Monday, November 24, 2008

Use Your Hands!

J brought this home from school last week. I have no idea what the assignment was, and, honestly, don't care--it made me giggle and I scanned it to use as my desktop as work.

Since it was already scanned, I thought I'd share...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Schooled in the School Parking Lot

It's that time of week again. Tuesday Tirade and I am, unsurprisingly, talking school trash, again.

Before I had a child old enough to attend school I used to daydream about having a kid old enough to be in school.

We'd get up in the morning with ease, after all, it wasn't like she hadn't been getting up two hours before I wanted to for years or anything... I'd make a hot breakfast to start her day off right, pack a well-balanced, nutritious lunch, then she'd shoulder her adorable, but not so heavy as to be unhealthy, backpack and we'd stroll down the street to the neighborhood cut through to avoid the car traffic at the school and I, smiling, would hand her over to the person who would take care of her for the next 7 hours while mournfully walking home alone, my duty done til 3pm.

(pausing to allow those of you bent double with laughter time to recover)

The reality is a little different. Okay, a LOT different. For starters, she doesn't go to the neighborhood school. I tried to get her into Pre-K at a charter school (not that I was attempting to shuffle her off to school a year early or anything) and didn't make it.

Then RaidMan made friends with a local guy who told him horror stories about our schools--you know, the schools we'd moved out of Austin to get to? Yea.

We got word, shortly after that, that J's name had come up in the lottery at the Charter School. I liked their numbers (max class size of 16) and dh liked that they weren't the "scary 'hood school" Whatever. I've heard nothing but good about the primary, elementary, and high school. The junior high has been dissed, but, well, it's only 3 years, right? Right?

So we enrolled her there and discovered the joy of taking one of 700 enrolled students to a school with no bus service. How I envied the parents off-loading four kids in the morning--at least they were getting their wait's worth out of it!

Year two of school and J's school expands massively, taking over a school that was previously church-affiliated and hit financial hard times. Woo-hoo, parking!

Not so much. The way the new administration handles morning drop-off is not the same as the way the old one did.

For most of last school year the carryover parents just did the way they always had: Stopping in the middle of the aisle & blocking traffic while they released their kids into the wild, sometimes even getting out of the car to help them with bags or projects. Did I mention this was in the middle of the friggin' parking lot driving lane?

Then these kids were left to find their own way from parking lot to class on a busy open air campus. Yea, cuz that's safe *snort*

My own personal issue, though, I've saved for last.

Just because ~your~ kid is safely in the school does NOT mean you get to drive like MY KID is a traffic cone!

Parents who drop their kids and seem to immediately perceive the parking lot as a road-rage video game drive me mad! (no pun intended, this time) The parking lot, because it was built by the church, has multiple entry points and the school has not enforced any kind of traffic flow standard. There's a whole lot of going in through the out driveway, people coming from all angles, paying little or no attention to the world around them.

Looking from across the street while I decide which driveway is less likely to get me killed, it kind of looks like oversize bumper cars, or a scarily coordinated synchronized event. You know, one where all the participants are precise fractions of seconds away from crashing into each other.

You can always tell the cars that still have kids in them, too. They are between the lines, there is no rubber smoke billowing out of their wheel wells. The drivers, while harried looking trying to make that first bell, are polite. They park far enough away that you can get in and out of your car.

Mom or dad alone? (I hate to say it guys, but Dads definitely seem to be worse about this!) You'd better not leave your car door open too long getting in or you might lose it when they back out of there like a bat outta hell. Actually, I'm pretty sure some of them can drive faster in reverse than a bat can fly...

This is, apparently, a problem for any school that has anything other than a narrow 1 or 2 lane driveway, so I know I'm not alone.

To all you frustrated race car drivers who drop kids at my girl's school:

Would you kick the ass of someone who endangered your kid in the school parking lot? So would I. Remember that the next time you drive around me like I'm a speed bump, or I may be forced to prove it.

PS - anyone know any handy tips re: assault laws in Texas? kthanxbai!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

NaNo Nuggets...

