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.

31 August 2011

In a Hurry? There's a Bus for That.

In our continued mission to use Capital Metro to see all the wonders of Austin, Chad and I had a go at a couple of express buses: The 982 and the 983.

This is the Lakeline P&R,
which is also a train station.
Enlarge the pick to see the
"Kiss and Ride" sign in the
background, designating
the drop-off zone.
First of all, the express buses are nice. Cushioned seats that recline, reading lights, free wifi, very quiet inside-- I can see why people prefer these buses over the regular ones. All we were missing was the in-flight movie. The point of the express buses is to get people from downtown to the outskirts of town in a reasonable amount of time, so they have fewer stops and take the freeways. So, we didn't get off and on like we would normally do, but instead rode each route from one end to another.

Both routes stop mainly at park and rides. So, I totally see the wisdom in this; you drive to a (free!) park and ride, take the bus into town, and then back again, saving the hassle of dealing with traffic and having to find parking. And all of the P&R stations that we stopped at had plenty of cars in them, so people have caught on that this is a good idea.

A couple of things in particular that I noticed: 1. The freight rail track runs down the middle of the freeway. I've seen this before, but it bears repeating, I think, just because it's such a good idea. Way to use space wisely! As to which was first, the freeway or the tracks, I don't know, but putting them together just makes so much sense. 2. The P&R stations, while being very nice in themselves, are some distance away from shops and even (in a couple of cases) residential areas. My transit-oriented self would like to see a transit station more as a part of the neighbourhood than stuck off to one side so that no one has to see it.

We actually rode all three
of these buses, but you'll
have to wait for the 383
So, here's our picture of one of us with the route sign, as usual. If you enlarge the pic, you might be able to read the larger sign, but I'll just tell you what it says:
Park-N-Ride Parking Rules
No Soliciting
No Littering
No Loitering
No Peddling
No Advertising
No Loud Music
No Skateboarding
No Overnight Parking
No Alcoholic Beverage Consumption or Open Containers
So now I'm wondering... how long do I have to wait for a bus before I go from "waiting" to "loitering"?

Conclusion? Well, the express buses aren't much use to me, since none of them come to my neighbourhood. But I think it's a brilliant idea. And the P&R concept is so well done, apart from my aforementioned qualm. Definitely something I'd use if I were in a position to do so!

Have you ever used a Park and Ride or similar scheme?

30 August 2011

Let's Go Hunting...

... book hunting, that is.

So, devoted readers, I am now back in the land of academia, where mountains are made of molehills, minutia is debated, French words are mangled by students who have no experience in such an area (that would be me), etc., etc. In the midst of dodging the debates and trying not to sound like a complete idiot in French class (which ship has already sailed, btw), I'm also taking my first honours class: Technologies of the Book.

Isn't the name of this textbook
magnificent? It's a reader. I'm
feeling so very Laura Ingalls
right now. Pretty cover, too!
I know fellow readers and writers are filled with as much delight and glee as I am at the thought of such a class even being offered, never mind one's being allowed to take it! But taking it I am. I read the introductory chapter of our textbook as assigned, and throughout I had this overwhelming urge to get up, dash outside... and head for the nearest used bookstore.

What can I say, bookstores call me. Used bookstores, even more so. I love the smell of old books, I love seeing notes in the margin to show that this book was used and loved before. I don't even mind the occasional coffee stain, as long as it doesn't obscure the words; that tells me that a kindred spirit once sat with this book and read with coffee in hand, much as I do with my delicious cups of tea. Unfortunately, one of the curators of the university book collection spoiled that for me a bit by telling us that the smell of old books was merely the old chemicals off-gassing. Dang-- I'll never smell a library in the same way again.

So, who's with me? Let's go hunting! Grab your tote, head out, and see what treasures await you in the used bookstores of your vicinity. And don't come back until you find some good ones!

25 August 2011

Third Time's a Charm

This, my friends, is why I should never bother saying "I'm not gonna." It never ends the way I thought it would.

Rachel Harrie is running her platform-building campaign (previously called a crusade) for the third time. I was going to sit this one out, what with uni and me probably not having time to write much in between all the other stuff I managed to cram into my schedule this semester.

