Thursday, November 30, 2006

Everybody Posts Their Resume, Right?

I went to a temp agency today because, well, we just moved and I need a little Christmas money and it seemed better than a job at the mall. I had to have a resume. So I dug up an old one and updated it.

The guy who is going to find me a job seemed to find it a little different than the resumes he usually sees. I think it might have been entries like this:

Shijiazhuang Teacher's College - Shijiazhuang, People's Republic of China 1988 - 1989

Foreign Expert
  • Taught Composition and Literature to Fourth Year students of English, and British and American Culture and History to Third Year students.
  • Oversaw graduate thesis, taught graduate course in Marxist and Feminist analysis.
  • Coached Intramural volleyball team.
Anyway, he was much happier when I explained that I was happy to do the usual stuff--answer phones, file. He had some fun ideas for other possibilities, now that he knows I'm just looking for something to do to make a little Christmas money.

I temped for years and years, first in New York, then in Ohio. It was kind of strange to be back in a temp agency. There's more paperwork than there used to be. I filled out forms on-line yesterday, then I went to the temp agency and filled out forms for another half and hour. Then I watched a video on putting my best face forward, workplace safety and how to fill out a time card. The reception area of the agency was busy. Four or five temp applicants, all dressed in what we thought of as appropriate temp wear. All relentlessly upbeat and energetic, and all hiding our nervousness with varying degrees of success. The agency people were busy, answering phones, dealing with pay check issues ('I'm sorry, we sent it out in the mail, yesterday. I know, I know, I'm sorry. I tell you what, we'll put a stop on the check and cut you another one and you can pick it up this afternoon?') Temps hand in time cards by Monday and get paid the following Friday.

I was a regular in places like this. I temped from a place in mid-town New York where if I didn't have a gig, I would go in on Mondays and sit from 8:00a.m. to 10:00a.m., available for a call from a company that needed a temp right now. I was always sent out. Back in those days I was the girl you could send. Expectations for temps are not particularly high, and I learned fast when I was younger. Give me a manual on a program like Word Perfect or Excel and I could churn out docs. Show me a little simple bookkeeping and I could do it. Data entry on someone's weird in-house data entry system, I could do that, too.

At one point I spent months as a bank's mortgage loan customer service. If you had a problem with your mortgage, you called--a temp. Not that people knew they were talking to a temp. I learned a lot about mortgages. The bank eventually closed. (It probably isn't a good strategy to use temps for customer service.)

So I'll update if I get any interesting work.

Life in the New House

(Photo: Adam Yeager, 2006)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Writing gig in 2007

I'm teaching at Writing By the Lake in Madison, WI again next year.

June 18-22, 2007
Monday through Friday
Enroll by calling 608-262-7942, Program #7108

It's a great place to teach. Maybe, in its way, as cool as Seattle, but that may only be because I was teaching in Seattle during a heat wave.

Last year at Write By the Lake, I taught Fantasy and SF. I held office hours outdoors by the lake (beer was optional) and the whole class went to lunch together at one of the nifty restaurants near University of Wisconsin at Madison. It was great.

This year I'm teaching plot. That's a little scary, but there you are.

My entry in the brochure:

9. THINGS GET WORSE: Plotting in Fiction

Plot can be described as character in situation. Or it can be described as “the events.” Or maybe it’s really impossible to separate plot from story. But here’s the deal, we’ll explore a number of different ways to address plot, and a number of different kinds of plot.

We’ll do exercises to generate plot. We’ll talk about plot as a journey, or plot as a stranger comes to town. We’ll give our characters a situation to deal with, and then we’ll have things get worse. We’ll deal with plot that drives the story, and plot that arises out of the character’s own psychology, and all the permutations we can think of. And we’ll write. And of course, plot.

Come prepared to write and to share your writing with your fellow students. We meet as fellow writers, some with a lot of experience, some with a little experience. We meet as fellow readers, as well. This is a peer workshop where we will share our strengths and our knowledge as readers and writers.

Maureen McHugh writes novels and short stories. Her latest collection, Mothers & Other Monsters, was a finalist for the Story Prize in 2005. She has recently moved, with her husband and two dogs, to Austin, Texas, where she is learning to say, “Hook ’em Horns,” although she isn't sure what that means.

“Clear and insightful teacher who is generous with her time, and positive. Would love to take something else from Maureen.”

Contact: coordinator Christine DeSmet, (608) 262-3447; email:

Alias Cake

Found this on Beth Long's site and couldn't resist.

