Sunday, June 29, 2014

Photoshop is Hard

Last Christmas, Santa Claus brought me Photoshop Elements 12 and I was so very excited. But for the next six months, I only used the brush tool to draw little cartoons, and that's an awfully huge waste of some expensive software.

I mean, an awfully huge waste of software that Santa's elves worked so hard to make.

So today I sat down to do two projects:

1. Write the rough draft of a chapter of a story I've been planning
2. Learn how to make photos look like cartoons using Photoshop

Only one of those things got done today.

I don't know if there's an easier way to make photographs look cartoony, but this is the tutorial I used:

The goal was to make this photo

look like this:

And here was what I managed to do:

I guess for a first try it isn't awful... My apologies, Rihanna, for making you look weird.

One thing that was frustrating was that the author of the tutorial was using Photoshop while I was using Photoshop elements, so some of the buttons are in different places and the pen tool was not available to me. But I discovered the existence of actual Photoshop Elements tutorials while I was searching for solutions to my many problems, so next time I'll just use one of those and make it easier on myself.

I thought this wouldn't take very long. Remove color, change the contrast, slap a filter on there, done. No, this took a very long time. A very. long. time.

The picture might have come out neater if I'd been using my Bamboo tablet. Since I didn't think this would take very long, I didn't grab it from my room. Now I kinda wish I had.

I'm pretty impressed by the lighting and shading capabilities that Photoshop has to offer, though. Regardless of my skill (or lack thereof) at using them, they're pretty dang cool.

So maybe now I'll try to write something. See if my brain doesn't explode.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Virginia House Blog-athon: I SAW IT AGAIN!!!

Note: This post was intended to be published before the post when I actually reached the Virginia House.

So I'm no longer on Sulgrave Rd, and I don't know how that happened. But while I stopped to ponder my situation, the Google Maps car from earlier came driving up the street.

I should have asked the driver for directions.

Virginia House Blog-athon: Whoops

I'm on my way home from Agecroft Hall. I checked on Google Maps and determined a route to get back to Cary Street. I just found out that, thanks to streets curving and changing their names every fifteen feet, I have been walking parallel to Cary Street for about ten minutes.

Virginia House Blog-athon 7: Agecroft Hall Gardens

So I wandered up through the gates and up toward Agecroft Hall, just to look around at whatever I could see from the outside.

As I stopped to take that picture, I was accosted by a security guard. She told me I couldn't be on the grounds without checking in at the office. She was rather adamant about it. Just doing her job, I guess.

So I went up to the office and gave them my "Uh, I was just out for a walk, uh, and I kinda just came in to see what's going on here" spiel. I ended up buying a half-price ticket to see just the gardens.

And I made sure to tell the security guard that when I came out and she asked me what they'd said in the office. Then she warned me to stay on the path. She wasn't unfriendly or anything, though. Just authoritative. A+ for doing her job.

It's lovely out here so far. Lots of shady trees and flowers. Very quiet.

Virginia House Blog-athon 6: WHAT.

After consulting Google Maps (it wasn't my fault I got lost; the roads just ceased making sense), I finally got myself to the Virginia House.

Pretty, isn't it?

Here's a photo of their sign:

Ah, yes, the Virginia House, owned by the Virginia Historical Society and open by appointment-- wait, WHAT?


I do NOT remember seeing this information on the website! Google itself was under the impression was open today-- until 5!

I was so, so tempted to just sneak under the chain. But I really don't want a run-in with the Richmond police. So I just took another photo from the other gate.

Major bummer.

But then I kept walking and saw a tall flagpole flying an American flag. It was lovely, but what caught my attention was the British flag flying right next to it.

What luck! Another historical place right next door to the one that wouldn't let me in.
Unfortunately, it's only open for about another hour, so I don't want to pay admission. But I think I'll go in and poke around a little.

Virginia House Blog-athon 5: Man vs Nature

Once upon a time, human beings tried to build red brick sidewalks in some Richmond neighborhoods.

Nature laughed in their faces.

Also, a dog just crossed a street to come bark at me because I apparently wasn't intimidated enough when he barked at me from inside his fence. It didn't take him long to determine I wasn't a threat.

Virginia House Blog-athon 4: Decision Point

I have reached Sulgrave Road. I'm fairly certain I need to turn left. But I don't feel like checking the app. This will either take me right to the Virginia House or lead me very far away from it.

Wish me luck.

Virginia House Blog-athon 3: Google Maps Car

You guys! A Google Maps car just drove by me!

I was trying to write a different blog post at the time, so I couldn't get my camera up in time to get a good picture, but here's what I got:

It's the car the farthest up the street, right under the tree. The entire car was covered by a map like you'd actually see on Google Maps. It had what looked like a tall, black radio tower on top of it, and on top of the tower was a big, red ball that I can only assume houses the camera.

