Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Chapter 1.13: Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance

Okay, so I love vampires. I've liked them before Twilight and I like real vampires as opposed to whatever Edward is (now, I actually like Twilight, as a fluffy read--cotton candy for the mind if you will--but whatever Edward is, he's not a vampire. I actually quite like the theory that he is a giant butterfly, which you can read about here). I feel silly every time I say the words "Vampire Romance" but that's the best (albeit, imperfect) explanation I have for those not familiar with Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance.

Which is pretty much my favorite genre ever. So here is an actual description of what it is (as written by the crazy ramblings of a fan). Paranormal romance are books where the main focus is on a hero and heroine who overcome obstacles to become a couple (pretty much what a regular romance is) but it has some supernatural element, be it vampires, werewolves, shifters, ghosts, or other creatures born of folklore and embraced by modern fiction. Usually, this element manifests in the form of one of the main characters.

Urban Fantasy is much more slippery than that. In this genre, there may be romance or not, though this romance will never be the main focus of the book or series. There's not really one thing that qualifies as Urban Fantasy except for the fact that it contains a supernatural element. I also believe it has to be set in our world (or a version of our world). Other than that, pretty much any plotline is fair game.

There isn't exactly a solid line between these two genres and often they flow into one another. Often they're combined and called Paranormal Romace/Urban Fantasy. This is one of my favorite things to read. My favorite shelf at Powells is the Paranormal Romance shelf. This is the only bookstore I've found that actually has these in a separate section. And for books not strictly Paranormal Romance, I have to search the fantasy, science fiction, or even horror shelves. I actually think that this genre should have its own section in bookstores, but since they don't I shall continue to wander through multiple genres searching out the book I want.

I thought I would suck the rest of you into my world, but sharing some of my favorite series. Be warned, there is a sort of spectrum in the genre(s) so I'll add a darkness scale from 1 (Light) to 5 (Dark). Best to start at the low end and work your way up when easing into them for the first time. I'll also use UF (Urban Fantasy) or PR (Paranormal Romance) to give a sense of where they lay genre-wise.

Love At Stake Series by Kerrelyn Sparks (PR): Since the invention of synthetic blood, there have been two factions of vampire: The Vamps and The Malcontents. The Vamps are bottle-fed, working to keep the human race safe from the Malcontents who see humans as nothing but food. The series follows a different Vamp each book as they find love and the war between the Malcontents and the Vamps rages on. Very light books, and not just in terms of supernatural activity. Fluffy cotton candy-like books, a 1 on the scale. The first book is How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire

Night Huntress Series by Jeaniene Frost (PR, with some UF): Half-vampire Cat Crawford kicks vampire ass. And she doesn't think twice about the distinction between sippers and killers until vampire hitman Bones comes into her life. But can love help her overcome her former prejudices? Series is part romance, part adventure novel, and even a little mystery. A little dark and at times pretty steamy (those who've read it know that Chapter 32 lives in infamy). Definitely not for kids. About a 3.5 or 4 out of 5. First book is Halfway to the Grave

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (UF): Harry Dresden is the only professional wizard in Chicago. Which means that when things get screwy for the Chicago PD, they call him in for help. Add in his spotty past, wise-cracking skull named Bob, and being a magnet for trouble and you got a hero who doesn't have all the answers but tries his damnedest to make things right. Wonderful books and the series gets better developed as the series goes on. 3.5 or so out of 5. First book is Storm Front.

The Hollows Series by Kim Harrison (UF with a smattering of PR): What if instead of participating in the Space Race, we turned our efforts to bioengineering? What if a virus hiding in the flaw of a genetically altered tomato wiped out half the human race and the supernatural community decided to announce their presence? Now the sides live in a sometimes uneasy truce, not entirely segregated, but with the supernaturals not entirely trusted. Rachel Morgan is a witch/bounty hunter, living in a church with a living vamp abstaining from blood, and a pixie who's got her back. Together the three run a runner business, investigations and bounty hunting. Good series with another heroine who doesn't always have an easy answer and has to live with the choices she makes. 3 out of 5. First book is Dead Witch Walking.

The Black Dagger Brotherhood by JR Ward (PR with some UF): There exists a circle of brothers, bound by a calling but closer than blood, who live to protect their race from The Lessening Society, soulless vampire killers who are made from the sociopaths and dregs of human society. Each book is about a different brother as he finds his mate. The vampires here are a little unorthodox as at 25 they go through The Change, where they become their full vampire self. They eat food as humans do, but need to also feed on the blood of a vampire of opposite gender to live. 5 out of 5. First book is Dark Lover.

The Southern Vampire Series by Charlaine Harris (Half PR, half UF): Also known as the Sookie Stackhouse series, these are the books the HBO show True Blood is based on. The invention of synthetic blood has allowed vampires to come out of books into real life. Sookie Stackhouse is a waitress. At least that's what she'll say when you aske what she is. What she's not saying is that she's a telepath. When Bill Compton, a vampire, walks into her bar, she finally meets a man who's thoughts are silent, a pocket of peace for her. But that peace draws her into a dangerous world. A little romance and a lot of mystery, these books are fun but only vaguely like the TV series. 3 out of 5. First book is Dead Until Dark.

