BioBooksAwardsComing NextContactBlogFun StuffHome

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Predictions From the Past About Now

Some of these predictions were scarily accurate. Fashion? Not so much.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Updating Some Furniture

I've been slowly updating a few pieces of furniture in my house. For example, the TV cart I've been using is one I've had since shortly after college and is one of those cheap, pressed particle board things. Functional, but cheap and ugly. These updates have taken place over months, BTW, not all at once. :-)

I started with a piece in my great room. There was a spot between two French doors that called out for a sideboard or console table. I had my old, beat up coffee table there. It was cheap to begin with, but was the only one I found that would fit in the space at my Minnesota home. I'd spent months looking, but everything was either too wide or too long--I had a very small space to work with. It didn't take long before the cheap wood cracked and my laptop going on and off the table scratched off the layers of stain and varnish.

This is what I replaced it with:

It's still not an expensive piece, but I like the style and it's much more functional in the space than that sorry old coffee table was.

Next on my hit list was that TV stand I mentioned, the one I used in my bedroom. I knew I wanted something with some functional storage. The old cart had storage, but it was one big open space and hard to use for much. This time I got a media chest with two large, deep drawers.

I really like this chest. The look is very contemporary/modern and it had plenty of space for tablecloths and napkins. It's also much safer than el cheapo was. I was always terrified to move it for fear it would topple over.

My last purchase was an ottoman for my family room. I had a coffee table there--not old ugly, a new one that wasn't falling apart--but I couldn't put my feet up on it. There was also zero storage. The ottoman can be used like a coffee table, but I can also use it to kick back, and it opens for storage. That's the one thing this house needs more than anything else--more storage!

I have one more piece of furniture that I'm saving up for. I'd love to buy a sideboard for my dining room. My Minnesota house had a built-in china hutch. Sadly, every sideboard I like is outrageously expensive, so it's going to be a good long while before I have one of these.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

And I'm Still Not Happy

I'm sure everyone is tired of hearing about my planner issues by now. I'll try to make this my final post about it...for a while at least. At least I've found a Facebook group that's even more obsessive about their planners than I am. They're sort of a bad influence on me, but I really needed new pens and stickers. ::innocent face::

Anyway, my new planner that I mentioned last Thursday has arrived and while there are many awesome qualities about it, there's one thing I'm totally not digging. There's no weekly view.

I've always had weekly views. I flip my planner page and I can see everything awaiting me in the upcoming week. This planner only lets me see two days at a time, sometimes 3 if one of those pages is the weekend because Saturday and Sunday share a page. This is going to be a huge challenge for me and one I'm scared I'll fail, leading to missed appointments, etc. I'm trying to mark things on the monthly view and the day it occurs, but I can't remember a month at a time and I never page backward, so I doubt I'd look at the month view a second time.

The other thing I didn't love was that the planner had typos. Several of them and they were glaring. Considering the cost of the thing, it should have been sent out to be professionally proofread.

But there are pluses. It has a hydration tracker built in on each day, as well as an exercise tracker and a vitamin tracker (or medication, I guess). It has a weekly and monthly grocery list feature, which might be good. I wouldn't take the planner shopping, but it might be a good place to jot down items as I think of them so I don't forget.

There's a nice To Do list for each day. I'm a huge fan of To Do lists. It also has sections for Goals, Projects, Personal Finances and Business Finances, and Notes before it gets into the monthlies. Each month has a health check, mini-health goals, cards/gifts, a monthly goals area and a section called "shoulda-woulda-coulda" which I think is where you carry over what you didn't get done in the previous month. The ambiguity is okay because it means a person can use it for whatever it means to them.

So the planner would totally be awesome, and is in so many ways, except I want my weekly view! I honestly didn't realize how much I would miss it until I started filling in the planner.

