What are we talking about today?

I'll get back to theme days once I find a groove of posting regularly. In the meantime, most of my posts are about some variation of books, bikes, buses, or Broadway. Plus bits about writing, nonprofits, and grief from time to time.

This blog is mostly lighthearted and pretty silly. It's not about the terrible things happening in the world, but please know that I'm not ignoring those things. I just generally don't write about them here.

28 February 2011

The Lazy Post

I'm still trying to keep my head above water with my homework (seriously, how did this semester get away from me so badly?), so today's post is quick and lazy and another answer to an FAQ: How do you start running?

27 February 2011

I've Been Inducted...

I was at an induction a couple of years ago for the Thespian Society at my former high school. I kept saying that Amanda's friend Paula was being "abducted", and Amanda corrected me about four times before she finally realised I was winding her up. Hee hee hee. (I said the same thing to a young man at church the next day, who had likewise been abducted, and he got it right away. At least somebody in Indiana appreciates my sense of humour.)

Anyway! Today I attended an abduction of my own, into Gamma Beta Phi. Let me preface this by telling you that I'm not much into Greek organisations. Even leaving out the raucous parties, they promote a spirit of "us v. them" that I think we already have plenty of in our country, and certainly on our college campuses. So I've spent most of my life pledging to never join a sorority.

And then I got the invite to GBP. First off, it's not a sorority; it's a co-ed organisation. Secondly, it's an honour society. And thirdly, they are officially classified at the University as a "service organisation". So I caved and joined, and today was formally inducted...

... along with my classmate TARDIS girl. (She has a cute TARDIS sewn onto her backpack. It's one of the reasons we became friends; how can you not like someone who will be excited about Doctor Who with you?) (Also, I do know that my nicknames are getting worse as I go along.) They had asked us to submit something interesting about ourselves, so hers was that she "makes a damn good four-berry pie". I encouraged her to bring one to class so that we can verify this claim. She noted that her interesting thing was the only one that included swearing. Tee hee hee.

The first time I tried this shot (yes, I was crazy enough to
take it myself) I got a great action shot of me catching
book and jar as they fell off, because I inadvertently hit the
button mid-catch.
Chad of course asked what my interesting thing was as soon as we walked in and saw the powerpoint scrolling. I couldn't remember (after all, it's been two weeks since I filled out the form), so we had to watch. And wait. And finally, mine came up:  "Susan likes to balance things on her head when she gets bored." Ah. That's it. I was quite gratified that I heard a chuckle in the room when mine scrolled across the screen.

Actually, I don't have to be that bored to balance things on my head.

So, Greeks? Non-Greeks? Balancers? Speak up and be counted!

26 February 2011

Aack! A bus!

So, to get myself back to my regular posting schedule, we return to green living today. One of the things discussed in last week's interview between myself and one of the local bus VPs was the "scary" factor of public transportation for people who have never used it. I know this is a real barrier to some, given the number times I've fielded questions from curious friends. So I give you:

Su's Guide to Public Buses. (Based on my own experience with buses in Indianapolis, Glasgow, Lubbock, and Austin, plus what I've read/heard from others and some research I've done into other US cities. Your mileage may vary.)

**Edited to add: I realised belatedly how long this post really is. So if you don't need a bus guide, please do skip to the end and share your public transport experience.**

25 February 2011

And Now For the Truth...

There was a fib in yesterday's post. Wanna know what it was? Well, have you read the post yet? No peeking until you've had a guess. Go ahead, we'll wait.

24 February 2011

Allow Me to Introduce Myself...

... to my fellow Crusaders.

I love warm weather. There is no greater clothing happiness for me than tank tops, shorts, and flip-flops. It's great when I get a blade or two of grass stuck in my toes; citified as I am, it makes me feel more connected to the natural world when the flora comes home with me.

I also love writing, reading, and running. Some days when I'm trying to feel extra-smart I bring them all together; I bloviate, "Yes, I'd like to canter about as a rabbit does, but I'm afraid I must scuttle in a fuliguline manner." And then the people talking to me wander off in search of someone who makes sense. I should probably stop with the swallowed-a-dictionary act.

