Sunday, February 26, 2012

Did you watch the Oscars?  I turned it off during the opening bit after I realized I had seen too few of the movies to understand host Billy Crystal's jokes, nor did I really care who won.  From everything I've read, it seems everyone "knows" who the big winners are going to be.

The three of the nine Best Picture nominated films I did see are "The Descendants," "Midnight in Paris," and "The Help." I liked all three for different reasons: "Midnight in Paris" the most clever and funny; "The Help" the most poignant and emotional; "The Descendants" well-written and acted.  The fact that it was set in Hawai'i is a plus.

Besides those I've seen a few other movies that were quite good, thanks to the library: "50/50" starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a young man battling cancer was funny, dramatic, and compelling.  "Drive," starring Ryan Gosling as a Hollywood stunt driver who moonlights as a driver for petty criminals, was quite excellent.  It was suspenseful, well-acted, and surprising.  "Julia's Eyes" was a Spanish horror film directed by Guillermo del Toro, the man behind "Pan's Labyrinth." It was truly scary, gripping me from frame one.

This morning I spoke about the Oscar awards with my grandma.  She said she doesn't go to see movies anymore because she can't hear what they're saying.  I suggested "The Artist," because it's silent (she laughed).  Anyway, I keep checking back on the Oscars to see if anything surprising happens.  But if everything goes as expected, "The Artist" will win Best Picture.

Friday, February 24, 2012

First Draft: When Will I Be Ready?

About a month ago, I finished my book.

Rather, I should say, I reached a finished a sentence that I had decided was my last sentence.  My word count goal had been reached, and my story had been told.

Since then, I’ve written about 4,000 more words to the book.  I’ve added to early chapters and late chapters alike.  I’ve beefed up description and rewritten scenes I had hurried through in order to get from A to B as quickly as possible.

I’m still revising entire sections.  I’m not just editing.  I’m removing entire exchanges of dialogue or moving conversations to different days and settings.  I’m confident that all the changes I’m making will improve my book.  The story will be more compelling and there will be fewer dull spots.

But how do I know when I’m done?  How do I decide that I’m done revising and am only tinkering around the edges?  When do I give the completed book to beta readers and ask them to look for holes?

(Cross-posted from my wordpress site--I thought I'd give that site some attention)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

What's MySQL?

Last week a woman called the library wanting to set up some computer instruction time. Specifically, she wanted help using WordPress to set up her blog. At my branch, the teen librarian is responsible for one-on-one computer sessions, helping older adults do things younger people grew up with: moving the mouse, left-clicking the mouse, and the basics of the internet. But because I have some experience with WordPress and blogging, I agreed to meet with this woman.

You can use WordPress in two different ways. In the first, hosts your site. It doesn't require you to be a computer expert, nor do you have to download any software. In the second, what my dad uses, you register at, buy a domain, find a server, do some stuff with ftp and mySQL, download software and then upload it to a server... My dad had professionals set up his site; now that it's up and running, he is able to maintain it.

I had assumed the woman had the second kind of site: that she had bought a domain and needed help getting it up and running. It wasn't until I began reading "WordPress for Dummies" that I understood how hard that would be. I had a notebook full of step-by-step instructions so that, even if I didn't know exactly what to do, I could lead her through it. Still, I was nervous.

When I finally met with her, I was relieved to find out she had the first kind of site--the one like I have. She wanted help changing the header, knowing where to go when she wanted to write a new post. Adding an email address. I could help her with these things. This is not above my pay grade.

We're going to meet again next week. I'm not sure now much individual attention I'll be able to continue to give her at work--our staff is already stretched thin, and I have other responsibilities at the branch--but in the mean time I'm happy to offer what help I can. It reminds me that just as she is pushing herself out of her comfort zone, using resources available to her to grow and try to enact change, I need to continue to push myself to grow, to keep writing, and to keep learning.

Monday, February 20, 2012

I Forget... What Was I Going to Say?

My grandma has an alarm system. When she returns from a shopping trip or church, she has just two minutes to get from the back of the house to her bedroom to turn off the alarm. The alarm is loud, but not to her 90-year old ears, so she's often forgotten to turn it off and received a call from the company making sure everything's alright. Finally she decided to put a note just inside her door, "Turn off alarm."

I'm not quite at the point where I wouldn't notice loud beeping, but I put up my first Post-It note yesterday where I'll be sure to see just before leaving the condo:
I don't know if you'll be able to read the yellow note, but it says, "Remember cell phone and purse!!!"

Wednesday, I left my purse at work. Thankfully it was there the next morning, my $22 cash and credit card with a laughably low limit in tact. But my relief at finding it was tempered by the realization that I'd left my phone at home, the second time I did that last week. When I'm at work, this isn't a big deal--I don't get personal calls during the day, and I'm still able to check email. I can be reached at the library in an emergency. But I'm in the car for over an hour each day. If there's a problem (my timing belt hasn't sounded too good in a while), I'd like to be able to call a tow truck or Triple-A.

I don't just leave stuff at work or home. I'm forgetful in other ways. In fact, yesterday, I got distracted mid-scrub and left a bowl in the sink and the dishwasher open. Seriously.

