Monday, April 30, 2012

"Z" is for Zumba

I really hate exercising. I don't like sweating. It's just icky. On the other hand, I don't enjoy being out of shape, having a double chin, and worrying about the heart disease and atherosclerosis that runs in my family. So anything that makes exercise less like exercise and more like fun is great. I used to go dancing a couple of times a week. Then I married a man who doesn't really like to dance. So mostly now I walk while listening to an audiobook or podcasts or music. Then my daughter and I tried a Zumba class together, and I officially declare it closer to fun than exercise. The first time I tried it, we did a solid hour of cardio. (I think I stopped for a few seconds a couple of times to sip some water.) At the end, I was absolutely dripping in sweat and feeling like every muscle in my body had been worked out. The oddest thing was, I wanted to keep going! The trickiest part is finding a class to go to that fits my schedule. So now my Zumba is limited to dancing along with videos. At least no one gets to see me sweat.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

"Y" is for Youth is Wasted on the Young

Right now my daughter is at a "Black Light Splash Drum" dance fundraiser. She, along with 2 other students from our school, and going to nationals for speech and debate. (WooHoo!) So someone came up with this idea. They rented the town's old opera house/dance hall and covered it floor to ceiling in clear plastic and hung black lights. They brought in a deejay and some big old drums. I guess the idea is you poor fluorescent paint on the drums, and then when someone pounds along to the music, paint flies everywhere. She dashed home a little while ago and grabbed up all the towels. I guess all that paint splashing on the plastic covering the floor was making it slippery and people were falling down. The paint is all supposed to be washable. If not, I need new towels anyway. I can just imagine how much fun they're all having, dancing and splashing and glowing in the dark. and I think how fun it would be to be a teenager again. Then I think of all the cleanup these kids are going to have to do after the party is over. In this case, I'm glad I'm the old person staying at home.

Friday, April 27, 2012

"X" is for Xenodocheionology

Xenodocheionology means "the love of hotels." Wouldn't it just be easier to say, "I love hotels?"

Thursday, April 26, 2012

"W" is for Writing versus Working for Money

You can earn money with a writing career, of course. But it takes talent, work, and time. You have to really learn the craft. There is an element of luck. Networking helps. Being in the right place at the right time to pitch an idea to an editor or agent can help. Eventually, if you do everything right, you can make a living at it. Unfortunately, bills do not wait for "eventually." So tonight, working for money trumps writing.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"V" is for Vivaldi with The Piano Guys

How awesome is this? My favorite classical musicians, The Piano Guys, released a new video with a mashup of the Bourne Soundtrack and Vivaldi Double Cello Concerto, right when I needed something for letter "V." (Check out the all-steel cello!)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"U" is for Un-Google Yourself

Recently an old friend and I had a discussion about internet privacy. My friend wanted to pull back, be more private, and pretty much be anonymous. On the other hand, I want more publicity and name recognition, because I am an author. So for all you paranoid private people (too bad today's letter isn't "P") here are some general tips I've found. 1. Don't do stupid stuff. Do not let yourself be caught in any situation that would look really bad if someone took a picture. Do not leave ranting comments on any online site under your real name. 2. If you want an online presence, but want to be anonymous, pick a good pseudonym. (Authors have been doing this for years in print. It's a pretty trick.) Use something that, if Googled, will be hidden in an avalanche of innocuous results, like "SillyCats." 3. Google yourself. (I recommend doing this on any other search engine you can find, but "Yahoo yourself" and "Bing yourself" just don't have the same verb appeal.) See what's out there. Use all variations of your name, including middle name and/or initial. Use quotation marks to narrow down the search. If something shows up that you don't want floating around in the cloud, request that it be taken down, or that you are referred to by a nickname. 4. Bury it. If there is something out there you can't get rid of, hide it. Most people using a search engine are not going to go past the first several pages. So pick some innocuous subject (recipes, gardening, model trains) and create a very professional-looking blog, using your real name. Do a short blog post at least once a day. Use lots of keyword labels. That's what will pull your posts to the top of the search engines. Enough of that kind of thing will push what you don't want seen further and further back in the search results. For more tips, try Googling "how to un-google yourself."

