Thursday, September 30, 2004

Phone confessions

Things you should know:

  • When my phone rings, it sounds like a doorbell. The doorbell sound is my own fault; one afternoon, while taking a nap, the phone rang. Three times. Three times telemarketers. Not even people I like, but telemarketers rousing me from my Saturday nap. Fie! Fie on you telemarketers! I tried to turn the ringer off but you see, my dad got me a New High Tech Shiny Phone that requires an engineering degree to master; as we all know, I do not have an engineering degree -- I am a business major, for goodness sakes. So I thought I turned off the handset, but instead transferring the phone ring to the base and I can't figure out how to turn off the base.

  • The doorbell sound causes some problems because I can't figure out if it's a fundraising teen at my door or a telemarketer. The end result: I screen phone calls! Forgive me! If you call between 6 and 9 pm on my landline, I'm automatically going to assume you want to sell me health insurance at a fraction of the cost. Mea culpa in advance!

  • I hate call waiting with a passion. There's nothing you can say to me that will convince me otherwise. I always feel second-best when I talk to people with call waiting. "Hey," they say, "can you hold on? I'm getting another call." And then a few seconds later they say, "Oh I really need to talk to this other person, bye!" Humph. So, if both my cell phone and landline are busy, I'm talking to someone who needs my full attention or I'm busy and can't come to the phone; so leave a message. I promise, when I'm done with whoever I'm talking to or whatever I'm doing, I will call you back and give you my full attention.*

  • I find it hard to sit still while talking on the phone. Which is why most of my housecleaning happens while on the phone. I don't vaccuum, obviously, but dishes are fair game, as is mopping/sweeping the floors, and changing out linens and doing laundry.

  • And I'm ashamed to admit I don't answer the phone during some of my favorite shows. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I should be a better person and not let the boob tube rule my life, but it goes back to giving the person I'm talking to my whole attention. I mean, would you really want to compete with The Donald's Boardroom? Or Tribal Council? Or the Cool Navy Show With Fighter Planes and Pretty People? I didn't think so.

Linkage: File under 'Hello, pot!' Bush's Top Ten Flip-Flops. Thanks to Lori for the link!

*Or you can do like Florida Girl, when she really needs my attention, which is to call my cell phone every five minutes. Dilligence like that, I'm bound to notice.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Media and language

Yesterday, while watching the news on PBS, a report on rising crude prices caught my attention. The reporter at one point said words to the effect of "analysts blame increased demand from China as a factor..." I remember thinking, "Wow, loaded word." Blame China? Fault China? For what? For being an emerging economy and a developing market that everyone wants a piece of? Perhaps, free of bias, it would have been better to say, "analysts point to China's increased demand for crude supplies." The question is whether any US-newscast would ever say "Analysts blame the US for rising prices due to fuel consumption of SUVs and other fuel-inefficient cars." I doubt it.

Biased language isn't limited to the political, but also to the nationalistic, whether intentionally or not. In fact, language varies from country to country; an easy example would be how US-based media describe those participating in uprisings in Iraq as "insurgents" or "rebels." But check the same stories on foreign media -- especially articles from non-aligned countries -- and see how the language changes. For instance, some articles will refer to those thorns in America's side as "freedom fighters" and "resistance fighters." It's an interesting contrast, especially if you consider that many Americans consider our troops in Iraq to be the true freedom fighters.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Living through you

When people are successful, you can take heart and encouragement from what they've accomplished. I think it's easy to look at someone you identify with and say, "Hey, the did it, so can I!" In theory, that's how it works. But here's the tricky part -- we've all accomplished something other people want to accomplish. We all have something someone else wants. The key is how to motivate without slipping into condescension and it's hard to get that tone -- not to mention, the timing of the message -- exactly right. What moves one person into action may not necessarily work on another person at all, and heck, may insult another person all together.

I appreciate the unsolicited pep talks as much as the next person, but there are also times when I just want to say, "Hey, that's what worked for you and it's not necessarily what will work for me. We're different that way. Please acknowledge that." While vicarious living is one to follow an example, it's important to remember we don't all work the same way and no one has the surefire consistent formula that will equal the success you want; the key is to do what makes you happy and satisfied.

One of these days, when I'm my own girl and I've figured all this out, I'll let you know my secret.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Looking alert

I blogged sometime ago about what I thought made a successful blog. I neglected to mention that while you can go in with good intentions on being a) personal or b) relevant, you can't always guarantee the steady stream of content on either front. In fact, to come up with a new topic every day to blog about that fits under either category can be difficult and possibly why some blogs eventually bite the dust; some people will argue if you want to be successful at writing -- whether fiction or blogging -- you have totreat it like a job -- whether you want to or not.

