Sunday, April 30, 2006

Whoa. Where did THAT come from?

My husband has presented me with a plot treatment, along with backstory and character details, for a Romance he thinks I should write.

Whoa. Totally not expecting that.

And he has some good ideas. Actually, a lot of good ideas.

I guess I should start to work, eh?

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Negotiations in a School District

Agggh!!!

Negotiations are so freaking frustrating. We say all the right things, set up the room in just the right way, make sure everyone is seated around the table just so, and STILL we cannot get to an answer. I'm dedicated to being there, I'm ready to devote my time, sanity, and even writing skills to the endeavor, but still no resolution. (Writing skills: Feel like crafting a quasi-legal definistion of the word "indisposed"? Which is a better phrase, "Professional Duty" or "Adjunct Duty"?)

Touch of background--Boards do not negotiate with unions. Usually the Board designates a representative, either a professional negotiator or a labor attorney to go represent their interests. Anytime something happens in negotiations, the representative comes to the Board in Closed Session for a discussion, and the Board gives direction. Lots of back and forthing on an hourly rate leads to very expensive negotiations.

Once, a few years ago, I was sent in by the Board to monitor negotiations (not take part, just sit in the room and watch) because there was a possibility our rep wasn't reporting the actions properly. (Bad personal history between her and another negotiator. Our reports were filled with personal digs at her partner across the table.) This year I've been asked, based on that experience, to be part of the negotiating tean with another Board member. This is highly unusual. It reflects an effort to be more direct with the union, build some trust, and to cut down on negotiation costs.

Wednesday the Board met for two hours in Closed Session to develop a negotiating proposal. It includes a pretty chunky raise (the teachers haven't had one in five years and morale is in the toilet).









Met all day Friday in negotiations. Everything seemed to be going well before lunch. The raise is part of a package which includes a language change to the workday (really, I won't bore you with details). Almost all the union team members were *happy* with the language change and talked about how much more respectful it was, etc. Great! So, let's all break for lunch. We'll draft up our version of the proposed change, you draft yours, and we'll meet after lunch to compromise.

After lunch, union comes back stone-faced. Nope. Don't want the change. The language they bring is *more* restrictive than the current contract.

Do you understand that this is part of the package from the Board? Yes.

The package which includes a raise? Yes.

Aaaaaggggggghhhhh!

I actually had to leave at this point to help my husband set up an event at his business. So I'll find out later on today how it all ended---my assumption from a quick phone call in the afternoon is that the package was rejected.

But this is what just makes me crazy:

I feel as if I, personally, have dedicated a ton of time to this project. It's physically tiring to attend all-day negotiations and then verbally report on those sesions in later Board meetings. It's like an improv act--you have to be very aware of every word coming out, how everyone will perceive your verb choice. I've had four all-day sessions with teachers and, I think, three with the Classified employees. (Outside of Union Negotiations, I've also spent the last *two years* negotiating a Joint Use Agreement with our City representatives.) When there's language to be drafted, I tend to be the one drafting it. (Mostly because the other two professionals have a tendency to write sentences with many clauses but no verb.) The teachers have said over and over again, "Please listen to us. We need some respect. We need a raise." So we did that. THEY LOVED THE PROPOSAL IN THE MORNING!! But by the afternoon, they were back to, "It sounds like a good idea, but we don't trust you, so we can't do it this year. Let's talk about it in next year's negotiation."

Why next year? What's the difference between 06 and 07? Are you going to trust us more next year? I came on the Board in 03 as a "teacher-friendly" candidate, joining the one Board member who kept being voted down 4-1 on practically every vote. This Fall he got re-elected, and we added two more "teacher-friendly" candidates. Now the votes have a tendency towards 5-0 and 4-1 in the other direction.

You won! You beat the system! You've got the Board you wanted! They're finally offering you a raise! They're offering you a chance to get out from under a time-card system and go to an honor system of work product accounting! Yay!!

Nope. Come back next year.

I need to get off the negotiation team before I go postal on someone.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Cups of coffee, 1; alcohol units, 0 (v.g.): Hours of sleep, 6 (must do better)

Busy, busy last few days. Last night had a meeting from 6pm to 10:45pm. It is so hard to stay cogent at 10 o'clock at night when you've been locked in a room with the same five people for hours. We did OK, got through the staff evaluation we needed to get through, but man, I really need a nap this morning.

While waitng for my daughter to come out of her tutoring session yesterday afternoon, I started re-reading Bridget Jones' Diary. I hate when I do this, but I had forgotten how funny it is. Somehow I had categorized it as That Book which made lots of people talk about it, which was kind of fun to read, but not such a big deal.

I'm enjoying it quite a bit.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Peophins and friends.



My daughter spends a lot of time on Neopets, and she spends a lot of time drawing.

These are her pets, as imagined in "anthro" form. Recently she's asked for a copy of Photoshop to help her in her art. Well, she may be reaching for the stars on that one, but it's good to dream big.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Narcissists, Or Why I Hate the Phone

I think I've had the same conversation with this person at least one hundred times.

And every time I do, I get annoyed all over again, especially since I know, even as the words are leaving my mouth, that the person on the other end of the phone is intrinsically incapable of hearing them. I can't stop myself from trying to say it all one more time, and I still feel rejected and inarticulate when, once again, my voice is unheard.

And, just for the record, I'm right, and I have been all along. Thirty years and counting, not that I keep track, or anything.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Saturday Evening Post

In the backyard there's an almost eight year old boy who has hit all of his lightweight plastic baseballs over the fence. Being a resourceful child, he finds a rock of about the same size as his baseballs.

Rock, meet sliding patio door.

Did you know that tempered glass continues to crack for more than an hour after the initial impact? Sounds somewhat like spring rain hitting pavement in our family room.

And this had to happen on a Saturday night, of course.






******

Da-YUM. Today I got four hits out of, like, twenty, from people searching for a sexual term which Doug was so gracious to put in my comments a few weeks back. One Fifth of my hits? Good thing I have so much arcane knowledge to share with you about horses. And Romance. And childrearing.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

King Arthur









A post where I get all medieval on someone's ass.

First, I love horses, history, and the history of horses.

Second, I am willing, most of the time, to set aside my admittedly arcane knowledge when watching practically anything on a screen where horses are shown. I've worked with trained horses in performance, and I *get it* that most people in the audience aren't going to notice that there's one horse for rearing, one horse for riding, one horse for standing, and one horse for whuffling gentle horsie kisses in the hero's ear. I see every individual horse change (especially if the script demands a pinto--what a disaster), but I go along with the construct because I understand totally and completely that this is the easiest way to get the story on film. (Sometimes it makes me giggle, but OK.)

Third, I understand that we are now stuck with modern day horses and tack whenever anyone tries to represent history. I see the glitter of stainless steel bits and stirrups on low budget films all the time, and, you know, it doesn't bother me anymore. Fred, the horse wrangler, needed his horses to go a certain way, and that's easier done with modern tack. No prob.

However, this all becomes much more difficult when a movie is presented as representing "true history." Like, ahem, King Arthur. (Which I kind of liked, except for the fact that they made a BIG DEAL about Arthur bringing us mounted knights from the Caucasus.)

