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Monday, March 31, 2008

Weekend assignment #209 - Lies, all lies!

The Weekend Assignment is posted each Friday at Outpost Mâvarin; a roundup of responses goes up the following Thursday, so if you'd like to join in, you've still got some time.


April Fool's Day is coming! Are you all set to trick your friends and relatives with some elegant and elaborate hoax?

Me neither.

Nevertheless, in honor of April 1st, the BBC spaghetti harvest, NPR's exploding maple trees and the whoppers told by certain political candidates and their detractors, let's exercise our capacity to tell each other some original, harmless fiction:

Weekend Assignment #209: Tell us a story about yourself, something that is plausible but definitely, outrageously false, while containing a kernel of truth. Since we don't want to create any work for Snopes.com, begin your tale with the words, "This is not true," and don't say anything defamatory about any companies, products, celebrities or politicians.

Oh, yikes. Creative writing is so not my thing. That's why I blog. I can write an essay or an editorial pretty well (if I say so myself), but a story? Fiction? This one's going to be a challenge, so let's just jump in and make it as quick and painless as possible. Here goes:

This is not true. I seem to have an unlikely gift for avoiding traffic citations. This may because I'm small, female, and usually sincerely confused and distressed when confronted by police. There was the time that I was pulled over for an expired tag, and was able to produce it at the stop - it was in my glove compartment, still attached to my current, paid-up registration, where it had been for almost six months. (Oh, yeah, I was supposed to detach the tag and put it on my license plate, wasn't I? Oops.) There were a couple of self-reported rear-enders that I was never contacted about. And then there was the illegal U-turn that I pinned on my mom...

My family has a place in Northern California, in a small lakeside town between Mammoth and Lake Tahoe, where we've gone on vacations for years. A couple of summers ago, we were driving through town when Mom mentioned that she wanted to visit a friend's gift shop. "Just remind me where it is," I said.

"Oh, sorry, I think we passed it - it's just back there, across the street," she said.

Grumbling a little about the late notification, I checked for clearance, shifted over, and turned the car around, heading back down Main Street in the other direction. Of course, I had just come through the turn when I noticed the police car behind me, but I thought it was probably just coincidence. Unfortunately, the kids noticed too, and they turned around to watch. "I think the police car is following you," came from the back seat.

"What for?" I replied, but I checked my mirror anyway, and eased over to the curb, just in case the cop was actually trying to pass me. No, he wasn't; he stopped behind me, got out of the car, and walked up to us.

"Are you really pulling me over?" I asked him.

"Yes, I am," he said. "License and registration, please."

I took out my license, but as it happened, we were in Mom's car, which required a little explanation - the fact that Mom was also in the car helped make that more convincing, I think. "So do you know why I pulled you over?" he asked.

"No clue," I said.

"You made an illegal U-turn in a business district. Didn't you see the double yellow line?" Now, this is a really small town, and the idea that it even has a "business district" is actually pretty funny. After ascertaining that the hometown on my license was near Los Angeles, he added, "You wouldn't do that in Los Angeles." (You couldn't do it in Los Angeles; no one would let you through.)

"But my mom told me to turn around there!" I burst out.

"Yes, I did, Officer," Mom spoke up. "Don't you listen to your mother?"

"Not for awhile - she's dead," the officer replied.

But I guess he hadn't heard that excuse many times - or at least not from a driver over the age of seventeen, let alone one clearly well over forty - because I was let off with a warning, and so was Mom.

So what's not true? Every event in this story actually happened, but the names were changed to protect the guilty. The expired-tag incident happened exactly as described. My car was the on the receiving end of both rear-enders, so I wouldn't have been ticketed for them anyway. And the illegal U-turn was perpetrated by my husband, not me, at the behest of his mother, not mine, but otherwise the details are pretty much the same. We all still give him grief about that one...

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Scraptacular - "birthday weekend" edition

New in Google Reader this week
Bookbabie, courtesy of the "six-word-memoir" meme
Defending Pandora, via Working Girl
Candid Karina and Cafe Karina (same Karina), both via Literary Feline

Were your lights out for Earth Hour last night? I had intended to observe it, but as it turned out, our participation was inadvertent; we weren't home! We did leave one light on, since I don't like coming home to a dark house, but it was a 3-way CFL bulb on the lowest setting.

Ever get the feeling you're just not working enough? The fourth item in the "tips" list has tripped me up way too many times.

Speaking of work, one way to stand out from all the finger-pointers is to own up to your mistakes. If you ask me, this shouldn't be news, but it just doesn't seem to be that common anymore; "mistakes were made," but who admits to being the one who made them? It's OK, don't panic - it may be a setback, but it's not the end of the world.

BlogHers Susan Mermit and Liz Rizzo on commitment and communication: Susan's post is a discussion of how and why couples trying to strengthen and build their relationships need to learn how to disagree with one another (it took marriage #2 for me to accept that idea, and I'm still working on it); Liz reiterates this in talking about how not learning this can sometimes be an "easy out" of a relationship.

And speaking of relationships (sort of): Guys can't read women? Who'd have guessed that?

Sometimes your kids will drive you to this. (I know mine has...)

The evolution of friends, "friends", and the Facebook follies

Female bonding is a great thing, except when it isn't anymore, and prompts flashbacks to junior high.

The Sound of Music onstage with The Mom Bomb

You've got just two minutes to take this Mental_Floss quiz created by Verbatim's Karen!

From the other side of the height spectrum, one quote in this post from a 6-feet-4 female college student stood out for me:
...In the end, however, I had no disease or syndrome. My parents are 6-foot-3 and 5-foot-10, so I was simply the extraordinary product of two tall individuals.
I can say the precise opposite. My parents were 5-feet-4 and 5-feet-even, so at 4-feet-8, I'm simply the "extraordinary product" of two short individuals.

And finally: Some reasons why I do this link-a-palooza (almost) every week in the first place, and a perspective on what we're doing in the blogiverse to begin with.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

A random thinker and an excellent speller

Hey, it's my birthday! Taking it easy on the posting front today...have a great weekend! Just sharing a couple of my most recent adventures with Blogthings quizzes.

This result seems apropos, and is also reasonably on target for me:




Your Thinking is Abstract and Random



You are flexible, adaptable, and creative.
There's many ways that you can learn - and you're up for any of them.

You relate well to other people, and you do well working in groups.
You can help people communicate together and work with each other's strengths.

You don't work well with people who are competitive or adversarial.
You prefer to work toward a common goal... not toward conflicting goals.


I'm not so sure it's my natural tendency to do well working in groups, but I think I do try to facilitate communication. It's one of those skills that one hones as a father-son moderator.

And not to brag, but I'm actually not surprised by this outcome:




Your Spelling is Perfect



You got 10/10 correct.



Your spelling is excellent. You also have a great memory and eye for detail.

How's Your Spelling?

I'm not the best typist, but I am a pretty darn good speller. Nice to know that Blogthings agrees! As for the other attributes mentioned, my eye for detail isn't bad if I can actually see it and I'm paying attention - and I forgot the other thing...

Friday, March 28, 2008

Double up: BTT + FFI

Cover-Up

btt button

This week’s question comes from Julie, who asks:

While acknowledging that we can’t judge books by their covers, how much does the design of a book affect your reading enjoyment? Hardcover vs. softcover? Trade paperback vs. mass market paperback? Font? Illustrations? Etc.?

Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!

