Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Reading Stephen King

My oh my. How time flies. My first Stephen King novel was the doorstopper Under the Dome, published in November 2009 and probably read shortly thereafter when the OCR'd copies were still pretty crappy.

Maybe that's what colored my perception of the book. But then I read other reviews on Goodreads, and I realize that it probably wasn't the quality of the OCR. The book could be divided into two parts. The first showed the characters reacting to the dome's appearance, while the second... I don't even want to think about the second part. It was just that bad. The ending... It was not well-written, and I feel like I was cheated by the lack of foreshadowing. Maybe there were some hints, but I doubt it.


Turning my attention to the present time, I managed to finish reading Bag of Bones from September 1998. My interest in this book was first sparked by the A&E miniseries of the same name, but the first copy I got was a whopping 1400 pages long. Yeah. That number does not inspire excitement towards reading the book. The next copy was a lot more manageable at 770 pages. In May, I started to read the book. And promptly forgot to finish it until about 3 days ago.

I think it was the beginning that got me for a while. It was slow, but I think that it was a good kind of slow, showing the difficulties of the main character that led him to return to his little cabin by the lake where all of the really good stuff happened. The book had a lot of twists and turns, and even though I ended up awake at 4 in the morning today (and had been awake for about 25 hours), I couldn't put it down. I had to see what happened to the characters. I feel like even though 11 years separated these two books, Bag of Bones stood out as being better written.


Just curious, but have you guys read anything by Stephen King? And if so, what books and what did you think about them?

Images from Goodreads, with links to the books in question.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Haboobs, Monsoons, and New Pools

As many of you can guess, Phoenix, Arizona is hot in the summer. Temperatures will hover around 110 degrees, and even the shade provides little relief. Summer is a time to stay inside or find a place in the shade. Just yesterday I saw a woman park 30 feet further from the entrance of Wal-Mart just to get under a tree.

The summer months also mark the start of the monsoon season. The monsoon storms can be massive, dumping tons of rain in a relatively short time. The ground in Phoenix does not absorb this deluge very fast, so you can find yourself with a spiffy new, shallow pool in your back yard. It's not uncommon to find at least one depression called a wash in a subdivision.

Just this past week, one of these large storms struck Phoenix. In fact, the red (most severe) part of the radar images swept right over Gilbert. It was amazing watching the rain come off the roof. We ended up with a three-inch-deep flood in the back yard. Of course, the ground did eventually absorb all of this water over a few hours. A few trees, one probably 30 feet high, got torn down.

Haboobs are exciting and scary at the same time. These massive dust storms ride in from the desert and cake everything in a thin layer of brown. The sky becomes this strange orange-brown color, and the wind becomes horrendous.

It's also apparently why the Chase Field dome roof is a brownish color. It was originally painted white, but a large haboob on July 5 of last year rolled in before the paint could dry. Thus, a brown roof.

Images from:
AZ Department of Transportation
Virtual Bird's Eye

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Finding Everett Ruess

I recently won a free copy of Finding Everett Ruess by David Roberts. I can't say that I was all that impressed with it. I had read a bit about Everett Ruess, a young man who disappeared into the Southwestern wilderness in the early 20th century, in Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven, so I was interested in a book about him.

The book's premise was interesting. What caused a young man to wander around the Southwest for years, and what happened to him? But I feel that the author dropped the ball on this one. I couldn't keep interested enough to finish the book. It's too bad though, because like I said, the idea was interesting.

Overall Grade: D

Image from Goodreads.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

One Step Back for Astrobiology

Astrobiologists around the world are disappointed. The idea that bacteria could live on something other than phosphorus is exciting, and it would expand the possible environments where life could exist. A study published two years ago seemed to prove that arsenic could replace phosphorus (a major component in DNA).

Except... It turns out that the study was wrong.

Two new studies have found that while the study did find bacteria that were really resilient to arsenic in Mono Lake, the bacteria still required phosphorus to survive.

Thus, astrobiologists are completely heartbroken.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Birdman & Itsy Bitsy

Last week's Free Fridays special from Barnes & Noble was Mo Hayder's Birdman. Despite what my Goodreads account says, I haven't gotten around to reading The Map of Time by Felix Palma or Bag of Bones by Stephen King. Considering how my copy of Bag of Bones is over 750 pages long, I might not finish it...

Getting back to Birdman... This is a decidedly British book, and more than a couple of times, I wished I had even a rudimentary map of London and its surrounding environments.

The book itself was good, but incredibly... strange. I guess that would be a polite way of saying it. The book had some parts in it where I was screaming at my Nook to show me what the characters were looking at. I was surprised when the author showed who the killer was pretty quickly, and I was even more (pleasantly) surprised by the twists in the story. The author interwove seemingly random details about the characters that turned out to be important in the end, and, as fitting a series, some things about the main character, Detective Inspector Jack Caffery, were left unanswered.

All in all, the book had both good and bad sides.


If you really must get technical, I finished Itsy Bitsy before starting on Birdman. This short story by John Ajvide Lindqvist of Let the Right One In fame was decidedly weird, and I was left wondering what exactly I had read. I'm not completely sure if the main character was completely sane through the 30-some pages, and I felt like he was a little flat for my tastes. Then again, short stories don't have time for grandiose character development, so I won't begrudge Mr. Lindqvist.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Another Check off the Bucket List

I got to see the transit of Venus on Tuesday. So happy that I kept the eclipse glasses from the solar eclipse. I didn't get any good pictures this time (since my camera's only got 4x zoom), but I did see it with my "naked" eye. The picture on the left is essentially what I saw.

Considering that a child born for the next 5-25 years (assuming they live to 80) won't see another transit, I'm excited. It's a good time to be alive.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Awesome Stuff on Mars

Last fall, I took a course called Fundamentals of Planetary Geology, taught by Dr. Ronald Greeley, whose death was actually the topic of one of my first posts. The majority of the grade came from a semester-long project focusing on some aspect of geology. I chose to do a review of the literature on potentially alluvial deltas in some craters on Mars. Not particularly exciting stuff, I'll admit.

