Wednesday, June 28, 2017

What am I doing? (home improvement)

Around 2 years ago,  Google had a special Google Doodle for solar power, it was linked to Google  Earth, where you could input your address and they would calculate how much usable roof area you had, they factored in which way the roof was facing and any  shade from trees or  nearby buildings, etc.  Then they gave links to local companies that install solar power. It made it easy to figure out how much energy you could produce and to  compare it with your current usage on your electric bill, etc.  Using their calculator app, I found out my house was a perfect candidate for solar power.  One slope of my roof has a southern orientation and has no shade from trees or other houses. Plus, my house is only one story, which means the roof to square footage ratio is higher than a 2 story house. I had plenty of usable roof space that could  cover all my current electric usage.

  I got the idea at that time that I really wanted to get solar power  for my house. But I had a lot of other home improvement jobs that were more urgent, so I didn't get around to it right away. Last summer I got the house painted (which was long overdue) and last fall I got a fence rebuilt between my house and my neighbor's house (also long overdue- the fence had literally rotted and fallen down in many places.).
So finally this summer's project  was to get  solar power installed.

As it happened, I signed the final contract on the same day that president Trump withdrew from the Paris climate agreement, and  the installation was the day after the summer solstice (the longest day of the year- i.e. the most hours of sunlight). Both dates were  very meaningful for this project! Many people get solar power for financial reasons  and of course I like saving money as much as the next person ( I will go more into the savings later), but I also wanted solar power  because it is clean, it does not release any pollution, it is better for the planet , not just better for my wallet.
Listening to all the lies  and  bad science Trump told during that speech when he withdrew from the Paris agreement, it made me feel slightly less frustrated and helpless to know that even though he was moving our country backwards, I could still make a tiny step forward on my own. Our country under this president was  abandoning the leadership role in   innovative  energy technology, but my state, other states, and many private businesses will continue to lead the way to the future, which is clean energy.

So now my solar system has been up and running for a week and I am so happy with the decision.
It's not just a win, it is a win/win/win/win/win.  Let me explain all the ways  I am winning!

1.   Normally they calculate how many panels to  install based on your current electric bill.  But I  really conserve electricity,  every month  when the bill compares   my use to other similar homes,  I am scored "excellent" for conserving. For example, I have air conditioning but I  rarely use it, only on the very hottest days.  But if all my electricity was clean then I could use more and not have to conserve so much. So I decided I wanted more panels than just my current use., I wanted to  have some extra power in case of increased future use.  I even got enough to power an electric car charging station in the future. I don't have an electric car now, but if I  ever wanted to get one, I could power it with my solar system. Imagine driving your car with free fuel  forever!
So now, I can use the air conditioner as much as I want! I can do my laundry at peak hours instead of waiting until after 6 PM, because my system makes the most power at peak hours.

2. I got a discount for being over 50, and another discount for paying  cash up front. Not everyone can pay  cash, but they have very reasonable financing so that your monthly payment for the financing is still less than your electric bill would have been. So your net monthly budget is better (win) and  you pay off the system after about 9 years (win) and then you have free electricity after those 9 years (WIN!).
 If you do pay the whole thing at once, like I did, then it pays for itself  in 7-9 years.   ( 7 years of no electric bill= the cost of the system) Win!
After  the 7 years then it's just totally free electricity. The system requires very little maintenance.
I definitely recommend BUYING your system, not leasing it.  Even if you have to finance it,    you own it at the end of paying for it. But if you lease it,   it's the same as paying your electric bill every month- you will never own the means of production.

3.  There is a 30%  federal tax credit that you can spread out over 15 years. Win!
If you lease instead of buying,  then you don't get this tax credit.

4.   If you produce more electricity than you use, then you  can sell it back to the grid. Win!
I'm producing more than I use, and I can actually see on my  electric meter that the usage number is a NEGATIVE number. That is the surplus that is going back into the grid. And then whoever uses that electricity surplus form my system,   is also cleaner because that is less  electricity that the power plants have to make from potentially polluting fuels.

