Friday, December 3, 2010

THE END (of the year) IS NIGH!

Not quite sure where all that time went, to be honest, but it means I'm inching ever closer to a mobile upgrade... iPhone 4, you will be mine! (Sorry, Android... I wished so much for you to be an equal for Apple, but it is not meant to be.)

Time for various updates!

NaNoWriMo -
As I thought, I didn't finish. But not too bummed out... I've got research material from the library, and plan to take my time on it and let it develop. Will eventually come up with a working title and continue with monthly progress updates here.

Foxes & Chickens -
I've got the card backs designed, as well as the Fox and Chicken cards (though I might now make each illustration different). I was able to playtest a bit with a group of friends at our Thanksgiving gathering last weekend. We didn't play with all roles (just 2 foxes, 5 chickens, the Little Chick, and the Farmer), but I think it went quite well. The only sticking point was the constant joke that not only were the foxes in chicken suits, the farmer wore a giant chicken suit as well. Might need to adjust rules/instructions to make it clear that the chickens would recognize the farmer as a member of the farm, and therefore not question his being there. (This would also be the case for other non-chicken farmyard characters: the ducks, the turkey, the rooster, and the farmer's dog).
Sadly, this won't be done in time for Christmas, but hey, there's Valentine's Day and Easter coming up... and it would be a nice birthday gift.

Etsy Store -
I haven't put up any new products yet because it's been a busy few weeks... more busy that I thought! However, with the bank holidays for Christmas coming up, I should be able to get at least a few things up, including some valentines! I've been wanting to make valentines for ages, but never remembered until February started. NOT THIS YEAR! They'll be geeky and science/math themed.

I've decided to relearn calculus (and finally get the hang of my mathmatical nemesis: matrices) and teach myself about physics (as I was quite silly and didn't take it in high school). Currently reading Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything (after having it recommended to me numerous times over the years*) and loving it. I've also got a new project in my head, which will be a fantastic outlet for my love of illustration/design, science/math, skepticism and critical thinking. Don't want to say much though, as I tend to zip between projects like no tomorrow. So we'll see! I should be able to say more come the new year.

I still want to finish my Bible reading project... just need to find it again, as I haven't seen it since we moved house.

I'll update again on Sunday, with recommendations for good educational books, films, and programming that I've come across recently. For now though, lunch hour is over and I've got to get back to work.

*The first glowing recommendation being from my neurobiology professor in college. This was during the short period I decided to double major in art and psychology, but then realized I'd take an extra two years to graduate.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

NaNoWriMo and Upcoming Etsy plans

Hello, boys and girls. I just realized that I haven't updated since October! Here's the skinny:

1) NaNoWriMo
I'm still chugging along, but it has become abundantly clear that I am most likely not going to finish those 50,000 words by November 30th. But that's okay. I've already written more than I have in my life, and I'm still going to finish this novel I'm working on... it just might take until the end of December. I'm actually pretty excited about it. It's changed quite drastically since I started.

2) Look out for new products in my Etsy store in the coming week or so... just in time for Christmas!
Yep, I'm buckling down and getting some more products made and put up, including more drawings, paintings, some plushies and...

3) Foxes and Chickens - a Werewolf/Mafia variant
I'm making a kid-friendly Werewolf varient called Foxes and Chickens... all about the chickens trying to detect the foxes in chicken costumes and chasing them off of the farm. I'm currently working on the illustrations and have sorted out what I'd like to do with packaging. Just have to finalize the drawings this weekend and send everything off to get printed. I think it's going to look fantastic.

I'll post the design for the back of the cards as soon as it's complete.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

We've moved! An update of sorts.

Hello! Haven't updated in ages. Why? We were busy moving house... and then BT took a week to get our internet sorted.

Here's a list of what's been going on:

1. We moved!
We now live in Bletchley instead of Newport Pagnell. A bit further from work now, but it's a good flat and a good location, and for once we have friends that live locally!

2. Roller Derby!
I'm getting a lot better at skating now. I even took part in some newbie scrimmaging two weeks ago. I've also picked out my skate name (H.P. Lovecrash) and number (751).

3. Handicrafts! With Yarn!
I'm crocheting a jumper. Why? I found a crochet magazine with an easy looking pattern for a hoodie, and I live near a craft store now (so yarn practically begs me to take it home and do something with it). I'm about halfway done with the back. I'll post pictures when it's finished. I also want to start making some more amirugumi as well, and try out some scientific knitting and crocheting. I've got a wickid idea for a scarf made out of a chain of neurons.

4. NaNoWriMo!
I am insane. I've decided to attempt National Novel Writing Month again, with slightly more effort on my part this time. You can find my author profile by clicking the image to the right. If you're taking part, you can add me as a buddy! I'll also toss up a word count widget, once they're available on the NaNo site.

