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It is Veterans Day

In 1918, on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month, World War I ended. It was known as the Great War and the War to End All Wars, but we've had sequels since. Our Veterans Day began as a commemoration of the end of  WWI, but is now observed as a day we celebrate all veterans, living and dead, who served our country, during war or during peace. This is really one of the few international holidays, being called Remembrance Day in Canada, Great Britian, Australia and other countries.

So, this got me remembering, remembering all the "war" books of my childhood. Johnny Tremain springs most clearly to mind. Since I grew up outside Boston, it made this Revolutionary War story a more than "must read." Although Johnny's life is drastically different from the kid's of today - he's apprenticed to a silversmith, there is no such thing as workman's comp. or health care, and news is dispersed by midnight ride not internet - there are still modern day themes. Johnny suffers bullying and humiliation, he is forced to rely on inner strengths and finds true friendships and a passionate cause. I think our kids can relate.

And then there is The Red Badge of Courage. Taking place during the Civil War, this one was always harder for me to wrap my teenage head around. Henry Flemming is not an immediate likable hero. Still, I never once blamed Henry for his fear and rationalizing or for running away. I also understood his shame. Published in 1895, when the violent screams of battle had been translated into tales of glory, the author, Stephen Crane, didn't want people to forget the reality of war and willingly rekindled its emotional upheaval.

There are many other stories of conflicts and veterans and they should be read by our children. The book titles go on and on -  For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Diary of Anne Frank, Band of Brothers, Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee, etc. It helps children to understand our history. Our country is at war now. I know the effects haven't reached a majority of homes or the mall, but we're fighting on two fronts and this War on Terror is not ending soon. I'm sure there are already great books that show insight and intrigue and put a human face on this war. If you have any favored reads, please share them here. Oh, and thank a veteran today. Their efforts have kept us free to read all the books we want.

Halloween Eve

It was a dark and beautiful night. The temperature lingered at a brisk yet comfortable 65 degrees. Clouds scudded across the sky and the dog whined at the back door - bladder full, appetite fierce. She paced restlessly between the stove and the glowing laptop. The computer's empty screen mocked her worry. There was something more required, something yet left to be done.

"Mom, what's for dinner!"

The shrill cry startled her revere. "I have no idea! Don't ask me," she yelled back. Her heart flibberty-gibbeted in her chest. What was wrong? A frantic run through her schedule revealed nothing. She snatched at the pantry door but the handle slipped from her clawed grasp. No! The answer lie behind the paneled portal.

"We're HUNGRY!"

She cringed. The voices tugged at her inner soul. To  deny them was to deny her own being. "I know," she called back to them. "I'm hungry too. There's just something, something behind this door. Something I've yet to do!" Footsteps echoed along the barren wooden floor. They were coming.

The children crowd about her. Their fingers plucking at her sleeves and pant legs like ducks at a loaf of bread. "I can't get it opened," she murmured .  Small hands reached for the cold iron knob. Her hand closed over theirs.

"Together," she said. "We'll face what we find there together."

Their heads nodded, causing their blond curls to dance.

"One," she said.

"Two," the children chorused.

"THREE," they cried together.

The metal handle yielded to the pressure and squealed under the force of eight hands. With a mighty yank the pantry door jerked open. There, on the exposed back wall, a calendar lay bare to all eyes. A black asterisk perched upon October 30th, demanding attention, demanding action. A hurried hand had jaggedly written within the blank box.

Post Kid Lit Central Blog Today!

She screamed!

Sorry everybody. I would have posted sooner, but. . . . well . . . . you get the idea.

TBS Strikes Out in Game 6

I don’t know what technical, broadcasting, unfortunate hiccup happened tonight during the first inning of the ALCS. The reason I don’t know is because TBS never told me, until it didn’t matter any more. Dutifully turning on my TV at the appointed time I am greeted with a rerun of some obscure sitcom disaster from the 90s instead of my much anticipated Red Sox vs. Rays match-up.

Was this my fault? Did I have the wrong time? The wrong day? Could I have erred? Going back to the cable menu I am assured this is where the game is being nationally televised. I’ve got the right station and the right time. Yet I am not watching Dustin Pedroia slap a grounder to left. I am not reveling in the slippery mastery of Josh Beckett on the mound. Instead I am watching a show I never bothered to watch in prime time.

I scramble through the trash for the sports section. Print media concurs. Rays vs. RedSox on TBS at 7pm cst. ESPN.com agrees.

Since the laptop is open and awaiting my next command, I move to the ever immediate, ever responsive realm of Twitter. Surprisingly, after 3 minutes, no one has answered my query. Where is ALCS game 6?

Returning to the TV, I click back on TBS. The same banal sitcom continues to harsh my squee. Now I’m peeved. I grab the laptop and go to TBS. com as well as their sports specific web page. Nothing. According to the TBS websites, I should be enjoying their stellar coverage of the game.

I return to ESPN.com, knowing they will at least have updates of the game. Not only is ESPN giving me a much desired play-by-play, they have moved my side screen to their “chat” section. I never “chat” during a ball game and I wonder why ESPN isn’t remembering that. They’ve put up a screen that I never participate in. But then I begin to read the chat. It is all about TBS’s broken feed. Someone from TBS is texting, explaining their frenzy and frustration, begging for our patience, letting me know they are aware and working on it.

