Archive | May, 2012

Nightmare City

30 May

For future reference, don’t read up on the Wendigo myth of North America right after looking at the Norse Eddas. Because holy shit man, that was some freaking terrifying things my brain came up with last night. Real horrowshow stuff. Gah. Creeping horrors and cannibalism and small children. It was like a Stephen King novel, except well researched. I woke up twitching.

On the other hand, my Camp NaNo plot fell into my brain almost entirely in one piece this morning as I was trying to scrub the nightmares out of my head, so it wasn’t all bad.

Yes, I’m doing Camp NaNo this year. 50,000 words in 30 days; only this time, it’s summer! My aim this year is to do a complete story, not just hit the wordcount goal. Big talk, I know. I figure it’s about time for me to write a self-contained novel this year. We’ll see how this goes.

Mental Health Break

28 May

I’m an information junkie. I get twitchy if I’m not plugged into at least one device at a time. Currently, I have music running, fifteen open tabs on my browser, a half-watched movie on pause (the first Robert Downey Jr Sherlock, fyi), and three half-read books waiting for me on calibre. When the internet goes down I panic. When my laptop runs out of juice, it’s the end of my world. Last summer I suffered the worst torment imaginable when I arrived home from college to find that the house had no internet access and all the books had been boxed up. I was irritable the entire two weeks before my precious internet access was restored.

This information addiction isn’t all that strange. Our brains have been wired to find information rewarding. When you learn something new, dopamine neurons are released, so novelty-seeking is a pleasurable activity for your brain.* Of course, this ADD approach to information isn’t without downsides: the dopamine system doesn’t have satiety built in, so you can end up refreshing that page over and over, with less positive results as time goes on. Puts checking your Facebook and email ten times a day in perspective, doesn’t it?

Today, when trawling through tumblr, I came across the quiet place. It’s a 90 second relaxation exercise. Even jumped up on caffeine, I found it to be clever, cute, and very, very useful. So next time you find yourself stressing and the calming manatee isn’t enough, head on over there for some soothing music and deep breaths.

*Science parts have been stolen from here and here. Yes, I realize the irony about having a bunch of links at the end of a post on stopping and just taking a break for a minute.

The Great Firewall

25 May

Yesterday, my VPN died an ignoble and inglorious death. Thankfully, after a bit of computer necromancy, I managed to resurrect it today. But for one whole day, I had to deal with the Chinese internet, and boy, was that a pain.

For one thing, I had forgotten how much the Great Firewall censors.

For those in the audience who aren’t computer geeks, a VPN (or virtual private network) is what allows me to surf the net without those petty restrictions the CCP thinks should be available to the general public. Basically, I have a little program on my laptop that, courtesy of the University of Florida, makes my internet connection believe it’s sitting in Library West. Technically, it’s meant for accessing library resources off-campus. In practice, it means I can get to the sites I want, without paying money for another VPN service.*

Yesterday, I was reminded quite abruptly of what the Great Firewall believes is inappropriate. Facebook, Youtube, tumblr. No dice. Blogger, IMDB, Livejournal. Gone. THIS SITE ITSELF. No access to WordPress at all – so almost no blog update. Half of those random links you go to? Gone. It was infuriating. And the sites you could access? Incredibly slow load times. Like, I think we had a dial-up modem in the 90s that was faster.

On the other hand, Baidu and Tudou were practically lightning speed, even for videos. Well played, Great Firewall. Well played.



For more on this topic, you should read James Fallows’s report on the Great Firewall, found here. It’s an oldie but a goodie.


*To my credit, I have used it to access library resources while not on campus. How do you think I did any research at all here? Baidu? Don’t make me laugh.

The Saga of Biorn

23 May

Still sick. Alas. Here’s some more awesome filler.

It’s a short video about Vikings. I have a soft spot for Vikings. I mean, yeah, they raped and pillaged coastal Europe for the good part of a millennium, to the extent that the Lord’s Prayer had a local addition to the tune of “please keep the northmen away oh god oh god” for most of coastal Northern Europe. But their mythology is interesting as all get out. I mean, this is the culture that brought us Thor, Loki, and Odin. Where would we (and the Avengers!) be without that?

Sick Day

21 May

Sorry guys, but you’re not getting anything impressive from me today. I appear to have come down with a nice case of consumption this weekend and anything more mentally stimulating than looking at pretty pictures is kind of beyond me.

Here’s a portrait series of the 2012 US Olympic Team from the London Telegraph. I think they look like a bunch of winners, don’t you? But honestly, the sheer variety in sports leads to a whole lot of different athletes. And they all look cool.

All right, I think that’s about as much higher level thinking that you’ll be able to get out of me. I’m going to curl up with a cup of hot tea and Buffy season 2.



