Monday, October 26, 2015

Executive Decision and Sad Cat

Hola, ReaderFriends!

With a busy week staring me down, a book that needs writing, and an hour of nap time in which to write, I'm going to work on the book rather than blogging this week. Thanks for stopping by, and I'll see you next week. 

To make it up to you, here's one of my favorite videos: The Sad Cat Diary. You've probably seen it, but it's totes worth a re-watch :)

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Best Short Dino-Erotica Published Last Wednesday

Have I mentioned that I'm a geek? Well, I am, and I was reminded of that fact this morning, listening to the radio while building towers of random crap for Wallaby to knock over (rinse, repeat). Said the morning show hostess on the radio:

So, there's a new study out today, sponsored by (insert name of undershirt company-Hanes? Fruit of the Loom? I forget). It says that men make more money when they tuck in their shirts at work. Men who tuck make an average of 77k, whereas men who don't tuck make an average of 60k. 

(Insert semi-witty banter with the male cohost, who is apparently a non-tucker.)

Me: Bzzzzzzt!

Wallaby: ???

Me: That's a penalty buzzer on the play. You see, I'll bet you a box of Cheerios that they just compared salaries between tuckers and non-tuckers, and didn't control for profession … Even though I think we can both agree that certain higher-paid professions would, as a matter of course, expect one to tuck in one's shirt, whereas certain less well-paid professions would come with no such expectation. So there's an inherent bias in their calculation.

Wallaby: (knocks over a tower composed of six blocks, a rubber ducky, and three giant LEGOs)

Me: My thoughts exactly.

To give credit where it's due, the hostess mentioned that this was, indeed, the case, and thus the findings of the study should be viewed with some caution. (Okay, she didn't use exactly those words, but that was the gist.) But it got me thinking about other situations where the media lies with so-called statistics.

"Our #1 best selling sofa!" Which isn't terribly impressive if, say, their #2 most popular sofa sold ten units last year and this one sold twice that. 

"100% customer satisfaction!" How, exactly, are you measuring this?

"99% accurate" Do a Google search on how home pregnancy tests define this term. It's an eye-opener!

Which isn't to say that we're not guilty of the same shenanigans in the writing world … My last Mustang Ridge book was a top five Amazon best seller! (For new releases Western Fiction, that is.) If you make the niche small enough, eventually everything is a bestseller. Which really takes the oomph out of the word, don't you think?

Is there a solution? I'm not sure. I don't know if there's even a problem. But I do know that most of us out here on the other end of some of these claims aren't as dumb as the claim-ers are hoping. And then they wonder why a smart consumer doesn't take everything they're told at face value!

Monday, October 12, 2015

How DID you do that to yourself?

Back when I was in my early twenties, working as a landscaper (long story), I sprained my wrist. Upon arriving at the restaurant for a night out with friends, sporting a wrist brace, I got the expected "Uh, oh. What did you do?"

Me: I was pushing a wheelbarrow when the tire hit a rock and the handles twisted. I had a choice between hanging on or dumping a full load of dirt in the client's swimming pool. So. (I lifted my bandaged wrist.) The pool stayed clean.

Friend: Aw, come on. I was hoping for a better story than that. Like you got bucked off or lost your grip on a bar stool or something.

Me: Sorry.

This has, of course, been followed in more recent years with more interesting stories, like The Time Jess Dislocated Her Elbow, Put It Back In Its Socket, And Walked Back To Civilization and The Time Jess Went Over Her Handlebars And The Medic Was Wearing Fairy Wings (it was a Halloween bike ride). 

This past week, however, I encountered a most excellent version of the "How I wrecked myself" story, and (for a change) it wasn't mine. To whit:

Arizona (looking at his phone): What's a clavicle?

Me: Collarbone. Why?

Arizona: GW (his best bud of many years) effed his up and needs surgery.

Me: Ouch! What did he do, go over the handlebars?

(Phone makes beeping incoming-text noises.)

