Weekly Rundown 2/6

The weather here is beautiful and fitting my mood and need for calm and not-snow these days, so I am pretty pleased with that right now.

What I’ve been reading

  • Why a top food poisoning expert won’t eat these foods over at WashPo. I can swear to you I’m not obsessed with food safety, but I do get a big kick out of Bill Marler and his extra-specific brand of legal work, so I am always up for another article featuring him. There is a great story about the army deciding that Odwalla apple juice wasn’t fit for human consumption at the end. AUUUUGGGHHH
  • I’m starting a writing-focused, self-paced tarot course in an effort to learn card meanings once and for all. Your beliefs about the tarot may be different; I see them as an option in psychological reflection.
  • I spent the week bound tightly with tension and anger that I was being forced to wait to get a new cell phone, so I pretty much did no reading apart from 6-month-old articles about said phone, and I will not force you to read them here.

Have this video of cats in a library wearing glasses:

Continue reading Weekly Rundown 2/6

Weekly rundown 1/23

Inspired by friend Lindsay’s new posting style, I’m shooting for a weekly update schedule to account for what I’ve been doing lately.

What I’ve been reading:

  • A Bug in the System, from last year’s New Yorker. Food safety is so gross and fascinating, and this actually grabbed the part of me that’s interested in legal nuances, which is touuuugh to do. Bill Marler is one of those rare stories of someone who’s seized a legal specialty and has wound up doing sincere and needed heavy lifting in regulation reform.
  • The Last Days of Target Canada, amazing for its epic slow collapse as well as the multitude of things that went wrong, one right after another. How did they not know? It boggles the mind.
  • Again, on Lindsay’s advice in another post, I picked up the ebook Take Off Your Pants! Outline Your Books for Better, Faster Writing by Rachel Aaron.  I am slowly preparing myself to tackle edits and (most definitely) rewrites on the Nanowrimo 2015 project, and I have realized that I need a tight set of strictures going into this. Good advice, and my thoughts on outlining (namely that it leads to books feeling like original 1960s episodes of Scooby-Doo) started to feel ready for a change.

  • This led me to find a copy of John Truby’s book The Anatomy of Story (it’s turtles all the way down when it comes to me and books, and do you see what I did there with the WorldCat record? LIBRARIANING!), which is like the Aaron book, but far more in-depth and with a greater variety of examples and things to consider.
    Continue reading Weekly rundown 1/23

NaNoWriMo 2015

Complete with left-handed writer up there on the featured image.

It’s the first year in a long time—ever, in fact—that I haven’t had classes or homework to contend with, so this is me, announcing that I’m going to participate in NaNoWriMo starting next week.

I’ve had a funny relationship with NaNo in the past (it’s another thing that falls on my birthday and manages to cause hangovers and loss of sleep in people I want to party with). The handful of times I tried in high school, I never went in with anything more than a vague idea of what to write, which doesn’t work for me, I’ve learned. My biggest struggle tends to be creating conflict, and there is so little advice on the topic apart from outlining!! and “What does your character want? Deny them that and there’s your struggle.”

As much as I hate plot outlining (both because most outlines tend to assume all stories follow the Campbell Hero’s Journey structure and because outlining tends to feel formulaic and overcooked, like a Scooby-Doo episode), I’ve given in and have started filling in a 30 point list—although I still have reservations about what “next leg of the journey” means.



Filter them for yourself

Stop this day and night with me, and you shall possess the origin of all poems;
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun—(there are millions of suns left;)
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books:
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me:
You shall listen to all sides, and filter them for yourself.

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Writing Prompt: Alice, crafts, and SHAG on the walls

What do you display on the walls of your home — photos, posters, artwork, nothing? How do you choose what to display? What mood are you trying to create?

Wall decorations have to be something I want to look at or that I have a personal connection to—cottage art or something for the sake of filling a space isn’t really my thing. It has to be interesting, and I’m more intrigued by people who decorate with a distinctive style than those who want a space to look traditionally correct, or like something out of a magazine.

I like anything related to Alice in Wonderland, so I go for interesting and unique prints, some from independent artists like Gemma Roman’s up above, others from official Disney artists. I also have a few Alice-themed puzzles that I’ve glued together. There’s a craft store nearby that’s selling huge (like, five foot tall) fake flowers—roses and daisies on these gigantic stalks—and it’s tempting to buy them up and make my own oversized singing garden.

Finished craft projects always get a spot on the wall—cross-stitch hooplahs, paint by numbers. I make lots of them, and am trying to build a style around the notion of excess. I have a librarian friend who’s well known for collecting formal artwork, oil paintings and such, and he’s covered every possible inch of bare wall space with his collection. It’s an entirely different method of collecting, and given how many pieces of embroidery I keep working, I’m thinking I’ll copy his display methods.

My ideal decorating style would be anything tiki-inspired or related to SHAG.

Actually, just let me live inside a SHAG piece and I’ll be set.