So here are my questions to TBS:

  • Why didn’t you tell me this in a TV crawl at the bottom of your insipid Sitcom?
  • Why didn’t you tell me this on your website?
  • Why didn’t you tell me this on your other, sports specific, website?
  • Why wasn’t somebody monitoring Twitter to give me an explanation?
  • Why did I have to learn about your problem on ESPN.com?

For all of your promise, TBS, that you are a sportscasting powerhouse, I had to get my sports information, and my information about your problems, from somewhere else. Thanks ESPN.com.

DevCentral is espousing Twitter as the next big data security threat. Leaving aside the truth that to Data Security personnel, everything is a security threat; I’m not following DevCentral’s logic.

For those who may not know, Twitter is a micro-blogging application that allows its users to “Tweet” or write text-based broadcasts of up to 140 characters in length. Besides broadcasting messages, you can also direct message anyone who is “following” you. How this makes Twitter a darker security risk than email, forums or travel drives, I don’t know. Unless you are using a secret code, the broadcasting nature of Twitter seems an unlikely place to pass along proprietary information. Using a simple Twitter Search would land whoever is sending inappropriate material/information in the soup due to the transparent nature of the network.

In my opinion, it is Twitter’s transparent nature that makes it an ideal social media platform for businesses. Twitter is a way to monitor customer attitude and opinion, a way to create and support brand evangelism, and a way to broadcast your own corporate messages. Why should companies hesitate to jump in? True, corporate competitors can easily find your following fan base and directly target them to “change sides.” But, if you are courting your followers properly, they are more likely to be offended by such a tactic than tempted.

Let’s look at those followers from the other side of the ice. If your competition can find them through you, the friends of your follower’s can find you through them. That’s what we call a “win” folks. Recent studies have shown consumers are 83% more likely to take purchasing advice from people they know rather than from traditional advertising campaigns. And 93% of consumers are asking, no, begging companies to meet them in the social arena. Twitter can satisfy that need for connection without requiring a large investment of corporate time.

So what about a company’s own employees? Should they be allowed to Twitter? Might they let slip with proprietary information or paint an ugly picture of their workplace on the blogosphere? Rest assured, if employees wanted to do those things, they would be already, whether Twitter was in their lives or not. Some psychologists even think that Twitter may be a much-needed safety valve, helping employees relieve stress. A few minutes taken out of the workday to check in with our emotional support systems, i.e., friends and family, could be just what we need to keep us from “going postal.” I think when companies weigh the real benefits of a social networking platform like Twitter against any perceived threats to data security they will determine that Twitter poses no real risk at all.

Me and Alex Trebek

It's that time of year. It's time for the Kansas chapter of the SCBWI to host its annual (and fabulous) conference and for me to create the Children's Literature version of Jeopardy.

I always have a lot of fun coming up with new categories and tricky questions. Last year I did a whole thing on Harry Potter. This year I'll have to do something with Twilight. Note to self: Finish reading Breaking Dawn. Probably my favorite category is Headlines. That's one were the "contestant" has to name the story described in the silly news headline. An example from last year goes like this: Answer (remember Jeopardy does this backward): "Stranded seaman looks forward to Friday."

Of course the Question is: "What is Robinson Crusoe?"

Anyway, this year I'm running into a bit of trouble. I wanted to do a string of questions relating to donkeys and elephants, seeing as how this is an election year and all. Well, the elephants seem easy - you've got your George and Martha, you've got Barbar, you've got your classic Saggy Baggy (praise Little Golden Books). But finding donkey books is tough. Besides the Eddie Murphy-voiced Donkey of Shrek fame, I'm stumped. Since I'm a firm believer in equal time for both parties, it seems this SCBWI conference will have to be election free. (Did you see that? I didn't even mention the Independent Party. Or the Libertarians. Or the Green Party. I guess since nobody else mentions them. . . meh? I'm so mainstream media.)

So, help me. If you know of any donkey books, or donkey characters, I'd love to hear about them. They can't be too obscure or else I'll be stuck, like Will Ferrell on the SNL version with no Sean Connery character to say something dirty to get me out of it. Thanks in advance!

After the SCBWI Conference in LA

Got back from the conference last week and I've been letting things percolate, I've been sorting my options, I've been . . . Oh, let's face it. I've been a lazy bugger who can't seem to get motivated in one direction. There are 3 book projects screaming for my attention, there are blog entries to write for other groups and a newsletter to get edited and a listserv to start and 3 to join, and I find myself staring at a blinking cursor while the Olympic Men's Whitewater Kayaking competition splashes in the background. (Did you see that guy from Togo? Were you just so happy he managed to squeak out the Bronze?)

I think my brain's being forced into too many directions. I've got mothering, and wifing to do along with starting my own company, finding clients, helping to organize conferences, writing stories, writing other stories, and then there are those stories I've been meaning to write. I think I have too many projects that don't involve pie. Speaking of which, I owe the Rine's a blueberry pie.

Note to Self: When thinking up creative Christmas gifts for dear, sweet friends, never decide that a homemade pie each month is a good idea.

Where was I? I think that's the problem.

It begins

If I'm going to start a social networking company, it probably would be wise for me to start . . . what's the phrase again . . . SOCIAL NETWORKING!