Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Happy Blogday!

Being an organised sort, I tried to approach Blogday with a plan. Since the idea is to venture further afield than usual and try to find blogs in cultures different than your own, I decided that going by the continents was a good way to ensure a wide variety of Blogday blogs.

I know what you're thinking. There are seven continents but only five Blogday spots. I suppose I could have found seven blogs, but I didn't want the other kids to think I was an overachiever. Instead, in the spirit of searching out completely new experiences, I decided to neglect Europe and North America.

Asia. Singapore. My Very Own Glob {Curiosa Felicitas}
I found My Very Own Glob on Technorati. Written by Mr. Miyagi (also known as Benjamin Lee), the first post I read was about visiting a puppy shelter and even included a picture of an adorable bandana-wearing pup. That should be enough to recommend the site to anyone, but there is so much more here. Mr. Miyagi has a great sense of humour and a keen eye for the absurd, particularly in the form of poorly translated signs.

Australia. Adelaide. Fiona @ University
After finding Mr. Miyagi, I decided to randomly follow links for recommended-reads until I chanced upon a blog in Australia. It took about six clicks before I found Fiona @ University, which is pretty much what it says on the tin. According to her profile, Fiona is “an undergraduate student studying at the university where its obscene amount of tuition fee is not proportional to the quality of services and facilities students are getting sometimes.” I can feel Fiona's frustration in the first post I read and can certainly relate to it. When you're paying a lot and working hard for your education, it's demoralising to have lecturers who are not responsive.

South America. Lima, Peru. Klephblog
As much as I wanted to click randomly from Fiona @ University, the odds of finding an English-language blog from South America seemed slim. After fifteen minutes of clicking, I turned to Blogarama for help and landed safely on Klephblog. Cliff (or Kleph) is a freelance writer living in Lima. The blog is quite well-written and professionally presented. Definitely worth checking out.

Africa. Rabat, Morocco. The Cat in Rabat
I went with Google to find a blog from Africa and through a short series of clicks, found The Cat in Rabat. The first post I read was a business plan for getting rich from selling camel's milk as a virility aid for men. Ingenuity, humour, irreverence - what's not to love there? I suggest you hurry over and start reading the Cat before she gets rich quick and stops blogging.

Antarctica. McMurdo. Phil Jacobsen
A fascinating inside-look at life at McMurdo research station in Antarctica. I've been a tiny bit obsessed about the idea of life in Antarctica after reading an interview with a doctor who lives there and seeing March of the Penguins. Something about the unimaginable challenge of living in such an isolated and inhospitable place speaks to me. I'm not sure what it says to me, since I don't think I could hack the lightless winter and I don't like flying in good conditions, but there's an undeniable allure there. Maybe I can just live vicariously through Phil's blog.

And that brings my Blogday 2006 to an end. I hope you get a chance to visit my Blogday blogs and that you enjoy them as much as I did. If you're visiting here today because of Blogday, I hope you find a reason to be become a regular visitor.

Tomorrow is Blogday!

Hat tip to Claire at Gingerpixel for the information on an interesting blog-related endeavor. Blogday 2006 is sort of like an ice-breaking mixer across the blog-o-sphere. Sort of like a non-me focused meme.

The idea is that for one day of the year, bloggers should make an extra effort to break away from their blogrolls and comments and go in search of new voices, particularly ones from outside your normal culture or interests. On Blogday, participants give short introductions to five new-to-them blogs and then leave comments on those sites to let the blogger know about the Blogday visit.

I'm probably not explaining it very well, and for a better explanation, you can go right to the pioneers' web site:

This is my note to self to remember to participate tomorrow.

Monday, August 28, 2006

When Sunday Papers Attack

The Fox channel in the States used to show a program called “When Animals Attack.” It featured video, usually of the shaky, hand-held camcorder variety, of animals attacking people. Wounded deer goring hunters, panda bears mauling zoo visitors – that sort of thing. I always called the show “When Animals Attack Stupid People” because in at least 90% of the so-called shocking attacks, it was a case of a person doing something stupid that caused an animal to react in a fairly predicable, instinctual manner.

If you lean up against the bars of the panda enclosure to get your picture taken, you have to expect that the panda is going to defend its territory. If you get too close to a wounded and trapped animal, it just might go with Option A in fight-or-flight response.

