Sunday, October 31, 2010

A reminder to my witchy friends... not drink and fly this Halloween! The consequences might be painful. And people might laugh. ;)


Samhain (which is Pagan speak for October 31st) is a time to remember and honor those who have passed on in the last year. This year I remember:

Rest in peace.

On a more upbeat note, my grandma has a 90% chance of beating her cancer. She should remain among the living for a while longer. :)


There is yet another givaway at Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom that I am entering. This time it is for a bunch of Halloween goodies, some of which look VERY yummy!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Big cats and pumpkins

Do you like pumpkins? Do you like cats? If so, you might want to watch this short video.

I want to know -- did they have to stuff the pumpkins with cat nip, or do the cats just like pumpkins naturally?

Halloween: A Brief History

I came across this brief video explaining the roots of Halloween, and I wanted to share it here.

Modern day Pagans still celebrate Samhain, including yours truly. I'm not sure that I believe that all of the dead wait until October 31st to finally head wherever they're going, but otherwise this is a pretty good explanation of Samhain as I see it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


On Monday I cut myself with a plastic knife.

Yesterday I scraped my knuckles on a wall.

Today I half expected to prick myself on my spinning wheel. (Hey, maybe I should be Sleeping Beauty for Halloween!) Except, how is that possible? There's nothing on the spinning wheel to prick myself with. It's not the sort of thing you would expect to happen. Then again, one doesn't expect to cut themselves with a plastic knife or to scrape their knuckles on a wall.

Well, I haven't pricked myself with my spinning wheel (though I guess there's still time...) but I did stay home sick. :(

On the upside, Kokopelle kept me company when I slept in today. And before getting out of bed I just had to take a photo of him with my handy dandy iPhone.

Isn't he adorable?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Who do I write for?

In my English class my professor brought up a point to consider when you read something: Who is the writer writing to? Who is the intended audience?

So that got me to wondering, who is my audience?

I already have some idea, and I know I have (something of a) diverse audience.

* Pagans, who understand "Pagan Speak"
* Non-Pagans, who do not know "Pagan Speak" -- that is, words like Samhain, Sabbat, Beltane...

When I write about Paganism I like to explain what I'm talking about so that the non-Pagans can follow, but without boring my Pagan readers with explanations about details they already know. It can be an interesting balance to maintain.

Some more of my audience...

* College students
* College graduates
* At least one professor

These are people who can probably relate to the school stuff I'm talking about. And yet, I also have...

* People who have never been to college, and who don't plan to go

However, since I talk about a lot of non-school stuff, I think I can keep these people engaged.

Oh yes, and let's not forget...

* My mom

Cannot forget my mom.

Here's an idea: Why don't you write just a little about yourself in the comments? Even just a little "Hullo! I'm not a college student or a Pagan. I don't know why I read your blog, but whatever. I guess you entertain me." Or maybe, "Hullo sweetie, this is your mother. I'm reading your blog to keep an eye on you."

I'd love to hear from you. :)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fun, Sweet Adelines style!

Were you watching the Sweet Adelines International competition today? I was. :) On the webcast. The quartet finals competition will be tomorrow (Friday), and then the chorus finals on Saturday. I highly recommend that you tune in for some good music.

This evening was the chorus semi-finals. After the competition, but before the top ten finalists were announced, Rich Tones Chorus performed. They were the chorus champions last year, and it's traditional for them to perform after the chorus semi-finals. It's sort of their time to say to everyone "Hullo! It's been great to be your champions! We'll be stepping aside now to make way for a new champion, but we'll be back to compete again soon."

Rich Tones did some wonderful songs, with some funny commentary in between. For example...

