Reflections on the April 2015 A-to-Z Challenge

We did it!  We survived the April 2015 A-to-Z Challenge!  I admit that I personally lost a bit of steam in the last third of the month.  Things looked rocky for awhile, and my posts either became shorter or were pushed off to be published at a later date.  At one point, it looked as if my prediction that I would “crash and burn” was going to come true.  But, amazingly, I was able to hang in there and finish on time.  (There’s even a shiny Survivor Badge in my sidebar now!)

So, will I do this again next year?  Absolutely!  Though I admittedly stumbled through this month, I learned a lot through my first attempt at the A-to-Z Challenge.  Next year, I will certainly try to write more posts ahead of time.  Things came up at work and in my personal life that threw a wrench into my plans of writing posts daily.  By having a backlog of pre-written posts, I will have more wiggle room for when such obstacles arise.

Though I was exhausted by the end of it, I had an utterly fantastic experience doing the A-to-Z Challenge!  I discovered so many new blogs to read, and had some great interactions with other bloggers.  I only started blogging late last year, and this past month was a great way for me to learn about what the blogging community has to offer.  Thank you so much to everyone who stopped by my blog, read my posts, and left comments!  I can only imagine all the cool new blogs and interesting people I will discover in the future!

Before the A-to-Z Challenge, my posting schedule was rather spotty.  Now that I’ve gotten back into a bit of a writing groove, I hope to post more frequently.  Starting today, I will try to post three times a week.  I hope to have blog posts up on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with the occasional extra post appearing whenever I have time.  Some posts will be longer, especially any reviews or creative non-fiction essays I may write up, while other days I may just post some poetry or a stream-of-consciousness reaction to something I saw or read.  Whatever it may be, I hope you enjoy it!

Again, thank you so much to everyone who visited during the A-to-Z Challenge, and of course, to all of the members of the wonderful hosting team!!

Much love,

Wise the Simple

Z is for Zenaida macroura

Turtle dove.  Carolina pigeon.  Rain dove.

These are all names for Zenaida macroura, although it is most commonly known as the mourning dove.

Mourning Dove (photo by Alan D. Wilson, 2006) (via Wikipedia)

I have a strange affinity towards mourning doves. There was always a pair living in the pine tree in my childhood front yard. As such, whenever I was outside playing, I would constantly hear their plaintive call: “oo-OO-oo, oo, oo, oo.”

I’m not really one to put stock in the idea of spirit animals, but I suppose if I were to choose one as a representation of myself, I would likely pick the mourning dove.  As a people-pleasing, highly sensitive INFJ, I definitely identify with wanting peace and for everyone to get along.  Moreover, my shyness and wallflower tendencies (especially in middle and high school) would often cause people to ask if I was okay. I guess, like the mourning dove’s song, I simply appear to be sad or forlorn to those around me. Though I am an optimist, and am often quite fun-loving, I think I often do give off a somewhat melancholic vibe.

Here are some fun facts about mourning doves:

  • There are five subspecies of Zenaida macroura
  • They are among one of the most common gamebirds in North America
  • They primarily eat seeds and grains, with very little to no insect consumption
  • Zenaida doves were named after Princess Zenaïde Bonaparte, by her husband and cousin, ornithologist Charles Lucien Bonaparte  (Niece and nephew to Napoleon Bonaparte, respectively)
  • Like other doves (and flamingos and some penguins), they feed their squabs crop milk — a secretion of the lining of the crop that the parents regurgitate in order to give nutrients to their young (…yum?)

And that’s a wrap on the A-to-Z Challenge 2015!  I had so much fun!!  Look forward to a reflection post in the next few days.  Thanks for reading, everyone!

Y is for Y: The Last Man

Y: The Last Man is a comic book series written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Pia Guerra.  This Eisner Award winning series ran for 60 issues from 2002-2008.

The story follows Yorick Brown, a young man who suddenly finds himself to be the only human man left alive. After a strange phenomenon known as “the plague” kills off all organisms with a Y-chromosome, Yorick and his pet capuchin monkey, Ampersand, appear to be the only males left on the planet. As he heads out into the apocalyptic aftermath in search of his girlfriend, Beth, Yorick finds that, with the sudden disappearance of half the population, the world has been thrown into chaos. There are many theories thrown about as to why the men suddenly died off, and many different ideological factions arise. Yorick finds himself in danger as some groups wish him to be killed along with the rest of the men, but he soon meets a woman known as Agent 355, who protects him at the behest of a secret government agency known as the Culper Ring.

