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.