Wednesday, September 24, 2014

In which I become slightly obsessed with podcasts

A few months ago, I was only listening to one podcast. I had caught up on all of the episodes, and actually had to wait for episodes to come out. This was annoying primarily because it meant I no longer had daily Harry Potter discussions to look forward to. It also meant I needed to find something else to listen to on my walks.

So music it was.

But it's not as fun to listen to music when you can't sing along. I may be willing to verbalize my thoughts to the Alohomora! hosts, but singing along to music no one else can hear is a crazy I'm not comfortable succumbing to.

Then if finally occurred to me—I should listen to other podcasts!

I immediately began my research, and started paying more attention to podcast mentions from people who have similar interests. While I first searched for entertainment, I quickly realized I could use podcasts to quench my thirst for knowledge somewhat. Soon I had more audio than my iPod had room for, full of discussion on books, language, the humanities, and culture. Since I only listen to podcasts when I'm working out (okay, and sometimes when I'm at work), I have more motivation than ever to be physically fit.

If you're considering allowing podcasts to suck up your time, here are some of my favorites.

Alohomora!There are a lot of Harry Potter podcasts out there, but I am devoted to this one. It's a global re-read of the Harry Potter books. Each chapter is discussed in loving detail, so it's basically the most awesome thing ever.

Lexicon Valley: This is a podcast about language. It focuses more on the evolution and quirks of language, rather than the rules. So you'll get discussions on why English doesn't assign gender to nouns, or why we start and end sentences with "so." I am completely fascinated with this stuff. Completely fascinated. 

Writing Excuses: Shannan has listened to this podcast for years, but I always resisted, even though I love everything Brandon Sanderson is involved with. I'm one of those special people who would rather read something than watch or listen to it. But, I finally gave it a chance. And of course I liked it. Everyone has their own tips for what works in writing and what doesn't, but the hosts seem more genuine. Not to mention they have fun while doing it.

The Readers: These guys make my reading habits look pathetic. I average about a book a week, but I'm starting to realize that may not qualify me as a true bibliophile. So even though these guys (I can't remember their names—I call them the Brit and the American in my head) talk a lot about books I've never heard of, they also discuss readerly topics I'm very interested in, like why the classics are classics, how the internet has affected our reading habits, and how to find time for reading. Their discussions flow naturally, too—I always feel like I'm listening in on an interesting conversation between experts rather than two hosts who are trying to stay on topic within their allotted timeframe. Plus, I get great book recommendations every episode.

Entitled Opinions: I call this one my humanities podcast. It focuses primarily on literature, but there's also some science, psychology, art, and music thrown in there. I've only listened to a few episodes so far, but it makes me feel like I'm in school again more than any of the other podcasts I've found. (Clarification: this is a good thing.) It's very academic and mind-broadening, so I like it.

BYU Speeches: I didn't go to very many devotionals during my time at BYU. I enjoy this type of thing more now than I did then, though, and it's nice to have a more Sunday-appropriate podcast to listen to.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Song of the Week: Sweet Silver Lining

Sweet Silver Lining, by Kate Voegele

What it's about: Yup, life is a battle sometimes, but there's always that silver lining.

Why I picked it: Because it's been stuck in my head for days.

Best line: "I may be weak but I'm never defeated." Have you ever had someone tell you they admire you for your strength when you feel like you're just surviving, not doing anything heroic? Yeah. That's why I love this song. Sometimes it really helps to stop and acknowledge that you're weak. But the fact that you're not dead yet despite your shortcomings must mean there's a grain of truth to what people are saying about this mysterious strength you can't see in yourself.

Mood trigger: Listen to this song when you're down on yourself and need a little pick-me-up. I actually just created a playlist for exactly that mood, named after this song.

Random Observation: Kate Voegele is one of the many artists I discovered through One Tree Hill. She sings this song at a certain wedding. If you've seen the show, you'll get why it works.

Monday, September 8, 2014

A new stalker

On Labor Day, I got home late. I was too preoccupied with getting all my stuff inside to notice that someone was waiting for me underneath the stairs. It wasn't until I had shut my door and locked it that I noticed someone had followed me inside.

It was a cat. A black cat. Staring at me.

Now, I don't scream very often—I save it for roller coasters. Any time I'm startled, I usually let out a shriek or an low-toned, operatic "augh." You know I'm truly scared when I let out a shrill, girlie scream.

