Got glasses?

I lament that I’m at times a careless reader, especially when confronted with a wall of text (I’m a huge fan of short paragraphs and bulleted/numbered lists; they work well with my short attention span). But the more I interact with people, the more I realize that many of them are even worse readers than I am.

The good news is that realizing this has made me more determined to be a better reader. The bad news is that I battle with myself daily as to whether to argue with someone over their faulty reading comprehension or to let it go because it’s, most times, not my monkey, not my circus.

So, I made this comic…mostly to get it off my chest.

Happy book birthday to meeeee!

SQUEEEE!!! In just 4 more days, my first ever biography in graphic format will be out in the world. I can’t wait for readers to see Angela Poon‘s gorgeous art!

For more information and how to order, go to Penguin Random House page.

The importance of (NOT) being earnest

The other day, the Spousal Unit referred to the Wheel of Time series as “that earnest Orcs show.”

I mean, he’s not wrong. It does remind me a lot of The Lord of the Rings minus the joyful humor of Hobbits.

That may be fine for some people, but we like a dose of humor to go along with drama. It’s not to say we’ll stop watching the show (we only just started after all), but it would be nice if there was some comedy to be found…or least a bit of levity.

Granted, not all things can have humor. There’s nothing remotely funny about the horrific Holocaust and so Schindler’s List, for example, has to be serious. But Wheel of Time is a fantasy, and if Tolkien can infuse humor in his work, I feel like WoT can, too. (Tangentially, I feel like 90% of fantasy is far too earnest.)

As for what we find funny, we don’t care for comedy that involves yelling or being mean for no reason (I’m looking at you, Fawlty Towers and The Honeymooners). The more subtle, deadpan, or verbally clever the humor, the better.

It’s interesting to me that this wasn’t something that the Spousal Unit and I talked about when we were dating, but in retrospect, it should have been! Married life for me would be a lot less fun if he didn’t also like humorous shows and movies (and sci-fi and superheroes stuff).

What about you? Do you and your partner have similar tastes in entertainment? What’s your favorite genre?

Author and Illustrator Q&A on Debbie Ohi’s Blog!

WHO IS TIBET’S EXILED LEADER? THE 14TH DALAI LAMA releases in less than a month and so now is the time for blog tours!

Our first stop is at Debbie Ohi’s blog. Debbie is one of those incredibly kind and super talented people who has made it huge in the world of children’s literature and has been giving back to the community ever since. Illustrator Angela Poon and I are thrilled to be featured in her blog to talk about the creation of our upcoming book.

Pop on over to read the post and to feast your eyes on Angela’s gorgeous art!

A Zoom with a view

I had been wanting to do this comic for a while because after 3 years of Zoom meetings, it’s hard not to think about it. And it was such a big hit over at IG, I thought you might want to see it, too. 😉 Allow me to present to you…The Zoom Face Bunch (and you have to sing The Brady Bunch theme song in your head)!

From top to bottom, and left to right:

The turtle – half the head is better than one

The profile – having two computers means one has the camera and you’re looking at the other

The spewer – sometimes you just have to eat and chew with your mouth wide open…not

The wanderer – just another lost soul

The abyss – hello darkness, my old friend

The starlet – professionally photographed profile pic that look nothing like the actual person

The nostrils a.k.a. abyss 2 – the view from your laptop

The poke-an-eye-out – the Lilliputan view of Gulliver’s fingers

Which one are you?

We’ll have bun, fun bun, till daddy takes the oven away

Pardon the ancient reference to The Beach Boys.

I thank the universe on a daily basis for not smiting me with gluten intolerance (yet…there’s always a chance it’ll happen) because I could eat bread every single meal and for snacks in between. One of my favorite types of breads is a good, pillowy bun. I’ve been making my own hot dog and burger buns for a close to 3 decades now. We refuse to entertain the idea of buying them from a store.

They’re particularly easy to make when you have a bread machine to knead the dough. And the dough…is that not one of the most beautiful things you’ve laid eyes on? Okay, it is if you’re me…and I have been known to be odd. 😀

Europeans have it right by using weight instead of volume when baking. I’m obsessed with the kitchen scale now. I wouldn’t go anywhere where I had to bake without it.

And here they are, fresh out of the oven. I over-proofed them a bit but they’re still delicious. And there’s only 2 tablespoons of butter in these babies!

