Monday, December 31, 2007

Kind of sad

I was looking for information on Cormac McCarthy, whose name I had confused with Carson McCullers, when I found this four page rant against No Country for Old Men by a guy called Christopher Butler. He started off well and made me laugh but then spends three and a half pages complaining about really nothing; some stylistic choices by Mr. McCarthy.

He doesn't like the way the author isn't a slave to the hyphen or even the quote mark. Mr. McCarthy uses far too many ands, (something I'm equally guilty of, especially when I'm writing an action scene - from today's first draft an encounter between a character an unexpected bear -- It shook its head and roared and Nell threw caution to the wind and turned and ran like mad, heading back to the castle so quickly her eyes stung from the wind.) and commits other acts of writing fraud like refers to a coffee mug as a cup later on. (Isn't a mug also a cup? I mean really, you drink out of it, right? Do we know what the author meant? I'm pretty sure we do.)

Mr. Butler goes on and on, until I was dizzy, and then finally says :

Postscript: After writing the above, I discovered a forum at wherein many others express their dismay and disappointment at the way this book was written.
(Discovered? If we're going to nitpick about word choices is discovered really the right word? And did you really honestly have no idea that there were reviews at Amazon until some time after February of 2006?)

Then he says:

Annie Proulx in The Guardian is impressed by McCarthy's knowledge of guns, or at least his knowledge of gun names. In fact she lists them, and tells us that the stun-gun is for shooting out doorlocks. Well, it is — as a bonus. But then Ms. Proulx thinks that the word "minutiae" is singular.
Really? Really Mr. Butler? You find it necessary to insult not one, but two Pulitzer prize winning authors in one post?

By golly you must be one heck of a writer yourself. Where are the links to your own perfectly written, perfectly edited, perfectly wonderful, perfectly hyphenated and quoted prose? I'm saddened to say I couldn't find any, just some weird spam like the link about Raymond Chandler and Google that points back to the dreary little Cormac McCarthy diatribe, which is published on a website that makes money from aspiring authors by offering "editing services."

Even sadder is the fact that one of the authors on your "new authors" page is a new author only in the strictest sense, as, despite the presumed use of the editing services, they are self published, something they could have as easily accomplished without paying for said services.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Carrot cake soup

Here's a link to one of my favorite pieces by Tycho; his brilliant treatise on his trip to the forbidden zone to create and eat carrot cake soup. Even if you, like me, don't care for carrot cake, or like me, have been freaked out by it because of Chuck Palahniuk's story Guts, you can still enjoy Tycho's post.

If you haven't read Guts, and you think you've got the stomach for it, you can find it here, in its entirety, at the official website. Just don't say I didn't warn you.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

I'm doing science and I'm...

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

Santa brought me a failed hard disc. Hooray Santa!! All right, that's a lie. I got the failed hard disc yesterday, not today. It's cast a bit of a pall on everything though. Three years of stuff on that computer, heavens knows what. I sent copies of my latest two books to myself just before it died but I'm thinking about how when Laurell K. Hamilton's hard drive failed all of her fail safes failed too because the disc wasn't actually writing anymore so none of her backups worked. I'm kind of afraid to open my work and see what sort of shape it's in. I'd gotten a serious error right before I sent them and if I had half a brain I would have also sent the second most recent iterations but...

Cam leaves for Alaska tomorrow, to see his dad but also for another reason. A dear friend of his, a German war bride, is very ill in the hospital. which of course is very sad but it's nice for both of them that he's going to get to see her again. We're thinking she was 16 or so when WWII ended; if you do the math and factor in two strokes it's not terribly encouraging.

Other than that, all is well and fabulous in our household. We had a most excellent Christmas morning and may go out to the movies later tonight. Or I might take a nap, always a plum option.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

I remember frogs

One time the kids and I had been out at the barn riding our ponies, Whiskers an Arab/Welsh cross I picked up for 450 bucks down south county that eventually won Grand Champion Pleasure Pony and Reserve Grand Champion Pleasure Pony at the same show, and Ginger, a red pony someone picked up at the meat auction and passed on to us for a few years, until darkness fell. It was a little bit rainy, not too bad really, and I finally gathered everyone up and we started home, driving down the very long driveway pretty slowly, when plop, something fell onto my windshield from the tree above. I thought it was a leaf at first but when I looked closer I saw it was a tiny tree frog knocked out by the rain.

I pulled the car over and we saved put it back up in the tree. It was very small, maybe as big as my thumbnail. A surprising yet oddly delightful event.

