Saturday, October 31, 2009

Total Win for Iceland

So McDonald's is closing all its locations in Iceland (all three of them). Iceland, as you may know, is very small. It's very small and also very far from everything else. Therefore it was costing them too much to import ingredients to the Iceland stores. And now Iceland is McDonald's free! Just another reason to go there: escape the ubiquitous fast-food mega-chain. The owners are replacing the locations with restaurants with similar but local products. Good for them, I say!

Totally unrelated, there was a petting zoo in the Sunken Gardens today! I petted a goat, miniature horse, miniature donkey, alpaca, lamb, rabbit, duck, and chicken! SO adorable. In addition I watched A Beautiful Mind (review to come later) and decided on my costume for tomorrow. I am going as a fangbanger, a la True Blood/Sookie Stackhouse novels. I've looked up ways to make realistic looking vampire bites with makeup and I found a tank top that says "bite me." Yay!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Best Facebook Applications

According to me, at least...

First you have, of course, Photos, followed by Notes. The ability to tag people in both is great. I love that I can see photos of me and my friends beyond just the ones I take. Brilliant! Events, too, is a huge part of life now. If you want to know what's happening, where do you go? Facebook Events, of course (I also use Yelp when I'm in cities to find food-related public events).

My favorite games are Bejeweled Blitz, Mafia Wars, Dolphin Olympics, Word Challenge, and Geo Challenge. I also enjoy keeping track of Where I've Been with that application. I've found a downloadable photo uploader which is much more functional than the one in browser for Facebook.

Now go forth and play some flash games! Instead of researching for a 20-page paper. Yes, that's the spirit!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My foray into evangelism

This post is in response to reading The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose, and is at this point therefore quite overdue. Reading the book really helped me come to terms with something that happened in my past, which I want to share now.

In middle school (7th or 8th grade) our new neighbors the Gibsons started holding a youth group at their house. My friend Bridget from school went and that plus the fact that it was across the street convinced me to attend. There were lots of new friends to be met there, and the games and refreshments and people were a whole lot of fun. It didn't matter to me that the lessons made me a little uncomfortable, I just went for the friends. I continued to go and eventually had to start attending the high school version, which was held half an hour away in Machipongo. Again, it was the games and fun stuff (and cute boys that I would crush on) that brought me back every week.

A preface: I was raised Methodist. So that meant I considered myself Christian; however, Methodism is a far cry from evangelical Christianity. This youth group termed itself 'nondenominational' so I didn't see it for what it was, nor did my parents. It was only once I started telling my parents what they were teaching in the lessons that they got a little uneasy about me going. But they didn't stop me, because I did have a lot of friends there.

I found myself, however, believing what they told me, mostly I think to fit in. That the Bible is unfailingly true and mostly literal, that homosexuality is wrong, and that I should try to witness to my friends, among other things. I became for the most part an evangelical Christian myself, though not without a heavy dose of doubt and a bit of squirming on many of the social issues. For instance it was during this time that I met my first gay friend. I refused to believe that he was destined for hell based solely on the fact that he was different. And so there were parts of me that didn't fully embrace what I thought I believed.

I met my first and second boyfriends through the youth group. After the first one I really started questioning most of the things I had been taught in this youth group. It wasn't too long after that that the youth group began meeting at a Baptist church. I had pretended nondenominational meant whatever I believed, but I couldn't pretend I agreed with Baptist teachings. And the leaders of the youth group began belittling Methodists specifically, saying they weren't really Christians and that they were liars. Did they not know I was in their midst (as well as my brother)? I should have stood up to them. I should have said something. But I simply stopped going.

I rejected everything about organized religion, and felt a great amount of shame at who it had made me - that girl who tries to ask you if you're saved instead of being a good friend. I couldn't understand how it came over me. I rebelled against the possibility of a God, and basically just shut down any thoughts about religion or spirituality, until college. In college religion was a hot topic for intellectual conversations. But I still had little to say, mostly because then I would have to think about it.

