Nonword of the Week: Sunburner

Sunburner: one who is particularly prone to being sunburned, usually susceptible due to pale or sensitive skin 

Example: Chelsea made the decision to move to Phoenix, Arizona despite the fact that she was an atrocious sunburner.

Related nonwords: summerize, SPFed, sunburnee

“Sunburnee” might be the more appropriate nonword, but to me that suffix suggests passivity, and becoming sunburned implies some sort of deliberate action out under the sunrays.  And yes, I am a sunburner.  My skin apparently favors blistering and peeling to gaining any sort of tan, no matter how frequent the applications of sunblock. It makes me wonder why I persist in activities that are likely to lead to more sun exposure, like lifeguarding or attending college in Tempe.  I guess I’m a glutton for epidermal punishment.

Have a unique nonword of your own?  Leave a comment!
Not sure what a nonword is?  Check out my first nonword of the week.

Disclaimer: I do not condone idle word-mangling.  Please mangle your words with care. Should not be attempted by the faint of heart or those with reading disorders.  Side-effects include peculiar looks, disapproving frowns, essay markdowns, and utter confusion.

Sunday Speedpaint: Smokey

Happy birthday to my friend Amanda! (4/30)  I drew a one-hour speedpaint of her old cat, Smokey.  I wasn’t able to have a kitty of my own growing up (family allergies), so I was always excited to see Smokey whenever I visited her house.

Again my recorder acted up, so only the ending of the process was saved – the making of the background.  I need to find a new video program that’s less glitchy.

Saturday Snapshot: Stormy Palms

Here’s a photo from two days ago, when Phoenix was experiencing one of its 28 rainy days allotted for the year.  This was actually taken from inside my apartment, through the window.  During a break in the rain, the sunshine was hitting the palm trees.

Fun trivia for the folks in the home state: Spokane gets an average of 106 days of precipitation and Seattle gets 147.

The stats are from the 2010 U.S. Census (warning – excel spreadsheet).

50 Shades of Gray (Literally)

Rather than reading the Twilight fan fiction-derived, erotica-laden bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey, why not check out this literal list of fifty shades of gray?  I have not read the book, but since the last names of the main characters are Grey and Steele, I thoroughly expect author E.L. James to continue the naming trend for the rest of the trilogy.  Perhaps a rival love interest named Timberwolf?

50 Shades of Gray
(or at least fifty different names for it) 

The Obvious:
1. Gray (Grey)
2. Steel
3. Twilight

4. Argent
5. Shadow

6. Metallic Gray
7. Silver
8. Iron
9. Platinum
10. Mercury
11. Magnet Gray
12. Stirling
13. Pewter
14. Leaden
15. Quicksilver
16. Industrial Gray

17. Slate
18. Cement
19. Stone
20. Masonry
21. Boulder Gray
22. Granite
23. Tombstone
24. Pebble Gray
25. Concrete
26. Flint
27. Limestone

Hair Color:
28. Hoary
29. Grizzled

30. Timberwolf
31. Gray Goose
32. Dolphin
33. Pigeon Gray
34. Gray Squirrel
35. Rhinoceros
36. Dove Gray
37. Koala
38. Mouse Gray

39. Gray Moss
40. Rose Gray
41. Silver Cedar

42. Dusky Gray
43. Cloud
44. Thunderstorm
45. Misty
46. Rime Gray

47. Cinder Gray
48. Ash
49. Smoke
50. Charcoal

I heartily welcome any other gray suggestions in the comments.

Happy Shakespeare Day

Shakespeare is probably a little miffed that everyone forgot his birthday.  It’s true; April 26 is actually the anniversary of his baptism, which means that for the rest of his afterlife William Shakespeare has to put up with the entire English-speaking world being perpetually late to his party.  But hey, it’s been almost 400 years since he died, so he’s probably used to it by now.

I don’t really have a favorite Shakespeare play, though I do think that the tragedies are the most fun to read: Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Hamlet, Titus Andronicus.  Death and ghosts and gore all the way.  If pressured to choose a tragedy, I’d probably go with Hamlet, because, well, Hamlet, with the Scottish play taking a close second.

As far as viewing Shakespeare’s plays, though, I enjoy the comedies more.  A Midsummer Night’s Dream looks great on stage, but Much Ado About Nothing wins this category for the epic verbal sparring of the Beatrice/Benedick relationship.  Beatrice is probably my favorite female Shakespeare character.  The play is good in person, but I do highly recommend the Kenneth Branagh adaptation from 1993.  I mean, just look at the cast. LOOK AT THE CAST.

Kenneth Branagh, naturally.

Why yes, that is Emma Thompson.

And Denzel Washington.

And Michael Keaton.

And Kate Beckinsale.

And a young Dr. Wilson – ahem – Robert Sean Leonard.

And  EVIL MASTERMIND KEANU REEVES.  That’s right, you heard me.

