OakMonster.com - I'm Blogging This

Everything has changed: 10th Blogoversary

Might as well join in the crazy world of Blogging. So I don’t have to keep sending you emails to update and stuff. Hehe.

That was my first blog post on this very day, 10 years ago.

Oh yes, kids. I’ve been providing you with entertaining verbal vomit for 10 years now.

Back then, not a lot of people were doing it. And those of us who did, we were writing about anything and everything.

Now, we’d be called a “lifestyle blogger” since we don’t specialize in anything. Or maybe even “humor blogger” if we were slight bit funny.

Two weeks ago, I was in a room with a handful of bloggers as we chat with experts at Gigasavvy about how to optimize our blogs for search engine and what the best practices are. I was sure of two things that day: I was the only child-less blogger there and that I’m probably the only person in the room who doesn’t give much thought to traffic coming and going from her blog.

But I’ve already ranted about the evolution of blogging/social media so I’ll spare you my Purist/Pragmatist theory.

I started this blog originally because I was bored. And the next thing I know, it became a hobby and I was blogging all the time. At some point, it was almost like the speed of which I tweet or post on Facebook now.

“Wait, let me write down what you just said. I’m blogging this!”

OakMonster.com - I'm Blogging This

I ranted. I raved. At some point I was writing for 2 other blogs. I was quite prolific. Thoughts and ideas were pouring out of me. And I had no other hobbies to channel my energy into.

I wrote about everything. My hopes and dreams. My emotions. I wrote about home life, work life, and even about Thai politics once in a while, and got in trouble with friends, family, and coworkers for some of those things.

You practically see me grow up right here on these pages.

I’ve made friends with great people along the way with bloggers and readers alike. And because I’m comfortable in the virtual social setting, my transition into Facebook and Twitter was seamless. And as you already know, Twitter brought me a whole bunch of friends.

Naturally, with all these friends and new hobbies I’ve discovered (hello, cosplay!), my time to sit down and compose a blog has dwindled. You’d think now that I have so many more adventures, I would write more. Yeah, that’s what I thought too. LOL

One thing I haven’t realized about blogging is that writing gives me peace the way that my other hobbies doesn’t. (Well, except my attempt at singing and playing musical instruments.)  Writing is a creative and emotional outlet and a meditation, all at the same time.

I didn’t think I’ve missed blogging until I sit down and write one. Like I’m doing right now.

Doing better at blogging seems to be one of the yearly goals I never accomplished. Then again, who would’ve thunk I’d stick with running the entire year! LOL

Maybe it’s time I make time for blogging again.

It’s been an interesting journey so far, you guys. 2014 will be more fun.

Thank you for being here.

OakMonster.com - Talk Like A Pirate Day - Krispy Kreme - Captain Bubbles

On the Universe & Being Shameless

It was Talk Like A Pirate Day last week. Since I’ve learned about the holiday 7 years ago, I’ve transformed into Captain Bubbles and gone to work as such. Every year.

Last year, I sailed to the township of Long Beach to plunder a pastry shopped called Krispy Kreme. Since I was rogue at the time, I brought the booty to my good friend Doctor Justin to take to work.  This year, Captain Bubbles, now employed, repeated the raid and came away with pastries for her shipmates.

OakMonster.com - Talk Like A Pirate Day - Krispy Kreme - Captain Bubbles

Before we took this picture, this little girl kept looking at me and told her mom, “Mama! She’s a REAL pirate!”

One of my coworkers asked, “Where did you rent your outfit from?”

“These are all mine,” I said.

“You OWN these? Why?”

“Because it’s my hobby.”

“Wait. I don’t want to know.”

Move along, muggles. Move along.

Then another coworker told me, “I just love how in-to things you are. I mean, obviously, you have your clothes. But you actually name your pirate alter ego and everything!”

I shrugged and said, “Hey, life’s too short to not go all in.”

She laughed and went on her merry way.

I’m serious, people. Pussyfooting around your life gets you nothing but a really boring existence.

You can quote me on that one.

Later that night, my friend Traci sent me a link to this video about how Hubble telescope was pointed to a spot in space that is utterly empty.

Except that it isn’t.  The light from 13 billion years ago has just now been captured. The “empty space,” about the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length, has 10,000 galaxies, each filled with hundreds of stars.

That’s how tiny our existence really is in the scale of things.

