Monday, December 30, 2013

Another One Down

Growing up in the DC area I was pretty familiar with any mall easily accessible by mall.  (I say easily, because there are some that at the time made you walk down a skeezy alley and over a few blocks before pedestrian bridges and/or alternate entrances made things a little smoother.)  So, just a few stops up the red line from me was White Flint Mall.  Which yes, you had to walk (or take the shuttle but the shuttle stopped firmly at six, we discovered the hard way one day). But it had a food court that had, well, not better choices than Mazza Gallerie, but different ones.  It had a lot of stores not geared towards teens, but it had different department stores and some other choices. 
It had a movie theater that tended to offer more choices than the two screens that were offered at Mazza (at the time, yes, I'm old.) I may or may not have used my youthful appearance to get kid rates at that theater a little past when I should have. 
And the summer after my senior year, I needed a job, so went there and filled out several applications before getting to the Skolniks Bagel Bakery where I was hired.  So, for a month (family vacation basically ended my job there) I worked there five days a week.  I was cashier and got paid minimum wage.  We were located on the upper level near the movie theater, but away from the official food court, so we got a lot of people asking us where the food court was.  We also offered a mall employee discount and opened up half an hour before the mall (so I knew the back way in through the service hallways) and did a roaring one more coffee before I start my shift business. 
Now, I wasn't trying to live on my salary, it was spending/saving money.  But still, when I and sometimes one of my fellow employees wanted to shop after, we went to the discount mall back behind White Flint. 
Later Borders moved in from just up the road and White Flint became a great place to hang out again (in my opinion).  Borders also provided a great place to wander and wait should the line at the Cheesecake Factory get out of control.  Dave and Busters was added (which took over the place where the bagel bakery had been, among other things) and P. F. Changs. And as I had a little more discretionary money, sometimes I wanted something from the other stores too.  But as I moved ever further into the city, I usually made other choices. 
As this retrospection on White Flint points out*, many malls have reinvented, refurbished or changed.  And it's certainly not like I lack for shopping choices.  (Shopportunities?)  But, I'm sad to see it dwindling away as it is now. 

*H/t to DCist for the link.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Three Interesting Things

1. Portugal has a doll hospital that apparently gets a lot of patients this time of year.
2. Local cyclists had alerted me to the messages that appeared in some of the DC bike lanes. An interview with the rogue stencilers is here.
3. And in this season of food, the Fat Nutritionist reminds us that there is no such thing as real food.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Three Interesting Things

1. "The Sing-Off" is back, and while I have tweeted muchly about it, I have failed to properly praise it here.  Several fans pointed me to this wonderful post about how the ultimate sing off (aka closing battles) are being done.  This was a new thing for this season and while I liked the swan songs, the ultimate sing offs are a lot of fun. 
2. There are some stories you click on sure they couldn't possibly live up to the headline, and yet: teens abduct a circus llama and train him on a tram ride
3. Ona different note, there is this story of a group of exonerees in Texas who work to assist other prisoners who may also be innocent. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

7 Things About Weddings

1. Weddings are about the couple.  This applies to any decision you feel you might have done differently.  Yes, sure, we can make the argument that those with financial contribution to the event get some say, but again, supposed to be about the couple. 
2.  Of course the corollary to that is that if, at the end of the day, the couple in question is in fact married, then it is a success.  Almost everything else is window dressing.
3. The attendants are important, but not that important.  The thing is, generally, people aim for symmetry, as in an equal number of attendants on each side.  Well this creates intriguing math if one member of the couple has more siblings, or siblings all of a particular gender or if someone is trying to reciprocate with folks they attended to.  So basically, while it is, of course, a great honor to be asked to stand beside your friend/relative/loved one, it is also not a terrible slight to not have to stand next to someone for twenty to forty minutes. 
4. Weddings are long and even the most comfortable shoes can get a little unfriendly.  If you abandon your shoes, please consider that others, who may be a little wobbly, may not be keeping an eye out for shoes on the ground.
5. Size does not matter. Okay, it does. But it matters on levels that may not be about you. I had a friend who said she'd rather invite all the people she loves in this world and serve them hot dogs if that's all her budget allowed for.  (She meant it, and the wedding, which was hot dog-less was huge and wonderful.) But that's not the gathering everyone wants.  Or can afford.  (Even hot dogs for 300 add up.  Plus then people want condiments.)  And there's all sorts of fun logistics like room size and fire code.  I had a cousin who thought they had booked a location with space for everyone they'd invited and then discovered the number they'd been given did not account for the possibility they might want tables and chairs in their reception.  And the ceremony itself may also have restrictions.  You can't exactly stick folks in the parking lot of the place of worship with a closed circuit screen. (Okay, you can...)  I watched one of those wedding reality shows where the morning of the church flooded in due to an overnight rainstorm and so they had to hold the ceremony in the minister's cottage which had room for far less people.  But even barring unexpected disasters, you may simply attend a place of worship that is small than the number of people you know and love.  Most people do not consider seating capacity when choosing their spiritual home.  And so, the couple may tighten the list and make hard decisions and it may not mean they don't love you, it may mean that they could not figure out how to cram any more people into the room.  And in the end, the wedding is about supporting the couple as they make this commitment to each other, which may, sometimes, include accepting that they still like you, but didn't have room for you at this one party. 
6. There are many good reasons for choosing not to attend a wedding.  (This should also include RSVPing appropriately.)  You may be unable to travel, ill, or have prior commitments.  Generally, your return card does not ask you why. And if you are genuinely sorry that you cannot attend, then absolutely, make time to express your sincere regrets to the couple.  If your reason for not attending is petty, or involves some sort of slight or family or friend dispute - even if you are totally right, I suggest keeping it to yourself.  (The only exception I can think of is if, say, a child molester is attending and you are not attending with your small children.  There might be others, but barring actual physical danger, especially if we are discussing grievances that have already been sufficiently aired, then, yeah, keep it to yourself.)
7. The corollary to the corollary mentioned above is, if you got to be present when the couple married, then the bargain has been fulfilled as far as what you were owed when you accepted this invitation.  Everything else, food, drink, time with friends (even, sometimes time with the couple that day) is all bonus. 

Monday, December 09, 2013

Armchair Restaurant Fixer - The Top Chef Edition

I saw on Twitter this post about 7 things restaurant jobs will teach you.  (I know, it's almost like I didn't invent the 7 things idea.*) And it reminded me not only of my own experience -which was was either as a cashier (in what we call fast casual these days) or as a busperson - but also how last week's "Top Chef" which hit the Restaurant Wars episode, was a perfect example of how working with someone who does something doesn't mean you are any good at filling that role.  (And yes, I realize one bad day in a normal non-reality show job would actually be a learning opportunity.) So, let me put my entirely fictitious restaurant fixer hat on, and take a look at this episode.  I'm not going to attempt to recap the actual show. Just this one team's dysfunction.
So, as a sidenote I knew two things from my extensive past history as a viewer.  One - there always seems to be one team with more winners.  They always tell the camera how that means they are going to win. The other team always tells the camera that means they are the underdog but have something to prove. Generally, it works out (I think - did not do any math for this theory) about 50/50 because the more winnery side tends to have a lot of egos and that can be problematic. 
First obvious problem with the green team.  They talked about the style of food and then did not decide on their dishes together (I think secretly they all has stuff in mind) until the last minute.  Now sure, you could argue that the plates and candles will help determine your food, but I don't know why you wouldn't start with the food.  No one has ever been sent home for the plates.  (Yes, sometimes in the restaurant wars challenges the decor is mentioned for setting a false expectation, but again, no one cares if the food is good.) 
And they couldn't agree on things.  They argued about plates.  And then they later determined that they do no communicate well because Justin (who had deemed himself executive chef by the way, so hmmm) later was mad about the bowl and he said I wanted the other one, and there was a whole but you said like this one but without the silver, and he was like no I meant the other, other one.  And here's the thing, I did not pay a lot of attention to their plate discussion, but as executive chef he was also in charge of expediting, which meant talking to the chefs and servers about what was needed so the plate issue was actually foreshadowing. 
Now, before this episode I would have told you that Sara was a great choice for front of the house because she's great at smoothing over little issues and smiling while Rome is burning (if necessary).  What I had not factored in is that she's apparently a terrible listener who has also never watched the show.  So, she trained the servers abut ticket writing and the servers apparently did not write the tickets in that manner.
Now, ultimately the judges decided that snafu was the triggering factor for the rest of the mess.  And it may have been.  But, I also felt like Justin continually yelling a servers that they couldn't process orders since the tickets were wrong was not helpful at all.  Yes, I understand why having the tickets written a certain way would help.  But retraining mid shift is a losing battle.  You can remind them once, and then you got to work with what you have because the customer does not care that you wanted the ticket written a certain way.  They want food. 
And Nina, Carlos, and Shirley I think were trapped - they could tell it was bad, but weren't sure how to fix it (especially since Justin has not shown himself to be up for change or feedback) so just kept their heads down and hoped their food was good.  It's an understandable reaction even if it does nothing to help the ultimate goal.  Admittedly, in a reality show, it's probably not a terrible strategy though. 
And so the judges came, Sara told Justin the judges are here and please fire four appetizers and he said, cool give me a ticket and she said sure and walked away.  Now again, I don't know if she meant to write a ticket and got distracted and I don't know why Justin didn't notice he hadn't gotten a ticket for the judges, but it was bad.  And Sara also didn't seem to notice that the judges didn't get their food until they reminded her which is not good.  So, then they got the food and it somehow did not occur to her that in all "Top Chef" challenges you tell the judges about the food, and given that the other chefs were all in the kitchen that fell to her.  They called after heras she walked away and I can only assume she didn't hear, but that was part of the problem. 
They asked her quickly before she could walk away on the next courses and by the time it was her course she remembered to tell them without prompting.  It seemed like Sara just got drained.  I'm sure part of it was knowing things were a disaster, and then she snapped at the judges which always seems like a bad idea, particularly when you are trying to argue that you were the better communicator. 
I don't disagree with the judges decision to send her home, but I do think that Justin has also worn out his welcome.  And hopefully the other chefs on this team will try to be more proactive in resolving team issues in the future.  I think project management courses could study this episode for years to come. 

