Monday, March 28, 2011

Things People Should Know: Guardian & Godparent

First, I recognize the most common place I see this error is in fiction - be it books, TV or movies, so yes, I do understand that to an extent I am yelling at fake people.  However, these things are all put together by real people, and based on discussions I have had with real people, it seems that this confusion is not just fictional.
Second, I am neither a lawyer nor official representative of any religious organization.  If it turns out your lawyer and/or religious organization are calling these things contrary to me, they may be more right.  (Although I would check, they may be more wrong.)
Now, that we have that out of the way...
A guardian is a person who agrees (we will get back to the agree part later) to take responsibility for a child.  This can be because the parents (or prior guardians) are ill, incarcerated or otherwise temporarily unavailable, or sometimes because the parent/guardian/prior person looking after the child is deceased. 
A godparent is a person who agrees to assist with the child's spiritual growth. 
Now, the agree thing - you are supposed to consult with this person to make sure that this is a role they are willing to fill.  While you may think your child is the most special snowflake (and, you may be right, I am not disagreeing) that does not mean that all of your friends and siblings have a secret desire to take on this role for your child.  And let's face it, you not only want to pick the best person, you want to pick someone who wants to do this. 
So, back to the distinction.  This means that a godparent should be a person of the same faith as you. (Usually - some faiths work this a little differently).  This is not to be mean you your very best friend from high school who you love lots.  This is because one imagines that the faith you have chosen to raise your child as is the one you wish to have reinforced. 
And the guardian thing, well, that's pretty much up to you, but I think you should pick someone who likes kids.  (Actually that's probably a good idea for both.)  They don't have to love all kids, but it helps if they like yours. And they should be someone who is aware that you have designated them as such.  These are not the kind of surprises you save for will readings.  (Okay, sure, sometimes that makes a funny movie, but in real life, no.)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Don't Take My Anthem

I think the "Star Spangled Banner" gets a bad rap.  Yes, it is vocally challenging.  Yes, it has words that require some thought.  But, it's not like we want it to sound like a Eurovision song contest entry.  Also, the people who tend to have the most trouble, are often people who had months to prepare.  (And who's jobs involve, you know, memorizing things.)
However, I came across Christine Lavin a few years ago when searching for something for a character soundtrack and adore her.  (Seriously, go check out "Happydance".) So, combine the Post's Mr. Weingarten and Ms. Lavin in making the Bill of Rights (which, by the way, "It's Academic" kids, was not written by King John) into a catchy little tune, well, I must say, I am intrigued.
"Here's to us, let's not screw it up."

H/T to ALOTT5MA for the link.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Blocking the Box

As someone who received my first (and second - out of a running total of three I feel I should add) speeding ticket from a temporary camera, I have since tried to pay attention to camera placement. (Oh right, and to not speed, of course.) Intriguingly both DC and Montgomery County provide lists of such things, although not the temporary ones, since they roam.  Red light cameras I worry less about, since I work hard not to run red lights, although certainly in stop and go traffic sometimes one ends up sort of trapped (which yes, you should also avoid, but sometimes the folks in front stop a little sooner than expected) in the box. 
So, I was intrigued to learn in this breakdown of the results from one red light camera that you can both trigger the camera and receive a ticket simply by having part of one's car over the crosswalk line.  And yes, I remember from driver's ed, and from being a pedestrian that one should not block the intersection or the crosswalk, but I wasn't aware that the cameras measured such things.  I guess I assumed the sensors were placed farther into the intersection.  So, just a heads up there.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Why Are We Here?

Oh, don't worry, not getting terribly existential here.  I just meant here, on the internet.  Possibly even here, you know, right here.  Personally, I like being entertained, and I think the internet is good at that.  I like being informed and the internet is good at that.  (Yes, you have to sometimes be careful, but really, that's true wherever you get your information.)
As more and more people come to check out this newfangled internet thing, some of them seem confused.  (In fairness, there have been confused people all along, there are just more of them now.)  Some people think if I follow them on Twitter, what I really meant was not entertain me with your various tweets, but send me a message reminding me that you have a [insert product here] and that I should GO BUY it RIGHT NOW. (They use the caps, okay, not me.)  Or that they should whine because they said or did this thing and now they have less followers.  (I swear, every time someone posts that, I am tempted to unfollow them right then.) 
And some people seem to think that because there is Facebook and My Space and Twitter and Tumblr and [all the other things] they should get on every single one.  But then, it's really hard to some up with twelve really cool things to tell people, so instead they will tell people the exact same thing in all twelve places.  Those people I do unfollow, or unfriend, or what have you, I don't need the message twelve times.  If that's how you choose to use your social media, I probably don't need to socialize with you too much.  (I may, if the message itself is interesting, need it once.  However if the message was just, "Buy my things!", well, I'm good.)
So, I really appreciate seeing people talk about better ways to do it, even if it is to say that I'm pretty sure that doing X or Y, is bad, what would you people suggest.  So, we have Jennifer Crusie here, talking about the difference between buzz and hype. (And asking people stuff.) And Maureen Johnson with her Manifesto of not being a brand. And Alison Kent talking about how social media is, you know, social.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Change Resistance