Arthurian Mounted knights, a la Bruckheimer:









































Except that the last picture is from the Bayeux Tapestry showing the battle of 1066, and the movie King Arthur is supposed to take place in 452 (plus fifteen years).








Em, boys, your horses are too big, and some look like Andalusians to me. The movie says that King Arthur's knights are Samartians, nomadic mounted tribes from Northern Central Europe (Black and Caspian Seas). And the Samartians, according to the movie, have these very horses before they left for Britain. Wrong! If we are going to focus on horses as a central theme in Arthur's power, then can we get the horses right? (Here's a tip for those of you not used to looking carefully at horses--check out where the rider's knee and toes are on these horses.)

Throughout most of mounted history great warriors are shown riding what we would call ponies. You can see them on the Bayeux Tapestry, you can see them on Roman coins, you can see them on the frieze at Persepolis. Surely all the artists before the Late Middle Ages aren't wrong. A Roman coin









So what were the Samartians riding in 452 AD? In the Near East, Arabia, Syria, Africa, and probably into Persia, you have "hot bloods." These are Arabians, possibly Akal-Tekes, and Barbs. (Barbs don't really exist anymore as a pure horse, but we can get a sense of what they looked like.) There were heavy draft horses on the British Isles and in some areas of Northern Europe. And everywhere there were horses, there were ponies. Chinese ponies, Persian ponies, French ponies, Spanish ponies, Irish ponies, etc.

So either the Samartians were using some sort of native pony or an ancestor to the Akal-Teke.
An Akal-teke






A Tarpan Pony



















I know this may not be what you wanted to hear, but it's just the facts. Heavy horses aren't FROM the Caucasus. Heavy horses are from Northern Europe.

Heavy horses were mostly used as pack horses and sometimes were attached to carts, but they weren't that useful as "draft" animals until the Europeans discovered the horse collar in around 750 AD. Carts were pulled by oxen, light loads were pulled by dog or donkey. Mostly horses were used as pack animals (like camels). Or they were used in war for their speed--not necessarily their height. Once you get the horse into a horse collar, THEN you use them for pulling loads. Then it becomes important that they are tall and muscular. (Or close to the ground and muscular--depends on what you're pulling.)










A modern breed showing off his collar.



Horse collar leads to plowing, plowing eventually gets you to three crop rotations (although it takes another 200 years), crop rotation leads you to villages and fences, fences lead you to separation and selective breeding for specific agricultural purposes, selective breeding gets you to the extreme "heavy horse" or "light draft" warhorse we'd like to see our heros on. Now we're in about the 11th or 12th century. So the war nobility must be finally riding the big thundering horses, now that we've got the horse collar, room and time to develop breeds? Right? Eh. No. Sorry. Battle of 1066 still puts the most elite horsemen on ponies.


This is a renaissance model.









This is an 11th century model.

















Turns out all that breeding for war takes another few centuries--and that gets you to the early Renaissance. Look at the horse Benozzo Gozzoli puts at the front of the Procession of the Magi:


A 1459 model. (Look familiar?)


















So, finally, I understand that everytime I see a medieval knight, I will, of course see a Renaissance or modern horse. It doesn't bother me. I understand it as a movie convention. To my mind it still looks just as wrong as if Wyatt Earp were to ride into town on a Ford Mustang GT, but I willingly suspend disbelief to get on with the story. Modern breeds are what Fred the horse wrangler has available, and people expect to see heroic knights on mid-Renaissance horses. Got it.

What bothered me about this movie experience was the "idea" that this King Arthur was going to present the "true story" of 470 AD Britain, and the central characters are tooling around in the equivalent of Porche 911s.

Voice over: And here in this land of our fathers, the Samartians brought forth the V-8 engine, automatic transmission, dual-leaf suspension, and invented the mounted knight.

That, and Ioan didn't get enough lines.















FYI:
International Museum of the Horse

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

And to put that earlier rant to rest....

...I just finished a book wherein the hero's name is Damion and I liked it.

Of course, I have have two excuses as to why that could be true without negating my earlier screed:

1) It is spelled Damion, rather than Damien, so it's really not, ahem, the same name.
2) It's a Medieval, and funky names don't bother me in Medievals. (Except for Wolff.

OK, so I'm still picky. And bitchy.

BTW--it's been a Reeeeellly long time since I've read a book set before 1800. Just a note to self to branch out a bit here.

Books Today

Apparently resisting the urge to eat all of your children's chocolate does weird things, like increase your TBR pile. I'm something of a monochromatic buyer--once the pocketbook is open I tend to buy in themes. Witness:

Lord Stanhope's Proposal by Jessica Benson








The Last Knight by Candice Proctor







The Wagering Widow by Diane Gaston

















The Improper Wife by Diane Perkins












The Marriage Bargain by Diane Perkins

Monday, April 17, 2006

I'm better read than I thought

How many have you read?

From Crankyreader who picked it up from Jay who got it from Bookcrossing:

(Bolded titles are the ones I've read)
1. The Lord of the Rings- J.R.R. Tolkien (Sorry, tried very hard, but Could Not Deal.)

2. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD- Harper Lee (See my post on Mr. Cunningham. Love this book. And Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch is simply perfect. The best casting ever.)

3. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE- Jane Austen (But, of course.)

4. The "Harry Potter" series- J.K. Rowling (Yes, but lost interest partway through The Goblet of Fire which should have been two books or had the hand of a stronger editor. Skimmed the ones after it--Half-Blood Prince rekindled some interest.)

5. JANE EYRE- Charlotte Bronte (But only because I felt that I *should.* Don't remember liking it much.)

6. THE HANDMAID'S TALE- Margaret Atwood (Wanted to like this more.)

7. THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY- Douglas Adams (Loved it.)

8. 1984- George Orwell

9. (tie)
A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY- John Irving (ALTHOUGH THE PAGES AND PAGES OF INTERNAL MONOLOGUE ALL TYPED IN CAPS TO DEMONSTRATE THAT OWEN SHOUTS EVERYTHING HE SAID OR THINKS GOT REALLY ANNOYING AFTER THE FIRST DEMONSTRATION OF THIS TECHNIQUE.)
One Hundred Years of Solitude- Gabriel Garcia Marquez

11. (tie)
THE STAND- Stephen King (He's better at short stories)
Gone With the Wind- Margaret Mitchell (I really should read this at some point.)

13. (tie)
LITTLE WOMEN- Louisa May Alcott (liked Little Men too.)
THE HOBBIT- J.R.R. Tolkien (Almost liked it)

15. (tie)
Life of Pi- Yann Martel
ANNE OF GREEN GABLES (book 1) - Lucy Maud Montgomery

16. THE NAME OF THE ROSE- Umberto Eco

17. (tie)
THE MISTS OF AVALON- Marion Zimmer Bradley (liked it first time--any reread after, ugh.)
The Catcher in the Rye- J.D. Salinger (Me bad)

19. (tie)
WATERSHIP DOWN- Richard Adams (reread this at least forty three times when I was a kid.)
The Pillars of the Earth- Ken Follett
Perfume- Patrick Suskind

22. (tie)
THE DAVINCI CODE- Dan Brown (Yelled at the book a lot.)
THE LITTLE PRINCE- Antoine de Saint-Exupery (in the original French for French class. Yelled at the book a lot. Sappy crap is still sappy in French.)
The Grapes of Wrath- John Steinbeck

25. (tie)
FAHRENHEIT 451- Ray Bradbury (Loved it, reread a lot too.)
THE NARNIA CHRONICLES- C.S. Lewis
HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE (SORCERER'S STONE) - J.K. Rowling (Fresh and snappy--wish the following were as spritely)
HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN- J.K. Rowling (Probably the best of the series.)

