Thursday, December 29, 2011

I'm a Joiner

I'm joining in the fun of the Super Librarian's TBR challenge for 2012 in an attempt to encourage me to dive farther back into shelves (e and paper) and because it will also get me back into the habit of talking about books I liked a little more often (or, you know, didn't like).  Anyhoo, looking forward to it.  And next week or so should also start me with my 2011 round ups.  (I like to wait until 2011 is, you know, actually done.) 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Even Zoo Animals Have Neighbor Problems

I want to stress that everyone is okay, which is why I'm going to poke a little fun.  When I first saw the headline that a crocodile in Australia had snapped up a lawnmower, I was intrigued because, let's face it, lawnmowers do not sound that appetizing.  As it happens, the crocodile - named Elvis - is in a reptile park and a keeper was mowing the lawn.  Elvis lunged at the keeper, I feel certain that he was tired of the stupid lawnmower noise, and the keeper brandished the lawnmower at him so Elvis took the lawnmower and plunked into the lagoon.  He then guarded the lawnmower, the keepers say like a new toy, but I again stand by my theory that he wanted to make sure they didn't take it back and start mowing again. They eventually distracted Elvis and got the mower back.  (I assume so that it wouldn't leech toxins into the lagoon since I'm guessing even zoo-grade lawnmowers are not designed for full submersion.  They say Elvis is quite pleased with himself, and why not, the mowing stopped, and he got kangaroo meat.  Sounds like an excellent day for a crocodile.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Look, it's Free Stuff

It is a wonderful thing knowing talented people.  So, over here we have a tale of what happened after Little Red Riding Hood, by my lovely chapter-mate Alethea Kontis (Red may have gone a little stalkery over her woodcutter). 
And, if music is your thing, and you'll be in DC for New Year's, Showlist DC has a chance to win tickets to the 9:30 Club's concert.  (Showlist DC, if you are unaware, compiles all of the DC/Balto area concerts in one convenient listing.  Seriously brilliant. And I would say that even if it wasn't run by a fellow yarny person.)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Does This Count as Sculpture Graffiti?

I was alerted to this story of mysterious paper sculptures that appeared around Edinburgh.  The sculptures are gorgeous and I love a story about happy gifts being left for nice places. Apparently the artist did leave a note with the final sculpture indicating that she was a she, not a he, and that she enjoyed remaining anonymous (but apparently not being referred to as male).  Hopefully these gifts got extra visitor traipsing through these places. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

That Would Never Happen

I had forgotten to mention that my fellow WRW chapter-mate has a blog - the Prime Time Crime Review, where she looks at "Law and Order: SVU" and compares it to her experience as a prosecutor.  I confess, I'm not a big SVU fan, but I still find this type of analysis really interesting, and apparently I'm not the only one since the ABA has named the blog of of the best of 2011. 
I also read and enjoyed Allison's book, Law of Attraction.  It was so nice to read a DC book by someone who has an actual idea of the place. ( I may have cheered when I read the protagonist had a basement apartment.)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Those Kind of Books

Because it's that kind of morning, let me share Maya Rodale's video on why people are trying to convince you not to read romance.
And should you instead (or also) wish for more Trekkie cookie humor, we have this.

h/t to my Face book friends, from whom I shamelessly stole these links.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Teaching Prisoners to Knit

I thought I had mentioned this before, but apparently not.  I first heard about this program when one of the local yarn stores was trying to help garner votes for a donation to support the program.  The program at the time was teaching prisoners to knit and having them make trauma buddies (stuffed items trauma workers could offer to a kid at a trauma scene to try and help calm them down).  This article states that the program has expanded beyond that and now even has a waiting list. 
I'm so happy to hear that this program has had such success.  And hopefully, some similar programs will get started elsewhere.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Memo to My Teen Self: Ha!

This got passed to me after the youth group had a discussion about education.  Now, the part of this that interests me is this school board member went and took the test that they give tenth graders to measure reading and math skills. Now, I think there's an interesting point here. I think this piece overlooks the things that I was sure I would never need again, and then, maybe did, but certainly there's food for thought.  If these adults all agree that many of these things are not useful to their current lives and jobs, then is this the measure we want to use while evaluating schools and kids and who should think about college. 
Now, I confess, I was (and still seem to be) a pretty good test taker, so I was not led astray by errant test results. But while I understand the value of having some sort of consistent measure of students from different schools, I think most people agree these things have flaws. I'm not sure there is a perfect solution, but maybe there is a better solution.  And kids, maybe you should see if you can get your parents to take the test.

Monday, November 28, 2011

I Feel Better About My Job

I think most of us know, for all the ups and downs, there are worse job than ours.  (Heck there are TV shows about it.)  But, in case you needed a reminder why you are not a firefighter (in addition to that whole firefighter risk - and PS. if you are a firefighter, go you!) the London fire brigade has compiled a year's worth of emergency calls include the time ten firefighters had to assist in the removal of a penis ring.  Another man became stuck in a child's toy car (I really want to know if the kid was at home or if this was a chance to regress or what). 
Now their point here was to ask the public to consider that there might be better things that firefighters could be doing with their time (like say, fighting fires) so if people could work on not needing such assistance they would appreciate it. 
And, to end on a happy note, I shall link to firefighters rescuing a kitten trapped in a pipe.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Straight Turkey

It is my fondest wish to get to the age where when you say certain things it is cute.  (This, as far as I can tell, runs from about 3-6, and then pauses til about seventy).  So, I adore Margaret and Helen, two real life grandmas whose grandkids find them hilarious, so started a blog for them.  They are not shy, not about family or politics, so it's not for everyone, but I adore them.  And in particular, the annual Thanksgiving letter which has been posted. Small sample:
"We lost your Grandpa this year and suddenly everyone wants to be together for the holidays.   Well isn't that just the shit.   I hope you all learned your lesson.  Treasure your family while they are still here – not after they are gone.  Life is a series of lessons.  Pay attention.

Now about Thanksgiving… Your Aunt Trudy thinks that just because Thanksgiving dinner is at her house this year, I am not in charge.  Well bless her heart.
The rest is here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Just the Headline

Note: Contains reference to a racist sports team name.

I spotted this DCist headline and paused.  I wanted to know the rest of the story, but I also wanted to take time to ponder the possibilities. 
The headline in question: "In Which Marion Barry Compares The Redskins To Christ".  Now the possibilities that occurred to me look something like this:
-Both dead but many are hoping for a comeback.
-Revered by some, not so much others.
-You either get it or you don't.
-Unfairly treated by those they were supposed to be able to trust.  (In the case of the team, I may possibly be referring to an owner.)
-People pay a lot of attention to them part of the year, and ignore them the rest.
-Hoping for long term rewards for support. 
-Fandom can be expensive and heart-wrenching.
And then I clicked.  Not sure if it's good or terribly scary, that I am able to channel Marion Barry like that.  I'm going to call it years of study and move on. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Long Ago on Thanksgiving

My high school chorus participated in America Sings for several years. The basic idea was for various choral groups to join together and raise money for charity.  As part of this we had the opportunity to sing in some cool places. One of them was the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  (You know, back when there were Macy's.) So, that year the folks from my chorus who had gotten permission to spend turkey day away from their family headed up to New York.  We rehearsed with the other groups in a hotel conference room.  We discovered flesh tone sparkly lycra tights at a drug store which was a huge coup, because our outfits for this were strictly regulated. 
The guys had to wear white pants, white turtleneck, red sweatshirt (with America Sings logo) and a Santa hat. Us girls got to wear white skirt, white turtleneck, red sweatshirt (with logo) and a Santa hat.  Same, same, right?  No.  The guys were allowed to wear any white pair of pants.  Corduroys, cargo, chinos.  Plus, due to the nature of pants, they could put long underwear or all manner of layers underneath, as long as it didn't show.  The girls were issued a shiny polyester circle skirt (it did twirl really well) that was just sheer enough to display anything not flesh toned that might be beneath it.  So, sure, I had an extra layer for under the turtleneck, but my bottom half was still going to be less covered. So the lycra stocking were excellent, and I layered a pair of pantyhose over the top. 
During rehearsals we were split into two groups.  One group was going to dance on or about the float that ran the length of the parade.  The rest of us would hang out (outside, did I mention it was a particularly chilly Thanksgiving) and join the group for the Herald Square dance number.  For part of our Herald Square number we were being joined by Clifton Davis (who Wikipedia tells me I share a birthday with, man, we could have bonded over that) who was at the time starring in "Amen".  So, we teens lined up in rows with a path down the center and Clifton sang and danced his way down the middle stopping in little clusters that magically appeared (or were carefully rehearsed).  So, the nice girl next to me in line and I got selected to be the end points of one of these clusters, to lean forward and smile and keep singing along.  Then in the second day of rehearsal they changed the location of the clusters.  But halfway through the day, they hated that and moved it back to us.  Yay, our fifteen seconds of fame. 
I did not tell my family this little tidbit, they had planned their gathering for the year around the parade, so were going to be watching together. So, the day dawned and those of us who were non-floaters, waited on a side street with other folks.  It was cold.  We were up ridiculously early, I guess in case the previous 22 acts all didn't show up, and we needed to go on early.  (Or because it was easier for us all to be there at the start.  I suppose that's possible.) 
Our turn came and we headed out on the square and the music began.  And when the time came for my group for form our magic cluster, the girl on the other side of me shoved me out of the way so that she could stand next to Clifton Davis.  (My aunt assures me that the shoving made it on TV.)  So, my family did catch a few glimpses of me, including the time that girl shoved me out of the way.  And all in all, it was a fun time.  And I still remember that song.  (It was a Thanksgiving-ified version of "On a Wonderful Day Like Today" with a little Christmas rap thrown in.)  But I have new respect for the performers and how cold some of their outfits must be. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

