Monday, April 29, 2013

Movie Monday

Two Sundays ago, I sat and watched Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark for the first time.

Hard to believe I've never seen this since the movie was released way back in 1981 when I was in junior high and going to the movies was (and still is) a teen thing to do. (Needless to say I wasn't the most typical teen.) Ironically, I have just discovered that this movie was released on my thirteenth birthday.

Anyway, the film is a result of George Lucas' desire to pay homage to the action heroes of the 1930 and 40s film serials.The title character is an archeology professor and goes in search of the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazi's get a hold of it. If you want a more detailed description of the plot, click here.

The film seemed more spoofy than maybe it should have if it were paying homage, and conversely it had some scenes where it was more graphic than either a spoof or a 1930s/1940s film should have been. For the last third of the movie, the heroine wore nothing more than a negligee. Ugh.

But a young Harrison Ford was very nice to watch.

I'm giving this classic a five out of ten on the movie reel rating system.

Have you seen the Indy films? Are you a fan or no?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Fort Worth Friday

What one thing does Fort Worth have that no other U.S. city, save the capital, has?

Okay, I'm sure there are lots of things, but I'm talking big.

Give up?

A currency facility! Sounds a little anti-climactic, but we literally make money here in Fort Worth. Falling under the auspices of the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, our facility produces only paper money. No coins (which I believe involves minting, rather than printing) are created here.

Take a look at any paper money. If you see the letters FW printed in the lower right-hand corner, that means that bill was printed here in Fort Worth. Most likely your money will have that FW stamped on it--as well over half of all money printed is printed here. Did you know that 95% of the bills printed each year, whether here or in D.C. replace old, worn out bills? Also, the bills do not become legal tender until they are placed in the vault!

Sonshine and I went on a tour of the facility way back in 2007, I think, and it was very cool. They were still designing the new $100 bills at the time and had a lot of huge canvas curtains up to block portions of the printing rooms. A glitch in the manufacturing process was discovered in December 2010 and they had to stop printing the new bills for a while, but we should start getting the new one again some time this year.

The $100 bill is the highest denomination in circulation since July 1969.

According to one source, there was no concrete to be found in the DFW Metroplex for approximately three days back in 1990 when this facility was built.

Here is a link to a guy with a March 2013 post regarding his visit. He goes into a bit more detail about the whole process.

Pretty nifty, eh??

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

An experiment...

As most of you know, I write fan fiction. I love to read well written fic and I love to write it. Several years ago, while heavily involved in the BBC's Robin Hood fandom, I tried something I'd never done before. Something I was nervous about, but bound and determined to see through to the very end.

I know you're wondering what this thing is. Well, this thing is the act of posting chapters/parts/episodes of your story as you write it, rather than waiting until the whole thing is complete. I'd been the victim, more than once, of other fic writers who go great guns, writing and posting, writing and posting, and then blam, they drop off the face of the earth and you never know the outcome of the story. It's very frustrating, and I never wanted to be THAT fic writer.

So it was after much consideration and still a fair amount of trepidation that I decided to give it a try. The first handful of chapters were posted haphazardly with weeks and sometimes a month between them. I finally developed a routine and never went more than two weeks between posts.

As part of fandom activities, we had all kinds of contest--one was to make a movie poster based on favorite fan fics. My fic was chosen by two of my fandom mates. This was one.

Between October 29, 2009 and March 3, 2011, I posted thirty-seven chapters, a bonus chapter, and an epilogue; I juggled three intertwined plot threads; and wrote a whopping 88K+ words on that story alone, chapter by chapter, week by week. The writing of this story was my haven and escape from the world--see, my dad died right before Thanksgiving of 2009 and we buried him the Saturday after. I grieved for well over a year.

Here's the other...

I must admit I was tired at the end and really struggled to complete the story for folks who'd been following the saga. But I did it and experienced quite the feeling of accomplishment for doing so. The experiment was a success.

And now you're probably asking what the point of that tale is...

Well, the point is, I've been wanting to write a serialized story for my blog. One of my CPs is doing it (yes, at my suggestion) and many other authors do it as well. I started one and had been posting it to an alternate blog when I was planning on using a pen name.

I'm just concerned--partly for the same things. Can I write the story to its conclusion? Can I write enough to post on a regular basis? But my biggest worry--which feeds both the others--is: can I come up with a sustainable plot line. That's my biggest weakness and why it seems easier for me to write fan fiction than original fiction. Not that I can't write, 'cause when I have the details, I can bang out words like nobody's business.

And it's really strange because all I started with on the above story were two elements: a portal to an alternate reality and the fact that the heroine (Marian) would end up pregnant in one of the alternate realities. With those two pieces of information, I was off and running.

It seems like the more I learn about writing the harder it becomes. Too many do's and dont's and don't forget's and make sure's. Ugh.I guess I'll ponder the whole thing some more and try to brainstorm an idea.

Do you follow any blogs where authors post parts of a continuing story?

Monday, April 22, 2013


Today, just bits and bobs and catching up...

First up -- pics of Sonshine and his girl! They attended his JROTC military ball this past Saturday at a hotel in downtown Fort Worth.

During the proceedings, Sonshine was presented with some trophies. The one in the center is for his participation on the JROTC Academic Team. One of the others is for Outstanding Staff Member and the third is just because he's a staff member.

Twelve days ago, I reported on my weight. I haven't been as good as I should have been eating-wise, especially yesterday at my writers group meeting, but I have lost weight. Though I must confess I have not started exercising. But I've got to--my body is griping at me again for my sedentary-ness.

That's 4.8 pounds lost in just under two weeks! (WOW)

This weekend, I'm taking a break from the yard work to get some housework done. I've neglected the bathrooms shamefully.

The wisteria is doing well, though one of my azaleas is struggling to settle into its new home. It just looks kinda wilty to me...

(The one on the right...looks a little droopy these days.)

The puppy memorial garden is doing fine. Though the gerber daisy I planted lost all its blooms and looked a bit wilty itself a few days ago, the leaves seem to be perking up again. Maybe it will blossom again as spring transforms into summer.

I haven't heard back from Samhain Publishing as of yet about the Final Line Editor position I applied for. The gal did say it would be at the end of the month, so I'm just waiting patiently.

And thanks to my lovely friend Clover for a great presentation at our writers meeting yesterday and for the shout out of my free-lance proof reading services.

My friend and chapter mate Lara Lacombe has been blogging A to Z about the Washington D.C. area. It's a quick overview of what our nation's capital offers in terms of site seeing and includes pictures. If you're interested in checking it out, go here. You'll probably have to scroll a ways to find A, maybe even click the "previous posts" link when you hit the bottom.

One last thing...I recently finished Home Before Morning: The Story of an Army Nurse in Vietnam by Lynda Van Devanter. I've had this curiosity about the Vietnam War for years, maybe because I was born in '68--I don't know. Anyway, it was a heart-breaking look at the horrific conditions and circumstances that our service members found themselves thrust into in country, but also the deplorable way they were treated when they returned home by their fellow Americans.

Please remember to thank each and every veteran and active duty service member you meet.


Friday, April 19, 2013

I forgot...

So sorry--I completely forgot to post this morning.

But I will see you Monday with pics of my Sonshine.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

My back yard...

For the last month, I've been going like gangbusters on the weekends to get my back yard looking nice. Nice being a relative term, of course. I should probably say NICER. And I'm getting there. I've decapitated hundreds of dandelions, picked up petrified dog poop, and trimmed trees. I've even created flower beds after eleven years of living here.

Last weekend I planted shrubs! It was back breaking work--the soil is either full of clay, which isn't too bad to till, or just plain hard and dry and filled with rocks. The section next to the house where I planted my new shrubberies also had huge dried up dollops of cement from when they built the house! Ugh. Needless to say, those bad boys had to be dug out by hand. The dirt had to be sifted and mixed with garden soil and, well, you get the drift.

But with the help of DD and Sonshine, I finally got my Chinese wisteria and pair of azaleas planted.


Dry, hard-packed dirt filled with rocks and cement droppings from the foundation.


DH watches while DD mixes the native soil (dirt!) with store bought garden soil.
The wisteria is in the ground, but the azaleas wait in their plastic containers to the right.

Sonshine adding the native soil (dirt!) to yet another batch of the native/store-bought soil mixture. You can see everything's in the ground. We're just trying to get enough soil on top of the plants to bring it level with the bricks on the house. We didn't quite make it, even with the cedar mulch, but close enough. I'll add more when I add more plants.


They don't look like much yet, but hopefully in a year or two they'll have filled out quite nicely.

And I'm pooped, but still have a few things to do in the yard and along the stretch of wall on either side of the azaleas, but these things (tilling, hauling the dirt, mixing the dirt, planting the plants) take a surprising amount of time and effort, so I'm pacing myself.

Next up on the TO DO list for the back yard: my bird feeder bed and killing the weeds in the part of the yard that actually has grass still growing!

Any plans for your yard??

Monday, April 15, 2013

Movie Monday

Today's movie is Pitch Perfect--a musical comedy. An all-female college a capella group is in serious need of recruits and take anyone who can sing. One of the two leaders of the group refuses to change with the times and the group continually loses competitions. Taking matters into her own hands, one of girls decides mid-performance to stage a coup and changes up the song. The rest of the girls, quick on the uptake, follow her lead, and the group finds themselves placing. However, the leader still refuses to give in. Long story, short, they finally update their look, style, and sound and win the final competition. The main female lead also wins back her man and resolves the conflict with her father.

I wasn't overly impressed with the movie. Yeah, it was cute, but not great. I watched it mostly because DD really liked it and she wanted me to watch it with her, and I needed a movie. :) Even if you love Glee like I do, this movie doesn't really compare, in my opinion. I give it five of ten movie reels.

Has anyone seen this? What did you think?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Fort Worth Friday

Today, I'm going to talk about Hell's Half Acre...

(The historical marker in downtown Fort Worth at 12th & Houston Streets, erected in 1993.) 

For marker text, click here.

At first I thought that this moniker for a portion of downtown during a certain historical time frame was more common--what I mean is that I thought more cities sported such a place with this same nickname. But that's not so. While there are, according to Wiki, several locations throughout the US that are referred to as Hell's Half Acre, only Fort Worth's represents a portion of town also commonly referred to as a Red Light District.

It's true location is in the southern end of downtown; Jones Street (east), Lancaster Street (south), Throckmorton Street (west), and Tenth Street (north) being the borders. Many people erroneously believe it to have been located in what is now the Stockyards area, in the more northern section of downtown.

As you can see on the map (if you click for the bigger version), there are bunches of train tracks just to east of the area, which could have been the location of the first sets of tracks through town.

Anyway, the area sported its fair share of saloons, bordellos, dance halls, and gambling parlors. It's heyday was probably the late 1880s as Fort Worth was a major stop along the Chisholm Trail.

Some of the most famous outlaws of the day, partied in Hell's Half Acre, including Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Bat Masterson, Sam Bass, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Despite the end of the cattle drives, this section of town continued to thrive until the end of World War I, and, sadly, the construction of the Fort Worth Convention Center in the 1950s and into the 60s demolished the last of the district's buildings.

I know most cities had their Red Light Districts (and many still do) but how cool is the name Hell's Half Acre??? It just evokes that feeling of wild west lawlessness and wickedness, doesn't it?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Weightloss update...

It's been quite a while since I reported in about my weight loss efforts. Mainly because I fell off the wagon late last year. I've been meaning to get back on plan... Week after week, I intend to and I plan my salad lunches, but then I derail myself by week's end with a fast food lunch or a bowl of cereal for dinner.

Despite all of that, I'm only four pounds over my lowest recorded weight. Needless to say, I'm very surprised, and I attribute that fact to the amount of yard work I've done over the last three weekends, especially everything I did this past weekend. Apparently, chain-sawing and roto-tilling burn up a lot of calories. I had been walking the dog more often than not too, so that probably helped as well. Now that I no longer have Sammy as a motivation, I guess I'm gonna have to JUST DO IT. Especially seeing as how I'm so close to that lowest weight. I still have 25 pounds to lose to get to my goal weight.

In addition to keeping up the exercise regimen, I'm gonna start using MyFitnessPal again. If you don't know what it is, it's a website/app where you key in some info (Current weight, goal weight, age, height...I can't remember exactly.) and it tells you how many calories you get per day. Each day you log what you've eaten--it has a huge database--and it tallies it all up. You log your exercise as well and you gain additional calories for intake.

As you lose, it adjusts the number of calories you're allowed to consume. And since you just count calories, you don't necessarily have to give up the things you love. Of course, carbs and sugars usually contain a lot of calories, so you have to moderate your consumption.

So I'm proclaiming to all of you faithful followers that I'm back to watching what I eat and back to exercising once more. Please keep me accountable!

Anyone else watching their weight??

Monday, April 8, 2013

Saying goodbye

Goodbye sweet puppy.

We lost Sammy Friday evening after several days of her acting very unusual. I had an appointment with the vet for Saturday morning, but we didn't make it. She died somewhere around 6pm, and five months to the day after we put our other dog down. Very odd, since she never really seemed to grieve.

Hopefully, she's found her sister, Honey, and they're roaming the heavenly neighborhoods together on puppy adventures.

To remember our sweet doggies, we bought some flowers, Double Spider Shasta Daisies. So I spent the better part of Sunday tilling up the corner of the yard where they liked to lay and creating a flower bed.

Are you a pet lover? What's your preference? Dog, cat, bird, reptiles?

Friday, April 5, 2013

So I was thinking...

Last week, I was doing a bit of housekeeping on my writing group's website. After realizing I'd neglected to keep up with getting president columns added--specifically mine from last year--I spent a little time working on that. In adding them, I read them.

As I was reading, I thought how much I enjoyed writing them--even though it sometimes felt like a chore when I'd forgotten and had to get them to the newsletter editor yesterday. And I remembered one chapter member who told me how much she enjoyed reading about my writing ups and downs. Not in a mean way, you know...but that my long-term struggles and my optimism in overcoming them gave her encouragement.

Anyway, I sort of felt nostalgic about writing those and then I thought, Duh, Jen, you have a blog. You can write whatever you want whenever you want. Ha ha ha ha! My president columns were mostly about the state of the writing group or the state of my writing efforts. Mostly about goals. But I never wanted my blog to be all about my writing because if I ever get a fan following (aside from you lovely friends) they probably won't care so much about my writing trials and tribulations. They'll want to know me--all the crazy that makes me ME! And this blog covers all kinds of crazy things, doesn't it?

So today's Friday and after I get through the work day, it'll be back to working in the yard. I've still got a long way to go and since money is an object (see Wednesday's post) and I don't have much, I have to concentrate on things I can do without any (or much) of the stuff. The dead limb pile is still waiting for me and after all the rain (though we still need more) the lawns need to be mowed again. The patio needs a bit more Round Up applied as well as a good sweep. Then I'll probably have to pluck out the dead weeds that didn't come out of their own accord or with the help of the broom or the rain. And after that, I don't know. I think I'm going to buy some grass seed and start sprinkling it in.

What about you, friends? Big plans for the weekend??

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Wishful Wednesday or If money were no object...

Of course, we all have things we'd like to do or places we'd like to go if money were no object. Today is wishful Wednesday and if I had a boatload of money, well, there are all kinds of things I could do with it.

Aside from just selling the house and moving, I'd spend money on my house. The house needs money spent on it either way and I like my house for the most part. It's a nice size and has a decent sized yard. The schools in this part of town not withstanding, I like where I live. It's my neighborhood.

First thing on the list of way to spend money on the house: the foundation. The heatwave and drought from last year or the year before wreaked havoc on my foundation. But that's boring so all it gets is a quick mention.

If you're my friend on Facebook, you'll know I've spent a lot of time in my yard this past weekend, bagging up the last of last fall's leaves, decapitating dandelions, picking up petrified dog doody, etc., etc., etc.

So the next thing to spend money on is a privacy fence. Our neighbors to the east put one up a couple of years ago. The neighbors to the west have a partial one, but it's a mess. So I'd (pay someone to) pull down all the chain link (that was installed upside down) and then have the privacy fence installed backwards, if you will, with the stringers facing inward. They don't bother me and they'll gives me a nice strong surface on which to hang things: bird feeders, hanging baskets, lights, or whatever else tickles my fancy. I'd have double gates put in too for ease of hauling larger things in and out as necessary.

Last evening on my way home, I finally bought the Chinese wisteria I'd been hankering after for years. Not that I want it to grow too big or monstrous, but this! I love the scent of these blooms, soft and delicate and delicious...

(picture courtesy WikiCommons)

What about you? If you had a chunk of change, how would you spend it?

Monday, April 1, 2013

Movie Monday

For someone wanting to be a storyteller, I'm awfully bad about taking in other stories. Not only do I need to take them in, but when I come across one that really touches me, I need to study them. What about them did I like? How did the author, writer/director convey that thing that touched me? Etc., etc., etc....

In an effort to increase my storytelling intake as well as to just be entertained and absorb culture/pop culture, I'm going to watch a movie I've never seen before and share it with you here. I'll only be doing this every other week, so each Monday, following Fort Worth Friday, I'll have some thoughts on a movie.

First up, The Perks of Being a Wallflower starring Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller. It is based on the critically acclaimed novel of the same name. In 2012, the film was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Film.

It's a quirky and oft-times dark film. The story begins on Charlie's first day of high school sometime in the early 90s. He is friendless since the suicide of his best friend. He has another secret, which he doesn't even know at this point, as his mind has blocked all memories of it. The film follows Charlie through his freshman year as he makes friends with a clique of outcasts (all seniors), falling in love with one of the girls who is as messed up as he is.

At the end of the movie/year, he and Sam finally connect and they begin kissing and start down the path towards having sex. The film doesn't make it clear whether or not they follow through (they don't according to the write-up in Wikipedia), but while the two are making out, if you will, Charlie's repressed memories are finally unlocked. After he says goodbye to Sam as she heads off to Penn State the following morning, the images begin coming at him.

Charlie ends up in a psychiatric facility for several months as the doctor works with him to overcome the emotional/physical trauma he suffered.

The film ends on an upbeat and hopeful note.

I smiled through most of the first third of the film and grew more anxious though the second third and was figuratively biting my nails at the big black moment.

I really, really enjoyed this movie and give it a 10 on my movie reel rating system.

If you've seen it, what did you think? If you haven't, do you think you might based on my description and thoughts?