I was thinking about this yesterday when I was looking through the Sunday papers - “When Sunday Papers Attack Their Readers' Intelligence.” I don't know if this is the toll that tabloid journalism has wrought on the broadsheets, but I do know that this obsession to sell papers using tantalizing teasers and screaming scare-mongering headlines is just out of control.

Exhibit A.
The Sunday Times front page, top of the fold: Ireland has worst crime rates in EU

Oh no! Let me buy an attack dog and a shotgun! In the first column alone, the story starts to become a bit less shocking. First of all, this is an as-yet unpublished report done by “respected research bodies, such as Gallup and the Max Planck Institute.” (The pendant in me wants to know if the survey was actually done by Gallup and the Max Planck Institute, or if it was just organizations like them.) Secondly, this research was compiled not by using police reports or conviction rates but by surveys:

“About 2,000 people were surveyed on their experiences of crime in 15 old EU member states and three new ones, Poland, Estonia, and Hungary.”

I find that paragraph extremely ambiguous. Were the people surveyed on their experiences of crime in each of the countries or just in their country of residence? It's also unclear to me - was this 2,000 people in each of the countries or was it 2,000 people total? If you're talking about 2,000 people total, that breaks down to 111 people in each country. I'm willing to chalk this up to poor writing and give the respected research bodies the benefit of the doubt.

Even with the benefit of the doubt, there is no way from this article to determine how these respondents were chosen and to ascertain whether or not they form a reasonably representative sample. Think about it – if I ask someone in Ballymun about their experiences with crime, I bet the report is going to be a lot different than if I ask someone in Dalkey.

It's also worth considering that a survey, by its nature, depends on the forthrightness and openness of its respondents. The willingness to report certain crimes, like sexual assaults or hate crimes, is often quite controversial and dependent on how the victim feels he or she will be treated. This is true of reporting crimes to the police and is probably, to some extent, true of reporting crimes to a researcher.

I was ready to stop reading after the first column, but in the interest of scientific journalism, I persevered. In the second column, an opposition party politician makes the predicable rants about the failures of the current government to get to grips with the crime wave that's sweeping the country. Then in the third and final column, the article throws terrified readers a small shred of comfort:

Despite high levels of theft and assault, below-EU average levels of hate crimes, consumer fraud and corrpution were reported.

Below-average levels of consumer fraud and corruption? I really have a hard time believing that and have to wonder again about how representative the sample really was.

I'm not saying that Ireland is as safe as a 1950s neighbourhood and that we should all sleep with our doors wide open. But it seems to me like twisting up the lowlights of an unpublished report based on survey evidence collected from .0005% of the population is lazy, scaremongering journalism. Repeat after me: “There's lies, damn lies, and statistics.”

Exhibit B.
The Sunday Times front page, below the fold: Footballers use babies for 'repair kits'

So, those posters I've seen up around town, with the cheerful, chubby-cheeked baby and the words “Don't Use Me for Spare Parts” are all true then? And it's Premiership Footballers who are perpetrating this dastardly act against all that is cute and baby?

No, of course not. Read a little further and it turns out that five Premiership Footballers have frozen the umbilical cord blood from their babies. The cells could later be used as treatment if the child (or a matched sibling) developed certain forms of cancer. This has nothing to do with stem cells taken from embryos, which is a hot-button issue right now, and the words “stem cells” can cause a lot of readers to jump to conclusions.

Also, only one footballer, who declined to be named, gave a clumsy quote about the stem cells acting as a handy repair kit. There may well be ethical ramifications involved with parents using their childrens' stem cells (as there are in parents using in vitro fertilization to select embryos that carry the right genetic material to produce stem cells that could save an ill sibling) but the article is blowing the issue out of all proportion.

Plus, the article perpetuates this notion that babies, embryos, stem cells, and umbilical cord blood are all the same interchangeable concepts. They are not and those posters of the aforementioned cherub irk me on a regular basis.

Exhibit C.
The Sunday Independent front page, top of the fold: Book to spark new controversy over Robert's killing

Yes, don't think I'm just beating up on The Times. The Sindo is hardly a bastion of reputable reporting. All this article does is rehash the facts and rehash Robert's mother's shocking (and really unacceptable) allegations made during her victim impact statement in open court. A better headline might have been “Book to renew controversy over Robert's killing”.

