Sunday, December 21, 2008

oh, the weather outside is frightful . . .

Stayed in Grand Island with friends last night. Watched a movie, cross-stitched, ate too many Oreo balls, and slept in a comfy bed. This morning, Melissa made chocolate chip muffins for breakfast. It's almost enough to make you forget that it's one degree with a wind chill of negative twenty-two outside!

Friday, December 19, 2008

snow day

Last night, I stayed late to work on yearbook. I drove home in one of the craziest snow/ice/lightning storms I've ever seen. I had to stop a quarter of a mile down the road and rescrape my windshield because the windshield wasn't yet warm enough to melt the ice--instead, it froze to the windshield on contact. It took me 25 minutes to drive the two-ish miles to my apartment. By late evening, I knew we had a 10 a.m. start; at 9 a.m., school was cancelled. At 9:30, I learned I'd need to go cover phones in the office for a few hours this morning. So here I am. I could be grading papers, but I don't feel like it. Anyway, here are a few tidbits to catch you up on what's going on with me:
  • My first yearbook deadline is the 24th, which means I have to get everything sent off on Monday. I'm so thankful we had our yearbook final test block yesterday--if it had been scheduled for today, I would have had about 10 pages to finish up on my own!
  • Yes, I'm obsessed with amazon--with good reason! For the first 16 days of December, they offered complete sets of TV series, one per day, at severely discounted prices. My day was Dec. 11, when Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman: The Complete Series Megasetwas on sale for $89.99! Dr. Quinn was one of my favorite shows in junior high and high school, so I said, "Merry Christmas, Becky," and clicked the button to buy it.
  • I'm also obsessed with Straight No Chaser. So here's some more info for you:
    • You can get a free download of "What Child Is This" by signing up for their mailing list at
    • iTunes has the bonus tracks "White Christmas" and "Africa" for $.99 each. Since "Africa" is adapted for part of "12 Days of Christmas" (and since I've loved "Africa" ever since the commercials for Cool Rockin the 90's), I was very excited to find it.
  • Poor Val is stuck in Indiana . . . or Michigan . . . or Illinois. Her phone died just as she was going to tell me where. I really hope she can make it home tomorrow, although I hear the weather might be bad again.
  • Speaking of bad weather, I hope it doesn't keep me away from the Singing Christmas Tree! We have our final four concerts this weekend, and I'll be sad when it's over.
  • I have this project I've been working on for several months. I started with great gusto, but now it's like a chore to work on it. Val bet me that I wouldn't have it finished before Ritta Christmas (which is Jan. 11), so that should be motivation, as I'd love to prove Val wrong. It's not.
  • I've sucessfully burned about 2 hours, and I'm now leaving. Steph's making homemade pizza for lunch!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

the "straight" story

First of all, if you haven't seen Straight No Chaser's version of "The 12 Days of Christmas" (have you been living under a rock???), go to YouTube right now and watch it.

You're welcome.

Last winter, someone told Mom about the YouTube video. We both loved it, and I wasted way too much time one evening watching all the videos of them I could find. (They did a sitcom medley that was so fun for a TV junkie like me!) For their anniversary, I ended up buying my parents (well, really Mom, since Dad couldn't care less) a dvd of SNC's farewell concert at Indiana University. The quality isn't great, but I figured it was the best we could get.

In the time between my parents' anniversary in February and early December, I pretty much forgot about Straight No Chaser. That is, until Holly reminded me of them. She said "12 Days of Christmas" was getting radio play, so I immediately looked them up. When I learned they had a Christmas album out, I had to buy it. Minutes later, I'd purchased a copy of "Holiday Spirits"--I'm all about mp3 downloads, but when I really want a cd, I still want the real thing.

Holiday Spirits is even better than I expected. It's also mellower than I expected, but that's good--it's very "office appropriate." Plus, the cd came with a free download of "What Child Is This." It's a beautiful arrangement. "12 Days of Christmas" is on the album; it's still my favorite of their songs, but "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," "Auld Lang Syne," and "Carol of the Bells" are great. And is it possible they do "Little Saint Nick" better than The Beach Boys? Who am I kidding--I love the whole thing! (And so do plenty of other people--Holiday Spirits is currently the top-selling cd on Amazon and the #3 mp3 album!)