Their director, Dale Syverson, took the mic at one point. She started saying "According to my watch..." She paused, and looked under a wide wrist band she was wearing. She started again "According to..." Again she paused. This time she looked under her sleeve. "Ok," she began, "According to my watch..." And again she paused, looking uncertain. And this time, she looked inside her shirt, like something was tucked away under her bra strap. More confident this time, she began yet again. "According to my watch, we have forty-eight more hours of being your champions..." This time she stopped because every one was laughing at her. She rolled her eyes. "I have an iPhone." More laughter. So, she reached into her shirt, and produced an iPhone. Everyone continued laughing, now at the fact that she took an iPhone on stage with her. "I have it on vibrate." She explains. Then adds, "That's how I enjoy it the most."
Another time...

An energetic song had just ended. A young woman runs up to the mic, panting. She says "Ok, you know, and I know, that I'm up there to give them," she points over her shoulder to the chorus, and continues gasping, "a chance to take their breath. But I want to know, what about me? I mean, come on..." An older woman comes comes up to the mic, and says "You youngsters. Always complaining."

Ok, so I guess that's sort of an inside joke. You would get it if you'd been following Rich Tones for a few years.

I tried to find a video of them on YouTube, but the following video is all that I could find. It's got snippets from the chorus finals competition of last year. If you want to take a look you can find them at 4:15, and it's no longer them when people start singing "Once a winner, always a winner..." That's The Winner Song. We like to sing it after competition results have been announced. :)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Another givaway!

Mrs. B. has yet another givaway that I'm entering. It's for a lovely pendant, and you can see it here.

If you haven't already checked out her 31 Days of Halloween, I recommend that you do! Soon!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Drumming debut

Tall One plays drums, and he had his first performance on the drum recently! Below is a video of him debuting on the drum. They (or the song, I'm not sure which) is called Celtic Fusion.

They came together for just this one song, but they're debating whether to do future performances together as a band.

Cool givaway

There is yet another cool givaway over at Mrs. B.'s 31 Days of Halloween!

This time it is an adorable pair, a Witches Cauldron Plush (that's boiling over!) and a Cutie Corn Plush. You can see the photo here.

Incidentally, I won a pair of hair sticks from this same Etsy shop last year, that looked a lot like this.

Yes, I'm whining

I stayed home today, sick. Well, ok, I guess that was technically yesterday, since it's now 2:05AM. I haven't been feeling well the past few days, and today (sorry, yesterday) it was finally enough that I called in to work sick and e-mailed my professors to explain my absence.

What fun. And don't ask me what I'm sick with. I'm certain that it isn't flu, and it's definitely not a cold, but I don't know what it is.

Then this evening I went to bed early at about 10pm. I lay in bed for a few hours, tossing and turning, unable to sleep. Then at about 1:45am I gave up and got out of bed to have a (late) midnight snack.

I don't like to complain about being sick on this blog, I have to be sick and deal with insomnia at the same time? Do I really? If this is some bored deity's idea of a joke, I am not amused.

Fortunately, I do have some good news to share...

Yesterday (or I guess that was two days ago, since it was Sunday and it's now the wee hours of Tuesday) we got the Halloween decorations out of the attic and decorated. What we've got is cool, or so I think, but we haven't got very much of it. Part of me wants to go out and buy more Halloween stuff, but I'm forcing myself to show restraint. Maybe I'll share photos of what we have got.

What have you done for Halloween/Samhain?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Barbershop music

With the Sweet Adelines International competition coming up (which I talked about in this post) I wanted to share with you just what Barbershop music really is. And since I wrote a post on the subject last year, I decided to be lazy and just repost it.

By the way, if you don't feel like watching all three videos I recommend that you pick the last one to listen to. I like to save the best for last. :)


Barbershop music got started thanks to bored guys who were waiting their turn in line at, you got it, barbershops! Originally the music belonged to the men, but it's so darned cool that women didn't let them keep it to themselves.

Barbershop is four part harmony, a cappella. I've heard the four parts related to parts of a cake, and it's the best way I've found to explain the different parts.

Bass -- the basses are the plate, and hold everything together. They scarcely ever have the melody, but I think their part is really cool, and would be singing it if I had the range.

Baritone (aka bari) -- they're the icing which adds character to the cake. They do this and that, and are basically whatever the cook (or composer) needs them to be. "Vocal gymnastics" is a good way to describe this part.

