Sunday, February 17, 2013

Compendium of Links #39

The experiment of the movie-less month continues, and I’ve read no less than two collections of Agatha Christie short stories in the last couple of days. And started a Martyn Lloyd-Jones collection of sermons on the Sermon on the Mount (which I’m really enjoying). Yeah, I miss watching movies, and yeah, there are (many) times when I feel like all I want to do is sit down and unwind watching a fun little fictional story. But this is becoming a really great month.

For your entertainment this week….

How to find a modern-day Mr. Darcy. This article is completely serious. (via me ol' roomie) And on a related note, I present: Pride and Prejudice, The Game. Also found via the roomie.

You had one job. ONE JOB. (Via a Facebook friend.)

A writer for Speculative Faith penned a two-part series on the relationship between Amy and Rory in the splendid British sci-fi show Doctor Who. That pair is probably the best married couple depicted on modern screens, just FYI. (Via a Facebook DW fan club)

First Things had the best Pope joke I’ve seen.

vatican-help-wanted

Finally, we have some specifics on what Obama is proposing as immigration reform. (via Facebook, I think.)

According to the White House draft, people would need to pass a criminal background check, submit biometric information and pay fees to qualify for the new visa. If approved, they would be allowed to legally reside in the U.S. for four years, work and leave the country for short periods of time. After the four years, they could then reapply for an extension.

Illegal immigrants would be disqualified from the program if they were convicted of a crime that led to a prison term of at least one year, three or more different crimes that resulted in a total of 90 days in jail, or if they committed any offense abroad that "if committed in the United States would render the alien inadmissible or removable from the United States."

I might take up cross-stitch just so I can do this to my jeans:

doctor who jeans

And what would you like to watch for a video this week? Perhaps a tutorial on how to write a worship song?

Watch to the end. You will be rewarded.

New phone!!

I bought a new phone last week.

No, it wasn’t an iPhone, though I was thinking about getting either an iPhone 4 or 4S. They wouldn’t have service on the provider I’m currently using, so I decided, hey, what else is nifty and less expensive?

I found another pay-as-you-go provider that offered service on a very nice-looking Samsung Galaxy SII. Certain of its specs resembled the things I liked about the iPhone 4S — namely, the 8MP camera, but also the storage capacity, the touchscreen, etc. And this one could turn into a little miniature wifi hotspot for my laptop. And its provider, though also not my current provider, has decent service around here and offers a cheap plan with unlimited data.

So I bought it. The nice thing? I was thinking of it for a couple days—as I always do with large purchases—and then what do you know, I look again at the phone and voila, the site is running a “Breakup Day” special on Feb. 13, making the phone cheaper than I could find it on eBay.

That clinched it. The new phone arrived Thursday, I think, and I fiddled around with it over the last couple of days, exploring the Android interface. I think I’m going to like it a lot (especially considering how much I already use Google products).

I’m going to wait until a few days before my current pay-as-you-go month expires, though, to actually activate the phone. Means I have to be patient for a whole week…. I don’t know if I’m going to make it. (I think I will, but you never can tell.)

Is it funny that, as a journalist, this is my first smartphone? And the first phone I’ve ever actually paid a cent for? My last three phones were dumb little freebies. Serviceable, no doubt, but not a hint of snazziness. Smile with tongue out

Life on my own #40: Potlucks

I love church potlucks. I don’t have any food allergies or standard health problems (like diabetes… yet) that preclude my eating whatever I like, or whatever looks adventurous. So I enjoy myself hugely at these get-togethers.

Last week was Missions Conference at church — one of my favorite weeks of the year. We heard from international workers in eastern Europe and sub-Saharan Africa.

And we ate a lot of food.

For the Sunday night poluck — a pretty standard affair — I made some crabmeat casserole. It’s my favorite casserole, but it makes a full-size 8”x11” pan, or a good 2-quart casserole dish. (Or something like that. It was a big casserole dish anyway.) If I made it for myself, I’d be eating it for about two weeks.

That is reason #2 I love church potlucks. I can make my favorite casserole and only eat as much as I need for one meal; my friends take care of the rest. Sure enough, the casserole dish was cleaned out by the end.

Monday night was soup night. The church I attend here in Indiana has this funny tradition. Anybody who has them will bring those oversized muffin tins… and serve themselves a little bit of what, six different kinds of soup? That way they can have a little of everything. I couldn’t tell you how many muffin tins I saw come out that night. And one couple even brought small soup mugs grouped three apiece in pie pans — yet another way to accommodate the quest for a little of everything. (Must please these cooks, you know.) Me, I just went with a little paper bowl and had some delicious-smelling chili.

For soup night, I signed up to bring bread. And I made it using some new yeast and my bread machine. It turned out splendidly! (I did have leftovers from that; in fact, I believe I finally finished those leftovers about two days ago. Before they molded. That’s the important part.)