Another student, Andrew Ryan, chose to study lava flows on Mars. He found strange spiral patterns in the flows. No one had ever seen these types of flows, called lava coils, before on another planet. They have been seen in Hawaii and near the Galapagos rift in the Pacific Ocean.

Ryan made his presentation, and some of the faculty helping to grade the presentations, since this was after Dr. Greeley's death, told him that he should polish up the report and send it into Science to try and get it published.

The SESE Source, a newsletter for the School of Earth and Space Exploration at ASU, announced that Ryan did indeed get published in Science on 27 April 2012. Here's a link to the article's abstract:
Coils and Polygonal Crust in the Athabasca Valles Region, Mars, as Evidence for a Volcanic History

That lucky bastard.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bunionectomy Day 23: Camps, Aches, & Tests

It's been just over 3 weeks since I got my bunionectomy done, and I think I'm doing pretty good. I get to take my showers with my boot off, though I'm still sitting on the bath chair, and I'm hoping that I get to move out of the boot and into the walking shoe on Monday. The stitches are gone, but I'm peeling a bit around the cut. I do ache a bit.

The June Camp of NaNoWriMo starts in about 30 minutes, though I'm planning on be asleep by then. My novel this time is a romance. Not exactly my strongest genre, but I'm willing to give it a go. I'll probably try to put it up on my Figment account as I work on it.

I should really get to bed. I've got a physics test tomorrow morning. I'm hoping to do okay on it. Thankfully I don't think that there's going to be any error propagation questions. Hate that. Stupid lab.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Growing Up & School

A story on the local news has me bothered. At the end of the year, a teacher was giving out awards to students for various achievements. One student got the dubious award of "most excuses for not having homework done". Apparently the rest of the 4th-grade class found that funny. The mom did not. She says that the teacher was bullying her child.

Now, I don't know what elementary school is like nowadays, but quite frankly, the mom needs to grow up. One incident does not equal bullying, and who knows what awards other students got. Also, if it bothers the mom so much that her daughter got "most excuses for not having homework done", then maybe she should have paid more attention. Studies have found that children of parents who take an active role in their education do better.

Of course, the teacher's in trouble as well. There's no news whether or not the teacher will face some sort of disciplinary action, and I hope that if there is, it's mild. I'm not condoning the teacher's action, but is it really any different than the "most likely to..." voting in high school. This is just a bit of growing up, and everyone needs to calm down.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

TV & My Favorite Dudes

My mom and I have identified a few people as our "favorite" people. Here's a list of our favorites:

Physicist/Scientist = Michio Kaku

This guy appears in a lot of the science-for-the-public shows that my mom and I watch. He does a good job to make it easy to understand what he's talking about.

Builder = Mike Holmes

Jokingly referred to as my boyfriend. I love watching his shows, and he does a good job at making people's lives better.

Gay Man = Anderson Cooper

Look at that hair! And those eyes! I don't care what he's talking about on CNN, I can just watch him forever. My mom and I firmly believe in the philosophy of look but don't touch. I don't care that he's gay. He's a good-looking man.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Ring of Fire

I went to see the solar eclipse today. It was absolutely awesome! My friend Penny and I went up to Flagstaff first. Our first stop was at the Lowell Observatory, but we literally were standing in line when the last solar glasses were sold. I bought myself a patch and a bookmark, and Penny got a couple of stickers, and then we hung out at Barnes & Noble for about an hour before heading up to Wupatki National Monument.

We stopped at the Sunset Crater Visitor Center to find out where we needed to go and buy our passes. It wasn't too expensive, which was nice. We then drove (the long way) to Wupatki. Penny didn't mind since she got to see the lava flows there. The Lowell Observatory had some people out there with some solar telescopes and I got to see some sun spots through them.

The eclipse started at about 5:30 PM. An older couple had an extra pair of solar glasses, so they gave them to us. I got to take a lot of pictures, and at about 6:30 PM, the eclipse reached its peak. Everyone started to cheer. It was amazing. I wanted to try to get a picture of it by projecting it through my dad's binoculars onto a sketchbook, but it didn't work. I did get a picture of it through the solar glasses, and thankfully it wasn't too blurry. We left a little bit after that.

The ride home wasn't too bad, though we didn't get home until about 11:00 PM.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mehnu Mehnu Mehnu

Please ignore the title. My brain's having a bit of trouble recently...

I've gotten stuck on my novel, which isn't so bad considering I'm only on the "first" draft, but when you consider that I really don't know where the heck I'm going with it, this draft might never be finished.... It sort of sucks actually. As much as I hate the thought of it, I might have to take a break from writing and just work on some basic outlining. Maybe I'll be able to untangle this mess and figure out where to go next.

Friday, May 11, 2012

CampWriMo 2012

On June 1st, the first Camp of the year begins. It's a spin-off of the National Novel Writing Month, created to give people a chance to participate in the NNWM experience during the summer. I actually participated last year, though that was a pain in and of itself.

This year, they split up the months to June and August, as opposed to both July and August. It'll be nice to have a month to "relax" between the Camps.

I started planning my June Camp today. I've got a few characters starting to shape up, thanks to my Pinterest boards, and I'm working on the plot (very, very slowly). I think it's going to be connected to the story that I'm writing right now, but I don't know if any old characters are going to be popping up very often.

I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do in August.

For more info, go to:

Bunionectomy 2: Day 4

I went to the doctor this morning for my first follow-up appointment. They changed the bandages around the incision. I forgot just how nasty it looks (though it's completely understandable). The bruise covers about all of the top of my foot from my heel down to my toes. Only my pinky toe doesn't have a bruise growing on it. The redness made the doctor give me a week's worth of antibiotics, just in case. Other than that, my foot's looking good.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bunionectomy 2: Day 2

Yesterday was not the best day for me. I got about 13 hours of sleep in about 45 minute bursts, and let me tell you that I apparently have some weird-ass dreams while stoned on hydrocodone. I also got some lovely bouts of nausea, though thankfully nothing worse than that.

I managed to bleed through the bandage on Tuesday, but it stopped later that day. The doctor had the bandage a little tight so my mom helped me loosen it. Got the first follow-up appointment on Friday.

