Author Archive

Monday, May 5, 2014


by Martha F.

Assembled pump

I currently prove multiple times a day that I am a mammal. I’m feeding a living being through my secretions. That’s a weird thing for an animal to do–to take food and not just mush it up for our offspring, but to digest it and then create an entirely new substance that is enough for the offspring to live on for months to years.

I’ve always lived an intellectual life, and motherhood hasn’t changed that. I find myself thinking about evolution and my place in the history of the human race.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Writing about Listening

by Martha F.
I watched Magic Mike a few weeks ago, and found the film rather depressing. In part, because for most of the movie, none of the characters actually listen to what anyone else is saying. This is common, because listening is a hard skill. Most of us spend our time thinking about what we’re going to say next.

I discuss listening skills in some of the classes I teach. Talking to people about listening seems a bit of an oxymoron, but how else can we learn how to do it well? One trick that I use to help me focus on what other people are telling me is a tool that is also useful in writing, particularly in writing dialogue.

Monday, April 16, 2012

“And Then What Happened?”

by Martha F.
I always loved The Little Prince. My favorite part was when the author explains how adults always mistook his drawing of an elephant being swallowed by a boa constrictor for a drawing of a hat. I identified with adults not understanding me. And in the end, he finds someone who understands his drawing.

Or Harry Potter. It’s classic escapist fantasy: These aren’t my real parents. My real parents are special, and someday I’ll get taken away from these people who don’t treat me right and end up in a magical place where everyone knows how special I am. It’s a common fantasy, and we all remember feeling abused (though, I hope, not to the extent of Harry) and wanting to be taken away.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ten Years Later: Still Telling Our Stories

by Martha F.

Editor’s note: This is the second article in a series that will run this week to commemorate the tenth anniversary of 9/11.

I drank my wine as I told the story of how I was listening to the radio as I was getting dressed that day. Someone inside the World Trade Center had called the radio station, telling the DJs that a plane had just hit one of the towers. The person on the phone had worked at the WTC during the 1993 bombing, and was sure that he’d have a similar experience with a long slow evacuation leading to nothing in particular. He wasn’t even sure if he’d leave his desk.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Not the Paper Towels You’re Looking For

by Martha F.

I love visiting bathrooms with automatic paper towel machines, where you just wave your hand at the machine. Hey, I’m a Jedi! (At least for the moment.)

With all the travel I’ve been doing, I’ve really been honing my skill at appreciating the little things in life. I travel up to three weeks a month, every month. And that can get exhausting. So anything that can give me a smile is well worth it.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Superpower Evolution

by Martha F.

While going through papers recently, I found a number of my old IDs. This allowed me to provide proof of the superpower I discussed in last week’s post. For those of y’all who haven’t read it yet (And why not?), my superpower is that I look good in all of my ID photos. And here’s the proof, along with some description of when and why I got the IDs.

(And for anyone who is tempted to hate me for this ability, let me remind you that as much as one might want this skill, it doesn’t translate into any benefit in my life. I’d be happy to trade it for a better job, or more money, or more time to do the things I want to do. But since I don’t have the choice, I figure that I’d be better off enjoying what I have.)

The earliest of these was taken at the age of 10

Monday, March 7, 2011


by Martha F.

I’ve been thinking recently about careers and jobs, and how we choose what we want to do to make money. If life were like a comic book, it would be easy: “My ability to shoot sonar from my elbows, combined with the alien doohickey that I found under some old newspapers, obviously lead me to a career fighting crime.” Superpowers are supposed to make career choices easy; unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

I have a real, honest-to-goodness superpower:

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Wrath of Rina (or, Dealing with Customer Service)

by Martha F.

In my last job, I trained customer service agents. Which Neil seems to think qualifies me to deal with any customer service issue with any company. (I think it’s just a ploy so he can avoid it!) Although I claim that I’m not enough of an expert to take on all customer service tasks, I don’t win any points in this argument when I display my customer service magic like I did Saturday night.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Thoughts on my Kindle

by Martha F.

I recently bought a Kindle. More than once, as I’ve been excitedly showing off my new toy to friends, they’ve said “well, I just really love books, so I’m not interested in this.” Or even a more extreme version–that they’ll only be dragged into using this new technology kicking and screaming.

If I point out that one of the reasons I love my Kindle is because I travel a lot for work, they will tell me that, “Oh, it makes sense for you.”


Electronic books have been a staple of science fiction since the early days of the field, and some even go farther and suggest that when computers will be able to read to us, the act of reading itself will become obsolete. The Kindle (and other ebook readers) is the first major commercially popular electronic books.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Girl Genius Day!

by Martha F.

I bought myself a Kindle last month. I love it. I don’t have to cart around the books that I finished on the plane the first day of a business trip, it’s pretty intuitive to use, and is easy on the eyes, since it’s not backlit. It weighs more than a mass market paperback, but less than most hardcover books. And I can store hundreds of books on it.

For Hannukah, Neil bought me a book: Agatha H and the Airship City. It didn’t actually arrive until the release date of January 1st, but he told me to expect it. (The Kindle automatically downloads the book as soon as it legally can.)


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