I have a larger-than-necessary personal library, because I have a hard time parting with books. But unlike normal people, who shelve by genre or author, I shelve by size. However, my secret plan for my bookshelves is to get them into Dewey Decimal order; someday when I'm bored, I'll let out OCD Su and she'll get right on it.

My classmates have this charming idea that I'm a walking syllabus; they ask me more questions than they ask our TA. And the elder sister in me is happy to oblige, because I think they are (mostly) lovely people and also because I really do want them to succeed. Plus, I know the day is coming when I will be the TA and I'll be obligated to say things like, "What does your syllabus say?" instead of just handing out the answer. Technically, then, I'm an enabler for my classmates' unpreparedness, but I don't mind being their non-trad buddy.

So... something I just told you isn't true. Can you guess what it is? (People who know me personally well are disqualified from answering!)

23 February 2011

Run Strong - Live Strong

So... marathon weekend in Austin. The excitement, the visitors, the "Expect Delays" and "Road Closed" PSAs all over town, the traffic... I admit, even though I was all kinds of annoyed at the public transport being rerouted all day long, it was fun to see all this as a resident instead of an out-of-towner. (Although perhaps we should consider moving the Austin Marathon to Round Rock... they don't have any public transport to disrupt!)

22 February 2011

Another Quick Post....

... to let you know I haven't died, fallen into a huge hole, or suffered a debilitating accident to my fingers.

What I am doing is desperately trying to keep my head above water with my classes (perhaps taking 4 writing-based classes + 1 science class was a bad idea), in order to open up a bit of breathing space for myself.

Many, many welcomes to my new followers! I'm delighted to see you all and will be round to reciprocate very soon (tomorrow morning, if I can get tomorrow's homework done today!). Thanks for hanging in there while I'm experiencing two of my busiest weeks in recent memory (seriously-- it's a good thing I don't have children, because they would have forgotten what I look like).

I promise to give you a blow-by-blow account of race day (turns out that being a spectator is harder than it looks), my Crusader Challenge post (I'd be lying if I said I didn't have to consult a dictionary for the special words), and a snippet or two of the very inspiring and educational interview I had with a VP of the local bus company last week. Coolest conversation I've had with a stranger, ever.

ETA: Squirrel picture removed. Try Stock Xchng for free photos.

19 February 2011

So Much for that Post-Every-Day Streak I Had Going...

... Sigh.

Friends are in town for the Austin Marathon! We're having all sorts of crazy-awesome fun, but not leaving much time for blogging. I plan to be back to my regularly-scheduled nonsense on Monday. In the meantime, here's the sign I'll be holding up for my friends tomorrow:

17 February 2011

I Learned Something from my TA

Bit of a rant coming. Apologies in advance.

I love the writing process, I love to read what others have written, I love to help people love their own writing, and I love a good peer review that helps me. One of the many benefits of the Rhetoric & Writing major is that we learn how to give a decent peer review. I keep reading articles that say Aristotle was the originator of collaborative learning, so it's ingrained into the rhetorical tradition.

We have a one-page written response due to each reading in the Problem Solving class (the one for which Skinny Jeans is the TA). The assignment sheet for for the responses was vague at best; to my way of thinking, this is a recipe for disaster. Trust me, I am looking forward to writing the course evaluation for this class (insert maniacal laughter here).

16 February 2011

The Necropolis

The Necropolis, P.J. Hoover
The Forgotten Worlds, Book 3

The best series are the ones that get better as they go along, and these books are no exception. Book 3 did not disappoint-- except for it being over, of course.

I'm going to go ahead & presume that P.J. will be along sometime today to read this, and get my plea in early: Please, please write more books! (Not to put too fine a point on it, but Derrick and Douglas need their own adventure someday!)

I recommend the books to fantasy lovers of all ages, and especially for kids. But be prepared for questions when your kids find out that Easter Island is a real place. Spoilers after the jump!

15 February 2011

I'm Not This Good of a Friend

I'm way off my usual schedule this week, but I didn't think anyone would mind too much.