Arizona (reads): He hit a pack of javalinas.  

Me: A what of who?

Arizona: They're a kind of wild peccary, forty or fifty pounds each. I guess he was riding downhill in the dark and didn't see them in time.

Me: ??

Later, there was some gearhead discussion of how GW's suspension had performed while rolling over several of said creatures. Apparently, it absorbed the first couple of bumps, but after that, the javalinas won. (And all ran off into the bushes.) It was agreed that mountain bike suspensions generally aren't engineered for javalina. (And for Chrissakes, autocorrect, I still don't mean 'javelins'!)

I can just imagine the conversation if the question were to arise:

Bike designer 1: Javalina? Really? Who does that?

Bike designer 2: Some guy in Arizona. But maybe we should run some tests, see if we could change the dampening on the shock to absorb bumps like that.

BD1: Test? With what? A bunch of hams?

BD2: Two words: Pig Roast.

BD1: I'm in!

The moral? Sometimes truth really IS stranger than fiction.

Monday, October 5, 2015

I confess: I need a tube in my toilet paper

The other day, Arizona, Wallaby and I were doing the weekly grocery shopping. Or, rather, Arizona and I were doing the weekly shopping, whilst octopus-baby (who is now big enough to ride in the cart as long as it's got a working seatbelt) did his best to put the whole world in his mouth. Although we were cruelly depriving him of his current favorite snacks (mulch, leaves, cats …), he was willing to be placated by, well, pretty much anything he could get his hands on. The yuckier the better.

[I'm not proud. Yesterday, he got hold of the kitty litter scoop. #parentaloversightfail]

Anyway, in the salty-fat aisle (you know, chips and nuts), I went for the usual location of Snyder's Butter Snap pretzels, and stalled, confused by the lack of the familiar brown-and-yellow bags. Thinking the store had done one of those 'we're going to move everything around so you can't find shit' shuffles (which are supposedly meant to get consumers out of their ruts and spur them to try something new, but I'm pretty sure are really some diabolical population-level IQ test that I constantly fail), I stepped back and looked around.

Arizona pointed. "They're right there."

I turned back to the usual spot. Hesitated.

"There. You just had your hand on them." 

Here, I will note that his tone could mean only one thing: we needed to hit the McD's at the front of the store for a small fry, stat. Because for some reason, the combination of hunger and watching me dither over a food choice at the grocery store is one of the very few things guaranteed to put an edge in my husband's voice. 

That, and the traffic in downtown DC. But I digress.

Back to the pretzels--As I looked again, I realized that Snyders had redone the packaging of our beloved butter snaps, from brown-and-yellow to … baby poop? I mean, really. It's a drab, yucky mustard color that somehow does a Predator-worthy camouflage move to blend into the shelves like nothing I've ever seen. Or not seen, as the case may be.

Later (after his fries), Arizona said, "It's like that color that's in every house on every DIY renovation show ever. The one that people immediately say 'Ugh. We'll have to repaint.'"

Which makes me think about branding, and how it can sometimes be a good idea to shuffle things around, while other times it just confuses the crap out of people, makes them feel lost or (worse) means they can't find your work because it doesn't look anything like they're expecting it to. 

And, yeah, we're not talking about pretzels anymore, or not entirely. But that's all I'm saying about my current MIP (mess-in-progress, not to be confused with a WIP--work in progress--because the latter is, yanno, actually working). Instead, I'm going to take my pretzels in the camo-drab bag, and get back to my mess.

Oh, and the toilet paper? Arizona and I are both thumbs down on the new Scott tubeless TP. We're good earthlings and all, and didn't figure we'd miss those little cardboard beauties. But after half a package of fumbling at a time when, well, one doesn't really want to have to fumble, I'm ready to give this experiment a 'fail.' We don't use a TP dispenser (otherwise known as a kid-and-kitten toy), so for us this particular brand expansion is a no-go. But your mileage may vary!