Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Remember How I Said "Save Blockbuster"?




I don't seriously think all of you suck, regardless of what Ryan says. Saving Blockbuster probably just couldn't be done.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Human-Fought

In fiction, especially in fantasy, we always see the battle between good and evil. In this world, in reality, we see instead battles between desires, with evil and good mixed on both sides. One side may have more evil, one side may have more good, but on this Earth, little is cut-and-dry evil versus good. How could it be? Few humans are purely either one, and are not all our wars human-fought?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Pipe Dreams

Loads of people have pipe dreams. Here of some of mine from over the years, ones that still sound cool to me but would preclude me for doing many of the other things I want to do, generally for reasons related to time and location.
  • +Run away to Russia and become a ballerina - Some part of me has always wanted to do ballet, but the really good dancers do nothing but ballet, and I was never interested in it enough to give up my myriad other interests. It is still appealing to me, and I would like to take some ballet classes eventually, but running off to Russia and becoming a lifelong ballerina would be impossible if I want the rest of my life to happen. Why Russia? Obviously because they turn out some of the best ballerinas. And it's a pipe dream, so why not?
  • +Go to Tokyo and be a video game designer for Square Enix - I love the Final Fantasy series. Each game is a work of art in itself. For a while, my goal was to become a game designer, or write/draw/program for games, and make artful games like the Final Fantasy stuff. At that time, I'm pretty sure my dream was to actually learn Japanese, head to Japan, and persuade the tough businessmen of Tokyo to let me work for them. Unfortunately, like the Russia thing, this would preclude just about any other ideas I had for my life.
  • +Go to Japan and be a manga-ka - I like writing, I like drawing, I like all kinds of comics, including manga, and I like the idea of Japan. Obviously, moving there and becoming a manga-ka would be a great idea, despite the fact that they probably wouldn't like an American wannabe-Asian (I think "weaboo" is the accepted term) trying to weasel her way into the market in its home country. I could be a manga-ka in America, but I like the idea of living in Japan for a while, which is why it's included in this pipe dream. Again, this one has the international problem, though the hours I worked would likely be much more flexible and allow for other projects. I can still become a manga-ka in America, but that's much less a pipe dream than actually moving to Japan to do it.
  • +Attend MIT and generally be a smart, MIT-attending person - When I applied for colleges towards the end of high school, I knew that an out-of-state school was probably out of the question, if only for monetary reasons. I also knew that I hadn't really done anything to make me stand out when I was in high school, and so I would probably be rejected from MIT. Now that I'm a junior in college, my only viable option for completing this pipe dream would be to make some money or get a scholarship and somehow get MIT to accept me for grad school. This is actually the least impossible of my pipe dreams, since it could still happen, is not totally insane, and likely would not preclude me from living a life of myriad interests, since I would probably only be there for a few years.
  • +Join/start a band and become famous through it - This would be a lot more possible if I practiced my bass guitar more often. I could still join a band, and in fact I hope to eventually, but I don't think I have any designs on fame as a musician anymore. It would just be a fun thing to do for a while.
  • +Work for Google - Do I even need to explain this one?
Of course, only God knows where life will go.

-

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Save Blockbuster!

Knowing that I can just go to Blockbuster if I really want a movie makes me feel very safe. Therefore, the idea that they will be going out of business very soon is rather upsetting to me. I will still have the UCF library, as long as I am a student, but that's only for another year and a half. I doubt the other video rental places will last terribly long, and the public library, at least where I live, just doesn't have a great selection. Will I have to switch to something like NetFlix to get movies when I want them? I will then either have to wait for my movie to come in the mail, which is no good if I only suddenly and unexpectedly acquire the free time to watch a film, or I'll have to depend upon the powers of the Internet to give me a movie and continue to play that movie until its end. I'd rather take my chances with a scratched Blockbuster DVD.

Call me old-fashioned, but I'd like to see Blockbuster stick around for a while, so it doesn't go the way of Pluto's status as a planet.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Things I Learned From NaNoWriMo

I learned...
  • +that I have the ability to write a novel-length piece of fiction.
  • +how to manage my time better, stop procrastinating, and just DO it already!
  • +that if I take a day off of writing, I have a much fresher, more active, more productive brain the following day.
  • +how to write even when I don't feel like it, at all.
  • +how to just truck through a story without stopping to edit every little thing the first time through.
  • +a few things about character and plot development.
  • +that I need a lot of practice with character and plot development.
  • +that I'm not as bad as I feared at character and plot development.
  • +that it's really, really hard to write well about places and things about which you know absolutely nothing, especially when you don't have the time to go research it.
  • +that I'd definitely prefer to write sci-fi or fantasy or something fictional and exciting instead of chick lit.
  • +how characters manage to do things without the author's permission...if you don't give them permission, they'll sit in a corner and pout until you write what they want you to write. It sounds crazy, but it's true.
  • +more from this month-long experience than I would have in some classes, and I didn't have to pay more than my time and sanity for this.
  • +that I can finish what I start, even if it isn't for payment or a grade.
  • +that dialogue is really, really easy to write if you know your characters, which makes long, unnecessary conversations really good for increasing word count.
  • +that I have it in me to write every day or almost every day, and could therefore become a professional writer after all.

