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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Have A Very Apple New Year

So Santa hooked me up this year! Well, to be more specific, my husband did. Yes, folks, I am typing this blog on my brand new MacBook Pro laptop! Jealous? I even got loaded up with all the software a girl could want—from Microsoft Office to the entire line of Adobe products (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign) to Scrivener’s novel-formatting program (still working on learning this one). It’s a very apple new year!

Now, let me start off by saying we had a $100 limit on gifts this year. Yeah. That would be ten dollars times ten. That’s it. You see, we bought a new house, lots of new furniture, have plenty of new expenses on the way, so we thought we’d be conservative. Save a little cash, you know. Clearly, that didn’t happen.

But don't think I didn't confirm this before I shopped. Me: “We’re just spending $100, right?” Husband: “Yeah, totally.” I believed him! Well, I expected he’d go over a little bit, maybe even double it, but I didn’t expect the limit to be increased by multiples of ten.

So while I go out and buy my dear hubby a very nice Dewalt cordless drill with an LED light (don’t ask me, he wanted it), and a fun DVD, and a cool T-shirt, thinking I’m being all sneaky by “going over the limit,” he’s at the Apple store spending our limit on just the One-to-One training alone.

But I’m not going to complain, because I have a fancy silver new laptop. (It’s so pretty!) And now I have to learn how to use it. You see, dear readers, up until this point, I’ve been a PC girl. Of course, the PC laptop I was using prior to this was older than most of my nephews, but hey, it worked. I knew all the key commands, all the right clicking features, all the navigation tricks. Now, I’m starting over.

I do have some history with the Apple brand, though. Back when I was a reporter, I had a teal green iMac at work (not meant for office use, the thing crashed 3 times a day). And in college, BU’s computer labs had pretty orange and blue iMacs. But that is where my Apple knowledge stops—circa the year 2000. This thing is like a space shuttle in comparison. So thank goodness my husband did spend the money on the One-to-One training, because I’m gonna need it. I hope the poor Apple guy who tutors me this Friday is very patient.

Did you ever notice how all the Apple store employees sort of look alike, as if they’re related or something? It’s like Apple cut and pasted them into the stores from stock imagery.

So bear with me if the blogging is slow because I will be trying to figure out things like: Why do all the fonts on this computer look so darn small? Because I swear Times New Roman 12 pt isn’t this tiny on my PC. And why does the screen dim when I’m not in front of a lamp? Shouldn't it get brighter when it’s darker? And what’s with this Safari Internet browser? Should I stick with it or go back to Mozilla?

I suspect 2011 is going to have a steep learning curve. It’s like I’m back in school again.

Okay, so after they play the fourth quarter of their lives, creating a game so iconic it will probably be remembered for decades to come (“The New Miracle at the New Meadowlands”), they go and stink up the field last night. This comes after the game gets canceled because of snow. Ahhh, poor babies. Didn’t want to get their noses chilly. Even our own governor called us a nation of “wusses” for canceling that one. (Though in all fairness it was the NFL who canceled it, not the Eagles.) But still, with a couple extra days of rest and a first round bye on the line, you’d expect a better showing than what we got. I guess since we clinched the division already, maybe the Eagles should use next week as their “bye” and sit the starters. Vick looked like he could use it as he limped off the field last night.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How To Work Soap Operas Into Your ESOL Conference Keynote

So I was invited to speak at the Maryland TESOL (Teachers of English as a Second Language) conference over the weekend, presumably because my Amor and Summer Secrets series features a multicultural heroine who spends the summer with her Spanish-speaking relatives. They also wanted me to encourage the teachers attending to take their students to the library to promote reading for pleasure as a way to improve their language skills. I did all of this, of course, but I still managed to throw in a little side-note on how soap operas changed my grandma’s life.

You see, my dad moved to the states from Puerto Rico when he was eight years old. He didn’t speak any English and neither did his parents. So when I was asked to speak at an ESOL conference, the most applicable personal experiences I had to draw from were that of my father and my grandparents. But unlike my father (who did learn English in school and ultimately went on to get a master’s degree), my grandmother learned English by watching CBS soap operas. Like the entire line up.

I know this to be true, because she babysat me growing up. So at five years old, I knew the entire plot of The Young and the Restless. (Do you think that might factor in to why I still love soap operas today?) And while my grandmother eventually learned to understand English fluently—particularly conversations involving forged paternity tests and evil twins—she never really felt comfortable speaking it much. Actually, the older she got, the less English she spoke.

So while I may have been invited to this Maryland TESOL conference based solely on my novels, I did have something personal to add to my little keynote. And the crowd seemed to enjoy it. They listened, they laughed, they cried (okay, maybe not cried) and they asked awesome questions. I was at the podium for 45 minutes and was asked everything from how to publish a novel to whether I’ve visited my mom’s family in Poland (not yet).

Thanks for inviting me! I had a great time.

*The photos were taken with a cell phone. But if you look past the graininess, I swear that's me!

So at around 7:30 yesterday morning I started getting text messages. Usually this sends me into a panic because I think the only time anyone calls me that early is when someone has died (paranoid, I know). But it turns out we have a lot of Phillies fans in my family who were up bright and early to hear the good news that pitcher Cliff Lee signed with the Phils, forgoing extra cash he would have received in a deal with the NY Yankees. You know what my first thought was when I heard he gave up millions to play here? “Gee, I guess his wife must really want to live in Philly.” Turns out, I was right! Yet somehow this seems to be surprising to people in the sports world, as if his wife stating publicly that she hates New York wouldn’t be a factor to her husband? I dare those reporters to go home to say that to their own wives. Not to mention that sadly Cliff Lee’s son previously had leukemia and is currently in remission; Philadelphia has the No. 1 Children’s Hospital in the country. Is there any father in the world who doesn’t think that played a factor?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Just In Time With Chrismukkah: Haiku Reviews

I haven’t poetically opined on my reading lately, so I figured just in time for the Chrismukkah shopping season I’d give you a few fresh haiku reviews. Now, just to warn you, a few of these are from my summer reading and thus include a lot of blood sucking and child murderers. (What? Isn’t that what you read on the beach?)

My Chrismukkah Haiku Reviews

Wow, lots of scifi
Takes cheesy to new level
Show is way better


Actually, quite good
HBO did the books proud
Best vampire concept

CATCHING FIRE (Final book in HUNGER GAMES Trilogy), Suzanne Collins

Bit too much romance
Still, good action and great deaths
Sad to see it go

EMMA, Jane Austen

Bored girl sets up friends
Match-making at its finest
Kept thinking CLUELESS

FIREFLY LANE, Kristin Hannah
Best friends forever
Like a new spin on BEACHES
Pass me the tissues

POP CULTURE RANT: General Hospital
Okay, exactly how long are they going to drag out this Balkan storyline? I know soaps are known for not wrapping things up too quickly, but this is getting ridiculous. And while I was psyched for the return of Brenda (notice the ‘was’ there), does every plotline need to revolve around this woman? Excuse me, revolve around her and Dante. Seriously, I think the only storyline they’re not involved in is Crazy Lisa’s Fatal Attraction remake (and don’t get me started on how that didn’t end with her Shady Brook hospitalization). Really, GH has some good plot ideas (I liked the Fatal Attraction thing when it started), they just seem incapable of knowing when to call it quits. It’s like they need a good editor or something.

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