29. (tie)
WUTHERING HEIGHTS- Emily Bronte (We once held a seance for Heathcliff's ghost as part of a final exam review. In Class! How come the famous movie adaptation ends with the first Catherine dying? Never understood that.)
Diary of a Young Girl- Anne Frank (But I saw the play--does that count?)

31. Dune- Frank Herbert (Nope--and have no interested either...)

32. (tie)
THE POISONWOOD BIBLE- Barbara Kingsolver
REBECCA- Daphne du Maurier

34. (tie)
PERSUASION- Jane Austen
Memoirs of a Geisha- Arthur Golden (I am trying so hard to get into this book. Will end up as a did not finish.)

36. (tie)
THE GREAT GATSBY- F. Scott Fitzgerald (But Tender is the Night is still my favorite Fitzgerald.)
A WRINKLE IN TIME- Madeleine L'Engle (Completely addicted to her books as a teeenager. Wanted to be Meg so badly.)
THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE- C.S. Lewis (Only Narnia book I genuinely enjoyed--the others I read so that I could keep up with my C.S. Lewis obsessed friends.)

39. (tie)
ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND- Lewis Carroll

LORD OF THE FLIES- William Golding (Note to self: letter our class wrote to Mr. Golding.)
Brave New World- Aldous Huxley
ANGELA'S ASHES- Frank McCourt
The Lovely Bones- Alice Sebold


44. (tie)
The House of the Spirits- Isabel Allende
Clan of the Cave Bear- Jean M. Auel
Ender's Game- Orson Scott Card
Good Omens- Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Love in the Time of Cholera- Gabriel Garcia Marquez
ANIMAL FARM- George Orwell
Of Mice and Men- John Steinbeck
THE COLOR PURPLE- Alice Walker
(Which started me on a big Toni Morrison Kick too.)

52. (tie)
The Neverending Story- Michael Ende
Faust- Johnann Wolfgang von Goethe
Blindness- Jose Saramago
HAMLET- William Shakespeare
East of Eden- John Steinbeck
CHARLOTTE'S WEB- E. B. White
(Prefer Trumpet of the Swan)
The "Little House" series- Laura Ingalls Wilder (Wanted to change my name to Laura when I was about ten. Was annoyed at Michael Landon for being clean-shaven in the TV series, but Ma was done well.)

59. (tie)
BRIDGET JONES' DIARY- Helen Fielding
Sophie's World- Jostein Gaarder
Catch-22- Joseph Heller
The Secret History- Donna Tartt


63. (tie)
GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING- Tracy Chevalier (Also read Girl in Hyacinth Blue, just to fill out the Vermeer theme.)
Middlesex- Jeffrey Eugenides
The "His Dark Materials" series- Phillip Pullman
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn- Betty Smith


67. (tie)
Sense and Sensibility- Jane Austen (Somehow missed this one--but I"m reading it now.)
The Red Tent- Anita Diamant
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT- Fyodor Dostoyevsky
THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO- Alexandre Dumas
(Went through a Huge Dumas period when I was young too. Loved This Book)
American Gods- Neil Gaiman
THE CIDERHOUSE RULES- John Irving
She's Come Undone- Wally Lamb
WINNIE-THE-POOH- A.A. Milne
The "Anne of Green Gables" series- Lucy Maud Montgomery
Northern Lights/Golden Compass- Phillip Pullman
INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE- Anne Rice
ROMEO AND JULIET- William Shakespeare
THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER- Mark Twain
THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY- Oscar Wilde
The Shadow of the Wind- Carlos Ruiz Zafon


82. (tie)
EMMA- Jane Austen
GREAT EXPECTATIONS- Charles Dickens
A TALE OF TWO CITIES- Charles Dickens
FRIED GREEN TOMATOES AT THE WHISTLE-STOP CAFE- Fannie Flagg
THE SCARLET LETTER- Nathaniel Hawthorne
THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH- Norton Juster
The Secret Life of Bees- Sue Monk Kidd
The Unbearable Lightness of Being- Milan Kundera
A Fine Balance- Rohinton Mistry
Lamb: The Gospell According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal- Christopher Moore
THE BELL JAR- Sylvia Plath
The "Discworld" series- Terry Pratchett
Where the Red Fern Grows- Wilson Rawls
The God of Small THings- Arundhati Roy
War and Peace- Leo Tolstoy


97. (tie)
The Eyre Affari- Jasper Fforde
Neverwhere- Neil Gaiman
TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES- Thomas Hardy
Steppenwolf- Herman Hesse
High Fidelity- Nick Hornby
ULYSSES- James Joyce (Just stick with The Dubliners, really.)
METAMORPHOSIS- Franz Kafka
Atonement- Ian McEwan
Lonesome Dove- Larry McMurtry
The English Patient- Michael Ondaatje
THE SHIPPING NEWS- E. Annie Proulx
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM- William Shakespeare
DRACULA- Bram Stoker
THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN- Mark Twain

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Here's a Quick Tip

.....when you put a new log on the fire, please resist the urge to reposition the log which looks to have gone out by poking the bark side with the tip of your finger.




There was this little bit of my brain which started to say, "Um. Don't think that's such a good ide-YOWCH!!!"

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Memory That Wasn't

Like every other teenager, I once had a crush on a teacher.

Yes, I know this is a shock--if you need a minute to recover, it's OK. Take as much time as you need, the words will still be on the page when you get back.

Mr. Cunningham became my teacher in Sixth grade, I believe, although it might have been Seventh. But I knew who he was long before that. I had had a crush on him since Fifth grade, and possibly as far back as Fourth.

Mr. Cunningham was earthy in that over the top 1970s manner which seemed so REAL at the time. He had a full beard, and dark brown wavy hair which just floated past the collar of his plaid flannel shirt. Mr. Cunningham always wore a broad, flat leather belt and (Eeek) jeans. (Ooo. All the other male teachers wore khakis, but Mr. Cunningham was, shhhh, rebellious.) He was tall, his voice was deep, and he was so calm and self-assured. During lunch all students were assigned to sit at round tables, each headed by a teacher, and the student assignments changed every two weeks. One day at lunch I watched Mr. Cunningham casually pull a pocket knife from his jeans and cut slices off his apple. With one thumb holding the apple slice to the knife, he lifted the knife to his mouth and ate the apple from it.

I really could have happily died on that day. I had never seen anything so sexy in my entire life. I didn't even know you could eat an apple from a knife, and here's Mr. Cunningham just blowing me out of the water. He caught me staring at him, but (This Is What Was So Great About Him), he didn't smile knowingly at me, he didn't acknowledge it or blush, he just kept right on eating his apple in his forthright patient way.