I Finished NaNoWriMo 2009!!!

When I feel like writing again (hopefully tomorrow) I'll do a little blog about the things that I learned from this experience. Probably. ~_^

Thursday, November 19, 2009

On Trying, Failing, and Remaining Content

So I find that if I have a class that's really hard (like calculus or something), and I put hours into the homework and studying and I do my absolute best on the test and I get a C, I actually find that more satisfying somehow than getting an A for a halfway effort. I feel proud of the work I put into it, and knowing that I did absolutely everything that I could possibly do. When you have done absolutely everything you could have done, and there was not a minute more your could have spent, not a moment where you could have given just a little more...I believe that brings the greatest satisfaction that can come from working.

If I fail this NaNoWriMo, I want to know that I at least stayed up late working on it some nights, that I at least tried...that I didn't fail out of laziness. If I fail my math modeling final, I want to know that I at least studied every hour possible, saw Dr. KV or Arup for office hours to clear up that which I did not understand, tried my best...and cannot look back and say, "Well, maybe if I'd only done more or tried harder I wouldn't be facing this grade."

I want to know that I have nothing to regret.

Unfortunately, it isn't easy to live that way, especially if you enjoy sleep, but it does make it easier to live with yourself after the work is complete.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Write What You Don't Know

They say "Write what you know," but with my NaNoWriMo I find there is a good corollary to that: Write what you don't know but conceivably could. I'm not talking about fantasy where you can make up pretty much anything as long as you stay consistent. This applies to writing about places you've never been, cars you've never driven, jobs and hobbies you've never had. This also applies to sci-fi stuff if you are trying to make your warp-drive vehicle convincing but haven't taken a physics class since high school. The obvious tool for this is Google. Use Google maps to discover whether any major tourist attractions are near the neighborhood wherein your character allegedly lives, find restaurant reviews to describe a restaurant where you have never eaten, use Wikipedia to find out more about one character's hobby or another one's job, and look at FreeTechBooks for some hints about scientific principles that would apply to your fictional spacecraft. The possibilities extend so much more than that, of course.

Once you have your information, don't spill all the details. For one thing, you're sure to bore your readers (though if you're doing NaNoWriMo, you might not care). More importantly, the more details you provide, the more likely you are to get something wrong. I have apartment complexes picked out for my characters, and they are down the street from each other and near a Thai place. However, I do not mention the names of any of the places, in case the Thai place has changed since those reviews were written, or in case I make a guess on some information that can't be found online and I turn out to be wrong. Suppose I mention my apartment complex having mailboxes, when letters are really pushed through a mail slot on the apartment door? Suppose I mention someone locking an apartment door, when they really lock on their own? So I leave out names, except for things like the Seattle Space Needle, where it is unavoidable. Being vague works for science fiction too. If you don't know a lot about physics, but you know from the Internet that your original design could never have worked, change it a bit but be really vague about the principles involved and why.

I would love to elaborate a bit on this, but I need to go give my writing attention to my own NaNoWriMo.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009

So, this year I am officially trying NaNoWriMo for the first time. I'm afraid it's going to turn out that I'm terrible at developing characters or plot or something, and that my dream of being a writer is going to be brutally disemboweled. Unnecessary fear is a great reason to do something, though, so here I am. Officially participating. You can find my NaNoWriMo site's user page here. I kind of want a word count widget, but they don't seem to be functional just yet. As of right now, I have 1045 words, out of 50000. Eek. I have an outline (thankfully) from a project that I was going to do until I changed my mind, so now I'm resurrecting it for this. I finished the outline yesterday, and am planning to more or less follow it. That should make my life far easier than if I were winging it.

Still, I am scared. I am also afraid I will not have any free time between this and school and the important people in my life. But, it'll be over in a month, and it'll be quite the interesting journey.

And I've wanted to do it since I first heard about it a couple years ago. So why not?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Peace in Silence

"Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence." --Max Ehrmann

I have begun to take a peculiar delight in small pleasures. I have begun, in fact, to fully reject the slimy decadence of a constant desire for something better, the very disease that runs our current America. I find myself these days enjoying the taste of a ham and cheese sandwich, a moment of peace, or the way the light plays on a curved glass, as though I were recently released from bondage in some foreign cave. I find myself appreciating things in a way that is crudely represented by the phrase, "looking on the bright side." It is more than that, however; it is to purely ignore that which is unpleasant, insofar as it is safe to do so, and to accept and enjoy that which is enjoyable. For, why reject joy?

On Fridays I have a 7:30 AM lab, which was primarily a terrible idea, and which invariably means I do not get enough sleep the night before. However, when I am walking to class, I do not mind it at all. There are few people on campus at that hour and the air is generally pleasant. There was one Friday morning that I experienced an impossibly beautiful fog, and quite delighted in strolling through the soft air. Last week, the sky was an absolute symphony as the sun rose and spread his colors throughout the variously-shaped clouds, the visual incarnation of a loud and vibrant music, played for me and me alone since no one else seemed to hear it. To notice this, and not my desperate need for coffee, indicates that perhaps amid the homework and the noise I have found some small, perfect note of peace.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Difficulties in Mathematics

"Do not worry about your difficulties in mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater." --Albert Einstein

Ever since I learned about undiscovered Mersenne Primes in seventh grade, I've had this idea in my head that I would eventually do something great and useful in mathematics. In one summer off, I forgot nearly everything I ever learned about calculus, so that seems a bit doubtful. Yet, I keep coming back to it, to million-dollar math problems and unsolved ciphers and whether P=NP, these problems of numbers or computer science to which no one on this earth knows the answer. I want to find these answers, decode the Voynich manuscript, solve the Collatz conjecture, find the next Mersenne prime. I don't, however, expect any of these to happen if I don't spend the time and effort on so much as my math homework.

