Wednesday, November 25, 2009

When Sugar Isn't Sweet Enough

Did you get a chance to try Pepsi Throwback when it came out earlier this year? If not, you're in luck, because it's coming back in December for a limited engagement of 8 weeks.

What's the deal with Throwback? It's made with natural sugar.

(As opposed to un-natural sugar? Deviant sugar? Perv sugar? It's actually a blend of cane sugar and beet sugar.)

The point is that this cola is flavored with sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup, ye olde cheap sugar substitute.

So I thought, hey, what a great idea, I'll try that. And I did.

It wasn't sweet enough.

At which point my brain exploded. Apparently I have grown up on Cheap Artificial Crap so that my tongue no longer recognizes Actual Food. It was sort of a revelation.

I need to drink less soda anyway, but now when I reach for a bottle, I try to pick one with all natural ingredients.

Just Because.

My current faves are Boylan Creme Soda and Boylan Creamy Red Birch Beer.

(Again, per FTC rules, let me state I buy my soda with my own money. No freebies.)

If you've never had Birch Beer, it's a lot like Root Beer only ... different. It's hard to explain.

So anyway, I invite y'all to try some Pepsi Throwback or another sugar-sweetened soda and see if you like it or if your taste-buds also need to be re-trained like mine. :)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Patrick Moberg's Internet Vices

is a vodka cranberry.

Social lubricant used to enhance still developing social etiquette. You're aware of your uninhibited actions, but comforted by the built in safety net of excuses.



Guess the Internet Vice where: "Plans of overthrowing mass media fall prey to collective laziness."

You must go see the rest: http://www.patrickmoberg.com/internet-vices/

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pumpkin Coffees

With Thanksgiving approaching, I have three different pumpkin coffees to compare for you.

(Yes, it's a difficult job, but somebody's got to review all these coffees, and I'm thinking it should be me.)

First:
Timothy’s Perfectly Pumpkin.
This is pumpkin pie in a cup.
Warm pumpkin pie in liquid form. Yum, yum, yum. It smells lovely and it tastes both of pumpkin and pumpkin spices. My favorite.
If you like pumpkin pie, you’ll like this.

Next:
Green Mountain Pumpkin Spice.
Now this tastes like the container of pumpkin spices you use when you’re baking a pie. Not so much pumpkin. At first I was a little disappointed, but it should be all about the spices because the name is Pumpkin SPICE. I hadn’t noticed that before. If you like cinnamon, ginger, and clove you will like this. It is very tasty.

And last but not least:
Gloria Jean’s Pumpkin Spice. This is also a pumpkin spice coffee, and has even less pumpkin taste. I found it to be the most mild of the three coffees, but still very good.

Now, these three were all tested with skim milk and 3 spoons of sugar (which is how we roll here), so the tastes described may differ if you use less or more of these ingredients.

Happy coffee!

PS I bought all these coffees with my own hard-earned little dollars.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Colonial Coffee House

Guess what the newest exhibit at Colonial Williamsburg is - a coffee house!

From The Washington Post:
"Now [Williamsburg] is home to the modest Charlton's Coffeehouse, built from scratch on historic foundations and billed as the only 18th-century coffeehouse in America."

"At some point in the 1760s a young immigrant named Richard Charlton used the building -- adjacent to the Colonial Capitol -- as a coffeehouse, serving a brew that likely would have tasted burned and bitter to the contemporary palate."

Back in the day, coffee was a man's drink and men hung out at the coffeehouse like it was an intellectual pub. The American Revolution was planned in coffeehouses.

From The Metropolitan Museum of Art:
Colonial coffeehouses, following the London model, became powerful social catalysts, providing an excellent forum for the exchange of ideas and the distribution of news.

And, of course, people drank coffee at home -- along with tea and chocolate. In case you've ever wondered about the difference between a coffee pot, a tea pot, and a chocolate pot:

This is a chocolate pot.

Notice the removable finial - attached to the body of the pot by a chain so it isn't lost.

Chocolate pots have removable finials because the thick colonial cocoa needed to be stirred before it could be poured.

"A molinet, or stirring rod" would be inserted in the hole revealed when the finial taken off.











This is a coffee pot.
Coffee pots are "tall and tapered, with a curved pouring spout and a wooden handle to protect the pourer's hand from the heat-conducting metal."

And this is a tea pot. Tea pots, as the song says, are short and stout.

Tea was also an important beverage in colonial America leading up to the Revolution.

Remember, when the tax on tea was levied without their consent (no representation), outraged colonists reacted with The Boston Tea Party (December 1773).