He taught us about the use of the Seasons as symbols of the cycle of life. He taught us the word, archetype--a word which belongs to him in my mind. He LOVED the stories he taught--he would march quickly from one end of the room to the other, reading a paragraph out loud.

After he had stopped being our teacher, and we had to learn from painfully thin, nerdy and shy Mr. Conway in Eighth grade, we found we could still search out Mr. Cunningham here and there. A group of us giggling girls even started taking him samples of our poetry during recess. Again, he was so sweet to us. He gave us gentle critiques ("Not every poem needs to rhyme.") or small suggestions ("Instead of always writing about your feelings, why not try describing something, like a room or a flower.") or even assignments ("Try writing two separate poems about different things, but have both poems use the same first and last lines.") He didn't have to take his break time to read our totally terrible poems, but he did, and I loved him for it.

He was sexy, he was interested in me and my friends, and he was completely safe. He had married one of the other teachers in school, and they were very pleasant together (although I only really remember her for having two brown braids which hung down her back).

About two years ago I tracked him down and emailed him. We had a nice chat about life, education, my family, and his family. And I confessed to him that although I once had an enormous crush on him, for about ten minutes I had once been truly angry with him, but I had forgiven him by the time he became my teacher.

Every day we started school with Morning Meeting--an all-school assembly. Any faculty member (or students, actually) could sign up to give a 10 minute presentation on any topic they so chose. The first Morning Meeting of my Sixth grade year, Mr. Cunningham stood up in front of the school, with his arm around his lovely Fifth Grade teacher-wife. They had gotten married over the summer. For their honeymoon, they had toured the Grand Canyon and various National Parks on motorcycles, and they presented the pictures of the American West to us during Morning Meeting.

I remember sitting in my seat, holding back tears, driving my fingernails into my palms. I wanted to be the one on the back of Mr. Cunningham's motorcycle. I was so sure I could have made him happy. By the end of the presentation I realized that I had to pull myself together or face some very embarrassing questions from snoopy friends. I tucked my anger away.

Over time, I came to realize that he had probably chosen Mrs. Cunningham because she was closer in age, and I tried not to begrudge him his happiness with her. Although the thought of them together on the weekends on their motorcycles (or even worse, sharing HIS), while I had to suffer through 48 hours with my boring family was just excruciating. But again, I learned not to dream too much about his wife on the back of his motorcycle, and instead thought of when I would next see him again in school.

Of course, now it's all painfully funny. Mr. and Mrs. Cunningham have been happily married for at least 25 years, and they remain very much in love, as far as I can tell. I told Mr. Cunningham about how the Morning Meeting presentation of his motorcycle honeymoon had (ha ha) deeply traumatized me, since I was sure that I truly belonged on the back of his motorcycle.

He wrote back: "I certainly remember the honeymoon, and I almost remember the Morning Meeting slide show, but I can tell you with some authority that there were no motorcycles."

What? WHAT?!?

Oh, now it's just pathetic. What a moon cow. "Oh, Mr. Cunningham. Take me away on your big motorcycle and let me whisper brilliant literary criticism in your ear. We can sit together near a campfire while I use 'trope' in a sentence."

Makes me laugh though. I was silly, wasn't I?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Poetry

Daughter came home from Fifth Grade yesterday to tell me that her teacher had said, "I don't know WHY you have to learn which syllables are stressed. You'll NEVER have to use it."

Watch Suisan fall to the floor, writhe in agony, and then leap to her feet to sprint for the poetry collections.

Have I mentioned that I don't hold her Fifth Grade teacher in the highest regard?

Why do kids learn about haikus in First grade, cinquains in Second and Third grades, and then never look at poetry ever again until college? Do teachers not read poetry? In class? At home? EVER? And where the hell does the Fifth Grade teacher get off telling a class of 32 kids to dismiss an entire topic because she can't be bothered to spend a sec on rhyme and meter? Oooh. She gets right under my skin. (OK, enough about her. I think she's not the brightest light in the closet, so it makes it hard for me to respect her. I usually just ignore her if I can.)

But Daughter and I did read some Elizabeth Bishop, some Auden, and some Billy Collins, all of which I thought had pretty simple word choices, so we could talk about why a poem called "Sleeping" might sound different than a poem called "Marching." Daughter was suitably intrigued.

And because I cannot help myself, here's an Elizabeth Bishop from North & South, 1946.

Sleeping Standing Up

As we lie down to sleep the world turns half away
through ninety dark degrees;
the bureau lies on the wall
and thoughts that were recumbent in the day
rise up as the others fall;
stand up and make a forest of thick-set trees.

The armored cars of dreams, contrived to let us do
so many a dangerous thing,
are chugging at its edge
all camouflaged, and ready to go through
the swiftest streams, or up a ledge
of crumbling shale, while plates and trappings ring.

--Through turret-slits we saw the crumbs or pebbles that lay
below the riveted flanks
on the green forest floor,
like those the clever children placed by day
and followed to their door
one night, at least; and in the ugly tanks

we tracked them all the night. Sometimes they disappeared,
dissolving in the moss,
sometimes we went too fast
and ground them underneath. How stupidly we steered
until the night was past.
and never found out what the cottage was.

Edited to add--the indents on the poem are not showing up--it looks more beautiful on the page when it's foramtted correctly. Sorry Mrs. Bishop.

In Today's News

I would simply like to go on record as saying that it's a really bad idea for the US to get our military involved with Iran, especially when we have troops stationed on either side of Iran in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

That's a fairly broad swath of land for us to try to control, with about 8 or ten separate ethnicities and at least three governments to co-opt, just in those three countries.
Remember folks, you heard it here first.

Map from Info Please












(And, you know, the governments of Jordan, Syria, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan aren't the most stable things either. Take a good look at that map and figure out how YOU would get all of potentates and non-democratic nations in Central Asia to behave themselves.)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Cultural Identity

I had a post yesterday about the use of names in Romance Novels. I started to reply to the comments, and realized I needed the room of an extra post.

I talked yesterday about how some of the given names, especially of heroes are a) overused and b) don't ring true for me. In response, Maili said:
[In England,] a person's accent is the fastest way to figure out the person's background, including his upbringing, education, and current residence. The person's name is a helpful companion to making some guesswork....That is a long way round to say that the majority of names in romance novels have no sense of rhyme and reason, e.g. no sense of culture, history, and regionalism.


and Marianne said:

Because people wouldn't have freely used Christian names with each other when I was a child, I always find it odd when characters in Regencies get on first name terms so quickly....It feels more plausible to me when the hero's friends don't call him by his first name.

As I think about the use of names in Historicals, I'm beginning to come to the idea that we all are reading, on some level, an idea of what we want the culture to have been. When the book lines up with that idea, then it feels "accurate." But it may have little to do with the culture it is supposed to take place in. The bump in the road for me comes in on the names--I simply cannot believe that at any time a mother, wet nurse, or father, ever named a set of twins, Lucien and Damien. It leaps off the page at me, which then gets me thinking about *why* it leapt off the page. I'm somehow not identifying with the set-up of those names--it feels forced--which makes me wonder about what I do expect when I read about this culture in Regency Historicals

When I was reading The Glorious Deception by Jim Steinmeyer, this idea of cultural expectations was one recurring point that intrigued me. William Robinson, in Victorian England, was a more readily acceptable "Chinese Conjurer" as his alter-ego Chung Ling Soo, than a *REAL* Chinese magician, Ching Ling Foo.