Kitty Norville Series by Carrie Vaughn (UF with a little PR): Kitty is a DJ for the Midnight Hour in Denver, CO. She also happens to be a werewolf (and yes, she gets the irony of her name). Changed against her will, she battles her inner wolf and tries to remain as human as she can. And using her show she helps others do the same the best she can. Even when her own life is sucking. But being her own wolf will take courage and strength she never knew she had. Series is very easy to written and well written. 2 out of 5. First book is Kitty and The Midnight Hour.

So there are seven series to get you started on Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance. And believe me, you'll find that if you start looking for these books, you finish one series and seven more will pop up in its place, like some literary Hydra. Anyone have suggestions I may have missed? There aren't many series I haven't heard of at least once in this genre, but maybe you'll surprise me. Have fun and happy reading.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Chapter 1.12: Variety Pack

Have you ever noticed that the variety pack is corporate America's version of a sneak attack? It lures you in, "Look how many flavors you can get. See what a great deal it is? Now you don't have to be stuck with one flavor." The trap is set. Variety packs are often even a better deal than the rest of the available packages. Or sometimes you can't buy the flavor you like best outside of a variety pack (case and point: the Black Raspberry Ices from Costco).

So you look at the variety pack and tell yourself "What a steal! And I like so many of these flavors! It'd be irresponsible not to get it." This line of thought also usually leads to you buying something (or way more of something) that you don't need. Something you weren't going to buy in the first place becomes irresistible (I often do this with books that are cheaper or on sale that I see at bookstores. 20% off of something you weren't planning to buy is still 80% more than you planned to spend). It should be noted that this line of thought is not soundly founded. If you look at it's roots, they are crumbly and the whole thing trembles when rational thought gets too close.

Now, here's where the sneak attack, part two comes in. You get the (granola bars, chips, drinks, cookies, etc.) home and at first, the variety pack pays off. You get enough choices that you aren't bored and hey, you saved on top of everything! You feel pretty smug and very satisfied with your shopping prowess.

But the pack dwindles down and suddenly you're faced with an unexpected issue: there is inevitably one flavor that no one wants and is left over. Usually these leftovers are too numerous to just ignore or throw away. You tell yourself "But, if I throw them away, that'll defeat the purpose of my savvy shopping." You feel that getting rid of something you will never actually use cheapens your victory.

So you hang on to it. Maybe you try foisting the unwanted off on unsuspecting visitors: "No, really, I actually save this flavor 'til the end because I like it best." Maybe you try just sucking it up and eating one or two before deciding that you just can't eat them. The variety pack has sucked you and the next time you shop you are wary, maybe even feeling like it tricked you. You walk past it, knowing the value is not worth the cost. You stay strong, hurt by its trickery, and vow to never buy the variety pack again.

But time passes. You forget what happened with Variety Pack. You look and think, "It wasn't really so bad was it? Maybe I just overreacted and that flavor, while not the best, is pretty okay." So the cycle begins again. Again, that unwanted choice piles up. Again, you finally give up and throw away the lies (but only after it's sat in the cupboard for nine months or so).

And you know the flavors I'm talking about. The grape in your Runts. The oatmeal raisin in your granola bars. The grape Otter Pop. The honeydew melon in the fruit tray. Every flavor aside from the Black Raspberry in the Ice drinks. Everyone has lied to you, innocently hiding behind the shiny facade of wondrous choice. And time after time, the verdict shall be the same. They shall always trick you into trusting them. Until you actually leave the abusive relationship of the variety pack and embrace the single variety boxes who love you and wait patiently until you come back to them.

So what flavors have tricked you using the variety pack trick? And have you finally stopped, or do you just try and foist the unwanted on your friends and the relatives who give you ugly sweaters?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Chapter 1.11: Competitive Much?

Okay, I will freely admit to being a very competitive person. I like to win. And more than that (as I recently read in the book Geektastic) I like to beat others. It not so much that I want to be the victor as it is I want to beat the loser. And I am not athletically inclined. Like, at all. I missed my sister with a snowball thrown from maybe four feet away. My PE teachers were convinced one of my legs was shorter than the other because I jogged wrong. I can fall over just standing there (stone cold sober for those of you wondering). My friend Ron and I have this joke that I could be floating through the air and find something to trip over. Clearly, I'm not going to unleash that competitive streak through sports.

So I use my mind and excel in board games and card games (and some forms of computer games. Not MMORPGs, but games like Frogger and Bookworm). Actually it's probably the reason I did so well in school; I wanted to win the grades game (also explains why I loved correcting people's math papers with a red pen. Yeah, I may have had issues). I liked being able to go "What did you get?" while mostly just waiting for them to ask me so I could say "Oh, not too bad. I got a 96. I completely see where I went wrong with problem 14. I can't believe I missed it." But in a way that sounds a little less condescending, because I really didn't want to gloat. And after all, I did still have friends (albeit, friends who were good at school as well and probably just as competitive).

