Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Book Review!!!!!!! Echo of a Song

This image was gotten out of Amazon, which is why it is not so good. 
Echo of a Song is about a business woman who throws herself into her work at the cost of her relationship with her husband. She has an underlying need to be successful and that really drives her life. Her philosophy is "when life gives you lemons, fight to get your fair share, do your damnedest to make a buck, and don’t let anyone get in your way.” But when she has a terrible day that includes losing her job and being told that her husband is cheating on her, she flees out of town to the house of her deceased aunt where she just wants to be left alone. While there she encounters some quirky neighbors who are determined to draw her out of her shell.

My favorite part of the book, to be honest, was the prologue. It was the greatest way to start the book. I had a friend read the prologue shortly after I got the book and read it and she agreed: it's very intense and draws you in like no one's business. If you are someone who likes to skip prologues (shame on you) and you read this book, you're really missing out on a very interesting and very important part of the story.
The story, in my opinion, is a little slow at the start when it talks about her career, but that is just because it's business-y. It's really cool though too, because the main character is a writer and she starts out with the business aspect of her writing and then throughout the book rediscovers her artistic writing side. I think the fact that business shtuff is not everyone's cup-o-tea is well acknowledged though because she intersperses it with other non-business related segments.
The book does focus on emotions and emotional turmoil, but it focuses are more underlying emotion rather than dramatic outward emotion. The nice part about it was that I wasn't ever reduced to a teary blubbering mess, which was good because sometimes I find that really tiring. If you don't like crying when you read, I don't think you have to worry about that too much here and I think that is because the character often turns her negative emotions into sassy-ness. So the heavier emotions are more palatable.
So for me, the ending of the book is the most important. If I don't like the ending, I probably won't like the book just in general either. At the end of this book I was very happy that I read it. And I spent the next week or so thinking a lot about it, but in a pleasant manner. (Not like the movie Dancer in the Dark (<3) where you think about it for months after and feel terrible whenever you do.)

I definitely recommend this book. It was sweet and sassy and thought worthy and really funny. I actually was reading the book in class (instead of paying attention of course) and I burst out laughing out loud in a very quiet classroom. I think it's hard to make people actually laugh out loud in books but I don't see why you wouldn't with this book.
If you are interested in this book, you can get it here.

I hope you all have been reading sassy books and are having a good day! <3

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Keyboard Review: Steelseries Apex

So, my birthday is in a couple of days and I have decided to take this time to upgrade some of my computer's counterparts. The first upgrade, an early birthday gift, was a new keyboard. I got the Steelseries Apex Gaming Keyboard.

So this is my keyboard, you can see some of it's features right of the bat. For example, the keyboard has custom-color back lighting, which is a mostly cosmetic feature but can be helpful if you prefer certain colors. Each region of the keyboard can be lighted to different colors, you can see the regions in the top image. They include the letter area of the keyboard (the main area of sorts), the keys on the right side of the keyboard such as the home, page up and down keys, the number pad and the arrow keys, the third region is the F-keys and M-keys, the fourth region is the MX-keys and the L-keys, and lastly you can change the color of the Steelseries logo simultaneously with the lights on the sides of the keyboards. Some people might find this helpful, I mostly like it so I can have pink back lighting, to be honest. But if you are a visual aesthetics person like me, you'll love this feature as well as it's sleek design. It's much prettier than my last keyboard, which was the Logitech G15.

It also features a large space-bar, which you can see in the above picture. It's not very attractive, but it is comfortable for gaming. You thumb lays across it and it's very responsive and click-able. I thought it was a little weird at first, but it's definitely an improvement on classic space-bars. 

The keyboard has macro keys above the F-keys, called M-Keys. These are raised so you can reach them easily and if needing a quick key combo, you could slide you finger down from the M key to the number key. I didn't think I'd use the M-keys because I thought they were going to be out of reach for my fingers, but they are very reachable and I started using them immediately after getting my keyboard.

Along the left side of the keyboard is more macro keys called MX-keys. There are ten total. These were a requirement for me when looking at keyboards. I love macro keys on the right hand side for gaming but also for extra keys to open documents or the internet or Teamspeak. Above them are the L-Keys. These are your different profiles for your keyboard, there are four. I don't really use multiple profiles, but I did change L2 to a lights-off mode so I could easily turn the back lighting on and off.

