Monday, January 31, 2005

Being a Kid

Maybe you are a kid. Maybe you remember being one. I'm proud to say that I have a couple that I love to pieces and I remember being one myself. But I don't recall, nor do I allow mine, to run wild with no supervision. At least, not until they are old enough -- say eleven, twelve, somewhere in there. Yet on a recent trip to the local YMCA, I was extremely disappointed to find 6th, 7th and 8th graders playing on playground equipment that was clearly meant for small children. A couple of parents even told their own kids that too many big kids were playing and they would come back later. The equipment in question was one of those climbing things made out of various levels of "boxes." Personally, I climbed right in after my kid and protected the car-like box he was playing in. The Y is very generous in its policy that allows children ages 6+ in this playground area without their parents. What they fail to realize is having one attendtant who never leaves the counter doesn't work. All she can see is the tv room and the pool table. As a parent, I can think of all sorts of bad things happening outside of her view. Not that she isn't capable of handling her job. The supervision would better be covered by two person, one of which should be over the age of 18 and feel comfortable to tell the "big kids" to knock it off. As my two grow older, maybe I'll change my mind. One of them will be five in March. I can't imagine leaving him alone to run, let alone to run with an ever changing number of unsupervised kids. They are just asking for trouble.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Double Posting

JWalk started a meme that I really like. Attention bloggers: This is my attempt to start one of those blogging memes, so please listen up... The goal of this exercise is to identify nine other bloggers that you would like to meet for dinner/drinks. The only caveat is that these bloggers must be strangers -- you haven't met them before. State the blogger's name, a link to the blog, and why you would like him/her to be in attendance. My list (in alphabetical order by blog name):... I have my own wish-list. Some of you are automatically disqualified, as I already know you. Jane of Average Jane Clive Thompson of collisiondection Fiat Lux of If you don't have cable and you're library card has expired... Heather B. of Dooce Dick K of Daily Dose of Excel Cybele of Fast Fiction Pharmgirl of The Life of a Pharmgirl... Barbara "A new one every time" Mikkelson of Even though it isn't exactly a blog... (Blank). So I don't read nine blogs regularly...Suggest one for me and maybe I'll have another entry.

My Music

I confess I don't listen to as much music as I would like. Generally it's during the 5-10 minute commute and most of that is talk or commercials. As I grow older, I find that my musical tastes are being influenced by the dubious choices of my capricious husband. I recently found my radio tuned to one of the numerous country stations - a by-product of sharing one’s vehicle with those who have less discerning tastes that my own. Normally, I'm a 90s kind of girl. As I pointed the nose of my truck to work, I was distracted by the norm - other drivers; the baby in the back; remembering what was on my to-do list for the day. It wasn't until I was pulling into the baby-sitter's driveway that I realized that not only was I listening to country - I was singing along with the correct words. It's over, folks. I'm converted. The song was Toby Keith's "How do you like me now?" I must confess, I liked him well enough. Too well, truth be told. There's no room for the truth here.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Beauty of Children

I envy my friend Kelli on days like this one. On Tuesday last week, my kindergarteners came to school and began their day like any other. They "signed in" and got their "paychecks" and began paying their bills. (A money system we set up to help learn the value of earning and spending money.) Throughout the morning, I noticed that every once in a while, one of them would go over to the table by the door and drop something in a box. This happened about 2 or 3 times and when it happened again, I asked the little girl what she was doing... Independent of anyone's prompting, these five and six year olds decided to set-up a fund for the Tsunami victims. Moments like these make me realize how great kids really are.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Money Matters

Being a some-what recent college graduate, I can still remember the days of counting every penney and stealing toilet paper from my then-current employer. If this sort of articlehad been around back then, I would have been up in arms. Now I think, gee, maybe the problem isn't minimum wages, but the landlords who charge an arm and a leg, along with the banks and utility companies. Some days I fantasize about what it would be like to redraw the lines of money and reduce inflation. I'd still be just over broke.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Finished at Last

People often ask me what the purpose of NaNo was. One part of it was that it convinced me that it was okay to finish a piece. I'm proud to say that I have completed my second novel. This one took a little longer to write. I started it during my last semster of college (Fall 2001.) The last words of the first draft were written on January 24, 2005. Whether that is happy or sad, I cannot say. I have another adventure that I'm going to embark upon in February -- the Curtis L Brown Writing Challenge. I need to have 2000 words on the topic "Job Application." The genre is open to anything -- prose, poetry, non-fiction, etc. As long as the postmark is dated 02-28-05, I'm a qualified entrant. After it's tagged and posted, I'll pick up the YA novel and start to look through it, make my notes, scene cards and edits. I'm giving myself a month for that. Then it is off to the very generous people who have offered to donate their time and editing skills. In some cases, they are being bribed or threatened, but hey, that's the fun of it, right? Then it is off to the publishers. (shiver) I can't believe I just said that. Gulp.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Johnny Carson Dies (MSNBC)

Just in case you hadn't already heard.

