Sunday, September 25, 2011

Goodreads: Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey

Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster CaseyRant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey by Chuck Palahniuk

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Second review:
It's four years from the first time I read this book and I realize that if you're going to read a Chuck P. book, you really need to read it, absorb it, experience it. I was only into it with half my attention the first time and missed a lot, including some key plot points.

This time, it took me awhile to finish it because I'm only reading intermittently these days, but I made a point to focus when I did read it. This time around, it gets 5 stars all the way.

Buster Casey, aka, Rant is an exceptional but dangerous boy growing up in a small town with his mother, a woman who puts sharp metal objects in her food to make people eat slowly and enjoy it, and his father, who cryptically insinuates that he's not actually Rant's father and seems to know more about Rant's future than seems possible.

Rant also shows some strange abilities, like the power to tell what someone had for dinner two nights prior simply by smelling them (okay, it's a little more graphic than that, but you'll have to read the book to find that out). He also shows an affinity for being bit by poisonous and rabid animals.

When Rant moves to the city, what starts out as a story about a quaint small town and its black sheep turns into something completely different: a tale that takes place in an alternate universe where society is split into those who live during the day and those who live at night and people boost sensory experiences through ports in the back of their neck.

In the city, Rant meets up with a crew of "Party Crashers." Party Crashing is the favorite pasttime of Nighttimers and involves decorating cars and playing a large organized game of road tag with other teams. It's these fellow crashers, childhood friends and neighbors, family, and the people Rant has come in contact with or made an impression on that all tell his story in oral biography format.

It's hard to read this story as a coherent beginning to end novel because it's not. It's more like a documentary in which several anecdotes come together to tell a story and eventually end in an unforeseen climax. The characters speak in different voices, yet all voices are definitely Palahniuk's and characteristic of the voice used in his other novels. The pacing is quick, the factoids are fun, and the ending doesn't disappoint.

Reading this book again kicks off one of my Day Zero things to do, and that's to read all of this author's books again. I recommend this to anyone looking for something they can sink their mind into.

First review:
It actually took me a little while to get into this book. I'm a fan of Palahniuk but this one seemed a little slow to me. Told not by the main character but by those who knew him before his death, this truly is an "oral biography." The point of view constantly switches but once you get the hang of it, it's a fun way to read.

Like many of his books, this one takes bizarre to a whole new level. It's hard to really talk about anything that happens for fear of giving something away. To sum up, Rant lives in a world where rabies runs rampant, the new high is an experience "boost" through ports in the back of people's necks, and the big recreation game is Party Crashing, which involves complex tag games with cars.

Once I got into it, I couldn't put this book down. The premise is great, the writing is great, and the all of his books I've read so mind blowing.

View all my reviews

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Working to the Limit

Two minutes ago, I logged off of what became a 15 hour work day. There were a few breaks in there. I ate dinner, left the office, and exercised, but where my day job is concerned, my eyes have been glued to a computer screen for about 15 hours.

My brain is fried.

I don't consider myself a workaholic, but I do like to work. I like having a job, I like having the 8 to 5 stability, and I like getting things done. Right now I'm in overtime mode, which means I also like the extra money the work brings in, especially dealing with Jon going back to school and some recent doctor bills that were not covered by my Cafeteria plan (the year I lower it is the year I actually use it...go figure).

I sometimes straddle that fine line between a good employee and burn out waiting to happen. Right now, I have to admit that I'm not even thinking in terms of being a good employee. I'm not trying to cause trouble or anything like that, but there's alot of stress going down right now, and I'm feeling a little hurt about some recent decisions that were made around me.

Mostly what's driving me is this need to get things done. We implemented a new system and there's loads of work and it never seems to go down because we constantly have more coming in. Yet I feel like if I work hard enough and quick enough I can get it to a manageable level. Then I'll feel awesome.

What I need to try to remember is that even if I can do it (and really, it's going to take a lot of overtime and some miracles), I need to do it to satisfy myself, not anyone else. Because it's doubtful anyone will pay attention and because I don't want to be that person. I don't want to be the person who does everything for a pat on the back and who constantly tries to win the approval of others.

I just want to be the person who does her job well, accomplishes something everyday, and can just be happy with the little things. And of course, brings home a little extra in the paycheck.

I just kind of hope I figure out my limit before I really burn out.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Second Time Around

I started a post a few days ago, one that was filled with excitement and optimism and the promise of pictures from GenCon. I saved it, never finished it, and am now sitting in a hotel room on the last night of GenCon with a completely different mood from a few days ago. It's not necessarily a bad mood. It's contemplative and a little bit disappointed.

GenCon, the second time around, didn't live up to what it had been in my mind for the past year.

It wasn't horrible. The fun times were really fun. I got to spend time with friends, and I got to see old friends I hadn't seen in years. I got a chance to see how far I've come with my ability to walk. It wasn't as far as I wanted, but it was definitely an improvement from three months ago. I made alternate player in a gaming tournament (even though our team didn't advance) due to some crazy rapper skills I didn't think I had. I got to try out some new games and Jon even won a game for us to take home.

This year's con, though, had a distinctively different feel than last year's. From the start, we had problems with misinformation from the hotel we stayed at, so money ended up being a factor. While staying downtown seemed like a great idea (and part of it was), I missed the frugality and lack of stress of the cheaper hotel room outside of the downtown limits.

GenCon itself should have been easier to move around due to the expansion of the Indiana Convention Center. But there were places I never even saw, and the walk to get from point A to point B was longer. The movie and panel options were less than thrilling. The dealer room was definitely improved and actually gave me three great hours, but True event that I thought was fun last year...was disappointing and annoying.

Another disappointment? The people. Last year we talked to so many people. Everyone was friendly, everyone wanted to chat. People would say hi to you and strike up a conversation anywhere. This year was definitely lacking. Don't get me wrong, there were some good people. We talked to a guy in the Will Call line who was nice, and conversation made the time go by quickly. During the first couple days we were in Indy, Jon and I walked around the convention center and several people said hi. But once the con started, there seemed to be a general coolness that I didn't remember from last year. In some instances, people were downright rude.

I'm fully aware that all of this could have been simply my own perception based on my own moods. Admittedly, the issues at the beginning of the week had me down and a little worried. My levels of frustration were high when I thought I should be able to walk further than I could and had to sit down or avoid certain situations because I was in pain. I felt bitter and let down, and it's likely I projected some of that into my overall experience.

However, the con gets some blame too, because I'm not the only one who felt this way. Others I talked to were disappointed in True Dungeon. Several people complained about general rudeness, and people who heard me praise GenCon to no end seemed to be disappointed in their first experience. While I know my adverse moods can effect those in my immediate vicinity, I'm not taking credit for everyone's disappointment.

Will I go to GenCon again?  Probably. I feel that it needs another chance, a tie breaker to decide if this year was a fluke or if things are going downhill. I only have one year and a bunch of testimonials from our friends as a basis for comparison. I don't want to give up on it because there are some good times to be had here.

Next year I hope to be in better shape and better able to do more events. I'm hoping that by making some more frugal choices we can splurge on some things we haven't yet been able to do. Do I regret coming this year? Not at all. I still have some good stories and new memories and quality time with friends is never something I regret.

But I will be happy to get back to the real world.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Suzuki: The New Cool Hangout

Several weeks ago, Jon and I went to Wichita to get the car serviced before Travel Season 2011 in the Felber household. We had a good experience with Suzuki when buying our car and I felt comfortable taking it back to them for the oil change.

I'm not some weirdo who likes to hang out at car dealerships. In fact, I know some people who go when they're having free food days with no intention of buying anything, and I'm not even into that. But I like going to this one. I trust them to do the work right, they're all friendly, and the environment is really comfortable.

The recliners are comfortable, they have two TVs, they have an XBox 360 with Kinect, and they have several tables and chairs for people to sit at. Around the corner, they have fountain soda and snacks and real food. The day this was taken was hot dogs and hamburgers, so for the price of a full service oil change, we also got free lunch.

Of course, getting heckled by the Suzuki shark was a little unsettling, as was appearing in the video on their website a few hours later, but if I ignore the fact that I hate being on camera, it was actually kind of funny. I even reposted on my FB for the heck of it.

