Monday, December 31, 2012

7 Things I Meant to Talk About

1. A Romance Book club!  In the interest of disclosure I will start by saying that this is something my writer's chapter is spearheading (I have, in fact volunteered to assist somehow) and I therefore know some of the people behind this and some of the authors.  However, that doesn't make this idea any less fun.  Washington Loves Romance an online book club with two reading selections a month.  Discussions take place on Facebook and there are prizes given each month to those who participate in the discussion.  There are also plans for some local gatherings where folks can meet and hang with the authors.  The list of authors we are reading for the next six months has been posted, so you can go check it out. 
2. Ninjas.  We've all been there.  Someone in the movie theater is talking.  Not during the previews, which in my opinion are fair game.  Not a quick aside about something or other.  But talking.  Either engaged in a loud conversation or having taken a phone call that for some reason they feel they need to take right now, and yet do not need to move towards the exit so as to minimize disturbance to other patrons who - let's not forget - have paid to be there.  Well, one London theater has employed ninjas to combat this. The ninjas approach noisy patrons and advise them to stop.  Apparently it was so successful some other theaters in the ares are going to start also.  I hope this gets imported here soon. 
3. Book Cover Poses.  I think anyone who has ever paid attention to book covers has noticed some strange goings on.  Fantasy covers have some amusing poses, and goodness knows, apparently if one is an urban fantasy heroine one must make use of one's bare midriff and low rise pants to show off a tattoo.  (Because nothing says I'm tough and I kill things like an exposed midriff.) Now I also recognize that some of this is coding, certainly, when strolling through a bookstore (should I find one) and spot a cover with such things I do tend to think, hey, that's probably like that other book I read. 
But sometimes you wonder if it's a little difficult to try wielding a sword while still popping one's hip.   So, author Jim Chimes decided to find out, by matching some poses.  And then another author took it one step further, looking at both men and women's comparable poses, as well as attempting to recreate them.  (There is also another contest going on that may result in more poses.)
4. What's a pound? I confess that I have not spent a lot of time wondering about the correctness of the scales at the grocery store.  At least, not until I read this and found that the Maryland grocery stores, one chain in particular, have a pretty crap record of late. (Okay, in fairness, not every store had a violation and I hadn't even thought about auto parts places.)  But, so I started to wonder if the increase in self checkout lanes might have created an issue since certainly those are on the rise, and to my unknowledgeable-about--the-inner-workings-of-checkout-scales self it seemed like that might be a different scale that requires different maintenance and might, since only customers use it, who would notice if it starts acting up.  And then of course, I remembered that every time I use a reusable grocery bag at a self checkout, I have to get the store employee in charge of overseeing self checkouts to approve it because they (the nebulous people in charge of such things at the various stores) always seem to have the scale that measures whether I am trying to slip extra things into my grocery bag without paying set to catch a feather (unless of course I try to buy a feather and then it keeps telling me to put my item in the bag until I jiggle my groceries).  So, perhaps they could spend a little more time on the part that weighs my apples, hmm?  Just a suggestion. 
(TBD had a later article pointing out that Virgina has a lower correction rate because they have far fewer inspections, so don't think hopping the river will solve your issues.)
5. Stocking Oranges.  Your reaction to this may vary, but I am always fascinated about where certain traditions originate.  We always got oranges in our stockings.  So, this history of such a tradition intrigues me even if I have mixed feelings about the idea that the orange represents my dowry.  (I realize that historically having sufficient funds to make choices is a good thing.  But I am less sad that I don't need an orange so much now.) 
6. Wait, So That was a Real Marriage?  In a story that sounds like the plot of a romance novel, Janeane Garafalo discovers she has in fact been married for 20 years.  Yeah. 
7. And because working in the airline business is pretty thankless these days, here's five amazing airline service moments.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Do You Hear the People Sing?

My family might be a tad into musicals.  I have memories of my grandparents playing records (yes, records) of "Peter Pan" and "The Sound of Music".  "Annie" was in heavy rotation growing up in our house (although I suspect that was more for my sister and I, not that it isn't a lovely soundtrack the first thousand times.) The cast album to "Les Miserables" arrived in our house and we listened as a family and separately, such that I had much of it memorized by the time we went.  We went as an almost whole family early on.  (My brother was pretty little the first time so he stayed home.)  And then there was the listening.  The many many times of listening. Oh, and I had the songbook and played it on the piano. (Um, yes, it is a wonder my family put up with this.  Although I would argue that was better than the time one of my siblings bought the single of KLF's "3AM eternal" and listened to it for a month straight.)
The show came back through town, and this time my brother was older and we all went (though, yes, my brother did issue a warning.)  I believe my family went one more time.  I abstained that time and a neighbor happily went in my place.  (She had never seen it before, and I was happy to let someone else have that experience.) 
I watched the PBS anniversary specials.  (As did much of my family.)  I watched the video of various people singing the duets.  (Oh, if you haven't please go here.  Plus this one is new.  All SFW, assuming videos of people singing are acceptable pastimes where you are.) 
And so, the announcement of a movie has me thrilled.  Sure, I've seen movie musical adaptations that were great and sometimes less so.  But, it seemed like all the bones were there.  And all the trailers and interviews have only increased my hopes here.  So, any guesses what we did Christmas Day? 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

TBR 2012: Or Should It Be TBNR

I tried.  But there was so much bright and shiny out there, that I did not succeed.  I read some new holiday stories. But that's not quite the thing.  So, instead I look at this year's batch of TBR posts and see that I did ten.  Yay for me!  Somehow, my tbr pile does not look much smaller but certainly the challenge helped remind me to not just read the stuff that has barely gotten a chance to settle into the pile.  When I do the year end tally we'll see how diverse I really was this year.  I had a lot of fun and appreciated the reminder not just to read but to talk about what I read, especially the stuff that I liked. So, all in all, a good thing, even if I do not have old tales of holiday cheer I read this month.  

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sandy Hook

My mother worked at an elementary school, the same school that my siblings and I attended, for twenty two years.  He husband was also a teacher before his retirement.  I have an aunt who teaches in Connecticut, although the eastern side so she is and was safe.  I have another aunt who teaches ESL.  Another who works as a school librarian.  And an uncle who has worked in various school capacities, including principal.  One of my part time jobs before finding full time employment was in an after school care program at an elementary school.  Years later my brother actually served as interim director for that program.  He also worked as a substitute teacher for a while.  My cousin is a school librarian.  Her husband also works in the school system.  Another cousin has just started working as a teacher.  And yet another cousin works at a college.  I have probably left some family member off this list (sorry guys) and of course that doesn't even start the list of teachers and educators I am friends with. 
All of this is to say that there is a proud tradition of working in schools in my family. So school shootings are especially heartbreaking, although certainly the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting is heartbreaking just on its own.  I retweeted this quote, but - while I recognize its aimed at children coping with hard events - I find it true for me as well. 
"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world." Fred Rogers
So, I have been reading about teachers and other school administrators who moved children and co-workers into barricaded rooms.  Police officers who had children and teachers close their eyes as they moved them to safety. 
And I spent a weekend surrounded by friends. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

7 Things: The Adult in the Room

I counted up my number of youth conferences as an adult advisor once, and well, it was a lot.  (Typically in the adult orientation we have a good batch of newbies, and a lot of people with numbers in the twenties.)  So. Having added another one this fall, here's my seven things about that.
1.  The schedule is a guideline.  I often joke about UU time (which can sometimes be like island time or insert your favorite batch of people here time.)  But as anyone who has ever organized anything that combines large groups of volunteers or teenagers might guess, sometimes there is schedule slippage.  (Not always.  Tends to depend on that year's committee.)  This isn't to say that dinner will move from six to midnight, but often schedule slippage is a result of a number of behind the scenes factors, and again, volunteers, so things happen. 
2. Sleep is important. But, only you know how much sleep you need.  And if you like sleeping through the night without interruption, or sleeping until a reasonable hour.  Well, okay, we all like those things.  However, this is not likely to occur here.  Adults and teens will be called on to assist in making sure things are running smoothly, and that includes people staying up in shifts through the night.  The church will likely wish to have their space back and, well, clean, in time for Sunday service, which may be at nine necessitating the group's being up, done with cleaning by say seven thirty.  So, nap if you need to.
3.  We often say that these are youth run events and that really is true.  The adults are there to provide support and assistance. So, while this means the adults are their to help not do, this also means the adults are expected to help with cooking and cleaning, not just make sure the kids in their group do it.  (In other words, be the con participant you wish to see.) 
4. There is often the implication that the rules are there to make sure the teens don't do anything wrong.  And that's partly true.  But the rules are designed to promote a weekend of open community.  Some of the things you can't do during the con are not illegal or wrong, they are just things one shouldn't do at large group events.  And the rules apply equally to adults and teens. 
5. Get to know other adults.  One of the things I found fascinating was the large difference between size of congregational youth groups, number of times they meet, and how many adults and teens they had participating.  Plus, a lot of these adults are super cool.
6.  Don't only hang out with other adults.  When they say adults are part of the community, it's true (or should be).  The adults are mixed into groups with other teens intentionally, and not so they can look after other teens, but so they can talk to them and get to know them too.  Sure, there will be times when the teens just want to hang with other teens, and that's as it should be, but again, the idea is for a melded community to form. 
7.  Listen.  Just like at any community event, sharing goes both ways.  There is so much to learn from workshop leaders, and other participants.  Listen.  And that doesn't mean just sit in a corner with your phone figuring if anyone needs you they'll yell.  Be in the moment. 

