Random Thursday: Math, Books, and Math Books

A lot of math stuff arrived in my inbox this week . .  .


Tasty, Tasty Math

Math Is Awesome

Jane is learning to reduce and add and otherwise manipulate fractions.

It’s hilarious to watch.

“I can’t do these,” she says, gripping her pencil.  “They’re stupid and I’m too dumb to work them . . .”  She pauses and fills in four in a row.  ” . . . and they don’t make sense.  I mean, what’s 7 times 9 anyway?  Sixty-six,” she mutters.

“Wait a minute,” I say.  “Sixty-six doesn’t sound right.”

“Sixty-three plus three, Mom, but it’s really 9 over 11—see?  Do I have to do the bonus questions?  I’m not going to get them right.”

“Try one.  Just make the bottom numbers the same—“

“And stack ’em, yeah, yeah . . . done.  Thank heavens.”

“See?” I say.  “You complained about how you couldn’t do these,  and tore right through them while you griped.  You’re a cranky, little math whiz.”

“I am?”  She reaches for her next assignment.  “I don’t really get vocabulary-based reading comp.  I can’t do the questions . . .

“Sorry,” I said.  “It only works for math.”



Gandalf, Take Me Away!

Gandalf--take me away!

Or, you know, earlier.

Coincidentally, my MIL is coming back Sunday . . .


Take it One Page at a Time

Booking it

The romance panel was not fit for a family blog . . .


Hey, an Award is an Award

My friend Wendy S. Russo tagged me in her the Alternative Booker Award post, for which I’m supposed  to share my five personal favorite books.

This isn’t a post, it’s  Mission Impossible—five, Wendy? Only five?!

I told my husband and he shook his head.  “I don’t think you can do that,” he said.  “Not you.”

In the end, I limited myself to the most recent fiction Flotsam Books I’ve touched.  I’ve explained my theory of flotsam books before— the comfort reads that I pick up at random (HEY-o!) due to proximity and merge with as I move around the house before I resurface, put them down, and wander off.  They’re in constant motion like literary seaweed caught in a tidal loop, though there’s a definite tide pool in the bathroom.

So, I scribbled down the last five I know I’ve encountered:

Monstrous Regiment Of Women by Laurie R. King — This is the second of Ms. King’s Mary Russell / Sherlock Holmes series and the one I return to, over and over.  Set slightly after the first World War, Russell and Holmes investigate the charismatic leader of a suffragist enclave, whose cause has benefited from the deaths of several of her well-to-do followers.  While Russell infiltrates the group, she struggles with her faith in science, her skepticism of spirituality, and her feelings about Holmes.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien — Do I really need to explain this one?

Night Watch by Terry Pratchett — No one does satire like Mr. Pratchett.  Here, he does The French Revolution, corruption, and law enforcement, using a time slide, a serial killer, and one of my favorite characters in any and all universes, Commander Samuel Vimes.  You can’t start with this one, but working up to it is a treat and a half.

Double Deuce by Robert B. Parker — Spenser, Hawk, ghettos, racism, drive-by shootings, psychological social explorations, and, as always, relative justice.

Last Hot Time by John M. Ford —  A young man escaping from his post-apocalyptic small town discovers himself in an alternate Chicago populated with hustlers, mobsters, master magicians, and elves with tommy guns. This may actually be my favorite book.

Now I have to pass on the agony of indecision to five other bloggers—only five, Wendy?  Really?

Lisa Blackman of Semi-Educational Reviews

Lyra of Lyrical MeanderingsBook Explosion

Downith of writeitdown-ith

Mike A. of heylookawriterfellow

MSB of macdougalstreetbaby

Let’s see how they do with this challenge!


I’m Dating Myself With This One, But . . .

Heck, I’m not even sure it’s really Thursday . . .


Poetry Wednesday: Poetry Goes Hollywood

Movies have to do a lot in a short amount of time: tell a story, create sympathy—or the opposite—for characters, make the audience laugh, cry, cringe, etc.

Aside from the whole range of visual effects, which are the entire point of the medium, movies use plenty of other shortcuts to get the job done: music, sound effects, linguistics, cultural assumptions—and, of course, poetry.

Poetry also tells stories, creates sympathy—or the opposite—and evokes any emotion you can name, sometimes in only a few short lines and especially if the poem is so well known that the audience automatically fills in the rest.

Twanging heartstrings in five seconds of screen-time or less—what’s not to like?

Movies know that we know they do this.  But if it’s done well, we don’t mind at all—in fact, that’s why we go in the first place.

The Outsiders is probably the best example of poetry for poetry’s sake in the movies—Ponyboy is a reader and a writer and it’s perfectly natural that he would share poetry with Johnny, because he knows Johnny won’t give him grief for it.  We get the characters, we get their friendship, and we’re completely set up for what comes next—the choice of poem, in retrospect,  is also foreshadowing:

But not all movies have S.E. Hinton source material lining up the shots. Most of them use poetry as a spoken soundtrack, which can work really, really well:

This poem usually has me reaching for the tissue box, anyway,  but John Hannah’s delivery is absolutely. . . he’s just so . . . Excuse me for a second, please . . .


