Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Insane Battle Between a Non Sentient Machine and Myself

                        Warning: I am deeply caffeine deprived.

I've been wracking my brain all morning to think of something to say about some of the books that I've been reading. It's been a few blogs since I've given a book review so I thought that it was high time to write another one out. The problem is that my downtime has consisted of rereading the Harry Potter series and seeing as that's pretty much a book you know everything about even if you haven't read it, a blog is kind of wasted on that. Then I thought I would go through my shelf and find something there to review, but all of my books seem uninspiring this morning. This is most likely due to my current lack of creative drive but I've been determined to power through this. As one of you lovely readers said, I need to punch this writers block in the face. So, sitting down with a cup of coffee, I decided to ponder my current predicament.

Before I continue, I must make one thing abundantly clear. I love coffee. Nothing is better than a perfect cup of coffee on a cold and early morning. I drink coffee after a work out because I love the feel of a relaxed body and a steaming mug. I have been known to take a shower before drinking coffee because I love that sense of utter relaxation. Coffee is always by me when I write and a good cup of coffee has helped me figure out numerous problems. Coffee and me are timeless.

Now, this morning I did my usual. I brewed a cup of coffee in hopes that this dark and rich nectar would help me through the writers block that I've been having over the past few weeks. But, sitting in my chair, holding my favorite panda mug between my hands, I took a sip of what should have been a rich robust blend with just a splash of cream, and instead got a mouth full of watered down swill that should be ashamed to even call itself a beverage.

This is how I got to this point.

A few weeks ago, my boyfriend lovingly decided to make me coffee one morning. I was just waking up, laying in bed and looking forward to that first cup, when I heard a crash. Somehow, he broke the pot. Believe me, it was an emotional day in this household that morning. I was caffeine deprived and he was guilt ridden.

We went out immediately to get a replacement carafe, thinking that something that says “universal coffee pot” would be universal and would fit inside my coffee machine.

It did not.

You know why? Because coffee is trying to break up with me.

Two days later, said boyfriend tried to get another universal coffee pot. A different brand from a different store that came with three adjustable lids. It still did not work with my coffee machine. Granted, my coffee machine was an old, twenty dollar Mr. Coffee but I naively thought that something that was only bought two years ago, wouldn't be this hard to find a replacement for. But, like I said, coffee was and is, trying to break up with me.

I didn't have time to deal with the coffee issues over the next week due to me working Valentines Day at a Flower Shop. I got my coffee on the go and ignored the empty space on my counter where my coffee machine should have been. But then, after the rush of Valentines was over and I had my first day off from the craziness, there seemed to be an end in sight. That proverbial light at the end of the tunnel had decided to shine. The boyfriend brought over his coffee machine and kindly offered that I could use it for the time being. I was overjoyed. He fixed me a cup that morning and either I was so tired that I thought it was the most amazing thing I've ever tasted, or the boyfriend is secretly a coffee magician (he's not). Either way, I thought, finally, the curse is broken.

Later that day I went to brew myself a cup though and realized that his coffee machine is a little hussy that loves no one but him.

The machine in question
I cleaned and shined up this poor girl like none other. I washed the entire machine, inside and out, ran hot water and vinegar cycles through it a few times, and generally, made it look like a coffee machine as opposed to a worn out piece of metal that lived in a house where cleaning out the coffee pot is a novel idea. But the thing still doesn't like me.

It's been a week. This thing yells at me every time I try to use it, it produces watered down, slightly coffee flavored swill for me to consume, and no matter how many scoops I put in it, it somehow comes out tasting like dirty bath water. I have tried sweet talking her. I have tried calling her every name in the book. The thing hates me. At some point, it declared war against me and decided to ruin all at home coffee experiences I ever wanted. I don't know what the hell I've done to it. I wasn't the one who took it outside of its home to put it in a tiny apartment with three cats. That was its beloved owner. But, no no, the thing is going to take its neglect and abandonment issues out on me instead. It sits on my counter, mockingly, screeching out loudly every time I touch it, yet, it purrs for the boyfriend, cuddling up to him like a metal plated cat of some sort. I think it's trying to replace me.