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

7 Things: Reasons I Should Not Have NaNoed

1. Over the summer I switched departments.  Given that our busy season is the fall, it meant I was really testing my new job skills, oh right about November.  (And October.  And December.) Also, it turns out short staffed departments are really busy.  Shocking, I know. 
2. I hate failing at things.  (Such a special snowflake, I am.)  I know that really, it is worth participating in NaNo even if you fail, for the camaraderie, the practice of writing regularly (should that be new to you) and the joy of the word count tracker.  But, I've won that last few years, if I did it I didn't want to not win. 
3. I have this poor neglected manuscript.  I started writing it in April with some fellow fast drafters.  April was not a good month for me to be fast drafting.  And then I picked it back up over the summer.  And it's still not done.  Yes I could have tried to finish that for my NaNo but I think that story might need more help than my brain can give it right now.
4. The thing I wanted so much to do was sitting there calling to me.  But it was big, scary and hard.  It needed to be third person which is a POV I struggle with.  It was multi-POV which I have done before, but not to this degree.  And it involved research. 
5. My weekend and evening schedule of late has not really been relaxing.  (I know - I'm suffering from too much fun.  Is there a charity for that?.)  So, time was going to be a big issue.
6. Sleep.  Remember sleep?  I do.  Kinda.  I like sleep.  I used to be able to sleep in a Sunday here and there and feel all caught up.  And lately, I cannot sleep past eight.  So, all the sleep has to happen before that. 
7. Thanksgiving, the day I usually catch up and/or finish was early this year.  Really early.  While of course that didn't change the number of days available for writing, it meant that I was going to still likely have lots of words left and no other light days to do it.  Oh, and there was a game I needed to watch.
As you might expect, I did it anyway.  And I did win.  One the very last day, which I think happened the first year I did NaNo, although in that case it was because I had really wrapped up the story and was just making my characters sing silly songs to get to 50k. 
This year the story's not quite done. (I wish this meant the story was more fully realized, it really means my characters spent a ridiculous amount of time thinking deep thoughts at the start which will all have to go later.) I'll get it done in the next few weeks and then let it marinate a bit.  So, I am glad I did it.  I am really tired.  Really proud of the other participants (winners and not winners) including my NaNo mentee, a high schooler who got about a hundred pages written this month in addition to all her homework and stuff. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

I Know It's Not a State

I love YA.  And I love YA that takes place in places I have been.  (This is true of non-YA also.  I love Luanne Rice's books, especially the ones that take place on the Connecticut coast.)  So, Epic Reads list of the United States of YA is awesome.  You can figure out how to book travel through the whole country, except DC.  (And okay, they are missing the territories too.)  It makes me sad.  Especially since it's not like I can't come up with YA books that take place in DC, like, oh say, Meg Cabot's All American Girl or Ellen Emerson White's The President's Daughter.  And okay, those are kind of oldish (not that the age of good fiction matters, but still).  So, some minor googling finds that there is also Rachel Cohn's You Know Where to Find Me.  And I'm sure there are tons more that I am forgetting. 
So, enjoy this list.  And maybe, be sad with me that DC got left out.  We have YA readers here too. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

TBR Challenge 2012: November

Remember when I remembered to look at the theme?  Yeah, so anyway, went for another Harlequin Desire.  (Yes, I do have quite a stash of them.) Day Leclaire's Nothing Short of Perfect is one of those stories that's hard to describe without it sounding crazier than it is.  So, back in the day, Justice St. John (such a name) got placed in a foster home with Daisy.  They were teens, there were sparks and then one day he left without a word. 
And then, he went on to become this brilliant engineer and was all happy living with no one but his agoraphobic uncle until a car accident had him realizing that he had no one that the hospital could call.  It also marginally scrambled his brain.  So, he decided it was time for a wife and had his uncle run a program to find him one at an engineering conference. 
At the conference he bumps into Daisy and sparks fly until he unscrambles his brain well enough to remember how they know each other and that he's mad at her and so he returns to his engineering lair. Until, dun dun dun, Daisy, her housekeeper, her computer hacker of a foster daughter and, oh yeah, the secret baby that resulted from their conference hookup show up at his door. 
I know, it sounds a little nuts.  And it was a little nuts, but I do enjoy a good personality jumble of a story and this one worked well. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

DC, Represent!

So, a while back there was this thing.  I think they call it a debate.  So, I was searching for alternative programming and landed on a "Chopped" marathon. There were firefighters and chefs and non-profit groups.  I have to tell you, that while I like the normal "Chopped" format a lot, some of their special category contestant episodes have been really good.  The lunch lady (they were, in this case, all ladies)  episode was amazing.  So, I had high hopes for the non-profit chefs one, especially when I saw there was a chef from DC's own Capital Area Food Bank, a charity I am fond of.  (Food.  I think everyone should have food.  So.)  And, well, you should keep an eye out, if you missed it.  Food network tends to run them in blocks so you can usually hunt one up.  (Although I still have to find the teen chef episode that I heard was really good.) Also, they are available on things like Hulu, if you're into that.  And, if you want to know how it ends, well, I think the title of this DCist interview with Chef Lichaa might clue you in. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Calling in Book

I'm not a ridiculously healthy person, but I (knock wood) tend to have sick days left over at the end of the year.  (Sometimes other days too, but that's a different problem.)  I had been thinking a time or twelve that you should be able to call in book.  There was that one time I arrived at the metro stop with four pages left - arggh!  But even sometimes, you may still have chapters left to go but you arrive, or reach the end of your break or lunch period right as the heroine gets kidnapped.  (Yes, I use this example a lot.  It happens a lot. In books, that is.)  Or right as someone was finally about to confess something.  Or just something that has occurred in the story that you know you are going to spend the next batch of hours thinking about getting back to it.  Now sure, as with many things, sometimes the anticipation makes it better.  You appreciate the story more for your time away from it.  It's the carrot at the end of the stick.  But sometimes, you know you will be useless until you can get back and find out what happens next.
So, I had been thinking that you should be able to call in book to work.  But the challenge I realized was that in a given year, I read a lot of good books.  And while, given the average reading statistics for the population it probably (sadly) wouldn't be a challenge for the workforce, it might impact my ability to remain a productive member of the workforce.  And someone with money to buy all those books. 
But the solution is sick days.  (Although if my company wants to allot me a separate bank of book days, I am all for that.)  I think, much like the mental health day - wherein I believe some companies (check your policy) allow for the fact that sick days are essentially unplanned absences that might occur for other reasons, including I-just-don't-feel-like-it-itis (nasty stuff) and that, within a pre-arranged set of parameters, it might be allowable for you to not work for reasons other than crippling illness.  So, if we expanded this definition to include calling in book, we'd be fine. 

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Votery McVoting

So, I posted five reasons not to vote, way back when, so let's do five reasons to vote for this year.
1. It's really not that hard.  (The voting part.  The research part, the endless ads, the robo-calls, those are harder.)
2. Then you get to complain.  Yes, voting is secret like, so sure, you could tell people you voted and then go complain, but if you do, I hope you feel guilty the entire time. 
3. There are many things on that ballot of yours.  I mean, I assume.  In DC, we've got city council folks, school board folks, neighborhood commission folks, shadow senators and representatives, regular representative, and three possible charter amendments.  There are guides everywhere.  You probably got one in the mail.  Reading is obviously not required, but how else will you know who uses stupid grammar or fake words in their platform statement?  (What?  I can't be the only grammar snob.)
4. People will tell you your vote doesn't matter. First, it does.  Second, this is having your say.  Don't you like doing that? 
5. Votes matter even when the end result does not turn out as you wished.  You still had your say.  You can continue in that vein by contacting your new (or renewed) elected officials or not.  But trust me, they know what their margin looked like. 

