Sunday, January 12, 2014

Let's Talk Games!

Next week Chris and I will be heading to a neighboring town for a weekend of geekery. We are attending something called MassiveLAN - which is basically up to 300 gamers in a convention center gaming as hard as they mlpcan with no sleep and questionable shower breaks. LAN stands for Local Area Network - basically we're all hooked up together and we're all in the same space. Eventually LAN parties will become a thing of the past, mostly because gaming computers for the serious can be huuuge, annoying and dangerous to move, and with high speed Internet, it's almost nuts to leave the comfort of your own home. For those of us who still go, it's nice to get together and game with new people who you can then talk to in person. This particular LAN party also features games like office chair races, computer building competitions, and other like-minded fun. (Trivia for those of you that don't know - Chris and I originally met at a LAN party.) To give you an idea, here is a shot of the fall MassiveLAN. This is just a tiny corner of the building that we occupied. As you can probably see, everyone's got a neat computer setup, and most opt for their own office chair since sitting on the plastic ones for a whole weekend will most likely lead to certain ass pain and possible premature death. Since the LAN is coming up, I figured I would write some posts about different games out there - and this is my first.

At the fall MassiveLAN, Chris introduced me to this batshit crazy game called Surgeon Simulator. This game has to be the funniest and most morose game on the market. It works like a first-person shooter. All you see are your hands, and whatever is in front of you. Your left hand uses the keyboard to operate the left hand. Your right hand uses the mouse, and it operates the right hand. It sounds ridiculously simple. Left. Right. Left. Right. How bad can it be? The answer is insanely bad. It's extremely hard to keep your hands steady, and to operate them separately - so for those of you who play FPS games, be thankful that when you go to shoot someone both your hands work in unison and know what to do! Instead of levels, you are tasked with every increasingly hard surgeries. Which in and of itself sounds good, but in practice it's pretty much the biggest joke possible. My first try, I sent a coffee cup careening into the open chest cavity of my patient, and then when I went to retrieve it, I found a bonesaw in my hands (I think I hit some wrong buttons on my way to the chest cavity). I proceeded to hack away at the chest cavity with the bonesaw, all the while the patient's blood pressure and vitals were plummeting. In the end, I neither retrieved the coffee cup, nor did I do anything more than destroy my patient.

surgeonAfter such a crushing loss, I did what any person given digital hands would do. I started making gestures. The finger, the peace sign, anything that came to mind. As it turns out, that was almost harder to do than operate! In the screenshot to the left, you can see all kinds of stuff on the table next to the patient. Who on Earth would operate with that much shit just laying around?! It's no wonder I was dropping pens and pencils and all kinds of stuff into the chest cavity. It's actually something of a wonder that my poor patient didn't expire sooner. As for the progression of surgeries - I can only dream. I'm pretty sure I'm never going to have it together enough to actually make any surgeonkind of progress whatsoever. While searching Google for a screenshot worth posting, I came across the screenshot at the right - the brain surgery. I can't even imagine attempting.

Surgeon Simulator is also wildly entertaining in a group setting. A few weeks after MassiveLAN, Chris and I had some friends over at the house. As often happens, everyone drifted to the computers and we fired up a game. Apparently there's no such thing as natural talent in Surgeon Simulator. One of my friends, Steve (of Monster Movie Monday), has really steady hands because he plays keyboard/piano. There's technically no reason that he wouldn't be able to own in this game. Except that the fictional surgeon that you are stuck piloting seems perpetually drunk. Move the mouse just a tiny amount and the right hand goes soaring across the screen, wreaking havoc where it goes.

If you're not afraid to get down and bloody, give Surgeon Simulator a try! If you have happened to try it, drop a line in the comments and tell me what you thought!

 

Winding up Somewhere You Shouldn't Be

On Friday, I was in downtown Buffalo getting ready to have an interview. (In November, I became unemployed and have since gone back to the pet shop where I used to work. It's good for now. But if I snag something in IT I will be significantly happier!) If you've never been in downtown Buffalo, I highly recommend it. There are all kinds of hidden museums and creepy landmarks. There is, however, not much parking.

I spent about 40 minutes circling around this particular block, looking for a parking space. There was literally nowhere to go! I then went a few blocks down and found myself trying navigate one-way streets, and then wound up parallel to my destination, but one street over. I was waiting at a light, extremely exasperated, when I glanced at the shop on my right. Lo and behold! I had found the hidden bookshop! Friends of friends had been whispering about a mom and pop bookshop "somewhere in Buffalo, possibly near Hertel Ave". While this place was absolutely nowhere near Hertel, it still existed. I decided to visit after my interview...