We are but a speck in this vast universe. Our lifetime is just a blip compared to everything else.

The more the reason to not waste anytime not living your life.

I discovered as a child that it is more fun to NOT be shy. By being “brave” (or as my mom called it, a showoff), there were so many fun things I got to do.

Need a volunteer to go on stage? I’ll do it. Nobody is going to start the buffet line? I’ll go. Dance floor is empty? I’ll start.

I can’t even begin to tell you about all of my adventures because of me NOT being shy. (Or as my mom called it later on in my life, being shameless.)

It’s not “Oh my god! What are people going to think about me when I do this?!” that I think about. It’s “How much fun is THIS going to be if I do it?! Let’s do it!!!” It’s “None of these people know me and/or I’d never see them again. Let’s do it!!!” Well, the second doesn’t seem to work very well in the digital age, so it is now, “Someone’s going to get this on video, but I don’t care. Let’s do it!!!!”

My life has been amazing because I’ve long ago abandoned the concept of shame.

Let’s just put it this way, if I get hit by a bus tomorrow, I have no regrets.

(Well, okay. Not having been to Italy to eat would be the only thing on my bucket list that I would regret not having accomplished.  But I can make up for it the next time around, I’m sure. Hey, I’m a Buddhist. We’ll ALL be back!)

Life is but a blip in the universe, people. Live it well.

As Mark Twain said, “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”

Bring it.

OakMonster.com - Be Kind for Khun Noi

Be Kind for Khun Noi

OakMonster.com - Be Kind for Khun Noi

Please join me in remembering my mom, Noi, on the 6th anniversary of her passing by doing something good for others. Treat your coworkers to donuts. Donate to charity that is not yours. Give money to a bum. Etc. Share your act on the event’s Facebook wall, if you’d like.

Dedicate your act of kindness to the wonderful Khun Noi who was always generous to her family, friends, and those in need.

OakMonster.com - Doctor Who - Silence in the Library

My Reading Evolution

Brandon reads on average a book and a half a week. You wouldn’t believe how much of a relief it is when he got a Kindle for Christmas the year it first came out.  Our shelves were overflowing with books back then. We were taking boxes to our friend’s used bookstore or local library. At one point, I started re-selling them on Amazon.

As for me, as you know, my goal is ALWAYS to read 12 books a year. Some years I did well. Some years I didn’t. So far, this year I’m on a pretty good path. Thanks to some really good books I couldn’t put down. I’m about to add some big volumes of graphic novels to the list this year too as my neighbor loans me his collection of Alan Moore’s work.  (That’s the guy who writes V for Vendetta and The Watchmen.)

Still, compared to some of my friends and even to my husband, I’m crap for a reader.

But then, as I was talking to a few coworkers the other day about books, someone said to me, “Wow, you’re so well read.”

Well read? Is she talking about me? Oh, I don’t know about that. I read well, perhaps. But far from well read.

There’s always that list of books you should read before you die or something like that, and I would come up to about 20 out of 100 while my friends would score a lot higher. For example, the recent Best 100 Novels of All Times by Entertainment Weekly, I’ve only read 12. (We’ll discuss this further below.)  I also cheated a little as I read so many of Western classics in Thai. They were a series of these classics on paper back and I wanted to read them all. I’m pretty sure it was a bit more of the translation of the Reader’s Digest version of the books because there was always one page of illustration every other chapter so so.  Nevertheless, I read Call of the Wild, Moby Dick, Black Beauty, Around the World in 80 Days, Robinson Crusoe, Three Musketeers, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea that way.

I was fortunate to have grown up in a household where my parents would buy us as many books as we wanted.  The first place I’d run to when we went to the mall would be the bookstore.  Anything in the kids section I could reach, I’d very likely go home with at least one.

In first grade, I was introduced to the library at school. Once I discovered that there was a room full of books, I practically lived there. When I was not at dance practice or any other activities, I would be at the library. All the way to 9th grade. My mom agreed to let me hang out at the library until it closes as long as my homework gets done (or mostly done).  Even before the librarian trusted me with putting the books away, I was already helping her close up shop almost everyday.

Once I got to be an actual library assistant, I found myself making notes of what I was putting back on the shelves. A special note on what the older girls were reading. (Advanced reading! What a challenge that would be!)  I got to read bits and pieces of Daddy-Long-Legs, and Charlotte’s Web (in Thai).  Putting a wrong book away yielded another about an expedition to find a Coelacanth and the horrific cover of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? which got me flipping through a few pages. (That’s soooo very fucked up.)

