Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wrap It Up

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mimi will not be changing her middle name to "Nostradamus" anytime soon. On January 1, I made the following predictions:
  1. Florida will not get hit by a major hurricane despite Apocalyptic reporting from The Weather Channel and nearly every Florida newscaster drawing breath. - Right on the money. Go me! Second career in meteorology!
  2. Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination for President. - Um, nope.
  3. Mitt Romney will win the Republican nomination for President. - Um, nope again!
  4. Get used to saying "Madam President." - No, but we can get used to saying "Madam Secretary," which ain't too shabby.
  5. Britney Spears will do something stupid. Oh, wait a minute. That's not a prediction; that's a certainty! (Although girlfriend deserves a calm 2008!) - Girlfriend got herself a calmer 2008 and released some killer tracks. I'm glad to see her getting it together! Nobody deserves the kind of public breakdown she had to suffer through.
  6. Ratatouille will win the Oscar for Best Animated Film. - This one was truly a no-brainer.
  7. Reese Witherspoon and Jake Gyllenhaal will get engaged. - No, but still going strong.
  8. UCF will repeat as C-USA champs and win their bowl game this time. - (pause for hysterical laughter) Erm, no. The wheels totally fell off the Knights' wagon. Maybe next year!
  9. Celebrity obsession will be "so five minutes ago." - I wish, but no.
  10. They'll finally get the goods on Barry Bonds. - Still no, despite a fat head and obvious visual confirmation to the contrary. What is taking them so long??
Clearly, predictions are not my forte. So I won't be making any for 2009. Some stuff that did happen in 2008:
  • I won NaNoWriMo again!
  • I read the Dick Francis backlist. They were a chunk of an all-out reading orgy that included 90 new titles and 36 re-reads. That's a total of 126 books for the year, or an average of one book every three days.
  • I watched a bunch of movies. I didn't keep track of those.
  • I didn't keep track of my bank balance very well, either. You'd think all those courtesy pay charges I keep racking up at the credit union would have kept the entire American financial system afloat, but nooooooooooo. Something to work on.
  • Got to see the Canadians, though. That was fun!
  • Also went leaf-peeping in beautiful Western NC.
Basically, I can't complain. Chez mimi and its denizens are basically healthy, basically happy, still employed, and still together. All in all, that makes for a successful year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Florida, For Real

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Pretty, aren't they? These are two of the Spanish horses from the wild herd roaming Paynes Prairie. Nice day spent with the rents, all the grandkids, and lots of walking and nature. Not a bad way to see out the year.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Firsts by Francis

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This year, I decided that one of my more attainable goals would be to read the entire Dick Francis backlist. One, although I couldn't plot one to save my life, I enjoy reading mysteries. Keeps the brain cells busy. Two, I have never wholly recovered from my girlhood horse obsession. Therefore, Dick Francis books, written by a British ex-steeplechase jockey and usually set either in or tangential to racing, have been a perfect match for years. But I've never read all of them. This year, I decided to rectify that fact.

Francis, who was once rode for Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, was champion jockey back in the 50s. When injury ended his career, he became a racing correspondent and in 1962, a novelist. One novel a year followed each year until 2000, the year his wife and chief researcher, Mary, died. Now he's helped by his son, Felix, and has released three books since. I've read all of them except Silks, the current release (I have it on hold at the library).

One thing about Francis, the man is consistent. Although some books are stronger than others, none of them are stinkers. They're all strongly written in first person. The viewpoint character is often someone involved in racing: a jockey, a correspondent, a trainer. What's cool about Francis is how he's able to weave in his research so beautifully. Various books have employed a film director, a wine merchant, a meteorologist, a chef, an architect, an artist, an investment banker, a glassblower, a writer of survival guides (you never know when you'll be left for dead in the calm English countryside!), a one-handed ex-jockey turned private investigator (I love me some Sid Halley!), and others as the viewpoint character. During the read, you learn amazing details of those worlds, woven in so smoothly that you don't realize how much you're learning. Now that's good writing.

And it's not just me who thinks so. Francis is the only three-time winner of the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award, and he is also an MWA Grand Master. Not too shabby for someone who used to ride horses for a living. I enjoyed my gallops through the Francis backlist--once I get started on one, it's a race to the finish--and I learned a lot about solid writing doing so. Create strong characters with unique skills and interests, don't tell everything you know right away, give them a strong moral core so they can realistically keep outwitting the bad guys (who are often truly bad and ruthless to boot), and you'll create some unforgettable books. Here are some of my favorite first lines:

Odds Against - I was never particularly keen on my job before the day I got shot and nearly lost it, along with my life.
Risk - Thursday, March 17, I spent the morning in anxiety, the afternoon in ecstasy, and the evening unconscious.
Whip Hand - (Edgar Award winner) I took the battery out of my arm and fed it into the recharger, and only realized I'd done it when ten seconds later the fingers wouldn't work.
Proof - Agony is socially unacceptable.
Bolt - Bitter February, within and without.
Straight - I inherited my brother's life.
Come to Grief - (Edgar Award winner) I had this friend, you see, that everyone loved.
Second Wind - Delirium brings comfort to the dying.

Ride down to the library or bookstore and check out my man Dick Francis. If you love mystery and good writing, you're in for a smooth trip.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!!

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For those of us who never experience a white Christmas, a little snow, courtesy of Currier and Ives:


Enjoy a restful and blessed holiday!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Beware of the Doghouse!

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Okay, guys, this is why you need to pay attention when your wife/girlfriend/SO drops hints in the store:



NOTE: The jewelry ploy doesn't work on all women (mimi included). You really need to know her to find the perfect gift. But no pressure, okay? You got two days. Get crackin'.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

If Twilight Were...

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Okay, this is very, very mean, but very, very funny. Check out cracked.com's "If Twilight Was 10 Times Shorter and 100 Times More Honest."

Yes, I have just committed tweenage fangirl hara-kiri, but it made me laugh. What they said.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

P&P, Facebook Style

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Okay, this is just hilarious. Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, written as Facebook news feeds. Here's a sample:

Charles Bingley is buying a house!
Mrs. Bennet became a fan of Charles Bingley.
Kitty Bennet can't stop coughing!!!
Charles Bingley is now friends with Mr. Bennet and Sir William Lucas.
11 of your friends are attending Assembly at Meryton.
Fitzwilliam Darcy is dreading this evening.
Charles Bingley and Jane Bennet are now friends.
Elizabeth Bennet is not handsome enough to tempt a certain gentleman. Ha!
Mrs. Bennet had a most delightful evening!
Mr. Bennet wishes that Mr. Bingley had sprained his ankle in the first dance.
Elizabeth Bennet promises never to dance with Mr. Darcy.
Fitzwilliam Darcy became a fan of Fine Eyes.

&c. See the whole wonderful piece here.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Knock It Off With the Chainsaws Already

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This week's cover of Time sure pegged my Pissed-Off-O-Meter. The unsmiling woman in the photo is Michelle Rhee, the chancellor of the Washington, D.C. public schools. She is one no-nonsense broad. She's determined to make sweeping (hence the broom) changes in the D.C. system, damn the torpedoes.

More power to her. The public school system in this country is, let's just admit it, bloated and overly bureaucratic and in serious need of some housecleaning. But I have, to quote one of my more favorite movie lines, "reached the end of my tether" with the "public schools are broken!!" meme and the frantic calls that they need to be "fixed." Because when people say they want something fixed, they want a quick, clean, one-shot solution to the problem that leaves them with no more worries and the ability to walk away.