All of this build-up to admit the truth to you: I do 'can' blog entries. I save things that catch my attention, I write entries when I have a free moment, and I brainstorm to figure out what I want to blog about next. Sometimes, the entries -- such as the recent Hair Gate ones -- are right off the cuff, based in the now. Others, like this entry, have been written and saved at some time in the recent past.

So, without further adieu, I present to you the slightly dated, but still eloquent and expressive Michael Moore on why the GOP doesn't reflect America

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Hair update

Thanks to everyone for their support during Hair-gate. Update: the hair is, in a word, strange, but I'm slowly getting used to it; it's apparently not a good idea to re-dye your hair within 24 hours, so, the color is still there. I've found if I comb it a certain way, the most egregious splotchiness isn't that visible. My friends say it isn't as bad as I think it is, and over time, I'll get used to it. One friend said no one will notice.

She means well, she really does.

I just shudder to think what I'll look like tomorrow beneath those harsh fluorescent lights at work; I just hope my co-workers are kind enough not to laugh in my face.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Hair be dragons

Here's the deal -- my hair hasn't been its natural color in quite a while, but at the same time, it had grown out a bit so I thought, hmmm, let me fix that. So I went to the store, found out they no longer make my hair dye and they said, "Here, try this, it's the same thing except NEW! IMPROVED! Fifty percent more free! And oooh, shiny pretty box!" What I didn't realize was the New!Improved!Fifty Percent More Free! was also insta-hair dye. The last hair dye barely would work, and after 30 minutes, I'd maybe see faint results. Not with the NEW!IMPROVED! hair dye; it gives insta-results in about 30 seconds. I keep walking back into the bathroom as my hair dries to see perhaps if the shade isn't as bad as it seems on initial look, and there's some slightly improvement, but people, the horrifying truth remains: I've gone red-blond.

Think about that for a moment.

This New!Improved! formula has turned thick black hair... red-blond.It wouldn't be so bad if it was uniformly red-blond, but unfortunately, it is splotchy red-blond, as if the dye decided to work sometimes and not other times. Wah! I have a very laissez-faire attitude towards my hair -- it's thick, dark, curly, unmanageable -- and so I usually tell it, "Do what you want, I'll just deal." Well, for the first time in my life, I'm thinking I'll put a hat or scarf on and NEVER TAKE IT OFF.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Thar she blows!

In honor of the super weird freaky hurricane season we've been having, you can read about the 'perfect storm' here. Pretty neat reading. You can find out more about the 'ingredients' that contributed to this storm here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

It's baaaaaaaaaaaack!

It's not a big surprise, given the rate we've been invading countries at lately, but there's a bill pending in the legislature to bring back the draft and this time, the women get to go too. To wit:

Universal National Service Act of 2003 - Declares that it is the obligation of every U.S. citizen, and every other person residing in the United States, between the ages of 18 and 26 to perform a two-year period of national service, unless exempted, either as a member of an active or reserve component of the armed forces or in a civilian capacity that promotes national defense.

If you're interested in learning more about this bill, visit Thomas (aka the US Congress) and enter 'HR 163' into the search engine. You can read all about the new 'draft' there. More news here.

I'm not entirely convinced this will pass, not when the majority of Americans are against the draft. But here's the bottom line: America is stretched thin. We're fighting wars in Afghanistan -- why yes, there is still a war there -- and there's one in Iraq. Neither situation is getting better anytime soon. We can't pack up our bags and say "It's been real, kids, see ya." We're stuck. We're stuck over there for years and someone has to go over there and fix this mess. And if people aren't volunteering, then the only way to get soldiers out there is to make them go.

That being said, I'm no supporter of the draft. In fact, I think the people who voted for this war, who sanctioned this war, who promoted this war -- I think they're the ones who ought to take a turn at the front line. And I don't mean just a quick secretative in and out visit; I mean an honest to God tour of duty. And if not them, then their offspring. Now there's a bill I could get behind.

And you know what? If my suggestion went into effect as part of this new bill, I bet we'd stop invading countries unilaterally too.

Language and the presidency: neat article on rhetoric and explains just how, even with mangling his native tongue, W still manages to to tell Americans what they need to hear and believe in order to follow him, even when his words belie the truth. Thanks to T'Other Liz for the link.

In other news, one of my favorite shows, "The Amazing Race," has come to a satisfying end. Read who won here. Needless to say, I'm pleased as I really did like the winners (g).

