Saturday, May 30, 2009

Quantum Leap

If you've never seen the show Quantum Leap, you don't know what you're missing. It is a show about a time traveler, who instead of just purely traveling in time as the man in The Time Machine or as the boy in Back to the Future does, the main character "leaps". He leaps into other people's lives. Every episode, for five seasons, he leaps into another person's body and that person leaps into him - who is in the future. This time traveler, named Dr. Sam Beckett, then has to right some wrong that happened in this person's life before he can leap again. He's always hoping that he'll leap home, back into himself. It's a great show. It taught me a ton of history as a kid. I now own all five seasons and like to watch it on occasion, like today. (Yes, I'm watching Quantum Leap instead of doing my revisions. Leave me alone).

However, there is one thing that has always bothered me about the show. Sam leaps into this person's life and fixes some problem. He then leaps out, and presumably the person leaps back into his own life. So theoretically, Sam could leap into my life and do something extraordinary - like land me an agent. Then I leap back in. Do I know Sam has landed me an agent? Sam leaps in and changes my life, and in the meantime I was sitting in the "waiting room" in the future, being pumped for personal information that Sam could use. Does Al (Sam's friend in the future) brief me on what Sam does in my life? I don't know. So when I "leap" back into my own life, how do I know what's going on? Would I even know I had an agent?

So many questions and no answers, because clearly its just a show. This is never going to happen. Unless it's real and the show is a Wormhole Xtreme in Stargate:SG-1. I'm partially convinced that every show Scott Bakula (the actor who plays Sam) acts in is really an extension of Quantum Leap. Take Enterprise for example. Sam leaped into the life of Jonathan Archer. Makes sense to me, but I digress.

Quantum Leap was on for five seasons, and trust me its worth it to watch all five. It's not one of the shows that just suddenly ends because its canceled. The ending wraps up the show, giving you closure on all the characters. It really is great.

So yes, instead of revising I'm watching Quantum Leap, because I wanted to watch the three "evil leaper" episodes which led me to watching the Marylin Monroe episode, which led me to watching the Civil War episode, which led me to watching the series finale. But trust me, if you had every seen Quantum Leap, you would know that its worth the watch. And after the season finale, I can start my revisions. Only thirty more minutes left.


I hate revising, which is a terrible thing. I have read many an author's and agent's blog, and I know that revising is half of writing a good book.

I actually don't mind proof reading, but that's not what I'm talking about. I read papers for my sister and my friends all the time, checking for grammar and punctuation errors. Reading my stories for grammar errors and typos is something I don't mind doing. What I do mind doing is revising. I hate trying to figure out if the original way I wrote the first paragraph is the best way or if I should rewrite it. I hate trying to figure out if my conversations sound real. I hate analyzing my characters and trying to figure out if they are acting as they should.

The reason why this is such a pressing topic for me right now is that I have a finished manuscript that I need to revise. I finished writing this manuscript in March. I then passed it out to a group of trusted, well-read friends who could proof read it for me. I made them each read the manuscript twice so they could check for grammar errors and typos but also check for plot and character issues. My friends who I entrusted are pretty amazing so they all gave me great advice. It was amazing how they all caught different mistakes and how different syntax or vocabulary issues stuck out to them. They did a great job and most all of them got the checked manuscripts back in a timely manner, in more than enough time that is for me to do my revisions. However, I have not done my revisions.

I need to. I need to revise my manuscript, to polish it, so that I can start querying. I would hate to make the number 1 error of querying: querying before I have a polished manuscript. I would never do an agent that disservice, to waste their time and mine.

This summer is the perfect time for me to revise my manuscript. I'm not stressed by school, and I have time after work. But I have yet to start and its been summer for a month.

I hope to start revising today. I need to start revising today. I am determined. As I revise, I will let you all know how it goes. I will also be letting you in on my query process, when I reach that step.

A writer's work is never done.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Bittersweet Fountain -- Part 2

So in the corner of my blog you might have noticed a Bible verse in King James Version (KJV). This Bible verse is the real reason why this this site is called "A Bittersweet Fountain". So you can understand, here is the verse in context in New American Standard Bible (NASB), my preferred version.
"But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh."
James 3:8-12
I greatly respect James. He was after all Jesus' brother, and for someone who has many many sibling issues, I can respect that. I mean can you imagine being Jesus' little brother? Mary would be saying things like "Why can't you be more like Jesus?" all the time. I'm very impressed that James became a Christ follower at all, but I imagine Jesus would not forsake his family. But this is besides the point.

When I read these verses I think about how my mouth is like a fountain, or spring, that spurts out both salt and fresh water, or in KJV bitter and sweet water. Of course, springs don't do this, which is what James points out. He says that we, people, do this all the time, but it simply should not be possible. A spring can only be sweet or bitter. We should only be sweet or bitter. I wish I could call this blog a "sweet fountain". I wish I could say that my tongue wasn't trenchant and often hurtful, and I wish I could say my tongue had a mind of its own. But I know what I'm saying. I always do. And every hurtful, painful thing that comes out of my mouth is exactly what I intend to say, which is horrible. I always apologize, and generally mean it, but it still comes out. The bitter water simply flows from my mouth.