I am currently taking an honors seminar class, called "Mathematical Modeling with Scientific Computing," that requires the ability to use calculus--at least the basics of integration. As I stated, I don't remember much of calculus these days, and problems that already have clear answers don't much interest me. Unfortunately, it is impossible to run a marathon if you haven't any legs, so I'm going to re-learn calculus by some means, as training for bigger things.

The final project for the class should be interesting. We are to mathematically model something that hasn't been done, or to expand on something that has been done--to strive to do something publishable. My partner (who is, mercifully, a math major) and I will be working in the realm of digital audio, attempting to create an algorithm that can automate sidechaining with a compressor (see the related Wikipedia if that meant nothing to you). My audio professor says that would be quite the useful plugin, to take out the guesswork by using frequency and amplitude and math. I am a bit excited about the possibility that this will be something useful in math done in part by me, and it almost makes me want to pay proper attention to calculus again.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Language Barrier

I never knew how much meaning I attach to the very syllables of the English language, until I started to learn French. I took two years of German and a year of Latin in high school, but this is my first language course where I have endeavored toward the eventual end of fluency. To speak by translating every word in my head is utterly inefficient, and could not lead to knowledge of the language, so I have been working to skip the step of mental translation and associate pure meaning directly with the words.

But how difficult this is! I did not know how much is held on the word, that single-letter word "I," until I tried to move that weight to the French "je." Such a heavy weight on such a deceptively tiny word! The prepositions cause less trouble, such simple words with simple meaning. But "room" I cannot reconcile. Those four letters create four walls before my mind's eye. "Salle" does not, to me, compare, does not build that tiny architecture in my head. It is abstract, it falls flat, it is meaningless. And never mind "word" itself! "Mot" is not "word." "Mot" is applesauce. "Mot" does not at all say "I am a tiny mess of letters that can mean so very much if you properly understand me."

I see why it is that as people get older, languages are harder to learn. It is not a lack of memory, some failing of the brain or tongue. It is simply too many years of colors and people and places and lines, too many years of habitual and unconscious association, to copy from every word of their mother tongue to the sister words of another tongue.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Musings About My Future Career

I don't really know what I want to do when I grow up, "grow up" being a relative term. I wish I could afford to be a student all my life, have nothing hanging on the grades or the homework, and really just hang out with professors and study and research and learn things that I find interesting. Good heavens, perhaps I ought to be a professor. Then again, I couldn't well stand to teach, and I hear that part is important.

I say I want to be a writer. I think I want to be a writer. But I do not know. I feel as though I may be one of those people for whom a career is only a side piece of my life, and is not my life; for a writer that is probably a good quality. What life experience belongs to the one whose entire life is writing, and of what shall anyone write except the experiences of his or her life?

Perhaps I shall fund my life experiences with the money I get from my writing. That would be working for a living, certainly. But how shall I begin? Is this why writers are poor, or waitresses? This is why I am not majoring in Literature. I do, in fact, have other useful and technical skills; I simply do not wish to use them for the remainder of my potentially long life.

I do want to be intelligent, and wise. I have some men I might call heroes; I want in some ways to be like them. They say if you want to be a millionaire, you must hang out with millionaires. Perhaps if I read their works, it will be like hanging out like them. I am currently reading a copy of some diary of Edison that I found in the electrical engineering section of UCF's library, as well as That Hideous Strength, the third book in C. S. Lewis's Space Trilogy. If I keep it up, this hanging out with men by reading the books of men, perhaps I, too, will share their intelligence and wit.

Alternatively, I might simply turn into a book.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Days Go By

Years are short. When summer came, I wasn't through with enjoying spring, and now today we've had the first comfortable day since the heat took over back in May or June and I wasn't aware summer was quite over. I do welcome the fall. With it comes cool weather and holidays and my birthday...I'll be 20 on October 26. I don't feel as though I've lived twenty years. To consider it two decades, I feel younger; to consider it twenty anni, I do feel I've lived more. As I said, years are short. Haven't I had more Christmases than this? More Halloweens, more Easters? More than twenty short years of breathing and living? I suppose each of my youngest years felt far longer; perhaps this makes up for it. But every subsequent year will surely seem shorter still, as a smaller percentage of my lifetime thus far. When I am thirty, I suppose I will wonder where the years went. If I make it to eighty I suppose I shall still feel I am forty! Except, I imagine, for my eyesight.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Best Wedding Ever

I wrote this back in February 2008, but I feel it deserves to be on the Internet somewhere, and I haven't had much time for new blogs lately. Ergo, my little satirical essay, "Best Wedding Ever," makes it to "This Is An Art":


A friend of mine was wondering what the average wedding, or the average penny-pinching wedding would cost, and I told him that it can be as cheap as he likes, depending on what he and his bride-to-be would be willing to cut from the experience. We discussed it further and came up with a list of ways to have the ultimate thrifty wedding.