...which wound up being exactly what I needed. I was thoroughly underwhelmed by the company. That aside, I went straightaway to the bookshop, as fast as my wobbly-interview-heeled-boots could carry me. Old Editions Bookshop is my Valhalla. It's a bookshop and cafe (which means there is literally NO reason to leave once you're there), and by "bookshop" I mean walls and walls of books. I spent about 45 minutes perusing and will be dragging my friend back this Thursday for a thorough search of all the shelves. I just barely breezed through the top floor - it's filled with fine art prints and more walls and shelves of books. I walked out with several books - all of which are gems!

The picture below is all of the books I purchased at the bookshop. At the top of the picture, you might see two Macbooks. The one on the left belongs to my best friend and writing partner, Jason. The one on the right is mine. We drink tea while we write and joke that we're pretentious.

old editions swag

Four Way Bargello - I collect old crafting books, and one day want to start making things using the Bargello technique. It's super trippy, and since I like headache-inducing colors, this craft seems tailor-made for me. Four-way Bargello means that the design could be folded into four like sides.

Titus Crow - I hear good things about author Brian Lumley, and the idea of writing based on H. P. Lovecraft makes my heart swoon! The bookshop had three volumes, so I grabbed the second Titus Crow, and then the Necroscope: The Lost Years book that appears in the bottom row.

Sex Begins in the Kitchen - What a weird title! I stumbled on that one by accident while perusing the upper floor. I paged through it and couldn't help but chuckle at the marital advice the author gives. Tomorrow is my first year wedding anniversary, and I was feeling festive, so I picked it up.

The Best Ghost Stories of H. Russell Wakefield - I've never heard of H. Russell Wakefield, but I'm always up for a ghost story. Especially if we're talking ghost stories and in a hardcover book.

Cannibals and Evil Cult Killers - Again, what a crazy title! Perhaps the word "evil" is a little subjective (I in no way support cult killers, "evil" doesn't feel too objective to me). Either way, I thought it would be an interesting read, and I was wondering what the author would have to say.

The Presence of Grace - I was intrigued by the cover, and so I decided to purchase it. I thumbed through random pages and read random passages in the book. They were all very strange, and I was immediately interested. (I'll let you know how it goes!)

On Stranger Tides - Yes, it's the book that the Pirates of the Caribbean was based on, however, it seems extremely exciting. Just reading the back cover, I could tell it was different enough to be worth reading.

Beyond the Shroud - Last year, the horror world lost Rick Hautala. I hadn't read any of his books, but I read synopses during the outpouring of sadness at his passing and have vowed since to snap up every volume that I could. You can imagine my joy at seeing a hardcover volume. I grabbed it right up!

 

Have you read any of these books? Or anything by these authors? If so - drop me a line in the comments!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A New Genre

They say you learn something new everyday, and I believe it's true. I also believe that people can't let something just exist without categorizing it. Case in point: about a year ago, I body horrorwas in my local Barnes & Noble wandering aimlessly. I was hoping to stumble on a new book, new author, or new anything. At the time, their Fiction section began with a wall full of anthologies of different sorts. Among them was The Mammoth Book of Body Horror. I had no idea what "body horror was", but I knew that Mammoth books generally don't disappoint. I grabbed it (and let's be honest, about 5 other books) and left. It sat on my shelf for awhile because I was extremely busy getting married and buying my first house with my new husband.

In any event, some months after we got married, I happened to be thumbing through the introduction to The Mammoth Book of Body Horror. I wasn't sure what body horror was, or if I would like it. After all, I viscerally hate the Hostel series. I'm not typically the kind of person who enjoys watching people suffer in horrifyingly ingenious ways. SAW was interesting when it came out, predominately because it had a strong plot, and there was a good backstory to the villain. Hostel, on the other hand, is just plain upsetting. In any event, I set out to discover the meaning of body horror. The introduction to the Mammoth book assumes that you know what body horror is, which isn't helpful at all. It did mention that  John Carpenter's The Thing was actually based on a short story. Incidentally, George Langelaan's "The Fly" was first a story as well. Both are in the anthology (horray!) However, in writing this post, I wanted to make sure that I found a decent definition of body horror, and I've come up with this (with help from tvtropes.org):

body horror: involving horribly slow mutations of the body, with special attention to the face, drastic loss of personality is a bonus

Before reading the book, body horror seemed a manageable genre for me. After having read it, I think that "manageable" is a tenuous description. I handle body horror just barely better than I handle the likes of Hostel and SAW. Let's take a tour through some of the anthology, shall we?

