Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What's On the Needles Wednesday

A knitting post on my knitting blog, imagine that! Sharing my projects will be much easier now that Ravelry has enabled us members to share our projects with non-members. Clicking the links below should actually allow you to view my project page on Ravelry.

Right now, I'm knitting on the second sock of my Twin socks. When I'm done, they'll match a pair knitted by my fabulous Twin, Lewzilla. I'm knitting one at a time, using magic loop with KnitPicks Harmony 40" circular size 1.

I also wanted to show off my last finished project, my Ravelympics success story, Citron:

It still needs to have the ends woven in and blocked, but I'm very proud of it!

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Its a Very Special Post: Twilight Fan writes to Advice Column

I saw this article on Twilight Examiner about a Twilight fan who wrote into the LA Times advice columnist seeking some direction on her Twilight obsession. You can read the whole letter here.

I think there is some outrage going on around Twitter that feel like the advice columnist was way off base in advising this woman to seek counseling. On the surface, it may seem like Amy is saying that any obsession with Twilight is unhealthy.

I'll confess that after reading through the letter carefully, though, I have to side with the advice columnist. And this quote is why:

I'm so sorry I don't have the same type of love that this character has for the female character. I have been depressed about this.

To me, this is where it goes from fairly harmless fandom into something more intense. I love Twilight, and there was a time when I was certainly obsessed with it. I'm still fairly involved in the fandom, and have made some fantastic and lasting friendships because of it.

However, when your obsession of choice (and most people have them, whether its doll collecting or sports or growing your own herbs) begins to make you feel depressed, then I say professional counseling is in order. True depression is nothing to trifle with. I think the Twilight fans see this as an attack on Twilight, but I think, in reality, it has nothing to do with Twilight specifically, but with this woman being confused about her life.

As the daughter of a manic depressive and the friend of several people who have battled depression, I urge anyone who thinks they may be suffering from depression to seek help, regardless of what made them think so. Its the words that this woman uses that's important, not the fact that she's a Twilight fan.

Music Monday: Kings of Leon - Only By the Night

Okay, so I'm not all indie and cool, so I wasn't a KoL fan before hearing this album, and I haven't gone back and listened to their earlier stuff. However, that doesn't change the fact that I consider this album the best album of the past 3 or 4 years that I've listened to. Nearly every song has a catchy hook and the songs go together wonderfully to create a unified tone for the whole album.

If you haven't heard "Use Somebody" in the past year, its possible you've been living under a rock, and I'd argue that it might be the best song on the album, but they're all great. There aren't a ton of albums where I can push play and listen to them all the way through, but this is one of them. My faves (besides "Use Somebody")are: Closer, Revelry, and Cold Desert.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Fun Friday: Sue's Corner

This week's Fun Friday clip is Sue's Corner: Sneaky Gays. Glee returns from hiatus next month.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Booking Through Thursday: Break

Do you take breaks while reading a book? Or read it straight through? (And, by breaks, I don’t mean sleeping, eating and going to work; I mean putting it aside for a time while you read something else.)

I definitely take breaks with most books. If its a long book that's requires me to pay strict attention, like with Lord of the Rings, I usually have another book I'm reading to take breaks from the intense book. The other book is generally a YA or romance that is an easy read.

For example, my currently reading list from GoodReads looks like this:

  • The Two Towers by JRR Tolkien
  • Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
  • The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
  • New Orleans Ghosts, Voodoo, and Vampires by Kalila Katherina Smith

Each of these books serving a different purpose. Two Towers is my intense read, Twilight is my fluffy YA re-read, The Killer Angels is my current audiobook, and the New Orleans books is spooky, so I can't read it all the way through without taking a break so I don't start seeing ghosts in my apartment.

Which book I pick depends on what mood I'm in and what I want to do with my evening. LotR and Twilight are on the Kindle, so I might go with one of those if I want to knit while I read. Killer Angels is also good for when I want to knit or if I'm in the car for a while. The Ghosts book is great if I'm watching tv, since the television will distract me just enough to keep me from getting too spooked.

