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Franklin Bear

Everett Bear

I have a long list in my head of things that I want to blog about, but when I think about those topics (fostering, having and then living with the fact that I had cancer, the experience of having Everett and our struggles with infertility, becoming disabled through social security, etc.) my head wants to explode. Mostly, everything that I want to share right now is just too emotionally draining. In order to write effectively about it, I would have to delve back into that brain space because that’s just how I write. I haven’t been sleeping lately, so those topics are just going to have to wait, lest I start to weep openly in Starbucks. Instead, I think I’m going to share a story about something that happened the other night.

We have a bedtime routine for Everett. I insist we follow it, even when we are tired and don’t feel like it. Everett sleeps better and then we do too. Ben was running his bath and I was holding him in the bathroom waiting for his little tub to fill with warm water and bubbles. Recently, he has begun to notice the artwork on the walls. He’s amazed by the little red elephant tile I have hung in our master bathroom.  And he smiles and laughs at the pop-art painting of a schnauzer wearing sunglasses and a scarf my parents brought back from a trip they took down south.

Not long before we found out I was pregnant, my Great Uncle Frank passed away. We were very close to him and his passing was a great loss to me and the rest of the family. Uncle Frank was well loved by his community of antique dealers and artist friends. His closest surviving friend, Ceil, has become like another member of our family. She never had children (although my understanding is that they tried for many years). Her husband has passed away as well, leaving her alone in their little rancher. She is in her nineties and is about as spunky as they come. I think because of her own fertility struggles, she has developed an extra affinity for me, and was beyond excited to hear our good news.

Uncle Frank was a great many things, but he had an artist’s sensibilities. He painted mostly still-life in oil. But as a present for Ceil one year, he painted one of her favorite teddy bears in watercolor. When Ceil found out that I was pregnant, she made the painting a gift to me and Everett. It is framed in gold molding and has a lot of yellow hues. Because we chose to do the baby’s bathroom in yellow, I hung it next to the mirror.

So the other night I was holding Everett and we were waiting on the bath. Instead of playing peek-a-boo with himself in the mirror, he was staring intently and smiling at the painting. I told him that that was Franklin Bear and that Franklin was part of his name too. “You are Everett Franklin after the man who painted that bear,” I said. He gave the biggest smile, reached out his whole arm, and opened and closed his hand in perfect replication of how I’ve been teaching him to say hello and goodbye. He did this several times. He has never done this before, no matter how much I prompt. I asked him, “Are you saying hello to Franklin Bear?” He smiled at me, gave a little laugh, and did it again.

I don’t know why I found this so touching; perhaps because I don’t believe in an afterlife. I think there doesn’t need to be some other place where souls go. Uncle Frank is in Everett, he’s in that painting, and he’s in our hearts. And isn’t that enough? I think it is. I think there is something beautiful about Everett smiling and saying his first hello to Franklin Bear. Uncle Frank may never know my son, but my son will know him through his art, his generosity, and the imprint he has had on our lives. Who could ask for a better legacy than that? In the end we are only the love that we shared with others.

Ok, so much for not weeping openly in Starbucks. Until next time, have a beautiful week and take time to appreciate and love the ones around you.

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Book Challenge 2013 (My Crazy Life)

I am writing this through a haze of pain and medication. Perhaps when I open this document to edit it tomorrow I will discover that all that is here is gibberish and an atrocity of grammatical errors and misspellings. Tuesday is my writing day. And by “writing day,” I mean – my mother-in-law graciously has agreed to babysit for me and somewhere in between the scrubbing of bathrooms, the laundry, the dishes, the banking, the grocery shopping, the doctors and vet appointments, and all the other things that must get done, I try to get to Starbucks for an hour to shove a salad down my gullet and write something of interest.

 

That didn’t happen this Tuesday. As usual, there were other demands. We had a wedding to go to (which was lovely), but Tuesday is my day. All the other days and hours belong to everyone else. But I just want one hour on a Tuesday to do something for myself that is not health related. That didn’t happen though.

