Happy Siblings Day!

April 10 is Siblings Day, a day in many parts of the United States of America used to celebrate the importance of siblings. It’s not a federally-recognized holiday, yet, but it’s still a nice time to remember and honor the brothers and sisters in our lives. In lucky circumstances, a sibling is our oldest friend, a member of our genetic family with whom we will often know and share the greatest amount of time of our life. Our parents will usually pass on before we grow old; our children will often outlive us. But siblings grow up with us, and influence us in many ways they may never know.

I have one sibling, a sister. Sisters Day is the first Sunday in August, but I didn’t want to wait that long. I’ve mentioned before in my blog how my sister nurtured in me a love for stories. Through example of her own stories, she taught me about things like character and plot. She was also the first person ever to read my stories. While I couldn’t teach her much, being the little sister, I like to think that we offered each other encouragement when one of us might have felt down for not being like more “normal” girls who liked concerts, clothes, cars, and boys.

My sister has always been an avid reader; she is, in fact, one of the most well-read people I’ve ever met. From science fiction and psychology to folk tales and philosophy, she will read anything, even the back of a cereal box! She just…loves reading. That love was instilled in us by our father, I think, who always put a high value on the joy of reading. He used to tell us to never let us lose our joy for reading. Once you lose that joy, it’s so difficult to get it back. To my sadness, I’ve discovered this is true, among my friends and peers.

Wheaties 2

Wheaties box ca.1937. Well before our time, but this is the kind of stuff cereal boxes used to have on them.

Luckily, my sister has never lost her joy of reading. She’s kept that joy alive in me, too. There have been times in my life when I’ve felt  too tired, too restless, too jaded to read. But then I remember my sister, and how smart, compassionate, and generous she is, and how she got that way from being so well-read. And, just like as if I were a little girl again, I want to be just like her.

These days, I stay reminded of my sister with my favorite bookmark: an old Polaroid of her that I keep in whatever book I’m currently reading. When I open up that book each night, and I see her smile, it reminds me how lucky I am to have a sister who loves stories, and who started in me a love of stories, too.

Happy Siblings Day to you! Do you have a sibling with which you share a love of something intrinsic to you both?

Make No (Livestream) Mistake About It

A Cautionary Tale for the Livestreamer

There once was a communications technologist named Mayumi. Mayumi really liked her job producing video events at a major university. One day, a high-profile guest came to campus, and the high-profile department sponsoring the high-profile guest decided to livestream a video event, to both the Book of Faces and the Tube of Yous. Mayumi had done simultaneous live streams before, so she got to work, building and testing stream pages like she’d always done. A few days before the big event was going to happen, Mayumi tested the connections to both the Book of Faces and the Tube of Yous. All went well, as Mayumi expected it to, and everyone involved went on merrily.

The day of the event arrived, and Mayumi got ready to start streaming to both the Book of Faces and the Tube of Yous. But when she pressed the big Start button on her magical encoder…the Tube of Yous didn’t start! All of the settings were right, and the Book of Faces was going strong. But the Tube was not reacting as it should have done!

Mayumi recalled the Golden Rule of Technology: When in doubt, restart. So, she restarted her magical encoder machine. She started her connections again, using the same information as before. But wait! Now, neither the Book of Faces nor the Tube of Yous was starting properly! Oh noes!

There was only one thing left to do. Mayumi rebooted again, and rebuilt from scratch BOTH the connections for the Book of Faces and the Tube of Yous, discarding the event credentials from before. She pressed the Start button on the magical encoder, and…they worked! Mayumi monitored both working connections through the end of the event, and they stayed live and sending, with no more troubles. But what had happened to those other connections?

Here’s what Mayumi learned:

  • A Book of Faces stream event can be created up to seven days in advance. You can test-stream to this event without going live as many times as you want. Once you go live, though, that stream’s unique identity cannot be duplicated. Which means, if you stop the stream (like with a machine reboot), you need to create a completely new event, with completely new credentials.
  • A Tube of Yous stream event can be created a long time in advance. But if you test-stream to that particular event page, the Tube of Yous will expect you to go live shortly thereafter (within a couple of hours); it will look for the EXACT SAME data stream for the live event, that you used for your test event. The error may not apply if you ARE using the exact same data stream, from the exact same output hardware, but just in case, test your Tube of Yous live stream event with a separate test event, especially if you’re testing a few days out.

