Monday, October 31, 2011

Panic at the Disc-Snow.

Saturday it snowed in the DC region. And, as is typical for this area, it prompted a calm, collected response from the natives:

It's snow, people. Which we get here.

Every. Single. Year.

Granted, it was the first time since 1979 that it snowed in October and it was fairly "heavy" for this region. Several thousand people were without power and some schools were actually closed.

But calling it things like, "Snowtober"?

Come on.

Wacky names aside**, the fact remains that the fluffy stuff seems to catch people off guard every time. It doesn't matter that the National Weather Service gives us a heads up, we still seem completely incapable of wrapping our heads around the fact that it will, in fact, snow here (and occasionally we get a lot of it). Many locals drive like maniacs on wet, icy roads either out of denial or refusal to admit the weather people were right. Yes, your Porsche is sexy. Just not when it's off the road and up an embankment. Or spinning out on the shoulder.

Just sayin'.

Then there are the locals on the other end of the spectrum who panic whenever we have a slight weather "hiccup." Or as I like to call it, "French Toast Snow." The second the Weather Channel calls for a light dusting, these intrepid survivalists clean out the eggs, milk, and bread from the grocery store. What I want to know is why, of all products on the shelves, do they pick some of the most perishable? Why not hoard cans of beans, veggies, and Twinkies? You know, stuff that will last a nuclear war.

But as nutty as we are, we love to hate our snow. Give us an inch and we'll shut down highways, buy up shovels and generators and the hardware store, and provide the media days worth of ratings. All while sipping hot cocoa (or, for some of us, Irish Coffee) with a smile.

So here's hoping for a weather-filled Snowvember***.

*Retrieved from:

**Including other media favorites like "Snowmageggon", "Snowpocalypse" and "Snowicaine."


Friday, October 28, 2011

Tweets of the Week: 28 Oct11

Continuing the tradition, here is this week's sampling of the awesome splattered across the Twittersphere:

Tweets of the Week*:

@alan_tudyk: my mutual love of jogging and baked goods has me fluctuweighting

@alan_tudyk: Young women in LA do terrible things to themselves in the name of beauty. Recently, it’s gone too far. Please, take the 80’s Mom jeans off.

@zachbraff: “The McRib”: for people who have no interest in meeting their grandkids.

@kpereira: Fear of failure makes you boring. #notetoself

@Dolly_Parton: The question I get asked the most is ‘are they real?’ …Well, of course not. They’re acrylic. I could never grow my nails this long!!

@hijinksensue: Kiddo singing Beauty And The Bear: “Trailer old as time…”

@Papa_Kosh: RT @OptimusSubprime: My current fitness level can be summed up with these three words: “JABBA NO BOTHER”.

@WritersDigest: “Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.” – Arthur Schopenhauer

@Janet_Reid: AIEEEEE! Just spelled an editor's name wrong in the salutation! ARGH! Yes, query letter writers, this happens. Prepare for end of the world.

*Note: Give or take some human error, all tweets are mostly as they appear in my feed to include RT credits, trends, misspells, poor punctuation, lies, misrepresentations, caution: slippery when wet, danger: high voltage, warning: curves ahead, and batteries not included.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday Morning Reminder

While getting ready to start another week, CobraMrsFit snapped this picture:

Apparently our kitten, Mozzie, wanted to remind us how to treat a Monday.

Thanks, Moz. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Tweets of the Week

Considering the ample amount of awesome scattered across the Twittersphere, I decided to start keeping track of tweets that are simply too fantastic to merely be tagged as "favorite" or just retweeted. But rather than force people to hunt through billions of stellar tweets like, "I go to groceries, LOL", I've taken it upon myself to compile some of the epicness for your viewing pleasure in a semi-regularish installment called Tweets of the Week*. And now, without further ado, I present to you all the inaugural posting of:


@sirra_girl: Night all ~ Someday, the words you've slaved over for months will touch some reader's heart for years.Write on, writers~

@alyankovic: I don't need washboard abs. I've got front-loading Energy Star-compliant abs.

@NickHGarrison: You dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Which is why I'm dressed as a fireman. A sexy-space-cowboy-fireman-president.