The design of a book, particularly its exterior, has little to do with how much I enjoy reading it. It does, however, influence my decision to pick it up and consider reading it. If I were a book collector rather than a book reader, I think it might matter more. In fact, if the book is going to be displayed on a coffee table rather than stored on a bookshelf, than the design matters a lot - possibly more than the content, because reading such books is often secondary. I don't have many books that fit that description.
As a couple of other BTT participants noted in their responses to this question, we actually talked about format pretty recently; my own considerations of the relative merits of hardcover vs. softcover, and my general preference for the trade paperback, were discussed here.
I'm not a big fan of graphic novels, and I don't really care that much about having illustrations in the fiction that I read. If I'm reading history or biography, though, or a travel memoir, I do like it when there's a photo section in the book, since it helps me get a better sense of the physical context of events.Since I have reached a point in my life where I wear reading glasses over my contact lenses, the size of a font does actually make some difference to me. If it's too small to read comfortably, I'll probably pass it up. I don't particularly like to see a page look cluttered, but at the same time, if there's a lot of white space, I may get the impression - fair or not - that the book's a bit short on real content.

As far as my first impression of a book - its cover art and layout - I agree with a few of this week's other participants, who said that if the book's author is one they already know and like, they're probably going to read the book regardless of what its cover looks like. It's actually easier for me to specify what doesn't appeal to me about a book cover than what does - obvious genre clichés, particularly those applicable to romance or chick-lit, and movie tie-in editions with scenes from the film all over them. But even in those cases, particularly if I've heard some good things about the book elsewhere, I've been known to look past the cover and give it a try. Books are lucky; they get a second chance to make a first impression.

Does book design affect your reading at all?

Friday Fill-In #65

1. Some relationships are meant to have a set shelf life - they belong to a particular place and time, and without that context, they fade away. (I hate when it happens, though.)
2. The Brian Setzer Orchestra is the last concert I saw; it was over two years ago, and the second time I'd seen them, but it was still fun. (I think that was the last concert I saw. We really don't go to them all that much, and I'm not counting the Remainders at the 2006 Festival of Books.)
3. Spring should be cooler than it will be in summer.
4. Oh no! I forgot ...something! What was it I came in here for?
5. I've recently started combining my Thursday and Friday meme responses into one post (you can see for yourself how that's turning out).
6. My dog's wagging tail never fails to make me smile.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to my husband's return from New York City (he's been on a spring-break trip chaperoning his daughter's drama class), tomorrow my plans include celebrating my birthday (!) and Sunday, I want to relax and enjoy knowing that I have the day off on Monday, too!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Just one month till the Festival of Books!

One of my favorite annual local events will be held over the weekend of April 26 and 27 - The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books!

This free event (there's a charge for parking) on the UCLA campus celebrates books and reading with author talks, panel discussions, book signings, book-selling, and more. There's a great kids' section, and many activities geared for them too. Aside from browsing the exhibitor booths, one of my favorite things there are the giant, audience-participation crossword puzzles. Two years ago at the Festival, we had the opportunity to see a performance by the most rockin' bunch of writers you've ever heard of, The Rock Bottom Remainders, but it looks like their "tour" this year will be just one show, in New York City on June 1. It's a benefit, and they're a lot of fun - see it if you have the chance, but you won't be seeing it at UCLA.

But getting back to the original point; if you're in Southern California and a book lover, you really shouldn't miss the Festival. And please e-mail me if you plan to go; maybe we can meet up among the books!

The Proust Questionnaire, James Lipton version - Literary Feline variation

One of my favorite bloggers, Literary Feline (aka Wendy), recently posted this on her blog:
My husband and I were fans of Inside the Actors Studio for several years, and our favorite part was when the host, James Lipton, would pose the following questions to his guests. He borrowed the idea from Bernard Pivot, a French journalist and interviewer.
She decided to answer the questions in tandem with her husband, Anjin. Following her lead, I've coerced my favorite occasional co-author into giving his responses along with mine.

What is your favorite word?

Me: Chocolate
Tall Paul: Yes


What is your least favorite word?

Me: Tornado (good thing I don't hear it much anymore, then)
Tall Paul: Cancer


What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Me: Springtime, language, humor, relaxation, textures, thoughtfulness, generosity
Tall Paul: Light and shadow, smiles, good food, Florinda, first Coca-Cola of the day

What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Me: Disorganization, rudeness, thoughtlessness, self-centeredness, traffic
Tall Paul: Rudeness, arrogance, bigots, rap music (sorry, I'm old), deception.


What sound or noise do you love?

Me: My husband's laugh, the ocean, chimes, acoustic guitar
Tall Paul: Florinda's giggle, my children laughing, a nicely built engine, mandolin

What sound or noise do you hate?

Me: Screeching brakes, car horns, the neighbors arguing (the joys of apartment life)
Tall Paul: Dogs barking, car alarms, children crying.


What is your favorite curse word?

Me: Fuck (but I'm a wuss - I usually go for euphemisms like "frick," "eff" and "screw")
Tall Paul: Fucktard


What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Me: Pretty much any - but seriously, writer/editor
Tall Paul: Professional photographer


What profession would you not like to do?

Me: Politician
Tall Paul: Slaughterhouse slaughterer(?)


If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Me: "Please make yourself comfortable in our library, and meet your new dog!" (All dogs go to heaven, right? If they don't, I don't think I want to either.)
Tall Paul: "Holy shit!"

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Home alone

The week after Easter is spring break around here, and I'm spending it on my own.

Back during the first week of the school year, my stepdaughter Tall Girl brought home information about a trip to New York City that her drama teacher was organizing over spring break. The group would spend four days in the city, sightseeing, shopping, and seeing two Broadway shows, Wicked (which she's seen once already, but in Los Angeles) and Spamalot. "I really want to go," she said. Her father looked over the tour information and said, "I do too!" To my stepdaughter's surprise, I told him I didn't mind if he did. "You're a really nice wife," she told me. After some negotiations about logistics and finances with Tall Girl's mother, her deposit for the trip was turned in - and so was her father's, since he was going to be a parent chaperone. Meanwhile, plans were made for my stepson to spend spring-break week at a place we like to call "Camp Grandma." Everyone left on Monday and will return on Friday.

The upshot of all this is four days and four nights of just Gypsy and me, and the longest time that Tall Paul and I have been apart since before we moved in together (and even then, we went back and forth between each other's apartments most nights). I start my long weekend off from work in honor of my birthday on Friday, and since The Boy doesn't get back to town till afternoon and the plane from New York is due to arrive in the evening, I'll have at least part of that day on my own too, plus all day next Monday when everyone else is back at work and school.

Single parent to my dog - sounds like old times. But I think a few days of it will be quite enough for me; I am not at all nostalgic for those "old times." We've gone a week or so without seeing the kids during vacations before - and I see my own kid twice a year, if I'm lucky - but it feels very different here without my husband. He's never been to New York, and I'm glad he's going on this trip with his daughter (and 80 other parents and kids, plus one drama teacher), but I'm really not all that excited about having the house to myself for a few days. Having said that, though, it's not like I don't have plans:
  • Housecleaning on Friday morning. Don't laugh - you know it's much easier to get that done when no one else is home, and I want to get it out of the way early.
  • Taking myself out to Starbucks for coffee, and bring my book with me for some quiet reading time.
  • Writing - I try to get ahead on posts for the blog, and this will be a good opportunity.
  • Recreational shopping! I gave up buying books for Lent, and the moratorium has ended, so I see a nice bookstore browse in my future. Chances are pretty good that I'll stop by a few of my favorite clothing stores too. Depending where I end up, there might be some other stops as well...
  • I already have an appointment for a facial that weekend, but I may see if I can schedule my first spring pedicure at the spa too.
  • More reading.
It's possible that I'll toss all those plans out the window, too. If I change my mind about all that running around, I'll just lounge around, read, and maybe take a nap!

