Monday, November 29, 2010

Photos from Dorian's Parlor

Wow! What an extravaganza! Dorian's Parlor did not disappoint -- it was an exciting evening of entertainment, where the people OFF the stage were just as interesting as the people ON the stage.

The best way to describe the event is with pictures. Above is Gil Cnaan, one of the founders of Dorian's Parlor.

Bob and I pose for a photo before the event.

My munchkin minions hung around the entrance and took pictures of interesting guests. No, I don't know what he was hunting with that weapon.

There were lots of vendors with corsets and hats and leather accessories and jewelry. Clock parts were IN! The earrings above have been mine for years. I bought them long before steampunk became popular, and in fact I wore them on my first date with Bob. (They are my favorites!) But at Dorian's, a lot of the jewelry was made out of clock parts, and Bob bought this necklace for me to go with my earrings.

And of course, I did my bit on stage. I did not faint in my corset, no matter how nervous I was. However, I needed assistance getting on and off the stage in that skirt.

I'll post more later this week about the lively steampunk culture and some of the people we met. It's going to take me awhile to absorb it all!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Practicing for Dorian's

I’ve been practicing all week for this weekend’s reading at Dorian’s Parlor. Actually, you could say I started practicing last weekend, when my husband and I learned how to dress me up in my costume. Yes, it took two of us. All those movies you’ve seen where a servant or a sister has to lace up the heroine’s corset while she hangs on to the bed post? Completely accurate! The part you don’t usually see in the movies is the husband using Google to figure out how to lace up the corset in the first place.

After I got into the corset and skirt, I had to get into the car – not that easy a task when your body doesn’t bend normally, and thank heavens I wasn’t driving! Bob drove me to my mother’s, because she claimed she’d put together the perfect hat to go with my outfit. And wow, she was right!

Do you want to see a picture?

Well, sorry. You’re going to have to wait for the unveiling at the steampunk ball. I’ll probably post on Twitter and Facebook during the event – and then blog about it on Monday. (Oh, wait a minute. I’ll have no place to keep my Droid, I just realized. Maybe Bob will hold it for me?)

I’ve also been practicing my reading. I decided to focus on Maggie Fox’s beaux, Philadelphia native, Dr. Elisha Kent Kane. After all, he’s buried just a couple miles away from where we’ll be. I only have ten minutes, which is perfect for reading the story of how he fell through the ice with his sled dogs. Hopefully, the audience will appreciate that most of the story is told in his own words (although my editors made me trim him down – they found him too wordy, LOL!).

Speaking of Dr. Kane, my husband will be in costume, too, and he asked the costumers to get him something as close to Kane’s naval uniform as possible. I didn’t get to see the fitting, so the whole ensemble will be a surprise to me tomorrow.

I can hardly wait, although I am a little nervous. I keep envisioning the Pirates of the Caribbean movie where Elizabeth can’t breathe in her corset and falls off the parapet …

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sending a Kid up Everest

Report cards and parent conferences are over, and it's time for Thanksgiving break! I feel like I've worked hard enough for it!

Exhaustion makes me cranky and maybe a little fanciful. My over-exerted neurons are firing off crazy ideas and strange little mini-stories. Overall, parent conferences went very well, and I heard a number of times that I’ve made a positive influence on my students. A couple parents have thanked me for placing a particular book into the hands of their child, transforming a reluctant reader into someone hungry for more books by that author/in that series/on that topic. So maybe it’s no wonder the following conversation in the library this week was followed by a paranoid crazy fantasy:

Me: Mark, why haven’t you picked out a library book?

Mark: (skulking at the back of the line, where he always tries to hide) I hate reading. I don’t want a book.

Me: We go through this every week, Mark. Let’s pick something interesting and short.

Mark: (stomping over reluctantly) Nothing’s interesting.

Me: Look, here’s a book on Mt. Everest. (Mark rolls his eyes.) C’mon, Mark. Lots of people died trying to climb Everest. You’ll like that part.

Mark: (with a spark of interest) Really?

Me: Oh, yeah. Look, here’s a picture of Beck Weathers, who was left for dead. But turns out, he was alive and he practically had to rescue himself.

Mark: (pointing at another picture) Are those all tombstones?

Me: Yeah. Pretty gruesome, huh?

Mark: Okay, I’ll take it.

