For life's little obsessions

Monthly Archives: January 2013

About a month or so ago, I finally put together another bookshelf for my room. It was desperately needed – I had piles of books all over the floor! AND, I made it big enough that even once I’d moved all my books, I still had room on each shelf for buying a few more – important, since I’m kind of OCD about keeping my books in alphabetical order. Unfortunately, that meant that I had a few shelves that looked like this:

Before shelf picture

My poor books!

Those poor books! Especially the paperbacks! They were getting terribly warped and it was making me sad! What I needed was some bookends, but I didn’t have any that would fit the space, much less match my room. So, I decided to make my own!

Supplies:

Supplies

  • Something heavy or the exact size of the space you’re trying to fill (I rooted through the wood scraps in the basement and came up with a few pieces this time, but I have also used bricks or regularly shaped rocks).
  • Pretty paper (I chose to use scrapbooking paper, but wrapping paper works too – just be careful. Thinner paper rips easier).
  • Scissors
  • A pencil
  • Tape

Directions:
Step 1

  1. Lay the piece of wood on the back of the paper you’re using and trace where you’re going to cut.
  2. Cut the paper down to size.
  3. Wrap the piece of wood in the paper like you’re wrapping a gift. If you’re having trouble getting the paper to stay long enough to tape it down, run your fingernails along the two sides of each corner to sharpen the crease (Beware! Doing this means that crease is PERMANENT! Don’t do it until you’re absolutely certain you have the paper where you want it!)

Step 4
If you have any extra when folding down the ends, crease it where it overlaps and then cut off the extra – extra bulk will just make it want to come apart faster.
Finished!
All done! Repeat the steps until you have as many as you need. I did a full set of four:
After shelf picture

Now all my books stand up nice and straight, PLUS I have pretty bookends that match the colors in my room. It’s a win-win!

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Star Trek logo

Logo belongs to NBC

Star Trek has been delighting fans of all ages for decades now. The first run may have been short, but it sparked numerous movies and spin-offs, each with its own cast and fresh take on the Federation’s exploration of the galaxy. I may be coming late to the party (and not all the way through all the shows yet), but I can see why so many have fallen in love with the show.

Star Trek: The Original Series is absolutely chock full of role models, perhaps most famously racial role models. Lieutenant Uhura and Helmsman Sulu were ground-breaking characters in their day. They’ve been discussed at length on many different forums, and I can’t deny that their impact on society was monumental. But the thing that impressed me the most about the series was not the racial role-models, but the personality role-models.

Throughout the show, we are provided with a wide range of personality types, from the more emotional (usually represented by McCoy or Scotty) to the more intellectual (pretty much ALWAYS Spock). I personally identified more with Spock and I really respect and appreciate the way he has been portrayed. So often in any type of literature the intellectual is either A) the two-dimensional information giver (Enter, give information that is vital to whatever scene, exit) B) the two-dimensional Mac-Guyver (Enter, fix the “impossible” problem, exit) or C) the stereotypical punching bag (a character so socially inept s/he is unable to function in normal society, is often bullied, and therefore hates their smarts).

Mr. Spock is none of the above. Sure he often is the information giver, but he has a history and back-story. He might have been meant as the foreign one, the one we’re not supposed to understand because he is “unemotional.” But they gave him a human half, an emotional side, and that’s what fascinates me. They show us pretty early on that the emotional side is there, no matter how deeply he buries it. He feels way deep down, and just chooses not to give in to it. And the thing that makes him such a role model, that really makes all those on the Enterprise such role models, is the fact that he knows exactly who he is, and he is okay with it. He makes no apologies when he doesn’t get a human custom, and doesn’t try to hide his intellect to fit in. And because he accepts himself, the rest of the characters accept him.

There’s only so many stories with Spock in them, though. I’ve finished up all the original cast episodes, so I moved on to The Next Generation, hoping that I’d find someone in the new cast to love just as much as I love Spock. Sadly, I was disappointed. It’s pretty obvious that Data is meant to be Spock’s analogue in this new cast, and he’s not too bad. He’s funny in his own sort of way. But one thing really bugs me about him. Data is embarrassed about his non-human tendencies. He wants so badly to be human that he is constantly apologizing for everything he does. I can understand why they made him that way – as a character it makes sense. But he is never shown as someone who is comfortable with who he IS. With such a diverse cast, and such a focus on tolerance and acceptance of differences, that’s really jarring to me.

A part of me wonders, is this a sign of the time the shows were aired in? The Original Series was aired in the 60s, while Next Generation didn’t come out until the 80s – a decade notorious for its rebellious-ness, and anti-nerd tendencies. Suddenly it wasn’t “cool” to be smart anymore. Perhaps that snuck into the writing in Data’s self-consciousness. But no matter the cause, I’m a fan of the Spock approach. He is an intellectual hero, both smart and comfortable in his skin, and I’ll always look up to that.


When asked to describe myself, the first word that comes to mind, academically at least, is perfectionist. It runs in the family, though I’m not sure where exactly I got it from. Maybe it was just that I got a lot of praise when I got things right. My parents were all about making me work and think for myself. They had me reading on my own by the time I was 3 or 4, and I was signing my name in cursive in first grade (though I do remember asking them to teach me that, so maybe the perfectionism was ingrained by then).

