Rogue Ink

August 22, 2008

About Freelancing and Caffeine: Italians Know What’s Up

Filed under: Writing — Tei @ 4:47 am
Tags: , ,

As I write this, I am cruising the wave of a triple espresso. For those of you who have never experienced this, it is basically like having a Def Leppard guitar riff directing the normally mellow tunes of your synapses. The reason I had the triple espresso is because I want to get some work done tonight, and the Italians taught me how to drink un caffè. Let us explore the virtues of espresso, because every freelancer occasionally feels the need to stay up way past a normal bedtime and crank out a few thousand words of copy.

Espresso vs. Coffee.

Here’s the difference. Espresso works. Coffee doesn’t. Allow me to expand upon that statement.

Espresso is more or less super-distilled coffee. To make coffee, you pour a lot of water through coffee grounds and that process gets the flavor of the ground-up coffee beans into the water. That’s all well and good, but espresso is when you cram as much of the coffee flavor as possible into a very, very tiny amount of water. It is the difference between a Hershey bar and a triple-cacao truffle.

Taking that metaphor and running with it like we do, you know how you could eat about five Snickers bars, not quite getting the chocolatey fix you were hoping for because the chocolate drug is spaced out too much to hit the Happy Center of your brain? Whereas if you eat the triple-cacao truffle, your eyes suddenly dilate and you begin rocking to the euphoric strains of a Swedish electronica band in your head while you start seeing the sounds manifest as colors in front of you? That is the difference between coffee and espresso.

How To Drink Espresso

I lived in Rome for a couple months in college, and I learned a few things about espresso.

First of all, never order a cappuccino unless it’s morning. Italians will mock you roundly. Milk is only for breakfast. Apparently, it is as if you are a baby in the morning and you are expected to be a full-grown man by the end of the day. Milk in the morning, strong espresso at night. If you drink milk at night, it’s basically like saying you didn’t grow up that day, you baby. Very emasculating, even if you happen to be the sort of man who has ovaries.

Secondly, if you’re in Italy, you can just order un caffe, and they will bring you espresso. Water is also for babies, and coffee, as we have established, is water and espresso. If you’re in the U.S., order a double shot. Single shots are for wussies. If you are completely insane like me, order a triple shot. You’ll be catatonic, but it’ll be worth it.

Thirdly, sugar is fantastic and should be used liberally. Apparently, though water and milk are for babies, sugar is for manly men. Everyone I saw doctoring their drink in Italy put TONS of sugar in their espresso. The ratio is about one part sugar to two parts espresso. Not an exaggeration. The level of drink in the cup should rise noticeably. Now you are hopped up on espresso drug and sugar drug. Win-win.

Fourthly, drink it fast. Espresso does not get tastier as it cools by a long shot. It has a very short period of time in which it is worth drinking, and that is about thirty seconds after you’ve stirred in your sugar. Toss it back like a shot. Espresso cools fast – you won’t burn yourself. You may put yourself into a coma, but you will not burn yourself. Take comfort in that fact.

Fifthly, and I did not learn this trick from the Italians, get thyself a lemon wedge. Remember how I just said that espresso has a short lifespan of deliciousness? You can actually taste that lifespan dwindling IN YOUR MOUTH unless you get a lemon wedge and eliminate it before it can go stale on you. If you don’t get some other flavor going on the tongue, you will quite literally TASTE the espresso DIE in your MOUTH. I hardly feel this needs saying, but that is bad for you and your taste buds, as well as your espresso-compromised sanity.

What To Do With an Espresso High

Quickly turn your attention to whatever you need your focus to be on for the next few hours. For some reason, espresso has the amazing ability to make you focus very, very hard on one single thing, but you cannot shift what that single thing is midway through your espresso high. So if you down a triple shot and get distracted by a window display of fresh fruit, I am sorry to say that your mind will be incredibly fixated on cantaloupes for the next few hours. Which is fine if you have some sort of philosophy about the cantaloupe that must be examined, but not cool if you intended to use those hours to write about, let’s say, media relations. Or monkeys. Or whatever.

So focus immediately on whatever it is you wanted to be focused on. Trust me, you will not be able to tear yourself away. Choose wisely.

