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.

29 February 2016

Odd, But Charming

In a shocking turn of events, I went to the theatre last week. The Sound of Music tour came through Austin, I'm a season ticket holder as well as a huge fan of the musical, so away I went.

From the top (if you can even see the one at
the top): Ben Davis (Captain von Trapp),
Ashley Brown (Mother Abbess), Paige
Silvester (Liesl), Kerstin Anderson (Maria).
When the cast for the tour was announced last summer, and I saw Ashley Brown was going to be Mother Abbess, I did the happiest of happy dances around my living room, and for good reason. Her "Climb Every Mountain" may be the most incredible thing I've ever heard in person. I've been walking about six inches off the ground ever since I met her at the stage door last week. (Her signature is the one with the heart next to it.) The rest of the cast was already outside and we were chatting a bit before she came out, and when I saw her coming I could feel the manic grin stretching across my face. To her credit, she didn't run away, although I did say, "Sorry, I know this face I'm making is kind of frightening."

So! Fans of the movie The Sound of Music tend, at least in my experience, to not be excited about the stage version. First of all, without the amazing Julie Andrews on the stage, some folks just have a hard time with the show-- a difficulty that I agree is hard to overcome. Secondly, the songs are in a different order on stage, and many of the beloved moments in the show--the outing to the mountain, the dance in the gazebo, the puppet show--are missing from the stage show, as is the song "I Have Confidence" (that last one's not a great loss, to my way of thinking, but I acknowledge the song has some fans).

And I readily admit that the first time I saw The Sound of Music live on stage I thought, "What is this nonsense?" But it has grown on me, so much that I now lament one key song that was cut from the movie version: "No Way to Stop It" (link is to the Sound of Music Live version; I'm not a fan of that show as a whole but Laura Benanti (Elsa), Christian Borle (!) (Max), and Stephen Moyer (Captain von Trapp) absolutely nail this song). Why does this song matter? Because this gives much more of a look at the irreconcilable differences between the Captain and Elsa. Rather than her being a schemer who convinces Maria to leave and him being the jerk who essentially says, "Oops, well, fell in love with the nanny so you'll have to go", this song shows why they diverge so sharply. This is when they know it will never work. Plus, this song also makes it obvious how much of a turnaround Max goes through when he sacrifices himself for the von Trapps later (another scene that Stephen Moyer and Christian Borle absolutely tore apart in Sound of Music Live. I seriously only watch that version to fast-forward to all of Christian Borle's scenes).

BTW, today's post title is one of Max's lines in the stage show. Right before he turns into an elitist prig for about three minutes.

Anyway. If your fan-ness of The Sound of Music only extends to watching the movie, that's totally valid. However, if you want to take your obsession to the next level, 1) See the stage show; 2) Read Maria Trapp's book upon which it's all based; and for the extra-obsessed, 3) Check out Charmian Carr's book, Forever Liesl, or any of the other books written by the Trapp family.

Now, I have to go find a mountain to climb. Ashley Brown told me to.

23 February 2016

V is for Velvet

With any luck, I'll finally finish 2014's A to Z Challenge in time for 2016's to begin.

So, my favourite book that begins with V:

Image source: Goodreads.
Velvet Elvis, Rob Bell

I read this book so long ago I can't remember why I gave it four stars on Goodreads, but you know, the pickins are indeed slim at the end of the alphabet, so it didn't have a lot of competition. I do know Rob Bell is a talented communicator, so I'm not surprised I gave it such a high rating.

19 February 2016

Empty Chairs at Empty Tables

Chadwick was not a fan of Les Misérables. He didn't hate it, but he didn't eat, sleep, and breathe musicals like I do, so he tolerated my love for Les Mis in the same way that I smiled and nodded when he would talk about The Walking Dead.

Not a fan, occasional dressing up
as Enjolras notwithstanding.
But. He could tear up the music. He could sing "The Confrontation" (either part), usually as a parody, but geez, could he ever sing it. He also did a fairly good "I Dreamed a Dream." And, as you may have guessed, "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables."

The unfortunate side of this is that it was Nick Jonas' Marius in the 25th anniversary concert that really got Chadwick interested in learning this song-- I mean, we owned the original cast album with Michael Ball, for goodness' sake, but no, he had to get interested because of Nick Jonas. Heaven help me, some days.