There’s a moment in Sense and Sensibility—the 1995 version, which is my favorite, despite Hugh Grant being . . . Hugh Grant*—that assumes audience recognition, which is safe because this is one of the most overused sonnets ever and people like this character are the reason why.

Though I have to admit that she gives it a different interpretation.  It’s often been used as a warning and an admonishment—especially at weddings—but rarely as an actual lament:

While Marianne is kind of a nitwit through the first three-fourths of the story—book and movie versions—and Willoughby is hardly a prize, I have to admit that Sonnet 116 does help me sympathize with her profoundly wounded disappointment in a way repeating his name wouldn’t.

I have no quips for this next one—it’s a powerful scene done very well. I will say that if anyone other than Mr. Mandela himself had to recite Mr. Henley’s immortal poem in this movie, Mr. Freeman is the absolute right choice:

Then again, eight times out of ten,** Mr. Freeman is the right choice to read anything.

After all these poignant moments, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that some movies use poetry for straight out, and even slightly slimy, laughs:

I’m told that this poem is by Danny Rubin—something about fine wine and the girl of his dreams—but if the movie had intended for this to be a genuinely romantic interlude, they wouldn’t have had Bill Murray speaking French.***

Anyone else have a favorite cinematic poetry experience to share?


*Don’t get me wrong—he’s not a bad actor and he clearly didn’t ruin the two of his that are included here.  But while he’s essentially playing himself in Four Weddings and a Funeral, I expect a little more fortitude and a little less fumbling  from Edward Ferrars.  Just sayin’.

**Accounting, of course, for certain gender-specific  literature, Benedict Cumberbatch (who can double for Alan Rickman), Tom Hardy, Matthew Macfadyn, and allowing for some inevitable overlap.  What?

***Mr. Murray could have pulled it off in Lost in Translation, but French poetry didn’t belong in that movie.  I knew he was talented, but damn, did I underestimate his range.

Wearable Tahiti

At one point during my parent’s last Thanksgiving visit, Jane ran up to me and said, “MomGrandpa and Grandma are going diving for black pearls next week!  In the ocean!” and charged off again.

Five minutes later, Dad walked into the kitchen.

“Hey, Dad.  Jane says you and Mom are going deep sea pearl diving next week.”

“That’s not true,” he said.  “We’re going in early February.”

And they did.

I can’t imagine that anyone who has read previous posts about my parents could be surprised by this.

Or my the package that arrived yesterday, addressed to Jane, Sunny, Sarah, and Watson Wesson.*

Inside, were these:


Jane and Sunny both received a long string of pale shells and a mother-of-pearl teardrop.  The exquisite cowrie shell is Watson’s.  And my gift is the flower—a hibiscus, maybe?—with the beautiful black pearl.

Pearl in the Hibiscus

We were collectively overwhelmed.  The children had to be forcibly removed from their finery at bedtime and Janie put eyeprints all over my pendant.

It’s supposed to snow today, but my parents have given us a little French Polynesian warmth to hold us until Spring.

And I got a blog post out of it!

Now, that’s generosity.


*Watson was surprised, but she wasn’t aware of my parents’ tendency towards spontaneous, unofficial adoptions.

Recipe: Potato Soup, Sanity Optional

Sometimes, the only thing that will do is a big ol’ bowlful of warm carbs and calories.  Potato soup is my favorite way to fill that bowl.

This recipe is pretty simple, though circumstances often add extra ingredients and steps that aren’t in the original.

Yesterday, in fact.

I’ve placed the original in bold—feel free to leave the rest out.

If you can.


—two long carrots or the equivalent in baby carrots
—two ribs of celery
—six medium all-purpose russet potatoes or the equivalent in whatever size tubers you have handy
—a couple cans or containers of chicken broth, or veggie broth if you prefer (either way, don’t bother with the good stuff)
—a cat with separation anxiety

—one or two onions
—two bored children

—6 Tablespoons butter/margarine
—6 Tablespoons flour, combined with:
—1 teaspoon salt
—½ teaspoon pepper
—garlic powder to taste

—1 ½ cups of milk (I use 1%, because that’s what we have)
—a cell phone, sans headset, with your parents on the line

—shredded cheese (optional)
—cooked, crumbled bacon (optional)

Chop the carrots up small, because they’re only a gesture to nutrition anyway, and toss ’em in the pot before marauding children can steal them all off the cutting board.   De-thread the celery—is there a real cooking term for that?—and do likewise, though there’s no rush because the kids hate celery.    Drown ’em with the chicken broth—the veggies, not the kids—because you have several potatoes to get through and you don’t want the first two to go purple on your cutting board while you deal with the rest.  One or two at a time, peel all the vitamins off the potatoes, chop them into bite-sized pieces, and add them to the swimming party.  If it looks crowded, add a little water to cover, bring to a boil, cover, and simmer.