That is never going to happen with something as complex as public schooling. Believe me, if there were a magic bullet, someone would have found it by now. We teachers don't just sit around and drink coffee and talk to kids all day, you know.

What no one seems to be willing to admit is that schooling in general is highly complex work. No other profession, save possibly health care, requires its practitioners to deal with the day-to-day idiosyncracies of individuals at such a complex level. There is a huge difference between dealing with the idjit in the next cube who wastes company time playing online games so you can't finish your project goals on time and working with a third-grader who's just been kicked out of his house who still can't read as well as the average suburban kindergartener. Huge. As in, most of the blowhards who dismiss teachers and their supposed inability to hold a "real" job wouldn't last a week in a classroom, while many teachers have easily made the transition to corporate America and become quite successful, thank you.

What the Time cover story and the "broken schools" meme often suggest is that it's just bad teachers who keep all the schools from relocating to Lake Wobegon, where all children are above average. Get rid of bad teachers, and your battle's won. The problem is in how you identify a teacher as "bad." If you rely solely on test data, you're going to be tossing out plenty of fabulous teachers who choose to work with the toughest kids in the school. Many of those kids have learning issues so intense, Annie Sullivan wouldn't make a dent in them easily.

Test data don't tell the whole story. If a kid puts down his pencil and sleeps through the test, is it fair to judge the teacher? If another kid bombs because her anxiety over the test is so large, she's spent the past four days throwing up in the school nurse's office, is it fair to judge the teacher? Numbers don't lie--but they don't tell the whole story, either.

That's what's missing in an honest dialogue about public schools. The whole story. Don't just fret over the systems in crisis, like DC--find out what works in the leafy suburbs and see what they have that the crisis systems don't. Until there's equitable distribution of resources, you're not going to have equitable schools. Period. Can charters work? Sure--but if charters get state money, hold them to the same accountability standards expected of the public schools who survive on state money. That goes for the voucher folks, too. Take a voucher to attend a private school? Fine. But you have to take the state test along with it. If we're going to pass out state money, make the people who use it accountable for it.

And yes, be realistic about what teachers can do. If someone is doing nothing but drinking coffee and passing out worksheets, that person needs to find another line of work. But don't create "accountability measures" for teachers that would unfairly penalize those who choose to work with the toughest kids in the system. The solution, folks, is not a chainsaw. There's not that much wrong with the public schools. But we sure could use a great surgeon.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Joe the Writer?

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We knew it had to happen. Samuel J. Wurzelbacher, aka "Joe the Plumber" from late in the Presidential campaign, has just signed a book deal. In today's New York Times, Timothy Egan riffs on this in his acidic "Typing Without a Clue" opinion piece. In Egan's view, celebrity books like Mr. Plumber's bleed advance money and possibilities from real writers who deserve a chance far more than Mr. P deserves an extension on his nearly-up fifteen minutes.

Although Egan has a point (I am, after all, one of the unsigned writers out there who would lurve a book advance and a contract), there is something to the point of view that publishing houses exist to make money. And let's face it: there are a number of people out there who are really, really unhappy that Obama won the election who would snap up Mr. P's tome if for no other reason than to salve their wounds. Bracing talk from people who agree with your point of view can make you feel better, after all.

Joe the Plumber and other "celebrity" authors sell books. Unfortunate fact, but there you are. And if they sell books, then publishing houses make money. When houses make money, they have more money available for romance novels and cookbooks and literary fiction. And women's fiction, for that matter. So I guess I'll just have to take my students' word on this.

"Don't hate."

Monday, December 01, 2008

NaNoWriMo Debriefing

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Fifty thousand, seven hundred and forty words later, I am a proud 2008 NaNoWriMo winner, which basically means that I can post cool graphics on my blog attesting to that fact and, if I'm jonesing for concrete validation, I can download a certificate to print out. But it's not like I didn't know that going in. NaNoWriMo is a personal challenge. It's also conducted on the honor system. The computer bots don't know whether the file I uploaded for validation is my actual book or just a whole bunch of that lorem ipsum gobbledegook pasted over and over and over, so it's up to me to submit the real thing, which I did.

This book was the first one I've ever written where I didn't have a solid idea of where the story was going to go before I started. Normally, I have a very clear picture in my head of an opening scene and a very clear picture of a closing scene, with a lot of territory to fill in. This book started with a title and a tagline. The title is basically a smart-alecky play on words and connects to two other titles, equally smart-alecky, designed to tell the stories of three different women who have been best friends since college. Belle on Wheels, this year's book, is Lucy's story.

When I sat down with my laptop on November 1, I knew Lucy's name, where she worked, and what her major issue happened to be. I'd worked for about a week on some ideas. Random cards pulled from The Writer's Brainstorming Kit helped me nail down the internal and external conflict lines. Along the way, Lucy gained an alcoholic father, a daughter with a secret, an ex-lover, a scheming ex-stepdaughter, and three ruined marriages. Someone basically not at all like me, which made her very fun to write.

I discovered that early morning is my very best time. My house starts up early anyway, so I'd get up around five and write for an hour before waking up Frick so he can make the bus on time. Most mornings, I'd write around a thousand words in an hour. Not bad, considering I didn't have much of a plan. Many of the plot elements emerged as I went along and made things more interesting for her and for me.

Now the trick is to get the revision accomplished. I've done NaNo for the past three years now, with two wins and a 40K "failure" to my credit. Basically, I have three drafts of three very different books, and none of them are complete. Before NaNo, I tended to percolate on my stories until I was pretty happy with the direction of the chapter, then I'd write the whole chapter. What emerged was usually pretty clean, so revision was fun. With NaNo, though, I have a complete story arc. Retraining my brain to accept very sloppy draft (since my previous drafts have been much, much tighter) has been a struggle. But as Buttercup reminded me, "It may be a mess, but at least you have a novel written." Point taken. Now I have to work on a new way of refining said novel.

Another insight was changing my software. For years, I've used AppleWorks for all my word processing. I finally bowed to the masses and bought a copy of Word (under protest). But Word was not the magic key. The magic came from an inexpensive piece of software for writers called Scrivener. It. Is. So. Kewl. Scrivener lets you plan on virtual notecards, move them around on a virtual corkboard--great for when you realize a scene is in the wrong place--move the card, and all the text you've written for that scene moves with it. No more cut and paste! Somehow, writing those thousand-word chunks in a text file attached to a card was so much easier than scrolling through pages and pages of a Word file. Yes, I know you can do that with anchors, but Scrivener's interface was just so much more intuitive and wonderful. Plus, at $39.95 for a full copy, it's a steal. If you have a Mac, zip over to Literature and Latte and download a free trial. It was a godsend this year.

So a couple of days off (maybe--I came up with an idea this morning while brushing my teeth, so I need to make it happen before it evaporates), and then on to the revision. Maybe I'll try a couple of books at one time. I have some great mojo working for me.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

w00t! I Did It Again!

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The results are in for this year's NaNoWriMo! I am now officially a


w00t! I'll post more tomorrow on this year's process, the book itself, and what I discovered over the past 30 days. The Viking boat above suggests smooth sailing. It wasn't completely smooth, but there were some things I didn't expect that turned out better than I'd thought they would.

