Welcome, 2021!

How wonderful to be looking forward to another new year here on my blog. Aside from all else going on in the world, last year was not the best year for my blog as it got shunted aside in favor of some more important things going on in my life.

In 2020, Jedi by Knight got over 11,000 views from more than 8,000 visitors representing 118 countries around the world. I posted 70 times, though most of those were my weekly Lens-Artist photo challenges.

The most-viewed post I wrote last year was Engineering a squirrel obstacle course: Practical deterrent, entertainment, or science? regarding Mark Rober’s popular YouTube video. This was a super fun post to write, allowing me to use my zoology background to add even more scientific analysis to the squirrels, and I’m so glad everyone liked it. Phat Gus is still the best.

Phat Gus is my spirit animal

I hope to continue to do some blogging this year, though I warn you that my posting may be rather erratic. I had been doing a lot of my writing during my kid’s nap time on the weekends, but my toddler has stopped napping and my baby hasn’t worked out a set nap schedule yet. Plus, if either of them is asleep, I’m often asleep, too! But I am hoping to post at least once or twice a month.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Here are some things you can hopefully look forward to here at Jedi by Knight in 2021:

  • The return of Fan Art Friday, where Kiri and I both color the same picture from the Star Wars coloring book, often with very different results
  • More doodles from my school notebook margins, as I found a big stack of them when we were moving
  • A few more book reviews; there were a couple books I read last year that I made notes on but never found time to write the full post
  • Weekly Lens-Artist photo challenges will continue as much as possible, though the content will change. Since I am typically posting from my phone now, I will be sharing mostly photos from my daily life taken on my phone instead of images from my travels.
  • What would you guys like to see me write more about? Writing? Books? Star Wars? Nerdy parenting?

I have also come around to the WordPress block editor. It may be a kind of Stockholm Syndrome, but it seems to be working for me, especially when blogging with the WP app on my phone. Which is great, because I’m currently doing almost everything one-handed while holding a baby, and also the WP website is kind of crap right now.

Happy 2021 everybody! What are you looking forward to this year?

Lens-Artists Challenge #130: It’s a Small World

Guest host Anne this week has a great discussion of some of the details and differences of micro/macro/close-up photography. Not having a formal background in photography, these are the kind of details I love learning!

Juhani

Close-ups are the thing I experiment with most, because I’m still learning how to do them well. I use my phone for photos, so no macro lens.

I took like a dozen pictures of this pumpkin stem because it had a neat curlicue. I was trying from different angles with the focus in different place; I liked this shot best. The only way we learn is by practice!

You can find more small worlds at the original Lens-Artist challenge.

Lens-Artists Challenge #129 – Favorite Images of 2020

Once again, I’d like to say thanks to Patti, Ann-Christine, Amy, and Tina for another great year of challenges.  Lens-Artists is one of the highlights of my blogging activities and right now is one of the things keeping me from dropping this blog entirely haha.

2020 started off so promisingly, with a trip to Disney World with my family at the end of February. In retrospect, we were lucky to have made it there, because only a few weeks after this was taken, everything shut down, including Disney. I shared this photo for last month’s Precious Moments challenge.

During the shutdown, we mostly stayed home for the spring and summer, which meant that I was photographing a lot of the flowers around our house. This hydrangea photo was my most-liked post last year, for the Creativity in the Time of Covid challenge.

The end of 2020 has brought some changes with the arrival of my second kid and a move to a new house. This has actually been the toughest part of the year for me, adjusting to all these changes. And the weather here in Ohio is matching my mood! But it’s good to remind myself that sometimes a new perspective can yield a beautiful view, even in the cold and snow. Here’s the view from under the dogwood tree at my new house in December, a new photo for this post.

It’s definitely been a crazy year full of ups and downs–a memorable year for sure. Here’s to good photos and good memories in 2021!

You can find everyone else’s favorite photos of the year at the original Lens-Artist challenge.

