Get To Know Me Better Reader Questionnaire

Emma over at BluChickenNinja posted this reader questionnaire last week, and tagged everyone who felt like doing it. I think it’s a neat little survey that got me thinking about my reading habits and preferences, and it’s been a while since we had a “Get to know me” kind of post, so here goes nothing!

In turn, I also tag anyone who feels like completing this survey – I’d love to read your answers!

1. What is your favourite book?

the things they carried

Oh god, starting with a difficult one here. I’m not sure I could actually narrow it down to one single favorite book. If we’re judging by number of re-reads, it would probably be The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. But I honestly can’t say I’ve had a favorite singular book since childhood – and even then my tastes fluctuated pretty rapidly. Childhood favorites I could probably narrow down to two, Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder or Prisoner of Azkaban (3rd Harry Potter Book) by J.K. Rowling, with Little Women by Louisa May Alcott coming in at a close runner-up.

2. What are your goals? For the year? For your life?

My goals for the year? Well, I’ve got some specific ones that you can read about in my New Year’s Post. For life? Well, that’s another toughie. In the general sense I want to be happy and healthy and live a stable fulfilled life, whatever that may mean in each individual day. I also want to be bilingual.

I’m working on it.

It’s not going well.

3. Are you a writer? If so, tell me about your work.

I used to write a lot of fiction back in the day. And when I say back in the day, I mean high school and college. My hand-me-down high school computer (Windows 3.1 baby) was filled with WordPerfect files which I thought were masterpieces of science fiction (but which I now can acknowledge were just a weird hybrid of Gundam Wing and Sailor Moon fan fiction under a thin veil of originality so I didn’t have to actually admit to myself I was writing fan fiction). I majored in English with a writing concentration in college (the closest thing we had to a major in Creative Writing that we had). I mostly produced self-indulgent short stories and dreamt of novels. I considered myself a “writer” though these years.

But then I fell in love with History as a career.

I still write. I write a lot, actually. But it’s still not as much as I should, and it’s certainly a different kind of writing than I ever thought I’d be doing if you’d have asked me at age 18. But I don’t yet consider myself a “writer.” I’m a teacher, I’m a historian, but until I get that first book published, I no longer consider myself a “writer.”

Except I blog. So there’s that.

4. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?

england-map

Oh man, these are HARD. Okay, here’s another toss-up – Either Japan, England, or back to China*. Most realistically? England, mainly because there’s not too much of a language barrier (I have a kind of thick regional accent sometimes) and I’d like to be able to travel without a tour group/translator package.

5. What was the last movie you saw in the theatre and was it worthwhile?

Last movie I saw in theatres was Mockingjay. Twice actually, as has become custom – the first Hunger Games movie was Jim and I’s first movie date (we had been dating more than a year at the time, actually, we had just never gotten around to seeing a movie somehow), and so the two of us have gone to each release since. I get all the crazy fandom feels out of my system with him (I was uhhhh definitely not NOT crying at the end of Mockingjay), and then I go see it a second time with my BFF when he comes home from law school on break. It’s amazing how much I miss in these movies the first time because I’m so overwhelmed.

Oh, and totally worthwhile if you’re a fan of the books.

6. I’m curious, are there any books that you’ve tried to read and simply couldn’t finish? This is a no judgement zone.

Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. Usually even if I really hate a book, I try to power through to the end – I’m stubborn and it becomes a matter of principle or something. But I just COULD NOT DEAL with these two. I guess I just really do not like the Bronte sisters.

7. Are you currently working on a new book/project right now? If it’s secret, you don’t have to tell me about it. If so, however, I hope it’s going well.

No book at the moment – my big personal project currently is my attempt to learn another language. It’s slow and plodding, but I’m determined.

8. If you could live in any of your favourite books, which one would you choose?

I guess I’d have to choose the Harry Potter universe. Because how could I not want to go to Hogwarts? I wish I was a Gryffindor, but realistically I’d probably be a Ravenclaw.

