Saturday, December 10, 2011

Newfangled video games

So even though it's been approximately 53,590 days (give or take a week) since I blogged, I'm back. Instead of blogging about working at home today, I want to talk about video games.

My friend Carly is a kick ass girl gamer. She even writes for a gaming site and participates in lots of stuff to do with video games. So I was telling her the other day about my frustrations with modern video games.

It's the first-person or third-person point of view, you see. I cannot handle that. When I started playing video games, the system of choice was the Atari 2600:

That is the most totally gnarly commercial EVAH. Anyway, on the Atari 2600, for those younguns who don't know, you had no first-person POV. Your little guy (if you got a guy, some games used a dot/square) would go across the screen from left to right. In Pitfall, for example, Pitfall Harry would start on the left, go over to the right, disappear, and reappear on the left. Or vice versa, because Pitfall was HIGH TECH, BAYBEE! Like so:

I could hang with that! Now, later on we got other systems, including the Super Nintendo. On some of these games, the screen scrolled so that you still went left to right, but you didn't do the disappearing/reappearing thing. Observe Super Mario World for an example:

So these games I could play, and quite well most of the time. However, the first-person and third-person POV that are so prevalent today just kill me. For example, Dead Rising 2:

Mr. Snarky tells me this is a third-person POV rather than first-person, because you can see your guy. It really just makes me madder, to be honest. Because then I can SEE how slow the moron runs. And watch him get caught and eaten by the zombies while I scream profanities at him.

I'm not sure if it's the view that I can't hang with or the fact that you usually have to use the thumbsticks on these games. I prefer the D pad, much to Mr. Snarky's amusement. Whatever it is, I suck at them. Give me an Atari, an SNES or any new game I can play with the D pad to move and buttons to jump and fire and I am a happy girl.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Working from home-eCopywriters

Whew, sorry so long since my last post, but I've been workworkworking and think I've found my best gig ever. But today I'm blogging about eCopywriters, so here we go.

I wrote for eCopywriters only for a short time in late 2009. The company had plenty of 2 star assignments for writers, as it seems to now. The supply of work was never an issue for me, but getting paid was. I wrote less than a dozen articles for the company, and was paid for them in multiple transactions over three months, with the last payment coming over two months after my last article.

I emailed several times to discuss the payment situation, and was assured that my payment would be made on the next payout date. Sometimes I got nothing, other times I got a partial payment. Now, this may have been due to the way that they invoiced their clients, but the bottom line was that I could not afford to wait months for my pay, especially at that point in my career, when I wasn't making much per article as it was.

I was going to say I don't necessarily recommend staying away from eCopywriters, especially as I do not know if they've improved their payment system. Plus, plenty of work was available and I did eventually get paid for all the work I did for them. However, Google is telling me that many other people have had the same experience, with some posts dated after my time with them. So if you choose to try eCopywriters, I would do so with caution at first, or only if you are comfortable waiting for payment.

After eCopywriters, I joined Demand Media Studios. More on that next time.

Monday, July 4, 2011

More Working from Home - Textbroker

As I mentioned in my last post, I applied to Textbroker, a Web content site, in July 2009. Their application process was and still is very easy. Simply register at their site and submit a short writing sample. I was brought on as a level 3 author on a scale of 2-5, and have since worked my way up to a level 5. Textbroker pays authors from 0.07 to 5.0 cents per word, depending on level. Level 3 writers start at at 1.0 cent per word.

Textbroker writers must request payout to their Paypal accounts to get paid. Currently, there is a minimum payout amount of $10, meaning that if you don't have that much in pending pay, you must wait until the next payout date. The site pays twice a month, though, with all requests due in by the 5th or 20th. They state to allow 5 days for payments to be processed, but I have never once been paid later than the 6th or 21st, even when those dates fall on the weekend. UPDATE: Textbroker now allows authors to request payout weekly if they are owed $10 or more. Funds are transferred to Paypal on the next business day after the Thursday 11:59 PM Pacific time cutoff. They are a highly reliable company in terms of paying out promptly.

Of course, many clients who use content sites are on a tight budget, and some don't deal with this very well. It's downright insulting to see clients place orders for 2-star pay, then make it clear they expect 5-star quality. You can generally avoid taking these orders by reading the descriptions carefully-if they seem too complex for the pay level, simply pass them up. Some orders also specify too many keywords for the desired word count, to the point that if the keyword density was met, the article would be a bunch of senseless rubbish. Avoid these as well.

