Monday, December 31, 2012

Resolutions for 2013

I've just looked at my Goodreads stats, and I've read 10 fewer books and 1,841 fewer pages in 2012 than in 2011. That's sad.

Anyway, I am yet again making New Year's Resolutions, although really, they're more like goals, although I suppose all resolutions are more like goals.

One change you may notice (if you pay attention to this sort of thing) is that I'm not going to list all of the books I hope to read in 2013. Instead I'm going to list the ones I have read. I never manage to read much of anything on my resolution reading list, because I'm always too busy reading something else, so I just thought I'd dispense with that altogether.

So, without further ado, here are my resolutions:

  1. Consolidate my reading lists (and boy, do I have a lot of them!)
  2. Accomplish some financial goals:
    1. (I'm not sure why Blogger started numbering again and didn't move to lowercase letters. I just wanted to let  you know in case you though I may have come up with this bizarre list convention myself. I assure you, I did not.) Pay off student loan 3-03 (again, I didn't come up with this numbering convention).
    2. Pay off credit card
    3. Put $5k in my IRA
    4. Pay off student loan 3-04
    5. Get our savings account up to $25k
  3. Spend a day watching the Lord of the Rings movies (this and #4 were both things I hoped to accomplish during one of my unemployed stints, but sadly? they didn't last long enough for me to get around to this)
  4. Spend a day watching the Harry Potter movies
  5. Edit the novel I wrote in November into something passable
  6. Read all of the books I borrowed from friends (yes, I haven't forgotten)
  7. Lose weight
  8. Run a sub-4 hour marathon (I'm pretty sure that this is directly dependent on #7, at least to a degree)

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Sixth Man (Sean King & Michelle Maxwell, #5)The Sixth Man by David Baldacci
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book was fine. Sean and Michelle are getting a little old for me. Sometimes a book needs characters to move the plot forward, but when those characters are the main characters, the book feels a little screenplay-y to me. I mean, when you watch an action/adventure movie, it's okay that the characters aren't particularly multi-dimensional, but in a series, it's nicer to care about the characters.

And I'd call this a spoiler, but it's just so random that I don't think it will spoil anything, but there's a secondary character in this book who's really a lot of nothing, and this character ends up being the bad guy (or one of them). With absolutely no explanation after the fact. It was like Baldacci just needed to tie up a loose end or two and said, well, I'll just have this person do it since they're already here and therefore I don't need to make any changes to the plot or anything.

On the upside, it was a nice, easy read, which I needed, since my mom was in town for the holidays, so "quiet reading time" was a bit sporadic.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Midnight in Paris

Last night, my mom and I watched Midnight in Paris, starring Owen Wilson. It's a Woody Allen film, which really tells you just about everything you need to know about it.

The basic premise of the movie is that the protagonist, Gil (Wilson), is dissatisfied with his life and imagines a better world/time/ Paris in the 1920s. He somehow time travels back to that era and meets a number of cultural icons of the time, including Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds, Gertrude Stein, and Picasso.

In his real life, Gil is surrounded by some really annoying people  one of them being his fiance, with whom he has no real chemistry.

During one of his time travel/fantasy escapades (the movie isn't clear on exactly what is he really traveling in time, is it his really doesn't matter), he and Picasso/Hemingway's lover Adriana travel further back in time, to Paris in the 1890s, which Adriana thinks is preferable to Paris in the 1920s. It is this experience that awakens Gil to the fact that the present is always less pleasant than the past seems because life isn't always pleasant, but that a person shouldn't try to live their life in the past.

Gil returns to the present, decides to live in Paris, breaks up with his fiance, and presumably lives happily ever after, or at least happier ever after.

I enjoyed the  movie. It was good, but not great, but on another level, I found it relatable. I mean, who hasn't been dissatisfied with their life, or some aspect of it, and imagined themselves in a better time or place? The Virginia in my imagination is taller, thinner, and has way better skin and hair.

I think this is also the premise behind fan fiction (or at least one of the premises) fiction allows the reader to insert him or her self into the story, and therefore allows the reader to escape their own life for a while, yet to do so in a way that they still control.

In the movie, what was more unbelievable to me, wasn't that Gil was managing to travel back in time, it was that no one in his present life seemed to understand this sense of yearning for something more/fuller/bigger that comes from feeling unfulfilled. I mean, isn't that just human nature? Otherwise, how would we grow at all?

Thursday, December 13, 2012


I've recently been officially hired on by my company, so I've had to go through new employee orientation, despite the fact that I've been working here for two and a half months. The acronym for "new employee orientation" is, of course, NEO. So of course, this is what I think of:
Sadly, this is totally not what I've been hired to do.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

On Obsessing

I have an obsessive personality. I'm not actually sure if that's a medical condition or not, but if it is, I've just self-diagnosed. No doctor has ever told me this. It's not always a bad thing. For example, when baking, I always wash my hands after cracking the eggs, before moving on to the next ingredient. And it enables me to stick to the point in arguments (Captain America, long before he married me, learned that the "sleep on it"   philosophy of dispute resolution didn't work for us--he'd wake up just fine and I'd wake up exactly where we left off).

Okay, technically, hes's not beating anyone up with his shirt
here, and it really makes no sense that he'd be fighting
someone without his shirt on, but look at all those muscles!
On the other hand, it's not so good when, for example, I really like one Jason Statham movie, and then go ahead and get every B movie he's ever been in from the library. For the record, I've always LOVED action movies. Don't judge me. The Transporter ones are awesome, if only because he beats people up with his dress shirt (and, consequently, you get to see him sans shirt), but the Crank ones where his heart is removed and replaced by some sort of battery thing that runs off adrenaline or something and so he has to have sex in public to keep it charged...yup, they're just as terrible as my synopsis made it sound.

My latest obsession is post-apocalypse/zombie/vampire survival, which is just really silly. But I am wondering if I can turn my nerd-ocalypse novel into an apoca-romance. Is that a genre, or did I just invent one?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Psychologically speaking, it's the pits

When I was in middle school-ish, I had this How To Host a Murder party called Archaeologically Speaking, it's the Pits, which has nothing to do with this blog post at all except for the title of the post. I feel better having cleared that up.

For the past week, I have been waking up with terrible panic attacks. What happens is, I wake up and my heart starts racing, and I say to myself, just get up and get going, and my blood turns to lead and I can't get out of bed (and I realize that if my heart's racing, you'd think my blood would be moving a lot faster than lead in my veins, but that's just not how panic attacks work), and then I think I don't have time for this, and if you get up, you can get the shit you need to get done done, and then there'll be nothing to panic about, but I still can't get up. And then, because I'm neurotic, I think, great, you're probably giving yourself ulcers and gray hairs, and stress causes zits, and all this adrenalin that you're pumping into your body for NO REASON WHATSOEVER is just going to cause you more problems, and then you'll really have something to worry about. Because that's productive.

For the past week, Captain America has been in New Mexico learning how to drive like a movie stuntman. Okay, not really. He's been learning offensive driving, and no, that's not what happens when you take driver's ed in New Jersey and learn to drive with your knees so you can flip someone off with your right hand while you lean out your window shaking your left fist at someone else, all while swearing, preferably in Yiddish. That's also not what he was learning how to do.

Last night, we went to my company's holiday party. So of course Captain America's flight was delayed. Conveniently the party was running on California time, so it didn't really matter at all that we were late. And of course, because we haven't seen each other all week, there was an immediate need to have an argument in the car on the way to the party. Captain America was grumpy because he had just flown and his flight was delayed and he was hungry and this party fell in the middle of a 10 day work week for him and finally I just blurted out, I can't do this right now. I've been waking up with panic attacks all week and I really need you to be charming and delightful like you usually are at these things because I work with really nice people and they all want to meet you and I want them to like me. (As an aside, my official start date with the company is tomorrow.)

And Captain America said, thank you for telling me you've been having panic attacks.

He didn't ask me why I was having panic attacks. He didn't suggest I go to the doctor, or make any suggestions at all, or pry for details or anything.

Yup, I'm married to a super hero.

Who needs angels when you have Captain America?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Do we all just live in a perpetual state of anguish?

