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.

31 October 2011

Youve Painted a Quite Picture

I should start a regular post about my spam comments. Really, we all should. I get some serious entertainment in my spam filter.


Perhaps brinkka2011 should
ponder this. Source.
So, this one came from someone called brinkka2011 who, a casual Google search tells me, gets around the blogosphere and sneaks past some spam filters to leave ridiculous comments all over the freaking place. This particular comment was on my post about it being my 1000th post. If he (or she) is looking for cheap publicity, well, here it is! His (or her) statements are in red; my hypothetical replies are in blue.

How is it that just anyone can publish a blog and get as popular as this? I know, it's a scandal. What can I say? I bribe my readers! Its not like youve said anything incredibly impressive more like youve painted a quite picture through an issue that you know nothing about! Funny, my rhetoric teachers say the same thing. Well, sort of. They say it with better spelling, correct punctuation, and fewer adverbs. Although I did write about my own blog in this instance, so I'm confident no one knows this issue as well as I do. I dont want to sound mean, right here. Oh, don't you? You're doing it wrong. But do you genuinely think that you can get away with adding some quite pictures and not truly say something? Yes. Yes, I do.



And now if you'll all excuse me, I'm off to figure out what a 'quite picture' is.


Anybody else get good spam comments? Should we have a spam comment blogfest wherein we all make fun of our spammers? I bet you all would come up with some brilliant stuff to answer back.

28 October 2011

Libraries, Amazon, Goodreads...

I'm still in the throes of trying to get homework, grad school applications, and my proposal for undergrad research next semester all done before next Tuesday hits and NaNoWriMo commences. Oh, and pre-scheduling some blog posts, so you don't all think I died. (Although, if I pre-schedule... never mind, let's not go down that garden path.)

So! Today's green tip is meant to be in keeping with the book theme I have going this week (like that's different from any other week): Make sure to get as much use out of your books as possible.

No, I'm not going to say to never buy new physical books, even though I know that technically, that's a darned green thing to do. But as we booklovers all know, to give that kind of advice is to dance on the edge between "taking care of the earth" and "enjoying my time on earth". If I didn't buy books that I love, I would be depriving myself of one of the great joys in my life and I'm not going to do that.

So, what do I mean, then? Well, try before you buy. Borrow a book from the library before deciding to buy it, and if you love it and you know you want to have it available to read over and over, then absolutely, go buy it.

Next, try to buy secondhand. Look on Amazon, Ebay, or one of the dozens of secondhand booksellers online. Better World Books donates some of their profits to literacy programs, as well as donating actual books. Plus, they send the best "your order has been shipped" emails that I've ever read. Seriously, order a book from them just to get the email. You won't regret it-- unless you buy a book that you didn't really want. You might regret that. Also in good-karma-land: Chegg donates to education programmes and they plant a tree for every book they sell or rent.

At the risk of entering the realm of broken records, e-books save paper, shipping, and for most titles, some of the sticker price.

If you get a book that you thought you would want to keep forever but it turns out it wasn't meant to be between the two of you, find it a new home. Swap with friends (either in person or virtually), post it on one of the aforementioned sites, donate to a local library... you get the idea. Old textbooks or books that you can't unload get a bit tricky... here in Austin, we have Recycled Reads that actually recycles books that they can't sell (and anything they do sell benefits the local library system). I turned to my good friends at Earth911 for a solution, and they do have a search page where you can find book recycling near you.

And finally, I can't leave this subject without a strong plug for local secondhand bookshops. Every place I've lived, I've been a frequent customer and donater to a secondhand bookshop. They have mixed results if you're looking for something in particular, but I've found just going round every couple of weeks and browsing yields some really nice fruit. Good place to bring the books that no longer fit on my shelves, too. And, if you get a really good one, where you can get to know the owners, they just might take note of your reading preferences and keep something back for you if a book they think you'll like comes in. No guarantees... but it has happened.

What do you do with old books? Any good secondhand bookstore stories (those are the best, imo!)?

27 October 2011

NaBloWriMo

You know, I'm crazy enough for filling up my schedule like a nutty person. Why I thought I should throw my hat in the ring for NaBloWriMo I'll never know.

Anyway, I wandered over for a prompt (I'm saving the rest of my book festival posts for when I have a bit more coherence), and found: 1. Who is your favourite author? or 2. What is your favourite book? or 3. Do you find yourself talking like the characters in the book you just read?

Hey, look. C.S. Lewis and Elinor M.
Brent-Dyer, hanging out on my
shelf. (They were contemporaries,
after all.)
1. I don't have a favourite. I like most authors that I read. BUT, according to Goodreads, here are my most-read authors: Terry Pratchett, Elinor M. Brent-Dyer, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and in a 3-way tie for 4th place: J.K Rowling, Beverly Cleary, and C.S. Lewis. Sounds about right.

2. At this moment, my favourite is probably Spindle's End, by Robin McKinley. Love love love that book. My perpetual, life-long favourite? Well, favourites, actually, because it's the Little House series. Little House on the Prairie was the first 'real' book that I read and I've been a fan ever since.

3. Always. Chad can usually guess what book I've been reading by the way I talk. It's ridiculous. What's even worse is that I think the way the characters talk x 25-- it's no wonder I talk that way, really.

What about you? Same questions!

25 October 2011

Nefarious Plot

Our UT NaNoWriMo group had a plotting party tonight, with lots of people in attendance. Yay! Not much plotting was done, I'm afraid, but we did have a good time talking about our novels and deciding on write-ins. And finding out what sort of things we have in common.

I may be the only one of the group not writing a fantasy novel. (I'm writing a school story.)