Lead -- we virtually always have the melody, which is why we're called leads. We lead the song. We're the absolute best of all four parts. (Never mind that I sing lead and am therefore biased... :P)

Tenor -- they're the sprinkles on the cake, but unlike sprinkles, they are absolutely necessary for Barbershop. They add it a bit of something that you don't otherwise have in the music. A good phrase to describe them is "seen but barely heard."

The parts are called this regardless of who's singing it: men, women and men together, or just women.

At this point I think that more description is pointless unless you can actually hear the music, so I'll let the music speak for itself.

This is the Realtime, which is one awesome quartet. I was fortunate enough to see them live a few years back, and have been in love with them ever since.

This second one is Martini, and is really good. Their lead (second from the left here) is in the Pride of Portland chorus, which I was talking about in my last post. Yes, I've also seen them live. :)

I wanted to also share a chorus, so I picked Westminster chorus. Notice their choreography. Choruses tend to do that. Unfortunatley I have not seen this chorus live. :( I hope I will someday, though. :D

I could add more, but three is a pretty good number so I'll stop here.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Music majors vs. English majors

Last year I was a music major. This year I'm an English major. And I'm noticing a difference.

This year I'm more likely to run into classmates when I'm eating lunch on campus, when I'm in the campus library, or when I'm otherwise hanging out on campus. And it's not just that I run into them, it's that we stop and chat. It's not that the music majors were cold or that we never chatted, but it happens way more frequently now. I've been wondering why the difference is there, and I can only come up with three possible reasons.

1) It could be that I've changed somehow almost overnight, and that because of this change classmates are suddenly coming up to me to chat. However, I'm pretty darn sure that this isn't it.

2) Maybe it's because music majors have a building that's all their own, whereas English majors don't. Us English majors have to share buildings with people of other majors, so we're more spread out over the campus. My theory is that being spread out is somehow connected to the difference.

3) Mom suggested that it could be a difference between music majors and English majors. I don't think that this is the case, but I can't rule it out.

I'm thinking that possibility #2 is the real reason, but I can't prove it. And who knows, there could be more than one thing going on that causes this difference...maybe even something that I haven't thought of.

Wise and Worldly Readers (yes I'm stealing that line from another blogger), have you ever changed majors and then noticed that the dynamics at your school suddenly changed?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Apples and HPs

Is it wrong of me to put an Apple sticker on my HP Mini Netbook?

I had a couple of Apple stickers just lying around, with nothing to do with them...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"Where are you from?"

At Marylhurst we're in the third week of fall term, and so far I've been asked maybe five times "Where are you from?" Well, ok, so one guy asked "What's your native language?" (and he wasn't sure if I was joking when I told him that it's English) but that's just another way of approaching the same question.

Each time, the conversation went something like this:

Classmate: So where are you from?

Me: I'm from around here. If you're asking about the accent [I used to pause here but I'm so used to people responding "yes" that I just keep going now] it's actually a speech disorder.

Classmate: Oh, I'm so sorry. I didn't realize that. I thought it was just a cool accent.

They usually apologize, as though noticing my speech disorder was somehow wrong of them.

Me: Yeah, that's what pretty much everyone thinks. Everyone has their peculiarities, and this just happens to be one of mine.

Classmate: I totally thought you were from Australia/England/New Zealand/some other cool place.

Different people think that my "accent" is from different parts of the globe. I've even had one person ask me if I was from the southern US states (which is actually where I was born, and where my parents are from!), whereas others have assured me that I have no hint of a southern accent at all. It's rather amusing.

Sometimes the conversation stops at this point, but sometimes I find myself explaining about FAS. Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS) is when a person suffers a head injury and then abruptly develops an accent. I haven't been diagnosed, but I'm pretty sure that's what my speech disorder is...though in my case the injury would have happened when I was about a year old, when my language was just beginning to develop. So I'm not sure if FAS could be diagnosed in my case. Not that I've actually gone to doctors to ask about it. I don't think there would be any real point to getting a diagnosis, since there's nothing that could be done about it.

