the torch-ginger

101 in 1001

Forever is composed of nows.
Emily Dickinson

Over nine months ago, I told the world that I would write a list that, in a process of incremental victories, would change my life.

Finally, on November 19th, in the earliest hours of the morning, listening to zordac's near-apnea, I wrote my list in a ten-inch, spiral bound school notebook (my current think-pad of choice).

The list is this: one hundred one things I will accomplish in one thousand one days. 101 in 1001. These items can be modest or they can be monumental. These tasks can affect just one person, or millions.

I know that my attitude and goals will change over the nearly three years that list is supposed to take, so I will allow myself to change some of the items. I can take any item off the list but only if I put one of equal difficulty and significance in its place.

I am including this on my LJ profile page and after a few days will put this entry at the top of my journal. Encouragement is always welcome; questions about why any item deserves to by on my list are also welcome. Please let me know if you choose to write your own 101 in 1001 or anything with a similar agenda.

My list is very personal. Many of my choices may seem unimportant, superfluous, and wasteful. Some acknowledge, unblinkingly, my most embarrassing weaknesses. All are things I have talked about doing without actually doing. They may not change the world, but doing these things will change me.
My 101 in 1001
1. Write this list.
2. Finish building Clay Canvas website (gratis, for a company I adore).
3. Learn to ballroom dance. - Took one class in Dec. 2008, will take more when another event calls for it.
4. Go out specifically to ballroom dance in public.
5. Finish curtains for living room. - Finished April 2009, added sheers to the list to go under them.
6. Complete one original piece of artwork.
7. Complete one original piece of artwork per month for three months.
8. Complete one original piece of artwork per month for six months.
9. Showcase artwork in a local arts and crafts festival.
10. Showcase artwork in a traditional art gallery.
11. Sell one piece of original artwork.
12. Learn to sing an Irish drinking song.
13. Learn to sing at least three Irish drinking songs.
14. Have a dress up portrait photography day.
15. Paint a studio photography background.
16. Make softboxes for studio photography (again).
17. Maintain a day sleep schedule for one month (with fewer than two off days).
18. Maintain a day sleep schedule for three months (with fewer than six off days).
19. Maintain a day sleep schedule for six months (with fewer than twelve off days).
20. Maintain a day sleep schedule for one year (with fewer than twenty-four off days).
21. Host another murder mystery party.
22. Write my own murder mystery scenario for at least ten players.
23. Write/script a dark, spooky, one-shot larp for three to six players.
24. Sweep/vacuum floors once a week for one month.
25. Sweep/vacuum floors once a week for three months.
26. Make dust ruffle Velcro attachment for master bedroom.
27. Paint the master bedroom.
28. Organize my office as a clean, flexible art studio, sewing room.
29. Touch up paint in living room and dining room.
30. Make/build canopy for master bed.
31. Get a job (small or big to supplement my self-employment income).
32. Help Jimmy pay off dining room table and chairs (must be completed by Nov. 2009). - Jimmy did this without my help; I need to add something to replace it.
33. Pay off credit card. - No more debt except student loans, March 2009
34. Get health insurance.
35. Keep kitchen clean for two weeks.
36. Keep kitchen clean for one month.
37. Keep kitchen clean for three months.
38. Visit both sides of my extended family at least six times a one year period.
39. Write a will, a living will, and last wishes and burial information.
40. Exercise every other day for two weeks.
41. Exercise every other day for one month.
42. Exercise every other day for three months.
43. Exercise every other day for six months.
44. Buy an alto or tenor recorder, hang drum, or other simple instrument.
45. Learn to read music.
46. Learn to play three songs by heart on the recorder, hang drum, or other simple instrument.
47. Play in a large main event poker tournament.
48. Hang artwork in the living room.
49. Hang artwork in the dining room.
50. Design and build/or have built a sideboard and cabinetry in the dining room.
51. Decorate guest bedroom.
52. Make curtains for master bedroom.
53. Make curtains for dining room.
54. Make curtains for guest bedroom.
55. Sew/drape another Halloween costume next fall.
56. Finally set up a Christmas tree.
57. Host Jimmy's family for a holiday celebration. Thanksgiving 2008
58. Host my family for a holiday celebration.
59. Learn to belly dance. - In the works! So far, I look ridiculous.
60. Design and build a website for my work and/or creative pursuits.
61. Trim hedges and shrubs in the early spring.
62. Write a complete outline for a novel or web comic.
63. Spend two hours per day for one week working on novel or web comic.
64. Spend two hours per day for two weeks working on novel or web comic.
65. Go to a storytelling convention.
66. Participate in one political demonstration.
67. Take a tap dancing class.
68. Color (or have colored) my hair a deep shade of red (similar to Debra Messing's).
69. Volunteer for one hour.
70. Volunteer for one hour per week for one month.
71. Design and apply full back henna tattoo for Tiffany.
72. Organize tools on sun porch.
73. Keep bedroom tidy for one month.
74. Keep bedroom tidy for three months.
75. Keep bedroom tidy for six months.
76. Get married? - Engaged June 18, 2009, wedding within a year or so.
77. Get pregnant? (If I choose to do this, it will be at the very end of the 1001 days).
78. Work uninterrupted at the computer (without games or distractions) for two hours.
79. Work uninterrupted at the computer (without games or distractions) for four hours.
80. Work uninterrupted at the computer (without games or distractions) for four hours every day for a week.
81. Work uninterrupted at the computer (without games or distractions) for four hours every day for a three weeks.
82. Go without playing any pointless online games for one week.
83. Go without playing any pointless online games for two weeks.
84. Go without playing any pointless online games for one month.
85. Spend one week helping Grandma with her family photo project.
86. Attend a Renaissance Faire or Celtic Festival.
87. Save $1000.
88. Save $5000.
89. Save $10,000.
90. Go for one week without doing the tapping/syllable-counting fidget thing.
91. Lose ten pounds.
92. Lose twenty-five pounds.
93. Lose fifty pounds.
94. Lose seventy-five pounds.
95. Grow poker bankroll to $2500. - In progress.
96. Post a thoughtful entry in Livejournal twice per week for one month.
97. Post a thoughtful entry in Livejournal twice per week for three months.
98. Make a t-shirt quilt.
99. Complete (at least with a sketchy outline) my unfinished travel diaries.
100. Sort and organize my travel diaries and memorabilia.
101. Plan and go on another vacation with Jimmy.
I have also divided my 1001 days into trimesters. Deadlines help. My 1001 days started November 19th, 2008.
  • The first trimester will last 333 days and end on Sunday, October 18, 2009. I will be thirty years old.

