Saturday, May 31, 2008

Letters written in May.

Before my resolution, whenever I had to write a letter for business purposes I was annoyed at the actual sitting down to type the business letter. Not to mention the hunt for the stamp and the envelope. Now it's one of those things I look forward to, because I can whip them out in about 7 minutes and I have fulfilled my resolution for the day.

I wrote letters or postcards 21 days this month. While there were more days in which I wrote than days that I didn't write, I hope to write more next month. Mid-month June the new LEX listings come out and I look forward to responding to some new listings as well as seeing if I get responses to my listings.

I received 12 things in the mail this month, which was wonderful. Sara hit on the idea of sending me the free postcards available at bars and restaurants and other places. She places labels over the advertising part on the back and writes a quick thought. They don't have free postcards in Portland, but I think this is a clever way to use them. When I lived in Boston, I would always take them, but because of the advertising, could never send them to anyone.

1 May. Sara, postcard.
2 May. No one.
3 May. First Unitarian Church. Business.
4 May. Bank. Business.
5 May. Joan. Card.
**Letter back. Sara.
6 May. No one.
7 May. No one.
**Letter back. LEX "Will you be a good old person?"
**Letter back. LEX "Do you have to suffer to write?"
8 May. LEX Jacqueline.
9 May. No one.
10 May. LEX Jan.
11 May. LEX Diane.
12 May. Sara, postcard.
13 May. Vivian McIrney. Re error in article about shoes. I would link to it, but now it costs $$
14 May. Sara.
**Letter back. LEX Diane (I have two Diane pen pals)
15 May. No one.
16 May. No one.
17 May. Sara
18 May. No one.
19 May. No one.
20 May. Kelly. (Written from the Multnomah County Courthouse while on jury duty!)
21 May. Sara.
**postcard. Sara.
**postcard. Sara.
**postcard. Sara.
22 May. Sara.
**postcard. Sara.
**letter back, LEX Diane.
23 May. LEX Gerry.
24 May. LEX Phyllis.
25 May. Sara.
26 May. No one.
27 May. LEX Diane.
**Letter back, Sara.
28 May. LEX Diane.
29 May. Aunt Pat, birthday card.
**Postcard, Sara.
**Postcard Sara.
30 May. Aunt Pat, birthday card. (I sent two, so one would get there on her birthday.)
31 May. No one.

Read in May

"In an era in which everyone has a truth and the means to fling it around the world, an era in which knowledge is increasingly broad but seldom deep, maybe that's the ultimate act of sedition: to pick up a single book and read it." Leonard Pitts.

Let's call this the month of reading books that have been made into movies...

Atonement. Ian McEwan.

The Hatbox Baby. Carrie Brown

Persepolis. Marijane Satrapi

Gone, Baby, Gone. Dennis Lahane

Lucky. Alice Sebold

The Painted Veil. W. Somerset Maugham. (25 May)

Started but didn't finish.
I Should Be Extremely Happy in Your Company: A Novel of Lewis and Clark I Should Be Extremely Happy in Your Company: A Novel of Lewis and Clark by Brian Hall

My review

rating: 1 of 5 stars
I really, really wanted to like this book. Really. As a former history major, I should welcome such well-written first-person historical fiction about the Lewis and Clark Expedition. But I didn't like this book. I didn't like it 10 pages in and I didn't like it after reading 50 pages. Hall wonderfully creates his characters: Lewis, Clark, Sacajawea and eventually Sacajawea's husband, though I didn't get that far. The language painted vivid pictures in my mind. The plot pacing was good. I just did not like it. I tried, but I didn't.

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Rodale Book of Composting: Easy Methods for Every Gardener" src="" border="0"> The Rodale Book of Composting: Easy Methods for Every Gardener by Deborah L. Martin

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
All you need to know to get started composting. I skimmed this book and found it handy. I especially liked the many different plans that one could use to build home composers.

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Enneagram at Work" src="" border="0"> Getting Your Boss's Number; And Many Other Ways to Use the Enneagram at Work by Michael J. Goldberg

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
A good "how to get along with people at work" sort of book, it also included interesting information about the nine Enneagram types. For instance, when I tell stories about my childhood my mother always says, "Why do you always remember the bad things?" Whichsurprises me, as I don't think the story in question is particularly "bad". It turns out that "eights" (of which I am one) have a whole narrative structure based on overcoming struggle. So while I've just told a great story about my triumph over whatever, my mother hears me complaining about my childhood. That was well worth the price of the book alone. (Although, full disclosure, I got it from the library and didn't pay anything.)