William Robinson played "Chinese" to a Victorian audience better than Ching Ling Foo did, precisely because Robinson's version wasn't authentic. Ching Ling Foo dressed appropriately and acted in a self-assured manner. Robinson, as Chung Ling Soo, dressed in bright silken robes and played up the idea that he was from the "mystical Orient." He didn't speak on stage, the stage was dressed in garish colors, he didn't limit himself to Chinese magic tricks, but instead decked out German tricks with Chinese labels, and he perfectly represented to his audience what THEY THOUGHT Chinese culture was.

As I've said before, historical gaffes in Regencies, such as naming the wrong King of Spain, usually just blow right past me. However, in Romancelandia, there are themes, such as men named after angels, which don't ring true. Instead they seem to be an outgrowth of what we want Regency England to be, without thought taken to regional differences or class expectations. (I think this is what Maili objects to in Scottish themed romances as well.)

Marianne is so correct in her noting that men are often called by their last names. My father went to military school in Tennessee, where he was only called by his surname, and then later by his surnames plus first initial after his little brother came to school. Fifty years later his friends still call him by his last name--although they've dropped the initial somewhere along the journey. When he started work in corporate America in the 60s, it was still common for men to know each other by their last names. It was considered a token of great friendship to offer your first name to a colleague after many years of acquaintance.

There's a couple other modern expectations in Regency-set Historicals which niggle at me too, but they're probably not as noticeable as the name (which, after all, gets repeated on almost every page). Primarily, I have to wonder where all the Marquesses, Viscounts, Barons and Baronets have gone. Occasionally we'll get a Marquess as a hero, but usually we're only playing with Earls and Dukes. (Isn't a Marquess in between Duke and Earl? How come it's always skipped? Foreign sounding?)

I think we all know when we pick up a Romance novel that we're paddling in the community pool, with its own rules of behavior, rather than surfing in the ocean of "accurate historical portrayal). However, it's still a surprise to bump up against the side of the pool from time to time. It's not hideously upsetting, just a quick jolt to the senses before turning around and paddling back to the middle again.

And, by the way, The Glorious Deception; The Double LIfe of William Robinson, aka Chung Ling Soo, the "Marvelous Chinese Conjurer by Jim Steinmeyer really is a great book.

Monday, April 10, 2006

SBD -- names

It's Monday, so it must be Smart Bitches Day!

Time for a Ranty McRant about Romances, romance, or sex & love.

Emmmm. Kind of don't have one lined up. Except that maybe I'm getting the sense that in Regency Romancelandia, some of the names don't quite work for me. Perhaps it's the Gaelen Foley I just read, but I'm kind of over Lucien, Damien, Gabriel, Adrian, or any other kind-of-sounds-like-an-angel name. I don't have access to 1790s birth records in London, but I'm guessing that Adrian wasn't at the top of the roles there.

I don't have a problem with king names (Richard, John, George), but we don't see too many Henrys, do we? And what about Alfred? Albert? (Andrew and Anthony show up a good deal in Regencies, and that "feels" right to me. Could do with more Geoffreys and Pauls--something other than Robert.) But what about Surnames? Jocelyn is one I've seen, there's the ever-famous Fitzwilliam, of Pride & Prejudice's Mr. Darcy. But I'm not thinking of too many Historicals I've read recently where the hero's given name "feels" like a possible surname--and I'm fairly sure it was a common practice for boys to be named for someone else's last name.

My grandmother grew up in a very New England Victorian family--we had lots of Johns and Roberts, and John Roberts on that side. But there were the names which died out after the 1930s too. Elwyn (Welsh, so maybe not a go for a Regency ball), Lester, and Lynde. Florence, Phebe, and Grace. On my father's side we have John, Thomas, and Douglas all confusingly reordered through the generations. (John Douglas begat Douglas Thomas who begat John Thomas, etc.) But then there's Dandridge as a first name, and the brothers of Nathaniel and Bartholomew. Nat and Bat.

Americans used to tend towards wonky names like Zebulon, Ezekiel, or Barnabus, and I'm not sure I want that in a hero's name (although I did grow up with a very good guy named Zebulon). But there's either something safe about the names Americans choose for British Regency heroes (Michael, Andrew) or something rather bizzare (Lucien, Damien, Wolf).

Two names I like which mean something to the book they're in: Hazel Motes in Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood and Nick Carraway in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. There are layers of meaning (some a little obvious) to their names, but it forever links that character to that book for me. Unlike, say, Jake Barnes in The Sun Also Rises. It's a strong name, one you can say when you're drunk, a masculine, aggressive, American name. But I don't immediately identify the name with The Sun Also Rises in the same way that I do with, say, Sam Spade, Hazel Motes, or Nick Carraway.

I think that's my problem with Lucien--overused and it doesn't ring out as belonging to one particular book or author.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

An almost impossible game

I belong to a few Yahoo groups dedicated to Arabian Horse Breeding.

One group has a long-running game which is so difficult as to be almost impossible. Every month though, someone correctly guesses the answer. And every month my chin hits my chest when the horse is identified.

The moderator posts in the files a picture such as this:

















It ususally has an almost helpful description, such as this one's, "Chestnut with socks."

Yeah, so we can rule out all the bays and blacks, and we know that the horse is a member of the subgroup of registered Arabians known as CMK Arabians, and lived after the invention of the camera. The style in which the picture is shot, with the head raised at that angle, the narrow width of the leather in the headstall, and the care taken to include the entire body and feet, posed on level ground, makes me believe that the picture was taken sometime between the late 1930s and mid-1970s. I can't tell from the picture, but I'm guessing it's a male horse, although the length of face and longer ears could make it a very athletic mare.

So that's as far as I ever get. Any Guesses?

April TBR Gaelen Foley Lord of Fire

I've been meaning to read Gaelen Foley and Jo Beverley for some time. (I'm thinking that I've read Jo Beverley before, but I have to do some backlist research to be sure. Or not.)

Grocery shopping the other day, I picked up Lord of Fire. I had no expectations about the book or the author--just a general sense that her name came up in conversations about Regency Authors. (I'm putting this in as being on my TBR pile for a long time in order to fit in with Angie's challenge. I don't have TBR piles in my house, but I've been meaning to read *A Title* by Gaelen Foley for some time.)

Um, now I just don't know what to write about it. I think I liked it. But I'm not sure why. I think it has flaws, but none that were so egregious that I got angry at the book or shook my head in disbelief. I liked the heroine a little more than I usually do, but I don't quite follow her logic. If I had to rate this, I'd be lost. If I had to recommend it to another reader, I think I'd preface the recommendation by asking if they were desperate to read something else first.


Title: Lord of Fire

Author: Gaelen Foley

Year published: 2002, reissued 2006 by Ballantine

Why did you get this book?

It was on sale and I've been meaning to read something by Gaelen Foley.

Do you like the cover?

A house surrounded by fuschia borders? Um no, not really.

Did you enjoy the book?

Yes, I enjoyed reading it, but I'm not convinced I would recommend it or rate it highly.

Was the author new to you and would you read something by this author again?

Yes, she was new to me, but I'll probably not bother with more.

