Thursday, December 17, 2009

Happy Holidays

I'm traveling for the holidays and wont be back until January. While I'm away, I thought I would leave you with a few winter photos from last Christmas. Don't you wish you had a fork lift so you could build 15 foot tall snowmen too?

While I'm gone, please vote in my why are you reading this blog pole.

Joke of the Day

Not only do I own a forklift. But I used it to build a 15' snowman. Aren't you laughing yet?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Why are you reading this?

2009 is almost over. I’ll spare you a holiday greeting card version of my annual highlights. But since I started this blog in January, it seems like a good time to step back and assess this blog. Mainly I’m currious what people want to read.

I think that most of my readers fall into one of three catigories: people who know me, other bloggers, and people who google dyslexia jokes. But I’m wondering what you all want to read.

When I started this blog, the idea was to write about dyslexia. The problem is that there’s only so much to say about bad spelling. After a couple months, I ran out of ideas and started blogging about what ever I felt like.

There are three other dyslexia related blogs that I’ve found. If you are here because you’re interested in dyslexia, you might want to check them out. Dyslexia Advantage runs bios on famous dyslexics. They tend to have one post every week or two. Teh Dyslexic Storyteller posts dyslexia related news articles and commentary of special education advances about once a week. And Eide Neurolearning Blog posts about once a week mainly research results from learning style studies. As far as I know, I don’t have any cross-over followers with those blogs. And for the most part I expect very few if any of my readers care about dyslexia. Well except for the readers who like to make fun of dyslexics, but we’ll get to that later.

The vast majority of people who “follow” this blog are other bloggers. I know that I have a lot of annonomous readers that don’t publicly follow because they don’t have blogger accounts. But let’s be honest. There are a lot of wannabe writers on blogger, and a lot of us follow each other. In addition to being a dyslexic, I’m also a wannabe writer. I’m actively querying my second novel (my first novel was more of a learning experience and I doubt anybody wants to read it). I’m 25k words into the first draft of my next novel (this is the one I started two weeks ago). I am also slowly tinkering with a memoir, about dyslexia – hence the creation of the blog.

There are A LOT of blogs about writing. Tips on writing. Tips on the publishing industry. Horror stories of aspiring writers trying to navegate the publishing industry. The list goes on. I haven’t tried to make this into a writing blog, just 'cause I don’t want to be the same as everyone else. But if most of my readers are other writers that like reading writing blogs, maybe I should add more writing related posts. Is that what you want?

I do read a lot. Well that’s kind of a lie. I listen a lot. In 2009, so far I have read 27 books, and I have listened to 80 books, for a total of 107 books consumed, and I still have two more weeks to go. Since I spend so much time reading/listening, a lot of what I think about is influenced by what I read. So this blog has included a lot of book reviews. Do you like them?

Then there are the jokes. Back in June I did a post of dyslexia jokes. It’s never recieved a single comment, and I didn’t think anybody cared about it. Then in September I finally broke down and signed up for google analytics. It turns out 40% of the people who view this blog find it by googling the words “dyslexia jokes” – I’ve made it to number one on recomended pages for that search. To appease my joke loving readers, I’ve started including a joke of the day with my regular posts. But only 10% of the people who read my dyslexia jokes go on to read any other posts. So I’m not sure if anybody cares about my joke of days. Do you like them? Or can I stop scrambling to come up with new jokes all the time?

So I’m just gonna ask you. Why do you read this blog? (Note: this pole is now closed. The results are listed next to the choices. If you would still like to vote, please leave your response in the comments section.)

Do you care about dyslexia? (36%)
Do you care about writing? (21%)
Do you enjoy my book reviews? (5%)
Do you like my jokes? (11%)
Are you my mom and you just like me? (11%)
Do you even know why you’re reading this blog? (16%)

I’ve posted this pole in the side panel. Please vote! If you are reading for an unlisted reason, please let me know in the comments section. Now that I’m approaching my second year of blogging, I want to give my readers what they want. Thanks for your input.

Joke of the Day

Two friends are discussing politics on Election Day, each trying to no avail to convince the other to switch sides.

Finally, one says, "Look, it's clear we are opposed on every issue. Our votes will cancle each other out. Why not save ourselves some time and both agree not to vote today?"

The other agrees enthusiastically and they part.

Shortly after that, a friend of the first one who overheard the conversation says, "That was a sporting offer you made."

"Not really, this is the third time I've done this today."

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Gift of a Great Story

I was thrilled when my brother suggested, “Let’s just all give each other books this year for Christmas.” Even if you don’t have relatives dictating that you give nothing but books, a great novel can make a great gift – and can fit into most budgets. I tend to read a lot. So far in 2009, I’ve read or listened to 106 books. I will spare you a complete list. But here are a few of my favorites if you need some help with your holiday shopping.

For the young artist on your gift list: A Day With No Crayons by Elizabeth Rusch – This beutifully illistrated picture book is about a young girl who colors on the wall and has all her crayons taken away. She then learns how to see colors everywhere in the world around her and creates art out of everything she touches from leaves in the park to old shoes in her bedroom. Combined with an assortmant of creative art supplies, A Day with No Crayons is the perfect gift for the budding artist in your house.

For the young adventurer on your gift list: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan – This middle grade adventure novel is the first of five books in the Percy Jackson and the Olympian’s series. This exciting series perfectly blends modern Manhatten and Ancient Greece in the next chapter of Greek mythology. The movie of the Lightning Thief comes out next spring. Help the demi-gods in your family read about the magic of Olympus before they see it on the big screen. See a longer review of the series here.

For the rapidly aging teenager on your gift list: Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen – This YA novel is the opposite of the classic coming of age tale. An 18 year old girl who grew up to fast goes on a quest to live an entire childhood in one summer. The story encourages teens to hold onto their youth, while acknologing the complexity of growing up. See a longer review of all nine of Sarah Dessen’s novels here.

For the Science Fiction buff on your gift list: The Host by Stephanie Meyer – This is the first novel in Meyer’s next series. Instead of staring Vampires on the Olympic penisela, it’s about an invading parisitic alien species that takes over the Earth, and one sympathic alien that goes native and finds a home among a cell of rebel humans. I enjoyed The Host a lot more than the Twilight series, and can’t wait until the next book in the series is released. (Note: Unlike Twilight character’s in this story are adults and while teens can enjoy it, this is not a YA novel.)

For the bleeding heart on your gift list: Grace by Richard Paul Evans – This heart felt tale of a modern little match girl is sure to bring a tear to your eyes. When a fourteen year old boy discovers that one of his classmates is being physically and sexually abused by her step father, he helps her run away from home and hide out in the clubhouse in his backyard. The story might be set at Christmas, but it doesn’t have a happy ending.

For the unussal thinker on your gift list: Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison – This is a memoir by a very interesting man with aspergers syndrome. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing several people with aspergers in my life, but still learned a great deal by reading this book. I hope the memoir I’m currently writing about my life as a dyslexic will one day come close to the caliber of this book.

For the know it all on your gift list: A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson – This non-fiction book is a cliftnotes version of all scientific history. It begins with the big bang and ends with the evelusion of man. It doesn’t cover anything in detail, but provides a nice refresher to basic scientific study of the last few centuries.

For the partier on your gift list: I Like You by Amy Sedaris – This humerous hospitality book includes great recipies and party throwing tips that will have you rolling on the floor with laughter. Combined with a sporting apron, it’s the perfect gift for the consument host.

Joke of the Day
A guy bought his wife a beautiful diamond ring for Christmas.
After hearing about htis extravagant gift, a friend of his said, "I thought she wanted one of those sporty four-wheel-drive vehicles."
"She did," he replied. "But where was I going to find a fake Jeep."

Friday, December 11, 2009

Look Mom, I Can Spell - Almost

Lately I’ve been impressed with the quality of my own spelling. When I started this blog, I decided not to run spell check, so that my non-dyslexic readers could experience the pleasure of sounding out everything they read. While my spelling isn’t always accorate, I did endure nearly four hundred hours of one-on-one phonix training as a child. So my guesses are always phonetic.

