A Quality Show: The Lakota Sioux Dance Theatre

A quality show is a great way to spend an evening.  Tonight I saw an amazing one, the Lakota Sioux Dance Theatre,  a troupe of Native American dancers who perform traditional and fancy tribal dancing.

The company, founded in 1978 on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, is directed by Henry Smith.   It shows their culture through music, dance, ritual and presentation.  To hear and see this gorgeous representation in real time with colorful regalia and native language was not only engaging, but emotionally stirring.

I didn’t get a chance to double-check their names, unfortunately, as there were so many people pushing to talk to them and get pictures, but here are two of the dancers.

I can't believe I didn't get their names! If you know them, please tell me in the comments.

The gentleman on the right was our narrator for the evening.  He introduced everyone at the end (that’s where I lost track).   I swear he said his name was Edward, but I’m not sure.  That’s what I will call him for convenience’s sake.  Please, someone correct me if you know their proper names!

I'm pretty sure I got this one right. Left to right, singer Adrian Cross and dancer Jocy Bird

Some, like the Eagle and the Buffalo dances, were pretty obvious due to the outfits; others, not so much.  I was fortunate to be sitting next to a Lakota storyteller and singer named John Two Bears, who was able to tell me some of what I was seeing.

If you’ve never seen Native American dancing, at first it looks a bit disjointed and random.  Watch closely and you see rhythms and movements that have purpose.  Every step, every shuffle and change of direction has something to say.  The sneak, a crouching motion like tracking, shows the scouting of enemies.  In one dance, two warriors sneaked and then erupted into a fierce battle with prop spears.  Watching, I could feel the aggression of battle.

The women performed a light, hopping synchronous thing John told me was a butterfly dance.   They wore jingling metal cones on their medicine dresses, 365 in all, one for each day of the year.  He said there was one hidden for leap year, but I don’t know about that!

The Navajo dancer did a hoop dance.  He picked up hoops and put his body through and around them, making shapes like a bird, a bear, etc.   I counted eleven hoops, but John said the most he’s seen was thirty-two!   You can see a lady doing it here at an elementary school, although it’s usually done by men.

My favorite was a storm dance. I didn’t need any help interpreting this one, since the staging included the flash of simulated lightning and a bit of video as well.  As the dancer ducked and waved at the lightning, I found myself feeling a bit of the raw power of nature as it clattered and boomed around the thinly sheltered people, out on the prairie so long ago.  How disconnected we are from it now, and how sad that is.

Throughout, the rhythm of the drums, interspersed with Edward’s narration, Adrian’s flute playing and prayers to the Creator wove a mysterious, otherworldly spell.  The smell of burning sage and silhouettes of feathered bustles against a changing colored backdrop of projected images.  The jingle of bells on the ankles of some of the dancers.  Voices uplifted in song, touching the hearts of the audience.  John knew a lot of the songs and could sing along.  I envied him.

The audience clapped enthusiastically at first, but as the show went on, they began to add shouts and cheers to their applause.  When Edward brought the eagle feather standard out, John stood up long before he exhorted the audience to do the same, as he sang a song for veterans.  It was a respectful moment.  The prayer for the people, who had fallen away from their Creator, put a lump in my throat.
At the end of the show, the company received a well-deserved standing ovation.  Henry Smith said there would be a DVD out in about five weeks, available through the website, of the show we had just seen.  He apologized that it wasn’t ready that night.  It’s on my list of purchases.  I exhort you to go see this company if they come to your area.


Enraptured with squirrels she cant have.

This is Pig, otherwise known as Psycho Kitty.

I have mentioned her before.  She lives in the backyard, a half-feral thing, terrified of everyone but me and my neighbor.

She used to live across the street where her mother, whom I called Boo, birthed her in the neighbor’s garage and hid her before she could socialize to humans.   Therefore, humans are not to be trusted.  Except that tall lady who talks baby talk to her.*

One day my across-the-street neighbor’s nephew knocked on my door and presented the vet’s letter stating it was shot time again.  He said, “We don’t want her anymore, she hangs out in your yard.  Congratulations, you have a cat!”

What could I say?  I had a cat.

The people don’t live there anymore, and Boo is long vanished, having gone crazy after the ice storm and run off.   A brief reappearance before Christmas didn’t last.   Her daughter’s name was Miss Piggy.  I didn’t like it and shortened it to Pig.