It's not every day I can say I look forward to getting an oil change in my car, but now it gives us a chance to go visit family and chill out somewhere strangely fun.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Getting Older, Changing Moods

*After finally getting a chance to revisit this blog after a few weeks, I found that this post, which I wrote before going to Michigan, never posted. So I'm posting it now. Some of what I wrote may or may not have more meaning now that my Michigan trip has come to an end, but I think there are some good things in this blog. 

If you’re still with me after my recent hiatus, thank you! Things got a little hairy, I got a little lazy, and I decided I just needed to take a step back, give myself some down time, and focus on getting a few big projects out of the way before I could get back into my smaller projects.

While some things have been taken care of, life is still moving at a full stride. Big projects are still afoot, tapering off just enough to give me some time to do other things. Travel season for Jon and I is here. As of the time I’m writing this, we’re only a few hours away from heading out on the open road to Michigan to visit family and friends for a week. I’m excited, but I’m also nervous. It’s good to see family, but people change, even loved ones, and there’s no guarantee that we’re going to “click” and get along like we may have in the past.

Then again, there’s always the chance we may get along better, too, which is what I’m ultimately hoping for.

I feel like I’ve gotten older and grumpier and more apathetic, and while I go through “let’s do this” phases, most of the time I’d rather just hang out and chill. I’m not one to put forth a lot of effort into group activities. I’ve become more selfish, which isn’t a huge stretch since I’ve always been a bit self centered. I still play the passive aggressive card but my aggression has moments where it completely overshadows the passive side. I’m quick to judge and I’m quick to write people off who tweak me even a little bit from the start.

I’ve become arrogant, yet I hate arrogance in others. I love being the one who “knows” things, but I find it irritating when others go out of their way to spout off the things they know. I make mistakes and that’s okay, but when I have to fix someone else’s mistakes I feel the need to throw things.

When you break it down into these components, I sound like a horrible person, and yet I like myself more today than I did 10 years ago. I have a sense of self that I think continues to grow and change with age. I’m proud of my accomplishments, happy with the freedom I currently have in my life, and gladly loyal to those I consider true friends. Sure, I cry a lot, I’m not eating as healthy as I should be and some days my moodiness alienates people, but it’s all a part of who I am. Fighting against that won’t help, so I’ve learned to roll with it.

And contrary to what it sounds like, I do think I have some pretty good karma going, at least in some areas. So with this coming weekend, I will remember that not only have I changed, but so has my family and while we have memories of how things “used to be,” time makes it impossible for those things to stay that way.

Hopefully we can all roll with it and have a good time.

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Little Bit of This and That

Life is running at kind a kind of weird neutral right now. I have a lot to do, but it's been difficult with trying to keep with work stuff, going to the gym, and getting ready for our summer trips. I've been working on some research for a couple of projects as well and I kind of feel like I'm sort of at a standstill.

Besides the mundane things happening, there's nothing very topical to blog about. At least nothing that wouldn't enrage people, and I'm not feeling like enraging the masses at the moment. So just to keep up with the blog stuff, here's some random stuff happening in my world.

1. I love my gym. Having 24 Hour Access is great. In related news, my progress is slow but I am making progress. Note to those who don't know my current philosophy, I'm not making weight loss the focus of working out this time, since every time I do that, I just get frustrated and give up and gain back double what I lost. Instead, I'm just trying to get in better shape and just feel better overall. Compared to what my speed with walking was a month ago, I've definitely kicked it up a notch.

2. My writing hobby has drifted off but hasn't really been replaced by anything due to work and some research I've been doing for some smaller projects. I read a little bit here and there, haven't knitted in a long time, and use work time to watch TV. I'm currently watching "My So-Called Life" on Netflix. "True Blood" also started again, so I'll be keeping up with that as well.

3. I've been craving fruit like nobody's business and I haven't really wanted to eat anything cooked in about a week, or at least nothing cooked at home. I know we need to do some grocery shopping, but I haven't even wanted to eat hot foods. Last weekend, Jon and I were all about pizza hummus and pretzel bread. I think I could live off that for a week before getting sick of it.

4. My chiropractor turned out to be a God send. I credit part of my ability to move better to the gym, but a huge chunk of it goes to the doctor and his magic thumping gun. When I first started, I was going in twice a week, and now I'm down to once every two weeks. It wasn't necessarily a magic cure all, but it was just what I needed to get me moving again.

5. Last but not least, I'll be heading for Michigan in two weeks to spend much needed time with family and friends. I'll try to find something good to post and schedule, but I promise nothing. However, I'll hopefully have a lot of pictures of the great north to share when I get back. I'm really looking forward to it and it'll be fun to take the new car on her first road trip.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Joining the Festivities

It's been a long time since I've been to an actual festival, so it was nice getting to go to one a few weeks back with Sophia, who posted a couple days ago here about her 2-mile walk. Though I'm working on my health issues and trying to get to where I can walk, I wasn't in shape to join her and I won't wasn't easy getting around the festival grounds. However, the rests I had to take gave me a chance to take in everything, and I was able to get a few pictures of some of the art that represented the focus of the Smoky Hills River Festival.

Art, exhibits, booths, festival food, and entertainment were everywhere, and families and groups of friends wandered around enjoying seeing everything. The first thing we saw going into the festival was a bike exhibit, pictures, and decorated trees. None of the pictures of the trees came out well, unfortunately. 

 My favorites were the giant spiders, a display we got to see while heading to one of the tents to listen to Bill Harley, an amazing storyteller who was holding a workshop at the festival.

While I enjoyed what I did get to see, I'm a little bummed about all the things I didn't get to see. But I won't dwell on it. This gives me another reason to continue working out and getting into better shape. Next year I hope to be able to spend a full day there, not only joining the fun walk, but wandering around and enjoying all the sights, sounds, and smells.

Who knows? Maybe I'll even stay and dance during the evening entertainment.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Guest Post: Walk This Way

Sophia took over for another blog post because she's awesome. We recently went to the Smoky Hill River Festival in Salina where she completed a 2 mile walk. She's been an awesome workout partner and has inspired me to try for next year. 

The annual Smoky Hill River Fest has a component called the Festival Fitness Five. This is composed of
a five-mile and two-mile race, a two-mile “just for fun” walk and children’s races. This year I completed
the two-mile walk.

The walk started at 8:15am, just as the sun decided to make its presence known. I stepped into the
cluster of people a few minutes before the start of the walk. I couldn’t push my way into the back of the
crowd so I stood just a few bodies from the front of the pack hoping I wouldn’t fall behind too quickly.

I realize that the walk was non-competitive but that did nothing to quell the voice in my head telling
me to make sure that I finished in a reasonable amount of time. I had signed up earlier that week on
a bit of a whim, and had no idea what my pace would be or what a reasonable expectation was. The
starter went off and I headed out trying to pace myself at a rate I thought I could maintain. It wasn’t
long before I realized that the walk catered to all types of folks. There were the lean and sinewy old
men who had no body fat to slow them down. There were couples and families with strollers. There
was a group of particularly loud women who felt this was their opportunity to discuss personal stories at
a high volume.

We moved out of the park and into the streets of Salina fairly quickly. A few of the older men passed
me quickly followed by a stroller. And the person pushing the stroller. By the end of the first mile I
realized that I might have done better to sign up for the two-mile run. When I use the treadmill I have
my own mix of walking/running/jogging that I do. I used to think I started the running when I got bored
with the walking. Turns out that I start running when my shins start aching. And believe me, they were
aching. I have a feeling I would have hurt less if I’d run the whole way, plus the time would have gone
by faster. Sometimes I have trouble relaxing in the midst of activities. I tend to focus on the goal and
when the goal is relaxation I do great doing nothing. However, I’d registered to cover two miles of
distance on a Saturday morning and I had to fight the voice inside telling me that breaking into a jog
would accomplish that more quickly. But I had signed on to walk and so I stuck it out.

It was a good thing; it forced my brain to accept that I was not going to get to the finish line any more
quickly. Once that realization sunk in it became about observing the town around me as we passed
through and making conversation with the walker beside me. I will admit that when we were passed
by a stroller feet from the finish line I felt just a bit disheartened, but that spurred me on so there was
no slacking at the end. They read my time as I hit the finish and it was just over 28 minutes. A pace
of 4mph for someone with short legs is not too shabby. I am definitely glad for the experience. It has
encouraged me to focus my training and attempt a legitimate, competitive run in the next year.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Why Would Anyone Watch That?

