Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!

NOTE: New pic and video added at bottom of post

Just a few pics from my weekend. I should have more pics after tonight:

Pumpin-carvin' Friday (can you guess which one is mine?):
(I'll give the answer later this week. No prize, but you'll get fame and props from me)

Costume wearin' Saturday (can you guess what I am?): Alexis in the cutest costume ever: Cupcake!

Mariko is dressed as the lower east side bulding, Blue:

No candy for me, but I still like to get in the spirit of the holiday. Happy Halloween!

**Additional picture and video**

As Sara says, you can't see my whole costume, so here's a better picture of it that Mariko took. We're actually all dancing around a robot ghost:

Here's a video of it:

Monday, October 30, 2006

Ants on stilts

Great name for a children's book, eh? Maybe a sequel to Whales on Stilts?

On Saturday night while on the bus on my way to a Halloween party, I was listening to old NPR podcasts from July, and heard the craziest thing (I'm once again coming into amazing news late, so forgive me if you've heard this before).

German scientists were studying the navigational abilities of Desert Ants, and had the theory that ants somehow counted their strides to navigate. To prove this theory, they cut the ants' legs so that their stride was shorter. They found that the ants came up short of their home. So then they tested the ants by making stilts for their legs to make their strides longer. To do this, they glued hog hairs onto each leg of the ant. Sure enough, the ants with stilts were overshooting their home. Therefore, they determined that these ants somehow counted the steps they were taking to find their ways home--they have some sort of internal counting-mechanism! Isn't that crazy?

The original study was printed in Science Magazine, but the language there is so full of science mumbo-jumbo; the articles on Seed Magazine and The Economist are much easier. This is the final paragraph from the latter:
The story, however, has a happy ending. Having proved his point, Dr Wittlinger returned both stumped and stilted ants to the nest and gave them a few days to recover. Then he let them out for another run. Now that they could re-count their outbound journeys, they were able to calculate the journey home correctly. Ants may not be very bright, but it seems they have a head for figures.
And check out this picture--an ant on stilts!

Kinda scary looking, actually.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Nearest Book

This book meme was on Fuse#8 and Big A, Little A, and others.

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the next four sentences on your blog along with these instructions.
5. Don't you dare dig around for that "cool" or "intellectual" book on your shelves. (I know you were thinking about it.) Just pick up whatever is closest.

Here's mine:

He taught me structure, he was meticulous in the way he laid out structure bits, he taught me the discipline of writing for television.

Lily Tomlin, Host:
I enjoyed hosting. At least I think I did. I do remember that after the show got to be such a big hit, I hosted it again.

This is from Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live

The first bit is Dan Aykroyd talking about one of the writers on the show. What I find interesting is how the authors decided to shape the sentences of the people they're interviewing (this is an oral history). Since I was paying attention to sentences while doing this, I wondered why they ran Dan's (we're on a first-name basis) thoughts into one long sentence, while they chopped up Lily's (she's a pal, too) response into short little sentences. I'm sure it has to do with how the words are delivered. Dan, perhaps, speaks quickly and perhaps his phrases run together, while Lily more deliberately, perhaps more space between thoughts. Anyway, for you authors out there, this could be a good resource in developing "voice," especially of different characters.

I've only finished half of the book a few years ago. Perhaps I'll pick it up again and pay more attention to this.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

To meat or not to meat...

My friend Eveline moved to Beijing a few months ago, and started a blog a while ago to write of her adventures. It's quite entertaining--have you ever heard of the Mongolian spot? Want to see the cutest commercial ever?

But her most recent post beats them all. But as a warning: do not look at the pictures if you are squeamish or a dog lover. You'll be able to tell why once you see the title of the post.

Click here at your own risk.

Of course we've all heard about or joked about this before--Asians who eat dog. (Reminds me of Grace's post about wanting a cookbook to go with her book Year of the Dog.) When I was traveling in Canton, China 9 or so years ago, I saw a barbecued dog hanging in a store window. It looked just like one of those BBQed ducks, but its anatomy looked different...and upon closer examination we also noticed that the Chinese symbol for "dog" was printed on the window. But what's the difference, really, between eating different kinds of animals? One is not more or less wrong (morally) than the other, just because one animal we may consider a pet and the other a source of food, right? Although maybe there is a difference between eating fish versus birds versus reptiles versus mammals. Anyway, I've never been squeamish about meat. I eat meat on the bone, I eat whole fish, I've tried kangaroo, crocodile, rabbit, and deer. I think people who don't like to eat meat that looks like the animal it comes from are a bit hypocritical. But part of me wonders if vegetarianism will be the norm in the future. Part of me feels guilty for eating meat, mainly because I know I don't need to eat it. As I've mentioned before, I love tofu and vegetables and fruit and beans...I can go days without eating meat and not even notice. In fact, if I think back on the last two days, today I went without eating meat, and yesterday the only meat I had was shrimp. So yes--I could survive very happily as a vegetarian. But the thing is, every now and then I love a good burger, or fried chicken, or bacon. Mmm. Bacon. But maybe someday I'll make the plunge. I could live on cupcakes.

