Wednesday, December 31, 2003

The Experts Weigh In

I've had two general writing questions of late. The first was how to classify agent rejection letters. The second was how do organic, write-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writers manage to crank out a proposal for an unwritten book (which is basically the way things happen once your work starts selling). The results are in.

Question 1 yielded several answers. The response to my agent rejection varied from neutral with positive elements to positive overall. Two published authors provided their feedback. From Wen Spencer (via Forward Motion): "This isn't a judgement on her part on your book, but a 'we just don't click' on your writing style and her personal taste." From Sheila: "As an authority on rejections (cruising toward a career total of 2000+ myself) I can assure you this one is very positive. The agent has class and professionalism, sounds honest, and took the time for a personal response, all of which is always a good indicator. When you get three-word brushoffs like 'Not for us' scrawled in the margin of the original query letter, then it's time to break out the solace substance of choice and rethink the proposal."

For Question 2, I went straight to Carol Berg, whose workshop on outlining alternatives I attended at the RMFW conference in September. Seems this is something she struggles with as well. Her own experience has been to write as many as nine chapters of the proposed novel and then write a proposal that concentrates heavily on the events of those chapters while sketching her best prediction of what the rest of the novel will look like.

These answers mesh pretty well with the basic answer I had floating around in my head. The rejection was good. Nothing too earth-shatteringly good, but better than most folks can expect their first time out the gate. A nice bit of encouragement to keep me trying. The organic writer's proposal is a problematic thing, something only writing at least part of the book will accomplish. Which isn't necessarily different from the more structured writer's proposal. Instead of all that detailed outlining and such, organic writers just dive right in and then sketch the basic premise they see unfolding. The problem is that starting the book is usually more time-intensive. And that becomes a problem once you are a published author and have to worry about writing the books that have deadlines and weaving in time to start books that may not get bought by a publisher. Hopefully Carol will have some advice on this at the next conference.

Knowing these answers provides nice closure to 2003, in a writing sense. Everything seems to have wrapped itself up. Not my projects, of course, but my goals and ideas for the year. My first experiences with a writing contest, with a writing conference, and with an agent submission have all concluded. All i's dotted, all t's crossed. That goes well with my hopes for 2003. I still have many things to do, many goals to reconsider and create anew, many self-analyses to make, many dreams to savor, and many realities to face. More on this to come.

Parting Shot

Just when you think it's safe to start ringing in the New Year, the ground falls out from under you. Or, in our case, the ceiling drops on your head. OK, so not the entire ceiling, but even a small piece of it crumbling above you is not a good thing. Here's the best part: I'm not being metaphorical. At all. Shall I explain?

For a month or so, Mark and I have noticed a slight ring on part of our bathroom ceiling. Like the shower in the apartment above ours had been leaking or something. We didn't get too worked up about it, just added it to our list of things to eventually ask the apartment complex to fix. You know, right next to "repair cracked fridge shelf" and such. And what with the holidays, we never got around to putting in the maintenance request. This morning's observations did much to light that fire under us.

There's a hole in our bathroom ceiling. It's small. Maybe half an inch in diameter. But it's a hole. And I likely wouldn't have noticed it were it not for the fact that it was created when I turned on the bath faucet and saw what used to be our ceiling crumble into the water. That'll wake you up in the morning. And make you extremely grateful that you have two bathrooms. Into the Alternate Bathroom I went for my shower.

I'll be calling the apartment complex office shortly (they don't open for a few minutes and I don't feel like dealing with the incompetent folks who run the emergency line - you should've heard the conversation I had when our door wouldn't shut one night; "OK, so your door is locked and you can't open it?" "No, it's locked and we can't shut it." "OK, I'll send someone over to come open your door." "No, I said we can't get it to shut. Something's wrong with the lock and it's stuck." "Oh, I see. We'll send someone over with a key." etc). I wonder if I should call with the cracked fridge shelf and finish up with, "Oh yeah. And there's a hole in the master bathroom's ceiling." Might as well make the last day of 2003 entertaining for as many people as possible.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Evil Time-waster! Beware! Click at Your Own Risk

Random generators are fun. This one is on the same level as the The Surrealist Compliment Generator. Do you hear that? That's the sound of my free time being frittered away. If I ever become a Big Name Author, and helpless PhD students are forced to write thesi on my works, I truly hope the following titles will be used.

