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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Addicted to Learning

Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that I'm addicted to wanting to learn. You see, I have this really bad habit of buying online classes and then not actually doing them. I have computer classes 1-5 to learn Spanish. And German. (Although the German would be more of a refresher since I took it for five years in school.)

I've signed up (and paid for) a ton of classes on Udemy--mostly computer software classes, but a few others as well. I really need to do them. I really should do them. But I don't.

Writing organizations have online classes as well, most of them conducted through Yahoo Groups and I have most of the emails tucked away to read later. Not all of them. I actually did manage to complete some of these, but in all honesty, I have more left to read than ones I already have read.

Free classes--they're out there too and I have them bookmarked on my computer. Somewhere. Free is particularly dangerous because I sign up and then feel zero obligation to do them because they didn't cost me anything. That doesn't mean I'd do them if I had paid for them--it simply means that I'd feel guilty about not following through. :-)

And now I have a new place to sign up for classes that I'm not taking. Craftsy. I did complete the Crochet Basics class, and proud of my accomplishment and wanting to learn more, I started signing up for additional classes. Craftsy also has fed my addiction by wantonly sending me emails letting me know that their classes are on sale. I'm so weak when it comes to learning anyway, but on sale, too? I'm helpless against this double whammy.

I still have hope that I'll get back to these online crochet classes. I only stopped after the first one because I felt as if I needed to complete a few projects and get some experience before taking more advanced lessons. I think this was a good decision. After I finished the first class, I frequently had to refer back to various lessons to remember how to do some of the stitches or other basic stuff. Now I don't have to do that. It's time to move forward and finish another class. Because darn it, I can't keep paying for classes I don't take and I do want to learn all these things. For real.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Baby Blanket: Crochet Project 2

I'm writing this blog post far ahead of when it will post because this baby blanket is a gift and I want to make sure the mother-to-be gets it before anything shows up online that gives away the surprise. I also knew that if I waited, I'd lose some of the excitement and sense of accomplishment that I feel right now and I wanted to share while that was fresh.

In a perfect world, I would have started making this blanket for my cousin earlier and had it ready with months to spare, however, I didn't know how to crochet until January and I wasn't far enough along in my lessons to make anything until February. I started this blanket on February 25th and finished it today, March 11th. It's only my second finished crochet project and I'm feeling very satisfied with how it turned out even though it's not perfect.

This was the project where I couldn't find the yarn I wanted anywhere, not even online. The color for this blanket is called Tickle, which was like my third choice for the blanket, but ultimately, I'm thrilled with it...even if I would have preferred more blue since she's having a boy.

My dad asked me tonight how many hours I'd worked on it and I couldn't tell him. All I know is that it took a lot of time.

Now that this blanket is finished, I have two more cousins with children for whom I plan to make blankets. I'm working on the second right now and searching for a pattern for the third. These other two children were born when I didn't know how to crochet, but I didn't want them to feel bad, so I've added two more boys to my project queue. Seriously, though, there needs to be some girls being born. There are the cutest crochet things out there for little girls that I would love to make!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Triage Mode

For years now, I've worked under a concept I call Triage Mode. This is when you have so much to do that you feel overwhelmed. My theory was to find what was bleeding hardest and work on that first, hence my title of Triage Mode.

The picture to the left is my decorated planner. I love having a daily planner rather than a weekly because it helps me focus better. I really didn't think I'd like a daily because I'd always had a weekly and it seemed like overkill, but it turned out to be the best thing ever. On this planner, my Saturday and Sunday were combined on one page. With so much happening on my weekends, I've since switched to another version of this same planner. This version, though, has full days for the weekends.

But I digress. So I've done triage mode and made lists and dropped things that I decided really didn't have to be done after all. I'd tell people about my method and they all said, that's a good idea.

And then I listened to a productivity podcast called Productivity Paradox and in episode 6, she said the same thing I've been doing for years. Validation! Hurrah!

(BTW, I received no compensation of any kind for this post. The podcast is free, and while the woman hosting it is the owner of Inkwell Press, I do not use their planner.)