Maureen F McHugh's Aliases

Your movie star name: Cake Thomas

Your fashion designer name is Maureen Firenza

Your socialite name is Muscles Austin

Your fly girl / guy name is M McH

Your detective name is Dog Loveland

Your barfly name is Oreos Bourbon

Your soap opera name is F West Loveland

Your rock star name is Baby Ruth Cheetah

Your Star Wars name is Mausmi McHmik

Your punk rock band name is The Thoughtful Ammonite

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Kitchen and Party

We had a party last night and before long, everyone was gathered in the kitchen, which, I think, is always a good thing.

Adam took pictures of food. The tray of amuse bouche are based on a Thomas Keller recipe from his cookbook The French Laundry. The cookbook is named after his restaurant. Thomas Keller may be the best chef in the country and even if I could get the ingredients he uses, I don't think I have the skill to cook a lot of his stuff. But this one is simple. Keller was thinking about a cheese course, and he thought that since Brie is a double cream cheese, it could be whipped like whip cream. And it can. Just cut the rind off and put it in a mixer. This is why he is perhaps the premier chef in the United States. I mean, who thinks this way? But the result is whipped Brie, which he serves on a syrup of reduced balsamic vinegar. So I did, too. Only I put mine on toast. They are incredibly good.

I think that it's fun to have, in addition to food that I'm reasonably sure everyone will love, a dish that I'm reasonably sure no one has ever eaten. Last night I made a recipe from Mario Batali's book The Babbo Cookbook. It's a smoked fish 'carpaccio'. Essentially, smoked fish (he uses sable but says salmon or trout will also work--I've never even seen sable, so I used alternating slices of salmon and trout) with a salad of grapefruit and oranges in olive oil and lime juice.

It was the dish I was uncertain anyone would like, and a number of people liked it a great deal. So now I've cooked Thanksgiving and thrown a party in the new kitchen, and it's slowly starting to feel like ours.

Friday, November 24, 2006

My New Office

In our Austin house we have a living room and a family room and I've found we've never actually used the living room. So with Bob's permission, in this house, I took the living room as my office. I am standing at the front door to take this photo. The good news is I've never ever dreamed that I would have an office this wonderful. The bad news is that everyone has to walk through it to the rest of the house, so I'm going to have to keep it neat.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Adam at the Salvation Army

We were shopping.

Signs Around Austin

Liquor, computers, guns & well dressed dogs.

Monday, November 20, 2006

People Love Boxes

I posted on Craig's List Austin that I had free moving boxes to give away. Wow. I might as well have posted I was giving away money. Turns out that boxes are a powerfully rare commodity. At least free ones.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Welcome to Texas

Adam came in from Rochester last night, and as we were driving to the airport to pick him up, we were rear-ended. It was just like the commercial, one minute you're talking about something, then the big jolt and there you are, in the middle of a car accident. A fender bender in this case, and no one was even mildly injured. Not even sore muscles the next day. We had transferred our auto insurance to Texas. But we live in one of those neighborhoods where the mailboxes are in clusters and everyone has a key to their own mailbox. Tuesday, I called the post office and applied for a key. Three days later we went with proof of purchase of our house (you have to have that or a lease agreement) and they had no record of our applying for a key. And our proof of insurance and policy number and all that stuff is in the mailbox we can't actually open.

Officer Cruz was very understanding. My first experience with Austin PD was very positive. And Adam's plane was late so we were there when he got to baggage claim. As things go it was pretty painless, although Bob's beloved WRX has a nasty mangled bumper. And Bob loves his little WRX, so this is sad, although thanks to the wonders of insurance this should be temporary.

The guy who bumped us was...odd. When we pulled over, he pulled over on the other side of the road and never looked at us or asked if we were all right. Bob ran across the road and asked him if he was all right and he said yes. And that was it. For the next twenty minutes he ignored us. The police talked to him, and they talked to us. They had him fill out a form and had us fill out a form. Then they brought us his form and took ours over to him. Of course, if I'd hit someone's car, I'd be mortified, but that, I realize, is not everyone's reaction. Or maybe it was his. Maybe he was so completely mortified he couldn't speak to us.

We are almost completely unpacked. I'm down to less than a dozen boxes. This means I'll be able to start writing again, now in my new, pretty office.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


We're here! We've got no furniture, and the dogs kind of want to go home, but we're here! I'm actually surfing off a neighbor's internet connection and won't have a real connection until Monday. I can only get this one by sitting on the backyard deck. The photo of the deck above is actually from August but the deck still looks pretty much the same. Except now it's getting dark and chilly.