But here’s the thing. My spelling has improved. A lot. By cutting Wednesday’s post into word and running spell check, it appears I misspelled 10 out of 477 words. 98% accuracy isn’t perfect, but if that post was a spelling test, I would have gotten a high A. And the words that I did misspell were all really close. Spending 30 seconds running spell check, and I could have been error free.

I’ve noticed my improved spelling in my fiction writing too. I completed the first draft of my first novel about eight years ago. At that time, I misspelled about 25% of the words I attempted to write. I would have to stop and correct my spelling at the end of each sentance. And it would often take me ten or fifteen minutes to figure out the correct spelling of the words I wanted to use. But I can’t even remember the last time I made it to step ten in the dyslexic’s guide to spell check. Now my fiction is just as accurate as this blog. I type a couple paragraphs, zip through spell check, and move on.

I know that I still misspell a lot of words that the average twelve year old can write with no problem. But I railrly feel self concious about my spelling. I can limp along well enough to get my point across. And my failures tend to fall close enough to the mark that they are easily corrected.

So I was a bit shocked when my husband started making fun of my grocery list yesturday. It turns out, of the fifteen items I put on the list, two were spell correctly. His favorite was pretselz. Apparently that isn’t how it’s spelled.

I’m not sure why I can spell revelation without problem, but I still haven’t learned how to spell cheeze. My guess is practice. I’ve been spending more and more time writing. And after correcting the same word a hundred times, my guesses slowly move closer to the mark. But I never worry about making my grocery lists legible. Perhaps I just need to write a cook book. Then I might figure out how to spell orenges.

Joke of the Day
A boy asked his teacher, "How do you spell ichael?"
"Do you mean Michael?" the teacher asked.
"No, I already have the M down."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Background Music

I tend to be a pretty good listener. The whole not knowing how to read thing, forced me to hone my listening skills as a kid. For years, I had an almost perfectly audographic memory. I no longer remember everything I hear, mainly because I no longer try to remember everything I hear. Still I’m always very concious of the sounds around me. Things like buzzy lights drive me bonkers, and I’m always eves dropping on the conversations of straingers.

In order to block out all the unwanted noises in my life, I spend a lot of time plugged in. Unless I am engaged in an active conversation with another person, I’m almost always listening to my I-pod. That's the main reason why I’ve listened to more than 80 audio books in the past year. But I do have several thousands of songs on my I-pod too.

I normally don’t like to read anything while I’m writing. I get very involved in the books that I read, and I never want my own prose to be influenced by the works of others. So I just yo-yo between reading/listening to 5 books a week, to listening to nothing but music and writing my own books.

Oddly, it is easier for me to ignor background music than electronic white noise. But music does effect my mood. So when I am actively writing, I like to have a soundtrack to my life. I’ve met several other writers who create playlists to write to that put them in the proper state of mind while writing. But I’m more interested in making a writing playlist to listen to during the parts of my day that I can’t write – like when I’m at work.

My last novel Camp Life centered around a production of Romeo & Juliet. It isn’t West Side Story, but I still felt like listening to show tunes was a good way to put me in a properly theatrical state of mind. The result, I listened to show tunes 24/7 for almost a year. I’ve memorized the scores to quite a few shows I’ve never even seen.

Now I’m writting a new novel staring a bunch of geeky college kids. So what do modern nerds listen to? I’m thinking alternative rock. I’ve started to assemble a playlist of Cobra Starship, Belle & Sebastian, Weezer, and Bowling for Soup, but I’m not sure what else to add to it. What obscure tunes do I need to track down in order to keep myself in a properly geekalisious state of mind?

And what about you? What do you like to listen to while you’re writing? Or living?

Joke of the Day
How many punk rock musicians does it take to change a light bulb?
Two: Once to change the light bulb and the other to smash the old bulb on his forehead.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Bit by the Writing Bug

When I wrote Camp Life (the YA novel I’m currently querying) I was super OCD about it. I wrote an average of 3-5 hours a day, not only when I was working on the first draft but also while revising. As a result, eight months after I wrote the opening sentence I completed the fifth draft. I like Camp Life. It was a fun story to write, and when I come back to it almost a year after I finished it, I still enjoy it.

But what about this past year? I haven’t written squat. I mean, yeah, I do have almost 45K towards the rough draft of The Giant in the Attic. But it’s still rough, and it isn’t even finished yet. And I’ve been working on it longer than it took me to finish writing and editing Camp Life.

In November I decided to start writing a new fiction project. The Giant in the Attic is memoir. I have lots of story ideas floating around in my head. So I figured if I just picked one and started writting the OCD behavior would return. But it didn’t work. I couldn’t get into the story I was trying to write, so it felt really flat and boring. Writing fiction was suddenly even more of a chore than writing memoir. So I gave up on that project and decided to just wait until a new project slapped me upside the head and forced me to write it.

Well, on December 2nd that happend. Things like NaNoWriMo don’t seem to work for me. When I want to write, nothing can stop me. So word count gimics really don’t add much modivation. And when I don’t want to write, I can’t get excited about gimics. But in the past five days I’ve written 13,000 words towards my next novel.

I’m not going to tell anyone what it’s about yet, because I’m totally pantsing this. I really don’t know what it is about. I have no idea where I am going with these characters. I’m only 50 pages into it, so I’m still meeting the characters. But I’m back to writing during every free second I can find. And I’m back to loving writing. Sometimes it’s good to be OCD. And even without any stupid gimics, I'll probably hit 50K well before months end - not because I have to, but because I need to.

Joke of the Day
A visitor to a certain college paused to admire the new Hemingway hall that had been build on campus. "It's a pleasure to see a building named for Ernest Hemingway," he said.
"Actually," said the guide, "it's named for Joshua Hemingway. No relation."
The visitor was astonished. "Was Joshua Hemingway a writer, also?"
"Yes, he wrote a check."

Friday, December 4, 2009


Last night while most Oregonians were busy watching the Ducks beat the Beavers in a civil war fight to the Rose Bowl, I was watching Holidazed. Holidazed is a twisted christmas play currently showing at Portland Artist Repretory Theater. It’s a sometimes heart warming and always hilarious story about a middle class family who takes in a pegan street kid for the holidays.

Last night was the third time I’ve seen the show. I also watched it twice last year. Even the third time around, I was moved from belly laughs to tears. I would highly recommend this play to anyone living in the Portland area. And if you don’t live in pdx, I recommend talking to your local theater company and suggesting they buy the rights to show Holidazed next season. I know the writers are interested in expanding to other cities.

I know this, because I know the writers. Holidazed was co-authored by Marc Acito (author of the novels How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Muscial Theater and Attack of the Theater People) and C.S. Whitcomb (screen writer of more made for TV movies than I can list). I’ve met Cynthia at a number of local writing events, and I know Marc because I took a ten week writing class from him last fall. The reason I saw Holidazed twice last year is that one of our classes overlapped with the dress rehearsal, so we got to take a class fieldtrip to the show.

Marc is one of the funniest people I have ever met. I want to share one thing he taught me about comedy. Laughter open’s people up – literally when you’re laughing, your mouth is open. Be it a book, movie, or play, audiences tend to stay somewhat detached from the story. People can be entertained, without being moved – until they start laughing. Laughter opens an audience to the possibility of a deeper emotional tie to the characters, because they are already feeling something.

That’s why I’ve cried all three times I’ve seen Holidzed. Because I was laughing first. So when the story took a serious turn the tears couldn’t help but flow. And when in the next sceen it bounced back to comedy, I just laughed even harder. If Holidzed was a totally straight play without a single joke, it could still have been touching, but I doubt my emotional response would have been as strong.

Not all people are funny, and there is nothing worse than bad comedy. But when serious topics, like homeless twelve year olds at christmas, are addressed through comedy the emotional responce can be amazing. In my own writing, I need to work more on making my readers laugh before I ask them to cry. Speaking of my own writing, I just started a new book. I’ll give you more details on that later.

Joke of the Day

What does a snowman eat for breakfast?
Frosted Flakes

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

November Reads

At the beginning of November I set a goal to not read or listen to anything for the entire month. I didn't exactly survive the experiment. Over the course of the month I listened to 6 books. But In October I listened to 18 books, plus I read 6 others. So while my fictional fast may have been a bust, I at least got a fictional diet. The six books I listened to this month weren't bad, so even though this will be a shorter post, I figured I'd still give you an end of month book review.