Good Hair Day

I have naturally curly hair that presents several different styling problems every day. I've read some of the lastest fashion magazines and all offer a variation on the same advice. Wash every other day (once a week, every three days, never). If shampooing, only shampoo the roots. Apply conditioner to ends only (roots to ends, middle to ends). Don't rinse conditioner (only partially rinse conditioner). Etc. etc. I've tried a few of the variations with little or no success. I even tried the wash-every-other-day thing. I ended up with really flat hair on the top and fuzzy on the ends. Not good. I've tried various brand name styling products with little luck. Tired of spending a fortune on something that doesn't really work, I decided to try Physique's curl forming lotion, which promises to manage and control the frizzies leaving the user with shiny, nice-shaped curls. Today is the first day of usuage. I'm having a good hair day. In the winter, I tend to have dry hair prone to static electricity. Fun when you are a kid, not so fun as an adult. In the summer, I have oily roots and dry ends. If this stuff helps both of those conditions, I'm going to buy a case of it.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Google Search versus All Others

I'm always interested in how people find my site. After all, I seldom link and comment on news stories, preferring my own life and the stories it produces. Along with the multitude of books I read. Anyway, I often look at the referrer logs that Extreme Tracking provides for me. I've noticed something that may or may not be worth comment. Google will correctly identify the keywords the searcher requested, but direct them only to my home page, even if the search should refer to an archive. Yahoo (I mean Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, etc. refer to the correct archive page. Being that Blogspot is powered by Google, you'd think that they wouldn't do this. Funny, eh?

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Blogging About Work

I decided that I need to stop blogging about work. I made a blog connection recently between two of my favorite voices on the web - Average Jane and If you don't have cable... lead me to Dooce. Dooce is, as defined by the urban dictionary: "Losing your job for something you wrote in your online blog, journal, website, etc." The author of Dooce had this happen to her. Check out the whole story. While she didn't refer to company or boss by name, she was ratted out by someone at the company. I wouldn't be concerned, except that like any job, it can be irritating at times. I've never posted in the manner that Dooce did, I could see it happening, should I ever turn off my inner editor or have a really bad day. Others have gotten fired for their web exploits. An employee of Microsoft had it happen as did a former Delta Airline Flight Attendent. A Google search shows multitudes of others too. My referrer logs have shown my name popping in a couple of times as searches. While I have no way of knowing why, I don't want it to be the end of my job either. What annoys me the most is that now I have to censor myself. I already do a bit because I had decided to use my real name rather than a sobriquet. With relatives and friends being potential readers, I didn't want to use this as a forum for ranting. That's what husbands are for, right?

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Time-Traveller's Wife

I first heard about this from J-Walk's blog. I found it in the "New" section of the library's listing, so I pounced on it. The story is quite moving in ways I never imagined. Told from both the point of view of Clare and Henry, it flows through their lives both chronologically and event-driven. Henry, you see, is a time traveller and Clare is his wife. They first meet when Clare is 6 and Henry is 34. Clare's childhood is a series of meetings with Henry interspersed with waiting for Henry. Knowing him has set her apart in ways that neither imaged. Probably the best love story I've read in ages. I even bought it as a Christmas gift for someone else that I know who likes to read. Two thumbs up.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Getting my New Book

