Keeping It Zef with Die Antwoord at the Houston House of Blues

There are some things in life that you develop a hunger to experience. It’s a kind of hunger that can’t be satisfied by reading articles, watching videos, or listening to other people’s stories. For me, one of those things was seeing Die Antwoord live. Their over-the-top aesthetic, disruptive videos, and absolute dedication to their personas had me fascinated since “Enter the Ninja.”

I didn’t get much of an opportunity to see them locally without going to a festival. So, I had to bide my time. Until this year, when Die Antwoord set a tour date at the Houston House of Blues. I don’t think I’ve purchased a ticket any faster in my life. Shots from my phone below.

The show was incredible, especially from as close as I got. I haven’t seen a performance delivered with that much energy… possibly ever. The combination of Ninja’s intensity and Yolandi’s sprightly attitude made for an exhilarating experience. There were even a few cute moments that highlighted the chemistry between the two. It’s easy to get caught up in the spirit of it all when they’re both constantly bouncing around and dancing across the stage. Though the crowd may have been a little too hyped. Ninja stopped the show a few times to address scuffles in the crowd.

Keep it classy, H-Town. We need acts like Die Antwoord to come back to Houston.

5 Things You’ll Learn in Roller Derby.

Before my first day of roller derby boot camp even started, I wanted to bail. All my pent up excitement leading up to that day disappeared and suddenly I had every reason not to go. If I stayed home, I wouldn’t have to deal with being the awkward and friendless newbie. I could avoid the embarrassment of falling on my face in front of every natural athlete in the room. Or I could take the day to compose myself and surely feel better for the next week. Maybe even finally get around to that one thing.

Roller Derby Boot Camp

Roller Derby Boot Camp: Day 1

Eventually, I resigned myself to the fact that I already paid for the damn boot camp and it would be a waste not to go. The drive to the rink was made unpleasant by a lingering cloud of doubt and regret. But every negative thought was completely erased over the next two hours. I finished that first class feeling accomplished and eager. I’m not an avid selfie-taker, but I was so happy I wanted to document the occasion. Consider all those horrible feelings I had blocking up my head, then look at how big and stupid that smile is.

It’s been a little over a year since that day and I’m still grateful that I forced myself into going. I’ve learned a lot since then. Not just about how to skate or play roller derby, but (get ready to gag) a lot about myself. Like any other hobby, there are lessons in roller derby that can be applied to life on a broader scale. Here are five of them.

1. Anyone can play.

In some sports, there seems to be a general body type for the participating athletes. Think about the build of a football player. Or a gymnast. This doesn’t apply at all to roller derby. There are small girls, big ones, and every size in between. Even then, it doesn’t mean anything. Some of the fastest jammers I’ve watched are fabulously curvy. And there are tiny girls with devastating booty blocks. Dudes, worry not. There’s a place for you on the track with men’s leagues and co-ed leagues. There’s room for apples, pears, nuts, or whatever food you identify with. The roller derby community is among the most open-armed, no-questions-asked groups you could join. There are mothers, engineers, bartenders, graphic designers, HR reps, whovians, yogis, and every possible combination of lifestyles you can think of. You’ll never have to worry about being different, because everyone in derby has a different, often interesting, story.

2. If you ‘gon ride. You ‘gon fall.

A safe-for-work paraphrase of Kat Williams talking about motorcycles, but still applicable to roller derby. A lot of the fear of getting into roller derby is tripping over your own feet, falling on your ass, and otherwise suddenly finding yourself saying hello to the floor. But part of getting better is realizing that falling is just part of it. Sometimes veteran derby girls lose their balance in the middle of doing absolutely nothing. In the same light, even the most elite ice skaters on the planet botch routines that they’ve practiced for years. You will fall. But you will get up. And If find yourself unable to get back on your feet on your own, I guarantee a league-mate (or three) will be there to help you. The falling never really stops. It just becomes less of a big deal when it happens. You may forever remember the first few times you totally eat it. But hang in there and you’ll get to a point where you just pop up and keep going like nothing happened.

3. Just do you.

When you’re in a training setting with the same group of people every week, it’s hard not to compare progress. It might hurt a little when you get lapped during the 27 in 5 by a girl who started skating the same day as you. But don’t let that overshadow the fact that you’ve gotten 5 more laps in than last time. If you feel down after watching someone do a perfect plow stop on their second day of boot camp, just focus on how far you’ve come from being a newborn giraffe on ice. Even though roller derby is a team sport, it can also be a very personal adventure. Don’t compare paths. Appreciate the grind of the journey and celebrate your own successes. No matter what, be your biggest fan.