18 May

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that dragons are awesome. Personally, I started with Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series early on – I wanted to be Menolly, circa Dragonsinger, so very bad – and never really got over it.

I know this week has been video-heavy, but trust me, this is awesome and probably will make you cry. Because it is that awesome. It’s a project done by Toniko Pantoja, a second-year at the California Institute of the Arts, and probably has more heart than the last three movies you saw, unless one of those movies was by Pixar.  (Seriously, Pixar? Give this dude a call.) 

Crayon Dragon

His other film is about gangsters and stage magicians. It’s a little shorter but still very fun to watch.

Serenade to Miette

h/t Liz

Marriage Equality for All!

16 May

I know, I’m late to the party. But I still have all sorts of FEELINGS on the whole matter. Mostly, pride. Once again, Barack Obama proves that he totally deserves my vote.

Of course, this historic announcement is tempered by a bit of cynicism and reality. The inestimable Jay Smooth of Ill Doctrine lays it all out.

On the whole, I’m still pretty positive about the whole thing. I mean, as a cisgendered woman with no real interest in marriage, I really don’t have a dog in this fight, but I can recognize the steps forward and cheer anyways.




Outer Space

14 May

Here’s a cool video on Saturn that was made using only footage from the Cassini and Voyager space missions. SPACE IS COOL, GUYS. I am all about more funding for NASA.

h/t The Awl.

Baktus Scarf

11 May

My last knitting project was an incredibly intricate pair of socks (see Nutkin). My normal routine after finishing a long project is pretty predictable. First, there are a few days of blessed freedom, before the knitting bug starts getting to me. I start two or three projects in a row before frogging them in favor of something else. And then I stumble on my next pattern.

I picked out the baktus scarf pattern specifically for the yarn in question. I had bought a skein of Noro Silk Garden sock yarn at my favorite shop, the Knitting Cove, last Christmas. It was sitting in my stash just waiting for some free time. And so, I searched Ravelry for a pattern that would compliment the color pattern but wouldn’t use up too much yarn – I only had the single ball.

Enter Baktus. It’s dead easy and mindless enough that I can actually read on the computer and knit at the same time, albeit slower than normal. It showed off the colorway nicely, and it was blessedly uncomplicated in comparison to my previous sock projects.

I finished this one relatively quickly. It helped that I had a trip to Hong Kong and needed something to kill time in transit. I met a fellow knitter in Hong Kong, which was pretty cool.

This ended up being a gift for a friend’s birthday. For whatever reason, I almost always end up gifting away most of my knitting projects. (Except for the tragic mistakes, of course. Those hide in the bin of shame, aka my sock drawer.) Hope you enjoy the scarf, Kate!

Sail Hard

9 May

Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of my favorite writers.  He’s been going over the topic of concussions in football, and how those injuries can build into something terrible late in life. Depression, memory loss, etc. It’s horrific to think about and I shuddered when going through the thread on Junior Seau and then the absolutely fantastic piece of journalism that is the GQ article, but thought to myself, “hey, I was smart, I never played a full contact sport, at least I have that going for me”.

And then the other day, TNC posted about his own schoolyard concussion and then the Horde joined in about their own sports injuries.

And my god, it was like the boom hit me in the head again.

I was on the sailing team for my entire high school career. I spent about four years, give or take, on the waters of Port Jeff, traveling to regattas across the northeast. My team wasn’t particularly good – someone has to come in last and I was totally willing to bear that cross and hold up the rest of the competition – but we had our moments. Usually they were moments of epic failure, like the time our A team turtled their boat, couldn’t get it back up again due to water in the air tanks, and were in danger of actually hitting the Throgs Neck Bridge before the crash boat rescued them at a regatta at the Merchant Marine Academy. Or on the rare occasions when I skippered, often sailing off in the wrongish direction for long periods of time, causing palpitations in the land-bound onlookers. In my defense, I rarely wore my glasses when on the water after that time the boom hit my head and actually knocked them off into the bottom of the boat*, which was also the same ill-begotten race when my captain slid right off the back of the boat, leading me to turn around and see that NO ONE WAS STEERING THE DAMN THING. (dani? DANI?! OH SHIT.)

Mostly, being on the sailing team lead to a lot of wacky hijinks.

But still, one of the main things about CTE is repetitive jostling. I don’t think a single practice went by without me banging my head against the solid steel boom at least once. We all got conked on the head. It was a rite of passage, one that expert sailors grew out of. But I will never qualify as an expert sailor, unless my competition is a bunch of Bedouins who can’t swim.

I can still remember that suddenwham feeling, the boat shifting underneath me and not ducking under the swinging boom fast enough. I’m pretty sure I never took a truly nasty hit, the kind where you black out for a few seconds, but half my team did. I saw stars often enough.


And I thought I was being smart for avoiding football.

*Proving my point exactly.