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November 30, 2010

Fans are crazy, Part 5483

My friend Alyssa Rosenberg is moving into her newly-purchased apartment this week - congratulations, Alyssa! - so I'll be doing some posting over at her place to help hold down the fort while she's busy. Tonight's post is about fans and showrunners interacting on Twitter and how fans shouldn't get a say in creative decisions.

Posted by Kat at 09:41 PM | Comments (1)

MORNING CHEER (11/30/10)

Ah, Tuesday, we meet again. My Monday went pretty well, though, so if the rest of the week wanted to follow in its footsteps, that would be fine. And it's the last day of November! Wow. Do you have any CHEER requests?

Warning: This David Leonhardt story about the development of the Chinese economy is really long, but it's fascinating and important and you should read it.

I had never thought about what cab drivers wear.

I kind of assume this is fake, but oooh, dishy.

Here's some explanation of the technology behind the WikiLeaks information.

The Masterpiece Classic 2011 titles have been announced. I'm pretty freaking excited about all of them, honestly.

The annual NYTimes list of 100 Notable Books of the year is out. I have read all of two of them so far. Oops? I should make a checklist. Maybe I'll try to read them all before next year's list comes out. That could be an interesting project . . .

Holiday Weekend Scandals

What happened to Opt Out Day, anyway?

Some Hindus want yoga back. Or want credit, at least. This seems completely reasonable to me.

Prince William has come out and said that his father should be the next king, which makes me happy, because all the "They're going to skip Charles" rumors just never made any sense to me at all.

Posted by Kat at 07:48 AM | Comments (0)

November 29, 2010

Gift Guides 2010: Time's Holiday Shopping Guide

Time's guide was the one I reviewed last year, so it seems appropriate to start with them this year. They seem to have dropped the charity aspect, so we just have "this year's coolest books, music, DVDs and gifts for every budget." Here we go!

Under $5

The Christmas Gig
What is it? A free 13-track download of holiday music by indie bands, from target.com. (Downloadable starting November 28.) No, I have no idea why it's called what it's called. Bands include Guster and, um, other people I've vaguely heard of.
How much? Free!
Who is it for? Broke hipsters.
What's wrong with it? Well, it's free. Which is fine, but since it's so obviously free, people might be offended if you give it to them as a "gift." This is the sort of thing I would certainly TELL my friends about - and I'm working on a "free holiday music" post so I'll add it to that, and likely download it myself - but I wouldn't call it a gift, exactly.
Grade: C-

"Norwegian Wood" on iTunes
What is it? A digital version of the song. (By the Beatles. But you knew that, right?)
How much? $1.29
Who is it for? They say you could give it as a "token" to a Beatles fan who undoubtedly has it already, but that seems dumb. And I'm not sure this is the best song to use to introduce the band to someone who isn't a fan. Hm. Actually, if you have a relative who has all the albums on vinyl and you're trying to convince them to try digital music, this might be a decent way to start.
What's wrong with it? As I said last year when they recommended a Darlene Love song, I'm skeptical of "giving" a one-song download. There's probably a way to buy it and send it to your friend's email address. (Okay, I finally gave in and looked, and there is a way.) But it still seems more like a nice friendly gesture than a gift, per se.
Grade: B for content, D for presentation


Decoy Gift Box
What is it? An empty box made to look like it's for a fake product like a USB toaster or an underwater cell phone case. (Wait, but those actually do exist.)
How much? $7.99 for one, $25 for 4, or $37.99 for 7
Who is it for? People who like gag gifts
What's wrong with it? Well, it's way more than I'd want to spend on a joke, but you may have someone on your list who would love this.
Grade: C

Glee: The Music, Vol. 4
What is it? An album of music from Glee.
How much? List price is $13.99, but you can find it cheaper in all sorts of places.
Who is it for? Glee fans, or maybe fans of Gwyneth Paltrow or Darren Criss, as their songs both made it onto this album.
What's wrong with it? Well, nothing, and I might actually put it on my Christmas list. I'd just check that your Glee fan doesn't already have it, because there's a lot of hype around these albums and people tend to pre-order or buy them on release day.
Grade: B+

I Live Real Close to Where You Used to Live
What is it? A book of kids' letters to Michelle, Malia, and Sasha Obama. Proceeds go to charity!
How much? $12
Who is it for? Kids, Obama fans, anyone into presidential memorabilia
What's wrong with it? Well, I would make sure I was aware of my recipient's (or his parents') political views before I gave this, so as not to offend, but that issue aside, this is a great gift!
Grade: A-

Let's Bring Back
What is it? A book of interesting things that have been forgotten, been made obsolete, or just fallen out of fashion. Examples: the automat, paper dolls, serenades, Mae West.
How much? $13.57
Who is it for? Nostalgic people; those into social history
What's wrong with it? Well, on a philosophical and political level, I tend to get annoyed at all the "The past was obviously better" stuff, but this book looks really fun and interesting and I certainly wouldn't mind receiving it!
Grade: B+

Atlas of Remote Islands
What is it? A book about isolated islands, with both narration and maps. It promises cannibalism and "macabre glee." SIGN ME UP.
How much? $18.48
Who is it for? ME. I WANT. Also, it would be an awesome gift for my professor who taught that Literature of Isolation and Exile class. Anyway, also good for people into maps and sea adventure stories, as well as amateur anthropologists, maybe.
What's wrong with it? NOTHING. Well, it looks kind of dark, so make sure you get it for someone who likes that sort of thing. But seriously, it looks awesome.
Grade: A

Water.org CamelBaks
What is it? A fancy water bottle. Proceeds go to charity.
How much? $18.99-$24.99
Who is it for? Hikers? People who work out a lot? These seem to be popular with college students at the moment, too. Also: Matt Damon fans (he endorsed them).
What's wrong with it? Well, it's a little expensive for a water bottle, but not unusually so, I guess. Trendy water bottles vaguely annoy me, but I actually can't articulate any reason why this would make a bad gift. Ooh, unless it's hard to clean. That tends to be my issue with water bottles and travel mugs.
Grade: B


Green Toys Fire Truck
What is it? A toy fire truck made of super-safe recycled plastic, safe for any child over one.
How much? $24.99
Who is it for? "The kid whose parents won't let him have anything." Children of overprotective ecoconscious hipsters.
What's wrong with it? Well, it's a little precious, and expensive for a toy truck that doesn't light up or make noise or do anything fun, but they're right. It is perfect for that precious little child who only eats organic baby carrots and isn't allowed to get dirty.
Grade: B

Community: The Complete First Season
What is it? DVD set of the (very funny) sitcom Community.
How much? $26.99, but it's been on sale practically everywhere for less.
Who is it for? People who like funny things. Joel McHale fans. Maybe people who work at or attend community colleges, if they can take a joke.
What's wrong with it? Well, it's a great show. But I always have issues with TV show seasons as gifts, unless they're specifically asked for, because otherwise there's a pretty good chance you've given the DVDs to someone who has never seen the show and might or might not be interested, OR you've given them to a fan who has seen every episode and may already have the DVDs. So . . . I wouldn't. But Community itself is probably the best sitcom on TV right now, so.
Grade: B-

Kiehl's Creme De Corps Holiday Collection
What is it? Lotions and stuff with labels by Jeff Koons. Proceeds go to charity.
How much? $27
Who is it for? People who like fancy bath and body stuff. Jeff Koons fans.
What's wrong with it? Actually, $27 isn't bad for nice lotion, and the interesting labels and charity aspect make this into a really nice gift! Just make sure your recipient can use scented stuff. (I have several people in my life who can't.)
Grade: A

What is it? 236 little magnetic metal balls. No, really.
How much? $29.99
Who is it for? Older kids or adults who like sciencey things or abstract toys or just interesting things to fiddle with.
What's wrong with it? These actually look pretty awesome. Just make sure you don't give them to kids with younger siblings who will eat them, because that would end badly.
Grade: A-