Friday, December 21, 2007

More credit union crime

Last week the Credit Union Journal reported that a man has been charged with stealing 110,00 dollars from his fiancee after leaving her at the altar. All I can say is ouch and he'd better hope they never leave him alone in a room with her.

Thirty pages of rewrites today. I'm at page 195 of about 455. Maybe I'll finish before the year is over.

Other than that, wrapping presents and helping Cam set up a new system to organize his homework. We went through every piece of paper in his backpack yesterday. This is after totally reorganizing my own backpack...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Fight to get anything done

I had one of those days where you try to do things but none of them work. Every thing in my to do list was a no go because of something else that went wrong, or someone didn't return my call. And I missed a dentist appointment. I thought my card said Jan but I guess it's old and actually says Jun. And that's why numbers are a better bet for someone like me, although heavens knows I could find some way to mess those up also.

Finished my column, which isn't due until Friday, so that was good. It was surprisingly difficult, maybe because I had a hard time settling down to just a few books to talk about.

I did twenty pages of the Gabriel rewrite. Yesterday I realized I was way too damn tired to do anything properly. I was reading the words and thinking they were stilted or whatever but I didn't care, thinking I would fix them later. But fix it time is now so I closed out the file and did the editing first thing today, well first thing after all the botched paperwork.

Now I'm trying to knock out my five hundred words for the Stork book, which is nothing but seems impossible. My characters are trying to get through a hole in the wall just big enough for their bee guide. They are strictly forbidden to eat or drink anything with eat or drink me written on it so they're kind of stuck. I need to get them through the wall and up to the roof where they will discover their transport has been stolen. But since their transport is guarded by a bunch of bees how would someone make off with it? That's the question and maybe why I'm kind of stuck myself...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sorry, no can do

A small part of my day job is removing ads from a pretty active discussion board. I've been doing this job for seven and a half years now so it's pretty ingrained. See an ad, whammo, remove it. That's the way my brain works.

So when I'm reading someone else's blog and I see blog spam it's a little bit of torture to have to just move on and leave it alone. There's always a part of me that wants to write to the author and say hey, if you give me your password I'll get all that crap out of there for you. I'm so sure that's about to happen.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Two fixed one broken

We had to send our Wii and Cullen's Xbox 360 in to the repair shops because they were making too much noise. The Wii had this awful high pitched noise that gave me a headache if we tried to play a game on disc and the Xbox was just super, super loud, so loud that I couldn't stand for Cullen to play it when he was downstairs and I was upstairs. Then it started freaking out when he was trying to save data, freezing or shutting down, I forget which.

When I called Microsoft the CSR tried to convince me the Xbox is just naturally loud and we would have to deal with it, which annoyed me because it cost Cullen a great deal of money, but he eventually gave in and had us ship it back.

While the machines were gone I was a little antsy because this illness I have does make me more sensitive to noise; a noise that someone else might not notice can give me a raging headache or maybe even make me throw up. So I was a little worried, what if it was just me? What are the chances of getting two bad consoles from completely different companies?

But then Cullen got a package from Microsoft and it turned out to be a brand new Xbox 360. The old one, which was only a couple of weeks old, was in such bad shape that replacing it was the best option.

Then we got the Wii back along with a note saying they'd replaced the disc drive mechanism. So yeah, I'm sensitive but also stuff was really wrong.

Sadly yesterday we had a small power failure that occurred while Cam was defraging his Compaq and the computer reset to its just shipped status. All of his data was gone. Luckily he was using Google docs to do his homework so his project due on Thursday is safe. God bless Uncle Google.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Why do wild rats bite people at all?

I found this article from Pediatrics, entitled Identification of Risk Factors in Rat Bite Incidents Involving Humans, and it got me wondering why wild rats bite people. Dogs bite because they're frightened or have been trained to be vicious, or are backed into a corner, or whatever. There's kind of a logical sense to a dog bite most of the time, even if it's horrific. But also dogs are predators, right? Bears bite because they're predators or they're protecting their young, or you're pissing them off. They're also much bigger than we are, or at least most of them are bigger than most of us.

Cats don't bite all that much, mostly when they're injured or frightened, or about to have a fight with another cat. My ex husband sustained a nasty bite on his foot when our friend's cat was staying with us and crouched down by the sliding glass door growling at another cat in our yard. The ex shoved the cat with his foot prior to closing the curtains and the cat reacted by biting the hell out of him, a not entirely unexpected chain of events.

Small rodents that are tame usually bite because they haven't been socialized or because you're sticking your hand in their cage, again, frightened and possibly panicky. If you snatched up a wild animal in your hands you would expect it to bite you in an effort to get away, just like you would bite something enormous that snatched you up while you were minding your own business.

