Thursday, October 31, 2013

Changing my life: TMD is ruining my life.

I have TMD. Here's a link to an article about it. Basically, it's the worst pain I have ever been in, and your face says Fuck You, I'm going to be unbearably painful and keep you up at all hours of the night no matter how much ibuprofen you take (for the record, I'm averaging between 2000 and 4000 mg a day. At some point, I'm sure my kidneys and liver are going to reject all of this and my stomach is going to start bleeding, but on the upside, maybe it'll lead to death and then I won't be in this kind of pain anymore. Yes, it really is that bad).

As I was telling my husband this morning, it's the kind of pain that makes you think really crazy things, like if someone took a hammer to my jaw and broke it and we wired it shut and just started over, maybe that would be better (and hey, as an added benefit, I'd have to be on a liquid diet, so I'm sure I'd be skinny).

And since it's Halloween today, maybe I can find a zombie to just bite off that part of my face. The downside is, then, wouldn't I be infected with a zombie virus and I'd be inclined to prefer brains over, say donuts?

And unrelated to all of my problems, because I have an awesome boss, and I work at a company where you can, in fact, go to the cafeteria and get not only a costume, but also face paint, my boss went there to get zombie face paint (maybe to help me with my TMD problems, despite the fact that he's dressed up like a pumpkin), and came back with a wizard hat for me. Which is sort of funny because this morning I took a shower. (Go with me on this.) I normally shower on days I work out, which is really fine, because I exercise almost every day. But yesterday and today I didn't make it to the gym because I was up half the night in pain. So I totally wasted time showering today, because everyone knows Merlin never took a shower.

So, what I have found works best for managing the pain for TMD is two Vicodin and a shot of tequila. Which is the way all healthy, well-adjusted adults deal with their problems, right? Because it causes the pain to go away COMPLETELY, and I sleep through the night, unlike the rest of the time when I wake up between 1 am and 3 am praying that my face explodes and ends the misery. And I know I sound like I'm being dramatic, but I'm really not.

And for extra fun, another coworker got me a Captain American face mask. So now I'm wearing both a Merlin hat and a Captain America mask.


Captain America mask

Merlin hat

Captain America mask with Merlin hat

My "magicy" face to go with my Merlin hat
Um, yeah. There's really no reasonable way to end this post. 





Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I'm going to change my life

On my drive home from work today, I decided I needed to change my life. I'm really bored. Like back-in-high-school bored. And so I fill up my time with a lot of things, like going to the gym (which is actually good, because it's healthy and because it exhausts me so that I don't remember that I'm so bored). And then I started thinking about how much fun I had last year with NaNoWriMo, and how much I'm looking forward to it this year, too. And I thought, maybe if I spent more time writing, I'd be less bored. Which got me thinking that I need to change my life.

As maybe weird (or maybe not) as this sounds, I think the first place to start is with my diet. I love to exercise, but I wouldn't have to do quite so much of it if I ate just a little better. Which, of course, to me, means I should first focus on eating up all of the stuff I shouldn't be eating that's sitting around the house. Or I should just be eating up all of the random stuff in general so that I can start this program with a clean slate. Which is how I ended up eating mystery soup for dinner.

A few months ago, when I was feeling totally overwhelmed by the amount of random food being provided by my CSA, I chopped it up, mixed it with some olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbs, and roasted it. Then I froze it, figuring at some point in the future I'd want soup (by my calculation vegetables in liquid equals soup). I did date the bag (from May). So tonight, I dumped that bag of roasted veggies into a pot with some frozen broth (I'm not sure you can freeze broth, but I did, and we'll see if I'm still alive tomorrow), tracked down my immersion blender, blended the shit out of it, and called it dinner. (This sort of activity might be why my husband hesitates to leave me home by myself).

So then, here are some other random things going on. So my company is giving away a free super bowl commercial, and all the employees get to vote on the top 20 finalists. I realize I just did a very bad job of describing the contest, but whatever, you'll have to deal. The point is, I'm super excited about the finalist I voted for, Goldie Blox, because they make engineering toys for girls, and I really think I should have been an engineer if anybody had ever told me that there was some other math-based career path than teaching. But I'm old, and I have two non-math related degrees, and a bunch of student loans, and going back to school sounds like the worst thing possible to me right now, so I'm just going to bitch about missing out in some other alternative universe future. But I don't want that to happen to your girls so check this out. (By "this" I mean the link I posted above.)

So then, my coworker shared with me this thing she bought to sit on that makes her chair so much more comfortable, so I have to have one. And while I was Amazoning (yes, that's a verb), I figured I should do some white elephant shopping. Last year I totally scored big time and received a Black Santa Pornament. It is awesome. So I thought I'd regift it and get him a girl. You know, so he wouldn't be lonely. But the only one I could find on Amazon looked like this, and I didn't want to spend $20 on her. Because I have standards, people. So then I did some more internet searching and discovered that there's an insane amount of this sort of stuff that you can't order directly from the manufacturer. Instead, like the perv I've apparently become, I have to go to some other third party to buy my girly pornament.

So then I thought, what else would make an awesome white elephant gift? Tactical Bacon, that's what! But I didn't want to spend more than $20 on that, so I started looking at some cheaper options. And I found Zombie Apocalypse Survival Kit in a Sardine Can, Canned Unicorn Meat (that you apparently can't actually eat, although based on the Harry Potter premise that unicorns are more or less sacred, you probably shouldn't even think of owning their meat), and Zombie Jerky, that you can apparently eat, but maybe wouldn't want to.

So now I have too many white elephant options. And I haven't technically been invited to a white elephant party. Oh boy. This might be why I need to change my life.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Glass CastleThe Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was recommend to me years ago by a friend, and I can't believe it's taken me this long to read it. Jeannette Walls's childhood is so bizarre to me that I actually had to double check that this was a memoir and not a work of fiction.

Jeannette's parents are beyond free-spirited, which is both awesome and terrifying. Her father, an alcoholic, is chronically unemployed, and her mother is completely not interested in raising her children. Her father is brilliant, but because of his drinking and his general hatred of anything organized (unions, the government), can't hold a steady job and the family moves around a lot, eventually settling in a mining town in West Virginia. Her mother fancies herself an artist (but refuses to get glasses because she likes the way she sees the world) is a more confusing character...she has a teaching degree, and at times is gainfully employed, but she keeps saying that she's tired of taking care of everyone else and just wants to focus on herself and her art (which drives me bananas because she has four kids to feed).

Jeannette's parents are a mixed bag. I loved that one Christmas, when there was no money for presents, Rex (the father) lets each of his children pick out a star and he gives it to them...I thought that was very creative. On the other hand, there might have been money for presents if either parent kept a job.

Jeannette and her siblings learn to take care of themselves and each other and become remarkably well-adjusted people.

My one complaint about the story is the lack of dates...I had a hard time gauging how old the children were, and how to place it in context of how old I was at the same point in time.

Jeannette manages to tell her story in a way that empathizes with the plights of her parents and doesn't subject itself to whining and undo self-reflection...she never says, if only my parents had done this or we had that growing up things would be better.

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl, #1)Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was expecting to love this book. This totally sounds like the kind of book I love. Sadly, it was just okay. There were a few plot inconsistencies and some editorial errors, but mostly I disliked the jumping changes in POV (sometimes backtracking a little bit, when two events are happening simultaneously) and I didn't feel like Artemis Fowl's universe was real.

When writing fiction, you're allowed to make stuff up. Hence the label fiction. But it has to work in that universe. Harry Potter can ride a broom because he's a wizard and Hans Solo can fly the Millennium Falcon because it's sci-fi and he's Hans Solo, but Harry Potter flying the Millennium Falcon makes as much sense as Hans Solo riding a broom. My point is, I just didn't feel like the truly fictitious fantasy stuff actually worked.

