Saturday, September 29, 2007

Funny names

As I was driving home tonight, I found myself staring at a large neon sign next to a church. It said "Korean Presbyterian Church, Pastor – He Moon You." I kid you not. I kept thinking every Sunday come on down for some sermons, prayers and He Moon You. And if you laugh, his son, He Soo You, will be coming after you. As I sat snorting to myself, I started thinking of all the other funny real names I have seen or heard.

Way back when I was in high school and preparing to enter a pre-med program in college (not by choice, my parents forced me into it), I interned at the New York City Morgue and the Chief Coroner’s name was Dr. Gross. This was a fitting name because he would eat pastrami sandwiches with one hand while pulling organs out of dead bodies with the other. I would always watch horrified at the idea that he might one day forget which hand he was eating with and which hand he was digging with. I was one of the interns in charge of bringing up those buckets of organs for analysis to the lab. I swear I couldn’t eat Kentucky Fried Chicken for years after this job because the organs were placed in the same buckets that KFC does their bucket of chicken in.

In elementary school, the award for perfect attendance went to a boy named Peter Pan who I had never seen before! And during summer camp, I used to make fun of a girl named Heidi Ho, not because of her name but because she was a little sniveling tattletale. So I would walk behind her and sing the seven dwarves theme “Heigh ho, heigh ho, it’s off to work we go.” At my last job, a previous board member was named Paige Turner. But she turned out to be a real bore. There was the Chinese guy named Sam Jew who was actually a Christian. And in high school we had a counselor named Eileen Dover. We would always try to make her fall.

But the real fun comes in celebrities and their wacky names for their children. How would you like to go to school with magician Penn Jillette’s daughter Moxie Crimefighter? Or “My Name is Earl” star Jason Lee’s son Pilot Inspektor? Or my particular favorite, Jermaine Jackson’s son Jermajesty Jackson. Seriously, I can’t even keep a straight face on reading Jermajesty. Do you have to bow in his presence before speaking?

The NY Times had an interesting article last year about this phenomenon. Some therapists believe it is simple narcissism on behalf of the stars in naming their children exotic names. The child is merely an extension of themselves. An appendage. So name it exotically and garner more attention for yourself, at your child's expense. Others believe it is a vain attempt to keep their children special from the common people. Ahead of popular fashion. Explaining why some stars, like Harvey Keitel Cate Blanchett and Debra Messinger, have named their sons Roman, while others like Heath Ledger have picked old fashioned names like Matilda. Whichever excuse you believe, one thing is for sure, we are a lot more accepting of the bizarre naming rituals of our celebrities, but what about the common folk?

Earlier this month, Venezuela was trying to pass a law to ban stupid names. Apparently they have a real problem there with people trying to name their kids Superman and stuff like that. The point is to empower the registry to stop people from giving their kids names that would subject them to ridicule. Good idea or not? While some think it is in the best interests of the child not to be named Syphilis or Vagina (real names found in Social Security registry databases), is it the right of the government to stop a parent from naming their child Superman? After all, isn't it a parent's right to name their child anything they want? Even if it will scar their child for life?

Meanwhile, recently in New Zealand, a couple tried to name their kid 4Real but was stopped by the New Zealand registry. Pat and Sheena Wheaton were told that they couldn't register their son's name because it contained a digit. So they decided to name him Superman instead. But the proud daddy stated that their son would always remain “4Real.” He further stated that it had been hard to read all the abuse they have been subjected to on the internet for their decision but decided to discount it as it might all have been the ramblings of some ten year old schoolgirl. Ummmm, no. I don't think it's just ten year olds. I think the world is making fun of you, 4Real.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Bad advice

So for my first official game of Blog-Tag, from Merry Jelinek, she get’s me on Evil Rules of Blogging. Hmmmm, I don’t know about this. I’m supposed to post bad advice for the blogging newbie? Since I’m still a newbie, I can’t say that any advice I would give would be good or bad. Actually, it would probably be all bad!

So here’s my bad advice.

Don’t play tag when someone tags you with a meme. Ignore it, they will go away.

Be a spoilsport, don’t interact and tag others to keep the endless game of tag going.

Call everyone that leaves a comment a really bad name and state loudly that you fart in their general direction.

Make a big photocopied picture of your big fat butt and post it as a link here, and tell everyone you are mooning them.

