Sunday, January 31, 2010

Guilty Pleasures!

Guilty pleasures. They are activities we do when we think no one else is watching. Activities our mother wouldn't approve of, or our colleagues at work would have a field day, if they knew of!

Simply stated, they are things we do that we don't boast about to others.

Why am I bringing up this topic? Guilty pleasures was the theme for the January blog chain at the Absolute Writer Water Cooler forum.

"And what the heck is a blog chain?" you ask.

It's where a bunch of bloggers write on the same topic, and also comment on, and link to each others blogs.

Though I am not part of this blog chain (it's still going on), I had so much fun reading these that I wanted to share a few with you.

Here are three samples, enjoy! Fresh Hell , Lostwanderer5 , Lindzy1954

Do I have any guilty pleasures of my own? Sure! I am ashamed to admit that I am frequently on Youtube watching old 80ies music videos. What can I say? I grew up with MTV! Maybe worse, I like those stupid home videos where animals and kids do funny stuff. And being human, and female, I am not a stranger of clicking on Omg! (famous people gossip), or eating chocolate!

Which are your guilty pleasures?

Previous posts: I Found A New Blog For My Web Collection , How Many Books Are You Reading 2010?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Shopping For An Alarm Clock, A Not So Obvious Milestone

When my daughter was a baby, I took pictures and documented every little step in her development, but as she has grown older my documentation has slowed down dramatically.

It's not like she isn't growing and developing anymore. She's only ten! But somehow, I've become more lazy, or maybe since I can't see the physical development happening as rapidly, I forget to look and don't notice. Am I a bad mother? Perhaps.

Now, I will rectify this poor behavior by writing down and sharing something that happened the other day. My daughter asked her dad if she could have her own alarm clock since she wanted to get up 30 minutes earlier in the mornings. This was after she asked him to wake her up earlier, and he said no.

My husband shared this with me, and asked if I could take her shopping. Well, you know! The first thing that crossed my mind was BOYS! My little baby wants extra time to fix her hair. Later, after some reflection, I realized how huge this was. She is taking a small step towards adulthood and trying to become independent. Ohh.., I was proud. (You can't see it, but I am wearing a great big smile as I am writing this.)

Soon it will be time to shop for bras and talk about those boys...

Previous posts: Do You Have A Tweenie At Home?
New Year's Resolutions Parents Need To Make For 2010

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Why A Pink LV Handbag Is Creating Political Turbulence In Sweden

Being Swedish, I try to keep up with what is going on at home by reading the leading national newspaper "Dagens Nyheter" on-line. I do this in the mornings, before it's time to head off to work. It's my quiet-cozy-relax-read and eat period of the day. I sit down with my cup of coffee and my two, open faced, cheese sandwiches (a typical Swedish breakfast!) and skim through the latest headlines.

This week, Dagens Nyheter has been busy covering the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake. But the leading national story is centered around Mona Sahlin, the female leader of the (blue-collar) Social Democratic party, and her new, pink, and very expensive, Louis Vuitton handbag. There are several pictures of her with the pink LV bag dangling in her hand, walking alongside her political left-wing colleagues in the halls of the parliament.

As 2010 is an election year, the political parties are polishing their slogans and turning up the heat on their opponents. But what is the deal with this rather controversial handbag? First, Mona Sahlin is hoping to win this year's election and become the next Swedish Prime Minister. Second, Mona Sahlin has, by openly advertising her high income, stepped outside the cultural norm. But most importantly, is it possible to be a leader of a socialist-environmentalist (the "Green" party) coalition and also be a snob?

To understand this controversy, a brief description of the Swede is necessary. Swedes are suckers for luxury items just as much as Americans. But contrary to the the culture here, it's not socially acceptable for Swedes to "stick out". The mantra in Sweden is: "Don't show that you're poor. And for heaven's sake, don't show that you are rich." This is especially important if you're a public figure. Be "regular" and blend, is the golden rule. Moreover, Swedes are sticklers for following rules. From a world-perspective, Sweden passes environmental laws, always pays the right amount for its membership in the UN, and always takes the right number of refugees. Swedes are a bunch of goodie-two-shoes. They are people who always do what's right and (sometimes) not do what they're supposed to do!