Monday, September 20, 2004

My favorite things

What are your favorite things? Here are a few of mine, because some days, it's nice to think of the things that make you happy:

  • A good, book that makes me want to curl up in bed and stay up just a little longer to read more
  • Fresh coffee
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Trying a new restaurant and discovering that I really, really, really like it
  • Those spurts of creativity when writing just seems so 'easy'
  • An unexpected phone call from a friend/family member whose voice I haven't heard in a long time
  • Skirts and dresses -- I love wearing them, especially since they are easier to iron than pants
  • Funny people are always nice to be around because they make me laugh and I'm always in awe of their wit and how clever they are
  • A 'fresh' episode of one of my favorite television shows. I don't have many so I definitely appreciate when something new comes along!
  • Waking up in the morning and feeling 'wide awake' rather than sleepy and cranky.

So, these are just a few of my favorite things. Hopefully I will have more to share with you later. But for now, I must indulge in what is probably my most favorite thing of all: a good night's sleep.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

The Truth is Out There

I've been working my way through the X-Files at a pretty good clip and I've finally gotten to that point where I've already seen most of the episodes and so most of these are now familiar. I started watching the first time around somewhere in season 5 -- probably "Redux I" & "Redux II". The obvious 'shippiness drew me right in and that was that. However, watching from season 1 straight through to season 7 (where I am now), it's funny how my ideas of the relationship between Mulder and Scully have changed and I can see the evolution now, and how they've changed as people (I still can't forgive Chris Carter for season 9's Weepy!Scully though).

The X-Files is unbelievably well-written, so smart, so clever, and every now and then, it tells an absolutely amazing story -- for example, "Milagro", which is one of those episodes that really gets me every time I watch it. And oh, the acting isn't so shoddy either -- witness "The Field Where I Died" or "The Pine Bluff Variant". If I had to pick a season that has kept me absolutely riveted from begining to end, it'd be number 5, but season 1-5 are all amazing. I'm not as fond of seasons 6-9, for a variety of reasons, and perhaps it's the change from Vancouver to LA that changed the feel of the show to an extent, but perhaps it's also that you can start to see the weariness in David Duchovny's countenance.

It seems weird to go on about a show that's been off the air for two years now, but perhaps that's the truest test of time -- that the episodes still feel fresh and nuanced, and make me profoundly sad that I only have one set of DVDs left (I have season 9 on VHS) as rarely have I enjoyed two characters as much as I have Mulder and Scully.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

When the editor wasn't looking

I recently finished Undue Influence by Steve Martini, and it's one of those books that could be really, really good if an editor had simply taken a cleaver to it and cut down about a third of the text. Christine suggested that to me not too long ago, and it's now a guideline I try to follow when I'm writing. Martini, who is overly fond of explanations, repetition and metaphors, could have done the same.

I'm not really going to talk about the plot of the book or even review it, because it's the stylistic tics that really interest me (or rather, got under my skin). I first read this book quite a while back and Martini's style didn't grate on me then as it does now. The thing is, Martini doesn't just do things once or twice -- he does it multiple times so if you didn't get his initial cleverness, you have 80 gazillion additional opportunities to pick up on it throughout the text. Given the blundgeoning effect of these tics, I'd suggest avoiding them in your* writing at all costs or at least, use very, very sparingly. Examples**:

Page 149: "Then again," she says. "I can't tell you." She's looking at the ceiling, a pained expression.

The fact the statement is a little too short to actually break up effectively is nitpicky, but what is annoying is the 'a pained expression' part -- which describes *nothing*. Yes, there's a logical leap that Martini is describing the speaker's facial expression, but in general 'pained expression' doesn't really give the reader much to go on. And the sentence construct is just, in a word, painful.

Page 232: At this moment, when I look at Laurel I am moved by the fact that she is consumed with the fervor of the battle, in the way Joan of Arc led the troops before being fried at the stake.

Yikes! Holy metaphor, Batman! Now, this wouldn't be so bad if Martini didn't depend on similes/metaphors/cliches so often to carry his descriptions. By this point in the book, every single one of these gets right under the skin. Not only that, there's the problem of trying to be clever with the metaphor and it fails miserably. Fried? Not quite the 'write' description in the first place.

Page 266: "What is it ya wanna know?" He's making microscopic notes with a ballpoint pen, light ink-squiggles on the back of the picture.

Here's where an alert editor would have been a Very Good Thing (tm). A great example of redudancy combined with an acute awareness of the obvious. There's no reason to include 'ballpoint pen' because it really adds nothing, especially when you have 'light ink-squiggles' coming right after it. Also, 'makes' doesn't really fit the action here -- another more obvious verb will work better. In addition to its other crimes, the sentence itself is passive. It'd be so easy to tighten this up to: He writes in light ink-squiggles on the back of the picture or He writes microscopic notes in light ink-squiggles on the back of the picture.

