What are we talking about today?

Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Friday: Green living.

27 December 2013

The Library

I'm getting a lot of use out of our public library during this holiday season, both with books (did you see my Christmas reading recommendations? They're still good! It's only the 3rd day of Christmas, after all) and with DVDs. In anticipation of the new Girls Meets World series, my sister and I have been revisiting our youth and gradually rewatching Boy Meets World. Denise had a strong crush on Shawn, and I eventually had a crush on Shawn's older brother Jack in the later years of the show. And, of course, I wanted to be Topanga, because she was awesome. And really, in those pre-Hermione years, who among us didn't want to be Topanga? I'm enjoying this trip back to the characters' (and my own) childhoods, and can't wait to see them in their new roles as parents. I hope Disney doesn't screw this up.

Moving right along...

I can only dream of there being this much available space for
studying at my library. From mzacha on stock.xchng.
I'd be in dire straights without my local library. That's where my reading and viewing material come from. It saves me from spending a lot of money on books and DVDs and from house getting (more) full of those same books and DVDs. Especially DVDs. I don't watch enough TV to need a DVD library, not when the city has one for me. I admit it's a bit of a downer when I want to watch something right now but have to wait a couple of days for it to arrive at the library, but I'm willing to live with that.

If you aren't, there are other options-- Netflix, Hulu, Redbox-- that are easily accessible and will keep you from filling your house. And of course, I'd be remiss in my Green Friday posting if I didn't remind you that sharing materials with your entire community is a great way to make good use of resources, especially for something you don't necessarily need on hand all the time.

And my final plug for the library: In this era when budget cuts are affecting all levels of government services, it's critical that the library proves its own usefulness to civic leaders. Please use your library to make sure that it continues to be available to use.

What's your favourite thing about your local library?

26 December 2013

Mary Ellen

The next Walton on the list: Mary Ellen.

It turns out that finding two names as a single entry on Behind the Name is problematic, so today's is a two-for-one deal. (Can't wait until we get to Jim-Bob.)

Mary Ellen
Mary is the English form of Maria, which comes from the Hebrew Miryam. Behind the Name lists several possible meanings, including "rebelliousness", which kinda works for Mary Ellen Walton (as rebellious as a Walton gets, anyway), or "beloved", which is sweet and more like Mary Ingalls.

Ellen is a form of Helen, which means "torch". Both names have fallen off in popularity as standalone names in recent years. Mary Ellen peaked in the 1940s, and not even a fun-loving Walton could save its freefall off the popular-name charts.

There's an astronaut named
Mary Ellen! Awesome. Source.
Famous Mary Ellens: Mary Ellen Wilson, an abused child whose case led to many of today's child protection laws; a bunch of people I've never heard of, but that doesn't mean they aren't famous.

Fictional Mary Ellens: Mary Ellen Walton, naturally, although I think of her more as a childhood friend than a fictional character.

My Mary Ellens: Believe it or not, I do know a Mary Ellen! She was a supervisor at a job many years ago, and if I may draw on the name's meaning-- yes, she was my beloved supervisor. (I don't know what I'll do if I ever get a job where I don't immediately love my supervisor six ways to Sunday.) The day she left was one of the saddest days of my life. I seriously cried at work for a week. I've never written a Mary Ellen, mostly because of that "Mary Ellen Walton was my best friend" thing.

Do you know any Mary Ellens? Were you as attached to the Walton family as I was?

Sources:
Behind the Name
Baby Name Wizard

25 December 2013

All I Want for Christmas...

... is a block of wood. About eight inches tall, wide enough to stand without wobbling, with a hole drilled down the middle that will hold the post of this tree:

This pic is a few years old, but that's pretty much what it still looks like.
You see, I used to have exactly that block of wood. It was the tree stand for this tree. At some point during one of my moves, the block of wood parted company with the rest of the tree. Goodness knows where it is now.

This tree, as you've noticed, is not so big. The first year that I was away from my family for Christmas, I only got a two-week break to come home, and we had to be back on New Year's Eve. Since I was spending most of the holiday season not at home where the tree lived, my grandpa was a bit distressed and decided I needed a tree.

He kept the top section of the "some assembly required" tree he and my grandma were tossing out that year, drilled a hole in a block of wood for a tree stand, and as the finishing touch, wrapped a few other wood scraps in wrapping paper to be the presents under the tree. (I still have them. They're under our tree right now.) Then he grabbed up a couple of old ornaments (I still have all of those, too), put the lot into a box, and presented it to me at Thanksgiving. Christmas tree kit, just add a space on an end table.

The taller tree. Also from a few years ago. The fake presents are the stripey things at the bottom.
My roommate and I loved it. Chadwick and I love it. Even though we now have too many ornaments for this tiny tree, and bought our own slightly-less-tiny three-foot tree about eight years ago, this tree still goes up every year. Even though I have to get creative about its stand.