Then I read Kevin Roose's book. Roose was a student at Brown who spent a semester at Liberty and wrote about it. He describes how easy it was and how tempting to adopt these radical beliefs. It's because you're made to feel a part of something, like a big family, and you want to belong, because the people in this family are often genuinely good people. But to belong you have to talk like them, and think like them. They'll let you in if you're different (to some extent) but you have to change to stay in. The fact that Roose struggled just as I once had made me realize that there isn't anything wrong with me. I shouldn't be ashamed that I fell into evangelism, or even too surprised. I can finally now set aside the hang-ups I had about that period in my life. And I can finally think about religion again, and realize that it's really okay that I believe in God. It doesn't have to mean I still have those poisonous ways of thinking deep in me. I know I don't think like that anymore, and so I'm allowed to have parts of that world back - I just don't ever want the whole thing.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Review: Doctor Who Series 1, 2, and 3

I'm thinking of putting my reviews on this blog since I'm not sure if two blogs are warranted. What do you think?
I have been putting this off for a long time. It looks like now there's going to be a break between me watching the first three new seasons and the fourth, since I ordered the fourth from Amazon. I had seen one or two episodes of Doctor Who previously, and liked it. But what really got me to watch the whole new series was Jeff showing me "Blink," which is the Steven Moffat episode from Season 3, which focuses on Sally Sparrow and the weeping angels. It was terrifying and well-written, and so so good. After that I decided it was high time to watch Doctor Who. Luckily for me, seasons 1 through 3 were on instant play on Netflix. And so it began.

I was hooked after about, oh, one episode. I COULD NOT STOP watching season one. I loved loved loved Rose, and really liked the Ninth Doctor, Christopher Eccleston (who was that invisible guy on Heroes!). I was upset that Eccleston was leaving because I did like him oh so much. But that lasted about five minutes (well, once during the Christmas special the Doctor actually starts doing stuff). And so began my full-blown obsession with David Tennant. And Doctor Who in general. I loved the first season but was completely and irrevocably obsessed by the second one. I cried, hard, at the end of the second season. I loved Rose Tyler. I miss her. The third season Christmas special was ok but I don't like Donna (so... err... hopefully she doesn't suck so bad for the 4th season). I liked Martha, though.

Ok, so a more specific season-by-season review.

Season 1: Best episodes were "The Empty Child" and "The Doctor Dances," the Steven Moffat-penned two-part episode. I have a theory about the dancing metaphor but anyway, ask me about that later if you care. "Dalek," "Father's Day," and "The End of the World" were also good. In addition, I liked the finale, "Bad Wolf" and "The Parting of the Ways." None of the episodes were particularly bad. I do like Captain Jack Harkness, too.

Season 2: Definitely my favorite season so far. David Tennant, as mentioned, is absolutely brilliant as the Doctor. The Christmas special was great, "The Girl in the Fireplace" was marvelous (Steven Moffat - see the trend?) as was the two-part "The Impossible Planet"/"The Satan Pit." I loved the introduction of K-9 in "School Reunion" and our glimpse of Sarah Jane Smith. The two-part Cybermen episodes were quite good as well. The finale was heartwrenching and great. So basically, no duds. However I must say in the first season and the beginning of the second I hated Mickey Smith. I wanted him to go away. He finally gets less annoying in the second season, though, and by the end of it he's alright by me.

Season 3: Rather hit or miss. I do like Martha, she's pretty much great. But there are definitely duds in this season (notably "The Lazarus Experiment," which was just bad, and the two-part Dalek episodes, which were amusing but not great). "Blink" is by far the best episode in the season. I also enjoyed "The Shakespeare Code," "Gridlock," and "42". The final trio of episodes is good too - especially the last one. I like that they brought back Jack Harkness, and that they hinted that he might be the Face of Boe...

I am looking forward to getting my season four in the mail! There's a Pompeii episode, which will be delightful since I'm a Classics major. hehe.