It should also be noted that all the other keys on the keyboard can be key bound and is fully customizable so you really have a complete keyboard of macro keys. If you need that many. 

The arrow keys have two additional diagonal keys. I didn't really care about them when purchasing the keyboard because I don't really use the arrow keys, but they might come in handy if you do. The only time I use arrow keys is to move the bar when I'm typing and the diagonal keys don't seem to work with that.

I know this is a bad picture, but on the right hand side beside the number pad is volume and cinematic keys. I really like the volume keys this keyboard has and use them all the time. I think it works a lot better than the volume wheel on the G15.

The keyboard features two USB plug-ins on it, which was a must to me because I keep my headphones plugged into them for easy connect-disconnectivity. It's good that there are two because it takes up two USB ports on the back of your computer. (One if you don't want the USB plugs on the keyboard to work). The USB ports have an odd angle to them, so it takes some wiggling to get whatever you plugging in in. I assume that once I get use to the angle (It's a very straight angle) then it will be just fine. You can also see in this picture that the cord is braided, it feels sturdy and protected so that's good.

These two pictures show the feet of the keyboard. They do not fold out like the G15 does, they are just rubber. Which I really think will be helpful for anyone whose like my dad and smashes their fists on the keyboard when they get mad. My G15 was a hand-me-down from him and one of the legs were missing... These legs would not break off though so that's cool. There are two different legs you can put on your keyboard, they just pop in. The top picture is the flatter leg, which I use because the keyboard has a nice natural curve to it that is upright enough for me. But if you really like your keyboard to sit up, Steelseries also sends a taller leg which is in the second picture.

The typing, compared to the G15 is heaven. I hated typing on the G15. But the Apex is much easier to type on, the keys are low to the board so the response is faster since you don't have to press down as far. They bounce up nicely. I think they are easier to press than the G15. I'm typing this review on the keyboard and I really like it. I have also been working on Google docs throughout this week and last on the keyboard and can type pretty fast on it. My favorite part about the keys on this keyboard in comparison to the G15 is that they are a lot quieter.

The Steelseries Apex is not a mechanical keyboard, it is a normal membrane keyboard. So if you're looking for a mechanical keyboard this isn't for you. Even though it's a membrane keyboard, it's a really nice membrane keyboard. I think it was a very smart purchase on my part. I'm really into this keyboard. Like, really into it. So if you want a keyboard that is good for both writing on Word Documents or Google Docs or whatever as well as a keyboard that rocks MMO's and other games, I seriously suggest you look into this keyboard.

Here is a link to the keyboard on Steelseries webpage.
Here is a link to the keyboard on Amazon, it is cheaper on Amazon than it is from the manufacturer last time I checked.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Strength and Fragility of Horses

My riding lesson today was a test of strength-- emotional strength, mental strength and physical strength.
There was once a horse named Annie. I knew her for only a year, but rode her fairly consistently throughout that entire year. There reached a point when I would go to the stable and not have to ask who I was riding, I just had to get her out. She was strong and skinny and imperfect, but she was also spirited and graceful (most of the time) and fun.

I feel so lucky to have gotten to watch and ride her throughout the year. We both grew so much. When I first started riding her, we had communication problems. she was quick towards the jumps and strong against the bit. I was nervous, I'm still a nervous rider but I was way worse. When my instructor would ask me to do something I'd think "Well okay Jimmy, if you think I can." Annie helped me harden up my confidence and my "Okay, we're going to do this" attitude. By the end of our time together it was almost like we could read each others' minds (as long as I was being decisive). We were doing courses where before we could hardly do a single line. We went from only starting canters over a small jump to starting canters on the rail (That was a big deal). In fact, I even saw a rider canter her over a jump. I was so proud of her, she was very mannerly. She was even starting to work with more beginner adult riders. She was like a completely different horse. The best part was her personality change. She was a bit stingy when she first arrived but by the end of her stay at the stables she was quite a bit more affectionate, (although I'm not sure she always wanted to admit it), accepting hugs and kisses and coos. She just seemed generally happier. (Actually, I seem to remember riding her for a while where she'd duck out of turns and corners, which was rather alarming, but by the end of our year together I don't think she was doing that at all, so I don't really remember if I'm mixing her up with another horse...)

