Friday, December 26, 2014

Three Interesting Things

1. Glitter might provide the answer to one of NASA's telescope problems
2. You know i love anything that involves spreadsheet analysis of pop culture, so Tressie Mcmillan Cottom's look at interracial relationships on TV was of particular interest to me.
3. And this story about a child who wrote to Norman Bridwell about her Clifford dog, is just adorable.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Books are Not Bran

One of the things you see and hear a lot of if you hang out in places with aspiring YA writers is people who say things along the lines of, "I want to write books for teens so they will have something good for them to read."  And I cringe inwardly.  So, here's the thing.  I hang out in places with adult focused writers too, and I have never once heard someone say, "I wanted adults to have something good for them to read."  And yes, teenagers are not adults.  (And yes, teenagers are not the only people who read YA, but I am fine with working on the idea that they are the target audience.)  And there is nothing wrong with writing a good story.  Or the story you wish was there for you as a teen.  But if you make your stories sound like healthy bran (not to disparage healthy bran, but let's face it, it's bran) - well who wants to read that? 
Also, you have to love and respect teenagers.  Otherwise, this is like someone saying well, I heard people were buying book X, and since I think book X is crap, clearly I can write a book that audience will love, because I write better. First, this may be your internal monologue (although dear God, I hope not) but saying that never worked for anyone.  Talking down to your audience has never led to more success.  (Unless you career plan is dictator.  And even then I can see problems.)  Also, I don't mean I knew I teen once I didn't hate.  Or I am related to a teen that I love.  Love and respect teenagers.  That's how you know if you can write YA.  Not just I know what teens should be reading.

Edited for spelling

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Three Interesting Things

1. Two of the protest leaders in Ferguson have gotten married.  Certainly not the lifelong change that they got involved for, but lovely nonetheless.
2. So happy for One More Page in Arlington which received a grant to make a book truck.  Seriously people, I want to see the book truck trend move like the food truck trend.
3. And I find this mom who called in to C-Span to tell her rival pundit sons to get it out of their system before they come home for the holidays hilarious.

Monday, December 15, 2014

How OCD Saved My Knitting

(Disclaimer: I recognize that many people overuse the term OCD to reference organization tendencies rather than legitimate obsessive thoughts and/or compulsions. The person in this situation self described as OCD so I am taking them at their word.)
I was in a coffee shop drinking a tea and chatting with a friend.  This coffee shop had a long center table and several small side tables.  An employee mentioned it was kind of driving her nuts that people were swapping chairs from the center table to side tables since, it both made the chairs at the long table not match and that the center table and the side tables were different heights so the chairs were different heights so people should notice the chair felt weird and really this just made her all OCD and while she certainly wasn't going to wrest chairs away from the butts of patrons she didn't know why other people weren't bugged.  (This, I should mention was said entirely in a friendly if curious tone, when you legitimately wonder how people suffer the bother of the unmatching chairs.) I and my friend immediately checked our chairs.  (Mine was right, me friend's was wrong.)  And this led to a discussion of how there were tumblr and pinterest sites about organization, and I mentioned that while my apartment was often a mess, I was one of those people who went into the drug store and rearranged the lipsticks so they were back in the correct slots. 
Well, my friend and I got up to go and were at the corner outside when we heard behind us, "Wait!  Wait!" and the lovely coffee shop staffer jogged out hand handed me my bag of goodies from the holiday market, including a yummy hat kit I had purchased at the holiday market. I thanked her and then realized that while she was clearly a lovely and attentive employees, it was probably her desire to fix our chairs that had her realizing I had left something behind so quickly while I probably would have remembered when I got home.  So really, OCD saved my knitting. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Three Interesting Things

1. Dollree Mapp, who was the subject of a historic case about unlawful search and seizure, has died.
2. In this time of holiday parties and increased togetherness, it can be a hard time for the introverts, I forwarded this essay to some introverts in my life.
3. I loved this piece about knitting as a tool for working on anxiety.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

The Katrina Problem

We are only halfway through the second season of "Sleepy Hollow" and there may be a plan that makes use of all of this. But, right now, Katrina is...not really necessary.  Katrina had moments where she seemed unnecessary in the first season, but she was also trapped in purgatory, and apparently possessed of a glittery hoo-ha given Ichabod and headless/Abraham's burning need for her.  Yes, she was (as folks on Twitter have oft pointed out, supposedly) a powerful witch.  But, no one seemed to really like her for that reason.  But, she was trapped in purgatory, so it seemed hard for her to do much more than pop into a mirror here or there to provide a helpful clue. 
In the beginning of this season she was out.  And...then she decided to hang with Headless to gather intel.  And...constantly remind everyone that Henry was good inside even though he was responsible for almost every terrible thing that happened for every episode, things that resulted in multiple deaths, and he even impregnated his mom with a demon.  (I mean, I know he's too old to be grounded, but if that doesn't at least get you a stern talking to.)  And...Katrina needed rescue a time or twelve.'s fascinating, because in this show that features not one, but two amazingly kick ass women, where there are constantly scenes where Jenny and Abbie propose the plan that everyone follows, where Jenny and Abbie carry the big guns, drive the cars, get handed the tools while the guys hold the flashlights, Katrina gets tied up or impregnated or otherwise put at risk.  And her biggest moment of empowerment this season, was in flashback when she, er, accidentally offed Ichabod's fiance. 
Now it's possible the end game is that Katrina is not all good.  That her time in purgatory or out have caused her to reconsider her choices*.  Or even that they are intentionally making a point about the differences between being a woman raised a few hundred years ago thrust into a modern world.  (Although that would be kind of a shame, given how readily Ichabod has adapted to modern ways, even if he does have a lovely rant about bank pens.) But right now, Katrina is the anchor holding back the team trying to avert apocalypse.  She sends them after things without making sure her communications can't be tracked.  (Seriously, if you can't prevent folks from hitting redial on your mirror, what good is mirror communication.)  She needs rescue.  She makes the team make promises that impair their ability to succeed. 
So, at this point, even if there is a long game, it's going to take quite a lot to make up for what we have so far.

*This interview mentions they have a long game with this.  We shall see.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Three Interesting Things

There are weeks when I feel like three interesting things should all be serious and full of important things going on in the world and weeks where I feel maybe it should just be kitten videos.  This is both of those. 
1. NPR's Code Switch blog took a quick look a racially based protest by athletes.
2. Jacqueline Woodson wrote an eloquent piece about the juxtaposition of winning the National Book Award and getting a watermelon joke.
3. A group of Swedish adventure racers found their team had an extra member of the dog variety.

