Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Two Sentence Tuesday: Plunder!

Today's quote comes from Plundered Booty by Travis Erwin, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award entry, and deservedly so.

Travis is a master of short, pithy character description as filtered through the mind of his sympathetic protagonist, Hank Petty Zybeck.

With his pointed nose and perpetual five o’clock whiskers, Dave had always reminded me of a fox. Not a sly fox like you read about as a kid, but a chicken stealing, henhouse fox, destined to get shot some bright moonlit night.

Given the theme of Erwin's book, it seems appropriate to include a bit of description from my pirate story, Marooned, written under my Lyndi Lamont pseudonym. In this scene, the heroine is disguised as a young man, but her guise doesn't fool the pirate captain for long.

Adam reached out and put a hand on Hal’s shoulder, noting the fine bones. He moved his hand down, feeling the soft flesh and lack of muscle in the arm. He studied Hal’s fine, pale complexion, and, for the first time, noticed that both earlobes were pierced.

“What is your real name, lass?” he asked softly.

In the interest of full disclosure, I admit that Travis is one of my cyber friends. That doesn't mean I didn't really enjoy reading the excerpt from his book. He has an authentic middle-American voice that works well with this story of a car salesman who dreams of buried treasure. I just wish there'd been more. I want to know whether Hank finds the treasure.

You can read the full excerpt at Travis Erwin's blog.

Check out the wondrous Women of Mystery blog for more Two Sentence Tuesday posts.


Monday, March 30, 2009

My Town Monday: LA's New Champ

Last Thursday,
American skater and LA resident Evan Lysacek won gold at the World Figure Skating Championships in front of an ecstatic hometown crowd. He's the first American man to win the competition since Todd Eldredge in 1996. Evan, who was in second place going after the short program, skated a flawless program to Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. He was thrilled, esp. since he loves attending games at the Staples Center. He has lived in LA for the last six years and is coached by the legendary Frank Carroll who also guided Michelle Kwan and Linda Frattiane to world titles. (I know Los Angeles doesn't seem like the kind of place that would be a mecca for skating, given the warm, sunny weather, but competitive skating went indoors a long time ago, and quite a few well-known skaters have called Southern California home, including Peggy Fleming and Sascha Cohen.)

Evan Lysacek has been on the scene for a while now (he's 23, practically an old man by skating standards) and I've witnessed his ups and downs, so I was really hoping he'd win. I had to work on Thursday night, so I set the DVR. My DH knew Evan had won before I could watch, but he thoughtfully refrained from telling me. Seeing him win brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. It was well-deserved and a long time coming. What made it more remarkable is that he skated that well with a stress fracture in his left foot. He didn't say anything about that until after he'd skated because he didn't want it all to be about the foot. What a Mensch!

Here's video from YouTube of Evan's short program at at the recent Four Continents Championship where he came in second to Canada's Patrick Chan who earned silver at the Worlds.


My Town Monday is the brilliant brain child of writer/blogger Travis Erwin. Thanks, Travis! Go to his blog to read his latest post and find links to the other participants.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Skating World Comes to LA

Last week the World Championships of Figure Skating were held here in Los Angeles.

I've been an avid skating fan ever since my husband bought me my first VCR in 1984 right before the Sarajevo Olympic Games. I set the device to record every day before going to work, then watched in the evening, fast-forwarding through everything that wasn't skating. I was hooked and I've been watching ever since. For me, figure skating is the perfect melding of artistry and athleticism, and it's the only sport I really enjoy watching.

It has been interesting to watch the sport for so many years, and to see how national fortunes rise and fall. When I started watching, the Soviet Union dominated the sport, but at the moment Russia isn't a force. Japan dominates ladies skating, with the exception of Korea's Kim Y-Na while our ladies are struggling to stay competitive. They're young, though, and I expect that to change. China is a huge force in the pairs event. For the first time since I've been watching, the US has a strong, competitive ice dance field. And we have some of the strongest male single skaters in the world.

I'd thought about trying to attend the event at LA's Staples Center, but didn't follow through. But thanks to the Oxygen Channel, I was able to watch lots of skating, starting with four hours on Wed. for the Pairs and Men's short programs. I had to work on Thursday, so I set the DVR. On Friday I went on a skate-watching binge: six hours, including the Men's free skate, the ladies short program and the original dance. The men's free skate was the highlight since Evan Lysacek captured the only win for the US. More about Evan on Monday.

