What are we talking about today?

Normal topics suspended for the A to Z Challenge. It's all books from April 1-30.

If you're here from the A to Z Challenge hoping I'll comment back if you comment first: Sorry to disappoint, but that probably won't happen. I work full-time and I grad school full-time, so I can't give the time to blog commenting that I would like. I'll visit after the end of the semester, I hope.

30 September 2011

Unplug, Part 2

So, on the heels of last week's post encouraging you to unplug for the sake of your sanity comes this week's reminder that there are a couple of other reasons to unplug, too.

Source.
Reason #1: Your electricity bill. Basically, anything that has a little light on it is drawing electricity when it's plugged in, whether you have it turned on or not. It really is a good idea to unplug computers and other electronics when you are going to bed, or going out for a few hours, or whatever. Of course, if unplugging your (insert device here) means you'd have to completely reprogram it when you plug it back in, don't put yourself through that kind of madness. Lowering your electricity bill won't do you any good if you've lost all your sanity.

Reason #2: The usual energy-saving stuff.

Do you unplug your electronics? Do you have another reason for doing it or not that I missed? How's your sanity?

28 September 2011

In the Darkness

If you come to this blog specifically for my Have Bus, Will Travel posts... I'm very sorry. I'm quite eager to return to the Exploring Austin Almost as Slowly as Possible life, as soon as I get caught up on homework. And once I do, you will all be the first to know. Second. Third. First me, then Chad, then you lot.

Instead, let me tell you a sad tale about my bicycle light. I don't have one anymore. I did have one this morning, and in fact up to about 12:45 this afternoon I had a perfectly functional bike light perched on my handlebars. But as I was locking up the bike before class, I somehow bumped it and knocked it loose. So I picked it up and put it back on its clamp, and went on my merry way.

When I came back out after class, I unlocked the bike and went about half a block before I noticed that my light clamp was empty. So I thought I must have knocked it loose again and decided to look around when I got back (it was a quick errand). I did look around, and walked back and forth between my parking spot and the spot where I noticed the truancy a couple of times, to no avail. I even checked my panniers, all my messenger bag pockets, and my locker. Nope. Not there.

If I had a bike made of light, I
wouldn't need one on my handlebars.
(I got a locker! It is so exciting! There are only about 100 available, so I applied without much hope, but it must have been my lucky day. Whoever thought that college students don't need lockers is cuckoo!)

So here's my problem: It's illegal to ride a bike after dark in Texas with no light. Not to mention that it would be a bloody stupid thing to do. And I don't get off work until 7. So, I have three hours to decide what to do, but I have a sneaky suspicion I'll be taking the bus home today.

What's something important that you've lost lately? Does it make you feel like you might be going prematurely senile? Who else feels neglected in the locker department?

26 September 2011

A Place to Forget

In my Fiction Writing class, we usually have 20ish minutes for in-class writing. Here's one I wrote last week, touched up a bit for your reading pleasure. The prompt was, "Describe your least favourite childhood place." (This is my first attempt-- ever-- at writing in the second person.)