Electronic Spy Camera Shirt
What is it? A t-shirt with a picture of a spy - but his camera actually works.
How much? $39.99
Who is it for? Wannabe spies, people who like nifty gadgets.
What's wrong with it? Well, it's sort of for a niche audience, I guess, but it's pretty great.
Grade: A

iPod Shuffle
What is it? A postage-stamp sized iPod that holds 2GB of music, but has no screen and limited controls.
How much? $49
Who is it for? I'm . . . not sure. See below.
What's wrong with it? My feelings on this are complicated. I mean, first of all, OMG, you can get an iPod for under $50! We really are living in the future! Awesome! On the other hand, now that iPods and other mp3 players are so cheap, pretty much everyone who's serious about music (and wants one) has one. And I know I would be frustrated by the lack of a screen; I also sort of assume that makes it harder to navigate your music or control what you listen to, but I don't know that for sure. I think the two big categories of people who don't have mp3 players yet are little kids and older people who are wary of the technology. This would probably make a fine "my first iPod" for a kid. I'm less sure that it would be good for an older person, because of the aforementioned no-screen issue. (I'd probably spring for a Nano instead.)
Grade: C+

Disney Epic Mickey
What is it? A Wii game about Mickey Mouse that is hard to describe but sounds pretty cool. Battling evil! Forgotten Disney characters! The chance to play Mickey as heroic or self-serving!
How much? $49.99
Who is it for? Are you the sort of family that tries to do a "family gift" for everyone to play together? And has a Wii? If so, this would be perfect for you, as it promises that it's accessible to kids but also interesting for adults.
What's wrong with it? Very little, actually. Just make sure your recipient has a Wii and not some other gaming system.
Grade: A+

Slings and Arrows: The Complete Collection
What is it? All three seasons of the critically-acclaimed Canadian dramedy about a somewhat dysfunctional Shakespearean theater troupe.
How much? $49.99
Who is it for? ME. I've been meaning to Netflix this for years. Also, people who like critically-acclaimed dramedies. This might actually be good for people who watch a lot of British TV and need some new things to try, because it sounds like it's in roughly the same vein as a lot of popular British shows, but since it's Canadian, they might not have seen it.
What's wrong with it? This is one of those things that's for a bit of a niche audience, but for that audience, it's perfect. And my usual reservations about TV on DVD as gifts are somewhat lessened here, because a) this hasn't been shown on American TV (I don't think) so it's less likely that people have seen it and b) it's the whole series rather than one season.
Grade: B+


Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit
What is it? A racing game. I think it's the kind with lots of crashing.
How much? $49.95-$59.95, depending on platform.
Who is it for? Teen and twenty-something guys, mostly.
What's wrong with it? Well, if you have someone on your list who likes this sort of thing (and either has parents who don't mind it or is old enough that Mom's opinion doesn't matter), this is probably a good choice. Make sure you get the right version, and if you're getting it for a real fan I'd check that they didn't buy it themselves on release day.
Grade: B

The Making of The Empire Strikes Back
What is it? A gigantic book about, uh, the making of The Empire Strikes Back.
How much? $50.68
Who is it for? Star Wars fans, movie buffs, people who like "behind the scenes" stuff.
What's wrong with it? It's a little expensive, but it sounds really interesting.
Grade: B+

40: A Doonesbury Retrospective
What is it? A book with 1,400 comic strips, essays, and more.
How much? $63
Who is it for? Doonesbury fans, presumably. Leftists. People who like comics.
What's wrong with it? Well, I am not really a person who likes comics. I mean, I don't dislike them, but if someone was going to spend $63 on books for me, I can think of many, many titles I'd pick over this. But for people who do like comics (and aren't going to be offended by the strip's political position), this looks neat.
Grade: C+

The Larry Sanders Show: The Complete Series
What is it? A DVD set of this comedy set behind the scenes at a late-night talk show.
How much? $98.49
Who is it for? Fans of the show who don't have it on DVD yet. People intrigued by all the late-night drama in the news the past year (with Team Coco et al.).
What's wrong with it? Confession: I had no idea what this show was until I read this description, which makes it sound like the Sports Night of late night. Now I kind of want to watch it (although probably not own it). But my usual caveats about TV on DVD apply.
Grade: B-

The Pacific
What is it? WWII miniseries; follow-up to Band of Brothers
How much? $56.99
Who is it for? Band of Brothers fans. WWII buffs. This will probably be one of the season's most popular Dad/Grandfather/Random Hard-to-Buy-for Uncle gifts.
What's wrong with it? Well, I certainly wouldn't kick it out from under the Christmas tree. I guess it's probably pretty violent, so that's something to keep in mind. Oh, and this link seems to be specifically for the Blu-ray; unless you're sure your recipient has a Blu-ray player I'd just go for the DVD.
Grade: B+


75 Years Of DC Comics: The Art Of Modern Mythmaking
What is it? Okay, I said that Star Wars book was gigantic, but this is really gigantic: 15 pounds, 720 pages, of DC Comics (Superman, Batman, etc.). Plus some annotations and such.
How much? $126
Who is it for? Fans of comics, superheroes, or the history of pop art.
What's wrong with it? This looks like a beautiful gift, if you have a comics fan and $126 to spend.
Grade: A-

Microsoft Kinect
What is it? A thing to add to your Xbox to be able to play games with no controller - it uses a camera and your body movement.
How much? $199 with two games
Who is it for? Like the Wii, this is probably mostly for less-serious gamers who want to do dancing and sports type things. And already have an Xbox.
What's wrong with it? Well, make sure the recipient has an Xbox - it doesn't work by itself. And make sure they actually want to play the kind of games this uses, or it's a waste of money. But I saw a demonstration of it on TV and it was pretty nifty.
Grade: B-

Lost: The Complete Collection
What is it? Complete DVDs of the show, plus some extras and interesting packaging.
How much? $148.99
Who is it for? Lost fans who aren't quite fanatic enough to have bought this already.
What's wrong with it? Well, my usual TV on DVD issues apply, especially with a show so ridiculously popular and well-known as this. But I hear that this set is pretty neat, so if you do have a Lost fan on your list, this would be great!
Grade: B-

The Rolling Stones Limited Edition Remastered Vinyl Box Sets
What is it? Boxed sets of remastered Rolling Stones records. Yes, on vinyl.
How much? $277.27 for 1964-1969, $296.90 for 1971-2005.
Who is it for? People you really really like who really really like the Stones.
What's wrong with it? I mean, I like the Rolling Stones as well as anyone. At first I thought this was a remastered CD set, and I could get behind that idea, but . . . Really? Almost $600 for vinyl? I mean, fine, if you have a lot of money to spend on a vinyl purist. But most of us don't.
Grade: C-

Posted by Kat at 07:54 PM | Comments (3)

MORNING CHEER (11/29/10)

Good morning and happy Monday! We're at that point at which we're just past Thanksgiving and it seems like it's time for Christmas, but then comes the realization that we have another four weeks of work to get through first. Sigh. So let's have some nice mellow music to get us through this Monday morning back at work:

I don't know much about this blog in general, so I'm not endorsing their overall program or anything, but a friend sent me the link to this list of things to do now to get ready for Christmas and it has some good ideas.

This Morning Edition story about a gay Marine discharged under Don't Ask, Don't Tell was very interesting.

Leslie Nielsen has died, and here's where I admit that I've never seen any of his movies. I know, I know. I shall Netflix Airplane posthaste.

NPR is doing a Christmas Carol-themed series on the deficit. I love NPR.

Posted by Kat at 08:19 AM | Comments (0)

November 28, 2010

Brunch-time CHEER

It's not technically morning anymore; I'm sorry. But hey, it's Sunday, so we'll call it brunch! It's been a busy morning at my parents' house and now I'm getting ready to head home this afternoon. I'm thinking "Home for the Holidays," with its mention of traffic issues, is good for days on which I'll be driving a lot. Are there other songs about traffic, or should I just use different versions of this one? Hmm.

