Movie Monday: Firefly & Serenity

You know what I like even better than historical fiction? Historical fiction IN SPACE!!!!!!!! The series "Firefly" and companion movie Serenity are basically about a band of former Confederate soldiers (imagining that the Civil War really had just been about States' rights to secession and not slavery) in the Wild West, only in the future and in space, doing whatever is necessary to get by and stay away from Federal authority.  This works well and they survive mostly on mild piracy, smuggling, and occasionally legal transport jobs until they take on a passenger who happens to be the number one wanted man in the galaxy, after smuggling his brilliant but deranged sister out of an evil government lab (one of the slightly less historical parts).

Based on that description it could have been a really dumb show, however it is extremely well written with fantastic and densely textured world-building and a tightly constructed plot.  However, the real strength of Firefly is the characters, who are nuanced, interesting, realistic, and pretty entertaining.  I was trying to find a short clip that sort of captured what was really great about this show, but I found I couldn't find just one, so instead here is one for every major character. 
Mal (somewhat NSFW)
Shepard Book

Of course, the other great thing about Firefly is the whole aesthetic.  It's this very bizarre, yet somehow coherent mash-up of Western, modern, chinoiserie, and Fifth-Element style futuristic that ends up with a Western Steampunk feel.  This outfit is a version of that wearable for class and a day of running around.  Of course Steampunk means brown and other earth-tones and I added some cowboy boots and a wide belt to give it a more Western feel.  Eventually I will figure out how to mod this sure so it fits better.
Shirt: Tee Fury
Belt and tights: Torrid
Skirt: In the Starlight
Earrings: Target
Boots: ebay, by L.e.i.


I wore theme-appropriate makeup, specifically the eyeshadows from Geek Chic' Big Damn Heroes (Firefly themed) line, specifically: Inevitable Betrayal on the lower lid, Very Fine Hat as an eyeliner, and Captain Tightpants in the crease.

Pumpkin Spice! All the Things!

It is now the official second day of Autumn, or as like to think of it, the absolute unarguable best season: the air is crisp and a bit chilly, the sky is often grey and rainy (I like that), I can wear all the cool sweaters, wool socks, and shawls I knit all year, and all the best seasonal produce comes in (apples, squash, hearty greens).  The best part of fall and early winter is the food because until at least Thanksgiving* it is time to pumpkin spice! all the things!  In the moderately quaint** town I went to college in they had a Pumpkin festival every year with 12 kinds of pumpkin pie, pumpkin walnut fudge (the best kind of fudge, no question), and everything else pumpkin flavored.  Since graduating I just have to make my own fun, pumpkin-wise.
Some Favorites:
Pumpkin Spice tea
Pumpkin Spice caffeinated hot chocolate (proof the god loves grad students)
Pumpkin Cinnamon rolls (still tweaking a gluten-free version, but just be sure to use cream cheese icing)
Chocolate Pumpkin cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting
Pumpkin Gnocchi with balsamic glaze and shavings of aged Parmesan.
And Pumpkin Beef stew (see below)

Accessing your Pumpkin:
While mostly canned pumpkin is fine, if you have something that needs chunks of pumpkin you are going to need to break open a pumpkin.  It is really laborious to cut into a whole pumpkin, but once cracked, easy to cut through. The solution to this vexing problem is really, the main reason to cook pumpkin from scratch because it is fun.  Take your pumpkin, rinse off the outside, place and firmly tie in two sturdy plastic bags, go find some cement or rock slab and try to find a spot some height above it, then hurl your pumpkin onto the cement slab, repeat as necessary until you have a few large cracks, and pull the pumpkin open.

Peel the pumpkin by cutting off the peel with a melon or bread knife, do not attempt to use a vegetable peeler.

