Loads of Links 2/27/12

Hey, friends! I’m afraid that my blog posts might be a little scarce for the next week or so, as my computer’s hard drive started making ominous clicking noises when I tried to process some photos on Friday and Mike wants me to leave it off until he has the time to look at things and possibly move over all my important data and install a new hard drive. (Living with an IT guy definitely has its advantages sometimes.) Until such time as my poor sweet Macbook can come back to me, here are a few fun links that I’ve been enjoying recently!

+ The Hairpin does it again, with Really Good Books About Lesbians. I’ve been mining the comments for reading ideas, and maybe some of you folks have additional recommendations? (Also good Hairpin reading material: Romance-Novel Sentence Diagrams. I have never diagrammed a sentence in my life, but you can’t say these aren’t hilarious.)

+ It’s been around for a while now, but I’ve been really enjoying the (NSFW) tumblr Unfuck Your Habitat as cheerfully forceful motivation to keep my house at least an eensy-weensy bit tidier. Plus, the moderator has an excellent collection of “congratulations/huzzah/good on you” GIFs.

+ Another tumblr that’s been around for a while? Reasoning With Vampires. Dana has been going over the Twilight books with a fine-toothed comb, giving the series the editor’s eye that she feels it lacks. The concept sounds malicious, but really, she’s thoughtful and detailed and, yes, occasionally exasperated.

+ Look, look! Reading in Skirts blogfriend Erin has a book blog now! And it’s awesome.

+ Who wants a freakishly expensive Icelandic blanket? Mia wants a freakishly expensive Icelandic blanket. (Although I’ll settle for a freakishly expensive Icelandic scarf! Hey, my half-birthday’s coming up, who wants to give me something?)

+ Sometimes–just sometimes–the Sherlock fandom makes me nearly cry with laughter. (Okay, maybe more than just sometimes. Sherlock + A Softer World = brilliance.)

Toodle-oo until tomorrow!

Outfit Post: 2/21/12

Top: Goodwill — Cardigan: Goodwill (Max & Mia) — Skirt: Goodwill (H&M) — Tights: The Sock Shop — Shoes: Payless — Earrings: Gift — Bracelet: The Brown Elephant

Another Friday? For me? You shouldn’t have! So kind, so nice. Anyhow, this outfit came together spontaneously when I decided to wear almost every gray piece of clothing that I could find in my closet. The effect’s a little off from my original vision, but it’s fun to do little challenges like that when you can’t decide what to wear. Or, at least, that’s what I tell myself when I’m standing there in my pajamas in the living room and it’s 7:30am already.

Freaky moment of the day: I was bopping around on the internet, as I am wont to do, and came across this slightly old and amusing news article. Why is it freaky? Because that fellow looks alarmingly like my older brother, Matthew, to the point that I had to go over the whole thing to make sure that Matt hadn’t both changed his name and gotten arrested in the month since I’ve spoken with him.

Fortunately, while either one of those things is maybe slightly likely given what I know of my brother, he’s definitely never been thirty years old or lived in Wisconsin, and he wasn’t born a Jeffrey, so I think we’re in the clear. Still, though. It especially freaked me out because I’m in the middle of reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, and just got to the point where they go to see Ruth’s possible in Norfolk. I guess this guy is Matt’s possible!

Normally I would just dismiss it as me being me, because I see similarities in faces everywhere. After watching the Sherlock episode “A Scandal in Belgravia,” I was struck by how much the actress playing Irene Adler (Lara Pulver) reminded me of Amanda Palmer:

Pulver.

Palmer.

Maybe? I feel like I’m always linking little bits, like lips or cheekbones or even particular tics and gestures, from one person to another, and if I ever point it out I just kind of get the, “…yeah, I guess so,” response from other people. But this is something everybody does, right? It’s just a facial-recognition thing.

But seriously, no foolin’, this isn’t just me being me–this Beezow guy could be the Sydney Carton to my brother’s Charles Darnay. (Or should that be the other way around?) Weird. Eerie.

Anyhow, have a Creepy Coincidence Friday, everybody! Stay safe, stay creepy.

How To: Fruit Jam Jellies

Ahoy, sailors and sailorettes! (Sailoresses? Sailorixes? Now I’m just being silly.) Look what I made!