Sooooo, how many of you actually clicked over to see my butt?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

I miss New York

Downtown Manhattan
Copyright byNicolas Masse available via a Creative Commons License

Evening: New York

Blue dust of evening over my city,
Over the ocean of roofs and the tall towers
Where the window-lights, myriads and myriads,
Bloom from the walls like climbing flowers.
by Sarah Teasdale

As dusk falls, the buildings of New York light up the sky like Christmas lights. Evening is when New York looks its best, like a movie star dressing for a red carpet event. The lights of New York blanket the city scape in an evening gown of diamonds and pearls. Walking down the streets of Manhattan, you brush up against strangers bustling by in clever conversation with friends or cell phones. Passing an underground subway station entrance, you hear the screech and whirr of a train as a burst of air whooshes up the stairs assaulting you with the underground stench of tunnels and stale air. The odor quickly passes and is replaced by the competing scents of hot dogs and sauerkraut of a corner hot dog vendor against that of the gyro stand right next to it. Crossing the street New York style, nearly clipped by a fast moving bus. The brash horn of an impatient taxi driver echoes in your ears as it weaves through the well choreographed traffic. Walking again, headed uptown, the lights of oncoming traffic shimmer like an ocean wave. You look up at the sky, there are no stars. But one hardly misses them.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tuesday Introspective - Racism in this day and age

Last Thursday, the streets of Jena, Louisiana were filled with over 20,000 peaceful protesters, marching for the Jena 6. This small southern town of no more than 3,000 found itself the focal point of a national outcry against racism and the judicial system. Had the white authorities of Jena meted unfair punishment on six black students?

This is a story that would not have reached national news but for the outreach of a group of African American bloggers who brought public outcry to a local issue, culminating in one of the largest civil rights protests this country has seen in years. By now, the media has finally caught up with all the events that have been occurring in this small town, and it has squarely labeled this town as one with a large racial divide. However, the townspeople deny that racism is an issue in Jena, trying to deflect public outcry by writing this off as an insulated incident.

But the issue is that this is not just one incident. It was a continued pattern of behavior that had been ongoing for years. What is most disturbing about this case is the extreme differences in reactions of authorities to certain events. Let us review the facts of the case. A black student asks his high school principal if he can sit under a shady tree, one that was dubbed the “whites only” tree. His principal states that the student is allowed to sit wherever he wants. (Doesn’t it strike you as problematic right at the beginning of the facts that there is a shade tree that was deemed for whites only? That a black student felt he needed to ask permission to sit under said tree?) The next day, three nooses were found hanging from the “whites only” tree in a chilling statement of racial hatred. The principal, upon discovering the identity of the noose hangers, recommended their expulsion to the school board. But here is the ugly part, school officials disagreed with the principal and refused to expel the students. Instead, they deemed that the hanging of the nooses were merely a “silly prank” and handed down only three days of suspension to the offending students.

I need to pause here to consider the enormity of this statement. Hanging nooses from a “whites only” tree after black students had in the minds of the white students "defiled" their “white” area, is considered a “silly prank.” That’s like saying a convicted murderer who just broke out of prison and pulls out a knife or gun and points it in front of your face, is just playing a little joke on you. It doesn’t feel like a joke. It definitely doesn't feel like a "silly prank." It feels like a threat, like intimidation, and it feels dangerous. Given the history of our country and the fact that blacks were lynched for exercising their civil rights, there is no way this is just a “silly prank.”

While the misconduct by white students was handled as a joke, other related incidents were also mishandled by the white authorities. A former white student brandished a shotgun at three black students and went unpunished. (Bringing my previous analogy even sharply to bear on this case.) And in the weeks that followed the noose incident, several racially charged fights broke out, one of them involving Robert Bailey, one of the Jena Six. Bailey, 17, was attacked a by a 22-year old white man who broke a bottle on Bailey’s head but was only charged and convicted of simple battery.

The reason media attention has been so great on the Jena Six is the excessive nature of the charges brought against the young men. According to court documents, the six boys knocked a white boy unconscious and continued to kick him. The school officials and the LaSalle Parish District Attorney have decided to make an example of these students, charging them with felonious assault and second degree attempted murder which could result in decades of imprisonment.

Attempted murder? According to Louisiana state law, a person can only be tried for aggravated second-degree battery, not to mention murder, when a weapon is used. There wasn't a weapon used in the Jena Six incident. However, the district attorney was so convinced that the Jena Six incident was not simple battery that he claimed that the attackers' shoes were the weapons. Shoes as weapons? I didn’t know high school boys were now wearing stilettos. The victim in question had allegedly incited the event with derogatory remarks. And although being severely beaten up, the victim was well enough to discharge himself from the hospital a few hours after admission and to make it to a high school event later that same day.