Over the summer I was on a wait list for a Fiction Writing class, and since on Tuesday night (the eve of the new semester) I still hadn't gotten in, I gave up on it and prepared myself to enjoy my alternative class. You all see where this is going... Before I left for class on Wednesday, I checked my schedule for the final time only to discover that some crazy person had dropped the class overnight, leaving room for me. Ta-daa! So glad I checked before heading to campus! So, it turns out I'll be writing this semester after all. And so, I'm throwing in my hat for the campaign.

Here goes! Let's all have fun together, shall we?

Are you a campaigner? If not, head over to Rach's blog and see what all the fuss is about!

24 August 2011

I'll Meet You at the Station

I bet you all thought I forgot about my bus adventure, didn't you? Well, I'm here to tell you that I haven't forgotten, but for some reason our schedules got more tight, not less, once my internship finished, so we've had fewer trips than anticipated. Weird.

The train after we got off it.
Anyway! We've managed to get a few train rides in, one of which I live-tweeted the other day (I bet that was *lots* of fun for my followers). A bit of backstory: An urban rail line in Austin was approved by bond election quite some time ago, and was followed by delays, more expense than anticipated, and the sort of thing that makes taxpayers really frustrated. By the time we moved here last summer, it was up and running, but really empty most of the time. Now that it's been going about 18 months, ridership is up and the people who ride it regularly are agitating for service on weekends; meanwhile, people who don't live near enough to a station to get any benefit out of it are still complaining bitterly. Not without some justification, I suppose.

I missed all the controversy, though, being a recent arrival. So let me just skip straight to the fun bits. The downtown portion of the Red Line runs right next to the local bikeway, so I love it when I'm riding through just as the train is coming or going; the signal gates stop the traffic, but I get to keep going. Fantastic. There's a cool drawing on Wikipedia of Austin in 1873, and you can see the rail line on the east side of town. There is still a lot of old railing around over there, mostly paved over, but you can still see it. Kinda cool really. I often wonder, when riding along, if that's the sort of thing that I notice because I'm on my bike that I might miss if I were in a car. That was a bit of an aside, but the point is that the railway downtown still runs in more or less the same place as did in the illustration.

Waiting for the train.
The best thing about riding on the train is the little slices of life that you see in a hurry as they go by. There's a park that the train passes through that I want to go to, only because I've seen it so many times. (It's on two different bus routes, so it's a planned stop for the future.) There's a house right on the rail line that has a sign that reads "I ♥ Local", except it's a tomato instead of a heart. I love it. The bit where the train passes under the freeway feels like a tunnel but isn't. Dozens of backyards stand open to the train tracks (no privacy fence, or the fence is too short for the tall train), revealing their drying laundry, their toys, or just people enjoying the sunshine. We see them all for a couple of seconds and then move on. It's strange and totally normal at the same time.

Another funny thing about being on the train instead of watching it from atop my bicycle: the intersections click by so quickly. Really. We zoom through them, leaving them behind in one quick swoosh, so fast that it hardly feels like we've been there at all. But for the drivers who are waiting, it isn't quick. The signal jangles, the gates come down, and traffic waits. And waits. And waits. It has to be especially irritating at intersections near stations, because the train triggers the signal before it stops at the platform. So, anyone waiting at the intersection has to wait for people to load and unload before the train will finally pass and the traffic be free to flow again. I was on a bus a few months ago and saw a firetruck and ambulance get stuck that way, and of course the train driver doesn't know who is waiting and can't do much about it even if he or she did know. The operators don't control the signals. Some days I wonder: Do the same drivers get stuck at the train every day? It seems that they would, since people leave for work at about the same time every day, and the train runs on a fixed schedule.

When I'm on the train, I feel like there is so much to share about the experience. But really, it's transport. Point A to Point I, stopping at points B through H in between. A fun experience, but hard to describe.

Does your town have a train? Do you ever ride it? Do you ever get stuck at train signals?

23 August 2011

In My Mailbox

I thought about a Teaser Tuesday today, but I've been through so many books lately it seemed like a pity not to share them all. SO, here are all the books I currently have out from the library (except for a really boring GRE revision guide; who wants to read about that?):

Save This Shirt, Hannah Rogge
Picked this one up on a whim at the library, because it looked like it had some fun ideas for re-purposing old t-shirts. I'm not quite convinced enough to buy it, but there's at least one design that I want to try.

Dorm Decor, Theresa Gonzales and Nicole Smith
Another "I'll-just-flip-through-this-and-see-what-it-says" pickup. More fun designs.

