Friday, March 30, 2012

The Linkety Links

If you are in need of some heart warmth and happiness, may I suggest the following:
Chapter-mate Stephanie Dray (who also goes by Stephanie Draven) relates her tale of getting the call about the Rita nomination.
A look into a day in the life of Batman.  (Yes, you may have heard about him speeding. This is about his hospital visits to sick kids.)
And more news that chocolate makes you skinny(er).

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Static vs. Interactive

As some of my fellow noodlers have already heard, I went to the Art in Video Games exhibit at the American Art Museum over the weekend.  Now, going in I basically knew the title.  I'm a big fan of science museums, in part because they tend to employ a good level of interaction, but given that it was an art museum I expected this to be more static, which was fine.  I want to say, up front, that I am still thrilled that this exhibit exists.  I'm not a huge gamer, but certainly even my peripheral awareness can tell the difference between Super Mario Brothers and World of Warcraft and see that there has been a clear effort to render not just graphics but worlds. And, you know, it was free.
There were a few stations up front that had videos of folks talking.  One of them had a guy talking about the complexity of music composition for a game where the player doesn't have to progress in a linear fashion, which I found really interesting.  There were stations with several games, mostly of the old school style.  I was there on a rainy Saturday, so was unsurprised to find the stations all taken with small children.  (I heard one kid getting off the elevator say with glee, "I've never gotten to play a game in a museum before!")
The next segment perplexed me.  There were stations again, divided by gaming system listing four categories of games per station, with one display of each (I guess that was the art part) stacked on top of each other and each station had a handset where you could listen to something.  (I tend not to like handset displays, and again, many were already occupied.)  Now, this may be a non-gamer thing, but displaying by game system seemed an interesting choice.  Certainly the systems have different capabilities and games offered, and I'm sure that has some effect on the art, but it seems like the modern systems advances have been more about the player method of interactions, and not so much the graphical display.  And the choice to stack the art in static form in columns of four meant that it looked almost like the art wasn't the focus at all. 
I, personally would have been fine with the art being displayed in static images so you could better examine the detail, but the back lit graphics just looked washed out and busy since they were all jammed up together.  Hopefully more exhibits like this will occur.  The NPR Monkey See blog has a post suggesting it was the committee/populist nature of the selections that is the problem.  Possibly so. I still recommend stopping by if you can. (For non-locals, this exhibit is set to travel.)


Monday, March 26, 2012

7 Things: The Youth Edition

This past weekend was the worship service put on by the youth, which is always a fabulous thing.  (I am biased, but participation in our congregation tends to go up, particularly compared to other lay led services, and typically I sit next to someone who tells me how this is their favorite service each year.)
1. The timing of the service was such that we knew it was likely it would coincide with the search committee's announcement of the new ministerial candidate.  (Several years ago, their service coincided with the associate minister announcing her candidate-ship elsewhere). 
2. But the planning started in February, and when we hung out they seemed mostly done.  (These things are never totally done until you do them, but there you go.)
3. This year's theme was Utopia, so there were readings and songs and a dance about this.  They did a great skit for the story time* spot about working to make the world closer to your own utopia. 
4. There was a pony themed reading. (Although it is my understanding that "My Little Pony" has more to do with unicorns and pegasuses, but there you go.)
5. The seniors who wished to spoke (this year three of them chose to) and made me cry.  (In a good way.  They are pretty proud of making us cry.)
6. There were musical interludes. In the second service there was a minor technical malfunction with a guitar, that the other member of the duo covered well by offering to tell jokes. 
7. But as silly and corny as it is, it is moments like these that instead of feeling sad for humanity, I think humanity is lucky.  These guys have big, big plans to fix this world. 

*It goes under a number of names, but we have a spot early in the service where the kids who are there with their parents get a story or reading or lesson that in theory has multi-generational appeal, but tends to be aimed at the younger kids.  Normally, after that they get sung off to class.  For the youth service, a larger number of them stay for the whole thing.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

What Does it Mean?