And before I finish this post (because I promised to lay off the planner talk for a while), I also spent way too much money on stickers for the planner and I bought new pens. It never occurred to me to use stickers before in a planner, but it sure makes things easier. And prettier.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Why We Need to Teach Geography

It starts out slow, but then segues into a funny Jay Leno bit. Well, funny and sad, too. It's hard to believe students don't have a better grasp of geography.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Bullet Journaling: One Week In

After one week of bullet journaling, I'm not sure this is the planning system for me. That's not to say that I dislike it, but there are definitely facets that don't work for me.

I started out copying the layout on the Bullet Journal website and was ready to give up after a couple of days. Then the ladies on a planner group I belong to posted pictures of their weekly spreads and I saw one I really liked and promptly remade my week using her spread. I liked it! Woot! I thought. This makes all the difference.

Happily, I began to draw out the following week following her template. I resized some of my boxes, rearranged, and used a ruler to make sure they were neat. While I waited for week 2, I continued to use my less than perfect week 1.

Then the day came when my tote bag was too full to bring my bullet journal to work. The same thing happened the next day. And then that evening I ordered a regular planner.

What didn't I like about the bullet journal? The original process was too linear for me. I prefer to see my week like a calendar. Drawing it out like the lady in my online group helped, but highlighted one of my shortcomings. I'm not a good artist. My titles looked sad. Some women have these spectacular, arty bullet journals that are incredible. It was as if a child had done mine. I like things to look neat and professional. Messy gives me anxiety.

Problem 2 for me was that things were scattered all over the bullet journal. That's one of the joys of the system--no wasted pages--but it was stress inducing for me because things weren't nicely organized. Yes, I am that anal.

Problem 3 was the idea of having to draw these boxes week after week after week. Time is at a premium and I'm not producing an artistic page anyway, no matter how much time I spend on it.

There are definitely pluses, though. I love making notes about my week and having them on hand years later to remember. One of the things I did before I moved to Georgia was throw away all my old calendars that kept track of what I did and I regret that now. If they'd been in these lovely hardcover books, I would have brought them for sure.

The ability to customize to the nth degree was awesome, too. I didn't need to buy special inserts, I could just take my pen and add it.

I also like the ability to make lists in there. I had one for music to buy and another for books I wanted. I kept track of goals and progress on them. There truly were a lot of things I loved about it, and if I were a better artist, I know I could have grown to love this system. I'm regretting that this didn't work out better for me.

So the planner I'd been using for the past year is over at the end of June and the new planner I just ordered begins July 1. I hope this new one brings me planner peace.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

DB Cooper: Case Closed? Review

Last week, I think it was last week, there was a special on television (I think it was History channel, but I can't swear to it) about DB Cooper. For those of you who are unfamiliar with him, in the late 60s or early 70s, he hijacked a Northwest Airlines airplane and parachuted out somewhere over either Washington or Oregon. He's never been caught.

The first thing I'll mention is that this show was in two parts, each 2 hours long, so we're talking 4 hours here. FOUR! But I was hopeful because one of the "stars" of the show was Tom Fuentes, who is the former assistant director of the FBI. I also have a big interest in the DB Cooper thing because I worked for Northwest Airlines until the merger with Delta. I'd seen other shows before where they kind of came up with a prime suspect and ran him through a logic test. This is not what this show did.

This special looked at a few people very briefly. Many of them were dead and Fuentes and his reporter sidekick, Billy Jensen listened to stories told by people who knew them. Afterward they'd make comments on how credible they thought the potential suspect was.

So far it was okay. Even though I was exhausted and really needed to go to bed, I decided to stay up for part 2, which ended at 11pm. Gah! It was a terrible decision on my part.

One of the things this show did was rehash everything that had been covered earlier in the show after each of the many, many commercial interruptions. This was hugely annoying. Even a person with a horrible memory should be able to remember for the length of a few minutes. This is like two demerits right here.

The show also could have been done in two hours easily. If they'd cut out all the rehashing and had stayed focused, it all would have been over much more quickly even with two million ads. This is another demerit.

