Thursday, January 30, 2014

Thee Interesting Things

1. I always like to see stories about the internet bring positive change. This story about a non-surgical solution for clubfoot that hadn't only gotten minimal support from the medical community despite it's success ratio until parents on the internet were able to share is a great example of that. 
2. The storm that smacked parts of the south this week has been much discussed, but I want to take a moment to send appreciation for neighbors who checked on pets whose owners were stuck somewhere else; teachers and school staff who waited for the last kid to get picked up, even if that wasn't until after school the next day; stores who offered stranded travelers a place to nap, even if it was on the floor next to the hair products; and medical staff who walked to work so that patients could be attended to.  And those are just the stories that made the news or social media that I watch.  I'm sure there are many more acts of kindness. 
3. And speaking of stories I love, a nine year-old girl who is hearing-impaired wrote a fan letter to Seattle Seahawk Derrick Coleman about how seeing the ad about the people who doubted he could become an NFL player since he is hearing-impaired (which - this is one of my favorite bits of football trivia, but let me just point out the huddle is widely believed to have originated at Galludet so that deaf players could conceal their signing from the opposing team).  Well, not only did her dad's tweeting the letter bring it wide attention, but she and her twin got a chance to meet Coleman, and he may have offered the whole family tickets to the Superbowl.  

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

7 Things About Frozen Precipitation in Unaccustomed Places

I know.  People in Alaska never close their schools.  People in Wisconsin go to football games and sit outside for hours in weather that closes schools and sometimes governments here.  I know.  Let me explain. 
1.  Sometimes we get snow. And when I say sometimes I mean erratically, often in small amounts, and we just broke a long snow "drought" where we hadn't had an official more than two inches in the city (even though for city we apparently mean Reagan Airport which is actually not in the city) for two years.  (Also, check the chart in that link our snow accumulation is crazy erratic.) 
2. Anytime budgets get crunched people look at things we didn't use last year.  So money for things like salt, plows, snow melters get cut.  Trimmed.  Rumor has it one year, one local school district took out the snow day padding entirely.  Guess what happened that year? 
3.  It's usually not just snow.  It's sleet.  Or it is snow but the ground is warm when it falls so it melts which is fine until the temperature drops and you get ice.  All this I learned to drive in snow when I was knee high to a tractor stuff is fine if we were just talking about snow.  You can't really drive on ice.  You can try, but tree. 
4. I see people in puffy coats the second the temperature dips below fifty.  Now, they may be from a more tropical locale, but more likely they have one winter coat.  Some people don't have that much.  Just like cities drop things they need less from their budgets people and especially parents are more likely to make hard choices about boots and coats if you only need it for a few weeks a year.  Standing at the bus stop at five am in a sweatshirt is not fun when the temperature has gone negative. 
5. County and city growth is strange. As a result, schools often find an influx.  Especially some counties that allow things like language and technology transfers out of the school you are zoned for.  So, schools make up for this using extension trailers which tend not to heat up as well.  Also, know what else gets cut when budgets get tight, money for education, particularly school construction. 
6. Bad weather always impacts traffic. It's a trickle down effect too.  During the thundersnow storm we had here, one friend took about three hours to go seven miles.  He was almost home when he ran into an abandoned mail truck blocking the road so he ended up backtracking, finding a good parking lot to leave his car and then walking home.  But he was lucky enough to be close enough to home to do that.  That's less of an option if you're on a major highway.  I was the queen of having just enough gas to get home.  In bad weather you may be stuck in a traffic jam nowhere near an exit by the time you realize crap this is not enough gas for a commute that just quintupled in time. And even if you did realize sooner, the gas stations may have sent their employees home early. 
7. We know.  You that get more snow are better at snow.  I believe you. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Morning (or time of your choice giggle)

I feel to explain this too much would be to give away the fun so I will just suggest you should click, but with the caveat that it does lead to a website that will talk to you, so, be somewhere that watching talking videos isn't a problem.  Alright then. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Three Interesting Things

1. Because I always like it when I can point to proof that I was good for my siblings, (and sure, vice versa, somewhat) I enjoyed this article showing that having sisters can make you happier
2. Is your country experiencing a crime surge.  It might be all those soap operas.  At least, that's what the Venezuelan president said.  It's probably a miracle I haven't turned to trying to sell my sister on the black market.  (Points if you remember that storyline.) 
3. A neighbor of mine had mentioned that one of our building employees had told her that generally, when the alarm goes off, if you can't see smoke in your immediate area, you probably don't need to evacuate, because it's a sturdy building and he'd never seen the fire spread.  (To say nothing of a brief period of lots of false alarms.)  Well, it turns out that was pretty good advice.  There are obviously exceptions, but generally, tall buildings are often designed to prevent fire spread and you may run to the fire in trying to evacuate. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Under the Gunn