And, in fact, the first sentence of the article is:

A new book is set to reignite the controversy surrounding the manslaughter sentence imposed on Wayne O'Donoghue for the killing of his young friend Robert Holohan shortly after Christmas 2004.

Unless a big secret is being kept for the launch of the book (which is possible, but I'd expect at least a scrap of a teaser if that were the case), this article contains nothing new on the case. Call me crazy, but I thought a newspaper was supposed to have, you know, news in it. But I suppose it's a sad fact of life that putting the tragedy of a young boy's death (combined with allegations against the defendant) sells newspapers, even if the article is telling you nothing new about the case. OK, fine, the book is new. But if the intention is to inform readers about the book, isn't that more properly covered by a short article in the arts section of the newspaper?

I could go on. The Sindo's magazine is usually a treasure trove of blood-boiling examples of sleazy and hypocritical journalism. But this post has already gone on far longer than I intended. And, after the exhibits I found just on the front pages, I don't know that I have the stomach or the energy to delve further.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Foghlaim Dé hAoine

Tonight's installment of Learn on Friday is going to be short, simple, and true.

Tá mé tuirseach.

File under:

Thursday, August 24, 2006

More Shameless (Him)Self Promotion

It's going to be a busy weekend for Peter Cox Photography. While the man himself is off at the Cork Art Fair in Cork City Hall, I will be spending the better part of the weekend running his space at the People's Photography Exhibition on Stephen's Green.

If you're in Cork, you can find Peter in the Millenium Hall, stand 58. If you're in Dublin on Saturday or late on Sunday afternoon, look for me about 100 feet past Kildare Street as you walk towards Grafton Street. (I have a camogie match on Sunday morning, so Peter's sister will be filling in as the Lovely Assistant.) Please stop by, enjoy the pretty pictures and introduce yourself. I've not yet met a fellow blogger at one of these art shows although I did meet the mother of a blogger at Art Ireland last November.

You also might be interested in reading this interview with Peter over at the Dublin Community Blog.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

I'm Flattered...I Think

Yesterday, I dragged Peter out to Thomastown pitch to work on my camogie skills. Peter is a great sport and has allowed this to be a regular occurance. We've fallen into a pattern of practising a couple of basic drills and I am beginning to see some pay-offs. At least in practise sessions. It's still a whole different story trying to execute plays when you have a couple of girls with sticks racing towards you.

I used to practise alone but I much prefer when Peter comes along. I'm able to practise many more skills. Plus, I can wear my helmet without looking like a total dork. It makes a big difference - wearing the helmet. I'm finally getting used to looking past the face mask and not letting it distract me. I wear the helmet all the time now when we go out to the pitch together.

Yesterday, Peter was standing on one side of the goal, back about 25 yards. He was trying to hit the sliotar over the bar and I was on the other side, trying to catch it. As we were playing, a guy came by and started talking to Peter. We'd seen this guy before, practising hurling with his young son in much the same way we were practising. I heard laughter and went over to check it out. Turns out, the conversation went something like this:

Guy: How old is she?
Peter (wondering why the guy would want to know): 30.
Guy: 13. Great!
Peter: No - she's 30.
Guy: Oh! With helmet on, I thought she was your daughter. We're organising an informal practise session tomorrow for the under-13s, mostly 12 and 13 year olds and I wanted to invite her to come along.

The three of us had a good laugh over the misunderstanding. I guess the secret to looking youthful is wearing a helmet.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Extra Credit

My dad recently upped the ante on the book meme, adding several extra credit questions. What an over-achiever. But, since I am my father's daughter, here are my extra answers:

Best use of dialect. Even though the dialect in question has the tendency to make my head want to explode, I am going to go with the Ross O'Carroll-Kelly books. Even though I don't understand how you get “roysh” for right and I think saying “or” for R (as in “the Irish broadcaster is or-tee-ee") should be a capital offense, these books are a fantastic example of how language contributes to the development of character.

Best use of images. TBD. I know I read something recently that had fantastic imagery, but I'm having a hard time remembering what it was.

Best use of any cultural sensibility. My dad's extra credit question was about the Oriental sensibility, but I'm changing that to any cultural sensibility, since that's the root of the question. (Plus, I haven't read even a single book that could fall into the original category.) My answer here is any of the later Ian Rankin books, which completely capture the dual nature of Edinburgh, a city with a respectable facade and a seedy underbelly. In Rankin's Inspector Rebus books, Edinburgh is not just the setting, it's another character. For good examples, I'd recommend Resurrection Men and Question of Blood.