I am extremely pleased with Textbroker, and even though I've been accepted at several other writing sites, it is still one of my favorites. I check the site daily for available jobs and recommend it to everyone I know who is interested in getting into writing.

The next writing site I joined was eCopywriters. More on that later.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Working from home

Today, I'd like to discuss working from home. On the whole, it's a pretty good thing. I don't have to buy clothes for work (professional clothes, that is-I don't work naked) or gas to get there or food to eat while I'm there. I also don't have to deal with customers anymore. Much like Randal on "Clerks," I felt retail would have been great if it wasn't for the effing customers. Oh, there were some really nice ones. But when they were bad, they were horrid. And I don't have to pay taxes upfront. So far, our deductions have been large enough that I could just take the taxes out of our yearly refund, even without itemizing. This obviously means I need to make more money.

It can be hard to concentrate at times, especially with little ones around. But another benefit is that I can stop what I'm doing and attend to whatever I need to anytime, unless I'm having a frazzled day. In those cases, I will scream like a shrew at Mr. Snarky to go take care of it. I'm kidding. Maybe.

I started my adventures in working at home in 2007, when Princess was 1 and Lightning was a wee one. Mr. Snarky's job took care of the bills, but I wanted some breathing room and to contribute again. I started doing SEO writing for a woman on a pregnancy board. Boooooooring but I was getting paid.

A few months after that job dried up, I found ChaCha, a text message answer service, in August 2008. It was really great. I don't really recommend this job anymore, however, unless you're willing to work very long hours for very little pay.

ChaCha has always maintained that the job is meant for fun money only, but most Guides were paying decent amounts of bills when I started there. It's hard to adjust. With ChaCha losing customers who use Sprint/Nextel (meaning *I* can't even use the service I work with!), T-Mobile and Boost, I really don't know how much longer they can keep a free answer service paid for by advertisers going.

I have worked in every role ChaCha offers, with the exception of Voice Transcriber. I changed roles and took pay cuts due to concerns over being able to get enough traffic. Prior to my first role change, ChaCha instituted a pay scale based on question category, so most questions paid less than when I originally started anyway.

There was a period in late 2008 when traffic came to a virtual standstill. It's actually why I changed roles then and again later because I was scared of a repeat. It became pretty apparent to me that I needed to broaden my work at home horizons in case ChaCha went under. So in 2009 I began looking for other things I could do from home so that I could continue as a stay-at-home mom and not just work to pay the daycare.

I kept coming back to writing. It seemed to be the best fit since I had two children and one on the way. I couldn't work the phone jobs due to background noise, and the other text message services either didn't pay any better and required a schedule or were dirty texting (ew) and still didn't pay any better. Plus, I now had a little experience with SEO writing and always did well on essays and reports for school. I surfed work-at-home mom boards, looking for places that would hire with little experience (or none, since I could not verify my previous experience because I was no longer in contact with the lady) and chose to apply to Textbroker in July 2009. More on that in my next post.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

RIP, DJ Leon Botha

Some time ago, Mr. Snarky discovered Die Antwoord. He showed me their video for "Enter the Ninja" which I quickly dismissed as a bit of straight up effery. Then DJ Leon Botha popped up on the screen all quick, like effing Captain Howdy in "The Exorcist" and scared me half to death. I said, "What is this sh...AAAAHHHHH!" I watched the rest of it and got the chorus stuck in my head for roughly...well, forever. It's back again now. I-yi-yi. I am a butterfly. GAH!

He and our friend Jason have had an unnatural love for all things Die Antwoord ever since. They find the group zef. Me...not so much. I think the rapper dude is actually pretty talented, but the chick is out there and the group's image is just silly. I prefer Michael K's commentary on the group. Like when he called the girl a "trailer pixie"

But so Botha was apparently one of the oldest living people in the world with progeria, a condition in which the body rapidly ages. And he died on Sunday,the day after his 26th birthday. That is sad. He certainly got a lot accomplished in his life, though-DJ, artist...he did a lot to be remembered for.

And now, without anyone to do the art for Die Antwoord videos, they will probably all be like the "Zef Side" video with a closeup of the rapper's crotch and his little rapper bouncing around in his pants in slow motion. Skip past 1:13 in that video if you don't wanna see it. Seriously.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Summer Reading Programs

Reading is one of the most important things to pass on to our children, IMHO. I spent my entire childhood with a book in my hand and so far my kiddos are following in my footsteps quite well.

