Thursday, April 25, 2013


Not long ago, someone mentioned to me that - while I allow comments on my blog posts - it doesn't seem like I actively encourage comments... and that I rarely respond to comments.  This individual then commented that he thought the whole idea of having a blog was to encourage comments, and then engage in a dialog.

With all due respect, I disagree.

One of the great things about blogs is their flexibility.  Originally, blogs were largely online journals, or diaries.. or logs.. which is where the word came from  (web log).  But today, people are using blogs for all sorts of things.  They can be made private - invitation only, or they can be public and widely promoted.  The private blogs are typically being used as  in-cloud storage, for things that the poster is not accessing often, yet wants to have available.

But it is the wide variety of uses for public blogs that I find amazing.  Just off the top of my head...
-blogs that essentially do nothing more than gather and provide links to other blogs on a specific topic, -blogs that provide news/information/education on a specific topic
-personal journals, or diaries, sharing details of the blogger's life
-a slight variation of the journal/dairy, where the blogger shares details of a vacation, or details about a major event  (for example a wedding, or a birth)
-blogs intended to promote various businesses, or books, or products

And then there's the sort of blog I do... it's what I call a soap-box blog, although it's a soft-soap-box.  While I generally avoid hot-button issues like politics and religion, I post about things that have annoyed me, or interested me, or intrigued me... things that have caught my attention, and I post about things on which I have an opinion.  Why do I do it?  Partly, because I can.  There are a number of blogging platforms available, most of which are free.  It's extremely easy, and frankly - I like seeing the number of visits that show up in my stats.  But I mostly blog, because this allows me to express my opinion without worrying about getting into an argument.   After all, if you don't like what I wrote, that's ok.  You don't have to finish reading it and  if you really don't like it, you don't have to come back.  Heck, I'll never know... my stats show numbers, but they don't show names.  If you want, you can post a comment --  and I allow all comments that are not spam -- but I don't respond to 99% of the comments.  I assume your comment is intended to stand on its own; if you want to engage in a discussion, you can email me, or call me.

Not all soap-box-bloggers would agree with me... and you don't have to look hard to find blogs where every post ends with some variation of 'What do you think?'  There's nothing wrong with this,  I follow some blogs that do this, and on occasion I'll comment.  Frequently, the blogger will respond - if nothing else, they'll respond with something like 'Thank you for your comment."   And that's ok, too.  As I said, one of the great things about blogs is their tremendous flexibility.  As my grandmother used to say.. Do What You Want.

By the way, I do find it annoying that Blogger means the blogging platform, and blogger means 'one who blogs'.  I don't know if that was intentional on Blogger's part or not, but I find it annoying.  Not annoying enough to write a post about, and not annoying enough for me to leave Blogger and use another platform, but annoying nonetheless.

So ---  what do I do when I'm mildly annoyed?  Why - I have another cup of tea, of course.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Boston Marathon Bombing

Over thirty years ago, my husband and I moved to Massachusetts.  We've lived in a number of different locations; currently we're about 25 minutes hour north of Boston, which is the furthest we've been from Boston since we moved here.  We don't run, and neither of us is a marathon fan, but the Boston Marathon is a big deal here.  I mean, a Big Deal.  These days, I typically go the website of a local tv station in the early afternoon of Marathon Monday, to watch the live coverage of the race.  But in the past,  I worked in a building right on Boylston Street... the corner of Exeter and Boylston, to be exact.  For those of you not familiar with this area, that's less than a block away from where the explosions were.

The pictures we're seeing, are very haunting.  Yes, the terrified, bloody faces are haunting.  The people being knocked to the ground by the blast, the people being carried in the arms of rescuers, or being wheeled away in wheelchairs -- those are all haunting.  But for me, some of the most haunting pictures are those of the sidewalks.  I've walked those sidewalks, many many times.  I know that area well.  There's not supposed to be blood on the sidewalks.

This nation has certainly had its share of tragedies... but this is closer to me, geographically, than any of the others have been.  So it feels different.

We have no family in New England, our families are spread out from Florida to Utah, with some family in Germany as well.  Between Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning, we heard from all of them.  As I said, we don't run, and we don't follow the sport of running, and all of our family knows this.  And most of the phone calls went along the lines of 'I don't think you guys ever go to see the Marathon in person, but I just wanted to check'.  My niece is currently in basic training in Texas..  so she's allowed no internet time, and her telephone time is also extremely limited.  But her ?training class? was informed that if anyone had family in the Boston area, or who might have been at the Marathon, they were permitted an extra phone call, just to make sure everyone was ok.  It's always nice to hear from family, and we make a point of staying connected and talking frequently... we didn't need this extra excuse to call.  Plus, I found that I was unable to adequately convey how this affected us.  I delayed posting about this, in the hopes that I would find the proper words, but I still don't have them.