Merry Christmas to you.

21 December 2013

Christmas Reading: Recommendations

Just in case you're looking for some holiday reads, I decided to post my recommendations while you still have time to run to the library or bookstore before they shut it all down for Christmas. (I have four books on hold at the Austin library, and they're closed on Tuesday and Wednesday, so I have all my fingers crossed that my holds arrive by Monday evening.) And yes, these are (nearly) all Christmas books. If you have a recommendation for good books for other winter holidays, I'm all ears!

Source.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life, Donald Miller

This is not technically a holiday book, but the first time I read it a few years ago was over the holidays, so that's the association I still have. Great book, even if you aren't usually a Don Miller fan (I'm not).






Source.

A Texas Legacy Christmas, DiAnn Mills

I picked this up at a used book sale a few years ago, and it turned out to be a great story. Unlike many books set in Texas, you don't have to be a Texan to enjoy it-- the setting doesn't really matter that much.







Source.


A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

If you've never read the original, do yourself a favour and pick it up. It's a short read and utterly brilliant. Incidentally, my favourite adaptations are Scrooge, with Albert Finney; A Christmas Carol, with Patrick Stewart; and The Muppet Christmas Carol, with the Muppets and Michael Caine. Read it, then watch all of those.





Source.

The Christmas Box, Richard Paul Evans

I first saw this story as the made-for-TV movie with Richard Thomas, and it was beautiful. The book is even better. And just for good measure...








Source.


Finding Noel, Richard Paul Evans

There are a lot of things in this book that annoy me, but I recommend it all the same. Mr. Evans has a whole bunch of holiday books out that are all feel-good, heartwarming, tearjerking tales, so just look for his name at the library. They're not all masterpieces, but what are the holidays without a cheesy story or two?





Source.


Let it Snow, John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle

A trilogy of intertwined short stories. I read this for the first time last year and it instantly earned a spot on my permanent holiday to-read list.








Source.


The Gift of the Magi, O. Henry

It's short and beautiful. Why aren't you reading it yet?









Source.


And finally, my #1 Christmas read:
Dash and Lily's Book of Dares, Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Love, love, love this book. If you only have time for one Christmas book this year, make it this one.






So, that's my list. What's on your list? Am I missing a good one?

20 December 2013

Solar Pump

Source: BikeTexas Twitter feed. Which is run by me, in fact, but I didn't take
the picture. Anyway. I posted the pic there and then decided to post it here, too.
There's a small solar powered charging station that moves around Austin. I've seen it in a few places, including at UT, and have used it a couple of times. To judge from some of the stickers on it, it may have started at South by Southwest at some point.

This week, it landed at BikeTexas, where I work. It will be sitting in front of my office for a few months, ready to charge up laptops, iPods, phones, and even electric bikes (but not electric cars-- not enough amps, or something). I'm pretty excited about it.

So, my plan to get the most out of this little venture is to go outside at least once a week to plug in my laptop or phone and enjoy the solar station for as long as we have it.

Is there a solar charging station near you? Have you ever used anything solar powered?

19 December 2013

Jason

When you see this moment at the end of
The Waltons opening credits, it's flipped
the other way round. This is what they
all look like in a mirror. Source.
Still working my way through the entire Walton clan, but it's been a while, so I'll recap: We've talked about Zebulon (Grandpa Walton), Esther (Grandma Walton), skipped over John (Daddy Walton) since I did a Jonathan post a while back, Olivia (Mama Walton), and now I've skipped over John-Boy, also because of the Jonathan post, to bring us to my favourite Walton: Jason.

I'm not sure why Jason is my favourite, or when that happened, because at some point in time I was definitely more of a Mary-Ellen fan. Fun fact: Jason Walton was not going to be a musician until The Waltons cast Jon Walmsley, who is a musician, and they clearly didn't want to waste that opportunity. (For which I am very thankful.)

Jason
From the Greek iasthti, meaning "to heal". Aww! How sweet. Currently #76 in the US for boys, but it was #2 in the '70s, and even got as high as #562 for girls in the US in the '70s. Good job, Jason Walton. It's currently #71 (for boys, not girls) in Ireland and #74 in Netherlands.

Famous Jasons: Jason and the Argonauts, Jason Alexander (actor), Jason Bateman (actor), Jason Priestly (actor), a whole bunch more actors, Jason Kidd (NBA), and there's a Jason in the Bible

I posted this on my Facebook page on Friday the 13th, because
why wouldn't you? Source.
Fictional Jasons: Jason Bourne (the Bourne trilogy; gosh, I love those movies, but have never read the books), Jason Gideon (Criminal Minds), Jason the Power Ranger, Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th series).

