Thursday, January 24, 2013

Comfort Zone

Twice now, in the past month, I've had someone challenge me to step outside of my comfort zone.  And it wasn't the same person, twice, it was two different people.  Apparently, to others, I appear quite set in my ways.

I acknowledge that when I go to a restaurant I've been to before, I usually order the same thing I had last time I was at that restaurant.  But I don't consider that being set in my ways... it's more that -- if I order something new, I might not like it.. and now I'm stuck with a dinner that I don't want.  (Note... this isn't to be confused with comfort food.. which I almost always like to eat when I'm in my comfortable chair at home.)

But let's think about this comfort zone thing.  First, it's called 'comfort zone'.. because this is where you feel comfortable.  Generally speaking most of us have a fair amount of tensions and pressure in our lives, whether it's caused by a high-intensity job, or the fear of losing a job ... or both...  whether it's caused by bills and expenses, or family relationships,  or national and international events.  Seems to me that we're entitled to a bit of comfort.

And in all fairness... the friends who challenged me to step outside, weren't suggesting that I should never be comfortable... they were suggesting I try something new, something different.  And that's not necessarily a bad thing.  After all, the first time I did Nanowimo,  it was outside of my comfort zone...  starting a blog was definitely outside of my comfort zone.  And both of those were very good things.  That's not to say that it's always good to go outside of your comfort zone.  I tried ballet a few years ago --  bad idea.  I tried reading romance stories -- bad idea.  I tried skiing -- REALLY bad idea.  I kind of liked golfing, but others told me that was a bad idea.

So perhaps, the trick is to not step outside my comfort zone, but rather to carefully edge a toe across the line that defines my comfort zone.
Yeah.  I think I could be comfortable doing that.  And then I can decide whether to actually take that first step, or whether I should pull my foot back in.

For now, I'll sit here and drink some Typhoo tea... or perhaps I'll have Bewley's today.  After all, I can be rather adventurous, you know.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What's a hobby?

Recently, a story came out about some woman who decided that her goal for 2012 was to take up 52 new hobbies.  Frankly, when I first heard this, my immediate thought was that her true goal was to get some publicity for herself, and to get fodder for a book.  And indeed, she's getting air time on the morning news shows, and lots of interviews, and it turns out that she plans to write a book.  Surprise, surprise.

Obviously, I'm not impressed.  Actually, I'm less than impressed, I'm dubious.  At least she's not suggesting that she mastered each of these hobbies..  but I'm still having trouble believing that she even gave them a fair chance.

I checked out Wikipedia, and found hobby defined as "a regular activity or interest that is undertaken for pleasure,  typically done during one's leisure time", and also "hobbies are practiced ...for interest and enjoyment, rather than financial reward".   Right there, this woman has a couple problems.  First, these activities she took part in, weren't done regularly.  Next, she didn't undertake them for pleasure, she undertook them for the challenge -- and not even the challenge of the activity, she did it for the challenge of being able to do at least 52 things in 52 weeks.  That leaves the issue of leisure time.  Libby Segal - currently the associate producer of a reality show - plans to use her adventures, not only as fodder for a book, but also as the basis for a new reality show.  So not only was this not really a leisure activity, but  financial reward was clearly part of her motivation.

So now everything fits into place.

Don't get me wrong, I like hobbies...  I have hobbies.  My current hobbies include ballroom dancing, camping, canoeing, fishing (freshwater and saltwater), flytying, sewing and writing.  Let's see, that's 8.  Although, in all fairness, it's probably been over 6 months since I last tied a fly, we only go camping a few times a year and the canoeing and freshwater fishing both happen at the same time as camping, and other then mending, I only pull out the sewing machine a couple of times a year.  I used to golf, but don't have time for that anymore, just as I no longer have time to play the cello, play chess, or bowl.  As it happens, I'd like to take up fencing, and I'd like to breed angelfish, and I'd like to travel -- although I'm not sure if traveling counts as a hobby or not.

And I suppose I'm arguing semantics here.  After all, if - rather than announcing she had taken up these hobbies - she had declared that she was going to explore hobbies to see which ones she might be interested in following up on, I don't think I'd have a problem.. frankly, I might not even have noticed. But especially for hobbyists who have devoted significant periods of time to master their hobbies... hobbies like tap dancing, and hang gliding, and chess, and rock climbing, and ventriloquism... I am offended on their behalf, that this woman spends an hour or two, and concludes that's sufficient to qualify as 'taking up a hobby'.

