Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Families Real and Imagined

A great story from Mindy Kaling about holidays with the family.
Hat Tip to ALOTT5MA for the link.

Monday, December 21, 2009

What Did I Read?

With the help of some record setting snow, I did spend a large portion of my day on the couch reading on Sunday.
I started and finished Tithe by Holly Black and made a good dent in the anthology The Lost finishing off the J.D. Robb story and the Patricia Gaffney story.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The first Annual Do Nothing But Read Day

...is Sunday!
You have to promise to read more than one book (but you can read short books or anthologies and count those).
You can eat too. And drink.
But basically, you promise to dedicate Sunday to reading. Oh, and staying in the jammies. Awesome.

Hat tip to Library Thing for the link.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fictional Kids

And to counter yesterday's rant, let me chat about something I've sen done really well. I am super picky about kids in books. Perhaps I like kids too much to see them used as plot pawns or just got sick of the precious little children who appeared long enough to ask, "Will you marry my daddy?" or some such ridiculousness.
This is by no means a comprehensive list but tome people I have seen do kids really well include:
Nora Roberts*
Lani Diane Rich
Sandra Kitt (who has more than one teenager in For All We Know

Now you might notice I have not included young adult or children's authors, and it's not that I think they are unworthy, it's that I think that's a whole different skill, creating a believable protagonist who is also a kid or young adult.
(Also, that list is really, really long for me. This one probably would be too if I really sat and thought about it.)

*Nora Roberts even has kids who start big life conversations with their parent's love interest, but they do it in a way that sounds like a real kid, rather than a scripted kid.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Book Rant #20: MD area

I recognize the suburban Maryland area is large and complex. But, two things you should know about our suburbs here. First, Prince George's County is not a suburb, it's a county. People who live here rarely say they live in PG, they would be much more likely to reference the actual town or city they live in. Partly because that's what people do, and partly because it's a huge county and there's a difference between living in University Park or Landover or Forestville or Oxon Hill (to name a few places).
Second, it is Silver Spring. Not Springs. It's not named after the song it's named after an actual spring that had mica in it making it look silver.
(Heh. This kind of proves Lani's point about using fake towns to avoid all the angry mail from locals.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Different Kind of Moebius

A Bagel. Yep, a bagel.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

A Moment in Time

After spitting twice, knocking on wood and offering up a sacrifice to the hockey gods, I have captured this little moment. The season has a game or fifty to go, so this could all look very different in a month or so, but for now, we have this.

A Little Something Special

I want to say I have no words. But really, it's just so - well - so that I don't want to spoil it except to say that this is a very interesting approach to holiday celebration and really, if you've been searching for what to get that special lady in your life, please do not use this as your guide.

(Yes, I realize the advice is good. But really, no one said, hey, maybe there's a better way to present this message. No one?)
Hat Tip to the Monkey See blog.
ETA - Apparently last year they did one aimed at 'shopping' for men.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Compare and Contrast

In case you missed the various bloggers blogging and (so I hear) the twitterers twitting, the Muppets perform "Bohemian Rhapsody"*

And then we have a rap about Alexander Hamilton. Yep. That's right.

Hat Tip to ALOTT5MA for the Muppets and Mental Floss for the Hamilton.

Friday, December 04, 2009

My Underwear Broke Me

A commenter over at Smart Bitches linked to this amazing story. The folks at Above the Law do a great job of covering it, but I wanted to say, I have bought some disappointing underwear. Underwear that turned out to give me a wedgie, or squeeze me funny causing dress bumps, or underwear where I couldn't tell the front from the back. But I feel I can say with certainty, that I never purchased underwear that caused severe abrasions. I also can say, that while I hope I never encounter such, my response to a concern about severe abrasions in my underwear region, would be to get it checked out. And addressed. And possibly, buy more underwear. But apparently, this guy, has a different approach. One can only imagine what would happen if he knew about the adhesive stuff.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Apparently I am Poor(ish)

Or I have rich tastes. First there was a news that I make less that the median incomes of both metro and bus riders. (I appear to be bringing that median down. Interesting. And yes, I know, that median is not mean.)
Now apparently, I have much better paid company in my gLeekhood. Oh, and "Community" too.

(Don't worry, I'm not job hunting just so I can fit in better on the metro. I just found it fascinating.)
Hat tip to the Monkey See blog for the "Glee" link.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Self Pub vs. Vanity

I've been staying to the sidelines (blog-wise) with the whole Harlequin Horizons issue, mostly because I think it's been extensively and fairly covered elsewhere.
But, I did follow a link to Stacia Kane's post which clearly defines self publishing vs. the vanity publishing, which I think a lot of people confuse. So, go read that.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Book Rant #19: Fictionally Pregnant

If you are a book character*, especially in a paranormal and you - say, decide to have sex in front of a centuries old fertility statue, assume that your previous issues with conception will no longer apply.
Also, if you have sex with an alien, please assume that your Earth birth control will not be effective, because, you know, it's for Earthlings. It has not been tested on aliens.

*These rules may very well apply to non-fictional people to, I am simply less certain of that.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Darn That Dash Cam

Saw this over on Boing Boing. A man walks into a bank. Hands the teller a note demanding money. A short time later, a man is pulled over and arrested on suspicion of being said bank robber. The officers place him up against the hood of the cruiser and begin to empty his pockets. In an attempt to make himself appear less guilty (or so I imagine) the man leans over and eats the note.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

7 Things: NaNoWrimo Again

1. I cannot write 1667 words a day for 30 days. I can however, apparently write somewhere between zero and 4000.
2. This year I actually even had some plot left over when I hit 50,000.
3. That does not mean that I don't have a ton of sitting and talking scenes.
4. It turns out that butt in chair thing really works. Or butt in couch.
5. There will always be someone who makes your progress look ridiculous. Whether it's the person who - despite having kids and stuff crossed the finish line two weeks ago or the person who had the flu and started late and still made up all that time and finished.
6. Editing is for December. Or January.
7. Still, 50k - whether you get there slow and steady, or in ginormus bursts is awesome.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Ballou Marching Band

Ballou High School is fairly well known, notorious even in the DC area. The school made the news several times in 2004 when they closed down a few times and experienced violence. People called for the school to be just shut down. But of course, if you have ever found yourself attached to a group getting news coverage, you know it is only the extremes that make the news. So, now it's time for the other extreme.
Ballou has a marching band. The seniors in the marching band always graduate (sadly that is not the case for the rest of the senior class at Ballou.)
The marching band is the subject of a documentary. They have been featured on "The Ellen Degeneres Show". They marched in the Inaugural Parade. And they were asked to appear in the Rose Bowl parade. (And I recommend that article, it explains very eloquently about the value the band is providing. In fact I want to send it to everyone who suggest cutting music programs.)
And now, they were the first DC school band ever to appear in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.

Squirrels in the Basement

Sometimes, deep into a manuscript something happens. One of the characters suddenly does something that you, the author, did not expect. Some people attribute this to a muse or divine intervention. Stephen King spoke of a guy coming up from the basement and depositing something on the table in front of you. Jennifer Crusie often refers to the girls in the basement, the idea that no matter how much plotting or outlining you do there's always a moment when your fingers put down something and you go, huh, well, that's not quite how I had planned that but interesting. And still others talk about how those ideas rattling around in the back often create something (it turns out they're brothers) that ends up adding a new layer or wrinkle that's really kinda cool.
So, I was pointed to a story from this summer. This couple were on vacation, and they wanted to take one of those - Here's us in front of the lake - photos. And they setup the camera and set the timer and got into place, and just before the picture was taken a squirrel popped up intrigued by the sound of the camera. So, their picture ended up looking like this.
So, sometimes in writing you end up with surprise squirrels.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It May Look Like Just Hanging Out