These are the six books I listened to in November in the order I listened to them.

The Host by Stephanie Meyer - Science Fiction - This was also the last book I listened to in October, and it is a really great book. Out of the 100+ books I've read so far this year, this book was my favorite. It is the first book in Meyer's new series, which means the ending leaves the door wide open for future adventures. It isn't quite Snape killed Dumbledore now wait two years to find out why, but I still recomend waiting until after the entire series is published before diving in if you suffer from impaciants like I do.

When I first started not reading, the only characters I could think about were the ones in "The Host". I spent about a week thinking about all the things that could happen in book two of the series and cursing the fact that I had started a series before book two came out. Then I just broke down and desided to relisten to book one again, a week after I had listened to the first time. I think I sort of have it out of my system by now, I haven't listened to it a third time or anything. But I will likely be in line at a bookstore at midnight on the day "The Sole" (book 2 in this series) comes out.

Jinx by Meg Cabot - Young Adult - I keep trying to be a Meg Cabot fan, but it really isn't working out that well for me. I did like Avalon High, but The Queen of Babble was only okay and How to Be Popular was sadly predicable. I would probably give Jinx about 3.5 stars out of five. It isn't a horrable book, it's just kind of cute. The teenage witch who doesn't want to be a witch has too normal of a life - for a witch that is. That's the main problem I have with all of Meg Cabot's books, her characters are all nice - sort of like vanilla ice cream. Sure nice is a great characteristic among actual people, but normal life is boring which is why we read books. And when I pick up a YA novel about a cursed teenager who is a witch but doesn't know it and causes all sorts of havic on her friends and family, I want Harry Potter and not the Princess Diaries. And lets face it, Meg Cabot's most famous novel is the Princess Diaries, and everything else she writes is just as nice.

The Shack by William P. Young - Spiritual - I read this book more out of curiosity than anything else. It is the latest thing to rock the christain world since the NIV bible, and I wanted to know what all the hype was about. I ended up liking it a lot more than I expected to, and I felt oddly pleased that so many christians are getting excited about it. Because it presents a version of god very close to what I've always believed in, and I rarely think of my religious views as main stream. A longer review of this book is available here.

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld - Young Adult - This book stressed me out. Maybe it is overstating things to blame all my stress on this book, because I was under a huge deadline at work at the same time as I was listening to it. But my anxiety was high the entire time I listened to this book and for several days after I finished it. The narator of this book is a total doormat who has a lousy life and it is entirely her fault because she never does anything about it, and I do think her high anxiety level helped to boost my own. I thought about this book a lot for about a week after I finished it, so I can't really say that it was bad. Causing an emotional response in the reader is normally very good. But I mainly just wanted to slap the MC upside the head and tell her to grow a backbone, so I guess I didn't really like it all that much either. Plus feeling super stressed out isn't exactly the emosional response I hope for when picking up a YA novel.

The Imimitable Jeeves by P.G. Woodhouse - Classic/Comedy - I listened to this book to help cheer myself up after my "Prep" induced panic attack. There really isn't anything stressful about Barty Wooster, so I think Jeeves was a good listening choose until things calmed down for me at work. I've read several of P.G. Woodhouses books, and they are all basically exactly the same. The situations are slightly different, but not very, so everytime I pick up another of his books I spend the first three chapters asking myself, "did I read this two years ago?" Still frivalis comidy can be great for ones mental health when facing a major deadline.

You Suck by Christopher Moore - Comedy - Once I finished the project that was driving me bonkers at work, I sort of lost the desire to listen for a while. I spent almost two weeks just day dreaming about the characters in my old novel and listening to music and generally embracing reality before I got around to listening to any books again. When I did, the first book I picked up was You Suck, which I blogged about on Monday. I don't feel the need to rehash it again, except to say that it is really funny and holds true to the classic vampire lore while being absolutely nothing like any of the other vampire books currently topping the best seller lists. It is actually a sequil to Blood Sucking Fiends but I didn't realize that until I was half way through the book, and it works perfectly well as a stand alone. But if you do want to read it, starting with the first book might not be a horrible idea. It at least makes more sence then reading the books in reverse order, which is what I'll likely do.

Joke of the Day
Why does the elephant use his trunk as a bookmark?
So he always nose where he left off.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Blood Lust

What is the big deal with vampires? Dracula was first published in 1897, and it seems that vampires have been a frequent icon in popular literature ever since. Dracula was not the first vampire tale ever told. And today vampires are the hottest thing around.

Back in the 90’s Buffy put a new more feminist face on the vampire story. Then Bella came along and quickly implanted sparkly vampires into every teenage girl’s fantacy. I have to be honest, I didn’t particularly like Dracula when I read it back in college, and I never watched Buffy. I did enjoy the Twilight series, it might not be high art, but it is definately entertaining.

I watched New Moon a week ago and enjoyed that a lot too. The CGI of the wolves was a bit corny, and the actor playing Jacob is a lot hotter than the actor playing Edward, which detracted from the Edward is the hottest man alive plot point. But for the most part I felt that it stuck to the plot of the book and entertained sufficently.

Last weekend I also caught my first eposode of The Vampire Diaries. Granted I did see a mid-season episode without any pervious context, but I wasn’t thrilled with what I saw. From the one episode I caught I figured out that some of the vampires are good and others are bad and they are living among humans and fighting for blood and justice. While these TV vampires don’t glitter in the sun, they do match more of the Twilight world rules than the Dracula world rules. Mainly I just felt like Vampire Diaries is trying to ride the Twilight money making wave, and the show wasn't adding anything new or interesting to the world of vampires.

Today I listened to a completely different vampire novel – You Suck by Christopher Moore. You Suck is nothing like Twilight, it attempts to be a humorous version of Dracula and I half expect Moore has never read anything written by Meyer. If you love Twilight but generally hate horror, You Suck probably isn’t for you. But if you enjoy a humorous spoof on horror that pokes fun at human fears and desires, then you will probably love You Suck.

Here is a longer list of comparisons between the vampires of Meyer and Moore


Bodies go lifeless (effectively dead) at sunrise

Passionate biting sex

Shave a cat before drinking its blood to avoid a mouth full of hair

Can drink from humans without killing them

Vampire gets drunk after feeding on drunken homeless guy

Vampires need human minuons (normally goth teenagers) to do their bidding during the day

The humane way to hunt is to eat terminally ill patiants shortly before they would die anyway


Bodies sparkle in the sun

Steamy hand holding but absolutely no sex before marrage

Hunting for mountain lions in the woods without getting remotely dirty

Biting a human can lead only to death or transformation and is always painful for human

Nobody does drugs or drinks alcohol in Forks

Vampires must keep their identities hidden under all costs

The humane way to hunt is to eat animals

Joke of the Day
What does a vampire fear most?
Tooth Decay

Friday, November 27, 2009


I love the fact that the largest non-religious holiday in American is a celebration of gluttany. My ansestors might not have attended the first Thanksgiving, but I made sure to eat enough this year to make up for their 18th century imigration status. Yesturday, I entertained 20 hungery friends and relatives. We didn't hold back on anything, and a good time was had by all.

Our dining room can't seat 20, 12 maybe, but not 20. But considering the youngest person at our gathering was 17 (and I was the second youngest person) sticking a kids table in the kitchen didn't seem like a viable option either. So we simply moved all of our livingroom furniture into the garagae and set up a giant table for 20 in the living room. Having all of our couches in the garage worked great, because we purchased a second used oven at a smoking low price and hooked it up to our dryer plug-in in the garage. So not only could people sit around and cabits out there, they could cook too.

The appetizer course in the garage consitsted of squash soup, smoked salmon, cheeze/crackers/cold cuts, veggies/dip, apple/carmle, dried fruit, olives, and pickles. And naturally some genrous porsions of wine too.

Once social hour carport style was over we dug into the real feast. Our thanksgiving dinner consisted of a smoked turkey, a deep fried turkey, a ham, two kinds of stuffing, mash potatoes, gravy, yam/apple casoral, green bean caserol, grilled asparagous, cranberry chuttney, orenges, corn bread, rolls (homebaked), butter (home churned), and more wine. It was delicious.