Nuggets o' wisdom (well, as wise as I get) that is. I'm 40% of the way through my 50,000 words as of last night and I've learned a few things along the way.

  • It is completely, utterly, hopelessly unpublishable. Portions of the story are based in my life and the lives of people I know and, frankly, they would hurt me were this ever to see the light of day. That's okay, I ~need~ to write this story. The things that are based on life are sad, but also incredibly cathartic and I am pretty sure I'll be mentally and emotionally healthier for them when I am done. The pure fiction aspect of it, well, I am in love. I created a character that I adore that I am pretty sure I will have to think up a story for later just because I like her. She has a weird name and is unhealthily obsessed with lawn flamingos, what's not to love?

  • Probably because I have a job that only requires me to actually work ~maybe~ 2-3 hours of the 8-9 I have to be there daily, NaNoing while working is actually proving easier, for me, than taking part in this madness the years I was at home. I don't write much at home, especially fiction--too many distractions. Now, I have a spiral notebook and access to my Google docs page from work and time. It IS hard, though. Most of the really emotionally wrenching scenes I've written while at home, longhand, and typed up during the day. Can't cry while re-typing at work, that would upset people. BUT, back to the whole catharsis thing, I find I generally only cry over the first draft. Afterward I can look at it and be sad, but not lose my cool. Progress, right?

  • I can make people do what I want! I was walking the dog the other night, thinking about one of my plot points based on reality. "But self," says I, "that's not how it happened." "But," the sinister little inner voice whispered back, "it could be." Yes! I have the power to make the people in my life do what I want! Fictionally, of course. The corollary to that is that I give myself hope. I don't know what the future holds, but fictionalizing it lets me express the way I hope things will turn out.

  • Competition is ~good~. I have a couple friends doing NaNo this year, real life friends, people who are friends the other 11 months of the year as opposed to the people I see a lot of every November... I'm not really competing with either of them, but their word counts help keep me motivated. Truthfully, I am in awe of one them, her words just seem to flow and she's doing GrEaT! Even greater if you think about the fact that she's first-timer. I was at a write-in last night and we decided to do a word war. I wrote damn near 1000 words in 20 minutes. And still came in 3rd, but it was great for my word count!
There will likely be more NaNo insights this year, but I have to go to work and do training and have a lunch meeting later today and, well, it's time for another cup of coffee and to start my day.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tuesday Tirade: How Many Damn Diets Are There, Anyway?

For those of you who don't know this about me, I spent over four years at home full time with my spawn, from when she was 2 to about 6 1/2, then went back to work part-time last Autumn, and full-time last August.

I did lots of foolish things over those years, put on weight, made friends with Crystal & Candy *wink*, started a home-based writing business, and *gulp* bought a frightening quantity of women's magazines, particularly "Women's World". I told myself it was for the recipes, and market research because they run a couple short stories each week, predominantly mystery and romance.

I am a total sucker at the checkout line, I freely admit this. An overweight sucker. And ~EVERY SINGLE ISSUE~ of Women's World has a bunch of little article teasers off to the left side of the cover and, taking up most of the right side, is a picture of a woman who lost ___ lbs in ___ weeks on ___ plan! You can too!

It took me a while to realize this, since I did not shop or buy the magazine every week. I thought I was only being suckered by the diets that looked like they might work for me. Nope. I found (and recycled, thankyouverymuch) a stack of these things cleaning my office this weekend, and I was horrified when I looked at several issues all together.

They all had a diet plan. They all had multiple testimonials from people it worked for. All of them. How the hell do they even come up with 52 different diets (that don't sound insane, they actually came across as vaguely scientific and reasonable) each year?

Well, I bought the magazines. I even tried some of the diets (I think? Dunno, I've slept since then) and I'm still here and still overweight. I just don't buy Women's World anymore, it's an obvious sucker bet.

Monday, November 10, 2008

My Part for Publishing, Part Deaux

Had my book club meeting last night. Of the six of us there, 3 were driving & 2 are nursing. This left me the lone consumer of the bottle of wine I brought. After ruining dinner for the fam I had a glass before I left the house to shore up my ego while dh & the kid ate hot dogs. 2 more at book club, another 2 watching TV with dh last night... Yes, I drank an entire bottle of wine on my own in about 6 hours. So I was not happy to wake up @ 6:15 this morning.