Then again maybe it’s my young years as a musician. Music is a precise art, one that focuses on “right answers” versus “wrong answers” very early on. Before you can get to the expression part of being a musician, you have to learn how to read the notes,  rhythms, dynamics, tempi and various other markings correctly. I hated practicing because I thought I could never get everything “right” – I just wanted to play beautiful music. It’s not that I’m saying that music shouldn’t be so perfectionist. I once heard a piece called 98% where students were encouraged to play deliberate mistakes, so that the piece would be played 98% correctly. In most school systems that’s an extremely high passing grade, but the piece sounded AWFUL!

No matter what the cause, I spent most of my school years believing I had to be the best at everything I tried. I was that kid who thought she was failing if she got a B in ANY subject (I had a 3.99 GPA at the end of high school and I still kind of hate the biology teacher who gave me the single overall B on my record). But the older I get, the more I realize this perfectionist attitude is a curse. You would not believe the number of hobbies I started, “didn’t get” (read: didn’t get it RIGHT on the first try) and gave up on. My sketchbook for example – I have a few friends who are incredibly good at drawing things and I get SO JEALOUS. So I bought myself a sketchbook and some supplies and tried it. I did okay as long as I was copying a picture, and I had several ideas for pictures I wanted to draw freehand, but nothing ever turned out the way I wanted to. I still pull it out every once in a while, but for the most part it languishes in my “projects” basket untouched. Same with knitting and cross-stitch projects – I have about 5 or 6 projects started that I gave up on because I messed up and didn’t feel like going back and unpicking to do it right (nevermind that I was probably the only one who would notice in the end.)

My perfectionism extends beyond my own personal projects, though. If I say I’m going to do something for someone, I cannot NOT do the job to the best of my ability. In the job I held before my current position, I was the sole employee at a very small chocolate factory. Technically my job description only extended so far as making products and selling them. But, because there was no-one else to do it (the boss wasn’t good with details) I ended up managing the production schedule, the grocery lists and the organization of the store. I took a lot of extra work on myself, and then on top of that, a lot of pressure to not only make sure these extra jobs were done, but that they were done perfectly. At the end of a typical day, my boss would compliment me on my work, while I would be mentally making a list of all the things I hadn’t done.

I’m trying to train myself out of that extreme perfectionist mentality, and one of the things that has been a big help with that is blogging. There is NO RIGHT WAY to blog, and there never will be. So, thanks for reading my therapy guys! I really appreciate it.


I love to putter around the kitchen! One day last week I was desperate for something dessert-y, so I came up with these: Crescents a la Reese’s!

What you’ll need:

Ingredients

1 greased cookie sheet

1 package of pre-made crescent roll dough (I always get whatever brand is on sale, though I have noticed a difference in the amount of rising between brands. I also like to get reduced-fat – they taste the same and are less calories!)

A few handfuls each of chocolate and peanut butter chips (I happened to only have the mini chocolate chips around, so that’s what I used.)

Directions:

  • Open and unroll the dough, dividing it into sections according to the package directions.
Crescents with chips

All ready to roll up!

  • Gently press chips into the dough, leaving yourself a half inch around the edges and a full inch at the tip to seal it up later.
  • Roll the Crescents up as you normally would, careful to keep all chips inside the dough.
  • Close up any edges that haven’t sealed up – I folded the corners in slightly to make sure none of the chips would escape when melted.
Crescents rolled up

Ready to go in the oven!

  • Place in pre-heated oven and bake according to package directions.
  • Allow to cool for 5 minutes or so before eating – those chips turn into molten LAVA on the inside!

And voila! A yummy chocolate-y treat in next to no time! Plus, if you use the reduced-fat crescents and just have one, they don’t wreck your diet too badly.

Enjoy!

 


Anne's Weekly Obsession

Thanks to Kristilyn from A Winter Crafter for designing the banner

Star Trek

Image belongs to NBC

Obsession: The Star Trek franchise

Current Position: Just finished the Original Series. I’m hoping I can get through most of the spin-offs eventually, but I’d like to at least get through all of the original cast material before the new movie comes out this summer.

How it started: Star Trek (2009) – I borrowed the movie from a friend, and suddenly realized how much I was missing out!

Favorite Things:

  1. Spock – I would say that Spock is about 98% of why I’m still watching the Original Series. He is such an incredibly complex character for one that is so based in unemotional logic. Half the time I want to shake him and remind him that he is half human, and it’s okay to be one. The other half I’m cheering for him being an alien bada$$! I also really love that the writers figured out Leonard Nimoy could act in season 2 and started giving him reasons to NOT be all unemotional – it is so weird to see him go from Spock to a smiling, laughing alien entity controlling Spock’s body. My hopes for Spock’s future storyline? I’d love to see Spock actually admit to being half human (since most of the time he claims only his Vulcan heritage), and, perhaps privately, allow himself a small amount of emotion. Like, if he thought somebody died. It’s THERE, I can tell (I mean, the way he reacted when he thought McCoy was dying even though they’re polar opposites and always fighting – CLEARLY some feels going on there!) It is only logical, after all, that someone who is half-Vulcan, half-Human might have the best characteristics of each race, and he should therefore allow the human side of him out in controlled situations.
  2. The 2009 movie soundtrack – I love love LOVE Michael Giacchino anyway, and this soundtrack is one of the best. It has ALL THE FEELS! I don’t want to go into too many details because I’d like to feature some of the tracks in future Messy Essays. But guys. It is THE BEST! Special recommendations (if you don’t want to listen to the whole thing) are: “Enterprising Young Men” and “That New Car Smell” (Don’t ask me how they choose the names of tracks. I swear sometimes they choose random stuff so we’ll just ASSUME they’re being clever.)
  3. THIS SCENE! [opens a Youtube clip] It has all the good things – TWO Spocks, my favorite track from the movie, and Spock admitting to a few human characteristics. Seriously, it’s AWESOME!

Have you ever seen anything from Star Trek? Who are your favorite characters?


Earlier this week in my post On Being an Introvert, I talked about my job in the basement of the library. This is a huge part of my life right now, so I took a few pictures to share with you!

Room 100

Room 100, AKA The Dungeon!

This is the room I work in. Just so you have an idea, I’m standing 10-12 feet from the wall behind the camera, and the point where the lights obscure everything way in the back is the far wall – this place is HUGE! And it is completely filled with old LPs – 7 inch 45s and 78s, and 12 inch 33 1/3s and 45s. I can’t even begin to guess how many records are down there, and ALL OF THEM are uncatalogued. [My supervisor would probably appreciate me telling you that the room is locked 24/7 and it is therefore impossible to just walk in and steal these rare LPs. As if anyone besides a library still has a working turntable to play them on!]

Shelving unit 1

That’s a lot of records!

Which brings us to my job. I’ve been hired to catalog as many of the 12 inch records as possible. The shelving bank you see above is the first of 14 of that size LP. It won’t even all fit in the same picture! That many records was approximately 2 months worth of work, at 30 hours per week – And they’re ALL in the A’s! It’s an incredibly daunting task – I’ve estimated it would take 375 8-hour shifts to catalog just the records that are already on the shelves in catalog order! Nevermind the thousands stacked along the walls and in boxes everywhere! But on the upside, working with all this old and rare vinyl means I find some pretty cool stuff sometimes.

Green Vinyl White Vinyl Blue Vinyl Tie-Dye Vinyl

One of the things they could do with LPs that they can’t really do with CDs is use colored vinyl. I get a lot of interesting colors as you can see from above. A lot of them are translucent too – I’ve even had a few on clear vinyl which is a bit of a trip, let me tell you! And all of the records in these pictures PLAY MUSIC (though I haven’t personally tested them to be 100% sure they aren’t scratched or anything.

Letter from the Artist

While some of the records are rare because of their content, or their format, every once in a while I’ll come across one that is rare because of the accompanying material – like this one, which had a handwritten note in it from the artist! It wasn’t an artist I recognized, unfortunately, but it’s still pretty cool!

Doctor Who Picture Disc

Doctor Who Picture Disc DOCTOR WHO!

And then, every once in a VERY LONG while, I’ll come across a record that will absolutely make my day! This is what’s called a “picture disc” – a rare LP, printed with a special picture right across the vinyl. While these picture discs ARE play-able, it isn’t recommended anymore, because the needle running through the grooves may damage the picture.

So, that’s just a little about what I do. Pretty cool, huh?


Level 1

One of the big questions I often am asked when I begin to explain my research interests is “Why film music?” Since I will probably be discussing film music a lot in my future Messy Essays, I thought I would take some time to explain.

Ever since I was very young I’ve been fascinated by music and stories (or if you want to be hoity-toity about it, music and narrative). I loved watching ballets and acting out the ones that I couldn’t find videos of. I would write stories to go with my music recitals, making sure that the tone of each piece followed the story arc (though I was the only one who would have known the difference). Later, when movies like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings came out, my fascination transferred to film music, and I’ve been studying it ever since.

The first thing that fascinates me about film music is the way it is used to compliment or subvert the action on the screen. Visual subliminal messaging is illegal, but aural subliminal messaging is alive and well – in a horror film, how do you know the bad guy is about to jump out? The music tells you! That’s a pretty general example, of course, but there are many other ways music can affect the audience, often without them noticing.

Admittedly, I study it for selfish reasons too. I love speculating and coming up with theories on what is going to happen in a movie or TV Show. When composers write to affect the subconscious of the audience, they inherently leave clues for the listener who knows where to pay attention. Or at least, I like to think so. Composer intention, like author intention for books, is a very tricky subject.

Eventually, I would love to find some unifying theory to apply to it all. If I can go to The Dark Knight Rises and come out thinking it was a “fairly typical score, nothing unusual” then there’s got to be some way of measuring what “Usual” is, right? But for now, I’m happy to stick to my small analyses and case studies. And, of course, discuss my theories with anyone who will listen!

A few examples of film scores I’ve studied, in case anyone’s interested in discussing them: Lord of the Rings, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, Shrek (first movie only), Moulin Rouge,