Validation is always a good thing, but for me, having my method of dealing with the To Do List supported meant a lot because I'm so unsure of myself when it comes to getting things done. I make the lists because it gives me the illusion of control and because I feel better when I cross things off. I just never feel as if I have a handle on my life, though, and things have really slipped farther away since I moved to Georgia and especially after my mom died and my dad came to live with me.

So it's good to know I'm on the right track, I just wish I felt more productive.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Crochet Patterns

As a newbie to crocheting, reading a pattern can be challenging for me. I can't quite visualize what the creator is trying to tell me. I was lucky that my beginning crochet class did teach me how to read a pattern--it even covered how to read a chart--but seeing what I need to do and understanding how ti actually works are two different things. At least for me. :-)

The image here is the start of my cape/shawl that I'm working on. I had to rip it apart completely three times. I ripped multiple rows out several times and then something happened. The pattern and why the designer was telling me to do something clicked in my head and suddenly everything became so much easier.

This has happened on multiple patterns I've worked on. I follow the written instructions (I hate the charts!) line by line, clueless as to why something is required of me, and have problems. Something snaps into focus in my brain and I suddenly get it, then everything goes more smoothly.

I kind of hope I reach a point where I can have that Eureka! moment earlier. Like when I read the pattern through initially. I always read it completely before I begin.

There's one other thing I want to mention about patterns and this is something I don't understand at all. I've looked at a number of patterns now--both free and paid--and often the designer will say something along the lines of: you are not allowed to sell anything you make with this pattern.


If I spend two weeks making something, how is the maker of the pattern allowed to tell me I can't sell it when I did the work? I can see saying it can't be mass produced by some corporation without permission, but an individual making the pattern with their own two hands can't sell the end product? Really? That's so bogus to me.

As a writer, I can create an outline with plot and characters, but it's not a book until the story is written. Just like a pattern is a template, but it's not an actual good until someone does the work. I just don't see how any designer can call the shots on an individual crocheting at home. So weird.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Your Life as a Game

***Again, I received no compensation of any kind for this post.***

I heard about an app called Habitica that was supposed to make your tasks into games and help you develop good habits by rewarding you as if your life were a game. This sounded like it might be worth trying, so I downloaded the app (it's free, but I believe there are in-app purchases) and gave it a shot.

First, it asked me questions about what I wanted to focus on and then it created habits for me. This might work for some people, maybe even most people, but I didn't like it and it didn't work for me. The tasks they gave me were not the ones I wanted to work on. It was by accident that I figured out I could change them by typing over what they offered me, but it would have been nice if they'd told me I could do this.

However, even after realizing I could change what was offered, I only did a couple of them because I hate typing on my phone and avoid it whenever possible. What I would have liked is if I'd been offered a broad selection of options and I was allowed to pick the ones I wanted. I wasn't looking for anything bizarre or out there.

Second, there were two different habit areas and I only knew about the one it opened up to when the app installed. I found the other one (again) by accident. Um, really?

In fairness to the app, I'm horrible about reading instructions and tend to clear text bubbles off my screen without much hesitation, so it's possible they offered explanations and I blew past them, but I honestly don't remember seeing anything like that, so I was in the dark.

Third, I realize the 8-bit graphics were a stylistic choice, but I didn't like them. 8-bit is just so ugly.

I think I made it a few hours before I decided gamifying my life wasn't for me and that this app was not going to work with my brain. I wanted it to work, I thought it might possibly be something that I could use to be better about doing things every day, but I ended up deleting it from my phone in less than a day. YMMV.

***Again, I received no compensation of any kind for this post.***

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Podcast: You Must Remember This

***I received nothing for this blog post from anyone. I'm merely sharing something I like. The podcast is free.***

I ran out of podcasts again and went in search of new ones to listen to. It's hard because most of what's in the top 100, which is what my podcast app offers for browsing, doesn't interest me even a little bit. When I went to their gaming and hobby topic, pretty much everything was gaming and I didn't see any hobbies like, say, crochet. :-)

Finally, I did manage to find a few to try out. I haven't gone through all my trial podcasts yet, but I did discover one new one that I absolutely love! It's called You Must Remember This (This link is to iTunes and This Link is to the official podcast website) and the podcast is about the golden age of Hollywood. Okay, the podcast says it's about the hidden and forgotten history of the first 100 years of Hollywood, which encompasses more than the 30s, 40s, and 50s, but from what I've seen, much of it is about actors and actresses from those decades.