Your Green Abode, Tara Rae Miner
There's nothing groundbreaking in here if you have been following environmental news/suggestions for more than ten seconds. A nice refresher and some good ideas for renters, though.

20 Things You Didn't Know About Everything, Discover Magazine
Sorry about the cruddy picture quality; I had no luck photographing this one! This is a DNF; it was interesting, but not attention-grabbing enough to keep me reading when I have so many other books to get through.

Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate, Juan Williams
I requested this one from the library after I saw Mr. Williams on The Daily Show. Definitely worth the read if you are at all interested in (or tired of) American politics. Pretty fair to both sides, I think. I thought it was fabulous, and will probably write more about it later on.

Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
Another cruddy photo. :( I'm currently reading this one and liking it so far.

Here, There Be Dragons
The Search for the Red Dragon
The Indigo King
The Shadow Dragons
The Dragon's Apprentice
James A. Owen
I finished the first one and am just starting on the second. I wasn't sure if I would make it all the way through book #1, actually; it was pretty slow going at first. But it got better, and the ending made it totally worth it. I do admit that it was fairly predictable. However, I enjoyed it enough to start the second one; we'll see after that.
What are you reading this week?

22 August 2011

One-Person Chocolaty Snack

The land of learning is upon us once more! All my FB friends from across the country (and Britain, too) have been talking First Day of School for about three weeks; Texas students return today; I'll be back on Wednesday. The lucky ones who still have a week or two to go are also staring down the start line. All that to say, back to some collegiate blogging and other fun stuff.

I make my cake in this mug.
This recipe I'm about to share with you comes from the University of Texas student paper, The Daily Texan. Now, I make fun of this paper from time to time, because some of the content makes me wonder what the writers were smoking, but then I wonder that about pretty much every newspaper, so that's nothing new. Case in point: The same issue of the paper that had this and other dorm-friendly (but mostly unhealthy) recipes also had tips on beating the Freshman 15. To be fair, though, while it sounds like a student paper, it can also be seen that these young journalists are learning their craft. Some articles are downright outstanding.

Diversion over! So, if you're a chocoholic like me and are likely to eat a whole cake in one go, this is a great recipe to use instead. If your kids can be trusted to stir, this might be a good weekend or rainy day project (or science project, if you homeschool). If you just don't want to share your cake with others, it's also a good one.

Microwave Molten Lava Cake

In a mug that will hold more than 1 1/2 cups, mix together:

3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa
3 Tbsp sugar (or Splenda, or whatever floats your boat)
1 Tbsp flour

Make a well in the middle, and add:

3 Tbsp milk
3 Tbsp vegetable oil (I use unsweetened applesauce)
3 Tbsp egg whites or 1 large separated egg (I use the whole egg and cut back on the applesauce)
1/4 tsp vanilla

Stir for two minutes. Sprinkle chopped chocolate bar bits and/or chocolate chips on top of the batter, concentrated in the center. Microwave for two and a half minutes; the batter should solidify a bit and pull away from the sides of the mug. If not, put it back in for 10-second intervals until it's done. Allow to cool and enjoy!

What other desserts could be improved by making them single-serving size in a mug?

18 August 2011

Life with Narcissism

One day last semester, I was sitting in the back room at the University Writing Center, doing some homework while half listening to my coworkers' conversations. At one point, one of the girls announced, "Sorry if any of you have relatives who are cops, but..." and then launched into a tirade about how she doesn't like people who are allowed to do things that she can't, so she has a problem with the police anyway, and one pulled her over for speeding, and blah blah blah.

Yeah, it's one of these kind of
I'm still wondering now, as I did at the time, what exactly brought her to this point. It's possible that her parents did not encourage this attitude and she's gone her own way, of course. However, had I ever made such an observation as a teen (and I did, more than once), my parents' reaction would have been "Too bad, so sad" if they were in a good mood. If I caught them in a bad mood, it would have been more like a long lecture about how the world was not going to conform itself around my specifications (insert swear word here, depending on which parent I was talking to), the sooner that I resigned myself to that fact the better it would be for all concerned, and in the meantime I should probably go outdoors and make my complaints directly to the universe, because no one in my immediate vicinity wanted to hear them. 