"Transformation" - Mary Shelley : I was pleasantly surprised. I wholly expected to see Frankenstein represented, but was glad to see that another of her works was chosen. This one focuses on a dwarf, who tricks an arrogant man out of his most prized posession: his body. The dwarf convinces the man to switch bodies, and all hell breaks loose.

"The Tell-Tale Heart" - Edgar Allan Poe : I'm not sure that I see how this fits into body horror. The old man's eye doesn't make any kind of transformation, and the narrator goes mad. Again, no physical transformation. In all honesty, I think this was just a push to include a Poe story.

"Herbert West - Reanimator" - H. P. Lovecraft : Holy mackeral what a story! A man learns how to piece dead bodies together and bring them back. (Yes, most likely a nod to Shelley.)

the thing"Who Goes There?" - John W. Campbell : Thankfully, Carpenter's adaptation was very close. He left out some really interesting mind powers that The Thing possessed, but I think the movie was better that way. I liked not knowing what The Thing's major plan was.

"The Fly" - George Langelaan : Much different than the movie with Jeff Goldblum. I can't speak to the other adaptations, as I've never seen them. A chilling tale, but also a sad tale.

"The Other Side" - Ramsey Campbell : A teacher is taunted by visions of a clown under a streetlight. The teacher is driven mad by the homicidal tendencies of the clown. Great story! The images really stay with you long after you've finished the story.

"Almost Forever" - David Moody : Another shocker and tear-jerker. There is a treatment that can greatly extend your life, if it doesn't kill you. The question is, would you be willing to take the risk? Or ask someone you love to risk their life for more time on this Earth? A devastating tale all around.

I don't want to spoil the anthology for any prospective readers, but I will say that all of the stories were top-notch. Some varied on the theme (Stephen King's gross-out Survivor Type was one of them) but all of the stories were worth reading. There was never a tale that was boring, and most nights, I woke my husband up with all of my squirming and whimpering. You see, I'm not the type of person that can take all this intense body trauma. It freaks me out more than anything, because I can't disassociate it with myself. For instance, if someone mentions ripping off a fingernail, I can't help but feel my fingers start to throb. Whether or not you're a wuss like me, I highly recommend this book! Keep it, or give it as a gift. Just make sure you don't let it pass you by!

What do you think of body horror? Can you stand it? Let me know in the comments section below!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The performance Ryan Reynolds WISHED he gave...

I'm all for Ryan Reynolds.

Green Lantern? Loved it.

The Proposal? Loved that too.

The Amityville Horror? Gimme gimme!

X-Men Origins: Wolverine? Hell yes!

Buried? Not on your life.

Ryan Reynolds' acting was alright. It wasn't stellar, but it wasn't terrible. It just seriously lacked a certain...je ne sais quoi. Reynolds plays a truck driver who works in Iraq. He is attacked, and wakes up inside a coffin buried. He has a lighter, a cell phone, and very limited time to be found and rescued before his oxygen supply is gone. This should have been a riveting movie. I should have been sore all over from the tense atmosphere and my incessant worries for the main character. I should have cared what happened to him. Instead, I was left wondering where my 95 minutes had gone, and if there was some way to get them back.

In short, I should have been watching Wrecked. Adrien Brody always pulls off a masterful performance, whether he is the main character or not. His role preparation borders on the wreckedinsane (anyone remember his preparation for The Pianist? The man is hardcore!) Wrecked is a movie with essentially one character: Man. Adrien Brody carries the entire picture with such ferocity and intensity that it's hard not to believe that he was actually in a car wreck and left in the wilderness for an indeterminate span of days.

As I have already alluded, Man wakes up in a wrecked Chevrolet in a ravine. The accident has caused him to become trapped (I think the dashboard bent around his leg), and he spends most of the early part of the movie trying to escape. He has only fractured memories of the incident that led to his entrapment, and no idea who he is. He finds a license with the name Raymond Plazzy, and decides that must be his identity. Later on, he discovers a dead man in the backseat and a sack of money in the trunk. There is also a pistol. He decides that he must have robbed a bank, and killed the man in the backseat. As Wrecked progresses, Adrien's memories come back to him, and he gradually remembers the identity of the woman in his hallucinations. What he remembers will shock and rivet you.

I seriously can't rave enough about this movie. Adrien Brody delivers at every turn. And if you don't see this, you'll be sorry. It's just that good.

 

Hungry for more zombies?