Summer Reading Programs not only encourage children to read, but reward them as well. My city's library (Louisville, KY) has one every year for kids from birth to 5th grade. We began participating in 2008 with the older two kids and Spongebob is joining in for the first time this year. The kids read 10 books(or in Spongebob's case, have them read aloud.)They keep a log and turn it in for a backpack, coupons for things like Frostys, etc. The backpacks are pretty sweet. One year they got a guitar-shaped backpack, another year a silver space backpack, and last year a smaller green bag with a lizard. Perfect size for their Leapster 2s and about three games still in the cases. Check out this year's backpack (not my kid, picture is from the library site):

Isn't that cool? It's a pretty good size, too. So we are working on our lists now. Princess has three read, Lightning has two and I read one to Spongebob so far. I used to impose a strict 20-book minimum so that each kid listened to ten different books. However, this year the older two not only wrote their own names on their logs, but they are also reading the vast majority of their books by themselves. My little library nerd heart is full to bursting at that. They were reading together earlier, with a book Princess already read. She was helping him read it for his list. It was precious. Didn't last too long, of course.

Check your local library for a Summer Reading Program. They are so fun and a great way to spend time with the kiddos.

If you have a Half Price Books in your town, they are doing a "Feed Your Brain" Summer Reading Program, too. Kids 14 and under can read and log 600 minutes of reading time over the months of June and July and turn in the log for a $5 off coupon to the store and a chance at a $20 gift card to the store. We are doing this one as well.

Also, Barnes & Noble has a Summer Reading Program here. Kids can read and log eight books and choose from a list of books to receive for free. Parents can enter to win a Nook Color. I'd root that sucker in a heartbeat. E-readers aren't my thang, I love PAPER books. :D I don't see any age limits on this one, but the prize books are divided into Grades 1-2, 3-4 and 5-6. The selections are sort of simple for the age groups-at least one in the Grades 1-2 section would be too boring for the older kids. But since this is an actual free book rather than a gift card/coupon, supplies are limited and you just get what you can get. I think just the older two will do this one, as they are supposed to tell who they'd recommend each book to. Spongebob would recommend them all to me, Daddy, Bob-bob or cat.

Know of any other Summer Reading Programs out there for kids? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Adventures in Baking

I had hoped to have a review for you on the Crispy Creamy Doughnuts. Alas, I have been sidetracked by other baking projects.

First, I got some strawberries. Not *quite* in season yet, so I made a strawberry shortcake with this whipped cream. Yum.

Lightning just had his fourth birthday, necessitating a cake. He wanted a white cake with white and blue icing and sprinkles. It wasn't pretty, but I made it. It tasted good, though, and that's what's important.

Then Lightning pulled his banana trick again so I had to make banana bread last night. This recipe calls for three bananas, but I find it's better with four. I have substituted banana baby food left over from Spongebob's baby days for one banana, as I did last night, and it works just as well. Follow the advice of the comments re: adding 1 tsp of vanilla, 1/2 tsp of cinnamon and using 1/2 cu each of white and brown sugar instead of 1 cu of white. Nom.

Despite all this baking effery, I have lost another pound and now stand at 131 pounds, six pounds from my goal weight of 125. Pretty good, if I do say so myself, but I'm definitely going to hold off on the doughnuts for a bit. Especially since I'll soon be making lemon bread. Lordy.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

So we're still here.

As expected by most people with half a brain. I did find a cute picture related to the Rapture:

But if Jesus came today, he'd miss tomorrow's breakfast/brunch. I'm going to attempt these: Crispy and Creamy doughnuts. C(K)rispy and C(Kreme)reamy. Get it? I am such a fool for Krispy Kremes. I really shouldn't have any, since I am still trying to lose weight (seven lbs to go.) But. I can only make a FEW of these. I have to either buy an entire dozen KK or drive to the KK store to buy smaller quantities. The latter is the better option, not only for eliminating leftovers that beg to be stuffed into my face, but for freshness as well. However, it also adds time and GAS MONEY to the total expense incurred by my doughnut quest. If these are close to being just as good, I'm sold.