I think if I had read this book when it first came out I would have really enjoyed it, but I got on the bandwagon too late and it just didn't work for me.

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Heist (O'Hare and Fox #1)The Heist by Janet Evanovich
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a return to everything that made me enjoy Evanovich in the first place. Fine literature it's not, but for readers who enjoyed the Stephanie Plum series until book eight or so, and then got burnt out on the repetitive plot, and the fact that Stephanie was managing to string along two apparently desirable men, you'll like this book.

This book introduces a new heroine, Kate O'Hare, who is still similar to Stephanie in many ways, but not nearly as similar as Lizzie (from the Lizzie and Diesel series). For one thing, Kate's a whole lot tougher than Stephanie.

The plot is entertaining enough, although there were no real laugh-out-loud moments. I would describe this more as a caper story than a true heist, which is okay with me because I like caper stories.

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Sometimes there's just no way to win

I bought a 20-ounce, or venti, travel mug. I though this was a great idea. I like venti lattes, and I feel guilty about throwing away a paper cup every time I get one. Plus, when you bring your own cup, you get a small discount.

However, 20-ounce travel mugs are rare. They usually come in a 16-ounce size. I had to order mine through Amazon. Which was really no big deal. Except that, because they're rare, no one actually believes me that it's 20 ounces. Even though I tell them it is. Even though I do actually have a 16-ounce travel mug by the exact same company--and shockingly--it's smaller than my 20-ounce cup. I get questioned about it so often that I actually measured 20 ounces of water and poured it into the cup, just to prove to myself that I wasn't the crazy one at Starbucks.

I go to two Starbucks coffee shops. One by my house that I like a lot and one on the way to work. (I usually don't go to them both on the same day.)  My travel cup is metal, which is awesome, because it keeps my drinks hot even longer than plastic travel mugs. See, what happens is, I go to cross-fit in the mornings, then I go and get my latte, then I go to work, where I shower off the cross-fit funk. So it's really important to me that the latte stay hot because I won't actually be drinking it until about a half hour after buying it.

The Starbucks near my house doesn't seem to have any problem with my 20-ounce travel mug (but I only go here when I'm not going to cross-fit), but the one on my way to work is constantly giving me a grande latte even though I paid for a venti. Which means I have to explain to them that they need to give me another four ounces. (Which I thought would be easy, because it's just steamed milk--a grande and a venti both have two shots of espresso, but no, they apparently have to remake the entire latte because they're artists.)

Part of the problem, I am sure, is that the cup doesn't say "20 ounces" anywhere on it. And I haven't figured out a good way to respond to the baristas who ask me if I'm sure it's a 20-ounce cup. Because it's never a conversation where they say: are you sure this is a venti and not a grande? And I say: yes, and then we all just move on and get our coffees. It always turns into a bigger conversation, and I always feel like saying, if I'm going to pay for a venti coffee, could you just make me one and put it in my fucking cup? I have shit to do and discussing this with you isn't on my list!

The other part of the problem, I'm sure, is that I just don't drink that much coffee. This routine normally happens at the beginning of the month when I'm working crazy hours. So I'm not a "regular" and they aren't used to me coming in with my 20-ounce cup. So every time I do, it's like a totally new, surprising experience for the baristas.

So, in order to save myself the aggravation of this whole fiasco, I've decided only to use my 20-ounce travel mug when I go to the Starbucks near my house, where apparently it doesn't present any sort of crisis. It's a silly waste of paper cups when I go to the Starbucks on my way to work, but it's a battle that is exhausting to me, and I don't have spare energy to be exhausted before I get to work...if I did, I wouldn't be getting the latte in the first place.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Ocean at the End of the LaneThe Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I always want to like Neil Gaiman a lot more than I do. I enjoy his work, I do, it's just that I don't find his writing gush-worthy.

In this book, I liked that he put fantasy-type elements into an otherwise normal setting. It's a little bit like what happens in my own imagination.

However, I never feel like Gaiman provides quite enough details, and I'm always left to fill in a few holes myself, which is problematic when what I imagine doesn't line up with what happens next.

This book is a nice, short read, with some likable characters. Gaiman is very good at not over-writing. He tells a story and when it's over, he stops.


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Sunday, September 8, 2013

You know you live in California when...

Two weeks ago Captain America and I went to Orlando to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and it was amazing.

However, that's not what this post is about. It's about how, the longer we live in California, the more we become like Californians, and then when we leave, we totally understand why Californians annoy the rest of the country. We've identified a couple of tells that we've just arrived from California:

1. We are always blown away by people smoking anywhere we happen to be.
2. Similarly, we're blown away by people smoking wherever they happen to be.
3. We want to add avocado to everything (seriously, is there anything that isn't improved by avocado?).
4. Resort pricing, while still exorbitant, is no more or less exorbitant than standard everyday California prices.
5. I had one more, but I've returned to California, so I can't remember what it is, because whatever it was is normal behavior again.

And here are some pictures that don't have anything to do with this post, except that they're from our trip to Florida.






Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Different SeasonsDifferent Seasons by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoy Stephen King, however, I have to be really choosy in what I read of his, because some of his works scare the shit out of me.

This is a series of four shortish stories, and while each story (except the first one) has an element of creepy darkish weirdness to it, they're not bad.

The first story is Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, and the movie remarkably nails it, so I'm not going to discuss it here.

The second story is Apt Pupil, and this is, by far, the most disturbing of the set, but not in a sleep-with-the-light-on sort of way. It's about a boy who discovers a former Nazi officer living in his home town, and rather than turn him in, the boy asks a lot of questions about what the man did during WWII. The boy and the man develop this mutual co-dependent grotesque relationship based on their fascination with mass murder. The content is disturbing, in and of itself, and also because you watch a seemingly normal, albeit precocious, boy turn a corner into someone very dark and disturbed, and even to the end of the book, I found myself wondering how he was going to get out of it, how this boy was going to get back to normal.

The third story is The Body, which was turned into the movie, Stand by Me. It was after watching the movie and seeing in the credits that it was based on a short story by King, that I decided to read the book. The Body is, in a nutshell, a coming-of-age story about four boys. The boys go off on an adventure to find the body of a boy about their own age who was hit by a train. That description doesn't really do the story justice, but I don't think you read coming-of-age stories for the plot so much as for self-reflection and an opportunity to go back and live a different youth.

The fourth story is called The Breathing Method, and is about a man who joins a club where the members tell stories. Except it isn't quite as simple as that. The club has an element of almost Alice in Wonderland-ish mystique to it, where not all doors are open, and not all doors lead to rooms in this world. There's an almost dream-like quality to the club, and while reading the story, I felt at any moment I might be drawn back into reality.

I had a friend tell me she liked reading King because he wrote what we all thought but were afraid to say. I'm not sure I totally agree with that assessment, but I do think King says things we all want to say, only he manages to articulate it so much better than we ever could. As an example, here's a quote from The Breathing Method: Ellen was sixty per cent asleep when I sat down on the bed to take off my shoes. She rolled over and made a fuzzy interrogative sound deep in her throat. I told her to go back to sleep. She made the muzzy sound again. This time it approximated English: "Howwuzzit?"

Captain America and I have lots of conversations where one of us is "sixty per cent asleep" and this is EXACTLY what they sound like, although it would have taken me about 92 sentences to describe them.

At the end of the book (at least in the version I read) is a letter from King to his readers. He says a couple of interesting things in it that I want to share.

