My Roots as a Bookworm (Hooray, Nerdiness!)

After looking at my 52 Books in 2011 progress page,  I realized that, relatively speaking, I did a lot of reading in May. In fact, I read as many books this month (8) as I did during March and April combined I’m sure this has a lot to do with the fact that my semester ended in late-April, so I’ve had considerably more free time with which to indulge in reading for pleasure. Even taking that into account, I think all those years of summer reading programs at the library (and then later summer reading for English classes in High School) have programmed me to automatically associate warmer weather the need to devour literature at a rapidly accelerated rate. I’m not saying that’s bad thing in any way, I just think it’s pretty interesting that those programs do seem to have had somewhat of an impact on my reading habits.

"Book It!" was one of the tastiest and most intellectually stimulating parts of elementary school. If I got a personal pan pizza for every book I read now, I'd weigh like 300lbs. No, seriously.

Even though I haven’t always consistently read quite as much I would like to, I’ve always been a really big reader. Given the fact that my mom really pushed the “let’s go to the library” thing with me from the time I could keep my eyes open for more than 30 minutes at a time, it isn’t really surprising. Some of my most poignant memories from the ages of about seven to eleven involve walking around the library and gathering up as many books as my then-little arms could carry and then going home and wedging myself between the wall and my bed and reading them; that little nook was always my “reading spot.”

I was obsessed with the Babysitter’s Little Sister and Goosebumps series in elementary school and then in middle school, a teacher lent me The Rainmaker by John Grisham which led to me more or less reading everything Grisham had written up to that point. I was also pretty weird in the sense that I stole one of my mom’s old college psychology textbooks somewhere around the age of twelve and ended up reading it more or less cover to cover in the span of a few months. Actually, I did (unintentionally…for the most part) steal a lot of books as a kid. It wasn’t even that I didn’t have my own, I’d just read them and move onto the next book so quickly that I’d never remember to give the book I had just finished reading back. Oops.

The funny thing about my love of reading is that I really, really, really hated completing the assigned books for English classes and the like. In fact, I seriously didn’t read most of them. I’m not sure if it was the fact that the assigned material just didn’t appeal to me, or if it was me being a stubborn butthole and not wanting to read books out of obligation and then hyper-analyze the author’s meaning. For the most part, when I read, I don’t want it to turn into some crazy critical thinking exercise: I just want to absorb the reading material and allow it to impact me in whatever way in naturally does. That and I was way too busy indulging my desire to read and write poetry during senior year of high school to be bothered with novels and the like, but that is an entry in and of itself.

Hmm, this entry in combination with the one about roleplaying during middle school pretty much solidly emphasizes my nerdiness. But you know what? I’m okay with that. Now, I do believe I am going to start reading Alas, Babylon in earnest, so good day to you, gentle reader.

Photo Dump: Scenes in the Life

I decided to go through my memory card and clear stuff out; these are the only pictures that seemed worthy of posting, not because they have any real artistic merits, but because they offer small peak into my world. From my favorite sandwich from Au Bon Pain to pictures of the beautiful Beechview neighborhood that I snapped while standing at the Fallowfield T Station, these six pictures best encapsulated what it is I see on a day-to-day basis.

Proof of a nerdy childhood? Absolutely.

I am about to write the most random blog entry, ever. You have been warned.

Thanks for the memories, bro. I'm actually pretty sure I used this as my profile picture on some site or another way back when.

While attempting to stave off heat-induced insanity, I found myself looking at random pictures on Facebook and saw that a friend-of-a-friend had a picture of two wolves as her profile picture. For whatever reason, this just totally brought me back to my nerdy middle school days when one of my best friends, “Dragon” and I used to  belong to an online “wolf pack” on Neopets where we role-played as wolves. This was way back in 1999 – 2002, so before the whole “furry” (NSFW) thing was, well a thing; we were just a couple of nerdy kids killing our copious amounts of free time (and building gnarly writing skills, though we didn’t know it at the time) by pretending to be wolves. Keep in mind, this was back in the days before MMORPGs reached their current popularity: we were expressing ourselves and our desire for adventure as best we knew how at the time. (Fun fact: I am now a fairly decent writer, if I may say so myself, and Dragon is an avid World of Warcraft player. I guess no one should be surprised about either of those things.)

As silly as it is, spending countless hot summer days in my family’s computer room, typing away and connecting with random people over a shared love of fantasy, majestic wildlife, and escapism are some of the best memories of my “tween” years. I still find wolves to be some of the most breathtaking and awe-inspiring animals on the planet, but that magical, childlike way of viewing them, and life in general is pretty much gone. As a shy, socially-awkward 12-year-old, there was something so spellbinding about stepping outside of my little suburban life and losing myself in the pictures and writings of my fellow nerds and transporting myself away from my silly worries about whether I’d get in trouble for convincing my little brother that, yes, there was in fact a monster under his bed and, yes, it did in fact want to eat him. Utilizing my imagination to end up on some snow-covered tundra, surrounded by friends and “littermates” as we called ourselves was nothing short of blissful. (Interesting factoid: I’m actually still friends with some of these people on Facebook, ten years after first meeting them on the interwebs, but never having met up in person. Crazy, huh?)