5.  One of the lies that Trump said when he pulled out of the Paris climate accord was he stated a false dichotomy pitting the environment VS the economy.  He made it sound like you have to pick one or the other, like clean energy was going to destroy our short term economy.   But this is a falsehood.  Clean energy makes jobs!  Innovation and technology is the future,  coal is the past. Every  component of my solar system is made in the USA. The panels are made in Texas, the inverters are made in California, the racks are made in New Mexico.  These are good, high paying  American jobs in an industry that can continue far into the future. So it's not just a win for me, it's a win for the American economy.

6.    It's better for the environment too. You don't have to pick economy or environment- you can help both at the same time.

7.  A solar system raises the value of the house. Any buyer will be getting free electricity from the day they move in.

So that was pretty long. It was a great experience and I  am kind of an evangelist for solar power now, I hope to get some of my neighbors to get it. My neighborhood is all 1 story ranch houses so they are perfect candidates,  we get so much sun  for  8 or 9 months of the year,  most  summer and fall days have a clear cloudless sky.. It's just really a climate that is ideal for  solar power. It's awesome to be able to crank the AC with no guilt.

Monday, May 29, 2017

What am I making: Fashion Revolution Week (belated)

 Fashion Revolution Week was April 24-30, and I made this project during that week, but I just had not photographed it or blogged about it until now.  Only a month late!

Fashion Revolution is a movement  to raise awareness about the human and ecological impact of the clothing industry.

 Fashion Revolution Week happens on the anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse, where 1,138 garment workers  in Bangladesh were killed and many more injured on 24th April 2013. more than half the victims were women.  The day before the collapse, large cracks were showing, but the next day,  garment workers were ordered to return to work or else they'd be docked a month's pay. The clothing sweatshops in the building made clothes for many  brands, including  cheap fast-fashion  brands Primark, Walmart,  and  more expensive brands like  Benetton. People often think that    more expensive brands of clothing will have better worker pay and working conditions, but it's not always true.
The hashtag #whomademyclothes  is used on twitter for consumers to ask various brands for transparency about their production.

 In addition to the poor working conditions of many garment workers around the world,  there are large ecological issues with the entire fashion industry. Even if the workers are well paid and have safe conditions,  the clothing and textile industry  produces very much chemical waste and pollution.  The entire life cycle of a garment (from  growing the cotton, milling the fabric, dyeing, cutting and sewing) consumes so much water. It takes around 1,800 gallons of water to grow enough cotton to produce just one pair of  jeans.
With the current sped-up fashion cycle where trends only last a few months and clothing is so cheap,  clothing is purchased  and quickly thrown away in huge quantities.  Americans alone throw away approximately 14 million tons of garments each year, and most of this does not decompose in landfills because  even if it's biodegradable (like cotton),  it is usually inside plastic bags or does not receive enough  oxygen to break down.  Clothing is not frequently recycled, and it's a difficult process when a single garment may be a blend of  different fibers. It's not like aluminum cans where you can just melt it all down.
I also  recommend the movie called "The True Cost"  , about the  fast fashion/disposable fashion problem.It's on Netflix and Youtube.

 I've  drastically cut back the amount of clothing I buy, but I do still like to make clothes,  it's a creative outlet even if I don't always need more clothes. Even though homemade clothes are not exploiting workers, there is still the issue of the fabric, where was it made, etc.  Fabric production has the same ecological issues as clothing production. So my project for  Fashion Revolution week used my own labor and used scrap fabric that I had left over from older projects.  The scraps weren't big enough to make a whole garment from, but I  combined a solid knit with a floral knit to make this top. It's a simple  cap sleeved top but the fabric splicing gives it more visual interest than a T-shirt.

