Thursday, November 29, 2012

DigiWriMo Day 28: Thrift Shop

Unfortunately for me and my Digital Writing Month, this post will be brief.  Fortunately for you, dear reader, this post will be brief.  And it ends with an amazing music video too.

Yesterday brother Teej introduced me to an awesome song.  The name of the song is "Thrift Shop," which made it about 50 points higher in my book before I even heard it.

Thrift Shop
Source: http://horrordisco.com/thrift-shop/
Once I heard it though, I fell in love with the catchy tune and chorus.  Here are the lyrics to that "hook":
I'm gonna pop some tags,
Only got twenty dollars in my pocket.
 
I - I - I'm hunting, looking for a come-up.

This is fucking awesome.
It's great. Trust me.  You'll see soon enough.  Here's another lyric I like:
Draped in a leopard mink,
Girls standin' next to me,

Probably shoulda washed this,

Smells like R. Kelly's sheets.
(Pisssssssss)
But shit... it was ninety-nine cents! (bag it)
So many great lyrics, but I think my favorite line is:
They had a broken keyboard,
I bought a broken keyboard.
I bought a skeet blanket,
And then I bought a kneeboard!
The song itself just makes you want to get up and move!  It came on tonight as Sarah, brother Teej, and I were leaving the trivia bar; so we did not leave, and rather Sarah and I broke out into dance for the entire song.  My brother says they've been playing "Thrift Shop" every night at this bar (where he works).  I think my office needs to start doing the same thing...

So we've already got a sick beat and entertaining lyrics - if only this song had a legendary music video.  Oh wait, it does!

I will end with the video so you all can listen to this song.  I'm also including time stamps for some of my favorite moments in the music video:

1:06 - The chair hopping
1:22 - Arms-out-move-hands dance move
1:35 - Little boy flapping arms
3:12 - Great new move
3:25 - The little boys appear!
3:40 - The slow-mo jump... love it!



So there you have it, Thrift Shop.  Too bad the lyrics aren't filled with GRE vocab words, then this could dub as studying.  Do you think this song is as great as I do?

Post Word Count: 401
DigiWriMo Word Count Total: 17,314
• • •

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

DigiWriMo Day 27: I support Kindles

Last January I bought myself a Kindle Touch (then made a cool DIY Kindle case!).  Amazon.com doesn't even sell Kindle Touches anymore (I believe the Kindle Paperwhite would be the most similar to what I own), but regardless of which one, a Kindle is a wonderful purchase.

When eReaders and Kindles first came out, I swore I would never use one.  I love physical books.  Feeling the pages between your fingers.  Being able to write in them.  Visually knowing how far you are through the book.  I also love buying used books, and thought I would never be able to afford digital Kindle books if I had one so what's the point?  Why spend $100 on a device when I'd have to then pay $7+ per digital book if I wanted to read something, when I could just keep buying $0.50 softcovers from thrift shops?  Continue reading to find out what changed my mind.

Reading while traveling

I do read a lot, and while living in Spain I also took many buses for weekend trips.  I never really knew how much I was going to read before I left for a trip.  Sometimes I would finish the only book I brought on the bus ride to my destination, and be itching for another book for the return ride home.  Other times, I'd bring three books along and never even finish one.

It was when I brought four books along with me to my two-week HelpX gig last winter break when I realized the weight of all those books.  Also, my fellow HelpX volunteer had a Kindle -- the first friend of mine who had a Kindle -- so I was able to see why she liked it.  The first realization that changed my mind towards eReaders is that they are perfect for travelers.  A Kindle would easily solve my "How many books should I bring on this bus trip" dilema.

Kindles for all

But you needn't be a traveler to benefit from a Kindle.  Even when I wasn't traveling - just living in Madrid - I would read my Kindle on the metro every day, because it's so compact and lightweight that I always carried it with me in my purse.  Now in Wisconsin, I always have my Kindle in my backpack and read in the mornings during my bus ride to work.  If you're a college student, once textbook companies start making digital copies  of textbooks more available, that will be another reason to own a Kindle.

Piano brother tweeted at me the other day:

@RebeWithAClause* Considering getting a kindle...your thoughts?  Battery life/memory space/availability of affordable books?

That's the tweet that sparked this post idea, so I'm going to get into further detail to answer some of his questions.

