Friday, December 29, 2006

Happy Thoughts

If this doesn't give you a happy glow for at least five seconds, um, well that would be bad.

New Year's thoughts

Let's chat about New Year's. I feel like, in many ways, it's New Years that has the greater set of expectations surrounding it. You are not required or expected to spend New Year's with your family - not as a whole anyway - so perhaps that leads into the idea that surrounded by people of your own choosing, you should have a bang up time. Then there is the decision making, do you go out on the town, or gather at someone's place. If you go out - what happens with transportation? If you go out, do you go to an organized do, or more standard bar hopping? What is the budget? Where is everyone meeting? And on, and on.
I have to say one of the best New Year's was when I was living in a house, and a bunch of us gathered and played board games and drank a bit. (A bit because we had an underager, a pregnant person, and a teetotaler so, you know.) It was easy for me, since I was already home. It was low key and therefore really fun. In contrast we had the one year where we waited until ten that night to make any sort of decision about where we were going. We picked Adams Morgan, known for its plethora of hot spots and corresponding dearth of parking. After snagging a parking space only a mile and a half or so from any fun, we started walking in the cold crisp air. And it triggered asthma in one of our party, who sadly had left her inhaler behind, as had I. So we returned to where preparations had occurred to retrieve said inhaler. Which now put us really close to midnight. Determined to party a little we headed to College Park and to a bar looking place on the main drag. And went in. They had a private party downstairs so we sat upstairs and drank and chatted a bit. And then we noticed that everyone from downstairs was headed upstairs. Strange. Then we decided to look further afield for more interesting fun and went downstairs to exit which was when we noticed glass everywhere. And cops. The plate glass window in the front was shattered. As we headed to our car, we noticed some agitated gentlemen in the parking lot. Still a yard or so from the car, one of my companions shouts, "Gun!" causing us all to race for the car and head out very quickly. All ended well, for us at least.
Another good one - we got tickets for the Black Cat's New Year's Extravaganza. we were there crazy early, but Tuscadero (sadly now defunct) played so it was awesome. Other than the weird guy who slapped his hand over my mouth when I yawned (putting me squarely on Kelly Ripa's side, let em tell you) things went well. Most of the crew was underage and/or driving at that point so there was no alcohol. Then we headed back for a sleepover. The lone guy in the group was saddened to learn that we were not planning to sleep in teddies or have pillow fights, but I think even he would agree it was still agood night.
And back to the bad-ish, the plan was for my roommate and I to hit a party. Roommate volunteers to be the designated driver, so on arrival I have my cup filled up with alcohol (the hosts were pouring quite generously). My roommate encountered someone who claimed to have come up with a concoction that tasted like something or other, so off she goes to try it. Apparently she enjoyed it too much, as she approaches close to midnight to inform me we will need to take a cab home. I stop drinking at this point (notice the singular there) but I am a lightweight so, I don't expect to be sober enough to risk driving in time. Between arrival and this announcement I have seen little of my roommate. This is not a complaint - as I had been making new friends. Apparently so had she. I learned later that she had been being very friendly out on the front lawn (hanging with a smoker). So, midnight comes and goes. The folks I have been chatting with - for the most part - leave. The hostesses go up to bed. We are down to about five people - my roommate, her new friend, myself, and another two guys. My roommate and her friend are holding hands. Immediately the guy sitting next to me grabs my hand. I am looking at him like, "What the hell?" and trying to disengage. My roommate sees the hand holding and says, "Oh good, you're getting laid tonight." I respond through gritted teeth, "No, I'm not." There is discussion because now my roommate thinks she doesn't want to go home. I, personally do not care, but I would really like to leave and move towards whatever steps need to make that happen. Roommate's new friend (RNF) says that we don't need a cab, he can get us home. Turns out he means grabby hands (GH) can drive us (I have no idea if RNF had no car or just didn't want to drive or was trying to set up a group deal - no idea.) So, the four of us get into the car and head home. Roommate and RNF go to her bedroom leaving me in the living room with GH. GH, despite the fact that I mention several times that I have to be at church in six hours, does not take the hint. He stays (as we listen to the lovely strains of roommate and RNF). Finally, (yes I should have done this sooner, I was tired) I say very clearly that I need to head off to sleep. GH asks if that means he should leave (ya think?). He asks for a goodbye hug, I agree and then GH turns into grabby lips and tried to kiss me - I move my head out of range. He tries again. Dude - go away! GH&L leaves. (Roommate did apologize when informed of the getting laid comment.) GH&L later tells RNF that he likes me, RNF tells roommate, I tell roommate that yeah - not subtle and not interested.