Drink a TON of water. Otherwise your brain will fry and you will get jittery and twitchy and your mind will explode from the sheer force of wanting to express the culmination of its deep contemplation but your fingers will be too twitchy to write it down and you will go insane. That is all I have to say about that.

Write like a fiend. Your head will be going way faster than your hand, so I highly recommend a computer over freehand unless you have a shorthand that is actually legible. I personally do not, and I have nearly gone insane trying to keep up with my thoughts on paper. Computers, baby. Wave of the future.

If at all possible, come down from your espresso high before you turn in the assignment. Now, I’m aware that if you need the espresso late at night, you’re probably on a deadline and don’t have time to wait to turn it in. I get that. But if you can, you should, because often the espresso high makes you unaware of silly editorial mistakes like using the same verb three times in one paragraph. If you can’t wait, find a buddy with reasonable taste in prose and have them cast a weather eye over your work. Make sure they are wary of word-association substitutions. For some reason these happen a lot with espresso. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said ‘spatula’ when I meant ‘marketing associate’. Always embarrassing.

Coming Down

For me, only time will do it. I have friends who swear a good shot of whiskey’ll bring you down, but this only gives my brain a split personality. It is no fun when the whiskey side and the espresso side start having a debate about whether the brain is sleepy or super-awake. The whiskey side will put its head down on the table and the espresso side will basically bounce up and down and poke the whiskey side with a finger, all the while saying, “Let’s play let’s play let’s play don’t sleep let’s play” like a puppy on cocaine.

Time, tons of water, and the works of Karl Marx. This is my recommendation. Or you can just stay up all night and Tweet the goings-on of the wee hours. Also amusing. Last night, three college kids were chatting under my window. Which is, it should be mentioned, pretty far along the side of my house. Apparently the college kids were moseying along the street and thought, hey, the best place to hang out and chat is totally way onto this house’s property, under a window. Sidewalks and public parks (of which there are no less than four within two blocks of my place) are for losers.

Tweet: “Chased college kids out from under bedroom window by wielding swords in underwear and chanting The Second Coming. Feeling victorious.”

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August 20, 2008

12 Reasons Why Having Home Wireless is Better than an Internet Cafe

Filed under: Writing — Tei @ 3:44 am

I have the internets at home! Many delightful things have come of this transition from internet cafe to my desk, and I am here to tell you all about them. In list format! Hurrah!

1. You get to name it something fantastic and inside-joke funny.

Mine is ‘The Awesome House’. This is because I have a couple staying on my couch right now. They’re friends of mine, lovely people, delightful housemates. The XY half of this couple is having the time of his life because he gets to live with two beautiful women who cook, sing songs over the dinner dishes, and ask him to perform manly tasks like so: “Nate, honey, would you perform a manly task?” A friend of all of ours came by to watch House M.D. with us one evening and found Nate lounging on the fold-out bed between two lovely women in front of the movie, drinking a hot toddy and eating ice cream. This friend halted in the doorway, mouth open, shook his head, looked over at Nate, and with wonder in his voice said, “Dude. You live in an Awesome House.”

2. You get to PASSWORD it something fantastic and inside-joke funny.

Since I sincerely doubt anyone’s going to figure out where I live from this blog, I shall tell you denizens that it is ‘Murphy’s Law’. This seemed absolutely hilarious until the Comcast guy promptly fell prey to that very law and took about three hours trying to figure out how to re-install Windows’ wireless system. My apologies to the Comcast guy. Is it my fault that Murphy’s Law is simultaneously a fantastic inside joke, the general chord of my life, and a blasted curse all in one?

3. Multitasking with phones and nets.

When you’re on the phone with a client and they reference something you don’t know about, you can Google it and acquire this knowledge stealthily without their realizing that you were, until five minutes ago, utterly ignorant. Before you ask, yes, of course I did this when I didn’t have internet at home, but I usually do phone calls when I am at home so as not to disrupt library patrons or inflict the poor client with the eclectic musical tastes of the baristas at my favorite cafe. So now I am smart AND hearing-friendly. Twofer!