Three good links from Apartment Therapy:
Goblets for the Holidays (Slightly random, I know, but I love goblets.)
Last Minute Things to Do before you entertain
Setting Up a Beautiful and Efficient Buffet

Posted by Kat at 12:37 PM | Comments (0)

November 27, 2010

Dickens' Village!

I set up my Department 56 Dickens' Village yesterday. I usually set it up at my parents' house, since that's where I actually have Christmas, and since they entertain more, so people will see it, and since they have no cat to knock it all over. This year, we decided to put it on the hutch in their kitchen, and I like the result:

Dickens Village

The problem with using the hutch is that there's nowhere to hide the cords, so Mom decided they would look better if I braided them. Let's just hope they don't need to take it down in a hurry for some reason. (Mom's response to that comment? "Like what? If the Nazis come?")


Here's a blurry picture taken with no flash so you can see how pretty it looks all lit up:

Dickens Village

And if you'd like to see close-up pictures of the various pieces, click here.

Posted by Kat at 12:32 PM | Comments (2)

Alert! ALERT! Beck's Oprah post!

Yes, this one link is enough to warrant its own post from me, because I've been looking forward to it all year. My friend Beck reviews Oprah's holiday gift suggestions each year, and last year her post was hilarious and wonderful enough to prompt me to get into the gift guide review thing. And look! Here's Beck on Oprah's list this year!

Posted by Kat at 08:38 AM | Comments (0)

MORNING CHEER (11/27/10)

Good morning! Welcome to your first edition of MORNING CHEER! The dog (my parents' dog) and I are the only ones up, and he's gazing at me adoringly, which is nice, but he's kind of stinky. Anyway! You need a morning song! I promise I won't use Glee music every day, but we've been decorating my parents' house, and I love their version of "Deck the Halls" . . .

A few Thanksgiving-specific links I didn't manage to post before Thanksgiving:
Where to Buy Last-Minute Thanksgiving Pie in New York
What all the food magazines are pushing this year.
The women of Slate on mothers and holiday cooking traditions. (Warning: This made me cry.)
I know I already recommended this Awl series in general, but this apple pie recipe reads like some sort of cross of Spencer Ackerman and Jay McInerney, and it's completely hilarious and now I want to make pie. (The pie crust article it links to is pretty great too.)
Backstage at the Macy's Parade

These were written for Thanksgiving but will work for the whole month of holiday events to come. Want to win all the arguments at the holiday dinner tables? Slate and Foreign Policy have you covered.

Happy news! The early, out-of-print novels of Rafael Yglesias are now available as ebooks.

Looking for a movie to see with family or friends over the holidays? TWoP has you covered.

Annie Lowrey visits the offices of one of the companies that makes those airport scanners everyone's talking about.

Which books are Penguin authors giving and hoping to get this year?

I liked the Avalon High movie better than the folks at Forever Young Adult did, but their take on it is hilarious regardless.

Not quite feeling the holiday spirit? This is for you.

Ten Things I Hate About Slideshows [A Slideshow]

Posted by Kat at 08:32 AM | Comments (0)

November 26, 2010


Thanksgiving is officially over, and I'm more or less ignoring Black Friday, which means . . .

Time for CHEER! A few of you have asked exactly what I mean by that. Basically, it's short for Christmas cheer or holiday cheer, but this particular usage of "cheer," and the spreading of, originated, I believe, with author Maureen Johnson. You can read her blog posts on the subject here.

So this year, I will be following her lead and devoting the blog to spreading CHEER from now until New Year's. I have a variety of plans, and have outlined them below, but if you have any CHEER REQUESTS, please let me know! What would make YOUR holiday season more CHEERful?

1. Holiday cards for all! Yes, the real, paper kind. If I don't have your address, email me! And most of the cards I have are secular Christmas cards, so if you'd be offended by that, please mention. I have a few Hannukah cards left, plus some non-holiday winter CHEER cards and some religious Christmas cards.

2. MORNING CHEER. This will be like Morning Coffee, but different. I will give you a holiday song to listen to each morning, plus, if I have time, some links and general commentary.

3. Gift Guide Extravaganza!
3a. Remember the gift guide review I wrote last year? (Did I only do one? I thought there were others. Hm.) Anyway, I'm going to try to do a few this year.
3b. And I will write my own gift guides! Definitely a few about books for various demographics, and maybe some other stuff.
3c. I will also write you PERSONALIZED GIFT GUIDES. I did some gift coaching on Twitter last year and enjoyed it, so I'm going to put it here this year. I can recommend books for practically anyway, and can do music or movies or other stuff for some people. So send me the specifics of your hard-to-shop-for person (at least age, gender, any known interests, whatever else you want to tell me) and I will suggest things. Also, let me know if I can answer publicly here or if you just want an email back.

4. Music! I have very definite opinions on holiday music, and I will be sharing them. Lucky you. I will give you at least one iMix for iTunes users, and probably some album suggestions here. (If I see you in person, I am also liable to start shoving CDs at you, as Caitlin and Bobby can attest.)

5. Lists! I love lists. I'm working on a list of favorite holiday movies and one of holiday books. Any other lists you'd like?

6. Recipes! There will be baking. You'll get a recipe or two.

7. Answers! I know a lot of random holiday stuff, and I love research, so if you have QUESTIONS about holiday history, traditions, etc., let me know! Or about what I do for holidays, or, I don't know, whatever. I also give pretty good advice, so if you have a weird holiday situation with your family or friends or something, I'd be happy to give an opinion.

That's all the categories of CHEER I can think of right now. Do you have others I should add? Tell me!

Posted by Kat at 10:58 AM | Comments (1)

November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Cooking and Macy's Parade Liveblog!

8:39: Good morning! On NBC, we're having the kind of odd cultural moment of cutting back and forth between soldiers in Afghanistan talking to their families - and making me teary, Martha Stewart cooking a turkey, and Al Roker at the parade talking to Jessica Simpson. Also, I'm not sure whether to be pleased or ashamed that I recognized Jessica Simpson. I'm going to try to get in a shower before the parade itself starts, and then I'll start cooking . . .

9:07: Just got back downstairs and had the following conversation.
Dad: It just started! This is the first routine.
Me: Oh, good, thanks.
Dad: Everyone from Kanye West to Arlo Guthrie is going to be in this parade!
Me: Wow.
Dad: This is a dance troupe of sure-footed kids from around the country.
Me: Did they say that or is that your word?
Dad: No, they said that.
So. Everyone, thank Dad for keeping us informed while I was in the shower! And now I shall start my gravy.

9:12: Oh, hi, Jason Ritter! You're pretty.

9:16: I want Meredith's sparkly coat. Ooh, the Broadway performances are always my favorite part, although I've heard mixed things about Memphis. But this song seemed fine, if unexceptional. And the performers did a good job of performing out in the street in the cold, which is sometimes iffy. (Not that they're singing live. But still. Sometimes it looks really dumb.)

9:20: If you were wondering, Terrence Howard's new gig on LOLA is making him appreciate law. And presumably order. Ooh, American Idiot!

9:24: Oh. I was hoping they'd do the song "American Idiot," or maybe "Holiday," but I guess "Time of Your Life" is better for the general TV audience. It was fine. Oooh, Christmas Coke commercial! I think that's the first one I've seen this season. I love those. I think I need more coffee. Almost all my vegetables for my gravy are prepped, so I'm starting the broth.

9:29: Marching bands: yay! Spongebob: Meh. (Still? Really? We're not over him yet?) And I usually like Million Dollar Quartet but this medley seems oddly unenergetic.

9:35: I don't think I approve of a capella versions of U2. Dad and I are watching the turkey while Mom's at work. Dad: "I heard juices forming! Let's see if we can baste." Nope. Not yet.

9:40: Oh dear. Outsourced. I was afraid of this. And no, Al Roker, it is not literally a fish out of water comedy. Not unless they've added real fish. Actually, now that I think about it, that might be an improvement. My gravy is at the point at which it simmers for 45 minutes, so let's see if I can get my roasted vegetables started in that time.