My Jasons: I discovered quite by accident last Friday (the 13th) that there are six Jasons on my Facebook friends list. And there are a bunch more who I'm not connected to on FB. (This probably has something to do with being born during the Jason boom of the 70s.) Most Jasons I know are lovely people who I'm happy to share the planet with, although there were a couple of less-lovely ones in high school. I have not yet written a Jason, but stay tuned. There's still time.

Are you a Jason? Do you know any Jasons? Do you think Jason was the best Walton ever?

Sources:
Behind the Name
Baby Name Wizard

17 December 2013

Teaser Tuesday #39

Source.
Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen

"Why does he want to say that so badly?" I ask.
They turn in unison to stare at me.
"Fair question," says Otis finally, although it's clear he thinks I'm brain-damaged.

(Personal note: I read this book in one sitting yesterday evening. That's how engrossed I was.)





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 December 2013

#GivingTuesday


Yep, that's today. The charity answer to Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday.

Giving Tuesday does two things:
1. Interrupts the frenzy of buying to remind people to give back to their communities; and
2. Kicks off what many (most, I hope!) believe to be the true spirit of the holiday season-- giving instead of receiving.

Where do I give? Three places:
American Diabetes Association
American Cancer Society
BikeTexas

Please do share where you give in the comments (even if you aren't giving today!). Even better, use the hashtag #GivingTuesday all over the internet to encourage others to donate during the holidays.

26 November 2013

In My Mailbox: Utilitarian Reads

Not my literal mailbox, since most of these came from the library, but here are books I've read either for class or for my work this semester. (I have to say I'm looking forward to the day when I can think of seasons as seasons again, and not semesters.) All images are from the Goodreads page at the links, unless otherwise noted.


Central Works in Technical Communication, Johndan Johnson-Eilola and Stuart A. Selber. School.









Content Strategy for the Web, Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach. Work.










Image Source:
Austin Public Library.

Conversation and Community: The Social Web for Documentation, Anne Gentle. Work.












Ctrl Alt Delete: Reboot Your Business. Reboot Your Life. Your Future Depends on It, Mitch Joel. Work.










The Foundation Center's Guide to Proposal Writing, Jane C. Geever. School.









Grant Seeking in an Electronic Age, Victoria Mikelonis. School.













While my post-semester to-read list is incredibly long, and I'm looking forward to diving into it, I'm also open to suggestions. What's something you've read lately that needs a spot at the top of my list?

25 November 2013

Fun Run? Great! Here's How to Keep It That Way.

The season of Turkey Trots, Jingle Bell Runs, and other holiday-themed athletic adventures are on us. (And despite the unfortunate slang meaning of those words, rest assured I'm talking about the kind of running you do with your feet, not the intestinal distress kind.)

Plenty of people make holiday races their one 5K of the year. And that's fantastic. What better way to enjoy your holiday season than to gather your nearest and dearest to burn some calories and have a laugh together? None at all, I say. Here's a quick guide to making sure your event goes smoothly and everybody goes home happy. (If this all sounds familiar? Yes, I've posted it before. What can I say? I love recycling.)

1. Slower participants start at the back. No exceptions!
Like this. Faster people at the front,
slower people at the back. Easy!
From Ambrozjo on stock.xchng.
This is so important, I'll say it one more time: Fast people get the front of the start area. Slow people get the back. Why? Because the fast people might just trample any slow people in their way, and the slow people will almost certainly frustrate the life out of the fast people. Remember, however relaxed and laid-back this event may be for you, others in the crowd will be using it to get a serious workout or try to beat a previous time. Trust me, we are slightly crazy when we're in that mode. You get in front of us at your peril.

If you're walking, go to the back of the crowd at the start, no matter what your friend says about how she started at the front last year and everyone just went around her and it was no big deal. And-- I can't stress this enough-- no matter what time you arrived. Please don't come to the race an hour early just so you can be up front.

Not sure if you're a fast runner or not? Here's a good way to find out: If your running friends that you usually train with are at the front, go ahead. In all other circumstances, including if you don't train at all, move back. If your race has signs with your expected pace, LINE UP THERE. Seriously.

2. Please do not form a human wall.
Walking two abreast is fine. Three abreast is sketchy. More than three abreast, and you've become a roadblock. Don't do it! It's great that your family is all walking together as a group, but you need to arrange yourselves so that every other person on the course doesn't have to squeeze through the tiny gap you left them out the side.

On the same note, please be aware of the space between you and other groups on the road. If you are walking three abreast and you happen to fall in step with another group that's also walking three abreast, the same problem ensues. If people are yelling "Excuse me!" a lot or you get brushed by more than one sweaty arm, it's time to re-think your position.