Anyway,  I got a little sidetracked, but Shakespeare.  Good stuff.  I know you might be traumatized from high school and/or college required reading lists, but the plays really are worth a second look.  Severed hands and love quadrangles = top notch entertainment, no matter what age you live in.

One Month In

Today marks the one-month anniversary of my new blog (woo!) and I think it’s a good time to reflect on why I decided to try writing a daily blog for the first time in my life.  When I started out, I wasn’t entirely sure, but I’m starting to develop some ideas.

I’ve never been a huge fan of social media sites like Facebook.  There isn’t much depth to that kind of communication.  To read Facebook is to be a rock skipping across a lake: you skim the surface of people’s lives and get a little wet, but there’s a whole other dimension you’re missing.  Facebook bothers me because when there’s something I really want to talk about, I never feel there’s enough space for it.  The medium is shallow by nature, so snippets like pithy quotes and cute photos thrive but anything longer than two paragraphs is TL;DR.

And I like to write.  I’m a creative writing major, for goodness’ sake.  I like reading and writing so much that I want to do it for the rest of my life.  So it’s hard for me to feel much kinship with a platform which seems claustrophobic.

If there’s one thing the blog form allows, it is room for me to blather on about any random topic for as long as I want. Also, compared to Facebook, here I have PHENOMENAL COSMIC POWER.  I choose what the blog looks like, what content gets posted, which comments to allow, etc. – an ideal situation for those with occasional control-freak tendencies like myself.  Muahahaha.

The creation of this blog also comes at a pretty major turning-point in my life: college graduation.  For the last K-12 (+4) years of my life school has made me write things, from my first grade story/journal on up. The mandated writing became so demanding, my desire to write non-required prose dwindled and stalled.  Heck no, I don’t want to write another 2,000 words of my story when I have a 15-page paper due next week!  I like writing, but not in a masochistic way.  So while I’ve continued working on my fiction here and there, my assignments have always taken priority.

With what is likely the end of my formal education looming, I want to get back in the habit of writing things because I want to write them, putting down words that aren’t related to some requirement, not lecture notes, topic brainstorming, or homework responses.  A daily blog is perfect for this because it doesn’t really matter what I’m writing as long as I keep writing.  Even if all I churn out is nonsense, practice can only help me at this point.  It’s the most basic of daily writing routines.

…And those are my thoughts on blogging on the one-month anniversary.  So far it’s been a fun experiment.  The strangest thing to me at this point is being able to look back at the people who are looking at the blog, through WordPress statistics.  For some bizarre reason, I had a massive spike in views today and I’m still not sure why.  That makes me a little paranoid… Oh, well. I hope the people who click over here aren’t finding it a waste of their time.

Now it’s time for a shout-out to my WordPress compatriots who were nice enough to follow my blog in its first month of life:

Thanks, all!  (Thanks also to my two by-email followers, who know who they are.)  One month down – hopefully many more to come!

Scholastic All-Nighters: Why and How

Last night I pulled what was probably the last all-nighter of my college career, which feels bizarre.  There are plenty of worthy reasons to stay up all night, but from now on my education will not be included in that category.  I’ve had more all-night paper-writing and studying sessions than I care to think about over the past four years, and my general conclusion is that they are to be avoided as much as possible.  But sometimes, you don’t have a choice.

If you are prone to procrastination, like I am, you might realize the night before that you have several hours of work ahead and no remaining daylight between you and your due date.  Or maybe you simply have a lot of projects coming down to the wire all at the same time, as frequently happens with finals week and sometimes midterms as well.  When these situations come up, you have to make the choice as to whether pulling an all-nighter will ultimately help you or harm you.

When debating whether to force my brain to essentially work overtime, there are some important considerations.  The first is whether I am currently running a sleep debt already – some weeks I will sleep less than I really should and that loss accumulates.  At that point, piling an all-nighter on top runs the very real risk of mutating me into a zombie rather than a functional person.  The best time for an all-nighter is when you are well-rested already.  The second thing to do is look into the future and check to make sure you won’t be repeating this process every night for the next week.  There is no way you will be running at full capacity after staying up for more than 48 hours straight.  For an all-night study session, it is best to be well-rested before and well-rested afterward.

If you aren’t facing an overwhelming lack of sleep after considering the past and future, then your attention needs to turn to what you will be doing the night of.  All-nighters are good for rote studying and cramming, but not necessarily the best for critical analysis.  If you need to apply a lot of intellectual power to an assignment, it is better to do that first and leave any memorization for afterward – avoiding a brain burnout before you even get around to the most mentally challenging requirement.  Before you set out on your sleepless, studytastic night, make a schedule.  Even if all semester you have avoided budgeting your time, you really do need this. Cram sessions are so crammy because there is a severe time shortage.  In addition, abandoning sleep tends to compromise your judgement.  It is better to look at your schedule and let your brain follow that than improvise on the fly – that’s a recipe for night-before panic.  Scholastic all-nighters require discipline, and the channeling of that anxiety into results instead of hopeless stress.