  • The second trimester will last 334 days and end on Friday, September 17, 2010. I will be thirty-one years old.

  • The third trimester will last 334 days and end on Wednesday, August 17, 2011. I will be thirty-two years old.
the torch-ginger

A Little Background and Follow-up

Being on the front page of Reddit makes life a bit surreal. I had friends sending me links all day to places where my sign has turned up: Reddit (twice), Digg,, etc. The most humorous was when my friend, Claus, who is in Panama this week for work, sent another friend, Liz, a link to Buzzfeed not knowing it was my picture.

I thought I'd post a little follow-up for people who didn't understand why I responded so overtly to the theft of a tiny, plastic sign. I apologize for the repetition for those who also read this on flickr.

This sign is more than just a squabble over political yard signs — it's about fighting back honorably. It's about reminding Obama supporters (and those who wish to silence us) that we should never be afraid. It's about the right NOT to remain silent.

In most parts of Mississippi, there are repercussions for being openly liberal. Many people here are very verbally supportive of Obama when in small groups but are afraid to show that same support to the rest of the world. They're afraid to put Obama signs in their yard or stickers on their bumpers. They're terrified of their windows getting broken or their cars getting keyed or their pets getting killed or their kids becoming outcasts at school or being confronted at church — because it happens. This sign is about giving courage to the sizable yet silent group of Obama supporters in this bright-red state.

The political climate in Mississippi is very inhospitable for "liberals". It is stifling. In state and local elections, the Democrats and Republicans candidates are *usually* identical — they both have right-wing, Christian Coalition agendas. Candidates usually differ only on the issue of how much to tax and how those taxes should be spent. There are no pro-choice candidates, no gun-control candidates, no separation-of-church-and-state candidates, no gay-rights candidates. For state-wide elections, both sides regularly break down into "He's more liberal" accusations (see!). For national elections, most Mississippians, and even liberals themselves, believe that a liberal candidate could never carry the state. It's easy to feel hopeless, to feel defeated before you even start. But now we really do have a chance, and of all times to remember that liberals are not alone, that our vote is worth something, that time is now!