*I did not invent 7 Things, the number seven, or things. 

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Three Interesting Things

1. As much as I keep saying I'm in "Sleepy Hollow" for the silly (if you accept that a story centered on stopping a headless horseman is silly, which I do) - this article points out some great things that "Sleepy Hollow" is doing. 
2. In addition to Marni Bates' post that I linked to yesterday about the YA Rita, where a number of great things are happening in the comments, Bria Quinlin has this post with covers of books that were submitted this year.  Her point that even if you were not familiar personally with RWA and the Ritas is that these (and other awards) are often first stops for book stores and libraries.  It's not their only source of information, but it's one less way for people to hear about these books.  I confess, looking through the list, my should read pile got bigger. 
3. And I enjoyed this post about how folktales evolve much like, well, as the title says, biological species.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

YA, Ritas, and Rules

So, this year the RWA Rita awards did not receive enough submissions for the Young Adult category. I am beyond sad about this.  I think YA is an important segment of the romance community, and I share in everyone's sadness because I know I've read some great YA romances this year and I'm sad they (possibly) won't have the chance to compete. 
This has happened before.  YA got cancelled once before in 2007, also due to lack of entries and you know what happened that year - a YA romance (that I am not remotely impartial about) won Best Contemporary Single Title.  So, my first hope is that most of the YA submissions chose a second category.  And I hope that next year lots more people enter.  (You know, if their book is a YA romance.) 
Now, there's been some discussion about the rules change affecting people's submissions.  There's a great breakdown of the category change and some of the other changes here. I actually think that this year's revision made the category a little broader, but that's my perspective.  Yes, I realize that not every YA with kissing fits into that definition, but, well, it's the the YA with kissing award, it's YA romance.  Yes, I agree with Marni Bates's post that awards are important.  Honoring the great work people are doing is important.  There are other awards out there for YA, be it romance or not. 
But, I also understand that managing this contest is a huge undertaking for RWA.  They made bold changes last year, upping the total number of entries (since last year it filled up fast), adding eligibility for self-published books, they added a category, and smooshed some together. I would say there are bound to be bumps the first year, but it seems like the contest gets tweaked a little every year.  Now, what does this have to do with the YA category?  Well, the raising of the number of entries actually impacted the threshold for a category to remain this year.  So, if they received 2000 entries, they would need 100 of those to be YA books*.  And remember that's 100 YA romances, published in 2013, by a member of RWA. All of those things have to be true.  I think it's possible there are 100 of those.  But, given there were a record number of entries the first day, given you have to pay to enter, I can see how some people might not have gotten to it.  Yes, all those barriers (except possibly the number) were there before. 
So, here's what I hope.  I hope that more people submit their (eligible, actual YA romance) book next year so the category can return.  I hope all the YA Golden Heart Finalists get deals and submit those books. 
Yes, writing and reading great books is what matters most.  But, winning things is nice too.

*I tried to find a link to where it says that specifically, and I can't, but that is my understanding. 

Monday, December 02, 2013

Post-NaNo Thoughts

I participated in NaNoWrimo once again this year, and won, ahem, early. The draft is still about 5000 words from being done and then will require some impressive rearranging and revising but it's a story that had been percolating in my brain for a long time, which I had joking claimed would be done by 2020, so (fingers crossed) I am ahead of schedule.  (Sometimes setting a low bar for yourself is a good thing.)
I wrote more than I've ever written for NaNo, and while some (much) of that will get cut, rearranged, and changed beyond belief later, it's still really good. As with everything, the joy of doing this as a global group is that lots of other people were writing and suffering or hitting the zone along with you.  And of course, I did more than some people and less than some people.  (Seriously, there's someone out there that wrote 900,000 words.  I just want to nap reading that. (I mean, yay for them, but wow.) 
So the point of this is, I wrote just over 70k, and that's amazing. It's easy to get caught up in your progress compared to others, instead of basking in how well I did compared to my own goal (which was to hit 50k early and keep on writing each day, which I did).  So, yay.  Going to try and get the first draft wrapped up this week.  And then I get to bask for a minute or two before I start revising things. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Three Interesting Things

1. This is one of those good news/bad news type deals. The good news is a man's wallet stopped the progress of a bullet headed for various internal organs, the bad news is well, bullet. 
2. I was a huge fan of the Virginia Renaissance Faire that ran in Fredericksburg.  (There is one now in Lake Anna.) I had heard that the property was lying vacant, so am sad to see the state of it right now, although there is some definite creepy weirdness to these abandoned sets.
3. And while my thoughts on "Sleepy Hollow" were more, it's silly fun, but also represents some important (but super silly fun) diversity. I feel like I just told you vegetables are good for you (which they are...but) so I'll throw in a link to the Orlando Jones tumblr which is just silly. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

You Got Your History in My Entertainment

I firmly agree with the idea that there are no guilty pleasures, only pleasures, and if you are doing something for entertainment that entertains you, then success.  But, there are things that I enjoy, even as I fully appreciate that they are flawed.
So, I personally am unable to watch "Braveheart". (I watched a lovely special about the making of "Braveheart" and the history (or not) within that really only confirmed this.  One of my friends said, basically, so it's almost entirely historically incorrect, it's great fun!  And here's the thing A is and was (likely) correct that it is great fun.  I, personally, am unable to separate myself from the knowledge of the actual battle of Stirling Bridge to enjoy a movie where the climax is that battle and there is no bridge.  This is a me thing, not a "Braveheart" thing. 
So, I am watching and enjoying "Sleepy Hollow" even though it's revisionist history (although Ichabod Crane* is a fictional character, within the show he interacts with a number of known historical figures) is revisionist, and while I personally find just about all the historical parts zzzzboring, they are fully committed to the thing that they are doing and it's keeping me engaged week to week.  (I still think they should try teaching the horseman ASL.  Hey, headless guy learning ASL makes just as much sense as a headless guy who's a crack shot.) 
"Reign" on the other hand is more in the vein of "Braveheart".  While I get the sense the "Sleepy Hollow" writers have mountains of research they are sifting through to pick the parts that work well for the show, on "Reign" I get the sense that they picked a historical figure and time that sounded fun, and are basically discarding most of the messy history stuff to make a show about royal intrigue that is much like "Gossip Girl" set in the renaissance. And even though I wrote an extensive paper about Mary Queen of Scots, I find the show (so far) fun.  The costumes look a little renaissance the prom version, the supposed burdens of kingdom ruling are mentioned only in passing, and I sort of feel like some of these people deserve a better show to be on, but so far (I'm a few episodes behind) it's fun.  It's ridiculously wrong from a historical perspective or even from a why does everyone in 16th century France speak English with an English accent.  (Look, I get that they speak English for me, but why an English accent?  None of these people are supposed to be English.) 
So yes, sometimes even with contemporary shows I find it's easier to pretend they live in an alternate universe, one where police investigations always get wrapped up, court cases make it to court in no time at all, and football trainers can become general managers because they wish it. So, why not pretend that this is what the history might have been. 