After dinner we played a few cut throat card games while our food digested before digging into desert. Which consisted of pumpkin pie, apple/cranberry pie, strawberry/rubarb pie, and ice cream. Once all the pie was eaten we played somemore cards before crawling off to collaps into food comas.

Instead of spending black Friday at the mall, I had to move all my livingroom furniture back into my house. But now the couch is were it belongs, my refrigerator is overflowing with yummy left overs, and I still love thanks-jiven.

Joke of the Day
What did the turkey say right before it was roasted?
"Boy, I'm stuffed."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Attack of the Day Dream

So far November has been a bit of a whirl wind as far as the wonderings of my mind are concerned. At the beginning of the month I set myself a goal of not reading or listening to any books for the entire month of November. My feeling was that this would force me to think about a new book and I would eventually start writing a lot more.

I did start writing a new book during the first week of November, but it never went anywhere and after about 5000 words and an outline I gave up. I may come back to the idea sometime down the line, but I just didn't care about any of the characters and I couldn't modivate myself to write about it.

I also got really board at work. I've gotten so good at multi-tasking that not listening to audio books while working is difficult. After a week of unispiring music, I gave up and started listening again. I continued to attempt to write for another week before I scrapped my new story all together.

Then all of a sudden, creativity set in. I started thinking about my old characters, from my last book. The novel that I wrote last year is YA and stars an entertaining group of 16 year olds. In my mind these kids are now all 19 - and they are still fabulously entertaining. I really don't want to write down what I'm thinking about right now. Sequils never work - if a long story is written as a series it can be gripping and powerful, but when a book works well alone it should stay alone. Sequil for the pure sake of sequil tends to read really flat and boaring.

To make matters worse, I've rewritten my last book in my mind. Not the whole thing - I just decided to kill off the mother of one of my main characters. In the book that I wrote, this characters parents our divorsed. But for the sake of my new daydream it works way better if his mom is actually dead. So I'm just letting her be dead in my mind now, but she can stay alive and neglectful in the book I already wrote.

So here I am, November is almost over, my mind is spinning with lots of great characters going on great adventures. I've only listened to five books this month (I read or listened to 24 books in October), and I still don't have a new book to write. But I'm not board - so I'm not complaining.

Joke of the Day
I'm trying to daydream but my mind keeps on wandering.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Creative Dyslexic - A Result of Brain Geometry

A new study was just published in the Harvard Medical Journal that corrilates a decreased lower posterior corpus callosum area of the brain with dyslexia and ADD. What does that mean? Well according to the good people over at Harvard the corpus callosum is the part of the brain that connects the right and left hemispheres. So it helps to coordinate thoughts between the two sections of the brain.

When the lower posterior corpus callosum is deminished in size, it causes an increase in divergent thinking. Since the two parts of the brain are less linked, the mind is able to further develope divergent thoughts. In other words, the brain is naturally more creative. Studies have shown that people with smaller corpus callosums are more creative than people with standard corpus callosums. So the question is no longer are you left brained or right brained, but instead do you two brains know how to communicated?

Having a diminished corpus callosum is not the cause of dyslexia or ADD. The world has many highly creative people with tiny corpus callosums who read great. But this latest study indicates that the percentage of dyslexics with diminished corpus callosums in higher than that of the non-dyslexic population.

This doesn’t really surprize me. My experence has always been that brain weirdnesses come in clusters. When ever one thing is off, the possibility of everything else being wacked is greatly increased. Also looking at the list of famous dyslexics makes it easy to recognise we tend to be a creative group. Still it is nice to know that the nerds over in Boston are doing their part to add proof to my speculation. Plus it makes me feel good about myself knowing there is one more official advantage to sucking at reading.

Joke of the Day
One person with ADD said to another, "I got a new cookbook, but I could never do anything with it."
The other person with ADD replied, "So the reciepies all contained unussual ingreedence?"
"Exactly, every single one said 'Start with a Clean Dish'."

Friday, November 20, 2009

New Global Economy

I know that up until this point, this has not been an economics blog, and venturing into that field might not be what my readers want, but it seems like I end up talking to people about economics almost every day. So I’m tempted to bring the debate online.

I’ll start by grounding myself. I was raised in an upper middle class family, I have multiple college degrees (anthropology and engineering), and both my husband and I are currently employed as engineers. I’m kind of a snob, and its easy for me to think – I want a beach house, I want a yatch, I want, I want, I want. So then I think about possibly making less money and I have to frown.

To make matters even worse, the company that my husband works for recently announced their plan to move all their manufacturing facilities to China. Design work will still be done in the US, and currently my husband’s job appears secure. But when 80% of the companies US employese are laid off, it is hard to take comfort in that security. So I understand the reality of the rising unemployment rate, and I personally know multiple people with Ivy League educations whose jobs are being outsourced.

But then there is another part of me that says, stop acting like such a snob. This isn’t only a problem that I face. It is a problem that all American’s are facing. We are a country full of spoiled brats. There are certain things that are basic needs – food, clean drinking water, basic shelter. Many people in the world are currently living without these things. And out sourcing is bring much needed jobs and capital to the developing world and will as a result greatly increase the quality of many human’s lives.

Cable TV on the other hand is not a basic human need. And owning a yatch is certainly not required for servival. Maybe if we as American’s stopped feeling entitled to all of the things that 95% of the world population would never even dream of, we will be happier living in this new global economy.

Even though I was raised deep in the trenches of the upper middle class, I have had the opertunity to meet several people that refer to themselves as idependently poor. These people have always made money somehow, working as artists, doing odd jobs, and repairing and reselling damaged goods. These people might not have hundereds of thousands of dollars tucked away in their 401K’s, but that just means that they didn’t feel as much pain when the stock market popped. But for the most part I would say that all the independently poor people that I know are far happier than the people who own multiple pieces of vaccation property that they never have time to visit.

I never want to go without food or water, and I tend to get cold easily so having shelter would be nice too. But I’m already happily living without cable TV. If my husbands job is outsorced, we will be able to servive on my income until he finds something else. And while we are both employed, we need to remember to invest our money wisely so that we will have both the security to live through a rainy day, and the flexibility to eventually stop working. And we don’t need to go buy a yatch.

I do want a beach house and a yatch, because I’m sure at some level I will always be a snob. But I also want the people in China to have enough food to eat, and I want the people in South America to have clean drinking water. And I want the joy in my life to come from the people I interact with and the experiences I embrace – not the size of my 401K. Being independently wealthy might be a pipe dream, but I think I could be really happy independently poor.

Joke of the Day
The economy is so bad a picture is now only worth 200 words.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

To Read or Not To Read

Yesturday, Natalie Whipple over at Between Fact and Fiction had a post about how everyone can and should be a reader. Her message was that people who don’t think they like to read, just need to hunt more diligently for a book they will love. Her post reminded me of an experience I had when I was 16 years old.

Let me set the scene for you. I was an uber-dork – took all honors and AP classes, captain of the mathletes, ect. Except that I read at a second grade reading level, so I was stuck in bonehead English instead of honors English. I got all my text books on tape, and I also listened to three or four books for pleasure per week. At the time I filled all my audio book needs via RFB&D (recordings for the blind and dyslexic). This meant that I had to know the author and title of a book before I ordered it from RFB&D, so I was always on the lookout for good book recomendations.

Now enters my friend Nathan. Nathan was also an uber-dork – took honors and AP everything (including English), captain of the chess club, ect. For some reason I thought since Nathan managed to get a hire grade than me in Physics, he might be a reader too. So I asked him, “have you read any good books lately?”

His answer, “I like reading Calvin & Hobs, does that count?”

I was floored. Nathan was smart, he probably taught himself how to read when he was four or something. But he didn’t do it. He didn’t read. He just did his homework, and then built robots and stuff like that in his spare time. I couldn’t understand why anyone who could read wouldn’t want to. There was nothing in the world I wanted more than to be able to read. I just couldn’t get it.