In any event, it keeps life interesting. How many people get mistaken for a foreigner in their hometown?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The un-trapped miners

I think everyone knows about the Chile miners who have been trapped underground for almost 70 days.

As I write this two are now above ground, and a third is one his way up. I've been following live updates here.

I've got to ask, am I the only one comparing what's happening to these people to what happened to Apollo 13? In both cases the people shouldn't have survived. But the people in Apollo 13 pulled through and these miners are pulling through. The world watched Apollo 13, and the world is watching as these miners are coming up. Literally! There is seriously a live camera pointed at the new entrance/exit for the mine. I don't know the link, but my dad is watching it on his computer.

I think this qualifies as a miracle. :)

Oh yes, and, since time isn't standing still as I write, the third miner is above ground now. Three down (or up), thirty more to go.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sweet Adelines International competition!

It is that time of year again! We are nearing the international competition for Sweet Adelines International! explanation is probably needed for those who are unfamiliar with Sweet Adelines.

Sweet Adelines is an organization of women who love to get together and sing barbershop music. And barbershop music is a style four part harmony a cappella music. You can click here to see an example. (Sorry to provide a link instead of embedding it, but embedding has been disabled for this video.) Barbershop music is really great, and is a lot of fun to sing.

Choruses from all over the world will be competing, and I'll be rooting for the one from my hometown, Pride of Portland. Fortunately, I can embed a video of them in this post. In the video they aren't singing typical barbershop music, but oh well. It's still Pride of Portland.

Mrs. B.'s givaways

Mrs. B. is doing another givaway that I want to win. This time it's for a bath set with soaps and sea looks really nice. You can see it here.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

So confusing!!!

If you've written academic papers or essays, you know that you have to cite your sources. You probably also know that there are different formats to cite your sources. For example, there's MLA, APA, Chicago, AMA...and others.

At Portland Community College I learned to use the MLA format. MLA was all I knew. I was barely even aware that other formats existed. Then when I arrived at Marylhurst I learned that not only do other formats exist, and that as a music therapy major I would be using APA when I wrote papers, not MLA.

There are little differences between MLA and APA. To illustrate this point, I'll share how to cite a text first using MLA, and then APA.

Billen, Andrew. "The prude of love." New Statesman 138.4973 (2009): 46-47. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 11 Oct. 2010.

Billen, A. (2009). The prude of love. New Statesman, 138(4973), 46-47. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.

Slightly different, isn't it? They both say the same thing, but they say it slightly differently. And if you know one and are trying to unlearn it to learn the other, it can be a little confusing. And if you get them mixed up, you're in trouble.

But now that I'm an English major, I'm having to return to MLA! Which is so weird.

So, to recap:

1) Started out using MLA, was happy.
2) Switched to APA because I was a music therapy major. Had fun trying to learn a new way to cite my sources.
3) Now am returning to MLA, and am somewhat confused.

Ah, the joys of life...

Friday, October 8, 2010

Mrs. B.'s givaways

I'm entering one of Mrs. B.'s givaways today. I'm hoping to win a free t-shirt from Crazy Dog T-Shirts. If I am lucky enough to win, I think I'll pick this one. :)

Halloween Fun

To all my followers who aren't already following Mrs. B.'s 31 Days of Halloween: how would you like to win the below earrings, which are from my Etsy shop Dragonfly's Laughter?

I am giving away a pair of earrings that look just like this as part of the Halloween/Samhain fun this year. If you want a chance to win them, click here to go to Mrs. B.'s blog and find out how.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Interesting conversation

I had an interesting conversation today. It went something like this.
Guy: Where did you go to high school?
Me: I was homeschooled.
I watched as the guy's face changed. Before he said a word, I could tell that he didn't approve of homeschooling. Uh oh, I thought, What's he gonna say? I know that there are stereotypes and misconceptions about homeschooling, and I considered offering an explanation before he had a chance to speak. I considered it, but decided to wait and see what he would say instead.
Guy: Accountability is important. Don't you think? *pause* The parents have got to have college degrees.
You know, parents with college degrees are good, but really not necessary. At least, not here in Portland. There are so many opportunities for homeschoolers to expand their knowledge outside of what their parents are able to teach. Homeschoolers can form study groups, can sign up for community college classes, can join Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts, can take part in certain school programs, can take classes at dance schools...the list of opportunities go on and on.

