Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Why Haven't I Finished It Yet? Or... Getting Past a Reading Block

I love reading. This year I have worked to increase both the enjoyment I get from reading as well as up the ante on the quality of books with Shannon Reads "Those Books" which I started back in May. Most of the books I have flown through, but the book I'm currently reading has continually blocked me for a few months and I was stumped as to why. After thinking about what was going on and trying a few things out, I think I've cracked the issues of the blocks. Here are the challenges I identified, the solutions I came up with and what I've learned along the way.

It's a Physical Book

Although I haven't had my Kobo that long, I did not realize that I had completely adapted to reading via eReader. I had cultivated the habit of reading via Kobo which is light-weight, allows me to read lying down completely and takes up little space. A physical book, or as I like to call it, a tree book felt so completely different. Trying to hold a trade paperback above my head wasn't comfortable, for my hands or arms and if I was sleepy then...well... gravity happened (book-to-face-plant). This was definitely a barrier to reading the book.

The Fix: I mostly had to come to terms with the fact that things have changed. I considered buying the book in eBook format, but I specifically picked out this physical edition of the book and it was the first physical book I had purchased in a long time. All of this made me sad, but I had to decide to either find a way to read it comfortable or buy it eBook format, and I decided to trudge on with finding a comfortable way to do so. That goes hand in hand with the next stumper...

I Wanted to Take Notes While Reading

The fact I wanted to do this really surprized me. I used to take notes when I watched a movie, but I hadn't taken notes while reading a book since high school. Actually, I'm not even convinced I took notes while reading books in high school. Surprized or not, I wanted to take notes for this book. There were things I didn't want to forget about the book, mostly because in general I enjoyed it but there were certain things I couldn't let pass without raising an eyebrow and I didn't want to glaze over them. I also wanted to keep a list of the new words I encountered while reading so I could look up their definitions.

The Fix:
Knowing the issue was wanting to take notes made this the most clear cut of the barriers. The solution was simply to find a way to take notes while reading. It took a few steps, the first was finding a notebook that worked for me (a very hard-backed full-page lined notebook), along with a place to keep it (on my nightstand). I got this far in the solution and go stalled again, which led me to realize there was another barrier: comfort. I had tried sitting at a desk and also lying down in bed but neither worked for me. I wanted to take notes, but then realized I needed to comfortable to take notes comfortably.

The Second Part of the Fix: Now I sit up in bed propped up with 2 pillows, and have my notebook to the right hand side and that feels just right. For the notes themselves, I use the top half of the page I jot down the new words I've encountered and then on the bottom of the page I leave for quotes, or notes on how I feel about what's going on, if something doesn't make sense, or if something is particularly moving.

Extra bonus on this one, is that my cat likes to visit me when I sit like this.

I Felt "Behind"

Although the book is part of the "Those Books", I started reading the book back in August for an August challenge. I didn't finish it in August. That challenge was extended until the end of September, and I don't think I even picked up the book in September. I felt horrible. I was so happy to blend the Those Books with an external challenge and then it ended up feeling like a total fail.

The Fix: I had to let go of the fact I didn't meet the goal I had set. I could have left it at that, but I wanted to have a finish line to focus on so I made a new deadline for myself. This book is a little more involved than what I usually read, so I wanted to make sure I had enough time to meet that goal while still enjoying reading at a pace I could take notes for. To check, I read what I estimated to be the daily reading pace and set a timer to see how long it took to read those pages. I made sure I wasn't speed-reading, and that I was taking notes at a leisurely pace. That turned out to be 25 pages in 45 minutes, and to keep it not stressful I am giving myself an hour a day until the goal end date. I even did a countdown calendar. Because who doesn't love countdown calendars?

All in all, I am feeling good about the changes I have made. It took me a while to realize that I wanted to read this book in a different way than other books, so a fair amount of shifting my habits was required to get me to where I wanted to be. This new set up and process won't be how I read every book, but for titles that are more challenging or engaging.

