Category Archives: Uncategorized

Beer and Blog with Kids

Who says you can’t do stuff when you have kids?  Right now, I’m at Portland Beer and Blog.  In a pub, having a beer.  With kids!  Ha!  I guess that about says it.

But seriously, many people in the Portland tech/blogging community have kids.  Sometimes we do have to make difficult choices about what we do or do not do, because of the kids, but there are plenty of things we can still go to.  It’s yet another great thing about the Portland tech community — it’s largely kid-friendly.

Likewise, the Green Dragon Bistro and Brewpub, where Beer and Blog is usually held, is very kid-friendly.  There’s a bar section and a bistro section.  I haven’t even been in the bar section yet, but in the bistro section, there are tables with chalkboard tops, and chalk is provided, so you can draw on the tabletops (regardless of your age).  There’s a decent selection of sodas and juices, and an inexpensive happy hour menu.  And no one looks at you funny for bringing kids.

What else?  Free wi-fi, of course.  Friendly staff.  Decent selection of beers.  Outdoor seating if you want it.

So, bring the kids and come on down!  Beer and Blog is Fridays from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., but the Green Dragon is a great place any time.  It’s located at 928 SE 9th Street in Portland, and is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.Friday and Saturday.

A Talk With J.A. Konrath

Today we have a guest!  It’s J.A. Konrath (Joe), author of soon-to-be-released horror novel Afraid and of the Lt. Jack Daniels mystery series (Whiskey Sour, Bloody Mary, etc.).  Joe is on a blog book tour to promote Afraid, which I’m looking forward to reading.  Here’s a blurb from Joe’s newsletter:

Welcome to Safe Haven, Wisconsin. Miles from everything, with one road in and out, this peaceful town has never needed a full-time police force. Until now…

A helicopter has crashed near Safe Haven and unleashed something horrifying. Now this merciless force is about to do what it does best. Isolate. Terrorize. Annihilate. As residents begin dying in a storm of gory violence, Safe Haven’s only chance for survival will rest with an aging county sheriff, a firefighter, and a single mom. And each will have this harrowing thought: Maybe death hasn’t come to their town by accident…

And now, Joe’s here to tell us a little about his life as a writer.

Afraid, by Jack Kilborn

Afraid is written under a pseudonym (Jack Kilborn), which you are
totally open about. Why bother with the pseudonym if it’s not even
going to be a secret?

Two reasons. First, the Jack Daniels books I write under JA Konrath are
funny. That’s part of their brand. Because of this reason, people who
don’t like funny books don’t read JA Konrath, and that bias carries over
to all JA Konrath books.

Second, though the Konrath books sell well, they haven’t cracked the
bestseller list yet. Bookstores order quantities based on an author’s
previous sales numbers. Jack Kilborn has no previous sales figures,
hence the chance for a larger preorder.

Afraid will be out March 31, and will be followed in July by your newest
Jack Daniels thriller, Cherry Bomb. What’s different about writing for
each genre?

AFRAID is a scare machine. I’m trying to frighten the hell out of
people. While it has some heart, and a human element, the point of the
book is to induce nerve-jangling fear.

I’m upfront about the fact that a certain percentage of people who begin
AFRAID will be too scared to finish it. It’s already been released in
England, and it fosters either overwhelmingly positive response, or
decrees that I’m the devil for writing something so horrifying.

CHERRY BOMB is an anomaly. I can say, in all seriousness, that no one
has ever written a book like it before. As in the previous five Jack
Daniels thrillers, it alternates between scares and humor. But CHERRY
BOMB has a unique structure. Half of the book is in Jack’s point of view
as she chases a killer. But the other half of the book takes place in
the killer’s POV.

Anthony Hopkins won the best actor Oscar for Silence of the Lambs, but
he only has fifteen minutes of screen time. In the book, Lecter only
appears on a few dozen pages.

With CHERRY BOMB, we’re in the villain’s head for as many pages as we’re
in Jack’s head. There are still laughs, and there are still many of the
supporting characters from the prior books, and there’s even a four page
sex scene–something I hadn’t done before in the Jack series. But CHERRY
BOMB is ultimately a character study of two adversaries heading for a
final showdown.