But back to games. I like to win and I will fight for it. I am not a bad loser, nor a bad winner (at least, I don't think so. Most of the time). But I can get a little intense. This is why no one in my family will play Monopoly with me. They've actually labeled me the Monopoly Nazi. What can I say, I really want to own that row of mansions you cringe at approaching and hold your breath as you slip past. You know, that row you pray you go to jail before getting to, just so I don't have the chance of landing there and losing $4000 dollars to rent.

Mostly, I indulge my overdeveloped sense of competition through the games on Facebook like Farkle and Word Challenge. I don't have to wait to find someone to play with and yet I can still try to beat my friends. My favorite game, and rather unsettlingly intense addiction, is Bejeweled. And the best part about this game is the scores reset every Tuesday. I can sit there and play twenty games without breaking a sweat. And I often top the scoreboard.

But I think it may be getting a little out of hand now. My mom, who also plays the game, got a very very good score recently, beating me out of the first place position on the scoreboard. Now, being number two is nothing to scoff at when the top scores are near or over 400,000 points. But I couldn't let Mom stay there. I had to beat her. I just kept hitting "Play Again" over and over. Luckily the game only takes a minute or I might have wasted even more of my life trying to win at a game that has no actual value outside the world of Facebook.

And I may tell myself to just let it go (I may even listen to myself for a while) but I know that need to be the best will come back again. For the most part, it isn't an unhealthy thirst for perfection (I know that I cannot and will never be perfect and that I cannot win at everything) but when that Bejeweled frenzy takes over, I always wonder if one day it'll go too far. Because people don't want to be outdone all the time and when they lose, they don't like to have it thrown in their face. For now, I'm okay. I'll deal with the future when it shows up. But I'll deal with it better than you ;)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Chapter 1.10: Unlocking the Secrets of the Night

Have you ever noticed that night air is so much better than the air you breathe during the day. Somehow it feels clearer, sharper, sweeter, lighter than what we have in the daytime. I have always liked the night better than the day. Maybe it's just because the night is cooler than the temperature during the day. Maybe it's that I love that feeling of emptiness that happens at night, when most of the world (at least in smaller cities like my hometown) has gone to sleep, and it feels like you're one of the few people left in the world.

Or maybe it's that same (sometimes unhealthy) quality in girls that draws them towards the bad boy. I mean, let's face it, nighttime is just inherently more dangerous. The darkness gives criminals a cover and hinders the ability to see what's coming for you. There's a reason vampires are called creatures of the night. When they were originally created, being one with the night added both to their mystique and danger quotient. It made them scarier and warned people from going out after dark, the same way most folk tales are told about what lurks in the dark.

That danger adds a level of excitement to the nighttime. Especially for young girls who follow the rules, never leaving the house at night, unless they have a specific destination, cleared with a parent. Girls who love speeding down an empty road and the way their hometown feels alone. Add a vivid imagination to the mix and is it any wonder the secret of the dark evening draws me to it? Conflict painted at night has an undertone of the unexpected violence and frightening quality of that which is just out of our sight.

During the day, you can see a threat coming at you, if not directly then at least out of the corner of your eye. At night, it blindsides you, the semi-truck with a drunk driver sliding on ice. You can't stop it and you can't get out of the way. It's the pedestrian that darts across the street and seems to fall from the sky. That's how quick and suddenly things can happen in the dark. Possibilities are just waiting for you to grab a hold of them.

Which may explain why for some reason my thoughts seem to be most eloquent and beautifully crafted late at night, often when I'm trying to get to sleep (or sometimes even when I am asleep. Seriously, I once had a dream with this lovely voiced-over speech at the end that was shockingly well said. Word for word, this is what it said: "Things done for the greater good rarely turn out that way. They are acts of evil and nothing is worth that pain. The need for vengeance is purer in both motive and execution. It doesn’t try to hide behind morals or promise of something better. It simply is rage and anguish, rolled together with a need to see someone pay for the wrong they have done and the hurt they have caused.")

Something in my brain clicks at night and suddenly any blocks are gone and writing becomes easy. Yes, I am often tired and can't write very long and at least some of it won't make sense when I read it in the morning, but for the most part I've mellowed out and the words just flow. Maybe it just comes from the near absolute quiet. The only sounds are what music I allow iTunes to softly play, and the background noise from the occasional car going down the street.

And the wonderful thing about being a writer is that schedule totally works. You can stay up until two in morning writing and then sleep until eleven or noon. This only works if you can write full time, but still. Also makes it perfect for people with IBS or other life-disrupting disorders. You set your own schedule so (if you have the self-discipline) you can do write when you're able and set your own pace.