Oh, and Rita has a similar experience with Guinea Pigs in Peru.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Countdown to the marathon, and thoughts on beauty

For some reason, I've been thinking that I have 3 weeks until the marathon, but I realized suddenly over the weekend that it's just 2 weeks away. There's a counter on the official ING Marathon website that kind of stresses me out, but really, I'm ready. Well, as ready as I'll ever be! Which if good, because it's too late to do anything about it, really. So until then, I'm just planning on eating a lot of pasta, doing a few short runs, and trying to wrap up my fundraising.

Speaking of fundraising, you can donate here for pediatric cancer research. I think I've gotten one blog-related donation so far! Thank you, thank you Kristy.


For those of you in the NY area, you should definitely check out the Chihuly exhibit at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx--it's there until October 29th. I went there for Chihuly Nights last Thursday for Saho's Birthday, and it was breathtaking. Here are a few pics:

Or check out an exhibit somewhere near you.

It made me think about the different kind of beauty in the world. That something so artificial , and surrounded by nature, could still be so breathtaking. This past weekend I was surrounded by different kinds of beauty. I took a trip out to Princeton with two friends to visit Julie and have a girls' weekend.

Here is some of the beauty I encountered there:

The beauty of the blue sky, fluffy white clouds, and the green in an apple orchard on a brisk fall day...

the beauty of finding my first-ever four-leaf clover...

the beauty of warm homemade apple cake topped with homemade vanilla ice cream...

and, of course, the beauty of friends.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Autism linked to television watching?

I listened to this Slate.com podcast on the way to work this morning and was pretty amazed. Who knows if this is true, but I wonder if there will be any ramifications in the children's television world.

Read more children's books, I say!

Also, I'd like to direct all of you over to the Blue Rose Girls site for our first-ever Cupcake Contest! Cast your vote now, and enter to win CUPCAKES!! Yes, cupcakes. Well, or a cupcake-related prize.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Home again, home again

I'm back home in NY, flew in on the redeye that landed yesterday morning. I usually go into work after taking a redeye flight, but this time I decided to take a personal day for a change, which was good timing because my cousin Jeanne is in town and I was able to have lunch and coffee with her.

But about Oregon...this might be a boring post, but I wanted to briefly (somewhat!) get down my experiences there. And I have lots of pictures, too!

When I landed in Portland, I had two messages waiting for me on my cellphone. One from Sachin telling me that a plane crashed into a building a block away from my apartment, and another from my roommate Rose telling me that she had been home at the time, heard a strange noise, then sirens, but thought it was just a car accident until her mother called her.

It was a bit of a startling way to start the trip. But my author Gretchen Olson (I always feel funny saying "my author" but someone pointed out that authors say "my editor" so what the heck) picked me up at the airport and whisked me off to lunch at one of the many McMenamins--this one was Edgefield Manor, a renovated Poor Farm. There was wonderful art everywhere, we walked around the grounds under clear blue skies, I became obsessed with taking pictures of the water tower (above), and then we sat down for a beer sampler.
I spent the night at my cousin Julie's--she moved to Portland just about a month ago to study Classical Chinese Medicine. Thai food dinner, decadent desserts at Pix. I was also able to meet another of "my" authors David Greenberg (Slugs, Skunks, Snakes, Bugs, The Book of Boys for Girls & The Book of Girls for Boys, etc.) for lunch the next day. I've worked with David for a long time but have never met him face to face. We had a nice lunch and stroll along the waterfront.

And then SCBWI member Cliff picked me up at the restaurant to drive me the hour or so to Silver Falls where the SCBWI retreat was being held.

It was at an isolated conference center, and I have to admit that I wasn't quite prepared for how bare-bones it was going to be--no cell phone service, no tv, no internet, just a small cabin with two twin-sized beds, a small desk, a clock radio, and a bathroom. It was all fine and good in the end, but I hadn't mentally prepared for that, and also hadn't told anyone that I would be unreachable. But no worries--it was absolutely beautiful, green everywhere with hints of flame-red leaves peeking through. And the weather was still gorgeous, too: sunny with a perfect, clear blue sky, 70s during the day. Very unlike-Oregon-in-the-fall weather, everyone said.Thursday night was the dinner and welcome, and the faculty was given welcome gift bags filled with all kinds of goodies. Mine held some surprise marathon swag--I love the note that was included: There was the burning of the rejection letters (none from me, thank goodness!), and then I escaped to my cabin to finish up with my critiques and prepare for my talk. Oh, but first, the stars! I could see stars!