Now, off for some dinner and last-minute house cleaning. We have out-of-town guests spending the night, and I have beds to make. Nothing like a little extra stress on the last day of NaNo, huh?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

NaNoWriMo Update #4

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Just over 24 hours left to go in this year's NaNoWriMo, and a little more than 8,000 words to write. I'll have to write fast, though--there's a lot of book still to cover. I've been dwelling more on earlier chapters than in the past, so I have a decent-sized chunk still to sketch out before I can legitimately write "The End."

Okay, back to the book. More when I debrief after it's all over. With luck (and some head-down work), I can post a winner's badge!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

OMG They Just Rickroll'd the Macy's Parade!

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I don't know which warped brain at Cartoon Network thought this up, but it's freakin' BRILLIANT. Watch and sing as the Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends Rickrolls the entire Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade:



Excellent!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

You're My Obsession

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One lovely benefit of the Interwebs is the ability to Google your whole backstory. You can look up old jobs, old home towns, historical events, and even better, historical men (come on; you know you've Googled your high school crush).

But something gets forgotten...if you can Google, they can Google you back. And that's exactly what happened to me last night, and I'm still wondering what exactly to do.

mimi has never thought of herself as a particularly bewitching sort of woman. Fetching, perhaps. Charismatic in a Pied-Piperish kind of way (there are benefits to working with young people all the time). Definitely infuriating (at times) and stubborn (most times), but not bewitching. Well, apparently mimi doesn't know her own strength, for in her email was a note from a long-lost man in her past, and man, did it contain some food for thought along with the trip down memory lane.

Turns out "Preston" hunted up my college roommate and got my email and emailed me. Cool! I love hearing from old friends. What left me flummoxed (gobsmacked, poleaxed--pick your adjective) was Preston's declaration that basically he'd fallen in love with me at first sight in college and has carried ye olde torch ever since, through two marriages and a passel o'kids. Now if that won't throw a spanner in your day, I don't know what will.

Complicating things is the fact that Preston and I shared one of those college moments that you tend to remember as if they've been set in a snow globe. Just the once, and nothing really serious, but memorable. So now a couple of grown folks are reminiscing about when they were young and foolish folks and playing the what-if game.

It never would have worked (obviously didn't, as there is an entirely different, quite wonderful male installed here at Chez mimi), but that doesn't stop you from wondering what if it had. What I find more interesting is how truly unsure and weird you are when you're in your early twenties, despite your announced certainty that you know everything and if the cranky old folks would just hand over the keys to the universe, you could fix it all and still have time for dinner and a movie later.

Now that I'm closer to cranky old folks age, I realize how adrift I must have been. Thinking the perfect relationship was the way to solve things? Hah! My faculty advisor used to tell me he hated the spring because that was the season where the engagement shrieking began in the women's dorms, and every shriek was another bright young future dimming because all her attention would now be on a wedding rather than herself. I'm not knocking those people who do find the right partner early and live happy lives; I'm just saying I think those cases are rare, and I certainly wasn't one of them.

Clearly, you never know sometimes exactly how you come across to people. To me, I was young and untried, uncertain of who I was or who I wanted, and generally kind of screwed up and weird. To Preston, I was the unattainable perfect woman (and trust me, I have never once looked at myself in the mirror and thought, "Yeah. That's the look for today...unattainable perfection!!"), the one who got away and was always neatly stored in the closet of regrets. Funny how that works sometimes.

I emailed back. Sent him pictures of our family on horses on a Pacific beach and a closer shot of myself with Frick and Frack, all smiling and laughing together. He sent me pictures of his wife and three daughters. Two happy families, as it should have been all along. Maybe those college interludes are just warmups for wonderful.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

NaNoWriMo Update #3

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Productive week this week. Turns out what I need to do is wake up early (just a little after 4 a.m.), write for an hour or so before I have to start waking DH or Frick (Frack sleeps in until after 7), and watch the words pile up. I am way ahead of my pace from two years ago--the year I won--29K now compared to 20K then. Plus, we have all week off from school next week, so I won't have a chunk of eight-plus hours taken out of every day where I can't write.

I'm reasonably confident I can win this year. I can write the 50K by next Sunday. The weird thing is, even though I planned far less with this story, the chapters are coming out more like normal chapters when you combine scene lengths. I also haven't felt the need to whip through the pacing quite as much, so I can develop more of what's going on.

I'm still on the fence about introducing other POVs within the main story. Surprise #1 of the year was discovering that this book wanted telling in third period rather than first. Now I have to decide, since I'm in third, whether the hero of the story or Lucy's daughter gets a voice. I have some test samples of each floating out there--they count toward the NaNo goal, Chris Baty said!--but I don't know if they'll get integrated into the final product.

Okay, enough time wasted. I need to get back to the story!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

NaNoWriMo Update #2

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Slow week. Lots of thinking about the story, but not much typing on the story (as you can see from the wordmeter). It's interesting what kinds of things pop up, though, when you haven't done a whole lot of planning. Like Lucy hitting a highway patrolwoman because she hasn't been paying attention. Or having to dress in scary 80s fashion for a reunion party. Or ending up doing the horizontal mambo on the Oriental rug in her long-lost love's parlor--several times--and getting rug burns as a result (how college of her).

In fiction writing circles, the whole plotter vs. pantser (as in, "by the seat of your pants") debate rages on. As a teacher, I have told my students for years that the process is highly individual and rarely wrong, although there are some smart things you can do to make your life easier, like having some kind of a plan before you dive in. Because my life is so disordered everywhere else, I've tried to impose at least some kind of logic to my writing before I begin, consulting all kinds of methods to see which one works. The Deb Dixon Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. Robin Perini's Story Magic. Christopher Vogler's Writer's Journey. All of them have been helpful, but none has done the trick completely.

It is comforting to have at least an idea of where you're going before you begin (says the official navigator of Chez mimi). This time, though, I started with a vague direction and a lot of random, courtesy of Pam McCutcheon and Michael Waite's The Writer's Brainstorming Kit. I pulled a bunch of random cards, jotted down some ideas, and they are coalescing into a story. Sort of. There is that "Lucy hits a state trooper" randomness still popping up, but I think I have a basic TripTik to the story arc.

Chris Baty of NaNoWriMo fame assures us that Week 3 is much easier than Week 2. Let's hope he's right. I need to catch up. My number of words behind the pace has a comma in it. I need to get on the stick to make sure the number of digits in front of the comma stays at one or fewer. Okay, off to make some magic, or whoopee. On the page or off. Hey, energy is energy, right?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

NaNoWriMo Update #1

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Things going fairly well this NaNo season, if not for the ennui and the self-sabotage and whatnot. I am about a thousand words ahead of where I was a couple of years ago. Which is okay, but not great. I'd really rather not have to write so much at the very end in order to win. Unfortunately, I managed to kill the stats from last year's attempt, so I have no idea where I am in relation to a year ago.

But no matter. Things are progressing. I'm exploring more--which I guess you have to do when you start with only a couple of characters and a vague idea of what might happen--so I have some snippets of POV from some other characters hanging out in a file. They might get inserted (or not).

Big surprise for this year: third person. I've been so immersed in the first person voice for the past three mss I've written, it was weird to have a bunch of "she saids" pop out. I have opening paragraphs written in both perspectives, so maybe after the mayhem stops I'll send both to Dream Agent and see what she thinks.