She certainly eats like one.  Throws food everywhere.  I have to fish bits out of her water dish all the time.

Fairly neat this time. The wood brick is there to keep her from nosing her dish under the siding.

She won’t come in the house; that’s a big no way, buddy.  When the threat of tornadoes looms, I have to go out and drag her in.  She sits under my funky antique recliner and wails:  “MOOWWWRR…MOWWWRRRR…”  Her nickname is Bawlbaby, as in “It’s time to go feed the bawlbaby.”  Everyone in my chat room knows her by this moniker.

Another one of her tricks is to sit outside the kitchen window and cry until I come outside.  Then she rolls around looking cute, as if to say, “Pet me!”  When I do, I lose parts of my arm.

Stupid cat.


She doesn’t even know how to play.  Dangle something in front of her, and she looks at it and then at you as if to say, “What the hell am I supposed to do with that?”  I recently discovered, however, that the laser pointer on my keychain is a source of endless fascination.

Since she’s so impaired, it seems as though she came to me because I’m the only one who will look after her.  If I moved, I don’t know what I would do with her.  You’ve already heard about her trip to the vet.  Imagine trying to keep her inside!

I could leave her…I’m sure a real estate agent would love it.  “Oh yeah, that?  It comes with the house.  No?”

I have to admit, for all the complaining I do about her, I worry when I’m out of town.  Is she scared?  Is she too hot?  Did Neighbor-Who-Feeds-Her remember to put an ice cube in her water dish?

Pets…can’t live with them, can’t not love them.

*That would be me.

Office Space Relocated

This is my portable office.  See the sticky note above the Tardis that says “Back up your work!”?  I put that there because I have twice forgotten to bring my flash drive home from work.  D’oh!  The second time was this past Friday, but luckily the shop guys were working so I knew the door would be open.  I sneaked in and got it before anyone knew I was even there.


Oh, before I forget, with the recent bad weather, you might want to revisit my post about storm safety, complete with the scary derecho story.  Okay, back to the subject.

I already did a post about home offices and workspaces, but now I want to talk about those outside the house.  If you’re lucky enough to be writing full-time (well, we can dream, can’t we?), eventually you’re going to go stir crazy looking at the same walls all day.

For those who can’t or don’t like to work at home all the time, numerous places abound to plug in your computer and peck away at your latest WIP.  They include the following.

The library

Most libraries these days have study areas where you can hook up your laptop and work in relative peace.  They may even have wi-fi. I haven’t checked it out, but I plan to now that I have a smaller computer with a longer battery life.  There’s a branch downtown right next to the second item on my list,

A coffee shop

More coffee places are asking that you please purchase something if you plan to hog a table for any length of time.  When pulling a marathon editing session or trying to beat a deadline, you probably will chug a few cappuccinos or even some espresso and pound down a muffin.  But please, try not to take advantage of their generosity.

And remember, if you log into the public wi-fi, it may not be secure, so be sure to practice safe surfing and don’t use any sensitive passwords.  See a link here for how to protect yourself when using public wi-fi.

Park or other public area

You might not find wi-fi here and depending on the neighborhood, may have to chain your laptop to your body.  But on a nice day, there’s nothing better than a shady spot to work, with a nice breeze cooling you and your computer.  Just don’t fall asleep!  If you just want to go outdoors, you can stay in the yard if you have one, or your apartment complex might have a common area outside.

A friend’s place

Your buddy, boyfriend or girlfriend may be more than willing to let you hop on his or her internet if you’re hanging, but make sure that it’s either secure or you take pains to protect your computer from unwanted intrusion.

Some people like to work in malls or other busy public places so they can people watch.  I think it would be hard to concentrate there.  It’s up to you.

Your portable office should have a few things to make working away from home easier.

Charged battery or power cord

In fact, take the cord.  You never know when you’ll need it.

Software you use regularly

You probably already have an office suite on your machine, either MS or Open Office.  I like to use something a coworker told me about called PageFour.   It’s a neat little word processor that allows you to merge chapters and import Word documents.  The license isn’t expensive, updates are included and you can put it on a couple of machines.


I hate touch pads, so I have a wireless mouse.  I keep a mouse pad in my bag also, in case I end up working on a surface the mouse doesn’t like.  Also good are headphones so I can listen to music without bothering anyone, a game in case I get bored or I’m trapped at the airport, and a lightweight stand to elevate my machine and make typing easier.