Kindle battery life

Battery life is amazing.  The Kindle Touch has no backlight, making the screen look exactly like real paper (and using way less battery than other electronics with lit-up screens), and when it's on screensaver it uses 0% of the battery.  So I never turn mine off.  I maybe charge my Kindle once a month, but have definitely gone longer without charging it.  Of course it'll depend how often you read, but I've found the battery life to be really long.  Amazon says that the battery life of the Kindle Paperwhite is 8 weeks, and I believe it.  The Kindle Paperwhite does have a built-in light, and that 8-week batter life is with the light on.

Kindle memory space

My Kindle touch has 3GB for user files, which is about 3,000 eBooks.  I do not have 3,000 Kindle books, but nor do I own 3,000 real books (or anything close!).  So space has never been an issue for me.  I have tons of Kindle books on my computer that aren't on my Kindle, because until I read the thirty-or-so books that I've got on my Kindle right now, there's no need to have more at my fingertips.  I can always put on new ones or take ones off via my USB cord whenever I want.

Kindles can also hold many other file types, so I often put pdfs on my Kindle.  Before I went on my Germany trip this past summer, I typed up friends' addresses and saved it as a pdf on my Kindle - which made sending postcards really simple.  When we had pdfs of work schedules or game schedules for the ultimate tournaments we hosted, I would put those on my Kindle as well so I could access them during the tournament (without having to print).

Availability of titles

I have not spent a cent - not a single cent! - on Kindle books, and I've owned my Kindle for nearly a year.  Firstly, you can find tons of classics for free on the internet... legally.  Amazon's Kindle store has free books, many of which are classics.  For example, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, The Secret Garden, and A Tale of Two Cities.  Sites like Project Gutenberg can also help you build your digital library.

My friend that I met through my HelpX stay over last winter break had bought a flash drive from eBay for about five pounds (she's from Wales) that had hundreds (perhaps thousands) of eBooks on it.  When she came and stayed at my place for a weekend in Madrid, she let me take whatever I wanted from the flash drive.  This is where 99% of my current digital library has come from.

But Rebe, what if you don't know anybody with a magical flash drive of books?

Well, I'll just have to share with you the best kept secret in digital book world: libraries!

Digital book loans from libraries

Many libraries now have digital collections.  Lucky for me, my library community here in Wisconsin has a great digital library.  In fact, all last year while living in Spain, I would check out digital books from my local library back in the states.  Awesome!  Any notes or highlighting that you do on library copies is saved in your "cloud" so that if you ever check out or purchase the same book at a later time, it'll have all your markings and notes!  Digital library loans have allowed me to read over half of the books I've read on my Kindle thus far.

3G? Advertisements?

Most kindles have multiple variations of itself.  The Kindle Touch could be bought for a lower price, but there was no 3G internet (to buy a book from Amazon you would have to be connected to wifi), and the screen savers were all advertisements of some sort.  I do not want to be exposed to advertisements when I'm reading, because we're already bombarded by enough ads every day, so I paid more for the Kindle Touch without advertisements.  My Kindle Touch also has 3G wireless.  This does not mean I can surf the web from anywhere.  My Kindle Touch does have an "experimental" browser that I can use when I'm connected to a wifi network.  I hardly ever use this on my Kindle, as I didn't buy a Kindle to use as a tablet or laptop alternative.  I bought my Kindle to read books, which is what the Kindle Touch is best made for.  Having 3G wireless means that I can shop the Amazon Kindle book store from anywhere, and download books directly to my Kindle without being connected to wireless.

When Gregorio and I had hours to kill before a late fireworks show at Las Fallas in Valencia last March, I downloaded some free French classics from my Kindle so he could help me practice my French.  That's where the 3G comes in handy!  I really haven't used it that often, but I figured that to pay a little more once is worth having the 3G for the rest of your life whenever you may need it - which is why I went for the 3G Kindle Touch.

Learning languages

That last example reminded me of a final reason why I love my Kindle.  The dictionaries!  I don't have a great vocabulary, and when I read normal books my mind naturally jumps over words I don't know.  When I'm reading on my Kindle, I simply touch a word I'm unfamiliar with, and the definition pops up.  It only takes a second, so I'm learning words I would normally skip over.  The dictionaries are also what make Kindles great for reading in a second language.  I found some French and Spanish eDictionaries for Kindles on the web and put them on my Kindle.  A Spanish friend from Madrid sent me about thirty Kindle books in Spanish, so I'm stocked!  Being able to see definitions in Spanish of Spanish words I don't know is wonderful for improving the language.