4. IM.

I loves me the instant messenger. When you are working, there is sometimes nothing better than being able to ping a buddy in your same circumstances and say ‘Dude! I’m working!’ or something equally inane, and take a little fifteen-minute break to chat about nothing at all. See: yesterday’s conversation. Wireless at home is like water-cooler chat. Without the water-cooler, sadly. But also without those little paper cups coated in wax that make everything taste like dead plastic. Comes out even, I think. Ooh! And WITH emoticons! I cannot decide if that is a plus or a minus. You vote.

5. My desk.

You get attached to your desk. Not literally, that would be weird and kind of kinky, like Maggie Gyllenhaal in Secretary. But you have certain things on your desk for a reason, and that reason is to make working more fun. My desk has this stuff on and around it: Uniball micro point green pens, the Chicago Manual of Style (oh, alma mater, you done so good), other style-and-writing books, a giant window, chocolate covered cherries, a houseplant of such spooling territory that it is threatening to take over the world a la Little Shop of Horrors, Pablo Picasso’s Don Quixote, a couch upon which to lounge when the desk becomes too capitalistic (SCREW the MAN!) and the white board that tells me how much money I owe various people like Sallie Mae. I don’t actually LIKE that last one, per se, but it does remind me why I’m at the desk in the first place.

6. The hourglass.

The hourglass gets its own category for locational necessity. I simply cannot say it enough: my hourglass and I should never be parted. It makes me feel that I must accomplish things NOW, that I must perform with grace and aplomb and great speed. There is a romance about an hourglass that simply does not exist in the digital clock. And when I did not have the wireless at home, every time my work involved being online, my hourglass and I were bereft of each other, because carrying the hourglass to the cafe would have been dangerous for the hourglass, although delightfully intriguing for the patrons of the cafe. Much weeping ensued every time I wanted the hourglass. There was actual condensation forming in the glass. Though I suspect this may have more to do with sudden rain showers and forgetting to close windows while gone.

7. Being able to close windows when it begins to rain without leaving work for a full half hour to walk home and back to the cafe, knowing the futility because seriously, by the time I get home everything is going to be wet anyway, but if I don’t go you know that it’ll just rain harder and get even wetter and that would be bad, but if I DO go then Murphy’s Law will make it stop raining just as I get home and I’ll feel pointless and impotent and wet. Damn you Murphy’s Law!

8. Email.

You do not realize what a blessing email is at home until you are without it. Suddenly everything you need to know is in your email. Where do you meet your friend, and at what time, and are you supposed to bring salad? It’s in the email. Did that client get back to you? In the email. What type of blood do you need for the transfusion without which you will die in FIVE MINUTES? In the email. And the signal from your neighbor’s is too weak. You’re going to die.

9. Bill paying.

You know how you don’t pay your bills when you’re on a public connection because you’re kind of freaked that this is just what the Evil Financial Opportunist is hoping you will do, lying in wait to steal your American Express credit card number and use it to buy Hitler mustaches for confused teenagers? And then American Express would call you up and say, are you, sir, a Nazi? And you would say NO! I am no Nazi! I am a victim of identity theft! Also I realize my first name is androgynous but I am not a sir! I am a madam! Or a miss! Mizz? I am not sure anymore! How feminist are we these days? Nooooooo!

Now I can pay my bills on my happy secure internet connection, and no Nazi correlations will ensue. Whew. That was a close one. I was questioning my feministity.

10. Cost Efficiency

The reason I didn’t have internet was because I figured it would be cheaper to not have internet. This was stupid of me. Considering that you need to buy at least a two-dollar cup of tea to stay at an internet cafe, and the library’s connection is often too slow, it turns out to be about half the cost to actually order the internet. Even including the cost of a router and install and modem. If the rogue had been better at math than English, she would have figured this out long ago. It is sometimes sad to be without basic math skills. Mostly, though, it is the path of the righteous.

11. Fridge proximity.

At a cafe, if you’re in a groove and your stomach starts to growl, you have two options. Throw off the groove, pack up, walk home for lunch, and walk back. Or order a sandwich and spend more money. If you’re at home and your stomach starts to growl, you can reach into the Hunger Drawer and pull out a variety of tasty snacks, most of them sporting ingredients not found in nature, all of which can be eaten one-handed while continuing to groove away. You don’t throw off the Rogue’s groove, baby. It just ain’t right.