Note: Yes, this is publishing on a Saturday instead of a Friday because I looked at a calendar that didn't follow the standard Sunday through Saturday pattern. Okay, it's a crummy excuse, but it's all I got. I only realized it today when this didn't post. Anyway...enjoy on a Saturday, I guess. 

"Why would anyone watch that?"

I see this question all the time in articles about certain movies. The statement itself is fairly judgmental, inferring that anyone who DOES want to watch whatever movie is being talked about is a complete psycho, weirdo, or worse. That's not the point of this blog, though. I find these comments funny and it takes more than that to offend me.

Because I AM the kind of person who would watch "that" movie.

I love weird, horrific, and disturbing movies.Even if I don't like a movie after I've seen it, there's a good chance that if the rest of the world doesn't want to see it, than I will. If someone tells me "You don't want to see that," than I will find a way to watch that film.

Let's take The Human Centipede, for example. If you haven't heard of it, please click the link with caution. The synopsis alone makes people say "What?"  I'd never actually recommend this movie to anyone. Besides the fact that it's so close to reality and all (snark), I understand that not everyone can handle that kind of content. For me, the appeal was in upping my threshold for gore tolerance and being able to joke about it after I watched it.

I have joked about THC to no end. Most people still won't watch it. However, my constant commentary did earn me a couple fellow viewers, and the second time I watched it, I realized that there's humor to the movie. You just have to be able to think twisted enough to see it.

Let me beat you to the punch with the "ew" comments and sum it all up: "How can anyone think like that??"

I can, and I'm not going to apologize for it. I grew up in a household where scary movies were the norm. I was reading Stephen King and Dean Koontz sometime near early junior high. I grew up knowing what was right and wrong. "Silence of the Lambs" was one of my favorite movies as a kid, but I did understand that cannibalism and murder was wrong. I'm a little dark, but I'm not insane.

I think of it as extreme movie watching. In fact, I've seen a movie that I consider worse than THC. Now there's news of what the second Human Centipede movie is going to be about, and there's a good chance it might take the top of the my "messed up movie" list.

Will I see it? Probably. Will I like it? Judging by the descriptions I've read, probably not. It may or may not beat out #1 on the list. I don't know. The point is that strange, bizarre, grotesque, and scary movies don't send me over any edge. I get a little disturbed. The images stay with me for a day or so, and then I move on.

Besides, I often follow one up with a Care Bears movie or a Disney classic, so that's got to count for something.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Goodreads: The DUFF

The DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend)The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

1. I read this book a few weeks ago and just didn't get around to writing a review of it. Then I read some other reviews, and while I don't usually let other people's opinions sway me, I felt like I needed to rethink my original opinion. In the end, I decided to stick with my original one and love the hell out of this book.

2. I realize there are some issues with this book. Some of it's a matter of reality. Some of it's a matter of "What the heck is the main character doing?" I'm going to talk about it in this review, but I've decided not to analyze it too much and take it for what it was...a fun book.

Minor spoilers ahead.

Bianca Piper knows she doesn't look as good as her two carefree best friends, but her snarky wit keeps her from focusing on her self consciousness. Until Wesley Rush, local rich boy and high school jerk, brings to her attention that she's the DUFF - the Designated Ugly Fat Friend that guys will attempt to befriend in order to get with their much hotter friends.

Not only does this weigh on Bianca's mind and self-esteem, but she's also dealing with an absent mother, a pending parental divorce, and an alcoholic father. So when Wesley turns out to be a distraction, Bianca starts an affair with him to run away from her problems. In the process, she learns that she's not the only one with problems and that she's not the only one who's ever felt like the DUFF.

I love Bianca's sense of snark and humor and I related to many of the things she went through. Not that I got my groove on with someone I hated in high school or otherwise, but I do know it's easy to do things you might not do otherwise just to forget the things that life is throwing at you.

I can see where the whole Bianca/Wesley thing would irritate some people...who jumps the very person they hate? You'd be surprised what stress can do to you, and while I would normally say to stay away from those types of elements, I think in this case, it added to the development of the characters.

I thought this book was well written and cute, and the author's voice resonated with me. I'm hoping to read more by them and I do recommend DUFF if you can suspend a little bit of reality and just enjoy the story for what it is.

View all my reviews

Monday, June 20, 2011

Blogging and Exhibitionism Revisited

My first article on Associated Content, talked about how blogging had become a form of exhibitionism and how reading blogs and online journals showed a touch of voyeurism in those of us who read these things.  This was back in 2006.
The other day I was updating my Twitter and my Facebook and reading blog posts on my Google Reader and realized that we’ve come even further with online exhibitionism. It’s no longer just about blogging…now it’s about letting it all hang loose.
I’m not saying this is a bad thing, at least not in all instances.  As much as I complain about Facebook, it’s let me keep in touch with friends and family. It’s also given me a chance to help out others. Recently I participated in a drive to help a friend and co-worker fund a project for her community through Pepsi Refresh Everything. I was also able to write an article and help the spread the word about the brewery my friends in Copper Harbor, MI are opening.  In both cases, by posting status messages, I was able to drum up interest and help the causes.
Twitter is used for much the same thing, but rather than staying in touch with old friends, it’s given me the chance to meet and follow cool new people. Terry Border is an artist who shows it work on his blog, Bent Objects. I found him on Twitter. His work is amazing, but I might never have heard of him if he wasn’t out there Tweeting his links.
Technically, these things are more about promotion, but isn’t promotion a form of exhibitionism? Every time I post a link to one of my articles, I’m saying “Please read this! Please make me feel important and comment and tell me how awesome I am!” I would never say this out loud, but it’s what’s implied when I put myself out there for the world to see.
Then there are the random Tweets and status updates that have nothing to do with anything, but for some reason, we feel like sharing them.  For whatever reason, I feel it’s important to let the world know what I’m eating, what I’m watching, and what I’m doing. Sites like and any site that allows you to automatically send updates to Twitter or Facebook make this easier than ever.  In fact, some days I realize that I’ve spammed my friends on both sites with the updates I’ve made elsewhere.
As an online exhibitionist, I have an overinflated sense of self that I think everyone has to an extent. We believe that someone out there cares what we do. We believe that maybe we’ll help someone or make someone laugh or just make someone happy because we decided to mention the hot dogs we had for dinner.  What makes the internet great is that I and others like me don’t have to deal with anyone calling shenanigans on our egos. Because it's so commonplace, few people are going to call us out, and even if they do, every site has a "Block" feature which may be used as liberally as needed. 

Or we just call them trolls. The internet is full of them.

If I've put this in a negative light, I don't mean to. I'm actually pretty happy with where we are with social networking and technology.  I like sharing and keeping up with others and using what they do as inspiration for finding new things to do and read and see. It feels exciting to me, not overwhelming.

Besides, we may be exhibitionists but we're also voyeurs, and technology has given us a safer outlet for both tendencies.

Friday, June 17, 2011

To Focus or Not to Focus

When it comes to a "successful" blog, the collective "they" say that focus (or a main theme) is one of the most important aspects.  It makes things streamlined and helps others find you. If you write mainly about knitting, people searching for knitting blogs will find you, and your chances of cultivating a blog following are greater.

I have no focus. It's not for lack of trying. I used to have three or four different blogs, each one dedicated to a different aspect of life: living frugally (which is hit and miss for me), cooking and baking (about the same), and knitting and writing. After trying to do that for awhile, I decided it was just easier to put them all in one main space.

Essentially, that eradicated any focus this blog would have ever had on a consistent basis.

There are times I regret this. There are times I wish I could just find a topic and stick with it. But I'm not sure if I could continue to blog if that was the case. I get bored easily. As it is, I haven't exactly kept the posts on this page strictly to "hobbies." I tend to go off on tangents and ramble about things that don't actually mean anything to most people.

I've fallen into the habit of making myself the center of the universe and believing that someone out there might care what I think.

I like to think that The Hobby-Go-Round gives me the chance to connect with friends and family and maybe a few random readers who I don't know but would like to get to know better. I often get comments on Facebook and I sometimes get comments here (which I'm not always good about responding to...and I realize this could alienate people...and I'm sorry I kind of suck at that aspect).

It also gives me the chance to keep a record of life in general. No site on the internet is foolproof. This site could crash at any time and take with it all of these posts and all my thoughts and pictures (pictures are backed up, though). It's a chance I take. I had a regular journal that I wrote in for a couple years. A dog got ahold of it and there went all those "written" memories too, so nothing is guaranteed.

