Thursday, July 30, 2015

Three Interesting Things

1. Sarah Dessen had a dramatic end to her vacation, that ended up with her using her CPR skills (which she read about in a book).
2. Gene Demby at NPR's Code Switch had a piece about the burden of being the only 'other' one in the room
3. And it turns out tech companies are finding liberal arts majors useful members of the team.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

RWA in NYC again

I'm kind of cheating here, using a storify of my tweets to do most of the work.  But, I tried to be a good tweeter, so once my brain was mush, I would have a record.  The bus trip to New York was blissfully empty, such that I had a row to myself.  (Coming back Sunday was not the same, but not unexpected. And my seatmate back had a little manspread issue, but was otherwise fine.)  We did not quite make it in time for me to hit Lady Jane's Salon, which was a shame but, as these things go, traffic based transit carries this risk. 
I stayed offsite, so ended up getting even more steps than I would have traversing the five floors of the conference hotel the worshops were spread across.
The Literacy Signing seemed much smoother to me, they set up a huge room with chairs assigned by letter so that you could sit inside and be called by batches.  There were clumps where traversing the aisles got a little messy, but it seemed so much calmer than I recalled from before. 
I enjoyed the workshops I went to (tweets here: and got the recordings so I could catch up on the others.  The YARWA chapter also had an event with a chance for people to hang out and also to ask questions of a panel of agents and editors and authors. (Tweets here: Katie McGarry and Sarra Cannon both told stories about reader interactions with people telling them their story gave them hope you could get through the dark times.  The Rosemary awards were also given out. 
And then Saturday there were a few more workshops, and then the awards where the Ritas and Golden Hearts were given out.  The awards were wonderful (although I hear seating was tight, I was maybe in line very early to avoid that).  It's one of those things.  I happen to have read some of the entries for the Golden Heart, and had read some of the nominated books.  I haven't read all of them, but I know I read an entry that I loved that didn't final.  I read an entry that finaled but didn't win.  So for everyone who won, so, so, wonderful.  And for everyone who didn't - well your story still touched someone.  So, yay. 
It was a great conference.  I look forward to San Diego.  And well, I'm so happy for everyone I did get to see, if even briefly, and will try to do better catching up with folks I didn't get to see or see enough of.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Last Week in Shows

I spent last week in New York City primarily for RWA, but I confess I carved out a little time to see some shows. I saw both "Hamilton" and "Fun Home".  Interestingly a few people were more curious about the "Fun Home" choice, possibly because all the "Hamilton" news has everyone saying wonderful things about it, and the "Fun Home" stuff is a little less fervent.  The two shows actually have more in common than you might think.  I mean sure, one is about a founding father who worked his way up from nothing, and one is about a cartoonist reflecting on her life growing up with her father who was secretly gay and who commit suicide shortly after she revealed she was gay, but in the end the two had some very common themes.  Both of them looked at expectations and desires and the choice to be open about them, versus keeping them inside. Both of them had love songs.  Okay, "Hamilton" had the edge with a peppy little you'll miss me when I'm gone song sung by the King of England. But "Fun Home" had the hilarious pretend commercial the three kids put together for the family funeral home (aka fun home).
Both were amazing, both had wonderful casts.  (I had done less pre-research on "Fun Home" so had totally missed that Judy Kuhn was in there.  What?) "Fun Home" worked wonderfully in the theatre in the round setting, and they did a great job aiming the action at all sides so that you didn't feel left out. (This is, I know, a basic function of directing theatre in the round, but it was very well done.) It was an intimate theatre, and I was on the side near the orchestra, so got a special warning that I would not be able to leave without crossing the stage so I should, well, not leave.  Having Alison there watching much of the action ended up being a really interesting device especially her comments and even outright embarrassment at watching her early encounters with her girlfriend Joan.
"Hamilton" was is a large, multi-tiered theatre and it was packed to the brim. The set design was bare looking. (I'm sure it's the kind of set that people describe as spare and the set designers nod through gritted teeth at all the stuff they've packed in there.) I haven't read the source book, so it's hard to tell how much of the use of Burr as the foil for Hamilton, the focus on Hamilton's wife and sister-in-law came from the book, versus a choice for the show, but, even putting to the side the color-blind casting, this story about a founding father managed to also look at women, mention slavery more than once, and look at the intersection of passion and politics without failing to let these characters be flawed.
I already have the "Fun Home" cast album, I cannot wait for the "Hamilton" one because I'm sure both will reveal even more on repeated listen.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Three Interesting Things

1. John Metta gave a sermon about why he doesn't talk to white people about race.
2. A woman made a lace collar for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and got a wonderful response.
3. And the city of Melborne assigned each tree an email, for better problem reporting, and well, this happened.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Those on the Outside of the Cone of Truth

"iZombie" wrapped up last month and I have found it enjoyable.  One thing I noticed was that since in this case, the central character, Liv was female, and so one of the main people out of the loop on what was really going on was (as in her zombieness), her ex-fiance Major.  (Yes, his first name is Major.)  (Also, spoilers ahead.)