 

So now I’m writing this blog at 10:00 pm on a Thursday. I’ve cleaned, and organized, banked, and scheduled appointments. The baby’s been fed and bathed and Ben is reading to him in the other room. My body aches after my nightly medical “routine.”  I’m in bed reading all the posts on Facebook, and all I can think about is how much I want, no need, to write. What I write is not important. It’s not important if anyone reads it, although that would be nice. What’s important to me is the act. I feel stagnant, physically drained, emotional without an outlet. There are times when I feel like I don’t have creative energy, but this is not one of those times. Right now I feel like I have too much creative energy, and no actual physical energy to meet the creativity’s demands. I feel like all that creativity is just sitting and it’s making me agitated and fidgety.

 

This is not the point of this blog, however. All of that is just a tangent. What I really want to write about is the reading, or lack of reading, that I did last year.

 

Usually, I try to shoot for fifty books a year. That is about my max capability. I am not a fast reader, but I read frequently. I always carry a book in my purse. Because I am often in doctor’s offices, and I get 10 – 20 minutes before appointments of uninterrupted reading done. I had also gotten into the habit of reading a chapter or three before bed. I read in checkout lines at the store or while waiting for Ben in the car. I also would read at Starbucks almost every day before I became pregnant.

 

When I got pregnant, all of that changed. The nausea was so intense; I couldn’t focus enough to make the words make sense in my head. I started listening to audio books and podcasts while playing Mindcraft. This worked great until Mindcraft refused to update on my computer for some reason. I watched a lot of television: The Wire, Sports Night, Homeland, Justified, Deadwood, Firefly, House of Cards, House of Lies, and Dexter. During this time, the final Wheel of Time book came out. I just couldn’t read it. This is coming from a girl who wept more when she heard about Robert Jordan’s death then she did when she was first told she had colon cancer. That’s how bad my pregnancy nausea was.

 

After Everett was born, I foolishly assumed the nausea would go away and I would have time before bed to read again. Ha! I knew the baby was going to be a lot of work and certainly I had heard about sleep deprivation and how intense those first few months are, but I really was not prepared for what was to follow. Everett was colicky and cried all the time. We had latch issues so I had to pump every three to four hours for three months straight. I struggled (and continue to struggle) with post-partum depression. I’m exhausted all the time, but I can’t sleep. These things do not lead to productive reading. Still, I did manage to get a few books in and I’m grateful for the time I did have. A year with no books would be too sad to bear.

 

So what did I read? Here’s my list according to Goodreads (which I update pretty religiously):

 

1. Narcissus In Chains, Laurell K Hamilton

2. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir, Jenny Lawson

3. Cerulean Sins, Laurell K Hamilton

4. Killbox, Ann Aguirre

5. Dead Ever After, Charlaine Harris

6. Kushiel’s Scion, Jacqueline Carey

7. Kushiel’s Justice, Jacqueline Carey

8. Kushiel’s Mercy, Jacqueline Carey

9. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, Laurie R King

 

*Spoilers*

 

Anita Blake:

The two Hamilton books were filled with sexy scenes and seriously struggled when it came to plot. I’m not even really sure what happened in Cerulean Sins except a lot of sex. And the worst part is that the main character wasn’t even really an active, willing participant in the sex. She was basically hexed with it. And although she enjoyed it while it was happening, she really had issues with it after the fact. I don’t know if I particularly like what these books have to say about women and sex. Anita is capable and badass in the first few books, but what she has become is bizarre to me. It’s like the author is trying to show that Anita has the power to do whatever she wants and it’s ok to be sexual, but the way she gets Anita to that space is to basically strip away her free will. Yeah! Sex is awesome! But you wouldn’t be learning this very important lesson unless the “monsters” made you… what?!

