Life Events: No Reviews Nov

I haven’t written any book reviews because I’ve mostly been reading from series. In general, unless it’s the first book in a series and stands alone well (such as the Crosspointe book I reviewed), I don’t like reviewing one book in a series.  And all-too-many series are unfinished. (Damn those authors for publishing before they finish)

I struggle with this because I kind of like writing a review. There is a challenge in sharing “omg I liked this book so much” without spoiling everything for someone else.  My next book on my shelf is actually a re-read from early high school years. I want to see if it held up and how much my thoughts have changed will change how I view the book… trilogy. I probably won’t even start the books this month, so it’ll be more than a minute to get that review done.

Mostly, I am just trying to catch up on NaNoWriMo… I’m consistently behind without a lot of hope of catching up… Work has been taking a lot of brain power and it’s all I can do to keep on top of things like food (people and cats), laundry, and well… life.  I’m going to keep trying.  If I force 500 words one day and a thousand the next… eventually I’ll at least have some words and then on Saturdays and Sundays (when I have a little more brain power to devote), I try to catch up.

Manners: Teaching

At some point in everyone’s life they should teach someone else something. Whether you are showing someone how to do a math problem, change a tire, or fly an airplane: this is one of those things that you need to do to appreciate.

Anyone who says “those who can’t do, teach….” they never had a good teacher.  A good teacher can take you from where you are today and lead you (kicking and screaming when needed) to the other side of the world and then leave you staring at the wonders – and wondering what else needs to be done.

There are a few things that anyone who teaches needs to learn to do. These are skills as much as anything else I’ve ever learned:

  • Talk with your audience, don’t talk to them:

If your students are bored – they aren’t learning. Get them involved. There is always a way to put an activity in for learning. Even if it’s giving instructions and letting students muddle through. Lecture is the worst form of learning. I feel like I should repeat that three times.

  • Try to think on their level

One of the most frustrating things teachers have ever done to me or in my presence is to assume knowledge. It’s hard not to do! (I used to assume people knew what “go to the start menu” was…. then I worked in IT) But the best helpdesk – the best teachers – can talk at the level of their audience without condescension. Remember, there was actually a time you didn’t know it either. Also keep in mind that you don’t know everything and while you were learning this thing, the person in front of you might have been learning a totally different skill set.

  • Context is not optional:

Context changes the experience entirely. If the student asks “why do I need to know this” or “why is this important” or “when do I use this” – you should be able to answer. If you can’t answer it, you need to be asking the same question to everyone around you until you can get an answer. Sometimes that answer is as simple as “everyone needs to be reminded of the rules and we want to give you a forum to ask questions – we’e just calling it training.” Most of the time if you aren’t in a professional setting, you should make sure you cover the context.

  • A test is not the end:

Testing is often used as a “result”: you took the training, you passed the test. In my opinion, good learning means the person will use it again. if the person learns to sew a hem: will they need to sew hems regularly or are you just helping them out this once? If it’s a “just once” thing; do they need to learn it? Any good teacher will tell you REAL learning is how it is applied. Look at the people who should know what to do at a yellow light….

So yes, teaching someone is a form of manners. If they don’t want to learn – especially an adult – they aren’t going to retain much except resentment. That said, if you have knowledge and you aren’t sharing it… why not?

Writing: Ergonomics

I can’t “just write anywhere” – I wish to God i could.  I can get IDEAS all over the place, but actually putting those ideas into words. I need the right space: feng shui or ergonomics.  I think of it like ergonomics.

If my chair and the table are the wrong height, my wrists will hurt. I’ve read up on how to avoid this. If I slouch I get distracted more easily. Thanks mom for making me take ballet. I’ve also read on tricks for keeping upright. If I have the wrong music I get sidetracked. And it has to match my scene to some level. Sometimes my scene ends up matching my music – which may or may not end well for me.

Here’s the real weird piece – I don’t need a view or a specific set of music. My Pandora stations are just weird. And yes, I have multiple so each can specialize:

  • “International Beats” is where I try to get good non-American artists like M.I.A. and Beats Antique to feed in.
  • “Energy Music” is frequently film scores. I thumbs down pretty much anything with someone singing (or move to another station).
  • “Comedy Radio” has the funny ones – Jonathan Coulton, Tom Lehrer and Weird Al
  • “Very Hard” is supposed to be the best of rock/alternative/nice bass-bone-rocking songs. I suspect Pandora thinks I’m just crazy on this one because I’ll thumb down songs on LYRICS as often as sound.
  • “Girl Songs” is supposed to be female artists – the softer songs but sometimes that isn’t the way it works.

