Category Archives: In Which I List

Things to Consider When Starting a Group Blog

First of all, I have exciting news!  Which is . . . this blog is moving soon!

Yes, this IS exciting.  I’m much more excited about blogging as part of a group, and everyone I’m going to be blogging with is fascinating and funny (most of them much funnier than I am), as well as being very smart people with excellent experiences and perspectives to share.  I’ll be making an announcement when the switchover happens, and I hope you’ll all continue to follow me there!  (The archives here will remain in existence.)

Now, this post might have been better saved for the group blog, but I felt like writing it now.  We’re working through many of the minutiae of how we want to run it, and I thought this information might be useful to others.

Questions You’ll Have to Decide On if You Want to Start Blogging With a Group

  1. What are everyone’s goals with the blog?  What would everyone like to get out of it?
  2. What level of commitment will you require from each other, if any?
  3. Will the blog have some sort of theme when it comes to content?
  4. Will there be a general tone you want to strive for?
  5. What about strong opinion posts that the other contributors might not agree with, such as political posts?  Will they be permitted on the group blog?  Should there be a disclaimer?  Should the other contributors get to approve them?
  6. What about dark or controversial subjects, or angry rants?  Is everyone involved okay with those types of posts?
  7. Will there be content guidelines as to posts being substantive?
  8. Will there be content guidelines as to profanity, sexual suggestivity, or anything else?
  9. What if a member of the group blog would like to leave the group blog, or just not contribute for a while?
  10. How will you decide on name, theme, colors, static pages, etc.?  (With a large group a good procedure for collating opinions was not immediately obvious.  We sort of had to feel it out.)
  11. Who will be responsible for the domain name and hosting?
  12. Who will be responsible for blog chores like moderating comments and ensuring consistency of tagging and categorization?
  13. How will you schedule posts?

My Advice

  1. Do this with people you already know well and are very sure you want to (a) work with, and (b) be associated with in people’s minds online.
  2. Realize that with a large-ish group, there may not always be a unanimous favorite on things like names, wording, or aesthetic decisions.  This is okay!  Take everyone’s opinions into account and aim for decisions that everyone’s good with, even if they’re not everyone’s first choice.
  3. Be flexible.  Expect compromise.  If you want control over every little thing, a group blog is probably not the best thing for you.  The point of a group blog is to do it as a group.
  4. Group decisions on major things (like the domain name) are important, but they take a lot of time.  With any minor changes during construction of the blog that are not irreversible, don’t bog down the process by checking in with the whole group about everything.  Let people move forward with the work and update others on their progress, and everyone can discuss or edit each other if they don’t like something.
  5. Let people edit each others’ typos in general.  (This was suggested by one of our members who’s part of another group blog, and we thought it was a great idea.)
  6. Find a theme and plugins that help support a multi-author blog.  It will make your life easier.

I’m sure I’ll learn even more once we all start blogging together.  Anybody else have advice?  We’re still in the constructing stages so I’d certainly love to hear it!

Ten “Favorite” Books

I was talking to a friend today about making a list of our top 10 favorite books.

The decision is so impossible it almost feels meaningless.  I’ve read thousands of books in my lifetime.  Once I sat down to list how as many titles as I could remember reading, and I hit 500 without breaking a sweat — just of titles I could remember off the top of my head.  I have over 600 paper books just in my personal library.

And my favorite books have not always been the best books I’ve read, either.  And the ones I like to reread the most are not even always my favorites!  Sometimes I have sentimental attachments.  Sometimes a book pushes every button I have while still having problems I could write a thesis on.

So I thought, here’s an interesting exercise: try to think of the first 10 (fiction) books that might land in the “favorite” category.  The books that reached in and twisted my soul around.  The books that spoke to me so personally that I felt they were written just for me.  The books that I reread, over and over and over again, for no particular reason.  Write down the first ten of those that come to mind.