3. Do not, do not, do not stop in the middle of the pack.
Feeling a cramp? Screaming baby in your jogging stroller? Just tired and need to walk? That's fine. Pull over to the side, make sure that no one is directly behind you, and then stop. Alternatively, you can tuck in behind another walker if you just need to take a breather. Whichever one you choose, know that stopping dead in the middle of the road is a recipe for someone running into you. And I promise, no matter what kind of distress your baby is in, there is no universe in which stopping so that runners can knock into the stroller and send you both flying is a better situation. Take a few seconds to get out of the road.

4. Be kind!
Remember, whether it's your first race or your fiftieth, there will be people who don't know about race etiquette and it won't even have occurred to them that they need to look it up before heading out. Reserve your patience for those people, and if you must correct them, do so as kindly as possible. Do your part to make sure everyone has a great race. And be sure to thank all the volunteers and race officials that you see, including the police officers directing traffic. They're out there working hard so you can have a great experience!

Do you do fun runs? Do you bring the family? Which is your favourite?

15 November 2013

What Would I Say?

If you haven't seen this app on Facebook, well, you're probably getting a lot more done with your life than I am right now. From what I can tell, the (you)Bot takes snippets of your Facebook statuses and assembles them into a new, potentially hysterical, update that you can then share.

What's great about these is just how close they are to something I'd really say. Try it here, and read on for some of my favourites so far:

This is what it looks like. Billy is my brother, but I don't know who John Well is.
Maybe I'll write him into my NaNoWriMo novel.

"Also, I didn't know has my registration page blocked, with STILL a pen in my guest blogging friends, in the meantime, I'll get an impatience over especially since, if not better news, my full force telling her voicemail, I'm just now sure why the inverted interrobang for something."

"And chanting in his native France, Italy, Portugal and Spain. For me."

"That's not my muse!!"

"What am I got out my lists are running shoes, compression socks, and a conversation starter!"

"I don't care so I didn't know has some sort stuck your help!"

"It's like her. Denise I have lived in Indiana since I said it, but humor me laugh over unless you've lost a song from a grain elevator that had siblings!"

Share your greatest hits in the comments.

14 November 2013

Olivia

Technically, as we work our way down the Walton family tree, we've come to John. However, I did a post on Jonathan already, and while Behind the Name tells me they are not exactly the same, I'm calling it close enough.

So! We'll just skip right over Papa Walton and straight on to Mama.

Olivia
If you've never seen Fringe,
you totally should. Source.
This name is a Will Shakespeare original, and Behind the Name says "Its rise in popularity in America was precipitated by a character on the 1970s television series The Waltons." Hey! Right on. Olivia has all sorts of popularity right now (well, in 2012): It's the #4 name for girls in the US, also #4 in Scotland and New South Wales, Australia, #2 in England and Wales, and #1 in British Columbia, Canada. Something is making her very popular, and I doubt that it's Mama Walton.

Famous Olivias: Olivia Newton-John (actor/singer); Olivia Holt (actor); Olivia Clemens (wife of Mark Twain).

Fictional Olivias: Olivia Walton; Olivia (Twelfth Night); Olivia Dunham (Fringe).

My Olivias: A couple who I know a little. None that I see on a regular basis, except on Facebook.

Do you know any Olivias?

13 November 2013

Ten Things

You've probably seen this on Facebook: "Like this and I'll give you a number!" with a list of X things you may not have known about the person. Well, if I'm going to do that sort of thing, I like to bring it to the blog instead. So, ten things about me that I may not have shared before:

Source.
1. I have a pair of tennis balls in my living room. They're for rolling my feet over after I run or other times when they feel less-than-great. These tennis balls have never seen a racquet.

2. I started watching tennis during the MLB strike in 94-95. Until that year, I couldn't get enough of baseball. Now, I can't even remember why I liked it so much.

3. I see people reading books on the bus or the train that are either on my to-read list or my have-read list and I'm desperate to start talking to them about it. Sometimes I manage to refrain.

4. I have a vase full of dried flowers on my dining room table. My sister thinks this is morbid.

5. Chadwick and I decided when we got married that The Lord of the Rings complete boxed set would be the first DVDs we would buy, once all three movies were out (we got married right after Fellowship of the Ring came out in theatres). It's been 12 years and we own a couple of DVDs because other people have bought them for us. We have still never bought any ourselves.

6. On our second viewing of Fellowship of the Ring in the theatre, Chad and I sat in front of three teenage girls. At the end, one of them said, "I liked the blonde. What was his name? Nicholas?" I doubled over in laughter because I thought that was more socially acceptable than dumping popcorn over her head.