A Weekend's Reading

I have not been ignoring the book review bits, I'm a little behind, but it is partly I have read a few Silhouette’s from a UBS and while they were wonderful, it seemed mean to tease with stuff you can’t necessarily go buy.
Sweet Hush by Deborah Smith
I got this along with something else and I confess when I unwrapped it I was sure there was a mistake because this did not look like my kind of book. So I scanned the back and found the sentence in the description that reminded me why it sounded interesting and put it in the pile. So, I went into this with prejudice it is fair to say, and that was not eased by the fact that after a brief in media res scene in the present we went back to the heroine’s great-great-great grandmother. I stuck it out and the story moved further very quickly (yay – I was not in the mood for a sweeping multi-generational portrait, although it still sort of is) and also yay, did not spend too much time focusing on the bad shotgun marriage the heroine gets in. This is not to say the marriage is not revisited, because it is, it is clearly a huge part of the heroine’s life and ties in to her building of the family’s apple business (sweet hush apples, hence the title). The story kicks into gear when the heroine’s college aged son arrives home unexpectedly with his surprise bride. (And I must say, that the characters were much more gracious than I am, because I would have pointed out to them that if they weren’t mature enough to share their marriage with their family for six months then they possibly weren’t mature enough to be making big choices like ditching college because they already know everything they need to know.) The twist is that said bride is also the First Daughter. This leads to some power plays as the apple family goes for supportive, and the presidential family leans more towards lets fix this mistake now – and both families have strong matriarchs. There are also security issues and concerns for the apple family as the attendant media spotlight threatens to reveal things they may not wish to share. And of course the presidential family has a trusted family member who they send down to keep an eye on things, and he is handsome and single, and so on. In the end I really liked the story, although there were moments where I found the scene switching a little disconcerting sine everything is in first person even though there are two narrators.
Grade: B+

To the Edge by Cindy Gerard
A series (I like series) – this one is actually the first, however I read the next one already, but whatever. Anyway the premise is that four siblings run a security firm that their dad established (and named after them). Each sibling went off and did official government ball busting of some sort before becoming part of the firm. This on is about Nolan** who has just gotten out of the military and is carrying around a duffel bag or two of guilt about not saving one of his men but is convinced to pick up a job be his brother. The job is to either convince local newscaster and socialite Jillian to go stay with her parents until her stalker is caught or accept the bodyguard. Nolan figures he can scare her quickly, collect the money and go back to drowning his sorrows. Turns out, she doesn’t scare that easily. I really liked the story – there were a couple of spots where the conversation that produced some background exposition was a little stilted, but nothing hideous. And I love that Jillian saw through most of Nolan’s attempts to be crappy to push her away, and not in the wimpy, I know deep down you love me kind of way, but in a more kick ass it is not acceptable for you to treat me like this kind of way. My one gripe is the stalker – the reason ends up being something there was just no way the reader could have gotten to, in fact no one figures it out until the stalker does the Bond-ian confession. I get that likely that is more realistic, but I felt it was a bit cheap. Not enough that I don’t still like the story and want to hunt down the next two, but still.
Grade: B+

Crazy in Love by Luanne Rice
This is another book I started with prejudice. When I really like an author, I usually don’t read the back. I think they give away too much, so I end up reading in anticipation of it leading to what the back has promised rather than just going with it. And sometimes, it’s inaccurate, or really misleading. In this case I read the back, to determine if this was one I had read yet, and was worried because I am pretty much over the whole wife finds out her perfect life is nothing like she thought it was storyline. But this is Luanne Rice, so I decided to take a chance. Without giving away much let me start by saying the back – or my interpretation of it – is extremely misleading. As with most Luanne Rice stories, this is about family. It is about the complex and changing relationships people have with their spouses, sisters, mothers, grandmothers, in-laws, and nephews. Georgie and her husband live next door to her mother and grandmother who live next door to her sister’s family. Her sister’s husband and her husband and some other folks all commute via seaplane to NYC. Georgie has recently started a project whereby she examines other people’s stories. This is one of those books that it is really hard to describe what happens, because it is not a traditional formula. I would say it is a love story although Georgie is already married. It is a snapshot, a year in the life if you will, where you get to peak in on this family – through Georgie’s eyes and watch the relationships and interactions. It is a great read. I started Sunday morning, read through much of the day, took it with me as I hit the grocery store and promptly left it in the grocery store. I went to Starbucks, read my back up book (I was almost done with Crazy in Love) and went back to the grocery store, at which point the book had been turned in, saving me having to hit a bookstore on the way home. Phew.
Grade: A-

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Things People Should Know #12

Okay guys, my very first "Things People Should Know" was about a bus driver having sex in a school bus on school grounds. Well, now a local bus driver has been charged with first-degree child sexual abuse after allegedly having sex on the bus (after the route was completed, thank goodness) with an underage girl. Now seriously people, it's not a great idea to have sex while at work. Or even still in your workplace (unless you work from home or something). It's really dumb to have sex with teenagers without clarifying their age. It's also looking like the driver had a suspended license, so one would hope he would have been on his best, under-the-radar behavior. But apparently not.


Since all the cool knit bloggers seem to talk about their favorite needles, I thought I would jump on the bandwagon.

My first needles were from a beginner needle kit so they were generic straight metal needles. At the time I was vaguely aware that there were needles without ends (aka double-pointed) but was unaware of the plethora of knitting needles available. One of my early projects (which did not go well so never quite got finished, user error on my part) was a spiral scarf, for which I purchased my first set of circulars - addi turbos. I loved them. I loved the idea of circulars and pretty much was ready to toss out my straights.

However, as I knit more and more, my hands started to hurt. And the typing and mouse usage at work seemed to make it worse. I self-diagnosed myself with tendonitis and determined that maybe metal needles were part of the problem. It was around this time that I saw the Needlemaster in a craft store. The idea of interchangeable needles seemed excellent, except that the needlemaster used metal needles.

After some web research I discovered the Denise Interchangeable Needles, which as it turned out was made by the same folks as the Needlemaster. (Check out the web site for that and the cutest story about the current owners and how they came to be such). I love them. I won't say I've never bought another needle, because I have (bamboos - circs and double-points) but I am now in fact the proud owner of two kits due to my starter-itis issues. (I'm working on it). And I'm debating getting the special breast cancer set. I know I don't need it....