4. There is one goal and one goal only.

Legal blocking zones. Cutting the track. Staying low. Starting line strategies. Sometimes, it seems like the more you learn about roller derby, the less you actually know about it. To keep yourself from getting completely overwhelmed, know that there’s really only one objective for you to chase. Be a little better than last time. Even if you’re learning new strategy every practice, challenge yourself to improve on one thing each time. Try only using plow stops until you can stop before you fly off the track. Finally nailed the turn around toe stop? Master your other leg. See just how deep you can make your crossovers during warm ups. Over time, some things will click and suddenly make sense. Others will take you what seems like forever. But a few days of practice to get something right is more productive than kicking yourself for not perfecting a move in a single night. See yourself through one day at a time and you’ll soon be able to look back on how far you’ve come.

5. You are stronger than you think.

Strapping on skates and stepping onto the track isn’t easy. But it’s also not as hard as you might think. Countless girls who have watched roller derby think, “That looks awesome, but I’m not tough enough for that.” The truth is, you are. There’s probably a tough cookie inside of you, begging for permission to speed round the track with a fierce expression. All you have to do is say yes. I promise no growling blocker will slam you into a wall on day one. Boot camp is there to build your skating skills before you even make contact with someone else. Beyond boot camp, you’ll progress at your own pace. The only person who can push you past your limit is yourself. Just know that behind every veteran player is hours and hours of building up the strength to give and take big hits. That player can be you. Just start and stick with it.

Roller Derby SkatesIt didn’t take long for me to fall in love with roller derby. Even though work, travel, and stress sometimes get in the way, I always find myself driving back to the rink. Once in a while, I still have to force myself to pick up my skate bag. But not one time have I ever regretted it. Roller Derby is a sport where you can push your own boundaries physically and mentally. Which in turn gives you an eye for your growth as a person off the track. Everyone has their own reasons for joining their local league and everyone gets something different out of their experience. After a few practices, you may find that you don’t mind learning things the hard way.

Everything in Its Place: My notebook system

Writing can be as intimate or as trivial as you need it to be. You can write poetry or grocery lists. Journal or plan your week. Create a story or take meeting notes. Over time, I’ve found that one notebook is simply not enough to keep various types of writing well organized. It’s a chore to locate checklists and specific phrases when you have to look through pages and pages of miscellaneous writing.

At the start of the year, I began a focused effort on perfecting my notebook system. It’s been a slow and steady process, but I believe I’ve finally settled into a good structure. I use four notebooks on the daily:

EDC Notebooks

EDC Notebooks

1. Moleskine Pocket Reporter Notebook

2. Kokuyo Systemic Refillable Notebook Cover

3. Kokuyo Color Palette Binder

4. Markings Bonded Leather Jumbo Journal

The first three make up my general “everyday” carry and the last just stays at home. Since this is just an overview, I’ll post more in depth reviews for the notebook cover and binder in the future.

First, the Moleskine Pocket Reporter. I prefer small purses, so this 3.5″ x 5″ notebook is perfect to take with me just about everywhere. It’s mostly used for to-do lists and grocery lists, so I can go about my errands without bringing one of the larger notebooks with me. But it’s also handy to write down random ideas while I’m casually out and about. Later on, I sort through the non-list texts and copy them into the appropriate larger notebook.

Kokuyo Systemic Refillable Notebook Cover

Kokuyo Systemic Refillable Notebook Cover

Next in the stack is the Kokuyo Systemic Refillable Notebook Cover. While it’s not technically a notebook on it’s own, it’s probably my favorite item on the list. It has an impressive list of features. There’s pockets all over this thing. One on the front, one on the back, and four inside. Also inside, are plastic pieces to store two individual notebooks and two separate ribbon bookmarks for each. A pen loop completes the package and an elastic band holds the whole thing snugly closed. I discovered that the A5 size is just small enough to be portable and just large enough to be comfortable to write in. I actually wasn’t a fan of the notebook that was included with the cover, so I replaced it with a cloth bound Clairefontaine that fits just fine.

I use this setup for various types creative writing. Or in more formal terms, anything thats unactionable and uncategorizable. This includes orphan phrases, plotless paragraphs, skeletons of stories, and other sketch writing. Everything in this notebook is purely subject to my creative inclinations. The only organization that exists in this notebook is chronological order.