I bet I'm not the only night owl out there, even if you aren't one because you like to write. So, night or day? Regular 9-5 work or something more free? And do you feel able to set your own schedule or do you need a work schedule given to you?

Chapter 1.9: Tiny Service Dog

So I know there are obviously some services that I don't know about that service dogs perform. I don't profess to be an expert in them. But what sort of service can a tiny dog (like the kind that fits in a tea cup) do?

We went to Costco today to pick up Meghan's new glasses and there was a woman there in a motorized wheelchair with the most adorable tiny dog I've seen since Clover. It was some kind of teacup terrier and it was so cute! Although it had a clip in its ear and wore a bandana which it probably would have preferred not to be wearing.

Meg and I cooed over her and the lady said "She says hi." Then Meg asked if she could pet her (kudos for asking instead of just doing Meg!). The woman said "She's actually a service dog, so no. But she says hi." After picking up Meg's glasses, we went around the corner and kind of started laughing. What kind of service dog could be that tiny? Meg said "I think she just didn't want me to pet her dog."

Now, I know there are some people out there who say they have a service dog when this is not actually true (Harry Dresden comes to mind) but simply because that's the easiest way for their dog to be allowed into establishments. However, I wondered if maybe this dog really was used for some sort of service. So I did what I do whenever I am in doubt: I went to the internet (*note: doesn't this remind you of the quote in Harry Potter: "Because that's what Hermione does, she goes to the library")

Turns out, there is actually a little service dog named Napoleon with his own Costco card. Apparently he helps alert his owner who has hearing loss to certain sounds when they're out. And to when people arrive when they're at home. There was also a pink poodle who alerted people when his master was having a seizure. True, neither of these dogs was quite as small as the tiny one we saw today, but maybe it still had a legitimate purpose?

What are your theories? What service could this dog perform? Or did the woman just want to keep her dog with her and not let anyone pet it?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Chapter 1.8: The Game of Life

As a child (okay, as an adult as well) I loved playing The Game of Life. I had it memorized where you'd end up on the board from any given place to according to anything you rolled (or spun, since our game used a spinner to tell you how many spaces you were moving). I even have the computer game version of it and spent a lot of time playing that as well. Joe (my friend from the last post) will testify about my love of this game from the day we spent an entire afternoon playing multiple games, both board and computer.

So I have no clue how it got into my head last night, but this whole speech, blog post, whatever, comes to me around midnight as I am exhausted and trying to get to sleep. And I had to get up and write it down before it drove me mad (because of course it had no intention of leaving me alone until I got it out). So here it is, and the scary thing is how much sense it makes coming from an exhausted mind.

The Game of Life is regular, planned out. You know that if you roll a six, you’re going to win a marathon or if you take the left fork you get a baby boy, while if you take the right, you get a new TV. You know to always buy insurance, early and a lot of it. You know that if you go to college, you get a good job

Real life doesn’t work that way. You don’t know if you’ve rolled a three and you’re on your way to a promotion or if you rolled a ten and are getting a ticket on top of breaking your leg. You don’t know if insurance will actually pay off or if you’re just giving your money away every month. You don’t know if spending $40,000 on tuition is worth it in the long run.

But maybe that’s why life is more satisfying than the game. At the end of the game, sure you may have won, but really you’ve just won the satisfaction of beating the other players at a game that is half chance.

In real life at the end, if you’ve played a good game, you have love or success to sustain you. You look back on your life and maybe you see the mistakes, the blind rolls, but you also see where fortune shined and you got more blessings that could ever come from a simple game. Any gambler knows, the more you risk, the more you win. And the more you put into life, the more you actually live it, the fuller your life feels, the more reward you reap. Maybe it’s not the reward you thought or planned for, but maybe it’s better than what you wanted. So, you want a turn?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Chapter 1.7: Candy is Evil and Why Iron Man Is My Favorite Superhero

I had not seen my friend Joe in a long time (I'd started college, he actually had a life, things just got in the way) so we decided to go and see a movie today, along with our friend Mark. There's a theater near us that shows movies for $3. Yes, the concessions price are un-freakin'-believable ($5.75 for a small soda? What the heck is that?) but at least the ticket price is low. And you can always sneak in your own candy (and even soda if your bag is big enough).

Which is exactly what I did today (I'd like to note, this only works in theaters where the staff does not care to check in on you. At an independent theater in Downtown Vancouver, this act got the candy taken away. My sister was so ticked). I had Reese's Pieces leftover from going to see The Karate Kid (actually a lot more Pieces than I thought) which I put in a Ziplock bag with some M&Ms. I then slipped this bag into my purse and waited for the lights to dim (as a side note, do not sit in a practically spotlighted area when smuggling in contraband. You're more likely to be noticed).