This building still depresses you. It depressed you for years without you even knowing it, and now it looms over your consciousness like a dead redwood that should have been cut down long ago.
It's the smell that bothers you. The janitors have a different cleaner for every room, and they all clamor together in a cacophony of antiseptic that clings to your clothes long after you leave. You can taste the smell, even now, just thinking about it.
Or is it the light that you hate so much? The building is unevenly lit: too much florescent glare in one room, not enough in another. It gives you a headache. And the windows don't help. Even during the only three months of the year when the sun bothers to shine on Iowa, any light that might creep into this building is discouraged, turned away by the hideous blue stained-glass windows. You hate those windows, especially the ones with the unrepaired bullet holes that the wind whistles through in the winter. They keep the light out but let the cold in.
Then there are those ugly accordion doors that divide one big room into three small ones. The doors that were installed back when your mother was too young to drive. They're made of glorified paper, but for all that they are still heavy and bulky and they clack when anyone touches them. You wanted them taken down for your wedding, but it was universally announced to be 'too much trouble'. If you ever decide to burn this building down and be done with it, you're starting with those doors.
The attic makes your list of hate, too, with its lack of heat or air conditioning. Up there you trip over junky old speakers that are laying around because no one volunteered to haul them off to the dump. The squeaky cabinets hold the same scissors and crayons and jars of paste that you used when you were a kid here. Reams of musty paper, printed with Sunday School lessons older than you, are stacked on the shelves, still waiting for the children that never materialized to learn them.
But it's none of these that you truly hate, is it? It's the room that you despise. The Sanctuary. Except that you would never call it that, in your plain Protestant way-- 'sanctuary' is too holy a word for a mere man-made room in a man-made building. But the adults you knew treated it as holy, all the same. You and your friends played hide-and-seek here after church, and later used the old ladies' cushions as frisbees, until you got caught. You remember the puke-green carpet with matching curtains that used to be in here, until it was replaced 30 years ago with the depressed red that remains to this day. The hymnals you remember are long gone, now replaced with a version that was last popular when you were a teenager; every other church in town has gone to Powerpoint for their hymns, but in this building a hymnal was good enough for your grandfather and one day will be good enough for your grandchildren and by God, it's good enough for you, too.
When you're in this room can still hear the echo of every off-key note sung in here, bouncing around the rafters looking for some glass to shatter. You remember every heated argument, and every difference of opinion that led to someone leaving in a huff. You remember the friends you never saw again after their parents fell out with your parents.
In this room you were married. In this room you said good-bye to your grandfather and you're back to witness the same ceremony for your grandmother. Any happiness you may have had in this building was long ago washed away, baptized in a flood of tears.

23 September 2011

Unplug

This seemed like a reasonably non-stressful
picture.
Happy first day of (insert appropriate season for your hemisphere here)!

At this blogging rate, my 1000th post may well end up being on my 7th blogversary. Sheesh! I have a plan to get all caught up on homework this weekend (seriously, how do I get so behind only a few weeks into every semester?), and then give my poor neglected blog some attention. And possibly apply to grad school. That's kind of important.

So, today's green living tip is probably better for you personally than the impact it will have on the planet, but those are the best kind, yes? It is: Unplug. Turn off your computer, turn off the TV, turn off the lights. Have a little period of peace in your house where nothing distracts you from taking some deep breaths. Even better: grab this time to go out for a walk. It doesn't have to be long-- just a few minutes' break to de-stress and relax is a long way better than continuing to be stressed!

The impact of using less electricity for a few minutes will probably be minuscule for both the planet and your electricity bill, but if you are less stressed, then your interactions with others will likely be more pleasant, and your little corner of the planet may be a happier place as a result.

Do you have a "turn it off" time? What do you do? Or do you have other de-stress ideas?

19 September 2011

A Blogversary Giveaway!

No, no, not my blogversary. That is still a couple of weeks away.

I'm playing a happy tune to help
celebrate. And I can't tell you the
source of this pic, because I found
it on the internets many moons ago.
No, it's the amazing blogger JE Fritz who is celebrating her first blogversary, with a giveaway of some great books or a gift card! Yay! All you have to do is run on over and join in the fun.

And you should run on over there anyway, because her blog is très fun. (Yep, now that I'm taking French I totally reserve the right to use French words from time to time.) Especially for word lovers.

What are you waiting for? Go! Enter! And see how fab her blog really is.

16 September 2011

Have Some Tea

There's part of me that thinks you can't go too far wrong with tea or coffee made at home. Presumably, you'll be using a reusable mug instead of a single-use disposable cup, it's much much much cheaper than stopping off at a coffee shop, and all the parts are either wash-and-reuse-able or compostable.