This list assumes, of course, that you actually want the ceremony. A truly cheap wedding would be to simply get the marriage certificate and begin your happy life.

First of all, a cathedral or a fancy backyard wedding is completely out of the question, though you do have options. You could have a friend register to be a minister online and perform it in your living room, or perhaps at a local fast food restaurant, which takes care of the after-party (known in more expensive circles as the "reception"). You could coerce the nice but nervous pastor of your small neighborhood church to do it for free, pleading that you're poor but in love, and if all else fails, telling him that you'll fornicate if he doesn't do it. If you live on the west side of the country, walking or hitchhiking to a Vegas wedding chapel is also a reasonable possibility, and doing that cuts out the costs of all other wedding accessories.

Two huge expenses of a traditional wedding are the tux and the dress. There are so many more choices that cost so much less. The obvious choice is just t-shirts and jeans. Be comfortable. Wear what you'll wear to your honeymoon in your parents' basement...which brings me to another alternative if your friends are fairly alternative; just go naked, or in your underwear. If you do that, however, the groom should spring for the bow tie--you want to be cheap, not tacky. If you want your union to be particularly inspired, have a theme wedding--make bedsheet togas, serve spaghetti, and call it Mediterranean.

Once you have your venue and clothing figured out, if it's to be held in something like the kitchen of your neighbor's house and you want the other not-included trappings, you've got to get creative. You or someone you know probably has streamers and maybe a banner left from parties of the past. It doesn't matter that it says "You're Over The Hill!" Just come up with a cute metaphorical explanation in case anyone asks and you'll be fine.

You won't be able to afford a live band or even a good organ player, but if you have a radio that functions at all, a friend with loud speakers in his car, or a neighbor with a kid in the marching band, your music is taken care of. Failing that, simply plan your nuptials around the American Idol schedule, or utilize the music of a nearby strip club.

You can get free flowers, for both decoration and for the bride's bouquet, by dumpster diving at your local florist. Try using folded bath towels, preferably clean and dry, as seats for your guests. If they ask why they're on the floor, tell them it's a Japanese wedding and make them eat their wedding cupcakes with chopsticks.

Of course, to have guests, you have to invite them. With today's technology there is no need for expensive parchment and fancy script, and you can eliminate the cost of stamps. Just send text messages to all your friends. If you don't have a phone, go to the local library to borrow their internet and send out e-vites, or just post a MySpace bulletin.

The reception is often unnecessarily expensive as well, but more dumpster-diving, this time at a supermarket, will find you food discarded because it was on its sell-by date. Remember to do it within a week of the wedding though, rather than stashing it in your fridge for the length of your engagement. Of course, an after-party isn't an after-party without booze, but the average celebratory wines are entirely too high-class for you. Instead, pick up a couple cases of Miller High Life, the cheap alleged "champagne of beers," and make a toast to economical espousals everywhere.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Buyer's Remorse

Very rarely do I regret not buying something. However, a few months ago I saw the most fantastic coat in Target, navy blue with white trim, sailor-esque and just utterly fabulous. It reminded me of a coat I'd had as a kid for the longest time, until I reluctantly outgrew it in middle school. But, I decided the price wasn't worth it for something I didn't really need.

Now, every time I think of buying clothes at Target, I think of the Coat I Didn't Get. I tried the Target website--was it Mossimo or Merona? Or neither?--and found nothing. They probably don't even stock it anymore.

There is no use in lamenting over that which is lost, but oh, how I wish I had that coat.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Small Life Improvements For The Sensible College Student

I am a college student. We don't eat well, we don't dress well, and we have crappy furniture. However, I am beginning to realize that some small pleasures can make everything seem amazing. And so, something for every major sense:

Sense of taste: I am slowly learning to cook. A whole new world of food possibilities has opened up to me. I am learning that j'adore butter, and things that are saut├ęd--which I just did to a bunch of shrimp to yield magnifique results. It takes so little time to cook up a chicken breast or frozen pierogis or stove steak, and my life is infinitely improved nutritionally over last year's diet of EasyMac, Chick-fil-A, Rice Krispies, and chocolate (all of which I still eat, of course, but generally less).

Sense of hearing: I bought a pair of green Skullcandy headphones last year to use for a class, and I listen to music with them now. They are far superior to basic earbuds in quality, and they look super cool. I get to hear more overtones and less outside noise, and they don't fall off so easily when I dance around (v. important).

Sense of touch/feeling: Warm socks make everything better, especially when you have a roommate who likes the dorm to be at 70 degrees at all times. Fuzzy socks are ideal, but anything thick and fantastic and good for sliding on tile will do as well. If you have a fleece blanket (or a Snuggie), that helps.



Sense of sight: If you don't have awesome posters on your walls, you are missing out. I also have photos that I have taken just taped to my wall, and a Hello Kitty mirror. Walls should be happy.

Sense of smell: Take out the trash and clean the kitchen before it gets disgusting. WAY before. Life will be better, I promise; Fantastik is one of my best friends.

Sense of humor: Go forth and laugh at MLIA. It's good for you!