Ten years later at the ripe old age of 22, I really don’t think I’d get the same enjoyment out of partaking in such a time-consuming activity that really wouldn’t  “move me toward any of my goals.” Honestly, the closest I ever get to even really thinking about wolves anymore is listening to the song “Howl” by Florence and the Machine. But honestly, that is beyond okay with me; I’m just really happy to have those super-nerdy, super-fun memories left over from days gone by.

Bento? Mayhaps, mayhaps.

Doesn't the bento on this cover look both delicious and elegant!?

I really have no idea how I got onto this kick, but today I started reading up about bento lunches, something I had wanted to try doing for awhile, but never got around to actually following through with. I think I started thinking about how much I want to try to cut frozen food and high-sodium processed crap out of my diet and went from there. I’ve been doing pretty well with calories as of late, but not actually great with nutritional content, so that’s something I want to work on in the near future. Add in the fact that I feel like my grocery budget could be decreased a fair amount if I didn’t spent quite as much on the “convenience tax” of prepared and packaged food and it becomes clear to see that my work lunches are really in need of an overhaul.

That said, I spent about an hour looking at bento boxes online before I decided that I should probably do the intelligent thing and, you know, actually do some research before plunking down a chunk of change on supplies for the preparation of lunches. I did end up buying The Just Bento Cookbook by Makiko Itoh, though. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to do some actual reading and recipe browsing and the book is rated five stars on Amazon, so we’ll see how good it turns out to be. I will say, I’m drawn to the fact that these seem to be “grownup lunches” and not the cutsey lunches normally come to mind when one mentions the word “bento.” I figure that if I do end up sticking with my urge to do this (because let’s not lie, I sometimes get distracted and don’t follow up with my ideas) I’ll stop buying my beloved Au Bon Pain Chicken Pesto Sandwich on Fridays for a few weeks to offset my initial start up costs because I have been really neurotic about sticking to my budget lately.

My "lunches" seriously looked like this for a week or so when I got my first office job two years ago and had no idea what to pack.

All things considered, I know that I’m really lazy about actually cooking because I live in an 80-year-old house without a dishwasher, so I’ll probably end up doing a lot of raw vegetable-based dishes with microwaveable rice or simple crockpot meals made in bulk over the weekend, but it’s too early to decide just yet. I’ve already bought my groceries for this week, so this definitely isn’t something I’d be starting for another week, probably two. (Heh, I am nothing if not a planner.) In all honesty, bento for me wouldn’t be about making super cute, attractive meals, it would be saving money and feeding myself better while doing so. Going into it with that attitude would make it a pretty feasible alternative to my current lunches which consist of sandwiches and 100-calorie-packs, I think.

In unrelated news, I’m almost done reading 703: How I Lost More Than a Quarter Ton and Gained a Life by Nancy Makin, the book I bought yesterday. This,  my gentle reader, is an indicator that I have entirely too much free time on my hands. I must admit, it does feel rather nice to be reading an actual physical book for a change, but I do hands down prefer my Kindle. The book is really different from what I expected it to be: it’s not so much about her experiences in losing weight, as it is about her life from childhood onwards and how that led her down the road of morbid obesity. I’m really enjoying the book nonetheless, I just think the title was a misnomer. One of my friends who is also on her own personal fitness quest is going to have a few weeks off work in the not-so-distant future, so I do believe I’ll ask her if she wants to borrow it; that’s one really nice thing about physical books: lend-ability. On that note, I do think I’m going to go burn some incense and finish reading it.

Memorial Day Weekend Odds and Ends

Since I am both cheap and lazy, I decided to spend memorial day weekend at home instead of going down to Maryland to visit my friends and family, so nice of me, I know. That said, I’m super geeked about enjoying a nice, lazy weekend. This entry won’t be anything substantive, but I just wanted to show what I’ve done with my weekend thus far:

Yesterday, I decorated my ukelele with wiggle eyes, see:

I also taught myself a few chords and started working on fingerpicking; I can now play “Silent Night.” Now I just need to develop some finger callouses so I can play for more than like five minutes at a time.

Today, I ended up going to South Hills Village to eat Taco Bell for lunch (delicious, and I’m still on track with calories today, hooray), and then I went to Target and Giant Eagle on my way home. My adventure produced a few purchases with which I am quite happy:

See that book there, 703?? I paid $3.34 for a hardback version of it at the Waterfront Giant Eagle. Amazon is asking a whopping $18.99 for the Kindle edition, wut. The book is wrapped in an adorable hoodie that I got on clearance at Target for $4.98; I put them together in the same shot because I was too lazy to take two separate pictures. =P

Now, I am going to go watch Last Train Home and Up the Yangtze while enjoying tasty guacamole and Pringles, mmmm.