I figured at first that he was only humoring me, so we could hurry up and leave the library. But as we walked back to the classroom, I looked back and saw him reading while walking. I smiled to myself. If he liked this book, I would try to get him interested Gordon Korman’s Everest series. Maybe Mark would get really interested in Everest. Maybe Mark would become a mountain climber. Maybe Mark would someday ascend Mr. Everest. Maybe Mark would get hurt! And I would be to blame! And his mother would be crying on the news, telling the world it was all the fault of Mark’s fifth grade teacher who gave him a book on Everest …

That’s about the time I realized, I really, really, really need this upcoming holiday break.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Squashed Flat

I don’t have much for you today, folks. A week of being buried under report cards was followed by a week of parent-teacher conferences – including one 12-hour work day – and I still have more conferences to do tonight. I’m feeling squashed flat – kind of like our old friend, Wile E. Coyote.

Now, the coyote was always back in the next scene, as good as new. I might need more of a recovery time, as exhaustion has completely sapped my creative energy. And I’m feeling a bit stymied anyway.

I’m considering another round of revisions on The Caged Graves, but I need to carefully think through what the changes will entail. The Wardenclyffe story has only 2 chapters so far, but my main character Mick has already diverted from the outline I wrote – which may be a good thing. And I’m mulling over a few other story ideas as well.

Good thing Thanksgiving break is coming … because I need some down time.

In the meantime, how do you like the snazzy new counterweight kitchen lights my husband installed, which I’m told are totally steampunk?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gina Review: Vordak the Incomprehensible

I've got Gina here -- ahem -- I've got ZARKOR here, cape and all, to give us a review of a book that's pure evil ...

Gina's Review: Vordak the Incomprehensible: How to Grow Up and Rule the World

Do you want to rule the world?  If so this is the book for you!  If not, do a hundred trillion push-ups!  In the beginning of this book take a few tips from Vordak about being evil then take the evil test!  If you pick the evilest answer for all of them Vordak says you will probably at least rule a small island nation. 

Read through the sections about fashion with your belts, your costume, your mask, and your cape.  There are three very important reasons to wear a cape. 1.  Darth Vader wears a cape.   2.  The Riddler does not wear a cape.   3.  Darth Vader is cooler then the Riddler.  Therefore a cape is necessary! 

Read all the top three ways to make a Girl Scout cry or try the ways to ruin a field trip!  You think Santa is nice?  Not when you read this book: example he has only one suit.... which he wears every day.... which means Mrs. Santa has to wash it every night! 

Learn all about the superheroes and how to trap them!  Learn about your minions -- which ones you should definitely have and which ones to avoid. Now all you need is an awesome name (but don't even think about stealing Vordak!)  He gives specific guidelines so you can end up with a name like Zarkor The Unyieldingly Unforgiving.

Now that you’re ruler of the world, don't you want some tips about what to do with your power?  Well why not play Being Bowling: line up everyone in a town in a bowling arrangement then set up a big tower and roll your big bowling ball down!  Want more fun things to do?  Read this book then, or of course you could do ten million sit-ups.  You choose!

I would recommend this book to someone who enjoys a good laugh and wants to be ruler of the world.  I liked this book because Vordak plays tricks on you to make you look like you possess the brains of a turnip.  Also he includes a special maze with a lazy solution.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Crime of the Century

I love it when I’m researching a project and I discover a fascinating side story that has nothing to do with my WIP, yet pulls me off track for hours, just reading about it.

While reading about Tesla’s experiments on Long Island at Wardenclyffe Tower, I came across a reference to the architect who built the tower, Stanford White. I didn’t recognize the name, but apparently he was an extremely famous and talented architect who was murdered a few years later in what was called The Crime of the Century.

The Crime of the Century? In 1906, the media had already decided that no other crime in the next 94 years could be as important? As a matter of fact, I thought The Crime of the Century (of the 20th century, that is) was the Lindbergh kidnapping.

As it turns out, the media has dubbed countless crimes the most important one of the century – from The Great Brinks Robbery to the Jonestown Massacre. But Stanford White’s murder was the first.

White was shot in the head and killed on the Madison Square Roof Garden by millionaire Harry K. Thaw in front of dozens of witnesses. The motive? Five years earlier, Stanford White (a known womanizer) had carried on an affair with Thaw’s 22-year old wife, Evelyn Nesbitt. The affair occurred before Evelyn, a famous model and chorus girl, had even met her future husband, but Thaw was so violently jealous that he apparently felt the need to kill the man who’d been his wife’s first lover.

Thaw was tried twice for the crime. The jury was deadlocked the first time, and he was acquitted by reason of temporary insanity the second time – although he was subsequently incarcerated in a hospital for the “criminally insane.” His trial (1907-1908) was dubbed – what else? – The Trial of the Century. (Move over OJ Simpson.)

What does this have to do with my current WIP? Absolutely nothing. But it was a fascinating little side trip. And it does make me wonder … what was The Crime of the Century in the 1800’s? And how many of them were there?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Blogs I Shouldn't Write

Last week, students were off for a teacher in-service day, and I attended a day full of meetings and presentations. A day full of meetings will get me thinking – especially in report card season when I have a ton of work to do, and I can’t do any of it because I’m in meetings …

On this particular day, my mind wandered to blog posts. I already had two blog posts scheduled, but I was drawing a blank for the upcoming week. What could I write about?