Secret pleasure. I love trashy teen books. Not quite as trashy as the Gossip Girls, but sort of junior chick lit with enticing titles like The Earth, My Butt, and Other Round Things and On the Bright Side, I'm Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God.

Worst run of secret pleasure reading.The last few years. There have just been so many great junior-chick-lit books out there. And since it's the genre I write, it's easy to justify this reading as market research.

Most recent surprising (pleasant) discovery. That Jodi Picoult isn't the overblown, overwrought auteur I thought that she was. After reading My Sister's Keeper, I swore I'd never read another of her books. It was a shining example of what's wrong with current high-ish brow contemporary literature – an Oprah sensibility combined with over-the-top literary illusions and bursting with metaphors bred in an MFA laboratory. Then, I saw The Pact on the Book Club shelf and got sucked in by the first page. I'm about 2/3 of the way through and I might have to read another Picoult book to see which one is the aberration.

The last book you read because it would “be good for you.” Plot and Structure I thought it was going to help me with my third book, in which I want to jump back and forth through time. (My trouble is that I am a plodder and what comes naturally to me is starting at the beginning and going straight through to the end.) The book said nothing about time and the narrative; it focused primarily on creating and furthering conflict in your plot.

The book that everyone in your generation read, but would never admit it to each other. My generation didn't read books. We didn't care about books, all we cared about was soaking up tv and making snarky remarks. I'm not into that whole generational-identification thing.

The book your ninth grade English teacher raved about, but that you vowed you would never read precisely because of her recommendation. I loved my ninth grade English teacher. Now, my tenth grade English teacher, well, if she'd told me to walk across the street to save my life, I'm not sure I'd be able to suppress my natural urge to rebel against authoritarian evil. I can't really think of any book any English teacher raved about that I vowed not to read, just to be difficult. My eleventh grade English teacher made me read The Jungle, which I thought I was going to hate but ended up really liking, even if the situation it outlines was completely dire.

Best essential desk reference. The Internet. Duh. You don't need anything else. My favourite reference sites on the Internet are all of the usual suspects: Wikipedia, Merrion-Webster, and Google.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Foghlaim Dé hAoine

For the week that's in it, I'm selecting a relevant phrase from my handy Essential Irish book, which I got from the Conradh na Gaeilge siopa on Harcourt Street. A steal at only 10 euro and chock full of useful (you might even say essential) phrases.

Braitheann sé go mór ar na pointí.

For those of you joining us from the other side of the world, this was the week that the Leaving Certificate results came out. Combine the SAT with your junior year GPA and your personal essays on your college applications. Then multiple the pressure, stress, and importance by 1,000. Now you're in the ballpark of how important and stressful the Leaving Cert is for most Irish students.

File under:

Monday, August 14, 2006

You Gotta Have Goals

Yesterday, I was searching the Internet for information on how to improve hand-eye co-ordination and develop your non-dominant side. It's not that I want to become ambidextrous, although that would be cool. It's just part of my never-ending quest to become proficient at camogie.

I have no left, which makes taking certain shots a bit awkward. I also need to improve my hand-eye co-ordination for hand-passing and for catching balls in the air. During my search, I came across a site that I think has the potential to become both a huge time-sink as well as an excellent motivational tool. (I know, it's not very often you come across that sort of two-fer.)

Forty-Three Things gives you a place to make a list and track your progress on 43 things that you would like to do. The site is mostly well-designed and it has a great feel of community to it. You can see what other people are working on and you can comment on others' progress as well as your own. You can also mark the things you've already accomplished and indicate if you'd be willing to help someone else achieve that goal.

It's hard to think of 43 things (and it's a maximum, not a minimum limit) but the site makes it easier by showing you recently entered goals in the Zeigeist page and highlighting random goals on every page in a section labeled “The world wants to...” Some goals even have a handy “People who want to do this, are also doing this” section.

Being the goal-oriented list maker that I am, I got sucked right in. It took several hours (hey, it's an exercise in self-improvement) but I finally completed my list of 43 things.

