Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Traffic Control Follies

So about five years ago, the City decided to repave the street I live on. It's five blocks long and is a school and city bus route as well as a feeder into this residential area. And the street needed it, I'll admit. The pot holes had taken up arms and were demanding a toll price from drivers--five bucks or one of your axles, thank you very much. Repaving sounded like a good idea.

Homeowners were informed that broken sections of sidewalks would be replaced at the same time. Still fine, even though that's going on my property taxes for the next six years.

However, the City also decided that they needed to do something to reduce the speed of traffic on our street. Huh? Even though the City did a speed study and found the 80th percentile of traffic speeds was under 25 mph, something apparently needed to be done to curb those horrendous speeders flying up our street at 23 mph. For those who don't know, one of the bases for setting speed limits on streets is that 80% of the drivers will drvie at safe (or slower) speeds. So a speed study is done to determine the speed that 80% of the drivers are travelling at or slower than. And that's the speed limit.

So what to do? The letter that we got from the City said something about a roundabout at the end of our block (the second block). I've driven through roundabouts on busy streets in the Bahamas, but on a one way, lightly travelled, residential street? We would have lost two parking spaces on each side of the street on both sides of the intersections--that's eight parking spaces! The snowplows' rare winter appearances on our street would have been eliminated completely because the 12 foot blades could not have gotten past the roundabouts. It was also unlikely that the school and City buses could have made it around the obstruction.

So the City said they would put in a small roundabout--maybe six feet in diameter. Oh, yeah, that's better. Now instead of a nicely landscaped roundabout, we get a concrete circle that will go untended for years until it cracks and disintegrates and turns into urban blight. Unless someone ran over it in the dark and took out an axle or a oil pan or something. Then we could have urban art. A dead car in the middle of the road.

I went down to City Hall and met with the guy handling the project. He told me other speed-reducing items they were considering, including speed bumps and speed tables. All bad ideas in my book. Speed bumps and speed tables would have also prevented snow plows from operating on our streets, and we would also have to listen to every single car, truck and bus going down our street hit the brakes, down-shift, step on the gas, and up-shift again. I moved to this location to get away from traffic noise. This was crazy, and I argued strongly against it.

Finally--and I don't know if they listened to me or others, or just plain changed their minds--the City decided that they would narrow our street two feet and install curb "bump-outs" at the intersections. OK, I could live with that. Those things wouldn't change traffic on the street one bit.

Five years later, traffic still moves at the same pace down our street, but the number of cars being sideswiped has risen. My sisters's car had been hit twice, and the neighbors' brand new truck with less than 50 miles on it currently needs a brand new bumper.

We also had a bus get stuck on our block one winter. The street had been blessed/cursed that morning by the City plow. The plow had run down our street and piled two feet of snow in the parking spaces at the edge of the street. Not out of the street, mind you, in six feet between the street and sidewalk, but IN the street. A friend came to visit me, and he parked on the street (no other option) far enough from the curb that he could open his door and get out of his pickup truck. Thirty minutes later, a cop is knocking on my door. Will we please move the truck, he says, because the bus can't get up the street. The bus had apparently driven up the block, realized it couldn't get past the truck, backed down the block, gone around, and called the cops.

I told the cop we would move it, but that the bus driver should have called the street department instead.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

A Sad Day for Writer's Digest Magazine

So I was browsing through the magazines at my local Barnes and Noble this afternoon when I noticed the current issue of Writer's Digest. This issue had their yearly list of the "101 Best Web Sites for Writers." I had to look.

I agree with some of their choices: Absolute Write, Agent Query, Agent Research, Dictionary.com, Fiction Factor, Google (my favorite search engine!), NaNoWriMo (yes, I did this last year), Preditors and Editors, Ralan's SpecFic & Humor Webstravaganza, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Toasted Cheese, Writers Weekly, and Writers.net. I have experience with all of these web sites, either as a participant or as a lurker who has gleaned valuable information about the publishing world. Toasted Cheese is a lit mag which publishes very good poetry and short fiction.

I did, however, find the inclusion of one site to be troubling, That site is todays-woman.net. I have encountered--and blogged about--the webmistress of that site before, and a friend of mine was a member of that site (which shall not be linked to on my blog). Horrible experiences all around. Swearing, name calling, the throwing about of accusations--all from the webmistress with the slippery grasp of English grammar, spelling, and reading comprehension. It's dissapointing to see such poor site get a mention when I can think of half a dozen other sites that provide better information and a more supportive learning environment than that one.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

I am a Purple Flower...

Still in the test taking mode, I tried another couple from Blogthings and here are the results:

You Are a Purple Flower

A purple flower tends to represent success, grace, and elegance.
At times, you are faithful like a violet.
And other times, you represent luxury, like a wisteria.
And more than you wish, you find yourself heartbroken like a lilac.

Your World View

You are a fairly broadminded romantic and reasonably content.
You value kindness and try to live by your ideals.
You have strong need for security, which may be either emotional or material.

You respect truth and are flexible.
You like people, and they can readily make friends with you.
You are not very adventurous, but this does not bother you.

What's funny is that I find these two results to more accurately describe who I think I am than the previous test (am I really schizoid?)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Book Reviews Have Been Moved

I've moved the previously posted book reviews to my new blog, which will be just for reviews and such. This will still be my main blog.

The other blog has a wider main column, and I think reads a lot better for longer posts. Now if I can just figure out how to get my previous posts to show up as a list in the side bar....

