Category Archives: Stories

Workplace Etiquette: Noise Tolerance

037Noise tolerance is not my strong suit, which may actually be an understatement. I come by it honestly, in my family. Many a night I can recall being almost blissfully asleep, when my sister would suddenly awaken me by hissing my name or hitting me, sometimes with pillows, because the sound of my breathing was annoying her and keeping her from sleeping. (I have allergies.)

I’ve written before about my new cubicle neighbor, the one who’s on a job rotation. Well, ever since he became my neighbor, my limited noise tolerance has been pushed to the brink of breaking. Truth. For evidence I include below an excerpt of an actual instant message conversation I had with my sister:


That was in October of last year, around the time of the garbage saga, and suffice it to say, things haven’t gotten better. My workdays since then have been a long, seemingly unending loop of that scriiiiiiitch-scriiiiiitch-scriiiiiiiiitch noise that some mice’s scroll wheels make when used. It’s loud enough to be audible when I have headphones in and a decent, hearing-preserving volume set on my iPod.

But since I was told by multiple other coworkers that I really couldn’t say anything to the new guy without being unforgivably rude, I bore up in the face of this adversity and persevered. There are countless annoying habits I have, I would tell myself; I don’t like it when people use my garbage, for one, and I type with feeling. But there’s just something about that scriiiiiiiiitching noise that makes me want to run screaming through the hallways, you know?

Once I had even plotted with another coworker about secretly replacing the mouse when the new coworker was away from his desk, only to discover that he was using a model that was non-standard for our company and would clearly notice the difference.

And then today happened.

Today during lunch, my boss, who sits several cubicles away from myself and my new coworker, suddenly said, “That’s it!” and walked out to address us. To my newish coworker, he said, “I am getting you a new mouse this weekend.”

Whereupon I kind of lost it and may have said, “I’m so glad someone said something” while choking back tears of relief*.

* This is an exaggeration intended to heighten the comedic impact of this story. But I really did say that.


A Big Year for Birthdays

It’s a big year for birthdays (birthdays-slash-anniversaries), everyone. This year, my blog turns two (today, in fact — happy birthday, blog!), I will be turning twenty-nine (again), and we mark the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice.

Image via Jane Austen's Regency World

Image via Jane Austen’s Regency World

It will probably come as a surprise to only a few readers that I subscribe to Jane Austen’s Regency World, the official magazine of the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England. The January/February issue is almost entirely devoted to Pride and Prejudice, and all sorts of other enormously interesting information, including the identity of the person of who won the auction for Jane Austen’s ring, Kelly Clarkson.

I must confess, I was a little surprised that it was Kelly Clarkson and not a mysterious-and-totally-imaginary secret admirer of mine who converses like Henry Tilney, believes that I could be “the Jane Austen of the Pacific Northwest”, and was saving the ring up as a special surprise present for my 30th (ahem, second 29th!) birthday…but I digress. It turns out a replica of that ring is totally the way to go (major hinting going on, for any mysterious secret admirers) because the United Kingdom declared the ring a national treasure, so Kelly Clarkson can never take it out of the UK.

But enough silliness. The main reason I’m writing tonight is regarding an article in this issue of JARW called “Choose Your Darcy”. That’s right. Amy Patterson, the author of the article, with whom I would very much like to take a turn about the room as well as tea, compares all the different actors who’ve played Mr. Darcy on the silver screen, and, most importantly, comes up with the right answer for who did so best.

Her favorite (and mine)? David Rintoul. Mr. Rintoul plays Mr. Darcy in a so-faithful-to-the-book-you-can-practically-read-along version of Pride and Prejudice that first aired in 1979. I realize I will be alienating many of my friends and probably 90 percent of the internet by not choosing Colin Firth, and my sister by not choosing Matthew MacFadyen, but as far as choosing a Mr. Darcy that most faithfully represents the Mr. Darcy of Jane Austen’s book and of my imagination, I too have to go with David Rintoul.

The 1979 version is not pretty. The costumes seemed quite wretched. But what can I say? Give me a version I can almost read along with and I’m happy, even if Elizabeth is really prettier than Jane. Also, it’s only four hours, instead of a whopping six, largely because it doesn’t insert scenes that Austen never wrote of Darcy emerging wet-shirted from the lake in front of Pemberley, and used only one or two scenes of Elizabeth walking to communicate her fondness of that activity.