10 Books That Touched Me

  1. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman The one paperback in my library I took with me across the country.  I don’t know if it’s my favorite book, or even the one I’ve reread the most.  I just know that it’s like warm blankets and white rice and hot cocoa.  Comfort food.
  2. Deep Secret and The Merlin Conspiracy, by Diana Wynne Jones I’m cheating a little by putting these in the same line item, but they’re in the same universe and remain connected in my mind.  Everything I love about fantasy is wrapped up in these perfectly-written books, and I’m a little embarrassed to say how much I related to Nick.
  3. Bloodchild, by Octavia Butler The first Octavia Butler I read and still my favorite.  Unbelievable how much some of the stories made me think.
  4. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury I don’t actually remember much of this book, to be honest.  What I do remember is almost crying at the beauty of the prose.  Multiple times.
  5. 1984, by George Orwell It’s the ideas behind Orwell’s dystopia that push this one onto the list.  1984 is the sort of book that simultaneously terrified me and engaged me.
  6. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, by William Shakespeare Okay, I’m definitely cheating by putting this all as one line item, especially as there are still some histories I haven’t read, but otherwise once I thought of Shakespeare he would’ve taken up the whole rest of the list.  I’ve read, studied, and performed so many of his plays, and they’ve spoken to me in so many ways.
  7. V, by A.C. Crispin I wrote about my relationship with V here.
  8. The Story Girl, by L.M. Montgomery I owned most of L.M. Montgomery’s books as a kid, and this was my favorite.  I can’t count the number of times I reread it.
  9. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams Spaceships that hang in the sky the same way bricks don’t!  I’ve only encountered one other writer with Adams’ sheer mind-blowing creativity, and she isn’t published yet. ;)
  10. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle I used to reread this book every two years like clockwork.  I still remember explaining proudly to my second-grade teacher what the fourth and fifth dimensions were.  And of course there were all the sequels . . . (Many Waters has made me quite snooty about my Noah’s Ark knowledge in the context of the recent movie release.)

Okay!

It’s an interesting mix.  Half male authors, half female authors.  Staggeringly skewed toward books I first read as a child (8), with only one book I discovered in college (Deep Secret) and two books I discovered post-college (The Merlin Conspiracy and Bloodchild).  Three fantasy, six science fiction, one contemporary (for its time), and Shakespeare.  (Oddly, most of the books I thought of but didn’t feel “favorite” enough were contemporary, like The Joy Luck Club and The Twinkie Squad — there’s something about speculative fiction that hits my kinks much harder, that makes me think much more.)  One media tie-in book (for a series I never saw).  Seven adult books, and four books that would probably be considered young adult.  Only one author of color on the list, which I think is indicative of the fact that I made little effort to diversify my reading when I was young, and most of these books are books I read young.  (Oddly, I can name a plethora of authors of color I did read as a kid — in particular, I know I read quite a few books by Asian-American and African-American authors — but most of those books were contemporary, which we’ve established does not speak to me quite as loudly for some reason.)

Ender’s Game would have been on here if I’d been able to reread it since I found out about Card’s homophobia.  It’s not that I hold it against the book; I just . . . don’t pick it up anymore.

How correct does this list feel, if I weren’t naming the first ten books that felt like favorites off the top of my head?  Well, about half of them feel like books I’d kick and scream at if something else pushed them off the list, so I’m going to go with about half right. ;)

What about you?  What are the first ten “favorite” books you can think of?

Thoughts on the Movie “The Heat”

What you should know about me first: Action comedies rock my socks.  As long as there’s just enough plot to hang the banter and gunfights on, I am there with my popcorn.

And The Heat?  The Heat delivered like no other action comedy has in years.  Rock.  On.

Of course, I also dug it because it’s a buddy cop comedy starring two women.  How often does that happen?  It’s so rare I can’t think of another one ever, yet I can think of plenty starring two dudes.  So, was this movie Oscar material?  No, but it wasn’t trying to be.  Was it a solid addition to the action comedy genre?  Hell yeah!  And I think it’s great that women can be the madcap, wild, brawn-before-brain action stars too—just like I want to see Asian men headline dumb romantic comedies.

More thoughts (some spoilers):

Continue reading

Iron Man 3

I go to see maybe 2 to 4 movies in the theatre each year.  (For someone who works in Hollywood, I am horrendously remiss at keeping up with movies.)

This year, two of those movies have already been Iron Man 3.

I cannot articulate the amount of love I have for this film.  The Avengers is one of my favorite movies ever ever ever (and was 2 out of the 3 movies I saw in a theatre last year, the third being Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows), and Tony Stark and Bruce Banner are my favorite characters within one of my favorite movies (is anyone surprised by this, by the way?  After all, Tony Stark’s superpower is being a scientist!).  So I was already predisposed to like it, but they did everything right to hit every button I have.

All the things I loved:

(spoilers!)

