Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Last class of the semester!

I might go on Thursday to the BBQ and yearbook signing (enough people wanted me to, and I'd love to write nice stuff about students so they can remember they're awesome).  I tried a new self-grading/movie lecture today (I met with students after they graded portfolios and discussed their grades with them; those not meeting with me watched Castle In the Sky), and I learned I need more time for such an endeavor.  I also learned that I don't know where to plug the speakers in when I'm projecting from the back of a DVD player, which earned me a certain amount of gentle mockery from the technophiles.  Anyway, I thought I'd be teaching again tomorrow morning, but they changed the schedule last minute, and I'm sad I didn't get a picture of the class.  I didn't get to say goodbye the way I wanted to.  It's a bittersweet time of year--I'm excited for the summer, for the time I get with my kids and my writing (and my woefully-neglected house), but I probably won't see many of my students again.  I care about them.  I've seen them grow (as writers and as people) for an entire year.  Individually they're astoundingly talented, and compassionate, and funny, and good.  I can't wait until they sell songs (I've got some amazing singers and musicians in the class this year), influence politics and policies, graduate with medical degrees, and publish novels (yay creative writers!).  I'll miss them all, even the ones who got defensive, or who never finished all their essays (and still came to every class!).

Gah!  I think I need to go to that barbeque after all.

I don't even want to THINK about future graduations--especially those that'll happen fifteen to seventeen years from now.  But then I found this image...

Monday, May 30, 2011

Portal 2 is...

...hilarious.  Brilliant.  The kind of game I dream about (literally, last night).  Games with a story, with compelling characters to go along with the playing--those are the kinds of games I love.  Because I have student emails to respond to, I'll just give you a brief sample of some writing from Portal 2.  Enjoy!  I know I do...and it's even better when you play and earn each piece of the story as you go!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Chore charts

I spent a few hours this week putting together chore charts.  I'd like to say it's because I'm finally becoming responsible and adult-like, but actually it's because I like an excuse to paint.  If our house stays a little neater...well, that's just awesome bonus sauce.  There's one circle on each chart for every day of the week, and they're attached with Velcro so we can add/detach them.  Good idea?  We'll see.

Anyway.  Pictures.

Here's my husband's.  He ordered a pizza, with ONLY pepperoni (although in real life he eats lots of toppings--I think he was being sweet and keeping it simple for me):

And here's my three-year-old's.  He didn't care about difficulty level (or Mommy's lack of interest in construction vehicles), but his was still fun to paint:

Mine...well, all the initials on the spines of the books correspond with real authors.  Ooh!  And there's a raven!  I like ravens...

The initials are G.C., T.P., M.R., R.D., E.B.W., W.S., and E.S.  Make your guesses in the comments (if you dare...)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Jobs for biology majors

Well, I'm off to eat dinner with my little sister and help her look for a job.  It's funny--people celebrate graduations, but they're a big time of change, and the whole "finding a job" thing is never all that fun.  Until you find one.  Then...it depends on the job.

Anyway, here's a cute video of kittens.  Because my post tonight needs to be faster than 10 minutes (10 minutes is a freeing time to write in--although it probably does lead to typos, which don't exist if I don't check my archives, so there!).  Yup.  Yay kittens!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Woodlouse spider

Earlier today I spotted one of these skittering across the carpet:

I ran upstairs, grabbed a glass, trapped it, and took it outside.  I was calling it a Mongolian Death Spider (although I don't know why I picked Mongolia when the worst spiders seem to be in Australia--I think I just like how "Mongolia" sounds), but a quick search reveals it's actually a "woodlouse spider".*

One bit our cat Scout on the tongue, several years ago, and I'm glad I caught this one before it managed to creep near either cat (or Lightning, or baby Ninja).  At least I warned it that I'd kill it if I saw it in the house again, which will solve my problem if it's brilliant and understands English...**

*Psh.  Whatever.  Do you see that crazy red-head-white-body-ack-pincers thing?
**Actually, I'd rather it be stupid, like a normal spider--intelligent spiders don't really make me feel better, come to think of it

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


If em-dashes are my favorite sleek and cute punctuation mark, semicolons are the ones I think are loneliest.  Listen to some of these quotes from various awesome people about the semicolon...
"Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you've been to college." 
--Kurt Vonnegut, A Man without a Country 
"Let me be plain: the semi-colon is ugly, ugly as a tick on a dog's belly. I pinch them out of my prose."
--Donald Barthelme
"I have been told that the dying words of one famous 20th century writer were, 'I should have used fewer semi-colons,'--and though I have spent months fruitlessly trying to track down the chap responsible, I believe it none the less. If it turns out that no one actually did say this on their death bed, I shall certainly save it up for my own."
--Lynne Truss, "Eats, Shoots and Leaves"

