My girls with their aunt at Connecticut College yesterday.

via Instagram


When in doubt, LIE

I've just come up with a new rule of thumb:

When in doubt about whether you should use the verb "lie" or "lay," use "lie."

What's the deal?

"Lay" is a transitive verb, which means that it takes an object. That is, you have to lay or lay down something--a book, a card, your arms, or yourself as in, "Now I lay me down to sleep...."
"Lie," on the other hand, is intransitive. There's no direct object. You lie down, or you impatiently tell your kids or your dog or your neighbor to lie down.
Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 11.02.36 AM
This is wrong!

The confusion comes in because the past tense of "lie" happens to be "lay." So you might say, "Yesterday I lay down on the couch." Or, if you want to shake up the old cliché, "George Washington lay here."

But seriously, how many times in your life have you had occasion to refer to the fact that someone was lying down at some point in the past? And of those occasions, how many times have you just used the perfectly acceptable "was lying" rather than "lay"?

I contend that most of us need to use the past tense of "lie" so rarely that we should act as if we never have to. You will almost never go wrong using "lie" when you're not sure about which verb to use.* And if you're like most people, you'll almost certainly make fewer mistakes using "lie" as your go-to verb than you're making now.

* I'm not worried about people suddenly starting to say "lie" when they should say "lay": "Lie down your arms!" Most people don't have trouble using the transitive verb "lay" correctly.

On buying Taylor Swift tickets -- 1989 tour

For the last hour before they go on sale I'm at my computer with the Ticketmaster page open, doing other stuff. Then when it gets closer to the time I shut down other programs except my browser, lest they freeze and slow things up. The last ten minutes in particular are tense. Finally the countdown reaches zero and the page automatically reloads to something else, except it takes forever to do it. Then finally there's a page where you have to input the special code we got by email and it works the first time but the page doesn't. I input it again and it DOESN'T work and I'm worried that this is it: we'll never get the tickets. I input it again and again and again, and finally it's accepted. Then I input how many tickets I need and I select "best available" and it starts working. There's also a captcha at some point, which is hard enough on the best of days, let alone now. Then loading, loading, loading, and finally there's a timer telling how long the wait is, and it bounces around from 10 minutes to 5 to 15 to 9 to 4 and finally, after maybe a half hour of all this, the page loads and I'm offered tickets. I have two minutes to accept them and all the while I'm terrified my computer will just cut out. I accept them, but then I have to pay for them, and there's another timer, and I'm glad that I made an account the other day because inputting my credit card number would be hard right now. I hit submit, but it tells me I haven't put in the CCV code. More time is passing. My computer could still die at any moment: it did the other day, three times in a row, so this isn't (just) me being paranoid. I hit submit, and it says it has to take me offsite for Visa to verify the card. Jesus God! This is more time with the clock ticking and God knows whether there will be a problem with the new site and I'll have to start over. But the site loads and the card is verified and I choose the various options--print at home delivery, no charitable donation. And finally I've got the tickets, and I keep checking and rechecking to make sure that I've bought the right number, right stadium, right date. It's all good.

My review of our Whirlpool refrigerator; or, am I being muzzled?

So, here's the background. In May we bought a new Whirlpool refrigerator, and it was delivered on May 30th. It's mostly been great, but there are a couple of problems. I addressed one of these in a review I submitted to Home Depot's site--where we'd bought the refrigerator. About a week ago, I got an email from Whirlpool inviting me to review my recent appliance purchase, so I dusted off the Home Depot review and updated it with remarks about the second issue. I submitted the review on the site and that was that. Or, that would have been that if I hadn't just received another email from them:

Our staff has read your review and values your contribution even though it did not meet all our website guidelines. Thanks for sharing, and we hope to publish next time!

Thanks again,
Perplexing. I went to the site to see what these mysterious website guidelines might be, but I didn't see anything. Specifically, when I clicked through as though to write a new review there was no link to any guidelines that I could see. Then I clicked the "contact customer service with questions or concerns" link at the bottom of the email, but it just led me to Whirlpool's main site. There's a support form there, but I didn't feel like filling it out (again; see below), in part because I suspect they would be unlikely to provide any meaningful information about the status of my review. Their operators are likely primed to deal with questions about the refrigerator's operation rather than the website's operation.

So why was it rejected? I jumped to the conclusion that it's because my review is somewhat negative, but I saw at least one negative review on the site while looking for guidelines. If it's not that--and that sort of selectivity would make me angry--I can't imagine what the problem is.

At any rate, I am of course posting my review below, with a photo, because information wants to be free, and I take it ill when my voice is muted.

Great features, but buyer beware

Overall, the refrigerator is great. It's roomy and the layout is great. The shelves both in the fridge and in the doors are nicely designed. The freezer is big and easy to access. I'm really very happy with the purchase. However, be very careful if you decide to buy this with a stainless steel surface. Seventeen days into my purchase I noticed that the left door was very scratched up. No, no one had been scraping it with anything. What happened was I had two refrigerator magnets on the door holding up an envelope. They weren't being moved or scraped across the surface by anyone, but they must have moved around a bit when the door was opened and closed.

