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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Stand Up Revisited

***No compensation of any kind was received for this post or any other post on my blog.***

Back in June, I talked about an app I'd put on my phone to remind me not to sit too long. It's called Stand Up and you can read my earlier blog post here. After using it for almost a year, I wanted to revisit it briefly.

I've redone my settings so that my Stand Up timer goes off every 30 minutes. The default is 45 minutes and I discovered that was too long for me. However, the big problem is that every 30 minutes is annoying. I've started to curse at the pinging timer. It's also hugely annoying when I get a blank spot in my day timeline because I forgot to hit the button confirming I had stood. The blanks bother me a lot more than they should.

You're probably thinking if it's this annoying, why don't you take it off your phone? Believe me, I've contemplated it. More than once. The problem is that I need it to tell me to stand up.

I always get involved in my work and forget to move. The reason I downloaded the app to begin with is because I would sit in one position for far too long, try to stand up, and feel as if I'd been hit by a bus. This had to change and the app helped. It still helps. It's just so aggravating.

Sigh. So I'll keep on using it and I'll keep on cursing it every time it pings because the benefits are worth the irritation.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Review: Captain America: Civil War

Warning: There might be spoilers ahead.

Watching Captain America: Civil War might not have been my best choice of movie because I'm not a fan of the superhero genre. I find the movies to be boring, the characters cardboard, and the plots silly or trite. Still, I'd been assured that the new superhero movies were good and that I should give them another try. This one had a nearly 5-star rating on Netflix and I needed something to watch, so I said why not? 

Basically, Captain American and Iron Man are on the outs and the Avengers are picking sides. There was some other plot thing going on too, but I'm writing this a week after watching it and I have absolutely no memory of what it was. That tells you a lot right there.

This movie failed for me on a lot of levels. The biggest was an assumption made by the scriptwriters that everyone watching the movie was familiar with the previous movies. This wasn't true because I'd never seen any of the earlier films. Nothing was explained and I was left confused because there was no setup to explain to me who these characters were or what their relationships with each other was. I think there was a flashback, but that wasn't clear to me either because I had no idea who these characters were.

The characters were flat, their backstories (what little was actually given) were simplistic, and there wasn't much dialogue. I guess they couldn't fit it in between all the fight scenes.

That was the other issue--the constant action. It got boring.

And the plot? Forgettable. What there was of it. I nearly turned this movie off a few times, but because I had nothing else lined up to watch and because I wanted something on while I crocheted, I just let this film play out.

The one part I liked was the young Spiderman character. He was funny and his part in one of the fight scenes was the only thing that prevented it from being tedious.

These superhero movies really aren't my thing and this one convinced me to never waste my time on them again. I liked Robert Downey Jr. I liked Tom Holland who played the young Spiderman, but ultimately they weren't bright enough to overcome a weak script, little dialogue, and no reason to care about any of these characters.

Two thumbs down.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Working Podcast

I found a new podcast that's intriguing. I've only listened to two episodes so far and that's a little too soon to tell if it's going to be something I listen to regularly or not. It's called Working and it's done by Slate. Just the fact Slate is involved put it on my radar. They do a really good job both with the podcasts and with their articles, but I probably would have checked it out no matter who produced it because it has an intriguing premise.

Working interviews people about their professions.

Not astronauts or actors or professional athletes. Normal people in everyday professions. This is so cool that I can hardly stand it!

The first episode I listened to was about what a tailor does. The second was an interview with a nail artist. There are a lot of other episodes already produced that I haven't listened to, but I'll probably go backward strategically and only listen to topics that I'm interested in or ones where I have a character who does that profession.

Anyway, I loved the episode with the tailor. I learned a lot and that was awesome. I also really liked the woman who was interviewed and wish she was in my area so I could have her shop do the work I'd suddenly like done. :-) Sadly, she's in Washington DC. I have a feeling most (if not all) of those interviewed for the show will be in that city since it appears that's where the host of the show is based.

The second episode on the nail artist was less interesting. It might have something to do with the fact there were very few surprises here. One of the few was that she can create nail art in just a couple of minutes (or less) per nail. I guess those woman on Pinterest aren't spending all day on their manicures. ;-)

This show seems like it'll be a valuable resource for writers. So many careers prove difficult to research and here's a podcast that's less than 45 minutes long that covers what various jobs entail. The interviewer also asked some good questions, things I might have asked myself. That's another win.