So I haven't tried too hard to green up my tea drinking. And then in comes Groupon with two offers in about two weeks for two different loose-leaf tea places: One of them local (Tea Embassy) and the other online (Tea District). So, I armed myself with a tea infuser and got out the cute little teaspoon that the Penciler of Songs gave me a couple of years ago, and made my first foray into loose-leaf-ness. When I ordered a sampler pack from Tea District, they even sent me some reusable cloth bags, useful for brewing tea or for any cooking in my future that requires simmering spices that need to be removed before serving. Result!

My new tea setup: Sampler bags of
yumminess, cloth reusable bag,
teaspoon, stainless steel infuser.
I am ready for all tea-related
emergencies.
As ever, I would encourage going the reusable route whenever possible, so if you're brewing coffee every day, consider a reusable filter instead of paper ones. If you are using the paper ones, go ahead and compost them right along with the grounds. If you have a Keurig or similar fancy contraption, please be sure to recycle the cups (I can't make any recs on reusing them, because I've never tried-- any suggestions?)

If you are a tea drinker like myself but you aren't into the loose-leaf thing, then again I recommend composting the bags. The leaves, whether inside a bag or loose-leaf, are also compostable, or here's a suggestion from Green Is Sexy: Save the tea leaves in a sealed container and rub them on your fingers after you've chopped or otherwise handled something smelly in your kitchen (fish, garlic, onions, etc.). The original post recommends using green tea leaves, but I don't drink green tea, so I've started saving my black tea leaves to see if it works just as well (because I kept forgetting to save the leaves before now). I'll let you know how it turns out.

Now, if you've had a look at that pic above featuring my new set-up, you'll see the snag here: I have nine plastic bags of tea sitting on my counter right now. They are all resealable, so I'm already plotting their reuse capabilities, but in the future I'm definitely going to go for larger packages instead of sampler sizes to avoid such an abundance of packaging. I did ask the guy at the Tea Embassy (the local store) if his bags are recyclable, but he said he didn't think so. I didn't press him at that moment by suggesting that I bring a bag back for refilling, but I will probably email him when my stock of tea gets low to ask if he's cool with refills.

Are you a tea or coffee person? Both? Neither? Do you have a fantastic low-waste suggestion for your beverage of choice?

13 September 2011

Teaser Tuesday #16

Bossypants, Tina Fey

I tie my Sauconys.*

*This is a paid endorsement from the Saucony Corporation.

(I totally flipped to my random page and then got engrossed in reading. The great thing about memoirs is that you can do that and not ruin the story. And as a runner, this was the line for me.)







teasertuesdays32
Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be ReadingAnyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

11 September 2011

Live Better

I'm fairly certain that every blogger in America is contractually obligated to write about The Anniversary today. So I shall content myself with saying:

Source.
What unites us is stronger than what divides us.
The things we have in common are greater than the differences.
One word of kindness is better than 1000 words of complaint.

Remember, at home and at work, in our streets and in our schools, at the office, at the game, or at the restaurant: We are better together.

(And if you came here looking for a blog post that will both make you cry and give you hope, I suggest you try this one instead. It's brilliant.)

09 September 2011

Sharing Good Ideas

I love reading environmental stuff (mostly-- some of it is kind of depressing), especially the memoir-ish, "here's-how-I-do-it-if-you-want-to-try" type. That's more or less what I'm trying to do with my Green Living posts on Fridays, although I realise that sometimes it's more miss than hit.

So this week I'm reading Happy-Go-Local, by Linsly Donnelly. I wish I could remember who recommended it to me, so I could tell you, but my memory is indeed slippy. Anyway, Ms. Donnelly is a mum who decided to go environmental for the sake of passing on a clean Earth to her children (one of the best reasons for going green, IMO), and then wrote a book about it to help other mums navigate the murky waters of local, organic, and other scary enviro-crazy words. What's also great about this book is the progression from easy to hard in her suggestions and ideas. I'm not done with it yet, so I can't give it a wholehearted recommendation, but so far, so good.