Monday, December 01, 2014

A discussion of Frozen

Note: I will be discussing "Frozen" and Sense and Sensibility, so therefore revealing plot points of both. 
When I saw "Frozen" last winter, it lived up to all my hopes.  On leaving the theater I had noted the way "Enchanted" handled the true love kiss issue and that I appreciated for "Frozen" they went a slightly different direction .  And I found myself on the Disney Wiki reading comparisons to things. I see their point about some of the comparisons to "A Little Mermaid" (although I would argue that a lot of Disney movies open with a setting song). 
But the more I ponder it, the clearest comparison seems to me to be Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. In Sense and Sensibility the Dashwood sisters have arrived at differing extreme approaches to life - one of logic, one of emotion.  In "Frozen" Elsa's mishap injuring Anna with her ice powers and as a result, their parents decide to lock up the castle and Anna's memories of her sister's powers are removed.  So, Elsa is encouraged to work on suppressing her feelings to gain control over her powers and Anna is left mostly to her own devices.  So, Anna remembers that there was a time when she and her sister had fun and played and people got to visit the castle and now her sister seems to ignore her and everything is shut up. 
Their parents die (sorry, Disney movie parents, you seemed lovely), and Elsa, as eldest, ascends to the throne.  Coronations demand things like, well, witnesses so the castle gates get opened up for one day and Elsa and Anna have differing reactions and expectations.  As demonstrated through the song (and sidenote, this is one of the things I think the musical form lends itself so well to, showing in duet form emotions surrounding the same event) "For the First Time in Forever" Elsa is trying to remain calm, reign everything in, knowing that all these people with all their eyes on her puts her at huge risk of exposing her power, which as she has been told "conceal, don't feel" her plan is to try to not feel anything for the day. 
Anna, on the other hand, is so excited to finally have people to see and talk to.  Knowing that the plan is for the gates to shut again tomorrow, she's trying to cram a whole lifetime of experiences into a single day. 
In Sense and Sensibility, Elinor is so guarded in her expressions of emotion, afraid of seeming to forward, or of revealing unrequited feelings, that at times her family is unsure of her attachment to Edward, and her sister-in-law tells people she's just after his money.  Marianne, on the other hand, ignores Colonel Brandon who to her seems too old to be passionate (at, ahem, 35) and has no trouble displaying her feelings for Willoughby, such that her family wonders if she has gotten secretly engaged. 
In "Frozen" Elsa manages to just make it through the ceremony, but Anna who has managed to go an fall in love with practically the first guy she sees and now thinks they have the most amazing connection and wants to marry him even thought they've just met.  (The characters repeatedly reference a day, but honestly, while it does go from daylight to night, I think it's still safe to count how long Anna and Hans have known each other in hours.) Elsa is so horrified by this, she loses control and ices over the ballroom, and eventually the whole kingdom.  She runs off into the mountains, where finally she feels like she can, as the song says, "Let it Go". 
In "Sense and Sensibility", Elinor manages to maintain her outward calm, until she is led to believe that Edward has married.  She breaks down, regretting not demonstrating herself more strongly, despite his pre-existing engagement.  She finds later that Edward has been jilted, and it is his brother that has married, leaving him free to propose to Elinor. 
In "Frozen", Elsa does not have a love interest, but in the mountains now has the freedom to go all out with her powers.  When Anna tracks her down to tell her about the winter, she cracks again.  (No pun intended.)  Having thought being outed and outcast freed her to be herself and do what she wanted (which as an heir to the throne with a giant secret to keep had to be so relieving) she now discovers she has caused a problem she doesn't know how to solve.  Reminded that her power can be dangerous she tries to send Anna away so she can't be harmed, but unbeknownst to both of them has iced Anna again, this time her heart. 
In Sense and Sensibility, Willoughby must suddenly leave town.  Marianne continues to write him letters and does not stop until her letters are returned to her along with other tokens, and she learns he is engaged to another.  Later the Dashwoods learn that Marianne is not the first woman Willoughby has made promises to (or suggestions of promises, given Marianne later admits they were never actually engaged) that he ultimately did not keep, have abandoned another young woman after impregnating her. (And yes, there is an interesting division in the suitors, Elinor's was circumspect given that he was technically engaged even risking disinheritance, more committed to honoring his commitments whereas Willoughby was freely passionate, although in his case, he was not willing to risk disinheritance by marrying anyone not of fortune.) 
Anna, unused to having people to talk to, falls completely for quite literally the first guy she talks to.  While admitting getting engaged seems nuts, she remains committed to the idea even after the news causes her sister to ice the kingdom and she runs off leaving her brand new fiance in charge of the kingdom.  (I could write a whole other post about how this kingdom hopefully runs itself pretty well given how carelessly it's leaders seem to trade off, but I shall resist. For now.*) Anna hasn't had a friend her own age since her sister was told to hide her power, so the connection she feels with Hans is magical.  Other people who suggest she should wait and get to know him don't understand that Anna can't count on other days to meet people.  (Sure, now that Elsa has abandoned the kingdom, she could go back and leave the gates open, but it's still an unfamiliar concept to her.)  On her journey she encounters Olaf the snowman and Kristoff the mountain man.  Anna talks easily with Kristoff and gets along with him, but has to nudge him to help her find her sister so their relationship does not seem as easy. 
In Sense and Sensibility, after neglecting herself to the point of illness, Marianne comes to see that perhaps passion just for the sake of passion has its flaws and eventually comes to appreciate the charms of Colonel Brandon. 
As Anna begins to show symptoms of being frozen, Kristoff takes her to his stone troll family.  They assume Kristoff and Anna are a couple and try (in song) to convince the pair to give each other a shot.  The trolls (who Anna and Elsa's parents had brought her too the last time she was iced) are unable to help this time, and advise that an act of true love is needed to save her. 
While the book version of Sense and Sensibility is a little less overt about Colonel Brandon, the Emma Thompson version of the movie has him retrieve Marianne who is so distraught over Willoughby, she is lying out in the cold and rain.  In "Frozen", Anna and Kristoff both agree that if Anna needs love, then she needs to be with Hans, so, as Olaf points out later, Kristoff loves Anna enough to rush her to Hans and then leave her behind.  (I will refrain from pointing out that I'm not sure of the passage of time here, but Anna and Kristoff also don't seem to have known each other that long.  Yep, refraining.)
Anna tells Hans the situation, and he reveals, that actually, he doesn't really love her.  He just wants her for her kingdom.  Oops.  So, he locks her in the room and tells others, including Elsa that she has died leaving him in charge. 
Hans had imprisoned Elsa but she managed to ice over her chains and escape.  Hans catches up to her and tells her Anna is dead.  Distraught, Elsa turns away and doesn't notice he's about to kill her. 
Olaf finds Anna and helps her realize that Kristoff loves her.  He helps her make her way to Kristoff who has had a similar realization and returned to tell her.  But, as the storm stalls Anna also sees Hans about to kill Elsa and instead jumps in the way.  This gambit works since she freezes into a solid block of ice.  Elsa is distraught because she has gained and lost Anna again.  Anna thaws, since this sisterly sacrifice is also an act of true love.  And now, each having found a little balance between emotion and suppression, Elsa figures out how to control her powers and Anna helps send Hans back to his kingdom, and also kisses (but does not, as far as we know, immediately marry) Kristoff. 
So while Sense and Sensibility has some additional secret engagements, and significantly less snow and ice than "Frozen", ultimately the lessons the sisters learn in each are similar.  Both learn that the extreme approaches on both sides carry risks, and a balanced approach leads to greater happiness and love.  Two very enjoyable approaches to this. 

*In the Script Notes podcast, Jennifer Lee mentioned that there were things like who was running the kingdom that they had answers for but that got cut, because it wasn't germane to the core plot.  I get this.  I just, still wonder. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Three Thankful Things

1. I am thankful for those who struggle to make this world a better place.  Who get up each day and work hard to change the world, even when it seems that change may not come this year, this decade, or this lifetime.
2. I am thankful for those who work with children, having them, raising them, teaching them, protecting them, and giving them the space and opportunity to shape the world.
3. I am thankful for those who provide entertainment - books, music, and all other media, so that all of us who need a break, an escape, a laugh, a cry, or encouragement can seek and find it.

Monday, November 24, 2014

RIP, Mr. Barry

Marion Barry was the mayor of DC for much of my life. One of the things that's always interesting with any figure both public and not (certainly I have played this game with relatives) is finding the balance in appreciating all the good that they did, and not seeming to ignore the problems.  On balance his struggles with substance abuse end up mattering very little to me, although I am sorry for the ongoing struggles his family has had with that.  The issues of misuse of power and how those often intertwined with attempts to use that power to lure or reward his various mistresses trouble me.  I certainly lived in an area that often got plowed last, since my neighbors often voted for Barry's opponents.  But his work with the SNCC, the summer youth jobs program (I knew a few people who got jobs through that program), and let's face it - does anyone outside of DC much remember it's other six mayors?  (Soon to be seven, yes.) So, the best I have come up with is it's complicated.  He did good, he did bad, but ultimately I think DC benefited from his work, and that seems the thing to remember as is family and loved ones work through this loss.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Three Interesting Things

1. This letter from a performer asked if she wanted to participate in a local stop of a national tour for, um, free brought up some interesting things.
2. Pamela Ribon had some thoughts about the Barbie computer engineer book.  (And if you can't tell from that link title, strong language ahead in that link.)  But a female engineer has refactored the book and made it better.
3. Alan Sepinwall had some thoughts about "Serial" and it's shared roots with "Homicide" and "The Wire" from the city they share and the open ended look at crime.

Monday, November 17, 2014

If we all spoke like press conferencing QBs

Quarterbacks present and former often talk about the balance, that quarterbacks receive a disproportionate amount of attention, and since on winning days that often means accolades, since on paycheck days that means money, that therefore means it's fair (and very politic since you want those nice people in front of you to keep those opposing team members away) to also take a lot of blame when things go wrong, and to share a lot of credit when things go well. 
One of my favorite moments in "Bull Durham" is the five things you will need to handle every press conference ever lesson.  But, I was watching a post-game interview and wondered, what if we all adopted this philosophy.  What if, when things went well at work, we were all quick to spread the kudos around to our supporting team members?  What if, when things went badly we accepted blame and promised to work on working better with our team in the future?  I know, it would never happen.  But, it would be awesome if it did. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Three Interesting Things: The Color Edition

1. I usually only post links to things I agree with, but in this case this article basically shows that color perception thinking is lining up with ideas I've had for a while in regards to context and how color learning is trial and error (and you can still get adults who will throwdown over aqua versus turquoise).
2. And let's continue the color theme with this look at how color coded our lives and language are. 
3. And to finish out, this guide purports to explain the right color for every room by explaining it's color psychology.