Now, this plan also means you have to have some self-control, something I apparently lack. Which is why about 2/3 of the way through the movie, I felt sick to my stomach and had to ask Jow to drive me home (which being awesome, he did without complaining or making me feel bad. Joe rocks). I either ate way too many candy bits, or Reese's Pieces and M&Ms don't play well together (it's an eons long battle you know, to be the top candy coated bit. Reese's think they're better because they're filled with peanut butter rather than your run-of-the-mill chocolate. M&Ms are sure they are the better candy because they have a vast variety of types, including a peanut butter one. Also, and I didn't know this until today, Reese's Pieces and M&Ms have different types of candy coating around them. The M&M one melts better, but the Reese's Pieces one stays smooth as you suck on it. Who's side are you on?)

To distract me from feeling sick, I started thinking about why I like Iron Man so much. Now, I haven't read the comics (please don't glare at me in wrath *cowers from zealous comic book fans*) but I really, really like the movie version. And I think a lot of it has to do with his cocky attitude. He's one of the few superheroes I've seen who is so sure of himself and what he can do. Maybe he's a little too sure of himself and yes, he has some flaws (no true hero can be without them) but he's so fun to watch. I expect sarcastic and witty banter every time I see him. And he's good at it.

So to sum up: Covert Candy Operations: a) choose a large chain theater or one where no one comes to check on you in the theater b) don't sit in a spotlit area of the theater c) exercise self-control
Why Iron Man is The Best Superhero: a)very charismatic b) completely sure of himself c) he's played by Robert Downey Jr. 'Nuff said.

So who's your favorite superhero? Or do you have any more tips on smuggling in snacks to theaters with outrageous concession prices?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Chapter 1.6: My Imagination Says I Can. Reality Says Hell No

Have you ever finished watching a movie or reading a book (or writing a story for that matter) and said to yourself "I totally want to be a demon slayer/journalist/wedding planner/auto mechanic"? I do this all the time.

For example, when I was writing my latest NaNoWriMo novel, I kept saying to myself, "Wow, I should totally learn about cars. That sounds like such a neat thing." I of course then had to keep reminding myself, "You are not a mechanical person. And you would get bored and then start annoying people." Which of course would totally happen. My brain is not hardwired for a special interest in cars. I pretty much classify vehicles as car, van, truck, or SUV and when taken to car shows I go "Ooo, shiny. I'm going to go read now."

Or when I read one of the Night Huntress novels by Jeaniene Frost (fantastic books. First one is Halfway to the Grave). I always put it down and I'm like "I should take up martial arts so I can be awesome and fight evil when it comes for me. As it inevitably will because I know too much. Or I'm nosy, whichever comes first." In real life, I am a 5'2" couch potato who weighs a little under 115 pounds and can get winded walking from her dorm to the other side of campus. True, I'm fast walking, and yes, size doesn't truly matter when it comes to defense, but the initial dilemma remains the same. I most likely wouldn't apply myself to the regimen it takes to be good. I took Bowling as a PE credit because all I had to do was go bowling twice a week which never required me to be particularly active.

I recently rewatched Confessions of A Shopaholic (which is a really sweet movie) and wanted to be a columnist. I wanted to write witty things that entertained people and maybe gave them advice. Never mind I didn't know what I would write about. I just wanted to be given a topic and find a way to write it in a creative way. Kind of like what I do with my blog I suppose.

I think this may be one of the marks of a good story. You've gotten so sucked into it that you want to be the main character. Not in an obsessive, unhealthy way, but in a way that make you feel warm and fuzzy and optimistic. Maybe it doesn't last long, or maybe you actually end up going and doing something about it. Maybe you finish a book with a kickbox champion heroine and decide to take a class at the community college. Maybe you watch a movie about cheer camp and grab yourself a pair of pom poms just to have some fun. Or maybe you're content to leave the hero or heroine in the spotlight, happy for the time you shared with them.

So what about you? Have you ever had this feeling of wanting to do something because of a movie or book? Who was it and did anything come of it or were you content to leave it to the hero(ine)? As for myself, I'm off to look at martial arts classes. What? Anything can happen :D

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Chapter 1.5: I Can See Clearly Now...Sort Of

I have had glasses since I was eight year old. And I am blind. Like sixty-year old woman peering through Coke bottle thick lenses at her knitting blind. Now, I love my glasses. My pair now are cute (and were extra expensive since the insurance didn't cover them because Dad's company gets crap insurance. Also because my head is neither adult size nor child size, so I couldn't just deal with any of the frames actually covered by insurance). My glasses are the reason my friend (and roommate) Ron calls me Harry.

But recently I've seriously wondered what it would be like to see the world without a set of frames obscuring my face. So yesterday I went to the eye doctor and got my first pair of contacts. The reason I haven't done this before comes from a horror story told to me by Mom about her first and only pair of contacts. They were rigid lenses and they slid off her eye, getting stuck on the side and having to be taken out with a little plunger thing by her optometrist. This little anecdote freaked me out and I figured, "I like my glasses and either way I'm going to need something to assist my vision, so why bother?"