Monday, November 05, 2012

Just Add Water and Wind

I made it through the storm with power in tact.  (Lost it later due to wiring issues, but that's all better now.) 
Obviously not everyone was so lucky.  My family members all have their power back now (as of Friday) but in the nature of storms and other natural disasters they were right next some areas that are devastated.  I rode out hurricane Bob in Stonington, Connecticut.  We had spent the night before, helping people move floating docks and such to safer harbors. My grandfather was alive, but ailing, so the power outage which froze his adjustable bed in an upright position, was a little trying.  But we were lucky then, and while trees and boats and water damage affected a lot of neighbors, Rhode Island took the brunt of that one.  But Sandy made up in size what some said she lacked in power.
So, there's stuff.  Stuff everywhere, water logged or tree damaged or fire damaged.  And it'll be like this for a while.  A local friend had a tree, probably storm loosened crash into their house Friday.  Water has not receded everywhere.  And water damage plus power outages bring their own challenges.  The Stonington Free Library, where I read so, so many of their books, has a tree on it. 
I made use of the internet to peruse the Stonington-Mystic Patch - which deserves kudos for helping me stay updated virtually with things in my family's corner of Connecticut, as did the New London Day and the Westerly Sun. The Patch has this lovely compendium of nice things people did to help each other out, including the folks who helped the Mystic book store get all their books moved to the second floor, while they cleaned up the water damage.
I love this tumblr (totally SFW, by the way, unless your current connection frowns on tumblr) with messages from Katrina survivors to Sandy survivors
Also, if you want to help, you have likely been bombarded with suggestions.  To add to that, Donors Choose has some Sandy-affected classroom projects
And, as the lessons of Katrina and other hurricanes have taught us, recovery is a long, long process, but it does happen in many small ways. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

7 Things: The Powerless Edition

I lost power for several long hours last week, so fingers crossed am hoping I might make it through this historic hurricane thing without repeating that experience, but know that somebody, somewhere, is just going to lose power for some time.  (I knew that even before all the robocalls.)
Now, admittedly last week's experience was entirely different because it affected only part of my building (which was terribly annoying because I could see people with power, there was even power in the hallway right outside my door).  But my experiences in prior hurricanes and outages have offered up these tidbits.  For a more complete (ie, less frivolous list), please go somewhere like here. There is also a hurricane app. 
1. LED candles, camping lanterns, these types of things are your friends.  Real candles are pretty but require lots of vigilance.  If you like the flickery light, you can get LED flickery bits. 
2. Crank radios or radios that operate on a form of batteries you have a large stockpile of are a great idea.  Some of them even have attachments that will charge your other things. 
3. Crap food is your friend.  Seriously.  Food that requires little or no refrigeration or preparation is a great thing to have on hand.  Yes, you may still be able to order pizza.  As the friend of a former pizza deliverer, I'm going to ask you to not.  Or if you must, tip super well.  If you don't feel safe going out to get it, don't ask others to do that. 
4. Backlit devices are your friend.  If you have really good lanterns, you may be fine, but generally it's hard to read by flashlight.  Backlit devices work really well.  However, if your backlit device is also your phone, you may not want to use that too much.  Or have a battery extender, solar recharger, or some way to keep that available. Booklights are also good.  It makes it easier to angle the light and continue on.  They also work great with non-backlit devices, be they eink or paper. 
5. Card decks. Card games work well in low light.  And you can play solitaire or crazy eights or learn a new card game. 
6.  It helps if you are on city water, but stay hydrated.  (Especially if you are eating all that crap food.) 
7. Barring a compelling reason, stay inside during the storm.  Sure, you get to make choices about your safety, but things can change quickly in a storm and you don't want to be the person the rescue crews have to come rescue. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Fat Kid Rules the World

I had a chance to attend a local screening of "Fat Kid Rules the World".  It's coming to Video on Demand, so that if you don't happen to live in one of the cities where it's getting a longer run, you too can check it out soon.  I enjoyed the movie, even though I had not, at the time read the book.  (Part way through now.) So, I enjoyed this interview here, with Matthew Lillard about the process of getting the thing made. 
The story follows the Troy (who is as the title suggests fat, but as the interview states, this is not a movie about weight so much) who is befriended by Marcus, a homeless punk band high school dropout, and the intersection of their lives.  I found the movie really enjoyable and thought it did a great job taking a book told in first person (where so much of the information is transmitted through the internal monologue) and just letting there be moments of silence.  This is not to say that there is no dialogue, this is just to say, that sometimes you find with such book to movie transitions they fill in a lot of dialogue to make up for it, and (again, can't say for sure, since I haven't finished the book yet) there were moments where the characters just glanced back and forth and it just worked really well.  So, I recommend this movie.  (And the book.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

TBR Challenge 2012: The Boys Next Door

Yeah, so, kinda, sorta, accidentally ignored the theme genre this month again.  I read a contemporary YA romance. I mean, technically, it had some suspense, but, yeah, nobody was on the run or anything. 
I had Jennifer Echols' The Boys Next Door sitting in my TBR pile and I recall starting it last year and then apparently I got distracted by something shiny and never made it past the first chapter. 
So, I picked it back up.  It is the story of Lori, who is surrounded by boys. Her mother passed away, leaving her with her dad, her older brother, and, as the title implies next door to three brothers.  So, she gets the guy brain.  But now she's working on being a girl, or being seen as one by Sean, the middle Vader brother.  Except she sidles up to the youngest Vader brother Adam at a party, and since she realizes that means Sean was making out with Adam's girlfriend out front, they decide to try fake being together to make everyone jealous. 
You probably won't be terribly surprised to discover how that turns out, but this book was really enjoyable for having great relationships and interactions.  It's told in first person and yet I totally got the family, and the sibling dynamics and even the parental reactions. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Importance of Zeroes

I once spent a fascinating amount of time calling a phone company.  I was trying to pay a bill (not my own, but for a relative lest you thin I am some kind of strange phone bill fairy) and had managed to locate an old bill with the account number but I couldn't find a recent bill with a charge detail.  I got to the total amount due, and while not mortgage payment territory, it was large enough that I just wanted to make sure nothing hinky was going on in the billing.  I had to get transferred several times and explain my request before finally getting to a person who could provide the info. So, I can only imagine the frustration this French woman felt when she received the final bill for her service and discovered the termination fee was apparently ten trillion pounds. Or eleven quadrillion euros
She called the phone company to let them know that clearly there was some sort of error, and the first few operators gave her the party line that the fees are automatically calculated, they have no control over that, and so on.  Finally she managed to get to somebody who took a look and realized that the decimal point had shifted a tad too far to the right and instead of €11,721,000,000,000,000, it should actually be €117.21. Oops.

Monday, October 08, 2012

In Which the Internet Helps People be Lovely

There is a lot of discussion about how easy it is to trash people on the internet.  But, I think what gets less air time is that the internet can also assist people banding together in good ways. 
Someone posted a picture on Reddit of a woman with a beard.  Quite quickly commenters, and it turned out the subject herself showed up to explain how this was a photo of a Sikh woman, and that part of their religious observance is to not change the superficial things about the body that they have been given, instead to appreciate it.  Go, read her much more eloquent statement. This ended with the original poster apologizing and hopefully a few people learning a little more.
And in one of those things I like to believe only happen in movies, a girl was nominated to homecoming court as a joke.  Because she's so not popular.  The guy who was picked with her withdrew.  But her town created a Facebook support page and rallied around her, with folks offering to buy her dress, dinner, help get her hair done and residents offering to fill the stands wearing her favorite color in a show of support. 

Thursday, October 04, 2012

We Interrupt This Blog... mention that Teddy finally won!  Teddy finally won! For those of you who have missed the national coverage (and seriously, there's a video, but clicky the linky, because you haven't lived until you've seen Roosevelt bobblehead-holding John McCain express his sadness about this), Teddy is one of the racing Presidents at Nationals Park. This has been going on long enough that there are shirts, blogs, and well, an ESPN clip about it.  Apparently, all it took was the Nats clinching the NL East.  In depth coverage of the win here, on the Let Teddy Win blog

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Challenged or Banned

Again, I want to say that I understand as a parent or guardian making a decision that a book is not appropriate for your child.  Personally I lean more toward the let them read it with you and discuss it approach, but no one's waking me up with nightmares, so easy for me to say.  I am somewhat confused at the idea that a book should not be able to any child, or even adult who might make use of that library.  Sure, not every book should be in every kindergarten classroom.  But that is typically not what we are discussing. 
So, with that, I am going to poke a little fun at some of last year's challenges
P.C. and Kristin Cast's Betrayed was challenged for causing kids to think of sex.  Because without this book, they would not ever do that. 
A number of books on the list were challenged for nudity which never ceases to amuse me, because these are not graphic novels or picture books but words.  So, apparently the concern is not that a child would be exposed to naked people, the child would be exposed to words about people.  (Who might be naked.) 
I suppose that should make me feel marginally better that The Awakening by Kate Chopin was challenged because the cover had a painting of a topless woman.  Sadly it does not. 