A great book if you are at your wit's end with dealing with someone at work, or in your life in general.

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Didn't even start.
In America. Susan Sontag.

The Way West. A.B. Guthrie, Jr.

Open Me. A Novel. Sunshine O'Donnell

I know which generation I am...

The last time I remember thinking it was awesome to be up all night without sleep was approximately 1996. And I could use more of the adult version of the all-nighter.

Monday, May 26, 2008


Police Officers. Lunch Ladies. Park Rangers. Nurses. Only some of the professions where people wear uniforms. And now: Administrative Coordinators at The Emerson School. Yes, that's right, I've decided to assign myself a uniform.

It all started with one of my LEX friends. We write topic letters back and forth and one of her topics was, "do you dress for yourself or others?" In answering that question, I said that if I had my druthers, I would just wear a uniform to work every day. I've had several jobs that require a uniform and I've really enjoyed wearing them. When I wore a uniform, I would get up in the morning and I already know what I was going to wear.

"Hey!" I thought to myself a few days later, "I could just wear a uniform." And so I did.

So this is it:
I have three pairs of Dockers black pants, four shirts from Eddie Bauer in "deep basil" and--what I am most excited about--I now own two cute black sweaters that I really like wearing. I bought some clogs, too. We shall see how we get along. I already have a few black skirts that I can wear when I feel like it.

When the weather turns colder, if I still like wearing the uniform I will buy some long-sleeved shirts and sweaters. I'm pretty excited about this venture. I've told my co-workers at work and they are amused/supportive. We shall see how long it takes before any of the parents or children at school say anything.

Also! I treated myself to some new Keen shoes. I really, really love them. And I'm allowed to wear them with the uniform, too.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Painted Veil The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
Not only was jury duty fun, but in chatting with one of my fellow jurors we got to talking about books made into movies. We discussed Atonement and she asked me if I had seen the Painted Veil. I had, but hadn't read the book and so the next day she gave me her copy.

I didn't seek out the book after seeing the movie, because, as mentioned before I'm a lazy reader and don't like to work while reading. For me, many authors published before 1950 require more attention that I'm willing to give. Not this one. This was a very readable book and the internal thought process of the characters were fascinating. My favorite book/movie difference was the "did you leave your toupee?" question as the lovers were hoping to avoid detection. I also found the descriptions of the babies in the Chinese orphanage interesting. More than once they were described as "not quite human" I hope that we have evolved to the point where we find babies around the world darling, rather than "not quite human."

Once again, the book does a much better job illustrating the internal shifts in the main character. Not surprisingly, this was a much better book than movie.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

State quarters updated.

My "many fans" **cough(Sara)cough** have spoken and I have updated my list of state quarters that need to be recovered. I'm down to about 10, as I think New Mexico and Arizona have not made their debut yet and I'm sure Alaska and Hawaii haven't. Thanks to everyone who has resupplied me with quarters.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Things neglected because of my Math class.

Well, the blogs, as you may have noticed. But also reading the entire paper. Every morning I arrange the paper in the following order: "How we live" section (formerly known as the Living, this section has the very important advice columns and the comics as well as the "fluffy" parts of the paper, including my TV review boyfriend Peter Ames Carlin.) After the Living section comes the Metro, then the Business section and after that the Front Page. That way, I can read my way from inconsequential (my favorite) to the local news to the national and international. But because of the Math class, some days I don't even make it through the local section, much less to the international. That's annoying because two days later I don't understand what half of the letters to the editor are talking about.

I also don't have as much time to garden, or read. The math class is necessary, but it's not exactly pleasurable. But non-Math class things have been happening. I just don't get to post about them. Alas. Maybe soon I will get to at least tell about the books I have been reading. And the movies I've seen. I've just watched three especially good ones. Not to mention the fact that I'm still writing letters and getting letters. Why today, I just got three postcards from one Sara Sterner. And I just spent 2 1/2 days as juror #4 on a civil case. That was fun. And Matt graduates June first.