This is what the road looks like
after 20 miles.
I went to the Running is Funny blog a couple of days ago, and the post intrigued me because I'm going to be a marathon spectator, for a whole slate of friends, this coming Sunday. (I'm volunteering, too, but the holding-a-poster-and-screaming part is the good stuff.)

The post directs to a Houston Chronicle article about a runner whose friends went out early in the morning before the marathon to put up signs for him at every mile. I am not so dedicated; my running friends will have to be happy with one sign and me jumping up and down, but I admire the sentiment. And if you're running Austin this weekend, let me know & I'll add your name to the sign, too!

14 February 2011

It's Valentine's Day!

... which means that excuse to eat chocolate that you've been waiting for since Christmas has finally arrived! Enjoy-- with someone else, if you like.

I'm participating in the Show Me the Love Blogfest, hosted by Stephanie, but before I give you my answers I'm going to show a little love to Mia, one of the most entertaining bloggers on the whole planet (seriously, if you aren't reading her blog, then there is not enough fun in your life), and spread the word about her giveaway. Click on the link and fill out the form by 12 PM GMT on Thursday (that's 6 AM CST, for the time-zone-phobics) to be entered to win books! And drawings! And other fun stuff! Or, don't click and make my odds of winning better. Actually, I'd prefer you do the second one. ;)

13 February 2011

Faith v Religion

I've heard my whole life that there is a difference between religion and faith. And I always believed that to be true, even at times when I couldn't see the difference.

I've just finished the book Tribes by Seth Godin, and he puts it very neatly: "Faith leads to hope, and it overcomes fear." "Faith is demonstrated by the actions you take." (Funny; I think I remember reading something similar in James 2.) By contrast, "Religion... represents a strict set of rules that our fellow humans have overlaid on top of our faith."

Mr. Godin isn't writing about Christianity; his book is about leadership. But I think he's hit on a crucial point; faith is what allows believers to soar. Faith is what allows people to take risks. Faith says that it's okay to refuse to go along with what everybody's doing.

Religion can be the one to tell us to colour in the lines. Religion can tire people out and send them on their way discouraged. I don't think it must be that way ... but it happens.

The first group to be called Christians were noticed because they stood out. They did things differently than other people. They didn't go along with the crowd, and refused to do so even when threatened with death, because they had faith. But as time went on there were rules built around the faith, and someone had to be the hall monitor for the rules, and one day this movement that had stood against the culture became the culture, and to oppose it meant dire consequences.

How sad the things that can happen when we turn to religion, instead of to faith.

So today I encourage you: Be different. Do what you believe in. Soar, hope, love, and dream. Have faith.

12 February 2011

A Bus-Riding Life; or, This Could Be Really Cool

I've just finished reading Rachel Botsman and Roo Roger's What's Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption. Much more on that later, because it was a great book. For now, I'll just say that it explores such things as car- and bike-sharing schemes, Freecycle, craigslist, and other 21st-century, grown-up ways that we share things instead of each person consuming, then tossing, everything.

11 February 2011

Oh, That Crazy Bicycle

After riding my bike three miles in one go the other day (and being very impressed with myself, I might add, and never mind the bruises in uncomfortable places), I decided I need a place to put my stuff other than just wearing my backpack. So I ordered a pannier, which makes me all kinds of happy. But as a stopgap in the meantime, I did this:

...because that's what all the college kids are doing.

Unfortunately, I don't have the same regular bungee cords as all the college kids, and I was unwilling to buy them because 1) it was too dang cold to go to the store, and 2) I have a pannier on the way anyway. So I just used the bungee net that I already have, by passing it under the crate and affixing it to either side.

So far, so good. Then on Tuesday I discovered that if the crate felt just a teensy bit unbalanced (like, say, when I put one foot down because I was waiting at a stoplight), it would retaliate by flipping over to the side, dumping my backpack on the ground, then flipping itself back up again. It was like living in a cartoon, or at least a live-action Looney Tunes movie.

