reminder

Too often, I do something long overdue and, reeling in the simple pleasure afterwards, I wonder “How did it take you so long?” or “Why don’t you do that more often?” So, here’s a little list of little things to remember.

– go to the movies on a hothothot day. Really luxuriate in the air conditioning that chills you to the bone.

– spend more time with your niece. She’s full of surprises in the nicest way.

– get a haircut. You can’t keep your hands out of your hair because it feels so silky.

– file your nails. Look, you have hands just like a grown-up lady! (For about 12 hours before you snag a nail again, but whatever.)

– grapes. It turns out you like ’em!

– open a bottle of wine just for yourself. That’s right, don’t wait for someone to share it with you. Pop the cork, drink a glass or two, and don’t worry whether you’re wasting it. Scandalous!

– kiss your husband. HARD. Make the most of the time you have together.

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cheers

Little flecks and flakes of happiness add up to make big chunks of joy. I know that I’m more prone to snark and snap, to wryly catalog the indignities and inconveniences of daily life, and I’m making a conscious effort to curb that instinct… or at least to counter it with daily observances of contentment and cheer. I’m thankful for the small things as well as the big things. When the big things sometimes go to hell, I’m still thankful for the small things.

Cheers to a break in the weather: a bright breezy day after days of rain.

Cheers to inspiration when it comes, and to dogged determination when it won’t.

Cheers to The Fella, who has a way with words that often makes me unexpectedly peal out laughter at the simple, hilarious aptness of his phrasing.

Cheers to that mixed case of cava and prosecco lurking under the table. When I bought it, I giggled giddily to the liquor store clerk and waggled my hands in excitement. Both The Fella and the clerk looked on with amused patience.

Cheers to the new champagne flutes I picked up for a song. It turns out my old glasses lasted so long only thanks to disuse; now that we’ve started, y’know, drinking out of them, they smash like eggs. I expect these will, too, but for once I’m not going to fret over material things. I’m going to keep picking up stray glasses whenever I see them for a buck or two, so I can enjoy the drinks and enjoy the bubbles and, every so often, enjoy the tinkling sound of smashing glass.

Cheers to my new shoes: not quite sneakers, not quite ballet flats, not quite half of the retail price. You are very easy and comfortable and I could walk a mile in you. This evening, I think I will.

Cheers to the library, and to my upcoming online Lolita book club and to Prof. Hungerford’s online lectures from the Open Yale Courses (Lectures 5-7). Now if I could just teach myself to say “Na-BOK-off.”

summer goals

Here in northern New England, we’ve had a pleasant stretch of unseasonably warm days tempered with cool nights. It’s enough to make me look forward to summer, traditionally my least-favorite season.

This year, I’m going to make sure I bask in the pleasures of summer. As a little spur, I’m making a list of summer goals:

Note: a friend recently asked how my summer goals were going, so I thought I’d check off a few here. Updates are in italics.

Keep my swimsuit at the ready, along with my leopard-spotted towel and my big-brimmed hat, so I’m ready to swim anytime. Oh, yes! I kept them hanging on peg in our front hall, which reminded me that SWIMMING IS GOOD. I only managed to swim a couple of times, but with squealing, squirmy, happy children and teenager, which is about the best thing ever.

Cocktails and polenta fries on the patio at my favorite neighborhood restaurant. To celebrate our first wedding anniversary, no less! The Fella took me out to the patio for polenta fries and a split of prosecco, then we wandered a few blocks and I took him out for beer and tapas. A perfect evening.

Lemonade, limeade, ginger beer. Fantastic fizzy lemonade, deliciously low-rent limeade-slushy margaritas, and homemade ginger beer.

Always keep a little cash on hand for yard sales and farmstands. I have to admit: I haven’t managed to buy one single thing at a yard sale this season. Still, this is a resolution well worth keeping, if only for the farmstand tomatoes.

Stonefruit in a pouch! Hey, I forgot all about this one! Well, maybe next year.

Go to a ballgame at the local ballpark. Buy The Fella a beer. Oops. Maybe next year!