Now that you’ve read Mayumi’s story, you won’t have to panic when you run into either of these issues. You’ll know what to do! And, as the famous saying goes, knowing is half the battle.

 

Freeing Myself From the Comparing Mind

It’s a new year, and with the start of a new year, we traditionally make resolutions. Over the last several years, I have focused my new-year’s-mind on being kinder, listening more closely, supporting more causes in which I believe. I think I’ve become a (slightly) better person for those past resolutions. This year, though, I need to look inward.

I’ve been struggling with a kind of lingering depression for several years, now. It has not been clinically diagnosed, but I also know it’s more than just mood swings or the odd blah feeling. I function fine at work, and I carry on my family chores and responsibilities. My creative soul has been drowning, though.

I have known for a long time that I waste too much effort comparing myself to others’ success. Others’ popularity. Others’ epicness. I had thought that the best resolution for me this year was to be more accepting of others’ accomplishments, but it has to go deeper than that. The real answer came to me from a cooking show, of all things.

Jeong Kwan "Creativity and ego cannot go together."

Jeong Kwan

 

The show “Chef’s Table” (available on Netflix) did a portrait on Jeong Kwan, a Buddhist nun in South Korea. In her interview, she said the above, as well as the following:

“If you free yourself from the comparing and jealous mind, your creativity opens up endlessly.”

Jeong Kwan said these words in regard to her cooking, but I have taken them to heart for my writing. She equates the art of making wholesome and natural food to spiritual enlightenment. I believe that the same can be done with writing. Creating characters and stories has given me strength over the years. I’ve learned from the conflicts of those characters, and letting them speak, fight, and sing through my pen has opened my eyes to perspectives and ideas that might not have occurred to me otherwise.

I know my journey to this greater enlightenment and peace will not be easy, but every journey worth making takes effort. I hope to become a better creative, and a more well-rounded person, for that effort.

How do you deal with jealousy? Have you made any resolutions in the new year?

Final Count!

The final count for my “Change, in a Bottle” Giving Tuesday 2017 charity contest is in: $39.94! Wow, even I didn’t think it would be that much!

 

 

As I said in the post from last week, I’ll be donating my collection of lunch change ($39.94) to my charity of choice, the Sierra Club. Since so few people participated in this contest, though, I don’t want anyone to feel left out. So…

EVERYBODY WINS!

That’s right: each of the following charities will receive a donation of the final tally, $39.94:

When I saw the small number of folks who took a chance on this contest, I was kind of sad, because I tried hard not to make this about blog hits or comments or subscriptions. I didn’t want to be one of those people who demands a subscription or a story comment to participate in something. But then I reminded myself that this isn’t about me, or my blog, or my writing. It’s about even just the little bit of good that I could give – or give back – to the environment and community around me. The world needs our help to keep growing for the better, whether that’s through charity, art, purpose, care, or communication. We’re one world, and it’s up to all of us to keep the world and all of its inhabitants healthy, strong, and protected.

Thank you to everyone who participated! Let’s keep the giving going!

Even if you missed this contest, why not share the name of your favorite charity in the comments? You never know who may be reading and looking for a good cause to support!

Change, in a Bottle

Change in bottles

Change, in a Bottle: The Concept

They say change starts with you, and me. Since it’s Giving Tuesday (2017), I wanted to make an effort to give back to one of my favorite charities. As I sat eating my lunch, I saw the bottles of change I keep on the table, where I toss the dimes, nickles, and pennies that I bring back from my lunch purposes. A few years ago, I took the change I’d collected and given it to one of our office charity events. It felt great not only to start fresh with those bottles once more, but also to know that even my little change was going to a good cause. I’d like to do the same again, but I’d like to help you, too.

Change, in a Bottle: The Game

Take a look at the image to the left. Those bottles represent my change collection from the last year or so. While it’s not a lot of money, I know that every little bit helps, especially when it’s for a good cause. I’m going to donate that change to one of my favorite good causes, Sierra Club Foundation, which gets a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, in case you have your doubts. If you’d like to join the game, take a guess as to the total amount of money in coins in that picture. The person who guesses the closest to the total will win an equal donation to the charity of their choice, from me. Just post your name, your guess, and your charity in the comments below! Guess submissions will close one week from today – Tuesday, December 5, 2017 – when I’ll do a count of the change and post the results. So start guessing!