I have long been a fan of Christopher Golden's anthologies. The man has a knack for choosing really interesting stories, by really good authors. His collection, 21st Century Dead, is no exception. I read this book, cover to 21st century deadcover, in about three days. Every story is top-notch. In some stories, people are the heroes, in others, people are worse than the living dead. Each story has something unique to add to the zombie cannon. 21st Century Dead contains stories by familiar names, as well as some that may not be so familiar. It's always so hard to pick favorites from anthologies this good, but I will do my best.

Jonathan Maberry wows with "Jack and Jill", the story of two twins who shared everything, until Jack was diagnosed with cancer. Jill continued with school, while Jack began treatment for the cancer. After that, things weren't the same. Jack and Jill continued to be close, but not in the same way. They couldn't experience the same milestones, and both knew that one day he was going to die. Enter a rainstorm that quickly turns into a flood, which is apparently not scary enough. Then, Maberry begins the zombie apocalypse. Cue images of children at school set upon by zombiefied teachers, friends, and neighbors. Continue with a family's struggle to save both their children and themselves on their farm. And finish with forms moving through the flooded corn fields, briefly illuminated by flashes of blinding light. Holy mackeral. Welcome to Maberry's nightmare!

Just how far will a woman go to avenge her murdered husband? "Devil Dust" by Caitlin Kittredge has the answer! Lizzie concocts a strange powder from exotic plans in a dilapidated shack in the woods. With the powder, she visits each of the men responsible for her husband's murder, passing the powder off as homemade meth. What happens next is harrowing, but strangely appropriate. You can't help but root for her as one by one she decimates the people who took so much from her. Her vengeance almost makes the reader sorry for the sad-sacks she takes down. Almost. Until you read what they did to her husband, Stephen.

Brian Keene brings us a story of a little girl who has always been alone. "Couch Potato" details the struggle of little Adele, whose mother is an addict. All day long her mother sits on the couch and watches TV, passing in and out of consciousness. Little Adele is left to do everything for herself, bathing, brushing her teeth, and even feeding herself. Despite the neglect, she loves her mother very much and doesn't want to abandon her when the zombie apocalypse begins. A kind neighbor boy offers to take Adele in, but she refuses. He helps her secure the apartment, and then goes back to his own apartment with his mother.

baby girlMy absolute favorite story was "Ghost Dog & Pup: Stay" by Thomas E. Sniegoski. I'm a sucker for animal stories, especially when I suspect the hero may be a Boston Terrier puppy. (I used to be afraid of dogs until my parents got a Boston Terrier puppy, then I learned to love all dogs. Though I'm a real sucker for a Bostie! At left is a picture of Lily, my parent's Bostie.) A boy with a special gift is guarded by his faithful dog, Murphy. One day during a terrible storm, Murphy and his boy come across a strange stone in the woods by their house. Murphy saves his boy from the spirit within, but loses his life in the process. It's up to the new puppy to win over the grief-stricken boy and become the new guardian. I was rooting for the ghost dog and his puppy partner the whole time (while wiping away the tears, Sniegoski knows how to wring them out of you!) I suspected the pup was a Boston because of the description of the bat ears, short and stocky frame, and the penchant for sleeping under the covers. Anyone with a Boston Terrier knows that they are notorious cover-stealers!

21st Century Dead is extremely versatile, and will have you on a rollercoaster of emotions the whole time. Some stories are scary, some make you question the norm, and others are tear-jerkers. Whatever stories you prefer, I guarantee you'll find something in this anthology!

Truly Tantalizing Tales

I read often, the upside of which is that I experience great storytelling, and the downside of which is that sometimes I can predict how a story is going to end. That's the worst, isn't it? Being drawn into a story, turning pages with sweaty fingers, only to find that the ending was exactly as you thought it would be, and feeling the subsequent disappointment.  Luckily for readers like us, author Kenneth W. Cain keeps you guessing right until the end in his anthology These Old Tales - A Collection of Dark Fiction. With each new story, I kept trying to guess the ending, and each time I was wrong.

theseoldtalesWithin the pages of this book, you will find the usual culprits.  There are zombies, werewolves, and devils.  However, there are other terrors without a name - and these are some of the worst, because you can't protect yourself from what you don't understand.  To say that Cain has filled his anthology with strange stories is an understatement!  Cain's strength is in his ability to take realistic, everyday people - your neighbors, co-workers, and possibly yourself - and subject them to a funhouse of tortures.  (No - I'm not going to give away any story plots or hints.  I don't want to ruin the enjoyment for you!)