The amount seems to be really off on the recipe, though, especially if you use something smaller than a doughnut cutter to cut them out. Which I will do, because I don't own a doughnut cutter. Because I've never made doughnuts before. Reviewers have said halving the recipe yields two dozen doughnuts or that dropping the servings to four makes six doughnuts and six holes. I might go with five servings, because that requires 1/2 an egg and that's a good round number. I'll let you know how it goes, readers. Both of you. :p

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Those of you who are on my Facebook may have seen me ask this question before. Don't worry, I'm really not so dumb that I don't know why Chuck Norris is famous. I even made up my own Chuck Norris joke once:


That's funny right there. Chuck Norris may actually be faster than the speed of light, but meh.

So anyway. I work part-time (VERY part-time now, because thank God writing is more lucrative) for a text message answer service. It's NOT dirty, just 411 queries, general questions and silly stuff from teens like "Does he like me?" Although it's usually more like "dos he lyk me omg idk wat shuld i do if he say hi too me?" Yeah, it's that bad. My children must be more articulate than that. It is my life's mission.

Some time ago, this service rolled out a way to signal when a customer was frustrated with a previous answer, so we could give them better service on the follow-up. Not truly necessary, as you can usually tell when the user isn't happy. Profanity and telling me how much I/my mom/my grandmama suck are pretty good indicators in and of themselves. My children must have better manners than that. It is my life's mission.

As with many new things, the rollout had a few bugs. One of the first questions I got that was flagged as a frustrated customer was "WHY IS CHUCK NORRIS FAMOUS?!?!?!" Now, I assume the system flagged it because of the caps and multiple exclamation points, but that's really pretty standard for texting. People generally either type all in caps or all in lowercase, and multiple punctuation marks abound.

But I thought it was pretty hilarious, and told my friend Carly that from then on, whenever I was frustrated, that would be my go-to phrase.



Training Pants are Extinct?

When I was potty training Princess, I had these Gerber training pants for her. They were plastic on the outside and had a padded lining. Lightning is being somewhat stubborn about training, but is to the point now where I am comfortable totally ditching the diapers. I am not quite ready to put him to bed in undies only, though, so I broke out the training pants. They were pretty tight, and upon checking the size I found they really were too little for him.

So today I went on a quest to buy more training pants. Just in case. Wal-Mart did not have them. WTF? They only had Pull-Ups. I'm sorry, but Pull-Ups suck. I got a sample one in the mail when Princess was training, and I might as well have put a diaper on her-it functioned the same. Basically, I see them as more expensive diapers.

So fine. I'll go to Meijer. They only had ONE type of training pants. And they only went up to a pound below what Lightning weighs. But I figured that was fine, so I bought two packs. Ready to go! And while there, I ran into a former coworker that I hadn't seen since just after leaving that job. Fifteen years ago. Yay for feeling old![/sarcasm]

Come to find out, they are ONLY plastic. No padded lining. They will work, I suppose, but seem sort of flimsy. I guess I'm the only person left who doesn't want to waste money on Pull-Ups or wash sheets a whole bunch of times. Maybe the EC crowd (elimination communication, I don't recommend this idea AT. ALL. Never tried it, but c'mon!) killed the training pants market. They find out I like something, they stop making it. Never fails. I'm glad to have at least found SOMETHING that would work and not break the bank, though.

Diapers: 1 Parents: 2. Now once Spongebob is trained, we can quit buying diapers for good! Yes, I know cloth is an option but I just don't feel comfortable that my washer would sanitize them enough.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Adventures in Editing

One of my work-at-home gigs is editing articles. Generally, the articles aren't too bad-just minor changes or adding a few words here and there to get close enough to the required word count. This batch was pretty bad, though, so it took me longer than usual to edit.

I have had issues with my netbook for some time. Specifically, it gets hot and the fan won't kick in. This may or may not be due to the fact that a child knocked a can of Mountain Dew onto it. Mr. Snarky tried to clean it out with electronic cleaner, which seemed to work fairly well. Until. The space bar stopped working. I obviously cannot edit without a space bar.

So Mr. Snarky takes the space bar key off. He finds that a piece underneath the space bar has shifted out of position. The technical name for this piece is "tiny cone shaped doohickey" or TCSD. It is very small and looks like an earring back, sort of. As he readjusted it and prepared to put the space bar back on, the TCSD flew up into the air. And promptly disappeared. FAIL!

After digging through the carpet with a flashlight, muttering words that should have made the carpet pile stand straight up, neither of us came up with the TCSD. Together, we made the decision that since I never use the right-hand ALT key, we would remove the TCSD from underneath it and put it under the space bar. Worked like a charm. We still haven't found the lost TCSD. I don't know where it went. Maybe to the land of missing socks.