More accurately, look at what Tito and I made! My good friend and dear co-blogger at Nisaba Be Praised came to visit a few weekends ago, and one of the fun things we did was make these little fruit jam jellies. They’re exceptionally easy to make; just pick a flavor of jam you like that’s knocking around the fridge, throw some in a pot with some sugar, water, unflavored gelatine, and citric acid, get it up to a certain temperature, and then dump it in a dish and put it in the fridge for a few hours (or overnight) to set.

We ended up trying out four flavors of jam, because I apparently have ALL THE JAM IN THE WORLD in my fridge: pear, blackcurrant, and a raspberry/lingonberry mix.

Some thoughts: the original recipe, which we took from here (check them out, they’ve got prettier pictures and a nice step-by-step PDF!), was pretty good, although we ended up cutting back to three tablespoons of sugar because the jams I had were already pretty sweet. When I make these again, I might even cut it down more, to two tablespoons, because the sweetness of the sugar tended to overpower the more delicate flavors (namely the pear). As Beth advises, pick a jam flavor you really like, otherwise you’re going to end up with a bunch of mediocre candy sitting around.

Also, I’d say pick a jam with a fairly smooth texture; of the three kinds we made, I liked the flavor of the blackcurrant jam jellies best, but the blackcurrant jam we used was extremely chunky and made for an oddly-textured end result. I wouldn’t say that some fruit bits or seeds here or there would be unpleasant, but if the jam’s more pulpy fruit than anything, save it for a different occasion.

Ours was pretty tasty, I gotta brag, even though my powdered sugar had bugs in it (ughhhh) and we had to fudge things and coat the candies in a mix of granulated sugar and cornstarch. It was a fun little project that didn’t take too long and is extremely adaptable for flavor preferences, and I got to take my share of the leftovers to work for Valentine’s Day! Plus, it finally gave me an excuse to purchase a candy thermometer, and if you know me you also know that I will not rest until my kitchen overflows with every niche cooking appliance known to man. One step closer to victory!

Outfit Post: 2/17/12

Top: From my friend Leah’s free pile — Cardigan: Goodwill — Skirt: Goodwill (H&M) — Tights: Spanx — Boots: WomanWithin — Neck ribbon: Off a gift box

Do any of you folks remember Stacked and Dour? Probably not. It was a little niche website, one long page, with pictures that large-chested women submitted of themselves looking grouchy. Fully-clothed, no cheesecake or nudity or anything, just ladies being Stacked and Dour. It would make a perfect Tumblr these days, come to think of it.

Stacked and Dour has no relevance to anything happening in these pictures; I was just reminded of its existence this weekend and had a fond mental laugh about the concept. Plus, I’m feeling a little dour right now myself, since it’s been a long day and, as usual, I’m running on too little sleep. I’ve never been stacked in any sense of the word, but 50% ain’t bad.

Flat Tire is neither stacked nor dour, so she helps me keep a sense of perspective on things.

In other news, Gracey continues her campaign for world domination via neckbow. Run, save yourselves!

Outfit Post: 2/15/12

Turtleneck: Goodwill (Old Navy) — Vest: Goodwill (Ben Sherman) — Pants: Goodwill (INC) — Belt: Thrifted — Necklace: Goodwill — Bracelet: Thrifted — Shoes: Payless — Earrings: Vendor on campus

Hello! How are you? Has it been a good Tuesday so far? Did you have yesterday off? Did you do anything special with it?

Mike and I had vague plans to drive down to Monterey to go to the aquarium, but then I spoiled things by sleeping in until 11:00. I’m not sorry. (Please tell me I’m not the only person who still does this past teenagehood? I get up at around 7:15 on weekdays for work, but I don’t think I’ll ever naturally be an early riser.)

I also worked a little bit on writing! If I continue at my current pace, I may actually have a book written…sometime in the next five years? But I’ve been feeling inspired lately, so we’ll see if I can’t start cranking out more than a couple hundred words a week.