It was hard not to read the stories with Rod Serling's voice echoing in my ears.  Cain's stories are very reminiscent of those written for The Twilight Zone by such masters as Richard Matheson. They have the same draw and increasing intensity as Twilight Zone Episodes, and sometimes even the same scary warnings. My personal favorite was a cautionary tale of Chinese food...and shrimp. (God I love shrimp!) A gentleman is sharing a meal with his wife when he spies a very ugly shrimp on his plate. He is told by the proprietor that if one makes a wish and bites the shrimp, it will grant the wish. The hapless protagonist cycles through wishes, and finally comes to decide that what he really wants is what he has. Too bad for him, the proprietor has some tricks up his sleeve!

If you're the type of person that monsters in every shadow, you're going to love These Old Tales by Kenenth W. Cain!

 

 

Merry Whatever-You-Celebrate!

All of the cookies have been baked (and eaten). All of the presents have been opened. All of the boxes have been test-sat by the cat. All of the family visiting has been done. All of the over 120 ornaments on the tree have survived the cat (hurrah!) All of the gifts have been given and received.

All of the cleaning started a few days ago - and I guarantee you're not done yet.

I believe I'm going to start with the tree. As much as I enjoy the Christmas tree, it's taking up a prime spot in the living room where the hamster usually resides. (This year he will be joined by the as-yet-not-named gerbil.) Additionally, I think I'm playing with fire - so many shiny objects in reach of the cat. I'm all but begging her to attack it. After the tree comes down, I have to find places for the cookie sheets, baking racks, and other accoutrements of the holiday baking season. Not to mention putting away the new presents. While that's going on, it's important to have seasonal movies playing. You may notice a running theme with most of these films - (OMG I'M STUCK IN THE SNOW AND SOMETHING'S AFTER ME) - but just remember, I'm writing to you from snow-covered Buffalo. Without further ado, please allow me to introduce my WINTER HOLIDAY MOVIES!

11. 30 Days of Night (2007)

This vampire-filled flick is great for the holidays! Vampire havok is not so unlike the bloodletting that occurs when shopping for presents. And even though I get along with my in-laws, not everyone does. Some might even go so far as to say that being trapped in Alaska without sun for 30 days might be an improvement...And while you're at it, remember to skip all the sequels. With or without Melissa George, they're all pretty much crap.

For added viewing pleasure, I suggest that you go heavy on Oreos and hot cocoa. And blankets. Thick ones. No matter where you live or how warm your house is, you'll be instantly cold once you start this movie.

 

2. John Carpenter's The Thing (1982)1

A group of scientists minding their own business and doing research in Antarctica gets tossed into the middle of one of the scariest battles for survival. It all starts when a Norwegian helicopter follows an escaped dog to their camp, all the while trying to kill the canine. In an attempt to figure out why the Norwegians were trying to kill the dog, Kurt Russell heads off to their campsite. What he finds there (and brings back) begins an epic fight for survival, and the fate of every living thing on our planet. As if that's not scary enough, apparently by the time The Thing is discovered, the research team has already pretty much had it with each other. Tensions run high, and blood will boil and crawl!
(Stand-out supporting cast include a bat-shit crazy doctor played by none other than Wilford Brimley, and a nearly-unrecognizable Richard Masur.

 

13. The Boogens (1981)

This obscure little gem is perfect for the winter holiday season! An abandoned Colorado silver mine is closed due to a disaster, and it sits vacant for years. It's finally reopened by a small team of four, and all hell breaks loose. People start coming up missing, and nobody can figure out why. As the movie progresses, the Boogens (these creepy monsters who burrow worse than hamsters) become increasingly bold in their kills. They start to come out more into the open. The Boogens aren't totally revealed until almost the end - but it's worth waiting for. Cheesy 80s special effects? Possibly. Creepy as hell? Definitely!

In a nutshell, when the creepy old man with tons of dynamite tells you not to open the abandoned silver mine, you better listen! The Boogens is the tale of what happens when that warning goes unheeded.

4. Gremlins (1984)

Yes, this is a very obvious choice. Zach Galligan receives a Mogwai for Christmas. He (along with spry little Corey Feldman) disobey the cardinal gremlinsrules of owning a Mogwai, and baaaad things happen. In case you've forgotten, there are three simple rules: light kills, water is bad, and no food after midnight. Things go well until Galligan begins disobeying the rules. A legion of horrifying gremlins is created from the tiny Mogwai, and they go on a night-long killing spree. Theatres will burn, old ladies will fly, and you'll be left laughing your ass off. As an aside, this movie scared the shit out of me as a child! The images of them hanging willy-nilly from strings of lights and giggling their way through the streets was too much to take. Then again, I was a child in the 80s, so that might have had something to do with it.