@RDavidMacNeil: Alcohol and calculus don't mix. Never drink and derive.

@SethMacFarlane: All the autotune in the world still doesn't sound as cool as talking into a desk fan.

@JSCarroll: new phrase of the day: Hanker Sore - adj. finding a person so attractive it actually kinda pisses you off.

@sirra_girl: SOME editors/agents/reviewers mock and then laugh at newbie writers. They're unprofessional douches on power trips. Don't give up, writers. Write!

@hprw: FAB! RT @farynblack: @tmminchin Some helium floats into a bar. Bartender says, "We don't serve noble gases here." The helium doesn't react.

@HarryPotterish: "When I'm 80 years old, I'll be reading Harry Potter. My family will say, 'After all this time?' and I will say 'Always.'" - Alan Rickman

@Rowan_Atkinson: Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics iz like asking a lamppost what it feels about dogs.

@Papa_Kosh: A man's place is in the kitchen, standing in front of the microwave, wondering if he has to stop it half way through and flip the nuggets.

@grantimahara: #ladygagamath RT @jolieodell: From a @Mashable editor: (RAH)2(AH)3 + [ROMA (1+MA)] + (GA)2 + (OOH)(LA)2

@alyankovic: Next time Netflix wants to make a rash, impulsive decision, maybe they should just buy a puppy or get a tattoo. #RIPQwikster

@DeathStarPR: We're pleased to confirm that today's #OccupyAlderaan protests ended swiftly and peacefully. Sorry, "fully in pieces."

@GeorgeTakei: I've said it before: You either need a calendar on your "smart" phone, or an organized spouse. Either way, keep 'em nearby--and turned on.

So, there you have it. More to follow in the coming weeks.

*Note: all tweets are exactly as they are in my feed to include RT credits, trends, misspells, poor punctuation, lies, misrepresentations, alien abductions, removing the tag from the mattress, void where prohibited, and may have been made with nuts.

**insert the sound of tens of applauding/screaming fans here.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

CM Reviews the New iPhone 4S

After nearly 4 years with the iPhone 3G, it was time to upgrade. Not only because my old phone was slowing down at a rapid rate (despite numerous “re-toolings”), but also because the new Operating System, iOS5, was not compatible with it. So, biting the financial bullet, I waltzed into the AT&T store on “release day” and walked out with a lighter wallet.

In the week since, there are a number of things that I like and dislike about the phone*. And while there are plenty of forums out there with user reviews, I offer my own for anyone thinking of upgrading or switching from another phone to an iFruit.**  With that, let’s begin. . . .