So you might say that "why can't I do what ______ is doing?" is a question that is not generally in my repertoire, especially where law enforcement is concerned. At the time, I thought about saying, "Hey, don't break the law and you won't have that problem," but I'm pretty sure it would have been pearls before swine. Instead, I ignored it for as long as I could, but when someone else joined in and they got to the point of declaring all police everywhere to be arrogant fatherless men who fornicate with alarming frequency, I finally said, "All of my cousins are cops," which, if not exactly a rebuttal, did at least serve to stop the conversation before it went any further. And then they all found something else to complain about instead.

It's at moments like this that I tend to mutter, "And to think I worry about being a narcissist," to myself. Why, when there are examples of self-centredness all around me, should I bother to worry about myself? But I do, of course, in my keeping-my-side-of-the-street-clean kind of way. I just hope the next time I start to say something that dumb, someone interrupts me before I make a complete idiot of myself.

Writers all have personality disorders, right? It's not just me who thinks she might be on the border of requiring medication? Or, what do you do when you encounter obnoxious people?

16 August 2011

Less Junk Mail, More Serenity.

This is another post that could fit into a book day or a green living day. I opted to go with book day.

Last weekend, Chad picked up Your Green Abode by Tara Rae Miner for me at the local library, knowing that I like that sort of thing. And I do, although a lot of the tips I've read so far are either impossible in this apartment (she does give a lot of alternatives for renters when she gives a homeowner tip, though) or we're already doing them. But, I did run across a gem that I couldn't resist telling you about.

Junk mail and phone books. Copious amounts of the former arrive in our mailboxes every week, and the latter is copious all by itself, yes? Well, if you are still getting them, here's what you can do (if you're in the US):

Sign up on the National Do Not Mail list.
Opt out of receiving phone books.
Keep those credit card offers out of your mailbox.
Only get the catalogs you want.

I hope you're all as enthused by these as I am. I opted us out of the prescreened offers years ago when I worked for a credit bureau, but the rest of them I'm brand-new to. I'm looking forward to less junk mail, which is turn is less clutter in my house. And fewer things to shred and recycle. And, I hope, more trees in the ground instead of in my mailbox.

Have you ever used any of these services? Do you plan to?

15 August 2011

Here at the End

It's been over three weeks since the final US shuttle flight returned to Earth. I watched all the coverage, of course, not quite with the same intensity as I've done in the past, but I watched. And I heard the reasons for bringing it to an end, and some of the plans for the future, and it was all tinged with the sadness that accompanies the end of things.

The final crew. Source: NASA.
And I've indulged in a fair amount of nostalgia, as is my wont, only to discover that my nostalgia well is lacking this time. According to the NASA page, there have been 135 shuttle missions in my lifetime, and I know I've watched a bunch of them, but they all blend together. Space flight really has become routine, the general public blasé, no matter how much we're told it's still a big deal. Familiarity breeds contempt, as they say.

When I was younger, I used to be so jealous of my parents' ownership over the space age. They could remember every launch, every mission, every glitch from the early days, because they watched them all. When Apollo 13 came out, my parents tried to remember which mission that was: My mum asked, "Was that the one that was struck by lightning?" and between them they finally managed to nail down what happened to #13 to make it noteworthy enough for a movie. I envied their firsthand knowledge and their remembrances. And I still do.

For my own knowledge is not so much of how exciting it all was, but rather how dismal it is when it all goes wrong. All the launches I've watched blur together, but the tragedies stand out. And I wish that weren't the case, but that's the time I was born in.

The inside was pretty cool, too, but
I didn't get any pictures of it.
On a happier note, the new capsule that NASA is currently testing made a pass through Austin a few weeks ago on its way home to wherever its new home is. It was cool to look at and exciting to think that my kids will get to see launches and landings, too, even though we're currently in hiatus. The lights at NASA haven't gone out.

Did you see the final launch or landing? Do you have any particular remembrances of missions in the space age?

12 August 2011

I Read a Depressing-Ish Book

I picked up Hot, Flat, and Crowded on the recommendation of someone on the internet, as is my wont. And I gotta tell ya-- it was worth it.

Yeah, it was depressing. Books about the environment, international relations, and energy sources tend to do that all by themselves. When you mix the three in varying levels within one book, it gets heavy in a hurry.

