Monday, February 28, 2011

I Dig Reading Challenge: February Update

For the newer followers, let me bring you up to speed on the I Dig Reading Challenge. The idea was not my own, it was based on a weekend reading/donating challenge I joined last December.

I loved it so much I decided to do it for a whole year, and the I Dig Reading Challenge was born.

The idea is that you set a certain level of donation for each book you read ($1 per book, 1cent per page, $5 per book, the amount is irrelevant).

Then you donate based on the number of books read each month to a charity of your choice. I opted for $5 a book.

You can watch my progress, and any reports from others who have joined the challenge, by clicking on the tab above or this link.

So, what am I reading and donating this month?

In February my desire to read waned. I read 9 books in January, and I knew that was a pace that I wouldn't be able to keep up with.

I think I needed a break. So, I let my brain rest a little.

I read just a handful of books:
In the Dead of Night (John Marsden)
Satisfaction Guaranteed (Lucy Monroe)
Evil Under the Sun (Agatha Christie)
Happily Never After (Beta- Holly Dodson)

By my own Challenge rules, this should mean a $20 donation, but I donated a bit more than that over the course of the month.

It was just one of those months, where things came up that needed donating to immediately and couldn't wait.

I made small donations to the Wintonbury Land Trust and to the Alondra Hernandez memorial.

The Wintonbury Land Trust protects and conserves land around Bloomfield Connecticut. When we first moved here we lived in Bloomfield and the land around there is dear to our hearts.

The Alondra memorial is a lot harder to talk about. She's a third grader from my son's school who passed away this week due to a ruptured* aneurysm. There is no way to imagine what that would be like.Though we couldn't give a lot we wanted to do something to help them right now.

If you like to read and give, join the I Dig Reading Challenge.

*Joanne, from My Brain On Books, a aneurysm rupture survivor, rightly points out that this is often mis-communicated. One  can live with an aneurysm. It is the rupturing of an aneurysm that is the medical problem. She has several great posts about brain aneurysms on her blog. See the tab: About Brain Aneurysms.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Coolness on the web: Slice of the blog pie

Do you like...
--- irreverent commentary?

--- good contests?

---stellar reviews? , and

--- umm, ZOMBIES?

Who doesn't, right?

Then you should check out Alicia and Miranda's blog, follow, join their awesome contest, and help them get to 150 followers.

No pressure, but you could win a zombie survival kit or other fabulous prizes:
  • One of two handmade scarves by Alicia*.
  • Cookie Prize Pack: one box of Girl Scout Cookies and a dozen homemade zombie cookies from Miranda.
  • Zombie Surival Kit: zombie survival flashcard, zombie mix cd, gift card, and your very own zombie.
  • Writer's Survival Kit: iTunes gift card, pens, post its, notepad, a copy of Bird by Bird, and your very own chocolate stash.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


What would you do...

If you saw that a book similar to one you're planning has already been published.

In checking out all my fellow crusaders blogs this week, well trying to at least, I decided to organize all the blogs I follow in my google reader.

That took most of last night.

Occasionally I landed on a person I follow and checked out their blog to see if they are from the crusade, from YA Highway, or from various blog fests.

It was on Sunshine and Stardust's blog where I stopped short, and let out a little scream.

She reviews the book The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher.

It sounds similar in premise to the book I'm currently outlining: Blue War. Both this book and my book are about a world where water is extraordinarily scarce. The review is pretty detailed, with acknowledged spoilers, so I was able to get a good sense of the book.

Of course, outside of the basic premise, it's not at all like what I've outlined in detail, chapter by chapter.

I have several books I can move forward with, and I'd hate to put a lot of energy into something that may be irrelevant.

That being said, I planned to work on this book next. I am confused! What should I do?

Should I put my book on the back-burner until this other book has had time to cool?

What would YOU do, if you realized a book like the one you're working on had just sold or just been published?

Would you keep working as if you didn't know this?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Truth and lies

The Pinocchio of beetles... gorgeous original image found here.

