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Archive for October, 2010

Growing Up

Or something like it…

It’s 1:06 AM CST. I’ve been 23 for an hour and six minutes now.

As expected, it doesn’t feel much different. :p

My parents took me out to dinner at my favourite sushi place in town, then back home for presents and cake. In light of my camera keeling over about a month ago, my father presented me with a beautiful Sony Cyber-shot, which Jeff and I have been having fun with ever since (he likes to steal it and take pictures of me):

 

Jeff balances a stuffed pumpkin on his head. Not sure why, just because. My parents spend a lot of time decorating for halloween, which is partially due to me being born on that day, but also just for the fun of it. My parents like trick-or-treaters. For some reason. I don’t know why, they just take away all the candy. Little fuckers.

Yeah, I can be 23 and still hate small children. Deal with it.

Jeff ninjas a picture of me surrounded by the wrapping paper leavings of my gifts. It’s a graveyard for coloured paper. Horrifying really.

I have an obsession with things that are miniature. Especially pop. I love tiny cans of pop.

So that’s how the first little bit of my birthday went. After I sleep for a few (okay, maybe ten) hours, I’ll have an apartment to help decorate, and a party to enjoy.

Happy Halloween everyone. I hope your day is full of candy and people being ridiculous in strange outfits. You know, more than usual.

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So yeah, that Religion and Culture class midterm?

Kicking my ass.

It seems simple enough, but I have no idea what I’m supposed to be writing about for the first part:

“Describe the lasting cultural ideals informing the Christianization of these two [Celtic and Anglo-Saxon] Dark Age cultures, providing two or three examples for each culture. How does the absence of Pagan texts from these cultures affect our understanding of this change?”

The second part I can roll with. It’s easily answered with the magical world of archaeological evidence and peat bogs. But the first part? What does that even mean? I get that it’s about the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons and Celts to Christianity, but I don’t quite get what’s being asked of me.

Cue the frustration dance.

(I attempt to gnaw some insight out of my textbook on Celtic Spirituality, but it doesn’t seem to help).

The closest thing I can guess is it’s asking about the way Christianity became accepted in those two cultures. Like how they looked at all the Irish pagan deities and went ‘well, this guy’s like Jesus, so we’ll explain it like that to all the peasants so they have an easier time accepting Jesus Christ as their lord and saviour.’

The more the common people saw easy parallels, the more likely they were to be cool with a sudden conversion. “Say, this Jesus fellow is a lot like our [insert name of Celtic hero here, most likely Finn], he must be a pretty cool dude! Christianity? Why the hell not?”

So I’ll probably go with that. It makes the most sense with what we’ve been studying. Now I just have to find my notes, which may or may not be lost in the mists of time (i.e. the trunk of my car).

So we’ll see how tackling that goes. >.>

… Why did I decide to minor in this again?

On an unrelated note, today I found out my friends Stephie and Tim are engaged. I’m not big on the whole marriage thing personally, but when my friends are happy, I’m happy, so I offer them a big congratulations and a thumbs up. Good going guys. Now you HAVE to sing lame duets at karaoke! :p

Back to procrastinating. The internet is a wonderful thing, but it has a tendency to rape my productivity levels.

*goes back to reading webcomics*

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It’s almost to the point where we’re counting down the hours until NaNoWriMo 2010 starts, and like many of my fellow Wrimos I’m getting excited.

So here are my personal tips for preparing for NaNoWriMo 2010, and how well I’m following them myself:

1. Have some sort of plan/outline/idea

This one is never a problem for me. I know a lot of people like to Pants their way through November, but I work best with an outline, the more detailed the better. My outline currently sits pretty about about 4k, and is complete as of last night at about 9pm (story-wise. I still want to add detail and can guarantee I’ll be moving things around over and over as November goes on). I wouldn’t panic if you don’t have even an idea yet. Part of the fun is just rolling with it. I love that my characters do wacky things when I least expect it and change the course of the plot. Keeps me on my toes.

2. Work ahead in school

This is one I always recommend to myself, but have some trouble with. I’m not great at working ahead (I work best under pressure), but I’m going to actually try this year so I can focus primarily on my writing, not on juggling my schedule. I have a paper to write for my Religion and Culture class about the Celts and Anglo-Saxons. The question is kind of confusing (it asks us to describe the lasting cultural ideals informing the Christianization of the Celts and the Anglo-Saxons, and I can’t say I know what that exactly means) but I’m hoping to glare at it long enough to figure out what it means and at least have an outline by the end of my shift at work today. I also have a short story due in my writing class next Thursday, and if I get my ass in gear not only do I think I can have it finished by Monday, but that I can use it as a warm-up for writing 2-3000+ words a day for thirty days straight.