7. I almost became a member of Team "If You Haven't Read The Book, You Don't Deserve To See The Movie" that day. I still feel that way when I see people on the interwebs raving about Harry Potter and it's painfully obvious they've never so much as laid eyes on the books.

8. I failed at being a vegetarian because I lack imagination when it comes to food.

9. When I see children misbehaving in public, I have to run around a corner or open a book in front of my face or something so the kid can't see me laugh. I'm afraid that sometimes the poor parent sees me and misconstrues my reaction as disapproval. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

10. I'm a serious fan of musicals but do not necessarily think that the originator of a role is the bar by which all others are judged. Well, that's not entirely true. I do think that, because I also think the originator's performance gives subsequent performers something to build on and it's almost inevitable that the originator's performance will be surpassed sooner or later. You won't find me in the "the original actor is always the best" club.

What's something the internet may not know about you? Please share!

11 November 2013

Happy? Not so much.

You know, we like to stick "happy" in front of commemorative days. I've no real objection to that, since I'd like everyone's days to be happy. But when I see "Happy Veterans Day" or "Happy Remembrance Day"... well, that's a bit rough. Some occasions are meant to be solemn, and words have power. Of all holidays, Remembrance Day is not one for celebration.

Source.
Thank a veteran, post pictures of your grandad in uniform on Facebook (if I had one of either of my grandfathers, I'd post them), stop and remember: absolutely, these are appropriate things for today. But please think before you say, "Happy Veteran's Day!" Is that really the sentiment you're trying to get across? If so, go ahead. If not, there are other ways to show that you believe this day to be different from most.

Because I believe this poem to be perennially appropriate, and because I fear there are many who still haven't heard it, I share it for you again. You can read more about it at the Arlington National Cemetery website.

In Flanders Fields 
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918) 
Canadian Army

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow 
Between the crosses row on row, 
That mark our place; and in the sky 
The larks, still bravely singing, fly 
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago 
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, 
Loved and were loved, and now we lie 
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe: 
To you from failing hands we throw 
The torch; be yours to hold it high. 
If ye break faith with us who die 
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow 
In Flanders fields.

(In case you love my Remembrance Day posts and can't get enough of them, here are some other thoughts from 2008, 2009, and 2010.)

08 November 2013

NaNoWriMo Eve

Some may call it Halloween, but we know what the real holiday is on October 31st, don't we?

So! Before heading over to our friendly neighbourhood nerdy store that hosts the local NaNoWriMo kickoff every year, we got into costume. Normally, we don't bother with costumes, but this year wasn't normal! This year, I had Über-Hyper NaNo Brain for about three days before the kickoff, so I channeled that energy into rummaging through our closet and a local thrift store to turn us from Chadwick and Su into my favourite bit of Les Misérables fanfiction:

Éponine and Enjolras. No, I'm not so good at acting sad, especially when I'm
über-happy about getting Chadwick to dress up as Enjolras.
In case you're new around here, I'm a bit of a Les Mis fan. So when it came time for rummaging through the closet for low-cost and earth-friendly costume options, Éponine was the first one I thought of. And I wasn't about to miss the chance at talking my husband into dressing up as my favourite male character. Well, apart from Valjean, but really? Éponine and Valjean? That's too much weird. Anyway, I borrowed the hat, and bought my blouse and Chad's red sweater at a thrift store. Everything else is stuff we already owned. Oh, I did buy that gold ribbon-y stuff at Walmart.

Result:
"Let us NaNo facing our foes! Make them read while we can!"

Éponine guarding the bicycles, presumably before the revolution began.
What did you do for NaNoWriMo Eve?

30 October 2013

Seen on my Ride - Kinda

I'm all obsessed with NaNoWriMo right now. It starts in about 31 hours. I can't believe I'm even updating, but here I am!

I was going to do this really fun post about my #SeenOnMyRide Twitter updates, but I can only find three. I thought I had way more than that.

I really thought I was posting these every day. Nope...

I searched for #SeenOnMyRun, too, but my last post with that hashtag was a year ago. I wonder what it is that I'm really posting when I think I'm posting these things?

29 October 2013

Teaser Tuesday #38

Source: Goodreads.
Ctrl Alt Delete: Reboot Your Business. Reboot Your Life. Your Future Depends On It, Mitch Joel

It wasn't too long ago that mobile carriers didn't care about data. Their major concerns used to be voice usage and churn. But Cisco is now predicting that mobile data use worldwide is poised to grow to more than twenty times the current usage by 2015.







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!

28 October 2013

If You Crochet Yourself a Bike Seat...

It just happened that last week (or maybe two weeks ago; I've lost all sense of time) I got the bus two days in a row. I also saw a couple of my former professors on the bus on those days, which was lovely.