*Per Wikipedia there was a real Ichabod Crane who may have the inspiration for the fictional character.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Things People Should Know: Context Does Matter, But

Context matters.  The nature of developing news stories often makes this clear.  I have been following the story of the bullying allegations going on the the NFL and caught a clip of accused bullier saying, well, things that seem to make it clear that he does not quite understand.  Now, yes, this story is still in the developing phase, and I imagine the ongoing investigation plus the lawsuit means the people who are talking to reporters are, well, people who are trying to squash or reduce trouble.  So...further developments may change how I (and since, it turns out my opinion matters very little in this - that of investigators, prosecutors, and future jurors) view this thing. 
But, here's the thing.  No matter how many texts you and your teammate exchanged - if you used racial epithets and threatened to rape his family members it doesn't sound racist or violent out of context.  It is racist. You did threaten to commit violent sexual acts.  If you think those kinds of things are hilarious, um, well, I guess that's a choice.  But, it's actually still racist and threatening.  If you don't wish to be perceived as racist, don't use racial epithets.  (Yes, not being racist is bigger than what you say, but nonetheless.)  And the teammates who are saying (for now, a this moment) oh that's just how we talk here, well, again I say the same thing.  See, freedom of speech does in fact mean (with some exceptions) that you can say what you want, including threats of violence, including the use of racial epithets.  But, that doesn't absolve you from any consequences of saying things.  If I say that the moon is made of cheese, my freedom of speech does not mean that no one can worry about my ability to understand how the moon works.  They can. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Three Interesting Things

1. "Good Morning America" has been a part of my morning routine for some days.  I'm sorry, I actually meant decades.  And in October, like a lot of news outlets, particularly given host Robin Roberts well-documented experience with breast cancer and resulting MDS, they did stories about breast cancer and the importance of mammograms.  Contributor Amy Robach agreed to have her mammogram on air, which is brave.  (Could not pay me.  Well, maybe, let's talk numbers.)  Well, it found cancer.  So, now she is having surgery and getting treatments.  As other have pointed out, mammograms are boring and not fun and most people get negatives.  But the reason you do it is because sometimes they find things.  They find things, generally faster than self exams (although those are also important) or other ways that these things show up. 
2. There's a lot of talk about how the nerd in class often go on to become writers or actors or what have you.  Author Matt De La Pena wants to make sure the tough kid who might also be writing in the back of the class also gets attention. Possibly even those kids labeled reluctant readers.
3. You almost have to see this to believe it, but someone has created matched photos of sexy men and cats in the same poses. (Safe for wherever photos of sexy (at least partially clothed but sexy men and cat photos are acceptable). 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Links for help and aid

The Philippines, which just had an earthquake last month that had already left a lot of buildings damaged and people displaced, just got hit by a record breaking typhoon, as you have likely heard.  It is also Veteran's Day, whether or not that means you get a day away from work or school. 
So, it seems like a good day to reflect, give thanks, and possibly reach out to others. 
Doctors Without Borders has people already in the Philippines (and other places around the world). 
The US Red Cross is sending a team to the Philippines and also provides services to veteran's here.  (There is also a Red Cross Philippines.)
Shelterbox provides a box that contains, well, shelter and cooking utensils to those displaced by disasters.  (The link is to the US organization.  Should you be elsewhere there are other branches, just go down to the bottom and click your location.)

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Three Interesting Things

1. Another study shows that the biggest difference between kids who do well at math and kids who don't, is that the kids who do well believe that they are math people.  Having read Michael Oher's biography this year, this was one of the things that he talked about, that it's easy to assume he was successful because he got adopted by the right family, whereas he made a decision early in life to be successful and worked hard to get himself into a position where, among other things, a lovely family adopted him, so that he was prepared to take advantage of the opportunities made available to him.  The other interesting point that this brings up, particularly regarding things like math or language, is that at any age, you could then work to change this about yourself.
2. The stores have been stocked with green and red for weeks now, and I have already received a coupon for a holiday tree.  (Even if I did live, or formerly live holiday trees, I would not do them in early November, but that's just my preference).  So, in case like Charlie Brown and Phoebe Buffay you wondered what happens to the poor trees not chosen for home decor, the answer, at least in one part of Berlin is elephant food.
3. And I look forward to hearing about the results of San Francisco's stint as Gotham City.  This is not for a movie, it is as part of a wish granted to a boy with leukemia who told the Make-A-Wish team that he wished to be Batkid.  Apparently the police chief is expecting some special crime that day, that only Batkid can assist with. 

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

References Available

My Fictional Skills and Experience:
Once played Tetris for a six hours*, demonstrating focus, logic, and ability to work through distractions.  
Managed seven fish tanks in Fish Adventure, overseeing feeding, happiness, decoration, and breeding programs, demonstrating ability to manage multiple projects. 
Have played Where in the US is Carmen San Diego, Where in the World is Carmen San Diego and Where in Time is Carmen San Diego, demonstrating ability to grow and use skills acquired on one game to expand my abilities in another.
Achieved expert levels in Sally's Spa, Sally's Salon, and Sally's Yoga Studio, demonstrating abilities to manage increasing levels of responsibility and multi-tasking. 

*Possible exaggeration.  I don't recall. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Three Interesting Things

1. One person did some quick and dirty math and figured out it is, likely, cheaper to rent in Barcelona, Spain and commute to London, than to rent in London.  Don't mind me, I'm just checking some flight prices...
2. Keeping the European theme going, bikes are outselling (new) cars in most European countries. 
3. I found this article about instant ramen and it's use in fighting hunger, well, interesting. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Lied to by a Fictional Character

I once read a very interesting murder mystery in which a profiler started spouting the typical characteristics of a serial killer and another character pointed out that given the number of crimes that go unsolved that these characteristics really represented the profile of people who were caught, not serial killers as a whole. 
But we do tend to look for ways to narrow our searches (in fiction and in real life, with crime and with other things) and so statistics and probabilities often come into play.  And many times, in my fictional crime reading have I come across the so-called statistic that women are more likely to use poison.  Except, it turns out its not true. 
As this article points out, numbers wise males are a bit higher, but given that males are (you know, according to statistics) more likely to kill people, its split somewhat evenly. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Three Interesting Things

1. One of the reasons I enjoyed "Tabatha's Salon Takeover" and it's spinoff "Tabatha Takes Over" is that often people didn't really know what was wrong, and assumed it must be all the other people.  So, this story from a guy who included himself in the 360 reviews for his company was interesting. 
2. I don't want to suggest that books can't be enjoyable as just books, but this idea of an interactive developing story intrigues me.
3. And if the lip sync off from "The Jimmy Fallon Show" has not made it to you yet, here you go.  (Link does contain video, will not automatically start playing.)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Dear Project Runway

Oh such happiness.  Not just with the final result - although that too! - but with the final shows.  I have whined for years that so many of the final shows, even from designers whose work I liked all through the season lack oomph.  There were some standouts, and certainly I recognize that a great designer cannot always be measured by what they put together in six weeks.  But this, oh I would have been happy with almost any winner and that I have pretty much never been able to say. 
And so, all I really have to say to the designers is go forth and keep doing great stuff.  Really.  Please continue on.  Whether you won the giant prize pack of candles and ice cream* or not. Please keep making things. 
Thanks for what ended up being a really great season, in spite of the stupid outbursts of some of the designers. 