This morning, the boyfriend made a pot of coffee. It tasted perfect. I made a pot about an hour after he left and the little hussy vomited up some bile for me to consume and then laughed at my pain as I cursed and maybe even threatened for a good ten minutes or so.

Needless to say, this bitch is going to be replaced. She's going back to the boyfriend and they can live happily together in sin.

So, all you coffee drinkers out there, I'm looking for a new machine that doesn't exceed a hundred dollars. Suggestions? I want the other woman out of my house sooner rather than later. Also, I want to find this coffee shop.

Seriously, where is this?

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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Snowpocalypse in a Hippy Town

Growing up, snow days were these mythical moments that happened to other children, but never to us. If there was a dusting of snow, we'd maybe get a late start at school and once every five years or so, they would cancel classes because of black ice. Looking back on it, I'm pretty sure that school was only canceled during those days because they took pity on our hopeful little souls. Because lets face it, when children are given the possibility of a snow day and then the board of directors takes that dream away, a child is going to act as if someone just locked them in a closet with nothing but bread and water.

The point I am making here is that I grew up in a town without snow. The occasional dusting was about what we would received. And then, this year happened. This is our second winter storm that has hit us. The first one, back a few months ago, blanketed the city in fluffy white snow for close to three days. It was gorgeous. Over the past two days, we have received a second helping of snow, but this time it was accompanied by freezing rain. Now, that does not sound appealing at all but picture this. Every single tree that you can see is frozen solid, encased in glass, icicles hanging from their tips. The world outside is this soft bluish white and for once, this town that is so concerned about whatever they can protest next, is finally calm and quiet. It is more than beautiful. It's a rarity and an opportunity.

Unfortunately, we also live in a world of social media and so I have become painfully aware that apparently this natural act of beauty is an inconvenience to people of apocalyptic proportions.

It is amazing to me how people have reacted to these two days of weather. Yes, we got a foot of snow and yes, the ground is icy. Is it safe to drive out there? No. Hence why most businesses closed down. Never mind the fact that back East, they live with this type of weather for a few months out of the year and still manage to survive, my town was about ready to start burning furniture for warmth and pack up and head for the hills for safety. Because, you know, nothing says serious apocalyptic situation of hatred like two days of snowy weather.

So before people call me out on a few things, let me make it clear. Of course it is dangerous out there. People are without power right now, it's cold, and there were some unfortunates (like me) that still had to trek into work during all this because their bosses didn't want to lose out on the day. I know people who have had trees fall on their homes these last few days, on their children's swing sets, and across the front of their yard. In my apartment complex, we have caution tape in some areas because trees are coming down as the ice starts to melt. It is dangerous. And, if the people who had these things happening to them were the ones complaining or the ones saying how much they hated this weather, I would agree with them. They're not though. No, the ones who are complaining are with power and are simply bored at home and grouchy that their life got inconvenienced. I don't know if the icy roads made it so they couldn't go get their non fat caramel machiato with no whip or work out at the gym for twenty minutes or if they're simply mad because
they are stuck inside the very place they work their asses off to keep on a monthly basis, but the complaining this time around reached a crescendo that would make even the tortured souls in the special level of hell, raise their brow.

There have been several different variations of the sentence “I hate snow” on Facebook the last forty eight hours, my favorite being “Snow... ug!!!!1”. There have been comments of boredom, or how cold everyone was, and about how the snow needed to go away “NOW”. A few individual's, when they received no likes or comments on their generic statement of hate, proceeded to repost a variation of their previous status every
few hours, sometimes with cute little gifs they had found to accompany them. If that wasn't enough, people starting cursing out Mother Nature in such a way that has lead me to believe that they don't understand how weather works. In my experience, cursing natural occurrences like this doesn't do anything but add to your frustration. After all, I curse my time of the month all the time and yet it still happens with a vengeance.

Yes, people came together these past two days and had a bitch fest where they all stated how miserable they were in the safety of their own homes, with their power, and their electronics running at top speed so they could post their woes on to the Internet.