Now, let me state for the record that I believe that the Jena boys deserve punishment. After all, beating a person unconscious and still kicking him while he is down is a violent crime and should be punished as one. There is no question that a mob of six could easily kick a man to death. But I also think that this is a situation where the authorities led to the simmering racial tensions that culminated in this violent act. Had the school board appropriately punished the boys who had hung the nooses, perhaps the racial tensions would not have escalated. But by writing off as a “silly prank” something that was as ugly and dangerous as nooses on a tree, the school board told the white kids of Jena, it’s ok to be racist and bring back signs of lynchings and the good ole boy days. It’s ok to promote a “whites only” tree. It’s ok to hate. In fact, during last weeks rally, a couple of yahoos decided to drive past the protesters, with 2 nooses hanging off the back of their pick up truck.

Racism is a learned behavior, we aren’t born with the knowledge to hate another race, or sex or religion. We are taught by out parents, our friends, our peers. There will continue to be racism as long as someone out there hates and passes it on to another generation. We no longer live in a time where overt racism affects us, nowadays, racism is much more subtle. But it would be foolish to think there is no racism in the world. We live in a time where honor killings still occur in parts of this world, simply for interacting with a person not of your race or religious ethnicity. Earlier this year, a seventeen year old Kurdish girl was stoned to death by men (some even from her family) who were outraged that she had a relationship with a Sunni Muslim boy. Her death was recorded by cell phones and video tapes of the men who took part in her stoning. (I bring this story in here because it is such a horrific event that demonstrates not just racism but sexism which is an even greater problem in many countries.)

Whenever I think we have come so far, it is brought home to me that the Civil Rights movement is not that old. It’s only forty years old, the same as I am. It reminds me of something the comedian Chris Rock said during one of his comedy shows. He said he may be a very rich and famous black man but there was no white man in the audience who would ever want to trade places with him, even if he was poor, because that's how much better being white in this country is. Not one person disagreed. And yet I recall having a discussion with acquaintances of mine who unequivocally stated that racism was not an issue in this country anymore and that it was the minorities who were breeding hatred against whites. And no amount of arguing on my or others parts could change their minds. They did not believe that inequities occurred against minorities.

We cannot change everyone's minds. We cannot solve racism overnight. It is an ongoing problem not only here but throughout the world. And perhaps it is naive to believe that it would ever be resolved. But I continue to hope for more tolerance, more understanding of people's differences. Maybe a story like this would not occur in another forty years. We can only hope and pray.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tuesday Introspective - Internet Addiction

Article at, Monday, September 17, 2007

"BEIJING, China (AP) -- A man in southern China appears to have died of exhaustion after a three-day Internet gaming binge, state media said Monday. The 30-year-old man fainted at a cyber cafe in the city of Guangzhou Saturday afternoon after he had been playing games online for three days, the Beijing News reported. Paramedics tried to revive him but failed and he was declared dead at the cafe, it said. The paper said that he may have died from exhaustion brought on by too many hours on the Internet…China has 140 million Internet users, second only to the U.S.. It is one of the world's biggest markets for online games, with tens of millions of players, many of whom hunker down for hours in front of PCs in public Internet cafes. Several cities have clinics to treat what psychiatrists have dubbed "Internet addiction" in users, many of them children and teenagers, who play online games or surf the Web for days at a time. "

So I read this article late last night and was shaking my head in disbelief, combined with smug complacency of my own moral self-righteousness when all of a sudden it hit me, I had been on and off the internet all day long. As my youngest would say, "Uh oh." What's going on? Am I addicted to the internet? I puzzled this and did some research and came to a conclusion. My short answer is No. My long answer is what follows below.

Last week, my Tuesday Introspection was on technology making us stupid, and here I am, adding addiction to its growing list of evils. Clearly the internet can be addictive, but is Internet Addiction Disorder a real disorder? The disorder is still too new to be accurately documented and there is no real consensus from the professionals on whether it is or is not a true addiction. Some say that addiction to the internet is a destructive force in many addicts lives, causing them to lose touch with reality, jobs and families. Others say it is not a real addiction like alcohol or cocaine. The answer will still need some years of research to document, but in the meantime, there is definitely a growing cause for alarm.

"The Internet is unlike anything we've seen before," says David Greenfield, PhD, founder of the Center for Internet Studies ( "It's a socially connecting device that's socially isolating at the same time."