 

Sookie Stackhouse:

Dead Ever After was a disappointment. Not because I needed Sookie to end up with Eric, but because a lot of it felt phoned in. It was like Charlaine Harris was tired of these characters, but needed to write one more book to be done with them. Her writing didn’t feel like an act of love, it felt like a boring chore. And I’m sorry, but if the world was falling down around you and you had important information to give another person – a person whose life could be in jeopardy if you failed to give her the information – you would not wait until after dinner, rest, or whatever the hell other plot contrivance Harris could think up. That was possibly the most annoying thing of all. That and the fact that when Sookie does finally have sex with Sam, it’s like dropped in from out of nowhere. There’s no build, no lead up, just wham, bam, thank you mam. She just waltzes over to his trailer and they do it. After all the times they have been in situations where it would have felt totally natural for it to happen, it’s a total let down that that is how it happens.

 

The Bloggess:

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, however, was delightful. It’s one I had been eyeing for quite some time, but just couldn’t justify the expense of a hardback. I was super happy to find it under the Christmas tree last year. It was both hilarious and made me a little teary when she talked about her struggles with getting and staying pregnant and the love she has for her daughter. Mostly though, the book is hilarious and I feel as though I am a kindred spirit with Jenny. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend that you do. Also, you should check out her blog at http://thebloggess.com/

 

Jacqueline Carey:

This was the second trilogy in the Kushiel series. I adore these books. The way that you can tell is that they are about 1,000 pages each and I still found time this year to read all three. These follow the character of Imriel, who was introduced in the third book of the first trilogy. I wish Carey had handled Imriel overcoming his abuse a little differently, but overall I think it’s a beautiful love story, if not exactly what I expected.

 

Sirantha Jax:

I love this series and have two more to read. I may write an entire blog once I finish.

 

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice:

This was a perfect book to read after watching the BBC’s modernization of Sherlock Holmes. If you are a Sherlock purist, this might not be the book (or series) for you. I’ve also read a lot of reviewers who complain that Mary Russell is a total Mary Sue. I have definitely read worse Mary Sues. To keep up with Homes and not just be a female version of Watson, she would have to be pretty spectacular. I mean Sherlock has his faults, but he’s amazing. It would then follow that Marry Russell, as his apprentice, would have to be amazing too. Otherwise, it wouldn’t make sense for Sherlock to bother with her. I know later in the series they become lovers. I’m not sure how I feel about this. I’m not generally one to have a problem with age differences, but the fact that he is first her mentor and plays a rather fatherly role – I do worry that the romance is going to feel a little bit icky. Just some thoughts…

 

So that was my year in reading. I also started, but did not finish several audiobooks, which hopefully I will find the time to complete in the near future. Audiobooks have taken a backseat to my podcasts. And podcasts have taken a backseat to the baby. I use to have time to listen to these while I drove, did chores, and worked on my art and crafts. Now I have the baby and all multitasking has to do with him and the other thing I am trying to accomplish. Plus, I don’t know if Sex Nerd Sandra is particularly appropriate listening for a 9 month old. I mean, I want him to be comfortable with himself, but I’m pretty sure learning about dominant / submissive sexual styles is not really appropriate or necessary.

 

So on that note, I will leave you until next Tuesday. Here’s to hoping I find that hour at Starbucks and that my mocha is tasty and full of caffeine.     

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Interlude

So last week was a blog fail. I had intentions of writing about my reading habits and books that I liked in 2013, but instead I spent the day with my head in the toilet. It was not a pleasant week, but I was lucky to have help from my dad and my mother-in-law. All three of us (Ben, Everett, and I) got sick to varying degrees. I ended up in the hospital, Ben took two days to recover, and Everett is over the stomach flu, but is having residual reflux issues. This has lead to many sleepless nights, calls to the pediatrician, and finally a temporary switch over to soy formula. My brother assures me that this will only help in our efforts to raise a liberal child, as soy is all the rage with liberals.