But neither of these magazines [Atlantic Monthly or The New Yorker] has been particularly receptive to my stuff, which is fairly plan, not very literary, and sometimes (although it hurts like hell to admit it) downright clumsy. To some degree or other, I would guess that those very qualities--unadmirable though they may be--have been responsible for the success of my novels. Most of them have been plain fiction for plain folks, the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and a large fries from McDonald's.

I disagree with King's assessment of his writing, and I wouldn't have used the word plain, except that King doesn't use flowery language, he uses accurate language. I'm not sure that makes it plain at all.

Finally, he says of this book in particular:

But I've been in love with each of these stories, too, and part of me always will be in love with them, I guess. I hope that you liked them, Reader; that they did for you what any good story should do--make you forget the real stuff weighing on your mind for a little while and take you away to a place you've never been. It's the most amiable sort of magic I know. 

Isn't that wonderful?

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Monday, September 2, 2013

Second GlanceSecond Glance by Jodi Picoult
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is my favorite Jodi Picoult, although now, having read it for the second time years after reading it a first time, I might downgrade my rating to 4 stars; however I'm going to leave it at 5 stars in the spirit of how I felt about it the first time I read it.

In a departure from her more law-based works, this is a ghost story that deals with the Vermont eugenics project, which actually served as inspiration for Hitler.

The two criticisms I have, after re-reading it, are that Picoult can sometimes be overly descriptive (usually I love her descriptions, but every now and then there was a paragraph or two where I felt like there were too many adjectives), and two female characters, Meredith and Shelby, were interchangeable. Meredith and Shelby are both single moms, and their kids are more important to the story line than they are. I felt like they were very much the same person, to the point where I would mix up who lived where, who was which kid's mother, and who did what for a living.

Honestly, though, I still really enjoyed this book.

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Sunday, September 1, 2013

When We Were Very YoungWhen We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a delightful set of poems by A.A. Milne.

Some of these poems refer to Christopher Robin and Pooh, but most do not. They are whimsical in nature.

I've always enjoyed A.A. Milne, but as an adult, I'm always surprised that his work even got published. He writes the kinds of poems that I think my teachers would have described as trite or sophomoric. The poems almost always rhyme, and usually feel more like nursery rhymes than literary accomplishments, which, in my opinion, makes them a whole lot more fun to read than serious poetry, which is always just weird to me.


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Thursday, August 22, 2013

My lifelong fear of being in trouble

So I just finished reading The Rights of the Reader by Daniel Pennac, and chapter 24 got me thinking about something that happened to me in 5th grade. The chapter is only two paragraphs, so I'm just going to quote them here:

You'll never make a boy in the middle of a gripping story understand--you'll never get him to understand through a demonstration intended for him alone--why he must stop reading and go to bed.

It was Kafka who said that, little Franz, whose father wanted him to spend every night counting.

As a child, I never understood why I had to stop reading, but one incident is forever branded in my mind. I was in 5th grade, and every morning, students gave a little presentation on any books they had finished reading. One morning, a boy named Matt Bagley, who was gawky and tall (for a 5th grader), and had what seemed like huge hands to me, was discussing the book Bridge to Terebithia by Katherine Patterson, which was one of my favorite books, by one of my favorite authors. He was tapping the book during his presentation, which is probably why I noticed his hands. AND HE WAS GETTING IT WRONG! It was clear to me that he had not read the book, or if he had, that he had so obviously not understood what was going on, or what made it such a GOOD book. It was incredible how inaccurate his description of it was.

I don't remember exactly what he said, but I remember thinking, I've already read that book, and besides, he's getting it wrong, so I'll just go back to reading what I was reading before he started his report.

But despite the fact that Matt was so clearly in the wrong, I got in trouble FOR READING. And I wasn't even expecting it.

On the first day of school, Ms. Rottenberg (yes, that really was her name), told us the classroom rules, and what the penalties were. The first penalty was your name on the board. I don't remember what the second one was, but the third one was being sent to the principal and so on. Somehow, I missed the part where you'd start anew the next day, and so I thought as soon as you got your name on the board once, you were totally screwed (it didn't occur to me how irrational this was, if for no other reason than it can be really difficult for elementary-aged kids to always behave).

Anyway, reading during Matt's atrocious presentation got me my name on the board. I was told I wasn't paying attention. I was so dumbfounded that I didn't even bother to point out that it didn't make sense for me to pay attention to someone who clearly was talking about a book they hadn't read. And besides, I'm not sure my 5th-grade mind could articulate such a sentiment.

At any rate, my name was on the board, and I was convinced that if I stuck a toe out of line the rest of the year, whatever the second thing was would happen, and the world would come to an end. My parents would disown me, I'd be kicked out of school and become a drug addict and get pregnant and never go to college (okay, and while we're on the subject, why is this always the series of events presented to kids? I mean, every time we discussed drugs and/or sex in school, it seemed like we were all doomed if we ever did either of those things. It was like God was hovering over our health classes ready to send in a wrath of locusts or something). I apparently never noticed if my name was removed the next day or not. It was etched on the chalkboard in my mind's eye, and that was all that mattered to me.

So, little 5th-grade Virginia was terrified of getting in trouble, and the worst part was, I really didn't understand what I had done wrong. I mean, I was READING in SCHOOL! So, more accurately, my fear was, I'd get in trouble for something I couldn't predict would get me in trouble. It would have been one thing if I had known what I was doing was wrong, and was doing it anyway, like the kids who got in trouble for writing on their desks (why would they ever think such a thing was appropriate?). But the fact that I didn't even expect to get in trouble was unnerving.

This is actually a fear that has followed me to this day. I'm a grown-up with legitimate, employable skill sets, and every time my boss calls me into his office, I'm afraid that I'm going to be in trouble. Not that I'm going to be fired, but that that unnamed second thing is going to happen. That somehow, I've done something wrong that I didn't even realize was the wrong thing to do. Chapter 24 was an epiphany for me, and realizing my habit has been instrumental in helping me change it. It makes no sense for me to be so nervous at work. I'm not a brain surgeon--no one is going to die if I make a mistake, and furthermore, it's my boss's job to help me if I do make a mistake.

I'm saddened by the amount of time and energy I've wasted being scared of getting in trouble when I don't expect to, but I'm glad I've finally named that fear. It's a fear of the unknown, a fear of not knowing the rules of the game, a fear I'm still not able to articulate to the depths that it has shaped my life. It was an unexpected find in a book about reading.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Rights of the ReaderThe Rights of the Reader by Daniel Pennac
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is hands down, my new favorite book, which is saying something because I haven't had a new favorite book since 1996 when I first read The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara.

This book is a delightful, whimsical treatise on the love of reading. I read entire chapters aloud to my husband because I could not contain my enthusiasm for this book.

Among the highlights of the book are the following passages:

What we need to understand is that books weren't written so that young people could write essays about them, but so that they could read them if they really wanted to.

The road to knowledge doesn't lead into this classroom: it leads out of it.

If you're wondering how you'll find time, it means you don't really want to read. Because nobody's ever got time. Children certainly haven't, nor teenagers or grown-ups. Life always gets in the way.

I could go on and on, but I'm pretty sure I'm preaching to the choir, and besides this book is far better written than my review.

I do have two things to note: this book is written by a teacher, and so the slant is towards why students don't seem to enjoy reading, and what can be done about it. It actually reads very easily, and the logic is straightforward, but it's helpful to know that this is the basic argument behind the book.

The second thing to note is that the chapter on the right to mistake a book for real life isn't about what I thought it'd be about. It's more about how adolescents relate to characters, seeing themselves in them, seeing their lives mirrored in the characters' dramas.