The days are mostly fine, especially the ones at work, although we usually do talk one the phone a couple of times a day and I'm missing that. It's the evenings that just don't feel right. Gypsy doesn't talk much.

It's interesting - in my first marriage, even well before things headed downhill, I'll admit that I often looked forward to times when my husband wouldn't be home. It's not that I didn't want him around, but things just felt more relaxed sometimes when he wasn't. (Maybe I should have paid more attention to that...) I don't have that sense now. Thanks to several "single years," I manage practical things just fine and I'm not pining for Tall Paul while he's gone, but I miss him a lot, and eagerly look forward to his coming home. It's more relaxed when we're both here. Things are different this time around, and I really like it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Tuesday Ten, times three!

Since one of my other weekly memes decided to do a ten-question format this week, I decided that I'd mix them together into one post...

There are tons of things to do before you get married - and the more time you spend on those wedding-planning websites, the longer your list will get. I speak from experience, and I didn't even have a big, complicated wedding (either time - but the first one was way before wedding websites existed). This week's Ten on Tuesday prompt asks for "10 Things to Do Before You Get Married."

The thing about planning a wedding, though, is that sometimes it takes up so much time and energy that preparing for marriage - you know, the years that come afterwards? - takes a back seat. So, having gone through it all a couple of times now - and this had better be the last one! - I'm going to make two lists of five items each; one's about the wedding, one's about the relationship.

5 Things to Do Before Your Wedding:
  • Figure out how much money you want to spend on this thing, and where it's going to come from, since that's really going to have the biggest effect on every other aspect of your planning.
  • Pick a place - or places, if you don't think you'll have your ceremony and reception in the same location - and then set the date. You should have a general idea of when you want to get married, but it's likely that venue availability will determine the specific day and time.
  • Think about who you'd like to share your day, as your wedding party and as guests. The wedding party should be asked well in advance, and guests should receive their official invitations at least six to eight weeks before the date, and ideally with even more lead time than that, especially if they have to travel.
  • Put the majority of your time and attention into the aspects of the wedding that are the most important to you - the food, the flowers, the photographs, the music, whatever it happens to be - and don't stress too much over the rest. (Like you won't stress - but hey, it's worth a try...)
  • When reviewing all of those wedding-planning resources, keep your mental editor and a big grain of salt handy. Weddings are big business, and there is no obligation to buy into it all.
5 Things to Do Before Your Marriage:
  • Have some serious conversations about money. It can be a huge source of relationship stress, so it's important to be open and honest with each other about the assets (cash, investments, property) and liabilities (credit card debt, loans) that you're bringing into the relationship. Talk about your spending and saving habits, and observe each others' handling of money - it should be consistent with what you've told each other. Make decisions about whether to combine your finances after marriage.
  • Spend time with each others' families. Effectively, you're marrying them too, and they've played a big role in shaping the character and personality of your spouse-to-be, so it's good to know where they're coming from.
  • Decide where you're going to live - and, if feasible, find a place that's new to both of you. In my experience, it helps the transition to a sense of couplehood when you're creating a home together, rather than one moving into the other's place.
  • Talk about family planning. Hopefully, you've discussed kids in general terms before you've even gotten to this point, and are at least in the same ballpark as far as whether to have them at all, how many you'd like, and how soon you'd like to start; if that's not the case, you may be setting yourself up for rocky times before you even get going. But if you agree on those basic points, now you should start considering specifics, including the question of whether one of you will scale back school or career to be an at-home parent for some period of time.
  • Spend as much time together as you can, doing things that have nothing to do with planning your wedding!
So, do any of you married folks have other ideas for these lists? Leave them in the comments, please, and check out Ten on Tuesday for other players' ideas on this topic.


randomness...feed your mind and your blog
This week marks the 100th post of 'randomness' Here's this week's questions:

1. What's your favorite ice cream flavor?
I'm actually not a big ice cream fan, which makes my family wonder if I'm actually related to them; but I'm fine with almost any variety of chocolate, except chocolate mint.
2. What shampoo do you use?
I custom-mix a my shampoos. My primary one is Redken Fresh Curls, and I'll combine it with either Bilberry Color Protect or Honey Moisturizing shampoo from The Body Shop.
3. How do you like your eggs?
scrambled
4. What's the first thing you do when you get online?
Check my e-mail - don't you?
5. What is your favorite tv show?
I have a few of them; Lost, The Amazing Race, The Office, and 30 Rock are all very high on my list.
6. Which do you prefer, the sunrise or the sunset?
Sunrise - it's more peaceful to me, and there's that whole "new day, new possibilities" sense that goes with it.
7. When is the last time you went to the mall?
This past weekend, looking for clothes for my stepdaughter's trip to New York. We didn't find much...
8. What was the last food that you ate?
I'm drafting this late on Sunday morning; breakfast was cinnamon rolls, oatmeal, and strawberries.
9. What is your favorite animal?
Dogs!
10. Do you collect anything?
Christmas ornaments and refrigerator magnets from places I visit on vacation - and books!

Feel free to answer any or all of these yourself, of course...


And while I'm on a "ten" kick here, it occurs to me that I haven't done an iPod Random Ten for awhile, so here goes:

"Party at the End of the World," Jimmy Buffett, Take the Weather With You
"Hotel Majestic," Fountains of Wayne, Traffic and Weather
"Big and Bad," Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, This Beautiful Life
"Another Nail in My Heart," Squeeze, Greatest Hits
"Seven Bridges Road," Dolly Parton, Little Sparrow
"More Than This," Roxy Music, 200 Cigarettes (movie soundtrack)
"Red Barchetta," Rush, Moving Pictures
"We Shall Be Free," Garth Brooks, Double Live
"Further On (Up the Road)," Bruce Springsteen, The Rising
"Barrier Reef," Old 97's, Hit By a Train: The Best of Old 97's

Monday, March 24, 2008

Weekend Assignment #208 - Spring!

The Weekend Assignment is posted each Friday at Outpost Mâvarin; a roundup of responses goes up the following Thursday, so if you'd like to join in, you've still got some time.

Weekend Assignment #208:
Meteorologists define spring in the Northern Hemisphere as beginning March 1st; others define it according to the vernal equinox, the return of warm weather, or the appearance of a groundhog's shadow. What does spring mean to you, and what, if anything, do you intend to do about it?


I live in a locale where the arrival of spring doesn't really announce itself much. Coastal Southern California mostly eases into and out of changes in the weather. If it's a good and/or lucky winter, that's our rainy season; things dry out as we move into April. But if we have had rain, we get to see green hillsides, and it's nice to have that before the long warm, dry season that we call "summer" here turns it all brown. Any trees that actually did lose their leaves back in the autumn start to blossom again and get their leaves back, which heralds "allergy season" out here, as I think it does in most other places.

One thing I particularly like about spring's arrival is the longer hours of daylight, even if they are artificially accelerated by Daylight Savings Time (which now covers 2/3 of the year, so it's more the norm than "standard" time - hmmm). I appreciate being able to make both ends of my daily commute in the light, and later sunsets allow us to take a nearby trail on Gypsy's evening walks.

