Monday, December 20, 2010

Adventures in Shopping

I did some shopping this weekend, only within walking distance and more of it was for me than anything else. (Not so much presents, but not quite necessities.)
The interesting thing about shopping in the space of a few blocks, is that you run into some of the same people again.
-One woman was shopping with what I'm guessing were her grandkids' parents. I saw her getting frustrated after she asked the guy to go check if they had something. It looked like he was asking if she knew where they kept it. She was frustrated that he wouldn't just know to go ask a store employee. (Later she was trying to get a particular amount of change from the cashier and the cashier politely tried to clarify and got nowhere.)
-There are a lot of dog toys with squeaks. Do dogs care? I feel sure dog owners care.
-I headed towards checkout and then stopped to examine all the trinkets stored near checkout, during which time a guy cruised by. When I arrived at the end of the line he offered to let me go first since I had been there first. I demurred, agreeing that I had stopped to essentially continue shopping.
-Saw an exchange where someone who had visited a shop where another person worked recognized them and politely introduced himself and told her how much they had enjoyed visiting the shop and that they would be back.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Linkety Link

Here is a link list of things I am too lazy (busy, tired) to talk much about.
A fascinating look at the depiction of relationships in "Twilight: Eclipse". (It applies to the movie version, but since I've only read the book, I found it still very applicable.)

One person ponders about the increasing suckage in sports broadcasting.

Some interesting links about "Black Swan" - one wondering why that type of horror gets Oscar buzz, and one wondering if it somehow has a larger than normal age gap in viewers.

And have you ever wondered how law might apply to things like resurrection if superheroes turn out to be real. There's a blog for that.

H/T to the Monkey See blog for the "Black Swan" and sports links. And H/T to the nice person who pointed me to the "Eclipse" link. H/T to ALOTT5MA for the comics law link.

Monday, December 13, 2010

7 (or More) Things: When the Stars Go Blue

1. This is the book I heard an excerpt from at Cherry Con.
2. The excerpt was excellent and I was dying to read the rest right away.
3. I had already read _Adios to My Old Life_ by that point.
4. I told Caridad* Ferrer that she made me cry in Starbucks.
5. I read _It’s All About the Accent_ almost entirely on my couch, which is just as well because it made me cry too.
6. I flirted with danger and read parts of _When the Stars Go Blue_ in Starbucks. (And on the bus, and metro and of course, my couch.)
7. Just in case it wasn’t clear, _Stars_ made me cry too.
8. Books making me cry happens less often than you might think.
9. I feel I should clarify, this is not a sad story, there are just some heartbreaking moments. Totally a worthy journey.
10. I know that the wait for _Stars_ isn’t the longest wait ever for a book.
11. It did kinda feel like it though.
12. It was totally worth it.
13. Yes, I am making this list longer by making each entry only a sentence or two.
14. I confess most of my familiarity with “Carmen” was the year both Debi Thomas and Katarina Witt performed pieces from it in figure skating. (I was team Thomas, and not just because she was American.)
15. For all the talk of _Twilight_, _Harry Potter_ and _Hunger Games_ (not that there’s anything wrong with any of these), for non-dystopian, non-paranormal - which is to say contemporary young adult romance - this is the stuff. (Yes, there is other stuff too.)
16. I expect great things to happen with this book. (Hear me, Universe?)
17. I want more. (Hear me, Caridad?)

*Yes, I know her name is Barbara.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

7 Things: When to Quit

So, the joy of working in benefits is that fall is what we call our busy season. We used to have training sessions on how to warn your family not to expect to see you and generally try to not go crazy this time of year. (We still have extra stress relieving sessions this time of year.) I realize that benefits is not the only job that gets nutty this time of year. And let’s face it, piling shorter daylight hours and family and holiday stress plus flu season, people are often a tad touchier this time of year. So, I get it.
However, sometimes that job stress is really a sign that this is no longer the career for you. So, in honor of a certain football player, let’s looks at some signs that you have the wrong job or career.
1. You don’t want to show up at work. Let’s face it, it’s not uncommon to wish that your job called for you to be at a beach or mountain or even couch rather than wherever your job asks you to be on a given day. But if every single day, you would rather be somewhere else, it is time to figure out how to be somewhere else.
2. You want to make your own hours. Now certainly there are jobs where this is allowed. But if you do not work at such a job, let’s say you work at The Bagel Shop but you think that you should decide what days you show up and for how long and that no one else needs to know this in advance. Except that that doesn’t work when they need someone to open The Bagel Shop tomorrow morning.
3. You show up, but not in work mode. There was a series of workplace modules based on the fish market in Seattle and one of the rules was “Be There”. Simple but true, showing up is only part of the battle, you need to be in work mode. If you’re just going through the motions you are no use to anyone.
4. You only want to do part of your job. We all have parts of our jobs we love more than others. And you can try and see if you can mold your job to fit your favorite bits. But if, for example you are a typist who has decided that you don’t like vowels, well, gd lck wth tht.
5. You talk crap about work. Now sure, you want to vent to your buddies, go for it. Unless of course your buddies are reporters. Or you are communicating via video camera or radio talk show. If you talk trash about your employer in the press, don’t be surprised when your paycheck stops.
6. You don’t talk to your employer or coworkers. Seriously, no one said you had to be buddies with your boss or your co-workers. But you do have to be willing to talk to them. Just about work. But not speaking to them is not an option.
7. You think you are different. The reality is that all workplaces need rules. If you think the rules need changing, well, then feel free to try to change them. If you think the rules simply don’t apply to you because you are so freaking special, well, again, don’t be surprised to find your job has stopped.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Now on the Facebook

With the news that the Queen (meaning the British one) has joined Facebook I propose 7 groups the Queen may wish to join and/or start on Facebook.
1. My other home is a castle.
2. I am a figurehead with mostly ceremonial power.
3. People don’t take me seriously because I am a figurehead.
4. I am cooler than Helen Mirren.
5. Helen Mirren has played me in a movie.
6. I once smacked a prime minister.*
7. Corgis rule!

Disclaimer: I take no responsibility for the possible existence of any of these groups.
*No idea is this is true, but it’s Facebook, people join all sorts of things.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

So, There Was This Rally

It was big. I mean, I've done large events on the mall before, but most of them involve motion. (Things like the Walk for the Cure.) So, I guess I've managed to avoid many of the large stand in one place and all stare at the same thing things. My first clue was the insane traffic on my street. The sardine packed metro trains were the second. When I got on the third train (by standing like a tourist on the edge of the platform and lucking out when the door ended up right in front of me) Archives station had shut down due to a suspicious package. Heading down Seventh Street, all I could see was a sea of people. (And seriously, it seems like the reported numbers indicate that this was a sort of medium sized event. I suspect my decision to watch larger events from my couch has been a wise one.)
They're everywhere
There were some good signs. One of my favorites (which, sadly, I did not get a picture of) was, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Sanity Clause."
And Signs
People were climbing anything climbable - stop lights, sculptures, trees. It became clear why - the sound system was not quite up to the crowd and the wind and the masses. Sometimes you could hear, but more often it was like listening to a flickering radio, catching words here and there.
If I held my camera up it looked like this:
The stage with more people I couldn't see.
This is what it looked like from my eye level:
This is what it looked like for me.
At one point there was some excitement in my section when one dude began trying to climb up a tree (I don't know if he was friends with the folks already up there or not). He had some struggles, lead to the crowd chanting encouragement, including, "Go! Go! Go!" and, "Yes you can!" and, "Almost there!". He did finally make it up to where there were some branches.
After a bit, I grew tired of being squished on all sides and moved over to the lawn by the Gallery of Art where you could still hear, but I could sit, and knit, and reach out my hands and not touch anybody! Some folks tried to creep up to a fence by the back area of the gallery, only to be shooed away by a security guard.
Some of my favorite signs were about DC rights, what can I say.
Another Favorite Sign
One of the Better signs
Having experienced the joy of riding metro down, and seeing the updates about continuing madness, I decided walking home was a better choice. Interestingly (or perhaps not, considering the theme of the rally) I was far from the only person with this idea. Sure, a few people stopped off at bars and restaurants along the way. (Seriously, I saw nothing that didn't look far busier than usual for mid-afternoon. Not in Penn Quarter, not in Mt. Vernon, not in Logan, not in Columbia Heights.) The crowd of folks headed north continued all the way back, such that a curious guy in front of an apartment building on 14th wanted to know if there was a party.
I headed off for a nice relaxing drink before making it home. And then I read up on the parts I couldn't hear. (TBD has a lot of coverage, like this.)

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Wowee?