I like Pandora for it’s “radio” feel.  I am not a music person (see my review on all music ever) and so I don’t tend to know artists like other people. I am proud if I can name any artist on the right song – much less going and finding new ones.  But when it comes to my writing I find that music really makes or breaks my ergonomics. So Pandora’s radio-ness is useful to me because don’t know what I like.

I’ve seen “ideal writing” pieces where people try to say what should or should not work – but I have to say that this is unique to every writer I’ve ever met. I don’t work well in silence. I need some kind of auditory background noise – but nothing I have to actually digest. My wrists being at the right height is also one of my biggest factors.  HUGE.  Finding a desk and chair… it is HELL for me because when they aren’t right… the whole time I’m writing I’m fidgeting, trying to move my keyboard and readjust my chair.

What’s your ideal writing space?

Life Memories: Trick or Treat!

I really only have one stand-out memory of Halloween trick-or-treating. Most of my memories are before (getting excited & dressing up) or after (splitting and trading candy). There was only one year that stands out.

I was six or seven. I’d have to look through my mother’s photo-collection (she labels by year) to figure out. Mom made my Halloween costume every year and this year she made me my very own pink princess dress. But, with 2 siblings she ran short on time and didn’t have a chance to hem it before we started getting ready. I don’t think she seriously considered skipping the dress, but I remember begging to wear it anyway and promising I would be super-duper careful. I wouldn’t run or anything that might make me catch on the dress and fall down or rip it. I wore my pink princess dress and carried my bag for candy “just like a big girl.”

We would go to a big neighborhood near us where we all had some friends. The parents would stay at the bottom of the street while the herd of children made their way to the candy. Sometimes this meant knocking or ringing a bell. A lot of families hung out outside or left a bowl on the front porch – no asking necessary. One house in the neighborhood always decked their garage out into a mini-horror house. I don’t know if this year was “haunted house” or “mad scientist’s workshop” – those are the two setups I remember from the years we went through there.

The year of my pink princess dress we walked up to a house where everyone was sitting on the porch, admiring our costumes and being friendly. They had their bowl of candy sitting on the lap of a scarecrow propped on a bale of hay. I remember reaching for candy when that scarecrow moved. I don’t remember clearly if he said “boo” or “ahh” but whatever jump move he did scared me. I ran all the way down the driveway to my daddy.

The adults thought it was hilarious. I can look back on it now and laugh. At the time, I remember being terrified, embarrassed, and very upset. I remember thinking, “I promised I wouldn’t run….” and being infinitely relieved I hadn’t ripped my pink princess dress. I refused to go get candy from the scarecrow. I remember him bringing it down the driveway so I could have a piece and I refused to reach out and take it.

I can’t really remember any other childhood Halloweens. Now, I can’t help but wonder if I would remember that pink princess dress if I hadn’t been scared so thoroughly. All told, the tension, the moment of panic, the adrenaline makes the whole night more memorable.

Writing: Turning off to enjoy the plot

One of the hardest parts of being a writer – at least in my opinion – is turning it off. I love movies which actually can surprise me. It’s a rare plot twist that I don’t catch – even on the first pass of a movie. It’s why Unbreakable has a special place in my heart. It was the first MKS film I ever saw and that twist! Oh that twist actually got me! (I was also still a teen and just getting into words like “plot” and “twist” in writing).

I’ve had to learn to try to turn off the plot-planner when I’m reading books or watching movies. More than one book has disgusted me because I figured it out and there wasn’t anything left to keep me reading. Some books are just a fun-enough-romp-through-adventure that I don’t care if I know what’s coming. In some ways I want to know what’s coming! Seeing how this writer has this character handle this plot keeps me involved.

It’s harder with movies. They are so short and fast-paced that there often isn’t enough character development (especially with multi-character casts) to draw me in enough to overcome the predictable plots. I don’t want to say movies are predictable simply because I’m a writer. I am saying that being a writer has made it harder for movies to surprise me, my brain is going “I would have added that comment as foreshadowing” or “That poster seems out of place, I wonder why they picked it to frame the protagonist like that.”

So I have some coping mechanisms:

  1. Turn off and just enjoy the “experience” of loud noises and big booms (action movies) – which means the dumber the better
  2. Pick and character and flesh them out in my own head (and pray the script doesn’t try to throw on “development” in the last 1/3 of the movie)
  3. Turn my inner editor on and pick apart the dialog, directing, camerawork, etc.

If I hit number 3… I am usually unhappy I went to a movie theater for it. I’ve basically limited the movie theater for the “experience” – or to encourage Hollywood to make more movies like the one I’m watching.

The Super-Secret-Blinker Club: Memberships Available Now!

No monetary membership dues!

Low Requirements* for entry!

Membership Benefits** for every day activities!