Now, there is another side to this story. Mona Sahlin didn't buy the LV handbag with her own money. It was given to her when she turned 50. Also, the current Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, wears a Longines watch. But Reinfeld represents the conservative right, and he is a man, and his watch is discreetly hidden underneath his Hugo Boss suit cuff.

According to statistics from 2005, the average salary income in Sweden is roughly $2000 per month. I wonder how many Swedes have Googled "Louis Vitton handbags" and "Longines watches"?!

Previous posts: "Super snake" Fear In Florida.

Monday, January 18, 2010

How Many Books Are You Reading 2010? January Update

This year I have decided to try to read 15 books. We are already three weeks into January, and so far I am doing fair on my reading goal. I can report that I have finished 1,5 fiction books. The first one was Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand, see review below. And the second one, the one I didn't finish, was The Hobbit by J.J.R. Tolkien.

I really tried with The Hobbit. But after two renewals at the library, I finally gave up. Every time I was in the mood to read, my hand reached for another book, or a magazine. Life is too short to finish a book which isn't doing its job. Entertain me! Of course, I am not even thinking of checking out The Lord of the Rings.

Currently I am reading White Fang by Jack London, and two non-fiction books about running. Compared with The Hobbit, which was a disappointment, White Fang is climbing my personal Top Ten List. Jack London wrote like a poet. His metaphors and ways with words takes my breath away. I read and shiver form goosebumps. It's funny. I find myself re-reading passages because they're so beautiful. That's a first, actually, for me.

Book Review: Barefoot By Elin Hilderbrand.
Barefoot is a light and easy read. It's the perfect book to bring on a long plane ride, or for a lazy weekend in bed. It contains all the key chick-novel ingredients: romance, love, heartbreak, obsession, drama, and all sorts of twists and turns. I found myself quickly attached to Hilderbrand's characters, and they held my attention throughout the entire 504 pages.

A bit curious about Barefoot? Here is the back cover synopsis:
"---Vicki is trying to sort through the news that she has a serious illness. Her sister, Brenda, has just left her job after being caught in an affair with a student. And their friend Melanie, after seven failed in vitro attempts, is pregnant at last --but only after learning that her husband is having an affair. They have come to escape, enjoy the sun, and relax in the calming seaside air. But into the house [on Nantucket], into their world, steps a twenty-two-year-old Josh Flynn. --"

If you want to read this book, you can leave me a comment, and I'll mail you my copy!

Previous Posts: "What I Didn't Know About J.J.R. Tolkien" , "How Many Books Are You Reading 2010?"

Sunday, January 17, 2010

"Super snake" Fear In Florida

Snakes are a common sight for anyone who lives in Florida. This little snake, about two feet in length, I have identified as a (non-poisonous) Eastern Garter Snake. (It's possible that I am wrong, of course!)

I saw him (her?) laying dead in my street one morning when I was driving to work. Curiosity got the best of me, and I couldn't resist popping out of my car and take a picture.

Since there are six poisonous snakes in Florida, I have to be careful where I put my feet and hands when I am outside, or if I am rummaging around in my garage. Poisonous rattlesnakes are known to slither into warm and cozy human homes (hiding in laundry baskets, behind/inside dryers...).

But homes are not the only place where Floridians have to watch where they put their hands. Since I moved to Florida in 2007, I have read about two cases of Pygmy rattlesnake-bit-incidents at Walmart. Both of them occurred in the garden section, so be careful when you reach for those lovely Geraniums!

This morning when I was reading the news on-line, I came across the Latimes.com story about the new "Super snake" that lives in the Everglades. Its real name is African rock python. This monster gets bigger than the Burmese python which is another inhabitant of the Everglades. These are gigantic, hungry snakes. During a state-coordinated hunt last week, they found a female African rock python which was 14 feet long! And they can lunch on animals as big as goats and crocodiles, and even small children!