The UUA President Peter Morales said this, in the latest UU World,
"I am convinced that we too often fail to recognize how much our children, youth, and young adults need to give. Hanging out is not a spiritual practice. Joining hands to work for something we care about is. Service is an essential part of faith development. We need to do so much more to engage the idealism and energy of our young people."
Now here's the thing, I absolutely agree that service to and for others is an important part of being a spiritual community. But there are three things that bother me about this.
(ChaliceChick has also chimed in wonderfully over here.)
1. While the column does address the needs of congregations as a whole to give, he has chosen to particularly single out people under the age of 35*. I don't necessarily believe his intention was to imply that these groups are somehow slacking, but here's the interesting thing about these groups - many in congregations assume that they are slacking. Or that they are available for free labor - to look after the young kids while the adults have fun, or to help move a couch. One youth ministry coordinator used to respond to requests for youth to assist with something by asking what other groups had been called on. Her feeling was that if you wouldn't also make this same request of the choir, or the coffee groups, then maybe picking on the youth wasn't the best approach either.
2. I understand that contributing to the greater good is important part of congregational life. I also understand that studies show that congregants participating in such events end up feeling more deeply committed to their congregation, so it serves the congregation well too. But it also means the congregation has to figure out how to offer options that don't require a monetary commitment (young adults are often in transitional life phases), have easy access to public transportation so that kids, youth and young adults can get there without having to rely on parents for a ride, and fit well into their busy lives. Some congregations assume that if you can get there on Sunday, you must be able to get there any other time too, forgetting the complex arrangements that might entail.
3. Hanging out is important. It helps bond you to your fellow congregants. It helps remind you that there are others who believe similar things, which for UU kids, youth and young adults is really important. They often face confusion and even mild harassment for their beliefs in school, they need to be reminded that there is a place where they are the norm. And these kids, the number one reason we don't see a youth for a few weeks is usually because they were too busy with sports, homework or theater work. It is rarely because they chose to sleep in (although if they did, I could hardly blame them). I'm not saying that the other things they do (which ChaliceChick listed well, although I would add the Murder Mystery Dinner Theater and the Coffee Houses that they run, with the money from these events going to charity). And the youth enjoy those things too, in fact most of these came from a youth coming up with the idea and now it's just one more thing we do each year. But they should also have space to hang out with each other.

*For RE purposes, the UU definition of child is 0-14, youths are usually high school aged 14-22, and young adults are 18-35.
Edited for spelling.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sign I am Easy to Please

I think "NCIS: Los Angeles" is sort of a placeholder show. It's got potential, but sometimes, I feel like it is a better show if I don't look to close. But, I adore Hetty, played by the lovely Linda Hunt.
Well, so, although I know she is fictional and all, I feel somewhat proud that Hetty and I have the same phone.

Monday, November 23, 2009

There's So Much That We Share

So, I purchased tickets over the phone for a play. When I started to give my address, it turned out the ticket taker lives in my building, on my floor, about six apartments over from mine. So, the address part went really fast.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

So Jealous!

Seriously, while the no tolerance policies high schools some high schools are sporting these days kinda suck, there are things about high school today that (almost) make me wish I could do it again. Things like this high school in Canada that will now get their textbooks downloaded to their Sony e-readers. The e-readers (as do most of the dedicated readers) allow for notations so students can not only read but make notations.
Also, one reader has got to be so much lighter than carrying six or seven textbooks. Although, it does make it harder to forget your books. (Or, well, easier too.)
Hat tip to Dear Author for the link.
ETA the word policies.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Denominator Gets Lower

I want to state that I do not think reality television, in and of itself, is evil, bad or mind-rotting. But certainly there have been some really horrid premises. Yes, well, over in the UK, plans are in the works for "Plane Crash". A plane will be deliberately crashed so they can view the wreckage. Supposedly this will provide insight into safety issues.
The promoters are very proud of the idea that nothing like this has been attempted before.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Found One!

The DC quarter was released in January. (I was very excited, even with the modified design change.) Which means in January I started bugging cashiers. Using bills to get as much change as possible. (I am also making the Coinstar people happy). By summer I was ready to spout conspiracy theories, but then someone got one, so I knew they did exist, I just had to acquire one. I actually got a Puerto Rico one first.
But now, finally, cashiers in the area can relax.
Quarter 2

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I am Cool Like

In case it wasn't clear, I am a big sucker for group musically inclined type projects. Add in a charity and/or a seemingly plausible grassroots - type story, well you might be able to sell me the Brooklyn Bridge. Or a least a song about it.
So we have the Chartjackers, with the crowd sourced, "I've Got Nothing".

Hat Tip to the Monkey See Blog.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

All By Myself

Okay, my cat disagrees with this assessment, but nonetheless, apparently a huge portion of folks in the DC area live alone. I find this fascinating mostly because I would think rents in this area would force a higher number of people to have roommates. Goodness knows that's the only way I was able to live in most of the places I lived.
But it's nice to know I'm not alone. Well, you know what I mean.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Where I Gleek Out

I am going to bring together two things that have been talked about a little recently. One involves "gLee". (Did you know the first gLee soundtrack is out soon? Did you know I may get tired of typing it gLee?) Now people always say that muscial TV shows don't work, pointing to "Cop Rock" and "Viva Luaghlin". I actually think "Cop Rock" wasn't that bad (can't say the same for "Viva Laughlin", even having Wolverine there didn't help). But clearly "Cop Rock" didn't find the right audience and got pulled early. Of course, there was this little show called "Fame" that had singing and was also had other things that people say don't work (movie spinoff, diverse cast, high schoolers that actually graduated) and it managed to survive pretty well.
(Did I mention that the gLee soundtrack is coming?)
With the apparent weak opening of "Amelia" the latest discussion is whether or no women can open movies and if it's that women won't watch movies about women that aren't fun group movies. I think honestly when I can watch movies on my phone, getting me to a theater has to offer me an experience that justifies my needing to be in a special place, at a special time, for a "special" amount of money, with only "special" snacks and surrounded by people who might cough or whisper about where they saw that guy before*. It has to be something that I think the movie screen will make better than watching on my couch. That's why I think visually interesting movies are doing well. Or movies where you can gather all your friends for dinner and a movie (because my couch is only so big.)
So, in the Post article about the end of movies with strong women, I think it totally ignores the possibility that people didn't want to see "Amelia" because it's possibly boring, or a movie where you know the main character dies in the end and instead said, oh, it must be because it's about a woman. (I am not unbiased on the subject of Amelia Earhart, but still.)
I think the important thing is this quote from Dergarabedian "Ultimately, everything comes down to the movie. If the movie's good, it can cross over all kinds of lines and break all sorts of rules."
And that's really the end result, people see movies that intrigue them. People watch TV shows that intrigue them. I ignored "Buffy" because vampires creep me out. (And it was on opposite "Ally McBeal".) But I heard and read enough things that made it sounds like something I might like until I finally checked it out. And loved it.
I love "gLee". (Did I tell you the sound track is out soon?) I love it despite it's faults. I love the singing and the dancing and I love the little moments they get right, the little bits in the midst of the crazy.
Now, I agree with the point by March Hirsch over at Monkey See that more live singing, or less produced stuff would make it even better. And yes, the kids sitting around singing was better than the crazy over produced version of "No Air". ("No Air" was still fun, but let's face it, it was clear we had crossed over into a music video with not even the tiniest bit of reality left.)
I also think a great point is made by there, that yes, we know it's a TV show, but there is a point where all the things that remind you this is just TV add up to too much and it starts to be less fun. (My tolerance level is usually raised when people sing for me. The gLee sondtrack is coming, had you heard?)
So in the end, I think the point is people watch stuff not because it's "good" or "about a strong woman" but becuase they think they will enjoy it. And while everyone's standard for that is different (and certainly about a strong woman might well be your benchmark) people watch stuff they wouldn't necessarily choose in a survey when it looks good enough to get over their other issues with people singing, or period pieces, or biographies or blood and gore or whatever their normal not for me's are.
Hey, had you heard about the gLee soundtrack? Since the Monkey See Article had the jam session, I will leave you with this. (Yes, it also looks like a video, but it;s so great, that I don't care.)