My brother was of the perfect age for us to head off as a family to see “An American Tail”. And being the musical theater and repetitive movie watching family that we were, we had the soundtrack and later the video tape in heavy rotation. (Although, if I recall, not as badly rotated as some which may have magically disappeared for a time so we could move on to other movies.)
Now, for those who may have missed out, (and seriously, it’s cute and funny and Dom Deluise and Christopher Plummer sing) a family of Russian mice immigrate to America via New York city, but their son Fievel gets separated from the family and has to make his own way. Along the way he runs into Gussie Mausenheimer, who is voiced by Madeline Kahn, and like many Kahn characters has a speech impediment so her r’s and l’s sound like w’s.
This leads to the following exchange (which several members of my family can do with minimal prompting:
Gussie: We should have a rally? (NB: Remember, “Rally” is pronounced “wowee”.)
John: A wowee?
G: You know, a large gathering of mice for a reason.
J:Oh, a rally.
G: That’s what I said, a rally.

So, this Rally to Restore Sanity thing (or Rally for Fear and/or Sanity) - that’s what I keep thinking of. Hopefully it will also turn out to be amusing and memorable.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Young Adults in Church (or it's Equivalent*)

According to the UUA, a young adult is someone 18-35. (Yes, a little different from the book classification). Now certainly this is a brad age group, and some of the things the 18-35 year olds might be up to might well be more appealing to the 36-45 year olds (or older) and often young adult groups within congregations consider their events age inclusive (which is to say that they are targeted at the core age, but would not exclude others).
I am no longer a young adult by that definition (I am an old adult now,a s far as I can tell) but since I joined a congregation as a young adult, despite it's having a terrible lack of young adult activites (when I first joined they had a group that had been a young adult group, but had apparently not picked up anyone new who still qualified to be referred to as such in some time), it has been a big issue for me.
And I remain convinced that it is part of maintaining a vibrant community, that you can have a great religious education program, a great high school program and then if those high schoolers all graduate and you have nothing to offer them until they are parents you will lose them. Sure, I joined, but not everyone will. And I wasn't raised anything, so I didn't lose my support group of congregants, since I had never had one.
This post here addresses some great things. My church actually has a website (although I am not a huge fan of it's redesign) and a regularly updated Facebook page.
I co-led a workshop on attracting young adults once, and one of the things we said(which is echoed nicely in the linked post) was that you don't have to reinvent your church, but look at ways to use the things your church does well and how you can best use that to attract young adults (and others, the best ideas will attract lots of people).

*My church is technically no longer referred to as such, it is a congregation. While I understand and even agree with the word choice, I do often fall back on the word church for it's ease of use.
h/t to ChaliceChick for the link

Monday, October 25, 2010

Teens + Books

As anyone who has ever wandered from section to section in a bookstore (or music store, or, heck in their email foldering system) knows the subdivisions, or genres as people often refer to them are just a starting point so that if you know you like a certain kind of thing, you can start over there on the left rather than having to comb the shelves for hours or until you give up and pick one because it’s purple.
But, of course, there can be issues with such subdivisions. Someone, or even a committee of someones, decided that this book was this because of this, but really you read the description or heard a recommendation from your friend and you thought it was this. And sure, most people expect this and they have nice info people (hopefully) and/or kiosks where you can look it up and eventually find it. I’ve told people the story of searching for _Seabiscuit_ and checking “Biography” and “Animals” and “Celebrity Biographies” before asking and discovering it was in the “Sports” section (which makes sense, don’t get me wrong, but I think all of mine were not crazy also).
So, with the rise of young adult as a category becoming less things that people think will be good for young adults* to read, and a broader description of young adult as a category of books where the main protagonist(s) are young adults. Period. How is this different than before? Well, the biggest difference is that books that previously might have been shelved in the adult section (which I think is usually called "Fiction", unless of course it’s a mystery, sci-fi or romance) due to adult themes (abuse, sex, rape, drug use) are now being shelved in young adult.
Now, when I say shelved, certainly some bookstores and libraries are making their own choices, I’m just speaking at the level of broad categorization.
Some examples of books that based on this classification are young adult:
Romeo and Juliet
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
To Kill a Mockingbird
Catcher in the Rye

Now, I just want to point out, that I read all of these books in school, so clearly the idea that these books were appropriate for school aged children is not new. And no, I do not mean to suggest that Shakespeare intended his play to be only for young adults.
Because this brings me to my next point, there is no upper age limit (or lower for that matter) for readers of young adult. Nor is there intended to be. The new classification is intended, just like that of fantasy or romance, to assist readers (of all ages) who are looking for a certain type of book to read.
So, when I hear someone (who does not deserve the linkage) suggesting that signage further breaking down the young adult section is a terrible sign heralding the death of publishing, I beg to differ. Because, as you may be able to guess, if the broad category of young adult only really tells you the age of the protagonist, well, then, what happens if you like reading about teens but only mysteries, or romance, or paranorma? I’ve seen quite a few bookstores segment the YA section so you can better find them. And if that causes further confusion, well, thank god for info people and kiosks.

*In the case of books, young adults generally refers to 13-19, high schoolers in particular. Although there is overlap sometimes with the middle grade (11-13 - ie middle school) and adult, and there is some discussion of a post-YA category targeting the 19-22 range.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Things People Should Know: The Sensitivity Edition

Okay, this has been well covered, but it is seriously so insane I feel the need to rehash it.
So, as is typical, different neighborhoods get their trash/recycling pickup different days of the week. If service is suspended on a day - such as a Federal Holiday - that day often gets skipped or postponed, which sucks, because you can easily get enough junkmail in a week to fill up your supercan, and it especially sucks if you find out (or remember) after you've hauled everything to the curb, but really, this is not the worst thing that can happen to your day.
Why are we talking about this, well, sadly the DC Department of Public Works, the very one that handles trash and recycling collection, had an incident last week, where, sadly, someone strode onto the lot and shot and killed a sanitation worker. Now, it seems to me that people should realize the following things:
This is a terrible tragedy.
The lot where this occurred is now a crime scene.
The employees who witnesses this are going to be shaken, upset and likely need to also be interviewed by police.
Rolling trash and recycling trucks across the scene of a crime is frowned on while the police investigate.
Asking employees, whether they witnessed their co-worker's death or just found out about it upon arrival to continue their day as normal, in insensitive and ill advised. (Do you really want grief stricken folks manevering large vehicles through your street?)
And yes, grief is a long process, certainly not done in a day, but waiting a day or even a week for your trash and recycling pickup is not really a hardship. Inconvenient, sure. But I also think we can agree this is not an ongoing issue, this is (hopefully) an unusual circumstance and we can all make it through. But apparently some neighbors on a local listserv thought differently. (Follow that link at your own risk. May cause anger or disbelief.)

h/t to DCist and TBD for the linkage.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Neil Talks

Yes, this is another pointing post, as in pointing you over to this article with Neil Gaiman discusses many things, including how the internet changes our approach to privacy (or doesn't), how music has less of a generation gap, and why he thinks YA has started to take off again. Well worth a read.

h/t to the Monkey See blog for the link.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Sheep and Sheep Again

To take a break from some more soapboxy items, I present this sheep themed post. First, thanks to the lovely Yarnagogo, we have plaid sheep. (Go look at the picture, I’ll wait.) Now the text of the article mentions something about a wool crisis and I read it very quickly and all, but I feel very certain that the gist of it is: please buy more yarn! (Buy yarn, save the sheep, People.)
And then, continuing our sheep them (which is really just two items, but hey, they are sheepy), I send you here for a clever google ad. In fact, I think, if the animal fiber challenged folk don’t mind, we should just make this the secret fiber folk password. Imagine speakeasies with folks furtively knocking and saying “battlesheep” to gain entry.

Monday, October 04, 2010

It Gets Better

So, I first heard about the Trevor Project a few months ago. It was started to provide support to LGBTQ youth so as to reduce suicide in that group. Then, not too long ago I heard that some anti-bullying programs were being challenged for being anti-Christian. Now my google-fu has found that there is a lack of clarity about who is mad at what, perhaps because the group in questions realized that being seen as pro-bullying was not the way to go.
And then I heard about the It Gets Better Project. Started by columnist Dan Savage, various folks with vary levels of fame have recorded or posted messages to say that, as crap as it may seem right now, it gets better.
And here's the thing - I encourage everyone to check these out, LGBTQ teen or not, because these are messages that speak to everyone who's had a day where you think - that's it, this life thingy is the dumbest ever (and we all have). I am a partcular fan of Kay Bornstein's and not jsut because she offers a "Get Out of Hell Free card" (should you believe in Hell).