Matthew MacFadyen’s portrayal (circa 2005) is…darned sexy. The best that one can say of that 2005 version is to remark on Matthew MacFadyen’s sexiness, and the fact that it’s one movie long. A faithful representation of the book, it is not (“My pearl for Sundays?” – heaven, give me strength!). Occasionally my sister and I watch the movie together-in-time, if not location, and madly text each other – because this is arguably the most romantic of the versions…and Matthew MacFadyen…and it can be watched in two hours or less, especially if you fast forward liberally, like we sometimes do.

We weren't quite at the same part of the movie here. Nonetheless, enthusiastic.

We weren’t quite at the same part of the movie here. Nonetheless, enthusiastic.

Cut from the image above was my saying something along the lines of “Dang. Matthew MacFadyen.” We aren’t always totally frivolous, either; here you find us actually discussing the story itself:

In between swoons, we discuss authorial decision making.

In between swoons, we discuss authorial decision making.

I just can’t give “best Darcy” to Colin Firth, because, much as I respect Mr. Firth as an actor and like his looks, he just wasn’t the Darcy of the book; he brought too much of the stock “awkward Englishman” to the role. Ms. Patterson says it best in her article in JARW: “David Rintoul, my Mr Darcy, gets closer than any other to capturing the essence of this wonderful, complicated, shy, angry and passionate hero.”

I’ll step down off my soapbox now. Which actor’s portrayal of Mr. Darcy is your favorite?

I Should Have Been A Journalist

I should have been a journalist. Because after watching this weekend’s football (and the U.S. premiere of season three of Downton Abbey), there is one interview I’d very much like to conduct.

“Who might that be? And why are you talking about football, a subject about which you know so little and so far afield from the purported purpose of your blog?” you might be thinking. And these are all good questions. While I confess to knowing only a little about the game of football, I’ve kind of learned to enjoy watching it. It’s given me something to talk about at work, where few and far between are the people who have any interest whatsoever in books and reading.

The number one person I would like to interview in the world of football? Aaron Rodgers, quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. He comes across as being very humble, which I really appreciate in any person, and we’re roughly the same age. And then he sometimes wears what looks like a turtleneck under his jersey when he’s playing in the cold, and I think it’s kind of adorable.

So without further ado, and entirely the product of this weekend’s television consumption and of conversations with my sister (I did read a book, too – stayed up far too late finishing it in the wee small hours of Sunday morning), my three questions for Aaron Rodgers:

  • Are you familiar with the public television phenomenon Downton Abbey?
  • Has anyone ever told you that there is a striking resemblance between yourself and Dan Stevens, who plays Matthew Crawley on Downton Abbey? Because it’s almost like he could play you in the movie version of your life.
Kind courtesy E. Buchanan

Kind courtesy E. Buchanan

  • Is that really a turtleneck you wear under your jersey when it’s cold outside? Maybe more of a mock-turtleneck?

And then, because I’m not actually a journalist, and because I probably couldn’t speak to anyone famous without blushing, and because I would never presume to talk about football like I actually know about football with a professional like Aaron Rodgers, I would want to hand the interview over to a real sports journalist, like Bob Costas, before I could really embarrass myself. If I hadn’t already.

Post-Holiday Updates and a Brand New Year

Petits fours: Round 1.

Petits fours: Round 1.

You guys! I totally cooked Christmas dinner!! And by “totally cooked Christmas dinner”, I mean that I sat back, sometimes stirred potatoes, opened the windows to air out the smell of the delicious-but-odoriferous balsamic reduction, and ate many of the petits fours that my grandmother brought over before dinner, while my sister, my brother in law, and my dad cooked like the superstars they are.

I feel compelled to note that my real contribution to Christmas Day feasting was breakfast. That’s right, I made coffee for everyone. Second coffee, that is, since everyone made their first cups themselves.

Also I made the Barefoot Contessa’s apple turnovers, mostly myself, which, well, it’s kind of a big deal.

You might remember that my mom had some surgery in December? Which led to some apprehension on my part about my sister and I cooking Christmas dinner together, since she doubts my abilities, and despite the possible wisdom of her doubt, that never fails to irritate me? Well, all that worrying was for naught, because they left me absolutely nothing to do but eat! And clean up. I wasn’t going to mention it, but…

I hope each of you had wonderful holidays with your loved ones.