Now let’s fast forward about fifteen years. I am now married to yet another uber-dork. He is an electrical engineer by day, and in his free time he enjoys fishing, woodworking, restoring antique farm equipment, and inventing zany new contraptions in his shop. The guy is definitely smart, and way to productive for his own good. But he doesn’t read. In the six years I’ve known him, I’ve seen him read exactly one book – and I wrote it. He doesn’t like watching movies either, and the only TV show he likes is Mythbusters.

When we go on long car trips, my husband never complains when I subject him to audio books. His problem with reading is simply that it requires sitting still, which he hates to do. So I write books, and my husband invents new fangled fishing loors. We are both entertained, so it shouldn’t really matter that we have different hobbies. Still, when I read a really good book that I know he would love it always pains me a little bit – knowing that he will never read it.

And as for me. I’m still a dorky engineer who is constantly plugged into audio books. Only now I am capable of reading dust jackets and usually do a pretty good job of finding titles to keep myself entertained, without depending on the recomendations of the non-reading computer nerds I live with.

Joke of the Day

Once there was a lady in on an airplane with a poodle. The man sitting next to her was smoking a big cigar, even though they were on a no smoking flight. The lady was seated in an exit row, so she opened the airplanes door and threw out the man’s cigar. The man then grabbed the poodle and through it out the door. The pilot saw what had happened and quickly did a loop-d-loop and the poodle landed on the wing of the plane. In the poodles mouth was the brick from Monday’s joke.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Change of Plans

I have decided to shelve the book I’m suppsedly writing indefinately. This really isn’t a very big sacrifice, concidering I’ve only written about 5000 words. Basically I’ve decided that writing when I’m not in the mood is never a good idea. Not because my time is precious or anything like than, but simply because the things I come up with are total crap.

I heard the first sentance of my last novel in a dream. I woke up the next morning and started writing. I didn’t stop until I had a completed novel that I felt happy with eight months later. At first there was only one voice in my head, asking me to tell her story. But as I wrote, I began to hear other voices and the stories cast of characters fanned out and came to life. Writing was fun, writing was addictive. Even when I wasn’t writing I spent every waking hour thinking about the characters in my novel.

I finished that book about a year ago. Since then I’ve written about 2/3rds of a first draft of a memoir, I’ve written this blog, and I’ve read or listened to more than 100 books written by other people. But I haven’t caught that addiction to writing again. I haven’t dreampt up a new story that I felt an uncontrolable urge to write down.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about anything. In the past year, I’ve invented about a half a dozen casts of characters. Some have been interesting, and some have been ordenary. But their stories have all had major problems that told me without question that a book about their lives could never find a market. They weren’t stories ment to be written down, they were just stories meant to entertain me.

The book that I started two weeks ago in my half hearted attempt at NaNoWriMo, wasn’t about a character who has taken over my conciousness. Instead it was a plot that I thought might have a market and consisted of characters that I didn’t know or care about. The result is simple. I don’t care about this story. Writing feels like a chore, and everything that I write is flat and lifeless. Nobody will want to read what I’m writing right now. I don’t even want to read what I’m writing right now. So why am I writing it?

Last weekend I went camping – yes in November. I know I’m insane. I didn’t bring anything to read or write, I just hung out in the rain and did a lot of day dreaming. The story I invented for myself over the weekend had nothing to do with what I’m supposed to be writing. It also wouldn’t work as a novel. But it entertained me during a wet rainy weekend.

So I’m just going to take a step back and trust myself. I’m only 30 years old, and I daydream 24/7. Obvoisly, I will write another novel. But I don’t need to force it. When a character wakes me up at night begging me to write – I will. But when I find myself board with my own writing, well then maybe I should just read a book and think about something else for a while.

Joke of the Day
Once there was a man who decided to build a house. He carefully counted out all of the bricks he needed before he began construction. But when he was finished with the house, he had one brick left over. So he threw it in the air.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Shack

I have broken my own rule. I set a goal for myself to not read or listen to any books for the month of November. While I’m not doing NaNoWriMo, I figured a fiction fast would get my imagination churning enough that I would be more motivated to write. That was the idea. It lasted a week. The problem is that my day job currently consists of a lot of data entry and other monotimous tasks that tend to become mind numbing fairly quickly. I tried listening to music, for a whole week I tried. But that entire week I felt like my mind would explode, I was just so board. Then I broke down and started listening to audio books again. And what do you know, I’m back to loving data entry. It’s a great background activity to listening. My current plan is to listen to audio books while at work, but to focus my free time on writing (not reading or listening) while at home. I’m not writing anywhere near NaNoWriMo type word counts, but I’m writing more than I did in October. And I feel much more content.

Since I’m busy breaking rules, now I’m going to break another big rule – I’m gonna talk about religion. Because one of the books I listened to this week was “The Shack” by William P. Young. The book came recomended to me by a nun, an evangelical prodostant, and a devout egnostic. It is a good book, my guess is that most people in the world who consider themselves Christians will really like this book. It is well written, thought provoking, and it questions modern consepts of religion just enough to enable people to rexamine their faith without fully destroying it.

My own reaction to the book was surprisingly positive. I never felt offended while listening to it, and I often felt myself agreeing with its message. But I don’t tend to think of myself as Christian. This doesn’t mean I’m a devout athiest either. I often describe myself as a resent convert to hethenism. When I was a kid, I was a total nerd. I got straight A’s in everything, including Sunday school. I didn’t know how to read, so I aquired an audio version of the bible. Then I memorized it. In Sunday school when the other kids memorized individual bible verses, I would show up having memorized entire books.

Being a non-reader, I’ve always had a strong tie to the idea of oral tradition. I have never questioned the idea that in the first century AD, very few people knew how to read. That doesn’t mean that people didn’t know the scriptures, it means that people memorized the stories and told them alloud – the same why I still listen to audio books while doing data entry. I, therefore, deduced that none of the New Testimate could be properly understood if the entire Old Testimate wasn’t first memorized. The early Christians were all just as devout of Talmudic scholars and the average orthodox Jew of today. And the sudtle refrence to Talmudic scripture in the gospils and appisles weren’t intended to be suttle.

So I know my scriptures. I have also done a fair amount of study into the men who wrote them down and their political and religious motivations for writing them. But I don’t call myself a Christian. Not because I don’t believe in God, because I do. I just don’t like the way so many Christian’s spout hate in the name of God and try to scare people into faith. Most of modern Christianity is entirely alien to the concept of God I discovered by memorizing the Bible as a kid. But I liked “The Shack”. There is one line in it where the character of Jesus says, “I’m not a Christian.” And I have to admit that line made me smile.

Anyone reading “The Shack” should go into it knowing that three of the major characters in the books are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – it is a very religions book that can only be enjoyed or understood from a religions point of view. But God the Father is a fat African American Woman, and most of the other common conceptions precented in contemperary religion are questioned. I beat enough ordained ministers at bible trivial games as a kid to know that I’m familiar with the scriptures. And while “The Shack” doesn’t quote the bible, it really doesn’t contridict it either. And the African American Female God that lives in a shack in the woods, is more like the Holy Father whose stories I memorized in my youth, than the wrathful God Christian’s so often quote when preaching hatered.

So if you are a nun, or an evangelocal prodistant, or an devout egnostic, I would recommend “The Shack”. It is an interesting read about a broken spirits face to face encounter with God. It uplifts, and encourages thought, and attempts to puts a new more loving face on a creater that never wanted to be seen as wrathful.

Joke of the Day
Bob and a rabbi and a priest are walking together. Bob turns to the rabbi and asked, "I know in your religion you aren't supposed to eat pork, but have you ever tasted it?"
"I must confess," the rabbi replies. "There was one time when I did taste pork."
Bob then turns to the priest and asked, "You are supposed to be celebate, but have you..."
The priest cuts him off and admits, "Yes, there was one time I succome to my temptations."
The rabbi then turned to the priest and said, "It's better than pork, isn't it."

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Rise of the E-book

I follow enough publishing industry blogs to know that a lot of people are seeing e-books as the end of reading as we know it. Barns and Noble resently released the Nook, their new e-reader sure to give Amazon's kindle a run for its money that will also help the worlds largest book store stay in business when people start refusing to shop in book stores.

