Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

I knew I would get this shot because Zelda cannot resist poking her little nose everywhere--toilet bowls, water glasses, up my nose...

 

 

Here also is the Halloween Costume That Never Was. That is, the costume that never was seen besides by children requesting treats. And now the entire internet (or the non-representative sample who are reading this). I'm no ordinary soccer player. I'm Red Devil Scum. (Lest you doubt that Manchester United are so popularly hated in the U.K., just type "Man U Scum" into Google.) Nobody will get it, but oh well. It's not like we did anything particularly exciting for Halloween this year anyway. We went to the Bridge School Benefit on Saturday, which was cool, and then today (the actual day of Halloween) Rob is teaching and I'm working (-ish) on the computer. So maybe I'll save this for another year, eh?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Weekly Words of...Something.

I haven't been good at blogging here lately. I've been incredibly swamped with all sorts of little things, and preparing for our trip to Venice (we leave a week from tomorrow--aargh! and yay!). I did write up a nice little feature about an illustrator on the YA blog, so that's something.

The truth is, I've been feeling a little blah, and I tend to blog less when I'm depressed. In no way do I see this blog as my online journal or my virtual confessional, my intimate thoughts separated from the world by the metaphorical wooden latticework barrier of my computer. Or something. No, I have Dr. Yoda for that. So I tend to just temporarily disappear for a little while in order to more effectively brood. So, sorry about that. That's what I've been doing.

I think vacation will be good. I get kind of sick of Mo-Town from time to time, and I've definitely been overworked and overstressed. Of course, in order to take the vacation guilt-free in the first place, I will need to stress myself out more by finishing several projects before I leave, but it will be worth it.

There's also the little issue of National Novel Writing Month, which starts the day after tomorrow. I definitely want to attempt it, but I don't see where the time's going to come from. I'm sure I won't make it to 50K without some sort of miracle. I do have an idea and a page or so of notes, so I'm not without a plan, but see, it's not the planning part that I'm worried about. It's the 8 days in Italy, the 500 other things I have to do this week, the cooking of Thanksgiving dinner and hosting of parents, and the lovable but aggravating little cat who demands my attention by misbehaving every ten minutes or so. Well, I'll find a spare minute or two somewhere, and I'll probably get at least several chapters into a new project, which will be good....and hopefully they won't want to talk to me on NPR again.

Don't Go ThereOh, by the way, if you're on my Flickr contact list you can check out some pictures from the Renaissance Faire that we went to a couple of weekends ago, including several of me having fun at the reptile petting zoo and this snake (at left) deciding I was a nice place to hang out. I also got to try archery, which I'd been wanting to do for a while. How many opportunities do you get to try out a bow and arrow for three bucks? (Well, three bones not counting the exorbitant admission ticket.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Free Rice, No Free Time

On our YA writing blog, TadMack posted about a great site called FreeRice, where you're quizzed on vocabulary words, and for every word you get right, 10 grains of rice are donated to the U.N. World Food Program. It's addictive, believe me.

Not that I needed something else to suck up my time. I already had to kiss half of yesterday goodbye thanks to the World's Suckiest Jury Summons. Yes, the good ol' jury summons. Only this was no ordinary summons. This was a summons to the United States District Court, Eastern District of California. Which is in Fresno. Which is 90 miles away. Let me list the suck-tastic aspects of this civic duty in all their glory:

  • Did I mention it's in Fresno, and 90 miles away?
  • I had to report to the jury room at 8 a.m. yesterday morning. When I left the house, it was still dark. I resent that greatly.
  • When you get summoned to the district court, you are evidently on call for 30 days, unless you get appointed to a trial. So if you report in but aren't picked, you don't just get excused for the year.
  • I was not picked, therefore I'm still on call. And this was supposed to be one of their shortest cases ever, at a mere four days in length.

So, yeah. The only good thing is you get $45 bucks a day plus mileage, even if you show up and aren't picked to be on a jury. (Sadly, that's probably more than I make on an average day.) Anyway, I show up around eight with my bag full of stuff to do, reading material, lunch, etc. Turns out I barely cracked a book, because once the lady welcomed the group of about 35 rather disgruntled people to the jury room, we were shown a movie about the jury selection procedure which lasted about 10 minutes. Then, after a break, everyone was ushered to the courtroom so they could interview potential jurors--the voir dire (see, I learned something from the filmstrip. Yay.).

This case was not going to be interesting. I won't lie. An insurance company, which had paid out several tens of thousands of dollars to an insured party after a house fire, was in turn suing an electronics company to recoup the money, alleging the fire was due to a faulty electronic device attached to the swimming pool (the heater? I can't remember. It was too boring). The attorney for the defense even asked jurors (not in so many words, but pretty nearly) whether they could watch four days of testimony on the subject without getting completely bored out of their skulls.

Anyway, the judge called up about 20 people to the jury box. I was not among them. He proceeded to give a summary of the case and ask a whole array of questions to determine whether people might be excused from serving due to various issues, conflict of interest, etc. It was sort of interesting to watch a few people try to weasel out of jury duty. For instance, one guy said, "Uh, I can't be around people. They give me anxiety." The judge was not buying this, so he told the guy he could have a week's deferment but to be excused he would need to provide a doctor's note. Then there was the woman who claimed that due to blood clots in her legs she couldn't sit for more than an hour at a time.