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Professional Writer

Good writers often hate all that they write; a professional writer is one who hates all he writes and publishes it anyway.

On Getting Dressed

I know what it is to find no joy in getting dressed. I dressed rather uniquely in middle school and high school, but my first two years of college, especially last year, were essentially free from much thought about appearance. I sometimes, particularly during finals, wore pajama pants to class. I often wore a uniform of t-shirt, Vans, and jeans.

I have since rekindled my love of the colorful and the unique; however, my look is rather more refined, if as experimental.

Clothes and accessories ought to be beautiful and comfortable, they ought to make the wearer look and feel good, and they ought to be something that the wearer really likes. I have heard and read these things before. I find, though, that another ingredient makes an outfit delicious for wearing, and this is simply: story. I may best explain this by telling the little tales woven throughout the outfit I selected for today.

I started today's dressing with an Ann Taylor skirt that I got at Goodwill when I needed something for a hippie costume. I went searching with my mother, and we found similar but different skirts. This one went a little better with the shirt that we'd picked out, and I am rather easily seduced by on-sale brand-names, so it's the one we bought. I was pretty sure I'd never wear anything from the outfit again. And yet, here I am. I love its hippie-cum-gypsy flair, and as I know nothing about its original owner, it will always hold some air of mystery.

With it, I paired a black Newport News ribbed tank that I've worn frequently since back when I thought I wanted to be Avril Lavigne. It doesn't have much in the way of story, per se, but its simplicity means it has always been a comfortable standby.

My shoes were black flip flops from Old Navy, the ones they sell for like $2.50 a pair. I generally buy a bunch and I wear them out over time. They do take a while to wear through, even though I wear them several times a week when it's warm out (in Florida, nearly all year). But, they're comfortable. That makes them great for wearing when I have blisters from other shoes, which is why I chose them today.

Accessories-wise, I wore two rings: a Native American-style ring with a bear paw (claw?) on it, which was once my mother's, and my Silver Ring Thing ring, which I wear pretty much every day. I added a pair of huge hoop earrings that my mother bought me this summer, the first large hoops I've had in years, though I did wear them a lot back in middle/high school.

I finished it off with a green bracelet that I haven't worn in a while. It's pretty but simple, aesthetically pleasing but not particularly amazing. However, I bought it on a bit of a whim from the "marketplace" at a Latin competition (the allegedly dead language, not the dancing), and my time spent learning Latin was some of the greatest time of my life. The State and National competitions were especially fantastic, and the bracelet reminds me of that.

So, I find that if all my clothes can hold some memories and some beauty, getting dressed will always be a simple pleasure.

University-Sanctioned E-mail

My university has recently required its students to get a school e-mail address on its new e-mail system, and may now use it and it alone for class-related correspondence. I noticed the creeping change when we were first asked to make one, and then when the school's system would no longer allow me to make my main e-mail address something more sensible, like my Gmail account. Various professors this semester have indicated that they are now in fact only permitted to accept e-mail from students if it comes from this particular e-mail provider, a thing indicative of either a need to keep tabs on its students' e-mail correspondence (to at least the degree that it is legal), or a need to do something with the resources they have. One would think, with all the programs that universities are dropping, it cannot be the latter, but this is a public university and nothing funded by the government ever uses its funds very wisely.

Or perhaps it is, as one of my professors said, "because UCF has nothing better to do."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

...and it's back to school again...

School started and I have had no time to write. Hopefully, this weekend will allow me to make a good, worth-the-wait blog entry.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Rae's Fashion Plane

I realize some of the updates I make on Twitter, and some of the comments I make online or in real life, may cause some confusion about my take on clothes. See, I have a lot of clothes. And shoes. And jewelry and bags. But I am very often very lazy, t-shirt-and-jeans lazy, and the people who see me regularly know I don't stick to any particular style, lazy or runway or retro or anything else. So, I suppose a brief explanation is in order.

I don't consider myself fashion forward; I am nearly a year behind on my Elle and Vogue collection and I very rarely feel the need to go buy something new to "update my wardrobe" or whatever. I do not consider myself fashion backward, either, since I don't get stuck in the trends of old (or any trends, really), and I do read Elle and Vogue when I find the time. I think I may live on a different plane of fashion, finding it more than acceptable to take fashion cues from Princess Peach, Aeon Flux, or that chick from Footloose with the red boots and fluffy hair. I have some simple fashion rules, like no heels with shorts, don't wear a large shirt with baggy jeans, and keep a general balance to everything unless a specific slant is required--but I only follow these rules when I care enough. I can say I like a few designers, but only because I have often liked their works before finding out who did them--Oscar de la Renta and Fioni, for two. Not that I know if Fioni really counts; they aren't exactly A-list. Isaac Mizrahi is good too. I didn't know a thing about him until I fell in love with a pair of his shoes.

Currently, my fashion plan is to care enough to wear heels and sparkles sometimes when I'm at college, instead of defaulting to my University Casual uniform of a tee or tank with jeans or PJ pants. Ah, but no heels on days I have to walk very much--that's just stupid.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Brief Procrastination Retrospective and Re-Resolution

Some of you may remember my New Year's resolution to stop procrastinating, once and for all, and some fewer of you may be wondering how that's been going.