3. Have some sort of schedule

Not necessarily a ‘wake up, brush teeth, write, go to class etc’ schedule, but knowing how many words you’re supposed to be aiming for each day of November. Some people have awesome calendars and desktop backgrounds that they commission from the lovely people on the NaNo forums (I did this last year and it was awesome). Others make notes on post-its to keep track or have a word document.

I was a luddite this year and wrote all my wordcount goals out in my writing class notebook:

I’m aiming to get between 75 and 100k this year, so I wrote out a list of my minimum and maximum wordcounts for each day in November. If I get bored / feel like procrastinating, I might try to convert it into a calendar for myself. :3

4. Stock up on writing fuel

Have a favourite writing beverage? It’s a good idea to stock it up so you can have it close at hand whenever you want to write. I plan on picking up a twelve-pack of Coke next time I hit the store this weekend, along with some orange juice (to go with the Vodka 😀 ). I’m also keeping track of good places to get my other NaNo fuel items, like tea (coffee shops, the student union etc) and snacks. My only problem is that one of my essential writing fuel items is hard to come by around here:

Pixy Stix. If anyone in the Lincoln Area knows where I can find Pixy Stix before Sunday night I will be your willing slave. And give you a thank you in the acknowledgements section of my book if it ever gets published.

5. Check your tech

I always write my novel on a laptop, for easy mobility and to keep it all in one place. Sometimes i’ll make notes or write down scenes in a notebook, but it all ends up on the laptop. I recommend giving your preferred writing method a check-up before November starts. If you use a laptop, give it a good once-over, clean out the hard drive, back up all your files and look for any glaring bugs or hardware issues. Example: my Netbook, Virgil, has been really reluctant to hold much more than half an hour’s charge, making my writing far less mobile. I hope to have time to get the battery checked out before NaNo begins, to see if I can order a replacement.

Checking tech also involves having methods with which to back up your novel. I personally use this:

This is my 4GB Darth Vader thumb drive, purchased as part of my Comic-Con 2009 swag the summer before last. He’s a limited edition design featuring Luke as Darth Vader in the vision Luke has on Dagobah in The Empire Strikes back.

Yes, I’m a huge nerd. Deal with it.

So that’s my tech, and checking it out has saved my ass two NaNo’s in a row. I highly recommend it.

6. Prep your soundtrack

I intend to make a post at a later date about my intended soundtrack for NaNo 2010, but for now i’ll just say that I’m working on it, because I believe that a good soundtrack is key to any novel-writer, whether it’s having theme songs for all your characters or just having a CD on in the background you like. I don’t have mine nailed down yet, but my current soundtrack favourites for this year include AFI, A Perfect Circle, Nine Inch Nails, My Chemical Romance, The Hold Steady, The Pink Spiders, The Dust Brothers, Puscifer, Tool, Frightened Rabbit and Rilo Kiley. Knowing what your soundtrack is before you start writing means you don’t have to worry about finding that music right when you start. You can just hit play and get right down to the writing.

7. Know your local group

last year I didn’t have a car so I didn’t have the opportunity to go to the organized meetups, just meet with a few of my friends on campus. This year not only do I have a car, but the Lincoln writing group is being very active and I’m looking forward to going to some write-ins at the library and the coffee shops with them.

Wrimos, you can find your local group on the boards under the regional lounges. I found mine here, and I really recommend it for getting to know your fellow writers so we can all go through the madness, hardship and joy of producing a novel in 30 days.

Those are my main tips. There’s still a couple days before the madness begins, so good luck with your preparations!

Me, I’m going to try to get ahead with my homework assignments, play as much Bioshock as I can (if I play tonight and tomorrow, I might even get to finish it before November starts), get things prepared for my birthday party on Sunday and spend some time with Jeff before I have no time to hang out. Tonight is ‘cook whatever’s left in the fridge and eat it while having an Angel marathon’ night. Good way to spend a Friday night.

Oh, and get everything thrown together for my halloween costume!

Good luck everyone! Happy prepping!

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Warning: this post is not about writing. Sometimes I write those. Beware. Here be flames and grouses.

My college campus is a diverse place, as one would expect even from a University campus in the middle of the Midwest, and it never surprises me when there’s a booth or two in the student union that causes me to raise an eyebrow. Yesterday I noticed one such booth, which was populated by two gentlemen handing out flyers.