9:42: SUMMER GLAU!!!!! Yes, I will watch The Cape for her. At least for a few episodes.

9:44: I still haven't managed to see the whole movie of Elf, but I can't say I've heard anything good about the show.

9:49: That number went on forever. I got vegetables out of the basement and went upstairs to find a hair elastic and when I got back it was still going. Now we're on a St. Jude's commercial, and since when does Robin Williams have a mustache? And does he have an excuse?

9:50: If you had told me 20 years ago that, when I grew up, there would be American Girl commercial on TV, I would have been ecstatic.

9:53: Aw, the Rockettes! What can I say; I like tradition.

9:59: The parade itself! I love when the marching bands do traditional stuff, and especially New York themed stuff, so good job, Purdue! Ooh, the parade is getting a new executive producer next year, and I'm probably a dork for caring, but I do. Snoopy!!

10:01: Tom Turkey! WITH ALTON BROWN! Speaking of, our actual turkey is looking a little dry. Hmm. I have never heard of this "top recording artist," fwiw, and I listen to awful Top 40 radio all the time.

10:04: I'm not sure how I feel about these "feminist" Barbie commercials. But now I'm wondering the odds of being home in time for this Taylor Swift special tonight. So make of that what you will.

10:06: Arlo Guthrie's doing "This Land Is Your Land"!!!! Yay.

10:07: I was going to be mad that they cut away from Guthrie, but it was for Kermit, so. "Rainbow Connection"!

10:14: I got distracted because of a basting emergency, but yay, Sesame Street! The turkey was looking dry but there weren't enough juices to baste effectively, so we poured some melted butter over the top. Can't hurt, right? Dad: "As we learned from Julie and Julia, butter is pretty much the solution to everything, right?"

10:19: I love the high school bands. And I also love Jimmy Fallon, although I have a whole list of issues with this song he's doing. ("Do They Know It's Christmas?") Oh, but is it a medley? That would be better. Really, now I want to watch his Emmy opener again.

10:22: Ronald McDonald. Enh. Ooh, but I like the Mount Rushmore float! Wait, it's carrying Mannheim Steamroller? Um, okay. Their music doesn't seem very paradey, does it?

10:29: I assume that Despicable Me thing would have made more sense if I'd seen the movie. Did Miranda Cosgrove even sing? I like her. Oh, Mickey! Nice to see NBC and Disney/ABC can unite in the name of profit. And, um, holiday cheer. I think they just said something about pizza but I missed it.

10:35: Dad on the frightening mob of hundreds of cheerleaders: "Dear God, they're all smiling!" And on the ridiculous "medley" with ten seconds of each song: "This is like the works of Shakespeare in 60 seconds." We take our surfing music seriously around here.

10:37: Oh. Spongebob. He's still the #1 animated program? Wow.

10:39: Who's that singing? Is that a pirate ship? What's going on? Dad: "Oh, it's the Singing Pirates!" My roasted vegetables are almost ready to roast, by the way.

10:45: That Native American/Country thing was fine, I guess. I am deeply unsure about this marching band version of Black Eyed Peas stuff, though. My vegetables are in the oven! Time to strain the gravy.

10:57: A bunch of things went by while I managed to spill gravy all over the kitchen. Hello Kitty! Kylie Minogue! Shrek! Now we're on some sort of princesses of questionable quality.

11:06: Uh, I totally had something to say and then my aunt called and I forgot. I don't think there's been anything wildly exciting on the parade, though. Oh, Power Rangers! I didn't know they were still around. Is it just me or does the parade seem front-loaded this year?

11:10: I know some people get very excited about Pokemon. I am not one of those people.

11:13: Tap dancers! That's more like it.

11:14: Gladys Knight! WHERE ARE THE PIPS?

11:18: Oh, here's Kanye finally. I was beginning to suspect that my father was lying to me about his promised appearance. I will admit that I've heard so many good things about his new album that I'm actually considering buying it.

11:23: There's Horton, presumably hearing a Who. Meanwhile, my dad ran to the store for gravy mix so I tried to baste the turkey and discovered that my mom has the most counterintuitive turkey baster ever.

11:27: And Folgers commercials continue to make me cry. If you were wondering.

11:40: Jessica Simpson just sang a song that was probably the closest she could get to "All I Want for Christmas Is You" without actually being sued. Right down to the drum part. Now someone is singing "Blue Skies," which is much better.

11:47: "We Need a Little Christmas." "My Favorite Things." Nice choices. SMURFS!!!! Where's Ausiello?

11:55: My brother started playing the drum set, so I can't actually hear anything. Sorry! Balloons! Dancers!

11:57: And here's Santa! Yay! Time to go read Miracle on 34th Street! (Not really. I'm still cooking.)

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone!

Posted by Kat at 08:39 AM | Comments (2)

November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving Eve from Dewey!

Hello! I have various links and thoughts for you, but I've run out of time, so for now you're just getting a picture of a certain someone who tried to stow away in my suitcase:

Thanksgiving stowaway! on Twitpic

Apparently he wants to go to Connecticut, and I had to remind him of how much he didn't like the car ride last time he went to Connecticut. And there wasn't even any traffic then. So! Speaking of traffic, wish me luck!

Posted by Kat at 09:21 AM | Comments (1)

November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving! Politics! Fun of all sorts!

Good evening! How are you? I am tired but not very sleepy, and I hate that combination, because I actually have time to sleep at the moment. Oh well. I am tired because I worked approximately forever tonight - about four extra hours - so I can leave early on Wednesday. And I need to leave early on Wednesday because . . .

Thanksgiving Plans

Remember my cousin Liz? You have heard her thoughts on hand lotion and Gossip Girl and maybe some other things. Anyway, she's home for Thanksgiving, so obviously I must see her. I'm going to leave work around two on Wednesday and drive to a pretty little town outside of Boston to have dinner with Liz and her parents and brother, and wait out the worst (I hope) of rush hour. Then later in the evening I'll head to my parents' house in Connecticut, so I will be there to wake up early Thursday morning to cook* and watch the parade and liveblog. We're having dinner at one aunt's house, but since I don't get home that often I want to see the other side of the family too, so I'll be driving to another aunt's house for dessert. And then back to my parents' house for a few days. Lots of driving, but I have convinced myself that that is PART OF THE FUN. Right?

I realized today that one of the reasons why I love Thanksgiving and Christmas is that people suddenly start publishing SCHEDULES ALL OVER THE PLACE and no one thinks they're nuts. Here's one. For my fellow vegetarians: Serious Eats has vegetarian main dish options, and Maureen Johnson tweets her vegetarian gravy-making process.

* I have apparently decided that I didn't actually have enough cooking to do, because I think I'm going to add Maureen Johnson's vegetarian gravy to the list. My mom has to work Thursday morning, and she said I can do what I want in the kitchen while she's gone, so it shouldn't be a problem. Right, Mom? :)

The Campaign Never Ends

Miss campaign season already? Would an Angle campaign postmortem cheer you up? Here you go. And here's an awful ad the campaign never aired.

Meanwhile, Vice President Biden tries and fails to keep a straight face while discussing Palin's 2012 prospects.

Slate's updates from the President's Facebook feed are hilarious as always.

I was going to make some "Ezra Klein makes everything political" joke, but he doesn't, and charity really is, so. Just read the column.

Other Stuff
(I know that's a nondescript subject heading. Shut up; I'm tired.)

Shep Smith goes deep on car chases.

On the anniversary of Kennedy's assassination, The Atlantic brings us myths about the conspiracy debate.

Salon rounds up the worst columnists and commentators in America.

Carina and Tierney are basically IN MY BRAIN with this list of casting suggestions for Klaus on The Vampire Diaries.

Posted by Kat at 11:07 PM | Comments (0)

November 21, 2010

Massive Weekend Link Roundup!