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Giddy About Banned Books

I confess to having reached a point of hilarity on the subject of banned books. (Exacerbated by reading an unrelated comment thread in which a Turkish woman noted several errors in a book that takes place in Turkey and was told she was wrong. Clearly she does not know her country.)*
So, there's another list of banned and challenged books here, in some cases with links to the parts the parents don't like (woot! - although some of the links within seem to be broken).
Lois Duncan's Daughters of Eve has been challenged (in fairness, these parents wanted it marked as PG-13 rather than removed) due to profanity and sexual content. I confess I read this book a really long time ago (in fact, I think I was in middle school) so I do not recall any profanity or sexual content (darn it) but, as several folks in the story point out it is a great story with an important lesson in it. A teacher, under the guise of enlightening the female students, turns out to have far more nefarious plans than education and it's a good story and an intriguing look at how sometimes platforms that start with some great ideas can get twisted. (And now I have made it sound boring and lessony. It's better than that.)
Lois Lowry's Anastasiawas challenged because a character stuffs her bra.
Lois Lowry's The Giver was challenged because it was depressing. (Seriously.) The parent in question believes that books should be historical or positive, so dystopian is apparently off the table. (There is apparently also some sex.)
And my new favorite challenge may be Louise Rennison's On the Bright Side, I’m Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God not for the content (so, kudos to the parent for reading it before challenging it) because the title contains the words sex god which may lead to statutory rape.
Mildred D. Taylor's Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry and Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn were both challenged because they depict racism. Sadly, that suggests the challengers didn't get very far into either.
H/T to the tweetverse for the you don't know Turkey link here.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

10 in '10

I am soooooooo far behind on talking about this 10 in '10 Challenge. Fortunately,I am ahead of the game in finishing. Yay!
So, I realize the lovely creators of this challenge were super liberal in their determination, but here's how I decided what counted.
-It had to be in first person (there is one book in there that has one tiny scene in third and whatever, I decided that counted.)
-It had to be from the viewpoint of a girl. (Chick lit, people.)
-It had to be contemporaryish. Ish because I did count fantasy and dystopian as long as they weren't supposed to be historical.
The final list was:
1. Breathing by Cheryl Rene Herbsman
2. Ninth Key by Meg Cabot, both talked about here.
3. Oh. My. Gods. by Tera Lynn Childs
4. How to Salsa in a Sari by Dona Sarkar, both of which I spoke about here.
5. Rachel Vincent's My Soul to Take the tale of a teen banshee, who doesn't know she's a banshee, until, well, until she does.
6 & 7. Rosemary Clement-Moore's Prom Dates From Hell where Maggie Quinn suspects something weird and possibly supernatural when accidents start happening at school and Hell Week the second Maggie Quinn book, in which Maggie goes undercover as a sorority pledge, to discover there may be more than just popularity at stake.
8. Ally Carter's Heist Society a tale of a teen trying to escape her family history of thieving, who ends up having to break into a museum.
9. Caren Lissner's Carrie Pilby about a super smart teen who already has her college degree and yet can't quite figure out the social aspect of life yet.
10 & 11 & 12. Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy - Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay, which I have described to people as "American Idol" crossed with The Lottery.
13. Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall which is a tale of a self-absorbed popular high school girl who gets trapped "Groundhog Day" style in a day of her life.
14. Lauren McLaughlin's Cycler, the story of a person who is a girl most of the time, but once a month turns into a boy. (How's that for a monthly cycle?)
15. Ally Carter's I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You the story of a girl at a school for young spies.
So, a little different from my original list, but totally fun.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Books, They are Legion

Saturday was the National Book Fest in DC. For whatever reason, I read the list of authors every year and always notice a new name time I every reread it. No idea why, but it happens this way every year.
Since Suzanne Collins was speaking, I finished off the Hunger Games trilogy (literally the night before) not because I thought she would spoil anything, but I figured I would need to be there early and knew that there was some controversy on the interwebs about the ending, so didn't want to have to cover my ears for fear someone would be discussing it with their friends. (And of course, because I was done, no one did in my earshot, although one person tried to ask a question in the Q&A about the end, and was warned off.)
So, I got downtown early enough to stop at Starbucks before I headed to the tenets, which led to two people asking me where was the Starbucks. I was there early enough to hear most of Brad Meltzer's talk about the heroes book he wrote for his son, which was really interesting. He is working on a book for his daughter also. During the Q&A a gentleman came up and said his wife had heard him speak about "Never take no" and as a result she finished her book, and he handed Mr. Meltzer the manuscript. Meltzer told the story of his first book being universally rejected and how he decided he wasn't going to stop, wasn't going to take no for an answer, he was going to keep going and keep writing and people have told him that touched him, but no one had ever brought him a book.
Suzanne Collins spoke about how being an Air Force brat in a family that was big into war history, and remembering watching her dad go off to(and thankfully return from) Vietnam made her understand and appreciate that war is not something we can keep kids separate from, that they are already involved in a myriad of ways, so her books reflect that. She was asked about advice for young writers, and she said read. She also said, if they were already writing they were ahead of her, since she didn't start until her twenties.
Martha Grimes was asked about how much time passes between her books, since she has so many related stories and she answered that well, she wasn't getting any older, so no reason her characters should. And more seriously, that no, she felt the related books generally occurred close together even if it took her several years to write the next one. And one woman got up and told her she had thirty weeks of bedrest to get through and Grimes's books had gotten her through that.
Peter Straub talked about figuring out how to read on his own, and then being annoyed when he hit kindergarten and they wanted him to cut out elephant shapes - mentioning his real life had never once called for such a skill. And in response to a question, talked about how he got a great blurb from Stephen King that just really seemed to get him, and then reading his stuff and being blown away and sending him a letter and finally meeting him and they got along and wanted to write together and figured out between their two contracts they would be able to do that in four years. He also said most people can't tell which part each wrote, except Neil Gaiman apparently has the gift.
Karin Slaughter spoke of how libraries are in crisis, and libraries provide books, book recommendations and access to technology to a lot of areas and if we lose that there is nothing else that will provide that. In response to a question, she said she researches all the sex in her books herself and then watch the sign language interpreter closely adding, she just wanted to know what the sign was for sex. She also spoke of going on exercises with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and how her conversations with female cops found that conditions have not changed much for them. Slaughter also talked about her sister being diagnosed very late in life with dyslexia and researching that and discovering a lot of the qualities that folks with dyslexia have, sounded like a great detective so dovetailed with her desire to create a character who had a learning disability but was the hero, not the villain or sidekick. And also Lena, (oh, Lena) that in most books the girl who was sexually assaulted is either just a victim in one story, or, if she comes back it's so the love of a strong, virile man can heal her. And she wanted to look at a more natural progression of recovery.
Slaughter (yes, I really enjoyed her talk, not that the others weren't fabulous too) also talked about people saying she seemed super nice for someone who wrote books with dead people, and she said thriller writers in her experience were all pretty goofy, and she thought maybe they got their angst out (as opposed to the nasty romance writers or the drunken kids authors - kidding!)
They have started putting up videos and podcasts from this year here. Take a look!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

It's Banned Book Week!

Yippee! Of course, I look forward to the time when we celebrate this as a historical event, but let's move on. Taking a gander at the books racking up a lot of challenges there are some things that make me wonder. (You know, other than why some parents find it easier to have a conversation with the library or school board about not letting anyone read a certain book, rather than just telling their kids why they don't want them to read it.)
The ALA makes the point that the reported information on challenges is decidedly low, since they estimate they hear about a tiny portion of challenges, but nonetheless the reported information still intrigues me.
So, Pillars of the Earth was challenged for sexual content and I have to say, I think I only made it to the second chapter before the density of the prose made me put it aside, so if some kid read that, more power to them!
I am amused to read that Nickeled and Dimed was challenged in part for promoting economic fallacies, because, goodness knows we wouldn't want kids to get bad messages about money. (I mean, yes, I'm being facetious, because we don't, but, um do you let your kids watch commercials?)
PC and Kristin Cast's entire House of Night series has been banned for sexual content and nudity in one school which is notable for two reasons. One - nudity, in a non-graphic novel is a problem because I guess kids might discover people have body parts? I assume it is naked body parts being revealed in a sexual context, but then wouldn't that be sexual content then that was bothering them? I mean, I assume if the characters had clothed sex, this would still be a problem. Anyway, more interestingly the series has not yet been finished, so they are taking the notable step of banning books that have not yet been written. Lest you think this unique, the Vampire Academy series has also been banned.
Intriguingly, the Twilight series has been banned for sexual content (and having read the whole series, my response is where?) and a school in Australia went so far as to suggest students should not be allowed to have them on school grounds, because clearly we should equate books with things like guns.
Living Dead Girl was challenged in part for having an unsatisfactory ending. That's okay Lord of the Flies was challenged in part for being depressing.
The Egypt Game was challenged because it, in part, depicts Egyptian worship rituals. Yes, certainly wouldn't want people to know that other people might worship differently.
So, clearly I have some reading to do, and the banned books seems like a great place to start. The top ten list is here for 2009.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Seriously, People

So, there's a guy who is unhappy about many things (including comprehensive sex ed, because if we don't tell the kids about sex, they will, of course, never know, but that's another post). In particular he mentions unhappiness, with some books the kids are reading or going to read in school.
Yes, in particular he singles out Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak because of it's inclusion of two rape scenes and bad adults. He compares the book to soft porn. Yeah. Okay, um, no.
According to RAINN, 1 in 6 women, and 1 in 33 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Think of your high school class, and figure out how many people that is. Sure, that's not a perfect application of statistics, but the point I'm getting at is even if they have not told you, there is no way you don't know someone who is/was/will be a victim of sexual assault.
Books like Speak are not glorifying sexual assault. They are acknowledging it as an unfortunate reality, and then showing that people, even fictional people, can and do survive. They can recover. Talking about it in school in the context of a book or movie, allows the discussion to happen in a different way. Sure, this school in Missouri, or other schools probably also have an assembly about rape, but this is another way to present the information.
Laurie Halse Anderson has asked that folks who feel moved to do so, speak out, so that folks will know that her book is not porn. (I cannot tell you how sad writing that sentence makes me.)
Fellow YA author Caridad Ferrer has written about it here. Author Myra McEntire speaks passionately here. And author Veronica Roth, disagrees as a Christian. A
And CJ Redwine has a heartbreaking post here, that says, in part: "Books can give children the language they need to be able to describe themselves and the things they're facing. To silence the book could be to silence the child." (Go read the whole thing.)
I suppose the good news is that my own reading list just got longer.
h/t to the tweeps who let me know about this.