Kokuyo Color Palette Binder

Kokuyo Color Palette Binder

For the more utilitarian stuff, I use the Kokuyo Color Palette Binder. Again, not exactly a notebook. I got this binder in the A5 size as well. So, it’s comfortable to carry alongside the notebook cover. The binder is pretty sturdy and I’m not worried that any of the 20 metal rings will bend out of shape anytime soon. It comes with five colored dividers and some samples of the brand’s regular lined loose leaf. I personally enjoy their dotted rule paper because it’s an unintrusive compromise between lined and graph ruling.

This notebook is organized using a slightly modified version of the Bullet Journal. The Bullet Journal method is a ridiculously easy way to get organized with tasks, lists, and notes. It’s sincerely changed how I go about my day. You can learn more on the Bullet Journal website. But here’s the entire explanation in less than three minutes:

Kokuyo Color Pallete Binder Open

Kokuyo Color Pallete Binder Open

I made one adjustment for this system to work with my binder. Instead of having a single index for the entire notebook, I have one index for each of five sections: Calendar, To-Do, Ideas, Collections, and Notes. Sorting information by type, then indexing makes everything incredibly easy to find. The Calendar section has an index of months, with the contents being the monthly and daily calendars. To-Do is a section purely for lists with check boxes, like Books to Read, Games to Buy, and Blogs to Write. The Ideas category is for thought-out concepts and lists of ideas that fall under single categories. For example, product ideas and their specifications or a list of names for nonexistent restaurants. Collections is an assorted group of reference lists, including subscription boxes to check out, websites to use often, and interesting phrases I’ve overheard. And lastly, the Notes section is made up of various subject notes like meeting minutes, blog talking points, and project brainstorming.

Markings Bonded Leather Jumbo Journal

Markings Bonded Leather Jumbo Journal

My final notebook in my daily rotation is my personal journal. I wanted a big notebook for this. Something I could be expressive in without being too bothered by margins. This notebook in particular is about 8″ x 10″, so each page is almost letter sized. It’s an impressive spread and I’m looking forward to seeing what it looks like when it’s mostly full. The journal is exclusively used for accounting memorable events and general personal reflections. I typically write in this one before going to sleep or when I’m feeling curiously introspective on a quiet weekend, so it never leaves home.

I very much recommend that you to consider creating a notebook system of your own. It helps encourage writing on a daily basis, even if it’s not creative. Just getting in the habit of writing things down when you think of them frees up your mind to continue thinking of new goals and ideas. And once those thoughts are on paper, you can always go back and build on them or measure how far you’ve come. Maybe a single notebook is enough for you. Maybe you want a dozen, one for every topic you care about. Maybe you’re completely over the whole pen and paper business and Penzu or Evernote are more your thing. No matter what, keep exploring your thoughts, keep redefining your style, and keep surprising yourself with what you write.

Hearthstone Review: The Return To Blizzard

It’s been a long time since I’ve touched anything from Blizzard Entertainment. But damn, did Hearthstone reel me back in. Ever since the beginning of the open beta, I’ve played nearly every day. It’s fast. It’s easy. It’s free. And despite losing just as much as I win, it’s really fun.

Digital card games are a unique beast. I’m guilty of owning every release of Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers on steam and putting nice chunks of time into all of them. I’ve also briefly enjoyed Might & Magic: Duel of Champions. They’re all fun for a while. Especially if you have friends that like to tactically beat the crap out of each other. But sometimes these games can be exhausting. There’s a lot of investment involved. Not monetarily, but a lot of time and strategizing goes into a single match. Not necessarily so with Hearthstone.

Hearthstone gameplay distills the mechanics of typical card games into more approachable steps. So relative to other digital card games, it’s very easy to pick up. The tutorial does an excellent job of setting up the entire experience. In about 20 minutes, you’ll get a good plunge into the flavor of the Warcraft universe and get a solid grip on how to play. Which is the point of a tutorial, I know. But not long after finishing you should be ready to start playing against real people.

The game is designed to be fast paced and quick. Rather than sitting for hours and hours, you can play a game or two before quitting and still feel satisfied. But if you’re into marathon sessions, it’s still very doable without getting worn-out. And don’t be discouraged by the in-game purchases. With the matching system it doesn’t feel like a pay-to-win game at all. You can gain money for booster packs just by winning against other players or completing daily quests.