But while I was in London, I saw a different, more mature, and I'll admit it (shallow as it may be) more beautiful Ashleigh. And I really really wanted to see her again. Part of that girl was what I looked like without glasses, so I asked Mom if I could get contacts. And being the wonderful Mom that she is, she paid out of pocket for the eye exam (because our crap insurance only covers an eye exam every two years instead of every year. Even though you're supposed to have an eye exam every year) and took me to get them.

Another reason I'd been a little reluctant before was because I thought I'd need hard lenses, which sounded really, really uncomfortable to me. But surprise! Any astigmatism I have is very little, so the optometrist said I could wear disposable soft lenses! Which makes wearing them sooooooo much more comfortable. And makes the care a lot less stressful. I throw them away every two weeks.

The receptionist helped show me how to put them in and take them out and clean them. And apparently I caught on really quickly, even if it didn't feel like it to me. I got my first pair that very day and will order the box when I go back in for my check-up next week. For the first time in twelve years, I could see my eyes again.

And damn! They are HUGE. It's like instead of my head growing while my eyes stayed their same size (which is why babies have such big eyes) my eyes grew with me. They're like the size of quarters. The nice thing about the contacts is that I don't have to worry about my super long eyelashes scraping the lens like I do with my glasses.

They are going to take some getting used to though. First of all, they're a slightly stronger prescription which is always disorienting at first. The floor tends to go all bendy when you look at it, which sucks for an uber-klutz who depends on watching the ground to keep her balance. Seriously, the sidewalks in old parts of town are my arch-nemesis who daily plot my bruise patterns and ways to make me look foolish in front of the perfectly balance. Or gravity just likes me more than everyone else. The jury is still out on that one.

Where was I? Ah, yes. New contacts. A new prescription, at least this one, makes it a little hard to focus in on things. So taking me to the store and sending me off to find the granola I want is not exactly a good idea. Thankfully, I did not just embarrassingly overlook the granola; the store did not actually have it.

It will also take some practice to actually get them in and out easily. I hate the sick, disorienting feeling of when one contact is out and one is in. The blurry/clear dual dynamic is very dizzying. However, tonight it only took me two tries to get them out! Took me forever to get them in, but only two tries to get out! Only problem is after having them in for so long my glasses make me feel a little dizzy. I really love them though; they make me feel so lovely and mature.

Wish I had a real way to end these posts. Anyone have any ideas?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Chapter 1.4: Expanding Your Worldview

Do you remember being a child, when things that seem close now felt so far away? I remember being about eight and asking my mom how far a mile was. She told me it was from our house to my grandmother's house. Which to me then, was the opposite end of town, with our church (actually only fifteen to twenty minutes away) being at the very edge of it.

Downtown Vancouver seemed like it had to be a planned day trip and my grandparents' houses in Auburn and Federal Way felt like they were at the opposite end of the country. I couldn't imagine driving further than Seattle. Surely driving past Seattle would take you right out of America.

But then in high school I had to drive to the opposite end of Vancouver every day. I expanded my mental map and suddenly my view of Vancouver was more complete and bigger. I still tried to do everything I needed to do at that end of town in one trip, but going down there if I missed something didn't seem so impossible. Then as I more often went to Portland, my small city seemed like such a blip on the map.

Within the last year I moved to Bellingham and suddenly there was something further than Seattle. Now Tacoma was close to home and Centrailia (still an hour and half from my house) was practically there. At first, the drive from Bellingham to Vancouver seemed like a cross country trek. Now, I know the drive isn't short, but coming home for a weekend is no problem. Of course, I speed, but that's beside the point.

Then this summer I flew to London. Yes, I'd been outside the country before (I went to Mexico with my family in my freshman year of high school) but this was the first time I was alone. It's different experiencing a country when you have family around as opposed to where you know no one. You actually meet people and experience the culture more.

So what is the point of this whole post? People need to travel. Travel near or travel far, but go outside the sphere of what you know. This is my new belief: the more you travel, the more you realize that there is so much out there. And you are not the only person who matters, your beliefs are not the only ones that are valid. I think seeing more of the world helps you reevaluate what you think and what you see.

Today's post brought to you today courtesy of my mind whirring when I looked at my odometer driving my sister home.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Chapter 1.3: Nerd Mobile Taxi Services

It is freakin' HOT here right now, about 93 degrees. Which I know is nothing to some of my friends who live in the south or on the East Coast where summers can be sweltering. But for those of us who melt in the sun (or blind people when its rays touch our shockingly reflective lily white skin) this is "batten down the hatches and pray you outlast the wave" weather. Or alternately, "get too hot and snap and have an emotional breakdown and sob your eyes out" weather. Not that this happens to me. I'm just saying, it could happen to some people. ;)

The last few days have been the beginning of what is now deemed Nerd Mobile Taxi Services*. This service has been the main transport of Ashleigh's sister Meghan's friends. The name comes from a running joke with Ashleigh's friends in middle school who called themselves the Nerd Herd. The Nerd Mobile was the rolling backpack that was as close to a car as any of the middle schoolers were going to get.

