Archives for August 2008

Stuck in a Music Rut? 5 Ways to Discover New Music

Are you stuck in a music rut, still listening to the same 80’s hair band you listened to in, well, the 80’s?

Oh c’mon–acceptance is the first step to healing. If you love music but haven’t been able to move on from the 80’s, it’s time for a music makeover, so listen up.

5 Ways to Discover New Music (And Leave Behind the 80’s Hair Bands)

Listening to music is one of our most popular hobbies. No duh. You love music. I love music. Pretty much everyone in the world loves music.

And hey, there’s nothing wrong with 80’s hair bands! But there’s a time and a place for it, which means there’s also a time to discover new music.

If you’re one of the millions stuck in a music rut, don’t worry! Here are 5 ways to discover new music.

1. On the Street

Street corner musicians have a bad reputation. And not without reason–some of them really suck. I once heard a man singing an out-of-key song about a skunk. Let’s just say it was not pleasant.

But I also once heard a young man playing his acoustic guitar while singing a hauntingly beautiful melody. I was happy to stop and listen for nearly 30 minutes. And of course there’s the story of the acclaimed violinist, Joshua Bell, who stood in a D.C. Metro station playing his violin–while crowds of people passed him by. Story here.

Moral of the story? Pay attention to your musical surroundings. You never know what you might miss.

2. On the Internet

The internet is a great place to discover new music. My personal favorite website is www.aurgasm.us, a site which boasts of bringing “an eclectic menagerie of aural pleasures.” I’m digging it. There are also some artists putting themselves out there on YouTube, if that’s more your style.

Do you have a favorite internet site for discovering new music? If so, let us know in the comments.

3. At a Book or Music store

Okay, so a music store might be a tad obvious. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for new music, pick up a random c.d. and listen to it in the store. Most music stores allow you to do this. If not, find a different music store.

A bookstore is less obvious. But it’s actually a great place to find music. There are magazines like Paste that bring you new music updates every month.

4. At a Concert

Now I wouldn’t pay $50 to see some random band I’ve never heard of, but most cities have dozens of small-time concerts going on every night for relatively cheap, or even free.

Scope these concerts out. You may be surprised to find some impressive local talent.

5. The Answer is Within You

Tried the other 4 options and still haven’t found anything you like listening to? The answer may be within.

If you’re not liking any of the music out nowadays, then you must do as your forefathers have done and create your own.Learn an instrument. Sing. Bang on pots and pans like a toddler. It doesn’t matter! Whatever you do, first and foremost create music you love listening to.

Is there anything I missed? Are there other great ways to discover new music? Let us know in the comments!

Building a House for Habitat for Humanity


If you’ve already read our article 3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Volunteering, you may have decided that building houses for low-income communities is the perfect volunteer opportunity for you.

…and hey, I don’t blame you! Habitat for Humanity is a well-established nonprofit organization, and the experience of working with them is more than just a hobby. It’s an opportunity to make a difference in your own life as well as in the lives of families in need.

History of Habitat for Humanity

According to the Habitat for Humanity website, approximately 1.6 billion people live in substandard housing and 100 million are homeless. Linda and Millard Fuller began Habitat for Humanity in 1976. Since that time…

Habitat has built more than 250,000 houses around the world, providing more than 1 million people in more than 3,000 communities with safe, decent, affordable shelter.

Pretty impressive, right? Here’s how to volunteer:

How to Volunteer

Locally

One of the great things about Habitat for Humanity is that it’s, well, everywhere!

With branches in every U.S. state as well as several international branches, it’s extremely easy to find a local organization. Just use the Habitat for Humanity local search to find a branch near you.

Nationally

If you don’t mind relocating for a short (or long) period of time, Habitat is accepting volunteers at their headquarters in Americus, Georgia. On average, volunteers work 8-5. If you’re not a local resident, you may even be eligible for a small weekly stipend.

For more information, see their website.

Internationally

If you prefer traveling abroad, you might be interested in Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village Program. The program offers an opportunity to build houses globally while connecting with local residents.

For example: the trip to Comanesti, Romania. Volunteers leave September 26 and stay until early October. While in Romania, volunteers will work on a variety of tasks, including renovation and constructing new houses.

Other Programs

Just when you think the opportunities are over…there’s more! Habitat for Humanity also offers the following programs:

Youth Program

Women Build

Gulf Recovery Effort

Americorps Vista: Habitat for Humanity

RV Travel with a Purpose

Beading: What Beads to Use

Let me guess: you love jewelry and would love nothing more than to make your own necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. Maybe you’ve even wandered into a bead store only to find yourself completely overwhelmed by the rows and rows of beads, clasps, needles, and glue.

If this sounds like you, pay attention! Our beading supply guide will cover everything from beading materials to glue to beading clasps.

Up first, beading materials!

So, What Kind of Beads Should I Use?

Well, it depends. There are dozens of styles to choose from and you’ll most likely know when you find a bead that sparks your interest. That said, beginners might want to consider larger beads for easier beading. As an alternative, more experienced or daring “beaders” might want to consider smaller beads. For example:

Seed Beads

Seed beads look like—you guessed it—small seeds. They come in a variety of colors and textures. Some seed beads have larger holes than others, so pay attention to differences between individual beads.

Bone

Bone beads are natural and come in a variety of shapes. They’re perfect for creating an “earthy” look. In addition, they’re lightweight so if you’re looking for a light and natural necklace bone beads are the way to go.

Plastic

Plastic beads are cheap and typically come in bright colors. They’re not exactly fancy—not something you’d wear with an evening gown—but they are great for practice. Children usually enjoy working with plastic beads.