Unfortunately, I couldn't read during this part either--I felt compelled to pay attention because the judge said if he needed to call up any replacement jurors to the jury box, he would ask them if they would have answered yes to any of the questions already asked of all the other jurors. And there were assloads of questions. In the end, though, only eight jurors were required, so everyone else was sent home and instructed to call the hotline on Wednesday. ARGH.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Youth of Today

Sometimes the things that Rob's students write in their art appreciation essays are highly amusing. Today, I was copying the latest batch of paragraphs into a document onto my flash drive so I can grade them on the laptop. Last week's unit was about prints and printmaking, and the question asked about the work of Thomas Kinkade (or, more accurately, the sweatshop of Thomas Kinkade--I've actually met someone once whose life's ambition was to work in his sweatshop). The question asks, are the works offered for sale original prints or reproductions? One of the students' paragraphs began by essentially saying "yes, these works of art are original prints or reproductions."

Yes, the reading comprehension in his classes could be better.

Actually, though, my favorite sentence comes from earlier in the semester, in an essay asking about the Degenerate Art show put on by the Nazis: "Since freedom and rights were limited, people were probably afraid to speak their minds in respect to loosing [sic] their lives and what not." Yes, they probably were. And what not. God, I love that "and what not." It just kills me. In fact, it was a pretty good essay but I couldn't stop laughing about "losing their lives and what not."

I know I shouldn't mock people. But grading these paragraphs can be awfully mind-numbing, especially when there are 60+ of them. I need a little fun now and then.

Okay. Now it's time to make another attempt at writing the story I mentioned in the last post, a sort-of-sci-fi piece for this magazine issue. While swimming laps today I had an idea about how to structure it, and add a conflict (which is key). But I need to make some notes first and also re-read what I wrote last night to make sure it doesn't totally suck.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Turn That Frown Upside Down!

Yeah, I know. I've not been the best at blogging here lately. It occurred to me today that one reason for this is my conflicted feelings about what to post. I feel lame putting up posts like the one below, where I'm all "look at what I did lately." Conversely, I also constantly worry about being a downer. I don't want to continually complain and whine, unless I'm trying to be funny. The other problem is that I usually have these great ideas about blog posts while I'm driving around in the car, and then I forget about them the second I get back into the house. Grr.

It's also hard for me to blog about what I've been doing lately because it's usually pretty boring. Like today, I got up around 8:45. I ate breakfast while playing with Zelda, the kitten (many of my meals are now multitasking events--she's quite insistent and annoying...and fortunately very cute). I checked and answered some e-mail. I went to the gym for about an hour and a half, and did my usual treadmill/machines/swimming combo (not at the same time). I stopped at the store on the way home and picked up some lunch for Rob and I (Tuesday he doesn't teach, but has afternoon meetings). I ate lunch, did a large sinkful of dishes, took a shower. I spent some time reading one of the nominated titles for the Cybils Award in Sci-Fi/Fantasy, another multitasking kitten event. I started writing a new short story, got a few pages in, and had to stop temporarily after realizing I had no idea what the plot is going to be. I worked on some images for our website redesign-in-progress. Oh, and I wasted at least half an hour doing a name-that-tune style music quiz on Facebook.

Actually, that doesn't sound too bad. Today was pretty uneventful--I was taking it easy because I felt run down and blah yesterday and wasn't sure if I was coming down with something. Unfortunately, I also have Art Appreciation essays to grade later this week, a different short story to revise, and some freelance stuff to type up. Plus did I mention we have 40 nominees so far in Sci-Fi/Fantasy to read? Of course, that's the fun part. Read a bunch of YA novels, you say? Yup, that's a no-brainer. I'm trying to decide if I want to--or will be able to--do National Novel Writing Month this year, too. It's coming up. We'll be in Italy for just over a week of November, though, so I'd really have to be on the ball for it. I'm not optimistic about the likelihood of finishing this time, though...

Monday, October 01, 2007

Sllloooooowwwwww.

Apparently it's been a slow blogging week for me. I did, however, put up that nifty widget thingy, also known as a blidget, on the left-hand sidebar, with all the latest posts from the YA blog I contribute to. Speaking of which, I'm also involved in the Cybil Awards (Children's and YA Bloggers' Literary Awards) again this year, this time as an organizer for the Graphic Novels category and a nominating panelist for Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Nominations opened today, so if there are any children's or YA books published this year that you particularly loved, cruise by the Cybils blog and leave your nomination in the comments.

Cracked Wheat BreadNow for the "I made this! Lookit me!" section...The picture of the bread I baked last week, which I promised to post for DaviMack. It was my first time trying cracked wheat bread--or indeed, any yeast bread other than plain French or plain wheat--and I have to say it went well. It helped that I bought new wheat flour of the King Arthur variety, though I did have some decision-making trouble at the store when I found they had about five different kinds of King Arthur, including organic. However, I went for the all-natural non-organic since the price-to-poundage ratio was much better. And two more loaves are rising even as we speak. Rising slowly, though--is it because of the cracked wheat?

And here's another "lookit what I did" thingy--I'm inordinately proud of my latest poster for the Prospect Theater. I've finally managed to get a little more done on our website, too, specifically adding the footer (which I forgot to do before) and adding the Imp Press page. Once the addition to our house is done, we'll actually be able to get said press up and running again, which will be nice.

In other news...you can now officially pre-order my friend TadMack's book on Amazon now. Whee!....I had a nice long birthday chat with my half-sister in Australia last night (her birthday) and found out something I hadn't heard on U.S. news (big surprise) about the APEC summit...And, last but not least, I seem to be wasting--er, spending an awful lot of time on Facebook lately. Maybe that's why I've been failing to blog. I've been busy playing that stupid Pirates game and throwing sheep at people and what-not.