Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Here Fishy Fishy

So I was watching the news this morning, the announcer proclaimed that yesterday was "Fish are Friends Not Food Day".  Ironically, today is "National Catfish Day", so a reprieve for the fishy yesterday, but today . . . . well, how do you like your catfish, blackened, deep fried, broiled?

P.S. In checking the Internet, it appears that this entire week is "Fish are Friends Not Food Week".  

Monday, June 24, 2013

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Super Moon 2013 - A Little Trivia

In honor of tonight's Super Moon, I thought I'd repost my loony moon trivia post from January 2012:

Today's Mindless Trivia - Nature's Nightlight

Last night my husband and I were sitting in the living room watching TV, when we noticed a stunning sliver of light coming in from the sliding door and casting a gentle glow on the tile floor – nature’s nightlight was in full bloom.  I got up and walked over to the door and looked out.  The full moon was large and rising over the eastern mountain range.  It would soon appear to get smaller as it rose, so we both took a moment to marvel at its beauty and awesomeness.  I know there are some people who find a full moon eerie, but on the contrary I find it and the glow it casts gorgeous and even comforting.  Occurring once a month, nature’s nightlight always amazes me.  Something I once never gave much thought to, I now welcome, like an old friend.
Now there are negative stories of the moon’s effect on people and animals, and likewise there are positive stories as well.  You might even hear a bit of folklore including everything from migratory patterns of animals, to lunacy and birthing rates.  There is also folklore regarding a crescent moon: seen over the right shoulder it is lucky, but the opposite is true if seen over the left shoulder.
Following are some fun facts about the moon that you can save for your next Jeopardy appearance. (I’m just going to give you some of the English names for each of these moons.  The Native Americans had other names for some and there are other variations for all.) 
January – Old Moon
February – Wolf Moon (when wolf packs howled because they were hungry)
March – Lenten Moon
April – Egg Moon
May – Milk Moon
June – Flower Moon (because in most areas flowers are abundant now)
July – Hay Moon
August – Grain Moon
September – Fruit Moon (time to harvest the fruit)
October – Harvest Moon
November – Hunter’s Moon
December – Oak Moon

What about the Blue Moon you ask?  Well there is quite a bit of misinformation about a blue moon, but the version that appears correct states that a blue moon occurs an average of every 2.7 years.  We usually have 12 full moons per year, but every once in a while there is an extra moon, which we call the Blue Moon.  This occurs because the solar calendar differs from our own. 

And now that you have all of this loony information (yes, pun intended), go ahead and dazzle your trivia buff friends at your next party!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Quote of the Day

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” 

― Maya Angelou

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Embracing Criticism

The following is an unedited version of an article I wrote that will be appearing in my employer's newsletter this month:

Embracing Criticism 

A few years ago I excitedly attended an evening college course on fiction writing.  Having not stepped foot on a worn checkered tiled school floor in more years than I’d like to reveal to you, I admit to being a bit nervous, yet gleefully happy.  I passed corridors of youngsters that day until I finally came upon my destination.  Once inside, I soon became a little more at ease when I saw a diverse group of individuals, of varying ages, filtering into the classroom.  I can tell you that I learned quite a bit from this course, but one of the most unexpected lessons I learned during that four-week writing class was how to embrace criticism. 
Constructive criticism is something that should never be ignored.  Now this may sound like a stale request, but I urge you to look at constructive criticism with an open mind.  It should not be feared or shrugged off.  Nor should this type of criticism be viewed as a negative personal attack, but instead remember that you are being given this criticism to help you grow as an individual.  How thoughtful is it that someone cares enough to point out areas where we can improve?  Trust me, hearing that parts of my story were weak or not coming across to my audience as intended was horribly disheartening at first.  But then as I stepped away from the class and refocused my misguided energy and slighted ego on the goal – to write well – I gained new insight into this personal endeavor and chose to apply it to my paying career as well.