My flash drive goes with me too as a backup device.  I wear it on a lanyard around my neck so it can’t get lost or stolen.  You can back up stuff on Google Docs too, and access it from anywhere you have Internet, or just email stuff to yourself.

Don’t forget a small notebook to jot things down in when you don’t have the computer up, and business cards if you have them.  Freelance opportunities lurk around the most unexpected corridors.

It’s good to get out once in a while and shake up your brain.  You might even see or hear a vignette that would make a great scene.



Noms—noun.  Food, eats, sustenance.  Also to nom—verb as in to eat said noms.

Mm. Bacon.

This was the result of an experiment, trying something I saw online.  Among my nerd friends and most of the denizens of my chat room, bacon is the food of the gods, and who doesn’t like pancakes?

They actually weren’t bad.

In case you’re not familiar with LOLcats, they do nom quite regularly and cutely.  I like to nom myself, which explains why I have such a time keeping my weight in check.  Not quite so successful at the moment.

My favorite foods used to be those that were bad for me, like cheese enchiladas from the local faux Mexican dump and Arby’s (sorry, I love you guys, but you’re not exactly healthy there).  I’ve been making more of an effort to eat like this:

Delicious tilapia and quinoa with veggies.

Instead of like this:

Oh dear Lord. Refined carb-o-rama!

Certain Someone likes to try different food places and so do I.  The best place we went recently was a fondue restaurant called the Melting Pot.  I’ve never had fondue before, although I own a fondue pot that is still in the box.  I think I’ll be breaking it out soon.  The food was delicious and the ambience very romantic.  Good date place.

Besides fondue, I enjoy a good Italian place.  There’s a very nice one here in my city.  The spinach and ricotta gnocchi is da BOMB.  I’d like to take CS there soon.  I think he would enjoy it.  Just plain spaghetti makes me happy as well.   Mm, yes, that would be good for dinner.  I’m hungry.  No, I have not eaten yet.
Can you get any better than a good nom with the people you love in a warm, safe place?  I think not.  Go forth and make thy tummy happy.  Then come back and tell us why and what your favorite noms are.


People who think dollhouses are for little kids may want to think again.  Miniatures are big business, with adult collectors spending big bucks on ready-made scale furniture, house kits, and custom artisan minis made with every bit as much care as full-size objects.

Below are a couple of pictures of my smallest dollhouse (I have seven).  Not all are put together and none are finished right now.  This is a old thin luan plywood Greenleaf kit called the Fairfield, and I rescued it from a flea market.  It was already assembled so my decorations had to be applied in completed rooms.  It’s hard when it’s so small.  How I’m going to decorate the stairwell I have NO clue.  Long-handled tools will be my best bet.

I apologize for being the worlds WORST photographer.

Originally blue. I have put fake cardboard clapboards on part of this house. Might take off and do brick.

Bottom: Parlor, dining room. Top: Two upstairs bedrooms. The plaster ceilings are pieces cut from Anaglypta wall covering and glued to lining paper, then painted over.

Someone needs to sweep…

I set the period of this house at around 1895.  A well-off merchant might have had a bathroom.  Electricity was still for the rich, and most people had gaslight.  I didn’t think to wire before I put wallpaper on, but I can do pipes for the gaslight and that will cover the wires.  Ha!

This dollhouse is ½ scale.  That means one half-inch equals a foot.  The most common scale is an inch to a foot, or 1:12.  Most ready made miniatures in the US come in this scale.  1:6 is known as Playscale, and fits 11-1/2 inch fashion dolls like Barbie and Ken.

The first miniatures appeared in baby houses in the sixteenth century, which were cabinets with shelves decked out as fully furnished rooms.  England, Germany and the Netherlands have the finest examples.  They were not playthings, but showcases for wealthy adult collectors.  Later, house–shaped containers were specially made to display collections of miniature objects.  Both present a fascinating glimpse of life in the time they were made.

Eventually, dollhouses became children’s toys.  But there are still plenty of artists making tiny furniture, silver, dishes and fabric minis that are scarcely discernable from their full-sized counterparts.

Modern miniaturists have created a wide variety of roomboxes and houses from the simplest found objects to elaborate constructions with everything from electric lights to working fountains.  The history of dollhouses is too vast to recreate here, so check this Wikipedia page for more information.