Now the pain is coming in, and my legs itch like the dickens. I took my painkiller for tonight so I'll see how I sleep this time around.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Bunionectomy Take 2

I got my second bunionectomy today, and I don't expect to see my foot more than a quick check-up for another three or so weeks. At the minimum. The pain isn't too bad so far, since I'm keeping ahead of it for now.

The doctor put a pin in my foot this time, though I'm not really sure why. Maybe this doctor just wanted that extra support or whatever.

Hopefully I'll recover just as fast as I did last time.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Prototype 2 Review

I finished Prototype 2 about 45 minutes ago. I enjoyed the game a lot, especially the storyline and characters. I liked how some of the "bad guys" were not really bad guys. James Heller's evolution from a man bent on revenge to a man hunting for what's left of his family was well-done.

The only problems that I had with the game were the lack of variation for the devastator attack and the ease with which it was to get power-ups. I had gotten all of the evolution upgrades available through the missions and hunting, and I had only a few stat upgrades left through the level-ups.

I wish that they had kept the upgrade style from the first game. I liked the ability to buy numerous skills for each power, not the simplistic way they made Prototype 2's upgrades.

The web of intrigue was also one aspect that I liked from Prototype 1. It made the first game deeper, more engaging, but the hunting skill in Prototype 2 was a boost as well.

Final Grade: B

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Summer's Here

The semester has finally come to an end, and I'm now waiting for my grades to start trickling in.

The temperature's starting to rise down here in Phoenix. It's definitely the start of summer, or as I like to call it, Hell. It's already in the 90s, and I can't wait to spend the next four or five months sweating horribly.

I hate living down here sometimes.

Monday, April 30, 2012


Ring by Koji Suzuki is a trip through the disturbing. It is not true horror like I had thought, and I think the movie was a bit different from the book (at least from what I remember from my teen years). I was never really scared, per say, but the book was just that level of... unnerving to be more terrifying than most. It was a little like the beginning of Salem's Lot by Stephen King. Creepy, but not scary.

The characters are good, but my favorite has to be Sadako, a character you never actually meet. I want to learn more about what her deal is, and I'm going to spending a bit of time to find the next book in the series, Spiral.

Final Grade: A

Z is for Zero

April is closing in less than 10 hours (for me), and that marks the end of a lot of things.

Script Frenzy ends at midnight tonight, and I'm proud to say that I pounded out 141 pages at the time of I'm writing this, and I hope to have another 9 pages written before the end.

Another end in writing comes tonight as well. I created a spreadsheet at the beginning of the year to track how much I've written, and the first trimester of the year ends tonight. At the start of this month, I had a goal of writing 20,000 words for this month and 92,750 for the trimester, and I've managed to write over 30,000 and 98,000 for each respectively.

The semester ends tomorrow. I know, it's cheating, but still... I just need to wait for my grades to start trickling in. I hopefully haven't done too badly this semester, but you never know.

I'm looking forward to continuing to write this blog, and I think I'll start doing another A-Z challenge in the next couple of months or something. If anything, I'm going to be doing another book review shortly, so keep an eye out for that.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y is for Yooper

I've already written about my hometown, but this post is dedicated to the whole of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. It's a fairly big place, but there aren't that many major towns in the U.P. I sometimes think that the Lower Peninsula completely forgets that we exist sometimes. Nothing like going to a bowling tournament in Michigan and having people ask "Where's that?" when you say you're from the U.P.

Yeah. I've had that happen to me before.

For any trolls that might be reading this, I have to say: Good luck, you poor bastards.
For any Yoopers, best of luck with the hunting season.

Image from http://dayoopers.com/whatwher.html

Friday, April 27, 2012

X is for Xenoplanets

υ  Andromedae d and its potential moons
Xenoplanet is a bit of an odd term. It's the same as "extrasolar planet" and "exoplanet". All of these terms refer to planets orbiting stars other than our own Sun. They come in all shapes and sizes, from gas giants larger than Jupiter to rocky planets about the size of Earth.

The dream of astronomers and astrobiologists in particular is to find a planet in a star's habitable zone with atmospheric properties very similar to Earth's. This planet could potentially harbor some form of life.

Of course, this "planet" could actually be a moon, if the primary planet orbits the sun at a close enough distance.

Image from Wikipedia - υ Andromedae d.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for Worldbuilding

Worldbuilding is the process of creating a fictional world. Tolkien's Middle Earth and C.S. Lewis's Narnia are examples of worldbuilding.

I've been working on a world called Materia for about the past decade or so. I think it started either in middle school or high school. It started off actually as a setting for a story I was writing about a couple of friends of mine, but then... It grew. A lot.

Materia has grown from just two countries on the same landmass to several continents. I've added races and taken away others. Countries have been created and destroyed at my whim, though I think I've started to settle on how I want the world to be arranged. One thing that hasn't changed much is its fantasy aspect, but I'm trying to keep some of the fantasy concepts more scientific.

I'm working on the details of my little planet, and each story is starting to be consistent with the major details, like the magic system and the politics of my countries. My current story, Wor(l)ds of Solitude, is also contributing to this process. I'm working on the religions on Materia as well as building more history into my world.

Hopefully, I'll finish most of the worldbuilding process eventually, and maybe I'll do another A-Z challenge next month to work on topics for Materia. That actually sounds like a good idea.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for Victory

So we're approaching the end of the month, and for me, it's the end of the semester. Finals start tomorrow with Calculus II leading the pack. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping for the best, but I'll admit that I'm not the most confident about it. I finished up my astrobiology group project paper at about 2 this afternoon, so all that's left in that class is the final on Monday. Theory of Urban Design has a final on Tuesday and so does Earth and Space Science. I shouldn't do too badly on those. There's no final for Marine Ecology and Conservation (thank god), and I'm done with the lab for Earth and Space Science.

I sort of enjoyed doing this challenge. I thought that it would be more difficult, though now we're hitting the harder letters of the alphabet. It'll be interesting to do X on Friday.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

I finished the book Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, and I have to say that I was quite impressed. There were some things that could have been elaborated on, but all in all, the book was good.

Miss Peregrine's opens with an old man telling stories to his grandson. The majority of the book takes place later in the grandson's life after his grandfather is murdered by... something. He finds the home where his grandfather grew up, and there he finds far more than he bargained for.