Monday, November 10, 2014

7 Reasons I should hate Serial

1. I stumbled onto Serial early because I like "This American Life" and when those people tell me we're doing another podcast, I listen.  I immediately realized this was my kind of jam, but started to hoard the episodes, intentionally staying behind.  (This is a weird mental trick I play.  Like putting down a great book when you have only a smidge left because you want to extend the time you are still in that world.)
2. Because I lack patience people.  I don't read serial books until all the pieces are out.  I realize that many TV shows with arcing dramas do this too, and you know what, I usually end up hoarding those too, watching them in small bursts knowing if something super argh-y happens in one, I already have the next available. 
3. I like knowing how much is left.  Seriously, I have abandoned reading apps and apparatus because it wouldn't tell me how far along it was. I usually know which TV shows have short seasons, how many books are planned for the series.  I totally get that the idea of a long form podcast where the story takes what it takes, but what does it take?  Ack.  Seriously, this is why serial books I end up reading after the whole thing is out, if I wanted to consume something that might be yanked away from me, I'd watch low rated quality TV - oh wait. 
4. I like conclusive endings.  This is why I read romance.  And mystery.  Something will get fixed.  Maybe not everything.  But something.  Serial is quite intentionally not promising a clear ending, particularly this first season where they are looking into a crime.  They may or may not figure out what really happened.  And yes, the process is very fascinating to me.  But, what if they never know?  (This, btw, is reason number 6 why I'm not a cop.  For reals.)
5. I like fictional justice. This is why I read romance.  And mystery.  Maybe the bad folks get away (this time).  Maybe that jerk turned out to be a cheating scumbag, but at least one thing will be resolved. 
6. I like real justice too.   I go to my entertainment for escape.  The real word is messy and complicated and justice can take a ridiculously long amount of time.  Most of my podcasts are about pop culture.  Even things like "Snap Judgement" and "This American Life" are often looking at deep stuff, but this story, this slice of life gets wrapped up within that episode.
7. It does not affect me but oh, either way it's already clear there are things, missteps, misunderstandings, misdirections and possibly minor miscarriages of justice. One of the things I find interesting is the layers of what the police knew, what the lawyers knew, what the jurors were told, and what we may or may not be able to find now.  But, whether they find a clarifying piece of information or not, it is heartbreaking.  A girl died.  The murderer may or may not be in prison. This doesn't really have a happy ending. 

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Three Interesting Things

1.  While the headline might be the teeniest bit hyperbolic, I do generally agree that this daylight savings madness is dumb, we should pick a time and stick to it.  The end.
2. Mary Robinnette Kowal has the most excellent reminder that if you report harassment, you are not the problem, you are reporting a problem and hopefully helping get it stopped.
3. Author Eileen Dreyer was on "Jeopardy" and has been blogging about the experience.

Monday, November 03, 2014

7 Things: The NaNo Edition

1. Write. 
2. Write early, write often.  Figure out what the best time of day is for you.  It may not be what you think.  It may not be the same time every day.  Experiment.
3. If you're stuck go for a walk. 
4. If writing this much is more than you normally do, some things will slide this month.  Make sure they aren't the things you need to still be functional be it time with friends or family, exercise, food, knitting.  Make time - even a few minutes here or there - for things that keep you whole.
5. Use tips or tricks, but don't get stuck on them.  If having a bar of chocolate helps you write, awesome.  Don't let getting a new bar of chocolate eat up all your writing time that day. 
6. Go to NaNo events.  Seriously, having other people who get the particular brand of crazy you are currently engaged in, is invaluable. 
7. Win, lose, did you write more?  Was it great?  That's what you were after. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Three Interesting Things:

1. One couple had an interesting if unusual idea for a pizza place.
2. A former NFL linebacker is now a yoga teacher with some interesting thoughts on the current state of the NFL and the mind body connection.
3. This is from April, but recently came to my attention.  I do adore a good lip sync battle and Jimmy Fallon and Emma Stone do not disappoint. (Links to a video, FYI.)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Books Subscription: Scribd

I've had a Scribd trial subscription for about a month now and I love it.  Given I saw some folks who seemed a little confused about it on the NINC hashtag.  Here are some thoughts.  I'm not sure I'll keep it forever, but right now I'm finding a lot of value.  Also Dear Author had a link for a free trial and some discussion of the services. 
1. Scribd currently has a ginormous Harlequin backlist, which paired with the free trial offer made it a no-brainer for me.  I also found a range of self published titles, craft books, and other fun fiction. 
2. Once the free trial is up, it's currently 8.99 a month (with apparently some discounts if you commit to a year up front).  That's about the cost of a paperback, less than a hardback.  So, if you tend to read about one purchased book a month or more, and Scribd has books you want to read, there is some value.  If you read less than that, then it probably isn't a great deal, unless some of the other perks would make reading more accessible to you. 
3.  All the books are being read on or at Scribd, so phone, tablet, laptop, etc.  You can download books to be read offline, but that will be in the Scribd app.  (None of this was hard to do, but if you've been sticking to eink or paper due to glare or other concerns, this won't help much. 
4. I am still buying books and getting books out of the library.  Scribd however provides access to books - some that are harder to find, or that I just am not sure are my thing, and so on.  If a few chapters in I know I've made a horrible mistake, I feel better about bailing.  (Weird but true.)  I've also read things that I knew were totally my cup of tea, but not things I was going to want to read over and over again. 
5. So far, I've finished three books, started quite a few more (most of which I plan to finish). 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Three Interesting Things

1. It is queer romance month, and Piper Vaugn has an excellent post about how diversity matters in all flavors of romance.
2. Lindy West had a post about how women are constantly encouraged to be friendly to strangers who infringe on their space.
3. Caroline Tung West, who happens to be local and whose lovely debut I read not too long ago, has a Dear Teen Me post that is adorable.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Open Letter to the Guardian

Dear Guardian,
I am a long time reader of your online content.  I generally appreciate your approach to global news and to sports and book news. I understand that sometimes a news outlet will make the choice to run or post something that is a little controversial in order to spark additional clicks and lots of online conversation.  So, I can only hope that's the root of your decision to post Kathleen Hale's documentation of the steps she took in order to stalk an online blogger who had written a negative review.  The idea that some people on the internet are not quite what they say is certainly an issue today.  But there is a huge difference between me engaging in a direct relationship with a person that we are perhaps both under the impression will move offline one day and a the relationship between an author and a blogger/reviewer. 
Authors and bloggers both often use different names online, whether to create separation from their day jobs, to enhance privacy for themselves and their family members, and in some cases to prevent stalking or to protect themselves from stalkers that have already targeted them.  An author who misused personal information provided to her, in order to better "unmask" and arrive on the doorstep of a reviewer is not creating a teachable moment, unless that moment is you never know what author will take things too far, that somehow by reviewing books on the internet you open up your life for anyone.  In a day and age when doxxing, harassing behavior is becoming common for some women who use the internet, condoning stalking because the stalker in question just wanted to talk seems naive at best. I certainly have seen a lot of reviewers grow much more concerned that by giving mailing information to publishers and authors in order to get review copies of books, they are now putting themselves potentially in harm's way. 
So, I hope that's the discussion you hoped to spark running this post.  Because the idea that the Guardian condones such behavior, from authors or most others really, that the Guardian thought it was fair because the reviewer started it and therefore deserved for someone to use her address, stalk her online presence, contact her friends, and again, her co-workers, and again, show up on her doorstep in order to - what - to prove that no one is safe, I guess, is quite horrifying. 