This isn't Cicero.
Sometimes I do what I want to do. The rest of the time, I do what I have to. --the character Cicero in the movie Gladiator.

I was on the phone with Captain America the other night, complaining about how busy I am when it occurred to me that it's all my own fault that I'm busy. The problem, in a nutshell, is that there are so many things I'd like to be doing, or doing a lot more of. 

For instance, I love to read. Probably more than I like to do anything else. And I read a lot, but not nearly as much as I'd like to. I feel like I am so far behind on what I want to be reading that it's actually stressful trying to figure out when I could fit more of it in. But I also feel like I'm so close to getting to a point where I could read as much as I if I could just get caught up, I could stay caught up. 

I feel the same way about exercising. When I'm unemployed, a trip to the gym can take me four hours, door-to-door. That allows me 15 minutes of driving each way, an hour of ellipticalling, 40 minutes of running, 40 minutes of lifting weights, 40 minutes of stretching and the like, 20 minutes in the sauna, and 10 minutes to deal with things like peeing and filling up my water bottle and changing my shoes to use said sauna (don't get me started on how stupid I think that rule is). I get that four hours is a lot of time at the gym, and obviously this would be the long day (the short workout is the alternative days when I don't lift). In real life, I do get to spend about two hours a day at the gym, but then I have days where there is no way I can fit in 30 minutes of cardio. Which, for me, is a stupid amount of time. I have to spend the same amount of time wrangling myself into my sports bra, and the same amount of time stretching, for a whole lot less exercise. I realize this sounds like an excuse, but somehow 30 minutes is just where I say, I have better things to do with my time. If I know I can get in 45 minutes, though, it's worth it. 

So, I'm perpetually feeling frustrated because there are SO MANY THINGS I WANT TO DO, and instead, I have to spend my time at work, or even worse, commuting to and from work. (I am aware that all of my problems are first world problems. As I was discussing with a friend the other day, isn't that sort of the goal? I mean, how awesome would it be if everyone's problems were first world problems?) Don't get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with my job. The pay is good, the company is good, the people are nice, the hours are even reasonable. It's just not nearly as enjoyable as reading or exercising.

What I was wondering aloud to Captain America the other night, though, is whether or not everyone else lives in this same perpetual state of anguish that I'm in that I'm not doing what I want with my life, or if everyone else has managed to grow up and accept it and I'm still the teenager raging against the world. 

Good Lord, I hope not. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Why I think the Mayans might be on to something

Sometime around Halloween-ish both my cell phone and my car battery died within two days of each other, making it very difficult to call AAA to have them come fix things, and to get to the store to get a new phone. The car battery had never been replaced, and was probably due to die, but the cell phone was a total fluke because NOTHING EVER HAPPENS TO MY CELL PHONE. I don't accidentally put it in the washing machine. I don't leave it on top of my car and then somehow back over it. I don't wear it running, so it gets neither sweaty nor dropped. I don't give it to small children to keep them entertained.

Okay, so fast forward about a month. Randomly, the GPS thing for my running watch stops working, the keyboard on our PC gets all persnickety IN THE MIDDLE OF NANOWRIMO no less, and one of the mice we have also stops working (that's mice, as in plural of mouse, the computer thingy, not mice as in a whole breed of vermin...I mean pets).

I kinda hope the world hurries it up and ends soon, because these little things portuning Armageddon are so damn annoying.

P.S. Somehow blogger is okay with "persnickety" but not with "portuning." Have I totally made up a word here?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Fierce RadianceA Fierce Radiance by Lauren Belfer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My mother-in-law suggested this book to me after a conversation about The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (which I really thought I had reviewed, but I can't find it), so somehow, I had it in my head that this was going to be a non-fiction. Don't make the same mistake: it's a historical fiction.

As such, it's an okay story. Many of the characters and situations are contrived. Of course, the protagonist's son develops pneumonia but can't get penicillin despite the fact that his grandfather owns a pharmaceutical company. So, of course he's given some other drug, that has a bad side effect. But it almost doesn't matter because his family is rich.

Of course there's an unsolved crime that tears the lovers apart. And of course they have an awkward and unsatisfying reconciliation at the end because there's a war going on and who knows if they'll ever see each other again.

I get that sometimes situations in novels have to be contrived to move the story forward, but I guess I never liked any of the characters enough to be completely drawn in. This story read like a first novel (although I think it's Belfer's second): a little too much head-jumping in character perspective, characters that were too similar in personality, characters who were too obvious, and the overuse of "banter" as a conversational mechanism.

It's not bad, it's just not that good.

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Excerpt from my Nerd-ocalypse book

So I finally published an excerpt from my book on NaNoWriMo, and I thought I'd do the same here. Bear in mind that I haven't done a single bit of editing whatsoever, and that Christine's name may or may not be changed to Daphne. And she may or may not turn into a zombie. So. Make of it what you will:

In movies, the apocalypse is always caused by something fast and tragic: a giant meteor colliding with the earth, a nuclear blast, a massive earthquake that destroys New York and triggers tsunamis around the world. Christine never believed that this was how life as she knew it would end. She always thought world war three would be fought over the last barrel of oil. People would become desperate, hungry, with no fuel to run tractors, to move produce to markets. History showed that starving people were desperate people. Violence would break out. Machinery would break down and stop running. It would be worse in the cities than the country. People who lived in cities relied on the system. Without fuel, and food, the system would break down. As the machinery of society broke down, people would stop going to work. Paychecks wouldn't fill an empty belly. Necessities that people had become accustomed to would fail. Basic sanitation would stop. The sewage plants would back up and the water would be undrinkable. Christine knew that survivors would have access to guns, water, and would know how to hunt and farm. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Fan Fiction

I have been creating fan fiction in my imagination my entire life, but it's only been in the past year or so that I've learned that that's what it's called. It was refreshing to learn that there were other people out there who created fan fiction. I mean, I never assumed I was the only one, but it's not like my friends and I sit around discussing the next imaginary adventures we've thought up for Harry Potter or anything. As opposed to the not imaginary adventures J.K. Rowling thought up for him. Because Harry Potter is real. And I'm Dobby-esque in that I can never just say Harry. It's always Harry Potter.
Although I would like to point out that Robert Pattinson
was Cedric Diggory  before he was Edward Cullen, in case you've forgotten.

(And as a side note, I really don't recommend reading fan fiction. I don't have issue with people taking legitimate characters and doing what they want with them, because once you put art out there, it's out there, and most people don't make any money off it anyway--it's really more like a silly hobby. But the real reason you shouldn't read fan fiction is because, in general, it sucks. Authors like George R.R. Martin (who HATES fan fiction, by the way) get paid to do what they do because they're really, really good at it. There's no way you've thought up something better for Jon Snow to do than he has. Jon Snow couldn't think up something better for himself to do. You, for sure, can't.)

Anyway, I digress. Although this entire post is probably a digression. Anyway, I've been thinking about fan fiction a lot lately, partially because I've been watching this ridiculous new show in which I feel like the characters could be doing a lot more. If only I were in charge. Which, of course, doesn't mean I'll stop watching the show.

The other reason I've been thinking about fan fiction lately is because I've signed up for NaNoWriMo (and I'm way behind. That's what I *should* be doing rather than writing this post), and it's really, really hard to create characters.

I know that's a no shit! kind of statement. But it really is. I have lots of good ideas for what my characters should be doing, but it's really, really hard to make the characters real. They all feel so one-dimensional. Which is why it's so much easier, at least to me, to imagine someone else's character doing stuff.

On the other hand, lots of writers sell books with one-dimensional characters. I'm just not sure that's the sort of thing I'd tell my friends about.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Upping the ante

I had this whole post planned out about  how busy and harried my life has been lately. And then Sandy hit and I felt like an ass because, really, I've got no problems.

But that doesn't make me less busy or my life less hectic.

And it's going to be a bit more hectic this month because I've signed up for NaNoWriMo. So, in a month, I should have a completed novel. A poorly researched, and completely un-edited, but nonetheless written novel.

So if you don't hear from me for 30 days or so, that's what I'm up to.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Starters (Starters and Enders, #1)Starters by Lissa Price
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This was a terrible book. I read it for my bookclub, and when I got to the meeting everyone said how much they loved it. I thought, really, did we even read the same book?