And, because I'm starting to pity the poor semicolon:

"With educated people, I suppose, punctuation is a matter of rule; with me it is a matter of feeling. But I must say I gave a great respect for the semicolon; it's a very useful little chap."
--Abraham Lincoln

When I picture the personality of a semicolon I see something that's sort of awkward and mawkish, like this dog I used to know.  Mr. Pugs.  He was fat, and every time you pet him you got weird bits of dead skin on your hand, but that little pug dog really, really wanted to be liked.  He'd waddle right up to you, desperately trying to wag his curly little tail, snorting softly because he couldn't breathe very well, and you'd try to avoid him but you'd kind of feel bad because you knew that, deep down, he wanted to be useful.  He wanted to be loved.  He couldn't help the way he was.

So.  Mr. Pug in a floppy hat, looking sort of sad.  Oh, and maybe he's from France, because semicolons seem French.

What a clumsy, awkward punctuation mark.  It's called a "useful little chap" by Abraham Lincoln, though.  That's something it can be proud of.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The happiest baby in the world...

...is also very small.  We're trying to help him grow by feeding him baby food and bottles (he's not sure about either one) and finger foods (he likes those), but he'd prefer his fingers (or any other inedible plastic/metal object he manages to snatch), thanks all the same.  Gah!  I'd love nothing better than to help him learn how to eat, and walk, and talk (well, he does talk a little), but babies choose their own time to do things.  At least they're cute while they learn.

Your fingers don't have calories, silly little guy!  Here, try this avocado...
 Oh, the stress I get from learning that I can't fix all of my children's problems, even with careful planning.  And Baby Blue-Eyes here isn't even a year old yet! 

He smiles all the time, though--he's a joyful little guy!

Monday, May 23, 2011

My birthday!

My family and friends are awesome.  I'm a year older, I've got Portal 2 (yay!), I'm full of tasty P.F. Chang's lettuce wraps and cupcakes frosted by a three-year-old...and I'm done grading!  Well, except for that one late paper.  Oh, and I finished a chapter today on my new novel, so for my dedication I will link you to someone who writes hilarious stuff that you've probably already heard of but if not you need to go read RIGHT NOW...


This is what my cake would look like, if it were awesome and from the link I just gave you.  Marshmallows!  Shiny!

Saturday, May 21, 2011


It's the end of the semester for my class. I got my students' last essay on Thursday, and I need to get it back by next Wednesday (and Monday would be nice). Six essays a day this weekend and I can make it! Good ol' Henry David Thoreau: I'm getting lots of you this weekend.  So here's an entertaining movie by Florence + The Machine where people explode in blue smoke (I bought her CD Lungs on iTunes a few weeks ago and I love it).  Enjoy!

Friday, May 20, 2011


I love anti-heroes, characters that are dark but likable.  I remember when I first read stories about Raistlin Majere (nerdy, but fun--see this post at http://www.therejectionist.com/2011/04/happy-international-raistlin-majere-day.html for hilarious stuff I want to do next year), Gollum (yay!), Braxton Rivers (I adore The Moves Make the Man by Bruce Brooks--it was a large part of the inspiration for my first novel, which is fantasy and way different, but you should trust me: the connection's there), Heathcliff, Iago (creepy), Bartimaeous...even my son recognizes that Darth Vader is often more intriguing than Luke.  So it's no surprise that in my new novel I have a character who walks a fine line between being evil and keeping the audience sympathetic enough to read about him.  It's a tricky balancing act, and one that takes several drafts to perfect.  I hope I'm doing it well this time through--but it's a first draft, so...that's probably wishful thinking.  Still, it's my birthday Monday, so I deserve a wish (especially if I manage to blow out all the candles this year!).

(More on anti-heroes here and here.  Oh, and here's my obligatory picture(s)...

...from two of my favorite shows ever.  Coincidence?  I think NOT!)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I've got clean blood, I swear...

...but I pierced my ears for the first time last October, so the blood donor people rejected me.  I used to be scared of needles--then I donated blood because a clever and compassionate friend convinced me it would save lives.  "Kid's lives," she said.  "Just think of the children!"  So I shut my eyes when the phlebotomist stuck the needle in my arm, and found it really wasn't so bad.

Lots of stuff is like that, I've found: if I'm brave and face my fears, good things happen.  That's why I write, and send my writing out into a scary world.  I'm grateful for other authors who wrote books I love and risked rejection and insults to get those books published. 