You’re a parent. Writer-mothers are frequently very concerned about
maintaining a work-family balance, and are often searching for ways to
find time both for writing and for their kids. How is this similar
and/or different for a father?

I’ve got an eleven year old at home, and he knows when Dad is writing to
not bug him too much. That said, I make time to help him with his
homework, and so far this year we’ve beaten six Xbox 360 games together,
so he isn’t really lacking for parental attention. I’m the cook, and he
helps with that. I go to parent teacher conferences. I force him to
listen to my music, so his iPod is filled with Motorhead, Tom Waits,
They Might Be Giants, and mc chris. I probably see more of him than most
parents see their children.

I expect, when he’s older, he’ll try to make me pay for his therapy.

You have both a blog and an e-book called A Newbie’s Guide to
Publishing
. Why are you giving this stuff away for free?

The Ebook is a 750 page collection of previous blog posts, organized by
topic, bookmarked and searchable. It’s much easier to use than surfing
my gigantic blog, trying to find that one bit of information you’re
looking for. Eventually I’ll update the Ebook, because I’ve done a few
dozen blog entries since then that should be included.

Why do I give away everything I know about publishing for free when
there’s a whole niche market for exploiting newbies with How-To books?

I believe all writers need to reach out with both hands. One should
always be reaching for your next goal. The other should be reaching
back, to help other writers get where you’re currently at.

People want two things on the Internet: Information and Entertainment.
My blog has over 300,000 words worth of information about writing,
marketing, and publishing. My website has six free Ebooks worth of
entertainment, so people can try me out at no risk. It’s also filled
with interviews, videos, games, and various other fun things to do.

The first goal it to make people aware of me. The second goal is to make
people try me. Free information and entertainment leads people to me.
Some of those people will become fans, some of those fans will become
buyers, and some day I may earn enough money to replace my 1997 Jeep
with something sportier. Like a 2004 Jeep.

AFRAID comes out March 31, but it will probably trickle into the
bookstores prior to that date. If you think you’re brave enough to
handle it, shoot me an email to let me know what you think. I get a bit
of email, but I still answer all of it.

Let’s see Stephen King make that claim. :)

Bits of Tech: Meal Outlaw

I’ve decided to start an occasional series here called “Bits of Tech.”  It’ll cover the plugins, widgets, and other techy things that I use on this blog.

My first bit of tech to share with you is Meal Outlaw.  If you look down the left sidebar, you’ll find my Meal Outlaw feed — a listing of my family’s recent and/or upcoming meals.  Why?  Because I like to cook (most of the time) and I like to write about food, and sometimes people are interested in what we’ve been eating.

Meal OutlawHere’s a brief history of Meal Outlaw.  My brother-in-law, Matthew, proposed on his blog a product called Meal Bandit, which would allow people to track meals, tag meals, set up RSS feeds, etc. He didn’t, however, have the time or inclination to code it himself.  He asked whether anyone else might be willing to help put it together, using Ruby on Rails.

Well, a year later, it still hadn’t happened.  One of Matthew’s readers, J.R. Tipton, took up the project instead, and came up with Meal Outlaw.  I checked it out briefly when it was released, in November 2007, but didn’t actually sign up until recently.

The site is very basic ,with no fancy graphics, but it does exactly what it’s intended to.  You can use to to either record meals or plan meals ahead of time.  You can view a monthly calendar of your meals (or someone else’s), and you can add your meals directly to calendar view.  You can follow other people’s meals, either on the site or by RSS. You can star meals as favorites for future reference (important if you have kids).

Meal Outlaw does offer a badge which you can put on a blog or website, but it also is nothing fancy.  I pasted the badge code into a text widget in my left sidebar, and it simply appears as if it were an RSS feed.  No graphics are included.  Matthew’s Meal Outlaw badge appears in a box, but I’m assuming he made it look that way, as he actually knows how to do that.

As for the technology used, Ruby on Rails didn’t happen. J.R. says on the About page: “The site is running on ASP.NET with a little ATLAS-style AJAX here and there.”

Overall, it’s a simple solution for sharing what people are eating, and I like its simplicity, although I do occasionally wish it were prettier.  If you’d like to share what you’re eating, give it a try.  Let me know who you are, and I’ll even follow you!  I’m kmcdade on Meal Outlaw.