So, you may ask yourself, what was the lie from my first Crusade post 

It's #3.

I am never the first person ready to leave the house. Never. Usually my husband and two boys are in the car (or all buckled into the bike trailer) while I'm still inside filling my water bottle, putting on some chapstick, and posting one last blog entry.

I can say Sesame Street in three languages: English, Dutch and German.
Sesamstraße in German
Sesamstraat in Dutch
As you can see, they're not that different. Really just the Straat or the Strasse

And I did fall hard on my bum while at a grown-ups skating birthday party last weekend. I wish I could say it happened while doing something cool like Roller-derby, but it really didn't.

1) I failed my driver’s license exam.

2) I love old black and white movies.
One favorite is Harvey, about a giant invisible rabbit that can only be seen by Jimmy Stewart.
I also love “recent” old movies, especially the crazy stuff that used to be normal, like smoking in hospitals (gasp!) and cell phones the size of shoe boxes.

3) I am known for always being the first person ready to leave the house when it’s time go somewhere. It drives my family crazy!

4) I adore the baobab tree.

5) I am a true and loyal friend.

6) I can say Sesame Street in three languages. I can say blade in one language.

7) I went roller skating Saturday night, slipped, and totally bloviated my fuliguline, if you know what I mean. It still hurts.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday: Q&A

The Road Trip Wednesday is a blog carnival where writers and readers of YA answer a question, then visit the other YA Highway participants' blogs to see what everyone has written.

This week is a little different. From the Twitter feed on YA Highway I see we're supposed to post a question on our blogs, and visit all the other blogs and answer everyone else's questions.

What strikes me first is: coming up with a question is not as easy as it looks, so thank you RTW leaders. I didn't appreciate your hard work so fully before today. 

With a little help from my son, my question is:

What is your favorite dinosaur and why?

I would be a stegosaur. I get cold easily, and researchers now believe these plates were used to absorb heat from the sun (or alternately cool), regulating the animal's temperature. That sounds dandy to me.

What about you?

Are you the high-flying pterosaur?

A meat-eating T-Rex?

or the gentle herbivore brachiosaurus?

Visit the Highway to see all the other questions!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Stylish Blog Award/Crusader event MASHUP

Just like those crazy kids on Glee, I’ve taken two seemingly unrelated posts, and woven them together seamlessly (or have I?) into one charming and melodious entry.  

Rules for the Stylish Blogger award are
  • List 7 things about yourself   
  • Thank and link back to the persons who gave you the award (Thanks to Glenna, Tanya, and Kate!) 
  • pass the award along

The Crusade assignment is (in less than 300 words), to tell one:
·       secret 
·       lie 
·       interesting quirk 
·       annoying habit 
·       your best character trait, and 
·       your favorite thing in the world
The post must include the words: bloviate, fuliguline, rabbit, and blade

Here we go:

1) I failed my driver’s license exam.

2) I love old black and white movies.
One favorite is Harvey, about a giant invisible rabbit that can only be seen by Jimmy Stewart.
I also love “recent” old movies, especially the crazy stuff that used to be normal, like smoking in hospitals (gasp!) and cell phones the size of shoe boxes.

3) I am known for always being the first person ready to leave the house when it’s time go somewhere. It drives my family crazy!

4) I adore the baobab tree.

5) I am a true and loyal friend.

6) I can say Sesame Street in three languages. I can say blade in one language.

7) I went roller skating Saturday night, slipped, and totally bloviated my fuliguline, if you know what I mean. It still hurts

I would like to pass the award on to my most recent blogger friends, my crusade team. 

Check out their blogs on the left-hand column entitled My Crusade Team
(No pressure, new friends, if you’re not into awards or passing them on, the buck can stop here). 

Your assignment: guess which item is untrue…

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The International Wrist Protection Society

Public service announcements. They're not sexy, but they're important.

By definition, these are campaigns that inform us about issues.

Do you ever wish you could create your own public service announcements?

In the world of blogging/writing or in real life?