9. Are there any book-to-movie adaptations that you think are just incredible? That you absolutely hated?

mockingjay poster

I think they’re doing a great job with the Hunger Games Series so far – although I’m going to hold off final judgement until we see the second part of Mockingjay – it baffles me that they’re keeping the rating PG-13, and I’m a bit skeptical as to how they’re going to pull it off.

As for an adaptation I hate? I’m not sure there is one. I guess I’m not as big of a fan of the Harry Potter adaptations as you’d think I’d be – I actually haven’ t seen anything since 5. I can’t really articulate why. I guess I just had such a set vision of what it should all look like and be before the movies started coming out, and I couldn’t reconcile the version in my head with what I was seeing on-screen. Or something.

10. What do you look for in a book that you want to read? What’s the first thing to capture your attention?

Topic, topic, topic. Then I look up reviews by historians to see if it’s worthwhile.

I don’t read a lot of fiction anymore.

11. If you’re an author, what do you do when you first get an idea for a book?

As I said before, I don’t really consider myself a “writer” anymore, but I guess the first thing I do as a historian is RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH.

12. How do you feel about different genres? Romance? YA? Sci-Fi? Poetry? Do you have any favorites? Any least-favourites?

Pretty much every genre is pretty hit-or-miss for me. I don’t really prefer one over the other when it comes to fiction (although I obviously prefer historical non-fiction over anything else). Romance can be a little dicey for me I guess – never been the biggest fan. Everything else I’ll give a fair shake if it catches my attention.

13. If you could meet any writer in the world, dead or alive, who would it be?

Lora Innes, author of The Dreamer Comic – mainly because I feel like we’d get along. But then again, my social skills in real life are sort of lacking soooo…. maybe not.

14. Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction?

Non-fiction.

15. Are there any characters that everyone loves that you can’t stand? Or vice versa?

Draco Malfoy. Maybe I missed something about why so many girls are obbbssseeessseeedddd by not seeing the last couple films, but just from reading the books I so don’t get it. Dude’s a dick.

16. What do you like to do besides reading/writing?

I love to knit, crochet, draw, and do other crafty things. I also love love love teaching about History.

So I guess I picked a really good line of work.

17. If you could be remembered for one thing, what would it be?

For being me.

18. What is your favourite guilty pleasure book?

I read manga when I’m looking for something fun, although I wouldn’t really cite it as “guilty pleasure” because I stopped feeling guilty about it years ago. I like what I like and I’m not going to feel guilty about it. BAM.

gundam the origin

Currently I’m in the process of reading the Gundam: The Origin series. I love me some giant anthropomorphic robots.

19. Do you have a reading goal set for this year?

I do! Check out my post about it.

20. Tell me anything about yourself that I haven’t asked. Random fact. Weird human trick. Whatever.

I’m a Steelers fan, and I won my fantasy football league this year (much to the chagrin of the rest of the league since I basically make my choices based on whether I like their team or their uniform or their city and know nothing about the actual act of playing football).

*I spent a month touring China during college as part of an exchange program in China. It was awesome.

Mani Monday: Funky Fingers Elsa

Funky-Fingers-Elsa

This Mani Monday we have Funky Fingers Elsa. I picked this up in 5 Below on a whim, mainly because (as Jim and the apartmentmate will tell you) I have a little bit of a Frozen obsession, and any age appropriate way to display that, I’m all over it.

Elsa is a white and powder blue muti-size glitter that includes both little circles, hexagons, and snowflake shapes. Here, I used it over Sinful Colors Cinderella*, and I ended up LOVING the effect. The powder blue glitter matched my base color almost perfectly, giving it a cool dimensional effect. My only complaints are that the snowflake glitter had to be fished out and placed – but even without the snowflake glitter on the nail, the result is a super cute winter mani.

funky-fingers-else-closeup

Overall rating: A+

*Cinderella is a GREAT color, but has some serious formula issues – namely it takes like, 4 coats to get decently opaque and takes FOREVER to dry. But I haven’t been able to find another powder blue that the end result compares to yet… they’re either too matte or too sparkly. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

WIP Wednesday

I’ve been really really lax when it comes to knitting lately. I think I ended up with a grand total of 4 FOs (Finished Objects) last year? Maybe?