So I learned pretty quickly how to not overbalance on one side or the other, and got to campus, where I had to carry the bike up some stairs (the UT campus has stairs everywhere. I'm surprised they haven't been sued for accessibility issues). I picked up my bike like I always do, forgetting that my heavy backpack was in the crate, then realised that I couldn't lift my bike and my backpack. But before I could set the bike back down, the crate did its new flipping trick. I turned to pick up my possessions and saw that there was a tall young man behind me (think: basketball player) who, to his credit, was not laughing.

I: (to myself) Well, that's not going to work. (See Possible Basketball Player.)
PBP: Do you need some help, ma'am? (I love the politeness of these Texas boys.)
I: No, thank you; I just can't carry it all at once.
PBP: (chuckles) Okay.

And on we went. And for some reason, even though I do dozens of embarrassing things every single day, I was completely mortified by that exchange.

Story time! Have your possessions ever gone into a full-on rebellion?

10 February 2011

Join the Crusade!

Are you a writer? Do you want more writing friends? A chance to build your online platform while honing your mad writing skills? A fun community to be a part of?

Ask your doctor if the Writers' Platform-Building Crusade is right for you!

Just kidding, don't ask your doctor. I can tell you for free: It is. Hop on over to Rach's blog, fill out the cute little Crusader form, and you're all set. And just in time, too, because the first challenge is coming tomorrow! (I think... I'm pretty sure that's what she said. Hey, why don't you look that up while you're over there?)

I was in the first crusade, wrote some really bizarre posts as a result, and found a whole slew of writerly blogs to follow-- and made some new blogging friends in return. They're the ones responsible for taking me from 9 followers to 85. Way to go, guys! Anyway, I'm back for a second round, and my goal for this weekend is to get around to all the new crusaders and introduce myself. And you don't want to miss out on that.

Any fellow crusaders? What weird word do you want Rach to give us this time?

09 February 2011

The Navel of the World

The Navel of the World, P.J. Hoover
The Forgotten Worlds, Book 2

Last Wednesday I reviewed the first book in the series, The Emerald Tablet, and-- ah, you've guessed it!-- part three, The Necropolis, is coming next week. Austin Public Library has gotten these books to me at lightning speed, which is fast even for them, which makes me suspect that Ms. Hoover is expediting the process. (Okay, I don't really suspect that, but oh my gosh it would be so cool if she were!!)

Mild spoilers again after the jump.

08 February 2011

Teaser Tuesday

The Princess Bride
William Goldman

"Westley had instructed her on how to behave if this happened, and she followed his words now: she spread her arms and spread her fingers and forced herself into the position resembling that of a dead-man's float in swimming, all this because Westley had told her to because the more she could spread herself, the slower she would sink."

Westley? Westley?  All these years I've watched The Princess Bride, and I never knew there was a "t" in the middle of his name! I've been calling Cary Elwes "Wesley" for most of my life. Sheesh.

As you can probably guess, the book fills some gaps left behind by the movie. A must-read for fans of the movie (and a good one for everyone else, too).

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!

07 February 2011

Give it a Tri

If I keep posting these grand plans on my blog, I'm bound to stick to at least one of them, right?

So Chad and I, in the absence of a monthly running club race (*waves frantically at the WTRC* We miss you!), have slacked off on pretty much everything. I run three miles about once a week. On the upside, at least I can still run three miles.

We've contemplated doing some upcoming 5 and 10Ks, but the problem with this plan is that all these races cost about $30 each, and that's before we go to the expo to be tempted by all the fancy-schmancy running stuff. Not good.

So! After considering our options and the current state of our sanity very carefully, we've decided to start training for the Austin Triathlon, coming on Labor Day. This gives us plenty of time to work on our swimming and cycling, not to mention budget for the race (although it will be cheaper to do this one race than to do all of the five we were considering). And I'll have a good reason to go use that swimming pool in the university gym that I'm already paying for anyway, but haven't had the courage to use until now.

Any triathletes out there? What should I do first?

06 February 2011

Catch Me

My mother's name is Annette. Trust me, we've gotten plenty of net-related jokes out of that over the years (so much that when we taught the gospel of Matthew in Bible bowl a few years ago, I used my poor mother as an illustration for the children to remember that the apostles were "casting a net into the water". It worked, too).

