personal blog

Hello blog! Remember me? I'm Beth, your author.

The baby is doing great! Thanks for asking. There are lots of photos of him on flickr.

I had a good Christmas, including a looong train trip adventure with the baby, and my new year's resolution is to remember everybody's birthday. Not everybody, exactly, just people I know. I hope I can remember all of them.

I'm also going to come up with one novel idea (that is, an idea for a novel) each month. This way, when NaNoWriMo comes around again, I'll have 10 ideas to choose from.

I've also signed up with an online personal trainer to provide ass-kickings via email. She's already sent me my workout plan for January and it's a doozy. I hope I can keep up!

Oh, and I almost forgot. My latest project is cooking along with this meal plan - it's nothing fancy, just five dinners and then five lunches made with their leftovers. I actually did the grocery shopping and am planning on making all the meals, even the ones with shrimp in them. There's 40 grams of protein in most of the meals, so even though they'll only make up half my calories for the day (really, Men's Health, what is this, a crash diet?) I'll be in good shape, nutritionally, to withstand that crazy workout plan.

It's been good talking to you, blog. I'll let you know how the food thing works out. Maybe I'll show you pictures too! I just saw "Julie & Julia" and you know how suggestible I am.

To food, my boring life by Beth on 2009-12-30.

Alright, I'm going public with the news: I'm pregnant! Today I got to hear the baby's heartbeat! The baby is currently the size of a plum and can stick out its tongue.
January: Tasted ice wine.
February: Helped organize a sewing bee to manufacture derby uniforms. Played in first derby bout and got a lovely ecchymosis (like a bruise but bigger & uglier).
March: Visited Marty in Waltham. Saw and touched an XO laptop. Explored the unmapped and treacherous-when-icy trails around Six Mile Creek.
April: Ran my first race (a 10K). Visited the museum at Seneca Falls. Hung laundry outdoors to dry. Spoke at a feminist conference. Built a raised bed garden. Got up on Chris's shoulders to peek into a robin's nest. Skated in my first real derby game ever! Albany crushed us. Broke the toe stop socket in my skate just days before the game and quickly learned a lot about skate repair.
May: Drove my grandpap's tractor, which is nothing special but I'd never done it before. Skated in my first hometown derby game - we beat Syracuse 84-81.
June: Rollerskated in the Ithaca Festival Parade (with the 'Jets). camped in Yellowstone with friends - adventure of a lifetime! Nearly died climbing Mt. Washburn and hitchhiking back to the car. Saw buffalo roam and antelope play. Cooked rice over a campfire without burning a single grain of it. Got sprayed by geysers.
July: Made a red currant pie.
August: Got respectable harvests from my garden! Whole meals worth! Including my first ever onions and summer squash.
September: Began learning how to swim better. Improved my freestyle & signed up for a masters swimming class in which I learned butterfly and breaststroke for the first time. Served on a Grand Jury.
October: Went to the NASW conference (my first professional conf that I paid for myself) ... saw Monterey Bay & schmoozed with science writers. Signed up for Twitter. Dressed as Rosie the Riveter for Halloween. Harvested 200 pounds of sweet potatoes from our garden.
November: wrote a novel (This Is Not My Home Planet ... will probably never be published but was a great learning & working experience). Successfully did my hair up in finger waves.
December: Did an almost-all-handmade Xmas. Made a quilt!
1. Archer Farms "Indian-inspired" meals from Target. I never thought I would stoop to buying groceries from Target, but look! For $4 you get rice, curry sauce, a side dish, and some over-sweet chutney. It feeds two people heartily. (We add our own meat or veggies to the curry sauce, and cook extra rice, but the total cost is no more than $8 for dinner for two.)

2. High-waisted skirts like this one. I don't know what suddenly made me stop hating this style and start loving it. Maybe the fact that it looks AWESOME on me. (I made my own with Vogue 8425.)

3. Text adventure games! I never liked these as a kid because I could never guess what to do next. Well, either my brain grew or they started writing 'em better, because I devoured three of these things recently and found them intriguing and intelligent and not impossible to play.