Anyway. "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" ended up being one of Chadwick's favourite songs. That's not something I tell people very often, since it's a level of apropos foreshadowing that will turn your brain inside out if you think about it too much. (And for some reason, it upsets other people a lot more than it does me. I guess that's because I have a long list of things to be upset about.)

So it's a shame he missed out on seeing "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" on Broadway, because wow, would he have loved it. At the end of "Turning," the ladies all left candles on the stage, and I thought, "What? How are they going to get those off the stage? Wait, maybe the Barricade Boys..." And you can see it for yourself (well, two of them, anyway) in the clip below. The two you can see behind Marius (played by Chris McCarrell) are Wallace Smith as Enjolras and Jason Forbach as Feuilly, and I hope to see all three of them again at the earliest possible opportunity. In the meantime, I stalk them all on Twitter.

I can't do anything about the empty chair in my house where my Chadwick will sing no more. But filling my life with words and songs that make my tomorrows easier is a thing that I can do.

18 February 2016

As the Black Hole Opens Wide

I've considered and rejected nearly every cliche in the English language for the beginning of this post. So, let's just start without one.

One day, I went to sleep worried about my grad class the next day, because I was already behind and still had some homework to do without a lot of time to do it. When I woke up the next day, class mattered a lot less.

I wish I could say I've learned something profound about life in the year since. I have learned that I'm surrounded by the best people on the planet (although I suspected that already). 

No, instead I've taken refuge in the Next to Normal soundtrack, which I've made my life anthem. (Usual warning about this being a very sweary musical and you not blaming me if you choose to listen anyway.) Today's post title is from "I've Been," which also includes maybe the profound truth I've had plenty of time to think over: "I've never had to face the world without her by my side." 

I have faced the world a bit, as much as I can, as much as I can see of it over that aforementioned amazing group of people. It's a much less fun place than it was a year and a day ago.

16 February 2016

U is for Uglies

Still making my bookish way through the end of the alphabet to finish my long-abandoned A to Z Challenge series. My favourite book that starts with U is:

Image source: Goodreads.
Uglies, Scott Westerfeld

Great opener to a series; sad to say, the remaining books did not live up to the promise of this one. However, you could absolutely read this one on its own. Lovely world-building, lots of action, plenty of inner conflict for the main character. Love it.

15 February 2016

Mission: Collaborate

One of my goals for 2016 is to do some writing outside my normal genres, just to mix it up and stretch those muscles a bit. So for the last few weeks, I chipped away slowly at a thing I would never have come up with on my own.

I don't want to give too much away, since it's not even my story, so let's start at the very beginning: about six months ago, recurring Cheeky guest blogger Bill sent me a prompt for a collaborative story he's working on, which I stuck in a file and immediately forgot about. About two months ago, he circled back and asked if I had written anything yet. Ooops!

Not here.
So I did. It's sci-fi, set not on Earth, and is the kind of story I love to read and watch but have never written myself, so I was a bit scared and a lot stymied about how to begin. As so often happens, an idea arrived while I was out running. (I mean, what else do I have to think about for four miles?) I started writing with that idea in mind, managed a half dozen pages, and sent it back last week in the hopes that it jibes at least a little bit with the rest of the project.

I'm totally flattered that anyone would voluntarily ask me to collaborate on a writing project. Bill & I first met when we were in the same Creative Writing class at UT (I used to crash into him with my backpack a lot-- I'm not that great at spatial awareness) and we've been friends ever since, so for someone to have read as much of my writing as he has and still want to read more of it is super-friendly.

So! One goal, well underway, with a little help from my friends. I may write some more sci-fi/fantasy just for fun and to continue to work writing muscles that haven't seen a lot of action.

What have you done to stretch lately?

13 February 2016

Repost: Six Years a Marathoner

It's been six years. On Saturday, February 13, 2010, I sat in a hotel room in downtown Austin and wrote this post. I have a plan for marathon #2, but it won't be until 2017. That's a long time between marathons.