I Know He's Not Dead, But

I worked at a job for several years in my twenties that was about fifteen minutes away, and I was expected at 9:30.  So, I got up, watched morning TV, including the first fifteen minutes of "Regis and Kathie Lee" and then went to work.  I quit that job and the next job I got started earlier, but on days off, I watched it.  And when my job changed to telecommuting, I watched it every morning.  (I experimented with watching TV all day, but strangely found I was less productive.) But the morning TV worked and provided some noise of other people that you miss when telecommuting.  On balance, I've probably missed more episodes than I've seen, but it's been a staple that I was glad to know was there.  Certainly record setting shows don't come along very often, and I know the show will continue on, as will Mr. Philbin (who keeps saying he's not retiring, he's moving on). 
But thanks very much for helping me wake up each morning. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Where We Get Serious

I don't want to spend too much time on the whole Penn State thing, because it's being covered extensively, because it's still unfolding, and because it's depressing.  But as someone who works with teen children, and in that role has been through quite a few sessions on appropriate behavior there are a few things I feel compelled to say. 
1.  Much like serial killers don't often look insane, otherwise we could just keep a better eye on the crazy looking folks, pedophiles often don't exude a creepy vibe, they seem really cool and awesome (you know, until they don't.)  There's a post over on ALOTT5MA about the "cool" teacher at another school. 
2. Also, pedophiles don't usually abuse all kids.  Experienced pedophiles will often develop a sense for kids who are more likely to tell and avoid them. 
3. It is absolutely, positively never too late to tell on someone who has abused you.  It may be too late for the police to collect evidence, but it is important information for the police, and that persons employers to have so they can do their best to make sure no further abuse occurs. 
4.  Reporting abuse to your boss is a great first step.  However, if you actually witnessed abuse, you should also go to the police.  If your boss tells you they will notify the police and the police don't come talk to you, call the police yourself. 
5. Also, it would be nice if you intervened on said abuse when it is occurring in your presence, but I will allow that shock or disbelief might have thrown you a bit. 
6. Saying hey there, could you just not bring the kids your abusing here is not an acceptable answer.  (Just in case you weren't sure.) 
7.  There are tons of resources if you have been abused or exploited or think you may have witnessed inappropriate behavior.  RAINN has a list by state, in addition to their own resources. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

How Fast?

I have heard tales of the inaccuracies of speed cameras, including the story of the tree that was clocked going 80. But imagine you were on your bicycle. Now certainly, bicycles making use of the street are bound by the traffic laws (all of them, people) but one generally imagines without the aid of serious downhill momentum, speed is not something your average cyclist has to worry to much about exceeding.
So, now imagine your town has installed speed cameras. People grumbled, as they do. People complained that they were sure they had not been going that fast, as they do. Now imagine the speed camera clocked a cyclist going 57. (Cheverly has stopped the program now. As the article helpfully points out, that speed is over the current land speed record for cycling on a flat surface.)

h/t to DCist for the link

Monday, November 07, 2011

7 Things: Writers Google

Being a writer means googling weird things sometimes. Here's a small sample. (Not all for the same story.)
1. CPR.  I knew they had changed it, but couldn't quite remember how.  Hilariously, the Wikipedia entry includes the warning that while you can perform it on animals, you should probably only do it on unconscious animals lest they bite you.  (It's a good tip.)
2. Effects of date rape drugs.  (This one I was very careful in my phrasing.  My character was a victim not a criminal.)
3. Honor council proceedings.
4. College chemistry syllabus. 
5. Hiking tips for Hawaii.
6. Mythology. 
7. Famous people born in DC.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Fifty Years

In third grade my school's handbook was adorned with the school's "It's Academic" team, who had been triumphant winners that year.  School legend had it that someone had said that a team from a girls school could never win, so it was particularly sweet, even if my closest contact with those seniors and juniors was that picture. 
On entering high school, we often gathered to head to the local NBC station (which, fortunately for me, was fairly close to my house) to attend tapings and cheer for the team.  One year a member of our team was dating a member of a rival school's team, upping the drama quotient.  Attending a taping was a strange thing, the set looks a little shabbier in person.  It seems impossible that it hasn't been touched up over the years, and yet in person, it looks like maybe it hasn't. (I'm sure it has, at some point.) 
The host, Mac McGarry looks exactly like he does on TV.  It's a little eerie.
But it is a neat thing, that as this reflection on "It's Academic" points out, that there is this long running show where cheerleaders, dance teams and marching bands, along with other fellow students and teachers and parents come out to cheer for smart kids.  (I know other areas have their versions of such a thing, I'm simply pleased that there is one here.)
The show has been running since 1961, and Mac McGarry has been the host all this time.  However, he has now retired due to health reasons.  So, thanks, Mr. McGarry for fifty years of hosting.  You will be missed. 

h/t to DCist for the link.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

7 Things, the Linkety Link Edition

In honor of day 2 of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I present seven weird, strange or unusual stories.  In case you are either casting about for ideas, or tired of reading about people casting about for ideas. 
1. A man attempts to fake his own death to try and avoid his probation hearing.   (He will now be serving time for falsifying a distress signal.)
2. A student runs a banned book library from her locker.
3. A woman loses a day after having sex.  Not due to fatigue, but because she experiences amnesia, unable to remember the twenty four hours following orgasm.
4. Okay, this one is Wikipedia, not a story, but I am fascinated to discover that there is a term for those folks on the street trying to get you to give money for their charity - chuggers, a combo of charity and muggers.  (I had been calling them clipboard people, but this is way more fun.)
5. A man spends two and a half hours on DC public transit (no, that's not the amazing part) and arrives at church where folks notice that he has been shot
6. Five things people have used to try and smuggle drugs through the airport.  Including legwarmers.
7. What do you wear to interview a student who ran onto the football field during a game in a banana suit?  Apparently a grape outfit

Monday, October 31, 2011

And That's the End of the Tourmobile

My mother is a big believer in doing all the tourist things, even in your hometown.  Perhaps especially so.  So, it wasn't uncommon for us to head off and see museums, the National Cathedral, or various other spots around town.  And one time, she decided we should all do the Tourmobile, saying you shouldn't have to wait for visitor for the excuse to look like a tourist for a day.  So we went (armed with a careful plan my mother had put together) and hit places that Tourmobile got us to a little easier than one could by metro or on foot. 
I used a similar strategy in Barcelona travelling the Bus Turistic since it got to places like the Olympic Park that were outside the metro (or a very long walk). 
Sure, I had wondered why there weren't other buses doing what Tourmobile did.  And I see less of them these days.  So I was sad to hear a combo of monopolism and the economy mean that the Tourmobile is no more.  Sure, there are still plenty of ways to see DC (and it's environs) but, I'm still a little sad to see this one go.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It's All About Perspective

There's a poster out there somewhere that says, "How long 2 minutes is depends on what side of the bathroom door you're on."
The other day I was walking down the street.  Park Street to be exact, which in this section (between 14th and 16th) is one way with parking on both sides.  Traffic tends to back up there a little because there's a light at 16th and another light just a half block back, plus all it takes is one person trying to turn into all the traffic on 16th to jam everyone up a bit.  So, it's two blocks that can take a few light cycles to get through, frustrating, but not the end of the world.  (Although yes, this might be why we have the worst traffic.)
So, I missed the precipitating event here, but looked over to see that two guys had gotten out of their car and were helping a guy lying in the street to get up.  (It took both of them to lift him.) Then one grabbed his bicycle.  (I was on the sidewalk, these guys were on the other side of the car from me, so I could see, but only from an angle.) I was watching to see if maybe someone should dial 911. The cyclist seemed, once upright to be moving okay if slowly and possibly a little embarrassed.  The guys from the car started to ask what had happened.  I was not the only pedestrian who stopped to look.  And a few folks from cars lined up behind also popped open their doors and leaned out.  It was at this point that someone yelled, "Do you have to do this in the street?"  The guys from the car waved their acknowledgment and after checking in with the cyclist moved back to their car.  The guys who had popped their head out of their cars all shut their doors and one of them took this opportunity to lay on his horn.  (I know I am my father's daughter because I considered banging on his window and asking why he was being a jerk. I know I am my mother's daughter because I did not.) 
Several cars back people seemed quieter.  Now, I admit that given my obscured angle, and the fact that all of this occurred in the small space between cars, not everyone could see much of anything other than the driver had gotten out of the car.  I am guessing that the two guys did not hit the cyclist but given his proximity on the street to their car felt that a - it would be nice to make sure he was okay and b - if they drove further they might hit him (or someone behind them might not even see a cyclist lying in the street.
Given recent events here and abroad where folks have lain in the street for hours, it was great that these guys helped. And while certainly I understand that it takes just a little bit of driving these days before I see twelve really idiotic things, and depending on your vantage point of the situation, this may have seemed like the thirteenth, so your patience may have been worn down. But, I still think that it might be time to consider that people might have a really good reason (sometimes) for what they are doing.  And laying on your horn has never made anyone smarter. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

I'm a Stealthy Swiper

DCist lists the various types and methods of passing your SmarTrip* over the reader. 

