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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Paper Snob

I love paper. And pens. And office supplies. A lot of writers do. I was never a paper snob, though, until I tried some really good paper. Believe it or not, it was in a spiral-bound notebook.

Let me backup a minute. I always carry a notebook with me to make writing notes. I started with a steno notebook--whatever quality paper--and made notes for any story in there. It didn't matter if it was just a stray idea or the Work In Progress (WIP). I did this for three notebooks and it was cumbersome. Do I have the note with me that I need? Maybe it's in notebook 1 which is at home. The only good thing was the pages were perforated so I could cleanly tear out finished projects and file the notes.

But I still had a ton of notes for projects/ideas that I might never work on. Seriously, any stray idea, no matter how unlikely it was something I'd ever actually ant to work on, is in one of these notebooks.

Then I hit on a new plan. One notebook for each project, maximum of two notebooks.

I started out with a bound notebook for the WIP. I had another idea that was tangentially related to it, so that went in the same notebook. The paper was okay, but it didn't make me a snob.

No, the notebook that made me a snob was spiral bound. It was something I'd picked up only because it was 25% off. I have notes for a trilogy-in-progress in there. The only problem? By the time I realized how much I love, love, love the quality of this paper and want like 60 million more of this exact same notebook, it was out of stock. ::sobs::

I went to the manufacturer's website and they don't have this particular notebook there either which has to mean they're not making it any longer.

The paper is nice, thick paper without any bleed through even when I use a fountain pen. It has perforation along the spiral side so that when I'm done, I'll be able to tear the notes out cleanly. This is a big deal for me. The size was perfect--a little larger than A5. But the best part? Thick plastic covers to protect the notebook and the paper. It's absolutely ruined me for any other notebook.

My only consolation is that maybe the company that made my notebook will come out with something similar in the near future. Please.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

What Happened, YouTube?

Once, not all that long ago, YouTube's weekly emails with links to videos I might be interested in was extremely accurate. It included new videos from channels I've subscribed to and videos from other channels that were similar in nature. It was awesome and I would save these emails until I had time to click through on the many links that sounded interesting to me.

Then something changed. I don't know what or how, but now my emails from YouTube and pretty much scan and delete. It now only highlights three videos from channels that I've subscribed to and the choices are...interesting. You'd think the fact that I never click through any longer might improve the algorithm, but nothing has changed. And just to make it ever less exciting, they sometimes repeat the same video two weeks in a row. What? Do you think I missed it the first time?

These highlighted videos, BTW, are not from channels where I watch a lot of what they make and would love to know when they have something new out. No, these are from channels I rarely watch because they only occasionally have content that interests me. YouTube doesn't care.

It used to be easy to find content for my Sunday videos, but no more thanks to the changes YouTube made to their newsletter. Woo hoo. ::heavy sarcasm::

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!

To those of you who celebrate, Merry Christmas!

Enjoy a little Andy Williams Christmas music.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Great Cereal Controversy

I read an article the other day that said cereal sales are down because millennials believe it's too much work to clean a cereal bowl. This is an old article, so clearly I wasn't paying attention at the time. There is a counter-article that says laziness is not why millennials are avoiding cereal and a third article that kind of takes the middle ground.

However, even the article in the middle shows that 39% of millennials agreed with the statement that "Cereal is inconvenient because I have to clean the dishes after preparing it." In contrast, 17% of Gen Xers agreed with the statement and 10% of baby boomers. So seriously, double the number of millennials as compared to gen X find rinsing a cereal bowl to be too inconvenient to bother with. This amazes me to no end.

I'm as lazy as they come when it involves preparing food. I loathe cooking with the fire of a thousand suns. In fact, when I do cook, my food frequently looks as if it was cooked with the heat of a thousand suns. ::blush:: I get bored, wander away and things get burned.

But despite my immense hatred of food prep, cereal is one of my go-to meals. You pour it in a bowl, add milk, and ta-da! Dinner! Afterward, I run some water on the bowl and put it in the dishwasher.

One of these three articles, I can't remember which now, says that no, millennials aren't lazy. They're trying to eat healthier than a bowl full of sugary cereal. (Um, dudes, there are plenty of non-sweetened cereals out there. I don't eat sugared cereal at all.) Healthy apparently means breakfast sandwiches and cites the popularity of McDonald's all-day breakfast. I'm sorry, but if you're eating a breakfast sandwich from a fast food restaurant, health is not your priority. Convenience is.

I'm all for convenience--see my earlier paragraph about hating to cook--but how is waiting in line for a fast food breakfast sandwich more convenient than cereal? I've seen the line at the drive thrus on my way to work. I literally could pour my cereal, eat it, and rinse the bowl before a car at the back of the line makes it to the front.