Chadwick at the 2015
Austin Half.
Meanwhile, the 25th Austin Marathon and Half Marathon is happening tomorrow, and I'm not running. However, since the race course passes directly in front of my house, I will be spectating (with orange slices at the ready--by gum, I learned from my own marathon experience). I volunteered in the info booth yesterday afternoon, as has become my tradition. I love race weekend in Austin, so much, and there is an extra tug at my heart when it comes and goes without me running it. There's an extra-extra tug this year, since the Austin Half was Chadwick's last race.

His last tweet, posted after he withdrew from the race.
He immediately headed to cheer me over the
South 1st Street bridge. He wasn't fine,
but we didn't know that yet.
It's cool to me that the anniversary of my first marathon lands on the exact same day this year-- Sunday, February 14. It will be even cooler once I get to experience marathon #2. Soon, I hope.

On the Eve of Becoming a Marathoner

So, I've been composing this little entry in my head for a while; ever since I began my taper for the marathon which, as I write this, is just over 18 hours away. (Oh. My. Word.)

My running career began when I was 12 and thought that running track would be a fun way to hang out with my friends. (I was right about that.) Even then, there was no one who didn't know that I was easily the slowest person on the team. To put it another way, the fast people would be finishing the 800 just as I was entering the first curve of my second lap. And yet... and yet, those same people were still standing near to cheer in the slow people as we finished. Some of my coaches had a hard time believing that anyone could run that slowly, but again, I rarely heard anything but encouragement.

(In gym class, my classmates took pains to tell me that I run like a duck. And quack behind me in the halls for my entire freshman year. Thanks, guys.)

Since then, I had an on-again, off-again relationship with running until three years ago. I took it up again, found that I liked it, and then (and here is the secret to my sticking with it) we joined the West Texas Running Club. The club puts on monthly, totally-non-threatening, gives-you-something-to-train-for races. I love it.

Anyway. That was all background to the sappy part. I never would have stuck with this, I never would have striven for improvement, I certainly never would have thought about running a marathon without all the support and encouragement I've received from all sides. Running really is a non-team team sport, and I have a GINORMOUS number of teammates.
After the 2010 Austin

Chad got me into this mess in the first place. There are many people in the running club who are so encouraging, even (especially!) when they finish 30 minutes ahead of me. We've been blessed beyond measure by Shannon & Wendy's friendship; it calmed my nerves considerably to see a familiar face at our first race. (And Shannon graciously refrained from saying "I told you so" after I went out MUCH too fast only 10 minutes after he warned me not to.)

There are other runners at South Plains and at work who have helped with advice and encouragement. But I readily admit to being even more uplifted by non-runners, mostly on Facebook, who make me feel like an Olympic athlete when all I've done is a slow 3-miler. Especially so are the people who have said I'm an inspiration. And so this uber-slow, runs-like-a-duck girl has become a mostly-slow, still-runs-like-a-duck running girl, who gets by with a little help from her friends.

I couldn't have done it without your help. And so, on the eve of becoming a Marathoner, I say thank you. Rest assured that during the long miles tomorrow, I will be thinking of you. And thanking God for you.

12 February 2016

Got Dirt?

In the years that I've been composting, I've had a terrible sense of timing.

Growing my tomatoes in my own
compost. The squash was a volunteer--
one of the hazards of using my own
compost is that sometimes
 surprise plants turn up.
I've never had enough dirt when it comes time to plant stuff, only to have too-full compost bins when it's not quite time to plant but I'm still producing veggie peelings that need to go somewhere on a daily basis (like now). It's probably time for a good churn, maybe to get some of the ready-to-go compost into a pot or two for when it's time to plant (which, in Austin, is only a few weeks from now). Maybe this time I'll have enough dirt to plant in without having to work around the not-yet-crumbly bits.

However! Supposing you don't yet have a giant bin of dirt that used to be old veggies, I'm here to help you out. I started out with a large plant pot on the balcony and some shredded paper, this list of things that are compostable, plus a love for vegetables. You need to keep a good mix of green and brown (brown is anything that used to be a tree, green is anything from other kinds of plants), so toss in more shredded paper or dry leaves every time you put in a pile of vegetable scraps.