*Hard, reloadable metro card.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Too Much Information

Living in a multi-family dwelling (aka apartment building) can be an interesting thing.  There is good (neighbors who share flan) and bad (party guests who decide to wrestle at one in the morning, right in front of your neighbor's window).  It also means that, particularly if there are enough of you, all it takes is one person's smoke detector going unattended, and, well, everyone is tromping down the stairs at three in the morning. And even with all those neighbors, I don't always hear what happened.  So, having a resource like the DCFIREEMS Twitter account is useful.  It lets me know if all those fire trucks are racing towards my building and if everyone's okay.  It lets me know if that traffic backup due to the injured pedestrian is close to being cleared.  In fact, it kind of does what Twitter was really intended for.  So, I am saddened to hear that the employee who had managed the account for a while has been moved to a new position and they are hoping that the new person will be, shall we say, less effective in the dissemination of information.  This is a big city.  Not every fire even makes the news.  (Not to give the impression that DC is a hotbed of fires, but let's face it, only on a slow news day does a fire where no one was hurt tend to get even a passing mention.) And, even if they did, often by the time the news covers it, it's hours later.  I don't think it's ridiculous to want to know now.  And my alternative is to bug people who should be, you know, putting out the fire.  I'm hoping this decision gets changed.  (Again.  This has already flip flopped once this year.  Here's hoping for one more.)
In the interim, the firefighter's union has taken over some of this

h/t to TBD for the link to the Atlantic.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Maginot Line and Other Facts Gathered

My high school history teacher asked a question one day and was met with silence.  We were discussing the events leading up to World War II and how what in retrospect seemed like a clear escalating power grab, seemed at the time to enough people to be some guy doing stuff that the other countries didn't care about much.  (She may have implied that included Poland, saying that people were always taking over Poland.  Or I may be embellishing this in my memory.)  And she mentioned that the French were not worried because they thought they had defenses in place after the Great War.  Did anyone know what?  This brought on the silence. And then I remembered reading something.  Not in the history book (although one imagines it was there.) In Judith Krantz's Til We Meet Again there is a conversation between Delphine and Armand during where she (with a certainty not dissimilar to what my teacher was describing) says that France will be fine, they have the Maginot Line.  My teacher was happy to have elicited an answer and the class went on.  And let me tell you, I still remember the Maginot Line.
Now, I am not going to suggest that reading romance or other novels is a substitution for doing your homework.  But, sometimes those little facts placed in the context of an intriguing story can help make them more memorable.  (And it is possible, that being a fun bantery conversation I may have read it, you know, multiple times.)
I still know quite a bit about the Civil War as a result of my extensive reading of John Jakes' North and South trilogy. (I have stopped torturing the tour guides in Harper's Ferry who all bring up the story of how the one church on the river didn't get destroyed because they flew a British flag.  (No, no one seems to know why that worked once the British allied with the South. It is apparently not in the tour guide manual.)
Til We Meet Again
also inspired me to read a biography on Amy Johnson.  And to read more World War II based novels.  One of which (the name escapes me at the moment) introduced me to Jackie Cochran and the Women's Air Service Pilots. 
Certainly a basic knowledge of HIPAA or law procedure can make a sane person want to cry while reading some contemporaries.  (Or rant.) But, contemporary novels have offered me the chance to experience some different professions, locations and experiences.
So, a book titled Everything I Know I Learned From Romance Novels was in my wheelhouse, as it were, already.  Make it by the lovely Sarah Wendell, aka Smart Bitch Sara and it was a done deal.  The book covers things less from a will it help you in history class perspective (shocking, I know, maybe there will be a sequel) and more from the ways that romance novels can offer opportunities for readers to escape but also evaluate the situations for themselves.  While it seems likely that I will not have to fight off a horde of zombies with the aid of my demon protectors (for example) books offer the opportunity to walk in those shoes and even the moments that make you want to say, "Oh, honey, no," are useful for just that. 
I may keep a copy around for the next time someone says, "Oh I figure I'll just write a romance since they don't have plots."  At the very least I can smack them upside the head with it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hi, I'm a Girl

So, it's been an interesting fall already on the gender front.  At least, you know as far as pop culture goes.  The Monkey See blog has an excellent post about how many of this fall's new TV shows seem to be existing in some place where there are manly men and wimpy men only. (And yes, I have heard folks mention that the article focuses on a strict gender binary, which is fair, but even within that frame, I think we can all agree that some of the new stuff still, you know, sucks at portraying any attempt at a realistic spectrum.)
And sure, I read about trends and things so I had noticed this movement in the world of soda where attempts to lure men to diet soda have moved from the been there, done that we swear cool guys drink this too of the nineties (by the way, just went and looked that up, aw, good times) to sodas with supposedly manlier labels and removal of the word diet in place of words like max and zero. I do not have access to whatever research there is on male soda drinking habits, but let's imagine for a moment that there is some and that somewhere in there it provides reason to believe that there are tons of men who secretly wish that they could drink a low calorie soda, but are attached to the idea that low calorie sodas are for girls. 
(And no, I'm not touching with a ten foot pole the ads for low calorie beers because I could write a treatise on the inequities and insanities found there.) 
Now, in the interest of disclosure, I personally do not drink low calorie sodas (personal choice, totally not based on my gender) but I do occasionally drink soda.  And when I do (I sound like I'm in an ad, weird, not my intention) I drink Dr. Pepper.  So, I am so sorry to hear that the decision has apparently been made somewhere that just showing (supposedly) manly men sipping their manly drinks while doing manly things is not quite overt enough for their new low calorie soda.  No, they have decided to come right out and say, "Not for women."  (Not kidding - look here. SishFW, you can choose to click the video portion or not.)
As Gothamist rightly points out this is actually equally offensive to men and women.  (So, um, great job there.) Soda is not gender based.  (Unless the soda makers have something they need to tell us.)  Now certainly Dr. Pepper has the right to market their soda based on gender.  But I remain a bit amazed that they would choose to alienate so much of their potential population (and no, I do not just mean women.)

Monday, October 10, 2011

How to Hit All 50 States in a Few Days

There is a bike ride each year that hits all the state streets in one day.  But, one local teacher filed it using a bike cam over a few days and put together this video.  So, go have a look

Friday, October 07, 2011

I am Biased, but...

When I heard that a group from Howard University was competing in this year's "The Sing Off", I was predisposed to wish them well, local group and all.  (It helps that the heats kept them separate from the only group I had actual prior knowledge of.) This year's "The Sing Off" continues to prove that a capella comes in all shapes and sizes, and that judging can be critical and still extremely thoughtful and respectful.
TBD, has a nice little link to Afro-Blue's first performance, which was excellent. 
And NPR's Monkey See blog has a link to their second, as well as the suggestion (with which I agree) that the large group numbers that they start every show with are amazing and worth flipping to (if you must move on to other TV that night, though, until "Chuck" comes back, what are you watching?  I kid, I kid.) 
Because of the heats, Afro-Blue will not be on next week's episode, but will return the following week when they collapse from two heats into one.  Of course, I expect the six groups appearing Monday to provide excellent performances as well.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Would You Like Free Stuff?

From the not getting paid for this files, the lovely ladies over at the Waterworld Mermaids have banded together and are posting an anthology of short stories that they are posting on their blog for much of October.  A list of who and what along with a snazzy trailer is here.
In the interest of disclosure, these guys are all in my writing chapter, and I have read stuff from most of them, so am biased, but hey, free!

Monday, October 03, 2011

I'm Not a Hoarder But...