The usual exceptions to the "multiple books at one time" thing is a new release by a favorite author. If Sherrilyn Kenyon, Jr Ward or Richelle Mead have a new book out, chances are that I'll read nothing else til I've finished it. Usually, these are series books where I'm anxious to see what happens next!

All in all, having multiple books going works for me! Its also one of the things I love about having a Kindle: multiple books, one device, no losing my place!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Big Easy Adventure

Our road trip to New Orleans didn't begin well. Courtney and I had barely made it out of Little Rock when I got a text saying Charlote had lost her wallet and was having to get a new drivers license and new debit card before she and Zach could leave Conway.

This led to the realization that my purse wasn't in the car. It was back at Courtney's, on the chair where I'd set it when I came in. 40 minutes later, I had my purse back.

Then a rock hit my windshield. The crack is still spreading across the bottom.

This was not going well.

I should also apologize in advance for not having many pictures. I forgot my digital camera at home and the iPhone camera isn't the best. Perhaps in the future, Courtney will share her photos and I can post some here.

Despite the start, we had a great time in The Big Easy. Mainly, we spent a lot of time eating: red beans and rice, beignets, boudin, and more. Great places we ate at that I recommend:

  • The Gumbo Shop - The red beans and rice here is phenomenal and affordable. I got the boudin as an appetizer and it was delicious, but spicy, so be aware.
  • Port of Call - This hole in the wall burger joint was recommended by a friend from Louisiana. Its menu is tiny, no appetizers, just a couple salads, a couple steaks and your choice of a regular hamburger, a cheeseburger or a mushroom burger. What they lack in variety, they make up for in making one hell of a hamburger, maybe the best one I've ever had.
  • Acme Oyster House - We had to go here because the restaurant plays an important part in one of mine, Charlote, Courtney, and Shelby's favorite book series, The Dark Hunters by Sherrilyn Kenyon. The atmosphere was great, the food tasty, and our waitress had a fantastic accent. I had the roast beef po boy, served debris style and the bananas foster cheesecake. It was also fun to check out the wall where they list the winners of their oyster challenge and see the name of Adam Richman, host of Man Vs. Food.
  • Stanley - We picked this place kind of randomly after looking up places that served brunch and mimosas and I'm so glad we did. The mimosas were fantastic (and strong, meaning we were all buzzing before 2 pm) and the bananas foster french toast was heaven on a plate. Seriously, it even came with ice cream.
  • Mona Lisa - Our last night, we were craving Italian food and found this restaurant on Urbanspoon. We had to go have a drink at a quaint neighborhood bar while we waited for a table(Hi Bartender Steve, we love you!), but it was worth the wait. Great garlic bread, tasty chicken parm, and lovely atmosphere.
  • Cafe Du Monde - Its a New Orleans tradition and it shouldn't be missed. The beignets are to die for and its open 24 hours a day, so its great to pop in whenever for a snack and a cup of chicory coffee.

Okay, enough with the food porn, we did do a few things besides eat. Mostly we shopped. And we might have had a few drinks.

Those are Hand Grenades. Get one on Bourbon! The great thing about New Orleans is that you can walk around with your drink, and most restaurants and shops don't care if you bring them in. I was thrilled to discover, as well, that most places in New Orleans serve Abita beer, and I'm enamored of Abita Amber, so Holly was a happy beer drinker on this trip.

Shelby, Char, and I had a tarot reading at Reverend Zombie's Voodoo Shop. It was an interesting experience, more akin to therapy in my opinion, than anything Supernatural. And I found out I can communicate with the dead, which is useful information to have. Call me Haley Joel from here on out.

We took Haunted History Tour's Vampire Tour on Friday Night, and had the same tour guide as the last New Orleans trip, Jonathan. I highly recommend this tour and tour guide. Jonathan is a fantastic story teller and the tour content is both spooky and interesting.

My favorite shop was probably Wicked Orleans, a clothing boutique featuring mainly goth/punk merchandise. I also liked Boutique Du Vampyre, which features all manner of vampire related things. I'm in love with this skeleton t-shirt I picked up there. Another great shop was The Voluptuous Vixen, which caters to sizes 12 to 28. Great clothes, friendly staff. We were even greeted with cups of champagne!