But tonight on my comute home, I heard a story on NPR that brought the end of paper books into reality sooner that I had suspected. I have always thought that e-books would surpass paper books in market share once kids started getting e-readers at school instead of paper text books. Once school children become used to reading e-books and ever student has an e-reader the transition away from paper books will be impossible. Not only will kids in school consume all their pleasure reading on their school issued e-reader but they will then grow up to be adults fully committed to the idea of e-reading.

Well according to the good people at All Things Considered, there is a private school in Massicusits that has gotten rid of all the paper books in their school library. All the kids have laptops and kindles and the library is investing only in e-books and online refrence material. Right now this is just one private school in New England, but how long will it take before all the public schools across the country are following suit. When kids can't get paper books at their school library - the e-book is here to stay.

I feel so thankful that I got a kindle for my birthday last summer. I would hate to be bested by a bunch of spoiled brat kids.

Joke of the Day
You know technology has taken over your life when you consider your many gadgets friends, but you forgot to send your father a birthday card.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Good Writing vs Good Story Telling

When I grow up, I want to be an author. So becoming a good writer should be at the top of my to do list. But lately I've been thinking that good story telling is infanately more important. How many times have I heard people say, Stephanie Meyer or Dan Brown or some other mega best selling author is a bad writer. These nagative comments could come out of gelousy, or they could be based on the occational poorly constructed sentance. By lets be honest, does it matter? Nobody cares if Dan Brown can't write like William Faulkner - because he can tell a story like Dan Brown.

An authors ability to come up with an interesting story idea that is unlike anything else and then to tell it a gripping and exciting way is what makes readers buy books. If the grammer is all wrong and the writing is so overly flowery that it becomes distracting people will notice. But who really freeks out over the occational adverb? I honestly don't think there is all that much of a difference between the quality of writing in the average high school students English paper and the average best selling novel. The difference is all in the story telling.

So what is involved in good story telling? The characters need to be interesting and relatable. The plot has to be fast paced enough to keep the reader interested. The events need to be original enough that the story stands out against the many other tales available. If the story teller can touch the reader/listeners emtions via laughter, sorrow, fear, ect that's great too. And that is really it.

Maybe that is what people mean when they talk about good writing. The ability to make characters come to life on the page, to grab the readers and not let go, and to make an emotional connection with the audience. So where does sentance structure come in? My answer is, no where. Stringing words together in coherent sentances has nothing to do with great books. Great books are always well told accounts of great stories.

So I'm giving up on becoming a great writer. My spelling sucks, and I often think in run on sentances. All I want to do is make up stories. Sometimes I make up stories that are seriously boring. Usually I have enough forsight to not write those stories down. My latest novel is a modern adaptation of Romeo and Juliet set at a high school summer camp. It's a fun story, but I don't know how great it is. I mean, obvoisly it's not totally original - it is a remake of Shakespere after all. But I'll keep dreaming, and I'll keep writing, and with a little luck oneday I will become a great storyteller.

Joke of the Day
A dyslexic entered a spelling bee and came in SALT.

Friday, November 6, 2009

10,000 Hours to Success

I’m undergoing a fiction fast and not reading or listening to any books for the entire month of November. This means that I can’t blog about all the books I’m currently reading. So instead, I’ll blog about a book I read last summer. “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell is all about what it takes to become an expert at anything. Gladwells answer: 10,000 hours of practice. Gladwell hypothosises that natural ability has almost no impact on success, and that completing 10,000 hours of practice means everything.

Regardless of the truth of Gladwell’s book, it seems to take the world a year to catch onto trends. “Outliers” was published last November, and now all of a sudden everywhere I turn I hear people talking about the 10,000 hours rule. Since I was apparently ahead of the curve on the tipping point for this trend (seeing as how I listened to “Outliers” six months after it was published instead of twelve) I’ll add my voice to the growing debate now.

I do disagree with Gladwell on one major issue. I think that natural tallent matters a lot at the beginning. If the 10,000 hours rule is true, I would be tempted to claim that people without natural talent are weeded out after the first 1,000 hours. In the amiture levels there is a lot of emphisis placed on natural ability and the people who don’t have inharent talent are almost never given the opportunity (or modivation) to put in the practice. So successful people are vertually always naturaly talented in their chosen field – they just practiced a lot too.

Now lets look at the 10,000 hours rule. The only example I’m going to use here is myself, if you want better examples, read Gladwell. I am an engineer by trade. I have been working in this field for 4.5 years, before that I had 3 years of engineering school. Assuming I currently spend 40 hours per week 50 weeks per year engineering, and I spent 20 hours per week 36 weeks per year while in school, I have currently spent 11,160 hours practicing engineering. Am I an expert engineer? Hard to say. Clearly I know more than I did back when I was in school, but I still depend on the expertice of many of my co-workers in some areas. Do I have natural talent in engineering? Probably – if I didn’t I would have been weeded out my first year of engineering school.

Next field – writing. I’ve written two novels, one that sucked and one that I think is good and I am currently querying. I’m also half way through a memoir, I wrote a bunch of papers back in high school and college, plus I’ve been writing this blog for about a year. My guess is that all this time writing adds up to about 3,000 hours. No where near 10,000. So I shouldn’t be considered an expert writer yet. That is probably a good thing – I’m sure there are lots of tricks to the trade I still need to learn.

But what defines an expert writer? I think I have natural talent, I would have quit writing a long time ago if I didn’t. But I’m also a fast writer. Back in college I used to average 20 minutes per page when writing papers (10 page paper = make sure to start in at least 3.5 hours before its due). I would estimate that I spent approximately 800 hours writing my last novel, and I honestly think it is good. So do I need to write 8 more books to finish my 10,000 hours before I can get anything published? Or does that just mean that my eighth novel is going to be the one that moves me from a midlister to a best seller?

A standard four year college education gives people about 3,000 hours of practice. Two more years of graduate school only amounts to 5,000 hours. Obviously on the job learning happens in every profession. But people get jobs all the time who aren’t “experts”. When it comes to the arts is there also room for income involved with on the job learning? Can a writer continue to grow their craft while a published mid-list writer? Can a painter have a few small gallery shows early on before breaking into the major museaums? Can a musician tour small venues before they top the bill board charts? Logic would say yes. Even Gladwell would say that artists often do get paid before they become experts. It is that early oppertunity/encouragement that enables artists to reach their 10,000 hours.

So I’m setting myself goals I hope are realistic. I want to be a writer. I want to find an agent and publisher for my latest novel. I believe that it is the best novel I can currently write. But I also trust that it isn’t the best book I will ever write. I hope that this novel makes is solidly into the mid-list. And I hope that as I continue to write, I will one day become an expert capable of a spot on the top of the New York Times Best seller list. But I’ve only done 3,000 hours. I’m not there yet. I just don’t want to believe 10,000 hours is required to get an agent.
Joke of the Day
A doctor, a civil engineer, and a consultant were arguing about the worlds oldest profession. The doctor said, "In the Bible it says God created Eve from a rib taken from Adam. Clearly surgery is the worlds oldest profession."
THe civil engineer then said, "But before God created Adam, he created the order of the heavens and the earth out of the chaos. THis was the first and most spectacular application of civil enigineering. So mine is the oldest profession."
Then the consultant said, "But who do you think created teh chaos?"

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Trouble With Tracking

The practice of dividing students into leveled tracks is making its way back into national debate. The current problem people are finding with tracking is racial and economic discrimination. The idea is that leveled tracks often work well for the very best and very worst students, but don’t properly serve the vast middle. As a result affluent students are often pushed into higher tracks over poor or minority students who may be equilly capable of success. Well, I’m a white girl who grew up in an affluent suburb and then went onto a pristigious college, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have strong opinons when it comes to tracking.

I’ve never been a member of the vast middle and don’t know what kind of injustice is being inflicted on those students. But I can tell you all about strattling the fringes. When I was in elementry school tracking wasn’t questioned by anyone, it was simply a given. The problem was that nobody knew where to put me, so they cut me into peices and stuck a limb in every box.

