C. A. Casey

Another worthless writers blog

Archive for August, 2007

Saturday on the Links

Posted by Casey on August 28, 2007

Let’s see. What did I do last Saturday?

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Hmmm. Grapes.

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Vineyards . . .

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But wait . . . What’s that closely trimmed green patch?

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They’re playing golf in the vineyard?

Only in Napa at the Chardonnay Golf Club .

This wasn’t your usual weekend golfing, this was a National Golf League Tournament. Teams of men and women competed in three rounds–each following a different format.

I was there to write for the Valley Zone, a team from my area of California. While I’m writing my first article, here are some snapshots from the day. I have to say it was a perfect day, weather-wise. Perfect temperature. It was nice and peaceful out there in the part golf course, part vineyard.

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Posted in Stuff | 1 Comment »

Out in the First Round

Posted by Casey on August 28, 2007

Well, the Monarchs’ season is over. They lost the last game of the best-of-three series in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs.

This picture pretty much says it all . . .

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Monarchs fans have gotten spoiled by seeing their team make it all the way to the Finals the last two years, but that kind of run can’t last forever.

So here’s my last game report for the Monarchs. At least, I got to write about a win.

Monarchs Gun Down the Silver Stars

Congratulations to Becky Hammon and the San Antonio Silver Stars. Their reward for getting through round 1? Facing the Phoenix Mercury . . .

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Good luck, San Antonio.

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Monster in the Making

Posted by Casey on August 23, 2007

Let me preface this with I’ve never been much of a player of games. I remember playing Monopoly, Risk, marbles, poker . . . I was a kid sister and my brother controlled playtime, all right? My broken nose is from getting hit in the face with a baseball when I was five.

So anyway, I have a friend who plays Scrabble more days than not. Now before today, Scrabble was just a name of a game to me. I knew it had to do with words and looked something like a crossword puzzle. That was it.

I mentioned to this friend that they were having a marathon of National Scrabble Championships on ESPNClassic today. So there we were watching and I asked questions and she explained and after a while, she got out her board and we played a couple of games.

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I think I’m addicted already and I’m truly embarrassed about it . . .

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. . . Just kidding.

It just may become my new bad habit, though. I’ll probably start writing using odd words with two to eight letters. Hmmm. That could be a fun exercise . . .

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Catching Up With the Monarchs

Posted by Casey on August 21, 2007

I haven’t posted the links to the last three Monarchs reports of the regular season. Well, here they are:

Monarchs “Travel” To Win Against Mystics
Monarchs Lasso in the Silver Stars
Monarchs Get Fried by Mercury

And, yes, those were my original titles. I’ve also stopped reading the published articles to save what’s left of my sanity.

I’m preparing the catcam pictures from the Phoenix Mercury game in a special presentation. I’ll post it as soon as it’s finished.

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One Down

Posted by Casey on August 19, 2007

I finished the first Harry Potter book.

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In all honesty, if I had picked up this book without any knowledge of the hype around it, I probably wouldn’t have read much beyond the first chapter or two. Even if I had finished it, I wouldn’t have had enough interest in the characters or the storyline to read any more books in the series.

I hear the series gets better and more interesting. I think Rowling got lucky that there was something about this first book that caught the attention of kid readers for them to pass the word about it until it became popular in England. In the meantime the second book came out and it was good enough to really get the readers hooked. I wish I knew what captured the kids’ attention in the first book because otherwise it’s weak as a work of fantasy and very weak in the writing department.

Rowling does a lot of telling instead of showing and her descriptions and imagery aren’t very vibrant. She tends to use weak sentence structures. There’s a part in the middle that contains several grammatical problems that seemed to have been overlooked by the editor and are a symptom of the weak sentence structure habit. The plot meanders and threatens to die in a couple of spots.

But the thing that really irritates me about this book is that an adult steps in and saves the day. I was appalled when I saw it happen in the movie and I’m still appalled after reading the ending of the book. Not only does an adult step in, but Harry Potter isn’t even conscious when the climatic event of the book happens and has to be told after the fact how the bad guy was dealt with. My first reaction: what a cop out. My second reaction: what kind of message does this send to the young reader?