Continue reading

Things I’ve Learned While Being Sick with Oregon Trail Disease

After three months—THREE MONTHS—of being sick with murine typhus, it seems I’ve turned the corner and am finally getting better for real.  Here’s what I learned:

  1. The frustration and depression that start setting in around Week 4 are worse than the fever and complete lack of energy.
  2. It’s really nice that all my friends kept texting me every day or two to make sure I was still alive.  But after a while I started feeling like a broken record, like I was letting them down by still being sick.
  3. It’s possible to spend ridiculous chunks of time surfing the web, watching bad television, and commenting on other people’s blogs.  Like, ridiculous amounts of time. I thought I understood the whole “Internet being a time sink” thing before, but now I really get it.  I know it’s bad, because I’ve been angsting about the fact that I won’t be able to keep up with Slashdot now that I’ll be leaving the house again.
  4. It’s also possible to get to a saturation point with bad television. Continue reading

Your Food Is Just as Gross as Everyone Else’s

I find myself annoyed at the “ewwwwww!” reaction a lot of Americans give to cuisine not from their culture.  It’s not only childish, it’s hypocritical.  The only thing that makes one food seem “grosser” than another is lack of exposure to it; I mean, why is soy milk icky and peanut butter isn’t?  Why is Jello hunky-dory but not blood soup?  What’s the substantive difference between eating pig intestine that’s sliced up and sauteed with vegetables and eating a hot dog?  (Honestly, the hot dog probably has more unmentionable bits pureed into it than the stir fry would.)  And for those of you who complain about “strange textures” of tofu or taro, have you met bananas or baked potatoes or meatballs?

So, to any monocultural Americans: Your cuisine is just as gross as everyone else’s.  Stop making faces at what other people eat—first of all, it’s rude, and second of all, how do you have a leg to stand on when you have no problem with any of the following:

  1. Yogurt.  You purposely mix active bacteria cultures into dairy and then eat it!
  2. Sausage.  All the refuse from the animal ground up and shoved into a tube made out of the intestine.
  3. Wine.  You let fruit start to rot and then you mash it up and drink it.
  4. Twinkies. Continue reading

10 Ways I Wish I Could Die

I’m not being morbid here!  I promise!

The inspiration for this post was reading about a black hole that takes up 14 percent of its galaxy’s mass.  You see, when I was little (as in, three or four years old) I thought it would be really cool to go into space, but I was afraid of hitting an unexpected black hole.  Obviously that was silly; I mean, when I was four it’s not like we had wormhole travel yet.

Of course, after that I started thinking about neutron stars, and what happens if you try to stand on one.  A neutron star is so dense that if you approached it, the tidal forces would tear you apart, and if you managed to reach the surface, you’d be squashed flat into a little layer of atoms.

And then I thought, “You know what?  That would suck as a way to die.  But on the other hand, I would have been standing on a neutron star.  So clearly I just did something very, very cool, and who knows, maybe it was worth it!”

So, if I could decide the way I died, I give you a list of ten choices I might consider.  Because any of these would mean something amazing just happened!

  1. Being pulled apart by the gravitational forces of a neutron star.
  2. Being eaten by a dinosaur. Continue reading

Post-Election 2012 Thoughts, Part 2

  • In my eagerness to snark about California’s lack of social progressiveness, I don’t think I registered how happy I am about the passage of the three same-sex marriage initiatives.  I am ecstatic.  It was one of the high points of the night.
  • In my post-election news-surfing today, I stumbled across some old opinions by Republicans proclaiming that the failure of all the same-sex marriage initiatives (until then) at the ballot box was proof that “America didn’t want to go this way” and that the decisions by courts to allow it were the machinations of activist judges.  Setting aside for a moment the fact that “activist judges” are just fine when we’re talking about protecting the civil rights of a minority class (see Brown v. Board of Ed), I wonder what those conservative politicians would say now.  Especially considering that Maine, Maryland, and Washington are not even known for being hippie-liberal-land like California is.
  • I think if same-sex marriage went back on the ballot here in CA now, it would pass.  There were noises about either 2010 or 2012 on the mailing lists I’m on, but I gather the different activist groups decided to go with pushing the court case instead.
  • In the election postmortem, as I predicted, Republicans seem to be dividing into two camps: the reasonable “we have to examine the party platform seriously in light of a changing electorate” stance and the “we weren’t conservative eeeeeeeeeeeenough!!  There were still white male evangelical votes that WE DIDN’T GET!!!!1!!1” rant.  I think one of these is the proper way forward for the party.  You can guess. Continue reading

Post-Election 2012 Thoughts

  • The math was right.  Sam Wang and Nate Silver called the election correctly in every single state—well, if you consider that both of them had Florida as the only tossup in the final hours.  Wang ultimately thought it was leaning Republican and Silver gave it a slight Democratic edge (of less than .02 percentage points!!), and it still hasn’t been called, so we’ll see which statistician prevails.  But either way, I like to think that math was the big winner last night.  Ha!
  • Maine, Maryland, and (probably) Washington passed same-sex marriage initiatives (happiness!).  California had rejected it in 2008.
  • Colorado and Washington passed measures legalizing marijuana.  California had rejected it in 2010.
  • Seriously, Republicans think we’re some kind of bastion of liberalism? Continue reading