Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday for as long as I can remember. It meant snow, usually. It meant cousins, but without the stress that Christmas brought. It meant people remembering to thank God for what he'd given them.
  • peanut butter
  • my family
  • cable Internet
  • maps
  • stringed instruments of all kinds
  • wise editors
  • philodendrons
  • tire repair centers
  • repair instruction videos
  • grace
  • cabbage (even when it's mistaken for lettuce)
  • friends nearby
  • far-away friends
  • Skype
  • Aldi
  • cousins
  • commuter trains
  • vlogs (like Emma Approved and The Autobiography of Jane Eyre)
  • Doctor Who
  • fountain pens
  • the times my back doesn't hurt from sitting in office chairs
  • my job
  • extra patience when I don't think I have any more
  • streetlights
  • stars
  • my house
  • my car
  • people who inspire me to change for the better
  • the Bible
  • second-hand shops
  • blankets
  • hats
  • the books of C. S. Lewis
  • movies about superheroes
  • texting
  • windows
  • organized bike rides
If I went on, I'd never stop typing.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thought on Owl City

Owl City. You know, the guy who made it big singing about fireflies.

I really enjoy the Owl City project (several albums) and musician Adam Young's early acoustic project Sky Sailing. I'm intrigued by the sparing commentary he posts on his blog. His unashamed commitment to orthodox Christianity, and Reformed theology, no less!, inspires me. (He tweeted "Ephesians 2:8-10" tonight, for goodness' sake!)

But sometimes I wonder if I'd actually want to be around him in person. I can't decide.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Compendium of Links #48

Today is "The Day of the Doctor" for Whovians like myself -- that is, fans of the British TV show "Doctor Who." However, I must go to work this afternoon, so I shall miss the worldwide premier of the 50th anniversary special episode. Sad, isn't it? Well, not really. Because in the grand scheme of things, a TV show is just a TV show.

A couple of Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicators charts for some laughs! Prayers for each Myers-Briggs type ("Lord help me be less independent, but let me do it my way."), LOTR by personality type and Star Wars in MBTI!

Maps showing the etymology of different words in Europe. Funny: Most people in Europe think a pineapple's proper name is "ananas."

The album for the movie "Inside Llewellyn Davis," a movie by the same guys who did "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," is out! I managed to listen to it via NPR's First Listen post, but apparently the audio is no longer available there. If you like folk music, though, it's worth at least getting a few of the tracks.

JOHN WATSON HAS A BLOG. I mean, the John Watson in the British show "Sherlock." It's a real official blog from the BBC team producing the show. It's hilarious. For that matter, Sherlock has his own blog, too, but it's pretty typically Sherlockian.

Need a laugh? Hey Christian Girl Instagram. Really ridiculous Christian pickup lines superimposed onto Ryan Gosling-esque photos. This is now one of my favorite humor sites.

"You should date an illiterate girl," a fascinating fictional piece (short) that rather highlights the intellectual and psychological benefits of reading regularly.

For the Austenite in all of us: I learned everything I needed to know about marriage from Pride and Prejudice, courtesy of The Atlantic. And the article really does have some good points, for all I know. For example: You can judge a man by the size of his library.
In the provincial world of Austen’s novels, small-mindedness is among the greatest of personal and social follies, for which an expansive library serves as a counterbalance. Darcy’s fetching library serves as metaphor for a variety of qualities in a marriage partner today which might counteract contemporary excesses and limitations: broad-mindedness in an age of identity politics and narrow partisanship, integrity in an era of brutal pragmatism, strong work ethic in a culture of shortcuts, steadiness in a swirl of passing fancies.
 And lastly, for your audiovisual enjoyment: A satire. (All I could say was, wow...)


Friday, November 22, 2013

Life on my own #46: Troubleshooting, part two

As promised! The box came, the part was ripped from its little plastic baggie packaging -- because, what other way is there to unwrap those things? -- and I had before me a thermostat thing, a fuse thing, a couple screws and a couple bendy-things that get stuck onto wires. Oh, and a teeny little wire with the bendy-things already stuck on.

(Hint: Bendy-things are connectors. I'm pretty sure.)

And yesterday, when I  descended once again into the belly of the house -- that is, the basement -- I was armed with a new tool!

It's practically a requirement of every DIYer that new tool equals glorious elation. It's like giving a new fancy pen or a pretty journal to a writer. (Please don't ask how many journals I have waiting for me....)

My tool, you must understand, was something called a "crimping" tool. Number one, the word "crimp" makes me think of crinolines and primping. Therefore, it must be a tool for repositioning the wires in my hoopskirt.

Maybe not.