For now, though, bedtime. It's hard to write with the eyelids at half-mast and the head jerking thing going on.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Ennui

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One of our Canadian friends sent me a link to a touching children's book, so of course I had to visit. True to form, Mr. Sarcasm had directed me to an online version of Edward Gorey's The Gashlycrumb Tinies, an abecedarium only a Goth could love. It's also one of my sister's favorite books--she's an Eeyore anyway, so I'd bought her a copy for Christmas one year. (mimi couldn't even begin to explain her family's sense of humor)

Gorey, of course, is not sentimental at all, so Gashlycrumb features rhymes like "A is for Amy, who fell down the stairs/B is for Basil, devoured by bears" and the like, accompanied by line drawings. Here's the panel that makes me laugh out loud:

You have to understand that DH and I use "ennui" as code for "I have this general malaise with life, work, and everything in general, so I need to disappear by myself for a couple of hours and figure out how to get my equilibrium back...you're on kidwatch. Don't forget to walk the dogs." And that's pretty much the land I find myself in this week.

No, I don't plan to die of ennui. mimi is far too interested in life to waste away pining for some unidentified something that will make things easier. But let's say life has been taking it out on me and I. Am. Whipped. So I am, finally, admitting that I am not, indeed, Wonder Woman (although on occasion I have wielded her lasso of truth with Frick and Frack and have used the bracelets to ward off the slings and arrows of life in the new century to great effect), and must attempt heroic measures for self so that I have the fortitude and patriotic bustier (even if imaginary) to save my little world.

With that in mind, I offer this wee addition to the Gashlycrumbs:

M is for mimi, morose and depressed,
who is keeping her butt home
and getting some rest

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Yes, We Did

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They're calling the Presidental race for Barack Obama now that the West coast polling has ended. As a country, we haven't figured everything out, but this year (except for the robocalling and the mudslinging) did us proud. Clinton's 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling--a great start--and now a biracial man in the Oval Office. Good for us.

The job ahead? Learning to get along and work together. The country belongs to all of us, red and blue states, and it's high time we learned to mix purple. I for one am looking forward to the challenge. Way to go, democracy.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

On Your Mark...

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NaNoWriMo starts today! Something about this web badge really appeals to me:


Love the Viking helmet. Very Brünnhilde/shieldmaiden. Although typing in one of those metal corsets would be really uncomfortable, the idea of going after a new project like a Valkyrie has its own appeal.

This year's project: Belle on Wheels. Here's the tag: Lucy Nugent is driving hell-bent through life in a car with no rear-view mirror. She probably oughta look back. Something--make that someone--is gaining on her.

You can check my progress in the sidebar--there's an active webmeter icon. 50K to go by November 30. Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fantastic Beasts, Not So Fantastic Effects

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One of the Harry Potter series bonus books is a slim volume called Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander. This small book, written and illustrated by J.K. Rowling, describes the creatures of her magical world. All the profits were donated to Comic Relief UK. I was scanning it this morning--Frick had dropped it on the floor by his bed, and since it had text, well, I had to pick it up--and came across this interesting description:

RUNESPOOR

...A three-headed serpent, the Runespoor commonly reaches a length of six or seven feet...each of the Runespoor's heads serves a different purpose. The left head (as seen by the wizard facing the Runespoor) is the planner. It decides where the Runespoor is to go and what it is to do next. The middle head is the dreamer (Runespoors may remain stationary for days at a time, lost in glorious visions and imaginings). The right head is the critic and will evaluate the efforts of the left and middle heads with a continual irritable hissing. The right head's fangs are extremely venomous.

I don't know about you, but I started thinking all writerly at that point. As in, a Runespoor is a lot like me--or vice versa. With all the activity up there, it feels like three different heads are arguing. All writers have a planner (mine for writing is a bit stuck at the moment), and certainly a dreamer. And without a doubt, we have a critic.

Ah, yes, the vicious inner critic. The one that tells you that you're no good, that you're wasting your time, that writing is a pointless effort and there's no sense in blowing all that nice housecleaning time on piffle such as novels or characters and suchlike. You know, that head. The one that rules the roost, especially if you are, as many writers can be, even the slightest bit neurotic or oversensitive.

If I polled all my writer friends, I wouldn't be surprised to find that they all have that third Runespoor head, venomous and constantly hissing. Why do you bother? That's dreck. That book's worse. That heroine is TSTL. That hero deserves to get his brawny ass kicked. You stink. Shouldn't you be taking up knitting? And so on, and so on, and so on. Hey, we're writers. We can come up with creative ways to say "you suck" all the time!

Maybe we should take our cue from Rowling, who informs us that:

The Runespoor rarely reaches a great age, as the heads tend to attack each other. It is common to see a Runespoor with the right head missing, the other two heads having banded together to bite it off.

Guess it's about time to bite that bad boy off. I have a book to write next month.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ten Favorite Horror Movies

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  1. The Others
  2. Halloween
  3. The Terminator
  4. Signs
  5. The Shining
  6. Alien
  7. Aliens
  8. The Silence of the Lambs
  9. The Howling
  10. The Blair Witch Project (this one only works if you have a great imagination)
  11. Really, though, anything with the Olson twins in it

Monday, October 27, 2008

What Kind of Halloween Candy Are You?

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Um, yeah. Scary, but yeah.




What Your Love of Nerds Says About You



No doubt about it, you're a bit of a geek.

You're a bit offbeat in an appearance, but you're still real cute.

You don't care much about what other people think. You're too busy doing your own thing!

You're definitely one of a kind - and in your case, that's a very good thing.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Whassssssup!! 2008 Edition

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No matter which way you plan to vote, you have to admit this is brills:


Friday, October 24, 2008

Halloweenie

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Heh heh heh...Dana Summers is on my weird little wavelength with today's Bound and Gagged:

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Manfiction

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Stephen King's "Who Says Men Don't Read" column from Entertainment Weekly, a late September installment of his "The Pop of King" column (yes, I'm behind in my reading), provides some interesting food for thought about genre fiction in general, but the divide of the sexes in particular. In countering the industry's moanings that "men don't read anymore!," King has this to say:
Here's a concept so simple it's easy to miss: What men want from an Elmore Leonard novel is exactly what women want from a Nora Roberts novel — escape and entertainment. And while it's true that manfiction can be guilty of objectifying women, chick lit often does the same thing to men. Reading Sandra Brown or Jodi Picoult, I'm sometimes reminded of an old Julie Brown song, ''I Like 'Em Big and Stupid.'' One memorable couplet goes, ''My father's out of Harvard, my brother's out of Yale/Well, the guy I took home last night just got out of jail.''
Sounds like David Allan Coe's "You Never Even Call Me By My Name" (aka "the ultimate country song"), doesn't it? Especially the "I was drunk the day my mama got out of prison" line. King goes on to ask,

Is this a bad thing? From an entertainment standpoint, I'd say not. Women like stories in which a gal meets a handsome (and possibly dangerous) hunk on a tropic isle; men like to imagine going to war against an army of bad guys with a Beretta, a blowtorch, and a submachine gun (grenades hung on the belt optional).