I don't know if I saw myself in any of my favorite characters as a teenager, but I do lose myself in books, which is what I think of when I think of mistaking a book for real life. I feel the heartaches and joys of the characters I'm reading about. I get frustrated when characters make bad decisions. (I also get frustrated with authors for bad writing.) And I love, love, love, when I find a character I want to know in real life. Even though I know they're a product of someone's imagination.

It seems that a book about the love of reading is a little redundant. Clearly people who love reading are already reading, but I think this book is well worth the few short hours it will take you to read it.


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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

In the event of a zombie apocalypse...

In the event of a zombie apocalypse, you're going to have to kill some people, or at least former people, in order to survive. This is what every zombie movie ever made tells us. And this was my first thought when Captain America told me that a box had been stolen off our front stoop.

My second thought was that the fucker who stole it probably wasn't even going to use the DVDs, and that's just really wasteful. (But then I realized that all theft is wasteful.)

So here's what happened:

A while ago, upon the advice of some friends, I purchased the Insanity set of DVDs. I did the first month of workouts faithfully and noticed NO CHANGE WHATSOEVER. So I decided to stop. I didn't loose weight. I didn't loose inches. I didn't even gain stamina. And according to my heart rate monitor, I burnt only about 50% more calories in an hour of Insanity than I did in an hour of yoga, and about a third of the calories I burnt in an hour of running. I decided that it was simply not the workout for me. It took up too much time, and was producing no results.

But I kept the DVD set because I paid for them, and I figured I could take them on trips or something and watch them on my laptop if a gym wasn't an option. Or maybe I'd try them again later and have better success.

So fast forward to a few days ago when a girlfriend asked me if she could borrow them. Of course I said yes. I told her I'd leave the box on the stoop for her and she could stop by whenever and pick it up. (I realize there is always an inherent risk that something will be taken off your stoop by local delinquents.)

All day long the box sits on the stoop. Captain America comes home from work. I come home from work. I leave to go to yoga. A few minutes after I leave, Captain America comes around a corner in our house and sees the back of a woman walking away from our house carrying the box.

The back of the woman doesn't look like our friend, but it does look like our friend's best friend. So Captain America assumes that our friend was busy or tied up at work or something and sends her friend to come get the DVD set for her. (In hindsight, of course, this is a little silly, but the mind can invent fantastical scenarios when needed.)

I come home from yoga and notice the box is gone, and figure our friend stopped by, like she said she would.

Captain America says, "I don't want you to be mad at me. I'm mad and you have every right to be mad, but I don't want you to be mad."

Captain America frequently gives such prologues before delivering news of any sort, but especially bad news. He is also a bit of an overexplainer. There are worse people to be married to.

Anyway, he proceeds to tell me that the Insanity DVDs were stolen, and how he's mad at himself because he saw the person who took them, but because he had assumed it was our friend's friend (now a seemingly odd mental concoction), he didn't stop her. He's mad at himself for being so trusting (again, there are worse people to be married to). He says our friend showed up about an hour after the theft, rang the doorbell and asked for the DVDs. Which of course, we no longer had.

But I didn't get mad that the DVDs were stolen (apparently it's been that kind of week where thefts from my front stoop just go along with everything else). My first thought, evidently spurred by Captain America's comment on being trusting, was that in the event of a zombie apocalypse, he'd have to shoot some people. You CAN NOT trust zombies. They WILL eat your brains. My second thought was that the person who stole the DVDs probably wouldn't even use them. Of course, when the zombies come for her, she's going to regret that bad choice, as she won't be able to outrun the zombies.

Oh, karma will get even with her...eventually.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Light Between OceansThe Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really, really enjoyed this book, despite some flaws. Namely, the verb tenses changed all of the time. I think the idea was that the characters would be reflecting on the past, and then continue the story in the present, but it was distracting. Also, the POV changed mid chapter. I thought this was done fairly organically, actually. For instance Tom would be thinking something about Isabelle, would turn and look at her, and then the POV would be Isabelle's, much like movement in a movie.

I thought this was a well written book with an interesting plot (with 40 pages to go, I couldn't guess how it would end!), and good characterization.

This was a very good first novel.

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Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Art ForgerThe Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The premise of this book: an actual unsolved art heist being solved by a professional art copier, is pretty interesting.

Note: evidently copying art isn't illegal, nor is it illegal to sell copied art, it's just illegal to sell it claiming that it's original.

However, the story itself was a little sloppy. It feels very much like a first novel (which I think it is). The verb tenses would change mid-paragraph. Not often, but enough to be annoying. Claire (the protagonist) would say things like, I'm not a dupe, but then she'd do something where I'd just want to shake some sense into her. She and her art dealer both say they've fallen in love with each other, but it doesn't feel like love. It feels like they're just sleeping together. In the beginning of the book, you're introduced to a bunch of Claire's friends, but most of them are really just pointless characters. I think the author was trying to give Claire a believable number of friends, but had nothing for them to do. And Claire does this whole volunteer thing at a juvenile detention facility that really doesn't serve much purpose, unless it's supposed to be foreshadowing or ironic juxtapositioning or something, but it's really just something random for Claire to do. And the dialogue was stilted in places.

However, all of that being said, the premise of the book was interesting enough to carry it, and all-in-all it was an enjoyable read.

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Sunday, July 21, 2013

The other day, a coworker I'll call David (who is not, in fact my coworker who is actually named David), asked me if I had any upcoming 10Ks or if I was taking the summer off.

It was nice that he remembered that I'm a runner, although I really don't run 10Ks. I told him no, that my next race is the Carlsbad Marathon in January, so while I'm not actively training this summer, I'm still running.

I explained to David that last year, my running partner and I ran the Portland Marathon in October, so we did all of our long runs in August and September when it was miserably hot here in San Diego (yes, I realize San Diego is really far south and basically a desert, but it is rarely miserably hot here).

Here's what a typical Saturday looked like for me last summer:
4:30 am: Get up and eat a bowl of cereal (For those of you who are not distance runners, you CANNOT do long runs without eating first. You're going to be out there for hours.)
5:00 am: Leave my house to meet my running partner at the predetermined designated location
5:20 am: Arrive at the predetermined designated location. Debate the usefulness of putting on sunscreen BEFORE THE SUN IS UP. Decide to put it on anyway. The sun in California is out to get you. And you. And you.
5:30 am: begin 16, or 18, or 20, or 22 mile run.
sometime around 9 am, on your return trip through Torrey Pines, observe that you've burnt 1,642 calories. Have a random stranger say in astonishment, you've burned 16-hundred calories?!?! (It is only 9 am, after all). Respond, yeah, we just bench-pressed a whale. Because this somehow seems a more logical explanation than the fact that your 22-mile run started at 5:30 am when weather.com told you it was only 74 degrees out (we actually considered starting to run at 4:30 am, but weather.com told us it would be 73 degrees, and we decided one degree wasn't worth an hour of sleep) AND that you still had 5 more miles to go. And it's now 95 degrees. Let me tell you, the Torrey Pines park water was the most delicious thing I have ever consumed in my entire life.

The cool part of this was...oh wait, nothing was cool about this. The sun god was all, I hate you bitches. I'm going to turn your running playground into a sweltering death zone. It's going to be awful when you start running, and then I'm going to peak my rays up over the rest of the country and hone in on you so that all of your sunscreen has melted off well before I reach my zenith. So not only will you be hot and miserable, but you are now almost certain to die of skin cancer. BWAH-HA-HA-HA!