-to Smart Bitches wonderful post about authors and reviews.
-to Dear Author's post about psuedonyms which also includes links to a Storify of some of the Twitter reactions.
-to Glenda Larke's excellent suggestions for why an author should let reviews alone.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Three Interesting Things

1. Roxane Gay had a response to the idea that feminism needs better accessibility
2. Apparently not only is there a placebo effect, there is a so-called nocebo effect, where the patient is told the medication has stopped and reports differences even when it really hasn't stopped.
3. And teen researchers seem to have evidence that teens, possibly due to growing up with a more multi-device multi-tasking world, do perform better while multi-tasking.  So, there you go.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Leaning into the trope HTGAWM

As you may suspect, I'm going to talk about "How to Get Away With Murder", specifically the second episode, so if you are not caught up and/or care about having plot bits revealed, you have been warned. 
In the first episode we learned that Wes (or Mr. Elle, as I like to call him) had an across the hall neighbor of Rebecca.  Rebecca had rebuffed Wes's attempts at neighborly bonding, but in episode two she suddenly knocks on his door and says that the upstairs neighbors must have clogged the drains because her shower is oozing and could she please borrow his shower because she needs to get the bar stank off of her before she can sleep.  And then, of course, she headed into his shower and disrobed before, oops, remembering to close the door.  And, yes, my eyes rolled, and I was tempted to throw things at my TV because it's such a terrible cliche even though, no one, in the history of ever has borrowed their neighbor's shower.  But, I chalked it up to silly TV things that people do and moved on.  Except that later in the episode, after Wes watches the police arrest Rebecca he suddenly seems to realize the same thing, and checks his bathroom to discover that in fact, it seems Rebecca was stashing evidence at Wes's in case her apartment got searched. 
And that was brilliant.  I remembered the scene clearly, because it seemed like a dump tropey thing to do.  So, I didn't spend more time wondering why today she was basically voluntarily being neighborly when the other times she had told him to basically get lost.  But they expected me to not think too deeply about that scene and it made the reveal of the extra layer that much better.  There's a lot of talk, heck there's whole websites dedicated to tropes, and tropes, like cliches, become tropes for a reason.  And there are ways to use them badly (like if she really had just been there to use the shower) and ways to use them well, or even play on the audience expectation surrounding them.  And this, is one of the reason "How to Get Away With Murder" has been such a treat to watch. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Project Runway and Second Chances

I realize the gist of most of my "project Runway" posts is do your homework and stop being an idiot.  This one is not really that different.  But here we go.  Oh, Ms. Korina.  So, anyone who has watched any of the last few seasons would have seen two things happen that happened again in the most recent episode.  The remaining five designers were given their initial challenge and what seemed like a lot of time to complete it.  (Oh, you naive designers.  I know.  You are tired at this point in the run.  Haven't eaten real food or slept a full night in some time.  That's probably why you weren't suspicious.) Then they asked the designers to pick an outfit that had sent a prior designer home, and in some clear producer drama creation, only had the last five outfits to choose from (thereby taking away the idea that Charketa would pull a Justin and remake her own outfit).  And then, because they had limited time, they offered them help (something, that btw, has been happening since season 1) in the form of the eliminated designers and clearly, given the drama between Charketa and Korina, since Charketa had picked Korina's outfit, they wanted the designers to work with the person that picked their outfit.  Now let's face it.  Sure, the other designers had had more days (though honestly we are probably looking at ten max, here, the show moves fast) to ponder and come to terms with their elimination than Korina who had basically had a day. But, as Amanda pointed out, it sucks for everyone who has been eliminated equally.  It didn't suck more for Korina. And it was just as awkward for all the designers who had to watch, and assist, a designer tear apart this outfit they had put together and remake it.  But Korina basically refused to even try.  And I suppose we could argue that in some ways her demonstrative refusal to try was slightly better than the time Richard 'helped' Patricia in a way that was less helpful than she had hoped for.* So, Korina just walked right out and Charketa got another helper.
But, "Project Runway", like all reality shows loves some mean designer drama, but it also loves a redemption story.  And sure, there will be other shots, but not if you can't even be counted on to play the game.  Because, let's be honest, this is a reality competition, and you may be here to show off your designer stuff, but it is ultimately a game.  And your refusal to play along means they they might think twice the next time All-Stars or even the next season comes along.  And look, Korina might just be ready to put all this "Project Runway" behind her.  She may have a non-TV related plan for how she will succeed and if that's the case I wish her the best.  But as Amanda has demonstrated this season, as Kate demonstrated the season before, there are all kinds of other opportunities if you are willing to put yourself back through this again.  It's a strange and unrealistic opportunity, and it does not operate like the other paths towards success in fashion, but the reason people keep signing up for this show is not just for the money fashion show prize at the end, although that helps, but also the unique opportunity for exposure.  And, look, some people like a mean designer, or a snarky designer with a clear aesthetic, but a lot less people like a poor sport. 
Emily, on the other hand, handled her elimination with grace this week, and hit that "Project Runway" sweet spot for me, where I get why her stuff wasn't going to make her the winner, and yet, I want that hoodie.  Want. 

*In Richard's defense, his issue was lack of, er, terminology rather than desire. 

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Three Interesting Things

1. The lovely Laura K. Curtis has some wise thoughts on why the goings on with Amazon vs. Hachette and Ellora's Cave Vs. Dear Author are important to everyone who reads or writes books.
2. This post/piece looks at how talking to oneself can affect body image and other behavior changes. 
3. One family discovered their "indoor" cat had been getting out as a result of the stuffed animals he was dragging home. 

Monday, October 06, 2014

Project Runway: Karma and Feedback

Well, I had been keeping quiet in general on the "Project Runway" front, because there are patterns.  (Heh, patterns.) But just as "The Real World" often had a fresh faced small town member and a tough talking city cast member, "Project Runway" often has folks who are new to life, reality shows, and feedback.  People who are constantly astounded that their stuff isn't the best (beyond the normal creative haze where you hope that your stuff is adored and they can see the genius inside but when they start mentioning the hem, or the seam or the this or that you start to go, right, yes, that part is less good).  There are people who have watched the show and people who clearly never have.  There are people who think the snarky things they say to the camera will have people chuckling along, and think that telling others that you hate their stuff is just being honest. Some of this certainly can be attributed to limited life experience.  And hey, there are lovely people too.  Certainly the pressure cooker can get to folks who always thought they were the strong, impervious one. 
The Tim Gunn save has already been used, and it was used on a designer that not all of the designers totally understand.  And that's fine.  Again, anyone who's watched the show knows that Tim often has useful things to say, but he is not always in alignment with the judges and so there's a balance between listening carefully and making your own best choice. 
Neil Gaiman often says that people are always right about the things they tell you need fixing and they are almost always wrong about how you should fix it.  Now, like any generalization, this works some but not always.  But people will often tell you something because they want to provide context for their concerns and sometimes trying to see through the issue they've raised instead of focusing on the fix can be useful.  And sometimes you just need time to rant first.  That's also a valid process even if not super endearing to the TV audience. 
So, at the end of this episode there were two designers who just hadn't performed up to par in the opinion of the judges.  They were given an hour to run back and try to make something else to change the judges minds.  One appeared (because sure, there could very well be some helpful editing going on) to take it in stride, and just be focused on grabbing her helper and getting something done.  The other appeared to spend much more time ranting about how it was ridiculous that she was in the position of having to defend her work when she was clearly the more talented of the two and this was stupid because the other person had already been eliminated once so clearly they should eliminate her and the comment about how she liked a certain (oh, the judges were clearly dancing around trying to figure out what the most politically correct way of saying her designs had a Native American Indian or Southwest or Navajo or, ugh, ethnic feel) aesthetic but she had done it before and this wasn't a good example of it.  And here's where I think she, Korina,  was focusing on the wrong part of the comment as she ranted that she had done it once before and won.  She had and she had.  But the point Nina was making was not, you did this once before so you can never do it again, but you did this once before well, this time you did it badly so it looks both bad and as if you have no new ideas.  I'm not saying people will never call you on repeating yourself, but if you repeat yourself well, you are much more likely to get a response of, oh this looked like you when it walked down the runway. 
And well, in the end, some combination of ranting and planning led to Korina not even having a finished garment and Charketa did.  So, while I know technically karma is supposed to be about the long term, sometimes it's nice when reality TV appears to provide it quickly.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Three Interesting Things

1. Hat tip to ALOTT5MA for the link to this story about the life of a barista in the CIA office building.
2. Malinda Lo had a thoughtful piece on some of the side effects of certain books being banned or challenged.
3. And the Jane Austen Summer Program is recapping the web series "Emma Approved" which I adored.  (Recappery written by a friend of mine.)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