So, in much of the paranormal stories there are characters who are out of the loop.  This list usually starts out big, and dwindles as core characters are let in on the secret.  What was semi-unusual, was that Major was not in on the secret. Now of course, it's understandable that Liv didn't sit down and say, so, hey, I know we love each other, but I'm a zombie now, and since we haven't actually officially promised in sickness and in health yet, now seems like a good time to call it quits. 
As she said later, he likely wouldn't have believed her, likely would have tried to tough it out once he did, and given that they didn't really know how the zombie stuff transmitted, fluid to fluid contact seemed a likely suspect.  (I have to say, I appreciate that Liv and Ravi, who was in on it pretty much from the start, have not discarded their medical training and have approached zombieism rationally, for the most part.)
Now there's still family members and friends who were also confused about Liv's rapid life (un-life?) changes but Major also worked at the shelter that turned out to be the center of a lot of unexplained disappearances that, well, made a little more sense when you knew there were zombies about and one of them was running a little brain factory and needed fresh supplies.  So, Major's investigation into those disappearances led to his discovery that someone was harvesting brains, and well, there might be zombies.  Or at least something that seemed to not die when you shot it.  So he checked himself into a mental institution.  Because that's nuts, zombies aren't real.  Ravi and Liv did eventually discuss that Major was getting really close to the truth and maybe they should tell him.  And Liv decided that Major had already gotten in this much trouble, just knowing what little he did.  Confirming his worst fears would just make him more determined to go after them. 
Now, let's face it, this is a dressed up version of, "it's for his own good".  But, it was believable that he'd already unknowingly survived a number of encounters with zombies, maybe at least the red tape of the right ways to handle this would slow him down.  And Major, in turn, didn't just decide to go in without a large amount of firepower.  Sure, do I think it would have been, I don't know, eminently wiser to go with more people?  Yes.  But I had presented with reasons that Major thought this was important to him, and why he thought it needed to be stopped now.  And that helped a lot.  Of course he did not survive the encounter, technically. 
So, it's hard to parse how much this is different due to the genders involved, but it certainly seemed like the viewers, at least in my corner of the internet, found Major's approach reasonable based on the information we had, and Liv and Ravi's choice fair based on their concerns. Which is in contrast to several shows where it's a girl outside the info.  (And I have not forgotten Liv's roommate, but, her overlap with other zombies had been minimal.) Honestly, I think the largest difference is that "iZombie" had a short first season, so Major figured out the truth in half the time a normal (ex) love interest would have.  I hope other shows take a look at this, because it was really fun to watch.  Of course as a viewer I knew he would find out, would be in danger, they would wish they had told him sooner, but it moved at a pace that I was able to buy into why they were holding off. 

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Three Interesting Things

1. Full disclosure, I know the author of this piece about a teen metal band, but you also know any story about teens making it happen is my catnip.
2. I would understand if you have the ennui about fictional rape, but this article looks at one show that handled it well,
3. And in some word news, someone has mapped what folks in each language say is incomprehensible, or as English speakers tend to say, Greek.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Book Rant: Just Having a Condom is Not Enough

Guys, I want to tell you the fact that there are less of these rants from me these days is not because I read less or have gone soft.  It is in fact because overall I see less of these things.  Authors, editors, copyeditors, and all the other people who work on making a book both good and accurate have really done a great job.  But...

I read a scene where the do we/don't we/please God let us have a condom scramble occurred.  And one of the partners, after checking wallet and overnight kit then ran out to the car and came back with two condoms.  The other partner, did not say, gee, in your car?  Did you know that condoms work best when kept at room temperature? Otherwise even inside the packaging, the latex or polyurethane can degrade. 

Then, because, no, the discussion of the condom went on, condom purchaser said these had been in the glove compartment for a year.  And that they were "probably" still good even if a lot of the lettering on the packaging had worn off. 