During my an archeology phase, I went through the entire small section on Egyptology.  Ditto when astronomy got me interested in Greek and Roman mythology.  But the nerdiest of all the phases was my encyclopedia phase.

Around 7th grade, my mom said that the Encyclopedia contains everything you ever need to know. If you can finish A through Z–in English–you’d be the smartest person in the world. So, I went to work on that as my lunch break project.  I would have an Encyclopedia and a notebook open on the table and a dictionary nearby.  A slow process, yes, but I think I got through the first volume before quitting.

My folks turned around and invested in a set of Disney-licensed kid’s Encyclopedia (about 2 dozen books or so), and book sets on science, along with other Disney stories in English.  They weren’t cheap, for sure. I remembered my parents debating about it but I promised that I would read everything. And I did. Over a few years.

With all the encyclopedia reading, I never thought to pick up a proper literature in English. Not until it was required of me to do so 20 years ago.

Ah. American high school and their summer reading list.  To my surprise and horror.  The Great Gatsby and The Sun Also Rises were my first assignment. It was hard enough finding a copy of them in Thailand to begin with. We couldn’t find Sun so I got started on Gatsby (again, with a dictionary nearby).

Talk about a culture shock. Not only the language was flowery (as you know, encyclopedias were kind of dry), there were cultural references and time period about which I had zero knowledge.  Thank god my mom was a Robert Redford fan and remembered the movie!  Surprisingly, we managed to find a copy of that in Thai video store. That helped quite a bit. But it was still a struggle.

The Sun Also Rises, though, that one I was told to wait until I get states side to get a copy. My host mom took that time to also introduce me to Cliff’s Notes.

That was a beginning of a new adventure in reading, and also the end of reading for pleasure.

When I first came to the U.S., it was like having a learning disability. My English was great but I was missing a lot of context, nuances, history, and cultural references. It wasn’t just culture shock, but it also applied to school work.   It took more time to study most of the subjects at school, and even a little more writing reports. (In Thailand, we had a lot of tests and not many reports. Learning to think for yourself was also new.)  2 dictionaries always on hand: Oxford Student one and Thai-English/English-Thai that I would only use if I was really stuck.

So time to read for pleasure was no longer something I could afford.  The only non-school work I was reading were magazines and newspapers to better acclimate myself to the new environment and keep up with the world, respectively.

College was pretty much the same.  With so much reading I had to do already, I didn’t have the heart to read much more.  But I did spend ridiculous amount of time at the Stacks at USC Doheyny Library. It was my happy place. The Stacks are below ground with low ceiling with tight rows of shelves and secret corner tables.  Always quiet and smell of old books. (Best place to nap, by the way.)

Oh, the eau du Old Books! I don’t know where it started. I could be my grandmother’s books or my dad’s old dictionary. I just love that smell. And down at the Stacks, among the first volumes of several classics, you can get a lung full of it.  This is probably still why I insist on reading analog book instead of digital ones. But I digress.

Now, back to my first English-language book I read for pleasure.  It was Michael Crichton’s The Lost World, on a road trip to Texas with my friend Jennifer and her family.  I tried to start a non-school book reading habit back then but it didn’t stick. I was already spending a lot of time journaling so reading more of an afterthought.

Until I met Brandon. The man READS.  He reads everyday. And this is when I moved the journaling to the internet and picked up a book.

We read different things except for Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series. When the latest book Cold Days came out, instead of having Brandon read it first, we decided to read to each other so we can both “read” the book at the same time. That lasted about 4 chapters. LOL.

So what do I read? Just about anything, really.  While Brandon is strictly sci-fi, I’m all over the map. I like murder-mystery and thriller best, but I do like me some of the Young Adult (YA) sci-fi series once in a while.  If I come off of something dark and heady like Haruki Murakami 1Q84 (What the FUCK was up with that book?!? Seriously.), I’d pick up something light like YA Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone.  

I cried over Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child and laughed with Seth Graham-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice, and Zombies.  I pored over popular bestsellers like Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and total guilty pleasure of Richard Castle’s Nikki Heat series. I don’t have many books that I would re-read but Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones is one.