Are you a Wrimo? Let's be friends! (Once the Writing Buddies are activated, that is. Using the word 'activated' makes me feel like we are writing Power Rangers. Ooh, maybe we are. Get your Zords!) I'm cheekysu, the one from Austin. Chad was kind enough to find another cheekysu on the NaNo site the other day, so I know there are at least two of us.

Not a Wrimo? Well, okay, but most of what I post for the next month probably isn't going to make a lot of sense.

Okay, well, I already asked one question. How about: What is your genre? Favourite writing music? Will you bring me a cookie?

24 October 2011

Texas Book Festival: The Late American Novel

I chose this particular lecture because my Creative Writing teacher was one of the speakers. And I'm so glad that I did, because it turned out to be an informative and thought-provoking session. Jeff Martin and C. Max Magee compiled 25 short essays about the future of books, basically getting the spectrum of people who have a good grasp (or so it seems) on the future of books right across to my creative writing instructor, who readily admitted in class on Friday and at the festival on Saturday that she has no idea what is coming next.

This picture is the artist's attempt to
build an e-reader from stuff laying
around his house. Source.
Mr. Martin began with the story of the lectors in the cigar factories in Tampa (I think?) during the '20s and '30s, who would read to the workers as they rolled cigars. The point he wanted to make was that the cigar workers didn't care what the lectors were reading, so long as they were receiving the content and the entertainment thus provided. His larger point was that it will be the same with e-readers-- as long as we get the content, we won't care about the delivery system.

Now after reading about this very issue across the blogosphere and even starting the conversation a bit here, I know that many readers do not feel this way. You don't get the same texture and smell that a paper book has on a Kindle. It just doesn't engage the senses in the same way. Having said that, it's hard to argue with having a ton of free classics that I got from Amazon via their free PC app. So I do agree to some extent that it's the content that I really want, but I also kinda want the book as a thing. He also quoted a recent study that found that 1 in 6 Americans either have an e-reader or plan to purchase one in the next 12 months. I don't know anything else about the study, including how loosely they define an e-reader (would I count, since I read books on my PC?), but if they're anywhere near close... that's huge.

As to books that will never be digitized: Children's picture books, especially the ones with things to feel and move. You can't get that on a Kindle, either. Coffee table books. And here's one for my YA writerly friends: the YA market is currently keeping the physical book market afloat. In other words, keep writing!

I don't really want to ask an e-book question, since I just asked one the other day. So: when's the last time you read aloud to someone? Or had someone read aloud to you?

23 October 2011

Texas Book Festival: Juan Williams

So I've decided that the easiest way to cover the book festival in all its glory (which I fully intend on doing, so if you hate books or festivals, now is a good time to take a vacation from Cheekyness) is to start at the beginning and write about each talk or panel in order. Here goes.

Mr. Williams' latest book.
When I saw Juan Williams on the list, I was delighted. I read his book a couple of months ago and promptly decided that he is about as close to a voice of reason as we have on political TV in America today. He's a champion of civil rights, freedom of speech, and honest debate-- all of which are sorely needed now as much as they have ever been. You can read Mr. Williams' story that led to his latest book at the Wikipedia page.

Some of the takeaway points: We can't have a healthy national debate when the slightest dissent leads to people, and politicians in particular, being labeled RINOs or DINOs (Republican or Democrat In Name Only). This isn't limited to one side; both parties do it to their own. Unfortunately, this leads to a niche landscape, which is where we are now, with everyone locked into boxes. Mr. Williams said, "We need the freedom to debate and the freedom to be wrong." (In case you pay even less attention to politics than I do: Politicians aren't allowed to change their minds about things, for fear of attack, even if their previous position is wrong/untenable/really embarrassing/whatever. It's really dumb, IMO.)

A nice moment: During the Q&A, one participant noted how guests with opposing viewpoints will appear on those news analysis shows and all talk over each other (think Crossfire), and asked, "Do the producers think this is good TV?" Mr. Williams laughed and said, "No." He then went on to elaborate, but I was too busy applauding along with everyone else to write it down. But hey, "no" sums it up pretty nicely!

Have you read this book? Do you have an opinion on debate in the US? If you're not from the US... how is your weather?

22 October 2011

Texas Book Festival

... day 1. I definitely got multiple posts' worth of stories from the first day at the book festival, so I'll start with the easy ones. (Don't worry; I took notes! I won't forget too much!) We went to a Pitchapalooza session with the intent to watch and learn-- Chad doesn't have anything book-length planned at the moment, and I don't have anything worth pitching, except an idea that I want to give some life to before pitching it around.

So we listened as one stellar idea after another came out. I don't remember them all, but one guy is telling his uncle's (really interesting) life story; one was a historical fiction involving a cache of guns somewhere in Texas; one was a boxing noir story set in Austin; a couple more historical fictions, a couple of middle grades, and one racy romance, and a handful of YAs. The eventual winner's story is about a boy who doesn't communicate well with others, so he draws pictures as his connection to other people.

Most of what the panel said to help people improve was stuff I've read on various author blogs already, so I don't have anything new to report. However, it was insanely helpful to hear other people giving pitches. Also, they all looked so calm. I would have been shaking so hard that my hair would have been vibrating. People would have thought I had a mysterious tremor in my scalp.

One notable moment: The moderator, wanting to call on someone to come pitch, pointed at a skinny guy with long hair and a beard and said, "Jesus!" I think I laughed for five minutes. The guy looked embarrassed.