I love giving presents (I love receiving them too) and this year, the present I was most excited to give were booklists for everyone in my family. I put my librarian skills to work on them all year, building a list of possibilities for everyone, and then choosing the twelve books that I thought were most likely to succeed in pleasing the recipient, making it into a little “book of the month club” booklet. Pictures would be included, but…*

For everyone except my brother in law, I had far more than twelve books to choose from, but my brother-in-law reads mostly nonfiction. And often (so I understand) non-narrative nonfiction…and not books of essays, either. I’m all about the narratives, personally, and our war interests don’t even coincide: while I went through a deeply earnest World War II obsession in my early teens that lingers today, my brother in law (so I understand) is interested in the Civil War. So I ended up having to stretch his recommendations to make twelve months. Thankfully two of the books on his list were super long, so I figured it’s possible that they will take two months each to read. It still kind of feels like a cop-out though.

But that does bring me around to my 2013 reading resolutions. (I use the word “resolution” loosely.) In no particular order, they are:


  • Read at least one nonfiction book. I give myself a pass on the non-narrative portion, but ideally one I think my brother in law would read and enjoy.
  • Middlemarch. I will finish it or give up entirely before I turn 30, so help me!
  • See if we can’t get a long-distance book club off the ground in 2013 (this means you, E and M!).
  • And, after reading this article in The Guardian online, read at least one book in 2013 that was translated from a language other than English.

What about you? Did you make any reading resolutions for 2013?

* As the girl who left all her Christmas crafting to the last possible moment, pictures didn’t happen before the booklists were slid into stockings. And frankly, my blog resolution for 2013 is not to hold up posts for more than a day because of a lack of pertinent photographs, since my thankless family hasn’t responded to my plea for photographs with actual photographs. Perhaps they’ve thrown the booklists away and just don’t want me to know.

November, or Where I’ve Been

November. It has not been a good month for blogging.

I wish I could tell you that instead of blogging, I was embracing NaNoWriMo, and started writing a novel at last, but this would be untrue.

What’s true is that November kind of gets me down. The beginning of November marks the end of Daylight Savings Time, and as ready as I felt myself to be for the “brighter” mornings, the early darkness of the evenings has sapped my energy far more than I ever expect it to or remember it will. Between that, a whirlwind weekend trip to visit my newly-married friend in her new far-Canadian home, looking for and applying to library jobs, and the Thanksgiving holiday, I fear I have sadly neglected my little blog.

Maybe one reason November is so disheartening is that it’s basically the beginning of winter, here in the Pacific Northwest, anyway. The chill of mountain snow touches the wind, and what with the limited daylight and the dropping temperatures, it seems like the only thing left in life is to break out the fleeces, burrow under blankets, read a pile of books, and eat. Which is largely what I’ve done this month.

Perhaps the biggest news around here is that due to some surgery my mother is having in December, my sister and I will be cooking Christmas dinner. Together.

My sister doesn’t hold much stock in my culinary ability. When she got married, she did a dessert bar instead of a wedding cake, and my contribution to the dessert bar was my grandmother’s famous cookies, which are on the fussier end of the cookie-baking spectrum. Discussing this beforehand, her comment to me was, “Are you sure you don’t want someone else to maybe do them for you?” (And this was before I wrote the recipe down wrong and completely botched the first batch.) Some might call her lack of faith in me justified by my failure to make cooking a priority throughout the majority of my 20s. I’m really trying to be better about cooking, but in the dark that has been November, the ease of tomato soup and cheese sandwiches often won the battle.

However, which I feel to some extent cancels the lack of imagination in my November dinners, I did use “artisan” bread* for the cheese sandwiches. I’m a big fan of artisan bread (because if you’re going to eat bread, it might as well be good bread, right)? The only drawback to artisan bread is that mostly you have to slice it yourself, and sometimes, when you’re very hungry and having a clumsy day, you find yourself accidentally slicing your fingers along with the bread. Although this is certainly not the first time I’ve cut myself with my very sharp bread knife, this is the worst so far.

(Since I cut my left thumb, which isn’t even the thumb I use to hit space bar, the cut can’t really even contribute to my failure to blog for the most of the month, sadly. Somehow the lack of blog posts would feel more legitimate with an excuse like “I cut off the top of my thumb! But not all the way!”)

Further cancelling the tomato-soup-cheese-sandwich-extravaganza-also-known-as-November, I bought two cookbooks this month, both of them by food bloggers. However much I may lose heart when I catch sight of a long list of complicated instructions, I really do enjoy reading about cooking and food. Hopes are high, in any case, that these will inspire some culinary creativity in the face of early dark and cold. Personally I think we really need to try out a Smitten Kitchen recipe for Christmas, like the apple cider caramels.

* Technically, the artisan bread was store-bought. Which may negate its cancelling effect, in the end.