Once upon a time, the minster was giving a sermon series on grace. One week, he told us that we are not under law, but under grace. The next week, when talking about the nature of grace, the minister said, "Grace is a net." Which led my father to make a rather elaborate joke about my mother being in charge-- We're "under" grace, Grace = Annette, etc. I think the minister laughed because he was so happy to hear that my father had been paying attention to the sermon for two weeks in a row.

But I love that. That grace is a net, not that my father has a warped sense of humour. Because I cling to the safety of the ground, but I yearn to venture into the high places. To take risks with my Christian walk. I want to leap out, holding the trapeze of faith, and see how far I can soar through the air-- perfectly safe in the knowledge that if I slip off, or miss my jump, or freeze up in terror, that I will land on a net of grace.

Do I dare leap higher? Trust in God more? Love my husband more deeply? Pray for my family more fervently? Be quick to encourage my classmates? Use lots of adverbs in my blogging, and see if anyone notices?

One of my favourite Christian songs is "If I Stand", by Rich Mullins. He said it so much better than I ever could:

So if I stand let me stand on the promise 

That you will pull me through 
And if I can't, let me fall on the grace 
That first brought me to You 
And if I sing let me sing for the joy 
That has born in me these songs 
And if I weep let it be as a man 
Who is longing for his home

So today, and this week, and this month, and this year: I want to stand. But if I fall, I can do so with confidence that God has provided a net.


05 February 2011

Trash to Treasure

So I was innocently perusing Twitter on Thursday & came across one of those "RT and we'll draw a random winner" things, from ClifBar. And this is what they were giving away:


04 February 2011


I went to a volunteer training session a few days ago for the fine arts department at UT. They've been working to get a student contingent among their volunteer ushers for a while, so for the next two semesters I get to be part of it. I am really excited about this.

Stock photo; this is not from UT.
Part of that excitement comes from being near a stage again. I was in the drama club throughout my middle school and high school years, and while I am far from being an actress, I loved the backstage stuff. Building a set, moving it around, learning every moment of a play by heart... that's the only reason I could see for even going to school when I was a teenager. (My reputation preceded me, even then; I was so clumsy and fumble-fingered that when anything turned up broken, the directors automatically assumed it was me. The problem is that they were right six times out of four.)

03 February 2011

A Part of Me

I'm going to be a jerk and openly declare that I'm irritated by the TA (hereafter known as Skinny Jeans-- I don't understand how she can breathe in those things) for my Creative Problem Solving class. I admit that the problem is me, not her; she's a normal grad student in her late 20s, but I have something hard-wired into my brain to be really irritated by people who are in a life stage that I recently left. I am amused by the freshmen who were still in preschool when I was their age, but someone so close in years to myself-- I have a harder time giggling at her foibles. See? I told you I was a jerk.

02 February 2011

The Emerald Tablet

The Emerald Tablet, P.J. Hoover
The Forgotten Worlds, Book 1

First of all, this book is all the more exciting for me because I've met P.J. Hoover! Back last November, when the Princess of Unicorns was in town, we dropped by BookPeople and there was an author event going on... and Ms. Hoover was one of the authors. I would say that we chatted for a while, but the truth is the Unicorn Princess did all the talking and I just stood there looking dopey, at least until Ms. Hoover directed us to her blog-- ooh, that's the magical word! I couldn't get her books that day (this was before the new bookshelves-- there was no space!), but I requested it from the library in my reading frenzy over the Christmas break. I've now zoomed through the first two books in the trilogy (review of The Navel of the World coming next week), and will be reading The Necropolis this week.

Mild spoilers after the jump.

01 February 2011

In My Mailbox

These are textbooks for my Pathos class, and I would not normally be that excited about new textbooks, but... look how pretty! They are brand-new! No curled pages or anything! I hardly ever get brand-new textbooks, so this is pretty exciting.

The cover is blurry; it's not the picture
quality. I have no idea what this is
about-- yet. But my instructor talks
about affect a lot.

This sounds promising... but I don't
know what it is about, either. Except
that Descartes was wrong about