People are Still Fascinating

This weekend I was at the Maryland Wine Festival and then various places in DC. Still found a lot of strange comments, although, yes, some were alcohol enhanced.
I watched one woman pull her car to a dead stop on the highway. She hopped out and dragged her kid out, yanking clothing off and holding the kid over the grass to pee. While I understand it was a more rural highway, it sure seemed like there had to be a safer place to pull over.
-So, you have red hair. Is that why they made you serve red wine. (I answered yes. Seemed useless to explain that I was serving both red and white.)
-Give me your favorite wine. (Which is really code for, I'm just getting drunk now.)
-Pinot noir, please. (Ever since "Sideways", I get asked this once per festival. Even though the winery I volunteer at does not have a Pinot of any kind. Nor do we have anything close, unless by close you mean red.)
Also, (and yes, this turned out much more wine fest focused) somebody had the brilliant idea to make the wristbands gold, which of course meant they were a dingy color that blended in with a lot of people's wrists. Next year I vote for neon pink.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

People are Fascinating

This weekend I was at a congregation event so I was hanging with teens, hanging with adults, eating possibly more garlic bread and ice cream that one should in such a period, and knitting. Now I want to stress, while I am finding amusement in some of the things people said to me, everyone was totally lovely (especially and including the teens).
About me:
"You waiting for your teen?" (Ah yes, just two weeks ago one parent thought I was a teen. Now they think I am a parent. Yes, I know the latter is far more likely.)
"Bread makes you fat."
I responded, but it's yummy. And then the teen patiently explained to me that she was quoting from Scott Pilgrim. Pop culture fail. I did then re-answer, "Bread makes you fat?"
About knitting:
"So what are those really neat things you have there?" (Stitch markers. The Clover kind.)
"So this might take you weeks to finish?" (I should note that last year a small child saw me knitting and saw me again a few hours later, looked and said, "You're not done yet?" So, this is an improvement.)

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Dewey's back!

And he's so cute! Or something. Anyhoo, this year's recipient is the Village Learning Place in nearby Baltimore. There are several ways to donate. And if you scroll down through the comments here - Pamie's giving away copies of her Going in Circles which I read and adored.
So, I went to the teen list (yes, I know you are all very shocked) and found a banned book or two to donate. (It might have even included an author that caused a little contrversy not too long ago in Texas.)

Friday, September 03, 2010

Impatience and Excerpts

I am an impatient person about some things. (Shocking, I know.) Books in particular. I hate excerpts, sample chapters and the like and avoid them like the plague because - unless the book is already out - if it’s well done, I have to wait for the next page. Sure, sometimes when waffling on a particular choice I’ll skim some pages, but that is again on books already out. I don’t like waiting more than I have to to read the good stuff. And publishing is a whimsical business. That’s why of the five pieces we heard at Cherry Con, two of them are (freaking, finally) coming out this year. I may have told a person or twenty about my excitement about this. But that is an interminable (in my opinion) amount of time to wait. I accidentally read the excerpt for the next of Eilieen Dreyer’s historicals, and I have no idea how I’m going to wait for April. (Better be April or sooner people, or I’ crankier.) I have been known to peek at an excerpt in an ongoing series to get a sense of who the next book was about. And sure, once, I read the whole freaking excerpt on purpose because in my excitement about the resolution the next book was going to provide my peek turned quickly into reading the whole darn thing. But generally, while I absolutely see the value in having excerpts and sample chapters, I don’t read them. Nope, not at all. So, now you know what I’ll be doing November. And April.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Best Fiction or So They Tell Me

I was going to wade in on the whole debate that emerged on twitter and across the internet about the New York Times Book Review’s coverage (or lack thereof) of genre fiction, and how it raised some intriguing points about coverage of female focused or penned books and whether a book review should focus on the very highest quality* of books or if it should pay more than nominal attention to the the books more people read, but I am now exhausted having read so much of the coverage so, should you have missed this, I shall point you here, to Jennifer Weiner who kicked this off (as a long time reader of her blog, I will point out she has been talking about this for a long time, it just seems to have sparked something this time). She also provides links to some of the resulting articles and to Laura Lippman’s thoughts. And I will point you to the brilliantly named Monkey See post. And I will point you to the lovely Caridad Ferrer’s thoughts here.

*And yes, I know that assuming that the only quality stuff occurs in non-genre fiction is hugely wrong but that is a whole other rant.

Monday, August 23, 2010

More Synchronicity

I ran into some more reading synchronicity this weekend. Two books in a row, featuring amnesia. Now amnesia happens a lot more in fiction than real life, but since both of these books came from authors who are on my personal auto-buy list, I was unaware of these plot points until I dove in. It's also somewhat fascinating since they are different (not better or worse, just different) as two books can be. I suppose you could find two books that were more different, but one one hand (shelf?) we have Eileen Dreyer's Barely a Lady - an early Regency story that takes place in Belgium and England about a woman who stumbles across her ex-husband on the battlefield to discover that he is wearing the wrong (French) uniform and does not recall the last five years (which involve him accusing her of infidelity, and tossing her out, and divorcing her). On the other shelf we have Marjorie M. Liu's A Wild Light, the lastest installment of the Hunter Kiss series, a contemporary urban fantasy about a woman who protects humans from the things that wish to harm them, taking place in Seattle, and a few other planes as well. Both very enjoyable. And I felt both of them worked with the amnesia stories well.
Edited for typos.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Censorship Sucks

So, here’s the thing - I know I’ve said most, if not all, of this before. But it apparently bears repeating. People don’t have to love every boo, want to read every book, or even want their kids to read every book. Where censorship becomes an issue is when you make that decision for a whole group. I learned about sex when I was four. It did not make me try to run out and have any. I can’t pinpoint when I learned about drugs, but I can tell you that I was lucky enough to go to a great school that offered not only comprehensive sex ed, but drug education that was more than these are all the things you shouldn’t do. (It also talked about the different effects of different drugs, and the side effects.)
And I love books. I learned about all sorts of fascinating things from books, sparked great discussion with my parents and friends based on scenarios I read about, and got to think about what I would do if I were the character. Intriguingly, the Our Whole Lives sex ed course, uses similar scenario based role playing to help students (of all ages, they have junior high, high school, young adult and adult versions) think about how to handle conversations and choices. So I think reading about such things is great, and again, I promise teens know about sex and drugs (and rock and roll).
Ellen Hopkins, author of such books, was invited to the Teen Lit Fest that is being held in Texas in January. (I’ve heard good things about past festivals.) Anyway a teacher saw this and went to some parents who then went the the superintendent who uninvited her. Apparently, his response to one librarian in the district who wanted Hopkins there indicated that he hadn’t actually read the books in question but felt that the librarian he had spoken with had provided reasonable explanation. Here’s what annoys me about this (you know, other than the censorship). I recall, back in the day, a politician quoting the opening lines* of “Trainspotting” saying that this is what is wrong with today’s movies. The thing is, if you’ve actually seen the movie you know that that is the setup for the main character’s arc. He starts off a heroine addict with, well, no ambition and then, stuff happens and he changes. So, that quote lets you know where he starts. And the movie does a nice job of illustrating why you might not wish to be like these guys. But sure, if someone just read you that opening quote, you might not think there was anything good about the movie. And you’d be missing the point.
But, back to Hopkins the other reason (again, other than the censorship) it bugs is because wouldn’t it be really useful for, oh I don’t know, a discussion to occur at the Teen Lit Festival about how authors make choices about their books and about how teens actually feel about reading such things? And, sadly, the real losers are the teens who are now losing opportunities to meet with authors.