However, bitter water isn't all there is to me. My too often bitter fountain sometimes defies the rules and spurts out sweet water. I can be encouraging and uplifting, and I can praise God. I wish I was only ever sweet. I wish I could dominate the urge to say hurtful things. I wish I could not want to say hurtful things. But as Paul, who is pretty much "the man" says,
"For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate."
Romans 7:15
That's what I feel like. The things I do I despise, instead of the things I know I should do. Instead of obeying God, instead of listening to him, I take control of my own life and make the same mistakes over and over again.

Hence, I am a bittersweet fountain, neither completely bitter nor completely sweet. Maybe one day I can be a sweet fountain. But that is what this blog is for. It's for everyone who is also a bittersweet fountain, for everyone who is doing the very thing they hate. Know you're not alone. If Paul, who wrote the majority of the New Testament, can feel this way then we are surely not alone. And like Paul may God raise us above our short comings and use us for His glory.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bittersweet Fountain -- Part 1

I love musicals.

Seriously, there are few things in life I enjoy more than an amazing, moving musical production. If you ever found my iPod you would undoubtedly think, "Wow, this girl really likes musicals" and "seriously, does she have every WOW CD from the past ten years?" You would be right on both accounts.

But what you call a good musical and what I call a good musical may not be the same. To find out, I am going to discuss my love for my three favorite musicals starting with least favorite and going to most favorite.

Warning! Spoiler alerts!!! I will give away the ending. You have been warned.

3. Aida
Talk about a sexy voice. I am of course talking about Adam Pascal, the man who plays Radames. On my first listen to the Aida soundtrack I was sold whn I first heard him sing "Elaborate Lives". But it takes more than a sexy voice to make it into my top three musicals of all time. Aida is unashamedly a love story, but a love story embroiled in politics, war, love triangles, and family intervention. It is about two people from very different backgrounds who end up falling in love. However, their backgrounds doom them, and they end up being buried alive together.

2. Les Miserables
Epic tragedy. In a nut shell, those two words describe Les Mis. It's about discovering who you are, discovering God's plan for you, and finding your place in society. It's also about revolution. I have to say its the revolution that puts it over the top for me. (Revolutionary Europe is my favorite time period, 1789 to 1914. I'm a sucker for a good revolution). The song "Do You Hear the People Sing?" makes me want to start a revolution myself. Les Mis is a musical that doesn't just entertain - it changes you. In the very last song it demands that we strive to make the world a better place. We must hear the people sing.

1. Wicked
In my opinion, this may be the greatest musical ever written. The music is phenomenal, the story lines enticing, the comic relief hilarious, and it changed my perception of a story I've known all my life. The character Elphaba is one I relate to: she is different, awkward, and uncool. She want to change the world for the better and has the greatest dreams that she can. She refuses to be bound by the system. She is a revolutionary.

Looking at the three musicals you can sort of see the similar themes to my favorites: revolution, death, two girls who are both attracted to the same guy, and of course, bittersweet endings. I appreciate the "happily ever after" ending, but I'm a sucker for the bittersweet. Aida and Radames get to be together, but only in death while Amneris is left alive but alone. Cosette and Marius get to be together, but only after Eponine, who loves Marius, and all of Marius' revolutionary buddies die. Elphaba and Fiyero run off together, but Glinda is left thinking they are dead and alone. Ah, the bittersweet.

Why do I like bittersweet endings? Maybe its because I relate often to the person who is left behind: Amneris, Eponine, and Glinda. Maybe its because I feel like life is much more bittersweet then it is happily ever afters. I'm not sure. I only know that a truly bittersweet ending both breaks and fills my heart. This is part of the reason why I chose the name "Bittersweet Fountain". I love bittersweet stories.

Salesmen and Tech Support (aka a Conspiracy against Efficiency)

I was going to write about why I chose the name "Bittersweet Fountain" today, but something happened at work that put everything from my mind. And this is certainly not the first time its happened. Because you don't know I'll first explain what I do. I am a Georgia Tech student who co-ops for a large organization that shall go nameless (not sure about regulations and procedures about blogging about my work exactly. Will have to clarify in the future). A co-op for those of you who don't know is sort of like a repeat intern. I go to school a semester, work a semester, school a semester, work a semester, etc etc. It makes it take longer to graduate, but it makes for great experience.

Anyway, at my job I'm treated like a real design engineer, which is what I am. I design fluid systems for a new project. Part of my work as a designer is talking to vendors. I need their products to build the stuff I'm building. Recently I've been looking for a differential pressure gauge. I know the company I want to buy it from. I know what model I want. But the company is giving me the standard problem every engineer faces: salesmen and tech support.