The recent death of the Chinese man is not the first. In 2005, a young South Korean man died after a marathon on-line battle simulation gaming session that lasted over 50 hours. He died of heart failure minutes after logging off at the insistence of friends. In 2002, two men died from internet gaming from 86 and 32 hours of non stop playing. In a July 3, 2007 article titled "Are gadgets, and the Internet, actually addictive?" it stated that in Asia, clinics have sprouted up to treat internet addiction. "One clinic director has estimated as many as 2.5 million Chinese suffer from the condition. (, 2007)" It has become a global problem.

Internet addiction can also be very dangerous in that it can combine other addictions such as gambling and sex addiction. In the U.S., a growing number of therapists and inpatient rehabilitation centers are seeing an increase in onlineaholics. (New York Times, December 1, 2005, "Hooked on the Web") Dr. Hilarie Cash who runs an Internet/Computer addiction service center in the home of Microsoft, states that people who abuse the Internet are typically struggling with other problems like depression and anxiety. However, the "Internet's omnipresent offer of escape from reality, affordability, accessibility and opportunity for anonymity can also lure otherwise healthy people into an addiction." (NYT, 2005) Because the condition is not yet recognized by psychiatry as a disorder, it is not reimbursed by insurance companies.

"The Internet is for Porn, The Internet is for Porn.
Grab your d*ck and double-click for Porn, Porn, Porn!"
Lyrics form hit Broadway musical Avenue Q.

Pornography or Cybersex Addiction, is a sub-type of Internet addiction. The Center for Internet Recovery estimates that 1 in 5 Internet addicts are engaged in some form of online sexual activity (primarily viewing cyberporn and/or engaging in cybersex). Studies show that men are more likely to view cyberporn, while women are more likely to engage in erotic chat. In particular, sex addicts often turn to the Internet as a new and safe sexual outlet to fulfill their underlying compulsive habit. One patient claimed that her addiction ruined her marriage when she began researching sex for a romance novel she was writing. Swept into the world of chat room flirting, she became addicted to her online sexual relationships that eventually ended her marriage when her husband discovered her addiction. (

The Internet is not itself addictive. It is always about the right circumstances and makeup of the individual person that causes the addiction. Technology has become an important and indispensable part of our lives, simplifying and diversifying our world. But like I stated in my post last week, we need to moderate our usage of the internet and our technological gadgets. Anything becomes problematic when it so engrosses our lives to the point of neglecting our real lives, jobs, families, responsibilities, etc.

Kimberly Young, a clinical psychologist and founder of the Center for Internet Recovery states that an Internet Junkie is "someone who is preoccupied with the Internet, hides or lies about their behavior, shows an inability to control their use, uses the Internet as a form of psychological escape, and continues to engage in the behavior despite the problems that it causes in one's life."

Clearly I am not addicted to the internet. Like most of us, I would rather interact with my children, travel, play tennis, cook or read a book then stay on the internet for hours at a time. Even my marathon session yesterday were periods of on-line activity over the course of a day as opposed to non-stop usage. But I must conclude that I could easily be addicted if I do not moderate my behavior.

And just as the concept of internet addiction gives me pause and heightens my perspective of my own internet proclivities, it also highlights how closely I will have to monitor my children's internet usage. All the studies indicate that teens are most susceptible to the lure of the internet and can be most addicted to it. In an article in the China Daily last year titled "Internet Addicts a Virtual Nightmare for Parents," it claimed over 2 million children and teenages under age 18 were addicted to the internet. One 17 year old teenager would go missing for days, holed up in an internet cafe and logged into his virtual world.

In the U.S., Dave Greenfield, a psychologist and assistant clinical professor at UConn, who conducted one of the first studies on Internet addiction, states that “I’ve seen young men and teenagers who are spending six, eight, 10, up to 14 hours a day at the computer. They’re playing computer games, eating their meals and even urinating into a bucket at the computer. It’s having a significant negative impact on their lives. Most people don’t realize the Internet can be addictive.”

In the 60's, parents worried that television was addicting their children. Now we as parents and mentors to the future generation must worry about how the internet is affecting the younger members of society. Moderation is always the key, but children have no understanding of how to moderate their behavior. It is up to the adults in their lives, not just parents, but grandparents, uncles, aunts, teachers, friends, to point out the dangers of internet addiction.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

An Interview with Patricia Wood, author of "Lottery"

Winning the Lottery

Let’s face it, who amongst us can honestly say they’ve never dreamed about winning the lottery, especially when it creeps up to ridiculous proportions like $200 million. I mean what a ridiculous sum of money for anyone to win. (Please let it be me! Please, Please!) So when I heard the concept of Patricia Wood’s debut novel “Lottery,” I was completely hooked, and so was the entire publishing world.