The connection I'm making is tenuous at best, but...hey.  Blood donation can involve rejections.  Writing can involve rejections, too.  Both blood donors and writers are awesome.  So...um...I'll keep writing, and I'll donate blood again whenever I'm not pregnant and haven't pierced my ears within a year and don't have any scary diseases or strange medicines, I promise.

Blood bags...

...and books.  Hooray for blood donors and authors (and agents and editors and readers and nurses and doctors and lab workers and phlebotomists...)!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


I told my three-year-old it was bedtime.  He frowned, grabbed a handful of air, and made a motion like he'd hurled it at me.

"What are you doing?" I asked as he grabbed another invisible handful.

He slammed the air down.

"What are you doing?" I asked again.

He scowled, unable to believe how dense Mom can be.  "I'm throwing fits!"
At least his tantrums are funny...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


After the battery-is-dead, locked-out-of-the-house, oh-no-we-need-a-20-foot-jumper-cable-because-electric-cars-won't-go-into-neutral-without-power day yesterday, today's teaching and writing and playing with kids seemed almost relaxing.  I made exactly five hundred words on my work-in-progress--no more, no less--largely because I was interrupted by cute but insistent requests: "Mommy, I'm poopy."  "Mommy, I can't go upstairs because I'm scared there's spiders on the steps."  "Mommy, I want to have quiet time in the front seat of the car!"  (Me, in my head: Not after yesterday, kiddo.).  Writing a hundred words, changing a diaper, writing another fifty words, feeding a baby--well, I have no idea how well my sentences work as a whole, but I wrote something.

And for today that's amazing, and enough.

Wouldn't you interrupt writing for a face like this?  Okay, so this picture is nearly two years old...but it captures his mood, and his coolness quotient, and it's already loaded on my computer, so in the post it goes.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Recipe for Disastor (or, more accurately, an annoyingly dead Prius)


1 three-year-old
1 Prius

Leave three-year-old alone in the front seat for two minutes.  Wait until all inside lights are turned on.  Remove three-year-old without turning off the lights.

Wait 24 hours.

Try to start the car.  The lights that were left on will flicker and silently die.

Congratulations!  You've successfully made a dead Prius!

Note: this procedure will probably work well with any vehicle.  Other cars, however, are not mostly electrical, and you will be able to put them in neutral when the battery is dead and push them out of your garage.  The Prius will stay dead better, and be more immovable after it dies, and so I'd recommend using this recipe on one of them.


Start, drat you.  START!

Saturday, May 14, 2011


I've got some wonderful books to read, and I started (as I tend to) with a graphic novel: Smile, by Raina Telgemeir.  It reminds me of what it was like to have braces--twice--and what it was like to have middle school crushes.  And how nice it is to never need Orthodontia again.  Unfortunately, between my husband's Saturday football game, grocery shopping, and visiting the library to check out new books (they were closed last night by the time I got there), I didn't write today.  But reading counts towards writing, right?  And isn't this an adorable (and hilarious) image by teen cartoonist Emma T Capps?  She doesn't have braces, but I'm going to pretend, because I want to use this picture and it's my blog so I can.

Yay for creativity!  And teenagers!  And toast!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Quick clip

I'm going to the library to return some overdue books!  So...here's a quick chemistry clip*, because I think teaching chemistry (read: blowing stuff up) would be awesome...

* This may not be the best movie ever, but it does feature large explosions, water, and alkaline metals, all of which I approve of.  So there.

Blogger Outage!

I sat down at the computer at my accustomed time and went to type a blog entry--but, alas, I couldn't, due to technical difficulties. So here's a brief summary of what (maybe) I would've said...

Writing is a lonely activity, and (especially in early drafts), completely self-motivated. I don't have any problems reading, but writing is work, so I've discovered a new technique on this draft: root beer floats.

Okay, so maybe I discovered that technique at the later end of my last novel, but hey. It worked. Of course, now that I'm trying to be healthier, I've replaced the root-beer-float-every-day-I-meet-my-writing-goal with a chart I hung up on the wall. If I write 500 to 1,000 words in a day, I get to check it off (I like checking things off!), and if I check off all the days in the week (except Sunday, my break-day), I get to buy a new book! So far it's working--I'm at chapter 4. If only I could get myself writing TODAY.