*”Choose life . . . But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life: I chose something else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you've got heroin?”

H/T to Smart Bitches for the link.
Also, Melisa De La Cruz has a post about her reaction here. And Tera Lynn Childs has her eloquent response here.

She Was An Excellent Typist

So, here’s the thing - while I am a baby twit, the appeal of Twitter is not lost on me. And I know there are a bunch of famous and/or funny people who are fun to follow and certainly that’s an accomplishment, as everyone who has ever tried to blog or Facebook knows, coming up with interesting stuff is not as easy as it seems sometimes. But, while I hesitate to appear to denigrate Twitter and it’s value as a communication tool and social media and even sometimes art form, I think for many people it is not their standout fact.
So, reading this article in which Stephen Fry, you know movie and television star Stephen Fry, as actor and Tweeter, I was taken aback. I tried to ponder if someone - someone who would be reading a newspaper would recognize Stephen Fry only as a tweeter (and yes, I realize the second paragraph gives a better accounting of his accomplishments). But he was in Alice in Wonderland and Bones, so I sort of think if you had managed to miss the other ninety some things in his imdb bio, that might have helped.
And look I’m not saying that you haven’t been paying attention if you didn’t know who he was, I’m suggesting that if you didn’t, I’m not sure tweeter would have helped you. And that leads me to the use of tweeter as a descriptor, because while I agree that it is something that people do, and may do very well, and certainly it is done in the public eye, it just somehow seems to me not one of the first two things I would tell someone about Stephen Fry. But maybe that’s just cause I don’t follow him.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Lose Weight in Two Hours

No, I do not have plans to turn this into a weight loss blog. But you know all those ads for this magic piece of exercise equipment or fabulous weight loss pill that will make you go from this to this in just months or even weeks? And probably you had sort of noticed that people in the before pictures usually look unhappy and they look happy in the after. And often it looks like they maybe got better lighting, makeup and hairstyling in the after picture. And certainly anyone (like me, for example) whose watched enough makeover shows knows how the right clothes, hair and makeup can make you look better even without popping pills or exercising. (Not that I am against exercising. In theory, I hear it's very good for you.) But what if I could (well, not me personally, but I will hand you free of charge, the link) make you look better in two hours?
Well these people proved that it can be done, with some cosmetic stuff, some new clothes, some push ups (yeah, I know, exercise, but they did all of the above in two hours. And they got this.

H/T to Five Full Plates for the Link.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Day 6 and 7- the Final Disneyfication

Saturday, I had planned to get up early for an 8:30 workshop. Except I slept through my alarm, so arrived closer to nine with damp hair. (I snuck in quietly. I also got the recordings so I can listen to the rest when they arrive.) Workshops and signings. I grabbed lunch in the little cafe which was jammed. More workshops and signings. I had also made a spa appointment for late afternoon so I could be extra pretty for the awards ceremony. I moderated a workshop given by a fellow YARWA member, which was funny because I figured it was an easy job until I figured out this meant I would forever be on the recordings. (No terrible mishaps that I recall.)
Then I went to the last two signings, rushed to my hotel, boxed up my books and headed to the shipping line where I thought I was in luck because compared to lunch time (where it had been out the door, round the corner, so to speak) it was tiny. Just ten to twelve people. Well, the good news is I had a nice long time to chat with my linemates because, it took (and I totally wish I was kidding) an hour and a half. Seriously, I have made trips to the Columbia Heights post office that took less time and that post office never has more than one person working, and sometimes that worker works like she’s being judged no how few people she can process each hour. It was particularly unfortunate because they had two guys but one computer. The plan was for one to pack and one to type everything up and process the money. I ended up calling the spa (who of course had a four hour cancellation policy, but fortunately were kind enough to say that they would see what I had time for once I got there). The person in front of me heard my call and offered to let me go ahead, but I told her honestly it wasn’t her little package holding me back, it was the slooooooooow process.
Anyhoo, I did finally get my package mailed ($20 - totally worth not having to schlep an extra bag home on metro). And made it to the spa in time to at least get a manicure. (Which was awesome, and my manicurist used to live in Fairfax.) I then raced back to the hotel threw on my dress, pinned up my hair and raced right back to get in line for the awards dinner. Managed to find the cherries, including the lovely Christine Merrill.
During the awards ceremony, they had some interludes where they posted covers of former Golden Heart winners (the unpublished contest) that had become books. Including, that of Christine Merrill! I was then told the story of how when Chris was nominated the announcer goofed and left out her name. One cherry jumped onto a chair and yelled her name and then, of course, she was the lucky winner. (By the way, I love Christine’s historicals and her self-pubbed contemporary.)
There were some great award speeches and it was lovely to see people win! After we hung out in the lobby for a while and then went up to a suite where a larger crowd had gathered. Someone had left their RITA sitting on the table. I might have gently touched it.

Sunday I slept through two alarms and ended up not making the airport shuttle that the shuttle people suggested I catch, and instead getting the one an hour later. (Oops!) I did pre-check in. And I had a lovely chat with a person who it turns out was the announcer back when a certain Christine Merrill was nominated for her Golden Heart. She told me the story, saying that she thought she had finished the names and then heard a commotion and looked at the prompter again and realized her error and added Chris. And then opened the envelope and said, “Of course.” I also ran into one of my line buddies from the shipping line. Anyway, I did get to the airport in time (just) and almost got foiled by the fact that the Orlando airport has a complete lack of self check in kiosks and of course my bag, while reasonably sized is not a carry on. Fortunately the skycap line was not crazy (the desk line was out the door and around the corner.) And despite all the warnings about the security line, I found it not terrible. So, I made it safely home.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Day 4 and 5 of the Disneyfication

Thursday I really sort of did need to be up early so I could head to an informal breakfast meeting of the YARWA group. We hung out in the Java Bar before heading to the lobby of the Dolphin to hang out some more. (Where I also had the opportunity to explain about the internet to a woman who apparently didn’t want to ask the nice hotel people how to make it go.) I met the librarian of the year, and she seems awesome and met some other writers before heading in for lunch, with the keynote being given by the lovely Nora Roberts. (Summary - If you think it’s harder to get published now, bullshit.) Then I headed to the PRO Retreat which was wonderful but I sat in the same chair for far too long - convinced that if I took a break I would win a prize. I should have bribed someone to pretend to be me.
Then I headed back to Bluezoo for a gathering of the Washington chapter, and then to Il Mulino for a gathering of the cherries, and then to a conference room for YARWA’s first ever chapter meeting and a talk from two RITA winning YA authors. And then back to Il Mulino to catch the tail end of the cherry gathering. (Yes, Thursday is typically the day many chapter gatherings happen, since most publisher gatherings are Friday.)

Friday I went to some signings and some workshops. I met a lovely gentleman in the hallway who was knitting a clapotis. He’s published a romance with Samhain I need to check out. (I showed off my project with Madeline Tosh Pashmina.) The lovely (yes, I have just decided to stick with that adjective) Jayne Ann Krentz spoke. (Summary - Try not to kill your career, but if you do, it may be fixable.)
More workshops and signings. Went to dinner. Headed through the bar and ran into a lovely knitting writer friend so we hung in the bar (conveniently placed between the escalator and the lobby) for a good couple hours.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Day 3 of the Disneyfication

Wednesday I got up in a little more leisurely manner, which may not have been the best choice since I was headed to Epcot. I did head over to the Dolphin to pick up my packet and cool canvas bag (with books!)
Since I was in the loose collection of Epcot resorts, I was able to take a water taxi. (Yes, I probably also could have walked, but the water taxi was fun and shady.) First, Wednesday was hotter and the sun was strong. And despite having been to Epcot before (although in a previous millennium) I had forgotten it’s complete lack of shade. If you weren’t pressed against a tree or building, there wasn’t any. But, that’s fine, Epcot has lots of shady air conditioned rides and exhibits. Well, yes, but guess where all those people who got there early, or arrived with me went? This was exacerbated by the fact that most of the international side didn’t open up at nine with the park, it opened at eleven or later.
All this meant the line for Soarin was estimated at a seventy minute wait, and the fast passes were for three or later and I knew I was already wilting, I was not going to still be here at three. So, I went to check and see if Test Track was better. Test Track was at about an eighty minute wait but fortunately had a single rider line that was at ten minutes. So I did that. Despite being a mini commercial for GM, it was totally fun. You do have to sort of trust the ride a bit, because - while you are on a track - they simulate doing car tests such as braking so you do twist and turn and then there is the collision test.
I also found an (indoor) exhibit where they put you in a video game which was pretty fun. Yes, they film you running, jumping and victory dancing and put that in the video game.
Then I wandered through the countries and stopped at China for lunch. The placemat had Chinese characters with a short history and a place to fill them in. My waitress gave me crayon, which both pleased me and made me wonder what about me said give me a crayon. (I did use it to practice my characters, and my waitress complimented them.) I had a light lunch of cucumber salad and dumplings (yes, I consider that light) and then wandered through the rest of the “countries” before heading back to the hotel for an afternoon siesta.
Then I headed over to the Dolphin for the literacy signing. I cannot stress how amazing these things are if you like books or talking to authors. Over 500 authors (not a typo) were there signing and chatting with readers and all the money raised from the sales at the signing goes to support literacy projects. I made a quick circuit - for authors I have been lucky enough to meet I will often say high, but if they have a line I usually move on since a - I may see them again throughout the conference and b - others should have their first shot. So, I knew that the little flags for the Young Adult authors chapter (YARWA) were hidden with various YARWAers who were signing. Tera Lynn Childs had a big line, but I did find the lovely Melissa Francis and she had flags! Yay! We had a nice chat before I went to say hi to the also lovely Rachael Herron. While chatting, Robin Kaye’s mom stopped by since Rachael’s book has knitting in the title (and the book) and mentioned that her daughter was a big knitter, weaver and spinner. I later stopped to say hi to Ms. Kaye and told her that we had met her mom and that her mom had not said anything embarrassing (Robin and I met at the WRW conference since we are both members of the Washington chapter). Then I stopped by to see the lovely fellow Cherry Corrina Lawson (who I met way back at Cherry Con) and she was signing her awesome book (now finished, very good alternative timeline historical romance).
After the signing Corrina and I hung out in her room and with her lovely roommates before heading to bed.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Day 1 and 2 of the Disneyfication