...I am the daughter of two collectors.  Less kind people might refer to us as clutterbugs.  It's apparently a recessive gene because my sister rearranges and purges all her stuff every six months and my brother upgrades his TV regularly, but doesn't hang on to stuff too much.  But, my sister did turn me onto "Storage Wars" which is one of those shows where you think - really, a show about storage units? But, it fits that thing where it's interesting to watch the personalities and the guesses they make about the units and when they're right and find something worth money and when they're wrong and end up with a half empty box of diapers and some used porn. 
I also have to tell you it confirms my worst fears about storage units.  There are legitimate reasons and uses for such things, but I think just as often people have exceeded their space, they shunt stuff off to storage and then don't ever do anything with the stuff in there. And then forget to pay the bill.
But, there is one guy, Barry - they list him as "the collector" because he gets excited about units that may have something weird or unusual in there, rather than looking for things like jewelery or furniture or what-have-you.  Most of these folks run consignment shops or work with other re-sellers.  Barry, goes through the motions, hunting down the experts when he makes a find and getting the estimate.  And often enough, he keeps it.  I don't know what he does (or did) for his livelihood (and I don't need to) but this would be me.  And this is why I do not have a career as a storage unit scavenger in my future.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Banned Books and Things

So, I started off banned book week by going to the National Book Festival.  I saw quite a few authors, and if you to want to feel like you were there, keep an eye out here, they upload videos and podcasts.  It's always fascinating to me to hear different authors talk about their process especially since they are always so different.  Also, some of them are very funny in person, and some would rather read and turn it over to Q&A really quickly.  (Although Dave Eggers wanted to crawl under the podium when he read a line about masturbation.) 
But, to bring us back to banned books, there were several authors there who have books or stories that have been banned or challenged, including Sherman Alexie (who made the ALA's top ten last year), Eric Jerome Dickey, Katherine Paterson, Sarah Dessen and Laura Lippman. 
And I see that Hunger Games made the list because it gave a child nightmares.  As I say all the time, I'm not diminishing nightmares (they suck) or any parent's right to decide their child is not ready for a certain book.  However, that does not mean that no child who uses that library should have access to that book. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Thank you, Mr. Henson

Jim Henson would have been 75 this weekend.  My sister and I had really strict bedtimes up through high school.  But we were allowed to watch "The Muppet Show".  We watched it, usually as a family, in the family room on a black and white TV.  (No, I am not that old, we had a color TV, it just lived in my parents room.  I thought Big Bird was grey when I was a kid. My mother thinks this is hilarious.)  One of the first things we did when we got a VCR (okay, I am that old) was tape episodes of "The Muppet Show").  My sister and I watched them over and over. 
We went to see "The Muppet Movie" and "The Dark Crystal" both of which I loved.  (I did not run across "Labyrinth" until some kids I was babysitting discovered I had never seen it and made me watch.  Thanks, guys!) When my sister and I began taping other shows of interest to us, many of "The Muppet Show" episodes got taped over.  (We had permission, but my mother immediately regretted granting it.  Yes, she has the DVD now.)
We also watched "Fraggle Rock" and "Muppet Babies".
I remember reading an article once, where he said that kids were like garbage disposals, they take whatever you give them.  But he didn't mean that as an insult, more, I think he meant that kids take time to develop taste, and using "the kids seem to like it" as an excuse to give them mediocre shows is silly.
My mother was particularly heartbroken when he died, and watched the celebration of his life that was televised, but confessed if they had Big Bird read anything sad, she might not be able to take it.  (I don't believe Big Bird did.  Although Brian reading the letter was pretty affecting.) 
Legacies come in all shapes and sizes, but I think by any measure we can agree that Mr. Henson gave us a good bit of entertainment.

"The most sophisticated people I know - inside they are all children." - Jim Henson

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

They are a Feature

Rather hilariously, about two weekends ago I ended up explaining to a group of people what a double D cup really means.  (Double D is really an E, each letter further into the alphabet represents an additional inch in depth, or two inches in total circumference when compared to the band size.  Unless your at a specialty shop that uses funky rules where they do things like add five inches to your measurements.)
This turned out to be a lesson that needed further spreading, or so it seems, when the so-called "real women" challenge came up last week on "Project Runway".  This is an episode that can be hit or miss, since some the designers come from different backgrounds and some are clearly more used to working directly with the public and some, well, are not. 
Now a lot of people have talked about this, so I certainly don't want to belabor the point too much, but as it turns out Olivier, to put it kindly falls into the not category.  And while I accept that he has this very internal process, so doesn't much seem to like people asking him what he is doing especially when they are suggesting that maybe it isn't successful, I understand the need to vent.  But, I bring to you my number one rule for participating in competitive reality: watch the previous seasons.  That way when they send you to the party store, you accept that this is what happens.  (Bert.)  Or when they ask you where your client is going.  (Josh M.)  Or they make you work with kids.  (Viktor.)  And, Olivier, oh, Olivier, when they make you dress an actual person (which by they way has been happening for seasons, I think perhaps the first season did not do this, but they let the models be the client, so they talked back) who has breasts and hips and opinions, you don't have to love it.  But it is, in fact, not just part of "Project Runway" but part of being a clothing designer to see that people who have such things want clothes.  You may be planning a line for only skinny, straight folks, but let me tell you, they have opinions too.  Your model is being nice.  She doesn't have to buy your clothes, you are sewing it onto her for free. 
I suspect, now that this has aired, it has been an intriguing experience for Olivier, and hopefully he will learn and grow, not just learn to not say such things in front of cameras.  Because, as Linda Holmes pointed out, the "breasts are a feature, not a bug".

Monday, September 19, 2011

It's Like When Your Friend was Dating That Person

My friend and I had a conversation once upon a time about the nature of relationships (just once, we never, ever did that again).  She said that one of the challenges is that often the part you most need to discuss with your other friends is when something hurtful happens.  But then, after you've vented and processed you go back to the person and talk or address it in some fashion and move through it.  But your friends are still stuck on that thing, not because they are bitter, but because they love you and they didn't hear that conversation you all had or see that nice thing that happened, they missed the resolution. 
Reality TV is kind of like that.  I watch competitive reality and there seem to be a really high amount of team challenges this season.  I get it, team challenges bring the drama, both in personality successes and clashes and in results which tend to have grander extremes.  (Let's face it sometimes you can't tell who is in the bottom, not because the judges are weird, but because it's all really good.)  And the nature of having a show, that is supposed to be entertaining, not just show results (because I could go to the local cook-off or fashion show or what have you if end results were all I wanted), they tend to focus on the drama.  They show the times that someone said something snarky or made someone cry, or muttered under their breath about something.  They show less of the apologies.  And even, sometimes there is no direct apology.  Sometimes, things that seem really, very important at eleven at night when you skipped dinner, seems very silly the next morning.  So now you just joke and chat with that person that had you clenching your teeth last night.  But the viewer at home is still saying, can you believe they did that?  That was terrible! 
And then you'll read an interview and someone will ask them, wasn't so-and-so horrible, and they'll often say, oh, no, I call them every day, they're great.  (Or something.) 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Milestones of Dubious Meaning

I now have over 1000 books logged in LibraryThing.  Now, I log books as I receive them, in an attempt to prevent re-buying something I already own.  (It has helped.  When I remember to look.)  So, some of these books I have not yet read.  I log books that I borrowed from friends or later gave away too.  (Tags are a beautiful thing.) So, I did not buy all of these books.  I have been a member for almost five years, and while I briefly thought about trying to go back in time to somehow capture every book I ever read, the volume of that project quickly had me stop.  I can tell you that only 17 are tagged as my having completely given up on them. There are 22 that I have started and put aside.  19 duplicates (either due to my own folly, or due to being gifted a book I already had.) There are, ahem, 195 waiting to be read (this includes the 22 started).  And the rest, I have read. (Some more than once.) 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words...

...but it may not be the ones you want. 
So, different people find different things funny.  And certainly, some people choose to push the envelope and shock people into funny.  Or shock them into remembering their name.  It's a plan.  And some people believe the adage about all publicity.  But sometimes you can do something that people find overwhelming in it's poor taste.  And you might still be hung up on your original vision.  It still seems funny or edgy to you. And now let me rip off the Kubler-Ross stages of grief to demonstrate. 
Setup:  You have an ad series for your hair salon.  The tag line is "Look good in all you do."  In one, someone appears to be disposing of a body.  One is serving tea.  One is working in a rail yard.  (With bra exposed which would seem to violate some employment and safety regulations, but that is not really the point here.)
And then there's the one that has everyone talking. There are two people who let's all agree have styled hair.  One, a female is seated on a couch.  One a male, is behind the couch offering jewelry.  Oh, and the woman has a black eye.
1. Denial  - What?  It's funny.  We're not actually advocating for domestic violence.
2. Anger - It's art!  I don't know why people are so sensitive.
3. Bargaining - Come on - real people are being harmed every day, shouldn't these people channel their worry into real issues?
4. Depression - Nobody understands satire anymore.  The media is full of hypocrites.
5. Acceptance - I guess people have the right to their opinions.  (Yes, this is not the greatest example of acceptance. It's a process.)

h/t to the NPR Monkey See Blog for the link.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

And the Award for Best Couponing Goes To...

