Wednesday, December 2, 2009

France, School, and those pesky costs...

Hi all!

Been busy with school, and am broke as a joke. Wait, how's that different from the norm?

Anyway, I'd love help with something: I want to establish a scholarship fund and do some fundraisers to help pay for school, and maybe even do a study abroad semester next summer. Does anyone have any suggestions? I've considered a paypal button for donations, but I don't know people with any money of their own to donate!


Monday, August 3, 2009

Evil Weed Tree

Hi all! I really need help identifying this thing. It's cropping up everywhere in my landlady's yard.

The major one is along a fence - It's nearly 20 feet tall! A 12-footer is about 3 feet away. One smaller one appears 10 feet away from the main, and it's growing from my house foundation. I keep it hacked back, but it keeps on coming. This guy is infected with woolly aphids, too. :(

There are 2 more about 20 feet along the fence - the landscape guy keeps cutting them back, but they are up to 4 feet or better within weeks. Dozens of small ones are growing out from under the patio and into the back yard - this is on the exact opposite side of my house from the woolly aphid-infested one.

The leaves are lobes and soft - not shiny. They're broad - the largest ones are much bigger than my hand. The edges of the leaves are serrated, but still very soft.

The stems are extremely woody, and it's much more like a tree. It is extremely heat and drought tolerant.

It's evil and won't go away! Need ID to locate best control methods.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Reading Books, and the Selection Thereof, and How Such Changes with the Times.

So, earlier this year, my darling Gabriel purchased for us a matching pair of Kindles. For those not in the know, those are e-book readers made by Just go to the main Amazon page. You cannot avoid them.

"Ebooks?" you cry. "Never! Never shall you steal my precious pulped wood, glue, and leather! NEVER! I shan't submit!"

Yeah, I know, I said that, too. But it didn't take long for us to ditch about 80% of our book collection in a yard sale. Yes, 80%. And one of us is a Librarian (i.e., is paid to work with real ink-and-paper books!), and the other of us is a Pack Rat. We kept the graphic novels (not yet readable on Kindle, which is not a color monitor, nor of sufficient size to showcase the format) and the special hardcovers/cookbooks/coffee table books. We still have an empty forlorn shelf, slowly amassing junk because we haven't turned it into a display yet.

We love our Kindles. I adore mine. Small. Can carry everywhere. Long battery life. Made my last flying trip a dream, as I only had to pack one item, not nine different books! Easy to use. Easy to add content. Oh, yeah, I'm sold.

We bought ours used with very nice leather cases for $200 each. Steep? You bet. But cheap compared to an iPod, iPhone, computer, Blackberry, etc.

To make it better, many titles on Amazon are cheap or free. Most new releases or bestsellers are $9.99! Much cheaper than tromping into a bookstore, even with a massive discount coupon. Also, the Kindle is always connected to Amazon via Whispernet (at least in the U.S.), so you can purchase and download a book anywhere, and you can begin reading it in 30 seconds. Wow. Much quicker than driving to the bookstore, and requires less gas.

In short, I can spend my life hauling around all my beloved books that I reread, or I can have them all in one device and be done with it. Now, In case of fire, I can grab one bag with purse, computer, ipod, Kindle, and hard drive, and as long as I grab one of the cats by the tail while Gabriel grabs the other, then I have everything important out of the house - pictures, books, and loved ones. Wow.

So what has this done for my book-buying habits? I began to be curious.

Borders sent me an email saying "We Miss You!" As a Borders Rewards member, they send coupons regularly, and the coupons are tracked when they are scanned at the register - and I hadn't set foot in the Borders near me for months. I adore bookstores. What's changing with me? I work by a Barnes & Noble, and I go there on my breaks for the Starbucks coffee (I refuse to go to the much closer Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf), but I hadn't bought anything there since I bought my Kindle except magazines, coffee, and pastries. Then the B&N manager got snippy with me for eating in the café, so I guess I'll be buying even less.

Torrents exist for all manner of ebooks. Gabriel located some of a size that would make your jaw drop - some that boasted as many as 12,000 books in one download! YOWZA!!! That's a lotta books! Now, doing some research generated the info that 1- most of these books are scanned and not proofread, resulting in ' w311 ' instead of ' we'll ' in the text and so forth, 2- the torrents are in formats that do not translate well to the Kindle, and 3- correcting these for the Kindle to read would be an utter PITA, so 4- it's totally worth just buying the damned file.