TV is back and the DVR piles up

I tend to do a lot of my TV chatter on the Twitter but, for an overall recap, it's easier to do that in longer form so, as it stands so far...
-"Sleepy Hollow" returned and was the brand of nutbar adventure I expect. 
-"Red Band Society" is a show teen Tara would have had quotes from posted in her locker.  I'm sticking with it even if adult Tara can see them yanking at my heartstrings.  Plus, who can resist sassy nurse banter.  Not me folks.  Not me. 
-"Gotham" struck me as a little too comic booky in parts of the dialogue.  I realize it is a show about a comic book city, but, there are things that work in comics that sound dumb in TV.  However, I ultimately thought the layers of corruption they established in an hour was fascinating enough to keep going for a bit.  I also think in addition to the expected excellence of the McKenzie and Logue partnership of grizzled and new to town cop, Jada Pinkett Smith's work was amazing. 
-"Blackish" was charming as expected from Anthony Anderson and Tracy Ellis-Ross, if a little heavy handed with the voiceover.  Nice family comedy.
-"Selfie" I watched early, and, eh, I wanted to like it more than I did.  The commercials lead me to believe that ultimately they will both learn from each other so I'll give it a few more because I like the leads a lot. 
-"Nashville" I have fallen behind on and must catch up before my DVR starts taunting me. 
-"Brooklyn 99" was just as charming as it had been. 
-"How to Get Away WIth Murder" which I was notionally open to anyway turned out, in it's first episode at least, to share a lot of parallels with "Legally Blonde" and I seriously, totally, and completely love "Legally Blonde" so yay!  (It is a darker "Legally Blonde" given that, well, there's flash forwards to a body being dumped, so, looks like those kids will need to put this knowledge to use.) 

Upcoming or things I haven't gotten to yet:
-"Happyland" - Color me excited.
-"Gracepoint" - I watched some of "Broadchurch" so technically have no need to watch "Gracepoint" but, for some reason I am interested in how it works with American accents. 
-"Reign" is coming back and while it should offend the part of me that won't watch innacurate Scottish historical movies, given the glitter on the corsets, they are really making only the tiniest attempt at historical accuracy, and viewing it as "Gossip Girl" with corsets means I find it amusing. 
-"The Flash" - I hear good things about. 
-"Parenthood" - The last season of "Parenthood" is here, and in a packed timeslot, so I will have to catch up on Hulu. 
-"Madam Secretary" has a great cast and so I am hoping it develops into something I want to keep watching. 
-"NCIS: New Orleans" - Again it's the cast pulling me in. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Week of Book People

It has been quite a week of overlapping events and I will try to summarize somewhat briefly.  Monday, Ann Aguirre, Marie Rutkowski and Caragh O'Brien were all at the Bethesda Library as part of the Fierce Reads tour to talk about their books.  Ms. Aguirre provided instructions if it turned out that your copy of Mortal Danger was infested with demons (you should burn it, after calling a news crew). Rutkowski mentioned her inspiration was partly the economic theory around auctions.  And O'Brien talked about how reality shows provided some inspiration.
Tuesday Piper Kerman, or Keenan as my phone kept trying to say, was at UDC in their newly refurbished theater (so new that apparently crews worked late into the night Monday get the last seats installed).  She talked about the book (which I have read) and the TV show (which I have not yet watched) and also shared various statistics and some suggestions for criminal justice reform that might help the US slow the trend of imprisoning the most people in the world.  She, as in her book, is very aware that she is the one that made a decision that brought prison to her, but also very aware that there are huge differences in how prisons are set up (she was in two during her stay) and how sentences are assigned and how people in prison are treated. 
Friday, I took the day off of work to head up to day one of the Baltimore Book Fest. I started off in the Science Fiction Writer's Tent where the folks from #WeNeedDiverseBooks were chatting.  Ellen Oh, Justina Ireland, Caroline Tung Richmond, and Karen Sandler all talked about books that had been meaningful to them, things they had read that had them shaking their heads, and the joys and challenges of writing characters that don't currently get a lot of protagonist time in most books.  Ireland also mentioned that she felt there are far too many plucky redheads in YA, in proportion to the world population, causing one audience member to shake her head because she had a plucky redhead in her current manuscript. 
Then I hopped next door to the Maryland Romance Writers tent, where there was a panel of writing diverse characters.  Lea Nolan, Robin Covington, Denny S. Bryce, Damon Suede, and Laura Kaye.  They talked about covers, the importance of getting things right, especially if you were dealing with a marginalized group, and also reader perception and misperception. 
The next panel was on plotting, with Stephanie Draven, Lea Nolan, Damon Suede, and Kate Quinn.  They said heretical things like pantsers don't exist (we do too) but also suggested that some pantsers might have more innate plotting skills.  (Maybe.) 
Then there was a panel of authors who had hit the New York Times bestseller list, with Laura Kaye, Jennifer L. Armentrout, Tessa Bailey, Cora Carmack, Kami Garcia, and Jen Mclaughlin.  They has some interesting stories based on what they'd hit with (from first book to eleventh) and where they were when they heard.  After that I headed home.
I had Crafty Bastards and vet appointments on Saturday but returned on Sunday to Baltimore. 
It turns out when there's a football game on, parking is hard to come by, so but caught most of the Alpha heroes panel with Laura Kaye, Diane Alberts, Magda Alexander, Jean Murray, and Tessa Bailey.  They talked about the balancing in keeping an alpha on the right side of alphaness.  (No alphaholes.)
Then there was Writing Fast with Mindy Klasky, Diane Alberts/Jen Mclaughlin, Jennifer L. Armentrout, Megan Erickson, Megan Hart, and Laura Kaye.  There was a mix of word spewers vs. word crafters and I remain impressed by Mindy's detailed scheduling (she already knows what she'll be working on in February 2016) They also talked about how once you've turned something in fast, people expect that sort of speed from you and you may have to push back and demand breaks so you can recover. 
For Balancing Jobs, Writing, And Families, Robin Covington, Avery Flynn, Sara Humhpreys, and M. D. Waters talked about figuring out schedules and boundaries and one author has a side of her family that doesn't know she writes, but she mentioned they still help by volunteering to visit and help with the kids and such. 
I hopped over to the Literary Salon to see Andrew Auseon, Elizabeth Chandler, Hannah Moskowitz, Jeri Smith-Ready, and Elissa Weissman.  They talked about how writing for kids was natural for them, and some of the most amazing things happened in kid's literature. 
And then things wrapped up back in the Maryland Romance tent with Christi Barth, Laura Kaye, Mindy Klasky, and Megan Hart talking about writing at different lengths and how it doesn't seem proportional as far as plotting or writing time, and the challenges inherent in each. 
And that was it.  Let me tell you, I went to bed early last night. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Three Interesting Things

1. There are some beautiful quotes from various banned books. 
2. With the MacArthur "genius" grants going out recently, here was a look at what one of them had been doing in studying justice and implicit racial bias
3. Given my interest in names, I was interested to discover Tennesse has some restrictions on your child's last name.  This tied in interestingly with my recent (for me) re-listen to the Freakanomics podcast about names.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Banned Books Week

It's Banned Books Week.  And once again, I want to say, I love books, I love reading, I think everyone should do more.  I respect any parent's right to monitor their child's reading habits. Where I become concerned is when parents (because most of this comes from parents) decide that material carefully selected by a librarian with knowledge of the community should not be available to anyone.  Certainly, material in elementary school libraries will have some differences from college or public libraries.  But your child may or may not be ready for something another child is.  And well, if your argument is that this book shouldn't exist at all, then I cannot agree.  I certainly don't like everything I read.  I sometimes want my money, time, or brain space back.  I sometimes vibrate with rage over something stupid or offensive I read in a book. But that doesn't mean that book might not speak to someone else very differently.  And hey, that's the way the world works.
I also find it fascinating that parents think reading books that are "bad" or "racist" or "stereotypical" or that depict sex or violence couldn't be excellent discussion points.  At some point, part of the process is recognizing that the world contains lots of things you either don't want your kid to ever do, or don't want them to do yet.  No one ever objects to kids reading about driving or voting before they hit they age we have deemed it appropriate for them to do so. I read Huck Finn very young and managed not to run away on a riverboat or use language that is not appropriate for use in today's conversations. 
I personally think the idiots in Wuthering Heights needed a good talking to, but other people love their yearning.  I'm not mad I had to read the book. 
This year I was thrilled to see several examples of kids making use of social and other media to object to books being pulled from their library or their curriculum.  I wish they didn't have to fight these fights at all, but at least they are learning how to fight for themselves.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Three Interesting Things