Change, in a Bottle: The Rules

While I’d like to keep this super-easy for everyone, every game has to have rules just to keep things orderly. Here they are:

  1. Only one guess per person, please.
  2. Post your guess, along with your name and the name of your charity, using the Comments box for this post. Social media replies or retweets don’t count; sorry.
  3. Submit your guess before Tuesday, December 5, 2017, at 8am ET.

Thanks for playing, and let’s get giving!

100 Best(?) Books

This post was inspired by Kourtney Heintz’s list of the Best 100 Novels, a challenge initiated by Nathan Bransford, on his own blog.

I’ve been in need of a fun activity, just to get my head into a healthier place than it’s been over the last several weeks. Sure, I wrote a story based on Dmitry Glukhovsky’s Metro 2033 novels, because I enjoyed them so much, and that was certainly fun; and, I’ve been getting back into the rewrites of my own sci-fi adventure story. But some of the latest disheartening events on the global stage had really been wearing me down. At those times, I can take some refuge in my own creativity, but it’s even more comforting to bask in the light of others’ creativity, especially when those others have inspired, enlightened, or simply just entertained me.

Kourtney stuck to the hard rules of this challenge, which I’m sure was hard. I took an easier route, because I wanted this to be fun, not an assignment.

Now, I’ve read hundreds of novels over the years…but I knew any “Best” list would have some classics which everybody knows: Don Quixote, Sense and Sensibility, To Kill a Mockingbird, 1984, yadda yadda. Those are definitely great books, mind you, but I wanted to do something a bit different, here.

For my version of the challenge, I looked at only those books I’ve read in the last ten years or less. This would disqualify any book I read only for a class and vowed never to pick up again (such as On the Road or Catcher in the Rye; don’t get me started), while still offering some insight into how my reading tastes have changed over the years. As it turned out, not a whole lot.

100books

My 100 Best – or, rather, Favorite – Books of the last 10 years

As for ranking, I would list them as:

  1. Ross Macdonald (18)
  2. Elmore Leonard (8)
  3. Douglas Adams (9)
  4. Craig Johnson (11…and counting; there’s a new one I haven’t gotten, yet)
  5. Edgar Rice Burroughs (4 – specifically, his John Carter of Mars books)

…with the rest of them falling into an ever-shifting heap, where, on any given day, Barker might leapfrog Allingham to take Maguire’s position while Glukhovsky choke-holds Sapkowski for a higher slot, and Mankell sits back to watch.

I admit: I cheated. Still, it was a fun diversion for an hour or so, to look at my favorite books over the last 10 years. As a side note, that third shelf represents most of my reading material from the last 3 years, minus the Glukhovsky, Hammett, Sapkowski, and Abdul-Jabbar.

A few interesting points about this group:

  • I was never much of a Stephen King fan growing up – he was too much horror for my sci-fi favors – but on a cross-country trip, I found a tattered copy of IT sitting on my cousin’s Venice Beach bookshelf. In search of something to read one night during my California sojourn, I asked if she wouldn’t mind me borrowing it. She said, sure; she couldn’t even remember whose it was or how it got there. I read it on the entire flight back to New York and barely put it down for the next week until I’d finished it.
  • Clive Barker’s The Thief of Always has remained on my annual re-read list for the better part of 20 years. It’s a much shorter novel than his others, and it’s written for a younger audience than his usual fare, but it has such charm and magic, it will probably forever remain my favorite from his pen.
  • After finishing Elmore Leonard’s Killshot, I started a new book…then stopped, picked up Killshot again, and read it through a second time.
  • Ross Macdonald. Many folks praise Chandler and Hammett for their contributions to the genre, but if you like crime stories – especially noir crime stories – and you have not yet read Ross Macdonald, correct that.

I hope Kourtney doesn’t take too much offense that I changed the nature of this challenge to suit my own parameters. Wuthering Heights is a beautiful novel, and it should be on this list…but I haven’t read it in at least a decade. ;)

Were you offended by my version of the challenge? If you were to put together your 100 Best Novels list, how do you think you’d do it? What would definitely be on your list?

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