So, this crimping tool looks about like a pair of pliers with a few holes stuck through it. I know how to use pliers, I think to myself. This can't be that hard.

Then I look at the bendy-things. And back at the crimping tool. And spend half an hour with my friends Google and YouTube finding "how to use a crimping tool."

Turns out, most connectors don't look particularly like the bendy-things I have, and so the crimping tool isn't used the same way. Back to square one. Oh well, I'm sure I can figure this out...

Step one: Remove old thermostat and fuse. Easy peasy.

Step two: Install new thermostat and fuse. Since I'm pretty handy with a ratchet thingamabob, this was easy, too.

Step three: Snip old connector (bendy-thing that's already bent) off a wire and crimp on the new bendy-thing.

Step three and a half: Drop bendy-thing when it's almost secure.

Step three and three-quarters: Start over with crimping the bendy-thing.

Step three and four-fifths:  Squeeze the bendy-thing onto the wire with all your might. Isn't that such a fun phrase? "Do it with ALL YOUR MIGHT." It's biblical, but it might have come from Lord of the Rings, too.

Step four: Reconnect a few wires onto their matching terminals. Note: Don't cross 'em. You'll be sorry. Second note: I didn't cross them, don't worry.

Step five: Plug in for a quick test run before you reinstall the back cover.

Step six: Do the hand-jive when you see the heating element finally glowing again.

You know what the sad part was? I started the repairs so late, I didn't have time to put a load of laundry in to dry fully before I had to go to work.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Life on my own #45: Troubleshooting, part one

I should've become an engineer, not a writer.

My dryer decided one day it didn't want to dry my clothes. I thought at first I'd just overloaded it... with a sheets load plus the leftovers of another load, it could've happened, right? But no, the second try didn't yield any drier fabric.

Oh, and the air coming from the inside of the dryer wasn't actually hot. The things I overlook the first time...

So I decided to try troubleshooting this myself. It's the Age of the Internet. I can do anything with the help of my friends Google and YouTube.

So off I go, browsing around various appliance-repair websites, checking out potential causes of "dryer not heating" and "whirlpool dryer not heating" and "whirlpool dryer troubleshooting" and all sorts of other search terms which kept sending me to the same three websites, two of which were trying to sell me Whirlpool dryers. No thanks, I've already got one.

I stumbled on a great repair website which blathered on and on about fuses, terminals and ohmmeters. Ohmmeters, you ask? So did I. They tell you how much annoyingness electricity has to fight through to get from point A to point B. They look like the speedometer in Grandma's car.

Imagine trying to decipher that while dodging obstacles on your way to Point B.

But all the fix-it website wanted me to use it for was to check if electricity would get from Point A to Point B at all -- whether it was an "open" circuit (your light switch is off) or "closed" circuit (your light switch is on and for Pete's sake don't go screwing around in the ceiling fan!).

I don't own an ohmmeter. Clearly. But... I remember playing with flashlights and 9-volt batteries back in the day, while learning about electricity and stuff. Aluminum foil made a great rigged-up wire circuit for the flashlight bulb and the 9V battery.

You can see where this is going, can't you?

I did, really, rig up a circuit-checker (my fancy name for imprecise-not-really-an-ohmmeter) and figured out the problematic part, ruling out the other potential problems in the process.

I think I may have broken a rule or two out of the electrician's handbook, but I'm not electrocuted, my house isn't on fire and my dryer still runs like it did before, without the heat, so they couldn't have been the important rules, like "don't work on the dryer while you've got it plugged in and running."

The best part?

The replacement part's less than $6... and I got free shipping.

I call this a successful Troubleshooting Part One. Assuming my beginner's luck holds out, there should be a Part Two next week, once the part arrives at my doorstep.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Debut as a solo artist

I've been hanging out at a few music jams over the last several months, getting to know some of the local talent and sharing mine with them. (Which is a silly way of saying, taking turns playing guitar and singing with them.)

And this week, one of those fellow musicians asked if I wanted to play a set at a local craft fair. There were several other folks there performing before me, and I knew them all -- knew their style, was comfortable with it -- and figured, hey, a small-town craft fair can't be that busy, especially toward the end of it. So I said, sure, I'll play and sing for a half-hour or so after you all are done.

I walked in and realized, there's vendors. and people eating lunch. and more people. Since when did so many people hang out at small-town craft fairs?

Anyway. For me, it's one thing to play guitar and sing in front of people I know, like at church. It's one thing to play guitar as backup for another singer, musician or group. It's something else entirely to be up there with a mic shoved in my face, expected to sing and play (simultaneously!) with some measure of excellence before an audience of strangers.

But that's just what I did.


