BioBooksAwardsComing NextContactBlogFun StuffHome

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Review: Rogue One

***WARNING: There might be spoilers ahead. I'm going to try to avoid them, but I can't promise. Proceed at your own risk.***

Rogue One is the latest installment to the Star Wars universe and one about which I'd been hearing a lot of good things, so I was eager to watch it. To recap the plot, the events in this movie take place before the original Star Wars movie, A New Hope. If you remember, that entire movie revolved around a droid with the plans to the Death Star and how there was a hole in the security that allowed Luke to blow it up at the end.

Rogue One shows how the rebels got hold of the plans to begin with and the movie explains why there was such a blatant flaw in the design of the Death Star. Our heroine is Jyn Erso (played by Felicity Jones). Her mother was murdered by the empire and her father forcibly impressed to design the Death Star. She's pushed the by the rebels to help them. Her partner is Cassian Andor (played by Diego Luna).

The movie is very dark and very gritty from the start. We get to see the empire kill Jyn's mother and force her father to work for them. We see the little girl hiding after watching her mother die and the empire is looking for her because they want her as leverage. The movie never lightens up from this beginning.

I'll admit that I thought the beginning was slow and I was disappointed at first, but somewhere along the way--I'm not sure when it happened--it became super good and full of tension. I was knitting while I was watching it and shortly after the halfway point, I had to put it aside because the movie had grabbed me and was riveting me, preventing my attention from wandering, even to my yarn.

The ending was every bit as dark as the beginning and was pretty much the only downtime from the tension was the last couple minutes of the film.

That said, I'd probably watch it one more time immediately after watching the original Star Wars: A New Hope. It's been years since I've seen the movie that kicked off the franchise and I've forgotten things that I think were referenced in Rogue One. But on its own, I don't think this is a movie I'll rewatch after this reminder run because it was grim.

I'm glad I saw it, I'm glad the flaw in the Death Star was explained. I liked the characters of Jyn and Cassian, and it's a shame that they didn't take a little time for a romance to develop between the two characters. I wanted one and it would have relieved some of the stress!

Overall, I recommend it if you don't mind dark, gritty, and grim. This is not a feel-good film, but it fits nicely in the Star Wars universe and I think it was necessary that it have the tone it had.


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

My TBK (To Be Knitted) Pile

I seem to collect knitting and crochet projects the same way I collect books. At least now I buy ebooks so I have no space issues to deal with, but it's a different story with my yarn stash. I was storing my yarn (and most of it is still there) in big, plastic zippered storage bags, but this created one huge problem for me. I'd buy yarn for a project I wanted to do in the future, but then I'd forget what I bought the yarn for.

The solution came with repurposed bags. My mom had bought bags in which to store her magazines. That's what they were designed for. When my dad and I cleaned out the house, we recycled all the magazines and brought the bags to Georgia. I don't collect magazines, but they were nice bags. And then one day, while dealing with my project dilemma, I had an epiphany.

Use the bags for my TBK projects!

And another view:

The clear plastic lets me see what's inside without opening the bag. I also printed out the pattern that goes with the yarn so that I don't forget what project the yarn belongs to. This bag has two projects in it, with both patterns stored with the various yarns.

This is working great and the bags stack fairly well even though they have soft stuff inside them. Now when I want to start a project, I can just go to the bag and grab everything without having to dig through the monster bags of yarn stashed in my closet. I just wish I'd thought of this before I forgot why the heck I'd bought some of the yarn I have.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

95 is Not 100

By the time I realized that I wanted to see a total solar eclipse, everything was sold out. Even finding approved eclipse glasses turned out to be super difficult. Luckily, I got those in the nick of time. And I consoled myself by saying: It'll still be cool. Atlanta is going to have 95% eclipse. That's close enough to 100%.