You don't mess with a person's cuppa. :)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

RWA Responds to Harlequin Horizons

From http://www.annaguirre.com/archives/2009/11/18/rwa-has-stones/ :

Romance Writers of America was informed of the new venture between Harlequin Enterprises and ASI Solutions to form Harlequin Horizons, a vanity/subsidy press. Many of you have asked the organization to state its position regarding this new development. As a matter of policy, we do not endorse any publisher’s business model. Our mission is the advancement of the professional interests of career-focused romance writers.

One of your member benefits is the annual National Conference. RWA allocates select conference resources to non-subsidy/non-vanity presses that meet the eligibility requirements to obtain those resources. Eligible publishers are provided free meeting space for book signings, are given the opportunity to hold editor appointments, and are allowed to offer spotlights on their programs.

With the launch of Harlequin Horizons, Harlequin Enterprises no longer meets the requirements to be eligible for RWA-provided conference resources. This does not mean that Harlequin Enterprises cannot attend the conference. Like all non-eligible publishers, they are welcome to attend. However, as a non-eligible publisher, they would fund their own conference fees and they would not be provided with conference resources by RWA to publicize or promote the company or its imprints.

Sometimes the wind of change comes swiftly and unexpectedly, leaving an unsettled feeling. RWA takes its role as advocate for its members seriously. The Board is working diligently to address the impact of recent developments on all of RWA’s members.

We invite you to attend the annual conference on July 28 – 31, 2010 in Nashville, TN, as we celebrate 30 years of success with keynote speaker Nora Roberts, special luncheon speaker Jayne Ann Krentz, librarian speaker Sherrilyn Kenyon, and awards ceremony emcee Sabrina Jeffries. Please refer to the RWA Web site for conference registration information in late January 2010.

Looking forward to seeing you at the Gaylord Opryland!

Michelle Monkou
RWA President

New Harlequin On The Horizon

If you follow the writing - especially romance writing - community at all, you will have heard of the new partnership between AuthorSolutions and Harlequin: Harlequin Horizons.

Some people are worried that:

1) This venture will dilute the Harlequin brand. In other words, that a reader will pick up a Horizons book and think that all Harlequin books can be measured by it. Because obviously it will be crap, right?

I would hope that, for the prices they are charging, a Horizons book will not be crap. Although it looks like one might be able to skip the editing and go straight to publishing. In that case, hopefully the customer has already edited and proofed the book beforehand, like with their critique group or something. I'm just saying, just because it's a vanity press doesn't necessarily follow that it produces crap.

But say that some Horizons books are bad - we've all read poorly edited or typo-ridden books from major NY publishers, haven't we? I've noticed a lot more of this in the past few years. Doesn't stop me from reading more books by that publishing house.

2) This allows a writer to bypass the "paying your dues" stage and go directly to the "Harlequin Author" stage. The "I suffered for years to be published so you have to suffer for years too - no shortcuts!" mentality, forgetting that they could have gone the vanity press route themselves if they'd wanted. Not everyone wants to wait, and that's okay. The more choices open to authors, the better it is for authors. All authors.

3) This only helps rich people to be published and will lead to publishing being an elitist industry. Huh? Aside from polo, what is more elite than publishing? They've got their own word, for pete's sake - literati. Historically, being able to read was pretty elite. Not sure this has ever truly changed.

4) This is selling a dream that won't come true. Okay, here I agree. The website prose is a little too too, with phrases like "Dare to Dream" and "Gain Exposure to a Wide Audience" and "Compete in the Marketplace" and "Have you always dreamt about being the center of attention at a book signing event featuring you, the published author?"

Because, lemme tell ya, very very very rarely will you be the center of attention at a book signing event. Mostly you'll be asked where the bathroom is. Or if you work there. Or you'll be politely ignored as customers scoot past with averted eyes. At least, that's what I'm reliably informed. I've never done a solo book signing. (I do the giant Romantic Times one, which is a total hoot and I recommend it big time.)

But I do know that you won't get wide exposure nor be able to compete in the marketplace - at least, not in the way you dream of (unless you have very grounded, realistic dreams) - with such a program for the simple reason that your book will not appear on bookstore shelves.

Now, if you realize that, and you understand this most likely will not lead to quitting your day job, then all is fine.

However, you should also realize that you can do much of this yourself, for little or no cost. Check out Patricia Simpson's very cogent account of her experience. Her article is really the final word on self-publishing. Read it, learn - and be inspired. :)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remembering Henry


The Red Poppy is the symbol of Remembrance Day, 11 November. Remembrance Day was started in 1919 as Armistice Day, to honor the end of The Great War. The War to End Wars.

Which came to be known as World War I.

After World War II, the name was changed to Remembrance Day to honor the dead of all wars.

This year is the 91st anniversary of the end of World War I. Did you realize that? I only know because last year - the 90th anniversary - was covered extensively by the BBC. They put up amazing content on the BBC website. Why don't US news organizations have similar content?