 

5. Dead Snow (2009)

dead snowGood. Lord. The movie is off to a terrifying start, with a group of Nazi zombies chasing a girl through the snowy mountains of Norway. Obviously, they get her because she's just a vehicle for the zombie reveal (she is dating one of the students that arrives at the cabin, but it's still a minor plot point). The main course is seven students vacationing at a remote cabin during Easter break. They intend to have a break filled with alcohol, sex, and skiing. What they get is the fight of their young lives. If you're a movie buff, watch out for hommages to both Peter Jackson's Dead Alive and Sam Raimi's Evil Dead 2.  The zombies are supposed to hearken to draug, creatures from ancient Norse mythology. Draug are dead beings that viciously guard graves in the same way that Pharaohs were buried with guards. The guards kept watch of the treasure of the person buried in the grave. That explains the box of gold that appears in the movie, but I can't tell you more because it would spoil the plot too much!

 

6. Dreamcatcher (2003)

Don't hate. Seriously. I get lots of grief for liking this movie! This movie is pretty good! I mean, how can you hate a Stephen King adaptation that boasts Morgan Freeman, Thomas Jane, Jason Leedreamcatcher

 Timothy Olyphant, Tom Sizemore, and Donnie Wahlberg as its cast?! Our main characters are four friends who reunite in Maine for a much-needed hunting trip. Each friend is experiencing different issues in their life. One is moving closer to suicide, one has premonitions, one is having love trouble, and the last is battling alcoholism.  At first it's all fun and games, until they are stuck in a blizzard. Then, a stranger wanders into their camp, seemlingly lost in the blizzard. He takes shelter in their camp, and he tells them of strange lights in the sky. The situation deteriorates further, until the friends are pitted against an alien race trying to take over our world. Their only saving grace might be an incident and friendship from their boyhood days, and their close bond.

 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014 - The Resolutions!

In the last post, I reflected on the past year. Overall things went pretty swell. I declined to speak much on the negative, mostly because that involved other people and I don't feel it's my right to display their heartbreak orself image failures for the Internet to see. That being said, I want to dedicate this post to the resolutions I have made for the upcoming year. I wanted to go beyond the intangible resolutions such as "be healthy". What the hell does that mean? Technically speaking, it means I can eat a bag of baked potato chips because they are healthier than regular potato chips. There's just one big issue there...I'm still eating a bag of potato chips.

1. Fully consume before purchasing. This one sounds pretty obvious, but you'd be surprised. You're reading the words of a girl who has about 5 different shampoos, 6 different body lotions, and more makeup than I care to admit. (This doesn't count for food - I'm not buying each ingredient when I want to cook!)

2. Speak kindly. Looking back on this year, and others, I realize that I'm not always the nicest person. Sometimes it's out of an interest in being humorous, but sometimes I'm just being mean. I always want people to speak kindly to me, and I figured this would be the year I took it to heart and started trying it myself. Not to mention the fact that depending on what you say, it can be hard for people to forgive you. (And you may have issues forgiving yourself.)

gossip3. Don't talk about other people. Sometimes I'm a gossip. I can't help it. I also vent my frustrations about people. For the most part, I try not to say anything behind someone's back that I wouldn't say to their face. At first I thought that meant I had integrity, now I'm thinking it just means I'm a bitch. Either way, I could spend my time saying something that actually matters, or not saying anything at all.

4. Write one blog post per week. I have been working on this blog for over a year now, and I want to contribute more. On the table next to me are literally 6 books and two movies that need to be reviewed. Rather than drown in posts, or follow a post-and-disappear cycle, I'd rather stick to one per week. Anything extra is a bonus.

5. Move at least 30 minutes a day. I want to lose weight. And as someone posted on Facebook, "You didn't take a pill to get fat, why would you take one to get thin?" When I was thinner (don't bitch and judge - I'm double the size I used to be, and it's not muscle) I used to actually move around. Then I discovered World of Warcraft, and sat on my butt. It's not the game's fault, but rather my lack of discipline. If I start small, with 30 minutes of activity that doesn't include work, but can include housework, I think that getting thin will be easier. And hopefully something that happens naturally.

6. Use what I have. This may sound silly, but it's true. Why buy something when you have enough at home? Case in point: throws. I freaking LOVE throws. I have so many it's not even funny. We may drown in a sea of them one day.

7. Want what I have. There's always going to be a shinier version of what you have at home. Why get another one when you can use what you have at home?