The idea behind the story was good, if a little outdated with the whole "mutant people living in hiding" thing, but there are some interesting twists to the story. I'm curious to see what he has in store for the next book in the series, and I'm hoping that he reads some of the reviews on Goodreads and polishes up some of the problems.

Final grade: B+

Image from Goodreads.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U is for Umineko

There is one anime/manga/visual novel that I wish I could emulate sometimes. It's called Umineko no Naku Koro ni, or When the Seagulls Cry. Yes, apparently the red na is part of the title.

The producer of Umineko is a group called 07th Expansion. It's a murder-mystery divided into 8 parts. Each part is a repeat of the previous part, but there are slight changes introduced into each part. The basic struggle, after the whodunit question, is the argument between magic and not-magic.

The reader/watcher is assisted by three things called Truths.

Red Truth is absolute, but subjective. It can be presented without supporting evidence, but since it is subjective, there can be multiple interpretations. The Witch Side uses the Red Truth. For example:

You are not Ushiromiya Asumu's son.

The Blue Truth can be used by both Humans and Witches. If the Red Truth is a single-shot handgun, the Blue Truth is a shotgun. It can be used against both Humans and Witches, and it can counter the logic of the Witch/Human while also abiding by the Red Truth. For example:
The one who is qualified to be Beato's opponent is 'Kinzo's grandson Ushiromiya Battler', and whether you are 'Asumu's son' or not is no problem. Thus, even if you are not Asumu's son, you can be Kinzo's grandson. As long as you are Rudolf's son!
There is the Gold Truth, but it doesn't play much of a role in the game. Another tool is the Purple Declaration. This appears in the last part of the game, Twilight of the Golden Witch. It is a bit of a double-edged knife, since it is used by the survivors. Only the culprit can lie while using the Purple Declaration, and it holds the same weight as the Red Truth.

The ending of Umineko is... strange and a little... disturbing, but all in all, I liked the way the story progressed, adding a few clues each time it repeated. In a lot of ways, it was similar to the previous installment, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni. It would be kinda cool to write a story like that, but I think it would be better if it was a hypertext or a website with a bunch of stories that can be read in any order.

Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for Titan

We are literally on the last two days of classes before the start of finals, and most of my classes have their final, big, presentation projects wrapping up. In my astrobiology course, we had to design a fake astrobiology mission. My group decided to focus on the large moon of Saturn named Titan. It's the second largest moon in the Solar System after Jupiter's Ganymede, and it's even larger by volume, though only half as massive, than Mercury, that little chunk of metal being cooked by the Sun.

Titan was discovered in 1655 by a Dutch dude named Christiaan Huygens. I really don't know what his parents were thinking when they tossed that extra a in his name, but I digress. Huygens also contributed to a lot of different fields of study, including optics, engineering, and so on and so forth.

Now Titan is pretty interesting from an astrobiological standpoint. It is the only moon in the Solar System with a dense, smoggy atmosphere. It's even denser than the Earth's atmosphere, and there's even liquid on the surface. You have to understand that while I say liquid, I don't mean water. It's actually so cold on Titan (about -290 F or -179 C) that hydrocarbons like methane condense out of the atmosphere and create lakes on its surface.

Scientists are looking at Titan to see if there is some possibility of prebiotic (pre-life) chemistry that could lead to some form of life. Of course, being a moon of Saturn and as such being a REALLY long ways away from us, there haven't been a lot of studying of Titan up close and personal.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

S is for Script Frenzy

I finished my Script Frenzy challenge at about 10 last night. 20 days, 102 pages. It was actually easier than I expected, and I'm continuing the story, since most people probably never finish the original plot they have before they reach their goal.

I'm hoping to turn my Script Frenzy into a novel, though it's probably going to change again...

Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for Reading

I love reading. A good book can keep me interested for days, and if it's really interesting, I'll keep reading until I finish it, even if it's 3 in the morning.

I joined goodreads.com a couple of years ago. They have a challenge going on this year where you set a goal for yourself. You then have the entire year to read that many books, and you can change the goal as needed.

I decided that I'm going to try to read at least 50 books this year, or about a book a week. So far I've read 17, mostly books from various series, like the Dresden Files, Hunger Games, and Iron Druid. Hopefully I'll surge far ahead this summer, but you never know.

You can keep track of my challenge here.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q is for Questions

As of right now, I have about 17,000 words and 82 pages towards my Script Frenzy, and I'm hoping to have about 70,000-100,000 words when I'm done, though it'll take longer than the rest of April to get that far.

This story's gone through a long painful process of writing and writing and writing. Each time I've attempted to write this story, it's changed in varying degrees. It originally started off as a single question:

  • Who killed Ennis and why?

Then I started adding characters and situations that changed the question into:

  • How did the death of Ennis and Caoi Gillespie cause the destruction of their hometown?

Now, about four months later, I'm in my... third or fourth "draft", though I haven't actually managed to finish the story like I wanted. I completely changed the story in some ways and kept it the same in others. I've expanded my original question into several questions:

  • What happened to Hayase Mawe?
  • Who killed Heind Navidson?
  • Why did Caoi and Ennis Gillespie disappear?
  • Who is the father of the Gillespie twins?
  • How are the above questions connected?
  • Who is Elia?

I think it's easier sometimes to work around building a story through these kinds of questions. I try to leave myself enough room to work more into a story, and asking myself these questions lets me focus on details as well as the big picture.

I'm starting to wrap up some of the questions, though I still need to put a few more details into them. The last question is more of a subplot that I'm hoping to connect into a larger collection of stories. I'll have to see how things work out with this thing first.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for Pain

This past year has been a year of pain. I say that because every time I've gotten sick or something bad has happened to my health, it was accompanied by a healthy dose of pain.
Not my feet, by the way...

It started at the end of last spring's semester. I had gone to a foot doctor, and they found my early inheritance from my maternal grandmother: bunions on both feet. So rather than allow them to get any worse, we decided to get rid of that problem before it got any worse. So, last spring, I got this lovely thing called an Austin bunionectomy. It's essentially where they break the bone of your big toe, shave off the extra growth, and put it back together. I got to spend three weeks in the full boot of shame and another month or so in a special shoe.

