Sunday, October 28, 2012

Starters (Starters and Enders, #1)Starters by Lissa Price
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This was a terrible book. I read it for my bookclub, and when I got to the meeting everyone said how much they loved it. I thought, really, did we even read the same book?

This was a poorly written, contrived version of The Hunger Games. The premise of the book, that in a dystopian future, old people rent young bodies, had promise, but never lived up to it.

November is National Novel Writing Month, and I thought that Price must have participated in NaNoWriMo last year, someone read her submission, and published it as is. Except, thankfully it's not 50,000 words.

Do not waste your time on this.

View all my reviews

Saturday, October 27, 2012

On raising children, part two

So yesterday my company had this crazy Halloween party for the employee's kids. We have this sort of grassy park-like area on campus, and my company hired a party company who came and set up a bunch of Halloween decorations and games, craft stations, a photo booth (complete with green-screen so you could pick your appropriate background, presumably depending on your costume), and there was even a buffet of snacks.

It was a really great party. My boss told me I was welcome to come, even though I didn't have any kids. I thanked her, but explained that one of the reasons I don't have kids is that the kind of chaos that ensues at Halloween parties sort of terrifies me. But I did go check it out. And it really was a pretty awesome party. And I was terrified by the millions of children. Or 100. Even though they were adorable in their costumes, there were about 98 more children than I can handle at any given time. Ninety-seven if they're sleeping.

After work, I went to the gym. There was a mom (Pocahontas, actually) in the dressing room trying to get her kid changed. And he was being difficult. He was probably four or five and he wasn't throwing a full-blown tantrum, but he certainly wasn't cooperating. And from the way he was speaking, I'm pretty sure he was autistic, although he also sounded like he may have had a hearing problem. I tried to look at the kid to see if there was something wrong with him (and by using the word "wrong," I realize I sound like a total asshole), but it was hard to tell because he had blue paint all around his mouth. Or maybe blue frosting.

Pocahontas was trying to keep him on the other side of the partition in the bathroom from where I was. I wasn't sure if she thought I'd think it was weird to change in front of a boy, or if she didn't want her son watching me change. On the former, I really don't care. I change pretty quickly, and if the kid's in the locker room, chances are he's been in other locker rooms with women changing. If it was the latter, though, that's Pocahontas's prerogative  I decided to just change in a stall, figuring that would sort of solve for either scenario. Except the kid tried to crawl under the door to my stall. This wasn't particularly bothersome to me, but I sort of felt like, lady, I've helped you out here as much as I could.

Apparently, Pocahontas wanted her son to change his shirt, and so they were waiting for Dad to bring the clothes. And the kid wanted a brown shirt (he kept shouting "brown shirt, brown shirt"), but his option was a red one. Whatever. Pocahontas did a great job of remaining calm, and honestly, I didn't think the kid was being that terrible. I mean, he had just been to an over-stimulating Halloween party with a bunch of games and sweets and it was almost dinner time. It sounds like a lot of fun until it becomes a meltdown. Even if the kid wasn't autistic, which I still think this was.

I really feel like there should be a code for this sort of thing. Like I could say a magic phrase like "purple monkeys" and the mom would know that I knew she was doing the best she could and I wasn't judging her or anything, and really, it wasn't a problem to me at all.

I don't want kids because I don't want to deal with meltdowns (among many other reasons), but I know that even good kids with good parents are going to have a meltdown at some point. I just want a way to communicate that I understand all of this, if that would help ease the pressure to get your kid under control. I mean, no parent wants to be the parent who's kid is throwing a fit. I just want a way to let you know that I know that, so you can carry on the business of tending to your kid without worrying that your kid is making me mad. Because he or she isn't. Because it's better you than me.

Monday, October 22, 2012

I have a little bit of a crush on Jenny...

Dear Jenny Lawson,

I hope you don't mind me calling you Jenny in my blog title. And for saying that I have a little bit of a crush on you. In a completely non-threatening kind of way. I wanted to write you a letter, and so I did.

Thank you for sharing your world on the bloggess. You are as irreverent as I'd like to be if only I were braver.

I know I'm hopelessly late in finding you, and I have no idea how I happened to miss your book tour stop in San Diego, but hopefully it was because I was starting a chapter of the Unicorn Success Club, or bench-pressing a whale, but I am so happy you got to meet Neil Gaiman, even though, and you'll probably hate me forever for saying this, but I was really disappointed in Stardust.