Pumpkin Beef Stew (everything good about fall in a pot)
Note: a pretty good vegan stew can be made replacing the beef with chickpeas, and beef stock with veg
1 small-ish pie pumpkin (around 2 1/2- 3 pounds), scooped, peeled and cubed
2-3 lbs beef stew meat
1 large sweet onion, sliced into thin quarter moons
1/2 Tbs quatre epices (can be found at World Market or made by mixing equal parts: black pepper, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger)
3 Tbs Tomato paste
1 bottle hard cider, any variety but granny smith/green apple
About 2 cups good beef stock
1/2 bunch kale (optional), spine removed and cut into large-ish pieces

Sprinkle beef generously with salt and pepper than coat in flour (I use sweet rice for this).  Heat some oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat, then brown beef on all sides and remove from pan.  Lower heat to medium low and add onions, cook until beginning to caramelize, then add tomato paste and cook a few minutes more until caramelized and sticking to the pot, add spices and cook one minute more.  De-glaze with half a cup of cider, scraping pot bottom clean.  Add in the rest of the cider, beef, and pumpkin, then enough beef stock to cover and salt to taste.  Bring to a boil then lower to simmer.  Let simmer for about an hour or more, or until the beef and pumpkin are both tender.  15 minutes before it is finished (about) add kale.  Eat. It's really perfect with a nice smoky black tea like Russian Caravan or the more intense Lapsang Souchang.

*At which point peppermint flavored everything comes in, and, you know...
** On the one hand, it was the birthplace of Jimmy Stewart and had a Jimmy Stewart museum, located in the postcard-perfect main street, that played "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Mr. Kruger's Christmas" double features every weekend in December; but on the other hand was the particularly disgusting frat row, and all that entails.
Category: 2 comments

30 Day Book Challenge: Part 2

Favorite male character: Nobody Owens from The Graveyard Book, who can speak politely across more than five centuries of changing customs, among other things. 

Favorite female character: This one was incredibly difficult and honorable mentions go to Sunny Baudelaire, Alianne from the Trickster books, and of course Luna Lovegood, but if there can be only one: Death of The Endless, because she is so convincingly the person you would want to have a cup of tea and a sit down with at the worst time of your life.

A book that disappointed you: Just the first one that popped into my head, The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo. It was okay, but it was so hyped that my reaction was “meh”.

Favorite book turned into a movie: I am interpreting this as “best movie adaptation”. I don’t think a movie adaptation necessarily has to completely follow the movie to be good, but rather that it should be judged on its own merits. For instance, the relationship between the movie “Adaptation” and The Orchid Thief is so tenuous many people I have discussed to movie with did not realize it was an actual book, but it is a really good movie all the same. I will say that if you turn out a mediocre movie when you had great source material it should count against, but otherwise I don’t think movie adaptations should necessarily be judged through the prism of their books. Which is why my favorite movie adaptation of a book is ….

Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Certainly it changed a number of things from the book, but I think it shared the spirit of the original and can anyone forget the Red Heart SuperSaver Rainbow Ombre vomit when they were all knitted, or Alan Rickman as Marvin…

Favorite book from your childhood: Matilda -- Of course Matilda is a favorite of all girl book nerds, but it was my absolute favorite as a kid. I was gifted, but dyslexic so I had to take normal or even remedial classes where I was not just bored but boooooorrrred. Reading Matilda always made me think that maybe if I was just bored enough I would develop telekinesis. I used to try to levitate chalk when my teachers were being particularly repetitive. I’ll leave it a mystery whether or not it ever worked.

Favorite book you own: *If I can have a moment of disturbing library-nerdery* It only makes sense to me to answer this on the item level. Of course basically anyone who owns books at all probably has a copy of their very favorite work, so if it is ownership that is important then it must by the item level that is being referenced. In that case it can only be my copy of The Globe Illustrated Complete Works of William Shakespeare. It has gilded edges, a puffy-leather cover, and, for that extra touch of pathos, an inner inscription from the original purchaser to the person they bought it for (I got it from a used store) saying they hope the giftee will treasure it all their life.

A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t: The Name of the Rose
It sounds good but I tend to forget about it and read something shinier instead.

A book that you wish more people would’ve read: The Invention of Hugo Cabret - Not only is this book fantastic: magical, dark, transporting, with wonderful crosshatched illustrations, making it a book I have urged many people to read, but I recently discovered they are making it into a movie which, based on the preview, will strip it of all its original virtue, so I want everyone to read it so as not to unfairly judge it by the movie.

A character who you can relate to the most: Chester from Bunnicula - I have always been sarcastic, bookish, and vaguely misanthropic, even as a small child. I don’t have school photos from elementary because I refused to smile for the cameraman as I found him patronizing and cutesy. My mom, upon hearing this explanation, was torn between irritation and being impressed that I knew the word “patronizing” in first grade. Children’s literature doesn’t have many characters to relate to for little misanthropes. Most characters (especially little girls) are adventursome, hearty, sassy, and cheerful, but then there was Chester; a bookish, skeptical, reclusive, slightly paranoid cat, who always had a bon mot and a dark look for any occasion.

