Monday, December 29, 2014

So it turns out my concern (meltdown) was warranted

Remember this? Apparently I didn't misread the email. The "full-time" Baking & Pastry program really has been cut down to three days a week/13-1/2 hours per day, with the occasional Wednesday, which are the culinary field trips I've already been on. Just like it said in the email. Just like I originally read it. And at a lot higher cost than the three days per week summer program I was originally going to attend. And to think how embarrassed I was when I had my "meltdown". When the school's owner called to talk me down he was insistent that I had misunderstood the email and schedule. I didn't misunderstand. I was right the whole time.

I didn't know that when I went to the orientation recently, determined to be positive despite the loss of hours and the misunderstanding about the email. I thought it might be awkward seeing the owner, but knowing the kind of guy he is I also knew he'd take the high road. Turns out he wasn't there. The culinary and pastry chefs ran the combined orientation, which was a lot less formal than the dead serious meeting my culinary class had a year ago to kick off our journey. It was hard not to notice the difference. The new culinary class doesn't even get their own knife set. They'll be using school knives.

It was a bit of a shock to discover that the program had, in fact, been slashed as much as I'd originally thought. I stayed calm while there and since then have been thinking about what I want to do about it. Now that Christmas is over and the program is coming up, I have made my decision, and a lot of it breaks down into numbers and getting my money's worth.

The tuition for the full-time program (five days/30 hours per week) was $14,000. It's a lot of money, but having already been through a full-time program at this school, I know they spare no expense, so I felt like I would be getting my money's worth. The summer baking and pastry program was three days per week and tuition was $6,500. Now for three days per week, I'd be paying $9,000. I felt like a true full-time program was worth $14,000. But paying $9,000 after the hours were slashed by more than half...not so much.

The school also has a baking program that meets once a week for 20 weeks and the tuition is $2,500. So I decided that if full-time isn't an option, I'd rather pay a reasonable amount for a part time program and so have switched to the once a week program. It's a massive letdown, a massive disappointment. Like I told the owner during that embarrassing phone call, I was looking forward to immersing myself in the program. 13-1/2 hours per week, especially after being in a full-time program, isn't immersing.

I'm really disappointed. I waited six months for this. I was the first person who signed up. I don't know who these students were they supposedly got feedback from who indicated that part-time would be preferable to full-time in a full-time program. Plus it's only a six month program, not the two year commitment like other culinary schools. If you're so committed to something, can't you dedicate a mere six months to it? I'm just so bummed. I was so looking forward to this, so to have it taken away to appease other students (especially after the fiasco about the email) just really rankles.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Monday, December 22, 2014

Well done, NYR & NYR fans

The New York Rangers and their awesome fans observed a moment of silence last night for the two NYPD officers killed in the line of duty by some worthless piece of crap the other day. Love the applause for the NYPD color guard. Also, heck of an anthem singer.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas post - The wonderful Silent Monks

I've been posting this one for years. Because it's awesome!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas post - Christmas with Mommie Dearest

I've posted this before, but it's so damn surreal. Listen to how grown-up Christina sounds, even though she's only ten.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A "To Serve Man" apron?

Don't mind if I do!

"It's a cookbook!"

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas post - Merry Punjabi Christmas!

I've been posting this pretty much every December for the past few years. This was apparently a promo produced a few years ago by Nick Jr., part of the Nickelodeon family of networks. It's strangely hypnotic and addictive.

Jingle all the way!!!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Bouchercon 2014 final wrap-up

My Bouchercon posts have been updated with some panel pics and a Friday panel that got left off the original post.  All my Bouchercon and Long Beach pics are here on Flickr.

I had such a great time at Bouchercon, in downtown Long Beach and at the beautiful Renaissance Hotel, it's kind of hard to believe it was over three weeks ago that it was over and done with and I was back home. Right now I'm debating next year, which is in Raleigh, North Carolina, because I need to coordinate it with Writers' Police Academy, which has just announced they're not going to be in NC next year, but have yet to announce when and where they will be.  But I would like to go. I wish it could be in Long Beach every year. Such a great location.

Since Bouchercon relocates every year, they plan waaaaaaay in advance, so much so that they've already set the next four events:

Raleigh, NC (October 8-11, 2015)
New Orleans, LA (September 15-18, 2016)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada (October 12-15, 2017)
St. Petersburg, FL (September 13-16, 2018)

I can't recommend this convention enough. If you're a fan of mystery and thrillers - anything from whimsical cozies to hard boiled crime, from amateur sleuths to jaded PI's and detectives - Bouchercon has you covered.