The first thing that strikes me about my list is that some items are going to happen soon and get ticked off quickly (#10 – Redesign my blog). Others are ongoing aspirations (#6 – Lift weights at least twice a week or #22 use the gym membership that I am paying for). But the tough ones, I think, are going to be ones that are difficult to measure. How will I know when I've lost some of my shyness (#24)? If I learn how to relax (#17), but then don't practise what I've learned, do I have to put the item back on my list? Will I ever be able to cross-off #36 (Be more confident)? Or will I eventually have to replace it with Be more humble?

I avoided adding those open-ended self-improvement goals, but in the end, I couldn't resist. I suppose I will have to think of measurable and achievable sub-goals for some of my goals. This list has already spurred me into action. Yesterday, I finally signed up for my driving test (#8 – Pass my driving test). I'm going to have at least a 50-week wait, but everyone has to start on a goal somewhere.

I imagine this list will give me future blog material. Or at least I hope so – how else will I achieve goal #9 (Be a better blogger)?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Fair Play

In the summer of 2000, I was training for my second marathon. Training for a marathon is an all-consuming thing. Running becomes your life for those months and often it seems that every decision you make is influence by your training. Can I go to a movie tonight? Nope, have to be up at 5 to run before the heat sets in. Can I have an ice cream? Better not – have to run in an hour and all that dairy will mess me up.

It gave me an appreciation of what professional and Olympic runners go through. The lucky ones have sponsorships that allow them to focus only on training but I imagine most have to essentially work two jobs: the day job and the athletic job. But when you're focused on a goal, passion can often become an obsession.

So it was for me that summer, as I read Runner's World, soaking up information on sports nutrition, training tips, and inspirational stories of other runners. The 2000 Olympics were in September at the height of my training schedule. Although I took inspiration from the marathoners (I was rooting for Joyce Chepchumba, a two-time winner of the Chicago Marathon), I was also fascinated with the sprinters.

As a kid, I was the fastest girl in my class, until I sprouted hips at least. Even though the adult-me was more tortoise than hare, I remembered that feeling of flying, of invincibility, of knowing no one could catch you. (Well, in my case, no one except George Basil, the fastest boy in the class.) Marion Jones was in the press a lot in the summer of 2000, as her highly publicized “Drive for Five” captured people's attention.
Although she didn't win five golds, she did win five medals, the first female athlete to do so. Even the controversy surrounding her then-husband didn't seem to touch her. She was everything we look for in our Olympic athletes – tough and competitive yet also photogenic and charming.

Of course, that was then. When the BALCO case broke and Jones was implicated, she was irrevocably tarnished. Even though she's never actually tested positive or been indicted on charges, she's still surrounded by banned athletes and waist-deep in suspicion, since she hasn't been able to replicate her 2000 performances since the allegations were raised.

Six years later, I'm still a sucker for high-achieving runners. My newest idol is Derval O'Rourke, who just had a thrilling second-place finish in the 100m hurdles at the European Championships in Sweden. It took less than 13 seconds to win the race, but took the judges 3 hours to decide the photo finish results. It was expected that a bronze was the best she could hope for, especially has she'd been out of training for a couple of months with a groin injury.

Two weeks ago, the Saturday magazine section in the Irish Times had a feature on Derval O'Rourke. Not only did she come across as fiercely competitive, she also seemed forthright and on-the-level. She talked about being competitive to the point of stupidity, once running into a cement wall at age 10 in order to beat a boy who'd challenged her to a race. She also talked about drugs and the effect they've had on her sport, about how if she woke and felt that the only way to win was to take drugs, she'd walk away from the sport.

I like that. It seems like every baseball player who talked about steroids said that because “everyone” was doing it, that they had to do it in order to compete. The fact is, there's always another way. Becoming a whistleblower to clean up the sport. Train harder. Eat better. Run faster. Lift weights. Doing what everyone else is doing is just lazy rationalizing.

It's exactly what I did in my eleventh grade math class. The teacher was a football and hockey coach and spent most of his time talking sports with the players while the rest of the class were meant to work on our homework. He graded on a curve and on the first few tests, I watched the students around me slide tiny cheat sheets out of their calculators. I did poorly on those tests.

So, using the faulty “if you can't beat them, join them” reasoning, I cheated on a test for the first time in my life. But you can see what the problem is, right? I never tried to beat them – I just gave up. Looking back on it now, I realise that I could have informed the principal about how crap the math teacher was. I could have gotten myself a tutor and worked harder. There were other ways, but I hated math and didn't care – I just wanted to pass with the least amount of effort.

