A Brief Update

Hi thinkers!

I thought you would be interested to know that I have been asked to contribute to another blog! It belongs to the book club I’m a member of on Goodreads. It’s called Classics Without All the Class — the blog is dedicated to making reading more accessible to everyone as well as sharing our love of books. They’ve asked me to share my thoughts on graphic novels. I’m also providing them with a roundup of fun, book-related events each week. This is the first time I’ve ever been asked to contribute to another blog and I couldn’t be more excited! Please check out some of the links below to learn more about the book club and my involvement.

Do not fear! I will still be updating here regularly. You didn’t think I would leave you hanging, did you?

Thanks for reading!

Links:

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Today is International Women’s Day!

I wanted to celebrate International Women’s Day by featuring a woman who has done a phenomenal job in bringing attention to women’s issues, especially in popular culture: Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency.

The best way to talk about her is to let her speak for herself in one of her best videos to date: Damsel in Distress: Part 1 — Tropes vs. Women in Video Games. It is the first video in a series made possible by her successful Kickstarter project. Please make sure to watch all the way through to the end.

I’m grateful for Ms. Sarkeesian’s ability to think critically about pop culture in a way that is engaging, but more importantly, for providing us with a vocabulary to articulate our thoughts. She reminds us that:

” …  it is both possible (and even necessary) to simultaneously enjoy media while also being critical of it’s more problematic or pernicious aspects.”

Her segment on Princess Peach’s appearance in Mario Bros. 2 brought me back to an interview I went on last year at a file storage and sharing website company. In one of

their many attempts to be “hip” and/or “clever” during the interview process, they asked what my favorite video game was. When I said Mario Bros. 2, I received some pretty condescending looks from the two guys sitting across the table. Then they looked in disbelief and proceeded to ask me why, exactly, it was my favorite game. I told them that it was the only game I remember from my childhood where I could choose another girl as a playable character. I also mentioned that I favored her flying ability. Then they continued to ask if I had another favorite game, as if somehow my answer wasn’t good enough.

So thank you, Ms. Sarkeesian for asking the unpopular questions, for bringing reason and intelligence to the table, and staying strong in the face of adversity. And thank you for reminding me that identifying with a game because it has a playable female character is a good enough reason for it to be my favorite.

How will you be celebrating?

Check out a few of these other sites celebrating International Women’s Day:

And if you have another ten minutes, check out Anita’s talk about cyber mobs at TEDxWomen:

[Thank you to Guebara for making the image above available for reuse.]

Link

Like most of you, I’ve known about Kickstarter for some time. For those of you that might not be familiar with the site, it is dedicated to funding projects through crowdsourcing. If you’re curious about the details of Kickstarter and how it words, check out their FAQs.

I hadn’t backed a project until last week when I discovered that someone was trying to get funding to publish an annotated version of Moby Dick. While the novel itself can be found for free on the Internet, the annotations have already been written and are available on online through Power Moby Dick, the project came about when the creator decided to combine both into a printed book. As a bibliophile and lover of squeezing every ounce of knowledge from anything I read, finding this was a dream come true. Unfortunately, it fell just short of raising enough money in the 30 day time period. I’m holding out hope that someone, somewhere, someday soon, will pick up where the creator left off and achieve successful funding.

A few days after discovering A Beautiful Annotated Edition of Moby Dick, I received an email from a friend about the Kickstarter she created from her work connecting startups to capital. Anna is trying to get funding in order to publish a book from the infographics she has created on business and technology. The book is called Becoming an Entrepreneur and I really hope it is successful. I really believe a lot of people would benefit from the knowledge shared in this book.

And as one novel begets another, I found Beetle Days: A Novel. The book explores human behavior through the life of a dung beetle. The author is looking for funding in order to have the novel proofread and to purchase the appropriate licenses to publish it. It’s interesting and quirky and I’m looking forward to it succeeding.

Today I discovered the Kickstarter I wished I would have known about sooner: To Be or Not To Be, That is the Adventure. The creator is Ryan North, a comic book writer. Holy beans is this project was amazing! North has combined the fun of a choose-your-own-adventure book with awesomeness of Hamlet. Take away the Shakespearean language, add in North’s funny-filled writing, add splashes of art from well-known artists, and you have this book! This project was one of the most successful the site has ever had with almost 3,000% of the original amount funded. The good news for non-backers like myself interested in To Be or Not To Be, is that North is planning on printing copies of the book and they will be distributed and sold through the regular literary channels.

Now, I just have to keep myself away from Kickstarter’s Publishing page …

Last, but by no means least, the Kickstarter I’m looking forward to will be coming from    Wrought Iron Games in their quest to fund Edgar: an alternate history game involving Victorian England, Edgar Allen Poe, Jack the Ripper, and others. It was just last weekend that my husband and I were brainstorming the number of videogames that are rooted in literature or lit-themed. We could come up with only three. It was the very next day that I discovered Edgar. Their site says that they will be creating a Kickstarter to fund the game when they are finished with the majority of the game. Until then, I will be keeping an eye out!