So what did we do this Saturday? We ran approximately 5 miles and then went and ate doughnuts and walked around the convention center, admiring the amazing people watching that is comic con. And I even got a Captain America doughnut to bring home to Captain America.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

She dreams in color

I'm trying to get real stuff done, like paying bills, but all of the sites I need to use are currently undergoing maintenance. Presumably because it's a Saturday night, but this sucks for me because when they're back up on Monday, I'll need to go back to my other real life of going to work and the gym and such. THIS is why I never get anything done!

So, in the meantime, I thought I'd share with you a dream I had the other night.

I was in heaven, with my cousin. I was my age now, but in my dream he was about 8. We were in a candy store and I was hesitating to make a selection (NB: despite my real life love of all things sweet, I actually rarely  make purchases in candy stores...even when I go in just to look around and smell that candy store smell. I'm pretty sure once I started buying things, I wouldn't stop.)

Then I turned to my cousin and said, I'm so glad you can't get cavities in heaven because now I can have all of the Bubble Yum Watermelon gum I want. 

I'm not sure what I'm more concerned about: dreaming that both my cousin and I are dead, or that my heaven is a candy store (and that Bubble Yum is the first thing I go for).

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The rights of the reader

I'm currently reading a book called The Rights of the Reader by Daniel Pennac. And it's awesome.

It might seem odd (or maybe not) that I'd read a book about what a wonderful hobby reading is, since I already love to read, but this book articulates everything I love about reading, and learning to read, and discovering books, in better language than I could dream up. When I write my official review, I'm going to pretty much quote the entire thing.

I was having a discussion with a friend the other day about how mind-numbingly dull high school was. I really wanted to skip, say second through fourth grade. Which would have gotten me to high school at point in my mental development when it probably wouldn't have been so dull. (Although, emotionally, on the other hand, it would have been a train wreck.)

I commented to my friend that during the summers, I would easily read seven or eight books at the same time. (Now that I have work and grown-up responsibilities, my max is about 3 before it gets stressful.) What would happen is, my mother would go to the library a couple days a week (it was across the street, and she a librarian) and bring home some books. They'd be on the coffee table, the kitchen table, the dining room table, the porch. Some would make it upstairs into the (accurately, but somehow inaccurately named) TV room. Some would end up on my sister's bedside table, some on mine, some on the floor next to my mother's bed (see, Captain America, I inherited this trait!).

And as we mosied around the house, my sister or I would pick up one book, ask whoever was reading it how it was. We'd sit at the old-fashioned telephone table, waiting for a friend to pick us up to take us somewhere, and start a book that had been placed there as someone ran inside to answer the (land-line) phone (which was, ironically, located not on the telephone table, but in the kitchen, where everyone used to keep their phone). We'd start a book in one room, leave it to get a snack, and begin another as we stood at the kitchen counter (on one leg) eating a bowl of cereal.

We'd tear out strips of the Ladies' Home Journal that my grandmother would bring over as impromptu bookmarks. Sometimes there would be multiple bookmarks in any one book; part of the challenge was remembering which bookmark was yours.

Is anybody still reading this? my mother would yell as she readied herself for a new trip to the library. Sometimes we'd have requests...the second or third or fourth in a series...another book by the same author...a chapter book the kids we babysat were reading so we could catch up and understand what they were talking about when they called us muggles (was this really an insult or are kids just ridiculous?). Yes, even in high school, my mother picked out my books (she was, after all, a librarian).

Who does this belong to? I'd holler down the stairs. My sister would answer her friend, or my grandmother would claim it, or I'd have picked it up babysitting. Books littered my youth the way the shoes accumulated by the front door when we had friends over. (My father had more fits over the shoes than the books...I'm not sure if this was a pick-your-battles scenario or if books just stack better than shoes do.)

Books still litter my house. Instead of getting rid of some of them, we buy more bookshelves. Put the story aside, we're about to have dinner, my husband tells me. Could you put some of these on a shelf, he admonishes, Josafina is cleaning today.

My sister uses rule #2, the right to skip, and rule #3, the right not to finish a book (I can't bring myself to do this). I've mastered rules #4, the right to read it again (somehow Dobby dies EVERY TIME. It's still tragic); #6, the right to mistake a book for real life (um, hello, I have second breakfast EVERY DAY; if second breakfast is real, then by the transitive (or some such) property, Hobbits are real); and #7, the right to read anywhere (most recent bizarre reading location: in a bar during an MMA fight). My whole family uses #5, the right to read anything (I would add the emphasis ANYTHING!!), and #9, the right to read out loud (my sister and I were first introduced to Harry Potter when I read it out loud to her as she was recovering from surgery).

But my favorite rule is rule #1, the right not to read. I've never used it, but it would be a sad day if I had to read rather than got to read.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Zero Day

Zero Day (John Puller, #1)Zero Day by David Baldacci
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is an entertaining, easy read. It's traditional Baldacci. I did notice a couple of editorial errors, and one plot inconsistency that left me thinking, wait, what?, that doesn't make sense, it really wasn't critical to the story line.

If you like Baldacci, you'll like this book, and if you don't, you won't.


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Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Secret Keeper

The Secret KeeperThe Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So you know when you read a book, and people keep talking to you, and you want to turn to them with your best eight-year-old-older-sister-I'm-right-because-I-said-so-voice and say "But I'm READING" because clearly there is nothing more important than reading THIS PARTICULAR BOOK, RIGHT NOW, EVER? That's how the last third of this book is. And people kept interrupting me.

About halfway through the book, when I figured out what Dolly's plan was, I thought, this is stupid. This isn't going to work. It's petty and childish and it isn't going to turn out how she thinks it will. Well, I was both right, and so far from being right I can't believe I was disappointed to figure it out with 200 pages to go.

Kate Morton has an enviable use of language. She describes things in ways I wouldn't have dreamed up, but that are still crystal clear. She does change character voice a lot (which is something I have been noticing more and more after a friend pointed it out to me), but even within chapters, I didn't find it distracting.

The book is broken into a couple of sections that seem rather arbitrary to me, as the sections neither fully focus on, nor are fully described by, the character they're named after.

All-in-all, this is a really good book.

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Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Forgotten

The Forgotten (Puller, #2)The Forgotten by David Baldacci
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Somehow, when I got this book from the library, I didn't know it was the second in a series. The protagonist, John Puller, kept referring to something that had happened to him in West Virginia. I knew after the second reference that either I had missed the first book in the series, or that this was one of those plot devices that makes the reader curious about how the past is going to affect the current situation (I should have realized it was the former, as the latter isn't something Baldacci tends to do. Not having read the first book first doesn't ruin this book, it's just a silly order to go about things.

Anyway, I read this book while traveling, which is what Baldacci is perfect for. Just enough plot to keep it interesting, but not so much that you can't put it down and enjoy your travels (and/or read it while you're supposed to be sleeping on a plane).

If you enjoy David Baldacci, you'll enjoy this book, too, but I suggest starting with the first one in the series.


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Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Dance With Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, #5)A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I found this book to be slow to get moving, and I really, really disliked how the chapters were called things other than the characters' names. Because we, the readers, don't have enough to keep track of, we now have to figure out who "The Merchant's Man," "The Watcher," and a host of other random descriptions are. And don't get me started on the overuse of the word "whilst." That just got annoying to read.

This book also introduces a few new characters. More characters! I *think* I have everyone sorted out...where they are and what they're trying to accomplish, but since it'll be another 42 years before The Winds of Winter comes out, I'm sure I'll have to re-read this one.

Finally, can someone please explain to my why Daenerys is so obsessed with freeing slaves. It's a good cause, don't get me wrong, but why the hell isn't she trying harder to get to Westeros? She just seems to be wasting a lot of time.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday LifeHappier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life by Gretchen Rubin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Gretchen Rubin has described her books as self-helpful, not self-help, and I think that's a pretty accurate description of them. I found this book to feel a little more rushed and flippant than The Happiness Project, but I still enjoyed it.