The Oral Naming The Disenfranchised: Kellie Hazell, Human Dignity and Objectification
Kellie Hazell Colonizing Reception: Human Dignity and the Violence of Production
Challenging Identity: Discursive Dissection in Kellie Hazell's Human Dignity
Dialectic and Flight in Human Dignity: Kellie Hazell Penetrating Suppressive Ethos
Means of Production as Hybridity: Exhuming Marginalized Epistemology in Kellie Hazell's Human Dignity

I don't know about you, but I would gladly give extra credit to a student who could create a very long title with as much alliteration as possible.

Christmas Report

Because I'm still trying to deal with my anger at the Catholic church, I really didn't get into the spirit of the season as much as I usually do. I regret that. But I truly didn't know what to do about it this year. I'd rather have continued my usual attitude of caring and kindness without battling an enormous amount of anger and trying to not let it infect my celebration. At any rate, December's been great.

Due to our holiday travels, Mark and I celebrated our own Christmas a few days before the actual date. We didn't want to lug all our gifts down to my father's, and we wanted to have our own special holiday time together. We also wanted our own holiday meal so we could have leftovers. And we do indeed have leftovers. Turkeys were on deep sale the week before Christmas. Anything over 16 lbs was $7 and anything under was $6. We decided to aim high and snagged a 18.5 lb turkey. We weren't really thinking how big that was for only two people. And for our oven. We barely dented one breast for the dinner. And then it was time to hack up the rest of it for soup, salad, tetrazini, and various other leftovers. Mark can't carve a bird. I can, but not very well. It took me a good half hour, but I slaughtered that turkey. And now we'll be shifting all sorts of leftovers around in the freezer as we gradually finish the meat. 18.5 lbs. We'll probably go for a smaller bird next year.

And then we went to Oklahoma City, arrived around 5 on Christmas Eve. My stepmother's family is from Spain and everyone was in town for the Christmas. This combination resulted in big gatherings every day. With lots of food and wine. Have I mentioned before that I'm rather intelligent and talkative when I'm drunk? I get it from my father. And now everyone in my stepmother's family knows this. My dad was nowhere near phased by the wine he drank, but I was buzzing very well. With my newfound political attitude, I wanted to pick my father's brain about some key issues. And so I did, slurring a word here and there ("education" is hard to say after your sixth glass). I think we were louder than either of us intended. Not in an arguing way, but in a debating way. I only hope that a few folks were impressed that I could be so articulate and intellectual while smashed. At least, Mark assures me that my drunken debates sounded sound. That was Christmas Eve. Christmas morning was saved from being a nightmarish experience by my stepsisters. They didn't wake up until 10, giving me plenty of time to down some aspirin and stop the world from spinning. I imbibed much less for the big Christmas Day dinner gathering.

I had thought not to get drunk again during the trip. But that was before someone opened up some Asti on our last night in town. So Kellie got drunk again and this time had intelligent conversation with Mark and her stepgrandmother. I don't think I was as bad as Christmas Eve, though. After all, there were creme puffs and eclairs sitting on the table in front of me. Picking one up and popping it into my mouth became reflex. I save the political debate with my father for the car ride to his house. We finally finished that round up (Mark had crashed long before this point), and I went to stave off the morning fun by taking some aspirin and drinking lots of water. I really would've gone to bed then, but one of my stepsisters was up and we started chatting. That lasted for a good two hours. Great conversation. It's the first time I've really had a chance to sit down and talk about anything for any time with either of my stepsisters. And I wasn't about to give that up with the lame excuse of "We're leaving at 6 AM tomorrow for a 12 hour drive".

The trip was great, and the Christmas holiday wonderful. Gifts included movies, chocolate, perfume, tea, hand-knitted scarves, Bath&Body Works stuff (can never have too much of that), sweaters, and jewelry. Yes, Mark was his usual amazing gift-giving self. The lapis lazuli bracelet he got me finishes the set I have of that stone. And he got me the complete first season of The West Wing. There's so much about that first season that I've forgotten. I've really enjoyed remembering it all.

And now it's time for another year. Nice to end 2003 on such a great note of family, friends, and life.

Monday, December 29, 2003

One Wait Over, Many More to Follow

I just got my first rejection in writing. The agent turned down respresenting Human Dignity. The package was in the mound of mail we had to sift through upon our return last night. I saw it sticking out of the pile Mark juggled and grabbed it from him - I'm pretty sure I waited until he had set the mail down, but I only say that because we didn't have letters and bills scattered over the living room floor after I snagged the thing. With a surprisingly muted sense of urgency, I opened the package and grabbed the letter from the top of my submission - I was pretty sure that meant the letter was a rejection, but I had to figure out if it was a good, bad, or neutral rejection. Here' the letter:

It was a pleasure to meet you at RMFW, and thank you so much for sending me sample pages of Human Dignity.