I'm thinking no. I've read plenty of blowtorch fiction in my life--the entire Robert Ludlum canon, for one thing, seasoned with Trevanian and Ken Follett--and I have to say that King's spot on the mark, as usual. There's nothing wrong with escapist fiction. We've gone through whole decades (Great Depression, I'm talkin' 'bout you) where most of the movies were pure fluff. When times are hard, it takes something special to get you to read about hard times, The Grapes of Wrath being a prime example. But when you're hungry and worried and dreading the phone call from the bank or the credit card company, you're much more likely to go for Bringing Up Baby than you are Million Dollar Baby.

So you go, girls--Nora and company--who make us laugh and cry and forget our troubles. But we might want to hunt up some mayhem-ly manfiction, too. Sometimes, the happy ending needs a little seasoning. Grenades work.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Annual Dose of Crazy

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So two years ago I decide to throw the biggest wrench in the world into my already packed schedule and do NaNoWriMo. Thirty days, fifty thousand words--one month to a complete first draft of a novel. Normally, I'm a save-it-up-behind-the-dam gal. I'll think and fidget and think and ponder and then finally sit down and blurt out whole chapters at a time. Those chapters tend to be relatively nicely written, so rewrites are actually fun and quickly productive.

But a novel in a month seemed challenging and maybe fun, so I tried it. Won, the first year (had to cough up over 10k on the last day of November), came close the second (9k to go, but didn't have the steam). So now I'm on the precipice. It's mid-October. Go for the crazy, or try to stay sane.

Bonus points for crazy: book written. Bonus points for sane: sanity. Not overrated if you're a mom, I must say. So, which should it be? I'd be way behind in the idea area this time. The first go-round, I'd been thinking about the story a lot beforehand. Last year, I had more to go on, but ran out of steam. This year, pretty much ground zero. Maybe a name or two, a paper-thin premise (think one sentence). A title. Think I should go for it?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ten Bands/Artists That Remind You of High School

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  1. Bruce Springsteen - "tramps like us...baby we were born to run!"
  2. Duran Duran - "...and I'm hungry like the wolf!"
  3. R.E.M. - "...radio free Europe..."
  4. John Cougar Mellencamp - "...little ditty 'bout Jack and Diane..."
  5. The Police - "don't stand...don't stand so...don't stand so close to me..."
  6. The Pretenders - "...now I'm back on the train, yeah....oooooohhh....back on the chain gang..."
  7. Blondie - "...once I loved, and it was a gas--'til it turned out...had a heart of glass..."
  8. Rush - "...a modern day warrior, mean mean stride, today's Tom Sawyer mean mean pride..."
  9. Journey - "...so now I cooooooooome to yooooooouuuu with ooooooopen aaaaaarms..."
  10. Foreigner - "...everybody's workin' for the weekend!"
How totally eighties is that list? And I could go on and on and on, kind of like the Sugar Hill Gang.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Leaf Peepin'

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mimi père and Wicked have lived in the mountains for seven years now, and this is the first time we've visited in the fall. Leaf peepers, the locals call those of us who slow down traffic and wander about agape. But can you blame us? Check these out:


Autumn. Le sigh. I have a sudden urge to go read some Keats.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

You're Lucky Enough

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Woke up to this today:


As the little plaque in the powder room says, "If you're lucky enough to be in the mountains, you're lucky enough."

Monday, October 06, 2008

Staying Young

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Happy B-Day to me! Normally birthdays involve lots of soul-searching and whatnot, but I think the best advice for staying young is courtesy of baseball's legendary Satchel Paige:
  1. Avoid fried meats, which angry up the blood.
  2. If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.
  3. Keep your juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move.
  4. Go very gently on the vices, such as carrying on in society--the social ramble ain't restful.
  5. Avoid running at all times.
  6. Don't look back--something might be gaining on you.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Meme From Hell

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Dara over at Slave to Romance is dead meat. I spent all day with her in a workshop yesterday, and she didn't say she'd tagged me for this meme! (Okay, not really dead meat, since she is so very nice, but paybacks may be in order.) Here we go, the longest meme in the world:

1. What is your occupation? Teacher, writer, mom, Chief Cook and Bottlewasher
2. What color are your socks right now? No socks unless it's cold outside; I'm a barefoot Florida gal!
3. What are you listening to right now? The background music for Zelda: Twilight Princess that Frick is playing
4. What was the last thing that you ate? chocolate layer cake for dessert last night (no breakfast yet)
5. Can you drive a stick shift? Inga is a stick shift
6. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? ultramarine
7. Last person you spoke to on the phone? DH
8. Do you like the person who sent this to you? Yes, even though she is a Sneaky Pete for tagging and not telling!
9. Favorite drink? iced tea or Dr Pepper
10. What is your favorite sport to watch? baseball, especially live with a score pad and a great hot dog
11. Have you ever dyed your hair? not any more! mimi will admit to the aubergine rinse if pressed, but will claim in her defense that it was the 80s
12. Pets? three dogs
13. Favorite food? Southern cooking, Italian, or Mexican
14. Last movie you watched? A Lot Like Love
15. Favorite Day of the year? the last day of school
16. What do you do to vent anger? fume and scream and run away from home
17. What was your favorite toy as a child? my Breyer horses
18. What is your favorite, fall or spring? fall
19. Hugs or kisses? hugs
20. What kind of pie? key lime or pecan
21. Living arrangements? 4B2b house that's never clean
22. When was the last time you cried? yesterday, having to read W.H. Auden's "Funeral Blues" at the writer's workshop ("Stop all the clocks...")
23. What is on the floor of your closet? too many shoes and last night's pajamas
24. Favorite smell? freshly cut grass
25. What inspires you? people who do amazing things for the right people, the fearless creativity of children
26. What are you afraid of? falling
27. Plain, cheese or spicy hamburgers? cheese
28. Favorite car? Inga makes me quite happy, thank you. Who wouldn't be happy with a convertibeetle?
29. Favorite cat breed? mimi does not do cat. Ever. mimi has two Brittanys and a Cocker Spaniel.
30. Number of keys on your key ring? 3
31. How many years at your current job? 21
32. Favorite day of the week? Tuesday
33. How many states/provinces have you lived in? five--Tennessee, North Carolina (twice), South Carolina, Ohio (yegods!), and Florida
34. How many countries have you been to? 3
35. How much do you love "Knowing Me, Knowing You" by ABBA? I know all the words and can sing it very, very loud--but it's not my favorite ABBA song.
36. The name of the first person you kissed (romantically)? Jon.
DH is a far better kisser, though.
37. Are you the oldest child, youngest child, middle or only?
Oldest
38. What is your favorite TV series currently still on?
Heroes or CSI
39. What is your favorite book right now?
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. It does great things for your creative soul.
40. How many children do you have?
117. Only two of them are my own personal children, though. The rest I mother from 8:30-4:30 on weekdays.
MY NEW QUESTION:
41. Literary character you would most like to meet:
Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice

Okay, Contract in 12 gals (that means you, Dancing Deb and "Lefty"); tag, you're it!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

If You Can't Say Something Nice

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Lauren Lise Baratz-Logsted has some excellent advice for writers today. In her "Dear Author: Don't Be a Jerk. No, Really." post at Red Room, she takes authors to task for distasteful behavior. Things you'd think authors would realize, like not calling out other authors, not dissing authors who have been kind enough to give you a blurb, restraining yourself over negative reviews, not blasting the art department over a bad cover, not acting like a know-it-all, etc. All of this seems common sense, but...

