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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Latest Knitting Project

Hopefully, by the time this posts, my cousin will already have her gift. Otherwise I'll be rescheduling this blog post so I don't ruin her surprise.

One of my cousins recently (as of my writing of this post) moved into a new home. I wanted to send her something cute and then I remembered the free pattern for the Kitten Kaboodle Dishcloth. Since she loves cats, I thought this would be perfect. Plus the pattern is easy, and as a beginner, that's my speed. :-)

I bought the yarn and plan to make 3 of them, possibly 4 depending on how fast it goes. The first one had a few errors, but overall, I'm happy with how it turned out. It hasn't been blocked yet, which means getting it into the right shape for you non-knitters, and I still need to handle the loose ends, which you can see on the top left and lower right, but there is a dishcloth with the outline of a cat, so I'm calling #1 done.

My gauge was a little small, so I went up a needle size for the second one. I'm still working on that, so no pictures. I had a really hard time with the beginning because I thought I needed to cast on 51 stitches and the subsequent instructions weren't working. It took me a little while before it occurred to me to double check the cast on. Sure enough. It calls for 55 stitches. I'm hoping I'm on track now because I have a shawl to work on and a few more projects behind it.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Review: Iron Man

***WARNING: There might be spoilers in this post. The movie is from 2008, so I'm assuming if you wanted to see it, you would have seen it by now.***

Last week, I blogged about having the choice between two movies and I didn't love the one I picked. The next night I decided to watch the one I hadn't picked. Iron Man starring Robert Downey Jr.

I like Robert Downey Jr. in general and that he overcame addiction to become hugely successful in Hollywood, so I had some decent hopes for this superhero movie. If you're not a frequent reader of this blog, you might not know that I'm not a fan of superhero movies and largely give them a wide berth. Because of this, I did not go into this film expecting to love it. I figured if it kept me entertained for a couple of hours, that was all I could ask.

The plot of the movie is basically that Tony Stark (Downey) is the genius owner of an arms manufacturer, and on a trip to the Middle East, he is taken hostage. He builds a metal suit and escapes. He sees that his company's weapons are being used for evil and is determined to cease production of them. His second-in-command doesn't agree with this. Oh, and Stark rebuilds his Iron Man suit, making it even better than what he cobbled together in the desert.

Pretty typical fare for a superhero movie. Simplistic villain who was obvious from the beginning and a basic good versus evil plot.

That said, Downey has enough charisma to carry this movie and make it watchable. I did sit through to the very end and liked it well enough that I'll watch Iron Man 2 when it either becomes part of Amazon Prime free streaming or makes it to Netflix. I didn't like it well enough to pay for another installment. :-)

I didn't enjoy all the setup to Stark creating the Iron Man persona, but once he became Iron Man, the film became a lot more fun for me. If I'd been the writer, I probably would have started with him already being Iron Man and then dribble the setup into the story, but I'm a novelist, not a film writer and maybe there was no good way to do that in a script? I also would have preferred a bit more complexity to the villain or at least for Stark to have realized what this guy was capable of long before the start of the film. It was so obvious and Stark is supposed to be a genius. Maybe too self-involved to pay attention?

Anyway, it was an enjoyable enough movie, and with the setup out of the way, I'm hoping the second installment will be more to my liking. I'm giving this 3 stars out of 5 with the caveat that I seriously am not a fan of superhero movies.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Tick Tock Treat Yourself

I receive a lot of promotional emails. Not spam. These are email lists I've actually signed up for and (mostly) want to get from various retailers. There's two tactics, though, for the title that make me insane every time I see them.

The first one is starting out the title with Tick Tock. I know why they use it--they want to signify that the sale/opportunity is nearing its end--but I still hate it. It seems very childish, almost condescending in a way. As if I can't order something I want on my own before the sale ends. If I wanted to buy something from your store, I would have. Stop sending me reminders and definitely don't use the phrase Tick Tock. It's pretty much guaranteed to make me hit the delete icon.