Monday, May 8, 2017

What am I making

I made these tiles a couple of years ago in a ceramics class,  but I just glued them to a board and grouted them this past weekend. I'm trying to  finish incomplete projects and use up   materials from my craft hoard.
When I made the tiles,  I just glazed them random colors instead of having a set picture in mind of how they would fit together. So it is a somewhat random layout, I just tried to make a couple of sort-of continuous diagonal stripes. I don't know if I will use this for a table or just an outdoor decorative thing. It's about 18" square so it could be a small table but  I might hang it on the wall of the back patio.
I do  wish I had glazed the colors more in a planned way to make a more cohesive design.
This is so weird, in the edit screen this is all normal lowercase but in the published post, it shows all caps. I swear I did not type this whole post in capslock and I don't know why it's showing that way!

What I'm nomming- cheese plate

 We've had some hot weather last week so I  like to make a simple, no-cook dinner like a cheese plate.
 Here is a particularly nice one I made  this past weekend.
Featured cheeses:
Cowgirl Creamery Red Hawk- In the 1:00 position. This is a local California- made triple-crème, aged, cow's milk cheese with a brine-washed rind.
Aged Mimolette-  In the 6:00 position.  This  cheese  from Northern France is made in a ball shape and the rind looks so much like a cantaloupe rind , and then the cheese itself is the exact orange color of a cantaloupe.  It's really delicious and reminds me of an aged cheddar mixed with gouda.
Vintage Irish Cheddar  with Irish Porter -  In the 3:00 position. This is a nice sharp aged  white cheddar, marbled with a dark smoky porter beer flavor. I saw it in the store  and I was like, beer and cheese? Together? SOLD!
This is relevant to my interests.

Featured crackers:
 Original plain Triscuits.  In the center. Good old triscuits- still the best with so many cheeses.
Blue Diamond pecan thins- In the 10:00 position.  These are a gluten-free cracker made  with nut meal instead of flour. They have  an almond version too, but I love these pecan thins the most.
Wild California fruit and nut crisps in the 9:00 position.

Abate Fetel pear slices
 Local California- grown  Strawberries
Marcona  Almonds- In the separate bowl. these are a Spanish almond that is blanched (skinned) and then fried in olive oil.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

What I'm nomming

 Time for another snack review.

Whisps Parmesan cheese crisps
These are delicious and crispy  and light, almost melt in your mouth.

La Mere Poulard French Sables
These  are very simple  buttery cookies,  but so perfect.  I like them with ice cream. They are  similar to shortbread but crispier.

Smashmallow root beer float flavor marshmallows
They really do taste like root beer. It would be interesting to try them toasted.

Cheetos Sweetos  caramel puffs
I love salted caramel  anything, but these were just listed as caramel puffs, not as salted caramel, so I was not sure if they would be good. I was worried they might just taste like super sweet kids breakfast  cereal. But they are nice and  salty,  almost equal parts sweet and salty like kettle corn,  so they are really delicious and  perfect for snacking.

Mike's harder blood orange 
I'm including this not as a favorite, but as an anti-fave.    Luckily I just bought one can at 7-11 to drink at the beach.  I  like  every other blood orange soda I have tasted, it's one of my favorite flavors,  and I like Mike's hard lemonade, so I thought for sure I would like this. But it was a huge disappointment.  It is TERRIBLE. It tastes like you mixed artificial cherry flavor cough medicine with artificial orange flavor cough medicine. So freakin nasty. I drank like 3 sips and threw the rest away.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

What I'm nomming

These are some snacks I actually bought a couple weeks ago and enjoyed,.
 Right now I am  on a no  grocery shopping challenge, which is not to save money or anything, I am just trying to use up what I've already got in my pantry. I don't know if anyone else does this, but I tend to  do a thing where I   buy things to try them, and they are okay but not my favorite, so  instead of finishing them, I just go  buy something else. And it ends up with a lot of stuff that just kind of  accumulates and gets ignored. It's not bad enough to throw away, it's not really 'bad' at all, just not my favorite.  So right now I am only shopping for perishables like milk and eggs, but when it comes to  shelf-stable   pantry items like cereal, chips, cookies, dry pasta,  nuts,  granola bars, etc, I am not buying  anything like that until I really empty out my pantry. And like, if I want chips and there are no chips, I will make popcorn. If I want cookies and there are no cookies, I bake some (using up some nuts and chocolate in the process).
So I've been doing that for a couple of weeks but here are some things I bought before I started this challenge.