Anyway, I don't have a dog in this fight. I don't work in the food/cereal industry and I understand culinary laziness, but I am astonished by that anyone, let alone 39% of an age group, found cereal for breakfast to be too much work. Apparently, some eat cereal for a snack, but there we go back to sugar again. It has to be sugar because no one is going to eat bran flakes for a snack. I remain flabbergasted.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Old People Radio

When I was in growing up, the only radio station my parents ever listened to was a news/weather/talk show kind of format station. Not political talk. The talk show stuff was cooking or entertaining or household hints kind of things. In fact, I didn't know there was such a thing as FM radio OR music on the radio until (I think) fourth grade when someone in my class asked me what radio station I listened to. I thought there was only one, so I gave them that answer. And got laughed at.

Everyone listens to this top 40 station, I was told. And of course, I immediately found it and started listening to it myself.

When I was a little older, I called my parents' station of choice "old people radio" and didn't understand why they liked to listen to it.

Guess what? I still don't understand why anyone likes the format and it's on steroids in Atlanta. Not only is the station all yakking, it's obnoxiously loud yakking, especially in the morning. I hate talking in the morning. I hate loud in the morning. They do both. And I'm not sure if this is the right term or not, but the station over-modulates their voices making it even worse. There are no words for how much I hate this station. Loathe is too mild a term.

Sadly, because of my van pool, I'm subjected to this hideousness pretty much every weekday morning. I plug a headset into my phone and listen to instrumental music to block it out. Because of how obnoxious it is, I had to go with drumming music which is a little more robust than I'd like at that time of day, but there's nothing milder that will cover up the station from hell.

Even today, I still think of this type of station as being for old people and I'm not quite sure why anyone driving my van pool wants to listen to it. When I drive my car to work (which seldom happens), I don't have the radio on at all in the morning, and when I drive home in the afternoon, I put on music I can sing along with to make the ride shorter. Much, much better than blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

PS: Radio in Atlanta is bad! Even a couple of Atlanta natives who I work with think it's lousy. I didn't believe I'd find worse radio down here than what I had in Minneapolis, but I was wrong. It's at least 100x worse down here. IMO, of course.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Thursday, December 15, 2016


I'm still talking about that happiness podcast today, but this will be the last one, I promise! The other topic the duo talked about that I wanted to discuss was gratitude.

On the podcast, one of the women talked about remembering to be grateful for everyday things, small things that we might not think about very often. She mentioned electricity. That we take it for granted until it goes out. An example she used that related to her own life was contact lenses.

There are so many everyday things to be grateful for: Electricity, running water, indoor plumbing, modern sewage/sanitation systems, our transportation network (roads, airplanes, etc), computers that allow us to connect with people around the world and also do computations/simulations to help science/math/etc, satellites to help us in a million ways including letting meteorologists know when big storms are coming in, and probably thousands of other things that are such a daily part of life that I can't think of them.

On Tuesday, I mentioned that one of the happiness hacks was keeping a gratitude journal. I think this is a great idea and I'm going to try it. Although instead of a journal, I'll just make a note each day in my planner about something I'm grateful for.

Today I am grateful that the mail carrier brought my mail to the door so that I didn't have to walk down the hill to get it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Happiness Hacks

That podcast I mentioned last week when I talked about happy music also discussed happiness hacks. Things you do to make yourself happier. They were in front of a live audience when this podcast was recorded, so they had people line up to share their hacks. Some were quite simple like one woman had a basket downstairs and one upstairs. When things that belonged on one floor were found on the other, she'd put it in the basket and bring the upstairs basket down and the downstairs basket up.

CNN also had an article about happiness hacks. The article mentions practicing kindness, keeping a gratitude journal, and embracing failure among other things.

This all got me thinking about happiness hacks. The audience members who spoke at the podcast mostly focused on things I'd consider tips for making life a little easier. Like the basket idea. Is that the answer? Simplifying daily chores/activities?

Or is the CNN article more on point? This talks about things you can do to make yourself happy. Meditating, helping others, smiling, going outside, and so on.

This is what I think, and of course, your mileage may vary. I believe that things can not make you happy. Oh, they might lift mood for a short period of time, but it always takes more and bigger things to maintain that endorphin high. I believe that happiness has to come from within.

Before I published, I did a lot of thinking about myself and my life and what I was doing with it. I started to make changes on the things I didn't like. This wasn't a quick fix. Habits that I'd had for years took a long time to break. Some things I still battle to this day--like my need to be perfect. I understand in my head that perfection is impossible.

The example I use on myself is what if someone thinks short hair is perfect and another person thinks long hair is perfect. I can't be perfect for both people, and if I try to split the difference with medium length hair, I'm not perfect in either person's eyes.

Yeah. Despite understanding this, I still strive for perfection and cause myself huge amounts of stress.