So, yeah.  Condoms expire, not in a year, but that assumes that those condoms were brand spanking new when purchased.  And totally putting to the side for the moment that they had been in the glove compartment an entire year (which yes, I get was intended to prove said partner wasn't a player, which yay, but a non-player who mistreats the condoms is an interesting trade-off.) If the person who brought the condoms jokes that they might not be good, take that package out of their hands and check for yourself. If the lettering and/or expiration date has worn off the package, assume it is not longer good.  (Seriously, we keep expired condoms for demonstrations in our classroom and I have never seen the lettering wear off. Not saying it won't happen.  But I haven't seen it happen to the condoms kept in a cupboard in a temperature controlled classroom.)

I'm not saying you can't have sex without a condom.  Or even spin the wheel with a possibly degraded condom.  But in general, people who do not take the care of the condoms seriously should not be in charge of the condoms.  And if you are going to spin the wheel, you and your partner should do so after a discussion about the risks you are taking.  (Ideally you have had discussions about that even before, since no method(s) are 100 percent effective.)

Friday, July 03, 2015

Sing It On Episode 8: Wildcard; Finals

And here we are at the end of the run.  The previouslies remind us that All-Night Yahtzee (ANY), No Comment (NoCo), and Nor'Easters all are in the Wild Card round.  And that the Nor'Easters lost long tome member Kevin.

In Florida, Andie talks with ANY about working on their Wild Card submission. While she explains to the camera that the wild card teams will each submit a video and the judges will choose first place, who will get to go to the ICCA finals in New York
A chyron pops up and because you know I love a chance to play a cappella group name bingo here are the other teams. In addition to the three we are following on the show, we have: State of Fifths, Vocal Point, Fundamentally Sound, The Beltones, The Charliechords, Semi-toned, Scattertones, Ten40 Acappella, Off the Beat, and The Accidentals.
Brian tells the group they have a few days to perfect and record their submission. Michael says getting to finals will validate their hard work.  Andie says they have to work out their schedules and arrange a space and audio equipment.

In Boston, what looks like five of the Nor'Easters have gathered to discuss if they should go forward.  Jessie says (and it's not entirely clear to me if she has a preference or is simply trying to present the option fairly) that they are emotionally drained and they could take a break to regroup.  Sarah says it would be giving up. Sam feels that Kevin would have wanted them to do it. So, they vote to go forward in the wild card.

In Illinois, Micah is concerned that the classroom NoCo is using is too small and has terrible acoustics.  As a note, all the groups are using a stationary camera, so yes, taking staging designed for a full stage to work in front of a stationary camera, is a challenge. I do not see anyone with a mike, so it looks like NoCo is just using the mike on the camera and hoping for the best. Lizzie tells us she will "literally cry" if they don't make it to finals.

In Boston, the Nor'Easters are filming in an auditorium, with a few members using mikes, and alumnus Ty running the camera and getting them rev'd up before they start.  They decide to just run through the set and see what happens.  Ty begins crying as they perform "Elastic Heart".  As they finish they are all super emotional.

In Florida, ANY is down to the last day since getting all the stuff and people together took time (and, I imagine, since they've had less time than the other groups since their final) and the submission is now due in two hours.  They are in what looks to be the same room they've been using for rehearsal, many of them using phones for mikes, although a few key members have mikes, and they have a mike set up near the recording equipment too. So, they run through one take and all feel it was okay. They go a second time and feel it was so much better…Except when Michael checks the audio file, it didn't record. They are now under an hour until it's due and no one feels comfortable trying again, they just want to get it in.  Dani is bummed that instead of sending the best of several videos, they are stuck with the one they have. Andie says, it is what it is.

In Boston, Isaac reminds us the first place goes to the finals.  Going to finals would be the "gold-plated cherry on top of a cake" but he also says, sometimes you don't need the extra calories.  (I think that means it would be awesome.)

All three groups are gathered together, laptops out, to find out who won.  Results go up at ten. (And I can only imagine some poor ICCA web person knows that if it goes up at 10:02 there will be mayhem.  I also hoped they upped their server for this moment when all ten teams refresh all their devices at once.)
Micah from NoCo reminds us she is a senior. There are lots of nerves, refreshing, countdowns, and even one last "dice or die" cheer from ANY.  

And we come back from commercial to see ANY refresh and all stare at the same laptop in silence.  Michael says, wow, they (clearly not ANY from the relative silence) won by a lot. (According to the ICCA site, by the way, a lot is 67 points more than second place.)