And the sweetest moment of the day: A 13-year-old young woman pitched her book about a girl whose sister is kidnapped. The girl gets a text from her sister in the middle of first period, but the sister is gone by the time she gets home. So, the girl sets out to rescue her sister. The pitch was actually crazy-good (much, much better than my recap) and the panel didn't have much to critique. One of them asked, "Do you have the book written?" And she said, "It was written, but it caught fire. I live in Bastrop." Yeah, you'd better believe that a groan went across the audience. Such a gut-punch moment. In case you missed it, the wildfires across Texas a few weeks ago were mainly concentrated around Bastrop. Lots of houses are gone. And so is one young writer's WIP.

However, she didn't say it like she wanted us to feel sorry for her. And as one member of the panel said, "Sounds like you have another book to write." I don't know if having to completely re-write her MS will help the editing process, but I hope she re-writes it. I hope it gets published. I want to read it.

More to come! In the meantime: Have you ever been to a book festival? Have you ever been to something like Pitchapalooza? Don't you want to come visit me now that you know we have stuff like this?

21 October 2011

The Future is Today!

So today's green living tip is a little bit cheating and a lot born out of my frustration with having to tear down half a forest all by myself just to get through a couple years of school. And it is:

I still like this, too, but I'm a bit
stingy with it. Source.
Do as much as you can electronically.

I love the instructors who ask for homework electronically. I even more love instructors who assign books that are available as e-books so I don't have to pay for shipping. I am so enamoured with people who don't require me to print things.

This is not an anti-book or anti-paper post, btw, but just a reminder that services like Google Docs and email attachments and Kindle for PC might save you a bit of cash on paper and ink while also keeping trees in the ground. And I'm all in favour of that, because I live in Austin and think any part of the city without shade is doing it wrong.

Are you a teacher who assigns (at least some) homework electronically? Do you avoid printing things? Should I go around Austin in the dead of night planting trees?

20 October 2011

A Car That Goes-- Creative Writing #2

I wrote this little story the day after I took a car2go home and missed my exit. One 'cultural' note: UT's colours are orange and white, so the people wearing orange are college students.
***
Source.
            A little blue-and-white smart car, illuminated by street lights, zooms through Austin.
            This particular car had its beginnings in a factory in Europe, a land where streets are narrow and all cars are small. It boarded a boat to cross an ocean, bound for a place where streets are wide and some trucks merit their own zip codes. Cars do not usually think, and this car was at the beginning just as naïve as any other. And for the sake of its mechulinity, that was probably just as well. The not-so-smart car might have developed an inferiority complex once it got a look at Austin vehicles, since it could have fit inside some of them with plenty of room left over to pick up some groceries.
            Any hopes the car might have had of finding a nice home with a young couple and a pretty garage were dashed when it was accessorized with all sorts of fancy locational devices and then released to the care of the general public. At least it would never get lost, although if it had been looking forward to quiet drives in the park or occasional time to itself, those plans were on permanent hiatus. The car now served at the pleasure of the hip and trendy.
            Some days the car carried serious people in suits. The car noticed that they were hooked up to electronics all the time, much like itself. Perhaps they also were prone to getting lost. They never had any interesting messages on their phones for the car to read, and to judge by the local paper (and the car did not), they never gave anyone else anything interesting to read, either. They did a lot of shouting about words that sounded like ‘duck’, ‘shell’, and ‘dam’. The car certainly had cause to admire their concern for aquatic life.
            Then there were people who wore a lot of orange and carried heavy backpacks which were also orange. The car had no measuring devices, but it had a hunch that the backpacks weighed almost as much as the people carrying them. One day one of them got in and the car amused itself by reading her texts while she punched numbers on the GPS and muttered something about “go, cod”. She zoomed off as if she had seen the green flag and ignored the GPS until just after she missed her stop. And then she started yelling about ducks. Once the car delivered her to her destination, she stormed off and left the door unlocked. The car had to send a call downtown for help to get its doors locked, so it had plenty of time to ponder Austin citizens’ remarkable awareness of the plight of smaller animals.
            Sometimes grey-headed people would drive the car as though they wanted to make sure it had time to take in all the sights of Austin. They said things like “Oh, my” whenever a stoplight turned yellow, but did not seem to be interested in ducks. They did not shout, although other people often shouted at them.
            The car was unaware at first that it had started thinking. Little things, like passengers leaving him in the sunlight or dropping their trash on his  floorboards, started to annoy him. He tried sending polite messages via the GPS system, like “Please refrain from driving as if you were at Indianapolis,” or “The next passenger does not wish to sit in a seat covered in McDonald’s grease”. No one ever paid attention when he tried to speak to them. Sometimes they laughed and talked about the programmers having some fun with this car. So he went for a more passive-aggressive approach, like switching between his automatic and manual transmissions mid-trip, to alert passengers that they were displeasing him. He also noticed, after a while, that he was never in the vicinity of water when people started yelling about ducks. Considering how little regard his passengers had for his own well-being, he suspected that they were not as enamored with marine wildlife as he had once believed. He puzzled over this for a while, then gave it up as one of the great quirks of humanity.
             And his passenger this night is really confusing him. The kid stumbled up to the car a few minutes ago as if he had tripped over something. It took him two tries to scan his card and punch in his code. He smells fruity, but not in a good way, like the time someone left a bunch of grapes under the seat for a week.
            The car doesn’t like this passenger. He’s using every stunt in his arsenal to irritate the kid enough to take his orange-shirted self elsewhere—he even turns himself off at stoplights—but the kid responds by screaming about ships, pounding the steering wheel, and driving faster. The car gives up trying to reason with this kid and sends out a distress signal in case someone is watching who can call for help.
            The kid speeds up again and swerves around a truck in front of him. The car feels a strange sensation: gasoline burning faster than usual. He is confused: What is this kid doing? He enjoys the rush, and that adds to his bewilderment. Is he supposed to go this fast? There is nothing he can do but wait for help, so he decides that if the kid is going to drive like one of the Andrettis, he may as well have fun while it lasts.
            The lights on the freeway come at him like a rope of white. Other vehicles beep and honk as the kid swerves, speeds up, slows down for a second, then whips around. The car enjoys the rush of gasoline and the pulse of the road beneath his tires. It is every car’s dream to go to Indianapolis, but this feeling is a good substitute.
            High-pitched wails come up behind them. Blue and red lights stab through the darkness. The young man screams again and speeds up. I called the police, the car thinks. That was dumb. This is really fun.
            But the kid doesn’t stop for the blue and red lights. The swerving and zooming continue. What had been a game for the car now frightens him. I’m going to fast, he thought. He tastes his oil burning. Gasoline spurts through his system, making him whine. “I’m going too fast!!” he says through the GPS. But the kid doesn’t look down.
            The car is terrified. He is doing over 80 now, faster than he is supposed to be able to go. The kid takes a flyover. Is he trying to get away? the car wonders. “I have a GPS! They can track me!” the car shouts. The kid still doesn’t notice that the car is talking to him.
            His tires skid on the road as the kid takes the first bend too fast. They swerve, recover, speed up again. His lights illuminate a second bend up ahead, and the car sees what will happen: He will crash through the guardrail, his tires will lose contact with the road, and he will fly off into open air. There is nothing he can do to stop it, because for all his newfound consciousness, he is still not in control. He sends a final message through his oily tears, an instant before the impact will render him forever mute:
            “Duck.”