...there are far too many people in the world who just don't get this sort of thing. Thankfully, I was raised in a Southern family, which means the Golden Rule applies in all situations, but when you feel you just can't be nice, you either
1) Smile and say "bless your heart," or
2) Practice the art of being nice-nasty.
My mother is the World and Olympic champion of nice-nasty. She can be sweet, sweet, sweet and say something so truthful that if you have any consciousness whatsoever, you realize you've just been eviscerated. Eventually. Some folks are too thick for nice-nasty and don't get it even if they're tripping over their own entrails.

But mimi! I hear you cry. Isn't being nice-nasty just the opposite of what you proclaim in this here blog title? Yes, but no. Yes, because you are, indeed, saying something not nice. No, because nice-nasty is conducted in private, between yourself and the offendee. It is the total opposite of Ms. Baratz-Logsted's list of offensive behaviors, since all of those are conducted in public and with flair. As in, "notice me and how important I am." Like this author person I know, who, upon initial publication, declared to another author friend of mine that she needed to change her book title, because newly-published author's book had a similar one, and newly-published author of course, OWNED it for time and all eternity. Or something. Let's just say this author person has had her bad behavior come back to her in spades. People now know how toxic and awful she can be, as if every time she pauses for someone to speak, the next line out of her mouth is, essentially, "Camera back on me." This is not a way to win friends, which you certainly need in this business, heartless and fickle that it is.

mimi is a lucky, lucky girl to have her beloved Puffs and her "Contract in 12" partners in crime along for the ride. Good times and bad, they are supportive, caring, and know just when to administer hugs. Or chocolate. Or a whiskey sour. These friends will get all the blessings they deserve, because they are, as we Southerners also say, "Good People."

That, and they have sense enough not to need Lauren L. B-L.'s advice.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Bed List/The Dinner List: Special Edition

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Why, oh why do we take so long sometimes?

BED LIST: PAUL NEWMAN



















Those iconic blue eyes enchanted women for years. He was so handsome, he actually lost movie roles during his early career because he was too good looking.
Good thing they got over it so we could drool over him in Hud, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Cool Hand Luke, and dozens of other roles. No offense, Robert Redford, but you were outclassed--I'd take Butch Cassidy over the Sundance Kid any day.

DINNER LIST: PAUL NEWMAN
















Newman himself found it humorous that he'd probably be more widely remembered for salad dressing than for his films. The Paul Newman of Newman's Own donated nearly $200 million to charity thanks to profits from products like popcorn, marinara sauce, lemonade, and yes, salad dressing. He founded the Hole in the Wall Gang camps for terminally ill children and their families and to anti-drug charities in memory of his son Scott, who died of an overdose. In his later years, he charmed moms and kids alike with his wise, careworn voice work in Pixar's Cars. Best yet, and definitely sexy, was his long, long love affair and marriage with the fabulous Joanne Woodward. For dinner, something wonderful--he was a talented amateur chef--with the cost of the meal donated to charity. Now that's a legacy to be proud of.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Grammarrrrrrr!

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Cool Chick: Nancy Drew

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In our eyes, she is forever eighteen, resourceful, and smart. She is Nancy Drew, and she is the ultimate Cool Chick.

Nancy had boatloads of freedom and resources while those of us sucked between her yellow covers (this was, after all, the 70s) ached for them. She had Ned, a hot boyfriend, but didn't suffer by the phone praying for him to call. She had a kicky blue convertible. She had her best buddies, Bess and George, to provide some necessary girlie/tomboy balance in the adventure. And she went everywhere. That Carson Drew, successful attorney, must have been raking it in to afford all of Nancy's smart clothes and private lessons in everything from equitation to ice skating.

What can we learn from her? Loads. Just ask Jennifer Worick, author of Nancy Drew's Guide to Life, a tiny gift book I gave Kels for her birthday a while back. The guide contains Nancy-gleaned advice about Survival Strategies, Dating: A Primer, Sleuthing 101, The Delicate Art of Etiquette, Wilderness Tips, On Being a Lady, Powers of Observation, and Accoutrements. Here's a sample: "When bound and gagged, you can still tap our HELP in Morse Code to attract attention," from
The Clue of the Tapping Heels. Or "If you see something resembling a shark in a river, don't fret. It's more likely to be a small submarine operated by thieves." (The Mystery of Lilac Inn)

With advice like that, how could you go wrong? Which Nancy Drew adventure was your favorite?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Reviewer Fun

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Clever, clever spoofage going on at Amazon.com.uk. Check out the reviews for Bic Crystal pens sometime. Good Lord, that's some funny stuff. Some excerpts:

I Look Like an Idiot

By Janille Parry
I thought I would add one of these to my order because it was so cheap. I received it and took it to work with me. Unfortunately, I was not prepared for the consequences of my actions. The pen itself is nice. It writes smoothly. It is also small enough to fit in the middle of my spiral notebook rings, while the useful little tab on the lid keeps it from sliding in where I cannot get it out (like those crummy pencils without caps). It made my life decidedly simpler. (It is as if I am only carrying one item, instead of two!) However, I was just getting comfortable with it when I was sharing my meeting notes with a coworker. Turns out that this pen writes in British English, not American English! He laughed, then took my notes and showed them to the person next to him. Pretty soon they were all laughing at how I had added an extra "l" to labeling and labeled. They mocked my use of an "s" instead of a "z" in realize. They couldn't understand why I had added a "u" after the "o" in words such as flavor, color and odor. And don't even get me started on the "e" I added at the end of gelatin and glycerin. Now all my coworkers think I am an imbecile. But it's because my Bic Crystal ballpoint pen has been set to English (U.K.) and I can't figure out how to get it to English (U.S.)!

Left handers beware...

By Disappointed User
Worked fine with my right hand, but when I came to use my left hand my writing came out looking like the work of a complete imbecile. I can only assume Bic have created a right-handed only pen, and would caution left-handers to "try before you buy".

Is this pen telepathic?
By O B Vious
I have noticed that what this pen writes in my diary are the exact same thoughts that i have in my mind. Can this pen be reading my thoughts, i mean, is this at all possible?

Who are these people with all that free time? Do I really care? Thanks for the big laughs at work, though. It's progress report week, and I could use all the hilarity I can get.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Gender Bending

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This is why I love Jon Stewart today:



Can we just dispense with the hypocrisy, please? Some issues--real ones, like what to do with the economy, education, foreign policy, and the like--would be nice.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Lasagne Princess!

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Today, the music department at church sponsored its first annual Lasagne Throwdown. I entered a couple of pans, and lo and behold, I won a prize! I am now the proud holder of the "Take Two Servings and Call Me in the Morning" ribbon for Healthiest Lasagne. Once you read this recipe, you won't find it particularly healthy. Any sauce that begins with the directions "melt two sticks of butter" can't claim health. Maybe the chicken and spinach fooled 'em. At any rate, here is today's prizewinning recipe for:

Lasagne Chicken Marsala Florentine

1 lb. boneless chicken breasts
1 T minced garlic

2 T olive oil

1/4 C marsala

1 lb. lasagne

2 sticks butter

1/4 C flour

2 cans evaporated milk

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 can cream of mushroom soup with roasted garlic

1/4 t cayenne pepper

1 lb. ricotta

2 eggs

2 oz. grated parmesan cheese

1/4 t salt

1/4 t nutmeg

2 C shredded six-cheese Italian blend

4 oz. fresh baby spinach, rinsed and dried


Slice chicken breast into strips. Heat olive oil in a large skillet and add garlic. Sauté chicken in olive oil mixture over medium heat. Halfway through cooking, add marsala, cooking until liquid evaporates. Remove chicken from heat and chop; set aside.


