Wednesday Wanderings: Camping Tips, Snails are Pretty, and Boston Trivia

I don’t know that I would call all of these camping tips genius, but some are pretty clever. And still don’t make me want to go camping :) :

http://www.buzzfeed.com/peggy/camping-hacks-that-are-borderline-genius

Snails. Beautiful snails. Yes, snails. Look at these photos. See if you don’t agree:

http://www.lifebuzz.com/snails/#!EKPsd

There are annoying ads that pop up during this slide show, but some of the facts about Boston are kind of interesting:

http://bit.ly/1mvLGtB

Friday Review: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Yes, I have come late to this series, for no other reason than I have a lot of books on my TBR list, and just haven’t gotten to it before now. This is high fantasy at its best, and compares to anything you can name at the top of the genre.

Based on the War of the Roses and the Hundred Years War, A Game of Thrones concerns the ongoing battle for the Iron Throne of Westeros. Two major families, echoing the Yorks and Lancasters of history, are marshaling their forces to win the throne for their side. Meanwhile, the exiled daughter of the former king is preparing her own bid for the throne. As backdrop to the political tensions, the years long summer is ending and winter is coming. A winter that will also last for years, and bring otherworldly invaders from the far North. There are hints of an ancient evil behind the rise of these Others.

The world building is large in scope, yet doesn’t get too overwhelming once you get oriented in the land. The terrains are varied, from the far North with its almost constant winter cold, to seaports, expansive grass plains, and nearly impenetrable mountain fortresses. The cities, manors, and other inhabited places have an authentic feel, and detail is often impressive.

The real power here is in the characters. Even the secondary players are dimensional and real. There are a few who border on stereotype (good and honorable, or evil and dark), but even these have some edges and depth. Most of the major characters are believable, well-drawn, and will make you either love them or hate them. Some are hard to read, just as some people in real life are. Some turn out to be surprises, and are not what they first seem. The cast is large (and, as I understand it, gets even larger as the story moves on), but individuals are distinct enough that it isn’t hard to keep them straight.

I will add a caution here that this is a story for mature audiences. It is often brutal and bloody, and not much is spared in these scenes. Favorite characters die, often brutally, unlike many fantasies where the heroes may face threats, but always seem to escape. Not here. There is strong sexual content, also, and, while this is not a steamy romance, the sex is not glossed over, either.

A Game of Thrones is a good start to what seems to be a very rich and satisfying series.

View all my reviews

Wednesday Wanderings: Airline with a Sense of Humor, Powerful Photos of People, 10 Choices You Will Regret, and How Things are Made

This is Kalula airlines in South Africa. It’s a bit long to scroll through, but amusing:

http://www.funnyjunk.com/funny_pictures/3709527/Kulula%20Airways%20long%20but%20worth%20it

This is another long one (60 photos), but some of them are truly moving:

http://news.distractify.com/people/complex-humans/?v=1

Your philosophical link of the week, and some things to ponder:

http://www.trulybuddha.com/10-choices-you-will-regret-in-10-years/

Last, a set of gifs showing how things are made. Some are weird, some are scary, and some are just fascinating to watch:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/kellyoakes/mesmerising-gifs-that-show-how-things-are-made

Monday Musings: Change is Fun?

We recently decided to migrate most of our shared virtual world to Google apps. We are doing this mainly because it was getting more and more difficult to coordinate everything across multiple computers, phones, tablets, and all the other electronic goodies that have become so much a part of everyone’s life. Just trying to keep a calendar and contacts list up to date, and accessible to both of us was getting next to impossible. (A side note on that: Why can’t all the different platforms just agree to disagree, and make things just work? That, to me, would be the ideal for keeping us all connected- we each get to pick what suits us best, and it all just works. Together. Nicely. I’m asking too much, aren’t I?)

Anyway, what that meant is a change of email address. Whew. There was a task of Herculean proportions! For one thing, I really had no idea how much “stuff” I get in my email. I did take the opportunity to weed a lot of it out. So, things I knew I just automatically deleted without even looking at? Unsubscribe. Things that went into a folder, and had months of unopened and unread emails in there? Unsubscribe and delete. Stuff I just was not interested in anymore, but had been to lazy to stop? Unsubscribe. Most of that was easy. Most places make unsubscribing fairly painless. Sure, a few want to know why, but most have menus of choices, and one usually fit. It took some time, because I don’t get emails from all of them every day, but as they came in, I would decide: Keep or No. Most have been done. There are one or two still dribbling in.

