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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

How to make chocolate snowball cookies -- Fail Kitchen

"These are chicks! You're cooking with CHICKS!"

"No, they're just eggs, I promise."

"But they came from a REAL chicken!"


Friday, February 19, 2016

Huffington Post lies about writers

When Huffington Post editor, Stephen Hull, said that HuffPo was proud not to pay its writers, freelancers everywhere exploded in anger. And rightfully so.

The direct quote is as follows:
"If I was paying someone to write something because I want it to get advertising, that’s not a real authentic way of presenting copy. When somebody writes something for us, we know it’s real, we know they want to write it. It’s not been forced or paid for. I think that’s something to be proud of."
First, and most easily attacked was the underlying assumption that exposure for your craft should be the ultimate reward. To which writers aptly said, exposure doesn't pay our bills. The subset of that argument being that writing is not work, but art, and only passion, unpaid, is authentic.

The NewStatesman makes a good point here.

"When [Hull] is ill, he must have to research his symptoms online instead of visiting a [general practitioner], because their salaries mean the diagnoses they give aren't real."

When people are sick, really sick, and they can afford it, they will fly across the country to get the highest-paid doctor they can. Because the more specialized, more experienced, more practiced doctors and surgeons make more for their time. It is the same with nearly every profession, and something nearly everyone aspires to. Get more experience, get better at your job so that people will pay you more.

As journalism is a profession--it is our job to parse current events for the public, to place them into historical and cultural context, to bring up angles people may not think about without prodding, to speak to the nuance of each issue and place it in its rightful category as consumable information, and to do it all in a way that is engaging and interesting to the reader so that the publications (some of whom do not pay the writer) can continue to get paid (by whom? The very same advertisers Hull was speaking about).

We have a job. And the better we are at it, the more we should be paid.

Chuck Wendig also draws apt comparisons here, on his blog, Terrible Minds.

"Imagine walking into a building and realizing nobody paid anybody to lay the bricks that built the walls. Imagine sipping a drink and realizing that nobody got paid to build the machine that makes the can or what is inside it — nobody got paid to formulate the beverage or drive cases to stores or put the cans on shelves. Imagine that those who made the most fundamental component of the drink — the drink itself — never get paid. They were told that work was a privilege. They were told that to get paid to do those things would somehow make the process crass. It would make it impure."

But there are two things about this Hull debacle that haven't really been fleshed out, aside from writing being work for which people should be paid.

Stating that paying writers results in tainted copy 1) is hugely false. and 2) is insulting to writers.

Okay, so how is it false?

The strain of logic upon which his argument is based is flawed. He's starting upon a groundwork of false comparison. In Hull's model, if writers are being paid for their work, they will use it to advertise something, and thus shred not only their credibility, but the credibility of the publication housing their words.

"If I was paying someone to write something because I want it to get advertising, that’s not a real authentic way of presenting copy."

This sentence doesn't make sense.

In fact, the very thing publications are paying for is the credibility Hull is trying to say such payment eradicates.

It is my job to interview sources on all sides of every issue when I am doing a reported piece. It is my job to spend the time on the phone, in my car, and face-to-face digging up facts and opinions from those involved. It is my job to produce for my publication bullet-proof copy that they can put their name behind, proudly. It is my job to set them apart from the rest of the pack in terms of integrity, poignancy and the emotion that can be stirred by word-smithing.

I am literally selling credibility. It is the payment that holds journalists accountable for their thoughts and words. It is the payment that entices us not to give in to easy, faulty logic or cheap shots we don't bother to investigate. This profession works the way every other profession works in the world. We want to do the best we can to get the best payment we can. Only our product isn't drinks, our service isn't health. It's credibility.

So to say payment decreases authenticity is a huge lie. Because authenticity is what you are paying for.

What else is the author selling?

"It's not been forced, or paid for."

Again, we are not Coca-Cola. We don't have any product to push, only words. Forcing someone to write something has a name. It's called public relations. And those writers do get paid. Not by publications, such as The Huffington Post, but by the corporations whose products depend on good buzz, like Coca-Cola.

The only thing HuffPo sells is words. (And it does sell them. I did a quick check. Today's Huffington Post comes to you thanks to Cox Communication.) Words it gets for free. If Coca-Cola could get engineers to formulate its next soft drink for free, I'm sure it would be over-the-moon, and ridiculously profitable. But you don't see Coke trying to tell people that paying engineers to come up with the formula results in a shittier drink. Because it doesn't. It results in a better drink. You don't see Coke trying to tell its engineers that if they were truly whole, well, good human beings, they would work on this for free so that their calculations wouldn't be tainted by the greed of the corporate world. Because that's fucking ridiculous.