Icelandic Provisions Skyr- peach and cloudberry  flavor
This is like a thick yogurt but has more protein than normal yogurt. it's really good.  I  had a Finnish friend who  used to always rave about cloudberries, which are a  rare type of berry from Scandinavia.
Cadbury Wispa cookies
These are  shortbread cookies covered in chocolate, but they also have a filling layer of  fluffy chocolate similar to an Aero bar.

 Cherry Limeade Peeps
These are a nice sour cherry flavored peep with a coating  of lime candy coating on the bottom.  I LOVE lime flavored things and it is not a very common flavor, so these are my favorite of the limited edition 'dipped' Peeps.  I once wrote a letter of complaint to Starburst when they replace lime starburst with strawberry, in the 80s. They wrote back and told me lime was the least popular flavor.

 Lays Poppables in white cheddar flavor
These are new, they taste similar to  Pringles, they are made with potato flour and remind me of like a giant chex cereal piece.Sort of a mesh pillow  shape. It's  very light and  crunchy, because each one is filled with air. but that also means that even a big bag of them doesn't have that many servings. You can easily eat the whole bag if you aren't careful.


Monday, April 10, 2017

Slow vs quick

In the middle ages, there used to be a form of torture and execution  where they would lay a person down, and then place a large board on top of them, like a door. They would start piling rocks on top of the board.
They were not large rocks, and any one of them alone wouldn't have really done much  to hurt the person. Especially with the board distributing the pressure over the whole body.
But there were a lot of these small rocks, and they kept piling up. Eventually it would kill a person but it was very slow. And very painful.
I can imagine , at some point the person would wish for one large  boulder to  squish them quickly, rather than the pile of hundreds of small rocks.

 This form of torture is like life. Sometimes, if you only see one little pebble   piled on someone, you might not understand the person's reaction, because you don't know how many rocks came before it.  We never know how many rocks each person has already  squashing them down.
And  if you can ever lift a pebble off of someone, you might think it's so small it would never make a difference. But all those  pebbles add up.

Monday, March 27, 2017

What I'm making

I found this large candlestick thingy on the curb last week.  A neighbor had a pile of random items out with a FREE sign, and this looked interesting, like it had  some potential.
 I did not like the paint job, it was a weird mix of antique gold and a  strange  silvery bluish color.
I added a flat wooden piece to the top so that it could hold a large candle, and then I painted the whole thing in a  faux iron look.

This was a 2 step process. First I painted the whole thing in flat black spray paint.
Then I gave it a light misting of dark bronze metallic spray paint. The  mist technique is spraying very lightly, from   far away, and just a quick few passes. You don't want  full coverage, you want the base color to show through.
This detail shows the textured, wrought iron  effect you can get with a light mist of bronze metallic over a dark matte base.

What I am nomming

Recent favorites snack foods

Wild California twice baked Fruit n' Nut crisps. These are so crunchy that it's easy to eat the whole bag in a sitting. They are also   great with a soft cheese.

Kettle Chips New York Cheddar flavor.
 My all time favorite potato chip was the  Cheddar Beer flavor from Kettle Chips, but it was a limited edition flavor. This New York Cheddar is the closest to it, although it is still missing that subtle malty sweetness of the beer. The large bags of this are hard to find in grocery stores, I  mostly see the small bags at deli counters and stuff, so I just ordered 6 bags from Amazon.  That sounds like a lot but damn they are so good it might not be enough.

Haagen-Dazs Bourbon Pecan Praline Ice Cream
You can really taste the bourbon in this. So good. It's limited edition so as usual when I find something I love,  they stop making it and  I can never get it again. WHYYYYYY?