After a careful reading, I'm sorry to say that I don't believe I am the right agent for you.

You deserve an enthusiastic representative, so I recommend that you pursue other agents. After all, it just takes one "yes" and with so many different opinions out there, you could easily find the right match. Good luck with all your publishing endeavors.

I've got this posted in a few areas for feedback from other writers as to which category of rejections this belongs. It's either neutral or good. I think I'm pretty capable of recognizing a bad rejection. Most of the explanations of rejection categories that I've heard focus on rejections from editors and publishing houses, not agents.

I'm actually not all that disappointed. This is a young agent, fairly new, and looking to break into science fiction and fantasy representation (I think). While such a partnership may have been best for both of us in the long run, the combination of two newbies would've made for an extremely bumpy beginning - my luck only stretches so thin before it breaks. And that's the kind of risk I shouldn't be taking with my writing unless I'm given no other choice. So off Human Dignity goes to the dream agent, the highest I know to aim right now. And I breathe a slight sigh of relief now that I can finish the revisions without the pressure of an agent potentially wanting to see the rest of the book in the next few weeks.

Still to Come: The Christmas Report. New Year's Resolutions.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Posting from Afar

I'm in the land of the Sooners right now. Every where I look is maroon and white. It's a good thing we'll be leaving before the big game. Too much craziness. But it is good to be with my dad and my stepmother's family. Lots of holiday insanity and imbibing. And more presents than we deserve. Full report to follow (perhaps I'll censor the drunken revelry, perhaps not). In the meantime, Happy Holidays to all those who happen upon this blog.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003


That Teresa's one smart cookie. She's uncovered all the intriguing neuroses of authors. Damned if she didn't get one of mine pegged on there.

My first novel took a long time to write, but now that I’ve been through the process and gotten my feet under me, the rest should go much faster.

Dammit. Now what? I actually didn't realize this was insanity. The others she's listed seem like much more fun. Maybe I'll trade it in for this one: Your editorial comments are brilliant. I adore them. No one has ever understood my writing as well as you have. I am now so paralyzed that I can’t revise the book. That's it. It's perfect! Now I don't have to worry about finishing my revisions. Ahhh. The world is right again.

Hmmm. On second thought, maybe I'll see about inventing a new insane habit that Teresa can uncover and add to her list. Might as well make it interesting for everbody. Or is this like themes and plots? Have all neurotic writer tendencies been done? Can I find a way to create something that's not derivative? I suppose I shouldn't bother if I can't. If I can't be crazy in an original way, I guess I'll just try for sanity.

Addendum: Teresa, in the comments of the above-linked thread, clarified my transgression.

What's the imprudence in #3? Assuming on not enough evidence that the pace of your writing is going to speed up. It may well do so. It may not.

Now I don't consider it a bout of insanity to be guilty of the third, so much as a moment of stupidity. My saving grace is I usually phrased it as "Once I get my feet under me, I hope the rest will go faster."

Monday, December 22, 2003

Straggling LotR Humor

I added this to my original list of things not to do while watching RotK, but I felt it deserved its own little spot.

21. When they go in the paths of the dead, wait for a tense moment and
shout, "I see dead people!"
22. Imitate what you think a conversation between Gollum, Dobby and Yoda
would be like.
23. Release a jar of daddy-long-legs into the theater during the Shelob
24. Wonder out loud if Aragorn is going to run for governor of California.
25. When Shelob comes on, exclaim, "Man!Charlotte's really let herself go!

Sleeping, But Not Really

I've been exhausted for much of the past week. I couldn't understand why. I got a fair amount of sleep - I'm always up for more, but if felt like I had barely squeezed in four hours when I know I slept six. Even this weekend, I got quite a bit of sleep, yet I'm still exhausted today. I realized on Friday that I was doing some of my sleep apnea-ish things (feeling like I couldn't breathe, startling myself awake as I fell asleep because I had stopped breathing, etc). So I figured that was the cause. But nearly every night this week? I've never had problems sleeping like that. Then I remembered that sleep apnea sorts of problems can be caused by anxiety and stress.