Page 62: "It isn't the money. That ran out a month ago. Laurel passed me two bad checks since," she says. "Bounced and skipped like flat stones on a pond," she tells me.

Oh heck. We've got reptition and simile both in the same paragraph. When a person speaks without interruption, there's no need to throw in an additional phrase saying so unless there's some lengthy description interrupting the two statements. In this case, there isn't, so the second 'she tells me' is absolutely unnnecessary.

Page 178: Twenty minutes later, over the scent of a freshly brewed French roast, Dana is studying the contents of the note written by Kathy Merlow and the envelope it came in.

The sentence is passive*** and it wouldn't be so annoying if it wasn't for the fact Martini starts nearly every section in this way. Tighten it up to: Twenty minutes later, over the scent of a freshly brewed French roast, Dana studies the note Kathy Merlow wrote and the envelope it came in.

Page 119: Head slowly shaking. "No. I didn't know they had."

Whose head is 'slowly shaking'? This is a random body part -- it's always good to attach the body part to the owner. Plus, it's a fragment of a sentence. Complete sentences -- ones with subject, verb, and noun -- are always preferable, though fragments can occasionally be used for stylistic purposes.

Page 89: "Oh." An expression like leprosy is now stalking her beyond the screen door.

Good grief. Leprosy is a disease, not an expression descriptor, and unless this woman is about to get leprosy right there and then, there's no reason for it to be stalking her. Another example of how a simile can get totally off base and say *nothing* at all.

Page 232: "Tell me about Jack's operation." I'm talking about the vasectomy.

::facepalm:: Martini does this a lot. He'll use a piece of dialogue and then follow up with an additional explanation of what was just said. At this point in the book, we know about the vasectomy and even if we didn't remember, the word 'operation' coupled with Jack's name should make it fairly clear what the narrator is referring to. There is *no* reason to drive it home. If Martini wanted to be even more clear than 'Jack's operation', perhaps he could have written: "Tell me about Jack's vasectomy."

Page 137: The thing Jack lives for, power, will be drained from his bones like some leaking, dead battery in a discarded toy.

The sentence speaks for itself. Now imagine reading nearly 500 pages of text with writing like that liberally littered throughout. You* probably would go insane as well. My reaction, btw, was that I wanted to kick the narrator because he was rapidly getting on my nerves. I wanted to scream, "You're about as clever as a block of wood mildewing in the kitchen sink." Why, yes, I do have strong feelings about this book, why do you ask?

I don't deny Martini spins a good story, but some of the elements have a real way of bogging down the narrative and making the reader stop and go, "Huh?" None of this stuff is insurmountable -- only requires a good editor to rein it all in. I'm still giggling over the leprosy thing.

* 'You', of course, is generic.

** Examples are literally taken randomly. I didn't mark them through my initial read. I just opened the text as I was typing this up and found an example on each page I turned to. Kind of scary, isn't it?

*** Yes, I am aware of the passive sentences in this entry.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Link of the Day

I meant to write something amusing today, but unfortunately, time has run away from me and so I have to concede defeat and instead direct you to another blog, written by a girl in Iraq: Baghdad Burning. Check it out -- see what an Iraqi has to say about what's going on in her world. Sometimes we get so focused on the American POV, what is happening to us, that we forget there's a whole country out there, with people who laugh, sing, shout and cry just as we do.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Sometimes it just doesn't pay to get out of bed

In other words, I fear I must issue a correction on a previous blog entry. How awful is that? Issuing a correction is bad enough, but in a blog? A venue that is completely a self-serving, subjective, biased, unresearched soapbox? And yet, I find myself issuing a correction. Mind you, the misinformation in this blog probably didn't harm anyone or cause anyone to lose any sleep or money. And yet... yet, I'm issuing a correction.

Here it is:

Gerald Ford was president when I was born, not Jimmy Carter. During the time Ford was president, I discovered how to stuff both feet in my mouth, grew hair, and generally gurgled. By the time Carter took office in '77, I'd advanced from crawling to walking, and spent every other minute asking, "'appen?" In answer to that question, a correction happens when you don't check your facts first. It's all terribly embarrasing, especially in an election year.

So ends the first (and hopefully) last correction in this blog.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Friday Five on a Tuesday

Gacked from Elise:

1. It the election were tomorrow, who would you vote for?

This is actually still kind of up in the air, but I'm leaning towards John Kerry. I'm thinking about writing in Howard Dean or Hillary Clinton.