18 October 2011

Book Festival!!!

I don't see there being much new reading for me in the next few weeks-- I didn't even finish my last two library books, and had to return them-- so Teaser Tuesday is going to have to happen without me.

Poor, neglected library.
But I am going to snag a few hours this weekend to go to the Texas Book Festival. I don't even remember how I found out about it last year-- I think it was a fellow blogger-- but it was brilliant and I'm headed back again for Round 2. At least one writer who I've read recently is going to be there (Juan Williams) and I can't wait to hear him.

Plus, there are a lot of other cool people who I haven't yet heard of on the schedule. And Paula Deen. How cool is that?? Not that I get to go to her session; it happens during church on Sunday, and there's a long gap between her and the next session I want to go to, so I can't really justify going just to sit around for a few hours.

So! If you're around Austin this weekend, drop by the book festival! And hey, if you are around, let me know and we can drop by the same food trailer at the same time.

Have you ever been to a book festival? Are you going to be in Austin this weekend? Am I crazy for skipping Paula Deen?

17 October 2011

Ways to Feel Like Dirt, #84

On Thursday evening, I rented a car2go to go home, missed my exit off the freeway, and took much longer than necessary getting home.

On Friday afternoon, our writing prompt in class was "Describe the life history of a thing." I decided to write about a car2go and came up with a cutesy, somewhat funny tale of a little car in Austin, who misunderstands swear words (e.g., 'duck', 'shell', 'cod', 'slick'... you get the picture) and therefore thinks that Austinites have a thing for aquatic life.

On Saturday, I did a massive amount of editing and more or less rewrote the whole thing. I threw in a few IndyCar references because I'm from Indianapolis and that's what I think of when I think of fast driving. And then I gave it a sad ending (think Hamlet) with a dash of dark humour.

I'm sure dozens of cartoonists will
draw a checkered flag welcoming
Mr. Wheldon at the Pearly Gates.
So I thought I'd avoid the rush.
You'll dominate Heaven's go-cart
circuit, Dan. Source.
On Sunday I logged on to Twitter when I got home from church to read that there had been an accident at the IndyCar race in Las Vegas. I watched the video of the worst crash I've seen in 33 years of watching auto racing. And I sat on my couch in tears as drivers filed out of their meeting, all of them in tears, and the head of IndyCar announced that Dan Wheldon had just crossed his finish line.

And then I still had to do edits on my story. It's too late to rewrite; it's due today. I'm sticking with the storyline, dark humour, IndyCar references, and all, but I feel like an insensitive jerk. It happens from time to time, that writers write things that are within the realm of possibility, and then those things happen. (How much did it suck to be the writer on The West Wing who wrote the episode with Leo's (John Spencer) heart attack, when 18 months later John Spencer died of a heart attack?) It still feels wrong, though, and I'm torn between hoping that I someday can write without having this feeling, and hoping that I retain enough sensitivity to always have this feeling. Either way, I need to be able to work through it.

And that's why I'm still doing edits on the same story.

Anyone ever have a similar experience? Want to share thoughts race yesterday? Just looking for a good place to be sad?

16 October 2011

Words That Changed My Life: I Can Only Imagine

Yesterday I wrote a slightly (ahem) cheeky post about what heaven must be like on a Saturday morning. So, let me follow that up with some real thoughts on heaven.

Source.
I first heard the song "I Can Only Imagine" early in 2003, and I remember that because it was permanently seared on my memory a few months later. You see, I managed to contract a blood clot two years into taking birth control pills. (In case you were wondering about that 2% of women who manage to get blood clots... I'm one of them. The warning label on the box is talking about people like me.) And since I had no idea of what having a blood clot felt like, I walked around for a week thinking I had somehow damaged the muscle. Finally, it hurt too much and I went to the doctor, who booked me into the hospital so fast the revolving door spun for five minutes behind me.