Spring means a change of clothing. In colder climates, people are advised to wear layers in the winter, but here they're a good idea in spring too. The low humidity here can contribute to fairly large temperature swings over the course of the day, and a day that starts out chilly can reach 80 degrees by afternoon. You'll definitely want to leave the house with a jacket, but you'll probably be carrying it around later on. For me, the warming trend also means I'll be wearing boots less of the time.

At work, spring is probably our busiest time, and that's because of the annual visit of the auditors. If we're lucky, it doesn't last too long and it's uneventful.

But for me, the biggest sign of spring is - and I bet you won't be surprised - my birthday, which is coming up this Saturday! The end of March has always been birthday season in my family, really - my dad, mom and I are all within a six-day period. And no matter where I've lived - even in places where it's snowed on my birthday and the leaves didn't start coming out until May - this has always been the case for me.

What does spring mean to you?

The six-word "meme"-oir

This has been making the rounds for a little while now, but I have officially been tagged by Madame Meow to participate in the "six word memoir" game. I'll let her explain how it works:
Inspired by a book called Not Quite What I Was Planning, and originally devised by BookBabie, this meme asks you to write a SIX WORD memoir.

I know. Six words? Seriously. No consideration for those among us who suffer from verborrhea, right? But don't let me stop your fun. First off, here are the official instructions:

1. Write your own six-word memoir.
2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you’d like.
3. Link to the person that tagged you in your post and to this original post if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere.
4. Tag five more blogs with links.
5. And don’t forget to leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play. (This last step is optional.)

Madame M. couldn't limit herself to just one six-worder - she ended up with six of them, which maintains some sort of symmetry (or something). It really is more of a challenge than you might think to condense your life into six words! I'm going to follow her lead and go the six-squared route myself. Some of mine are not particularly original, and you may recognize them from other places - but if they fit, I don't think that's a problem.

Too Young to Be This Old
How, Exactly, Did I Get Here?
Every Day is a Winding Road
Getting It Right the Second Time
L
ove, Laughter, Words, Music, Dogs, Chocolate
New York-Connecticut-Florida-Tennessee-California Girl

(Yes, I know that last one is technically seven words, but "New York" is a proper name and I'm counting it as one compound word. It's probably grammatically incorrect to do so, but...oh, well.)

I usually acquire memes by stealing them, and I don't tag; but since I got tagged myself for this one, I'm actually going to invite some folks by name - Wendy, Alison, Karen, Pam, and Mike. If you can distill it all down to just one six-worder - great! If not, I'd ask you to come up with no more than six, in order to maintain some sort of symmetry (or something). Anyone else who is interested and hasn't done this yet is, of course, welcome to go for it.

In addition, there are three non-bloggers(!) who read here that I'd like to invite - Paul, Teresa, and Cherie. If you want to join in, please either leave your responses in the comments or e-mail them to me and I'll post them.

I have a special related assignment for Working Girl, should she choose to accept it - six-word résumé blurbs.

(Hey, if I'm actually going to tag, I might as well go all out!)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Weekend Scraptacular

Since I didn't do the regular "scraps" thing last week because of my Blogoversary observation, this week's collection is a bit longer and more rambling than usual.

New in Google Reader
Surrender, Dorothy, via BlogHer (the post that finally prompted me to subscribe is one of this week's links) - and her sister's blog, Tales from Clark Street
Better Than Marriage (or is it? we'll see...the chronicle of an unconventional relationship)
Mid-Century Modern Moms (new to almost everyone, actually, since its official "grand opening" was just this week)
Moms on Issues, the newest Work It, Mom! blog, plus co-blogger Veronica's home blog, Viva La Feminista (co-blogger Sara has been in my Reader for quite some time already)
Game Theorist - parenting and economics, via Working Dad
Being Emily, via "We're all mad here," said the Cheshire Cat to Alice. (Alisonwonderland's blog with the very long title)

Reflections on compartmentalizing, multitasking, and "presence" from Rita Arens on BlogHer, and consideration of convictions from Meg Fowler

Also from BlogHer: Susan Mermit talks about the path of an unexpected second-time-around relationship, and it reminded me of one I'm quite familiar with myself.

There's "a big hole in our party system: there is no party for socially liberal and fiscally conservative," says Julie Pippert on MOMocrats. On her personal blog, Julie "used her words" to ponder the sense of loss that seems to hit not long before midlife - the realization that you're really not young anymore, and that some things are truly gone from your life. I recall it from my late thirties, and it was a rough time; but oddly enough, it's gotten easier since I hit my forties.

I actually work fairly closely with (and like) the HR people at my job, but it may be the one function that drives people even crazier than Accounting does sometimes. But I love the HR secrets that some of the blogs spill, especially when I suspected some of them were true anyway. Laurie Ruettimann disses performance-evaluation "feedback," and rightfully so, if you ask me; Deb Owen elaborates on why it's a problem. Meanwhile, in a rant about people's misplaced sense of urgency, the Evil HR Lady hits one of my own sore spots - people who think their concerns are so much more important than anything else that they want you to deal with them RIGHT NOW. On a related note, Elana Centor's BlogHer post about salary negotiation pretty well reflects my own experience: "(I)t is the rare occasion when someone can actually walk into their boss' office, request and get a raise because our work culture is not set up to have employees ask (for) and get a raise. It really doesn't work that way for most of us...I can honestly say I do not know anyone who has done that."

Since chances are you won't get that big raise either, check out some essentials of "recession-proofing" from Working Girl. WG also offers a list of 100 job boards that's particularly useful for web-based work, and The Park Bench has your (?) (my?) dream jobs.

Bored with work? Sometimes the (real) urgency of what you have to do doesn't get you revved up, but has the opposite effect. Well, maybe that's just me...But anyway, Nataly at Work It, Mom! has some constructive suggestions for dealing with it. And every now and then, bored or not, I need to be reminded about this: "Basically: Put your work before your play, or the work won’t get done."

Are you a morning person? Whether or not you are, the way your day starts can set the tone for everything that follows. The Happiness Project offers some ideas for getting off to a better beginning. And at any time of day, it's always good to have - and be - a true friend.

The "mom wars" recently flared up over on the Work It, Mom! front - and I have to say I was a bit surprised. This is what kicked it off, and Nataly invited more responses...here's mine. (If you click over to the first two links, be sure to read the comments too.)

Mir of Woulda Coulda Shoulda is right - giftedness is no excuse for laziness. This post gave me flashbacks to a smart, not-so-hardworking kid I raised once...

On much less serious notes (no pun intended, honestly):

Lisa says what I'm thinking about partial blog feeds (I know there are plenty of good reasons for using them as a blogger; I'm just not all that fond of them as a reader).

Pam coins a phrase.

If you've ever wondered exactly what Randy Jackson did in music to score that judge gig on American Idol, here's a nice little wrapup - I had no idea the man was so prolific.

My power-pop-loving heart was warmed by this guide to Nick Lowe's career, and my "I don't like country music much" iPod has three of these six songs on it already - I may have to go looking for the rest.

When I talked about "new oldies" a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that my consciousness of popular music emerged around 1974. The '70's were a banner decade for lousy music, and other people have some embarrassing musical memories of their own.