I really can’t believe that it’s already been a full two weeks since my last entry. Time moves simultaneously fast and slow. Certainly those days where I couldn’t get out of bed seemed an eternity, but looking back I can’t believe that last week was here and gone.

I did get some things accomplished between there and here. Ben and my project for Everett’s birthday has really started to come along. We’ve decided that we are going to make him a play kitchen. I’ve seen a lot of really cool ones that people have done and posted pictures of online. The difficulty level is certainly within our capabilities. I’d say only half as difficult as the sofa tub.

Several weeks ago, I contacted someone on Craigslist (a very nice elderly couple who are in the process of downsizing) and purchased a small wooden entertainment center for twenty dollars. Ben hauled it home in the snow and ice and it sat in his Jeep for about a week before he was able to get it into the garage.

The weather here has been pretty terrible; lots of snow, ice, and record lows in temperature. Apparently, we’re in the middle of something called a Polar Vortex. I’m pretty sure I used to like snow, but now it signifies long gaps in my ability to interact with other humans outside of Facebook. My anxiety is too great to take the baby out in slippery weather. Even with my new fancy OnStar equipment I don’t really relish the idea of getting stuck out with the baby with the temperatures so low.

Three weeks ago Ben and I went to a Reuse and Recycle construction store in York. It was an interesting mix of home items, some nicer than others. We did get a great deal on hinges (well below the price at Lowes), some hardware to make the “cabinets” a little more modern, and a rack we can repurpose for the little oven. We also got old wooden blinds that I’m going to paint, hang above his little sink, and put a picture behind so that when he opens them it looks like he’s taking in a landscape.

Two weeks ago I purchased a fruit printed material that I’m going to turn into the curtains for the window. And I found this awesome herb printed burlap that I’m lining with simple black fabric and sewing into miniature reusable shopping bags. Ben and I also went to the dollar store and Goodwill and found some awesome little wire baskets and colorful plastic cooking utensils that will be safe for him to chew on. It’s all coming together at an affordable cost. It’s amazing what you can do with a little creativity and elbow grease.

So that’s what I’ve been up to lately. When we finish the project I’ll do a full write up with pictures. Until then, I’ll keep you updated on the process. Next week I’m going to try and get that reading blog posted. For now, I’m going to try to stay warm, snuggle my little one, and try not to let the house fall to hell.

Hope life is grand wherever you are.

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2012’s Fifty Book Challenge (A Retrospective)

Disclaimer: I started writing this blog roughly a year ago and never ended up finishing it due to pregnancy complications and the subsequent birth of our son, Everett. It’s been a crazy year, but I’m finally getting to a place where I think I will be able to blog consistently again. This is largely due to the fact that my wonderful mother-in-law has agreed to babysit for us on Tuesdays. This gives me a little free time to breath and also run approximately 1,000 errands. Still, a quiet hour at Starbucks is an amazing opportunity and I plan to take my free time seriously. I have books to read, cross-stitches to finish, curtains to hem, and things to say. And this platform seems like the way to go. I love those beautiful journals for writing down your thoughts, but to be honest, my handwriting is shit. And although my spelling has greatly improved over the years, I still rely heavily on autocorrect. Plus I’m a sharer. Ok, I’m an over-sharer. Sorry folks. Just wanted to let you know what you were getting into.

So without further ado, here are my thoughts on the books I read over a year ago. Next week I plan on writing a list and review for 2013, which will be much shorter as I only read about 10 books last year. The rest of the blog has been slightly modified from it’s original writing so that it makes present-sense.

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This past year I’ve learned quite a bit about myself and my reading habits. I’ve discovered that nausea is not conducive to reading. Prior to experiencing an extended stint of hyperemesis gravidarum (beginning in August and continuing until the day my son was born), I read forty-eight books. After I started feeling the need to vomit on a regular basis, I read just four. I believe I was well on my way to an all-time reading record for the year, but alas, we will never know.