Having an adult step in and save the day is pretty much considered a no-no in children’s literature. What’s the point of setting up everything for a confrontation between the young protagonist and the antagonist and then have the protagonist not only shoved aside, but rendered unconscious at the height of that confrontation? It’s a cop out plot-wise and not fair to the young reader to not have the satisfaction of witnessing the climatic events of the book in real-time with the protagonist participating.

Also, the young reader not only wants the protagonist to do something beyond what kids can normally do and be the hero, the young reader needs to see the young protagonist do this. The cop out is that Rowling with all her imagination couldn’t figure out a way of having Potter remain conscious and a part of the final dramatic confrontation to the bitter end, even if an adult has to step in and lend a hand.

These young readers raised on Harry Potter are a part of the same generation that have parents involved in their job interviews.

On the other hand, maybe I’m beginning to understand why the parents love these books as much as their kids. The books re-enforce the parents’ own over-meddlesome behavior in their kids’ development into healthy, independent adults.

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The Weasleys own a flying car . . . coincidence?

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Posted in Literature | 3 Comments »

101 Uses for a Catcam

Posted by Casey on August 17, 2007

I decided to take the catcam to a Monarchs game. Now, this sounds like a perfectly innocent thing to do, but media are not allowed to take photos from anywhere except the designated areas and the scorers table is not a designated area. So this is just between us, all right? It’s not like I was taking high quality photographs to sell on Ebay, just snapshots of my little world at the games.

The pictures from my first try didn’t turn out very well–remember, I’m trying to take pictures without getting caught and the camera is just shooting on its own at regular intervals. I’m going to try again tonight at the last home game of the regular season. But here are a few that kind of capture the essence of the game from court level.

This is Tony, he’s always throwing out a wager. He was all dressed up for some reason. He’s usually in an Hawaiian shirt and jeans.

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The scorers’ table . . .

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Interesting view of Becky Hammon . . .

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Surrealistic views of the court . . .

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And me . . . working . . .

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Like I said, tonight’s the last home game. After that the number of games depends on how deep the Monarchs go in the playoffs.

Posted in Stuff | 3 Comments »

Penciling

Posted by Casey on August 15, 2007

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The purest tool of artistic expression for me is the simple pencil. I can happily inhabit the alpha state for hours, scratching pencil marks on paper until they turn into the subject I’m drawing.

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Have pencil box will travel.

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So What Makes a Good Book?

Posted by Casey on August 15, 2007

I was in the mood for a literary-with-a-snooty-capital-L fix today and visited my favorite fingertips library to find some classic prose . . .

What? Oh, Harry Potter . . . Well, I got to the part in the first book where I stopped reading several years ago and just kind of lost interest again. But don’t despair, I’m not giving up on trudging through the whole series.

. . . Anyway, I go to Project Gutenberg and see a page for a collection of Science Fiction. I’d visited that page before and kind of thumbed through it but I didn’t explore it in depth. Curiosity got the better of me today and I went to the page and went down the list of authors and books and came to Cory Doctorow and saw that his novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom was there . . . available for free download. Now this book was published in 2003, not 1903, so it definitely isn’t the usual Public Domain works found on Project Gutenberg.

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At the beginning of the book text, Doctorow explains why he’s releasing a book for free, while it’s still in print from Tor Books:

Why am I doing this thing? Well, it’s a long story, but to shorten it up: first-time novelists have a tough row to hoe. Our publishers don’t have a lot of promotional budget to throw at unknown factors like us. Mostly, we rise and fall based on word-of-mouth. I’m not bad at word-of-mouth. I have a blog, Boing Boing, where I do a *lot* of word-of-mouthing. I compulsively tell friends and strangers about things that I like. And telling people about stuff I like is *way*, *way* easier if I can just send it to ’em. Way easier.