Possibly because in the US this is known as Veterans' Day, when we honor living veterans of war. The US has Memorial Day to honor its war dead.

Personally, I think we should nominate another day as Veterans' Day and return November 11 to Remembrance Day. Why? I am so glad you asked.....

We are traveling back in time to the final days of The Great War (this is great as in BIG HUGE GINORMOUS, not great as in cool). No one is winning and the cost in human lives has been enormous. It is agreed between the warring nations that an armistice should be called. An armistice is when countries just stop fighting. No one is the winner. No one is the loser. They just stop.

This cease-fire is signed at 5:00am on the 11th day of November, 1918.

But the war didn't end.

Because this had been The War To End All Wars. Millions of people had died.

Quoting from the
Imperial War Museum:

"One in three families in Britain had a loved one killed, wounded or taken prisoner. In other warring nations, the figures were even higher; France lost nearly a million and a half men – double that of Britain – while nearly two million Germans and a similar number of Russians died."

They couldn't just end the war and walk away - not with all those dead. Their deaths had to mean something. There had to be something, something memorable, that people could point to and say, "This is when the last war ended."

They chose 11-11-11. War would end at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month.

So they KEPT THE WAR GOING until 11:00 am. MEN DIED so that we would have the symbol 11-11-11.

Of course, we all know war didn't end. But what is even more tragic is the fact that soldiers died for a symbol that is no longer remembered in the US.

Quoting from the
BBC:

"The respected American author Joseph E Persico has calculated a shocking figure that the final day of WWI would produce nearly 11,000 casualties, more than those killed, wounded or missing on D-Day, when Allied forces landed en masse on the shores of occupied France almost 27 years later."

Wrap your mind around that, if you can.

And if that didn't blow your mind, this will: Again quoting the same BBC article: "What is worse is that hundreds of these soldiers would lose their lives thrown into action by generals who knew that the Armistice had already been signed."

Yup.

For example, the 89th American Division was sent to take the town of Stenay by a general who knew the Armistice had been signed, but he'd heard that Stenay had bathing facilities. And apparently he couldn't wait until 11am.

"That lunatic decision cost something like 300 casualties, many of them battle deaths, for an inconceivable reason," says Mr Persico.

Those were American casualties, did you notice? They died because of a "lunatic decision" and for a symbol of which most Americans aren't even aware.

In fact, the last soldier killed in action in World War I was an American boy from Baltimore. He was shot at 10:59am. His name was Henry Gunther.

Does he get a mention over here? Not that I'm aware of. We don't even have a moment of silence at 11:00am. Because it isn't Remembrance Day for us.

"No man surely has so short a memory as the American." - Rebecca H. Davis

Prove her wrong. Today, remember poor Henry and all the others who died for 11-11-11.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Guy Fawkes Day in Colonial Boston

November 5, 1765

"This was the anniversary of the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot, in which Guy Fawkes figured, in 1605.

Pope's day, however, originated in 1558, on the accession of Queen Elizabeth.

At first, the Pope and the Devil were the only pageants, but it afterwards became somewhat changed. These anniversaries had long been celebrated in Boston, and for several years the competition between the North and South Ends, had caused two celebrations.

The programme on these occasions, was to form processions at headquarters, and march through the streets, collecting contributions as they passed, to carry on the celebration ; and woe to them who did not contribute.

A pageant accompanied the procession, consisting of figures mounted on a platform on wheels, and drawn by horses. These figures generally represented three characters, — the Pope, Devil, and Pretender, with sometimes the addition of obnoxious political characters.

(The Pretender was James Francis Edward, and his effigy was added in 1702.)

Under the platform were placed half-grown boys, with rods extending up through the figures, to cause them to face to the right or left, and to rise up and look into people's windows. In front of the procession might be seen a fellow with a bell, who notified the people of their approach, and who would chant something like the following: —

Don't you remember the fifth of September,
The Gunpowder treason and plot?
I see no reason why gunpowder treason should ever be forgot.

From Rome to Rome the Pope is come, amid ten thousand fears,
With fiery serpents to be seen, at eyes, nose, mouth, and ears.


Don't you hear my little bell, go chink, chink, chink?
Please give me a little money, to buy my Pope some drink
.

The two celebrating parties in Boston, after having marched about town, generally met near the Mill Creek, where a desperate fight would ensue for the possession of the effigies, and bloody noses and broken bones were often the result.

If the South (End) were victorious, the trophies went to the Common;
if the North (End), Copps Hill was the rendezvous, where the pageantry was burnt.
This year the two parties formed a union, and union Pope was celebrated till the Revolution."


- From A Chronological History of the Boston Watch & Police by Edward Hartwell Savage

Tuesday, November 3, 2009