And that's about it for now. Stay tuned for a Halloween post this weekend about classic horror flicks!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Movies and musings

I've watched two documentaries over the past few days. Both have given me insight and have made me want to delve further into their subjects, but only one of them made me a bit... well, a angry is not the right word. It's also not for reasons I would have first thought of. I'll be writing more detailed reviews and findings after I've had some time to step away and look at them more objectively and complete some personal research and investigations. For now, though, my initial thoughts:

Religulous was up first, Bill Maher's exploration of religion. To be honest, I was expecting it to be a lot more incendiary than it was. However, Maher was really a nice guy to everyone he met, even though he'd try to poke them into a bit of healthy debate. He mostly focussed on asking questions. I also learned that many deities actually share a lot in common with Jesus Christ; more than I had realized.

Tonight, I watched Ben Stein's Expelled, which is about Intelligent Design. I'll be honest: I was expecting to be really angered by this film.While I think the use of the imagery of the Berlin wall and Nazi Germany was more than a tad heavy-handed, they did seem to have a point and made sense within the Intelligent Design arguments. Great pains were taken at the beginning of the film to separate ID from Creationism. That ID did not have to be viewed from a religious perspective, and was merely proposing that life was kickstarted, or designed as it were, by some form of intelligence. This, I thought, could be plausible. I would love for the stigma to fade and allow research in this arena. It was towards the end of the film that I became angry. That's when the previous statements that religion (or specifically, Judeo-Christian) did not have to be involved in ID... well, they were blatantly ignored, in favor of capital "g" God being that specific intelligent designer. This, I think, detracted from the whole film.

As stated above, I'm going to do a bit of research on my own and take a step back before I write a proper blog post about either film.

*   *   *

And now, some snippets about life in general:

On Saturday, My friend Rach, her boyfriend Mark and I attended our first roller derby bout. It was a battle royale between the London Roller Girls and the UK Allstars (a team made up of the best derby girls from the rest of the country). London won by quite a margin (they have been at it longer than everyone else), but the Allstars received the most cheers by far (perhaps this was because were were in High Wycombe and not London). It was great to actually see the sport in action outside of practice jams. Now I just need to get the hang of skating... more practice!

Today marks one year that I've lived in Britain. It was a rocky start, but I think I've come into my own and truly feel comfortable here.

Tomorrow is my husband's birthday, and he's spending it as a contestant on ITV's The Chase. Good luck, Michael!

*   *   *

Lastly, here are a few podcasts I've been enjoying lately. All can easily be found on iTunes:

WYNC's Radiolab [link]
Radiolab explores a myriad of topics and threads stories and interviews together beatifully and with fantastic production values. Because of Radiolab, I now know about the terminal velocity of cats falling out of buildings  as well as face-blindness ( neuroscientist and author Oliver Sacks and artist Chuck Close both experience this condition).

Hometown Tales [link]
The Hometown Tales blog looks like it hasn;t been updated in a few months, but they're still putting out podcasts about every three weeks or so. Very much one of those "two guys shooting the shit about X" podcasts. The X in this case stands for hometown tales, folklore and urban legends. The great thing is, it's not about these stories being true (in fact, most of the time hosts Bryan and Gene don't think they are), it's about the fun of telling the stories themselves. There is also a separate feed of video podcasts available, most of which were segments from their old public access show.

Chortle: the Peacock and Gamble Podcast [link]
First off, don't listen to this at work unless you're wearing headphones and are prepared to be stared at by your coworkers as you gasp for air after loud fits of laughter. It's rude, it's crude, and it is utterly fantastic. Again, it's two blokes shooting the shit here, but the twist is that they're both actually professional comedians... who are both mental. I first saw Ray Peacock on Russell Howard's Good News on BBC3... the same night Matt Smith debuted as the Doctor, I believe. Michael actually started listening to the podcast first, and I hadn't given it a shot until a week or two ago. Now I'm hooked. After a bad day at the office last week, I listened to an episode on my way home... and it cheered me right the fuck* up.

*OH NO! I DID A SWEAR! Actually, I said "shit" a few times too, so I did many swears. Oops.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Scientology on the BBC's Panorama

A couple of nights ago, I watched Panorama on BBC1 with my husband, Michael. The subject? Secrets of Scientology.

I'd heard a lot about Scientology through the media in recent years: Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah's couch and going ballistic against mood-altering drugs prescribed by the psychiatric community; Isaac Hays leaving the cast of South Park after an episode criticizing Scientology was produced; and the frightening tale of Lisa McPherson.

The Panorama program focused mainly on the negative effects of how the church was operated, and not so much on its teachings. Personally, I think people have a right to believe what works for them. If Scientology is the way for you and makes you happy, that's fantastic! However, I do think that the way the Church of Scientology is run and many of its social practices aren't doing it any favors.

When asked what they think of the fact that many people believe Scientology is a cult, the reaction of church leaders and high level practitioners is one of deep offense. The person asking the question is not calling it a cult themselves and simply wants to know how these Scientologists feel about these statements. I've never seen or heard an honest answer to this question. Granted, I haven't been actively looking for one yet.

As a part of my great personal education caper, I'm going to be learning a bit more about Scientology. Dianetics is on my To Read list of religious texts. I want to understand why so many people flock to this church, while so many others condemn it. I want to find out if beyond the controversy there is some positivity. And I want to know if the rumor that L. Ron Hubbard started Scientology to win a bet with Robert A. Heinlein has any shred of truth behind it.It probably doesn't, but wouldn't that be both impressive and horrifying at the same time?