Maybe if I go check out the street view on Berkshire Rd. in a few days, I'll be able to see myself walking along and staring at my phone!

Very cool.

Virginia House Blog-athon 2: Return of the Queen

I stopped at the elementary school playground to prove myself Queen of the Monkey Bars. The monkey bars stood no chance against me.

I'm writing this post from a park bench on the edge of the playground's big, grassy field. The children are quite fortunate to have such a massive playground.

The day is warm but very breezy. With stinging palms, I press onward toward my destination.

Virginia House Blog-athon 1: Setting Out

Today I'm going to the Virginia House. The website says it's a house that was built in England and relocated to Richmond. I'm walking there, and while I have my Google Maps app, I really have only a vague idea where I'm going. Hilarity may ensue.

I've just set out. Approaching the elementary school. Stay tuned for further reports.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Thursday, In Which Rebecca Teaches the Office Something New and Almost Gets Catapulted

(new record for longest post title?)

So today was Thursday.

On Tuesday, I wrote some copy for an advertisement page. I wasn't actually writing the advertisements... well, scratch that, I did write some advertisements, but then the person in charge of me told me I wasn't supposed to do that. Whoops. I wrote the little blurb that goes before all the advertisements. It was about spas. I looked online and found that mindful living is apparently a trend this year, so I wrote about mindful living and how Virginia spas can help you do that. Nothing grand. Just three paragraphs, typed in a Google doc so other people could jump in and edit or whatever.

On Thursday (earlier today), soon after I arrived at the office, one of the guys who was working on the advertisement came over, looking a bit glum, and informed me that one of the paragraphs of the copy I had written had accidentally gotten cut out and lost at one point. He asked if I had a copy saved on my computer, and I didn't. I offered to try to rewrite the paragraph from memory.

When I pulled up the document, I sat and tapped my chin for a moment. At some point in my career of using Google Docs and randomly pushing buttons, I had stumbled across a way to view the document's revision history. After a moment or two of poking around, I found that one can do this by clicking the little announcement that says "All changes saved in Drive."

I was able to pull the missing paragraph out of an earlier edition of the document and restore it! Hooray!

But the best part was that I got to go tell the guy how I did it. And he was pretty impressed. So impressed that he came back to my desk and got me to show him how he did it, and another staff member came with him. I received some blush-inducing praise for my button-finding skills.

The magazine office is full of sophisticated software that I have limited skill on or have no earthly idea how to use, and it is also full of people who are highly trained in the use of said software. But even if I get nothing else out of this internship, I will always be the person who showed the office how to access the revision history on a Google doc.

And then I had issues with my chair.

I've actually been having issues with my desk chair since Day One. The seat has always been reclined too far back, which means I've always had to either sit up perfectly straight or slouch way back. Since sitting up straight is exhausting, I've always gone for the slouch option. However, the angle of the seat back and the slipperiness of the chair have always resulted in an endless cycle of me slipping down farther and farther in my chair until my chin can rest on my desk (very professional), and then boosting myself back up again.

I tried messing around with the levers and knobs on the chair. Nothing ever worked. I even asked the intern who sits next to me how to fix the chair, and we determined that it was broken. Yet hope springs eternal, and every day I found myself trying fruitlessly to adjust the chair. Nothing ever happened.

Until today.

Today I played around with the crank and flipped one of the levers up. Nothing happened, and I went about my business.

Later on, I happened to lean forward in just the right way, and--



The back of my chair came swinging up, nearly catapulting me right onto my desk!

Well, whatever part was stuck is now fixed. I can adjust my chair with ease.

Unfortunately, the adjustments have not fixed my sliding problem.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Fuego, Dog of the Spots

The sun shines stronger every minute. I can feel the heat even through the window pane. It will be a hot, hot day. Birds are chirping in the trees outside. A few tasty-looking squirrels are sitting in the tree. It is a good day to be a Dog of the Spots.

A good day, indeed. I like any day my owner takes that other dog off to "camp." I can sit on the couch without him trying to curl up next to me. Big, lumbering fool. He can go slobber on some other dogs for a while.

As a Dog of the Spots, I have no patience for lesser dogs. How can I be expected to appreciate my drooling brother when rich and heroic legacy shines from every spot on my body? The humans call me Fuego. I am told it means "fire" in one of the human languages. I like it; fire is powerful.

Ah, but it is such a beautiful day, and those squirrels look like they're getting too comfortable out there. I think a morning perambulation is in order.

But the door is shut. Why is the door always shut? The humans and their fear of the outdoors... Alas! My kingdom for a pair of thumbs.