Hello! Now that I've made my word count, I can get back to doing things like dishes and laundry and showing you links. But first, let's going to discuss some things that will be going on around here . . .

Preview of Coming Attractions

In general, I'm really enjoying writing fewer, longer posts, so I am going to stick with that for now. Subject to change in the future, of course. On the other hand, I know some of you are missing Morning Coffee. Starting after Thanksgiving, we will have Morning Cheer each morning through December. That will have at LEAST a holiday song for you, and hopefully some links and stuff too. Once we hit January, I'll try to do Morning Coffee most days.

On Thanksgiving: I will be live-blogging the Macy's Parade, my cooking adventures, and possibly my annual argument with my brother about whether the parade is worth watching! So you have that to look forward to. Or dread. Whichever.

On Black Friday, this blog will become THE CHEER FACTORY. I have a whole list of ways I will be spreading CHEER in December, and you'll get a list that day. (And if you have ideas or requests, let me know!) A few have asked what CHEER means. Basically, it's short for holiday cheer or Christmas cheer. I'll explain a little more about why I'm using it that way soon.

Things to Watch

Alec Baldwin has done some weirdly sincere commercials for Wegmans. No one seems to really understand why. Now, Wegmans is great and I wish I had one near me, but . . . huh?

If you like tea or Nora Ephron or Maureen Johnson's Free Monkey stories or funny things, you must watch this.

Red Riding Hood: This could be amazing or awful. I can't decide. (And, yes, it looks an awful lot like Twilight, but that doesn't necessarily bother me.)
Jane Eyre: Just going with COMPLETELY AWESOME on this one.

William and Kate Forever!

As if the engagement weren't enough, William also rescued a guy on Snowdon the other day.

Anglophiles in America are pretty excited about the whole thing. Uh, yes. I could have told you that.

If Kate someday becomes queen, she'll be the first British queen to have attended college.

One of the funniest thing's I've ever read, about Will's college friend Jules.

Thanksgiving Links!

Jezebel has had a few good ones: what to wear, how to survive Thanksgiving with your family, how to properly feed your guests who have food restrictions and other issues.

The Awl has a great series of essays called The Real American Thanksgiving Cookbook.

The weird evolutionary story of cranberries

Other interesting things:

Read Housewives of God and then think about what it means when Palin calls herself a housewife. Meanwhile: Inside Sarah Palin's Inner Circle.

Daniel Day-Lewis is going to be Lincoln in Spielberg's biopic. Huh. Okay.

Apparently the Times is as confused by the Cathie Black appointment as the rest of us, because they put FOURTEEN reporters on a three-page profile.

Here's some info on a bunch of shows in development for next year.

The Royal Society's Lost Women Scientists

Posted by Kat at 08:25 PM | Comments (0)


Or, to be more precise, 50,031. Yes. I'm done with NaNoWriMo. Yay! I feel like I should do something to celebrate, but I've been basically staring at my computer in a stupor for the twenty minutes since I finished. So. Actually, what I'm going to do in just a little bit is write you a big roundup of a bunch of good links I've been collecting this week. And maybe give you a little preview of coming attractions, now that I'm done worrying about NaNo and can really concentrate on CHEER. Yay!

Posted by Kat at 12:21 PM | Comments (4)

November 18, 2010


Good evening! Exciting news: I located a new coffee-and-sandwiches type place that is independent AND open past four in the afternoon! You wouldn't think this would be a huge issue but it is, around here. I needed a dinner on the go tonight and got a tasty sandwich. (They actually have no vegetarian sandwiches on the menu, but they were happy to just make a sandwich with whatever I wanted on it.) On Friday mornings I usually let myself go to Starbucks as a reward for making it through the week, but I think tomorrow I will try a latte from this new place instead. And maybe see how their bagels are. This IS New Hampshire. I'm not expecting much. (Oh, look, they have a Web site.)

I suppose you want that advice on things like MOTIVATION and REWARDS I promised yesterday, though, huh? Okay. I think the advice tonight all falls under the rough category of "actually getting all 50,000 words in." I mean, I guess yesterday's was sort of about that too, but this is more direct. Or something.

1. Keep track of your word count progress as you go. It's satisfying watching the numbers stack up. There are various ways to do this - anything from just a list of daily word counts in a notebook to complicated Excel "Report Cards." But regardless of what else you use, I do suggest that you update your word count on the NaNoWriMo site. They'll make you a pretty bar graph of your daily progress, and also generate some other statistics (more on that later). How often to update your count? Whatever, really. Some prefer to only do it after one writing session. I do it much more frequently so I can obsessively monitor the statistics and be encouraged by the graph.

This year I also have an item within my document in which I'm recording my ending word count each day, just so I have that record in a place other than the NaNo site.

2. Use the NaNo Stats page. (You can find this on the "My NaNoWriMo" section of the NaNo site. Last tab to the right.) It offers the aforementioned shiny bar graph, as well as a bunch of other helpful things. The "today" section is based on a daily goal of 1667 - the minimum average per day you have to do to get to 50,000 in 30 days - and shows you how many words you've written and how many you have left. But I actually find the "total" section more helpful. It shows you how many words you need to get to the day's minimum target, so I find it soothing to keep this at 0 by always staying at least a day ahead. I generally try to write until my word count for the day is higher than my average words per day, which is a fun little mind trick because, of course, the daily average increases as your daily word count increases. And I have been loving the "words per day to finish on time," because watching that drop is really encouraging.

3. If you're having trouble keeping your momentum going, stop in the middle of scenes. Really. It's much easier to start up again the next writing session if it's obvious what the next line should be.

4. Friendly competition can help, but keep it friendly. I will admit that I almost stopped writing when I hit 2000 words this morning (my usual goal), but then I realized that I was only about 500 words behind the person on my Writing Buddies page with the highest word count, so I kept going until I had a higher count than any of my buddies. (It only lasted for about an hour, but it was satisfying.) On the other hand, you'll probably have a friend or two who has a lot of free time or writes really quickly or something, and they'll always be way ahead of you, and it will be tempting to let this make you feel like a failure even if you're not actually behind. RESIST.

5. Make a realistic assessment of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is tricky, because reactions to it can range from "Yay, an extra long weekend I can spend writing!" to "OMG, it's a black hole of traveling and relatives that will suck away all my writing time and possibly my will to live." I have been in both positions. One year, I hosted Thanksgiving instead of traveling, but it was only for four people and three of us were writing, so they didn't expect much. And that meant I could spend Saturday (I think I worked on Friday) writing all day, and the Saturday after Thanksgiving was actually the 30th that year. I was behind and wrote ten or twelve thousand words in a marathon while eating leftover Chex mix. Good times. On the other hand, this year I have a fairly busy Thanksgiving week, so I'm planning to get to 50,000 this weekend so I don't even have to worry about it (although I'll try to keep writing each morning, even if only a little). Either way is workable; just think about it ahead of time and plan accordingly.

6. Write out a word count checklist each day. This takes a little time at the beginning of your writing session, but it's definitely worth it, at least for me. There are various ways to do this. A few years ago, I wrote out instructions for the formula I was using at the time. I still really like that system. This year, though, I've been going a little simpler: I write a list of all the even 100s between my current word count and my goal, and add in the number for (my word count + 1667) (the minimum; my goal is 2000), as well as any daily word minimum goals that fall within the range (so 1667, 3334, etc.). Conveniently enough, the notebook I'm using has exactly as many lines as are required for that, so it's all nice and neat. The basic idea here is to give yourself a ton of really teeny goals that you can CROSS OFF as you reach them. The crossing off part is important, and extremely satisfying. This is all basically mind tricks, but I write so much more quickly when I do this.