But what is the real problem with these big snakes? The Fort Collins Science Center gives a better overview of the real issue. In plain words, they're not as much of a threat to our pets and children as they are to the vulnerable Florida ecosystem. Because of how well they adapt and reproduce, they can live anywhere, grow quickly in numbers, and drive endangered animals to extinction.

Here is a summary:
1. Giant constrictors grow very fast (20 feet, 200 lbs), produce many offspring, and a females can store sperm and have more than a 100 fertilized eggs.
2. They are so called generalists which means they can live just about anywhere, even survive freezing temperatures.
3. They live in trees as young snakes and feed on birds.
4. Don't mind living in the city.
5. The are hard to see, "sit-and-wait" hunters.
6. They are hosts for parasites and diseases.

Sources:
http://hernando.fnpschapters.org/wildlife/snakes.htm
http://www.fort.usgs.gov/FLConstrictors/
http://www.latimes.com/news/nation-and-world/la-na-super-snake15-2010jan15,0,6729623.story

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Don't Fall For The Temptation And Buy An El Cheapo Running Shoe

It was time to buy a new pair of running shoes. Last year during the after-Christmas-sale, I bought a pair of New Balance running shoes for 35 dollars at TJ Maxx. They've worked well, looked nice, and held together fine, until I became a more committed runner. This was a few months back, or November, to be more exact.

My cheapo New Balance weren't supporting my feet. As I increased my running distance and frequency, I began experiencing sore shins and calves, and my shoes started losing their form. It was time to decide whether I was a runner, or whether I was a runner. I decided; I was --a runner! In other words, it was time to invest in a real pair of running shoes (the expensive kind!).

Do your research before you buy a new pair of running shoes. You might not know this, but there is more to buying a running shoe than just stopping in at the closest Foot Locker. You have to find and buy the right kind of running shoe. Every foot is different, and it's important to find a shoe that supports it in the right places.

Where can you learn which running shoe is best for you? If you feel like learning the ins and outs about different kinds of feet and shoes, there are lots of articles on the Internet or in books on running. And there are several places on the Internet where you can find deals on running shoes. But If you are a first time buyer like I was, you might want to go to a shoe store and get fitted by an expert. Then, next time, when you know what you need, you can get the second pair off of the Internet.

Find a store which specializes in athletic shoes, or running shoes. They have people who can look at your feet and advice you on what kind of running shoe you need. A good pair of running shoes cost between 60-120 dollars. Spend the money! If you are serious about running you need shoes that will protect you from getting injured. Then you can be comfortable like me. My new shoes are great. My shins and calves are better, and it feels like I am running on a spongy mattress.

Previous Posts: "Want To Run Comfortably?" , "Why I Run"

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I Found A New Blog For My Web Collection!

When I was out hunting on the Web today, I stumbled upon a real blog-jewel! It was hiding as a link behind some words on a rather dull and disorganized author's blog (no names!). I was going exit when something told me to click on the link, and to my astonishment, it was a gateway to "The Positivity Blog" . The author is a Swede (!!!) named Henrik Edberg.

What's The Positivity Blog about? Check out his list of content!
-creating new and better habits;
-improving self-discipline;
-expanding your consciousness and realizing your possibilities;
-reducing procrastination;
-setting goals you can reach;
-learning to live in the present moment;
-understanding what is stopping you today from doing what you want;
-improving your people skills and relationships.

Does it seem like Mr Edberg has watched a few too many Oprah Winfrey shows? Maybe, but it's working. He has found his niche in the blogging-world.

Pop in and read some of his stuff. I am going to place a link to his blog in my sidebar. After all, he is a fellow countryman! (We're both Swedish.)

Previous posts: "What Should I Do With My Life?" , "I Have To Stop Trying To Write Perfect"

Sunday, January 10, 2010

How Many Books Are You Reading 2010?

