Archive for Life and Times

Slouching

It almost exactly six months since I started my new job, buy finished writing my latest novel, and lost my ambition. At first I was just taking a break after some intense efforts, but time dragged on and my inability to focus (or care) about a project or direction has become annoying. It feel now that I’m going to have to give up not having a direction. I got get feedback on my novel, FAILUR, that support what I’ve been thinking, that it need to be rewritten. I started an Improv class and I would like to follow that through until I’m ready to perform for an audience. I want to get my PMP certification this year. I want to read more.

Despite all of these myriad wants, I still feel a sense of futility and laziness. I’m not good without a plan. I feel ungrounded. I’m not good at lying to myself about my commitment. I’ve been able to ride these last few months – and maybe I should allow some time – but it’s been too long.

Success, Failure, Bare Feet

One

At first my feet might seem like a good symbol for my unemployment. They started hurting almost immediately after I was laid-off. Over time, drugs weeks they have gotten tougher. It would be tempting to conclude that I have been “pounding the payment” looking for opportunities. But in fact, my job hunt was mostly conducting at the computer or the phone. The reason my feet hurt is because I was barefoot almost all the time walking around on hard floors. So my feet are not a very good symbol for my unemployment.

Two

At the beginning of the year my family spent some time in a cabin in Bastrop with some friends. If you don’t know those cabins, they are constructed of stone and long planks of timber. They have a rough beauty. They were built by boys who were part of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the Great Depression. Intellectually, I had understood had been clear for many months before New Years that 2009 was going to be a bad year. I wondered then if the catastrophe would become as tangible for us as the wood and rock had been for those boys. Losing my job certainly made the disaster more personal. While there was anxiety, however, I have really suffered. There were no great sacrifices (at least not yet). So I can’t really say that I understood what life was like for those boys or indeed for the many that had lost more in current economic environment.

Three

I heard something that seemed to be to be a good symbol for success. You may remember last year the criminal Bernie Madoff, convicted of running a +$50 billon Ponzi scheme. What caught my attention was a statement by investigator Harry Markopolos. He said that it took him about five minutes looking at Madoff earning reports to determined that the man was a fraud. The earning showed steady growth year after year, unaffected by trends in the market, the price of oil, wars or the weather. His profit rose on a forty-five degree angle with time on the X-axis and growth on the Y. An arrow of wealth shooting toward heaven. Icarus flying to the sun, kissing it, and continuing on forever. It’s amazing that Madoff wasn’t caught sooner. It’s amazing he wasn’t awarded a Nobel Prize. Isn’t this, the arrow forever rising, our ideal of success? It’s the nation’s talisman, a roadmap, a diagram of our dreams.

Four

The day before I lost my job, our refrigerator broke. On the morning I was laid-off I was working from home, waiting to hear from the repairman. I got a meeting request from a manager asking me to come into the office for a “mandatory business update.” The very ambiguity of the request made the topic crystal clear – no sudden face to face meetings with unnamed topics are good. I had to wait nearly four hours for the meeting. I stopped working. I was distracted and it seemed pointless. Instead, I cleaned out the refrigerator and freezer. The refrigerator was probably the best symbol of the layoff. The refrigerator and especially the freezer was an archive of our intentions, and of our culinary failure. There were vegetable we though we should eat. There were condiments that we’d hoped would spice up our evening. There was food we bought on whim, and those we though would change our live style. The freezer was so packed that we could only buy a couple frozen foods each trip to the store. I salvaged a little. I threw the rest away – the good intentions with the bad. The refrigerator was bare. We could start over again.

Promises at the Conference

I stopped by the writer’s conference for a beer. I had decided not to attend the conference this year, clinic as I am not really in a good position to pitch this year. I’ve decided that I’m probably going to rewrite FAILUR. I think I can make it a lot tighter. Now matter what I do to it, drug it is going to be an odd beast. I had a beer with Doug and talked to some other writers. As usual the conference was a mass of tension as writers agonized over getting and keeping agents attention. I saw Jennifer briefly. She had won an award for her newer novel, remedy and was getting some attention from agents. With any luck she’ll break through soon.

I made a promise to myself while at the conference, that I would be pitching my new novel at next year’s conference (if not well before). I also decided that I would rewrite FAILUR and create some podcast – though I stopped short of promising myself on a date.