Well, duh, it's the holidays. I may have been ahead of the shopping curve, but this time of year is never just peaches and light. Still, I really have no reason to be stressed about the holidays. We've done the baking, the shopping, the mailing, the decorating. And we did it in fairly laid back fashion. So that would only explain part of my stress. Then it hit me.

I have a submission out to an agent, and I'm still mired in revisions.

That's it. That's it right there. That's the hot button. My writing. I'm not all that nervous about the agent thing consciously, but I bet my subconscious is pacing a path in my gray matter. And I went and gave myself a somewhat strict deadline for finishing the revisions - by the end of the year. Well, one thing 2003 has taught me is that I don't deal well with writing under a deadline. This obviously has to change if I expect to make a career of this. But I still haven't found a good way of dealing with it. It's so foreign to me to resist a deadline, or to even have a deadline have such a negative impact on my ability to finish something. Maybe once it's my career, it'll be different. Who knows.

Movie Experience

I never did share my impressions of RotK. Mark and I saw it again Saturday night. Still just as good, though I was squirming by the end of it more than the first time. Watching the Extended Editions was very nice, even though I fell asleep about thirty minutes into TTT and was out for an hour. I've actually been sleeping horribly for about the past week or so (more on this in another post). Anyway, we get to the theatre about two and a half hour early - we like having our pick of seats and I had a deck of cards to keep us entertained. There wasn't a line set up for our showing. So they told us to hang around until the line for an early showing cleared. I dutifully did this as Mark and PJ went to grab a pizza to bring back. A half hour goes by. The line of the earlier showing gets longer and longer and the pizza has not arrived. Turns out all the restaurant in the theatre area had been mobbed. The line finally cleared, but only then did I realize that folks for my showing have been standing in the line. So I was actually a decent ways back in the line, even though I was one of the first to show up for our showing. Muttering under my breath, I realized that an hour and fifteen minutes had passed since Mark and PJ embarked on their Pizza Recovery Mission. After another fifteen minutes of hungry muttering, Mark brought the pizza. PJ was still missing. He had ordered some bread sticks. Fifteen more minutes until PJ showed up. Finally we got into the theater and were still able to get decent seats (next to a pair of seats with half a cup of soda spilled on them).

The movie was great. I cried for a good half hour toward the end. I had a few niggles here and there, but nothing that pulled me out of the movie. I didn't have a problem with the four mini-endings. Except the last one got a bit tiring. Jackson should've just ended with Grey Havens. We didn't need to go back to Hobbiton one last time, no matter how cute Sean Astin's little girl is. Also, the $9 and three hours of uncomfortable sitting positions are worth Billy Boyd's song. The whole scene leading up to the song, and the footage during the song are incredible. And Minas Tirith is absolutely gorgeous - puts Edoras to shame. There's an amazing sequence of lighting beacons - that's also worth the money and the length of the film, even if you don't like the film as a whole. Those three elements are just too amazing to not be seen on the big screen.

I was disappointed with the mediocre to nonexistant resolution for several characters (Eomer, Eowyn, Faramir, Saruman). But I've heard rumors that those scenes will be in the Extended Edition, so I'll deal with it. Overall, Jackson and his crew did a fabulous job of creating a cinematographical interpretation of Tolkien's books. A perfect adaptation was impossible, and even Tolkien himself knew that. Movies require things that books don't, and certain themes aren't going to be 1) possible to put into film and 2) interpreted in exactly the same way by everyone - even the most devout fans.

If someone should ever make a movie out of a book I write, I hope I remember my love of these movies and my ability to hold them separate in some ways from the books. I also hope that whomever messes with my books would keep me in the loop if possible.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Tolkien Week at Foxtrot

For those of you who don't have access to the funnies or who don't read Foxtrot, check 'em out. Sunday. Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday. Thursday. Friday. Enjoy.

Addendum: Saturday.

Thursday, December 18, 2003


Saw the movie. Still recovering. Amazing. For various amusing discussions, reviews, comments, nitpicks, gushes, etc about Return of the King, go here. Here's my favorite line (slightly spoilerish if you're not familiar with the books):

As for the floating Ring, well, I'm sorry it didn't do it for you, John. But when we're discussing a malicious and near-sentient magical artifact serving as the focal point for the worldly power of a Dark Lord, I'm not really prepared to get my innards in a twist over its buoyancy.

I mean, we've already seen that it can slip on or off a wearer's finger at will, re-size itself to fit its holder, call out to its holder by that person's name, and be thrown into a fire without becoming hot to the touch. Is it really that much of a stretch to accept that it wouldn't dissolve or sink without a fight?