I giggled to find out that some authors just find torrents of their books, proofread, and then upload to the Amazon website to sell them, effectively letting the pirates do the scanning work - go, you innovative authors!

I researched all the available ways of getting free Kindle books, and many legal sites exist that offer Kindle format public domain works. A wonderful side effect for me is that I can download all of the works of Alexandre Dumas in the original French in order to practice my translations - for free! Yay! Add Jane Austen into the mix, and I am all good! :D

I surveyed cheap books available directly through Amazon, and discovered the Suvudu Free Library on one of my blogs. These feature books by Del Rey /Random House companies, and are of a Sci-Fi Fantasy nature. Yay! Perfect for me!! The purpose of this free library is to have available at no cost the first book in some long-running series with the hopes of getting you to buy the rest (these are available in other formats on the Suvudu site, in case you don't have a Kindle). Well, one of the freebies was a longtime Terry Brooks favorite of mine, Magic Kingdom for Sale: SOLD!. If you have not read this book, you should. I happily downloaded the freebie version and read it again.

Oh, my. I certainly hope Del Rey / Random House does copyedits more thoroughly on the Kindle books that I'd actually be paying for, because DANG this book has a lot of errors! As in HUNDREDS. Landover Land Over Landower Land-over Land óver and other mistakes are all varying ways the free ebook spelled or misspelled the name of the magic kingdom in question. On a positive note, the freebie brought to my attention that there are not three Landover novels, but six, so those I haven't read are now on my wishlist - but I haven't bought any yet on Kindle due to the distracting errors in the freebie. If they were in a novel I actually paid for, and in this intolerable quantity, I would be extremely upset. And yes, you can return Kindle books to Amazon for a refund.

So I read some other free Kindle books, and I have so far added several must-read authors to my list.

Naomi Novik's His Majesty's Dragon sucked me in, and all of the sequels will be bought shortly. Well done. I haven't been that moved by a novel in a while. I normally hate war stories, I don't much like Napoleonic era stuff, and I am about as sick of dragons as I am vampires these days, but damned if that wasn't a great book!

I downloaded Blood Engines by T.A. Pratt just because it was free, but didn't read it right away. I was only moderately interested by the blurb. Then I saw a blog post about the Hugo nominated art for 2008, and the cover for Poison Sleep was one of the nominees. Stunning cover! I looked it up on Amazon, realized that it was a sequel to Blood Engines, and immediately read what I'd downloaded - and very glad I did, too! I will be buying more of Pratt's work!

Amazon allows you to read a sample of a book before you buy it on the Kindle, so I downloaded a few samples and read them. then I bought some books and then ran out of money on the card I use for my Amazon purchases. oops.

Sometimes the samples were very helpful in NOT purchasing. For instance, the book Seducing Mr. Darcy has a sample that is very punny and fanfic-y. After being smashed with a punsledgehammer and reading a bunch of stilted description, I elected not to buy. I think it was when the author called someone's hair "Adonis-like" that I gave up. I felt like the first few pages were loaded description packed in with a trash compactor. However, I'd bet Sex in the City fans would love this book. I'm just not that person.

I forced myself through another full free book and it made me question what editors have been telling authors for ages: "Show, don't tell." Um, this book did a lot of telling. a LOT. Oh, and I loathe most first-person work, so that didn't help. And the voices of the characters fluctuated too much. I felt like I was watching a poorly-filmed movie about fairies. The premise and voice were great, but I'll be damned if I want to read another. Horrid writing, I thought. I'll spare you the author's name, although he/she is very published, as in there are many titles out by this person. The dilemma over what this means for writers will have to be another post. Again, others will probably love it, and buy the subsequent titles.

So what does this boil down to? I've actually spent MORE money on books since I bought the Kindle than I was when I was Kindle-free! I'm plowing through entire series and I am discovering new authors. Other authors that I have considered before, but did not have the cash or space to store the trade paperbacks, are now on my reading list. Kindle's / Amazon's suggestions for me related to previous purchases have been dead-on, and I've been reading like a maniac. I want to upgrade to the DX, which is a larger-format Kindle, and hopefully many of my textbook providers will start offering Kindle versions. Believe me, I'd love for my back and wrists to hurt less during the school session.