Here's a picture of some old ribbed books, to motivate me to open Word and start typing...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

I love Kurt Vonnegut.  Lots of the stuff he writes stays with me, and in spite of what seems like a cynical outlook in his novels, the ideas I remember most are hopeful, compassionate, and a little wistful.  Like when he says he misses the structure and support of extended families ("[H]uman beings need all the relatives they can get–as possible donors or receivers not necessarily of love, but of common decency"), or when he says that he envies the ability of religious people to believe in their faith (although he did recognize the problems with religious fundamentalism: "She was a fool, and so am I, and so is anyone who thinks he sees what God is doing."). 

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that I like how Kurt Vonnegut writes--more than that, I admire how he thinks.  So when I started watching videos (mostly due to agent Sara Crowe's blog) of Vonnegut, I decided I'd re-post the first one I watched here.

And another one, because he's just that awesome.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Oh, bad monster poems, where would I be without you?

While oddly-shaped, this poem was fun to write:

I’m allergic to bats
To corn and to cats,
Dust mites and dust devils, too

I clean every day
With powders and spray—
Still, monthly I sneeze ‘till I spew

No matter what care
I use sweeping up hair
I never can keep my house new

Dog fur makes me retch
And then there’s the stench—
Oh, what’s a poor werewolf to do?

I love The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!  He doesn't look allergic, or sad, but in other pictures in the book he does sneeze...

Monday, May 9, 2011


Growing up, I loved our local library.  I could bike there, check out entire bagfuls of paperbacks, and bring them home.  The librarians soon became used to an eight-year-old checking out thirty books or more--you could always tell new hires (which were rare) by their reaction to me.

New Librarian: Are you sure you need that stack of books that's taller than you?
First Grader Me: Yup.
New Librarian: Are you going to read them all in one month?
Me: I'll see you in a week.

This isn't me.  But she is cute.

Back then the library wasn't connected to other libraries in the area, so I did a lot of rereading as well.  I didn't discriminate, either: Goosebumps, Nancy Drew, E.B. White, Roald Dahl, Tamora Pierce, the Hardy Boys, Garfield, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman...all of them found a way into my plastic bags (those have handles!  For carrying on a bike!).  I wish I'd kept a journal of everything I read--I remember some books as a feeling, sort of, like the picture book about a cat with a witch's hat that I can't seem to find anywhere (I swear it was called Witch Cat).  But I'm glad I had that library.  I needed my book fix, and I could always go there to get it.

Now I live near many wonderful libraries.  The Salt Lake City Public Library is awesome--it has glass elevators (they're fun to go down in!), and playrooms downstairs that remind me of a tree house and Superman's Fortress of Solitude, respectively, a Half Life 2-esque parking garage, a garden on the ceiling...and lots of books, too!  Here's a picture:

And on the inside:

Trust me.  It's homier than it looks, and at this angle all the books are behind you--so you can't even see the best part!

I still check out thirty books at a time (I accrued quite a late fee after having Ninja last summer), but I've sort of grown into the stacks.  Someday, I'd love to travel and gather piles of books from a whole bunch of libraries.  In honor of that, here's my favorite picture of a library I've found:

This is the St. Abbey Library in Switzerland.  Don't the ghostly people look cool?  And those shelves, and those books...!
In conclusion, I pay my late fees with cheer and good humor, because libraries are amazing and I love them.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Food for this week would be good, probably

Ah!  It's almost 7 p.m. on Saturday and I haven't made a menu...or a shopping list...or anything!  I did get my grading and writing done, and my children are both happy and healthy, but a large part of that health comes from eating dinner.  So...here's a picture of something awesome from one of my favorite cartoon shows to give you joy:

There.  My good blogging deed is done for the day.  Now--off to plan meals and purchase foods, hopefully in that order.  Happy Saturday!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Portal (2?!)

Today I was going to write a useful, sort-of-complicated post on the backs of books and writing query letters--see, I have this plan to stalk through the library and read the backs of books until I find one by an author I haven't read that has such an interesting summary that I have to read it and then I was going to use that summary to help me improve my own query letter, which is okay but not awesome--but I'm feeling too lazy.  Plus I haven't gone to the library yet.  So, since I'm sort of a multi-platform occasional gamer person, I thought I'd blog about my desire for Portal 2.

Portal, for anyone who doesn't know, is a first-person puzzle game.  You have a portal gun.  You fight this hilariously devious and cruel computer.  It's funny, and smart, and I've watched the ending song more times than I care to admit (here it is in an online clip, although it's better if you beat the game 'cause of resolution and screen size):

At the conclusion of Portal your (female and intelligent!) protagonist defeats a computer called GLaDOS who has been experimenting on humans for quite some time.  GLaDOS keeps offering cake as an incentive, so at long last you see your cake, and then you hear a song from the computer's perspective.  It's fun to sing, although it garners strange looks if you sing it in public to your baby (not that I know from experience).  Anyway.  I hear Portal 2 is excellent, too--and this month is my birthday, and Mother's Day, so chances are high I'll see it soon!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

My (official) job

I teach writing for the University of Utah.  More accurately, I teach at a charter high school that is partners with the U of U--so the U pays my salary, but I teach high school seniors.  And here's the thing:

I love my job.