Given my love of Tim Gunn and "Project Runway" I checked out the first episode of "Under the Gunn" last week.  It was interesting, although at this point all they did was make the first selections, so it's hard to tell how this will work going forward.  I'm certainly interested to see how it goes, so there's that.  The basic premise is that there are three mentors (all former "Project Runway" contestants) and 15 contestants.  They were divided in half and then the first half did a challenge.  The mentors visited the workroom partway through and also looked through the contestants portfolios.  There was a runway show, and then the mentors went in order making selections.  If another mentor also wanted a contestant the mentor who's turn it was selected, they could also make a case, and then the designer could decide.  This was pretty interesting.  A lot of the deisgners who had a choice went for Anya or Mondo over Nick.  I'd be curious to know if it was age (nick is a smidge older), the contestants had only watched more recent seasons, or design aesthetic. Admittedly, all these folks are unproven as far as being mentors in this show, but I was surprised given Nick's background that more people didn't seem excited about that.  Of course, given the division, it may just be that the second batch is more his type.  (They may have to be given Anya filled 3/4 of her roster already.) 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Three Interesting Things

1. I love the work they do over at Rookie and this piece talking about how people assume that things liked by or aimed at or produced by teen girls is perhaps accidentally good, or good for something for teen girls, is really good. 
2. I am quite a bit biased, but thought this piece suggesting the best sitcom about nerds on TV right now is "Parks and Recreation" made some great points. 
3. And yeah, guy poses as girl on a dating site, and quits after two hours. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Guide to a Fake Baby

1. Lying about being pregnant has never worked in fiction.* Seriously, I can think of more fictional characters who have gotten away with murder. The reasons are somewhat obvious. There are doctors appointments, sonograms, to say nothing of the physical changes. Sure you could fake these, but only if, say, you plan no actual contact with the folks you are lying to.

2. Pregnancy causes physical changes.  Now everyone is different.  And sure, I was in math class in high school with someone who was later revealed to be pregnant, but we didn't hang out or interact regularly.  Plus people (and I say people, but let's face it, I have yet to see a story about a guy faking a pregnancy...oh, dear, look what you've done to my writer brain now.**)  You can try to fake this, but this assumes you are not going to need physical contact with anyone until you're done.  Given how many people accost the stomachs of pregnant women without asking, this seems a tricky proposition.

3. Doctor's appointments.  HIPAA laws (when fiction remembers they exist) work in your favor in that your medical info is your business, but it's not uncommon for people - say the supposed father - to wish to join appointments, see sonograms, and so on.  Sure you can try to talk them out of that, but given the purported reason for such things is often to hang on to this person (which, by the way, whole other can of worms) that seems self-defeating.

4. The baby. Now that DNA and such has made stealing someone else's baby a trickier proposition (plus the whole legality of that) people seem to be working on the we'll just celebrate a lot and then I'll be pregnant and it will just look like a long pregnancy. And look, I certainly can't say that's never ever worked (especially as we are talking fiction) but it seems to defy the law of average pregnancy achievement by a lot. Now sure, there are still plenty of unplanned pregnancies and those typically get counted as first try but, hey, it's fiction, so give it a shot. 

5. The not baby.  If you have decided that you have gotten as far as you can get with pretending and now need to pretend a miscarriage, well, there are similar challenges.  In general, they like you to be examined by a doctor after such things to make sure that all is okay.  If you have achieved your goal of closeness with your partner, they would probably like to accompany you.  Again, HIPAA works in your favor, but in general I find doctors are not fans of taking up their time with non-miscarriages for fictional pregnancies, so you could argue you don't need care, or can't face it but that seems equally problematic. 

6. Yeah, so my recommendation for fictional characters is that fake pregnancies are on par with blackmail, in the fictional folks always get caught, so maybe work on something else. 

*Feel free to provide counter examples, my most likely response is going to be, is the story done yet?  Are you sure? 

**There was that one story about the dad who wiped the pregnancy from his daughter's memory, but that's a little different. 

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

2013 Reading Tally

Total number: 185*. 17 of those were novellas**. 
Last year I didn't think I'd beat that total, and yet, it looks like I did. And the other years too.  Again, I think this is making it hard, hard, hard to repeat.  But who knows. 
TBR pile is still towering at more than a year.  Something to work on. 
It averages to 15 a month.  March was the biggest reading with 26 books. May the wimpiest with 9.
134*** distinct authors.  I read 5 Jill Shalvis books, which was my highest number for any one author this year. (Also second year for Jill Shlalvis as my highest author.  Yay for prolific authors!)  65 new to me authors.  Oldest book was from 1912. Newest is officially from 2014, but due to an early release I was able to read it in December.  90 were from a year not 2013 (or 2014).  Although a lot of those were from 2012. 30 of them had been lingering in my TBR pile.  4 were paper books.  5 were audio books. 
Romance was again highest genre/category at 98. YA was second at 56. Others include non-fiction, new adult, fantasy, mystery, urban fantasy, literary, women's fiction and middle grade.
Most common subcategory - Contemporary.
Number of books that were part of series, serial**** or installments: 98

