Valle dei Templi: Agrigento, Sicily

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Part of working at Automattic is being able to travel on occasion to connect with your team. Since we’re distributed the rest of the year and thus work from wherever we happen to be (in my case, that would mostly be my home office), it’s a bonus perk when I can not only travel to some exotic place of our choosing, but also to hang out with some of the smartest, funniest people I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with!

And this was our most recent (and my first!) team meetup, this time in Sicily, Italy. Ah, corporate life.

wendy {dot} blog

During my recent trip to Italy, one of the excursions I was lucky enough to do was a day trip from home base in Palermo on the northern coast of Sicily to Agrigento, which is on the southern coast.

Simply put, it was stunning.

The views from the top of the hill were amazing…Greek temples set against a rolling hillside leading to patches of farms and then on to the azure bands of the Mediterranean Sea.

We were so mesmerized by the view and the temples that we just kept snap-snap-snapping pictures, all while the sky darkened and the wind picked up. Finally, it occurred to us that perhaps we should head down off the hill and seek shelter, but it was a bit too late. Long story short, we ran down the hill in a downpour and all got soaked, but it sure was fun!

(photo credit for the…

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Back home

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Back in GJ. Uneventful drive, although it was a little dicey going through that one mountain pass that starts around Spanish Fork, UT, and ends…somewhere an hour later. Anyone who’s driven any stretch of snowy, foggy road would probably consider it child’s play, but I’m a tropical/desert/Southern girl! I don’t do snowy roads! Especially if they involve some twisting and turning, and the road is a two-lane, bidirectional one. Hate those.

Still, I enjoyed the chance to just step away from the usual hustle and bustle and just drive, you know? I once drove from Columbia, SC, to Dallas, TX, in one day — a long, 17-hour stretch that started around 4:00 Eastern and ended sometime after 9:00 Central. I’d had about 3 hours of sleep, and I wasn’t a coffee drinker at the time, so my fuel was simply depression, having just broken up with my then-boyfriend of five years. I popped in my favorite CD’s on my ailing Subaru GL, kept my cell phone nearby, and just drove west on I-20 until I got home. I have to say, as bad as I was feeling at the time, it was probably one of the best drives of my life.

Today wasn’t nearly as eventful, although I at least had some caffeine in me, courtesy of a 5:45 am run to Starbucks this morning. I’d started listening to the unabridged audiobook CD “Condaleeza Rice: An American Life” on Sunday afternoon, so I plowed through a few more discs of it today. Fascinating stuff. I especially loved the little — almost throwaway — anecdote where Rice talked about the time her car overheated somewhere in the rural South when she was in graduate school. The white mechanic “brusquely” told her to “put it over there,” and Rice instinctively snapped, “Why?” The man looked at her and said in a meek voice, “‘Cause then it’ll be in the shade and might cool down.” Rice recalls that little incident presumably to illustrate just how sensitive she was — understandably so, given her childhood growing up in the heart (hell?) of the most racist city in America at the time, Birmingham, AL — and how much she needed to give people the benefit of the doubt. It reminds me of me sometimes, and how I can be what some people might think of as overly sensitive when it comes to what I may perceive as a racist or sexist remark. It’s certainly not entirely unwarranted; after all, when you grow up constantly being perceived as “the Other,” as many people of color do in the predominantly white culture of America, it can be difficult to let go of one’s guard, even when the other party may be entirely innocent or not meaning any malicious harm. But it definitely is a reminder that times and people do change, and it’s often the best route to simply assume the best in people. Certainly it makes for a peaceful self, if not a peaceful world.

Anyway.

I haven’t reached today’s NaNoWriMo quota, as I immediately went to KAFM (local community radio station) for an interview right after I got into town. For once I was the one being interviewed, and not the other way around. A funny feeling for a journalist, I have to say, but not entirely unpleasant. As I often find when I do my own interviews, most people love to talk about themselves, especially if you ask the right questions, and apparently I’m no exception. Funny.

An Unexpected Twist in the Tale

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My characters took a surprising turn in the latest episode. Funny how that happens. I know it does, of course — writers talk all the time about how their characters come alive and begin to operate on their own, often surprising their creators with their decisions.