1)      The A5 processor chip: This is the same one in the iPad 2, so the speed is remarkable. Certainly far better than the average cell phone. I wouldn’t call it “screaming” fast, more like “high-pitched wailing” fast. Safari loads pages quickly, even on 3G. Faster on Wi-Fi. Both are above my expectation.
2)      Screen Resolution: Excellent. There are a number of complaints regarding yellowing or less-than-adequate pixilation, but my phone seems fine. Very bright, very crisp. Games and apps look fantastic.
3)      SIRI: Yes, it’s a gadget and yes, I love gadgets, but SIRI (the voice assistant) has been not only fun, but useful. During a drive into DC, I activated the assistant and asked her for directions from my current location to my friend’s apartment in DC (had to give the address since it was not already loaded in my contacts page). SIRI connected with GoogleMaps and in no time had me on the right path. There are a number of “Easter eggs” planted by the programmers, so have fun finding them (or cheating and Googling them). Ask her to “Open the pod bay doors” and snicker away.
4)      GoogleMaps: The updated version on the iPhone 4S is a huge improvement to the “old” one on my 3G. It now offers the ability to lock onto your location (via a small, blue, pinging dot), and follow as you travel along your route. The map also rotates with you as you move. The downside is that it still pales in comparison to the GoogleMaps on CobraMrsFit’s Verizon Android. That version (still considered a “beta”) offers turn-by-turn voice nav as well as moving map. I suspect my version is limited because AT&T has a navigation program ($10 a month) and doesn’t want the free app to compete with it. Still, it does a decent job and is free.
5)      iCloud: Love the concept, don’t really use it. It’s great to have the option to store stuff “in the cloud”, but being a cautious person, I’m not too thrilled with the thought of off-site storage. Still, it’s a boon for people that want it.
6)      iMessage: Without a doubt, this feature (offered only to iPhone users who updated their OS to iOS5) is a money-saver. It’s essentially a free text message to anyone with the iPhone’s iOS5. Of note, iOS5 is only compatible with 3GS and newer phones, so those still using the 3G or that one person with the 2G, aren’t capable. iMessage figures out the “free person” automatically and iMessages appear in blue while non-iMessages are green. My sister is a texting ninja, so this alone will save me moolah in the long run.
7)      Face Time: It’s like Skype. Video chat with other iPhone users. I believe it still requires a wi-fi signal to run, but, it’s a great idea. Use it or Skype as desired.
8)      Camera: The 3G had a 1.3 MP camera. The 4S has an 8 MP. The difference is exponential. For iPhone 4 users (the previous generation), the camera makes only a 3 MP jump from 5 to 8 MP. There is an ability to focus on certain objects within the frame by tapping. You can also zoom and the flash is nice. It won’t take professional-quality shots, but the pics are very nice and the video HD-esque. Besides, 99% of the time, you’re using a phone camera to snap a pic of the crazy guy at the party, not win an award for photography. On the downside, the higher resolution means pictures take up more space, but iCloud (or downloading to an external hard drive) fixes any storage issues.
9)      Reception is fine: No antenna issues here. Calls are clear and crisp. Haven’t dropped a call yet.
10)  More durable screen: The Apple people claim it’s the same material used in military planes and helicopters. I had one Apple sales-guy say that means it’s nearly bullet proof. Having seen what a Cormorant can do to a canopy at 140 knots, I’d argue the nigh-invulnerability of the screen. Plus, I’ve seen friends shatter both sides by dropping it. But, the screen is much more durable than the 3G or 3GS.

Dislikes/Meh items:

1)      Wireless iTunes Sync: Being able to sync your phone to iTunes without needing a cord is a great feature, but mind-bogglingly inefficient. 99% of the time, I want to plug my phone in because it needs charging anyway.  Suffice to say, I don’t use the wi-fi sync very often. Also, the computer needs to be “ready” to accept the wireless connection and sometimes it simply forgets (which means the phone can’t “see” it.). Finally, the wireless sync is buried in the Settings tab, which means you have tap the “Settings” icon on the main page, then tap the “iTunes Wi-Fi Sync” option, and THEN tap on “Sync Now”. Three steps to sync a phone. It’s possible you can adjust automatic settings on iTunes, but I have not researched that option yet. Again, one plug of a cable syncs and charges automatically.
2)      Not 4G: Honestly, this isn’t THAT big of a deal since the 4G network is still slooooooow to grow, but some people are nuts over names/titles. Long story short, the improved processor allows the phone to operate at near-4G speeds on the 3G network, but it is not a 4G phone. The Verizon iPhone 4S is also not LTE capable. It’s not even in the design. Maybe the iPhone 5 will be, but we’ll see the iPad 3 long before the next generation of iPhone arrives. Still, I’ve tested it on the 3G and wi-fi modes and both are pleasantly fast for downloads, loading web-pages, and playing “online” games.
3)      The Cases: With my old iPhone, I had an OtterBox Defender which made the phone nigh-invulnerable. My experience was so great that when I upgraded, I didn’t think twice about another OtterBox. The case is good, but less substantial than the 3G. The only case I’ve seen that compares to the previous rendition of the OtterBox is by a company named Ballistic. The case, however, is a huge, triple-threat of rubber and plastic, so it takes up pocket space. There are plenty of cases out there, so picking on that fits your needs is key. Despite the “smaller footprint” of the new Otterbox, it does its job and I am pleased with it.
4)      The Battery: It’s better, but still suffers. Apple claims 6-8 hours of talk/video/whatever, but you can tap the system pretty hard and drain it faster than that. There are cases that are mega-batteries which will recharge the phone, thereby almost doubling the life, but you have to spend between $80-$100. I didn’t, so I passed on it. Also, both battery-cases do not protect the face of the phone like the OtterBox or Ballistic. This may not be an issue if you’re gentle with a phone. I am not. Phone batteries are getting better, but it’s always a double-edge sword between more capabilities and battery life.
5)      SIRI: More often than not, you need to be very specific with the questions you ask her. It’s not a detractor, but if you have marble-mouth (which I do) or speak too fast, she’ll look up some wacky stuff. Also, her voice is a mechanical, text-to-speech sound and only comes in “female.” I’m betting Apple with offer a “male” version at some point and likely make the voice more natural. The SIRI dislike is a small nit-pick.
6)      Not a true “New Generation”: There was a lot of hype about the iPhone 5 and some people (not me) felt let-down. But in all honesty, the guts of the 4S are enough to argue that it is a new generation crammed in the older shell. Personally, I prefer it since the market is flooded with cases and third-party hardware for the iPhone 4 already and that means more goodies to choose from.
7)      Newstand, iBooks, and Reminders: Three mostly useless apps that come standard with the phone. The potential is there, but there are other, more ubiquitous apps on the market already. Kindle for iPhone, for example. Also, Reminders isn’t sync’d to your iPhone’s calendar, so you’d have to enter your note in twice. Sync the two and it would be an awesome app. Right now it sits lonely and unused.