*Not the actual prizes

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Three Interesting Things

1. As an again cat owner, I found this article about cat behavior interesting.
2. I am a fan of the Nerdist Writers Podcast which features, as the theme states, talking to writers about writing.  They talk to comics writers a lot (though certainly there's TV, book, and other writers too) and although I am comics adjacent, I often find them interesting.  This one where they talked with two non-comics fans was also fascinating especially as they delved into the barriers to entry, and the similarities of fandoms be they TV, comics, or sports. 
3. A picture of this flitted across my twitter feed, and I hunted up more info.  Two parents got matching tattoos of an insulin pump in solidarity after their son, who wears one to control his diabetes, asked if other people had them too. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Dear Project Runway

Have I mentioned that the Tim visits are my favoritest bit.  Pretty much always.  So, Tim had five visits.  Dom was a little behind, Braden seemed to, well, be channeling what a lot of people did for the Belk challenge, Helen was so cocky it led Tim to ask her family if she was always this mix of cocky and giant ball of doubt, Justin's family was lovely, and Alexandria took Tim to the camp and showed the dolls based on the show which were all awesome.  Seriously. 
And then the not guaranteed three got to show three looks.  Alexandria amusingly when asked what color she had in the collection referenced white, gray, taupe, and well, so all neutrals.  Justin pretty much secured a spot with his test tube dress.  (I have seen some rumblings across the web that the dress made of, well, test tubes, was not really wearable.  I will argue that I took the judges to mean that by wearable they meant from across the room it would look like a dress, not that wandering about the city in an outfit made of glass was practical.)  And Helen went nutso with the cape idea and the judges were even less pleased when they got a close up look. 
I'm hoping Justin has time to address the apparent construction issues he had in some of his looks, and I hope that Dom's collection is as awesome as I suspect, and, well, I'm hoping Braden's looks better than I suspect.  Looking forward to the final finale.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Three Interesting Things

1. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to attend Lady Jane's Salon, and it was a lot of fun.  Romance authors read aloud from their work which is a lot of fun, as is gathering in a room full of people who like reading romance.  Well, the DC area is finally getting an outpost - meeting info is here.  Excited to see what the lineup will be.
2. I found this article about how people perceive recyclability interesting especially as it made me realize I keep tossing the ring from the milk in the trash even though I recycle the container.  (I will work on this.)
3. And January One posted this lovely letter to her grandmother, thank her for all the things learning to knit has brought to her. 

Monday, October 07, 2013

Dear Project Runway

Dear Judges,
I was in perfect alignment with you that Dom and Braden created fabulous outfits and the 
Dear Dom and Braden,
Don't crack when you get home.  Take this and keep being awesome. 
Dear Alexandria,
Had we not learned previously that you ran a fashion camp?  Because, I like you so much better now.  It also explains your clear experience with people who create drama. 
Dear Helen,
More and more I can't decide if you don't really know your aesthetic or are so locked into it you are unable to work with these challenges.  I guess, that was mostly it, so you can go home and freak out all by yourself. 
Dear Justin,
Please figure out a way to go crazy in a good way. 
Looking forward to seeing these collections. 

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Three Interesting Things

1. Apparently that Atlantis stuff about islands popping out is not so fantastical since a recent earthquake in Pakistan led to, well, just that
2. And in case you missed all my other proclamations of such, I am pleased and honored to know the teens featured here.
3. And one safari park has asked visitors to leave their animal print at home, because, well, it confuses the animals

Monday, September 30, 2013

Dear Project Runway,

We could argue I am late because I am heartbroken, but basically, I am not timely.  The print challenge.  With bonus real person inspiration.  I feel like this year especially they are so afraid to say: make an evening gown - go!  So, it's make an evening gown using three fruit from this bowl, and tying in the phase of the moon under which you were born.  And hey, it's not necessarily bad, but the inevitable meltdown when the designers get great freedom seems particularly likely this year. 
Dear Helen,
I think you are very lucky.  I thought your print was pretty pedestrian.  I thought your dress was pretty meh.  And yet they raved.  So, what do I know. 
Dear Alexandria,
That was a travesty.  You are so lucky your were safe because I cannot imagine that your garment would have at all benefited from a closer look.  At all. 
Dear Dom,
I heart you. 
Dear Braden,
I was with the other designers, did not quite trust, and yet that was an amazing result. 
Dear Alexander,
I'm sad because it was clear to me the inspiration was just giving you a mental block, so you just had a not great print, and a weird dress, and well, you know.
Dear Justin,
I confess you've lasted longer than I expected, but eh.  As you yourself said, last time you did a long dress you ended up in the bottom, eliminated, and, yeah, look at that.  Know your strengths. 
Dear Kate,
Oh Kate.  I blame lack of sleep.  Because I can kinda of sort of see that you had an idea in your head that you just had to get out, but no.  Not now.  Not this idea.  Not on this challenge.  Especially given your too poofy feedback last challenge.  I liked you better this season, but I confess, I'm okay with you being gone now, especially with this outfit.  But kudos on showing a quick lesson in how to return to a show and participate smarter and better.  You know, except for this outfit. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Three Interesting Things

1. Have you ever wondered whether some of those online reviews you've read are from people who really went there?  Well, possibly not because the New York Attorney General's office just finished out a year long operation wherein they caught reviewers  in part by setting up pages for a yogurt shop that did not really exist
2. This article talked about some of the good (and less good) ways that police can and are using social media
3. And well, this article explains why many Sundays, I crave fatty foods.  Yes, it's all my team's fault.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Banned Books Week

It's Banned Books Week and so, I like to take a look at what's making people mad about reading these days.  The standard disclaimers are: you have the right to read what you want to read.  You even have the right to help decide what your kid(s) read.  You do not get to decide that no one can read a book.  You do not get to decide that no library should have this book. 
Also, I confess I find myself amused when a book that is optional reading gets challenged, because again, you could tell your kid, no, I don't think that should be your pick, but I'm not sure why you get to decide for everyone's kid.  Okay then.
-Fifty Shades of Grey was returned to the shelves of a public library where it was challenged. 
-The number of books banned because a character has gay parents or makes, in once case, a passing mention to the existence of gay people astounds me.  I am not unaware that there are people who are homophobic, but the attempt to erase even fictional mentions of people who are gay, is particularly strange to me.  Some titles include And Tango Makes Three, The Family Book, Totally Joe. 
-The Dirty Cowboy is a book that was removed from an elementary school library because the cowboy takes a bath, and so, while the pictures do not show any full frontal nudity, because you can tell the cowboy is naked, this is apparently inappropriate.
-500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures was removed along with other books providing Mexican history because they brainwash children into think Latinos might be or have been oppressed.
Also, hat tip to DCist for the link to the DC Public Library's Roller Girl of the Day with her favorite banned book.  Including my possible favorite roller girl name: Queen Kamamayhemmayhem

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Find Me

I got an ARC of Romily Bernard's Find Me at RWA.  I started it during those electronics free moments on the plane and then picked it back up later.  Wow.  Wick and her sister are in foster care after their mother commit suicide round about the time their meth dealing dad got arrested.  Dad escaped the police so Wick has been planning for the inevitable day when he returns and they will need to escape, making money hacking.  Someone hands her a diary from a classmate who has just commit suicide and Wick discovers that the former friend and classmate was involved in a twisted relationship that led to her thinking suicide was her only escape.  And his next target is Wick's sister.  With the help of fellow hacker Griff, Wick needs to figure out who it is before he finds Lily and before her returned dad gets them all in worse trouble. 
I'm not sure I audibly gasped, but this was definitely a good thriller, as well as a great story.  I was scared just the right amount, and surprised (although I should warn you I almost never guess the bad people, so, it's not hard to be a better guesser than I).  It is a trilogy (I know you are shocked) but I will tell you that there is a lot of closure in this book, so while I'm looking forward to Remember Me, this won't leave you hanging.