Let's not forget the fact that it gives me the chance to write.  Which I love to do, even if I can't write a full blog dedicated to just writing.

I don't anticipate much is going to change with this blog. It'll continue to be as random as I am and it will continue to jump topics and hobbies the way my mind does. What won't change though is the gratitude I have towards my friends and readers who continue to "read" my droning on about anything I can think to drone on about on a regular basis.

You guys are my enablers, and I love you for it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Guest Post: The Classics

Today's blog post comes thank to my friend Sophia, an awesome person, fellow geek, and full time genius who doesn't have her own blog but has agreed to write some posts for mine. 'Cause that's how she rolls. 

When we’re growing the idea that our family norms and idiosyncrasies aren’t matched by those of other
families doesn’t cross the mind frequently. I am sure I was aware of this at some level before the age of
10, but that’s the first time I can recall it hitting home as an actual realization. I had invited some new
friends over for a slumber party filled with the typical pizza, board games and movies. And I had the
movies all picked out, some of my favorites, The Yellow Submarine, and The Day the Earth Stood Still. I
decided to start with the classic film about alien invasion and before the opening credits had passed one
of the girls asked, “Is this a black and white movie?” Well, yeah. And that was the end of that. Until
that moment I don’t think it had occurred to me that everyone’s family didn’t gather around the TV and
pop in a video cassette of something made prior to 1970.

Keep in mind this was in the days before being retro was cool. Maybe it was cool for people like John
Cusack, but not for pre-teens in the Colorado suburbs. It was just weird. And I suppose I might have
taken that realization and decided that social acceptance was more important than that moment in To
Kill a Mockingbird when Scout is trapped in her ham costume. But hanging out with the girls talking
about Jonathan Taylor Thomas never filled me with the same thrill as the shot where we see Boo Radley
behind the bedroom door. And so I kept going. It was no longer just the movies Dad brought home
that I started watching. I went to the video store and picked out movie after movie. Thank goodness
for a video store with a healthy selection of classics. The Thin Man, The Philadelphia Story, The Maltese
Falcon. And the more I watched the more I enjoyed the newer movies we’d see in theaters. The more I
realized that just as a good book is timeless so is a good movie. I also learned that just because a movie
is old it doesn’t make it good. I’m looking at you The Conqueror.

I think any reader realizes that books have power; a good book can change your life and affect your
understanding of the world and your place in it. Movies have similar power. The magic of movies,
though, involves the massive amount of collaboration required to make them happen. And how so
much of that magic is pure accident. Would Casablanca look the same if there had been fewer writers?
The experience of watching movies, at least as I had it growing up, added to their power. In those days
we didn’t have cell phones and going to the theater was a treat. Movies seen on the big screen are epic
simply by the method of delivery. The lights dim, the screen beckons and you allow yourself to be taken
away from reality. Like passengers on board a flight, you share this experience with strangers and leave
with a common bond.

In our house, not always the most easygoing place, movie time was where we came together as a unit.
The lights were off, every person was in their designated spot in the family room, the popcorn was out
of the microwave and the Hot Tamales were distributed equally. Mom had her Sno-Caps and was in no
danger of losing them. Dad would have to parcel out some of his beloved Twizzlers to us girls and we
would pop in the video. I remember going to friend’s house where a movie was put in. There was no
change in atmosphere or attitude. People came and went and talked and yelled and not a single person
seemed to be paying attention to the movie. What was wrong with these people? Didn’t they know
the proper demeanor for movie watching? In our house I had the honor of cueing up the film. I got to
decide if we were sitting through previews or jumping right into the film. When I was in charge of the
remote there were no delays and no snow allowed.

This was supposed to be about my love of classic movies but it turned into a mini autobiography. Sorry
about that.

People wonder why I love old movies, but I don’t think I do. I just love movies. I love the romance of
movies. The idea that you can take a train across Russia with Yuri and Tanya in Doctor Zhivago. You
can roll your eyes along with Princess Leia at a short stormtrooper and you can imagine that someday
you may be as witty as Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday. It’s hard for me to distinguish
between the appeal of The Mark of Zorro (1920) and the appeal of The Departed (2006). They are both
absorbing to watch.

I also think that this perspective helps keep me from turning into a movie snob. The type of person who
insists on calling it cinema and looks down on people who have never seen anything by Truffaut and
refuses to watch anything that might be construed as a blockbuster. To me, movies are about stories.
Some stories are deeply meaningful and have something to say about humanity, life, etc. (The Seventh
Seal, Joe vs. the Volcano) and others are meant to entertain and allow us to escape (The Thief of Bagdad,
Pirates of the Caribbean). These and everything in between have value and you should watch and enjoy
what you want. I know I can act shocked when someone hasn’t seen the original Ocean’s 11 or Star
Wars: a New Hope but that’s primarily because movies help me make sense of the world and it’s hard
for me to understand how other people can go through their day without having a film library in their
head to fall back on. Although seriously, there might be something wrong with you if you haven’t seen
the original Star Wars trilogy. You should go watch it.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Controversial Literature

I love it when the subject of what is and isn't appropriate in books comes up. There was an article recently published online at the Wall Street Journal that talked about how graphic young adult literature has become, and how parents can't find anything "light" for their teenagers to read (well, one parent in particular, but I feel like the inference was meant to be widespread).

This article did two things for me. First, it gave me several more books to add to my "must-read" list. Second, it affirmed that if I ever have/adopt/find/steal a child, I'm going to encourage him or her to read every single banned or controversial book known to man. I won't push it on the kid, but I will say, "See this book? People think it's too graphic...I bet it's you want to read it together?!"

Before I get on my soapbox, I will tell you (if by some chance you didn't already know) that I don't have kids. Which for some people would make my argument completely invalid. But for me, it's not a matter of what I would or would not do for my kids, it's the point behind anything that tries to shield the younger generation from certain harsh realities of the world.

Kids, teenagers, young adults...they're all stronger than we give them credit for and they deal with a lot of things that parents and older adults tend to turn a blind eye from. They know or are people who cut themselves. They know or are people who've been raped or molested. Many of them are having conversations with their peers and reading things in magazines that would likely make mom or dad's head explode. I don't have kids, but I remember being one. Luckily, my mom encouraged me to read Stephen King and R rated films weren't taboo in our household.

As for people who worry that these books are going to cause kids/teens/adults to act out or be inspired to do harmful or illegal things, let's face it...they're going to do it if they want to do it. Reading about it can often give them insight they might not have had or help them to realize they're not alone when dealing with things like depression. Like the crazies who mimic violence in movie or video games, anyone who's going to imitate something dangerous from something they've read has a loose cog somewhere that was there long before the book was published.

I take a "no holds barred" stance in writing and reading and I hate censorship, but I understand that not everyone shares my views. So while I'll respect an individual's right to (try to) restrict what their children read, I'll also be the first to say on that on the larger scale, this literature needs to be written and not taken away from the many readers who will gain something from it.

Besides, making something taboo is just going to make people want to read it more, so maybe in this case, WSJ has the right idea.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Chiropractors and Me

I don't like chiropractors. In fact, they scare me. I don't look down on them or anything, especially because I know they help alot of people, but I'm personally not a chiropractor girl.

I visited one in college to help me with some back issues. Every once in awhile, my back would pull and would hurt for about 3 days. One time the pain was so bad I broke down and visited one. Two appointments and three MONTHS later, I was still in pain. I got it into my head that I was never going to visit another one.

Once again, I'm dealing with some back issues. These ones have been ongoing for about a year now. Part of it is weight and part of it is a nerve that seems to have gotten lodged all up in my business. The hope was that exercising would help, and it actually has. I'm building strength and endurance and I'm moving better...some days. My back, though, is a constant source of discomfort, and it's getting frustrating.

My co-worker recommended her chiropractor today. I wasn't buying it at first. Sure, I'm in pain now, but better the pain I know than the pain that could be ten times worse. But once I started paying attention to her, I actually started thinking about it. The doctor is part of an alternative health group that uses a different method of realignment that involves a weird tool that looks like a gun or a drill. I got some of the details but I'm still a little hazy as to how it actually works.

Hazy or not, I went ahead and made an appointment. I know it contradicts my anti-chiropractor thing, but at this point, I'm willing to try something new. While a regular adjustment is never going to be acceptable, something akin to a massage might be helpful. I'm hoping that not only will a couple treatments have me feeling better but maybe it'll also help with my workouts.

