Reading to Dragon

Dragon Age Big Bang!

Hiya, everyone! I'm signed up for the Dragon Age Big Bang (as an author; just Wave 1 so far, but I plan on doing Wave 2 as well). So, if I've recently friended you, and you're wondering why, now you know!

I'm heretherebdragons at Tumblr, Herebedragons66 at, and herebedragons at AO3. (You'll find my fic, "Unshaken by the Darkness" at both fanfic sites).
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Happy Dance

Homemade Stuff WIN!

Homemade Stuff WIN - last week, I made some deodorant according to the recipe linked below (I altered it only slightly; half as much baking soda, and all cornstarch, instead of half-and-half arrowroot powder). No shopping required - I already had all the ingredients at home. AND IT WORKS GREAT! I have rigorously tested its abilities: a day at the field site, baking in the sun. Even the next morning, STILL NOT STINKY. Seriously, this works better than any deodorant I've ever used - much better than the stuff from Lush, which works okay most of the time, but doesn't really hold up to extreme conditions. AND with none of the scary chemicals present in commercial deodorant/antiperspirants. Total win.

My Planned Parenthood Story

Today, and are hosting a Planned Parenthood blog carnival, to share stories of the many, many ways in which Planned Parenthood has improved people's lives. I decided to share my story:

When I was 19, I went to my local Planned Parenthood clinic in Los Angeles for routine care, and to get birth control. On one of my visits, the doctor discovered ovarian cysts. I had several of them, and before I could even have the scheduled surgery to remove them, one of them grew so large it destroyed one of my ovaries. With surgery, the other ovary was saved. If the cysts hadn't been found when they were, I might have lost both ovaries, which would have made it impossible for me to conceive a child in the usual manner. Because of PP I *was* able to conceive, 13 years later (when I was ready to make the decision to become a parent). My son is now 12, and this blog carnival has reminded me to be very grateful for the care I received from Planned Parenthood - without it, he might not be here.

If you want to read more stories, check out:


Please support the continued existence and funding of Planned Parenthood, and the access to reproductive services - and FREEDOM - it provides.

Birders deal with feathers - Day 08 - 30 Days of Me

Day 08 - A Non-Fictional Book

The Sibley Guide to Birds by David Allen Sibley

Not sure how to choose a non-fiction book about which to write, so I went to my LibraryThing page and pulled up all the books I've ever given 5 stars (the highest possible rating; I only give these out occasionally). Of the non-fiction that appeared there, this is the book I've spent the most time with, by far.

I've used several birding field guides over the years. My first was the Golden Guide, and then Peterson's Eastern. When I got my first National Geographic guide, I fell in love and that quickly superseded even Peterson. And then David Sibley released this guide. From the moment I had it in my hands, I felt like I'd found my One True Love, and I've never looked back.

This guide is beautiful. It has all the basic things I like in a field guide - it's illustrated (I vastly prefer illustrated guides over those with photos, which is why I've never been fond of Audubon guides); the text is clear and helpful, and the maps are on the same pages as the descriptions and color plates. But mostly, I love love love the illustrations. No one artist could ever capture the best possible illustration of every single bird, but I think Sibley comes close. His illustrations tend to match most closely what I see when I'm out in the field. I don't know if this says more about him, or me, but whatever the reason, I adore this book. There are many field guides - many excellent guides, I might add - on the market, but this is by far and away my favorite, and the one I would recommend to anyone who just wants one guide for North America.


He's smarter than you, he's got a science degree - Day 23 - 30 Days of Me

Day 23 - A YouTube Video

This is my all-time favorite YouTube video. The song is catchy, and it's SO freaking hilarious, especially if you're familiar with arguments about evolution vs "intelligent design." (Haha, do the quotes make it clear where I stand on this issue)? This came out, IIRC, around the time of the kerfuffle about the film "Expelled," and honestly, I don't know if it's meant to lampoon ID creationists or Richard Dawkins and other atheist scientists (including P.Z. Myers and Eugenie Scott) - but it does a great job of poking fun at both sides. Best of all, hip hop Charles Darwin! As someone who identifies as a methodological materialist (but not a philosophical one), I adore this video. Geeky science humor doesn't get any better than this.
Fantastic!, Nine

A Christmas Carol

Finally watched the new Christmas episode. O. M. G. That might be my all-time favorite episode of Doctor Who. I loved it SO MUCH!!!!! I cried, which is typical, but I also laughed so many times. Plus, a shark! And pretty singing! And Dumbledore! :D AWESOME!

Shakesville - Day 22 - 30 Days of Me

Day 22 - A Website

My very favorite website is Shakesville, founded and operated by the amazing Melissa McEwan. The group of people who post stories here cover a wide range of topics, mostly dealing with the various "isms" that are currently causing problems in our society (sexism, racism, ableism, etc), and politics from a liberal veiwpoint. Sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes hilarious, not only are the writers (especially Melissa) wonderful, but there is a great, supportive community which is kept a safe space by conscientious moderation. On your first visit to the site, I'd recommend having a look at the "Feminism 101" page, as well as the "Shaxicon/FAQ." Reading this website has made me a better person - more aware, more active in my community, and more compassionate.


Pierogi - Day 21 - 30 Days of Me

Day 21 - A recipe or story about your favorite food

I am not a foodie. I live to eat, not the other way around. In fact, I often get quite annoyed by the fact that I have to stop and take the time to eat (and taking time to prepare food is especially annoying). So, this is kind of a funny prompt for me, as food is not something I usually spend a lot of time thinking - or writing - about.

But, I do have foods that I prefer over others, and a few recipes that I really like. If we're going to talk about favorites, then I'd have to go with noodles. Or soup. (Which probably makes soup with noodles pretty much the top of my personal food pyramid, doesn't it? And if I had to pick an absolute favorite, then I'd have to go with udon - for both noodles and soup).

But I'm not going to talk about noodles, because I have a good "family" recipe to share so I'll talk about something else instead. Pierogi. For those of you who aren't familiar with pierogies, they're basically meat- or vegetable- or cheese-stuffed pastries. Really, some variation on this theme appears in pretty much every culture's cuisine - pot stickers, ravioli, pasties. As far as pierogi are concerned, there are different ethnic variations on those, as well, but the recipe I have is for the Polish variety. Pierogies made with this recipe were a staple of my childhood, especially at holidays spent with my grandmother, Busha, whose parents emigrated to Chicago from Poland in the early 20th century (as did my grandfather's parents), and brought these recipes with them. Both my grandmother and my own mother cooked pierogies regularly, as well as golabki, or however you spell it (it's pronounced "gah-woomp-ki"), which are delicious stuffed cabbage leaves. I have made pierogies with this recipe, although sadly not as often as they used to be made by my mom and grandmother. It's kind of a long process, and (as I said above), I don't often get in the mood for a lot of time-intensive food preparation. But they really are amazingly delicious and worth the effort. Maybe I'll make some this weekend. (Although that would involved a trip to the grocery store, another of my least-favorite things). Collapse )
Birding, Shrike

Birding - Day 20 - 30 Days of Me

Day 20 - A hobby/interest of yours

Hobbies. I have a lot of them! I'm sort of a serial hobby-ist, in that I tend to get interested in things, do a lot of it for a while, and then move on to something else. There are a few, though, that have withstood the test of time. While I might not actively pursue them all the time, I always come back sooner or later. The one I'm going to talk about today is birding.

I've loved birds as long as I can remember, and the first specific bird I remember seeing in the wild was pretty impressive - a Great Horned Owl, which flew down onto the neighbor's lawn in front of me while I was out trick-or-treating one Halloween, when I was about five years old. Later, I had additional experience with birds because of my mother. She owned an African gray parrot, and was also in the habit of picking up baby birds which had fallen from their nests, and raising them in the house. So, we had house finches and scrub jays and probably a few others as family members at various times during my childhood. Later, as a volunteer at the Los Angeles Zoo I got to have hands-on experience with birds (and other animals) when I helped give educational talks to the public. My favorite was Ty, a barn owl. Of whom I have a picture, somewhere, but not sure if I can put my hands on it at the moment.

I didn't start officially "watching" birds, though, until I was an adult. It began in Indiana. When Kevin and I moved there in 1991, one of the first things I did at our new home was put up a bird feeder in the backyard. And, funnily enough, birds showed up to eat the food - birds I didn't remember having seen before (mostly because I hadn't - there is a different variety of backyard birds in that part of the country from the ones I grew up seeing in southern California). Well, me being the way I am, I don't like seeing things and not being able to put names to them, so I got myself a bird book or two, just so I could identify the cardinals and blue jays and robins and nuthatches and woodpeckers and finches, etc. Then I started getting a bit obsessed. During spring migration, I would sleep downstairs on the couch, so that as soon as I awoke, I could look out the window and see who was at the feeder. It was on one of these mornings that I saw my first rose-breasted grosbeak, whose spot of bright red on the breast led me to think it was injured, until I saw the picture in the field guide and realized it was supposed to look that way. Another thing I learned from the field guide is that there are a LOT of birds - a lot more than I was seeing in my backyard, and I started getting itchy to see some of them. This led me to join the local Aubudon chapter, and I started going out on field trips. Birding with other people was wonderful - I learned so much about the birds, and other things in the habitats. Soon, I could walk out into the forest, close my eyes, and identify all the birds around me just by listening to their calls.