Rubin clearly does a lot of research on Happiness, and what she presents is understandably biased towards what she favors (by favors, I mean ideas that resonate with her, not stuff she likes).

Rubin publishes a critical comment (inexplicably under the chapter labeled: February: Body), that I nearly completely agree with, even though I don't think it's that bad:

"I was given Gretchen Rubin's book "The Happiness Project." I am afraid I am going to be harsh. It seems to me that she just wants to read or write ALL day, and she keeps inventing projects that give her a valid reason to do so while calling it work. These projects allow her to draw attention to herself and invite praise, and are done at the expense of her immediate family, with whom she readily admits she is often angry or resentful because they interrupt her "work." She also thinks a conversation is boring when it is not about her. Form me, most of the book was stating the obvious, and her whole blog is immature and irritating, but then I am 56 years old!"

I think overall, Rubin seems like a very loving, understanding, good mother, even though, for the life of me, I can't figure out why she just won't go out and buy her daughter a guitar stand. Rubin has worked very hard to know who she is. As I've said before, I don't think I'd want to be friends with her--I think she'd drive me crazy, and I don't think she'd be particularly interested in me. What I am curious about is her husband...given what she says about herself, he sounds like a saint. I'm curious as to what Jamie gets out of this relationship.

What I think Rubin does very well is presenting the goal of becoming happier as something achievable to the mortal, working person. She discusses the importance of unhappy things, both for providing balance, and because, as she says, happiness doesn't always make me feel happy. For instance, you're always happier once you've completed an arduous task, but usually not so much while you're doing it.

This book is ultimately a good compliment to The Happiness Project, but if you're only going to read one of them, read The Happiness Project.


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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Lessons from crossfit: the way to prevent a zombie invasion is to properly stretch your shoulders

Today I took my first full-length real crossfit class at a real crossfit gym, CrossFit 858. (When I was in Hawaii, I noticed that there were all sorts of places called things like Bikes 808 or Burgers 808. Apparently no one could get more creative than their area code. And apparently the owners of my crossfit gym think that's very original. It actually seems like the kind of name you'd come up with when you couldn't think of a name, and you were all, well, we have to call it something, we can always change it later, and then everyone started calling it your silly fake name and that's what stuck.)

Anyway.

We did a lot of shoulder work today. The instructor was walking us through how to properly stretch our shoulders and he commented to the girl who was clearly a chemist (I say clearly because she had a chemical tattooed on her rib cage. I'm pretty sure this is the sort of thing only a chemist would want permanently etched on their body). The instructor, who's name, I think, was Reggie, said we needed to properly stretch our shoulders. He said he didn't want Ashley, the chemist, to be reaching for something and accidentally knock over a bottle of chemicals and create some bizarre new disease.

"Zombies" said Ashley.

"Zombies," said Reggie, "we do NOT want that. Folks, the way to prevent a zombie invasion is to properly stretch your shoulders."

I think I'm going to fit right in.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The book in which absolutely nothing happens

The Secret Life of Bees
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Okay, maybe absolutely nothing is a bit of an exaggeration, but very little happens, and it takes a while to do so. I saw the movie years ago and thought it was okay. I looked up who played T. Ray, and it turns out it's Paul Bettany, whom I love, and somehow, he was totally unmemorable in the movie. Yup, that pretty much sums things up.

This is one of those books with a lesson to impart, but your hand is held during the imparting, which drives me bananas! I want to shout: just tell me what you'd like me to take away! Stop leading me in one direction or another and JUST.GET.THERE!

Furthermore, there's almost no reconciliation at the end of the book. T. Ray just leaves Lily at August's house. Um, what? He's supposed to be the bad guy, and he hardly makes an appearance at all. He's mean and battling a lot of his own demons, but in terms of fictional bad guys, he's really not so much.

Also, each chapter begins with a quote about bee keeping from a (presumably) expert source on the subject. It gets a little tedious.

However, that being said, Monk Kidd's actual writing is quite lovely. She is clearly a skilled writer in terms of language usage. Unfortunately, this book did so little for me that I'm unlikely to pick up anything else of hers.

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Friday, May 17, 2013

The Elements of StyleThe Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was both enormously entertaining and enormously useful in terms of improving the craft of writing. Strunk has a dry, crisp sense of humor. One of my very favorite parts of the book is the list of misused words and expressions. I loved his comments on -wise...There is not a noun in the language to which -wise cannot be added if the spirit moves one to add it. The sober writer will abstain from the use of this wild additive. And his examples of wild additives? Taxwise, pricewise, marriagewise, prosewise, and wait for it...saltwater taffywise. I love it!

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Lovely BonesThe Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A long time ago when I was in a bookclub, someone recommended this book, but somehow we decided against it. My friend's description of this book made it sound creepy and weird, and like the girl's sister also gets raped by the neighbor, which, unless I totally missed about 100 pages did not happen.

This book was so much better than I expected, and I really want to give it 4.5 stars. It was just short of amazing, in that I was able to put it down.

This book is poignant and well written. I found the characters and the family dynamics to be believable within the realm of this story. And the grandmother rocks.

You should read this book.

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Monday, May 6, 2013

Resolution follow-up

While I seriously doubt that anyone is actually keeping tabs on whether or not I'm accomplishing any of the goals I set for myself this year, having a giant chart of them in the office is (I think) helping me keep on task.

I had nearly complete success in reading The Hunger Games trilogy and books 3-5 of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, more commonly called Game of Thrones, which is actually the title of the first book, and not the name of the series (unlike The Hunger Games, which is both the name of the first book and the name of the series). And while I'm being weird, I can't remember if grammatically, I'm supposed to remove the "a" in A Song of Ice and Fire, since I have to use the article, the, with the noun, series. And I don't feel like looking up the answer.

Anyway, I'm part of the way through A Dance with Dragons. The problem is that Clash of Kings is a doozy to get through and took me a really long time to read.

In terms of my exercise/losing weight resolutions, I burnt more than 700 calories in a day 17 times in March and April, and ran at least one mile 26 times. And, I have been managing to lose weight, although I may have undone all of that progress this week, but sometimes life smacks you upside the head and hands  you a 19.5-hour workday. What can you do?

I also managed to watch all of the Dirty Jobs and 30 Rock recordings I had, and am ahead of schedule with about 40% of the DVR space available.

I'm thinking of moving my "run a sub 4-hour marathon" goal to next year, mostly because I haven't found a marathon this year that I want to train for.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Oh, the joys of home ownership

I recently started reading Happier at Home, and the first chapter deals with possessions. (Gretchen Rubin is always dealing with her possessions ) For a while now, I've been trying to figure out why I dread using the laptop in the office, and I had the suspicion that it had more to do with me than the machine (the laptop works just fine). There's something about our office that just doesn't feel homey to me (I realize it's the office), but I couldn't quite put my finger on it.

Then, two weeks ago, Captain America and I moved the expensive, gorgeous chair we keep in the office into the living room, and the significantly cheaper Ikea loveseat into the office. (I had read somewhere that there was value in rearranging your belongings...something about being cheaper than redecorating, and that just moving them around stimulates that "something new" part of your brain. Or something along those lines.)

Anyway, we finally concluded that part of the problem with the office is that it feels cluttered, at least to me. (I'm sure most people would walk in and think it was uncluttered. This is my house, after all.) We decided that what we had was really the wrong furniture for the room. For instance, the drawer-unit on which we store the printer? I NEVER open it, if I can avoid it. As far as I'm concerned it is a cluttered mess and contains nothing useful. Ironically, this is also my husband's set of drawers. Apparently his organizational nemesis is office supplies.