This was a poorly written, contrived version of The Hunger Games. The premise of the book, that in a dystopian future, old people rent young bodies, had promise, but never lived up to it.

November is National Novel Writing Month, and I thought that Price must have participated in NaNoWriMo last year, someone read her submission, and published it as is. Except, thankfully it's not 50,000 words.

Do not waste your time on this.

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

On raising children, part two

So yesterday my company had this crazy Halloween party for the employee's kids. We have this sort of grassy park-like area on campus, and my company hired a party company who came and set up a bunch of Halloween decorations and games, craft stations, a photo booth (complete with green-screen so you could pick your appropriate background, presumably depending on your costume), and there was even a buffet of snacks.

It was a really great party. My boss told me I was welcome to come, even though I didn't have any kids. I thanked her, but explained that one of the reasons I don't have kids is that the kind of chaos that ensues at Halloween parties sort of terrifies me. But I did go check it out. And it really was a pretty awesome party. And I was terrified by the millions of children. Or 100. Even though they were adorable in their costumes, there were about 98 more children than I can handle at any given time. Ninety-seven if they're sleeping.

After work, I went to the gym. There was a mom (Pocahontas, actually) in the dressing room trying to get her kid changed. And he was being difficult. He was probably four or five and he wasn't throwing a full-blown tantrum, but he certainly wasn't cooperating. And from the way he was speaking, I'm pretty sure he was autistic, although he also sounded like he may have had a hearing problem. I tried to look at the kid to see if there was something wrong with him (and by using the word "wrong," I realize I sound like a total asshole), but it was hard to tell because he had blue paint all around his mouth. Or maybe blue frosting.

Pocahontas was trying to keep him on the other side of the partition in the bathroom from where I was. I wasn't sure if she thought I'd think it was weird to change in front of a boy, or if she didn't want her son watching me change. On the former, I really don't care. I change pretty quickly, and if the kid's in the locker room, chances are he's been in other locker rooms with women changing. If it was the latter, though, that's Pocahontas's prerogative  I decided to just change in a stall, figuring that would sort of solve for either scenario. Except the kid tried to crawl under the door to my stall. This wasn't particularly bothersome to me, but I sort of felt like, lady, I've helped you out here as much as I could.

Apparently, Pocahontas wanted her son to change his shirt, and so they were waiting for Dad to bring the clothes. And the kid wanted a brown shirt (he kept shouting "brown shirt, brown shirt"), but his option was a red one. Whatever. Pocahontas did a great job of remaining calm, and honestly, I didn't think the kid was being that terrible. I mean, he had just been to an over-stimulating Halloween party with a bunch of games and sweets and it was almost dinner time. It sounds like a lot of fun until it becomes a meltdown. Even if the kid wasn't autistic, which I still think this was.

I really feel like there should be a code for this sort of thing. Like I could say a magic phrase like "purple monkeys" and the mom would know that I knew she was doing the best she could and I wasn't judging her or anything, and really, it wasn't a problem to me at all.

I don't want kids because I don't want to deal with meltdowns (among many other reasons), but I know that even good kids with good parents are going to have a meltdown at some point. I just want a way to communicate that I understand all of this, if that would help ease the pressure to get your kid under control. I mean, no parent wants to be the parent who's kid is throwing a fit. I just want a way to let you know that I know that, so you can carry on the business of tending to your kid without worrying that your kid is making me mad. Because he or she isn't. Because it's better you than me.

Monday, October 22, 2012

I have a little bit of a crush on Jenny...

Dear Jenny Lawson,

I hope you don't mind me calling you Jenny in my blog title. And for saying that I have a little bit of a crush on you. In a completely non-threatening kind of way. I wanted to write you a letter, and so I did.

Thank you for sharing your world on the bloggess. You are as irreverent as I'd like to be if only I were braver.

I know I'm hopelessly late in finding you, and I have no idea how I happened to miss your book tour stop in San Diego, but hopefully it was because I was starting a chapter of the Unicorn Success Club, or bench-pressing a whale, but I am so happy you got to meet Neil Gaiman, even though, and you'll probably hate me forever for saying this, but I was really disappointed in Stardust.

After reading your logic, I agree that Zombies would win, but I really, really want to agree with Mr. Gaiman and live in a world where unicorns would win. However, I think further research is needed to determine if drinking unicorn blood would turn zombies back into humans, or just make them really fast.


P.S. I love Beyonce and can't wait to get one for my husband for our 15-year wedding anniversary.
P.P.S. I also intend to get his some knock knock mofo towels. Just to go full circle.
P.P.P.S. I'm also really glad you had an emergency wig in your bag. Because what if Mr. Gaiman hadn't had a sock monkey hat? You'd have had to take an ordinary picture. And that would be sad.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Simple Genius (Sean King & Michelle Maxwell, #3)Simple Genius by David Baldacci
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is entertaining and a pretty easy/fast read. Here are two ongoing complaints of mine, though: Sean King is supposed to be ex-secret service, and therefore trained to "read" people, but he's always trusting these women who end up being the bad guys. I mean, if I can figure out that these people are the bad guys without trying, he should, too. It's ridiculous! And Michelle Maxwell is supposed to be this former Olympian, but the way she's described physically makes her sound like some sort of gigantic Amazon warrior. And yet men end up tripping over themselves for her. She just doesn't sound sexy to me, although maybe I'm not actually the target audience for these books.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

On raising kids, or not.

A few weeks ago, I read this article about a woman who put a child in a closet as a form of punishment:

I'm sure I'm going to get a lot of grief for this from my friends with kids, but I don't really have a problem with this, per se. I have always thought that finding effective ways of punishing children is very difficult because, in my opinion, the punishment should fit the crime, but it also has to have meaning for the child.

I'm not saying I'm in favor of putting kids in closets, but the article states that it was for a few seconds. That's not a very long time. I know of a teacher who would use her coat closet as a "time-out" room. The closet had two doors that could not be locked, and a window, for pete's sake! It also had a chair. This teacher, who routinely had 30+ children in her elementary-aged classroom found it an effective prophylaxis for kids who clearly needed a break before they actually stirred up trouble. More often than not, the child would either rejoin the class a few minutes later, in a much calmer mind set, or the child would fall asleep in the chair.  (Really, I have no idea why there's not more nap time in elementary school).

My first grade teacher would ask kids to leave the room, count to some number that she specified, and then return. Generally, this would be enough to calm the kid down (I mean how many 6-year-olds are going to remember whatever it was that got them all riled up if they had to leave the environment and count to 30?). Yes, technically, the child was unsupervised for the x number of seconds/minutes (depending on their counting skill) they were in the hall, but it still seems like a better solution than waiting for the child to reach his or her limit and disrupt the entire class.

Growing up, there were times when my sister simply couldn't behave at the dinner table. She would be given the option of eating on the back porch. She would take her little plate and go out there and mutter to herself about whatever perceived injustice she was suffering from, and then come back inside when she was done (either eating or muttering; either way she was a much calmer person). No, she wasn't sent out there when it was raining or snowing or anything like that, but she didn't seem to mind it and it prevented a number of arguments at the dinner table.

Now, the article doesn't discuss what the child had done that required punishment, and I think day care centers should probably have some sort of time-out room or area built in because it's inevitable that it will be needed, but this sort of sensationalism of something that we don't know all of the information about drives me  bananas! Has anyone actually asked why the teacher did it, or if it actually bothered the children? (Although this is California. Much like the sexual harassment laws where even if it doesn't bother me that someone calls me dear at work, if it bothers someone who overhears it, it still counts; probably it's considered child abuse even if the kid doesn't think he or she is being abused. But I digress).

From my years of babysitting, and now that my friends have kids, I've learned all sorts of methods of punishments, some of them more traditional, and some more creative, but sooner or later, parents figure out what works for their kid.

Likewise, experienced teachers can tell when a child is about to have some sort of meltdown, and they've probably come up with some effective techniques to handle it before it causes a chain reaction with all of the students. It seems to me that the reasonable course of action would be for parents to ask about this before they send their kids to daycare.