*It was George Clooney! And no this wasn't young people being disruptive, they were senior citizens.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Knitting Saves Lives (Other People's)

I once, somewhat jokingly, presented a formula that went something like this:
Yarn (and knitting) makes me happy. And (to borrow from "Legally Blonde") happy people don't kill people. So really the ruse and stupid people I encounter are being saved because I sniffed a little wool (or cashmere, or cotton, or silk, or bamboo...).
And the Yarn Harlot recently(ish) asked a very good question:
How do non-knitters handle stress? I mean, I know they must do something, since it's not like I see them all weeping on the bus all the time, but when everything in their lives is all messed up, what is the thread of sanity and sameness that runs through it and keeps them from being a lunatic? Does knitting attract people who need something to moderate stress more than others? Do you think that you use knitting to moderate your behaviour, and in this spirit of this shirt (I knit so I don't kill people) do you think your behaviour would be different if you didn't?
Now I have made it to this point in my life without killing people (as far as I know) and I was not knitting the whole time, but I absolutely turn to knitting when I am stressed. I keep a project by my work computer both to while away the time while a large document is opening or to keep me from surfing the web during conference calls but also for those moments when people are ticking me off. So, it's also helping keep me employed.
I don't know if knitter are stressed or stressed people are knitters any more than I know if impatient people are knitters or knitters are impatient, but it does make me wonder about the non-knitters. Perhaps they should teach people to knit in prison.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

7 Things: The Amy Johnson Issue

A small moment in Judith Krantz's Til We Meet Again mentioned Amy Johnson. Intrigued I looked her up, and a few years later a new biography on her came out which I immediately purchased. I didn't finish it until a few years later where I brought it on a long trip, but I find it strange that Amelia Earhart seems to get all the press when their two stories are so eerily similar. And yet I find (personally) Amy Johnson more interesting. So, I present 7 Things: The Amy Johnson issue.
1. Amy married a fellow pilot Jim Mollison. She had set flying records prior to their meeting, and together they set several more.
2. Amy also broke one of her husband's records.
3. Planes at that time had relatively small fuel tanks and there were limited places to refuel, so pilots carried extra fuel cans on board with them. Amy and her husband ended up crash landing in Bridgeport, CT after running out of fuel during a flight from Wales to the US and, after recuperating, were thrown a ticker tape parade.
4. A song was written about Amy's flight to Australia. Another song was written about her years later in the 1970's.
5. Amy and her husband divorced and she reverted to her maiden name.
6. In 1940 the ATA was formed to assist the transport of newly built aircraft to the airbases, using pilots that could not fly combat, such as women. (The Women's Army Air Corps performed similar duties in the US.) Amy joined, and on a mission, went off course and bailed out of her plane. She was never found.
7. In the late 1990's a man came forward claiming that Amy's plane was shot down after failing to provide the correct code of the day and that they were told not to reveal this.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


We had our final Discovery class last week. (Lani will be offering the classes again in January,keep an eye out if you're interested.)
I have listened to several author's talk about opening scenes. How the first time you write it, it's just practice. Especially if you (like me) are a pantser (compared to a plotter). There are all sorts of things one wants to accomplish in an opening scene and you can't properly figure all that out until you know what your whole book is. (I hear tell that even the plotters are often surprised at the twists that happen. Which is why (although this might change (hey, have you noticed I'm getting really parenthetical here?)) I think plotting is like swatching, it makes you feel better but often as not it doesn't really reflect the finished product.)
Now of course, you might say, well, just skip it. And you could. But it usually helps to have some sort of placeholder in there even if the gazillionth time you tweak it it ends up looking nothing like how it started.
Lani, who is also a knitter, explained that your first crack at the opening scene is like a provisional cast on. You need something to anchor all the stuff after, but you're going to come back and do something cool with it later. This is just the waste yarn.
I loved this. It's made that extra click in my brain.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Dear Folks #24

Dear DC area folks,
I have just ordered a pair of boots. I expect this will result in a return to balmy weather as soon as they arrive. You're welcome.
Can you have too many boots?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hotter Than Hot Glue

Hat tip to Michelle for the link.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Really Big Hat

The September club yarn from Three Irish girls was Springvale Bulky (soon to be available in non-club colorways). Since I love bulky yarn and found Springvale super soft and yummy, I couldn't see how this couldn't work out great. I decided to make the Ysolda Teague's Icing Swirl Hat. The yarn is a little bigger than the pattern calls for, but since it's supposed to be a slouchy hat anyway I just went with it. (I did throw in an extra decrease or two at the end, but that's really about it.
It's quite huge if you try to pick it up.
Hat 1
But, it looks fine if you just let it slouch.
Hat 2

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

A Cowl Thingy

I worked much of this cowl while at the all congregation retreat on the shore. Folks would ask what I was knitting and I would answer, "A cowl" which mostly resulted in puzzled looks. This led to myself (and others, mostly knitters) to try and explain what a cowl was. We came up with:
A turtleneck with no body
A scarf that's attached to itself
A hood with no top.
None of us came up with neckwarmer.
Oh well. Here it is. This amazing yarn that I got in the yarn ball swap is soft and lanolin-y. I wanted cables to show of the nubby texture and subtle color.
Cabled Cowl 6

Cabled Cowl 3

Monday, October 05, 2009

7 Things: Banned Books Oops!

Yeah, so I totally missed banned books week. But really, the idea's a good one regardless of when you celebrate (um, yeah, that's my story here, I'm trying to lengthen the celebration), so here we go.
1. The number of books challenged or banned in US libraries each year is 500, which I think is plenty since most of these books are pretty innocuous (yes, in my opinion, but we'll get to that) and since many librarians are asked not to reports any challenges received, so as with many things, this is simply the reported number.
2.And Tango Makes Three remains the most challenged. It is a true story about penguins, but since the adult penguins are both male, some people seem to think it is pro-homosexual. In my opinion, it is pro-family since the penguins are raising a child together, and it is not clear if the penguins ever had sexual feelings toward one another. I also feel fairly certain that the book, which I have not read, offers no detail about the penguins' sex lives. But anyhoo.
3. The thing about these challenges and bans is that I understand any parent's choice to have their child not read a book. But these bans or challenges are saying that no child that walks into that library or school should have access to this book and that bothers me.
4. Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy as a group ranks number two this year. Mr. Pullman is suitably pleased. I have only read the first and while I understand that the church hierarchy that is depicted is, well, not very nice, I think that it could lead to some fascinating discussions. (I actually think that about all these books.) I also think that it is interesting that, as far as I am aware, no one ever tries to ban books about evil governments arguing that people might not understand that it is fiction.
5. Lest you think that all of these challenges occur at the elementary level, in one school a challenge was brought concerning eleventh graders who were assigned The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The reason given was the racist language used in the book. I read Huck Finn as a fourth grader on my own, and again as a tenth grader and had no problem understanding the context of the language. We discussed it further as a class, including the idea that the story contains an arc as Huck gets to know Jim as a person. (The school did reinstate the book for the eleventh graders.)
6. Religion and sex remain the most common reasons that challenges are brought. I can't decide if that reflects our culture in some way, or if book challenges are one of the things where parents still feel they have some power. In the end I read books about sex and didn't go out and have some just because I had read about it. Again, I am biased as a trained sex educator, but I think parents often don't with to talk to their kids about sex and also hope they never hear about it anywhere else, which simply isn't realistic.
7. Pat Conroy's Beach Music and Prince of Tides were both challenged as books used in an eleventh grade class due to graphic content. I have read both and, first, I am so jealous, I would have enjoyed reading those so much more than Wuthering Heights. Second, yes, sexual and even disturbing things happen in these books. They are messy, they are about flawed people and really, I think they are less disturbing than say, well, Wuthering Heights.
Plus, Romeo and Juliet is about two teenagers who have a secret relationship they keep from their parents. Of course, they die in the end.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Thoughts on Series