As you can imagine, I was quite upset when I discovered this. What bothers me particularly is that there was no warning anywhere in the packet of materials we get that magnets shouldn't be used on this surface. I actually wrote to Whirlpool about this to complain, but got nowhere. I can't believe that they can sell something that will be damaged by the slightest use of magnets--which everybody uses--and not provide a warning to customers. This thing wouldn't survive a day in a house with young kids. Basically, if you buy the stainless steel version, you can never hang anything up on the front. (Happily, the surface on the side is different, so we're able to hang stuff up there.)

So, consider yourself warned. If I'd known this prior to buying I would have stuck with white.

UPDATE: There's an issue we've experienced in which the freezer sometimes loses cold. Ice cream starts to melt, for example. It's not clear what's going on, whether it's because a lot of food has recently been added or if this is somehow related to the appliance's self-defrosting mechanism. It eventually seems to correct itself, but it's troubling.



It Was a Dark and Stormy Tweet

I've got a new book out in Kindle and paperback versions! Announcing:

It Was a Dark and Stormy Tweet
Five Hundred 1st Lines in 140 Characters or Less

Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

Debra Hamel has been tweeting the first lines of books since 2007. To date, she has posted more than 7000 first lines on her Twitter accounts @TwitrLit and @KidderLit. IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET is a collection of 500 of the best of these. The first lines in this collection are culled from a wide variety of genres and from children’s books as well as books written for adults. Some of the titles excerpted will be familiar to readers. The first lines of Fahrenheit 451 and Slaughterhouse Five are included, for example, and Jane Austen and Charles Dickens both merit mentions. But readers will find a lot here that’s unfamiliar. The book is intended to introduce readers to new books and authors, so that they’ll come away from the collection itching to get their hands on an armful of new titles. Here’s a sample:

"Benny Rhodes loved his own bald head more than anything else in the world he could think of." (John A. Miller, Coyote Moon)

"I did two things on my seventy-fifth birthday." (John Scalzi, Old Man's War)

"A dead man fell from the sky, landing at my feet with a thud." (Gary Corby, The Pericles Commission)

The lines included in this collection are grouped into different categories, with chapters such as “Once Upon a Time,” “Dead People,” and “Pregnant Amish Men and Other Surprises.” The book also includes three quizzes so that readers can test their first-line savvy.

Steps in, but worn out

I left my steps until far too late in the day tonight. Still, I managed to finish. Now I'm sitting at my computer waiting until I have enough energy to climb the stairs.


Screen shot 2013-11-03 at Sun. November 3 | 8.59.42 PM

Fitbit stats: October

I've been using a Fitbit to track my walking for years now. If you're unfamiliar with Fitbit, it's a small, wearable device that tracks your walks, stairs climbed, activity level, and even sleep patterns. All the data is backed up onto a web site, so you can see your stats going back as long as you've had the device. Here's my public profile. And here are my steps walked in October:

Screen shot 2013-11-01 at Fri. November 1 | 7.55.41 AM

As you can see, I consistently met my goal of 13,000 steps per day. 

I don't pay a lot of attention to stairs climbed, so they jump around wildly:

Screen shot 2013-11-01 at Fri. November 1 | 8.02.59 AM

The most flights climbed in October was 26. (Fitbit tells me that I've climbed 25 flights of stairs a total of 36 times.) Climbing 24 flights, Fitbit says, is the equivalent of climbing the La Dante Pyramid in Guatemala.

Update: DIY charging station

I decided to paint my charging station. Here's the finished product.

Update: DIY charging station

DIY charging station

I've been yearning for a charging station of late to make some order out of the chaos of cords and plugs in my kitchen. After looking around on the web for ideas I decided to try making one myself. There were a few limitations. I have minimal skill, for one thing, and minimal tools. Importantly, I didn't want to go into the scary part of the basement to get my jig saw, so everything would have to be done pretty much with a power drill. Plus, I didn't want to spend too much money.

The result isn't too bad. Certainly serviceable. Here's a breakdown of the cost:

  • wooden craft box: $5.99
  • velcro cord straps: $2.98
  • 6-outlet surge protector: $13.47
  • spade bit for making 1.5" holes: $6.47
  • stuff from around the house (felt feet; plastic doohickeys): $0.00

TOTAL COST: $28.90

Of course, if I hadn't needed to buy a surge protector, it would have been cheaper yet.

And here's what I did. 

1. I bought a wooden craft box (with lid) at Michael's craft store. It's a bit wider and taller than your average shoe box, but not by much. I would have preferred a longer box, to accomodate a larger surge protector, but this was the best I found.



2. I wanted to put the cover on upside down, both to make an edged platform and to make it look like something more than just a box. Because of this, I needed to insert something into the lid that would hold it in place when put atop the box. I initially tried using some metal shelf supports, then settled on the aforementioned plastic doohickeys. I drilled at each of the corners and pushed them in.




3. Then, I drilled a big hole in the side toward the rear, and a bunch in the top. Afterwards, lots of sanding to make things look reasonably decent. 



4. Then it was time to pack in the cords and put on the top, feeding the wires through the holes in the lid. I also printed out labels to attach to the end of the cords to make their identification easier. Not shown here, I added felt feet to the bottom of the station to raise it off the counter a little bit in case there's ever any spillage.




Here's the charging station in situ!


Book stalking

Book stalking Book stalking Book stalking

[see all random images]

About the blogger: Debra is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece, including Reading Herodotus: A Guided Tour through the Wild Boars, Dancing Suitors, and Crazy Tyrants of The History. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.

From a random review:

The Sunday