Cook lasagne noodles according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, melt butter over medium heat in large skillet. Mix in flour until smooth. Slowly incorporate evaporated milk to create a white sauce. Add soups and stir to combine. Season with cayenne pepper. Add chopped chicken and stir; set aside.
Combine ricotta, eggs, parmesan, salt, and nutmeg in a separate bowl.

Heat oven to 375°. While oven is heating, assemble lasagne in this order: one-third of the sauce, noodles, ricotta mixture, spinach, cheese blend. Repeat layers and top with sauce. Bake lasagne for 30 minutes until heated through and bubbly. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Mangia!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Lightfingers

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One thing owning a convertible teaches you is to put things away. Lock them in the trunk, take them with you, whatever, but put 'em away. Especially if you park with the roof down.

I'm pretty good about putting things up when I leave the top down. But there are some things I just don't worry about, like my parking tag, the flower in my vase (Inga is a Beetle, after all), and my goggles. Ah, the goggles. Bright yellow obnoxious biohazard goggles Mrs. Comic Book bought me from Hot Topic when I got Inga. I've worn them. Frack has worn them (and had her picture taken by strange people while doing so). I've been parking with the top down for three years now, and the goggles have been fine. Normally, they hang from the rear-view mirror.

Until today. Some jerkface took 'em right out of my car. While we were at Little League, no less. Reasonably, the culprit is either 1) an adult with no morals, 2) a kid. I'd think a kid, since bright yellow goggles really aren't an adult thing (unless you're me, and you have a silly side). If it is a kid, though, that makes it an adult problem: What adult, when realizing that a child of theirs is now in possession of something the adult in question didn't purchase, lets the child keep it? If my kids came home with some stray sunglasses or whatnot, you can bet they'd face the Spanish Inquisition about the new item. Stealing is trés uncool at Chez mimi. Too bad more people just don't get it.

So now I'm goggle-less, pissed--at myself for being a trusting soul in an untrustworthy world, and at nameless thief for being a jerkface--and forlorn. What could possibly have the same cachét as bright yellow biohazard goggles?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Where's the Moose?

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Back in the eighties, Wendy's released a classic TV commercial. Octogenarian Clara Peller captivated the nation by demanding to know just one little thing about a Wendy's competitor's burger: "Where's the beef?"

Sarah-mania (Palin, that is) is now captivating the nation. Palin is, so the reports go, a maverick executive. She takes on corruption and wins. Her nickname in high school was "Barracuda." She's a take-no-prisoners, salmon-gutting, moose-huntin', rifle-totin' evangelical Christian force of nature. Oh, and she's a woman. Did you miss that part?

First, props to John McCain for having the cojones to name a woman to the Republican ticket. That one came out of the clear blue. But still, Sarah Palin? She's been the governor of Alaska for roughly two years, and that somehow qualifies her to stand second in line to the presidency?

I have no problem with Palin's gender. I'm all for smart women. I have nothing against ex-beauty queens. I have nothing against women who play ruthless politics, man-style. But seriously. What can this woman possibly offer the country as a whole that makes her objectively far more qualified than other Republican woman like Elizabeth Dole, Christine Todd Whitman, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, or Olympia Snowe? If the McCain party folks picked Palin because she's the best candidate, that's one thing. But if they picked her because she's good looking and happens to wear a skirt and they're trolling for that slippery soccer mom vote, then I'm insulted. Do those people seriously think I'd vote for McCain simply because he's got a girl on the ticket? If so, they've underestimated the intelligence of the female American voter. No way in Hades I'm voting for Palin until she can, unequivocally and thoroughly, answer this question:

Where's the moose?

Monday, September 08, 2008

Musings: On Writing

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I heart Stephen King. I read the daylights out of Stephen King years ago, stopping when the books resembled (and weighed as much as) concrete blocks. But after reading, and re-reading, his wonderful portmanteau of a writer's manual and memoir, I'll probably have to revisit the "K" shelf at the library soon.

King's memoir is by turns hilarious, heartfelt, and as bracing a slap as a shot of whiskey (King admits he got braced and slapped a lot over his career, at least until his wife and friends staged a huge intervention and finally got him clean). The behind-the-scenes look at this hugely successful writer is fascinating, but the real meat of the book is in his advice for aspiring writers.

King has no patience with literary snobs, whether they be readers or writers. As he said when he accepted the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation (under much protest from the literary intelligentsia),
Tokenism is not allowed. You can't sit back, give a self satisfied sigh and say, "Ah, that takes care of the troublesome pop lit question. In another twenty years or perhaps thirty, we'll give this award to another writer who sells enough books to make the best seller lists." It's not good enough. Nor do I have any patience with or use for those who make a point of pride in saying they've never read anything by John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Mary Higgins Clark or any other popular writer. What do you think? You get social or academic brownie points for deliberately staying out of touch with your own culture?
Amen to that. If you've ever read popular press about romance and women's fiction authors, you're screaming in solidarity with the horrormeister from Maine. King is proud of his work not because it's made him gazillions of dollars, but because it tells the truth.

The thing that resonated with me on this reading was this solid-gold piece of advice about the art and craft that both drives me on and drives me crazy:

Writing isn't about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it's about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It's about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy. Some of this book--perhaps too much--has been about how I learned to do it. Much of it has been about how you can do it better. The rest of it--and perhaps the best of it--is a permission slip: you can, you should, and if you're brave enough to start, you will. Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Time for Some Campaignin'!

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I love the folks at JibJab. They really can stick it to the man. In this case, they're stickin' it to two men, a couple of women, and a whole bunch of Washington types. Brilliant!

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Clearly, He's Never Been in a Real School

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Several years ago, the spineless weenies at The Orlando Sentinel decided that Doonesbury was way too political for the comics page, and they shifted it to the editorial section instead. A couple of years ago, a new crop of spineless weenies decided that they were being unfair to the meat-eating red staters 'round these parts and went a-huntin' for a "conservative" comic to balance all that Doonesbury liberalism (guess they haven't read much Doonesbury, since Garry Trudeau skewers everybody eventually). They chose Mallard Fillmore. Every time I read it, I wonder if Bruce Tinsley knows how outclassed he is. That, and where his brain cells are located. Anterior or posterior, if you get my drift.

Why the ire? This:



Tinsley's been socking it to teachers all week. According to his viewpoint, we're all undereducated boobs who can barely get out of our own garages, let alone college. We're stupid. We don't know the subjects we've been hired to teach. Basically, every dumbass canard that's been spewed from the right-wing voucher proponents for years. You know, the ones who think that public schools have all gone to hell in a collective handbasket because you can't pray in 'em (staff and kids can pray all they want, privately--we just can't lead corporate prayer), they talk about sex (which might make teenagers go out and have it, 'cause clearly learning about condoms is way more titillating than--I don't know--their HORMONES), and they talk about other countries like they're as good as we 'Muricans are (heaven forfend that the rest of the world's population might be something we can learn from, seeing as we're a country of immigrants and all). Sigh.