Moody colors and clean lines are always fun, and I can’t say I’m averse to macrame planters hanging from the ceiling. He has kind of a Mary Blair/commercial 60’s artwork feel with modern vector effects. I think it’s a hard left turn from the antiques I grew up around, to have a garish statement style anchored to a particular era or theme.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Wall to Wall.”

Libraries and privacy leakage

Gross title, right? And privacy talk is everywhere and so ubiquitous that sometimes it can be difficult to pick through all the scary helpless noise and actually find something worth paying attention to.

Barbara Fister over at Inside Higher Ed has an eye-opening column about how libraries love to advocate for privacy (they don’t keep records of patron checkouts), but in practice, it’s a little more complicated and unsettling:

But guess what? Libraries are terrible at privacy! We put Google Analytics on our websites. We add buttons for social media platforms that feed information to third parties like woah. We don’t ask vendors why our catalogs don’t use end-to-end encryption. We get ebooks riddled with digital rights management and are shocked, shocked when it turns out Adobe is reading over our patrons’ shoulders (and sending unencrypted information about them and their reading habits over the Internet – oopsie!) Adobe is encrypting, now, but they’re still reading over your shoulder.

She has some good anti-tracking browser plugins and interesting links on the subject—I’d be interested to see a demo of Wireshark in action!

Writing Prompt: Quarter, 1996, age 11.

Dig through your couch cushions, your purse, or the floor of your car and look at the year printed on the first coin you find. What were you doing that year?

The first coin I pulled was a nickel from 1964, so let’s have a good, firm chuckle about me not being alive and move on to this quarter I managed to find that was made in 1996.

Pictured: not the actual quarter I found.

I always have to think hard about what grade I was in school for each year, because through some trick of chance birth dates, they line up—first grade in 1991, second in 92. It’s easy to remember until I suddenly can’t think of whether I was entering those grades, or going out of them.

In the spring of 1996, I was leaving language immersion elementary school, where I had been with the same 23 kids for 6 years. I had been an exchange student to San Luis Potosi, Mexico, the fall before, and had my 11th birthday miles and miles from home, a pool party with my host family and a Hello Kitty birthday cake with white frosting peaks. There was such a big deal made of our leaving 5th grade, I think mostly because we were all like siblings to each other, in the best and worst ways. We filled out questionnaires about ourselves, snapshots of our likes and dislikes at that age, and some PTA parent or another had them bound together like a unique class-only yearbook. I still have mine—filled with revisions to my original answers that I spent the summer carefully writing and scratching out, unsure what my favorite song was but pretty confident that it got frequent rotation on the local oldies station.

Transition to middle school was a different game—surrounded by a whole universe of new people who hadn’t learned the names of human bones in Spanish. I remember taking other language classes by a quarter system (hey!) which meant the course was broken down into half-semester increments. I took French and German and liked them both for different reasons. I met Zannah, who sat behind me and was quiet and funny, and is living in New Zealand now. I met Judd, who had a disposable fountain pen, and somehow that changed my life. A girl with hair pulled back so tight I thought she must have had a permanent headache tried to bully me, threatening to jump me at my locker for some reason I don’t remember now, and I don’t think she lasted more than a year at that school.

There were good things and bad things, and I don’t like the number 1996 as much as I liked 1995, with its paradoxical evenness, but 1996 was alright.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Buffalo Nickel.”

Limerock blanket

Now that I’ve graduated and am searching for a job, part of staying busy involves catching up on projects that had fallen by the wayside or been shoved into a drawer. I’m good at starting things, let’s say. I should never have to leave the house, I’ve got so much to finish.

A couple of years ago, I was fascinated by a chevron baby blanket pattern featured on PurlBee—the colors drifted into each other in a really neat, modern way and I ordered up 7 hanks of Blue Sky Alpacas Cotton: Lemongrass, Lemonade, Bone, Tulip, Drift, Sleet, and Graphite. Actually working with the pattern just didn’t do anything for me, though, and it all sat in a bag until about three days ago, when I brought it out again and went looking for a more pointy chevron effect, as the PurlBee version just kind of dipped here and there.

Previous attempt: muddled. Every removable stitch marker I own is on there. Blankets shouldn’t require the planning and restructuring levels of a unilateral trade agreement.

Lo and behold, Espace Tricot’s Chevron Baby Blanket. Lovely! Pointy! Done deal. I’m using 10.5 needles, and CO 129—that puts 4 garter stitches at the beginning and end of each row, and I did 4 rows of garter stitches, all to prevent rolling.

For some reason, the start was cursed. It took me five or six (rage) froggings before the pattern seemed to stick in my brain, and I have been forcing myself to count the stitches in each RS wave section to guard against disaster, but last night I moved on to the second color in the bag, and after so many do-overs, it felt notable. Victory.

To calculate how much yarn I was going to need to complete a full set (both a RS and a WS), I pulled my working yarn through a yardage counter, and then measured again when I got toward the end. Here’s my counter and the scrap I was left with.

Yardage counter and Blue Sky Lemongrass leftovers.
Yardage counter and Blue Sky Lemongrass leftovers.

On to Lemonade!