I've got one more post with a story I wanted to share on the way in the next couple days, but I'll leave you with one more picture I managed to take:

This is where I slept 3 out of the 4 nights we were there. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it, but kudos to us for being so creative and finding a way to keep me out of the floor.

Until next time, New Orleans, laissez les bons temps rouler!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

TV Tuesday: The Big Bang Theory

Beware: Spoilers!

Last night's episode of the Big Bang Theory had some very funny moments, but it wound up as the type of comedy that I just can't take. More on that at the end, but it wasn't the only problem I had with the episode. Basic plot: Sheldon is receiving an award from the university, has horrible stage fright which makes him not want to accept it, and the guys and Penny try to help him overcome it.

First off, I felt like Sheldon's stage fright was merely a convenient plot device. He's shown no indication in the past that he had any trouble in the spotlight, not when he and Leonard fought over who would present their joint paper or when he was jealous of the child prodigy at the university. So the whole premise didn't jive for me.

My favorite bit was Penny helping Sheldon buy a suit, but the rest of the segments with his friends "helping" him were only moderately funny. I generally love Leonard but this episode insisted on hitting us over the head with the fact that his mother didn't hug him enough and he's bitter about it, contrasted with Sheldon's crazy, but loving mother. The bit where Raj tried to help Sheldon through visualization was humorous, but forgettable.

The climax of the episode was the worst bit for me. Penny gives Sheldon a couple drinks before he accepts his award, which leads to a drunk Sheldon doing a standup routine with math and science jokes and songs about the elements. I'm sure some people loved this and I can admit that its funny in theory, but I'm one of these people who gets embarrassed for characters when they humiliate themselves and so I spent the whole time with my hand on the mute button, fighting the urge to hit it.

The end, though, when Leonard and Penny show hungover Sheldon the video of his performance, complete with him taking off his pants and mooning the crowd, was the best part of the entire episode. I love Sheldon, but something's gotta keep him humble, even if its shameful Youtube videos of his naked rear end.

I'm planning a post on my New Orleans trip, so look for that soon!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Booking Through Thursday: Sensual

Today's Booking Through Thursday question:

Which do you prefer? Lurid, fruity prose, awash in imagery and sensuous textures and colors? Or straight-forward, clean, simple prose?

I think my preference here depends on the kind of book I'm reading. Oddly, in romances, I often prefer more straight-forward language. I think its that the plots are mostly about things that can very easily be written as syrupy sweet, so I prefer to keep the language simple. I mean, I want there to be some imagery, but lets not overload with too many details.

Sex scenes should be sensuous, yes. They should have imagery, yes. But its also true that less can be more where a sex scene is concerned. The best authors can find a good balance balance there.

Even in non-romances, I think I like a good balance between the two options above. I'm reading Tolkien's The Two Towers right now, and just finished The Fellowship of the Ring. Tolkien is a master at imagery and using language to the best of his ability. However, for me, its sometimes a bit too much, and I have to skim. This isn't to say there's a problem with Tolkien's writing, just that its not always to my personal preference.

A short post today, as I'm off to the Big Easy for a long weekend. I'll blog some pictures when I'm back online Tuesday!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St Patrick's Day!

In honor of the holiday, I thought I'd share a few of my pictures from my study abroad experience in Ireland!

Here's the pub where I spent most of my time when I wasn't in class. The English translation is The Kitchen.

This is the National University of Ireland at Galway, the first place I went to after the airport. Beautiful introduction to the country.

The beach at Spiddal:

Kylemore Abbey:

Killary, site of the only fjord in Ireland. I thought it was such a quintessential little village:

I had the pleasure of getting to go to Croagh Patrick for Reek Sunday, an annual pilgrimage up the mountain. The number of people climbing the mountain was staggering, and many of them were climbing barefoot. I didn't make it all the way up, but I had a great time people watching.

Hope everyone enjoys the holiday!

Monday, March 15, 2010

TV Tuesday: Greek

*Spoiler Alert*

Damn this show for making me cry! I knew about halfway through that I wouldn't like where it was going and that it would make me sad. I'm not sure if that means the writing was too heavy handed or if I just watch too much TV.