They called it a high concept hook - “Forrest Gump wins Powerball,” and it created an immediate stir in publishing. Ann Oldenburg’s article in USA Today, stated that Lottery went to auction and landed a six-figure deal for its first time author. It is a dream that all writers aspire too.

So often we hear the hype, buy into it and then end up being disappointed. That is definitely not the case here. I read Lottery in one day in two sittings. And it would have been one sitting but for the simple fact that I had to cook dinner, feed the kids, bathe them, check their homework and tuck them in bed, all while glancing impatiently at my book and growling and muttering under my breath. When I finally closed my book, I sighed with happiness tinged with the sad thought that having finished, I could never have that new book pleasure filled with the discovery of finding new characters that warm your heart. Unless I suffer from amnesia, then please remind me that I will want to read Lottery again.

The main character is Perry L. Crandall, and he is not retarded. He knows this because he scored a 76 on his IQ test and Reader’s Digest says that you have to have 75 or lower to be retarded. So he is not retarded. And from this introduction on, you are absolutely hooked by Perry, his loving but sharp tongued grandmother, his nervous but caring boss and a disgusting burping, farting best friend, Keith, who was my second most favorite character of the book. Not just because I think burping and farting are hysterically funny, although they are, but because Ms. Wood develops Keith, a Vietnam Vet, into a living breathing person you come to care deeply for. Now all the bad guys in the book, Perry’s brothers, in-laws and even his mother, are either lawyers or married to lawyers. (I would feel indignant on behalf of all us lawyers, except I actually know too many like this to take offense for my profession.)

When Grandma dies early in the book and Perry wins $12 million playing the lottery, you’d have to be a real gullible, naïve fool not to know what happens next. The beauty of Ms. Wood’s book is that Perry, who knows he is slow, is neither as gullible nor as naïve as people like to think. And while the bad guys are little more than cliché’s, they work extremely well when placed in the context of the book. Their portrayal is as Perry sees them, no more, no less. As characters, they are not shaded or nuanced like Grandma, Keith or Cherry, a woman Perry would like to have as a girlfriend. That is because the actions of the brothers and Perry’s mother have only ever been unkind, and even when circumstances change and they try to act nicely to Perry, he sees right through to the desperation beneath their surfaces. Their words might have changed, but they are still the same. Perry is one of the most likeable underdog characters you will ever read. You will root for him, cry with him and laugh your head off at things he says. You will definitely not be bored, I promise.

Interview with Patricia Wood, author of Lottery

I came to know about Ms. Wood and Lottery from having seen her as a regular commenter on Miss Snark’s popular writing blog. There she would be seen commenting as Orion, the name of her 48 foot sailboat that she lives on with her husband and her two cats. Originally from Seattle, Washington, Ms. Wood has served in the Army, worked as a medical technologist, taught marine science to high-risk students and is now a Ph.D. student at the University of Hawaii.

After writing three novels which only collected rejections, she wrote Lottery over a three month period last year. In her own words she says, “I was consumed.” As luck would have it, she sent an e-query to top agent Dorian Karchmar, a literary agent with William Morris in New York. Ironically, Ms. Karchmar states that “most of the time I’m so busy, I don’t read email queries.” But Ms. Wood’s email arrived on a slow summer day and the rest of the story is pure magic.

After reading Lottery, I had to email Ms. Wood and let her know how much I loved her book and was happy to receive a very quick, warm and gracious response. When I decided that Lottery would be my first ever Book Review on my blog, I asked her if she would be willing to provide a short interview for my readers. Even though she is six hours behind me, I got a quick response that said “What a delight!” and we were off! I hope you all enjoy the interview.

E - Aloha Pat! Are you on your sailboat right now?

PW - Yes. I have just finished packing for my trip to the mainland for readings and signings.

E - I think it is so cool that you live on a sailboat. How long has it been since your residence was on land?

PW - Four years

E - It is amazing that you have access to technology even on a sailboat, but is there anything you miss about living on land?

PW - Not usually - I get a small twinge when I remember my beautiful gourmet kitchen and if I want a bath I go to a hotel.

E - So you have all the comforts of home, even pets on your boat. I understand your two cats are your muses, but they aren't housecats, they are sailboat cats, right?

PW - They didn't use to be but they are now! They got acclimated quite well.

E - Do they ever leave the boat?

PW - Not intentionally, only accidentally.

E – When they accidentally get off the boat, do they suffer from sea legs?

PW - No, but they get wet!

E - So we all know the weather is beautiful on Oahu but when you do get bad weather, how does it affect your routine as a writer living on a sailboat?

PW - I close the hatches and am snug as a bug in a rug. It's quite cozy.