Monday, April 23, 2012

"T" is for Temples

If you have read my blog much, you have probably noticed I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (nicknamed Mormon). With all the media hoopla around Mitt Romney's campaign for president, the spotlight has been turned on the LDS Church, including our sacred temples.
This is the Salt Lake Temple, where my husband and I were married. The LDS/Mormon term is "sealed" because we believe that by the power of the holy priesthood of God, we are sealed together for time and all eternity, not just "til death do us part." In our sacred temples we also perform proxy baptisms for our ancestors who have died. This is not to automatically make them posthumous Mormons. It is more our way of extending an invitation. We believe that the spirits of those who die are in heaven, and they should have the opportunity to choose what we have to offer. (See above "time and all eternity" reference.) Anyone who wants to see the inside of an LDS temple is welcome to take a tour of a newly built temple before it is dedicated, or of an older temple after a renovation, before it is rededicated. Check out the link below for an unbiased opinion from someone not of our faith who recently toured the new Kansas City temple. After a temple is dedicated, only members of the LDS Church in good standing are allowed to go inside. However, anyone and everyone in the world is more than welcome, if they desire, to join our religion and qualify themselves to go to the temple. It's the most accessible exclusive club in the world. Just flag down some LDS/Mormon missionaries. They will be happy to give you more details.
A Female Episcopal Priest Visits a Mormon Temple (PHOTOS)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

"S" is for Sunshine

The days are getting longer. The sun was coming up as I finished my shift this morning and went to sleep, and it was still there when I woke up again. I think I could get addicted to this.

Friday, April 20, 2012

"R" is for Regency

Regency is that genre of romantic fiction set in the time period roughly between 1811 and 1820. King George III (that guy the American Colonies rebelled against) was deemed too ill (crazy) to rule and his son George IV took over the reins of the kingdom as Prince Regent. This was all during the time of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars.

This also happened to be when Jane Austen was published. To her, a Regency romance was contemporary fiction. To the rest of us, it is a delightful sub-genre of historical fiction. It is a comedy of manners, and traditionally a squeaky clean read. Then the big publishing houses began to lower the rating of Regency from G or PG to PG-13 and then R. It was ruined. Regencies had become nearly indistinguishable from any other "bodice ripper."

But now Regency, in its proper form, is making a comeback. Authors like Sarah Eden are bringing back the fun. Just today, G. G. Vandagriff, who normally writes mystery/suspense, sent me a copy of The Duke's Undoing, her experimental foray into the world of Regency. (So far, I'm loving it.)

I hope this trend continues. I may just throw my hat in the ring as well.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

"Q" is for Quinoa

My daughter decided her senior project would be vegetarian cooking. That has been an adventure worthy of its own blog post. However, she told me yesterday that she needed some quinoa to make veggie burgers. Quinoa is apparently the seed of a a species of goosefoot, originally grown in the Andes. Though the end product looks like a grain, it is most closely related to beets, spinach, and tumbleweeds.

I ventured out to the grocery store in the town down the road, which is slightly larger than our little hamlet, thinking they might have some quinoa, since it was a largish chain store. No luck.

On the way back home I stopped at our little local grocery store. Lo and behold, there above the huge bags of regular wheat flour were several kinds of specialty grains in cute little 1-pound cellophane bags, including quinoa. The price was $10.49.

Seriously? You want a burger? I could buy a whole lot of ground beef for $10.49.

My daughter has decided to make a lentil loaf.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"P" is for Pinterest

For a long time, I heard my friends talking about Pinterest and thought, "What's the big deal?" I thought it was for sharing recipes and craft ideas.

Then one night in a moment of boredom (actually avoidance of what I should have been doing) I decided to check it out. Now I am ADDICTED! Whose evil brainchild was this? There is so much there to look at, and nothing takes forever to read. It's like short attention span heaven.

