Thursday, December 31, 2009

Roundup

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Closing the book on 2009--it's been a good year. Interesting. Weird. Frustrating. You know, the usual. I did manage to read 135 books (some re-reads, but mostly new titles). I'm finally unstuck with the current WIP, and even though it's moving more slowly than I'd like, it's moving. We took a family trip to Washington, DC (awesome!), rode/survived the train, built a jillion memories. Tonight, we're dropping the ball and watching fireworks at our friends' house and hoping to stay out of trouble, haha.

New decade tomorrow, fresh start, clean slate. Gotta love a new year.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Romance is the Shizz, Y'all

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Check out this terrific blog about romances posted to DailyKos by Laura Clawson, a self-proclaimed romance lover who also happens to be an Ivy-League Ph.D. with, as she says, "nary a pink sweatsuit in sight." She does a great job deconstructing many myths about romance novels and their readers. You know, the "porn for housewives" and "rape fantasy" memes that are so tiresome. As an aside, why is it that voracious male readers of bulletproof superspy novels are never mocked for their inability to become either 1) bulletproof or 2) superspies?

Brava, Ms. Clawson!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Why Men Shouldn't Write Advice Columns

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My college roommate sent me this in an email, but the .jpg isn't enlarging well. Here's a transcript, and enjoy!

Dear John:
I hope you can help me here. The other day, I set off for work, leaving my husband in the house watching TV. My car stalled, and then it broke down about a mile down the road, and I had to walk back to get my husband's help. When I got home, I couldn't believe my eyes. He was in our bedroom with the neighbor's daughter!
I am 32, my husband is 34 and the neighbor's daughter is 19. We have been married for 10 years. When I confronted him, he broke down and admitted they had been having an affair for the past six months. He won't go to counseling, and I'm afraid I am a wreck and need advice urgently. Can you please help?
Sincerely, Sheila

---

Dear Sheila:
A car stalling after being driven a short distance can be caused by a variety of faults with the engine. Start by checking that there is no debris in the fuel line. If it is clear, check the vacuum pipes and hoses on the intake manifold and also check all grounding wires. If none of these approaches solves the problem, it could be that the fuel pump itself is faulty,
causing low delivery pressure to the injectors.
I hope this helps,
John

Walter

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

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It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
"Peace on the earth, goodwill to men,
From heaven's all-gracious King."
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O'er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o'er its Babel sounds
The blessèd angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.

And ye, beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

For lo!, the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

--Edmund Sears, 1849

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happiness is...

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"...two kinds of ice cream...finding your skate key...telling the time! Happiness is learning to whistle, tying your shoe for the very first tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiime!"

Sorry! Got a little You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown there, but every time I hear someone say "happiness is," my brain starts singing. Turns out, according to the CDC, happiness is living in Florida. Or Louisiana, Hawaii, Tennessee, or Arizona, to round out the top five. The research apparently shows that states with a lot of sunshine and a laid-back lifestyle score high on happiness surveys.

The grumpiest? New York. I don't find that hard to believe. I've traveled to NYC several times, and although it's fascinating and wonderful, I can only take it for short bursts at a time. After a while, I want to see free-range trees instead of ones confined to a park, less traffic, fewer people, and nicer manners.

The thing that finally convinced me that NYC was a place to visit, and not to live, was a casual conversation I had with a group of writers and editors during RWA National several years ago. That week in July had apparently been uncomfortably warm for them (84 degrees and humidity in the high 40s), while I was loving every springlike minute of it (I'd flown up from temps in the mid-90s and a thunderstorm every afternoon, with accompanying humidity). I mentioned that I had been enjoying Central Park's grass, and how it felt so soft on my bare feet (St. Augustine sod looks nice, but isn't pleasant underfoot. Too stiff.). Ms. Editor Lady, a born-and-bred NYC girl, actually said, "I walked on grass once. I didn't like it." Once? You walked barefoot on grass ONCE??

I don't know about you, but a life where you have to wear shoes just isn't one I'm that interested in. Plus, those poor New Yorkers are socked in because of that storm. I'll be gallivanting about with my top down. Hate to rub it in, Northeasterners, but this truly is the life. And if your latest blizzard convinces you it's time to think about moving South, a few tips:
  1. Things move a bit more slowly down here. Don't be rude. Learn to relax and enjoy.
  2. We don't like living on top of each other, so ease up on all those building permits.
  3. There are bugs here. Large ones. Deal with it.
  4. It's hot. And humid. Deal with it.
  5. Proximity to lakes and woods does not give you a license to get your wild on. Don't feed the alligators, morons. Or the bears.
  6. Learn to wave at passing strangers in cars.
  7. Just because we talk more slowly, it doesn't mean we're dumb. Check out Faulkner, Welty, Williams, and O'Connor if you doubt me.
  8. Real Southern barbecue is the food of the gods, and soul food truly is food for the soul.
  9. Smile. It won't hurt anything, and you probably won't get as many headaches.
  10. Buy the convertible. You won't regret it.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Into the Wild

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I'm playing hooky today and tomorrow for one of my own personal children...Frack and the fifth grade class are having their class campout. This means mimi is in for a decidedly unglamorous overnight trip. No makeup, layers, and Lord knows what else. Of course, it's raining--Murphy's Law lurches into effect whenever a momentous occasion such as this one presents itself. Of course, it's expected to be cold tonight. Of course, I'll be in a cabin full of squealy girls.