Mainly, this is a book about energy efficiency, and how our current system isn't getting us there. Thomas Friedman's vision for a future energy system, which includes a smart grid that sells kilowatt hours in the same way that phone companies sell peak and off-peak minutes, was really fascinating. I'd love for my house to run my washing machine when electricity was cheapest, thus rewarding me for having a bit of patience and foresight, instead of just running it when I'm about to be smothered by laundry. I'd probably be a lot better at planning ahead if that were the case. One point that he repeats a few times is that as a society, changing our system will be hard. The changes that one can make on a personal or family level may be easy, or at least on the tolerable end of the easy-to-hard scale. But across our nation as a whole, the changes that he proposes will be hard and will meet with plenty of resistance. And that's what was depressing.

But on to the stuff that I really agreed with. He writes, "In 2008, if the money and mobilization effort spent on Live Earth had gone into lobbying the U.S. Congress for... tax credits for renewable energy, and other green legislation, the impact would have been vastly more meaningful." And that's exactly my problem with awareness-raising campaigns-- yes, people need to know stuff, but at some point you need to say, "Okay, everyone gets it now, we can do something." I watched the Live Earth concerts in 2007, all the while wondering how much electricity they were using and whether there would be a field full of litter left behind afterwards, just like at every other concert. Not to mention the repeated PSAs about flying less and cutting back on driving that were scattered throughout the program-- never mind that the rock stars in the concerts had to get to their destinations by flying. Goodness knows I approached the program with my usual level of cynicism, but it was pretty well hardened into hostility when a reporter asked the question burning on my mind: I don't remember his exact wording, it was basically that they were using a lot of resources to ask people to use fewer resources, and how did they reconcile that? The performer he asked answered (and this I do remember), "Yeah, I've been hearing that. I hate those people who hate." What? First of all, it's a reasonable question, and secondly, the only person "hating" in this sentence is you. So after that you might say I've had an aversion to "raising awareness". (Also, I bet Live Earth found a better spokesperson.)

Anyway, I recommend the book if you're at all interested in environmental issues. Stick it out through the political stuff so that you can get to the good stuff later on.

Have you read this book? What do you think about awareness campaigns? Would you use electricity differently if it cost different amounts at different times?

09 August 2011

And the Pendulum Swings

A few weeks ago, erica and christy posted a link on twitter to this article about the "no-kids-allowed movement". I clicked over to read it, just out of curiosity: Basically, there are stores, movie theatres, airlines, etc., that restrict the areas or the hours that kids can be present, because there are adults who are happy to watch a movie, do their shopping, fly, etc., without the presence of screaming. There are a couple of really odd (to me) things about this article; first, the writer mentions screaming children multiple times, including in quotes, but then toward the end asks, "When did kids become the equivalent of second-hand smoke?" Erm, they didn't. Go back and reread what you wrote: It's the misbehaving, screaming, and (usually) parent in the background threatening a timeout but not following through that is the problem. (BTW, this is not a commentary on parenting. I am aware that it's energy-sucking and probably impossible to follow through every single time. I'm just talking about the article.)

The comments were pretty predictable: divided between people making that very point (about the behaviour), and people complaining about childless couples spoiling everything. Which brings me to the second odd thing: I thought not only the author but also a lot of readers skimmed over a mention of empty nesters being the ones taking advantage of the child-free stuff-- after all, haven't they paid their dues? I realise I'm quite sensitive, being one of the childless people that tend to be alternately ridiculed for being different or blamed for the end of society as we know it, but there are a lot of factors at play. Lenore at Free Range Kids frequently disparages cities that ban "unaccompanied" adults (by children, that is) from parks, childrens' sections at libraries, and so on. So, alas, it goes both ways.

Here's where it gets interesting, though: While the US may indeed be less open to the continuous presence of children than it was a couple of years ago, it's not the first time. In Generations, William Strauss & Neil Howe describe that every fourth generation (the Reactive type), is a "bad-child generation". The most recent time of "unremitting hostility toward children" was when Gen Xers were young. Yay, us! So, we might be coming around to that. We've certainly been moving toward the opposite end of the cycle-- the "suffocating overprotection" that they also mention of Adaptive-type generations.

And I wonder if child-free shopping or movies are actually part of that attempt to keep kids from bad influences: This way, they'll only be in the store or the cinema when other families are, right? None of those predatory and potentially dangerous childless people there to cause them harm. I really hope that isn't it, because I'm in the camp that believes multi-generational influences are important for kids, as is mixing with all types of people. I love that I can be the "safe" adult for a lot of teens I know-- I don't react to anything like their parents would, but I am there to be a listening ear and possibly offer some suggestions for how to proceed. I would want the same kind of people to be there for my own kids.

Have you ever encountered any child-free or family-only environments? What do you think about that?