Always carry bubble juice, for impromptu bubble-blowing parties. We can thank The Fella for this one: knowing we were going to babysit my nephews for an afternoon, he zipped out to the store and picked up a giant bouncy ball, juice, and a biiiiiiig jar of bubble stuff. What a guy!

Stop buying cheap white wine. Start buying cheap sparkling wine. Drink it. Often. Oh, yes indeed.

Eat that lobster roll! Not yet — but for this one, I’ll prolong “summer” as long as it takes. IF I have my first lobster roll as the leaves turn, or as the frost nips in… in my mind, it’ll still be summer.

edited to add:
Take the short but hilly path, not the longer and sketchier but undeniably easier street route. (This refers to an actual hill and an actual shortcut, but if you read it metaphorically too, you’re not wrong.) Yes!

Write every day. Don’t worry about writing well: write every day. You can always edit half-assed writing; you can’t edit what you ain’t wrote down. Yes! Sort of!

Do my some physical therapy every day, not twice a week. I’ve actually managed to do a liiiiiiittttttttle bit every day, which is saying something.

AC, who helped me start achieving my goals by emptying a bottle of cava with me last night, added one more goal for me: sangria on the neighborhood Promenade! Can do! In the works!

edited again to add: I’ve just added “Drink 100 bottles of bubbly” to my life list. Starting about ten days ago, the count is up to three; 97 to go. And when I get to 100? Well, maybe I move the goalposts to 1000.

what you know

Just a few notes, discouraging and otherwise, on writing fiction:

Neil Gaiman discusses the difference (if any) between fantasy and fiction. Does your instructor look down on genre stories? “Best bet is to set your fantasies in the here and now and then, if challenged, claim to be writing Magical Realism.”

Jane Espenson eavesdrops and provides us with a quick, vivid example of how simple dialogue establishes characters and dynamics.

Strange Horizons, the fantasy fiction web magazine, details some stories they’ve seen too often, and follows up with some horror stories they’ve seen too often.

Joëlle Anthony lists 25 repetitive elements in young adult fiction.

Why are you writing, anyway? I bet you don’t have 101 reasons to keep writing. Here’s 101 reasons to stop writing.

Is your protagonist a Mary Sue? Here’s a handy test.

Do all of your stories end with Roy Orbison wrapped in cling film? You’re stealing this guy’s bit.

search strings, March 2010

A surprising number of our visitors arrive here by searching for food safety guidelines. Our search log cuts off longer search strings in midword, leading to some mysterious truncations that give the selected list an eerie, poetic air.

The searchers are misled to Macbebekin by the varied and revolting Can I eat this? archives, but many of them do click through to the related Ask Metafilter questions, so perhaps they’re getting answers to their questions after all. And their questions usually boil down to the same thing: can I eat this?

is it ok to reheat shellfish
are moldy dried beans safe to eat?
‘botulism semi dried tomatoes olive oil’
pork smells like rotten eggs
fizzy tomato sauce botulism?
i left sweet tea out overnight then dran
is it safe to eat ham if it’s been unref
my stuffed shells were left out overnigh
salmon left out overnight safe eat
how long can beef stay in a 60 degree ho
can you get sick from eating shrimp that
sick from eating fermented applesauce
unrefrigerated curry paste go bad
pork smell overnight in fridge
what is black residue bottom of expired
can i use a can of coconut milk that exp
i bouhgt a frozen dinner but only had a
can you eat boiled shrimp six days old
will i get sick if i eat 5 day old scall
i left a duck on the counter all night c
how long is spaghetti sauce safe to eat
can i eat pancetta raw
does chicken broth smell like eggs
is my cheese and ham sandwich still ok t
tuna can little bulge on top of can is i
how long can you eat a sandwich that had
if i left my raw shrimp out all night wi
how long do condiment packets last
how long before unrefrigerated pork must
medjool dates powdery white spoiled
fizzy tomato sauce botulism?
is it ever safe to eat unrefrigerated le
how long before unrefrigerated turkey sa
how long ccan egg beaters be left out of
is crabmeat and cream cheese left at roo
left giblet bag in chicken 2
my stuffed shells were left out overnigh
can i safely cook and eat smelly pork?
if you put frozen shrimp cocktail in the
clams left out on counter. still safe to

And the volta:

is it okay to eat a sandwich that has be
safe to eat pasta dough that turned gree

by its cover

The A.V. Club’s recent column on contributors’ pop-culture rules has sparked similar discussions among my friends and acquaintances and fellow online forum users internerds. I quickly realized that though I have no firm rules, I do have a great many rough guidelines. Whew, a great many!