Hope you find some of these links worth reading, and have some time for it! Happy Easter, and have a great week!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Perfect timing: the "Birth Month" meme

Since this is my birth month, I can't help but do this meme. Feel free to do it yourself, and let me know; I am not following rule #5, as usual. Thanks to Susan at West of Mars for posting it, so that I could steal it from her.

1. Mention the person who tagged you and create a link back to them.
2. Copy-paste the traits for all the twelve months (see below).
3. Pick your month of birth (see below).
4. Highlight the traits that apply to you.
5. Tag 12 people and let them know by visiting their blogs and leaving a comment for them.
6. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve done it!

Going over the list, I notice that it seems to include some contradictory or paradoxical traits, but that doesn't bother me. For one thing, not all the traits will apply to everyone born in a particular month; for another, some of us do inherently have personality traits that aren't always consistent with each other - it makes us complex and interesting people!
Attractive personality. Sexy. (Those aren't qualities I can objectively evaluate in myself, but I'd like to think that my friends would say the first applies, and I would hope that my husband thinks they both do!)

Affectionate. Shy and reserved. (Well, the truth is that I'm an introvert, and that usually looks shy and reserved, although that's not always the case.)

Secretive. (Not in a sneaky way or anything, but I do need to maintain my own little privacy zone.)

Naturally honest, generous and sympathetic.(Well, to be honest, I'm not sure how "natural" they are, but they're all traits that are very important to me, and I do try to cultivate them daily. I also try to remember that there's a distinction between honesty and tact sometimes, though.)

Loves peace and serenity. (Until I get bored and fall asleep...)

Sensitive to others. (I hope that means in the sense of "being considerate" and not "being easily hurt" - both could be true, though.)

Loves to serve others. (But not in a subservient way...)
Easily angered. (I really try not to be - it's usually not worth it.)

Trustworthy. (I hope so, anyway; I certainly try to be.)

Appreciative and returns kindness. (I'm not terribly consistent about thank-you notes, though...better work on that one!)

Observant and assesses others. (I should be more observant and less "assessing"/judgmental, to be honest.)
Revengeful.
Loves to dream and fantasize. (Not so much; I'd rather be doing, or at least reading or writing about it.)

Loves traveling.

Loves attention. (No, but doesn't like feeling neglected, either...)

Hasty decisions in choosing partners. (Yes and no, really...I'd prefer to think of it as being decisive and certain of my feelings.)

Loves home decors.
Musically talented. (I wish! I can sing well enough to carry a tune in a bucket, but that's about it.)
Loves special things. (I assume this means "sentimental about objects" - and no, not especially.)
Moody. (Sort of, especially when tired, hungry, or hormonal.)
Birth Month Traits:

JANUARY: Stubborn and hard-hearted. Ambitious and serious. Loves to teach and be taught. Always looking at people’s flaws and weaknesses. Likes to criticize. Hardworking and productive. Smart, neat and organized. Sensitive and has deep thoughts. Knows how to make others happy. Quiet unless excited or tensed. Rather reserved. Highly attentive. Resistant to illnesses but prone to colds. Romantic but has difficulties expressing love. Loves children. Loyal. Has great social abilities yet easily jealous. Very stubborn and money cautious.

FEBRUARY: Abstract thoughts. Loves reality and abstract. Intelligent and clever. Changing personality. Attractive. Sexy. Temperamental. Quiet, shy and humble. Honest and loyal. Determined to reach goals. Loves freedom. Rebellious when restricted. Loves aggressiveness. Too sensitive and easily hurt. Gets angry really easily but does not show it. Dislikes unnecessary things. Loves making friends but rarely shows it. Daring and stubborn. Ambitious. Realizes dreams and hopes. Sharp. Loves entertainment and leisure. Romantic on the inside not outside. Superstitious and ludicrous. Spendthrift. Tries to learn to show emotions.

MARCH: Attractive personality. Sexy. Affectionate. Shy and reserved. Secretive. Naturally honest, generous and sympathetic. Loves peace and serenity. Sensitive to others. Loves to serve others. Easily angered. Trustworthy. Appreciative and returns kindness. Observant and assesses others. Revengeful. Loves to dream and fantasize. Loves traveling. Loves attention. Hasty decisions in choosing partners. Loves home decors. Musically talented. Loves special things. Moody.

APRIL: Active and dynamic. Decisive and hasty but tends to regret. Attractive and affectionate to oneself. Strong mentality. Loves attention. Diplomatic. Consoling, friendly and solves people’s problems. Brave and fearless. Adventurous. Loving and caring. Suave and generous. Emotional. Aggressive. Hasty. Good memory. Moving. Motivates oneself and others. Sickness usually of the head and chest. Sexy in a way that only their lover can see.

MAY: Stubborn and hard-hearted. Strong-willed and highly motivated. Sharp thoughts. Easily angered. Attracts others and loves attention. Deep feelings. Beautiful physically and mentally. Firm Standpoint. Needs no motivation. Easily consoled. Systematic (left brain). Loves to dream. Strong clairvoyance. Understanding. Sickness usually in the ear and neck. Good imagination. Good physical. Weak breathing. Loves literature and the arts. Loves traveling. Dislike being at home. Restless. Not having many children. Hardworking. High spirited. Spendthrift.

JUNE: Thinks far with vision. Easily influenced by kindness. Polite and soft-spoken. Having ideas. Sensitive. Active mind. Hesitating, tends to delay. Choosy and always wants the best. Temperamental. Funny and humorous. Loves to joke. Good debating skills. Talkative. Daydreamer. Friendly. Knows how to make friends. Able to show character. Easily hurt. Prone to getting colds. Loves to dress up. Easily bored. Fussy. Seldom shows emotions. Takes time to recover when hurt. Brand conscious. Executive. Stubborn.

JULY: Fun to be with. Secretive. Difficult to fathom and to be understood. Quiet unless excited or tensed. Takes pride in oneself. Has reputation. Easily consoled. Honest. Concerned about people’s feelings. Tactful. Friendly. Approachable. Emotional temperamental and unpredictable. Moody and easily hurt. Witty and sparkly. Not revengeful. Forgiving but never forgets. Dislikes nonsensical and unnecessary things. Guides others physically and mentally. Sensitive and forms impressions carefully. Caring and loving. Treats others equally. Strong sense of sympathy. Wary and sharp. Judges people through observations. Hardworking. No difficulties in studying. Loves to be alone. Always broods about the past and the old friends. Likes to be quiet. Homely person. Waits for friends. Never looks for friends. Not aggressive unless provoked. Prone to having stomach and dieting problems. Loves to be loved. Easily hurt but takes long to recover.

AUGUST: Loves to joke. Attractive. Suave and caring. Brave and fearless. Firm and has leadership qualities. Knows how to console others. Too generous and egoistic. Takes high pride in oneself. Thirsty for praises. Extraordinary spirit. Easily angered. Angry when provoked. Easily jealous. Observant. Careful and cautious. Thinks quickly. Independent thoughts. Loves to lead and to be led. Loves to dream. Talented in the arts, music and defense. Sensitive but not petty. Poor resistance against illnesses. Learns to relax. Hasty and trusty. Romantic. Loving and caring. Loves to make friends.