12. The best blogging takes place after 11:00 at night.

When all the internet cafes in Boulder are closed. The rogue is blogging after midnight, people. Someone write her a country-western song about it.

Bonus

RhodesTer points out that I can also hang out in my underwear. I am here to state that this had totally not occurred to me. I prefer to think that this is not due to my conservatism, but rather because it’s pretty unremarkable for me to be seen hanging out sans the pants.

Subscribe. The internets want you to.

August 18, 2008

How to Rejoice For a New Client. Particularly a Whipped Cream Client.

Filed under: Writing — Tei @ 8:05 pm

So I have this client, a marketing firm. They in turn have a client (I promise this will not go on forever). This client makes flavored whipped cream. If you can think of a more delightful prospect for a writer or a lover of dessert foodstuffs, I personally would like to hear it.

Stick in a finger. And other not-at-all suggestive taglines.

Now, Naomi already documented the difficulties I was having writing taglines for this company, because the marketing guy, who is in charge of this company’s new image specifically stated that he didn’t want anything suggestive. Because, he said, it was just too easy. Now, this is true. It is also hilarious.

One of the best taglines I came up with was “Always on top.” Funny, simple, true for whipped cream, slightly sexy, it has everything. It is also one of the taglines I didn’t send him, because he didn’t want slightly sexy. Even if it would go right over the heads of most children. And, for that matter, most frogs. They’re not too quite on the update, amphibians.

So I wrote him some non-suggestive, or at least only vaguely suggestive, taglines. Sent them over, and he likes some of them, and he wants to bring me on board. I rejoiced, because any day where I get a closer proximity to whipped cream is, in my book, a damn good day. I thought you might enjoy seeing what happens when a rogue rejoices over a new client. Here is the conversation I had, on IM, with Harry of the good Men with Pens.

A Conversation ‘Twixt Man and Rogue. And, briefly, the lolcats.

Tei: Hurrah!

Harry: ?

Tei: Whipped cream guy likes the taglines. We’re in negotiations now with the client.

Harry: Yay!

Tei: This means I get to use the phrase ‘whipped cream guy’ pretty often. Which is great on a whole ‘nother level.

Harry: LOL

Tei: Just saying. How often does that opportunity normally arise? Not often. Clearly, I am special.

Harry: You win!

Tei: I do. If a small midget were to arrive right now wearing festive garb and present me with a cookie, I would not say, “Nay! I am not worthy.” I would monch. With aplomb and righteousness.

Harry: nom nom nom

Tei: Can has midget?

Harry: Yesh!

Tei: Schweet.

Harry: Midget cookies?

Tei: No! Giant cookies! Borne by midgets! Truly, thusly should the size distribution go, in this best of all possible worlds.

Harry: But then wouldn’t the cookies only look bigger?

Tei: No. The cookies and the midgets would then be roughly the same size.

Harry: Ahhhh. Alright then.

Tei: Everyone knows that the smaller you are, the more of your body mass you can lift. The midgets would be mighty midgets indeed.

Harry: Verily so. I was going to suggest giants bearing cookies

Tei: Ah, yes, but then you see the giant has to bend down to give you the cookie, and he might drop it, and the velocity of the cookie-droppage might prove fatal. We must plan for all contingencies.

Harry: Terminal cookie velocity.

Tei: Quite! If Isaac Newton had been plonked on the head with a giant-dropped cookie instead of an apple, we would never have gotten to know gravity in quite such an annoying numbers-based fashion!

Harry: That’s true, he never would have lived to tell the tale.

Tei: And my physics class would have been a hell of a lot easier.

Harry: cookie+giant+cranium=nothing.

Tei: I have a good mind to post this entire conversation on the blog, just to demonstrate the kind of madness that ensues when I get a new client. My rejoicing tends to be long-winded and philosophical. And cookie-oriented.

Harry: Go for it. I’d be amused muchly.

Tei: Me too. I think I shall.

And So It Was. Yea, Verily, Isaac Newton.

Subscribe. The internets, they come tomorrow.

