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?

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? 🤣🤣

150 Days of Gratitude

Several years ago, my husband recommended I start a gratitude journal to help with my mental health. The general idea is that every day you list three things that you are grateful for. You can do bullet points or journal several whole paragraphs; these specific things that you are grateful for can be anything from daily events in your life or as simple as “running water.”

I resisted this idea because I thought that forced gratitude would have the opposite effect, making me resentful and inclined to wallow in any misfortunes. But I decided to give it a shot when my therapist recommended it, and I found that it hasn’t turned out that way. In fact, it has been great for my mental health during the COVID pandemic.

I’ve been doing my daily gratitude journal for over 150 days now. I’m using a great app called Presently; it’s really nothing fancy, just a space to freely write every day.

Mostly, I use it to document things that made me smile that day. Things like:

–Naps
–Epik High’s awesome playlists
–Star Wars Zoom backgrounds
–Taking photos of flowers in the rain
–Donuts
–“COVID AND CHILL” written in railroad ties by the train tracks
–“Waterlemon” [which is what my kid calls watermelon]
–Being productive at work
–Clean(er) office
–Purring kitty on my lap

It turns out that what really helped my mood wasn’t the act of thinking and writing positive things, but rather seeing what I’d written on previous days and re-reading over my list of happy things. Even looking through it now as I’m writing this, I’m smiling at seeing the funny things my kid said or the delicious foods I ate.

I admit: there was one day where I just wrote “Blahhhhhhhhhh not feeling grateful.” I don’t want to use this journal to enforce a mentality of toxic positivity where I always have to look on the bright side of things. My sadness, anger, anxiety and frustration shouldn’t just be dismissed. It’s still important to acknowledge our negative feelings so we can deal with them.

My gratitude journal helps me stay in the present and focus on the things that are important. Thanksgiving in particular is a time to reflect on what we are grateful for. We may be celebrating small this year, but we are still celebrating!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #113: A Labor of Love

I called my husband out onto the porch of our new house one evening this week to see this amazing creation: a spider had built a stunning web in between a post and a bush. And he was posing beautifully right in the middle of his work of art.

It may not be exactly what we would normally think of as a labor of love, but I appreciated his efforts, which seemed to me both practical and beautiful.

This is how bored I was in high school algebra

As I was recently cleaning my bookshelves in preparation for moving, I came across an Algebra II notebook from high school.  Leafing through it, I discovered why I had saved it for all these years.  It was not for the details of matrix multiplication.  It was for my doodles in the margins that I did when I was bored in class.

Among other things, I apparently spent the better part of my sophomore year writing out the Longfellow poem “Paul Revere’s Ride,” which I had memorized and can still recite the majority of.

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You can read the full poem here.  While it certainly a white man’s version of history, and not an entirely accurate one at that, it is a lovely poem that is such fun to recite.

I did throw away the algebra notebook after I took these pictures.  I don’t think I need to know about the Binomial Theorem anymore.