There is also an app for the iPod touch and iPhone that you can put your Amazon books on, and the text looks lovely on the backlit screen. Apple is also supposedly coming out with a large-format version of the Touch soon, and it is predicted to be a Kindle-Killer. I'm not so sure, but I'll sure have a look! Since the Kindle's main purchasing audience is over 40 and iPod's main purchasing audience is younger, I think both markets are being approached appropriately, and as the books are easily purchased on either piece of hardware, it may even out.

I suppose the absences of certain titles are conspicuous. For instance, none of the Harry Potter titles are available legally as ebooks. Please note the term 'legally' - illegal versions abound.

Open Note To J.K. Rowling: please release Harry as a Kindle title. That way, I do not have to hear Gabriel exclaim at me reading one of your titles AGAIN. Also, Half-Blood prince does not fit in my purse. Harry requires one inconveniently large shelf in his current format - please set him free!! Love and thanks, Jenna

Despite that, as long as there are books to read, I'll read them. And stay tuned, since I'll be putting some out on Kindle/Amazon myself!

But what finally got me in the Borders again? Martha Stewart's book on cupcakes. As a baker, I needed to see/compare several cupcake books, and cooking/baking books are just not on the Kindle yet. Understandable, but I hope that changes eventually.

Huh. Never thought Martha would steer my purchasing decisions, especially after the way she's steered some of her own. ;) Then again, cupcakes are delicious little devils. I don't suppose that anyone can blame me.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


6/10/09 #JennasNovel Did 2nd half of exercises. FANTASTIC dialogue win! Working on names - 2 male protags, best friends. Actor= Seth? Hmmm.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

New novel posts!!

Hello all!

Sorry to be missing in action! My absence coincided with my first semester back to school. I don't have my grades back yet, but I think I did well.

At any rate, I am now working on The Lineup. I'm tweeting daily progress, and will syndicate that here. Enjoy!

6/9/09 kinda proud of self... finished class yesterday, started novel today. Not bad! :) #JennasNovel

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

In which I wax poetic on fame, fortune, and lacks thereof. OK, maybe not poetic.

The Weirdness That is Hollywood astounds me still.

I knew there were a lot of celebrities, both past and present oozing throughout the pores of Los Angeles county. I've run into porn stars trying to forget their porny pasts, blowhard combo-names-du-jour (Bradgelina and the like - ech), and aging boardtreaders wondering where the hell all the time went. I haven't even gotten to the musicians yet.

For instance, I am a waitress. I haven't paid my bills on time once in over eight months. I'm broke. I'm looking to move on to a *gasp* day job, and will use waiting tables to pay off old stuff while new job pays off current stuff.

So I'm applying for this job, and I get this interview. The interview goes well. I'm near Sawtelle, so I decided to grab some ramen. YUM! Asahi Ramen rocks. My feet really hurt. Again, that whole waitress thing. For the 2-3 block walk from my car, I switched to my flops - they do NOT match my ensemble. They shorten me, and make my curvy bits look more like chunky bits. I still got whistled at - SWEET! Doesn't happen much since I moved here. At home, I'm an 8, and here I'm a 4. Sucks. But I digress. Suffice it to say, I felt good about myself at the time.

So I took the window table at Asahi Ramen. The place was full, and an attractive couple wanted a table. The gentleman looked familiar, and he was very handsome. He had dark, curling hair very thoroughly shot with silver - think Clooney while on ER, and you'll have the idea. His hair coloring screamed "early to late forties", but he still seemed young for that. He seemed barely my age, and certainly the young lady was exactly that - young. Something was very poignantly familiar about his lips. I'm an artist, so I pick up on that sort of thing. I tried not to stare, but the couple were kind of in the way of the view. in order to look out the window, I must look at them. Bizarrely, I felt as though I were in a reverse fishbowl. I was a semi-ugly betta attempting to attract attention so I could beg some fish flakes, but no one was noticing. Way weird. Anyway, I can't recall the gesture he made that reminded me, but I realized that I was looking at Balthazar Getty.

He's the same age as me, as a quick google revealed. 34. He's infinitely more handsome that he was in Young Guns II (where I first saw him and sighed), and much older. I still get mistaken for 23. I doubt he's been carded for a beer in years, and he had a baby face, back in the day. When he still looked fifteen, I got mistaken for thirty. Shit's changed.

Tinseltown must weigh a fucking ton, and I never truly saw it until that moment. Yeah, if you're lucky, you get to be like him and work with David Lynch and Oliver Stone. You end up on a diet of protein shakes and botox, too.