You know what's not reasonable? Baby heads on a shelf. That's just creepy.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True MemoirLet's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was a lot of fun to read! I loved the picture of Reepicheep on the cover, until I learned that it's not a sword he's holding, but a gold head (I had assumed that the point of the sword had been lost in the perspective of looking straight at it) and then I learned on p. 291 that it was not Reepicheep, but Hamlet von Schnitzel, holding Yorick's scull. Either way, I would not have been disappointed!

My sister read this book before me, and told me to let her know when I got to her favorite part. The fact that I couldn't find her favorite part speaks volumes about how much Lawson's writing is a bit like living in my own head (if my childhood were much, much weirder), and how unlike living in my sister's head it is.

My sister read this book thinking it would be relatable in an I-have-a-strange-mother sort of way. I have no idea where she got this idea (clearly she hadn't read Lawson's blog) because our mother is nothing like this.

At any rate, I loved this book because Lawson is quirky, witty, clever, and strange. I feel like Lawson makes it okay to be really, really strange.

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Skinny Rules: The Simple, Nonnegotiable Principles for Getting to ThinThe Skinny Rules: The Simple, Nonnegotiable Principles for Getting to Thin by Greg Critser
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book basically is a list of 20 rules to follow to lose weight. I think that the rules are pretty basic and easy to follow, but I think that 20 of them is too many. I can't remember 20 different things, although Harper says that over time they become second nature. I think these rules are much more realistic than other books I've read about being healthy and losing weight, although some of them will still be difficult to do, like rule #4: slash your intake of refined flours and grains.

All in all, the rules aren't really anything new, if you've ever read anything about losing weight, but I like rules, so having a list of them will hopefully be a helpful guideline.

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Why I need to get more sleep

So my sister moved out Tuesday and Captain America left yesterday to go to Oregon. So I have the house to myself. Except this isn't nearly as much fun as it sounds because it's close week at work so I've been working crazy hours, and I've been trying to be consistent about going to the gym because I don't want to blow my whole marathon training program by not running for a week the week before the marathon. I mean, what if I forget how? Or what if my butt gets even more wimpy and pathetic?

Anyway, so between work and the gym and various other chores, I didn't get to bed last night until 2am this morning. Which is sub-optimal in general, but definitely a few days before a marathon. While I was busy not sleeping, I started to think about that book I just read, Hour Game, in which the serial killer mimicked other serial killers, and I thought about how he observed that no one closes their blinds well enough. Which Captain America complains about as well (actually, he complains about me wandering around in various states of undress, while the blinds are in various states of openness...and no, this is not sexy. This is usually me about to get into the shower post-gym only to remember there's a container of yogurt in my bag that should probably be refrigerated and that while I'm walking around I may as well make a to-do list and pack lunch. Meanwhile, I'm probably wearing pants, a heart rate monitor, and no shirt. And I'm probably still sweating. So I feel like anyone who's busy peering at me through my windows while I'm in this state gets what they deserve. Except when Captain America is out of town. Then, I feel like I should make sure all of the blinds are in proper working order).

And then I thought about how I had left the front door open when I went to put the garbage can away, and that's when the serial killer probably walked into the house. He probably quickly hid somewhere, like the shower, taking the 50/50 odds that I'd either find him when I went to shower and he'd kill me then, or he'd just kill me according to his regularly scheduled killing plan. I thought, maybe I should sleep with the gun next to the bed, when I remembered that I can't actually get it out of the holster. And that Captain America keeps it locked when we're out of town. So then I thought I'd just get a big knife from the kitchen and sleep with that next to the bed, except I figured that would really just help the serial killer along, as he would have his wits about him, being awake and all, while I'd be all groggy and, well, dead. And then I thought my best bet would be to not panic and use up all of the oxygen in my lungs while I was being strangled. If I acted quickly and calmly, I could probably inflict enough damage on my serial killer to leave behind some DNA evidence, and the cops would at least be able to catch him with that. Assuming he had committed other crimes and thus already had a DNA record (that's how those things work, right?). He probably has already committed other crimes. I mean, it wouldn't make sense for the serial killer to pick me as his first victim, mostly because I'm in reasonably good shape and we keep a gun in the house. Unless I was specifically being targeted. Then all bets were off.

At this point, I decided I had just better go the fuck to sleep. And so I did. For four and a half hours. So needless to say, my mental capacities were not operating on all cylinders today. And I almost told the guy training me that I was not a recovering heroin addict.

Because he was eating chips. And we have magical food drawers at work. That somehow sprout snacks during close. And I told him that if he was eating chips, I'd feel like that meant I should be eating ships, and he told me, oh, YOU can have chips, in that sort of voice that suggests a double entendre, but I couldn't think of one, so I figured he was just as tired as I was, because he has a baby at home. So I got some Cheetos out of the magic drawer (I mean, maybe chip-eating was part of the training, and I didn't want to miss part of the training). I picked Cheetos partly because there wasn't much of a selection left, and partially because I figured he wouldn't want me getting yellow #7 on his keyboard, so he would just let me observe rather than think, which I was pretty sure I hadn't been doing all day anyway.

And, in case he argued with this logic, I was prepared to point out to him that if he let me use his keyboard, he should be prepared to explain to his wife why his fingers looked like they had been pollinating plants all day and not accounting. (Because you can't get yellow #7 off. No matter what you do. Too bad I didn't have any when the serial killer was in my house last night...the cops would have had no problem catching him.) Anyway, I imagined his wife being both pleased that her husband was concerned about the plight of the bees (you did know that the bees are suffering, right?), but concerned that the pay scale wasn't as high as accounting.

I figured after the Cheetos and the yellow #7, the least I could do was chew a piece of gum. And I even offered him one, too, 'cause I'm nice like that. And then I thought about telling him that when I'm stressed, like in grad school, I'd chew a piece of gum until it was dead, spit it out, and immediately start chewing another one. Like a chain-smoker trying to quit. Or a recovering heroin addict. But I caught myself and realized that that probably wasn't a thought I should say out loud at work. Instead I decided to share it with all of you.

And that's why I need to get more sleep. Although it doesn't look like that's about to happen quite soon enough.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Some thoughts on treats

So, you all know that I read Gretchen Rubin's blog, The Happiness Project, but she also writes a monthly column for Good Housekeeping. For some reason, we have a two-year subscription to Good Housekeeping. I think it was one of those perplexing deals where we'd lose all of our airline miles, OR we could get a magazine subscription for 100 miles and keep the rest.

Anyway, we get it every month. The September 2012's column by Gretchen Rubin was about small treats. She says small treats are great for when you need a "shot of energy and enthusiasm." She's made a list of small, inexpensive treats, like "treating" herself to a spray of perfume.

Rubin also says "when we feel depleted and drained, and when we have no time or energy left to devote to little activities that give us pleasure, we start to feel exhausted, resentful, and angry." This is how I've been feeling a lot lately. I've been feeling so angry that this is my life. I don't even have a bad life. But lately, it's been feeling like I've been working so hard for things I don't even want. I don't want to spend an hour every day cleaning up my house. I mean, doesn't that seem like an awful lot of time for a house with two basically neat and tidy people? I don't want to pack a gym bag or a lunch every day. I mean, I want to go to the gym, and I want to eat, but I don't want it to feel like such a chore. In fact, I don't want it to feel like anything. I want it to be like, fra la la I'm packing a gym bag, as I skip around my house sprinkling daisy petals. And there will be sparkles.

I've thought about trying to become one of those people who always has a ton of gym clothes in their gym bag (more accurately, I've thought about putting five sets of gym clothes in my bag on Sunday night and then not dealing with it again for the rest of the week). That's beginning to look more and more like a solution, actually. It seems like a lot of lugging stuff around unnecessarily  but by the end of the week, I'll be all, I'm so strong--look at how light my bag is now!

Rubin cautions that in order for something to feel like a treat, you can't use it too often. I've set up a series of rewards for meeting my weight-loss goals, but that's not quite the same thing as treats. I'd consider my cup of hot chocolate at night a treat, but I have one almost every night. Most of the time, I really, really enjoy it. The rest of the time, I usually assign my lack of satisfaction to an imbalance in the ingredients.