On our way to the hospital, Chad and I had the radio on in the car and "I Can Only Imagine" was playing. This is going to sound weird, but I wasn't so much worried about a blood clot killing me as I was worried about Chad being left behind without me. This song brought comfort to us both that day. And I'm happy to report that I'm not a ghost, and am in fact alive and well to this day. Although I do have to wear nasty compression hose, which are from Satan.

I can only imagine what it will be like, when I walk by Your side.
I can only imagine, what my eyes will see, when Your Face is before me.
I can only imagine. I can only imagine.

Surrounded by Your Glory, what will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you, Jesus? Or in awe of You be still?
Will I stand in Your presence, or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing 'Hallelujah!'? Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine! I can only imagine!

Not so bad, really. Lyrics from lyricsmode.

Do you have a song/poem/thought that gets you through the tough times?

15 October 2011

The Hours

This post has nothing to do with the movie of the same name. Although it was an incredible movie, if memory serves.

So I was walking along yesterday, thinking about how I was going to have to get up at an ungodly hour on a Saturday so I could get some research done at UT's collection of old things. (By the time you read this, I'll have been hard at work for a few hours.) (Really hard at work, not what usually passes for 'hard at work' around here.)

This is what heavenly beings drink
out of, yes? Source.
Presumably, God is awake at 7 AM on a Saturday morning, but perhaps he's only just awake and still on his first cup of coffee. After all, he has to stay up late on Friday night and save a lot of people from themselves. Friday night must be a busy night in Heaven, what with all the guardian angels having to report back about their respective humans doing really stupid things, again.


So there's probably a lot of stumbling around in heaven on a Saturday morning. Angels in their bathrobes, trailing the belt behind them because it came untied, lining up at the coffeepot. The angels who have sensible, non-going-out humans are all bouncing around in a good mood, watching the cartoons and annoying the I-was-up-too-late crowd. Angels in the administrative department are fielding requests for power outages, cold snaps, or beer shortages to happen the following Friday evening so celestial beings can get a decent night's sleep.

And meanwhile, God is watching over everything and thinking about striking with lightning anyone who dares mention an ungodly hour.

Were you up at an ungodly hour today? Yesterday? Tomorrow?

14 October 2011

Hot Water

This week's green living tip is one I got from reading sleeping naked is green, by Vanessa Farquharson. One of her green changes was to only boil the exact amount of water she needed. So a couple of weeks ago I decided to try it.

This is what my kettle looks
like when it's not in use. And
when it is in use, too.
Upside: I don't have to measure boiling-hot water to make my oatmeal any longer. After I pour out the water for my tea, the water left in the pot is the exact amount needed for oatmeal.

Downside: All my tea mugs are different sizes, so I don't know how much is the right amount from one day to the next.

Verdict: I am, once again, skeptical about whether or not this really makes a difference. I suppose it uses more electricity to boil water that I don't use, so by only boiling the correct amount I am saving a little bit of energy. Either way, the upside alone is enough to keep me doing it, because anything that prevents me from burning my fingers on a daily basis is good. And this is one of those easy-to-make changes, since I measure the water anyway, and it doesn't add to the number of dishes I have to do. (If you're one of those people who must wash a measuring cup when it's only held water, I'm afraid there is no hope for you.)

Do you pre-measure water that you're going to boil? Do you wash out your measuring cups after every use? Do you think my kettle is really really cute?

13 October 2011

Multi-Modality and Me

So I got home today and said to Chad, "The universe is telling me that I was not meant to drive. I wonder when I'll decide to listen".

Cars2go are actually blue and white.
But otherwise, they look like this.
Source.
Why? Well, I was up late with two papers yesterday, and decided that if there was a car2go (the local carsharing scheme) in our neighbourhood when I was ready to leave, I was going to take it. Lo and behold, there was one, so I jumped in and drove to school. (I haven't driven to school in years!) Unfortunately, when I parked it, I got an error message that the car couldn't connect to the network so I should park somewhere else. Since I was already running late for class, I called customer service and got them to lock the car so I could go to class.

And then I decided to take a car2go home, too, because I was in a hurry after work. We have an airbnb guest coming tomorrow, and our apartment desperately needed to be cleaned. So I'm driving along, thinking to myself how much I love having all these options for transportation: car, bike, bus, foot... and then I miss my exit off the freeway. The GPS in the cars2go doesn't announce turns, but you also aren't meant to be distracted by it, either, so I hadn't looked down to see that my exit was coming. Le sigh.

I still got home faster than I would have done by taking the bus. My apartment has been cleaned. And tomorrow I'm taking my usual bus/bike combination, because it's a very efficient way of getting around. I love being multi-modal, but I think the 'driving' mode may not be my thing.

Is there something the universe wants you to stop doing? Do you ever go multi-modal?

12 October 2011

Heard in Bible Class

Well, not so much 'heard' as 'said'... you know, by me.

Someone raised the question of how Paul managed to keep track of so many churches. We discussed it seriously for a few minutes, and then:

Me: I just don't know how he managed without Facebook.
Someone else: He tweeted. (general laughter)
Me: Think how much longer the Bible would be if Paul had had the internet.

And that, my friends, is the full extent of today's snark brilliance.

11 October 2011

Teaser Tuesday #18

Possession, Elana Johnson


Horrified, I watched Jag battle with himself. He really couldn't speak-- because of my command. This was so bad.









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!

10 October 2011

Cries for Help

NaNoWriMo is three weeks away, my first round of grad school applications are due in seven weeks, and the end of the semester is looming just after that. Holy smokes.

