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Let’s talk about “dash” buttons

So, it has been brought to my attention that Amazon is now marketing these dash buttons. They are little branded buttons that are hard-wired to order a certain product from Amazon. The idea is that you sprinkle them around the house in convenient locations, and when you realize you’re out of some essential item such as dish detergent or toilet paper (or Doritos™, Gatorade™, or Ice breakers™ mints, or whatever other trivialities you can’t live without), you press the button and Amazon immediately ships you another one, ensuring you never have to have to live for even a single second without your precious Burt’s Bees™ lipbalm, or contemplate just how empty and meaningless your life has become.

Of course Amazon makes these little beauties free, and why wouldn’t they? They are bypassing your Superego, and wiring a button directly between your Id and those tasty, tasty Doritos™. Once you have that button there, you’re never, ever going to stop pressing it. Forget price comparison, forget avoiding impulse buys…those puppies are guaranteed delivery in under two hours with Amazon Prime Now™!

When I first heard about this, my reaction was something like:

I mean, this is it, right? The end of humanity? This is where we slowly sink into the abyss? Full on Idiocracy?

I mentioned this to a few friends and neighbors, like, “Hey, aren’t we all horrified by this? Isn’t this the worst of American consumerism on display??” and actually…everybody disagreed with me. They thought this was a great idea, and in fact, one co-worker has already installed several in his house.

So…am I off base, here? Is this not the worst thing ever, and actually just a convenient way to get products you need with minimum effort? Can I look forward a whole wall of these buttons and I just do my shopping by pressing whichever ones I’m in need of?

I mean, I guess being able to order any product on earth from the Internet in our pockets was just too much effort for some people? I don’t know. What do you think?

(Horrifying concept via Keffy)

“Why I Should get a Bunny” – a persuasive essay by Evelyn

Evelyn has been wanting a kitten. I mean, like, REAAAALY wanting a kitten. Coincidentally, this happened to coincide with her taking on the role of cleaning the litter box. “I think she’s got toxoplasmosis,” said Sara after the 15th time Evelyn brought it up.

They were gearing up to write a “persuasive essay” in class, and Evelyn planned to persuade us to get a kitten. “The answer is no,” I said. “You can write whatever you want, but there is absolutely no chance you’re getting  a kitten.” (My dislike of our cat is well documented…I’ve been waiting for this thing to die for YEARS.)

She cried about it a couple of times (we weren’t being fair, we weren’t giving her persuasive essay a chance, yada yada), but nothing too unusual. So I was very surprised when her persuasive essay finally did show up, and it wasn’t about kittens!

Why I Should get a Bunny

Dear mom and dad,

You know I have wanted a pet of my own forever. You wouldn’t let me have a dog or a cat, but what about a bunny? I have several reasons why you should get me one. The first is that I would buy mostly everything myself, (except the cage). The second reason is that Nala was okay with Gus when we took him for a week. The third reason is that bunnies are quiet. Nala is always meowing but bunnies are quiet. Even if it makes some noise it would be in my room. The fourth reason is bunnies need little space than other pets. The fifth reason is bunnies are easily trained. Like going in the litter box not on the floor. They can do tricks too if you train them. The sixth reason is that bunnies are very clean animals. The seventh reason is they will eat our leftover vegetables. The eighth reason is nobody is allergic. The reason you should get me two is bunnies do better with bunny friends. The ninth reason is bunnies do better as indoor pets, so if we get a bunny from a shelter if would be good. The tenth reason is we don’t need to give it a bath. The eleventh reason is they are only awake dusk and morning and not in between. The twelfth reason is they can’t throw up! The thirteenth reason is they only need three hours of floor time. The fourteenth reason is I promise not to pick a bunny up. The fifteenth reason is I also promise not to get a baby bunny because baby bunnies need their mothers. The sixteenth reason is if I get tired of it or it doesn’t work out, [my teacher] said she would take it. The sventeenth reason why is I will cover up wires it woudl want to chew on. I also want to say that they coust about $20 at BinkyBunny.com, but at other places it costs up to $250 to buy a bunny. The eighteenth reason why is they don’t stink at all, PERIOD. Another side note. There is awesome cages at Clover.Forest.net, it costs about $50! So for all of these reasons get me a bunny please.

Yours truly,
Evelyn

She obviously felt very, very strongly about this, so we decided not to shut her down outright. Instead, she is going to take care of Ollie’s class rabbit for a month over the summer (our previous experience with this was pretty positive). She even spent two mornings interviewing Ollie’s teacher about the care and feeding of rabbits, so she’s pretty well prepared.

Say what you want about Evelyn, but she is EXTREMELY responsible. I have no doubt she will take excellent care of Chocolate Cuddlewuddles (yes, the rabbit is named Chocolate Cuddlewuddles…that’s what happens when you let kindergarteners vote), and I have no doubt that she will then turn that into a plea for either a rabbit, or a kitten.