Jules Destrooper Almond Thins -  Super thin and crispy, these cookies are the perfect partner to ice cream.

TCHO Organic Milk Chocolate, Toffee + Sea Salt - This  is a local brand,  made in Berkeley. They have a lot of interesting flavors. Most of their flavors are dark chocolate, this is one of the few that are milk chocolate.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

What I'm making- furniture.

 Last week on garbage pick up day, I found this little   wrought iron table on the curb. It was dirty and rusty and the glass top was missing. It had probably been used outdoors, so   the rain had caused some damage.
But I liked the shape and thought it could be a good project.
I used a wire brush to clean off the rust and  sanded the rusty spots to get them as smooth as possible, but they  didn't get perfectly  smooth.
Then I  primed the whole piece with a white stain blocking primer spray paint. Then I went to go get some  spray paint for the finish coat. I had planned to maybe do an off white paint with clear acrylic top. I went  first to TAP Plastics to look at their remnant pieces of acrylic. I found a piece big enough  but it was a smoked glass color. So that changed my whole  plan for the paint color- now I was looking for a  paint that would go well with the smoked acrylic. OI  hoped to find something in a dark pewter metallic- darker than silver, but still cool toned. I did not find anything like that at Orchard Supply Hardware,  but they did have a cool  hammered look spray paint in dark bronze.  I figured the hammered look would help camouflage the uneven texture from the rusty spots.
 Here is the finished table, I really like how the dark bronze goes with the smoke color top. You can click the photo to zoom in.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Easter treats reviews

I picked up some Easter goodies. Some of them are new things I've never seen before.

1. Oreos with Peeps marshmallow filling- These are limited edition, the oreo cookie is the golden color vanilla cookie and the filling is bright pink. I generally prefer oreos with the chocolate cookie (and various flavors of filling), but I gave these a try. They are okay but they really just taste like vanilla cookie with vanilla filling, which is not very interesting to me.
2. Cadbury mini eggs  chocolate crunch and creme flavor.  These are your typical cookies & cream flavor with white chocolate and chocolate cookie crispy bits. They are okay but i think not as good as the  original  cadbury mini eggs.
 3. Peeps Filled Delights triple chocolate- These are a new thing, I have never seen  filled peeps before.  The peeps themselves are chocolate flavored,  then they have a fudgy cream filling, and the  bottom of the peep is dipped in chocolate. They are actually pretty decent.

4. Peeps Filled Delight vanilla caramel brownie flavor- The peep is white (vanilla), the filling is caramel, and  it's dipped in chocolate. I  don't really know where the brownie  is supposed to come in, but again they are pretty good.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

I tried depotting eyeshadows

 The last year or two, there has been a trend of people depotting their  makeup from the palettes or packaging it  came in, and putting  them into Z palettes. 
These are empty magnetic palettes that you can customize  them, so for example if you love some colors in a large palette and hate others, you can  get rid of the ones you never use and  make your own palette with just your favorites. It's also a good way to save storage space. I decided to give it a try, but the 20$ Z-pallette  is a big Nope for me! That is just for the EMPTY  box with no  makeup in it! I figured I could DIY something for free.

 I used an old metal tin from an AOL cd. Remember those?  AOL used to send out their stupid installation Cds all the time in the early 2000's, , sometimes just in a cardboard sleeve, but sometimes they came in a metal tin.
It must be around 15 years old, but that is how I am, I  kind of hoard random things for craft supplies  thinking I will eventually use it for something. And I did use it! I spray painted it to  cover up the AOL logo. And it is nice and thin, just perfect for a makeup palette. The metal is steel, so  magnets stick to it.
So far  my cost is 0$.

Next I had to depot the eyeshadows from their original packaging. I watched some youtube videos that involved using heat to soften the glue, but I skipped that and just  pried them out with brute force and a ceramics tool that is similar to a dental tool.