On my breaks and in the spare moments between meetings (anybody buying that?), I decided to jot down some ideas for future blog posts. Problem was, I could only think of blog post topics I shouldn’t write:

Anatomy of a Meeting

Personality Types and Unexpected Jekyll/Hyde Transformations

How to Divert the Agenda in 5 Easy Steps

Pros and Cons of Installing Shock Buzzers in the Conference Room Chairs (And Who Gets to Hold the Trigger)

The Case for Settling Disputes with Slap-Down Mud-Wrestling

Optimal Duration for Beating a Dead Horse

I can’t write about any of these topics, for obvious reasons. :D However, you guys are welcome to expound on any of those topics – or share the topics you’ve thought about, but really shouldn’t write about!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Time to Pantster and a Time to Outline

I’m hanging up my “pants” on this WIP and taking up outlining for awhile!

When I start a new story, I generally know how it begins and how it ends. The journey between those two points is an adventure – sometimes a scary, panic-stricken one – but nevertheless an exciting journey with lots of meandering and the occasional deadly cliff.

It’s like a great big connect-the-dots puzzle. Once the first draft is complete, I take a few steps back, and I might discover that I have to erase some of the lines and connect them in a different way. (But the same can be said of a first draft written from an outline.)

I have notes, of course – notes on things that must happen and things that might happen. Sometimes they are no more than impressions of scenes that may or may not ever be written. The characters tell me what to do as I go. Recently, the projected loser in a romantic triangle persuaded me he should be the winner after all. And since his rival didn’t turn out to be the guy I thought he was, I agreed whole-heartedly with the change.

But in the case of this new project, I think I need a more detailed road map. Research into Nikola Tesla is making my brain hurt! That man was into alternating current, high frequency high voltage electricity, wireless transmission of electricity, wireless communication, renewable energy, x-rays, remote controlled warcraft, and more. A story featuring Tesla could involve anything from Martians to anti-gravity! (He believed in both.) Without a plan, my dot-to-dot plot might end up a terrible snarl!

I know how I want the story to end, so I’ll be outlining backwards from that point until I reach my beginning. Yeah, I said I would outline, but I didn’t say I would do it the regular way.

I can’t promise I’ll follow the outline either! :D

Monday, November 8, 2010

In Defense of Daylight Savings Time

Last week I railed against changing the clocks, and most of my blog followers agreed with me. I invited dissenting opinions to share their point of view, and today I’d like to present a guest blog by my brother-in-law, Larry O’Donnell. (You’ve met Larry before!)

Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude by Larry O’Donnell

Why do we need those pesky time zones and seasonal time changes?

Some of the reasons are socio-economic, some are to avoid chaos and some actually save lives.

The Sun gives us a means of telling time by appearing to move from east to west. The sun dial was developed (and used for centuries) as way of determining time. There were an infinite number of time zones because the sun dial was accurate only where it stood. That didn’t matter since there was little commerce and almost all of it was local. Once land and sea transportation and commerce went to steam, the need for coordinated time became obvious. Ultimately, a general agreement led to time zones. This convention simplified navigation, which used time and the angular altitude of stars to determine position.

In theory, each of the 24 time zones is 15 degrees of Longitude wide. The middle of the zone is where noon occurs with the Sun directly overhead, at the Equator on the solstice.

In practice, the time zones gerrymander according to national, State, and county borders. Sometimes they are drawn to topographic features, mostly rivers. Florida has two time zones divided by the Apalachicola River.

In order to position daylight during the most productive times of the day an adjustment is made by advancing or retarding the clock. Navigation ignores this change by using UTC or what used to be Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) to measure against star sightings. There has been considerable debate about the use of DST, and States are permitted to legislate their participation. Arizona and Hawaii, for instance, do not change to DST.

There are those who claim there is an energy saving benefit. There those who refute that claim. Some folks believe it improves the quality of life by permitting working people daylight in the evenings for recreation or chores. One thing that is relatively certain, where it has been studied, is that there are fewer pedestrian deaths and injuries during DST. Studies clearly indicated the number of pedestrian casualties in the same locations were significantly higher starting immediately after the conclusion of DST.

The two time zone idea would be okay for the people living in the middle of the zone. But the people living on the edge of their zone would have some difficulties. Imagine if it were 6am in both New York City and Wichita, Kansas. In New York, it would be dawn, but the sun might still be an hour and a half away from Wichita.