Upon closer inspection of one of these flyers, I discovered that they were promoting the event Porn Nation, which had been mentioned a few times in the Daily Nebraskan (our campus paper) and on posters tacked up in various buildings. This flyer was different though, and it saddens me that I didn’t keep it for posterity (I ended up using it as an emergency napkin over lunch when I got overzealous with my Mac and Cheese), because on the bottom were the words I had missed on all the other posters:

‘Sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ’.

A little background, if you will permit me. I am not a Christian. I was raised Catholic, attended Catholic school for ten years, and then decided that the whole church thing really wasn’t for me, right around the same time I realized that the bible made fifty different kinds of no sense (in terms of history, literature, science, logic etc.) and that I was attracted to females as well as males. That and the local church telling me that going to see the Da Vinci Code movie was a mortal sin and would damn me to hell (which was totally not worth it after seeing it. Neither was the nine bucks for the movie ticket). So I dabbled in spiritualism, deism, pantheism, and general wtf-ism, and after much mulling and faffing about I decided that I wasn’t much for the labeling of what I believed, because I wouldnt’ say I believe much of anything. I refer to myself as a skeptic, non-theist, a friendly agnostic, a Pastafarian (I have a FSM decal on the back of my car) and just a general questioner of life. I don’t know much about science or evolution (I’m an arts nerd; science has never been my strong point), but I know that faith isn’t something I have any interest in having, be it in religion or people as a whole.  I’m friends with atheists, agnostics, dedicated Christians, confused people, you name it, and we have many calm and rational discussions about the nature of life, the universe, religious texts, stupid people, without setting each other on fire in indignation.

So yes: tl/dr – I’m not religious. I’m the opposite of religious. And seeing that Cru was sponsoring an event about porn immediately made me go “hmmm.”

So, since I had an hour to kill before Jeff got out of class, I stopped by this booth to talk to the student behind it, and our conversation went a little like this (completely paraphrased – I have a less than stellar memory):

Me: So this is for real?
Student: Yes, the talk’s going on tomorrow night at 7pm.
Me: I see. And it’s just one guy talking about porn?
Student: Well, it’s Michael Leahy talking and giving a multimedia presentation about porn and hypersexuality and addiction.
Me: So it’s just him talking about porn? There’s not a debate, or a for and against option? It’s just one guy telling us about the effects of porn?
Student: Well, he’s here to tell people about his experiences with porn, and the effect porn addiction had on his life.
Me: Like what?
Student: Well, like how he lost his job and ended up leaving his wife and kids and basically ruining his life.
Me: Because of porn?
Student: Yeah.
Me:… yeah, that doesn’t sound like it’s exactly the fault of porn, it sounds more like he was weak and dealt with his problems in a not-so-smart way.
Student: Well… *shrugs* it’s not just him, he’s got a presentation all about former porn stars who were in the industry, porn addicts and stuff.
Me: Still, it all seems kind of one-sided to me.
Student: *shrugs* Well, it is sponsored by Cru.

Thank you fellow student for making my point for me (his reaction amused me greatly, I have to say).

Seeing this event on my campus reminded me of a blog post made by one of my favourite internet Atheist bloggers, Jen McCreight, about a similar event that came to her University when she was an Undergrad at Purdue. The relevant blog post is here. I highly recommend reading it (not in the least because she’s a kickass writer and her blog is full of awesomeness in general) as it discusses her experiences attending one of these Porn events, and I sadly can’t fill you all in on how Porn Nation went at UNL, because it’s Thursday night and I am stuck at work until 10pm. I have a sad panda over this, as I always enjoy getting a little dose of ‘you have got to be kidding me’ over religious events. Call me an emotional masochist if you like, but seeing these things reminds me why I consider organized religion and blind belief to be mind-bogglingly frustrating.

I acknowledge that there are hundreds of things wrong with the porn industry and the images portrayed in porn (especially of women), and there are people who are addicted to porn, and there are multiple social stigmas surrounding pornography and the usage thereof. But not everyone who watches porn becomes socially maladjusted, abusive, a child molester, a deviant etc. Part of the problem isn’t the porn itself, it’s the shame culture surrounding sexuality.

I’m all for encouraging open debate about the subject. An event this blatantly one-sided, sponsored by a campus organization that actively works towards promoting conversion to Christianity? That’s something that bugs me.

I’m sad I cannot attend this presentation. I feel like just ranting about an experience with the guy working at the promo booth at the Union isn’t an adequate experience for me to comprehend the program fully. Maybe it’ll be less inflammatory and condemning and more informative. Maybe I’m making an assumption since Cru is sponsoring it. But here’s Porn Nation‘s website, so you can make your own impressions and opinions from what’s available there.