After reading your logic, I agree that Zombies would win, but I really, really want to agree with Mr. Gaiman and live in a world where unicorns would win. However, I think further research is needed to determine if drinking unicorn blood would turn zombies back into humans, or just make them really fast.


P.S. I love Beyonce and can't wait to get one for my husband for our 15-year wedding anniversary.
P.P.S. I also intend to get his some knock knock mofo towels. Just to go full circle.
P.P.P.S. I'm also really glad you had an emergency wig in your bag. Because what if Mr. Gaiman hadn't had a sock monkey hat? You'd have had to take an ordinary picture. And that would be sad.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Simple Genius (Sean King & Michelle Maxwell, #3)Simple Genius by David Baldacci
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is entertaining and a pretty easy/fast read. Here are two ongoing complaints of mine, though: Sean King is supposed to be ex-secret service, and therefore trained to "read" people, but he's always trusting these women who end up being the bad guys. I mean, if I can figure out that these people are the bad guys without trying, he should, too. It's ridiculous! And Michelle Maxwell is supposed to be this former Olympian, but the way she's described physically makes her sound like some sort of gigantic Amazon warrior. And yet men end up tripping over themselves for her. She just doesn't sound sexy to me, although maybe I'm not actually the target audience for these books.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

On raising kids, or not.

A few weeks ago, I read this article about a woman who put a child in a closet as a form of punishment:

I'm sure I'm going to get a lot of grief for this from my friends with kids, but I don't really have a problem with this, per se. I have always thought that finding effective ways of punishing children is very difficult because, in my opinion, the punishment should fit the crime, but it also has to have meaning for the child.

I'm not saying I'm in favor of putting kids in closets, but the article states that it was for a few seconds. That's not a very long time. I know of a teacher who would use her coat closet as a "time-out" room. The closet had two doors that could not be locked, and a window, for pete's sake! It also had a chair. This teacher, who routinely had 30+ children in her elementary-aged classroom found it an effective prophylaxis for kids who clearly needed a break before they actually stirred up trouble. More often than not, the child would either rejoin the class a few minutes later, in a much calmer mind set, or the child would fall asleep in the chair.  (Really, I have no idea why there's not more nap time in elementary school).

My first grade teacher would ask kids to leave the room, count to some number that she specified, and then return. Generally, this would be enough to calm the kid down (I mean how many 6-year-olds are going to remember whatever it was that got them all riled up if they had to leave the environment and count to 30?). Yes, technically, the child was unsupervised for the x number of seconds/minutes (depending on their counting skill) they were in the hall, but it still seems like a better solution than waiting for the child to reach his or her limit and disrupt the entire class.

Growing up, there were times when my sister simply couldn't behave at the dinner table. She would be given the option of eating on the back porch. She would take her little plate and go out there and mutter to herself about whatever perceived injustice she was suffering from, and then come back inside when she was done (either eating or muttering; either way she was a much calmer person). No, she wasn't sent out there when it was raining or snowing or anything like that, but she didn't seem to mind it and it prevented a number of arguments at the dinner table.

Now, the article doesn't discuss what the child had done that required punishment, and I think day care centers should probably have some sort of time-out room or area built in because it's inevitable that it will be needed, but this sort of sensationalism of something that we don't know all of the information about drives me  bananas! Has anyone actually asked why the teacher did it, or if it actually bothered the children? (Although this is California. Much like the sexual harassment laws where even if it doesn't bother me that someone calls me dear at work, if it bothers someone who overhears it, it still counts; probably it's considered child abuse even if the kid doesn't think he or she is being abused. But I digress).

From my years of babysitting, and now that my friends have kids, I've learned all sorts of methods of punishments, some of them more traditional, and some more creative, but sooner or later, parents figure out what works for their kid.

Likewise, experienced teachers can tell when a child is about to have some sort of meltdown, and they've probably come up with some effective techniques to handle it before it causes a chain reaction with all of the students. It seems to me that the reasonable course of action would be for parents to ask about this before they send their kids to daycare.

You know what's not reasonable? Baby heads on a shelf. That's just creepy.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True MemoirLet's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was a lot of fun to read! I loved the picture of Reepicheep on the cover, until I learned that it's not a sword he's holding, but a gold head (I had assumed that the point of the sword had been lost in the perspective of looking straight at it) and then I learned on p. 291 that it was not Reepicheep, but Hamlet von Schnitzel, holding Yorick's scull. Either way, I would not have been disappointed!

My sister read this book before me, and told me to let her know when I got to her favorite part. The fact that I couldn't find her favorite part speaks volumes about how much Lawson's writing is a bit like living in my own head (if my childhood were much, much weirder), and how unlike living in my sister's head it is.