There is a huge divide on whether dolls should be included in a display house.  Some miniaturists feel they take away from the realism of a carefully-crafted room, as no one can ever make a doll that looks exactly like a person.  Others feel that rooms are more artistic than realistic and dolls make the rooms more lived-in.

If you do use dolls, it’s better to have them posed in the midst of some kind of action, to give an illusion of life and movement.  A room without them can be staged to look as if someone were just there, perhaps with objects in disarray as if the person stepped out for a sec to yell at the kids or go to the loo.
I personally dislike dolls, but I have to admit there are some fabulous doll artists out there.  I had one idea I want to try and if I can make decent-looking dolls for it, I will do it.  If not, I’ll just stage things.  When I ever get that finished I’ll be sure and post a picture of it.  Why can’t there be more than 24 hours in a day?

Some people prefer to buy miniatures and some like to make their own.  I like both because I can’t afford the nice stuff, like Bespaq furniture.  If you look regularly at flea markets you can sometimes find things already constructed, or even kits still in the box.  The most I paid for a mini was $85 for a German Bodo Hennig replica of a gramophone that really works (it’s a music box).

Left to right: Window and door components, gramophone, wiring kit, tiny suitcases (they don’t open), a discontinued furniture kit.

All kinds of found objects can be used to make miniatures.  Once you start doing this, you look at things with a different eye.  A metal bottle cap with pleated edges becomes a pie plate, pepper seeds look like tiny potato chips, flat buttons can be plates.  Beads have myriad uses.  When I was a kid, we made stuff for our Barbies all the time.  I’m just working in a smaller scale now.

If you’d like more information, check out the links below or go to your local library and look in the Crafts section.  There should be some excellent books on miniatures with lots of pictures.


National Association of Miniature Enthusiasts.  See Links and Resources for a list of miniature museums.


The best source for minis, dollhouses, components, electrical supplies, etc.


Another good place to buy minis.  I got a working pair of teeny barber’s scissors here.


Lilacs Make Me Smell-ancholy

Today is the 146th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination, and the 99th anniversary of the sinking of the luxury liner Titanic.  RIP. 

Here’s another flower picture, but it has a purpose beyond making you wish you had a pretty garden, I promise.  My lilac bush would probably have bloomed more if I had remembered to deadhead it last year before it made seed pods.  And it’s tall and skinny, more like a tree.  I’ll have to encourage the suckers at the bottom to make it fill out.

Lilacs are the best-smelling flower in the world.  They have a sweet, powdery scent that somehow manages not to be cloying.  They smell purple, the way that peonies smell pink and roses smell red even when they’re not.   It’s so sad they don’t last very long.

Smell is the most powerful of all the senses.  Olfactory memories stored in our brain can be accessed instantly by a wafting, familiar odor.  The lingering smoke ghost on an old coat tucked in the very back of the closet, a whiff of your grandmother’s perfume in a crowded department store, the deep richness of freshly turned earth that catapults you back to your first garden.

Once, in high school, my drama class attended a speech tournament, and we found ourselves in a hallway at a college student union, near the cafeteria.  The short space had an attic smell, of dusty wood and old fabric, which smelled exactly like my great-grandmother’s house.  I stopped dead and just inhaled, while my classmates yelled at me to hurry up, come on, we had to be at the next event.  No really, you go on.

So many writers choose visual terms to describe things, probably because we’re seeing the action in our heads, like watching an internal movie.  It’s easy to forget that characters have other senses.  They will perceive the world through other means:  sound, touch, taste.

At one point in Rose’s Hostage, Libby is blindfolded and handcuffed, and she can only listen and smell.   She catches a bit of someone’s body odor, hears trains rumbling when they change getaway cars and the thud of her fellow hostage falling when they get out of the vehicle.

Patrick Suskind’s novel Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is all about smell.  The protagonist, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, is born in mean circumstances with a gift:  an incredibly powerful sense of smell.  Alas, he has no scent of his own, and people react to him strangely.  He drifts through a world of odors, both putrid and sublime, and learns to hold them through the art of perfume-making.  Trouble starts when he finds the scent of a virgin girl enrapturing and desires to capture that.

The book is unique because it contains almost no dialogue.  A decent film with Alan Rickman was made from it.  Usually narration doesn’t work in a movie but it does here.  It’s impossible to translate the scents visually, and it does lose something when you can’t imagine them as in the book.  Smell-O-Vision would have been great for this one.