I took eclipse day off from work, put an alarm on my phone for maximum eclipse time, and on the afternoon in question, I brought a card table, chair, and laptop onto the front porch. My plan was to keep an eye on the eclipse and write a little while I was waiting.

BTW, no writing was accomplished until after the eclipse.

I soon figured out that my camera was not going to handle the sun, so I taped an extra pair of eclipse glasses over the lens on the phone.  This is what 20-25% eclipse looked like through the filter of the glasses.

The right hand side was where the eclipse was. I don't know what happened to the left side in the picture, but it was there to see with the naked eye.

Sadly, my glasses over the lens trick failed as we approached our maximum coverage. The camera just registered red from the glasses and no sun. Oh, well, I thought. At least at 95% I should get a halfway decent shot. I was thinking of all those partial pictures I'd been seeing and totally forgetting to factor in the special camera lenses those photographers had no doubt been using.

As my max coverage approached, I took my chair off the porch and onto the front sidewalk. And then I tried to take pictures again. Looking at the results, I can see why the experts had been warning people not to look at the sun without special glasses on. This picture (below) is 95%, and you'd never know it.

Looks like the full sun, doesn't it? You'd never know that only the tiniest of crescents was visible at this moment.

I'd expected twilight levels of light. Didn't happen. The crickets did come out for a while and start chirping away. The light was odd, not quiet what you'd see when it was cloudy, but impossible to describe in any other way. Maybe if you imagined the light traveling through an odd filter.

I'm not sure if you can see how odd the light is in this shot or not, but there we are.

The experience was way cool and I enjoyed the hell out of it, but ultimately it was disappointing. Do you think hotels are taking reservations yet for 2024?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Take My Money, Please

A few Saturdays ago, I received an email from a retailer telling me that that was the last day to use the promo code they had for 15% off. Since they were selling one of the items that I had specially budgeted for, I eagerly headed to their website.

I put that item in my cart, browsed a bit, and found another item to add to my cart. I clicked to check out, put in the promo code, and received a message that the promotion had expired.

Fearing I'd remembered the code wrong, I double checked the email and retyped the code in. I received the same message. I tried all capital letters. I tried changing the SUMMER15 code to SUMMER17, thinking that maybe there'd been a typo. Nothing worked.

I went to the contact page for customer service and sent them an email. I picked the option for problems with the shopping cart. That seemed accurate and I was sure that a customer who was trying to spend money in their store was having a problem doing would receive a very quick reply to their query. I was wrong.

After a few hours of waiting, I tried to put the code in again. My theory was that others must have had issues with it too and that certainly the site would have had it fixed by then.

Nope. Still didn't work.

It boggles my mind that an online retailer wouldn't be monitoring their customer service emails under topics that impact sales. I could see leaving the regular queries for the weekdays, but if someone is trying to spend money and can't, shouldn't they address that immediately? I don't get it. I also didn't get my item that I wanted to buy. Retailer snoozes, retailer loses.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Closet Cleanup

There are a few things that are really hard for me to get rid of including books, shoes, and clothes. When I moved from Minnesota, I did donate a ton of books--over 2500--and a pretty good amount of clothes, although not too many shoes. I didn't donate enough clothes, however, and my closet here in Georgia was bursting at the seams.

Oh, I meant to get rid of clothes. I have stuff that's frayed, stuff that has holes in it, stuff I bought and ended up never liking enough to wear. I even had clothes with tags still on them that I'd never worn and the odds were I was never going to wear them.

Clearly, it was time to tackle the closet and part with some clothes.

The items that had holes or were worn were easy to discard. Barely a hesitation. You're probably wondering why I didn't get rid of them immediately. Four of the shirts were total favorites of mine back before they'd become frayed. I wore them constantly and I'd developed an attachment to them. I kept them with the thought that I could wear them around the house on the weekends. I never did. The ones with the holes? I have no clue.

With the easy choices finished, I moved into trying things on. Did I like the color? Did I like the style? Would I ever wear it? If the answer to any of those questions was no, it went in the donation pile. Right now I have two of the super large black trash bags full of clothes to go to charity.

