Changes Coming to a Blog Near You

I’ve been hinting at some blog changes recently, and it is finally getting close to time to put them into place. With my move back Stateside for the next year or two (actual length of the DC stay should be determined by early November), the travel part of In Search of the End of the Sidewalk will be a bit quieter. There will still be occasional posts (hopefully one soon about my trip today to the new Smithsonian African-American History and Culture museum and definitely one next week about my first-ever trip to New York City), but it is hard to maintain a SE Asia travel itinerary out of Washington DC. (No Air Asia hub? How can I fly to Singapore for a $23?) So, while travel posts will still come as I am able to indulge, I don’t want this blog to wither away, meaning that much of its focus for the next bit is going to focus on my other love: books and literature. I already have regular book postings, and these will continue. I plan to see out my 2016 Book Challenge (although, I must admit it is getting more challenging as the calendar progresses) and will still repost my regular book review that I submit to The Caldwell Perspective once it is published by the paper each month.

Status quo then, you are thinking? So far, nothing here is new or exciting. (Well, other than then awesome new format!)

But wait!

You see, here is the brain-struggle I’ve been having lately. I read. A lot. And I would like to include more of those book on In Search of the End of the Sidewalk, but the reality is that when I read two to three books a week, I am just not going to write one to two page reviews detailing each one. Laziness? Maybe. But more than that, I am always too excited to get on to the next book in my queue!

Solution: Card Catalog Reviews!

This idea came about after hours of brainstorming and then a few short minutes of inspiration with a fellow blogger and friend. It has taken a bit of time to pull together, as I needed some new low-tech equipment to make it happen, but soon you’ll be privy to several new book reviews each week!

Short. Sweet. To the point.

A card catalog card gives me space for about 125 words. It will be a flash review of what I’m reading and whether I say “run to the library now!” or “eh, maybe wait for the next review.”

I’m excited to get these new reviews up and running on the blog. My adorable new-to-me typewriter is settled on the table and ready to roll, my pile of library-grade cards stacked in a neat pile next to it and now it is time to forge ahead with a new chapter at In Search of the End of the Sidewalk. Look for the first Card Catalog Review to hit the site in the next few days. (They will commence just as soon as I finish with the visual updates on the blog. No need for an introduction there, as if you are reading this, you’ve seen the huge change from a vertical feed to a horizontal one. I’m loving the new “bookshelf” look, but I know it will take us all a bit of time to get used to navigating the new format. Stick with me. I promise you will soon love it as much as I do!)

Until then, thanks for coming along for the ride, and hopefully you will find a great book to read, or maybe one to avoid, but always continue searching sidewalks.


Goodbye to an Old Pal

This poor blog has been sorely neglected over the last handful of weeks. As I look back, I don’t have a great excuse, other than a bit of laziness, but I think I am going to blame it on my recent laptop conversion. Late last year, my trusty pink Vaio laptop began to fail. I would be working away on a project and suddenly I would hear a small popping sound and then everything would go black. Nothing. No power. No charge. Everything not saved, gone. (This was right as I was working on my graduate thesis, so I quickly became an obsessive saver, as little is more painful than having pages upon pages of ideas disappear. Yes, they were still rattling around in my head, but sometimes it is nearly impossible to recreate that perfect sentence that you cobble together, reconstruct and then rework one more time.)

With my faithful laptop looking at an imminent demise, back in late February I finally broke down and bought a new one. I was really hoping to make the current machine last until summer when I would be home in the US to do some in-person shopping, but once it started to blink out three or four times a day, I knew the end was near. A DNR had been issued.

Not wanting to buy local, but also not wanting to buy online without seeing the product, it was time to do a little KL recon. (I am a stickler for a good keyboard. I want something with a bit of a click to it. I adore the sound of typing and want just the right background noise as I write away for this blog and other projects.) Looking at computers in Kuala Lumpur means a trip to Low Yat, possibly my least favorite shopping area in town. It very much reminds me of the computer city buildings in Chengdu- large edifices crammed full of legitimate brand name stores, flanked by less than reputable kiosks and shops selling anything with a battery or electrical connection. The whole place makes me both claustrophobic (something I am not) and uneasy. Am I going to get ripped off? Pickpocketed? Shived? All seem like possibilities.

One quiet Sunday afternoon, Thad and I made the trip to Low Yat where the main test of the day was keyboard clickiness. Once I determined that Hewlett-Packard machines, as whole, had the best sound, it was time to go home and narrow down my options. In the stores (“stores”?) I did see a few other brands of a 360-degree style that I really liked and the internet quickly told me that HP not only has this style, but it was highly ranked among its peers. I love the laptop/tablet combo idea.

Horrified by the price of laptops in general (I really thought they had gone down more than they had over the last five years), I finally settled on the HP Spectre, realized it was pretty much a set price at all stores, so made my purchase. Knowing that it had to be shipped to Kuala Lumpur through the diplomatic pouch, the fact that the Spectre had a built in battery was a huge selling point, as that fits within the regulations of pouch mail. Before buying, I even checked with the embassy mail room staff, who assured me that shipping with an installed lithium battery should be no problem.

Apparently, it was a problem.