So many of the freedoms that the rest of you take for granted are not fully exercised here. I am not equating our yard-sign-fiasco to the burned crosses and murders of our state's past, but these things are in living memory and still influence our lives today. Our parents attended segregated schools in the 60's. Despite federal integration laws, I attended "effectively" segregated grammar schools in the 80's because the city councils and school boards had drawn the districts along racial lines. It wasn't until federally-enforced, cross-neighborhood busing that I was able to attend a fully-integrated school. In college, I worked in the Ole Miss Library archives where we still keep the Mississippi flag that was partially-burned on campus on the day James Meredith matriculated. Even as Ole Miss was preparing to host the first 2008 presidential debate, a large portion of the coverage by the media was about whether or not we'd made enough social progress as a state to host this historic debate with the first major-party African-American presidential candidate.

In grammar school, my sixth-grade teacher lead us in daily prayer and we were unable to excuse ourselves. Many Mississippians genuinely believe that atheists are taking over America and that Obama is a terrorist. I even have a younger cousin who believes that Obama is the anti-Christ. Things have changed, but not nearly as much as Mississippi would like to portray to the world.

I love my country, I love Mississippi, and I love a lot of the people who call Mississippi home. I'm sure there are Republicans living in bright-blue states who probably feel the same way liberals do down here. I don't condone any sign-theft on either side. I just expect people of all groups not to be punks.

The political environment here also makes for some very interesting flavors of liberal people — gun-toting, NRA-card-holding liberals and states-rightist liberals and small-government liberals, but the candidates nearly all look the same because they have been told by their strategists (and perhaps rightly so) if they show any "liberal" leanings there's no chance they'll win.

In fact, I'm one of those weird-flavor of liberals. I'm really more of an independent with my issue-choices often landing on both sides of the liberal-conservative line. But here, in Mississippi, I'm a liberal.
the torch-ginger

Pathetic McCain Pranks

Someone stole our Obama for President sign from our yard last night. They stole nearly all the Obama signs in our neighborhood. The ones they didn't take they spray-painted black.

So I made this sign today and staked it in the yard. It is five feet wide and made out of foam-core board I had left over from making studio lighting for my photography. I fully expect the sign to be trashed by morning. At least they know the result of their pranks: we give more money to Obama's campaign.

I cut off the bottom of my original sign because Jimmy thought it was embarrassing. I simply wanted to put the message into words they (McCain supporters who are redneck enough to steal my Obama sign) would understand. But at Jimmy's request, I removed that portion and simply put an Obama sign underneath. I think it turned out better without the bottom.

This totally interrupted my day; I didn't eat lunch and I didn't get half of my work done. However, I definitely think this was worth most of my afternoon.

Just remember, every time you steal an Obama sign, we win. You indirectly cause more money to be donated to the Obama campaign and you make McCain seem even weaker.
the torch-ginger

My Comic Book Journey - Ex Machina - Wow!

I just finished reading "The First Hundred Days" compilation of Ex Machina. I actually put it down three or four times with weeks in between readings, thinking, "This is really good; I've gotta get back to this." I can't believe I set it down so often; that is no reflection on the quality of this graphic serial.

It has everything I could ask for in a comic series. It'll be easier for me to describe my affection in theatrical/film terms (and occasionally, overstretched culinary metaphors), and later you'll understand why. Each of the characters is so interesting, even the ones who have just a few "lines". The supernatural/super-hero aspect is only a portion of the story, and it often acts as just supernatural spice to the flavor of the "character soup". Mmmmm, characters. The dialogue is sharp and punchy and, in this television-perfected world, believable. The issues or sub-plots of the administration are totally believable, too.

But the artwork, oh my, the artwork, is incredible. It's not just that the drawings are beautifully rendered and perfectly saturated (because they are). It's the "direction" of the action within the artwork that is equally amazing. Since so much of the action and story are carried in the dialogue, those conversations had to do everything - provide exposition, create conflict, develop character, build to a climax, convey emotion, and conclude the plot. That's hard to do in moving pictures, much less still ones. But they did it; they did it so well that the even the most seemingly mundane of conversations was a page-turner.