I get lost in my thoughts, sometimes. I'm thinking about what changes I want to make in my story, or what projects I'll tackle at work, or the debt crisis in Greece. I'd like to be more conscientious, of course, but part of me is depressed by the idea of filling my mind with boring minutiae.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Q & A: Just for Fun

My friend on the Left Coast, George, of Rough and Rede, tagged me with this blog post. I'm taking advantage of his eleven questions to a) fulfill his kind request and b) get me out of my blogging rut (I said, not too long ago, that I would write a post a day!)

The Rules:

1. You must post the rules (and link up who tagged you).

2. Post eleven fun facts about yourself on the blog post.

3. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post, and then create eleven new questions to ask the people you've tagged.

4. Tag however many people you want.

5. Let them know you've tagged them!

Fun Facts:

- I planned to be a math or chemistry major when I entered college
- I've been to five countries
- My brothers and I were born two years apart, '80, '82, and '84
- I went to a Montessori school through 6th grade; I can't think of a better education
- I recently turned from a life-long pc user to a mac user. Mac is better.
- If I had to live on a single food for the rest of my life, it would be pizza.
- I'm the same weight as I was in 1998.
- I got my first speeding ticket when I was driving my mom's car on a highway (circa 2003); I was trying to figure out the cruise control as I was coasting down a hill and, somehow, my speedometer hit 90. Oops.
- I just cried like a baby at "50/50": good movie.
- I go to my grandma's house almost every Sunday. For fun.
- I drive a stick shift.

George's Questions & My Answers:

1. Who had the greatest influence on you growing up?

Easily my parents, in different ways. I was a bit of a homebody, so there was no one (besides my brothers) with whom I spent more time. How I look at the world; how I interact with others; how I think about myself: all this is directly influenced by my parents and how they treated me growing up. I see on television and read in books and hear stories from others how their parents talked to them. I don't remember a single disparaging word from either of my parents. I try to be good and thoughtful and unselfish. I worry, maybe too much, about how others are feeling. That's my mom. That's my dad.

2. What do you want people to remember about you?

I've joked about this: "Well, she tried." I have this image in my head of all of us just floating around, living out our lives, trying to make the best of it. It's hard to know what to do. To know what's best or what's right. So we try. I try. I would hope people recognize that. (Ask me again in a few years, and maybe my answer will change. In fact, I hope it does!)

3. Do you believe in God?

There's that E.M. Forster quote I've mentioned a few times here and elsewhere: how do I know what I think until I see what I say? In my story (currently at 79,000 words, about 30% through the revision process!), I'd originally intended for it to be about the relationship between this woman and a teenage girl: one has never been (nor wanted to be) a mother; the other is orphaned, practically speaking. But without planning on it, throughout the story I explore each character's faith, or lack thereof. Does it make one's life easier or harder? It's funny: I may cringe when I hear people on the right bemoan our nation's shift toward secularism. But they're right, I think. We are. Regardless of a person's individual beliefs, our culture is slowly becoming more secular and more inclusive. The Catholic Bishops are asking the government to help do what they weren't able to: prevent women from using birth control.

4. What are you most proud of?

I'll be silly here and say jumping out of a plane.

5. What is one thing you'd like to do before you die?

I'd definitely like to visit more countries.

6. At this age, what has surprised you about your life?

The extent to which I push myself to be around people. Growing up as this painfully shy and awkward girl, I assumed I'd choose a life in which I didn't have to interact much with others. That I could be alone a lot. But ever since high school, I've chosen jobs that force me to be around others. Not just a few others, but a lot, whether it's a classroom full of preschoolers or nursing students, or a public library. I don't think this is a coincident. I think I recognize that if I weren't forced to by my job, I would live the life of a hermit (which seems appealing at times!)

7. Name three of your all-time favorite movies.

Oh, this is hard. Give me a genre, like dream political movies, and I'll say "The American President" and "Dave." Say romantic comedy, I'll say "Pretty Woman," "When Harry Met Sally," and "You've Got Mail." Say movies you've watched half a dozen times on purpose, I'll say "Forrest Gump," "Clueless," and "Independence Day." Say best movies in the past two months, I'll say the American "Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" and "Drive." All time? Hmm...

8. What are you reading right now? And I do mean now.

I'm about two-thirds finished with Tom Rachman's "The Imperfectionists." I'm also rereading Christopher Moore's "Lamb" with my boyfriend.

9. Chocolate or vanilla.

Easiest question: chocolate.

10. If you could have dinner with a celebrity, who would it be?

Probably Stephen Colbert. Especially if he acted like I was on his show and he was interviewing me.

11. What don't people realize about you?

I can be extremely goofy; I try to hide this side of me as much as possible to avoid confusion.

That's all I have for tonight. Thanks for the questions!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Aren't You Finished by Now?

Today's my first and only day off work this week. I'm still revising (my boyfriend says, "Aren't you finished by now?!" and I ask myself the same thing).

