Did WordPress Update?

I get the impression that WordPress must have updated the software recently.  Things are basicaly the same, but they look a little different.  And there are a few annoying little errors that are cropping up here or there.  Things like, WordPress used to fill in the “shortlink” automatically into my Publicize message (where I broadcast a link to Twitter and Facebook back to the latest blog post), and now I have to go get a shortlink manually to paste into it.  Obviously not the end of the world, but it used to be easy before, but for the past couple days it’s been annoying…  Or automatically checking the “Uncategorized” category… it used to not automatically check anything, and now it takes an extra click because I have to  uncheck that first before checking the correct category.

Can I have some of those little things back, guys?

Semester Complete

So, as of today, Spring Semester of 2010 is finally over.

I wanted to write something deeper and more interesting than this, but work started gearing up pretty heavy for the beginning of the old monthly cycle again, and so I’ve been swamped… I’ve had to work through lunch rather than getting a bit of freedom, so that’s been a little rough on my “blog-writing” time.  My apologies, folks.

I’d been planning to do another “Genre Critiques” essay sometime in the near future… (I hadn’t done one in quite a while) but I couldn’t decide on a topic worthy of a full-fledged essay (nor a topic which I would have sufficient time to do a little research before today).  So, do you guys have topic suggestions, and maybe I’ll get to one next week?  I was considering researching and critiquing either the “Unobtanium/Adamantium” trope or the “Orphaned Boy” cliché, but I wasn’t sure the first had enough meat for a full essay and I didn’t have enough time to devote sufficient thought to the second. Ah, well.

Other than that, I want only to say that if I drop off and miss a day here or there over the coming weeks, you have my deepest apologies, but it’s only because it’s unavoidable.  I’ve managed to keep up with a daily posting schedule for the last several months, and though I would hate to miss a day at this point, after examining my time and what’s going on in life, I only felt comfortable recommitting to a two official post-update days, with 250 words on each of those days (I updated my About page to reflect the change in my “official” post schedule to the expanded amount a few weeks ago).  Anyway, though the semester is over, there’s still work, and the new “mini-internship” project to work on, and things have a way of catching up with you sometimes.

Hopefully, later today I’ll have an update to my Magical Lexicon.  There may only be a very small handful of definitions added, but at least it will be something…

100 Books Meme 1 Year Later

Or rather, a year and some change later.

In February and March of last year, a meme was going around the internet – possibly started on Facebook – that the BBC had compiled a list of 100 great books.  The meme was that your average British citizen had read only 6 of the books on the list.  I did a little fact-checking before writing up this post (I wanted to link to the original list, if it existed), and it appears the meme was mostly fictional (i.e. there was never a list of 100 great books that most people hadn’t read; instead there was a list of 100 most popular books in Britain, which implies rather that these are books that have been read by quite a good many people).

By the time the list made it to Dear Wife and I, it had undergone several changes, rather like a game of Telephone.  The idea was to see how many of the books you had read (and whether you had read more than the supposed average of 6 books).

Over the weekend, Dear Wife uncovered the e-mail we had sent back-and-forth on the subject; she thought it would make an amusing post, and I concurred.  Here is the list as we received it, with books I have read in blue, books Dear Wife has read in crimson, and books we both have read in purple, with my commentary on the side.:

  1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  2. The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien – Tolkien intended it to be a single book, so it still counts as one book, in my book
  3. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
  4. Harry Potter series – JK Rowling – The makers of the list must realize of course, that this is 7 books, total 
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  6. The Bible – I’ve actually read two different translations in their entirety
  7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte – This is on Dear Wife’s list
  8. Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
  9. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman – But we did listen to the first third on Audio Book… just never got around to finishing it
  10. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens – I had great expectations for this book… nyuk nyuk nyuk; but seriously, it was a pretty enoyable read
  11. Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
  12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
  13. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
  14. Complete Works of Shakespeare – Has anyone read the complete works of Shakespeare?  I don’t know, but I’ve read several of his plays…
  15. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
  16. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien – This and Lord of the Rings are both on my top-ten list… so there you go.
  17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk
  18. Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
  19. The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
  20. Middlemarch – George Eliot
  21. Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
  22. The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
  23. Bleak House – Charles Dickens
  24. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
  25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
  26. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
  27. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky – Seriously, Dear Wife says she read this…
  28. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
  29. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
  30. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame – I was thinking of it at the time, but this could easily have fit on my top-ten list, or at least earned an honorable mention…
  31. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
  32. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
  33. Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis – There like 7 of these, too, you know…
  34. Emma – Jane Austen
  35. Persuasion – Jane Austen
  36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis – Is this somehow not covered in “The Chronicles of Narnia”?  Still, Dear Wife has read this, but not the others in the series…
  37. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini – No, but I did read his second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns
  38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
  39. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
  40. Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
  41. Animal Farm – George Orwell – Yeah, I actually made it through High School without having to read this, I think because of the move mid-school.  My sisters did have to read it.
  42. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
  43. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
  45. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
  46. Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
  47. Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
  48. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  49. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
  50. Atonement – Ian McEwan
  51. Life of Pi – Yann Martel
  52. Dune – Frank Herbert
  53. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
  54. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
  55. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
  56. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  57. A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens And yet I don’t recall most of it; it was not as memorable as others of Dickens’ books
  58. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
  60. Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  61. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
  62. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
  63. The Secret History – Donna Tart
  64. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
  65. Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas – No, but the movie was fantastic, in my opinion
  66. On The Road – Jack Kerouac
  67. Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
  68. Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
  69. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
  70. Moby Dick – Herman Melville
  71. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
  72. Dracula – Bram Stoker
  73. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
  74. Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
  75. Ulysses – James Joyce
  76. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
  77. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
  78. Germinal – Emile Zola
  79. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
  80. Possession – AS Byatt
  81. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens – Perhaps the finest morality tale ever penned.
  82. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
  83. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
  84. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
  85. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
  86. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
  87. Charlotte’s Web – EB White – But I’ve seen the old animated movie so many times the story is still etched into my childhood.
  88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
  89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Which adventure of Sherlock Holmes?  I’ve read several, though I don’t recall which ones specifically.
  90. The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
  91. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
  92. The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint Exupery – For my part, in the native French, specifically, a feat I don’t think I could repeat today, since my French reading and speaking skills have atrophied from disuse.
  93. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
  94. Watership Down – Richard Adams
  95. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
  96. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
  97. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
  98. Hamlet – William Shakespeare – Because goodness knows you never include Hamlet in a list of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare.
  99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
  100. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo – Oh, but I tried, I really did – I read the first third of the book, but it was just so densely written, I eventually gave up. 

So… There’s your regular dose of internet necromancy.  LIVE AGAIN, o meme of the 100 books, LIVE!

Or not…

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Weekend Assignment: Thief of Time

This week’s Weekend Assignment asked the question: what activities do you have to do that take up your time and prevent you from doing other important things that you’d rather be doing?

My gut, instinctual answer, of course, is: well yeah, my day job!  That’s not really fair, though.  It’s no secret that my current field is not the field I want to pursue for a long-term career, and I don’t mean that because I’d rather be able to write for a living.  Writing for a living is a great gig, if you can get it, but I have a realistic, pragmatic point-of-view on the matter.  Sure, I’d love to write for a living.  And I’m good at it, even if I can’t say that I’m great at it.  Written communication, in general, is one of my strongest skills – both in interpreting written communication and in crafting written communication.  (As evidence of this, I could point to my GMAT scores; I took the GMAT twice, because my GMAT math scores were not stellar and I knew I could do better.  But the first time I took the GMAT my verbal percentile score was already well into the high 90s.  I didn’t see much improvement on the retake, simply because when you’re already in the 99th percentile, there’s really no “up” left.  My written essay scores were similarly high both times.)