All that to say: Guest bloggers wanted! Specifically for the month of November, but if you're burning to say something October-ish, let's negotiate. If you have something to say that's off-topic for your blog, you can say it here (unless it's X-rated or something). Or if you aren't a regular blogger but you have something to say that is too long for a Facebook post and too short to start your own blog, let's talk! Leave me a message in the comments, catch me on Twitter or FB, or email me at cheekysu AT gmail DOT com.

This has nothing to do with my
post. I just think it's hilarious.
So, my creative writing class. I need to nickname these people, because they are delightful-- I guess that's something to mull over. We've had our first workshop this past week, and suddenly all the awkward silences are gone as we chat and are much more comfortable with one another, thank goodness. Today's my turn to be workshopped. The problem with going in alphabetical order (and more specifically, with me being at the end of the alphabet): The comments have gotten progressively bolder as we've gone along, that is to say, less 'this is great!' and more 'fix this!' I'm a bit sensitive about my writing, just like everyone else, so I may have to go hide in the bathroom after class.

Also making my list of Awkward Things I'm Doing Today: I have a consultation this morning at the very Writing Center where I am a consultant, for that very creative writing story. It's going to be an entertaining conversation at the front desk as I explain: No, I'm not joking, look, I'm right there on the schedule. And after that, I'm going to a meeting with French Teacher in which he will clear up all my confusion about the French language so I can go forth and be fluent. Or maybe he'll just tell me how to pronounce a French 'r' and where the adjectives go. Either one.

Fortunately, my meeting with Chicago (linguistics teacher) isn't until Wednesday. Yes, it's Help-Me-I'm-So-Confused week here at Cheekyness. I'm thinking of just wearing that on a name tag on campus.

Are you doing anything awkward today? Do you want to guest blog during November? What colour should I make my "I'm Confused" name tag?

09 October 2011

At Home

I mentioned a couple of months ago that we were in the process of changing churches, complete with a story of how we found a particular one: I was on my bike one day, took a wrong turn onto a really busy street, thought I was going to be killed, and then got a good look at a church building when I finally got to the safety of a red light. There was no particular denomination or name on the outside, so I googled them when I got home, and Chad and I decided to go visit.

Source.
Four months later, we've decided that Red River is our new church home. We have a lot of reasons for liking it, so I'm not going to bother naming them all. Suffice to say that we feel that this is a place where we can love and be loved, and where we can serve the community alongside our new friends. And where it's okay that we aren't all in the same place in our spiritual walk. That makes me so happy.

Also at the new-to-us church: They have a praise band. I've spent my entire life (minus a few Sundays) worshipping a cappella. I'm well and happy and good singing with instruments, but it should be a really interesting conversation when my grandma comes to visit. Also, they're really good and a pleasure to sing along with. The band, that is, not my grandma, who is a pleasure to sing with for reasons that are not the least bit music-related.

It was at Red River that we first saw this video, which makes me giggle every time I see it:



I asked this a while ago, but now seems like a good time to rehash it all over again: What are your favourite hymns? Do you have a preference between instruments or not?

08 October 2011

Does anyone remember 1993?

I can't believe this, but I'm having trouble coming up with a blog topic today. That could be due to the stack of textbooks waiting to be read, the business proposal I'm supposed to be writing that I am in complete dread of (and it's mocking me, btw. I have my Google Docs tab up and I keep averting my eyes, but it is calling my name. Dang proposal), the list of French words that are still unlearned for Monday's vocab quiz (and all of French Teacher's gentle but still guilt-inducing suggestions that perhaps I could put a bit more effort into the vocab are ringing in my ears, because he is 263% correct about that), and The Help sitting on the other shelf, to be ignored until homework is done. You might say my thoughts are divided this afternoon.

So, I wandered over to the NaBloWriMo site for a prompt, but it looks like Not Hannah is having an exhausting week, so today's prompt is not up. Instead, I'm taking Tuesday's: What advice would you give your fifteen-year-old self?

Hmmm. Here's the thing: I don't really remember 15 that well. I remember 14 (freshman year of high school) and 16 (that was a fun year), but 15? I think I spent most of that year waiting to be 16. But, I'm fairly certain that 15 was the year that I discovered the not-at-all delightful combination of Sominex and Stay Awake. I've had insomnia issues since I was born (or so my mother says), but I was a teenager before I found out that I could take medication for it. And it didn't take long for me to find out that Sominex lasts longer than the 8 hours or whatever promised on the side of the package. Enter: Stay Awake.

Source.
And of course, we all know how this sort of story ends. These non-habit-forming chemicals magically become habit-forming, and have the same kind of cycle of needing more for the same effect as any other chemical. I do understand that sleep aids and caffeine are not the worst drugs in the world, and that other teens had way more destructive habits than this. I also know that I was very lucky that I didn't venture down that path, considering how easy it was to get addicted to sleep aids and caffeine. I don't remember how long it lasted, although I think I stopped using them before I graduated. And I'm pretty sure that some of my long-lasting quirks-- frequent lightheadedness, headaches, a tendency to be insane under the influence of caffeine-- date back to those days.

So, my advice to my 15-year-old self? Leave those things on the shelf and out of your body. You don't need them!

What advice would you give you the 15-year-old you?

07 October 2011

Imperfection Allowed


The symbol is smoking because
of all the stress I've put on it. Source.

Something that bugs me about today’s public climate is the insistence upon perfection. I’m all for practising what one preaches, walking the talk, or whatever cute phrase you use to say ‘don’t be a hypocrite’. However, we seem to leave unfortunately little room for changing one’s mind, having a bad day, or just plain screwing up.