Here are some... share your ideas with me in the comments, or make your own!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bernard Pivot Blogfest

First, a BIG thank you to Nicole for hosting this wonderful blog fest.  It is a great idea and such fun.

  1. What is your favorite word?
    1. all onomatopoeia: hiss, buzz, drip, shush, sizzle, slurp, murmur, croak…
  2. What is your least favorite word?
    1.  Any hateful word, or the word booger. Such an ugly word.
  3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
    1. Understanding
  4. What turns you off?
    1. Closed minds
  5. What is your favorite curse word?
    1. Scheiße
  6. What sound or noise do you love?
    1. The quiet only possible when you’re far away from civilization in nature.
  7. What sound or noise do you hate?
    1. Sportscenter barking in the background (sorry, honey).
  8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
    1. Writing
  9. What profession would you not like to do?
    1. I would be terrible at any profession requiring fashion sense.
  10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? 
    1. Do you want to see my bug collection?

Here you can see a photo of Bernard Pivot-- can't you tell this is an inquisitive man!?
Could he look more charming?
Could he have more sparkle or zazz? I think not.

Trivia: Pivot used the Proust questionnaire to ask several questions of visitors to his shows Apostrophes and Bouillon de Culture (though as my source is Wikipedia, I'm not sure he used these questions on both of his shows, I know only that he hosted both).
James Lipton was inspired by the practice and did something similar for his show Inside the Actors Studio. The questionnaire was not developed by Proust, but instead was taken famously by Proust. According to Wikipedia, this kind of questionnaire was typically taken by British people as a kind of personality test.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

LOVE fest Day nine: bitly

I have to be honest: I saw url shorteners on the web, but I didn't understand why anyone would use them.

Then I heard a segment of Ira Flatow's Science Friday on NPR (nerd alert), and it really piqued my interest.

My url shortener of choice is

In a nutshell, this is what they do. If you go to copy a link from the web and (we've all been there) it's 465 characters long, you can enter it in and get a petite, crisp little link to post.

For example. I recently googled incinerators in Ct for a project I'm working on with a student, getting this link:

So, I'd it, to get this link:

So, why in the world would anyone want to do this? I know why I want to do it. It's clean and concise. It satisfies my aesthetic desire to neaten everything up.

I catch myself formatting and re-formatting my to-do list because I want the fonts, etc to be more uniform.

...soooo I can admit I may not be normal in this regard.

Do you 
Do you want to? 
Do you think it seems silly?
Does it sound useful?

FYI, here's a blog teaser for Ira Flatow's story. The story link can be found here.

The promos hint that the show will be about "uncovering" the hidden agendas of url shorteners, but really, it didn't play out like that. Instead, Ira was kind of gushing over Hilary Mason, the lead scientist.
He talked about the fact that when one uses an url shortener, the site owner can then use that information to track you, theoretically building a composite of "who you are" and "what you like" online.
I don't know why this doesn't bother me. It's possible to turn off the tracking mechanism on your account. I didn't even bother, though. I feel like CVS tracks my purchases through my discount card, as does Stop N Shop. Netflix knows not only the films I've seen, but also the ones I'd like to see in the future. It's all connected to my debit card, and my identity in countless ways.

In this way, it doesn't feel like much of an infringement of privacy.

Trivia: the .ly is from when they first designed the web and thought all countries would have their own web suffix. This was the suffix for Libya. The creators of the site are not Libyans, they just thought it would be cool to use it.

What do you think?

Monday, February 14, 2011

LOVE fest Day eight: Contest Winners!

So, thanks to all who jumped in and tried to guess the images from my son's drawings.

After posting the contest I worried the images were the kind of thing only a mom could decipher, but I was thrilled with all the correct answers.

James loved reading your comments, too. So thanks for all that comment love.

Here are the original images, matched with their real-animated counterparts.