8. Don't go into a store without a list - and stick to it! Yep. This is another suffering point of mine. Wal-Mart anyone? It's impossible to leave that store without buying half of it, if not all of it.money snake

9. Learn when enough is enough. This is the most nebulous of the resolutions. It covers many things, including knowing when to put down the cleaning rag and allow myself to relax. It also covers knowing when not to take someone's shit. Sometimes I'm good at that. Sometimes I'm terrible.

What I want, in short, is a larger bank account, a smaller waistline, to learn to appreciate myself, and more space at home. What changes would you like to see in yourself in 2014?

Reflecting on 2013...

...one day into 2014.

Before I begin my list of New Year's Resolutions, and why I chose them, I want to spend some time thinking about the year I just experienced. Here were some of the highlights.

sammyOn January 8th, my (then) fiance and I adopted a little ball python from PETsMART, which we named Sammy. He wasn't eating well, and we wanted to make sure that he got a good home that would give him veterinary care. He did well for awhile, but always had trouble eating (frozen food) and shedding. Sammy was very sweet and pretty much everyone loved him. On October 8th, he passed away in the company of my (now) husband. He is buried in the backyard, next to our back porch.

weddingOn January 13th, I married the love of my life, and my closest friend. His name is Chris, and if you've been reading my posts with any regularity, you probably recognize him in name. (He's the dashing young man next to me in the picture at the left!) Here we are at the banquet after our wedding. We chose a non-traditional Justice of the Peace ceremony, because we were moving in together in two weeks and I wanted to be married first. Additionally, we wanted to keep costs down because we were going to be homeowners. We had a small wedding party, consisting of our parents, grandparents, and a few aunts and uncles. It was short and sweet. My dad took us out to brunch afterward, and then Chris and I went on our mini-moon (we saw Django Unchained, stayed at a hotel and had a steak dinner, then went to the aquarium the next day). The following week we continued living at our parent's houses, and then on January 21st, we moved into our first house. That was a big change for me, because I had never lived anywhere but with my parents (not counting a three month stint in the dorms in college - but seriously - that doesn't count!) The only pets we had when we initially moved in were my hamster, Gizmo, and my 75 gallon African cichlid tank. The tank is a mixture of all kinds of African cichlids, from a variety of lakes (yes, I know that's technically not good but for some reason it works.)

Our family grew again on January 29th, when we adopted a Bengal cat from PETsMART. (If you're noticing a pattern, I was a Pet Care Associate at the time - it's kind of a thing one does when working in a pet store.) I hadchloealways loved cats, but thought I was allergic. Apparently Bengal cats are considered hypoallergenic, although that's not always the case for everyone. I started my shift that morning as usual, and when my manager and I were in the cat adoption center, we kept feeling water being tossed at us. We turned around and saw "Carly" throwing water to get our attention. She suggested I adopt the cat because I love water too, and I thought about it. I had promised Chris that I would make him chili that night, but as it turned out we adopted the cat instead. We named her Chloe, though she's affectionately known as The Shitten and The Overlord. She is very vocal, loves water, and has a blood feud with every other animal in the house. She also loves watching us play video games and watching scary movies. The picture of her on the right is the first picture we took of her when we brought her home.

cichlidsThings were pretty quiet at our house (I switched jobs, but was later let go and wound up at PETsMART where I am currently working) until the cichlids started breeding. I would love to tell you that there weren't many babies, or that the pet stores in the area found the babies to be worth purchasing. Neither is true. We currently have about 20 offspring in the tank. They form a sort of mafia that swims around and eats pretty much everything in their path. They are a cross between a Kenyi cichlid and an orange cichlid with purple spots (I don't know what kind it is - I bought it from a mixed tank at work). Some of the fish that I can name are my frontosa (in the picture, it's the white and black vertical stripe fish with blue fins), a moliro moorii, a jacobfreibergi cichlid, a pleco, and a synodontis multipunctatus catfish. The offending female fish that cause the outbreak of babies is right to the left of the frontosa. It's pretty funny that they're doing so well, considering that I don't keep to a regular schedule with cleaning the water, and I overfeed (they always act like they're starving!) If anything, I think the fact that I have 100 gallons of filtration on a 75 gallon tank might cause a river-like environment. The overabundance of aquarium decor might also help, but I put it in there thinking it would help with their territoriality. Aaand if I can be honest, skulls go with everything. What aquarium doesn't need some skulls?!

Over the course of the ensuing months, I got closer to some friends I thought I had lost, kept in touch with those I hadn't come close to losing, and read a boat-ton of books. Aaand I learned a few important life skills. I submit for your pleasure the following:

  • Laundry does not do itself. It also doesn't bring itself down to the basement or sort itself out.

  • Food does not magically appear in the fridge, oven, or your belly.