...are arriving a wee bit late.
1. There are changes afoot with at least two of epub sellers making books available only through an app or on a store specific device.  There's some more info about it here and how to tell which format the book is available in before you buy. B&N info here.
2. A fellow writer tipped me to Godchecker where I confess I discovered that there is a fascinating amount of info about various gods and goddesses housed there.  Warning: can lead to lost productivity.
3. And because I have been hanging with just the right sort of people, I happen to know one of the folks in this photo of Regency costumed Jane Austen enthusiasts who reclaimed the world record for, well, folks in Regency costume.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Pride, I Have it

I once went to a sermon where a radical action-oriented minister mentioned that she's had a congregant say to her that rallying, protesting, and writing to congress wasn't the only way to make the world a better place.  She agreed.  And in that vein I wanted to make something clear.  I worked for about ten years with amazing teenagers from my congregation and others in various capacities.  They were all amazing.  (Seriously.  The adults were often more problematic.)  And as I discover various things from college graduations, to medical school enrollments to jobs of various flavors, to decisions to out themselves as transgender or enroll in seminary or start a blog I continue to be proud.  But, I am proud of each and every one of them.  Even though I had only the teeniest to do with any life success they have put together for themselves.  Working with teenagers is often viewed as a fast track to insanity, but honestly, I remain utterly hopeful about the future of this world thanks to my work with them.  This world is so lucky to have these folks, they are going to change, enhance, and sometimes just exist and make it a better place.  All of them.  All. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

On This Day

Every year on this day, I read Meg Cabot's post about her 9/11 experience. I think about calling my sister, who was fine, getting sent home early from work because the building my office was in shut down for the day. People talk about how everyone was nicer, kinder, more helpful for a while. There were first responders at the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, and people who weren't officially first responders but showed up to help, that day and later. There was the flight that went down in Pennsylvania.  During the Olympics in London, NBC cut away from the remembrance of the 7/7 bombings because they assumed Americans didn't care.
Both 9/11 and 7/7 have become days that babies were born, that people got married, that people just went about their day.  And I think that's the most important part, that in addition to remembering these tragedies, we remember to go on.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Be Your Own Curator

I've talked before about how the joy of the internet is that you can connect with people across the world and yet, it therefore becomes easier to believe that you are seeing everything, instead of a carefully curated list of people and topics you have decided are of interest to you.  Or, it's a big internet out there.  You're really only looking at part of it. 
Don't get me wrong, this is amazing.  And I find it particularly interesting as things develop in areas and on topics that the US media tends to report on narrowly, that we all have options, whether it's reading news and reporting from other countries or reading on the ground reports from citizens be they in Missouri or Israel.  It is a wide, wide world out there.  But, by removing the filters and restraints of relying on the news that is provided to you, you also lose some filters of fact.  Citizens on the ground may or may not have the same agenda of truth.  (And yes, not all reporters are truth driven.  There are layers in place to try to make sure there is truthiness, but sure, not a given.)  Much of this is just good internet protocol.  Things get retweeted, shared, and reblogged, fast.  Much like a game of telephone, things can get distorted.  They also, invariably, get shared faster than the correction or update.  Sometimes when you track back you'll see the originator has deleted it to try and stop the spread, but it's still going strong.  And, hey, mistakes and errors happen.  But just like that time you forwarded that email about the free trip to Disney (what?) you go back and you apologize for the misinformation.  And you try to get better at verifying things. 
It is a great big world. 

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Three Interesting Things

1. I confess I am not watching "Outlander" for a number of reasons, lack of the premium channels being one of them.  But a number of folks I know are, and seem confused and amazed by the field hockey.  Nope.  Not field hockey.  Shinty.  Which was described to me by a dorm member who played it as hockey without rules.  (Obviously there are a few rules.)
2. Gayle Forman wrote a wonderful post about why YA is for everyone.
3. I posted this to tumblr too, but seriously, this transcription of Gene Luen Yang's speech about writing diversity is amazing and go read it now if you haven't already.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Once Again, Teen Girls are Thought to be Idiots

Ally Carter said once that if she ever needed a huge heist done, she'd get teen girls to do it, since no group is so constantly underestimated at teen girls are.  I imagine the snarky little tweet that set my blood boiling about paranormal YA romances teaching teen girls to love monsters was intended to be humorous. Let me list for you the reasons that I am unable to entertain such a notion. 
1. This assumes that reading romance could only possibly teach you about falling in love with people like the book characters you read about.  So, if I read about military guys, or firefighters, I will no longer be able to fall in love with a lawyer or accountant without first reading a book about it.  As the wonderful posts at read a romance month have shown, romance novels contain many lessons within them, lessons about love, compassion, and expecting to be respected and treated well by those who love you.  I honestly have to wonder if the people who are constantly so threatened by this, worry they are unable to live up to this idea of love and respect. We could spend a lot of time discussing what may or may not be realistic about books, and goodness knows I'm not saying every book is perfect, but dismissing a whole subgenre because someone might get a bad idea reading one, is kind of insulting really.  Oh wait, not kind of.  Totally.  Totally insulting.  No one worries that reading too many mysteries might give you an unrealistic sense of justice. 
2. Paranormal romance is of course, only ever about boys with powers. Oh wait, it totally isn't.  Girls can be vampires, dragons, witches, werewolves and all those other things.  Anyone who had done more than glance in the general direction of the shelf in the bookstore would know that.  Just looking at the covers would make that clear.  But, silly me, I'm ruining the joke with facts. 
3. And the final assumption - of course only teen girls read paranormal romance.  Not boys.  Or adults.  Nope.  Couldn't be.  Unless of course we are somehow assuming that only teen girls will get wrong ideas because adults know that books are fiction and maybe boys do to, but teen girls, apparently don't understand that lesson until they are older.  Sure.
I know, it turns out there was a lot of assumption and misinformation packed into that tweet.  So, I did what I often do these days.  I bought some books until the rage went away.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Three Interesting Things

1. This post on flexibility and yoga was a interesting and mentioned how comparisons to other classmates can hold us back. 
2. The lovely Maisey Yates wrote a post about the power of saying yes.
3. It's a tricky balance to talk about good things that result from tragedy, since certainly no one wants to believe Fate/Determinism/Deity of your choice must resort to death in order to engineer a meet cute, but there is still something quite lovely about the story of a victim of the Boston bombing falling in love with and marrying one of the nurses he met in his recovery.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Tara's Muscles Chat

We are well into the physical therapy phase of my knee recovery, leading to, well lots of learning and relearning how people do things like walk normally. (I'm really good at limping now and apparently there is no good future in this, so fine, normal walking is the new black.)
So, a sampling of things my various leg, foot, and butt muscles are saying.
"Oh, sure.  Now you remember me."
"Wait.  I thought we weren't doing that any more."
"Ha, ha, we've been doing all the work and now it's your turn!...Wait, we still have to work to?  What? Who agreed to that deal?"
"This feel weird.  Does this feel weird to you?"
"Are you sure that's the way that's supposed to work?"
"Oh, no, not doing that.  Nope.  Not, wait, what?"
"Hey, that, actually didn't hurt.  Oh, wait, no, that. Didn't like that."
"Is this faster?  It feels faster than we've been going."  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

If I Stay

I had the opportunity, thanks to my book club, to go to a screening of "If I Stay" in Tyson's Corner.  (And thanks to the Silver Line for making that a more likely possibility.)  Now, I've mentioned before that I loved the book, and I wasn't really sure how they would do a movie, but I was totally willing to see, and once I saw the trailer I was so in. 
The story is about Mia who is in a car with her parents and brother that gets into an accident.  She is in a coma, and separate from her body, is able to walk through the hospital, seeing and hearing her visitors.  Woven throughout are her memories of before, of growing up, learning the cello, meeting Adam, hanging out with her friend Kim, and her family.
As with any movie adaption there are changes, most of the changes seemed to me about time, which is to say that there's a subplot or two that's different, but ultimately the changes were not egregious and were in service to time.  The movie felt like the book to me, and I also felt like they did a wonderful job of demonstrating the closeness of Mia's family, how Adam and Kim fit into that, and the tension of the choice of leaving behind the people left, versus going on. 
I also want to applaud the music direction.  Adam and Mia bond over their shared appreciation for music.  I saw an interview where Chloe Grace Moretz said she had trained on the cello for several months to get an idea, but that since Mia has been playing since she was a child, they did do some movie magic to put the hands of a more experienced cellist on screen in places.  I say this, not because I found it distracting or even noticed, but because the cello playing seem as expert as it needed to be to me, so I had wondered. 
Adam is in an up and coming band, and they did a really interesting job, both from a set design perspective and a sound perspective where the smaller venue felt, looked, and sounded a little smaller, a little like the sound equipment was a little older, and things changed as the band's prospects changes.
The acting was great, all across the board, but a special shout out to Aisha Hinds as Nurse Ramirez, a small but crucial role.  (Oh Nurse Ramirez.) 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