But if wild rats tend to be kind of stowaways in your house, eating your food and drinking your water, nesting in your basement or the walls of the first floor of your home, why would they change prey behavior and suddenly attack the much larger hosts while they're sleeping? The article says much of the bite victims are children, less than six years old, but to a rat even a four year old is pretty big. I might have thought the kids were trying to catch the rats, because young kids are attracted to animals and have no sense of wild vs tame and what that means, esp if they've been watching Disney movies, but many of the bites occur during sleep.

As a nation we throw away more than enough food to keep rats going so, despite all the horror films and stories, it's hard to imagine that the rats want to eat those they bite. So why? Anyone know?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Someone we love

Here's a WaPo piece about Dr. Holtz, our favorite dino guy and one of our very favorite speakers. It's written for kids and talks down to its audience but still there is some good info.

Dr. Holtz' panels are always jam packed, not even standing room only, more like barely room to breathe only. One of the reasons we love him is because he's so enthusiastic. His love for his material shines through and lights up the room.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Wonderful film

I watched Volver last night, starring Penelope Cruz as Raimundo, a beautiful mother, daughter, sister who has a tragic past and a current crisis. There are many secrets and mysteries that are deftly revealed throughout the course of the story. Raimundo has a daughter called Paula and comes home one day to find that Paula has killed Paco, the man she believed to be her father, who tried to force himself on her. Raimundo is stunned and tells her daughter she must make everyone believe that is was Raimundo who killed Paco. She then sets about trying to hide the body and keep going as though everything were normal while all around her the past tries to overwhelm the present.

I was repeatedly struck by just how beautiful Ms. Cruz is, with these huge dark eyes and flashing vitality. And her clothes, her character is bursting with style. If you can't bear to read subtitles and you don't speak Spanish you could watch this film just to enjoy the scenery, including Tia Paula's house, which is old and beautiful with this amazing wooden front door that stole every scene it was in.

I'll probably end watching this movie again before it goes off the air.


Friday, December 07, 2007

Goals for the rest of 2007

Write 500 words a day of the Stork Situation.

Write the second draft of the Gabriel book. I rewrite the first ten pages today. It's 453 pages so long so at this rate I can't possibly finish by the end of the year...

Write some Christmas cards.

Send them away.

Figure out what to do about the eBay auction where the seller sent me the wrong thing for Cullen's Christmas gift and says I have to talk to them on the phone to get it resolved but then never answers their phone or my followup emails...

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Snow due tomorrow/today and no groceries, no gas for the car, checks needed to be cashed, rats need new bedding and food and Cam needs new shoes because the sole peeled off his shoe. So bundle everyone up and off into the frigid weather. Get to the credit union and I don't have my debit card (I think Chris has it) so I couldn't deposit my check. By the time we got done with shoes Trader Joes was closed so no shopping there. Then I stopped at Pizza Hut to pick up dinner and they forgot to make Cam's food and ended up fixed it for free but goofed and made doubles of what Cullen ordered and still no food for Cam. Finally got home just in time for Cam to eat and go to bed.

It's hard to buy shoes for Cul and Cam because they have wide feet. Mine are wide through the ball of the foot and narrow in the heel so when I was training for the AIDS marathon my shoes were slipping and making my heels bleed like mad.

New Balance works the best for our shape feet so we went to the store by the credit union that carries them and I asked someone to help Cam make sure his shoes fit. Then I decided to see if they had any in my size - they never do because I have enormous feet and they only have these tiny little cheerleading shoes smaller than my hand but I took the chance and asked a guy that worked there if he would like to help me. Not in a snotty way but in a "I know you're closing and you might not want to help me" sort of way. He shook his head and said he'd rather not then said, "PSYCH!" First time someone has said that to me in years and years.

The first pair he found for me were really stiff in the heel and rubbed but he spent a lot of time and found some that were super soft and comfortable. After wearing the same shoes for six years these new ones are like walking on clouds. Bliss!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

NaNoWriMo 2007

I don't think I mentioned that I hit my word count for NaNoWriMo on the 27th. My story is maybe halfway or maybe two thirds over so I'm writing a thousand words a day now. I suppose I could keep up the 1700 words a day but it makes me really tired and eventually grouchy.

I need to take a break and do a rewrite of the Gabriel book I wrote in the spring. I still haven't touched it. I keep writing new things and not taking time out to work on fixing up the older projects. I still have vacation that needs to be used up by the end of the year so I may take a week and just rewrite. Or at least that would be the plan. Last time I had that plan we all got some stupid virus and we ended up with five doctor appointments in one week. Blah.