I also made an important-to-me decision about something, and I’m waffling between waiting until it’s actually happened to tell y’all about it or to just get it over with. (The original phrase that jumped to mind was “blow my wad,” but that’s a little indelicate, and we all know I am the couthest of couth.) It might be to my advantage to wait, since that way if I chicken out you guys will be none the wiser. Then again, I’m soooo changeable! So we’ll see.

Have you got any secret plans right now? Come on, whisper in my ear. I won’t tell.

Crazy Mia’s Amazing Emporium of Total Book Madness: 2/16/12

Wow! So, it turns out I haven’t done a book review around here since, uh, September. Yup, just about five months ago. Well done, me. Part of that is because when I finally drag a review out of my brain, my instinct is to post it to Nisaba Be Praised, since that’s primarily a book blog and this is primarily a style blog. Buuuut I know not everybody likes to click through to my NBP posts, so we’ll see if I can’t get up off my arse and post reviews both here and there, more often.

(Quick question: does anybody click through? Like, anybody? I know Laura does–and bless your heart, Laura–but, short of being an actual smart blogger and going to look at the NBP stats on days that I link over, I’m not sure if anybody ever bothers.)

Anyhow! This particular review is dedicated to Tia, because I bought this book on my Kindle recently after reading about it ages ago on Dear Author–and I picked it up at least halfway because it sounded like something Tia would enjoy. I wasn’t wrong!

“Belimai Sykes is many things: a Prodigal, the descendant of ancient demons, a creature of dark temptations and rare powers. He is also a man with a brutal past and a dangerous addiction. And Belimai Sykes is the only man Captain William Harper can turn to when faced with a series of grisly murders. But Mr. Sykes does not work for free and the price of Belimai’s company will cost Captain Harper far more than his reputation.

From the ornate mansions of noblemen, where vivisection and sorcery are hidden beneath a veneer of gold, to the steaming slums of Hells Below, Captain Harper must fight for justice and for his life. His enemies are many and his only ally is a devil he knows too well. Such are the dangers of dealing with the wicked.” (via Goodreads)

If I may paraphrase the above summary, Wicked Gentlemen, by Ginn Hale, is many things: an urban fantasy/paranormal/Alternate Universe, a suspense/thriller, a gay romance. Putting it like that, it sounds busy and disjointed, but the elements actually flow together seamlessly and create a rich, interesting world–one that I’d really like to see more of.

Essentially, there are people in the world called Prodigals, who are descendents of demons repented and left Hell. Prodigals are treated as second-class citizens; they aren’t allowed to leave the capital city of Crowncross and mostly live in an underground ghetto called Hells Below. They’re looked down upon by humans and are often hauled off by Inquisitors, priest-police who deal with both criminal and religious matters and who often use any excuse to bring Prodigals in and torture them for information. Belimai Sykes is one such Prodigal, who spent time under the terrible prayer engines that left him addicted to the opiate ophorium and who is a reclusive, sardonic shell of his former self. When he finds Inquisition Captain Will Harper at his door, willing to pay Belimai to help hunt down Captain Harper’s missing sister, neither of them realize what will come of their pairing.

The book is actually split up into two novellas and an epilogue. The first, “Mr. Sykes and the Firefly,” is told from Belimai’s first-person perspective, while the second, “Captain Harper and the Sixty Second Circle,” comes from Captain Harper’s third-person perspective. From what I understand, a lot of readers preferred Belimai’s POV and were disappointed by the switch; not so with Mia. While Belimai’s snarky, descriptive tone is darkly funny and compelling, I also really enjoyed seeing things more from Captain Harper’s position. He’s not as immediately charming as Belimai, but I got a very distinct sense of the private, duty-driven kind of person that Captain Harper is, and I liked him quite a bit. I will admit that I didn’t realize (read: remember) that the book was split into two parts, and was quite surprised when the story arc of “Mr. Sykes and the Firefly” wrapped up quite a bit more quickly than I was expecting. The endings of both stories are a bit abrupt, but I do think that the world and characters are well fleshed-out, and mostly I was just left wanting to know more.

I was also quite impressed by the balance between the romance and action parts of the stories; the world the characters live in is quite dark and grim (many reviews describe it as being steampunky, which I don’t really buy, other than the arrested-technological-development aspect), and Belimai and Captain Harper spend a lot of time running around and shooting people and trying not to get caught, but the romance never felt shoehorned in, and the pacing is pretty smooth and exciting. It’s a different kind of romance than what I’m used to, although admittedly I’ve only read a handful; Belimai’s and Captain Harper’s relationship is very private, a love story between two introverts, and I found it quite touching. The non-het nature of their relationship is never really called into question, and non-het relationships in general don’t seem to be an issue–other than one line where two side-characters are called “faggots” by the somewhat one-dimensional villain–which was somewhat refreshing; it’s not really a coming-out story for either character. When Captain Harper struggles with himself, it’s more about his relationship with Prodigals than his relationship with men, and Belimai’s personal growth comes more from forgiving himself for the things he’s done in the past. There’s one graphic sex scene and one other (I think) fade-to-black, and a million other little things that show us how the two go from having casual sex (or “a drunk-fuck,” as Belimai calls it) to really caring for one another.

In the cons column, there were more typos than I generally approve of in a finished product, and the prose gets a little clunky at times. It took me a little while to really get into the story, as the beginning didn’t really draw me in, but after a while I found that my mind kept coming back to the book when I wasn’t reading. For a few days after I finished, I kept going around thinking, “Oh, cool, later I can pick up Wicked Gentlemen again and see what–oh, damn, no I can’t, it’s over!”

All in all, if any of the genres involved sound up your alley, I’d say give it a go. The ebook is only $5.99 on Amazon, although I’m thinking of picking up a paperback copy so that I can share it out to friends. I’d love to read more quality LGBT fantasy romance like this, and in fact, I want my own lesbian fantasy story to reach this quality (though it won’t get there if I’m sitting around wishing it to be so!). Although, sadly, it doesn’t look like Ginn Hale has written any other books about Crowncross or Belimai and Captain Sykes, there are a couple other novels listed on her site, and I think I’m going to look into tracking them down. If the characterizations are as well done in her other works as they are in Wicked Gentlemen, I won’t be sorry.

(As a bonus: I don’t know if it’s the “Captain” part, or the fact that Crowncross seems to be a London analogue, or what, but I kept imagining John Barrowman as Captain Harper:

Let’s just say it didn’t hurt.)

What’s in a Name?

No pictures today, because I’m a horrible outfit chronicler right now. But! Let’s talk about something feminist-y that is worrisome to me!

Since just before Christmas, Braden and I have been “joking” about changing our respective last names to Science. I say “joking” in quotation marks because I don’t…I’m not sure if we were joking or not. The thing is this: neither of us has an emotional attachment to our last names. Braden’s was constructed by Ellis Island agents who decided Wortis wasn’t American enough. Nevermind that Wortis was also a bastardization of the original spelling anyway. Shelley, while it has been part of my identity for 100% of my life, we don’t actually know the origins of the name. So we talked about changing out name to something that was meaningful for both of us.

Science is definitely one of the foundations of our relationship. We both have a desire to learn about the world and the things around us. I’m pursuing a terminal degree in computer science. He’s a complete science fan. It makes sense for us. It would simplify naming our kids, since I’m not taking his last name because it’s not something that vibes with my philosophy.

You would not believe how angry this made my next door neighbor.

I want to profess my ignorance. I want to claim that I don’t understand his irritation, or his need to inform me that it was a foolish idea and that there is “no foolishness the law won’t support.” I want to claim that since it doesn’t hurt him, he shouldn’t care, and that I don’t know why it does. But I know where that comes from.

It comes from a need to preserve the way things are, and from the fact that someone else doing things differently is often taken to mean that the way they did it isn’t good enough for me. That I’m disregarding tradition for some foolish reason and that obviously I’m part of the “me” generation that only cares about myself. That the explanation “I want to do this because it will make me and Braden happy” isn’t enough because it’s going up against Western tradition.

While I don’t know what we’ll do yet, I do know that we’ll continue to deal with strangers telling us what to do no matter what we do. I have pink and blue hair. I have multiple tattoos that are visible during about 3 months of the year. Braden has a tattoo. We’re both fat, which of course means our bodies are available for public comment, you know. I’d love to hear your opinions about name changing: I know a few of you are getting married too and have thus started to field questions about name changes too.