Now there are two ways to make the eyeshadows stick in the palette. You can either have a magnetic layer in the  bottom of the palette, and the  eyeshadow pans will stick IF they are a ferrous metal. Some of mine were not ferrous. The other  option is    to glue little magnets to the bottom of the shadow pans, and they will all stick to the steel tin.  I decided to use this method since some of my pans were non-ferrous metal.
You can buy the magnets to stick to the back, but you know I wanted to do this for free, so I just  found some old magnetic business cards  that were stuck to the side of my fridge, and I cut them up into little squares and glued them on the back of the eyeshadow pans.  One of the magnets  was for Webvan, which was an old online grocery deliver company that went out of business in 2001. LOL Did I mention that I save craft supplies FOREVER? But I do eventually find a use for them so don't tell me to purge my treasure trove. I just saved $20!

My end result is here:

In this one tin, I  have 6 Colour Pop singles,  a Physicians Formula Quad (the rectangles), 2 L'oreal   duos (the  half circles), and a Stila "Dare to Bare" palette which contained 6 eyeshadows  plus a highlight and bronzer.. (I don't use bronzer so I just use it as eyeshadow).  I was able to condense  5 separate packages into this one tin.

I  can also take out just a few of the colors at a time and put them in an empty Altoids tin if I want to take them in my purse or for travel.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Internet Movie Data Base has deleted their discussion forums

I just found out that iMDB has closed their forums, and deleted all  the past discussions.   Apparently this just happened today, although it was announced 2 weeks ago. I hadn't been to the site in the past 2 weeks  so I didn't know it was happening. Their reasoning was supposedly that there was too much trolling and flame wars and shit (as there are in   most open forums) and  they want people to use Facebook for discussion instead. They are keeping the data base but just removing all discussions.

I reckon it was a budgetary reason because  forums do take a lot of moderation , which means a real person has to be paid to do that  job. I never  had a registered account at iMDB so I had never posted in their forums, but I had often read them, so I am  unhappy they are gone.  Often times after viewing a movie or Tv show, I would have some little question or confusion about a plot point, and I could always go check their forums and there was always someone who had already asked the question I was wondering about. These were questions not  answered by the summary or cast lists, these were plot questions, like "why did that guy do that thing". I never needed to post because  someone else inevitably had already asked my exact question and it was always answered by someone  else.

 So I am not happy it's all been erased , and Facebook is a poor replacement. Many people don't want all their internet activity linked under a single account. If you get in some trivial debate about a movie with someone, you don't need them to be able to see where you work and who all your friends and family are in one click. Facebook also does not lend itself to in depth discussions, it truncates longer comments so you have to click to see the whole thing. Facebook is just built around quick mindless actions like thumbs up or thumbs down,  emojis and brief sentence fragments, not based around written, reasoned  communication.
I will certainly admit that the iMDB forums had their share of trolls, racist and sexist comments, etc. But so does  the comments on Youtube, and I would never want them to delete all commentary on Youtube! How else can you ask the content creators a question? I never had any problem just scrolling past the low value posts to find the high value posts. It's really not that hard.

 It's very sad to me that the format of message boards/forums/discussion boards is  dying out. When I first got on the internet in 1999,  the first sites I joined and participated in were message boards. I met many friends there who I later met up with in real life.
I got  a job moderating message boards,  that later led to other jobs as moderators and  community managers. Even now,  that is still my preferred format to interact with people online. I like it better than twitter, facebook, instagram,  live  chatrooms or  blogs. I feel like the message board format lets you get to know people the best and it is the most conducive to  thoughtful conversation. I went to weddings and to  funerals of friends I had met in message boards. I fell in love, I traveled to stay with friends in other states and countries, all from  friendships begin on message boards. I don't believe that would ever happen with twitter and  instagram!
Do they  have the potential for abuse and negative speech? Of course, but the positive still far outweighed the negative.