The entire nation,and even other nations, are showing tremendous support to those affected by the Boston Marathon Bombing.  But perhaps the response that touched me the most was a sign projected on the facade of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, in New York City.
You see...  that stylized 'B' in the picture, means the Boston Red Sox.  It's a special font, created by the Boston Red Sox, long before people really knew what fonts were.  The  rivalry between the New York sports teams, and the Boston sports teams -- especially the baseball teams -- is truly intense.  You can't fully appreciate this rivalry, unless you've lived here.   But this horrific act of terror transcends that traditional rivalry.  To me, this sign was more meaningful than if the word 'Boston' had been spelled out.

This is truly a sobering time.  
A time for tea, and further reflection.

(Please do not comment on this post, there are plenty of other places to comment on the bombing.  All comments will be removed.)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

It's all about the rules

Last night, I was watching Dancing with the Stars.  For those you who don't watch - there's a rule against lifts.   One of the judges is a stickler about this, and she applies the rule, rigidly.  So if Man Dancer picks up Lady Dancer and swings her around, and she is able to streeeeeeettchhhhh.... and keep one teeny tiny tip of toe in contact with the floor -- no lift.  But sometimes, in his exuberance, Man Dancer swings Lady Dancer a bit faster than they practiced, or perhaps she doesn't streeeeeettttcchhhh  quite as much... and that tiny toe tip comes off the floor.... Ooops.. Penalty.

In last night's show, one of the dancers doing such a move wasn't quite able to maintain contact with the floor, and the rules-stickler judge mentioned it.  The head judge responded by saying that the lift was clearly not intentional, so he was not going to deduct points for it.

Now - I have always considered myself a stickler for the rules - but I applauded the head judge for his decision.  (yes, I literally applauded)  Sometimes, you have to look at the intent, as well as the rule.

The timing of this was interesting, because of the controversy this weekend around the Masters Golf Tournament.  For those of you who don't follow golf, there are various types of 'relief'.  One kind of relief says that if certain things happen, you re-play that shot from the same position.  Another kind of relief says that if certain other things happen, you re-play that shot by dropping your ball anywhere that's in the same line to the hole, and no closer to the hole.  So the first thing you need to know is that Tiger Woods should have taken one kind of relief, but he took the other kind.  And although he took the wrong kind, he ended up almost  - but not quite - in the same position as if he'd taken the right kind.  And nobody noticed....  not the officials, not the spectators, not the other golfer playing with Tiger, not Tiger's caddy.

Oh wait.  Almost nobody noticed.

Apparently, someone watching on tv noticed the mistake, and called it in.  But that's not all.... after it was called in, officials reviewed the tape, and decided there was nothing wrong.  But based on comments made by Tiger, after he was done playing, and after he'd turned in his scorecard, the officials changed their mind.

Now the next thing that you need to know is that, in golf, if you turn in an incorrect scorecard, there's a penalty.  In the old days, the penalty was disqualification. (OUCH!!!)  BUT -- a few years ago, the golf people changed the rule so that, if the officials believed you didn't know your scorecard was incorrect when you turned it in, they could decide to instead just 'correct' your score, and add one more penalty point.  Kind of like letting your toe come up off the floor, without you realizing that it had happened.

People are squawking about Tiger Woods not being disqualified, and people are squawking about the dancing judge who decided not to penalize that couple...  but sometimes things aren't a simple black or white.. and sometimes the rules tell you to take intent, into consideration.  And I don't think that's a bad thing.  So I'm going to step back and soften my approach, and be a bit less of a stickler for the rules.

By the way, if you look up stickler, one of the synonyms is pedant.  And if you look up pedant, you'll see that it means 'someone who unduly emphasizes minutiae'.  Ouch, I don't like that at all.  I am definitely going to aim for being less of a stickler.    

As a second 'by the way'... don't even get me started on the notion of allowing tv viewers to call in with information, especially for a game that does not allow instant replays.  In my book, the person who called in to complain about the penalty, is far worse than a stickler...  but I'll leave that topic, for another day, and another cup of tea.

I'll raise my cup of Typhoo tea to Jerry, the manager at the Beacon Resort, even though he prefers Bewley's.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

... Then don't play the game

Recently, I had a friend recommend that I watch this show called The Booth at the End.  We were talking about Urban Fiction, and ...  well never mind, I guess that part's kind of boring.
Turns out, this show is only available on Hulu. Now, call me a trogolodyte, but - although I have  heard of Hulu, I've never used it, and wasn't really sure what it was....   oh wait, this doesn't really matter.