E - You wrote Lottery in three months. But it was eight hours a day for seven days a week. How hard was it to commit to this schedule? How long was your editing process?

PW - It was often 12 to 18 hours a day and it was a first draft - and quite a shitty one at that! I did a couple passes through to fix grammar and spelling and by the fourth pass the skeleton of the story was closer to what Dorian (my agent) saw.

E - Did you have a critique group or readers review Lottery for you and what do you feel is the value of a writer's group?

PW - I've never been one to join groups. I know people swear by them but it has to be the right group. I think readers are better than writers. I have a large pool of beta readers. My friend author Paul Theroux read an early draft and many cruisers from my harbor (marina) read various versions.

E - But you were part of a large online writing community. You were a regular over at Miss Snark's popular blog where I first saw you as Orion. It was real neat to see you thank Miss Snark in your acknowledgements. When you got published, did Miss Snark ever get in touch with you?

PW - Miss Snark ROCKS. She sent several very nice emails congratulating me and did call me when I went to New York. The number came up unknown. It was magic! I owe her so much for all the guidance in her blog and the support the blog has shown me. They were all there from the beginning.

E - She called you? So do you have any idea about her real identity?

PW - No clue at all, but I suspect she has moved on. I read in People magazine recently that George Clooney hired a new maid with amazing literary taste. It could happen...

E - He would be a lucky man, then! As fans of her blog, we all know what we got from her; great no-nonsense advice and a community of writers just like us. Now that you are a published author, when you look back at Miss Snark's blog, what do you think you gained from it the most?

PW - The fact that this business is subjective. The fact that if more writers just sat down and finished their novels they would be more successful. You need to write, write and write some more. That hiring a book doctor or an outside editor is not necessary and that perseverance is the best quality to have.

E - One of the things that I've been so impressed with is how altruistic you have been to your fellow writers. You have a blog where you've given so much insight to the publishing process and you also are a vibrant presence on the Absolute Write forums where you provide a lot of great information and advice to newbies. I love that you have become like a Mentor figure now that you are a famous author, but what makes you do it?

PW - HA! I'm a know-it-all? Actually I am a teacher. Have always been a teacher and love to teach. I will be going to the University of Hawaii next Friday to talk to creative writing students. It is pay-back for the help I have received from generous authors like Paul Theroux and Jackie Mitchard.

E - So are you working on a new book and is there any information you would care
to share about it?

PW - I am ALWAYS working on another book. I have three finished manuscripts and am outlining other projects. My agent and I are giving a great deal of thought as to what will follow Lottery. Of course there is the paperback of Lottery that will come out next summer (08).

E - Lastly, there is so much advice that is out there, sometimes contradictory, but I would love to know what would be the one piece of advice that you think is really important or overlooked that you would give to aspiring writers about fulfilling their dream?

PW - WRITE. Finish your novel and start another. READ. Write. Read. And WRITE some more. Oh yeah... and make sure you write.

E - Thanks so much Pat for chatting with me about Lottery. You are awesome!

PW - Aloha and Mahalo! Writers are welcome to email me with questions at

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Tuesday Introspective - Technology is making us Stupid!

Noted Swiss philosopher, Jean Piaget, once stated that “intelligence is what you use when you don’t know what to do.” But in our technological world, everything comes with an answer or within easy Google reach of information. The ability to reason and solve problems has been supplanted by ready access to the easy answer. We no longer have to worry about not knowing what to do. Calculators take care of math equations, computers input data terms and spit out formula equations and answers, the research process has been replaced by an internet search engine. Even something as simple as the memorization of home phone numbers has been relegated to the memory of computer chips in phones so that most people can no longer remember up to five of their most frequently dialed telephone numbers. I contend that technology is making us stupid.

The Loss of Memory

Before the printed word, people relied on their memory for everything. In fact, those citizens with prodigiously good memories were revered and placed in positions of honor. Oral histories were passed down each generation. Storytellers had important roles in communities. Greek playwright Aeschylus stated that “Memory is the mother of all wisdom.” One might argue that memory in and of itself is no measure of intelligence. True, rote memorization with no understanding is unhelpful. But isn’t memory a component of intelligence? An innate intelligence must have the ability to remember details of importance in its rational search for the answers. Without a doubt, memory is a key component of our intelligence. It is involved in all aspects of thinking, perception, learning, language and problem solving. But we have now entered an age where memory seems to have become irrelevant. Why memorize when everything you need to know is a mouse click away?

