Monday, December 31, 2012

Coming Soon!!! Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2013

Be sure to be here next Monday
      January 7, 2013
for exciting 
A to Z Challenge news for 2013!

Have a Happy New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Answers to the Alphabet

These Blogging from A to Z subjects are brought to you by Nicole at The Madlab Post...

Today marks the day that the Alphabet Soup series is going on a hiatus, so I am offering up the following prompts that can be used as themes or topics during the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. It is my hope that these blog post subject ideas will help get those of you experiencing some writer’s block through the entire alphabet with little to no fuss.

Adolescent Art - Scan or photograph one of your favorite (or least favorite) pieces of artwork that you made during your childhood years. This can be a sculpture, collage, painting, drawing, sketch or some other type of art that you made in school, church, at summer camp, etc. you get the picture.

Bake or Broil - Compare different foods that you think are better when prepared one way compared to the other. Does fish come out better when broiled? Is chicken more moist when baked? Do an experiment or share with readers a point of view based on your previous cooking and/or tasting experiences.

Censorship Commentary - Answer the question: Does censorship make you feel like you’re being shortchanged in the context of your ability to enjoy and/or absorb a television show, movie or song that you know has been edited for broadcast purposes?

Doomsday -  If the world was ending at the end of April 2013, how would you spend your time between now and then?

Embarrassment - Describe an embarrassing experience that you once had that would not embarrass you if it occurred today.

Fortune vs. Forbes - Read the current issues of both magazines and write a review on them, focusing on which one you would be more likely to want to read again and why.

Goodwill - Mention an act of goodwill that you received from another person within the last year; Or, mention an act of goodwill that you provided to someone else within the last year.

Hugh Hefner - Identify some things that one group of people (bloggers, parents, business owners, celebrities, seniors, etc.) can learn from the Playboy tycoon. Your post can be comical or serious or inspirational or whatever.

Illuminati - Describe the most absurd “discovery” that you read or hear from someone regarding the activities of this secret group.

Jumping Jacks - Conduct an exercise experiment by timing yourself doing 100 jumping jacks every day for one week and blog about your findings including how long it took you to do them, if you had to stop to take a break and how you felt before and after doing them. Did the exercise make you tired or did it boost your energy?

Killing with Kindness - Share your experiences with the “Kill them with Kindness” saying, focusing on whether or not you think it works in all circumstances; sharing tips, if any, that you may have for others who find it difficult to practice this in their lives.

Lapsed Laws - Blog about a particular law that you think is too old to be still on the books.

Muses - Do you have a muse? If so, what is it? If not, do you think there are benefits to having one or does it really matter?

Neverland - If you could build your own version of Neverland Ranch, what would it contain?

Offensive Oppositions - Blog about a gesture or behavior, etc. that usually offends most people, except you.

Prince and Princesses - Highlight a real-life prince or princess that is little known among the masses.

Qdoba - Compare the quality of two different restaurant locations that you visited, paying attention to customer service, state of the food (did it seem stale, was it hot, etc.) and atmosphere.

Rich Reflections - Define what makes your life rich.

Satirical Secrets to (Fill in the Blank) - List humorous “secrets” to parenting, completing the A to Z Challenge, finding the best parking spot, preventing wrinkles in clothes, aging well or whatever topic you are interested in poking fun at.

Timeless Toys - Highlight a few toys that you believe will never go out of style.

Utterly Unattractive - List some unattractive traits that you find in the opposite sex or in the general population.

Victory - Blog about a time in your life when you felt most accomplished and what it took for you to get there.

Mr. Winkle - Do you think this is a real dog or a marketing ploy? If the former applies, what do you think Mr. Winkle is mixed with? Do you think mixed breeds are a blessing or a curse? Does the Mr. Winkle phenomenon beneficial to the importance of bringing more awareness to animal welfare and animal shelters or does it exploit our western culture’s obsession with stardom, fandom and materialism?

