an unexpected invitation

Sometimes I get chatty on Twitter.

But only sometimes. Usually I use Twitter the way other people use the newspaper (or digital news outlets). I use it as a way to get the news of the day in a timely fashion directly to my electronic pocket device. And information about the field that I work in, the comings and goings of educational policies, hints for planning and programming educational activities…

It’s a lot of research for me, not always a lot of interaction.

In the last few weeks I’ve ‘met’ another lady who is interested in things similar to me, and we got into a rousing discussion about the current understanding of Return on Investment for education. As part of this discussion, she asked me to write a guest post for her blog.

And I said yes!

So in early March I will have an article about current topics in education – specifically about the long-term Return on Investment of informal and free choice learning – will be up on another blog. Imagine that! My musings on another person’s blog.

Will the wonders never cease.

Blameless (CBR4 #5)

Everyone who I spoke to about the Parasol Protectorate series was absolutely right, book three of the series – Blameless – is better than book two.

But is that the best thing I can say about it? No, I can say better things.

The series is, quite rightly, set up around Lady Alexia Maccon the sometimes La Diva Tarrabotti. Alexia is a fun character to follow around, but by the third book (and over 900 pages together) she has begun to wear on this reader. So, it a turn of events which completely answers my previous whining on the subject, we get more of everyone else this go around. Carriger has finally fleshed out the characterization of her supporting cast of characters in this novel. We met wonderful caricatures of these characters in the first and second book, but it certainly took until the third for characters like Ivy, Professor Lyall, Madam Lefoux, and Floote to really come into their own.

Plot wise we have a new big bad, a new problem for Alexia to deal with (why does EVERYONE want this poor girl dead?), and new terrain to explore (hello Italy!), and a seeming impossibility to wrangle with.  I appreciate how much Carriger works to explain the world in which Alexia lives. In Soulless we learn that England is a highly integrated society both for the supernatural set and the scientific community, and that the United States does not work in the same way, being a highly conservative place.  In Blameless we also get a small glimpse into France (science seems  all the fashion) and a larger look at Italy. Italy in the Parasol Protectorate universe in a highly religious, anti-supernatural place teeming with Templars on the hunt, and not necessarily the safest place for Alexia. But, with the disappearance of her would-be hero Lord Akeldama, she is a girl on a mission.

While I can find the descriptive language Carriger uses,  at times, repetitive (how many times does Alexia really need to tell us that the Templars’ outfits look like nightgowns?) I do think this is a good book, particularly if you are looking for a quick fun read. And can make it past book two, which I suggest you do.


I found out I lost a friend today.

Honestly, he had been lost to me for some time. In the way that the people we grow up with float in and out of our lives.

He had survived a rough childhood, nothing – unfortunately – out of the ordinary. An alcoholic absentee father and an overworked mother. An older sister with her own issues who wasn’t able to be there for him. He was a bright guy, smarter than average; he finished high school a semester early but didn’t think college was for him. He never even applied.

He wanted to serve his country; he wanted to be in the Coast Guard.

He never pursued that dream.

He wanted to have a good job that would allow him to be the type of father his never was.

He did work at a job which paid well but left him feeling unfulfilled, but a baby daughter who filled his heart with joy.

He was the type of friend who could be relied on in any situation. You needed a shoulder to cry on, he would listen. You needed to rant and rave about the injustices of the world, he’d join in and eventually make you laugh it away. You wanted to have a drink and play some pool, he was always game. He loved spending time with groups and was able to sit one on one and make you feel noticed.

I look back now and wonder what would make the boy that I knew turn into a man who would end his own life.

I do not know.

We love you Kev, and we’ll miss you. And we’ll remember the sad boy with the big heart and the man who never outran his demons.

no posts here today

Well, tomorrow really.

Not that I think I will have another Cannonball book read by then, but I felt it important to state my intentions at the outset.

There will be no posts here on the 18th.

I am blacking out (from blogging, commenting, tweeting, etc) in support of the notion that the legislation bouncing around (and at least presently shelved) in Washington, D.C. needs to be killed.

The lawmakers are after something I can support, however they appear to be doing it in the most dimwitted way I believe they could.

And now that I have said that, they will go ahead and prove me wrong.

Bring some of the leading thinkers or mythbusters to the table and make this right.

See you on the 19th…

Changeless (CBR4 #4)


I would like to start out by saying that if you have not yet read this series and would like to read Changeless by  Gail Carriger without knowing  plot details, please skip the rest of the review and know that I quite enjoyed the book: it was a nice easy read with plenty of plot and some great characterization. If you like crime/mystery solving, steampunk or think you might this is a good read and enjoy. Now off you go.