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Scarf

Last year, as I was still in the first blush of born again knitting, the Washington Post did an article on knitting and included the pattern for the spiral scarf. The pattern was indicated as easy and so I set out in search of the tools and started. First, I bought addi turbos - my first circulars (yay!). They are metal and this pattern calls for an insane number of increases. Quickly I noticed my hands hurting. I kept going. I bought several skeins of yarn in lime green and dark green. (I suspect they did not have enough lime green so I got the dark green to finish out, ignoring the fact that they were different textures and widths.) For this pattern that is not a huge obstacle, but particularly with the lacy-ness caused by all the increases you want to think about where you change skeins and I did not know enough to figure that out. Suffice it to say this pattern kicked my butt. I talked to a more experienced knitter who said that she quickly lost the glow and had used even bigger needles (I was using fifteens) to finish it out. In the end the yarn got hopelessly tangled and sat untended and unfinished.

This year I decided one person on my holiday list was going to get something bigger than a dishcloth. And I thought of the spiral scarf. I figured my improved increasing, my Denise needles, I could make this happen. And I found some gorgeous acrylic/alpaca yarn in my stash (Patons Rumour Hibiscus Heather). And I began. This is one of those patterns that, as long as you know how to increase and be patient, actually is really easy. It is also mind-numbing. It seems as though it should go faster since you knit it from the side. Okay, I have no idea why that would be so, but that's how it always seems to me. And the spirally bit is not visible until you bind off, so just know that it will be there. So, I took a look at the skein as I was debating whether to go up to 800 or 1600 and realized I did not have enough yarn to finish the row I was on. Crap. I was sure I must have bought another skein. I looked - nothing. Okay - I was sure I got the yarn at the local craft store - one of them. I hit the road.
It was of course not at the first one I went to (which was just as well since their lines were crazy). I did not see it at the second one but had the presence of mind to bring in the WIP so I could find a good coordinating color. The Hibiscus Heather is purple, but a reddish purple that looks weird with bluer purples. I did find a fuzzy pinkish Paton yarn that went well and then, on a second pass through I found the yarn! Yay! I bought three skeins, to finish out the scarf, possibly make one for myself, and who knows maybe a coordinating hat. It took almost the whole second skein just to bind off. But as it turned out, with this yarn, 100 stitches is a bit to much to start off with - unless you are planning for something crazy long. So while the original scarf took twice as much yarn as I expected it really made two scarves (see, I'm not crazy).

And I did have enough for a hat (where I used the fuzzy yarn as an accent).

I'm So Happy

(Okay, that headline is way funnier if you have seen "Men in Tights" and can recall Amy Yasbeck saying it in a faux British accent. Otherwise, just move on.) But, my googling has uncovered this still mostly fresh news about Victoria's Secret, and as we head into sale season, I am so happy.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

It May Not Always Be Apparent

But really - I am a marshmallow. So, in the spirit of the season, I share stories of cheer, kindness, fun , free stuff and madness from across the blogosphere.

*A kind customer looks out for a caffeine deprived retailer.
*A knitter and her family encounter lovely airport and airline people in their travels.
*Knitters attempt to save the world, a bit at a time.
*Nostalgia for gifts from the heart
*J A Konrath has free e-books#
*A gingerbread CTA station
*Ornamental stories
*Proof (again) that everyone's family (and interactions therein) is a little bit nuts.
*The line between pretty and tacky lights gets seriously trashed.

#Yeah, I know he put them up in November, but it's still like a present.

The Snow Can Only Slow Them

It is sort of intersting when you think about it. Postal Carriers are a group of people we all depend on, probably (hopefully) more often than police, fire service, and paramedics. And yet there are no movies or television shows about postal workers. Sure there was a postal challenge on season one of "Project Runway" (Jay was robbed), and Tommy Lee Jones' character in "Men in Black 2" goes to work in the post office, but really the two most well known fictional postal workers are Cliff from "Cheers" and Newman from "Seinfeld" who are both best known for not working.
As someone once said, if you handed your best friend thirty nine cents and a letter and said, "Hey take this to California for me," they would laugh at you. (Even if you are in California, I suspect thirty nine cents would not be enough to convince a firend to make a delivery for you.) So, the US Postal Service, as much as we all gripe about the rising stamp price, is still a good deal.
And why am I talking about postal workers today? Well, as you likely know, the postal service delivers six days a week (except holidays). AS you probably also know there was a huge storm in Denver that left tons of people and planes and such stranded. Well, postal workers went in to work this past Sunday and even Monday and went out on their routes to help get packages and mail to people who may be expecting it for the holidays. So, thank you.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Blue Lights

Dear Homeowners,
I grew up on the other side of Massachusetts Avenue. I don't remember what year it was that my mother discovered your amazing display, but she loaded us all into the car to see it. I am in my thirties now, my mother and sister have moved to other states but my brother and I still live in the area and still make a point to check out your display each year. It is an easy conversational topic, in our family, to discuss what the blue light house looks like this year. My sister and mother are always interested to hear about each year's display. I have no idea what kind of time and energy must go into putting together such a wonder, but I wanted you to know that my family has appreciated it greatly. Thanks, and best wishes for the season.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

I Wonder

I keep seeing the ad with the package and the plastic deer for the US Postal service. I enjoy the ad, but my overwhelming question is, have people really forgotten that the USPS does in fact pick up things from your house six days a week? Or is it just that with all the pretty UPS and Fedex people in their ads, the USPS felt it had to compete. And if there are people who don't realize that the post office picks up (as well as dropping off) is this ad really enough for them?