One of those professors is fairly well known in Austin for his Bus Tweets. I started following him because of the Bus Tweets, in fact, long before I signed up for his class. So when I saw him on the bus, I thought, "Oh, good! Bus Tweets!" and went to check them once I got to the office.

And then this happened:


I don't know if it still counts as "yarnbombed" when I had to do it myself, but this is what it looks like:

Or did look like, until I spent two months sitting on it. It's a bit more...
 stretched, now.
Before the crocheted seat, it was tie-dyed duct tape, which wore out so that I had to replace it and all I had was boring silver. The yarn seat keeps it looking pretty and protects my legs from being scratched to bits by evil sharp duct tape edges. So you can understand why my bike is more famous than I am-- it's been a bit eye-catching for a while.

Anyway. I guess now I know what route to avoid if I don't want to show up in Bus Tweets.

15 October 2013

Teaser Tuesday #37

Source: Goodreads.
Les Miserables, Victor Hugo

"Jean Valjean's visits were not abridged."



(Much like this unabridged version of the book that I'm reading.)

So, this is not a normal Teaser Tuesday, partly because I'm pretty sure I've done Les Miserables before, but mostly because I want to announce:

I am nearly done with this book!

Wow, can Victor Hugo ever write. And write, and write, and write some more. (Spoiler alert-- well, kinda. Just see the musical, okay?) Valjean escapes through the sewers with Marius? Cue four chapters on the history of the Paris sewers. That's what this book is like. Please don't misunderstand me: I love it. (Mostly. I could have lived without the Battle of Waterloo.) This book is fantastic, but wow, think of how many NaNoWriMos Victor Hugo would have had to taken on just one book if they'd had that sort of thing in his day.

And just for the record, the sewer scene was tense. As was the post-sewer scene. And then then three chapters leading up to Javert committing suicide? (What? I warned you! Watch the movie, for goodness' sakes.) Agonizing. I had to put it away for a couple of days to recover after that.

Anyway. My Kindle says I'm 96% done. Maybe after a couple of more weeks of reading it on the train on the way home (about 20 minutes every day) I'll have it finished.

19 September 2013

Esther

Picking up where we left off with the names: it's Grandma Walton, known as Esther to... well, hardly anybody on The Waltons, because she's Grandma.

Grandma Walton. Source.
Esther
Might mean "star" in Persian, or could be from the goddess Ishtar. Currently the 242nd most popular name in the US; peaked at #27 in 1896, probably because of President Cleveland's daughter. Worldwide, Esther is the 47th most popular name in Denmark, and is much lower everywhere else.

Famous Esthers: Queen Esther of the Old Testament; Esther Cleveland; Esther Williams (swimmer/actress).

Fictional Esthers: Grandma Esther Walton (of course!), Esther Smith, Meet Me In St. Louis

There are many others, but that's all I've heard of. Do you know any Esthers?

Source: Behind the Name

28 August 2013

"I've never seen anybody use it!"

Wednesday used to be my day for writing about life without a car, and my enjoyment (or otherwise!) of the local public transit, car sharing, and bike lane network. I've kind of gotten away from that, but for your reading pleasure: A post about the local train.

We moved apartments last month, away from one that was great apart from its location on the very eastern edge of town to one more in the middle of things. Our new apartment is close enough to a train station for me to take the train to work now, which I've appreciated. Since I work part-time, I leave at 2 PM and can usually get a seat on the train with no problem for the ride home. Going to work, though, is another story.

The trains are packed full at peak times. Packed. As in, some days I can't even get close enough to a bar to hang onto because of all the people in the way. The evenings are worse than the mornings, I discovered last week, but the mornings are pretty bad (and look to get worse now that schools and universities are back in session).

This was a little field trip we took with our interns from
work last summer. Middle of the day, many seats filled,
bike racks occupied even before we got on
(at the second stop on the line!).
I'm not too disgruntled about this. The train is doing exactly what it's meant to do-- move a lot of people quickly. If a couple of routes a day are full, great. That's exactly what the transit system needs to justify expanding service.

But it took a while to build up to this. When I first moved to Austin in 2010, the train had been operational for about four months and the great joke going around was that the train cost millions of dollars and three people were riding it.

Apparently, that notion took hold and refuses to die, despite standing-room-only trains for most of the day. Just this week, a visitor to the office told me, "You know, I've never seen anybody on that train." He said this minutes after I had pried myself out of the crowd to get off the train and head to the office.

I told him, "You must not be looking at it right." He was kind enough to believe, after I described my daily ride, that the train is indeed full for most routes of the day.

It's funny to me how long people can hang on to something that we heard once. It seems obvious enough to me that train ridership would increase gradually over time, and I'm not surprised to hear that there weren't thousands of people crowding all the platforms the day the train began service. But that's changed now (okay, we're still not up to thousands-- the train doesn't have that much capacity), so maybe after a couple more years I'll stop hearing about how there's "nobody" riding the trains.