Last night Kim Yu-Na lit up the ice, winning the first world medal for Korea. She also became the first woman to rack up more than 200 points in the new scoring system. Her skate was amazing, both artistic and athletic. The complete package, as commentator Sandra Bezic likes to say. Kim is a talented singer and that seems to help her feel the music. Though young, she's the most popular celebrity in Korea, and seems like a delightful young lady. She's coached by Candian skater, Brian Orser, two-time Olympic silver medalist. It seems like a great pairing. It was great to see Joannie Rochette take the silver medal, the first time a Canadian woman has been on the podium since Elizabeth Manley's second place finish in 1988.

The year's worlds was more important than usual because the results determine how many skaters each country gets to send to next year's Olympic Games in Vancouver. Thanks to Evan and Brandon Mroz, who came in 9th in the men's competition, the US will be able to send three men to Vancouver. We'll have three dance teams, too, courtesy of Belbin and Agosto's silver medal and Davis and White's fourth place finish in ice dancing.

You can check out the results here.

Now all eyes are on Vancouver. I can't wait.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Free Screen Cleaner

This isn't new, but every time I see it, I have to chuckle. My DH doesn't think it's so cute though. What do you think?


Monday, March 23, 2009

My Town Monday: The Fighting 47th

I know this isn't nearly as clever as Stephen Colbert's clever "Better Know A District" segments, nor will there be a video interview with our representative, Loretta Sanchez, but here goes.

California's 47th Congressional District is located in north Orange County and includes the cities of Garden Grove and Santa Ana as well as parts of Fullerton and Anaheim, including Disneyland. As Congressional districts go, it's fairly compact and not too oddly shaped.

According to Wikipedia, the district covers 55 square miles and is 100% urban, not unusual for Southern California. That was probably not always the case, but we have now lost almost all of our agricultural land in this part of the state. The population of the district is 639,087 with ethnic makeup listed as 17.8% White, 1.5% Black, 13.9% Asian, 65.3% Hispanic, 0.3% Native American, and 0.1% other. Median income for the district is $41,618.

The 47th the only district in the county that's fairly well-balanced between Republicans and Democrats. Loretta Sanchez has been our rep since 1996, but before that we had Republican Robert Dornan. (I will say no more on that subject except that I'm glad he's gone.) Loretta is unique in that she is one of two sisters in Congress. Her sister Linda, another Democrat, represents a district in Los Angeles County. During the primary, they each chose a different candidate to support. Loretta stumped for Hillary Clinton while Linda campaigned for Barack Obama.

I've been to Congresswoman Sanchez's website recently to see what's going on re money for the district in the economic stimulus package. Lately I've seen too many people prowling through garbage cans looking for bottles and cans to recycle. Given the times we live in, I think it's good if we all start paying more attention to our elected representatives.


My Town Monday is the brilliant brain child of writer/blogger Travis Erwin. Thanks, Travis! Go to his blog to read his latest post and find links to the other participants.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Welcoming Spring and Celebrating Aries

Spring began officially yesterday, March 20, as the sun moved into the zodiacal sign of Aries. This is the beginning of the astrological year, so Aries is the first sign of the Zodiac.

As such, Aries is considered the "baby" of all the signs. It's the one that represents individualism and ego. People born under this sign are sometimes thought to be self-centered, just as the infant thinks himself the center of the universe, as he or she indeed is. Personally, I don't think people born under the sign of Aries are any more infantile or self-centered than other signs, but maybe I'm biased since this is my sun sign. Aries isn't the only one who likes to be the center of attention, right, Leo? Hm, maybe that's why my cousin Beverly and I didn't get along as children. (She's a Leo.)

Aries's symbol is the Ram, its ruler is Mars, and it's a cardinal fire sign, so there's often nothing subtle about Aries, and women born under this sign are no exception. Consider Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. It's also interesting that the actresses who played Xena and Buffy the Vampire Slayer are both Aries. People born under the sign do kind of tend to go after what they want in a single-minded, head down, look out kind of way. It's a good thing the Ram has strong horns. Aries people can be headstrong, impulsive, and hot-tempered, but also warm-hearted, generous and idealistic.