SEPTEMBER: Suave and compromising. Careful, cautious and organized. Likes to point out people’s mistakes. Likes to criticize. Stubborn. Quiet but able to talk well. Calm and cool. Kind and sympathetic. Concerned and detailed. Loyal but not always honest. Does work well. Very confident. Sensitive. Good memory. Clever and knowledgeable. Loves to look for information. Must control oneself when criticizing. Able to motivate oneself. Understanding. Fun to be around. Secretive. Loves leisure and traveling. Hardly shows emotions. Tends to bottle up feelings. Very choosy, especially in relationships. Systematic.

OCTOBER: Loves to chat. Loves those who loves them. Loves to take things at the center. Inner and physical beauty. Lies but doesn’t pretend. Gets angry often. Treats friends importantly. Always making friends. Easily hurt but recovers easily. Daydreamer. Opinionated. Does not care of what others think. Emotional. Decisive. Strong clairvoyance. Loves to travel, the arts and literature. Touchy and easily jealous. Concerned. Loves outdoors. Just and fair. Spendthrift. Easily influenced. Easily loses confidence. Loves children.


NOVEMBER: Has a lot of ideas. Difficult to fathom. Thinks forward. Unique and brilliant. Extraordinary ideas. Sharp thinking. Fine and strong clairvoyance. Can become good doctors. Dynamic in personality. Secretive. Inquisitive. Knows how to dig secrets. Always thinking. Less talkative but amiable. Brave and generous. Patient. Stubborn and hard-hearted. If there is a will, there is a way. Determined. Never give up. Hardly becomes angry unless provoked. Loves to be alone. Thinks differently from others. Sharp-minded. Motivates oneself. Does not appreciate praises. High-spirited. Well-built and tough. Deep love and emotions. Romantic. Uncertain in relationships. Homely. Hardworking. High abilities. Trustworthy. Honest and keeps secrets. Not able to control emotions. Unpredictable.

DECEMBER: Loyal and generous. Sexy. Patriotic. Active in games and interactions. Impatient and hasty. Ambitious. Influential in organizations. Fun to be with. Loves to socialize. Loves praises. Loves attention. Loves to be loved. Honest and trustworthy. Not pretending. Short tempered. Changing personality. Not egotistic. Take high pride in oneself. Hates restrictions. Loves to joke. Good sense of humor. Logical.

Friday, March 21, 2008

"Just pick one already" - a variation

randomness...feed your mind and your blog
week of March 16

Would you rather...(I'll underline my answers)

1. sky dive or bungee jump? (Note that this choice is made under strong protest, since I really have no desire to do either one!)
2. eat a hissing cockroach or eat a slug? (No hard shell, for one thing...and if you salt it first, it'll curl right up and pop right into your mouth! But again, totally under protest, because...eeewww!)
3. have lifelong free entry to all theme parks or lifetime free entry to all movie theaters? (But I'd only use it at the really nice theaters. I'm getting old enough to be tired out by all the standing in theme parks - and the food's just as overpriced at either one.)
4. spend one month without books or one month without TV? (Finally, a "no contest," no-brainer choice. I'm glad it wasn't complicated by including "one month without the Internet" as an option, though.)
5. have the ability to fly or be able to become invisible? (I just think it would be more fun to slip around literally unseen. On the other hand, flying would be very useful in avoiding traffic jams - tough call.)
6. have a personal shopper for life or a personal fitness trainer for life? (I like shopping, and wouldn't want someone else doing it for me - although a consultant would be nice sometimes.)
7. be spiderman or be superman? (Superman actually has better powers, but Peter Parker is a much bigger nerd, so Spidey wins. I think it's the difference in how their origins. Superman was born super, and pretends to be ordinary as Clark Kent, but Spidey started out as a regular dork.)
8. be stuck in the 70's or be stuck in the 80's? (Big hair and all...)

What would you rather do? Let me know!

Weekend double - BTT + FFI

Since Booking Through Thursday doesn't post the prompts in advance, it can be really hard for me to get them done and posted on Thursdays - so they'll be showing up on Fridays, partnered with the week's Friday Fill-ins. Yeah, I've actually been doing this for a couple of weeks already, but I'm now declaring it to be official policy.

Booking Through Thursday 3-20: "The End"

btt button

You’ve just reached the end of a book . . . what do you do now? Savor and muse over the book? Dive right into the next one? Go take the dog for a walk, the kids to the park, before even thinking about the next book you’re going to read? What?

(Obviously, there can be more than one answer, here–a book with a cliff-hanger is going to engender different reactions than a serene, stand-alone, but you get the idea!)

Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!

I'll actually start thinking about the next book I'm going to read before getting to the end of the current one; that is, I'll have a few possible candidates pulled off the shelves and lined up on deck. Depending on the nature of the current read, I'll usually have some idea of what I need to follow it up with. Something heavy may call for a bit of lightweight chick-lit as a change of pace. After a couple of light reads in a row, I'll crave something with a bit more substance, or be ready to shift into the nonfiction side of my book inventory. When I've been reading a book chosen by other people, such as for a review tour or my book club, I'll want to pick the next the next one for myself.

Once I actually finish the book, though, I usually won't start the next one immediately even if I have already decided what it will be. Depending on when I get to the end, I may have some non-reading stuff to do and not be able to jump right in to another book anyway. If the book has been a particularly affecting one, I'll usually want to take a reading breather after it anyway, so I can mull it over for a bit. However, if I'm reading a series and actually have consecutive books in my possession, that's a case when I just might chain-read - unless I finished the book at night before bed, and then it will have to wait till morning.

One thing that usually doesn't wait for long after I finish a book - again, unless it's at night - is starting on the blog post for the review. I want to get that going before I forget too much.

Friday Fill-In #64

1. Getting ready for a vacation is so exciting!
2. Strawberry fields forever (sorry, couldn't resist) produce lovely fruit, but picking it is hard on the back.
3. Hot-fudge chocolate pudding cake, with whipped cream, sounds like it would taste delicious! (Actually, it is, but I haven't made it in a long time. Maybe I should...)
4. Why does having a clean house make me feel so good?!
5. The midnight sun is something I've always wanted to see.
6. It's sad when I'm stuck waiting somewhere, and forgot to bring a book with me! (It doesn't happen often, but I hate when it does.)
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to getting home from work and a quiet evening, tomorrow my plans include errands, a few chores, and my dad's birthday dinner and Sunday, I want to wish everyone a Happy Easter!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

If you can't say something nice...

Being curious about how other book bloggers handle posting negative reviews, Dewey at The Hidden Side of a Leaf decided to create a meme to find out how some of them deal with books they didn’t like. Please consider yourself tagged if you feel like answering the questions yourself.

1. When you dislike a book, do you say so in your blog? Why or why not?

Yes, as long as I've actually read the entire book - for example, see this post. I'll usually try to find some positive things to say about the book even so, but knowing that someone might take your opinion of the book seriously, it's important to be honest about it. There's also the fact that I, quite frankly, don't like every book that I read equally; if I did, I don't think my reviews would be worth very much. I do use a rating scale (out of 5) on my book reviews, and have only rarely given a book lower than a 3 on that scale, but it could happen.

2. Do you temper your feelings about books you didn’t like, so as not to completely slam them? Why or why not?

As I said in answer to the previous question, I do try to find something positive to say about the book, since my opinion is, by definition, subjective. What appeals to me - or doesn't - might not be what appeals to someone else. While I do try to report my reactions to the book honestly, I realize that another reader might not have the same ones, so I try to maintain some objectivity in that respect. To answer the question most accurately, I would say that I don't necessarily temper my feelings about the book, but I may temper how I express them on my blog.