2. What are the main things that lead you to vote for a certain person?

If I vote for any of the above people, it's because they are Democrats who hold certain views as I do. It's very rare that I vote for an individual because I 'like' them. I prefer to vote on the issues and 90 percent of the time, that means I'm going with the Democrats, whether I think the candidate is a putz or not.

3. Where do you get your info on the candidates?

Television, newspapers, news magazines, Internet and conventions. I don't pay attention to political ads on television, by the way, regardless of party or candidate. I do not believe in attack ads, and I do not think they are productive or reflective of a candidate's values or what they will actually do in office. In fact, attack ads make me view the candidate making the allegations in dimmer light -- and yes, that applies to Democrats as well.*

4. Who was president when you were born?

Jimmy Carter

5. If you could choose anyone, dead or alive, to be president, who would it be?

Hmmm. I think I'd go with Hillary Clinton. Now, before you spit up your coffee all over your keyboard**, let me explain. She is a strong, capable and independent woman who has strong convictions as well. She has drive, intelligence, motivation and she's articulate. While there are parts of her personality that are probably a little rough around the edges, as a role model I find her refreshing. And since this is a meme -- aka a pipe dream -- I'll go ahead and advance the idea that for a country that claims to be progressive, it's been more than 200 years since the birth of the nation and we still haven't entertained the possibility of a serious female contender. And so yeah, Hillary Clinton. If other nations -- UK, India, Ireland, for example -- can do it, what's keeping America from doing the same?

*This also applies to the blog. While I make very clear my political preferences here, I will do my very best to keep the blog positive. I have no desire to impunge the name of any of the candidates; I think they do a pretty good job of that themselves.

** Not responsible, btw, for any damages to keyboards while reading this blog.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Things that make you go hmmmm...

I can't remember if I've blogged the cost of war calculator or not, but even if I haven't, it's a good reminder of what Iraq is actually costing not only the country, but also broken down by state and community. Another thing I learned over the weekend was apparently the Taliban are back in Southeastern Afghanistan and are still putting up heavy resistance. It's even a toss-up over whether the Taliban will wreck havoc on the upcoming elections. I dunno about you, but why head into Iraq when we haven't finished the job in Afghanistan?

I had no idea -- my first clue came from this article from the Asia Times. After googling for quite a bit, I came up with not a lot in the American media, but plenty from the foreign press. Are we not actually supposed to realize the war in Afghanistan is far from over? That we're actually engaged in not one, but two excercises in nation-building? It boggles my mind. Talk about the ultimate flip-flop -- George W. Bush wanted nothing to do with nation-building and yet here he is, going at two nations once. Just something more to think about. You can't paint John Kerry as a flip-flopper without smearing W with the same brush. But don't take it from me. Read here about what might be if we hadn't gone into Iraq.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

It's all geek to me

I've been having ISP problems for the last couple of months, but they got really bad over the last couple weeks to the point yesterday, I could only chat on AIM (Hi, Mad Chatters!) and not actually get online; every website I clicked on came back with a message similar to: ' could not be resolved'. Considering the Internet is as dear to me as water, air and blood, this was a no-good solution, and I was thinking about firing my ISP -- doesn't our relationship, after three years, mean anything to you? -- and going with the super fast DSL. (I actually had a theory that my ISP problems started shortly after I ordered DSL the first time, and the ISP got all jealous and cranky and refused to work. You'd think DSL would have the opposite effect).

So I called tech support. Now, there are good tech people and there are bad tech people. Since my ISP went call-center, it's been an even mix of both. So obviously, I dialed with trepidation, explained my problem and then the conversation went something like this:

"Are you online?"


"So open Internet Explorer."

"I don't use Internet Explorer. I use Mozilla."



After a rough WTF is Mozilla start and a mix-up in instructions with IE, tech boy got it together and had me clear my cache, dump my cookies, and then restart the computer. And then came the magic. The magic of ipconfig /flushdns. Apparently Windows XP caches the old IP address everytime you go out there, even if it doesn't resolve, and after that, no matter what, you get the old IP address, even if it has changed. You can run ipconfig /flushdns from the cmd line to clean out your DNS cache on your system and then, like me, you too can zoom along the Internet Super High Way. You can read more about this issue here. I know at least one of the Mad Chatters has had this problem and thankfully, it doesn't mean you have to fire your ISP, just clean house.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Moment of silence

Earlier this week, the US body count in Iraq surpassed 1,000. Meanwhile, Iraq Body Count says the number of civillians dead exceeds 11,000. The numbers -- and the results -- speak for themselves.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

It's how you play the game

I'll be honest -- there are very few reality shows I've seen I haven't adored and as such, I'm a horrendous armchair strategist.
You won't ever see me toughing it out in some tropical paradise, wearing the same bathing suit day after day, nor will you ever catch me eating squirmy live tomato worms. And while "The Amazing Race" amazes, I haven't the guts to go sky diving or sledging down a waterfall. But that doesn't stop me from shaking my fist at the television at the people brave enough to do these things (I mean, really, tomato worms?) and say, "What are you thinking?" (The most recent edition of "Survivor" is a perfect example; good grief, people, break up Rob and Amber already!).