But one look at this guy told me that he wasn't going to listen. He'd made up his mind. So rather than defend homeschoolers as a whole, I decided to make it clear that at least some homeschoolers meet his expectations.
Me: My parents both have college degrees. My dad is a Ph.D, and used to be a professor at a university.
Guy: What did your dad teach?
Me: Um...well...he taught a variety of things. But that was before I was born. I do know that what he taught was related to his being an electrical engineer.
Guy: And your mom?
Me: She's an accountant.
Guy: Good. Your parents are well grounded in the maths and sciences.
It was nice to know that I had his approval, but I couldn't help but be a little irritated at his apparent disregard for the arts. I wanted to say Yes, science and math is important, but don't you think that the arts are too? But the thing is, even though I can order my thoughts and put together an argument on paper (or online) and in my English classes, I'm not always so good at it "in real life."


Do you ever find yourself wanting or needing to defend something, and yet not be able to form a proper argument in the moment, when it counts?

I want my cookies back!

For the first week of each term Marylhurst University provides free cookies for its students, employees, and professors. This is really really great, but it has one downside: when it gets to week two, I go through cookie withdrawal.

Oh well. I'll recover by week three. I think.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


In competitive bagpiping, there are different grades that a person passes through.

Chanter -- If you're gonna learn the bagpipe, you're gonna start out on the chanter. It's the part of the bagpipe that allows a piper to play a tune. People start on it because it's a good idea to learn the fingering before you throw the bag and drones into the mix, because the bagpipe is a complicated instrument and it's best to learn one thing at a time. Note: Only kids compete on chanter.

Adult -- As I said, only kids compete on chanter. Don't ask me why. The adult competitions are for adults who aren't quite grade five level, but want to compete anyways.

Grade 5 -- The lowest grade in piping.

Then there are... Grades 4, 3, 2, and 1. It usually takes people a few years to move up to the next level. And after Grade 1 is...

Professional -- This is for people who have gone beyond Grade 1, which itself is darned good. People who have achieved the professional level are THE best.

And the reason I announce a celebration and then explain all of this? Tall One has moved up to the next grade in piping. It became official just a few days ago.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Pagan Pride in Portland

Pagan Pride Day is a day for Pagans to get together and do Pagan stuff. Today was Pagan Pride in Portland.

The whole thing lasted quite a while, but I only stayed for a few hours. It was pretty fun, but it was indoors and noisy, and I don't tend to do too well in noisy environments.

While I was at the event I attended a workshop for psychic self defense, where I learned a little bit about auras. Most of what was taught I was already familiar with, but it was good to hear it explained a little differently, since of course that meant that I got to see a new way of looking at things. And when you look at things a new way, you learn. :)

There was also a ritual that honored the goddess Renenutet, a deity who I had never even heard of before. She is the Egyptian goddess of harvest, and as such I think that she's a pretty good goddess to turn to in the fall.

My mom was with me, by the way. It was her first Pagan ritual. It was funny afterwards, though, because she said that parts of the ceremony were a lot like what happened at the Protestant church she attended when she was young, and that at times she was able to predict what was about to be said or done.

Then this evening I was about to pick a ripe tomato in our backyard. But thinking of the ceremony for Renenutet and this being Pagan Pride Day (in Portland) I decided to do commemorate the day (kinda, sorta) by taking photos of the ripe and ripening tomatoes. Maybe that's weird, but, I like taking photos.

There were vendors there as well today, and I bought the following thingy. I rather like it. :)