I went for a run early Friday morning with my whistle and bell that was given to me the night before to ward off bears and cougars (yikes), and came across a clearing where I saw two tawny-colored foxes. It was awesome, but then I got a little creeped out (what if they ran towards me and ripped my throat out?!?), so I took off running again.

The conference overall was wonderful. As always at SCBWI conferences, everyone was so friendly and welcoming and warm. The speakers were interesting and thought-provoking, the food was great (especially the desserts), and the after-parties surprising, complete with angst-ridden songs about writing and rejection letters sung to the tune of London Bridges, Moon River, and more. I wrote my own song to add to their collection--from the editor's point of view, or "payback" as they say. It's sung to Mary Had a Little Lamb and the first line is "Editors are people, too..."

I think my talk on Saturday morning went well--everyone laughed at the right spots, and I was able to expand on my parent's love story and talk about my own path to publishing. And yes, Cheryl and others, please comment on my blog! And I still want that spinach and tofu recipe...

Cliff took us on a hike to two waterfalls after my talk:The number of attendees (60 people) and length of time (almost three days) allowed me to really get to know a lot of the people there, and when it was time to say good-bye, I felt a pang--it was like saying goodbye at Kindling Words, except knowing that I probably wasn't going to see most of the people again. But I hope to hear from most of them, maybe even via this blog! And I've never actually bought anything as a direct result of a conference, but perhaps this one will be the first. Experiences like this always make me want to work with everyone, but of course I know that's not possible.

After the conference I got to have a lot of quality time with my author and incredible host Gretchen Olson--I stayed with her for a night out on her blueberry farm in Amity, Oregon in her absolutely beautiful, custom-made home. She prepared an incredible brunch on Monday, and we hung out in McMinnville all the next day where I tasted some wine, and we checked out the Hands and Words are Not for Hurting Week and her Purple Pail Partners. Particularly moving and eye-opening was a trip to the local jail, but I think that's going to take a whole post of its own.
And now I'm back to the real world. Sigh. Oh, to be sitting in a cafe in Portland sipping chai again.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Off to Oregon

I'm off to Oregon in a few minutes for the SCBWI retreat, and to visit with two authors I work with out there. I'm staying with my cousin Julie for a night, too, and am looking forward to meeting the two dogs, bunny, and bird who live in her apartment. I've never been to Oregon, so I'm really excited, although when my friends asked me if I was excited for my trip, I had to say, not really, not yet. I had too much to do--write my speech, do critiques, take care of things at work, pack. But now that I'm almost off to the airport, now I'm getting excited.

If you're going to the retreat, please say hello, and if you say the code word "bloomabilities" or "blue rose girls" (okay the latter was three code words), I'll know you read my blogs.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Origin of "snarky"...and I'm goin' for twunny!

Mitali asked about the origin of the word "snarky," so curious, I googled it. I found this:

Critical in a curmudgeonly sort of way. The adjective snarky is first recorded in 1906. It is from dialectal British snark, meaning 'to nag, find fault with', which is probably the same word as snark, snork, meaning 'to snort, snore'. (The likely connection is the derisive snorting sound of someone who is always finding fault.) Most dictionaries label snarky as "Chiefly British Slang." But for the last five or more years, it has become increasingly common in American publications, maybe ones infiltrated by British or Canadian writers and journalists.

And this:
1. Rudely sarcastic or disrespectful; snide.
2. Irritable or short-tempered; irascible.
[From dialectal snark, to nag, from snark, snork, to snore, snort, from Dutch and Low German snorken, of imitative origin.]

And this:
Main Entry: snarky
Pronunciation: 'snär-kE
Function: adjective
Etymology: dialect snark to annoy, perhaps alteration of nark to irritate
2 : sarcastic, impertinent, or irreverent in tone or manner

Anyway, I have a new rule. I'm the only snark allowed on my blog.


I'm about to head out for a twenty-mile run this morning. I hope I don't feel too funny. More later.

1:38 pm
Okay, I'm back, and I do feel funny, but I also feel good--especially now that it's over! 20 miles in 3 hours, 27 minutes, and 29 seconds. Faster than I've ever run a long race. For the 18 miles that were scored, I averaged 10 minute and 12 second miles. Much faster than I ran the half marathon. I did it! The last 5 miles were killer, though. I kept feeling like stopping. And the second-to-last mile was the worst, but then I passed this buff guy who was walking, his arms straight out in front of him and his hands making fists, and he was talking to himself. "Almost there. Almost there." and I thought, ha--I'm doing better than this guy. And then later he started running again and I heard him muttering to himself, "Focus. Focus." and that kept me going.