Given that the movie you may have heard of based on that book you may have heard of opens now (probably, by the time you read this), there's been increasing discussion about what it means.  It's interesting.  I think my thoughts on dark YA are pretty clear, but it's interesting.  I have a friend who find the very discussion of it too much to bear, and that's fine.  It's also interesting given, that until it became a media sensation, several places were hiding 50 Shades of Grey on some of their bestseller lists so as not to offend anyone and yet Hunger Games is fine. (So, government sanctioned violence fine, consensual sex with mild erotic content, less fine.)  It's interesting that Bullied, a documentary about real kids facing real dangers gets rated R, while Hunger Games does not.  (The difference there appears to be fictional kids do not swear, and real kids do.)
I personally really hate the child in danger trope, you know where someone has to go do a bunch of ridiculously dangerous and violent things just so some little off-screen moppet can survive.  (Not saying you can't enjoy that, just saying, it does not generally appeal to me. Although I do enjoy some "Man on Fire".  So, there you go.) But Hunger Games is making some interesting points about this fictional society, it's not violence for the sake of violence (although, again, not that there's anything wrong with choosing to enjoy reading or watching that).  And one of the reasons I think some people like the third book less, is not that it's less interesting or less good, but two books worth of all this is taking it's toll on Katniss by book three, and much like New Moon in the Twilight series, you're viewpoint character is not functioning at top capacity, which fascinates me but is not a fast-paced read. 
But back to the first book/movie, I enjoyed this piece from HuffPo about why it matters and resonates with folks.  



Wednesday, March 21, 2012

TBR Challenge: Series Catch-Up

Despite my series junkie status, I looked through the TBR pile for a series I was behind on and couldn't find any.  Not that I am not behind on any series, but I was apparently all caught up on the ongoing series books in my possession, with the exception of series I hadn't yet started.  So, with this we have Sharon Draper's Battle of Jericho which is the story of a teen boy, who along with his fellow classmates is selected to pledge a club called the Warriors of Distinction.  This takes place in high school, so it's not a fraternity per se, it's a club that does service projects in the community and the high school and has been going on for some time, such the Jericho, the titular character's uncle was a member.  As you might expect, some of the pledging activities get out of hand and Jericho and his fellow pledges (which include the first female pledge) must look at how far they are willing to go. 
I have to tell you that I started this book back in October.  Normally a book that takes me this long to finish is not working for me.  In this case it was the opposite.  Draper did such a great job of displaying the warring tensions of what it's like to be in high school and try to fit in and find yourself and be the person your parents and teachers want all at the same time that I had to take breaks. And I put it down about two thirds done in November and then kept picking up other stuff instead.  They were all safe when I had stopped and I wanted to keep everyone that way, so I kept not reading, sort of the reader equivalent of sticking a blanket over my head.  Well, I finally started it back up and wow. 
So, now I'll have to get the rest of the trilogy. 
The book came out in 2005, but it only went into my tbr pile last year, so it hasn't been there that long really, but still progress.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Colors Change

I recently encountered a knitter who was knitting a new sweater for her daughter, because the first, despite being ruffly and frilly and girly was blue, so some people assumed she had a baby boy.  Now the knitter (and the baby) were relatively unconcerned with this, but she thought having another one in red for her daughter might save a few confused side-eyes (because it does seem that the people who make these assumptions always think you have tried to trick them).  And, of course, our culture used to do the opposite, so not only is it relatively arbitrary it's not even terribly longstanding. 
So, it was with interest that I read that the color associated with St. Patrick's Day used to be blue, St. Patrick's blue even.

h/t to Factlets for the link.



Wednesday, March 14, 2012

That's a Thank You

I have memories of my mother sending us to our rooms to write our thank you notes.  It was hard because I was (usually) thankful, it's just hard not to sound like you're filling in a terribly boring mad lib.  I think they even make partially filled out thank you notes for kids, because sending someone a clearly formulaic letter is...special?  But, I think the fact that this letter, from a student to a weather person who showed talked to his class, is proof that jazzing up your thank you letter is worth the effort.  Kudos, kid, kudos.

h/t to ChaliceChick for the link

Monday, March 12, 2012

Things People Should Know: Information Dissemination

In this increasingly digital age, there seems to be confusion (perhaps simply among folks of my acquaintance) about information dissemination, but in an attempt to clarify this, here are the rules according to me.*
For news regarding engagements, births, deaths, etc:
1. People who birthed you or who you birthed should be in the first round of notifications.  Ideally, these folks get in person notifications, though obviously you may currently be separated by geography (by which I mean a state or three or a country, not, you're upstairs and they are downstairs.) In cases of geographic separation, then your normal mode of communication may be substituted.
2. Posts via email or social networking for others in outer circles are fine, but understand that this may negate any in person notifications you were planning to make.
3. Should you discover said news from a third party and choose to pass it on, please consider that the news originators may still be making their in person notifications, and it may not be up to you to blast it via email or social media.
4. Tagging or texting folks a picture of an engagement ring or baby (or casket although I have only seen that once) is one way to approach this, but keep in mind that depending on the settings of the social media, it may appear to the friends of your friends that they are the ones with the news, leading to many awkward conversations. 

*My rules should work everywhere and in perpetuity, but you may know weird people who do not (yet) accept my rules or, it seems possible that these rules may become outdated. 