Or maybe not. Texans do love their traditions, after all.

Are there any pithy but untrue statements that you hear a lot? Or is there an idea you're hanging on to that you may need to let go of?

27 August 2013

Teaser Thursday #36

Run to Overcome, Meb Keflezighi


Who could ever have guessed that six years later we'd both be marathoners and that I would beat him on the way to a silver medal in the Athens Games?

A typical marathon buildup week starts on Monday--an easy day--with a single 10- to 12-mile run.









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!

26 August 2013

Parlez-vous français? (Not so much.)

I was having fond reminiscences earlier about my French class, which was two years ago now. In so many ways, that was the worst class ever-- I think I ended with a C- (I took it pass/fail, so I don't really know), it took up so much of my time when I was trying to survive a difficult linguistics class, not embarrass myself in creative writing, and apply to grad school, all at the same time. And I don't even want to talk about what NaNoWriMo was like that year (although it was the time of the infamous "it's like being on drugs" quote-- come to think of it, some drugs might have helped) (just kidding: Please don't do drugs just because I said it would help).

Even through all that, it was my favourite of my four semesters at UT. Mostly, it was because of my creative writing class, which I loved. LOVED. Our instructor was amazing, and most of the class genuinely liked one another (or if they didn't, they were all very good actors!). And it was full of crazy-good writers. I spent the entire semester feeling inferior, but not really, because my classmates wouldn't let me feel that way for long. I thought more than one of my classmates from creative writing had guest blogged for me here before, but no, just one of them has. But even without them being willing to hang out around Cheekyness, they were still a great group. Incidentally, the class was entirely juniors and seniors, so I got to see about half of them graduate this past spring when I went to the English department graduation. Such a treat to recognise so many names.

This is French enough, right? To my great regret, we never
watched Phantom or Les Misérables in French.
Where was I? Right, French. The other big contributor to my loving that semester so much was French. Why? Because it was a challenge that I just couldn't overcome. I spent the entire semester frantically treading French water, trying to keep my head up enough to take a breath every now and then. I was hopelessly bad at it, the more so because I wasn't trying that hard due to the whole pass/fail thing and having five other classes that I did want to make good grades in. However, French Teacher is 1) Really good at teaching; 2) An all-around nice guy; and 3) The same age as me. The first two made me want to work harder in the class, because I felt bad for wasting his time and also because he's already perfected the art of gentle suggestion-- he'd mention in passing that I maybe should spent a little bit more time with vocabulary, and 20 minutes later I'd be in the library slaving over a list of French words. (Okay, it helps that I'm quite impressionable.)

The third bit, us being the same age, was just a help in making the class more enjoyable. There were a couple other non-trads in the room, but for some reason French Teacher and I were the ones pulling out all the same pop culture references and agreeing on all the cool hangout spots in town. For example, one day he asked (by way of talking about how accents affect your understanding), "How many of you have seen Trainspotting?" I raised my hand, but no one else did. He looked at me, grinned, said, "Okay, generation gap," and moved on. Repeat once a week for the entire semester, and you can see how the two of us struck up a friendship before the semester was out.

For all that the class nearly killed me, it was totally worth it and I can look back on it in fondness for this reason: It was hard. It was a struggle. For once in my life, I ran into something that brought me to tears of frustration on a regular basis and yet I stuck to it, gaining as my reward the very thing I was after: I know the basis of French pronunciation and grammar so I can at least have a stab at French words now. And as a bonus, I also learned about prioritization and that it's okay not to be able to do everything, two little nuggets of knowledge that are coming in handy in grad school.

TL;DR: Wow, that was long. Guess I needed to empty my brain. When was a time in your life that you felt like you were struggling for no purpose? (Bet everybody else's are a bit more substantial than French class.) What did you learn? What would you do differently if you had that time to do over again?

21 August 2013

Are You Going to Finish That? (A Post About Reading)

A few minutes ago, I set a book aside unfinished. It will go back to the library the next time I go.

From time to time, a conversation will arise on Facebook (sometimes on Twitter, but I usually see it on Facebook) about abandoning a book after starting. The discussion generally splits about 50/50, with one half declaring they don't finish books that aren't interesting, and the other half insisting that they cannot walk away, even when the book is boring.

Really?

When pressed, I've seen people answer, "I like to finish what I start."

So do I, but I reserve the sentiment for things like deep cleaning my living room or projects at work, not a book I started of my own accord and am under no obligation to finish. I've never signed a contract with an author to the effect that if I start reading one of her books, I absolutely will read every word.