But I got my mojo back last week and I’m finally making some progress on some of the stuff I’ve been working on.

First, my Undertow Shawlette (Ravelry Link), which has been in progress since this was a KAL pattern by my LYS (which has sadly now closed) in May of 2013.

Undertow-Shawlette

I’ve been super slow with progress on this, not because I don’t like the pattern (it’s pretty easy actually), but because the yarn is not really my favorite – I’m using Crystal Palace Yarn’s Mini Mochi in what I think is colorway 303 Spice Market (I was an asshole who lost the yarn band). The yarn is fine, but the colorway isn’t really my bag of chips so it’s been difficult finding motivation.

I’ve also run into a problem now that I’m making progress – I never actually consulted yardage requirements before starting this pattern and have, well, run out of yarn. I’ve got two options here – one is to find a second skein, which will take some searching of brick and mortar yarn stores (since I lost the band and need to compare the actual project to the skein), or bind off early. I kind of want to avoid binding off early, because as much as I don’t care for the colors, the lace section is shaping up beautifully and I don’t want to sell it short by skipping the last section.

Undertow-Shawlette-detail

See?

So I’ll have to figure that one out as I go I guess.

Domek-WIP

Next, I’ve got a quick project I started because I can’t find the chunky arm knit scarf from last year. I need another chunker for my walk to work, and I had a few skeins of Lion Brand Hometown USA in Cambridge Tweed floating around so I figured, “Why not?”

Right now it just looks like a blob, but eventually it’ll be a Domek (Ravelry link). I can’t wait to see how the construction turns out.

Disney-photo-album-stuff

In non-knitting news, my other decent sized project for the next few days is finally starting to get photos from our Disney trip last year into an album. I finally got around to getting some of the pictures printed and grabbing some Disney themed paper. I’ve been on the hunt for some for months to no avail. I gotta say, you’d think there’d be more that wasn’t either a) 100% Mickey themed or b) 100% kid oriented, since the parks are pretty huge vacation destinations for adults, and there’s way more than just Magic Kingdom there…

So basically I settled for grabbing some bright colored paper to augment the overwhelming Mickey focus.

Now if only there was a Disney Project Life pack, I wouldn’t have even had to bother…

Once I make some progress on these, I’ll let you know how it’s all working out. But for now, what are you all currently working on?

Mani Monday: Butter London Bluecoat and Leccy

Butter London Bluecoat and Leccy

Today we have two polishes that I got for Christmas, which I abolutely fell in love with, but which were downright IMPOSSIBLE to photograph: Butter London Bluecoat and Leccy.

Bluecoat is a deep, rich blue with a great sheen to it, while Leccy is an opalescent shard topcoat. The combination of the two polishes is just gorgeous (even if my photos don’t show it).

As with all Butter London polishes (at least in my experience anyway), the dry time on both these is rather quick, and the formulas are good.

Buttler London Bluecoat and Leccy super closeup

The formula on Bluecoat is just beautiful – opaque in two coats without being thick. The finish has almost a little bit of a teal sheen to it, and in certain lights it borders on metallic. Seriously one of the nicest dark blues I own now.

Leccy on the other hand was a bit goopy – it was difficult to get an even spread of the shard glitter, and occasionally you’d get a shard that was a bit curly, but in general that’s been my experience with pretty much every shard glitter like this. In the end, the overall effect and finish is totally worth the extra effort it takes. It looks stunning even in dim lighting. But again, my photos of it are super crappy and don’t even begin to do it justice.

Butter London Bluecoat and Leccy closeup

How To: Dealing with Stiff Circs

Uncurl-Needle-Cords-Header

Every knitter who uses circs knows the struggle of wrestling with the cords of cheap circs. You take them out of the package, expecting the cord to unwind only to end up with this:

curly-cord

Ugh.

Seriously the worst.

