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