My Bouchercon posts: Murder at the Beach: Bouchercon - a quick look, Day 1 recap, Day 2 recap, Day 3 recap.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Bouchercon 2014 - Day 3 Recap

Day 3 - Saturday - was the longest day for me. Here we go:

A Fine Palate for Death (Dessert, Wine and Crime)
Ovidia Yu (Moderator), Kathy Aarons, Jennifer McKinlay, Carlene O'Neil, Nancy Parra, Penny Warner

This was my favorite panel because it was just so much fun. Yu was a great moderator and Warner in particular was hysterically funny. Yu started off the festivities by having each author toss a small, plastic-wrapped cake into the audience, and whoever caught it got a book from that author. I didn't catch one, but it was still a great way to get everyone in the mood for a fun panel.

Apparently one of the traditions of food-oriented cozies is to include a number of the recipes in the book. Parra - who also writes as Nancy Coco - includes ten fudge recipes in each of her books. O'Neil's series is set in the Napa Wine Country and she became "wine certified" as part of her research. Food-related cozies also have some really fun titles. Some of the titles from this group: Murder Gone A-Rye, Gluten For Punishment, How To Host a Killer Party, One Foot in the Grape, Sugar and Iced, and Death is Like a Box of Chocolates.

"A Fine Palate for Death" panel.

A Strange Mixture (Sleuthing and Other Pastimes)
Clare Toohey (Moderator), Beverly Allen, Terrie Farley Moran, Don Passman, Susan Shea, Tracy Weber

The authors discussed how they combined mystery with very different areas of interest and experience. Passman, whose novel The Amazing Harvey - about a magician who uses his skills to clear himself when his DNA is found at the scene of the murder of a woman he's never met - is a member of the famous Magic Castle in Hollywood. Moran's cozies take place at the Read 'Em and Eat bookstore/cafe and she confessed that she can't cook, although she recently bought a Vitamix and her new hobby is combining all sorts of interesting ingredients to make juices "that make people on Facebook shudder". Shea's stories take place in the world of fine art auctions, which, she explained, drug lords and oligarchs have taken to use for money laundering. A high end piece can go for $50 million.

"A Strange Mixture" panel.

Kick Ass Women
Hank Phillippi Ryan (Moderator), Laura DiSilverio, Meg Gardiner, Terri Nolan, Karen Olson, Ingrid Thoft

A terrific panel of kick ass women writers discussed their craft and books. They talked about the need for characters to constantly be pushing the limits, and Gardiner (whose The Shadow Tracer was one of the books in my Bouchercon book bag) mentioned Kurt Vonnegut's advice that you have to make your character want something, even if it's only a glass of water. Gardiner also described the essence of plotting as "thwarted at every turn". DiSilverio in particular was interesting - she spent twenty years as an Air Force intelligence officer, then began writing light-hearted mysteries (her books include a Mall Cop series and a Ballroom Dancing series).

"Kick Ass Women" panel.

Getting It Right (How Authors Make Sure the Details Are Correct)
Chris Aldrich (Moderator), Jan Burke, Reed Farrel Coleman, Julia Dahl, Roger Hobbs, Tammy Kaehler

All about making sure all the details are accurate. Kaehler became interested in the world of auto racing when a hospitality job landed her at a track. She began hanging out with people there and picking their brains about the sport. Each of her books takes place over the weekend of a famous race (her next book will take place at the Long Beach Grand Prix). Hobbs set his upcoming novel in China and spent time there for research. His experiences included exposure to crime lords. One of the things that was stressed is that "everyone likes to talk about their job", so it isn't hard to find people to share their expertise.

"Getting It Right" panel.

Short and Scary (Thriller and Noir Short Stories)
Toni Kelner (aka Leigh Perry) (Moderator), Scott Adlerberg, Jack Fredrickson, Lori Rader-Day, Charles Salzberg, Dave Zeltserman

This was a pretty subdued panel and there was actually very little discussion of noir. Frederickson recommended Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Salzberg uses the classic, "What if?" question. One of the panelists mentioned a quote from Robert Bloch: That both humor and thrillers are heading toward a punchline.