It would be like dropping your kids off at free daycares only because people who get paid can't possibly love your child. In fact, all child care should be free. Because shouldn't people just love children for the sake of it? And if someone is getting paid to watch your child, doesn't it mean their work is less-than? They're doing a worse job? No, it doesn't. Because that's fucking ridiculous.

And that's where Hull adds insult to injury. Writers, and journalists in particular, pride themselves on the bare truth of their words. Everyone is right about passion, too. We are passionate about what we do. We think it is important, and we place huge pressure on ourselves to do it right.

So to imply that needing to eat at the same time is somehow a deadly blow to all we hold dear not only hurts our workers, and hence the very profession of writing, it insults the life path we have chosen. It insults who we are. It insults our values, it insults our personalities.

This statement by Hull isn't just your regular, run-of-the-mill defense of a shady corporate system (Huffington Post) profiting on the backs of starving artists working for free. It is an active attack on all writers everywhere.

It is time for The Huffington Post to fail. They have jumped the shark.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Marrying Someone Foreign Born? Family Law Thoughts

There may come a time in your life when you need an attorney to get involved in your family life. Whether it be for a marriage, a divorce, or for a reason regarding your kids, these issues become even more complicated when you are working across different countries. For that reason, it is important to get a lawyer that is experienced in working outside the country and with different legal systems. So how do you know if you need an international family law attorney? Here are a couple of reasons.


It today's globally interconnected world, it is not uncommon for a man from the United States to marry a woman from Spain while they are in Bermuda. In instances like this, you will need a lawyer that can handle marriage licenses across different countries. Since the laws differ depending on where you go, you will want a lawyer that has experiencing working outside their own country.


Let's say that same couple mentioned above decide to travel to New York, where they decide to stay and start a business. After a few years and a healthy business, they leave it to someone else to run and move to Switzerland, where they then start another business. Unfortunately, tough times hit, and they decide to get a divorce. Now a lawyer is going to be needed to help figure out how to divide up the assets. This is even more difficult when you are dealing with assets in other countries.

Your lawyer will also know how to properly file for divorce in whichever country you are living in. Some lawyers specialize in certain countries, so you may want to find one that is pertinent to your situation. For example, if you are living in China, then you will want to contact a Chinese divorce lawyer – like the Ideal Legal Group - to help you handle the proceedings.

If there are children involved in the divorce, a good international family law attorney will also be able to handle any questions regarding custody. Since the two parties may be living in different countries, child custody laws add another element that a regular family law attorney may not be equipped to handle.

Child Abduction

In this scenario, you are definitely going to want a lawyer. With an international child abduction case, the lawyers can work with the different authorities to ensure that everything works out okay. There is a lot of legal things that need to happen in these cases, and you will want someone who has been there before. Child abduction is never something that should be taken lightly, and it grows even more serious when that child is moved to another country. If this should ever happen to you, you will want a good lawyer in your corner.

Prenuptial Agreements

Lastly, if you and your soon-to-be spouse are signing a prenuptial agreement, and you both have assets in different countries, a lawyer will be required to help sort everything out. With a good lawyer you can ensure that the contract is ironclad and suitable to both parties before you sign it. While a normal family law attorney can handle prenuptial agreements, when things go international, it is better to have someone with more expertise.

Get Yourself The Right Attorney

If you think that you may need an international family law attorney, don't settle for one that focuses on domestic cases. An international family law attorney can be of great value to you when you need it, so be sure to get yourself the right kind of attorney.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Day in the life - February 12, 2016

Every year I do a "day in the life" or DITL. I started doing them on Valentine's Day, back in the days when holidays weren't all that different from normal days, but as the girls got older, it became clear that Valentine's Day was not going to be representative of our normal, daily lives, so I switched it up to other random days in mid-February. They'll all be attached below, and it's interesting to see how our lives have changed over the years (well, to me, anyway. It's my family, after all).

We wake up super early because the kids start school at 7:45 a.m.

I hate waking them up so early, but the puppy helps me.

Then he has to go outside, but he doesn't like it.

The girls are getting dressed and making beds, and I'm doing last night's dishes.

We remain unimpressed at the hour.

While they eat breakfast, I get dressed.

I grab some coffee for the walk.

Off we go!

Waiting at the loooooong traffic light before turning onto the school's road.

When I get back from dropping them off, I get that shower I didn't have time for.

I'm trying to be healthier, so instead of another coffee, I grab some water. I relax a minute on Words with Friends while I drink it.

Then it's time for some work. I pitch some articles to some publications.

My coworker insists on sitting on my lap.

Before long, it's time for breakfast. I make our usual. Toast, tea and fruit.

Daddy goes to work around 10 a.m.

Time to take the dog out again, but he'd rather play than do his business.

We set back up in our second office, the couch. I usually put a crappy movie on in the background while I work. Today's was "I love you, man" with Paul Rudd and the guy from HIMYM.