It's great to have options and it's wild to find out that I have different reading styles for different books. Of course the real test of this habit change will be if I actually finish the book by my deadline of October 30, 2014! Not too long to wait to see if I do.

When you find you are not meeting your goal, try looking at what is blocking then look for solutions. Test out the solutions and see if they solve the block. Try it out!

Want to hear more about what I'm reading? Check out my YouTube channel or find me on GoodReads.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Magazine Love

I was so excited that the Fall issue of Vogue Knitting International came in the mail today. It feels like it's been a long time since I've had a magazine subscription, and this particular magazine always felt like it would be gloriously indulgent to have come to the door because it's expensive, it only comes out a few times a year, and a lot of the patterns are so advanced that reading the pattern can make my head spin. But it's also hands down my favourite knitting magazine, so I finally decided to take the plunge and order it. Seeing it today made me jump for joy and was another reminder that being indulgent can totally rock. And I am loving that!

I can't wait to sit down with a cup of tea and look through each and every page. It might even kick start me back to finishing The Sweater Project 2014, or I might start an entirely new knitting project. Or both!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Time Capsule: October 2014

Hello Everyone!

I've been away from blogging in real sense on blogging for quite some time, but recently I've been feeling the call to come back to it. After several days pondering "What should I blog about?", I decided to go with a time capsule post. I always enjoy reading people's time capsules, and I consider every blog post in a way to be a time capsule so why not go with an intentional one to get the ball rolling. Feel free to join in and do a time capsule for you too!

1. What are you reading?

I am reading Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It's one of the 400+ titles on the Shannon Reads "Those Books" list (see intro to "Those Books" here), and I started the book back in August as a part of a readalong. I'm very surprized to not be finished it yet, but one of the odd challenges I faced was that I've become so accustomed to reading eBook that reading a tree book is hard. That feels so silly, but it's true. I'm determined to finish the book by the end of the month.

2. What are you watching?

Film-wise, I most recently watched The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a book that I absolutely loved when I read it back in 2012 for the Book to Film Club. I really enjoyed the film version, the cast was spot on especially Logan Lerman as emotional and sensitive Charlie. There were a few things that I wish had more emphasis, but I understand why they went with the story they did. On the small screen, I'm trying my best to keep up with so many new and returning shows which are coming out at a crazy pace. Of the new shows, I'm enjoying Scorpion, Forever, #Selfie and Gracepoint which have all impressed me enough to keep watching. I've not been as drawn to the returning shows but Arrow S3 and The Voice S7 (with new coaches Gwen Stefani & Pharrell Williams) still have me totally hooked.

3. What are you listening to?

I'm a little stumped by this one, as nothing is especially on a re-play at nauseum level. This is probably because I am trying to fix my iTunes library which at some point duplicated most, but not all, of my music and the duplicates aren't playable. That made me create a playlist that I call "works", because it is the copies that work. From that I've been listening to anything from The Everly Brothers to The Beastie Boys. I can tell this is a fix-it project that will take quite a while.

4. What are you loving?

Keeping the musical theme, I am loving the To Wander and Wonder channel over at Songza. It feels like music I already love, although I don't know any of the songs. What a gift. I am also continuing to love my new phone, and those are connected because I was listening to Songza on my phone when I found the playlist!

5. What are you wearing?

My awesome new Old Navy purchases, and right now that is a Women's Lightweight Zip-Front Hoodie in Fan the Flames (AKA bright orange, or orange-red, see picture). Although I don't considered a hoodie a hoodie unless it's fleecy inside this one is still awesome. Maybe that's only old school "hooded sweatshirts".

6. What are you creating?

I have lots of projects in my head, but in terms of actual creating stuff I did some drawing on the weekend of Hydrangeas. They are such pretty (and small) flowers.

7. What are you looking forward to?

Going to visit my Auntie Laima with Jamie! We are going to have so much fun with fabric and all kinds of crafty artsy goodness. I can't wait!

That's life right now!

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Happy October!