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Maybe I Need a Shrink

So I took this Personality Disorder Test on-line (thanks to Devrie for the link). You, too, can aswer a mere 55 questions, and all of your personality flaws will instantly be revealed. Here are my results:

Let's start with Schizoid, which the site defines as "individual generally detached from social relationships, and shows a narrow range of emotional expression in various social settings." However, the author of the test also adds a note that he or she doesn't think schizoid is a real personality disorder. Hmm...well, I am still single at 38 and do tend to like my space. But does that mean I'm schizoid?

The site defines antisocial as "individual shows a pervasive disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others. " The site defines narcissistic as "individual has a grandiose view of themselves, a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy that begins by early adulthood and is present in various situations. These individuals are very demanding in their relationships."

I honestly have no idea which answer(s) led to a high scores here. I do respect the rights of others, and I expect others to do the same for me.

I also try to get along with people, perhaps more so than I should. In my line of business, I sometimes have to suck it up and be the bad guy--not be rude or insulting, just be the person who says "it has to be done like this, period, no arguments." I often find that hard to do. People tend to get emotional when ordered around, and I find emotional conflict, well, uncomfortable. I have a co-worker who is very good at addressing and dealing with emotional conflict, and I have learned a lot over the years. But I still don't like it.

Maybe I do need a shrink?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Writer Beware's 20 Worst Literary Agents

From out in the blogsphere comes the following list which was created by Writer Beware. These are the agencies about which Writer Beware has received the most complaints over the last several years. [ETA on 6-4-06: I've added the preamble in bold below at the request of the fine folks at Writer Beware.]:

Below is a list of the 20 literary agencies about which Writer Beware has received the greatest number of advisories/complaints over the past several years.

None of these agencies has a significant track record of sales to commercial (advance-paying) publishers, and most have virtually no documented and verified sales at all (book placements claimed by some of these agencies turn out to be "sales" to vanity publishers). All charge clients before a sale is made--whether directly, by levying fees such as reading or administrative fees, or indirectly, for editing or other adjunct services.

Writer Beware recommends that writers avoid questionable literary agencies, and instead query agencies that have verifiable track records of sales to commercial publishing houses.

Note that while the 20 agencies listed here account for the bulk of the complaints we receive, they're just the tip of the iceberg. Writer Beware has files on nearly 400 questionable agencies, and we learn about a new one every few weeks.
  • The Abacus Group Literary Agency
  • Allred and Allred Literary Agents (refers clients to "book doctor" Victor West of Pacific Literary Services)
  • Capital Literary Agency (formerly American Literary Agents of Washington, Inc.)
  • Barbara Bauer Literary Agency
  • Benedict & Associates (also d/b/a B.A. Literary Agency)
  • Sherwood Broome, Inc.
  • Desert Rose Literary Agency
  • Arthur Fleming Associates
  • Finesse Literary Agency (Karen Carr)
  • Brock Gannon Literary Agency
  • Harris Literary Agency
  • The Literary Agency Group, which includes the following: Children's Literary Agency, Christian Literary Agency, New York Literary Agency, Poets Literary Agency, The Screenplay Agency, Stylus Literary Agency (formerly ST Literary Agency), and Writers Literary & Publishing Services Company (the editing arm of the above-mentioned agencies)
  • Martin-McLean Literary Associates
  • Mocknick Productions Literary Agency, Inc.
  • B.K. Nelson, Inc.
  • The Robins Agency (Cris Robins)
  • Michele Rooney Literary Agency (also d/b/a Creative Literary Agency and Simply Nonfiction)
  • Southeast Literary Agency
  • Mark Sullivan Associates
  • West Coast Literary Associates (also d/b/a California Literary Services)

I got this list from a post at Absolute Write. I highly recommend this website to all writers.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Rain, Rain, and More Rain

Today's post is dedicated to my new little SUV.

In the 24 hours between 10:00 p.m. Wednesday and 10:00 p.m. Thursday, we received a near record rainfall--almost 2 inches. Now keep in mind that our average yearly rainfall is only 12 to 15 inches, and you'll have some idea of just how much water is still sitting on our streets and in people's basements. My basement fared quite well. We have a little water in one corner of our wine room, but since it has a concrete floor and walls and I have a Wet/Dry Shop Vac, nothing has been damaged.

The worst part was that I had to make a 240 round trip to a seminar yesterday. I left before the sun rose. It was pouring rain, and the highway was covered in large puddles of water that were really hard to see in the dark. Can you say "hydroplane"? I also had to go over a mountain pass, and as the road climbed upwards, the rain turned to slush and then snow and then lots of snow. Fortunately, the pass had been plowed and sanded.

Up until recently, I've always driven cars--mostly smaller, front wheel drive Chevy models. Then last summer, I bought a Chevy Blazer. It's better for my work and for hauling my babies around. Yesterday, I was digging the one-touch electronic shifting into 4-wheel drive. I remember as a young girl, the 4-wheel drive vehicles we had required one to get out and lock the front hubs--ususally in deep snow--before trying to force the lever on the floor into another position.

Ahhh, technology.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Review of "Silent Reckoning"

Grade: D

Silent Reckoning by Debra Webb
Silhouette Bombshell, December 2005

This review has been moved to my other blog.

Monday, April 03, 2006

An Older and Snarkier Review - "Her Last Defense"

Grade: C

Book Title: "Her Last Defense"
Author: Vickie Taylor
Publishing Info: Silhouette Intimate Moments, August 2005

This review has been moved to my other blog.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Review of "The Diamond Secret"

Grade: B

"The Diamond Secret" by Ruth Wind
Silhouette Bombshell, March 2006

This review has been moved to my other blog.