The authors/artists included a few "behind the scenes" pictures at the end of the compilation, which gave me one of those " THAT'S why it works" epiphanies. The artists storyboarded this whole series with real models and took photographs. They then used those photographs as "studies" for each scene. They regularly used the same models for the same corresponding characters. In essence, they did a photo-based comic first before they drew it. And that's why characters look so much like real people; it's because they are based on them. The same poses, the same crooked noses, the same gestures of each person - that's why the rendered imagery is so believable, and ultimately beautiful. Sure, everything is a little stylized, but you get real body types and sneers and movements.

And that's SO FREAKIN' SMART. Most artists working on long-term pieces use a studies (sketches or photographs) to keep them on track, to make sure that their renderings don't get distorted during the course of all that manipulation of line and color and movement. In my mind, comic books are more closely kin to movies than to single pieces of artwork, so it makes sense that their studies would be serial. And why not storyboard it with real people? It is so much quicker to pose a model and click a photograph than to sit and sketch each panel before doing the real rendering. Plus, you have a nearly complete proof of concept to make sure you're getting what you want.

Not only will I (hopefully, if spiderknight has the rest) be finishing the series, I am also encouraged to try this myself. It means that working with an artist will be much easier (whether this artist is local or hundreds of miles away) should I decide to use this medium to tell one of my stories. It also means that I can probably block whole segments of the story work with several friends in just a day. Sure there will be hours upon hours of dialogue and story to write, but it means that I can put the action together quickly and convey instantly to the artist what I want my audience to see.

I am really blown away by this. If this is some kind of industry standard in the development process, it probably seems mundane to the rest of you. But to me, it removes one of the big obstacles to working with this medium.
the torch-ginger


There are natural, expected extras that can occur throughout a normal day. It's like the universe's way of saying, "I love you, human, even though I gave you explosive diarrhea on the day of your dream job interview and made your car break down on that tiny dirt road at 4AM right after you saw The Blair Witch Project. Here's a little happy to show you that I still care!"

At Ajax Restaurant on the Square in Oxford, you can always count on getting a bonus French fry, or on good days a fried shrimp, with any order of fried okra or fried pickles. There's that 20-pound bag of overpriced cat food that you got for free because both you and the surly clerk at Wal-Mart forgot it was at the bottom of your grocery cart.

But these bonuses, whether expected or not, are at least normal, explainable. Such bonuses do not bring into question the laws of physics or the packaging habits of national corporations.

Well, the universe, knowing that my household expends a great many of these on a weekly basis, just gave me two batteries. But how did it deliver such a simple and useful gift? They rolled right out of a cracker box. Not a cracker jack box, just a regular Keebler Club reduced-fat cracker box.

When I dumped the box on my desk to remove the last ream, out rolled two Eckerd batteries. I don't think I've shopped at an Eckerd's drug store in at least eight years. Do they still exist?

Admittedly, we've had this box for a while. We may not have even bought it ourselves. Any number of people may have left it at our house.

But, should we choose the least mysterious explanation and assume that the Keebler Club cracker box did not come from the factory with two Eckerd batteries inside, why would anyone in my house have placed, with intention or without, two batteries in a previously opened cracker box on my kitchen shelf?
the torch-ginger

Chicken Jelly

Yesterday was my very first attempt to make chicken stock from scratch. Instead of stock, I made....chicken jelly.

Last night I strained the stock and put it in the fridge to chill overnight, intending to remove the fat layer the next morning.

Well, the result is one jelly-ish mass. I am assuming the fat content is way too high. I didn't follow the ingredients list exactly because I didn't have a whole chicken carcass; I had many individual chicken legs and bones that I counted out to the approximate size of one and a half or two chickens. And my stock pot was much smaller so I halved the recipe, or as close as I could approximate with my chicken pieces.

It smells wonderful, but what do I do with it? I'm thinking about taking half of the chicken jelly and putting it back in the original stock pot with an equal amount of water and reboiling it. I have enough ingredients for one complete do-over, but I'm not sure what to do differently so that I don't have the same result. Use half the chicken as I used yesterday? Use more water? Store it in smaller containers for the overnight chill?
  • Current Mood
    hungry, but not for chicken!
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the torch-ginger

Glow Forever

This evening when sun was barely a glimmer, Jimmy caught me a firefly on the porch. I was unlocking the front door after our afternoon at the dentist and running errands.