Well, it went fantastically for a while. I did all of my class assignments right away, and I had all this guilt-free extra time. It was wonderful.

Unfortunately, I backslid, and I now procrastinate more than ever.

So, for the new school year, I renew my resolution. Beginning on 24 August, 2009, I, Rae Botsford, shall no longer procrastinate, shall no longer play Mario when I should be working, shall no longer play Sudoku to avoid waking up in the morning, and shall no longer let "I'll do it later" be my motto.

I hope and pray.

Onward!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Stationery Fail

First roadblock on the road to writing more letters: finding suitable stationery. Sure, I could use plain old regular notebook paper, but where's the fun in that? I could print up my own, but buying it at the store seems to be cheaper per sheet, not to mention nicer and less of a pain in the neck.

I tried Target, and they sent me to Michael's. I tried Michael's, and they sent me to Office Depot. Office Depot, hallelujah, needed only to send me to the Paper Depot section of their store, where they had a small selection of one size of writing paper. Something about beggars and choosers and low demand for snail mail supplies.

Oh well. Any recommendations for stationery suppliers in the area of the University of Central Florida (UCF to you locals), I'll gladly take.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

On The Benefits Of Paper Correspondence

I find I may, from time to time, come across as an oddly old-fashioned young woman. As a digital media major, computer science minor, and general young person in America, I allegedly ought to be embracing technology as it comes, and thus, quick to discard what is old - including the U.S. Postal Service, which is beyond unpopular since the advent of e-mail, text messaging, and Facebook.

I had a pen-pal in my younger days, a friend who had moved across the country. We wrote in order to eschew long-distance phone charges, and because both of us had read and loved the book P.S. Longer Letter Later, which is a series of letters between friends separated by distance. Amusingly enough, its sequel was called Snail Mail No More. Unlike today's e-mailers, though, the protagonists continued to write long personal notes, taking e-mail as simply letters that arrive more quickly. Nowadays, it seems that most of the people who really check their e-mail are the people who don't have time for personal notes -- such as my father, whom I imagine has an inbox that is mostly unread. E-mail is for work, quick memos, and forwards of politics or kittens. In fact, my mother is the only person I know who actually uses her e-mail to keep in touch with people far away, like letters used to do.

I have recently begun letter-writing again. I wanted to get in touch with a few of my old teachers, and this seemed the most sensible way to do it. Even if any of them are on Facebook (and I am reasonably certain they aren't), once I "friend" someone and banter back and forth with "it's been so long!" for a bit, the conversation drops off and they rarely even appear in my News Feed again. To call that being "in touch" is at best a heinous stretch. If they are not on Facebook, it's fairly impossible to find an e-mail address in the white pages, even the online ones, especially as they often change far more frequently than a mailing address. I could call them, but it seems that would only lead to an expensive, awkward conversation, instead of a forty-four-cent note to which they may reply at their leisure.

And so, I wrote. I have received one response, so far, from the three teachers, and think I may get more. If not, I believe I may at least have a steady continuing conversation with the one for quite some time. Another friend of mine has recently asked if I would join her in pursuit of a snail mail revolution, and we will begin a correspondence once I am back at college next weekend. We will likely be better in touch than we are now through Facebook, since the complacency of reachability makes us feel "in touch" though we have not actually spoken in some time.

Thus, snail mail may actually give us more real connection than all modern technology combined. Such innovations shall not be ignored, however, but used instead for making plans and other things needing immediate attention -- though without texting, e-mail, or Facebook, we do still have the telephone.

Anyway, e-mail themes have nothing on pretty stationery. So buy some Forever stamps and write a letter, already!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

View From An Airplane

I must admit I love flying. At sufficient altitude, one may peer out the window and catch a glimpse of heaven, too much light for the eye and too much beauty for the mind, a sea, a land, a world of clouds, all lit by the unfettered sun and lying beneath an indigo sky.

How I wish to dance upon that ground that wouldn't even slow my fall, to sleep within that seeming-snow with all the substance of a sigh. It is only a dream, an illusion; at best it is a hint at what may lie beyond this life. I squint against the sun, across the monochrome savannah, half-expecting to see the mirage of a village on the horizon.

Eventually the plane tilts, and the captain brings us all down to Earth.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Why I've Never Finished Moby Dick

Reading Moby Dick is a lot like walking down a very long, straight road lined with orchids. It's exceptionally lovely, but it takes a very long time to get anywhere, and after a small while the monotony makes you want to stop where you are and give up trying to reach your destination.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

On Tea Party Protests

Tea parties (of the non-tea variety) have been popular lately among angry taxpayers, allegedly a chance for the people to protest reckless spending in government. Unfortunately, it has instead become a chance for the ignorant to declare the sky is falling, and for politicians to pontificate where they believe they are welcome (though their business at such an event ought instead to be listening).


Before I go any further, I believe I ought to revisit the purpose of a Tea Party Protest - a purpose that appears to have gone missing. A Tea Party Protest is not some kind of Republican convention. It is not the place to yell about gun control - unless the government is raising taxes specifically on guns and ammunition. It is not the place to discuss abortion - unless our tax dollars may be paying for those abortions. It is not the place for praising national defense - unless it's part of a complaint on the budget being "balanced" away from the military and towards stupidity. Additionally, we who attend these protests are not an "anti-tax group," as I have seen us called before. If we don't recognize the necessity of some taxes, we think no further than the people who tax too much to pay for "free" programs, and would then be just as wrong.