Shell

Shell beads can come in a variety of shapes. Personally, I like small whole-shell beads. A hole is drilled into a small shell in order to create an interesting, shell bead.

Semi-Precious Gemstones

Gemstone beads are beautiful and glossy looking. They come in a variety of shapes and colors. They’re more expensive but great if you want a nicer look than, say, plastic beads.

Bugle

I love bugle beads. They’re the long thin beads. You can use just a few of the long bugle beads to create an elegant look.

Wood

Another natural and lightweight bead. They come in all kinds of shapes and colors and are great paired with bone beads to create a natural look.

Artisan

Artisan beads are some of the most beautiful beads available. Why? They’re handmade one at a time by artisans to create an individually beautiful bead. Naturally, they’re more expensive, but you can’t beat the quality and look of an artisan bead.

These are, of course, just a few of the options out there. Beads come in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes, so have a look around and try to coordinate colors and size of your beads.

Hope you enjoyed this introduction to beads. Stay tuned for our article on beading supplies, which will cover everything from clasps to needles!

7 Great Summer Reads


There’s a reason reading is number 1 on our list of most popular hobbies. As our reading hobbyists know, reading allows you to temporarily escape from your ordinary life and enter in to an entirely new world. And summer is the perfect time for relaxation and escape! The weather is nice, so you can sit outside and sip lemonade. Plus, if you’re a student, you aren’t bogged down by endless piles of homework. While some students may be heading back to school soon, summer isn’t over just yet. There’s still time to squeeze in a few last minute books.

And so, without further ado, here are Not So Boring Life’s 7 Great Summer Reads:

1. A Midsummer Night’s Dream

This Shakespeare play is a summer reading classic. And no, not just because the word “summer” is in the title. Shakespeare’s hypnotic language equals a pleasurable summer reading experience, true, but A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a particularly magical read.

2. I Capture the Castle

Both funny and quirky, this Dodie Smith novel is narrated by seventeen year old Cassandra, a would-be writer who lives with her family in an old English castle. Unfortunately Cassandra’s father, also a writer, has a tragic case of writer’s block and hardly anyone else in the family is fit to work, forcing the family to sell their furniture and live in poverty. Cassandra tells their story in a light-hearted funny style–all in all an engaging summer read.

3. Harry Potter

Unless you’ve been living in a hole for the last couple of few years, you’ve probably read at least one of the Harry Potter books. If not, summer is the time to catch up. The hype surrounding the books is not without merit–they’re engaging, plot-driven, and of course, magical. Thumbs up for Harry Potter.

4. Prodigal Summer: A Novel

Yes, another novel with “summer” in the title. Barbara Kingsolver, author of The Poisonwood Bible, returns her readers to the Congo in The Prodigal Summer, a book which features three different interwoven stories. Kingsolver’s descriptions of the natural world and her poetic prose make A Prodigal Summer another great summer read.

5. Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a classic so if you haven’t read it already–well, you need to. You can buy the one volume edition on Amazon for a little over $13!

6. A Walk in the Woods

Or any other book by Bill Bryson.

A Walk in the Woods is all about Bryson’s 2,100 mile walk across the Appalachian Trail. It features a bevy of bizarre characters, poetic descriptions of nature, but the best thing about Bryson’s writing is his characteristic use of humor. A Walk in the Woods is a great summer read, yes, but for funny and vivid writing, any Bryson book will do.

7. Me Talk Pretty One Day

David Sedaris is another laugh out loud author, and Me Talk Pretty One Day is arguably his most popular book. It features stories about his odd North Carolina upbringing, his quirky mom, and his career path. Like Bryson, Sedaris is a regularly funny and engaging writer so check out his other books while you’re at it.

There are dozens of other great summer reads, but hopefully this list is enough to keep you occupied for the rest of the summer!

How Robots Are Helping People With Disabilities

robotSince “robotics” is one of our 200 + hobbies, I decided to research a bit more about the mysterious (to me, at least) world of robots. What I found was some exciting research about robotics and people with disabilities.

I have to admit that I was fairly ignorant about the world of robotics. After researching, however, I’m definitely considering adding robotics to my growing list of hobbies.

I may not be creating robots any time soon–but robotics definitely has my attention.

1. Robotics Research: Enhancing the Lives of People with Disabilities

This is an excellent article from Science Daily on people who are trying to regain use of their limbs. A research team at the Rochester Institute of Technology is conducting a study on orthoses, or external devises, and how they can be used to aid people who have physical disabilities, like strokes or spinal chord injuries.

As the article mentions, for some people, picking up a spoon is a difficult task, so this research is extremely exciting.

2. Robot Playmates Help Autistic Kids with Social Skills

This is personally very exciting to me as I’ve worked with children and families affected by autism. The article talks about Socially Assisted Robots, something I’ve never heard of before, and how children with autism interact well with mechanical devices. The study is being conducted by researchers at the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering, and is an exciting step in the field of autism research.

3. Robots Help Kids With Disabilities

This an older article, but still relevant. The University of Hertfordshire conducted a study on robotic toys enabling children with developmental disabilities to develop social skills. Very interesting.

4. Robotics Helps Reveal Mechanics of Speech

This is an even older article (2003) but it’s still interesting. Researchers in Montreal believe that robotics may play “an important role in maintaining speech or restoring it for the deaf.” I haven’t found any recent information on this, but it’s definitely promising.

If you know of any other studies on robotics and developmental disabilities leave them in the comments and we’ll add them to the list. This is some exciting information!