Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

This gem came via a "caption this" challenge from Vintage Los Angeles on Facebook. They put up a pic of Mommie Dearest herself carving the roast beast and the results were delightful, but this was hands-down my favorite:

Well played, Nicholas Aqleh, whoever you are!!!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

New York Times, you're no Washington Post

And the media wonders why their glory days are behind them. Check out this description of Sharyl Attkisson's current bestseller Stonewalled:

Nope, no agenda here. Move along, nothing to see.

Because who in their right mind would complain about being harassed and intimidated by the White House while they're just trying to do their job? Only a right wing nutjob, amirite? I'm just surprised they didn't use "whines" instead of "complains". I mean, if you're going to be a jerk about it, might as well go all out.

So childishly petty, New York Times. You used to be better than that.

On the other hand, they have no problem being completely serious about a relationship book by a celebrity who has been married and divorced three times:

So Jennifer Lopez describes, but investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson complains. Got it.

Obviously, the days of anyone in the mainstream media wanting to emulate Woodward and Bernstein are over.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Bouchercon 2014 - Day 1 Recap

The 45th Annual Bouchercon, a mystery/thriller convention, was held in Long Beach last weekend. I'd never attended Bouchercon, but had heard great things about it at other conferences, and it didn't disappoint. These were the panels I attended on Day 1 (Thursday).

Crime in Tinseltown (Hollywood as the Setting for Murder)
Lee Goldberg (Moderator), retired LAPD Captain turned novelist Connie Dial, Diana Gould, Melodie Johnson Howe, Nathan Walpow, Sheila York.

The always entertaining Lee Goldberg led the discussion of authors discussing their showbiz-based novels. My favorite parts of the panel were via Goldberg, at one point ranting about how an inept lead actor on one of his shows led him to write his novel My Gun Has Bullets (which is now on my Kindle waiting to be read). The best story was when he was working on Diagnosis Murder and bringing his then eight year old daughter to the set to meet Dick Van Dyke because she was enamored of Bert the Chimney Sweep in Mary Poppins. She didn't recognize the white-haired man as Bert, so Van Dyke began performing a song from the movie. The panel also recommended the following as some of the best books about Hollywood: City of Nets, The Day of the Locust, The Dame in the Kimono and The Last Tycoon.

Mixing Murder with Food (Why We Love Cozies with Recipes)
Kate Carlisle (Moderator), Connie Archer, Leslie Budewitz, Daryl Wood Gerber (aka Avery Aames), Karen MacInerney, Ovidia Yu

Some tidbits about cozies with recipes from this entertaining panel: If you mention a recipe and don't include it in the book, you will hear from fans wanting it. Archer had included a made-up soup in one of her books and had fans requesting the non-existent recipe. Yu referred to the combination of cozy mysteries and food as "comfort reading. One of the things I love about cozies is the titles. Titles from this panel include Crime Rib, A Spoon Full of Murder, As Gouda as Dead, Days of Wine and Roquefort, and Dead and Berried.

"Mixing Murder with Food" panel.

Short But Mighty (The Power and Freedom of the Short Story)
Travis Richardson (Moderator), Craig Faustus Buck, Barb Goffman, Robert Lopresti, Paul D. Marks, Art Taylor

Panelists have had their work published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and various anthologies (Buck contributed to Murder at the Beach, this year's Bouchercon anthology). Richardson, Buck and Taylor were all nominees in the short story category for Bouchercon's Anthony Award (John Connelly won). Buck said he writes short stories to procrastinate when working on novels. Buck recommended buying newspapers for story ideas. Goffman suggested News of the Weird.

On my to-read list.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Murder at The Beach: Bouchercon - a quick look

Long Beach welcomes Bouchercon!!!
Welcome to Downtown Long Beach. The view from my room.
The Bookseller's Room. Overwhelming.
Apparently, there's lit for everyone.
Panel for "Mixing Murder with Food: Why We Love Cozies with Recipes".
Just outside the gorgeous host hotel, The Hyatt.
Ominous skies over Downtown Long Beach on Friday.
Weather held up, there was no rain. Southern California style :)

My view this morning. You so pretty, Downtown Long Beach.

Off in the distance, a cruise ship.

The view.

Pine Street, Long Beach. Mystery Convention, straight ahead.