I freely admit I haven't the gumption ( or the wardrobe) to be on a reality show, but you should definitely try it so I can sit in my recliner and cheer you on. I mean, c'mon, it's the opportunity of a lifetime. If you do choose to go, keep these 10 tips in mind before you head off in search of 15 minutes (or a season) of fame and fortune. It could be the difference between $1 million and walking away with nothing. Go go go!

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

The 99% perspiration part

I've been doing a lot of editing lately, and not so much writing. As some of you know, I hate editing with a passion. It's a cruel, cruel thing to do to excise large parts of text, to change out other parts, add detail -- you get the idea. Writing is hard work, but I think editing is harder; it's the less fun part of putting together something that is readable and enjoyable.

Last fall, in my writing workshop, the question of how to self-edit came up. I have some guidelines I follow when I edit, and I've listed them below. By no means is this how you're supposed to edit, it's simply the way I edit. Everyone has a different way of doing and looking at things. In a nutshell:

  • Make sure every sentence has a verb, noun and subject and that they make sense.
  • Make sure every sentence ends with some kind of punctuation mark. There should be *no* double or even triple punctuation.
  • Check spelling
  • Remove 'that' from most sentences.
  • Rewrite passive sentences
  • Check to make sure there is a good balance of external and internal dialogue. In other words, I need to make sure I know where the characters are positioned in each scene and what they are doing as well as what they are thinking and feeling.
  • Along the same lines, there should also be a balance between exposition and dialogue. Too much of either will bog the story down.
  • Especially in a short story, make sure every element is there for a reason. As one of my writing teachers once said, "If there's a gun over the mantle in the first act, it'd better be fired by the third."
  • Make sure the action starts as close to the climax as possible. If I have to start the story too far out, then I'm either in the wrong place or telling the wrong story.
  • Check to verify all elements of the story -- character, plot, conflict, climax, resolution -- are present and that they flow nicely from one detail to another.
  • Be absolutely brutal with the delete button. Sometimes things, no matter how well-written or loved, just don't work. Delete, delete, delete. Someone once told me to cut out a third of every story once completed, and while that might be a little harsh, I think it's good to go into it with the *idea* the story needs to be made more succinct.
  • Wait. Seriously. Wait three or four days and then take another look. The waiting period helps kill off any gremlins hiding in the prose, things I might have missed the first time around. When I go back for the second edits, I follow this same list of steps. I might wait again for another day or two after that -- it really just depends on my mood.

There you have it. If anyone else has other ideas, feel free to share. Again, this is just what *I* do. It always helps to have a second pair of eyes to go over the story, the more critical the better. However, remember the final judgement of what stays and what goes belongs to the author. Still, it never hurts to whack a few paragraphs just for the heck of it. And speaking of whacking, I've got some 7,000 words to cut out of a story and unfortunately, all of the 'thats' are already gone. Wish me luck!

Monday, September 06, 2004

Love is in the air

There was a lot of honeymooning cut short this weekend as I drove west first and then back east. I've always believed if you're going to call it a relationship, it's best to do it in a spectacular, gut-spattering way. Of course, I meant that all figuratively, not literally. However, try to tell that to the members of the insecta kingdom*, who in the throes of their delirious passion, ended up splat on my windshield and the front of my car, complete with gravel-like sound effects. I tell you, there's nothing more frightening than a black cloud of insects kamikazing themselves against your windshield, leaving behind little bits and white smeared stuff which I suspect is the insect form of blood, but not being a biology major, couldn't tell you for sure.

The insects got their revenge as I headed back. I stopped to get some gas, not far from where I had first met the swarm heading east. I hadn't even gotten out of the car before they started to attack me, a la Alfred Hitchcock. I flailed at the bugs, somehow managed to start the pump, and ran towards the grocery store, screaming about the bugs. Meanwhile, other people were standing around as if there weren't 80 gazillion mating bugs attacking their cars, children, dogs, etc.

One woman looked at me oddly as a particularly amorous couple landed on her arm and said, "Well, yes, there are a lot of bugs. So what?" I just looked at her -- as best as I could while still doing jumping jacks to avoid the bugs -- and asked, "Haven't you seen 'The Birds'?" She just stared at me and I made a run for it. You can't say I didn't do my part to warn my fellow human beings about the insect threat.