It's Not Just Me

I’ve been doing a lot of online training lately, and while overall the training is great and it’s great that we have it and I like being able to jump in and out of a course as my workload permits, there’s been a little something starting. I was starting to get bored. Sure, it could be my sometimes short attention span. It could be that I usually do a few screens of training, do something else, a few more screens, and so on. Or it could be that some of these courses assume I am pretty dumb. I tried to brush it off, we all have different skill levels and experience levels. It’s just because I’m bored that it seems silly. But in a course that states its target audience are HR professionals, do I really need a test on the difference between mental and physical abilities? Honestly, the first screen I was willing to allow that they were being thorough and not assuming too much prior knowledge. But do I seriously need to be quizzed – if I ask you to lift a box is that a physical or a mental ability?* I was tempted to get it wrong to see if the little good job/try again box that popped up would say something along the lines of: really at this point you may want to consider another career. But my competitive nature will not allow that. Maybe after I finish.

*This is not an actual quote. But it is seriously close to the real question.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Fun at Work

I saw and heard many amazing things when I worked in a call center. In one fabulous scenario, I watched a co-worker explain (super kindly, I want to emphasize) that she was going to put the caller on hold because he was getting a little agitated and she wanted to offer him the opportunity to calm down. (It worked too. She was a caller-whisperer.) And while it occurred to me to have fun with my customers – in a respectful manner of course – this is totally awesome.

Kilt Thoughts

I hope that the shortage of kilts gets the same treatment that other military shortages got. Just saying.
As a wench and someone who attended school in Scotland, I have seen my share of kilts. At faire (or fest)one has to be on the lookout for kilt checks (which Utilikilt amusingly lists as an advantage to wearing them).
Kilts are like all clothes, in that some people look better in them than others. They turn out to be quite slimming. And, as females already knew, true Scotsmen or not, it requires some changes to the way one sits. I went to a school with a uniform and we wore shorts under our skirts, theoretically to speed changing for gym but really so that we could sit however we wanted (especially sine we also rolled our skirts up to make them shorter). My father was quite concerned that I would forget my skirt etiquette and have a Lindsey Britney fashion faux pas - I explained that I really was able to recall when I was wearing shorts and when I was not.
Since kilts at university were brought out for dorm balls and formal dinners, there were students who decided to try them for the first time. They were often easy to spot as they would gather in the lounge (our dorm was a former hotel, and so had a great lounge/lobby area) sitting spread-eagled, often with one leg propped up. Fortunately the folks who did that tended not to be exploring their true Scotmanship. (Do guys not have to think about coordinating their underwear with their outfit? Because I saw a lot of polka dots - polka dots with plaid is not a good choice. And yes, I should never need know, but still.) Their was one incident in particular where my friend and I ended up in prime viewing position and - as we tried to look away and not look at each other either - ended up in hysterics. The object of our hysteria did not make the connection until one of the others seated with us told him to close his legs. Perhaps you had to be there.

PS Thanks to the Cherry who sent me the link!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Catching up on My Reading

Everything That's Yours is Mine by Sandra Scoppetone
I thought this was a great story by Scoppetone (I have read the first of her fifties detective series). This is a story about a PI in New York, who is also a lesbian, who is hired to investigate a rape. The twist is her client is killed fairly quickly after she meets her, so she is left to figure out whether the rape and murder are connected and if any of the victim's family members are telling the truth. The other interesting piece is that this story, while written as a contemporary is not a bit of a historical since it takes place in the early nineties when the internet was mostly a bunch of bulletin boards and since the main character had resisted the computer age, there are bits as she learns about computers and modems that are a trip back to when computers all had green screens and people didn't carry cell phones. The story is great, and the characters, and their relationships, are well written.
Grade: B

Pleasure For Pleasure by Eloisa James
Fourth of the Essex sisters series, and highly enjoyable. The series can be read out of order, but there are a few references to how the elder sisters met, and to some prior insults that the heroine (who believes erroneously that she is fat) had received, but they are explained well enough. Eloisa James has restored my faith in historicals, which I had mostly given up after reading characters roll their eyes and say, "Whatever" while wearing a corset. As with many of James' stories, the characters get married due to circumstances and then have to come to the various realizations that allow them to confess and/or realize their feelings. This is not to say that the story was formulaic, but perhaps follows a familiar pattern.
Grade: B