In reading Evil at Heart I started to wonder what are the things that make a series with a multi-arc book work, and where is the point where the reader gives in.
I may be spoiled by romantic suspense where if the killer isn't caught at least something clear is resolved, and I felt Evil at Heart answered some questions, but I did ponder how many books I would be willing to wait to see something of this nature resolved. (I have, in contrast, been burned by series where one thematic element appeared to be dragged ever further, and there were whole books where nothing much happened. That is clearly not the case here. But I pondered.)
In contrast, I have enjoyed Rachel Vincent's were-cat series (note, in contrast because I have not sat to ponder how long I would wait for stuff to get wrapped up, the enjoyment part is not the contrast for me). Some readers have suggested that some of the books end on cliffhanger's as the bits are thrown out for the next book. So far (Vincent has suggested that there is one that ends on a cliffhanger coming) these have not bothered me. It helps that I follow Vincent's blog and knew it was part of a series, and know about how many books are left.
It can be comparable to television also, where the over arching mystery can drag on, but individual episodes may focus on smaller issues in order to provide some temporary distraction. Now, I am not picking on Chelsea Cain. I have certainly read books that did things that to me were egregious such as ending on a question. (I have seen that twice and in both cases I refused to read anything else by that person.)
Cain has said that to her, the book's focus is the relationship that develops between Archie (the leader, at least initially, of the task force, who later becomes a victim himself, although an alive one) and Gretchen (the killer). In that sense it is a bit different from a traditional serial killer novel in that, now at least, the killer is known not just to the audience but to the characters. This allows Cain to focus on things like the relationship between the cop and criminal, look at media portrayal and many other things, not the least of which is the idea that Gretchen has been dubbed the beauty killer becaase she is pretty.
So, in that sense the book provides exactly what it sets out to provide.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Books: Evil at Heart

I received the ARC of Evil at Heart by Chelsea Cain from LibraryThing. Chelsea Cain is one of those people I keep hearing good things about, but hadn't quite gotten around to reading yet.
Evil at Heart is the third book about serial killer Gretchen Lowell, also known as the Beauty Killer. I had not read the prior too, but just jumped in to this one. While I am sure there are nuances I missed, I felt informed enough to get through it fine.
Archie, who had led the task force, remains in the psych ward. His doctors have suggested that he is well enough to leave, having recovered from his pain killer addiction and seeming to have improved.
Body parts are discovered at a rest stop along with the signature hearts of the Beauty Killer and Henry, the cop now leading the task force is trying to both keep the investigation moving forward and convince Archie to rejoin the real world (which for Henry means the task force). Susan, a reporter, who was kidnapped by the Beauty Killer is also trying to talk to Archie, supposedly to assist with the book she wants to write about the case. Susan is drawn further into the case when she is contacted about a body. Her research into fan sites of the Beauty Killer also proves useful as she, the task force, and Archie, who is lured out of the hospital, look further into the latest murders.
The book also gives some interesting thought to the media treatment such killers get.
The writing was great here, and I found the case intriguing. It is about a serial killer, so there are some gruesome bits. I didn't find it terribly hard to read, but I read a lot fictional serial killer books*.
The thing that I did wonder, on finishing is how long this series is expected to extend. I will talk about that more in another post, because that's really a separate issue.
*This may seem a silly warning, but I have seen a number of people complain that books about serial killers were gory and/or twisted.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Goodbye, Mr. Church

Forrest Church was a prominent UU minister, who lost his battle with cancer this month. In this interview, done last year after his cancer returned, Church speaks of his diagnosis and how that related to his approach to his diagnosis.

"These are the accidents of life and death. And if God, for instance, is responsible for a tsunami that obliterates the lives of 100,000 people and leaves their families in tatters, then God's a bastard. I cannot believe in such a God. For me, God is the life force, that which is greater than all and yet present in each. But God is not micromanaging this world."

Beliefnet, posted a prayer he had written for their series.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Goodbye, Kate

I was sort of joking when I started asking if there seemed to be more dead people this year. And that was before this latest round. I went to a workshop last year where Kate Duffy was part of the panel. And she was great - no nonsense sure, but not mean, just direct. (I still remember her saying, "I'm not like you [writers], I don't hear voices in my head.")
And of course, I heard, then and later of what a wonderful person she was to work with. So, it is with sadness that I discovered she passed away. She will be missed.

Smart Bitches link to an MSNBC segment Kate appeared in about the Kindle. (She appears after the 2:00 minute mark.)
SB Sarah has a lovely post here.
The Borders True Romance blog has a link to Kate talking about why she loves romance novels.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Paranoid Workaholic or Just Cautious

So, the double edged sword of working with systems is that it just takes one tiny thing to throw the whole thing off. I spent days trying to figure out an issue on one project only to finally call in help and have it turn out that the symptom and the problem were two entirely separate things. (The joy of the interconnected web there.) So, when I finally got it working, I took a screen shot. So that if it breaks again I can prove, that I had a reasonable belief that it was working. That it was in fact working. That this was not a sleep deprived hallucination, it was me with proof that it worked moving on to the next problem.
I IM'd a co-worker and she agreed that this was not paranoia or superstition, this was me gathering crucial evidence, so that if the problem reoccurs we have more information. So I felt better. But then I just wondered if she was paranoid too.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Snagged by the Digital Age

...and some footwork too.
I first heard about the plan for Wired magazine writer Evan Ratliffe to attempt to stay hidden for 30 days on NPR. A prize was offered wither to those who found him or to Ratliff should he succeed. He came close. And then a savvy follower tracked him to New Orleans and notified a pizza joint he suspected Ratliff might try and the folks at the pizza joint were able to "capture" him.
I always think how one of the challenges storytellers have these days, is that changing technology creates even more ways for people to be tracked. After all a book, or movie, or TV show about people sitting in front of a computer is really not that interesting. So, if you're planning to have your character hide, maybe don't have them go to specialty pizza joints.

Tomatoes Think It's Cool

Apparently, fruits may soon lose those annoying stickers and instead be tattooed!
No word yet on whether being fruity will become cool and rebellious.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Need a Break?

Perhaps a little coffee (or tea) break with a little reading. Perhaps you wish an attractive man would read to you. Perhaps you would like them to read you a passage from something like, Jane Austen or Nick Hornby.
Well, Carte Noire to the rescue.
(Thanks to the fellow Discoverer who provided this link.)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Discovery of a Soundtrack

It's a little funny, in view of my love of lyrics, and the number of authors I follow who talk about soundtracks that I had resisted the process for so long. I am taking a discovery class with the wonderful Lani Diane Rich (she's planning to offer it again, online classes that are recorded if you miss them and forums for questions that occur outside of class).
What Lani (and others) call discovery is the part that I always called percolation. You know, you have an idea - I wish to write a story about a girl who screws up her life one night at a party, or about a girl who has been rebelling so long against her parents she's forgotten to pay attention to what she's rebelling against - and then you let the idea simmer and percolate for a bit before you start putting words on the page. Or you write some stuff just to start to get a feel for it.
Well, within the course our homework (most of which involves no writing) focuses on things you can do to assist your brain with that percolation process. And week one was creating a soundtrack. And I kind of thought it was one of those things that was silly but I would do it.
And of course after I found the first few songs it totally made sense. It forced me to think about my characters and my setting in different ways. And in some ways the fact that I cannot find a song that's just right for my heroine's mom is still progress, because I know enough to know the stuff I found isn't right.
So, here's a sampling of what I have (for now):
Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child by Christopher Parkening with Jubilant Sykes
I Will Not be Sad in This World by Djivan Gasparyan and Vachagan Avakian
Nobody's Baby Now by Headless Heroes
One Monkey by Gillian Welch
Love Song by Sara Bareilles
Hours Pass Like Centuries by Taken by Trees
At This Point in My Life by Tracy Chapman

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Books: No One You Know

Also posted to Library Thing
Michelle Redfield's No One You Know is one of those stories that doesn't grab you so much as slowly suck you in. As everyone who has sat fuming at the table while a relative or friend tells a story about you, that while not exactly untrue, frames you in way you do not wish to be seen can attest, sometimes the stories people tell about us affect us more that we wish.
Ellie Enderlin was the younger daughter, sister to Lila, a math genius who is murdered. Later, her sister Lila's death becomes the subject of a true crime story. The story opens almost two decades after Lila's death, when Ellie encounters a man from her sister's past that sets Ellie on the journey to try and figure out the truth of what happened to her sister.
The story examines perceptions,love, truth and proof in a myriad of ways. San Francisco, coffee (as Ellie is now a coffee taster) and mathematicians figure in also. It's one of those stories I hate to talk too much about for fear of spoiling the way the layers unfold. I found it an enjoyable read.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