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

You're Too Old For That Book

We have entered banned books week!  And for this post, I want to talk a little about a different kind of restriction.  My friend and I used to hang out a lot at the Greenbelt Mall.  (Ah, good times.)  And so when they added what looked like some sort of middle ground between a Chuck E Cheese and a Dave and Busters we were excited.  Now this was partly because this mall had limited food selections, unless one wanted to eat at the movie theater or the ice cream shop, and while certainly the greater Greenbelt/College Park area had a plethora of fast food choices, variety was always welcome.  (There were also non-fast food options afoot, our budgets were pretty firmly fast food most days.) Well, you can imagine our sadness to discover the pizza offerings at this new arcade and games joint were not available to us since we did not come with children.  Now, yes, I understand that sadly, some adults might be drawn to such and establishment sans their own children for nefarious purposes, and, yes, I want people's kids to be safe.  But my friend and I could not figure out why we couldn't play the games (through the windows it appeared, other than the ball pit, adults could partake in all of the games) or eat the food.  But no. 
But, it seems, as an avid reader of YA and the occasional middle grade (MG) book that letting me take out books from the library poses no risk.  Certainly, in a surfeit of cautiousness I could see why libraries might want to restrict kids areas from unattached adults, but I have to tell you I, kidless (not even a babysitting charge in sight) had the pleasure of hearing Flat Stanley read aloud by the author (although my mom was with me, does that count, even though I was fully grown?) and it was awesome.  And certainly I understand that libraries budgets are crunched (assuming they still have one to speak of) so if first priority for books aimed at kids went to kids, I'd be all for that.  But if a book is in the library and I cannot get it out because I am too old - well, I have to ask why?  Why is my reading something aimed at a different age group an undesirable thing?  Why should I have to produce proof of child to do this? 
When this came up on Twitter the issue of teachers was raised.  (In fact the person who mentioned it was a teacher.)  But also, this makes shelving marketing decisions super crucial.  After all, with talk that books like Huckleberry Finn and Carrie would be (and sometimes are) shelved as YA today, so who decides if I am allowed to get that book out.  And again, I am stuck on the why. Could I be planning to lure innocent children with my excellent library lending?  Could I be getting terrible ideas from these teen books?  Will I use my broadened knowledge of texting and teen slang to annoy my co-workers?  (Okay, that's actually possible.)
The only thing I can come up with is some sort of mirror law type thing where someone has decided if kids are going to be restricted from some books then adults should also get restricted.  Seriously, don't make me get a fake ID to take a book out of the library. 

Monday, October 01, 2012

Baltimore Book Fest

Sunday I was at the Baltimore Book Fest.  Schedule-wise, that was the only day I managed, but it was fun-filled and awesome so there you go.  And not just because I got to hang out with and stalk and support quite a few fellow writer chapter mates. (Although that wasn't a bad thing, certainly.) 
We started in the SFWA tent with a great discussion of good vs. evil and the use of spirituality in fiction with Tom Doyle and Kate Milford and moderated by Catherine Asaro. There were some great discussions of how to balance the use of cultures that may be less familiar to you and/or your primary audience.  Also a lot of talk about how building evil's reasons and justification is just as important as good's (assuming your protagonist is up against evil, although I imagine it still applies if that is not the case.) 
Then there was a discussion of idea generation (in other words where do writers find them) with Don Sakers, Sara Beth Durst, Jack McDevitt and Alethea Kontis.  Alethea said she has a guy, she just leaves money under the pillow.  But, more seriously, it always fascinates me to listen to the things that got people started down a story path. 
Then we hopped to the Maryland Romance Writers tent where Debra Anastasia, Jennifer L. Armentrout, Christi Barth, Stephanie Draven and Patricia Eimer spoke about humor in books.  There was some great discussion about how humor can be use to both break up bleaker moments and also stretch out pacing and information.  Also, quite a few of the authors said many times the funny sidekick can help the writer carry through the series, not just the reader, although it also helps to have someone for them to riff off of or play against.
We took a food break, although we ate adjacent to MRW tent, so got to hear some of the readings (in particular the lovely Robin Covington's, rumor has it she kept a straight face despite some friends in the audience trying to distract her.  I swear I was not that friend.  You know, this time.) 
Sharon Buchbinder, Kate Dolan, Eliza Knight and Rebecca York gave some good tips on being a healthy writer.  Not shockingly that included moving more (they had some good tips on how to do that, including laundry lunges).  Also, Rebecca York talked about something I hadn't properly considered.  She had moved herself and her husband (since she does the food making) to a low fat diet way back when, only to discover that for her husband, that increased his bad cholesterol, and he really did better on a low carb diet.  I had heard about the reverse, but certainly it makes sense that this would be true to.  (So, in other words, not every diet or food lifestyle works for everyone.)
Kate stuck around with Catherine Asaro, Natalie Damshroder, Stephanie Draven, Laura Kaye and Alethea Kontis to talk about making old stories new again.  Alethea read one of my favorite short stories of hers, with dramatic voices.  The other readings were all really interesting too.  And the panelist had good things to say about making your own spin on things and either going to the source material, in the cases of those riffing off other stories, or inventing your own, for those braving new and different paranormal worlds.
And Stephanie and Laura hung around with Sharon Buchbinder, Loni Lynne and Laura Welling to discuss their favorite monsters.  There seemed to be some disagreement about vampires are cool vs. vampires are over.  There were readings, and, as the rain began to pound, sirens went by and trucks began to pack up for the festival's end, the readings got some added sound effects. 
Fortunately the rain broke as the panel wrapped up and we were all able to make it back to the cars without getting drenched. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Creative Propositions

I just attended a wonderful family wedding, so it seems appropriate to discuss marriage proposals.  I have several friends who have received lovely ones.  Sometimes they are simple, sometimes they are not.  Generally, I think marriage proposals should be like the lawyers on TV say, which is a question you already know the answer to.  There are, of course, exceptions, but the idea here (especially if you are planning anything big or splashy or public) is that you and this person have come to a mutual decision that marriage is a desirable end result and that you can envision committing in such a fashion to one another.  There is a great book somewhere that I will hopefully remember the name of before I post this (uh, nope) wherein the couple are in a big huge disagreement and the one is a coach and so gets his team to help him plan a big, public proposal, and the recipient storms off because, hey, let's get married is not how you solve an argument.  (The argument is later resolved, things are re-proposed and then accepted.  And actually, even if I can remember this is a huge, huge spoiler so not telling.  (If you really must know email me.)) So yes, even though these folks are fictional, still, good point there. 
Anyhoo, while there is certainly nothing wrong with a basic, heartfelt proposal, the interwebs and my TV screen are full of bigger, huger, more creative proposals.  As with most things, knowing your target seems key here.  So, I present two very different proposals, both accepted so clearly found the appropriate targets even if I personally would have, um, drawn blood had I been the recipient of one.  (I'll let you guess which one.) One is here.  And one here.  (Both links have no sound or other things that might give you away.) 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

TBR Challenge: Not Romance

I confused myself and thought this month was non-fiction and I was not feeling the non-fiction vibe.  But, it turns out I should remember better and it's really not romance. 
I read Marjorie M. Liu's The Mortal Bone which is part of the Hunter Kiss series.  I have read this series from the beginning, and tend to pick up each new entry quickly and then leave then to linger, less because I'm not looking forward to them, but because into Maxine's life, even with her boys and her growing band of folks, big bad things are coming. It is, as one would expect from an urban fantasy, life and death. Now, I will try to be vague enough as to not spoil anything too much, but if you wish to remain fresh and blissfully unaware, it is probably time to look away.  Also, I covered an entry in Liu's Dirk and Steele series a while back, and that one, while there are some plot lines that arc through the series, I didn't find it difficult to jump in mid-stream.  The Hunter Kiss series I think lends itself less to that.  It's probably doable, but I think it would be harder to rank the import of some things without the prior knowledge. 
In this one, Maxine and her boys (demons assigned to protect her, who live on her as tattoos through the day, emerging at night) are separated.  For the first time in eons, they are able to roam free, free from Maxine, free from each other and free to do what they want. This creates some interesting conundrums, others are worried that the Reaper Kings will return to their old ways without the stability of being attached to a person and Maxine has to face how being just herself again works in this world where lots of things want her dead.  There's some really interesting stuff about power and how it changes people and choices and control.  I became convinced partway through this that in many ways, this was a weird allegory about pet ownership. (Probably only my interpretation, but there you go.) 
I really enjoyed this installment and look forward to the next. 
This only came out last year, so hadn't been lingering too far back into the TBR pile. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

60 Things

Apparently it is library card sign up month, and so there is this list of things one can do with the library card which I share not just because I love list of things (although I do) and not just because number one is the main thing I do with my card, but because, well, there's several good things in there, I think you should read all 60. 

h/t to the fellow knitter who provided this link.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Book Counseling

Someone had posted on Twitter that they wished there was a tumblr or something where you could go to check the end of a book before you buy.  Some people (myself included) were a little horrified. Now, I get that in a bookstore you can walk in an flip through the pages and no one will stop you if it's the end you want to sample.  And I get that that is your choice.  I guess for me, half the fun is going in and being surprised.  So, sure, if you read the end you can pick up on subtle foreshadowing, better spot the red herrings, but why would you want to? I don't read back cover copy because it give away too much.  (Okay, also because sometimes it's terribly misleading.  And sometimes I do read it.)  But, there are times when I wish I could call someone.  A book hotline with counselors. You know sometimes a story started out okay, or at least not badly, and then something happens and you think oh no.  Not oh no, poor characters, that is going to suck for them.  But oh no, they are not going where I think they are going are they?  Because if they do that I will throw this book against the wall.  And I wish I could call, not for spoilers, but for a check in.  Something like, hi, I'm on page 128 and this thing just happened and are they going to do X, because if so, I can just quit now, that's one of my personal buttons and I will not be able to move on from that. 
But sadly, you can't.  (Unless you do have a friend who has read it, which is the advantage of such things as LibraryThing and GoodReads and the like.)  So, you have to decide, am I enjoying this enough to see if this story redeems itself for me?  And that's really part of the fun. 