So there you go. People are weird about porn and religion in my neck of the woods. I’m a happy minority who still fights with her Mum about going to church on major holidays (Lincoln Nebraska is one of the most conservative Catholic diocese in the United States. You can guess I’m not a big fan of it) and fears the Noodly Appendage of the Flying Spaghetti monster and picks fights with street preachers over logical fallacies (sometimes, mostly I just heckle and play bingo). Much respect to the non-theists, yo.

And now I’m going to go back to listening to AFI and pretend I never said anything like that last sentence. I’m far too white to be walking around saying ‘yo’ without looking ridiculous.

So now that I’ve offended everyone, have a happy Thursday!

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So yesterday was Tuesday, otherwise known as Lora’s night off from work. Normally I spend this late afternoon / early evening time studying (i.e. goofing around on the internet), catching up with TV, pestering a friend or two around campus, or going on expeditions to my favourite coffee shop to get delicious tea and muffins.

However, yesterday was different. Yesterday I was on a mission. See, I’m a sedentary creature, a writer by nature and therefore a big fan of what boils down to sitting on my ass and staring at computer screens all day. I’m far from athletic, even though I’m definitely on the thin side (the result of malnutrition, vegetarianism and a freakish metabolism). I love to walk, and I try to do as much of that as I possibly can when I’m on campus, but that doesn’t really count as strenuous exercise.

It counts as looking at pretty nature though. UNL Campus is gorgeous pretty much all year round.

(Picture I took of Love Library last spring, pretty flowers in bloom).

So I talked to Jeff, and he works at the climbing wall at the YMCA on the south side of town. He spends most of his time there hauling small children around, and has been listening to me whine about being out of shape for so long that when I suggested I come visit him and re-learn the basics of climbing the wall, he encouraged me to stop by Tuesday night before he got off work at 8pm.

When I got there I was directed towards the climbing wall in the back section of the main hall, and was mildly intimidated by what I saw: a very high, very lumpy wall covered in multicoloured bumps. I’ve seen climbing walls before, but I haven’t been on one since I was in fifth grade and I went on an adventure weekend with my classmates.

Now, I’m pretty strongly afraid of heights. I hate being in airplanes, hate being up much higher than the third story of a building, you get the idea. But this didn’t seem so bad to me. Harnesses and ropes and other strange devices are involved in this indoor climbing business, right? And I was going to be spotted the entire time by Jeff, one of the few people I count on my hand as a person I trust with my life.

So that wasn’t a big deal. I got in the harness (definitely not the most comfortable thing in the world), was secured with a rope, and directed towards what was apparently the ‘easy’ part of the wall.

‘Easy’ apparently translates to ‘sheer hard plastic surface with little coloured tumours you’re supposed to grab’.

Swallowing my fear and embarrassment I grabbed onto the first two coloured handholds I saw at eye-level and began figuring out where to put my feet.

And it wasn’t so bad. Jeff was encouraging, pointing out possible next places for me to move my hands and feet, and so I climbed, slowly but surely, towards the top.

Not a couple minutes in and I was already feeling like I was getting that work-out I was looking for. I was breathing slightly heavy, my arms were starting to ache, and I was beginning to work up a sweat.

Yeah, I know. I’m out of shape. I’m in the failboat. Go me. *captains the failboat*

Things started to become worrisome as I rapidly approached the top of the wall. The little tumour-y coloured wedges were becoming few and far-between and I was starting to become confused and at a loss as to how to progress. And as I sat there in my harness, dangling like a worm on a hook, my hands jammed into two little rock pieces, my right wrist started to hurt.

A lot.

Fuckbiscuit.

I tried to ignore it, figuring it was just my muscles freaking out from getting some use for the first time in who knows when. I continued searching for a way to keep climbing, determined that I wouldn’t be showed up by the little girl who Jeff had been teaching to climb before I had showed up. Seriously, that kid was a fucking ninja, climbing up and down the wall like some sort of terrifying spider monkey child.

Then my wrists started going numb. And I couldn’t grip the nubby rocks properly, my fingers feeling as if they were permanently stuck in that sad, curved, ‘I’m a barbie girl’ position they have on plastic dolls’ hands. Not a good sign. I flailed around a little, and then insisted on being returned to the ground that I might inspect the damage I had managed to do to myself.

Pathetic?

Let me explain:

I have RSI: Repetitive Strain Injury. I’ve had it in both my wrists since the Spring of 2007 when my doctor first informed me of what I have apparently been doing to myself for years as a frequent writer and typer. There’s not much that can be done for me as it’s not too severe, but I’ve been prescribed strong pain meds, wrist braces, and ice packs before along with insistence that I adopt a better posture while I am typing.