Oh, and a bunionectomy is considered one of the most painful kind of surgeries you can get.

So I recovered from that, and just before the beginning of this spring semester (and about a month into it), I got kidney stones. The first one was the more painful of the two, since it was larger and I did not take... precautionary measures. I also got a lovely case of nausea, which struck every...um... half hour and got so bad that my mom took me to the hospital. I managed to pass that one, and I got a little reward for my pain. My mom was, like, "That little thing caused so much pain?" Yeah, ma, that little thing went through tubes made for liquids, not pointy little rocks. It's a-going to hurt. The second time, I had learned my lesson, so it wasn't so bad. No nausea at least.

I'm preparing to get my left foot done at the beginning of May, so my year of pain's going to be going on for a little longer, but if I pass Calculus (*praying praying praying*), I think I'll be able to survive...

Images from Wikipedia.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for Openings

I like to watch the openings of anime and other TV shows on YouTube. I find it stupid how companies would have the audio silenced or the video removed completely. I sometimes choose what shows I want to watch based on what their TV openings look like, because if an opening looks boring, why should the show be any different.

The same thing applies to animated music videos. I see AMVs as a gauge of a show's health. If nobody is making AMVs for a show, then the fandom is not doing well. If there's a lot of AMVs, then there are a lot of people interested in the show enough to make a little tribute to that show. It also has the benefit of promoting an  musician's work. I've gotten a few songs from artists I would otherwise not have listened to if it hadn't been for AMVs.

Monday, April 16, 2012

N is for Nighttime

I'm afraid of the dark. I always have been. It certainly didn't help matters that my brother used to jump out of doorways in the dark when we were younger, and my overactive imagination does little to ease my mind.

I know that I would probably get slightly better sleep at night if I didn't have a small light on, but I can't help it. I think that I'm getting a little better. Maybe soon, I'll be able to sleep without the light on. It's just... force of habit a bit.

The nighttime is also one of my most favorite times of the day. I love to stare at the stars. Find the constellations. Grab the binoculars and look at whatever I can find. It's pretty fun to go out at different times of the night and see what has changed, which constellations and planets have set and which have risen.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is for Menominee

One comment I've received this month wanted to know more about me, so here's a post on the city that shaped my life.

I was born in Fort Huachuca, Arizona, but I spent most of my life in a small town in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan called Menominee. It's situated literally at that point along Lake Michigan's Green Bay (not the city) where Michigan comes down and touches Wisconsin. Menominee is the city on the top of the picture below, while Marinette, Wisconsin is on the bottom.

It's a small town of less than 10,000 people, and if I had to call it, it's quaint. Once we reached middle school, all of the kids were in the same classes together. I lived in an old house and walked to school for most of the 11 years I went. I will admit that while we were about a block and a half inside the cut-off point for the buses, my brother and I managed to get to ride the bus during the winters.

This train station was near my house, though I don't think that there were really any train tracks nearby. If there were, it was only used by freight trains that practically crawled along.
While we lived in Menominee, most of the business and action was across the river in Marinette. We would ride our bikes across the .6 mile wide Interstate Bridge and go wherever we wanted in Marinette. Most of it was done in the summer, because obviously the weather's not the best during the winter. I tended to spend most of the summer at the mall on the other side of Marinette at the bookstore.
Being an old town, Menominee has a lot of old buildings. Grant School, on the northern edge of the city, has always been boarded up for as long as I can remember. It was really rather creepy, and looking at a picture of it now, I imagine that some horrible thing happened there and that it was abandoned quickly like Chernobyl. It's probably a lot more benign than that though.
In the winter, children would either go to Marinette's city park to sled or they would come here to the welcome center. It's a log cabin at the top of a nice, big hill. Snowplows clearing the parking lot below would create this tiny mountain range of snow that kept the children safely out of the parking lot, which could get quite busy at times. It was a pain to drag your sled up the hill, but it was fun.
A good little place near the middle school and next door to one of my friends is this little pasty shop. They are basically like... hot pockets. I got a small addiction to pistachio ice cream from this place.

Images from viewfromabove.com, Flickr, Wikipedia, Michigan Department of Transportation, & johnsonmatel.com.

Friday, April 13, 2012

L is for Longhand

One skill I wish I had was the ability to write shorthand. I've even picked up a Gregg shorthand phrase book. I'm probably going to buy this Gregg shorthand textbook. The only problem that I have is that the words can overlap, like "seat" is written as "s-e-t" and the phonetics focus is a bit weird.

Right now, my writing is a bit slow, but if I can get used to using shorthand, I think I would probably be happier. Of course, no one will ever be able to read what I write, but that's not my problem.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Need to work on that...

I found out last fall that my computer comes with speech-to-text software, I decided to try it out. Then I promptly forgot about it from October to February when my computer had a few issues...

So anyway, I decided to try it out on Monday during my mineralogy class. Now, before you read the following result, keep in mind that this is mineralogy.

Here's what my computer spat out:

The layer art will air winery all are quite a lot like the idea all air or will allow all will all agree or ill or Reoul are all Aulli all OO wall tall are all Haou are allowed Haou room wall of alert you to want hallway of Aul Aulli are you or or all will allow at Lowell old are lack Ailin allow her will all ball at all three are all wore a IR or O 00 era wall to augur called our goal of the Ahl whole leeway are hotly will air later taught law layer low or or walla are all are all a finger or a lot longer you your old rely out like Aulli our goal all RE your eager all I’ll eat your ear

...Yeah. It turns out that my microphone works pretty damn well, but the software needs a bit of training...

K is for Kathleen

So, the name Catherine and Kathleen are names that pop up on the Hammiller (my mother's side) side of the family. My grandma has Catherine as her first name, though she goes by Patricia (her middle name), and she bequeathed the moniker Kathleen to my aunt (my mom's younger sister). My mom decided to name me Catherine. Never mind that the nickname for both Catherine and Kathleen is Cathy/Kathy. So much fun when she visits...