I ought not to read this tripe, I know. It's better for my blood pressure all around. But I can't help myself. Guess that's Tinsley's issue too, bless his heart.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

No Book for You!

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The teen reading world is dealing with Richter-level quakes this week ever since the news broke that Stephenie Meyer, of Twilight fame, has announced that she will shelve Midnight Sun, a retelling of Twilight from the vampire Edward's point of view. Apparently, a rough (very rough, she admits) draft of Midnight Sun was posted to the Interwebs, and so now she's put the book on hold "indefinitely." Of course, the reading juggernaut that is teenage girls is up in arms. They're posting on Meyer's site, on Twilight fan sites, and just about everywhere else what they think, with the comments split between "OOO! No fair, Stephenie Meyer! We want Edward's story, you meanie!" and "OOO! No fair, anonymous leaker! How dare you do that to our precious Stephenie Meyer!"

Now I have to admit that I'm not a fan of the Twilight series. Kudos to Stephenie Meyer for tapping into the teen female zeitgeist, but Twilight itself did nothing for me. So I won't be crying in my Dr Pepper because I'm missing the new book. But I do have one big question:

What in the world was a complete draft of her new work doing floating around somewhere where it could be anonymously posted on the Net? Most of my writer friends are far more careful with their drafts. Obsessive, even. They have copies on hard drives and copies on flash drives and printed copies in boxes under the bed, but not whole copies lying around waiting to be snatched up and posted. Maybe snatcherdom is something you worry about only when you're an NYT best-selling author, but I doubt it. I've read too many paranoid posts from unpublished writers who refuse to enter writing contests because they're convinced someone will steal their precious work.

Here's where it gets weird.
Meyer herself uploaded the initial chapter of Midnight Sun to her own website to whet her readership's appetite. Fine. I get that. But where did the rest of it come from? If she didn't leak it herself (and I assume she didn't, given the hurt tone of her posts regarding the leak), why would Meyer play fast and loose with a manuscript worth millions of dollars, one she freely admits is very messy and loaded with mistakes? The mind boggles. I empathize with Meyer--how awful to have your privacy violated in that way--but seriously. Keep your work yours until you decide it's time to float it out there in the big ugly world of publishing!!

Oh, well. No more vampires. Can't say I'm missing them, or that I'm going to be hunting the web looking for what could have been.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Big Yellow...Taxi?

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Yesterday, DH broke down and bought Frick a cellphone. I've been anti-phone, mostly because this is a kid who can't find his own shoes half the time, and also because, well, he can't find his own shoes half the time. I wasn't too keen on having him have to keep up with a phone. Plus, he loses his natural mind around electronics, so I had these nightmare visions of phones going off in class, him answering, then shushing the teacher because he couldn't hear the bonehead on the other end. But DH was worried about contact, and let's just say testosterone won the day. Frick came home with a Motorola RAZR, and we have a bigger cell bill.

Today, I had to revisit my anti-cell bias. Frick spent his first afternoon at the YMCA aftercare program at school. Fine. He was having fun. Fine. We were on our way to get him--late, since we have to break our "stay late at school" habit still--when he texts to say "Go home. I'll meet you there."

Huh??

So I call. He tells me "I got on the bus." At that point, about three thousand neurons in my brain, all of them in the protective mom lobe, melted. "What bus??" I'm screaming. "Oh, I'll just have the driver drop me off at the corner," he says blithely. This is sixth grade logic working. Since a bus picks him up at the corner, clearly a bus leaving school will be happy to drop him off at the corner he specifies, right?

Nightmare visions of missing kid ending up at the bus depot in the dark, clutching his 15-freakin'-pound backpack hurtle through the cortex. I can't get a straight answer out of him about where he is. I order him to hand the phone to an adult. The adult--the driver--has a thick Jamaican accent. So now I'm trapped in a calypso nightmare that still ends up with my kid alone in a dark bus depot.

Finally we suss out where he is. We tail the bus down the road and finally spot it. We follow it until it stops, and out pops Frick. He looks none the worse for wear. I decide to kill him. DH plays the voice of reason (a new one for him in cases like this--usually he's the one playing the role of freaky parent) and instructs me to be gentle. Good thing, too, because Mr. Frick had scared himself nearly to death, quivery lip and all. He won't be jumping on any strange buses anytime soon.

And now I have to take to my bed with a cold compress on my aching head. With a side of whiskey, thanks.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Here Comes the Sun

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The sun's out! I had the top down on Inga this morning, and it was wonderful! Now that it's afternoon, it's threatening to storm again. Go figure. Summer in Florida, huh?

We could use a little more sunshine in the Sunshine State these days. Oh, well.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Cool Chick: Jennifer Garner

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Frack and I adore the movie 13 Going on 30. Sure, it's a remake of Big, but it's the girl power version. It's the mark of great casting when you can't think of anyone else in a role, and I have to say that Jennifer Garner is perfect as Jenna, the 13-year-old so disgusted with her life (and herself) that she wishes herself into a 30-year-old über-bitch magazine editor. Thankfully, that über-bitch becomes both human and fun because the 13-yo brain is now running things. What woman my age didn't want to run to the floor and do the "Thriller" routine again? Or snuggle up to cutie-pie Mark Ruffalo? And there's that cute deleted scene where she "goes all West Virginia" about her mama.

Plus, she can kick your ass either Alias-style or Elektra-style. You've been warned.

In real life, she's Mrs. Ben Affleck (lucky!) and has an adorable daughter, Violet. Oh, and one on the way. Double lucky.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Dog Paddling

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It's wet here in Central Florida. This is our fourth straight day of rain, and it doesn't look like it'll be slowing up anytime soon. At least we're not in Brevard County. They had a freakin' monsoon yesterday--25 inches in one day! They had to close the Melbourne airport because of all the snakes and gators on the runways. It's not quite as bad in our neck of the woods, but we did hold walk/wade/swim in registration for fall Little League this afternoon, hahaha. Poor kids at school looked like drowned rats most of the day.

If this keeps up, we'll all have webbed feet. We already have raisin toes.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

10 Favorite Olympic Athletes of All Time

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We're home from school today (scary storm out there not raining on us right now, but oh well), so let's catch up on some blog stuff.
  1. Bruce Jenner - Decathlons are for badasses.
  2. Jackie Joyner-Kersee - Heptathlons are for female badasses. And she won three Olympic medals (two golds, one silver) in it!
  3. Edwin Moses - Do you have any idea how hard it is to run the 400 meter hurdles? Ed Moses looked like a gazelle.
  4. Jean-Claude Killy - Because his name is fun to say.
  5. The 1980 U.S. Men's Hockey Team - Duh.
  6. Katarina Witt - Unbelievably graceful and athletic. I met her in person once--just as gorgeous and lovely off the ice.
  7. Michelle Akers - Graduate of the University of Central Florida, and a great favorite 'round these parts. The rest of the U.S. women's soccer team called her "Mufasa" because of her abundant curls and her wisdom.
  8. Torvill and Dean - Ice Dancing pair from England. Check out their routine to Ravel's Bolero on YouTube sometime and wonder why the ice doesn't melt below their feet. Hawt!
  9. Sarah Hughes - Watching her face as she landed jump after jump in her long program was so fun! She was obviously having the time of her life, winning that gold medal.
  10. Greg Louganis - Technically amazing, and very brave. Out, proud, HIV-positive, and one hell of an athlete.
 

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