But being good at writing and making a career of it are two very, very different things.  Could I be successful at it?  That remains to be seen.  But in the mean time, I have a family to provide for.  And I take pride in my work, whatever it is that I put my effort into.  I take pride in adding value to the company I work for.  So for me, the problem is that more and more I find that Finance is not a field that is really “value-added” for most companies (unless it’s a Financial Firm, which is another story entirely), and that leaves me feeling dissatisfied when, at the end of the day, I can’t say I’ve done something that is truly meaningful or valuable for the firm.  If you’re not doing something that’s really useful to somebody, it starts to drag on you mentally.  That’s partly why I’m working on my MBA, and partly why I anticipate shifting careers in the future out of Finance and in a more marketing or stategically-oriented direction.  Those are skills and fields within a company where I can mentally trace a direct line between the tasks they perform and the value added to the firm.

So, that’s quite the aside, vis-a-vis the topic of the writing prompt.

So, a perfectly fair answer to the question is commuting.  Except for NPR, I hate my commute.  (And since I usually finish listening to Morning Edition at work, anyway, on my mp3 player, I really can’t say that’s a good part either.)  It’s an hour each way, so that’s 10 hours a week basically wasted that I could be doing something productive.  In fact, I’ve turned down a job offer for a job that was farther away, even though they paid more, in part because of the longer commute issue.  Giving up another 15 minutes each way every day is too great a price to pay when I’ve already paid so much.

What would I do with the extra time, if I had it?  Ideally, two things.  Of course, I’d want to spend time writing.  As it is, I don’t have much time for that at all.  If I could pencil in an hour a day each week, that would really boost my story-writing productivity.  The second thing is also an easy one.  Spending time with my family, especially to be more helpful around the house.  There so much around the house that needs to get done, and I never feel like I have enough time to do it all.  There’s the yard and garden, where neglect has caused weeds and things to run wild.  There’s the broken door jamb on the kitchen door.  There’s all these little things, and I feel like a slacker husband that I haven’t already done these things.

Here’s hoping you can find the time.  Happy writing.

Last Round with the Final Project Reaper

Today I play the last round of this game I’ve been playing with the Final Project Reaper.  And oh, that Reaper, he will rue the day he met me, for I will show him how this game is played!  Well, that, and of course the rest of my team, too.  Together, we are stronger!

After this, there’s just the take-home Final Exam in one class, and the secondary, off-the-books project that I’m doing as a sort of mini-internship.  And then there’s that other project… the one that involves my assumption of a CEO role: as Dear Wife tells it, I will be CEO of Waste Management.  In other words, I’ll be in charge of the poopy diapers. 

So, wish me luck, and stick around for tomorrow when I post my answer to the latest Weekend Assignment prompt!

Writing Quote: When to Plan

The author of today’s writing quote needs no introduction.  She wrote nearly a hundred books in her lifetime and has sold more books than any other author in contemporary times, with a large number of those featuring the famed literary detective Hercule Poirot.  I speak, of course, of Agatha Christie.  So now, I’ll turn it over to Agatha to reveal the secret of when to work on planning that novel you’re working on:

The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.

~Agatha Christie

I find this to be an interesting quote, especially at a time when I’ve been bogged down with so much busy work, trying to finish up projects, work on final exams, and be supportive of my Dear Wife – all while doing the old day job thing.  It’s pretty busy.

And, as I’ve mentioned, I have several novel project ideas dancing around in the back of my head.  There’s that long-gestating novel, plus several other novel ideas ready to be planted.  I’d really like to start fleshing one of those other ideas out into something that looks more like a book.  But when will I ever have time for that?

Well… whenever!  If I’m busy doing something else that is occupying my hands but not my mind, that’s the time to engage my mind on coming up with interesting characters, fantastic worlds, and engaging plots.

Ideally, to get writing done, you need to follow the BICHOK rule: “Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard”.  In other words, you need to spend some time in a place where you can write.  But we don’t always have that luxury.  That’s when Agatha’s advice comes into play.

Happy Writing.