Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Did I just read that?

This whole article:

Okay, so they banned Five Wives Vodka in Idaho because it might offend the Mormons there, who make up a quarter of the population. Because, presumably, the Mormons are walking through the liquor stores all the time and might see that and be offended.

Because Mormons spend a LOT of time in liquor stores.....

Did I just read that?

This is a fantastically terrible headline. Hard to believe a real press organization let it out:

"Drunk, pregnant mother arrested in Houston after leaving baby in car to get piercing"

Okay, first: the pregnant lady left her baby in the car. That's tricky. I mean, there were lots of times when I was pregnant that I wished I could just take that baby out for a minute (like to tie my shoes), but--really?

And the baby was left in the car to get a piercing? Wow.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Did I just read that?

From's home page today: "Mountain lion shot at office building"

I wonder what kind of heat a mountain lion packs?  Must have been a building that housed a taxidermists' lab.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Big houses

Wow. I was relaxing and spacing out last night and I came across a slide show of celebrity houses. In a brain dead stupor, I scanned through 70 of them.

As I looked, though, my brain grew more and more alert as I grew more and more disgusted.

Those houses were big enough for fifteen families! And many celebrities owned more than one.

And I know the celebrities earned enough to pay for those multi-million-dollar homes.

But two people with no kids really don't need 8,000 square feet. Really. Honestly. What do you do in a house? Eat (so you need a kitchen, but only enough of one to comfortably cook and eat in), sleep (so you need a bedroom big enough for a bed), relax (so you need a space to read or watch TV or whatever your hobby is), study or work (so an office?)....what are the other seven thousand square feet for?

Even with six kids, we would be rolling in space with just 3,000 square feet. And if we had 4,000, Tim's business would be rolling in space, too.

So if I ever end up rich and try to buy one of those mansions, somebody please slap me and remind me that there are better uses for millions of dollars than higher utilities bills.

There was one house that seemed reasonable: Will Smith's house was relatively normal-sized for a family--what he invested in was land to ride horses. Now that seems reasonable to me.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Did I just read that?

From the 9News Home page:

Because a doctor with a sword is just the person you want to trust to take you to a health fair.

Maybe it's a SCA Health Fair.  Renaissance Health Faire?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Did I just read that?

"Car crashes into Denver home, dog found in back seat"

Well, a dog driving a car would probably crash it regardless, but driving from the back seat? That's just craziness.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

What I learned today:

Crushed whoppers sprinkled on ice cream is Really Yummy.


Today we went to a party in a park. When we got there, kids were flying kites.  We watched. We tried it. The kids ran with the kites after the wind died.

And the kids asked, "What would happen if the kite went really high and the string broke? Would the kite fly away?"

I remembered flying kites with my family when I was young. And I remembered that when the strings broke or you stopped tugging back against the kite's efforts to escape, the kites didn't fly away free. They plummeted to the earth and crashed hard on their top points, often breaking the kite.

Interesting that the best way to make a kite soar is not to set it free, but to pull it back, keep it anchored to the earth. Even to get a kite high into the air, you can't just let the string out as fast as the kite wants to go up. You have to pull back, pull back, and let the string play out slowly, letting the kite rise in a controlled flight, not a rush toward the sun.

Thinking about that on the way home, I realized that people are like kites. We aren't at our best when we're set free and allowed to pursue, unfettered, any whim or notion the wind puts into our minds.  It's not safe. It's not a good idea. It doesn't allow us to soar, to explore new horizons, or to be free like we think it would.  Instead, it leaves us crashing, hard and fast, in ways that leave us broken and unable to fly.

We need things that pull back against our efforts to do whatever we want. We need families that rely on us to fill obligations so we can't go wandering the planet chasing dreams. We need guidelines like the gospel that give us direction and limitations. We sometimes need adversity to tug back hard and keep us from going into a nosedive that seems impossible when we're flying high, our wings full of wind.  We need anchors.

And if we want to fly high, we have to be patient, not just rocketing off into space simply because we can see where we want to be. The string has to play out slowly, letting us rise a little at a time, or we plummet.

Some day, when my kids question why we have rules, or when their friends question why Mormons have such "restrictions" on them, I hope I remember to take them first to fly a kite.

