12.21.2015

Why I didn't Do NaNoWriMo and State of the Novel Address

I don’t know how long NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) has been around, but I first heard about it in 2013.  I kept seeing that word pop up on blogs but had no idea what it was.  I was absolutely delighted to find out that it was a yearly occasion during the month of November in which writers all over the world focused on one goal.  Write a novel in one month.  Don't worry too much about form or style.  Just sit down in front of the computer screen and get the words out.

By that time, I was almost two years into committing myself to seriously working on an abandoned novel manuscript from 2009.  I was tired of thinking about writing a novel and decided it was time to do it so by the time NaNoWriMo 2013 rolled around I was in 80,000 words with hopes that by the same time next year I’d be done.  Maybe I’d try my hand at NaNoWriMo then.
Novel excerpt because I said I would a long time ago and never did

My state of the novel address is a bit late this year.  This one is from November 2013 and here is another from November 2014

My novel was officially done in June 2014, but any writer knows that is also just the beginning.  Within days of putting it aside I found myself bursting with new ideas and changes.  I let my mom read it a month later and took a break.  It took her a little while to finish it up, but she returned it with tons of notes on grammar and wording.  I did all of those basic edits and then was thrown back into editing mode.  Every sentence, every word, every comma was questioned.  I added, rearranged and jotted notes in my iPhone whenever a new thought occurred to me, which was all the time.  It was a good thing, but kind of awful at the same time because it was all consuming and I didn't know when it would ever end.  My manuscript grew longer and longer with each round of edits and I still didn't know how I felt about any of it.  Some days I thought it was good.  Other days I wanted to throw it in the garbage.  NaNoWriMo 2014 came and went while I was caught up in a never ending cycle that I have come to know as editing and revision hell on earth. 

After the first two major rounds of editing I could tell my manuscript was getting far too long for no good reason and so began a cutting spree.  It is super hard to cut words after working so hard for each and every one, but lots of words don't necessarily make a manuscript better.  It had to be done.  Words and chapters that would serve no other purpose than to bore a reader were chopped and I whittled it down to where it sits now at 104,500 words.  I needed a real break so I put it aside and haven't looked at it in four months.  I did some some research on finding an editor, finding an agent, and self publishing.  You know, just to see, but that's it.

With the novel finished 2015 might have been a prime year to do NaNoWriMo, but I couldn't do it.  I've had a few ideas cross my mind, but nothing I was ready to jump into yet.  I can't start something new until I figure out what to do with the old one.  This novel was my baby.  My first.  My labor of love.  I put so much of myself into it and I'm having a hard time moving on.  I haven't published it and I haven't decided not to.  I think it's as good as it's going to get without additional feedback and editing.  It is definitely time for someone who isn't my mother to read it, but I can't bring myself to let anyone else lay eyes on it.  If I have any intention on going any further with it I'll have to get over it, but that is just the thing.  I don't know if I want to.  I mean, of course I do.  What person painstakingly pulls 100,000 words from the depths of their soul and doesn't think about publishing someday?  The question for me is not if I want to, but if I can.   It's hard to admit to yourself about something you put so much work into, but I don't think my manuscript is good enough for traditional publishing.  There is a big difference between my manuscript and the glossy ones I see in bookstores.  The kind of books that are good enough to land an agent and a publishing deal.  I'm not saying it never could be, but it's not there yet and I'm not sure if I am capable of getting it there.  Getting an agent is a long shot even if your manuscript is stellar, but anyone can self-publish anything they want these days so the question becomes if I should.

I won't publish something just so I can say I'm a published author.  That title means nothing to me if I don't think what I published is any good.  And I'm not saying it's not any good, I just don't know if it's good enough.  I don't know that it meets my criteria for being publish worthy and there is all kinds of self doubt about whether or not it ever could.  It took me two and a half years in my spare time to finish.  That is a long time, but I don't care if I worked on it for ten years.  I think it's far worse to put out something you are uncertain about than to not put it out there at all.

I'm proud of myself for finishing what I started.  That was always my one and only goal.  Finish.  I wanted to know if I could string together thousands of words and make a complete story that someone might find enjoyable or interesting.  I did that.  It may not ever be published, but I did what I set out to do.  I wrote it.  I polished it up.  I told a story near and dear to my heart.  I'm proud of what I did and it took a really long time but neither make it publishable.

Writing a novel is so much harder than anyone ever thinks it will be.  There is so much that goes into it and then there is even more that goes into making it better.  Some days it flowed and other days it was like pulling teeth.  It was hard, but I really enjoyed it.  I liked spending my Saturday mornings at the coffee shop searching for the words that had already formed pictures in my head.  Getting new ideas was a rush.  I loved the process of getting it all to come together into one cohesive piece with characters and colors and dialogue.  I love writing and so it was genuinely something I did because I have a passion for it. 

Maybe my manuscript is chalk full of potential or maybe it's as good as it gets.  Maybe NaNoWriMo 2016 is just the thing to get me motivated again or maybe that many words in so little time is too much pressure.  My monthly goal seems laughable now, but it was only ten pages per month and that was typically limited to weekends.  Maybe I'll look at my novel with fresh eyes and muster the courage to pursue it further or maybe I'll decide to keep it just for me and me alone.  Maybe some day I'll figure out the meaning of life.  Time will tell.  It always does.


12.14.2015

Fond Farewell to America's Next Top Model


The end of America's Next Top Model is not just the end of a TV show.  It's the end of an era.  I feels like it has been on forever and I've watched every single episode of every single cycle since it started in 2003.  All 22 of them.  2003!! Twelve years ago.  I didn't have DVR until 2010.  That was a lifetime ago for me.  So much has changed since then, but through it all twice a year for the last 12 years there was ANTM.  I used to stop at Golden Spoon on my way home from work so I could eat it while I watched.  It was my routine.  I even got MJ to eat yogurt and watch it with me for a few seasons.  Cycle 13 was 5'7" and under, Cycle 22 removed the 5'8" height restriction.  I guess this means the over 30 5'7" and under season that I've been waiting for is never coming. 




When I heard in October that Cycle 22 would be the last season of America's Next Top Model ever I had mixed feelings.  In the beginning it really was all about modeling and I loved it!  What it takes to be a model, what photo shoots are like, and the journey.  First they got rid of Nigel Barker (photographer), J. Manuel (Creative director for photo shoots) and J. Alexander (runway coach), after 17 cycles.  I think the ratings were down and they needed to do something to shake things up.  I get that the show needed to change and evolve to keep people interested and attract new viewers, but I liked it just the way it was.  They were trying to make things new and fresh, but for me, that was really the beginning of the end.  Cycle 17 was All-Stars.  Cycle 18 was British Invasion.  For Cycle 19 College Edition, Bryan Boy was the social media correspondent and they added a social media score that gave the viewers a say in who moves forward.  They eventually brought J. Alexander back and added dark force Kelly Cutrone.  She was to America's Next Top Model what Simon Cowell was to American Idol.  Mean, but good for ratings.  Maybe ratings went up, but in my opinion they compromised the integrity of the show to do it.  I know, I know.  How much integrity can reality TV have anyway? By this time, I wasn't even sure if I liked the show anymore, but I'd never quit the show as long as it was on the air.  Things were already going downhill and then in Cycle 20 it went from bad to worse when they brought in the guys.

I wasn't interested in watching guys model or the additional drama it would create on the show.  The show was about making it in the modeling industry, not whether or not so and so had a threesome in the hot tub.  The shoots and the cat fights were already way out of control and with the addition of men it started to look like a MTV Reality TV show.  Specifically, The Real World.  I aged out of that show long before it went off the air and really, I was aging out of ANTM.  I was most definitely not their target demographic, but my interest in modeling kept me watching.  Unlike shows like The Real Housewives of whatever, at least there was a point, even if was buried under the bizarre photo shoots and  over the top Tyovers.  That is a Tyra Banks make over for those who don't know.  On Cycle 21 one of the guys got a beard weave.  Yes, a beard weave.  It was a rug for his face and it was ridiculous.  Another model was given half white half black hair dye job with opposite eyebrows colored to match.  That was bad enough, but the half shaved head in Cycle 22 nearly pushed me over the edge. 
"ANTM Cycle 22 Cast" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.
America's Next Top Model brought us awesome words like smize and booty-tooch, but it did a lot more than that.  For Tyra, it was a platform for her to revive her career and a launch pad for numerous business ventures.  She certainly helped herself, but in the process helped a lot of other people too.  There is always talk about, well where are ANTM winners?  Are they even famous?  Eva Pigford (Cycle 3 winner) has 27 credits on IMBD.  The runner up for that cycle Yaya DaCosta has 31. I follow Reina Hein runner-up from Cycle 14 on Instagram.  She is definitely working and was recently hired by Tyra for the Tyra Beauty cosmetics line.  I see them in adds all the time.  You may not know their names or remember their faces, but a lot ANTM contestants are working in the industry.  Only a few have walked in the much sought after couture runways and maybe they aren't on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition, but that is rare air many working models never see.  Some have found that being on the show was a burden.  Rene Alway (Cycle 7) is in jail.  Jael Strauss (Cycle 8) found herself in an intervention on Dr. Phil and Lisa D'Amato (Cycle 5) ended up on Dr. Drew's celebrity rehab.  I still don't know what happened to her spread for Express.  I never saw it.  Being a finalist on the show does not automatically lead to success.  That is not realistic anyway, but doors were opened for a lot of people.

Cycle 7 winner CariDee English posted an interesting comment here 

Tyra won't do anything. She provided a wonderful platform for girls to have a chance at their dream, but, after there is no "Tyra Mail". I had to guide myself, and even though I won a model competition I still had no idea what the modeling BUSINESS was like.  The fashion industry had NO idea how to market us. Our agents, our managers..... because we become a instant celeb.... but had a portfolio of a rookie model. Even though we just were named "TOP" our place in line at Fashion World was at the bottom.  The industry many times didn't care about our name, but did turn a snobby cheek to the name ANTM. 

She struggled after the show but made this list of 15 Most Successful ANTM contestants.

I like Tyra Banks.  She will be the first to tell you she looks totally different without make and that this modeling thing is all smoke and mirrors.  She runs modeling contests on Instagram and seems to genuinely enjoy helping models get started.  I like it that she encourages contestants to follow in her footsteps by being business minded and thinking beyond modeling.  I raised my eyebrows at many contestants over the years wondering why they got picked, but Tyra was looking for unconventional.  She pushed the industry to recognize that beauty and model material comes in many shapes, sizes and colors that don't fit industry standard. 

A reality show is a reality show these days no matter how cloaked in a greater purpose it tries to be, but if you can look past the cliche casting and situations that catered to ratings America's Next Top Model had a lot of heart.  It appealed to that side of me loves a rags to riches fairy tale story and reminded me of what reality shows used to be, before they evolved into the not scripted but scripted train wrecks that most of them are today.  I got excited for how far they came and all the exciting things they get to do.  Dreams did come true on that show.  Everyone has a back story and it's always interesting to see how it all plays out on the show.  One episode invited the mom's of the finalist to do photo shoots with their kids and had her mom be the photographer.  It was so sweet.  I was in tears for half of it.  The last cycle did not include an international trip for the first time in a long time...or ever?  There was a Vegas jaunt to shoot for Zappos and then the show finished off with the final runway show in Los Angeles.  Nyle DiMarco was the very last winner of America's Next Top Model ever.  He also just so happens to be deaf.  There is no way that anyone could argue that this show isn't doing something for him or his platform to make American Sign Language more mainstream.  The show definitely went out with a bang.

I formed a great attachment to this show over the years.  I will miss it, but I think it ran it's course and this was a good time for it to go.

12.01.2015

Four Days

Thanksgiving comes and goes so fast.  On Wednesday night I was asking MJ, "Is Thanksgiving really tomorrow? Already?" There is all of this build up and pining for Thanksgiving Break.  I finally made it through my last day of work.  Hooray, hooray it's Thanksgiving Break!! Then BAM, Thanksgiving is the very next day and then it's the day after Thanksgiving and your break is half way over.  How?  So you just have to make the most of it when you have it and I think we did. 

We went to 94th Aero Squadron for Thanksgiving Dinner.  This is our second time for Thanksgiving.  We don't want to cook a big dinner.  It works for us.  I cleaned house in the morning and we went to the movies to see Mocking Jay Part 2 in the afternoon.  Dinner was buffet style which works best for me because I'm picky.  I looked around for other places and the pre-set menus lose me at cranberry sauce, stuffing and Pumpkin Pie.  I do not like a lot of the traditional foods they serve so it makes more sense to pay for food I like to eat at a buffet instead.  They had everything.  The champagne is only $1.50 per glass for Thanksgiving so we got four glasses between us for less than we would normally pay for one.  We spent the rest of the night snuggled up on the couch watching movies. 

We planned to Hike on Friday, but the rain kept us in so we had a really nice day doing not much of anything.  Gloomy weather was made for lazy days at home.  We went to Iron Mountain in Poway first thing Saturday morning.  The ground dried out and the weather was perfect for a hike.  Crisp and clear.  The gray clouds turned into the prettiest cotton ball puffs floating in the sky.  This hike was a real butt kicker.  Serious inclines on the way up.  By the time we made it to the top I was really starting to slow down.  It took us about an hour each way and was 6 miles round trip.


We met up with another couple for a seafood brunch at Tom Ham's Lighthouse on Sunday morning.  We've been talking about doing this for at least six months and the stars finally aligned.  The seafood part of it is wasted on me because I don't eat seafood, but the unlimited mimosa's made up for it.  I can't believe we did two buffet's in such a short space of time!  I really can't throw down like I used to, but everything was so good.  We were so full that it was our only meal for the day.  After that I made a proper trip to the grocery store to pick up a few things I needed for the week while MJ watched football.  He offered to go with me after our hike but my hips don't lie.  I could barely move.  They said no.  I couldn't do it.  I hate grocery shopping so it's been a really long time since I did this, but I thought it might be really nice to have a week where I didn't do my grocery shopping bit by bit every morning in a rushed panic on my way to work.  Who lives like that? 

I am so thankful for those four precious days with MJ.  Things are going to be changing for us very soon so I'm desperately hanging onto every last one we have.


11.18.2015

Movie Round Up: What's Good

I have another movie review round up for you.  The only one available on Netflix streaming is really bad.  Sorry about that, but I included a really good Netflix documentary to make up for it.

The Age of Adeline
I love everything about Blake Lively in the role of Adeline.  Her hair.  Her wardrobe, especially that gorgeous black evening gown with the open back.  The way she spoke.  I even feel in love with the name.  Adeline.  So old fashioned, but so beautiful.  It actually makes me wish I had something to name just so I could use the name and call her Addy for short.  I might have to get a new doll.  Anyway, the move was incredible.  The cinematography was beautiful.  San Francisco is an extra character in the movie and was portrayed beautifully as well.  See this movie if you haven't. 5 STARS

The Martian
This one is not on DVD yet.  MJ is extremely picky when it comes to move and he gave it an A- so you know it has to be good. Matt Damon spent most of the film acting solo, and he did it with such humor and candor that I didn't even notice that most of his scenes were monologues.  Space is the stuff of nightmares for me.  Fascinating, yes-but I can't believe that people willingly go to a place millions of miles away that has no oxygen.  No oxygen.  It's just as scary as being 50 feet in the ocean and I want no part of either.  Without spoiling it let's just say I liked the ending of this movie better than Gravity. 5 STARS

John Wick
I really didn't know Keanu Reaves had this kind of role in him.  He was pretty bad ass in The Matrix, but in this movie he was a straight up, hard core hit-man killer.  Movies with a lot of killing tend to have really complicated plots, but this one was simple.  Russian mob guy's snot nosed son messes with the wrong guy and he will not rest until he seeks retribution. I don't think Keanu Reeves is a bad actor, but in every film there is something very wooden about his speech and mannerisms.  This was no exception.  There was a lot of killing, but at the same time a really quiet and calm feel to the entire movie. The body count piled up and all the characters remained calm, cool and collected.  Good movie. 3 STARS

Unfriended
So. Bad.  I felt like I had been duped after watching it and would have been really angry if I had seen it in a movie theatre.  The entire thing played out from behind a computer screen and was entirely based around the internet.  Definitely a sign of the times, but not a good one.  1  STAR

San Andreas
This movie had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish.  It had action.  It had romance.  It had heart.  It had everything.  I'm a big fan of The Rock.  4  STARS

Dark Places
I'm kind of mad 'cause MJ wouldn't watch this one with me and he would have really like it.  I'm a big Charlize Theron fan and an added bonus was Chloe Grace Moretz.  Charlize portrays Libby Day, the sole survivor of the murder of her entire family for which her brother was accused of and serving jail time for 28 years.  It had an excellent plot twist and kept me guessing the entire time.  4 STARS

Little Accidents
I don't know how I stumbled upon this one, but it turned out to be a really good Indie flick.  The story follows the only survivor of a coal mining accident and the unrest that follows.  Then, a coal mining executive's son goes missing and things get even more complicated.  Elizabeth Banks is excellent as usual.  4  STARS 

127 Hours
I can't believe we finally watched this.  It has has been sitting in our queue for five years.  There wasn't really much else I wanted to see so I finally pushed it to the top.  I admit I only watched it out of pure fascination about how a guy could cut off his own arm, and there really isn't much to the movie but it was good. 3 STARS

6 Years (Taissa Farmiga-Netflix streaming)
This was a collection of scenes chronicling an extremely dysfunctional relationship mish mashed together to loosely resemble a story line and a plot.  I only watched it because of Farmiga.  There was no flow.  No cohesion.  No depth. The girlfriend was a total train wreck and the boyfriend was no prince, but it was obvious that the girl drove him to it.  Don't watch this movie. 1 STAR

Twinsters (Netflix streaming)
I have always had a fascination with twins.  I used to be mad at my mom for not making me a twin, which is ridiculous, but I was 10.  Identical twins separated at birth and adopted out to different countries find each other by chance and a beautiful love story between sisters begins.  It was so cute to watch these girls take such delight in not only having a blood sibling but one that looks exactly like them.  I don't see how anyone could not like this documentary.  5  STARS

More movie watching ideas here and here.


11.10.2015

Why I Don't Want the iPhone 6


My iPhone 5 kept blocking me from taking pictures and giving me that annoying message that my storage was full.  I'd delete a bunch of stuff.  MJ would delete a bunch of stuff.  It would be fine for a while and then it would happen all over again.  I was really frustrated, but probably would not have done anything about it and then one day I came home from work and MJ had an iPhone 5s at home waiting for me.  He already knew I didn't want the 6.  I have my reasons.
  • Now that my storage issues are fixed the iPhone 5s is working just fine.  I get the updates.  It does everything I need it to do.  I talk, I text, I social media, I emoji and I take really good pictures during the day.  Night time shots are still iffy.  Maybe they fixed that on the 6s, but it's a cell phone.  It's not a camera and at the end of the day I'm okay with that because I have a DSLR and a point and shoot.  The funny thing about it is that nobody comments when I pull out the cell phone or the DSLR, but when I show up with the point and shoot it's like oooooh what is that?  An actual camera?  How does that thing work?  People are so used to using cell phones as camera's that they forget that people used to actually carry around an actual camera.  For taking pictures.
  • The 6s is just too darn big.  Even the "small" one.  I like to pretend that my phone is still a phone and with a "phone" of that size it is much harder to do that.  The big one looks like my iPad.  It looks ridiculous when people talk on it, and the smaller one is still too big to put in your pocket.  It's just too big.  I know the tech trend is tiny, tiny, tiny but this is just pushing it and I don't appreciate that Apple has taken away my choice to have a cell phone that is a reasonable size.
  • I like my cell phone case.  I know that may be a silly reason, but I really like my cute personalized case.  I've had it for over two years and I don't want another one.
  • My iPhone 5s fits really nicely into my SPIbelt and I don't think even the little 6 will.  I know, I know, another silly reason, but a reason nonetheless.  I'd have to wear a full on fanny pack if I upgrade to the 6s. Oh, never mind.  I wouldn't have to resort to that.  They have already made the SPIbelt for iPhone 6 and other large phones. Well, of course they have, but I'd have to buy it.  I would add my cell phone arm band here as another reason except I lost it.  I usually am pretty good at keeping up with my stuff so I still keep hoping it will turn up one day and when (if) it does I'll officially add it to the list. 
  • I really hate how they force you into new chargers.  I inherited a car phone charger when MJ got his fancy Audi with one built in.  This is probably standard on all new cars now, but I wouldn't know because my car is a 2007 that runs just fine so I'm not getting a new one thank you very much.  Of course it has an adapter because the outlet changed when iPhone went 4 to 5s.  I like that I have the same charger for my iPad and phone right.  It's super convenient for traveling.  
  • The iPhone 6 is really freakin' expensive.  The cost of cell phones is getting outrageous.  I admit, that I haven't really known exactly how much my phones cost because MJ usually facilitates the process.  I'm so old school and stubborn that I want to hang onto whatever old thing I'm working with as long as possible.  The 6s starts at $649.  I think that's how much my iPad was!  I'm pretty sure my iPhone's were at least half that price.  It is just getting really really pricey for a cell phone that you carry everywhere and need so much.  The risk of loss is so great.  What if you lose it or drop it in the toilet?  It happened to my little sister.  I know you can walk into the store and walk out without paying a dime, but just because I didn't pay up front doesn't mean I'm not paying for it.  My cell phone bill will increase for the next two years, and forever if I'm roped into buying the next one. 
Think of all those iPhone docking stations in hotel rooms that had to be replaced and all the useless car chargers over the years because Apple moved onto bigger and better? Well, I don't plan on moving onto bigger and better until I have to.  I got my first smart phone from MJ for Christmas in 2010.  That was the 4.  It was time and I was so ready.  I smashed that old razor flip phone to bits.  Really.  I smashed it.  I was so excited to be on my phone using apps, surfing the net before bed and using it as my alarm clock in the morning like MJ.  I held onto that one until the 5 came out and we were able to sell our old phones for the same price as the new one on Gazelle.  It was basically a free phone.  What happens when they stop selling the iPhone 5s? Your only option is a $650 phone if you want Apple? Just wow.  I got the 5s in a 32 GB when storage became a problem and I plan on riding that phone into the sunset the same way I plan to with my 2007 Honda Civic.

It is tempting.  The pics that actually move.  Those commercials with the pretty pastel pink i Phones floating through the air.  I said, whatever.  They can't have changed that much, and then the commercial said, "The only thing that's changed is everything."  How can you not be at least a teeny tiny bit tempted by that?  Everything.  They are so good.  Well, I'm holding out.  Some people need a new iPhone every time a new one comes out.  The genius Verizon iPhone forever plan capitalizes on that need, that desire.  Some people like to wait in line for days camped out in the cold to be the first to get it.  One girl even sent a robot.  Did you see that news story?  I am not one of those people.  I didn't get a DVD player until they stopped stocking the VHS tapes at Blockbuster.  I wasn't the last, but I certainly was far from the first to get a smart phone.  I used My Space way beyond when it was still considered cool, and it took me years and years to finally buy a romper.  I'm slow to the punch.

I was the first person in my entire family to get a cell phone.  That however, does not make me a trailblazer.  It just makes me old.

What do you think about the newest iPhone?         

11.05.2015

Road To Rio: Wacky Worlds


[Photo Source]
The 2016 World Championships in Glasgow were held from October 23-November 1st and served as a qualifier for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

It was a wacky worlds.  That is the best way to describe it.  It started when Kyla Ross did not make the team.  After a disappointing showing at USA Nationals she bowed out of the process and decided not to attend the World Team Selection camp.  She has been part of every World Championship team and won medals there since the Olympics so it was a big deal that she wasn't going to be part of it.  She's been spending a lot of weekends at UCLA.  No one is certain what her next move will be but I hope she hasn't given up on Rio.

Making The Team
People were also shocked that a key gymnast was left off the team and one who didn't seem to have a chance in hell was added.  Bailey Key is that key gymnast.  She was a consistently top performing All-Around junior for years, and had a solid 4th place at her first Senior Nationals.  I could not believe that Marta decided not to take her and just as shocked that she took Brenna Dowell.  I was sad for Bailey.  It had to feel like a slap in the face after doing so much for the team for so many years, but I was really happy for Brenna.  This is an athlete who had her heart broken at the 2013 Worlds when she made the team, got all the way to  China and then at the last minute was not used on a single event in favor of Mckayla Maroney competing the all-around.  She was an alternate for the 2014 Worlds and then left elite Gymnastics to compete at Oklahoma University.  She decided to come back for one last shot at competing in Worlds and getting a signature skill named after her.  The girl just wouldn't give up and her tenacity was rewarded.  After a disastrous 2015 Nationals I didn't event hink she would get invited to World Team Selection camp.  Then, shockingly she was named to the team.   

USA Gymnastics: Oct. 20 - Women's Podium Training &emdash;
Maggie Nichols, Gabby Douglas, Madison Kocian, Aly Raisman, Brenna Dowell, Simone Biles, Mykayla Skinner

The Final Roster
Once the team was finally named, the big question was who would be the alternate.  It has to be Brenna right?  She is great on bars but the routine is risky and she doesn't consistently hit her routines.  Maybe it should be Gabby Douglas.  She might be reigning Olympic Champion but she's not top on any event and placed 5th at Nationals behind Bailey Key who didn't even make the team.  I knew there was no way she would be an alternate.  The odd woman out was Mykayla Skinner.  She is consistent, but maybe her high risky difficulty and loose form did her in.
USA Gymnastics: Oct. 24 - U.S. Women's Qualifications &emdash; Brenna Dowell
Qualifications  
The next big question was who would compete all around on day 1 and have the chance to qualify for the coveted AA finals.  Maggie Nichols who placed 2nd at Nationals was bumped from that opportunity in favor of Gabby Douglas.  Marta put Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and Gabby on all four events but only two could advance to All-Around finals.

There was a malfunction with Brenna's floor music and she did her entire routine without floor music.  I have never seen that happen, ever in all the years I have been watching gymnastics.  The crowd clapped a beat to cover the odd silence.  She handled it, with only a stumble throughout only to go to bars and fall twice.  It was really sad to watch.  I was hoping that after finally making the World team she would hit everything and prove to everyone that they should have taken her all along, but it didn't go as planned.  Her consolation prize is that because she completed her signature skill, a piked double front on floor, it will be named after her.  She accomplished that goal at least.  She was near tears in her interviews after worlds in 2013 after not competing and her eyes were filled with tears once again in 2015.  I don't think she will ever get this chance again.  I think she should go back to Oklahoma University and enjoy the rest of her gymnastics career without the pressure of elite gymnastics.  

Aly didn't do so great either.  She put two feet out of bounds on floor and then fell on bars.  She never falls.  Gabby fell on beam, but you know who didn't fall on any events and scored high enough to have qualified for all-around had she been given the opportunity to compete?  Maggie Nichols.  She was rewarded by being the only person put on all four events in team finals.  Not even Simone Biles did all four events.  They let her rest bars since she still had many individual finals ahead of her.   

Perhaps the biggest shocker of the entire qualification round is that Romania had a serious meltdown and did not qualify to the Olympics.  Top Eight qualify and Romania placed 13th.  When you think of gymnastics you think of Romania.  I cannot imagine any team final without Romania let alone an Olympics.  I heard that Nadia Comaneci said, "I am sick to my stomach."  Brazil also did not qualify for their own Olympics placing 9th.  There will be another opportunity to qualify at the Olympic Test event in Rio next year so they better get it together or else they will be out.

I can't remember a competition ever, where girls from the US competed for another country.  Alaina Kwan and Kylie Dickson did not qualify to Nationals and therefore were not in the mix to make the World Team so they decided to compete with a different country.  They staged a temporary defection to Belarus for the opportunity to compete internationally.  They finished 73rd and 74th after qualifications and did not advance to the AA finals.

Team Finals
Another shocker was Russia not making the podium for top three and that Great Britain did.  Russia was 4th and Great Britain placed 3rd to win their first World Championship ever.  Team USA won as expected by a whopping five points.  They have won every World team title since 2011, plus the 2012 Olympics.  There was no World Championships during the Olympic year so this makes five years of Team USA World domination and maybe gymnasts from other countries are getting sick of it.  During 2013 Worlds Italy's Carlotta Ferlito was called out for racist comments about Simone Biles. This time Russia's star Viktoria Komova accused the USA of steroid use and claimed that Great Britain and China just got lucky on a Russian message board.  Russia's last team gold victory was 2010 Worlds and Komova was not part of that team.  They placed 2nd at the 2012 Olympics.  Russians only like gold, so I can see why she was a little bitter but it was a three up three scores count format and every single Russian girl fell off balance beam.  They probably hoped they could still hang onto bronze.  I've seen them reduced to tears over a bronze and remove the offending medal from their necks before they make it off the podium.  In contrast, Great Britain cried tears of joy.  The Netherlands qualified 8th making this the first time they have qualified a team since 1976.   Full results here.

USA Gymnastics: Oct. 29 - Women's All-Around Final &emdash; Gabrielle Douglas, Simone Biles and Larisa Iordache (ROU)

All Around Finals 
Those wily Russians and Romanians will not be denied medals at Worlds.  Larissa Iordache salvaged something of this World Championships for Romania by winning the Bronze medal in the All Around with a solid performance.  Gabby Douglas proved her comeback is real snagging the silver.  She had clean execution all around.  She is not my favorite, but her gymnastics is nice to look at.  Were it not for falls from two competitors she would not have medaled, but that is the thing about gymnastics.  You have to hit when it counts and Elsabeth Black (Canada) and Giulia Steingruber (Switzerland) did not do that.  Simone Biles put her hands on the beam saving a fall after her punch front and landed with two feet out of bounds on floor after a leap.  I wasn't worried because, it has been said that she could fall about 3 times and still win.  This time she won by just a little over a point, which is still a very big gap in gymnastics.  Her difficulty is insane.  The girl truly is unstoppable.  The rest of the World is just clamoring to catch up and they have less than a year to do it.  Full Results here.   

Event Finals 
Simone Biles qualified for three events, Gabby Douglas qualified for Bars and Maggie Nichols qualified for Floor.

Vault
There are so few who even qualify for vault because in order to do so you have to compete two vaults from two different families.  Simone Biles was the only US Gymnast to do this.  She placed third, while Russia got redemption with a Gold for Maria Paseka.  The silver went to Un Jong Hong from PRK.

USA Gymnastics: Oct. 31 - Event Finals Day 1 &emdash; The four uneven bars gold medalists

Bars
Bars was another wacky worlds event because there was a tie for gold.  Not a two way, not a three way, but a four way tie!  Fan Yilin (China), Viktoria Komova (Russia), Daria Spiridonova (Russia) and Madison Kocian (USA) all earned 15.366 in that order.  Gabby Douglas ended up with no medal in fifth with the second best score.  All four fit up top the podium.  There were four flag bearers, one for each medal, and three national anthems played one after the other in alphabetical order.  The FIG allows ties the USOC does not and I think that's a good thing because I hate tie breakers. It doesn't seem fair to withhold medals from athletes who technically earned it.

Beam
This event was shaky.  Half the qualifiers fell off, but Simone Biles came through again for the win and another Gold.  I was glad to see athletes from two countries who don't medal often win.  The silver went to a beautiful routine for Sanne Wevers of the Netherlands.  Her twin Lieke Wevers qualified to floor finals.  The bronze medal went Pauline Schaefer of Germany.

USA Gymnastics: Nov. 1 - Event Finals Day 2 &emdash; Maggie Nichols


Floor
This is getting redundant now, but in a really good way. Simone Biles won yet another gold and she is dominating gymnastic right now like no other.  She just hits and hits and hits.  That is what she does.  Russian Ksenia Afanaseva scooped up another gold for Russia.  I was most excited for Maggie Nichols who won Bronze.  She nailed every single event she competed on for Team USA and I am glad that she got to hit for herself and get an individual medal.  It was a great way for her to go out of her very first World Championships.  She needs to be on that team in Rio and I think that she has earned it more than anyone else.  Except Simone Biles.  Because Simone Biles.  You can't ever feel too bad about her beating you because she's just that hard to beat.After three World Championships she has amassed a total of fourteen World medals.  Ten out of fourteen are Gold.  All event final results here.

So that was Worlds.  I was fully immersed in gymnastics coverage for a week and I loved it.  Team Finals and All Around finals aired on NBC over the weekend, but I was so happy to be able to get see everything online.  USA Gymnastics posted playlists of all team USA events and entire meet coverage on You Tube so I got to watch everything!  The SSE Hydro Arena looks like a space ship.  All the gymnasts were introduced like rock stars to blaring music, strobe lights and fog with their image displayed on a huge screen while they stood on stage.  I could feel the energy just watching it online.

This competition set the state for Rio and I can't wait to see what happens next.  You are only as good as your last competition.  These athletes have less than a year of continuing to prove that they belong on the team.

Fierce Five Update 

11.02.2015

Playing Dress Up

If today is any indication, Fall has finally arrived in San Diego.  Hold up, we hit 69, but didn't come close to that number on Halloween.  During the day it was in the 80's and 90's and after the sun dipped it was still in the 70's.  The heat has been testing even my limit, but I was glad so I wouldn't have to freeze my butt off that night.  I don't know how the sexy cops and the sexy nurses of the world survive in states that are actually cold.
Here we are on our throne
MJ booked us a room at the Hilton for the night.  Smart thinking.  We walked to a restaurant for a bite to eat before changing for the party.  The party was basically a pit stop where we were invited to drink for free before the club.  The streets of the Gaslamp were packed with people ready to party.  Adults are just as into Halloween as kids, if not more.  A lot of people dressed up at work.  Some people are so creative and half the fun is checking out all the costumes.  One of our friends was the Tinder app.  She made it herself.  It's not sold in stores so if that's what you want to be you have to get creative.  I am not one of those people.  I don't have a creative bone in my body so when we decided to play dress up for Halloween this year we went straight to the costume store.  We ended up at Buffalo Breath.

I always told myself that if I ever dress up for Halloween again that I would be a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader, but I think that ship has sailed.  I found one DCC costume online.  Two if you count the more modest grandmotherly version that came with a longish skirt.  I think it was from the 1950's.  Not an option.  It was booty shorts or bust, but it was such poor quality that I didn't even want to spend my money on it.  I suspect that even if I had found one I liked, I would probably have been too self-conscious to wear it anyway.  I saw one Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader that night and she looked really cute.  He chose his outfit first.  They had a female version, so I played copy cat, as he will gladly tell you even if you don't ask. 

The entire night was a delightful blur.  We ate tacos on the patio overlooking Petco Park.  I don't know what time we got to the party or what time we left.  I don't know how long we were at Blush or what time we left.  All I know is that I danced, laughed a lot and enjoyed playing dress up with my hot date.  I've never seen him in a dress before and I think he really pulled it off.  When we were getting ready to walk out the door, it dawned on him that he had no pockets.  Welcome to my world.  According to MJ we were out until 1:30am.  I believe it.  We stopped for breakfast on the way home on Sunday and I was useless for the rest of the day.  Not a dish or single item of laundry was washed for the entire weekend.  I think that's a first. 

We've been together for seven years and this is the first time either one of us have dressed up for Halloween.  I can't even really remember the last time I did it.  Maybe I was in college? Maybe I was a Devil?  But not a sexy one. 


10.27.2015

Men and Their Caves

I've only seen one man request a zen room, but plenty who want a game room, a gym, or a movie room.  Those I get.  A room with a purpose.  But what is the deal with men and their man caves?  Every other House Hunters features a man who wants a space of his own where he can relax and escape. What exactly is it that these men need escaping from? From the nagging wife with her honey do list that keeps the household running?  Do I talk too much?  Probably.  The way I see it if anyone needs an escape it's probably us and double that if kids are in the mix, so I am perplexed that the whole Woman Cave thing hasn't taken off.  Oh, I know why.  It's not really an option.


"That poor woman,"  I'd think to myself.  Her husband is so desperate to get away that he needed a whole room, preferably the basement or any room furthest away from the rest of the household dedicated to getting away from every other member in the household.  I'm glad my husband doesn't need a man cave.

Around Christmas time last year I was fishing around for gifts for the husband when out of the blue he sent me a link to his Amazon wish list.  Perfect.  This will certainly make things easier.  Then I saw the list.  Buffalo Bills clock, Buffalo Bills blanket, Buffalo Bills Fathead.  A Fat Head?  Aren't those giant decals that you stick on the wall.  A gigantic red bean bag.  What in the world is going on?   I was so confused.  What was does he want with this stuff and where does he think he is putting it all?  He didn't say anything so I brought it up.

"Uh, I got your Amazon wish list.  I don't get it."
"It's for my man cave," he responded matter of factly as if I was supposed to know.
"What man cave?  You don't have a man cave."
"I'm getting one." 

Oh really.  I thought.  We hadn't discussed this.  And why the heck does my husband need his own room?  He says he wants his own space to play his video games, decorate the way he wants and keep messy without me being able to say anything about it.  Okay.  I get it.  There was some hypothetical discussion about how we could get rid of my desk and futon; both of which I have sentimental attachments to.  We negotiated.  Hypothetically speaking, the desk could go in the other room but the futon would have to stay.  And just like that I had consented to a man cave and there was no stopping it from there so I went ahead and got him the Buffalo Bills clock for Christmas.

How can I say no when we have two extra rooms that rarely get used?  I mean, it's not like I pay the mortgage by myself or anything.  We pay for all the square footage together so if he wants to start utilizing it more than we already are and it makes him happy to have his own space I'm not going to stand in his way. 

We don't have basements in California so men here have to be content with an extra room.  He happily took down my blue clock with the brushed nickel rim that I got from Ikea in favor of his sports themed clock.   My pretty clock found a home next door along with the desk.  He was none too happy when he realized that in exchange for the desk he would now have to take on the Ikea cubes but hey, this is how marriage and man caves work.  Compromise.

The man cave was taking shape and it was all good, until the sign showed up.  Man Cave Rules. Really, I have no problem with the sign.  His room his rules and all that, but I didn't expect him to put it OUTSIDE the door.  I protested but lost that battle.  "It's already up," he said curtly and I decided to let it go.  For now anyway.

I had reservations at first, but now it seems like a win-win for everyone.  The loft area has turned into our home gym area and is always available for use.  He gets to plop down in a jumbo sized bean bag and game for however long he wants without me watching him do it.

That room had became the dumping ground for his stuff has an actual use now.  He rarely went in there, yet somehow it was always messy and now that it's his man cave it's still messy but at least we are making use of our square footage.  When it was a guest room the mess annoyed me but now that it's the man cave I couldn't care less.  It is one less room I have to concern myself with.  I'll still clean the blinds but I won't be vacuuming because there is usually too much junk on the floor and that's exactly how he wants it.  Turns out, I kind of like the mess.  A mess anywhere else drives me insane, but in the man cave there is something very soothing about sitting in the midst of chaos.  Deep down inside I want to be that messy person because I have this theory that life would be so much easier if I didn't care.  It's not my mess or my space AND I'm not responsible for it so I'm at peace with the mess which is a state of being I can't achieve anywhere else in my house.  That gigantic bean bag is actually pretty awesome.  I kind of want to get another one.  I sneak in there every now and then and flop down on it just for fun.

Almost a year later the room is still very much a work in progress.  He says he can't decide what he wants do, but he can take as long as he wants.  He's not getting a honey do list from me.

10.21.2015

We Love a Good Haunted House

I didn't get a chance to google this place before MJ bought the tickets.  He surprised me with this outing, and it's a good thing because I might not have agreed to go.  I claim I want to be scared, because I really really do, but when it comes down to it I don't want to be that scared.  I don't want to get dirty, I don't want to be pushed around, I cannot tolerate bugs or slimy disgusting things.  I don't want to be crying and curled up in a fetal position scared.  Just regular Halloween fun and maybe just a little, extra scared.

The 17th Door, Tustin fit the bill pretty well, with the exception of one room that I was dreading when I finally did get around to reading the reviews in the car on the way up there.  Once you buy tickets you are slotted into a specific hour in which you are supposed to arrive and groups of up to ten are sent in.  Most of the rooms are fairly small, so you really can't have more than that.  After signing our waiver we were ushered in pretty quickly.  We started out in a creepy classroom unlike any I remember from college.  A really mean teacher barked at us to sit down and I realized I haven't sat in one of those all in one chairs with the desk attached in a long time.  We were instructed to turn in our assignments; which in this case was our signed waivers.  A rouge student barged in gun blazing.  Shots were fired, and then we were sent into our next room.

Photo Source
Oh how I wish there was a Haunted House to visit with crooked shutters, creaky stairs, and dark hallways, and no spider webs that looks just like the one in this spooky picture.

Most of the rooms in 17th Door have a small, dark, cramped hallway/foyer area.  There, we waited until the red light above the door turned green to signal that we should enter.  The group we were with didn't want to go first, so MJ and I ended up at the front for most of the tour.  Each room has a different theme.  I was always scared to open the door, because you never know what's waiting for you inside.  The first thing I did every time was look all around me because there are monsters jumping and grabbing at you the entire time.  I wanted to see them first if I could.  One room was set up like a large walk in refrigerator/butcher shop with carcasses hanging from the ceiling by chains.  I was able to dodge every single one without them touching me.  When the lights came on MJ had a pig head in his hands.  He says he doesn't know where it came from.

The journey follows hopeful and excited college freshman Paula.  Violent and/or disturbing scenes are portrayed by live actors to tell the story of her downward spiral into depression, drugs and eating disorders.  Sometimes it is hot, sometimes it is cold, but each room is definitely creepier than the next. It is always dark and sometimes it is pitch black.  Total darkness.  I hung onto MJ's arm a lot and tried to disappear into his chest, but it never worked.  And twice, I had to go alone into complete darkness.  A dark closet with no handle and no lock and a long dark hallway.  My go to was to shut my eyes tight, and scream at the top of my lungs.  I couldn't see.  I couldn't hear.  Somehow that helped.  It's very clear that I would be dead in two seconds on The Walking Dead.   

I didn't find out about the roaches until it was too late and when I saw the door with a giant lit up roach over it my heart dropped.  Here it comes.  Yes, they are real roaches.  Dried and dead.  The room was full of them.  There was a demented doctor with a lab coat holding a tray of them and I was so terrified that I ran to the back of the group (and away from MJ) to get away from him and then really freaked out when the lights went out and I had no one to hang onto to.  It was pitch black.  I didn't know where the guy with the roach tray was and then we were being pelted with mysterious objects that felt like roaches.  I kept asking MJ to check my shirt, because it felt like I was crawling with them.  That was the absolute worst part.  The safe word is Mercy.  If you yell that at any time they have to let you out.  Had the roaches been alive I would have yelled "Mercy" in half a second and that would have been the end of it.

In all, there are 17 doors and it takes about 30 minutes to get through all of them.  It didn't go by quick at all.  It was a warm night, but I think the roach room did me in.  I was hot and sweaty when we left.  I just really wanted to shower and to get out of those haunted clothes.

The actors were good and the sets were very detailed and well done.  Pig people are creepy, but I think they overused that theme just a little bit.  Towards the end it was starting to get predictable that a Pig headed person was going to jump out at you, but it didn't stop me from screaming every time.  It was scary, but it's almost more disturbing than anything else.  The waiver explicitly states that it can be "triggering" so you can't say you didn't know.  Part of me wishes it were a little bit scarier.  There was a moment where I thought-was that it?  But really, it was just enough.  There are more hard core haunted houses in LA that we could try, but those probably take it further than I'm willing to go.  I love horror movies and in my head I think I'm this bad ass who wants to be really scared and can handle anything, but I'm really not.

Overall, it was really fun.  I could have done without the roaches, but other than that it was doable and we had a really good time.  We have The Haunted Hotel in San Diego.  We've also done the Haunted Trail in Balboa Park and we'll probably go back, but it was fun to try something new.  We went to dinner before, made it a fun date night and it was worth the drive.

 We don't do pumpkins, and I haven't dressed up in years, but we love a good haunted house.





10.13.2015

Movie Reviews and Quotes


This post is made up of a bunch of movies I watched over a six week period.  I no longer remember which six period because it has been sitting in my drafts for so long.  These movies may be old news by now, but I will not let this post go wasted any longer.  I have a thing for movies and words. Each movie had a quote that really spoke to me.  I watch a lot of movies and like doing reviews so I made a handy dandy graphic with my grading scale and have another movie review post not far behind, that has also been sitting in my drafts for a little too long.

Imitation Game
Sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.
That quote left me breathless.  This movie was AMAZING.  It was so, so good.  The story was a different side of World War II that I had never seen before.  I love Kiera Knightly-and she was amazing as always.  The story line was captivating, triumphant, inspirational and sad all at once.  A must see. *5 STARS

About Time
We're all traveling through time together everyday of our lives. All we can do is our best to relish this remarkable ride.
All I have to say is that it was about time I saw this movie.  It was so good and totally different than what I expected.  For some reason I thought it was going to be about star crossed lovers who couldn't be together because one of them was a time traveler.  I probably had this move mixed up with something else because it was not about that at all.  Instead it was the story of a man who is a time traveler, and wants more than anything to find his one true love.  I love this guys family and if I'm being honest, I kind of love this guy.  I love the relationship he had with his family, the relationship he had with his wife and the kind of father that he became.  I kept waiting for something terrible to happen to create a plot twist, but it just wasn't that kind of movie.  It was genuine and funny.  It really was about time...and love. *5 STARS

Laggies
A lot of the math they're teaching you that they swear you'll use in your life, you won't.  You're never gonna need parabolas and you really, really don't need to know shapes that have more than eight fuckin' sides.  You can't keep putting aside what you want for some imaginary future.  You've got to suck it up and go with your gut.
This was the story of a girl in her late twenties who refuses to grow up and randomly befriends a teenager outside of a liquor store one night.  I really like both lead actors, Kiera Knightly and Chloe Grace Moritz so I was drawn to this movie for that reason alone and they did not disappoint me.  I loved watching the relationship between unlikely friends grow.  All the characters were so chill.  I liked them all.  Definitely a good one to watch. *5 STARS

Skeleton Twins 
The rest of us are just walking around trying not to be disappointed with the way that our lives turned out.
I love Kristen Wiig as an actress and I usually love the characters that she plays because they are so flawed, endearing and real.  This movie was kind of morbid because it addresses suicide which may turn some people off but not me. I'm a ravenous movie watcher and not one to avoid a movie based on subject matter.  If it looks good, I'm going to watch it and even if I find out it sucks there is a good chance I'll finish watching it anyway.  This movie was mainly about the complicated relationship between two siblings and how it grew and changed over time. *4 STARS

Wild
My mother used to say something that drove me nuts. There is a sunrise and a sunset every day and you can choose to be there for it. You can put yourself in the way of beauty.
This was based on the true story of a woman in the midst of sabotaging her life after losing her mother.  She decides to set off alone to hike the Pacific Crest Trail which runs from the Mexico Border all the way up to Canada and typically takes about 3 months.  Crazy!  I'm way too chicken and hate being dirty way too much to do this, but it was interesting to watch the story of someone else with the guts to do it.  Alone no less.  Reese Witherspoon went au natural for the filming.  No make up, no deodorant and no razors.  She still looked good and I really liked her in this movie.  *4 STARS

Adult World
Not everybody can grow up to be Beyonce or the President.  Not everybody's talented okay? And fame doesn't meat shit.
A recent college graduate who wants to be a writer, tried to figure out what to do with her life.  I liked it.  I like Emma Roberts and I have liked John Cusack since The Sure Thing so that was the draw for me.  Not the most captivating, but good.  I don't regret spending the time watching it.
*3 STARS

Cake (Netflix Streaming)
Tell me a story where everything works out in the end for the evil witch.
A woman dealing with chronic pain investigates the suicide of a member of her support group.  I have never seen Jennifer Anniston look so rough.  She usually plays an it girl glossy character so it was interesting to see her in this role and nice to see that she has range as an actor and can do more than Rom Com's or comedy.  The movie takes its time answering a lot of the questions that you inevitably have as you watch which, keeps it interesting. *4 STARS

Endless Love
My first love was everything all at once  The kind that you never fall back from never try to never want to. A love so big so strong it never dies, never fades,  never loses it's electricity.  The kind of love you fight for.  The kind of boy you fight for.
First of all the Gabriella Wild who plays the lead character Jade Butterfield is gorgeous, and a really good actress.  I've not seen her in anything else and can only wonder why she isn't getting more work.  Her IMBD only has eight credits, none of which are anything I've really heard of.  I am a sucker for true love and romance so I loved this movie.  I loved how new intense young love was shown in contrast to her parent's lackluster and fading marriage. *4 STARS

The Duff
Yeah, I'm somebody's Duff, but guess what so are you, so is everybody.  There's always going to be somebody prettier, or more  talented or richer than you.   That shouldn't affect how you see yourself...I wouldn't want to be anybody else and I realize now that none of this matters to me, but it does to you.  It's your dream, and I totally support that but just don't tear me down for not giving a shit about your labels because in the end they're meaningless.
Do you know what DUFF stands for?  It's not nice.  I was not aware of that acronym until I heard about this movie.  It's a formula that has been repeated a million times over but people like it and it's entertaining, so here it is again.  Nerdy girl seeks out make over to get the guy and all the cliche characters in between including the mean popular girl and the hot football hunk.  It was slightly different in that the girl was not a total loser outcast and the make over bit was not overly dramatized.  I love coming of age stories and I always root for the underdog so I was very happy with the ending.  *3 STARS

Magic in The Moonlight
This movie was good but kind of boring if that makes any sense whatsoever.  I was attracted to it because of Emma Stone and I liked the story but I can't really rave about it that much.  It was just okay.  There was a lot of dialogue which is fine for me, but the movie just felt a little flat for me.  I would say skip it. *1 STAR


10.05.2015

Oh Snap!! What I Think About Snapchat

About three months ago I went to a work conference out of town.  I was holed up in my hotel room and bored so I decided to download snapchat.  I posted my snapcode on Instagram and wrote that I was bored and alone in my hotel room trying to figure out #snapchat.  Don't ever search that hashtag on Instagram.  You can, but you should know that what will come up is a whole lot of porn.  I had never seen that side of Instagram before and I was horrified by all the X rated photos and videos that popped up.  I reported a few as inappropriate, before realizing how futile it was.  Instagram probably can't remove and/or shut down accounts as fast as these photos are posted.  New material popped up every second and then it became clear to me why I gained three new followers, plus a snap of a bare chested man laying down within minutes of my Instagram post.  Little did I know that "bored and alone in a hotel room" is an open invitation for snapchat shenanigans that I want no part in.  Lesson learned.

Snapchat may have started out as a sexual media app, but it's grown into much more than that over the last few years.  Even the old folks are getting involved now.  That would be me. 

What I Like
There is an anonymity and lack of permanence that encourages real life and not the curated life that a lot of people present on Instagram. 
  • Everything disappears after 24 hours.  When it first started it was only 10 seconds.  The ghost image for snapchat is totally appropriate and it is no wonder snapchat started out the way it did.  Friends can screenshot anything posted and save it to their phone, but there is still a disconnect between you and your picture that makes it different than any other social media app.  I am still only going to post things that I am comfortable offering up for public consumption, but the non permanent nature of posts means I put less thought into what I choose to share and don't have to consider if it is "worthy" of posting.  I'll post that goofy selfie that I might not post on Instagram.  There is no trail of posts over time so it won't live on my account forever and ever and all eternity.
  • Everything is real time.  There are a few filters, but you can't upload stock images or pre-prepped photo shopped pics through the app.  There are outside apps that allow you to upload photos from your phone albums, but I tested one out and it sucked.  Plus, it's really too much trouble.  It seems most people just upload as is.
  • It exists as an app only and does not live on the world wide web.  I wonder if that will change, but the internet is forever and it's nice to have a social media app with content that isn't.  I'm sure those snaps don't totally disappear.  They have to be somewhere.  Perhaps the cloud?  But it can't be googled and that's good enough for me.
There are no profiles on Snapchat for selling yourself or trying to appear cool.  There is no bio or place for a web link that provides any indication as to who you are or where you came from. A photo can be added that will sit inside your ghost and be visible when someone adds you as a friend.  If it's not someone you know outside of snapchat the only thing you know about anyone beyond their username or dancing head pic is what is provided in snaps. 
There is no gigantic long feed to scroll through.  There is a list of snaps to view and I can pick and choose what I want to view when I want to view it.

More video and less pictures.  I know that you can post video on Instagram, but a lot of people mainly stick to photos including myself.  I'm finding mostly video clips on Snapchat.  It's interesting to see a different aspect of people and their life in 3D.  I have been following Faith's blog for about 6 years.  After that long, you kind of feel like you know people even though you have never met them.  I hope it's not weird to say this, but it was really cool to hear her voice in a snap.  So that's what she sounds like! It is another way of getting to know people I only know online.

It is 100% consumption.  It's social, but it doesn't encourage being social if that makes any sense.  You view a snap and that's it.  There is nothing further to do.  No liking, no commenting, no favoriting, no sharing.  There is no obligation to interact which means less time spent and I don't have to like or worry about being liked.  

Viewing my own snaps is kind of fun.  We had a good time laying in bed at night looking back on our day together while we were vacationing in Sedona.  If I want to download that "story" and save it to my phone to look back on later or show my mom I can.    

There are no follower counts, stats, comments or likes trying to tell me what I am worth.  In this numbers driven online world it's actually kind of nice.  Each user has a score and it's not even clear what that actually means but it seems to be more about participation than popularity.  According to Snapchat Your Snapchat score is a special equation combining the number of Snaps you've sent and received, Stories you've posted, and other factors.  I can tell how many people view each snap, but beyond that I don't know exactly how many friends I have, unless I count them out on my friend list.  The snapchat score is not on display and only shows up on friends I follow if I tap the username.  I still haven't figured out why some snapchat scores show up and others won't.

I finally know what I look like throwing up a rainbow.  I've always wanted to know. Just kidding, but the new updates are pretty fun.

Snapchat Live and Discover are interesting.  I found the Paris Fashion week Live snaps really fascinating. 

My Snapcode // Username:  MahoganyDrive

What I don't like
It's not very intuitive.  When I first went into the app I was convinced you had to be born in the 90's to figure it out. There were things I couldn't figure out just by playing around with it. Why is there a camera when I open the app?  What am I supposed to do?  How do I find friends?  How do I get those fun filters?  It's so weird.  I experienced similar confusion when I first started using Facebook, but Snapchat is much worse and the support page isn't even that helpful.  I did outside googling to get started and I was still confused.  It is very cryptic, so do not feel stupid if you can't figure it out right away.  The home screen is a camera and is built around what snapchat is all about, and once I followed a few people and figured out that I was doing all there is to be doing it made more sense.  Then, the next step was getting a few followers so I wasn't just snapping myself into the universe for no reason.

You have to hold the button down for the duration of every video snap.  This can make recording awkward at times.

Finding people to friend is difficult.  If I want to add someone I have to know their username.  There is no search feature.  If I am one digit off I might be following someone else entirely.  Friends can also be added by taking a screen shot of a snapcode or scanning a snapcode using the snapchat camera, but I don't see them posted anywhere very often.  It hasn't reached Instagram or Facebook levels.  Not everyone is using it.  Maybe nobody wants to admit to using it.  

Unless you are a celebrity, well known personality or big-time blogger this also makes it difficult to get people to follow you.  Snapchat is an app only and does not live on the world wide web so I can't hyperlink it on my blog.  No one is going to stumble upon my profile.  People have to make the effort to seek out my username.  I do not have a lot of followers.

It uses a crap ton of data.  I found this out the hard way.  Two months in a row we burned through data at an alarming rate and had to pay an overage charge.  MJ had just looked into how much data we were using before he changed our plan and we weren't even coming close to our limit so we couldn't figure out what was going on.  I had a hunch, so I went to google and discovered that Snapchat is a serious data drain.  I did two setting fixes that should help.  In the Snapchat App itself I turned on travel mode, which apparently is a new feature.  This stops stories from loading and using data until I tap on it.  On my phone settings for snapchat I turned off background app refresh to prevent snaps from loading and cellular data.  This means that I cannot login, view or upload new snaps unless I am connected to WiFi.  This means less snapchat for me, because it's not worth going over on data.  Hopefully this fixes our usage problem.

It is also a battery power killer.  I think it drains the battery more than any other app on my phone. 

It's just another social media time suck that I really don't need.  This is a big one.  I am reluctant to become any more involved in social media than I already am so this is the only new social media thing I've tried since Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  I held out for a while, but I kept hearing about it and curiosity got the best of me.  The concept is no different then any other social media app.  A lot of looking at other people and a lot of look at me!  And for what?  I try to be aware of how much I'm spending on social media and refuse to let it get ridiculous.  I don't want to be that person who can't get their head out of their phone, because there are far too many things in life that are far more important than social media. Which really isn't that important at all.  

My husband thinks I'm weird for using snapchat, and sometimes I am slightly embarrassed that I am even interested.  What am I doing with my life?  Why do I participate in any of this social media madness?  Why do I care and what does that say about me as a person?  I haven't snapped much lately as I ponder these questions.  I'm nosy by nature and have always had an interest in peeking into other peoples lives.  It's why I originally became interested in reality TV, before it got all crazy, and just one reason why I was interested in blogs.  In my opinion Snapchat is better for that than Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. 

This post went on way longer than I intended and despite this wall of text I'm still not sure how I feel about it!  I think the word is ambivalent.  How do you feel about Snapchat.  Yeah or Nay?

What I think About Facebook

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