These Skies Would Freak Sailors Out

The Red Skies at Night pattern by Saccade Elyse was a fun knit. I used three different colorways of Noro Silk Garden.
Cloudier Skies
But, I confess, as cool as the front side is, I kinda like the back side better.
Cloudier Skies 3
Although the front side is really, quite nice.
Cloudier Skies 4

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Stripey Wings

I heard about Susanna IC's Wings of Desire scarf in the All Weights Lace group on Ravelry. It was designed to show off self-striping yarns and it totally succeeds in that.
Wings 2
The yarn is Mochi Plus, which is a washable wool nylon blend.
Wings 3It also turned out to bleed a smidge. It was subtle, my hands didn't turn crazy colors, but I thought my needles looked a little darker.
needles 3
So, I compared them to the others:
needles 2
Can you tell which ones I used?
The end result was worth it though.
Wings Scarf

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Magic Yarn Ball Swap

So, this swap was the magic yarn ball swap, and I will just let the pictures do (most of) the talking. I ended up being spoiled again by the lovely dragondancer, who spilled me in the In Like a Lamb swap.
I had been warned not to be put off by the box.
box 2
Inside we had this:
More treats
And of course, the magic yarn ball.
yarn ball 4
Which unraveled to reveal, several things. A close up of the Saskatoon berries:
But there was also:
Yarn ball 1
So, hidden in that yarn ball (which was, by the way, Galway Irish worsted knitting wool) was:
Chocolate Covered Saskatoon Berries
Butterfly Clips
Sweater Key Chain
Handcrafted Stitch Markers
and Shepherd's Cottage Wool (a bison wool blend)
In addition to the Guide to Regina, Chocolate coins, Commie Mints and a Shawl pin.
Thanks again, Deb!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

7 Things: University of St. Andrews

Inspired by the fun string of comments over a ALOTT%MA here, I present 7 Things people (some tour guides, some not) told me about St. Andrews while I was there.
1. The tour guide told us that if you walked across Patrick Hamilton's initials you would fail your exams, unless you immediately looked up and located the face etched into the clock tower. (Patrick Hamilton was burned for heresy and the spot is commemorated with his initials in the cobblestones.
2. Wearing your gown during holidays might lead to tourists asking for your picture. (I never tested this, but heard stories of students who charged for such pictures and made a nice sideline. Or so they said.)
3. The library is sinking because they forgot to account for the weight of the books. (I have heard this story about other libraries too so I have no idea if there was a rash of architectural mistakes, or if this is some sort of urban legend.)
4. The tree in the quad was planted by Mary Queen of Scots. (The tree did look old, and was propped up in a few places with wires.)
5. Almost all dorms had two names. The official one and a so-called nickname. (The nickname was usually the name of whatever hotel the dorm used to be. And it was mostly true until they built New Haugh - which I thin is too lame to have a nickname, although I did stay there once and it was nice.)
6. Andrew Melville Hall was designed to look like two ships colliding. (Or passing. Either way, it had lettered "blocks" and due to the U shape it was a pin to get from one side to another and basically seemed, well, prison like.)
7. When the announcement came that women were to be admitted to the university, the graduating class marched down to the pier and tossed their mortarboards into the sea. After that, men were no longer allowed to wear mortarboards. (Later the women stopped wearing them too. Although PhDs still got the tams.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Oh my!

On a training call at work, as we were waiting for everyone to dial in, one person had clearly picked up another line and had the, let's call it the hey-baby voice going. We heard (essentially, I was not taking notes)
"Hi...Yeah, I hear ya...Oh, really?...Yeah, that sounds great. I wish we were off an island right now. In fact let's just run off to an island together....Yeah...We should, we should."
Now, several of us were a little worried the conversation was headed in a NSFW direction. At the mention of the island, one person said loudly, trying to get dude's attention, "I'll go to an island with you." No clear response. Shortly after, the facilitator - again loudly - reminded everyone to mute their phones and that seemed to work. Either that or someone who knew the voice had IM'd the person to let them know.
But, at least (or, who knows, it might have been more entertaining) he wasn't leaving a nutbar message like these!
H/T to Smart Bitches.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Barter is back!

Of course, bartering was never really gone, there were just areas where it was less accepted in these modern times. One of my first "real" jobs, I worked for a company that, among other things, did a lot of menu printing for restaurants. The boos had accepted restaurant credit as part of the payment for a number of these places, which meant getting invited out to dinner with the boss was pretty fun. Even then, though I did wonder how employees were getting paid salaries if the business was accepting such payment, so it isn't a terrible surprise that, well, it turned out not everyone was getting paid, and the business ended up being sold.
Apparently, it has been suggested that in Italy banks could accept more goods as collateral (apparently cheese is already common, they are considering also accepting wine and ham). Bank vaults could turn into high tech food and wine storage. Just think of the holiday parties.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Oh, Knitting!

I finished this a bit ago, and , well, like much of the knitting, didn't quite get around to blogging about it.
When I saw the Blooming Flowers Cotton Scarf in Interweave, I was intrigued. When I read through and realized it was knit in the round and later severed, I was more intrigued. Now, I bought new yarn for this, but other than the base color (and depending on the stash, even then) it really doesn't use large quantities, so it could be a great stash-buster pattern.
I used a combination of Rowan Handknit DK Cotton and Frog Tree Pima Silk. The scarf is knit length-wise and, because of the later cutting means very little attention needs to be paid to how the yarn gets carried for the color work. The color work is achieved with slip stitch knitting and works very similarly to the Ballband dishcloth. It was an easy pattern and only required real counting every few rows.
The beginning/end looks like this:
the ends
And then you break out the scissors and do this:
cutting it open 3
Just tie off the ends and you have something like this:
Blooming Cotton Scarf 1
For those with a fear of steeking, this is not really steeking because in steeking you are trying to preserve the knitting you are cutting apart. Here, less so.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Don't Light a Match

I hesitate to make fun, particularly since water engineering is not an area I understand (beyond when I turn the tap, water should come out), but WASA's response to repeated concerns about water pressure, particularly in light of another major fire where firefighters were hampered by less than desirable amounts of water, that topography is an issue crack me up. So- anywhere there's a hill we just have to hope there's no fire? Are the aware that DC is almost entirely hills? I mean, we may not be San Francisco but pretty much if you go north, it's uphill until you hit Tenleytown (which is the highest point in DC). So, WASA has released a list of places where water pressure might be an issue and basically, it's kinda big. Fortunately the fire department states they have a contingency. But, maybe lets just not have any fires, mmkay?

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Dear Folks #23: The Job Hunt

Dear College Graduates,
I have to imagine that some of you know this already, but apparently some of you, this one in particular, are a little confused. College will do many things for you. It will give you the opportunity to hone skills in research and writing and analysis. It can give you greater access to knowledge pertaining to a certain field. And for some fields it is even a requirement. Here's what you are guaranteed when you get a college degree: a college degree. That's it. Sorry, if you thought there was also a magical portal that led to riches.
I wouldn't trade my college experience anything, but when I graduated I still had to put together a resume and pound the pavement. And I was fortunate that I was not doing this at a time when unemployment was reaching new heights, and I was fortunate that my parents were willing to let me move back in with them until I got everything stabilized. And I interviewed and took tests and talked to folks about my job search and I took some childcare jobs so I had money to keep me going until the magical big job arrived. (And there wasn't one magical big job - there was one interesting job, and then another when that first company got bought out, and then another and so on.)
So, if you were say, an average student, and you've been looking for three months,
that isn't a failure. Not of you, certainly not of you career advancement center.
And, by the way, now when prospective employers google you (and they will) they are
going to find that you appear to be a bit fast with the lawsuit. So, I wish you the
best of luck in your job search. I'm not sure how suing the people who were helping
you solves the job problem, but you certainly have boosted your web searchability.
Wishes she had the luxury of being "above" the jobs that are available.
H/T to the Rubbernecker who provided this link.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Context is King

Or it's all about the juxtaposition. I make liberal use of a blog reader to keep track of all the stuff I am reading. I am a big fan of feeds that give me the full entry in the RSS feed to reduce my need to click should I be viewing on a work break. And sometimes, as I scroll through, it creates its own funny moments. Such as when i scrolled past "The hot new sausage" to find the next article was, "The joy of nude musicals".
Oh, and apropos of, well, phalluses, Lynn Viehl has this response to those who disagree the sci-fi contains a number of phallic symbols.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Books: Through the Fire