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

7 Things: This Reality Show is Not For You

Things are never quite what you think, and while that makes like terribly fascinating, it can often make things that you sign on for, well, not quite what you thought you were signing on for.  Given the two folks that left voluntarily from "Project Runway" this season, it seems there is some confusion.  On the one hand, one imagines that much like the you should sell that stuff compliment that the non-crafty folks are often saying to the crafty folks in their lives, everyone who has ever operated a sewing machine (or in some cases has not) is being pushed to go on "Project Runway".  But, it seems in addition to the various screenings and such that the show puts you through, some people are still confused.  So, here are my cannot operate a sewing machine but can and have watched every episode bits of advice. 
1. You cannot sew.  Seriously.  Hasn't been one of these folks in a while, but learn to sew.  Learn to sew by hand, on machines, probably on multiple machines.  Ideally watch a recent episode and figure out what machine they had there and try one of those.  Also, learn how to fix it when stuff happens.  I'm not saying take sewing machine repair (although that's not a terrible idea) but know what to do when the thread gets tangled or the thingy snaps, or all the typical things that happen when people are rushing and racing for time. 
2. You hate working with non-fabric.  There has never been a season where they didn't have an unconventional materials challenge.  Never.  Food features a lot, but there's been pet stores, flowers stores, car parts, recyclables, etc. And seriously, never assume you can just be safe for that one challenge. 
3. You don't like making [insert type of clothing here].  Now, maybe you don't make pants a lot, or dresses a lot, but invariably, whatever that one thing is (unless it's a hat, you can probably make it through a whole season without making a hat) you will be called upon to make it.  So, get ready, or don't go. 
4. You hate working under pressure.  There is all sorts of things that I imagine one discovers they fudge for the cameras, but I'm pretty sure the stress and the time are not.  So, if you once, kinda sorta finished something in a day, but it was really something you started three weeks ago, practice now. 
5. You hate working with other people.  There has never been a season where there was not some sort of team or pairs challenge.  In fact some seasons had more of those than singular ones (or so it seemed).  If you are not ready or willing to work with someone else, you will be unhappy and again, you cannot count on loving the person you work with or even that getting along with them will create the design synergy you desired and you cannot count (again) on being safe or the judges understanding that you are a genius and clearly the whole problem was your partner.  Much like group projects in college, it's not done but it's the other person's fault rarely flies. 
Also 5b. is you like a controlled environment to work in.  If other people talking or hammering things or generally being while you work stresses you out, again I refer you to the show.  You will be in a room with other designers.  In the early days you will share a table.  If that stresses you out, not the show for you.
6. You hate feedback.  If your design process has you disappearing into a cocoon and emerging with a fully finished garment before anyone ever comments, this will be a shock. People will comment.  Many viewers favorite parts are the Tim critiques, and again, you cannot count on them all being glowing.  And if people coming up and commenting on your work in progress (to say nothing of the finished piece) stresses you out, then this is not the show for you.
7. You hate working with clients. Yeah, so there has also never been a season without clients.  (And yeah, I know, I've covered this before.) Clients that are often not models.  They have been relatives, former contestants, kids of all ages, drag queens, wrestling divas and many other things.  It has never not happened.  Clients, in addition to having thoughts, desires and feelings about your work in progress, also may not be model sized. They will likely be a different size than the form you've been given. (In fact, some designers have gotten models larger or smaller than their form, most of them have simply worked with that.) If the mere thought of that sends you into a tailspin, then, again, not the show for you.  Certainly people have whined through this challenge and survived, but if your goal in coming on this show was exposure, trust me, whining about designing for people with imperfect bodies will not get you the type of exposure you were looking for.   

Monday, August 27, 2012

And the Links Go On

I thought I had linked to the Ukulele Orchestra before, but it appears I have not.  A friend alerted me to this amazing sea shanty also known as The Who's "Pinball Wizard".  It's light on the ukulele, but worth a listen nonetheless. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Please Enjoy this Link

As you might have sussed from the blog silence, things have been nutty.  But I saw these photos of old timey Glen Echo Park and was charmed. We went to Glen Echo Park quite a few times when I was a child, either to partake of the merry go round and giant slide (and no, I did not once hold up the line at the giant slide gathering up the courage to slide down, who told you that?) or to see the plays at Adventure Theatre.  Glen Echo Park has undergone a transition or seven, but these photos are still fun. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

TBR Challenge 2012: It's a Hard Life, This Reading

I had been reading like a crazy person of late, so I was sure I had some good stuff to choose from for the TBR challenge, until I looked at the list and realized I had been focused on stuff that only recently entered my pile, even if some of the books themselves were old.  So, no problem, steamy reads are practically a no brainer search in my pile, so I pulled some stuff off the shelf (actual shelf) and was...uninspired.  It's possibly more me when both a firefighter and a football story just left me flat.  But, there was this one, Karina Cooper's Blood of the Wicked which had been lingering in my pile for no good reason, considering how excited I was to read it.  And fortunately, it lived up to my expectations.  (I almost wrote our there, but that would be mighty presumptuous of me.)
A post-apocalyptic tale of a woman named Jessie who's been living off the grid since she's from a family of witches and these days the government has whole organizations dedicated to witch hunting. Things are going pretty well until a guy named Silas shows up in her bar.  He's been looking for her since they suspect her brother's involved in something huge and figure she's their best shot at getting close to him. And while post-apocalyptic might not sound like the best choice for steamy, um, yeah, Silas.  I really enjoyed this one and, amusingly after having grown tired of a string of books that could be titled failure to communicate, oh there are lies and half truths littered all over this book, which proves, if its motivated it well, I can sign on for many things. 
This book came out last year, so it wasn't like I had been sitting on it forever, but clearly, I need to get cracking and read the next. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

7 Things: An Olympic Review

1. I acknowledge that this is hard.  There are a lot of sports.  It is probably impossible to cover them all, especially since people might want to tune into your channel occasionally for things like local news.  Or morning shows.  Added to that, if my loved one was competing in the Olympics, I would want them shown.  There are a lot of loved ones out there, and not just on team USA. 
2. I acknowledge that sports are unpredictable.  A lot of these, erm, human interest pieces had to be done in advance, you know, when the athlete had time in their schedule to hang out and show the reporter their dogs or their bedroom or what have you. So, if you have a queued up piece about person who just kerplunked (where we assume kerplunking is bad) it's not like you have a spare about someone else lying around. And hey, the story behind the kerplunker is still interesting, but I get that sometimes you can't just whip out the piece about that other athlete that just did that amazing thing that no one expected.
3. The audience has better access to information nowadays.  I'm not saying the internet was just invented or anything. (And hey, as a UU, I knew who Tim Berners-Lee was before the opening ceremonies.) But I do think people are more accustomed to receiving news via the internet and gathering it from multiple sources.  So, the veil of what will happen in the events that are time-shifted, well, that's not working so much anymore.
4. Now that we all know that it's time shifted, the suspense feels false. I understand, for example, from a drama standpoint why you would spend long moments of footage showing people staring up at the results board, but the reality is that I may already have this info.  So, now, I'm wondering why you couldn't cram some, what's it called, actual sports in there instead.  And when these long moments are occurring late into my bedtime, I have less patience for the manufacturing of the moment. 
5. Sports announcing is a tricky thing.  You have to find a balance between educating your audience to subtle nuances of a sport they may only watch every four years and not saying the same thing over and over again. It's hard not to fall back on cliches (whoever scores most wins (except in golf), falling is bad, speed is good, etc).  I am much more forgiving of such things when I know the announcers are watching this live and just responding off the cuff.  Given that the live coverage and the delayed coverage have different announcers, it seems hard to believe that this is really, truly off the cuff.  (It may be.  I am simply skeptical.)  And well, when you have the benefit of the results, it's easy for the announcers to start seeing weaknesses in people who won't fall for another two minutes. 
6. Given that time delay, and I say this knowing I have never attempted to televise anything ever, so am probably not truly understanding the scope of what's involved, why isn't the commentary, well, better.  Why did no one look at the script that said "racial barriers fell a long time ago" and say, you know, that kinda sounds like we're saying racism is all fixed now, maybe we should revisit that. Why did no one spend a little more time digging up more info and tidbits about the athletes who shined a little bit more than expected?  And why did no one come up with a better way to segue into asking the very first American to win a judo gold medal about being molested? 
7. I understand that sometimes when the scope of what you could cover is so huge, you have to create filters.  So, okay, Olympic coverage will focus on things Americans tend to watch, things Americans are expected to do well in, things with really amazing stories.  (Like, a runner with no legs.)  But, the other side of this is that I am tuning in for international coverage.  When else will I get to see Spanish or Italian beach volleyball players? My recollection is that the last two Olympics had a lot of straight coverage.  A lot of it was relegated to cable channels, but I could watch a whole volleyball game and not get bounced back and forth (no pun intended) to shots of the semifinals of this and the teaser of that.  I realize that in order to show one thing straight through other things have to be tape delayed, it's the nature of the beast, but I like the idea that if I tune in now I can watch X, not a dash of X, a smidge of Y, a teaser of Z, and oh yes a retrospective look back to something from four Olympics ago that has no actual bearing on any of the current participants, that's annoying.  So, really, if I know I'm being time shifted and tape delayed, then being bounced back and forth so they can draw out the things they think I care about in between the other stuff, that's terribly annoying. 