A Report on the State of Publishing

When researching agents recently, buy I found an agent who had a note which said: “Due to conditions in the publishing market, this agent no longer accepts queries from authors who have not been previously published by a bona fide publisher.” The few people I’ve mentioned this too, thought it sounded harsh. The truth is that I like the simple directness of it. Really many of the agents express the same thing in their form rejection letters, just not as clearly.

The publishing industry sucks now. Fewer and fewer people buy/read books. Fewer and few large corporations own publishing and they are institutionally incapable or unwilling to champion books that do not fit in their marketing templates. The agents are very careful with their time. You’ve got a few seconds to convince them that they are going to be able to sell you to the publisher. It helps if your book happens to fit their particular passion, but it’s not necessarily enough.

I would almost feel sorry for them, but I have my own problems.

I rarely worry about whether my writing is good. I assume it is good. At least it pleases me in some way. I could always make the writing better. But at some point I have to decide to stop. I rarely worry about whether my writing is good. The question is, what is it good for.

Some of you would enjoy my novel. Some of you would not. You might think it is bad, or it may just be a story that does not interest you. It does not bother me that some people will not like my novel. Success is not counted by the ration readers who like or dislike the story. It’s not measured in the number of readers. I know this, and yet I am still too reliant on this big publishing industry to get out my book.

What I need to do is to work on alternate distribution channels. I talk about this all of the time. I need to work on online publishing, podcasts, or printing on demand. I need to find the online community of people who would be interested in this story. One of the reasons I haven’t done this is laziness (well, not entirely laziness, I have recently been obsessed with completing the 30,000 work “outline” for my next story). But part of me is still stuck on the idea, I want my book to sitting on a shelf a Barnes and Noble.

Killer Yellow Umbrellas and the Escape from Hollywood

I don’t keep up well with Shannon. She lives across the country. We talk maybe once a year. But just after college, Shannon, Michael and I had several ‘adventures’ out on the west coast. Recently a firend of Shannon’s, asked several people that knew her to write something about her for a surprise birthday party. Below is what I wrote.  While not my best writing, I think it captures the feeling of the time well. It is a prequeal in a way to Gear and Loafing in America.

In ’91 Shannon and I slogged through the congested urban hellscape of Los Angeles in my blue Toyota hatchback looking for work. Everything in LA was an hour by car. Half of the time that car shook with stupid goofy hilarity. We made up songs. We riffed on stupid billboards, the ubiquitous neon mini-malls, and the million over gaudy symbols of a city constantly on the make. And we laughed at ourselves and our lack of marketable job skills.

The rest of the time we shouted. By our early twenties, we had discovered that the world was pretty screwed up and we were pretty pissed off about it. Los Angeles, was a polluted city with sepia air, where vulgar conspicuous consumption butted up against poverty. It gave us many exampled of what was wrong with the culture of greed and commercialism. On the radio Dr. Helen Caldecott told us that the Earth was dying and a president named Bush had just sent the nation to an unnecessary war in Iraq (Ok, compared to Iraqi Freedom, Dessert Storm seems almost holy, but it was still bullshit. For history buffs: what was the ‘peace dividend?’)

We yelled because the world was wrong and because we were in a recession. Because our degrees were less valuable than the frames they were set in. Because we had no way to do anything meaningful. Because our lives were out of balance.

We yelled and sang old songs.

We starve-look at one another – short of breath – walking proudly in our winter coats wearing smells from laboratories – facing a dying nation – of moving paper fantasy – listening for the new told lies – with supreme visions of lonely tunes

And when we could yell no more at the world, we turned on each other and yelled some more.

Shannon and I went to an employment agency. They were polite to me and allowed me to fill out an application. When they saw Shannon, they had stuck employment agency gold. They immediately sent her out on interviews for “pretty young receptionist/secretary” jobs. Shannon didn’t get the first job. She’d taken the interview seriously. She had asked intelligent questions about the business and tired to find interest in what they were doing. This had been a mistake. They had not been looking for someone intelligent and interested. They wanted a “pretty young receptionist/secretary.”

This did not at all sit well with Shannon, but she was quickly moving though her small cash reserve. She needed a paycheck. A few days later she interviewed with another company. This time she acted demur, friendly but passive. She got the job, working for two real estate loan guys in large commercial banks. She spent her time at bank finding ways subtle and overt to torture them.