X Games - Blog about a high profile X Games participant or some X Games controversy that might be of interest to sports fanatics.

Yokozuna - Offer some background information on the significance of this particular wrestling rank; Or, just highlight the name of the WWF guy who had this name. Your choice.

Zipcar - If you’ve used this car sharing service, blog about your experiences; If this does not apply, then compare the service to car pooling, focusing on which one you think would be more useful.

Have a Good Friday, Everybody!

Also @MadlabPost on Twitter

Friday, December 21, 2012

Letter Play - Over and Out!

The following blog photos are brought to you by Nicole at The Madlab Post...

It’s time for Letter Play - Where DIY activities, cinema and life offline collide!

Marking the very last post for Letter Play 2012 and Letter O in this Friday Fun Time series, here are four O’s that I found on popular consumer goods. I wonder which among you devout Blogging from A-to-Zers can match the “O” to its accompanying grocery store item.





Have a Fun Friday, everybody!

Also @MadlabPost on Twitter

Sign up for the Monday Movie Meme, a weekly group blogging series that inspires discussion about entertainment in a whole new light and provides recommendations for your DVD, on-demand or theater fix. New topics are posted every Monday at The Madlab Post!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Choose Your Own Apocalypse

Hello out there, A-to-Z'ers!

Perhaps you've heard, or maybe not, but the world is ending Friday, December 21, 2012, or so say the Mayans (or at least the people who have decided this is what the Mayans had to say).  What better way to ring in the end of the world than with a blog fest?  Join Shannon, of The Warrior Muse, and Chuck, of Apocalypse Now, for the Choose Your Own Apocalypse Blog Fest, Friday, December 21, 2012.

Assuming the world doesn't end until later in the day, it should be quite the party!

You see, while many people think the world really is going to end on Friday, the 21st, most of them can't agree on HOW.  Will it be an alien invasion?  Zombies? Collision with a mighty meteor?  The super flu?  Solar flares?  Oh my, there are so many ways the world could conceivably end, but the question is, what do YOU think will happen?

Visit one of the following blogs to sign up:

Shannon: The Warrior Muse
Chuck: Apocalypse Now

Friday, December 14, 2012

Alphabet Remix - Options for Oreos

These blogging prompts are brought to you by Nicole at The Madlab Post....
It’s time for The Alphabet Remix - A Writing Prompt Idea Engine Treating A to Z Blogging Avoidance Disorders

Today, Letter O is for one of the most popular snack items made by the Nabisco company -- Oreos! These classic chocolate cookies with a vanilla cream filling can be the focus of your Blogging from A to Z Challenge blog posts if you need a topic to write about. Here are some quick and easy ways to feature Oreo cookies for Letter O in April.

Odd Oreo Offerings
Review the oddest flavors of Oreos you’ve ever tasted or list varieties of these cookies that were only available for a limited amount of time -- such as Gingerbread Oreos.

Oreo Recipes
Share a recipe that uses Oreos as one of the main ingredients. You can also curate a listing of recipes that other people have created such as Cookies Stuffed with Oreos. If cooking isn’t your thing, you can also write a blog post that covers the history and/or significance of Deep Fried Oreos being served at Oktoberfest celebrations throughout the world.

Outrageously Outspoken on Oreos
Make a list of what you think is proper Oreo-eating etiquette. Go crazy and hold nothing back while writing your rules for eating Oreo cookies:

Is it best to open them and eat one side without the cream and then dunk the other side into milk? Do they taste better eaten dry or should they always be dipped in milk? What is the best flavor of milk to dip Oreos in before eating them -- regular, vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, almond or soy? Do they even need to be dipped in milk -- can they be dipped in other liquids such as Orange Juice? Should Oreos be dipped halfway or are they supposed to be completely covered in milk? What is the best time ratio between when an Oreo is dipped and when it is eaten that offers the less risk for it becoming soggy? Can Oreos be topped with condiments such as whipped cream? Should they be eaten for breakfast or remain as a dessert or snack?