When I saw that cat, I screamed.

The cat jumped, but interpreted my loud greeting as a "make yourself at home," and headed straight to my bedroom.

Once again, it stared at me as I approached—with a broom, of course—only this time, all I could see were its glowing yellow eyes. I turned a few more lights on, and then started coaxing the cat to walk in the direction my broom was pointed. I was scared to touch it because that much contact would destroy my night with unbearable itching and sneezing.

The cat followed my lead, though, and it was soon back outside where it belonged. I locked the door again, relieved that that problem turned out to be easy to fix. I soon forgot about the cat, and settled into my nightly routine.

The next morning when I left for work, the cat was waiting for me on the stairs. It jumped up the moment I opened the door, again thinking it was an invitation to come in. The daylight helped me keep my wits about me this time, so there was no screaming. And I managed to get the door closed before the cat snuck in.

Having a cat as a stalker isn't the worst thing that's ever happened to me, but it's still a bit unsettling, daylight or not. I'm too young to be a crazy cat lady, dang it.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Song of the Week: August End

August End, by Jon Schmidt

What the song's about: Saying good-bye to summer.

Why I picked it: Fall came early this year. Today I put on a jacket before heading to work for the first time since winter reluctantly went into hibernation mode. I wanted to pick a song that had a very Autumn-y feel, so I scrolled through my iPod, hoping a song would jump out at me. Luckily, "August" starts with an A, so I didn't have to search for long.

Best line: My favorite part of the song starts at 1:27 on the video below, and goes to about 1:47. Most of this song is calm and steady, perfect for taking a drive through a canyon or tree-infested street to enjoy the changing leaves, but then 1:27 hits, and it's like you suddenly remember all the wonderful things about fall: a new school year, football season, jackets, hot cocoa—you've heard me make this speech before. I just can't find anything to be be sad about this time of year.

Mood trigger: If you're the summer type, this song will probably make you think of everything you're saying good-bye to—tanning by the pool, weekly barbecues, baseball games, freedom. But if you're the fall type, it'll give you that warm fuzzy feeling that just isn't possible when it's hot outside.

Random observation: This isn't one of my favorite Jon Schmidt songs, so I don't listen to it that often. I'm glad I took the time to give it a listen today, though. Except now I'm bummed that it's not in any of his piano books. Don't you know you're not allowed to release songs without releasing the piano music, too, Mr. Schmidt? You have no idea how much time I've spent scouring the internet for sheet music to some of your songs. Which I would happily pay for, by the way.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Convention first-timer

Just a few weeks ago, I was bemoaning this culture that makes us slaves to our 9-to-5 jobs, when BAM! USANA's International Convention hit, the event we spend months preparing for and that defines our entire year.

In a nutshell, here's what my first Convention experience was like:

  • Four 12-hour days, most of it on your feet.
  • By 3:00 p.m. every day, my feet hurt so much I kind of wanted to cry. It was even worse waking up in the morning to the thought: "Crap. My feet still hurt."
  • Getting to know co-workers I don't usually work with.
  • Those who suffer together instantly become friends.
  • Celebrity sightings. I was more struck by people's reaction to these celebrities, though. Some people throw safety and sanity out the window when they see someone they've previously only seen on TV or social media. Yeah, these people are famous, but they're still just people, not deified beings.
  • Convention food. 'Nuff said.
  • As the week went on, I got more and more annoyed with the people who would drop items in random places throughout the store and leave crumpled shirts in their wake (even though I'm guilty of doing both of those things). Four days in retail was all the confirmation I needed that fast food was the right path for me pre-college.
  • During Convention week, the outside world doesn't exist. I didn't cook or clean, I had no idea what the weather was doing, and there was no room for things like current events in my life. If it happened outside the Salt Palace or the EnergySolutions Arena, it didn't happen.
  • The store take-down was inspiring. I have never seen so many people work so quickly with so much focus. We were all off to celebrate the end of Convention week within a half hour of the store's closing.
It was an exhausting, yet exhilarating, experience. Leading up to it, I could not fathom why so many employees look forward to Convention. But amidst the long hours and brutal demands on your body, there are a lot of laughs, fun shenanigans, new friends, and a much-needed shakeup from the daily grind. It may be hard mentally and physically, but, in some strange way, it's good for the soul.