A book that changed your opinion about something: Inventing the Victorians: basically this book is all about how our conception of the Victorians as incredibly stuffy and sexually repressed is a complete BS narrative manufactured in the early 20th century as a way of discussing how far society has progressed.

The most surprising plot twist or ending [Therefore at least some degree of spoiler]: I’ll keep it to a minimum, but the very fact of something having a surprise ending is somewhat spoiler-y. Affinity by Sarah Waters -- A few people I have gotten to read this book found it boring and couldn’t hold out for the crazy surprise ending, but really, I don’t understand. It is an atmospheric ghost story that delves into the worlds of Spiritualism/Theosophy and women’s prisons in the Victorian era, all under-girded with simmering sexual tension. I am literally incapable of understanding how that adds up to boring.

Favorite title: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. Knowing nothing else about this book but the title, don’t you want to read it?

A book everyone hated but you liked: The Scarlet Letter - I realize that required High School English texts generate a disproportionate amount of hatred, but I was still always surprised by how much everyone hated this one. I liked it.

Your favorite book of all time: I am going to quote Neil Gaiman: “Picking five favorite books is like picking five body parts you’d most like not to lose”. I can’t do it. I genuinely do not have a favorite book, and certainly not a favorite books of all time. I could maybe identify a favorite book for certain periods of my life, but that’s it.
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OOTD: Belts are a Complicated Business

This is an ordinary workday outfit that I really like.  I finished this dress over a year ago (the fabric was an amazing score during a $1.99 yard sale at Fashion Fabrics Club) and ever since have been trying to figure out how to belt it in a way that neither looks nor feels awkward.  Without a belt it is shapeless and feels somewhat nightgown-ish.  Eventually I realized my problem was the arbitrary decision I had made to have the belt form an empire waist.  The belt I am wearing here is the only one I have that does not have silver fastenings, which looked incredibly weird with this dress, but this belt is so stiff  and shaped to slightly dip at the buckle, and it was really awkward right under my bust.  Don't ask me why it took a year to come up with the radical solution of just putting the belt at my waist.  I think it just goes to show you can get these limiting ideas about how something is "supposed" to be worn that can limit creativity or just leave you with a really awkward outfit.

Since I had a reasonably conservative outfit I wore slightly funky makeup, Cleopatra eyes in gold and olive.

PS: I accidentally scared a neighbor child who passed by my briefly open door right when a creepy spoken German part of a Sopor Aeternus song came on; meaning I am one step closer to my goal of being the old lady whose yard neighborhood kids are too afraid to retrieve balls from.  I still need to work on my cackle though, that's about standards.

Review: Anno Dracula, and thoughts on Vampires, generally

I'm not hugely into vampire novels generally.  I think there is a lot of potential in a character, generally a villain, who is inhumanly strong and powerful but also maintains a wide swath of vulnerability.  That combination of power teetering on deep insecurity is compelling whether it is found in Dracula or Regina George. The need to feed off the lives of others to survive also has potentially interesting implications.  Does this make vampires automatically evil, or tend them to become so due to cognitive dissonance (often dependent on whether or not the author allows them to survive on other animals, or how much blood they actually need)?  Are the changes from human to vampire strictly physical or is the a spiritual aspect (a la Buffy where becoming a vampires involves losing their souls and becoming part-demon)? Also immortality, as a character trait, has a lot of potential. What do they do with their infinite years?  Does it ever get boring, and why do we so often assume it would?*  In the right hands, and with solid world-building these characteristics make vampires pretty potentially interesting characters, but for whatever reason, it doesn't seem like you run across that very often.  I don't think I need to go into Twilight and all the wrongness, but suffice it to say, you can have a basically invulnerable villain and have a good story (although it kind of defeats the purpose of vampires if you ask me), but having a basically invulnerable protagonist is thunderingly boring (and of all the things you could do with immortality, going to high school over and over again? really?).