And it’s nearly March, so the Spousal Unit has started some of the summer crop’s seedlings! Such precious little things. Little do they know the big bad voles are out there waiting for them. Ack.

What’s your favorite type of bread?

See oh, too?

In case you’ve missed the news reports, and it seems like a lot of people actually have missed the memo, gas stoves are bad for you and the environment. But being married to a climatologist means I get to hear about these things and I’ve mentioned to some friends that the Spousal Unit is monitoring the carbon levels in the house.

If you’re thinking, oh, I’ve already got a carbon monitor in the house, you might be thinking of this:

This nifty device is a carbon monoxide detector and is a must-have in any house because CO is dangerous in even tiny amounts. According to the Iowa State University site, “High concentrations of carbon monoxide kill in less than five minutes. At low concentrations it will require a longer period of time to affect the body. Exceeding the EPA concentration of 9 ppm for more than 8 hours is suspected to produce adverse health affects in persons at risk.”

But it was my bad. When I was talking to those friends, I should have been more specific and said carbon dioxide monitoring because CO2 is a much different beast than CO. CO2 isn’t nearly as deadly in the short term and it takes a huge amount for you to notice it. After exposure to levels above 5,000 ppm for many hours, you might experience headache, dizziness, and nausea. CO2 can cause asphyxiation as it replaces oxygen in the blood-exposure to concentrations around 40,000 ppm and, at that point, is dangerous to life and health.

Buuuuut, CO2 levels serves as an indicator of the other things that comes off of a gas stove…the other things being carcinogenic or lung irritants. So the Spousal Unit monitors it in our house.

Plus, CO2 is a major greenhouse gas and cooking with gas contributes to the amount that’s already trapped in the atmosphere. So, now that we know, we’ll be shopping for an induction or electric range in the next couple of months. For the sake of your own health, especially if you have someone who’s prone to asthma, you might want to do likewise.

The good things in life

There’s so much in life that stresses me out (for an example, I’ve included a snippet from a recent newsletter from The Guardian at the very bottom if you can stomach it). So, I try to focus on much of the good or I’d be paralyzed by the sense of doom and despair.

Want to see some of the good things in my life? How about golden marmalade that I made last weekend?

And what goes well with it? Homemade artisan sourdough bread, of course.

Speaking of sourdough, I love the stuff, but it demands to be fed regularly, and I hate to throw out the discard. Luckily, King Arthur Flour has recipes for using up discards, and one of our favorites is dinner rolls (scroll across to see the photos).

If food is not a good thing, then I don’t know what is.

If you’re wanting to read about something scary instead, scroll down a bit to read below. The rest of you can go have a nice weekend!


Over the course of a number of months, an Israeli man calling himself Jorge boasted in a series of meetings of having meddled in dozens of elections around the world – elections he claimed he was able to sway through sabotage, hacking and disinformation.

“What Jorge and his team did not know,” the Guardian reported in a bombshell investigation published this week, “was that his demonstration was being secretly filmed by undercover reporters.”

The eight-month investigation into “Team Jorge” is part of a project called Disinfo black ops, which was reported by a consortium of journalists from 30 outlets including the Guardian, Le Monde and Haaretz. It is part of a wider investigation into the burgeoning disinformation industry, which has been coordinated by Forbidden Stories, a French non-profit whose mission is to pursue the work of assassinated, threatened or jailed reporters. And it is inspired by the murder of Gauri Lankesh, a 55-year-old journalist who was shot dead in Bangalore in 2017, as she was finishing an article exploring the actors spreading disinformation in India.

Months of digging revealed that Jorge was actually Tal Hanan, a 50-year-old Israeli who has been secretly working around the world for over two decades on behalf of political and corporate clients. He and his team claim they can gather intelligence on rivals and spread disinformation “at scale and at speed” through a sophisticated software called Aims. The software controls tens of thousands of bots with synchronized online accounts that look and act like real humans, and, Hanan claims, uses artificial intelligence to create their posts.

The investigation has found that Team Jorge hacked Telegram and Gmail accounts belonging to associates of a Kenyan presidential candidate. The operatives worked alongside Cambridge Analytica in an attempt to swing a Nigerian presidential election. And they’ll work offline, too – the team even claimed they sent a sex toy to a politician in order to make his wife believe he was having an affair.