08 August 2011

What I Did on my Summer Vacation

I don't know if I've mentioned that I had a summer internship at Bike Texas. If I haven't, surprise!

I know I haven't talked about it a lot because I've been working on a project that has "Do Not Distribute" written on pretty much every page. Not that it's a secret, since we don't do espionage or anything at Bike Texas (although perhaps we should!), but because it's preliminary data that is not yet ready for release. My job has been to research some things, data entry others, talk to some city officials, and otherwise gather data about cycling and walking in Texas. And once the data was more or less gathered, we moved to the really fun part: Assembling it into a sensible report.

So, for the past few weeks, I've made charts and graphs. I've written analysis for someone else to reject or tear to shreds or whatever. I've argued with other volunteers about the best way to present data, and we've all discussed whether this source or that is reliable enough to include in a report. It's been fun.

I've also gotten most of the way through a box of tea that was brand-new on June 1st and is now nearly empty.

In the process, while I still can't share much until the report is released, I've learned what to look for in the next city that I move to. I've learned what questions to have in mind when I peruse the city website or look for public transit options. And I definitely know that a city that is hostile to cyclists is no place for me. I can deal with "tolerant of cyclists" up to "some people are annoyed by them and will say so" (since that's pretty much what Austin is), but if I can help it, I won't move to city where the government actively discourages cycling.

In related news, I have spent a lot of time this summer looking at forums or reading articles that deal with cycling, and as is so often the case on the internet, those forums and articles seem to bring out the worst in people, as the comments get more and more vitriolic as they go along. I've read these things until I want to find a nice hermitage where I can be safe from the rest of humanity. (I begin to understand the desire, in the mid-1800s, to start one's own commune.) But then I go out on my bike and ride around Austin, and you know what? Despite motorists and cyclists and pedestrians being unable to get along on the internet, and despite the occasional altercation on the streets, it actually does work. I've seen motorists back up after inadvertently stopping in crosswalks. I've seen cyclists yielding to pedestrians. I've seen pedestrians use the crosswalk, as is their right, with politeness. Fortunately for all concerned, the ugliness of the internet doesn't seem to hold when we are all face-to-face with one another. Perhaps there is hope for humanity after all.

Do internet forums make you cringe, or give you a chance to express yourself, or something in between? Have you found the real world to be a reasonably pleasant place?

05 August 2011

Let There Be Light

There's an interesting back-and-forth, if you read environmental stuff as avidly as I do, when it comes to our light bulbs. First of all, if you've picked up a magazine or two in the past 10 years, you've probably run across one of those "Easy Ways to Go Green"-type articles, and the list surely included making the switch to compact florescent bulbs (which is one reason I've never bothered mentioning it until now; everybody's doing it!).

The disagreement comes from a few places: 1. They do contain mercury, which requires a more extensive clean-up process if the bulb gets broken, which makes some people reluctant to buy them, and others outright hostile to the idea. 2. For many environmentalists, the fear is that people will change their light bulbs and consider themselves to have done their part, without changing any other habits; meanwhile, other activists are practically evangelistic about how CFLs will save us all. So there's a bit of discord there. 3. Here in Texas, and probably in other states, there has been backlash against the government-mandated switch to higher-efficiency light bulbs starting in 2012.

Rather than try to make sense of the controversy for you (since I can't even do that for myself), I'll just do what I always do and tell you about my own life with CFLs. There was a time a few years after we got married that the price of CFLs suddenly came down enough for me to consider buying them, but I wasn't about to rush out and get all new ones when I still had perfectly-working regular bulbs in the house. So, we decided that once we were out of incandescents, then we would make the switch to CFLs. And I think the incandescents were on to us, because I remember there being a big gap in time between the decision making and the actual purchasing. But, we finally got some and have been quite happy with them, to the extent that every time we've moved, we've bought a pack of cheap incandescent bulbs to leave in the light sockets so we could take our CFLs with us. In hindsight, that doesn't really help the environment or encourage the people who moved in after us to try CFLs, but hey, I paid for those things and I want to keep them. Maybe in the future I'll be more generous with my light bulbs...