Also, I’ve discovered that I may have a commitment problem. Here are the books that I tried to read in 2012, many of which I am well over a third of the way through:

1. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clark

2. Changless, Gail Carriger

3. Under the Vale and Other Tales from Valdemar, Mercedes Lackey

4. The Sagan Diary, John Scalzi

5. Hyperion, Dan Simmons

6. The Blinding Knife, Brent Weeks

7. The Gunslinger, Stephen King

8. American Gods, Neil Gaiman

9. Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson

10. Tigana, Guy Gavriel Kay

11. Kushiel’s Scion, Jacqueline Carey

12. The City and The City, Chine Mieville

Wow. So that’s a little depressing. Also, when I look at this list I realize that I haven’t even “lemed” any of them. I’ve enjoyed each to varying degrees and have a bunch of weird reasons for not finishing. For example, the Brent Weeks book was  borrowed from the library the week it was released. I couldn’t finish it in my two week allotment, but because it was new I wasn’t allowed to renew it. Then I got caught up with a bunch of other books and haven’t had the time to take it out again. Kushiel’s Scion was awesome, but I picked that one up at a used book store. Some of the pages were a little grotty. Apparently it was so good that the previous owner couldn’t put it down… even to eat. When the morning sickness hit, it became untenable. Back to my shelf it went.

Another thing that has changed my reading habits is my participation in Felicia Day’s Vaginal Fantasy Hangout. I’ve talked about this a little through Facebook, but it really has opened my eyes to an entire new genre of fiction. I always thought that romance had to be silly or unintelligent, but there’s a whole sub-genre of romance that I’m discovering is a lot of fun. Now I’m not purporting that all Paranormal Romance is written for rocket scientists, but there were some novels that I read for the book club that were really smart and thought provoking and also fulfilled my need for a little fantasy (which is my genre of choice). Also, it was really nice to read books with female protagonists. In fact, forty-seven out of the fifty-two books that I read in 2012 either had females as the main protagonist or had female first person perspective in a multi-perspective narrative. This is compared to the previous year where only twenty-seven out of fifty met this criteria. The idea of reading female-centric books was not one that I intentionally made, but I find it interesting nonetheless.

So, without further ado, here are the books in 2012 (mostly in order):