My sister read this book thinking it would be relatable in an I-have-a-strange-mother sort of way. I have no idea where she got this idea (clearly she hadn't read Lawson's blog) because our mother is nothing like this.

At any rate, I loved this book because Lawson is quirky, witty, clever, and strange. I feel like Lawson makes it okay to be really, really strange.

View all my reviews

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Skinny Rules: The Simple, Nonnegotiable Principles for Getting to ThinThe Skinny Rules: The Simple, Nonnegotiable Principles for Getting to Thin by Greg Critser
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book basically is a list of 20 rules to follow to lose weight. I think that the rules are pretty basic and easy to follow, but I think that 20 of them is too many. I can't remember 20 different things, although Harper says that over time they become second nature. I think these rules are much more realistic than other books I've read about being healthy and losing weight, although some of them will still be difficult to do, like rule #4: slash your intake of refined flours and grains.

All in all, the rules aren't really anything new, if you've ever read anything about losing weight, but I like rules, so having a list of them will hopefully be a helpful guideline.

View all my reviews

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Why I need to get more sleep

So my sister moved out Tuesday and Captain America left yesterday to go to Oregon. So I have the house to myself. Except this isn't nearly as much fun as it sounds because it's close week at work so I've been working crazy hours, and I've been trying to be consistent about going to the gym because I don't want to blow my whole marathon training program by not running for a week the week before the marathon. I mean, what if I forget how? Or what if my butt gets even more wimpy and pathetic?

Anyway, so between work and the gym and various other chores, I didn't get to bed last night until 2am this morning. Which is sub-optimal in general, but definitely a few days before a marathon. While I was busy not sleeping, I started to think about that book I just read, Hour Game, in which the serial killer mimicked other serial killers, and I thought about how he observed that no one closes their blinds well enough. Which Captain America complains about as well (actually, he complains about me wandering around in various states of undress, while the blinds are in various states of openness...and no, this is not sexy. This is usually me about to get into the shower post-gym only to remember there's a container of yogurt in my bag that should probably be refrigerated and that while I'm walking around I may as well make a to-do list and pack lunch. Meanwhile, I'm probably wearing pants, a heart rate monitor, and no shirt. And I'm probably still sweating. So I feel like anyone who's busy peering at me through my windows while I'm in this state gets what they deserve. Except when Captain America is out of town. Then, I feel like I should make sure all of the blinds are in proper working order).

And then I thought about how I had left the front door open when I went to put the garbage can away, and that's when the serial killer probably walked into the house. He probably quickly hid somewhere, like the shower, taking the 50/50 odds that I'd either find him when I went to shower and he'd kill me then, or he'd just kill me according to his regularly scheduled killing plan. I thought, maybe I should sleep with the gun next to the bed, when I remembered that I can't actually get it out of the holster. And that Captain America keeps it locked when we're out of town. So then I thought I'd just get a big knife from the kitchen and sleep with that next to the bed, except I figured that would really just help the serial killer along, as he would have his wits about him, being awake and all, while I'd be all groggy and, well, dead. And then I thought my best bet would be to not panic and use up all of the oxygen in my lungs while I was being strangled. If I acted quickly and calmly, I could probably inflict enough damage on my serial killer to leave behind some DNA evidence, and the cops would at least be able to catch him with that. Assuming he had committed other crimes and thus already had a DNA record (that's how those things work, right?). He probably has already committed other crimes. I mean, it wouldn't make sense for the serial killer to pick me as his first victim, mostly because I'm in reasonably good shape and we keep a gun in the house. Unless I was specifically being targeted. Then all bets were off.

At this point, I decided I had just better go the fuck to sleep. And so I did. For four and a half hours. So needless to say, my mental capacities were not operating on all cylinders today. And I almost told the guy training me that I was not a recovering heroin addict.

Because he was eating chips. And we have magical food drawers at work. That somehow sprout snacks during close. And I told him that if he was eating chips, I'd feel like that meant I should be eating ships, and he told me, oh, YOU can have chips, in that sort of voice that suggests a double entendre, but I couldn't think of one, so I figured he was just as tired as I was, because he has a baby at home. So I got some Cheetos out of the magic drawer (I mean, maybe chip-eating was part of the training, and I didn't want to miss part of the training). I picked Cheetos partly because there wasn't much of a selection left, and partially because I figured he wouldn't want me getting yellow #7 on his keyboard, so he would just let me observe rather than think, which I was pretty sure I hadn't been doing all day anyway.