Which projects are you backing?

Kickstarters mentioned in this post:

Christmas DIY

This year I thought I would take it upon myself to make most of the gifts my husband and I would be giving to family and friends. I had time on my side and I love crafts and baking. I decided I would make (and decorate) different kinds of cookies — who doesn’t love cookies?! — and craft snow globes for our three nephews.

These were my projects (not in order):

  1. M&M Cookies
  2. Decorated sugar cookies
  3. Christmas ball cookies
  4. Peppermint crunch milk chocolate chip cookies
  5. Snow globes

Let’s see how I fared!

  • M&M Cookies: good, but not great — A-/B+.

I have made these cookies many times. They’re easy and oh-so-tasty. But thanks to the temperamental (large) toaster oven at our apartment, it made a simple batch of cookies rather complicated. As it turns out, the oven has some temperature problems. I recently received an oven thermometer and (not) much to my surprise, but to my chagrin, the oven heats about 25°F – 75°F higher than the temperature you set it at. And anyone that bakes regularly knows that this can be disastrous to any simple baking project.

So, instead of having nice, chewy, perfect, delicious M&M cookies, they were a bit crunchier than I would have liked. Other than that, they turned out okay. They’re a good color and they still taste delicious.

  • Decorated sugar cookies: good — B.

I got the recipe for Lofthouse Style Sugar Cookies off of Pinterest. I modified it by cutting the dough into Christmas shapes and using a completely different frosting recipe (I will share that another time). I decided to make the cookie dough about a week ago and freeze it until I was ready to bake and decorate.

I have to add a word of warning: sugar cookies can be a real pain in the ass!

This sugar cookie dough is very sticky and it took a lot of flour on the cutting board (and on the cut out pieces) to make it manageable. Then I had to fight through trying not to overwork the dough as I rolled it out.

As for the frosting, I did two different things: I purchased pre-made icing from the store and I made (and colored) buttercream icing. I used the pre-made icing to outline and decorate the cookies, and I used the buttercream icing to cover whole cookies. And it was good that I did!

Some of the cookies I baked were a little browner on top than I would have liked, so I covered them with the buttercream frosting. The ones that turned out looking better were decorated with the pre-made icing. The packaging for the pre-made stuff made it easy to decorate and there was hardly any mess. Also, I think it would have been way more work for me to try to make red, sparkly icing from scratch.

  • Christmas ball cookies: pretty good — A-.

I found these on the Betty Crocker website earlier this year and thought they’d be fun. Making them was a first for me. I thought they were fun and relatively easy. The trick is rolling the balls small enough — it is easy to roll them a bit too big.

The trouble I had here, again, was the dryness of the cookie. I imagined them being a bit softer, but I think that has to do with the oven. For the most part, they turned out cute and tasty! (But they don’t look nearly as good as the ones from the picture — but that’s always how it is, isn’t it?)

  • Peppermint crunch milk chocolate chip cookies: stick to the recipe — C.

A Pinterest experiment gone a bit awry. I had never made these before but thought they would be a good way for me to get rid of the many extra candy canes in our cupboard.

“But the recipe doesn’t call for candy canes!” you say.

No, no it doesn’t. But I often find myself substituting things I don’t like or don’t have on hand for things I do. Most of the time it works out well. This time, not so much.

I failed to realize that the candy canes, being all sugar, would melt and stick and create a mess. They also burned very easily so I had to keep a close eye on them.

So, if you’re thinking about making these cookies, I highly recommend using the Andes Peppermint Crunch chips mentioned in the recipe. I’m sure your cookies will turn out leaps and bounds better than mine.

All in all, the cookie project went pretty well. I picked up a few festive containers at Target and some holiday boxes at Walgreens. I used colored tissue paper and closed them up with decorative ribbon. The real test will be whether or not I hear anything back about them. I figure silence means they were terrible (but probably edible) and anything else is HIGH PRAISE!

Did you make anything for Christmas? If so, how did it turn out?

Holiday cookies.

Oh, as for the snow globes — check back tomorrow to see how it went!

<Thanks to moonstarsandpaper for making the cookie image available for reuse.>

Days of Giving: Heifer International

Baby chick OMG!

How do you give gifts to people that seem to have everything?

This is a problem I faced a few years ago after moving back home from college. I love my parents, and every year when I ask them if there is anything they would like for Christmas they both reply, “You don’t have to get us anything. We have everything we need.” (And then when I take them aside, separately, to ask what the other would like, they usually have a pretty good answer. Ah ha!) I hope they seriously don’t think that their only child will give them NOTHING for Christmas. That’s the most ridiculous shit on the planet.