Oh, October. One of the best months of the year. It's crisp and fall-like, but not to cold. It's a month where it's nice to feel all nestled in.

I hop to have some crisp apples, enjoy the leaves and of course have a rockin' Halloween.

It's ALL good in October.

What are you looking forward to this month?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Hello, New Phone!

I recently posted an Ode to My First Cell Phone, and then realized I could just as easily share the awesomeness of my new phone. I had put off getting a new phone for so long, than once I finally decided to go for it I had no idea what I wanted. Except for Netflix to work on it. Because, priorities - right? Anyhow, after doing a fair amount of research* and even a little mock up of the design (see above), I went with the Google Nexus 5.

After finally making the decision, I went back to the site and then... they were out of the version I wanted! Ack! So I went bigger and brighter and got the Bright Red 32 MB, and let me tell you ... this sucker is BRIGHT. I would definitely say NEON. At least I will always be able to spot it because that red is... wowza. I was taken aback at first, but I quickly came to like it.

After it arrived it was time to play! I was so happy to find out it was so easy to use. I think I downloaded more apps in the first 5 minutes than all of the apps on my old phone. Oh to be able to watch Netflix! And to finally be Instagram! And get a dictionary app with Word a Day (go go Merriam-Webster!). And Wikipedia. And Goodreads! And TV Tag (formerlly Get Glue). And Songza. And even be able to read Kindle books. Oh my! And all of these apps worked. Simply worked. No mussing, no fussing, all working. Wow. This was a huge relief.

Now that I've had it a while, I've found I can easily record and upload videos to my YouTube channel, and they look way better than videos I record on my camera or via webcam. They take a bit of time to upload, but it's not crazy excessive. The files take up a fair amount of space, but I just delete them after I upload. They look and sound amazing. It's really nice to be able to do a vlog a lot more on the fly. Woohoo.

One of the things I was most looking forward to was being able to to watch Netflix. I really, really wanted Netflix to run smoothy on my phone, and it does! I use it all the time. I also love that I can watch TV shows with the Space Go, CTV Go, and CityTV apps. I haven't used the Global one yet as it won't run without location being set, and I don't really want to turn feature on but we'll see how long I last on that. But I watch something on Netflix every day, and now that the fall season of TV has started I'm sure I'll be watching a lot of shows this way too. I even made sure I got a case with a kickstand just for viewing purposes.

The only things I miss about my old phone are the awesome sonar sound it made and how the IMDb app showed news. That's it. And the only thing I haven't liked about the new one is not being terrible fond of the Twitter app, because there are way too many sponsored tweets. But those few things are far in the back of my mind in comparison to all the amazing things I can now do, plus feeling like I am actually connected and have the ability to easily share pictures and videos. No longer do I have to wait until I'm on the computer to respond to things. It makes all the difference.

Oddly, the thing I use my phone the least for is as...a phone. The first time it rang, I was suprized at the sound it made. And I still can't differentiate what all the little bleeps, zzzzs, pops and whirls sounds mean. I took me a while to figure out how to send texts and to make calls. Funny how what feels like it's primary function is one of the things I use it the least for. I'm sure I'll get more adept at that, as well as finding more apps to enjoy. The learning never ends!

My current question is, now that I've conquered all 120 levels of Marble Legend ...what game to play next?

* A huge thank you to Android Authority and Erica Griffin for their awesome YouTube channels. Watching their videos on both the Nexus 5 and Moto G really helped me figure out which was the right phone for me. And, it made me realize I needed a case after watching drop test videos. I went with a Fosmon case for s 3 layers of awesome sturdiness.

Looking Back at TV from Fall 2013 - Summer 2014

This week Fall TV officially explodes. I noted 18 shows I track either coming back with new series and new series have their premieres. Before I get swept away by this season of TV, I wanted to look back at the past year of TV at the shows I enjoyed watching. Last year I started tracking and rating all the shows I watch, and that was super handy in for this exercise as I what I enjoy, because that is the data I used to come up with these numbers. I entered everything into Excel, and then came up with the average for each shows.