Monday, August 06, 2012

Tenish or So

You may have heard somewhere on the interwebs that NPR is compiling a list of the best YA books.  It will surprise you not at all that I have thoughts. 
First, because nothing makes me love to count more than a list of book, I counted how many I read. This is where the quibbles come.  YA or teen books is sort of a moving target.  It is generally agreed upon that this encompasses books where the protagonist is somewhere in the age of 13-18.  Or of high school age.  But of course, there are historical books that feature sixteen year-olds and are shelved in the adult sections.  (And NPR addressed some of this in their original post.)  And sometimes one has a narrator who pays particular attention to one character who is a teen, but the narrator is definitely not so.  This is often the argument used for Stand By Me that the reflective and mature voice of the narrator makes it an adult story about teens. But upon reflection, I realize I firmly believe that The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is YA and might quibble with The Book Thief and so, I shall perhaps be quiet on that. 
I will say that where NPR helpfully collapsed series, I counted it as read if I had read (and finished) any of the series.  (However, since they separated The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings series, for example, I only counted it as one since I never made it past The Hobbit.)
And while I'm here, I'll share my personal top ten.  Obviously this was culled from those I've actually read, and obviously it was a super hard choice and all the others are worthy except for that one (kidding, I'm kidding). 
So, I have read 48 out of the 234.  (I know!  Such a slacker!)  So, my person top ten (which was so hard - my first pass had 25) is in fact more than that, because after torturing myself I realized aha!  My blog, my rules.  Here we are:
1. American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang
2. Ashfall, by Mike Mullin
3. Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray
4. Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver
5. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
6. The Curse Workers (series), by Holly Black
7. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart
8. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
9. Gallagher Girls (series), by Ally Carter
10. Grave Mercy, by Robin LaFevers
11. How to Save a Life, by Sara Zarr
12. The Hunger Games (series), by Suzanne Collins
13. If I Stay, by Gayle Forman
14. Perfect Chemistry, by Simone Elkeles
15. A Ring of Endless Light, by Madeleine L'Engle
16. Soul Screamers (series), by Rachel Vincent

And I noticed something.  For all my talk about how book clubs that read adult books feature a whole lot of dead and/or dying people, um, there are some dead and/or dying people on this list.  I swear, some of these have happy endings, despite all the, you know, dead people. 

Friday, August 03, 2012

Tangentially Related

I was at a party the night of the Olympic opening ceremonies, so I watched it later.  (Ah, "Flower of Scotland" sung by tiny children.)  As a St. Andrews alum, the "Chariots of Fire" inspired scene was a special notice to me since it originally took place on West Sands in St. Andrews.  (Yes, it is not uncommon to see students on the beach humming the "Chariots of Fire" theme while running in slow mo.)  Well, it appears that they filmed the Olympic ceremony version there also, and student Phil Goose has an account of his participation here

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Rules are Funny Like That

I remember a long ago sports column where the columnist stated that really, anything determined by judges and not clear you get here first (speed) or you get the thing in here (score) is really a pageant.  I'm not really feeling like debating the merits of that at the moment, only bringing it up to make the point that there are things in sports that are arbitrary.  One swimmer (sorry, dude, I already don't remember your name) was talking about the whole concept that all these things measure performance very specifically.  Even in the swimming competitions where there is a clear speed based result, it's only your result in that one race that matters.  You could have had the fastest speed last week, last month, or even that morning at the semi-finals, but in the end the medals go to the fastest in the final.  Sort of the swim equivalent of any given Sunday. 
I was once in tennis lessons.  I reached a point where the divisions by age were leaving me in the middle.  The intermediate class, as they called it, had lots of kids a year or two younger who were still working on some of the finer points of hand eye coordination. The Advanced class had kids mostly a few years older who played tennis all the time.  (It seemed all the I play tennis a few times a summer kids fell out by then.  Except me.)
So, the instructor started getting one of the older kids to come play a match with me during lesson time.  This was when I realized I was not cut out to be a tennis star.  (Not a great shock or anything.)  As he crept ahead of me in games, I wanted to stop.  Just concede defeat.  Not out of embarrassment.  I knew he was a better player before we started.  I just wanted to stop because trying harder and possibly succeeding meant, I could possibly take a set and force us to play another.  And that sounded endless. 
But, this is why I'm not an Olympian.  If I was, well, one hopes I would have gotten over that.  But apparently that was not so for some badminton players.  The round robin system meant some people were essentially in medal contention early enough that losing held no actual downside.  (In theory.  Apparently they lost so badly and so obviously that they have now been removed from the competition.) And while I think the internet (at least my little corner of it) has made their distaste of that clear.  But, go here, this article talks a lot about how this is different than just benching your players because you have a playoff berth, or other shall we say, known instances of trying less hard and how it's still not as bad as this.
And the point is, that there is slacking and there is slacking.  (Or tanking.  Or throwing.) In an Olympics where all sorts of folks are playing with bits bandaged, patched and taped so they can have their shot, in an Olympics where a fencer sat on the piste in tears for hours to keep herself in contention while her team filed an appeal, well, if you're going to lose, at least make it look like you tried. 
Although, I'd be interested in considering some sort of possible redaction of playoff berths if you suck too much.  Food for thought.

h/t to ALOTT5MA for the links

Monday, July 30, 2012

Mouse Ears and Cheerleaders

So, last week I was in Anaheim for the Olympics!  Or possibly for RWA Nationals.  I arrived Monday and examined the pool.  The pool was described to me by a lovely hotel employee as indoor/outdoor.  Um, I would like to quibble with that.  There was a top over half, but since this top had no walls or doors it basically meant that half was shady.  Don't get me wrong, the shade was nice.  (And yes, I do realize I am complaining about a pool.)  The pool was designed for people of smaller stature.  It was four feet deep in the center, but the edges (which comprised two thirds of the pool) were shallower creating that experience of bumping one's knees into the bottom.  But the hot tub and I became great friends. 
One child was very concerned that I had brought my ereader into the hot tub, but I had my drypak, so it was all good. 
I went to Roy's Hawaiian for dinner, because, yum and because as multicultural as the food is in DC, we lack Hawaiian.  The lovely waitress talked me into the pineapple upside down cake with coconut ice cream, and oh it was so good.
I did a little exploring of the area the next day, and some more reading, both in and out of the pool area.  I also did some knitting.  It was a hard day. 
The hotel was located within spitting distance of the convention center where there was a cheerleading competition, so there were some, um, peppy folks headed that way. 
I headed to downtown Disney that evening for dinner because I may have heard that there was a menu designed by a certain "Chopped" judge.  The hotel person kindly warned me that the bus back stopped at midnight.  I told her I was still jet-lagged so was aiming for staying up until ten. 
Wednesday was when the lobby and the Starbucks in the lobby really started to switch over from what appeared to primarily be Disney visitors to book folks.  Ran into a chapter mate in the Starbucks.  Folks toting RWA bags started popping up everywhere.  The YARWA chapter had their big day of workshops which was excellent even if the raffle was obviously rigged. The Literacy Signing was in the convention center, which worked out great because it meant that there was tons of space.  (The seating order was strange, but that's another story.)
I fangirled at a lot of people.  I told Jennifer Echols she had made me cry on the plane (Such a Rush) and she wanted to know which part. (Yeah, I thought I was so clever reading about a pilot while on a plane.)
The cherries gathered up for dinner at Cheesecake which was fabulous (even if they were out of my favorite kind). 
Thursday I went to workshops galore.  And Thursday is also the point where the days blur.  There were conversations in the line at Starbucks, in the hallway, in the lobby, outside of workshops.  I saw people I knew everywhere.  I stalked some people successfully enough that they now remember they are supposed to know me.  There were books.  Oh, yeah, Friday I helped lay out the books for lunch, I remember that part, as does my back.  I asked people what they were reading.  One woman in the lobby was reading Meg Cabot's Abandon, which had been in our bags.  She had started reading it to see if she could give it to her daughter and, um, couldn't stop. (I read it on the plane back - fun read.) 
Had dinner with a fellow YA writer.  Talked in the bar for hours with folks.  The luncheon speakers - Robyn Carr and Stephanie Laurens were both excellent.  And the award recipients at lunch gave lovely speeches. 
There were more books, more book signings, more people.  Had great conversations about knitting and books and one time, books about knitting.  Got to hang out at the St. Martin's party and then some more in the lobby, and then the bar.  (And the rumors about the bar closing early did not seem true, but perhaps I was still jet lagged.) 
I did cast on for my Ravellenic Games project Friday afternoon, only to realize Saturday morning that I had read the color chart backwards and have to restart.
Saturday was the awards day and well, there were sparkles and sequins and glitter and bling.  I had met quite a few Golden Heart finalists on this trip, in addition to the ones from my chapter.  And well, it did seem that knowing me was not much help to winning. Lorenda Christensen set the bar high as the first winner by doing a "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" inspired rap.  One winner confessed she almost hadn't made it because her son was in the hospital.  There were lots of thanks to spouses and friends and kids for putting up with living with a writer.  As we moved into the Rita's there were the first two wins for digital first presses.  And the first win for the Harlequin Presents line.  Barbara O'Neal made it into the RWA Hall of Fame with her win.  And Brenda Jackson received her well-deserved Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement award. 
That was the night that I actually noticed what time they closed the patio and when last call was.  (It was probably bedtime, although not everyone seemed to agree.)  Lots of goodbyes.  Every year there are more people I wish I could have spent more time with, which really is the best problem too have. 
I got out early for my shuttle the next morning to discover there were quite a few people waiting for shuttles with times early than my scheduled time.  One of the hotel staffers spotted the cloud of frustration and came out and called the shuttle with one of the earlier folks confirmation numbers. (She had already called and been told five minutes, fifteen minutes before.)  A shuttle did arrive, but it was apparently my shuttle (and seven others standing there).  She did make one substitution for someone who had bailed and taken a cab.  (The shuttle was about five minutes late for the window they had given us.  Nothing terrible, but enough to make folks nervous). The woman who hopped on was the one whose son was in the hospital.  She felt bad since there were folks out there who'd been waiting longer.  I told her really, in the grand scheme of things taking the airport shuttle was not a big life debt and everyone knew she wanted to get home to her son.  (She got an automated call about her shuttle later.)  Hilariously, after folks were worrying because if security or traffic was bad the cushion built in to the pick up time was disappearing, the van pulled in to the gas station to gas up.  Everyone was polite, since we all realized running out of gas on the highway helped no one, but it was not keeping folks calm.
We did make it to the airport.  Security wasn't bad, but basically I got to the gate and they had started boarding, so while I was not actually in danger of missing my flight, it was closer than I would have imagined given the shuttle pick up was scheduled for 2.5 hours before my flight.
There was food, sun, books, knitting time, pool time, and writer friend bonding.  It was a great thing and next year is Atlanta!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Things People Say

