Tune In to Ear Hustle: A Podcast You Need Right Now

23 Jun

I’m late to the podcast game (as I am with most tech trends). But after I did my final round of the I’d like to cancel no thats still too expensive oh wait you can do it for basically free siriusxm waltz, I needed something to get me to daycare, work, daycare, and home again. So I picked up listening to podcasts. My current favorite is Ear Hustle, which I find fascinating and complex and eye opening. So I figured I should review Ear Hustle.

Ear Hustle is produced inside San Quentin State Prison in California. And no, it’s not stories of how the residents became inmates, but rather stories of the lives they are living inside prison. Yes, I said lives they are living. 

Growing up in, and now living in, Siberia suburbia, my most robust knowledge of prison life comes from Shawshank Redemption, Law & Order (original and SVU), the classic Nicolas Cage features The Rock and ConAir, and brief clips of Scared Straight caught while channel surfing. To summarize, I have zero idea of what prison is like. (And no, I won’t do the cliche “I totally have a friend who’s been to prison!” like people do when discussing diversity.)

Which is probably why I find Ear Hustle so fascinating. It reminds you that prisons are full of people. And for the most part, outside of the fact that each show needs to pass the smell test of the San Quentin Public Information Officer, it’s pretty real. Real stories of real people doing real-life things.

The part I’m most intrigued by is how the residents at San Quentin have formed a community. It’s like there is this town that’s similar yet so very different from where I live yet it’s a town all the same. I don’t know why I’m surprised by the fact that the prison has formed a community; the inmates are human after all, and humans tend to be pack animals (as well as creatures of habit).

What makes Ear Hustle easy to listen to is that the stories are presented without being prejudiced or sympathetic to the person’s crime and reason for incarceration. The podcast simply doesn’t cover that part of the story. Instead, it focuses on what it’s like for the dad who is incarcerated with his son, the unwritten race rules in prison, the San Quentin marathon, and the challenges of roommates in prison. (Apparently, in the last case, dividing the room in half like my sister and I did around age 11 just isn’t an option.)

So, regardless of your views on our prison system, I would encourage you give Ear Hustle a listen. You never know, you just might learn something.


A New Review of Rent the Runway Unlimited: First Impressions

1 Jun

So now that I’m back in the world of the living after a hiatus to break up with the guy I was seeing, meet a new guy, get married, and have a baby, I decided to try Rent the Runway Unlimited. I’m about a week in, and here’s my review of RTR Unlimited so far.

What I like about Rent the Runway Unlimited:

  • RTR Unlimited is essentially Netflix for clothing. You pay a fixed monthly fee, and pick out four items – dresses, tops, skirts, even accessories- to start. Being the Netflix of clothing, you can keep each item as long as you want, or send them back, together or individually. With a trial offer of a month for $99, it’s near the same cost of doing a single dress rental. I figure I can be fairly aggressive on my returns and really get my money’s worth.
  • You can keep items as long as you want. Unlike the traditional RTR rentals that need to be returned super quick, you could keep that stellar bag for a few weeks, or take some items on vacation with you.
  • The selection is really broad, and you have access to a lot of high-end and designer items. No, I will not buy a $1200 red jumpsuit but sure I’ll give it a go as a rental.
  • It overall just feels FUN. Being a mom, I don’t have a lot of time and daycare takes most of my spare change. So, I feel like I can get some variety to spice up my wardrobe without breaking the bank.

What I dislike about Rent the Runway Unlimited:

  • Shipping time is a bit disappointing. I signed up last Saturday (May 26), and my first set of four items didn’t arrive until May 31. I understand Memorial Day was in there, but I think a week for shipping is just unreasonable, especially given how fast other subscription services are.
  • You only receive one return shipping label. So, unless you want to wait and ship all four of your items back at once, you’ll have to pay the return shipping for some of them. (Side note – there are some great shipping hacks for RTR Unlimited, but I’ll write about those later.)
  • You don’t get to pick out a new item until your current items arrive AT the RTR locations. Unlike other services where you can swap out as soon as your package is in the shipping pipeline, in this case, you have to wait until it gets back to the RTR warehouse AND gets scanned in. I’m estimating that this adds at least 3 days to the whole return process.
  • Not all sizes/items are available on the Unlimited subscription. So, if you want a specific item on a specific date, you’re better off with a traditional rental.