            Overall, the iPhone 4S is an impressive cell-phone with nigh-tablet like capabilities. There are some detractors, but the “good” far outweighs the bad in my opinion. I have been pleased with it, especially considering the cell-dinosaur that I was carrying beforehand. iPhone 4 users may not want or need to upgrade since the cost is astronomical unless you’re at the end of your contract. But for a new phone, this one packs a lot of punch and has plenty of fancy gadgets.

*Keep in mind, moving from the 3G to the 4S is like transitioning from a VW Beetle to a Porsche Boxster. I love both machines, but one is much faster and sleeker than the other.

** HUGE disclaimer: I am not, in ANY way, being paid or coerced into this by Apple, AT&T, OtterBox, Ballistic, or any other company that I am using/reviewing. This is 100% my experience with a phone and the carrier which, overall, has been pleasing enough for me to say so to the online community. Other phones and carriers are equally excellent (my wife loves her Android and Verizon) and customers should choose the right product and plan for their needs. This happens to fit me for now.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Refrigerator of Fantastic Stories

My cubicle at Ye’ Ol’ Day Job is next to a small office kitchen. Normally this isn’t a bad thing. There’s some “oh-man-I-need-coffee” foot-traffic around 9 am and then the lunch bunch a couple hours later. I’m a social creature by nature, so I don’t mind the activity.

Lately, however, the refrigerator has been brewing a special scent of awesome that would waft into my space every time someone opened the door. The musky aroma has been getting worse day the day, making it almost impossible to ignore. This morning, a co-worker and I finally had enough and waded into the appliance like Marines storming a beach.

It wasn’t pretty.

There were numerous condiments well past their expiration date*, but the winner for Most Grotesque Item and the How the Heck Do You NOT Smell That? Award was the package of lunch meat with an expiration date of this past March.

March, people. MARCH!

Condiments I can understand. CobraMrsFit and I regularly force ourselves to eat salads to ensure we use up the dressing before it goes bad. Same thing with ketchup (on burgers, not salads). But lunchmeat? By all things holy, there are no words that can describe the horror of that discovery.

Several dry-heaves later, the fridge was clean(er) and we were back at our desks.

But this morning’s episode got me thinking about the Refrigerator of Fantastic Stories. I have WIPs sitting in there that haven’t been touched in years and I’m pretty sure they have grown stale and moldy. Granted, not all of them are gems waiting to be discovered, but it’s good to at least look at them once in a while. You know, brush the fuzz off the plot and maybe freshen things up a bit. With a little effort, it might even be polished into something crisp and juicy.

Or, if it turns out to be a real stinker, I can always shove it behind the mayo and pretend it doesn’t exist for another few months.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some more dry-heaving to attend to.  

*And by “well past”, I mean over a year.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

In Defense of Writer Beware

The Internet is amazing. You can find facts instantly, socialize with people all over the world, and waste time much easier than in prior decades.

But sometimes it can be a petty, dangerous place.