Monday, December 18, 2006

My Left Foot

I have a friend who has such a reputation for foot injuries, that her lovely and compassionate mother will burst into laughter at the suggestion that she may have once again injured her foot. I appear to have picked up a similar affliction.
The first I can recall was a while back I dropped the shampoo bottle on my left foot. In addition to hurting much more than one would expect a plastic bottle to hurt, I got a gorgeous purple and blue bruise over the top of my foot. I found one pair of sandals that had a wide top strap that covered the area – all the others in my closet covered part of the bruise, so that when I walked in dug in – and wore those. Since my workplace is mostly carpeted, I removed my shoes at work. And was promptly called on it. My pleas of, “I have a bruise” were not met with a lack of sympathy exactly, but they were countered with a strong request for me to put my shoes back on. (I do realize there are OSHA regulations about the wearing of shoes in the workplace, but that was not what was going on here.)
Cut to a few years later – I tripped. And while my little toe hurt like crazy I figured I had somehow stubbed it and it was nothing a good night’s sleep couldn’t fix. Except that, the next day it was black – well the outer half was. And the bruise went along the side of my foot and spread out over the top. The weird bit was that the bruise along the top always looked pretty good in the morning, but as the day wore one, it would darken up. I guess, it isn’t that weird when you think about it. I called the doctor and they told me I was welcome to come in to determine whether I had bruised or broken it, but the end result would be the same. They would recommend buddy taping the toe to the next toe, rest, and wearing closed toe shoes to prevent re-injury. If it was bruised it should be better in a few weeks, if broken a few more.
This occurred close to Thanksgiving, and my mother offered me a ride to my grandmother’s, which I accepted (gas savings and I had a manual car). My mother shared the story of how they told her the same thing when she hurt her toe, and she had demanded x-rays and an orthopedic surgeon consult. I asked her if that was the time that he fixed her tow with a pen. Actually – now that I think about it – maybe this is inherited. My mother dislocated a toe running into my brother’s crib in the middle of the night, and broke a toe playing soccer with a nerf ball (my parents discovered that night why the squishy balls were not so good for living room soccer). Hmmm.
So, cut to now. I went to see The Legwarmers (totally excellent, I highly recommend them) Friday. At one point a throng of people I have nothing nice to say about even though I don’t know them and have no good reason for this (well, one reason) were dancing enthusiastically in front of me. And one of them danced backwards - why do people not understand this is a bad idea? – onto my foot. She was wearing heels. Ouch. (She did apologize, but only after I pushed her off of my foot.) So now I have a bruise across the top of my foot. Again. The bruise has spread beyond the opening of the ballet style shoes I was wearing at the time of the injury. (Not the best choice, in retrospect.) So, I am down to a pair of rubber sandals that don’t press too much. They are super comfy.

Julia Sweeney

On NPR they talk about driveway moments. While I am sure that NPR likely didn’t invent this term, they do have a CD of such moments so that’s where I hear the term. And certainly NPR has provided several driveway moments. One in particular was technically a parking lot moment, since it was Saturday and I was on my way to the grocery store. “This American Life” was on, and they were running the episode with Julia Sweeney’s monologues about her family’s experience with cancer. Since my mother was coming through the last course of radiation this has special poignancy for me. Oh – and it was really funny – in the way that tragically real and really tragic stories are. (You can listen to it yourself here - June 9th.) I arrived at the grocery store at about the halfway point in the show, and sat in my car waiting for what? For it to stop being funny? It didn’t. For a commercial? It’s NPR. For it to end? Was I really going to sit in my car listening to the radio for another thirty minutes. I decided I was not. So, I did go hunt it down and listen to the rest later. It is just such an amazing story and if I watched SNL with any regularity this would make me sadder that Sweeney never really got the chance to be this funny there. (I mean Pat was funny, but really.) So, how did I not know she has a blog? And it’s very interesting (I’m catching up on old entries) as her current focus is figuring out religion and it’s place in her life and her child’s life. Sweeney is a lapsed Catholic. And she is struggling with – to a certain extent what my parents struggled with – how do we give our children that spiritual grounding without making religion a chore* she is also looking at how to find the right balance of stories and spirituality for herself and her child.

*My parents’ solution was to baptize us, but not take us to church. And to encourage us to go to church with grandparents when we or they visited and to send us to Christian schools for parts of our educations. Their idea was to let us make our own choices, even though I suspect they were thinking along the lines of Christian church going or agnostic, not say Muslim or Buddhist.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Pearl Harbor the Movie & Me

I finally watched Pearl Harbor a weekend or so ago, and let me just tell you I am so glad that, other than my cable bill, I did not pay to watch this.

Note: I am not going to talk much about the plot, I am more interested in speaking to the historical items and some background issues so it will not spoil much of the movie for you if you have not seen it. But, it will possibly ruin your ability to enjoy it, so you decide.

First - some background. My grandparents live (and my grandmother still does) on O'ahu. My grandfather was a policeman and my grandmother was a nurse at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor. My dad was just over a year, and my aunt was just a few months old herself so my grandmother was not at the hospital the day of the attacks. My brother and I went to visit the Arizona Memorial just a few years ago (we had tried on an earlier visit and missed the last boat - literally). So it is a time, place, and event that has particular resonance for me. I also have read a ton of historical fiction about World War II, including a book called Pearl. While I - erroneously, clearly - thought since the movie was called Pearl Harbor it might start with the event, I got over that. I did appreciate the inclusion of the Hiroshima bombings to provide counterpoint that the Japanese weren't the only mean people in this story. However, there were to me gaps.

The first being that Hawaii has always been a bit of a salad bowl, and like much of the west coast there are large Asian communities (after all without them, who would we have interned during the war?). And yet, all the setting shots where we see people - not military (because I do grant that, the military in pre-war Hawaii would have been much less racially diverse) but kids playing baseball, people in restaurants and at gas stations - there would have been people who were Hawaiian, and Chinese, and Korean and Japanese and all sorts of other things. They have one character, who is a doctor, who's only purpose is to freak out a soldier he tries to treat during the attack. That's it - that's the some total of their non-military racial diversity. A movie that takes place in Hawaii and yet has no Hawaiians. And sure, some of these people could already be mixed such that they appear white (as I do) more than their other heritages. But it struck me as wallpaper Hawaii story - there are pretty beaches for the characters to fly over and make out on. But Hawaii, which at that point was a territory that had a tense relationship with the military - gets no real screen time. There was no mention that I saw of the military takeover of Hawaii that occurred after the attack, no mention of the internment of Asians - and they already had a token* Asian doctor who surely would have been affected. (I admit my attention had sagged at this point, more mention of the doctor's nationality/heritage may have been made, however if you think only Japanese people were swept up in the camps, you would be incorrect.)