7. Reward yourself! I actually prefer to call this bribing myself, because it sounds so much more sordid and dramatic. Someone in my writing group tonight said that she hadn't been rewarding herself, and we all gasped in horror and immediately concluded that this was why she felt her novel wasn't going well. You can set rewards at all sorts of milestones, and they can be whatever you want. Food is good for smaller milestones. I don't let myself eat breakfast until I've written 1000 words. A friend tonight said "I get 3 chocolate chips every 100 words," and I'm honestly not sure whether she was joking, but hey, sounds like a plan! Daily rewards can also include walks, showers, breaks to read or watch TV, whatever. I haven't yet gotten to the point this year when I start "allowing" myself to do chores as rewards, but hey, maybe this weekend! (I'm rather behind on dishes.)

Big rewards can also be good, either at the end or at a few big milestones in the middle. This year, I'm not letting myself watch Christmas movies until I hit 50,000, and I ordered a few new ones (well, old favorites that I didn't have on DVD) that will be sitting next to the computer mocking encouraging me all weekend.

So . . . I think that's all my NaNoWriMo advice. At least for now. Off the top of my head. But if you have QUESTIONS or other things you would like me to address, comment away and I will write a follow-up!

Posted by Kat at 11:20 PM | Comments (0)

November 17, 2010

Some NaNoWriMo Advice, Part One

We're over halfway through the month! Everyone surviving? I am still feeling chipper about the whole deal, and honestly, the longer I go setting my alarm for five, the more I like getting up so early. I know, I'm weird. Anyway, I've been answering some questions and giving some tips on Twitter, so I thought I'd pull some of them into a post. I'm not claiming I'm a great expert or anything, but I've done this a bunch of times, and God knows I have opinions on everything. And some of you even asked questions!

So I have settled in with a fruit smoothie and quality Food Network Thanksgiving programming to answer your questions and generally tell you some things that have worked, for me. (They are showing me a turducken. I am disturbed.) So first . . .

My NaNoWriMo Rules

1. Most importantly: Ignore all advice if you want to. Yes, even what I'm saying here. The only rules that actually matter are the official ones: You must write 50,000 words in November. It must be fiction. It must be a new work, not something previously started. I know people sometimes break these rules, and frankly, that drives me nuts. If you're doing something other than writing a new piece of fiction, that's fine, but it's not NaNoWriMo. But anyway. My point was that people will tell you a lot of things you "have" to do other than those basic rules - Outline! Don't edit! Don't reread! - and you should feel free to ignore all that.

2. Define your goal. Are you literally just trying to see if you can produce 50,000 words in a month? Or are you trying to produce something that you can eventually turn into something publishable? EITHER OF THESE OPTIONS IS FINE. Really. For my first few years, I concentrated on the former, but this year its the latter. It doesn't really matter which you pick, but it helps to know, because some of the wackier techniques, like randomly inserting ninjas or something, work better if you're just trying to write 50,000 words of anything.

3. Figure out your optimal writing circumstances. You won't always be able to create them on demand, but it helps to know. Do you write best at home? Out somewhere? Alone? With people? Morning? Late at night? I've found things go so much more easily when I make time to write in my optimal circumstances and don't try to force myself to write at other times. (Again, this will not always work, and you need to be flexible. I am lucky that my best time is before anyone else is awake, so it never conflicts with anything.)

4. Don't worry too much about the peripherals. The forums can be great. Local gatherings can be great. But don't feel like you have to do all that, if you don't want to and/or don't find it helpful. I've been pretty much ignoring the forums this year, and really, it's fine. (If you do like the forums, I'd recommend trying to get your daily word count in before visiting them, or they might suck up all your writing time.)

5. Similarly, don't get too caught up in the silly stuff. There's all sorts of stuff on the forums that's designed to be inspirational - challenges, adopt-a-plot, trading characters, whatever - but I've never been wild about that for a few reasons. Firstly, trying to cram random stuff in can backfire and send your book off the rails. And keeping track of it all can get time-consuming and just distracting. (Full disclosure: I did take a few requests of this sort this year, from specific people, not the forums. A friend told me to include someone named Spencer, and that was easy enough, because I have two whole schools of people to name. Another friend asked for a grocer named Telemachus, and I already had an unnamed grocer, so fine. And my cousin, upon hearing that I had my characters reading the late lamented Gourmet, asked for House and Garden to be resurrected too, so I'll probably mention that at some point.)

6. Know what you can let go. By definition, if you're spending x amount of time writing your novel in November, you are taking those x hours away from something else. It helps if you can articulate what that something is. This year, for example, I have been cooking less, blogging less (obviously, although I'm kind of like this new format of fewer, longer entries, and might keep it up), and watching less TV. I've also more or less given up any pretense of getting to work on time, but I'm lucky enough to have a very understanding boss, and my job is such that it doesn't really matter which hours I'm there as long as I'm there for forty hours. So your mileage may vary on that one, and really, think about your situation before emulating me there.

Your Questions!

Here are the questions you all asked . . .

"What about resources for NaNo participants such as where to find writing prompts, organizational tools, apps for phones, etc..."

Honestly, for me, most of this falls into the category of "peripherals" so I don't pay much attention to it. But let's see. Writing prompts? I, um, actually hate writing prompts, especially when I'm working on something longer like a novel, because they usually mean I have to add in something I don't want to add in, and I'm too much of a control freak for that. Writing prompts are unexpected and mess things up and obviously I have a hard time handling this. But if you do like this sort of thing, for reasons I can't fathom, try the Word Wars, Prompts & Sprints forum. Organizational tools: I am using Scrivener this year, and it has changed my life. No joke. It lets you organize and write in the same place, and it's amazing, and I will devote a whole post to this soon. There are lots of places where you can find word count graphs and progress reports and stuff, but I've been really enjoying keeping things simple and using the tracker and stats page on the NaNoWriMo site. More about that tomorrow.

"What does one do when you're writing along and all of a sudden you hate your characters and plot and think it's all crap?"

I'm going to focus on the first part of this, because the next question is also about thinking it's all crap. (Apparently it's an epidemic.) When you all of a sudden hate your characters and plot, it's usually for one of two reasons, or maybe a combination. It's possible that you are stuck on some particular point or issue, and you might not even be consciously aware, but you need to solve the problem before you can like your novel again. It's also possible that you've just been spending too much time with your characters and you're sick of them, they way you can get sick of even your closest friends when you're together for days on end.

In either of these cases, I recommend taking a break from the particular bit of the novel you're working on. If you have time to take an actual break, great. Take a walk. Take a shower. (I often figure out difficult plot things in the shower.) Read a book. But if you don't have time to take a break and just need to get your word count in, there are a few things you can do. If you hate your plot and characters, why not describe things? Houses! Houses are great to describe. So are school curricula. Or the way your character's office works. Or have your character go on a walk and describe their neighborhood. Basically, write things in which you are not trying to progress the action - since you're stuck with that - but which still fit in with the rest and help you get to know your novel better. You can generate thousands of words this way. You may end up cutting some of them later - after November - but it's actually all stuff that's helpful for you to know. And if you're still stuck? Write out of order. I do it all the time, and it's so much easier. And often writing a completely different scene will help me figure out what went wrong in the first place and made me start hating everything.

"How do you move forward when you think everything you've just written is crap?"

Ignore it. Really. The only way to stop writing crap is to keep writing, and eventually if you practice enough it will start getting better. When you can't stand looking at what you've written anymore, just go on to a new scene. If it makes you feel better, change the font of the part you don't like to a really bright color so your subconscious knows you will be able to go back and fix it later, and then stop worrying about it. Concentrate on the next thing you're writing.

But on the other hand . . .

"And how do you resist the urge to edit?"

Don't. Why would you? Why resist this urge? Seriously. This is one of those NaNoWriMo "rules" people talk about all the time, but it is not a rule and, frankly, I think it's nonsense. The idea is that some people never get anywhere with their writing because they keep editing the same bits over and over again in some sort of endless loop. And for people with this specific problem, not letting themselves edit is undoubtedly helpful when their goal is word count. But not everyone has this problem, and it certainly should not be a universal rule. If anything, I have the opposite issue: if I know I'm not going to be able to edit, I get paralyzed and don't manage to write anything at all. It all comes back to understanding yourself and how you work, and not trusting other people's "rules" over your own instincts.