*Requirements for entry include:

  • utilizing a blinker prior to turning or changing lanes (including turn lanes!);
  • respecting others’ blinkers: allowing them to turn or enter lanes when legally allowed;
  • confirming blinkers turn off properly after a lane change or turn;
  • when parallel parking;
  • when parking in a designated parking spot

** Benefits include:

  • Having others allow you to turn or enter lanes when legally allowed;
  • Avoiding collisions while turning
  • Small air-fives from other members after utilizing blinkers
  • parking in that spot you were waiting for while the person walked their grocery cart to the cart-return
  • bonus: having a passenger hop out and take the grocery cart from you when you are about to take it to the cart return so they can get your spot a little faster!

Politicis: Gun Control

I am pretty far left on most social issues. This is the one exception. I’m not far to the right, but I am definitely more-right than many of my friends (and family).  And everyone I talk to about this will hear me remind them that I think cars are a more dangerous problem which I want addressed first.

My Facebook has been full of posts the past several days. About half of them are “TAKE AWAY THE GUNS!” and half of them are “STOP TRYING TO TAKE MY GUN.”

It is tragic when someone is killed. There is no remedy for that pain. And yes, guns are terrible weapons which can kill many people very quickly, multiplying that pain.

I also know that my friends who own guns are very responsible. They can drone on and on with each other about various lock-box options, why they like the ones they do and which brand(s) are the best for keeping out kids or whoever. They go to their shooting ranges and practice on a regular basis. They giggle over antique guns like a I do over old books. They understand the safety needed to operate this particular hobby without harming others. You’ll generally never know when they have a gun on them (assuming they have a conceal-carry permit) because they don’t need to prove their virility by flaunting it.

I can’t reconcile “take away all the guns” with the talk and actions of my friends. They are good, responsible gun owners who generally (a)enjoy the challenge of accuracy and (b)understand that when seconds count the cops are minutes away…

I DO agree that we have a gun problem. I just don’t think it’s as simple as using words like “all” “always” and “never” – on either side.  There are BAD gun owners out there. Anyone who thinks carrying an AR-15 into Starbucks is appropriate… needs to have their guns taken away until they can start acting like an adult! (or get counseling on how size doesn’t matter…)

Historically, the United States has a violence problem in general, and gun make it easy for people to do massive damage FAST… How do we limit it so that the responsible gun owners can buy, keep, and use their guns while protecting non-gun-owners from the dumb shits who can’t be responsible? (either because of mental health or just being immature jack-asses who feel the need to flaunt) I don’t have an answer. But I don’t think it’s a simple question either.



Ideas for “gun control”: some of these are in jest – you get to decide which ones I might consider seriously!

  1. Bullets are $5,000 each. If there is a drive-by and there are 6 bullets in someone – they REALLY wanted you dead.  There will also only be 6 bullets because even someone working illegally will pause at a $30,000 bill without guarantee of success…

  3. All gun owners have to spend 40 hours (one work week’s worth) a year working as a volunteer in an ER. They have to work a minimum of a six-hour shift at a time.

  5. If you are caught with an illegal gun your dominate hand is cut off. If you are caught twice you are sent to Alaska with a GPS implant in your butt and told to live off the land. Oh, and here’s your gun and twenty bullets.

  7. We treat every young man (as 99% of mass shootings are perpetrated by young men) wants to buy a gun – mandatory 48 hour waiting period, parental permission, a note from his doctor proving he understands what he’s about to do, a video he has to watch about the effects and wounds from gun violence, an ultrasound wand up his ass (to check his prostate!). Let’s close down all but one gun shop and only run it M-F 10am-4pm in every state so he has to travel hundreds of miles, take time off work, and stay overnight in a strange town to get a gun. Make him walk through a gauntlet of people holding photos of loved ones who were shot to death, people who call him a murderer and beg him not to buy a gun….

  9. Include gun classes as part of High school curriculum and require it for every student (minimum of 3 semesters). When they graduate they should be able to fire handguns, rifles, and shot guns; be able to clean and re-assemble these firearms; identify different bullet types; be able to write a 500 word essay on how to store a gun safely in a home;  any non-vegetarian will have shot a cow or pig in the head (why pay people when the labor could be educational!)

  11. If someone has had a restraining order placed on them because of potential threat of harm they must turn in their guns for a minimum of 90 days or 90 days after the dispute (e.g. divorce) is completed in the court system.

  13. Extend the length of time for the FBI to respond to background checks (I think it’s like 3 days right now… most BUSINESSES can’t turn something around in 3 days…)

  15. Empower the A.T.F to do something; you know by having a director who can actually do shhhhtuff.

  17. Mandate placement of serial numbers on guns such that it takes specialized equipment to get TO the location and then make that equipment ridiculously expensive (except for law enforcement)

  19. Set up a better communication between various law-based agencies (CIA, FBI, Police, etc.) on mental health records/potential threats (would also speed up that whole background check thing!)