For now, check out the links to various Panorama reports about Scientilogy (including the one from 1987 with some dreadful animation depicting the Xenu space opera, supposedly shared at Operating Thetan level III). I've also included a clip produced by the Church of Scientology as a rebuttal to Panorama's 2007 program. Enjoy!

YouTube links:
Panorama: Scientology the Road to Freedom? (1987) 
Panorama: Scientology and Me (2007)
A section of Scientology's Response to the above [there are many more clips from this rebuttal that can be found in the list of related videos for this clip]
Panorama: Scientology & Me - What Happened Next [a further update from Panorama]
Panorama: The Secrets of Scientology (2010) [currently still available on BBC iPlayer, for those in the UK]

Monday, September 27, 2010

QuickLunch Break Update

Just a quick update for now; planning on a full post later tonight.

I'm about halfway through the book of Genesis now, and already I've decided there is no way I can take the Bible literally. The first two chapters (the story of Creation and the story of Adam and Eve) directly contradict each other in their timelines. So, not unexpectedly, I'm taking it as a collection of stories, some of which have many variations and interpretations. I've found I actually know many of the stories in Genesis already.

I've got to say, though, I'm more looking forward to the New Testament. I'm not really digging the vengeful God of the Old Testament at all. Granted, at this point, the world is new and he might not have been a dab hand at it, but he seems to play favorites and generally acts like a bit of a jerk. It's okay though; I know he mellows out a bit after he has his son.

I'm going to be making a post for each book I get through, to share what I gleaned from it. It is interestring though, if still difficult to get through.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Revisiting the Good Book

As I've said before, I would consider myself a reluctant athiest. Why reluctant? Because being an agnostic and at least believing that there was some sort of purpose to our little lives causes much less existential angst. However, the way my brain works logically has resulted in my atheistic thinking. I do consider myself an athiest with a lowercase "A" though, as I'm open to the possibility of there being something more than this, but would need some sort of evidence in order to justify a shift in my beliefs.

I am one of the Faithless.

A lot of factors contributed to this, and I ended up moving away from Christianity in much the same way I figured out there was no Santa Claus.* The more I learned about the world around me, and the more questions I asked that seemingly could not be answered by the Bible or my fellow Christians young and old, the less I felt connected to God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

The doubt definitely began when I was around 10. My family had never been really religious to begin with, but we considered ourselves Christian even though we didn't attend church often, if at all. A friend of my mom had a daughter in a Missionettes group at a local church, so I ended up joining too. Missionettes are a Christian variation of girl scouts. You earn badges and take part in activities, but obviously it involves more praying and Bible reading. In fact, to move through the different levels of Missionettes (whcih were all named after women in the Bible; I can only remember that one level was called "Ruth"), you were required to read certain sections of the Bible, and tick them of your list as you went. By the time you made it to the top level, you most likely had completed reading the whole thing.

I had a King James version of the Bible, which is written in the same type of language used by Shakespeare. Keep in mind, that while I was a bright kid, I was only about 10. I wasn't aware that there were several versions of the Bible, including version that were written in modern English, which would have been easier to understand.

I sat down to read the chapters I was assigned many times and struggled. When I asked for help from the Missionette leaders and assistant leaders because I was having a hard time comprehending, I wasn't given any. I've only been left with the vague impression that I was supposed to understand it all without any trouble, and that my questions were not welcome. This, and my time at a Missionette camp weekend when I fearfully witnessed a good many people "speaking in tongues," was definitely the beginning of the end for me.

I moved from a Christian, to a sort of agnostic-Christian, to a shameful phase as a wannabe Pagan in high school, to where I am now. I wanted to believe, but found that I couldn't.

As a part of my new educational adventures, I've decided to give the Good Book another go. I'm not setting out to become a born-agan-Christian, but I feel that if I'm going to live in a world where Christianity is ever present (especially in my country of origin) I should really learn more about it than what I picked up as a child and as an adult in art history classes that cover the middle ages.

My friend Rach is being kind enough to lend me a copy of a CEV (Contemporary English Version) Bible. I'll be making future posts as I read my way through it. In the future, I'd also like to read other religious texts, like the Qur'an, the Book of Mormon, Mahayana sutras, and even Dianetics. I'm sure I'll find a lot out there, but if you have any suggestions, let me know!

*Here's the story: I had long since figured out that my parents wrote the gift tags on my presents from Santa, though they had claimed to be helping him out as he was a very busy man. This made sense in my childhood logic, of course. It wasn't until I'd learned that there was no actual land at the North Pole (thanks, Where in the World is Carmen San Diego!) that I realized Santa probably wasn't real. Nevermind the fact that the ice is most likely solid enough up there to support a toy workshop and reindeer stable, I didn't think of that.

And if you're American and grew up about the same time I did, you now have the theme song from Carmen San Diego stuck in your head. Isn't Rockapella awesome?