Doctor Who overall rating: A++++++
Season One: A
Season Two: A+
Season Three: B+

Down with the Sickness

It all began late Wednesday night. I was home from juggling club, having just gotten a call from my friend Edris saying he needed me to take him to the airport at 6 the following morning. I told him I'd pick him up at 6:30 and I came home to an early bedtime. I did not sleep very well, coughing and having a lot a drainage and so on. The morning came (too early) and I did not feel very well, but wrote it off to simply being up too early. I drove to Norfolk and back (in record time, too). I was back at about 8:15 and decided to nap instead of go to class. I climbed into bed with all my clothes on, including a sweatshirt, but I was still freezing. This should have alerted me, but ah well. I went onto campus around 11 to go to lunch with my mom. I definitely wasn't feeling well. As we ate at Baker's Crust I felt cold and hot, alternatively, and began feeling rather feverish. I called for a health center appointment upon returning to campus and got one within the half hour. Sure enough, I had a fever of 101 degrees. They did a test for the flu, which came back negative. I was told to go home and drink lots of water and rest and treat the symptoms.

Thursday though the fever was high I didn't feel all that bad. I read and slept and watched some Doctor Who. Friday I felt pretty miserable. Still had the fever, and I couldn't do much of anything but sleep. I sweated through all my clothes sometime late Friday, then Jeff came to take care of me. Saturday I was still weak but feeling better. Still slept a lot, still had a fever. Suz came over and helped Jeff cook dinner. Sunday my fever was gone but I still just rested - though I actually went out to lunch with Jeff. He left after that. Monday I went to my one class and then slept the rest of the day. Today, Tuesday, I am still wiped but recovering energy, for sure. Took a long nap between classes but actually made it to both, and to critink!

And so, I have no clue how I got the flu or whatever it was, but I am recovering nicely. Hopefully it was swine flu so I don't have to have it anymore....

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My day in snippets

Two men handing out the little green pocket New Testaments outside of the Caf.
All-vegetarian food at the Caf, which elicited many outraged comments, especially from males and athletes.
Gorgeous Cheese Shop employee, extremely enthusiastic about cheese, hands me a sample of the cheese of the day.
Man and woman on a trike with a little dog in a bag in the back.
Guy on a stool in CW shouting about salvation. His friends try to hand me a card but I reject it.
Sat on Sunken Gardens and read.
Extremely long class.
Tea and chat with Kat at the Grind.
Dinner with Kat and Reland.
Took Edris to get his ear pierced.
Icing girl: "But you two make such a cute couple!"
Her boyfriend telling me about all the hot babes and MILFs who come into B&N.
B&N employee who knows my family.
Vegging out at Juggling Club.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Word of Advice to Writers

If you're a writer like me who prefers to type their work, I have a piece of advice for you. Never, ever, ever, ever simply type your work into something on the internet (such as a blog post, or a poetry post form on AllPoetry). I guess I'm violating that right now, but this is not a story or poem so it's alright. Always, always type first into Word and obsessively CTRL+S. If possible, do this while hooked up to an external hard drive. And save to that external as soon as you finish. I know computers are unreliable, but the internet is even more so. I had learned this lesson before after losing some poems, but I ignored it yesterday, as I happily spent 3 hours typing up a story - into LiveJournal (God knows why I decided to use LJ instead of Blogger - I don't think I would've had such a problem on Blogger). It was autosaving often, and so I felt fine. I was getting ready to go to dinner so I stopped at a stopping point and pressed Publish. It said it published successfully. Always one to check, I clicked 'view entry now.' There it was - the first paragraph of my story. Nothing else. An entire day's work - all gone. Now, on Blogger the autosave automatically makes a draft. Not so on LJ. You have to manually create a draft by clicking 'save'. And I hadn't done that. Of course not. I haven't yet rewritten the story - but you can bet I'll be writing it in Microsoft Word. It almost makes me paranoid enough to make me want to write by hand, but I haven't done that in forever and know it takes far too long. Ah well, c'est la vie.

Friday, October 16, 2009

My interest in LGBT activism

Having attended the National Equality March, I have had some questions along the lines of "why are you so interested in LGBT issues?" So this post will attempt to answer that question.