And Tuesday night was dessert night. For this one, we all ate supper elsewhere and brought only a dessert to church. I made a gargantuan dish of Dirt Pudding. Mmmmmm.

I was not the only poor soul to make dirt putting, hoping it would all disappear. Therefore, I brought about 25% of it back home (even after pawning a good bit off onto my high school friend’s family). So what’s to be done, you ask? I certainly can’t eat it all myself.

Enter — the coworkers.

Wednesday I toted the dish into the break room refrigerator and told as many of the other newsroom writers I saw that there was some dirt pudding in the fridge — please, eat it.

It was gone before suppertime.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Life on my own #39: Movie-fast February

One of the perks of living on my own is doing whatever I want with my time. But it’s also one of the pitfalls.

Last Saturday morning, I realized how many movies I’d watched in the last week. I don’t remember how many it was, but it was a mix of library movies and movies I already owned. And I realized how much time I was not spending reading, or doing chores, or taking care of a host of other worthwhile pursuits.

So I decided that from Feb. 2 until March 2, I won’t watch any movies. Not from the library, not ones I own. The closest I’ve gotten is those five-minute Lizzie Bennet Diaries vlogs.

It’s an experiment, I suppose, to see if I can reestablish some good habits (like daily Bible reading, or finishing at least one book per week) before I start watching movies again.

So far it’s paid off.

Since I don’t watch TV shows either, cutting out movies has forced nearly all stories (fictional or otherwise) to come to me by way of the written word. (The LBD is the exception.) I’ve had a book of my grandpa’s for probably two years, Omar! by Omar Vizquel, that I finally sat down and read. It’s by/about one of the best shortstops that the Cleveland Indians ever had, and it’s quite interesting. I’m sleeping more, since I’m not tempted to stay up to finish the last half-hour of a movie. I’m definitely more consistent in reading my Bible.

I still spend a lot of time reading blogs etc. on the Internet. Oh, and Facebooking. I’ve probably spent more time on Facebook now that I don’t watch movies, and I’m not sure that’s a great habit to be developing.

There’s not much difference in how clean my apartment is, so apparently movies weren’t taking much time away from chores. I still put off dishes until the last possible moment. (Which is usually just as they start smelling. I can’t handle a smelly apartment.)

I suddenly feel like I have far more free time though. Enough time to relax, to lose myself in a book without having to set an alarm to remind myself to go to work or get something else done.

I’ve done much more cooking this week, oddly enough (probably why my dishes started smelling last night). It’s nice to be living off of more than granola cereal, carrots and peanut butter sandwiches.

Plus I’m spending more time being active – taking walks outside and dancing around in my apartment, mostly.

Do you watch movies or TV? What would you do if you didn’t?

Compendium of Links #38

Indiana weather is pretty bipolar. We had snow the beginning of this week, then it warmed up enough on Wednesday that I ran outside and took a 1.5-mile walk along the river. Thursday I went up one of the boulevards and whiled away the time I walked by speculating on the floor plans of all the gorgeous houses I passed and judging which house was my favorite.

You don’t have to be superhuman to commute by bicycle – you can even wear jeans if you want! In the summer I commute by bike as much as possible, but I’m wearing khakis to work for the most part.

Extrinsic motivations aren’t all that effective – at least not when compared to intrinsic ones. A book review on the Evangelical Outpost.

The secrets of Grand Central Terminal, an interactive photograph. Mouse over the dots and you’ll learn all sorts of fascinating things about the place. My favorite is the whispering gallery! (Via Challies.)

This essay from a gay activist made the rounds on Facebook a few days ago, and it’s worth a read. Why Shane Windmeyer is friends with Dan Cathey.

On a related topic, a First Things blogger writes about “false hope and gay conversion therapy.

Too often, I have seen people who placed their hope in orientation change in this way come crashing down when they realized it wasn’t working. On a psychological level, it can lead to depression, to self-loathing, to suicidal tendencies. The message that the absence of successful change makes one a lesser Christian or some kind of failure is always present, either explicitly or implicitly. There is an undertone of condescension in the way some religious leaders promote orientation change, while magnanimously allowing that not every Christian is required to pursue it.

From First Things again, a writer reviews a book appropriately titled Jane Austen’s Anglicanism, grappling with this question: “Here is the problem of Austen’s Anglicanism in a nutshell: How can a professedly devout and decorous eighteenth-century Englishwoman be so full of malicious wit?”

Another Christian blogger writes on how to make church visitors feel welcome (without overdoing the greeting!). (Via Challies.)

A pair of essays I stumbled on via Boundless: How single women can be friends to young moms and how the moms can be friends back.

For your video entertainment this week, I present: My college roommate’s heartfelt parody of the Little Mermaid’s song.

Yes, she’s applying to Ph.D. programs in clinical psychology. And I think this is awesome.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Life on my own #38: Baking bread

Sometimes I imagine that bread grows on trees in bunches, like bananas. Complete with the plastic baggie it’s sold in.

