New Year’s Edition–2014 in review!

It’s time for another year-end report!

I want to thank everyone who dropped by to read my posts and comment.  I hope you enjoyed them.  Looks like Graphomaniac was viewed about a thousand times more this year than last.  Yay!  I’ll do my best to keep putting up fun stuff for you.  And I’m trying my darndest to get something published.

Here’s hoping 2015 is a great year for both you and me!  :)

———

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,700 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Christmas!

Happy Christmas to all my readers who celebrate it!  If you don’t, then have a lovely day off!  If you didn’t get a day off, then after work, go do something nice for yourself because you deserve it!

Secret Book is proceeding.  As you see, I broke 70K words.  I’m getting there.  A lot of research remains.  The more I write, the more things I realize I will need to study to make it good (or even workable), but that is going to have to wait until I am finished.  Right now, I’m not sure what questions I’ll need to ask

Since I have to work tomorrow, I’m on my own, so the Christmas weekend plan is thus:

  • Clean the house (today, because the sun finally came out after two weeks of dreary weather and I can see what I’m doing)
  • Watch The Desolation of Smaug (probably tomorrow night)
  • Watch the Doctor Who Christmas special tonight (!!!)
  • Go see Battle of the Five Armies (probably Saturday or Sunday)
  • Skate (working on new program from Battle of the Five Armies soundtrack)
  • Write (of course)

For the new year, I plan to finish the vocabulary series of posts for you and try to come up with something interesting for the Blogging from A-Z Challenge.  I’d like to do another writing-related series as well.  And I am going to double down on trying to publish.  I’m sure you’re getting tired of me talking about all these books you can’t read.

Thank you for sticking with me and for your comments.  Have a lovely holiday and a safe and happy New Year!

dalek the halls

Image:  doodlecraftblog.com

Some Thoughts about God and Tunerville

No NaNoWriMo tonight.  I’m about to make an unsolicited submission of Tunerville in its entirety, and something a friend on Google+ said got me thinking.

On the cusp of this activity, and given that Tunerville relies quite heavily on the concept of God (no, it’s not Christian fiction), I wanted to clear up a few things.

My friend said that you can see, hear, and touch happy gay couples and their families, which proves they’re real, and that the religious people might want to remember that there isn’t any conclusive proof of God.

Since quite a few of my friends on that forum (and some IRL) are atheists and I am not, I just wanted to put in

TWO CENTS

Image:  Arvind Balaraman/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Here’s what I think people don’t understand about God and this whole thing.  Faith, by its definition, is a belief in things not seen.  It doesn’t demand proof.  It doesn’t have to.  It’s not science.

When people see something that contradicts their faith, like happy gay families with well-adjusted children, they can’t reconcile it in their heads with what they’ve been taught.  It sets up cognitive dissonance.  That is a state in which the mind can’t reconcile two things with each other.  In short, the happy gay couple and their well-adjusted kids hurts their brains.  And they get defensive.

The captcha for this photo was Wicked Guitar Solo.  If that wasn’t God trying to say something ironic, I don’t know what is. 

The captcha for downloading this photo was “Wicked Guitar Solo.”  If that wasn’t God trying to be ironic, I don’t know what is.

Image:  stockimages/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

To deal with this, the people either have to change the way they think about their faith and their beliefs, or they can condemn and dismiss what they’re seeing.  It’s WAAAAAAY easier to dismiss something than it is to change your entire outlook, so that’s what people do.  And to prove to themselves that they are right in their faith, they castigate those they have condemned and dismissed.  They punish and persecute, because they think they are right.  They’re not, but you can’t convince them of that because they have decided they don’t want to be convinced.

The best you can do is practice tolerance and acceptance.  You’re modeling it to them not just by accepting that gay people exist, this is a thing, it’s fine and natural and that is life and whatever.  You also model it by tolerating them.

Yes, you heard me.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not saying you should tolerate discrimination, hate crimes, rudeness, or behavior like that.  But you have to remember, these people are operating in a haze of stuff they’ve most likely been spoon-fed since babyhood.   If they’ve come to it later in life, it’s probably due to a huge shift in their paradigm because of something unpleasant or life-changing, and they’re clinging to it with all their might because fuck that shitty thing that happened; if I follow Jesus, maybe it won’t happen to me again.

I was raised Roman Catholic, and I grew up in a town full of Baptists and Methodists.  The Methodists and some of the other offshoot churches didn’t care much what we were up to down at old St. Mary’s, but the Baptists were convinced we didn’t have our ducks in a row, and it was their God-given duty to get us to follow the right path.