Which means when I made my coffee and stumbled to my computer, I was not ready to face the day. But then I had mail from Amazon. You see where this is going, right?

Yes, I made another contribution to the publishing cause. This time I went slightly more mainstream:

  1. Stolen by Kelley Armstrong -- Thanks to Paperback Swap and my birthday I have books 1, 3,4, & 6 in the "Women of the Otherworld" series. B&N did not have 2 last night, I looked. So I ordered it for meself.
  2. Haunted by Kelley Armstrong -- Book 5 in the above-mentioned series, which I was also missing. This series is up to 9 books, but is the kind of thing I only buy in paperback, read once, then swap, so I'm stopping at six for now. Good news? I couldn't find it on PBSwap so someone will snap it up quick.
  3. "Okay, Girls - Man Your Bunks!" Tales from the Life of a WWII Navy WAVE by Helen Gilbert -- I've been fascinated with the Navy WAVES since I found out (sadly, after she died) that my grandmother was a WAVE, and well, this is yet another book that no one will ever think to buy me, so I bought it myself. And if I'm gentle with it I can repurpose it and give it to my Mom for Christmas, since her mom was the WAVE she'd probably like it too.

For the record, yes, books 1 & 2 above are total brain candy, like beach books. I write boring enthralling business copy and do various other unexciting things for work. For relaxation I like mindless fluff with vampires & other paranormal stuff (witches, weres, etc), so sue me.

I never claimed to be into the classics and freely admit I only got through Moby Dick by listening to it. If I'd read it I would probably still be in the coma it would have put me in. The writing was beautiful, but the whale nonsense, especially when I'm enough of a marine bio enthusiast to know how incorrect it was, drove me nutty. But I listened to it. Every single freakin' word. I deserve a medal, lol.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Did my Part for Publishing...

Of course I didn't buy anything really cool... $75 @ B&N later and I came home with:

  1. Children of the Lamp #4: The Day of the Djinn Warriors by P.B. Kerr -- I lurve the series. Yes they're YA and no, I don't care. I buy them for me and save them for when J is old enough to enjoy them.
  2. On Writing Well by William Zinsser -- Because I've scoured the house (as much as I can in its permanent state of "Federal Disaster Area") and I can't find my copy. This one, at least, I can deduct.
  3. Temple in Vintage Postcards by Michael Fan -- a Christmas gift for my mom. Or her sister. Or one of a bajillion other relatives I have who live there.
  4. The Everything Chess Basics Book by the USCF and Peter Kurzdorfer -- So I'll be able to help my little chess fan & understand her when she talks about things like "castling".
  5. Crochet Techniques by Renate Kirkpatrick -- It has a section on Tunisian and one on crochenit, so I was (pun warning) hooked!
It would be even better to support your local bookstore, but, honestly, the chains are what make publishing go 'round :-S Either way, if you bought a book this weekend, take a sec & tell me what book & why. I did.

Get thee to a bookstore!

Yea, I know, like I need an excuse*...

But, if I did, this is a pretty good one. For you non-clicky types, the link is to a GREAT post over at EditorialAss about what happened to publishing this Fall and how booklovers (like me and some of you) can help.

So, now I'm off to the store. Was looking for an excuse to run away for a little while.

*I am in fervent denial that I should join the B&N Members thingy. After all, then I'd have to admit I spend waaaay more than $250 you have to shell out before it pays for itself each year. I'm pretty sure my taxes will tell me I spent more than that just on books for my business, but, well, denial is denial and I am in it. 'Sides, you know how 'spensive the annual Writer's Market is? And, natch, I finally upgraded from my 05 to the 08. And a week later the 09 came out. Grrrr...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Getting Old Sux

It's November - can you believe I'm wasting words on blogging? Yea, me either, but here I am.