Spoiler alert: when Nala dies, we’re not getting a rabbit or a kitten. We’re getting a break.

The dangers of unlabeled containers in the refrigerator, or, how I accidentally enjoyed a steaming mug of beef broth

 

The other day I decided to make myself a delicious chai latte, so I reached into the fridge on the bottom right hand shelf in the door where we ALWAYS KEEP THE CHAI LATTE. I thought I had grabbed this:

But only after heating up a steaming mugfull and taking an enormous gulp did I discover that what I had ACTUALLY grabbed, was this:

Notice how similar they look? Like, if you grabbed one and not the other, you might not even think to look at the package, especially since they’re both kind of brown and also you kind of assume that nobody in your life is enough of a MONSTER to put a box of beef broth in the sacred position occupied by the chai.

You know how when you’re expecting one thing and you accidentally get something else, it’s sort of an unpleasant surprise? Like if you’re expecting a delicious, sweet, chai latte and what you get instead is some kind of beef/warm milk combo? You know that feeling? No?

Well, *I* know that feeling.

(Spoilers: It’s not a good feeling.)

Okay, but that’s not the fault of unlabeled containers, that’s only the fault of me being an idiot. Don’t worry, I didn’t lure you here with false promises; I have another story.

We always have a lot of unlabeled containers in the fridge. On any given day, we probably have 15 or 20 unlabeled quart and pint jars spread throughout the fridge containing various liquids, jams, yogurts, and pastes. This is at least an improvement upon my house growing up, where everything was in old margarine containers, sometimes with things like “Green Peppers” written on the lid in sharpie five years ago when the container presumably actually did contain green peppers. At least our jars are transparent, if not actually distinguishable.

So naturally, when Sara made some homemade chicken stock, she put it in quart jars and put them in the fridge. I’m talking the real stuff: chicken carcass boiling away on the stove for a full day with some carrots and celery and seasoning and love and a lot of time hard work.

JUST AS NATURALLY, when I made some simple syrup, I put THAT in quart jars and put them in the fridge (right next to the chicken broth). I’m talking the real stuff: maple syrup crystals and water (and love!)

I think you see where this is going.

Sara was making an enormous pot of soup, and she included two jars of chicken stock and one jar of pure sugar water. It was…sweet (to say the least). It honestly wasn’t *that* bad but, after the multiple days of effort wasted, Sara couldn’t even bring herself to eat it.

“No, it’s really good!” I proclaimed, but she wasn’t having it. This was a BIG pot of soup, and even with efforts that bordered on heroic, I couldn’t stomach the thought of a third day of too-sweet leftovers, so I eventually had to dump it.

Learn from my mistakes, kids. Be careful what you pour (or at the very least, make one of the kids try it first!)

The Nebulas

The Nebula awards are one of the two big awards you can win in speculative fiction (the other being the Hugo awards). The Nebulas are put on by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), and include not only the big, fancy, academy award-style award ceremony, but also a conference for professional writers.

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So, the panels weren’t focused so much on writing, per say, (although there were a few) but more on all of the aspects of business *around* writing. Things like running a kickstarter, how to teach workshops, questions on Intellectual Property, and how to be interviewed.

I was a speaker on two panels: “Social Media Puzzle Pieces” and a panel just entitled “Humor” (no pressure there — hey, stare at these people, they are HILARIOUS! Okay go!). I think they actually went really well (though of course nobody would tell me if they were awful, now would they?) I was particularly anxious about Humor, because…what do you say about humor? Who’s to say anybody should listen to me on the matter? Did someone think it was funny to schedule my panel in the absolute last time slot on the absolute last day of the conference, and then expect me to have enough brainpower left to be interesting, much less make people laugh??? But the panel was actually well attended, and I thought we had a very deep, intellectual conversation about humor (if not actually that funny).

In addition to all of the panels, socializing, and networking, you also get a HUGE PILE OF FREE BOOKS, plus the opportunity to buy more. There was even an enormous autographing session (open to the public) featuring over 80 authors signing books.

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(My haul)

The autographing session was certainly one of the highlights of the weekend for me, not only because I got to meet Naomi Novik and have her sign a copy of Uprooted (which would go on to win Best Novel), but also because I knew *so many people* that I hardly had time to say hello to everybody.

I think that’s ultimately what made this the best con experience I can imagine. Everybody was someone I wanted to meet or talk to. The Nebula Conference was actually very small (well, 300ish people small), and you couldn’t help but trip over everybody you wanted to see. It was the absolute crème de la crème of the writer’s world, and for the first time I actually felt like I was successful enough that these people were my peers.

I could start listing names, but seriously I would just end up listing every person who was at the conference. I met so many online friends that I had never met in person before. I met new awesome people that I didn’t even know existed before the weekend. People were actually excited to meet *me*, like I was somebody to meet. I chatted with Nebula nominees, SFWA Grandmasters, editors, and bestselling authors like it ain’t no thang. Lunches were had. Friends won awards. I spoke on panels like a boss.