Kindle Paperwhite

I think I'm about ready to end this post.  Have I convinced anyone to buy a Kindle yet?  Reading about the Kindle Paperwhite while looking up info for this post has made me wish it had been available back when I bought my Touch.  The Kindle Touch is great, don't get me wrong, but the improvements in the Paperwhite look oh so appealing.   But alas, that is technology.  Once you buy, your purchase is outdated.




*This is not my actual twitter name

Post Word Count: 1,552
DigiWriMo Word Count Total: 16,913
• • •

Monday, November 26, 2012

DigiWriMo Days 21-25: Thanksgiving weekend

Wednesday

After a three-day work week, the sister picked me up Wednesday evening and we headed to our parents' house on the other side of the lake.  They had made a yummy spaghetti dinner with sides of broccoli and garlic bread, AND freshly baked owl cookies for dessert.  Why oh why didn't I take pictures of those?

My mother has made "owl cookies" every Halloween ever since I can remember, and she even mailed us kids some owl cookies this Halloween.  But four cookies (well actually two; I shared half) did not fill my owl cookie craving - especially after missing out on them last year when I was in Madrid.  So she made some more for Thanksgiving!

Hey look, I found a picture of owl cookies on the interwebs.  Mother's owl cookies look a lot better though, but this is somewhat similar:

Owl cookies
Source: http://snapguide.com/guides/make-owl-cookies/

After dinner some of us ended up downstairs on the couches around the TV.  I don't have a TV at my house, and after being in Spain the past year I'm quite behind on what new shows exist.  Really important stuff, I know.  After an episode of Operation Repo (which I love, still haven't figured out why), we watched an episode of Duck Dynasty.  I had first heard about the show a few weeks ago when my aunt and cousin were talking about it.  It's about these rednecks with beards that make duck calls.  In this episode, they ate snow cones and then made their very own redneck water park.  I actually laughed more than I expected to; I wonder if all episodes are that entertaining.

Thanksgiving Thursday

On Thanksgiving morning I organized one of our hall closets before we headed off to grandma's house for the day.  It probably won't stay neat and tidy for long, but it sure looked good when I finished.  I'd like to do more deep cleaning over Christmas break and get rid of stuff.  The world has too much stuff.  Well, many homes in the states have too much stuff.

Ok, here's what my plate looked like at grandma's:
Thanksgiving lunch at grandma's house

After stuffing ourselves silly, we cleaned up and headed outside to take a walk through the woods.  My grandma's got about seven acres of forested land with a creek, so we always walk the path alongside the creek when we're at her house.  It is deer hunting season here in Wisconsin, so many of us had on bright orange to be safe.  I don't remember why planking was on the brain (perhaps someone had recently seen Planking in Germany), but before we had even left the driveway grandma and I found ourselves here:

Planking with grandma
Thanksgiving 2012


Other planking on Thanksgiving includes the following:

Planking on Thanksgiving, 2012

That last one in the bottom right was the most difficult of the ones I did.  It took a really long time to get up in the tree because there was absolutely nothing to grab on to!  Once I got in the little crease, I thought there was no way I'd make it up and out onto the branch.  This photo collage will give you an idea of how much help and effort it took to plank on this tree:


Here's a final shot from farther back:


When our walk and planking had ended, we were ready for some pumpkin pie and Taboo.  Post-playing Taboo involved a shoulder complex workout with grandma, followed by me doing a 20-minute hill workout on grandma's bike while brother Teej helped her upload pictures onto the computer.  Reca was sore on Friday!

Friday

I must not have done anything memorable during the day on Friday, because I'm not really sure how I spent it.  I did work on a craft Christmas present for a friend and finished it, so that would have taken a few hours out of the day.  We had a second Thanksgiving Friday night with my mother's side of the family, but both brothers were gone by this time.  One had to work downtown, and the other was scheduled to play a gig up north.  Luckily my aunt decided to make a delicious lasagna for this Thanksgiving, so it wasn't a repeat of everything we'd eaten the day before.  When we got back home on Friday night the sister and I watched a Popeye VHS that we used to watch all the time as kids.  Well, the sister slept through it that night, but I watched it as I uploaded pictures to shutterfly.  All of the phrases came back to me; I remembered every clip.

