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.