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People make the distinction between introverts and extroverts: introverts “recharge” by spending quiet time alone, and extroverts “recharge” by spending time around people. By that definition, I am a classic extrovert, unlike 99% of all other writers. (“So you’re the one stealing all of our energy!” said my friend Danielle.) After spending all day Friday at the conference, I was charged up enough to arc lightening into anybody who sat close enough on the train home.

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(Apparently this drink was called a “Hugo” which seemed both ridiculously appropriate and inappropriate at the same time)

I didn’t actually attend the Nebula awards ceremony; since I was local and since I had already called in all my favors to help watch the kids all weekend, it seemed like a good place to go home and actually help out around the house. My plan was to watch the livestream of the awards but…I may have ended up falling asleep at 8:30.

I wanted to mention my three favorite panels:

  • “I Remember When” 
    This panel was basically just the “elder statesmen” (and states-women) of SFWA telling stories about the good old days. These stories were amazing, and talk about name-dropping! These people remember a time when Asimov and Heinlein were members. There was something so adorable about Damon Knight secretly throwing peanuts at Joe Haldeman’s head. I don’t know, if this panel was scheduled for every timeslot of every day, I would just keep going to it.
  • “What Teens are Looking for in YA Literature”
    Real, live teenagers talking about what they want and what they don’t want to see (love triangles) in their books. This panel was so great. These teenager were such teenagers, it was hilarious. They had strong opinions. I’m amazed that they could get up in front of a room of strangers and speak so confidently. Seriously, though, you can’t pay for that kind of insight.
  • “How to Give an Effective Reading”
    Any time I have ever heard someone ask about giving a reading, someone directs that person to Mary Robinette Kowal’s website. So I was very happy to attend this one in person. Mary didn’t just tell you silly tips or something, she actually explained WHY you should do certain things. Like, the science behind it. This was by far the most informative panel I attended over the weekend.

The whole experience was absolutely amazing, start to finish. It was so amazing, that it’s almost like it wasn’t real. I feel like I forged some lasting friendships, learned a lot about the business of writing (a peek behind the curtain, if you will), and most importantly I feel like I gained a ton of confidence.

I fit in. I belonged among the best writers in the field.

It’s a magical feeling. So magical, in fact, that I had trouble adjusting back into the real world on Monday. It was how it must feel to be kicked out of Narnia.

Maybe time to start planning for Pittsburgh next year?

Sockdolager Print Edition

I got my contributor copy of The Sockdolager’s Spring 2016 print edition (you may remember my story “Never” is included)

I ask you, have you ever seen a more adorable chapbook in your life?

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I’ve only gotten around to reading the issue now that I have a hard copy in my hands (even though the text is all available online for free — what can I say, I’m old fashioned like that), and I’m only about half-way through. However, so far my favorite story is the one illustrated for the cover: The Roving Bookstore by Andrea Corbin.

Check out all the great stories, if you like that sort of thing.

UPS Caught on Camera

Recently, we realized we had never received a couple of packages we had ordered. Thinking it was a little odd, Sara looked up the tracking info and found, not only were the packages marked as “delivered”, but in fact they were signed for by Sara.

Only problem? Sara wasn’t even home that day.

“Wait a minute!” I said. “We have security cameras!” Anybody want to guess what we found?

Anybody see Sara sign for a package in there? Or did you instead see the packages scanned and thrown over the fence, and the buzzer only rung after the packages were already tossed, not giving ANYBODY a chance to sign for those packages?

Of course those packages were eventually stolen, which is why YOU HAVE SOMEONE SIGN FOR THEM RATHER THAN THE DELIVERY DRIVER FAKING YOUR SIGNATURE.

The irony is that this is the absolute most common occurrence at our building. In fact, when we had the security cameras installed and the security guy was giving us a demo, he picked a time at random, and there was a UPS guy throwing a huge package over the fence. We all laughed because we all know: if you randomly pick any time on any day, you will probably see the UPS or the Post Office throwing packages over the fence.

I’m so used to that part, that it doesn’t even bother me anymore. In this case, it was the forging our signature that was especially egregious. What is the point of “signature confirmation” if the package is treated no differently than any other package?

Quite frankly there is a word for forging signatures, and that word is “fraud”.

We sent the video to the UPS and of course they ignored us. Hey, this is 2016: the only way to get any customer service is to shame a company on social media! So share far and wide, my friends. Share far and wide.

Quote Monday doesn’t know if it is coming or going

Ollie, in his sleep: “I like chess!!”

Fortunately (unfortunately?), he means the game, not the musical.

Evie: “Did you guys keep turning around to look at me?”
Me: “Yes.”
Evie: “Oh, okay. You were really far away and I could see a peach circle, but I didn’t know if it was your face or your bald spot.”

Sara: “Hold this spoon for one second.”
Me: “I am really resisting the urge to say, “one” and then drop it.”
Sara: “I totally thought you would do that!!”

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