Now onto other business, the winner of the Only One themed Alphabet Soup Game is...

Tina Downey at Life is Good. By correctly unscrambling all of the one-word movie titles that begin with Letter O, Tina reclaimed her title of Alphabet Wizard. Her prize package also includes the choice of a letter for the next Alphabet Soup game and the option to pick a theme for the Monday Movie Meme at my blog.

Congratulations Tina and, Have a Fun Friday, everybody!

Find Me @MadlabPost on Twitter

Sign up for the Monday Movie Meme, a weekly group blogging series that inspires discussion about entertainment in a whole new light and provides recommendations for your DVD, on-demand or theater fix. New topics are posted every Monday at The Madlab Post!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Special Challenge Participant Feature - Sherry Ellis of Gone Gardening!

Today is the last of our Special Challenge Participant feature! And I’m honored to bring to you Sherry Ellis of Gone Gardening. Her theme was “Gardens Around the World,” which fits the theme of her blog. Ah, but she had to follow the alphabet – added challenge! So, please welcome Sherry!

Your blog is all about gardens, which made your theme natural. Why the interest in gardens?

My interest in gardens and gardening came from my mother, who is an avid gardener. Growing up, I remember all of the pretty flowers around the house. My mom would point out what they were, and tell me all about them. Now that I’m an adult, I like to garden, too, but I have to admit that I don’t have as much time to do it as my mother, because I’m so ridiculously busy.

As far as the traveling aspect of my gardening blog is concerned, I used to do a considerable amount of traveling before I had children. My career as a musician and SCUBA diving instructor took my all over the world. I always made it a point to seek out gardens, because I find them to be very peaceful and beautiful.

What percentage of the gardens you’ve featured have you visited?

I’m laughing, Alex, because now you’re making me do math! I have personally visited 18 of the 26 gardens featured in the A-Z challenge, which makes the answer 69% of the gardens. I have seen all of the English gardens, most of the European gardens, the Canadian gardens, most of the Chinese and Japanese gardens, the Australian garden, and the African gardens.

Which garden is your favorite?

That’s a tough one! I really enjoy English gardens. Of those, I like the Hidcote Manor Garden, in Gloucestershire, England, and the Exbury Gardens, in Hampshire, England.

I’d have to also say that the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens in Capetown, South Africa, are just gorgeous! They have summer sunset concerts there, too – a perfect combination – music and gardens!

You had a real word for X. (As opposed to many of us who make up a fake word!) Tell us about the gardens for X.

Ah, yes – X! My X garden was the Xishuangbanna Tropical Garden in Xishaungbanna, China. It’s China’s largest tropical garden, covering almost 2,000 acres. It’s used for research by the Chinese Academy of Science, and contains over 10,000 species of tropical plants!

What’s the biggest garden in the world?

Okay, Mister Trivia Man, I know how much you like trivia, so here you go: The world’s largest botanic garden is the Shaanxi Botanical Garden, located in Shaanxi, China. It covers over 300 square miles!

What garden would you like to see some day?

I would like to see the Keukenhof Garden in the Netherlands (which, by the way, is the world’s largest flower garden). That’s where all those beautiful tulips and spring bulbs are grown. I bet it’s just gorgeous in the spring!

Do you have a garden? Is it real or plastic?

Yes, I have a garden, and no, it’s not plastic! I don’t do plastic gardens! I actually have several: a shade garden with plants like hostas, astilbes, and ferns, a sun garden, along the front of my house (I think I win the prize in my neighborhood for the most summer flowers), and a vegetable garden.

For the Challenge next year, will you stick with the theme of gardens?

I think I will, and feature gardens in the United States. I’d have to make sure I can find gardens for the letters Q, X, and Z first, before I commit to anything!

Thanks for having me as a guest!