Ten, or eleven,  books I told people about (because I liked them):
Storm by Brigid Kemmerer - YA series (although I would note that I liked the books a lot, but there's one arcing problem for the Merrick family, so each one ends a little abruptly in my opinion).  Becca saves a guy from some bullies in the high school parking lot and finds herself drawn into a strange situation when it turns out he can control water.  And now that she knows, people think she's one of them. 
Rule by Jay Crownover - a NA about Rule and long time family friend Shaw hook up on her birthday and now they have to figure out if a tattoo artist and a pre-med student who used to be close to his dead twin have a future.   I had some tiny nitpicks about some of the details, but overall loved this. 
Ink by Amanda Sun - a YA about a girl sent to live with her aunt in Japan after her mother dies.  And she discovers one of her classmates can make the ink characters move.  And apparently her presence amplifies it. 
Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry - Echo can't remember quite what happened the night she ended up in the hospital with scars on her arms.  And her dad and stepmom seem to want to move on and pretend it's all okay.  Noah's trying to gain custody of his siblings after their parents died in a fire.  But his slipping academics, among other things, are not helping, so the school counselor suggests Echo tutor him. 
Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman - Ostensibly, I read this for research, but I really enjoyed it.  I think Kerman tells the story with a healthy frame and it also provides a really interesting look at our prison system.  (Yes, I'm planning to watch the show too.)
The Couple Who Fooled the World by Maisey Yates - Proof that if you tweet that you have a story about a virgin and an ex-prostitute I will head to the estore even before I discover that they are also heads of rival tech firms who fake a relationship so they can team up on a joint project. 
Dead Heat by Bronwyn Parry - Australian romantic suspense.  A park ranger discovers a body and a police officer who transferred from the city after an undercover op went very badly now finds himself working a murder and, well, attracted to this ranger.  One of the challenges in romantic suspense is how to show how these two people who haven't met have time to learn to appreciate and fall in love with each other and this is wonderfully done. 
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein - Just read it.  Okay fine, WWII story of two young women  - a pilot and a spy - who become friends.
The Heiress Effect by Courtney Milan - Jane has figured out the secret to having a large dowry but managing to keep away fortune hunters - be a social disaster as in wear atrocious gowns and speak with no filter.  Oliver is illegitimate, and working on getting some political assistance so cannot afford to make a wrong step. 
A Little Too Far by Lisa Desrochers - A young woman in college hooks up one night with her stepbrother, deciding that is a sign the year abroad in Italy is a great idea until she finds herself having, erm, inappropriate feelings for a guy who is just about to become a priest.  I told several people it was either going to be awesome or terrible, and ultimately, I had some quibbles but enjoyed it a lot. 
Cora's Heart by Rachael Herron - I wrote (another) fangirly email to Ms. Rachael after I finished this one.  I've enjoyed the whole series and yet each one just - so good.  And the degree of difficulty was high, because I have been burned by many a story that sounds like this.  Cora was a foster kid, abandoned by her real family.  Married just out of high school got her some family (although her mother in law was still on the fence) and then her husband died in her twenties.  Now, Mac, her husband's cousin who didn't even come home for his funeral and who there might always have been a little lingering something, is back.  And oh.  Go read it. 
And yes, I do seem to like messy cross purposes and feelings.  In books, that is. 

*I counted re-reads if I re-read the whole thing a didn't just skip to my favorite parts. 
**My rule has been that things I can buy separately count as a book, so a book that was released with three novellas, or a collection of short stories counts as one read.  With the rise of electronic publishing the number of novellas that are released all by their lonesome has gone up, but hey, if it was a separate payment (or borrowing) transaction, I'm counting it. 
***I counted authors, not pen names, where possible. 
****Series is based on the book being part of a series, whether or not I read any others.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Three Interesting Things

Welcome to 2014! Unless of course you are reading this at or from some other time. 
1. I remember seeing some story about a celebrity who had given their child what the journalist was calling a long name and chuckling a bit. While my siblings and I have short first names, a number of my family members on the Hawaiian side have long names.  (Yes, much like German, the Hawaiian language lends itself well to compound words.)  So, it does not surprise me that Hawaii was where a woman has been petitioning to get more space for the name on a driver's license.  Her name was getting truncated which was causing hassle when traveling and such.  So, I imagine she and many others will be making use of those extra characters. 
2. It's rare that you hear a story of a takedown notice that's so, um, amusing, but this guy who sent a $6 check is certainly keeping a good attitude about it all.
3. And with the help of Google Earth, a man finds his mother 25 years later.