The people who have had trees fall on their possessions? They all posted status updates filled with humor while they poked fun at their misfortune. One person posted an open letter to the people working in these conditions, giving thanks for the power that they worked so hard to return to the city. A friend of mine took humor in everything and dubbed these two days snowmageddeon and treemadeddeon, and a man who is a co worker of my boyfriend, posted on Facebook that him and his friends, after work, would be going around the neighborhood and helping cut up the fallen trees. That, all of that, should have been the overwhelming response of the last two days; humor over an unchangeable situation and kindness towards others.

So you're bored at home with no power. If you have children, it is the perfect time to light every candle you have and drag out the board games. It is the perfect time to build a fort in the living room and have a camp out and teach them how to roast marshmallows over a candle flame. You have the opportunity to make a fun memory that you otherwise might not have gotten because you were too busy and tired from work or your kids were too busy with their video games or their friends. Read them a story. Hell, sit down and read a story yourself.

Don't have children and you're snowed in? Whether you have power or not, this is the time to take advantage of the fact that you can't go anywhere. Nothing can serve as a distraction right now. Cuddle up with your boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, and talk. Spend time having a conversation that isn't hindered by phone calls or the television. Don't want to talk? Fine, there are other activities that you could be taking full advantage of given the fact that it's cold and you're bored

By Caitlyn Tendick
Or here's another one. Go on a walk. Actually look around at the snow. Notice the beauty of it when it hasn't been disturbed yet. Listen to the way it crunches beneath your feet or watch the snow falling from the trees and the plume of white dust it makes as it falls to the ground. Go to the park and no matter how old you are, be a kid again. I spent two hours the other day playing on a swing set and slide because I could. Just because you are an adult and have the adult stresses, doesn't mean that you can't be childish when the time is right. Call up a friend. Walk to them. Have them walk to you. Sit on the phone with them and chat for a while. Go out on the streets and see if anyone needs help out there. Enjoy the fact that it is a rarity that the trees become encased in ice like this and we are practically living in a movie setting.

Then, when it's all said and done, go home. Sit with your loved ones or sit with your animals or yourself and just stop for a minutes and remember that life is absolutely crazy and is a whirlwind of good and bad times. Bad weather shouldn't be looked at as bad weather, it should be looked at as an opportunity to take a deep breath and rediscover yourself and your family. There will be plenty of times in the future where you will be running around like a crazy person in perfect weather. Next time it snows, hopefully these people that have viewed these last forty eight hours as the end of their world will either take it to the extreme and go all Walking Dead on people, or will calm down and remember that days like this can actually be fun if you'd just calm down for a minute or two.

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

London Bridge is Falling Down: The City of WhoLock

By Caitlyn Tendick

I could describe how the Tower of London isn't really a tower at all, or try to explain to you the slightly offensive man that hangs out in Trafalgar Square with a hawk.  I could tell you about the Underground and explain the unique scent that bellows from the tube openings or I could tell you about how the city is overwhelmingly massive and a force to be reckoned with.  I have heard many times about how magnificent
London is and there are plenty of travelers, bloggers and writers that I’m sure could paint that city in such a way that makes you believe that the clocks are dripping with gold and the royalty has left its mark in jewels everywhere you go.  The thing is, London isn't a town for poetics.  I think to give it poetics actually does it a disservice.

I was there with two friends this past November and while I had been there before, I think I enjoyed the city much more the second time. It is big and it is overwhelming and it is hard to take everything in all at once.  Now, there are plenty of stories I could tell you about my trip there; all of which seem so insignificant and monumental when I think of them now.  But, since my blog mainly seems to be about stories and about writing (or the lack thereof lately) I want to spend my time pointing something out to you fellow readers and travelers that I think does not get discussed enough.  London is no longer a real place.  It has ceased all economic or world power that we think it holds.  No. London is a story; a conglomeration of different tales and legends all combined into one anthology.

Think about it for a moment.