Monday, September 23, 2013

All the Pretty Authors

This weekend was the National Book Festival, so a lot of authors were in town.  (There's also some stuff in Virginia, and some stuff this weekend in Maryland, and some people who just had DC this week on their tour stop.  It's pretty amazing week to be a book fan.) 
My brain is all all the things - yes, people said pretty things, so I will not even attempt to cover, just summarize a smidge.
1. Rainbow Rowell spoke at Politics and Prose about Fangirl, a tale of a girl with social anxiety but a rich life on the internet as a fan fic writer faces college.
2. Elizabeth Wein was impressed, given Rose Under Fire's relatively recent US release, that so many of the group had read it.  She also discussed a little the differing receptions both books have received in different countries.  (All generally good, some more rabid.)
3. At the National Book Fest, Holly Black read from The Coldest Girl in Coldtown (which I think is an excellent title) and really, the sign language interpretation of both that and later, Holly's answer about what creatures she doesn't like (zombies, they smell and they shamble) was most fascinating.  Holly also spoke of how thinking of the dissociation that watching something on TV creates, helped inspire the book. 
4. Matthew Quick talked about how Silver Linings Playbook being turned into a movie gave him an unexpected platform to discuss mental health. And that on an idyllic vacation in France was where he wrote Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock - for him the distance and contrast gave him the safety to write about this tough subject of violence in schools. 
5. Patrick Ness spoke about how he doesn't think about the other readers, just writes to please his own teen self and that if it didn't make you feel, then, what was the point?  He also maybe toyed with the camera operator who had asked him not to swear but apparently okayed the use of boobies and crap.
6. The book club got a chance to chat a little more with Holly Black, along with Megan Whalen-Turner, and Paolo Bacigalupi which was great as we talked books, and writing, and cats.
7. Tamora Pierce did a bit where she read like a doddering old reader because she likes to see the fear in the audience's eyes.  She also then went for straight Q&A which worked really well.  The tent was jam packed, the question line was long and good, and her answers were humorous and helpful.
8. Fred Hiatt wrote a YA book Nine Days inspired by the real life story of Ti-Anna Wang who is fighting to get her father released from prison in China.  She talked about the state of things with her father right now (not good) and how having a seemingly braver, cooler, fictional version of yourself out there in the world can inspire you to keep going so that real life inspired the fiction which is inspiring her real life. 
So, quite a week. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Dear Project Runway - the Superfans

Dear Everyone,
Watch the show is always my mantra.  This week's episode especially.
Dear Designers,
I give you credit, because you all avoided the classic - oh dear I can't work with non-models who might even have opinions trap.  Good for you.  However...
Dear Ken,
Oh, Ken, Ken, Ken.  Oh, I was trying to defend you but, um, so here's the thing.  I'm now guessing that you don't watch the show, or don't like having roommates or don't deal well with stress or some combination thereof.  So, maybe reality TV is not for you.  Had you watched, oh, any season, you would have realized that the designers combine rooms as people go home.  This is not anyone's choice, just like you didn't get to pick your first three roommates, you don't get to decide that you shouldn't have to have new roommates. Although, I guess in this case you got that since you now have a room alone. (Or, um, did.)  And yes, you quickly realized that this was worse, that this meant you were getting treated like a potential firebomb, and well, it was not undeserved. 
Dear Alexander,
They must have edited out the part where you owned that your behavior was also bad.  I'm glad to hear you did. Matching drama with drama is not really a good idea when these are the people you are rooming with, I'm just saying. 
Dear Alexander and Alexandria and your Superfan Clients,
I know the superfans watch, but have you, A & A? And Superfans, have you paid close attention to the non-model challenges? Because the suits and job interview outfits almost universally end up in the bottom either because, as with Alexander's, there's not enough time to execute the tailoring properly, or because, as with Alexandria's, it looks too boring.  So, I hope you all have learned something.
Dear Alexandria,
That's twice now you've ended up in the bottom for listening to carefully to your client.  Oh wait, I'm sorry, you didn't listen to your client, you told her what she needed and talked her out of the more interesting stuff.  Even Dom was politely trying to suggest that these were sophisticated prints and you needed to keep it young. 
Oh, and PS Ken, how have you never designed for a non-model person?  Who have you been designing for?  Your website says you have a fashion line and do custom designs.  Do you only do them for models?  (Also, may I suggest a copy editor?)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Three Interesting Things

Note: Cotains reference to a racist sports team name.

1. I had the chance to go see Rainbow Rowell at Politics and Prose last night, and she spoke a little about this incident where she was uninvited from speaking at a school and library event in Minnesota.  Meg Medina had a similar experience with a different school visit.  And Linda Holmes of NPR's Monkey See blog has this eloquent post about the sad fallout of restricting stories that are about people being bullied. 
2. Given my long term love of the Redskins, and yet conflicted (to say the least) feelings about their name, I found this post about the NFL commissioner's comments about the name, and this post from ESPN about some of the internal discussion they've had about the name really interesting.  I recognize that in the end, this is the owner's choice, but I'm glad there's some useful discussion about it.
3. And well, I had heard about cat cafes in Japan, but apparently London is going to get in on the game too. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Burning Sky

I picked up an ARC of The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas at RWA.  I love this prologue.  I will, in the future hold up this prologue as a defense that I don't hate all prologues.  But then, I felt it took a while for the story to get to the part the prologue promised.  (Not forever, a day in book time, which is for some people not long at all and for impatient readers like myself - a bit of waiting.)  But the book lived up to the promise and ultimately I really enjoyed it and look forward to the rest of the trilogy. 
Iolanthe Seabourne is an elemental mage being looked after by a guardian slipping deeper into addiction.  When he inexplicably tries to ruin a light elixir she is working on, she calls down a bolt of lightning to fix it, drawing the attention of those who have been waiting for a predicted powerful mage.  Prince Titus shows up with a plan in place to protect her - she will come with him to his non-mage school in England (Eton) and act the part of his classmate returned from convalescence. 
I'm a big fan of Sherry Thomas' historical romances, which take place in a similar time period (late 1800's as non-mages count it), so think this will appeal to fans of those.  And for those less interested in adult historical romances, but up for a historical YA fantasy (say fans of things like Graceling) this will appeal as well.  And well, that prologue I adore so much.  Let me send you here to read it

Monday, September 16, 2013

Dear Project Runway,

I am behind on two weeks, so much to cover. 
First, Dear Helen,
Deciding to ask a question in private is totally fine.  Doing so at the door to the room where everyone can see you is silly.  Obviously, given the cameras, the idea of a secret is pretty much gone, but asking where everyone can see you but not hear you and then refusing to share is certainly a choice, but it's a choice that is essentially designed to create conflict.
And then, when you got the conflict, perhaps in an attempt to seem tough, you insisted on responding in kind and then went and told Tim on the other designer and implied that you felt your safety was at risk.
Having some time to ponder this, given the whole Sandor thing, I am not properly appreciating your level of concern.  As a city girl I tend to think people who yell from the other side of the room, even when it includes obscenities are pretty harmless.  But sure, if you felt legitimately threatened, then escalating early made sense. 
Dear Ken,
Oh, don't get me wrong.  I think Helen was overreacting, but that doesn't mean cursing someone out is the right answer.  It's not.  Hopefully the chat with Tim helped you refocus and remember that you have better things to do - ie make stuff. 
Dear Kate,
I thought that fabric was so ugly, kudos for turning it into a cute dress. 
Dear Dom,
Please don't scare me like that.  Also, I totally understand why the idea to do something a little different makes sense, but there's different and there's dull.  Simple is not dull.
I also made a crazy statement that I liked your second dress enough to buy it even at the expected high price. We shall see if I live up to that. 
Dear Bradon,
Well, I thought your dress was fine, but not as interesting as the judges did.  (But I've never been in a Belk, so what do I know.)  I hope you are gracious about the weird you thought you won and now there is another winner.  Or gracious outwardly.  If you, or Alexander and Kate who were in the original top three wanted to bitch a little about them giving a prize to one of the bottom three, it would be hard to blame you. 
And well, the non-model people challenge is coming up.  Hopefully none of you make anyone cry. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Three Interesting Things

1.  I didn't think I was particularly interested in tipping, but here I am linking to an article about it again. This article looks at some of the challenges and issues with eliminating tipping and/or replacing it with service charges. 
2. I made my way down a link rabbit hole and ended up on this story about a man being ultimately cleared by the TSA to fly after a screening issue was resolved, but then refused by his airline, causing him to have to buy a new ticket last minute.  While I get that airlines have some discretion for refusing passengers, this seems an extreme case, and I'm a little surprised it hasn't gotten more attention. 
3. And for a change of pace, here is this thoughtful discussion of what constitutes a dumpling.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Family Cats