My aunt Kathy is... a pain in my mom's butt sometimes. Keep in mind that we live in Arizona, and the rest of the family lives in Wisconsin. Frequent visits are out of the question. So when my uncle got sick with cancer of just about everything, my mom was not able to be there for most of the time. Didn't stop my aunt from yelling at my mom for not being involved to her satisfaction.

Of course, being so far from Wisconsin makes us a good refuge for the rest of the family from their stresses. We had one aunt come down and visit last year, and my mom invited another one after a spat between her and aunt Kathy.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for Jams

Downtown Tempe isn't built for drivers, and it certainly isn't built for the amount of traffic around ASU's Tempe campus. With nearly 10,000 people at the Tempe campus as well as the people who live and work in the surrounding area, University Road and Mill Avenue have a tendency to nearly stop around 5:00 P.M. There's only one lane of traffic each way through downtown Tempe, and only two lanes each way down University. In short, it's a major pain in the butt to get anywhere.

It doesn't help when Arizona drivers are not the best at... well, driving. Just yesterday, there were 2 accidents during the morning rush hour on the 60 (one of the major freeways in the metro area) and 3 in the afternoon. Drivers are liable to drift out of their lanes or cut across four lanes of traffic to reach their exit...

It's a bit scary to go out sometimes...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I is for Ideas

I love to write. It bothers me when I don't write something (not including notes for classes) every day. I write down ideas constantly, and I think up new plots or characters almost every day. It makes it difficult to watch or read anything without thinking of how I could fit something into my writing.

Take my ScriptFrenzy 2012 draft, for example:

The original idea came from the F.E.A.R. games, with Alma (the antagonist) being incorporated into the character of Ennis Gillespie. F.E.A.R. 2 gave me ideas of a minor antagonist named Michael, who becomes obsessed with Ennis. I took the idea of a cult sacrifice from the Silent Hill movie, and a fog blanketing the town of Ashe from Silent Hill Downpour.

There was supposed to be a pair of characters called the Watcher and the Devourer. The Watcher came from the character Antubus from Kingdom Hospital, and the Devourer is an adaptation of the Slender Man.

I haven't worked on either of those characters yet, and I'm not completely sure how I'm going to fit them into the script. I've instead started to use The Killing to give some ideas about writing a murder mystery, but I want to incorporate the scare tactics of The Grudge into the script. I've combined parts of Arang and Muoi to add a subplot to the story. I have the manga 07-Ghost to thank for adding yet another idea (lost forbidden love), though I originally add it for a different story.

It's a bit annoying sometimes, when I'm writing about one story, and I'm already thinking about the next plot. I will finish this story, even if I keel over dead afterwards.

Monday, April 9, 2012

H is for Horror

I've recently decided to start using my brother's Netflix to watch horror movies. In about four days, I've managed to watch about 6 movies.

  • Arang
  • Muoi
  • Ju-on 2
  • The Grudge
  • The Grudge 2
  • The Grudge 3

The first three were foreign language films. Arang and Muoi were Korean, while Ju-on was Japanese. The Grudge series is the American adaptations of the Ju-on series.

I like Asian-style horror movies, because it's not just some massive splatter-fest. The Asians drew upon their myths and legends when they created these movies. They focused on the people in the movies, and thinking back... Not once did the protagonists completely defeat the "monster".

Sorry, if I spoiled anything for you...

Images from Wikipedia

Saturday, April 7, 2012

G is for Games

In about 2 weeks, I'm off to the GameStop down the road to get my copy of Prototype 2. I decided to splurg with this game (though God only knows why) and bought the special edition with all of the bonus stuff. So I get the reservation bonus (a special move) and:

  • Game soundtrack
  • Art booklet
  • First DLC for free
  • A bunch of stuff from the next edition cheaper

I'm looking forward to getting this game, though I still have to work on a lot of other games as well. Thankfully, the semester is ending on that day, so I'll have a lot of time to play it. Of course, I'm also getting a bunionectomy at the beginning of May, so that won't be much fun either.

Friday, April 6, 2012

F is for Family

I'm going to be an aunt in 7 months...

My brother's gotten his girlfriend pregnant, and she's 7-8 weeks along. He's already told my mom, but he's afraid about telling my dad (completely understandable since my dad's not the most... patient of men).

We were joking about what to name the kid. The wifey (aka the girlfriend) wants to name the kid Marrow or Nikko, but my brother wants something a little more normal. I told him he should name it (if it's a boy) Tom or Tony.

You have to know that we had 3 Uncle Toms, and two of them had named their sons Tony.

It should be interesting to see what's going to happen with my brother and his girlfriend in the coming months and years.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

E is for Exhaustion and Exams

So I took one exam for calculus yesterday, and I think I might have done pretty good. I'm not holding my breath though on my grades... I don't even want to think about it...

I'm tired and getting ready for bed, so I'll end it here...

Good night, peoples!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

D is for Death and Density

I'm watching Science right now, and it's a show on black holes. Everyone knows what a black hole is. It's an object so dense that the gravity it has pulls even light to its center. That's what makes it a black hole.

Black holes are "born" when very massive stars die.

For most main sequence stars, this is not what's going to happen. The star will expand into giants before they start to collapse. Usually, the heat from the core and the repulsion between atoms and subatomic particles stops the collapse from progressing past dwarfs. These dwarfs are essentially the faintly glowing embers, the remnants of the core of the original star. This is the fate awaiting our own sun. A size comparison of A-Class IK Pegasi A (left), its companion white dwarf IK Pegasi B (center), and the Sun.

For a star that is a bit larger than our sun follows a similar process. The star explodes with enough force to expel its outer layers, creating spectacular supernova remnants as well as the elements heavier than iron. They become strange objects, including black holes. Black holes form when the collapse is not stopped by internal pressure. The remnant core simply continues to crush itself further and further.

I leave you with this beautiful supernova remnant N49 in the Large Magellanic Cloud.

Images from Wikipedia.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

C is for Challenges

So a couple of months ago, I first stumbled upon the A-Z challenge... thingy... Anyway, so I was like this looks fun! Let's do it! I could do this and Script Frenzy and finish my classes.


WTF was I thinking? This challenge isn't too hard, and I'm actually ahead in my Script Frenzy. My classes are my biggest concerns (obviously). I have a test tomorrow in calculus... T-T  I'm going to bed early tonight (like in 10 minutes). Maybe take a sleeping pill to knock me out the majority of the night...