Remember when staying up all night was just one of those things that happened occasionally because you were having a good time, needed to cram, or just got caught up in a good book and forgot about the time?

I do.

I've also decided that one of the definite, confirmed signs that I'm getting old is the fact that in order to stay up all night now, I have to plan ahead. I have to pack snacks and caffeine and my meds to take in the morning. I have to arrange for amusement for the kids. Staying up all night with friends is very nearly more chore than fun, but once a year, I can manage it.


After last night (and staggering home and to bed at 8am!) I'm convinced I'll never do another 12-hour write-in, but by next year I'll probably change my mind.

I got a little over 5000 words written between 8pm (I was late to the write-in, go figure?!?) and 7am. Nice, but only about half what I wanted to accomplish. At least 20% of it is so bad that even as I updated my word count I knew I would be cutting it later, or, as I declaimed in the small hours of the night, more than a little high on cappucino and gummy bears - "Type it all, you can always fix it in post!"

With that thought in mind, here are a few of my novel experiences from week one 2008:

--my MC's bff changed names twice, since I start a new doc each writing session to keep me from editing old stuff and I could never remember the damn name (it's Jenn, btw... or was it Jane..?)

--I knew the MC was going to get married at some point in the story. I did NOT know "the man" would show up the first week til the phone rang on day 2, the MC answered, and "her face lit up". I sat back in my chair, stunned. It's a man. OMG, it's him, THE man. WTF is he doing here already?

I tried to explain this event to my husband and he looked at me blankly then said, trying to be helpful, "But hon, you're the one writing the story." Yea, well, sometimes these things write themselves...

--I discovered I don't like writing about growing a relationship. I had about 5 moments I wanted to write about between first date and honeymoon, that's it. If I run out of ideas and my word count is low I may fill in the blanks, but it just doesn't interest me. The honeymoon only got two sentences.

--Trying to write emotionally wrenching scenes at 4am just doesn't work. Don't try this at home kids. Really.

Okay, that's it. I gotta go make dessert for J and her sleepover friend and figure out how I'm gonna deco a box for CRRE in only 2 days...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Your Negativity is Bringin' Me Down...

...on the side of your opponent.
That's right, it's Election Day here in the U.S. To be bit schmaltzy for a moment, today, far more than the 4th of July, is a celebration of what makes our nation great. We have the right to VOTE freely without fear of reprisal in a democratic election. This is both our greatest strength and, in years like this one when the cream didn't exactly rise to the top, our greatest weakness.

And I live in a country where I can say things like that and not worry about men with guns knocking on my door in the middle of the night (unless its my crazy relatives with the concealed carry permits, but that's another rant altogether).

So exercise your right people~! No matter what your politics, get out and VOTE today if you haven't already. If you don't vote, you don't get to bitch later!

And now, back to our regularly scheduled rant:
I love that I live in a country with free elections, I really do.

I hate that the same document that gives me the right to whine about the election, the candidates, and any other political topic I so choose also gives the candidates the right to say virtually anything they want (and call me at home & hang up on my answering machine, but that, too, is a topic for another day).

I am a bit of a political noob. I tend to avoid the news because it either angers or depresses me, frequently both. So with a hotly contested election coming on, I decided back in September to follow both candidates on Twitter, once I verified which feeds were the official ones. And I learned absolutely nothing.

Obama's campaign posted things like, "I'm in (city)(state) having a (trite campaign phrase) rally, check it out on the web at (URL). "

McCain's campaign posted links to their new campaign ads as they came out, in brief, "New Ad: (inflammatory ad title here) (URL)".

After 5 weeks of this I got annoyed and stopped following both campaigns since I wasn't learning anything anyway.

(image shamelessly borrowed from :

I did, however, out of morbid curiousity, click on some of the links sent by the McCain campaign. Then I got pissed. Not about what the ads said, I expected most of it, based on the debates. I was mad about what they didn't say.

None of the ads told me anything about McCain, his view on major (or minor, I wasn't picky at this point) issues, his goals for his Presidency, how he thinks he will accomplish those goals, etc. Nothing. Not one single piece of information about John McCain. His ads were all negative ads directed at Barack Obama both personally & professionally.