And, in case he argued with this logic, I was prepared to point out to him that if he let me use his keyboard, he should be prepared to explain to his wife why his fingers looked like they had been pollinating plants all day and not accounting. (Because you can't get yellow #7 off. No matter what you do. Too bad I didn't have any when the serial killer was in my house last night...the cops would have had no problem catching him.) Anyway, I imagined his wife being both pleased that her husband was concerned about the plight of the bees (you did know that the bees are suffering, right?), but concerned that the pay scale wasn't as high as accounting.

I figured after the Cheetos and the yellow #7, the least I could do was chew a piece of gum. And I even offered him one, too, 'cause I'm nice like that. And then I thought about telling him that when I'm stressed, like in grad school, I'd chew a piece of gum until it was dead, spit it out, and immediately start chewing another one. Like a chain-smoker trying to quit. Or a recovering heroin addict. But I caught myself and realized that that probably wasn't a thought I should say out loud at work. Instead I decided to share it with all of you.

And that's why I need to get more sleep. Although it doesn't look like that's about to happen quite soon enough.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Some thoughts on treats

So, you all know that I read Gretchen Rubin's blog, The Happiness Project, but she also writes a monthly column for Good Housekeeping. For some reason, we have a two-year subscription to Good Housekeeping. I think it was one of those perplexing deals where we'd lose all of our airline miles, OR we could get a magazine subscription for 100 miles and keep the rest.

Anyway, we get it every month. The September 2012's column by Gretchen Rubin was about small treats. She says small treats are great for when you need a "shot of energy and enthusiasm." She's made a list of small, inexpensive treats, like "treating" herself to a spray of perfume.

Rubin also says "when we feel depleted and drained, and when we have no time or energy left to devote to little activities that give us pleasure, we start to feel exhausted, resentful, and angry." This is how I've been feeling a lot lately. I've been feeling so angry that this is my life. I don't even have a bad life. But lately, it's been feeling like I've been working so hard for things I don't even want. I don't want to spend an hour every day cleaning up my house. I mean, doesn't that seem like an awful lot of time for a house with two basically neat and tidy people? I don't want to pack a gym bag or a lunch every day. I mean, I want to go to the gym, and I want to eat, but I don't want it to feel like such a chore. In fact, I don't want it to feel like anything. I want it to be like, fra la la I'm packing a gym bag, as I skip around my house sprinkling daisy petals. And there will be sparkles.

I've thought about trying to become one of those people who always has a ton of gym clothes in their gym bag (more accurately, I've thought about putting five sets of gym clothes in my bag on Sunday night and then not dealing with it again for the rest of the week). That's beginning to look more and more like a solution, actually. It seems like a lot of lugging stuff around unnecessarily  but by the end of the week, I'll be all, I'm so strong--look at how light my bag is now!

Rubin cautions that in order for something to feel like a treat, you can't use it too often. I've set up a series of rewards for meeting my weight-loss goals, but that's not quite the same thing as treats. I'd consider my cup of hot chocolate at night a treat, but I have one almost every night. Most of the time, I really, really enjoy it. The rest of the time, I usually assign my lack of satisfaction to an imbalance in the ingredients.

Last night, I gave myself the treat of doing nothing. Which, of course, is not entirely true. I did a lot of things. But I didn't clean up the house. Instead, I sat on the sofa and read. It was such an unbelievable treat to come home and sit down in my living room and read.

Of course, that also means that when I got up this morning I had a bunch of stuff left to do from yesterday that I had to get done before going to work. Which sort of puts me already behind for today, although in a kind of planned an intentional sort of way.

I think treats are a great idea, but what I'd really like is to get to a point where I don't dread getting up in the morning or coming home at night because of all of the stuff I still have to do. I guess, until I figure that out, treats are going to have to be enough.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Tales of Beedle the BardThe Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Okay, for starters, I'm not sure I can help but love anything by J.K. Rowling.

This is a great series of fairy tales. I have the collector's edition version, so mine came in an awesome box and the book itself has a scull on the cover and one of those latch things that are on diaries. And some prints. That I'm thinking about framing.

The stories are actually really rather good. They don't feel overly J.K. in, when I read them, I didn't hear Harry's voice reading them. They could stand alone without the Harry Potter series, although I really don't know why you should bother. (Or more accurately, not bother.)

It was also fun that the stories were followed by commentary by Professor Dumbledore and footnotes by J.K. Rowling.

View all my reviews