Saturday

Saturday morning the sister and I went to our town's thrift shop.  I spent $15 total on some great finds.  The best would probably be a pair of jeans from Express that fit perfectly ($10 something).  They are the perfect length (longer than all of my other jeans) and, I will say once more, they fit perfectly!  I also got two pieces of scrap fabric ($1 each) that I'm going to use to try to sew an infinity scarf when I'm at my parents' house over Christmas.  Also while home over Christmas I'm going to attempt to make a spoon ring (or two, or three), so I purchased two spoons for $0.25 each.  My grandma gave me a pretty old spoon when I was over at her place on Thursday, so I've currently got three spoons to work with.  I bought some Christmas ribbon ($0.80) for another gift I'm going to make, and my final purchase was a pad of stationery that folds in thirds into its own envelope.  There's space to write the address, and also the word "stamp" in a cool font up in the corner.  It's definitely vintage stationery, and I paid $0.10 for the pad of eleven pieces of paper.

When we got home I did laundry, throwing some of my new purchases into the mix.  That afternoon papa drove me back downtown.   And that night I went to the concert of a friend's friend's girlfriend's friends.  Figure that one out.  It was at a bar close to my house.  I'm thinking I'll need to continue going to these live-music-$5-cover-venue-type events.

Sunday

I woke up early, then hung out with Hannah (bff in Madrid) via Google Hangout for hours.  Brother Teej took me to the grocery store with him at noon, and I spent way too much on things, as usual.  I did pick up a majority of the supplies I'll need for a little Christmas present I'm making for some friends and coworkers, though.  That will go down mid-December, and I'll blog it.  I also got veggies for the stir fry I'm going to make Tuesday night.

That afternoon I hung out with JJ downtown.  We walked down a pedestrian-only street and went into a bunch of little local shops with neat goodies and paper things.  We made our way to a café and each got some tea, then we sat down at a table.  I pulled out my GRE study book and made flashcards for the next hour while JJ worked on some of a crossword, then started planning a variety show for next month.  (Speaking of which... do I have any talents that could be featured in a variety show act?  I couldn't think of anything, other than if my high school vocal quartet could be reunited.  I'd sing with them.)

I got lots of vocab flashcards made that afternoon.  The two previous weeks I had been slacking a lot on my GRE study plan, because once I got home from work during the week I just couldn't bring myself to study.  Parks and Rec is so much more appealing.  But being there in a coffee shop filled with other people doing work made it a lot easier.  Learning from this experience, I went to a library after work today and studied for an hour before going home.  It seems like this will have to be the routine for the next two weeks if I want to get any more studying in.  Which I absolutely must do.

Post Word Count: 1,363
gChat with Hannah Today: 900 words
DigiWriMo Word Count Total: 15,361
• • •

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

DigiWriMo: Day 20

My DigiWriMo fell in priority after I signed up to take the GRE and started studying for it after work.  But I think that even without blog posts, I must be doing alright towards my 25,000 digital word goal this month.  That comes out to an average of 833 words per day, and take a look at the last two days: Today my various emails I sent at work totaled 1,305 words.  Yesterday I wrote an email to Hannah that was 1,091 words long, plus 234 words of various work emails.

So I thought I might not have to give up completely on reaching my DigiWriMo goal.  I decided to start where I'd left off on November 11 and try to track what I have written since, to see if I'm still in the running.

11/11: Last recorded total7,441

11/12: Word total from emails: 425

11/13: Word total from emails: 71

11/14: Word total from emails: 729

11/15: Word total from emails: 525

11/16: Word total from emails: 437

11/17:

11/18:

11/19: Word total from emails: 1,325

11/20: Word total from emails: 1,305
             This blog post: 250

I've tweeted 590 words since 11/11, bringing me to: 13,098

I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving this week, and the weekend with family.  Hopefully I make myself write, but if I end up spending the time with family and friends instead, I'm okay with that.
• • •

Sunday, November 11, 2012

DigiWriMo Day 11: Thai, biking, and a mad dad

Yesterday we had some unusually nice weather for this time of year; temperatures reached the 60's here (18 C +/-).  I knew it would be one of  my last opportunities to go for a bike ride with a pleasant temperature without snow (For proof, tomorrow they've predicted a high of 35 (1 C) and snow flurries.  Yuck).  So my friend JJ and I planned on a Saturday afternoon bike ride.

We went out for lunch first, agreeing to meet at a Thai place on Willy Street.  Well, now that I think about it, it was a Thai and Vietnamese restaurant (Ha Long Bay Vietnamese and Thai Bistro).  I ordered "TN3" with chicken: "TN3 - Pad See-Eew: Large rice noodle stir-fried with egg, broccoli, peapod, carrot, and soy sauce".  I'd never had large rice noodles before and let me tell you, they were amazing.  JJ got the "TC1"  (Thai Curry #1, Musamun): "Musamun curry paste with coconut cream, peanut, onion, and potato".  We got to pick our level of spiciness when we ordered, so I asked for mild and JJ ordered hot or extra hot, I don't remember which.