I'm embarrassed to admit that I discovered clothes I'd forgotten I owned and that I found new things I could wear. It was almost like buying new stuff. ;-) It's also embarrassing to admit that even with the large amount of clothes I got rid of, my closet is still full. I didn't quite get through everything, though. I basically did one half of my closet plus a little on the other side. I need to go back in on some other weekend and tackle the other side.

Also in the future is pruning the clothes out of my dressers and getting rid of some of the shoe collection, although I will admit that very few shoes will be leaving my house. :-) And with the new clothes I've discovered, I need to rearrange my closet. Sigh. That doesn't sound even remotely fun.

I think I'll bask in my accomplishment a little longer and ignore the future projects for now.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Review: The Imitation Game

***WARNING: There will probably be spoilers ahead, so if you don't want to hear anything about this movie, stop reading now.***

I was looking for a movie to watch and did some searching online for what was showing on Netflix or Amazon Prime. Trying to browse through either site is frustrating for me, especially Netflix, so I appreciate that there are websites that list the movies available. It came down to two, one on Netflix and the other on Prime. I chose poorly.

The Imitation Game stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, a real-life mathematician who helped crack the German's enigma code during World War 2. The website that had the brief summary of each movie on Netflix made it sound like a suspense story and I was like, cool! I knew Turing had had some awful stuff done to him because he was gay and I really didn't want to see anything that grim, but a WW 2 thriller? Bring it on.

The website summary was extremely misguided. It did largely focus on the WW 2 years and breaking the Nazis' enigma machine, but it was not a thriller. Although in defense of this website, IMDB calls it nail-biting. I missed that part. I found it rather plodding, although not unwatchable.

Part of my problem with the film was the fact that I missed the beginning and didn't realize there were flashbacks going on. This left me confused a few times, especially when they were discussing Turing's military service in the past tense. I was like, do they mean World War 1? Was he old enough to have fought in WW 1? Who are these men and why are they asking these questions about Turing? I assume that if I'd seen the start, that I would have known that these scenes "present day" in the film and the WW 2 stuff was flashback.

I'm not sure how accurate the movie was in its portrayal of Turing of anyone else in the movie. I had the impression from the film that he was autistic, but had no clue if he was in real life. I also don't know how historically accurate the other plot points were either: Did he go to Churchill when the man in charge of the project wanted to scrap Turing's machine? Did he become engage briefly to a woman working on the project with him? Was there really a Russian spy on the project who was blackmailing Turing because he was gay? I have no idea. I suppose I could research it--probably it wouldn't take too much to learn the truth--but I don't care enough.

That was basically my problem with the entire movie--I just didn't care. It wasn't a bad movie. I wouldn't have sat through the whole thing if it had been. But at the end--which was as grim as I'd feared--I was meh about the film. I totally wished I'd chosen the other movie. Other reviewers have enjoyed it and it has a decent score at IMDB. My verdict? It's not the worst thing I've ever seen.

Two stars out of five.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Backup Pair

When I find a product I love, I always try to buy a backup. This is usually about shoes, so I frequently say backup pair. Shoe styles come and go, and when I find a pair that I love, I want to wear them forever.

I know a lot of people think this is crazy. When I mentioned it last, someone said to me that she'd just go find another pair of shoes she liked as well. :-/ Well, okay, but it takes a lot of work, a lot of trial and error to find the pair that meets my standards. They must be comfortable. They must be reasonably stylish, although I will sacrifice looks for comfort. They must be reasonably priced, although--again--I will pay more if they are super comfortable.

I've been burned every single time I haven't bought the backup pair. For example, I loved my Skechers GoWalk 2 shoes. I wore them to death, and when it was time to replace them, I had to buy the GoWalk 4. I did not love the 4. Instead of the soft, silky inside that felt so good against my foot, there is now a rougher, less silky interior. :-( They also changed the insole. It's okay, but it's not love.