So that's what's going on now.

Until later,

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Lucky Lucky by Alice Sebold

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
A hard book to read, but an important one. Sebold takes us through the journey that began when she was raped at the end of her freshman year of college. The moment-by-moment description of the rape was particularly fascinating, though not pleasant to read. I made the mistake of starting the book right before bed and it kept me awake for awhile. It was disheartening to realize that Sebold was the "perfect rape victim" and still had a tough time getting a conviction.

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Jury Duty!

I've been waiting my whole adult life to get called to Jury Duty. You could say I've been chomping at the bit to do my civic duty. Way back in 1997 I was called. It was a perfect time to miss a day of school; my classes had just started and there wasn't much going on. But all I was required to do was call a number the day of and see if I had to come in. Which I didn't . So that wasn't any fun.

10+ years later I get called again. This time: Jackpot! I not only got to go down to the courthouse and sit in the big room with the comfortable chairs, but my name got called and I got to experience voir dire and then! I got to be on the jury! It wasn't the most exciting case--a civil case where we had to decide if the injuries the plaintiff sustained in a motorcycle accident in 2005 were limiting her activities today--but I enjoyed the entire experience. We had a great judge and it was fun to see how an actual courtroom compared to what happens on t.v.

In my case a lot of the procedure was the same, but what the lawyers said wasn't quite as polished as in the movies. It makes sense, though. In the movies the actors get to memorize lines that someone else has written. Actual lawyers have to actually talk off the top of their heads. Also, when one lawyer objects and both of them and the judge go into chambers to discuss the matter? We don't get to find out what they are talking about. The most surprising thing to me was that the jury could ask questions of the people on the stand. There was a whole procedure involved, but all the questions that were submitted by my jury were asked and answered. It provided extra insight into the case we wouldn't have had.

For the deliberations portion, I got to be the Presiding Juror. That's what they are calling the Jury Foreman these days. I got to help run deliberations and to write our findings on the official sheet of paper. And then I got to hand that piece of paper to the clerk so the judge could read it. I enjoyed deliberations and thought that people were fair and thoughtful. Afterwards, the judge came back to the jury chambers and we got to ask him questions about the case, which turned out to be very enlightening.

Overall, it was a fabulous experience and I'm glad I was picked.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

This house.

This house is down the street from where I live and I love it. Big porch, huge back yard, right on the Max line. So why does no one live here? When I moved to this street in 2007 I assumed that the absentee owners were getting ready to put it on the market. The house was painted, it got new windows and a new roof. Someone comes once per week to keep the yard up. I waited for the "for sale" sign to go up, but it never did and the house has remained empty.

Lost in Translation: Lilacs.

Sure, Lilacs look pretty, but really it's all about the scent. Which cannot be reproduced here.

Lilacs in bloom is one of my favorite things about spring.

Three sentence movie reviews--All the Real Girls

Every once in awhile I fall in love with a movie as I did with this one. This movie portrays the most real reflection of an early-twenties relationship I have ever seen. As a bonus, it also contains delightful vignettes which have little to do with advancing the story, but are wonderful.

Darn it, I need one more sentence. It's just a single word: Magic!

Also, don't you think the phrase "every once in awhile" should have morphed into one German-esque looking word: everyonceinawhile.

I also feel the same about the phrase "this morning". Let's remove that space. We say it as one word anyway. "thismorning"

Friday, May 16, 2008

Gone, Baby, Gone. Dennis LeHane

Gone, Baby, Gone Gone, Baby, Gone by Dennis Lehane

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
I get obsessive about some things. I rented the movie Gone, Baby, Gone on a Friday and liked it so much I watched it again on Sunday. I reserved the book from the library and had it by Tuesday. Part of my affection for the movie, it must be told, had to do with Casey Affleck's Patrick Kenzie, but the other part had to do with how incredibly cool his partner Angie was. The movie didn't spend a lot of time worrying about her which I find rare as Hollywood seems to exist partly to keep women in their place. But that's a post for another day.

So I shouldn't have been surprised when I got the book and Angie is even cooler than she was in the film. Ah, Hollywood, you never let me down. Anyway, good book. Fast-paced, funny with very good character sketches as well as good social commentary. I like Dennis LeHane especially for those last two traits.