Our original compost bin. It's since
been replaced by successive larger
bins, most recently a giant trash can.
I plant things in this one now.
If you're lucky enough to have a yard to do this in, but still want to keep your compost in a container, punch a couple of holes in the bottom. This will allow drainage, which is great, and also allows any earthworms and other beneficial creepy-crawlies to get inside, have a snack, and process your old veggies with their highly efficient digestive tracts. Check out resources from Planet Natural and Compost Guide for more expert-level tips than I have--while I feel pretty successful in my composting, I mostly just make it up as I go along and what's worked for me may be disastrous for you.

One final thing--keep a lid on it. You don't want all the neighbourhood squirrels, dogs, raccoons, and other wildlife coming by for a digging spree. When we started composting, we lived on the third floor with no nearby trees, so it wasn't worth it for even squirrels to come round for a visit, but since I've been living in a duplex we've been visited by pretty much everything. Remove temptation by covering your compost.

Do you compost? What do you use it for?

11 February 2016

Challenger: Thirty Years

The anniversary of Challenger has come and gone, and I couldn't bring myself to comment on the actual anniversary, but I do have Thoughts. (By some miracle, these are different thoughts than the ones I had on the 25th anniversary.)

Still my favourite photo of the crew. Source: NASA.gov.
As I made my way through higher education, and especially in a technical communication program, Challenger came up over and over again. Y'all, it would have been so easy to not lose those astronauts. So easy. There were memos, there were warnings, there were impassioned pleas around NASA in the weeks leading up to the launch. And they went unheeded. Among the many tragedies of that day stands this one: People in the place to make decisions took their eyes off the ball for a few seconds too long. And this is the price that was paid.

I didn't know that as a 7-year-old on that January day. In the weeks and months that followed I mourned the lost astronauts with a grief that I couldn't share and wouldn't talk about (haha, not a lot has changed for me there--even my sister has to read my blog to find out what I'm thinking). Eventually, I named a couple of cats after Judith Resnik & Christa McAuliffe. Those cats both lived happy lives, eventually dying from natural causes, although they never went to space. Not quite as monumental as having a high school named after you, I suppose, but they were very cute cats.

Incidentally, it's so painfully obvious who remembers Challenger and who doesn't when it comes up in a classroom. There's a visible flinch from those who remember it. As one of them, I'm amazed every time at our collective reaction. So many national tragedies have come and gone since then, and yet even the word produces a physical reaction. I imagine that's a reflection of how unprepared we were, in 1986, for something to go horribly wrong. And maybe it's the fact that so many things have gone wrong since that makes us react. Maybe it's the knowledge that we haven't learned so much, after all.

10 February 2016

Be Spectacular!

The Austin Marathon is this weekend! And other spring races are also gearing up for the still-cool-enough-to-run-in-but-not-freezing-any-longer weeks ahead. (Yay! Gosh, running is awesome.) Of course, not everyone is a runner, so here's a quick and easy guide if you're planning to be a spectator at Austin or any other race in the near future.

Basically what every race I've ever
spectated for (or run in) looks like.
Source: Margan Zajdowicz on
1. Never, ever say "Almost there!"
It doesn't matter how objectively true you think this is. There are few things more irritating for a runner than for a spectator to say "almost there." As I said in church on Sunday while making the marathon announcement (the course goes directly by our building, so some planning ahead is required), if you say "almost there" during a race, you may be almost killed by an angry runner. Just don't.

2. Do say encouraging things, though.
"Lookin' good!" "Keep it up!" "You're awesome!" "You got this!" These are all great. Clapping and/or and noisemakers are also great if you get tired of shouting.

3. Signs are fun!
One of my favourites is "Worst Parade Ever," but don't stop there. Lots of creative and fun ideas are available on the internet. Find one, break out the markers, and have a good time!

4. It's cool to hand stuff out.
Things I've seen handed out at races: mints, Jolly Ranchers, tissues, water/gatorade/beer at impromptu aid stations, and (my all-time favourite) orange slices. This Sunday, I'll be in front of Red River Church, giant bowl of orange slices at the ready.

5. High-fives are awesome.
Just be prepared to have sore hands after fiving hundreds of runners.

6. Runners love you!
Seriously, spectators are awesome, and the best races are usually the ones with the best crowd support. Even if runners look tired/angry/half-dead and don't visibly respond to your encouragement, please know that we love you and appreciate you taking hours out of your day to cheer on strangers. Spectators are the best.