So, the tricky thing about writing is that in real life, people say things that are wrong. In fiction people can do this to, but then the reader needs context so they can determine is this character an idiot, or misinformed, or is this an author problem. Perfect example, my roommate from Florida spent a lot of time trying to explain extreme humidity to me, because she was sure I had not experienced that. (That summer she learned.)
So, if I read a book set in the south where a born and raised Southerner explains that their summers are hot and long, that makes sense to me. And if said character says that to someone from say Chicago, I buy that too. But if the Chicago character then says something like wow, that sounds hot I start to wonder. Because I've been to Chicago in the summer. It's hot. And I see the temps on the weather map on the news, that wasn't a freak occurrence. So, either the character from Chicago is worried entirely about summer length or, the author didn't research Chicago since the book wasn't set there. Either way, I stopped reading for a moment.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

TBR Challenge 2012: How Did This Get Here (Kind of)

So, despite the fact that, ahem, I have been known to buy the same book twice only to discover it lurking on my shelf (or find it sitting on a digital shelf, although, in my defense, most of my digital duplicates are due to someone telling me the purchase didn't go through, but it really did) - ah, where were we?  Right, so despite all that, I am crazy good at remembering where I got books.  I can usually even tell you if it was a sale purchase or I got it at conference and if it was in the conference bag or I picked it up from a giveaway table.  I took a stroll through both my in person and digital shelves, and I got nothing I can't account for.  Even stuff I no longer feel any particular draw for I remember about where it came from.  Or why. 
So, I'm going to talk about Julie James' Something About You. I remember the buzz about this.  I think I picked it up not long after it was a pick for Save the Contemporary. So, I meant to read it really soon after.  And then one day I tried.  Didn't work.  So due to one of those fascinating and happily unusual sets of circumstances, I was unable to make my copy work and unable to get another*.  So, anyway, I ended up getting a copy from the library and I'm still counting it because I bought this book two years ago even if the actual copy I read belongs to the lovely folks at the DC public library.  And technically we could argue instead of How Did This Get Here, I'm going for a Hey, What Took You So Long.  (Those of you pointing out that's the entire point of the TBR challenge, um, yeah, I see your point.)
Oh right, so the book.  Love.  Just, totally worth all that wait.  Prosecutor Cameron Lynde calls the front desk after the couple in the next room's, erm, antics seem headed for yet another round at three in the morning.  Except hotel security discovers a dead body in the room, and now Cameron's a witness. And the special agent assigned, Jack Pallas is of course the agent whose case she had to toss a few years back resulting in him telling the TV cameras that she's an idiot.  So, they are thrilled to be working together again. 
In many ways it sounds like lots of other books, and in some ways it is.  What makes it great is just smart characters.  They don't want to work together but they are professionals, so they suck it up and do.  They don't keep stupid secrets from each other.  There isn't a stupid fight where he storms off leaving her unprotected just in time for the killer to show up nor does she lie about where she's going and try to just take a break from protective custody.  There was banter, there was bad guy POV that didn't totally make me crazy, there were smart people up against some worthy villains, it was good.  Oh, and yeah, Cameron and Jack might also discover some chemistry together. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Presented With Caveat

So, we've all been there.  You are sitting on the coffee shop, the metro, the sidewalk, a cocktail party, and near you a conversation breaks out.  A conversation between two people who are at odds.  About each other.  And, well, if you are me, you are both fascinated and yet sad.  Other people's relationships, and discussions thereof, and my opinions of your relationship (which, are of course tempered by the fact that I am only getting a glimpse of your life in an unflattering moment). And sometimes it gets uncomfortable enough that I want to leave, but also, despite the fact that for whatever reason you are having this discussion in public in earshot of all of the rest of us, makes me want to pretend I cannot hear, even as I listen closely. 
And sometimes you are there with a friend and you can try to subtly catch their eye and suppress giggles/horror/etc.  Or you can recount it later to others.  Or, in this day and age of social media, you can live tweet it to your followers.  (Who might then retweet it to their friends, and so on.)
So, the title of my post is because, I am also a trained sex ed teacher, and I cannot, in good conscience, send you to this link without the following note.  (Spoiler averse may link and come back.  Or, since honestly, I won't be able to tell, you can all do that.  Or not.)  There is a reference to the morning after pill and in this discussion.  I realize that this conversation took place in Britain, but this is not a slang issue, so much as confusion.  I am aware that health care in UK covers things that our health care often does not.  Nonetheless, the pill referred to as the morning after pill, is emergency contraception.  So, if a female has had contact with sperm without some form of contraception (or with insufficient contraception) this acts as essentially a high level dose.  If the female in question is already pregnant, due to either prior contact or the, shall we say, swift moving nature of such things, it will not end the pregnancy.  And since I'm just a random internet person, no matter what I say, I'm going to link to Planned Parenthood's page about it. 
So, now that I've got that off my chest,  that was some fight, huh?

Monday, July 09, 2012

What's in an EBook?

Once upon a time, I tried to order a gift certificate on line.  I was offered the choice of having the certificate mailed to me (or the recipient) for a small shipping an handling fee or having it emailed, for the same small shipping and handling fee.  I was annoyed.  I know a person  is probably involved in overseeing this process, but I was annoyed at being charged the same amount for something printed and mailed as for something emailed. 
I think this is how a lot of people feel about ebooks. They don't get printed, assembled, or shipped.  So, what am I paying for anyway.  Obviously there is still an author and hopefully an editor, there are cover artists, and other people who do things.  So, I found this article that talks a little about the process.  I had also read (in a restricted article that I cannot link to, sadly) that ebook, due to the variety of formats require additional quality checks, since they may render differently on different devices.  So, do I think I should be paying hardback prices for ebook, certainly not.  But, there are still lots of people working to make my reading experience happy. 