I am interested in human rights in general, and I started being interested specifically in LGBT rights in college. I think the first time the importance of equal rights really struck me was during the Bone Marrow Drive freshman year. I was working one of health history tables, which is where they look over your info and take your cheek cell samples. A guy came up to me (I have no idea who he was) and sat down. I looked at his paperwork, which has a spot where you put if you have any of the AIDS risk factors. He was gay, but he had noted that he had recently been tested and was HIV negative. I called over one of the nurses. She told me we had to decline him. This man was willing to give his bone marrow to save someone's life, but I had to tell him he couldn't. It was crushing for me to have to say that to him. I felt terrible (and I still feel bad about it when I think about it). Clearly society values some people less simply for their sexuality. This didn't seem right to me.

I had already encountered discrimination against people. I come from a rural, intolerant area (in many ways - not just of LGBT identified people). I made my first gay friend in 11th grade - I didn't grow up around anyone openly very different from me, but my parents raised me to be open-minded, loving, and tolerant. This friend had a lot of issues due to his family's refusal to accept who he is and teasing and ridicule at school. So I knew there were injustices. In addition to that, I had fallen in with a group of evangelical Christians who preached the wrongness of homosexuality (I never really bought it, personally, which I'm glad about).

Not long after the BMD incident, I made a lot of friends in the Lambda Alliance. Now I am a great proponent of many of the movements for LGBT rights, and have been involved in some activism. I really think everyone deserves to be treated equally, regardless of any differences they may have. So there you go.

PS - if you want to see my story on the National Equality March (which made the front page!!!) go here.

Climate Change

So, I missed Blog Action Day slightly (because I was writing a Flat Hat article instead, which I'll put up tomorrow). Oops. The topic was climate change. I agree that climate change is a pertinent, important issue. Through polluting our environment we are making a negative impact on our earth, and it is really up to us to stop that. Seas are rising; soon there will be less beautiful places to travel to (and by that I'm implying everywhere is beautiful, not that being close to sea level makes a place beautiful). The place I'm from is not very high off sea level, and I worry that might be affected. I try to reduce my negative impact on the environment by recycling and making eco-friendly choices when possible. But even if I could eliminate my impact entirely, one person's efforts are not nearly enough. Individuals, though certainly they can help, cannot effect the kind of change necessary to repair the nature we've harmed. We need to get governments to pass laws which will stop manufacturers from polluting, and will cause automobile designers to make greener cars, among so many other things. Perhaps this is nothing new, and isn't saying much. But it is just a plea to care about climate change, and start taking steps in your own life to be a better friend to the environment. Also, check out other blogs that participated here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Maryland Renaissance Festival and National Equality March

Basically copying my Yelp review for the Ren Fest:

This was my first renaissance festival. I was surprised at how affordable the food was (I had sort of been expecting Busch-Gardens-level expensive) and how delicious it was. I had macaroni and cheese on a stick (yes, it's possible) and a baked potato and tried some of my boyfriend's turkey leg. The shops actually had some high quality stuff (not kitschy at all). Watching the jousting was fun, and the German juggler had some cool tricks and was mostly funny. I was tempted to ride an elephant because I've always wanted to, but I wanted to save that experience for something more than a glorified pony ride. The best part is just watching the people. My boyfriend commented that it would be a time-traveler's nightmare, and I bet he's right. Nevertheless, it was good fun. I will second, however, another Yelper's comment about people smoking - it was quite inescapable, so keep that in mind.

As for the National Equality March, it was incredibly inspiring. Nothing like being with hundreds of thousands of people who are all gunning for the same change you want to see to brighten your day. On top of that, there was a spontaneous rainbow on the sunny, clear day, which we took as God's approval. Of course. I believe in rights for everyone. I don't think being slightly different should mean you hold less worth as a person in the eyes of politics. I stood by my LGBT friends and fellow allies as we marched passed the White House and up to our nation's Capital Building. I took a lot of pictures which I will share later. There were many signs; some funny and some simply true. I only saw 3 protesters, and they weren't doing a very convincing job. There were many states and colleges represented (people from Alaska, Princeton, U of Wisconsin, and Harvard, among those I saw). There are so many people who just want the same freedoms that the normative culture enjoy (marriage, the right to serve openly in the military, immigration rights, etc). I hope that the nation saw all of us in all our different shapes, sizes, colors, and personal identities and was inspired by that.