Last night, I gave myself the treat of doing nothing. Which, of course, is not entirely true. I did a lot of things. But I didn't clean up the house. Instead, I sat on the sofa and read. It was such an unbelievable treat to come home and sit down in my living room and read.

Of course, that also means that when I got up this morning I had a bunch of stuff left to do from yesterday that I had to get done before going to work. Which sort of puts me already behind for today, although in a kind of planned an intentional sort of way.

I think treats are a great idea, but what I'd really like is to get to a point where I don't dread getting up in the morning or coming home at night because of all of the stuff I still have to do. I guess, until I figure that out, treats are going to have to be enough.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Tales of Beedle the BardThe Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Okay, for starters, I'm not sure I can help but love anything by J.K. Rowling.

This is a great series of fairy tales. I have the collector's edition version, so mine came in an awesome box and the book itself has a scull on the cover and one of those latch things that are on diaries. And some prints. That I'm thinking about framing.

The stories are actually really rather good. They don't feel overly J.K. in, when I read them, I didn't hear Harry's voice reading them. They could stand alone without the Harry Potter series, although I really don't know why you should bother. (Or more accurately, not bother.)

It was also fun that the stories were followed by commentary by Professor Dumbledore and footnotes by J.K. Rowling.

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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Hour Game (Sean King & Michelle Maxwell, #2)Hour Game by David Baldacci
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Not surprisingly, David Baldacci's books become predictable and formulaic after a while. This book was an enjoyable, easy read, and I got through it quickly. Sometimes it's nice to just be able to read a book without using a ton of brain power.

Probably the most annoying part of the book was not the predictability, but the chapter where the investigators sit down and review the data...the chapter is designed to look like they're all reviewing the information together, to make sure they haven't missed anything, but the real purpose is to summarize for the readers everything that has happened. Except I don't need the summary because I'VE BEEN READING THE BOOK. And this chapter would not be at all necessary if Baldacci didn't try to incorporate a whole lot of plot lines that don't really add value, and simply create a superficial complexity to the story.

Whatever. It's a totally fine book if you want to read something that doesn't make you think (I'm not judging here--I do it all the time myself!)

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What do Homer Simpson and hobbits have in common?

Donuts! At least in my imagination, they do!

I learned about Hobbit Second Breakfast Day from my friend, Tracy, over at Tracyfood. And I really wanted to celebrate. But I had to go to work. And then I forgot. I even meant to get a donut (to eat at promptly 11am) when I was getting coffee (sshhh! Don't tell Captain America I was getting coffee!), but I forgot to do that, too. I have no idea where my mind has been. I mean, who forgets about donuts? That's a new one for me. I LOVE donuts. And Blogger apparently also loves donuts because it's very confused about the singular donut. It thinks it's not a word. Like, why would you stop at one? If I were a hobbit, I certainly wouldn't. Because there really aren't any fat hobbits. There aren't any skinny ones, either, and I'm pretty sure girl hobbits don't have to wear bikinis 10 months a year like you do here in SoCal. Because it's mandatory.

And then Tracy did a rockstar job of celebrating with scones and Gaffer's eggs, the recipe for which she found on the...wait for it...official hobbit recipes website. On the one hand, I'm not sure the world could get any better (unless of course there was an official Harry Potter recipes website and it taught me how to make butterbeer and treacle tart), and on the other hand I'm very sad that I somehow missed everything completely. I'm sure this is a sign of the coming Armageddon. And on top of all that, I have to eat vicariously through Tracy, which is decidedly un-hobbit like (I meant eating vicariously is un-hobbit like. However, Tracy is also not a hobbit. In case there was any confusion there. I'm sure I just cleared everything up.).

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The InnocentThe Innocent by David Baldacci
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

David Baldacci is my newest guilty pleasure. This book was good fun in the same sort of way action movies are good fun.

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Friday, September 21, 2012

The Night CircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book was utterly disappointing. I SO wanted to like it. I really, really did. It seemed so much like the kind of story I LOVE! I was so frustrated with the book that I actually kept notes on it!

  1. I was expecting more whimsy.
  2. I was also expecting it to be charming.
  3. Technically, I was listening to the book on CD. It was read by the always fabulous Jim Dale, who also read the Harry Potter series. So, unfortunately, I kept hearing those characters. I kept saying, wait a minute! Ron doesn't do that! Or, Luna never says that!
  4. It reminded me of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, which I actually enjoyed because I'm weird like that. But the visuals in the book were somehow less enticing. And there was no Heath Ledger. Or Johnny Depp. Or Jude Law. Or Colin Farrell. Really, why even bother?
  5. Because I kept taking notes: The voice kept changing. Sometimes you were addressed, as in, you entered the tent... Most of the time the story was told in third person, but it was distracting when it switched back to...second person...I didn't really think books were written in second person.
  6. For a while I thought Isobel was Celia, and I know I'm not the only one. I read a number of reviews saying this exact same thing.
  7. There's some seriously confusing jumping around in time.
  8. For illusionists/magicians, Celia and Marco are mind-numbingly boring. It's like meeting someone who's just come back from a tour of Europe who wants to tell you all about how much her back hurts after a 14-hour return flight. Good Lord!
  9. For a long time Bailey is a nice, albeit useless character. You really don't learn his purpose in the story until the last (or eleventh, for those of you who are counting) CD. I don't know what that equates to in chapters.
  10. You also don't have any understanding of why they can't stop competing until about CD nine, when Celia asks Marco to imagine leaving the competition and he suffers immense pain. Apparently the kind of pain that makes you see stars. Except it was so undramatically written that I felt like telling him to man up about it.
  11. For a while, I couldn't decide how I felt about Marco and Celia. Then I decided that Marco is creepy and Celia is pathetic.
  12. The book started to become interesting in CD nine when ***spoiler alert*** Heir Teisen dies. Also, in this CD, you actually start to learn how Marco does whatever it is he does.
  13. At one point my note simply said: this is a frustrating and stupid book.
  14. What is the point of the players in the circus not aging? Other than to drag out the misery of the reader?
  15. I think the story should have ended one chapter sooner. Then, at least it would have ended with symmetry. KNOW WHEN TO STOP!

In case you're wondering, I kept listening to the CDs because I kept hoping to fall in love. And I didn't have a lot of better things to be doing on my commute.

Seriously, though, don't waste your time!

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

So many different things, I don't know where to begin

I have such an unbelievable amount of stuff to say today that I've actually begun five different posts.

First of all, somehow the rest of my life is so much more interesting than what I do at work. I'm actually quite glad of that because I'm an accountant. For the most part, I don't mind being an accountant. The pay is good, I know what I'm doing, I work in a nice climate-controlled office; all-in-all, I can't really complain. Except that today there was a brown grasshopper dying in the corner of my cube. I'm pretty sure it was a grasshopper, although I always thought they were green, but it had that body type. I didn't want to touch it in case it was more alive than I thought and jumped down my shirt or something. I didn't think that kind of hysterics was appropriate on my second week at work.

Anyway, this post is not supposed to be about grasshoppers. It's supposed to be about how much more interesting my life is outside of the office. However, I do have one other office related story. While I usually attempt to keep other people's internet profiles low, I really don't know how to tell this story without revealing this person. So I work with a woman who's first name starts with an S and who's last name is Slover, which means that her login is sslover. Like a boat. When I saw her type that in, I almost told her that's what she HAD to name her yacht. But I caught myself before saying anything because I wasn't convinced that she'd appreciate that kind of thing. I mean, if that were my name, I'd tell everyone to call me S.S. Lover, but that's just me.

So back to my interesting life.

As you may or may not recall, I've been training to run a marathon. I've developed my marathon training program partially from a program I used years ago and partially from trial and error. However, just for fun, my running partner and I like to mix things up a little bit. Last weekend, we added in some cetaceanus fun. (How do you like that adjectification?)