I was different too. I was a bit bossier and a bit more confident. I didn't just point a horse at a jump and ride through whatever happened, I was more involved in the approach and the away. I learned to have a presence, so that whether I was on the ground or in the saddle Annie didn't forget I was there. (Sometimes when I'd lead her she'd try to lead me, for example). I know she taught me a lot more than I probably know and I know this because every year I look back at where I was a year before and I cannot believe how much I've grown as a rider. When I think of myself pre-Annie and now, I can't believe it.

Annie was an old horse and the lessons were hard on her, but through wonderful luck, or fate or whatever, Annie was reunited with her original owner and able to spend her pasture days with her. Unfortunately, Annie slipped on ice and broke her leg. Today she was put down because of that injury. I know that death was mercy for her, and would not wish life on her for my sake. This is not the first horse who I have ridden and known to die. Plus just in general, I know animals and people die. But still it is sad. And today I am sad, not because she died but because I miss her.
So much personality!
What amazes me the most, is the fragility of horses. Horses seems so strong. I certainly bore witness to their strength today with Captain when he (for the lack of a better phrase) took off, and I pulled and pulled and pulled and thought "This isn't going to work, he can't even feel me pulling, he could just keep going and going and there would be nothing I could do," (In retrospect, I wonder if I should've pulled him in a circle. I feel like somewhere once I learned that when a horse takes off you should try to make them go in a tight circle because they can't do tight circles all that quickly. I thought momentarily while I was leaning back and pulling that I should make him do a circle, but I wasn't sure I would stay on if he suddenly spun so I thought maybe straight was a better option.) But also, horses are very, very fragile. A broken leg can end a horses life, pretty easily it seems. Or make them completely un-rideable. Most of the health problems I've seen in horses have been in the leg or hoof region. Legs and hooves seem very fragile to me. So much strength on such delicate pedestals. It's good to be reminded of that occasionally, I think.

As far as my lesson with Captain today goes: I was definitely startled when he got... energetic. And when I felt powerless to get him to stop, it was scary. The fact that you're riding a living, breathing, thought producing, emotion feeling, opinionated and clever animal is what makes riding magical, precarious, beautiful, scary, comforting. And I was basically asking for it. Here was Captain, pissy because I had him on a tight rein (Major lesson today, difference between a tight and short rein) and he had earplugs in, which he doesn't really like. Plus it's spring jitters time and there were scary motorcycles. We were plodding along and I thought "this horse has no energy, he needs energy, we're supposed to be cantering" well... got what I asked for. And it's not like I wasn't forewarned about that happening. From Jimmy, and from Captain himself. I just had never experienced it. (Now that I have, it's like, totally cool now for the future... maybe?) I handled it okay, so that was good. (Major lesson 2, I don't really think I'm that good of a rider, and that's holding me back a bit. I still consider myself a beginner.) I still was very startled, which made me cry. I don't do well with surprise. It's a little embarrassing but, it happens. And it doesn't happen all the time. Actually, I was doing pretty good at holding back tears during the lesson, but I was already holding back tears from news about Annie, then we started riding so I didn't think about it. Then the thing with Captain happened and I was like "I did good, it's good, every things good. Except Annie's accident and impending euthanasia." then it was all over. Thanks memory for your impeccable timing.

But I've never had a lesson where I haven't learned something and today was no different. In fact, today was jammed packed with strong in your face important lessons. (It was tiring). Luckily, I've never had an experience where I've thought "I don't want to ride horses anymore." This isn't the first time I've dealt with horses that do something that intimidates me. In fact, it's not even the first time a horse has decided to go for an unwarranted run. Sometimes I'm a little apprehensive about riding that same horse again. But I'll still ride them and I'll still ride. Mostly because I can't imagine a life not riding now that I am. And really the thing that gets hurt the most is my pride because whatever I did to cause whatever, or to not handle whatever or whatever, is a little embarrassing. In any case, today's lesson with Captain reminded me a lot of what I learned from Annie. I think as I ride Captain I'm going to need some of that attitude I had with Annie. I think I've softened up a bit. But also a lot of understanding that I learned with Annie and Roanie, and really all horses way back to my very first lesson on Gracie. Attitude, but still understanding that horses have feelings too. Leadership and horsemanship. It always seemed to me that riding was more about balance than strength.
R.I.P. Annie <3