Please note that I rate out of ten based on enjoyment, which is not necessarily the same and quality. Although the two can easily co-exist, it's not what I look for in a TV show. Many lists are of favourite shows, best shows, etc but for me I go by enjoyment. I want to enjoy a show. That's the determining factor I use for TV I watch.

Now on to the lists!  I gave a Top 10 for the Fall through Winter shows (anything that started in one calender year, and went to the next), and then a Top 5 for Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer shows. We have so many seasons of TV these days. 

Fall 2013 - Winter 2014 Shows *
  1. Dracula ~ 9.57
  2. Reign ~ 9.07
  3. The Originals ~ 8.97
  4. Arrow Season 2 ~ 8.92
  5. Shipping Wars Season 5 ~ 8.86
  6. Nashville Season 2 ~ 8.75
  7. Almost Human ~ 8.70
  8. Atlantis ~ 8.67
  9. Grimm Season 3 ~ 8.27
  10. Ravenswood ~ 8.17

Fall (Only) 2013 Shows
  1. Face Off Season 5 (Vets vs Newcomers) ~ 9.40
  2. Witches of East End ~ 9.20
  3. Cracked Season 2 ~ 9.00
  4. Ghost Mine Season 2 ~ 8.75
  5. The Voice Season 5 ~ 8.73

Winter 2014 Shows
  1. Star-Crossed ~ 8.85
  2. Teen Wolf Season 3 Part 2 ~ 8.67
  3. Arctic Air Season 3 ~ 8.45
  4. Masterchef Canada ~ 8.42
  5. Face Off Season 6 ~ 8.27

Spring 2014 Shows
Three Way Tie for First Place!
  • 1. Vikings Season 2 ~ 9.00 
  • 1. Cold Water Cowboys ~ 9.00
  • 1. Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge ~ 9.00
  • 4. Big Brother Canada Season 2 ~ 8.63
  • 5. Hannibal Season 2 ~ 8.31

Summer 2014 Shows
  1. Food Network Star Season 10 ~ 9.71
  2. The Quest ~ 9.50
  3. Longmire Season 3 ~ 9.29
  4. Deadliest Catch The Bait ~ 9.25
  5. Deadliest Catch Season 10 ~ 9.00
  6. 19-2 ~ 8.86

Summer is not totally accurate, as some really high placing shows on my list haven't quite finished so I didn't feel I could include them.  And 19-2 aired earlier than summer, but this is when I watched it.  And I put both Deadliest Catch and The Bait in making the list go to 6. But that was the best I could do for the time of publishing!

I know I watch a lot of TV, and I'm mostly okay with that, but I don't want it to take up all of my time. That being said, looking at these numbers I see that I enjoy these shows a lot. So, will I be more choosy this year on deciding what to watch? Or will I keep watching it all? Only time will tell!

What were your favourite shows of last year?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fall TV 2014 ~ Where to Watch TV Shows Online in Canada

It's time to share where to watch Fall TV for the 2014 season! I can't believe it's been a year since the last Fall/Winter season started with hits like Sleepy Hollow and Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. This year we will see several shows like Lost Girl, Glee and Parenthood head into their final season. It's too early to tell how we'll remember this year, but I'm always curious to what the stand outs will be.

I'm looking forward to several of the new shows including Strange Empire, The Flash and Constantine, and am quite curious about Scorpion and Selfie. We also have tons of returning shows to enjoy, I'm eagerly anticipating the returns of Arrow, Grimm, Elementary, Lost Girl and of course The Voice. My tastes definitely are in the science fiction and fantasy vein, a fair few reality shows, and although I'm not a fan of procedurals but a few might slip in. If you want to hear more about the shows I'm excited for, check out my vlogs for New Shows Starting in September and Returning Shows Starting in September over at my YouTube channel. I do these previews monthly, so be sure the check back of TV Musings Playlist for more videos throughout the year.