I put my new Harry Potter book on reserve Saturday. I opted to go with a local bookstore and ignore the multi-million dollar stores. I'm sure you can think of a few places. Since I'm relatively new to Oshkosh, I don't know all of the in's and out's of the town. I figured that Little Professor bookstore was my best bet to get my book as Basic is a religious book store. Boy was I wrong. I actually went to Little Professor a few weeks ago, maybe two weeks after they announced the publication date. To my surprise I was told that they weren't taking any reservations. I cleaned out my ears and gave her my best incredulous look. They couldn't even order it yet, so they wouldn't take any names. So what you're saying is that you won't sell me a book. Okay, I guess. I was quite disappointed. Not only am I a huge Potter fan, I've never been to a midnight release. (I was pregnant when number five was released. I figured it would be bad for me to do that as I would have most likely stayed up the rest of the night to read it too.) I sulked and pouted and told everyone who would want to know about the bad service I received. What really pissed me off wasn't that they weren't taking reservations, but that the lady made me feel like a real idiot for even asking. After pointing out to her that Barnes and Noble, Borders and Amazon would most likely take my money, I left, feeling quite a drift and disappointed that I was going to have to drive to Appleton for a midnight release and waiting for god only knows how long, I hesitated in ordering a copy. Low and behold, another option presented itself to me -- Paper Tiger. What a lovely book store that is willing to sell its books. They don't know the discount yet, but they were more than willing to take my name and promise that they would have a midnight release. The lady at the desk, Kim, didn't even laugh at my companion and I when we requested two copies. She might have been my mother, but it doesn't mean I'm going to share. Paper Tiger sells all paperbacks, along with a few magazines and tobacco for pipes. It makes for a quite aromatic mixture when snooping through the stacks. I'll definitely go there again when I'm in dire need of a book. And I'll be there at the wee hours of morning on the 16th too. See you there.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Missing Man Found

A while back I posted about Danny Clune, a Bookcrossing programmer who was missing. His body as been found. This news story has all of the details. Rest in peace, Danny.

Office Space

At work, I sit in one of those places where conversation accumulates. I'm sure you've used it. It's a nature meeting place for people, usually near narrow hallways and food tables. Everyone in my building finds it very convenient to hold impromtu meetings right outside of my cubicle. To make it even more interesting, I also have three of the loudest neighbors ever. Two of them have office doors and use them, but the sound still escapes. I like conversing with my co-workers as much as the next person, but on a day when I have lost all of my personal macros due to a network glitch, I'm a little annoyed. Quite frankly, I've very annoyed. But, soon I'll be moving to a nearly silent office. Then I'll post about the creaking of the floor joists that are distracting me from whatever programming that I am doing.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Christmas Gifts Revisited

I did little, if any posting about Christmas. Now that I am unloading the boxes and throwing away the various cardboard boxes and plastic-coated twist ties, I have a few comments I should have made earlier. My kids received the usual assortment of toys ranging from "How did I ever live without this" to "What is it?" Having had the opportunity to remove each and every one of these toys from their boxes lately, I realized that shoplifting must be a huge problem for stores today. Each and every toy had at between two and twelve plastic coated twisty-things to keep the toy in the box. Their length ranged between four and eight inches. Removal of said twisty-things is hindered by children screaming for their toys. That might have been me scream...I blocked the bad memories. I got quite a few gift cards, which are great if you can coordinate everyone to give you gift cards to the same place. Instead I end up with several gift cards to different places, all of which manage to be $20-50 short of the amount I need to get what I really want. Instead I end up spending my own money to "complete the gift." Next year, I'm going to promote Visa giftcards. Even worse then the under-charged gift card is the totally worthless gift. One relative drew my name for the family exchange. Recognizing that she didn't know me well enough to get a gift for me, she called and asked what I would like. It was a bad time (read: child 1 steal toy from child 2) so I said I would have to get back to her, but I did like to read and books were usually a good gift. I returned her call a couple of weeks later, with some titles in mind. "No need. I got you something that you'll really like." Great, I'm thinking. It was a collection of soap and lotion. You know the kind, the generic brand name that leaves you dry and scratchy. To make it worse, I have a husband that is extremely allergic to smelly bath products. Before I purchase anything that I haven't ever used before, I run a "sniff test" by him. As this lady was family on his side, who comments when his allergies are bothering by, she must have had a brain fart. I can't think of any other reason for her to give me something like that. Except that it is the very sort of thing that she loves. Which leads me to another awful gift -- give what you secretly want. The guilty party is penning the very words you read. There's a book that I love, that I gave as a gift to someone may or may not like it. But I loved it so much and it was such a beautiful story that I couldn't help it. While I'm sure she will like it, I'm not confident that she will want it for Christmas. So I paired it with a giftcard. The amount is probably insufficient for what she'll want to buy, but hey, it's Christmas. What would it be like without some bad gift-giving?

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clark

I first heard of this book from Average Jane. She liked it and linked to a couple of reviews. Her description intrigued me enough to read the reviews and check out the book. It was awful. The review I read described the work as "Victorian England meets Harry Potter." Being a fan of both genres, it was a must read. I only managed the first 120 pages of the 750+ available. I'm fond of Jane Austen, Wilke Collins, the Bronte Sisters. I detest Charles Dickins, which served as the model for "Victorian" as named in the review. The work was very reminscient of good ol' Charles, right down to the making me fall asleep part. Every time I try for one of his novels, I feel as though someone is telling a joke that I'm not getting. Ms Clarke's novel gave me the same feeling. I wanted to read a few more pages, maybe another 50, but the library needed the book back. I'm debating as to whether or not I want to reserve it again. I just can't believe that it was so well received, yet, be so unappealling to me. Maybe it needed more of a chance... Which leads me to my next thought. How many pages should be read before abandoning a book?