Compatible signs include the other fire signs, Leo and Sagittarius, and the air signs of Gemini, Libra and Aquarius. I married an Aquarian and it's a pretty good match. His rational calm keeps me from racing off the edge of a cliff, while my need to get out and go keeps him from falling into too much of a rut!

Famous people born under the sign of Aries include Otto Von Bismark, Marlon Brando, Charlie Chaplin, Russell Crowe, Sarah Michelle Geller, Harry Houdini, Thomas Jefferson, Ahley Judd, Lucy Lawless, Clare Booth Luce, Nikita Khrushev, Eugene McCarthy, Andrew Mellon, J. P. Morgan, Gloria Swanson, Vincent Van Gogh, Werner Von Braun and Tennessee Williams.

Is there an Aries in your life?


PS Apologies to my Pisces friends for missing your sign last month. I'll try to do better next year.

Click here for more information about Aries.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Down With St. Patty's Day!

It's not what you think, I love St. Patrick's Day. What I object to is the neutering of St. Patrick. Patty is a female name, for crying out loud. There are two acceptable nicknames for Patrick: Pat or Paddy. Patty is short for Patricia. Am I the only person in the USA who goes ballistic when I see "Happy St. Patty's Day" plastered on blogs or, worse, on Cable TV? Aargh!

For an interesting and "revealing" look at the real St. Patrick, check out David Plotz's article at Slate Magazine.

Thanks for letting me vent.


Two Sentence Tuesday: Irish Edition

McLaughlin is an Irish name and about half of my ancestors can be traced back to the Emerald Isle, but they were all Northern Irish Protestants. When I was a kid, my mom used to tell me that I should be wearing orange instead of green on St. Patrick's Day. Since I look awful in orange, I ignored her. That was in the days before people pinched you if you didn't wear green. I've long been a fan of Irish music, not the Riverdance type of music so much, but the pub music, especially the drinking songs and the rebel songs. No one with my romantic tendencies could resist songs about a glorious lost cause like the United Irish uprising of 1798 that attempted to unite Catholic and Protestant Irishmen to throw off the yoke of England. I think I'll celebrate by downing a beer while watching my Celtic Thunder DVD. It won't be dyed green though.

This is one of my favorite Irish blessings:

Here's to lying, stealing, and cheating!
May you lie to save a friend;
May you steal the heart of the one you love;
And may you cheat death.

And my own St. Patrick's Day wish:

On St. Paddy's Day,
My wish for you
Is a large bowl
Of Irish stew.
And a pint or two
Of your favorite brew.

What are you doing for St. Patrick's Day?

Linda / Lyndi

Don't forget to check out the wondrous Women of Mystery blog since they are the originators of Two Sentence Tuesday.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Blogging At A Slice of Orange Today

Today is the 16th, my day to blog at A Slice of Orange, the blog for my local RWA chapter. My post is called Driving With Minnie, my new GPS unit. I'll try to have a My Town Monday installment next week, and I'm planning an Irish oriented Two Sentence Tuesday for tomorrow.

Travis is moving this week, so Jenn Jilks is taking over as link master. Check out her lovely "ode to spring" and the list of other MTM posts.

Linda / Lyndi

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Living Statues

My videos of the living statues at The Venetian / Palazzo Hotel (I'm not sure which one this section is technically in - it seems to be between the two hotels) weren't very good, but I found this one at YouTube which was taken from the main floor and will give you a much better idea of what a cool performance this is. It's a little wobbly at times, but the videographer was much closer than I was up on the second tier. It's really cool how the water seems to come out of the hands of the "statues".

Next time I'm in Vegas, I wouldn't mind going back to see this again and try to get better video of it.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Las Vegas Slideshow

I'm still playing catch up since getting home on Sunday, but I did manage to get some of my photos uploaded to my Picasa Web Album, so I'm embedding a slide show here. Unfortunately, my captions aren't included. I'll try to get a detailed trip report posted in the next couple of days.


Monday, March 9, 2009

My Town Monday: Las Vegas Edition

My parents and I once lived in Las Vegas for about two months, the summer before I started high school, so I guess I can claim Vegas as one of my home towns.

