Karma repaired–Instant Karma: Just Add Repentance

Well, I did it, and I didn’t get arrested.

I went back over to Hubby’s Favorite Store this morning and explained what had happened with the Purloined Batteries. They were very nice (perhaps amazed) and took my money while exclaiming over how Honest and Trustworthy I must be and how I had all the other good-Scout qualities. *digging toe in dirt* I did make ONE little white lie in that I said it was “my teenager” who accidentally walked out with them, because I didn’t want Hubby to be embarrassed next time he came in . . . and he and his friends stop by here all the time over their lunch hour. *blush* After all, he told me *not* to go back or ever tell them about it for fear they’d start worrying any time he came into the store. And he doesn’t really look teenaged any more these days. *AND* he acts like a 14-year-old boy so often anyhow. I figure that was an acceptable compromise. They got their $3 . . . I got my dented karma (by association) fixed.

You can breathe easier now. *grin*

Still can’t convince the iTunes store that YES, I have two e-mail addresses and two store accounts (from back when we were just learning iTunes and were stoooopider), and this computer and both our iPods should be authorized to play all music in the iTunes library. I’m at the point of thinking I should take the DRM off of these files any way I can, but I have the newest iTunes software (because it sneaks around at night to update itself), so none of the DRM-removing software that is out there right now can take the DRM off. As I understand it, I would have to take the DRM off so that iTunes doesn’t constantly carp that “this computer is not authorized to play this song . . . put in your password and we’ll check with the store” or “this iPod has songs on it that are not authorized, so either put in your password so we can check or we’ll zap it.” That gets REALLY OLD. I’ve already had to re-purchase some Erin McKeown tracks because it simply Would Not Believe that I had ever bought them (but I did get iTunes Plus this time around, so whatever.) I prefer to buy the CDs when they’re available. Or dig out the old vinyl and use that cool turntable thingie to make .wav files. Hey, the pops and scratches add character. Besides, the Ray Charles RENAISSANCE album has not been put out on CD (can you believe that?!), and I want the tracks “It’s Not Easy Being Green” and “Sail Away” off of it. They should put that one out on CD.

If Certain People would rip in that Jack Jones album, we’d have even more to listen to. *whistling*

Last night, I threw the book _The Lives of John Lennon_ against the wall. I tried to stay calm, but the author made me mad one too many times. It’s a real hatchet job. I tried to ignore all the little digs and putdowns because I wanted to know What Really Happened, but it just got too snarky (IMHO) and I simply Do Not Believe that John was so mean and violent and wicked-thinking and did all those things. I think a lot of the remarks he made were made in jest or just to yank people’s chains for fun (do *I* do that–oh, REALLY?? Had NO IDEA), or he was just a-blowin’ and a-goin’ (as Grandma used to say) to see what he could get the media to believe. ANYway . . . he was only human, so I don’t know what this biographer expected. Now I understand why Paul McCartney and Yoko both asked the fans not to buy or read this book. Fortunately, I got it free from someone who said to just throw it away if I didn’t want to keep it, as she couldn’t get through it for much the same reason(s). I’ve already read Cynthia’s book and May Pang’s _Loving John_. I’ll bet there is a book that takes a more balanced approach without putting him on a pedestal. Maybe.

It’s especially disappointing because that author’s first book, _LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, LENNY BRUCE!_ was pretty good. Now that I look back on it, maybe he was fairly tough on Lenny, too. Lot of nasty events recounted in that one, unless I’m remembering all wrong. Perhaps *I* am expecting too much and would rather gloss over some of the Not-Nice things that my various heroes have done. We’ll walk on the sunny side instead. *chirping* La, la, la . . . I can’t hear you!



Moral dilemma . . . I didn’t do it! He did!

*gulp* I’m fretting.

OK, last night we stole a battery.

Two of them. Worth 1.49 each, so 2.98 total.

It wasn’t really Hubby’s fault. We walked into His Favorite Store and headed down the battery aisle because he needed round lithium batteries for his
calculator and for some other little gadget (not the expensive ones like for the blood glucose meter or the cell phone headset). He had just plucked two off the rack when we heard a familiar voice say, “Why, lookie what kind of riff-raff they’re letting shop here now.”