Phineas, Ferb, and Perry from Phineas and Ferb

Spongebob and Patrick

This Jedi girl from, as James calls it: Star Wars the Clar Wars

 And the evil emperor Zurg from Toy Story

 So- thanks to all the participants:
Holly had 2 of 4
Sweet Blessings (full disclosure: my sister Lizzie) guessed 3 of 4

and Joanne guessed 3 of 4

So the only fair thing is to give a prize to each of them!
$10 to both Lizzie and Joanne, and $5 to Holly -- a gift certificate for the bookseller of their choice!

Send me your contact information if I don't already have it, and your bookseller of choice!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

VERY cool

Just in, from my friend Izzi, the queen of knowing what's out there, the preying mantis Valentine.
Get your own here on ETSY.

Love Fest Day Seven: Weekend of Awesome

I am thrilled to be a part of a writing community filled with supportive and helpful writing friends.

I can't wait to take part in the Weekend of Awesome this June, organized by Erinn, Holly, and Alicia.

Since my husband has already taken part in what he calls Mancation, and a second Mancation weekend is in the works, I thought it made perfect sense. One whole weekend to write and get to know in person the folks from the blogosphere who are my closest writing compatriots.

The Weekend of Awesome: Where Awesome Goes to Write!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Love Fest Day Six: Phineas and Ferb

If you have small children at this moment in time, then you probably know about Phineas and Ferb already.
I am not the first book blogger to write their praises. Erinn has done (as I recall) TWO posts on her love for Ph&F, or maybe that was two posts on her dislike of Max and Ruby... I digress.

If you have children, and you let them watch television, you know that some shows can be incredibly difficult to get through. I can see why these shows appeal to kids, but that doesn't mean I like them. My children love MANY shows that I do not enjoy.

Phineas and Ferb is the kind of show that I would probably watch anyway. It is clever, focusing on creativity and imagination, and is truly funny.

It reminds me of a show I loved to watch when I worked as a nanny/babysitter in college: Hey Arnold.
Does anyone remember that show?
Literally, my whole philosophy for buying Christmas presents is based on a Hey Arnold Christmas special from 1995.
I keep digressing!
Doofenshmirtz is a hilarious character, but he's not the only funny one.

Baljeet and Buford's nerd-bully relationship also includes MANY delectable moments.

And I adore the overwrought and angsty Candace, balanced only by her level-headed BFF Stacey.
Do you Phineas and Ferb? What's your favorite episode? 

Lindana the one-hit wonder?
Getting Love Handle back together?
Carl the intern's turn as an agent?
The Hawaiian vacation?

Discuss in the comments!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Love Fest Day Five: That's Y-Amore Blogfest

Here's the host site, the Oasis for YA.

Post 250 romantic, swoon-worthy words from your YA WIP.

Then check out the entries from some of the other participants.

Okay- here are 264 words from my WIP. I couldn't go with less. This may be a little tell-y versus show-y, because I just added this scene, and it hasn't been through a rewrite yet.

To set the scene, my story is a YA mystery- with very little romance. This is the only kiss in the book. 


“I have to tell you something.”
“I like you, and I don’t mean as a friend, I mean, I like you.”
“Are you trying to say I complete you?”
I falter. “Please don’t make a joke right now.” I put my index finger against his lip. I take in a deep breath. “I don’t want to be just your friend. I am crazy about you. I love your gangly walk, and the way your eyes sparkle when you talk about some bullsh*t conspiracy. I don’t know what I’d do without your friendship, and I don’t care if this makes it awkward as hell for us, but you have to know.”
I pause, but only for a second. “You’re my best friend. You have to know this about me.”
I pull my finger back, and let go of him. I hope I haven’t blown it all. I’m afraid to look in his eyes, I’m afraid I’ll see hesitation, or worse: pity. I can’t leave it like this.
He looks like he’s about to say something, but before he can respond I zoom in, like a butterfly taking the sweetest nectar from a flower that just bloomed, and I kiss him.
I thought I was soaring before, but I was only coasting. We fly off the surface of the planet and hover there. It’s gentle and sweet and full of power all at once, and I don’t think I can stand it, because he’s kissing me back.
He pulls away. “You’re kinda blowing my mind here a little. Are you sure?”
“Yes,” I say.

