a webcam in Yosemite Valley, where the elevation is around 4,000 feet. Awesome...

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

“My” Starbucks: Volume Four

This afternoon, a customer proposed to one of the baristas here at Starbucks – for the second time. He was denied both times. Apparently he wants to hook up with a woman who will give birth to a baby but then disappear from his life. The barista – gently and kindly and professionally – encouraged him to consider surrogate options.

I’ve quickly become a regular at “my” Starbucks. It helps that two of the employees are former students from my youth ministry days. It also helps that I’m here nearly every day for at least four hours each visit. I don’t mind being known as “the guy who works on his Mac over in the corner” or whatever label I’ve earned.

Regular customers earn labels and reputations. Employees – whether we’re talking about a coffee shop or a grocery store or a gas station – recognize familiar faces and remember favorite orders and idiosyncrasies. It’s a comforting reminder of how communities ideally work.

I think my label is a positive one with all the Starbucks workers. I hope so. Apparently, there’s a guy who frequents this location who regularly tells the employees that they have the wrong answer to the question of the day – so regularly you could probably use the phrase “almost every time we have a question on the board.”

What is it about trivial knowledge that some of us find so appealing while others find so lame? I like the fact that I can explain the numbering patterns behind the Interstate system (thanks, Dad) or the only high school mentioned in “American Graffiti” (thanks, David Jack) or the origins of the phrase “mind your P’s and Q’s (thanks, Shirley Shedd or some boss from newspaper days – I’m afraid I don’t remember who first explained that one to me).

Can trivia push out more important knowledge? I’m sure it can. But I doubt it’s happened to me, because I’m not sure how much “important” info was locked inside my brain to begin with – just lots and lots of trivia, methinks.

But does that give me the right to go around and be a jerk with my trivia? No, although I’m probably guilty of having done that on many occasions. If I ever get to the point where I become known as “that guy” at my local Starbucks, then I’ve gone too far and deserve some kind of punishment – like being forced to watch “The View” every morning.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

“My” Starbucks: Volume Three

After yesterday’s brilliant decision to work at a different Starbucks location, today I got my head screwed on correctly and returned to “my” Starbucks. I won’t say this was a mistake, but it was another learning experience.

It turns out I’ve been pretty good about avoiding peak customer hours at this location. Mornings can be crazy here; that’s okay, because I seem to be most productive in afternoon and evening hours. But apparently weekends are busy, too. I drove up and saw a lot more cars in the parking lot than I normally do – that was my first clue. And once I got inside, I realized there were no tables free, and almost every chair was full, too.

Abnormal? Crazy shopping day? People avoiding the cold, foggy weather? Nope. The employees said this is common for the weekends. I guess I’ll have to come up with another game plan: finish everything by Friday, work from home on the weekends, or find a quieter weekend location. Something along those lines.

The good news: A table did open up eventually, and I did run into a friend from my old church. So not a complete waste, by any means.

Friday, December 05, 2008

“My” Starbucks: Volume Two

Nothing overly eventful happened yesterday at “my” Starbucks. I didn’t have to battle for “my” spot, and the place was pretty quiet all afternoon. My card did, at least, finally give me free refills on my tea. This was a “discovery of the day” sometime ago, that I could pay 50 cents and get a refill. Well, a few weeks back, that was topped by a better DOD when an associate – isn’t that what they’re all called? – said I could get FREE refills if I registered a Starbucks card online. So I did. And still got charged, even though I’ve been able to access the Internet for two hours each day (another free perk for registering a card online). But today, I got a free refill. Let me rephrase: I got FOUR free refills. Yes. I drink a lot of tea here. And I make multiple visits to the bathroom.

But then I failed today. I didn’t go to “my” Starbucks. Instead, I picked one closer to my house. What a mistake. The place was packed when I arrived. No seats available. I kinda hung around for a few minutes and finally a table opened up. They aren’t playing any music here. The seating is limited. The store is smaller than “my” Starbucks. I’m quite certain I won’t return to this one to work again.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Editing vs Writing

“I’m an editor who writes.”

That thought occurred to me Tuesday while sitting on airplane, reading a book. I’m not really a writer (even though deep down inside of me, I somehow feel it’s a nobler calling than editing). I think I’m a stronger editor who also happens to write well. But I feel more drawn to editing than writing. Those statements might surprise a few friends and former colleagues.

I don’t always feel like writing. Yes, I’ve heard and read plenty of writers who say they don’t often “feel” like writing but they force themselves to do it, anyway. I believe them. Sometimes I don’t feel like editing. Attempting to decipher a confusing thought or sentence and make it palpable – it can be as joyful as anticipating a trip to the dentist’s office. The joy, of course, is found in the final product.

There’s also joy in the process. Being an editor sometimes feels like working on a puzzle. You take this piece and that piece and shuffle these other pieces and twist this piece and clean up that piece – maybe you get the idea. This word feels wrong, but that word communicates the writer’s intent more clearly. This sentence is too long. Would you ever say it the way you just wrote it? What are you attempting to convey here? Why are you so attached to the word “very”? Seriously, you don't know what a compound modifier is?

The funny thing about being an editor is that you aren’t really working with your own words or ideas. Your job is to take someone else’s words and ideas and make them stronger, clearer, more effective. Sometimes I get a project where I need to add some “original” writing, but that’s the exception, not the rule. These days, my life revolves around helping other people communicate more effectively. And I’m OK with that.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

“My” Starbucks: Volume One

It’s good to be back in Sacramento. One reason: I’ve missed “my” Starbucks. That may be a silly concept, but for a freelance editor who struggles to be productive at home, Starbucks has become my office.

Calling it “my” Starbucks is an interesting label because I pass two other Starbucks to reach this particular location. But I prefer this one because I know some of the employees (two of them are former students from my youth ministry days), it has a more open feel, and it has a great area for working on laptops with easy access to power outlets.

There are some very interesting people who spend time at this Starbucks. A couple of weeks ago, a guy and his wife walked in, and as he approached the counter, he yelled, “Is everyone here happy? Are you happy?” He certainly seems to be a happy guy, and the workers smiled – or at least chuckled – in response.

On another day, I managed to get “my” corner spot in the store, and I found myself sitting near two day-traders. I don’t think they knew each other before that day. One of them was loud and boisterous; he yelled – in a loving way, of course – at a guy who left the bathroom door unlocked. The guy who got yelled at – well, he didn’t think it was a loving thing to do.

It’s Wednesday afternoon (two weeks ago, not today), and I’m sitting here editing a file and sipping on my Strawberries and Cream Frappuccino – yes, I know that’s a “foo-foo” drink but I needed a change from my Unsweetened Iced Green Tea with 5 Splendas – and a woman walks up and says, “Hey, you’re the real Eagle Man!”

This statement makes no sense to most of you because you’ve never experienced an “awards chapel” at Antelope Christian Academy. For several years, the students knew me as “Eagle Man” because I was the person who randomly drew the name of the Eagle Award winner each month. This mom recognized me – I’m embarrassed to admit that she only looked vaguely familiar to me – and wanted to say hi.

That’s the bane and blessing of this particular Starbucks. It’s on the edge of Antelope, and lots of people from my old church visit here. Usually that’s a good thing. Sometimes it’s a little weird or awkward, especially if the person wants to talk longer than I’m really available.

I used to get paid to have conversations with people and learn what’s going on in their lives. Now I get paid for editing. Personal chats? Those hafta be on my own time – and my own terms, perhaps. OK, back to work…