Then I had to finish the editing batch, which I did just a little late. At 4:30 AM. God, I was so tired and my brain was fried. Adventures in editing. Yay!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Drum roll, please!

My Sis Boom Jamie dress is done! I had a minor setback while sewing the straps onto the dress. I jammed some thread up in my sewing machine so badly that my mom and I had to take it apart. Good times. BUT. It was fixed, reassembled and the dress is completed.

Wanna see it on a hanger? Why wouldn't you?!

Doesn't that hanger look so stylish? The dress really does make the hanger, to paraphrase the old saying.

You wanna see the dress on me? Alrighty then!

Ignore the empty CD rack on the right. That's our high-tech way of keeping Spongebob from ripping the cable wires out of the wall. Fug, but it works. :D

So there you have it. The first dress I've ever sewn and only my second sewing project EVAH. I am pretty danged proud of myself and think I did very well. Lightning told me I look beautiful and he wants me to wear the dress forever. Not exactly practical to do that, but it is the highest compliment from him. Princess is excited to get a Marissa dress soon. And I'll eventually crochet a shrug to go with it.

Thoughts on the pattern: It was really very, very easy to work from. Lots of pictures, which were very helpful for a beginner like me. The instructions were very clear as well. I liked that the pattern told you exactly how to print it so your pattern pieces would be to the proper scale and WHICH pages to print for each size so you don't have to figure it out or print a TON of unneeded pages. Very user-friendly pattern, two thumbs up from me!

I did size up to the large bodice and waistband, as previously mentioned, and I was glad I did. The skirt was WAY too big, though. FAR too many gathers. Now, part of that was my fault because I cut the skirt to the large dimensions instead of the medium. But even still, I ended up taking 10" off each skirt piece to get a look I was happy with. I definitely recommend starting with the correct width but gathering, pinning and trying on multiple times, trimming the width a bit at a time, to see how you like it. For reference, I am 5'5" and 134 lbs (and losing-to a goal of 125, but that's neither here nor there.)

Thanks to Sara at Sew Sweetness for hosting the sew-along, Lina and Carly for helping me pick my main dress fabric. This definitely will not be my last sewing project!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sis Boom Jamie bodice and skirt

Today, I monkeyed with the skirt some more. I ended up cutting 10" off each side before I was halfway happy with it. I think I accidently cut the skirt for a large too, like the bodice. I am a medium, but Sara at Sew Sweetness recommended cutting the bodice and waistband one size larger than normal. Since the kids, my cups runneth over, so it's a very good thing I took her advice there. But I think I extended the advice to the skirt by mistake.

Mr. Snarky and my mom both claim that the way it is now does not make my butt look gargantuan. I trust the female opinion in such matters a bit more than the male, but since I got one opinion from each gender and they match, I guess it's all good.

I nearly slit my wrist with a straight pin while trying on the pinned-up dress one of the times before I sewed it. Actually, it's on the back of my wrist and it's pretty shallow, just a scratch. Hurt like the dickens, though. Next up is installing the zipper.

Wanna see the dress so far? Sure you do!

And you should appreciate this picture, because I stood on my bed to take it. With the ceiling fan on. Hoping I didn't do a Franny in the alternate ending of "Dawn of the Dead." ROMERO's "Dawn of the Dead." Not the new one with fast zombies. It's not a terrible flick on its own, but the original is vastly superior.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sis Boom Jamie dress-back bodice

So I did get the back bodice put together and sewn to the front tonight. I also sewed the skirt together along the short edge and monkeyed with it for a while. Here's what I learned:

1. Sewing over a forgotten pin in fabric breaks sewing machine needles.

2. Don't bitch about buying 90/14 needles when you already had one on the machine.

3. Because you will break that one and be glad for the extras.

4. Do bitch about getting out of Hancock Fabrics without the brown thread.

5. Because your mom is right when she says that little spool doesn't have enough.

6. Do take your mom up on the offer to pick up some for you tomorrow so your lazy butt can stay home.

7. How to properly use the zigzag stitch on my machine. No, I didn't know. I figured it out. It's all good.

8. Believe some of the things you read online.

9. Especially about how big gathers make your butt look. I've never looked that big in my life when I wasn't pregnant, and this was an ALL OVER from the waist down big. Holy moley.