While Fuentes and Jensen were supposed to be the duo doing the investigation, most of the show was taken up by two reporters who had done their own four-year investigation into the DB Cooper thing and the show was basically the pair of them telling Fuentes and Jensen what they'd discovered. This kind of felt like a bait and switch thing. Some reporters can do excellent investigative work, but I was watching because I thought a former FBI guy would be doing the investigation part. Another check in the negative column.

Fuentes and Jensen then go to the FBI office and basically the suspect that the two reporters had presented was shot down--without really telling why the FBI had ruled out this guy. Major fail.

At the end of the show, I'd learned exactly nothing and I ended up feeling pissed off that I'd stayed up that late without any reward. So my review is to give this thing a pass and spend your time reading a book. Maybe one of mine. :-)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Brexit, Briefly

I found this opinion piece on what happens with Brexit  (the United Kingdom exiting the European Union) to be interesting.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Journal Books Arrive

My blank books arrived for my bullet journal. Because I couldn't get the dotted one that I wanted, I bought one with squares and one that was completely blank. I love the colors! I also like the elastic band holding it closed and the two ribbons. One is a plain pink and the other is stripes--pink and gray.

Here is the squared one open.

And a close up of the squares so you can see how dark the boxes are.

In this picture, you can see that the books have little page numbers on the bottom. Definitely a huge selling point. There's also a table of contents in the front of the book so I can record what is on which page number.

This is a picture of my current planner. It has a lot of cool features, but I never took the time to use them or learn how to use them and it's basically a glorified To Do list.

Of course, I immediately began to setup my bullet journal after getting my books. I'd read what good quality paper the books had with very little bleed through from pens, so I used my fine point Sharpies to draw the lines for my future log and label the boxes. Big mistake. There most definitely was bleed through/ghosting and it made me unhappy because it looks messy.

Next, I setup a page as a key for the symbols I planned to use. I stayed pretty true to the ones the suggested by the Bullet Journal guy on the website. Since you can do the Bullet Journal on any notebook you own, I'm not going to add a disclaimer here about not getting any consideration from Bullet Journal for discussing it here. I'm not. I'm not using a Bullet Journal notebook, but one I bought on my own, and I'm only using his system, which is available for free on the website.

I also added a few sections I knew I'd want like Goals, To Do list for the week, Music to Buy, Books to Buy, etc. Sadly, my artistic talent is completely lacking and I'm disappointed in the appearance of my bullet journal. Some people have such beautiful journals that it must make using them a joyful experience. Mine? Not so much.

After a few days of using my bullet journal, I can say that I'm not hugely thrilled with it. Part of it is the appearance, but a lot of it is the setup of the journal. I have some ideas to make it better. I'm going to try creating a monthly To Do list and a weekly list for the chore-type items you see in the last picture. I'm going to try to give the book six months and see if I can't grow to love it, but I'll confess that I'm already checking out another planner that I really like in case this bullet journal system doesn't improve for me.

More to come.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Bullet Journals

On Sunday, as I was messing around on Pinterest, I saw someone had pinned a picture of a Bullet Journal layout. What's this? asked I, immediately intrigued. My weakness is planners and organization and paper and pens and this had all of that.

Later in the evening, I did some online searches and immediately became enamored of the process. It's a combination planner, diary, and To Do list and it can be as simple or as elaborate as the user likes. I'd love to be elaborate, but knowing me and how pressed for time I am, I'll probably try the simple version and see what happens.

But I get ahead of myself. After learning about Bullet Journaling and deciding I wanted to try it (perfect timing since my current planner ends June 30), I went in search of a notebook.

My first strike happened when the official Bullet Journal was sold out and appears to have been sold out for quite some time. I still recommend visiting the website, though, because it gives a nice overview of the process. The explanation that I really liked and I found useful came from Buzzfeed and is titled WTF is a Bullet Journal.