My owner has gone to work, but that young human who has come to live with her is still here. While I am not entirely sure I like the idea of another human coming out of nowhere and jumping over me in the chain of command, she scratches my ears often and she is very good at putting my royal blanket on me. I suppose she isn't all bad.

But I would bet my spots that, even at this late hour, she is still abed. The folly of it all! If she didn't stay up all hours of the night doing who-knows-what on her strange human contraptions, she would be able to rise with the sun like the rest of us and actually enjoy the day.

Well, this has gone far enough. I'm putting an end to it.

Her bedroom door is shut and I can't push it open. I know she's in there; I can hear her slow, deep breathing. She's asleep. How did I guess?


Young human! I require the use of your thumbs.

The sounds of deep breathing have ceased; she is no longer asleep, but why has she not yet answered me?


Really, now, it's ten o' clock. Time for you to get out of that bed and tend to my needs.

She speaks, but does not come to the door. Silly human. She often forgets that I do not comprehend her strange tongue. I'm sure it was a protest of some kind, but that response is unacceptable.


Young human! Look at yourself. Have you no shame that you sleep half the day away whenever you don't have to work? Do you not regret each lost moment that you snore away? Rise!

Clearly you struggle to grasp the importance of the morning- a malady that many humans share. This is quite tragic, my young friend. Quite tragic indeed. But fear not! I will help you to overcome your laziness and to return to the happy life of the healthy circadian rhythm.

My ancestors stood by your ancestors as they raced into danger. The Dogs of the Spots never abandoned your people in their time of need! We chased the highwaymen from your carriages, we calmed your horses, and we cut a path through busy streets for the fire wagons to come through. The Dogs of the Spots valiantly aided their human friends, and so will I aid you in your struggle with the morning. I will not let you fail! I will stand here and growl under your door until--

Oh, hello! Good morning, young human. Yes, yes, you may glare at me if you wish, with your bleary eyes blinking and your hair sticking up all funny like that, but you simply must join the world of the living now. Come enjoy the morning air-- and while you're at it, open the door for me. I want to go out.

Come along, now! Do you not see me tapping my paws? Let us go! I grow impatient!

There you go. That's a good human. See? Was that so hard? Now if you open the door for me in a timely manner when I am ready to return to the indoors, I will sit next to you on the couch and allow you the honor of petting me until I don't feel like being petted anymore.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Trip to Church: A Play in One Act

A Trip to Church
A Play in One Act

Dramatis Personae

An editorial intern. New to the city of Richmond
and rather afraid of its streets. Not good at

A 2014 Ford Fiesta hatchback. Silver. Equipped
with Sync system. Loves to drive and is very

The Google Maps app on Rebecca's iPhone.
Renowned for reliability and a veteran
at saving Rebecca's bacon.

Setting: Various streets of Richmond and a parking garage. REBECCA and GPS are inside CAR.

REBECCA: Okay, guys. Let's get going to church. This is a little bit later than I wanted to leave, but we still have over forty-five minutes before the service starts, so I think we'll be okay.

CAR: Oh boy! We get to go somewhere other than work!

REBECCA: I have a vague idea of where I'm going, but I'm still going to need some help. GPS?

GPS: Here's the route I think you should take.

REBECCA: Okay, let's see. This street... turn right here...

GPS: Hey! Quit dragging around on my face! I can't tell if you're trying to change the route or what. Just let me tell you when to turn.

REBECCA: I was just curious. Jeez. Okay, let's go.

CAR: Wheeeeeee! Nobody has a turning radius like mine! I'm awesome! This is exciting! You never drive me anywhere!

REBECCA: Walking's good exercise.

CAR: Who needs to be in shape if you have a zippy car like me?

GPS: Turn left here.

REBECCA: So far so good.

CAR: Can we turn on some music?

REBECCA: I'd rather not. You're not always good at switching between the iTunes and the Google Maps app. I don't want to get lost.

CAR: Aww, that was just one time.

GPS: Turn left here.

CAR: I'm great at left turns. No traffic! Yay!

REBECCA: It's only supposed to take us eight minutes to get to the church, so I think we'll be in good shape.

GPS: Head west on this street.

REBECCA: What? West? Which way is west?!

CAR: Let's go this way!

GPS: Wait, wait, wait, no! Don't-! Aaaaaaagh. Let me recalculate the route.

REBECCA: Well, sorry. How about a "left" or a "right" next time?

GPS: Still recalculating.

REBECCA: If you could hurry, that'd be nice. I don't want to get too far off track.

GPS: I'm trying to concentrate.

REBECCA: Why on earth did you take me this way anyway? I thought we were just going three blocks up the street and taking a turn on Monument.

GPS: Take the exit in one-fourth of a mile.

REBECCA: Exit? What do you mean, exit? We're not on a highway.