...kind of like the people who were here before us. Yep, when we moved into this apartment, we found CFLS in most of our light fixtures. And these are the old CFLs, the ones that take a few minutes to warm up once you turn them on. (Our newer ones that we put in our own lamps come on right away.) So I suppose that's a bit of a testimony as to how long these bulbs last, that we've inherited these older, slow-moving bulbs from our predecessors of who knows when. And in addition to lasting a long time, these bulbs are also purported to reduce your electricity bill; I've never paid close enough attention to tell you one way or another from my own experience, and since the A/C is currently sucking up all the energy in our house anyway, I probably wouldn't be able to spot the savings if I tried.

One word of caution, as ever: Since these bulbs do contain mercury, you shouldn't be tossing them into your regular rubbish. Go to Earth911 to find a local recycling center for these bulbs and lots of other stuff.

Do you use compact fluorescent lights? Do you like them?

02 August 2011

Novel Films Blogfest

Hosted by Madeleine at Scribble and Edit

Question: How many works of fiction have you seen BOTH the film/TV drama and read the original bookplay or comic story?

Answer: I got going on these, and even sneaked a peek at a few other entries to jog my memory, but as I went along I started second-guessing myself: Did I really see that, or did I just imagine it? Did I really read it? Who am I?

So, here you have it: A list of the books/plays I've read and then seen the adaptation, plus a couple that I did the other way around.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Father of the Bride

Fiddler on the Roof

Great Expectations

Harry Potter 1-4

Hello, Dolly! (Read (memorized, more like) the musical and The Matchmaker, the original play the musical is based on)

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Jane Eyre

King Lear

Les Miserables (I only made it halfway through the book, though)

Little House on the Prairie

Little Women (multiple versions, again)


Mary Poppins

Oliver! (This would be the musical version)

Oliver Twist

Our Town

Peanuts (read the cartoons, watch the specials)

Peter Pan

Pride and Prejudice

Prince Caspian

Ramona (the miniseries from the '80s)

Romeo & Juliet

The Colour of Magic

The Hobbit

The Homecoming/The Waltons (The Homecoming was the story-turned-play-turned-movie (those last two steps may have been the other way around) that became The Waltons. The original pilot had all the same actors for the children but different ones for the parents & Grandpa Walton.)

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (about 4 versions now!)

The Little Princess

The Lord of the Rings

The Man Who Came to Dinner

The Night of the Twisters

The Princess Bride

The Princess Diaries

The Rats of NIMH

The Secret Garden

The Sound of Music

The Trouble with Angels

What's a good one that you've read/seen that I left off?

01 August 2011

How to Make a Page Jump

A couple of weeks ago, I unveiled my fun new 1001 Ways to Reuse page (for which I am still taking suggestions, btw), and lamented that I didn't know how to make a page jump, so anyone looking for something would have to scroll. Then *cue superhero theme song* Liz came to the rescue with this page that has easy-to-follow instructions. Yay!

I got out my chalkboard for the
occasion. Source.
Except it turns out it needs some tweaking for Blogger. With some help from Chad and Chad's cousin Bob, we finally got there. And I thought, "Hey, I bet other people have this problem," and my first tutorial was born.

First of all, I'm talking about jumps that allow you to skip to the end of the page, or back to the top, or any other spot, not the "Read more" jump (which you can find under the settings tab if you want it). In your compose window,  click on the "Edit HTML" tab. You're going to use an A HREF tag for your first link, and a DIV ID tag for the destination. You can name your destination whatever you want, since no one will see it, but all of the sites I looked at cautioned against using spaces, so instead of "down here" you'd want to use "downhere". And make sure that the name matches exactly, or else the link won't work.

This is what the basic tags will look like:

<a href="#name">Link text</a>

<div id="#name">Destination text</div>

Still with me? Great. Because there's one more vital step if you're doing this in Blogger. When you put in the destination name, you must also include the page url in the HTML brackets. For one of your separate pages, it will look like this:

<a href="http://cheekyness.blogspot.com/p/1001-ways-to-reuse.html#foil">Aluminium foil</a>

For a regular post, it's a bit different:

<a href="http://cheekyness.blogspot.com/2011/08/how-to-make-page-jump.html#end">Bottom</a>

You'll see that the name of the destination is still there at the end and still has the # sign and the quotation marks. All of those are necessary. The destination text remains the same:

<div id="#name">Destination text</div>

And that's all there is to it! By the time I got to the bottom of my 1001 Reusables page, I felt like I could type this stuff in my sleep (although so far, I haven't). Not so bad, really.

Do you ever use page jumps? Is there something really important that I left out? Do you think I should pursue a career as a teacher?