My ukelele has arrived!

I got home from work early again today and my ukelele was waiting for me outside on my doorstep, hooray! I’ll post a full review and whatnot after I’ve had time to do more than tune it and marvel at how much smaller it is than my guitar, but here’s a teaser picture:

The back of the tuning pegs are shaped like dolphins! How cute is that!? Now I am off to attempt to learn a few chords, hooray!

A Long-Overdue Update

Obviously updating my blog has been pretty low on my list of priorities as of late. But I figured that since I’m home from work early and I need a distraction from how miserably hot it is outside, now would be a great time to do that!

First and foremost, I ordered a really cheap ukelele, hooray! I had a promotional credit for $20 in my account after buying my mom the game L.A. Noire for an early birthday present (yeah, my mom is cool, but that’s a entry in and of itself.), so I decided to go for it. After seeing that one of my favorite vloggers and indie-musicians, Joseph Birdsong, had purchased one, I started to want one because it seemed like a fun and inexpensive way to sort of play around with an instrument without any major commitment. I’m not really a musical person in the slightest, but hey, it seems like something fun to do over the summer. Besides, I’ve got nothing to lose, literally; I’m getting the thing for free, after all! It should be here tomorrow, yay!

Outside of buying cute stringed instruments, life has been fairly average. I’ve been working a lot, sleeping a lot, and reading a lot. I’ve done pretty horribly with being physically active, but I have been eating way, way better as of late, so I’m halfway there, I guess. I’m definitely going to have to restart Couch to 5k; it pains me to have to say that, but I’ve been slacking, so I must do what I have to do, I guess. I have set myself a really, really lenient weight loss goal of losing about 30lbs more before Christmas rolls around, so I’ve been slowly plugging away at that; it helps that I have some really cute Christmas-themed PJ pants that I got on clearance in January that are a couple of sizes too small that I wanna be able to wear by then. I’ve also been making a point of posting on one of my favorite weight loss/fitness forums on a daily basis again and that’s really been helping with keeping myself accountable, too.

Unrelated to anything meaningful, I have been playing Farm Story on my phone and it’s been an epic waste of time, but a really fun waste of time, so I’m gonna keep doing so until I get sick of it. But for now, I have a stupid headache, so I do believe that I am going to go lay down for awhile.

Of Books and Slackerdom

It’s been awhile, clearly. I have pretty much spent every free minute I’ve had over the past week glued to my Kindle. As a result of this, I’ve manged to start and finish four books in the span of the past seven days, not too bad, if I must say so myself. As well as I’ve done with reading, I haven’t managed to stay quite so on top of my fitness quest.

I’ve done decently in terms of sticking to my calorie limit, but I definitely haven’t been exercising…like, at all. I had forgotten how wet Pittsburgh is during spring and how lazy I am during most any activity. That said, I think I might buy a Gazelle so that I can’t use the weather as an excuse to be lazy and not workout. Though, I have no idea if I’ll do that this week though; I still need to buy a window AC and a plane ticket, so we’ll see.

I will probably write a real entry later tonight or tomorrow. I also intend to do the classic “What’s in Your Bag” meme and post it here sometime soon.

Code monkey get up, get coffee. Code monkey go to job.

After browsing through an acquaintance’s pictures on Facebook from her graduation from a graduate program, I found myself with a renewed motivation to start plugging away at my to-do list so that I can hopefully have all my ducks in order to start grad school in the fall of 2012. I’m still not 100% certain as to what I want to study since I’ve realized that Public Policy isn’t really going to fulfill me long-term; I have some ideas, but I’m not ready to make them public just yet until I make an actual decision. That said, I do plan on taking the new GRE this September while it’s still 50% off the regular registration fee. I’m also planning on buying Barron’s New GRE Study Guide when it’s released and getting myself into the routine of heading to the library for an hour or two after work twice a week so that I have prayer of getting a decent score.

I also ended up unintentionally doing a writing and self-reflection exercise by sitting down and writing an “About Me”-style blurb from the perspective of myself, but three-years in the future. It was sort of interesting to sit down and describe where I want my life to be when I’m 25-years-old. The next step is sit down and analyze what I wrote so that I can work backwards and figure out exactly what I need to be doing now in order for my future to take the shape which I want it to, so I guess I’ll work through that at some point over the next week. I might post it, but right now, I’m not bold enough to make my dream life public, I guess.

As of the moment, I’m sitting at my desk, bemoaning the end of the weekend at watching The Legend of Black Heaven, an anime which I stumbled across yesterday after seeing an AMV featuring the show on someone’s Livejournal. I really haven’t been much into anime since I was in high school, but I’m enjoying watching the show nonetheless. Now I am going to eat dinner and then burn some incense, lay in a bubble bath and read for awhile before begrudgingly turning off my lights and going to bed so that I can be well-rested for the start of the work week, hooray?