CAR: This is fun! Wanna see me switch lanes?

REBECCA: Okay. This is insane. I'm pulling into this convenient parking lot and we're going to sort out the right route to church.

CAR: Boooooooo! I don't wanna stop!

GPS: All right, fine. Here's the route.

REBECCA: What?! How did I get all the way out here? Why did you take me this way?

GPS: I took the information I was given and I plotted out the shortest route to get there. If you don't like it, you should be more careful the next time you plug in an address.

REBECCA: This is not my fault. How did we even get all the way out here? We're never going to make it to church on time!

GPS: Am I to blame for your inability to follow directions?

CAR: Come on, you guys. Don't fight! Let's start driving again.

REBECCA: You know what, whatever. Just get me there. Let's go.

GPS: Turn right here.


CAR: Ah, the breeze blowing over my windshield on a fine Sunday morning. Doesn't driving make you feel relaxed and happy?

GPS: Go west on this road.

REBECCA: Stop saying that! I don't know which way is west! I can't stick my head out the window and judge the position of the sun! Tell me left or right!

CAR: Well... we're going east right now, if that helps.

REBECCA: Wait, so... I'm going the exact opposite of the way I want to go? Brilliant. Wonderful. This is ridiculous!

GPS: Recalculating.

REBECCA: I don't even recognize any of these buildings!

CAR: Come on, church bus! Quit blocking the road! I wanna drive!

REBECCA: Maybe we should just follow the bus and go to whatever church it ends up at.

GPS: Turn right here.

REBECCA: And then what?

CAR: It's not a good idea to look at your phone while you're driving...

REBECCA: We're at a red light. Shush. Okay, right here, left here...

CAR: Green light! Whoo! Aww, come on. Am I the only one that's happy?

REBECCA: Wait... this is the road! This is the road I'm supposed to turn right on!

CAR: Turning! Whee!

REBECCA: Hey, GPS, was there any reason you didn't tell me I was supposed to turn just then?

GPS: Turn left on Bricks Road. Turn left on Adams Street. Turn left on Caroline Road.

REBECCA: What?! Stop! Are you crazy? One at a time!

CAR: Uh, Rebecca, I think GPS is a little confused, so I'm just going to disconnect her. I bet you and I can get there! We're a good team!


GPS: You disconnected me? How dare you? That's it, I'm getting off of this crazy bluetooth wagon. Good luck getting anywhere in this city without me.

CAR: Sync. Please say a command. Bing!

REBECCA: Bluetooth Audio!

CAR: Ummmm, GPS doesn't really want to talk to me right now, but I'll try to reconnect her...

REBECCA: Aaaaaaaaaaghhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

GPS: Turn left on Bricks Road.

CAR: There you are!


GPS: At the traffic circle, take the fourth right to turn onto Monument.

REBECCA: Traffic circle? I don't see a-- oh, there.

GPS: Turn right on--

REBECCA: WAIT WAIT WAIT That's the church right next to me! And there's the sign for the parking!

CAR: Aww, here already? Hey, here's an idea-- why don't we just listen to a church on the radio and go drive around some more?

REBECCA: You, you mothertruckin' GPS, can just shut up now. I'm not listening to any more of your crazy directions.

GPS: That's some way to talk to the machine that has gotten you home every time you got lost in the city. And that was a lot of times.

REBECCA: Yeah, well, that makes it all the more disappointing that you couldn't even get me through the three turns it should have taken me to get to church. Thanks for nothing. Well, thanks for very little. I can't believe-- AAAAAAAH NO WAIT THIS IS THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ENTRANCE!!!

CAR: Hey, take a chill pill. Did you forget about the part where I have a great turning radius? And brakes. I have super brakes. And there's not even any traffic coming at us. You're awfully wound up. Hey, this ought to cheer you up-- you have almost fifteen minutes until the sermon starts! You parked kinda crooked.

REBECCA: You're small. You fit in the lines.

CAR: I sure do!

REBECCA: Car, thank you for being awesome.

CAR: No problem!

REBECCA: GPS, I'm plotting out a Facebook status in my head. Something along the lines of "Mothertruckin' GPS took me on a tour of Richmond this morning."

GPS: Do you really think that substituting the word "truckin'" for what you really mean is going to make your grandmothers any less shocked when they see your status?

REBECCA: Shut up. I'm going in now.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Pink Toes, White Sauce, Green Apples

In case you ever wondered what my feet look like, there they are. The toenails aren't usually pink. Today my aunt decided that she wanted to go get a pedicure, and she invited me along. It was kinda nice. The little foot bath was nice and warm, although the lady doing my nails seemed like she was in a bit of a hurry. But now I have pink toenails, and they're kinda fun. My fingernails, on the other hand, are naked, but you know what? That's okay.

