Sunday, July 6, 2014

Interesting reference links for story research and writing: Florida, Orkney Islands, Floklore, USA, Georgia.

I'm always running across some really amazing webpages when researching for my book, library school project/paper, and character background for D&D. I thought I share the love since these people work so hard to put all this amazing information together in a very organized well referenced manner. Maybe their content will help you too.

1. Georgia, Love Your Country, Love your Chokha. These beautiful historical costumes are made by Samoseli Pirveli who is all about keeping the traditional costuming of Georgian Republic alive. You can rent these gorgeous costumes in Georgia. After creating two characters from this diverse region, I am also in love with the chohka and the chakura. Gorgeous visual reference to inspire! Mr. Samoseli has a Facebook account and you can be updated with new costumes and news.

2. SurLaLune Fairytales: What an absolute find this was! They feature 49 annotated (shortened versions) fairy tales, AND include their histories, AND the similar version of the tale across cultures, AND their modern interpretations, as well as the titles of the books that have the full versions (to find at the library or buy). This is a great research site because if you were looking for all the versions of Cinderella, they have it, then you can go out and buy/borrow it.

3. American Folklore: another find to bookmark and keep! This site contains retelling of folktales, myths, legends, fairy tales, superstitions, weather-lore, and ghost stories from all over the America. They even have a section for those new to American folktales (Who was Paul Bunyan?) or are curious about something (Why is a black cat bad luck?). They even have some great spooky American ghost stories!

4. Wild Florida Eco Travel Guide:  Florida?? Yes. Most of my stories are based in Florida because we have such a weird history here, and we are so much more than tourism. This guide is very comprehensive about the flora and fauna here in Florida, and it even goes over invasive species. you can search by category (ie, frogs, flowers, etc) or by name.

5. Orkneyjar, the Heritage of the Orkney Islands: The Orkney Islands are a cold remote island off of Scotland. Based on the idea that the people are no longer telling folktales (it's reviving!), the creator of this site built a beautiful site in preserving the unique tales of this island alive. If you are looking for bizarre mer-folk (mermaid) tales, tales of magical beings, ghosts, Valkyries, and Arthurian legends, etc. this is the place to go to. All these tales revolve around the dark cold water around them, and they have such beautiful disturbing feel. There is also a link to the heritage or the Orkney Islands.

6. CreepyPasta: Don't let the silly title fool you. You have to be 18 and up to enter this site because the horror short stories on here will keep you up at night. Seriously, the Russian Sleep Experiment kept me thinking for days. The short stories revolve around ghosts, secret societies, and cults. They are not for the faint of heart. And there are some very good people (like MrCreepyPasta) who recite these stories on YouTube.

That's it. I realized I had a lot so I'll do another one in the future of artists I found. Hope this helps some of you discover new things.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

May Baking

It's always been a while. I have finally recuperated from my May class (says a lot in itself). I took some time off this month to work on my writing and baking. Today I just want to throw this up with my progress in baking.

Victorian sponge: I was very proud of my frosting for this. Part homemade buttercream and part heavy whipping cream, this turned out to be the ultimate whipped frosting that my husband will eat. Not too sweet, light and fluffy, but not going to fall apart in the Florida humidity. The cake itself still needs work in the texture. This was the third attempt.


Blueberry pie: Which is my ultimate favorite. As much as I do like the other pies, what I cannot understand is why you want to disguise the delicious fruit with tablespoons of cinnamon and cloves (which obliterates every flavor), gobs of syrup, and/or a boat-load of sugar? That's the beauty of fruit pies, just enjoy them. I made this during Father's Day as an homage to my father who was the best pie maker I ever ran across. I did tweak his recipe a bit because his blueberry pie was always very runny (used corn starch). Blueberry pie is one that can make in my sleep because it's so easy. The dough, well, still working on it. :) I realized that we actually threw away the rolling pin because it was nothing but splinters, but I had an unopened bottle of wine from our anniversary that worked just dandy! This time I worked on making it look aesthetically pleasing as well as tasty!

Next entry I'll be sharing some really great references I found online while researching for my writing!

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Joys of Researching: Armenia, LibGuides, RPGs, and Persian music!

Enjoy this little quickie, y’all! I've been in a pensive mood lately thanks to a few random, slightly forced into circumstances that I am not complaining over.

I cannot tell you how much fun it is to research. Most people think, "Oh gracious in a pastry! You are just running into dead-ends, starting over, and looking at stuff that doesn't even help! And it's boring!"

Nein. What was that saying? "It's not the destination, but the journey that is most rewarding."