Overall the book was solid and I was pleased to find out there are several books with these two characters. I'll be reading them.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Even less building.

The building is getting smaller and smaller. In the previous post, this was the angle you could see the Zell Brothers sign.
I like how it looks like someone took a bite out of this one.
It's not too long until there is nothing left.

Three sentence movie reviews--In Bruges

A wholly uneven film. Despite excellent performances from Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes, as well as lovely views of Bruges, I didn't like it. Sometimes funny and violence work for me (Fargo) and sometimes they don't (this film.)

This was my mom's choice for Mother's Day. I think she has a crush on Colin Farrell.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
Graphic novels aren't really my medium. The boyfriend loves them and reads them all the time, but my habit of skimming doesn't really lend itself to the graphic novel format. But, having seen and loved the movie, I thought I would read the first part of Satrapi's story.

It was fine. Like I said, not my medium. I liked the movie better, as it contained all the things that were in the book, but with prettier art.

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Three sentence movie reviews--Once

Some movies are like a boat you climb in and lazily float down the river. Like a successful meditation state, they inspire pleasant feelings and enjoyable moments. This is one of those movies and I highly recommend it.

Three sentence movie reviews--Gone, Baby, Gone.

This movie surprised me, and halfway in, I had no idea what direction it was headed. South Boston/Dorchester is beautifully filmed and Casey Affleck is entirely underrated as a leading man. I liked this so much I watched it again two days later.

Most excitingly, the bar at the end of the movie was right around the corner from where I used to live. I used to jog by it all the time. And that, is why South Boston and myself didn't get along so well. Less time jogging, more time in the bars and they probably would have liked me better.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Hatbox Baby The Hatbox Baby by Carrie Brown

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars
Last month I loved the novel I read by Carrie Brown. This month, I wasn't as enchanted. The story had some interesting points to it. I enjoyed learning about doctors in the 1930s who attempted to save preemie babies. The one in this novel had to have the infants in his care on display at world fairs and expositions. He used the proceeds to fund his research.

I enjoyed meeting several people involved with the World's Fair in Chicago. Overall, the plot line was interesting, but nothing gelled. I never grew attached to any of the characters or their stories. I finished it, and that was the end of my relationship with that book.

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Saturday, May 3, 2008

Three sentence movie reviews--Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

Jason Segel seems to be a less raunchy member of the Apatow mafia, so this movie skews a tiny bit older than Superbad, or even Knocked Up's adolescent humor. One of the things I enjoy about Apatow-influenced movies is that beneath their yucky boy-centric antics, they are willing to explore the feelings of the male species circa 2008. Still not a movie you want to take your grandmother to, but very enjoyable, especially Kristen Bell and Russell Brand.

Matt and I celebrated our sixth anniversary with a double feature of Iron Man and Forgetting Sara Marshall.

Three sentence movie reviews--Iron Man.

"But Robert Downey Jr. IS an alcoholic superhero!" exclaims my friend, and that is the true success behind this movie. Just as Soon I Will be Invincible is the perfect superhero novel, Iron Man is the perfect superhero movie. Funny, touching,--did I mention that Robert Downey Jr. is in it?--fast paced, and with lots of gadgets.

If I had one more sentence I would finish with "Well worth two hours of your time and $10.00 of your money."

Friday, May 2, 2008

Atonement. Ian McEwan

Atonement: A Novel Atonement: A Novel by Ian McEwan

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I reserved this book from the library right after I saw the movie. Many other people had the same idea and I was number 198 of 198. I had avoided reading the book before I saw the movie because the whole "Booker Prize Winner" thing. I am a lazy reader and tend to stay away from Pulitzers,Bookers, and any other prize that screams "prestige"

That said, I was reminded that my attitude can keep me from some good books, of which this was one. I used to stridently side with "books" in the "movie version of the book" debate, but in my older years I have mellowed. Mostly if the movie people get the story right, I'm pretty happy. When there are changes to the story line I'm intrigued, rather than angry. Reading this book after seeing the movie was like getting a DVD extra. All the thought processes that weren't able to be translated to the screen were there.

Atonement was gripping and eminently readable and I'm not ashamed to say I stayed home from work and read the entire thing in a day.

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