Go see this movie as soon as you can. If you have the time, watch the Extended Editions of the first two before hand as they link quite a few images and moments into the third. Also, bring lots of tissues. And be aware of any trace of arachnophobia you might suffer. Shelob is frightening enough without catching you off-guard to boot.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Middle Earth's Secret Diaries

I know I linked to this a while ago, but here are the diaries again. There's also a link to Cassandra's livejournal at this site, where you will find diaries with entries pertaining to the action of TTT. One might expect to see more entries after Cassandra sees RotK.

Numenorian Time Scale?

Someone on the radio this morning freaked out when she found notes on how to propose to her among her boyfriend of six months things. Freaked out because it had only been six months. Now, in the grand scheme of human dating, six months is a fairly long time. My perspective may be somewhat scewed as Mark and I decided to get married after only a month of dating and I had the ring on my finger another month beyond that. However, six months of dating just doesn't seem like the freak out level this lady was thinking. Maybe she's watched LotR too much and thinks courting should be dragged out for decades before any concrete decision is made. Methinks she, unlike Aragorn, wouldn't be able to wait until she was 90 to get a definite answer (question? :)) out of her man.

If you're going to freak out about the suddenness of a proposal, I would think you should reserve all concerns for relationships shorter than three months. This all depends on the nature of the relationship, of course. Perhaps six months for this woman only meant occasional dates. Or maybe she believes in dating for five years before the next level of committment is even discussed. Who knows? But six months just doesn't seem to eye-poppingly shocking. Six weeks, sure. Six days, pop away.

Hmmm. Six days. I'm reminded of some guy I went out to dinner with once or twice in college. He was a senior and I was a sophomore (going through a self-identity crisis and my parents' divorce on top of taking physics, cell biology, organic chemistry, and their enjoyable labs). He said the "L" word after only four dates (and something on the order of two weeks). I dropped him like fifth period French. (I love that line. When, oh when, will they stop teasing us with rumors of a sequel to Ocean's 11?) I don't even remember how I met the guy now. All of a sudden, he was taking me to dinner. I must've known him from somewhere or through another friend. Can't think of it now. I do know that I ran screaming from him because I could just smell the "will you marry me" coming and I did not want that. I also remember that he was the third reason I made my "no pre-med majors" rule when accepting dates. The first two reasons were dating mistakes from my freshman year and the summer afterward.

I suddenly feel compelled to sing "Memories." (And yes, I'm fully aware that the Middle Earth relevance of this post was rather low and somewhat forced. I'll try to do better later today.)

Monday, December 15, 2003

Tolkien Week at Kellie's Blog

In honor of the premiere, I'll be trying to keep my posts relevant to all things Middle Earth. Here's the first:

1. Stand up halfway through the movie and yell loudly, "Wait... where the hell is Harry Potter?"
2. Block the entrance to the theater while screaming: "YOU SHALL NOT PASS!" - After the movie, say "Lucas could have done it better."
3. At some point during the movie, stand up and shout: "I must go! Middle Earth needs me!" and run and try to jump into the screen. After bouncing off, return quietly to your seat.
4. Play a drinking game where you have to take a sip every time someone says: "The Ring."
5. Point and laugh whenever someone dies.
6. Ask the nearest ring-nut if he thinks Gandalf went to Hogwarts
7. Finish off every one of Elrond's lines with "Mr. Anderson."
8. When Aragorn is crowned king, stand up and at the top of your lungs sing, "And I did it.... MY way...!"
9. At the end, complain that Gollum was offensive to Ethiopians
10. Talk like Gollum all through the movie. At the end, bite off someone's finger and fall down the stairs.
11. When Shelob appears, pinch the guy in front of you on the back of the neck.
12. Dress up as old ladies and reenact "The Battle of Helms Deep" Monty Python style.
13. When Denethor lights the fire, shout "Barbecue!"
14. Ask people around you who they think is the next "Terminator" sent from the Middle Earth of the future to assassinate Frodo Baggins
15. In TTT when the Ents decide to march to war, stand up and shout "RUN FOREST, RUN!"
16. Every time someone kills an Orc, yell: "That's what I'm Tolkien about!" See how long it takes before you get kicked out of the theatre.
17. During a wide shot of a battle, inquire, "Where's Waldo?"
18. Talk loudly about how you heard that there is a single frame of a nude Elf hidden somewhere in the movie.
19. Start an Orc sing-a-long.
20. Come to the premiere dressed as Frankenfurter and wander around looking terribly confused.