3. What do you think is the best way to respond when you see a negative review about a book you enjoyed?

Again, opinions are opinions, and they're personal in nature. I've really loved some books that other people haven't cared for at all. I might respond to a particular point in the review, but for the most part I'd probably let it go without comment. We're not all going to agree on what we like to read, and a negative review can still include valid criticisms.

4. What is your own most common reaction when you see a negative review of a book you loved or a positive review of a book you hated?

To some extent, it probably depends on the reviewer. If it's someone with whom I usually agree, I might be taken by surprise that we're not on the same page this time (no pun intended), and possibly enter into a discussion via comment. I'll consider the points they make, since the reviewer may have focused on some aspect of the book that I was less attentive to, and while I don't think I'd completely revise my own opinion on the book, I might give it a little more consideration. Otherwise, I'd probably just go with "to each her own" and move on - again, opinions are opinions.

5. What is your own most common reaction when you get a comment that disagrees with your opinion of a book?

It hasn't come up too often because, quite frankly, my book reviews are among my least-commented posts. :-) I'm not exclusively a book blogger, and my reading interests are all over the place, so some of my blog readers may not be all that interested in the books I post about. Having said that, I do respond to every comment on my blog unless it's clearly spam or abusive - in that case, it's deleted - and I'm open to discussion of any reasonable criticism in the comment. It's nice to be validated by having people agree with my opinions, but it won't always happen. As long as someone's disagreement is expressed politely and thoughtfully, I don't take issue with it - although, again, if it's someone I usually agree with, I might be somewhat taken aback that we don't this time.

6. What if you don’t like a book that was a free review copy? What then?

Again, I've been pretty lucky - it hasn't come up too often (yet). However, if I'm being honest, I think I probably would try harder to find something positive to say about the book, since more people - quite possibly including the author - would most likely read the review. Also, I doubt I would want to jeopardize my chances of being offered other books for review from the same source, so there would be a political element involved. Having said that, I would still be honest about my opinion, although I'd probably express it more in terms like "the book wasn't for me, and this is why not" rather than "this book was crap and a waste of time."

7. What do you do if you don’t finish a book? Do you review it or not? If you review it, do you mention that you didn’t finish it?

If I'm reading a book for my book club, or one that I'm expected to review for another source, I will feel some sense of responsibility to finish it, or at least get through most of it in order to write it up. If I don't actually finish it, I will mention that, as well as the reason for it - that is, whether it was me (time constraints or some other personal factor) or the book (just couldn't get into it). If what I'm reading is just for myself, and it's just not working for me, I've become much more comfortable with bailing on it. In that case, I might mention somewhere that I tried to read it but didn't make it, but I wouldn't actually post a review. The mention would remind me that I did attempt the book at one time, so I'd know not to pick it up again.

Do you review anything - books, movies, TV shows, music - on your blog? How do you handle the "negativity" question?

Book talk: "Ask Again Later"

No, seriously, that's the title.

Ask Again Later: A Novel by Jill A. Davis
Ask Again Later
Jill A. Davis
Harper Paperbacks, 2007 (ISBN 0060875976 / 9780060875978)
Fiction, 272 pages

First sentence: I can remember the first Christmas after my father left.

Book Description: Emily Rhode has a tendency to live with one foot out the door. For her, the best thing about a family crisis is the excuse to cut and run. When her mother dramatically announces they've found a lump, Emily gladly takes a rain check on life to be by her mother's side, leaving behind her career, her boyfriend, and those pesky, unanswerable questions about who she is and what she's doing with her life.
But back in her childhood bedroom, Emily realizes that she hasn't run fast or far enough. One evening, while her mother calls everyone in her Rolodex to brief them on her medical crisis and schedule a farewell martini, Emily opens the door, quite literally, to find her past staring her in the face. How do you forge a relationship with the father who left when you were five years old? As Emily attempts to find balance on the emotional seesaw of her life, with the help of two hopeful suitors and her Park Avenue Princess sister, she takes a no-risk job as a receptionist at her father's law firm and slowly gets to know the man she once pretended was dead.
 
Comments: For a book that deals with cancer, family estrangements, and general life dysfunction, Ask Again Later is a surprisingly fun read. Its main character, Emily Rhode, initially seems like she might be a standard chick-lit creation, but first impressions are wrong in this case - this is a struggling young woman, and her struggles don't really concern designer shoes and landing Mr. Right. In fact, she's got him already, if she wants him and can own up to it. Meanwhile, she's trying to handle her mother's breast-cancer diagnosis, career unraveling, and the unexpected reappearance of her father. She's got a lot on her plate.

I really liked Emily - while I couldn't relate to her completely, she is very human and realistic. She fumbles around a bit in her relationships, and she demonstrates that fear of commitment isn't just a "guy thing." One of the things I liked most about her is her self-awareness; she's definitely got issues, but she knows what they are, she has some idea where they came from, and she's in therapy working on them. I got a sense that she was truly growing and maturing over the course of the story, and it felt like a natural development in the character (as opposed to orchestrated for plot purposes). It made me enjoy spending time with her.

Jill A. Davis used to write for David Letterman, so she certainly has experience with humor, and she uses it well here; it leavens some of the heavy things going on in her characters' lives, and adds dimension to their development. Emily's first-person narration often contains a wry note. And if you were wondering about the title, it's Emily's favorite response to questions that she's not ready to think about yet - and the cover of the original hardcover makes it much clearer that it's derived from that classic decision-making tool, the Magic 8 Ball.

This is an unusual book in that it turns out not to be as light as it first appears - and that's a good thing, in my opinion, but at the same time, it's upbeat and enjoyable. Another good thing is that a portion of the proceeds go to breast cancer organizations - so if you want to read it, please consider purchasing your copy.

Rating: 4/5

Other bloggers' reviews:
Book-a-rama

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

To thine own vows be true: public and private considerations

This is actually something that's been on and off my mind for awhile, but the events in New York State earlier this month brought it back up again.

In a recent post, PunditMom - who has gone public as a Hillary Clinton supporter in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination - pondered the idea that "(t)here just seems to be a lingering, niggling something about Hillary's decision to -- yes -- stand by her man that rubs a lot of women the wrong way and they're holding it against her in her presidential bid."

In my opinion, that's between the two of them, and has no bearing on her ability to do the job - or his, for that matter.

As I understand it, Hillary had plenty of opportunities to kick Bill to the curb before Monica, and if she didn't, there are probably any number of reasons - some personal, others perhaps less so - which, again, are between them. One possibility often suggested is that they had some sort of political, career-related "understanding" between them. Perhaps, but I also suspect that "should I stay or should I go?" is not as cut-and-dried when your life is that public. I can tell you from experience that sometimes it isn't in private, either, and unless you've been there, it's hard to say what you'd do. And what you end up doing might not be what you thought you'd do; relationships are complicated critters.

The Spitzer situation isn't perfectly analogous to the Clinton one for a couple of reasons, I think: the hypocrisy and apparent disconnect between public and private actions, and the illegality. (Like it or not, from a public perspective, breaking vows and breaking laws are different.) It isn't as much a matter of "simple" infidelity, if there really is such a thing in a long-term relationship, in or out of the public eye.

In the case of my first marriage, it was stated very early on by my future husband that as far as he was concerned, infidelity would be a deal-breaker for the relationship. Hence, the irony when after 15 years of marriage, he was the one who "broke" it.