Clearly it’s been going on for a while, so I know how to deal with it, but it’s been fairly dormant for the last few months, my typing activities being less strenuous over the summer thanks to a lack of papers to write and such.

Then, just from climbing the rock wall at the YMCA for less than ten minutes, I’m in horrible pain and with wrists that barely work. They’re better today, fear not, but I still feel an unpleasant ache whenever I stretch my arms or reach out to grab something.

Disconcerting to me. Especially since the mother of all wrist-straining activities is about to hit in the next week: NaNoWriMo 2010.

I love NaNoWriMo. I love writing. It’s my calling in life, my passion and my sad nerdy daydream of success (to be able to live off my writing and be a novelist). But there’s next to nothing I can do about the condition of my wrists, except fight through the pain and hope it doesn’t get worse.

I really can’t stop writing, or typing. I want to write, and it’s simple as that. While the straining of my wrists at the climbing wall (and the slight bruising of my dignity at not being able to make it to the top. Sad pasta) was just an unfortunate accident, I know that in a couple of weeks I’ll be back in a brace, popping Ibuprofen until the pain goes away, since I can’t write novels without making use of my typing abilities.

Guess I’ll have to find another way to exercise. The pain is just part of the process. That and all the usual remedies of pain medication, braces, better typing posture and ice packs. It’s true that you have to suffer for your art, despite how melodramatic that sounds.

Just another one of my upcoming challenges this November. The results will be totally worth it.

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Dear Lady who works at the Caffina Cafe in the Union:

When I come to you before nine o’clock in the morning on a Tuesday, what I am looking for is a hot cup of tea and a muffin. What I am not looking for it your insistence on basically harassing me about the fact that my NCard has a faded barcode. I am aware that the barcode on my NCard is faded; I use it every day, so I am fairly well versed in its state of being. I am also aware that it’s very easy for you to run a non-scanning card through the slot on the register. My NCard being faded does not give you a reason to look at me disapprovingly, nor an excuse to point out that ‘there’s always grad school’ with a knowing expression on your face when I mumble that I’m going to graduate in less than two months so replacing it at this point is rather pointless.

It’s Nine AM. I don’t have the energy or the time to explain to you why I’m not going to graduate school at UNL. All I want from you is a smile and a cup of fucking tea. You are not being helpful. You are just making me want to find a place to bury your body after I throw my scalding hot tea in your face and snap your neck.

Sincerely,

Lora

PS. Also, the tea burned me and I now cannot taste anything. Today has been ruined. I hope you’re happy. /angst

*

Dear Classmates and Schoolmates,

I understand that you really care about getting a new rec center on East Campus, as the old one is dilapidated and full of mutant cockroaches (or something). However, the more you remind me to ‘vote yes to better recs!’ by accosting me when I’m trying to get to class, yelling it across the plaza in front of the union, or before class starts, the more inclined I am to a) ignore you; b) go on an angry tirade about how I really don’t care about the rec centers since not only am I graduating, but I think money for improving campus could be better spent renovating some of the older Academic buildings, because believe it or not some of us are here for something that isn’t sports; or c) get on MyRed and vote ‘NO’ to new rec centers just to spite you all.

I’m more than aware of my right to vote. Stop reminding me I have it and I might actually be inclined to do so.

Yours stubbornly, and with some bile,

Lora.

Since never, little cat. No such thing as too  much Caffeine. (via lolcats)

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Is working on this:

This is my sketchbook, the little notebook I’ll be filling from now until January 15th for The Sketchbook Project. It’s a simple idea: you get a sketchbook, and you fill it with drawings, thoughts and whatever other derp you like. You’re given a theme too. Mine is Coffee and Cigarettes (ironic, yes, but fun too).

The sketchbooks are sent back by January 15th 2011 and then they’re taken on tour before eventually being placed forever in the Brooklyn Art Library for anyone to read. Each sketchbook has a barcode on it so it’s possible to track how often someone reads your sketchbook:

There’s mine.

So far I haven’t filled it up with too much, just some random ramblings about how I don’t actually drink coffee and how I have no idea what I’m doing with my life. But I’ve been drawing my fun cartoony images in it along with writing things:

I’ve been having a lot of fun with it. I hope to scan some of my art and post it on the Sketchbook Project website. Here’s my profile, if you’re interested.

So that’s what I’ve been up to lately, as well as studying like a madwoman for midterms and feeling ill thanks to what basically amounts to malnutrition (yay for an erratic diet of sugar and caffeine and not much else). That and NaNoWriMo is six days away. Madness, am I right?

Also, my good friend Sam is doing the Sketchbook Project (and NaNoWriMo) also. She has a blog, and you should check it out.

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