So the purpose, then, is to proffer a people's complaint against unfairly high or graduated taxes, and taxes spent irresponsibly by our elected officials.


With that in mind, I speak first to the members of Congress who attend, or have considered attending, these Tea Parties.


Men and women of Congress: When we the people protest, we the people do not want to hear from you. We can see your websites, friend you on Facebook, follow you on Twitter. More importantly, we can track your voting records to see what you do - a thing far more important than what you say. I beg you, do not attend Tea Parties to campaign and to prattle. Truthfully, none of you really say anything anyway. But do attend. Attend instead to listen, to take in your voters getting angry, to consider whether or not you are actually doing what is right, and to consider what it is you and all of Washington ought to be doing instead.


I next must address the members of the general public who attend the Tea Parties.


To the people who attend: Firstly, do not attend simply because a politician you like is speaking; in fact, such speaking should deter you. If you care about the politicians enough to be so drawn to their speeches, you should consider avoiding them for a time to ensure you can form an original opinion in your own head. I trust this is not too much an epidemic. But what, then, will draw the crowds? The crowds, that is, you the people, should instead attend to have the theoretically intelligent voice of the country heard. The Congressmen cannot hear you if they themselves are speaking. But as they do not speak, the speaking is the task of you, the people. Consider well your motives and your words before you step up to the microphone. If you have something to say, make it worthwhile, and make it brief. If it has been said already, don't be redundant. If you will come across as paranoid, as many of you do when you get the chance to speak, no one will take any of us seriously; the world will likely not end because of fiscal irresponsibility. If you only want to speak to put attention on yourself, get as far away from the mic as possible. And if you only care to ramble about some unrelated ideal, please re-read the beginning of this article. I attended one Tea Party where some blowhard went on for an absurd amount of time about why natural gas is a good thing. It took forever to finish and he never should have started.


And finally, to the people who do not, for their various reasons, attend: Thank you for reading this blog anyway, even if it was with a spirit of criticism.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

An Afternoon In Mom's Kitchen

I went to my mother today to ask her if I could keep my chopstick rests in a kitchen drawer. As the appropriate drawer was an organizational disaster, this simple request led to a bit of an organizing party, and a lesson in the great knowledge of fantastic inventions that is evidently required for modern cooking.

I couldn't believe the contraptions she had in there. I'll admit I don't exactly cook, but at least to my amateur eyes, the amount of gadgets seemed quite absurd, each one more specialized than the last. Egg separator I understand, and orange peeler, but pickle fork?

Here are some of the ones that I found noteworthy for various reasons. The picture is given, followed by an explanation, so if you don't scroll too quickly, you can try to guess what it is! Of course, if you cook often or enjoy kitchen widgets, you probably won't even have to guess.





1. Lemon zester

There are many ways to remove the zest from a lemon, but apparently not one is so great as the lemon zester. I didn't even know what zest was until today, or that it's edible. Apparently, it's the outer part of the skin, the colorful part, and is quite flavorful. Other citrus fruits have zest too. It makes foods zesty.




2. Jar opener

My mother claims this is the best invention ever. If you have a tight jar lid and don't have a man around the house, you stick the tip of this thing under the edge of a jar lid and squeeze the handles. Air gets let in and voila, the jar can be opened. WikiHow says you can do the same thing with a bottle opener or a teaspoon, but that's just not as cool, now, is it?




3. Onion holder

This is for holding an onion in place while you cut it, so you avoid slicing any fingers. I didn't bother to ask if it would be acceptable to use it for other vegetables as well, or if it was onion-specific.




4. Egg slicer

I used this all the time as a kid, when my mother would make hard boiled eggs. I would slice them, pop out the yolk from each slice, and eat just the white part, because I thought the yolks were disgusting. Nowadays, to avoid the yolk, I just eat them not sliced and carefully.




5. Fizz keeper

It has a chicken on the top, so I assumed it was somehow related to basting or something of that nature. I forgot that's just the Pampered Chef logo. It's actually meant to keep sodas from going flat, something about using pressure to keep the CO2 in the bottle, but as I read in a couple places today, this apparently doesn't work. Oh well.




6. Boil-over preventer

My initial thought, at first glance, was that a stray can lid had gotten stuck in the drawer. It actually keeps the water in pots from boiling over, somehow. According to the internet, sticking a wooden spoon across the top accomplishes this as well. Ahh, kitchen physics.




7. Pineapple core-er

My mother says this is also the best invention ever, but since she uses it less frequently than the jar opener, that one probably wins. Anyway, yes, it makes nice little pineapple circles for eating, without having to fight your way through the tough outside with a knife.




8. Fancy-cucumber slicer

This slices cucumbers in a fancy way. I have no idea why this is necessary and in fact the gadget that Mom has for straight slices is much cooler (and faster).




9. Egg puncher

This pokes a hole in an egg and is somehow related to soft-boiling them. The lock position is important so you do not stab yourself accidentally.