It was our old friend W., Hubby’s college buddy who had ended up working at The Big E and then at DSC later with us. He’s special for several reasons (one of them being that when I was ill and in radiation therapy, he took out his checkbook and offered Hubby $1200.00 because Hubby had fretted about that sum earlier in the day. We refused it because we were really OK and the insurance did come through the next week, but hey. Also, when I panicked the entire following year whenever I was under neon lights or flashing lights, he was the first to leap up and say we had to change clubs/restaurants. Really cool. Also an Indian (Cherokee) and you do not mess with him or he will shoot you with his bow and arrow. He became a Mason a couple of years ago and now knows secrets untold.)

Anyway . . . we stood there for over an hour while they talked, and they talked, and they TALKED, like a couple of chicks gossiping about a new hen in the coop, and salespeople came by every now and then trying to sell us something, and we turned them down . . . soon the store was closing around our ears, as we had arrived close to quittin’ time, and we finally all walked out jabbering.

So as we got in the car and putt-putted away (extracting a promise from W. that we would do lunch soon, and no fooling), I said, “Oh, we forgot to get your batteries.”

Hubby’s eyes widened. He fell silent.


“You probably set them down when you two picked up that cable with the 18 different kinds of plugs to mock it.”

Silence. Patting himself down, searching pockets.

In a moment he handed me something. “Here. Now YOU have the guilty evidence.”


It was two batts, priced at 1.49 each, meaning we stole a grand (larcenous) total of $2.98.

Yeah, but still!

I feigned nonchalance. “I’ll go by tomorrow and pay for them.”

“No! You’ll get into trouble.”

“I could send the money anonymously . . . not by check. I could just drop three bucks the next time I go into the store.”

He stared forward. “We’ll just consider that I got a three-dollar more discount on that open box item I bought there last week. The manager only gave me
five percent off when I thought he could have done ten.”

I bit my lip.

When we got home, I told my mother. My mother tried to HIDE them. They went straight into her empty Kleenex box where she hides contraband, such as un-dried-up ball-point pens and Hershey bars.

Hubby came in and asked for them later, so she had to surrender them. He put them in his calculators. (He uses them somehow when playing that online game. I like to keep in shape with mental addition. ‘Cause I gotta affinity with numbas, as well as words.) So . . . now I am stuck. What to do?

Don’t want the bad karma on him OR me.

So . . . what should I do? I suggested to my mom that I could borrow a three-year-old kid and take him in with me and tell the manager that he picked them up without my noticing it until we got home.

“NO! That would be TERRIBLE for the kid . . . he would know what you were doing and always remember it.”

“Well . . . phooey. Maybe I could go in and explain, but it wouldn’t be simple, as you should NE-VER put anything in your POCKETS in a store.”

*sigh* What was he thinking?

Maybe he’s turning into . . . a klepper!! (As they used to say on the old sitcoms.) If so, I want a harmon/kardon hi-fi stereo setup with Klipsch speakers and a shiny green Jaguar next. I don’t think his pockets are big enough, though.

Never put something inside something else while you’re shopping, either. One time we were buying a wastebasket and I needed socks, and I stuck the socks and some blusher and lip gloss inside the wastebasket in our cart because I thought they might fall through the cart’s gridholes–and the store detective followed us to the checkout! So they’re very paranoid in Loss Prevention.

What do you think? Should we turn ourselves in to the Sheriff and hope the Mayberry jail is empty save for harmless old Otis??

*(Barney Fife will be lecturing me all night on this)

There are always two points of view on anything:

Lent begins . . . film at 10

Wow . . . I’ve been offline for just over 24 hours, and I’m in withdrawal. I’m really addicted. Pathetic!

We didn’t do anything special for Fat Tuesday except go to the doctor and have him approve of our fat. Hubby upgraded all his iTunes tracks to iTunes Plus, and it took overnight. He had his network connection get reset more than once, so things would freeze and he’d have to fiddle with it. I’m still not sure he got everything swapped out in working order. Next trick is to FIND his iPod shuffle, which is somewhere around here.

What to give up for the Lenten season? Maybe I should give up spending money. That would be good all around.

I’m still pondering whether I want to go to that writers’ conference or not. Everyone’s comments have been very illuminating, and I realize that if I were younger and less jaded, I might find it fun to just go and schmooze and talk writing. But I’ve done that so many times before. It’s unfair to my family to spend that much on myself just for a weekend away talking about writing, when they’re not getting luxuries for themselves. I *did* enter their short story contest, but you don’t have to be present to win. (You win a certificate and a small award.)