I did find this site which has apparently archived the  discussion boards from the top 1000 movies and shows. (or  top 10,000?) Anyway it's backed  up the busiest boards from imdb, and has empty boards for all the other movies and shows,  which can have new discussions posted.
Maybe I will actually register there and post occasionally.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

What I'm nomming- snack reviews

 Just  a few goodies I have been enjoying lately.

1. Moondarra cheese
Flavors Apricot & Almond, and Honey & Pistachio. (those are the only ones I have found  locally)
I'd love to try some of the other flavors but I've only  ever seen the two. It's  like a flavored  cream cheese with  add-ins. I like it on  very crisp crackers that also have some fruit or nut in it.  For example:

2.  Hazelnut and Sultana Pan Forte Crostini
They are  kind of similar  to Thin Addictives , but less sweet and they use raw cane sugar and it has  an almost faint anise flavor to it. I like that they are SUPER crisp and crunchy, which makes a nice contrast to a soft cheese.
I'd love to try the Tart Cherry, Cacao Nib and Almond flavor but I have not seen those around.
3. Clover Hoppy Hour ice cream. 
It's beer flavored!   with Bear Republic Brewing’s  Racer 5 IPA.

 4. Goat milk caramel sauce from  King Arthur Flour
It goes on top of that beer ice cream.  yeah buddy!

5. Lindt Strawberry Cheesecake chocolate  bar.  Pretty self explanatory. It's milk chocolate and strawberry and cheesecake. It's good stuff.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What I'm watching in February

What am I watching this month?
may contain spoilers!

1.  The Walking Dead is back! I loved the  first episode of the new season , especially the stunt with the cable stretched between the 2 cars  mowing down the herd of walkers. I feel like it would not have killed them since it just cut them in half and didn't destroy their brains, but it turns them into crawlers instead of walkers.  Carol's whole "I want to be alone" storyline is boring me, but hopefully she will snap out of it in time to help defeat Negan. What is Gabriel up to, stealing all the food and runnign away with it?

2. Project Runway Junior-  this has been  better than the last few seasons of adult PR. Those kids are  crazy talented and there are some weeks that there really is not a terrible look, they are all decent or good.  There is less backbiting and drama than the adult version. The only thing I don't like is when  Tim makes some pop culture reference like David Bowie or Gilligans Island and the kids all just have this  blank look because they have no idea what or who that is. I mean COME ON, Bowie only died a year ago and there is the internet these days and youtube, so kids today have more access to entertainment that happened before their time. If you are interested in fashion,  the burden is on you to learn a little something about fashion history, even just the 20th century at LEAST.

3. Sneaky Pete- this is a TV series on Amazon Prime that was co-created by Bryan Cranston (from Breaking Bad) and he also has an uncredited role as the villain. It also has some great character actors from The Americans ( one of my favorite shows that is coming back next month YAY!).  Margo Martindale is  in it (she plays Claudia on The Americans and also had a recurring role in Justified), and the actress who played Martha on The Americans is in it.
The show is about con artists  and it  has a lot of tricky plot twists and turns- I love movies and shows like this,  shows  about heists and intricate  plots. The  finale episode had a cliffhanger so I hope they are doing a season 2.

4. Z- The Beginning of Everything. This is another series on Amazon Prime.  I got Prime to watch Sneaky Pete, so then I just started watching the other Amazon original series to see how they are. This is a period piece about Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald in the 1920's ,  starring Christina Ricci as Zelda.  It's got great costumes and sets and the acting is pretty good, although I think  Ricci is a bit old for the role.  She's 36 and she's playing a 20 year old  in season one (I think the series starts when Zelda was only 18). Later seasons may go up to when the real Zelda was  older, so  the age gap won't be as obvious as time goes by.
The episodes are only 30 minutes, so you can binge the whole season in a day.

5. Victoria- This is a PBS Masterpiece Theater series about Queen Victoria.. Season one is just the beginning of her reign and marriage,  and the birth of her first child. I'm assuming there will be more seasons since she reigned so long.  It's currently in the middle of the season  on TV, but  they  have the whole  season on the PBS website if you want to binge it. I had to  make a donation to PBS  in order to unlock it, but that is okay because it's a good cause, and the membership also gets discounts on some  local museums and stuff.