These 10 guys are simply amazing. They have a five album deal with Atlantic Records, and you can bet I'll be buying each and every album they release.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

in the news

I've been too busy to blog much lately . . . but one of our local TV stations has made it easy to show you what I've been up to!

Singing Christmas Tree
It's the 35th year for the SCT, and a reporter came to one of Saturday's performances. We've done eight shows, and we have four to go! Being in the tree is so much fun--I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to do this. Go here to read the story and watch the video. Look for me at 1:03! I'm the 4th person from the right on the bottom row.

Festival of Lessons and Carols
Last night was the 4th Annual Festival of Lessons and Carols at NC. I've been part of the choir for the past three years. The day is absolutely exhausting, but I really enjoy it! This year, we had a guest organist, Mark Thallander. You can watch Channel 5's video here. And, again, if you look really hard you can see me, sort of: At 0:58, count three people to the right from the conductor's (Eric Dale Knapp) head. That's me! My cousin Nate is two people to the left of me. My mom got to sing a solo, Steph sang in a quartet, and Nate sang in the quartet and played his trumpet for one of the orchestra's songs. I wish I had videos of those things to post, too!

Monday, December 8, 2008

another reason to love amazon

I got an email from Amazon yesterday telling me I have a $5 credit on mp3 downloads. Why? There's this promotion going on right now where if you spend $25 in their CD store (or some other places, too--click the link to see all that apply), you'll get a $5 mp3 credit to use in their digital downloads store. Yippee!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

it's beginning to sound a lot like christmas

The Christmas season is upon us once again, and I've switched into my annual "Christmas music only" mode. With that in mind, I thought I'd repost this, which I wrote last year when I was still blogging over on MySpace . . .

Contrary to what retailers want you to believe, the Christmas season does not begin on Nov. 1. There is a holiday between Halloween and Christmas, and it drives me nuts that Thanksgiving is overlooked. When I go shopping in early November, do I want to hear Christmas music being pumped through the store? NO! But once the day after Thanksgiving rolls around, I believe in no-holds-barred, 24/7 Christmas music!

So, in the spirit of the season, I offer my picks for the best (and worst) in Christmas music:
  • Best album: 3-way tie--Michael W. Smith's Christmastime and It's A Wonderful Christmas and Amy Grant's Home for Christmas
  • Best concert: Jim Brickman. He's amazing, and he introduced me to David Klinkenberg's music. 'Nuff said.
  • Classic song: "White Christmas" by Bing Crosby
  • Best Christmas pageant: Little Christmas Lamb. Just ask my sisters.
  • Happy "I want to be home for Christmas" song: "Christmas In Nebraska" by Mulberry Lane (the link takes you to YouTube--lame video, but you can hear the song.)
  • Song I can't help but sing along to: "Feliz Navidad" by Jose Feliciano
  • Song that makes me snicker because of how fitting the title is: "Baby It's Cold Outside" by Nick Lachey & Jessica Simpson
  • Hymn: "Angels We Have Heard On High"
  • Most overplayed: "Carol of the Bells"--and it's sad because I love it. But it's everywhere!
  • Best children's album: Disney's Merry Christmas Carols. My grandma had this on tape, and sadly, it's not on cd.
  • Best Candlelight Service song: "Silent Night"

Am I forgetting anything? What's your favorite Christmas song?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

cheap and free music

Amazon is currently running a 50 mp3 albums for $5 each promotion. There's something for everyone here, and at $5 per album, it's a great deal! Last night, I downloaded Jack Johnson's Sleep Through The Static and Chris Tomlin's Hello Love. There's also stuff by Coldplay, the High School Musical 3 soundtrack, and lots of albums I've never heard of!

Amazon is all about the free mp3s. They offer several each week. Some are great, and some are terrible. This week, they're offering a couple sampler albums. I just downloaded the Amazon Holiday Sampler--it's got Bing Crosby, Peggy Lee, the Beach Boys, and others. Of course, the songs on it aren't their famous Christmas songs, but they're still enjoyable. Amazon is also giving away one Christmas song each day until Christmas with its 25 Days of Free Holiday Music. So far, each song has been a good one. If you're a fan of the Barenaked Ladies (Mom???), you'll want to be sure to check out the free tracks.

is your screen green?