I confess I am terrible with coupons of all kinds.  I am amazed that people manage to get carts full of groceries for little to no money and yet, while I am happy to stockpile yarn and books enough for the next five years, having enough deodorant for the rest of my life seems silly. (I realize that this is a different strokes sort of scenario here.  Feel free to stockpile deodorant, just don't try to get me to join in.) 
For me, putting aside the storage issue is the brand loyalty involved.  After all, I tend to demonstrate brand loyalty but not forever.  I think I could count on one hand the products I have stuck with for more than five years.  (In fairness, some of these changes were due to said product no longer being available.) But certainly, I can see that some things you can figure you will be happy to use for some time.  Of course, the deal also has to work out as far as the time for collection too. 
So, what if, for example, you could get yourself some airline miles.  Say, 1.2 million of them for example.  Yeah, this guy found a batch of pudding cups, each with it's own UPC code and traded them in for airline miles during a promotion.  You might be thinking that's a lot of pudding cups.  It was, so he made a deal with the Salvation Army, they helped him get all the UPC codes removed and he donated all the pudding cups - thereby taking care of the storage issue and getting him a taxable donation too.  Pretty good strategy.  (I also suspect future deals might have some new fine print in them.)

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The Cow Heroine

It's always sort of fascinating the stories that capture the attention of people.  Certainly, if I told you that there were stories and internet buzz about a cow, that tourists were visiting the hometown of a cow, well it sounds strange.  But, as this article kindly points out, this is not just any cow story.  Yvonne (it somehow seems very forward to just start calling her Yvonne, but, well, she is a cow) was on a farm in Bavaria.  She was due to be sent to the slaughterhouse.  Yvonne jumped the electric fence and made her way into the woods.  And then...well, Yvonne became a bit like Elvis or the Abominable Snowman in that there were sightings, but nothing further.  Hunters and dogs searched to no avail.  Companion cows were sent out to lure her out.  (Perhaps instead they mooed to stay away.  Who knows? Also, how did they know the companion cows wouldn't also decide they like gallivanting through the woods?)  Then they sent out a handsome ox.  (My familiarity with cows is not such that I can explain why a handsome ox would lure a cow, but apparently that's the thought.) Animal psychics were called in. 
In the wake of the international attention Yvonne's escape received a sanctuary paid the farm for Yvonne, promising to save her from slaughter. Rewards were offered.  This went on for months.  (Seriously, the cow escaped in May.)
Well, last week, life as a forest cow appeared to pale a bit for Yvonne, and she was found hovering near the edge of the pasture. She will now live out her days with her son and sister. 

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Girl Power

I have been re-reading Madelaine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time.  (Yes, it's a hard life.  And proof that sometimes they assign awesome books in school.)  And first, this is one of those books that holds up to the many re-readings and while I'm certain my adult eyes spot things I didn't before, it's still great.  I am reminded that one of the things I love about Meg is that she's stubborn and protective. Meg has a bruise from when she tackled a boy in her class who made fun of her brother.  Meg got sent to the principal for talking in class. Later in the book, when they are being granted gifts for their journey, they grant Meg her faults.  (In many ways the most awesome and horrid thing anyone could grant someone.) 
So, it was with interest, particularly given all the talk about how boys don't read because they aren't stories about boys (please excuse me while I guffaw), read this post by a father of two girls, talking about some pervasive assumptions he sees in a lot of children's literature. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Welcome, Freshmen!

As has been pointed out a few times in the last few years, the Beloit Mindset List (aka the how old are you compared to college freshmen list) often has weird statements.  One year it included the tidbit that Beethoven has always been a dog, which, first - Beethoven the composer has been dead a really long time.  And my knowledge that there was a movie where a dog was called Beethoven has never impacted my ability to understand there is a composer with that name and suggesting that college freshman would have that issue, well, it doesn't say much for your admission standards. 
But, nonetheless, let me offer my entirely unsolicited thoughts.
The good:
-'"Don't touch that dial!"….what dial?' - I would make fun of this, but, I recently heard someone explain where the phrase "in the can" comes from as if it was novel information, so, clearly there are things in the zeitgeist that people have no idea of their origins.
-"More Americans have always traveled to Latin America than to Europe." Okay, I actually didn't even know this, but very interesting.
-"Public schools have always made space available for advertising." This is an interesting change, although I'm guessing the average college faculty or staff member had a front seat to this.
The duh:
"Grown-ups have always been arguing about health care policy." - In fact, I'm going to guess this has been true much of my life too.
-"They won't go near a retailer that lacks a website." - I worry a little about such things myself.
The huh:
-"American tax forms have always been available in Spanish." Um, I made it to college without ever looking at a tax form.  I'm sure there are plenty of kids far more involved in their family's finances, but I have no idea why this is interesting, or how this helps you relate to today's youth.
-"We have never asked, and they have never had to tell." This, I recognize is supposed to refer to the policy which has been in existence much of their lives.  But it annoys me, because it doesn't really reflect reality or the likelihood of any student's experience, even if that student was in the military. Now this one, is useful: "Women have always been kissing women on television."
-"Unlike their older siblings, they spent bedtime on their backs until they learned to roll over." - I personally have no recollection of my sleeping habits in my babyhood, so, thanks?
-"New kids have always been known as NKOTB." - which assumes that a decent number of college freshmen know who that is at all.
-"Women have always been Venusians; men, Martians." - Do people still talk about that book?  Really?
And the now I feel old:
"Ferris Bueller and Sloane Peterson could be their parents."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Advice For Fictional Twins

So, in noticing that this fall our TV's will be offering both "The Lying Game"  and "Ringer" in which twins are mistaken for, well, their twin, I thought I would offer some advice.  I am not a twin, but as a fan of a cheesy movie or two about twins, in addition to considering myself somewhat well read on the subject of twins, I feel qualified to discuss this.  (Yes, those are all fictional twins.  Yes, I do know real life twins.  But my expertise is in the subject of fictional twins.) 
1. No matter how close you thought you and your twin were, she* has a deep dark secret she has failed to tell you. 
2. Someone in your twin's life will immediately recognize you as an imposter.  If this person is also tall, dark, handsome and single, this may be your love interest.  (Congrats!)
3. Someone will hate you (or really, your twin) for no apparent reason. 
4. You will invariably screw up - because your twin has gone vegetarian without telling you, or because you forgot your twin hated or loved something that you don't.  It's okay, cover well.  Most people do not assume you are not who you say you are. (In fact, it helps if you have failed to tell lots and lots of people that you even have a twin.)
5. It's a good idea to gather a band of allies with skills in things like hacking and protection. 
6. Oh, right, that's because part of your twin's deep dark secret, will likely put your life in danger.  (I know.  She should have warned you.)
7. If you have a twin sense, do not rely on it too much. Those things always seem to go on the fritz when the bad guys show up.

*It always seems to be female twins who play these games.  Come on, somebody, where's the story about the guy masquerading as his brother?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Oh, Irene

Well, Irene smacked the East Coast this weekend, she was fairly nice to the DC area, but I imagine that all depends what side of the power grid (or downed tree) you are standing on.  And, of course, other areas were not quite as well treated by the storm.  I made a tactical error, in that I did not plan ahead well enough for the week of the hurriquakeapocolypse and had some essentials that needed to be purchased this weekend.  (The fruit snacks and cheddar bunnies were a bonus.)  I know better. So, this is how I found myself at Giant Friday evening, which on a normal Friday is pretty hopping.  I tried to take a picture of the line, but it didn't really do it justice.  I have a water filter and empty bottles, so did not need water  - which was good because reports were trickling in that morning that it was out across town.  I held myself to the express lane limit because I have just me (well, and my cat) to feed, so really just need a few things. 
The lines were insane.  Every register was open, additional express lanes had been opened.  The lines were still stacked to the end of each aisle.  I got in the self-checkout line because I figure four express registers was better odds (although sometimes lines lead to the self checkout newbies who don't know what button to press next.) I confess, I peeked at the college kids in front of me who seemed to have an overflowing basket.  It turns out they had four whole rotisserie chickens, and some side dishes, so twelve things, just some of which were very big.  In the insanity I probably wouldn't have made a big deal either way, but I might have festered. 
The line was long, but moved fast.  Everyone seemed to be operating a peak efficiency levels (and I was there about seven, so I can only imagine how long those employees had been operating at such levels).  I got through that line in thirty minutes, which, yes, in any other circumstance would be a tragic time, but given the madness seemed quite reasonable to me. 
I still went out and about Saturday, in part because I was planning ahead for a day of nothing on Sunday.  (I also charged all the things.)  I was sad that Columbia Heights Day/DC State Fair had to be postponed, although hopefully the new date will have better weather.  (Also, this means all the competitions are back open, hint, hint.) 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

DC Crafty Peeps, And Other Locals

Hey, it's not (quite) too late to enter the DC State Fair contests, craft and otherwise - a few first round deadlines have passed (next year guys) but most are open until midnight tonight, so if you live in DC have some bike accessories, a DC portrait, a vegetable sculpture, or stuff that fits into the vegetable, baked or prepared goods (jam!) contests, get your form in!
This is the second annual DC State Fair, and it's occurring in conjunction with Columbia Heights Day this Saturday.  Even if you are not from DC, feel free to come by the music, the pageant, the animals and the food trucks!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dear Folks: The Apology Edition