Lunch is leftovers. Vodka penne and a pork chop. Fletch approves.

I actually am doing work. Right now, I'm researching academic studies on children who grew up on No Child Left Behind going to college, and what the effects have been. I'm also coordinating interviews with some teachers I know on the subject. It's going to be a good story.

For the first time in months, my head and neck are really bothering me. An old injury: herniated disc. I lay down for just five minutes before picking the kids up from school.

But today is the day I finally get my car back from the shop (it's been two months), so before I grab the girls, I clean out our mess.

Ahh, the car line. My favorite part of the day.

Girls had a Valentine's Day party at school, and they're showing off their loot.

Instead of going home, it's time for some errands. Life as a freelancer means I have to deposit checks once a week or so--old-school.

Since I'm now teaching at university and seeing people in a professional capacity two or three times a week, (and since I only have one full suit, and one extra jacket), we also have to go to the dry cleaners once a week to switch out professional wear.

We had to stop here, too, because last week, my suit pants got a hole in them. What the hell, pants. You had one job.

At home, Dulce wants to play on her new VDay toy with me.

The girls have to read for 20 minutes every day, but they have trouble concentrating while sitting across from one another, so one comes into my room and we read together. I'm reading "Lost and Found" by Katrina Leno. It is excellent.

Of course, they're getting really hungry, so we reorganize and they eat a snack while finishing reading time.

Usually we go to Capoeira on Fridays, but it would have been too much to squeeze in, today. Plus, we got some 'tude over reading, so I give the girls a chore to complete. One cleans the living room, the other the bedroom.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to clean out my closet a bit, so I try some old stuff on and ask my friends what I should toss. The to-go pile is growing.

Time to pick up my car, finally. This is our last moment with the rental.

I get my lovely Honda back home and realize I left my garage door opener in the rental. Great.

We pick up Wendy's because I'm not cooking today. It has been a hard afternoon of errands and cleaning with the girls.

They love the food, at least.

Meanwhile, I have the day's dishes to do. I swear, I spend more time in front of this sink than anywhere else.

It's Friday, so the girls and I have time to play a board game before they go to bed. We chose "Frozen Slides" which we'd never played before. It was meh, but the company was awesome.

Fletch needs to go out one more time, but he would prefer to play inside.

Finally they go down for the night, and we do it all again the next day.

Here are our days from other years! A lot of the selfies of me are missing because as I keep publishing, I need to keep a lower profile.






Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Parenting without Power Struggles, Susan Stiffelman -- Review

I've just finished my third book of the year, and it was a parenting book. I started it more than a year ago, and have been plodding through it slowly, when I need it, and I need it often.

My kids are very spirited, and very loud. And it was hard for me to get them to do what I needed them to do without resorting to yelling or bullying of some sort.

And I hated it.

There are a lot of crap parts to this book. A lot of false dialogue, a lot of scenarios that will never happen in real life ever. A lot of her proposed solutions would not work in the way she wrote it down.

But, some of the core basics were very solid and things I needed to hear.

I needed to hear that I didn't need to hammer home a canned parenting point every time I spoke to my kids. The book spends a lot of time on separation. First help the child get the thing they need to do done. Don't talk about it. Or when you are saying no. Just say no. And let them feel how they feel. Do not spend a lot of time explaining it, thinking they'll come around, see things your way, or understand the logic. They won't and they can't and to try to get that whole message through at the time will result in disaster.

This has happened so many times to me.

What she advises is talking to your kids long after the direct order.

Another good thing in this book was the concept of coming alongside your kid when they feel negative emotion or don't want to do a thing.

Think of three reasons why they shouldn't want to do that thing, she wrote.

Now, I don't want to do that because dammit, do the thing, kids. But she's right.

One of my main mistakes with these kids is that I come at them from a state of irritation. Because why can't they just see the things the way they need to see them? Why can't they understand things and do them and behave?

I've noticed that when I do allow them their feelings, even if I'm impatient about it (in my own head), or I think their feelings are misguided, or downright wrong...if I give them the space to feel, they will come around on their own.

The biggest thing I learned, though, is that parenting without power struggles means getting rid of the bargaining.

I wanted my kids to be able to debate me and be heard and make their points, but that was absolutely the wrong way to go (at their young age). Right now, they need to know that "someone is in charge of the ship" as the book says. They have to hear in my voice that I mean what I say when I say it, and that they can trust what I say. If I leave what I say open at all times, they can never trust me. They don't know if I mean it or not, or if I'll change my mind with a little wheedling. They need me to be solid for them. Even if that solid says no.

Anyway, I recommend the book. Like I said, there's a lot of blah in it, but there is a lot of good in there too.

It helped us. It really did.


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