I read Y: The Last Man a few years ago, and was absolutely floored by how great it was. The series has so many twists and turns; the readers are in the dark just much as the characters. It’s truly an exciting piece of fiction that explores many interesting ideas and themes. I highly recommend you check it out! It has admittedly been awhile since I read it, but I remember loving it. Just in writing up this post, I’ve gotten extremely excited about re-visiting this fantastic series. I will certainly have to read it again soon!

Disclaimer: All images shown belong to Vertigo/DC Comics, the use of which have not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner.  This blog post is for non-commercial criticism and comment purposes only. I believe that this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law.

X is for X-Acto knife

I love projects that involve using an X-Acto knife. Maybe it’s because I like the fine detail work.  Maybe it’s a remnant of the part of me that entertained the idea of becoming a surgeon so many years ago. Whatever the case may be, I really enjoy using X-Acto knives to carefully cut out shapes needed for a certain craft or project.  It’s not brainless, per se (you wouldn’t want to you cut yourself!); but it’s an activity that allows me to focus on one thing rather than the millions of thoughts that would normally be running through my brain.

X-acto knife crafts

There are a lot of different crafts you can do with an X-acto knife.  Sometimes I will simply cut out ornate shapes to just be pasted into a card, or attempt kirigami, a Japanese paper art that is sort of like “origami meets pop-up books”.

X-Acto knives are also great for cutting out stencils.  Cutting out shapes on freezer paper works well for decorating t-shirts and such, as you can iron the stencil directly onto the fabric.  Simply apply fabric paint or a bleach solution, and you can add any design you want.

In a similar manner, you can cut out stencils on contact paper to stick onto glassware — mirrors, wine glasses, picture frames — and use glass etching cream to create some cool designs.  For my cousin’s wedding, I etched Super Mario-themed wine goblets as a gift.  A silhouette of Princess Peach for her, Mario for him, and some stars, mushrooms, and ? blocks to fill out the set.  They turned out really cool; I may make something similar for myself!

I have a strange fascination with the Blue Willow pattern, and started some glass etched art pieces to hang in my apartment.  I was going to have these two smaller pieces (shown below) and then one large frame with the whole pattern, but I accidentally shattered the glass from the large frame that I bought (classic clumsy me!) and have not yet got around to buying a replacement.

Blue willow glass etch

I haven’t had much time to work on any crafting or art projects lately.  I hope to be able to pick some of these things up again, maybe come summertime.  There is something very satisfying about cutting out intricate patterns with an X-Acto knife.  I promise to post pictures and/or how-to’s if I start to work on anything in the near future!

Do you have any cool craft ideas or hobbies that employ an X-Acto knife?  Let me know in the comments!

V is for Vibrancy

Vibrancy

I live my life through shades of gray,
A mellow, melancholic maze,
Hiding just beneath the surface,
Enshrouded in a fearful haze.

This rainbow fills my eyes with wonder,
This world of hues so very bright!
I feel unworthy of a second glance,
So I hide myself from sight.

Brilliant colors all around;
They glow, they laugh, they fly!
They paint the world with vibrancy;
I ask myself — could I?

U is for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Happy Wednesday, everyone!  I’m doing a little bit of catch-up for the A-to-Z Challenge, so expect to see a few “extra” (read: re-scheduled) posts from me today and tomorrow as we wrap things up.  For our next post, U is for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a Netflix original series created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, the brains behind 30 Rock. Originally pitched to NBC as a show called Tooken, Kimmy Schmidt was subsequently bought by Netflix and released in early March. The show follows Kimmy (played by Ellie Kemper), an optimistic young woman who was kidnapped and forced to live in an underground bunker as part of a doomsday cult for ten years, as she attempts to shed her troubled past and start anew in New York City.

Kimmy ends up renting an apartment from eccentric landlord, Lillian (Carol Kane), and befriending her Broadway-hopeful roommate, Tituss (Tituss Burgess).  But she soon finds her upbeat, positive outlook put to the test as she discovers that life in the Big Apple is not all that she imagined it would be.  This is made most evident through her interactions with her new employer, the self-centered socialite, Jacqueline (Jane Krakowski).

All in all, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a fantastic successor to 30 Rock.  But unlike Fey’s first show, Kimmy Schmidt feels a bit more grounded and real.  While the characters and plotlines are still rather quirky and hilarious, they rarely feel as cartoonish as 30 Rock sometimes tended to be.  Moreover, Kimmy’s strength and optimism give the show an overall theme of encouragement and empowerment in the face of adversity.  As the (exceedingly catchy) theme song states, “Females are strong as hell!”