He further clarifies on his Web site:

I believe that we live in an era where anything that can be expressed as bits will be. I believe that bits exist to be copied. Therefore, I believe that any business-model that depends on your bits not being copied is just dumb, and that lawmakers who try to prop these up are like governments that sink fortunes into protecting people who insist on living on the sides of active volcanoes. Me, I’m looking to find ways to use copying to make more money and it’s working: enlisting my readers as evangelists for my work and giving them free ebooks to distribute sells more books. As Tim O’Reilly says, my problem isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity. Best of all, giving away ebooks gives me lots of key insights into how to make money without restricting the copying of bits. It’s a win-win situation.

So I was just going to read the beginning of the book, to see if it was something I’d want to download to my PocketPC and read later. Well, a couple hours later, I realized I was still reading it and didn’t want to stop.

I can’t tell you why the book pulled me in and kept me there. I do know, for all the interesting future Doctorow has created and the fun idea of Disney World as the setting, it boiled down to wanting to know how the protagonist got out of the messes he kept getting himself into. The bottom line–books aren’t about setting or ideas or plot, they’re about characters and how they deal with what the writer hurls at them:

I debarked the Buggy and stalked quickly out of the exit queue, leaning heavily against the fence, staring blindly at the pet cemetery. My head swam: I was out of control, jumping at shadows. I was spooked.

 

And I had no reason to be. Sure, I’d been murdered, but what had it cost me? A few days of “unconsciousness” while they decanted my backup into my new body, a merciful gap in memory from my departure at the backup terminal up until my death. I wasn’t one of those nuts who took death seriously. It wasn’t like they’d done something permanent.

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is a page-turner (or a scroller–since I wasn’t actually turning pages) and a really entertaining read.

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How to Stab Yourself in the Foot

Posted by Casey on August 13, 2007

There’s something amusing going on in the publishing world down under. The issue isn’t amusing for those of us involved with small publishers but everything else about the story would most likely be rejected as a novel because no one would believe that people in business are that arrogant, not to mention stupid.

It seems the major bookstore chain in Australia–Angus & Robertson–has decided to change its policy in how it handles the books of small publishers and distributors . . . It pretty much degenerates into brilliant retaliation after that. I love brilliant retaliation.

The two letters that started it all are here:

A&R dumps books

This link contains an annotation of the two letters:

Bookstore chain puts the screws on small publishers

Another bookstore in Australia decided to do a parody of the letter sent by Angus & Robertson:

More outrageous(ly funny) demands

Posted in Stuff | 1 Comment »

Stardust

Posted by Casey on August 11, 2007

I went to see “Stardust.”

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Now it’s easy to want to compare it to “The Princess Bride.”

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They have a similar tone. “Stardust” isn’t as over-the-top or has the catch phrases of “Princess Bride” (“That’s inconceivable!”). It does have a performance almost as memorable as Mandy Patinkin’s (“My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”)

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Robert De Niro gives a very entertaining performance and provides most of the laughs in the film.

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I think Kevin Crust in his Los Angeles Times review sums it up nicely:

“‘Stardust’ . . . follows in the spirit of ‘The Princess Bride,’ gently spoofing the rules of enchantment while simultaneously embracing them.”

Most important, “Stardust” is fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously. It also doesn’t do things just for laughs or goes overboard on the special effects. It never loses sight of the story.

The only annoying part is near the beginning where the editing looks more like errors than intentional cuts. It happens during the scene between Tristan and Victoria as they’re sipping champagne. There are a series of cuts that looks like the editor let their three-year-old too near the digital scissors.

The acting is uniformly good, the scenery is British Isles, the sets are great — love the lightning-catcher.

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Thumbs up from me, for what it’s worth.

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Busy, busy, busy

Posted by Casey on August 10, 2007

Here’s the Friday wrap-up of all the things that have happened the last week I’ve forgotten to blog about.

First off, here’s the report for the Monarchs against the Storm game.

Monarchs Subdue Storm in Fourth Quarter

I did not, I repeat, did not have that as my title. My title was “Monarchs Weather the Storm.” They’ve changed my title for the last three articles. Now I’m wondering why they insist we provide a title of they’re going to change it.

