Thursday, May 31, 2007

I want to Write about Oxygen and Nike Shoes

I have two posts of Clive Thompson's bookmarked that I desperately want to use in a story but haven't been able to work them in.

They are "These shoes were made for stalking" and "Resuscitation science." First, the shoes:

"Your shoes talk," as Apple boasts. "Your iPod nano listens."

And apparently, so does your creepy ex. A group of computer scientists at the University of Washington wondered if they could build a simple device to secretly track somebody by the signal emitted from their shoes. So they set up a laptop, and whaddya know: It turns out that each shoe broadcasts a unique identifier, and it took the scientists only a few hours to write computer code that would sniff it out and track it. They wrote a report summarizing the stalkertastic possibilities raised by the shoes, as their press release reports...

Clive's article goes on to describe this phenomenon and provide links to some really scary cool information.

Now, the science:

According a piece in Newsweek, Lance Becker -- another emergency-medicine expert -- has recently made headway in grappling with one of the biggest mysteries: Why do we die when our oxygen flow is cut off? Traditionally, doctors have assumed it's because our cells need oxygen to live, so they die when they're deprived. But that theory was dealt a big blow when scientists finally started looking at oxygen-starved cells under a microscope, only to find that they survived just fine for up to several hours when cut off from blood flow (and thus oxygen).

Becker, in contrast, discovered something really nuts: That when you deprive cells of oxygen for more than five minutes, they die not because of an immediate lack of oxygen. They die when the oxygen supply is resumed.

Wild, huh? Clive's posts are long, but interesting. Totally worth the time to read.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Rate Yourself

One of the really difficult things in a work place is rating yourself. I'm good at Excel. I'd consider myself an intermediate to advanced user, but honestly, what does that mean?

This device -- Aaron's User Scale found at -- defines intermediate, advanced, expert, novice, etc. for the HR set. Or anyone who needs to answer the question, "If someone says they know MS Excel on their resume, what questions can I ask them to determine their level of expertise?"

Intermediate is defined as follows:

  • Knows what a Pivot Table is and how to build one.
  • Knows what an addin is and how to install one. (Hopefully they've installed the Analysis Toolpack!)
  • Understands and can use the AutoFilter feature.
  • Can record a macro and use it later.
  • Can successfully edit/modify simple recorded macros.
  • Most users who claim to know Excel very well fall into this category.

My co-workers would call me an expert, but I don't fit Aaron's definition (nor do I think I should):

  • Can build addins for distribution and widespread use.
  • If you can think it, they can build it with Excel.
  • Most likely, a disturbed individual who spends too much time thinking about spreadsheets. :-)
  • A true expert knows the strengths & weaknesses of every single one and has probably had to build some new ones that were not available.

I won't even go into the Guru category. I don't want to be that kind of person.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Google has a new search feature -- Hot Trends.

(Really, imagine that. One more way for Google to integrate themselves into our daily life.)

One of the features is to list the top ten trends on the front page, with the option to see up to 100. This might be a good thing for writers. You'd be able to see what's popular, track it, chart it, etc.

While I appreciate my Gmail account and customized Home page, I'm leery using one company for everything. I love competition in the market place. Maybe I've read too many sci-fi books where the world is run by a corporation. Maybe I'm paranoid. But someone else needs to be innovative like Google is.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Foodstamp Challenge

Don't forget -- I'm blogging at Starting Write Now today.

I sort of like this -- Foodstamp Challenge.

From May 15-21, 2007, U.S. Members of Congress will live on a food stamp budget. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average food stamp benefit is approximately $3 a day. Spouses and staff of Members of Congress are invited to join the challenge, as well as advocates and local and state officials. Those participating will record their experiences in this Congressional Food Stamp Challenge blog.

It's good to walk in someone else's shoes -- or budget -- to see what it's really like. But it ends. It's only for a week. It's not reality.

Maybe some of those congresspeople need to try it for their term, instead of one week.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Business or Art?

Imagine that you are a brand new writer. Consider the following advice.

From JA Konrath:

The best advice I ever heard is from bestselling author David Morrell, who said: "Writing is a business. Treat it like one. As the business changes, you should too."

From David Morrell:

Writing is also an art. Rather than imitate or follow trends, we should write books that are uniquely our own. The goal is to be a first-rate version of ourselves rather than a second-rate version of another author.

In my head, these two piece of advice contradict one another. Either you are writing for the voice in your head, or you are writing for what sells. I know I tend to write what is in my head, but I have a friend who is definitely writing for the market, but making it her voice.