I thought the prices were reasonable, given the serving sizes, quality, and service.  Both of us ended up leaving with leftovers.

After loading our take-away containers into my little backpack, we hopped on our bikes and made a quick pit stop at a nearby bike shop so we could put some more air in our tires.  And then we started biking around the lake.  Leaving from the east side, the ride takes you out of the city and in to a neighboring town.

You can see the capitol in the distance

Testing out my 10x optical zoom on the capitol from across the lake

Myself and JJ

Can't see the capitol from this side of the lake

Little canal-type passage ways

View of the capitol 

I'm reading online that the ride around this lake is about 13 miles, or 20km.  It was a fun, scenic ride; I'm glad we made use of the nice weather.  

Once we were back downtown we parted ways, but met up later that night to listen to some live music at a local lounge.  One of our friends was playing in the third band of the night.

We got there a little after 10pm, and the first band was maybe halfway through their set.  They were too "artistic" for my taste, consisting of drums, cello (playing lots of high harmonics),  and a guy speaking "lyrics" in a poetic voice into the mic.  Many people listening were looking around at each other, trying not to laugh.  Or laughing.  It just wasn't for me.  Here's a taste if you want a look/listen.

The second band, "Us, today*" was amazing.  They came all the way from Cincinnati and their trio consists of drums, guitar, and vibraphone.  I would have no idea how to describe their style, but here's a blurb from their facebook biography: "Their style is best described as an avant-garde blend of jazz, rock, minimalism, and electronic music, with a heavy emphasis on experimentation and improvisation. "  You can listen to some of their songs on their site, but I think seeing them live was a completely different musical experience (and a much better one).  I don't think anyone wanted them to stop playing, but at least the final band did not disappoint.

"Dad is Mad," the last performers of the night, is a newly formed group made up of five members.  Their instruments are: trombone/electronics/vocals, saxophone, organs/guitar, bass, and drums.  Their second song was my favorite, though I have no idea what it was called.  Much of the crowd was dancing throughout the set, and by the end of it everyone was chanting the catchy lyrics: "Party at my mom's house / Everybody's coming! / Drinking cool kool-aid / and having lots of fun!"  The band describes themselves on their facebook page as "funky, rappy, punky, rocky, and strange. Enjoy."

I will be sure to see "Dad is Mad" perform at another show soon; that will be a band to follow!


*If you try to google the band "Us, today," Google will think you're looking for "USA Today".

Post Word Count: 701
Word Count of Daily Tweets: 158
DigiWriMo Word Count Total: 7,441
• • •

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

DigiWriMo Day 7: Parlez-vous francais?

When I was in middle school, I had the choice of French and Spanish as two possible electives.  I signed up for Spanish class, and loved making fun of my friends that had chosen to study French.  "But Spanish is so much more useful here," little naive Rebe said, "How could you use French in the states?"  My older brother and sister had also chosen Spanish as their language of study when they first had the option, so that definitely played a role in my 13-year-old self's decision-making process.  My pro-Spanish thoughts were also influenced by teachers and fellow students, as I've perviously mentioned in my Canada post.

So I went with Spanish.  I took it though middle school, high school, and eventually in college.  I never would have guessed during my middle or high school years, but during and post-college I spent two years living in Madrid, Spain.

During spring break of my first year in Madrid, some friends and I took a 10-day trip to Morocco.  Not many speak Spanish in Morocco!  The two main languages are Arabic and French.  One of our friends knew a decent amount of French, which helped us get around.  I could barely order water, and spent minutes one afternoon practicing to ask for the bill.  (I got scared when the waiter finally came back, so one of my friends asked instead)

Those ten days in Morocco sparked my interest in learning French.  Now, nine years after that initial choice between French and Spanish, I had a personal reason to learn the other language: French.  Later that spring when I registered for my fall semester of my senior year, I enrolled in French 101.  I loved it!  Knowing both English and Spanish cognates in French, I was definitely at an advantage over people who didn't know any other foreign languages.  Since they're both romance languages, Spanish and French really aren't too different structurally.

Wanting to learn more, I signed up for French 102 in the spring.  Yes, I spent lots of time studying, but I really enjoyed my French class that semester as well.  I got to a great level for only having studied the language for two semesters of my life.  I would check out French movies from the library just to hear that gorgeous language being spoken.  I wanted to keep learning French and building up on the base I had formed that year.