But, I want to share a suggestion from early in the book. I've pointed to Earth 911 before as a good source to find recycling centres near you, especially for hard-to-recycle things like batteries. Plus, it's just one of my favourite websites. Ms. Donnelly takes it one step further, recognising that busy parents (or anyone else) don't want to run to the hazardous waste site every time a light bulb burns out. She recommends putting a bin on each floor of the house-- in a closet, bathroom, or wherever-- for those small items like batteries that shouldn't go into the regular trash but also aren't worth a trip across town in and of themselves. I would just add CFLs should be wrapped carefully or kept in a smaller box inside the bin so there isn't a mercury-containing mess when your six-year-old slam-dunks a battery on top of last week's burned-out bulb. Then, once there is a full bin of small items (or you have a larger item that justifies a trip), there is only one journey to be made to the hazardous waste site. Brilliant.

Do you recycle batteries and other difficult-to-recycle items? Do you have a system that works for you?

07 September 2011

I'm Getting Smarter (Theoretically)

No Have Bus, Will Travel post this week or next week (unless I have a few minutes to go take pics along our "home" route), because I'm taking the GRE next Wednesday and I'm doing my best to devote every spare moment to prep. (I've no idea if the GRE is used outside North America, so if you're confused: It stands for Graduate Record Exam, and it's the baseline exam for getting into graduate school. I kinda want a good score.) So this post, as well as every other one over the next week, is scheduled ahead of time.

So, I'm going to take a moment to do some blog housekeeping. First of all, WELCOME to all new followers! I think most of you are from the Writer's Campaign, and I'm delighted to meet you. If you're in Adult Fiction #3 or Chick Lit #1, I should have come round to visit and follow you already, and you are safely tucked into my blogroll labeled "Write Campaigners" in the sidebar. If you're missing, or you don't recall seeing me at your blog, please do let me know so I can rectify this mistake! Also, if you have a WordPress blog, WordPress hates me. I'm may be in your spam folder-- a few visitors have already told me they found me there and have set my comments free. I don't know what it is about me that upsets WP so much, but I tried everything I could think of-- making my name longer, leaving off my blog address, signing in with Twitter or Facebook-- and I still couldn't get WP to believe that I was legit. Sigh...

Also, I'm closing in on 300 followers, 1000 posts, and my seventh blogversary. (Yes, you'd think I could manage more than 1000 posts in seven years. Well, I took a year off.) So, I'm planning some sort of bash. I don't know what yet, but we'll get there in the end. So, look for that coming up around the end of September!

So, how about you? Anything interesting going on?

06 September 2011

Teaser Tuesday #15

Here's another thought to further yesterday's discussion: It's hard to "open to a random page" in an e-reader. I chose a random location on my Kindle for PC instead.

Source.
The Pickwick Papers, Charles Dickens


'You may try, and try, and try again, Messrs. Dodson and Fogg,' said Mr. Pickwick vehemently, 'but not one farthing of costs or damages do you ever get from me, if I spend the rest of my existence in a debtor's prison.'







teasertuesdays32
Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be ReadingAnyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

05 September 2011

They're Freaking Me Out

So we've had an interesting series of conversations in my Technologies of the Book class, about the nature of technology, what is meant by "the book", where technology and the book will go next, etc. As you might expect in a room full of kids who have grown up with computers and iPods, there are some in the room who are all for digital formats and eliminating the printed book, if not altogether, then at least from general use. Others are purists who insist that an e-reader, no matter how good, will never replace a physical book.