And since I mentioned it, there are a few retailers that insist on sending me up to three emails a day. I get the first one early in the morning telling me about the sale, at lunchtime there will be another email (this one usually has my name in the title), and then comes the third email in the evening. This is the Tick Tock email. Seriously, once a day is too much. Multiple times a day? Knock it off!

The second email title that I can't stand is Treat Yourself! This is often found in the body of promotional emails even if it's not in the title.

This one tries to use psychology and it's irritating. Buy something, whether you really need it or not, because you deserve it. You've been working hard at your job, at your home. Maybe something stressful is going on in your life. Or maybe you earned a raise at work. It's time to whip out the credit card and buy the totally unneeded product to clutter your house.

It makes me think of those holiday commercials for Lexus where they try to convince you that you deserve a car for the holidays. Treat yourself. Snort. I treat myself whenever I want to do so and I'm not going to fall for the psychological BS.

You're probably thinking I should unsubscribe from all these promo emails and save myself the aggravation, but I don't want to. When there's a sale or a really good coupon, I want to know about it. I just don't want to know about it three times in one day. Tick Tock.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Review: The Bold Type

I've only watched one episode of this TV show, The Bold Type, so maybe I should wait and review it after I've seen the rest of them. There is one more available On Demand, so it would give me a better idea if the series holds up, but what the hell? I'm going to talk about it now anyway.

The series follows three young women who work for the fictional Scarlet magazine and who became best friends there. Jane has just been promoted to a writer position, Kat is the social media manager, and Sutton appears to be an admin. (Scarlet magazine is Cosmo and the woman who runs Scarlet is supposed to be based on a real person at Cosmo.)

In episode one, Jane is trying to pitch ideas for stories to the woman in charge of the magazine. Her boss, though, isn't impressed with any of her safe ideas. Jane accidentally pitches how to stalk an ex who isn't on social media and has to track down her own ex-boyfriend who broke up with her in the middle of a train terminal.

The magazine had an article about an artist that was supposed to run, but the woman withdrew her permission. This sends Kat on a mission to change the artist's mind. And Sutton is having an affair with one of the male executives involved with the magazine and she's hiding it from her friends.

As I said above, I only watched the pilot episode and it really takes a few weeks worth of shows to discover if a premise is going to hold up (or get better) or not. I was impressed with episode one. Kat and Jane are both fully formed characters and I was rooting for them to succeed. Sutton was less fleshed out, but I'm hoping that changes as the show goes forward. The boss was also an interesting character and her relationship with the three main women promises to be intriguing. She appears to be part mentor and part mother pushing her birds out of their safe nests.

I'm very picky about my entertainment, especially television, but I thoroughly enjoyed the show and really had no big complaints. I definitely enjoyed it enough to continue watching it.

Final verdict: Recommended with the caveat that I've only seen the pilot episode.

Edited to add: I watched the second episode after writing this. It was even better than the first episode and Sutton's character has had some backstory revealed. Yea! Episode 3 airs tonight. Definitely recommended!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing

I haven't actually watched Mad Men, but there was a mini-series on Smithsonian Channel (I think it was Smithsonian Channel) about advertising that did a lot of cutting between the TV show and real ads from that decade. I believe it was four weeks long and looked at the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. It was long enough ago that I watched it that I can't swear this is correct, but I'm close. :-)

Anyway, they showed how Mad Men concluded--with the Coke commercial from 1971. Even though I hadn't watched any of the series, I knew it was a genius way to conclude it just from everything I'd heard about the show. The ad? I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing.

In May of 2016, the real creator of the ad, passed away and the Washington Post ran a nice article about his creation of the jingle. It seems his plane to London diverted Shannon, Ireland because of fog and he was inspired by what he saw at the airport the following morning. Yes, they were delayed overnight.

The article includes a video of the commercial, a video of last few minutes of Mad Men, and a video of the man who created the ad talking about it.

I am totally an advertising geek. It was my major in college and it continues to fascinate me today.