1. The Paris Wife, Paula McLain

2. The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party, Alexander McCall Smith

3. Crossed, Ally Condie

4. The Laughing Corpse, Laurell K Hamilton

5. Bloody Bones, Laurell K Hamilton

6. The Black Prism, Brent Weeks

7. Beyond the Shadows, Brent Weeks

8. Circus of the Damned, Laurell K Hamilton

9. The Lunatic Cafe, Laurell K Hamilton

10. Burnt Offerings, Laurell K Hamilton

11. The Killing Dance, Laurell K Hamilton

12. Blue Moon, Laurell K Hamilton

13. Obsidian Butterfly, Laurell K Hamilton

14. Bluebeard, Kurt Vonnegut

15. The Nerdist Way, Chris Hardwick

16. Dragonsong, Anne McCaffrey

17. An Uncommon Reader, Amos Henry Hawley

18. If I Stay, Gayle Forman

19. Dragonsinger, Anne McCaffrey

20. Dragondrums, Anne McCaffrey

21. Rosemary and Rue, Seanan McGuire

22. The Iron Duke, Meljean Brook

23. A Local Habitation, Seanan McGuire

24. The Walking Dead, Vol. 1, Robert Kirkman

25. Girl Genius, Vol. 1, Phil Foglio

26. Gabriel’s Ghost, Linnea Sinclair

27. Grimspace, Ann Aguirre

28. Enclave, Ann Aguirre

29. Deadlocked, Charlaine Harris

30. Redshirts, John Scalzi

31. Demon Angel, Meljean Brook

32. The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection, Alexander McCall Smith

33. Kushiel’s Dart, Jacqueline Carey

34. Desperate Duchesses, Eloisa James

35. Daughter of the Blood, Ann Bishop

36. Heir to the Shadows, Ann Bishop

37. Queen of the Darkness, Ann Bishop

38. Kushiel’s Chosen, Jacqueline Carey

39. Kushiel’s Avatar, Jacqueline Carey

40. An Affair Before Christmas, Eloisa James

41. Duchess by Night, Eloisa James

42. Ill Wind, Rachel Caine

43. Feed, Mira Grant

44. Moon Called, Patricia Briggs

45. A Bone to Pick, Charlaine Harris

46. When the Duke Returns, Eloisa James

47. The Magician King, Lev Grossman

48. Wanderlust, Ann Aguirre

49. Double Blind, Ann Aguirre

50. Cold Days, Jim Butcher

51. This Duchess of Mine, Eloisa James

There are lots of things that I could write about each of these novels. Some I enjoyed more than others, but overall I found 2012 to be a very enjoyable year for reading. Many of these books are part of a series. Perhaps when I complete a series (or at least catch up) I will write a blog for each. Let me know if you would be interested in reading something like that in the comments section below.

I have lots of ideas for  blogs, and intend to post minimally each Tuesday. I’m hoping to sneak a couple more posts in per week, but we’ll see how my health/energy holds. There are lots of things that I want to talk about: motherhood, my experiences with fostering, projects I’m working on, my breast reduction, dealing with social security, living with the fact that I had cancer, my secret aspirations to someday to standup… Hopefully you will enjoy reading about my crazy life and the myriad of experiences and nerdy things I love. Till next time 🙂

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Tales from New York City, World Trade Center

The last time I was in New York City was the summer of 2000. At that time I had no inclination that our world, as Americans, was about to change. I remember when I was young, my grandmother would recount the story of where she was when Kennedy was shot. She had blood poisoning creeping up her arm and was out hanging laundry in the yard. Of course, everyone was transfixed by their televisions as the whole devastating mess unfolded.

Much was the same when the Twin Towers fell. I got a call from my mother who very succinctly ask me if I was watching the television. I said that I wasn’t. I was instead laying on the couch staring into space because my wisdom teeth extraction had turned to dry socket and I was in terrible pain. She declared that we were “under attack” and recommended I go turn on the TV. Then she went back to taking care of her class at school, leaving me to wander into the TV room and start flipping through the stations. Channel after channel showed similar footage, and I watched live as the second tower collapsed and men and women leapt to their deaths.

Ten days later I left for Ireland, via Newark, NJ. It was recommended that we show up about five hours before departure and there was no guarantee that we would actually be making our international flight. We did eventually depart, but security was tight and customs took an inordinate amount of time. From there I watched the perception of my country’s plight change from empathy to anger. Near the end of my year in Ireland, my accent marked me an “Ugly American,” and I could hardly order coffee without someone making a comment about our impending involvement in Iraq. Our ultimate reaction was treated with both confusion and disdain.

And so recently, when my sister-in-law, Kristin, invited me to take a day trip to NYC – I was both excited and anxious. I still can’t watch any programming about 9/11 without becoming a complete emotional mess. The whole thing has left me completely traumatized. At times I feel guilty about my reaction because I haven’t personally lost anyone to the attacks or the wars, and yet I continue to carry it as a very personal loss. There are other times when I feel this reaction is appropriate. Perhaps if we all continued to feel the great communal loss of that event there would be less focus on banning birth control and more energy and interest placed on our foreign policy and diplomacy…

We took a bus to N.Y.C. from Nazareth. From there we took the subway to the World Trade Center. We walked up the steps, out of the station, and there it was: the tallest building in New York. Just days before our visit the construction team was able to announce that they had placed the beam that officially made the second tower taller than the Empire State Building. Looking up, up, up, I witnessed the tower fade into the clouds. It was an awesome moment of reflection on our capacity as humans to both create and to destroy. I managed to keep it together in that instance, and have since found the experience to be a calming thought in an otherwise vivid and terrible memory.