2020 Reading Review

Another year, more great books read! I’ve been pretty remiss with my book reviews in the latter half of the year, so hopefully you’ll see some of those coming up soon as I catch up. But in the meantime, let’s take a look back at what I read in 2020.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This year I read 171 books, which I think might be a record for me. Most of them (~125) were Regency romances, which I consider the literary equivalent of candy and are very quick reads. That leaves nearly 50 books of other various genres, including fantasy, sci-fi, YA, nonfiction, and contemporary romance. I reviewed about a dozen books on my blog this year; you can check out these reviews under the Book Reviews category. Here are some of the standouts that helped relieve my stress this year.

Classic YA fantasy: Song of the Lioness quartet and The Trouble With Kings

I haven’t been reading all that much current YA fantasy, but I did find some time to delve into some classics. Sherwood Smith is one of my favorite lesser-known YA fantasy authors, and after falling in love with Crown Duel a few years back, I’ve been reading through her oeuvre. The Trouble With Kings comes close to rivaling Crown Duel for my favorite! I read it twice back-to-back haha. And I can’t believe I never got around to reading any Tamora Pierce growing up, so I decided to remedy that by checking out her famous Song of the Lioness series featuring young female knight Alanna of Trebond. I was blown away by Alanna’s growth over the series, plus the adventure and magic were fun, too.

Fantasy Series: Peace Talks & Battle Ground (Dresden Files)

After a six year hiatus, we got not one but two entries in the Dresden Files series from Jim Butcher this year. (This is because they are basically two parts of the same story.) Skin Game was a tough act to follow, but this duology is appropriately epic and also may possibly break your heart. I was less crazy about Peace Talks, which probably won’t be one I will ever re-read. It was too much set up, and Harry was not acting like a detective at all. The pacing then really picks up in Battle Ground, which is great but gives an uneven feeling to the whole thing. My biggest complaint over all was the prominence of Lara Raith, whom I don’t care for as a character (to be fair, I never liked Susan either). I can’t wait to see where the series goes next and how it will all eventually wrap up.

Author discovery: Intisar Khanani

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Who doesn’t love an indie author success story? Intisar Khanani had kinda been on the edges of my radar for years thanks to her Sunbolt series, but this year her Goose Girl retelling Thorn got picked up by a publisher and rereleased. I’ve now read all three of her novel-length works, and I can’t wait for more! I love her prose, characters, and magic/fantasy concepts. If you like YA fantasy, definitely check out her stuff!

Contemporary romance: Chemistry Lessons

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So I’ve been reading historical romances for a few years when I need something light, and this year I branched out into contemporary romance a bit (I am open for suggestions for my next read…). One series I particularly enjoyed was Chemistry Lessons by Susannah Nix, which features a bunch of nerdy girls with STEM jobs. Each book can be read as a standalone, but characters cross over between books, too. These are not the pinnacle of literature or anything, but I had a lot of fun with all the geek pop culture references. My favorite is Advanced Physical Chemistry (#3), featuring a redheaded engineer; it won a 2019 RITA award.

Nonfiction: Cribsheet and In Order to Live

I had a great year for nonfiction reading, including Ta-Nehisi Coates’s amazing Between the World and Me. In terms of memoirs, I was really struck by In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park, the story of her exodus from North Korea. It was pretty harrowing but her tone is extremely inspirational and I learned a lot; I’m looking forward to reading and learning more about North Korea.

With the arrival of my second child, I really recommend Cribsheet by Emily Oster for all new parents. It is an excellent data-driven guide to parenting decisions, very scientific yet very approachable. It is a fun read, not at all dry, and will help you to stress less about parenting in the early years.

Pandemic Reading: World Without End

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Having enjoyed Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett so much last year, I began the follow-up World Without End, which takes place in the same town a few centuries later during the time of the Black Death. Then, a global pandemic hit and I had to take a break from reading it because it just became way too real. I did eventually get through it and enjoyed it; it was fascinating to see the parallels (and differences) between that plague and the current COVID pandemic. Mostly, I wanted to smack all the monks who thought they were so smart but had no concept of germs and sanitation and condescended to the nuns who wanted to wear masks and wash their hands.