But then I moved back to Spain.  I tried to keep practicing French while in Madrid, but I found it quite difficult to do.  Here's how I practiced:

1) Books from the library
At the Madrid public library closest to my apartment, I did find a section of foreign language books.  There were novels and books of varying levels in French, but I also found some French books in the linguistics section that were more about learning French as a foreign language.  These short books came with an audio CD, and were illustrated chapter books with reading comprehension questions.  Each chapter was only 2 - 4 pages long, and certain vocabulary words were bolded in the books.  After the reading comprehension questions (with answers in the back of the book), there would sometimes be a brief grammar explanation with examples.  I loved being able to listen to a native French speaker reading the story while I read along with my eyes.  The hardest thing for me about French is that the words do not sound how they look, so this is why I appreciated the audio.  Also, the story in each book was entertaining and a bit suspenseful.

I bet there is a wider selection here at my local library in Wisconsin, but I haven't checked it out yet!  I've been too busy reading my way through the Game of Thrones series (currently in book 2) and studying for the GRE.

2. Duolingo
After seeing a TED Talk about this new Duolingo project back in 2010 or early 2011, I signed up on the site to be notified when I could start using and testing out the new language-learning site.  Duolingo allows you to learn a second language while simultaneously translating the internet.  Watch the TED Talk I linked to above; this site is so great.  So I forgot having ever signed up, then late fall 2011, I received an email telling me I could sign up for the test version (beta?) of the site.  I started with French, but also later added Spanish so I could practice translating advanced texts.  Later in Spring 2012 I started learning a little bit of German as well, in order to prepare for my trip to Germany in August.  I like that Duolingo visually keeps track of your daily progress, so you know how often you're practicing.  I also like that the exercises include both written and listening activities, as well as exercises that have you thinking from English to the second language, and the second language to English.

3. My French Word Coach (DS)
In order to play Brain Age and My Word Coach, I bought a used DS back during my freshman year of college.  Later on when I was starting to study French in 2010, I purchased My French Word Coach.  This was a great buy because again, the game has multiple games that vary between testing your listening skills and reading skills.  It goes in units (levels) of different topics with vocabulary lists and grammar topics, so I like the organization of the learning.  And the fact that it's a game, that you need to "unlock" the higher levels before you can open them, also makes it fun.  I need to start playing this game more frequently, as well.

4.  French Grammar: Practice Makes Perfect
At some point later in high school, I bought two "Practice Makes Perfect" Spanish workbooks.  One was Spanish Grammar, and one was Spanish Verbs.  I started doing pages over a summer, but the books became a great resource throughout the rest of my Spanish-studying days.  If I ever needed to brush up on a particular verb form or gramatical topic, I would flip to that section, read up, and then do some exercises.  So when I started to learn French my senior year of college, one of my first purchases was a "Practice Makes Perfect: French Grammar" workbook.  I brought it with me to Spain last year, and would work on pages from time to time.

So those have been my three main French-practice outlets since my French 102 class ended in spring of 2011.  It would be even better to have a French talking buddy, and best case scenario would be to just live in France for a year...

But for now I'll have to set aside some weekly French time come December, after I finish the GRE.  I haven't logged on Duolingo since Spain, nor cracked open my French grammar workbook.  If I could find an affordable French class nearby, that would also be an ideal next step.

I've got French on the brain tonight because a new friend that I met at my weekly "Mesa de conversación" brought me a French-learning program on a flashdrive today.  I just finished copying it onto my computer, and am listening to the first track.  It's lots of audio tracks with listening and repeating, which is great for speaking.  The program is called "Pimsleur," which in real life you have to pay for.  I'll be able to review their program after I've used it for a couple of weeks.

The title of this post was inspired by the following music video (which was shown to me by Hannah)


Post Word Count: 1,277
Word Count of Tweets: 52
DigiWriMo Total Word Count: 4,760
• • •

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Presidential Monday in Madison


Over the weekend I realized I'm not going to be able to write 1,666 words a day for the month of November, but instead of scrapping the whole DigiWriMo altogether, a friend suggested I just cut the goal in half.  That's 25,000 words this month, 833 words a day.

On Saturday I wrote a short story with a friend on Google Drive,  which was 811 words long.  That story is published elsewhere in the digital world, which really doesn't need to be shared.  My texts, gchats, and tweets brought me past the 833 mark.  Then yesterday I wrote about a personal health issue, so I haven't published it yet.

Today I'm going to give a summary of my day, mostly because it included seeing President Barack Obama.