There's a couple of interesting points. Well, interesting to me anyway. :-) It started out as a radio jingle and people called into radio stations requesting it. With this huge popularity propelling it, the jingle became part of a television commercial. It was supposed to cost $100,000, but because of weather and other issues, came in at $250,000. At the time, it was the most expensive ad ever. The other super interesting thing is that because of the jingle's popularity, it was actually released as a song. When was the last time you heard that happening?

Here's the ad in case you don't want to click over to the article:

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Great Shoe Search

I think I've blogged before about when I find shoes I really like, I try to buy a second pair right away as a backup. Shoes go so quickly and if you snooze, you lose. I missed getting a backup pair for a style I like to wear to work. Boo. And now I have an athletic shoe problem. My super comfortable running shoes that I love to pieces have been discontinued! Gasp!

It's not like a new version came out, I mean they totally don't sell this style anymore at all. For those interested, it's Skechers Go Meb Strada 2. (I was definitely not compensated in anyway for this post or this mention!) I bought them in this super cool pink color and fell in love with them. Problem was I didn't start wearing them right away after I received them because I had another pair of running shoes that arrived around the same time and they were bright, in-your-face pink--my favorite color. Then, by the time I realized I wanted a backup pair, my size in the pink was gone. Sadness.

Some searching turned up a pair in navy in my size and there were 2 left in stock. I planned to buy both of them, but didn't get around to it for a week or so. By the time I did get around to ordering, there was only one pair left. I got them, but now the shoe is no more.

This means I now have to find a replacement style. I've found a few I wanted to try. The first one was not a winner. They didn't have the same cushion as the Strada. With my knees, I'm all about the cush. :-)

Pair number two arrived today, and while I like them as fashion tennies, they are not shoes I feel as if I want to use for a 5K or anything. I have a third pair I want to try, but those are really expensive. Still, they have a high cushion factor, so at some point I'll suck it up and buy them.

Who ever would have thought that keeping up on my tennis shoes would be so hard? Not me, that's for sure. The quest continues.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

49 States

One of the guys I work with did a trip in May that was pretty incredible. On his motorcycle (!!!) he went to 49 states in 10 days. For real. It was part of some Iron Butt motorcycle thing that's online and includes getting gas receipts and witnesses willing to sign off that the rider was there as verification. This web page here has more information about the forms that need to be filled out and the rules for the ride.

The route barely brushes some of the states and there's a lot of riding on the borders between states. Twice, he had to go off to hit a state and then backtrack to the road he was on originally.

The idea of hitting 49 of the 50 states is pretty cool, but there is no way I'd ever want to do it in 10 days and definitely not on a motorcycle. Perhaps a leisurely car trip with stops to look at interesting things along the way because no matter what cool thing he stumbles across, he can't pause to look at it and still meet his Iron Butt goal.

Me? I'd rather take time to see things that interest me even if it is something as lame as the world's largest ball of twine or something equally silly. :-) I get curious and I like to explore. Driving is not fun as my trips 1100 miles to and 1100 miles back from Minnesota have aptly demonstrated. The fun is at the destinations.

When I was a teenager, my parents took us on a long car trip. We saw Williamsburg and Yorktown and Washington DC. We visited the Smithsonian and Niagra Falls and New York City. The fun wasn't in the drive. OMG, not a chance! The fun was in going out on a Maid of the Mist boat and getting my feet soaked at Niagra Falls. The fun was seeing the First Ladies dresses in the Smithsonian. The fun was learning about the history of the Revolutionary War.

As we talked about this trip at work, most of us (maybe all of us? I can't remember) agreed that the trip itself was cool, but that the speed factor wasn't the cool part. We'd all be explorers. Maybe someday, I'll give this a try. In a car. Stopping frequently to explore.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Happy Independence Day!

For my American friends, Happy 4th of July! Enjoy this Independence Day with your friends and family and maybe take a minute to appreciate what our forefathers did. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States are vitally important documents for our democracy and their importance shouldn't be brushed over or forgotten.