This has also started me thinking of other natural or alternative pain remedies, including acupuncture or heat massage. If anyone out there has any suggestions, please let me know. In the meantime, wish me luck and keep your fingers crossed that this whole being "thumped" in the back thing doesn't make things worse.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I Lapsed!

What I get for bragging about keeping up with a blog is that I then fail to schedule the next round of posts. So let's just consider today a "break."

Heck, let's figure Friday to be a "break" too, just in case I don't get to it. Right now I'm trying to keep up with day job work, writing, editing, gym time, and getting ready for an apartment inspection. I have some things to blog about, so at least I have something on deck.

Stay tuned for your regular scheduled blog...probably on Monday but maybe I'll surprise you with a Friday post.

Monday, June 6, 2011


I did an article for AC on Brickside Brewery recently, but I thought it deserved a mention on here too. Since this is a personal blog, I can take it from a little more personal angle.

People who know me know I'm really bad with keeping in touch with friends. It's nothing personal, I'm just sort of selfish like that. I tend to get wrapped up in my life and let past relationships fade. Thanks to Facebook, I can now keep up with friends from the past, even if it's just with a comment or a "Like" here and there. While I tend to complain about Facebook, it really is good for staying in the loop about what people are up to.

Jason and Jessica were friends of mine from college. Jessica was one of my sorority sisters, and we lived together for a summer (along with some other friends and sisters). I think the first time I met Jason was during an outside smoke at some event at the Cisler Center, and though I have alot of memories about Jessica, I always remember she was the first person to ever get me to try gaming (I was fail in that first attempt and had no idea what was going on).

When I found out they were opening a brewery, I was really excited! They live in Copper Harbor, MI, way up in the UP with their family. Kudos to them anyway for living that far up north, but they both seem to love it there. The winters kicked my tail, but they seem right at home. Unfortunately, this means I have no idea when I'll get up there to try their stuff, but it's definitely a goal.

I also wonder if I can talk them into sending me some brew through the mail. Beer of the month club, maybe??

Please check out the article and interview linked above and visit their Facebook and Kickstarter pages. I'm excited to see how this venture is going to turn out for them and I'm sending them all my best wishes!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Finding Balance

I struggle with balance, and not just the kind that would allow me to stand one one foot without falling on my face. I have a really hard time leveling out all the areas of my life at one time. When I'm doing well financially, it means I'm sitting in a chair focusing all my attention on writing, budget balancing, and reading frugal living blogs. The minute I start exercising, I end up completely forgetting I have a checkbook and start focusing on ways to stay motivated.

The same can be said of my hobbies. I'm an all or nothing sort of girl, so knitting holds no interest when I'm really into a good book (or several good books). Likewise, if I'm feeling the writing bug hardcore, I tend to avoid reading. When I'm intent on finishing a video game, I completely forget there's an outside world, and when I got on a knitting marathon I end up with sore, swollen fingers.

I want to learn how to keep things even so I don't burn out and I can keep busy with a range of different things rather than just one or two really intense interests. For instance, a month ago I was all about writing. Now? I haven't written an article in days. However, there is hope. The fact that I'm actively writing and scheduling posts for this blog attests to the fact that I'm at least trying to balance things out. And I have article ideas...I just have to start writing them.

I managed to maintain a good balance over my long weekend. I finished two books. I did some ChaCha. I finished a bunch of overtime. I played a video game (Naughty Bear...didn't like it). I watched a lot of TV but during that time I managed to patch up some clothes and catch up on some internet stuff. I made it to the gym and spent time with friends. While I didn't do much writing or knitting, I still feel like I accomplished something.

What's the secret to balance? If anyone has any thoughts, I'd like to hear them.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Let's Talk Insomnia

I try not to complain too much in this blog, but I consider tonight a special occasion. Move along if you'd rather avoid my whining today.

As I write this, I'm currently experiencing one of the main drawbacks of a long weekend/semi-vacation: insomnia. I know it's my own fault. The experts say you're supposed to maintain your sleep schedule even during time off from work. But as great as that sounds NOW, I really enjoyed sleeping in this past long weekend.

To every indulgence, there is a consequence, and this one has me awake at one in the morning the night before I have to go back to work. Worse, work starts a half hour early for me now due to summer hours. Sure, I'll be getting done an hour early, but without sleep, that hour is going to take forever to get here.

Sleep is fickle. As I sit here typing, my eyes feel heavy, but I know what's going to happen. I'll go lay down and be wide awake. I tried reading. In fact, I tried reading a story I thought I would find so boring it would lull me to sleep.  I shake my fist at Jules Verne for being so engaging ("Around the World in 80 Days" is something I never had the urge to read, but now I can't wait to finish it).

What makes it really difficult is the heat. Being a basement apartment, our place is usually very cool, but for some reason it seems like all the heat in Manhattan has sunk into our lower level. The air conditioning is doing nothing for us even though it was "serviced" by our rental management maintenance guys last week, and none of our windows open. We have the front door propped open, and while we can hear the wind going crazy outside, we're not getting much of a breeze.

It was like this last night too, but it was easier to ignore since I didn't have to get up for work the next morning. I'm going to regret not taking a shower tonight, but I didn't figure there was any point since I know I'm going to wake up sweaty and in need of another one tomorrow.

Basically, I'm overheated, tired, and miserable. Summer has always been my favorite season. I hate the cold. However, I'm thinking the heat of summer and I are going to stop seeing eye to eye if this keeps up. Maybe it's a sign of age, but these temps are kicking my butt.

Guess I'd better go count some more sheep. I've got about one thousand already rounded up...let's so how many more it takes.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Goodreads: When Beauty Tamed the Beast

When Beauty Tamed the Beast (Happily Ever Afters, #2)When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is another great re-telling of Beauty and the Beast, this one with an added pop culture twist. I was in need of something fluffy and romantic, and "When Beauty Tamed the Beast" hit the spot.

Linnet is a beauty who's reputation is tarnished by a rumor and who's family is tarnished by an adulterous mother. When society believes her to be pregnant, she is taken by a Duke to marry is son, a not-so-pleasant "Beast" of a doctor who walks with a cane and can't forgive his father for his past addiction.

I think we know where this one is headed.

What author Eloisa James did well was to take the story and add some great dialogue and stunning scenes to turn it into a great romance novel. The pop culture twist...if you didn't catch that the Beast is stylized after Dr. House from the show "House M.D." If you didn't catch that, don't feel bad. Admittedly, I didn't realize it until I read the author's notes. Then again, I don't watch the show, so maybe that's okay.

I really enjoyed this book, but it did have a minor annoyance for me and that was that some of the scenes seemed to drag on forever. For the most part the story as a whole didn't drag. But there were several scenes I thought lasted a little too long and gave information that wasn't really needed, especially because it wasn't important at any point in the rest of the story.

If you're looking to satisfy the sweet spot that only a good romance can touch...and/or you like fairy tale retellings...I highly recommend this one.

View all my reviews

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Freedom in Saying “Nevermind”

I recently posted on being rejected. At the time, it didn’t occur to me that there could be a chance of me ever being the rejecter. That opportunity came a few days later.

When I say I was the rejecter, I wasn’t really rejecting anything. What I was actually doing was changing my mind about something I thought I wanted to do.

I found an opportunity on a writing forum. It sounded like fun and something I could easily fit into my writing schedule, so I applied. I applied for two different topic positions, thinking I had a good chance at one and a not so great chance at the other. A few days later, I got the rejection email for the one I thought I had a chance at. No big deal. I’d just wrapped up the rejection post and figured I wouldn’t get the other one either.

Turns out, the people doing the accepting had a different idea because I got my welcome letter the next day. I went to the page to read the training tools and the welcome information and was quickly hit with the nasty feeling of dread. It wasn’t that the rules were hard to follow, nor was it anything different than what I’m already doing. It was partially the fact that even though I applied for it, I really had no idea what to write on the topics they were giving me. It was mostly that they wanted me to commit to 10 to 20 articles a month.

I’m somewhat of a writing commitment-phobe. I like to do it in my own time with no pressure (unless I’m putting it on myself). Short term commitment is fine. I’m okay with claiming assignments as long as I know that I can release them back into the wild if I need to. But considering I’m writing for two other platforms, trying to maintain at least 2 blogs, and working 40 hours a week, there was no way I was going to be able to kick out that many articles for this site, not if I still wanted some downtime now and again.