Last weekend, Running Buddy (whom I shall now refer to by her Jersey Shore name, Mo-Scream, which, further paranthetically, is a tool she told me about because for father's day she renamed her dad G-Train. How cool is that!?!?). Anyway, Mo-Scream and I were on our final long run before we begin our taper. We were doing 22 miles and had started running at around 5:45 am because it was supposed to be balls-ass-hot out by about 9am. This run was intentionally designed to be suckier, albeit shorter, than the actual marathon.

On our return trip, we stopped at a bathroom in a park to refill our water bottles. I was reading our stats off on my watch: we'd been running for 3 hours and 22 minutes, we'd traveled 16.9 miles, and we had burnt 1543 calories. At this declaration, a fellow park-attending dude whipped his head around and proclaimed, "You just burned 15-hundred calories?" I'm still shocked that he didn't get whip-lash from his sudden interest in our athletic prowess.

Yes, I responded, we bench-pressed a whale.

If you Google an image of that, you get 152,000 image results, and yet, no one took a picture of ME doing it!

Park-dude looked both astonished and baffled, but I had another 5.1 miles to run, so I couldn't really hang out explaining all of the details involved in accomplishing such a feat, but it looks something like this:

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The HelpThe Help by Kathryn Stockett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book. I was hesitant to read it at first--I worried that it would be too hokey. I was concerned that the white people would be portrayed as one-dimensional racists, and the black people as one-dimensional victims. But Kathryn Stockett manages to make the characters multi-dimensional, which makes them believable. She also avoids turning the white people into puppets simply proving a point about segregation in the south in the 1960s.

I also found the black people believable, but hard to relate to. For no particular reason, I just don't know a lot of black people (I don't even know if I'm allowed to say "black" but I really dislike "African-American" which is not a term used in the book, but I dislike it because it presumes that I know where someone is from, and also that all places in Africa are the same. I would never say I'm a "European-American," but rather a "German-American," or whatever. And finally, the phrase "African-American" presumes that I know that someone is, in fact, American, when they could simply be a Kenyan. Okay, rant over).

As I was saying, I had a hard time relating to the maids in the story because I have a very hard time imagining what life was like for a black woman in the south in the 1960s. My parents were both in Memphis when Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot. When I've asked what Memphis was like during that time, my mother held a similar view point to mine: how could kids who were fed, nursed, bathed, and cared for by black maids grow up to hate black people? It just makes no sense.

I once read an interview with Whoopi Goldberg in which she said that everyone is either an introvert or extrovert racist. She went on to explain that people either pretend they don't see color, or they just admit that they do. She wasn't complaining or accusing or anything, but I thought it was an interesting point.

Bear with me, as I really am going someplace with this, but when I watched the movie The Joy Luck Club, I kept wondering why I couldn't keep the different characters straight. I had just read the book, so I knew what each character was doing, what their personality was, and their motivations. But I just couldn't keep the actors separated.

Years later, I read that the reason we do this is because back, thousands of years ago, when we were all tribal nomads, anyone who looked like us was likely to be part of our tribe, and therefore distinguishing characteristics were useful identifiers, but anyone who didn't look like us was probably an enemy (presumably fighting over valuable resources and the like), and therefore distinguishing characteristics weren't useful identifiers. Even though socially we've evolved past this, our brains still group everyone in a different race as "them." In fact, there's even a bit on 30 Rock where Tracy Jordan says, "No, you can't leave, Ken. Who's gonna help me tell white people apart?"

So to tie all of these points together, I felt like after reading the interview with Whoopi Goldberg, and especially after I read the science behind it, I felt like I could actually say that I can't tell all black people apart without feeling like I'm a terrible human being and intentionally being racist (I can't tell all of the Indian people I work with apart, either, especially when I'm on the phone with them).

So now, to get back to The Help, the book was really interesting, and I'm actually a little sad that I didn't read it as part of a book club, because I think it would have sparked an interesting discussion. One really interesting point made in the book was how sneaky the white employers could be. One character discusses how the white ladies might destroy a family by firing the maid, and then spreading rumors that she stole or whatever, so the maid couldn't get another job. Then the white lady's husband would talk to the owner of the house the maid's family was renting, and evict them in the middle of the night, and then the maid's husband would get fired because the foreman (or whoever) wanted his wife to stay in the social circle of the white lady who originally fired the maid. It's just mind-boggling to me that this elite power-play could go on and everyone knew about it.

I felt the same sort of horrific wonder while reading the book that I do when I read about women getting the right to vote (what were the men really afraid of? That we'd take over the world? That requires a tremendous amount of effort! That we'd make stupid choices? Or even worse, that we'd make smart choices?) . What were the white people in the south really so afraid of? I mean, deep down, how could they really be so concerned with sharing a water fountain or a bus seat? Did they really think the black people were going to take all of the jobs, all of the opportunities, all of what, exactly?

I think the black people in the south weren't interested in taking everything the white people had. They were interested in the same things that all decent people are interested in: their kids' schools, being safe, having a job that pays a reasonable wage, and in general being treated like a human. That's really not too much to ask for.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Oh, adulthood, how you vex me sometimes!

So I'm trying really hard to be a mature, responsible grown-up. It's not easy, people.

I started a new job. At a pretty awesome company. The catch is, they want me to change the dates I'm in Portland for the marathon. I was originally scheduled to be in Portland from Wednesday-Monday, but they want me in the office on Wednesday-Friday. For some meeting. And that's really all I know about that. I have a meeting with two of my bosses on Friday to sort that one out.

As you may recall, I became a really bitter person at my last job (okay, I've actually had three jobs since my last job, but they were short-term consulting affairs. Except one. Which was a mistake, but not because of anything I did...the position was presented as one thing and ended up being another. Anyway.). One of the things that really bothered me is that we were NEVER ALLOWED TO TAKE VACATION. There was always something going on at work that was more important than anything anyone on my team could possibly have going on in our personal lives. It really sucked. Big, hairy monkey balls. Yes, that much.

So, this job asked, before I started, if I could move my trip. I explained that I could change my flights, but that I couldn't move a marathon. So yes, I agreed to all of this before I started. Because it's a good company. A really good company. And I didn't want something like a few days in a city I've lived and visit at least once a year in to be a reason I couldn't get a job with a good company. But I'm still not very happy about it.

But because of my experience at my old company, I have this niggling feeling that I'll never be able to take a vacation when I want to. Which is totally not fair because it's not like the two companies have anything to do with each other or anything. I'm just projecting. At least those years of therapy have been put to good use--I can now identify my emotional behavior. Go me!

I'm trying to be accepting of my feelings that I'm not happy about moving my flight, while at the same time, accepting that I've also agreed to this, and that I shouldn't let it make me bitter. (I'm trying not to make "good" the opposite of "perfect"--It's still a good company to work for, and I'll still have a good time in Portland, it would just be perfect if I could have my proverbial cake and eat it, too, but wouldn't we all like that?)

And if you write good enough times, it starts to seem like a funny word...I mean why isn't is said with the oo-ee sound like gooey?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Further proof...

that my life is a little more stressful than normal right now.

Today I went to the DMV because we couldn't find my registration. Mind you, we had the stickers on the plates, and when I called, the guy confirmed that my transaction had been processed. Captain America thought he must have thrown out the registration. I thought we just never got it. It's not the kind of thing we would have thrown out or lost.

And there's an $18 fee for replacing a lost registration card. Because as the lady at the DMV office told me, the stickers come stapled to the card. I told her that I know that that's what's supposed to happen but we're not the sort of people to lose things like that. She charged me $18 anyway. You're welcome, California.

As it turns out, I've just been losing my mind because my registration card was in the same envelope where I keep all of my other important documents. I found it because I was getting out my passport. Sadly, I'm not going anywhere, but I'll be starting a new job on Monday and I need it for my paperwork.


I've got to get it together soon!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Writing is hard, and this is why

I read Nathan Bransford's blog on fairly regular basis. I think I stumbled upon it while reading The Writer magazine, and an author said one of the things that helped her get published was reading his blog (presumably, she meant, reading his blog and using his suggestions, and possibly even striking up a friendship with him, but whatever). So this one stuck out to me, in particular.