Neither of us is published. And there probably isn't a good way to measure who is right, even if we were published. But it does show how confusing it is to measure success.

And to find good advice to follow.

via The Writing Life

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Visual DNA

All the cool kids are doing it -- or so I hear.

Imagini VisualDNA

Some filters block the results, but not the test pictures. I was thinking that this would be cool to do, from a protagonist's point of view.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Pickle Boy has been having nightmares lately. About frogs. They jump all over him and he wakes up crying.

We're not sure what triggered the nightmares, as he's never really had them before, he's a good sleeper (you can have a party in the room next to his, as long as it starts after he fell asleep.) He will be four this summer, so it's not the generic night terrors that two years sometimes get.

His father and I don't have a solution, but Ollie, now seven, did.

"Just change your dream. When they jump on you, pull out your light saber and fight them like this." Picture Stars Wars-like Jedi moves.

It just might work.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Saving Money During Laundry

I've been reading The Simple Dollar for a while, but this post really caught my eye.

I’ve been experimenting with making lots of cleaning supplies at home, but this one is by far the craziest - and the most successful. Basically, I made a giant bucket of slime that works incredibly well as laundry detergent at a cost of about three cents a load. For comparison’s sake, a jumbo container of Tide at costs $28.99 for 96 loads, or a cost of $0.30 a load. Thus, with each load of this stuff, I’m saving more than a quarter. Even better - I got to make a giant bucket of slime in the kitchen and my wife approved of it.

Tempting, isn't it? I haven't tried it out, but I'm interested. My husband would think I'm crazy, but I think that if stored the soap in old detergent containers, he might not ever notice.

Not that I would be deceptive like that...


Friday, May 18, 2007

Starting Write Now

I have a new gig on Fridays; I'm blogging at Starting Write Now, a group of five unpublished writers who are sharing their thoughts and journey down the writing world.

Today is my first post and should be an introduction. However, this bomb was dropped on the writing community yesterday.

The new contract would allow Simon & Schuster to consider a book in print, and under its exclusive control, so long as it's available in any form, including through its own in-house database -- even if no copies are available to be ordered by traditional bookstores.

More more detail, head over to my post at Starting Write Now (and check out the other guys too. They are worth the read.)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

One Man's Experience with Abortion

DBB, a 30-something, nerdy-looking, atheist, libertarian-leaning lawyer from Michigan had a thought-provoking post on abortion.

Then I had to wrestle with this issue in my own life. My wife was pregnant. No, it wasn't unexpected. It was about as planned as it gets without using a fertility doctor, though thankfully, we did it the old fashioned way (much cheaper). Things were fine, until about six weeks in. Then she started to have some bleeding. Obviously, this is a great concern. We thought we lost the baby.

Full article here.

This sound be required reading for both sides of the debate.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Adopt A Pet

And since real pets are messy (even though I love my puppies), I offer this virtual pet as an alternative to cleaning up poop.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Accidental Profession

I found the secret to publishing a book and having a successful career. The New York Times printed it.

The answer is that no one really knows. “It’s an accidental profession, most of the time,” said William Strachan, editor in chief at Carroll & Graf Publishers. “If you had the key, you’d be very wealthy. Nobody has the key.”

Reassuring, right? I recently attended a workshop presented by Donald Maass, of the Donald Maass agency, entitled "Writing the Breakout Novel." I loved the workshop, learned tons, including that he would most likely disagree with Strachan's statement. But I have another post on that later.

I take heart that some authors, some books, explode when no one predicted it. Mine just might be one of them.

via Murder She Writes

Monday, May 14, 2007

This American Life with Ira Glass

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I'm fascinated with this show. I love listening to stories about other people. Their lives are so different than mine.

Watch out, Kelli. It's addictive.

NPR has tons of great shows available for free (always the best price) on iTunes. Even if you don't have an iPod or other MP3 player, you can subscribe. I burn new shows to a CD for long car rides.

I need to read the T&Cs to see if I can create a few of these discs as gifts.

If you'd rather watch then listen, check out the ShowTime website. Episode One is available to watch online for non-subscribers, or a complete listing of times for Episodes One through Six are a few clicks away.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Reader Maps

I love it when parents' extend an activity, like reading, into other things, like writing stories. Scribbit took it one step further.

In second grade Spencer was having difficulty reading. Books didn’t interest him and he didn’t want to expend the energy to get past the one-word-at-a-time phase that was holding him back.

