Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2015 Reading Challenge

2014 was the year that I started reading again. I read a lot as a child, but growing up seemed to pull me away from the pages. While I consume a lot of well written content via the internet, nothing replaces the feeling of gray matter saturated with words off of a page. Luckily, I have family and friends that are avid book-junkies who helped to inspire me to get back into reading.

I'm quite consistent in my lit choices—classics, sci-fi/fantasy, and non-fiction popular science. I also got into graphic novels and believe they are an important literary genre. But I am hoping that 2015 will bring the challenge of continuing to read more, in quantity and in breadth.

Image via Flickr; user pandora_6666

Herein enters the 2015 Reading Challenge. I spotted some Twitter friends discussing books for a couple of challenges and wanted to join in the fun. I created my own reading list by selecting some of topics listed by PopSugar's Ultimate Reading Challenge and BookRiot's Read Harder Challenge (there is some overlap between the two lists and I omitted several). I'm also going to "double-down" on some of the categories (identified by the "†"), which I think is reasonable.

I created a bookshelf on my Goodreads and will be tracking my progress throughout the year. Here's to a bookish 2015!

A book with more than 500 pages: A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin
A classic romance: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
A book that became a movie: Life of Pi by Yann Martel
A book published this year: TBD
A book written before 1850: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
A book with a number in the title: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
A book written by someone under 25: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
A book written by someone over 65: The Meaning of Human Existence by E.O. Wilson
A book that someone else has recommended to you: Killer Dolphin by Ngaio Marsh
A book published by an indie press: 30 Days by xYz
A book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQ: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
A book with nonhuman characters: Animal Farm by George Orwell
A funny book: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
A mystery or thriller: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
A microhistory: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
A YA novel: Looking for Alaska by John Green
A sci-fi novel: The Martian by Andy Weir
A nonfiction book: Quiet by Susan Cain
A book with a one-word title: Quiet by Susan Cain
A book of short stories: The Philip K. Dick Reader
A self-improvement book: Quiet by Susan Cain
A book set in a different country: Life of Pi by Yann Martel
A popular author's first book: Looking for Alaska by John Green
A book from an author you love that you haven't read yet: The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis
A book a friend recommended: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
A Pulitzer Prize-winning book: Tom's River: A Story of Science and Salvation by Dan Fagin
A book that is a retelling of a classic story: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith
A collection of poetry: 30 Days by xYz
A guilty pleasure book: The Hot Zone by Richard Preston
A book based on a true story: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
A book at the bottom of your to-read list: Blankets by Craig Thompson
A book based entirely on its cover: All My Friends Are Dead by Avery Monson and Jory John
A book you were supposed to read in school but didn't: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
A memoir: "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!": Adventures of a Curious Character by Richard P. Feynman
A book you can finish in a day: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
A book with antonyms in the title: The Agony and The Ecstasy by Irving Stone
A book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit: Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
A book that came out the year you were born (1984): The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
A trilogy: The Heir to the Empire (Thrawn) Trilogy by Timothy Zahn
A book from your childhood: Redwall by Brian Jacques
A book with a love triangle: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
A book set in the future: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeling L'Engle
A book set in high school: Looking for Alaska by John Green
A book with a color in the title: The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
A book with magic: Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
A graphic novel: Maus by Art Spiegelman
A book you own but have never read: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
A book that was originally written in a different language: if on a winter's night a traveler by Italo Calvino
A book set during Christmas: Landline by Rainbow Rowell
A book written by an author with your same initials: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
A play: Othello by William Shakespeare
A banned book: A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
A book based on or turned into a TV show: A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin
A book you started but never finished: The Reason for God by Timothy Keller

Total Books: 44

Monday, December 22, 2014

Craft, Paper, Scissors.

Paper has long been my favorite craft medium. As a young girl, I would check out all the origami books at the library, perfecting crisp and intricate folds to create figures out of single sheets of paper. One of my favorite school projects was an incredibly detailed paper-mâché electric eel (one could argue that the project really belonged to my engineer father, who designed the eel out of a corrugated tubing skeleton base).

I've made paper wreaths out of scraps and "carved" pendants out of stacked paper. As of a couple years ago, my most recent paper craft obsession is quilling (or paper filagree)—the art of rolling and sculpting thin strips of paper into on-edge artwork.

But nothing screams "winter craft project" like making paper snowflakes. The rise of geek culture over the past few years have prompted a creative challenge for artists to design snowflake patterns that are worthy of gracing the skies of the planet Hoth.

The past couple of years, designer Anthony Herrera has released new Star Wars snowflakes to try out, but I actually prefer this set of designs from Matters of Grey, because the centers have the rebel or imperial insignia. Are you more into Trek, Doctor Who, or BSG? Try your hand at these patterns.

However, my favorite snowflake designs of 2014 have to be these Nobel winning physicists. Einstein's hair is perfect for those frosty snowflake edges!

Monday, December 15, 2014

In Which I Watch Children's TV Shows...For SCIENCE!

This weekend, I discovered that The Magic School Bus was available to stream on Netflix. I spent my Saturday morning snuggling in with my pajamas, two pups, a cup of tea, and a blanket of nostalgia as I watched a couple of episodes. I thought about "The Frizz" and Bill Nye the Science Guy, and how they were just as influential as my "real life" school teachers in shaping my love of science as a kid. I wondered what science programming is available for children nowadays. Is there anything that has the potential to become an educational classic like all the shows from my childhood?

One day about a year ago, we were channel surfing and stumbled upon a kids show with an adorable looking CG-animated Tyrannosaurus rex explaining to his Pteranodon friends that "a hypothesis is an idea you can test!" My interest was piqued.