And I also liked the article it was based on,

I especially liked this observation. The emphasis is mine (and sorry that it's such a long quote. I just couldn't figure out where to cut it and keep the meaning):

Something, obviously, is going on. I manage, every few years, to generate a book. And of course, there are things that I know. I know how to wait until the last minute before putting anything on paper. I mean the last minute before the thought leaves me forever. I know how to leave out anything that looks to me—after a while—forced, deliberate, or fake. I know that I need to put myself in the story. I don’t mean literally. I mean emotionally. I need to care about what I’m writing—whether about the characters, or about what they’re getting up to, or about the way they feel or experience their world. I know that my job is to create a perspective. And to impose it on the reader. And I know that in order to do that with any success at all I must in some mysterious way risk everything. If I don’t break my own heart in the writing of a book then I know I've done it wrong. I’m not entirely sure what that means. But I know what it feels like.

I also like this, because I hate to do research. When I do research, I want to find one answer to my question. Not "about 128,000 in .32 seconds":

Research is its own slow fiction, a process of reassurance for the author. I don’t want reassurance. I like writing out of confusion, panic, a sense of everything being perilously close to collapse. So I try to embrace the fiction of all things.

I think that might be all I wanted to say about this. I read the blog and article a while ago, and I'm no longer feeling very ranty about it.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

House RulesHouse Rules by Jodi Picoult
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoy Jodi Picoult,and this did not disappoint. I actually had it figured out before the end, which I don't generally do (or, I should say, I don't try to do), but I've read enough of her work to figure out what was going to happen.

I read the whole book with my Peeta Mellark District 12 bookmark, so, of course, in my imagination, every male character looks a bit like Peeta. And, don't be fooled by the boy on the cover of the book. I'm not sure why that cover was picked, because the story centers around an 18-year-old autistic kid, Jacob.

I don't know about you, but every time I read about Asperger's, I self-diagnose myself with it. I know I don't have it, but I think we've all had times when we've been in conversations that don't make sense, or hyper-focus on something, or when the world is too loud and we want to hide under a blanket until we can handle it. So at one point, (on page 456), Jacob's father says "I think maybe we've all got something in us that keeps us from connecting to people, when we want to." And Jacob thinks in response, I like the concept: that Asperger's is like a flavoring added to a person, and although my concentration is higher than those of others, if tested, everyone else would have traces of this condition, too.

There are times in the book that are really, really frustrating. I grew up babysitting a high-functioning autistic kid, and was fortunate enough to never witness a full-blown meltdown. But there were rules to be followed, and when they were, everything ran a little more smoothly. For example, I had to tell the kid, it's 7:30 now; in half an hour, at 8 o'clock, you need to put your pajamas on and brush your teeth. Inevitably, he'd get it done before then so he could go back to his show or movie or whatever, but if I didn't give him that time window, and those explicit instructions, getting him ready for bed was a hassle.

Anyway, the book is frustrating because so may people, like the detective and the prosecutor, don't understand that Jacob's mind doesn't work like a normal persons'. People with Asperger's are very literal (I'm very literal, too, but they take it a whole other step further). They don't understand idioms, (for example "raining cats and dogs" means that pets are falling out of the sky). When asked if he understood what it meant to "waive his rights," Jacob's response was to wave his right hand. There were times when I just wanted to yell at them: it doesn't work that way! He can't imagine what it would feel like to be another person. He can't feel empathy or sympathy.

I was also frustrated because I knew they weren't asking the right questions. Jacob wouldn't have lied, but they were picking the wrong things to ask him.

Picoult tells an interesting story that combines forensics with autism, and just enough family chaos to make it real.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Eating happily...inspired by Tracyfood...inspired by Julia Child

About two weeks ago, a friend (whom I've known since 4th grade if you can believe it...from this program we were in called ALPS...which stands for Advanced Learning Program...I guess the "S" should be lower-cased, which really just proves that we have been brilliant and fabulous our entire lives, or at least since 4th grade). I think it's time I just start that sentence all over again. A friend of mine published a blog post in tribute to Julia Child, who was all about eating happily.

Just the other day I had the realization that no matter how good something is for me, if I don't like it, I'm really not going to eat it, no matter how much I think I should. I know that's a super-obvious realization, but as I mentioned above, I'm brilliant and fabulous, and therefore don't have much time for the mundane realities of life.

Except that I'm trying to lose weight. So I've been trying to figure out foods and meals that fill me up without breaking the caloric bank but also leave me feeling satiated. Because it's really the worst when you finish a meal and still have that feeling of not being satisfied. Which is why I try to balance my calories in such a way that I can always end my day with a hot chocolate.

But the other challenge is trying not to be too obsessed with anything. And for someone who may or may not have OCD tendencies, but is totally type-A, obsession is an easy path to dive down. For a short while I was on a Skinny Bitch and Beauty Detox kick, until I realized that I was always hungry, irritable, and all I thought about was food. ALL OF THE TIME.

There are times when a mild obsession makes sense. My sister has celiac disease (she's had it for years--since way before it was trendy to not eat gluten, which BTW, for those not in the know, is a royal pain in the ass, so I don't recommend that you jump on this bandwagon just for the hell of it). Yes, we upend the kitchen for her. Because otherwise she ends up in the ER and my mother moves in to supervise the healing of her baby and my husband leaves me because my family is insane and life as I know it ends, and I'm pretty sure baby penguins are massacred somewhere in there just for good vengeful measure. Because penguins are my favorite and my mother would be THAT mad if I poisoned my sister. Which I have never done (knock on wood) but does nonetheless happen every now and then. Gluten is EVERYWHERE! However, if, for example, you're a normal person and you just don't like tomatoes, I am not upending the kitchen for you--you can put your tomatoes in the tomato graveyard on the edge of your plate like Captain America and I will come save your life from potential tomato zombies (or whatever tomatoes turn into in your fear-of-tomatoes-imagination).

Going back to being obsessed with food, this is a great article that I must have found by way of Tracyfood because I can't think of how else I would have stumbled upon it myself. And I love Insulin Sensitivity Man and his sidekick, Hormonal Disruption Boy. They are my two favorite Action Non-Heroes.

So, see if you can follow my brilliant and fabulous train of thought another step further. I read somewhere that people like stuff that meet at least two out of the three following criteria: fast, easy, and cheap. For example, anything Apple: fast and easy, but not cheap. The article I read this in had nothing to do with diet or nutrition or food in any way, but I thought that for the most part it applies. For example, I don't like carrots. I've tried (I read somewhere else that if you eat something long enough, you taste buds get used to it, and then you'll like it. I tried carrots for MONTHS. Nope. I just don't like them). However, we do have pre-cut baby carrots in my house because they're fast and easy (and low in calories but nutritious). They're reasonably cheap, but not cheaper than buying my own carrots and cutting them, which I am not going to do. BECAUSE I DON'T LIKE CARROTS (which is actually a great reason for me to do it, since I'd get to spend my time stabbing the bastards).

Maybe my fast, easy, cheap idea doesn't transfer well to all food, or maybe it needs some tweaking (for example, most people I know don't love Starbucks coffee, but it's consistent and easy, although not cheap). But if I'm going to eat food that makes me less-than-happy (although not truly un-happy), like carrots, they better be fast, cheap, and easy!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire HunterAbraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is an interesting premise. It's written in a semi-autobiographical style, with exerts from "lost" journals of Abraham Lincoln. This book ties together truth and fiction and offers explanations for mysteries such as the lost colony of Roanoke.

There are parts of the book that are rather tedious, but all in all, it was an enjoyable read.

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Small the airport

Last week, I dropped Captain America off at the airport. Our airport is under construction, so in addition to all of the normal nuisances of slow drivers, random stops, and people taking their time getting in and out of their vehicles, there are fewer lanes in which to navigate, making the whole process even more annoying. And it's 5:30am, so no one is a 100 watt bulb yet.

I drop Captain America off, and then try to navigate away from the curb-side lanes and into the driving lanes. Except there's a taxi that's only half in my lane a few cars in front of me. Which stops both driving lanes of traffic. The cab driver finally gets fully into my lane and the lane to my left starts driving. But my lane is just sitting there. I'm not sure if this cab is designed like police cars--you can't let yourself out of the back seat (no, I don't know this from personal experience, but from Reno 911), or if maybe everyone fell asleep, or what the problem is.