A recent article on CNET discussed a UK article that showed a quarter of its residents could not remember their home phone numbers and a third could not remember birthdays of their immediate family members. It states:

“The less you use your memory, the study says, the worse it gets. The study indicates, shockingly, that people in their 50s and 60s have generally better memory than people in their 30s. Why? The older group was tasked with committing more to memory when they were younger, "training" their brains appropriately. Our gadgets make it simple to offload our memory to electronic devices.” (CNET, 2007)

Not forcing ourselves to use our memory is triggering more and more short term memory loss. Because we no longer train our brains to retain information, it becomes easier to forget.

Technology and Children

I worry about the impact of all this technology on our children. There have been more than enough studies on the impact of television to prove that the more you turn off the TV, the better it is for your children. But television alone is not the problem. Computers with its chat rooms and Facebook and MySpace cultures are fostering an addiction to the internet that has supplanted reading, writing, and even outdoor activities. And don’t even get me started on videogames! None of these things are bad if they are kept in moderation. The trouble begins with a new generation that seemingly cannot survive without its technology.

Technology addiction starts young. Companies target their audiences very well. Take for instance the Webkinz rage. It is marketed as “the stuffed animal that comes alive online in Webkinz world” (, 2007). WEbkinz are stuffed animals that come with a code a child can use on its official internet site to enter their animal into a world of one dimensional fun. My children all have 3 to 4 of these creatures each. Some kids we know have anywhere from 10 to 15 of these stuffed animals. It isn’t the toy that is the problem, it is the internet component that sucks your child in to worrying about and caring for the life of their cyber pet. This alarms me. I think eight and six are too young to be constantly on the computer. When I limit their computer time to thirty minutes and to once or twice a week, they complain that I am killing their cyber pets. As if I care. The sooner they grow out of this obsession, the better. But to them, it has begun their obsession with the internet.

Technology has cultivated a world of short attention spans

It has been well proven that children who read a lot do better in school. Reading comprehension is a core component of most intelligence testing. But less and less children are reading given the distractions of television, DVDs, computer, ipods, video games, etc. All of these technological gadgets seem to promote short attention spans and fosters an inertness in the mental faculties of our children. Everything moves quickly. They don’t need to think, just react. Reading, on the other hand, has always been about time and a demonstrated ability to focus for a long period of time. It helped sharpen your mind by the forcing you to provide long term attention to a focused reading activity.

The phenomenon of Harry Potter has proven how far reading has fallen. Media coverage highlighted over and over the incredible effect Harry Potter had on jumpstarting an interest in reading again for children. Equally hyped was the growing concern in the publishing industry with the end of the revered HP series. What, they worried, would children now read voluntarily? For it seems that most children do not read anything outside of their school reading lists, although they have no difficulties reading and posting treatise length comments on their web pages.

I am not stating that technology is bad. Of course not. It is a wonderful advent onto humanity. However, I worry that allowing technology to take over our worlds in virtually every aspect of our lives, is not such a good thing. Extremes of anything are never a good idea. I can only hope that parents will look to their children’s technology proclivities and think about curtailing them more. Push a book in their hand and take away their Gameboys and Ipods. Give them a soccer ball and turn off the TV. Teach them to play an instrument or paint a picture. Foster the arts. We, as parents, have a responsibility to offset the evils of the world, and while technology is not itself evil, too much of it may be stunting our minds.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Carnivore's delight

Food is one of my favorite subjects so why not include some of my favorite dishes on my blog? We will start with my favorite barbecued meat. Kalbi. If you have never been to a Korean restaurant, then you have never had the ubiquitous pleasure of grilling right at your table, smoke watering your eyes while the sweet garlicky goodness of succulent short ribs assaults your olfactory neurons. Walking out, you reek of barbecue and garlic that lasts with you until your next shower, but boy was it tasty!

Oh the pleasures of Korean barbecue. Beef short ribs marinated with soy sauce, garlic, sesame oil, green onions and sugar, grilled over a hot flame. Since I am the designated grillmaster, I get to choose what I want to grill. My first choice for barbecue (next to the obligatory weiner roast) are these amazing, delicious, out of the world Korean short ribs. For a carnivore, there is nothing better. The meat is slightly sweet with the tang of garlic, soy sauce, sesame seeds and the smoke of the grill. Heaven!