I really would love to have a room
like this in my house. Source.
In this as in so many other things, I'm on the fence, with a stack of books at one hand and an e-reader in the other. I own somewhere around 400 books (probably closer to 500 or 600 if you count all the books that I've never retrieved from my parents' house), and nothing makes me happier than sitting down with one. I love the smell and texture of books. I like how it feels in my hands. I enjoy putting a literal bookmark at my literal page in a literal book. My friend Brandon likens them to trophies-- once read, a book sits on the shelf to proclaim its read-ness to all. That's a fair way of looking at it, but considering that I re-read my books until they are in pieces, I can't say that I treat them like trophies. (And further considering that I get many books from the library, most of the ones I've read are in someone else's trophy case.)

On the other hand, my 600 books could all fit onto an e-reader with room to spare for expansion, and the reader itself doesn't take up the amount of shelf space of a single one of my literal books. And quite frankly, it's the words themselves that I'm after, not the texture or smell. So I'm almost to the point of saying about the kind of book the same thing that I say about tortilla chips-- I don't care what kind of chip it is, as long as it delivers the salsa to my mouth.

Anyway, on to the freaked-out part. One of the young men of the "we don't need paper" persuasion (who I've nicknamed Walking Argument) was talking about the future of interface-- we'll all have chips implanted, and can access books or the internet or whatever with a literal blink of the eyes, so that the image is projected across the visual field. (I leaned to the girl next to me and said, "I hope we stop using cars before that happens." I mean, really-- we think texting and driving is bad! Imagine playing Mario Kart while driving!) The general consensus of the room was that none of us were going to volunteer for chipping, so Walking Argument said, "No one is going to volunteer. That's why we should just experiment on prisoners."

Ew. Ew ew ew ick ick ick. I get that to him this seems like a reasonable idea, but to me it's abhorrent. First of all, we don't incarcerate people because we need test subjects. That's a lot too much like a dystopia novel to me. And even more to the point, I seem to remember my high school history teacher telling us that the Nazis did a great deal of medical experimentation in the concentration camps. I do not, under any circumstances, want to start down a road that the Nazis thought was a good idea. No, no, no. So while having a computer in my brain may be the future, the future will have to wait until willing test subjects come forward. In the meantime, we have computers and e-readers and phones and actual books that are working just fine, thank you.

What kind of reader are you? Real book? E-book? Either one? Or are you in the "computer in the brain" camp?

02 September 2011

So Dry

I've started this post about four times now, and I keep getting distracted. Oops! So you haven't had a green living post for three weeks because I have poor time management skills. Nice.

Anyway! In case you haven't heard, this part of the country is in a bit of a heat wave. So much of a heat wave that despite our A/C never going lower than 80 degrees, we've still had the highest electricity bills that we've ever seen the past couple of months. So, I'm fighting back.

Our apartment complex (I hope the manager isn't reading this) bans drying laundry outdoors. This isn't unheard-of or even that strange, of course; plenty of apartment complexes, homeowners associations, and the like have similar bans on putting one's undies out for everyone to see. It even made an episode of The Colbert Report:


Even though I dutifully signed the lease that included the ban when I moved in, I've been sneaking our clothes outside onto a corner of our patio that isn't visible from anywhere else. Why? Because I refuse, when I'm already having to battle 100+ temps from getting indoors, to introduce more hot air to my apartment. That's just dumb. Plus, I grew up with line-dried clothes and prefer the smell of the outdoors to the smell of a dryer sheet.

I wish there were a way to get a happy medium between "No, you can't hang out your laundry" and the eyesore that can result from towels hanging off of every balcony. I am not without a sense of the aesthetic, after all, so I am aware that it's not the prettiest sight when there is drying laundry all over the place. Perhaps a policy allowing drying racks, but not clotheslines? But of course, it's much easier to enforce a complete ban than a do-this-not-that policy. Still, I think it might be worth a try. And I'm debating in myself whether or not to start petitioning our apartments to allow outdoor drying, in case they decide to come investigate to see if I'm already ignoring the policy. (And I am. So I hesitate to annoy them too much.)

Do you line-dry your clothes? Or do you live in a place with a ban? Do you live in a place with a ban and line- (or rack-) dry anyway?

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