That meandering intro is just to say, despite not being a big vampire fan, I really enjoyed Anno Dracula by Kim Newman. The basic premise is that instead of being killed at the end of Dracula, Dracula escapes and meets and woos an older widowed Queen Victoria, becoming the Prince Consort and re-making London as a vampire paradise.  I have a pretty major soft spot for well done alternate history so I went in inclined to like this book. Caveat aside, it is really well done.  The characters are all intriguing, and in fact there are many I would have liked to know more about, and the world building is really solid.  One of the greatest challenges for a writer seeking to lay out a whole mythology (what are vampires? how does one become such? how do they survive? what is their moral/spiritual orientation? what are their weaknesses) is how to avoid being really pedantic about it, such as by having the narrator or any character just explain it all.  Authors often use novices or ignorant characters, such as in Harry Potter, where Harry was raised in the muggle world and had to have everything about magic explained, but that can get pretty pedantic too if you aren't careful.  The world of Anno Dracula is filled with vampires, so some of the main characters are vampires, become vampires over the course of the story (in a pretty nice bit of showing not telling, actually), or are friends/rivals/acquittance with such and there is plenty of opportunity for natural observations, with little straight out explanation necessary and easily worked into small chunks throughout the novel.  Anno Dracula is also deeply morally complex and interesting.  While vampires don't need to kill to survive, only to take what seems to be pretty trivial amounts of blood, there are beginning to be some, shall we say, supply and demand issues as the vampire population begins to rival that of the living.  That fact really complexifies the morality of vampire hunters, you know.  No worries though, Dracula himself is still a monster.  I am completely against reforming Dracula as a Byronic hero.  Dude was called "The Impaler" in life, so I don't see how a transformation to a creature that feeds on the life of others would be an improvement.  You can do it, but it's going to take a lot of justification before I am willing to go along with it.

Now, some of you may be thinking "okay, so it has technically good writing, but is it interesting and fun to read?"  Technically good writing is its own justification!  *ahem* Yes, yes it is. [possible spoilers ahead]  The main thrust of the novel is in the re-framing of Jack the Ripper as a vampire hunter, with an agent of the Diogenes Club and a pretty awesome lady Elder vampire (who is always careful to emphasize her utter lack of blood relation to Dracula) acting as detectives.  There is plenty of Victorian name-dropping, side references, and such to amuse the history buff, and the ending is just fantastic and surprising in ways I refuse to even allude to.

*On a sidenote, my favorite fictional immortal is Hob Galdling from Sandman who finds the world just so constantly intriguing that he continues to love living in it (even if Renn Faires make him cranky)

OOTD: School days and Purple socks

We are finally getting fall-ish weather!  This outfit is from last week when it even got decidedly chilly for a bit there.  I always get kind of over-excited and start dressing for much colder weather than has yet arrived at this time of year, so I am trying to restrain myself.  My favorite part of Fall is being able to wear long socks again after months of stockings.  I bought these on Sock Dreams in the middle of summer because they were on sale and have been looking forward to wearing them ever since.  I have a very exciting life.  I also spent labor day weekend making my hair moar purple! (well, not the whole weekend) so now is the time for purple stripey socks.
Outfit Details
Dress: Target, years ago, with Malco Modes 580 petti
Cardigan: egl_comm_sales, and allegedly custom made
Necklace: Things Celtic, in Austin
Earrings: Target Halloween jewlery, this year

I found this photo was very Wednesday Adams, not just for the braided pigtails, although that is part of why I like braided pigtails, but because I seems to have a vague sense of ennui and weariness with the world.
Of course great bat 2$ earring mean I was not then experiencing such weariness, it's just really hard to take a picture of your own face without doing something weird.

"I Don't Care if You Like it!"

The above quote is from Bossypants by Tina Fey and was originally spoken by Amy Poehler on her first day as a writer on SNL when, after she had made a loud vulgar joke, one of the male writers said something along the lines of "ew, that isn't cute, I don't like it".  She responded by dropping what she was doing, looking him in the eye and responding "I don't fucking care if you like it" and continuing on.  The whole book is worth that scene in my opinion, because that sentence is something we as women really need to say more often.