My understanding of our "terms" was that if he was straying, it was because he wanted out. The complication was that he wasn't so clear on that, and it was a very painful couple of years of unraveling from that point on. And for quite awhile, I was prepared to "stand by," regardless of the terms. Granted, I had serious self-esteem issues (I've gotten better), and they were probably a factor in my feelings about doing that.

The thing is, I believed - still do - that the infidelity was a response to other issues we had (but clearly weren't dealing with), and in itself I don't think it was a deal-breaker. It just stirred up too many other things we couldn't - or perhaps by then, didn't truly want to, considering the compromises it would take - resolve in ways that would keep the marriage together.

He's now married to the woman he strayed with, and if I were her I'd never be sure he wouldn't do it again. And having been there once, I do believe it would be a deal-breaker in my second marriage. As it happens, my second husband is well aware of that - and my self-esteem has grown a bit.

It's been hard for other people to understand that my first marriage didn't break up "because he cheated." It was a factor, but not a reason in itself. I think if it's that simple, there may not be much of a relationship to begin with; and after 17 years with someone, it seems to me it should take more than that to break it up. But I suspect that if it hadn't happened, we might still be together, not exactly happy and not having much in common, because we would need a huge jolt in order to change anything. His affair provided that huge jolt, even if it didn't change things instantly; and ultimately, I'm really not sure who left who.

I'm not sure that people who haven't been there, one way or another, realize just how much this isn't a black-and-white question. And I've only been there in a context that didn't really affect anyone outside my own family, so I can only imagine that there are even more complications when infidelity plays out publicly.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Ten on Tuesday 3-18: On Tour

This week's Ten on Tuesday prompt asks for "10 Places You'd Take a Tourist to See in Your Hometown." Which one?

I still claim Memphis, Tennessee as my "hometown," and last spring I had the opportunity to go back there with Tall Paul and introduce him to some of my favorite haunts. However, I now live in the Los Angeles area, which is one giant tourist attraction in itself, so I'm going to do lists for both. I'll start with my current home, though. Ten sights to see in L.A. is not exactly a tough call, and since I'm married to a native, I got some input from him and it went very quickly. Some of the choices are pretty obvious, but that's because they're things that many people actually do come here specifically to see, so it seems wrong not to list them.
  1. Disneyland
  2. Hollywood
  3. The Getty Museums - the "new" building on the Westside (near UCLA), and the "original" Getty Villa in Malibu
  4. A baseball game at Dodger Stadium
  5. Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park
  6. Driving on the Pacific Coast Highway
  7. Universal Studios/Citywalk
  8. Venice Beach
  9. "Museum Row" at Wilshire and Fairfax - LACMA (the Los Angeles County Museum of Art), the Page Museum/LaBrea Tar Pits, and the Petersen Auto Museum are all within a block or two of each other. And while you're in the neighborhood, visit the Farmers' Market at Third and Fairfax.
  10. A TV-show taping - tickets to be part of a "live studio audience" are available, and free of charge!
And now, let's go down south for five six places to see in Memphis (I couldn't stop at five):
  1. Graceland (Yeah, you have to. I've actually taken people there twice, which is one more time than I ever thought I'd go.)
  2. Sun Studios (where music history was made)
  3. The Memphis Zoo (since I used to work there, I'm not impartial - plus, they have pandas!)
  4. The Peabody Hotel, for the March of the Ducks (at 11 AM and 5 PM every day)
  5. Beale Street (it doesn't look like much if you see it in daylight; go back at night and listen to it)
  6. A Memphis Redbirds baseball game in AutoZone Park, the nicest minor-league ballpark in America
And you're going to need to eat while you're there, of course - try some of these places.

So, where do you like to bring visitors to your town? And if you're familiar with one (or both) of my towns, what would you add to the list? Please let me know in a comment, and check out Ten on Tuesday to see where the players will be taking their visitors!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Welcome the Mid-Century Modern Moms!

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There's a new parenting blog on the scene - and it's for those of us who are a little bit further along on the road of parenthood, with kids who have long since left the potty-training years behind (no pun intended) and are closer to the driving-lessons stage, or even past that. It's about time, I say.

For true-life stories and discussion of the trials and tribulations of being the parent of older children - and becoming older ourselves - visit the Mid Century Modern Moms. Today's the official "grand opening" of their group blog.

I'm looking forward to seeing what they have to say, and participating in the conversation. As I approach my own mid-century mark (slowly - still just a bit closer to 40 than 50 at this point!), I have almost 24 years of mothering experience so far, and am no doing graduate work in step-parenting, so I expect that I'll find a comfortable spot over there. If you are - or soon will be - a "mid-century modern mom" yourself, join me at their place, won't you?

(Thanks to Ilona for the heads-up.)

Weekend Assignment #207: Too Much News(?)

The Weekend Assignment is posted each Friday at Outpost Mâvarin; a roundup of responses goes up the following Thursday, so if you'd like to join in, you've still got some time!

Weekend Assignment #207: Are you a news junkie, or not so much? Do you seek out news on tv, radio, in newspapers or online, or are you sick of the endless rehashing of the same issues? I realize it's all a continuum, from "I never watch the news" to "I keep it on all day, and read several newspapers" (or whatever). Maybe you vacillate, depending on what's going on in the world or your own life. What's your current level of interest?

Extra Credit: Is there a particular news story you have been following recently?


I think the best way to describe my news-following habits is to call myself an "intermittent" news junkie. Depending on what's going on in the world at a given time, I may devour current-events stories, but eventually I'll hit a saturation point and start to tune out.

I rarely watch television news unless there's something major breaking - election results, war breaking out, natural disasters, things like that. I do get the headlines on the radio in the morning and evening, between the traffic reports on my commutes to and from work; when I'm in a period of paying close attention to current events, I'll switch over to NPR in between the traffic updates. (I know it sounds goofy, but I feel just a little smarter and better-informed when I've spent some time with Morning Edition on the way to the office.)

The radio goes off, and my iPod goes on, when I get to work, but I have internet access all day at my desk. Since I've begun spending more (and more) time online, I'm reading the newspaper much less, and I let my nearly 20-year subscription to Newsweek lapse. However, a number of the blogs I read regularly discuss news and issues, and their posts will frequently link back to articles on mainstream-media websites, so I think I stay reasonably well-informed.

There are certain areas of news coverage that interest me more than others, as one might expect. I pay less attention to international news than I probably should - I guess that makes me an American, huh? I'm generally interested in news about domestic politics and the economy. I pay attention to some local news, but my focus is a bit off; I don't follow much of what happens in the suburb where I live - truthfully, I'm not sure much does happen here, but if it does I'll hear about it from my brother-in-law, who reads the local paper - but I keep up with the big things happening in the greater Los Angeles area. I try not to pay too much attention to the tabloid-fodder coverage of minor celebrities, but it can be hard to dodge, especially out here.

I'm actually in one of my news-junkie phases these days, as it happens. I'm pretty interested in most matters related to the upcoming Presidential election, and I'm paying attention to news of the economy at the state and local levels, as well as the national one. Locally, much of the news these days has been about a rash of shootings and murders that are most likely gang-related, so I'm glad I don't actually live within L.A. County. There's also a lot of talk about foreclosures and the price of gas (I paid $3.59 a gallon to fill up car today; I'm glad I drive a Honda Civic).

I suspect that as summer approaches, my interest in the news will ebb a bit, and kick back up as the election approaches - but that depends on what's going on. What's news with you?