Dear Cell Phone Store Employees,
I apologize in advance, since I fiddled with my mother's cell phone and pointed out that since she could access the internet, and download apps, she could probably access her email on her existing (if relatively old flip) phone.  She did already make one trip to find out about her choices, but the sales person tried to fit her with a Cadillac smart phone with a ginormous data plan and she walked right out the store and continued on with her flip phone.  Hopefully, you'll be able to talk her into something mid-range now.  Best of luck to you.
The Daughter She So Rarely Listens to, but Now That I've Suggested This, Well, Sorry Again.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Two Problems, One Nutty Solution

My apartment overlooks a parking lot and a side street that has nicer parking restrictions than the main road, which means I hear car alarms not infrequently. (It seems like it is getting better, but it is possible that just like my friend who's parents lived on a flight path, I have grown more accustomed.)
I understand that the DC metro area has a high rate of car crime and that while a determined thief will always win (because they will tow your car, etc) that small things like a club can reduce your risk, particularly when there are better targets to be had. 
However, I am not entirely convinced that car alarms fall into this category.  After all I was once sitting innocently in my brother's car while he ran into the store when the alarm went off. He had taken the keys with him, which, on his car, apparently triggered the alarm after a certain period if the car could detect the presence of another person.  I checked and saw that my brother had taken the keys, tried jiggling the steering wheel and triggering the locks, and when that didn't work I just sat there until he got back.  A few people looked at me, mostly in annoyance.  No one asked me what I was doing in that car.  No one alerted my brother - or the other customers in the store - that the alarm was going off.  My brother finished his business, walked back out, and went, "Oh, it was you."
So, had I had nefarious purposes, I suspect people would have thought I had accidentally triggered it and let me make off with the car.
Therefore, my unscientific conclusion is that car alarms are really only of interest to the car owner.  But in cities where people might be parked a few blocks away or have loud neighbors, they may not hear it (unless they set it off themselves).
My suggestion, then, is car alarms that screech to your bluetooth headset.  This is the second problem (although really it's more of a pet peeve, but it's my blog and therefore my peeves are problems).  People (often guys) seem to like wearing their bluetooth headsets.  I have a theory that it is people who secretly wish for more accessories in their lives, but really, it would make far more sense to wear that headset to the bathroom and to school plays and such if you could tell people it was in case the car alarm went off.
This would also assist in scenarios where people's car alarms might be set a touch to sensitive, because I feel certain that if people knew that their car alarm went off every time a truck rumbled by, they would wish to address that. 

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

7 Things:Making Your Manuscript Annoy Me

Having just dug myself out of a small pile of contest entries (2 contests that happened to overlap, bad planning on my part), I come with a new appreciation for slush pile readers. Reading slush is not like reading a book you bought at a store that has a description and a cover blurb. I know these (as all stories do) represents someone's blood, sweat and tears. I also know that things that work or don't work for me, will elicit different reactions from others. And, as is often said in the review business, there are quite a few things that just make you think, meh. But here are some things I discovered put me in a not favorable frame of mind towards an entry.
1. Clip art. There should not be clip art or graphics or cute drawings in your manuscript or synopsis. If you have something that you stuck in there to inspire you while you were writing, take it out before you submit it.
2. Unorthodox capitalization. You may be writing Contemporary, or fantasy, or Something Else entirely, but this does not Give you license to invent New capitalization rules.
3. Pointless scenes. I am a terrible violator of this rule, so, much like that dieting friend who's always counting your calories for you, I am easily irked by this. Here's the thing, if the scene is really fun, most readers will let it slide, but early on* if the first three scenes only teach me the same two things about the main characters, well, this is me getting bored.
4. Overuse descriptions. Now this is one that I am terrible about doing, but I think people tend to fall into a writery sense. I think your average person does not meet someone and think, "Wow, their eyes look like the sea after a summer storm." I think people go, "Huh, gray eyes" or possibly even, "Nice gray eyes." Now sure, there are people who think in more artisic terms, and if your character is one of those people, I am fine with that, but I read a lot of entries where people looking at other characters suddenly turned into some sort of poet.
5. Excessive cliche use. Look cliches are a great shorthand and can be very useful, but there is a limit. Just like you can't overuse a pet word (or six) don't have everything be a cliche, unless of course, there is some character specific reason for them to think in cliches.
6. Have characters say things that constantly have to be explained. I have read entries where someone would say something and then the thought following it would explain what it really meant. Again, there are times when this is necessary, but if it happens too often, then I start to wonder why your characters never say things that just make sense.
7. An insane synopsis. Now insane is in the eye of the beholder, but I read a few entries where the pages I had were good (not great, but good) and I flipped to the synopsis and it turns out what seemed like a nice little cozy story took eight or nine left turns and landed us in the city of ridiculous coincidences.

*These entries were mostly the first 30-50 pages.