I grew up hearing the following:

  • Bead squeezer
  • Fish eater (it was my fault we didn’t have pizza on Fridays in the school cafeteria)
  • You’re not going to Heaven because you’re not saved
  • You weren’t baptized right (you gotta be dunked; that trickle on your tiny baby head wasn’t good enough)
  • You worship statues (what the–?? It’s art, people)
  • You shouldn’t be praying to Mary; you should be praying to God
Well, all righty then.  I’ll just be over here, giving birth to Saviors.

Well, all righty then.  I’ll just be over here, giving birth to saviors.

Image:  Sassoferrato –Jungfrun i bön (1640-1650). National Gallery, London/Wikipedia

Not one time can I ever remember giving a crap what these people were doing at their churches.  I did go to other services with some of my friends–a Lutheran one, a Methodist wedding, and assorted other denominational variations.

For a short while in middle school, I had a friend named Val who was Pentecostal (what people called “holy rollers”).  We went to their church one evening during a sleepover at her house.  Having grown up in the Catholic Church, where you sit the hell down and shut up and don’t speak unless you’re giving responses and by God you better not poke your brother with the liturgy book during the homily and DON’T DROP THE HOST, that was weird.

People waving their hands, standing up, letting the Spirit move them, or maybe they had ants in their pants, I didn’t know.  Yelling “Amen!” and “Praise Jesus, YAASS!”  I just sat there with my eyes the size of bus tires waiting for it to be over.

None of this, thankfully.

None of this, thankfully.

Image:  Shelley Mays/Gannett/usatoday.com

I had to admit; I thought it was kind of cool that they felt that strongly about their religion.  My friend and her mother were absolutely convinced they had the line on Jesus.  But the best part was they never tried to make me believe what they did. 

Val never came to church with me because they moved away, but I bet Mass would have been just as weird to her.  But see, I could tolerate them and even be friends with them because they tolerated me, even though I was different to them.  And that’s what getting along is all about.

Some of my atheist friends think God is a delusion.  I don’t care if they believe in him or not.  However, I don’t like hearing that I’m delusional or whatever because I do.  They’d squawk like hell if I said they were going to burn because they didn’t.  I deserve the same courtesy, thank you.  Most of my friends are pretty good about it.  If they weren’t, I wouldn’t be friends with them, not because they didn’t believe in God, but because that shit is annoying.

As for the religious right, in my opinion, God doesn’t give a flying rat’s ass if people are gay, straight, black, white, purple, green, or tattooed.  If he did, no one would be gay, there wouldn’t be gay animals, and if you put one drop of ink on your body, you would burst into flames.  Not happening–he doesn’t care.

A GOD AND CHRIST

Images:  jahsonic.tumblr.com / Wikipedia

If God exists, and I think he does (and not just because I grew up with that concept), I think Buddy Christ is much more accurate than a judge-y, Zeus-like figure shooting fire and brimstone at all the sinners.  But whether your concept is one or the other, or none, I’m not going to judge you.  I think you’re wrong to hurt people over it, and I’ll fight like hell to keep you from doing that, because it’s stupid. So is some of the old-fashioned junk the Catholic Church teaches, which is why I don’t go to church anymore, and why I think Pope Francis is a total badass for trying to make changes.

Now my friend who said there is no proof of God is quite right about the hypocrisy of the situation.  If you can’t see, hear, or touch God, how do you know he wants you to persecute gay people?  Because it’s written in a book?  Prove that God wrote the book.

You can’t.

It’s a matter of faith.

Just because you don’t believe in God doesn’t mean he doesn’t exist.  It doesn’t mean I’m delusional for thinking he does.  Atheists and Christians alike need to remember that before you can change someone’s mind, you have to understand why they think the way they do.  While you’re doing this, you might just learn something–if you’re paying attention.

If you can’t convince them, then let it go and find some common ground, because all the fighting is getting really fucking old.

So if you get to read Tunerville (and I hope you do), remember that.  I’m not telling you what to think; I’m only telling you a story based on what I think.  I hope you are entertained by it.  That’s all it’s there for.

Why of course, I’ll change my name! *blush*

Hope you are having a happy and safe International Talk Like a Pirate Day, yarr!

Just an announcement to say that I have purchased my domain name, so the URL of this blog will change to aelizabethwest.com.  You can still get here from aelizabethwest.wordpress.com, but you might want to update any bookmarks or anything in the next few days.

Kermit sour faceImage:  knowyourmeme.com

Yes, Kermit, I know change is hard, but Brian Keene had some very good advice about taking control of your public persona.  Anyone with a commercial (or potentially commercial) internet presence would do well to be mindful of it.