Monday, July 02, 2012

In Which I Make Excuses

So, as promised, I took a stab at YALSA's best of the best challenge. And as predicted, I failed.  You know, at least according to their rules (which, yes, were the rules in play here).
My excuses are:
I read lots and lots of books during the time frame, they just weren't all YA or all YA from that list.
I was busy, you know with work and knitting and social stuff.  (Yeah, those other books I read sort of belie this point a bit.) 
I had to (no really, had to) read some books for my book clubs, and none of them were on this list.  (Except the ones from prior meetings which I had already read.) 
I like to genre hop - read a contemp YA then a adult historical then a romantic suspense then a something else. 
I also participated in something called revision hell. 
Did I mention I have a job? 
Oh, and the other thing I hadn't quite realized - some of the books on this list are a trap.  Because, for example I wanted to read Holly Black's Red Glove but first I wanted to read White Cat. (I'm sure they stand alone fine.  But White Cat  was really good so I am happy to have read it.) And so, basically I determined that some of these secretly (or perhaps not secretly since technically I am often the first to tell you that good books read well out of order to) required pre-work.  And sure, you could ask when I read White Cat  or when I got Red Glove and note that, just perhaps, I could have gotten that taken care of but that is not the point.  (I might be saving Red Glove for a reward.  Also not the point.) 
I also read Gayle Forman's If I Stay (which was heart wrenching) in preparation for reading Where She Went, but didn't quite get there yet.
So, here's how many from this list I actually read in the time frame. 
Six.  I know.  I mean, they were all good, so there was that. 
The six were:
Veronica Roth's Divergent (first in the series) - a YA dystopian which I started on my way back from Chicago which was funny since it takes place there.
Moira Young's Blood Red Road (you may begin to see why I needed to break these up) - also YA dystopian, written in present tense with dialect which I usually hate, but just did not put this down.  (Also, first in series.)
Marie Lu's Legend - YA dystopian (although we could probably have a discussion about where on the line some of these fall between dystopian and post-apocalyptic) which had an interesting conflict.  (Also first in series.)
Tara Altebrando's Dreamland Social Club - YA contemporary about a girl who's family has moved to where her mom grew up, Coney Island.
Sarah Dessen's What Happened to Goodbye - YA contemporary about a girl who has landed at her second high school this year. 
Ruta Sepetys' Between Shades of Grey - YA historical about a family sent to a Siberian work camp during World War II.

And not that it counts at all, but I did also read other books by authors on the list - in addition to A. S. King, Malindo Lo, .  Just haven't made it to this lists two.

So, gosh darnit, this means I have to do more reading.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Croc vs. Crocs

I've been vocal about my dislike of crocs. But it turns out they can win a fight with an actual crocodile.  Yes a hungry South Carolina crocodile got some unexpected jaw exercise in as it tried to eat a croc.  In the end it gave up.  (Dear crocodile, you're not missing out, there's no nutrients there, and I bet they don't even taste good.)  Of course, there's an argument to be made that your crocs should not be anywhere a crocodile could mistake them for food.  If you are done with your crocs, perhaps try recycling instead. 

h/t to Wait, Wait Don't tell me for the this story.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Faux Personal Touch

Once upon a time I bought a dress at a nearby boutique.  I had a coupon (one of those local group discount type things) and since it was attached to my email, I gave them my email address.  They sent me a thank you for my purchase.  A week later they were having a trunk sale featuring the designer that had made the dress I purchased.  They sent one (one!) email letting me know that since I had purchased a dress by this person I might want to check out the trunk sale.  (I did.)
Recently I sent an email to a company about removing me from their paper catalog list. I can't think of the last time I ordered something from a paper catalog rather than perusing online and these things are cluttering my mailbox.  I didn't try to take myself off the email list, just the catalogs.  I have tried with this company before and got myself bumped down to special sales only.  My email contained my name and address and my wish.  This is the response I received, with all identifying information removed. 

"Dear Tara,

Thank you, so much, for taking the time to contact us.  You have asked how to opt out of our coupons and mailings.  It is my privilege to respond to you personally.

I am happy to inform you that you may add or remove your information online to receive our store coupons. Please click on the link below.

[Link that takes me to a site that asks for my name and address and if I want to be added or removed from their communications.]

This information is updated in our systems once per month.  Depending on the date of the last update, it may take up to 60 days for your information to be reflected on our list.  You will also need to activate your request by providing this same telephone number and e-mail address during your next store purchase.    

Tara, you've chosen [Company Name]. We think of that as a privilege. So, if there's anything more we can do for you, please e-mail or call us any time.


[Name of Service Rep]"

Now here's the thing.  Call me cynical but I believe that a person wrote this just for me about as much as I believe in bi-partisanship.  I'm sure someone wrote this at some time.  And I understand the value of having, as they like to say in the corporate world, a consistent message.  But this is about as personalized as a pre-printed Comic Sans fonted sticky note.  Yes, it provides the information I asked for.  I could even possibly uncranky myself to say, perhaps they are so bombarded by people trying to get off their mailing list that they have a link because using their actual employees to do that would take too long.  So now, I have to re-provide the information and then wait to see if it really works.  (I am totally ignoring this crap about providing this information to the next cashier.  Not gonna happen.) 
So, what's my point?  This pretend personal email has made me more cranky than a plain old - hey, to get yourself off the list, click here would have.  That would have annoyed me.  But this annoys me more because it pretends to address my needs and still makes me do all the work.  This is not personal service.  Making me re-provide previously provided information is, in fact, impersonal.  Don't insult me by pretending it's not.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

TBR Challenge 2012: Western

Yes, back on the TBR horse.  Yes, that is even funnier given this month's theme.  Once again I tackled a Harlequin Desire, this one Charlene Sands' The Cowboy's Pride. This contains one of my favorite tropes, the separated couple.  And one of my less favorite, although I was fine with it here - the secret baby. 
So, Trish and Clay were married.  They started fighting about having kids, and in the middle of that, Trish walked in on him looking very cozy on the couch with an ex and walked right back out the door.  She secretly hoped he'd come running after, instead he filed for divorce.  Now it's a year later and they are ready to finalize the divorce and have also just started up a foundation to help transition kids who spent large parts of their childhood in hospitals back into normal life.  (Sort of a post-hospital halfway house.) So, Trish has returned to the ranch to help launch the foundation and has brought the secret baby (that was not a secret to the cover artist).  Yes, while she was gone her dear friend lost her husband, discovered she was pregnant, had the baby, and then died of an illness leaving the kid to Trish.  So, Trish, who had been one on the no babies for me yet side of the argument, now has a baby. 
Now, most of these two's issues could have been resolved if someone had locked them in a room and forced them to talk, but I didn't find their conflict unbelievable.  I enjoyed the story, and really my only quibble would be that the resolution comes less as a result of them coming to their senses or talking to each other and more because a number of well-meaning family members sit them down and talk to them.  I was still happy with their resolution though. 
I also want to mention that Trish is ambivalent about motherhood, and I found the depiction of this really interesting.  She loves this baby and is determined to figure out how to offer the best for her, but she struggles and not just in a showing up for a meeting with spit up on her shirt kind of way. 
This story made great use of the Arizona ranch setting too.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Who Are You Going to Call?

Imagine you are on vacation.  Oh yeah...Sorry, um yes.  So, you are on vacation and you go for a little boat ride and then the tide changes and the boat gets stuck on the rocks.  You think, well, this is the modern age, we'll just whip out our cell phone and call...wait, um what do they use for emergencies in this country.  And the tide is still doing it's thing and so, you rifle through your purse looking for something and you find a drug store receipt.  With a phone number.  So, you call them and explain that you are, hi, stuck on some rocks, and could they please call someone to help you. 
Now first, applause to the lovely couple from Italy for the quick thinking.  And, hah, those little pieces of paper come in handy. (Okay, maybe not all of them.)  And then, yay for the woman at the drug store who realized, this was not a hoax and called out emergency services and the coast guard to help them (and their little dog too) out.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Guide to Bathing Suit Cover Ups

It has come to my attention that some people appear confused about this, and as the weather makes many of us wish that laying poolside was all we had to accomplish today, I expect this to continue. 
So, I think mostly, people understand that bathing suits are generally worn at the pool or the beach.  (If you did not already know this, um, now you do.)  Sure, there are rivers and rock quarries other places where people swim, so perhaps we should say bathing suits are for swimming, but, of course, no one is going to make you swim.
Now, if your plans for the day look something like this - swim (or lounge water adjacent), eat, repeat, I think we all understand that getting into and out of bathing suits can be a challenge, so on or near a lot of places where swimming occurs, there are casual eating establishments that have a lax approach to the general expectation held my most eating establishments that their patrons be clothed.  There are also bathing suit cover ups that are generally sheer and/or lacy, but allow the impression (at least at first glance) that you are dressed. 
Some places, particularly beachfront will extend this radius to anything that is say, along the boardwalk. 
However, once you get beyond this radius, the normal rules resume.  Now people expect you to be clothed.  And certainly no one should be checking to see if you have underwear or a bathing suit on but this also means, I, person unknown to you, do not need to know whether you have underwear or bathing suit on.  Here's how I will become aware (whether I want to or not.)
-If you have a bathing suit on in place of a shirt.  No, your bathing suit does not look like outerwear.  It might look like a bra, but given that a bra is also not appropriate out and about wear, the bathing suit-ness of it all is not an improvement. 
-If you have on a bathing suit cover up.  Cover ups sometimes look from afar like other items of clothing, but as previously mentioned they are lacy and or sheer.  This means that I (and everyone else) can clearly see what is under them, again, whether I want to or not. 
Now, it may seem like it's confusing to figure out where this swimming adjacent radius ends.  My suggestion is two fold.
One.  When in doubt, wear real clothes.  Street clothes.
Two.  If you cannot see the thing in which you might swim, you are probably pas the radius, so put on the real clothes.