Things have changed so much in online viewing in the past year, from CTV's Extend giving making more online content to almost all stations having their own apps (I'm in love with the Space Go app). For online viewing, we still do have most stations making less episodes available or for a shorter period of time. I have to admit that now that I have a phone that's capable of streaming shows, I find I'm watching less online but I still want to keep this resource going for those who watch at their computer.

This listing is primarily shows that started September 2014 or later. There are a few summer shows that stay with us going into the fall including Face Off, The Strain, Extant which will stay on the summer page because this one will get mighty full. For a summer-to-fall shows, check out my Summer TV Listing.

This list will be updated as new shows become available at their legitimate Canadian Broadcasters websites including CBC, CTV and CTV2, Global, CityTV, Space, Showcase, Slice, HGTV Canada, Food Network, Lifetime Canada, Discovery and History.

Can't find what you are looking for? Try the individual Canadian TV broadcasters websites video pages:

Sadly, there are always a handful of shows that are not available to watch online, such as Outlander which is one of my new faves, and if history repeats itself Supernatural, The Originals and The Walking Dead all fall into this category. The Biggest Loser S16 Glory Days is another one that's not online, having switched from CityTY to CTS. For these shows, you often have the option to buy via iTunes or at the Google Play Store. The big pay off there is: no commercials!

For online-only viewers, shows often are available for 1 week starting the day after they air, unless you have a cable subscription and can log into the TV station website. The exception to the rule is Canadian shows on specialty channels, which often have the entire season/series available online. Keep an eye on the shows you enjoy and plan your viewing accordingly :)
* A few online viewing options do not have a specific page for watching a singular show, but rather a video player for watching any of their offerings. In those cases I've put the link to the broadcasters website, as opposed to the show. Then either select the show if it's displayed prominently, or click their video library, select your show, the season and then the episode.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ode to My First Cell Phone

It's been just over 3 years since I got my first cell phone and took the picture above. It started with a joke I said that the next time I moved I would go from landline to cell phone only, and low and behold just after that statement I found out I was moving. My phone saw me through that move. And the next move. And yet another move.

I took it to WDS back in 2012, even though I couldn't use it. It's been in my pocket every time I've gone out. I've dropped it. A lot. And it survived each and every time! It lasted through countless phone calls, be they mere moments or hours upon hours. For several months I was even able to record Hexed on it during my lunch hour. That was one of it's finest moments.

Although the photos it took here blurry, it kept me in touch with the world when I was out and about or when my internet was out. I didn't think I'd take to texting, but I did. For fun. Not to say I was running late. I rarely got service in places where I could send that message anyway!

It's a phone that no one seems to have heard or seen before, but I picked it because I loved the slide out keyboard. It had an actual keyboard where you press the keys. I loved that, and it was one of the big resists in changing to a new phone. I'm such a hold out.

It's been over 3 years since I took that dark and blurry picture at the top of this post. One of the last things I did with my phone was download all the pictures. Looking through that camera roll was a wild ride through the last 3 years: seeing where I've been, the cats in my old neighborhood, random moments, subway posters, coffee shop journalling, dinners made, going to the CNE in 2013, holidays and of course lots of pictures of my cat.

It could barely handle any apps. Even when it was shiny and new, there was almost nothing compatible. Of the few that were compatible, most of them barely worked. I did discovered last December the Blogger app was amazing. But the read stand out was IMDb which always worked like a charm, and the news feed keep me entertained through lots of times in waiting rooms.

It survived being dropped in a full mug of tea, it burned through 3 batteries with it over the years and a few times only worked when it was plugged in. But it also saw me through countless situations and kept me connected (save the 2 blackouts).

It certainly isn't the most popular phone, not now and not even three years ago, but it served me well over the years. And the only other time I have ever seen it was last week I happened to sit beside someone on the subway who had the same exact phone. I wonder if he'll be saying his own ode soon too.

Thank you phone! I put you through the ringer, and you did your best. I'll miss your tactile keyboard, sonar ping and trusty resilience.