Through the Fire by Shawn Grady was a book that started big, and then, it stopped working for me quite so much after that. I've spent a lot of time trying to pinpoint what about it didn't work for me. I think the issue for me was that it is told in first person through viewpoint of Reno fireman Aidan O'Neill, a character who isn't big on introspection. So, stuff happened and most of the time I didn't know how he felt about it.
Aidan is an instinctual firefighter who's instincts don't prevent a rookie from getting hurt in a fire. He get's put on administrative leave and so decides to go to Mexico. And while in Mexico he rescues some children from drowning and ends up in a coma. And then he wakes up from the coma and immediately leaves the hospital and goes back to work since an arsonist seems to be picking on Reno and the department can't afford to be without him. Now, it may seem like I'm giving a lot away, but all this happens in the first 30 pages, which sounds sort of action packed.
I ended up confused.
After that the story remained in the Reno area and stabilized a little. Aidan talks to a fire investigator Julianne, who thinks that the fires may be targeting the fire department. The back cover describes this as teaming up. They talk several times. but it didn't seem like teamwork for me. Also some descriptions mentioned romantic suspense, I don't think it qualifies as a romance, but that could be because I don't really know what they think of each other. They seem to like each other, but I couldn't tell you more than that.
The arsonist story was sort of fascinating, although I found the resolution unsatisfying. Also, out of the blue on page 99 there is a reference that Aidan's life would be all better if he just accepted God. While I don't object in theory to inspirational story lines, this felt tacked on to me, especially since it disappeared for another huge chunk before being brought up again.
I did like most of the writing, and I thought there were parts that were just great, but overall I was left tired. There is a lot of fire jargon, most of which is not explained. I really enjoyed that, but others may wish for an interpreter.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Thanks, Mr. Harris

E Lynn Harris passed away last week. He lived a fascinating life that included deciding to self-publish a book about a married man who was involved in a homosexual affair, selling the books out of the trunk of his car at times, before, in a fairy tale manner being picked up by a publisher and going on to publish a number of other books, bestsellers even, that featured black gay and/or bisexual men.
Karen E. QuiƱones Miller has a lovely tribute here.
(Yes, I sure do seem to be talking about dead people a lot. Maybe for August we could make a rule about no dead people. Or something.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

More on E-books

I keep meaning to do some sort of comprehensive post on e-books. And then other people keep doing such a great job of it.
JA Konrath talks about why he prefers to borrow his son's Ipod Touch to buying a Kindle right now. (He also has a number of posts about the success of ebooks and pricing.)
Sasha White talks about how her e-books outsold her print books by a lot.
Lynn Viehl has a great post talking about how e-books are often the cheapest marketing an author can get.
Even Jennifer Blake (who was one of the first authors I was aware of putting her backlist in e-format) also talked a little about it.
Smart Bitches have some discussions (including a response from a publisher) about the timing of releasing the e-format. The response from one publisher is an interesting point, since they feel that the comparison to music is unfair since Publishing has traditionally used a Hardback to paperback transition and they feel selling the e-book at the same time is akin to releasing the paperback at the same time as the hardback.
Now, I don't entirely agree since, as commenters there pointed out, and as was brought up over here in Dear Author, when you buy an e-book you do not have the same rights (if you will) as a hard copy - wither hardback or paperback. You are buying the right to view the content. In many cases you can even view the content in a few places - multiple readers, your laptop, and so on. (I believe mobi-pocket limits it to four. I'm sure they are not the only ones.) However, if you change readers and your content is not readable on your new reader, you have to buy a new copy. (Much like trying to play a tape in a CD player, sometimes it just can't be done.) Now some formats span multiple readers, but none are currently workable on all readers. (I point you here to Fictionwise's site for a sampling.)
Also, if I read something want to give it to a friend, sell it on ebay, or mail it to my aunt - I can only do that with a hard copy. I cannot transfer my e-books to someone else. (This is one reason I'm not surprised publishing hasn't jumped on this more. Considering the number of authors I heard complain about people buying their series from a used book store only to be surprised that the publisher didn't renew the contract. Well, e-books solve that.)
And, if they decide that oops, we gave you that for free by accident, the company can sneak into your device and take it back.
So, why would anyone ever buy an e-book then. Well, I for one, love having, say, seventy books in one tiny compact device that fits in my purse. It helps with some of my storage issues. I love buying a book on the day of release even when my day does not really allow me to get to the bookstore.
I love having backups of my shelves online. (Yes, that hardly matters if I change readers, but I still like it.) It means my e-books, while locked into the format I purchased them in, are available to me even if I destroy my device or lose it. (Ask me how I know.)
I haven't stopped getting actual books. And I don't know that I ever entirely will. Certainly it's fun getting books signed and you can't really do that with e-books. But I never was one to lug my entire backlist to get it signed anyway. I was always happy with a few.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ipod + Water + Rice

So, I have been using my Ipod Touch for a while now. It has become one of my primary reading sources, as well as a great way to keep track of my calendar (have it syncs with gcal) and my emails, and various other things. Sure, it relies on free wi-fi being available, which isn't always terribly reliable when traveling, but I have to tell you the instantaneousness of buying a book* and having it appear in your hands is pretty cool.
You can imagine my dismay as last week the Ipod went for a little swim. In some not so clean (or clear) liquid. I fished it out quickly and wiped it down with a towel but was still concerned. Some googling led me to this site that suggested leaving it in rice (similar principle to the rice in the salt shaker) and this site which suggested that rice would not do the trick. Being impatient, I figured I'd try rice first. It was the cheapest option. If not I could send it off for possible repair and/or decide this was a sign I should upgrade to second generation. (I bought my Touch in the sales right before they released the second generation version and I was a little sad that I missed out on the external speaker that they added.)
After the first 24 hours of rice, I had nada. Tried charging, nada. I put it back in the rice, this time upright, rather than supine to see if gravity would assist since two of the most vulnerable to water intrusion places are the charging port and the headphone port, which are on the bottom.
(One of the ironies is that I actually own a case that is waterproof. Had I known the Ipod was feeling suicidal, I could have taken steps.)
In the meantime I did do a little pricing research. Just in case. I may have even gone to a store that turned out to be out of the specific storage size I wanted.
So, back to the rice. Whether it was the extra time or the positional shift, I don't know, but I did get the Ipod back on. Which was good, because I was behind on the backing up. However, the wireless didn't work. I had read in my googling that that could be an issue. I had also read the some that appeared to be okay, usually died again later. So, I planned ahead and backed up. Which was good, because later that day it died again.
So, I went for plan upgrade. Partly because I was impatient and didn't want to wait to ship it out (I could not find any local repair places that handle water damage. Battery issues, cracked screens, yes. Water, no.) and see if it could be repaired and then sent back. Especially since the water (if that's the issue and not a short) had now been there for two days. Plus, I was in the middle of a really good book. Actually, I had one chapter and an epilogue left.
So, final verdict on the rice, helped a little, but not a total save. Certainly a low risk method. It did allow me a new backup so that I got all my current stuff saved to transfer to my new Touch.