Thanks for being here, Sherry!

Co-host Ninja Captain Alex is the author of CassaStar and CassaFire and his blog can be found HERE

Friday, December 7, 2012

Alphabet Soup - Only One

This word puzzle is brought to you by Nicole at The Madlab Post...

Since Loca4Crafts won the previous Alphabet Soup game, today’s word scramble was going to focus on Letter L. We already covered that letter in all three of the Friday Fun Time series, so I decided to move on to the next one in the alphabet that has not yet been featured in Alphabet Soup -- O. It stands for One, particularly where movie titles are concerned.

Unscramble the following movie titles that make up one word only. The first commenter who is able to correctly unscramble all or most of these one-word titles at best wins this weeks’ Alphabet Soup game. Answers to the game and the name of the winner will be posted here at the A to Z blog during the next Friday Fun Time - Alphabet Remix.

1. bOdoyl is _________________________.
2. Osssebde is ______________________.
3. Opucossyt is ______________________.
4. hOanpr is ________________________.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Make sure to satisfy your curiosities about all of the A to Z Co-Hosts by adding a comment to the 2013 Co-Host Questionnaire.

Have a Fun Friday, Everybody!

Also @MadlabPost on Twitter

Sign up for the Monday Movie Meme, a weekly group blogging series that inspires discussion about entertainment in a whole new light and provides recommendations for your DVD, on-demand or theater fix. New topics are posted every Monday at The Madlab Post!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

How The Heck Does The Hubble Space Telescope Do It?

Ever wonder how in the world the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) takes those awesomely fascinating photos of galaxies, stars, planets, nubulaes, and supernova remnants more that are a gazillion light years away from us?

Here's The Process: Scientists point the HST to a particular region of space. The HST exposes an image for a long time to collect more light rather than zooming in on them. It collects as many photons as possible on optical sensors which relays the data to computers here on earth which recombines the data into pictures.

The HST takes pictures using the full spectrum of light from infrared to ultraviolet that the human eye cannot see. It even uses X-rays. It uses lenses that either captures or filters different wavelengths. It sees or filters out different colors such as red, blue, and green . This tells us what we are looking at, such as hydrogen atoms, oxygen atoms, and nitrogen ions. 

Example:Hydrogen emits red light. If the HST did not do filter out the color red, most pictures would be kind of reddish as hydrogen is by far the most abundant element in the universe. Hence, astronomers can tell by color just what the heck they are looking at. By combining these images scientists can create full-color pictures.

And the images are enhanced too. There is nothing wrong with doing this.

Okay, enough of this blah blah blah. Just sit back and enjoy images (Image Credits via NASA) made possible by the Hubble Space Telescope taken in the backyard that is our universe!

Interacting Galaxy Pair ARP 87

The Sombrero Galaxy
Spiral Galaxy M74

Most Distant Galaxy Candidates

Mosaic of the Crab Nebulae

Red Super Giant Star V838 Monocerotis

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Help With our 2013 Co-Host Questionnaire!

We're hard at work preparing for the 2013 A-to-Z Challenge, and we need your help!

Last year, each of us co-hosts answered a set of questions in a Getting to Know You post, so participants could learn a little about us and know who it was they'd be talking to or dealing with throughout the challenge.  You'll find last year's list of questions below.

This year, we want to know what YOU want to know about us.  We're asking you to create our questionnaire for us.  What would you like to ask us?  Leave a comment with your question(s).  You can suggest as many as you'd like.  Have fun with it!  No question is too silly.

For ideas, see the list below or click on the names of last year's co-hosts to read our answers to last year's questions.  Maybe you'll get some ideas based on what we said in 2012.

If we get enough questions, we'll each be choosing a set number to answer for ourselves, rather than answering all the same questions.  This way, you get a little variety.