I like the extra hour of sleep in the fall and despise losing it in the spring but other than that, I think the system provides better quality of life, in the summer.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Blog Wordle

This is a Wordle created for my blog by a former student (and friend of Dread Daughter #1)

It clearly shows what's been on my mind lately!

Thanks, Christine!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Having Mom in the Classroom Next Door

This year, my daughter Gina is in fifth grade, and she's in the classroom right next to mine. Her teacher is the young man I mentored three years ago when he started teaching at my school.

It's been a fun and strange year so far. At least one third of my homeroom class has been to my house for a pool party or a slumber party -- and therefore, have seen me in my bathing suit and/or pajamas.

Today, I bring you Gina with a guest post on the situation from her point of view:

Having My Mom in the Classroom Next Door by Gina Salerni

Having my mom in the classroom next door is a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good because if I forget something like money for the book fair I can just go over and get some. It’s also a good thing because if I forget a note for something after school like science fair or Girl Scouts I can always go get one.

It’s a bad thing because if I miss one assignment she will find out very quickly! It’s also a bad thing because all my friends say every day “I saw your mom today.” And that can get very annoying!

It’s also kind of weird because if I am in the hallway I’m likely to run into her and be surprised. Also if the door is open, I can hear her teaching and that is weird. She comes into my classroom too if she needs to give my teacher something or get something from him. It’s also weird for my friends because some of them are in her class. So at school she’s their teacher, but after school she’s carpooling them to a birthday party.

Overall having my mom as a teacher next door is just weird! Just wait until we switch classes during science and she’s MY teacher for a few weeks!

Yup! Her homeroom comes to me in less than two weeks for my unit on Environmental Science. That should be interesting. We've discussed whether she or not she will address me as Mrs. Salerni -- but I'm not holding out much hope.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Daylight Savings Time Hell

Sunday is the day we change the clocks again.

UGH! The older I get, the harder it seems to make this time shift twice a year. My entire body protests the change. It’s used to doing certain things at certain times, and it doesn’t appreciate that weird feeling of being lost in time. This seems like an exaggeration, and I know you’re probably thinking: Boy, is Dianne cranky today! But honestly, twice a year on a time changing Sunday, I feel like hell. The following Monday isn’t much better, either.

So, why do we do this? Does it actually do any good? Can anyone produce positive evidence – PROOF – that we save energy by changing the time twice a year?

A lot of people say no, it doesn’t save any energy at all. Here’s an article in the New York Times suggesting that households may consume more electricity during Daylight Savings.

And here’s a great website called End Daylight Savings Time that provides some historical background about the custom, as well as a modest (and reasonable) alternative proposal. They propose that Mountain and Eastern time zones remain permanently on standard time, and that Central and Pacific time zones remain permanently on daylight savings time – thus reducing the mainland United States to TWO time zones instead of FOUR. Imagine that – wouldn’t it make business travel so much simpler, as well as eliminate the need to change the clocks twice a year?

How do you feel? Anyone out there who’s favor of the current system, please speak up and tell me why! I promise not to fire any spitballs at you.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Dorian's Parlor

So, it’s all set:

Saturday, November 27 at the Doubletree Hotel in Center City, Philadelphia, I’ll be reading from We Hear the Dead and leading a Q/A session at a “Dress-to-the-Nines, Steampunk, Neo-Victorian, Black-Tie” evening – in full 19th century costume!

How did I end up here?

Well, it starts like this: A man and his wife go into a corset shop …

Yeah, I know it sounds like a dirty joke, but it’s true. My husband took me to Philadelphia for a surprise shopping trip last month, on the hunt for a nineteenth century-type costume. The wonderful staff at Passional were not only able to help us put together an outfit, they suggested we check out Dorian’s Parlor, a monthly steampunk extravaganza held just down the street. Passional apparently outfits a number of steampunk enthusiasts and has a regular vendor table at the event. Even though We Hear the Dead is not steampunk, they seemed confident the subject matter would be of interest to the Dorian crowd.

(Of course, the romantic lead of WHTD, intrepid Arctic explorer Dr. Elisha Kent Kane, was a Philadelphia native and rests eternally within the city limits. See my blog post about visiting his tomb here.)

My promotional staff (ie: Bob) contacted Gil Cnaan, one of the organizers of Dorian’s Parlor, and before I knew it, the two of them had booked me on stage – in corset – to do a formal reading. I am psyched! When I learned that the evening’s entertainment will also include a showing of the animated short film The Tesla Experiment: Twain in Vain, I knew it had to be another SIGN!

Dorian’s Parlor was recently named the Ultimate Geeky Getaway by Geekadelphia. Well, with my lovely new outfit, at least I’ll be dressed in appropriate Geek Chic … Pictures to come, I promise!