Although of course the details of the story were sketchy (at best — that’s why this is the 2nd draft) when I first conceived the plot, the general outline has largely remained intact. Save for the major change of having my main character arrive in Singapore two years earlier than he had in the original, aborted draft (which changed the nature of his relationships to some of the other characters as well as the beginning of the story), all other plot elements have remained the same.

This latest turn of events, however, sort of shifts the dynamics of much of the remaining chapters, as it means a very significant change in the way the two primary characters relate to each other.

But you know, the more I think about it, the more I realize that this twist was inevitable, that while I thought I had Thomas all figured out, in reality, the circumstances in which he finds himself (i.e., the Japanese invasion of Malaya, which brought the war home to Singapore) would of course require this new development. He’s just that kind of guy, and this was just that kind of opportunity.

How very funny.

On another note, I got another book through interlibrary loan today called The Singapore Grip, a well-reviewed, award-winning classic about the fantastic and ultimately fin de siecle society of pre-World War II colonial Singapore. The author won the Booker Prize for another novel, but this one is well-received and was reprinted in the New York Review of Books Classics Series.

MRA

Library Blogging: Tasks #7 & 8 (RSS Feeds)

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This week’s tasks involve RSS Feeds. Our IT specialist recommended Bloglines, but I’ve had Pageflakes for awhile, so I’ll stick to that. Besides, surely nothing can be as badass as Pageflakes! Pageflakes rocks! Pageflakes rules! Pageflakes has infiltrated my brain and made it difficult to write simple declarative sentences!

I spent a long time customizing my Pageflakes pages, especially after I found that I can tab folders to categorize my different feeds. I think I have about 8-10 folders, mostly having to do with either writing, academia, literature, or Filipiniana. The funny thing is that, before I started working the 9-5 grind, I would spend an hour a day just keeping up with the different feeds, sometimes more (which may explain why, although I wrote “full-time,” my productivity wasn’t much higher than it is now). Since I started working, though, I haven’t even opened my account. Until now, that is, and I’d forgotten just how many feeds I have a subscription to.

And the amenities have improved! Whereas it was purely text-based before, now some of the feeds include graphics, which make for a funky looking interface.

I’m happy to see that John August is still faithfully posting. Now there’s a man who knows how to manage his time. He wrote the screenplays to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Big Fish, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Charlie’s Angels, and others. Plus, he just made his directorial debut at Cannes this year with The Nines. And of course, he still keeps up his blog on a crazily regular basis, and even occasionally answers comments. Would that I were that organized and disciplined with my time that I actually had time to write my friends and family, let alone total strangers.

MRA

Library Blogging: Tasks #7 & 8 (RSS Feeds)

Standard

This week’s tasks involve RSS Feeds. Our IT specialist recommended Bloglines, but I’ve had Pageflakes for awhile, so I’ll stick to that. Besides, surely nothing can be as badass as Pageflakes! Pageflakes rocks! Pageflakes rules! Pageflakes has infiltrated my brain and made it difficult to write simple declarative sentences!

I spent a long time customizing my Pageflakes pages, especially after I found that I can tab folders to categorize my different feeds. I think I have about 8-10 folders, mostly having to do with either writing, academia, literature, or Filipiniana. The funny thing is that, before I started working the 9-5 grind, I would spend an hour a day just keeping up with the different feeds, sometimes more (which may explain why, although I wrote “full-time,” my productivity wasn’t much higher than it is now). Since I started working, though, I haven’t even opened my account. Until now, that is, and I’d forgotten just how many feeds I have a subscription to.

And the amenities have improved! Whereas it was purely text-based before, now some of the feeds include graphics, which make for a funky looking interface.

I’m happy to see that John August is still faithfully posting. Now there’s a man who knows how to manage his time. He wrote the screenplays to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Big Fish, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Charlie’s Angels, and others. Plus, he just made his directorial debut at Cannes this year with The Nines. And of course, he still keeps up his blog on a crazily regular basis, and even occasionally answers comments. Would that I were that organized and disciplined with my time that I actually had time to write my friends and family, let alone total strangers.

MRA