Hmmm.. just re-read this post...  and I can see that I'm being a bit of a curmudgeon.  Really --- what do I care about Ms. Segal's motivations for giving surfing, or pole dancing a try?  And it's not as if I watch reality shows anyway.

You know what?  Do what you want.  If you enjoy it.. do it some more.
Right now, I'm going to make a cup of tea.  It's something that I do regularly, for pleasure, in my leisure time....  It's a hobby.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Does length matter?

Some time back, I blogged about something called flash fiction...fiction that was 25 words or less. Interesting, but not tempting.
According to wiki, the longest piece of fiction is Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, at nearly 1.5 million words...   that's 1,500,000... the longest English piece of fiction is L. Ron Hubbard's Mission Earth, which came in at a whopping 1.2 million words.
Again, interesting, but not tempting.

I feel a bit like Goldilocks here.  Too short, too long.. I'm trying to figure out what's just right.

A few months ago, I blogged about nanowrimo, where participants aim to write fifty thousand words of fiction, in 30 days.  Not everyone gets to fifty thousand... that's not a surprise, many of those attempting this, have families and jobs.. and even without that, this can be a daunting task.  The surprise is those who write over 100,000 words in November, or even those who keep writing after November, and get to 200,000 words or more.  Wow, if 50,000 words is about 175 pages, then 200,0000 words turns out to be something like 700 pages.

Maybe I'm missing something.  I'm not sure the last (first?) time I read a book of that size.  That's quite a commitment.  I don't mean a commitment on the part of the writer, I mean a commitment on the part of the reader.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not afraid of commitment... after all, I've been married over 30 years...  but I'm not sure I have the sort of commitment it takes, to begin a single book of that length.

But maybe I'm wrong, maybe I AM missing something.

So I thought I'd google around, to see what's what, with regard to book lengths.  Let's see, there's drabble, a piece of fiction that's exactly 100 words long.. then there's 55 Fiction.. which is a variation of drabble.. it's a piece that's exactly 55 words long.  Wow.  I thought the goal was to write something good, not something that met a mathematical requirement.  Even Nanowrimo acknowledges that the 50k you write in November won't be good, but it might get you on the road to having something good.

What else.

A short story is 3,000-5,000.. except I see lots of competitions out that that are looking for a short story of 1,500.  A novelette is 8k-15k  (wow.. that's quite a range)..  a novella is defined as 30k-40k... except when it's defined as 20k-60k, and a novel is 80k-100k, except when it's defined as 60-95k.

Well this isn't clarifying things at all.

Ahhh.. here's something interesting.   I found a blog called   The author is Colleen Lindsay.  Colleen used to be a book agent, and is currently part of the business development team at Penguin Group.  She notes that somehow, this myth (her word, not mine) developed that bigger was better.. especially for sci-fi and fantasy.  But that it is, indeed, just a myth.

Last week, I posted a blog entitled Does Size Matter?...   addressing this recent thing with the size of Subway sandwiches, and concluded that size doesn't matter... integrity matters.  But I keep thinking about that post, and sandwiches, and I feel I need to add that -- I LIKE Subway sandwiches, and I intend to keep buying Subway sandwiches.  Why?  Because they taste good.

Now, I re-read what I've written so far, today, and I realize this is just a variation of Does Size Matter. And while I'm not backing down from my conclusion that integrity matters... I think that perhaps when it comes to sandwich size, and book length, the better conclusion is that quality matters.

I'll let you know if I change my mind.. but for the moment I'm going to make a cup of Typhoo tea  (certainly, a quality tea), and try to stay warm.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Does size matter?

I'm sure that by now, you've all heard the reports that  Subway's foot-long sandwiches are .. well...  less than 12 inches long.  Initially, Subway's response was that if you looked at the photo that started the whole brew-ha-ha**, you could tell that the bread was all scrunched up, and that the length of the sandwiches might vary slightly if the particular subway shop didn't bake the bread to the company's exact specifications... or something like that.  Now, Subway has come out as saying that 'foot-long' is  a registered trademark, and is intended as a description, not a statement of size.


I consider myself to be fairly bright..  and I know that advertisers are prone to exaggeration, but I've watched a lot of commercials  (frankly, I find some of today's commercials to be more entertaining than the regular programming)...  and it certainly seemed like Subway wanted me to believe that I was getting 12 inches of sandwich.  And don't they have to have one of those little trademark thingies... or at least really fine print... if they don't really mean what they say?  Because I'm pretty sure they don't.  And if Subway did not intend foot-long to mean 12 inches, why bother trying to persuade me that the bread in the first photo was all scrunched up?  Or that the problem was how the dough was baked?