If you look carefully, you can see the great sock tan I've got going on. That's only going to get worse-- especially when band camp starts.

Tonight I went to eat dinner with a friend from school. She actually lives in Virginia. Her church was sponsoring some young people who came to help out with one of their camps this summer, and it was my friend's family's turn to feed them dinner. So my friend invited one of her high school friends and me to go with them to a Mexican restaurant, and that was pretty awesome, especially since I had nothing else to do on my Saturday night.

At the restaurant, I ordered a Burrito Grande, thinking it sounded delicious, although I didn't realize exactly how grande it was until it was too late. That thing was as long as my forearm, I swear. It tasted great, but there was no way I could finish it. I brought a little under half of it home in a box.

There was some kind of white sauce that the waitress served up alongside the salsa. Nobody could really tell what it was. We knew it wasn't cheese. I elected to just eat my chips plain, which is how I prefer my chips most of the time.

After dinner, our big group all went back to my friend's house, where we played Apples to Apples and halfway watched various cooking competition shows in the background. I kicked butt at Apples to Apples, man. I think I had around seven green apple cards.

You know how sometimes people joke around that the green cards you win describe your personality? Some of mine fit pretty well, like "mischievous" and "eccentric." I didn't agree so much with "smelly" or "masculine."

But it was quite a fun night. It's really hilarious how many friends I'm digging up so far from home. So far, I've gotten together with a friend I go to college with, a friend I went to middle school with, and a friend I met in kindergarten. How crazy is that?

Just a Little Bit of Art

Last night, I wanted to illustrate my newfound journalism and office worker prowess with a little cartoon. So I pulled out the old Bamboo tablet and opened up Photoshop Elements.

I must have been really tired, because I screwed stuff up from the very start.

First off, I sketched and sketched and finally managed to get a really nice circle-plus-chin going for my cartoon head. Then I realized that my head was in the wrong position for the cartoon I wanted to draw. So I started over on a new file.

On my second try, I created another layer to go on top of my background layer. When I draw cartoons, I like to draw the outline on the topmost layer and then do the coloring on the background layer (or at least one lower than the top). With most programs, I can color over the lines a little bit and it won't show because the color is actually under the line art.

Smart, huh?

So I sketched out the outline of the cartoon, making rough eyes, a rough nose, rough shoulders, all that jazz. And I was really happy with the way it was going.

Until I realized that I was drawing everything on the background layer instead of on the top layer where I wanted it.


So I reasoned that, since I needed to trace a definite outline over my sketches anyway, I would just do the tracing on the top layer and then erase everything on the background layer, leaving myself with nice, neat line art on the top layer. Smart, huh?

So I resolved to do that. I changed from the pencil tool to the paint tool and began to trace over my sketches, sorting out which lines would become permanent and which would get swept away. And I was really happy with how it was going.

Until I realized that I was still drawing on the background layer.


That particular failure meant that I had a lot of work ahead of me-- using a very small point eraser to erase away all the sketchy marks without erasing the final paint lines. It took a very long time. I had to zoom in and squint at the screen. I had to make teeny-tiny movements with the stylus. I had to use the undo function a lot. And there was no room to cheat because I had done all my sketching in a bright blue color that the paint wouldn't cover up, even when it was a layer higher.

That project is still not done. My hand started cramping and I lost my patience. I will go back to it, but it wasn't going to get done last night, and I just couldn't bring myself to work on it today.

So instead, I did a little traditional drawing. I didn't bring a lot of art supplies with me to Virginia, but I did grab a few new notebooks from Target the other day, and I've got the pencil case I use at school. So I did a little doodle! I wasn't going to spend as long as I did on it. In fact, I was going to just sketch a little bit and then go to bed. But then the picture happened, and I didn't go to bed.

Here it is, presented in two different versions:

Version 1

The lighting in this version is the best, although the camera angle is not great (my scanner access is a bit limited at this late hour). I've had fantasy on the mind lately, so I drew an elf. Obviously I haven't gotten much better at drawing since the last time I've posted art, and I'm still working on proper proportions and oh-my-goodness-those-stupid-hands, but it's not too terrible.

Version 2

The lighting in this version is worse, but it's a much better camera angle. I usually find that I can make things look more realistic (or at least more serious) if I draw and shade it with a pencil instead of inking it and coloring it. This is going to smudge in my notebook like no one's business, but the fresh, clean version is on the Internet now, and the Internet lasts forever. 

And just because... Here's a picture of a cool bird I saw out the window today:

There were about three of those hanging out in the backyard. I have no idea what kind of bird it is. I just think it looks cool.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Excuses, Excuses

Okay. So.