I’ll be on tumblr too, if I can figure out what the hell is going on over there.  Look for me at aelizabethwest.tumblr.com.  Be patient with it; the interface is crazy and it might look pretty rough for a while.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

In the Thick of It

I learned the hard way when writing the fanfiction that eventually became Rose’s Hostage that if you ignore a persistent muse, it won’t do any good.  It won’t go away, and eventually you’ll have to give it its due.

The Secret Book is taking over.

I’m calling it that because I can’t tell you what it’s about yet.  I can only say this:  it’s not like anything I’ve written before, and it’s HARRRRD.

If writing were easy, they’d call it this. 

If writing were easy, they’d call it this.

Image:  comicvine.com

The characters are more complex, the story is a little strange, and it’s going to require a ton of research, since part of it is set in the film industry, about which I know almost nothing.  But when I think about it, I get excited, and that hasn’t happened for a while.  Even finishing up Tunerville, which I do really like, didn’t have the same push behind it.

I’m still working on the RH sequel.   And I’m still planning my holiday, which has morphed me into THAT person.  I can’t shut up about it.  I’m like that annoying coworker who can only talk about her wedding.

Next time you see this on here, it will be a picture by ME.  :D

Next time you see this on here, it will be a picture by ME.  :D

Image:  Lucaks / “LochNess2″. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

 My train tickets are purchased, my B&B is booked, I have a ticket to the Harry Potter Studio Tour, one to Riverdance, and I’m set.  Now all I have to do is wait.  I’m not very good at waiting.

I’m so excited to go to the U.K.  If England were a man, I’d say he was a bit boozy, a bit silly, and never boring.  As for looks?  Oh, he’s so handsome.  I never tire of gazing at him.  Every place I see is a new angle, and I can never look at him enough.  I’m sure I’ll love his brothers Wales and Scotland just as well.

I feel as though I’m traveling to meet a lover.  Who knows?  Maybe I am, and I don’t know it yet.  The world is a magical place, and anything can happen.

In the meantime, I’m trying to get some work done.  I’ll get that next vocabulary post up.  It’s been bugging me that I didn’t get that to you earlier.

Have a wonderful week, and I’ll see you soon.

London Links!

A friend at work and I went to lunch yesterday, and we were talking about my upcoming trip to London and Cardiff and her planned trip to London next year.  I told her I’d send her some links.  Of course, my enormous email turned into a blog post.

Doesn’t everything?

Doesn’t everything?

Image:  yingyo / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Instead of just sending them to her, I thought I would draw on my previous trip (though it was very long ago) and recent research and post it here in case anyone reading wants to go.  Seriously, off the top of my head, I know five people besides me who are going either this year or next.

So this may be my longest post ever, but here is my compilation of travel tips for first-timers in London.  If I got anything wrong, please correct me in the comments.

General stuff

First off, a few useful facts:

  • The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (aka UK or Britain) consists of England, Scotland (for the moment), Wales, and Northern Ireland.
  • London is the capital of England.
  • Edinburgh is pronounced ED-in-burr-uh.
  • Say Gloucester as GLAW-ster.
  • Say Leicester Square as LESS-ter.
  • Say Grosvenor Street as GROVE-ner.
  • Say Thames as Tems.  
  • Striped pedestrian crossings are called zebra crossings.  Pronounce zebra to rhyme with Debra.
  • ATMs are called cashpoints.  Rick Steves has more info on how to use them here.

Temperatures are in Celsius.  Weights and measures are metric (except for miles, I think).  You may see 24-hour time (00:00–24:00) in train stations, though if you ask someone the time, they’ll tell you it’s four p.m., not 1600 hours.

Some public bathrooms are pay toilets (mostly in tube stations).  You have to pay to get into the stall.  Save your change!  I have no idea how much they cost now.  Keep a pocket pack of tissue in your bag in case you get caught without any.  Self-cleaning toilet booths are pay also.

It’s okay to ask for the toilet in London; alternately, the loo, WC, lavatory, bog, ladies’, or gents’.

Airport

If you’re going through Heathrow, you can take the Underground (commonly referred to as the tube) to central London.  It’s cheaper than the Heathrow Express.  Find travel information here on the airport’s website (Transport & Directions).

Power adapters

Voltage is higher than in the US.  You’ll need UK adapters; ones for Europe in general won’t work.  Amazon has them.  I’d take one with you so you have it right away in case you need to charge your phone, etc.  For more info, check here.