So I have a few topics as of late that requires further investigation. For my LibGuide, I am working on building a resource site as an introduction to Persian/Sufi poets. I will post it when I'm done at the end of the semester. Through that process I have been teaching myself how to use databases that are available to me through the University of Alabama. At Ringling (where I got my BFA) and my current library, we have none. So on my search for finding videos that “sing” the poems, I came across this guy, Homayoun Shajarian. Oh my goodness, talk about a voice that gives you goosebumps! He sings classical Persian and surprisingly he sings from all of the poets minus Omar Khayyam (we’ll the man was a scientist first, so…).

Here is his newest song, singing Simin Bebahani’s poem “Why did you leave me?”.

Then thanks to a friend, I got dragged into a game using the Savage World base and the Victoria RPG setting. At first I wasn’t sure I had the mental state to actually pull this off since my characters from my book are demanding a lot of my time, and my school projects are draining. Nope, this was exactly what I needed. I haven’t played Dungeons and Dragons in a year, so I need a game. Our DM (dungeon master), a history teacher, to me makes the perfect guy to run this kind of setting (1880s – late Victorian era). He has been exceptionally flexible in me using D&D 3.5 rules for my character’s dog. And in trying to find digital version of the 3.5 rules for my character’s dog, I ran into a music group AGAIN that I overlooked the first time. How could I? Modern 80’s music! Oh yeah!

Futurecop!  (love the unicorn logo!) This should be the kind of music playing on the radio!

So, the research for my character’s background begins like most of my characters that I write about, but this guy, really makes me feel thankful for all that research I did for my Georgian character in my book. This guy is Armenian, and I am delved into his role as deacon in the Armenian Apostolic Church which was as foreign to me as eating monkey brains. By the time I got as far as I am now, I learned a lot about this country’s history and I am thoroughly impressed at how they’ve isolated their language and their religion. I did not know Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity, nor did I know that scientists study the language because it is so unique and it shares almost no resemblance to it's neighboring countries's languages. I found some wacky things along the way when researching names, but overall, it has been a fun experience, which is making me write a novelette for his background.

I’m sure the DM won’t mind. :P

Happy writing!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Women in Technology Part 3 of 4!

As I flipped through Fast Company, again, I came across an excerpt from an article written by Jillian Goodman who works for Fast Company. Of course their website did not have the full article. But SALON did (thank you!).

On October 14, 2013, Jillian Gooodman wrote an article that talked about how Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and some guy from Miami Heat (wait, athletes are educated? Really? Then why aren’t they proud and showing off their learning skills and being rolemodels for children? Isn’t that why we pay them millions of dollars?), came together and talked about how they feel it is important that every school child knows how to code.

This idea launched, a website for educators to help prepare lessons to teach coding to students. During Computer Science Education week (in early December), one hour a day should be dedicated not only to the history of computing (where Grace Hooper from my previous technology entry is mentioned), and the founders are taught, but also learning how to do basic coding (like HTML markup language). Computing in the Core, developed hour long lessons to teach kids to code in various platforms. Their goal to not let coding be for a dedicated few, but for everyone.

Eventually their goal is to have coding as an option in for highschool instead of math or science. According to the excerpt in Fast Company Magazine, schools in Tennessee were already implementing this.

Melodie Hillier, TechStart's Event and Program Manager at the Tampa Bay Technology Forum, reported that last week, her company introduced to 21 Hillsborough County school teachers. So this is already here in Florida!

My thoughts were, “oh, this is the way for the government to make more minimum waged jobs. Taking away specializations in the computing field.”

My husband had a different outlook on the article. Since he has been in computers for over 18 years, he said that honestly, there is nothing wrong with the idea, just the way they are going about it. He rather see kids learn now what coding is like so they don’t waste their money in college “thinking” they want to be programmers, engineers or comp science majors. They get there and are overwhelmed at what it REALLY is.

I countered with this: even still, there’s a huge difference between computer science and computer programming. One is more physics and math based than the other. Why have this wipe out a math or science class, when you need those basics to be a computer engineer? Why can’t they offer is as an elective?

The answer, lack of money going to schools.

What is your take?

And then I wondered if they were going to focus on teaching girls to code or is it just another subject matter that they will flaunt towards boys. Because we all saw what happened with Tinker Toys, oh no, lets sue a company trying to show girls that it’s awesome to be engineers.
Within my research to see if there were any endeavors to teach girls code had launched around this time, I came across two programs:

Girls Teaching Girls Code is a mentoring program that has its upcoming code camp in April 2014. They tell it better than I can.