Last week I was in Disney World. Since some of my days were less interesting, at least as far as long recounting, I’ll do some squisheding. The purpose of my visit was the RWA National Conference, which had been originally scheduled for Nashville, in the Opryland Hotel which sadly found it’s conference rooms filled with about ten feet of water this spring, forcing them to cancel. (The Literacy Signing, which we will get to later, still made donations to Nashville area programs.) So we moved to Disney, or technically the Dolphin and Swan Hotels, located near Epcot. They are Starwood hotels which meant we had some different food contracts, but you could still breakfast with characters should you wish too. I also feel that the Disney effect was present in the training of the excellent staff found in the hotel and restaurants.

So, Monday I arrived at the Dulles airport early enough that (especially combined with my pre-check in online - one of the best inventions ever) I was not in danger of not being let on the flight, but late enough that my bag got a pretty yellow tag indicating that it was late. Sadly, this just a bit late thing became a bit of a theme, although happily, no tragedies, travel or otherwise occurred.
I then went to grab a shuttle, telling them I was in the Dolphin and Swan and the very nice lady explained that they were two hotels, albeit next to each other, so it would be helpful if I could tell them which one. Well, my ipod kept freezing on the free airport wifi, so I ended up switching to my phone and finally getting to my info to learn I was in the swan. Our shuttle driver was very chatty and full of tips and information as for where to go for snacks, and the best restaurants to try, and how to handle confirming out return shuttle trip. I imagine when folks are going to Disney it’s easier to expect that they are tourists.
We arrived, I checked in, hung up all my clothes and then decided to check out this fabulous pool. They had one sort of standard lap pool, and then further down (closer to the Dolphin) a “grotto” pool with stone sides and a waterfall and a bridge over the middle. The bridge was helpful, since it provided shade. The pool was deep in enough places to feel cooler than bathwater despite the steamy heat.
Later I headed back and dried off and relaxed before heading to the Disney boardwalk for dinner. I went to Kouzzina by Cat Cora where my food was delicious and my waiter was solicitous, even giving suggestions for better food enjoyment. (Dinner: Spanopakita, wine, and the entree trio - small portions of lasagna, cinnamon chicken and a baby lamb slider. All delicious.)
I also found the general store, where in addition to many Disney trinkets, I found milk (I had brought chai with me.)

Tuesday I set the alarm since I had been assured that the best time to hit Animal Kingdom was morning both because the record setting July heat would be less of a pain and because the animals were more likely to be doing something other than sleeping in the shade (due to the record setting July heat). I took the bus from the hotel to Animal Kingdom and discovered as I made my way in (where seriously, even the guy who searched my bag was super friendly) that I was so early that I was going to get to see the opening. Whoops. The opening was actually cute (Mickey Minnie and Pluto make sure they have everything they need including sunscreen) and short. The safari was popular so I got a Fast Pass and made my way around to the animal preserve before heading back. Fortunately Animal Kingdom - in their attempt to make it look like you may have globe-trotted to Asia or Africa (or Dino-land) had lots of trees. So, in addition to my hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen, I had a good amount of shade. I went back to the safari and saw a good amount of animals including my personal favorites rhinos (black and white). The safari had a storyline that was amusing enough and yet did not intrude on your ability to animal watch. (And kudos to the drivers who must go through that script many, many times a day.) I did the Tiger Trail and some other animal watching bits before deciding that I’d rather have lunch back at the hotel and heading back to the buses. After lunch I went back to the room for a little relaxation figuring I’d head to Typhoon Lagoon once the sun was a little lower in the sky.
Well, the first thing I discovered was that the Typhoon Lagoon bus was a multi-stop bus. We started at the Swan and then went to the Dolphin (understandably, although I should mention the Dolphin is a Florida dolphin-fish, not a dolphin dolphin, it’s what many people call mahi mahi). After that we went to the Beach Club (another hotel), and then the Yacht Club (same) and then we went to Downtown Disney (all restaurants and shops as far as I can tell, this is also where a princesses, a fairy, and a prince hopped onto the bus with their parents) and then, finally to Typhoon Lagoon. Now, this really was fine and it was a free bus, but I had been spoiled on my previous trip. And it did mean that the way back my hotel as first.
Now Typhoon Lagoon is a water park. It is an expensive water park. (Yes, I know, but seriously, I thought our Six Flags was bad...and yes this is because I remember when that Six Flags was Wild World and had a twenty dollar entry.) But, Typhoon Lagoon has a Shark Reef and you can snorkel with sharks and stingrays. Now first, I should clarify that this is not like the trip - say - that my uncle took where you scubaed down and they let loose chum to attract whatever sharks chose to come by. These sharks and stingrays and fish live here and at this point one imagines they are used to humans hovering above them. I also figure that, you know, this is Disney and if these sharks or stingrays act up, they make them listen to “It’s a Small World” until they stop. Disney provides mask and snorkel (which helped with my packing) and then they let you in in groups suggesting you swim arms only, which they said was so you didn’t kick the folks behind you (I wondered if it also decreased your chances of annoying the sea life). It was really cool, if short little trip. It looks kind of like a pool with a reef and shipwreck stuck in the middle. They have a bridge if you want to see without danger of touching. After that I went for a turn on the lazy river before heading back to the hotel and out to dinner.
Dinner was at Bluezoo - a Todd English restaurant. It was fabulous, and again I had superior service and ended up getting talked into dessert which was a delicious raspberry concoction but after tuna tartar and yellowtail fish with a soy ginger sauce dessert stuffed me.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Let's face it many things these days tell time. In addition to my alarm clock, I have my computer, ipod, phone, TV and my camera. So, a wall clock seems superfluous unless it does something different. (Something other than ticking or chiming.) So, what if my clock could knit? Oh, you think I'm being silly. No, no, this clock knits a tubular scarf. About one per year, one round a day.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dear Folks - More Fictional People Talk

Dear Fictional Characters,
If you come into possession of a box, and a voice appears in your head telling you to open it - don't listen! I don't care how sexy or whatever it sounds, do not trust strange voices in your head. (The exception being _Touch Not the Cat_, but I think we can argue that was a familiar, if unidentified voice. It also never told her to open strange boxes.)
Avid Reader

P.S. This goes double if the box is marked Pandora's box.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Just Move

Look, I think it's fair that if you're running for office in Virginia that DC is not your primary focus. But to say, yeah, intellectually I think that it seems wrong that people in DC don't have the same rights as other people but really, they knew what they were getting into so if it bugs them they should move is, well, not the best answer.
I had a chat with a kid in youth group after a service where one couple spoke of their decision to move from Virginia after Virginia passed legislation removing many legal rights if couple were attempting to provide them to gay partners. The kid asked me why anyone gay remained in Virginia and I answered that there are two approaches - either you vote with your feet or you attempt to work change from within. So, I guess Mr. Fimian is hoping that the eleventh district isn't full of folks who moved to Virgina due to their lack of voting rights.