Someone once told me, during such a conversation, that she was relieved to know that I don't finish books if they don't interest me, because that makes her feel like it's okay for her to do the same.

What?

Look at all these books waiting to be read!
From hhsara on stock.xchng.
(I can't remember who it was. Maybe she'll come along and identify herself. I have it narrowed down to about four people, but I don't know which one it was.)

If you're waiting for the permission of a voracious reader to abandon a book that bores you when you're reading for enjoyment (for school or work is obviously a different story), then here you are: You have permission to set a book aside. Really. Life is too short and there are too many books for you to force your way through a book you'd rather not read. Put it back on your to-read list if you think you may come back to it someday. (I've done that with Les Misérables, which I am now close to finishing about nine years after my first try, and Catch-22, which I think is on my list to try again over Christmas break.) Or just put it down. Return it to the library. Pass it on to someone who might like it. Take it to a secondhand bookstore. Let it go.

It doesn't surprise me that the "I must finish a book" crowd among my friends is almost the same as the "I don't read a lot" crowd. There are a few exceptions. Not many. I can't think of anything that would kill my reading joy faster than forcing myself through a book I didn't like.

What about you? Are you a must-finisher or a forget-this-er? Do you have a threshold, like the 50-page test, to decide where to stop?

20 August 2013

Teaser Tuesday #35

Source: Goodreads
Ten Miles Past Normal, Frances O'Roark Dowell

I decide I like being part of a group where nobody gets locked out, no matter how lame they are.

We're playing some old song, something by Radiohead, a song I've never heard before in my life and have no idea how to play, but after about thirty seconds I realize it doesn't matter, because no one can hear 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!

19 August 2013

What Do You Do?

A few weeks ago, a friend who I see a lot on social media but haven't seen in person for many years asked, "So what is it you do? I've just realised I don't know."

Saw this on Google+. Joked that I need to do
this, with Google+, Pinterest, Flickr, LinkedIn,
and Reddit on the other hand.
I was a bit horrified.

In case you don't know, I do the social media and communications for BikeTexas, the statewide bicycle and pedestrian advocacy group. While I don't make a big deal out of this on my personal social media pages, I do mention it from time to time (as most people do with their jobs), and until that moment I had considered myself to be an above average social media user. But a friend who knows me in real life? Had no idea I was a social media manager? It's moments like that that tell me it's time to step up my game.

So, up I stepped. I've filled my Feedly with social media news. I joined Google+ and LinkedIn groups. I started reading all the articles I can get my hands on about best practises. I still think I'm an above average social media user, but now I have the additional fun of being a bit of a snob when I see other brands making mistakes that a few milliseconds of Google searching will tell you not to make.

So what? Well, this is why I haven't been blogging. My summer off from grad school turned into a summer of learning how to be a great social media manager, or at least a shade-above-mediocre one. But I have missed spilling my thoughts on here. Good news-- classes start back next week! I'll have a lot more to talk about and a lot less time to write it down, if the last two semesters are anything to go by.

Are we connected? If not, why not? I'm on Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest! (My Facebook is still private. I'm more fun on those other networks, anyway.) Let's be friends!

Has someone ever made an innocent comment to you that turned into a call to action?

09 July 2013

Teaser Tuesday #34

Source: Goodreads.
Lost in a Good Book, Japer Fforde

"I got a card from London saying they were fit and well," she replied, "but they said they needed a jar of piccalilli and a torque wrench."

The mammoth ignored her, sucked up the entire contents of the ornamental pond in one go and clumsily trampled the garden furniture to matchwood.








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!

04 July 2013

Zebulon

Happy Independence Day to all my US readers! For everyone else: Happy Thursday!

I'm kicking off my series of names from The Waltons with Grandpa, also known (occasionally) as Zeublon, or Zeb.

Actor Will Geer as Zebulon Walton
in Zeb's final episode. Will Geer died
before the next season began filming.
 Source.
Behind the Name says this spelling is a variant of Zebulun, the Biblical 10th son of Jacob and hence one of the 12 tribes of Israel. The name means "exaltation," so named because Leah (Jacob's unloved wife) hoped her husband would honor her for giving birth to six sons. (If you don't know the rest of Leah's story: Yeah, not so much.)

I personally favour the shortened version, Zeb, which is what Grandma Walton calls Grandpa on the rare occasion she doesn't call him "Old Fool" or some other cute nickname. The name has never ranked in the top 1000 in the US, which is a bummer.

Famous Zebuluns: Zebulun Pike, the guy for whom Pike's Peak is named.

Fictional Zebulun/Zebulons: Just Grandpa Walton, so far as I can tell.

My Zebuluns: Not so much.

Do you know any Zebuluns? Did I miss anyone obvious?

Sources:
Behind the Name
Baby Name Wizard

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