NoCo has apparently designated one laptop person who sits on the desk in front and reads aloud the results.  In third, Off the Beat. In second, Vocal Point. And in first, Nor'Easters.

Cut to Boston where there is screaming and cheering.  Sam says this is the first time that the Nor'Easters have won the wild card.  (Mind you, as will come up later, they have won ICCA's before, so…) Isaac says they will do this not only for but with Kevin.

In Florida, our last shot of ANY, they collectively agree that the Nor'Easters worked hard.  Michael is still proud that they were top three for their region. Andie had so much fun.

In Illinois, our last shot of NoCo, Micah feels that this is bittersweet.  Jessica says to the group that their ICCA run is over.

Back in Boston, the Nor'Easters, despite their group size had only two baritones, Kevin and Figgy, so now they are running through things with alumnus Shams because well, there's an obvious hole in their sound until they figure out who's going to fill in some of these spaces.  I'm just going to make a blanket statement, that everyone is still very emotional, and the loss of Kevin clearly still looms large. Ty runs them through the choreo, cracking them up as he mentions (and this is where my lack of dancing terminology will become clear) that two of them are doing a bouncy lungey movement and making it look less dancey and more like they need to take a dump.  
Jessie tells us they are party bussing it to New York to the Beacon Theater where ICCA finals are being held. Isaac is ready to tear the roof off of the theater. Two years ago, Isaac was in the audience watching ICCA finals, and he saw the Nor'Easters perform and decided he was going to transfer schools and become a Nor'Easter. And now he is, and he's their music director. He tells us ICCA finals have no cash prize, no recording contract, just an "amazing trophy" and knowing that you are the best of the best.

They introduce the groups and Isaac, Sam, and Jessie, give us some snippets about some of them.  There are only eight groups in the finals, but still, get those a cappella bingo cards ready.
The University of Michigan G-Men (who are the Great Lakes winner). Jessie explains that they are an all male group and have a very masculine sound.
The University of Chicago Voices in Your Head (who we saw a bit of in the Midwest semifinals). Sam tells us their soloist is amazing and keeps winning soloist awards.
The Northeast champions the Vassar Devils.  Isaac calls them the sleepers of the ICCAs given the Nor'Easters beat them at quarterfinals, but then lost to them at semifinals.
And bringing the I to the ICCAs are the King's College of London All the King's Men.  Jessie explains they are the UK champs and are a little buttoned up. (Personal note, from my alma mater, came in third in the international division, go Accidentals!)
From University of Southern California, and familiar to "The Sing-Off" fans, the West champions, the SoCal VoCals. Isaac says they are the team to beat, since every time they are in the finals, they win. (Wikipedia does agree that they have an impressive win streak, having won three times, being one of two groups to win multiple times, and being the first team to win from the wild card round in 2012. )
Later we will also see snippets from the Mid-Atlantic champs University of Maryland (yay, local to me!) Faux Paz and South champs Baylor University's VirtuOSO.  And of course, our wild card champs' the Nor'Easters.

Sam goes up this time to pick the order of performance and she picks eighth.  Isaac says it means they are the last thing the judges see, but also means the judges will be able to compare them to all the other performances. Sam swears Kevin was there helping her pick the best number.

Courtney Jenson is our emcee for the night and introduces the judges, who Isaac tells us includes recording artists, a cappella people, music producers, and a Grammy winner. The judges are Ed Boyer, Lisa Forkish, Julia Hoffman, Bill Hare, and Abby James.
Isaac reminds us they are being judged on both their vocal and their visual performance.

This time the clips we see of the competitors are a little longer, although we only see pieces of one song, so it's still hard to have a sense of the whole performance, to say nothing of how it feels to be in the auditorium. Overall, all the groups seem very polished and no one that we see makes any obvious errors.

The G-Men sing "Fitzpleasure". Sam proclaims it the weirdest, coolest, most alien/martian sounding thing.
The SoCal VoCals sing "Bang Bang" which Jessie says is a standout arrangement.  (I perhaps may be a little Bang Bang'd out. Though it seemed an energetic and clean performance.)
Voices in Your Head sing "Bang My Head".  Sam tells us their soloist has amazing range.
The Vassar Devils sing "Time Machine" and this may just be my interest in this song, but it really seems a very fun rendition.
The University of Maryland Faux Paz sing "Came Into My Head" which seems fine but on my TV seems a little less something than some of the others.  (Sorry guys, the you're still Mid-Atlantic Champions!)
VirtuOSO performs "Uptown Funk" which seems very clean.
All The King's Men does "Proud Mary" and well, it sounds suspiciously like what you might imagine when a bunch of buttoned up British men sing "Proud Mary", which is to say, it's good, but not really tearing off the roof.