August 17, 2008

Customer Service: Its Existence is a Very, Very Good Idea

Filed under: Writing — Tei @ 9:33 pm
Tags: , ,

I do not profess to understand how the internets work. When Senator Ted Stevens called them ‘a series of tubes’, this made about as much sense as I ever expected the World Web Web to make. I laughed at the Senator, because come on, people being stupid in high office is funny. But I sympathized a teeny bit, because I don’t get it either. It’s all good, Senator. Some of us have jobs in industries that don’t require us to know how the internets work, and that is fortunate for us. Unfortunately, you were voting on legislation about the internets at the time, which had to be embarrassing. Shake it off, Senator. Come on over and I will tell you my analogy for how they work. It can be summed up thusly: ‘magic.’

However. I do know one thing about the internets. And this is that the system of who gets to GIVE the internets to you is kind of screwy.

Wherever you are, whoever you are, some internet provider has a claim on you. Your house belongs to them. If you have, let’s just say, MY address, you get wireless from Comcast. My neighbor three doors down gets his from Wispertel. It is seemingly totally random and has to do with the way wireless signals bounce off of pigeons or something. Whatever. So if I want internet, I HAVE to deal with Comcast. This is a pretty sweet deal for Comcast.

Which is, apparently, why they feel they can make me work my ass off to get my internet from them.

Comcast has a 1-800 number. Because someone was apparently smart way back in the days when Comcast first got a 1-800 number, that number is 1-800-COMCAST. Awesome. I didn’t even have to waste a dime calling information. I go through the usual rigamarole of choosing English, giving them my area code, yada ya. And then something amazing happens. The little electronic voice on the phone says, ‘for wireless internet, please press two.’ Sweet. That’s what I’m looking for. Obeying these instructions to the letter (or number), I press two.

Nothing happens.

I call five more times and try many other options before I figure out that the complete and utter silence that ensues is Comcast’s way of putting me on hold. Now, come on. Give me a sign that I am on hold. Not a big sign. Jesus doesn’t have to descend from the heavens or anything. You certainly don’t have to play Pachelbel’s Canon in D over your annoying, tinny sound system. A little voice saying ‘please hold’ would do it. I can hold. I can even hold POLITELY. I know how to follow instructions. I pressed TWO, just like you told me to. I have PROVEN my ability to follow instructions. Why the silence?

I wait through the silence. Because I don’t have a choice. I need the wireless, and Comcast has it. After five full minutes of silence, I get the following message: “We are unable to connect you right now. Please hang up and try again later.”

That wasn’t the operator. That was Comcast’s little automated phone system. Telling me to fuck off and come back later when they weren’t too busy to deal with me. Comcast was basically saying, “Look, go away, I’m eating my ham sandwich right now. Why are you so goddamn annoying with your phone calls during my lunch hour?” And being as I am not Comcast’s office bitch, this pissed me off.

Usually, if a company treats me this badly, I find another goddamn company. Screw that. I am trying to GIVE YOU MONEY. If you make my money-giving difficult, I will take my money and stick it into the G-string of the very next stripper I see, just to show you what’s what.

Except that I need the wireless. And Comcast is the ONLY one who can give it to me.

Now, this is very clever of Comcast. Ha-ha, they are thinking, we can treat you like a punk little bitch because you have nowhere else to go! Bend over and take it! And call back later!

They think they can get away with it, too. I’m sure some clever guy in a marketing department somewhere said it was totally cool for all the phone operators to fuck off at the same time for lunch because they know I have to get wireless from them.

But now I’m pissed at them, and when I am pissed, I am resourceful. Also, usually, a little inebriated, but that’s neither here nor there. So I expend every ounce of my not-inconsiderable Googling skills to find out if there is any other possible way I could get internet. It turns out, there is, if I want to get dial-up instead of wireless.

Here’s the thing. I hate dial-up. I don’t want to plug my laptop in. I want to get internet in my bedroom and my bathroom and on my frickin’ roof. Wireless is an awesome invention. So is the SPEEDINESS of wireless through a cable instead of through a dial-up modem.

However. I will FOREGO my love of cable wireless because my HATRED of Comcast has gotten to be that deep. It is so deep right now, it is quoting Nietzsche and advocating perfect oneness with the universe. SIMULTANEOUSLY. Except that it contends perfect oneness with the universe does not extend to forgiveness of Comcast, because the hatred knows from whence it got its deepness.