Check out my contest below-- you don't have to follow, you don't have to repost, all you have to do is guess who is depicted in the 5-year-old's drawings below. It sounds easy, right? You can win a gift certificate to the book purveyor of your choice (open internationally and ends on Sunday).

Thursday, February 10, 2011

LOVE Fest Day Four: Kid Art and CONTEST

I adore kid art.

There's something so fresh and lovely about the uninhibited lines. I have a real problem culling the dozens of pictures that come home from both my boys' schools.

I keep big boxes of their work, but at the same time manage to get rid of some things. You have to, or it would become overwhelming. Still, it is difficult to make the cut at times.

Here are some cool works from our 5 year old James. Can you guess who is represented in each image?

(It's definitely skewed to people who enjoy programming for young children. )

I'll give a $20.00 gift certificate to a book seller of your choice to anyone who can name the most shows and main characters he's depicting.

Put your answers in the comments. I couldn't figure out how to do a poll, so comments will have to do!

Open internationally!

So, do you like kid art?  If yes, why?  If no, why not?


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

RTW and LOVE Fest Day Three: Favorite Literary Couples

Road Trip Wednesday is a blog carnival where the YA Highway posts a question, and the community answers it on their own blogs.

This week's question: Who are your favorite literary couples?You know -- the ones you like by themselves, but LOVE together!

Hmmm. This is a great (and fitting) question! 

I usually go more for the smoldering, unrequited love than the couples who get down and dirty. I feel like EVERY week I mention Jane Eyre. Are people getting tired of that yet? Or Persuasion. Again, I mention it nearly every week. 

Still, there is so much passion and desire in Anne and Wentworth's relationship, albeit in a really civil and buttoned-up kind of way. When he sits down to write the letter, proclaiming his love for her, and then leaves... well, it just gets me every time.

Now for something completely different. Claire and Jamie from the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. Their passion is anything but buttoned up and civil. It's downright steamy. If you're interested in a time-traveling nurse from the 1940s heading back in time to the 1700s and getting forced into a predicament with a young, hot Scotsman: look no further. 

Now head to the Highway to see what the rest of the crew says!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Love Fest: Day Two. Food Jammers, Crusades, and Carbon Neutrality

Before I delve into my love-fest topic of the day, let me spread the word about two great opportunities:

First, Rachael Harrie's Crusade for Platform Building. Pop over to her blog and join in and meet other bloggers who are also trying to build their online platforms. This Crusade will take place over the next three months, and involve some linked posts on topics of interest to writers, readers, and lovers of books.

Second, check out Mach's Grun Carbon Neutrality for your website. When I first saw this I assumed it was a paid program. After reading over their website I am happy to report they will plant a tree to make your blog carbon neutral in exchange for a blog post about their program.

In other words: it's free!

As an environmental policy researcher I am wary  of greenwashing, but after a cursory look into their program this seems legit. I say cursory, because their logic is fine, but I haven't investigated to see if they do precisely what they say they do. I am trusting that they make good on their side of the bargain. On their site they make a strong argument for their conservative calculations. What better way to celebrate love than showing the earth a little?

Now, to my LOVE FEST TOPIC of the DAY!   Food Jammers.

Ooh, Food Jammers. If my friend Izzi hadn't had an appendicitis, I may never have found out about this gem of a show. If you're like me, you DVR the shows you like, and everything else is off the radar. I could write an entire post about the way the DVR has changed the way we learn about new shows, not to mention how we experience commercial media.

But that would be boring.
I'd rather talk about what I love.

Food Jammers tops the list. How can I describe FoodJammers?
It's a combination of food, mechanics, art, and music.
 Here's a fuzzy pic of Micah, Nobu, and Chris.

Three ADORABLE Canadian fellas come up with an idea (growing sprouts, making homemade bagels, pimping out a cake) and then use mechanical systems to realize the plan in their arty loft. They are utterly charming, and good with food and for lack of a better term, building stuff.