I'm at school for one-and-a-half hours every other day to teach a single class, and while my income is supplemental, it's enjoyable to earn.  My students are creative, intelligent, and kind, and they inspire me every time I teach.  I've taught at the Academy for Math, Engineering, and Science (AMES) for three years now, and even though I liked teaching at the U during my Master's program, the enthusiasm and culture of my AMES students makes me happy.

So today we talked about Henry David Thoreau's "Walking."  And my students--they pointed out so much, like his discussion on race, his views on camels and birds and squirrels, his opinions about the East and West, the sky imagery he associates with America, the way his essay ends in a beautiful sunset and sauntering and death and the Holy Land...

Anyway. they noticed a lot.  And I love that I can listen, and learn, and watch them analyze and argue and joke.  Of course there are a few who may be bored, or defensive, but when I'm in the middle of a class discussion I focus on the engaged portion of the class (which includes 95% of everyone anyway)--and I make myself available for those bored/defensive students to talk with outside of school (usually there's something going on that doesn't involve my teaching at all).  I still need to grade today (blah) and write (hooray?).  I just wanted to say--well, I love my job.  And my students.

I'll have to tell some student stories later.  But on Teacher Appreciation Week (I didn't know I'd get appreciated until I got cards and cookies and pizza today!), I'd like to say that I appreciate my job (and I REALLY admire those teachers who teach full time--one class is enough for me right now, what with all the children and writing and not letting my house explode...).

But yay.  Yay students!  Yay teachers!  Yay AMES and the U and Thoreau!

Good old Thoreau!  I love teaching your difficult-but-amazing "Walking" essay...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


My three-year-old recognizes the names of elements, like Oxygen and Tungsten (today he pointed to a light bulb that's burnt out in our bathroom and said "The Tungsten's all gone in that one, huh?"), and it's all because of They Might Be Giants...

Oh, and I'm currently unable to get THIS chorus out of my brain:

Hooray for nerdy songs that teach stuff and get stuck in your head forever!  Also, hooray for sharing!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The joys of grading...

Right now my days look something like this:

Wake up at 6:30 a.m. (or so) to feed baby Ninja and grade two arguments.

Get the boys dressed, eat breakfast, and either go to teach, or try to get some small portion of the house less messy.

Naptime/quiet time starts around 11 to noon-ish--and then I try to write somewhere between 500 to 1000 words so I can finish the draft of my novel-in-progress.

Think about lesson plans and grading and writing (well, mostly writing) for the rest of the afternoon while watching the kids until my wonderful husband gets home.

Go to bed, get up with baby Ninja, repeat until morning.

This is what he looks like just after eating.  So it's worth it.

See, during grading season I can't sleep in AND get the grading done.  I could grade during the nap, but then I wouldn't write, and that makes me sad.  So this morning, when I woke up to a stuffy nose and sore throat, I thought "I should really grade my two papers for the day"--and then I promptly went back to sleep.  I did manage to teach, write, and weed, but...I'll have to work in those two papers another time.  Around my attempts to get better.  Blah!

At least it's almost Mother's Day.  And I know my husband's on the hunt for good ideas--donations are always appreciated.  What's the best Mother's Day you've heard about?  Any geeky Mother's Day gifts?  I like stories (if you haven't gathered that), and I'd love to hear your Tales of Mother's Days Past...

My own lovely mother says: "Hey!  Be sure whatever you do is awesome!"

Monday, May 2, 2011

Hobbity Hobbits!!!

My dad read me Tolkein at age eight (I got impatient and finished the Lord of the Rings without him), and The Hobbit was one of my favorite books for a long time.  Also, the movies are brilliant.  I remember being nervous about The Fellowship of the Ring--could they get everything right when every other movie up to that point stunk?--but after the opening credits I recognized the love and awesomeness that is Peter Jackson's adaptation of the books.

I'm still learning about this blogging thing.  So I've embedded my first video clip.  It may be a little outdated, and probably everyone's seen it, but you can watch it again.  Seeing the sets made me want to hold my breath until the movie comes out.  But even swimmers can't hold their breath for years--except, you know, figuratively.

Excitement and glory!