Dear Folks,
One of the things about life is that some of the stuff they made you learn and do as a kid or teen seems so dumb, so ridiculous, it could only have been designed by bored teachers trying to come up with new ways to torture kids.  And then some (not all, just some) of those things turn out to come up later in life, and well, one can only send an apology out to the universe that, okay, that turned out to be not as crazy as you might have said.
One was hyperbolas which I spent forever working on calculating the area of, sure that this was useless information, and in fairness to my teen self, I have never been asked to calculate the area of one, but I did end up participating in this, so we could call that not entirely useless.
And then, during my stint in Civil Air Patrol there were disaster scenarios.  Now, I confess, I am sort of cheating since I wasn't at this one (I went to the downed plane one) but there was one where the scenario was an earthquake.  And, so I hear, many of the participants moaned that that was stupid, because when would that ever happen here in the DC area.  (Yes, I know there was a little one last year.  This was before that.) And they pulled out this really timely example: 1811-1812.  Yes, from 1811-1812 a series of earthquakes known as the New Madrid earthquakes, adjusted the course of rivers and caused churchbells to ring in New England. 
Well, now we have a new one to add to the list.  (Oh, and Earth, I think this makes an excellent list, by the way, good job.  Feel free to stop now.) 
Former Jaded Teen

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Call Your Parents

My final year in college I went to Ireland for spring break. This was prior to the supposed cease fire, but I was planning to go to the Republic of Ireland rather than Northern Ireland, but no matter how many conversations I had with my mother about the difference, she was still convinced I was going to end up blown up.  She suggested she could purchase for me a lot of American flag themed clothing so that I would hopefully be less blow-up-able.  (I countered that would mark me tourist.)  So, the compromise that we finally arrived at was that I would call every other day to report my non-exploded state.  (Conversely, I think I called before and after my trips to places like France, Germany, England, etc.)
I also once drove up to Connecticut for a visit after my mother had decided to embrace cell phones (but before they decided it was terrible to talk on them while driving, although I did have a hands free device) where my mother called me four times for a report on my progress, before I finally suggested I call once I hit the state line (since the trip after that point, while it had another forty exits to go, tends to be more predictable).
A young adult I worked with, did a trip to South Africa and set up a blog, to update family and friends about the trip.  And certainly various forms of social media have meant sending those still alive, still having a good time messages much easier.
Of course, all those things work great, until, say, you end up in some place where there's no service.  Sometimes it's just you who can't get a signal, sometimes it's everyone.  So, I think anyone who has experienced the nervous person (be they parent or otherwise) awaiting an update can sympathize with the challenges of getting to enjoy and experience the trip and keeping everyone apprised of your alive-ness. So, when a student went on a multi-day hike through a park in Malaysia, he apparently forgot to mention that that meant he wouldn't have access until he got through.  So his parents kicked off a huge search on Facebook and Twitter and a day later, park rangers found him.  So, the good news is he is fine.  And he will probably remember to warn people (ie his parents) the next time he goes off grid while traveling.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Banana Peels for the Win (Maybe)

The banana peel.  The things that makes the banana so portable and then, yest leaves you with this limp thing to discard.  I confess I have never tried slipping on a banana peel, but since I, you know, exist, I am aware of the comedy trope. Well, now it turns out that banana peels may be useful in dealing with water pollution.  No, really.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

In Defense of the Push Up Bra

Recently the morning TV news ran a story along the lines of people are trying to make your teens to sexy with push up bras.  (So not kidding.)  Now, I take these scare stories with a grain of salt.  I remember reading articles about things I was supposedly doing as a teen that were putting my virtue, my innocence, and my safety in question, and they were right sometimes, wrong sometimes, mostly exaggerated most of the time. 
However, I also know that some parents or other adults don't have time to parse out the real from the exaggerated.  (Witness one relative telling my cousin that she was risking being murdered by being on MySpace.  Again, not kidding.)  Sure, in a perfect world, adult caregivers of teens would have responsible and meaningful discussions about these things with their teens, but it doesn't always happen that way.  (And sometimes that's the teen's fault too, not trying to place the blame solely on adults here.)
So, that leads me to the push up bra.  Now savvy shoppers will note that the push up bra has been around for a while.  And the argument that before it was only marketed to adults, is flimsy at best, since teens who wear bras are going to consider themselves the target of any bra advertising. I can't ever remember pausing to consider the age of the bra model in making my shopping choices.  Now certainly there are some styles that are, ahem, less about support, but let me assure you in this case we are talking about a full coverage push up bra. 
Now some folks seem concerned that it adds cup sizes and that perhaps teens are not ready for that.  These folks are apparently unaware that teens have never needed a push-up bra to increase their cup size, it's just more convenient for that padding to come pre-packaged, rather than a personal aftermarket addition.
I am assuming that everyone can understand that some people (be they teen or otherwise) may need to wish to appear a little more padded.  And sure, we can argue that we're giving in to the notion of what you're supposed to look like, rather than appreciating what you truly look like, but as a late developer, I can also see the appeal of just knowing what you might look like with a little more.  (And I think, generally, most people discover that two cup sizes doesn't make quite as much difference as you might have imagined.  Or in some cases, just looks ridiculous.  )
But, the advantage of a well constructed bra with a little (yes, two cup sizes is two inches, so it is more than a little) padding turns out to be, in addition to support, that one garners an extra layer of protection from environmental and physical incursions.  We all know that certain external conditions can lead to physical responses in the breasts, and while again this is totally natural, I think it is entirely understandable to not wish to share that reaction with the entire school.  (Or office.)
Also, should someone commit the accidental (we are going to assume accidental here) boob brush, it's a little easier when there's some padding between you and the brush.  Breasts stick out, these things happen, but it's still weird, especially when they are a newer body part. So, things that help with this discomfort, are all good to me. 
And, in the end, my bra has never been responsible for my life choices.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Acting it Out

My sister participated in the youth jobs program one year.  She helped with a day camp for a few weeks at a park in our neighborhood. She liked it well enough, got paid a real wage, but pretty much just did it that one summer. (Although it certainly wasn't the last day camp she worked at.) But this program, at the National Portrait Gallery, where the teens take on personas of the portraits sounds really cool.  Next year, I'll have to make sure to stop in and check them out. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Curse You!

So, in knitter circles there are tales of the sweater curse.  (Perhaps in crochet circles too.)  The story goes that if you knit a sweater for someone you are dating, the relationship will end around the time you finish.  So the knitter is (assumedly) broken-hearted and either in possession of this sweater that is now one more physical reminder of this relationship, or left to ponder that all that knitting is now off with someone who doesn't deserve it, or to possibly wonder if they hated the sweater that much.  Supposedly marriage inoculates one from the curse.  (My favorite part of the Wikipedia entry about this is this quote: "No controlled studies have investigated this phenomenon, and the available evidence is largely anecdotal, which is generally of low reliability due to cognitive bias. Particularly important in this effect may be confirmation bias, as knitters may remember breakups more clearly after giving a hand-knit sweater, which represents a significant investment of money (typically over $100), effort (~100,000 stitches), time (as much as a year) and romantic imagination."
However, there is a solution (other than first securing marriage or choosing not to believe in curses, which sure, you could also do). One woman has a sweater imbued with chili which will then cause the recipient to itch and burn.  That will show them.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Don't Speak

After seeing someone complain about people telling the they look tired on Twitter, I had a little epiphany, saying, "You look tired," is like saying, "You look pregnant."

It is generally established that telling someone they look pregnant is not a great idea unless you actually know they are pregnant* because either: they are but you have now stepped on their announcement, they are but they didn't want to tell you yet, or they aren't and now you have made them terribly self conscious about their waistline. 

You look tired (or it's friend  - you look sick) is really the same thing.  Now, possibly you happen to know that this person was up all night with a teething or ill child, went to a midnight showing of a movie, and/or was partying til the break of dawn.  Or maybe you don't and now you have made that person terribly self conscious that they look old, or tired, when up until then, they thought they were having a pretty good day.  And if they are in fact tired, you have burst their bubble about how well they were faking it. 

I recognize that generally, you look tired is meant in a sympathetic manner. And I'm not trying to tell people to stop being nice.  I am suggesting that this is not the way to go. 

*Except, of course, for that one woman from "I Didn't Know I was Pregnant" who says she wishes her co-workers had told her she was looking bulky about the middle.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What was That Sign?