6.  Good Behavior-  This was a TNT series from last year but for some reason I never watched it when it was on. It has Lady Mary from Downton Abby as an American ex-con and recovering drug addict.  She's supposed to be from North Carolina, but has a very flat non-specific midwestern American accent with occasional slips of British upperclass crispness leaking through. She just basically talks way more posh than the character should,  being from a small southern town and a working class /criminal background. She also dresses very classy,   even though she's always out of work,  has nowhere to live,  always saying she's broke... but every scene she has a new designer outfit and she always has money for taxis and drinks at the fancy bars. I guess she must be stealing a lot off-camera.
I am enjoying it though, despite these quibbles. I am about halfway through the season.
For some reason, my Xfinity On Demand only has episodes 1-5, and episode 7. But it's missing episode 6, 8, 9, and 10. Amazon has those missing episodes though for $3 each (they aren't included in Amazon prime), so  I guess I am  going to buy them.

7. La La Land- I went to see this in a theater since it seemed like something you should see on a big screen. I  am not a big fan of musicals, but I did like it. I didn't LOVE it like a lot of people seem to, but the visuals were amazing. The production numbers were beautiful. The singing is mediocre, but it's more about the visuals I think. The plot confused me and kind of had this depressing middle section where they were fighting very unconvincingly, for no discernible reason.  It was  just like the plot arc says  that they break up, but it seemed to come out of nowhere and had no logic or reason behind it. Also, it reminded me a little bit of Woody Allen movies in the sense that it takes place in an alternate universe that  only has white people in it. Woody's New York is always shown as all white, and this movie's fictional Los Angeles was all white. (when in real life those are both incredibly diverse cities).

8.  Deadpool.   Got this dvd  from netflix, but they don't have it streaming yet, only on disc. I am not really  into all the comic book movies,  I think I have only seen a couple of the X men universe movies, but  I really enjoyed this.  It had  great special effects and stunts and action scenes, which is typical of this genre, but it  also had GREAT  witty writing and clever dialog, which is not that common for the genre.

9.  Taboo. This is a  TV series on  FX which is currently running (it's in the middle of the first season) , but I didn't start watching when it started. I just binged the first 6 episodes in the past 2 days to get caught up. It's  set in 1815 London, the same time period as Jane Austen novels ,(and it should be obvious by now that I love a good period piece!)  but instead of genteel country  squires, it's in the dirty underbelly of  London. The plot involves the East India Trading  Company, the Prince Regent of England,  The War of 1812.   There are spies, intrigue,  criminals,  prostitutes and street urchins, as well as incest and mystery, and some kind of a supernatural aspect which I don't fully understand.  The visuals are simultaneously gorgeous and  ugly. Instead of unrealistic period pieces where  everyone has 21st century hygiene with clear perfect skin, hair and teeth,   this series has a real  dark grittiness to the look,  there are great character actors in the supporting roles and  many of the  side characters have a certain grotesqueness to them. The  Prince Regent is especially grotesque. Jonathan Pryce plays the boss of the East India Trading  Company, and is a chilling villain.
 I often have to  scroll back and watch a scene 2 or 3 times. The first time, I am just absorbing the visuals, which are stunning and so textured.  The second time, I focus on the actor's delivery of lines, their voice and  mannerisms and expression. Then the third time, I can actually focus on the dialog itself and the exposition and plot details that are being revealed.

10. Saturday Night Live-
 The only good thing I can say about this presidential administration, is that it is providing comedy GOLD for the late night shows. Sometimes they don't even have to do any writing, just use the actual real,  insane,  rambling doublespeak  verbatim. Melissa McCarthy  is KILLING IT as Sean Spicer. Unfortunately they had a 2 week break when so many crazy things are happening.

What I am looking forward to watching:
The new season of Bates Motel starting next week
The new season of The Americans  starting next month