But I've succeeded in other areas. I used to never be able to say no and found myself roped into things I had zero desire to do or zero time to do. This added to my stress level too. I did learn to say no and I did learn to stick to it even with huge amounts of pressure put on me by other people. Like when I had a deadline for a book and someone wanted me to go to a baseball game. I got huge pressure to blow off the writing and go, but I couldn't. I knew I was going to be tight on my deadline and I couldn't take that night off. I stayed home and I met my deadline.

I need to think about this happiness hack thing some more to see if there are other things I can do just on a day-to-day basis to make life easier. Time to do some more mulling.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Virtual Race

***I'm going to talk about something by name so let me insert this disclaimer here: I have received no compensation of any kind whatsoever from anyone to discuss this topic/race/company. All opinions are my own.***

I'm not a runner--I'm a walker--but there's this race that looks really cool and I want to do their 5k. The reason why I'm attracted to this race and not to others? This is more for fun than super competitive. Since I'd be walking the 5k, this is important to me. The other big reason is they give pink stuff to their competitors. I know it's a silly reason, but I love pink.

The race is called Run Like a Diva. There are pink T-shirts, pink tutus (I'll admit I don't care about the tutu), tiaras, pink boas, and cool medals for finishers.

I have entering one of their real races in 2017 as one of my goals. They have a time limit on completing each mile of the race because of road closures and I need to build my speed up another half a mile per hour or so before I can do it in real life.

But they released a virtual race and I signed up for that! It doesn't give all the super cool stuff that a real race gives to entrants. No T-shirt, no tiara, no boa. But I can do it in my neighborhood or on a treadmill and my speed won't be an issue. (I do about 3.5 miles per hour and I'd need to be around 4 mph for this race.) I already walk more than 5k on many, many days, so distance has never been a problem for me.

I am ridiculously excited about doing this. It's kind of a mini-goal, a step on the way to my goal of participating in a real, live, in-person race.

***I have received no compensation of any kind whatsoever from anyone to discuss this topic/race/company. All opinions are my own.***

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Happiness 911

I was listening to a podcast a while back that talked about using music when you need to feel happier. The two hosts went on to talk about several of the songs that perked them up and I thought this was a super cool idea. Their only rule was that Happy by Pharrell could not be one of the songs--I guess because it's too obvious.

This is kind of a cool exercise. I'm very aware that music and mood go together. On a Friday afternoon, when I'm driving home from work, I don't want dark, heavy music because it doesn't fit how I'm feeling. I want light, happy, upbeat songs. In movies, the score is very important to driving tension and mood. Maybe it's just me, but I'm usually not consciously aware of music in movies very often, but when I pick up the soundtracks later (I like instrumental music sometimes when I write), I'll notice how very fitting each song is to the corresponding movie scene.

So my happy songs, the ones I play when I need a pick-me-up:

Walking on Sunshine - Katrina and the Waves
Goody Two Shoes - Adam Ant
Knock on Wood - Amii Stewart
Rebel Yell - Billy Idol

There are more, but they're not coming immediately to mind.

I have a lot of 80s songs on my list and that's because--overall--80s music is happy music IMO. Even the songs that are slower and supposed to be ballads feel happier to me than a lot of the music that came out later. And this is actually one of the reasons why I still listen to so much music from that decade--I want music that makes me happy. The titles listed above are simply the songs that make me happier than my usual mix.

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Sunday, December 04, 2016

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Thanksgiving Shopping Surprise

In the evening on Thanksgiving Day, I did some online shopping. One of these stores was having door busters and there was one I wanted. Yes, it was planner related. I'm so bad about my planners. I put it in my cart and continued shopping. I never expected them to sell my copy out from under me!

Yes, my Thanksgiving shopping surprise was not a good one.

I always thought that once you put something in your cart when you shopped online that it belonged to you unless you left your cart idle for too long. I wasn't idle. I was shopping for more items to buy because, you know, sale. Then I go to check out and I get a message that one of my items is out of stock and I'm like, no it isn't. The store wouldn't let me order anything out of stock.

I saw there was one item that I accidentally had two of. Maybe that was the problem. I changed it to one, but I still had the error message.

Another item had a link with the message "Edit item." This must be my culprit. I switched colors. Nope, still had the error message even with the new color. I deleted the item all together thinking that maybe both colors were out of stock. Nope.

Frustrated and unable to check out, I start opening items. It was the first one, the item I wanted most of all, that I had put in my cart first thing in the shop. It now had an "out of stock" message.

This aggravated the hell out of me. Should I have ordered that one item immediately and then gone back to shopping? And paid shipping TWICE? Grr. It never occurred to me that they would sell the copy I had in my active shopping cart out from under me. Massive fail. Massive.

WTH, Michaels?