On the sidewalk is one of those rent-a-traffic-cop types that populate the arrivals area at airports--always telling people to move their cars and that it's not a waiting zone while the person is clearly trying to greet their brother/mother/grandmother/bff/returning soldier and load the accompanying bags into the vehicle. As if people really want to hang out at the arrivals pick-up zone, you know, for fun.

As luck would have it, though, this particular rent-a-traffic-cop had an ounce of sense, and instead of instructing all of us to move (which we would have been happy to do if we could), he temporarily stops traffic in the left lane to allow my lane to merge in while the taxi took care of whatever their problem was. Then he waved the taxi into a more appropriate lane and allowed both driving lanes to actually drive. It was really nothing short of a miracle.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Vow: True Events that Inspired the MovieThe Vow: True Events that Inspired the Movie by Kim Carpenter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I thought the movie looked ridiculously cheesy until I read that it was based on a true story. Then I was compelled (which is perhaps the most intelligent sounding over-used word ever) to read the book. I am a sucker for stories of human survival.

The Carpenters are very religious people. Very religious people. I admire people who feel their faith so strongly, but I don't personally share their convictions. So, while it was amazing to read about how Krickitt survived this terrible car accident, it weird for me to read so much about God.

It's odd how terrible circumstances can change the definition of "lucky." Obviously, the entire accident was unlucky, but it would have been even unluckier if circumstances were different. Kim had been driving, but felt ill, and got in the back seat. If he, not Krickitt had been driving at the time of the crash, he would have died on impact because he is so much bigger than she is. She fit in the small space of the crushed roof, and he would not have. Also, they were very lucky that people were on the scene so quickly. We all know that in serious accidents, the time it takes for first responders to arrive at the scene can impact not only the survival of the victims, but also the quality of life that they'll regain afterwards.

Sometimes, it's the strangest things that make you cry. The life-flight nurses stated that the credit for Krickitt's recovery belong to the EMTs first on the scene and the doctors and nurses at the first hospital Krickitt was taken to. The commented that they "just flew as fast as we could" to get her to Albuquerque. I don't know why that moved me so much, but it did.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Split Second (Sean King & Michelle Maxwell, #1)Split Second by David Baldacci
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My library classified this book as suspense, but I wouldn't go that far. I feel like David Baldacci's books aren't literary masterpieces by any stretch of the imagination, but I find them really, really enjoyable reading.

This book is your sort of typical law-enforcement caper, with the law-enforcement people being framed, and then they have to figure out how to prove their innocence.

In fact, it was so typical that I was nearly able to predict the outcome. I say nearly because there was one little plot twist I didn't take into account. And not only do I not try to predict endings of books, but I'm actually pretty terrible at it.

Nonetheless, I really enjoy reading Baldacci's books, mostly because they're fast-paced and easy to read.

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Bridge of SighsBridge of Sighs by Richard Russo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is really long. I don't find long books intimidating, nor do I generally get bored by them. However, this story is told mostly, although not entirely, from the perspective of Lucy Lynch, and his style is akin to that of Garrison Keillor's. It's slow moving, detailed, and not un-entertaining. However, there were times when I put the book down for days.

However, the last quarter of the book really made up for it. By the time I finished the book, I felt like crying, although I'm not sure why. I guess I felt a little bit like I was saying goodbye to some really good people.

There are a number of character juxtapositions in this book, from Lucy's own parents, to his father and Uncle Dec, to Lucy's father and Bobby's father, to Lucy and Bobby themselves.

It would be easy to paint (pun intended) Bobby as the antagonist, but he's not. He's a very complex character, and that makes him interesting. He's a very real character. You are drawn to him, even though you know he's more volatile, and less deserving of your friendship than Lucy. What's also interesting is that Bobby's not really the focal point of the book: Lucy is telling the story of his town and his life. But Bobby had such an effect on Lucy that you can't help but feel that the narrative is being pulled toward him, or by him, like the tide by the moon.

As a student of the craft of writing, I can't help but feel like I'll never be able to write a character as good as Bobby, and especially in way that makes him not quite the focal point, but somehow the crucial element in the story.

The only reason I didn't give this book five stars is because I was able to walk away from it at times. With a little bit more editing and some tightening up, it would have been a page-turner from start to finish.

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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Random conversations

Every Saturday, my running buddy and I go for a run and then out to breakfast. Last Saturday, we tried out a new place...Mission Cafe and Coffee House. We were seated at one of those half-booth things where one person has a booth seat and the other person has a chair. I usually elect the chair because booth seats tend to be too low for me and I always feel like I'm heaving my boobs up onto the table. Running Buddy doesn't care, so she gets the booth seat. Which she insists is more comfy on her butt anyway. So, she's facing into the restaurant, and I'm facing out the window. I see a girl ride up on a bike cruiser and get off. She's wearing a black tank top over a pink bikini. I don't know how comfortable it was for her to ride the bike in just bikini bottoms, but she's braver than I am.

I point out this girl to Running Buddy because I think her bikini is about two sizes too small and because her butt isn't nearly as good as ours. Clearly she didn't run up Mt. Soledad that morning. Breakfast is served and Running buddy turns the discussion to Accent Day. The week after father's day, she and her parents had Jersey Shore Name Day. Her dad became G-Train, her mom, M-Woww, and she was H-Funk. This Saturday's theme was apparently accents.

I don't do accents. I don't even do a Jersey accent well, and I'm from there. I credit this to the speech therapy I had as a kid. Although, as my aunt points out, my mother had speech therapy and she has a Jersey accent. But not much of one.

So Running Buddy proceeds to go through the types of accents I could have. English, Australian, Hispanic. Meanwhile I'm watching Pink-Bikini-Girl, and more specifically, I'm terrified and fascinated by how her bikini keeps getting more and more lodged in her butt, and she doesn't seem to notice at all.

Running buddy insists I should at least try out a New Jersey or Brooklyn accent.

How about Boston? She asks me. You can say pahk the cah in Hahvahd Yahd. Which I repeat, as demonstration of the limits of my accent skills.

Then I notice that the bikini bottom is completely missing! It has been entirely consumed by the butt cheeks. It's gone! It's as if the butt cheeks got hungry while waiting for a seat at Mission Cafe and just decided to nosh on the bikini!

I point this out to Running Buddy, who is still working her way down the lists of accents. We're still on accent day? I ask her. Then I suggest pirate accent, which she thinks is pretty cool, but only if I'm willing to give it a shot. Which I"m not. Then I ask, When is accent day?

Today, she tells me.

Me: Wait, don't I get to practice. Like maybe get some language CDs at the library or something?

We're walking to the car now, and she's been somewhat less fascinated/appalled by the missing bikini bottom than I was, partially, I think due to the fact that she's been preoccupied with accent day, and partially because she wasn't witness to the entire consumption of the bikini.

RB: No, that's part of the fun! You have to try out new accents, and it's funny when you get them wrong, but every now and then, you do a good one, and you're like, I just did an awesome Southern Accent.

Me: That sounds really embarrassing.

RB: It's not embarrassing, it's just fun.

Running Buddy is now driving me back to the jetty, where my car is parked. We're sitting in a bunch of traffic on Mission and I observe, I wish I could apparate.

RB: What?

Me: Apparate, you know, like Harry Potter, apparate, or disapparate, so we don't have to sit in all of this traffic.

RB: What! I totally thought you were trying to say operate with a Boston accent and that you were finally embracing accent day.

Me: I think we've just discovered why you're still single.

RB: You're weird and you're married.

Me: Yes, but I tricked Captain America into thinking I was normal for the first year, and then we lived in different states, and he thought I was only weird around my weird friends, and it wasn't until I left my weird friends when we got married that he learned he'd have to bear the brunt of my weirdness until I found some new weird friends.

RB: But I have a really good Russian accent!

Me: Just don't tell your potential husband til he's signed the marriage licence.

Running Buddy proceeds to demonstrate to me her Russian accent.

Me: Yup, we've hit the nail on the head. This is why you're still single.

RB: Surely there's a guy out there who's goofy like me.

Me: You're still going to need to trick him in the beginning.