When Will I Die, and Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?: Redux

Ah, yes, another oldie but goodie from the past (Sept. 2009), for your reading enjoyment; be aware these responses are from 2009, and some contain graphic wording: 

jpg_0627QUESTIONIt all started when when I wanted to use my silicone Bundt cake pan for the first time. Just before placing it in the oven, I wondered: Should I use a baking sheet to support the wobbly pan, or is this pan designed to use alone? I decided to do what anyone with a computer does: I Googled it. I intended to Google: “Should I use a baking sheet under a silicone pan?” but as soon as I typed, ”Should I,” a drop-down of popular suggestions appeared. I couldn’t ignore the juxtaposition of these responses. Some of the highlights (beware a graphic one) as they appear on Google:

“Should I…”
should i refinance my mortgage
should i stay or should i go (55.9 million results)
should i call him (85.4 million results)
should i shave my pubic hair
should i file bankruptcy
should i get a divorce

Magic 8 ballI didn’t know that Google had become a substitute for the Magic 8 ball (The Mattel Magic 8 ball, a toy used for seeking advice, was invented in 1946 by the son of a clairvoyant. You can even try an online version here).

(Concentrate and ask (Google) again….)

Typing “Should we…” in Google reveals a drop-down of the following:

“Should we….”
should we break up
should we get married (25 million results)
should weed be legal (over 45 million results)
should we have dropped the atomic bomb
should we file jointly
should we eliminate fats from our diet altogether and increase our proteins
should we move in together
should we get back together (99.9 million results)

Should I check “Does…”? (It is decidedly so.)
Does he like me (114 million results)
Does Obama smoke (over 30 million results)
Does hydroxycut/extenze/smooth away/alli work (responses condensed)
Does he love me
Does UPS delivery on Saturday
How about trying “Why”? (Without a doubt.)

“Why…”

why is the sky blue (25.2 million results)
why did the chicken cross the road
why men cheat
why did chris brown beat up rihanna
why do dogs eat poop
why did I get married (26 million results)

What kind of answers are Googlers expecting? (Reply hazy; try again.) What kind of answers are they finding? (Cannot predict now.)

I was on a roll. A peek at the results of “when,” “when will,” “how can,” and “how does”:

“When…”
whejpg_Earth-from-spacen is the superbowl
when will i die (893 million results)
when i grow up
when will the world end (176 million results)

“When will….”
when will i get my tax refund
when will the recession end

 

when will the economy get better
when will i get married (30.7 million results)

“How can…”
how can you tell if a guy likes you
how can i make my hair grow faster
how can you tell if a girl likes you
how can i get pregnant
how can you tell if a girl is a virgin
how can you tell if someone is lying (over 9.2 million results)

This is like eating potato chips…

“How does…”
how does a bill become a law (173 million results)
how does birth control work
how does david blaine levitate
how does google make money
how does unemployment work
Questions surrounding finances, birth control, the end of life, relationships, and hair growth seem to be of utmost concern for so many inquiring minds. I thought the popular question about how a bill becomes law was promising.

Is anyone finding meaningful answers to such major life decisions online? (Cannot predict now.) Will Googlers stop asking such questions? (Very doubtful….)

Just one more? (Yes, definitely.)
“Can I…”
can I has cheeseburger
can I have your number
can I get pregnant on my period
can I afford a house

Oh ~ and the answer to my question about silicone bakeware? A baking sheet is recommended to stabilize. The chocolate cake came out just great!

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Handwritten Letters: Redux

I wanted to re-post my first post when I joined Women of Mystery in 2009. It remains one of my favorites. I hope you enjoy it!DSCN1543-1

It’s truly an honor and a privilege to be joining my fellow “Sisters in Crime” on the Women of Mystery blog. My heartfelt gratitude to the talented writers for inviting me along; I’m thrilled to be here.

Nearing the first anniversary of the death of their only son, I wrote a letter to a former coworker and his wife. A handwritten letter, not a typed one. I lost my 37 year old brother in 2001, and I know how it feels when anniversaries approach, especially that first one. The man who lost his talented clarinetist son in a tragic car ajpg_pancilhand-2ccident called me to say how touched they were. “No one writes handwritten letters anymore,” he said.

Afterward, I thought about some of the handwritten letters of my past.