I've never seen an Obama ad. I debated going to his website to look for one and decided I didn't want to.

Then there's the guy running for county tax assessor-collector here in Travis County who ran a series of ads featuring urban legends (guy in the bathtub full of ice, specifically) implying that this is what the current TA-C is doing to the people of this county. Honestly, even if it's true, the ad was so distasteful I was immediately put off the candidate in question.


Use those ad dollars to tell us why YOU are the best choice for the job, whatever it is. Don't waste your money and our time telling us what the other candidate did/does/thinks/feels that is wrong. In theory, that's what the press is for. Your dollars should be spent wooing me, not dissing the other person.

For me, negative ads are a turn off. If it's like most elections and the only way I recognize a name on the ballot is because I've seen a negative ad (or got one in the mail, these especially irk me) by that candidate, I'll vote for someone else.

Negative ads hurt everyone and help no one. And, if you are one of those people who believe everything you see in a negative ad/mailer/email, I have one thing to say to you:

That goes triple if you are one of my parents :-)

Oh, and FTR, I voted a couple weeks ago and it's none of your business who I voted for, this is about ads, not candidates.


Tell me what bugs you in the comments. Bonus points if its on the same or similar topic as mine. Triple bonus points if this is a week where I Tweeted the topic in advance and you sent me your rant ahead of time. Alas, points have no value whatsoever :-)

Remember, if something is on your mind and you just can't wait for the weekly tirade, email it to me in advance and I'll include your rant in my post with a little link love.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

I Love November

The weather in Central Texas FINALLY cools off. Ok, yea, not til mid-November, but still...

And there's that holiday with the big bird... Yea, that's nice, too.

And, for the 10th year in a row, there are crazy people ALL OVER THE WORLD writing novels! Whole 50,000 word novels in a mere 30 days. For those of you who do not participate and therefore have not done the math over and over, that works out to 1667 words a day.

Want a reminder or two? I dug through the calendar forum and found links to several different desktop NaNo calendars for you to download that will flog you into writing more encourage you along the way. If you use one, remember to send it's creator a note saying "Thanks!"

Cool space pic with Carl Sagan quote calendar.
Simple calendar with daily word count requirement in green, blue, pink, or orange.
Basic white with encouraging words - Be warned though, this one looks odd because the weeks go Monday-Sunday rather than the more traditional Sunday-Saturday.
Several basic ones with daily word counts (both 50 & 100k) & various background images and resolutions.
Orangey Woodgrain with word count only
Orangey Woodgrain with counts AND inspirational quote (I like the quote on this one, fwiw)
Candle with word count only
Candle with counts AND inspirational quote
I shouldn't say anything since I do NOT have the skill to make one of these at all, but that candle pic makes my eyes hurt
For the truly ambitious, here's an eye-strainingly blue one with daily word counts for those foolish enough to attempt 100k words in November!
  • Open Book: 800x600 1024x768 1280x800
  • Cup of Coffee: 800x600 1024x768 1280x800
  • Computer Keyboard: 800x600 1024x768 1280x800
  • Tea and Book: 800x600 1024x768 1280x800
  • ~~~~~
    50k is just Beachy
    Desktop Style - I admit, the first thing I thought when I saw this one was that someone spent too much time at J.K. Rowling's website waiting for HP7 hints, but it is spiffy nonetheless.
    Several pretty ones, but they are very slow to load. You've been warned.
    Inspired by an old noirish-Nano poster in800x700 1024x768 1280x900
    There is a "Twilight" movie one, but I have standards, if you want that one you have to go find it yourself.

    Speaking of which... When I wrote this post (10/10/08 - you don't really think I'm wasting precious words BLOGGING on November 1st, do you?!) there were all of the above, and then some, in the forum. I'm stopping here because I've been writing this post for an hour now and I'm tired of scrolling. It's a really full forum, you'll have to scroll through the chaff and comments to find the links (sorry)! I'm sure there will be more by the time it really is November 1st.

    Go Nano! See ya'll in December!