Backstage, the Nor'Easters are getting ready to go on.  Isaac says they will sing the music they put together with Kevin.  Johanna gets a little teary as she says that Isaac watched them on this stage and now he has led them back to it.  They begin chanting, "Hashtag fun!"
Emcee Courtney introduces them, mentioning that the Nor'Easters recently lost a member and they have saved a space on stage for him and would also like to dedicate tonight's performance to him.
Right as they get on stage, Jessie shakes out her hand.

We see them sing "You're Nobody Til Somebody Loves You" (YNTSLY) to the judges bopping their heads.  Isaac and Sam both have solos, and Johanna is killing it with her solo in "Elastic Heart".  We do not see the third song, but the two we do is more than we see of any other group, so it's not really a fair comparison, but the Nor'Easters performance it certainly is full of heart and energy.  Everyone is emotional backstage. Amanda declares that she has "literally no feelings" because she just left them all on stage.

All the groups are back on the stage to see a special video from John Legend, who as you may know is a producer of "Sing It On". He tells them he was a member of the UPenn Counterparts and that no matter the results, the skills and friendships they've made will lift them up for the rest of their lives.
Isaac says that it shows, "with singing the sky's the limit".

The results are in. In third, G-Men. Isaac says he thought they would win.  In second, Voices in Your Head. Sam feels they did better than Voices.  And in first, SoCal VoCals. (Oh yeah, that Wikipedia entry tells me this is the first time a group has won ICCA's four times, so major congrats.)
Isaac says they were so close. Jessie says it is bittersweet, but she is relieved and proud. Isaac says this year could have broken them, but is has made them stronger.
The groups all sing "Sing a Song" together on stage as the credits roll.
And that's a wrap.  That was fun, and I hope there are plans to do something like that again. 

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Three Interesting Things

1. While I have some quibbles with their attribution of pivot, this article about tech companies that started as one thing and became another is interesting.
2. DC instituted a charge for plastic grocery bags a while back, and a number of neighboring counties have followed suit.  Hawaii has decided to ban them.
3. Tess Sharpe has a note about how altering a quote from her book resulted in erasure.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Dear Scribd

I get it.  Subscription based services, like a lot of things, count on a certain number of people being high users, a certain number being low users, and most people falling somewhere in between.  We could talk about how just a passing glance at the statistics for romance readers could have hinted that readers of romance tend to be readers that read at a higher amount than average, or, that given your average person still only reads about five books a year and wouldn't at all be a target for a monthly subscription service, romance readers read more than average regular reader.
And I suspect to a certain extent you knew this.  This is why you made a deal with Harlequin for access to their backlist.  This is why you worked with Dear Author and other romance focused blogs to offer free trial subscriptions.  So, sure, it turns out that subscription romance readers read a lot and that adds up to more than expected, I'm guessing, when you are paying out royalties to the authors and publishers.  So, you've decided to adjust the catalog. Oh, and BTW, in case you weren't aware, there's a large segment of romance readers on social media who are very active.  (Hi!) So, that little letter to the publishers, did not go unnoticed. And I understand, you're still planning to offer romance, but, I had, before this news even came to light, already noticed a note on one of my library titles that I needed to read quick before it went away.  To say nothing of the titles that I hadn't added to my library yet, so if you were thinking I wouldn't notice, you were wrong. 
And hey, you may not have pegged me as a romance reader, given I've also used my subscription to read YA, MG, celebrity memoirs, and comics.  Okay, I just counted, yeah, there's still a decent romance representation. You probably suspected I had romance leanings.  Which is the next point, romance readers read outside their genre too. 
And look, again, it's a business, I get it.  But, I'm not going to read less romance.  And so, now, as someone who is constantly evaluating if I'm really using all these entertainment subscriptions I have, I will have to reconsider if the Scribd subscription continues to make sense to me if I have access to significantly less titles than before. These things happen with TV and movie subscription services too.  Rights and such get renegotiated.  And I certainly don't want authors to get paid less. But, this does change the value that Scribd provides to me if the intention is not to continually add to Scribd's catalog, but instead to cycle things through so that I can't read too much.