So, for example, on Pimp My Cake, they created this hydraulic platform to display a birthday cake (with lights, movement, etc-- exactly like a pimped out car).

In the sprouts episode they created a rotating greenhouse to keep six flats of sprouts in optimal sunlight.

They finish each show with a party or event where there friends come over to eat and enjoy what they've made.

I am not doing it justice. Trust me. Put it in your DVR, give it a whirl, and let me know what you think.

Do you know food jammers? Do you like it? Have a favorite episode? Who is your favorite fella? (Don't force me to pick!)

Can you guess which Food Jammer appeared in my dream last week??-- nothing racy, just as a bit player.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Love Fest: Day One

Pea Pod.

If you know what I'm talking about, then you probably already know what a revelation this service is.

If you don't, please let me share the magic.

Say it with me: pea pod.
Relish it.
Let it's liberating force set you free.

Pea pod is a grocery delivery service. That's right. You make a grocery order, and they deliver it to your house.

Okay, wait, now... let's not judge. Bear with me. I'm neither lazy, nor do I suffer from agoraphobia. Though if I did, Pea Pod would make things a lot easier to handle.

The fees are minimal (something like $7 a delivery) and, of course, they offer an introductory program where the first three months are free.

So, here's why I love pea pod.
-Taking a three year old and a five year old to the grocery store is not fun. It just isn't.
-Honestly, I don't enjoy going to the grocery either. It's a huge source of time suckage.
-When online, I find I can plan menus better.
-I don't engage in impulse buys when I'm at the computer.
-Grocery stores act like they mark everything in common values so that you can compare. Yet, I always find they inevitably list one cheese type in cost/per ounce and another in cost/pound. Yes, I could theoretically make the conversion, but do I? God, no. With pea pod, you can ALWAYS ask for a per unit price comparison

The most common thing people ask me when I mention Pea Pod, is whether they bring you shoddy vegetables, fruit, and meat. The answer, in my experience, is no. The groceries come not from the Stop and Shop, but from the Stop and Shop distribution center, so meat/veg/fruit is always at the peak of freshness.

Have you tried Pea Pod? Do you use a similar service? Would you if you could?

Sunday, February 6, 2011


From NOW until Valentine's Day I will be posting on things I LOVE.

Personally, I think Valentine's Day is a bit of a ploy.

Okay, I believe it is an utter and absolute scam.

What a made-up reason to make us feel bad about ourselves and our relationships. My disenchantment with the holiday definitely stems from the ego-fest that was Valentine's at my high school.

At my high school, Valentine's was a self-esteem annihilator. The last fifteen minutes of every class was dedicated to an intercom listing of the individuals who needed to pick up their flowers. Can we really afford to give up that valuable learning time? Some people were not called (ahem... like myself). I distinctly remember the not-very-sympathetic-plight (to me at least) of the girls who had so many flowers they couldn't carry them all.

Some people have countless friends, family, and boyfriends to shower them with living tokens of adoration. Some don't.

Can you tell I've totally worked through this?

While I think Valentine's is lame, I do love LOVE.

Pure, giving, magical, and eternal... I love LOVE.

Despite the holiday, I will embrace the sentiment. This week will feature posts of things I adore. Pedestrian, banal, boring... whatever, it's stuff I love.

To get started, let me spread the word about the That's YAmore blogfest from Oasis for YA. Here's the link.Thanks to Katy Upperman for letting me know this was happening.

Starting the Friday before Valentine's Day (that's February 11th), they invite you to post 250 romantic, swoon-worthy words from your YA WIP.  Join in the fun.

So, what was Valentine's day like at your high school? Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Another cool contest

Check out this contest, sponsored by KM Walton, MG and YA writer and hostess of the blog Some Things I Think.

She is hosting a contest to beat the winter blues.

Prizes include:
First Runner Up will win a custom made Apocalypsies tote bag filled with seven YA novels.

The Grand Prize is a First Chapter critique by her agent Sarah LaPolla!!!