Thursday, July 01, 2010


I confess when planning to take metro late at night I have often worried that I would miss the last train. I have learned the hard way to build extra time if you have to switch lines (and therefore take two last trains). And in one memorable evening, a friend and I ended up getting a cab from Crystal City to Greenbelt. It had not occurred to me to worry that the station would not be open when I got there. But now I can add that to the list after two folks were stranded at the Cheverly station when they arrived on the last train and found it locked up.
In the wake of recent stories about gadget over-use and the internet possibly re-wiring our brains, it was nice to read a story where technology helped. The metro number (which they called using their phone since there were no pay phones they could see) suggesting calling back during normal business hours. So they contacted police and also posted it on Facebook. While details seem to be fuzzy as to which method got the Metro employee down to let the riders out of the station, nonetheless, had the riders not had their cells, someone might have found some hot and really tired folks when they unlocked the station this morning.

(I will note, that most stations I have been in do have pay phones, although I haven’t tried using one in this millenia.)

ETA: Link. Sorry, not sure why my links keep disappearing.

Monday, June 28, 2010

How Hot is it?

How Hot is it?
I promise not to turn this into a weather blog, but I just wanted to mention that is is in fact hot enough that the official explanation for a fire on a deck is that the hanging plant spontaneously combusted. So, if you thought spontaneous combustion was the stuff of uban legends, well, now you know better. And for a list of things from Wikipedia that are known to spontaneously combust, go here.  Now you have another reason to avoid manure piles. You're welcome.

H/T to DCist for the news link.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I took a lot of history in college, p...

To Essay or Not
I took a lot of history in college, partly because I enjoyed it and partly because I had worked out a good system.  History courses at the time there all had a three week essay cycle - in that every three weeks you had to turn in an essay and then you would get the assignment for the next one.  (IT also meant my history major roommate who was taking three history classes had an essay due every week).  The reality was that the history courses were well designed to give you an idea what the exam would be like (unlike say, the second year psychology course where the first essays you wrote were on the exam). 
My medieval history professor actually had very good recall of the library books, such that he would look at my bibliography first and then based on that know what source information I had (which was both cool - he certainly didn't expect me to know what I hadn't read, and a little scary, he knew just what I had read).  I had a classmate who, in a different history course copied a friends' essay and turned that in.  Since this was the early nineties and not all students had computers (although we did all have access to the computer lab, which, let me tell you was often quiet and relatively empty), she actually hand copied it.  There were a number of potential issues I could see - which I did point out to her: What if the professor recognized it? If you could guarantee that the professor would not, what guarantee would you have that it would get the same grade?  Wouldn't it suck more to get a crap grade with someone else's words?  Wouldn't writing your own paper be only marginally slower and hopefully less boring than copying someone else's words?  (In the end, while I don't know what happened with that particular paper, she was a no show for our history seminar (missed all four weeks) and since the seminar had twelve people and the aforementioned meticulous professor, and she also failed to turn in the seminar assignments, she got no credit for the course as a whole.) 
So, now that one can actually cut and paste a paper, or order one online and type their name across the top, it is not terribly surprising to me that their is a rise in internet enabled plagiarism and also a rise in catching plagiarism. What I found interesting about this article was the suggestion that rather than straight essays, a multi-media package on a topic was suggested as a better way to capture.  I confess I was at one point able to diagram the Battle of Stirling Bridge (which featured an actual bride, Hollywood) so I can only imagine what I might have put together on that.  (particularly since the overlap in my history course was such that I believe I covered that battle three times.)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Courteous Discourse

Courteous Discourse
One of my favorite moments in Pride and Prejudice is when Lady Catherine visits Elizabeth in an attempt to get her to call off her rumored engagement to Mr. Darcy.  The discussion is witty (if weighted to one side) and yet fairly polite and adhering to some of the social mores of the day.  And really, isn't it much more interesting to watch (or read) a discussion where the points are made with intelligence and courtesy.  So, with thanks to ChaliceChick for the link, I present an exchange of letters between the US Embassy in Britain and the British Embassy in DC with regard to the World Cup.

(And yes, normally we would go with my rant about the use of England where people mean Britain, but for the purposes of soccer, there are in fact separate English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland teams. Sadly, only the English team advanced this year. And by the way, recognizing that the US's history with soccer is bumpy, but still, can we get a team for Hawai'i and Texas since they used to be sovereign countries? Okay, according to Wikipedia - there is a Puerto Rico team.)

Friday, June 04, 2010

Life Isn't Fair

Life Isn't Fair
Since I read ALOTT5MA and since they are big Spelling Bee followers (and I think I first heard of them in reference to their Bee coverage), well, this time of year I learn a lot about the bee. An interesting decision occurred today when the semi-final round, which has seen a lot of spellers spell out, was cut short in concern that there would not be enough remaining contestants to create an interesting prime time.  Now, I realize that TV has rules, and that's part of participating in something televised.  The spellers who had not yet had their turn will go first and then the remaining spellers will be considered official finalists.  And, sure, in some ways it's a little like a rain delay and these things happens, but I can imagine that if I had spelled out in the early portion of the semi's I'd be pretty ticked that the others got extra study time. 
In eighth grade (which is actually the upper end of these guys) we had snow on exam day.  The carpool that I was in had a sneaky habit of skipping my sister and I when they were running behind and I ended up having to scramble and get my dad to drive me, so I arrived about thirty minutes into the exam.  In anticipation the school had stated that teachers would allow extra time for students who hadn't been able to get there due to snow (or carpool snafus).  I did indeed get the additional thirty minutes, however, I hadn't planned my time well and still hadn't finished some of the questions.  That was, of course my fault.  However, the teacher had let everyone stay an extra thirty minutes, not just me.  And at thirty minutes exactly we were instructed that if we didn't stop writing right then, we would not be graded, so myself and the other stragglers turned out exams in. Well, I got a crap grade on the exam.  And no, it hadn't been a strong subject of mine, and yes, I should have raised the time inequity sooner, but I had hoped that the parts I had filled out were magically perfect enough that it wouldn't matter.  The school talked to the teacher who told them that she had allowed everyone all the time they needed.  I found a student who specifically recalled her telling us to hand ours in, but in the end, after discussion with my mom, decided that since I had her for the rest of the year, being right was probably going to hurt me more than it helped me.  And I passed the course in the end and moved on to ninth grade and mostly managed to avoid that teacher. 
But I still remember how unfair it seemed, so I hope that these spellers are able to remember the fun of this trip to DC and not linger too much on the strange way the semifinal turned out.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Who Knew?

Who Knew?
Who knew the hospitals and/or government employees were just as suspect as the Ellis Island folks often blamed for adjusting people's names on entry.  I had a co-worker whose name was spelled unusually, such that it appeared that her name should be pronounced differently.  When I asked (to make sure that we hadn't just been saying her name wrong) her answer was that her mom had spelling issues.  Well, this list indicates athletes with names that seem spelled wrong when spelled correctly.  Apparently, quite a few of them are a result of some admin type person typing it wrong into the birth certificate.  I can certainly understand choosing not to engage in the layers of bureaucracy required to change it back, although in some of these cases, I may have tried.  I salute these folks ongoing challenge in getting their name right on the Starbucks cups.  (Some day I'll share what I've gotten on mine.)

H/T to ALOTT5MA for the link.

Edited because I realized I forgot the link.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010


So, here's the thing.  I think coffee smells interesting.  I think it tastes awful.  So after a few tries, I have moved on.  There are many beverages in this world, I don't have to like them all.  And tea is awesome, and so I am happy.  And when I feel a need for a kick, well, sometimes I scarf a soda.  Although, I had noticed that soda didn't really perk me up.  I have drank soda on days where I wasn't tired and didn't end up super revved up so I suspected it was more that I felt I had taken steps to counter the tired that made me feel better, if not more awake.  I also have never been kept up by consumption of tea or soda, so never had to worry about at what time I consumed them.  I did once take a prescription medicine that made my heart race and my hands shake - I was quite a mess at work and the doctor's office told me to stop immediately but it still took hours for it to wear off, so I imagine it is just as well for me since I seem to have no real effect and then ohmygodI'malljittery with no in between. 
But still, coffee.  There are rituals and things that I still sometimes feel left out of.  And even though I know the caffeine they add to soda is derived from coffee I did still sometimes wonder if I could make myself like coffee if I would discover that magical in between.  So, I was a little pleased to discover that coffee actually doesn't make you more alert. Or caffeine really.  (I also discovered that they have now found caffeine makes asthma worse, rather than better as had been thought.) Word seems to still be out on positive effects for Alzheimers. So I guess I'll have to stick to drinking what I like, and in moderation of course.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Obligatory Cat Blog Post

Obligatory Cat Blog Post
I have a cat.  She is what the call tortoise shell colored, which is a variation of calico.  She also has an orange strip that is down the middlish part of her face. I live in an apartment building where the apartments are configured in U-shapes so that everyone gets a window.  I am in the middle of a U, so I can see the windows of several apartments on the U-edges. So, I knew that someone new was moving in a few apartments down when I kept seeing all the work guys in during the day (they had the windows and shades open).  And then the work guys went away, but I started seeing a cat in the window (window and shades are closed, so the cat is all I see).  And I pondered that next time my cat went for her dose of kitty TV (we have some good bird activity out the window) that my cat might see this other cat and while cats seem to understand windows, there might be some peering, possibly followed by a warning hiss. 
Well, it never seemed to happen.  I would see the other cat when my cat was taking her turn napping in the kitchen or the closet. My cat would check on the birds and the other cat would be gone from the window.  Then, as spring got, well, springier, the light improved and I caught a glimpse of other cat in the sunlight and realized that other cat was also a tortie.  So, of course*, I pondered the possibility that my cat had found a secret passageway or had found an entrance to the vents leading just to this one apartment. 
Well, today, while as far as I can tell they still haven't spotted each other, other cat appeared in the window while my cat was sleeping next to my chair. 