Valentine's day amuses me to no end. It's a Christian Holiday Appropriated by Hallmark and Russell Stover, but much more thoroughly than Xmas/Easter. I celebrated by trying my first foie gras (nothing says romance like a force-fed goose!) and sharing a restaurant with David Hyde Pierce of Frasier fame. Not bad.

At my Chinese Chain Restaurant Job, Jani Lane of Warrant ended up in the kitchen while looking for a bathroom. I pointed him the right way with a smile, while Kristi joked that if he stayed in the kitchen we'd have to put him to work. He didn't laugh. He was probably embarrassed. If memory serves from my Mental Metal Edge Archives, he had a real shit job pre-rock-star, and he might have had nasty flashbacks. I'd have left, too!

He is *extremely* blond. He looks better with glasses and short hair. I smile to remember the beef in the early nineties between Matthew Nelson and him over that Bobbi Brown chick that was in the Cherry Pie video (that they played incessantly. Repeatedly. I began to pray for Snoop and Dre to come on and save me, and I was a fucking metalhead, they played that song so goddamn much!) that Jani started dating. I remember seeing exactly *one* Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous episode where Matt dropped $21k for a week's stay in a hotel with that chica, and that was just the room. Not the food! Bitch betta give great head! They spent more in one week back then what I make in a year NOW. Damn. (And now Matt's got a Fredrick's of Hollywood model for a wife. Definitely an improvement. Possibly even a cheaper one.)

Rene Auberjonois (Odo on Deep Space Nine! And also on Benson, et. al.) was my geek high of sightings! Too bad his tablemate was a douchebag. Perhaps the man is ill, but in case of him possibly ever reading this, I have a message:
Mr. Auberjonois, for you I have much respect. Perhaps there are reasons for his actions, but the man you shared a table with at my Chinese Chain Restaurant Job is hazardous to your dining experience. You were in very professional hands that evening, but I assure you that many who share in my job description do not have my scruples, or those of your lovely server. Dining out with this person will result in, and may have all ready resulted in, sullied food or drink. Stay away, for your own sake. And for god's sake, be sure you tip well enough to make up for his behavior. Apologizing to the server wouldn't hurt either. That always goes a long way with us, and we'll share behind the scenes, being sure to keep others' hands out of your food too - the kitchen staff may act in a server's defense. Just sayin'.

Alec Baldwin's publicist is a bit of a twit - there's an hour wait, no, he can't cut in line. But Alec himself was quite pleasant, and sat with his family on the patio in a light drizzle. His daughter is stunning. Then, I was reminded of who her mother is, and remembered why - she has the Holy Grail of Genetics. Nothing like the glare of expectation. I know it well, but at about 1/1000th the intensity. I got your Complete Lack of Envy right here.

So, I skipped watching the Oscars - we killed cable, and I sure as hell wasn't gonna stream the whole damn thing. I heard about the winners, and thought about it.

Heath Ledger died, possibly quite an unhappy person, and won a statue he's too dead to care about. Jani Lane's biggest claim to fame is a commercial crap song he didn't even like very much when he wrote it. Balthazar aged a lot more in ten years than he should have. Alec has some douche talking for him. Rene has to watch his food quality thanks to his tablemate. Angelina and Jennifer will forever be assumed to be locked in a struggle of hate. The worst part is people WATCHING them suffer. I slave for a tiny bit of cash that doesn't pay the bills, endure Verbal Abuse Week at my job, handle endless insult and injury while being underpaid, ache without medical coverage, and wear the same clothing over and over endlessly - and I wouldn't want to be ANY of the above-mentioned people.

I'll keep on being a Hollywood 4, since I'm used to that. Don't have to be a 10 to clean teeth or write a good story. Don't have to worry (as much) about the calories from that extra cookie. Don't have to obsess over each line or wrinkle. Don't have to be the ant under the magnifying glass. Fine by me. Now do you want white or brown rice with that?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Something New - 2/14/09

Hi all!

So, my new thing for the week: Foie Gras.

Foie Gras is the fattened liver or a duck or goose. I HATE liver!! I made my grandmother stop making giblet gravy at thanksgiving, because the liver chunks are gross-tastic!!

For Valentine's Day, Gabriel took me to Terra. The food was beyond sublime, and as an appetizer, Gabriel ordered the Foie Gras. I was grossed out, but said I would try it. I'm so glad I did!