09 February 2016

T is for Thirteen

Time to dig in and finally finish my A to Z Challenge posts from... 2014, I think. I was swimming along just fine with the challenge that April, got all the way up to Q, and then didn't get my R post written. Or S. Or any of the others, because it was the end of my grad school semester and I just said "forget it."

I have no idea if I'll do A to Z this year. I didn't in 2015, but this year I have no grad school to get in the way, so that's something. Perhaps it's time for a theatre-themed A to Z.

Anyway! 2014 was all about my favourite books, so my favourite T book is...

Image source: Goodreads.
Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher

Why this book? Because of all the emphasis it places on the consequences of one's actions. Because it puts Hannah's tormentors into the light of day and forces them to face their mistakes. One little thing after another piled up on Hannah, until one day it was more than she could take, but before she left she articulated what was going on inside her.

Why is this book problematic? Many Goodreads reviewers point out that it glamorizes suicide--because Hannah left behind her reasons for taking her own life, she immortalizes herself. The book doesn't deal with the grieving process. It doesn't show how Clay moves on. We don't get a glimpse of 10 or 20 years later and whether any of her classmates have more than occasional flashes of regret for the girl they once tormented. We get the raw emotion, but--that fades. People heal. And over time, Hannah will remain dead even while the others go on living, but we don't see that in this book.

Part of me thinks this is a book that should be on school reading lists. However, as someone who was scarred by a school reading list, another part of me wants to put up warning signs. If the teacher and students aren't ready and able to have the discussion about the problems in this book, about what happens after the last page is turned, then it doesn't need to be required reading. I recommend this one to young friends, but more accurately I recommend it to their parents, so they can all talk about it together. This is a book that merits as much discussion about what's not in it as it does about what's in it.

And if the reader can't do that, then that's a pretty good reason to leave it on the shelf.

What's your favourite "T" book?

08 February 2016

No Reason We Can't Do Both

The church I attend, which I love very much, has morning prayer time on Mondays. Now, once upon a time in Lubbock, I was the crazy-crazy person hosting early-morning prayer time, so it has seemed reasonable to me for months that I should be willing to get up and attend a morning prayer group. Last week, I finally did it.

You know what? It was great. I well remember why I enjoyed those weekly morning gatherings so much. And while I know that prayer time may not be everyone's cup of tea, I do encourage everyone I know to set aside time to gather with friends and process their week in whatever way seems best.

Anyway. So in the course of last Monday, our pastor quoted Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "Aurora Leigh":
 Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware
More and more from the first similitude.
He asked if I were familiar with the quote, presumably because I'm well known for being a bookworm and quoter of many things, and I said, "I'm not familiar with it, but now I'm wondering why we can't do both."

Not a burning bush.
Source: Joonas Lampinen
on freeimages.com
My irreverence got a laugh, but as I went on my way that morning I continued thinking-- can I do both? Can I see God in everything but still enjoy what's in front of me? I mean, if I see a burning bush, then I know God is calling me to something big, and I'd better get some supplies. Hey, look, there are blackberries right here! Cool.

But my natural cheekiness aside, I think Ms. Browning was correct. It's hard to see the spectacular when we're looking at the mundane. It's too easy to get so distracted by the shiny thing directly in front of me that I miss the amazing thing happening just a little farther away, if only I would look up to see it. Sometimes it's a struggle to look up. (I tried to find the scene from Cars where freeway traffic is driving right past a magnificent view without even seeing it, with no luck. So--that scene.)

Look up. What do you see?

06 February 2016

You Can't Just Walk Out of a Drive-In

Aaron. Tveit. Aaron Tveit on my TV. Aaron Tveit singing, dancing, and bad-boying on my television. Yes, please. (Although I do agree with at least one review I read that said Aaron Tveit is not that believable as a bad boy. He looked guilty for most of the show.)

Seriously, Grease Live was gorgeous and fun and a total delight. Having a live audience was a brilliant move. The cast was phenomenal. I hope someone at NBC was watching, taking notes, and resolving to do all subsequent musicals better.

That hair is really defying gravity. (Yes, this is approximately
the 2198th time I've made that joke.)
Source: Fox Facebook page.
Having the drag race on the stage was kind of dopey, though. They tried a bit too hard there to do the movie. Like the other three live musicals in recent past, this show was an amalgamation of the stage show and the movie (although the internet audience still doesn't seem to get there is musical life beyond the movie screen). I giggled a lot that they made the words to "Greased Lightnin'" more family-friendly but left in the scene in the backseat.