Review of Rent the Runway Unlimited so far:

My review of Rent the Runway Unlimited is a solid B- so far. While I didn’t like three of the items I received, I did get a fun dress that I plan on wearing to an event this weekend. And, since I’m ready to ship three things back right away, I think I’ll be able to pick out some new ones fairly soon.

I’ll let you know how the rest of it goes – shipping hacks, clothing quality, the good, the bad, and the ill-fitting. : )

Craft Review: Darby Smart

10 Feb

So I finally got around to my Darby Smart crafting box.

Darby Smart

Overall, I’m not underwhelmed…but I wasn’t “wowed” either.

I bought the ring dish kit, which promised supplies to make four jewelry dishes.

Darby Smart project

What I liked:

  • Shipping speed: I ordered on the 5th, and it arrived by the 9th.
  • Packaging: How awesome is a nice bright blue outer box? Totally fun to come home to.
  • Quantity of supplies: In addition to the four dishes, it came with two super glues, four gold paint pens, a full can of spray sealer, and a handful of figures to choose from. Plus, I always feel like I never have all the ingredients for a craft project, so it was nice to get everything in one box.

What I didn’t like:

  • Paint pens: They made it difficult to coat some of the figurines, with all the nooks and crannies. I ended up throwing out my Empire State Building, because I wasn’t happy with how the paint came out. I think spray paint would be better.
  • Paint pens: Yes, I’m listing this twice. The pens really aren’t meant to write on the dishes with. I had made stencils on the Cricut, but when I tried to fill them in…the pens had a really streaky effect. Not. Cool.
  • The directions: There was a card saying don’t spray the sealant on the dish, just on the paint. But how are you supposed to use spray-sealant on just the painted part of the dish? No idea.

DIY ring dish

Will I buy a Darby Smart box again? Probably. I want to try some of the glass etching ones, plus its a neat concept. However, still haven’t decided if I can pull the trigger on the subscription just yet.

Love is a Data Field

5 Feb

So I was reading this article from Wired yesterday – it was all about how a math professor hacked the OKCupid algorithm to find better dating matches. #mathisawesome.

During this “experiment,” he kept a dating journal. And this got me to thinking — what if I had kept a dating journal? Not just for the last few years, but from the very first date. (which, btw, was to the movie “She’s All That.”)

“From the very first date” is a lot of data. And dates. If I had kept the journal, would it have prevented some of the missteps and heartbreak along the way? Would I be cracking my own data code?

I’m not sure. But if I had to write a set of rules for dating based off the from the very first date data, they would probably contain the following gems of common sense wisdom.

  1. If he doesn’t call you, it’s not because he lost your number. It’s because he doesn’t want to call you.
  2. Don’t date a guy that drives a Kia. Just…don’t.
  3. Avoid run-on dates. And run-on sentences.
  4. Nothing good happens after midnight. Nothing.
  5. Don’t drink too much on dates. Seriously, don’t drink too much.
  6. You’re worth it. Never. Settle.
  7. The following should come with a warning sign: douchebags, commitment-phobes, cheaters, liars, the unemployed, and those threatened by a strong woman. And don’t ignore the warning signs.
  8. Personal space is really, really, important. It will save a relationship.
  9. People don’t change. Yourself included.
  10. It’s just as hard to walk away as it is to stay. Sometimes harder.
  11. And watching a movie at his place? NOT A DATE.

Good ‘ole #11. Gets us ladies every time. We think watching a movie means non-flurescent lights and some good conversation…”But I really want to watch the movie” said no guy ever.

So, in-between all this memory lane stuff, I’ll just be here re-reading my HJNTIY powerpoint…and maybe thinking that my very first date? It wasn’t so bad.

Friday Find: Darby Smart

10 Jan

So I stumbled across Darby Smart earlier this week – and not going to lie, I’m pretty pumped about this discovery.

Darby Smart is the BirchBox of the DIY world. Heaven, is that you calling?

They have a monthly DIY subscription service, where you can make things like custom coasters or etched glasses, which goes for $19/month. Each month, you get a different DIY project, with everything you need inside the box.