21. When they go in the paths of the dead, wait for a tense moment and
shout, "I see dead people!"
22. Imitate what you think a conversation between Gollum, Dobby and Yoda
would be like.
23. Release a jar of daddy-long-legs into the theater during the Shelob
24. Wonder out loud if Aragorn is going to run for governor of California.
25. When Shelob comes on, exclaim, "Man!Charlotte's really let herself go!

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Minor Amusements

I ran a spell check on the previous entry. The Blogger spell-checker suggested replacing "yahoos" with "yak", "Misadventures" with "mistyping", and "Satan's" with "Santiago's".

It's Still Not Friday?

I'm really wondering if I can just pretend that today is Friday and that it's already 4:30 instead of nearing 1:30. That would be nice. This week hasn't been very pleasant. I spent Monday mired in the hell that is an on-line ordering system for work. Then I had to drive home in snow. Then I had to drive (in snow again) to the bus stop to pick up Mark. Only he missed the bus. So I got to kill a half hour in the mall oh-so-conveniently located right next to the bus stop. While I'm waiting for Mark, the college buddy we were supposed to meet up with in Denver that night called to chat, since we couldn't visit (due to the yahoos who don't know how to drive in snow). Turns out my bud is getting married. The downside: he's getting married on the same day as my brother. Unless there's a stunning breakthrough in bilocation before June, I can't go to my pal's wedding.

On to Tuesday and my Misadventures in Satan's LCD Projector Playground. LCD projectors seem to be rarer than a lunar eclipse. I finally found one that would be available for a presentation. But here's the catch: this technological contraption resembled more an artifact from the 3rd Mingh Dynasty than it did a projector. As I lamented to Peg, I was quite certain I'd have to burn a stick of incense in the projector, pray to Vishnu, and have a Buddhist monk stand on his head and chant in order to get the thing to work. Luckily, at the last possible moment, another projector surfaced. One from the Common Era.

Wednesday, yesterday, should be dubbed "Kellie Runs Around the Site, Pushing a Cart Laden with Pizza." Strangely enough, this managed to consume my entire day. And then I went home to bake Christmas cut-out cookies. Ah, holiday baking. A time of mutated candy-canes that must be turned 180 degrees and inverted in order to see the vague hook shape. A time of de-haloed, de-winged, and decapitated angels. A time when Santa's boots look more like smelly slouch socks from the 80s. A time of squashed and distorted snowmen, stars, bells, and trees. At least icing helps them look like edible cookies despite the irregular shapes.

The positives: My buddy is getting married! Another college buddy and his wife are expecting their first child! I made progress in my revisions! And Friday is only a day away!

Tuesday, December 09, 2003


Got the new commenting system going. And it looks like all the comments that weren't on the past seven entries were kept. In fact, it looks like you can still comment using my old system in my Archives. I'll have to see about fixing that. But this will work for now. Feels good to have one less annoyance in life.


I'm about to start tinkering with my commenting feature. I'm trying to figure out if I'll lose all the comments I already have or if I'll end up breaking my blog or what. Bear with me.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Blogger just ate my post about snow in the area. Just take my word for it that it was witty and entertaining.

Friday, December 05, 2003

My Mood is Improving

Today started on a bad note. I had just locked up the apartment when I remembered that my lunch was still sitting on the coffee table. Just like I had left yesterday's lunch behind. Rather than have to buy lunch again, I decided to unlock the door and get it. I was running late due to oversleeping, but an extra minute to grab my lunch wouldn't hurt. Only I couldn't get the door to shut after I had grabbed my lunch. So I spent a good five minutes figuring out just what the hey was going on. And then I still had to scrape off the car. Only the ice wouldn't scrape. It sort of scratched off in tiny ribbons, leaving huge stripes behind. After another few minutes of futile scarping, I just got in the car and blasted the defroster. And then I had to face a day of work I didn't want to do. In general, I haven't been a happy camper on this fine Friday.

That changed when I remembered that it's the beginning of a new month and Sheila would have a new story or something on her website. I eagerly wandered over there, and was ecstatic to read her latest update. She's still tinkering around with a blog!!!! It's a Cherijo story in daily snippets. And it sounds like she might do this sort of thing again.

My Friday just got better.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Not Sure What to Think

This guy gives new meaning to the Absent-minded Professor. The quotes that are making me stumble:

"The case has been hotly debated in the US scientific community, where many luminaries fear that it may deter other researchers from working with sensitive biological samples."