And it’s not like they’ll gradually soften and straighten as you knit – no matter how much you pull, that spiral stays.

Except, I figured out how to make it go away.

(Or rather, my father suggested it to my mom who then tried it, found out it works, and then told me… but anyway…)

All it takes is a little bit of hot water and about 5 minutes total.

heat-water

All you do is heat some water to boiling (or near boiling)*. I just put it in the microwave for about 4 minutes.

Once your water is hot, dip your cord in the hot water for 10 seconds (make sure you don’t put it in far enough that the joint between the needle and the cord touches the water – make sure it’s JUST the cord), take it out, and pull it straight.

dip-cord

Hold it straight for 30 seconds until the cord cools – essentially what you’re doing is melting the cord ever-so-slightly and allowing it to resolidify in its new, straight form.

If it’s still not uncurled enough, dip again and repeat the process.

All done

And that’s it! Now you have a nice, relaxed circ cord!

(*Sidenote: if you’re someone who is concerned about plastics and heat and whatnot, use a disposable tupperware container that you don’t intend to use for consumables to heat the water.)

12 Books for 2015

books all together

As I said in my New Year’s Goals post, I read a ton throughout the year – but rarely get the opportunity to read a whole book solely for myself. I’ve just slipped out of the habit of using my free time for pleasure reading. And I miss it.

So this year I made it a goal to read at least 12 books that I don’t NEED to read. Specifically:

Intimate lives of the founding fathers

The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers by Thomas Fleming

I picked this book up several years ago when Borders went out of business, and like most of the stuff I picked up during that sale, it’s just kind of languished on my shelf since despite really being of interest to me. It specifically examines the relationships between what I like to call the “Supreme Six” (Washington, Franklin, Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton, and Madison – basically the founders everyone knows) and the important women in their lives, from wives, to mothers, to mistresses. What drew me to this book is not necessarily the title – the title almost seems to suggest scandal – but the description on the back which seems to set up not for a profile of the founding fathers’ romantic lives, but rather for a profile of the impact and influence these women had on the men and their actions. The hidden history of the founding mothers, if you will.

We’ll see if it lives up to my expectations.

Fires on the Plain

Fires on the Plain by Shohei Ooka

I’ve read tons of first person accounts, memoirs, and novels that deal with the Pacific War from the US side of the conflict, but have always struggled in finding things written from the Japanese POV, so I’m pretty excited about this one. While Fires on the Plain is a novel, much of it is based on Shohei Ooka’s actual experience as a Japanese solider in the Philippines – so I have a feeling this one is going to be both harrowing and enlightening to read.

A Peoples History

A People’s History of the United States By Howard Zinn

This one is actually a re-read, mainly because the last time I read it was almost a decade ago when I was first really starting to explore History as something way more than just what my teachers had told me in HS. At the time I was young, and inexperienced in terms of actually “doing history” and I was awed by this – there was just SO MUCH STUFF that my HS teachers had “hidden” from us! But even at that point I could tell that it wasn’t exactly balanced – although my shock at finally seeing the “other side” of US history sort of made me not fully acknowledge that fact. Being over that initial “honeymoon” phase, I’m interested to see where it stands with me now that I can read it with a far more critical eye.

Confederates in the Attic

Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War by Tony Horwitz

I read Horwitz’s other book, A Voyage Long and Strange several years ago and immediately fell in love with it – and Confederates in the Attic seems to be written in the same vein. Basically these books are half travel writing, half history (and the history he presents is generally very well done and well researched). The travel writing part helps put a modern perspective on not only the history itself, but on the legacy it has had and the ways it has shaped the culture in whatever region he’s talking about.

I’m particularly excited about this book, mainly because it deals with the cultural legacy of the Civil War in the South, one of the hardest topics for me to grapple with as a teacher and as a historian. I never really realized what a NORTHERNER I really am until I had to teach about the Civil War, Reconstruction, and their long-term ramifications for the first time – and my struggle to overcome that bias is one that has been difficult. I’ve spent countless hours contemplating the southern point of view, and while I have far more insight than I once did there still seems to be a missing piece for me. Like, I get it, but I don’t get it, if that makes sense.