However, there was some great stuff before the crying! Rusty can't decide who he wants to date, Dana or Katherine. I'm not sure if he made the right choice in the end, but this is Greek, so I doubt its set in stone anyway.

Calvin helping Evan get over Rebecca was great, especially their interaction with Dale. Dale is always fantastic comic relief ("I'm not a lovey dovey Christian!). If you'd have told me during 1st season that I'd one day root for Evan Chambers, I wouldn't have believed you, but I am. As long as he doesn't try to break up Casey and Cappie anymore.

And now that I've mentioned Casey and Cappie, we can talk about the crying part. Greek has been leading us to this episode for a while now, probably the whole season. Casey and Cappie are back together, but this doesn't mean they don't have problems. Cappie is still the class clown who wants to stay in college and party with the KTs forever. Casey is still the practical girl who wants to have a real adult life after college.

It all comes to a head in this episode with the arrival of Cappie's parents (his mother is played brilliantly by Lea Thompson). Casey finally gets a glimpse into the nomadic lifestyle that has made Cappie who he is. His parents encourage him to stay in school as long as he likes, as long as he's happy there since they believe in doing what you want regardless of the path society tells you you should take. Its also apparent that the Kappa Tau house is the place Cappie has called home the longest in his life, and he doesn't want to leave it.

When Cappie's mother tells Casey that she and Cappie's father are splitting up, she tells Casey "some love stories are short stories." At the end of the episode, Casey tells Cappie she's through trying to change him and they'll just tackle the future when May arrives. We see Casey's real decision though when she gets home to the ZBZ house and Ashley: she's come to the realization that she and Cappie's love story is just a short story and they have no future past college. She hugs Ashley and cries and so do I. Kudos to Spencer Grammer and Amber Stevens for playing this scene so well.

I have to applaud the writers for taking a couple that we rooted for so long and have you convinced that they won't last forever. They've done a great job of enforcing it over this season. I don't know how its going to end, especially since the show got picked up for one more 10 episode run, and the writers are intentionally writing towards the end they want. There's still a huge part of me that wants it to end like a fairy tale, with Casey and Cappie riding off into the sunset, but I now think I could be comfortable if that doesn't happen.

All I know is, we better find out Cappie's real name!

Music Monday: Marc Broussard

When I was thinking last night about what to write for Music Monday, I put in my earbuds, went to 'All Songs' on my iPod and hit shuffle. The second song that came on was Marc Broussard's "The Wanderer" and I knew I had my topic for the post. For me, some artists I love just for their music. Someone like Marc is a little different, in that I love his music, but there are also some pretty great life experiences I associate with his music and his live appearances.

Freshman year of college, Shelby and I discovered Maroon 5 through a girl in our dorm who did promotion for a record label. These were the days when pirating was easy as all get out thanks to UCA's open network, so we grabbed everything we could find on them and waited anxiously for their show in LR that February. The show just happened to fall on the one day a rare Arkansas snowstorm came and we had to turn around after getting just a few miles down the interstate. The show got rescheduled due to the bad weather and the lineup changed a bit. Instead of the other opening acts (for some reason, I think Ingram Hill might have been in there somewhere), the new show would be opened by some guys named Marc Broussard and Gavin DeGraw, who we'd never heard of.

Just before the rescheduled show, "Harder to Breathe" blew up on the radio, so we knew to get there early. Turns out that was a great idea, as we got spots in the front row against the stage, and this show would influence our musical tastes and concert going for years to come. First up was Marc Broussard, who turned out to be a Cajun soul singer. He hit the stage barefoot, in blue jeans, and knocked our socks off, to put it lightly. His style is a mix of R&B, soul and traditional Louisiana Cajun music.

After that concert, we were sold on Broussard and kept up with his new music, as well as trying to find an opportunity to see him live again. We got that chance when he scheduled a show in Dallas on my friend Ashley's birthday. Its a 5 hour drive at least, but it was a Friday night, so we decided to skip class and make the road trip. We had a great time at the show (and heard Citizen Cope for the first time) and enjoyed a great trip to IHOP afterward in preparation for the drive back to Texarkana to sleep.