Last year's Getting to Know You posts:

Alex J. Cavanaugh
Arlee Bird
Damyanti Biswas
DL Hammons
Elizabeth Mueller
Jenny Pearson
Jeremy Hawkins (Retro-Zombie)
Konstanz Silverbow
Matthew MacNish
Shannon Lawrence (The Warrior Muse)
Stephen Tremp
Tina Downey

Our 10 Getting to Know You Questions:

What is the most daring thing you've ever done?
What is your favorite article of clothing?
What is your favorite monster?
If you had to dress up as your favorite literary character, who would it be?
What is your favorite fairy tale, urban legend or nursery rhyme?
What is a cause near and dear to your heart?
What's the strangest item you've used as a bookmark?
Do you have any nicknames?  What are they, and how did you earn them?
Name one habit you want to change in yourself.
Tell us something interesting or shocking about yourself.

And our 5 A-to-Z Questions: 

What was your favorite A-to-Z post from 2011?
What brought you to the A-to-Z originally?  Tell us about your first A-to-Z.
Are you doing a theme?
Are you writing and scheduling posts in advance?
What is your favorite letter of the alphabet, and why?  What letter do you like least?

What questions do you want us to answer?  What do you want to know about your 2013 A-to-Z co-hosts? Can you get us to tell our deepest, darkest secrets?

May you find your Muse.

Shannon Lawrence
The Warrior Muse

Monday, December 3, 2012

Shauna Kelley: The Joy of the Season and the Benefits of Blogging

Please join me in welcoming Shauna Kelley, who participated in the challenge for the first time last year. I'm happy to say she'll be joining us again. She's here today to tell us about the books she's published recently.  

I am honored to be here. The A to Z Challenge was the first challenge I particulate in, and has helped to  welcome me into/teach me about blogging.  I am particularly grateful to be here in December!
December is my favorite month. I am a lover of decorating, a huge fan of baking, and most of all, a rabid gift-giver. I am doing a Friday series over on my blog on my favorite gifts, but here I want to focus on the gifts that being part of this blog community provides me. 

I blog because I write. I started my blog to promote my first book, Max and Menna, and, as people who blog solely to promote their work often learn, it was ineffectual. I took too long to realize that my blog was not a podium, but a conversation. 

I now know that the benefit of my blog is not in having space to talk about my work, but in having a way to connect with writers. For centuries, writing has been an isolated profession. Now, the blog world offers us a community in which to support, encourage, and celebrate with each other. This is a gift, and one of the best ones I’ve received in a long, long time.  

The power of this gift rang through loud and clear during the launch of my second book,  Don't Wake Up, which was deemed by more than 40 agents and small presses to be “unmarketable.” It is the story of Gillian, who plays a dangerous game with her husband. He awoke from a coma claiming he cannot remember their life, but she recalls all too well years of manipulation and pain. She invents a family in attempt to get Ricky to acknowledge that this, too, is a lie. However, as her deceit grows, she begins to wonder how far she can go to punish a man for sins he cannot remember committing.

After so many rejections, I might never have published the book if it weren’t for the community around my blog helping me to understand:
  • When you’re telling your community about an achievement (like publishing a book) it is no longer just self promotion (which I find very uncomfortable) but instead becomes sharing good news with friends.
  • The market for my “unmarketable” book is right here. I have friends here that appreciate my book despite its length, its subject, and everything that makes it “high risk” to a press.  
We’re all here for different reasons, but we’re all here. And now that you can definitely tell that Christmas brings out my mushy side, know that I am thankful to be writing now when I have this gift of a community!

Thanks for being with us, and  helping to get us in the spirit of the Christmas season.
- Tina

Friday, November 30, 2012

Letter Play - Wickedly Wrecked and Weary

The following roundup is brought to you by Nicole at The Madlab Post...

It’s time for Letter Play - Where DIY activities, cinema and life offline collide!