This service has actually changed hands over the years. As a family company, this handing over of the business has gone from mother to eldest daughter. And that eldest daughter is thrilled (for those of you unfamiliar, this is called sarcasm. If you do not understand it, do not worry. It's an acquired skill).

Under the new management of this daughter, Ashleigh, a new, formalized price sheet has arisen (along with the official name). In past years, there has been no set payment amount or method. Chip in for gas money, become a cleaning slave, free fare, or the ever popular "Mom pays your gas money so you have to drive me" have all been used.

But now, a price chart has been created. With the help of her friend Jim, Ashleigh has found the line between riches and deterrent of use (actually, really making an expensive charge is the hopeful deterrent here). There is now a flat fee of $2 to get in the vehicle. Then every 1/4 mile costs $.50. And to avoid the flaws of payment in the past (namely, payment never comes to fruition), this payment is due within three days of transport or you are put in the Nerd Mobile Wall of Shame and have your taxi privileges revoked for as much as two weeks (determined on a case by case basis).

Are the prices steep and the penalties harsh? Maybe. But taxi services are not to be used without need and careful decision. And Ashleigh was tired of driving all over Vancouver.

*Note: Nerd Mobile Taxi Services is not an actual company and is recognized by no bureau or association as a viable business.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Chapter 1.2: Browncoats

First, Happy Hypothetically Cursed Day Caused by Sunday the 1st. Also known as Friday the 13th. It's a day when you can totally slip the word triskaidekaphobia into casual conversation. I'm not sure which casual conversation, but I'm sure you can find one. Also, fun fact (which is how I know I will never misspell this word again) the word triskaidekaphobia is made of the Greek words "tris" meaning 3, "kai" meaning and, "deka" meaning ten, and "phobia" which comes from the Greek word phobos and means fear.

Now, on to business. If you are a Joss Whedon fan, there is no way you have missed hearing about Firefly. Same goes for Nathan Fillion fans or anyone who watched the movie Serenity. For the people living under a rock, Firefly is a series about what are essentially space pirates. They are rebels who take smuggling jobs and generally like to piss off the government (called "The Alliance"). But they are hilarious and sarcastic and witty and made of win. Watch just one episode and you will fall in love. It had me at "Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal".

Well my university has a club called Western Browncoats, which is a Joss Whedon appreciation society. I and my fellow club members worked to resurrect in last year and managed to get it going again. We are small but we're resilient (which is kind of a metaphor for Joss Whedon fans in general). Our president is transferring to UW winter quarter so while I had managed to not be president last year, I am taking over this year.

Which includes getting organized for the Red Square Info Fair. The Red Square Info Fair is an event that takes place during the first two days of Fall quarter at Western Washington University, after Move-In and before classes start. It takes place in the large square made of red brick with a lovely fountain in the middle. It gives new students, and even returning students, a chance to see about clubs and services that are available on campus. You can even win stuff like pens and totes.

So as president I started getting stuff ready for our table at the fair by designing some flyers. Now, I blame my mom for this (although she's gotten better at not doing this) although it may just be because my mind is a complicated place. In any case, my mind jumped for the most complicated way of making them first, which included hand drawing and lettering each of the flyers (of which there will probably be 100 or so). So I went looking for the Serenity logo as a reference picture (Well actually, I first went to find what font is used for the Serenity logo, then I went looking for the disc).

Which is how I cam across The Arizona Browncoats, a group of Firefly enthusiasts in Arizona that meet up about once a month and hang out together. And through a question about how they made their logo (thinking about something similar for a banner for our table) I found out about the PDX Browncoats. Who also have meet-ups once a month and are actually based in Portland! This makes me so happy. I shall be able to express my inner Joss Whedon nerd (okay, so she's pretty close to the surface and not really "inner" but still) even after leaving Western.

The PDX Browncoats have what they call "Shindigs" once a month which is where they just hang out and have some time to get to know other Whedonites. They also do a yearly event called "Can't Stop The Serenity" where they have a viewing of Serenity. And like random events called "Jobs", one of which was a kickball game against the Eugene Browncoats. They sound like my kind of people.

Anyway, back to the flyers, I also got a link from the Arizona Browncoats to a copy of the Serenity disc without any writing on it. Then I wrote up about twenty different little trivia questions that aren't spoilers for anyone not familiar with the shows. And voila! I came up with this:
I think it actually turned out pretty well. Especially considering I have no skill with photo manipulation. This was created using Paint, with a little help from Word. Yes, I'm completely serious. Where I lack skill, I have abundant determination. And so I manhandle what I can use to make it work for what I want. I still have to print them off and make a banner for our table, but I'm happy with this.

I am a leaf on the wind. You can't take the sky from me.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Chapter 1.1: Powell's Books

I love reading and I do a lot of it. Now I like the library and the fact that I can sort of take books I'm not sure about for a test drive before actually buying them (because, believe me, I've bought some books that were so not worth the 7.99 I spent on them). But if I enjoy a book, or I love the author or the series, I like to have that book in my collection, which currently sits at about 430 books (I have them all cataloged).