I'm stuck on my ending. I've gone back and forth many times, and as written it's kind of in the middle. It's not the horrible choice that may make you hate a character, and it's not the warm and fuzzy, nor is it the clear moral answer. I'm realizing today, as I reread my final chapters, that I need to be stronger. Trust my original plan. Even if it makes you hate a character (which is debatable... I think it may split on gender lines, ha), I think that's okay--it just means you care about these made-up characters and world.

Sorry for the vagueness. I'm excited about making the fix and wanted to get my thoughts out. I'm at 78556 words, and expect it to get longer.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Next Time You Buy a DVD Online...

My dad's foundation has partnered with Amazon. If you follow the link (which takes you to the basic site with some added code), 4% of every purchase you make will go toward his foundation. You won't pay any more, any less. I know I don't go a month without buying something from Amazon; from now on, I'll start from this link:

Every little bit helps:
  • $80 pays for one preschool teacher's monthly salary
  • $50 pays for relief food for one month
  • $40 pays for rental of classrooms for one month
  • $25 pays for one goat
  • $20 pays for one school uniform
  • $10 pays for one mosquito net
  • $3 pays for one student's school fees for one month

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I watched "Contagion" tonight and am suddenly aware of how much I touch my face throughout the day. According to a character in the movie (which is about a very deadly and rapidly-spreading virus), I probably touch my face two- or three-thousand times a day.

Luckily, we keep hand sanitizer on our check-out desks for staff and customers alike.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Currently Reading...

I've started reading "The Imperfectionists," by Tom Rachman. Each chapter is told from a different perspective in a new setting: contemporary Paris, France, first; now, Rome in the 1950s. As I read, the connections become more clear. From Amazon:

Fifty years and many changes have ensued since the paper was founded by an enigmatic millionaire, and now, amid the stained carpeting and dingy office furniture, the staff’s personal dramas seem far more important than the daily headlines. Kathleen, the imperious editor in chief, is smarting from a betrayal in her open marriage; Arthur, the lazy obituary writer, is transformed by a personal tragedy; Abby, the embattled financial officer, discovers that her job cuts and her love life are intertwined in a most unexpected way. Out in the field, a veteran Paris freelancer goes to desperate lengths for his next byline, while the new Cairo stringer is mercilessly manipulated by an outrageous war correspondent with an outsize ego. And in the shadows is the isolated young publisher who pays more attention to his prized basset hound, Schopenhauer, than to the fate of his family’s quirky newspaper.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


I have a cool app on my phone called "Pocketbooth" - it takes four quick pictures of you and stitches them together like one of those old fashioned photo booths. Here's some of me and my nana (not sure why I look so grumpy in picture #4).

Saturday, February 4, 2012

No Bells, No Whistles

I'd been to comedy shows a couple times--once in college and again at a small club a couple years ago. Watching these men--it's only been men--get up on stage and try to make me and the rest of the audience laugh, I think about how hard it must be, night after night, for them to put themselves up there among distracted, drunk, or heckling crowds. How painful it must be. They don't have tricks to fall back on. There's no band, no bells and whistles, just the stories they tell.

But tonight I saw a true professional--Lewis Black. I didn't worry about his home life or whether or not he self-medicated. He spent some time on politics, how he can't believe that anyone is a Democrat or Republican these days, considering how horrible both parties are. He also said he wouldn't make any jokes about Obama because he's not funny--he's just so smart that he becomes lost in his head and thinks about the rest of us in the abstract (he used his serious voice here). Black spent more time mocking the republican candidates--pretty easy targets, but it still cracked me up.

(Actually, one of the funniest jokes came from the warm-up comedian, John Bowman: he hopes Mitt Romney picks Tom Cruise as his running mate so we can get America's two wackiest religions on one ticket.)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Let Them Eat Cake

Forbes called it a "sound bite blunder," I call it a "Washington Gaffe". A "gaffe" is a social error or a faux pas; in Washington, DC, a gaffe is when a politician tells the truth. Republican front runner Mitt Romney made the latter kind of gaffe when he explained to Solidad O'Brien on CNN "I'm not concerned about the very poor." Because the very poor have a safety net--welfare, food stamps, housing vouchers--he's not worried about them. He went on to say that he doesn't care about the very rich, either, because they're just fine. He's concerned about the middle class.

I hope he has to explain himself. But his own words suggest that he's not at all concerned about a group of people who are already so disenfranchised. Making ends meet through welfare and food stamps is not an easy life. I'd venture to guess that the "very poor" includes a high percentage of children and elderly. It's good to know what Romney really thinks about these groups. "The Examiner" calls Romney's statements not a gaffe but a "dog whistle to the tea party", which believes that too much money is spent on entitlements that go to the "very poor."

I do wonder how Romney defines "middle class." He referred to his speaking fees of over $370,000 as "not very much." Is a $370,000 income "middle class" to Romney? What about 10% of that, $37,000? I'm sure millions of Americans would love to be making $37,000 a year and pay the 25% tax rate on that money.

Edited to add a link to Jon Stewart's take on Romney's statements.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

le sigh

Things are temporarily on hold for the full-time job. Long story, but I'll continue to pick up extra hours until everything is sort out.

Le sigh.