I managed to leave the parking lot with only one mating couple inside of my car. Luckily, they were so in love, they didn't get much further than the window, so it was easy to shoo them out once I was on the road. As I continued to drive, I thought it was interesting how the bugs continued to fly madly two by two, when obviously it'd be more aerodynmic and efficient to attack the humans as individuals -- not to mention, the two-by-two method was obviously the more suicidal one as they continued to bust up against my windshield. Who knew the insect world had Borg characteristics? Unlike the Borg, however, it doesn't appear the insects learn from their mistakes; I was far from being the only one with bug guts all over my car. Poor buggies.

I can't help but think insects -- other than the windshield thing -- have it really easy when it comes to relationships. They probably sit there with their checklist saying, "Wings, yup, atennae, yup, six legs, yup, a little short in the thoracic cavity, but hey, he's got a really orange head. Let's hook up." Bugs simply don't have the luxury of time, to be able to sit around and contemplate various candidates for happily ever after.

Whereas with people, it's so much more complicated and we sit around wondering** if person A we just met is "the one" or even though person B meets all of the checklist requirements, is that really enough? We should probably just take a lesson from the insect kingdom and just go for it. None of this five-year dating and two-year engagement stuff. Just meet, decide if the other person meets your basic requirements and vice-versa, and just go for it -- you'll*** have the rest of your lives to figure out whether you actually like each other. Some will argue this is probably a recipe for human relationships to go splat on the windshield; I argue it's a biological imperative and probably a lot less confusing.

* I don't know much about bugs, but maybe some bug lovers out there can identify a flying insect with an orange head, and two body sections. And oh yes, they have white insides.

** I honestly don't think paleolithic man and woman sat around contemplating relationships either. They probably just grunted at each other a few times, paleolithic man presented the paleolithic woman with a bison instead of a diamond ring and that was that. I'm just sayin'.

*** I mean this in the most generic of ways.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

To whom it may concern

Dear Sir/Madam:

You may not know me, but I'm the owner of the dark green Toyota parked yesterday between the hours of 6 pm and 8:30 pm at the Uptown shopping center. You may have seen my car briefly outside of Ann Taylor or maybe you noticed the car outside of Champs American Grill. Either way, sometime between those hours, you absconded with my John Kerry bumper sticker.

My knee-jerk reaction is that you might be a Bush supporter and perhaps you didn't like the idea of a Democrat driving around this heavily Republican enclave. My second thought was that you were a Kerry supporter and couldn't afford the $2 necessary to purchase a bumper sticker of your own; if that is indeed the case, you're welcome to the bumper sticker, and if I may say so, you need John Kerry more than I do. So fret not -- hope is on the way!

I figured an open letter on the Internet would be a good way to let you know how I feel about the theft of my John Kerry bumper sticker. Perhaps you'd like a little bit of history on how that sticker came to be on my car. Originally, you see, I was a Dean supporter, and I drove around triumphantly with Dean's name affixed to my car's rear end. Then after the spectacular implosion and howling antics in Iowa, Dean's name came off and my car felt curiously naked. You should understand, that until this year, I was firmly against bumper stickers. Nothing marring the paint on my car, thankyouverymuch! But I felt it was very important this year to express my views.

You see, in the last election we had here, back in 2002, not a single person I voted for -- with the exception of the state controller -- won. In one way, it makes me feel all self-righteous and elitist when our legislature does something completely whacked, I can remove myself from their actions and say, "Not my problem! Didn't vote for those clowns." But at the same time, there's the realization that my vote has disappeared somewhere into the ether and there's nothing I can do about that in the near future -- short of moving to Massachusetts -- and that makes me unbelievably sad. Hello, my name is Seema and I'm a disenfranchised voter.

I'm a yellow dog Democrat, so I felt I had to say something, because I was feeling so bitter and silenced. So when I was in Quincy Market (Boston) last spring, some GBLT supporters were rallying for Kerry and selling bumper stickers. When I asked how much for the Kerry sticker, they said $20. I noted that I'd already donated much money to the campaign, given that living in my state, money was the only resource I had to help out. The campaign contributer was shocked -- stunned that someone from my state -- would be a Kerry supporter; she slashed the price and gave me the sticker for $10. My friend remarked, "Oh you can't put that sticker on your car! Someone's going to hurt you." And I replied, "I can and I will." And for three months, I proudly drove around this town with John Kerry's name affixed to my back windshield.