Girls Who Code Seshma Raujani is a huge advocate for closing the gender gap in STEM based subject areas (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), and was the first South Asian woman to run for Congress. In 2012 she started this endeavor to show girls that coding is fun and a very important need in the future of technology. She uses stats from the US Department of labor who estimates that by 2020 there will be 14 million computer-based jobs, and she wants women to fill half of them. According to the same stats, 14% of the women graduates are going into a computer science related field. While back in the 1980s, it was 37%.

I wonder what happened?

------------ LS560 Below----------
(2014). Girls Who Code. Retrieved from

(2014). Teaching Girls to Code. Retrieved from

Goodman, J. (2013, October 14). Zuckerberg, Gates back teaching coding in school
Does every child need to learn computer science? Fast Company Magazine. Retrieved from

Hillier, M. [MelodieHillier]. (2014, March 10). Last week TechStart introduced @codeorg to 21 Hillsborough teachers. Excited to visit their classrooms in April! Retrieved from

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Wasted week, but I found K-Pop!

So my husband has returned home from his trip with a friend that came from Australia.

Of course, I thought I would get SO MUCH done while he was gone. You know the important things like:

1. Writing without any disruptions.
2. Cleaning the house.
3. Shopping.
4. See a couple of friends.

Well, yeah right. One of my professors turned into a dinosaur and nearly stressed me out over a paper. I spent all of my time working on it.

I have at least worked on a couple of random scenes that needed my attention. I did hang out with a coworker over tea and Lebanese food. And I did do the fastest clothing shopping ever for my husband. Oh, and I did get the bathroom cleaned.

When it was too late in the night after working on homework (like 3am) and I needed to calm my mind. I found myself catching up on my Yu-Gi-Oh The Abridged Series (because that crap is hilarious (you have to start from the beginning). I am in love with Melvin, one of the villains.  His best like is, "Who wants a hug?!" said with the most evilest of laughs.

I've always loved J-POP (I still die for X-JAPAN), because even in the 90's Japanese music videos were a billion times better than the crap we have here in the US. Randomly, for whatever reason. I ran across K-POP (Korean pop). Don't ask me why, and I found this group called T-ARA.Like Japanese music videos, they have "drama" versions of their songs where they make like mini-films. Holy poop on a stick. I am in LOVE. This are the two music videos, which are "Cry Cry" (Part 1) and "Lovey Dovey" (Part 2) put together. Thanks to Haqita ChanHan for adding the English Subs!

Enjoy all!
Now back to writing!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Women in Technology Part 2 of 4

Okay, fellow readers, let's continue on the Women in Technology Theme! This will take the place of another year I horrifically neglected to share something for International Women's Day (it's called being busy) and of course for my LS 560 course. 

This one comes from Fast Company Magazine that led me on a wild goosechase to find the full article. Which is usually the trend for this magazine. Fast Company comes to the house in my sister’s name, which is strange because she’s all into fashion…and this magazine is far from haut couture. Each glossy page is flooded with pictures of hipsters who wear clothing far too tight, paying $20 for a frap-crap-hold-the-fat-sprinkle-the-blood-of-laboures-iced-latte-but-not-latte coffee from Starbucks, with egos the size of China, talk about how they cannot poop without their iPhones.

But like with every publication, if you sift through the garbage, you might find something interesting.

So this issue surprisingly had an snip-it of an article about Middle Eastern women in computer science which took me forever to find it on their website.

Image from Fast Company.

So other than bitter cold and the Winter Olympics, St. Petersburg, Russia hosted a computer convention That Microsoft puts out called the Imagine Cup.  There waltzes in a group of Arab women from Oman and Qatar, and people are surprised that the female gender from the Middle East can do more than just produce babies and wear hijab. 

Asya al-Jabrl, 22 year old student from Muscat, Oman had a crying frustrated 9 year old cousin who couldn’t learn. His tears moved her and after he got tested for dyslexia, she gathered two other students (Marwa al-Habsi and Safa Almukhaini, both 22) and created ReadX. It won them a spot at the Microsoft sponsored event.

Another group of women from Qatar came led by Latifa al-Naimi, a 20 year old computer science student from Qatar University. Her team developed Artouch, a device that allows museum-goers to connect with artifacts on exhibit in her country. 

Sheika al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani

 It was inspired by Sheika al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the former Emir of Qatar, who has plastered the pages of Bloomberg Business Week and Forbes magazine as the “art culture queen of the world”. She has developed the art culture in Qatar, emphasizing its education.


The attendees of the event seemed surprised, but the female teams did not see anything special about it. Both said that back home, coding is taught starting in high school for anyone to pursue, and that they do not care if they work in an all-female team or a mixed one with boys.

Even though Imagine cup welcomes teams from the participating 71 countries, only 3 teams had women in them – one from Oman, Qatar, and the last one from Portugal.