On Wednesday night, I had a legitimate reason for not blogging, and it's name was There Was A Storm And Our Power Was Out Until After 3 A.M.

On Thursday night, I did not have a legitimate reason. My illegitimate reason's name was I Forgot.

On Friday night, I had a semi-legitimate reason, and its name was We Went To A Richmond Flying Squirrels Baseball Game And It Was Raining So The Game Was Delayed Until 9 P.M. And We Got Home Really Late.

(It's semi-legitimate because I had all day to blog and I didn't, and although I was tired when I got home late after spending several hours at the baseball game, I stayed up doing other things anyway.)

So, how 'bout them Squirrels? I think it's really funny that the team is called the Flying Squirrels... I mean, usually when you pick your team's mascot, you pick an animal that's fierce, fast, or threatening in some way. But you know what? The baseball fans in Richmond really go with it. They bring their enthusiasm, and all of a sudden, it doesn't feel stupid that their mascot is something you'd normally call cute and fluffy.

They did a pretty good job making the Flying Squirrel logo and the costume of their mascot, Nutzy. It's all in how you stylize something.

So that was fun, despite the rain and ridiculously late starting time. They sold hot dogs for a dollar as an apology. I got one. And it was tasty.

Today I overslept by a lot. I think I accidentally turned my alarm off instead of hitting the snooze button. And I didn't really do a whole lot today. I watched The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. I had a pizza delivered because one of my aunt's dogs is at "camp" for the weekend and he wasn't here to go ballistic when the doorbell rang. It just seemed like an opportunity I had to take advantage of.

I went for a lovely walk after dinner. Just kinda wandered around the neighborhoods a bit. I walked past the elementary school and found a set of monkey bars so tall I had to jump in order to reach them. So while I can't imagine them being of much use to small children, I had fun swinging across them. Maybe I'll go back a few times a week and get some good calluses going.

Did you ever read Ramona's World by Beverly Cleary? In the book, Ramona (in the fourth grade at the time the book takes place) and her friends often compare the calluses they get on their palms after swinging on the rings at the playground. The girls who lived closest to the playground had the biggest (and best) calluses.

I used to keep that in mind as I mastered the monkey bars at my first elementary school. Those things were HUGE. They were so high off the ground that you had to climb a ladder to reach them, and it was a long, loooong drop down if you couldn't make it all the way across. And getting across wasn't easy. For one thing, there were a lot of rungs on the monkey bars. It was a good 15-20 feet across. But you also had to contend with the huge gap in the middle- a gap where a rung ought to have been, but was never placed. The gap occurred in the dead center where the poles that held up the middle were.

(Yes, the monkey bars were so long that they had to have support in the center. They were THAT intense.)

When I was in probably third grade, I gradually worked up the strength to get to the center of the monkey bars, but the gap was a problem for a while. I eventually figured out that I could somehow steady myself by wrapping my legs around one of the support poles and then REEEEACH across to the other rung. And that's how I mastered the monkey bars.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

I Got The Power! ...except I kinda don't.

My computer is rather confused right now, as it is running without a battery. At least, I assume that's why it's running a little more slowly than usual.

Why is it running without a battery?

Because I took the battery out.

Why did I do that?

Because the battery was BURNING HOT.

Why was the battery BURNING HOT?

I can only guess.

I assume that part of the problem was that I had my laptop sitting on my bed. I assume that another part of the reason is that I'm not using the original power adapter (as you may recall, that got fried in Ireland). The battery hasn't been quite right ever since I got back from Europe, anyway. I've been getting a message that the battery life is decreasing for months, and sometimes my laptop freaks out and doesn't recognize the adapter. So between the European electricity and the not-Dell power adapter, my battery is slowly losing its patience with me.

So, yeah. My laptop wasn't charging, as the blinky yellow light informed me, and upon doing all the normal investigations to find out what was wrong, I noticed that the bottom of my laptop was as hot as a few choice words.

I popped the battery out and put it on the nightstand. Hopefully it'll cool down and work again by morning. If not... Well, as I discussed last summer when my power adapter gave up the ghost, I'd rather have a bum battery than a bum power adapter. At least this way I can still use my laptop!

In other news, I edited some copy today! Yaaaaaayyyy!!!! It was a small collection of short news blurbs known better to Virginia Living readers as the Bellwether.

That, of course, was in the middle of the interviewing and research I did today, like I do on most days. It's getting easier. Sometimes I actually find someone really interesting to talk to. Some people are really passionate about their high school programs, and it's just refreshing to know that there are good people out there to guide and direct those crazy teenagers.

I can call teenagers crazy. I, myself, was a crazy teenager not too long ago.

But tomorrow's my day off! All I know right now is that I want to go to the candy store. Hey-- as long as I walk there, I oughta get my 10,000 steps for the day. That justifies the chocolate.