Hanan did not respond to detailed requests for comment but told the Guardian: “To be clear, I deny any wrongdoing.”

It’s an investigation that puts faces and names to a shadowy topic – the disinformation industry – that’s typically incredibly challenging to report on. It was fueled by the evidence gathered by three Israel-based reporters who posed as consultants seeking Hanan’s services and brought what they found to the consortium. That includes video from meetings with Hanan, some of which you can view here. (The Guardian was not involved in the filming but we are publishing the material given the public interest in the findings.)

Team Jorge didn’t manage to get their guys elected in Kenya or Nigeria, but the impact of these kinds of campaigns can be even more fundamental, and harder to detect. And it has big implications for democracy.

“There is still a cloud of doubt over the current president,” Stephanie Kirchgaessner, one of the Guardian’s lead reporters on the project, said regarding the Kenya campaign. “It’s not only about winning the election – just creating that doubt is also sort of a win. And we see echoes of that here in the US.”

. . .


Do the Ss in “USPS” stand for “SUCKS”?

Last week was a lighthearted, nostalgic look at some of the more fun things about the postal system. This week, I’m going to talk about the the annoying, and possibly criminal, acts of the postal system, specifically the United States Postal System.

In the past year, 90% of the emails that are addressed to my younger son, who still lives at home, has gone missing.

How do I know? The USPS has this service called Informed Delivery that you can sign up for. Every day that there is mail delivery, they send you an email with the scanned pieces of mail that you should expect that day, everything from important stuff to junk mail. From these emails, I know what should be arriving any particular day. And I give them some grace. If a piece arrives a few days later, I’m okay with that because the mail is scanned in a different city than mine and it’s never a direct route from A to B.

My younger son doesn’t get a lot of mail, but one of our favorite aunts always sends our kids a birthday card. She sent him one in November which never arrived.

I let her know that it’s lost and she insisted on sending a second. THAT one also went missing. Someone is bilking a septuagenerian.

My kid also had doctors’ bills go missing last summer. Luckily, we knew that they were lost because of Informed Delivery and called the doctors’ offices to let them know so we wouldn’t get overdue fines.

Even his junk mail goes missing. What in the actual F??

This month, our oldest child’s birthday card from the same wonderful aunt also went missing. This is a screen capture from the site where you can log in to see your Informed Delivery if you want to (the other screenshots are from the emails they sent me).

And my husband and I have had important mail go missing, too.

But you know what doesn’t go missing? Mangled pieces of junk mail. This image looks like the mail will be shredded or fall through the cracks, but it arrived just fine (I couldn’t resist a snarky comment at the bottom):

I have reported the missing mail through the Informed Delivery system as well as filed a report for stolen mail on the USPS site and NOTHING was ever done about it. I know it’s not my mail delivery person (or at least I’m 99.9% sure it’s not him). I always develop relationships with our mail carriers, asking about their families and giving them gifts for the holidays. I suspect it’s someone at the facility where the mail is scanned.

I’m at a loss as to what recourse I have next? Do I go to the police? The FBI? The USPS obviously doesn’t care, but I feel like there needs to be a criminal investigation. Anyone out there have a solution for us?

Beth Anderson Shares Writing Wisdom with Digging Deep to Uncover Deborah Sampson–Plus a Giveaway!

I am such a fan of Beth Anderson’s books! If you write nonfiction, whether it’s for kids or not, you’ll learn a lot from Beth’s posts. Check this one out…and there’s a giveaway!

Alayne Kay Christian

Before I introduce today’s guest blogger, I want to apologize for my delay in choosing the winner of free access to all my webinars. I had to take some time off after the sudden death of my youngest brother. Because of the delay, I’ve decided to offer the giveaway prize to two faithful blog followers. Char Dixon and Tara Cerven. Congratulations and thank you for taking time to comment on my post. I’ll be in touch.

kid-lit writing wisdom

Today, Beth Anderson shares her kid-lit writing wisdom gained from life and nonfiction writing experiences along with writing her latest picture book CLOAKED IN COURAGE: UNCOVERING DEBORAH SAMPSON, PATRIOT SOLDIER. Beth is also giving away a copy of CLOAKED IN COURAGE. To enter the drawing comment on this post, please state that you would like to be entered in the drawing, and please help Beth out by sharing the post link…

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