Now, for those of you who have seen the movie you are likely thinking, is she crazy the movie is already three hours long, and she wants more? And I agree - I have yet to see a three hour movie ("Gone With the Wind" comes close) that couldn't lose at least thirty minutes and be the better for it. And yes, the movie tried to do too much, uniting two essentially unrelated stories such that one felt like filler and trying to spend too much (IMO) time on the politics before and after the attack. It was also interesting that it spent a lot of time with the Japanese soldiers as they approached Hawaii and then, nothing. No more time with them.

Did it make me cry - yes - but I felt silly as I did. Aware that I had been manipulated with simple story "twists". So, overall, thumbs down.

*I realize the term token is somewhat divisive and I probably shouldn't use it facetiously, but this drives me crazy. This is just like setting a show in New York and never seeing a Hispanic or black person, when any tourist would find out on the walk to the hotel that that was not realistic.

I'm Back

Yesterday my company's web filter software decided that blogger should be tagged "Sex". Mind you, it would let me read blogs, including mine, just not log into mine. Now, I would like to point out that:
-My company does not have a blogging policy.
-I don't usually blog at work, although I often post at work.
But, after being in a big sugar requiring snit about it yesterday, today I can get in.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Thank You, TV Peeps!

Thank you, NBC! NBC is moving "Friday Night Lights" to Wednesday thereby assisting me on two of my nights - Tuesday because even my Dual Tuner Tivo couldn't keep up with Tuesday. And Wednesday, which okay I had been using to catch up on the overflow from Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, but still. Wednesday is mostly dead. No "Law & Order", no "Veronica", no "Project Runway" and okay I've been watching the seriously manipulated "Top Chef", but really. And sure, I caught up on reading and writing, and cleaning, at least theoretically, but this is much better. Yay!

And itunes now has season three (current) episodes of "Veronica Mars" - yay! Go catch up!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

When is it Stealing?

The growing potential scandal about Ian McEwen's Atonment, has created some interesting questions for me. I read about it on Smart Bitches (links below). What it boils down to, is McEwen wrote a book about a that is in part about a wartime nurse. Lucilla Andrews, who herself was an author, had written a memoir of her experiences as a wartime nurse. McEwen acknowledges her as being a helpful source but has apparently found her so helpful that he cribbed a few passages. I have read neither so I am unaware of the level of cribbing other than what has been reported (which is a few paragraphs where McEwen clearly lifted with some non-essential word swapping). However it is creating an interesting debate as to where the line between appreciation and plagiarism is. If there are only a few sources for a particular type of character, is it more likely that you would have to rely heavily on that source. If you relying heavily on a source where is the line between use, tribute, and stealing? Is it better or worse if you are an established author found to have possibly plagiarised than a new author? If you credit your source does that make it not plagiarism? Adding into the mix, Andrews had apparently been recently made aware of the similarities and had planned to address it, but sadly passed away before she could.

In order-ish:

Original post at Smart Bitches - the post and the comments have great links and discussion.

Interview with Nora Roberts at Smart Bitches (Roberts was a victim of plagiarism).

Follow up post at Smart Bitches with link to follow up article by writer who pointed out the similarities.

Bookseller Chick provides the link to Slate's coverage.


I am slowly noticing - I hesitate to use the word backlash, but an increasing concern about being known as feminist as well as a desire from people who feel they write literary stuff to refute the label chick lit. I don't know if these things are tied together or not. But in both cases it seems there is, in part a misunderstanding about the label or a feeling the the label is not all encompassing. I suggest this because I don't see any reason to believe that these famous-ish people who are stating they are not feminists are against gender equality (which is really the basic premise of feminism) so it seems a backlash against people who take positions they don't agree with under the label of feminism. Just imagine for a moment, what would happen to Christianity if that happened. (And okay, reformation, millions of splits, Protestants of every shape and size, it kind of did.)

I feel like the anti-chick lit issue is similar. As far as I can tell the thing that unites chick lit is that the main character is a girl. And sure often it's a middle class, twenty something, white girl but again, I don't think that is a function of the label. I find book labelling (from a bookstore perspective, rather than a dewey decimal or other cataloguing perspective) morbidly fascinating. Why is Pat Booth in Fiction but Jennifer Crusie is in Romance? And then there are people like Alesia Holliday and Linda Howard and Kay Hooper who have books in both Romance and Mystery and - depending on the store, Fiction too. (Holliday also has books in YA, but under a different name). And why is Christine Feehan in Romance and not Sci Fi? But anyway, the label or section marker is really just a starting point. Sure, I don't spend a lot of time in the History section, so if your book got shelved there chances are I won't see it but that's why books are all over the store these days. That's why there's an information desk. That's why there's kiosks and stuff. And honestly, if your story is about a woman, being called chick lit or women's fiction or whatever today's heading of choice is, is not inaccurate. (We won't even talk about what happens if your story is chick lit about a guy.) So, feminist, chick lit author - it's all good.