If you’ve played Warcraft games before, there’s plenty of nostalgia to be triggered. The class mechanics are exactly as you would expect them to be. Rogues have Sap, Shamans use totems, etc.. There’s also lots of fun details. I laughed out loud the first time I heard the familiar murloc Aaaaaughibbrgubugbugrguburgle. But you don’t need to be well versed in the world of Warcraft (oops.) to enjoy the game. The style is already so incredibly well defined that if you’re new, it’s easy to get immersed and if you’re not-so-new you’ll feel right at home.

Hearthstone has exceeded my expectations. It’s a great addition for Blizzard. Casual without feeling dinky. Completely different from the rest of the Warcraft games without feeling out of place. Don’t expect me to play WoW ever again, but I’m really glad to be playing another Blizzard game.

A Beginner’s Bento

Anyone who has known me for any stretch of time has probably noticed how much I enjoy food. My hefty appetite has always been something I wield with pride. Appetizer? Duh. Main course? Huge. Room for dessert? Always.

Once I got my big girl job, things got a little out of hand and I started eating out almost every day. For a while I carried on in blissful ignorance to how much my love for food was costing me. After a casual check on my expenses, it was clear that it was time for a hard stop.

I decided to approach bringing lunch to work as a way to save money and a chance to take a little more control over how I eat. Thus, the

Beginner Bento Supplies: Kotobuki Panda Sandwich Mold, Freshware Silicone Baking Cups, Grass Baran Dividers, FunBites Square Food Cutter, Monbento Sauce Cups.

Beginner Bento Supplies: Kotobuki Panda Sandwich Mold, Freshware Silicone Baking Cups, Grass Baran Dividers, FunBites Square Food Cutter, Monbento Sauce Cups.

bento. A more creatively involved way to prep lunch from home. I’m not talking about that insane character art stuff. Aint nobody got time for that. Some research, inspiration, and online shopping later I gathered up with a beginner bento starter kit.

The thing on the left is the Kotobuki Panada Sandwich mold. It comes in two pieces. One to cut the crust off of the bread and another to smoosh the two slices together to make a neat little pocket sandwich. It’s a little bigger than I thought it would be. Apparently bread slices in Japan are huge. The video below demonstrates how it works. This guy is pretty much the reason why I bought the thing. They need to hire this guy for commercials.

Top middle is a stack of baking cups. Useful for separating different foods and containing the unruly stuff like dips, blueberries, and granola. Plus, they’re made of silicone and reusable. If you’re into it, they can also come in cutesy shapes. I opted for the regular cupcake shaped ones because I didn’t want to get too ridiculous.

Decorative bento baran suddenly turns plain bread into exotic, artisan dough. Well. Kind of.

Decorative bento baran suddenly turns plain bread into exotic, artisan dough. Well. Kind of.

Right under those are grass sheets that you often see with sushi.  They’re called “baran”, another divider for bento boxes. These aren’t as awesome at separating as the baking cups, but they’re more decorative. When I’m not too concerned about things touching and the integrity of foods getting destroyed, I use these. It comes is a package of 200 or some other huge number, so I don’t feel bad tossing them after one use.

The contraption in the top right is the FunBites square food cutter. It cuts food. Into squares. Pretty simple. It’s aimed at making food bite-sized for kids. I’m not exactly sure why I was so compelled to buy this thing. It might have to do with me thinking I could trick myself into eating less by consuming more individual pieces or something. Regardless of what attracts you to it, it works very well. Unlike my pocket sandwich maker, it’s perfectly sized for a regular piece of bread with minimal waste besides the crust.

The tiny containers at the bottom right are monbento sauce cups.  I got the pair for about $10. As an after thought, this may have been a little much for what they are. They’re pretty tiny. But in defence they are high quality. It’s the same smooth material as the monbento box and the screwtop is leakproof. Really, though. They’re small. Think “condiment” instead of “sauce.” They’re great for dipping baby carrots in a reasonable amount of ranch. I’ve also used them for ketchup.

All this stuff came in before my actual bento box did. But fortunately, the grocery store I go to had some Rubbermaid LunchBlox on sale. So I could start bringing lunch right away. I was stupid excited. Anyway, here are my first two beginner bento boxes. There’s two parts to each of them: the snack and the lunch portion.

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So, this is the beginning of my journey into bento lunches. I’ll let you know in a bit how the whole eat-healthier-and-spend-less-money-thing is going.