If you haven't joined Pinterest yet, it's like quicksand. It grabs you and once you're in you can't get away. Run away, now, before it's too late!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"O" is for Overwhelming Taxes

We're just finishing up our taxes - last minute, of course. I have just about decided it is not worth it to have income, particularly if that income comes from a small business. Most of what we could actually count as profit seems to be going to pay taxes.

I'm seriously considering giving up the civilized life and moving to a trailer in Slab City, Arizona, or a tree house somewhere in the redwood forest, maybe a cave down in Southern Utah. I'll just live off the land and not earn anything that can be taxed. Life would be so much more simple.

I wonder if any of those places I'm thinking of have internet access?

Monday, April 16, 2012

"N" is for Night Shift

I've been working the night shift in my "real" job since January. It pays better. I can understand why it is also called graveyard shift. It's because a few months without daylight makes me look like death warmed over. I may be posting a picture of myself under "Z" for Zombie.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

"M" is for Mozart Effect

The Mozart Effect is what happens to your brain when listening to the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Some say it temporarily increases spacial-temporal reasoning. Some say it increases your IQ. Some say it increases the alpha waves in your brain. Some say it is all a myth.

I've been conducting my own personal research, and for me, it works.

I've mentioned before that I have ADD, or attention deficit disorder. This is also referred to as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, inattentive type. Think of the stereotypical ADHD child - can't sit still, can't pay attention, "bouncing off the walls." With ADD, a person can be perfectly still on the outside, but their brain is "bouncing off the walls." These are the kids who sit and daydream in class. They never cause trouble. They're too busy thinking about other things.

I've also mentioned that I work as a medical transcriptionist, which involves careful listening and concentration and the ability to type quickly and accurately. ADD and MT - not the world's best combination.

Recently, I've been trying out the Mozart effect. While I am listening to doctors drone on and on about neurovascular function and esophagogastroduodenitis, I have music playing at a low, almost subliminal level. I tried making a Mozart station on Pandora. That worked somewhat, but Pandora likes to throw in all kinds of "similar" music to see if you like it, so I always had to weed out whatever wasn't Mozart. It was distracting. Then I tried making a Bach station, just to see what effect classical music in general would have. That was okay, but still distracting.

Then I found a playlist on YouTube of Mitsuko Uchida playing all the Mozart piano concertos. Bingo! Something about Mozart's concertos works to keep me focused without becoming a distraction. The best way I can describe what happens is that the music takes up all the extra room in my brain, so that what I am consciously trying to think about has less room to bounce. It's not really scientific, but it works for me, and like chicken soup, "It couldn't hurt."

This also might explain my sudden desire to start playing the piano again.

Friday, April 13, 2012

"L" is for Laptop

I love my laptop. For years, I put off getting one, mostly because the keyboard was flat. In my real job (the one I actually earn money with) I type all day long, and I'm going for speed. I'm used to a regular, slanted keyboard. I even found one with a slight curve to it, not quite the split ergo keyboard, but a little more natural feeling. All the laptops I had ever tried had this icky, flat keyboard, and the keys were too small, and it felt weird, and there's that weird thumb pad that if you accidentally touch makes things on the screen go all wonky.

For several years I used an AlphaSmart, which is a keyboard with a screen and a huge amount memory. It was light enough and small enough that I could slip it into a notebook-size purse and take it with me everywhere. It was great, until it started having battery issues, and I couldn't find the cord to transfer my on-the-go writing to my home computer.

So I finally gave in. I was going to a writer's retreat and I needed something portable, with internet access. I was able to find a laptop that was reasonably light and had normal-size keys (although it was still flat). If I need to do any speed typing, I can always plug in my special keyboard. I got used to it fast. Now I wonder how I ever got along without it. How did anyone even live without computers?