Monday, April 2, 2012

B is for Bros

I've become addicted to watching videos by PewDiePie. This guy is probably the most insane player on Youtube. Despite the fact that he's Swedish, his English is actually pretty good. His commentary makes watching horror games easier. He uses a facial camera, so you get to see his expressions (as below):

He tends to upload a couple of videos every day, but the ones I like the most are his clips from Happy Wheels, where he plays as the irresponsible parent and the son.

If you have the time (and you don't mind a little vulgarity), just pop in on his channel and become a Bro! Here's the link:

Image from http://www.fanpop.com/spots/pewdiepie and http://askangel.deviantart.com/art/Pewdiepie-s-funny-ass-face-montage-xD-287361030

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A is for Assignments

We've reached the final stretch at ASU for the spring semester. The last day of class is April 24th, and the professors are trying to get those last few assignments in. Here's what this month's looking like:

BIO494 - Marine Ecology and Conservation
4 short essays and a joyful *gag* presentation next week

MAT266 - Calculus for Engineers II
Homework for most of the remaining lessons and 2 exams. If I can get at least 75% on both of them, I should be able to pass. If not... I've already registered to retake it T-T

PUP420 - Theory of Urban Design
Group project and presentation

SES102 - Earth & Space Science II
Homework 4 (and maybe 5) and final exam

SES 104 - Earth & Space Science Lab II
A couple of afternoon labs and a night lab

SES311 - Essentials of Astrobiology
Group project and paper. We have to finish creating a (fake) NASA mission as real as we can make it.

That's it! Hopefully, I'll be able to survive to the end of the semester.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Shooting Ourselves in the...

In two shocking bills working their way through different state legislatures, politicians show how little they understand people and students especially.

The first bill, hailing from Arizona, targets college students. The gist of the bill is that all students, with two exceptions, would have to pay at least $2000 a year out of their own pocket towards their tuition without the aid of financial aid. The idea was that students would have a greater interest in graduating if they had "a bit of skin" in the game, and they point to the dropout rate as well as the percentage of students who pay none of their tuition. Never mind that the fees and books can be a good portion of a student's expenses.

Now, I did mention two exceptions to the law. The first is the student athlete. The politicians said that student athletes are exempt from the law because they bring in money to the school. Reasonable enough. Of course the schools put a lot of money into those students, but that's a minor detail.

The second group of special students are honors students. The only things these students bring to the school are their brains and the fees that the honors colleges charge. These students will not have to pay because they have "earned" their free ride.

Now I have a few questions about this bill.

  1. How many students fully pay for their tuition through loans, as opposed to just grants and scholarships? I fall into this group, where I get only $500 a year from a Pell Grant, no scholarships, and an employee dependent waiver and use loans to pay for the rest of my tuition. 
  2. How would they prevent the disbursement of financial aid refunds to students who haven't paid that bill? When would the money be due by? Would it be due at the start of the semester, or would there be due dates spread throughout the semester?
  3. How would this increase graduation rates? With the economy as it is, students have enough trouble finding a job already, and probably many of those that do have a job find it stressful to juggle school and work. I can already see the dropout rate rising as students struggle to pay this fee, and fewer students will enroll. 

Let's turn our attention to the second bill. This one comes from Utah, which might explain its... ideas. The congressmen here want to eliminate sex education to reduce the prevalence of teen sex and premarital sex. This also comes with a prohibition on discussions about homosexuality and contraception by teachers.

Now, I don't know what they taught in sex ed when these men and women went to school, but I certainly didn't hear about homosexuality being taught to any degree during sex ed when I went. Contraception does more to protect people than just preventing pregnancy. Removing any instruction on how to properly use condoms increases the probability that kids won't use them right and expose themselves to STIs and other dangers.

Additionally abstinence-only sex ed puts teens at risk. In the guise of protecting their health and virginity, they tend to engage in behaviors, such as oral and anal sex, and there has been a corresponding increase in STIs coming from the behaviors.

Teens will be teens. They are basically bundles of hormones and new urges. With underdeveloped impulse control, they're going to experiment with sex. There's no way to stop them unless you lock them up until they're 25, which is when their brains finish maturing and the impulse control kicks in.

Leaving the problem up to parents doesn't solve anything. If parents don't know anything about sex ed, then how can congressmen expect kids to learn safe measures? Of course, if they think that "OMG, they're not teaching sex ed! We're going to stop having sex" is going to work, maybe they don't expect parents to have to teach their kids anything. After all, abstinence worked so well before.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mass Effect 3 Demo Review

So I played the ME3 demo on my XBOX360 yesterday, and I must say, I am impressed. I still haven't finished the first game (a failure on my part), but I enjoyed the changes to the combat system in ME3.

ME3 introduced Jane Shepard, a fan-created version of the main character John Shepard, as an alternative to the male character. The features of Jane (and I'm guessing John) are adjustable, allowing for a new level of customization. I will admit that while it was interesting to play as a girl, I did not care much for my dear redheaded Jane.

Now, the demo was broken into two parts. The first part is probably going to be the tutorial level of the game. It introduced the basic controls of the game, though I don't think it told me how to use the special skills, like the biotic skills that my class gave me. The combat and AI were just hard enough to pose a challenge but not too difficult as to sink the player in frustration. It also set the stage for the game in a series of cut-scenes that were not skippable.

The second half of the demo was an interesting escort mission that brought back characters from at least the first game. Again, the combat was not too difficult, though I had a bit of trouble finding ammo for my rifle. Nothing like finding yourself duking it out with the boss with nothing more than a pistol. Though I did find some ammo about half-way through the battle.

All in all, the demo for Mass Effect 3 was satisfactory. It did its job by introducing the story better than mere trailers, showed off the graphics and combat system, and allowing players to...well... play and get a taste of the game. I'm excitedly waiting for the release on 6 March, and you can bet that I'll be at the GameStop at midnight.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Kidney Stones, Act 2

Last night was not particularly enjoyable for me, despite Once Upon a Time being on. I got another kidney stone. I sort of recognized the constant urge to pee and the pain growing in my side a bit faster this time, so I took some of the painkillers the hospital prescribed me last time and started chugging the water. Thankfully this time I either did not get any nausea or the anti-nausea pills caught it before it got to that level.