In fifth grade, I was placed in five different tracks. I was constantly being pulled out of my main classroom as I was carted around from one special class to another. On Thursdays I only spent 20 minutes in my mainstream classroom. I remember the anomily of those fifth grade Thursdays, because those were the days that my time in the special ed classroom and my time in the talent and gifted program overlapped. One of the TAG kids would have to walk down to the resource room and pick me up.

I consider myself lucky. Somehow in the 1980’s, when a kid had a very high IQ and didn’t know their ABC’s people paid more attention to the high IQ. The other special ed kids didn’t understand me, but the TAG kids accepted me without questions. I was their resident Rain Man, and provided them with endless entertainment. By the time I got to high school, bonehead English was the only non-honors class in my schedule. My time in special ed was short lived and the world chose to listen to me when I insisted that I wasn’t stupid – just illiterate.

I still wonder about kids today. I know one student currently deep in the confineds of special education. Everytime I talk to her, I’m shocked by how little she knows. It’s like she is a teenager trapped in the mind of a small child, but her developmental disabilities aren’t that sevier. I know her, and I know she could achieve much much more if she really tried. But she doesn’t try, and the system doesn’t expect her too. She was placed in the basement track, and nobody expects her to achieve anything.

How many learning disabled children with high IQ’s, boundless determination, and no comprehension of the alphabet are getting slouted into special ed only to be forgotten. I don’t think they give IQ tests in elementry schools anymore. Does anyone even know that these children belong in half a dozen tracks, not just one?

Joke of the Day
A man walks into a bar and orders a drink. The bartender is a robot that askes, "What is your IQ?" while preparing the cocktail. The man replies "150" and the robot proceeds to talk to him about global warming, string theory, nano technology, and quantum physics. The customer is impressed, so after he finishes his drink he leaves and then reenters. This time when the bartender asks him his IQ, the man says 100. The robot then talks to him about NASCAR, gun control, supermodels, and baseball. Again when the man finishes his drink he leaves and reenters. This time he tell the robot bartender that his IQ is 50. The robot replies very slowly, "So...ya reelect...the mayor?"

Monday, November 2, 2009


November is officially National Novel Writing Month. It involves thousands of people all across the country attempting to write an entire novel in the course of one month. It also leads to lots of agents hating the month of December when they recieve submissions for lots of frantically written and completely unpolished novels. I do have a lot of respect for the writers who view NaNoWriMo as an inspiration to finish their rough draft and then go on to spend several more months pollishing their manuscript. Still I haven’t signed myself up for NaNoWriMo and I don’t plan on finishing my next novel before November 30th.

But I have decided to allow the NaNoWriMo hype to inspire me to write. Here is a brief history of my writing life. Back in April of 2008 I got a book idea and sat down to write myself a few notes about it so that when I found the time to write I wouldn’t forget my idea. Once I started writing I got totally obsessed and couldn’t stop. Four months later I completed the first draft of CAMP LIFE. I then spent the next four months polishing and repolishing so on Dec 31st 2008, I finished my 5th draft. I then passed it off to a bunch of beta readers and finally got around to picking up their comments and finishing the 6th draft in July. I started submitting CAMP LIFE to agents in August.

In January of 2009 I started writing THE GIANT IN THE ATTIC, my memoir about how I became an illiterate author. Since I’m totally egomanical, I’m sure that this book will one day make me millions. Unfortunately, writing non-fiction isn’t all that fun. So in 10 months, I’m only half way through the first draft. Instead of completing a draft a month, lately I’ve been writing about a chapter a month. But I’ve been reading/listening to five books a week, so that counts for something right? I do plan on finishing THE GIANT IN THE ATTIC, because I think educating the world about dyslexia is important. But I don’t plan on finishing it anytime soon. Instead, I need to face the truth about myself and just write some more fiction – cause that is actually fun.

So in owner of NaNoWriMo, I started my second novel on November 1st, 2009. I have no plans or expectations of finishing it on November 30th. But I am making a few life changes during the month of November to encourage myself to write. First – I deleated all the audiobooks from my I-pod and will not listen to a single book until December. I am also going to leave my kindle at home for the entire month of November and instead take my laptop with me on the train to and from work. This absence of fiction will most likely drive me completely insane. Fortunately, I tend to lean toward the creative form of crazy. Once I’m unable to fill my imagination with the fiction of others, I’ll be forced to come up with my own. Who knows, maybe I will have a draft done before November 30th after all. I’ll keep you posted.

Joke of the Day
Once there were three men in the desert. One had bread, one had water, and one had a car door. The one with the water and the one with the car door asked the one with the bread, "Why do you have the bread?"
He said, "So if I get hungry, I can eat it."
The one with the bread and the one with the car door asked the one with the water, "Why do you have the water?"
He said, "So if I get thursty, I can drink it."
The one with the bread and the one with the water asked the one with the car door, "Why do you have the car door?"
He said, "So if I get hot, I can roll down the window."

Friday, October 30, 2009

October Reads

My audio book adiction has not subsided. I may have read/listened to 19 books in September, but that was nothing. In October I read/listened to 24 books. The exact numbers are 18 audio books, 3 e-books, and 3 paper books. Here is a quick review of each.

How To Be Popular by Meg Cabot – YA – Exactly what you would expect given the name. It is a predictable story with very one dimentional characters. Fun, but not overly thought provoking.

Ordinary Ghosts by Eireann Corrigan – YA – A teen boy who deals with lots of teen issues in a very different manner than what is commenly found in YA books for girls. Longer review here.

That Summer by Sarah Dessen – YA – Another great Sarah Dessen novel. This one is about a girl whose sister gets married shortly after her father gets divorced and her idea of family is turned upside down. Longer review here.

Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen – YA – This YA adventure is about a girl whose best friend is pregnant with her dead boyfriends baby. At the same time the MC breaks out of her overprotective parents clutches by dating a reble. Longer review here.

Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen – YA – One of my favorite Sarah Dessen novels. This one is about a loner girl who spends the summer with her aunt and ends up finding herself in the process. Longer review here.

This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen - YA - A mean girl who regarlaly uses and abuses he men in her life is tamed by the love of a kind hearted boy. Longer review here.

Before I Die by Jenny Downham – YA – A sixteen year old girl with terminal lucimia works her way down a list of things she wants to do before she dies that aren’t normally provided by the make-a-wish foundation.

Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flag – Women’s Fiction – Overly preachy, gave up half way through. Continuation of Elmwood Springs story. Longer review here.

The World Is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman – Non-Fiction – A fairly dry account of the current economy. Insightful, but not as entertaining as I was hoping.

The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner – Historical Fiction (faint hints of steampunk) – A fast paced story about the French Revolution and the love between a mistical gypsy boy and a doomed aristicratic girl.

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale – Fairy Tale – A heartwarming remake of a Brother’s Grimm classic. A princess who's finds herself and her ability to lead after her title and power are stollen.

Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes – Childrens – A unique view of children dealing with death as one 12 year old girl processes the death of one of her friends.

Animal, Vegitable, Miricle by Barbara Kingsolver – Memoir – An interesting account of a family that spent a full year eating no food grown more than 100 miles from their home. Longer review here.

Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner – Non-Fiction – An interesting take on economics that is more peculiour statistics than economics. Very similar to Malcolm Gladwell books.

Number the Stars by Lois Lowery – Children’s/Historical Fiction – A touching account of the nations of Denmark’s mission to smuggle all their Jewish residence to Sweeden during WW2, told from the point of view of a ten year old girl.

The Host by Stephanie Meyer – Young Adult/SciFi – Another gripping forbidden love story. This one is an invating alein falling in love with a human, as opposed to Meyer’s better known human/vampire love story. I actually like the Host better than Twilight and am looking forward to the release of the next book in the searies.

Paradise Lost by John Milton – Classic – Reading this felt way to much like homework. It may be the grounding of a lot of modern western thought, but it still reads like a text book.

Adventure Capitalist by Jim Rogers – Travel – I would love to go on a three year vaccation through 158 countries, and the economy lesson was somewhat insightful. But for the most part this book made me more jealous than inspired.

I Like You by Amy Sedaris – Hospitalty/Humor – Laugh out loud funny! Amy Sedaris may be even more entertaining than her brother. And it sounds like she throughs great parties.