The real hassle came with changing the email address on some sites. Why do they make it so darned difficult? If the actual spot where you can change an email address isn’t buried so deep on the site it takes nearly forever to find, the process can be painful. Again, most are not bad. Give them your password, old email, new email, and then respond to a verification email sent- not bad. But some? The hoops they make you jump through, or just the difficulty finding where to put in a new email is enough to make you tear out your hair. I discovered a few more today that need changing. Yeesh.

And, of course, that means my old email address will, at some point, be going away. Ah, well, all things change, don’t they? I will be very glad when this is done, however, and I can get back to doing useful stuff without the interruption of finding yet another place that needs changing. I’m almost there- I can feel it. Or is that just one more change email crawling up my spine?

Wednesday Wanderings: Photos of Abandoned Malls, Fossil Creatures that Look Like Aliens, and 31 DIY Things for Your Backyard

I really like these slide shows of weird photographs. The things people find and the way they turn them into art is fascinating to me. This one is of abandoned malls:

http://itsallaboutdabacon.net/completely-surreal-photos-of-america-s-abandoned-malls

We all know some of those prehistoric creatures were pretty creepy looking. Here are ten that could star in any B-grade sci-fi movie:

http://www.tor.com/blogs/2014/04/ten-fossil-creatures-that-look-like-aliens

Looking to add something cool- and a little different- to your backyard? Here are some ideas:

http://idnamyjntsu.com/31-diy-ways-make-backyard-awesome-summer/

I have my favorite places to find some of these links I post here, but I’m sure I miss a lot. If you come across something geeky, nerdy, scinece-y, fun, weird, or just plain cool, send the link. It may end up in a Wednesday Wandering.

Wednesday Wanderings: Most Popular Book in Each State, Dragon R&D, and Useless Facts

Just a few today, since I was not collecting links during my March month off.

Here’s an look at the most popular book in each of the 50 United States. Some are kind of interesting:

http://parade.condenast.com/266106/viannguyen/the-most-popular-book-in-each-of-the-50-states/

A little girl asked an Australian research lab if they could make her a dragon, and they decided to step up their dragon R&D program. This is why scientists are cool. (And check out the link at the end to see what they came up with):

http://csironewsblog.com/2014/01/06/accelerating-our-dragon-rd-program/

Last, just for the sake of giving you one more thing to waste time on, here is a link to some fun, but useless facts:

http://uselessfacts.net/

Monday Musings: Vacation’s over, and It’s Back to the (Virtual) Real World

Yes, I know it’s not April just yet, but since this is a Monday post, I’m putting it up here today.

When we left off at the beginning of the month, I had decided to take the rest of March off from most of the internet. No blogs, no social media, nothing of that nature. Sure, I still used search engines to look things up, and, I will admit, I played a few games. But for the most part, I went internet dark. How did it work out?

As far as getting stuff done, I did. Maybe not as much as I thought I might, but there was progress. I cleared some mental space, as well as some physical space. I reconnected with some things I’d lost track of in the “there’s not enough time” mindset. I found that there is time, if I put the effort into making sure there was. As we have all heard, and probably don’t truly believe, if you care about it, you’ll find the time.

What I also found out was that I have to be more on guard against my natural inclination to procrastinating. Staying away from Facebook, Twitter, and other similar things left time and space open, but the funny thing is, there is always something else to slip into that space. And many times, those other things are no more productive than spending two hours on Facebook, watching cat videos. I found I had to become aware of why I was doing things. Is it just busywork while my mind works out the knots in a problem? Or is it busywork because I don’t feel like opening up the word processor? Am I playing another game of Solitaire because my mind is wrangling with why Cass is in that warehouse where she found the thing in the first place? I know why she had to find it there, but there has to be a plausible reason she was in there. Or am I doing it because I know I should write that next scene, or look at the plot outline to fit in the changes I made, but just don’t feel like it? The first is okay; the second, no. And I know I can’t treat FB, etc. the same way, because that just occupies too much of the brain, and nothing gets worked out, consciously or not.

how difficult was it? At first, it was hard not to just pop into FB for a minute (and we all know where that road leads!). But as time went on, I found it wasn’t really all that difficult. I missed some things, I’m sure, but others kept me informed of important goings on. I missed the fun, the jokes, the silliness, and my friends, but at the same time, I wasn’t experiencing severe withdrawal, either. It will be nice to get back there, but I hope I can manage it better now. We’ll see about that one. It is easy to fall back into old habits, and I may have to figure out a way to deal with that.