Since then, I have never give up my love of birding. Partly, I think, because birds are beautiful and interesting and quite worthy of being watched. Birding is also fun as an activity because it lends itself well to all levels of skill - it's possible to have a great time identifying birds on your very first day out in the field, with no experience whatsoever, because there are plenty of birds that are really easy to identify. Beyond that, there is a large section of birds who are a bit more challenging, but with some practice can usually be identified. And then there are birds who are just a pain in the ass for whatever reason: similarity to related species, weird juvenile or seasonal plumage, or habits which make them difficult to spot in the wild. So, even experts who have been birding for decades can still be challenged by this activity.

Right now, my "life list" (the list of all the different species of birds I've seen in the wild) is somewhere in the vicinity of 670 birds. I'd like to improve it, but lately it's been hard for me to find the time and get motivated to get out into the field. But that will pass. It always does, and then I'll be out wandering through the woods - or the beach, or the wetlands, or the park, or out on a boat in Monterey Bay - with my camera, seeing what gorgeous little feathery friends will be there to greet me.
Instruments, music

Sing, sing a song - Day 19 - 30 Days of Me

Oops! I got so involved in playing Dragon Age yesterday, that I completely forgot to post my "30 Days" entry. So much for being caught up! :D So, I'll just post two today. Unless I decide to turn on the Xbox, and forget again. (Haha). I'm on vacation, and it's the first day since getting home from southern California that I actually feel healthy (been fighting a cold), so I'm not feeling too driven about doing much of anything, except relaxing. I have written an entry about that trip, except I'm waiting for photos from my nieces. Might give up on that and post without them, though. Anyway . . .

Day 19 - A Talent of Mine

I often get "accused" of being good at "everything." Which is definitely not true, but I do think that I'm reasonably good at a lot of things. I draw, make jewelry and stained glass, play various musical instruments, write well, take good photographs, get good grades, identify birds, give good advice, knit and crochet, etc. There are some categories of things I'm not at all good at - sports, mostly - and things I don't like to do - like cooking. But mostly, I feel like I am able to do the things I enjoy well enough to really enjoy doing them. If that makes sense. :D

I think I'm good at things for a few reasons. First, I have a good memory, especially for facts and sounds and colors. I also have good manual dexterity. But most important, I am willing to try new things. I know a lot of people who claim to not be able to draw, but when asked if they've ever really tried, they'll say "not since I was a kid." Well, of course you won't be able to draw if you never pick up a pencil. So, I think my willingness to do things means I get credit for having "talents" that most people could have if they just made an effort.

None of this, though, really answers the prompt. So, what is one thing where I think I do have some innate talent that perhaps most others don't have? I'll go with singing. I have a beautiful, strong voice, although I never did a lot in terms of training it. No opera career for me because of that, although honestly, I think if I'd started being classically trained at a young age, I could have gone that route. I'm glad for my singing ability - it means I don't mind picking up a guitar and singing campfire songs, or even being the one to start singing "Happy Birthday" at someone's party. It gives me pleasure to sing when no one can hear, and a different kind of pleasure to sing for others (and knowing that they derive pleasure from it as well). It means I always have an instrument when playing Rock Band, and no one else is willing to pick up the microphone. :D

It also makes me feel guilt, at times. Or maybe regret is a better word. Because I do feel I have a real talent, and maybe I should have put it to better use. I could have made a living with my voice, and while I've always had the confidence in my singing, I didn't have confidence in other ways which would have let me pursue a career of that sort. So sometimes, I feel like I wasted something precious - something I was given that is special - and maybe that's a bad thing. For a while I did make an effort; I was studying vocal performance at Indiana University about 15 years ago. Then we moved from the area, and then I decided I wanted to have a child, and all sort of plans got put on hold and, later, shifted. I'm happy to be studying what I'm studying right now. I know I can make a good contribution to the world as a scientist. Plus, guilt is mostly a useless emotion, anyway. In this case, it surely is, as I can't go back and change things. But sometimes I do wonder what would have happened if I'd had enough faith in myself to do something with my voice.

Either way, if it's ever your birthday, look me up. I'll be happy to sing for you. Or could probably be convinced any other day of the year, as well. :)