So I did what I probably wouldn’t have done in the past: I declined the position. It feels weird to decline a position I applied for in the first place, but it shouldn’t, right? People do that in the job world all the time if something doesn’t feel right them. Writing shouldn’t be any different.

Plus, I have a feeling they would have told me to take a hike after the first month when I fell way short of their expectations.

The feeling of relief I had after sending that email was huge, and I realized that most of what stresses me out is stuff that I take on when I really could have just said “no” and not worried about it. In this case, I can continue to write for the platforms I enjoy writing for, I can keep my blogs, and I can still have time to watch Doctor Who and knit a scarf every now and again.

“No” is a good word. “Nevermind” works just as well.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Word on “Regretsy”

A Word on “Regretsy”

Right next to the hot button topics of politics and religion sits the topic of Regretsy. If you’re not already familiar, Regretsy posts the less desirable items found on Etsy. They also call out people who blatantly steal from others and Etsy itself for turning a blind eye to this sort of practice.

Regretsy tends to be mean spirited. It’s also hilarious, snarky, and blunt. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that it sucks to have something you’ve done or said made fun of by hundreds of people. But there are a few points I’d like to make about Regretsy and the internet in general.

1. We’ve had the internet long enough to know what goes on there. Identities get stolen. People get trolled. Rickrolls come and go. If you put something on the internet, you are automatically opening yourself up to ridicule and meanness. Some of the things I’ve written have gotten nasty comments, not just about the writing but about me as an individual. It stung, but I hitched up my big girl pants and got over it. If you don’t want people to be mean to you, lurk quietly in the cyberspace shadows.

2. I understand that art is subjective, but sometimes bad crafting is just bad crafting. Sure, you made something, you put your “heart and soul” into it, blah blah blah. I remember a time when just putting time into something wasn’t good enough. You had to actually produce something that was aesthetically pleasing, functional, or high quality. Now it seems that as long as you do something, anything, you expect someone to tell you how great you are. I call shenanigans and Regretsy does too (they just do it louder). Not everyone is a special snowflake just because they exist.

3. Hideous or not, stuff that appears on Regretsy sells. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve clicked the link (because they do link to the original sellers work…yay page hits!) only to find that the item sold. One person actually wrote to Regretsy and complained that they suddenly had more buyers. Really! So yeah, someone called your stuff ‘crap’, but obviously someone else thought it was great because they paid you money for it. I’m not sure what the problem here is, other than someone got their feelings hurt (re: big girl pants…pull ‘em up). I opened an Etsy store for some of my knitted items and actually thought about putting one of my really bad projects up there on the off chance Regretsy would give me some air time.

4. What about the good things Regretsy does? They have a section called “April’s Army” which helps people who are having a hard time. They’ve auctioned things for charity. They’ve also developed rapport with people who were good sports about being featured and helped them sell even more stuff. Just because I enjoy following Regretsy doesn’t mean I always agree with their assessment. There have been a couple things that they’ve completely ripped on that I thought were adorable, and I was happy to see they sold before I even got a chance to go to the page.

Regretsy isn’t for everyone. People have the right to defend their work, but I think there’s also something to be said for a good sense of humor. So roll with it, people. Or don’t follow the blog. But getting angry and crazy about the stuff they post isn’t really going to help anyone, and it’s just going to make you a bigger target.

And please, please, please…just ignore the comments.

Monday, May 23, 2011


In several areas of my life, I’ve been purging all sorts of extraneous things.

My apartment has recently undergone a huge purge. We’ve gotten rid of pieces of furniture that were just taking up space. After one of our snakes went to that big snake pit in the sky, we found someone to buy the massive extra tank we had sitting around. We boxed up books and clothes and knick knacks and all sorts of things and sold them at a garage sale.

I go between two extremes. Sometimes I really like being surrounded by stuff. I like the coziness of it. Other times, I hate stuff. I want only the bare necessities: Nothing on the walls, only one or two pieces of furniture - nothing extra that I have to maintain.

Right now I’m somewhere in between. Now that we’ve gotten rid of so much, there’s room to move in our house. I don’t mind having people over again, and I’m looking forward to Christmas because I have room for a tree and places I can decorate. It’s easier to pick things up and keep them clean and I feel more organized on a regular basis.

I’ve even hung some things on the wall, a fact that thrilled my mom when I told her (she hates bare walls).

This need to purge clutter has moved into other areas of my life. I’ve pared down my Google Reader to make it more manageable. You’d think that this wouldn’t be something I would worry about, but it was driving me nuts. After pulling out most of the things I was following, I felt so much better. Sure, I got rid of some of the funnier sites I enjoyed, but I obviously wasn’t enjoying them that much if there 150 unread posts for them. I also parted ways with a couple celebrities I was following and even gave up on some recipe and knitting pattern blogs.

I’m also slowly but surely getting rid of extra things on my computer. I have a ton of old files that are just taking up space, including music I really don’t like, eBooks I probably won’t read (I got a little crazy with the “free” options), and programs that I thought would be cool and then never used. Some stuff is being moved to the external hard drive. Others are just getting booted, especially because at some point, I want to purge extra stuff from the external as well.

Clearing out clutter is therapeutic once you actually do it. It took me forever to just break down and start moving. To tell the truth, the only thing that made me really do it was 1) the garage sale prospect and 2) the impending re-inspection of our apartment. Now that it’s done, I feel so much better. We still have things to do, closets to clean out, and some organization still pending, but minimizing the stuff we had was definitely a good first step to feeling less stressed at home.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Goodreads: Grundish and Askew

NOTE: I was asked by the author of this book to do a review and was happy to do it. It always makes me feel more important than I really am when I get these sort of opportunities. I say it all in the review below, but this book was AWESOME! If you want to check it out for yourself, go buy it here on Amazon. I can't wait to read more by this author!

Grundish and AskewGrundish and Askew by Lance Carbuncle

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If George and Lenny lived in a trailer park, drank beer, had few ambitions and a violent streak, they’d be Grundish and Askew. This is the second book by the good Dr. Reverend Lance Carbuncle, but the first one I’ve had the pleasure of reading. I’m looking forward to satiating myself on more raunchy, cult inspiring awesomeness.

Grundish and Askew are soul mates and hetero life partners who haven’t been dealt the best hand but are determined to make the most of what they have. Askew is determined to break the generational cycle of prison bound men in his family while Grundish, after serving his time, just wants to stay out of jail. But when a frozen hot dog prank in their trailer park goes awry, the two men have to flee, taking their one-lunged senior citizen aunt with them.

The characters in “Grundish and Askew” are great. The two main characters are raw and disgusting, yet I found myself rooting for them. Turleen, the one-lunged aunt, is well developed as a secondary character and one of my favorites, especially during her interactions with two dogs that show up in her hallucinatory dreams. Minor characters add spice and plot and Carbuncle weaves them into the story with either great skill or lots of luck (I’m going to say the former).

“Grundish and Askew” isn’t for the faint of heart or virgin-minded. There’s sex, violence, gore, bodily functions and some disturbing scenery along the way. But it’s a fun, wild ride that’s well written and one I highly recommend.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Gym Commitment

For what feels like the millionth time, I've once again joined a gym.

A new 24 hour fitness center recently opened here in Manhattan, KS, and the company I work for made a corporate agreement with them to offer employees a discount. Even with current financial issues, I did a quick check of our budget and found a little wiggle room to join, mostly based on my extra writing income.

I don't do well with self motivation. I know I could walk or dance around my house or do any number of things to get in shape, but if I'm not paying for it, I won't do it. For me, home represents relaxation, and as much as I would like to walk (and will start doing more of it), at the moment I can't make it very far. A gym offers options that will help get me in shape without killing me in the first ten minutes.

Plus, I can exercise without feeling like an idiot, which is generally how I feel if I try to workout in my apartment. Even if no one is watching, I feel self conscious.

This isn't my first gym membership, and I'm sure it won't be my last. I've had an on and off again relationship with gyms since college, when I used the little exercise room in the lower half of the Walker Cisler Center.

The most recent gym was the one owned by the hospital system. They sold it, and so I find myself where I am now. I'd like to say I'm going to stick with it, and I probably will for awhile. I may even stick with it for good this time.  Realistically, there's a good chance I'll get lazy again, but it seems like I manage to go longer each time with less down time between commitments.