*While e-books are technically books, the reader provider contract is a little different. We'll talk about that later.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

When the RWA Comes to Town

I guess the best sign of the great time I had is how brain numbingly tired I am now. Wednesday the yarn loving fiction lovers gathered and we went yarn shopping (after a lovely lunch) at two of the local yarn stores. (And I found some yarn I needed too. It was green and/or wool/silk - I'm not sure that I can be held responsible.) I also got to check out some of the Rock Creek Yarn in person, and it is everything those pictures promise. Wow.
The signing was a freaking madhouse. All those people who said the San Francisco one was calm, are totally right. There were authors whose book had sold out in minutes (one tag stated that the author had left to go drinking - hee.) And the line to get out, wrapped along the long side of the huge room and down around the corner.
I had my fangirly moment when I finally located Samantha Graves and then stood in front of her silent. I did recover the power of speech and manage to tell her I was a Wiffer. And that I adored Out of Time.
I ran into some Cherries. (Surprisingly.) I also got Anne Stuart to sign her re-release for me (and stopped and said supportive things to various authors from my chapter or from the Cherries whose stuff I already had). When I told Anne how much I loved Dogs and Goddesses she asked if I had seen Jenny. I had been by, but others were there and since I knew I'd see her later at the Cherry dinner, so I was trying to let others have their time with her. And when I circled back she had left. Anne was kind enough to tell me that's because she was standing right behind me. Talking to Samantha Graves. Oh.
Thursday I helped set up for the luncheon which meant putting books on chairs. (Pretty fun actually.) Linda Howard was a great speaker. The workshop I had planned on attending was packed solid (forgot to get there early) so I went to a signing instead. (So sad. I bought the recordings, so I'll catch up later.)
I lugged the books home and then returned for the Cherry dinner which was yummy, loud and crazy.
Friday I was up and out with the joggers. (Grrr.) The emerging (any minute now) Young Adult chapter met for breakfast. Then I went to Suzanne Brockmann's workshop about breaking the rules. Eloisa James made us all a little teary at the luncheon, then I went to the workshop on Wit, Wisdom and Food in Jennifer Crusie's work - moderated by IASPR President Sarah Frantz. A fellow cherry and I adopted a lovely lady in the lobby, and we all went to dinner together. Also yummy.
Saturday, I made it to the signings, and also to Jenny's workshop on turning points. The fire alarm went off while I was in the bathroom. I have to say I have grown immune and figured I probably had time to finish safely and since the hotel employee came in to use the bathroom while my friend finished din't seem pressed I figured it was okay. Never did find out what set it off. Had lunch and dinner on that side of town before racing back to throw on the party dress and head back for the award ceremony. I was slightly less of a jinx this year, and Anne was fabulous as the emcee. The chocolate after was also good.
Can't wait for Nashville.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Goodbye, Katie

I first met Katie Tyson at a UU youth conference. She was bubbly, kind and wonderful. We worked together on the district youth steering committee and she maintained a great attitude through both long meetings (our meetings usually started at 8 pm and went until midnight or so) and long weekends - the cons themselves also involve little sleep - especially for committee members who stay up in shifts to make sure all is going well).
Sadly, Katie was killed in a car accident earlier this month. She had just attended General Assembly of Unitarian Universalists. As this article captures wonderfully, she had great plans for the future.
But Katie had already helped and supported and touched a lot of people. A memorial fund has been established to help develop and train other UU youth and young adult leaders.
In the words of the Libby Roderick song we often sing at cons:
How could anyone ever tell you
You were anything less than beautiful?
How could anyone ever tell you
You were less than whole?
How could anyone fail to notice
That your loving is a miracle?
How deeply you're connected to my soul?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Books and Authors

I recognize everyone's right to deal with criticism in their own way (as long as "their own way" doesn't involve things that are illegal, mmkay?). But, the flip side of this is if your way is doing something in public, or say on a social networking site, than I get to snark about it.
Now I understand that the author - reader relationship can be contentious. I can't tell you the number of authors I heard talk or write a collective, "Yes, exactly!" in response to Neil Gaiman's explanation of what exactly an author owes you book-wise.
And certainly I have seen rumblings in bloglandia when a book disappoints. However, if you essentially ask an author hey, how come that book sucked so much, I think expecting anything beyond, "I'm sorry that didn't work for you" is insanity. Even if you frame your question as, "Why is it, do you think, that so many of us think that your main character was stupid?" You haven't really changed the question. You've just disguised it as a literary question. You are of course, welcome to dislike a book or a main character. But I don't think the author has to apologize to you if you don't like something. Call me crazy.
But I can only imagine how difficult it would be to hear that a book critic dislike your book. I can even understand twitting* about your unhappiness. However twitting the book critic's email and phone number is a bit far. First, I am unaware of a critic's version of corrections. I have never heard of a scenario where a critic said, oh, hey, well, now that I know you guys like it, clearly I'm wrong. Certainly opinions can change over time. Certainly I've read books that I had an immediate reaction to that altered over time, sometimes even a few weeks.
However, that was due to my having more time to process, or possibly even discuss rationally with others. It was never because folks pestered me and told me I was stupid to have said what I said. (In fact, that's a sure way to keep me from revisiting my opinions.)
And the irony. The review wasn't even that bad in the first place.

*Yes, I know the prefered verb is tweeting. Twitting makes me chuckle, okay?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Linky Roundup

Meg Cabot sums up an important life message: I mean, seriously. If we stop breeding with these type of guys, they’ll go away. Spencer Pratt? Brody Jenner? They’ll disappear. We can do it, ladies, if we stick together and just stop rewarding them for their stupid behavior.

Linda Holmes notes that if your imaginary friends are giving business tips to your dad, it's time for new imaginary friends.

John Crace notes that really, it's not embarrassing that the wonders of social networking have revealed the head of MI6's love if Speedos. No, the problem is that he did not look like Daniel Craig in them. Will the UK recover from the shame?

Proof that missed connections is, well, centuries older than Craigslist. (Hat Tip to Argh Ink for that link.)

And speaking of people looking for love, I will send you here, for a lovely synopsis of one guy's wishlist.

Speaking of crazy, Dominic West thinks that good British characters should go to British actors. (For those of you wondering where the crazy in that is, the answer is that Dominic West is best known for playing a Baltimore, MD cop. Apparently good American roles can go to Brits.)

Monday, July 13, 2009

More Swappage

The theme of the latest Rubberswap is local stuff, although I personally took a broad interpretation of that. Fortunately I sent mine off just before receiving mine, because, wow, what a package. The lovely Spirals aka Obsessed with Knitting sent me this package of goodies.
Package 2
All beautifully wrapped.
swap gift
And inside...
Swap Package

Stitch markers
Noro pattern book
Gorgeous bamboo silk wool blend yarn - Argosy's Bonsai Bamboo in Vineyard
Cat treats (which my cat will adore!)
Card Case
Stitch markers (they got their own photo - so cute!)
Cupcake mix (must try!)
Card - that's also a scarf pattern
Flamingo Pen
Lovely Charm
So, thanks so much!

Crunch Berries are not a Fruit

Now, I am poking a little fun, although in this constant discussion about whether potato chips are a potato snack or is a burrito is a sandwich, perhaps the question of whether or not a Crunch berry is a fruit is a tiny bit more understandable.
There are several things that fascinate me. Did the woman think that there was a thing called a crunch berry that happened to come in multicolored cereal balls? Did she think crunch berry was a generic cereal term for a crunchy cereal made with some kind of berry? Did she think the fact that such berry was never named anywhere in the ingredients was so that the secret berry concoction would not fall into the hands of competitors? Did the fact that the box states that it is a sweetened corn and oat cereal again speak to the secretive nature of the berries? And how did she find out there were no crunch berries if the information contained on the box was not enough to convince her? Was she at a cocktail party wondering why there were never signs to go crunch berry picking? And, since she apparently also tried to sue Froot loops for also not being made of fruit - did she discover these two thing simultaneously? Or did she switch from Froot Loops after someone wised her up and think well, they spelled berries right, they must be in there somewhere?
(Answer - judge says no, Crunch berries do not exist.)
(H/T to Faster than Kudzu for the link.)
Edited for spelling.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

7 Things: Social Networking Sites

1. The internet is a public place. Some corners of it appear a little more private, but that privacy is generally very limited.
2. This means that if you change your Facebook status to engaged*, people will notice. Your mother may not be on Facebook, but I promise you will discover the how six degrees of separation theory doesn't just apply to Kevin Bacon so fast your head will spin.
3. The same applies to tweeting about your pregnancy or otherwise disseminating information. If you put it on the net, it's kinda fair game at that point.
4. Oh, and it also applies to talking smack about someone. A great (yet hard) rule is that never say anything you wouldn't want to own if it made it out farther into the world than the one person you whispered it to. I know I personally do not live up to that standard, but the deal is, you still have to. Because stuff you say, to anyone other than your cat (can't trust dogs - don't you watch those beans ads?) is going to get out. It may take a while, but it will. And thinking that being on the internet shields you is generally crap. It doesn't. You may think your friends all hate widget making and never hang out on the widget sites, but you will likely end up surprised. I used to read one blogger that in his early blogging days referred to relatives by full name. Well, it took a few years but one day they googled themselves.
5. Using fake names only helps if you have disguised the details so much that they no longer resemble reality. You can use filters and stuff to try and help.
6. Now this doesn't mean you can't ever complain about anyone ever. (It certainly hasn't stopped me.) It just means you have to be ready to face up to whatever you put out there.
7. And the final rule - if your spouse is head of a secret organization, maybe Facebook isn't the right place for you.
*I realize there are people who change their status for "fun", and that is all well and good, but again, you should probably tell your parents. Or wait and see. It's up to you.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Patriotic Stuff

One year I panted my fingernails red and my toenails blue and was chastised for
leaving out the white. (The whites of my eyes were white, okay?)
For this year I worked on consumption (although I did sport some patriotic colors
over the weekend).
Red: Wine (from Maryland even), red peppers, strawberries, tomatoes (which, by the way are from North America, so Spain and Italy - you're welcome*)
White: Sugar, Flour, potatoes, chicken, goat cheese, milk, and ginger ice cream
Blue: Blueberries and blue yarn (I did not switch out my knitting projects to
incorporate more patriotic colors, it just happened like that).