In Mrs. Luciano’s fourth grade class at St. Patrick’s School in Huntington in 1970, we wrote letters to soldiers in Vietnam. Two soldiers responded, and I will never part with those letters.

jpg_correspondenceDuring my teen years, I had as many as fifty pen pals. I remember the most letters I ever received in one day — fourteen. Most of my pen pals were fellow Osmond Brothers fans. Kindred spirits find a way to be together, I guess. Besides, what kid doesn’t like to receive mail?

In the late 1970s, I chose “Ethnic Studies” as one of my electives at Huntington High School, specifically for the long-term project: a family tree. Upon learning that my mom knew little of her Irish roots, she suggested that I write to her Aunt Mary.jpg_tree-of-life-and-love

Aunt Mary’s five-page response sparked a flame that’s been burning for over two decades. Genealogy became a passion for me, as well as my mom and my Uncle Jimmy. Our obsession has taken us to Ireland, Pennsylvania, and New York City; to libraries, cemeteries, and genealogy research centers — and to think it all started with a letter. It’s amazing how much we still glean from Aunt Mary’s letter.

In 1979, I wrote a letter to Andy Gibb asking him to take me to my prom. I never heard back; I guess he just didn’t want to be my everything.

My mom wrote to her Aunt Gert in 1980 in search of family photos. Aunt Gert wrote back to say that she had packed the photos away, “in a rare fit of domestic activity,” and wasn’t sure where they were.

Gert remarked, “I know one of these days they’ll come to light (like the Dead Sea Scrolls, Tut-Ank-Amen’s Tomb, Veronica’s Veil and Howard Hughes’ will), but at the moment I think it would take the combined efforts of the FBI, Scotland Yard and Interpol to give me the faintest clue. I know the day will come when suddenly my hand will touch a crumbling cardboard box and upon opening it and seeing the contents, I’ll stagger back and shriek, ‘Eureka!’, rush to the phone and dial your number and say, ‘It’s all yours, baby, come and get it.’ Until then, darling, bear with me, I beseech you.”

She could have written, “I’m not sure where they are, but when I find them, I’ll let you know,” but I’m so glad she didn’t. Aunt Gert’s letter is a gem.

Do you still write handwritten letters? Are there certain letters from your past that you won’t part with? Is it a lost art?
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Sunday Sentence

I’m participating in David Abrams’ project, Sunday Sentence, from his blog, The Quivering Pen, in which, “Simply put, the best sentence(s) I’ve read this past week, presented out of context and without commentary.”

“Poets, like detectives, know the truth is laborious: it doesn’t occur by accident, rather it is chiseled and worked into being, the product of time and distance and graft.” 

Source: Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann; Random House NY 2015.

BTW, Colum McCann will be reading from, discussing, and signing this book in Huntington, NY, at the Book Revue, on Saturday, December 12, 7 pm, at 313 New York Avenue (Colum’s tour originally lists December 11, but it has been changed to December 12th, as per Book Revue).

Thirteen Ways of Looking

Anyone else wish to join in with their favorite sentence of the week?

Follow me on Twitter @katcop13

Advice to Writers

Are you familiar with the site AdvicetoWriters.com? If not, I highly recommend it. The Daily Quote of the Day is always a gem. The information on the site, “Writerly Wisdom of the Ages,” is collected by Jon Winokur. Advice to Writers also features interviews with writers.

jpg_writing400You can subscribe to email to receive a Quote of the Day, and follow Advice to Writers on Twitter @AdviceToWriters.

Another of my ‘go-to’ sites for writerly advice and inspiration is the interviews from The Paris Review. The archived interviews with authors date back to the 1950s. From Truman Capote to Dorothy Parker, Ernest Hemingway to Henry Miller, and James M. Cain to W.H. Auden, The Paris Review interviews provide hours of fascinating reading.

Do you have a favorite site for writing advice and/or writer interviews?

Follow me on Twitter @katcop13

Banned Books Week

BBW-logoBanned Books Week runs September 27-October 3, 2015 this year.

Banned Books Week is the national book community’s annual celebration of the freedom to read.

Follow @BannedBooksWeek on Twitter, or “like” the Facebook page. The Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association is also on Twitter @OIF.

Over at www.fiercereads.com, enter the sweepstakes to win a selection of banned YA books.