The furniture comes on either Tuesday or Wednesday.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Dog is My Co-Pilot

Well, actually, Shelly is Bob's co-pilot. Smith was in my backseat. We stopped last night in Sikeston Missouri, site of Lambert's Home of the Throwed Roll. You can look it up. (Evidently, there are several Lambert's Cafes. We did not eat at any of them because they don't allow dogs.)

Bob is pictured here doing serious car things in scenic Sikeston. There was a Piggly-Wiggly and a Liquor Store/gas station. I think we might not have been at the best end of Sikeston.

Tonight we are in Garland Texas, a part of the Dallas/Ft. Worth sprawl. It is not as scenic.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Labrynth of Mortgage

We're now going through a little bit of stuff getting ready for the closing on the Ohio house. The Buyer's mortgage company just e-mailed me with a copy of a child support lien for someone with the same name as Bob asking for confirmation that it's not Bob. It's not Bob, who does not have a secret other life in Akron and child support payments (if he does have a secret other life in Akron he's developed some technology for splitting himself in two.)

But what a great story idea. There you are, all set up to move, when an unexpected document surfaces proving that you/your spouse has a whole other secret life and child. There you are, surrounded by boxes and on your way to a new chapter. Just perhaps not the chapter you expected.

Monday, November 06, 2006

First of all, another house picture. This one of the window seat in the master bedroom. Why is there a big black thing like an ottoman sitting in our new window seat? I don't know. To quote an old Latin phrase, Ita erat quando hic adveni.* But other than the big black thing, which did not hide damage or anything, it's a nifty window seat that looks out on the back yard.

But that's not what this post is about. This post is about the movie Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Bob wants to see it. It seems like a really funny movie. But the trailer makes me squirm. The trailer suggests that the movie will make me feel constantly embarrassed. Not for Borat, who goes to a rodeo and announces to the crowd that he totally supports 'your war of terror.' Sacha Baron Cohen knows what he's doing. And the applause that greets his statement is both funny, and something that totally confirms my understanding of people.

And yet, aren't they giving him the benefit of the doubt? As far as the audience of the rodeo knows, he's a foreigner who speaks English badly and doesn't understand that some of us don't think it's a war of terror, but a war on terror. (Others of us actually rather agree with Borat that somewhere in the process of this conflict, we slipped a preposition.) And aren't we laughing at them for that? For their goodwill? I know, I know, we're laughing at their stupidity and the way that the language deftly lays visible the contradiction of the situation. I mean, it's brilliant. I really hope Bob sees it. But...I don't know if I really want to be the one who goes with him.

So I plan to send Adam with him.

*'It was like that when I found it.' For other useful Latin phrases like, 'I'm not interested in your dopey religious cult,' check out Handy Latin Phrases.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Leaving Austin

World Fantasy is over, and now we have to go back to Ohio so we can move to Austin. Of course, it feels rather perverse to leave Austin to move to Austin, especially since Bob and I are both in that after convention fugue state of extreme tiredness. On the other hand, it's so exciting. And we'll be back by the end of the week, this time for good. I'm certain that in just a couple of weeks I will be able to drive down the road without noticing every FOR SALE sign on the street. In other words, I am moving out of the head space entitled 'Real Estate' and into some other headspace, which will probably be 'Where is the drug store?' Or grocery, or dentist, or hardware store or any other place you can think of.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Closing on the House Today

Today we close on a house and then I do a panel at World Fantasy. The panel is on gaming, specifically on MMORPGs and why the most successful MMORPGs tend to be fantasy based rather than science fiction based.

It's very strange to be on this panel. Two years ago I didn't even know what an MMORPG was (and I still don't play them because I'm afraid I would get addicted. For those people who are like me, MMORPGs are Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games, of which World of Warcraft is probably the 800 pound gorilla of the genre.) World of Warcraft is a role playing game with clear roots in D&D.

I have some things to say about why the most successful MMORPGs have been fantasy based rather than science fiction based (there have been sf based MMORPGs) but I don't really know very much about the whole field. I suspect I have been put on the panel because I freelance in the gaming industry. But I am an expert in a very narrow aspect of gaming--narrative structure in ARGs. And I'm an expert in that only because there are only a dozen or so people who have ever written for ARGs and most people probably haven't even heard of ARGs.

I intend to instantly expose myself as the fraud I am. For one thing, I suspect my powers of concentration will be shot.

Did I mention that in a few hours we're closing on the house in Texas?