Meanwhile, chop the onion into small pieces and call your parents because it’s been about two weeks since you’ve talked to Dad and you keep missing Mom.   Talk for a couple of minutes about hot dog calamari and why grandparents should really be the ones to introduce children to the real deal while parents record the event for engagement parties and blogs.  Step on the cat’s tail.

Check the veggies after ten minutes—the potatoes are done when they’re soft enough to squish between your fingers, if you were dumb enough to try that with a hot piece of potato, which you won’t be because I am a walking cautionary tale with two burnt fingers.   Agree to make Hot Dog calamari for the children because you feel guilty for saying that Bad Word that you aren’t sure if they heard.

Talk to Dad about why the scenes he likes in your WIP he’s reading were edited out in the new draft.  Tell your children to stop throwing the ball in the kitchen, please,  and if they want to help, they can stand over there and assemble their own dinner.  Smile as they evaporate and discuss your parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, which is coming up way too soon.

Put your colander over a saucepan, because you’ll need the cooking liquid later, and drain the veggies.   Put the empty pot back on the burner and toss in the butter or margarine  to melt it, which it will do quickly, so be ready with the onion, which you will saute until it goes translucent.  Alternate stirring with jamming spaghetti into pieces of hotdog, while telling your children again not to play catch in the kitchen and remind them in a tone you will later wish you hadn’t used in your parents hearing that you are on the phone. 

Apologize to your parents, pick up the bowl with the flour, salt, pepper, and garlic and step on the cat again.  Sweep the spilled flour mixture off the counter and dump it in the potStir until you’ve make an oniony roux and slowly add the milk , stirring constantly until it makes a lovely sauce.  End your phone call because you need both hands now.  Fold in the cooked veggies, but don’t worry about being careful, since the potatoes are supposed to disintegrate.  Much like your sanity.

Add a little of the reserved liquid to the pot to until the soup is the consistency you want and turn the heat as low as it goes.  Carry the half-full saucepan to the sink and trip over the cat, drenching yourself in warm chicken broth and  hollering at him to get the hell out from under your feet, as he leaps away and crashes into the cabinet.  Look up to see your younger child staring at you in disbelief and try to explain that you hadn’t kicked the kitty, honey, you just tripped.

Decide to leave out the bacon because in your current spiral, a house fire or third degree burns seem inevitable.  Fill a small bowl with shredded cheese and use a few shreds to bribe the cat into forgiving you before he does something unspeakable somewhere unthinkable.

Clean up the kitchen as the now subdued children set the table, more or less.

Serve the soup, and psuedocalamari, with potato rolls and fresh carrot sticks.

Enjoy a bowl of well-earned comfort food, knowing full well that if you hadn’t decided to make it, you wouldn’t need it so much.

But it’s still worth it.

Weekend Writing Warriors: Full Metal Librarian (Questionable Timing)

We WriWa bannerHave a WIP, an EIP, an MS, or a published work you want to share on your blog,
eight sentences at a time?

Want to sample other people’s WIPs, EIPs, MSs, or published works,
eight sentences at a time?

Be a Weekend Writing Warrior!

 Rules are here!


Have to share this first:  a friend shared a link to a Pro Wrestling Name generator.

My name, I kid you not, is “Full Metal Earthquake.”

How did it  know?


And now, on to today’s eight sentences.

We’re still in the deli (I like delis) and Clyota is still coming to grips with the idea that Charlie might actually be an attractive man as well as the best desk partner she’s ever had—while under the interested observation of the Pressman.

Slippery When Peeled

The waitress returned with a thick sandwich buried in a mountain of golden-battered rings.  Charlie joked with the woman, and she flushed pink, leaning towards him a little, not quite putting a hand on his shoulder.

Nonplused, I tried to see Charlie from the waitress’s point of view.  He was tall, built solid, and was reasonably good-looking.  No Adonis, but Tony—of whom I do not willingly speak—had been an Adonis, and who needed one of those?

Charlie smiled, and it was as though he had suddenly snapped into focus.  Damn, Christina was right—the man did have dimples.  I blinked, stunned for a moment, then looked away, right into Reynard’s lens.  

I  took a gulp of tea and dropped my gaze to the table, feeling my cheeks heat.


It occurred to me that I never really gave an explanation of this story.  The latest incarnation of my query goes a little something like this:

It’s not that Clyota hates her mother. She’s just tired of dodging the half-cyborg, half-piranha Press Corps who are ravenous for a vid-bite on how it feels to be the daughter of the worst mass-murderer in living history. They should try it sometime.

Clyota’s workoholism has kept the press, an irate public, and her own feelings at bay for three years. The public outrage appears to be settling until new info about her mother’s crime hits the feeds. She’s afraid the resulting frenzy will get her fired from the library, but when her mother’s former co-pilot is blasted by Clyota’s own unhackable security system, unemployment is the last thing on her mind. 

Especially when her only hope of avoiding a sentence of premature organ donation is the testimony of a loathed Pressman–in exchange for an exclusive of his choice. Clyota has one week to find out what turned her respected space pilot mother into a reviled, dead killer. Even if it means facing her own deepest fears about being her mother’s daughter.