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.

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?

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!


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).


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.


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.


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...


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?


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.


The Gift of the Magi, O. Henry

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


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


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.)

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?

Behind the Name
Baby Name Wizard

17 December 2013

Teaser Tuesday #39

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.)


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


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

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.