Then it turned out we'd locked the keys in the car.

It was 3 in the morning.

It was raining.

And we were broke.

So we pooled all the cash in our pockets to come up with the $40 to pay the locksmith who graciously gave Courtney (the owner of our locked vehicle) a discount because she had a John Kerry sticker on her car. Democrats in Texas have to stick together. Once the car was unlocked it was early morning, and we all tried and failed to stay awake on the drive. How Courtney stayed awake when we were all asleep, I'll never know. But we made it, stumbling in at 8 am and falling wherever we could find room to sleep. It was crazy and stressful and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.

So whenever I listen to Marc, I don't just hear his songs, but I also remember the experiences I've had because of him. And he'll always be special for that reason.

Enjoy a few of his songs on my playlist below!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Fun: Jimmy Kimmel's Handsome Men's Club

It's Friday and I don't have anything deep or witty to say, so instead, enjoy this funny video from Jimmy Kimmel:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Booking Through Thursdays: Illustrious

Today's Booking Through Thursdays question is: How do you feel about illustrations in your books? Graphs? Photos? Sketches?

This is an interesting question, since I'm both a reader of mostly books that don't have illustrations and a Kindle owner, where images are limited to shades of gray.

The biggest collection of books I own that have pictures are knitting and crochet books. Pictures and charts and illustrations are essential in demonstrating techniques and showing what a knitted or crocheted object is supposed to look like when you follow the book's instructions. Nowadays, a lot of patterns are available online in pdf format or on blogs like this one, but I still enjoy actually owning pattern books so that I can sit down on the couch and page through them, looking for inspiration for that next project.

Now that I have a Kindle, its easy to take pdfs of patterns I've found and transfer them to the Kindle, but I doubt I'll ever use it for more than a reference. Its great for looking at the pattern instructions but not for looking at the pictures. I also probably won't ever spend much money on pattern books for Kindle, because I love those color photos that you get from a real book.

As for my regular fiction reading, most of those books don't have any pictures beyond the cover, and for good reason. Most readers make up what the characters look like in their heads. I'm a little strange in that I usually can visualize a character's body, clothes and hair, but I rarely visualize a defined face. This works for me and its never really bothered me that I don't have a specific picture in my head of what the characters look like. For some of my books, like Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter series, there are manga illustrations that have been put out and I enjoy those, but I don't let the illustration necessarily define how I picture that character in my head.

Its been an interesting experience getting involved in fan message boards for some of the series that I read, where fans and authors both sometimes post pictures of models or actors that they feel are matches for the characters. Its amazing how there is a set description for that character, a list of everything we know about them physically, and yet you get such a diverse set of opinions on what that person looks like. I've seen people say that they picture a blond when the character is canonically brunette, even people who picture someone of a totally different race than the character is known to be. This is the beauty of books without illustrations. It gives the reader freedom to visualize it in their own way.

I'm not entirely sure I've answered the BTT question, since I've mainly talked about not having pictures in my books, but still, its an important thing to talk about why illustrations aren't always needed and or wanted.

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Why I'm Loving

As I posted on Monday, I've been playing around with the music site the past couple days, exploring it in hopes to use it to link music on the blog. And its frakking awesome. Here's why:

  • You can add your entire music collection to your lala collection for free. With a free lala account, you can download their Music Mover utility. It scans your music, matches your songs to ones in their database and adds your music to your lala collection. This means that when I'm signed in at work, I can listen to the music that I own on my home pc, absolutely free. I only got a couple errors when it scanned my music, mainly due to improper metatagging on my songs. The Music Mover also imports your playlists from iTunes. It got most of mine, but not all. The software obviously isn't perfect at matching, but I'm still happy to have most of my music available to listen to in the office without having to transfer via portable hard drive or having to listen to my iPod with earbuds in.

  • Its easy to share your music. For any song in your collection, you can embed the song in a blog post, tweet it, facebook it, or even email or IM a link. Your friends get to listen to the whole song once for free. After they've listened to it once, they can only hear a 30 second sample when they push the play button again. lala also enables you to share playlists in addition to individual songs.