The problem with Kalbi is that if you go to a restaurant, they will charge you $17 to $25 for a dinner size portion. While it is a good amount of beef, it can be quite expensive. And if you've got a table full of carnivores, the bill can get quite hefty. Also most restaurants tend to make their kalbi on the sweeter side, which is not my preference. But, I've yet to go into a Korean restaurant that didn't have good kalbi.
Luckily, it is actually quite easy to make. Especially if you have a Korean market nearby. You can get Kalbi already marinated and ready to grill for $5 to $7 per pound. A lot cheaper and just as good as the restaurant version. But if you don't have a Korean market nearby, then get your favorite grilling meat and the following recipe and make it at home.
Kalbi recipe
4 pounds Korean style short ribs (which is cut thin - see picture above), or other good grilling meat
1 1/2 cups soy sauce
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup sesame oil
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
8-10 cloves of fresh garlic, crushed
6 large green onions, chopped roughly
Toasted sesame seeds
Combine the soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil and vegetable oil in a large mixing bowl. Add garlic and green onion and stir together. Put short ribs into large sealable freezer bag (you may need two). Pour marinade into bag and mix with meat pieces. Refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight. Heat grill to medium-high heat before adding the meat. Drain excess marinade off short ribs and grill them until medium, about 6-8 minutes. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and chopped green onions.
Pretty much every recipe for kalbi is like the above, with variations on amount of sugar and garlic used. Serve it with a side of hot steaming rice and some red leaf lettuce for freshness, and you've got one of my favorite meals ever created.
I wanted to write about food because as I was going over a section of my WIP, I realized I was reading about a character going through the motions of cooking dinner. And it struck me that I had put quite a lot of detail into the preparation of the meal but none in the actual food created. That struck me as peculiar. Was it because what my character ate was irrelevant to the story line? It seemed such an important detail to omit, especially from someone like me who loves food and the idea of food in all its amazing permutations. I don't know the answer but it made me pick up some of my keeper books to see how food was handled. And in most cases, I realized, food was lovingly portrayed. It was a way to anchor a scene or to create an atmosphere with. Eating alone, no matter how lovely the food, signalled loneliness. Food, whether it be junk food or an elaborate meal, prepared for family was usually filled with warmth and laughter. In many cases food was as much a part of a scene as the room, the secondary characters. When it is not there, its absence is noted. Its importance cannot be denied. So I need to promote my love for food in a written venue so I can be as comfortable writing about it as I am eating it.
Picture 1 Copyright by wEnDalicious 2007
Picture 2 Copyright by Taekwonweirdo 2007
All avaible on Flickr through the Creative Commons License

Monday, September 3, 2007

The Long and Winding Weekend

We spent most of the weekend at my mother-in-law's house on the Chesapeake Bay. Here's a picture of the private pier. The figure at the end is my middle child with the family sitting around enjoying the beautiful weather while my husband fished. My husband is a fishing fanatic. He would rather fish than just about anything else in the whole world. When he night fishes, he fishes all night long. Even going so far as to pass out on the pier with his fishing rod still glued to his hands. Luckily the fishing gods were with us and so there was a whole lot of fish being caught at the pier today. Almost 90% of them caught by my 8 year old. She seems to have caught her daddy's fishing mania, and is already outfishing her daddy! The girl is a natural.

The long weekend also meant I got to read for fun. So I engulfed in one sitting Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner. Yeah, I know I'm late to this party but I loved this book! I was tearing and gasping and totally into this book. And when I was done, I thought to myself, "Self, your book is nowhere near as good as this book." And I felt blah for all of 30 minutes before I started kicking myself in the head trying to snap out of this morass of self-pity. This was actually a new experience and I don't know why it happened. I've read many great books while working on my book - some even similar to my book story - but they didn't cast me into a fit of depression. They didn't make me feel unworthy to have written a book. But why this particular book? Or was it maybe the timing? Was it because I was close to finished with my book and feeling particularly vulnerable? Nervous about actually being ready to start querying? I dont know what it was but it was such a particularly unpleasant sensation. As if someone told you your baby was butt ugly and then you realize they're indefensibly right.

It's been particularly hard because I've lately been editing off my husband's comments. I've asked him to be tough, and he is definitely being tough. He's caught alot of good changes and I know it will be so much better after his changes. But he is a slow reader, and he keeps falling asleep while reading my book. I get pages from him where the pen has leaked slowly into a pool of blue or black where he pressed the pen tip into the page as he dozed. Or where the pen leaves a large mark straight across the page where his hand slipped as he fell asleep. I keep getting these bits and pieces of my chapters every few days from him with visible signs of where he fell asleep and I keep thinking, boy I sure didn't write a page turner! Maybe I should remarket this as a cure for insomnia instead! I mean, he's only had it for all of 3 months now and he's given me back 4 chapters of a 17 chapter book. At this rate, I might be done next year.

Oh well, I guess I should be grateful that he is reading it at all.