I plan to buy another bumper sticker. In fact, I plan to buy a few more bumper stickers. The thing is, if you were someone who didn't like my point of view and decided to take away my right to express my opinion on who I thought should win this election, it's backfired, because now you're sending me and my credit card back to the Kerry Gear store. In other words, I thought I was done with donations to the Kerry campaign, but you've strengthened my resolve and my determination. Because what you did was unAmerican in every way.

You took away my right to peacefully and politely tell people where I stood politically. I am no means an expert on Republican agendas -- I avoided all mention of the RNC this week -- but I do know one thing for sure about Republicans: they love this country and they value the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment and the vast majority of them would never stoop to do what you did. Yes, I know it's a big deal to make over a $2 bumper sticker -- easily replaced and don't worry, it will be -- but just think about what exactly your actions say about you as a person and how what you did stains the party you support.



Friday, September 03, 2004

Do you want maple syrup with that?

Stop by and have a cup of coffee at Dubya's Waffle House*. I might be in a minority, but I don't think people ought to be penalized for changing their opinions. Obviously, opinions/ideas are based on the information at hand. Sometimes that information is wrong, not complete, etc., and you have to make a quick decision that you later have to backtrack on. I've got no problem with that -- it happens to all of us. I do, however, have a problem with hypocrisy. If they're going to sell flip-flops with John "I'm a serious politician" Kerry's patrician visage on it, then I think there ought to be some out there with 'W' stamped all over 'em -- fair and balanced, and all that**. I'm just sayin'.

Link of the day: Bush-words vs. Facts: “America and the world are safer” from terror — except for the all the deaths.

* Thanks to KC for the link.
** Now that the RNC is over, it's time to resume spreading the liberal propaganda

Thursday, September 02, 2004


Question of the day: what are the Republicans doing up in NYC? I mean, Republicans are free to gather anywhere they desire, that's the beauty of this country, but NYC? That's like the US government deciding to have a hoedown in Moscow in the 1970s. But that's what the Republicans have done. They put on their boots and ten-gallon hats and they've throwing themselves a party in the Big Apple where Democrats out-number the Republicans 3 to 1 and for that you have to commend the Republicans -- they say they're brave and resolute, and through their actions, they've proven they can walk the talk by striding right into the middle of enemy territory.

That being said, given that a convention ought to give a candidate a bump in the polls, why not pick a swing state? Granted, hurricane-ravaged counting-challenged Florida would probably be a little too nepotistic of an arena to throw the shindig, but how about Oregon or New Mexico or Ohio? After all, all of that money we're pouring into the coffers -- whether Democratic or Republican -- are paying for warfare in the 20 states who keep their lips shut tight on who exactly they're rooting for. For those of us in the 30 remaining states, it's a little like the Battle of Bull Run. We're sitting on the sidelines with our picnic baskets while the rest of you are fighting it out. Go swing states!

All joking aside, the Democrats made their pilgramage to Mecca and paid homage at the Kennedy altar. The Republicans decided to tread on other sacred ground -- that of America's saddest and finest moments. To revisit that moment makes perfect sense; it's the moment around which this presidency has been crafted. Whether it will help him win another four years is not yet clear. I doubt it'll ever be said that Bush or Kerry lost the presidency because they didn't party in a swing state, but I can't help but wonder, with just 3-4 undecided people left in the country, why not go to where they live? Why live it up in Democrat strongholds where the influence of the message will be diluted? On second thought...

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Flying the friendly skies

Warning: Disturbing content ahead, especially for those of the male persuasion. As the NBC commentators told us so often during the Olympics: If you don't want to know, look away now!

And now, to the blog content:

Jemima pointed me to this link: Ace of Spades HQ: Russian Planes Exploded From Toilets as it is somewhat related to my previous entry. First I boggled, then I thought, and since my brain is directly connected to my keyboard, I blogged what I thought, in what I hope is a reassuring and caring way.

Women of the world, do not worry about your internal bits when flying through US space. You probably won't have to show them off, as that would require some semblance of professional medical care on site and (obviously) free of charge. We Americans are firmly against any kind of socialized medicine and so it's not likely women will end up with free PAP smears on an airport tarmac. In fact, I strongly advocate a check-up for women at the metal detectors at your local airport, perhaps throw in a mammogram or two just for kicks. Can't afford to visit your doctor? Just buy a airplane ticket, cheapest you can, try to look Islamic, and voila, you'll get your healthcare subsidized by the government. (Actually, I'm thinking that you probably don't even need to buy a plane ticket -- just rush the security gate and you'll get a full bodily cavity check gratis). So, in the words of our president, Bring it on!

Maybe tomorrow, I will share with you how my brother fights terrorism, one traffic light at a time.*

* I keep meaning to blog my entry on 'Location^3' but I keep getting distracted. It's all Jemima's Fault (tm).