Monthly Archives: December 2007

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Everyone take the day off work and go to the library

Slate has published its diverse list of the best books of 2007. The list includes some poetry, some foreskin, some Denis Johnson, and some good germs. The end of the year is approaching so we’re going to be seeing a lot of best-of lists, but I like this one because it’s not devoted wholly to novels. I like to balance out my fiction with true tales of female circumcision. We have a lot of reading to do, people.

Today’s secret

I don’t hate baking cookies as much as I say I do. I just like the idea of pouting and complaining while wearing a reindeer apron.

Formidable article published on


Inspiring article for writers with websites

The New York Times online featured an article this morning entitled “Crossover Dreams: Turning Free Web Work into Real Book Sales.” Many authors have either gotten their start or have intentionally marketed their book ideas on the web. Literary agents or publishers then determine that page views will translate directly into sales and they give the web authors six-figure book deals. Usually they’re wrong (I don’t remember Jessica Cutler’s novel The Washingtonienne doing so well), but every once in a while they’re right (e.g. My Secret based on and I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell based on had decent sales).

But not only blogs, cartoons, and online fiction can turn into books.

Hyperion recently made a leap of faith when it reportedly paid $6.7 million to acquire the rights to “Last Lecture,” a book to be based on a talk given at Carnegie Mellon University by Randy Pausch, a 47-year-old computer-science professor who has terminal pancreatic cancer. Videos of the lecture — or parts of it — on YouTube and elsewhere on the Web have been viewed more than 6 million times.

This reminds me of Disney making a billion dollar movie dynasty out of its Pirates of the Caribbean amusement park ride. A YouTube video that gives you the warm-fuzzies or a rollercoaster that makes you throw up can be a crossover hit when deal-makers have a vision.

Whoa, I just watched the Last Lecture YouTube video for the first time. Randy Pausch actually achieved one of his childhood dreams of designing a Disney ride. Disney evidently has its finger on the pulse of innovative business practices. Next they will probably launch a popular line of pancreatic cancer hot dogs. I’m going to make myself cry. This is sad stuff.

The point is, you never know what the world at large will gravitate to, and eventually something brilliant that you post online could make you a million dollars. And that is the meaning of life, after all. One million dollars.

Scientific America article on raising smart kids

This Scientific American article hits really close to home because lately I feel like a lazy kid with more learned helpless than intrinsically motivated behaviors. When I read the article, I was waking up from a two-hour afternoon power nap. Instead of arising from the couch with the dream-inspired plot for my next novel, I arose with a need to surf the internet. Luckily the StumbleUpon gods had a life lesson in store for me. I think I have been putting too much stock in being innately talented or innately not talented and not enough stock in trying to be better. I mean yes, I’m a genius, but even geniuses have to stay awake for more than three hours at a stretch in order to accomplish anything.

The Scientific American website summarizes the article’s key concepts so I don’t have to:

Many people assume that superior intelligence or ability is a key to success. But more than three decades of research shows that an overemphasis on intellect or talent—and the implication that such traits are innate and fixed—leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unmotivated to learn.

Teaching people to have a “growth mind-set,” which encourages a focus on effort rather than on intelligence or talent, produces high achievers in school and in life.

Parents and teachers can engender a growth mind-set in children by praising them for their effort or persistence (rather than for their intelligence), by telling success stories that emphasize hard work and love of learning, and by teaching them about the brain as a learning machine.

From now on I will try to focus on effort rather than on being a terrible writer or a good writer. I will also stop telling little kids that they were born stupid and/or they should just give up, and focus instead on complimenting their determination to finish three-piece puzzles.


If I want someone to call me, all I have to do is go to the bathroom or lie down for a nap.

Anyone know an unfaithful doctor?

Alternative name for this post–“Unfaithful doctor, I advise you to stop having an affair. Your wife is onto you.” Saw this ad on Charlottesville Craigslist this morning with the subject:

“Need info on female drug reps cavorting with local surgeons”

“I am a private investigator in Richmond and have been hired to identify the female drug representative who is having/had an affair with a married physician in the Charlottesville area between 2005 to present. This person may cover the Charlottesville, Lynchburg, Staunton, Harrisonburg and Waynesboro areas. The only information I have is that she has been a drug representative for many years with one of the larger drug companies.

Information I need: which companies work this area and which are the largest. Phone numbers of regional offices and names of managers. Names of physicians who have had improper relationships with pharmaceutical sales persons The names of any of the female reps who may provide me with information.”

Good luck, P.I. Since when do the good people of Charlottesville rat out their doctors? And since when does the Craigslist “Community” section conduct your investigations for you?

Ode to an Eco-Guerilla

Squirrel, you did what you could.

We lost our power for three hours.

That’s five dozen trees

or the moon

or whatever they make power out of.

Now you are toast and there’s no one left

to torch SUVs

or blow up dams.

Perhaps another squirrel

will take your place.

I hope it’s the one

living in my attic.

He is noisy

and deserves to be arrested.

Darren Hoyt is getting famous on the internet, and I have insider info with which to capitalize on his fame

Tonight I found this website, which informed me that Darren Hoyt is “a name we all should know!” I totally agree, and that is why I have decided to publish my highly-anticipated interview with Darren Hoyt, captain of the web design blogosphere and my own buttered bun.


W- How did you get interested in web design?

D – I used to visit my Dad’s house in 1995 and play around with his Compuserve account. At the time there was a buzz about “alien autopsy” photos from Roswell that someone claimed to have published online. I was on Christmas break from college with nothing else to do, so I made a point of tracking down these photos. I finally met someone in a chat room who said he’d send me copies using whatever transfer protocol was around at the time. All I know is that it killed my dad’s 14.4 modem connection for the better part of a day. I finally found an actual web domain that promised the photos. This time it took three hours to load in the browser, and it was obvious no thinking person would mistake them for authentic. But I still stayed up til 3:00am anyway, watching a black-and-white JPG load one fragment at a time.

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Spoiler alert!

(I’ve always wanted to say that.)

On Friday night Darren and I chose to see The Mist without reading a single review of the movie. I thought the preview looked scary and I have liked Stephen King since I was a fifth grader trading his horror novels with my teacher Mrs. Connor. Years later I expanded my literary canon from Stephen King to Jim Morrison’s bad poetry (and for some reason Mrs. Connor then deemed me mature enough to babysit her child), but I still have a soft spot for the creepy books that used to keep me up at night. So imagine my surprise when I walked into the downtown movie theater with my hands full of expensive popcorn and saw octopus tentacles slithering into a grocery store and devouring a teenage stock boy. That sounds kind of cool when it’s written out, but believe me, it wasn’t.

I forget about Stephen King books for long periods of time and then all of a sudden he’s there on my radar writing about evil talking cars or giant carnivorous insects coming out of the mist and I’m like, “Stephen? What happened to the good old days? Have you run out of ideas? Are you just messing with us at this point? Why can’t you smack my primal emotions around like you used to?” King seems like a smart, self-reflecting guy, judging from his Entertainment Weekly Pop of King column, so there must be a reason for these nefarious tentacles that are vaguely linked to some secret military industrial complex in a small town in Maine. Maybe King is working on a much larger, meta horror story, where unsuspecting King readers and movie-goers are sucked into a nightmare of bad dialogue and outlandish visions. We pay $9 for a movie ticket and $14 for snacks and then we are haunted for the rest of our lives by the one time we failed to skim the New York Times movie reviews before date night. At the same time, I know that the director of The Mist probably butchered King’s story. And I know what it’s like to be out of ideas. And one time I was shopping for groceries and a sparrow whizzed right by my head and almost ate me.