Now all I need is an extension screen that will lift up to eye level so I can get rid of "laptop neck" from looking down all the time.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

"K" is for Kid I had a crush on in school

No, I am not going to say who it was. Anyone who knew me back then, you have no clue. It's not who you think. It was the world's deepest, darkest secret. (Okay, I did tell ONE person.) You would be shocked. It was not a celebrity. I wore a little gold locket shaped like a book (naturally) with his picture in it through most of high school. The secret will probably go with me to my grave.

However, one of my current works in progress is YA genre, and a character will be based more or less loosely on this guy. If you are at all curious, you will have to wait and read it and guess.

Well, that ought to sell a book or two.

(If you think you know, email me. If you get it right, you get a prize - and a hit man will be on his way shortly.)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

"J" is for Jenni James

I've discovered a new favorite author. Jenni James has started a new YA series loosely based on the classic novels of Jane Austen, sort of the way West Side Story was based on Romeo and Juliet. Think Jane Austen meets the modern American teenager.

When I brought home the first book in the series, Pride and Popularity, my teenage daughter snatched it right up and finished it in 3 hours.

She L-O-O-O-V-E-D it, and she's never even read Jane Austen!

Then I finally had a chance to read it, and oh my goodness! If you are a Jane Austen - Pride and Prejudice fan, even if you've only seen the movie, you are going to have so much fun seeing the way Jenni works in all the classic P&P plot elements, yet still keeps it so current and relevant.

The second book in the series, Northanger Alibi, was a little harder for me to get into, probably because I'm not as familiar with Northanger Abbey. (It was Austen's gothic.) But I had to just giggle and give props to Jenni for bringing in the Twilight references.

Both these books are ones that teenage girls AND their mothers are going to enjoy. Go to Jenni's website to read the sample chapters.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

"I" is for Irritation

ir·ri·ta·tion (r-tshn)
a. The act of irritating.
b. The condition of being irritated; vexation: honked the horn with irritation at the delay.
2. A source of irritation.
3. Facebook Timeline.

Monday, April 9, 2012

"H" is for Hymns

When I was in grade school, I took piano lessons. I was not the most dedicated pupil, and most of the lessons didn't stick, but at least my piano teachers earned a little extra money each week.

I later joined the band, because it sounded like a fun thing to do. I decided to play the flute, because my best friend was going to play flute, and clarinets looked kind of dorky. The band was a more social thing than playing piano, and it soon took over my life. I dropped piano lessons.

As a grownup, I began to see that playing the piano might be more useful than playing the flute, which I had barely touched since high school graduation. Last night, I pulled out the electric keyboard we had purchased with the intent of our children taking piano lessons. (Which never really got off the ground.) I just felt like playing some hymns.

We had a small book of simplified hymn arrangements, alsopurchased for lessons which ended almost before they began. Since DH was on the couch in a Sunday evening semi-comatose state, I turned the volume down as low as I could. I was painfully rusty, hitting clunkers and missing accidentals and generally sounding like someone just learning to play.

When I decided I was done and began to put the keyboard away, my DH said, "That was really nice, honey."

And that is one of the big advantages of marrying a tone-deaf man.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

"G" is for Giraffe

I asked my daughter what I should blog about that started with the letter "G." She said, "Giraffes?"

Yeah, I got nuthin'.

Friday, April 6, 2012

"F" is for Feedback by Robison Wells

I want to win a copy of this book. You can try to win it, too, if you go here. You can get entries with a blog post, a review, and answering a few questions - up to 10 entries!

Feedback is the sequel to Variant, which I blogged about here. Variant really was as good as the hype surrounding it. Unfortunately, it was the first of a series, which I hate, because then I have to be patient and wait for the next book in the series to see what happens.

(Don't confuse Robison Wells with Dan Wells. Yes, they are both authors of dystopian YA fiction. Yes, they are brothers. They're like the Bronte sisters of dystopia. Except, you know, they're brothers.)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

"E" is for Economy

I was at my book club last night and we were discussing "Les Miserable" by Victor Hugo. Everyone seemed to have read a different adaptation, so we shared the interesting parts that had been taken out.