There were books I started and never finished like Emperor of All Maladies, Lord of the Rings, and many business-related books like Seth Godin’s Linchpin or Malcom Gladwell’s Blink. Then there were books that I wanted to rip into pieces and burn in the hottest bonfire known to man after I read it like Ann Rice’s Angel Time (A modern day assassin chosen by an angel to go back in time to save a life sounds like a good premise…until the end of the book when you realized it wasn’t a book you thought it was going to be.), and MANY Dean Koontz’s books. (I fell in love after Watchers and I tried to read others. I hated all of those others.)

But books are books. I will always love them even though I hate some of them.  I grasped in horror when the video of this idiot making arts and crafts out of old books hit the internet. There’s a special level of hell for that separate for people who actually burn literature because they were “inappropriate” or “immoral”.

That said, I’m always on the look out for new things to read. I get most of my ideas from EW, I have to say. So far, their editors haven’t steered me wrong yet.  Currently, I’m alternating Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta.  (You can see my reading list on the left hand side on the home page.)  I have nothing lined up after Henrietta Lacks but a stack of graphic novels from my neighbor I mentioned earlier. So, please leave your suggestion in the comment.

OakMonster.com - Doctor Who - Silence in the Library

Out of the 100 books on EW list, I have read…

81. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818) – High school.

67. Michael Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000) – A recommendation in EW way back in the days. I did like it and still remembered many parts of it, oddly enough.

62. Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) – High school. This is also where I stopped killing spiders if I can help it.

59. Bram Stoker, Dracula (1897) – High school.

39. Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex (2002) – Another EW recommendation. Not my favorite, but it was intriguing.

37. Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises (1926) – High school

33. Art Spiegelman, Maus (1986) – College. This is a part of studying signs and symbols in Communications class. I still have the book and wouldn’t part with it. Brilliant work.

18. Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851) – I read this in Thai. Perhaps it’s time to do over…

17. Cormac McCarthy, The Road (2006) – This book is a Dementor realized.  The most depressing book I’ve ever read but yet I could NOT put it down. I needed to watch 3 cartoons before I started to feel happy again.  Yet, the impact on my emotions is a testament to how good this book is.

12. William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury (1929) – High school. I still don’t know what that was all about.

7. J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter: The Complete Series (1997-2007) – I actually started on Prisoner of Azkaban on accident. Half way through, I realized I’ve missed the first two books. LOL

2. F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925) – High school. First book in English!

Henry Cavill - Man of Steel

Crushing on Superman

Then again, who isn’t? Am I right?

It’s been well documented that I love me the dark haired, blue eyed boys. So it shouldn’t surprised anyone that I walked out of Man of Steel with a crush.

Hi, Henry.

Henry Cavill

Yeah, you, sir. Clark Kent. Kal-el. Superman.

(Nerd note: They’re just calling him “Kal”? That bugs the living hell out of me, by the way.)

(More nerd note: Yes, I kind of like the new back story of Man of Steel. So I thoroughly enjoyed the movie up until he and Lois met, and it pretty much went downhill from there for me. No, I don’t like any of it once Zod landed. Yes, I liked that Lois tracked Clark down. No, I did not like [SPOILER!] what the writers/director decided that Supe do to Zod at the end. However, in their defense, I could see Clark not paying attention to his surroundings from being new at the super hero thing. He’s blinded by emotions over it all and went all “Kal Smash Zod!” on everything, and didn’t pay attention to the destruction. Sure, older, more experienced Superman would do that. If you look back at it, Christopher Reeve’s Superman get to play hero in the cape for a while before fighting evil. Brandon didn’t buy my excuse one bit. lol)

Yeah, you.

Henry Cavill - Man of Steel

Hi.

I only watched a few episodes of The Tudors and I totally remembered you from that. Mainly, this scene.

Henry Cavill - Tudor

Although, not so much in Immortal.  But your character has to be skinny/ripped, so I get it. But so, so gaunt, Henry. Don’t ever get there again, please.

Henry Cavill - Immortal

But anyway. You’re adorable. But you know that. I can tell by the way you carry yourself.

Yet, so humble.

Can we get an awwww for Fat Cavill?

This part I didn’t know before, but I know now. You’re a gamer nerd too.

WAIT.

AND you’re dating a possible Wonder Woman?