It was actually kind of fun. I flubbed a bit during the patter between songs... mostly because I was flipping haphazardly through my songbook, picking out the next song on a whim (and the next, and the next...). But hey, once I started singing each song, the music drew my attention away from the strangers, from everything going on surrounding me, from the fact that the Chamber of Commerce director was sitting right in front of me -- and redirected my focus to the songs, the stories they told, the beauty of the chord progressions and the wordplay.

It was only between songs that it hit home how narrowly folksy (and predominantly melancholy!) my repertoire is. But hey, it's a small-town craft fair. It felt appropriate.

Several people -- friends and strangers, performers and spectators -- told me afterward I did well and should keep singing. Not that I had any intention of stopping altogether. But maybe I'll do so more often in rather public venues, not just at church and at friendly music jams.

P.S. I didn't even play my own guitar. One of the earlier guitarists offered to let me borrow his acoustic -- and the sound system it was attached to -- for the set. I'm quite grateful!

Monday, November 04, 2013

Shylock = ?

While playing Catchphrase* last night at a staff party, I had to try to get the others to come up with the name of one of Shakespeare's plays.

I told them as fast as I could, it's the Shakespeare play where somebody wants to cut somebody's heart out, and Shylock is in it. I thought, the courtroom scene is one of the most famous in "The Merchant of Venice." Surely somebody will make the connection, though somewhat poorly expressed on my part.

But they looked at me with blank stares. "We went to public school. We don't know this," one of them said.

Given that they've all earned bachelor's degrees and are in no wise idiots, I thought the whole scene was a rather sad anecdote illustrating the state of literary awareness in modern America.

Or am I just being elitist in expecting college-educated people to remember the title and principal characters of one of the most popular plays (in contemporary times) produced by a playwright whose body of work is still widely studied and performed 400 years after his death?

*For the uninitiated: Catchphrase is just like Taboo, only you can get phrases sometimes instead of a single word, and there aren't any words that you can't say when you're trying to get people to say the phrase that's your turn.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Compendium of Links #47

Man, it's been a busy weekend. I took my Amiguita (the little girl I'm matched with in Big Brothers Big Sisters) to the YMCA pool today for quite a while -- I kid you not, we spent nearly an hour playing frisbee. Later tonight is a staff party at my editor's house. So right now, I'm chilling before I have to go be all social again. :P

Three coders in California built a better health insurance browsing website than the government. Granted, it didn't have to mess with the security and database issues regarding signups, since it simply directs those looking to actually buy something they see to call some phone number -- but still. It's a whole lot more user-friendly.

A rather funny blog on First Things called Dr. Boli publishes esoteric jokes of general interest, plus some that Christians or Catholics will get, because it's a Catholic site. My favorite posts are the "Ask Dr. Boli" ones... because they sound like this:
Dear Dr. Boli: I play circadian rhythm guitar in the psychobilly fusion rock band, “BiPolar Express.” We tour nearly constantly and our gigs typically last well into the wee hours of the morning. As a result I suffer from a high degree of sleep deprivation. I try to sleep on the tour bus, but it’s not a wise idea to close your eyes when you share a bus with a lead singer named Brain Scissors! I, therefore, am plagued with chronic insomnia. So naturally, I have a lot of time to think. And this leads me to my question for you. If time should suddenly stand still, would I only be able to think in past and present tenses?

 "Sanctification is not always an earth-shattering affair. More often, I think, sanctification and spiritual growth come through the (perhaps seemingly menial) tasks, actions, decisions, thoughts, and words that populate our daily lives." So begins a valuable essay on Evangelical Outpost about "everyday holiness."

Can you read people's emotions? Take an online test at the New York Times website to see how well you do. I scored unerringly on every negative emotion and missed a few of the ones generally considered more positive, however I don't recall my exact score, unfortunately.

King of Tokyo is amazingly fun to play! (It's a board game, and I think it's going on my Christmas list.)

And for your listening and viewing pleasure today, you're treated to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony for three guitars. IT'S AMAZING!



Saturday, November 02, 2013

Dance party in middle school

I hosted a dance party for a few middle schoolers from church last night. Besides providing the wood floors to dance crazily on, my task was to select appropriate, upbeat songs for them to dance to.

This is the result: A YouTube playlist. I'd embed it, but apparently Blogger isn't enabled to do so.

I definitely threw a few throwback songs in there for good measure. The W's "The Devil is Bad," N*Sync's "Bye Bye Bye," and the Numa Numa song (properly named "Dragostea Din Tei")... The girls got a kick out of watching me and the other chaperone dancing and singing to these '90s and '00s songs they'd never heard of. (They also squealed with delight for many of the other songs. I felt rather accomplished and in touch with middle school culture, oddly enough.)