Was it worth it? I think so. Just pulling back a little, and losing the feeling that I “have to” be online every minute of every day was a bit of a welcome break. A bit like a mini-vacation, all to myself. With luck, I’ve come back refreshed and renewed, and ready to move forward. So, look, out, internet world! I’m diving back in!
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Six of One

Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy by M.A. Kropp is a set of short fantasy stories. Meet wizards, imps, gangster angels, and frogs in this group of varied tales of magic and mischief. Escape from the everyday into worlds of fantasy with Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy.

Download a free sample or purchase in your favorite ebook format at:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/354855

Also available at:

Amazon:

http://amzn.to/1brIXLN

 Apple iTunes Bookstore

 Barnes and Noble:

http://bit.ly/17DmCXz

Kobo:

http://bit.ly/16ZWZXf

Wednesday Wanderings: This Time, I’m the One Wandering (Away)

Good morning! As some have noticed, there has been a lack of blog posting lately. I have excuses. Oh, yes, I do have excuses.

“We were away.” For one weekend. Nope, not good enough.

“The puppy, you see, takes up a lot of time.” He does, yes. But there are also times when he is sleeping for an hour or more. Second down.

“But he sleeps a lot in the dining room, and I can’t lock myself in the den because I need to know when he’s awake and potentially doing things he shouldn’t.” You work on a laptop. Portable. It can be moved anywhere. Third down.

“And then there is all the other stuff I have to do- laundry, etc.” See number two above. Also, he has a crate for times when he can’t be watched as closely as he needs. Fourth down conversion, no good.

I find myself not sitting at the computer as much as I used to. And that means not only are blog posts not being written neither is anything else. This is not a good thing. Obviously, there is a problem. I find the things I am working on at a standstill, with no clear picture of where to go. New ideas? Nothing that excites me or makes me want to get right to it.

What it comes down to, is lack. I won’t say “writer’s block,” because I don’t believe in that. Lack of what, you ask? Inspiration, motivation, drive, call it what you want. It isn’t there. I thought I didn’t know why, but then something happened.

I will preface this story by saying I have a nice backlog of podcasts I listen to. I try to get to at least one of each series a day, but that doesn’t happen all the time, and lately, even that has fallen aside. So-

I was listening to an episode of Mur Lafferty’s I Should Be Writing (http://www.murverse.com/podcasts) that was recorded back in November during National Novel Writing Month. This particular piece was about writing yourself into a corner and how to get out of it. Quite appropriate, because that it exactly where I feel I am: stuck in a corner, with all these “things” surrounding me, and no way out in sight. The thing that struck me was the part where she talked about the brain being too active. I’m paraphrasing and stretching her thoughts to my situation, but the basic idea was hers. Credit where credit is due, of course.

The thought process is that when you load up your conscious brain with “stuff” all the time, you don’t give your subconscious time to do what it does best- work in the silences. I haven’t given myself enough of those silences lately, I think. I put on music, and find myself humming or singing along. I put the TV on and am engaged in a show. I pick up a book and focus on the reading. And then there is the internet. Oh, yes, that lovely, tempting, alluring, vast sinkhole of a brain trap. There is always something to look at, listen to, read, respond to, and otherwise keep the conscious part of the brain entertained there. You know, there is a reason that people say they get there best ideas in places like the shower. In there, you are not using your conscious brain to do anything. You are pretty much on automatic. And that lets your subconscious come out and play.

Mary Robinette Kowal is taking a month off from the internet. She will, admittedly, be in a place where the internet is spotty and expensive, but she has done similar things before. It helps with creativity and allows for getting things done. And Neil Gaiman is taking a six month hiatus from social media, because he says he is never bored anymore, and he gets his best ideas when bored. Those two, plus the ISBW episode mentioned above got me thinking. Perhaps I need to be more bored, or more precisely, to give myself more silent spaces.