Are you keeping it or passing it on?

Oh, I don't know? Why are you asking me all these questions?

Anything else?

I think my reaction to this book is built upon books I have just recently read. It doesn't stand on its own enough to really impress me. In other words, I'm not sure if I'm comparing it to similar books and it comes up short, or if I'm having trouble experiencing it on its own because it reminds me so much of other books.

First, the hero's name is Lucien, and his twin brother's name is Damien. What father or mother ever named twins thusly? Um, trying valiantly to maintain the suspension of disbelief, I soldier on. (Where are all the Harolds, Georges, Alfreds, Alberts, and Richards? Just wondering....)

Next we learn that Lucien is a spy who's involved in a Hellfire Club. Um, didn't Mary Jo Putney already write about this guy? Damaged from his service in the war, he comes home as a spy to face the scorn of his friends who admire him but don't fully understand his participation in this "infernal vice"? It was in one of the Fallen Angel books, but I'm too lazy to look it up. I continue to soldier on.

But while we're on the Hellfire Club, I have to add in here that I just finished rereading Seize the Fire and The Prince of Midnight, both by Laura Kinsale. S.T. Maitland very handily dispatches both the Marquis de Sade and a charlatan minister who are deeply involved in the "infernal vice." So this treatment from The Prince of Midnight is still fresh in my mind as I read Lord of Fire. I think I'm kind of done with the Hellfire imagery. We need to come up with a new "orgiastic infernal vice" at some point.

I'll put my vote in for predilection to Madeira, as in "Have some Madeira, M'dear!" from the talented duo of Flanders and Swann. However, it is unfortunately is set in Edwardian England. (Lyrics and song clip) Ahem. Enough of that.

We need a heroine; enter Alice, the Goody-Two-Shoes. (I thank Gaelen Foley for letting me know that the epithet was not anachronistic, but does this not seem a bit hamfisted?)
"I want to go. It's just that I received a letter today from Goody Two-Shoes. She said--"

"From whom?" he demanded, cutting her off with a dubious look. If he recalled correctly, it was a character in a classic children's story by Oliver Goldsmith.

OK, I admit to rolling my eyes and dogearing the page for that one. Pul-eese. Thanks for the research notes, Ms. Foley. Ahem. Enough of that.

So I liked Alice. She likes cats and small children. (Did I mention there was an adorable three year old blond boy who ALWAYS has his finger in his mouth and speaks with a lisp? Thankfully he's not around too much.) Lucien forces her to stay at Revell Court (poor name choice, I think), and the romance begins. And I do really like Alice quite a bit--which is unusual for me. Usually the girls flit right past my notice.

I actually liked these two together. I don't quite buy the way the two of them fall into a mutual infatuation with each other, but it was an enjoyable read. I don't quite buy that the evil arch-villain, who previously tortured Lucien to near death, is quite so obviously awful and direct in his pursuit of Lucien. (Seems very Green Goblinish. "I know how to find him! Why, I'll just kidnap his one true love, and then he'll have to come and get me! Mary Jane! Where are you?") But, nonetheless, I enjoyed the read.

I have to talk about the title for a sec. Lord of Fire means absolutely nothing in the context of the story, which can only mean that it's a set up for a Lord of Ice sequel. (Twins. Fire & Ice. Sun & Shadow. Yeah, I get it. What about a linked story of twins entitled Sea & Shore? Earth & Air? Blood & Water? Surf & Turf?) So the next book has to be about Damien. As I said above, having just finished Seize the Fire, Damien's explosion of Shell-Shock induced hallucination at the close of the book, running around with a loaded pistol as he hears fireworks, did not compare well with Sheridan's more moving portrayal in Seize the Fire. I find myself not at all interested in reading Lord of Ice, which I feel mildly guilty about.

I just want to close by saying that I Did Not Hate this book. I enjoyed reading it. I just have trouble getting past the idea that I've read a lot of it before. I think I ought to read one more Gaelen Foley to see if I like her, but I can't say that I'm very motivated to do it.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Wikipedia meme

Courtesy of my enlightened friend Douglas Hoffman

Go to Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.org/). Type in your birth date (but not year). List three events that happened on your birthday. List two important birthdays and one interesting death. Post this in your journal.


Three Events:

1767 - Jean Chastel killed the Beast of GĂ©vaudan.

1912 - The eight-hour work day is established in the United States. (You know, I'll take credit for this, but I'm REALLY unclear that this happened on my birthday, and I don't think it happened in 1912--although there was a big strike in 1912. May 1 seems like a more appropriate date, and 1938 is ringing a bell here for statutory enforcement.)

1978 - First appearance of the comic strip Garfield.


Two Birthdays:

1566 - King James I of England and VI of Scotland (d. 1625)
1897 - Moe Howard, American actor and comedian (d. 1975) (Yeah, as in Moe, Larry, and Shemp. In Boston we only ever saw the Shemp versions--To me Curly was the guy they brought in for the movies about Hitler.)

One Death:

I consider these one death---

1953 - Julius Rosenberg, American spy (executed) (b. 1918) Ethel Rosenberg, American spy (executed) (b. 1915) (Excuse me? She's listed as a spy too? Humph.)

Friday, April 07, 2006

Ha Ha. Very Funny

A few weeks ago I posted about how much fun it is to look up statcounter statistics. I had this conversation with Douglas Hoffman in comments:

Doug Hoffman said...
Be careful what you wish for. Today, someone found me using autocunnilingus as a search term.

Suisan said...
Oooo, BABY! Do you have some interesting readers.

(And they found you, how? Were you giving tips? Fantasizing? Hmmm.)


Yeah. So. Go on, guess the punchline.

Mmmm Hmmm. Someone visited me today using "Autocunnilingus" as a search term.

I am one classy broad. I am. And proud too.
Shit, how many pages back am I on a google search for.....Oh, never mind.

Edited to Add: I have no willpower: Doug's mention is page 6. I'm on page 11.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Thursday

I have to bring Boston Cream Pie to my daughter's fifth grade open house tonight. (Her chosen State for the year-long State Project is Massachusetts. I never want to hear another fact about Massachusetts ever again. EVER!)

So today I'm baking cakes for Boston Cream Pie.

Husband: Why don't you just BUY a Boston Cream Pie?
Suisan: Because I can't.
Husband: Don't try to prove anything, just go out and buy one.
Suisan: I CAN'T!!!
Husband: Why?
Suisan (screeching in a manner which is most unbecoming, coming totally unhinged because she is stressing over a dessert): Because we live in Freaking California, and every bakery I've called has no CLUE what a Boston Cream Pie is!!

What I've learned about Massachusetts:

How to spell it.
How to s p r e a d the name overthetop of the posterboard e ven ly.
The Boston University Bridge on Commonwealth Ave claims that it is the only bridge *in the world* where a plane can simultaneously fly over a car, travelling over a train, travelling over a sailboat. Surely this isn't the ONLY bridge in the world.
Massachusetts was the first in the nation to have or invent:
Public School
Prep School
University (Harvard? 1636? Again, isn't William and Mary older?)
Post Office (this is a stretch--I can get you details if you want it)
Public Library
Public Park
Subway (yep--beat out NYC)
Newspaper
Lighthouse
Sewing Machine
Morse Code
Basketball and Volleyball
First railroad to charge communter fares (1838--this also seems fishy)
Howard Johnson's
Dunkin Donuts

And they became a state before there was a union--in other words MA had a State Constitution before the United States had one. Can I tell you how confusing this is for my California baby who thinks all US history started in 1849 with the California Gold-Rush?