7 Things: The Tear Gas Edition

I kept holding off on this post, hoping it would become unnecessary. But, here we are.
1. There are a few kinds of tear gas, but ultimately it's an aerosolized irritant.  It inflames the mucus membranes in the eyes, nose, mouth, and throat making them feel inflamed, itchy, and irritated.
2. It can also causing burning, itching, and peeling of the skin.
3. Tear gas can be fitted to a gun, with a blank cartridge. So reports of shots followed by tear gas, might just be the deployment of the tear gas, rather than a cause and response scenario.
4. Not to make this all about me, but I take three medications a day to assist with my allergies and asthma so I can hopefully breathe normally. Given that an estimated 1 in 12 people have asthma, it's highly likely when you gas a town night after night, that some of these people are asthma sufferers.  Asthma is certainly not the only condition that would be exacerbated by tear gas, all sorts of illnesses would be impacted. 
5. It also, as you may expect has a greater effect on children.
6. I saw some people wondering on social media why people would bring their kids to a protest that by now has a pattern of erupting into violence.  Here's the story of a family who stayed in, and gave refuge to one reporter.  They have to turn their AC off to try to slow the creep of tear gas into their house.
7. Tear gas, per the Chemical Weapons Convention, which the US signed, the use of tear gas is banned in foreign wars, it however remains allowed for use against your own citizens.

Monday, August 18, 2014

On Ferguson

I can't speak to why the case of Michael Brown caught my attention any faster than say that of Eric Garner or Ezell Ford or any of the others.  Certainly, in retrospect the actions of the various police forces in handling the case and the residents have drawn additional attention, but the best I can come up with is that I happened to be on Twitter at the right time following the right people and this case came across my radar pretty quickly. 
There are three job trends in my family, writers, teachers and military or police.  So, I want to start by saying that I have the utmost respect for police officers and the difficult job they face and the idea that their jobs are inherently fraught with danger, that the simplest interactions can escalate quickly.  I also know that despite the fact that we arm our police officers, most do not fire their weapon in the course of their career*, and believe that most of them are acting with the intention of protecting and serving. 
However, I also know that the things have become more and more problematic, as police officers seem to react with a higher level of force when dealing with people of color and/or people who are mentally ill.  So.  Ferguson.  I fairly quickly began following some folks on the ground, as it were, in Ferguson, keeping an eye on the hashtag, and well.  As Maureen Johnson said at one point, it was like a bucket brigade of information, trying to make sure the people explaining, photographing, and videotaping what was going on, got that information out. 
Now, a lot of people said they needed to do this because the mainstream media wasn't there, and I think that was partly true the first night, even though two of the people I was following were a local politician with a background in documenting police and government activity, and a musician who also has done some reporting for a local paper.  And once it became clear that things were happening in Ferguson there were plenty of reporters, so many that someone asked the FAA to clear the airspace to prevent news helicopters. 
I know some people of a protesting bent, and sometimes protesters will intentionally ignore orders to disperse, lock hands together, and get arrested in order to bring greater attention.  So, yes, even peaceful protesters can get arrested.  But I live in DC, the place all sorts of people come to protest, and I have never seen the level of response - tear gas, flash grenades, acoustic weaponry, and rubber bullets deployed.  (Which is not to say our local police is perfect, I would remind you of Trinidad.) 
But, it is not my intention to recap, what has been well documented elsewhere. So, the question you may have is what can you do?  Well, small though it is, I think the bucket brigade of information really has been useful. Folks in the middle east checked in on the Ferguson hashtag and provided advice for residents on how to deal with teargas. And, it helps, after all, that is what we all love about social media, is being able to share what's going on with parts of the rest of the world. 
Educate yourself about what's going on - in Ferguson and where you live.
Vote.  Seriously.  Vote.  Ask questions of your candidates about things and vote.  This is such a great example of how even the local elections are important.  Yes, the police are not usually elected (although sometimes the sheriff's office is) but you want your mayor, your city council, your governor, or whatever elected officials you have to be not just tough on crime, but tough on safety of the residents.  And being a voter who votes, is one way to get your voice heard. 
Also, look into what local groups there might be.  Be it community policing, youth activism, whatever angle to work with people in your community to make it a better place for everyone. 

*This fact is cited a lot across the internet, although it does look like it's partly based on extrapolation, since officially there is no national database that compiles data across the many city, county, state, and other police forces. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Three Interesting Things

This week there has been a lot of loss, celebrity and otherwise. so happy thing, happy things. 
1. A 73 year-old man received the high school diploma that had been withheld due to his participation in a small act of anti-segregation. 
2. A girl who was swept away from her family in a tsunami ten years ago, is reunited with her family.
3. My family often visited, well, other family in Connecticut growing up, where there were tiny plastic beads still washing up on the beach.  They were from a long defunct plastics factory that had been damaged in a hurricane before I was born.  So, this story about Legos washing up after a container ship incident intrigued me.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Dear Football

Dear Football,
We need to talk.  I was raised on football.  Our family would gather on the couch and watch games.  Even after I had moved out, my parents would invite me over to watch the games together. After my father passed away, my mother ended up married to a (horror) Giants fan, but has remained loyal to the Washington team. 
But, well, here we are.  There have been revelations about concussions and that the NFL not only knew about the issues, but colluded to keep important medical information away from players.  The NFL has never has a particularly good record as far as rape and domestic abuse, but this latest ridiculousness, where rendering someone unconscious gets you punished less than an illegal move on the field might, is hard to take.  Despite the large number of female fans, the NFL has done little beyond wearing pink one month a year to welcome them.  In fact, the NFL hates that you might have a purse. (Yes, I know it's supposedly security.  But, given that no one is searching pockets, it just suggests the manner of carrying your things is the problem.) 
And well, the Washington team has always had a racist name.  We could argue that the name is no longer associated with it's racist origins, I know I tried to make peace with it for a while.  These are issues of varying sizes.  But on the whole it makes justifying supporting this enterprise an increasingly difficult set of ethical calculus.  I'm not quite ready to give football up.  But boy do I wish football wasn't making it so hard to justify my loyalty. 

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Three Interesting Things

1. Given all the discussion about RWA about remembering the biases of your source or research material, this article about how the women already in the tech industry, even if not always in technical positions themselves often get erased was interesting.
2. I've had frustrating discussions with people about pictures on the internet, and how to tell if they are copyrighted, so, this chart, I think is helpful. 
3. August is Read a Romance month.  (Yay!) So, there are great posts up about the joy of romance reading, including this one by the lovely Christine Merrill.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Harrassment and Intervention

I had heard about the incident that Amy Jo Cousins has blogged about here while I was at RWA.*  There's been a lot of discussion in the interwebs about cons and harassment and the daily harassment overall.  Now, Amy was in the hotel for a con, but given the multiple attempts by the harasser to find himself a sex date, it seems just as likely that he was targeting any and all hotel guests.  Nonetheless, as the post very correctly points out, we are often socialized to let little things that affect us slide.  To not make a big deal.  And to expect that if you tell a story where the simple act of riding an elevator or sitting in the lobby resulted in being solicited and groped by a person unknown to you, well, it's because you're so pretty.  It's a compliment really.  And so you let it slide, because you have become so accustomed to being brushed off.
Except, in this case, Amy was encouraged and supported in reporting.  And while Amy feels sorry for the woman who they had to rescue from him while she was still reporting it, she has a really good point about how we are socialized to minimize these incidents, to expect that we will not be taken seriously if we do gather up the courage to report it. So, ultimately, this story ended, I hesitate to say well, since we still have multiple people harassed and assaulted, but the harasser was apprehended.  And yes, not everyone has the support of a conference full of understanding friends, or speedy hotel security and local police.  But I have been spending a lot of time trying to think about how we, as a society, should, where possible intervene.  It's not always safe, and it's definitely not easy.  But I think the assumption that reporting it won't help is just as damaging.  And, as Amy said, it is so much easier to intervene in the defense of others, so maybe we start there. I will do my best to assist when I see others being harassed.  In whatever way I think is safe, be it direct intervention, checking on victims, reporting it to authorities.
*The link appears to be temporarily down. Hopefully it will be back up soon.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Three Interesting Things