10. When you are frustrated at the hugeness of yourself in the pinned-up dress, put it up for the evening and go blog about it. Think about it tomorrow. Tomorrow is anothah day.


Sis Boom Jamie dress WIP

So I finally got my fabric. It went through something called FedEx Post, which is where FedEx picks it up, takes it somewhere, then USPS picks it up and takes it the rest of the way to you. I never heard of that before. But I got it Thursday, which was good because they originally said 4/18 and I know I couldn't sew a dress in 3 days. Seriously.

I went to Hancock Fabric and picked my waistband fabric that night so I could get going. I also picked up a zipper and some brown thread. I didn't know it, but I didn't make it out of Hancock's with the thread. But it wasn't on my receipt either, so I guess I didn't put it on the counter. Luckily, my mom had a small spool of matching thread. IDK why, but I'll take it. I had to go with a blue/teal zipper to match the waistband and print because apparently a 14" brown zipper is just not in demand. Who knew?

Of course, I forgot to get a thread to match the waistband, so I had to stop at Hobby Lobby on Friday to get that. But today I was ready to sew!

Wanna see what I got done? Of course you do!

See how it doesn't match up on the left (right side of picture?) IDK why it doesn't, but Sara at Sew Sweetness recommended sizing up on the bodice and waistband. So whatever extra fabric wouldn't be taken up by the zipper installation might be trimmed off beforehand anyway. I appear to not be the only one whose bodice didn't quite match up, so I feel better about that. Because everyone else's dresses are turning out lovely.

This is all I got done tonight, for several reasons. One, I am a novice seamstress and so this took a while to do. Two, my helpers broke my concentration. Princess had a million questions and Lightning kept asking for banana bread. He loves banana bread SO MUCH. His master plan is to ask me to buy bananas, then not eat them til they're so overripe that it's banana bread time. I've seen the plan in action, but pretend I don't know so he can feel like a sneaky boy. Spongebob slept through it all, bless him. And three, I had other stuff to do today.

So tomorrow I'll get at least the back bodice done. Anything more than that...well, I don't know. I have other stuff to do tomorrow. But my sewing machine and ironing board can't live on the kitchen table forever. (I don't have a full size ironing board, just an over-the-door number whose over-the-door hooks got lost in some move somewhere. They may be in New Mexico. Who knows.) And I only have til the 21st to finish to be eligible for FABULOUS PRIZES! I luffs prizes. :D

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Random thoughts from my head

The Jillian Michaels Quick Trouble Zones workout is not quick. It's about an hour long. But it is much easier on my knees-the 30 Day Shred made my left knee hurt all the time. However, it is all about toning and boy, is it hard. But I am only about 7 pounds from my goal weight of 125 now, so I shall keep on truckin'.

I am the biggest. dork. EVAH. I was browsing the History Channel online and I found an error in a slideshow. They used "passed" instead of "past." So I emailed them to tell them. Yeah, I'm a dork, but I can't help it-I do freelance editing as of my WAH gigs, so it's kind of hard to stop myself. I've always been one to find errors, too.

Things I'm loving online today: the LOLCat Bible, Raymond on Wheel of Fortune (thanks to Mr. Snarky for finding him) and as always, the marvelously snarky and brutally honest MICHAEL K at DListed. DListed is not for wimps-there is a lot of language but I don't mind that and oh, is he funny!

I'm out of stuff to say. Toodles.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Little whippersnappers these days

Back in MY day we didn't need no fancy iPads to learn our letters and numbers. We went to Kindergarten and colored, did worksheets, took a nap and played Musical Chairs or Duck, Duck, Goose. Apparently the Kindergarten students in Auburn, Maine are above all that tomfoolery, though. See?

Now, I was one of the only kids, if not THE only one, in my Kindergarten class who could read. I remember my teacher being distinctly shocked when I started working on my worksheet before she read the directions out loud. She asked how I knew what to do and I said, "I read it." She made me read it aloud, then told me to wait til everyone started in the future. Arguably, not the best way to handle an advanced kid, but it was what it was. And honestly, kids should have a better start than that when they enter Kindergarten, but this was the early 1980s.

Don't get me wrong, it's not like my kids don't have a lot of electronic learning toys. They do. "Laptops," Tag readers, Leapster 2s with educational games. But you don't just hand a kid a toy and say, "Figure it out, kiddo, see ya." With the toys and the work I've done with them, the older two are doing really very well. They can both write, read and do math and Spanish, all to varying degrees of success. The wee one isn't quite old enough for such scholarly pursuits yet.