I'll survive. Frack's worth it. Details when mimi drags her limp, soggy behind home tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Whither Work?

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Teachers tend to be of two models: vampires or early birds. I'm in camp II. I hauled myself out of bed this morning just after four a.m. to do some paper grading, and lo and behold, our web-based gradebooks are down. They were down yesterday at this time as well, according to another teacher. If regular server maintenance is scheduled between four and five in the morning, they're going to infuriate a bunch of us. Can't you back that up until, say, 2:30 or 3? That seems a happy medium for us teacher types.

This grading is going to take foreeeeeeever at this rate...

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Newbery Update: 1950s

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I'm at the halfway mark now, much later in the year than I'd planned. I need to get crackin' if I'm going to meet an end-of-the year deadline. Then again, this is the decade where things start to sound a bit more familiar. :

The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli - Another de Angeli work of historical fiction, Thee, Hannah! was a childhood favorite, so I was looking forward to this one. Like her other works, The Door in the Wall is a blend of impeccable research, lovely writing, fine pencil illustrations by the author, and an engaging story. Young Robin, the son of a Lord, is trapped in London during the Plague. When he loses the full use of his legs, he must find "the door in the wall" of his life that will enable him to serve his father and his King, since he can no longer become the knight he once dreamt of being.

Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates - This biography celebrates the long life and journey of Amos Fortune, a free black whose life is commemorated in his adopted hometown of Jaffrey, New Hampshire. Captured by slavers in West Africa, prince At-Mun traverses the Middle Passage, is bought by a Quaker (!), and eventually buys his freedom. Not the most PC of retellings (Amos is kinda complacent in an Uncle Remus sort of way), but plenty of interesting detail.

Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes - The Pye family is just adorable. Bird expert dad ("Call in Mister Pye!"), youngest and prettiest mom in town, and a couple of scrappy kids who adopt a puppy they name Ginger. Of course, Ginger's the perfect adorable dog--until he disappears! Or was he stolen? A bit of mystery and a lot of preciousness.

Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark - I swear, the folks who animated The Emporer's New Groove totally read this book. Llamas. Gold earplugs. Chicha. Mountain passages. Quests. This is the serious version, with no Yzma or
Kronk for comic relief. Nice writing, though. And a lot of folks chewing on coca leaves. Don't forget the panpipes!

...And Now Miguel by Joseph Krumgold - Coming of age in New Mexico. Miguel is the middle brother in a family of sheep herders. I learned a lot about sheep. Surprisingly, it was kinda fun. Miguel is the classic middle child, so reading this was a lot like reliving life with my sister (mimi is the oldest).

The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong - A small group of children try to figure out why no storks nest on the roofs of their small Dutch village. "Why are there no storks in Shora?" leads them to discover lots about themselves and their neighbors, especially older adults they'd formerly known only through (incorrect) town gossip. Delightful, actually.

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham - Bootstraps kind of story of a young man, Nathaniel Bowditch, who is brilliant at math but unable to pursue a formal education because of his family's fall into debt. He ends up educating himself and authoring a pioneering work of navigation. Seafaring and fun, with a strong "learning is great!" message.

Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorenson - In postwar Pennsylvania, Marly's family moves to her grandmother's farmhouse on Maple Hill in the hopes that her father, a former POW, will recover from what we now know is PTSD. Good neighbors and maple syrup work miracles!

Rifles for Watie by Harold Keith - Jeff Bussey, a Kansas farm boy, joins the Union Army to defend his family against Missouri bushwhackers and Cherokee patrols led by Chief Stand Watie. This Union soldier discovers that battle lines aren't always as clear as they seem and that friends may be made where you least expect them.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare - This is the only book from this decade I read as a child. Kit Tyler, an orphan from Barbados, makes an impulsive decision to live with her aunt in Puritan Connecticut. Will she fit in and marry William Ashby, or will her differences group her with Hannah Tupper, the "witch" of the title?

And my favorite is..

The Wheel on the School!

I have to admit this was a surprise choice. I liked several of the books from the 1950s, but none was a standout favorite. The thing that put The Wheel on the School over the top was the novelty factor. Shora, the little Dutch town of the setting, was a fully-developed community, with the younger children learning a lot about themselves and about their older neighbors in their quest to attract lucky storks back on the roofs of the town. You might have heard of the illustrator, too, someone named Maurice Sendak? Perhaps he got his sailing ideas for Where the Wild Things Are from Shora.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Logjams

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mimi has finally had a breakthrough of sorts. I had to go all low-tech, printing out a calendar, but I can see holes in ye troublesome mauscript and now have some inkling of what to do with them!

See, this is the trouble with a NaNo book. You get so busy lunging from beginning to end, you don't see the pitfalls because you skip right over them. I've set a book in the fall and given my heroine an October birthday, and yet her birthday doesn't get a single mention aside from the sentence where she mentions that she was born during the World Series. And since this is a book about a woman recovering her identity, she'd probably have issues with being alone and divorced on her birthday. Hmm. There's a scene or two right there.

Cardboard foil character needs some work as well. She's basically a cutout evil blonde right this minute. Hero's impossibly heroic, too. Need to bang him up a bit as well. Good. Torture I can manage. Finally, finally I get some movement.

Too bad the novel squirrels are playing hell with my sleep schedule. Can't sleep, so I'm not waking up when I'm most productive. Waking later, so my morning is rushed and crazy. Oy. At least I have some direction now. That's gotta mean something.
 

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