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

New Year, New Resolutions

I'm not much for New Year's resolutions. In general I like my life and work to improve it every day. One thing that is always on my list of "Need to Improve" is get more exercise. To this end, my husband and I joined the Oshkosh YMCA last September when they were having a sale on joiner fees. At first I went 2-3 times a week, but between NaNoWriMo and sickness in November and December being December, it quickly trickled down to once a week. To correct this, I decided that I needed to do something different. They offer various classes -- spinning, kick boxing, fit for life, etc. -- but most of them were on bad nights or during the day. I found one that would work -- Yoga. I've tried yoga before, in my home. I have a video I like, but seldom use. (Finding one hour where no one is around to laugh at me it hard to do.) It's offered twice a week, but I can only go once. Good enough, as long as I hit the treadmill or elliptical runner twice a week too. I went to the class a couple of nights ago. It was very similar to the video I had used before, so I didn't look like a total moron. The next day attested to the workout I got. My upper body was sore, but pleasantly so. I could tell I used my muscles, but didn't over do it. The best part was the supplies that they provided. One of the reasons I didn't use my own video was I'm not extremely limber and need a few props, which are quite spendy. The Y had all of the props and using them made the workout more comfortable. If I have a resolution this year, it will be to attend yoga class once a week and exercise outside of that two times a week. Oh, and finally finish that novel I'm working on. The first draft of it anyway.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Driving in Oshkosh...Or Anywhere

(Pulls out box labeled "Soap" and climbs on) Have you been driving lately? I'm willing to bet you have. Maybe you were the guy who drove with his blinker on for the five blocks I followed him. Or perhaps you were the teenager in the car with three of your friends. Or maybe you were the soccer mom in the mini-van. If you weren't one of my fictional characters, you must have been like me, an average driver trying to get across town for work, groceries or miscellaeous errands. Along the way a variety of annoying things occurred. Let's review. The School Zone It always happens to me. I get behind the person who doesn't read the fine print on the school zone sign. The ubiquitous "15 MPH" sign has some additional words -- When children are present. In other words, when no kids are to be seen, the normal speed limit applies. When is that guy ahead of me realize that no child is going to be walking to school at 6:45 am and he can go 30 mph instead of 15? The Traffic Light I didn't take driver's ed in Wisconsin therefore I am exempt from calling them "stop and go" lights. But I did take driver's ed. Some basics to be reviewed. Green turn arrows -- use them. Yellow means slow down and stop if possible. Red means wait your turn. And green still means go. Next time you are waiting at the light, just see how many people violate this simple color-coded system. I'm really getting sick of missing my green turn arrow because the cross traffic can't understand what a red light means. My vote goes to the guy who pushes for funding to get cameras on the traffic lights and has the police department issuing tickets as a result of their findings. Left Turn Lanes Who ever did the traffic pattern studies in Oshkosh must have really like left turn only lanes. As I sit and wait for the third time at the corner of 6th and Ohio, I wonder what it would be like if all of the left turn lanes disappeared. Turn Signals Just because the driver ahead of me knows where he is going doesn't mean I do. That stick on the steering wheel? The one that has some dust on it? It is your turn indicator. Others around you appreciate your utilization of said device. (steps down from soap box and slides it back into the dark corner) The worst part of it is when the enforcers of the rules are the one who break them. Until they start following the regulations of the road, everything becomes a scoff law.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Books, Not Movies

I don't know why I do it to myself. Perhaps I'm into torture. Or maybe curiousity simply got the best of me. Whatever the reason, I simply have to stop seeing movies that started their careers as books. At least for the books that I have read. I had resolved in the past to do just that, but last night, I had a lapse. I rented "Ella Enchanted." It is a wonderful book that I've read several times. When I taught, I read it to my kids. They liked it too, even the boys. The book is charming of its own accord. What could they have done to it? Ruined it, I say. The plot lines and characters are loosely based on the story and characters developed by the author. Other than the bare minimum required to assume the same title as the novel, nothing matches. After the first scene in the movie, I knew it would be a disaster. It didnt' even take the first scene in its entirety, perhaps only half of it. I cannot imagine why the executives would change such a charming book into a mediocre movie. It isn't like the Potter series where the majority of the world has read it already and plays to those readers. No, they tried to make it into something it wasn't. It may have been a good movie. My opinion is too biased in favor of the book to even see if the movie was good. I didn't care for the fan-club-obsessed teenage girls. It was too modern for the time frame, even if it is a fairy-tale. I will have to settle for reading the book and completely ignoring the movie. I was tempted to watch "Tuck Everlasting" too. I'll probably skip it now.