I want to start by saying that all the lovely cats in this story are no longer with us, because I find nothing more heartbreaking than a long post about a beloved pet that ends with their death. 
My parents decided to be cat people fairly close to the time they decided to work on becoming parents.  They had seen the movie "Aristocats" and my mother had decided she wanted to have an orange tabby like the cartoon cat who wished to grow up to be an alley cat.  So, she called a woman who had posted an ad for kittens and asked if any were orange.  Hearing that one was, she went for a visit and was hissed at by a black tabby cat, so she ended up taking two - the orange and the black - home.  My sister and I, in the way of children, decided that Toulouse and Poki (short for Popoki) were our brothers and that Toulouse was really my cat and Poki was really hers. Toulouse met something in the alley that left him needing antibiotics and eventually a surgery that he did not survive.  Poki shortly after went to live with some friends of ours where he turned from a bird feeder stalking cat to a basement hiding cat. My mother had developed severe allergies and a no fur rule was instituted in our house.
My sister and I did get an actual brother, who was fairly entertaining. And at some point (although I should mention well after my attempts at exemption, not that I hold a grudge) the no fur rule developed an exemption first for two gerbils (one for each of my siblings) and then for a guinea pig.  I may have tried to argue that fur was fur (I had lost interest in gerbils and never much had any in guinea pigs) but no go.
Fast forward quite some time and I get a call from my brother.  He had gotten home from school to discover a plastic tray and a bag of cat food in his room, had I left it there?  No.  Neither had my mother.  I made it home before my dad, who asked my brother and I if we had any guesses what his surprise was. (Our dad loved surprises, but he loved them so much he often gave them away in his excitement.) My brother asked if it might be a cat.  And my dad, a little surprised we had caught on, produced a box of annoyed orange fuzzball that came to be known as Cosmo. 
The is not the first time that my dad brought home a surprise, so my mom took it well.  And fortunately her allergies seems to have lessened.  Especially since my dad mentioned the family who had found a mom cat with a litter of kittens in an abandoned pipe factory had another kitten that needed a home.  I might have mentioned that I had always wanted a cat.  And well, a few days later my mom opened the door to a flash of orange being chased by a flash of black. She always said Sabrina, as she came to be known, was lucky to have that off center orange stripe because it was that adorable stripe that kept her from becoming a Barbie coat.  (Never mind that there were no Barbies in the house.) 
I later moved out and Sabrina had other cat companions, and then in this last place it was just us. Especially since being on an upper floor precluded her getting outside regularly (or really, at all).  She occasionally patrolled the hallways, just to make sure everything was okay. 
She started losing weight at the beginning of the year.  The vet visits went from looking great to looking good for a cat her age to we need to consider how aggressive treatment should be.  She was diagnosed with chronic renal failure, arthritis,  and a heart murmur.  Another vet visit led eventually to adding anemia and cancer to the list. 
Having been raised on Judith Viorst books, I of course, think ten good things about Sabrina should be offered up, even if my tenth will be a little different. 
1. She was smart.  She cracked the fancy cat carrier open and never let the more newfangled ones stop her from trying. 
2. She ate all the treats.  My sister used to sit on the other side of the bedroom door and poke treats under the door and try and steal them back. 
3. She appreciated humans in small groups who might pet her.  (In large groups she found humans best avoided.) This turned into something of an arrival bonus for cat friendly early early guests.
4. She found dogs interesting up until they tried to chase her. 
5. She had stopped being a lap cat, but would happily curl up on my arm. 
6. She often operated as a back up alarm, convinced that I was missing out on prime cat petting time.  (Fortunately for us all, she did this pretty close to actual alarm time.)
7. She would indicate a preference for the air (or rarely heat) to be turned on by jumping on top of the unit where she would let it blow her fur. 
8. She had no particular interest in my knitting unless the yarn ball  fell to the floor.  Even then, she mostly wanted to make sure they weren't going to fall on her.
9. She would catch pom poms in the air.  I had a roommate who thought the idea of a cat playing anything like catch was ridiculous until I demonstrated.  She also snuck up on unsuspecting pom poms and wrestled them to the ground.
10. And her leftover cat meds have been donated to the vet so they can help another sick cat whose owner might not otherwise be able to afford them. 

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Three Interesting Things

1. I feel I should warn you that this link pitching TV shows to TLC (which TLC seems to have taken with just the right blend of seriousness and humor) does contain a picture of the clothed (well, partially) but large scrotumed man who sparked EW's interest in what a TLC show might be. 
2. If you loved "Bunheads" and somehow missed the final tribute dance from much of the cast, let me direct you here.
3. Have you ever wished "Hamlet" would actually let you decide whether to be or not to be?  Well, now there is a choose your own adventure style version

Friday, August 30, 2013

Dear Project Runway Contestants,

First I want to give kudos to both Braden and Miranda because there is a thing that seems to happen at least once a season and people get all up in arms about it, and you both resisted.  You both picked out not only plaid, but a red plaid and paired it with a white top.  Neither of you acted like you had invented plaid.  Neither of you acted like both of you using plaid was an example of one designer stealing another designer's idea.  You both expressed some realistic concern that your ideas might seem too similar, but not in a way that suggested the other designer needed to change anything about what they were doing.  So, again, kudos.
Well, Alexandria, you are kind of growing on me.  Whereas Dom, that was an idea that with more time might have been really interesting but as it was I think you were just barely safe. 
And while I have wondered how the anonymous runway really works when you can see the designers giggling with glee or sometimes cringing when their stuff walks, I think this might be a case where it worked in the designer's favor.  Because Ken and Helen, those were nice outfits, but that's all they were.  But you surprised the judges, so you survive another "week". 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Three Interesting Things

1. I don't currently have a dishwasher (unless you mean me, which you don't) but I am fascinated by this idea of using the dishwasher to bake your fish
2. As cameras get better, and well windows too, I suppose, I imagine there will be more interesting discussions about privacy such as the one sparked by this art installation that features photos taken of neighbors in the apartment block across the street.
3. There's been some discussion of tipping lately, at least in my corner of the world, so this article about why some restaurants go for the flat tip was interesting.  (I know the headline implies they banned tipping, but that's not actually what they did, so, anyway, interesting read.)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Dear Reader Kid

Dear Tyler,
Hi!  I heard you've won the library reader competition five years in a row.  Awesome! And I heard the librarian asked you to, well, stop winning like that.  So, welcome to the unfairness of the world.  As hopefully lots of people have told you, the librarian was wrong.  She may have meant well, but she was wrong. 
Please don't stop reading.  You may want to consider expanding to other libraries, but keep reading.  Don't let one adult talk you out of being a voracious reader.  I know she told you it's not fair, you're taking all the books and that's why the other kids can't read, but she's wrong.  I like to believe she meant well, that she was trying to give other people opportunities to excel like you and just not phrasing it correctly.  And I know they got burned by that kid who lied a while back. 
I hope you read anyway.  In spite of.  Regardless of reward.  I participated in a Read-a-thon back in the day and won tickets to a basketball game.  The next year I couldn't get my neighbors to sponsor me anymore because I had read more than they expected and they didn't want to owe me (and the charity really) lots of money.  So, I didn't do the read-a-thon anymore.  I found other ways to raise money for charity but I kept reading.  I haven't done 63 in about a month like you, but I still read lots.  You keep it up.  There are all sorts of studies and boring reasons that reading makes you a better, more empathetic, person with a greater understanding of the world, but the important part is that you know it's fun.  As you probably have learned, there's a lot of school reading where they make you examine themes and symbolism and write papers about books and sometimes that can make you forget how reading just for fun is enjoyable.  So, read on.  The more you keep reading on your own, the more likely you'll hang onto the reading long after folks make you read, and that will be the best part. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Dear Tim Gunn

First, I must confess, that I only caught the second half of the episode due to DVR issues. But, I was interested but potentially concerned about the Tim Gunn save.  And this is exactly why. "American Idol" had (maybe has, I confess, I do not watch) a judges save and here were the issues.  You never want to use it too early, because invariably as things get tighter, there will be a designer that had some challenges or even - as apparently happened last year when there was an unofficial save - there is a great outfit that maybe isn't quite appropriate for the specifics of the challenge but isn't bad.  But, of course, you don't want to be at the last episode before the finale with the save unused, so it tends to get used somewhere in the middle.
And this, well, you are a wise man who obviously spends more time with these designers than I do, but I must say, I like Justin, he seems lovely, but I have not yet seen an outfit that was interesting enough to, I think, deserve a save.  And later, if someone like Dom or Braden has a bad day, I will be shaking my fist at the TV wishing that save was there.  There is a huge difference between being a talented designer and being good at "Project Runway" and I'm not sure that Justin is the latter.  I certainly hope I'm wrong. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Three Interesting Things