I once went on a strange and fun trip to Paris where my two travel companions (who both had lived in Paris) decided randomly that the walk signs (which looked like this, so did not seem that strange to me) meant that they should cross the street with one leg kicked out and front and held stiff.  (Yes, this meant they hopped across the street. This was actually not the most attention drawing thing they did on this trip.) 
So, I can only imagine what would happen had we been in Amarillo, TX while this was going on.  (Video is SFW, assuming your work doesn't mind you playing newscasts at work.  The hand gesture has been blurred out so you will have to imagine it.)

h/t to TBD for the link. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

7 Things: Thank You, Borders

There's a similar hashtag on Twitter, but I have far more words about this.
1. I grew up within walking distance of another now-defunct bookstore chain.  Other than the library (which was a walk that was five times longer) and raiding my parents bookshelves, this was my primary source for things bookish.  They had a tiny young adult section that leaned heavily on the series (Sweet Valley and the like).  They did not have a romance section, romance was spread out into the fiction section, although they did have a small mystery section.  So when this new bookstore - a store my mom willingly drove me to - opened up with a huge romance section, you can imagine my happiness. 
2. As one of those people who used to regularly appear at the bookstore on Tuesdays, I sometimes arrived before the new book got distributed to all the normal places.  Sometimes I could find it myself by checking the new release shelves and tables or the endcaps, and sometimes I needed assistance.  I have been in bookstores where the staffers (the ones at the info desk even) were not particularly happy to help me look.  I never (seriously, never) had that problem at Borders.  They didn't always find it, but they were unfailingly polite about the search and in one case, where I told they guy who had checked several sections that I could come back tomorrow, he said, no, other people will want this book to, if you don't mind waiting, I'll do some more checking so we can find it.  (I did wait, and he did find it for me.)
3. I like shopping in bookstores where the cashiers were excited about the things I bought, and wanted to tell me that they had enjoyed that CD or that series. 
4. Borders ebook section had great search functionality and they always listed clearly the books that were agency priced and couldn't be discounted.  (Hint, hint, other ebook sellers.)
5. Borders had an excellent magazine section, regularly carrying titles I had trouble finding in other places.  Even other big box or chain stores.
6. Borders had a great craft section offering more than say five books about crafts including knitting, wire jewelry making and beading.
7. I live in an area with a decent number of bookstores, but sadly, without Borders I will lose all but two of the nearest places I can buy romance. At least new. Or in person.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Secret Bookstore

In the wake of the sad news about Borders, here's an interesting (short) video about a guy who sorta, kinda runs a bookstore in an apartment.  In other words, a secret bookstore

h/t to frecklesmudge for the link

Monday, July 18, 2011

7 Things: The "Friday Night Lights" Edition

The series finale of "Friday Night Lights" aired on NBC last week, which is months after the DVD came out and months more after it aired on DirectTV, but with my busy TV schedule, that was when I watched it, so I present...
1. "Friday Night Lights" (FNL) is in theory about football.  I mean, it is, and I like football, but it's also about football the way "Battlestar Galactica"* is about space.  There is football, and football practice, and football players, and coaches, and fields, but there are also great stories about fascinating characters, football is the reason they (most of them) tend to keep hanging out together.
2.  FNL is not perfect (there is that second season storyline of which we do not speak), but there are some amazing episodes.  Many even.
3. FNL shows over and over again that a happy, committed, adult couple can make for riveting television. 
4. FNL also often makes me wonder if this show (fictional, scripted, yes, I know) shouldn't be shown in parenting and maybe even teaching classes.
5. This is certainly not to say that everyone in FNL is perfect (how boring would that be), but, to paraphrase Coach, it's about people (most of them, anyway) trying to be good** people and the struggles that entails. 
6. There are some bad people too.  But why focus on them?  And of course, some of the ones who seemed bad at the beginning, well...
7. It's been an excellent five seasons, watching players from two different schools grow and change and become adult people.  (Yes, I know they are fictional. Still awesome though.) It's also the kinda show that makes you think, well thank god that poor girl has those strippers to talk to.

*The new one, not the original.
**Okay, I might be straining the definition of good, when one ponders the characters who have committed illegal acts, of which there are quite a few. But it is a testament to the character building that I still like these characters.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Acronyms are Fun

From the stories I tell people all the time files*:
My friend, we'll call her N, is a knitter. She says that knitting while taking public transportation is helpful since you have tools on your person should you need to strangle or stab anyone.  Now, lest you get the wrong idea, N is a lovely person and generally does not need to strangle or stab people, on metro or anywhere, but certainly we can all appreciate that tools with multiple purposes are good.
Now one day N was knitting, and her seatmate was male and he felt the need to sit with his legs spread particularly wide.  As a result, he was encroaching on N's seat and and person, so she pulled out her handy tape measure and offered to measure for him to see if he really required so much space when sitting. 
So, imagine my joy, to discover over at the Crazy Aunt Purl blog that this issue has been named - imaginary package syndrome or IPS: "the guys who have an imaginary package so large they have to spread their legs really wide and encroach into your personal space to accommodate that enormously huge imaginary schlong". 
Oh, and the guy sitting next to N, he closed his legs.

*So, sorry, for those of you have heard this many, many times. 

Friday, July 08, 2011

A Week in NYC - Days 6-7

Oh, Friday.  Friday had another breakfast gathering, this one of cherries, so it was more fun breakfast than work breakfast. Then workshops, signings, and meetings.  (I swear, there were awesome workshops, several about writing YA, theme with Suzanne Brockmann and Sarah Frantz, and Roxane St. Claire's mending broken scenes to name a few.  I look forward to reliving them via recording.)  Friday was also the day I started to go a little nuts.  I may, for example, have tried to steal Thea Harrison's ARC of Storm's Heart.  I may have begun narrating my actions aloud - sample, "Water.  Water is good, I should probably get some of that."  (Scintillating, isn't it?)  I may have stuttered when talking to Jennifer Crusie.  I may have told Caridad Ferrer that When the Stars Go Blue made me cry. (Okay, that was actually normal behavior for me.  I also, earlier in the week told Jennifer Echols that I sat down to read Forget You with dinner and next thing I knew it was 10:30pm.) 
It was a wild weird morning and then my sister and I met up for lunch only for us to discover that she lives in the same building as the friend I had met earlier in the week.  (Too funny.  And no, my sister had not previously met this friend, although I've known her forever.)  Both of them are dog owners, so I got to spend some quality pet time while away from my pet. 
After lunch, I returned to the madness before finally sneaking away to recharge both myself and the various electronics. Then dinner and back to primp for the Golden Heart and Rita awards.  I had overheard folks in the elevator talking about a schedule change so got there earlier than planned and was trying to find friends and such. 
I ran into a couple in the lobby who wanted to know why we were all dressed up - there was also a medical banquet, but since they asked me I explained that it was the romance writer awards.  They nodded and said, "Oh, like Harlequin?" And I agreed that yes, Harlequin publishes romance novels.  It turns out they have a friend who loves Harlequin (I assume as a reader although possibly as a writer too) and when they saw the screen listing all the workshops, they decided they needed to call and tell her.
My feet, I confess, were tired (not me, of course, I was fine) so the waiting was wearing and I confessed to another person waiting for her peeps that I was close to making new friends (not an idle threat, people, although not really a threat either). Anyway,found some chapter-mates to sit and cheer with.  Meg Cabot was a lovely host.  And the speeches were great. The woman who mentioned her son was in prison so writing was keeping her sane was certainly memorable.  The lovely Jill Shalvis won a RITA as did long time finalist Virginia Kantra.  And Lifetime Achievement award winner Sharon Sala's story of her granddaughter coming to a signing and saying, "You must be famous like Britney Spears!" was lovely. 
After I ran into another friend who recognized me because of my knitwear.  I also had a few chats with folks who shall remain nameless about foundation garments.  (My dress, while lovely, had a lining that crept up to my navel and rendered itself useless.) 
Saturday dawned and people in the elevators and such looked familiar, but they no longer had name tags.  It was very confusing.
I found a knitter in the lobby and introduced myself.  After chatting a bit it turns out she's critique partners with one of my chapter mates.  She also introduced me to another knitter/writer.  And I ran into someone else I had met earlier in the conference so we could exchange contact info. 
I ran out to do some last minute errands before heading back to check out and then head to the bus pick up.  My companion for this journey was a wonderfully behaved sevenish year old who's parents were across the aisle.  He played a quiet game on his dad's phone, then laid his head on his knees and slept, then hummed quietly to himself for a bit. He finally asked his parent's how close we were as we pulled into Union Station. 
And I made it safely home with my bags stuffed with books.  (Although a certain someone brought home a number in the triple digits.) 

Thursday, July 07, 2011

A Week in NYC - Days 5-6

Wednesday was that day - every RWA has a day where people want to see me at breakfast at some ungodly time, and they also want me to be somewhere at night.  (Actually, this RWA had two of those.)  Breakfast was an interesting gathering, then lunch where Madeline Hunter gave a great speech.  Then there were workshops and signings.  The YA chapter, since we "meet" online, had our general meeting, plus a gathering of YA focused people.  So, my writer day ended about 8, and then I went to dinner with a friend.  Somewhere, you know, not Times Square.
Thursday there more more workshops and signings (again, all wonderful, I just could talk all day about them, so I will resist).  Ran into more people on Thursday too.  It's one of those strange things that I pretty much run into everyone I know at some point, however briefly.  However, invariably you get back home and realize you meant to re-find someone and chat with them more.  This seems to increase every year.  And there are some people I ran into so many times they probably think I was stalking them. 
Lunch on Thursday was a madhouse so I plunked myself down at a mostly empty table confiding to the person next to me that I was over trying to find people only to have the next five people that sat down all be people I know.  (Seriously, in a book, no one would ever let me write that, too coincidental.) Sherrilyn Kenyon gave a great speech about powering through adversity that she has posted on Facebook. I had heard her speak at my chapter's conference, so I was prepared, but it's good stuff. 
Then workshops, meetings, signings.  I was very restrained at signings.  Well, Thursday at least.  Thursday was a free(ish) night and I went to dinner with a fellow attendee and then headed back to the bar.  Now, the staff at Marriott were all lovely, but I have no idea why with a convention of writers, you would staff the bar in the lobby with two people.  Haven't they heard the rumors?  I'm not saying all writers are drunkards, I'm saying the faster you serve the people in the bar, the longer it takes them to realize the martinis are $15.  (I'm also not saying that $15 is bad, I'm saying some of these writers are unused to NYC prices.)
Anyway, I hung out with some lovely NJ chapter folks for the remainder of the evening.  