There's always another way, even if that other way is walking away. It depends on what you value. It seems that Derval O'Rourke values competition and fair play. After the scandals in athletics in recent years, we need more athletes who are going to do what's right rather than what's expedient.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

A Little Disturbing

I love StatCounter, especially the way it lets you see how people found your site. But sometimes, you have to wonder about the motives of the people who typed their searches into Google. After making a post about Catholic school uniforms, I got an alarming number of hits from suspected pervs. Ditto when I posted on Travels with Grandma about the customs of European spas.

But I think I find the following search equal parts curious and disturbing. This afternoon, someone found this blog by searching for:

find deep frozen storage spaces in the city of dublin ireland

I'm sure there's a story there. I'm just not sure I want to hear it.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Foghlaim Dé hAoine

I've decided to implement a new Friday feature, where I'll provide a handy or intersting Irish phrase. Collect 'em, trade 'em, race 'em. Be the first kid on your block to have the whole set.

Today's handy phrase is one that you might use on a fairly regular basis on the camogie or hurling pitch. (Hover over the text to see my best guess at phonetic pronunciation and what the phrase means.)

Tá mé ag cur fola.

If you needed to ask someone, you'd say:
An bhfuil tú ag cur fola.

As you might remember, I love flashcards. Today, I found a site that will let you print out flashcards. I think that's sort of cheating since writing out the flashcards is a big part of the learning. What I do like about the site is that each lesson has the option to play the memory game. Talk about a way to get your neurons firing - not only do you have to remember where the words are, you have to remember what they mean.

If you want to see a good example, you can you can play this simple game.

File under:

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Book Club

"The first rule of Book Club, is you don't talk about Book Club. The second rule of Book Club is you do not talk about Book Club."

One of my co-workers recently instituted a book swap club. There are only two rules (which sadly are not the rules above): 1. You can only take a book if you contribute a book and 2. You can't expect to get your book back. (It's a book swap, not a lending library.)

I love Book Club, since I am too lazy to drag myself to the library and too cheap to buy books. I'm also not wedded to most of my books, so I don't have a problem letting them go. I think I've put about 30 books into the Book Club and have fished out about 10, so I am well ahead of the game. Book Club has spurred my reading habit, which had fallen into the doldrums.

Speaking of books, I thought I'd do Fence's book meme, even though it's going to reveal the fact that I read way too much trash.

1. One book that changed your life
Nothing like starting with an easy question. I think I have to go with The Little Brute Family by Russell and Lillian Hoban. It's about a beastly family with three kids – a girl, a boy, and a baby boy. (Which, coincidentally, mirrors my own family.) The family is all horrible, except for the baby boy. (No comment.) But things change when the baby boy snags a wandering good feeling. I loved this book as a kid, although I was very resentful that the baby boy was the perfect one. Yeah, guess that makes me a little brute.

2. One book that you’ve read more than once.
The Great Gatsby Definitely one of my all-time favourites.

3. One book you’d want on a desert island.
Oh, good. Another easy one. Like I could ever narrow it down to one. I'm going to cheat and say the Harry Potter series. That should keep me busy for a while

4. One book that made you laugh.
This has been the hardest question to answer. I'm just not sure. I know I've laughed during a lot of books, but it's much easier for me to think of books that have made me cry. Not sure what that says about me. I'm going to say Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty.

5. One book that made you cry.
Sight Hound by Pam Houston. It's a great book, written almost as a series of short stories. There are about ten or so narrators, including a couple of dogs and a cat. The plot involves the life of a woman whose worldly and wise Wolfhound is dying of bone cancer. I read this in the little apartment my brother and I rented during our holiday in Slovenia. When I was done reading it, I had to change my shirt because I'd cried so much. Yeah, I'm not quite the stoic that Fence is.

6. One book that you wish had been written.
When I first read this one, I thought it was “One bok that you wish YOU had written.” As a writer, that's my highest compliment for a book. I have a few books on my “Wish I'd Written It” list:

  • Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty. Jessica Darling is a character that any writer would be thrilled to have living in her head.

  • The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series by Ann Brashares. It's amazing how Brashares is able to create 4 distinct voices and how the voices grow and change throughout the books.