For the rest of us, who have read the first book Soulless, in the Parasol Protectorate series and fell as in love with certain characters, namely Lord Akeldama, Floote, and Prof. Lyall, as I did, you will be a little sad as they do not see much “on camera” time this book.  Where Soulless spent much of its time building the world of alexia’s London and didn’t get to the meat and potatoes of the mystery part of the plot until about half way through we are hit with the mystery up front in this novel. In the first lines of the book we are made aware that something is not right in London and Conall is off to figure it out, leaving his wife, Lady Alexia Maccon, behind.

But not for long, as is the standard Alexia move. She is rapidly using her connections and new position as muhjah in Queen Victoria’s shadow government to piece together why werewolves and vampires are returned to their human state (in essence they are change-less) and why ghosts exorcisms have occured. One of the problems I had with this book is that there are too many issues going on all at the same time and none seemed fully realized. But that may just be a sign of a small sophomoric slump.

For example: we are reintroduced to Ivy (and Ivy’s hats), find out she has a fiancé whom Alexia has never met and an increasing flirtations with the claviger Tunstell – who’s an actor (gasp!), Alexia’s sister Felicity is having trouble with dear old mama and has been foisted off on her sister, the rest of the Woolsey pack has arrived back from the Indian subcontinent and brought with them their human counterparts for a post deployment camp out on the castle lawns, Major Channing the Gamma of the pack makes an ass out of himself immediately upon meeting Alexia but may become useful at some point and we meet the male clothes wearing Madam Lefoux who is working as a hat shopkeeper and an underground scientist and the creator of Alexia’s newest parasol as ordered by Conall, who’s gone off to Scotland to attend to his former pack’s lack of an alpha.

This is all in the first three chapters.  No lie.

The mystery is solved; there is a trip through the aether on a dirigible, our heroine escapes from certain death. But it just wasn’t as fun as the first.  This is because I enjoyed reading the world building more than I enjoyed the mystery solving, particularly as this book didn’t have a satisfying big bad like the Hypocras Club from Soulless.

Would I tell you to read this book? Yes. Because in all honesty it was a fun enjoyable read, and I am just a little cranky about the ending and the fact that it is raining outside as I write this. But, I am looking forward to the next book.

a vehicle’s worth a thousand words

I don’t remember where I was when my car’s odometer went past 10,000 and it bothers me. When I bought the car it had just over a thousand miles on it, and as I was driving it the over fifty miles home I remember thinking that I would never get those miles back, and I didn’t know when the next time I would be able to get a new and not just new to me car would be so I should cherish the miles as they went.

When the car crossed 30,000 miles my brother and I were driving down the Overseas Highway to visit my sister at camp. Our mom had already gone down; still struggling three years later with the loss of our father.

When the car crossed 60,000 miles I was driving to work at a middle school on one of the coldest days of the year in my small central Florida town. I remember thinking it was fitting being my first winter out on my own that my baby would have a milestone.

When my car passed 90,000 miles I was on my way to Graduate School. I only had one class left after the next semester and I would finally get to graduate, a year behind my cohort. I remember being sad and a little lonely since most of the new friends I had made were already back in their home states, and how this new northern state was my home now.

This morning on my way into work, a 23 mile commute each way if I can take the ‘shortcuts’, my car crossed 100,000 miles and currently sits in the parking lot at 100,010. I love my job now so much more than I ever loved being a classroom teacher, but has it all been worth it?  Driving more than 10,000 miles in 7 months and that’s being a conservative driver? My student loans? Moving away from friends and family?

It’s another milestone that my car has measured for me.

a writer you say?

I have never thought of myself as a writer. Seriously. I have written a lot in my academic career, and should in fact be working on my thesis for my Master’s degree so that I can graduate in May. I know many of my friends in my program were absolutely petrified about writing the thesis, which must be at least 40-60 pages of original research. I was never concerned about the writing; I have always been concerned about the research. And that also feels silly. I’ve been writing in-depth and intense research papers for over a decade.

But even though I have always enjoyed the feeling of sitting down to write or type and the sort of bliss feeling that accompanies it, I have never thought to prescribe the term ‘writer’ to myself. I’m a student, a teacher, a friend, an elder sister, a reader,  a goofball, a history lover, a social liberal, a caffeine junkie, a semi-practicing Catholic, an aunt…

But never a writer, until now.

Approximately eight months ago I joined an incredibly informal writing/critiquing group with two friends from work. One of whom is absolutely committed to becoming a published writer and has many projects under way at any given time. The other has two bachelor degrees; one in English and one in Art. She has been writing as part of her profession and studies for nearly a decade and does partly define herself as such. Artist first, writer second. And then there was me. I honestly joined the group in order to spend more time with two ladies I quite enjoy, and partly because I thought it would provide the appropriate peer pressure to write the damned thesis (you can gather that has not happened).

Within a few weeks I was bringing original fiction to the table every two weeks when we met. Admittedly I only have forty or so pages written at the moment but this is the first time in over a decade that I have written for fun. For me.