I bring this up because as I was reading Kitty Lovett's post on lipstick today and I have so many thoughts (not on lipstick colors, I mean sometimes, but on beauty/fashion rules in general) so instead of writing a comment-novel I am posting here.  If you wear a lot of makeup or extreme or dramatic makeup (like cool-colored or black lipstick) at some point it will be man-splained to you that guys don't really it when girls wear a lot of makeup, which is a) BS, b) almost astonishingly hetero-normative, but if you shrug and say "what if I don't like guys" dude will stammer and then swear that he also has his finger on the pulse of lesbian sartorial preferences, and c)it is pretty much guaranteed that the person saying this to you is not someone you want to sleep with anyway.  The best part is how often this guy will act like he is a feminist hero for saying this, liberating the ladeeyz from their make up routines.  We are supposed to respond by thanking our man-splainer and realizing the folly of our ways and going home to clean off our makeup and buy an equal quantity of products which effect a natural look (because as Miss Kitty rightly said, nude lipstick is every bit as artificial as dark turquoise).  What I suggest you actually do, is look said dudebro in the eye and say "I don't care if you like it"*.

As women we are socialized to try and be like-able and to not stand up for ourselves and the things we like if they go against popular opinion.  We are socialized to try to please everyone all the time.  We are encouraged to: make ourselves up to look like we aren't wearing makeup, but never to not wear make up, to carefully dress in order to minimize large breasts or maximize small breasts (is there an okay breast size? I don't know), or butts, or hips, to re-shape our actual, not just clothed bodies, by any means necessary, and it goes without saying, to dress in the latest trends while avoiding being "a slave to fashion" or a "brainless trendoid".  Often the carrot for this epic battle of contradictory expectations is supposed to be some dude who doesn't even appreciate us for who we actually are, because he can't; he's never met that person.

 I think the path to liberation comes from being ready and willing to say to all comers: "I don't care if you like it".   Of course there are some people whose opinions you do care about.  That's fine.  Really life is better if you have people you care about whose opinion you respect, but that's not what I am talking about.  Just remember that you get to choose whose opinion you value, no one automatically gets that status. Women's choices about what we chose to do or not do with our bodies are often policed by random dudes on the street, or at a party, or just by the fear of the reactions of people we don't know or really care about, not really.  We feel like we ought to because humans are social animals and women are encouraged to be extra-social and pleasing, but really, you don't care if they like it.
Additional Reading: You Don't Have to Be Pretty.

"Over" made up and under-concerned 

* Or, if you are in an un-safe situation, just think it because the really important thing is to remind yourself.

PS: This may be incoherent rambling as I currently have a mild cold and a fever.  If that is the case, just follow the link at the bottom and read Bossypants.

OOTD: First Day of Class

How to dress for school is a big issue for goths and other alternative fashionistas.  Teens have to deal with possible school dress codes and parental expectations/beliefs.  College students rarely have to worry about dress codes, but are often suddenly dealing with a lot less time and money.  Grad school varies.  In most fields it is basically like college (but magnify that time issue), but if you are in a professional school like I am then it is often somewhat like dressing for work .  There likely still aren't formal dress codes but many professional students are encouraged to dress according to the informal standards of their profession (and "professional dress" is often a code-word for mainstream or conservative). Often you will end up needing recommendations or making useful connections through your professors, and all of your classmates are potential future colleagues.  This last consideration is especially noteworthy to me as, in the long run, I plan on getting a PhD in my field and Library/Information science is a teeny-tiny field where everybody knows each other.  I would argue that none of this suggests you ought to try and hide or downplay your subcultural associations.  After all, when the person you are meeting is someone who, in a few years, you legitimately could be skyping with at 2 in the morning to discuss a conference poster for a project you collaborated on, you really need to consider how long term you are willing to hide your spooky self.*  Also, a semester is a long enough period of time for anyone who comes in with negative stereotypes to realize you are a srs bizness academic.  For myself, while I feel no need to tone down any gothiness, I do take care to be neat, modest, and, at least at first, avoid any sexualised elements (like corsets, even over a blouse which would be perfectly modest) and really cliche elements or to keep them in highly stylized version (ie: this skull necklace, not this one).

You've seen most of this outfit before, but here I have styled it completely differently.
Skirt: Rose Mortem
Camisole: Soma Intimates
Bolero: Lane Bryant Outlet
Hair Flower: Wet Seal, originally a too-small headband so I attached it to a hair clip.
Earrings + Necklace: Art of Adornment.

*I also agree with what the Lady of the Manner had to say about the virtue of "easing in" to dressing goth in this recent article.