1. My little corner of twitter had several folks asking why there wasn't more coverage of Antoinette Tuff the school administrator who stood, spoke, and negotiated with the armed gunmen who showed up at her school Tuesday. 
2. Most of us try really hard not to set off the metal detector as we journey through the airport.  But some girls, being taken by their parents to be forced into a marriage back in their parents homeland, have stuck spoons in their garments to create an opportunity to attempt escape.
3. And one man has been researching old Hawaiian menus to look at changes in the fish population. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Clean Slate of Sorts

This weekend my DVR experienced a tragic illness known as hard drive failure.  It was swift but final.  Now obviously I just reconnected the TV to the cable and we were back in business (well, once I sorted out the question of where the cable remote might be).  And the newfangled DVR's these days now require an extra piece of business from the cable company to go, so it will take a little longer until things DVR are up and running again. 
But in addition to the task of teaching the new DVR the things I wish it to record automatically for me, there were a bunch of things I was still behind on.  In these days of Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, and other TV streaming sources, little is truly lost forever, but I had episodes 3-10 of "Orphan Black" for example all queued up and ready to go, and well, now I don't.  I had a ridiculous number of season passes set up, although some of them were for shows that no longer produce new episodes, but I hadn't quite reached the point where I could delete that.  (Farewell, "Happy Endings".) 
But, I am trying to find the positive.  This was probably something I needed to do.  To wipe the slate clean, stop confusing the DVR that sometimes suggested things that were so spot on, and sometimes suggested I might like "Anger Management".  No, DVR, I would not.  I feel like you don't even know me at all! 
And now some of those shows I kept saying to myself I wanted to watch, even as they stacked up, well, it's probably time to evaluate how much I really want to hunt them down. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Dear Project Runway - Teams and Unconventional

Dear Sandro,
I don't know why you came back.  I mean, I guess because you realized storming off looked bad on camera, but the passive aggressive I was mean to you because I like you so much and I couldn't believe you thought something I did was out of line really didn't help. 
Dear Ken,
Oh Ken.  There's this thing that happens.  People learn language that can be employed to navigate difficult discussions.  But then they cast themselves as the victimized one, and don't realize or appreciate that the whole, well, I was talking so now it's my turn to talk but I just want to talk to tell you that you should probably just not talk to me, that's not better communication, that's bullying communication.  And I sort of see that in your head you were stuck with two teammates who didn't listen, but unless they magically edited out all the parts where you offered helpful suggestions instead of that's a terrible idea, I'm done talking to you, and...even if they did - you were part of the problem.  So, yes, you thought everyone else was the problem and not you which was why it surprised you that Alexandria actually found you problematic to work with.  So now you think she should have mentioned this sooner.  In one of the times you let her speak. 
Dear Sue and Alexandria,
This strategy of get through this challenge and make it to the next, um it rarely works.  It works less the farther you get along. 
Dear Sue,
I understand that it frustrated you that people were saying you couldn't sew when what they should have been saying was you cannot operate a sewing machine without serious handholding.  But, you got yourself into this by showing up here without that skill, and then using materials that even the most cursory glance through the "Project Runway" prior seasons would have shown you that using the unconventional materials does not equal curtains.  So you had to start again, by which point your team was already under the gun and less able to assist you. 
Dear Alexandria,
It's hard.  The thing that's hard for us on out couches to remember is that if the team doesn't gel right away, you don't have a day or two to sort that out, it's just bad.  And you were trying, but you were also trying to get along a lot, rather than trying to fix things. 
Dear Justin,
I'm worried about you. I think you kind of let your team carry you on this, and hope you have plans to do something really awesome very soon.
Dear Dom,
I am really liking you.  Keep that up. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Three Interesting Things

1. I devoured Orange is the New Black (the book) over the weekend.  (Show is on my list.) So, I enjoyed this interview with author Piper Kerman.  The interview to a certain extent and the book itself juggle a tricky balance in recognizing the fact that she had committed illegal acts that were deserving of punishment; that her circumstances and support system before, during, and after were not the norm; and that it was an interesting society. 
2. As I look around and discover I swear I had more August left a second ago, I found this post about glowsticks quite poignant. 
3. My lovely chapter mate Hope Ramsay is hosting a knit-along to collect hats for the Hatbox Foundation. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Who's That Girl?

I had read a few weeks back about stores implementing facial recognition technology so when a celebrity pops in, they could take note.  I had mixed feelings since, while I agree that to a certain extent celebrities are accepting a certain lack of privacy, I never thought that included their ability to buy lipstick in peace.  But, in light of recent Oprah sized events, I could see why stores might wish to do this.  Of course, ideally stores would simply treat all their customers with respect, celebrity or no.  NPR's Code Switch team made use of #myoprahmoment and the stories people shared were heartbreaking. 
I have been in high end stores as a teen where they assumed I had no money to buy their things (and, okay, they were right, I was usually with my sister who had high end tastes before she had such a budget) but the things is, I didn't buy anything that day, but I also didn't buy anything later when I had that money.  Now maybe I wouldn't have anyway, but the overwhelming theme of many of the #myoprahmoment stories was that they not only didn't get what they had hoped to purchase that day, they didn't shop at that store later, either ever or for decades.  And, in a perfect example of how many times people will relate a bad customer experience, they were naming names. 
I don't wish to suggest that these are only old stories, and bad retail isn't always about perceived race or socioeconomic status.  The Code Switch story about the Oprah incident has some of the tweets mentioned.  And we can pretend this only happened because it was Switzerland, but I think it's more likely that Swiss folk were just less likely to think it was Oprah, just some other well dressed black woman. 
Retail is often a thankless job. And I don't know how many people may have asked that salesperson to take down that bag only to gape at the price.  But in the end, that was still her job, to show customers the merchandise they wished to see. 

Friday, August 09, 2013

Dear Project Runway - Week the Insane

Dear Project Runway Producers,
One of my biggest pet peeves is the storytelling device where you start with something heated or emotional or what have you, then cut it off and back up 36 hours.  I hate it when TV shows do it (even the ones that had that as it's standard framing device, I often fast forwarded to the real start).  I hate it when books do it.  I'm not saying it's never been done well (please see "Out of Sight") but it is done badly very, very often and this was no exception.  There was nothing here that happened that wasn't just as interesting if you had followed your normal chronological* format. 
Dear Miranda,
I imagine that sound you heard was a giant "Ha!" from an eliminated designer when the judges said, well, you made us another pencil skirt.  So maybe work on that.  Also, I get that gender bending is a big inspiration for you, but when you are presenting a pencil skirt with a jacket and crop top, it's not a piece of background that makes sense. 
Dear Helen,
Oh, I had hopes for you.  But if you are unable to proceed with designing after receiving criticism, what ever made you think this was the show for you? 
Dear Jeremy,
Your family tree is not necessarily my business, but um, color me intrigued.  As it stands, you have my sympathies, because while from a design perspective it was not the best choice to go vintage, I can't imagine being away from your family when you and they get unexpected news like that. 
Dear People Who's Names I Still Can't Remember,
Some of you I'm already planning to forget because what little I remember of you is not good.  Others I have hopes. 

*Look, we all know chronological is a bit of a myth even in competitive reality. 

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Three Interesting Things

1. I find swans elegant looking, and I could see how you might think, I want one.  However, I have seen what swans who feel threatened do (by seen, we understand that I mean, on TV, I try to leave swans I find in the wild alone) so I have to find the idea of attempting to stuff one in a duffel bag an interesting choice.  Hopefully the swans are fine.
2. Did you know that elephants can play instruments?  In fact, some of them are in an orchestra
3. And to finish out the animal theme, here is a story of a woman who has turned her home into an animal shelter, where she has, among other animals, a few hundred cats