Also, if you have not read the if the founder fathers had email over at ALOTT5MA - I
suggest you head there now.

*Yes, I know other countries use them too.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

This is my Butt

Okay, a fellow raveler pointed me to these cat butt towel holders. (They may be funnier if you are well acquainted with cats.) In a moment of daring I did a search on Amazon and discovered that you can also, should you wish to, purchase cat but magnets and coasters. But my favorite has to be cat butt gum. The box declares that it contains eight pieces of kiss my ass attitude. I'm not sure if I could chew gum that came out of a box with a cat butt, but I do know what I'm getting my mother for her birthday.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

7 Things: Keeping Cool

So, I hear the United Kingdom is suffering a blistering heatwave with temperatures possibly hitting 90 degrees (Fahrenheit).
Yes, that is a heat wave up there.
And yes, I do understand that most people don't have AC, and even I, with my heat and humidity acclimated self become pretty cranky when it's ninety. But, instead of (just) poking fun, I thought I'd share some handy tips for dealing with the heat.
1. I'm sure all the media are reminding you, but staying hydrated helps greatly. Seriously, hot and tired is one thing, but hot, tired and dizzy is eminently worse.
2. You may have an office that has AC. Lucky you. However, this probably means your office feels like the North Pole which creates some severe challenges when deciding what to wear. Answer - layers.
3. When you get sick of sucking down water (see #1) try to keep to hydrating liquids, be they iced tea or lemonade. (I know lemonade in the UK is a different thing. I went to Paris with two Scots friends who raved to me about this delicious Parisian concoction - Citron Presse*. I explained that yes, in the States we call it lemonade.) Here is a recipe.
4. Don't spend all your time sitting in front of a fan. Fans help a lot, but sometimes acclimating will help you more in the long run.
5. However, in desperate times a towel with a few ice cubes around your neck can seem lovely.
6. Don't take cold showers. Cold showers will close up your pores, and then after you have to wait for your pores to open back up so they can sweat well, and it's just bad.
7. Also, be kind to your feet. In hotter weather your feet sweat more increasing the risk of blisters. In a pinch, anti-perspirant on your feet can help out with that.
*ETA Citron Presse, since I finally remembered the French name for it.

This Needs a Better Name or an Acronym

Once there was a TV reporter who spoke of TiNo, all those shows stacking up on your DVR that you want to watch and yet keep skipping over until you face the icon that tells you the show(s) are in danger of being deleted and you face that for whatever reason, you don't really want watch these shows. You just wish you did.
Well now we have the Shelf of Constant Reproach. I don't have (m)any classics on mine because I have made peace with those I read and am okay with those I skipped. I usually have non-fiction sitting and staring at me, in part because non-fiction takes me longer to get through and so I usually reason that I make a larger dent in the TBR pile by tacking the fiction. (Yes, it is a bit circular.)
Lately I've been sticking stuff that's stayed on the shelf awhile on PBS, figuring if someone else requests it before I read it, then they can have it. (See, I'm being altruistic here.)
Some samples:
The Great Deluge by Douglas Brinkley
Veil of Roses by Laura Fitzgerald
Past Perfect by Susan Isaacs
Now my plan is to get around to all of these. I just keep waiting for the right mood. (And okay, the Great Deluge is big and doesn't travel well.) But, yeah, they are kinda staring at me.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The World Likes Cranky Doctors

Or something like that. I remember hearing years ago that "Baywatch" was the USA's most exported item. Now, I watched the entire first season and a smidgen of the second season, but really out of all the TV shows the US was making in the 1990's this still struck me as a bit sad. But it made sense, let's face it, the show did not require a lot of translation. So, I find it fascinating that the top show for the aughts (or this year at least) is currently "House".

Thursday, June 25, 2009

King of Pop

I often say that I am going to put together a folder of cute pictures of myself for use after my death in any news stories, death notices or funeral programs. I recognize that I won't be here for it, but I worry that they will use my driver's license photo or something.
So, all of this is a roundabout way to say that I bought a picto-record (the record came in a clear case, because the album cover was imprinted on the record) of "Thriller" at, of all places, Toys R Us. My parents resisted cable growing up, so my sister and I rented the "Thriller" music videos from the video store.
A babysitter bought me a biography of Michael Jackson (although he was still a young man at that point, so clearly it was early chapters) so I had a little information about the tough childhood the Jackson kids had.
But the Michael Jackson who I saw moonwalking and doing "Thriller" and even the one who proclaimed he was "Bad" are the ones I choose to remember today.

Spoiler Alert

You probably won't enjoy this as much as I did if you are a big fan of the sparkly vamps, but kudos to the Buffy/Edward mash-up found here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Mt. P

We Love DC has been spotlighting neighborhoods in DC, and has gotten to mine - Mount Pleasant. This gives me an excuse to link once again to link to Tuscadero playing Mount Pleasant.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Popcorn Bust

There was a summer where my sister, her friend and I watched "Real Genius" incessantly. We were working together at a summer camp offering us additional opportunities to quote it to each other. ("This is ice. This is what happens to water when it gets to cold.")
I watched it again recently and discovered that the special effects for the climactic lasered popcorn house scene, were not as impressive as I remembered. But the important bits were still there and still funny.
Well, apparently a recent "Mythbusters" recreated that scene and determined while you can use a laser to pop popcorn, it will not make the house explode. That's okay, it's probably because they didn't have all those geniuses building the special laser and setting it off from space. I'm sure that's it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

For Real

It's a rap. About Arlington.

Hat Tip to the Raveler who first provided this link.
And just for a complete contrast. The above may be the first rap about Arlington, but it is not the first song.
Emmett Swimming also has one*.
In the interest of completeness, there appear to be a number of songs titled Arlington. But most of them appear to not really be about the city itself.
*Sorry, embedding is disabled on this one.
Edited to add, I only just realized that DCist posted very similar links. I swear I came to this other ways, but great minds and all that.

Monday, June 15, 2009

You Look Just Like...

I have a sister. We are close in age and for a while we went to a school with a uniform. People would occasionally ask us if we were related. I figured it was becuase we were together and wearing similar clothes, because I look just like my mom, and my sister looks a lot like my dad's side of the family. (People do not seem to ask us this when we are not dressed alike.)
At one point two separate people (in different countries even) told me I looked just like that girl on "Blossom".
But recently I have a friend, and the two of us get asked constantly if we are sisters. It's funny, because I don't think we look terribly alike, and in fact could give you a longer list of things I thought were different (such as our heights, body types, hair color, eye color...), but enough people have asked over several years, so there must something there. My friend is actually getting a bit annoyed. It's especially funny because people seem a little disbelieving and ask if we are maybe cousins or something.
But this weekend I was at a (different) friend's party and someone asked if we were related, and while we are not, we both looked at each other and agreed that the question didn't seem surprising. Now, I probably don't look that much more like the second friend, but for some reason, that makes more sense to me that people would think we might be related. Which just goes to show, as highly developed as human facial recognition is, it's still all very subjective.