You have Big Ben where Peter, Wendy, Michael and John, all flew past on their way to Neverland and where Jack and Rose danced to Glenn Miller’s Moonlight Serenade.

You have the old Dickensian streets playing out before your eyes, the dirt and the grit of a smoggy London filled night rolling through the alleyways and the twisting down the cobbled side streets that still exist.

You have Fleet Street, home of the demon barber and the tavern dedicated to him where you can get a fantastic meat pie and a glass of mulled wine.  Just ignore the image of a flashing blade as you exit that night and hope that the streets are a bit crowded as you weave back home on unsteady and travel logged feet.

You have the black smoke that reaches out from the gap on the London Underground, stealing away the people that are easily forgotten if the gap is not minded.  Out on the streets there are numerous the forgotten alley’s that we all pass without a second glance, never aware of the portals that are contained at their end.  Door and Neverwhere’s slew of characters are waiting down there.

Shakespeare’s Globe sits in the heart of this town, old stories of betrayal and murder playing out inside its dome while out on the outskirts of the nightlife and bustling roads, Charles Dickens house still sits.  His walls are covered with words he wrote a long long time ago and his writing desk still sits empty, waiting for another story to be composed. 

Connecting these two worlds is the infamous London bridge that we see knights riding across to go to jousting tournaments, carrying favors from their ladies while the bridge itself holds echoes of markets and women hanging from windows to call down to the men below.  Then, it is beneath these bridges that ghost stories were made and where hands reach up from the icy tombs they have been banished too, beckoning the lone wandering as they try to find their way home.

By Caitlyn Tendick 
All the while, Big Brother is apparently watching us in this city, giving a whole new meaning to the London Eye.  But, James Bond is protecting us, racing his numerous flashy cars up and down these roads while wearing designer suits bought from the shops in the ritzier part of town.

There’s Hogwarts Great Hall, Sherlock’s Baker Street, and the fear that the Doctor has instilled in us that something horrid happens here every single Christmas season.  You have Kings Cross Station with Platform 9 ¾ and while not fiction, the gruesome images of Jack the Ripper still haunt the passages leading through the forgotten parts of the city.

And let us not forget that Spike and Drusilla were once from here and that Oliver begged for more at some point in time.  Let’s also remember that Canary Wharf was attacked by Cybermen or that Nick's High Fidelity record store is tucked between other crumbling business in the cheaper side of town. 
RomComs have their lovers meet outside the National Gallery in front of the lions. Diagon Alley is hidden somewhere in this city an hidden inside the tunnels are tales of secret meetings and deceit.

There are countless moments that we think of when we think of Europe.  It calls up images of Arthurian Legend or pilgrimages from the Canterbury Tales.  London is always at the center of it all and has continued to be there throughout the ages of literature.  Because of this, it is with a firm hand and tone, that I am declaring London to no longer be the city in which we believe that Queen resides or one in which we even call a part of our world.

London, is not a real place. London, is a book that we somehow have the ability to step inside and have been granted the privilege to walk its pages.

You can find Caitlyn Tendicks pictures here at  Go give her love and then like me on Facebook.
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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Shades of Grey - Not to be Confused with the Uninspired Twilight Fanfiction

Publicity shot: Jasper Fforde

Shades of Grey
By Jasper Fforde
5/5 stars

How can you not like a book that was published in a color by number, limited edition hardback?

Okay, so I have been in a bit of a book slump.  It’s not that I haven’t been enjoying the novels I’ve been reading, but nothing has shocked me.  Most of the novels I’ve read have been good but not page turners in the sense that I actually want to read. In fact, reading has been more of a chore lately.  While I enjoyed The Once and Future King (I’ll blog about it soon) it was predictable in the sense that I am a King Arthur girl and knew the gist of the story arc already.  And while I love my Gentleman Bastard series, I will painfully admit that I was left a little empty with Lynch’s latest installment.

Shades of Grey asks us to consider the idea that color is far more important than this series of light beams that enter our pupils when we look at an object. While we take the hues that we see for granted, this book presents the idea that each individual can only see a certain amount of color and thus is limited on the amount of the world they organically experience.  A hierarchical order is constructed around this thought process.  The more color you can see, the better off you are, and vice versa.