I also found the perfect running shoe. Perfect! But my feet are already big and in most running shoes, I have to buy a size bigger. Do you think anyone had the super cute pink color in my size available when I realized I needed a backup pair? No, of course not. I did find it in a Navy.

One pair.

I even went to the manufacturer's site, but apparently this shoe is discontinued. I bought the navy, but now I literally can't find my size anywhere in this shoe style, not even on eBay.

So when I found another pair of shoes that I loved and met all my criteria, I immediately bought a backup pair. I also went to buy it in more colors. The hot pink pair were already unavailable on the manufacturer's website and all of the shoe websites, too. I found a pair on Amazon, but the price was high. Then I checked eBay and found it for $18 less! Win!

Of course, my dad (who's lived with me since my mom died) had to comment when the pink shoes arrived about why I bought another color of the same style. Just wait until my backup pair in black arrives. I know he's going to make a remark about that, too. :-(

That won't stop me because backup pairs are critical to my happiness. Backup pairs forever!

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

I Never Learn

I've been trying to write, and while it's been a struggle since my mom died, I was actually sort of making progress. Very rough progress, but progress nonetheless. And then I came to a screeching halt.

If I were smart enough to learn from the past--which apparently I am not--I would have realized pretty quickly that I was trying to make my characters do something they wouldn't do. I would have mulled it over, talked to my hero and heroine, and measured what I knew of them against what they said and what I was trying to write.

Why? Because often (I won't say every time, but a lot of the time) when I'm stuck, it's because I'm trying to make my characters do something they wouldn't do for the sake of the plot bits I have in my head.

But as I spun my wheels for week after week after week, it never dawned on me that this could be the problem. I blamed it on Point of View (POV) first. I switched back and forth between my hero and heroine about four or five times. I blamed it on not being able to envision the logistics of the scene. How was I going to get my h/h from point A to point B without them getting shot? So I spent time making notes about how to handle this. I even blamed it on not having a clear idea on where the plot was going.

I never asked either of my characters: "Am I trying to make you do something you'd never do?"

Then, after an embarrassingly long time, I finally thought, "Hey, I wonder if it's that problem I almost always have when I'm stuck? Let me look at this."

And guess what? Sure enough, I had my heroine doing something she would not do. In fact, she was pretty adamant about not doing it. Sigh.

So I cut the scene I'd been struggling with entirely and went back to the previous scene and started doing some editing, cutting, adding. My ability to get word count again was nothing short of miraculous!

But it also left me wanting to bang my head against the wall. No matter how many times this happens to me when I'm stuck, it never seems to enter my brain that it's me trying to shoehorn my characters into what I envision rather than letting them act naturally that's the problem. I mean seriously, if this has happened to you repeatedly, don't you think you'd eventually put it toward the top of your list of potential issues?

I haven't yet. Will I in the future? I hope so, but my track record doesn't give me hope.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Review: Everlast Notebook

***I received no compensation of any kind and paid full price for this notebook and all other things mentioned.***

In one of the Facebook groups I belong to, someone shared that she had a notebook that was reusable from Rocketbook. I'd heard of them before, but their first notebook needed to be microwaved to erase the ink and reuse it and I totally didn't want to do that. (It's called the Rocketbook Wave.)

This notebook, though, that the woman was talking about didn't require microwaving. You wrote with a Frixion pen and then with a damp paper towel, could wipe the page clean. I use Frixion pens 90% of the time anyway--I love that the ink is erasable--and the idea of an erasable notebook? I mean how cool would that be?

After stalking online to buy this notebook, it finally became available. The Rocketbook Everlast Notebook.

I know I should have read the description, but I was surprised by how thin the notebook was. There weren't that many pages so if you were somewhere you needed to make a lot of notes and didn't have time to erase or upload, it might be an issue.