Unsolicited Back-to-School Advice: Textbooks

Image by Kraybon
This may be posted a bit too late to help most, sorry, it just occurred to me to write this up, and I will give the reason for that later.  I am sure some of you out in the intertubes haven't bought textbooks yet, and anyone else can file this away, if useful.

Every semester, as sure as anything, come out a flurry of articles and posts about the costs of books for school these days and every year they somewhat baffle me.  The average cost is now listed as 1,1367$ per year, but in three and a half years in college and 1 1/2 in grad school I have never spent more than 200$ a semester and usually less than 100$.  Now I have studied in cheap fields, textbook wise (although I was a psych minor and psych books are expensive), but that figure is the national average, not the average for Science majors only.  Anyway, here is what I know.

Rule #1: Never ever, ever,ever,ever, ever shop at the campus book store.  Even the used books are way more expensive than you can get elsewhere.  There are no other rules, the rest is strategy.

Textbooks vs. monographs vs workbooks: a definition of terms

Textbooks, for this discussion anyway, are large usually multi-authored works meant to be an encyclopedic overview of the established facts of a certain subject.  They have bland titles like "Introduction to Calculus" and "Data Security in a New Millennium".  These are the most expensive new, but there exist a few strategies for dealing with them. Monographs on the other hand are single or (not technically, but for this discussion) team authored works which present a specific, possibly contested, point of view on a very focused subject and have titles like "Subjects of the Sultan: Culture and Daily Life in the Ottoman Empire" or "Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper", so dramatic/artistic vague title: explanatory, usually long sub-title.  The good news is that they can usually be gotten cheaply.  The bad news is that classes that assign them usually assign like six of them.  Workbooks generally are median expensive and have to be bought new, so really you pretty much have to eat that cost.  Sorry.

Getting Books for Free

The Interwebs: Your ability to get your book for free (legally) on the internet is substantially dependent on your discipline and almost exclusively limited to monographs and novels. If you are in an English class for pre-20th century lit, you can get your books for free (except any textbooks).  Certain disciplines, like library/information and computer sciences are offering more and more monographs free online, and some academic publishers like Yale, University of Michigan, and MIT are posting a substantial number of new monographs.  To find these, for books published before 1928, go to or Google Books.  Otherwise, google the full book title and look for the book's website or page hosted on the publisher's website.  If it's available there will be a link somewhere in there, usually obvious on the front page.

Image by: Jonathan Moreau
The Library: Your school library should have a copy of any of your textbooks on reserve.  If they do not e-mail the library or your professor and, unless the library is completely flat broke, they will get a copy and place it on reserve and you can read it for free anytime.  Of course, if you are in a very large class there may be competition for access to the reserve copy and you may just want to buy it. For the love of god don't try and request your text books from Inter-Library loan.  Yes, this is why I was reminded to write this.  I work for a small-ish academic library in Pittsburgh and part of my job is processing incoming ILL requests and I just finished rejecting a dozen (literally, that's not an exaggeration) requests for a basic computer security textbook from students at Texas A&M.  Understand that the system sends requests first to libraries in the closest geographic vicinity and you begin to see the full ridiculousness.  Here's the thing: every library has to put the needs of their patrons first, so if a textbook is commonly assigned and we own it, we probably own it because it is assigned for a class in our university (textbooks are both expensive and frequently stolen, so libraries don't generally buy them for general use, but for specific classes) and is therefore probably on reserve or checked out to one of our students.  Also, if you are in one out of four sections of a class with 200 students, it should be obvious, even to an aggie*,  you can't all borrow your textbooks.  Occasionally you may be able to get a textbook if a university isn't taching that class for a given semester or has changed the assigned text, but that just isn't going to happen 200 times; you will just be super annoying to library interns across the country.  You can use ILL to get monographs and novels from other universities, just not textbooks.  Remember that ILL usually only allows you to borrow a book for a month or so, so don't request them right at the beginning of the semester if it is the last book you need to read.

Getting Books for Cheap

Aggregated Search Engines:  The best deals on books are usually found on used sites, so I used to search through five different sites comparing prices.  Lo, then did the aggregated searches appear, and the peasants rejoiced.  This is the great secret to cheap books.  My favorite is Deal Oz, but if anyone else has a favorite drop it in the comments.  Just keep combined shipping possibilities in mind.  Also, if your assigned textbook is brand new, be sure to ask your professor if an older edition is okay, because usually it is and superseded editions are dirt cheap. 