Technology is important, this is true. However, should a $475 (and that's with a DISCOUNT for the school system) iPad 2 really be provided for each Kindergartener to learn his/her letters and numbers, the stated use for the devices? Heck, my school district, which looks worse by the day (especially with busing issues) actually says kids should ALREADY be able to recite the letters and numbers to at least 10 before entering Kindergarten, among other skills. My kids are way past that already, at 5 and 3. Even if the Auburn school district doesn't hold kids to the same standards, which it would seem they do NOT, I've taught my kids the skills they have without an iPad, version 1 or 2. They don't really do much on the desktop, either...mainly just playing regular games for experience moving the mouse and potty training bribes. :D

It's just like that "Your Baby Can Read" bullcrap that teaches kids sight recognition, which does absolutely no good in helping them figure out new, unfamiliar words. Phonics isn't perfect, but it works a helluva lot better than that. People have become so consumed with one-upping everyone else that they've lost sight of what's important. Parents want their kids potty trained by a year, "reading" before that time as well, and playing alone with the latest grown folks' electronic gadget as soon as they're old enough to keep it out of their mouths. What happened to kids being kids?

On a final note, it really grinds my gears that the Auburn superintendent Tom Morrill (who is retiring in June, BTW) called the iPad 2 "more important than books." Really? Yeah, an iPad 2 can hold a lot more information than one or even 100 books can. But look at the writing of people who were exposed to the Internet and texting AFTER they presumably learned proper English in school, younger people in particular. It's horrendous. And the more immersed in technology we become, the more I think of Stream of Consciousness and I hope there's always someone left in the world who can still read actual books.

Disappointment, thy name is Jean M. Auel

When I was a Freshman in high school, I took Anthropology. At some point during this class, we watched "The Clan of the Cave Bear," starring Darryl Hannah as a Cro-Magnon(pronounced in Mr. Langnehs' style as Crow-Manyon) and a bunch of people in really bad Neanderthal (Knee-and-dur-tall) makeup. Mr. Langnehs offered extra credit to anyone who read the book. I don't recall a report being required, but since I was/am a generally honest little Snarky, I read the whole book.

And I fell in love. The writing, the characters...everything was just so perfect about that book. I even persuaded my mother to buy the other three books out in the series at that time, "The Valley of Horses," "The Mammoth Hunters" and "The Plains of Passage," sight unseen. I knew I would love them that much. And I did. I read them so much they fell apart and I had to buy a whole new set.

Like other Auel fans, I waited impatiently for the fifth book in the series, which did not come out until 2002. At first, I was rather disappointed in this book, "The Shelters of Stone." The Zelandonii people seemed like a generally nasty, mean-spirited bunch and the usual depth of writing just wasn't there. However, it's grown on me to the point of "it'll do."

Nine years later we have another book, "The Land of Painted Caves." This is supposedly the last book in the series, so it's really, really good, right? Wrong. I could NOT be more disappointed with this book and I really wish I'd never read it. Had I known the series finale would be this bad, I wouldn't even have read SoS and stuck instead with books 1-4 only.

Too much of the book was spent on descriptions of the scenery and painted caves. I know Auel visits these places and does all this research but dang. Character development, which was lacking in SoS, is nearly absent in TLoPC. The book covers hardly any time at all. Events that were foreshadowed strongly never took place. Jondalar and Ayla engage in absolutely RIDICULOUS behavior for their characters that almost made me throw the damn book across the room. Inconsistencies and spelling variations and errors abound, so it looks like no one even edited the book at all. If Auel was this tired of the characters, she should have left it at 4 books.

I am not the only one who feels this way. It's a sad thing when a book released on March 29 has 15 used copies for sale on Amazon already on April 10. And it is a LONG book, 750+ hardback-sized pages, so I'd bet many people that bought it the day it came out just haven't gotten all the way through it yet. 219 reviews so far with a 2-star rating. My review gave it 1 star. And that was being nice.

I'll stick with books 1-4 from here on out, although after this it may be a while before I can even pick them up again. I may rarely read book 5. Book 6 sucks and has no place on my Earth's Children shelf. I already told my mom not to buy the paperback for me when it comes out, as she did with SoS so my set would match. I'm just glad I didn't pay full retail for this paperweight.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

I can haz shrug?