With that in mind, I am taking the rest of the month off. No blogging, Facebook, Twitter, G+, Pinterest, or any other internet space fillers. I will finish the book I am reading, and not pick up another. (That’s going to wreak havoc with my reading goal for the year, but so be it.) I will still read email, of course, and if something monumental happens, I may decide to blog it. But, in general, I will be on vacation on a deserted island with no internet or iPod. I will make it quiet, and hopefully, boring around here. I am going to attempt to take a month long equivalent of a nice, hot shower. With a little luck, it will clear the mental sinuses, open the brain passages, and let the ideas begin to flow again. Will it work? Darned if I know. I figure it’s worth a try. All y’all have fun without me, and I’ll see you in April, ‘k?
============================================================================================

Six of One

Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy by M.A. Kropp is a set of short fantasy stories. Meet wizards, imps, gangster angels, and frogs in this group of varied tales of magic and mischief. Escape from the everyday into worlds of fantasy with Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy.

Download a free sample or purchase in your favorite ebook format at:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/354855

Also available at:

Amazon:

http://amzn.to/1brIXLN

 Apple iTunes Bookstore

 Barnes and Noble:

http://bit.ly/17DmCXz

Kobo:

http://bit.ly/16ZWZXf

Friday Review: Perfect Puppy in 7 Days by Dr. Sophia Yin

Perfect Puppy in 7 Days: How to Start Your Puppy Off RightPerfect Puppy in 7 Days: How to Start Your Puppy Off Right by Sophia Yin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are a lot of books out there to tell you how to raise and train a puppy. Some are good, some are not. Perfect Puppy in 7 Days is one of the better ones. Dr. Yin is a veterinarian and an applied animal behaviorist, and she manages to put into this one small book a wealth of technique and training to get a new puppy owner off to the right start.

Let me start by saying that by no means does this book imply that if you do what it says, in seven days, you will have a completely trained dog and can quit right there. What this book does is give you a step-by-step plan to starting your puppy the right way from the beginning. You will learn techniques to reinforce the behaviors you want in a well-mannered dog. These are tips and training you can use to continue your dog’s learning in a positive, fun way. The formula also helps build trust and the bond between owner and dog.

The text is clear and easy to read, and there are plenty of illustrations to make the ideas clear. At the end of the book is a check list you can use to evaluate your puppy’s progress and see where you need to work more.
I can’t say that I have implemented Dr. Yin’s program one hundred percent, but I have used most of her ideas, and our new puppy is calmer, more attentive, and quite well-behaved for an almost 4 month old puppy. The downside of the method described here is that it will not work if you cannot be with your puppy all the time. But deciding to get a puppy is a big commitment of time for anyone, and a puppy is not the right dog for many. If you have the time and patience to work with your puppy, this book will get you off to a wonderful start.

View all my reviews

=====================================================================================
Six of One

Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy by M.A. Kropp is a set of short fantasy stories. Meet wizards, imps, gangster angels, and frogs in this group of varied tales of magic and mischief. Escape from the everyday into worlds of fantasy with Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy.

Download a free sample or purchase in your favorite ebook format at:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/354855

Also available at:

Amazon:

http://amzn.to/1brIXLN

 Apple iTunes Bookstore

 Barnes and Noble:

http://bit.ly/17DmCXz

Kobo:

http://bit.ly/16ZWZXf

Wednesday Wanderings: Hubble Images, Olympic Trivia, Star Wars Characters in High School, and Scifi/Fantasy Headgear

A gallery of images from the Hubble space telescope. Some really gorgeous stuff here:

http://hubblesite.org/gallery/album/

Since we are in the midst of the Winter Olympics, here is some Olympic trivia:

http://www.factmonster.com/ipka/A0771580.html

This week’s bit of silliness is one artist’s idea of what some of the Star Wars characters would have looked like if they were typical high school students. (My favorite? Has to be R2 and 3PO.):

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/11/star-wars-high-school_n_4767070.html?utm_hp_ref=entertainment

Okay, so maybe some of these are sillier. Hats, headgear, and helmets from scifi and fantasy. Oh, and be sure to check out some of the ones posted in the comments, too:

http://io9.com/the-coolest-helmets-hats-and-headpieces-in-science-fic-1520513599

=====================================================================================
Six of One

Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy by M.A. Kropp is a set of short fantasy stories. Meet wizards, imps, gangster angels, and frogs in this group of varied tales of magic and mischief. Escape from the everyday into worlds of fantasy with Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy.

Download a free sample or purchase in your favorite ebook format at:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/354855

Also available at:

Amazon:

http://amzn.to/1brIXLN

 Apple iTunes Bookstore

 Barnes and Noble:

http://bit.ly/17DmCXz

Kobo:

http://bit.ly/16ZWZXf

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