Wednesday, March 07, 2012

It's Not That I Can't Change the Clock

Approximately twice a year I whine about daylight savings.  I am down to one clock that requires my manual intervention, so it's not the hassle, it's the change.  Now, in most areas of my life I try to embrace or at least accept change.  I also attempt to embrace and accept nostalgia and tradition.  But some things are dumb.  As this op-ed (from last fall) points out, the reasons that people point to that we still engage in this antiquated practice are all, as far as I can tell, entirely useless. (By the way, click the link, there's a line about vampire work life balance.)  I'm not even particularly attached to standard or daylight time, I just don't understand why we can't pick one.  I mean, really, twice a year we try to change what time it is, if that isn't the height of control freakitude, I don't know what is.  Here's the deal.  Early is still early whether the sun is there - or over there.  And yes, I spend much of the winter whining that there is too much dark outside (what, there is!) but shifting the time it becomes officially dark does not change the fact that until we hit the solstice, it gets more dark.  And I do have things like lights, so I have a plan for attacking or combating the darkness.  While I have heard rumors that farmers like getting up in the light (and who doesn't) I feel certain that no one tells the chickens about the time change, so the farmers can work that out however they wish.  And if the amusement parks get more people when we're on daylight time, then fine, let's just call daylight time the official time.  Or standard.  Again.  I don't care.  I just want us to commit to a time.  Is that too much to ask? 
Perhaps I will just move to one of the states that doesn't participate. 

h/t to DCist for the link.


Tuesday, March 06, 2012

No Words (Except These)

So, given my minor rant about a player discussing medical history as a reason to bash more, you can only imagine how disheartening I find the current news about injury bounties. (So far it's Gregg William's defenses under the Saints and the Redskins.  Some players are saying they know of other programs, we shall see how this develops.)
I understand the purpose of incentives.  I have heard coaches talk about how fascinating it is that offering dollars* to players with million dollar contracts has an intriguing result, particularly if that reward is presented in front of the rest of the team after a fame of say forced fumbles or blocked kicks.  But, again, there is a huge difference between offering rewards for tackles or any actual legitimate defensive maneuver and rewarding injury.  As someone who injured myself standing by a water fountain, I agree that injuries can happen in the most benign of circumstances, but that does not excuse rewarding players for injuries or inciting players to injure others.  There is an absolute world of difference between making plays to win games and making plays to harm others, and if the players and coaches cannot see that, then I'm not sure they deserve to participate.
The NFL does already prohibit such things, so this isn't really news that it's wrong, just apparently news to some teams that violating these rules is a bad idea. 

*Some of the articles indicate that even this is against the current rules. These were former coaches so I assume this behavior was accepted at the time of their coaching.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Expectations

I was talking over "Project Runway: All Stars" with a friend recently and came to the following conclusion - I don't think the issue is the challenges (I still think convince someone in the park to give you their clothes in the next thirty and then go make an outfit is awesome).  I don't think it's the judges, certainly the (highly edited) bit of the judging sessions imply that the judges are a little more impressed by explanations than the regular judges, but they are also far stricter about the framework of the challenge, which I like.  I don't think it's the mentoring - certainly it appears that the mentor is there far less often, but they are All Stars, in theory they need less outside input. 
I think it's the All-Stars.  It's an intriguing thing to see people return who already know what stress and insanity they have signed up for, particularly in these days when alums of a show have typically has chances to meet each other even if they were in different seasons originally.  But, at some point, it gets down to the work.  And while I do admit that some of the challenges have offered ridiculous amounts of time for them to work in, so you end up with a lot of caftans and wrap dresses, in the end there's not a lot about these clothes that says All-Stars.  So really, this feels like regular speed "Project Runway" with new judges, new host, and new mentor, and the same old designers.  And it's not that I don't love and appreciate these designers, but I can't think of anything (so far) that they have created that looks different from what they created the first time.  Now possibly, that is a challenge issue, that within these tight time frames with various silly constraints, this is all any of them can really produce anyway. 
The only thing I* have to compare it to is "Top Chef" which has both done All-Stars and Masters.  I enjoyed the All-Stars season, and while I, obviously wasn't tasting the food so can't speak to the level of improvement, it seemed to me that some (not all, some) people had come back more ready, more able to handle the things this would throw at them, so it made it interesting.  And in Masters, even the original round robin and more recent formats, the Masters have whined a bit that this isn't what they normally do, but in a lot of cases, they whined and then got down to work trying to do amazing things, things that to me at home seemed more interesting or at a higher level than the regular speed might offer. 
So, I don't really have an answer for how to fix this. And I do recognize that particularly for "Project Runway" some of the alums who have really gone up in their careers, would now be removed enough from the day to day sewing that it wouldn't really make sense for them to return.  But it is an interesting thing that I am hoping that many of these "Project Runway" alums were essentially doing too well to return. 
But it is an interesting question that leaves me wondering if the biggest issue is that all these designers had such strong aesthetics that seeing how they apply that to the challenge at hand is not quite as interesting as I thought it might be.  I'm clearly still watching.  And some of the challenges have made up for it simply by being so intriguing.  But I have added my own personal game to try to match up enough of the outfits to designers prior challenge from their own season, and I have to tell you, it's far easier than it ought to be.

*I know other shows have done All-Stars or various other returning contestants things.  Of the things that I watch regularly enough, this is what I have to look at.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Books and the Selling of

3/26/12 Note: Paypal has now adjusted their policy. I've also added some other links below.

I've been stewing over this for a while. Trying to figure out a way to make my point respectfully and clearly and not somehow sell out something else.
I first heard about Paypal back in the day, when I was part of a group that would gather and go the the theatre together. The leader of an outing would by the block of tickets and the rest of us would Paypal them our cost so they didn't have to wait until the night of the outing to try and collect from everyone. Paypal was really useful for things like that.  And then businesses started using it.  And it was great for that too, in that Paypal already had my info, so I could pay using Paypal and not worry about setting up another account with another place and handing over my bank info yet again. It's great for small businesses and places like Etsy. 
And I like Smashwords.  As someone who owns a reader that reads open format books, there are a lot of self-published books that I have limited access too. (I don't know why people don't make them available in all possible formats, but that's another blog post.)  Smashwords provides the option for authors to make their work available in a number of formats, so I have purchased several books from them. 
And, of course, I respect that Paypal and Smashwords are businesses and are trying to remain such. 
But the news that Smashwords was given just a few days to either update their policies or lose the ability to use Paypal saddens me, not only because the crunch such an ultimatum put them in.  Paypal has stated that any erotica containing bestiality, rape or underage characters cannot be supported.  What this means is if any seller is found to sell books containing these things then their use of Paypal is at risk.
Now, those topics in erotica are not draws for me, and I can see why it causes concern for people.  However, we are talking about fiction. And, as was pointed out on one of the lists where this came up, so far no one is saying you can't sell a book about killing people.  Smashwords Terms of Service do state that books that advocate violence, are prohibited.
But that brings up the part that really bugs me.  Beyond the whole - where do we draw the line with bestiality (are werewolf books bestiality?) issue, I'm not really sure I want Paypal making that call.  I, personally, want Paypal to be a money exchange service, and while I understand that certainly I would want Paypal to make rules about the types of things it wants it's business used for, I feel like that should be more of a books yes or books no.  Personal money exchanges yes, or personal money exchanges no.  Shoes yes or shoes no.  I don't, to use my favorite shoe example, think that Paypal should be saying shoes yes, but only if the shoes are not green. 
You might think, well, I already said I don't read this stuff and I write young adult, so who cares?  And that's the thing, I write young adult and sometimes my characters engage in illegal behavior, from speeding to drinking to sex.  Some of my characters are victims of molestation, and no, since my stories are not erotica, none of this would apply to me.  Yet. If the rules decided to eliminate all illegal behavior, well, it would be an issue for me.  And as this post points out, Paypal has already gone after sales of books that were not erotica for including non-explicit discussion of consenting adults engaging in sex. So, really, what this says to me is that Paypal is deciding what's the green shoe.  And maybe teal.
And then there's the issue of enforcement.  One of the big complaints with SOPA and PIPA is that while many people agree that piracy is a huge issue that needs to be addressed if the rules put into place end up infringing legitimate creativity, then it hurt more than it helped.  And I worry about this here.  Or the reverse, how is, say Ebay, supposed to verify that a book does not contain such matter when they never see the book?
As, this article, which mentions that Paypal might be considering relaxing and/or clarifying some of their rules, points out, a strict application of this would affect all manner of things, including the Bible. It also mentions that some of this might be due to pressure that Paypal is feeling from credit card companies, so this is likely a broader reaching issue than just Paypal.
Regardless, this reminds me of the hub-bub about YA making kids into bad people.  Books do not make bad people.  (Lack of books might make bad people, but I'm trying to be open-minded about that.) People who write and read mysteries http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifare no more likely to turn into serial killers.  People who write and read about sex, well, it seems likely that they will eventually have sex, but not so much because of the books. 
Smashwords' press release states: "The moralists forget that we humans are all sexual creatures, and the biggest sex organ is the brain.  If it were not the case, none of us would be here.   Erotica authors are facing discrimination, plain and simple.  Topics that are perfectly acceptable in mainstream fiction are verboten in erotica.  That's not fair.  Our decisions today are imperfect."

More linkage: Dear Author.