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.