While my long term gym use seems less than enthusiastic, I'm actually really excited about this. It's another start, another chance to get in shape, and another chance to start feeling good again.

This time, I'm in it to feel better. I'm in it to build my endurance so I can spend a day walking around without wanting to collapse. I'm in it to have confidence, to ease anxiety, and just to feel better.

Everything else can happen in its own time.

Monday, May 16, 2011

iTunes Musical Journey: Starting Line

I've been listening to a lot of music lately. Unlike my multi-tasking husband, I can't write and watch TV at the same time, but I hate complete silence. My iTunes has really been getting a workout lately.  I usually shuffle. Sometimes I pick a good song and then "Genius" it, a method which has yielded some amazing results and shown me gems I didn't even know I had in my 7007 song collection.

I decided to take a little journey through my iTunes list. Instead of ordering it, I did an album sort (A-Z) and am listening to everything in order. There have been a few so far I've been able to purge, random songs that found their way in without my original okay. I'm not very far, hence the "Starting Line" of the title. I have almost 20 days worth of music and that's assuming I was to listen to music 24/7.

My hope in doing this? I'd like to have all my music rated. I'd like to get rid of things I really don't like. With the exception of a few artists, I'm less interested in keeping full albums and more interested in making sure my iTunes is loaded with things I enjoy.

In conjunction with this journey, I'm using the albums I listen to as article fodder for AC. Because who can't use some extra topics to write about?

The rules: Listen to music in order and let every song play all the way through. Even the sad ones. Even if they make me cry.

This is going to be a long trip.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Upside of Rejection

Rejection sucks. 

Even if the rejection is specific to one area of life, it gives me a feeling of overall unworthiness. I've cried over rejection in the past. I've also brushed it off outwardly and then went to drown my sorrows in a cigarette (back in my smoking days), alcohol (back in my drinking days) or food (I still eat, but I've avoided major binges for quite awhile now). 

It's not possible to be a writer and avoid rejection. Well known and well published authors are rejected. Stephen King hung his rejection letters on his wall and almost gave up writing when he couldn't publish his first novel. Very few people are charmed enough to lay the golden egg of manuscripts each and every time they attempt it, and even small rejections can be painful. 

Most of my submissions to Associated Content over the past few years have been accepted, but a several have been rejected for upfront payment, and a couple have been outright deemed unworthy for publication. It stings to know that something you thought it was good didn't make the cut. It's not easy to hear your work wasn't good enough ("I'm never writing again" mini tantrums have happened, though I'm ashamed to admit it). 

I've grown a thicker skin and I've even learned to find the upside of rejection. Articles that don't make the cut with AC give me something to send to a different platform or give me a blog post I didn't already have. Rejections of larger projects generally come with feedback to help me improve my writing. You can't get rejected if you don't try something new and put yourself out there, so I've managed to even take pride in some of my rejections. 

Most recently, I applied to be a movie writer for a gaming site. During the application process, I was really excited about applying and really wanted the job. I didn't get it. The rejection was very nice...the writing was good, they were just looking for someone with more experience. I had a moment of disappointment, but I avoided the whole "I'm not good enough to be a writer" scenario. To be honest, I felt relief, realizing only in hindsight that I may have taken on a little more than I could handle. 

That's not to say I won't keep trying. It's in my nature to overschedule and deal with the consequences later. But I've managed to change my thinking to look at the brightside of the word "no."

Heck, someday I might even frame my rejection letters and hang them on my wall. 

Thursday, May 12, 2011

BzzzCampaign: Cover Girl NatureLuxe Foundation and Lip Balm

Many of you already know this since I’ve posted on Facebook and Twitter with the info, but as a BzzAgent I am currently part of a campaign to try out CoverGirl’s new NatureLuxe line of foundation and lip balm.  
I’m not a makeup expert. Most mornings I’m too lazy to put it on.  I decided to give this one a try, because even if I don’t put it on every morning, I do have the occasion where makeup is suitable.  In the past, I’ve been less than thrilled by heavy foundations that leave a cake like appearance and less thrilled with lipsticks that make me look like a candidate for the clown department with the circus.
The NatureLuxe foundation is probably the best foundation I’ve ever tried, and that includes product from a high priced manufacturer. Instead of the thicker emollient used in traditional foundations, this one uses cucumber water, natural jojoba, and rosehip extracts.  It goes on smooth and feels light. Though it evens out my complexion, it doesn’t cake on like ones I’ve used in the past. Plus, I can touch my face or cup my chin without coming away with foundation “ick” on my hands and fingers.
The NatureLuxe Gloss Balm is also a good product that goes on smooth and gives a touch of color while softening lips. The balm is made with natural butters, including mango and shea. It’s not sticky, and it has a staying power that a lot of balms don’t. Because the color is light, I feel like I can reapply it several times without getting that over applied lipstick look.
The foundation comes in 14 shades and has an SPF of 10. It retails for around 11.99. The gloss balm comes in 16 shades, has an SPF of 15, and retails for around 6.49.
If anyone tries or has tried this, let me know what you think! If you’re not a BzzAgent, let me know and I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have if you’re interested.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


I did it! I finished Script Frenzy this year!

There was a scary moment of doubt where I didn't think I was going to, a moment brought about by video game addiction, day job overtime, and general laziness. However, with the assistance of an extra day off courtesy of my birthday,  and the help of my husband, who took the video game controller from me before I hurt myself, I finished it this afternoon....33 hours before the end of the event.

To back up, if you're not sure what Script Frenzy is, I wrote this article before the month started. It's the spring counterpart of National Novel Writing Month. Last year I attempted...and failed...both events. Having finished this one, I'm optimistic about this year's novel.

I went for romantic comedy, though it took awhile for the comedy to find its way into the story, and I still can't guarantee anyone else will find it funny. It's a typical cute, chick flick script. It's not well written, but that's the point of the event. Revision will hopefully polish it up. The plot: Not-so-nice "higher up" at a big business corporation loses a file for a business proposal that could get her a promotion to company promotion. IT guy happens to be walking by and agrees to help her find the file if she "dates" him for a undetermined amount of time. Though she doesn't want to, she worries that he'll ruin her job with his technological know-how, so she agrees.

There's nothing surprising happening here, folks, and I'm okay with that. You can already tell what's going to happen by the synopsis. I'd like to think the journey would make for a fun story, though. I've incorporated the following into the plot: my main female has a taste for serial killer trivia, my characters play DnD, and the two leads travel to Sault Ste. Marie for a wedding.

Even though I hit the 100 page mark and am close to being done with the initial writing, I still don't have the ending done. I'll have to make this a project and line it up alongside my other writing and revising projects. I think I'm going to need to set up a specific month to personally work on all my revisions. June? July? September comes with a built in 4 day weekend and no foreseeable travels.

Accomplishments are awesome, especially when I can now put something to rest...temporarily...and focus on some other things that need a writer's attention.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Shameless Self Promotion (5/9)

Since it's been awhile since I've done this, I thought I'd go ahead and post some articles I've done in the past few months. This is also a little bit of a cop out as I'm trying to get caught up on writing goals, overtime work, and getting the apartment ready for an inspection, so I guess this is just filler? Still...never hurts to throw some stuff out there.

In the Spirit of Being Reunited - I don't have the knack for poetry that others have, but AC was holding a sonnet contest for National Poetry month. Though I don't anticipate winning, I had fun writing this. I haven't been to any reunions, but this is sort of how I imagine one might go.

Netflix TV Series Consolidation - Netflix recently put many of their television series into single show files instead of individual ones for each season. While it cuts down on the number of items in a queue, it does have its downside too.

My Top 10 Favorite Summer Movie Releases - I took an AC assignment and recapped several of my favorite movies. The title says it all. I've been called out on a couple of my choices, but for whatever reason, I stand behind them all.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Two Years Down

Last weekend, I turned 32. The year I turned 30, I made a list of 100 things to do by the time I was 40. Two years in, and I'm happy to say I've actually done some of the things on my list. The point was that I wanted my 30s to be great. My 20s were okay, but I believe that we get better as we get older, and I wanted to continue to do things. Lots of things...varied things.