And so I’m hoping this book will help me further my own personal dialogue on the issue.

Death and the Civil War

This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust

I don’t have too much to say on why I chose this book other than it seems fascinating. But I suppose not having to justify the “why” is half the reason I’m making this goal anyway. I’ve had it on my “To Read” list ever since one of my students did a book review on it (several years ago now), and it’s just high time I got around to it. I’m sort of in this “struggling with the Civil War” state of mind recently (see above) anyway, so I might as well knock this off the list now.

Empress Orchid

Empress Orchid by Anchee Min

This is one of my attempts to dip my toes back into fiction this year, and I’m starting with some historical fiction. Empress Orchid is a novel based on the real life Empress Cixi, who controlled the Chinese government for almost 50 years in the last days of imperial rule (a republic was established within 3 years of her death). Cixi has always been a figure who fascinated me, mainly because the historical interpretations of her and her actions vary so greatly – she’s either a conniving villain who forced her will on the country and the government with an iron fist, or the saving grace leader that kept the empire together when nobody else could. It’ll be interesting to see how Min portrays her here.

Washingtons Spies

Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring by Alexander Rose

Another re-read, mainly because the first time I read it, I didn’t do a great job of it. I rushed through it, mainly because I wanted to finish it before I started the Hunger Games, and, well, I really wanted to read the Hunger Games. But particularly now, with The Dreamer Comic (http://thedreamercomic.com/) back in action and AMC’s Turn on my list of shows to watch, I’m finding myself realllyyy wishing I had paid more attention the first time.

Lincolns Melancholy

Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness by Joshua Wolf Shenk

This book is again, one that’s been on my “To Read” list for a while, sheerly because it’s interesting sounding. My officemate recommended this to me a couple of years ago and I was really intrigued by the concept – I’m not a big fan of plain old biography, and so this angle on Lincoln’s life and career really appeals to me.

Embracing Defeat

Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II by John W. Dower

This one is going to be my big project for the year – John W. Dower is one of my absolute favorite historians, and I’ve kind of been remiss in the fact that I haven’t read this yet. So I’ll be spending a lot of time going through this with a fine tooth comb (and highlighters, sticky notes, the works) until it looks like my copy of War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War (which I swear I’ve highlighted the entirety of at one point or another).

Letters to Jackie

Letters to Jackie: Condolences From a Grieving Nation – Ellen Fitzpatrick

This is one I’ll have to save for a time when I need a good cry. I’ve read a few selected letters from it already, and without fail, a minute and a half in I’m already sniffling. But it’ll be a good cry. And it’ll also give me some perspective on the real impact of JFK’s assassination on the public, hopefully just in time to teach it again!

Hidden Horrors

Hidden Horrors: Japanese War Crimes in World War II by Yuki Tanaka

Again, a bigger undertaking for me, mainly because it has such relevance to my personal area of interest and study. Like With Embracing Defeat, I’ll be reading this one very closely and very carefully. Tanaka is a Japanese historian who has undertaken the task of chronicling and analyzing the war crimes committed by his own country during the Pacific war, and so I’m very eager to see his take on this.

Pearl of China

Pearl of China by Anchee Min

Another attempt to dip my toe back into fiction – I picked this up at the book store off the bargain rack because it’s a novel centered around Pearl S. Buck, whose work I admire greatly. I didn’t even realize until I gathered all these books together that this and Empress Orchid were both by Anchee Min – I guess she just writes about things that call to me!

And a bonus 13th to make it a Baker’s (Reader’s?) Dozen:

Hunger Games Trilogy

Reread the Hunger Games Trilogy

I’m counting these as one book, since they don’t take me more than a few hours each to read. But basically, I love this series – and I think it would be great to do a quick re-read before the final installment of Mockingjay comes out in theatres in November.

What’s on your “To Read” list for the year? Any suggestions to add to mine?