Monday, August 05, 2013

Dear Project Runway - Week 3

Dear Project Runway Contestants,
The team challenges I think are the hardest to prepare for.  And now, you guys have probably been there about a week or so, so the weird schedule, the constant together time, the realization that you aren't going to see your own bed and your own loved ones through anything other than a computer screen for three more weeks, is really setting in. 
And from your couch at home, you can see that people just need to take a step back and be reasonable. 
But.  One of you did that thing that of course meant the powers that be were going to intervene, you mentioned that you would hate to work with this one contestant.  And...guess what happened.  Color me shocked.
So, Miranda and Timothy, the bigger issue was that Timothy thought you were great friends and so hearing you trash his process behind his back was shocking and he had to have this realization in front of everyone (to say nothing of the cameras) and so, it was hard.  And yes, after you had some sleep you realized that you had handled things wrong (giving you the benefit of the doubt here that that's what you realized and not that you realized you might get the mean designer edit) and apologized.  And then both of you had problems with that.  The thing with apologies is they don't have to fix everything right away.  You spent the time figuring out how to address the problem and Timothy spent the time realizing there was a personal problem, so it's not surprising that he wasn't quite ready for acceptance.  But Timothy, actions speak louder than words is not only a cliched response to a genuine sounding apology, it's not a stance a guy who took the unicorn (not a euphemism) and stormed out of the workroom. 
And, you have absolutely no leg to stand on, when you're the one who told the judges that she was trashing you.  You could have said that there were issues (they usually seem to magically know when there are, so no point in trying to hide that) but you chose to air it all out.  I have heard it pointed at that by the time you get to the judging, usually, only one of them is going home, so there's little value in maintaining team unity.  And sure, that's one approach. I would argue that as a person who expects to work with some of these people on the stage or in the judges chairs, or, heck, even with the viewers at home, attempting to demonstrate some professionalism might be the way to go. And look, you certainly didn't say anything that didn't happen, so there's that.  But expecting an answer that's not, well, working together is part of the challenge, is silly. 
And Sandro.  Sandro, Sandro, Sandro.  I know, Sue still isn't quite speedy with a sewing machine.  But man, she was a fan of yours until this challenge and then you treated her like crap the whole time.  You both refused to help and then told her she was doing it wrong.  Finally, recognizing that at this point surviving the challenge was her best hope, she said, fine, you do it your way, tell me what you want to do.  What you didn't realize was she was not doing this because she recognized your superior talent, she was doing this because you were being a jerk, and she figured finishing was better than not finishing in time.  So, as you made the statement to the camera that when a woman agrees to just listen and do what a man says, it is beautiful, I started to ponder if possibly you were just being specific about this situation and not recognizing the broader implications, but I got over that in about three seconds.  I feel certain the internet has alerted you to the issue.  And if the upcoming previews are any indication, you have other things to worry about.
Oh, and Timothy - you're wrong about unicorns.  I'm just saying. 

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Three Interesting Things

1. I found this transcription about the arts in schools interesting in part due to it's mention of a creativity test.  I applied to a few private schools in as an incoming third and seventh grader, and recall that quite a few of them had me do exercises in creativity in addition to the standardized testing. 
2. Apparently female cane toads, have a way of discouraging unwanted mates
3. My chapter mate, Allison Leotta has some tips for staying safe out there.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Thank You, "Intervention"

"Intervention" aired it's final episode this summer and, while I've talked about the show before, I wanted to do so again.  Despite the fact that reality TV started on PBS, people often speak of it with disdain.  Say that they don't watch it, or that they only watch a few shows.  I tend to point to "Intervention"  (along with some of my favorite competitive reality shows) as shows that I not only enjoy, but believe make a difference. I think a single episode of "Intervention" demonstrates how deeply addiction affects the addict and all those around the addict, how powerfully you begin to believe that the line of what you will and won't do isn't gone, it's just shifting a little, even though to others you may appear long gone.  And how much some addicts and family are unable to see any way out, so they just continue on. 
It sounds mean, to follow an addict and their family member for a week or two, talk to them about the before and the now, and then offer treatment at the end and hope the follow up provides a clip of a happy addict.  However, as I've mentioned before, the show demonstrates the profound nature of addiction.  How cool the addicts tell you their lives are, how much they love getting high all the time.  Juxtaposed with them drooling in their food or yelling and making no sense depending on their substance(s) of choice.  The interventionists sent by the show, sit with the families for a whole day ahead of time, prepping them and reminding them that they too will need to make big changes to their behavior.  I read a while back that they worked really hard to match addicts to rehabs that specialized in their issues, and really believed 90 days (no less) was the way to go.  Sometimes the most resistant folks were the family members.  One addict flipped out and tried to make her family all sign a contract that they would get treatment too.  Seems paranoid until she finished up 90 days later, and the number of her family that had gone for their weekend of family treatment - that would be none.  (She did okay even so.  But it meant she had to stay away from her family a little longer.) 
According to the screens they flashed in the final episode - 243 interventions performed, 208 accepted, 156 sober.  Those are amazing numbers.  Finding decent comparison statistics is hard given you would have to start with some sort of accurate number of addicts, and good luck collecting that info.  But best guesses seem to be that on average most people working on their own or with professionals have about a 50% success rate getting the addict to agree to treatment, and of those 50% about half relapse.  Now, I wasn't there when the "Intervention" folks did their adding, so I imagine that success number includes people who relapsed but then got help, but it seems that comparatively, the "Intervention" agreement to treatment numbers were much higher, and ongoing success also higher.  I still think the show would be worth it if it's numbers were equal, but I like to bring this up when people mention it's exploitative.
Other than follow up visits, they did not follow the addict into treatment.  I think that's important, since I personally imagine that the deep, dark work one needs to do in that setting is probably not well served by the presence of cameras.  (I could be wrong.) 
And, I adore that Candy Finnigan (my tied for favorite interventionist, because, well, Jeff Van Vonderon was wonderful too) now gets stopped in the grocery store.  (I also think the idea that people in the grocery store are freaking out that Candy is there to get them is probably why they had to stop, but I still adore that Candy is chatting with folks about their moms in the store). 
I wanted to thank the show, all the families who agreed to talk honestly (mostly) about this with a camera, and to put these stories out there.  I watched the re-runs because they always did follow ups and I liked seeing that this or that person had stayed sober, gotten married, gone back to college, or started talking to their kids again.  Some of these people were self-medicating mental illnesses that the treatment allowed them to diagnose and address.  The interventionists shared hard truths (I once cheered when the interventionist told the family to own up to the wrongs they had done) and sometimes laughed or cried or prayed with the family. 
And, think, not only of the 156 sober, but all the people around them who can breathe easier to have their family member back. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Dear Project Runway Designers

I know we're only two episodes in, but I have some notes. 
Dear Timothy,
I recognize that even on the way to worthy causes like environmentalism, we all have to make choices.  But.  If you are going to take a hard line stance on things like sustainability, you have to be able to explain how you made your choices.  I suppose it's possible it was edited out, but I for one do not understand.  In the first challenge you said that you didn't want to use hair tools on your model due to the electricity, and yet, I saw you use a sewing machine (to say nothing of all the electricity in the building you work and live in on the show, or to, you know power the cameras on this TV show you auditioned for) and I have noticed you using your show-provided tablet for sketching, so it isn't that you just are trying to keep your personal footprint small, somehow hair tools, seem different to you. 
Just like you decided only sustainable makeup could be used and yet it never occurred to you to google the make up company that the show has used for umpteen seasons and find out about that.  Or considered that your model(s) might feel at risk as a result of no or limited hair and makeup.  (I realize the designers almost never consider the model, but well, especially now that the judges get the up close look, you want that model on your side.) 
I applaud your desire to work towards a more ecological type of fashion, but just like the cage-free vs. free-range egg labels, I think you need to more clearly define your stance. 
Also, pretty is just superficial?  Really?  Aren't you on a show about clothes?

Dear Sandro,
All clothes should cover a person's crotch. 

Dear Sue,
I'm all for being self taught.  But you auditioned for a show that uses sewing machines.  As far as I'm aware, they don't force you to use them, but given you wanted a tutorial in the first episode, I assume your plan was to use them, and somehow you thought your competitors could take time out of their schedules to teach you to do something you could have decided to learn for yourself somewhere along the way.  And, while I understand, sometimes we all need to whine, but something along the lines of "I don't have time to learn how to do this right now" may be true but it is hardly your competitors fault that you arrived on a show without a skill you have determined you need to move forward.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Three Interesting Things

1. I'm not sure which I find more surprising - that the first female firefighter came to be just over the river in Virginia or that it was recent. (Hey, I call that recent!)  They now have a firefighter girl's camp to encourage young women to consider this career path. 
2. While I confess, I hardly use a landline these days, that doesn't mean I don't understand why people want the possibility.  Post-hurricane Sandy, some residents have found the landlines are not being rebuilt, instead replaced with Voice link, which is a little box with an antenna, and yeah, is kind of like a cell phone. 
3. Author Maggie Stiefvater has a post about how sometimes, yes, red curtains are in the book to make you think something.