10. English muffin opener

An English muffin opener, I tell you. My goodness.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

On Tea Parties

Tea is popular. Not only traditional black tea, but green, white, herbal, spiced, and chai, among others, are available for your enjoyment. If you can't find one you like, you haven't tried hard enough. However, tea is not, for whatever reason, much of a social beverage here in America. Coffee, alcohol, but rarely tea--and it is a shame, a fact quite clear to anyone who has ever attended a decent tea party.

The versatility of a tea party makes it available to women of all tastes. One may host an intimate gathering of a few friends, or a major occasion with full tea pots and finger sandwiches all down the buffet table. Japanese green tea or Indian spiced chai can accompany a tea party with a cultural theme, and English breakfast tea works well with something more Victorian. Younger girls would enjoy a doll-centric tea party, and those somewhat older can appreciate one with an Alice in Wonderland theme. The possibilities are endless.




Yet, whatever style you choose, a tea party is a quiet, sophisticated social, and an arguably superior venue for a girls' get-together. The very atmosphere demands peace and dignity, and is a marvelous excuse to dress up in attractive frocks with bows and lace. To host is to show off your entertaining skills, and to attend is to simply enjoy an afternoon in the company of your friends. Weekly or monthly tea parties may be hosted by a different friend each time, for variety and to share the hostess responsibilities.

Tea parties can have a financial advantage over luncheons and dinner parties as well. Coming after lunch but before dinner, you need pay less for food, and the little sandwiches, tarts, and scones often involve less fuss than a true meal. Additionally, tea is cheaper than alcohol; one tea bag will steep through a full pot.

Don't think tea parties must leave out men, either. You'll have to provide more in the way of food, certainly, but if you can convince them that it isn't too terribly feminine, and keep the lace to a minimum, a tea-centric gathering of well-dressed friends would be an entertaining afternoon for all.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Call Me, On The Line


I love this phone. However, I was considering getting rid of it. My dorm at college is allegedly going to remove the land lines from the rooms to save money on something that most students don't use, and when the phone rings at home, it is never for me. I don't really need any phone besides my cell. It's pretty, but is it practical?

Besides that, it's an awfully outdated design. It has no caller ID, which makes it terrible for ducking telemarketers, annoying friends, and ex-boyfriends. Without an answering machine, screening calls is impossible. With one, the process is still a bit obnoxious, at best.

It also has a cord. You can't multi-task. You can't use telephone time to also fold laundry and catch up on your TiVo recordings. You can't even walk across the room to look up a phone number for someone without putting the phone down first. It isn't suited to the modern lifestyle. Perhaps I should try to find a recent, cordless variation of this design, with caller-ID elegantly fitted into the base, along with the date, time, and recent calls. It would still have that old-timey feel; it would just be a bit more functional.

I find this disturbingly indicative of the changes made to our communications over time, specifically in regards to the phone. Without an efficient way of screening calls, you simply had to answer the phone. Without a way to walk and talk and feed the cat all at once, you simply had to engage in conversation, or tell your friend or business associate that you needed to call them back later. Things were slower back in the day, and communication was perhaps a bit more honest. I do appreciate the convenience of modern technology, and I wouldn't dare undo the progress if I could, but I can't help lament the loss of a day when this telephone design was perfectly acceptable.

After thinking such things, I couldn't help but plug the phone back in.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

bought a Dionaea

So I bought a Venus fly trap.

I should update this thing more often. I'm actually a terribly exciting person.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Procrastination

“Procrastinatio odiosa est, sed procrastinatio meus modus vivendi est.”

One of my resolutions for 2009 is to stop procrastinating. I seem to have this idea in my head that if I tell myself I won’t do it anymore, I simply won’t, and life will be grand. Unfortunately, procrastination is a habit, which means that it is difficult to stop. The nature of habit is also such that I don’t always realize I’m doing it. Different people procrastinate in different ways, but I think most of us have patterns of procrastination that we repeat and can recognize. I’m probably avoiding doing something that needs doing, if…

• …I’ve checked Facebook fourteen times in the last two minutes.
• …I’m reading about things that seem vaguely relevant to the task at hand but are in fact not going to help me at all. For instance, I had to write a paper on Richard Nixon’s quality as a president, and ended up reading about his grades in college and his relationship with his wife.
• …I’m cleaning the kitchen. As a matter of fact, I think every time I’ve cleaned the kitchen this past semester, my explanation to my bewildered roommate has been “I’m not doing calculus.”
• …I’m spending more time eating than necessary, by cooking or eating out with my friends. This only works because I can’t work and eat at the same time. I can eat a bowl of Rice Krispies in five minutes, but then I’d have to get right back to work, and I just can’t have that, apparently.
• …I’m checking Facebook, Twitter, LiveJournal, deviantArt, all of my email addresses, FOXNews, and the Drudge Report, over and over again, until something catches my attention and my time.
• …I’m trying to organize my papers. More often than not, this is my way of “accomplishing something.”
• …I’m watching all of the music videos that I can find for a particular artist on YouTube. One time, I had a Mandy Moore marathon.
• …I’m having an impromptu dance party with my roommates.

You get the idea. It’s going to take some real effort (and probably the help of God above) to quit procrastinating, but I am optimistic. I’ll evaluate my progress at the end of the year.

Oh, and the translation for the opening phrase? “Procrastination is hateful, but procrastination is my way of living.”