UK power outlets are bigger than ours.  Many of them have switches.  If you plug something into the outlet with your adapter and it doesn’t work, try flipping the switch.

uk outlet

Image: amazon.co.uk

If you forget anything, you can buy it at a drugstore (chemist).  I won’t even bother to pack toiletries, just put travel sizes in my carry-on in case my luggage is delayed.  I’ll buy shampoo, etc. there and then ditch it when I leave.

Language

Accents aren’t that hard, especially if you watch a lot of BBCA, but not everyone in England sounds like they just stepped out of Downton Abbey.  The only person I had trouble with was a cabdriver with the thickest accent I’ve ever heard in my life—he was damn near incomprehensible.  He was nice; he laughed pretty good-naturedly when I admitted I couldn’t understand him.

If someone is talking too fast and you can’t quite keep up, all you have to say is “I’m sorry, I’m not used to your accent.  Could you please repeat that more slowly?”

Brits have different terms than we do for things.  Look at this link for a list of words that might trip you up.

In Wales (Cymru), everyone speaks English, though signs are in both English and Welsh.  Click the link to hear someone say the word Wales in Welsh—it’s nothing like it looks!  I’m planning to practice a bit of pronunciation, so I won’t end up in the sea if I ask where something is.

Good to know.

Good to know.

Image:  bbc.co.uk

Getting around

The London Underground

Last time I was there, the Underground had little yellow paper tickets you put through the barrier (yes I’m old—shut yer gob).  It didn’t take me long to get the hang of it, but now people have Oyster cards.

You use an Oyster card on the London Underground (tube) and the bus.  This link helped me understand the Oyster card / Travelcard thing.  If you’re staying more than a few days, it’s cheaper to get an Oyster card at Heathrow when you get there.  You can top it up at the tube stations.  You can also load the Travelcard onto the Oyster card, apparently, but NOT if it is a Visitor Oyster card.

No, it doesn’t have a picture of seafood on it.

No, it doesn’t have a picture of seafood on it.

 Image:  Frank Murmann / Wikimedia Commons

Here is the Transport for London website for more information.

UPDATE:  According to this Buzzfeed article, TfL is moving to contactless debit/credit card usage on the transport system.  You should still be able to get/use Oyster for a while, anyway.  Keep an eye on the TfL website.

London is a massive city and people are in a hurry.  The main things to remember on the tube are (1) have your Oyster card or ticket ready at the barrier (so you don’t create a traffic jam), and (2) keep right on escalators, stairs, etc.

The tube has been in use (though obviously updated) for over 100 years (1863), so there are stations without lifts (elevators), and THERE IS NO AIR CONDITIONING.  Delays are common.  Twice when I was there before, they closed the line for something.  Once was a train problem and once was a suicide on the track, and I had to find another train or a cab.

Try to plan ahead when you take the tube and avoid peak times (rush hour):  6:00—10:00 am and 4:00—7:00 pm.  This is a good post about etiquette on the tube.

And this post!  :)

London A-Z

Image:  amazon.com

Buy one of these!! You should be able to get it at the airport or at any newsstand (newsagent).  British people don’t say Z—they say Zed (rhymes with bed).  So ask for a London A-Zed.

I hung onto mine for years, and I finally threw it away because it was so outdated (and I didn’t think I’d ever go back, waah).  London is very walkable, but you’ll need good shoes and make sure they are rainproof.  Because it will rain.

 London Cabs

1200px-A_TX4_Taxi_at_Heathrow_Airport_Terminal_5

Image:  Unisouth / Wikipedia.com / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Drivers of the iconic black taxis have to pass an insanely difficult test called The Knowledge before they can drive the cabs.  They know where stuff is and will not jack you around on the fare.  Find out how to take a London cab here.

DO NOT TAKE UNLICENCED MINICABS.  In my research, I’ve been warned that women especially have been assaulted by drivers.  In any case, they don’t have The Knowledge.  Legit minicabs must be booked in advance.  Some people are upset that they are taking business away from the black cabs; how you feel about that is up to you.

WARNING:  remember that people drive on the LEFT in England.  If you value your life, look right when you cross the street, and ONLY cross at the zebras!

Read the road.  Tells you what to do.

Read the road. Tells you what to do.

Image:  Benjamin D. Esham / Wikipedia.com /

Etiquette

English people are reserved, though they are usually quite nice when you do speak with them.  They LOVE it when people are very polite.  Their sense of humor ranges from extremely sarcastic to gross / borderline offensive to incredibly silly.  You’ll always find a few rude jerks anywhere you go, but overall, they are really lovely people.