As far as reading goals, last year I said:

For 2020, I want to focus on getting back to reading physical books instead of being on my phone and Kindle all the time, as well as reading all the books that are already on my shelves.

Well, I don’t know how successful I was in that, so let’s just say we throw everything out the window for 2020. Maybe we’ll call it an ongoing goal haha.

In that vein, I’m not making any reading goals for 2021. I’m going to read whatever I want to! I mean, in general I want to keep reading a lot of books that are diverse in terms of genre, author, and content, but I trust my taste in reading to take care of that without any formal goals.

What were your favorite books from 2020? Are you making any reading goals for 2021?

5 Favorite K-pop MVs of 2020

One of my biggest ways of de-stressing is listening to music, so I was so thankful for the consistent output of great songs and MVs from the K-pop industry this year. It was a bright spot for me in a rough year; here are a few of my favorites that I’d like to share with you as usual. Interestingly, these all feature female artists and groups! I guess I was just feeling the girl power this year.

1. “Not Shy” by ITZY

For the second year in a row, the group of five ITZY takes the top spot on the strength of their powerful, fast-paced, and clever choreography. Plus who can resist a Wild West outlaw theme? The ending has just the right touch of cuteness. They are definitely not rookies anymore!

2. “Nonstop” by Oh My Girl

After their breakout on the TV show Queendom last year, seven-member group OMG had two huge hits this year, including “Nonstop.” This fun video shows their versatility as a group, handling concepts from cute to funny to fashionable. This song in particular makes good use of their rapper Mimi. Add some nice choreography and (another) Wild West theme and you’ve got a hit.

3. “Stay Tonight” by Chung ha

Just when I think I can’t be any more impressed by Chung ha’s choreography and dancing, she takes it up another level. It’s amazing how such a small woman can ooze so much charisma and style. She’s like a group unto herself. As always, I love her fashion-forward styling, dramatic lighting, and the use of her dancers.

4. “What Do I Call You” by Taeyeon

This MV was just released a few weeks ago but I’ve already played it so much. As expected from the main vocalist of Girls Generation, the song is excellent and surprisingly catchy despite being about the aftermath of a breakup. I love the sci-fi concept of the MV, where people collect all the mementos of their exes (mugs, figurines, their sweater) and take them to a company to have their memories relating to these things erased.

5. “Queen” by 3YE

This group of three (their name is apparently pronounced “third eye”) debuted last year and have been going pretty strong with that girl crush concept that I love. I particularly loved this song because not only is it catchy with some great rap parts, but the video is visually awesome. In addition to a bit of choreography, there is a hint of a storyline where the three members are rival mafia bosses or something. I really want to read a story like this!

Honorable Mention: “Fadeaway”

So, this is actually just a Nike ad. But it is the best dang Nike ad I’ve ever seen! This is probably the video I played most this year. It has an incredible line-up of artists contributing, a fun little quasi-futuristic/scifi storyline about the Jordan shoes, and a horse (why not?).

I am so grateful that even during the pandemic we were still able to get amazing live performances from our favorite K-pop artists. I think the live performance is one aspect that really sets K-pop apart from its American counterpart, and I’m so glad the industry was able to continue that safely (though maybe not any longer, as cases in S Korea are spiking right now). Several groups were able to perform “remotely” for US late night shows, including this awesome comeback performance by CL. And here’s American-born singer/rapper Jessi, whose live vocals in this song are somehow even better than the recorded ones.

“NUNU NANA” by Jessi

I’ve also gotten into some Korean music-related reality shows that feature K-pop idols. I loved Sister’s Slam Dunk and Queendom, and this year I was hooked on Good Girl, which featured performances from some of my favorite idols and introduced me to some new artists that I love. My favorite performance was a fierce collaboration from five talented women, probably my most listened-to song this year.

“Witch” from Good Girl

Phew that was a lot of videos! There were soooo many other good videos this year, including new releases from Blackpink and BTS, and I wish I had room to share them all! What did you guys listen to this year? Has anyone ever come away from one of these posts with a newfound appreciation for K-pop? 🤣🤣