Overall, I'd recommend giving this a try, but maybe choosing professions you have an interest in.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

First Project Fail

Back in January, I started my first project in crochet. After all, I'd gone through like 5 lessons, surely it must be time to make something besides a swatch. I decided to make a basket. Just a tiny one, but it meant crocheting in the round.

The project was marking as being easy, so away I went. My first challenge was getting the #&*$ magic circle right. This was a huge challenge for me. It required a bazillion YouTube videos and a bunch of websites. Finally, someone on Facebook posted a link for me to try and hurrah! this method worked. My biggest problem now is pulling the magic circle closed correctly. I'm very hit or miss at that. This is a magic circle with a mysterious extra loop. I don't know how I did that.

With my first hurdle crossed, I was off and stitching.

This bottom section involved increases which were actually fairly easy. It was simply a matter of keeping track of when to increase and which stitch I was on. I used a stitch marker to let me know where I'd started.

As I finished the bottom, I was met with a new maneuver that I had yet to learn in my beginning crochet class. Luckily, it was easily understood from the name and I figured it out without having to go to Google. I crocheted into one side of the stitch instead of the full stitch and began crocheting the sides of the basket.

I was happily stitching away and failed to notice I was having a few issues going on. The first was that I would forget to add a stitch that I needed. The second was that I was adding an extra stitch here and there. This was all happening at the end/beginning of the circle, and by the time I was nearly done, it was noticeable and it was ugly.

I folded over the icky side to sort of hide it from the picture. It's on the left where you can see the yellow stitch marker. The side most visible is the part that doesn't look bad. :-) 

The class instructor had mentioned that she often doesn't correct mistakes she makes because they weren't that visible. That might be the mistakes she makes. The mistakes I made were blatant and I decided that I couldn't live with them. I ripped the entire basket apart and ended up with a spaghetti pile of yarn.

Lessons learned. Count stitches. This was what totally tanked my project.

Pattern knowledge gained: I didn't like the little handles on the basket. The pattern also had me going taller than I needed or wanted. Next time I attempt this small basket, I'll stop at the row before the handle row. All I wanted was a small basket into which to toss my car keys. 

Overall thoughts/feelings: Disappointment was high. I actually wanted to finish a project and have something tangible for all the hours I'd spend crocheting swatches. But I'm consoling myself with the fact that I gained experience and learned things I couldn't have picked up without doing an entire project. As they say, experience is the best teacher.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

My Latest Addiction

My latest addiction is a podcast that I discovered from a recommendation on another podcast. There were actually two recommendations. I didn't like the first one I tried, but the one I'm going to blog about today? I love it! The best part? It's a podcast about writing. Not novel writing, but hey, it's still hugely interesting and sometimes what they talk about applies to all writing.

The podcast is called Scriptnotes (it's also available through iTunes and other podcast apps), and as you might have guessed from the title, it centers on writing for movies and television. There are two hosts, John August and Craig Mazin, and they're both working Writers Guild members.

I love these two guys! They're interesting to listen to and even when they're talking about things that are solely issues that a scriptwriter would face, I'm riveted.

There are regular features like when they discuss news stories to decide whether or not it could be a movie. In the episodes I've listened to, the answer has mostly been no. They close out every episode with One Cool Thing--basically something they liked--and there are frequent guests. There's also a regular segment where they read the first three pages of scripts people have sent in and critique them. It's a tremendous opportunity for aspiring writers to get feedback from guys actually working in the industry they want to join.

The Three Pages segment is particularly interesting to me. Good storytelling is good storytelling, but as a new listener who doesn't aspire to write scripts, I honestly am still learning the terminology. It sounds as if there's a pretty large chasm between novel writing and scriptwriting and that's part of what's intriguing.

There have been episodes that have had me reaching for a pen to take notes, episodes that have made me laugh, but best of all, lots and lots of writing talk. When I moved to Atlanta from Minneapolis, I lost my writer friends. I wanted to go to local Romance Writer of America meetings here, but they were too far away from where I live and there is honestly no way I'm driving that far on a Saturday morning. For the last five years, my writer talk has been over the phone or the internet with my friends. Listening to writers talk to each other is a sweet joy for me.

I highly recommend this podcast to anyone who wants to write a script, but I think any writer will probably enjoy it. It might also be of interest to people who aren't writers, but are curious about how Hollywood does scripts.

I'm going to close with something said on the show that had me grabbing my pen and hurriedly taking notes:

"Write what gets you sitting at the computer every day." --Scriptnotes podcast