I also saw the latest Harry Potter movie. I have to admit I liked it better than the last one. Of course anything is better than the last Harry Potter movie. At least this one kept my attention and never once did I get the urge to want to run out of the theatre screaming in agony–like I felt through most of the previous Harry Potter movie.

I also decided to take the plunge into the world of Hogwarts and started reading Book 1. The burning question now . . . will the adventures of a boy wizard keep my ever wandering attention long enough to make it through all seven books? Odds-makers are standing by . . .

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Who Says Vegans Don’t Have Any Fun

Posted by Casey on August 6, 2007

If the cupcakes haven’t convinced you that vegans like to have their fun and their desserts, this ought to do the trick . . .

A Vegan Ice Cream Paradise

My favorite store-bought Vegan ice cream . . . Very Cherry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream from Double Rainbow. It’s the best ice cream ever and you can get it at Trader Joe’s.

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Posted in Stuff | 2 Comments »

Cats With Cameras

Posted by Casey on August 6, 2007

A friend ordered a couple of these cat-cams. I was figuring out how it worked yesterday and used Meka . . .

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. . . as the test cat. Setting the timing on the camera was trial and error, but once I think I got it, Meka got a new addition to her collar and she didn’t like it at first. Meka is a very active and energetic cat, so after she ran around for an hour, I took the camera out and no pictures because she shook out the battery (which is exposed and popping it in and out is an important part of setting the timing for the automatic shutter).

I tried again and we had a successful trial run of the camera — mostly because Meka was so tired from running around, she sat around and eventually fell asleep.

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It’s the world from a cat’s POV.

The other problem with the camera, besides the battery popping out and all the pictures taken to that point are lost, is that the camera itself falls out of the little plastic box it’s in. Things that a little masking tape can’t remedy.

More experiments to come . . . So stay tuned.

Posted in Stuff | 2 Comments »

Celebrity

Posted by Casey on August 5, 2007

The Seattle Storm played the Monarchs on Friday night in Sacramento. My friends sometimes go to the games early to eat in the fancy smancy restaurant in Arco Arena. They say the food is really, really good. I’ll just have to take their word for it, since it seems to be mostly meat stuff, although the fruit and vegetable salads also get a thumbs up.

When they’re chowing down I take the opportunity to go out on the court a hour and a half before tip-off. When only the die-hard fans and the autograph seekers are in the house. When the teams are doing their pre-shoot-around warmups and the radio and tv people are getting set up. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere and it’s fun to watch everyone just be themselves.

They were expecting a lot more media than usual (because of Lauren Jackson, top candidate for MVP) and we regulars were pushed to what we call the kids table — the table behind the visitors’ bench. We call the scorers table the adults table. Of course, we still switched around the name plates so everyone can sit next to who they want, even at the kids table.

So I’m sitting there arranging my workspace, I put all the stats and the info, such as names and numbers of the visiting team where I can just glance at them while I take notes during the game. Most of the time I just jot down the player’s name or nickname but sometimes a new player is on the other team and I have to use jersey numbers.

I look up and LJ walks onto the court. She shoots three’s from different places on the court. Her knee doesn’t seem to be bothering her. Little girls with LJ for MVP posters and one with a WNBA ball wait quietly on the sidelines for her autograph. But it’s the group in the official autograph area on the other side of the court that catches my attention. Quite a crowd gathered there.

Eventually Sue Bird comes out for warmups and then she and LJ hang out under the basket just chatting and talking to the occasional Monarchs fan who walks by. Then Bird goes over to the crowd gathered on the sidelines and signs autographs, poses for photographs, and accepts little gifts. Then she trots across the court to the tunnel and has to sign more autographs for the people hanging over the barriers. I’ve never seen such a gathering of fans for a member of the opposite team.

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I had observed this hero worship of Sue Bird while watching the Storm during their 2004 run for the WNBA Championship and wrote a book about it.

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I captured some of these autograph seekers two years ago when the Storm came to Arco Arena and I was just a fan in the stands with a camera. They’re lined up at the bottom of the photograph and Bird is behind LJ chatting with a fan.