Thank Goodness for this fab contest. The winter blues are getting overwhelming here in Connecticut.

My kids went to school two days last week, which means work is piling up. I am such a control freak that it's very hard for me. I am trying to be mellow about it, use it as a life lesson, but I can say honestly that I am failing. 

My problems seem mild in comparison to some of the things that have been happening in our dear Middletown.

 A building on Main Street collapsed  on Wednesday under the weight of snow and ice, due to a flat roof. Here you can see that the third floor was destroyed.

Not only is it awful for the businesses inside (a framer and an accountant), but it has set off a week of roof-related fears all over town. One of the saddest parts of this story is that our local children's theater company Oddfellows Playhouse, was storing 36 years worth of costumes and props on the third floor of this building, and have lost everything.

Full coverage is available on the Middletown Eye and Patch.

I been having roof-oriented nightmares. I woke my husband up at 3AM to talk about whether he'd checked our roof.

As you might imagine, he was really thrilled to answer my questions and get my perspective. At. 3. AM.

Our roof is pitched, which means it should not be a problem, but still. It's a little nerve-wracking. Our city is working to clear off school roofs to ensure that the kids are safe. They have also been checking similar buildings on Main Street. The insane part is that we are expecting more snow next week. The current prediction is for sleet and ice on Tuesday, then approximately ten inches on Thursday.

Coming from the swamps of south Georgia, I've never experienced anything like this in my life.

If my books weren't all set in the south, I'd be mining this for writing. Maybe I'll write about it anyway, just in case I set something in New England one day.

Friday, February 4, 2011

In honor of Egyptian Democracy: a repost

This is a little bit of writing for writing's sake. Based on a trip to Egypt in 2005. I am so excited to see what's happening there right now. What can I say, I get thrilled when people exercise democracy. I think the most interesting part is the way twitter and facebook have played a role. As they did in the recent Iranian elections. Very. Cool. 

Wake up Mohammed

We nearly die getting here. Mohammed is supposed to come to Cairo, sleep all day, and then drive us to Dahab. Soon after he picks us up it's clear he hung out with his family all day. Awake. He comes to El Maadi in the middle of the night. He is supposed to be well-rested but he isn’t. He keeps falling asleep on the drive. 

For hours we careen through the darkness, through the Mars-like landscape of red rocks that never feels like a road. We stop every few hours, halted by men with automatic weapons at checkpoints, gathering our passports and papers each time for examination. Eugenia says that it’s not as scary as it looks, that they probably don’t even have bullets for the guns. But does it matter, really, if they have bullets? The fear is the same. They know exactly what those guns will mean when people see them. No one is immune to their cold power. 

I watch Mohammed, watch him but try to act like I’m not staring. I’m southern, after all, we have manners. God forbid you embarrass the person who’s about to kill you by driving recklessly. Gentility above all. So I pretend to not watch him, but I do. Whenever I see that chicken-bob start, that motion that only means someone is falling asleep , I shout his name: MOHAMMED! Wake up Mohammed!

We worry that we won’t make it, but we do. With every nodding motion we yell, scared that he will kill us all. Manners be damned. By now the sun is rising.
When we step out of the SUV we feel like explorers, off a boat from another culture, another land, another world. Desperate for solid ground and comfort.

Check in is just telling the guy who runs the place, Jimmy, that you want to stay. It’s not a formal process. Nothing is signed, no rates are posted. The cost is different for every single room. A quick calculation by the astute Jimmy, who takes in, in a millisecond, the clothes you are wearing, your country of origin, and your general demeanor. With these factors he can create a perfect price, what economists call one’s willingness to pay. He maximizes profit in a heartbeat, all the while giving you the impression that you’ve made a great deal. He’s quite good at his job, with a loyal following.

Our room is a rounded thing. With stucco-ed interior walls and tiled floors. Our shower only sprays saltwater. When you hear that at check-in you think: no big deal. Sounds refreshing, right? By day three, salt stuck in your hair, layering your skin, burning your eyes—you think differently. You’re desperate for sweet water. 