Okay, it turns out this is not new, and Sars has spoken eloquently on the feminist label rejection issue here:

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Real is In the Details

I've been thinking about what makes a story - not resonate - but seem real. Recognizing that all stories call for some level of a suspension of disbelief, what is that helps you get there. I've seen mention on a few blogs where people were fed up with unrealistic sister relationships. I recently started skimming a book after the chaaracter did a number of things that didn't jibe for me. So what makes it seem real? And a lot of times it the little stuff. One of the things I love about "Friday Night Lights" is the relationship between Coach Taylor and Tammy, his wife. Their interactions seem (to me who, yes, has never been married) so real - they have tensions but they are not always the drama of the week. They apologize to each other, but not always with huge gestures, often with simple words. I know I already talked about the grocery store DJ in Why Moms Are Wierd but that' the kind of thing that has me giggling in recognition and it draws me deeper in. A lot of the articles about "Veronica Mars" talk about the relationship between Veronica and her dad, and I think that's part of what grounds the series so that as she does things that are a little dark for a now college student, you at least know she has that center - even if they are disagreeing about curfews and boyfriends.

Friday, December 08, 2006

I Knew About the Condoms...

...Due to my extensive military fiction reading, but the Silly String was new.
Silly String in Iraq Apparently, it helps reveal trip wires. Very cool. I just wonder who had the Silly String the first time they tried it.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Grammy People and I Have Some Differences

Not that this is a shock. But "Jesus Take The Wheel" is nominated for best song and best country song, well, you know how I feel.

(I am very happy for the Dixie Chicks, Miranda Lambert, The Wreckers and Corinne Bailey Rae, and many other folks.)

Thoughts on Differences and Education

I was pondering out treatment of race and sexuality.  At my church, a
standard part of the announcements process welcomes visitors explaining
(paraphrased) that this community welcomes people of all genders, sexual
preferences and affections, race, and all other things that make us different
from one another.  And while I recognize that there are people who view
transgendered and/or homosexual people as having made a choice rather than
living out a biological destiny and that affects their ability to view those
things as "acceptable", in the end these are all just differences.  While
there is still work to do in gender equality, it is interesting to me to
listen to some of these discussions about race or sexuality and the rights
that should be afforded and the quotas and things we can use to try and create
diverse student bodies and replace the word race or sexuality with gender and
imagine the reaction.  If there were a school district that was somehow
ninety five percent boys, wouldn't everyone agree that busing to create a
better gender balance was a good idea for all of the students? 

On the flip side of that is the Kamehameha schools in Hawaii.  The
Kamehameha schools were founded as a result of a bequest that asked for
schools to be founded to promote education of and for native Hawaiian
students.  (I realize Hawaiians are often the forgotten tribe in this
country so let me digress to remind you that: the teaching and speaking of
Hawaiian was forbidden for many years, the US government overthrew the
legitimate Hawaiian government for fear Hawai'i might align with Britain, the
Hawaiians were only granted reservation land in the 1990's.) These schools do
also accept people without Hawaiian origins, but give preference to those who
can demonstrate any native background (no matter how far back, as long as you have papers).

A case has been making its way through the court systems, Doe v. Kamehameha
Schools, with a student who was otherwise qualified but denied a spot since
the year he applied there were more native students who were accepted than
spaces*. (While this certainly isn't the only driving factor here, I should
mention that tuition for this well-regarded private school is about
$6,000.)  The suit states that this is a racially prejudicial application
system.  Now to nutshell it a bit, the current court view (in general)
seems to be leaning towards an acceptance of race as one of several
considerations, but not as a sole factor.  Except - as far as I can tell
- with regards to historically black schools.  The rulings have gone back
and forth a bit on this case, but some of the rulings have mentioned the legal
standing for schools that show preference to groups that have experienced
"socio-economic and educational disadvantages"*.

To tie this back to the thoughts that started this, I was applying to college
during the VMI and Citadel brou-hahas.  (A student with a gender neutral
name applied and was accepted to the Citadel, and then it turned out she was a
girl!)  Well, the upshot of the case was that since the Citadel (I don't
think VMA was directly involved, it was just they realized their situation was
analogous) received federal money that were not allowed to continue with a
prejudicial admissions policy, so they had to either stop taking federal
monies or accept qualified females or form a parallel institution that offered
equivalent instruction to females.  (They went with option two). 
What interests me with the Kamehmeha case, is that the school does not receive
federal or state monies.  So, if we follow the closest analogous case
that I am aware of from a gender perspective - we're all good.  And
people seem to accept that while public education will not have gender
divides, it is acceptable in private institutions.  And as far as I am
aware no one is challenging the right for traditionally black institutions to
remain predominately black.  It would be interesting to see what would
happen if someone tried to start a school for homosexuals (to educate them,
not 'retrain' them.)

* The student has applied four times, the other three the student was not
accepted for reasons other than lack of space for non-native students.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

"Grey" Thoughts: Perspectives

I was thinking entirely too much about last week's episode of "Grey's Anatomy" and Izzie's initial kick-ass "I don't do coffee" response to McSteamy. I was thinking about how in character that seemed for her and why that would be her knee jerk response whereas Alex's was to do it with a sigh and not even request reassignment after days on not being allowed to learn. It occurred to me that the more I thought about this, the more it made sense. Izzie grew up in a trailer park and worked as a model to get herself through med school. All of that, combined with being female, blonde and pretty means she has encountered many people who think they can roll over her and stick her with the scut work so she has had practice standing up for herself.