Even though I've only crossed off a few things on the list, I've also done all kinds of other things that I never even comprehended. I never anticipated going to a Lords of Acid concert or being a Passion Party consultant. I couldn't have anticipated the friends I'd have or the things I'd experience. Even if I don't reach my 100 items goal, I'm going for quality over quantity.

To recap, this is what I've crossed off my list so far (in no particular order):

1. Walk the Relay for Life - This was one of the first things I did. Unfortunately, we didn't make the whole night due to a Kansas thunderstorm, but heading up the group was a good experience and I'm glad I did it.

2. Get married - It was kind of a no-brainer, but we hadn't yet made plans when I made the list. I have no complaints. I'm a lucky lucky woman.

3. Knit or crochet a hat - Knitting is my craft of choice, and I've done this one many times over.

4. Knit or crochet a purse - I've done this once. It wasn't the best purse, but it was alright for a starter project. I'd like to make more, but I always find something more interesting to knit that doesn't require stitching.

5. Open an Etsy store - For something I put off for so long, this was really easy. I sold one thing. I wouldn't call it a success, but I wouldn't call it a failure either. I'd like to try to list more things in the future and see what else I can put out there.

6. See a musical - Jon and I got to see "Avenue Q" on stage when it come to K-State. It was an amazing show.

7. Bake homemade bread from scratch - This is an idea from my more domestic phase, but I did manage to do, even in our tiny kitchen. It was a little bit flat, but it tasted great. In the future, I can see myself baking more, even though I prefer fast rise breads.

8. Do my own online radio show - This was really short lived. Life got busy and I lost my motivation. It was a fun experience though. I've since thought of doing a webcast, but the radio show proved I wasn't cut out for long term on-air time.

9. Run a D&D Campaign - It took me forever to get up the nerve to run a game, but I finally did it thanks to the user friendly 4th edition of the game. A year later, my game is still going. I love my gaming group and I love the storyline I created. I'm no longer writing my own full encounters, but the basic storyline I created is still there, and I throw in my own flair when the urge hits.

10. Ask for a raise - Right after I did this, several things changed with regards to the work I was doing, but the act of doing it was an accomplishment in itself. It's hard to put yourself out there with something like this. Somehow, I managed to do it.

11. Go to a sci-fi, webcomic, or gaming convention - GenCon. Nothing else needs to be said.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Time for Some Reflection

The night we heard the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed, I posted a lengthy Facebook status which ended with “I should have blogged this.” In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t.  I was tired and emotional and hadn’t yet had time for it to sink in.  Reading through my social networks, I was overwhelmed by the quantity and variation of the reactions.
From the collective group of people I know/follow/interact with, there was the “Whoo hoo! Let’s party hard and show ‘em what happens when you mess with America!” to the “Death is nothing to celebrate.”  There was also a few “I guess this means the war’s over” and a scattered, “Oh no! Now it’s just going to get worse.”
I feel like the connecting circle in a Venn diagram of all these opinions.
Yes, I’m glad bin Laden has been taken care of, but it’s not the kind of glad that has me doing a victory dance. It’s the kind of glad that comes from relief. After 10 years, we’ve managed to do what we set out to do.  We’ve been persistent, and it’s finally paid off. I’m proud of the people who accomplished this. I’m also proud because it reminds me of what our military men and women are doing for us every day.  I’m proud because as a country, we’ve had this shared goal for ten years and now we get to share in the end result.
However, I don’t feel celebratory.  One death doesn’t bring back all the lives that were lost. Death in itself isn’t something that makes me want to light fireworks and dance.  There have been times in the past when things I’ve said have indicated otherwise due to animosity I’ve felt towards the people in question. But at the point of death, and at the point of seeing the impact it leaves on others, those feelings are not something I’m proud of.   Of all the people who I should be glad to see gone, bin Laden would probably be at the top of the list. But I can’t even bring myself to celebrate with the enthusiasm so many others seem to have.
It was mentioned that his death should be exactly what he deserved. I think the fact that he was hunted down and killed kind of took care of that part.  It should also be noted that death isn’t a punishment….it’s a fact of life. And we’re not out of the clear. This one act isn’t going to stop other dangerous political leaders, it’s not going to stop wars, it’s not going to eradicate our military or the need for them to be doing what they’re doing.  It very well might lead to more dangerous times.  The leader is gone, but there are still terrorist organizations out there who will inevitably find a new leader and new ways to make themselves heard.
The president said that the country would continue to be diligent, and I have no doubt of that.  I also don’t want to come across as completely doom and gloom.  I think this event has given people faith in what our country can do and hope that we’re on the right track. I think everything happens in its time, and perhaps this death is what the country needs right now. 
Everyone has a purpose in this life, and for better or worse, it seems as if Osama bin Laden has served his.  

Monday, May 2, 2011

Gaming: When Video Games Attack

A couple weeks ago I was sick. Really sick on a Monday with stomach flu and fever and chest congestion.

The bad thing about taking a sick day is there's really nothing you can do around the house. Being sick doesn't make anything easy. I tried to write, and that didn't work out. I thought about cleaning, but who wants to move when they're feeling horrible? Even reading wasn't cutting it because I couldn't focus on the story through the nausea.

On a whim, I decided to play our latest Gamefly game, "Fable: The Lost Chapters." This game was made for the original XBox but is compatible (sort of) with the 360. I'd heard alot of things about it and thought I'd give it a try. I'd started it over the weekend and wasn't sure if I was sold or not.

Apparently, I liked it better than my initial impression said I would, because I finally put down the remote ten and a half hours later.

That's right. 10 and 1/2 hours of video gaming.

I know people do this. Heck, I know that for some gamers, 10 hours is normal, a short gaming day even. It's not anything I've ever had strong opinions about either. I remember when the original Nintendo came out I'd want to be on it for hours playing Mario Bros. or Tetris. Video games are addictive....really addictive...and they can be hard to put down.

Since I started playing games on the XBox, I've been good about not getting too engrossed in playing. In hindsight, scary games like Silent Hill: Homecoming, Alan Wake, and Saw probably help by being creepy enough to where I have to take frequent breaks to do other things. Fable, on the other hand, is fairly whimsical and bright and even funny.

It's not the gaming I try to stay away from either. It's the fact that I know myself, and I get depressed if I don't do something productive. Which is likely why I had to keep telling myself yesterday not to feel guilty about taking a day to rest. The video game kept my mind engaged, so I didn't have to focus on how crappy I felt.

Yes, it's slothful, but the day after, even though I wasn't feeling physically healthy, my mind was recharged and reset and ready to work again. I was back at work being productive and blogging and getting back in the swing of writing.

It may be the game, or it may be the situation. I don't know if I could game like that all the time, but for the future, I may have to consider scheduling some alone time for me and the XBox to give my mind a rest from the real world and a healthy jolt of cyber gaming goodness.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Writing Revisited

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the fact that I’ve been posting regularly to this blog as long as I have is probably a record.  Thank goodness for the power to schedule posts because I don’t know if I could keep up the pace of blogging every day on top of everything else I’m working to accomplish.

In general, I think I’m doing pretty well. My AC articles have tapered off a little bit, but my other articles are getting done and published. In fact, I’ve turned out a few that didn’t need any rewrites.

I’ve begun to lag on keeping track of hours and payments.  With payments, I figure I can just access my stuff online when I need it. For hours, I usually just forget.  As long as I’m still producing in some form or another, I’m doing the job I want to do.  If it ever comes to the point where I am working from home doing freelance writing, I’ll have to be a little more diligent about it, but I think I’m still a long way from that.

Then there’s Script Frenzy. Tomorrow marks the halfway point of the month and I’m over halfway finished with my script as of today.  I’m not formatting as I write, which makes it go a lot faster, but if I keep up this pace, I’ll be relaxing easy at the end of the month. I’m writing a romantic comedy, and I’m finally getting to the point of some humor. Finally. If I’d planned to do something serious, the thing would have been hilarious from start to finish.

I’m also picking up other little things to help expand my writing.  I joined a new campaign through BzzAgent, which means I’ll get to write reviews on products I try out. I also applied to another gaming site to be a writer, though I haven’t heard back so they may have filled the position already.

In order to get more readers, I had a small drawing for new AC subscribers and will hold another one either the end of this month or next month. I gained quite a few readers in that time, so I’m at least on my way to reaching my 100 subscribers goal by the end of the year.

All in all, I’m giving myself an A for effort and a B for quality. I just have to keep the momentum going.