First I played Everybody Dies, which starts out all "go east"/"go west"/"it's boring here" but gets interesting after you die the first time. As far as I can tell there's only one ending, but the puzzles are fun and I found the story stuck in my head for hours afterwards, which I think means it's a good story.

Since Everybody Dies was the 3rd-place winner in the Interactive Fiction Awards, I then went and played the first-place entry, Violet. This is an awesome game for procrastination from your nanowrimo novel and/or paid writing projects. In it, the major puzzle is battling procrastination so you can write, because bad things will happen if you don't. (I played this game while waiting for a call back from someone I was interviewing for an article, which is the freelance writer equivalent of "my code is compiling").

4. You see where this is going. After playing about three games in two days I was flooded with ideas for text games I could write. Like one based on my nano novel! Or one where you don't move in space but you can travel through time! or one where you're asleep and have to destroy your alarm clock so you can get back to the quest in your dream where you need to get to the airport that is also a mcdonald's!

Want to play along with the Beth's Craziness game? (the metaphorical one, not the inevitable text adventure) Just apt-get install frotz inform inform-doc. Tell me how yours comes out.

[psst zcode linux ... just trying to help out the googlers]
My great-aunt Matilda back in the 1920s ;)warning: girly post!

I love 1920s style, and when our swing dance club holds a charleston night I am all over it like setting lotion on a flapper's head. Tonight I finally got the look just right, and here is how I did it.

The Hair

For hair, I did finger waves. Finger waves were everywhere in the 1920s; here is a 1930s how-to that clearly shows what it's supposed to look like. My own inspiration was a minor character on a BBC Hercule Poirot episode. Can't find a pic or remember the character's name, unfortunately. (Here is another fabulous example).

What you need if you are Roxie Hart, stuck in jail with no supplies but still must look fabulous:
  • water
  • a comb

What you need if you are slightly less talented but have access to a Sally Beauty Supply:
  • water
  • a comb
  • setting lotion like Lottabody, about $3
  • finger wave clamps like these, I paid $5 for 8

finished fingerwaves (close-up of earlier photo)I won't repeat the detailed directions that you can find anywhere (including here) but here is the basic idea:

1. Wash your hair (it doesn't have to be clean, but it does have to be very wet).

2. Spray it down with setting lotion. (Setting lotion is like hairspray in reverse: you apply it before creating your style, then when your hair dries the style is frozen in.) Keep the hair wet until you are done.

3. Part and comb your hair, pulling every strand of it smooth and tight. Get used to this feeling, because it's the key here. You should feel the teeth of the comb down to your scalp, and the comb will be pulling/stretching the hair as fully as possible (not just skimming the surface).

finger wave clamp4. Time to wave! Comb the hair back from your face, hold a finger on it, then comb forward toward your face. pinch a ridge between two fingers. Clamp that ridge (optional if you know what you're doing.) Repeat to make more waves. Make them as big/small as you want, start them forward or back, make them continuous and S-shaped or sharp and C-shaped. All up to you. Check out this expert fingerwaver on youtube to see the fingers in action.

5. It takes me 6 clamps to do the front of my hair. If you have short hair and lots of patience, go ahead and try to match the waves in the back.

what the back looks like6. My hair is shoulder-length, so I rolled it in the back. Here's a video on rolling hair (the back-of-head roll starts at 4:40). She rolls her hair around a rat, which is an optional shortcut.

Another tactic is shown here in Fig. 6. You part your hair ear-to-ear and put the back hair into a bun. Then, do your waves, and finally pin the front hair over and around the bun to hide it.

You can also make a ponytail and tuck it up like Angelina Jolie allegedly does.

UPDATE: The Gibson Tuck would be another option. It's period-appropriate, and way easier than any of the above. (D'oh!)

7. When the waved hair is very very dry (takes an hour or two, for me) remove the clamps. Bobby-pin any stray hairs, and off you go!

The makeup

The twenties were a big time for eyeliner, specifically kohl (which the internet tells me was made of soot, lead, and goose grease). Here's how I imitate the look (ignore my photos, the makeup looks washed out):

1. Apply a skin-colored shadow all over the eyelids & brow bone

2. Apply a dark gray shadow on the lids

3. With the edge of the sponge q-tip thingy that comes with the eyeshadow, apply black shadow all around the eyes, like some raccoon version of eyeliner. Blend it in and pile it on. Too much is never enough.