Textbook Rental: Sometimes these are a great deal, but I find they are rarely much cheaper, and sometimes more expensive, than a used copy.  My personal opinion is that they are really only ideal for something like a required class outside your major or field of interest.  If it is the introductory class in your major then chances are the textbook will be useful to keep around for future reference.  I might just be a book hoarder though. 

*Sorry, I went to High School in Austin.  It's a thing

OOTD: Kawaii Pirate

For some reason the most zany elements of my dress aesthetic come out when I am in the fabric store.  Maybe it is because these days 90% of most fabric stores are either quilting cotton or polar fleece and there are some delightfully deranged minds designing quilting cotton these days (and of course polar fleece is not wearable by anyone over the age of 11, give or take).  Maybe it is because so much commercially available plus-sized clothing is matronly, just boring, or really poorly designed and/or constructed (like this sweater, perfect for those days when your arms and chest are freezing but you back is really hot, or when you just want to show off your bra straps) so when I am making something myself part of my brain says "f*** da police!  I do what I want!".  Regardless, the net result is the same:

In case it is not clear from the picture, this dress has a glitter finish. Also, my three-year-old niece has a dress out of the same fabric.  She thinks it is pretty boss too and she is very stylish. I was running errands today (yeah, this is not a work outfit).  Apparently Target has their Halloween jewelry in for this year, see right, but none of their other Halloween stuff.  I am pretty pleased with this skeletal hands necklace.  It's pretty, sparkly, spooky, and, if worn lower (and it has an extension), vaguely pervy.

Fatspiration Friday: Some Evil Witches

There has been some discussion (and much pearl-clutching) around the internet about the possibility of Disney releasing a movie with a fat Princess.  I think that would be cool and all (although I worry about the Disney Princess takeover of American girlhood), but I would argue that Disney has already released some pretty awesome fat lady characters...they're just evil witches

Of course the baddest and best dressed is Ursula.  In my mind the best thing about Ursula is that she claimed that men would like Ariel better if she couldn't speak, a statement meant to prove how evil and man-hating she was (except it turned out to be true, whoops).  What can I say, I like a good cynical bitch.
Disney Steampunk by Mechanique Fairy on DA
Now let's talk about Madam Mim (from The Sword in the Stone).  Certainly she is less glamorous, but she has a balls-out confidence (not to mention a wide streak of only the most whimsical evil) that can not be beat.  She can shape shift to look however she wants and goes through life in her own 3-ft-in-every-direction body
Also, she is sometimes a dragon so just don't mess with her okay.


I have never been much of a shoe person.  I think I have simple desires in shoes only to spend three weeks tracking down a pair that I like and that fits my (apparently) comically large size 11/42 feet.  The net result is that I have one pair each of: sneakers, mary janes, ballet flats, insensible heels, rain boots, and regular boots that get worn as called for until they die.  My desires for a pair of boots are that they are: real leather, black, matte-finish, slightly girly, pointy, low but some heel (ideal for bus-aisle surfing), and preferably Victorian/granny style.  For some reason everything in my size is either a combat-style boot* or teetering on a straight-up dominatrix heel.  I am six feet tall and simply do not wear 5-in heels, or if I do it is as a specific act of aggression. It was therefore with great trepidation that I started my quest to replace the boots that had gotten a giant hole in their sole last winter.  But then, something amazing happened.

I found my holy grail boot for an affordable price in my size!

I searched etsy not really expecting much when I found these perfect slightly elfin post-punk era black boots in my size at 20twenty Vintage (although, for the record, I object to things made in the '80's being considered vintage.  I was made in the 80's).  They have the perfect medium-wide base 1/2 inch heel that makes that cute little tip-tap noise, are really pointy yet comfortable in the toe area, made of buttery soft leather, and just freaking adorable.

and yes, they do need to be polished
Maybe soon I will find some pirate boots too!

*I know combat boots are sort of the goth boot ne plus ultra, and I dig them on other people, but I was an Army brat and like most of my kind often polished combat boots as a punishment. My dad wore knee-length jungle jump boots with narrow panels of netting that you absolutely can not get polish on, which are the worst.  There is nothing like associating a style with hard labor and getting told off to put you off it for life.