Michael T. came to Los Angeles a couple of months after Shannon. Unlike Shannon and me, Michael had a degree useful in the job market (Electrical Engineering) and actual job experience programming. Like us, Michael had trouble finding a job. After hundreds of miles negotiating the smog sea for a job (and anything of value), Michael came up with the theory that it was in fact Hell. Hell, Michael theorized was not a burning pit, but a place of endless frustration and discomfort where you struggled to get ahead not realizing that on that next level just contained more frustration.

It wasn’t long, though, before we found a pattern around one of the few things we could control – food. Each Saturday we would spend hours strolling down Fairfax shopping at bakeries, delis, and independent produce markets. Each evening we spent an hour or two preparing out dinner. Our chores where time consuming but not tedious. The food was fresh. It was unprocessed. We had circumvented the system, albeit in a small way.

It was Shannon’s idea to move to Oregon. Nominally we were moving to go back to school to find something we could make a career of. In truth, we went to Oregon with a utopian vision. We were going to find intentional communities, sustainable living, and alternate economies.

We drove up to Oregon to check it out. Along Interstate about an hour outside of Los Angeles was an art installation by the conceptual artist, Christo. There were miles and miles of giant yellow umbrellas. The Los Angeles media was all a buzz about the umbrellas. Just as the LA cultured class was asking itself if it was art or not, the wind pulled on of the umbrellas loose and it killed a woman. In our small group we never asked if the umbrellas were art, to us they just more ore the careless viciousness of LA.

Shannon and I left LA sonn after than. Michael found a job, and so again he would follow us a little later. We drove up the coast and as usual we laughed and we yelled and we sang old songs.

LA is a great big freeway. Put a hundred down and buy a car. With a dream in your heart you are never alone, but dreams turn into dust and blow away. And there you are without a friend. You pack your car and drive away…

But of course were we not “without a friend.” We had our little group and we had a mission, but that is another story.

Life Out Of Context

When I started FAILUR, I wanted to have the characters floating in a world without any sense of context: no history, no politics, no science. I wanted that characters – who were essentially searching for relevance – to live in a vacuum. It was that their world had no history or that there was no science, it was that most people (including my protagonist) lived in modern world without thinking about it, without any idea about how history or science affected them. Without context, people turned to marketing to find something that passed for meaning. Without context, people were easily manipulated by politicians and special interest group. In other words, I wanted to portray modern culture as it is.

Now, in a political season, it is very clear how this works. Candidate (or often their segregates) make gut-level claim that often fall apart if one looks back even a few weeks in the past, their arguments fall apart. One reason that I love the Jon Steward show is because they juxtapose politician’s words with the most obvious of contradictions – something that the “real” news media pretending that they are unbiased fails to do. I believed that is people applied a rudimentary understanding of history, culture, civics, and science, most politicians would be blown off stage with the force of the audience’s contempt and laughter.

But I digress…

With FAILUR, I strained to put my characters in a world without context. It didn’t work. Early in the planning stages I built a political world for my characters that became integral to the plot and themes of the story. Even with this, the whole time I wrote the story, I wanted to make more connections with the real world.

One thing I am enjoying about writing “Lennon 45″ (the working title for my next novel or screenplay), is that it has a sense of context. I get to include politics, culture and technology from 1970 and before. My characters are affected (often indirectly) by the shootings at Kent State, Amazon Mythology, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, Operation Overlord (a.k.a. D-Day), the Philadelphia Experiment, the Bohemian Club, over-sized punch card computers, and good old vinyl records. I doubt that I will be praised for my exhaustive research or ultra-realistic setting, but it is making the writing more fun.

A Break from the BIG Story

I’m feeling rushed. This is nothing new. I always feel rushed.

I promised myself that I would write something here once a week. It was my way to keep myself in balance. Otherwise I become too anxious about the BIG STORY. I want it done now. I can never do enough on the BIG STORY until it is done. In my heart I still chase the BIG dream of the BIG novel, that turns into a BIG film, and launches the BIG writing career.

I keep chasing the fantasy.

Doug, at work, keeps saying that the Internet is the future. He is looking at pod casts. I believe he is right. The internet, new media, is the way to go. It is still open enough that you can carve out a niche without being beholden to big dinosaur industries. I need to spend a little more time, looking into it, but I’m too busy chasing the BIG dream.