Keep your volume low.  The British don’t bellow like we Americans do.  On the tube, please refrain from chatting up everyone you see.  If someone is reading or wearing headphones, leave them alone!

They don’t smile at everybody they see either (this is a knee-jerk reaction where I live).  Just act like you’re in New York and you’ll be fine.  This link is for kids, but it’s awesome and if anyone is confused about anything, it explains it very well.

Food and stuff to do

I’ve skipped the obvious tourist stops, which I’m sure you’ve already googled.  The only thing I did last time that I might do again is Madame Tussauds Wax Museum.  The original is in London and it was totally worth it for the Chamber of Horrors alone.  Don’t be put off by the insane website.

I found a terrific Trip Advisor thread for those of us without a trust fund.  I googled links or names of places I found interesting to see if they were still open.  You can sort it by newest or oldest posts first.

Though it’s a bit old, this is a good post also (scroll down to #8, by caffn8me):    This person gave a lot of good advice, including stuff to avoid.

For tea and fancies, visit Fortnum and Mason.

Harrods has a dress code.  I’ve heard people have been turned away for wearing too-casual clothing, including celebrities.  For Harrods FAQs, visit this link.

I highly recommend you see Hampton Court Palace.  It’s Henry VIII’s house (Tudors!)  Seriously, this place is AMAZING.

My mother said I HAVE to go to this place.  The bakery here has been going since Tudor times (wonder if Henry VIII had any of their little treats?)

Or perhaps he had too many of them.

Or perhaps he had too many of them.

Image:  Wikimedia Commons

I hope that gets you started, or at least dreaming of the ultimate British holiday.  If you spot any mistakes, or if you have any recommendations about fun things to see and / or do, please share in the comments.

See you soon!

See you soon!

Image:  bbc.co.uk

 

Related links:

Transport for London

http://www.tfl.gov.uk/

National Rail website

http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/

Here’s a cool blog about London with lots of info.

http://londontopia.net/

Visit Britain!

http://www.visitbritain.com/en/US/

Find out what to wear around the world, based on the weather!  http://www.clothesforecast.com/index.php

London events you can attend for free!

http://www.freelondonevents.co.uk/index.php

If you decide to nip on over to Cardiff, it’s only 2-1/2 hours by train.

http://www.visitcardiff.com/

Net Neutrality Takes a Hit

Well, shit.

The FCC voted 3-2 today to let Big Bidness make deals with websites for faster internet.  That’s basically going to kill net neutrality (see more about that at the link).

Read this article at the Washington Post for shenanigans.  I don’t believe Wheeler for one second that this won’t become the slipperiest slope of all slopes ever.  We’re already paying way too much for internet in the U.S.  This only reinforces my opinion that we’ve become an oligarchy already and the corporate assholes are running the country.

I kinda want to leave. But where to go?

I kinda want to leave. But where to go?

Image: Ktrinko / Wikimedia Commons

Write your Congress critter and contact the FCC here to protest.

Update:  Here is a comment email you can use to send a comment.   openinternet@fcc.gov 

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

BLARGH!

I just turned in my research slide assignment.  I only have to comment on other people’s slides (apparently, that’s our final) and take a test and then I AM DONE with the World’s Worst Semester.

Haaaaaaaallelujah!

Haaaaaaaallelujah!

Image:  samarttiw / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There will be time off.  I must begin The Great Purge, in which I divest my dwelling place, nicknamed The Crumbling Albatross, of an excess of crap that has piled up over time.  I have also decided, when I’m ready to begin the next book, to do a mini-NaNoWriMo.  There is a little bit of organization to do first, because I haven’t looked at it in ages.

Someone in a forum, in response to a mini-rant about crap, said my world is about to get bigger in a bit.  Let’s hope so—I placed a pretty tall order to the Universe.  It can wait just a little, like my Eddie Bauer raincoat I won’t get until July, but not much longer.  For a change, I’d rather not see this:

 “Universe here.  Your order has been canceled.  We shipped it to someone else.” 

W-what?  Noooooo!

W-what?  Noooooo!

Image:  David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 When it could just do this:

“Universe here.  Your requested item is no longer on backorder and has been shipped to you.  Enjoy!  :D” 

Much better.

In the interim, I’ll occupy myself with taking numerous Buzzfeed quizzes (I got Captain Kirk, people!) and planning what to do on my vacation.  I’ve already bookmarked so many things that I’ll need another month to do them all.

Fine by me. Not gonna want to leave.

Image:  David Dixon / Wikipedia.com