As I excitedly watched the shipping progress from Best Buy to the pouch facility, I was horrified one morning to see that the box had been rejected by the pouch and returned to the warehouse. Best Buy refunded my credit card, but what I really wanted was my new computer. Ol’ Trusty was on life support and the prognosis wasn’t good.

Back to the internet I went, reordering the exact same item, but this time shipping it to my brother in Idaho, who then had to rebox it and ship it again (there’s an extra $30) with a customs label indicating that the battery had been removed. Ugh. (The second round of shipping did mean that when it finally came, treats from home and drawings from the niece and nephew were bonus gifts.) Two weeks estimated shipping time on the original purchase ended up being over six weeks, with the new laptop arriving just days after I left KL for a three-week stint at Consulate Ho Chi Minh City.

Now, I’m in the painful process of converting from the dying, cracked, pink laptop to the shiny, new, black and bronze beauty. But, the changeover is fraught. All of my life is on that other machine. It knows my links. It knows my passwords. It has Word. It has everything.

Plus, I feel a strange loyalty to it. (I tend to be loyal to a fault. I remember as a kid feeling guilty when I switched from regularly listening to my parents’ favorite oldies radio station to the current pop station. Strange loyalties, I tell you.)

Last night, I finally downloaded Word onto this new machine, so the replacement process is nearly complete. I am not sure what will become of the old machine as we face packing out in just a few short weeks, but I’m hoping by July to be fully dependent on this fancy new table/laptop, as it is much small and much lighter, a huge benefit as a summer of travel is headed our way. It is time to say goodbye to my old pal, my trusty buddy who has traveled all over Asia and back to American multiple times. It served me well, adding years of postings to my blog, sticking out a graduate degree in literature and giving me hours of wasted time on internet pic-dump sites.

The transition means it is time to get back to regular blogging; no more excuses. Blogs and Wordless Wednesdays are headed your way. Be prepared.

From Turkey to Reindeer- Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200

The day of eating massive amounts of turkey and carbs is behind us, but it is never too late to be thankful for the many blessings in our lives. This weekend, I am pretty dang thankful that the day of gratefulness is behind us.

CLO-ing (that is the official verb for what I do) has given me a whole new respect for holidays- especially those that are ingrained in American culture. Earlier this fall, I had to make peace with Halloween, letting go of my crotchetiness about too-old kids coming to my door to beg sweet treats, and instead got to celebrate with an array of critters and creatures in homemade costumes. Then, came Thanksgiving, a holiday which I have always loved because I can eat an entire meal of nothing  but white foods, which tend to be my favorites. There is turkey (no dark meat for this girl), mashed potatoes, rolls and maybe some Jell-O for a dash of color.  (My parents were firmly in the “eat-what’s-on-your-plate” camp when I was growing up, and since my dad served up the Thanksgiving plates, there always seemed to be an inordinate amount of yams on my plate. No one wants those nasty orange tubes of gunk, but they appeared on the table and my plate every year until I began the “by damn, no yam” protest, which continues to this day.)

In past years, I was able to sail through Thanksgiving with an offering of rolls and juice, but this year, not only was I right in the middle of the action, I *was* the action.  One of my CLO areas of responsibility (out of eight, in case you were wondering) is event planning, and nothing screams “event” like a sit-down, family-style meal for forty-five folks!

So how does one throw Thanksgiving for nearly four-score attendees? Potluck style! I ordered the turkeys from a local bakery, which would cook and deliver them to the consulate right in time for dinner. (At $92 each, USD, they’d better deliver!) To round out the meal though, everyone in the community pitched in with a variety of dishes and desserts. I panicked (internally) for days about whether there would be enough food. It would be a nightmare to plan such a big meal and have everyone go home without being totally full, because really, we say Thanksgiving is about giving thanks, but we all know it is about overeating until our pants are too tight and we want nothing more than a nap on the couch.

My fears were all baseless. On top of the four turkeys, cooked to perfection, we had all manner of potatoes, veggies, breads and casseroles, not to mention apple pie, pumpkin pie, spice cake and cheese cake. Even after sending as much food home as I could with anyone who was willing to take it, we ended up with enough leftovers that on Friday, we had turkey sandwiches in the CLO Lounge at lunch for anyone interested.

This year, the list of things I have to be thankful is longer than ever. Of course, I have a wonderful family and fabulous friends, and the fact that I am able to live on the other side of the world and still be in touch with them on a daily basis is nothing short of a technological wonder.  In a single day, I am able to log into Gmail and send a quick note to a friend, use the Vonage line at the consulate compound to call my parents, Facetime with my nieces and nephews in Idaho and chat with former students about their college classes on Facebook.

I’m also thankful that Thanksgiving is over, as lovely as it was, because I am ready to hit the ground rolling with Christmas party preparations first thing Monday morning! (The consulate tree is half assembled in my office; I’ve got a growing stack of boxes behind my desk that I plan to wrap to go under the half-assembled tree; I’ve got stockings for our marvelous Marines, ready to be hung; and I’ve got a friend lined up to be Santa for the community party in a few weeks.) CLO-ing will be in overdrive for the next few weeks, but since Christmas is the number one holiday of the year, I’m happily ready to jump into the holiday fracas with both boots.

Good-bye turkeys. Hello reindeer!

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