  • Listen to whole songs and albums for free. Most all of the music on lala can be played once for free. This means you can queue up that new Gorillaz album like I did yesterday and listen to the whole thing for free before you buy. This pwns Amazon and iTunes and their 30 second samples. You even have a queue where you can add all the songs (there's a button to add a whole album to your queue as well) you want to listen to and they'll play uninterrupted. As with the sharing, you get one listen for free, then its a 30 second sample when you push the play button.

  • Adding a song to your collection for unlimited listens costs you 10 cents. You don't own the mp3, but its a cheap way to experience a song/album if you're not ready to buy it or it you just want to be able to blog about it or something. lala also offers mp3 downloads, and if you've already spent the 10 cents to add the song to your web collection, the 10 cents is taken off of the mp3 price if you decide to buy it later. The mp3s seem to run at 89 cents, but I haven't explored that much since I primarily buy from Amazon and iTunes. I've no idea what the DRM situation is on mp3s you buy from lala.

I'm sure lala has many other features that I haven't mentioned here, but I'm still trying it out and these are just the ones that have pleased me thus far. And just for fun, here's one of my playlists:

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

TV Tuesday: The Big Bang Theory

Spoilers below!

Last night's Big Bang Theory, "The Precious Fragmentation," might be my favorite episode of the current third season. As you can see from the promo, the boys buy a box of unknown junk from a garage sale and find some really cool stuff, including a ring used as the One Ring on the set of the LotR films. The really funny stuff happens as the guys try to determine what to do with the ring and which one of them should get possession of it.

I actually had a revelation at the beginning of this episode as the guys were discussing their roles in the group. Sheldon called Howard the "funny one." Last season, I would have recoiled from the idea of Howard being the comic relief from within their group (as opposed to how the audience sees them). Though I've loved the show from the beginning, I've always found Howard to be slimy and barely tolerable some episodes. However, the writers have managed to make me like the little slimeball this season. Maybe its that the whole Bernadette storyline has softened him a little, made him less of a creep.

I think my favorite part of the whole episode was when Penny punched Sheldon in the face when he tried to steal the ring from around her neck while she was sleeping (Leonard gave it to her for safekeeping while the boys debated what to do with it). It was unexpected and oddly satisfying. Not that I don't love Sheldon, but it was kind of appropriate considering he was snooping into Leonard's room in the middle of the night. Part of the show's hilarity stems from Sheldon not understanding social boundaries, but every now and then, its nice to see him suffer the consequences for doing something highly inappropriate like creeping into someone's room while they're asleep.

The gag where the boys tried to determine who got the ring by seeing who could hold on to it the longest was fantastic, though I could have done without the conversation where Raj and Howard tried to get Sheldon to let go by talking about his Meemaw having sex. Todd over at the AV Club loved this bit, so I think its just one of those things that you either find it hilarious or it turns you off completely.

This show has a habit of totally dropping storylines after one episode, so I don't anticipate any resolution to the conflict, since the episode ended with Leonard and Sheldon wrestling over the ring. I'd really love if we saw it in the background later or even around one of their necks.

Best line of the night: "I pity the fool who is illogical." - Leonard, after finding a doll with Spock's body and Mr. T's head

Monday, March 8, 2010

Music Monday

I'm going to make another attempt to revive the blog, try #55, it seems.

I thought perhaps if I made myself blog about certain things on certain days of the week, then that would give me the structure I need to keep up. So here goes nothing!

Thanks to the Twitter tradition of Music Mondays, I knew immediately that I wanted to blog about music on Mondays, what I'm listening to now, reviews of new records I've bought, etc. I also realized that I'd need to find some way to embed this music (or at least a sample of it) in the blog entry. Since a lot of the stuff on YouTube is not legal, I'm going to try to embed with.

So consider this a test post. Here's the song I can't stop listening to right now, "Rock N Roll Razorblade" by Hanson (we'll talk about the merits of Hanson at another time I suppose, but if you know me at all, you know that I'm unapologetic about listening to music that some find untenable.)