Friday, January 07, 2005

A Chinese Blessing...

This came to me via forward from Kelli, of A Far Greener Country. I usually skim forwards, as I've seen most of them or it's making the rounds of my friends. This one I had not seen before and it made me laugh. Not so much the story, but the "moral" at the end. A water bearer in China had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which he carried across his neck. One pot had a crack in it, while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water to his house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. After 2 years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream... "I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house." The bearer said to the pot, "Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side? That's because I have always known about your flaw, and I planted flower seeds on your side of the path. Every day while we walk back, you've watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house." Moral: Each of us has our own unique flaws. We're all cracked pots. But it's the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding. You've just got to take each person for what they are, and look for the good in them. Here's to all of the crackpots in my life.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

The Joke's on Them

Got a great "You'll never guess what happened today?" story? Clientcopia takes these tales of client woe's and posts them for all to see. It's not just your boss or your annoying neighbor. These people are everywhere. When I need a good laugh, I go to the Top 20 page. It changes frequently to confirm that there is a bigger moron out there than the one that sits next to you.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Population: 485 by Michael Perry

Last year I attended a writer's conference where Michael Perry was the keynote speaker. I found him to be funny, witty and a country hick. (I grew up in South Dakota, I'm allowed to point that particular finger.) I liked him well enough to buy his book Population: 485 and to visit his website Sneezing Cow. I finally read the book in December. After listening to Mike speak about his life in a small town and writing about it, I wanted to do the same and used NaNoWriMo to do that. But what I didn't want was Michael's influence on my own writing. Since November was over, I dug his book out of my stack of "To Be Read" books and settled in. As I read, I laughed. And cried. Some parts made me go, "Hey, I know that guy." Other parts made me wish that I was a little closer to my own hometown. Mike's voice changes depending on the content and points to his ability to adapt his voice to the subject matter at hand. I wished I was still teaching writing as I read his book. Trying to explain a concept as abstract as "voice" to 7th and 8th graders would have been much easier if I could have read passages of Mike's book, Population:485. When listening to him speak, I had to chuckle silently every time he mentioned the title, Population: 485. His skill at working his point back around to his work was wonderful to witness first hand. It inspired me to do the same when I publish my own novel. The book sells for less than $15 and is well worth the money. Being from a town even smaller than Mike's hometown led me to appreciate the sameness that connects all of us, whether you're from Wisconsin or South Dakota. He has another coming out in April, Off Main Street. I hope his book tour brings him close to Oshkosh. I'd like to see him again.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Bookworm Report, December 2004

After the stress of NaNo and preparation for the holidays, I took some time from work and dived into a few fantasy novels. I've enjoyed Patricia Wrede's "Enchanted Forest" series before. The other novels by her were a grand combination of London during the height of "The Season" and The Ton but with the added advantage of magic for the characters. For the month of December, I read 4,647 pages or 15 books. In 2001, I read 4,032 pages/14 books; 2002, 2,017 pages/4 books; 2003, 1,305 pages/4 books. Secret Admirer by Patricia MacDonald Hot Ice by Nora Roberts Magician's Ward by Patricia C. Wrede Calling on Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede Talking to Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede Population: 485 by Michael Perry Sorcery & Cecelia or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer Book of Enchantments by Patricia C. Wrede The Grand Tour by Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer Night Fall by Nelson DeMille Blue Dahlia by Nora Roberts The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks Sleeping Beauty by Philip Margolin Jonathon Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke Why They Killed Big Boy by Michael Perry For 2004, I read 94 books, or 33,910 pages, which averages to 8 books a month, or 2,826 pages per month, and an average book length of 361 pages. The new year is looking good for reading. For Christmas I received some gift cards, including Barnes & Noble. The Oshkosh Public Library has been great with their on-line request services. I save myself some time by going to their site and requesting books instead of browsing the stacks. I get alerts from some other online services, like Barnes & Noble. And I check out the new arrivals section too. I have some comments about the books I read this month that I'll use for fodder this week. But all of it will be worthwhile, I promise. Happy New Year and cheers to good books and those that create them!