Also, if you missed Lin-Manuel Miranda's live tweets, wow, did you ever miss out.

05 February 2016

Marking Time

I have three 2016 calendars in my house, and I can only suppose the only reason I don't have four calendars is because no one has shown up at my door to hand me a fourth one.

My favourite of my 2016
calendars. This month is
Charing Cross in Glasgow.
I've been there.
I am a fan of calendars, if for no other reason than it's a cheap and easy way to get nice artwork/photography in my home. A new picture every month--how great is that?

But what do I do with it once the year is over? Well, in years past if I liked the calendar enough, I took it apart and kept the pictures. Unfortunately, if you're planning on being on the planet for more than a couple of years this gets problematic in a hurry--even if I swap them out once a month as the manufacturers (sort of) intended, there are only so many picture frames that one household can support.

Recycling is an obvious answer, although the slick pages of a calendar make it harder than your average paper to recycle. Turning it into confetti for your New Year party is probably a reasonable choice. Kids' art projects? Repurpose into book covers? Just keep reusing it and embrace that you're always on the wrong day?

I don't know. But a good start is probably not having three calendars per year.

Do you have a green solution to old calendars?

04 February 2016

Pancake Day

There are lots of things I remember.

Source: Anna Moderska
on freeimages.com.
On February 17, Shrove Tuesday, Chadwick and I spent the evening at Red River Church's Pancake Dinner. He wasn't feeling well, because the blood clot that was hours away from killing him was already making its way through his body and causing symptoms we thought were from an asthma attack. But despite not feeling well, he came out to the pancake dinner because people he cared about were gathering. He felt better as the evening went on. We split some ice cream and talked about a TV show he had been watching before I went to bed.

There are other things I forget.

I forget that other people were also there that night. I forget that the same people who Chadwick left the house that evening to see also saw him. I forget that I'm not the only one for whom the pancake dinner and Chadwick's passing are inextricably linked.

Fortunately, other people are okay with me forgetting. They're in a place to remind me. Shrove Tuesday is about to come around again, the Pancake Dinner is scheduled at church again (not only are pancakes on Shrove Tuesday a tradition, but it's also a fundraiser for our missions). I had already mentioned to the church Planner of Cool Events (not her actual title) that even though I'd RSVP'd to the event, I wasn't sure I was really going to go. And it seems that I was not the only one who'd thought about it, because last Sunday several people stopped to ask me if I was okay with the pancake dinner going on again. Which is not only super-kind, but makes me think they all believe I have much more influence on the universe than I really do.

I'm okay with it. I'll probably stop by to say hello. It's possible my composure will last about three nanoseconds and it will be time to head home. The upside is that since Easter moves around, so does Shrove Tuesday, so it's not the exact same week. Pretty close, though. But I hope I don't have to leave. I hope I can keep myself together enough to stay. Because other people are also grieving the loss of a friend, other people will also be thinking of Chadwick that night, and those other people have been here at every turn for the last year. However sad I might be at the Pancake Dinner, it will feel right to spend the evening with dear friends.

I can remember that.

03 February 2016

Carrying Capacity

While I was in college, I tended to use my bicycle as a mobile library. This was pretty rough on my panniers, since I ignored the suggested weight limits and just packed stuff in as long as there was space. As a result, I tore through two sets in four years.

Rather than get a new set right away when the second one came apart (mid-ride, alas--that was quite a day), I pulled out an old crate that I've had since I was about 15. My tastes in colour schemes have changed just a bit in the intervening years:

Yep, I'm dressed as Elphaba. It was Halloween.
I was not dressed as Fiona, despite many people who guessed her first. Eeep.
But in recent weeks, the crate has started cracking a bit and the bungees were getting frayed, so it was time for a new solution, especially since I don't carry massive grad school books everywhere I go any longer.

I was looking for something that was easy to get on and off, preferably carry-able. I settled on this one (a pair of this one, that is) from Green Guru that's made of recycled banners, which is a nice bonus here in Su-Land.