The collection that is currently overflowing off two bookcases and has necessitated the purchase of a third in the near future, where it will take over the space previously occupied by my desk. Because who needs a desk when you have books? Right now I have books two lines deep on almost every shelf in both bookcases and a giant box of the books I brought home from college. Plus a bag from Powell's that contains nine of the books I need for school and about nine books I bought for myself.

Ah, Powell's. If you are a book lover, this is Mecca. And if you've never been there, your love of bookstores is not complete. The main store on Burnside in Portland, OR, takes up an entire city block. It's four floors with seven rooms plus a coffee shop that also has books in it. It also has its own parking garage (a rather small one as it's only 40 spaces and they get about 3000 people through their doors every day but still, they have their own garage!) and all the shelves are floor to ceiling.

Now, all of that is nice, but the best thing is that Powell's is a used bookstore. If you have books to sell, you can bring them here and get a store credit for them (if the store believes they'll actually sell). Which also means that you can find books that you want but are just a little too much at regular, commercial bookstores for much less. Example: I bought a hardback copy of Bloodhound for $12 on one of my previous trips. I also regularly find paperbacks for 4.50, 3.50, or (occasionally) 2.50.

Now, I know that there are many used bookstores and while they might not be as big, they still have a good selection. So why do I go through the hassle of driving all the way to Portland and circling around vulturing for parking? Because Powell's, while being a used bookstore, is organized like a commercial bookstore. Every genre has its own section and books are orderly and arranged by the author's last name. I love used bookstores, but I can never really go there to shop for books (fatal flaw in a book lover I know, but I need order or my head explodes).

With Powell's, I get the order I need to find books with the wonderful old-world feeling of a used bookstore. The aisles are a little narrow, the books are sometimes brand new, sometimes obviously well loved, and the whole place makes me want to sit for hours and just browse. Which I will do someday, but usually I go with a parent or a friend and we have other plans as well, so I go with my favorite sections in mind, browse through them for books I want that are inexpensive enough to reassure my mind, and then make sure they're actually the ones I want. Luckily, if I have a book in mind and can't find where it would be, there are computer look-up stations for customer use.

If you're ever in Portland, find this place. You can probably ask anyone on the street and they'll know what you're talking about. Or grab a map and walk towards Burnside and 11th. Browse the shelves, wile away your time in the coffee shop, have a lemon scone. As a book lover or even a book casual friend, you'll find something to love here.

And if you just live too far way to actually visit (which is really, really a shame) you can find used books online through their site: www.powells.com.

Love your books. Love them well. And when you feel they need a new home, come to Powell's.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Prologue: Introduction

We are the muses, goddesses of the—no, wait. That’s not right. Although I do love mythology and Disney (even though when mixed together it is hilariously screwed up). So who am I? Well, that question is never quite as simple as it sounds. Three words that require hours of self-reflection and paragraphs of explanation to answer.

Or, you could just write down whatever springs to mind first (which is my preferred method). So, I am a klutzy, ghostly pale (shield your eyes when I step into the sun) maybe celiac, with a huge list of food restrictions and a penchant for sandwiches (which I have no fear of eating). I am a voracious reader with an adoration of words that could be unhealthy, but hasn’t quite reached that point. I have the socially accepted form of schizophrenia* known as being a writer. I cannot cook, but my mom is determined to teach me how.

I am a terrible artist with creative tendencies that I can’t fulfill how I want to. I am stubborn, competitive (but can’t play sports so woe be to you who challenge me in a board game), prone to believe I am right and correct people, confrontation-impaired, and at times very emotionally reserved.

I am a Harry Potter nerd, Joss Whedon fan, and yet a Christian (which does not mean I will condemn anyone for anything. But that’s a whole other blog post) I am the girl who can have fun out at a club with girlfriends and the next morning go and pick up eight new books from the library (and be giddy about both). In short, I am the complicated mass that makes up me.

Okay, so that’s who I am (sort of) but why a blog? Plenty of people out there could be described as I am above, but they don’t feel the need to blog. Well there’s one detail up that there may explain better why I have the urge to put pen to paper (metaphorically) and document the world around me. Can you find it?

If you said schizophrenia, you’re sort of right. It’s being a writer. Something calls out to me and lures me towards writing about anything that comes to mind. I did a blog for my trip to London (my first ever) and loved it. So now I’m doing something on a more permanent basis. And I don’t know where it’s going to go exactly, but I’m excited to find out. Finding out how to cook, being a senior in college before moving on in the world, trying to get published, and just figuring out life in general? Sounds like fun to me.

How do you measure, measure a year (well, however long I write this for, but that doesn’t fit the song)? With a blog! Welcome to the madness.

*I am in no way making light of schizophrenia, which is a serious and often frightening condition. This is merely the best description I’ve found of writing.