If you listen to Mr. Snarky, I in fact have no blood. He has said those very words to me, specifically on a car ride home from my Granny's house one day that was warm enough for me to wear shorts. It went like this:

Me: Wow, it's getting chilly. Feel my leg.
Him: *feels leg* OMG it is FREEZING. What is WRONG with you? You have no blood.

At least I won't have sparkly vampires chasing me. Ew. But he does make a good point...I get cold really, really easily. You'd think I grew up in the tropics. So since the Sis Boom Jamie dress for the sew-along hosted by Sew Sweetness is not only the cutest. thing. EVAH. but also is sleeveless, my arms will get cold at some point.

Kim turned the Jamie dress into a super cute tunic and modeled it wearing a cardigan. This got the wheels turning. Because I am thrifty, nay, because I am cheap, I went looking for free shrug/cardigan/arm warmer patterns. I like this one posted by a lady named Melissa, but as it isn't an actual pattern but guidelines only, I'll have to monkey with it. This one is really cute but may be too frou-frou for the Jamie dress. Plus it's short sleeved.

Now, I am more experienced at crocheting than sewing. I've made a baby blanket (in the back loops only, DOH! But my daughter loves its airiness), a Care Bear, a Strawberry Shortcake, a duckie, and a granny square here and there. I think I can handle a shrug, but that will be a project for AFTER the sew-along.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

I can haz dress?

So check it out. Over there:


There is a shiny new button on my blog, which I figured out how to do all by myself. Sometimes I rock. I feel all techno-accomplished, too. Sara at Sew Sweetness made it super easy by providing the code, though. It's a sew-along!

Yes, folks, I think I can sew. Those of you who know me know that I am a cross stitcher. Many moons ago, I asked Mr. Snarky for a handheld sewing machine for my birthday. To make cross stitch projects into small simple things, like pillows, wall hangings, etc. You know, for when I actually FINISHED a project? I just wanted one of those infomercial ones that you can hem a skirt with at your desk or repair a torn curtain while it's hanging (call NOW!) But Mr. Snarky went above and beyond and got me a real, honest-to-goodness sewing machine. Talk about overwhelmed. My mom used to work in a sewing factory and made some of my clothes when I was little, but I had never touched a sewing machine. Ever.

So I really didn't do much with it because I didn't know how and I was severely intimidated. The machine got put in the closet, where it couldn't silently mock me on a daily basis. Then last Halloween, I found an AWESOME Tinkerbell costume that my daughter just HAD to have at Make it and Love it. I used fleece because it was all I could find in time and didn't make it an actual onesie type of deal because I had no bathing suit that fit her for a pattern, but a regular top and skirt instead. Despite this, I think it turned out pretty well, especially for my first sewing project.

Now I think I know how to sew. My friend Lina, who not only sews but is also the best baker EVAH, posted about the Sew Sweetness Jamie Dress Sew-along and I said what the heck. It has an actual pattern, which my mom claims makes it easy. I found a great deal on fabric too-I'm just waiting for it to get here so I can take it to Hobby Lobby and choose a coordinating waistband fabric. Wanna see my fabric? Of course you do! Chosen with Lina and Carly's help, here it is:

Pretty, huh? So I'm gonna give it a go. And if I succeed, I can make cute girly things for my daughter and I won't have a big old paperweight any longer, but an actual sewing machine. :D

You can join in, too! Click the button for all the details, including where to buy the pattern and a suggested Etsy shop for fabric. You know you want to.

I forgot I had a blog.

No really, I did. Doesn't that make me the worst blogger EVAH? Yeah, it pretty much does.

In my defense, I've been super busy. As only a work-at-home Mom with 3 little ones can be. Circumstances in Wonderland have made me the breadwinner, so I really need to get paid for my writing time as well. People really do pay me for my non-snarky writing. It's true. I even have my own little page on teh Interwebz with Amazon Affilate ads. I'm not Regretsy by a long shot (although I do admire her whimsicle effery quite a LOT and am just a wee bit jealous of her) but I suppose I do OK.

But then I wanted to join a sew-along at Sew Sweetness and found myself commenting sans blog address. Yes, I was one of those LOSERS who comments with just their name, no hyperlink to a blog or site. The humanity. As a result, there was a miscommunication (quickly resolved) that made me remember...I haz a blog! With 3 followers! My BFF, Mr. Snarky, and my BFF's other blog. So, yeah it's only 2, but Blogger sez 3, so neener.

And I guess I'm back. Why not? *waves*