My half-brother, Mac, who is fourteen years older than I am, was stationed at Nellis Air Force Base outside Las Vegas when his tour ended, and he never left. The summer between 7th and 8th grades, my parents decided to take a long family vacation from Pittsburgh to Las Vegas to visit my brother and his wife Pat.

Las Vegas was a real eye-opener to a kid from staid old Pittsburgh. I'd never seen so many neon signs in my life, and my brother treated us to a couple of shows on the Strip. I was underage, but allowed in the showroom. We went to the old Desert Inn and saw Flower Drum Song, starring the legendary Jack Soo and another time Frankie Laine, one of my parents's favorite singers. The vacation was a lot of fun. We took side trips to Death Valley (in the summer - what were we thinking?) and to Anaheim to visit Disneyland. The Little Church of the West, the wedding chapel where Mac and Pat were married is still here, though the location has moved several times.

After a couple of weeks, we returned to Pittsburgh, but when school ended the next June, we moved west to Las Vegas. By then my brother and Pat had adopted my nephew Steve and it was fun to see them again and meet the little guy for the first time. (He's well over six feet tall now.) In the evening we'd drive down Charleston Boulevard and the Strip to stare at the lights. Steve's favorite was Howdy Pardner, a huge sign depicting a cowboy that didn't just blink at you, it talked to you.

My dad loved the desert, but my mom and I hated the extreme heat. Dad had been stationed in Utah for a time when he was in the Army during World War II, and he fell in love with the blue skies and wide open spaces. Who could blame him? At the time, Pittsburgh was shrouded in coal soot.

Shortly after arriving in Vegas, we drove into California to visit with a friend of my dad's who had moved to Azusa, a town outside Los Angeles. The weather was typical for June in Southern California: overcast. What we call June gloom. My mom and I were just happy to be cooler, but dad missed the sunshine. On the way back to Vegas, he casually said, "I don't think California is so great. We'll stay in Vegas." My mom and I looked at each other and we both burst into tears. Dad cussed for a few minutes, then agreed that we'd give California another try. We returned a few weeks later to warm, sunny weather, and the decision was made to move to Azusa. It was a decision we never regretted, though we made frequent trips over the years to visit Mac and his family. Of late, the visits have been few and far between. Luckily, he's more likely to visit me in California.


My Town Monday is the brilliant brain child of writer/blogger Travis Erwin. Thanks, Travis! Go to his blog to read his latest post and find links to the other participants.

Desert picture: © Maxfx | Dreamstime.com

Thursday, March 5, 2009

It's Vegas, Baby!

Yesterday, my friend and fellow author, Janet Quinn, and I drove to Lake Las Vegas for EPICon2009. It's about a 4-5 hour drive. I've got a laptop with me and hope to drop in here from time to time.

We had a good drive yesterday, with very little traffic until we arrived in Henderson, and that wasn't bad. It was raining in Orange County, but we soon drove out of it and by the time we got to the high desert, the skies were clear and sunny, though it was windy.

The conference is at the lovely Montelago Village Resort at Lake Las Vegas. The resort includes two hotels, a casino, a marina and a small Tuscan-style village of shops and restaurants. As you can see from the picture below, the Montelago is quite lovely. Our first room lacked a working internet connection, so the staff kindly offered to move us to another room, and in the process we were upgraded from a one-bedroom suite to a two bedroom. We each have out own bathroom, not to mention a working internet connection.

Today Janet and I have free time until EPICon Registration opens at 4PM, so we're going to sightsee Las Vegas with my brother and his lady friend. I'm hoping to visit some of the newer hotels (which for me is most of them) and get some photos.

More to come!


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Book Review Club (The Reincarnationist)

The Reincarnationist

by M. J. Rose

I've always been fascinated by the idea of reincarnation, so when I discovered this book, I had to read it. This is the first in a series of, so far, two books, and I hope there will be more.

After being injured in a suicide bombing in Rome, photographer Josh Ryder starts having flashbacks to two previous lives: one in 19th c. New York, the other in Rome c. 390 AD. The earlier life is more compelling, both to him and the reader, as he was a pagan priest in love with a Vestal Virgin at the time when all pagans were being persecuted by the now-powerful Christians.