With my first book option gone, I went in search of another and immediately fell in love with hardcover notebooks from a German company. If I lived in Germany, I could buy a full line of their products in any color they had (and they have many options). However, I live in the US and my options were extremely limited. I wanted the version with the dotted pages because that's what the sold out Bullet Journal had, however, unless I wanted to pay more than double what they cost or I wanted basic black, I was out of luck.

After far too many hours of searching, I bought a blank journal and decided that would be good enough. Then I searched for more information on Bullet Journals and discovered a lot of people are using squared notebooks. Back to online shopping because I had seen the squared version in the color I wanted.

I didn't cancel my first, blank notebook. I figure that I'll try to decide which one I like better after they arrive. The one I don't use for journaling, I can use for something else.

Now I'm eager and excited to try this method of organization, but I need to wait for my notebooks to arrive. I'll be sure to post updates here as I attempt to use this method. I'm hoping for the best, but I've crashed and burned before on these types of projects, so I guess we'll see.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Strangest Time Zones of the World

With all the weirdness, I don't see why Atlanta can't go to Central Time. I LOVE Central Time.

Thursday, July 07, 2016


One of the things I do is listen to people's voices--the words they choose, how they inflect, the rhythm of their speech--and I'm sure lots of other writers do this too. It's interesting to me to study this. Part of it might be my interest in linguistics, but not all of it. After all, listening to people talk is a great primer for characters and the way they speak.

Take our morning call at work for example. Every morning, maintenance runs down all the planes out of service. It's a quick, high-level summary. There's someone who leads the call and then all the stations are asked to check in one by one whether they have an airplane out of service or not.

My favorite facilitator on the call has a warm voice. He greets everyone as if they were all close personal friends, and while maybe some of them air, not all of them can be. He also has a bit of a southern accent, but it's not too heavy. I like listening to him speak.

But he can't do the call every day. Many of those other days are lead by a man I've nicknamed Eeyore. Yes, after the Winnie-the-Pooh character. He's got this monotone, woeful voice. I don't think he's sad, but rather the lack of tonal difference as his speaks. It just sounds so down and I don't find listening to him to be very interesting. In fairness, he has approved some since he was new on the call, but he still has this doldrums voice.

Then there are the other stations. The New York City guys, the Boston guys, the Los Angeles and Seattle and Salt Lake City guys. The foreign stations--Tokyo and London and sometimes Brazil will join the call if there's a plane out there.

I love listening to them all talk. Some of the guys I'd love to meet in person, not to speak with, but just to see if their faces match my imagination. :-) I've created ideas of what they look like in my mind. No doubt none of them look like I image they do and I'd be sorely disappointed. Ah, well. At least I'm learning accents and patterns of speech. If only I were better at conveying what I hear into writing.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Regrets, I Have a Few

There are choices I made when I was younger that I look back on with regret. Quitting German classes in college about the same time I started dreaming in German was a big one. I realized it a couple of years later, but by then it was too late because my university was going to make me retest for placement and I couldn't afford to waste money on the test.

Another big regret I have was a decision I made when I was 12 to quit dance.

When I was very small, maybe 5 years old, my mom signed me up for dance. I was good, too. The teacher broke us up by skill level and I was always in the top group that performed the more difficult routines. I also picked them up quickly. Most importantly, though--I had fun.

But my mom had signed me up for dance every year from the time I was 5, and at 12 (with hormones raging), anything my mom wanted me to do, I wasn't going to do. Although I guarantee you I didn't think of it that way at the time. At the time I was certain I was making up my own mind on what I wanted to do. :-/

I quit other things around that same time--girl scouts and orchestra (I played the viola). I don't regret either of those things, though.

Things like this are one of the reasons why I have this fantasy of going back and reliving my life knowing then what I know now. I would make totally different decisions and I wouldn't worry about some of the crap that I lost sleep over back then. But (of course) a lot of people wish for this.

This makes me wonder, though, about what my characters regret. What would they change about their lives? I actually think this might be a new question I put to them because the answers would be interesting.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

US Armed Forces Medley

This was a Memorial Day event in 2011, but I thought it was good for Independence Day, too.