*Yes, of course.  Wouldn't you?

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Difference in Creepy

A Difference in Creepy
So, I saw over at DCist that a so-called creepiest roommate ad on Craigslist ever is making the rounds.  For the moment, the ad is here. The creepy part (and YMMV) is the request for roommate participation in bowel movement checklist.  And I could see how that would cause concern and certainly raise questions (such as what are you planning to do with the record of my movements?).  But, no, people, I am here to tell you that while I might scroll to the next listing, my creepy bar remains set at high for a listing I found - also on Craiglist - back in 2006.  This one, which I preserved in an email to my roommate at the time, offered a 100% discount on the rent if you agreed to chain and spank the lister one a week.  And again, YMMV, and consenting adults and all that, but that was the one that I found topped my creepy scale.
Text posted below from the ad. And no, I had not wandered into the adults only section of craigslist.

special room for rent $699

Room available in a two-bedroom, two-bathroom house with a cute basement dungeon in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood.
I am looking for a very special tenant. I am a man of rather short stature (some people call me a little person, but I don't mind being referred to as a midget) and I'm prepared to rent the room to a liberal, open-minded girl rent-free if she will chain me up and spank me at least once a week.
Have no other requirements other than the common area be kept relatively clean and the rent/bills being paid on time.
This is a serious post. Please contact me if you're interested and we can arrange a time for you to see the place.

Neighborhood info:,_Washington,_DC,+Washington,+DC

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

In Which I am Intentionally Vague

In Which I am Intentionally Vague
Years ago, during one of my company's big excellent service initiatives, they had a senior VP put together a little video about a terrible service experience that he had.  (In fairness to the company - which I will not name - it was the airport version, not that that excuses bad service, but I believe airport versions are often run by different groups than the town versions.) Anyhoo, so this VP talked about how as a result of this experience he was never going back.  And this segued into ways to provide good experience.  So, it is with great irony that I read the announcement that thsi company is now our client. 

In Which I am Intentionally Vague

In Which I am Intentionally Vague
Years ago, during one of my company's big excellent service initiatives, they had a senior VP put together a little video about a terrible service experience that he had.  (In fairness to the company - which I will not name - it was the airport version, not that that excuses bad service, but I believe airport versions are often run by different groups than the town versions.) Anyhoo, so this VP talked about how as a result of this experience he was never going back.  And this segued into ways to provide good experience.  So, it is with great irony that I read the announcement that thsi company is now our client. 

Friday, May 14, 2010

To bring together two entirley separa...

Do You Buy It
To bring together two entirley separate discussions, over at HitFix, Alan Sepinwall spoke with Bill Lawrence, the creator of "Cougar Town" about his wish to change the name of the show to better reflect it's evolution from a show about a woman re-entering the dating pool in her forties, to stories about a group of friends, including a woman in her forties re-entering the dating pool.  It's an interesting discussion about the creative process and part of wshat he spoke about was that since episodic television, is, well, episodic, viewers need to buy in to the execution more than the premise, whereas with a movie (and, I imagine, a play) you buy into the idea. 
So, I wondered if that played into the recent discussion about gay people's ability to play heterosexual characters that was sparked by a piece in Newseek.  Now I recognize the Newsweek writer referenced both plays and a TV shows, but I suspect the problems were still somewhat related.  For example, as Linda Holmes pointed out in her lovely piece examining the issue, it is entirely possible to view a play and be so stuck on expecting an actor to be like that TV character you are used to seeing them as, that you can't enter into the play properly.  So, that interferines with your buy in.  And well, since my understanding is that his issue with "How I Met Your Mother"s Barney Stinson is that he is a caricature, I suggest he probably hasn't watched much, because the character, while outrageous, has been shown to have multiple sides.  And if the issue with "Glee" is that it is hard to imagine someone as straight because they sing and dance, then, again, I suggest it is not the actor getting in the way of your enjoyment. 
By the way, Kristin Chenoweth - currently playing opposite Sean Hayes who was mentioned, responded here.  And Ryan Murphy, "Glee" creator, responded here, and further here.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Linkety Link

I am low on peppy thoughts today, so I will share other people's. (Low on caffeine.)
If you have somehow missed the NPR folks singing Lady Gaga - go here. And then you can see Jesse Tyler Ferguson with his own Lady Gaga rendition.*
I someday aspire to have as lovely a book collection as Patti O'Shea. In fact part of me wants to send that link to my mother to say that clearly I am behind. (She always wants to know why I keep buying books since I already have some.)
Apparently, folks who go to their second choice college are often happier. I went to my second choice, although I did get into my first choice.
Oh, want your mind blown about "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" - check here.
And a little flash opera to finish things off.*


Thursday, May 06, 2010

Not That

Not That
I don't want to spend a lot of time on the tragic death of the UVA lacrosse player, mostly because it's being covered really well elsewhere.  But I do want to mention a couple of comments and coverage angles I noticed that may bear some scrutiny. 
1. This is not a college thing.  I know both the victim and the attacker* were college students.  But sadly exes attacking their exes happens in just about every age group.  If you have a child in college, certainly have a talk with them about danger signs - but you should probably have that with all your kids.
2.  This is not a sports thing.  This isn't a scenario where the fact that either or both of them was an athlete factored in to this, other than how they met.  In fact, I found the swift arrest very reassuring, in the sense that there was no college wall or athlete wall in play here.  The police investigated and went where the investigation led.
3. This is not an alcohol thing.  Yes alcohol changes people's reactions, but I have never been so drunk I attacked someone.  People who do attack people while drunk should not be blaming it on the alcohol.  (And they should stop drinking.  And attacking people.)
4.  This is not an elite thing. Again, I refer you to the depressing fact that people of all types socioeconomic status have been known to injure and/or kill their exes for no greater offense than a broken heart.
5. This is a bad boyfriend thing. Good boyfriends (and girlfriends) do not send threatening emails. They do not call their partner names. They do not kick in doors and shake you. 

*Huguely has at this point admitted to attacking Love, whether her death was "intentional" or not is still being determined.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Truth is at Least as Strange

Truth is at Least as Strange
Sometimes you come across something, sometimes just a little tidbit and sometimes more, that seems so real you feel sure that it must have been stolen from real life.  So, remember that old Snickers ad with the guy working on the end zone of the football field and the player comes up and says, "It looks great, but who are the Chefs?"
Yes, well, just swap out football end zone for Hollywood Walk of Fame, and you have this.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Fun Was Had

Fun Was Had
Pictures will arrive later this week.  (Probably.)  But this first weekend of May in the DC area was it's normal packed self. Saturday was  Passport DC, aka the non-EU Embassy Open House (the EU countries have theirs next week).  Due to some straegic plotting, that seemed to work out, we managed to make it to seven before heat and hunger demanded a stop.  We hit Benin, Haiti, Korea, Sri Lanka, Senegal, Serbia, and Zambia. (A few others along the way were passed up due to lines, or tour restrictions.  And sadly, contrary to the literature, Kyrgyzstan was not open.  Some had food and or drink (Sri Lanka and Zambia). Serbia had a large game being played in the yard. Benin had a lovely local crafts display and was going to have drummers in a few hours. Korea had exhibits and an intriguing pop video that included the singer shooting storm troopers. Haiti had a great building. Sri Lanka also had the choice to try on native dress. 
Sunday had me getting up much too early to attend the youth's worship service. They were, as usual, amazing and awesome.  One teen shared a story about our winter retreat, that while highly amusing to those of us there, possibly worried some present and future parents a bit since it involved fire.  (Towel on top of an old heater.  Towel was quickly tossed in the snow with no injury to anyone present.) Many parents thanked the adult advisors, although it often seems to me that we jsut watch it all happen. (Yes, we facilitate and guide the discussions too.)
And then, after a quick food and drink stop (church AC is not yet on), I headed to the Sheep and Wool Festival.  Despite having left my phone in it's charger managed to run into most of the people I knew would be there.  I managed to get what may be my smallest hall yet since I refused to wander, although I'm not sure my wallet can tell the difference.  Hung out for quite some time at Carolina Homespun where the lovely Yarnagogo was signing books.  It was great and I came home to collapse and recover on the couch afterwords.