– I almost never see films in a first-run theater, where the fools in charge let other people in, too, with their cell phones and their chatter and their candy wrappers. That’s not a pop-culture rule but an avoid-temptation-to-criminal-assault rule. Crowds, cost, and the threat of poor storytelling all diminish my patience with other people and/or nonsense, so clearly a blockbuster in a first-run theater is a perfect-storm situation for me.

– Because I like to be surprised by entertainment, I rarely research enough to apply the Bechdel test before the fact, but I do notice and appreciate when a filmmaker or author:
1. has two or more named female characters
2. talk to each other
3. about something other than a man
just as if they were real people or something.

– I will watch any movie directed by David Lynch, David Cronenberg, or the Coen Brothers, and probably more than once, even if I wasn’t crazy about it the first time. These directors more than any others have earned my trust and gratitude, despite a few misses and a very few absolute stinkers. Oh, Terry Gilliam, I can’t say no to you, either, you hapless bastard.

– I will watch almost any Shakespeare adaptation, with or without the text intact. Yes, the one set in a greasy spoon. Yes, the one in post-war Japan. Yes, the kids’ movie rip-off.

– I don’t mind if a sensible adult thinks my choice of entertainment is silly or juvenile or embarrassing. Maybe I see some deeper value there; maybe I just like the silly thing. I’m not easily embarrassed. Or, uh, I am, but I’m also used to it.

– I am unlikely to sit still for a straight-up romantic comedy. Ditto a straight-up war movie. Indeed, anything that looks like a formula Hollywood picture, with characters slotted into a template, is of no interest.* I am especially not interested in the whitewashed Hollywood bio (see A Beautiful Mind) or other Oscar bait. I skip a lot of blockbuster movies and feel no pain over it.

*Unless is is a horror movie, in which case I miiiiiiiight tolerate the formula. I don’t know why I might, but I might. Additionally, with a horror movie, the low-budget/no-budget risktaker entices me far more than the splashy, shiny big-money movie. The no-money filmmakers have to push their creativity and plan their storytelling instead of relying on special effects and retakes.

– While we’re on the subject of formulas and failure: no Michael Bay. NO. NO. No, Michael Bay, No! I thoroughly respect the appeal of stuff blowin’ up real good. I don’t want to see stuff blowin’ up all sloppy.

– I shy away from remakes, especially English-language remakes of contemporary foreign-language films. However, a few marvelous remakes have made this more of an inclination and less of a rule. Criminal comes to mind: the original is fantastic, the remake is different but fantastic — I loved both. And I am the rare J-horror fan who actually preferred The Ring to Ringu.

– I do not like to see brief short stories transformed to full-length features. Padding rarely improves a story, but if it’s a favorite story, I almost always give in and watch it. For this reason, I am dreading The Yellow Wallpaper, but happily for me, it’s evidently stuck in some post-release limbo.

– I will [never/almost never] choose to watch a Jim Carrey or Robin Williams slapstick comedy. I will often watch Jim Carrey in a dramatic role. (Yes, this means I watched the hilariously, gut-splittingly awful The Number 23. Youch.)

– I will try reading almost any author or story once, in any genre or type: literary fiction, popular fiction, pulp fiction, academic no-fiction, popular non-fiction, graphic novel, whatever. Sometimes, I can’t make it more than a 20 pages before giving up in disgust, but I do try it in earnest. (I even tried to read The DaVinci Code out of curiosity, but its prose made me very cross indeed.)

– I believe that sometimes, you really can judge a book by its cover.