Also, we have a bookshelf in this room that can only store large books because it has open sides. I bought this bookshelf because I liked how easily it folded up, which was a useful characteristic in my twenties when I lived in apartments with roommates, but it's really no longer useful, or at least not as useful as it should be (case in point, we have a much larger bookshelf in the guest room that looks a lot more chaotic, but doesn't feel more chaotic, mostly because everything fits in it just fine, and we can adjust the shelf heights).

So today, we went looking for a more useful bookshelf/storage option for the office. Which was a total bust. I've discovered that what I thought I wanted is called barrister bookshelves (my mother has some in her house, and I like how they close up), but they are ridiculously expensive, and work in my mother's house because she lives in a Victorian confection, but we live in a cookie-cutter 1950's era I-don't-even-know-what you'd call it.

What I'm somehow hoping to find is a low-ish, long-ish bookshelf that has some doors on it, so I can hide the unsightly office crap I'll have to put in it, but will still let me display the books. But everything we've found that is practically priced is way too tall for the space we have in mind.

And we now have six green chairs in the dining room and living room. That's a little bizarre, but we're going to work through that some time in the future.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was my review the first time I read this book:

With around 30 pages to go, Captain America told me it was time to get ready for bed. I said, "I'm reading THIS book," and he asked if I was going to cry. I said, probably not. Boy, was I wrong.

I'm a crier when it comes to books. Sometimes it's just a few tears. This time it was full on sobs. I haven't cried like that since Dobby died. And it wasn't even over someone dead; it was over a friendship that could not be made whole.

Having taken a few hours to calm down, sleep, and then discuss the series with a friend who also loved them, I have concluded that Hunger Games was the best book in the series, and that while I did enjoy them, the pacing was strange in the last two. Sometimes months would go by very quickly and without much explanation, and sometimes several chapters would span just one or two days. And a lot of events become totally chaotic in the last half of this book. Not it an I-can't-follow-this sort of way, but more like, what-is-going-on!?!?!

To me, one of the most truthful, real moments in the book is when Katniss loses her mind and thinks she can yell at dead people.

Overall, the book is worth the three days it will take you to read it.

A couple of other things to add: I didn't really like how you never learn if it's Gale's parachutes that kill Prim. I mean, Coin, or someone must have ordered the drop. It's as if Collins was afraid her readers would hate her if they were Gale's, but that the readers would also hate her if they weren't (and Katniss ended up trusting  Snow when she shouldn't have, although Snow's arguments that it wasn't him are pretty solid). But I think it was pretty obvious that Coin was not an ideal choice for a new president, so I'm not sure what the concern could have been. And, I think other series, including Harry Potter and GOT, indicate that as readers, we will stick by you, even if you kill off people we really like, even if we think the wrong guy gets the girl, even if you make us wait years between the books, as long as they're worth the read.

Also, there was really no conclusion with Johanna. We never learn what happens with her.

Finally, because this entire series is told from Katniss's perspective, every time she is sedated, or in some other way incapacitated, we, the readers, don't know what's going on until she comes to and someone fills her in. So there's all sorts of things we don't know. For example, Haymitch comments (somewhere in the series, although it may not have been this book) that the Capitol killed his parents and his girl, but never really why this happened, or the effect it had on him (although it's fairly obvious given his drinking). There seems to be something that happens to the survivors of the Games that makes the rest of their lives colored by that experience (which totally makes sense), and my imagination is active enough that I can imagine how that would be, but the horror isn't fully expressed. Even Katniss's nightmares, while scary, didn't grip me with terror.

I loved reading this series, but I also know that it could have been more.

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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2)Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the review I wrote the first time I read this book:

This book took me three days to read, mostly because my reading was interrupted by having to go to work. I haven't enjoyed reading a series this much since Harry Potter came out. Although that's about as far as I'd go with comparing the series: you're reading enjoyment level will be high.

I generally don't write much about the plot in my reviews, because I always think, I'll learn about the plot from the cover and when I read the book. What I want to know from reviews is, should I read the book? And the answer is, yes!

Because I read this one (remember...I listened to Hunger Games on CD), any young-adulty stuff was less bothering. Or maybe there was just less of it in this book.

I like Collins' writing style. What I really like is that around page 250, you know there's no way you're going to get to "...and they all lived happily ever after." It's both frustrating and thrilling, because you so badly want to find out what happens next. At least I do. But then again, I become a little obsessed with books I love. And the best you get at the end of this one is "some people lived, but not before they were seriously hurt and a lot of other bad things happened."

I can't wait to read Mockingjay!

Having reread it, I wouldn't make any changes to my review, although in the second reading, I noticed more literary gaffes. Most notably, at the very end of the book Katniss and Haymitch get into a huge argument  Except you don't read the argument  You are simply told: Then we are both screaming terrible, terrible things at each other. I think the editor should have said to Collins, alright,  let's hear these terrible, terrible things. It's very easy for the reader to imagine what these things are, but still, it seems a bit of an oversight.

But still, I love this series!

When I told a friend I was rereading the series, she asked me if I wanted to be Katniss yet. I've never found myself reading a book and wanting to be the protagonist. More often, I've wanted to know the protagonist, but as some yet unknown character. My imagination never allows me to be an already created character. I don't know why this is.

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling AuthorHow I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author by Janet Evanovich
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was an incredibly easy-to-read book. I think that because I read it on the heels of the screenwriting book, I found it to mirror a lot of the same sentiments.

I think an important thing to note is the subtitle: Secrets of a Bestselling Author. In reading this book, I realized that a number of things that I find to be petty or sophomoric about Evanovich's writing are actually intentional: the shortish stories, the simple, linear plots, the formulaic-ness of those plots.

It completely makes sense to me that once you find a formula that works, you should keep doing it, especially if you want to be a bestseller.

I don't know that this is the most useful guide to writing (although to be fair, it isn't advertised as such), but it is fairly entertaining, and Evanovich provides some resources and references, and reinforces that writers write.

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Word vomit, or why I drink

So, for fun last night, I was in charge of making dinner. This doesn't actually happen a lot in my house because Captain America works the night shift, and as far as I'm concerned, raisin bran is THE ultimate dinner. (We had a house guest one time who observed me having Baileys on the rocks (why is there no apostrophe in that?), cereal, and chips for dinner...while watching 8 Mile. He was duly impressed. Captain America was decidedly unimpressed when he learned of it.)

Anyway, our CSA sent us beets in our box last week. As you may or may not know, beets taste like dirt, and that's where they should stay. They are only marginally above peas in edibility tests, and peas, as far as I'm concerned are NOT food. I cannot conceive of a situation in which I'd be hungry enough to put a pea in my mouth. There is no scenario in which I'm that hungry AND that's the last thing left on the planet to eat.

So somehow I magically turned beets into food, and even incorporated the celery we got in the box. And, to top things off, I quoted Ogden Nash at dinner (fun trivia fact: when the post office made Ogden Nash stamps, it was the first time the word "sex" appeared on a postage stamp). The poem I quoted had nothing to do with sex, though. It was "celery raw is hard on the jaw, but celery stewed is more easily chewed." I mean, really, when was the last time someone quoted poetry to you at dinner?

And after all of this fine dining (did I mention there was wine? and cloth napkins?...of course, there are always cloth napkins in my house), Captain America's take away was that somehow, in the midst of all of this excitement, I got salad on my eyelid.

See if I ever turn beets into food for him again!

And then, because we don't see each other all week to catch up and tell random stories, the weekends end up being a lot of thought vomit. At least on my end. Which is preferable to regular vomit.