I don't know if I've passed the stone or not, since it must have either been really small or it's still making its way through my system. It still hurts a bit in my side...

I get the feeling I might be a frequent-kidney-stone-sufferer... This is the second one in less than two months! The US Department of Health and Human Services says that once a person gets more than one kidney stone, more are likely to develop. I don't want to have anymore...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

"The River" premier review

ABC premiered their new show The River this past week, and despite my aversion to creepy looking shows like that, my attention had been captured by the trailer. Now, I was a little hesitant when I saw that it was done by the same people who did Paranormal Activity (a movie that did not impress me). I still gave the show a shot though.

My first impression were neutral. The acting was a bit... stilted. The characters, with what felt like the exception of Emmet (the missing father), did not garner any sympathy from me. Even after the first episode ("Magus"), the characters had changed little. The wife (whose name I can't remember at all) remained an almost obsessive woman who (shocks of shocks) had an affair while her husband was away. The son, London, seemed to flop between his original stance of "Leave me alone" to "Let's go find Dad"...

I was also expecting a bit more horror. The scare factor seemed a little low for even TV. American Horror Story was scarier than this, though I did not see much of that show either, thanks to that incredible thing called college. The first monster had not been as interesting as I hoped once it was revealed that it was the ghost of one of the crew members who had died before the rest of the Magus's crew went missing. I think that they could have drawn out the monster a little more, filled in a few details, before finally killing it, but they didn't.

Even creepiness seemed a little weak in the first couple of episodes. Episode two brought the first "interaction" with Emmet Cole, where the daughter of the mechanic is possessed by his spirit. She moved through the ship with jerky movements before lying down next to the wife. One of the first things out of the wife's mouth was "You can speak English?". Seriously? You've been basically living with this girl for almost a week or so, and you think that she's been hiding this ability to speak fluent English? The special effects in that scene were not particularly well-done either...

The only redeeming value of the show so far is the story. Granted, it's a bit of the stereotypical hunt for the missing person, but adding in the aspects of monsters in the Amazon and magic, especially "The Source" that Emmet was looking for, and this show has an otherwise interesting plot.

All in all, I'll place this show on my "let's see if this gets any better" list. The storyline is interesting, but if the actors don't learn to relax and play their characters believably, then I'm booting this show into the dead pile.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Bibles, Schools, & Lawmakers

Apparently, Arizona lawmakers want to make a law promoting a "religion-neutral" course on the Bible in public schools.

Yes, you read that right. Religion-neutral class in public schools on the Bible.

Now, I have nothing against religion, but when your schools rank near the bottom of the nation, maybe you should focus on the basics like math, English, science. You know. Those silly little things.

Some of the lawmakers said that Yale professors wanted students to have a better foundation, but I get the feeling that the professors were aiming more for a better grasp of the English language. It's a bit sad when ESL students have a better grasp of the English language than natural speakers.

Of course, there are other ways to enhance students' interest in their own language. Promote other topics that appeal to a larger variety of interests. If they can find a teacher to teach the Bible, then they can probably find a teacher to teach other special topics. Just looking at ASU's English classes, you have Shakespeare, science fiction studies, fiction and poetry workshops, and British literature. There's even a course on Mark Zuckerberg. The best way to teach something is to make it relevant to the students. Not all students are Christian, and even some of those that are may not care about the Bible. Others probably don't want to try to cram another boring course into their busy schedules.

Unless this course is an elective, I don't see how anyone could claim that this is not a breach of Church and State.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


ADD strikes again. The Hangman series is taking a break for now (just vegging for now), and I'm working on Love is Stupid, a completely unrelated story with a completely different set of characters to duke it out with.

Hopefully I'll finish one of these damn stories...

Fell in love with the song "Tune It Up" by Timeflies. I like it, regardless of genre, and I'm dreaming up another... shit. I need to start writing these stupid ideas down before they eat me alive.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Kidney Stones Suck

At the healthy age of 22, I got a kidney stone. Now, when I first started to ache, I thought that it was just a muscle cramp, but OMFG, the pain just got worse.

Then came the vomiting.

Mom and I went to the ER at Mercy Gilbert (Mom's favorite place in the whole wide world [not]). We got there at about 8:30 PM. It was pretty empty, so we got to see a doctor pretty quickly. I threw up one more time at the hospital, though thankfully not during any of the tests. The drugs they gave me were... really nice, and I babbled at my mom for a while.

They sent us home with prescriptions for painkillers and anti-nausea pills and orders to drink more fluids. We went to a 24-hour CVS, but apparently it can be really busy at midnight. The pharmacist was nice enough to give us one anti-nausea pill to get through the night.

It didn't help.

After two extra visits to the white throne, I managed to fall "asleep". Three hours later, I went back to the bathroom for another round, and sometime during that visit, that little bastard stone plopped into my bladder. Instant pain-killer. At about 10 in the morning, that thing was completely gone.

I hope to God that I never get another kidney stone.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

This year will be the year of change for me. I hope that I could get there with at least two major resolutions:

The first is "use my planner more". I tried this last year, but I completely failed at this. Procrastination is such a horrible habit to break. Hopefully, if I use my planner more, my grades would get better. At least homework won't pop up like the fucking ninja it was last semester.

The second is to lose at least 50 pounds, though I would love to lose 100+. Actually I need to lose a lot more than that (though I'm not really happy to say that), but 50 pounds sounds like a good start. Hopefully my planner and food tracking app will help me with that.

Minor goals of the year will be:

  • Complete the Hangman series (which I've been working on since November) and self-publish it 
  • Do NaNoWriMo (Nov) and Camp WriMo (July & Aug)
  • Not fail calculus or any other courses (but mainly calculus)
School starts in 4 days (Jan 5), but no one's prepared for it, I think. Hopefully I'll get my financial aid on Tuesday, though I get the feeling that it won't be until Wednesday. Shame on ASU for not being prepared. It's not like this came out of nowhere (it's been planned for a year at least), but oh well.