I don’t have a title yet for the new BIG story. I’ll tentatively call it Lennon 45. While I’m unhappy about the speed of progress (I’m never happy with the speed of progress), I’m pretty happy with the story so far. The “outline” will be about 25,000 words. I think to myself, that all I will have to do is to add 2 words for every word in the outline and I will have another novel. Of course this isn’t exactly true. I’m going to have to put an awful lot of characterization and style into those two words.

The new BIG story follow a young reporter in 1970, who gets into a mess of trouble when an ex-girlfriend – now a Weather Underground like radical – comes back into his life. It’s wrong place at the wrong time story consciously channeling Hitchcock’s North by Northwest and Three Days of the Condor, but with a light Science Fiction edge. I am having some problems with the B-story, which follow an FBI agent (I’m probably changing this to a Police Detective). The B-story is still a little too functional. Both the reporter and FBI agent/detective are archetypes from old movies and television, but their world will be much more subversive.

Well, I’ve better get back to it. I’ve only got a little time to work on the BIG story, before I’ve got to do something else.

Disembodied Days

Lately I’ve felt a little disembodied. This is partly a cost of writing, thumb of working out variations of scenes like a meddling god until they are right in my head. But I don’t think state is only a symptom of the writing. It’s also an effect of my job. I sit in my cube for hours floating in cyberspace. The monitor is my eyes, cialis the headset my ears. My hands are mouse and keyboard. I communicate by email. I meet with a global conference bridge with people in Casablanca, here Scotland, Malaysia, England, Panama, and China. We joke with each other about the position of the sun. It is morning here, afternoon there. They say good day; I say good night. My Tuesday winds down and as they begin Wednesday. We joke about how our shared sun comes and leave us, and I think we laugh in part because we know it is irrelevant to our work.

Almost no coworkers sit around me. I have some friends nearby, but most of my Texas coworkers work in another building across the street. Many of these coworkers don’t like me. I’m not saying this as some sort of dramatic self-loathing. Their dislike is not personal. They don’t like me for business reasons. It is a new global team, but many of them have worked together for a long time. I am an outsider, and I have been tasked with changing things they have done for years. I’m tipping their sacred cow. This situation will change. Nothing stays the same very long in my company. It’s been a hard year. People are scared or frustrated. But for now, it keeps the distance. And I work primarily through wires and signals.

No wonder I have a problem snacking too much at work. I get up from my desk, walk across the floor to the candy jar at a friend’s desk. It is a change to move, even a little. It is a change to taste something of the earth.

The cost of this is that I have trouble switching gears and getting out of my head. At work I got feedback that my presentations were too dry. I didn’t engage my audience. Sometimes in groups of friends I struggle to be there in mood and tone. At home I work to connect with my family. These are temporary struggles. They come and go. I have always been a little too mental. I know how to fight this fight. But I get torn with motivation. I know where I am most effective. I struggle with myself and with my circumstances.

Gear and Loafing in America

“I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed or buy anything sold or processed or repair anything sold, bought or processed as a career. I don’t want to do that.”
  – Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack), Say Anything

“You pretend to be more eccentric than you actually are because you fear you are an interchangeable cog.”
  – Douglas Coupland

I sold buttons with my roommates (Michael, Shannon, and MK) when I lived in Eugene, Oregon in semi-optional poverty. We’d scraped together $100 to mail order the button materials and we’d borrowed the button press from MK’s brother Charles, who sold tie-dye stuff at Dead concerts (which would make Charles feel entitled to steal from us later).

The button designs were mostly conventional: symbols (like ankhs, yin yang, and peace signs), quotes from Freud, Einstein, Gloria Steinem, and Marx, and political statements (Free Tibet!), smiley faces, and character (the Grinch and “Bill” from School House Rock). We came up with some original slogans and designs, like “Follow me, I’m Jesus” and “Fuck off! I’m Meditating.” Don't Be A Cog Button

I used Michael’s Apple to create the gears that now appear as the header of my website and newsletter for a button that said, “Don’t be a Cog.” This wasn’t just another slogan to me. At the time, this directive had resonance and urgency. I’d rejected the big industrial-commercial machine. I saw that civilization was a giant Ponzi scheme, borrowing from the environment and the poor to finance temporary gain. I wanted as little to do with it as possible. I was going to use my time doing something worthwhile, or at least something creative and fun. And if I couldn’t do either, I wanted to do as little as possible.