Deterring folks from working with nasty substances isn't a good thing. We need people researching hazardous substance so we can better protect ourselves for it. So, after reading this, I'm on the guy's side.

"Most of Butler's convictions concern his business dealings with drug companies, with which he had several clinical-trial contracts. Half of the payments went directly to him rather than to the university. The jury did not accept the argument of Butler's attorneys that such "shadow contracts" are commonplace and not illegal."

I'm not sure about this. It doesn't sound on the up and up. Does "half of the payments" mean that he was paid 10 times and five times the money went straight to him and not Texas Tech? Or does "half of the payments" mean that he was paid 10 times and half of each of those payments went directly to him and not Texas Tech? If it's the latter, then that sounds like it might be kosher. If it's the former, nope. So now my support of Mr. Science is starting to waver.

"Butler was also found guilty of crimes relating to a Federal Express parcel of plague bacteria he mailed to Tanzania in September, labelled "laboratory materials". He said that he was unaware that federal laws required him to declare the contents more explicitly. The jury convicted him of making a false statement on the package label and of illegally exporting hazardous materials."

What idiot after the anthrax scare is going to think that he can get away with labeling the plague as "laboratory materials"? How in the world would he be unaware of the federal laws after that mess? Has the man not mailed any sort of package since then? And what kind of program would Texas Tech be running if they didn't provide some way for this guy to know and/or be required to find out what the regs are? I have little support left for him at this point.

"Jurors also accepted Butler's defence that he was unable to remember the complicated regulations concerning the transport and importing of plague bacteria."

WHAT????? Mister, that's the sort of thing you find out if you're getting ready to mail the plague to Tanzania. You at least ask a colleague for his opinion if you can't remember how to do this.

My confusion: Is this a bigger problem with Texas Tech, or was Mr. Science here a one-of-a-kind screw up in their program? And if it's the latter, why in the world were they letting him send the plague anywhere?

Those Dangerous Funnies

Does this mean that laughter will become a controlled substance?

Evolutionary Hopefuls

While contemplating the situation of my dental hygiene yesterday on the way home from work (admit it, you wish you were me), I wondered why we didn't have another set of teeth waiting, or an endless supply. We've got baby teeth and adult teeth. And if you screw up your adult teeth, you've got to find some way to deal with it. This didn't strike me as being fair - biologically. My teeth are perfect in one regard. They are perfectly straight. Dentists are often shocked to find out that I've never worn braces because they're so straight. But these teeth o' mine are also excessively weak. Mark could gargle with sugar water for weeks and only brush his teeth once, and he might get a cavity. Maybe. My teeth, however.... Well, let's just say that I once had six cavities filled in one appointment. Did I mention that my teeth are also extremely temperature sensitive? My point: It would be nice if humanity evolved to give us at least one more round of adult teeth. Third time's the charm, after all.

That got me thinking about other things I hope evolution takes care of. And, of course, my mind drew a blank. More teeth was as far as I got before I was home, checking the mail, and oohhing and aahhing over the last minute Christmas beauty specials in a Victoria's Secret catalog (one of fifteen I've received in the past month, and I'm not exaggerating). I'll have to start a list of evolutionary hopefuls and see about threading them into a future novel idea. More teeth will definitely be the first.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

The Air Up There

I got a little incensed this morning when I read an article about the Bush Administration trying to undue Clinton's Clean Air policies, particularly the allowable amount of mercury factories can expel. The other big environmental issues of Dubya haven't bothered me too much. The Alaska drilling for oil idea isn't a good one, but I had a hard time believing W would be able to make it happen. And it didn't seem too crazy to see a politician looking for another source of oil (the crazy thing is that no politician seems to be looking seriously into another fuel source other than oil). The Kyoto business of a few years past didn't get my ire up. I swallowed the spin that Bush and his gang didn't think the document was well-written (or something like that). Hey, not all laws/accords/pacts/treatises/memos/notes passed between diplomats with good intentions are going to do a good job of putting those intentions into action. It's better for the environmentalist cause if all such documents are as well put together as possible than if they aren't. But wanting to do away with the mercury limits doesn't sit well with a someone who has been warned about mercury for six years of research and lab courses. It's not good stuff. As I wander through my thought process on this, I'm thinking about the arsenic business that was all the rage when Dubya first go into office. Or was that Clinton as he went out of office?