  • Angry Housewives Eating Bon-Bons by Lorna Landavik. Funny enough, this is a book about a book club and the lives of the women in the book club. Landavik is able to move back and forth through time seamlessly, laying out the interwoven stories of her four protagonists.

7. One book that you wish had never been written.
I could do without that whole crazy rapture series of books - Left Behind.
8. One book you’re currently reading.
I just finished a book I got from Book Club - The Distant Echo by Val McDiarmad. I can't recommend this book highly enough.
9. One book you’ve been meaning to read.
JPod by Douglas Coupland. I loved his Microserfs and have been looking forward to this one.

10.Now tag five people.
I'm not really much for the tagging, but I'd loved to hear other people's answers. And not having a blog is no excuse. What do you think the comments are for?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Sports Report

We had a very exciting Sunday afternoon at Croke Park. You can read all about it on Fence's sports site, On the Ditch.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Drawing Lines

My first week of being 34 went by so quickly. I guess that's what taking two days off of work does for you. The challenge of cramming seven days of work into a regular week makes for very busy times indeed. Not only does time fly when you're having fun, it also flies when you're up to your eyeballs in deadlines and documents.

I suppose that's half the reason why I've been quiet on the blog front. Another 25% of the reason is my new computer. The sad saga of my little laptop ended two days before my birthday when my new machine arrived, minus my original hard drive. The dastardly support manager assured me that the guys tried to put in my old hard drive, but that the disk was dead. I don't believe him because the laptop arrived at my parents' house way too quickly to have made a pit stop in the Sick Laptop Hospital in Romeoville, IL.

After all the whinging I did about my little laptop, I should be thrilled to have finally gotten it back. And I am, but it's a bittersweet variety of thrilled. The new laptop and I have to bond and I'm still in mourning morning for my hard drive.

The final 25% of my problem is the stickiest. It's knowing where to draw the lines. When to write about something. When to keep it to myself. How to write about the people in my life. When I entered the world of blogging, I didn't think it through well enough. Some measure of anonymity would make these issues easier to navigate. But, being me, I just blundered in.

When it comes to Peter, I have nearly carte blanche. If I think something might embarrass him (like the snoring post), I ask first. He's never said no, even though he knows that he will rarely get editing rights. (The only time he did was with the White Widow post and he didn't really change anything.)

But what about everybody else? I don't blog about work because I'm a big, fat chicken and don't want to end up like Dooce or Petite Anglaise. (Although with Dooce's development into a professional blogger and rumours of Petite Anglaise's book deal, maybe a blog-related-firing would be a blessing in disguise.) Anonymity would be a huge bonus here. I would love to write about some of the work issues I encounter – the difference between the American work style and the Irish work style, communication difficulties with co-workers, office politics and dynamics. I spend 27% of my life at work, so not being able to blog about it takes a huge toll on my potential content.

Then, there's my home life. We've lived with Peter's parents for the last 61 weeks. (But who's counting?) I am incredibly fortunate to have married into a family that has wholeheartedly embraced the adage that they were gaining a daughter, not losing a son. Our move into the familial home was at first predicated on financial and logistical reasons. But even when our situation changed, we found ourselves in circumstances that gave us solid reasons for staying here.

Losing our personal space and gaining additional responsibilities hasn't been easy, but few things worth doing are. I've learned so much in the time I've spent in this extended-family-living-arrangement. I've also had tremendous rants build up inside my little head that would have made for fantastic reading and therapeutic writing. But I haven't done it. I made the decision to be non-anonymous online. My in-laws have made no such decision.

Finally, there are my friends and acquaintances. I have a couple of camogie posts in my head, but it's getting harder to talk about the team without naming names. Or at least giving names. Maybe that's the answer.
I just feel a little awkward when writing about other people. Maybe I should read everyone in my life their blogger-acquaintance rights. I think it would go something like this:

You are now in the life of a blogger. Anything you say or do might appear in a future post. I will take all care not to embarrass you, unless you do something to deserve it. Identities may be changed to protect the mostly innocent, but don't count on it. While your recollection of an event might vary from mine, it's my blog. If you don't like it, get your own.

Anonymity would have softened these issues as well, but as any good law student knows, you can't unring a bell. I think I need to loosen up a little and, as a former co-worker and mentor used to say, “Use the Force. Trust your feelings.” I'd love to hear how other bloggers deal with this issue.