Anyway, what matters is that while I was watching this program, one of the characters says to the main character..  "I don't like the rules."  And the main character replies

"Then don't play the game."

And it struck me, that maybe this isn't a bad philosophy.  If you don't like the rules, then don't play the game.  
Sure, you have other options...  interestingly enough, the show was about options.  But in real life, if you don't like the rules, you can ignore them, you can change them, or you can choose to not play the game.    

Now, ignoring rules, in my book, is never a good idea.  Rules are there for a reason; without rules, there's anarchy.  Oh sure,  if only a few ignore the rules, you don't really have anarchy,  you have rebels.  Although if others see the rebels, and start following their lead and ignoring the rules, now you DO have anarchy.  And even without that concern...  if you're not following the rules -- well then, you're cheating, aren't you?   and you're not really playing the game, at least not with any integrity.

You can always try to change the rules...  but in a sense, changing the rules, changes the game... so you're no longer playing the same game, you've created your own game, and you're hoping that others follow along, leaving the original game and joining your game.

But choosing to not play...   now that's the decision of an individual.  A decision full of integrity.  It neither relies on followers, nor encourages followers... it's a statement that stands on its own.  It says - I acknowledge the rules, I choose to not follow them, and I'm not playing the game.

Yeah, I really like this.  If you don't like the rules, then don't play the game.  Of course, it's not always easy to figure out what the game is,or what the rules are, but once you do that, the rest is real easy.. Either play the game and follow the rules, or if you don't like the rules then don't play the game.

And while it's not a rule that I have a cup of tea after I write my posts, there's no rule against it either.  So I'm off to make another cup of tea.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Killing off characters

As an amateur and novice writer, I have somehow become known for killing off characters.   Not just any characters, but characters important enough to have a name and a personality and dialog, and sometimes these are main characters.  Now, I’ve only written a very small handful of stories, but I will admit, I do seem to have a lot of casualties.  

The first time,  it just happened...  although, in the interests of full disclosure, it did happen to every main character except the bad guy. (Oops.)

In my next story, I was trying to figure out how to make a point, and getting rid of the formerly main characters accomplished that.   Not only did it make a point, but once everyone was dead, I could quit writing... "The End" was pretty obvious.

But the time after that, I actually tried my darnedest to NOT kill anyone off.. or at least not anyone significant .. and I thought I'd succeeded… but then, to my horror, I discovered  that one of the characters - a character who I thought was going to be fine -  died. 

There's actually a WikiHow on how to kill characters, which lists 11 steps.  Eleven Steps??  Oh my gosh, one more step, and it would be akin to Alcoholics Anonymous ... If you want to kill a character, follow Nike's advice, and Just Do It!  It's not that difficult, actually.  Let's see, I've used an injection of poison made from catnip and lavender and other spices, I've used lightning, magnetism, and tattoo ink, as well as vague, undescribed  methods.  And as I said, I haven't written many stories.

If you never kill off your characters, the book/movie/tv show becomes predictable.  No matter how intense, dangerous, scary things might get, your audience stifles a yawn and thinks.. 'hey, that's a main character.. somehow, they'll get out of this mess.'  And I think authors owe it to readers to be at least a little unpredictable.  After all, if stories are always predictable, why bother reading to the end?  (By the way, dream sequences where the character isn't really dead, don't count.  Having the 'deceased' wake up and rejoin the story might have been interesting the first time, but by now, it falls into the category of predictable.)  And there have indeed been some notable - and very surprising - deaths in fiction.  The first that comes to mind, is Colonel Henry Blake, in M*A*S*H.  If you think about it, once Henry died, you were never quite sure that a character - even a major (pun intended) character was going to pull through.  And then, of course, there was Professor Dumbledore, in the Harry Potter series.  I suspect I was not the only one who was convinced that somehow it just wasn't so.  Yet it was.

But still, people seem a bit uncomfortable with the ease with which I kill my characters.... it's not as if these are murder mysteries I'm writing, where you need the murder, in order to have the mysteries.  So I poked around online, and found an article entitled "How Not to Kill Your Characters."  Aha!!  someone with suggestions on ways to save my characters!  .. but alas, the post merely suggested that if you were going to kill your characters, you should do so in a unique and  interesting way.  Well I already know how to do that.  I changed my search to "how to not kill your characters", but found nothing.

What’s my point?   When it comes to killing characters, either a) it’s an amateur’s way of dealing with problems, or b) sometimes it just happens. Not all books were made to have sequels. Sometimes, you're just supposed to turn the last page, return the book to the library, and move on.

... and have another cup of tea.