Oct 222014

I was thinking about making another video for YouTube today to explain this blog entry with audio-visual aids, but it’s a little too late for that now: I’ll be leaving for the airport in less than 12 hours and the webcam is packed away for the trip.

The biggest reason why I bought that webcam… well, the microphone on the laptop is complete shit. There’s a strong echo, it makes everything sound metallic and it really sucks a lot. (Oddly, Mom and I brought it back to Best Buy to find out what the problem was and it turns out that all of their ASUS laptops had that problem. Some worse than others, but still all of them. Just an FYI for anyone out there who might want a new computer this Christmas season for recording videos.)

Anyway! Aside from keeping the online journal, I’m planning to send “e-postcards” to people during our trip. If a hotel has internet access, I can send emails and attach a digital photo plus a short video. The “front” has a picture, the “back” has a message to the recipient, no postage fees… yay for technology! (If I’m feeling really crazy, I can send e-postcards to individuals. If I’m feeling really lazy, I can send them to a bunch of people at once and start the video with something generic like “Hey there!” Come to think of it, I might start the individual ones with “Hey there!” so that everyone can think I made any given e-postcard just for you.)

So that’s the current plan. I’m not sure how many people’s email addresses I have or how many people might want to get messages about the trip from time to time, but you can still follow my trip to Thailand for the next few weeks by checking out videos on my YouTube channel. Be forewarned: none of them will be made just for you, even if I start the video with “Hey there!”

Oct 132014

I found a page on Imgur that’s “An Open Letter to Non-Vaxxers”. The short version is that the author has a son with cancer. Chemotherapy damages the immune system, so even though the son had been vaccinated, he still had to rely on herd immunity to prevent those diseases. Thus, parents who think it’s a good idea not to vaccinate their children make Dad pretty upset. They’re not just putting their own kids in harm’s way; they’re putting his kid in harm’s way, too.

I should know better than to read the comments sections on the Internet (aside the ones on here, given that they’re usually spam that I have to delete), but I went scrolling down and found that the responses were almost universal: anti-vaxxers are stupid and selfish.

However, one comment intrigued me: “She I was young my mom took me to a chicken pox party that way I wouldn’t need the vaccine, cause once you’ve had it you won’t get it again”

Strange, but it kinda makes sense. It might keep half the kids in your class out of school for a week while they all have chicken pox at the same time, but now they only have to worry about shingles as they get older.

But that’s not the first thought that popped into my head. The first thought was “If this is meant to justify not getting vaccinated, try throwing a polio party and tell me how that turns out.”

Oct 112014

That’s probably what my YouTube channel will be, at least for the immediate future. My first video is posted at the bottom of this entry, but it’s a simple intro and explains that the primary reason for my current decision to start making videos is because I’m too elaborate and long-winded when I write. (Yes, I used those terms to describe my writing. It’s not like I can run from the truth.)

So I’m in the fledgling stages of learning how to make videos quickly: come up with a few ideas to convey, then turn on the webcam and start talking. At this point, changing video formats and posting the video online has taken a lot longer than recording the video itself, but that’s why I’m trying to learn this stuff now while I’m still here in the States.

On October 23rd, my mom and I will be flying to Thailand for a couple weeks. I thought it might be cool to report on some of the goings-on over there, but for those of you who have followed my travel blog posts before, you’ll know that I tend to be elaborate and long-winded and I just stop writing after the first couple posts. I run out of time and motivation. If I can find a way to prevent myself from spending two hours writing about what happened that afternoon (something I’m very capable of doing), yay for me. Thus, vlog entries.

Up to this point, I’ve never talked for two hours straight. That doesn’t mean I’m not capable of doing so, but even if I wanted to, YouTube will only let me post videos that are 15 minutes or less. I’m hoping I can keep videos down to just a couple minutes a day, but we’ll see what happens. Seriously, though, I wouldn’t want to go too far beyond a couple minutes a day because I’m pretty sure there’ll be plenty to do while I’m there.

So that’s the scoop of the hour. I’ll probably post another couple videos within the next two weeks to get used to the process, then head overseas and… we’ll see what happens. Beyond that, enjoy the little monologue below and I’ll talk at you later.

YouTube Preview Image
 Posted by at 10:26 pm
Sep 292014

The official title of Marie Porter’s cookbook is “Beyond Flour: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking & Baking”, but that’s way too long to use as the header for a blog post and the hashtagged version of the title (#BeyondFlour) means you’ll be able to find this post and said cookbook through Twitter. If you want to find it via the Interwebs, you can use this link instead.

I’m slightly regretful that I didn’t write something about this sooner because you can buy the cookbook through the Celebration Generation website for $24.99, but the pre-order discount price is $19.99 until October 1st. Not to rush you into making a purchase or anything.

The book’s funding involved a Kickstarter campaign, so by donating a certain amount of money, I got an autographed cookbook that arrived in the mail on Friday. It took me a few days to finally make something, in part because I needed to go shopping for ingredients like coconut flour and sorghum flour. Go figure.

Tonight, I finally decided to get out a mixing bowl, turn on the oven and try making something from the cookbook. This was kind of a big deal for me because I don’t cook. Sure, I can whip up a mean box of Kraft mac ‘n’ cheese, but when it comes to combining separate ingredients like flour and eggs and butter without anything prepared ahead of time, I’m pretty sure this was a first. Gluten-free? Unheard of until now.

Thus, I was very deliberate. I set out the ingredients, the different measuring cups and spoons I’d need, the pan and bowl… time to make the recipe on Page 157: Double Chocolate Brownies.

I won’t bore you with the whole process, but even after some bits of advice from my mother before I got started, I learned one thing the hard way: “A watched pot never boils” may also apply to butter. I say “may” because I wasn’t watching it melting in the microwave, but I’m pretty sure it did boil because there was a pool of butter next to the measuring cup when it was done. Oops.

Aside from that, things went pretty smoothly. I mixed the ingredients together, spread it out in a pan, put the pan in the oven for just over 30 minutes, then sat around and waited until it cooled enough for the first taste.

The result? The brownies don’t suck. (Yay!) They actually turned out pretty good. (Double yay!) Which means that Beyond Flour has some really yummy recipes in it. (Triple yay!) Excuse me for a moment while I pat myself on the back for this first successful venture into gluten-free cooking.

Oh, and as a final note, I recommend making a batch late at night or in the wee hours of the morning. There’s a much greater likelihood that you won’t eat the entire pan of brownies right away if you need to go to bed soon.

Sep 172014

I know, I know, that’s not really a line from the “Do You Hear What I Hear?” Christmas carol, but that’s the tune that popped into my head when I was thinking about writing this.

I went to the eye doctor on September 15th, 2014. The date is only significant because it’s almost exactly four years after the last time I went: September 23rd, 2010. I got a new driver’s license a few weeks ago and I was pretty sure that the glasses I was wearing this time are the same ones I was wearing the last time. One point for me!

I didn’t have a reason for not going, I just never got around to it. I could see well enough, so why go through the hassle? Well, I got tired of not being able to see straight. I have a nifty form of astigmatism that makes my eyes focus in different places. If I let my eyes relax, everything splits into two. (Upon getting my eyes tested this week, I found out that one is slightly diagonal, too.)

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m very sensitive when it comes to my eyes. Or maybe “squeamish” would be a better term. It can be ridiculously hard for me to do really simple stuff. I’ve been in a handful of plays and I can barely put on mascara. I usually end up caking a bunch on the ends of my eyelashes, then use paper towels to pull off the excess. Eyeliner? Not gonna happen. I can’t handle letting stabby things like pencils get that close to my eyes.

The eye doctor had an assistant who did some of the initial testing. After some of the basic “What’s the lowest line you can read?” charts, it was time to put in some eye drops to dilate my pupils. Wonderful.

I’m not sure what’s happened with eye drop technology in the last four years, but thankfully, I didn’t need to keep my eyes open afterward: she just pried open my eyelid, dropped some liquid in there and it immediately ran down my cheek when I blinked my eye closed. In the past, that would have meant more eye drops, which would have led to more suffering. And I was suffering.

I think I took as many breaks as I got drops. She told me to look up at the ceiling, I could hear the surge of blood rushing into my ears, my eyelid would immediately try to close if anything got near it, then I’d have to stop and rub my eye for a minute. Then she said the most irritating thing I’ve heard in a very long time:

“I know how you feel. I’ve seen people have this problem plenty of times.”

My relatively polite response?

“No, you really don’t.”

I don’t remember where I read this, but one of the worst things you can say to someone is “I know how you feel” because you don’t. You can’t. My grandfather died while I was in college and I had to stay at school for a majority of a week until I could fly home for the wake. I think I told three people before I left. Back in 2005, we had a dog who had some nasty disease and we were going to put her to sleep. I went to the vet, sat down next to her with a box of tissues and bawled my eyes out for forty-five minutes. If any of you read through this paragraph and thought, “I know how you feel”, you’re full of shit.

I know people who are afraid of heights. I sometimes get a sense of vertigo when I’m looking down from the edge of a skyscraper, but that’s not the same as being scared of climbing three steps up on a ladder. Maybe I know that you feel afraid, but I have no idea how you feel.

It’s incredibly frustrating because it’s so simple. All I need to do is hold my eye open just a little bit. It’s a tiny drop of liquid, nothing more. I see people put eye drops in all the time, but honestly, it makes me cringe a little, thinking about how my body would react if I tried doing it myself.

Eventually, the assistant left to go get the doctor. He came into the room and even though it had been four years since my last visit, he quickly remembered me having the same problem back then, too. “Try to hold your other eye open and look toward the ceiling.” I tried as hard as I could, but the blood started surging in my ears again while the other eyelid stayed closed tight.

We managed to get through most of the tests that involved shining bright lights directly into my eyes. Not all, but most. He decided that was good enough. There wasn’t much point in trying to do any other tests if my eyelids were going to clamp shut every time we tried to keep them open. Ultimately, my eyelids would win. Thankfully, when my appointment was over and he handed me my new prescription, the only thing he said to me was “Say hi to your dad for me.” Much less irritating.

Sep 052014

Gratitude, day three. I was invited to play by Vee. For five days, you list three things you are grateful for, and… you know the drill.

1) Sleeping in. I like it a lot more than waking up too early.

2) The Interwebs. Keeping in touch with people around the globe, a near-infinite amount of information accessible with a few taps on a keyboard, cat videos.

3) My family. I love them whole bunches.

3b) Definitely grateful for my grandma. She’s 96, one of the smartest ladies I know, still living in her own home and still loving life. An inspiration.

3c) Extremely grateful for my dad. Age 71, he’s survived a heart attack, two open-heart surgeries, stage 4 mantle cell lymphoma (currently in remission) and three sons. (And a partridge in a pear tree…) He brings a lot of joy to a lot of people.

Gratitude, day four. I was invited to play by Vee. For five days, you list three things you are grateful for, and anything else you do is a crap shoot.

1) My sense of humor. Some people laugh and some people groan, but if God wanted all the people to laugh all the time, He wouldn’t have created politics.

2) Caffeine. Aside from the anti-seizure meds, it’s my drug of choice.

3) Boy Scouts of America. It was a big part of my life growing up, it’s my current employer and it was my subtitle on Beauty and the Geek (“Assistant Boy Scout Master”).

Gratitude, day five. I was invited to play by Vee. For five days, you list three things you are grateful for, and then live happily ever after.

1) Time zones. I was visiting my brother in Wisconsin on Tuesday, got home late, did a couple chores around the house, then realized it was 12:15 on the 30th. But that’s Central Time: in the Mountain and Pacific time zones, it’s still the 29th.

2) Comfy shoes. I spend a lot of time on my feet at work, so being allowed to wear sneakers is awesome compared to how I’d feel wearing flat-soled shoes all day.

3) Cheetos. Because they’re Cheetos.