First off I want you to know I have nothing but love for salesmen and tech support. My dad sold boxes once. It's a well...clean job, but someone has to do it. This post is not about me hating on the people who are in these two honorable trades. This is about me wanting to talk to someone who speaks my language, aka an engineer.

I'm sure there are very knowledgeable salespeople in the world. I am sure there is a guy in Tech support who knows more about differential pressure gauges than the guy who invented them. However, that's never the person I get when I call a vendor. My conversation usually goes like this.

Salesperson: Hello, you've reached Pressure Gauges unlimited. This is Mary.

Me: Hi Mary. My name is Bittersweet Fountain and I'm with this major organization. I need to talk to the product engineer of your 7 series differential gauge.

Sales: I'll connect you to Tech Support.

Notice the great way the salesperson handled the problem. This is not sarcasm at all. The salesperson knew they could not help me and connected me to someone they thought good. I appreciate this. Two thumbs up for Ms. Mary Salesperson, my hypothetical salesmen.

After a few minutes of happy music a Tech Support guy picks up the phone.

Tech: Hello, this is Steve.

Me: Hello, my name is Bittersweet Fountain and I'm with a major organization. I need to talk to the product engineer of your 7 series differential guage.

Tech: We can't connect you to the engineers. Maybe I can help you.

Me: *pause* OK. I need your cutsheets for the 7 series differential pressure gauge.

Tech: What do you mean by cut sheets? CAD drawings? Have you looked at our website?

This is the point where I want to just hang up because I know no one can help me. First, he didn't know what I meant by cut sheets, but I'll give him a break on that. Cut sheets can have many meanings. Second, he doubted that I haven't already scoured every facet of the website. Of course, I have. I'm an engineer. We're not known for being social butterflies (accuracy of this assumption to be studied at a later date). Do you really think I would call if I had not already found your website lacking the information? Really?

In the defense of my poor invented Tech Support named Steve, I'm sure there are engineers who don't bother checking the website for drawings. I'm sure its why he asked. But, Steve, we wouldn't be wasting each others' time if you would just connect me to your engineering department. Then everyone would be happy. Bob, the designer of your gauge, and I could talk shop and discuss the pros and cons of dial versus digital gauges until we're all satisfied and you could be helping someone who didn't check the website.

In conclusion, I would like to propose that every vendor have an extra contact on their contacts page. Under your sales phone number and emails you should list a number for engineers who want to talk to engineers. Trust me. It would make all of our work 10 times more efficient.

But then I'm assuming people want the world to work efficiently. That's a blog for another day.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Who am I?

To get to know me, you need to know that I have three desires in life:

1) To have a number or equation named after me.
I am an engineer by education and trade. Like most engineers produced by a certain Institute of Technology in the state of Georgia, I am fairly competent. However, I don’t just want to be competent. I want to be good. I want to be a world class, “miracle worker”, a Montgomery Scott. When an engineer reaches this level of absolute awesomeness they always get a number or equation named after them. Examples: the Reynolds number, the Bernoulli equation, the Loewy Number, the Kutta-Jukowski equation, Poisson Ratio, etc. Ok, so Poisson was a liar and a cheat, not an awesome engineer, but you get the picture.

2) To win a Hugo Award.
I’ll admit that I might settle for a Pulitzer or a Noble Prize, but for the most part the Hugo Award is where it’s at. In my spare non-engineering time I like to write novels, mostly scifi/fantasy. Please do not be impressed. In my mind having an engineering degree is much more impressive. Writing is a gift God gave me. Engineering is a constant struggle, a battle, I only ever win by the grace of God. I am not yet published but would like to be. When I am published, I want to be compared to the greats: Asimov, Bradbury, Jordan, Tolkien, Card, and others. I want that symbol of greatness that only writing a truly fantastic mind blowing scifi novel can attain. I want to win the Hugo Award.

3) Be all God wants me to be.
This is really a tough one. It’s the one I work hard to achieve but often feel the farthest from. God created the heavens and the earth. He sent His only Child to earth to die for me. How do I repay Him? By seeking Him? Not usually. See numbers 1 and 2. Clearly I seek fame (not necessarily fortune. I’m not sure how much money there is in getting a number named after you). I want to be awesome for God, but that sort of comes back to my desire for fame. I want my name to be inserted into Hebrews 11, the Bible Hall of Fame, but I fall short way more than Romans 3:23 calls for. You see this desire for fame just really isn’t what God wants me to desire. He wants me to seek Him first. I know this, but there is some sort of disconnect between my head, my intellectual desire, and my actions. I’m afraid I make God’s worst child at times.

So there I am. And just so you know number 1 is slightly evil. My last name has 13 letters in it. Engineers will hate me forever if I get something named after me.