So far I've listened to ten episodes and OMG, it's so good! Our host is Karina Longworth and she has an awesome style of delivering the stories. The writing on the episodes is top-notch and her tone is conversational, her voice relaxing to listen to.

I started with the dead blondes episodes and then went on to Six Degrees of Joan Crawford, and every single show held me riveted. I've never had a particular interest in old Hollywood, so that's a testament to how entertaining (and accessible) Longworth makes her subjects. Some of the actors are people I'd never heard of before (Peg Entwhistle) and some are very famous (Joan Crawford), but I've enjoyed the stories told no matter the level of notoriety of the subject.

Even if you think you have no interest in old Hollywood, I'd still recommend trying this podcast. It's simply too good to not at least sample an episode or two. Two enthusiastic thumbs up! Highly recommended.

***I received nothing for this blog post from anyone. I'm merely sharing something I like. The podcast is free.***

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Plotters, You Confuse Me

I've been reading plotting books. I'm more on the seat-of-the-pants side of the equation when it comes to writing, but well, things happen. After my mom died, I wasn't able to even hear my characters much for a really, really long time. The voices finally came back, but the part of my brain that worked out the plot hasn't returned and it's frustrating.

My solution was to read plotting books. Surely, something would spark me again. And then I read things like pivot point and pinch point and my head starts to hurt.

It boggles my mind and it leaves me wondering how a plotter's brain works. Someone should hook plotters and pantsers up to an MRI machine (Okay, I know you don't get "hooked up to an MRI machine," but go with me here) and figure out what makes us so different from each other.

Pivot and pinch points? My characters go on strike every time I write them doing something they don't want to do and I'm supposed to know ahead of time what problems arise in the story? Really? Gah!

I never wanted to be a full-fledged plotter, but I would like to have more of an idea which direction a story is going than I usually have. (And usual is a lot more than I currently have. I know grief doesn't go away overnight, but I need my small amount of plotter head space back.) I just don't want to know everything. I don't want to be stuck sweating out what the hell is a pinch and what's a pivot.

It isn't that the books didn't do a good job explaining these things, it's just that my train doesn't run on those tracks.

My answer to this? Buy more plotting books. Surely something will click.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Review: Stardust

***I received no compensation for this post. This movie was free as part of my Amazon Prime subscription.***

***WARNING: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS! If you haven't seen the movie yet and don't want to know what happens, stop reading now.***

Stardust came out in 2007 which is why I'm unabashedly dropping spoilers in this review. Although, in all honesty, I hadn't even heard of this movie until it showed up on Amazon Prime for free streaming. I'm sort of surprised by this since it's the kind of film that I'd normally gravitate to.

Stardust stars Claire Danes and Charlie Cox and features a cast filled with names even I recognized. :-) I'm not very celebrity oriented. Tristan (Cox) is in love with a fair maiden who isn't exactly the most sincere of ladies. She seems to be always out for the best deal for herself and she believe another man will have a better future. On the verge of becoming engaged to this other man, she offers Tristan a chance. If he brings her the fallen star they'd seen come down.

This sets Tristan off into the magical kingdom. (There's some important backstory here that the movie covers at the beginning.) It's while he's in this land that he learns the fallen star isn't a hunk of rock, but a beautiful woman (Danes). Still blinded by the girl in the village, he is determined to bring the fallen star back to his world.

The problem? Others want the star, too, including a group of witches who plan to cut out her heart.

The film started out kind of meh for me. It was okay enough to keep watching, but nothing awesome, but by the time I reached the end, I loved the movie. Tristan and the star were great together and the hero wasn't too stupid for too long. There was a misunderstanding, but that didn't last very long either, although the consequences did cascade through the end of the film.

There were witches and kings, princes and pirates. While the first half was a bit so-so, the second half more than made up for it. It's a fantastic way to spend a couple of hours.

Two thumbs up. Highly recommended.