Yin Yang Fish I had mixed success at doing little. I was a part time shift supervisor at a skating rink in nearby Springfield. I got off early enough in the evenings that I could go to a bar or a night diner. There was no alarm clock. When I decided to get up, I would bicycle along the Willamette River, stopping to practice Tai Chi or to pick blackberries when they were in season. I often went hiking or hung out at Buffalo Gals (a coffee shop where I was known). And sometimes I wrote stories or worked on schemes with my roommates. Only frequent misery kept it from being perfect.

Despite the schemes, it was stagnant. I was restless and impatient. My roommates were my best friends, but we had lived together a little too long in a too too crowded apartment. Increasingly we all looked for ways out. I didn’t date and had sex even less. And my poverty was only partially voluntary. Unless someone wanted me to direct a short film, I had no marketable skills. I was at the end of my middle twenties, and I’d failed at (or turned my back on) my first two ambitions. I was running out of ideas.

Sunflower Botton In many ways, my life is better now. I’m married and I have a smart and silly five year old. I know many interesting people, some of which I can call friends. I have a fairly good job, a house, and I put money away for the future. Perhaps, I’m a wage slave, but I’m just as much a slave to my writing. I have less free time, I don’t know if I would have ever had the discipline to write a novel with my loose schedule I’d had in Oregon.

In most way things are much better now than they were when I created the gears artwork, but I am definitely a COG.

Most of my waking hours are spent in routine, work, chores, feeding. My job can be interesting, but it is all about saving money for a large multinational corporation. I may free time it is difficult not to want to crash by the TV or play a stupid game on the computer. I look for ways out of the machine. But I know that even if I become a successful novelist, it is no guarantee I will escape (it could, in fact pull me in deeper). Dead Smiley

Though long gone, that guy that created the gears artwork is my harshest and most interested critics. He wouldn’t necessarily been opposed to my job (to him all non-personal job were the same: janitors, offices temp, project manager, etc.) He would not approve of my working overtime (without time and a half!) He would have frowned when I took the job home with me or when I lost sleep over it. He would have expected me to spend more time with some political or community cause. Mostly, he would have hated that I ever allowed routine to make me forget what is important: Action! Creativity! Connection! He would have been pleased that I was trying to get my novel published, even if it took me forever.

I’m not sure if my former self would have approved of my life now. But then again, he didn’t know everything.

Gear Art

The intermediate art between the button and the header.

Air and Fire

About a week ago there was a fire at the KOOP Radio studio. It is the third fire the radio station had in two years. According to the news the first two fires were accidents. Authorities say that the latest fire was arson.

There was a time that I was down at KOOP (pronounced “co-op as in cooperative, viagra not as in chicken coop). the station two, unhealthy three, or four time a week. I did shows on the air occasionally. I was a volunteer coordinator. And sometimes I just hung out. I was there the first day the station broadcast. I helped the station move to its previous office in the old Cotton Exchange office on 5th Street. I owned the station. We all did.

It’s been several years since I’ve been part KOOP, but the story really brought it back to me. It wasn’t completely surprising to hear that there had been another fire. Nor was it that surprising to hear that it had been set on purpose. KOOP was always home to passionate artists and activists. The folks I knew were amazing musicians, performance artists, protestors, organizers, reporters, poets, dreamers, and arguers. There were a lot of verbal battles and endless tense meetings. I don’t mean to suggest that these arguments turn into arson, far from it. The arguments came from a lot of passionate people wanting to be heard. And as frustrating as these meeting were, we kept coming back for more.

The climate was also prefect for borderline personalities, would be dictators, and giant egos. There were always a few people who understand thoroughly that their opinion was that of truth and righteousness. It was axiomatic that anyone disagreeing with them meant you were corrupt, probably a fascist or FBI infiltrator.

KOOP is not mine anymore. I don’t know the people there now, but it would surprise me if it the people had changed that much. KOOP wasn’t just a radio station, it was a lifestyle.

Rhyme Commemorating My Son Pausing his DVD to Get a Kleenex

No shows while nose blows.