I don’t want to come across that way with my environmental-ness. I share tips that work (usually) for me or for others, but I’d hate for anyone to slink away from my blog thinking that I’m issuing booming earth-friendly proclamations from on high and that you aren’t welcome if the suggestions are impractical for you. Quite the opposite, in fact; if my suggestion doesn’t work for you, tell me what does work. That’s the sort of information that I love. And as a gesture of “hey, look, we’re all human,” here’s my own Bad Week on Earth story.

I’ve gone through two reusable water bottles this week. Two. The first one was my metal water bottle, which was actually Chad’s metal water bottle that I’ve been carrying since I lost my own six months ago. I lost his on Tuesday. Or possibly Monday. Either way, the bottle and I have parted ways. I grabbed another (plastic) one out of my cupboard, which I promptly destroyed on Thursday by pulling on the nozzle with too much force. I recycled the bottle, but the lid didn’t have any kind of number or other indication that it was recyclable, so into the rubbish it went. My coworker Triple Major was right on top of that, since I wrote a paper just last semester about how long things stay in landfills. Alas, some things are just meant to be thrown away when they’re broken.

Also making the list of “oh, crap”: Our office (I work at UT’s Undergraduate Writing Center) has a Keurig instead of a regular coffeemaker, which is all well and good practical, especially since it does coffee AND tea AND hot cocoa AND apple cider. Unfortunately, the cups are not recyclable. I thought they were, as I’m almost sure that all the people who have encouraged me to buy one have assured me that Keurig has some sort of recycling programme. Well, they do-- for the recyclable parts of the machine itself. The cups are still single-use, non-recyclable plastic and foil. Drat-- back to bringing my own compostable tea bags (or leaves) it is. And I was so hoping to spearhead the Keurig recycling effort at the UWC.

And finally, it was raining this morning on my bus ride here. I put a plastic bag on my bike seat, as it my wont, only for it to blow off somewhere along the route. Not only did I have a wet seat, but I’m also a litterer now.

How about you? Is there something that sometimes goes wrong for you, despite all your best intentions? How do you avoid it? Do you think I should wear a name tag that reads “Earth Destroyer” as penance?

06 October 2011

Old People On Campus: Je Ne Comprends Pas

So I'm taking a beginning French course, entirely for my own entertainment. I see snippets of French in books and whatnot, and for ages I've wanted to know how to pronounce all those words. To that end, I enrolled in French this semester.

French Teacher is actually from France, which is nice, since I'm reasonably confident that he knows what he's talking about. In fact, he's such a good teacher, I feel really guilty that 1) I'm really an awful French student, and 2) I mangle his language every time I try to speak it.

This is what I'm like in French class.
I sit there and stare. With my
mouth open. Source.
We often do group work to practise speaking with one another, and lately he's been hovering near me and my usual partner, Louisiana (so named because she used to live there). Yesterday, Louisiana decided that he must be hovering because we do a lot of giggling when we're meant to be practising French, so she told him, "You need a tape recorder back here. She (meaning me) is so funny! The other day she said that she feels bad that she's bad at French because you're such a good teacher. (And it was at this point that my face went all red.) And yesterday, she said this would be much easier if she spoke French!"

It's true, I did say both of those things, but I didn't actually intend for French Teacher to hear it. Louisiana explained later that she wanted him to know we weren't goofing off. When I told Chad about it, he said French Teacher may be hovering because he knows the two of us need help. Really, it could go either way. I do know that our TA has started hovering, too, because one of us always has a question during group work.

To French Teacher's credit, he lied through his teeth and said that I'm not doing bad. Nice guy.

Do you speak French? Do you ever feel guilty about being a poor reflection on a teacher/boss/whoever? What's your theory on why French Teacher is hovering?

05 October 2011

The (Not-So-) Magical E-bus

So it turns out that it's not called "NaBloWri Except When I Forget Mo". Dang.

Way back when we first plotted out Have Bus, Will Travel, I shared that there were a few routes that were just too impractical for me to take. Among them was the E-bus, the late evening/early morning service that runs between student housing centers and the downtown entertainment district. Since I neither live in a student area nor do I go downtown at night, I thought I was never going to take that bus.

Whaddya know, I was wrong.

Last Friday evening, I went to a birthday party for one of the really sweet, really tolerant 'normal' students who I've become so fond of over the past year. Sprained Ankle, in fact, is her wildly inaccurate nickname around Cheekyness. She's a lovely person and très fun and it was her 23rd birthday and she kindly invited me to come. So of course, I took 10 seconds to think long and hard about how I don't really do late nights or loud music and before agreeing to go.

Confession: I'd never been to a college party. I've been to parties where college-age people were gathered, but the loud music, bad dancing, crazy talking stereotypes you see on the movies? Not once until last weekend. You know what? It was fun. And there really were impossibly beautiful people there.

Anyway, the bus! As the evening wore on, the group decided to head downtown, so we made our way to an unusually crowded (by my experience) bus stop. And then the bus pulled up, already packed. That made me really nervous, because I so have personal space issues, and also because we were worried that we might not all get on the bus. Despite being rather independent when it comes to transportation, I was not excited at the prospect of having to ride a bus downtown with complete strangers if I got separated from the two people in the group who I knew.

I worried for nothing, since we did all get on, but the driver had to change the sign in front to 'Drop-Off Only' once our group was in, because there was no more room for anyone else. But then he also had to follow his normal route downtown, which strikes me as beyond silly. Why not have a back-up plan to go straight there once the bus is full? Running the complete route just results in a lot of frustrated people standing by the bus stops.