My aunt gave me a bread machine the other day, but it didn’t come with instructions. Not really, anyway; the instruction booklet stopped right before the recipes began. What good is that?

So I spent Martin Luther King day with my aunt and uncle at my cousin’s new apartment. My cousin, a 25-year-old bachelor, is very good at baking bread. (Go figure.) He’s got about 7 years of experience using a bread machine, too, so he spent part of the afternoon showing me how it’s done.

Start with the wet ingredients, he said. I scribbled this important information into my notebook. Then add the dry ingredients, he said. Scribble. Set the bread machine to “dough” and go watch a movie, he said. Scribble, scribble.

While the dough baked, the family introduced me to a very silly movie called Private Eyes (if I remember correctly). It starred Tim Conway and Don Knotts. Yes, it was absurd, and yes, I enjoyed it.

That annoying beeping sound went off just as the movie was beginning to wrap up. Why do all kitchen appliances have that annoying beep? Can’t they come with nice ringtones, like iPhones? Or at least that catchy, foreboding cell phone chime from Jurassic Park? “Kirby, paint and tile plus, West Gate…” or so my siblings used to sing.

But this dingbat sound told my cousin that the bread was ready to shape, tuck and rise some more. So shape, tuck and rise he did. Or it did, I’m not sure which. Anyway, we were to wait half an hour while the unbaked loaf sat in the bread pan. (Scribble, scribble.) Then after a half-hour of baking, out came a funny-looking, delicious little loaf of bread. Success!

Armed with my notes and my mom’s yeast, I attempted to replicate his success. It didn’t go so well.

First, my yeast is old. Mom gave it to me before I moved here…. ten months ago? So I’ve had it at least a year. I asked Mom later how long she’d had it. First she told me, oh, probably a year. She then lengthened her guesstimate to a couple of years.

So this yeast is three years old.

Normally, living things that are three years old are in their prime of life (cats) or not even there yet (children). Yeast that is three years old is a grandpa. Or worse.

I had some hazy idea – borne from conversations with my aunt – that yeast does, in fact, die sometime. When, I had no idea. (And I didn’t know at the time that I was working with grandpa yeast.) So I Googled how to test yeast. It said, the yeast should make some foam.

Well, mine did. A little anyway. But I figured, that should be OK. If it were dead, it wouldn’t make any, right?

So I went on my merry way, tossing a few cups of flour into the bread machine bucket on top of the milk and shortening already in there. Into the bucket went the rest of the ingredients, and the machine did its thing once I told it to make “dough” and that the recipe was for a 1.5-pound loaf. (Thank you, Google, for telling me how to tell the size of a loaf. Except I still don’t know what exactly weights 1.5 pounds.)

Step one, check. Step two, check. Eventually it came down to watching the bread through the oven glass. I do know enough not to open the oven while it’s baking bread, thank goodness.

But it took too long…

I finally figured it was plenty long enough and pulled the bread out. First, the crust was darker than it looked through the oven glass. Lesson learned. But second, it was 1/8th of an inch thick and surrounded a seriously dense bread loaf.

It’s not supposed to be that dense. This is banana dense. And this wasn’t even the kind that grew in bunches on trees.

I called my cousin for a diagnosis. Your yeast is probably too old, he said. Well now you tell me.

The best part? I was taking it over to a friend’s house for supper!

Life on my own #37: Personal dance party!

An advantage of a large apartment is having space for a personal dance party.

A disadvantage of any apartment is having neighbors who will wake up if you have said dance party at 10 p.m.

An advantage of my particular large apartment, however, is that UD* and the other gal in this dwelling work weird shifts – second or third, or a varied odd shift – and are hardly ever home at 10 p.m.

This is where my eclectic iTunes playlist comes in, along with a set of hand-me-down computer speakers that are apparently high-quality. (Harman audio, or something. I don’t recall the brand name for certain.) That setup in the sometime dining room turns it into a great dance hall – complete with a hardwood floor, I might add.

Nowhere else would I be willing to dance as crazily as I do in that dining-room-cum-dance-hall. I would be far, far too embarrassed.

But in the privacy of my rooms, with the curtains pulled fully across the windows, I can headbang to The Beach Boys (let me hear some of that rock’n’roll music!) or even glide graciously to the sounds of Straight No Chaser (it’s the time of the season…). Break out the Latin dances for the songs from Corban or Enrique Iglesias or *gasp* Shakira. I might even pull out the Swing steps if the brass-band music calls for it.

It’s way more fun than going to the Y to exercise. And a lot less awkward. (Not that I’ve ever gone to the Y to dance crazily. They don’t let you blast music loud enough for that.)

*Upstairs Dweller. You know, the one that stores mattresses on the front porch. Pretty sure the floral double mattress was still there a week ago.