As it happens, I don't really expect corporate types to be honest with the public, so I would probably let this go... except that this isn't the first time that someone has called Subway's tape measure into question.   Back in 2007, Subway used to have a sandwich size called a Giant Sub, which was advertised as being 3 feet long.  The problem was that several of their Giant Subs regularly came in at 4 inches shorter than 3 feet long. That time, Subway couldn't make the improper baking argument  (also known as the shrinkage theory), because it turned out that the  boxes that the sandwiches came in, were nearly 2 inches shorter than 3 feet.  That time, Subway apologized to the public, and announced that they would be reevaluating their advertising.  Sounds to me like they merely reevaluated their notions about the average length of memory of their average customer.

Perhaps this wouldn't be quite so entertaining, if not for the fact that Subway has sued other companies who have dared to use the word foot long.  Wonder if those other companies sandwiches were really 12 inches?

For the record, I don't think I've ever ordered a Subway foot long sandwich.  I couldn't eat that much on my own, and I never seem to be with someone who wants the same kind of sandwich I do, so we each order our own smaller sandwich.  So it's not that I feel monetarily cheated.  If an opportunity arose where I wanted that size sandwich, would I refrain from buying it because it's not a full 12 inches?  Of course not.But I am annoyed that Subway went to such efforts to persuade me that their sandwich was 12 inches long, and now that they've been caught, they can't even get their story straight.    If you ask me, the appropriate penalty is to take away their trademark, and make them change the name of the sandwich to something like "Big Sandwich".

No, size doesn't matter... but integrity does.

**  For those of you who were surprised at my misspelling of Brew-ha-ha...  please note that I did that on purpose.  After all, this is Teapot Musings, and this whole thing is quite silly.  Time to go brew some tea.

Monday, January 7, 2013

I could have been an Olympian

 Paris Summer Olympics - 1900JOParis 1900.jpg

Those of you who know me, know that I'm not terribly athletic, although like most people, I do enjoy watching the Olympics.  I don't typically care who wins, but I very much enjoy watching these extremely talented people compete against other extremely talented people.

Those of you who know me, also know that I was not around for the Summer Olympics of 1900.  And until quite recently, I'd really not given those games much thought.  Scratch that, I'd not given those games any thought.

But I recently came across some stories that seemed too bizarre to be true.. I did some googling, and ...  Well, I just have to share this with you.   Trust me, as best as I've been able to confirm, from multiple sources....  what follows is true.

The first Olympics, were held in 1896.  The second Olympics were held 4 years later, in 1900, in Paris.  1900 was also the year of the World's Fair, in Paris, and the two events were kind of combined.  The events took place over the course of 5 1/2 months, from mid May, through October.  Apparently, when the French heard 'summer olympics', they thought it meant the Olympic games would last throughout the entire summer!

There were track and field events, and swimming events, as well as gymnastics, wrestling and fencing, and a whole host of other events that we still see today.   However, there were also a number of events that we do not see today -- as you might guess, it is the discontinued events that have caught my eye, and tickled my funny bone.   In all fairness, many of the events I find amusing, have now been determined by the IOC to be unofficial events, but that only detracts minimally, from the amusement factor.

However, before I move on to the unofficial events, I don't want to leave out that Tug of War, was an official Olympic event, at the 1900 Olympics.  Wait, it gets better.  One of the six man teams, consisted of athletes from two different countries, one of the teams was disqualified because three of their athletes were entered in another competition that took place at the same time, and one of the teams included a journalist who was asked to fill in at the last moment, for someone who got sick!
Tug of war
Now -  I'm stubborn, and I've been told I can be a bit of a bulldog at times -  and while I'm not athletic, I could certainly hold my own against a journalist.   I feel certain that I could be a contender, in a  game of tug of war.  If not for the fact that I was born a few years too late.. I could have been an Olympian!

But wait, it gets better.

Other sports that took place at the 1900 Olympics that I would most certainly have had a chance at, included angling  (that's fishing, for those of you who are landlubbers), cannon shooting  (don't you just light a fuse?), ballooning (I love balloons!), and kite flying (I love kite flying, even more than I love balloons!!).

Unfortunately, none of these events catching my fancy, are part of today's Olympic events.... and I'm not very good at the events that are part of today's Olympics.  But, as I sit here sipping my tea, I respectfully suggest that the reason I'm not an Olympian, is merely that I was born at the wrong time.  And notwithstanding the notions of H. G. Wells, Mark Twain, et al, I seem to be stuck in the present.  So, until they make tea sipping an Olympic event, I'll just sit and watch, knowing that - if circumstances had just been a bit different, I could have been an Olympian!