This morning's awesome and hilarious panel, "A Fine Palate for Death". 
Ovidia Yu (far right) was Moderator Extraodinaire.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Apparently I need to calm the hell down

Yesterday I got an email from my culinary school that contained some disturbing info about my upcoming "full-time" Baking and Pastry Program:

I am sure you are getting excited about getting started with your class in January!  We are looking forward to working with you.  As always here at New School we are constantly making changes and adjustments to our classes and programs in an effort to improve both content and delivery.  The main source of feedback is from students and we gather this information primarily from surveys.  Based on what our students have told us over the past year we have decided to make what we view as positive adjustments to the program that you are starting in January-this effects both culinary arts and baking and pastry.

New Schedule:
Classes will meet Tuesday, Thursdays and Fridays from 9:30am-2pm
Special Classes meet on Wednesdays (farmers market, preserving, butchering, wine)
Cost & Payment Schedule:
9000.00 and includes all materials and supplies.  There will be no additional charges.

We are going to invoice you 3 times over the course of the program. You have already registered so your payment will cover the 1stpayment and you have a credit balance of 167.00.

Payment #2-Due January 6th 2083.00
Payment #3-Due March 1st 2250.00
Payment #4-Due May 1st 2250.00

If you choose to participate in the Food Handler’s Program or are required by an employer to obtain a Food Handlers Card we recommend Western Food Safety as our preferred provider.  If we can meet the minimum we can schedule the class at the school.

Please contact me directly with any questions or concerns.  We will announce the December student orientation date in the next few weeks. 

It was a huge shock, for a number of reasons. First, it came completely out of the blue. I was never asked for feedback; I suspect it came more from prospective students who wanted to participate but couldn't commit to either the full-time schedule or to the cost. Or both. Not to be unsympathetic, but that's not my problem. Nobody asked me for feedback, they just sent the email, all cheery like it's not much of a change, or an actual improvement.

For some reason I had looked at the schedule a few days earlier and noticed they still had slots open. I figured there would be a last minute rush to fill. It's a big commitment and people are busy with the upcoming holidays. I wasn't worried about it filling up. Apparently the school did not share my optimism.

I had originally signed up for the summer Baking & Pastry session (which was three days per week), then delayed it until January because that's when it was being expanded to five days to match culinary, plus they were expanding the hours from five to six per day. I've spent the second half of this year waiting for it and planned to spend the next six months immersed in it. I made plans around this program. If they hadn't promised me full-time, I'd be a little over a month away from graduation.

I really freaked out when I calculated the difference in hours: From 30 to 13-1/2 per week. That's a huge cut. All I could think of was, how much of the originally planned program - which they apparently thought was important enough to expand to full-time - was I going to miss out on? And the difference in tuition hardly matches up to the reduction in hours. I could have taken the three days per week program over the summer for $6,500.

In addition, all the stuff in the Wednesday "special classes" are things we covered in culinary (ditto ServeSafe). I don't need to pay to do them again.

And culinary's getting cut too. I know how slammed we were doing five hours per day, five days a week. What are they going to be missing out on? If it's all so important, what are they going to cut?

I was stunned. I kept re-reading the email, hardly able to process it. Anyway, with all that shock, anger and frustration worked up, I did the one thing I probably shouldn't have done: I got on social media and bitched about it.

So of course someone at the school saw my Facebook meltdown and alerted the owner. I was still in a foul mood today when my phone rang. When I looked at the area code, I assumed it was my brother and picked up. It was the owner of the school. Nope, not awkward at all.

He was very nice and apologetic about it, admitting that maybe they should have called to alert people of the changes before sending the email. I explained that I was upset because I had been looking forward to it so much and really wanted to immerse myself in it. I didn't mention the "student feedback" issue because I thought it might sound defensive or combative and the call went really well. It turns out that I had misunderstood, that it's four days per week, not three. He also told me that instead of just pounding through the week, Wednesday's are going to be for special projects or something like that. And I certainly wouldn't mind another trip to the Cheese Store, if they're willing to let me tag along.

They're giving us shorter days and three-day weekends, and that actually is understandable, because full-time culinary was exhausting (albeit a good exhausting at least in my opinion). I can see where it could be a real grind if you have other things to deal with. I guess not everyone was looking forward to the program taking over their life.

So, of course I felt like an idiot, but I feel better about it. I can live with four days, although I don't like the shortened days (from 6 hours to 4-1/2) for baking and pastry, because you might be able to rush through cooking, but you can't really do that for baking. But their pastry chef is unbelievable and I'm really looking forward to studying with her, so four days is better than three. 18 hours per week is still a big drop from 30, but it's also a big improvement over 13-1/2, plus it explains why the tuition didn't drop more and is higher than summer.

I still can't help re-reading that email though. I would have worded that a lot differently. It makes me wonder if they got complaints from some of the other people who had already signed up for full-time.

Anyway, crisis averted, I guess.

Saturday, November 1, 2014