It took me much longer to watch Leverage last night than I'd planned. That's because it was a .mov file. It wouldn't play in Windows Media Player, and when I tried to play in in Real Player and Quicktime, I could hear it, but all I saw was a green screen.

I've known about the green screen problem for a while, but I'd forgotten about it. A few months ago, I downloaded an episode of a tv show from iTunes, and I couldn't get it to play normally on my computer, but it was just fine on Steph's ipod. Brother Andrew tried to help me out by sending me a media player that he thought would play the file. It didn't work, but I didn't worry about it too much.

I couldn't give up that easily for Leverage. I was just too intrigued by the whole TV show on a flash drive thing. So I looked around and found the AVS Media Player. It worked wonderfully! While I can't vouch for the safety of the product--for all I know, there's spyware attached to it--I'd recommend you look into it if you ever find yourself with green screen problems.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

leverage: starring danny ocean

Leverage, which premieres on TNT at 9 p.m. Sunday, evokes the Ocean's movies. There's the ubersmart criminal mastermind (Timothy Hutton)--although in this case, the pilot episode represents his first foray into criminal activity, the small-time crooks who are each good at one thing but work amazingly as a team, the behind-the-scenes twists that keep the audience in the dark until the setup is revealed to the guy being robbed/tricked (a la Toulour the master thief in Ocean's Twelve), and yes, the music. The music in Leverage could have been ripped from any of the Ocean's scores.

It tries to be cool like the Ocean's movies are cool, and it comes close. I enjoyed the ride, but I'm not sure this would be appointment TV. It strikes me as a show I could watch and enjoy every now and again if I stumbled across it, but it's not going to become my next Lost.

As a side note, Saul Rubinek has a guest starring role in the pilot. He's one of those guys you've seen everywhere but can't quite place--I've seen him in Psych, Stargate: SG-1, and Frasier, among other things, but I had to look him up on imdb to figure out who he was.

patience is a virtue

My Black Friday gift to myself? (Well, besides season two of Psych, which I got for $13.88 at Target!) A new monitor! Three years ago, I needed a new computer monitor, so I went to Best Buy on Black Friday. The crowd was insane, they were out of the monitor I was looking for by the time I got there, so I just gave up. Days later, Lisa gave me her family's used-but-still-in-good-shape monitor, so I quit looking for a new one. That monitor has been dying a slow (and annoying) death for the past four months, so I finally decided to splurge.

Staples had monitors on sale on Friday and Saturday. Because I don't know much about computers, I wanted my bro's opinion before I purchased. He talked me into a more expensive, yet probably more reliable, model . . . which arrived today!

I love assembling things, so putting it together and hooking it up to the computer was no big deal. I turned the computer on and tried to change the resolution like the instruction manual said . . . and found that I couldn't do it. This is a widescreen monitor, and I guess my video card (or something like that) needed to be updated. So I called Andrew. He spent like an hour walking me through various steps to update my drivers and such. Nothing worked--everything on the screen is slightly wider than it should be--but he told me something else to look for (the brand of motherboard, whatever that is), and if I can't figure it out, he'll try to fix it next time he's home.

Never once did he express any frustration with me--even when he had to repeat steps over and over--he just tried to help. Then, to top it off, he apologized to me for not realizing that this might happen when I asked him for advice on monitors. What a catch my brother is . . . Susan's a lucky girl!

creative marketing

I received an envelope in the mail today from TNT. Yes, the cable channel. The outside of the envelope read "ENJOY AN EXCLUSIVE SNEAK PEEK AT TNT'S DARING NEW SERIES." It was lumpy, so I knew it didn't contain a dvd. I opened it up and found . . . a flash drive! I'm not overly familiar with flash drives--I have one that has the beginnings of my novel on it--I didn't know you could put a TV show on one! The show is Leverage. After I watch it, I'll let you know what I think . . . and you can be sure I'll watch it--what a clever marketing ploy!