Friday, May 04, 2012

What I learned Today

What I learned today:

If you consider tomatoes fruit, then you must also consider cucumbers, green beans, tree nuts, grains, squashes, peas, black pepper, and anything else that grows from a flower and contains seeds "fruit."  Technically, those are all the fruits of their plants.  And, by those rules, rhubarb is a vegetable. It turns out that the kindergarten definition of a "fruit" in common language is the right one: You know it when you see it. It's sweet and often juicy and you can eat it raw or cooked, but it's most often eaten raw. That other definition, the one that makes tomatoes fruit, is the botanical definition, not the common or the culinary definition. So it turns out that tomatoes are vegetables after all! It has to be true--the Supreme Court said tomatoes are vegetables way back in the 1880s. (I know--you're wondering why the US Supreme Court got involved. Well, it turns out if you pass a law that says you have to pay a tariff on vegetables but not fruits, suddenly everyone cares very much if tomatoes are vegetables or fruits). Oh, and pepper is still a fruit, no matter what definition you go by. It comes from a berry. Who knew?

What else I learned today:

If you take two rolls of paper towels, you can use over two dozen redecorating the bathroom and modifying the plumbing, and you still have enough left over to run them up and down the hall four times, down the stairs twice, down another hall twice, and across the family room six times. Just in case you ever wondered, you don't have to experiment on that. Nathanael tested it for you while I was nursing Elijah.

What else else I learned today:

Given the choice between candy (fruit snacks) and watermelon, Benji far and away prefers the watermelon.

A stick swing hung on a long rope from a tree can make a very large purple goose egg on a small boy's head when flung at the right angle by another small boy.

There are actually kids who willingly take antibiotics. I thought they didn't exist, but, mercifully, I actually have one! In my own little family! Who would have guessed. They aren't mythical after all.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Words I'm Finding are Tags of bad writing (my own)

I am revising my novel again because my kids and one of my students started asking me if they could read it.

And I noticed I have some really good segments in there. And then there are some that are... not so good.

But I also noticed that I kindly tagged them for myself. The words "Then," "Suddenly," and "were" are all tags in my writing that tell me "this part could be rewritten to be stronger."

Generally, when I use "were," I'm finding there is a stronger verb that can fill in that space.

Generally, when I use "suddenly," it's a shortcut for building tension in the previous passage. (If I've built the tension up properly, I don't need to say "Suddenly"--it's clear from the writing).

Generally, when I say, "then," I'm outlining instead of writing. I'm finding that I write a lot of "She opened the door. Then she stepped through." I am telling you what I'm visualizing, but I'm giving you nothing to help you visualize it yourself. Technically, it's a description, but not a good one. As a reader, you don't have to be engaged in writing like that. In fact, it's almost impossible to be engaged in that. You can't get lost in that. It's just a summary of the action, not an invitation to live inside the action.  Isn't "She opened the door and stepped through" better? Or, even better, "She stepped through the door into a writhing, slimy mass. Worms. Ugh." See? No need for "then" in that sentence!

In fact, I spend a lot of time saying things that ought to go unsaid. Like that she opened the door before she stepped through. We assume the door opened--it doesn't need to be the focus of it's own sentence unless it is incredibly significant that she opened the door.

So this time around, I'm trying to economize my words. I'm trying to say what needs to be said for the reader to have the experience I hope they have without getting distracted from it and without using extra words. So often, the most efficient way to say something is really good writing. It's more fluid and less likely to draw attention away from the story and onto the words. The worst thing that can happen is if a reader is going along, reading my book, and suddenly they are noticing how it's written. If anything is drawing you out of the story, it needs to be rewritten.

So I'm using the "find" function in Open Office Text to catch those tags I so kindly left for myself and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012


Sometimes I tell Tim something I don't understand or want to know about, and he suggests "homework"--things I can look at that will help answer my questions. Sometimes he is thinking about something and wants to know what I think, and he suggests "homework." So today both of those collided, and I got some very delightful homework.

A few days ago I told him I couldn't tell the difference between different video qualities on viral videos, so he sent me to a few different videos to see. Now I can tell the difference. But I've been looking at video a different way since then, noticing camera shots, camera angles, film quality, etc.

Today, he said he was thinking about these two artists and how they differ from each other.


Specifically, we were trying to figure out why the top guy, Mike Tompkins, has gotten national media coverage and consistently gets well over five MILLION views on his videos, and the bottom guy doesn't. He gets in the low hundreds of thousands of views, but his videos can't even strictly be labeled viral.   The question is: Why is that? Given just the videos to look at, why, when both guys are doing exactly the same thing, does one get lots of views and one get fewer?

To make it easier to compare, I give you two interpretations of the same song:


I have some theories about what is different, but I'm curious what you think? Tim and I certainly had a great deal of fun talking about it!