Is criticism easy to take?  No, not at all.  Why?  Well, it forces us to look at ourselves and our business practices in another light, from the viewpoint of an observer, imperfections and all.  If, for example, someone suggests to you that perhaps you are handling an issue with a colleague or client the wrong way, instead of getting mad and dismissing their comment, try looking at your situation with a new set of eyes.  Ask your friend why they feel you are handling this situation poorly?  How would they suggest that you handle this incident differently?  Now, that well-meaning friend may or may not be correct with their advice, but what I learned from my writing course was to look at these varying opinions and offerings of advice, and ask myself what can I do to make this piece better, stronger and convey what it is that I am really intending my story to convey.  If we can examine these criticisms more closely and find areas to improve upon, then that criticism can be golden.

So how do we go about embracing criticism and applying it to our daily business practices?  I would suggest the following:

·      First and foremost, keep an open mind and try not to immediately go on the defense.  It probably isn't easy for the person giving you the advice to point out a deficiency, but your supervisors and colleagues are there to help you improve.  Listen carefully to what they are telling you.  This feedback might provide you with a stepping stone towards more positive client relationships, or more successful collection results, for example.

·      To use a proverb, put yourself in the other person’s shoes to examine your imperfections.  Pretend you are looking into a mirror.  What is your reflection revealing?  What are others seeing from your actions?  Are you not fully communicating to a client your company’s services?  Are you coming across too brusque?  Is your work area unorganized causing you to make needless mistakes?

·      Use criticism as a launching point for self improvement by seeking suggestions from others.  If you’re a reader, read and do research.  If you like lectures, attend one.  If you have a mentor or person you admire, query them.

In our careers and life in general we all fall into a comfort zone of doing things a certain way.  “If it ain't broke, don’t fix it”, right?  Well, yes and no.  It doesn't hurt to take the advice of that colleague and mull it around a bit.  Perhaps, just maybe, there is a thread of information there that you could use to improve yourself, your career and your overall well-being.  Embrace criticism I say!  You may not like it very much, but in time you can learn to use it to your benefit and to grow as an individual.  

Monday, June 10, 2013

New Story to be Published in August

Just a quick word to mention that a new story, "The Collector", is slated for August publication with The Story Shack.  As always, stay tuned!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Book Review Time - The Next Time You See Me

Okay, I'm struggling with how to rate this.  First, let me tell you that I received this book free through Goodreads' First Reads program and their scale is between 1-5 stars.  I'm giving it 4 for the captivating writing style even though the story fell a little short for me at the end, which might more accurately entitle this to 3.5 stars.  Let me explain.

I was very excited to immerse myself into this book's pages, and once I started reading it, I had a hard time putting it down.  The characters were rich and complex, and Jones's writing style keep me turning pages.  I'd say all in all it was a very good read . . . except for the ending.  You see, the suspect in the murder was presented to you fairly quickly, and I kept expecting the "twist" to come up until the very end, but it didn't.    Now this is not necessarily the author's fault.  I think we've become so used to complex murder mysteries that we expect a twist, a whodunit, when the beauty in this read is the straight-forwardness in which the murderer is presented to you and the gradual unveiling of its cause and effect to these colorful characters from a small town.  You learn throughout the story about these characters and their flaws, and I noted that many reviewers stated that this book is more of a character study than a murder mystery, and I'd agree.  So if you're expecting a really good murder mystery, you'll probably be disappointed.  If you like character studies, you'll be rewarded.

Given all that, my problem came with the ending.  I felt that there were just a few too many unanswered questions.  A little too many loose strings.  This is not to say that we can't be left questioning and wondering.  I don't think that things need to be explained in minute detail, however, I do believe a little more needed to be resolved to bring this book to a successful conclusion.  I won't spoil this review with the specifics, but would be interested to see if you feel the same way I do after reading this book.  It left me just a little let down.  For a first novel though, I thought it was a great start and an interesting read.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Reminder - "Under" Shackcast on Wednesday

In March I told you about the new monthly podcast that The Story Shack has started, and I wanted to give you a quick reminder that my story "Under" will be ready for download on Wednesday.  With the narration by Jeff Mash (actor from the movie Zero Dark 30) and soundscapes by the talented Yero Pharah, I'm very excited to hear the outcome.  This podcast will be available free through iTunes, YouTube, Soundcloud, and of course The Story Shack!