Moral of the story: Even if you are the ONLY option, if your customers hate you enough they WILL find some other way to get what they need. They may even settle for something that is less than what you offer, if you provoke their hatred enough. Also, they may blog about you in an unflattering fashion. And wouldn’t that just suck for you?

ADDENDUM: Comcast has, as you can see below, taken it upon itself to resolve my customer service issues online. That, I must confess, is pretty cool, and goes a long way toward dissipating my hatred. Mental note: apparently, customer service now dwells online. Unfortunate that in order to get online, I have to deal with telephonic customer service. That said, much appreciated, Comcast. I’m responding to your query in the comments below.

Subscribe. My hard-fought for internets arrive tomorrow.

August 14, 2008

Good Ink, Inc. Now in Website Form.

Filed under: Writing — Tei @ 5:33 pm

Hola, denizens. Many exciting new developments have recently . . . ah, developed. Including, apparently, my inability to pick up the thesaurus and look up a pseudonym for ‘develop’. It’s just so very heavy, you see. First and foremost:

My living room has been painted.

No, seriously. You don’t know how big a deal this is if you haven’t seen the pink-and-green-and-fuschia monstrosity that has been prowling the walls since I moved in, but suffice it to say that cartoon characters has ceased to show up at my door thinking I’m the headquarters for Looney Tunes. It is very exciting.

Also very exciting is the fact that:

Good Ink the website is up.

Please go forth, my loyal denizens, and check it out. It’s at the link in the title there, or this link right here, or at www.goodinkinc.com. Though it WILL take the www away in the URL. I don’t know why it does that. I’ve always been sort of fond of the www myself. No other abbreviation takes twice as long to say as the term it abbreviates. It is a brave trailblazer, the www. It spreads out and takes its space up at the table. I am sad that it does not seem to admire me as much as I do it.

Do me an IMMENSE favor. If you want to say nice things or point out some minor flaw, go ahead and toss it into the comments. Like, if I typo’ed something, that’s fine. If you want to do an extensive critique, PLEASE send me an email instead. I’m totally down for criticism but I’d rather my flaws weren’t busted out on the interwebs, okay? Thanks, you’re a doll. Dolls. Dollies? Oy. Anyway, it’ll give us an excuse to try out the NEW EMAIL, which is taylor AT goodinkinc DOT com OR tei AT goodinkinc DOT com. Either works. I shall be interested to see who chooses which. I’m pretty sure your choice in this matter says something devious and insightful about your psyche. Red pill or blue pill? Bwah ha ha HA!

And finally, the realm of exciting news concludes with the following:

I have acquired the Internets.

Or I shall, come Tuesday. This means several things: my usual habit of coming up with a blog post at about one in the morning, rambling feverishly about grammar for a half hour, and posting it while brushing my teeth can commence once again. You remember way back when, when I posted every single day? That was because I had the series of tubes RIGHT THERE in my HOUSE. At the moment, when I want to do a late-night post, I have to write it up, get in my car, drive to the CLOSED internet cafe, park, set up my laptop on the passenger seat, cut and paste for awhile into WordPress, and post, all the while being extremely grateful that I live in Boulder and not Brooklyn, because that laptop would’ve been stolen at gunpoint a LONG time ago.

I don’t know about you, but that is not the sort of activity that gets ME psyched on a Wednesday night. Which is why I’ve been silent. I am, at my core, LAZY. This is why I chose a profession that involves a lot of sitting around all day, typing and slowly losing my ability to see anything farther than three feet away from my face.

So! The internets are forthcoming! If anyone knows any way that one might acquire wireless if Comcast seems to be the only provider for one’s house location, I should be interested to hear it, for Comcast currently has a 1-800 number that dropped me into the ether repeatedly every time I asked for internets, which would have had me SCRAMBLING for another provider if ANY OTHER ONE had been available! Is there some secret coalition of internet providers that I don’t know about? Enlighten me, denizens. Your wisdom shall unveil blogging at cut-price, and that pleases a rogue.

Right, so, the long shot of this is that when blogging is easier, y’all get more blogging. Hurrah for home wireless. Long live Rogue Ink! Hurrah! On to the next quest!

Which is, I believe, a blender. I need one of those. Also an ironing board. These quests are getting kind of . . . yeah. Anyone want to send me a dragon or a chimaera or something?

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