So, I'm on a really packed bus, fortunately standing (more or less) between the two people I know. This turned out to be a good thing, because at one point Sprained Ankle (in front of me) lost her balance and fell into me, so I fell into the guy behind me, who is one of our fellow consultants at the Writing Center. He was paying enough attention to catch us both and get us back on our feet. (God bless the strong young men who work at the Writing Center!)

Overall, what is the E-bus like? Lots of shouting. Since it was so packed, and since everyone was excited about heading downtown, they were all trying to talk over each other. And since it was her birthday and she was extra-giddy, Sprained Ankle led us all in our school song and a cheer. Apparently this is normal E-Bus behaviour, except that it's usually reserved for on the way home (i.e., once everyone is drunk), not the way there.

And when we got off downtown, everyone-- or at least the ones in my earshot-- thanked the driver. They may be rowdy, but they have manners.

And that was me on the E-Bus. I probably won't be repeating the experience anytime soon.

04 October 2011

Teaser Tuesday #17

The Help, Kathryn Stockett

But here's the thing: I like telling my stories. It feels like I'm doing something about it. When I leave, the concrete in my chest has loosened, melted down so I can breathe for a few days.









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!

03 October 2011

Nothing to Read Here...

This is how I feel about editing: Lots
of words, all in the wrong order. 
I was going to post another in-class writing sample from my creative writing class today, but unfortunately the revision is going backwards. I'm about to scrap all my edits and start over, I think! BTW, many, many thanks for the encouraging and helpful comments here and on Twitter last week. My initial submission got me a B+.

So, rather than give you something I've written, I'll tell you about an exercise we did. We had a lecture about titles, and then she asked us to jot down 15 possible titles quickly. I wrote 20, and here are my favourites:

Back in Junction
Green Like the Sky
Interpreting for the Idiots
The Line at the Coffee Shop
Reused Life
Always in Reverse
Occasional Light Showers
Blue Stained Glass
One of the Five
One Mad Weekend


And I can give you an explanation on how I thought of all of these, but it's probably more entertaining just to leave it to your imagination! Details available upon request, as ever. ;)

Do you have a fun title with no story attached? Do any of these strike your fancy? (If so, you can grab one and take it home with you; I have nothing in particular in mind for them yet.) Have you ever scrapped edits and gone back to the beginning with something you've written?

02 October 2011

From Mane to Wig

Normally, if I post on a Sunday, I like to make it something spiritual or devotional, since Sunday is my day of worship. But today, I'm just going to regale you with the tale of my haircut.

Yesterday, I went from this:
 To this:

Why? Well, it's too hot around here and I probably should have done it four months ago. Also, it was getting problematic for putting on a bike helmet and time-consuming for everything else. I can't leave my long hair down for class or I'll play with it, so up it must go.

Here's a little tip for your future: A Google search is not the best way, at least not in Austin, to find a hair salon that participates in Locks of Love. It's definitely not a good way to find ones that will do it for free. You're better off asking people who have done it where they go. In the end, I went with a local shop that does not cut the hair for free but encourages people to donate their hair. The conversation was something like this:

Stylist: What are we doing today?
Me: Cut it all off.
Stylist: How short?
Me: Oh, about here. *indicate what I'm after*
Stylist: Great! And are you donating your hair today?
Me: Yes, absolutely.
Stylist: Oh, thank goodness! I was thinking, 'Please, God, say yes.'

I think he might have cried if I had said no. Also, stylists seem to love my hair. I guess if you have an hour of time and a bunch of equipment at your disposal, my hair is fun to mess with-- it's thick and very straight. So thick, in fact, that 45 minutes after washing it still needed about 10 minutes of blow drying. (Which, in case you were wondering, is why I don't bother.) He said, "Wow, that's a lot of hair." Yes. Yes, it is.

So, my hair is sitting here in an envelope with a form, waiting for me to take it to the post office tomorrow. In a few weeks' time (I guess-- I don't know how long their turnaround is), a sick kid will have a new wig made of the hair that used to be on my head. Two takeaway thoughts from this: 1) This must be how sheep feel, and 2) If I'm going to donate my hair, I suppose the least I can do is take better care of it while it's still attached to my head.

Anybody else get a haircut this weekend? Have you ever done Locks of Love? Do you think sheep ever wonder where their wool will end up?

01 October 2011

It's a Blogversary!!

After the birthday party I was at
last night, I decided against a
party hat.
Seven years ago today, I did a Google search for "free blog" and this is the result! As is my wont, I re-read my first post a couple of days ago and found out that my life has not gotten any more interesting over the course of the last seven years. Good to know!

So, I'll be having another giveaway for my blogversary. Details coming... soon. As in, as soon as I make them up.

Coincidentally enough, my blogversary is also the first day of NaBloWriMo. Today's prompt is: "Why do you blog?" Seriously, could that have worked out any better?

I'm pretty sure I started blogging because I read someone else's blog and thought, "Hey! I want one!" However, since then my posting and reasoning have evolved, through various hot topics and on-again, off-again streaks, to today's nonsense that I post mostly to empty out my brain and share my colossal goofiness with the world. I'm so glad that nearly 300 people have at least a passing interest in what I have to say. And I find it very cool to see what everyone else has to say, too. The blogging community is très fun.

So, that's about it for my Saturday, except that since October is here, and it's only 31 short days until NaNoWriMo begins, I'm concentrating on getting ahead in my homework. Which (of course!) when translated means, I'll be around to your blog to comment in December.

Do you keep track of your blogversary? (I had to get a gadget in the sidebar to remember when mine was.) Are you doing NaBloWriMo? Would you like to help me with my homework?

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