The chef took a 1/2" thick slice of the liver and quickly pan-seared it, so it was a mite crusty. It was plated with some greens and a peach tarte tatin over what appeared to be port wine reduction. I very hesitantly cut off a bit with my fork, and was astounded at the texture. I was so surprised at the delicate flavor! It was so good! I will order it again somewhere else.

So, new for this week: foie gras, Terra, and their tasty passion fruit mojito.

Go forth and be renewed! And come back and tell me what's new with you! What have you tried that's new to you?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Something New - a new series of posts!

Hi all! I'm starting a new series of posts. It's called "Something New!"

The story behind this is a fun one, and I decided that I wanted to share with you all. Maybe you'll be inspired to do something new yourself!

A few years ago, just post-divorce, I realized how much I had stagnated. Life was not what I wanted it to be. My ex only wanted me to cook 2 things, and both of them were tomato-based. I essentially had been cooking the same 2 dishes for 9 years. I was overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated. I had no money and few positive life experiences.

After I met Gabriel, we did a few new things. For starters, I was unused to being treated well in a relationship. That was certainly new to me! But we did new things like trying new restaurants, new wines, going new places, and doing new things. I met new people and had new experiences. I heard new music, watched new films, and read new books. I was hooked!

So I made myself a promise: I will do at least one new thing a week! It can be simple or small, but it must be undone previously in this life as Jenna. Sometimes I've fallen short, but I have certainly done many new things!

In the past few years, some of my most poignant new things are:
-Finishing my first novel
-Making my first bread
-Trying Indian food for the first time (Oh, why wasn't this sooner?!?!?)
-Living out of the state of Georgia
-Standing up for myself
-Getting a new cat
-Volunteering at an animal shelter

More recently, I've made my first preserves, tried some new restaurants, and maintained blogs. But these are all new things designed to keep me vibrant and vital! I plan now to share them with you!

Try something new this week! Tell me about it here in the comments!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

As I continue slaving, er, serving, I encounter more celebrities...

Yes. Still serving. Sucks.

But, at my said place of employment, I had 2 sightings at the same time, and my first paparazzi encounter.

Dave Grohl was within 2 feet of me. Dave. Fucking. Grohl. He was there with a really cute kid and a pregnant woman (assuming his wife & kid. I don't get too involved in these nice people's love lives. not my business. I wish them well, though.) There were about 10 people at the table, and all the plebs like you & me started behaving like utter douches. Some people staring with their friends snapping at them not to stare, then others pretending they were above it. No one harassed Dave, though, which is good. I always think you should not interrupt people at dinner, even if they are your hero. Heroes need to eat, too, dammit! but EVERYONE hated the paparazzo who showed up.

Some dude popped up, yanked a camera out of his coat, and snapped a couple of shots before bailing to the other side of the dining room to annoy Cedric the Entertainer, who had also come in for some Chinese food. It was highly surreal. What a douche. I find a way to make a living without being scum, so why can't he?

Dave paid - with the Foo Fighters black Amex. (for those not in the know, the black AmEx requires a minimum spending of $100k/a year. Just on that card. You are a big balla if you have that card. It is made of titanium, and is SO choice.) I never thought I'd see a credit card that listed the cardholder as "Foo Fighters". Fucking weird.

The next table over was mine, and was a birthday party for a girl turning 15. I had to explain to her that the guy everyone was trying not to stare at would not have been able to set foot in the restaurant when she was born because he was so famous. I also realized that the 15th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's suicide is in a couple of months. I remember it really well because it happened when I was on my spring break during senior year in 1994. It was the only time I went anywhere for spring break with friends. Mental math, and the fact that there was a 15 year old in front of me who had been 6 weeks old at the time drove home how long ago that was. It seems like just last week or something. Not so very long ago.

I felt really old for a minute. A quick Google reveals that Dave just turned 40. I then realized that the best part of Dave's life is probably right now: not too obnoxiously famous a la Brad Pitt, but still rich and able to enjoy a relatively quiet night out. Probably gets to spend time with his kid(s), too.

I want to be just like Dave when I grow up. If in 7 years (when I'm 40) I am half so fulfilled, I will be pleased with myself indeed.

That is all for my Los Angeles adventures this week. Tune in next time for more, or check my other blog, A Southerner's Guide to (surviving) Los Angeles.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Hanging out with family....

I'm having a good time in Atlanta!!

I'm going to the Vortex tonight for dinner...