Every afternoon we take our journals and our books to the ledge in front of the hotel. This place is no natural settlement. It exists only because we are here: asking for a hotel, an opportunity to dive, a meal, and some trinkets. The ledge is a tiled embankment hovering over the reef. Touching the reef. Built right to the edge. No protective policy in place. On the ledge an unending supply of food and drink can be brought to you. Lots of seafood. Who knows where it came from, who fished it, what their lives are like. We sit on the ledge, among large pillows and ottomans, lounging in what must seem a gluttonous life to the staff. 

I sit for a while, writing. Two young girls, maybe 11, maybe 10, walk by selling bracelets. What I would call friendship bracelets. Embroidery thread knotted into patterns and curves. Eugenia says you have to haggle, but every time I try it makes me sick. I can’t argue with someone who has nothing, about an amount that means little to me. A man making 12$ a month, and I’m supposed to try to make him come down in price by 10 cents before letting him sell me a scarf. I’d rather give him all of it. I’d rather throw up. 

The girls bring their bracelets over because I can never resist making eye contact with kids. I’ve always done it. I can get kids at a playground involved in an educational and constructive group activity in ten minutes flat. Seven if we speak the same language. They bring their bracelets over and we invite them to sit with us. They are very shy, and can say almost nothing in English—only enough to say the price. An infinitesimal amount. Literal pennies. I ask to buy two. They sell them to me, and then sit to play checkers. We ask to take their photograph, and they whip out head scarves in an instant, covering themselves before we snap the photo. I worry they will somehow get into trouble for allowing us to take their picture. I’m just not sure, and I don’t want them to be in a weird position. They smile and laugh, finish the checkers game, and then walk on down the embankment—to sell their wares to other tourists.

 I wonder what the world, what life, will be like for those girls.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Insect Collector Selected as a Best 50 Insect Blog

Thanks to for selecting me as one of their 50 best insect blogs.

YAY!  Here's to bugs!!!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday: Groundhog Day Edition

 It's Groundhog Day! I watched the unveiling this morning and Phil apparently predicted an early spring. I think if he'd done ANYTHING BUT the entire country would rebel.

In New England we are DESPERATE for spring. I am home again for another snow day. The kids are pushing the limits of cabin fever. When I opened the door to let the dogs out this morning I couldn't see anything, but could hear the tiny clinks of icy rain hitting the mountains of snow in our yard. 

Today's road trip: Pretend you're Bill Murray in the 1993 movie-- what book would you read over & over forever?

Ummm, this is a tough one. I love to re-read the books I love. For years I stuck really closely to books I enjoyed, and periodically worked my way through them. Recently, since I've discovered the wondrous world of YA, I've been much too intent on my TBR pile to go back to the old favorites.

      There is a short list of books I've read dozens of times: The World According to Garp and A Prayer for Owen Meany both by John Irving. Classics like Rebecca (Daphne duMaurier), Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte), Persuasion (Jane Austen), and Nine Coaches Waiting (Mary Stewart).
      My mom introduced me to historical romance of Alexandra Ripley, and I've read some of hers over and over and over again. My Aunt Pat got me hooked on Diana Gabaldon, and I have re-read the early ones... but there are so many now, and they are SO long that I don't feel like I'll ever have enough time to fly through them again. 
     This post makes me realize I have been wanting to re-read a book lately, but keep putting it off: A Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan. I read it multiple times in the late 1990s, and for some reason passed it to a friend and stopped reading her books. I am not sure why, because every book of hers I read I adored.

That's my choice! It's such a multi-layered book it would keep me occupied for weeks, and I am sure that I would understand the book differently now than I did as a college student. Like most of her work, the book is about family, relationships, and the intertwining of an immigrant's roots with their modern life.   

If only I had it on this snow-bound day!

If you were stuck in Groundhog Day, what book would you choose to read over and over?

Road Trip Wednesday is a blog carnival hosted by the ladies of YAHighway. Hop to their site to see what book the participants would read over and over again.