Wendy’s Cure for the Common Cold

    I’ve got one of those colds that seems to hang on forever (well, five days so far).  I noted a few days ago that I sometimes use garlic tea as home remedy.  My sister Wendy also suggested hot lemonade and chiles.  A combination of all three sounds awful at first, but Wendy pointed out that lemon, garlic, and chiles are often combined in Italian food, and would probably be really good, especially with broccoli.  She suggested soup, but I decided to make a pasta toss with broccoli.  Here’s the recipe.

    • 12 oz. dry thin spaghetti
    • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
    • 1 crown broccoli
    • 2 red chile peppers
    • 2 large cloves garlic
    • 1 14-oz can low-sodium chicken broth
    • Juice of 1 medium to large lemon
    • 1/4 cup cold water
    • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
    • Freshly shredded parmesan cheese

    In a large pot, bring water to a boil for pasta and cook according to directions, draining and tossing with a little olive oil when finished.

    Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Cut broccoli into small spears, and also slice stalk into small pieces (the only thing I pull off is the larger leaves). Put broccoli in skillet with oil and stir; reduce heat to medium and continue to stir occasionally. Seed and finely chop chiles and add to broccoli, continuing to stir. Peel and finely chop garlic, or press through a garlic press and add to the mixture. Continue to stir-fry for a few minutes, until mixture is fragrant (this is a good time to breath in the scent as part of your cure).

    Add the chicken and lemon juice, and bring to a simmer. In a measuring cup, mix cornstarch and water and then quickly add to the vegetable mixture and stir. The mixture should thicken slightly.

    Add pasta to the vegetable mixture and toss. Allow everything to simmer together for about 5 minutes, uncovered. Toss with parmesan cheese before serving, or serve with cheese on the side.

    Please Visit Buck-a-Hit Day!

    Portland blogger Jack Bogdanski is holding his sixth annual Buck-a-Hit day today, December 17, 2008.  This means that a generous benefactor will be donating $1 to the Oregon Food Bank for every unique visit to Jack’s site, up to 5,000 unique visits!  There will also be opportunities for visitors to make their own donations to charity (there will be a list of five to choose from), which Jack and friends will match up to a $2,100 limit.

    So please, go visit Jack!

    What Is Justice?

    Arundhati Roy has a piece today on guardian.co.uk about responding to the Mumbai terror attacks, including some history and context for the attacks.  It’s long, but I do recommend reading it.

    Her piece ends with this paragraph:

    The only way to contain (it would be naïve to say end) terrorism is to look at the monster in the mirror. We’re standing at a fork in the road. One sign says Justice, the other Civil War. There’s no third sign and there’s no going back. Choose.

    But I’m left with a question.  What exactly is justice, especially as it relates to terrorism?  Roy really doesn’t address this.

    Justice is related to the word justify.  If you work with type, or if you use word processing a lot, you might have heard the terms left-justified and right-justified before (or simply justified).  In this case, justified means the type lines up evenly on one or both sides of the text.  The text you’re reading here is left-justified; it all lines up on the left side.

    So, justice can also refer to making things line up evenly, or making them line up correctly, the way they are supposed to be.  That’s the way I like to see it.

    Justice does not just mean making people pay for what they’ve done, and it definitely does not mean taking revenge.

    It’s about making things right.  So how do we do that?

    Ready for some Thanks-GIVING?

    It’s Thanksgiving in the U.S., a day of peace and celebration.  This year, the peace has been marred.

    I’m still appalled by the terrorist attack that took place in Mumbai, India yesterday.  As I write this, the death toll is at 100, with hundreds more injured and some people possibly still in a hostage situation (although news reports seem a bit sketchy at this point).  I followed the situation throughout the day on Twitter, with the help of @shefaly, and watched some of the CNN/IBN live feed from Mumbai.

    Many people would like to help.  The only specific request for help I’ve heard so far is for blood at the Mumbai hospitals.  If you’re in India, please go for it.  But for those of us who are not in India, nothing’s really been set up yet.

    Both the Red Cross and the United Methodist Committee on Relief are usually quick to respond to international disasters.  Although they don’t have specific funds set up for the Mumbai emergency yet, you can still give to the Red Cross International Response Fund and the UMCOR International Disaster Response fund.

    Please take a moment to help others on this day of giving thanks.