"Look, baby, I caught you something." He held his catch up; it blinked on and off thrice before I leaned over and blew gently on it to spur it to flight.

"I hope I didn't hurt him," Jimmy said.

"I'm sure you didn't, dove."

* * * * *

My papaw died this morning. I didn't call him or go home on Father's Day this year even though I told myself over and over that if I didn't go, I'd miss my last chance. He'd been bed-ridden for over a year. I knew, yet still I didn't go. Last time I saw him was Christmas.

I hope he had a happy life. He was always such a gruff, hard-ass, old man during my childhood. He was quick to take a switch to my cousins or to make a jab about how much I was eating. He was always the mean, angry man in his recliner at holidays who shouted for us to be quiet. As he got older, people seemed to dismiss his remarks; he'd lost his bite or we'd lost our fear. Then he became less gruff and his sarcasm turned to humor. Perhaps he was just too tired to yell anymore. Perhaps I had just been too young to recognize the humor before. It wasn't until I got into my twenties that I started to figure out that he actually loved us.

His life was so much more, so much longer, than the brief time that I knew him. I suppose children are fated to know only the shadow of their parents and grandparents rather than the people, hale and happy, who they once were.

I don't think my father ever had a good relationship with him. I wonder if I'll be as calm as Daddy is in thirty years when I lose him.
the torch-ginger

How to Read a Playboy

On the morning it arrives, my absolutely free, never-paid-a-cent, gratis six-year subscription1 to Playboy issue, I follow the same pattern.

1) Poke a fingernail through the black, plastic wrapping applied to protect preteen boys from racy, mutant images such as side-boobs with the nipple removed via airbrush, ass-apples, and cowgirl hats worn nowhere near the head. Tear package open.

2) Open halfway at any random page and shake vigorously like an Etch-a-Sketch so as to knock out all the "Save 67% off the cover price!" inserts onto my desk. No deal they offer me is cheaper than free, and by removing all the inserts now, I avoid having to do a balancing act on the toilet later when they've fallen and scattered all over the bathroom floor.

3) Flip immediately to the centerfold. Realize quickly that the centerfold picture is the least flattering shot in the model's entire spread.

4) Read centerfold's profile page then attempt to convince myself that I didn't just read the most boring questionnaire ever completed just to see how much younger she is than me.

5) Carry magazine to my boyfriend's office. Commence fifteen minute discussion about whether or not her breasts are real. Discuss other merits of her body and face. We usually agree, and 85% of the time, they are fake.

6) Carry the magazine outside and read the entire "Playboy Advisor" section while sitting on the porch swing. Note the typical range of questions from how to properly trim a cigar to how to age a steak to what rhythm of stroking a woman finds most pleasurable to how to tell your girlfriend that you want to sleep with her best friend. I find this much more informative than anything I've ever read in Martha Stewart Living. Although I enjoy Martha Stewart Living, too, both magazines seem to have problems with reality. Very few women look like the ones in Playboy, and I don't have 32 hours or the OCD to handcraft those tiny, scrapbook-worthy Christmas tree-shaped place cards for my next crown-roast dinner party.

7) Fold down corners of the pages with really poignant political articles I should take the time to read. Never read them.

8) Deposit issue on the back of the toilet for future neglect. Once every six months, actually read one of the "poignant articles" then retire the issue to coffee table so kesterly can read the joke section when she visits.

9) Be honestly surprised when my friends with kids tell me I have too many Playboy issues lying around my house that I should probably put away before company comes over.

10) Hide them only when my mom visits.2

1 Back in 2002, I had so much transcription work to do before a deadline hit that I paid maxine, who was a destitute college student like me, to help me with it. Instead of getting paid money for her work, maxine asked me if I would make an online purchase for her since she didn't have a credit card. At her request I order a Playboy director's chair a gift for nyarl's birthday. The director's chair was out of stock, the order was immediately canceled, my money was refunded, and Playboy has been sending me free issues ever since. I have often wondered if this is because they want to keep their female readership numbers up. I'm not complaining.

2 Not because I'm embarrassed; just so she doesn't have to look at naked women everywhere.