One thing I should say is that I wouldn’t want to go there with any kind of plan to bug the agent. People have asked whether it wouldn’t be a good time to kind of corner her and ask her what it was about my work that she didn’t like, but I think that is a spectacularly wrongheaded idea because they get that ALL THE TIME (I expect) and they probably hate it–they won’t necessarily remember anything about the work by the time they’re being asked about it. Just think–she’ll have read hundreds of partials between now and then. So if I come along and ask her things that she probably doesn’t even know herself, it would be awful for both of us. I could sit there and socialize with her, mind, but I don’t think it would be proper for me to try to get her to figure out what it is about the work that didn’t connect. That is something that she’d have volunteered at rejection time if she’d wanted to tell me (and if she’d even known what it was specifically AND could put it into words easily), don’t you think? Many times I just don’t click with a text and I end up not finishing it. I can’t always put into words what “lost” me. It’s irritating to be pressed for a specific reason. Sometimes it’s just the vibe.

So making a point of going just to talk to her and ask stuff like that seems to me to be a very unwise thing. I’m not really that kind of person in real life, anyway . . . I would tend just to smile and nod and listen. You can learn a lot just by hanging around. And you definitely do not want to be That Crazy Woman who followed the agent around making her stay perfectly miserable by bugging her about what she didn’t like, and that sort of thing. Shiver! Quake! It’s not that I think it would be awkward to have the interview . . . I just don’t like to waste her time. It’d be too much like going into all the open houses for sale and engaging with the real estate agents by acting as if you’re a customer when you don’t have any money to buy a house.

What I mean when I say (occasionally) that I’m not in the same groove as people twenty years younger than I am . . . well, I think people are taking that wrong sometimes. I don’t mean that others’ ideas are outlandish or whatnot. I can tell you that my mother (who is 28 years older than I am) has a completely different vibe from mine . . . she feels that every woman should know how to cook and should feel obligated to cook for her family/husband daily, believes that your home is representative of you if you are a woman (and therefore if your house is messy or has dust, you are a crumb and a lazy bum–no matter who made the mess–and YOU should clean it, not have a maid!), sees any kind of premarital sex as a horrid sin, still doesn’t like Japan because of WWII, believes that the Greatest Generation had the right ideas about everything, and so forth. This is not right or wrong for her to believe this (even though you and I may think these ideas ludicrous or wrong); it simply IS. She realizes that Things Aren’t That Way Any More, but she still firmly believes that Our Way Was The Right Way. It’s something coming out of her core beliefs that probably can’t be changed.

I believe it’s natural to have the mindset of your generation and to not quite “get” the generation before/after you. (Some people DO have that ability, but most people don’t.) Mama can understand intellectually that my generation believes differently, but she can’t be in the groove with it. This is the dilemma I find myself in when I try to understand the groove of the twentysomething, or even the thirtysomething. It’s not that I can’t enjoy their work or that I think they should change. It’s that I know I cannot change core things about myself, things that will inevitably manifest in my work and in my art. That makes me a misfit in some ways–but that’s the way it is. This also means (I believe) that the very way in which I approach some things will turn some people off, and others on. Well, not everybody is gonna like you/me, even if you/I like him/her. We have to realize that and accept it. It could mean that it’s less likely for a book of mine to appeal to a younger/older person.

This also doesn’t mean that I think every word I write is sacred or that I refuse to change things, throw out scenes, rephrase lines, or replace all instances of “carpe diem” with “seize the day.” Just ask Dennis. I get him to give me changes like that all the time.

Another thing that has taken up the weekend is that I’m judging a manuscript contest in the YA category for a different conference, and I’m finishing up the score sheets and commentaries on the last few entries. I have been trying to point out what the author does right and giving specific reasons for the ratings I end up handing out, which have been fairly good ratings. Still, I can see that two of the entries have a lot of potential for commercial success, whereas three of the others (I’m judging EIGHT fifty-pagers, which was way too many to agree to take on–noted for next time) have serious problems. I’m trying to “pay it forward” by doing this, so I’m going to write something encouraging to every one of them without handing out false hope; there’s something good to be found in anything, so this won’t be a phony kind of “this was good” deal, but sincere. I simply don’t happen to believe that “it’s cruel to be kind.” And I don’t think they’re being prima donnas to think that their own work is good . . . if you don’t believe in it yourself, why should anyone else?