You Say Traditional, I Say Cozy (Exploring the Boundaries of the Classic Mystery Novel)
Sarah M. Chen (Moderator), John Billheimer, Linda Joffe Hull, Eric James Miller, Ilene Schneider

This panel had a really interesting variety of cozy/traditional series to their credit: Schneider, who is also a rabbi in addition to being an author, has a series featuring a female rabbi whose work leads her to stumble across crimes (I guess you'd call her a Jewish Jessica Fletcher). Miller has started the "For Rent" series, the first of which features a young, aspiring journalist trying to solve a murder in her apartment building in Venice Beach, California. Hull's shopping series was inspired by a TV show she saw about "extreme couponing". Billheimer's baseball series features a sportswriter with a gambling problem (and has great titles: Field of Schemes and A Player To Be Maimed Later). Schneider came up with what I thought was the best way to differentiate between traditionals and cozies: If the sleuth is an amateur (Miss Marple) it's a cozy. If the sleuth is a pro (Poirot) it's a traditional.

Six panels in one day. I was exhausted, and my butt was killing me. Hotel meeting chairs aren't the most comfy things out there. I was happy to head back to my hotel and the cushy bed therein.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Bouchercon 2014 - Day 2 Recap

Here's a quick look at Day 2 (Friday)!

Sassy, Sexy, and Smart Female Protagonists
Elaine Viets (Moderator), Hilary Davidson, Andrew Mayne, Nora McFarland, Diane Vallere, James Ziskin

Mayne: "Smart is sexy".  Davidson on sassy: "That's what men call you when you don't do what they want." Davidson was a travel writer (primarily for Frommer's Travel Guides) who was inspired to write mystery after a Frommer's editor vanished while working in Jamaica. Mayne and Ziskin also discussed the issue of men writing female characters and how they had to be more than what Viet described as a pet peeve of hers: Men writing woman = women in drag. The subject of "Cabot Cove Syndrome" came up (as it did on pretty much every panel with cozy authors) and Vallere explained that she coped with this issue by making the small town in her book Suede to Rest big city adjacent, basing it on San Dimas, a small town about 30 miles east of Los Angeles. I used to live in San Dimas and it's actually a pretty brilliant idea, because the town does have a small-town feel, but is definitely a suburb of L.A.

Murderer's Row (Who and Why We Kill)
Harley Jane Kozak (Moderator), Sheila Connelly, Christopher Farnsworth, Jamie Freveletti, Roger Hobbs, Jeffrey Siger

The panel discussed how they create the killers and victims for their books. Connelly wrote her first novel after being fired from her dream job and the boss who fired her became her first victim. Freveletti does a lot of research on terrorists (she mentioned ISIS by name) so she never has a shortage of reasons to kill a lot of bad guys in her novels. Kozak stated that she usually gets stuck around page 200 and ends up killing a character she hadn't planned on killing, which prompted Hobbs to bring up Dashiell Hammett's advice that if you get stuck, bring in a man with a gun.

"Murderer's Row" panel.

The Mean Streets of Los Angeles (L.A. Crime Through the Ages)
Linda Richards (Moderator), Kathy Bennett, Jack Bludis, Jennifer Kincheloe, D.W. Putnam, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Rochelle Staab

Bennett is a former member of LAPD who once killed a suspect who got out of a car with a machete and refused to back down. This info came due to a question that all cops have to be able to answer yes to: Are you willing to kill someone? Kincheloe's book is about a society girl turned secret LAPD police matron in 1907. Bludis told an amusing story about how a cover artist included the Empire State Building on the cover of one of his books set in 1940's L.A. The panel also encouraged writers in the audience to feel confident about contacting police for technical assistance - they cited LAPD as being especially used to dealing with writers.

"Mean Streets of Los Angeles" panel.

Cute and Sweet, But With a Twist (Cozies With Attitude)
Kristopher Zgorski(Moderator), Judy Clemens, Vicki Doudera, Bharti Kirchner, Wendy Tyson

Zgorski kicked off the panel with the description of the traditional cozy mystery: They generally feature an amateur sleuth, take place in a small, charming and contained setting, and in which sex and violence are downplayed and take place offstage when they do occur. The works of the panel feature a little more edge to their characters and stories. Doudera often ends her chapters with her recurring heroine and her boyfriend going off to have sex. Clemens' heroine is a hot-tempered biker. Kirchner's latest tackles domestic violence and Tyson's books include teen goth suspects, political ambition and sex tapes.

"Cozies With Attitude" panel.