Consider participating in the Virtual Read-Out, or check out these additional free events during the week.                                                  The Call of the Wild

Click here for a list of Banned Books That Shaped America, such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain (1884), The Call of the Wild, by Jack London (1903), and The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger (1951).

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National Punctuation Day & Contest

punctuation-day-logo

Each year, September 24 is National Punctuation Day. It was founded in 2004 by Jeff Rubin. It simply promotes the correct usage of punctuation.

 

Reader’s Digest offers Weird Facts About 5 Punctuation Marks You See Everywhere.

mental-floss-logoMental Floss tells us about Little-Known Punctuation Marks We Should Be Using

National Punctuation Day is having a writing contest. Instead of the usual 250-word essay contest, they are going with a David Letterman-type Top 10 Contest: WHAT ARE THE TOP-10 WAYS PUNCTUATION HAS AFFECTED YOUR LIFE? 

Entries will be accepted through October 31 at Jeff@NationalPunctuationDay.com. The page doesn’t indicate what the prize would be, if any.

National Punctuation Day has a Facebook Page. On their website, they list style books and guides, and online resources to help with punctuation and grammar.

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Extinguishing a Kitchen Oil Fire

An extremely effective video about a kitchen fire that could help save a life. This is actually an easy method as long as one doesn’t panic. Share this information!

Mrs O'Leary's CowNext month is Fire Prevention Month, which was started to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. It began on October 8, but did most of its damage on October 9, 1871. Check here for more information and tips regarding fire safety.

Every year, Fire Prevention Safety has a theme. For 2015, it is: Hear The Beep Where You Sleep. Every Bedroom Needs a Working Smoke Alarm!

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Follow me on Twitter @katcop13.

Writing Tips from E.L. Doctorow

image via www.popmatters.com

image via www.popmatters.com

The world recently lost a great literary master, E.L. Doctorow (Edgar Lawrence Doctorow ~ his parents named him after Edgar Allan Poe ~ lived from January 6, 1931, until his death at age 84 on July 21, 2015).

Here, Doctorow is giving an interview about his writing processWriting Clip Art

One of Doctorow’s most famous tips about writing: “I tell them it’s like driving a car at night: you never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

From one writer to another, Doctorow said, “Perseverance is all.”

Doctorow had many quotes about writing, including: “Good wriragtime-novel-e-l-doctorow-paperback-cover-artting is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader — not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.”

I was fortunate to have met E.L. Doctorow at the Southampton Writers Conference in 2006. He autographed a copy of The Book of Daniel for my nephew, Daniel.

Do you have a favorite E.L. Doctorow quote? (Mine is: “Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.”)

How about a favorite book? (Mine is Ragtime).

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Follow me on Twitter @katcop13.

The Cultural DNA of “To Kill A Mockingbird”

In the L.A. Times, Michael Schaub writes how “46 times ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ echoed throuTKAMgh pop culture,” which includes movies, TV, celebrity offspring, music, shopping, and more. Look for the Etsy links for TKAM-related items for sale, including this bookmark. The literary masterpiece by Harper Lee was published in 1960 and won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961.

Tequila Mockingbird by Tim FederleAlso, check out Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist by @TimFederle.

In another article, Michael Schaub writes that after an expert examined the manuscript in a safe deposit box used by Harper Lee, he determined that no third novel will be forthcoming.To read further on this issue, visit an article by Laura Stevens and Jennifer Maloney in The Wall Street Journal.Go Set A Watchman

Lee’s second novel, Go Set A Watchman, is on Twitter @GSAWatchmanBook.

Follow me on Twitter @katcop13.

Eudora Welty and Ross MacDonald

Meanwhile there are lettersA book review by Susan Straight of Meanwhile There Are Letters:
The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and Ross Macdonald, edited by Suzanne Marrs and Tom Nolan (Arcade: 568 pp., $35), caught my attention in the Los Angeles Times and I just had to share it with my fellow Women of Mystery, our blog pals and readers.

Susan writes: “This remarkable book collects more than a decade’s worth of written and mailed correspondence between the two writers — he who was emphatically married (though his marriage is represented as dutiful and often painful by the time of their letters) and she who remained single and died in the same town in which she was born and had nursed her brother and parents when they became ill and died.”

Click on over to ‘Letters’ inscribes a grand love affair with words between Ross Macdonald and Eudora Welty to read more about it.

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