The paper itself has an interesting, slippery texture to it. I'm not sure how I feel about it yet, but it's the key to the reuse part. The pages are dot gridded and have a QR code at the bottom as well has a group of symbols. More about those in a minute. The cover is heavy duty plastic.

Thing number one is you must use a Frixion pen. Number two: It takes a little while for the ink to set. The back of the packaging the notebook came in suggested a few seconds, but that wasn't my experience. I ran my finger over the sentence I wrote probably ten to fifteen seconds later and you can see that it still smeared. I stopped as soon as I saw it.

Three: You need to setup the app on your phone or tablet to upload your pages. That was relatively painless except that I made a typo on my email address--the phone keyboard is small--and there is no way to correct a mistake. I had to uninstall the app, reinstall, and reregister.

I'm still not sure what the QR code is for, but the little icons are directional markers. For example, on the app, I setup the rocket to auto upload to Dropbox. I also updated my app settings to make the page a PDF rather than a JPG.  All I need to do is put an X through the rocket icon and the app sends it directly to my Dropbox. If I make the X through the diamond, it goes to email and I can setup the other icons for other cloud services as well as OneNote.

For the record, the auto upload to Dropbox as a PDF worked fabulously! So fabulously that I didn't think it had sent and so I manually sent it again. Oops! Trust the app, Luke. ;-)

So the big question: How well did it erase?

In my test, I found it wiped clean easily. The biggest issue I found was waiting for the page to dry. The paper towel is supposed to be soaked, wrung out, and then used to wipe. I guess how long you wait depends on how well you wring it out. I had to wait a while. But here's a shot of the page after I wiped off the writing.

The reason I was interested in this notebook to begin with is so that I could have my story notes electronically and not in notebooks all over the house. I think this will handle that well if I can remember to do the uploads regularly and if I can get used to the feel of the paper. I never thought I was real tactile when it came to how a paper feels beneath my fingers, but apparently I am.

Overall thoughts: The book does everything it promised and the app works well. The paper is slippery and doesn't feel very much like the paper I know and love, so I'm having an adjustment period. At least I hope I adjust. The notebook is expensive and the pages are few, but since it's reusable, it ultimately could be a money saver. There's a wait after writing and a wait after wiping, but that can be worked around.

Ultimately, I'm giving it a thumbs up, but I might revisit this topic later as I use it more.

***I received no compensation of any kind from anyone for anything I said in this post.*** 

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

No More Dual Planners

I've used a mid-year planner for years and it's always kind of bothered me having a switch at July, but I couldn't see going without a planner for 6 months. I rely heavily on my planner and I didn't want to run dual planners. Or I didn't until I found almost the perfect planner (for me). I've reviewed my planner before, but just an FYI, I use Start Planner. (No Compensation for me of any kind.)

So my planner was almost perfect, but the bound version has Saturday and Sunday share a page. Um, these the two busiest days in my week. I need full pages for both of them. After almost six months of doctoring the page up so that I at least had two full halves (the planner gave me 2/3rd of 1 page for both days), I changed in January to the Fancy Pants version of Start Planner. This is a six-ring binder system instead of spiral-bound, but it gave me full pages for both Saturday and Sunday and I loved that! (With a few caveats which I won't get into here.)

I just couldn't put a half-finished planner on the shelf, though, and so from January first through June 30, I used both planners. Yes, it was totally annoying trying to remember to record things in both planners.

Well, June 30 has come and gone and I'm down to one planner again! I am so happy! Well, as happy as I can be with only two months of the year put into my binder, but that's another story and it's my only quibble. I feel incredibly free, as if a burden has been lifted from my shoulders. Don't ask me why. I mean really, writing in two planners isn't exactly a huge chore, but it began to feel that way.

And really, to give you an idea how big a deal this is to me, here I am blogging about it weeks later. What can I say? I'm finally free from dual planners!