Off to finish the damn cakes.

Did I tell you I have a Board Meeting tonight from 4-6, then Open House from 7-8? I'm getting so overscheduled.

2:40 pm. Edited to add: The Cream Pies are DONE. They're cooling in the refrigerator, and the kitchen is a disaster. I must say, if you pour enough melted chocolate on the top of any quality homemade cake the results do look yummy.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Apple Pie

Food Network's Shaker Apple Pie

For mine, I make a 2 crust pie dough recipe. (Joy of Cooking, most recent addition, has a good recipe/description of one made in a Cuisinart.) That gets divided in two parts, wrapped in cling wrap, and put in the refrigerator.

Then I peel and core _a bunch_ of apples.

I don't know how many I use, but enough so that when I dump the apples into the pie pan I'm going to use, they mound well above the rim. I always use Macintosh--which I cut up into small pieces--and another baking type apple which keeps its shape, cut into thin slices. Off the top of my head, I'm thinking it's about three Macintosh, a Granny Smith, and maybe two or three Pink Lady or Pacific Rose apples.

The best pies have a mix of apples--what I'm looking for is sweet and mushy when cooked (Macintosh), tart but stays in chunks (Granny Smith, Pippin, or Yellow Delicious, sometimes), and good taste (Pink Lady and Pacific Rose both have a rosy smell/taste to them. I might go with Rome, Cortland, or in-season Yellow Delicious if I'm on the East Coast. Those of you not in America will have to figure this part out on your own.)

The apples get tossed with:

About 1 Cup Sugar--use less and taste the apples before you put them in the pie. You can always add more after the apples have sat. The more rosewater you use, the more sugar you'll need.
1 1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
a least a tablespoon of Rosewater, enough to make the bowl smell significantly of roses
and enough Heavy Cream to coat each apple slice once tossed together. Maybe 1/8 to 1/4 cup.
If the apples aren't that tasty, then add lemon zest and a touch more rosewater.

Put this in the refrigerator. Preheat over to 425 F. Roll out your bottom pie dough (Make it thick, so that it just barely reaches the edge of the pie pan.) Toss in Apple Mixture. Place little cubes of butter all over apples, maybe 2 teaspoons' worth. Roll out top crust. Place top crust over apples, tuck edges of top crust under edges of bottom crust, slice two or three vents in top crust. Sprinkle a tiny amount white sugar over crust.

Bake 20 minutes, until top crust is golden. Reduce heat to 350 and bake 50 minutes more until apple juices are bubbling and the oven smells like apples. (Pie may need to be tented with aluminum foil at the end to prevent a scorched crust.)

Very good warm.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Bridge dream--very disturbing

Kate posted something this week about kiddie fears being worse than adult fears.

And I get that--my brother convinced me that Dracula lived in our attic. My bedroom door was closest to the attic, so when the night came when Dracula walked down the stairs instead of flying out the window..... Egggh. My back sweats just thinking about going up those stairs.

And I can't think of too many things which freak me out in the same way as an adult. It is weird that this emotion shifts over time.

But when I was pregnant with my third child, some switch in my psyche flipped and I started a recurring dream which gives me the willies all day the morning after I've had it. (I didn't have it last night--thank God--I'm still a little giddy from my comments page last night. But I was thinking about fear this morning nonetheless.)

In the dream I'm driving my car with the three kids. The infant is in her car seat, the toddler in his, and the oldest child is in a seatbelt. I'm driving on a bridge high above some inlet on the bay. Slowly and gently the car leaves the lane and crashes over the side of the bridge. I don't fight it much--it's obvious the car is going over no matter how much I fiddle with the wheel.

Now the car is floating in the air, drifting towards the water so slowly that I have plenty of time to think about what is going to happen. The car is going to hit the water, and I'm going to have to get all three kids out of the car, and only one knows how to undo a seatbelt, and none of them swim. What do I say? Sophie's Choice: do I concentrate on helping the eldest because she's more likely to be able to swim with me? Do I tell the eldest how to get out of the car before we hit the water and help the youngest once we're in the water? Can I get all three to the surface? I wake up well before the car hits the water and run various scenarios through my mind for the rest of the day. Yeccch.

This is the one fear I have as an adult which is just as sickening as any trembling encounter with a dark closet when I was six.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Political and Financial Ravings

I have to get this off my chest.

This is long and not funny, so move on if your eyes start glazing over.

Let's assume that you are interested in School Finance. (OK, that's a big assumption, but it is a good idea to believe in six impossible things before breakfast too.) Let's assume further that you have been told that there is a Fund within the Total Operating Budget for the School District which has a deficit. It's not a big deficit, but every year the School Board has to transfer a leeetle bit of money to THE FUND from the General Fund so that THE FUND's ending balance is zero.

The School District's financial solvency is based on what the ending balance is in the General Fund. (In our case, we also have to keep an additional 3% reserve in the General Fund on top of a positive ending balance, but that's just an additional detail.) The General Fund is where we pay our teachers from--it's the fund the Board has the most control over. Then there are Restricted Funds with income from the State or Feds which can only be spent on Restricted things--like on building maintenance, for example. You can't take money for buildings and spend it on books--those are Restricted Funds. But you could take money from the General Fund and put it in the Books and Supplies Fund if you wanted to boost it a little.

In 2003 I started asking questions about a certain fund, THE FUND with the ongoing deficit, because it bothers me to keep transferring money from the General Fund (which could be used to, say, pay for teachers) to backfill a program which may not be running in the black.

Oh! Not to worry, I'm told sometime in early 2004. It turns out that the program which THE FUND pays for actually runs in the black. The deficit in THE FUND exists because of a contract the District paid up on in 1995. Every year a little bit of profit from the program pays off the deficit.

Okaaaay. Then why are we transferring real educational dollars into a restricted fund for no purpose other than to balance a paper debt? (There's no money owed to an outside source, there's no equipment which can be returned. It's from 1995--can we not simply all agree that in 1995 the idiot who was losing us millions of dollars while running the District screwed up?)

Well, Madame Trustee, if you really feel that it is not a Good Idea to keep transferring money to THE FUND, then no more transfers will be required.

Okaaay. Then why were you doing it in the first place? No. Sorry. Don't answer that. I don't care. Let's just stop doing it.

In February we had two Budget Workshops--at the first one I specifically asked about THE FUND. What is the deficit? What does the profit look like? What sort of transfers will be required?

Oh! No transfers. Nope. The deficit will be eliminated by the end of this fiscal year. "Yippee," says I. (I really did say "Yippee!" in Open Session.)

So two weeks ago we had a Board Meeting wherein we were asked to approve a transfer from the General Fund to THE FUND in the amount of $180,000. Huh? I thought no more transfers. Well, this is for salaries through the end of the year--they've run out of cash.

But haven't they been posting a profit for, like, two years? Uh, OK. Don't answer that right now. Please could you present a report to the Board at the next Board meeting with a narrative explaining all the transfers so far and where THE FUND stands?