Henry Cavill - Gina Carano - PerezHilton.com

Photo: PerezHilton.com

ETA: Okay. Fine. He broke up with Gina. And now publicly dating Kaley Cuoco, also a nerd starlet.

Huffington Post - Henry Cavill - Kaley Cuoco

Huffington Post

While I’m not entirely happy about this piece of news, my last statement kind of still works. Kaley WAS Wonder Woman too…

Big Bang Theory - Kaley Cuoco - Wonder Woman

That’s it, Henry. You are perfect.

So, if either you or Russell Crowe show up at my door one day, you know what the answer is.

And as for the rest of us mere mortals, watch this. You’re welcome.

 

OakMonster.com - Otto and Victoria Cosplay

Friendship is Magic

I was told a few times that my life would make for a great reality television show.  All the things I do are fascinating, they say.  I am quite certain someone else’s life is probably a hell of a lot more interesting than mine. But mine really ain’t that bad.

But none of that fun stuff wouldn’t happen without my awesomely diverse group of friends I have come to know.

I mean, what got me to write this post is this twitter conversation.

OakMonster.com - Scorpion Chile

Sure. You’d laugh at that little miscommunication about a recipe for the world’s hottest chile pepper.  But the thing is Aric CAN actually secure me scorpions.  His question is 100% valid despite the misunderstanding of chile being a pepper and not the stuff you put on your hot dog.

(And later on, another friend also sent me a link to a Trinidad Scorpion Chile recipe.)

“Only Oakley would have a friend who does THAT!”  Whatever THAT is, is something uncommon to the general population.

I hear that a lot.

For example, I have a friend who is…

a dark fashion photographer.

“The Bacon Vixen” who makes bacon candies and unique ice cream.

…an award winning home brew master.

an artisan jam maker.

…a bow hunter.

…a jazz musician who can play just about any instrument handed to him including a didgeridoo.

…a flash mob professional.

…an ER doctor.

…an armorsmith. Yes, he makes suits of armor. And more friends who can fight toe to toe with each other wearing said armor.

…a shaman in training.

…a retired drag performer.

And of course, I have friends in many flavors of tech geeks and sci-fi nerds including a few cosplayers.

My broad range of awesome friends always lead me into some kind of an adventure. There’s always a good story to be told.

I mean, like this one.

OakMonster.com - Quidditch

Yeah.

Last week, my cosplay buddy and soul sister Christine and I did a dress rehearsal for our Brian Kesinger’s Otto and Victoria cosplay a few days before heading up to Clockwork Couture, the steampunk outfitter and home of the TARDIS, for a book signing event.  Mainly, we just needed to know how much time it would take us to get into our corsets and wigs.

Christine is a HUGE fan of Brian’s work. Naturally, she got me excited about it too.  She originally suggested that I’d come with her as the TARDIS to her Victoria so we can recreate this moment.

Brian Kesinger - Otto & Victoria - Doctor Who

I thought it’d be more fun if I’d go as Otto the Octopus–or in this case, the DOCTOpus–instead. I mean, who else would think to dress up as an octopus!

However, I do not own a sonic screwdriver. (*GASP!*) At first I thought I wouldn’t need it, but the whole thing wouldn’t come together without the sonic.

Then Brandon remembered that our friend Lee has one. So after we got out of our corsets, we all piled into the car and headed over.

At a stop light by Whaley Park in Long Beach, Christine’s gaze drifted to the activity in the park.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Are they playing Quidditch?” Christine asked from the back seat.  I craned my neck around Brandon who was also looking over to see.

Before I could confirm, she answered herself. “They ARE totally playing Quidditch!”

“Holy shit! You’re right!  Do I pull over? Should I pull over? Do you want me to pull over? Can I pull over? Fuck it. I’m pulling over!”

And so I did and we walked out to watched a few last minutes of the game.

“Well, now I have to text Lee to tell her we’re going to be a little late,” I told Brandon as the team captain came over to talk  to us.

Brandon laughed.  “I think a girl who is loaning us a sonic screwdriver would understand.”

I’m telling you. My friends are fantastic. And my life is richer because of them.

Hooray for friends!

Oh, and I was right about cosplaying Otto, by the way. Not only was I the only Otto there, according to Brian himself, I was the first Otto cosplay ever!

OakMonster.com - Otto and Victoria Cosplay

More pictures from Otto and Victoria’s day out here.