Lost Wanderer's reading goal for 2010 is 75 books. That's an impressive pile of books. I wish that I could even come close, but it's just not possible. I'm such a slow reader. If I divide her list by 5, then it's still pushing my reading limit, but it's a list within my reach. Nobody said all the books had to be 500 pages, right? Thin books with large print must count?!

So here it is, my 2010 reading goal: Ann is reading 15 books this year.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

What Is A Tag?

On Google's Blogger it's called a label, but tags and labels are the same thing.

So, why should you care what a tag is? You shouldn't, if you're not a blog writer. But if you are, you should care a lot. That is, if you want more traffic to your blog than from your closest friends and your mama.

Tags are keywords or phrases that represent the content in your blog post. They are the words that people place in SEARCH when they want to look up stuff on Google or Yahoo. Let us say, you have a dog, and he keeps doing his business inside, and you want to find out how to get him to hold himself until you take him out. Then you might pull up Google and type words like "housebreaking" + "dogs" + "training" and so forth, into the search window. Those words are tags!

On Google's Blogger, tags are placed in a special window underneath the compose window where you write your blog posts. It's called a label (Why the usage of different terms --you have to ask the Blogger people!).

With tags, quantity is important. More tags are better. We're talking 10-20 tags per post! (Blogger has a 200 character maximum!) And yes, it's a lot of work. But the more tags, the better the chances are that your post will be picked up by the Google, or Yahoo search engines, and bring those wanted readers your way!

Here are some examples of tags I will use for this lovely little post: tagging, tags, search engines, labels, blog tags, blogging, blog traffic, keywords, blog posts, find blog readers, optimization, search engine optimization, keyword phrases, links, description tags...

I show some of my tags in the sidebar, the upper right side of my front blog page. They're there to show Internet browsers, stopping-by-ers, what I am about. What I write about. They can click on tags that they find interesting and read my posts. On Google's Blogger, it's possible to choose a few representing tags (out of the growing bank of keywords) and place them in the side bar. It's very easy! You click on edit sidebar, the layout page, to do this.

Previous posts: "My Rookie Blogging Tips!", "How To Make A Word Into A Link"

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Books On Writing. My Review List. 1

This is not a review list yet, but I hope that it will become one. As I read books on writing, I will post my reviews on them here, and tell you what I think.

First out is Stephen King's "On Writing".

Title: On Writing
Author: Stephen King
Rating (poor/fair/good/very good/excellent): Good!
Comments: The first half of this book are King's memoirs, and the second half are his views on the craft of writing. Somehow, this book-sandwich (two subjects slapped together inside the same book cover) didn't work for me, hence the low rating.
Favorite Quote (s):
"Life isn't a support-system for art. It's the other way around.” (p.101)
"One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you're maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones.” (p.117)
“The most interesting situations can usually be expressed as a What-if question: What if vampires invaded a small New England Village? ('Salem's Lot')” (p.169)

Previous posts: "What Should I Do With My Life?", "What I Didn't Know About J.R.R Tolkien"

Monday, January 4, 2010

Here I Go Again!

I submitted another poem. Now, I am nervous that I had beginner luck with "Unwanted Gift", my first submission and first publication. Rejection is crushingly painful, but something I have to learn to handle. My logic tells me I can take a rejection and keep sending a poem to different places until it finds a home, but my inner critic tells me to give up, and to stop embarrassing myself.

This new poem is called "Tattered Joe To-Go". It was inspired by a discovery my daughter and I made during a walk. We found a blanket and an empty milk carton on the ground. They looked "left" there, right next to a trash bin, underneath a bridge. It was just garbage, but it got us talking. What is life like for someone who is homeless?

Our conversation prompted my poem about a homeless man, Joe To-Go. I wanted to give a voice to the individual who had slept under the bridge. My mind tried to go there, wake up on the ground, wrapped in the blanket. Who am I? What was my night like? Where did I go after I awoke?

Previous posts: first publication, rejection.