I love it.

Since my conversion to blossoming writer I have also started commenting more frequently on the websites I browse, use my twitter feed more often, started reading more for fun, started this blog, and joined up with that crazy Cannonball Read 4.

So what does all of this mean? I don’t know. But I can’t stop thinking about something my Psychology teacher in High School told me just before I graduated. He told me that he always thought I’d be a writer. Perhaps a teacher, or a professor, certainly a lover of history, but definitely someone who chronicled and wrote.

So, here we are.

Soulless (CBR4 #3)

Soulless by Gail Carriger sparked my interest when I saw a review of it over on io9.  I thought “hey that sounds like a fantasy/steampunk book I could get behind”. And that was great because we were working on Steampunk at work (I have a weird job) and I thought it would be a great place to jump in. Then I forgot all about it until several months later when a friend of a friend said she read it and enjoyed it. I subsequently begged to borrow said book and because she is a very nice person it was lent to me forthwith.

We meet Alexia Tarabotti right away, and I must say this character begins the story as she means to continue – with a healthy appetite and an ability to fight for herself, and I like that about her. The world Alexia inhabits is a re-imagined Victorian Era, if vampires and werewolves had been living openly in society for centuries. The author, Gail Carriger, does a great job of providing the ways in which this altered reality would affect the history of her new world (the pilgrims were leaving England for more than just religious reasons in this version of history).

Alexia is an odd creature even in this world. She introduces herself as an ugly spinster, on the shelf due to her ‘bad’ habits and Italian heritage. In fact, she harps on it so much you know the author is going to bring in someone who is of an opposing view (and she does). We also learn quite quickly that while vampires and werewolves are made from people with an excess of soul, Alexia is herself soulless.

This state makes her interactions with vampires and werewolves very different from regular humans. Skin to skin contact returns the supernatural to their human state. This also reasons to keep her identity a secret, since the soulless historically were supernatural hunters. But, needless to say, Alexia finds a way to be right in the middle of the supernatural set. And hi-jinks and mystery solving ensue.  I know I am leaving out the entire plot, and while the beginning of this novel is certainly an info dump, I wouldn’t want to spoil the story for anyone looking to read it, or its sequels for themselves (Soulless is the first in the Parasol Protectorate series, reviews for the rest of the books in the series will be following). There is a lot of great characterization here, characters who get stuck in your head and you wonder about, and I promise to talk about all of that more in my review of the next book, Changeless.

A Day in the Salt Mines

No, I do not actually work in a mine.

I work at a historic site, and I’m in education. It’s my job to figure out fun and engaging things for you to do when you visit. And that it what I am supposed work on at the moment.

Instead I’m typing. Because there isn’t a lot else I feel compelled to do at the moment.

My job requires a lot of creativity, and sometimes the creative juices either don’t flow at all, or flow in ‘the wrong’ direction. This is not to say that I haven’t been productive today, I have. I just wish I was more productive.

But I have a plan, and I know that’s the first most important step.

“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanely sensitive. To them… a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create — so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, their very breath is cut off… They must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency they are not really alive unless they are creating.” – Pearl Buck

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk (CBR4 #2)

I admit from the outset that this book was my holiday gift to myself and I went in planning on loving it. And I do love it, but not the way one loves their favorite pair of shoes or a brand new laptop. I love it like you love a cousin you haven’t seen in a few years but who gave you your first tequila shot when you were severely underage.

Don’t look at me like that, I stand by the analogy.

I love David Sedaris’ style. I love his dry wit and the variously interesting ways in which he gets around to the point of his stories. Even though I know there’s likely a twist coming, I am rarely, if ever, able to call it. I love that his books are generally collections of short stories, something that I don’t always appreciate in other authors. I even like that he is adventurous in style choices. Sometimes his books are memoir, sometimes its first person narrative fiction, and this time it’s a riff on fables.

Yep, fables. Although to be fair Sedaris refers to the book as “A Modest Bestiary”.

And that may be the reason why I am not puppy dog in love with this outing as I have been by previous Sedaris books. Even though the animal protagonists are very obviously based on people who populate the world around us, I couldn’t always invest in them. Sure, there are standouts in the book , but I’d say I was most disappointed by the title pair. There just wasn’t a lot to love in the chapter about a squirrel and a chipmunks forbidden love and a misunderstanding about jazz.

There is quite a bit of social commentary to be had, each new chapter with its new animal protagonists. There is a new topic tackled, a new insight aimed for. My favorites include “The Motherless Bear” where an overly needy and selfish bear receives her comeuppance and “The Faithful Setter” following the travails of a man dog about town. Certainly I felt the stories got stronger as the book, at a mere 120 pages or so, continued. Also, the illustrations by Ian Falconer are both adorable and hilarious in equal measure.