I only hope that my words help them and spur them forward. I don’t say to these writers that they’re facing huge challenges or tell them I believe that if they can channel their creative drive into something else, they probably should . . . because they didn’t ask, and that would be a zap to them. But man, it’d be nice if I could channel my creative drive into arranging flowers for FTD. A lot more people like flowers (even ugly ones) and will buy them, even sight unseen!

More support for my theory

I never did hear back again from that author I contacted about how quickly she made it from first scribble to publication. I guess she just didn’t want to fool with us, which is fine . . . it’s her privilege to talk with whomever she chooses.

But here, on someone else’s journal, is a clear and open admission from a NYT best-selling author who says it was only two and a half years from first scribble to publication.

Author Alyson Noel says in an interview: “[A]ll in all[,] it took around 2.5 years from seriously sitting down to write to the first sell.” (Journal entry posted Feb. 17, 2009)

More about a NYT best-seller’s start, first time out of the chute

Gabriel Prize Announced–My Cousin Jay Wins!

My cousin, Jay Cantrell, has been awarded the 2009 Gabriel Prize, one of the fanciest and highest honors an architect or architectural student can receive. He will be staying in Paris for three months this summer, all bills paid, and working with a French mentor to sketch and record his impressions of France. His mother just called to tell us . . . my ears are still ringing!


That’s him . . . on the first line.

*buttons popping*

We knew he could draw from the first time he stayed with us as a toddler and we gave him the crayons. He started doing a picture of my mother’s kitchen and the stove that looked just like . . . the kitchen and the stove. Eventually he decided to become the next Frank Lloyd Wright, and it looks like he’s getting there!


Why standardized tests are so confounding

The trouble with standardized tests is that you can make more than one answer fit as the “best” answer, depending on your mindset. Who’s to say that the mind of the test maker is better than the mind of the student? In fact, I could give good arguments for more than one answer on many test questions. (Not the math problems that ask you to find a particular value. The esoteric ones, like analogies.)


On question #1, obviously the testmakers want you to say “WR” . . . or is it “TE”? Do they want the beginning of the word, or do they want the “mirror” letters from the end? Some test-takers will try to finish the word with “PLY” to form “REPLY,” and that’s always wrong, but is there as an attractor for people who think that way. (Tricky!) I’m really good at these kinds of tests, but that’s because I am either naturally a test-question writer (I think the way they do) or I have been conditioned over many years to think that way. But others have different strengths.

All public schools today seem to rely heavily on test scores as a sanity check/quality evaluation, but I’m fairly well convinced that this hasn’t improved education. Will money for education come out of the various bailouts? If it does, will they just use it to buy more computers (which isn’t the answer most of the time)? *sigh*

My neighbor’s kids just went through a test preparation course and learned a lot of ways to guess and “defeat the test.” This seems like a strange twist to me, but they are looking forward to their standardized tests later this year in the belief that it’s just as good to know how to eliminate two out of four answers (giving you a fifty-fifty chance on the question) as it is to know what the “best” answer must be. It seems to me that they could be spending their time more productively.

But the TV says that Kaplan Test Prep is hiring all over the country. Maybe I should try to get a job with them. What would be fun is to write test questions . . . now, THAT I think I could do well at!

(“At that, I think I could excel” for those of you who will not put up with a terminal preposition. As far as a terminal proposition . . . let’s not go there.)


Weird . . . over the past weekend, I’ve run across TWO carnivals in our little piece of the jungle. One was in Plano and the other in Richardson, where the mall used to be, in the Sears parking lot. Wild! Saw it at night and in the daytime.

We haven’t seen one set up in YEARS. Ray Bradbury imprinted on a really fancy traveling carnival. These were smaller, but still would have put stars in the eyes of any youngster! I was tall enough (just) to go on the rides, but I figured I was really too big for the Dumbo elephants. Too scared of heights for the Ferris wheel. And too fat for the one I really wanted to go on, the Chinese dragon roller coaster! (Someday I will have one of those in the back yard.)

See more!