I knew of Tony Abbott’s fantasy series The Secrets of Droon and came up with an activity for Spencer and his best friend. I bought a yard of canvas, hemmed the edges, folded it in half, rolled it into a tube and tied it with a leather lace. Presenting it to Spencer with a copy of the first book, I proposed that as the boys read the series they could use permanent markers to create a map of Droon on the canvas.

This is one of the numerous activities that I recall from my Kiddie Lit course. I'm thrilled to see a real life experience, and to be reminded of it. I have my own reluctant reader (gasp!) and can't wait to do this with him.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Running Late

ABC News ran a story about people running late and the expense. My gut response was "Duh."

A recent survey found 15 to 20 percent of the U.S. population is "consistently late," especially when it comes to work.

Chronic lateness isn't just annoying — it's expensive. American CEOs are late to eight out of every 10 meetings, according to a 2006 survey by Proudfoot Consulting. And when CEOs are late by 10 minutes every day, it costs the U.S. economy $90 billion in lost productivity.

Then I thought about a few of the meetings that I attend at my day job. I can't post what I'd like to say. It would be a "career limiting move" or CLM as one friend has dubbed them.

Then I thought, "holy crap. How much are these people making? Can't they afford an assistant like Van Wilder has in Taj?"

I need a life.

via J-Walk

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

New Email Rules.

Defective Yeti proposes this site as a means to filter out internet users.

Do you think I could make it a requirement before I'll read an email from someone?

Must find IT guru.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Back to Writing

I sort of fell off the writing horse in January. It took until the end of April to get back on.

There were several contributors to said falling. The manuscript that I spent most of last year writing was finally in the editing stages. I didn't like what I was finding. Too many problems, not enough solutions. I still really loved the main character, but I didn't know how to make the novel better.

During the next couple of months, I started toying with another idea. I'm totally obsessed with it. So I was finally able to put aside "Choices" and start on something new.

I needed forward motion.

So, the word meter is now a page meter, as I'm back to writing long hand, instead of typing. The goal for May is 3 pages a day. This might be a bit ambitious as I'm behind already. We'll see.

What is your goal, writing or otherwise, for the month?

Friday, May 04, 2007

Writing Instructions

Jennifer Cruise and Bob Mayer of the Don't Look Down fame, are posting "He Wrote, She Wrote" writing lessons at Crusie Mayer Writing Workshop.

They have a monthly outline, rebuttal and answers to comments. Great stuff really. Then you realize that Jenny is a pantser and Bob's an outliner.

I'm so in love with this site.

If you want to know who Ficelles, Foils, Mentors, Threshold Guardians, aka Speed Bumps, and Minions are (hint, they're a function, not a character type) check out Jenny's post, SHE WROTE BACK: Character Types & Functions.

And, of course, Bob's post too, about character types. It's a great conversation.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Daylight Savings is a Rip-off

The following is an excerpt from Ars Technology.

As it turns out, the US Department of Energy (and almost everyone else except members of Congress) was correct when they predicted that there would be little energy savings. This echoed concerns voiced after a similar experiment was attempted in Australia. Critics pointed out a basic fact: the gains in the morning will be offset by the losses at night, and vice-versa, at both ends of the switch. That appears to be exactly what happened.

Full article here.

Basically, there's no reason to go through this every year.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Bookworm Report, April 2007

I love waking up to thunder storms. Too bad I couldn't stay in bed and enjoy them.

I read too much, I know.

Bookworm Review
Year Pages Books
2001 3,027 15
2002 1,858 3
2003 2,589 6
2004 1,166 3
2005 2,606 8
2006 2,880 8
2007 4,885 13
  • Warrior and Witch by Marie Brennan
  • Must Love Dragons by Stephanie Rowe
  • Mind Hunter : Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit by John E. Douglas
  • Seven years of highly defective people : Scott Adams' guided tour of the evolution of Dilbert by Scott Adams
  • Date Me Baby, One More Time by Stephanie Rowe
  • Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn
  • Labyrinth by Kate Mosse
  • Black Cross by Greg Iles
  • Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
  • Monkeewrench by P.J. Tracy
  • The Quiet Game by Greg Iles
  • The Tennis Party by Madeline Wickham (Sophie Kinsella)
  • Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

For the year, I've read 51 books, or 17,341 pages, which averages to 13 books a month, or 4,335 pages per month, and an average book length of 340 pages.