And as another nice bonus: they fold flat against the bike when not in use, so I can leave them on the bus, even the three-slot racks where the bikes are super close together.

What's also great about these, as opposed to the crate, is that having the crate was affecting the way I was sitting, which changed how my muscles and everything else operated. No prizes for guessing how bad of an idea that is if you don't want worn-out quads. There's nothing wrong with using a crate and bungees, of course, but I do recommend that anyone going down that road take a bit more time than I did to consider its effect on your body and adjust as necessary.

Being able to carry things is a big part to being a transportation cyclist. It's easy enough to just wear a backpack, but putting it on the bike makes the trip a lot more pleasant, and having something that properly hooks onto the bike will work a lot better than trying to hold things or hang bags off the handlebars (please don't do that!) while riding. The best solution, as ever, is the one that works best for you. Just keep in mind that the weight limits on panniers are a thing.

02 February 2016

Reading Challenge Update: January 2016

Here's what happened in my reading challenges for January. Links are (mostly) to Goodreads, which is also where I've written (most of) my reviews.

Books I read for the first time in January 2016

I Love Libraries Challenge (6/24 books so far)

The Transport Debate, Jon Shaw & Iain Docherty
The Fault in our Stars, John Green
Lessons from Madame Chic, Jennifer Scott
168 Hours, Laura Vanderkam
Raising Steam, Terry Pratchett
Princess Academy, Shannon Hale

Read it Again, Sam (1/4 books so far)

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

This is normally a Christmas re-read, but it was checked out over Christmas & took a while to get to me.

Woman Challenge (3/20 books so far)

Lessons from Madame Chic, Jennifer Scott
168 Hours, Laura Vanderkam
Princess Academy, Shannon Hale

Mount TBR Challenge (0/12 books so far)

Nothing on this one in January, because I'm trying to make a dent in Mount These Are Due at the Library Soon before I get any more fines than I've already accrued.

Goodreads Challenge (6/100 books so far)

See above--my library checkouts are what I read this month (I don't count re-reads in this total). I'm two books behind already, Goodreads kindly tells me. Sheesh.

Did you read anything good in January? What should I add to my list?

01 February 2016

About Face

It's hard to quit Facebook. And maybe most of us shouldn't bother trying.

This is probably illegal.
Goodness knows I try; I leave it on one of my business pages most of the time now. I took the app off my phone (which makes checking into the theatre to brag about what show I'm seeing slightly more of a challenge). For a while I was only checking once a day, although I've been slightly more active the last week or two.

Why? It turns out it's hard to do other things while I'm hanging out in the virtual marketplace waiting for people to say things. And of course, people so rarely say things now, not when there are memes to share and articles of dubious fact content to argue over. And then there are the comments--sometimes I just can't stand seeing how rude strangers can be to people I care about. (Strangers to me, that is, not to them. But still!) It all came to a head for me during the Syrian refugee hand-wringing a few weeks back, when I finally couldn't take it any longer and I went on a deleting spree.

And Facebook is desperate to hang on to the time and attention we so willingly give it. The people behind the site like it being a news source (although I find it much too slow to be any use for news; that's what Twitter is for). They want us so badly to never leave the app that they're developing a browser. Why do you think every other website allows you to log in with Facebook? (I don't do that, either.) The more we rely on them, the harder it is for us to quit. A bit like an addiction.

The thing is, I do like being able to connect to so many people in one place. I like that I can post funny memes and giggle over it with friends across time and space, as it were. It's more convenient than email and faster than phoning all of my friends once a day.

It's what brings people to my blog (although not as much on days when I don't talk about Chadwick, it seems. Truly, the most interesting part of me is gone). And I am unwilling to completely walk away from all that, not while friends are still gathering and talking and having a laugh.

Still. If you've noticed my absence, that's why. The rudeness reminded me that I have other life goals, and the other life goals keep me from spending too much time there most days. I'm a bit afraid that if I let myself spend any more time there, I'll fall into a swirling vortex of rude, too. Perhaps I already have and my being gone is a relief to some. And I'm sure there are others who never noticed that I was gone at all. Such is the way of human interaction, especially on a site with a mysterious algorithm that means most of us are shouting into the void, anyway.

How do you feel about Facebook? Fun forum? House of horrors? Somewhere in between?