Anyway — at the time, my mom had been saying for years about how much she missed having chickens in the backyard. (The short version of this very long story is that we always had chickens when I was growing up — Rhode Island Reds — to be exact. At age 3, I named our first one Drumstick. And a few chickens after that, too. They weren’t only egg-laying machines, but pets that were a staple in our household until my early 20’s.) I knew I couldn’t buy my parents actual chickens, so I started looking for chicken shaped items for the kitchen and backyard. Most of what I found was useless and kitschy. Somehow I stumbled upon Heifer International.

Heifer International is a non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating hunger and poverty around the world. They do this through a philosophy of “help people help themselves” by providing animals and other resources to poverty-stricken families around the world. In doing so, they’re not just providing food, but a reliable source of income as well. The organization has been building something bigger than charity alone — they’ve been creating sustainability within the communities that they serve. You can help by donating money or purchasing an animal (or other resource) to help families and communities in need. Check out the catalog by clicking this link.

So what does this have to do with the chickens? Well, that year, I purchased a flock of chickens in my parent’s name. Needless to say, they weren’t expecting that (but loved it anyway)!

Heifer International gifts are great for:

  • animal lovers
  • eco-friendly family and friends
  • college-aged students interested in politics and/or sustainability
  • active volunteers
  • kids (it’s a great learning opportunity!)

<Thanks to boughtbooks for making the baby chick image available for reuse.>

Around the Internet: the everyday sexism project

Aside

Around the Internet: the everyday sexism project

Initially targeted at stories within the British workplace, the everyday sexism project has quickly gained an international audience with a premise that resonates. It’s simple: sharing experiences of sexism in an effort to work toward equality.

There are several ways you can share and view stories of sexism in everyday life. You can check out the homepage that updates in real-time, email the creator (laura[at]everydaysexism.com), and follow/tweet the project. There are entries from both men and women describing their experiences. Reading the stories can be cathartic, maddening, disappointing, and educational.

It is definitely worth a look — and what I think is an important step in understanding the problem of inequality in an effort to eradicate it.

[Around the Internet will be a series of posts about my favorite websites — both popular and otherwise. This is the first post!]

<Thank you to for hey.pictures making the image available for reuse.>

8 Days of Giving Thanks – Day 5

In an effort to get all caught up, here’s one more reason I’m giving thanks this holiday season: the internet.
Yes, you read that correctly. The internet. 
I’m giving thanks to the internet not only for the obvious reasons (this blog, Blogger, etc.), but because the internet is amazing. As someone who loves information in an indiscriminate way, the internet is absolutely incredible. It’s an infinite amount of information, both useful and useless. And thanks to internet-capable mobile phones, you can almost literally access this information anywhere, at anytime. 
Often, I get sucked into the wormhole. I might read an article about business in China that leads me to a video of a cat playing in a box in Japan that leads me to pictures of invertebrates living at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. It allows me to participate in summits located on the other side of the globe and watch TV shows I missed during the week. I can shop for the best prices, send pictures to family who couldn’t be present to share an important moment, and engage in conversation with someone in another country who later becomes a best friend. The internet lets me go to places that I can’t physically go to every day. It allows me to gain knowledge and insight into things that I normally would not have otherwise dreamed about. 
While I acknowledge that there is a dark side to the internet, I want to spend time appreciating the positive aspects of this technological universe that has made its way into our daily lives. It’s almost everything at once, everywhere, accessible but unreachable. Irregardless …
[Thank you to codiceinternet for making the picture available here.]

Giving Thanks to the Internet: Part 1

Yes, I know Thanksgiving was exactly one week ago today. I can’t help when ideas come to me now, can I? Either way, here is the first in a short series of what I like to call “Giving Thanks to the Internet” … or it can be used as a little holiday link guide for your bestest friends.

For the lovers of all things Google, you will appreciate these two. How could I not kick off this guide without first and foremost giving thanks to the inventors of the internet! All kidding aside, it’s only right to appreciate the search engine that I know and love so dearly.

GoogleGoogleGoogleGoogle

Crazy, right? Your window is segmented into four different Google search bars. This is a great link to share with a mega-surfer/searcher. I know that this link will definitely make my internet research much easier! No more clicking though a million different tabs in my browser. No sir!

AutoCompleteMe


I can’t believe this site wasn’t created sooner. From the posts, it looks like the site has been around since the Fall of this year. Each new postbrings an explosion of laughter, I promise. At the same time, it scares the pants off of me that I share the planet with so many people who lack common sense. At least for them, Google has the answers which saves them from good old fashioned public humiliation for asking stupid questions. Speaking of which, where did that go? Oh wait, reality television.

And since I’ll be discussing Twilight in later posts, here’s one of my favorite AutoCompleteMe finds: