Sunday, February 7, 2016

Sunday Snapshot Super Bowley

downton abbey super bowl

Currently reading:

Mystery Man by Colin Bateman–The only reason I bought this book was because it's set in a bookstore I visited in Belfast. It's hilarious! Every time I pick it up I start giggling.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple–Bernadette's life is bumming me out.

Frommer's Easy Guide to Tokyo, Kyoto, and Western Honshu by Beth Reiber–I definitely think Reiber knows her stuff, but I really wish there were more maps, and the layout is confusing.

Posted:

My favorite bookish places in Ireland outside of Dublin and why I think reading series backwards is a good idea.

Movies watched:

13 hours movie
13 Hours, starring John Krasinski, other men with beards.

Much better than I was expecting! I'm not a big fan of Zero Dark Thirty or American Sniper, so I wasn't super looking forward to watching this; but it had a lot of humor to balance out the darker aspects of the story. Definitely told from the soldiers' point of view in a way that's entertaining and isn't *too* political (which makes me wonder if that's the real reason the film critics panned it–were they expecting Hollywood to rise up in defense of Hillary?). I also liked all the characters and thought the performances were really good. Some of the scenes pulled maybe a little too deliberately at our heartstrings, but overall worth watching.


burnt movie
Burnt, starring Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller

Adam Jones is a former chef de haute cuisine whose dazzling Paris career was ruined by drug abuse. He decides to return to cooking, so he goes to... London? Because it's cheaper to film there, I'm guessing. Mysteriously, all his Parisian frenemies are also in London running high-end restaurants, including the one who's a M.O.F.! That's like Michael Phelps announcing he's permanently moving to Africa to devote his life to swimming the Sahara. MAKES NO SENSE.

Anyway, aside from that, the utterly pointless romance, and the fact that I expected some deeper emotional closure at the end (or any closure), this movie wasn't too bad. I loved all the food scenes, and there were a ton of them. Foodies will enjoy it, but probably skippable if the idea of someone going into a rant over lemon juice makes you want to roll your eyes.

This week month in heidenkindom:

Sorry for the radio silence with Sunday Snapshot posts the last few weeks; I've been writing a book and just didn't have the energy to devote to blogging.

Not to mention, not a lot has been going on in the reading/movie front. I did start the Shade of Vampire series by Bella Forrest and it wasn't terrible? I actually really enjoyed it, but I'm taking a break for now.

Bonus:

My upcoming book, in case you're curious, will be called The Introvert's Guide to Drinking Alone, and will have my favorite cocktail recipes along with short (hopefully funny) essays. Give me a heads up if you'd like an advanced copy!

the introvert's guide to drinking alone cover



Have a great week! Go football teams!


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Saturday, January 16, 2016

Mini Bloggiesta Sign Up Post

mini bloggiesta badge

Mini Bloggiesta is this weekend. I'm hosting a mini-challenge on simple and easy ways to protect your privacy online, but I also have a short list of stuff I'd like to get done:


  • Write and publish my weekly Sunday Snapshot.
  • Go through my saved documents on Internet Typewriter.
  • Wake up early enough to participate in the Twitter chat.


And that's it! Good luck to everyone.

Discus this post with me on Twitter, FaceBook, Google+ or in the comments below.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Bloggiesta Mini-Challenge: Protect Your Privacy Online

privacy
"Graffiti in Shoreditch, London - Zabou, Privacy" Photo by KylaBorg via Flickr.

As bloggers, we want to share stuff over the internet: our posts, first of all, plus cute cat videos, pictures of our dogs, our favorite TV shows, Benedict Cumberbatch doing anything, selfies, the list goes on.

But there's some stuff you DON'T want to share, and for very good reasons. Simple personal information like your name, address, phone, and birthday can leave you vulnerable to anything from harassment and stalking to hacking and identity theft. You don't need to be Mark Zuckerberg or a member of Anonymous to hack someone:


Neither of these hackers were trained specialists, they just used Google to get the information they needed, then followed the daisy chain of connected accounts and information to break the online lives of their victims wide open.

The good news is, you can still share what you want while keeping what you don't want to be known private. Rather than hurting your blog, this can help keep you safe from people online who want to stop you from posting your opinions and sharing your experiences–people like Kathleen Hale, who stalked and visited the home of a Goodreads reviewer; or, more recently, Richard Brittain, who went to the workplace of a teenage girl who left a one-star review of his book and physically attacked her.

Will these reviewers ever feel safe sharing things online again? Maybe-probably not. Should you feel safe? ABSOLUTELY YES, and you can do so by taking some relatively simple steps.

For this Bloggiesta Mini-Challenge, complete these nine steps to start protecting your privacy online. If you want, feel free to post about your results here or on your own blog.

1. The first step is awareness. Find out what information is available about yourself by googling your name, telephone number, home address, and social security number in quotes. Reverse image search recent photos of yourself. If you own domain name[s], do a Whois search on ICANN to make sure your name and address isn't public.

2. Lock your computer and all your devices with a password. Make sure your hard drive is encrypted.

3. View your Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ profiles as someone else to see what information a stranger can get access to. Then adjust the privacy settings to what you're comfortable with.

4. Tape over your webcam. The NSA aren't the only ones who can turn on your webcam and watch you without your knowing; there are programs anyone can download that will remotely operate someone's webcam. (Needless to say, this is particularly important for young girls with computers in their bedrooms. There is a huge black market online for photos from these hacked webcams.)

5. Install anti-tracking plug-ins on your web browser[s], like AdBlock Plus and Ghostery. Use more than one!!

6. Sign up for a free online VoIP, aka wifi-based phone number. Great for dating, Craigslist ads, and companies that require your number when you don't want to give it to them. I use Talkatone, but there are a ton available, including Google Voice.

7. Use different passwords on all your accounts. Edward Snowden casually mentioned in Citizenfour that the NSA can track a person based on their passwords (if you're like most people, you probably only use three or four). Well, guess what? This is another thing not just the NSA can do. Anyone with an internet connection can track and find you based on your passwords.

I know it's a HUGE pain in the ass, but passwords are one of the lynchpins of privacy, and in the long run using different, strong passwords for all your accounts is a safety measure that's worth it. Fortunately, password managers like 1Password and LastPass make it slightly easier to deal with, so check them out.

8. And speaking of accounts, if you have different blogs, use a different email address for each (you can have all your email forwarded to just one address). Another, slight pain in the ass that will prevent people from wiping out all your blogs in one go if they wish (see: Mat Honan, above). NEVER use "one email to rule them all." Multiplicity is your friend.

9. Think about getting a PO Box (you'll understand why when you Google your name and address). If you need to accept packages from services that don't ship to PO Boxes, companies like PostNet also provide mailbox services and accept packages from FedEx and UPS. It'll cost some money, but it will also go a long way towards preventing identity theft, RL stalking, and hacking.

There's a lot more you can do, of course, but these are the first and simplest steps.

Further information:

  • The Smart Girl's Guide to Privacy: A Practical Guide for Staying Safe Online by Violet Blue: This book is a must-read, whether you're a "girl" or not. Blue covers how to get your personal information removed from websites, what to do if someone hacks or doxxes you, how to fight back against revenge porn and identity theft, and a ton more ways to protect your privacy.
  • In this interview, Edward Snowden suggests some tools to keep your online activity private. They're all fairly simple to download and use, even if I've found Tor Browser to be impractical for everyday internetting (it is fascinating to see exactly what websites will and won't work on it, though).
  • How Much Does Google Really Know About You? [Infographic] I guarantee you'll be shocked by how many pies Google has its fingers in. I still use Google, of course, but now I'm more aware of what I use it for and what information they have.


Questions? Tips? Please share them in the comments.




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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

In Support of Reading Series Backwards

going backwards

About a year ago, I wrote about the various ways one can read a book series, and that my favorite way to read a long-running series was backwards. Reactions to this methodology ranged from "crazy pants" to "no."

But really, guys. Reading a series backwards is the way to go (unless you start in the middle, then I would go progressively forward and THEN backwards, but let's just focus on starting with the most recent book and working backwards for now).

My appreciation for reading series backwards started with the Vicky Bliss series, which I partially blame for convincing me art history was a viable career option. I first read Night Train to Memphis when I was in fifth or sixth grade, and I LOVED it. I think to this day it's probably my most re-read book. It's the last in the Vicky Bliss series, so I set about reading the other books.

I can't swear in what order I read the books–the great thing about Elizabeth Peters novels is you don't have to read them in any order–but I do know I read the first book last, and it was a big disappointment. I'm not saying the last book was the best in the series, but if I'd read the first book first, I wouldn't have read the series at all.

Or take the Walt Longmire series, where the first book I read, Hell is Empty, was actually seventh in the series. I let my mom talk me into going back and starting with book one, and now I've completely run out of steam on reading the series (this happens to me a lot with series). I have exhausted all the fucks I have to give, and I could have spent those on the newer books instead of the older ones.

Recently, I read Dinner Most Deadly, a delightful book in Sheri Cobb South's John Pickett Mysteries series. One of the things I loved about it was that it wasn't immediately apparent what was going on. If I had known, however, it would have been all too obvious, and obviously less interesting for it. After starting the book immediately preceding it, Family Plot, I think Dinner Most Deadly was the first time South let her characters really take control of the book. I probably won't read any of the earlier books in the series, although I'm more than ready to read the next one!

The point is, reading a series backwards has many beneficial elements. You should try it!



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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Sunday Snapshot–It's 2016. Yay.

Calypso is enjoying my her new reading nook!

Sorry I missed last week's Sunday Snapshot. My mom and I went up to Denver and I didn't have time to write anything. Not the most auspicious start to 2016, but we're back on track today!

Currently reading:

The Martian by Andy Weir: There's soooo much science. I mean, it's a good book and all, but.
The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James: I can't resist a book about ghost hunters.

Posted:

My 2015 year-end round up, and a review of a very strange book titled Master Flea.

Movies watched:

love's kitchen movie
Love's Kitchen, starring Dougray Scott and Claire Forlani

Dougray Scott really has a talent for picking awful movies. Everything about this movie is low-rent: the script is a mess, and the production is about as appealing as a used couch dropped in front of a dumpster. I wouldn't take that couch!

That said, I loved Gordon Ramsay's cameo, and he's surprisingly not-terrible at acting. More Gordon Ramsay movies!

haute cuisine movie
Haute Cuisine, starring Catherine Frot

An epicurean delight. A delight, I tell you! Hortense is "invited" to be the President of France's personal cook, but she has to battle the misogynistic palace chefs and cabinet ministers in order to give the President what he wants: simple, classic dishes with real flavor. While the script wasn't perfect, the food was amazing and looked absolutely delicious. I loved how Hortense and the President bonded talking about cookbooks. Definitely recommend this one if you're a foodie, despite the lame ending.

finding vivian maier documentary
Finding Vivian Maier, directed by John Maloof and Charlie Siskel

In 2007, John Maloof won a box of negatives at auction that contained stunning photos of Chicago's street life in the '50s and '60s. The only thing Maloof knew about the photos were that they were by a woman named Vivian Maier. Who was she, and how and why did such a talented photographer remain unknown for her entire life?

Pretty compelling stuff. It combines three of my favorite things: historical research, photography, and weird people. Maier's story could have easily been lost to history, and much of it is still a mystery. Fortunately, through a twist of fate, she's receiving the recognition she deserves.

the revenant movie
The Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy

If you like snow, this is the movie for you! Mountain man Hugh Glass goes on a mission of revenge! after his son and wife are killed and he's left for dead by his companions. So it's basically like Jeremiah Johnson, only an hour longer and more depressing. Also, the revenge part is like 20 minutes and the other two hours and twenty minutes are a series of unfortunate happenings and disgusting medical conditions. But I will say the visuals were incredible, and Tom Hardy was amazing, as usual. If I had a cache of Oscars I would just start throwing them at him.

Sorry, Indian people, you're relegated to plot devices once again.

New Year Resolutions Time!

Even though I tend not to make resolutions, there are some things I'd like to do in 2016:

  • Freshen up my professional writing site. Did this already! I installed a new template and scheduled a bunch of posts to run with links to my articles.
  • Focus more on my fiction writing. While I make more money from non-fiction writing, fiction is really my passion and I recently decided I needed to do more of it, just for myself. Annnd I'll get started on that any day now.
  • Get back into food and drink writing. Ever since Food Riot shut down, I've been missing it. I get to write some foodie articles now and then, but I'd like to find another publication I can write for regularly, or write my own book.


Bonus

bloggiesta button


Next weekend is Bloggiesta! There's still time to sign up, so if you haven't done so yet get on it.

I'll be hosting a mini-challenge here about tips for online privacy. See you then!



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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 Year-End Wrap-Up

2015

2015 is exiting quickly, stage left. The first half of the year felt like it passed in a fever. I seemed to have no time to do anything, even though I really wasn't doing that much. Things kept happening, like my grandfather (who has dementia) wandering off, or thieves driving a Chevy Tahoe through the back of the store where I work. And then there was the fun and frivolity of moving my grandfather into a nursing home and going through/selling all of my grandparents' stuff. We kept a lot of it, but it's still sad to sell off the things they spent their lives collecting, even if logically we know we can't and don't want to keep it all.

But on the plus side I went to Ireland, which was super cool and amazing!

On the reading front, this year was a giant MEH. I read a lot of books that I liked, and some I thought were pretty boring, but none I loved or hated.

I did read more books than last year, so that's good, and I followed through on my New Year's resolution to read more graphic novels. But highlights were few and far between.

That said, here are few standout books and bookish stuff from 2015:

20 feet from stardom
Favorite documentary: 20 Feet from Stardom
I've always wanted to be a backup singer, and this documentary is a fascinating glimpse into their world. It questions the meaning of talent and success, and what it takes to be famous.

Runner-Up: Exit Through the Gift Shop
I love Banksy. Someday I'm going to write a romance novel where the hero is basically Banksy, except he won't have tiny little rat hands because that's creepy.

Favorite comeback novel: Cold-Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas
Not a perfect book, but certainly classic Kleypas. I couldn't be happier she's writing historical romances again.

oblivion by kelly creagh
Most disappointing read: Oblivion by Kelly Creagh
I adored the first book in this trilogy, Nevermore, so much I bought the hardcover. But Oblivion was such an awful mess that it completely ruined the entire series for me. I can't even look at the spine of Nevermore on my shelf anymore without feeling resentment. Enough with the unnecessary trilogies already! If your book should just be one book, admit it and move on. Or write different variations of the same book over and over again, like Glenna Finley. Whatever floats your boat.

Favorite romance novel: All For You by Laura Florand
It should come as no surprise that Florand is on this list. All For You is sweet and warm fuzzy-making, I just want to hug it.

the sculptor scott mccloud
Favorite graphic novel: The Sculptor by Scott McCloud
It reminded me of Scott Pilgrim, which I loved.

Runner-up: What Did You Eat Yesterday? Vol. 1 by Fumi Yoshinaga
This made me soooo hunnnnngryyyy.

Favorite mystery: Queenpin by Megan Abbott
It's not precisely a mystery, more of a crime noir. But still very good stuff!

Favorite new-to-me author: KJ Charles
Charles' books are simply fantastic, fun reads.

nimona
Hype that I just don't get: Nimona
I mean, it was okay. The beginning was really fun. But by the end I was ready for it to be over.

Hype I *do* get: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
I'm still making my way through the "miscellaneous" category, but I'm really glad I decided to buy this book and give it a try. My come to jesus moment was clearing out all the papers I had–they were EVERYWHERE. I was drowning in unnecessary paper and never even realized it! Plus, this book has already helped me realize my dream of setting up a reading nook in my bedroom.

sherlock baker street
Literary obsession of the year: Sherlock Holmes
Of course, I normally think Sherlock Holmes is pretty awesome, but this year in particular seemed to be all about Holmes. I hosted a Sherlock month at Book Bloggers International, wrote posts on Sherlockian tourist destinations and Irene Adler for Book Riot, went to The International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes, saw the new movie Mr. Holmes, joined a Sherlockian society, and read several books all about the great detective.