I got the report on Friday. It's Monday night. I've read it every which way I can, and, beyond the fact that there are no transfers discussed at all in the report, I'm pretty sure I'm being lied to. Because the transfer from the General Fund to THE FUND just doesn't make any sense, following the logic from the newest report.

I'm so sick of this damn fund. Someone asked me about it over the weekend, and I just kept saying, "Down the rabbit hole. I've fallen down a rabbit hole."

See if this makes any sense:

In 1995 the District decides to enter into a contract to operate a program. This program is supported by State and Federal dollars, so all money going towards that program live in a special Restricted fund (THE FUND). The contract is paid out, but that expenditure puts THE FUND into deficit at the close of the fiscal year. (What should happen right here is that the Board should transfer the money from the General Fund to backfill THE FUND at the close of the budget year, but they didn't.) Instead of a one-time end of year transfer, every following year the Board transfers a leeetle bit of money to THE FUND to decrease the deficit in THE FUND.

Except Friday's report says that in 1995 the General Fund transferred money to THE FUND, and then THE FUND paid the contract. Now THE FUND shows an Accounts Payable balance to the General Fund. Every time there is profit within the program, then that goes into THE FUND's Accounts Payable, reducing the amount owed back to the General Fund.

WHAT!?!?!?!

So wouldn't all the previous years' transfers have made the asset/liability balance worse? And why have we never seen a single transfer from THE FUND back to the General Fund to pay back the balance owed in three years?

I have such a headache.

Turns out the Superintendent, who drafted the report, who's also the director of the program operated by THE FUND, will be out of the office all week. Including the day of the Board Meeting on Thursday when she is scheduled to present this report.

Ummmmmm. Not happy.

And just so you know--I hate school finance. I'd rather talk about curriculum. But I'm stuck doing school finance ad nauseum.

Historicals; or why Suisan turns up her ever so snooty nose at Contemporaries.

I'm completely sure that:

a) this will be a long post, and
b) I'll call it a Smart Bitches Day post, and
c) I may not have communicated a point at the end of it.


Ware!
(As us former foxhunters enjoy saying. So much more civilized that BEware, don't you think?)

In case you haven't taken the time to read my archives, let me say one more time that I loathe contemporaries. In fact, I hate them so much that I don't read them. In fact, I'm sure I've read less than ten since 1980, when I started reading Romances. In fact, I'm basically dead set against reading another.

"But Suisan," you say. "If you've never read them and you don't plan on reading more, then how do you know that you hate them?"

"Eh."

"You read Black Ice: you liked that. You read Futurelove: you liked that. You read Morning Glory, which may not be a Contemporary, but it's not set in Victorian England or earlier: you liked that. These were all recommended as GOOD contemporaries. Maybe you need to read more GOOD contemporaries."

"Oh, shut up. I hate you, and now I'm going to go sulk."

****Reads a few passages of Seize the Fire to cheer herself back up****

Ahhhh. That's better.

OK, but WHY is it better?

I'm not completely convinced of the answer, but I think it has to do with diction. Movies from the 1930s and 40s have a certain style, a certain word choice, a tone that sounds right. There's a flair to the language which works within the work, but would be totally bizarre if you tried to use it in real life.

"Hey there! Cabbie! Get me to Grand Central pronto! There a fiver in it for you if you do!"

So that's familiar, and it sounds almost sort of right in a movie or a book, but would you actually SAY that to "a cabbie" today in New York? Same with plays--the dialogue sounds right when you're sitting in the theater, but try it out on the sidewalk, and it sounds stilted or overblown.

When I read romances, I want that arch quality to the language. (Not purple. Please.) It needs to be a little more poetic, a little more formal, more descriptive, more lush, more unlike my everyday thoughts or speech.

At heart, I'm a cynic when it comes to stumbling onto love. The one guy I fell totally for, the one who could make my insides turn over just by moving his hand through sunlight into shadow, the one who told me I was the center of his world, turned out to be dangerous. And I don't think I've ever fully recovered--I may still be searching out the shrubbery in the evening for signs of ambush.

After him I became a terrible date: suspicious and cutting. I was always trying to figure out why the guy who asked me out thought I'd be a suitable target. I was waiting until he opened up, showed me part of his soul, so I could prick it with my sharp little fruit knife. No, really. I was not a nice person.

The one guy who broke through, basically said, "Oh, cut it out." It worked, but it's not terribly, in quotes, Romantic.

When I read romance, I still need some sort of barrier between me and the story so that I can relax enough to fall into the characters. With Historicals, I get caught up in the prose, or the funny turns of phrase in a well-written piece of Regency dialogue, and it's just soothing enough to flow right in. When I read a Contemporary, I'm on guard every moment of the journey. (He says he's rich, but how do you know it's not a con? He says he's never felt this way before, but come on, really? Oh My God. Can you not SEE that he's the owner of restaurant you're working in, you ignorant waitress?) Wrong, wrong, wrong, and my insides get twisted. I'm too busy protecting the heroine from her decisions to let her fall in love. And then when she does, I sincerely want to bitch-slap her. I think the language of Historicals is just enough of a barrier to work, but formal diction could never work in a Contemporary, could it?

Black Ice, a recent Contemporary, worked for me, I think, because the set-up was so over the top. International spy caught in a web of intrigue, trapped in a French mansion, stumbles across an elegant, virginal, heroine who must be protected without the bad guys catching on that he's planning to protect her. Midnight escapes, safehouses, assassination attempts: My advice, girly, is to hang out with big bad Bastien, the hero, until the villain's caught. Go right ahead, my warning antenna tell me that's a good plan, and once the antenna are safely shut down, I can settle back and enjoy the ride.

So if I can't rely on diction in Contemporaries, then maybe Romantic Suspense is the way to go, if I'm going to read more Contemporaries.

Yeah, but I hate 'em. I know I do.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Kleypas

I am no longer a Kleypas virgin.

I read Devil in Winter.

There are those, and I'm not naming names just now, who are on a campaign to get every living soul who blogs about romance novels to read Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas. I haven't done that yet, so I'm still open, on that front, to being harassed, I suppose. (g)

Very much liked Devil in Winter. The weather acts as a force to get these two characters together--they share a carriage during winter--and that was great fun to read.

I'll write something more detailed later--especially since I now find myself rereading Laura Kinsale's Seize the Fire. The hero and heroine have tossed up on the Falklands, with no supplies. Weather is an important force here too.

And it's raining--which makes me burrow under my comforter.

Has anyone noticed that it's APRIL???? Cause it don't feel like it here.

Waking up after the time shfit

My son runs up to my bedroom, where I am still clouded in comforters with the shades drawn, pretending I can sleep forever, and he says, "Mom! Come downstairs! I need help!"

"Err?"

"A bird fell down our chimney and's flying around the kitchen trying to get out!"

"Well, then. I suppose that means I should get up."

Couldn't find it at first, since it had given up battering itself against the window. We found it on the windowsill, panting. It was a small black bird with tiny grey flecks over the back of the head, with a narrow yellow bill and red legs.

It flew away after a few minutes of recovery in the potted plant outside the kitchen window. Wonder what it's blogging about today.