  • Dirt and debris magically appear everywhere. Most often after you've tried to eliminate it.

  • Being a good wife and partner does not happen immediately. It may take almost a year. It may take over a year. It's all about working things out.

  • Sometimes it's better to walk away mad than open your mouth and dig yourself in deeper. The same goes for when something hurtful might come out.

  • A little bit of appreciation goes further than a whole lot of bitching.

  • Some marital advice from one of the happiest couples I know, "It's ok to fight, so long as you're fighting to understand. If you're fighting to win, you've already lost." Great advice in general, but especially for the newly-married!

  • Free time becomes a limited resource.

  • Food, clothing, utilities, and the roof over your head need to be paid for. Work accomplishes this.

  • Speaking of food, that stuff costs a shit-ton! Regardless of where you shop. It's nuts!

  • Also on food, eating healthy is difficult. If you want healthy, you have to cook. If you want fast, generally it's going to be shit food.

  • Nobody likes to do the laundry.


All in all, the months went well. Some time in July (as soon as I know the date for sure, I'll throw it in) I came home with another animal. I brought home Sheba, our Sumatran Blood Python. Her colors are absolutely shebabeautiful, and when she's buried in the substrate in her cage, she looks just like a leaf. I was originally nervous about her, because her type of python is supposed to be aggressive. I wasn't sure I was ready for that, considering that she's going to reach an impressive 5 to 6 feet in length. Eek! While in the pet store, I made sure to handle her for awhile. The girl working in the reptile department chatted with me for a half  an hour while I handled Sheba. I explained that I wanted to be sure of the temperament, since an aggressive 6 foot-long snake is NOT something I'm ready for. Plus, one day Chris and I would like to have a child. I don't want to put them at risk (I don't really care if I get bit, working in a pet store it can be commonplace for certain species so I'm ok with that). Chris and I have already agreed that we will be purchasing showcases so that we can ensure proper habitat as well as safety. (A general note - we only feed frozen to the snakes. We thaw them and serve them on a plate. We don't want to endanger the snake as live prey can - and often does - fight back. As for pre-killed, there isn't really a humane and sure way to kill the food beforehand. I can't bring myself to kill another living thing in this situation, especially since there is no humane way to do it. Chris is the same way)

miltonAfter Sammy's passing on October 7th, Chris was devastated. I had been prepared for his passing for awhile, since he hadn't been eating. We sought veterinary treatment, and gave him antibiotics at home. We did everything except force-feed (which can traumatize the pet as well as harm their sensitive jaws). Despite our best efforts he passed. On November 9th, a little over a month later, I talked Chris into going to the pet store with me. I'm not sure he was terribly excited (in fact, I can tell you he wasn't) because having me in a pet store is a bad idea. Since I get to take care of most of the animals at PETsMART, I get to fall in love with all of them too. There are only a few exceptions, Chinese Water Dragons and cornsnakes, otherwise I'd have every pet in the store! I wanted to show Chris a snake called a Western Hognose. They are considered excellent beginner snakes for a variety of reasons. They stay relatively small (only reaching about 2 feet at their largest), are extremely curious, and very tame. I was considering a Rainbow Boa because of their gorgeous coloring, but decided I didn't want another snake that would get to be 6 foot. I feel that one is more than enough! Chris fell in love with the Hognose pretty much immediately. As Chris is fond of saying, "They're so ugly they're cute!" We brought ours home and named him Milton. When Milton gets aggravated he does the funniest thing. He puffs up his cheeks full of air and makes a hissing sound. If he's just warning us (or the cat) he makes a ffft-ffft-ffft sound, where he makes short puffs one right after the other. I know he thinks he's being bad-ass, but it's just too cute! In the picture on the left, Milton is hanging out on Chris' arm.

And then, because apparently this has been the Year of the Pets, I adopted a gerbil on December 20th. Again, PETsMART. It was right before my first returning shift. It wasn't a very friendly gerbil, and I wasn't exactly ghostthe main person they thought of, as I had voiced my hatred of gerbils frequently the first time I worked there. At first I thought it was some kind of joke, but then I realized they just knew me for the sucker I am. In any event, Chris and I adopted the little gerbil who would come to be known as Ghost. And I have to tell you, he's pretty damn cute. Possibly cute enough that I will forget how bitey gerbs can be, and remember how cute they can be. He's also smart as can be (though sometimes I worry about his fascination with the cat...) He also loves to chew. I think he's going to chew us out of house and home!

 

That about sums up my 2013. How about yours? Write me in the comments - I'd love to hear your highlights too!