What, wait? Seriously? America, I expected better. :/ Shouldn’t we be leading innovation created by women? Isn’t that what we try to portray to the world, that we value our educated women??? Guess not.

In the same article, as they continued on about how the Gulf States, are really pushing for their women to be educated, it moved back to us, in the US. It shared an image that went viral in June 2013 from an Apple Convention in San Francisco. As you can see, there are no women in line to use the bathroom.
Image by: Dan Akerman/CNET
Hrm, take what you want from the photo, but means a lot when women were there at computer science’s inception, creating languages and computers. Why are movies and books about jerks like Steve Jobs getting fandom like he was a god? Strong dedicated women get forgotten, but foul-tempered narcissists get recognized? What kind of a message are we sending to both girls and boys who represent our future?

Something wrong with this picture (literally and figuratively).

Thanks to (LS 560 Info):

Lemon, Gayle Tzemach. (2013) Arab Women's Tech Advantage: Middle Eastern countries sent two all-female teams to Microsoft's Imagine cup this year. That's not as surprising as it sounds. Fast Company. Retrieved from

Microsoft Imagine Cup. (2014) Retrieved from

Qatar’s Culture Queen Mar. (2012) The Economist. Retrieved from

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Women in Technology Part 1 of 4

Okay, fellow readers, nicely folded into the usual baking, library thoughts, and travel news, there will be some tech-based entries for a few months for my IT class. Since it has been a few years that I had done my yearly "women doing awesome stuff" post - my topic for these tech posts are "Women in Technology - Doing Awesome Stuff".

I cannot even begin to write anything about technology unless I begin with the woman who taught computers to understand words.

December in 2013, was the 107th birthday of the first female computer programmer, Rear Admiral Grace MurrayHopper, USNR, (1906-1992).

Hold on! If you dare to call yourself a "super awesome computer geek" and do not know who she is, stop and take a moment to slap yourself (really hard). Feel the burn? Continue reading.

Grace Hopper graduated with her degree in mathematics at Vassr College (and taught there from 1931-1943) and then got her PhD at Yale University in 1934. That same year she joined the Navy Reserve. Immediately she was assigned to work on the embryonic electronic computer (means that they can think for themselves). She worked her way up the ranks and finally became Rear Admiral in 1985. Top this day, she is the oldest woman in the armed forces at the age of 76. After she retired in 1986, she stayed teaching about computers, programming and concepts related to time (such as nanoseconds [see below for video]) until her death in 1992. 

Her only regret was not being able to see the 21st century. She wanted to celebrate December 31, 1999, and look back at how far computers had developed, thanks to her knowledge, skill, and dedication.

She loved numbers and puzzles, and coined the term “bug in the computer”, because when she was working at Harvard in 1945 on an experimental machine called the Mark I, something malfunctioned. Opening it up, she found an actual bug in the computer.

She changed the world of early computers by creating COBOL (Common Business Orientated Language), which means that the computers can respond to commands typed in words rather than a number sequence. She worked on Mark II and Mark III and designed and created another computer called UNIVAC I (still in use). 

USS Hopper (DDG-70)

USS Hooper (DDG-70), a Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, is named after her. 

I so want a battleship named after me!

When she retired in 1986, she said this, “Our young people are the future. We must provide for them. We must give them the positive leadership they're looking for.” 

That day, she was given the highest award possible by the Department of Defense - the Defense Distinguished Service Medal - one of many awards she received from both the Navy and computing industry.

Today, there is a foundation named after her to celebrate women in the computing field and the same organization pairing up with the Anita Borg Institute to host a convention bringing women, who are far and few, in the computing field, together, to be empowered, share ideas, and network. 

Grace Hopper explaining nanoseconds.

A huge thank you to the many men and women who serve in our armed forces! Naval History and Heritage, website where I got most of Grace hopper's information from, also has a great feature up for February about African Americans in the Navy. Wonderful website, worth checking out! 

Props: For my instructor, citations are below.

Alter, Charlotte. (2013). GoogleDoodle Honors Grace Hopper, Early Computer Scientist: Kicks off Computer Science Education Week with Tribute to Woman Who Taught Computers to Use Words. Time News Feed. Retrieved from

Anita Borg Institute. (2014) Grace Hopper: Celebrating Women in Technology. Retrieved from

Dickason, Elizabeth. (1992). Looking Back: Grace Murray Hopper's Younger Years. Biographies in Naval History: Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, USN, 9 December 1906 - 1 January 1992. Retrieved from
Dickason, Elizabeth. (1992). Remembering Grace Murray Hopper: A Legend in Her Own Time. Biographies in Naval History: Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, USN, 9 December 1906 - 1 January 1992. Retrieved from