So I asked Captain America if he had noticed that our meth addict neighbors had not only built a fake brick well structure, but had adorned said structure with the most phallic-looking mushrooms I have ever seen.

Somehow this had escaped his observation (and yet he notices when I floss in the "wrong" bathroom). Our crazy neighbors have built a brick circle. It looks like either a tree or something should be growing out of it, or it's a very decrepit well that lost it's roof thing with the winch and pulley. Except it's just a circle of bricks, about 10 bricks high. And it's displaying four very phallic mushrooms.

These are the sorts of things that if you were at a street fair, and you had a friend who had just bought a new house, and you saw these, you'd think, you know what would be totally hysterical? If I bought my friend this collection of pseudo-pornographic lawn art. Wouldn't that be funny? And you'd wrap them up and take them to the housewarming party, and you'd be all, look what I got you! Penises disguised as fungi! We should give them names. Like Peter and Harry! And then you'd giggle a lot, like I did when I was trying to explain all of this to Captain America.

And finally, for extra fun, Captain America declared himself the luckiest man alive. I thought this statement was going to be followed up with how his amazing wife turned beets into food and came up with a fun housewarming gift for some unsuspecting friends, but no. He's lucky because HIS COWORKER DROVE OVER HIS FOOT IN A TAHOE AND IT DIDN'T BREAK. As far as he knows. Because he didn't actually bother to get it x-rayed.

THIS is why I drink!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire, #4)A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The first time I read this book, I gave it four stars, but I've revised that down to three. This book is tough to get through. It's obvious Martin needs to move the plot forward and set things up for what really happens next, but this book is just a bunch of characters running around and nothing really gets done.

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Writing Movies: The Practical Guide to Creating Stellar ScreenplaysWriting Movies: The Practical Guide to Creating Stellar Screenplays by Gotham Writers' Workshop
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is written by several different authors. I would have liked some information on the authors so I'd know how to value what they were saying.

The tone of the book was very literary. For example, on p. 25, in discussing Orson Welles and his dedication to the craft of storytelling, as well as his daring choices in Citizen Cane, Alexander Steele says: Orson Welles wasn't a know-it-all. He was a student, a human sponge who absorbed everything around him then let it rain down in a fresh way. That's how you innovate.

Except that doesn't really tell you anything.

However, I did find the book useful in providing information on how to organize a story, how to keep it interesting, and how to plot key developments.

I bought the book because, when I envision writing, I see everything very clearly, which I thought would lend itself more towards writing screenplays than novels. However, after reading this book, I don't think writing screenplays sounds like very much fun, but I do think the information in the book will be helpful in writing novels.

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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Re-reading The Hunger Games

I recently reread The Hunger Games, so rather than re-post a review, I'll just provide you with a link to my original one: http://virginiasrants.blogspot.com/2011/08/i-cant-believe-it-took-me-this-long-to.html

This time around, I actually read it, as in a book, and not on CD, and it was still awesome, and I still was eager to know what happened, and I still found the ending bittersweet, because it is, and I still can't wait to read the next one, even though I've also already read that one.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Enough already!

So there's some sort of problem with Blogger right now, related to not being able to edit things on a blog. There's a forum to log your problem (presumably so the people at Google can better rectify it), but once you log your problem, you get an email every time someone else logs their problem. This would be fine if everyone were just answering the three questions asked, but instead people are using it as a means to complain about Blogger and Google. Yes, it's totally irritating when something doesn't work the way it's supposed to, but IT'S A FREE SERVICE, PEOPLE!

Give it a rest. Google will get it sorted out.

And I thought I was grumpy!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Where'd You Go, BernadetteWhere'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Here's your SAT word for the day: this novel is, for the most part, epistolary (a series of letters/documents). This is always an interesting approach to a novel, but I think it works well here, where things happen to many characters simultaneously, but where using different POV chapters would get repetitive.

This book was really entertaining. Bernadette is this brilliant, eccentric woman. As I was reading this book, I totally thought, I want to know her! (Of course, she's a bit of a recluse, so she's not likely to want to know me).

Having lived in the Pacific Northwest, it was also entertaining listening to her complain about the people in Seattle.

*Spoiler Alert* the bit about the Russian Mafia was a little unnecessary, but not so much so that it was distracting.

This novel wraps up nicely, if in a somewhat predictable way. All in all, though, this book was a lot of fun to read!

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Friday, March 22, 2013

Is this how life is supposed to be?


Or, I'm crabby because I don't get enough sleep because I like to do so many other things.

Someone once commented that "I don't have the time to x" is really just an excuse, and what you actually mean is that you're not willing to make the time. I don't disagree, but it always seemed to me to be a half-thought. It implies that you're doing a bad job of managing your time, and you would completely be able to fit in a new activity if you had your priorities in order. What this further implies is that someone else's priorities should be yours. This drives me crazy!

Example: studies indicate that people who volunteer are happier and have more fulfilling relationships than those who don't volunteer. This suggests that we should all spend some time volunteering. Except, I don't like volunteering. It always feels like one more thing on my to-do list, one more obligation, and I don't come home feeling fulfilled or better about humanity or anything like that. I come home tired and crabby and feeling like I now have to squeeze whatever else I need to get done that day into even less remaining time. And I have pretty incredible time management skills.

I've been thinking a lot lately about what's a time priority for me, because for me, and probably for a lot of other people, time is the biggest limit in their life. Like most people I know, I work hard, so when I'm not at work, I don't want what I do with my precious free time to be hard. For me, volunteering is hard. It's unpleasant and unrewarding, and I always wish it didn't take up so much time. Of course, we all have to do unpleasant stuff in our free time sometimes, and we have to spend time doing emotion-neutral things like laundry and grocery shopping, but I don't want to spend what's left of my now decreased free time doing things I don't enjoy.

Here's what I enjoy doing: reading, spending time with family and friends, writing, baking, exercising, and watching movies.

I'd love to do more of all of these things, but then it would be at the expense of, well, some other of these things (I could read more and exercise less or vice versa), or at the expense of sleep, which I already don't get enough of. I suppose I could work less, but that would likely mean a lower-paying job, and that's something I'm even less willing to compromise.

So this has all been slogging around my head when a friend of mine invites me to a Landmark Education open house thing she's hosting. I originally thought Landmark was like Bridgepoint, or National University, or any other for-profit school. Then I read more about it an thought it sounded suspiciously like a cult. Then I did a Google search to see what I could find out about it from any other source than it's website. Mostly, people  have been saying it only appears cult-like, and it's really a program for figuring out how to get the most out of life. It sounds self-help-y/inspirational speaker-y, but it's apparently all about you.

But I still don't get it. I don't understand specifically what it does. There's no clear cut definition of what the program means by "living an extraordinary life," and the syllabus doesn't outline specific steps or actions. So while it sounds like the kind of thing where everyone would say, of course I want an extraordinary life, of course I want more fulfilling and deeper relationships, it still feels a little bit like a scam to me.

So, on the one hand, if this is helping my friend be happier and have a better life, I want to support her, but on the other hand, I don't want to go to her open house and be the one who's all, but I don't get it. I feel like that would make me even more of a target for all of the Landmarkians, because clearly I'm in even greater need of this program, since I don't understand it at all.

But what it really comes down to is, I don't want to go. I like my friend, but I don't really feel the need to meet a bunch of her other friends, and I'd rather spend my time reading, or sleeping.

I feel like my life is already very full, and at the same time, I'd enjoy it a lot more and be less crabby if I got more sleep, but then I'd have to cut down on something I enjoy doing. Who came up with this system?