Originally, I wasn’t keen on this book.  I picked it up on a whim while I was at Powell’s over the summer, based a suggestion from a certain Australian.  It wasn’t that I wasn’t open to the concept, but it seemed almost bland.  There was something about this hierarchy that I kind of shrugged at because I simply assumed that the world in the novel would be like our own and honestly, I hate reading about our own world.  I tried reading this novel a few months ago and quickly set it down in dismay, thinking that it was going to be yet another long and tedious process for me to get through a book that didn’t even exceed four hundred pages.

In better spirits, I picked this book up again last week in an attempt to give it another go.  I’m so happy/angry that I did.  The happy, I can tell you about… the angry? 

Jasper Fforde created something that isn’t necessarily original, but is refreshing.  With themes reminiscent of Orwell’s 1984 (one of my favorites) the world created in this book (which I am told is set in South Wales. Huzzah!) is so distant from our own that I even question if the people populating this novel are meant to be the future human race or if they are simply a leftover construct of our own race, and have gained some intelligence.  The characters, except for one, aren’t really described and when they are, they tend to be more of an anamorphous figure or some sort of worker drone.  Our kind is nowhere to be seen though, having apparently died off in what is known as the Previously.  Little is known about what happened leading up to this new Chromatic point and whatever is given to us through the dialogue of the characters is horribly misconstrued.  Think of playing telephone as a kid and you have the type of information that this society has now.

In a world where you marry to increase your color percentage, where if you can’t see color, you are practically a slave, and where you die for the slightest infraction, Jasper Fforde has combined the Big Brother idea with the whimsy and hilarity of old style fairy tales

I will admit that I spent a good portion of this book feeling off kilter simply because the concepts aren’t explained to us in detail.  Though, that might be what I love about this book.  These themes and these rules are a part of this world.  The people here know them instinctively.  The fact that they aren’t explained to us makes this society more believable.  After all, Eric Kripke once put it best when he said you don’t really describe events to people who already known what you are referring to.  By doing this, the author has created a dystopian world inside a bubble that we have to actually pay attention and learn about.  This book is smart. The writing is smart. The clever pop culture references that are slightly construed so as to distance itself from our time period are threaded throughout the text in such a way that make you giggle and also foreshadow things to come.  Yes, Jasper Fforde may have just became one of my new favorites to read and I was relieved beyond belief to learn that this is a series and that I will not be left sitting in my living room, feeling incomplete.

My critique of this book? It did get a bit tedious for me in the middle.  I felt like once I had established the world and its rules, there was a lag time where there was more establishing that I didn't feel was all that necessary.  While I love the cast of zany characters we encountered, I did feel a bit tired in the middle of the novel.  I can guarantee that the last hundred and fifty pages makes up for this though.  I sat down today to simply read a chapter or two and ending up finishing the book and ignoring the dirty dishes and the hyper active cats demanding food they for some reason think they need. 

Not my cat but you get the idea
(Side note: I’m not starving my cats.  They are small little whales in the making.)

Now, that was the happy on my scale of emotions. I did mention there was some negative feelings as well.  But, as for them…?


Read this novel.  If nothing else, it is entirely refreshing from the other mass market fiction that is plaguing our bookstore shelves.  Too often, it seems that literature is written simply to sell quickly and widely and not be remembered.  Thankfully, Shades of Grey does not suffer from this fate.

Has anyone else read this one? I don’t feel like it’s as widely known as I want it to be.  Are the next in the series just as good?  Also, who out there didn't like it? I can easily see where this book would alienate people pretty quickly and I’m curious to hear the downfalls that I am looking over simply because I’m a giddy school girl again and am memorized by pretty words and imagery.

Random shout out to my people that have liked me on my Facebook page over the past few months.  You guys made me pick this up again.

I know it's been a while but remember to like me on Facebook and follow me on Google + . Both links are in the sidebar and are craving your attention.  Also, drop me a line.  Would love to hear what you guys have been up to.
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