Sunday, December 02, 2007

Rat Park

I'm continuing to find both fascinating and horrible things as I do my research on unusual types of rat cages.

Here is a Wikipedia entry on Rat Park, a study done in the 1970's by Dr. Bruce K. Alexander who believes that narcotics are not addictive and that what appears to be addiction is a result of poor living conditions. (This dovetails nicely with what we know about rabbits, incidentally because if rabbits are in a crowded or filthy warren the does will not breed and in fact if they become pregnant their bodies will absorb the young.)

Alexander's hypothesis was that drugs do not cause addiction, and that the apparent addiction to morphine commonly observed in laboratory rats exposed to it is attributable to their living conditions, and not to any addictive property of the drug itself. [1] He told the Canadian Senate in 2001 that experiments in which laboratory rats are kept isolated in cramped metal cages, tethered to self-injection apparatus, show only that "severely distressed animals, like severely distressed people, will relieve their distress pharmacologically if they can." [2]

To test his hypothesis, Alexander built Rat Park, a 200-square-foot (18.6 m²) housing colony, 200 times the square footage of a standard laboratory cage. There were 16–20 rats of both sexes in residence, an abundance of food, balls and wheels for play, and private places for mating and giving birth. [3] The results of the experiment appeared to support his hypothesis. Rats who had been forced to consume morphine hydrochloride for 57 consecutive days were brought to Rat Park and given a choice between plain tap water and water laced with morphine. For the most part, they chose the plain water. "Nothing that we tried," Alexander wrote, "... produced anything that looked like addiction in rats that were housed in a reasonably normal environment." [1]

Another quote from further in the article:

In Rat Park, Alexander built a short tunnel large enough to accommodate one rat at a time. At the far end of the tunnel, the rats could drink a fluid from one of two drop dispensers, which automatically recorded how much each rat drank. One dispenser contained a morphine solution and the other plain tap water.

Alexander designed a number of experiments to test the rats' willingness to consume the morphine. Rats have a sweet tooth, so in an experiment called "The Seduction," the researchers exploited the rats' apparent sweet tooth to test whether they could be enticed to consume morphine if the water was sweet enough. Morphine in solution has a bitter taste for humans, and appears to have the same effect on rats, Alexander writes, since they shake their heads and reject it as they do with bitter quinine solutions. The Seduction involved four groups of rats. Group CC was isolated in laboratory cages when they were weaned at 22 days of age, and lived there until the experiment ended at 80 days of age; Group PP was housed in Rat Park for the same period; Group CP was moved from laboratory cages to Rat Park at 65 days of age; and Group PC was moved out of Rat Park and into cages at 65 days of age.

The caged rats (Groups CC and PC) took to the morphine instantly, even with virtually no sweetener, with the caged males drinking 19 times more morphine than the Rat Park males. But no matter how sweet the morphine became, the rats in Rat Park resisted it. They would try it occasionally — with the females trying it more often than the males — but invariably they showed a preference for the plain water. It was, writes Alexander, "a statistically significant finding." [1] He writes that the most interesting group was Group CP, the rats who were brought up in cages but moved to Rat Park before the experiment began. These animals rejected the morphine solution when it was stronger, but as it became sweeter and more dilute, they began to drink almost as much as the rats that had lived in cages throughout the experiment. They wanted the sweet water, he concluded, so long as it did not disrupt their normal social behavior. [1] Even more significant, he writes, was that when he added a drug called Naloxone, which negates the effects of opioids, to the morphine-laced water, the Rat Park rats began to drink it.

In another experiment, he forced rats in ordinary lab cages to consume morphine for 57 days on end, giving them no liquid to drink other than the morphine-laced solution, then moved them into Rat Park, where he allowed them to choose between the morphine solution and plain water. They drank the plain water. He writes that they did show some signs of dependence, but no sign of addiction. There were "some minor withdrawal signs, twitching, what have you, but there were none of the mythic seizures and sweats you so often hear about ..." [10]

Alexander believes his experiments show that animal self-administration studies provide no empirical support for the theory of drug-induced addiction, and that the theory has no other basis in empirical science, although it has not been disproven. "The intense appetite of isolated experimental animals for heroin and cocaine in self-injection experiments tells us nothing about the responsiveness of normal animals and people to these drugs. Normal people can ignore heroin ... even when it is plentiful in their environment, and they can use these drugs with little likelihood of addiction ... Rats from Rat Park seem to be no less discriminating." [1]

You should definitely read the entire piece. It's fascinating.