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Life is Beachy Keen

Posted by Casey on August 3, 2007

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I took a vacation day yesterday. We went to the beach. Now you’re thinking California . . . sun, swimming, surfing, sun-bathing . . . Uh, that’s the southern part of the state. In Northern California the beach in the summertime means a good 20 to 30 degrees colder than inland and gray overcast skies. Sometimes the clouds burn off and the sun shines . . . Sometimes.

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For inlanders just north of San Francisco “the beach” means Bodega Bay. So we grabbed our sweatshirts and jackets and lawn chairs, packed up lunches, and took the windy roads through the endless vineyards of Napa and Sonoma Counties and spent the day just listening to the surf, the birds, and the hundreds of seals on a nearby rocky island. A perfect way to spend a day.

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The gulls were very gullible . . .

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Some had dreams bigger than themselves . . .

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Odd vegetation on the beach . . .
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Lots of different birds . . .

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And we can’t forget the seals . . . the black things on the island are noisy seals . . .

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Seattle fans

Posted by Casey on August 2, 2007

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Storm fans are among the best in the league and they show up in droves to support their team. KeyArena is legendary for being noisy and rowdy in a good way. The fans are despondent this summer because the Storm is now owned by someone based in Oklahoma City, who bought the team in a deal with the Sonics, and this may be the last year the Storm will be in Seattle. The new owners aren’t even interested in the Storm. Everyone is praying someone will buy the team and keep it in Seattle.

Here’s the Save Our Sonics & Storm Web site for more information on this lousy situation.

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Oh, Yeah . . .

Posted by Casey on August 1, 2007

Those crazy folks at Key Arena in Seattle began the LJ for MVP campaign for real. According to Jayda Evans’ blog:

“So, KeyArena burped Lauren Jackson paraphernalia today. The marketing staff placed “LJ for MVP” placards on nearly every seat in the lower bowl, the dance team wore green T-shirts with the same message, and the public address announcer must have mentioned Jackson for MVP about a million times before halftime. Oh, and you can’t forget Jackson’s favorite, the “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! M-V-P!” chant. ”

And then there’s this for the flashy new intro to the Seattle Storm site:

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LJ 4 MVP

The Monarchs beat the Storm in Seattle last night and my loyalties, as always were torn. Oh, what the heck, LJ for MVP!

Posted in Stuff | 1 Comment »

The Full Moon and Arco Arena

Posted by Casey on August 1, 2007

The Sacramento Monarchs faced the Minnesota Lynx on Sunday. They had beaten them 11 games straight and this should have been an easy win . . . should have been.

But Sunday was the night before the full moon. The last time the Monarchs played in Arco Arena the night before the full moon, Jia Perkins of the Chicago Sky got 39 points–joining a handful of players in the league with 39 points or more in the game. Well, Sunday night Seimone Augustus scored 39 points. I think I hear the Twilight Zone theme.

To put this into statistical perspective:

47 — Lauren Jackson, Seattle at Washington, July 24, 2007 (OT)
47 — Diana Taurasi, Phoenix at Houston, August 10, 2006 (3OT)
46 — Katie Smith, Minnesota at Los Angeles, July 8, 2001 (OT)
44 — Cynthia Cooper, Houston at Sacramento, July 25, 1997
42 — Cynthia Cooper, Houston vs. Utah, August 16, 1999
41 — Diana Taurasi, Phoenix at Houston, July 27, 2006
41 — Lisa Leslie, Los Angeles vs. San Antonio, June 25, 2006
40 — Katie Smith, Minnesota at Detroit, June 17, 2001
39 — Seimone Augustus, Minnesota at Sacramento, July 29, 2007
39 — Jia Perkins, Chicago at Sacramento, June 29, 2007 (2OT)
39 — Cynthia Cooper, Houston at Charlotte, August 11, 1997

Monarchs . . . Beware the night before the full moon.

My article for the game:

Lynx Bring Monarchs Back to Earth

Before I get ragged about the title, that’s not the one I provided. I admit to toying with “Monarchs Get Mooned by the Lynx” but I knew for sure that one would get changed.

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