4. Finally, top it off with black mascara. (Clumpy is fine - the real stuff back then was a type of wax that you'd have to melt yourself!)

5. I finish with red lipstick and pink blush. Face powder would also be appropriate but I don't bother.

flap flap flap
NaNoWriMo 2008 I convinced Chris to do NaNoWriMo this year, a project in which participants write a 50,000 word novel in a month (specifically, November).

To be supportive, I am taking the simple step of also writing a 50,000 word novel in a month.

I can't write fiction to save my life. Fortunately, my life doesn't depend on this.
at the finish line!
Photo by Chris

Check it out! Just a month after deciding to take up running - and despite having a cold - I entered and ran a 10K race. Woohoo!

My time was 1:08:08 (according to the photo, thanks Chris) which is an even 11:00 min/mile pace. Slow compared to most runners, but fast enough that I'm quite proud of myself.

There are a few more pictures on flickr. Chris was my support crew, waiting to see me at the finish line and wearing a ridiculously bright colored shirt so I'd be sure to spot him. Together we watched about 5 more people come in after me, which means I wasn't last. Yay for me!

Fun fact: the skunk cabbage race is just as old as I am - this year was its 27th running. It's so called because near the turnaround point there are some skunk cabbages, sprouting and stinking to herald the beginning of spring.

Speaking of which - it was a beautiful sunny day, one of very few we've had. When we got home I noticed flowers in the front yard - the owners must have planted them last year. Hello springtime!

Hi everybody! I'm still alive. Here's an update:

  • I am a full-time professional freelance writer. (It takes a long time of doing that before it feels right to announce it as your profession.) I write nonfiction. My favorite stuff is science and technology writing. Until I can fill my schedule with that, I do newspaper articles and copywriting. Need something written? Hire me. I'm really good.

  • I am a roller derby addict! This is my team, this is my league, this is me jamming. We are recruiting players and referees! Join us, it's a ton of fun.

  • I still swing dance.

  • I have taken up figure skating. I'm not very graceful, but I can land a decent waltz jump and toe loop without usually falling over too much.

  • Yesterday I went for a run, and liked it, so I'm going to keep running. This year, I have resolved to keep things fun by varying the lengths of my runs, and entering 5K and 10K races (not to win, just to finish) every couple of weeks.

  • I posted to the Sustainable Food Blog today. This resumes another regular trend.

  • Shortly after I got my SLR last year, my pocket camera broke. OK, fine, who needs it, right? Well, that effectively ended the photo-a-day project, since I'm not going to lug something heavy and expensive around everywhere just in case something catches my eye. But last week, I couldn't stand it anymore (I was at the mall parking lot, and every branch on every tree was totally coated in ice, in that magical you-never-know-when-this-will-happen-again sort of way, and me with no camera) so I broke down and bought the cheapest digital camera they had at the mall. It's brown (who makes cameras in brown, anyway?) and now I'm back.

The semicolon is not used enough; the comma is used too often. This is an awesome T-shirt. I was such a semicolon addict in high school; I started misusing commas on purpose because it seems less stuffy (I don't know why, it just does.)

"Commit yourself to taking enough risks that you will fail some of the time." -Scott Berkun

I've sent out tons of queries and letters of introduction since going freelance three months ago. Some queries get a flat-out no, and most disappear into the ether. But surprisingly many come back with a yes.

So how's the business doing? Pretty well! I've had 6 pieces published so far, with more in the works, not to mention 75+ posts on the Sustainable Food Blog.

Best productivity tool: a book called The Now Habit. I tried GTD, but it made me dread my work. The Now Habit helps me to look forward to it - thanks to Dave Harding for the recommendation.

Moxie relaxes in the backyard of our new place

This weekend, Chris and I moved into a new house! It's beautiful, has a yard for the dogs, and man are we exhausted from moving all those boxes.

My biggest news, though, is that Friday is my last day as a professional computer geek; next week I strike out on my own as a full-time freelance writer. (I'm available for hire - contact me.)

I've also got another project in the works, but more on that later. It'll launch in a week or two.