Items in and around the house featuring Letter W have been hard to come by when working on today's post.  Add to that the fact that I'm tired and wiped out from a long, hectic, stressful week -- the last thing I want to do is look at a computer or take photographs. So instead of going through new W's, let's take a look at some of the previous letter play posts that followed this series' metamorphosis:

First glance clues: Two of the W's are from food items while the remaining one is from a printed publication.

First glance clues: All of the C's are from items found in the grocery store aisles but one of them is also sold at locations that house goldfish and turtles.

That's all folks!

Have a Happy Friday...

@MadlabPost on Twitter

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Special Challenge Participant - Sydney Aaliyah and Australia

Today’s Special Challenge Participant Feature is Sydney Aaliyah! Her Challenge theme was “Traveling in Australia.” So if you’ve ever wanted to explore the land down under, here are some highlights from Sydney.

When did you make your trip to Australia and why did you select that theme?

My trip to Australia was on April 14th to 21st, 2012. It was a birthday present for my boss/friend who was turning 50.

M was for musicians – name some Australian musicians.

Australia has a lot of great musicians from the 80’s that I loved. Icehouse, and Crowded House (not sure what’s with the house theme) had some good songs. Savage Garden I discovered because my hometown radio station was one of the first in America to play their song.
But, the ultimate Australian band had to be INXS. I saw them in concert twice and was a big fan.

Icehouse called Australia the “Prisoner Island” – is that true?

Australia has a unique history in that it was a penal Colony for England back in the early 1800’s. England would send all their murders, rapist and seasonal criminals there. A lot of them died in transit as well. It must not have been easy to get from England to Australia back in those days.
As far as today, I spent my whole trip in Sydney and didn’t notice much of a criminal element. I did meet one guy who said he had been trying to leave Australia for years, but couldn’t. I think that was more of a personal economic issue.

Tell us about the area known as The Rocks.

The Rocks was a great neighborhood in Sydney. Near the water front. It reminds me of The French Quarter in New Orleans and Georgetown in Washington, D.C. Like the neighborhoods I mentioned above, Sydney’s the Rocks as the following characteristics;
1st floor old and new retail/restaurants and bars (Ralph Lauren next to an art gallery that has been there for 100 years)
2nd floor apartments/condos w/balconies (in the quarter, rent is still reasonable, but in GT and TR expensive)
alley ways that have the coolest shops (Alley Cat Jazz, Blue Note Club, I will find out tonight)
Wine bars/coffee shops (not Starbucks)/brewhouses
tourist shops
One great breakfast spot – (Clover Street Grill, Peacock Cafe, Pancakes on the Rocks)

What was your favorite place?

The views from the top of the Sky Harbor Bridge was my favorite.

Since I’m all about the movies, who are some of Australia’s movie stars?

Why are their so many great movie stars from Australia? My all time favorites are all from Australia:
Cate Blanchett – favorite role, Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator – Oscar win
Russell Crowe – favorite role, Maximus Decimus Meridius in Gladiator – Oscar win
Hugh Jackman – favorite role, Charlie Kenton in Real Steel – I got crap for this pick, but I stand by it. Robots, a boy and his father.
Heath Ledger – favorite role, William Thatcher in A Knight’s Tale, but I have to mention his performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight. –Oscar win

Did you have a vegemite sandwich while you were there?

I didn’t only because a couple of my employees are from Australia and they had introduced me to Vegemite before. No a big fan. The taste is unexpected. If you’ve tried it and didn’t grow up on it, you know what I mean.

If you do the Challenge next year, what theme will you tackle?

Wow. Yes, I will absolutely commit to doing it next year. It was my first blog hop activity that I every participated in and it was where I meet Alex and Arlee and the rest of the crew. They have my continuous and undying support and devotion.
But, a theme, this early, I haven’t a clue. I am open for suggestions. Go ahead, challenge me.

You heard her - challenge Sydney!

Co-host Ninja Captain Alex is the author of CassaStar and CassaFire and his blog can be found HERE