There is also a variety of DIY “kits” for sale, for projects like chain-link bracelets, fabric block printing, wall art, cocktail stirrers, etc. Most projects are under $30, with some of the more complicated ones (like wood burning) a bit pricier. The most expensive item on the site currently is a DIY Waterford crystal decanter set, which goes for $135.

I was a bit hesitant to take the full plunge on a monthly Darby Smart box, so I ordered this super-cute jewelry dish set instead. Plus, it’ll be the perfect item to do this weekend when the girls are in town. (I am, however, questioning the logic of crafting while on a wine tour…)

I’m pretty excited to try this out, and to test out the quality of the kits. Given that I had a $10 off coupon, and hopefully a solid four jewelry dishes out of the deal, it should be well worth my $26. Did I mention there was free shipping?

If all goes well, I’ll likely sign up for a few months of Darby Smart. It will give me something to do this year, and I can’t argue with “craft in a box” kits that come delivered to my door. I might even start etching my own glass one of this days.

On a side note, I also applied to be a Darby Smart designer, and I am FINGERS CROSSED HOPING TO JESUS that I get selected. I’d love to put my DIY glitter mason jar candles on there, or something of my stamping crafts. But, trying to #liveinreality and remember that this is likely a long shot.

I’ll keep you posted on how the ring dishes turn out!

The Last Book of 2013: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

6 Jan

So I finished my last book of 2013 on December 30. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed.

It was mildly ironic and altogether fitting that I finish a book about finding yourself on the second to last day of 2013, a year in which many could say that I lost my way a bit.

Wild follows the journey of Cheryl Strayed (which, btw, isn’t even her real name) as she hiked the Pacific Coast Trail about 20 years ago. Her mom dies, she starts sleeping around, does a bunch of heroin, her marriage subsequently breaks up, and then it’s time for the life-changing trip on the PCT.

As you might guess, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for Cheryl.

Don’t get me wrong — the story is quite interesting, and once the book picked up, I was throughly engrossed. The people she meets on the trail, the journey itself, the freedom of just being alone and doing something challenging all at the same time, is fascinating. It’s the whole “woe is me, my mother died and then I did heroin and had casual sex” sob story that I can’t deal with. It’s hard to lay all the dirty and messy and not-so-nice parts of yourself out on the table, which I give her credit for. It’s a brave thing to do. But these things are not badges of honor or even battle scars. They’re just another piece that makes you whole.

Can you have sweet without the salt? Would she have hiked the PCT if not for the heroin habit and dead mother? I don’t know.

I’m glad I read this book, although it’s not one that I would read again or even necessarily recommend. There are times in the book she is just so awful that I just could not stand her. Really, truly, disliked her as a person and a protagonist.

And it just made me think, “Wow, if she is this awful, and manages to survive it all, you can be just a bit better as a person too.” Nothing like one person’s tragedy to make you feel better about your own life.

In the end, I’m glad Cheryl gets it together. I’m actually happy that she has a happy ending. Because she is honest. The good and the bad, the sweet and the salty, the ups and the downs, at least she tells them (mostly) all.

And if she read above, where I said I didn’t like her as a protagonist? I like to think she would be okay with it. Because as much as I don’t like the heroin-addict-lets-sleep-around side of her, I’m pretty sure she is the type of girl that can handle some divergent opinions.


If Not Now, When?

3 Jan

So. It’s officially the third day of 2014.

What’s the deal with this whole “new year” anyway? It’s sort of, well, anti-climatic if you ask me. Nothing really happens when the year changes.

(Except for all the expected “my best just asked me to marry him!!!” posts that fill up my facebook feed. Do you think those girls pay for parking??)

But the New Year. Nothing at all is different, but somehow everything has changed.

It was Tuesday, then Wednesday, Thursday, and now Friday.

Do I make resolutions? Do I not? Do I resolve to not make any more resolutions? It’s just all…so…overated. And there’s too much pressure. What if I fail?

So this year, I’m not making resolutions.

(No, I’m not resolving to stop making resolutions. Because that’s lame.)

2014. No resolutions. Just intentions. Each day, to do something that I intend to do. And to stick with it. Three days down, 361 to go.