And, look, if you're worried about this, compromise. Make yourself get to your work count for the day, and then edit. Actually, if you're really worried, make yourself get ahead by 500 words or something to compensate for any words you might delete in the editing process. It all comes down to figuring out what works for you.

I have more to say about MOTIVATION and REWARDS, but that will have to wait for Part Two tomorrow, because I am starting to fall asleep as I write this. Good night!

Posted by Kat at 11:45 PM | Comments (1)

November 16, 2010

The Royal Engagement, plus some neat songs I heard recently

Happy Tuesday! I am listening to the Glee Christmas album (which is amazing and wonderful, by the way) and drinking cocoa and generally feeling festive. And I just noticed that the milk I bought tonight doesn't expire until January 4, so wow, the end of the year is really creeping up on us, isn't it?

Announcement! I am working on a NaNoWriMo advice blog post! So if you have questions or topics you want me to address, please put them in the comments. I realize I probably should have done this at the beginning of the month, but better late than never, right?

Speaking of comments: Gmail has started sending some comment notifications to the spam folder. I'm trying to catch them all, but some may be slipping through the cracks. If your comment never shows up and I don't answer it, feel free to leave another or email me.

The Royal Engagement

As I tweeted this morning, all of my childhood hopes and dreams were finally officially dashed: Prince William is engaged. I know some people are already sick of hearing about this, but I am so excited about the prospect of a royal wedding. And yes, I understand that it's not actually vitally important news and doesn't need to be on CNN constantly, as I hear it was today. (I was at work.) I'm just saying I want to buy magazines full of pretty pictures and find a way to order some tacky souvenirs, and then probably stay up all night watching coverage of the event itself. Because, really, I care about the royal family far more than I care about pretty much any American celebrities. I grew up playing with paper dolls of them. I am emotionally invested.

And hey, this will certainly lead to all sort of fun things to read. Already today we have this explanation of why Kate is an awesome name and this list of historical events that took less time than William and Kate's courtship. And Matt Yglesias is taking the opportunity to make a pretty decent case for monarchy here, as a follow-up to this. I'm pretty convinced.

And now for a musical interlude . . .

Hey, Listen to These!

One of the reasons why I sort of love long drives is because they provide the opportunity to listen to a bunch of music, and concentrate on it more than I usually do when I have music on in the background while working or writing or cleaning the house. And XM Radio has been a revelation in this department. It used to be that, say, as soon as I crossed the border into Maine, my radio options became 80% country. Now I can continue listening to my ridiculous number of stations wherever I am.

Usually when I'm just driving around town, if I'm not in the mood for a particular genre of music, I cycle through a certain subset of the XM options. (My standard rotation: the decade pop stations [40s-90s], the current pop stations, Lithium [90s alternative], Alt Nation [current alternative], and On Broadway.) But when I'm on a long drive, I go through pretty much all the stations to see what grabs my fancy. And that means that I often end up hearing some random new stuff, or at least new to me; it's completely possible that you all have known these songs for years. But I just heard them over the weekend, so I am going to inflict them upon you now.

First, a Counting Crows cover of the Eagles's "Amie:"

Really, don't these lyrics actually sound like Adam Duritz should have written them? I never really thought about it until I came across this, but wow.

And how about a Tori Amos cover of Springsteen's "I'm on Fire"?

It's just so . . . unexpected, but it works.

Now, I like Snow Patrol, but there's just something about "Chasing Cars" that makes me . . . well, usually makes me change the station before it finishes, frankly. But this remix was great:

Posted by Kat at 11:15 PM | Comments (0)

November 15, 2010

A Monday Miscellany

Hello! Does anyone else feel like it should be at least Thursday by now? Why did today seem to take forever? I cannot figure it out. This weekend marked the end of my brother's football season, which is bittersweet, because the whole thing is fun and I certainly like seeing my family so often, but on the other hand, having my weekends back is sort of nice. Of course, I just have this one weekend and then it's Thanksgiving, but whatever. Bring on the holidays, I say. I am ready. I have started my giant notebook of lists. It's a wonderful thing. Speaking of which . . .


For you XM or Sirius subscribers out there: holiday stations are here! There will be five stations eventually, and you can read about them here, but for now we have Holiday Traditions on XM 4 and Holly on XM 23. Holiday Traditions does lots of Bing and the like, so I'm thrilled with that. Holly is more contemporary, so that's kind of hit or miss for me. But I will admit that I did rather like the Ashley Tisdale version of "Last Christmas" I heard on there this afternoon. I like the Taylor Swift one too. Shush.

A Clarification

In my post about the caramels, I mentioned needing a very patient friend to Skype with me to distract me while I chopped the things. Said friend read what I wrote and pointed out that that was the first time she had ever been called "very patient" in her entire life. Upon further reflection, I'll say it's possible that she's just willing to babble on for hours at the slightest provocation, and patience doesn't really enter into it.

The Novel

How is NaNoWriMo going, you ask? Not too badly! Yesterday was the first day when I didn't do at least the daily minimum of 1667 words, so I started worrying, but I think the issue was just that I got home from Maine around dinner time, and my brain is just not designed to write in the evening. I gave up at only about 600 words last night, but I started writing at 6 a.m. today and wrote over 2000 words in a little over an hour, so I'm back into the swing of things and still three days ahead. Thank goodness.

New York, New York!

My aunt and I are going to New York for a long weekend in December! I'll tell you more about the trip later, but for now, I'm in the planning stages, so I figured I'd ask for your input. We want to do Christmassy things . . . any particularly good store displays or anything we should check out? Also, food suggestions - especially exciting grocery stores or specialty food places? Thanks!

Posted by Kat at 10:26 PM | Comments (0)

November 12, 2010

A life-changing discovery

So there was another part of that conversation with my mother yesterday that I didn't tell you about. (Well, okay, there were several parts, but I assume you don't want to hear about the intense discussion of when we're going to put up the Christmas tree. Will I tell you about that eventually anyway? Probably.) But as soon as she answered the phone, I told Mom that I had made a life-changing discovery that afternoon. She was skeptical, as you might imagine. But not for long . . .

As I mentioned yesterday, we do a tailgate/potluck thing after my brother's football games, and I generally bring a dessert. This is partly because I like making desserts and partly because most desserts are conveniently meatless to start with, so I run no risk of inflicting my Weird Vegetarian Food on unsuspecting football players. Early this season, I was hunting around for a new recipe to try, and I came across this chocolate-covered Chex mix. It's really simple to make and pretty basic, but everyone loved it, and I've ended up making it almost every week. (Also: now planning on sending tins of it as Christmas gifts, so let me know if you want to be on my gift list.) It's simple, that is, except for one thing: The recipe calls for unwrapping and then chopping a bag of caramels. Have you ever chopped caramels? They're, uh, sticky. That's kind of the point. Chopping them is not any fun. At all. I've realized that in order to get through it, I need either really good music to sing along to or a very patient friend who is willing to amuse me via Skype.

They are also, it turns out, somewhat difficult to find. The grocery store doesn't have them. Walmart usually has them . . . until, this week, they didn't. After I failed to find them during a Walmart run at lunch on Thursday, I started making a list of other places to try. During this process, I started trying to explain to someone exactly what sort of caramels I needed, so I went to the Kraft site, and there I discovered the life-changing thing . . .

They now make CARAMEL BITS. They are a) already unwrapped and b) really little, so do not require chopping. So they would basically cut the preparation time of the whole thing by at least 2/3, if not 3/4. And it was the most annoying section that would be gone. Amazing. Of course, I had never seen these magical items in a store, but a clever friend suggested that I check Amazon. They had them - but you couldn't just buy a bag. You had to buy a 12-pack. On the one hand, buying 12 eleven-ounce bags of caramels seemed insane. On the other hand, I make this a lot, and I was REALLY sick of unwrapping and chopping. Not to mention how I was not looking forward to driving all over creation trying to find the regular ones in a store. So . . . I ordered them. Of course I ordered them.