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

A Week in NYC - Day 4

Tuesday was nuts.  I got myself  down to NYU to register myself for the IASPR conference, which was amazing. I really enjoyed the worldbuilding  workshop and had to sneak out partway through the money workshop so I could switch hotels.  Thankfully, the Marriott let me check in a smidge early, so I could then register myself present for RWA and head back to the village for the last bit of IASPR workshops including the chat with Bertrice Small.  I also met two other knitters and a crocheter there.  I feel like I'm giving short shrift to the workshops, but they were so amazing that I worry I will be talking (writing) forever if I try to talk about the use of New York as a setting for a Bollywood movie, or the use of gender roles in the "Wall Street" films or the discussion of the history of f/f detective novels.  So, short version, amazing. (If you want a longer version, I'm going to direct you here and here.)  Now pondering when I can get to the next one. 
A few of us then hopped on the subway back the Marriott for the RWA Literacy signing.  Now, I confess, I've been to a few of these, and they were all a bit different. This one was nuts.  I don't know if it was New York, or the large number of authors, or the fire code for the room or what.  The signing started at 5:30.  We got there at five and the line which started in the lobby and wrapped around the staging/cab/pickup area where they had ropes setting up three lanes, and was already bursting out of that around the corner and down the street, slowly taking over the space in front of a nearby theater. I looked over at my companion and said, "You know, my room has air conditioning."  (She was determined.)
The good news about waiting in that line was there was lots of time to chat. Even once the doors to the signing opened (which was on the sixth floor by the way, apparently, I could have flashed my name badge and gotten into a shorter line, but live an learn) we chatted.  We chatted with the folks around us.  We chatted with some fellow cherries who showed up.  We chatted as we made out way inside and up the escalators, and to the sixth floor where they wrapped and waited some more.  And finally made it in, where it was mad.  The sound, the light the people, it was instant overload. 
I found my way to several authors where I fawned, stalked and paid respects.  I told Jill Shalvis she had written "The Sweetest Thing" for me, since it was about an older sister named Tara even though she had never met me.  (Details.  She was kind enough to agree.)  I told Thea Harrison I was halfway through "Dragon Bound".  I told Sarah MacLean that "Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke's Heart" made me cry.  I waved at the lovely Christine Merrill and Robin Kaye.  And I made my way to Rachael Herron who was knitting away, and told her I loved her, but I was going back to my room. 
After decompression I headed out for dinner which was lovely. 

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

NYC - A Week in Review - Days 1-3

So, you will likely be grateful to hear that I am doing some truncating of this trip.  I awoke (I swear, I will be truncating, I know starting with waking up does not seem like it) and discovered that having a leisurely departure time made me paranoid - that I had the wrong bus time, that buses were perhaps not running that day, that I had forgotten to book a hotel, and so on.  It turns out that most of the things it occurred to me to triple and quadruple check were fine. 

I did discover that the single tracking going on made my arrival, still early, but not as early as I had hoped.  However, since it turned out there'd been an issue with an earlier bus needing to go visit the mechanic, they were only just loading the bus from the previous hour when I arrived. 

I sat next to someone who was attempting through Maryland to sleep, although apparently sleeping sitting up didn't work for her so she would sleep, slump, wake herself up with the slump, and repeat.  Later she broke out her ereader. 

We made it to New York, where I checked into the hotel for my first part of the trip and then headed out to forage for dinner.  Found a lovely Thai restaurant.

The next day, my plan was to explore the village.  I had been unaware that I had accidentally managed to be in NYC for the pride march (one guy was very insistent it was a march, not a parade, despite the alliteration of pride parade) that was occurring days after the equal marriage vote.  I had watched the news the night before and discovered this, I just had not fully processed what a march in Manhattan looks like.  So, I arrived at the village and wandered around and discovered that the places I was trying to get to were all on the other side of the police barricade from me.  Being stubborn I kept trying to go up, over, and get through, but finally conceded that this was not the day for that.  (And yes, I realized I could have taken the subway, back one stop, but like I said, stubborn).  So, I grabbed a late lunch and then headed back to midtown. 

I was meeting a friend who had tickets to a community center event to raise funds for Japan earthquake/tsunami relief.  It was an interesting event starting with child performers (although there was one girl who danced modern and hip hop and zumba in such a way that we see her possibly taking over the world).  Then it progressed to the audience judging portion where the performers were, shall we say, older.  And the final section was professionals, which included hip hop and ballet.  It was a really interesting evening.  

Monday, I went back and wandered around the village.  After lunch I may have made my way to a yarn store - Knitty City.  Cute store, lots of Malabrigo, Madeline Tosh, as well as some Sweet Georgia and Wool Candy that I may have taken home. 

And then I headed back to the village (seriously, if I'd had a GPS attached, it would have looked weird, but I had a plan) and after dinner went to Lady Jane's Salon.  If you are in or near New York, I highly recommend this event.  Due to the impending RWA conference, they had more readers than normal, but the readings were great.  I loved chatting with the fellow listeners also.  And the Madame X bar, is something to behold too. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

License Plates

In one of Lisa Gardner's books, a character notes that in Rhode Island, locals go and request plates with letters that are meaningful to them and low numbers.  As someone who has family up near the Rhode Island border, I would not have been able to tell you that prior to reading it, but it made perfect sense once I did, and helped with the setting (hopefully for Rhode Islanders too). 
I actually didn't believe the first person that told me the black Delaware plates were inherited.  (It turns out that now you can get authorized reproductions.)
But, I absolutely had noticed that Virginians, in addition to having a plethora of plates to choose from (much like Florida), are big, big fans of vanity plates.  One co-worker, when I discovered she lived in Virginia, I said, "Oh, so you must have a vanity plate."  (She did.  Seriously, play this game next time you meet a Virginian.  Then ask them which plate they got.)  So, I am unsurprised to hear that Virginia leads the nation in vanity plates.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What Size Needle was That?

For those of you who think I knit on big needles, I present Phat Knitting

h/t to Craft-Zine for the link.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Embarrassment, Tools of the Parental Trade

My mother was (and likely still is) of the belief that the ability to embarrass her children was one of the few joys provided to parents of teens.  Due to the sibling spacing we had, my sister presented my mother with a button that said, "Be Kind, I Have a Teenager" and then told my mom that she had done the math and my mother would get to wear this for sixteen and a half years.  (My mother was thrilled.  She did wear the button though.) 
Now, my mother is a fairly creative person, so we were pretty lucky that a lot of her embarrassing was limited to things like waving at us.  My brother and I figured out pretty quickly if you waved back right away, she stopped, my sister was slower to this realization which led to very exaggerated waving on my mother's part followed by loud, "Hi, Sweetie Pie!". 
So, it is just as well, that my mother never quite had this idea.  Fortunately for the kid involved, he has found the humor in it now (although he apparently still find his dad in the Little Mermaid costume embarrassing.)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Attention Cyclists

DCist linked to Girl And Her Bike's story about the idiot who decided it was super funny to bump her bike (with her on it) with his car, several times. The story is intriguing (and totally worth the click) because idiot does get caught, and idiot turns out to probably have had good reason to keep a low profile.  But, she is also trying to load the courtroom for his sentencing to send the message that no, nudging a person with your car is not cute or funny, it is assault and it should be treated seriously.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How to Buy Things

Let's imagine there's a girl named Lindsay. Lindsay wants to get a new pair of shoes.  She goes to Big Giant Shoe Store and finds lots of shoes in her size.  After much debate she narrows it down to a green pair and a blue pair.  She tries them both on in front of the mirror and finally picks the green pair because they match her eyes, and they are from a shoe designer she really likes. 

Lindsay loves the green shoes. She wears the green shoes places.  She gets great compliments on her green shoes.  One day, at a shoe lover event  Lindsay meets Wanda Shoemaker, the designer of her green shoes.  Lindsay is thrilled.  As Wanda is signing a picture of Lindsay's green shoes, she asks Lindsay where she bought the shoes.  Lindsay tells her. 

Wanda's eyes narrow. She tells Lindsay that Big Giant Shoe Store is not where true fans buy her shoes. True fans order them directly from Wanda's website, the Exclusive Shoemaker.  Or, they buy them at Fancy Department Store.  And that if they must buy a pair at Big Giant Shoe Store, they should buy a second pair later from somewhere else to demonstrate their commitment.

You know what Lindsay thinks?  Lindsay thinks she should have gotten the blue pair. 

This tale inspired by the latest round of folks telling reader how to buy things.