Whether it’s answering an email the same day, taking down the Christmas decorations, hitting the gym, or just being a better person, 2014 is set to be a year of intentions.

And I intend to do lots of things. Like read more books (goal for the year? 20). Do lots of yoga. Listen to my heart more. Live, love, laugh, and just do me.

The most amazing thing about being yourself — no one else can do it but you. Pretty amazing, right?

Because, if not now, when?

Nothing at all is different, but somehow everything has changed.

If not now, when?

Cheers, to making it a year of intentions, one day at a time.

The Cuckoo’s Calling: JKR’s New Book

29 Dec

So I finished reading The Cuckoo’s Calling by J.K. Rowling Robert Galbraith a few weeks back.

If you remember the scandal that was when the news broke that Robert Galbraith = J.K. Rowling, then you’ll know that I just had to read this book. (Short story – her law firm tipped someone off that it was her, and then SCIENCE saved the day with linguistic analysis. Confronted, JKR confessed it was her.)

Science is awesome.

But back to JKR. I can understand why she used a pseudonym. If everyone knows it’s her – will they discount the book right away, because the author of Harry Potter can’t possibly write a serious crime novel? Or, will it become smashingly successful, just because she is the author of Harry Potter, and will thousands of fans buy the book only to be disappointed that it doesn’t contain magic?

I get it, JKR. I understand wanting to be judged based on your work, not who you are. To be able to start over, be anonymous, be someone else, be exactly who you want to be with no past and no baggage and no reputation and no nothing. It’s nice to think about. But not all of us real people have that luxury.

So the book. Overall, I liked it a lot. It had a bit of a slow start, but once I was a few chapters in, I couldn’t put it down. And no, I was not right about the ending (and I didn’t peek ahead!).

The Cuckoo’s Calling follows a private detective and his temp assistant, as they investigate the suicide (or is it murder…?) of a famous fashion model in London. The story is really quite captivating, to learn all the twists and turns and family dynamics and intrigue. The ending I predicted most certainly was not how the book ended, which made me enjoy it even more. Plus, JKR’s descriptions of all the characters is so on-point that they come to life on the pages. I hear she’s quite good at doing that in her other books too…

I would definitely recommend this to someone looking for a good, quick, interesting read.

Oh, I also recently read two James Patterson novels, and they were fabulously interesting and great beach reads. But Alex Cross didn’t solve the crime at the end. Fail, JP, fail.

Next on my list? I’m reading Hyperbole and a Half (for my non-serious book), and Wild (for those oh-so-serious moments in my life).

DIY: Purple Haze Stationary

27 Dec

So the other day I was feeling inspired.

Yes, it might have been by the three beers I had just drank, but hey, inspiration comes from anywhere, right?

So I busted out the trusty paper cutter, inkadinkado, and some envelope liners, and made these notecards.

Purple DIY Notecards

Perfectly purple, to go with the beer…or at least that’s how I justified it.

I don’t know if I will ever get good enough at stamping to do fancy things like embossing or debossing (can you ever just be “bossing” something..?) but I’m pretty happy with my stamping for dummies inkadinkado set. 

Stamped Purple DIY Notecards

It lets you do nice accents easily, and its always an adventure in seeing how the patterns come out.

Just don’t use drink and use the paper cutter at the same time…

Friday Find: The Honest Company

29 Nov

So – I finally decided to check out some products from The Honest Company. (For those of you who don’t know, THC is a bunch of natural/eco-friendly/organic baby & home products that Jessica Alba is currently hawking.)

I had tried the combo shampoo/body wash when I was at my aunt’s house earlier this month – and it seemed to be pretty legit. Plus, shampoo/body wash combo? Fabulous idea.

But at the end of the day, the 35% off email I received was what really swayed me. Love a good sale.

For just under $30, I received dish soap, laundry detergent, dish towels, sunscreen, and counter cleaner. (The organic veggie wash? I can go without.)

Honest Company is a subscription service, but they have a-la-carte options as well. Did I mention they make diaper cakes? And housewarming gifts? Fabulous.

So far, the products are pretty awesome. And it didn’t hurt that I ordered the bundle right when I was running low on dish soap, counter cleaner, and needed sunscreen for Key West.

It’s the little things in life, right?