Turns out that show was Dinosaur Train, a PBS series that explores the prehistoric creatures of the Mesozoic Era by way of time traveling train. Nothing stimulates a young child's scientific imagination quite like dinosaurs. And I have no shame in divulging the fact that as childless adults, we found the show on Netflix and binge watched a few episodes.

A friend on Twitter also pointed me to Sid the Science Kid (the CGI predecessor to Dinosaur Train, both produced by The Jim Henson Company), which introduces basic scientific concepts and the scientific method of asking questions and making observations. She mentioned how the show uses age appropriate language, but doesn't make it hard for an adult to listen other words, age appropriateness without "dumbing down." This is so important in science communication!

Google searches also revealed a show called SciGirls, which is aimed at 8-12 year old girls by featuring other preteen girls doing their own science and engineering projects. In a culture that still reinforces sexist/gender-specific marketing for boys and girls (see the "I'm too pretty for homework so my brother does it for me" T-shirt fiasco), I think this show is a great attempt at empowering young girls to get interested in STEM fields.

And for older kids, nothing makes science look cool like the explosive production on Mythbusters or the wonder-filled storytelling in Cosmos.

Perhaps there is hope for children's science programming after all. None of these jump out at me as potential "classics," but who knows what our perception of media will look like in 20 years. And of course, there is a whole new programming medium for the digital age, with a plethora of great science-related YouTube channels available 24/7. I'll share some of my favorites in a future blog post.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Hello, Three-Oh

Birthdays as an adult are funny. You wake up in the morning, feeling exactly as you did the day before. Instead of child-like excitement about your awesome themed-party and presents from your friends, you feel obligated to joke about getting older, and you comment about how you've matured or grown or learned more about yourself in the past year.

Social norms. Meh.

I'm 30 years old but that doesn't mean that I'm going to give up on my child-like wonder and amazement over silly things (like getting a lion toy plushie when we saw The Lion King a few weeks ago...because I totally giggled like a fool asking the cashier for one) that I geek out about. I'm not going to "settle" into adulthood and give up on some lofty career goals I still have for myself.  I only completed 1/3 of the challenges in my "30 before 30" list that I made for myself last year, but I'm very proud of them.

Here's to more surprises, successes, aspirations, and adventures as I commemorate my existence on this small rock, making one more revolution around a yellow dwarf star, in an infinite expanding universe!

30 before 30: December 11, 2013 - December 11, 2014
  1. Blog regularly (at least 2 posts a week)
  2. Start writing science blog posts for another website/blog See my posts at Paper Droids & Geekocracy
  3. Write a handwritten letter to a friend/family member at least once a month
  4. Go to DisneyWorld OR go on a cruise  - Caribbean cruise: May 26 - 31
  5. Reach my goal weight/get in shape - I didn't necessarily reach my goal weight, but did shed some pounds and have been able to maintain this weight for a few months. I've also started doing exercises daily (even if it is something simple like stretching), and have started training in Eagle Claw style shaolin kung fu, which I hope to continue next semester.
  6. Record an EP
  7. Prepare 3 pieces of classical piano repertoire at performance/concert level
  8. Successfully complete an online course
  9. Read 15 books I'm super proud of myself for this. Even though I'm bad at updating my Goodreads account as proof ;P
  10. Get an article published in an academic journal My name is searchable on PubMed! We're also working on getting my first author manuscript out to be reviewed soon.
  11. Learn to sew
  12. Play a DnD or similar RPG campaign
  13. Carve a pumpkin
  14. Make a gingerbread house
  15. Create a budget/savings plan - This was mostly Matt, but overall we are much wiser and more aware of our finances than we have been in the past. Yay adulthood.
  16. Audition for a show with a community theatre - I auditioned for Rent and A Chorus Line back in the spring, and while I didn't get cast, I will try to audition more in the future!
  17. Complete 3 "pay it forwards"
  18. Study the Bible daily/consistently
  19. Host a house show/concert
  20. Get better at playing guitar
  21. Make our own sushi rolls
  22. Replay all the Halo games
  23. Attend a lindy hop/swing dancing workshop or dance exchange weekendJumptown Invasion April 11-13...Sadly after that I stopped going to dancing events frequently. Summer was busy, and then I just got lazy.
  24. Purchase a record player
  25. Host our families for a major holiday - We had Matt's parents over for Thanksgiving! We cooked most of the meal (well, Matt did. I was in charge of mashed sweet potatoes) and had some great conversation & game time.
  26. Plan a surprise/do something special for Matt
  27. Attend 5 live concerts - Jamie Cullum, needtobreathe, The Dear Hunter, Chris Thile & Edgar Meyer, Gungor 
  28. Complete a photo a day challenge
  29. Re-open askLOLA on Etsy or another site
  30. Start a garden

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Blog Goes Ever On and On

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

-Bilbo Baggins
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

I thought about starting a completely new blog space—start with a blank canvas and create something new and meaningful. But as I looked back at some of my old (and older!) blog entries here, the nostalgia of retracing the steps of my quirky life journey comforted me. I've been blogging here off and on for four years (!!!), and have ranted and fangirled and shared and pondered. Some posts are fun and frivolous, while others demonstrate my maturity as a writer and a person.

After much deliberation (I even started to set up a blog over on Wordpress), I decided to keep writing on this blog, keep up most of the old entries, and just pick up where I left off several months ago. Rather than truncating parts of my life that I've chronicled in words, I'm choosing to follow where this blog continues to lead me. As always, I want to think I have a plan...that I will post consistently, have great content, and readers with whom I will develop closer relationships. But I'm not going to let my perfectionist standards to overcome the simply joy that I find in writing.

So here we go. One giant step back onto the path of imperfect, beautiful, random, profound, creative, and adventurous blogging!