Last night my friend Sarah slept over so that we could wake up super early together to wait in line to see the President.  Our alarms went off at 4:30am.  Yikes.  We sleepily threw on as many layers of clothes as possible, ate a bagel, then walked to the capitol.  We got in line at about 5am.  It was dark and cold, as this picture so clearly shows:


I had seen on twitter that at 4am there were about 25 people in line.  There were maybe a hundred in front of us when we got there at 5, and the line only grew faster after we had our spots.  We got to talking with some of the people in front of us in line, and they became our buddies for the rest of the day.

Between 5:30 and 5:45, they walked us through a path up to the security entrance of the event.  At our new waiting location, we had the following new views:





The gates were supposed to open at 7am, but the let us begin to go through security at 6:15am.  Nobody asked for or wanted to see the "required" ticket that I (along with many other non-smart phone owners) had printed out.  We had to unzip our coats before we walked through the metal detector, and set all electronics/metal things on a table for inspection.

Once we got through security, we picked up our pace to get as close to the front of our gated-in section as possible.  There was a super bright light straight ahead, which made it difficult to see how the stage area was set up.


We later learned that the two gated-in areas in front of us were for people with gold and yellow tickets.  The gold-ticket people got to be right next to the stage, and the yellow-ticket people were the second closest to the stage.  How to obtain these yellow and gold tickets I still don't know.

Here's a picture of the crowd behind us, just a few minutes after we had gotten in:


The clock finally passed 7am, and soon after our new friends from line told us that the press had tweeted that it would be another 3 hours until Bruce Springsteen and the President made their appearances.  Three more hours?!  My toes were very cold at this point, as there wasn't much sunlight.  I was really tired and didn't know how I could stand through three more cold hours of waiting.  But luckily our new friends from line were super entertaining, so the time did pass.

The gold-ticket people are slowly started to fill in:


We took selfie shots and did crosswords on Sarah's smart phone.  Somehow we made it to 8am.


I think it was some point after 8am that I started to eat my cookie dough energy bar.  I only ate half and saved the rest for later.  There was also a brief amount of sitting, and some feet-warming done by one of the sitters to Sarah and mine's feet!

An hour later, we passed the 9am mark.  That one had been a long hour, between 8 and 9.  Quarter after 9, people like Tammy Baldwin arrived and made their ways towards the stage.  I don't think the first person started talking until 9:30 or 9:45.  We could barely see the stage, but there was a TV screen off to the right side of our gated section that we could see.


During the speeches, all of a sudden three people leave from the first row of our section.  This was awesome, because we were able to move forward a bit.  Then a couple more people left, so we moved forward some more.  But where were they going?  Then our attentive new line friend said that lots of people were moving over to the left side of our gated area.  Was there a better view from that side? Could you get closer to the gate?  I didn't think so, but our new friends started walking that way, so we followed.

And then we found out why so many people had been leaving.  They were slowly letting people through the gate, to join the yellow-ticket area!  As we got closer to the opening, we could feel the people around us getting more anxious to get through.  Some guy behind me kept ramming his child's stroller into my legs (and Sarah's too).  The two gate keepers letting people through also noticed that the crowd trying to enter was getting closer and pushier.  Just as Sarah walked through they said, "Okay, no more for now."  What?!  Then surprisingly, one of the gatekeepers said, "Are there any groups?" So Sarah from the other side of the gate said "I'm with them (pointing to our line friends that had kept on entering) and she's with me," pointing to me.  "Okay, you can go," said the gatekeeper to me.  So I got to go in front of the other people waiting to be the last person let in to the yellow-ticket area.  Yay!

This new area was great because there was so much space in the back.  Look, look at all of the space:


So, rather than try to push closer to the front, we enjoyed the spacious back of the yellow-ticket gated area for the rest of the morning.

Around 10.30 Bruce Springsteen came out and sang a few songs (I have nothing more to say about him or his performance; I just learned his name yesterday). And then President Obama came out to speak around 11am.  Here's what my 10x zoom on my new digital camera could see:


Obama's speech almost went until 11:30, and then it was time to leave.  The speech was great by the way, but I'm sure newspapers or news stations would do a better job summarizing or quoting his chat.  The sun had disappeared during the last hour, so it was even colder outside when we left.  Sarah and I walked back to my place, then changed for work.

While sitting down on the bus on our way to the office, we realized how tired we were.  Up since 4.30am, we had been standing on our feet for nearly seven hours.  It was worth it, but it was a loong afternoon at the office.  I can hardly keep my eyes open now as I'm typing.  It's 11pm so I'm going to sleep now.