Non-literary obsession of the year: Subscription box services
2015 was definitely the year of the subscription boxes. I wrote an article about them for The PULP, and subscribed to more than a few. My favorites are Ipsy–it's affordable and they really do send quality items–and Le Tote. I'm planning to cancel all my boxes besides those two in 2016 to save money, but Rocks Box and Wantable are also good deals I would recommend checking out.

FOODIE SECTION

kitchen confidential
Most delish foodie TV series: Kitchen Confidential
I really got into streaming foodie shows this year–Mind of a Chef, etc.–but Kitchen Confidential is my favorite. Hard to beat an awesome cast channeling Anthony Bourdain.

Favorite Foodie Romance: A Taste of Heaven by Penny Watson
A charming story about trust and family. The cooking competition is like The Great British Baking Show meets Top Chef–my two favorites!

Runner-up: The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain
Not strictly a foodie romance, but so many descriptions of delicious French food, plus a very cute and sweet romance.

packie's restaurant kenmare ireland
Most memorable meal: Packie's, Kenmare, Ireland
This was my birthday dinner and it was AWWWWESOME. The spaghetti was to die for and the service genuine and friendly. Actually, nearly all the restaurants we ate at in Ireland were very, very good. If you're looking for a foodie destination Ireland's your jam.

Cocktail of the year: the Seelbach
At some point in 2015 I decided I cannot live without having one of these every day. It combines some of my favorite things: champagne (actually I use cava, I'm not moneyed enough to drink champagne every day), bourbon, and bitters. Add in some Cointreau and you have a pretty delish, posh cocktail that's the perfect conclusion to a long day of making words.



2015 BY THE NUMBERS


  • 108 books read total (so far–I'm very close to finishing 2 more)
  • Of those, about 30% were written by men and 70% by women.
  • 19 of my books were nonfiction, 42% of which were written by men.
  • I DNF'd 18 books, less than I thought.
  • I read 19 classics, 47% of which were written by men.
  • 30 books were published in 2015, a lot by my standards.
  • As for diversity, that could use some major work on my part–only 8 authors I read this year were POC! (as far as I can tell, at least). I generally don't keep track of this but maybe I should start.



Finally, thanks to all of you for reading, visiting, commenting, and discussing books with me this past year. You guys are the best! Here's to having an amazing 2016.




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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Sunday Snapshot Says Adios to 2015


Currently Reading:

The Valley of Fear by Arthur Conan Doyle: Different from what I was expecting.
My Fair Gentleman by Nancy Campbell Allen: I can never resist a My Fair Lady adaptation.

Posted:

A review of The Conjure Woman by Charles Waddell Chesnutt over at Project Gutenberg Project.

Movies watched:

cinderella
Cinderella, starring Lily James, Richard Madden, and Cate Blanchett

What is up with Disney and the long-ass unnecessary prologues lately? Get your shit together, Disney. Anyway, this movie has a lot of problems, which I may enumerate on in greater detail in the future. For now let's just say I'm happy I didn't drag myself to the theater to see it and leave it at that.

star wars: the force awakens
Star Wars: The Force Awakens, starring Keira Knightley oops Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Adam Driver

Proposed alternate title: Star Wars, The First Movie Redux

This movie was okay. I've certainly seen worse Star Wars movies *coughthephantommenacecough* and I liked the new main characters–although Kylo Ren or Renlo Kye or whatever the hell his name is was way too chatty and pretty to be taken seriously (actually, now that I think about it, all three were way too pretty for their characters). But come on people, can we not have an original plot idea here? If this story devolves into a YA-novelish love triangle I'm going to be pretty annoyed.

This week in heidenkindom:

I hope you all had a nice Christmas if you celebrate it, or at least a few days of R&R if you don't. It's hard to believe 2015 is almost over. I really need to get started on that yearly wrap up post, but I'm having trouble remembering anything before July. I knew I should have done a mid-year wrap-up.

Anyway, the next time I post one of these snapshots it'll be 2016. Have a fantastic New Year's, everyone!

Bonus:

This is the type of recipe that makes me sad I can't eat chocolate: CHOCOLATE WINE! I want to try it so badly. You all should make it and tell me how it is.



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