Writer Beware is a site that watches the industry for scammers seeking to prey on green, hopeful writers. Their affiliation with SFWA, Bewares and Awares on AW, etc has helped many new writers (myself included) avoid predators seeking to take advantage of our inexperience. The level of research and professionalism displayed by the members of Writer Beware is both impressive and inspiring. And we youngin’s greatly appreciate their efforts.

Recently, however, Victoria Strauss, Ann “A.C.” Crispin, and AW’s kindly Uncle Jim MacDonald (among others) have been the target of a site called The Write Agenda. TWA (no affiliation to the defunct airline), has placed numerous other writers, agents, and industry professionals who support and are affiliated with Writer Beware on a ban/propaganda/avoid roster . The anonymous team at TWA has also expended a great deal of research and effort to defend allegations of shady business deals as well as level their own accusations against Writer Beware and the trio listed above.

And to be honest, that’s fine. Everyone has disputes and sometimes people are innocent of mis-informed accusations. It is certainly TWA’s right to “watch the watchdogs”.

The issue I have is the way in which they have conducted themselves. For starters, the “About Us” page is almost entirely composed of links dedicated to “attacking” the Big Three. There are tabs at the top of their website specifically for each individual and there have been screen shots (listed by Victoria Strauss on Writer Beware) of recommendations that TWAers ban writers who support Writer Beware. There have even been allegations of burning books written by Writer Beware supporting authors.

But out of all the links, the one that crosses the line in my eyes is the YouTube video (linked here in case it gets removed from the TWA site). The video is a “create your own animation” type made popular by the Android vs iPhone internet sensation or Helicopter Pilots vs Jet Pilots one (no link because each has strong language and we keep things clean here). Victoria (depicted in her undergarments, no less!) is being "interviewed" by a news anchor and much of it centers around the “I won’t answer that to prevent incriminating myself” repeats by “Victoria.”

Not only is the creation of this video childish, but it’s highly unprofessional. These videos are the kind of things my buddies and I might do to poke fun at one another. It’s a wonderful way to be snarky and humorous in a passive-aggressive way. But creating one to defend yourself or take a shot at an industry professional is sad.

Worse, it's not even funny! If you're going to go to the trouble of designing a ridiculous movie, at least expend a tiny bit more effort to make it bearable. 6.5 minutes of boring repetition is boring and repetitive.

Finally, and most alarming, is the last paragraph of their “About” page: “Bottomline? Keep an open mind, review all facts and above all . . .  be careful what you post . . .  it’s getting litigious out there! Lawsuits and Cease & Desist Letters against authors are on the rise. Loyalty to some self-proclaimed publishing “watchdogs” may have a price.”*

Honestly, I can sympathize with their mission statement of wanting to look out for writers who have been led down the wrong path by “helpful” writing sites. The concern, however, is that the above statement is a thinly veiled threat. For a site that watches the watchdogs, who places bans on authors that support sites like Absolute Write and Writer Beware, this comes across as nothing more than cheap intimidation tactics. Perhaps it’s a mis-interpretation on my part, but as an aspiring writer, that’s how I read it.

A lot of people have come to the defense of Writer Beware and its “owners.” John Scalzi wrote and excellent blog post, Write Beware had a very professional and well written defense, and my Twitter feed has seen a lot of ReTweets in support of Victoria, Ann, and Jim. Standing outside the boxing ring, it seems that Writer Beware is fairing the “PR storm” well.  

One final thought regarding this situation: I’m a writing nobody. I don’t have a single publishing credit to my name, no agent, no publishing deals in the wings, and nothing more than a computer with a lot of WIPs waiting to be polished. For someone like me, the publishing industry is a large, complex void of confusion that is navigated with a lot of hope and a ton of help from friends and mentors. There are thousands more like me and we’re all trying to climb the Big Hill together. We might not know all the ins and outs of the industry, but when presented with advice from a anonymous website that creates amateurish, offensive videos while dishing thinly veiled threats and one that conducts itself professionally and courteously, has big-name support behind it, and whose members openly defend themselves, well it’s easy math to which one we’ll heed.


*taken from The Write Agenda’s main page on 03 Oct 11. There is no link due to allegations of malware from their site.