Alex in contrast was an athlete in high school and I believe college and then a med student. He is (as much fits with one of the overlapping themes of "Friday Night Lights" accustomed to people handing him things. I am sure as an athlete and I'm guessing frat boy he went through some hazing. So from his perspective this errand running is a proving ground he just has to get through or past. He doesn't see it as sexism, or beauty-ism and, as an arrogant person himself, he sees nothing wrong with arrogance when , as McSteamy apparently can, you can back it up in surgery.

I Know This Is Mean

I know this is mean, but I am sorely tempted to download the ringtones all of my obnoxious co-workers have (the obnoxious co-workers who leave their phones unattended and yet have friend or relatives who call six times in a row because they are too good for voicemail - those co-workers). Why would I want ringtones that are constantly hammered into my brain? Because the second part of my plan is to play them over and over, sending the co-workers scrambling for their phones only to find it's not their phone. I realize the joy I would receive from this would be small and fleeting, but nonetheless the idea persists. And then, hopefully these same co-workers would change their ringtones so that they wouldn't get confused and then, well, then I'd at least have new obnoxious ringtones to listen to.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Good News

For those of you who have (or haven't) been following the story of CNET editor James Kim and his family who disappeared a week ago Saturday, his wife and children have been located in great condition considering they were sitting in a stuck car all this time. Hopefully the good news will continue.

12/7/2006 - Sadly Mr. Kim's body was recovered. My thoughts are with his family and friends.

A Little Rant About "Heroes"

List of Things That "I'm sorry" Can Fix
I'm late.
I forgot to do a small favor.
I forgot to put toilet paper on the roll.
I bumped into you accidentally.
I spilled something on you accidentally.
I accidentally cut in line.
I left something behind I was supposed to bring.

Nowhere on this list, or I'm guessing any other is "I'm sorry that my alter-ego shot at you with a long range rifle". For those of you did not watch "Heroes last night (or have not yet watched) this will not make much sense. I'm not saying that "Heroes" is a perfect show, but honestly that little plot jag last night would have required the entire bottle of wine had I been playing along with TWoP/Erin's suggested crappy writing drinking game. The show has a great concept and some really excellent characters. And I'm am admittedly out of patience with trying to figure out how having an alter-ego makes you 'super' instead of a candidate for therapy, but nonetheless. I don't care how crappy your life is, how much I love you, how messed up I know you to be, how many kids we have together, you shoot at me with a rifle trying to kill me and we are not talking for a while. It is not a scenario where you say, "I'm sorry" and I go, okay, let's get you some help. You and our child are not going to go anywhere together, not without at least bulletproof vests. It's not that I don't have sympathy for people with superpowers or dissociative identity disorder. But the reality is, in all of these scenarios you have to take responsibility for your actions. And I'm sorry is just the beginning.

(Yes, I do know these are fictional people. Really.)

Monday, December 04, 2006

On a Lighter Note

One of my favorite email forwards is the things to do when bored at work, which includes "page yourself, don't disguise your voice". On a similar vein I adore the Overheard in the Office blog in the isn't it nice to know we all work with idiots vein. (Disclaimer: My immediate co-workes are mostly awesome, other internal and external clients have been known to leave something to be desired.) But for whatever reason, this entry has me giggling still, days later.

Thoughts About "Day Break"

I had an interesting thought about "Day Break". I read a review somewhere that commented that the show started to get interesting as Hopper (Taye Diggs) figures out how to play with the day he gets to relive over and over, and I agree. But one of the things that seems to make it work, is that, unlike "24" in which a bunch of people have one really unbelievable day, Hopper's day is complex because, as with most of us there are tons of storylines playing out beside and around him and with each shot he's learning a little more about what happened. This is not to say that the danger that this one day is so freaking full of crap doesn't exist, but so far it's working. Hopper learns enough each go around to make it seem worthwhile, and in th emost recent episode one plotline seems to have been resolved such that he may not have to add it to his ever growing list. The other interesting thing that they did is each time Hopper relives the day he not only retains the information he learned - which sometimes screws him up because sometimes he forgets which day he called his sister back for example - but he also retains any injuries and such. I thought that was an unfair rule at first, but then realized that's so he can't take unreasonable risks, since assumedly it would mean if he dies in any of the verisons, he won't get to try and fix it the next day.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Trying to Find a Balance

  1. Sigh. I just - sigh. It's not just the only Christians can appreciate Christmas conceit, but also the idea that Christians don't find Christmas and all its trappings stressful, or that all Christians even celebrate Christmas or - sigh.
  2. Woo-hoo ! Maybe now they'll do a musical episode. Also, it's further proof that "How I Met Your Mother" has a rocking (and warbling) cast. (Link from ALOTT5MA)
  3. While I love shout-outs, and the scene in "Bull Durham" where Kevin Costner tells Tim Robbins the five things you need to know to talk to reporters rocks, who knew it would turn out a bunch of folks would crib from the Beach Boys ?
  4. Maybe I'll win this.
  5. Kerfuffling in various places on the net about amateur book reviewers. Summarized/Linked up nicely here . Imagine untrained, unpaid people thinking they can talk about stuff. And of course the sad public who believe what they say, because surely they are not able to make good decisions either.
  6. I watched "My Boys" and it was good. Props to the appropriate combination of actors and director, because the little motions made it all so realistic.
  7. Trying not to read too much into the fact that all my good things in this list are about television.