Problem is, he doesn't believe in reincarnation, so he goes to the Phoenix Foundation, which only treats children troubled by past life memories. Josh is given access to the foundation's library in exchange for photographing their work. When the tomb of a Vestal Virgin is uncovered outside Rome, the archeologists discover the perfectly preserved skeleton of a woman Josh knows was named Sabina, and a box containing six precious gems that may be the fabled Memory Stones that can reveal past lives. But someone will kill to possess the Memory Stones. As past and present collide, Josh and archeologist Gabriella Chase embark on a life and death quest to decipher the stones.

The plot is very complex but the story moves along nicely. I liked the reincarnation theme and I loved the book right up to the ending, which I found abrupt and shocking. (What can I say, I'm a romance reader. I'm used to the HEA.)

I liked the quotes from famous people interspersed throughout the book, like this one from Rudyard Kipling:
They will come back, come back again,
As long as the red earth rolls.
He never wasted a leaf or a tree.
Do you think he would squander souls?

The Reincarnationist is an excellent thriller, just don't expect a romantic happily-ever-after ending. Still, I liked it enough to read the sequel, The Memorist, which I loved and will review next month.


The Book Review Club
is the brain child of Tween/Teen Author Barrie Summy. Click on the Book Club graphic to read her review and for links other club members.

Monday, March 2, 2009

My Town Monday: The Sin Express?

I hadn't heard of the "Sin Express", i.e. the proposed high-speed train from Disneyland to Las Vegas, until it was mentioned by Governor Bobby Jindal in his response to President Obama's address to Congress last Tuesday. Since we live about a mile from Disneyland, I was naturally intrigued and decided to check it out.

At first, my husband and I thought it might be part of the California High-Speed Rail system approved by the voters last November. When completed the system will link the Bay Area and Sacramento to Los Angeles and San Diego, but there's no planned route to Las Vegas. I voted against it since it was a fairly hefty bond issue, and given the already large budget deficit, I didn't think it was a good time for California to take on more bonded indebtedness. I'm also of the opinion that this state doesn't have long distance transportation problems so much as short distance transportation problems. The high speed rail duplicates some existing corridors, including AMTRAK service and Metrolink trains. There's a cool map route at the website.

So I did some Googling and found a good analysis of the mass transit construction provisions in the stimulus plan at CBS News website. Apparently funds have been set aside for rail service, but nothing was specified in the bill. I doubt the "Sin Express" will be included, not only because of the bad publicity generated by Jindal's reference, but primarily because it's nowhere near shovel ready, though supporters say it could be by the deadline specified in the bill. Supporters of the bill include Harry Reid, the Democratic Senator from Nevada, and Anaheim's Mayor Curt Pringle, a Republican, so I guess that makes it a bipartisan issue, after all.

Last June, the Las Vegas Sun reported that President Bush signed legislation authorizing $45 million to study the environmental impact of the first section of the proposed rail system from Las Vegas to Primm Boulevard, near the California border. The plan was first proposed twenty years ago and is estimated to cost over $12 billion dollars. You can read the article here.

I don't know about you, but several thoughts come to my mind. One, there is no longer any AMTRAK service along this corridor, so that's a plus. On the other hand, a link between "Sin City" and the family-oriented Disneyland seems a bit odd. Yes, they're both tourist destinations, but do they attract the same customers? Not necessarily, though Vegas is more kid-friendly than it used to be. Lastly, I'm not sure this is something we need to be spending tax dollars on right now. There's no guarantee it will draw enough passengers to pay for the cost of construction. Being of a practical mind, I'd rather see money go to upgrades, maintenance and expansion of existing rail systems, esp. those of use to commuters. Anything that reduces the congestion on our highways and conserves fuel sounds much better to me than a Sin Express.

I'll be driving to Las Vegas on Wednesday to attend the annual EPICon Conference and I may have changed my mind by the time I get home. I took AMTRAK to Vegas once years ago and really enjoyed the trip. Too bad that route was dropped.

What do you think?


My Town Monday is the brilliant brain child of writer/blogger Travis Erwin. Thanks, Travis! Go to his blog to read his latest post and find links to the other participants.

Note: Photo of Matterhorn was taken by yours truly and the picture of New York, New York is from a collection of Art Explosion stock photos I purchased.