Naked by David Sedaris – Humor/Memoir – I actually like David Sedaris’s early stuff better than is more recent stuff. It is hard to sympathis with a guy wining about being a gazillionair. But a fat guy hanging out at a nudist colony is pretty funny.

Masterpiece Comics by R. Sikoryak – Graphic Novel – A marrage of classic literature and classic comics that is highly entertaining. Longer review here.

Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan – Women’s Fiction – A gripping tale that sheads light on the country of Berma/Myamair. Unlike Adventure Capitalist, this story made me glad I was at home reading and not being held captive in the jungle.

A Mad Desire to Dance by Elie Wiesel – Literary – A glimps inside the pyschoanalys of a crazy jew. The story was interesting but it wasn’t exactly Night.

Counting on Grace by Elizabeth Winthrop – Historical Fiction – A touching account of a twelve year old mill girls strugle to obtain an education and fight for child labor laws.

Joke of the Day
Why did the librarian slip and fall?
Because she was in the non-friction section.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Keep Your Preaching in the Pulpit

Ever since “Fried Green Tomatoes” took the world by storm back in the mid 90’s, I’ve been a fan of Fannie Flagg. But I wasn’t able to bring myself to finish “Can’t Wait To Get to Heaven”, it was just to preachy to stomach. In this addition to the Elmwood Springs sogga, Aunt Elner dies and goes up to Heaven where Neighbor Dorthy is God. Something about being told the meaning of life over a piece of pound cake rubbed me the wrong way.

Normally religion in literature doesn’t bother me all that much. As a kid the Chronicals of Narnia were some of my favorite stories, and they are so overly Christian they might as well be called the Gospil According to Aslan. My early faith may have been shaped more heavely by the words of C.S. Lewis than the apposil Paul, but I never cared because I always loved the stories.

Two of my other early favorites were Candid and The Pilgrams Progress. In those books the Christianity isn’t even symbolic, it’s just right there in the open to see and deal with. But I never felt like I was being told what to think or feel, I was just experiencing an epic tale. In the same way as I’ve never felt tempted to convert to peganism when I read Homor.

I’ve never had a problem with religions symbolism in fiction. Religion has always played a big part in human culture and often drives people’s thoughts and actions, so it should hold a place in the things we read and write. Many of my favorite books have had characters that were Orthodox Jews, or Budists, or Hindus, or Muslums. I like learning about different people whose experineces are different than mine, and containing religion in literature is an important part of that.

What bothers me is when one character gives another character a sermon, that is so poinient I know it’s really just the author preaching to the reader. That is what I can’t stand. And that is why I put down one of my favorite author’s latest book midstride. I didn’t even dissagree with the sermon, I just didn’t want to be preached at.

Joke of the Day
Jesus and Moses went golfing. When they got to a lot water hole, Moses laid his ball up before the water for the easy shot. Jesus looked at the pond and announced, "If Tiger Woods can do it, so can I." Then he hit his ball straight into the pond. He turned to Moses and said, "Part the water so I can get my ball."
Moses did as Jesus asked, and Jesus went down and got his ball. After retreaving his ball he did not lay it up for an easy shot over the water trap but instead announced, "If Tiger Woods can do it, so can I." He swung again, and landed in the water again. And again he asked Moses to part the water.
Moses was now feeling frustrated and encouraged Jesus to lay up for the easier shot. Jesus would not listen and again hit his ball straight into the pond. This time when he asked Moses to part the water, Moses said no. So Jesus walked out on the water to get his ball himself.
The group behind them caught up and looked out to see Jesus walking on the water and asked, "Who does he think he is, Jesus?"
Moses turned to the golfers and replied, "He is Jesus. He thinks he's Tiger Woods."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sarah Dessen

I have officially found a new favorite author. I read “Along for the Ride” by Sarah Dessen back in August and loved it so much I went on to read her other 8 novels in the two months that followed. Sarah Dessen writes young adult novels that typically deal with girls in difficult situations. Here nine novels deal with topics from making friends, devorce of parents, rape, falling in love, eating disorders, death of parents, teen pregnency, growing up, death of friends, domestic violence, concentual sex, bullying, child abuse and neglect, and much more.

At times Sarah Dessen’s stories are funny, but for the most part they are serious and often sad. The thing that makes these books stand out as so exceptional is the development of the secondary characters. Every single person who enters the page is interesting. People are almost never what they seem at first. The stories narators are regularely surprized as they come to see new sides of the people around them. This complexity of all the characters in her stories makes them seem more real.

Sarah Dessen’s stories are all set in the same place (actually two places). 7 of her novels are set in the town of Lakeview and 2 are set in the town of Colby. The town of Lakeview is referenced in one of the Colby books, and the town of Colby is refrenced in two of the Lakeview books. The characters in these books all go to the same two high schools, and they all hang out at the same hot spots around town. This overlap in setting ties into the complexity of the minor characters. It makes the reader think that even the unnamed people in the background have interesting stories to tell – and reading Sarah Dessen’s other novels will in fact tell those stories. There are even two named characters that appear in multiple books.

Here is a list of all of Sarah Dessen’s books and a quick summary of each. These books are listed from most recently published to first published. In general I like Sarah Dessen’s more recent work better than her earlier work and would recomend reading her newer stuff first.

Along for the Ride – Auden, an overachiver with immature parents graduates from high school and realizes she has never had a childhood. During her last summer before college she goes on a quest to experience all the things she missed during the first 18 years of her life. Her quest begins with food fights and bowling, and ends with learning to ride a bike and falling in love.

Lock and Key – A seventeen year old Ruby is abandoned by her mother and ends up living with her astranged sister who she hasn’t seen in ten years. Ruby’s understanding of family changes as she gets to know her sister, makes new friends, and discovers one of her friends is being physically abused by his father.

Just Listen – Annabel is supposed to be the girl who has everything, she has been a professional model since she was in diapers. But her older sister has a serious eating disorder and the previous summer Annabel was raped by her best friend’s boyfriend. Annabel struggles to find the strength to admit the truth about her life and to find a friend willing to listen.

The Truth About Forever – Fifteen year old, Macy has done everything she can to live a perfect life ever since her father died a year and a half ago. When her mom, a work aholic realator, gives a party Macy ends up helping the caterers in the kitchen as everything that could go wrong does. Macy then gets a perminate summer job with the caterers and discovers that life doesn’t have to be perfect and missing her father is okay.

This Lullaby – Remy is basically a total bitch. At the beginning of the summer, her mom marries step-dad number 5, so there is grounding for Remy’s anti-love mentality. In a twist of the normal bad boy story, in this novel Dexter, a nice boy, is able to tame Remy and break down her cold hearted exterior.

Dreamland – This is the only Sarah Dessen book that I really didn’t like. Caitlin is a fifteen year old girl who falls in love with a drug dealer shortly after her sister runs away from home. Her drug dealer boy friend then begins to regularely beat the shit out of Caitlin, and she lets him. In the end Caitlin’s parents figure out what is going on and she gets help. Still the story is grusom, none of the characters are likable, and I just really wanted to believe that this sort of thing never actually happens.

Keeping the Moon – Colie has the worlds smallest self-esteem, even though her mother is a modivational speaker. When her mom leads a modivational tour of Europe, Colie is sent to spend the summer with her ecentric aunt. Colie gets a job at the local dinner, makes friends for the first time in her life, and falls in love with the loner boy who works as a short order cook.

Someone Like You – Halley’s best friend Scarlet discovers that she is pregnent. Too bad the father died in a motor cycle accident. Halley falls in love with Macon, Scarlet’s dead boyfriends bestfriend. Macon is a total bad-boy that Halley’s overprotective mother refuses to let her see. Eventually Halley realizes Macon is no good and redirects her energy toward helping Scarlet prepair for motherhood.

That Summer – Haven’s older sister gets married the same summer as her father remarries. All of her ideas of family are turned upside down as people move in and out of her life. Haven befriends one of her sister’s old boyfriends, in hopes of grabbing onto a happier past. She learns that not everything in her past was as perfect as she wants to remember and comes around to accept the changing family that she has in the precent.

Joke of the Day
A duck walked into a drug store and asked for a tube of lipstick.
The attended said, "That will be $4.99."
The duck said, "Just put it on my bill."