Little things like that help a lot. Going up one of the killer hills that seemed like it would never end, and a woman on a bicycle shouted encouraging things to us. "Use your arms to help you up the hill. Almost there. This is the last time you'll see this hill." It helped. I'm looking forward to all of this and more during the actual marathon. It better help, because when I passed mile 16 and thought, damn, could I do 10 more miles? I didn't think I could. But I'll be pumped up, and I'll have friends at various spots on the route, so that will keep me going. And really, if I must, I'll take walking breaks.

I met up with Fred's Team, before the race, because we were doing an extra 2 miles before the 18 mile training run. I went out to the Thursday night training last week, so there were some familiar faces, which was good. It was fun to keep a look out for the bright orange shirts and bright purple shorts. Thursday, though, almost killed me. We did stairs. Including hopping up stairs on one foot. I didn't realize how hard that was until I tried it. But I must say, it helped during the race, because I thought about it when going up hills. Pumping my arms, bouncing on my toes.

Oh, and another cool thing--as I crossed the finish line, they announced my name. "And now finishing at XX:XX is Alvina L*ng with Fred's Team!" We had chips during this run, so I guess my name must have popped up on the computer. It was nice that they pronounced it right, too. I'm always afraid that people will say "Al-vine-a" instead of "Al-vee-na."

Okay, that all for now. I did twenty, and that's plenty. Now for a nice, long, hot shower.

Oh, and not that I expect the blogosphere to support my run financially, but if you're looking to donate for pediatric cancer research (it's tax deductable), you can sponsor me here. I'm running in honor of Grace Lin's husband, Robert, who, after a long run at it, is finally in remission again! Let's hope the same for everyone fighting cancer.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

more milestones and random notes

I'd like to introduce baby Samantha, born to Amy and Bryan on Sunday morning, a week early:

Hee hee--I love yawning babies.

It was a busy but great weekend that kicked off with a Friday happy hour, then Mariko's Super Sweet 25th birthday party where we surprised her with a giant replica of an iPod constructed by Sarah (we did also get her an actual iPod, although she said she would have been happy with just the cutout):

...then Saturday night was Don and Nikki's wedding in a Manhattan loft with a great view of the Empire State building (or "Mr. Empire" as the Frenchies used to call it), and Sugar Sweet Sunshine cupcakes! They guarded the cupcakes closely before it was time to eat them, so closely that when I went to take a picture, I heard one of the "guards" mutter to another, "She's too close!" But I finally got one.:

...and then on Sunday a 15- mile run. This one was so much better than my last one. For one, I didn't have to stop to drink--just plowed through it. This was the farthest I've run without stopping, and I'm not counting my 19-mile run because I stopped to use the bathroom.

Just two stories from my run in Central Park:

1) Around 75th St on the West Side where that little lake is, there was a guy performing, playing guitar and singing, and the first time I passed, he was singing a song about how "it sure can suck to be single in this town." I thought the singer had a nice voice, and the song was pretty amusing.

An hour later I passed by the same spot again, and singer was still there. And guess what. Yup. He was singing the exact same song! I didn't find it as charming as I did the first time.

A little less than an hour later I passed the same spot again and thought, "If that guy's singing that same song, I'm going to kill him" (I was cranky around then) and luckily for both of us, he was singing "What a wonderful world" which was beautiful, and especially nice because out of desperation, I had started reciting "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" except I had started at 88th Street with "88 bottles of beer on the wall" and was kinda despairing that after getting down to 50 bottles that my mind would force myself to keep singing until no beer was left, but thankfully I started singing 'What a wonderful world" instead.

2) When I was finishing up mile 11 (right around the second time I heard the guy sing about it sucking being single in this town), I ran behind a running couple. The guy seemed to be limping along pitifully, and it turns out for good reason. I heard him say, "We're nearing twenty...I'm feeling funny" and then laughing proudly at this new "rhyme" he had created, he repeated it: "Ha ha--I'm nearing twenty. I'm feeling funny" and then proceeded to "rhyme" a bit more, more that didn't actually rhyme with twenty (although all rhymed with funny): "Almost twenty...I'm hopping like a bunny. Haha. Almost twenty...I can't believe I'm not doing this for money..." It kind of reminded me of a bad children's rhyming picture book submission.

But after I ran another lap, as I found myself nearing my goal of fifteen miles, I started the rhyme game myself:"Fifteen...you know what I mean. Fifteen...I'm gonna rupture a spleen. Fifteen...I'm feeling serene. Fifteen, I need to use the latrine"

Yeah, see, that's why I don't write children's books. Especially rhyming ones.

As for work, I've had a productive two days. Got out yet another editorial letter, responded to a bunch of LA SCBWI queries (if you haven't heard from me yet, you will! I promise!), helped my assistant with her very first editorial letter, and it's only Tuesday. More to come.

A snarky comment to my Blue Rose Girls "How I edit" post of last Friday was disheartening, and almost made me not want to blog anymore, because now I know there are readers out there who are looking for things to criticize, who are not kind, and that makes me sad. But I know it comes with the territory.