With all that said, all-nighters are bad for you.  Humans sleep an average of eight hours a night for a reason, and denying your brain REM sleep has all sorts of nasty consequences that are still being studied.  One of the more interesting results that was recently found was that REM sleep is important to the formation of memories: every sleep session, the brain is cataloging the events of the day before by storing information and making new connections.  It is easier to remember what you did last Monday if you had some good rest Monday night.  All-nighters short your memory-making circuits.  Therefore, while they are practical for getting you through the exam the next day, they are detrimental to retaining knowledge long-term.

There are ways to help mitigate the negative effects of amputating eight hours of brain-healing downtime.  If possible, take a short nap the afternoon before.  Avoid junk food: you don’t want to make things harder on your body than they already will be.  If you need caffeine to help keep you awake, manage your dosage: don’t binge that evening and risk a meltdown at four in the morning.  Imbibe small servings throughout the night instead.  Eliminate as many distractions as possible because they will divide your already compromised focus.  It helps if you have like-minded friends who want to study with you at the same time, because you can police each other and keep yourselves on-task (Important: friends who are not study-brained will not be as helpful for your focus).  Once you have passed your deadline, taken your exam, turned in your paper, presented your project: SLEEP.  Sleep, sleep, sleep.  Your brain will thank you, and hopefully forgive you for abusing it the night before.

My last scholastic all-nighter?  Very successful.  I completed a 15-page paper, worked on another, and studied for an exam the next morning.  The paper got finished, good progress was made on the second, and I felt much more confident for the exam – pretty sure I got a good score!  The largest chunk of what I had left to do before semester’s end is gone, and I just have three papers (all in-progress), one class project, and one final exam left to do before I’m home free.  And I can finally break off my love-hate relationship with all-night study sessions for good.

Nonword of the Week: Restress

Restress: to experience anxiety about the same issue more than one time; to have a recurring worry

Example: Chelsea restressed about Monday’s final exam every three hours or so.

Related nonwords: brainful, redread 

Yeah, my finals week is getting to me.  Is it that obvious?  I am a chronic restresser when it comes to things like major tests and papers. Get out of my brain, panicky feelings! Leave me alone!

Have a unique nonword of your own?  Leave a comment!
Not sure what a nonword is?  Check out my first nonword of the week.

Disclaimer: I do not condone idle word-mangling.  Please mangle your words with care. Should not be attempted by the faint of heart or those with reading disorders.  Side-effects include peculiar looks, disapproving frowns, essay markdowns, and utter confusion.

Sunday Speedpaint: Earth Day

A snow leopard composite painting for Earth Day – the leopard was referenced from here and the Earth that appears in the eyes and text comes from here.  Unfortunately my recording file was corrupted, so no process video this week. Overall I’m not particularly pleased with this one.  It took about an hour to speedpaint and it really needs a couple more to make the leopard more realistic-looking in terms of fur texture.

Saturday Snapshot: Valley of the Sun

Hayden Butte, Tempe, AZ

For the first and last time in my college career, I climbed Hayden Butte at sunrise. (Hayden Butte is ASU’s “A” Mountain – a.k.a. the one with a big letter “A” on it.) It was a short little hike but certainly enough to let me know how out of shape I am.  I started around 5:30 or so, reached the top and enjoyed the view / caught my breath until full sunrise at 6 am.

It really was quite a good morning for a hike; the temperature was about 75 degrees or so at 6am and the breeze at the top was very pleasant.  There was also a lot to look at.  I didn’t realize that Pat’s Run was happening today, and even this early in the morning thousands of people were gathering.  I could hear an announcer and as the sun came up all these crowds wearing red shirts were amassing, parking in ASU’s massive lots (lower right of the top photo) and hopping off the light rail:

So I spent a good hour up there on the rock watching all of the hubbub. (For Pacific Northwesterner reference, Pat’s Run is about half the size of Bloomsday in terms of both race length and attendance numbers.)  Speaking of my homeland, I say “rock” because that’s really all Hayden Butte is: a craggy rock jutting up out of the desert.  “A” Mountain has about as much in common with a mountain as Tempe Town Lake – the water in the snapshot – has in common with a lake.

Spokanites will also understand my confusion from hearing the expression “The Valley” used down here in Arizona.  I grew up understanding that to mean the Spokane Valley (now technically the City of Spokane Valley).  But here, “The Valley” is short for The Valley of the Sun – a phrase that refers to the entire Phoenix metropolitan area.  Only about 4 million people live in this Valley, so it’s just a little bigger than Spokane’s. According to Google-fu, it’s even larger than Seattle/Tacoma/Bellevue smushed altogether.  It’s one BIG valley.  With extra sun included.  Better take your photos at sunrise before the temperature breaks 100!