Red Planet and the Revolution

Remember, sales remember the Fifth of November, treat
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot, ask
I know of no reason
Why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot

Traditional Guy Fawkes Night Rhyme

Monday night Pam and I went to the launch party for Red Planet Audio Books. Toby, the president of the company is a neighbor of ours. It was Guy Fawkes Night , and Red Planet used the day to invoke a sense of revolution. “The traditional publishing model,” says their brochure, “is a big ol’ dinosaur, too old and slow and short-sighted to realize that the world has passed it by.” They provide audio book print-on-demand audio book services that allow independent authors to by-pass the conventional publishing industry.

From what I know of Toby, he spent some time receiving rejection letters from conventional media for his work. But he seems to have given up on rejection to do his own thing. He has his own radio theater company, the Violet Crown Radio Players, and does a weekly podcast, Chicken Fried Radio.

Red Planet’s view on publishing is not unique. Even at the agent and editor conference, which is heavily invested in the conventional publishing industry, people saw that it is in trouble. It is increasing run by a few mega corporations trying to produce “sure-things” with minimal OpEx (operating expenses), catering to a shrinking book buying market. With services like Red Planet or more conventional paper print-on-demand companies author can produce small runs and even single copies of their book at relatively affordable rates. With the Internet it is increasingly possible for authors to find their niche and find their audience. It is, however, difficult for all but the most marketing savvy or lucky writers to make money at it (if that is their goal).

As for myself, I have reasons for doing what I am doing right now (laziness, bestseller fantasies, ideas that I could make enough money to allow write full time, and hidden-agendas-that-I-haven’t-revealed-yet-but-which-should-be-apparent-if-you-think-about-it), but I like the DIY ethic, and I’m keeping an eye on the options.

The Man Who Would Be King

Last week New Mexico Governor and Democratic presidential hopeful Bill Richard came to my work to give a speech and answer questions. I brought pen and paper thinking that perhaps I could add a little live reporting of events of national interest. I didn’t feel waves of hostility toward him, buy as I often do with politicians. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very inspired either. He said a few good but vague things about health care, education, and freedom. He did the same joke about himself that I saw him do at one of the debate (“With Hillary you get experience. With Obama you get change. With me you get both.”) The high point was when someone asked him about the UFO that supposedly crashed in Roswell in the fifties (Richardson said that he had asked about them, but wasn’t sure that he’d been given the complete answer.) Mostly it was the usual bland catch phrase politics. It’s not really Richardson’s fault that the political discourse sucks so badly. Conventional wisdom demanded that Richardson not discuss any issue too deeply. And he did had to deal with some antagonists recycling talking points against what they supposed was his policy. Nevertheless he doesn’t get a lot of points from me for doing an average uninspired job.

What motivated me to write about Richardson was not his policies, but a joke he made. He said something very lame about doing a fund raiser in Arizona that night. When no one (including myself) recognized it was a joke, he informed us that he has in fact said it in jest. This got some laughs. He went on to say that when you’re at 13% you’ve got to take whatever you can get. This got a few more laughs and reminded me of his quixotic position. You have to appreciate a person, who spends a months talking to thousands of people, raising millions of dollars for a stated goal that he will fail to achieve.

Richardson has his own reasons for wanting to fail to become the president. Maybe it will increase hit position in the party or position him for a future election. Maybe it is just to satisfy his ego. Maybe it’s his way to try to influence national policy on education and healthcare. Whatever the reason cynical or idealistic that makes him run, you it is a pretty bold or desperate move to run for president to get what.

Run Bill Run. Run Ron. Run Dennis.

Maybe we should all run for president sometime, just to see what happens.

Surprised

Thanks to everyone who attended my surprise party a few months. Pam was very sneaky. I was very dense. Of course, recipe I almost ruined the whole thing with my cancer scare earlier in the day. I’d had an x-ray the day before. There was something suspicious on the x-ray that caused the nurse to send me across town for an MRI. Except it turned out that my x-ray was only suspicious because the nurse thought I had a history of cancer. The nurse’s misconception had apparently been caused by my mispronunciation of the cyst I had had in my leg (I said “lymphoma” when I should have said “l?-poma” – who knew?). This nearly screwed up Steve’s plan to distract me after work, try so that Pam could get the party set up and so that the guests could arrive. It all worked out (except for Steve who had to sit though the movie “300”), even with Ryan and Laura showing up at my door just before I did.