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I Dreamed of Cupcakes

So this month is Ben’s birthday and I had a timely dream about cupcakes.

Seriously.

This is how the conversation went:

Ben: These cupcakes are amazing. Where’d you get the recipe?
Me: There’s no recipe. I dreamed them.
Ben: What?
Me: I had a dream that I made them.
Ben: Wait. You had a dream?
Me: Yep. So this morning I got up and went to the store, bought the ingredients, and then came home and made them.
Ben: Well, you should keep dreaming cupcakes.
Me: I’ll try.

So here’s how I made them:

First, I cheated. I bought a white cake box mix, and I mixed everything together following the mix instructions.

Here’s where it gets good: I then chopped up half a jar of maraschino cherries into little bites.  The cherries help to keep the cupcakes moist and add awesome flavor.

I folded the cherries in the mix along with about ½ a bag of mini dark chocolate chips.

I baked according to box instructions.

I let them cool.

I put the frosting, also store bought, in a freezer bag and snipped the corner off with scissors (that’s how the frosting is so pretty) and piped it on top.

Then I used one of those red gel tubes to make the spiral design for a little flare.

Easy and delicious. Hope you enjoy!

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Geek Revolution: Podcast Explosion!

As I discussed in my first Geek Revolution blog (Why I’m a Nerd/Geek), nerds and geeks tend toward the niche. We like things with an intensity that often turns into an identifying part of our persona. These interests can really be anything. You can be a garden geek, a math nerd, or in my case – a genre-book girl.

Technology is also often inextricably linked to our community. Maybe that’s because back in the day one had to really have an intense interest and focus to utilize the technology that was available. With the advent and popularization of portable and accessible technology, the old cliche of a lonely forty-year-old man in his basement with a room full of computer parts is a thing of the past

More and more, people are becoming technologically savvy and this has given our society both an audience and a market for all that is niche. This is what, I believe, creates the byproduct of “Geek Chic.” When anyone can access what they’re interested in (yes, even sports) at any given moment, and be connected with other enthusiasts in real-time, then the Star Trek forums that have been around since everyone used DOS don’t seem so weird.

What I want to talk about today is one of ways technology has helped to create communities of niche enthusiasts: Podcasts. Because believe me when I say, there is a podcast for everything. For some of you, you’ll already know what I’m talking about. You can skip down to the recommendations section to see what I’m currently listening to. But if you’re scratching your head and asking yourself, “What’s a podcast?” – then read on!

What is a podcast?

A podcast is like talk-radio, only available when and how you want it. You can stream them live off the web with your browser open or minimized, or you can download them as mp3s and listen to them on an mp3 player or off your smartphone.

Where can I find podcasts?

Podcasts generally have their own website where you can download or stream directly. iTunes also has a comprehensive selection, but you’ll have to download the iTunes player on your computer if you want to access podcasts this way (just click the install button and follow the prompts). There are also several apps. for smartphones that will help you keep track of your podcasts and episodes. If you have an iPhone, you can access the iTunes store easily from your device. I have an LG that runs the Android operating system. For my purposes, I’ve really enjoyed using the Beyond Podcast application. The standard version is free, but for a couple dollars you can upgrade it for more options.

What topics are covered on podcasts?

Virtually everything. There are crafting, gardening, sports (general and specific), comedy, reading, writing, political and news oriented podcasts. If you can think of something you would be interested in learning about, there’s probably a podcast out there about it. If there are two things that you are interested in, for example, nutrition and gardening – there’s a podcast for it! Those two things are pretty close in topic, but some mashups can get really interesting. The best part is, if your cross-section of interests doesn’t exist as a podcast, it’s easy to make your own! (more on that later…maybe)

How long are podcasts and how much time between episodes?

The ones I’ve listened to range anywhere from fifteen minutes to two hours. There are no strict rules. Some shows post once a month, once a week, or several times a week. It’s all up to the show runner.