Now, this all happened Thursday afternoon, and I needed them today, Friday, to make Chex mix for Saturday. So not only did I order a case of caramels from Amazon, but I overnighted a case of caramels from Amazon. It's pretty awesome living in the future, huh? I have Amazon Prime, so overnight shipping was only $4. Amazing. When I got home, I called my mom, and once I described the whole situation and the unwrapped, small caramels, she said "Oh. You weren't joking. That is a life-changing discovery." We take our desserts seriously, as you can see.

I was a little worried that something would go wrong with the overnight shipping, so I checked the package tracking pretty religiously, and those of you who follow me on Twitter were lucky enough to get constant updates on the caramels' location. Indianapolis! Tennessee! Now on their way! Around lunchtime today, I saw that the tracking site was claiming that the package had been delivered. And sure enough, when I got home from work, this was waiting on my porch. (And sorry about the quality of all these pictures. It was dark.)
Caramels waiting outside.

Inside the box, there was another box:
Opening the box...

That box was, in fact, a case, packed up by the folks at Kraft themselves. So when I was joking about ordering a case of caramels . . . it really wasn't a joke.
A case of caramels

I opened the box to reveal this happy sight:
12 Bags of Caramels
I know you can only see about five bags there, but I promise, there are twelve.

I have already used one of the bags to make Chex mix for tomorrow. Here's a bad picture of it setting:
Chex mix
I promise I'll get a decent picture of it for you tomorrow, posed in its cute football-shaped bowl and everything. If I can get a picture before it gets eaten. Stay tuned.

Posted by Kat at 10:54 PM | Comments (3)

November 11, 2010


Hello! I did not mean to be gone so long. I'm sorry. But it's November, which means that all of my blogging time is taken up by novel-writing. And this also means that I am doing less reading and TV-watching, because of the writing, so I have fewer things to tell you about. I have sort of been in the mood to write about various wacky and/or vaguely interesting happenings in my daily life, though, so I surveyed Twitter this afternoon, and the four readers who replied all said they would be fine with that sort of post. So! Here we are!

So, how is the novel going?

It's going well, actually! Thanks for asking! Unlike many frazzled writers this month, I am actually perfectly happy to be talking about it at this point. (This is, of course, subject to change as the month wears on.) I've written at least the minimum of 1667 words each day, and I think I've done at least 2000 all days but one. So I'm about three days ahead at this point. How am I doing this, and feeling remarkably unstressed about it, you ask? Well...

This year's NaNoWriMo strategy:
1. Set the alarm for five. Get up by 5:30. No, seriously. Your body clock may vary, of course, but I am so much more productive and happier in general when I get up early, it makes those unpleasant first few minutes of awakeness totally worth it.
2. Open Scrivener (more about that in another post) and the NaNoWriMo site (for word count updates and the positive reinforcement provided by their stats page). That's it. Oh, and actually, it's okay to be on Twitter, because no one's really tweeting that early anyway.
3. No breakfast until you hit 1000 words for the day. My friend Aishy has a rule that the reward for 1000 words is a piece of candy, but when you hit 1000 words at 6:30 am, candy feels a little premature.
4. Write for an hour. Hit 2000 words. Be done for the day, stop worrying about it, and try to get to work not ridiculously late.
Really, that's it. Go forth and write!

The 5 am thing is generally only on weekdays, by the way. Otherwise I just institute the rest of the plan whenever I wake up. Except for this Saturday, when I WILL be setting the alarm for 5 am, because I have to write and then drive to Maine by eleven or so. My brother's game is starting at 12:30, and usually I play it kind of fast and loose with arrival times, because my usual contribution to the after-game tailgate/potluck (dessert) doesn't really require any set-up. I always say I'll get there an hour early but then end up getting there a minute or two into the first quarter. (I'm trying! Really!) But this weekend is different, as you will see in this dramatic retelling of the phone conversation I had with my mom tonight:

Me: What time do you want to start setting up on Saturday morning?
Mom: Oh, I don't know, maybe eleven? We're meeting a friend for coffee first . . . [N.B. I live closer to the college than my parents do, so they drive up the night before and stay over, while I drive up in the morning.]
Me: So, eleven? I should be there at eleven?
Mom: I guess . . . Wait, why does it matter to you? [The "You never get there early anyway" was merely implied.]
Me: Because you need me there this week. Because I have ALL OF THE STUFF.
Mom: Oh! Right. You do have all the stuff. I forgot. We do need you there.

The reason why I have ALL OF THE STUFF is somewhat convoluted and also has to do with the time when I swear my father was more impressed by my brilliance than he's ever been in his life.*

The Idea That Made My Father Extremely Proud

My parents take this tailgating thing pretty seriously. (It's not just them. A lot of the football parents do.) And there's a lot of stuff involved. They have folding tables and two different grills and a canopy and coolers of food and . . . I don't know, other stuff. They usually fold down the back seats in their SUV to get ALL OF THE STUFF in there, along with their suitcases and whatever else. This means that when we're all up in Maine, I end up driving my parents around when we want to go somewhere together because I can't fit in their car with ALL OF THE STUFF, but really, that's fine, and the system works.

This weekend, though, my aunt decided to come up to Maine as well, but she wasn't thrilled about the idea of driving by herself. And, as I've said, there was no way she was going to fit in my parents' car with ALL OF THE STUFF. Discussions of this went on for days before I finally said "Hey, wait. Why don't you just put ALL OF THE STUFF in my car when you pack up the week before, and I'll bring it for you?" And everyone was very impressed by my cleverness.

So! My point, I think, was that on Saturday I will be pretending it's a weekday and getting up at 5 to write so that ALL OF THE STUFF and I can get to Maine on time. Wish me luck!

* This is unfair. My father has been very proud of basically everything I've ever done, except the really dumb things, and probably even some of those, too. But seriously, he was so impressed by this idea, and it seemed way out of proportion to the actual idea, because it was clever but it's not like I cured cancer or something.

Posted by Kat at 09:08 PM | Comments (3)

November 03, 2010

Morning Coffee (11/3/10)

Happy beginning of the NH 2012 presidential primary season! Whee! Yes, I am genuinely excited about that. I even started making plans with a friend yesterday about all the candidates we would go see. So. Excited.

But anyway, yes, that means this election is more or less over, although a few races are still being counted. Last night wasn't good, but it wasn't as bad as it could have been. And the race I cared about most went the way I wanted, so there's that.

NaNoWriMo update: Yesterday's total ended up being 4136, and I had a productive morning and am now at 6153. Yay!

The enduring appeal of The Sound of Music

What's Juliet up to on Gossip Girl?

I am somewhat concerned about this Tintin movie.

Sister Wives: Renewed!

Life Unexpected, on the other hand, has been basically canceled.

The Skating with the Stars cast is pretty underwhelming, but I'm actually more interested to see who the skaters are. And the judges will include Dick Button and Johnny Weir, which - AWESOME.

Posted by Kat at 08:23 AM | Comments (1)

November 02, 2010

Morning Coffee (11/2/10)

Good morning! So, the whole blogging during NaNoWriMo concept is clearly not working very well. But I will try to at least give you a little update each morning. I actually had a few links for you, but then I forgot and turned my computer off, so you're getting a linkless iPad post.

Happy Election Day! It's one of my favorite days of the year. Seriously. Go vote! And this ALSO means that the 2012 NH presidential primary campaign really gets going tomorrow, and that thought FILLS ME WITH GLEE.

Novel update: day one total was 2116, and I got to 3336 this morning. I think I'll try to get to 5000 while watching election coverage tonight.

Oh, and so the baseball season ended last night, so all that existential angst about WHAT IT MEANS if they're playing baseball after Election Day was for naught.

Okay, I'm off to go vote!

Posted by Kat at 08:50 AM | Comments (0)

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