In prose, the only thing a reader has to go on is your description.  Mix it up a little by including smells.  Maybe your protagonist can walk into a bakery and smell a cinnamon bun that reminds him of the neighbor kid’s mother, the object of his most exquisitely tormented adolescent longings, who used to bake them.  He turns and sees a pale reflection that looks just like her in the shop window.  But it couldn’t be her; she died in a boat accident twelve years ago.

Write a scene using just sight.  Then rewrite it with just smell, then sound, etc.  See where your other senses lead you.


Kitsch noun

something of tawdry design, appearance, or content created to appeal to popular or undiscriminating taste.



In case you can't see, they say from the top down, "Bread, Cheese, Stinky" (an onion).

Is this kitsch?  Yes I think it is.  It’s cute.   I grew up with this in my mother’s kitchen, and now it’s in mine.  Please ignore the pukey green wall.  I have been here since 2002 and haven’t mustered the energy to paint the world’s ugliest kitchen.

Most people think of kitsch as bad art, with a sentimental element.  The word comes from the German kitschen, or to throw together, referring to a work of art.  Decorative objects you would find in your grammy’s house, like the big-eyed puppy and kid portraits so popular in the 1960s, is kitsch.


Ahh God, make it stooooppp...

If you saw the movie The Goonies, you might remember the David statue on the coffee table, the one that suffered an unfortunate amputation and subsequent reattachment.  That too, is kitsch.

Some of this stuff is collectible in a big way.  A few years back there was a big move toward vintage decorating, and people were snapping up paint-by-number pictures from flea markets and garage sales and actually displaying them in their homes.  I remember these things, did quite a few myself.  I really don’t think they were good enough for THAT.

I don’t really know what I wanted to say about kitsch.  either you love it, or you can’t stand it.  I find myself defending it because of the Bread/Cheese/Stinky apple things.  It’s not really art, but it makes us think about it.  We look at it and desire to feast our starving eyes on real art, like this:

Woman in Black at the Opera (1878) Mary Cassatt

I love this painting.  Cassatt was a female Impressionist painter, in a world where women did not have art careers and were not encouraged to leave the house.  Many of her paintings are of women and children, domestic scenes, and genteel people.  I was privileged to see her painting The Boating Party in person at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.  No one can understand what it means to stand before an actual painting by your favorite artist until they experience it.

The best part of this picture is the man in the background.  As the lady looks at the opera, he is looking at her.  Hee hee.

Anybody have anything in their house that is kitsch?  Send me a picture of it; I’ll make a kitsch gallery from the best examples.  Or the ones that make me laugh the hardest.

Jokes, Folks


I didn’t make this picture, obviously.  But it’s a better way to open this post, which is about humor.

What strikes us as funny?  There are several kinds of humor.  Here are a few:


This is a very old form of humor, physical comedy characterized by broad and exaggerated action.  Slipping on a banana peel is an example of slapstick.  The late great John Ritter, playing Jack Tripper on the 1970s-80s sitcom Three’s Company, did a lot of slapstick on that show.  Huge reaction shots, hitting his head frequently, falling and breaking things were par for the course.


Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.

Most consider puns the lowest form of humor.  A play on words gives the joke a double meaning—the conventional one, i.e. silkworms make silk, it ends up in a tie—and the funny one. “Ha ha, the worms are in the tie.  Get it?”  the jokester says, and punches you in the arm.


Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a King Arthur parody by the amazing English comedy troupe.  Parody tells a familiar story in a new way, adding humorous elements that may be serious in the original.  For years MAD magazine (sadly gone downhill since the death of publisher William Gaines and the departure/demise of some of the Usual Gang of Idiots) had at least one parody of a popular movie in its magazine.   Or see this, a parody of a popular fashion item.

Black humor

This is when people joke about something that isn’t funny, like 9/11 or really gruesome accidents.   The worse the incident, the blacker the jokes.  There are two kinds of black humor:  one relieves tension or is generally funny.  Jokes cops make at a murder scene is an example of the former.   Another example is black comedy in films, designed to make you laugh and squirm at the same time.  It’s common in horror movies like Return of the Living Dead (also a parody) and Ravenous.

The other ticks people off.  Gilbert Gottfried’s recent remarks about the Japanese earthquake/tsunami disaster, the ones that got him fired from his job as the AFLAC duck, offended people.  Now they’re looking for a new duck.