Regardless of for whom, don't forget to vote tomorrow!  I voted absentee by mail two weeks ago, so I'm all set.

Post Word Count: 1141
DigiWriMo Total Word Count: 3, 431
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Friday, November 2, 2012

Halloween goody bag

I didn't have a Halloween costume this year for the festivities last weekend.  Although I started thinking about it late-summer (never too seriously; the thought just crossed my mind), I never came up with a good idea.  Well okay, I did have one good idea, but I didn't make the time to shop around for all of the materials and make the costume.  I'm not giving away my idea, however, because I may use it next year.  So I didn't go out for halloween or to any costume parties or whatnot.  Didn't exactly have any invitations, which probably contributed to my lack of motivation to find/make a costume.

But some point last week I got an email at work from the university's technology store saying that they would be giving out goody bags with candy and a $5 gift card to people who stopped in wearing a costume on Halloween.  Free candy and a gift card?!  I had to wear a costume to work on Wednesday.  A friend reminded me of this event on Tuesday, so I had to throw together something from what I had at my apartment here in town.  Which wasn't much.

I did have all of my frisbee gear with me downtown, so I decided to wear my Quijotes + Dulcineas uniform, Q+D hat, cleats, and bring my Q+D disc to work on Wednesday.  Since I have the same number (#24) on my jerseys as a Spaniard friend from the team, I decided to say I was her.  She is known for asking "Chicos, vamos al bar?" during every practice/pick-up, so I took these pictures when I got to work that day and shared them with my friends from the team via facebook:







Some of my coworkers simply thought I dressed like a scrub that day, instead of my usual dressier office clothes.  They had forgotten it was Halloween!  It did feel weird being so dressed-down at work, but I got a kick out of it.  I nearly forgot to go to that technology store for my goody bag, but luckily my friend and coworker reminded me.

I went around lunch time but wasn't sure how to ask for a goody bag when I got there, so I just blurted "Trick or treat!".  Then the guy comes around the counter with a digital camera and takes my picture twice, in two different lights.  I just checked their facebook page, and yes it's up in their album.  I feel like they should have to ask permission before putting so many people's pictures online.  He didn't ask if he could take the picture, nor tell me what it would be used for, but I assumed it would be put on the web.  Anyway.  So my picture is taken and he hands over my goody bag.  I didn't open it until I got outside, but I was thrilled with its contents.  Check out what I got:

First of all, the bag itself was a nice gift, as it's a sturdy, reusable bag.

red, white & green reusable bag

Inside I found:

Big twix

Screen cleaner cloth

Mini white board

$5 gift card!

So it wasn't the most eventful Halloween, but at least I got to trick-or-treat once!  Did anyone else dress up at work or school?


Post Word Count: 561
DigiWriMo Total Word Count: 896
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Thursday, November 1, 2012

DigiWriMo Day 1: Many cannot gingerly wake

To kick off Digital Writing Month, a shared google document was created last night that could be edited from 12:00am - 1:00am in order to write a "Collaborative Digital Poem".  Luckily I didn't have to stay up too late, as this was Eastern time. There were some rules listed at the top of the document, the most important being that you must add just one word to the poem, and that you could move just one existing word to a new location in the poem.  One punctuation mark could be added or removed if you wanted, but it was not required.  A word can only be deleted by its author.  And most importantly, the entire poem can be counted towards our word count. (Score!) Here's the final product:

poem...

The midnight windchimes somnolently announce REVOLUTION
Many cannot gingerly wake
pierce tepid word streams.
Norway
nostalgically
recumbent rhythm...
syzygy;
if I find soul yearns drumming,
thrums recalcitrant of profligacy
Superfluous--bluebells}
Befuddled grapes
..
BUT
Heavy mind in throes
process waits {over
turgid doubts of remarkable chaos
r;
BobBing with joy
Serendipity, awaits
regal Lovely puppy!
don’t atrophy me.
liquid
REVOLUTION!



It really doesn't make a lot of sense, but hey - open invitation for anyone's interpretation of this poem in the comments.  The word I added was "find", but that was during the first 10 minutes of the poem's creation.  I moved the word "drumming," but not to its final location.  I went to bed around 11:20pm, so I was anxious when I woke up to see how the poem was finished.

I hope there are more prompts today because I'm only at 272!

Post Word Count: 272
11/1 Tweeting Word Count: 63
DigiWriMo Word Count: 335
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