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is definitely a fun show.  I highly recommend it, and look forward to the second season, set to be released on Netflix next spring!

Disclaimer: All images/videos shown belong to Netflix, the use of which have not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner.  This blog post is for non-commercial criticism and comment purposes only. I believe that this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law.

T is for Takenoko

Happy Sunday, everyone!  I’m doing a little bit of catch-up for the A-to-Z Challenge, so expect to see a few “extra” (read: re-scheduled) posts from me today and tomorrow.  First, T is for Takenoko

Takenoko is a light-to-medium weight euro-style game for up to four players.  In the game, you are a gardener in the employ of the Japanese emperor.  Unfortunately for you, the emperor was gifted a giant panda from his Chinese counterpart.  The panda is now living in the imperial garden, eating all of the bamboo you are trying to grow.

Takenoko tiles

The gameplay of Takenoko is fairly simple. It is a tile-laying and point-taking game. At the start of a player’s turn, he draws three terrain tiles, chooses one, and adds it to the board.  Bamboo shoots automatically grow one segment if they are irrigated and/or next to the garden’s central pond.  The players are all dealt goal cards which offer up a certain amount of points when completed.  There are three types of goal cards: terrain, which offers points for laying terrain tiles in a certain configuration; gardener, for growing bamboo of certain colors and heights; and panda for eating certain colors and amounts of bamboo segments.

Each person is given a player mat (shown below) which lays out the possible actions that can be played each turn:

  • Placing another terrain tile (by, again, drawing three tiles and choosing one to play)
  • Taking an irrigation piece (which can be laid down at any time)
  • Moving the gardener figurine (who, when placed on a tile, causes the bamboo to grow one segment)
  • Moving the panda figurine (who, when placed on a tile, eats one segment off the bamboo stalk)
  • Drawing another goal card

There is also a “weather die” which determines an additional action to be performed during the turn (such as allowing the player to perform two of the same action, causing all of the irrigated bamboo shoots to grow one segment, etc.)

The game is over when one person has completed a certain amount of goal cards (dependent on the number of players).  The points are then added up, and the player with the most points wins.

Takenoko board

I was initially drawn to Takenoko because of it’s adorable design and theme. (I love pandas! They are so cute and pudgy!!) The thought of playing a game where a panda eats pastel-colored bamboo was just too wonderful to be ignored. What’s more, I thought the segmented bamboo stalks were brilliant. The game is just a box full of delightful colors and cuteness.

In my opinion, Takenoko is a perfect game for introducing people to designer boardgames. Sure, the mechanics may be simpler and a bit more random than, say, Settlers of Catan (thought by many to be the gateway game), but it’s also a game that grabs your eye. Takenoko is always the game that friends pull off my shelf and ask me to teach them. “I want to play the panda game!” they say. Who can resist those colorful components and that adorable panda figurine!

Earlier this year, game designer Antoine Bauza announced an upcoming expansion for the game, thought to be ready for release by GenCon 2015. It includes a female panda figurine, nine baby panda tokens, and is called Takenoko Chibis.  …Just take my money now, Bauza.


Takenoko was designed by Antoine Bauza and is published by BombyxAsmodee, and Matagot (among other international publishers.)

Aside

I’m Not Dead Yet!

Hey everyone!

Just letting you know that I am not giving up on the A-to-Z Challenge!  I’m just a bit behind on posting.  I’ve had a really busy week, including traveling on Thursday and Friday.  I’m currently in Chicago for C2E2!  As such, I will likely be putting up the next A-to-Z posts (T, U, and V) on Sunday/Monday.  Only a few more posts until the finish line!  I’ve hit a little snag, but will hopefully get everything up in time for the end of the challenge.  Thanks for understanding; I’ve really enjoyed reading other participants’ blogs and seeing everyone’s comments on the posts here!

Until then,

Wise the Simple

S is for Scott Pilgrim

Scott Pilgrim is a six-part graphic novel series by Bryan Lee O’Malley, which was adapted into the 2010 film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.  The titular Scott (portrayed in the movie by Michael Cera) is an unemployed Canadian in his early twenties who, at the start of the series, is dating a high school girl named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong).  As a slacker, a mooch, and all-around self-centered young man, Scott’s relationship is one of convenience rather than a true emotional connection.  His life is turned upside down when he meets Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), the girl of his dreams… literally.

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