Monday, June 9, 2014


Hi! So, yeah. I had a couple of nights when I just reeeeeally didn't feel like blogging. I was also doing some legitimate research for a writing project, so there's that. My apologies. I'm going to cover a lot of ground in very little time, because I have to get up and do stuff tomorrow.

This dalmatian is my aunt's dog Fuego. I was responsible for watching him and his brother Shadow (see below) for almost two days while my aunt was out of town. Fuego and I became buddies.

This Weimaraner is named Shadow, and he and I had a bit of a fight over who was the leader of the pack while my aunt was away. I had to turn to Cesar Millan for some advice, but I came out on top in the end and Shadow doesn't hate me.

I used to get these out of the vending machine when I was studying in France. So why do I have one here in America? Well, when my aunt returned from her trip, she took me to this AMAZING candy store called For the Love of Chocolate. It. Has. EVERYTHING. I was seriously overwhelmed by the candy amazingness in that store. I could hardly decide what to buy. I decided that I would just have to go a couple times a week and sample something different every time. As long as I walk there, it'll be okay!

I also got this Irish creme truffle from the big truffle case. Mmmmm. So good. I might have to start a blog series about all the candy I get from For the Love of Chocolate.

As a side note, I also tried Thai food for what was either the first or second time in my life (I can't remember, but I think I might have eaten it once before). I got Pad Thai, and it was amazing both in the restaurant and in leftover form. We got veggie tempura as an appetizer and I loved that, too! Especially the asparagus.

This is a tapestry of Louis XIV, my favorite French king (and a lot of other people's favorite French king, too) and it is located at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, where I chose to spend my Saturday afternoon. The museum was awesome! It was a lot bigger than I expected it to be. I wasn't expecting a whole heck of a lot because general admission is free, but I was blown away by the size of the museum and the variety of art on display. I mean, it's no Louvre, but what the heck else can be a Louvre? I had a great time, and since the admission is f-r-e-e-that-spells-free, I think I'll go back a few more times. I mean, if nothing else, they have a pretty cool art library that I'd like to poke around in.

When I look at art exhibits, I don't just wander around, glance at a few things, and think, "Oh, that's pretty" or "Eh, I don't understand that." My mind has been trained to go much deeper than that over the course of my education in the English language and literature. 

I scrutinize. I analyze. I read the information signs. I look at the art from a few different angles. And then I think, "Oh, that definitely represents the mindset of the time" or "I wonder if the hands are missing thanks to weather or people or what" or "Eh, I don't understand that."

Although it took me about 0.51 seconds to recognize that the figure in the photo above was Saint Denis of France. He's the only headless saint I know of (The guy supposedly was beheaded and then picked his head up and walked away with it), so that was a pretty easy one.

I had no idea who this was from looking at it, but the sign told me that it's Saint Barbara- who, as far as I know, having a father who was in the military most of my life, is the patron saint of things that go boom. Which is pretty cool.

Virginia folks, I don't wanna hear anything about Alabama people being rednecks. These are some crazy Confederate protesters I saw through the museum windows. They're apparently there pretty often. EVERYBODY'S GOT SOME REDNECKS.

Okay, okay, it's not really politically correct of me to call people who wave the Confederate flag rednecks. What I should really say is that I disagree with just about everything they're fighting for under the stars and bars.

(I had written out some specific reasons for my disagreement with Confederate flag-wavers, but with each reason, I had opened up a big ol' can of worms that I realized could cause me some problems. So... playing it safe. On with the show.)

This garden display outside the museum reminded me of something I saw in France.

As I mentioned briefly before, I'm currently researching names for a story/thing I'm trying to write. That's taken up some of my free time over the past two-ish days. The names are for a fantasy world, but I'm struggling to come up with the right names. After doing some research about mythology and fairy tales and stuff, I began browsing through Ancient Scandinavian names and started coming up with some results. I'm going to check out Old English and possibly some Russian names, too, and I'm definitely going to raid some roleplaying websites for ideas.

I also reached out to my Facebook friends about the rules of making up names. I mean, I feel so stupid stringing together a bunch of letters that don't make a real name, but you've seen the fantasy and sci-fi names we have in our culture: Legolas, Frodo, Gandalf, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Han Solo, Darth Vader, Voldemort, Aslan, and so on. We don't question those names (or at least we don't question them much). We just take them as part of the fantastical world into which we are delving when we read a book or watch a movie. But somebody had to sit down before that book or movie came to life and string a bunch of letters together to make up new, weird names.

My question is- how do they do that? How do they make names that sound foreign and fantastical but don't sound completely stupid? Do they research and combine words from old languages together? Or do they seriously just put a bunch of syllables together until they find goofy names that they like?