At any rate, I'm pissed about this mercury business. The regs passed just fine at least three years ago, if not more. And companies had all sorts of time to start trying to comply. Now the Bush boys' trying to do away with the reg smacks of something vile. It's never a pleasant thing to watch the idiots running the country muck up science.

Enough of my ranting. Again to bring levity to an icky situation, I link to The Onion. As always, enjoy.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003


Got past the hump in my revisions last night. I have been chipping away at it for the past week or two. This is the spot where I stopped on my first round of revision, and I was stalling at the same place during this round. It's a hard spot because I tried to skip the middle of part 2. Which means I had to write the middle from scratch. I somehow didn't think about this as I wrote the first chapter of the middle. And then last night I looked at what used to be Chapter 6 of Part 2. I had to read the whole thing real quick and determine what I wanted to keep and what I didn't. I kept some of the stuff on the very first page and that was about it. The ideas in Chapter 6 are largely still there, but I had to completely rewrite it. Mainly because I was trying to skip the middle and tell the reader what had happened in said middle. I'm happy with the rewrite - much happier with it than I was with the original. And it feels good to be over that hump. There's still a lot to do in Part 2's middle, but it feels more like I'm writing downhill than scrawling my way up it.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Another Turkey Bites the Dust

Well, almost, anyway. But let me build up to that.

The trip was great, fairly uneventful, and relatively low-key. Mark is very glad he won't be spending any time longer than an hour in the car until Christmas, when the drive will be only 10-12 hours as opposed to 14. We got on the road at 5:30 - very early, considering Mark's hatred of the morning before 8 on a good day, 10 usually. The biggest adventure of the trip down was our brief stop in Las Vegas. Las Vegas, New Mexico, that is. We stopped to get gas, and the blue signs near the exit said there was a Wendy's nearby, so we figured we get lunch as well. After filling the tank, we went in search of grub. We saw a KFC and Burger King, but no Wendy's. After journeying two miles away from the gas station, we turned back, figuring that KFC would work just fine. Only to find out it was closed for remodeling (something the marquee displayed on only one of its faces - meaning we couldn't see this important information driving from the gas station). So we tried the Burger King. I told Mark what I wanted to eat and went to the bathroom to put in my contacts. I get into the bathroom and realize I had grabbed the bag with my contact solution in it, but not the one with my actual contacts. I left the restroom, only to find Mark standing there without food, waiting for me. This particular Burger King doesn't take credit cards. Back into the car we go, eager to leave the silliness that is Las Vegas not in Nevada. We had not ventured far out of Vegas when we nearly hit a dog trying to cross the Interstate. At 75 mph, that wouldn't have been a pleasant site. It seemed to be waiting just for the right time to cross as there weren't any cars for quite a distance either in front of or behind us. And that was about it for the drive down.

Our stay at my mother's was pretty relaxed. Watched movies, hung out in the spa, nothing too big. The Turkey Day meal itself was grand, as always. Although it wouldn't be my mother's cooking if there wasn't some sort of misadventure there. The turkey was a little undercooked. We were able to trim off big chunks that were fine, but it's about par for the big bird course. On the bright side, this turkey would've been fully cooked with another hour or so (likely less), which means it's still nowhere in the league of the Turkey that Wouldn't Die. I think we gave up on that one after 15 hours of cooking. Or maybe we did let it go longer.

Saturday we started our first leg of the trip back. We went to Phoenix to grab lunch at the only non-Western New York location of Ted's Hot Dogs. It's set up just the same as the others, with lots of Buffalo paraphinalia. They even had a few Buffalo newspapers there. Mark got a little misty-eyed. Until we realized that they are a cash only restaurant. Enter the fun game of Scrounge for Change. It was actually a rather entertaining experience. And the hot dogs were from Sahlen's, the same supplier of the NY Ted's. They even had Loganberry there.

That night we caught a sunset at the Grand Canyon. Breath-taking as always. It'll be nice to be closer to the park one day. We stayed in Flagstaff. Choosing a place proved somewhat interesting. Two hotels of equal price and caliber were right across the street from each other. Then we saw the marquee for one of them. It announced, "Martians Welcome." We went for the one not proudly catering to those uppity green folk. I mean, imagine sharing a floor with those aliens! Of course, my muse kept wondering what the story behind that announcement was and what these particular Martians would look like. And Mark actually dreamed about why the hotel advertised such a thing.

And now we're back, facing a mountain of laundry and a pile of newspapers. Time to start preparing for the next road trip.