A lot of people have trouble with this one.  It means the opposite of what you are saying, or of what is expected in a situation and what actually happens.  An example would be saying “Lovely weather we’re having,” in the middle of a blizzard.  I find the comic I posted at the beginning ironic, both because the star does the opposite of what she wants and because THAT’S MY LIFE.

Roald Dahl was the master of irony.  One of my favorite Dahl stories is “Parson’s Pleasure,” in which a crafty antiques dealer dresses as a clergyman and fakes people out of their treasures, then sells them for a handsome profit.  He gets the tables turned on him quite well.  Listen to Geoffrey Palmer read this classic Dahl tale here (in two parts).  It’s also in his story collection Kiss Kiss.

A person who likes sarcastic remarks will have a very different personality to someone who prefers slapstick or black humor.  The type of humor a person uses can reveal character.  If you are struggling to define a character in one of your works, try writing different scenes of him using different types of humor, or making a list of things she might find hilarious.   Your basic mean girl would laugh if her rival fell down the stairs, but a more gentle soul might prefer family-friendly puns, for example.

What’s your favorite kind of humor?  Funny movie or book you like the most?  Is there something you find funny that no one else does?

Internet: 6 Tips to Evaluate Websites


The Internet is a wonderful tool for writers, but it can also be a curse.  It’s got everything from craft to submission to research.  The trick is to winnow the good information from the chaff, and not get trapped for hours in a web of bad links.

I typed in “what to do about writer’s block”  and got a ton of advice.  But which website has the best information?  How to check its efficacy, especially if you are doing research?


Is it a reputable site with clearly labeled credentials?


If you’re looking up crime information, start with the FBI’s website.  Why here?  The Federal Bureau of Investigation is one of the most well-known law enforcement agencies in the world.  Their reputation precedes them.

Any website that can’t or won’t tell you anything about who designed it or is running it probably isn’t worth your trust.   The FBI lets it all hang out.  They don’t hide their contact information.   They post serious publications.  And you can sign up for nifty email updates on law enforcement topics.


Look at the URL – is the domain a .gov or .edu or .org?


.com is the usual domain for businesses.  If the site is selling something, chances are information you find there is for marketing purposes.   It might be good content, for example from a pest control company that has expertise in rodent elimination.  But information out of the scope of the organization may not be reliable.

.edu is a university or college, .gov is government, .mil military, and .org is organization, usually non-profit.


Is the website well-designed, and is there a contact for the webmaster?


Visit some of the sites at Web Pages that Suck.  Would you trust the information you found on these?  How do you know it’s not faked by some troll from his mother’s basement?  Beware also of websites filled with ads.  There’s probably nothing there you need.


Is the information verifiable and are there citations?  Is it recent?

You can double-check information across several different places.   Any publications posted should have Works Cited lists backed up by authoritative sources.  Academic publications are also subject to peer scrutiny, which verifies the solidity of research.  University students can get access to educational databases that contain lots of peer-reviewed papers and journal articles.  Check with the university library.

Any research older than five years from the current date may not be applicable, depending on the field of study.  Less than that and you’re probably okay.  Wikipedia is a good start, but because anyone can edit it, it’s not generally accepted as a source.  Check the links at the bottom of articles for something you can cite.


How is the tone of the website?  Is it professional, or declamatory?  Does it come off as strident or hateful?


If you’re looking up effective cancer treatments, it’s probably safe to discount a website that tells you “An Amazon shaman invented this substance many years ago! Has cured everyone it touches!”  Others aren’t so easy.

An example one of my professors in college used was a professionally-designed website containing derogatory content about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  At first glance it appeared educational.  Reading it told a different story.   Although it was well-written, it dripped with bigotry.  It was hate speech masquerading as research.   Not acceptable source material, unless you were using it to illustrate racism.


Does the website ask for any personal or financial information to access content?  If so, run away.


This is not the same as free registration to use a site.  And some subscription sites like Ancestry.com that perform a service are okay.  They will tell you exactly what you are getting and have privacy policies and contact information.

When in doubt, try Googling “[site name] scam” or “complaints.”  You may then evaluate the warnings and go from there.

Once you spend some time navigating around good ones like Mayo Clinic and How Stuff Works, you’ll get a feel for how a reputable website looks and smells.  Now the only other thing to avoid is wasting time surfing when you’re supposed to be writing.

Back to work!