I don't know. I'm trying to figure it out, though.

And now I really gotta go to bed, because I have a little roadtrip tomorrow to meet an old friend for lunch. Later, gators!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

An Evening of Tans One Year in the Making

This, ladies and gentlemen, is a photo of my right shoulder. As you can see, it's a bit pinkish. That's because I took my hour-long lunch break yesterday out on the deck behind my office building and I sat on the side of the picnic table that was in the sun. I wore a new shirt for the first time yesterday. As you can probably tell from the state of my shoulder today, the new shirt is sleeveless.

My left shoulder is ever so slightly burnt as well, but it's hardly worth mentioning. It doesn't even hurt. 

How on earth did I get such a lopsided sunburn? (I'm thinking it's something to do with the angle of the sun, but whatever) Not only will I have crazy tan lines on my shoulders, but they'll be lopsided, too. I'll never get them evened out.

This is not the first time I've had a lopsided sunburn, though. 

Once upon a time, in the month of June and the year 2013, I was a blogging globetrotter, living in Tours, France with a host family. My host mother's great-granddaughter was having a birthday party, and I was invited along. The party was at a house somewhere across the river, and it was a house very much like those we see in the United States-- in a neighborhood, not attached to any other houses, with a front and back yard. And the backyard was enormous. Probably bigger than my own backyard.

It was a nice, sunny Summer day, and I was wearing a yellow tank top. At one point in the party, several hours in, I found myself seated in a little circle next to a tree along with my host mom and some other family members, just chatting. What I did not realize was that I was only sitting halfway in the shade of the tree.

By the time I realized my folly, the damage had already been done. My left shoulder was a bright, raw red, while my other shoulder was untouched. The lopsided pain, flaking, and tan would plague me throughout my remaining time in France and well into my journey in Ireland.

As the winter came and I limited my exposure to the sun, my shoulders and all the rest of my skin sank back into the cold, dead paleness that would make a Victorian gentleman swoon. I forgot that the sunburn ever happened... until now.

In the summer of 2013, I burned my left shoulder. Now, in the summer of 2014, nearly an entire year later, I have burned my right shoulder. While it might appear that I once again have a lopsided sunburn, I know the truth.

I have finally evened out my tan.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

My Favorite Things

New Ford Fiestas and bread with Nutella
Sandwich for lunch next to that cool Sales fella
Out on the deck-- the sun shines, the bird sings
These are a few of my favorite things

Not making phone calls and still getting work done
Knowing tomorrow's a day just to have fun
Netflix that plays and an iPhone that rings
These are a few of my favorite things

Hot Earl Grey Tea and a chat while it's steeping
Big, fluffy pillows so perfect for sleeping
Blogging the night away 'til my eye stings
These are a few of my favorite things

When the dog barks
When the sun burns
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things

Today was a pretty good day.

I figured I owed everyone a little extra effort tonight since I didn't blog last night (although I think one night I blogged twice, so it should all even out), so I give you a parody of "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music. It talks, obviously, about a few of my favorite things about today. Except Netflix. I actually didn't watch Netflix at all today (GASP), but it's still one of my favorite things.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Random Fact #23

Random Fact #23: You can't sneeze while you're sleeping. If you really, really gotta sneeze, you wake up to do it.

Source: This Wikipedia article, third paragraph.

I just sneezed. It's after 1 A.M. and I've got sleep on my mind, and I started wondering if it's possible to sneeze while you're asleep. Apparently not! But I bet you never knew that another word for "sneeze" is "sternutation." There's a word to jazz up your vocabulary.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Rich Boy

Today I didn't do much of interest to the general public. I mean, it was a really nice day for me. I slept in late, watched some stuff on YouTube, went on a walk around Carytown, went to Kroger, and ate an entire pint of Ben & Jerry's Phish Food. But that's probably not as interesting to you as it is to me.

So instead of just talking about what I did today (I mean, more than I already have), I decided I would draw a little something for you. And that little something's name is Rich Boy.

A couple of posts ago, I talked about how I felt kind of like Lois Lane at my internship and I chuckled over the idea of a Richmond superhero being my boyfriend. I derived the name Rich Boy from the name of the city of Richmond and it just stuck in my head as an awesome name for a comical superhero.

Behold! Rich Boy! Able to fill in a pothole in under sixty seconds! Rescuer of tourists about to turn the wrong way on a one-way road! Defender of drunken college students trying to stumble home in the dark!

He keeps watch over the city by his position at a Richmond magazine (none of the newspapers would hire him) so that he knows exactly when trouble is happening (and he is also very well informed on the cutting-edge programs at high schools and colleges in the commonwealth of Virginia).

He loves lobster! He may or may not actually be rich!

Rich Boy!