One of those things was when Jean Valjean said (I can't remember the exact quote) that it cost more to collect taxes when nobody had a job. When people have jobs, it's easier for them to pay their taxes, so it takes less effort to collect them.

That, I believe, is the way to improve the economy in our country. Start from the ground up. Instead of the government growing to try to keep everything under control, make it easier for people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Everyone will be happier. Money spreads better from the bottom up than from the top down.

Oh, and one more thing.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

"D" is for Dan Wells (Partials)

I had to figure out how to squeeze some book reviews in here, and I didn't want to wait until the letter P.

Okay, I really loved this book! And I can't stand that I have to wait a year for the sequel. It's dystopian, post-apocalyptic, and if you like the first Hunger Games book and/or movie, you will like Partials. I would give more of a review, but this is supposed to be short for the A to Z Challenge.

Here's the book blurb from the publisher, HarperTeen.

The human race is all but extinct after a war with Partials—engineered organic beings identical to humans—has decimated the population. Reduced to only tens of thousands by RM, a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island while the Partials have mysteriously retreated. The threat of the Partials is still imminent, but, worse, no baby has been born immune to RM in more than a decade. Our time is running out.

Kira, a sixteen-year-old medic-in-training, is on the front lines of this battle, seeing RM ravage the community while mandatory pregnancy laws have pushed what's left of humanity to the brink of civil war, and she's not content to stand by and watch. But as she makes a desperate decision to save the last of her race, she will find that the survival of humans and Partials alike rests in her attempts to uncover the connections between them—connections that humanity has forgotten, or perhaps never even knew were there.

Dan Wells, acclaimed author of I Am Not a Serial Killer, takes readers on a pulsepounding journey into a world where the very concept of what it means to be human is in question—one where our humanity is both our greatest liability and our only hope for survival.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

"C" is for Clean Comedy

I love to laugh. I love people who make me laugh. I love to make people laugh (although sometimes it's not on purpose, but whatever works, right?). I like to watch funny movies and comedians' stand-up routines.

What I don't like is "blue comedy." That's when someone resorts to foul language and sexual references for the shock value. It's not funny. It's just uncomfortable.

I don't like put-down humor. Have you really paid attention to situation comedies like "Everybody Loves Raymond?" There's a lot of slapstick and silliness. But a lot of the "humor" comes from one person saying how stupid another person is. It's not funny in real life when you are the butt of the joke. Why should we laugh at it on TV?

I like irony. I like word play. I like pictures of cats and dogs with silly captions. I like anything that points out just how hilarious and wonderful the English language is.

This is somebody I think is funny. His name is Ryan Hamilton. Here's where you can find his tour schedule. If he ever comes to your city, go see his show. (And I'm not just saying that because his grandma lives down the street from me.) (No really.)

Monday, April 2, 2012

"A" and "B" are for Anti-Bullying Video

Have you heard Ali and Christina Christensen's new release, "The Same Way," or seen the video? I'm posting it below. It is in memory of Jacob Mortensen, a 13-year-old boy Christina went to school with, who committed suicide in 2009 because of bullying.

Have you ever been bullied? It happens in all kinds of ways. I imagine most people think of bullying as things like stuffing the skinny little guy in his own locker, or giving a wedgie, maybe tripping a kid in the cafeteria so his lunch tray goes flying. All those things happen to be physical abuse as well. See, that's what bullying is, abuse. Dumping someone headfirst into a garbage can. That's physically abusive. Calling someone names. That's verbal abuse. Smearing someone's reputation on Facebook or sending hate emails. Verbal and emotional abuse.

In fact, all bullying or abuse, whatever form it comes in, is emotional abuse. Whether or not it leaves physical damage, it can cause emotional scars that may take years to heal, if they ever do.

Bullying needs to be stopped, and the only way to do it is through education. Educate the bullies that it is not acceptable and there will be consequences. Educate the victims that they do not deserve to be abused, and there is help.

For starters, we can make this video go viral.