1. Having tried to help a friend find an appropriately sized, not terrible, girl fan t-shirt at a convention, I was interested to listen to the Nerdist Writers podcast with the folks from Her Universewhich creates licensed stuff for girl like people.  Will definitely be taking a closer look through their catalog.
2. V.E. aka Victoria Schwab had a great post about making yourself ready for change.
3. I polished off Courtney Milan's The Suffragette Scandal on the plane to San Antonio last week.  In it, Free's suffragette newspaper has a column called ask a man.  There is a tumblr and you can go ask a man yourself, or read the other answers. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

RWA San Antonio

Apologies for blog darkness last week, but I had a family thing and then turned right around for RWA and well, internet was spotty at the hotel, and my intentions to communicate via non-twitter means disappeared in a cloud. 
So, I was determined to be super workshoppy this year and, while I was, (except Saturday where the split hotel thing suddenly made all the other things so far away (as in all the way across the street) and my will to get up and go was mostly gone).
Day of YA was awesome. 
James Scott Bell gave great tips on editing and writing.  The editor & agent panel had some thoughts on writing and diversity.  In particular one audience member asked for specific examples of diverse titles that had been picked up, and included they mentioned local author Robin Talley's debut Lies We Tell Ourselves.  (I've been hearing great things about this book too.)  Ally Carter gave an awesome speech about what she would go back and tell herself back before her first book came out. (She blogged about it here.  It was, of course, amazing to hear in person.)
The Rosemary Awards were announced.  I was one of the category coordinators and, let me tell you, I had a ton of judges tell me I must have sent them only the very best entries.  It was an amazing thing to be a part of.  And I happen to have read on of the winners for another thing (I was not a judge for that entry due to my previous knowledge) and so I know it's great, but I also know that the top scores were all really close so it really was an honor to be a finalist.
Jay Asher talked about his love of school visits.  And the YA author panel talked about the joy of writing for a YA audience. 
I scooched into the end of the Literacy signing to wave at some people. 
Thursday I moderated the Juggling Two Careers panel with Kelly Maher and Jennifer Lohmann which was .They talked about the things you can control, and how things will still crop up.  And they also talked about how to factor your production style (fast draft with multiple revisions vs. slow draft with a quick final pass) into scheduling your deadlines.  Courtney Milan's Slow Writer's Guide to Publishing was also great, especially since she was savvy both about how best to make use of the ways the publishing platforms work, but also about how some things will take time to grow and you need to plan for that.  Ally Carter had talked about the time vs. money debate, you will worry about one and/or the other, and how to decide which one you can best take on.  Courtney's was similar in that growing your business takes time and money, so the money you take for your living expenses affects what you have to put back in. The adventurous heroines panel had great info about the ways to create adventurous and strong but authentic historical female characters.
Friday, I hit the Feeding the Fandom panel and really, I could just listen to Jennifer Lynn Barnes, Ally Carter, Sarah Rees Brennan and Rachel Vincent talk books and fans all day.  They talked about leaving space in the text for readers to find and fill in the emotion and how that feed and encourages fans.  They also talked about how as an author, it is absolutely your text, your world, your story to drive forward how you choose.  But at the same time, you don't need to argue with the fans about the text.  (Sarah Wendell talked about reviews and having heard that talk, the idea is similar.  The author can acknowledge reviews, and maybe possibly address something that is truly, factually wrong, but the a review is for readers, and if they came away thinking character A was a douche, then that's what they felt when they read it.)
The Diversity Roundtable worked a little more interactively than originally planned due to one of the speakers having to cancel.  However, Farrah Rochon did a great job getting it going and keeping the audience on track.  It's hard to synthesize some of the subtleties of the discussion but the highlights were - don't be afraid to write characters that are different from you.  Research.  Don't rely solely on the stereotypes you have absorbed. But also recognize that any character, of any race, ethnicity, cultural background, etc, is going to have layers of experience.  An African American who went to a Catholic private school in Georgia may have speech patterns that sound more like other Georgians, may have values more like other Catholic school kids.  There isn't just one experience and there isn't just one way to be.  However, there was a plea from a Native American that there is a difference between the different Native American nations, and don't think they are all the same.  So, similar to the adventurous heroine's panel, do lots of research.  Recognize the biases within the research.  And don't just use the research, use all the things that go into creating a three dimensional character.
And Saturday, was about books.  Getting some more.  Reading some.  Packing some.  Shipping some.  And then, after a quick change in the bathroom, the Golden Heart and Rita award ceremony.  And it's again, an honor to be nominated, all those nominees were wonderful.  Simone Elkeles did a bang up job as emcee both breaking out old photos and telling us about the letters readers send her and how kids tell her they left the gang after reading Perfect Chemistry.  (It got very dusty in that ballroom.)  They had videos of authors talking about favorite romance books and movies and honestly, they were all wonderful, but if anyone wants to create a show where Sarah MacLean and Eloisa James describe books and movies to me, I am in.  (See also Anne Stuart.) 
But, I will, mention that I could not be more thrilled about fellow WRW member Denny S. Bryce's Golden Heart win for Romantic Suspense.  Full list of winners here

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Three Interesting Things

1. As someone who has worked in a call center, and as someone who has been frustrated trying to get an resolution, I was fascinated by the recording of the call with the couple trying to cancel their cable.  However, as the customer himself says, this is unlikely to be a rogue employee problem, and likely a result of rewards and incentives provided to reps for retaining customers, making it not in their interest to, well, help the customer.  Most call centers spend a lot of time both reviewing recordings and looking at things like call time.  A twenty minute call would be frown upon if the goal was swift address of the customer's request. 
2. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the live taping of the Pop Culture Happy Hour.  Part one is here.  Part Two should drop tomorrow.
3. I have very little to add to this wonderful post reviewing the sad loss of this man's home when an attempt to set a spider on fire got out of control.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Three Interesting Things

1. I have no current needs for wedding planning, but find the idea of a flash wedding planning service quite intriguing.
2. A building at the Glasgow School of Art caught on fire in the spring which was sad and not just because a number of seniors had just installed their senior portfolios for exhibition.  The students were given a chance to participate in an exhibition recently and one of them made use of the ashes from the fire to create her work.
3. I adore this story for a number of reasons.  First of all a knit in protest sounds wonderfully appealing.  (I mean, if one must hang out in an office awaiting an audience, knitting is totally the way to go.)  Plus, the writer has carefully mentioned what project one of the arrested protesters was knitting. 

Monday, July 07, 2014

About Fictional Lunch Tables

I once had someone tell me that if they read another YA that started with the explanation of where all the stereotypes sat in the lunchroom, they would scream.  I run into less of them these days, but they were thick on the ground for a while, and while certainly everyone has memories that involve staring at a roomful of people trying to figure out where you should sit, there are things about fictional lunch tables that annoy me.  So, here we go.
I recognize that in fiction there are often economies.  Even in contemporary there's so much world building that throwing in new people every chapter is too much, so while the character may be at a school with hundreds of students, there will likely be 10 or less that get names and character traits.  That's fine.  But, everyone always has the same lunch period.  And that, never happened to me.  There were usually people I liked or was happy to hang out with my lunch period, but all of my friends, all getting the same lunch period, every day? Nope.  Never happened to me. 
Now, I've asked around, and apparently there are some schools that establish one lunch period for everyone.  But, they seem rare.  Mostly because students have different schedules each day.  My high school had a pretty stable schedule, but there would be lab periods, or assemblies that would change things.  My junior year, I had one day that didn't even have a lunch period.  I just kept illegal snacks in my locker to tide me over.  But plenty of schools have A, B, C, etc schedules where it rotates through a period of days so that all the stuff they need to do can be crammed into the short school day. 
And yes, I can see how, in fiction, the lunch period gives these characters a chance to talk, or not talk, when they are not in class.  (Also, these kids who eat in the library when they are feeling sad, uh, there was no eating in my school library.)  But, I actually think the different folks having different schedules could increase the tension.  I think it's a reality that could be used to help. But yeah, try not to have a geography of stereotypes there.