How much do podcasts cost?

Most podcasts are free! That’s right, zero dollars. There are a few shows that have figured out how to charge subscription fees, but all the ones that I listen to are 100% free. Podcasters usually make their money through advertisements, which are often placed at the begin or the end of the program. And a lot of shows are created and maintained, not as businesses, but out of the sheer love of the topic at hand.

Note: Not all podcasts are equal. Some have poor audio quality or the show-runner isn’t very talented. But don’t give up! There are a lot of really excellent shows out there. A quick Google search can help you find well reviewed, quality shows.

Here are some of the ones that I’m into right now:

 

Adventures SciFi Publishing: Run by Shaun Farrel, with contributors Moses Siregar, Brent Bowen, Matt Hughes and Miranda Suri. This podcast focuses on the publishing industry and features upcoming books and events in the SciFi and Fantasy community. They also interview all my favorite authors. They talk writing process and business. Podcast length varies episode to episode and production value is typically really good. I sometimes find the sponsor placement a little distracting, but who am I to complain? It’s free!

 

Making It, Riki Lindhome: Riki is one half of the comedy band Garfunkel and Oates. She’s quirky and fun and her podcast focuses on people in the entertainment business. She talks to people like Joss Weadon, Felicia Day, and Matt Walsh  “about how they started, how they’ve kept it going and what they’ve learned along the way.”

 

Sex Nerd Sandra: For all of your sex-positive inquiries and more. This show is funny and is endlessly fascinating to me. The descriptor for the show reads: “Listen in as the endlessly curious sex educator Sandra Daugherty and her comedian co-host, Dave Ross explore the fascinating world of human sexuality. With tell-all interviews, juicy topics, tips and more, Sandra and Dave keep it fun, keep it sex-positive and keep it real.” Good times, people, good times.

 

Sword and Laser: Run by Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt, this podcast sprung from its original form as a fanforum/book club. Veronica and Tom are snarky and their personalities play well off one another. The structure of this podcast centers around their pick of the month. They keep their listeners up-to-date on the latest news and publications, review fun topics of discussions from their forum, interview industry notables, and talk about what they are currently reading.

 

The Nerdist: This is the podcast that got me into podcasts. Sure, I’d listened to one here or there from links placed on my favorite author’s blog, but this is the first one that I listened to consistently. I don’t even know where I found out about it, but Chris Hardwick, Jonah Ray, and Matt Myra are a perfect mix of hilarious and interesting. They have great interviews with people who are both in the entertainment industry and participate in the nerdy pursuits. I particularly love the “hostful” episodes, where it’s just the three of them going over their week and shooting the shit. Also, I’ve learned about other podcasts through them. I highly recommend this podcast.

 

WTF, with Marc Maron: ”You know when you make popcorn there are always those fluffy white kernels that are fun and good to eat but there are also always those burnt, black kernels that don’t pop. You know why they don’t pop? Because they have integrity.” Marc Maron is a lot of fun to listen to. The first part of his show is just him talking about whatever he is thinking about that day or week. He goes on rants, gets personal, and generally just does his thing. He has an interesting perspective having raised himself out of the ashes of addiction. He also has spent the majority of his life as a standup comic, which means he really looks at everything through his own unique lense. I love his interviews because he doesn’t pull any punches. He asks personal questions, and most often his guests respond without the usual bullshit answers that they reserve for more traditional talk hosts.

 

Writing Excuses: “15 minutes long because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart.” Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Howard Tayler, and Mary Robinette-Kowal give a writer’s tutorial every week. This is a great podcast for aspiring writers. They talk plot, character, world-building, pacing, outlining, the writer’s life, and many aspects of the publishing industry. They have been nominated for the Hugo two years running, the first podcast to make the shortlist. At the end of each episode they give a writing prompt, which just adds to the fun. Also, they are available on twitter and are very connected with their fans.

 

So, go on, find the podcast that fits you! Enjoy!

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